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"Insurgent" star discusses Atlanta filming experience

"The Divergent Series: Insurgent," in theaters now, filmed in numerous metro Atlanta locations, from the bucolic beauty of Serenbe to downtown Atlanta high rises, with some action taking place on sound screens.

We talked to Mekhi Phifer, who reprises his role as Max in the movie.

Photo: August Heim

"It was a lot of fun," he said of the Atlanta filming experience. "Everybody was just real cool and cordial. It was a fun, youthful set."

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It was his first time filming in Atlanta and he was impressed.

"Everybody seemed great. Very enthusiastic, in tune with what’s going on," he said. "I couldn’t tell any difference between shooting here and shooting in LA. Everyone was very professional."

The movie stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ansel Elgort and Miles Teller along with Kate Winslet, Jai Courtney, Octavia Spencer, Zoë Kravitz and Ashley Judd.

The plot, in case you're catching up:

"After being exposed as Divergents—people who don’t fit neatly into one of the five societal classifications or “factions”—Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) find themselves on the run from Jeanine (Kate Winslet), the power-hungry leader of the Erudite faction. As the traitorous Dauntless troops under Jeanine’s command prowl the ruins of dystopian Chicago rounding up Divergents, Tris and Four traverse the city hoping to find allies among the Amity, Candor, Abnegation and Dauntless factions—as well as the rebellious and impoverished mass of Factionless. Although heartsick and guilt-ridden over the violent deaths of her family and friends, Tris tries to uncover the secret her parents sacrificed their lives to protect - the very secret that explains why Jeanine will stop at nothing to capture her. Desperate to avoid causing pain to any more of her loved ones, Tris faces her darkest fears in a series of near-impossible challenges as she seeks to unlock the truth about the past, and ultimately the future, of their world."

Phifer, also known for work on projects including "House of Lies," "ER,"  and "Curb Your Enthusiasm," said the series' multi-ethnic, multi-generational cast of characters is key to its phenomenal popularity.

Photo: August Heim

"It’s a very multi-demographical cast," he said. "You’re dealing with a full gamut of society. And then obviously there’s the action, and the love story."

What is it, we wondered, about these futuristic, dystopian plots that so captivates people? (The second, third and fourth movies in the "Hunger Games" also filmed in Atlanta, coincidentally).

Phifer thinks viewers and readers are drawn to the idea that when society's comforts are stripped away, perseverance and goodness can somehow prevail.

"People can relate to the possibility," he said.

And how does he relate to his character?

"He’s more of a taskmaster," he said. "Sometimes things are best left unsaid. Sometimes it’s better to listen than talk. I would think that in a sticky situation the less said the better. That’s a character trait I would relate to."

And good advice for any time or place, it seems.


About the Author

Jennifer Brett is a multiplatform journalist and digital coach. She writes The Buzz blog for

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