LOS ANGELES - When talking with Pom Klementieff, the rising star whose role as the empath Mantis in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will almost assuredly make her a global star, two things become quickly apparent.
One, is that she is as unique as her first name. The other is that she has not only survived but thrived after some incidents that would crush most people.
"My mom named me Pom because she said it sounded like a combination of Korean words that mean 'spring' and 'tiger', "Klementieff said recently in an exclusive interview. "So, it's very unique!"
Klementieff's cheerful personality is perfect for her character of Mantis, who arguably draws the most laughs during the fun film's 2 hours and 18 minutes.
That personality is even more impressive when one considers the series of tragedies involving those closest to her that the 30-year old actress has had to endure.
Klementieff's father died of cancer when she was five and her mother was schizophrenic and unable to care for her so Klementieff was raised by her paternal aunt and uncle. Her uncle died on her 18th birthday and her brother, Namou, committed suicide on her 25th birthday."It's life and s--t could be worse," she stressed. "I'm really okay right now."
Klementieff said that being an actress helps her deal with the pain.
"It's cathartic in a way," she said. "Sometimes you relive things and it helps you to deal with it," she said. "You relive it and become accepting of it and you touch other people's hearts with your experience and performance. It's beautiful!"
Speaking of beauty, some of the best scenes in Guardians 2 are when Klementieff's eye-catching Mantis is told she "looks horrific" and "is ugly" by Dave Bautista's blunt Drax.
"Those scenes were so funny," Klementieff exclaimed. "Because Mantis grew up lonely and without someone telling her what is beautiful and what is ugly, when Drax or someone else says something to her, having the optimism of a child, she automatically takes it as a compliment!"
She said one of the reasons Drax and Mantis get along so well is because they both say what's on their minds - as Mantis hilariously does in a scene from the trailer, where she reveals that Chris Pratt's Star-Lord is in love with Zoe Saldana's Gamora.
"I just remembered how children are," she said. "Very literal. No filter. They say what they think."
As much fun as she has on set, Klementieff takes her job very seriously. For her first Hollywood role, in Spike Lee's Old Boy, she was told her character was a fighter and that she could make up her own name. So, she researched a Korean word for "happiness" to name her character - and took boxing lessons.
"I commit myself to that degree because to me, it's a challenge," she said. "It makes it more interesting to do work - and I'm a very passionate person who enjoys challenging myself."
Since then, she said she has been taking Tae Kwon Do lessons.
"It's nice to feel stronger, too - especially as a woman, " she said. "Right now, I'm all dressed up, but it's nice to have the option to (be tough), you know? I would love to be the lead in an action movie. I would love to be like Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow. So badass."
Though Mantis is much the pacifist in this installment of the Guardians franchise, she is hoping that changes in future films in the series, especially if she crosses paths with Aleta Ogord, who makes her first appearance in an after-credits scene and is played by action legend Michelle Yeoh.
"Yeah," Klementieff said excitedly. "She can teach Mantis some moves!"
She also hopes to have a scene with Stakar Ogord, who is played by Sylvester Stallone.
"Oh, my gosh! Can you imagine learning boxing from Sylvester Stallone's character? I would die! I have to ask James (Gunn, director of the Guardians films)," Klementieff exclaimed. "Mantis learning one-handed push-ups! Or running to catch a space chicken? Or Rocket? or Baby Groot? I'm going to ask James about this!"
In closing, Klementieff said she realizes that after this film is released, her life is going to change.
"It's crazy," she concluded. "I don't even fully realize the impact because the film's not out yet. But it's happening a little bit already. I'll be at the airport and people will say, 'Mantis!" and I'm like, 'Wait! How do you know I'm here!?' It's just crazy."