Owen Teague decided he wanted to be an actor when he was four years old, after watching Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. “I think it was the Beast himself,” says Teague. “The idea of this animal being a human on the inside and having this kind of anthropomorphic sensitivity and rage. It was really powerful to me.”

Teague told his mother, a former professional jazz singer with a passion for the arts, and she agreed to shuttle him to auditions. “She wasn’t a stage mom at all, but she was like, If you’re going to do this, then we have to do it.”

In addition to acting, Owen Teague plays multiple instruments.

The hard work paid off. Teague, now 25, stars in Wes Ball’s new installment in the Planet of the Apes series, which takes place three centuries after the death of ape leader Caesar, where the 2017 film left off. Teague plays a young chimpanzee named Noa, who embarks on an adventure with a human named Mae (played by Freya Allan) to save his clan.

Growing up in Tampa, Florida, Teague found the opportunities for creative expression few and far between. Still, he landed a few parts in local musicals and plays. He admits he can’t sing, but he is musically gifted—he’s played the violin since age three. Now he can strum, pluck, blow, or bang on just about any instrument you throw his way.

When it comes to acting, Teague has the “It” factor. At just eight years old, he performed in the pre-Broadway runs of both A Tale of Two Cities and Macbeth. He’s worked steadily in theater since age 14.

Teague in Bloodline, the show that helped launch his career.

At 16, Teague started to give film and TV a try. He played parts in small projects until 2015, when he auditioned for Bloodline, an oblique family drama set in the Florida Keys starring Kyle Chandler, Sissy Spacek, and Ben Mendelsohn. Teague landed the recurring role of Mendelsohn’s wayward son, Nolan Rayburn. He and the big screen clicked.

From there, Teague landed a supporting part in a Black Mirror episode directed by Jodie Foster and starred in Mrs. Fletcheras as Kathryn Hahn’s morally ambiguous and brooding son. He also acted alongside Whoopi Goldberg, James Marsden, and Amber Heard in a film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand. He excelled as Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tobias Menzies’s artistic and eye-rolling son in You Hurt My Feelings and acted alongside Anne Hathaway in the stylish thriller Eileen, based on Ottessa Moshfegh’s best-selling novel.

To prepare for Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, Teague enrolled in “ape school.”

The role of Noa in Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is his largest and most demanding yet. It is also one that holds great meaning for Teague, who, at age seven, watched Peter Jackson’s King Kong crash across the cinema screen, completely transfixed. When his mother explained that the mighty ape was played by an actual person (C.G.I.-modeled by Andy Serkis) in a performance-capture suit, Teague saw his future.

Nearly two decades later, Teague recorded a self-tape as an ape in his New York apartment. “I thought, How would I approach this as a human? And that was the key, just playing the truth of the scene and not focusing on the ape element.”

C.G.I. is “the most pure form of acting you can have because there is no costume.”

Teague secured the part and was promptly sent to “ape school”—six intensive weeks studying how to move, scratch, and shriek like an animal would—before filming started in Australia.

C.G.I. is “the most pure form of acting you can have because there is no costume,” says Teague. “The physicality and the voice is the costume, and the emotional life of the character is what you play with.”

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is in theaters now

Bridget Arsenault is the London Editor at AIR MAIL