Fifty Shades Freed: Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan on the Last Chapter

Director James Foley reflects on the work Johnson and Dornan have put into the Fifty Shades series.  “Jamie and Dakota have the kind of instinctual connection to their characters that actors who are really good in their parts find.   At this point, they are referencing something that they know; they’re not making believe.  Somehow, Dakota plugged into the psychology and the emotion of Ana, and Jamie relaxes even further into the role; in Freed, you see him find Christian Grey in himself.”

For her third time as Anastasia Steele, Johnson dove headfirst into Ana’s challenging world and new sense of self.  She updates her character: “In Freed, there’s more suspense, more of a thriller aspect, with additional characters and more action—all intertwined with the love story.  A love story that has evolved and deepened.  Anastasia and Christian are married, and Anastasia has received a promotion, raising the intensity of both her private and professional life.”

She agrees with E L James and Leonard, though, when she states: “This is an epic love story but we do our best to keep it grounded and relatable.  It’s one of those inexplicable connections between two people that is completely undeniable.  Throughout these stories, you find the protagonists faced with situations that require one or both of them to bend their wills and adapt to their version of love.”

Dornan was likewise fascinated by the swirl of personal challenges and dark intrigue facing the couple in Freed.  He says: “Christian’s reaction to Ana being pregnant is not positive. It’s the exact way that you don’t want your partner to respond when you say you’re pregnant.  He feels like he is in no position to be a father.  Where they are in their life and the kind of relationship he wants to have with her, a baby’s just the last thing that he wants—it would not fit into his structure.  Emotionally he feels that having had such an awful early childhood, why—when his birth parents were so awful—why would he be any better?  That terrifies him.”

The threat Christian begins to perceive behind the series of unfortunate events that have begun to take place.  Dornan explains: “Once he realizes that both the helicopter and the computer server were sabotaged, he knows that Jack Hyde was involved.  He knows him to be a man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.  In that way, he is very similar to Christian.”

Back again as Jack Hyde, who is still obsessed with Ana, Eric Johnson took a different path: “One of the things that I looked at Jack Hyde is that he is opposite of what could happen.  There’s a shared connection in the past between the two of them, and you can see how damaged and different the outcomes can be.  I read about how when someone experiences something traumatic as a child, there’s a part of you that doesn’t mature past that point—there’s always that wounded child that you take with you, unless there’s massive amounts of therapy and going through it.  So, here’s a guy who experienced trauma as a child and how does that manifest in his life?  That was the core of what I talked about with James Foley—there can be this control and sophistication to Hyde, but then how he can fly off the handle and make some poor choices.

“He wants what Christian Grey has,” Johnson continues.  “He wants his house.  He wants his helicopter.  He wants his wife.  If he can’t have it, he’s going to do whatever he can to destroy it.  He feels entitled to that life, so there is nothing that he won’t do, nobody that he won’t hurt to get what he wants…which is just to punish Christian for having the life that he could have had.”

But even with Christian’s seemingly perfect life—the surface of young, handsome billionaire—he is deeply flawed underneath.

For Marcia Gay Harden, portraying again Christian’s mother, it is what lies underneath a character that compels her to perform, and also, what audiences can find relatable and watchable.

She reveals: “We’ve all known people who are psychologically like Christian—they aren’t able to express their needs or emotions.  They’re not going to reach out or hug you back.  Part of his journey is to learn to be empathetic—to feel for someone else, to allow himself to feel and to want and to be vulnerable… to take that mask off, literally, and be who he is.  That’s what I connect to, that part of this very human story.  I love that my character gets to say to him, ‘Marriages that don’t make room for mistakes won’t last long,’ or ‘Get in there and apologize and mean it.  Then give her time.’  With Ana, importantly, this story lets her become a hero; she saves people.  She’s the transformed sexual hero, and she’s the action hero—and that’s a good combo.”

The threat posed by Jack Hyde reaches into every aspect of Christian’s existence.  His sister Mia, played by Rita Ora, feels the threat: “Freed for me as an actor is so different—I get to experience the ‘thriller’ side of things.  Being threatened by Jack Hyde is kind of awesome, because he’s scary…even though Eric is a sweetheart in real life.  I definitely feel that this film is a thriller.”

Despite the fact that Jack Hyde lurks around every corner, Ana and Christian are trying to build a semblance of a new life together.  Back at her desk at Seattle Independent Publishing—with the new title of Editor of New Fiction—Ana has brought into the fold blogger and online author Boyce Fox, portrayed by Tyler Hoechlin (Teen Wolf and Supergirl).  Hoechlin shares a bit about his character: “Boyce is an author who Ana has discovered and feels he could be instrumental in expanding the readership of Seattle Independent Press.  He has a great online following and is excited about the opportunity to work with somebody like Ana.  I see the relationship between them being something where Boyce has always respected her notes and her opinions above a lot of others.  When they decide to work on this book together, it’s an exciting time for Boyce, and it’s beneficial to Ana and her career.”

Ana’s Bodyguard

Being the wife of a billionaire has its advantages, but also adjustments, like sacrificing of personal privacy—Sawyer is Ana’s new personal bodyguard. He is  played by Brant Daugherty, a favorite for his work on Days of Our Lives, Army Wives and Pretty Little Liars.

Daugherty, who auditioned by video, says that his efforts paid off:  “The one thing James said he was looking for was that he needed somebody who could dominate the gun and be confident with it.  I played a second lieutenant for a while on a show, so I’ve had a lot of experience with weapons and tactical training.  In the audition, I came out and pulled the gun, and James said that that was the moment that got it for me.  He said they saw a lot of guys for the role, but that I showed how sure I was with the weapon.

“There isn’t a lot in the books about who Sawyer is,” the actor continues.  “But there’s a lot written about what he does, and how he affects the characters around him.  I used that to get into his head and make what I want out of the character.  He needs a rich, internal life, even though he doesn’t say a lot.”

Ana’s friend, Kate, is again played by Eloise Mumford, and the story shows  her own romantic path—with Christian’s brother, Elliot (Luke Grimes).   Mumford says: “Kate and Elliot, their love story is continuing.  It’s a fun relationship because, unlike Ana and Christian, they don’t have all of these obstacles.  They’ve had a pretty easy sail.  Luke and I joke around, in pretty much every single scene, Elliot and Kate are dancing.”

It’s not all slow dances and romance, when a figure from Luke’s past reappears.  Mumford reveals: “There is an architect, Gia Matteo, who’s played by Arielle Kebbel—Elliot had a thing with her in the past, and she reappears.  Kate’s claws come up a bit, and she gets concerned about what might be happening.  But what’s actually going on is much more innocent, and it gets cleared up in the most wonderful, surprising way.  It was so much fun to shoot.”

For Grimes, the working relationship with Mumford was “chemistry from the start,” which was lucky for them both.  He recalls, “We didn’t have a lot of time to warm up or rehearse, and the first scene we ever had together in Fifty Shades of Grey.  I literally walked in, and we started making out.  Luckily, Eloise is a wonderful girl, and we got along great from the start.”

Grimes continues: “In Fifty Shades of Grey, the flame burns between Kate and Elliot fast.  In Darker, the relationship was a little more lived in.  Now, in Freed, Elliot has grown up a bit and the relationship has progressed.  He’s finally starting to realize that she is the girl he wants to spend his life with.  It’s very sweet—it hits him at Christian’s wedding, so it was very important for both Erika and James Foley that we have a foreshadowing of that just by his looking at Kate.”

It was particularly poignant to Foley that the two leads become an engine for change among their friends and family.  He reflects: “There is something about Elliot and Kate that makes Ana and Christian’s relationship even more emotional—it has a ripple effect onto other people in a positive way.  When Elliot proposes, you feel as if something is changing and developing.  All of these characters are getting older and more mature.  There is a sense of movement that is gratifying.”

As the single woman in the group, Kebbel enjoyed the showiness of her role, as well as the artifice it’s concealing: “Gia Matteo is feisty.  You hear about her even before you meet her, which is at Christian and Ana’s wedding—where she’s flirting, having the time of her life.  The word on the street is she’s very good at her job, but she dresses slightly…inappropriately.  A lot of the women don’t necessarily like her.  She’s incredibly bright; she’s a grown-up and she’s of the world.  She’s also a socialite, and she definitely knows how to work a room.  She and Ana have a great meeting scene later on—ones of those types of scenes that actors relish.