T.J. McGibbon is known for her roles in fantastic properties like The Umbrella Academy and X-Men: Apocalypse. But she’s showing a more down-to-earth side in the new comedy film The War With Grandpa, where she plays Emma, whose friend Peter engages in a prank war with his grandfather when the older man moves into his house and takes over his bedroom.
As the movie continues its theatrical run and is soon to be released digitally, I spoke with T.J. about making the film that also stars Robert De Niro, Jane Seymour, and Rob Riggle, and how different it was from the performances that film fans know her for.
Brittany Frederick: Most of what you’ve done has been big genre work like the X-Men franchise. Was it different to do something that was a smaller and straight-up comedy?
T.J. McGibbon: It was a little weird. It was my first big comedy, and so it definitely came with its own learning curves and challenges. I had to learn all about comedic timing, but Tim [Hill], our director, was wonderful. He taught me so much, and so I think I caught on pretty fast and I had a lot of fun with it.
BF: Some actors have said comedy is actually harder than drama because of how it relies on timing and chemistry. Did you find that to be the case making this film?
TM: I love both of them and I think they all come with their own set of challenges. I don’t really like to compare them because I think they’re super different, but it was definitely something new to learn. I think drama comes a lot easier to me than comedy does, but I loved it, and I always love trying something new.
BF: You had a great cast on The War With Grandpa, many of whom have had huge comedy roles. So did you soak up anything from your co-stars that helped you in the process?
TM: I’m so grateful to work with industry legends. I learned a lot from them. Every day you show up on set, it’s like a masterclass in professionalism, and just acting itself and all the different aspects that come along with it. I had a lot of fun shooting with them; they’re all super kind and wonderful people, and so I’m really lucky. It was about three years ago [that the movie was filmed] and I think I’ve really carried what they taught me on set with me through other projects that I’ve done since.
BF: Are there particular favorite scenes from the movie that you’d tell people to look out for as they finally get to see it?
TM: One of my favorite days on sets was in the trailer – there’s a scene with a trampoline dodgeball fight. We got to spend three or four days at the Sky Zone in Atlanta and it was so much fun.
We got to jump around in between takes, and I will definitely never forget getting to jump around with Robert De Niro, Jane Seymour, Cheech Marin and Christopher Walken. It was actually Christopher Walken’s first time on a trampoline…It was a really fun experience, the scene was wonderful, and I can’t wait for you guys to see it.
BF: Now that you’ve branched out into comedy, is there anything else you’ve wanted to do in your career and just haven’t gotten the opportunity yet? What would you like to see happen next?
TM: I’m always up for anything. I love what I do and I love learning about new things in my craft, so I am honestly up for anything as long as it has a good story and I get to work with really cool people.
BF: Are you able to watch yourself in a project like The War With Grandpa? Because some actors don’t like watching their movies when they’ve been released.
TM: I think I’ve learned how to watch myself. It’s a little strange. When X-Men: Apocalypse came out, I got to go see it with some friends and family in 3D, and it was a little strange watching myself in 3D. But I like to see the stuff that I’ve done later, mostly to be able to see what it looks like and the other scenes that are in the script. I’m always looking forward to see how it turned out and what it actually looked like. You kind of have a picture in your head, but it doesn’t always look the same. And so I’ve learned how, but it’s definitely a little weird.
BF: What are you passionate about outside of acting? Are there other interests you have or causes that are important to you?
TM: I am an ambassador for affordable housing. It’s an issue that’s really important to me. It affects so many people worldwide. I’m an ambassador for a local affordable housing provider that really helps out people across my province called Indwell, and I love being able to talk about affordable housing and raise awareness for how much our world is in need of it.
The War With Grandpa is playing in select theaters nationwide and is also available for pre-order on Amazon Video. Photo Credit: L.A. West/Courtesy of Melissa Berger PR.