Woody Harrelson has never gone out of his way to repeat a role he’s already played. On TV, the few exceptions include playing Woody on “Cheers,” Nathan on “Will & Grace,” and Detective Hart on “True Detective.” The only time he’s done it in a feature film has been as scene stealer Haymitch Abernathy in the “Hunger Games” franchise. Well, until now. In “Now You See Me 2,” Harrelson reprises his role as hypnotist extraordinaire Merritt McKinney, one of the elusive Four Horsemen, the team of caper-pulling magicians who this time might be under another magician’s control. When Harrelson first played Merritt three years ago, he gave the character a smooth and slick comic sheen. This time he gets to have double the fun, as he also plays the part of Merritt’s slightly effeminate identical twin brother Chase. Harrelson recently spoke about the film, hypnotism, and playing opposite himself, as well as his stance on legalizing marijuana.

Q: Did you have any trouble falling right back into the character after three years away from, him?

A: No, it was pretty easy because I already had a sense of who the guy is. But I like adding something new. That’s why I liked playing the brother.

Q: Did you know there was going to be a twin brother before you read the script, or was it a surprise to you?

A: They asked me about it first, asked if I wanted to do it. I told them I didn’t know, but that I’d take a look at the script. And yeah, I liked it, although I was a little bit concerned because I didn’t want it to feel artificial or false.

Q: Is it tough acting opposite yourself and keeping the reactions of both characters straight?

A: I tried to keep a clear picture of it (in my mind). There was this guy named Brick who would do the other part while I’d do one, and then I’d switch over and he’d change. He was a good actor so it wasn’t like heavy sledding.

Q: Before you made the first film, you got some coaching on how to play Merritt from the Irish mentalist Keith Barry. How about this time?

A: On that one he was involved in consulting with me on the hypnotism and mentalism. This time around he kind of took control of all the magic — not just the stuff relating to me. That was really cool. He had a big influence on all of the magic in this movie.

Q: You’ve said before that you did a bit of acting in high school, then really got into it in college. But I recently read that due to your family being very religious, your first times speaking in front of a crowd were when you delivered some sermons at the age of 17. Would you consider that the beginning of your acting days?

A: Well, you know, in a way, it’s certainly performing. Whether or not it’s acting is another question. You know, you look at some of the televangelists. Some of them are pretty dull, but some of them are pretty riveting.

Q: Were you riveting at 17?

A: No, I was one of the dull ones (laughs).

Q: A quick change of subject, if you don’t mind. You’ve long been a vocal proponent of legalizing marijuana. But there are still so many anti-legalization voices calling it a gateway drug. Do you have any words of wisdom for them?

A: I’m not in the business of changing people’s minds. But the gateway drug thing is kind of absurd. For that matter, alcohol is a gateway drug. And there’s a lot more people doing alcohol, and a lot more people who have ruined their lives from alcohol. And, by the way, cops would say that a lot more violent crime happens due to alcohol, whereas with pot, you can’t even get the person off the couch to commit a violent crime (laughs).

“Now You See Me 2” opens on June 10.
— Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.