Dexter Darden: Frypan “Lifts Everybody’s Spirits” in ‘Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials’

Last fall, Fangirlish had the pleasure of visiting the set of Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials in beautiful Albuquerque, New Mexico. We spent the day at I-25 Studios, watching several scenes be filmed and sitting down with the cast, director Wes Ball, and more key figures to get the inside scoop on The Scorch Trials. We’ll be sharing everything that we learned on set in the weeks to come, so stay tuned and get ready for Scorch.

Dexter Darden quickly established himself as a fan favorite with his sassy, lighthearted portrayal of Glade chef Frypan in The Maze Runner. (Who could forget his perfectly timed “Seriously?” when the Gladers reach the Maze exit?) We couldn’t wait to chat with Dexter on the set of The Scorch Trials to find out what’s in store for Frypan this time around. He is just as fun – and funny – as his character, and was incredibly generous with his time as we talked all things Frypan.

First and foremost, Dexter assured us that we’ll see more of the Frypan we know and love in The Scorch Trials – but that, like his fellow Gladers, he gets to step up his game. “Frypan in the Glade is kind of a happy-go-lucky guy who lifts spirits and provides food, so he’s all about the community aspect,” Darden said. “Now we’re all out of the Glade, and I think my role enhances a little bit more because Alby’s not around, Gally’s not around, and Frypan kind of has to step up and be more of a leader behind Thomas and Minho and Newt.”

Even as Frypan steps up in the leadership department, he won’t lose the humor and friendliness that are so central to his character. “[He’ll] still provide the camaraderie and the lightness to keep us going,” Darden said. As with Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) & Co., Frypan will not be a different person altogether in the Scorch, but rather an evolution of his former self. “I think we all kind of go through a change. We’re not in the Glade anymore – this is a new territory for us, so we need to find the best way to adapt,” Dexter explained.

Speaking of evolution, Dexter also discussed how he was able to apply lessons he learned shooting The Maze Runner to grow as an actor for the sequel. In particular, he learned how to keep his energy up during those 14- or 16-hour days by feeding off of his castmates. “We’re headed by Dylan O’Brien, who is one of the hardest working human beings I’ve ever been around in my life, so we kind of feed off of each other’s energy in filming a movie like The Scorch Trials or The Maze Runner – which is very physical, very vigorous and time-consuming,” Dexter said. “You need to thrive off of others, and having a family like that just helps keep us moving. You learn how to feed off of each other and kind of be a support system when you need it.”

The Scorch Trials cast definitely needed that support system and camaraderie during the shoot in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which was arguably even more intense than that for The Maze Runner. Dexter and his fellow core cast members had to pull off some seriously cool stunts and involved sequences, all while contending with environmental challenges that are far more than just movie magic. “The altitude on this one is really tough,” Darden said. To put things in perspective, most of the cast is from LA, which is about 233 feet above sea level. Some of the film’s sets in Albuquerque were about 5,600 feet above sea level, which meant the cast was put through vigorous training so they could handle the tough conditions. “Running up those sand dunes and through those mountains, we’re full-on sprinting – and everything you see is really us,” Dexter said.

Though the altitude and the rough terrain made for some of the most difficult shooting conditions, Dexter was amazed by the New Mexican desert standing in for the world of the Scorch. “These sand dunes are just naturally amazing to be around. So running up those sand dunes, even though it’s tough – I mean, we’re running up like 50 foot sand dunes straight up vertically – even though that was the harder stuff to shoot, it’s just so pretty to be out here in New Mexico,” he said. “You stand on top of a sand dune and you see a mountain range a hundred miles away – I’ve never shot anything like that before. I’m used to being able to be hands-on, one-on-one in the studio or be[ing] with my castmates to shoot a conversation piece, but just hiking up the sand dune with these guys and being able to be at the top of a sand dune and seeing the mountain range is just like, ‘Wow, we’re really shooting a movie,’ you know?”

So what exactly awaits our Gladers in this new world? According to Dexter, the opening will be a “whirlwind” that picks up right where the first film left off. “We still don’t know where we are. We’re out of the Maze and we completed the trials, but we don’t know where we are or what that was about. Our characters are kind of left hanging like the audience is left hanging – we have a lot to figure out.” Even when the Gladers are rushed from the helicopter into an underground bunker run by Janson (Aidan Gillen), they won’t find the answers they seek right away. “We get to this place that we think is safe for us, and we start to feel comfortable. There’s food that Frypan didn’t have to cook, that we just eat, and I think we’re all just a little confused and still a little lost – that’s kind of where we pick up,” Darden explained.

It’s a complex set of circumstances for the Gladers to start off in – especially those like Frypan, who had spent the past few years of their lives in the Glade. “We just lost Chuck. We just lost Gally. We just lost Alby. We lost all these people who were really close to us. And for Frypan, Newt, and Minho, these were our friends for years, so it’s kind of like losing a brother.” Even with these raw losses, Frypan and the other Gladers who escaped won’t lose hope just yet. “We’re still very lost, still very hurt, but I think we’re excited to continue our journey, so it’s a great place to pick up from the last movie.”

Catch up with Frypan and his fellow Gladers as they take on the Scorch in Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, in theaters September 18.

Which Frypan moments are you looking forward to seeing in ‘The Scorch Trials’?

Interview has been edited for clarity.

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