Keith Powers is a man from the future in The Tomorrow War, starring Chris Pratt and Yvonne Strahovski. The Amazon Prime sci-fi action thriller is already in talks for a sequel — and it just began streaming a week ago.
Powers plays Major Greenwood, a soldier in the year 2051 who is part of an elite unit under the leadership of Romeo Command (Strahovski), who is tasked with finding a scientific way to eradicate a deadly alien species that has killed off the majority of mankind when military methods fail.
“Major Greenwood is literally Romeo Command’s right hand,” Powers tells Monsters & Critics in this exclusive interview. “He has a backstory that we didn’t really get to dive into in the film. A piece of that back story is he’s married to Lt. Hart (Jasmine Matthews). I thought that was super cool. Two strong characters being married and being together and both fighting for the same thing.”
Lt. Hart is also a time traveler, who goes back to the year 2021 to deliver the message to the world that the only hope for the survival of humanity is for soldiers and civilians from the present to be transported to the future and join the fight. While his wife is off recruiting, Major Greenwood stays in the future and is all about the action.
“I did like 95 percent of my own stunts,” Powers says. “We definitely had amazing stuntwoman and stuntmen who helped us on set. Nobody on set really had egos to where they felt like they just knew everything they were doing. Because stuntmen and stuntwomen really do a good job at what they do. It is cool to say you did your own stunts, but we don’t understand how much strength mentally that takes throughout the day to keep getting banged up and stuff.”
One of the things that surprised Powers in working with the stunt team was the various techniques he had to learn, one of which was having to learn to slide correctly.
“Who would’ve thought there was a way to slide?” he admits. “What I’m saying is if I would’ve done that the wrong way multiple takes, my hip and legs would have been rug burned and I probably would have been hurt really bad the rest of the day.”
Powers, who previously starred in the 2015 film Straight Outta Compton as Dr. Dre’s younger brother Tyree Crayton, also talks about what he learned working with Pratt, what it’s like working on a film where the critters are created by a computer, and what he hopes for in the future.
Monsters& Critics: You didn’t dream of being an actor as a kid. You came to it by accident, but once you decided it was what you wanted to do, was action the way you wanted to go?
Keith Powers: Honestly, when I first started acting, it was more about just working and trying to learn everything about the acting world I could learn and becoming the best actor that I can. Of course, growing up, action films was mostly what I was attracted to and comedic films. So, it was a no-brainer for me when this came about. I was like, “Of course I want to be in a movie and shoot aliens.”
That’s ultimately what I want to do in my career, though. I look up to people like Chris Pratt and Will Smith, the guys who can really bring the heavy side of it, really get deep, and really get into the drama, but then also have that comedic relief and just know how to be those leads. Those fun leads to watch who are very entertaining.
M & C: A film like this, so much of it is done by computer. Does it help your imagination because you are having to fight critters that aren’t there?
Keith Powers: It’s crazy. I think we exercise that imagination muscle when we are kids actually and I think that just always sticks with you. So, I think I pull from that honestly, and of course, there are different acting techniques. Like Lee Strasberg teaches substitution. That really helps. What that does is if you could put — of course, you can’t put an alien in front of you physically, but if you could substitute it with something that might make you feel the way that aliens could make you feel in that moment, it could really help you. It is hard, but we did have stuff on set that really did help us believe what was going on.
M&C: What did you think when you saw the white spikes, the aliens? What are your favorite aliens from other movies?
Keith Powers: When I saw the white spikes, I was like, “Perfect. We have a good alien.” I was really happy about that. That is like 90 percent of it. The audience has to be into what we’re fighting, I feel, in order for them to be engaged, so I thought that was cool.
Movies from the past: Alien, Predator, Signs. I really love the alien in Signs because we didn’t see him a lot. A newer movie is A Quiet Place.
M&C: Chris Pratt does a lot of action movies. What were you able to learn from him on the set?
Keith Powers: Leadership, basic leadership. Treat everyone the same. Be a down-to-earth leader. He really cared about the script and the story. Even though it’s an action film, he collabs 100 percent. He took a lot of time rehearsing some days because he really just wanted to make sure everything made sense and everything was right.
I really love that because it’s easy for him with who he is right now, he’s a superstar. He really doesn’t have to put in as much effort as he does. He could get away with, “OK, it’s an action film, they’re going to love it.” But the fact that he cared, to me that was everything, because it really showed me when I get my chance to be No. 1 on the call sheet, I want to be able to lead like that.
M&C: I read that part of the reason you became a model is you skipped math class. One of the things that I really liked about this film is that, yes, it’s all action, but bottom line, the way they hope to eradicate the aliens is with science. So, for someone who skipped math class, how good a thing is it that we teach young people that maybe they should stay in school?
Keith Powers: You know it’s crazy. I didn’t appreciate science. Science was a really hard subject for me. Science and math were the hardest subjects for me. One thing I will say is that I started appreciating science more when the pandemic happened. It made me trust science a little more.
I’m not the biggest book reader, but I read a lot of articles and do a lot of research online. That’s like my thing. If I want to learn something, I’ll obsess about it overnight and I’ll just learn it through articles and reading stories online.
Of course, we shot this before the pandemic, but after the pandemic, going back and watching the film when I got to, I was just thinking, “Man, the science aspect of this movie is so important, because you have to have the science in the movie for us to believe what’s going on.” I was like, “Dude, that’s crazy how much I really appreciate science right now.”
I come from a really religious family and you know my family sometimes they’re like, “No, we don’t lean towards science.” They like to lean toward our religion. I have really learned to love science a lot lately. That’s really funny.
M&C: In this movie, they’re going to do something to hopefully change the future. Do you think we can change the future?
Keith Powers: I think everything happens for a reason and then we all have our own fate, but I do feel like we have different paths we can take in order to fulfill certain fates. I do feel like that. That’s how I looked at it, but I think also, too, the future is every day. What you do in the present is ultimately going to affect what happens in the future. I think that’s the key, to really stay present.
M&C: Since we’re talking about the future, what does your future look like?
Keith Powers: On top of being an actor and the projects I have coming up my ultimate goal is I really just want to help people in any way that I can. I really have really been doing a lot of research when it comes to mental health, especially in Black and brown communities, so I’m really into that and I want to be a father in like 10 years. That would be dope. One of my life goals is to be a dad. I love kids but I think it’s just so cool to see my friends who are dads now take on that role. I know it’s not easy, but I definitely want it.
The Tomorrow War is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.