“I don’t want to put into a box. I don’t want anybody to just go, ‘Oh, he’s the guy who can just do that.’” – Kyle Gallner
It’s been a while since I talked to Kyle Gallner. The last time was back in 2010 for the film, Cherry. Since then, Gallner has turned into one of the best young character actors around. From the films American Sniper and Dear White People to TV shows like Outsiders and Interrogation, he just keeps getting better and better.
In the new film, The Cleansing Hour, he stars as Drew who, along with his buddy Max (Ryan Guzman), hire actors to help stage fake exorcisms on the internet. But when one of their actors actually ends up getting possessed by a demon, all hell breaks loose.
In this interview, Gallner talks about the film and how great it was to shoot in chronological order, how he creates a character and his worst audition.
Let’s talk about the movie. You play, I guess you can say he’s a filmmaker?
Kyle Gallner: I don’t know if he’s a filmmaker. I guess he creates content, you know what I mean? He like runs the show. He’s working behind the scenes with his buddy Max and they create these fake exorcisms and they put them up online for people think they’re real and to get fans and followers. After a while somebody gets pissed off about it and decides to do something about it.
That’s an understatement, yeah. You have this real nice arc where your character is in charge and even keeled and by the end of the movie he’s, not to give anything away, not. When you craft something like that, is it hard to be mindful where you are shooting wise? In your script do you have notes of where you are emotionally because you’re not shooting scenes in order?
Kyle Gallner: Well, where we got lucky with this is that we actually got to film… 99% of the show is all on that stage, so we actually got to shoot quite a bit of it in order which definitely helped because you kind of know the trajectory. You know where you’re going and you know what happened before.
But yeah, if you’re not doing that, you definitely have to be aware of where your character is at that time physically and emotionally. You really have to understand what your moment before was and where you’re going with things. So it can get tricky sometimes but this one definitely was a bit easier because we got to do most of it chronologically .
That’s awesome. Besides like a play, I’ve never had an opportunity to do that .
Kyle Gallner: [laughs]Yeah, me either. You’re usually like, “Oh, s—. I’m shooting scene 1 and scene 68 today?”
Right. “We’re shooting the very end of the movie right at the very beginning of the shoot?”
Kyle Gallner: Isn’t that the best? Or when you’re married or something and you’re supposed to have known each other for how long? “Hi, I’m Kyle. Nice to meet you.”
You do a lot of horror movies. Is that something you actually enjoy watching?
Kyle Gallner: Yeah, I do enjoy horror movies. I really watch anything. Since I’ve had kids, I haven’t been watching things as much as I used to but I used to watch anything and everything, and that’s definitely horror included. I would not say horror is a genre that I’ve shied away from. I’ve always enjoyed a good horror movie.
You work a lot and it’s all different genres and characters. I think about Interrogation, which you were fantastic in. There’s no way anybody can accuse you of being typecast. Is that something you planned?
Kyle Gallner: It’s something I’ve always been aware of. When I was younger, I was really fortunate to have gotten these horror movies. I got A Haunting in Connecticut, A Nightmare on Elm Street. I got Jennifer’s Body. And all of that was really pretty close together. And I found after that, I was getting sent a lot of horror movies which, you know, there’s nothing wrong with that. But for me I was like, “OK, I can either keep doing this or I have to make a conscious effort and be sort of smart about what I’m choosing to do because I don’t want to get pigeonholed.” I don’t want to put into a box. I don’t want anybody to just go, “Oh, he’s the guy who can just do that.”
Which even still, you have people that will do that. I did a lot of drama; I did a lot of dark stuff. So, for a long time everybody was like, “Oh, he’s the dramatic brooding kid.” So, you’re almost always fighting some kind of stereotype or some kind of box which is extremely frustrating because you want to grab these people by the shirt and shake them and be like, “I’m a f—ing actor dude! Just because you’ve seen this movie doesn’t mean that’s all I am.”
I feel like a lot of times people find it easier to just look at one thing and say, “That’s what this person is.” So I’ve actively tried… not like I’m sitting here tossing scripts out the window or that I’m drowning in scripts being like, “Yes, I’ll do this one.” I’m still very much in the ‘fighting tooth and nail for every job I get phase.’ [laughs]But it was important for me to branch out.
And even now, I’m in a transition where I’m entering into my adult career. I’ve been doing it for a long time and a lot of these people still see me as a young man. So, it’s fighting against this preconceived thing, to show people like, “No guys, I’m not 18 years old anymore.” I’ve been reading for some people or I’ve known some people for like a decade and they’ve seen these transitions and these things happening… so it’s always a fight, it’s always a push. It’s always pushing to get into that next phase of things and it’s nonstop.
But I think If you’re smart about your choices and also have a lot of luck getting to play a lot of different things, I think is the right move. Like you said, I don’t want anybody to ever look at me and be like, “Oh, he’s just this one thing.”
It seems like you love a good challenge with the roles you take on. Have you ever wanted a part, got it and then thought, “Holy crap, how am I going to do this?”
Kyle Gallner: Yeah. I did a movie recently that went to Sundance last year called, Dinner in America. There was a lot of this character, Simon, that I related to. I really understood a lot of who he was, just because he was in a punk band and he loves punk music. He was like super aggro and he’s turned up to 11 all the time. So while there were parts of him that I understood, there is also this whole level of physicality; creating his voice and the way he moves and the way he eats. And there was also this unshakable confidence in this guy and that can’t help but instill insecurity in you because you’re like, “Is this too much? Is it not enough? Where am I supposed to be?”
So, I kept questioning myself where I’m like, “There’s no way I could possibly be as confident as Simon has to be.” So, it was nerve wracking all the time. Having to push it further and further and trust yourself to have to go there. It’s something I’ve never had to do to that extent or two that extreme. That was definitely the last job I’ve had where I was really nervous.
A lot of your characters look completely different. And you just talked about creating a voice, sound different. How do you go about creating them? I might be completely wrong, but I feel like you like to start outside in?
Kyle Gallner: It really depends. Sometimes it’s all about putting on the right pair of boots, you know what I mean? What does it feel like to walk with a heavier pair of shoes? How would this guy dress? And that can kind of inform how you would move. And things can kind of start building from there. But it’s more about trying on the skin and feeling it out.
And the voice thing is just playing with different tones and speech patterns and that’s more of just playing until you find something that feels right. I’ll drive my wife freaking nuts. I’ve done movies where I’ve had to have accents and for half the day, I’ll just talk in it and she’ll say, “You gotta stop!” [laughs]
It’s like all these little questions. Like for me, Simon was this animal. There is a caged wild animal in there, so if you watch when I eat, I have my hands wrapped around my food, I’m hunched over, you know what I mean? It’s like a wild animal who will not let you take his food. It’s little things like that. It’s just piecing it all together until you feel ready to go.
And that’s not to say that you’re not gonna find stuff on the day. Or throw stuff away. It’s an ever changing, ever evolving process.
But for me, that’s how I like to work. I prefer to work more in the capacity of creating all of those things rather than just trying to be like myself most of the time.
I like character work a lot. I feel like I’m getting to the age now where, finally, you get trusted to do that a little bit more. Or get the opportunities to do that a little bit more.
Like, the first time I ever got to really like dive into some character work was for Jennifer’s Body. There was like a lot of bizarre physicality and I got to use a completely different voice and it was really exciting. It was like, “Wow, these people are trusting me to do this.”
What’s been your worst audition?
Kyle Gallner: I had a couple. Since we’re on the topic of horror… I had a callback for The Hills Have Eyes remake. It was for the director and all the producers. The scenes were super intense. Like the first scene starts off and it’s this full-on freak out, screaming and it just kicks off right away. That was the scene I had for the first audition and that’s what I was given for the callback.
So, I get in there, I take a deep breath and I start this freak out scene and everybody just jumps and lurches back and is like, “Woah, woah, woah!” And I’m like, “What?”
They had changed all the audition material and my representation at the time did not send it to me. So they were not ready for me to freak out. They were not ready for me to start screaming.
They gave me the new scenes and let me sit in the lobby for 10 minutes. So, I had to read this final callback completely cold. Needless to say, I did not get the part.
THE CLEANSING HOUR is now available on VOD, Digital and DVD