Currently starring as the lead in the hit CW series Riverdale which features characters from the Archie comic-books series, new teen sensation KJ Apa makes his big-screen debut in Universal Pictures’ moving tale A Dog’s Purpose.
Based on author W. Bruce Cameron’s beloved best-selling novel, A Dog’s Purpose tells the heart-warming and surprising story of one devoted dog who finds the meaning of his own existence through the lives of the humans he teaches to laugh and love.
Over the course of five decades, a single voice—that of an indefatigable dog—takes us along a riveting and uplifting path that speaks to the heart of anyone who has ever loved an animal. Although he is reincarnated in the bodies of multiple canines through the years, it is his unbreakable bond with a kindred spirit named Ethan that carries and inspires one dog throughout his journey to find a true purpose for his boy.
Hailing from New Zealand, Apa plays the teenaged Ethan (while Dennis Quaid plays him as an adult). Brand new to the world of feature films, Apa was in for a treat when he joined forces with veteran director Lasse Hallström. “This was my first film, and I did not know you could suggest different ideas to the director. In my television work previously, I did exactly what was on the page,” says Apa. “Improvising came pretty easy for me.”
Apa elaborates on the challenges he faced while playing Young Ethan: “The hardest part of the job was perfecting an American accent, and learning how to throw a football. I play rugby, and the throwing motion could not be more different.”
On perfecting his American accent, Apa shares “I never actively went out and studied the American accent. I just came over here to the States and it was something I was able to do. Like, I never struggled with it. I used to talk to myself as a kid in an American accent. Other than that, I don’t actually know why I can do it. It’s an easy accent to do, I think, in terms of accents. It’s harder for Americans to do a New Zealand accent than it is for a New Zealander to do an American accent. I think that’s also because of how popular and how just broad all American culture is around the globe.”
When he was shooting A Dog’s Purpose, Apa made sure to have treats in his pockets to achieve the desirable response from his canine co-star.
“For the shots where the dog is running up to you and licking your face, you usually have treats in your hand,” says Apa “They get the dog to sit, you go to your mark, and then the trainer will be like, `Go,’ and the dog will run over to you because it knows that you have a treat and it will eat that treat. It’s funny, I had a thing with Britt [Robertson] where we had to do this kissing scene in the car. It was scripted that the dog comes up in between us while we’re kissing and starts licking her face, and the only way to get the dog to do that was by rubbing chicken sauce on Britt’s cheek. So that was kind of strange. Kissing while having chicken grease all over your face. It was real hot.”
Asked what other kinds of roles does he hope to play in the future, Apa answers, “I’m still grasping what it means to be an actor. At the moment, I really want to do action. I feel like I really want to be more physical. And I feel like action movies will give that to me. I definitely want to make movies after doing A Dog’s Purpose. I was thinking to myself, even while I was doing that, imagine if I could do this forever. Making movies is definitely something that I want to become more experienced at doing. I want to get away from the high-school jock.”
Now playing across the Philippines, A Dog’s Purpose is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.