As the saying goes, all good things take time and though the wait was long, it seems safe to say that Avatar: The Way of Water has delivered; exceeding all expectations and creating yet another magical viewing experience thanks to the inimitable imagination that belongs to James Cameron. While audiences are once again treated to the likes of Jake and Neytiri, played by Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana respectively, there was also the introduction of new characters – among them, Spider who is played by Jack Champion.
The role of a lifetime cast the young actor as a human boy adopted by Jake and Neytiri after he was orphaned in Pandora during the war. Given that the sequel is just the first of four planned instalments in the Avatar film series, and also happens to be Cameron’s first feature in 13 years, the pressure on Champion’s shoulders was huge. As a result, the actor threw everything he possibly could into the opportunity, and ensured he prepared extensively for the role by putting in the training to embody the character in his entirety: not only the mental and emotional, but the physical, too.
In an interview with GQ UK, Champion expressed that his training not only included weightlifting, CrossFit and bow and arrow and other combat skills, but also intense free diving and scuba lessons in order to learn how to safely and effectively perform stunts underwater. Champion worked with a personal trainer – Josh Murillo – to transform his physique into that of an active teen and as he admits, consistent training delivered results. “For like two years I had to maintain a shirtless physique. We had to come up with a plan that would be attainable for two years. I did a lot of high-rep weightlifting, high-intensity interval training along with some boxing workouts and incline walks,” he explained.
As for the diet he followed to sustain such rigorous activity levels and the demands of exercise, Champion admits that it was protein-packed. “It was just like protein, protein, protein. One gram of protein per pound of body weight, which is what I still do to this day. Instead of focusing on meals that tasted good or were easy to consume, I would just focus my entire day around foods that are high in protein and count my macros,” said Champion.
“In the very beginning I only had salmon, until I got sick of it. During the live action filming I was eating a lot of Beyond Meat, salads, a lot of fruit and tofu,” he added.
Speaking about his favourite workouts, Champion says that cardio was hard and also time-consuming, but the bodybuilding part was most fun as it was also a social activity. “You can just hang out with your bro, lift weights and have a good time,” he says. “I was lucky enough to work out with Arnold Schwarzenegger a few times. James Cameron and Arnold are like best friends and when Arnold visited I was like, ‘Hey, can I work out with you?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, sure. I’ll be there at Gold’s Gym, seven o’clock tomorrow.’ I was like, ‘Oh my god.’ It was awesome, like 13 year old me and my trainer Josh, we went to Gold’s Gym the next day and Arnold just walked us through his daily workout and it was so, so cool.”
Though production may have finished and the film has been released, Champion has made working out a priority in his life. “I’m still training with Josh, we work out like four times a week. We do HIIT and CrossFit workouts, still bodybuilding as well,” he explains.
“As far as my diet goes I still eat generally healthy. I may not be hitting the exact amount of protein every day, diet for me is still the hardest part because like any teenager, I prefer snack foods to real foods. I’m lucky that I’m pretty young and I can still get away with a bit more cheating than my trainer.”