The Super Specific Way Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes’ Freya Allan Approached Her Secretive Version Of Nova

 Freya Allan as Mae in Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes.
Credit: 20th Century Studios

SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes. If you have not yet seen the film, proceed at your own risk!

When we first meet Freya Allan’s Nova in Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes, the impression that fans are given is that she is a straight-forward extension of an Apes franchise tradition. Linda Harrison played the original Nova in 1968’s Planet Of The Apes, a mute woman living in a society dominated by apes, and another incarnation was introduced in 2017’s War For The Planet Of The Apes – with Nova portrayed as a pre-teen who has lost the ability to speak due to a mutated strain of the Simian Flu.

Given this history, the audience accepts that Allan’s version of Nova is a silent, feral human when she is introduced in Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes – but the truth is that she is a character who is hiding some major secrets, and the actress took specific steps to implement that duplicity into her performance.

As featured in the video at the top of this article, I had the pleasure of talking with Freya Allan and co-star Peter Macon during the press day for Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes earlier this year, and I made a point during our conversation to ask Allan about hiding Nova’s secret: her real name is Mae, and she is not only not feral, but on an important mission to try and restart human civilization. She explained that the twist gave her the opportunity to work with movement coordinator/choreographer Alain Gauthier (the same filmmaker who helped train the actors in ape roles) and that it had a direct influence on her thought process in-character. Said Allan,

That was the interesting part about it, when I was working with Alain, was getting across, 'OK, she's not a feral human though, and this is also her interpretation of what she would imagine them to be like,' because she sees them for the first time in the film. And so it's what maybe she's heard from other humans or what she would imagine it to be like. And so it was very much about, yeah, Mae is, is pretending to be what she would imagine it to be.

Going into further detail, Freya Allan provided an example. There is a scene in Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes where Nova/Mae, Noa (Owen Teague) and Raka (Peter Macon) come upon a collection of feral humans at a watering hole, and peace gets interrupted when a group of raiders sent by Proximus Caesar (Kevin Durand) roll in. Everyone scatters… but if you pay attention, you’ll note that Nova/Mae doesn’t run like the de-evolved members of her species.

This is very much intentional. Allan continued,

You see those little differences in moments like when they're running. All the other feral humans have a very specific way of running, and she's still running like a human. And so it was those little things that you'd see that you might be like, 'Oh, that's different.' But I think Mae playing the feral human, it was kind of about having a feeling that she's kind of a deer in headlights – which she kind of is herself anyway because she's talking to, or not yet, but she's surrounded by apes and the closest to apes she's ever been in her life.

Freya Allan noted that her performance is itself a performance… though it’s not a perfect one. She pretends to be feral to lower guards and expectations, but her limited experience with actual feral humans means that there is guess work involved:

That was about striking the balance, 'cause I didn't want to lean too far into taking on the feral physicality because she doesn't know about that.

It’s an impressive performance, and one that can be better appreciated with multiple viewings of the film. Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes is still going strong at the box office following its arrival on the big screen last month (it landed in third place in this past weekend’s domestic Top 10), and it’s certainly a movie that benefits from being seen in a theater. Stay tuned for updates about its home video release, but for now, you can view all of the other Planet Of The Apes features with a Hulu subscription.