Quick Hits Boston: Actor Themo Melikidze Discusses Playing Tamerlan Tsarnaev in “Patriots Day”

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One of the darkest days in Boston history is now being portrayed on the big screen in “Patriots Day.” The movie details the events leading up to the Boston Marathon bombings and city-wide manhunt to capture the terrorists behind it. (The story is told through the eyes and life of Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis played by Mark Wahlberg). “Patriots Day” depicts the horrific accounts of April 15, 2013, but more importantly, it pays homage to the heroism of the city and how we came together as a community.

Patriots DayPhoto Credit: Patriots Day

Since its premiere nationwide in theaters on January 13, actor Themo Melikidze has gained significant praise for his chilling portrayal of Boston Marathon bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. We caught up with him recently to discuss what it was like taking on such a difficult role, working with Mark Wahlberg and his role on FOX’s upcoming “24: Legacy, premiering February 5, immediately following the Super Bowl.

Themo MelikidzePhoto Credit: Themo Melikidze

What was it like playing the role of Tamerlan Tsarnaev in ‘Patriots Day’? At times it was very unpleasant, and it was the most challenging thing I have ever done in my life as far as acting goes. The fact that it was all based on true events makes it worse. He had a horrible plan in his mind and went through with it. When I looked at the bigger project and the message it wanted to share with the world, I was absolutely pleased and honored to be on set with Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg. 

Did you have any reluctance accepting the role? When I moved out to LA a year ago from New York, I didn’t have a place to stay or even a car. This was my first big break and it was the most challenging and difficult. To have the chance to meet with an agent and then a week later have an opportunity to audition for ‘Patriots Day’ was an amazing twist for me. I really focused on the message of the project, which was to highlight the heroism and courage of the people of Boston and how they came together to defeat evil.  

When you were cast, what steps did you take to prepare for the role? For a character like this, I didn’t think there was a way to prepare for someone like this. I kept asking myself, how did he get to this point? I wanted to honor the people of Boston and researched everything about him on the web. Then I met with his coach, who gave me insight as to who he was. At times it was very difficult to play this role because of the hate, anger and disgust I had for this person. We as a people don’t feel hate 24/7, but he did. It gives you nightmares.

How did it feel training with John Allen, who actually coached Tamerlan? The first day, he gave me info on how he walked, talked and how he used to go in the boxing ring. I asked him to treat me like him, and we did the same exact routine as they used to do. There was one time he asked me to stop as he had almost a deja vu type experience. 

Can you talk a little bit about one of the most intense scenes in the movie – the car-jacking scene? It was a very interesting day. Jim (Yang, who plays Dun Meng) and I hadn’t had the chance to introduce ourselves before this scene. We didn’t say hi. We just looked at each other, which said a lot without communicating with each other. There was a weird vibe that played out in the scene when I grabbed him and took the gun. Peter was an amazing director, who gave us the freedom to explore the characters. 

What did you learn from working with veteran actor and Bostonian Mark Wahlberg? I grew up on his movies like “The Departed” and “Ted” and watched his movies back home in Belgium. It was just a dream working with him and a big moment in my life. Once I was on set, I could see how devoted, dedicated and hard working he was. It was such an inspiring moment for me. He pays attention to the smallest details. It was very inspiring as an upcoming artist. I really respect what he is doing, and it was really a dream come true to be able to work with him. 

What one thing would you like viewers to take away from watching this movie? In the day we live in, this movie is so important. There is always news highlighting what is going on Iraq, Syria and Palestine that keeps us divided as human beings, but this movie breaks down those barriers. Before we are Democrats or Republicans, we are all human beings who long for a better tomorrow. ‘Patriots Day’ shows that if we support each other, there is nothing more powerful than that, and Boston showed us that on that day. The movie shows us that we need to unite every single day. 

Tell me about your upcoming role on “24: Legacy.” This happened quickly after ‘Patriots Day.’ It is such an iconic show and being part of it is amazing. I can’t say too much, but my role is as a lost kid that just wants to prove to his old man that he’s a real man and can do what he wants. 

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