In Lois Lowry’s 1993 book The Giver, we meet Jonas’ best friend Asher. In their highly controlled world, his energy, tardiness, and carelessness with words often results in disciplinary measures. He’s important in illustrating the different ways the restrictive society affects various personalities, but he is very much a side character.
In the Phillip Noyce-directed adaptation of The Giver (out Aug. 15), however, besides being aged along with the other main characters, actor Cameron Monaghan says, his character “has definitely been expanded.”
“At the start of the story he’s a little bit of a clown. He’s a little bit clumsy and kind of at odds with the very rigid and dry society around him,” says Monaghan. “I was a little bit of a class clown when I was younger. I had a lot of energy and didn’t quite fit well within the more rigid parts of academic society. That experience kind of informs how Asher feels.”
The latest trailer teases a turn we don’t necessarily see in the book, though, which seems to be a more vocal rift between Asher and Jonas, and a more externalized and expanded rebellion from Jonas. “It’s so hard to say anything,” he says, hyper-aware of any potential spoilers. But he teased that, eventually, Asher “has to decide which side to choose.”
Monaghan says that he tends toward improv and experimentation in his roles thanks to a background in indies and more guerrilla-style productions, but remained wary of doing right by the source material and the massive production. “Out of respect, you don’t want to go too far away from it,” he says. “That was an interesting challenge for me.”
But Monaghan found release from the pressures on set in an interesting way. “A lot of the cast is musical, so we jammed together,” he says, including co-stars Brenton Thwaites and Taylor Swift, who plays Rosemary. “We hung out in Jeff Bridges’ hotel room and had jam sessions a number of times. That was fun. We would play a lot of old classics. The Beatles. The Rolling Stones. Whatever, really. We were just a loud, boisterous bunch, you know? Pounding on the floor, yelling, and having fun till about 3 o’clock in the morning. I’m sure the neighbors hated us, but we had a blast.”