THE DARK, which is the feature film debut from director Justin P. Lange, is a heart-wrenching horror/thriller that deals with themes of abuse and trauma. The film centers around an undead teenage girl, played by Nadia Alexander, and a blind boy, played by Toby Nichols, who are both victims of unspeakable abuse. For the release of the film, I had the chance to speak with Toby Nichols about his latest role, working with prosthetics, and finding strength through trauma.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi Toby, thank you so much for speaking with me today. To start thing off, can you tell us a little about your character Alex?
Toby Nichols: Alex is a boy that was kidnapped and tortured, but kept as a pet of a sort by his kidnapper. They are on the run from the police when they end up in Devil’s Den and Mina finds them. Things don’t go well for the kidnapper, but Mina feels pity for Alex and lets him live.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What was it about the role of Alex that attracted you to the character?
TN: It’s daunting anytime you get to play a character that has been through so much trauma and is still in the middle of their horror. He’s a victim but still has a strength about him. I was intrigued with the mind and life of Alex and I’m really glad I could portray him.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Your character goes through a series of traumatic experiences that are heart-wrenching to learn about. Did you do any type of research to get a better understanding of Alex’s headspace?
TN: For Alex, it was all about feeling his isolation. He had no one to turn to. As far as his blindness, I spend all day every day on set totally blinded by the prosthetics I wore. This really helped me feel his isolation and his dependence on his kidnapper.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Early on we learn that Alex is blind - as an actor, what was that experience like? I’m assuming they used prosthetic makeup - were you able to see at all?
TN: At first, Justin P. Lange (the director/writer)felt bad for making me completely blind and tried to leave gaps in the makeup or leave one eye undone, but after just a couple of days we decided to just go all out and completely cover them. I had to close my eyes for the makeup to be applied so I couldn’t even see light by the time everything was done. But being blind and running through the woods does present some problems, thankfully I had a lot of help from my trusty guides, Blowdart & Danny. I was also still doing school work, so we had to just take one day a week and do the whole week’s worth of school work in that one day. My teacher, Goda Cutajar, would come to our house in Parry Sound and spend the whole day working with me to get it done. Not to mention, I had to know all of my lines 100% before I got to set.
When my eyes were covered, it gave me a lot of time to think and get into Alex’s head. Unfortunately, I didn’t develop supersonic hearing.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Last, but not least, are you working on any projects that we should be keeping our eyes out for in the future?
TN: I took some time after THE DARK to finish school and do some archaeology work in Israel over the summer. I was working at the site of an ancient Roman fortress in the desert. It’s amazing to see something right there in front of you that only felt like a fictional story before. I’m planning on going back next year to work on another site.
THE DARK is now available in select theaters.