For the release of the art-house, coming-of-age film COME, SAID THE NIGHT, I had the chance to speak with actor Lew Temple (The Walking Dead) about his latest role as Roy Grady. COME, SAID THE NIGHT centers around a young woman, played by Nicole Moorea Sherman, who is discovering her sexuality during a time when she recognizes that monsters exist. During our chat, Lew and I discussed everything from mythological gods, the religious undertones of the film, and the horrors that reside within humanity.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Thank you so much for speaking with us today, Lew. To start things off, can you tell us a little bit about your character Roy Grady and what interested you in the role?
Lew Temple: Andres Rovira’s script captivated my imagination from the very first time I read it. He had connected with me through a mutual friend, and mentor, Robert Zuckerman, who is such an amazing artist in his own right. He offered a solid recommendation on Andy and his work, so I had to follow up. I read the script, and found it to be so engaging and nuanced. It was a story unlike any that I had been exposed to before. Really very unique, and timely. Not just for the social commentary for me, Lew Temple, but as an artist and as a person. I was looking for a project that I could sink my teeth into, something that was different than anything I had done before. This story of sexual awakening and sexual repression is so utterly fascinating. It felt like Andy knew that when he penned the character of Roy Grady. I am very much like this character, and yet very different from this character. These similarities and differences were challenging to say the least.
Roy Grady is a single father, trying to shelter his children from the influence of the world that he himself is an outsider. He refers to the current society as “The Otherness”, but in fact it is him who is disenfranchised. He is dealing with a lot of baggage. Personal, familial, spiritual. Each complicating his capacity to raise his children in seclusion, an extreme faith to a worship that is from a bygone time. Roy is polytheism, which means he favors the belief in several Gods, which he imparts on his two surviving children, Sprout and Percy. He is also dealing with loss. Grieving the death of his daughter Magda and his absent wife. But he has a secret. One which will slowly but surely unravel his grip on his family. This was such a challenge as I said. I was drawn to the aspect of playing two sides of the same coin. A very loving father, trying to do the very best for his children, and a psychopath trying to manage his world. There were so many layers to Roy, and thankfully Andy, as the director, allowed me to explore each of them. This was the delight in this role, the discovery in building Roy.
Nightmarish Conjurings: The film deals with a lot of religious tones - combining both that of Christianity with Greek mythology. Were you familiar with these mythological gods prior to the film? Which one do you think best represents you?
LT: This idea of Greek Mythology was a key topic that piqued my interest in the project. As a child, like most children, I was fascinated by the myths of the Greek Gods. Zeus, Apollo, Poseidon, and Hercules were all very exciting to me as a child. As adults, we tend to lose our exposure to Greek Mythology to more mainstream forms of religions. I feel like we are still fascinated by this legacy nonetheless, and it is so seldom portrayed as a family theme. I found it to be the absolute perfect unique foundation for our story. We are all tested in our belief system day to day, our faith. This can be as normal as debt, or health. We just gave it different colors and I think that heightens our magical reality of story-telling. I had to do quite a bit of research on the Greek Mythical system to present it with believability. I learned more than I thought I would ever know about Greek Gods, and their ways. I so enjoyed that process, as you just don’t get that opportunity very often in film. I myself must admit that I relate closest to the Greek God that is Apollo. He is very complex in that he represents many things, and all are so diverse. Music, poetry, and art were all his favor, and I am bound to these traits as well. He was also drawn to the sun, and in my own way I appreciate the day, more than night. Apollo was the same name used by the Romans, as they kept his name intact…I find that to be credible. He was young and handsome, and since we are all dreamers, I dream to.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Your character goes through quite the transformation in the film - what was that like and where do you think his fears/anger towards women came from?
LT: Roy is very complex and complicated no doubt. This was also what drew my interest in the role. He is fighting the battle of being two different men. He wants to do well, but cannot overcome his need to control the lives of his children. In doing so he becomes destructive to the family, both figuratively and literally. It is a classic example of flawed leadership in family and parenting. I was vitally interested in this aspect of the story, because I think it is so current in today's family structure. There are so many distractions for us all, it becomes difficult to have a grounded foundation in place. Especially as a Parent. Roy wants his children to be shielded from these distractions that the outside world, "the otherness" bombards them with. He himself has experienced a taste of this world, which is the real world, and deems that he does not fit in. Therefore, he designs his children to also become outsiders to this real outside world. He slowly succumbs to his natural repressed instincts, when reason fails him, violence ensues. It was a challenge to land the good loving father, just trying to foster a happy upbringing for his young children, one of which is a young girl, coming of age, the other an awkward phobia driven boy. He has grief for his losses, a wife and a daughter. He is alone, and heartbroken. And yet he continues on with an approach to life steeped in worship of Greek Deity's. His frustration toward that which he does not understand, is the Female development. He does not have the proper emotional tools to deal with the advent of change. Puberty. Sexual awakening. I don't think he has an anger toward Women in general, he just doesn’t know how to deal with them. Roy actually loves women, they are his motivation. In meeting his wife, his world was transformed into a magical realism. This is what tips his frustration, when she leaves, he is heartbroken, and cannot deal with it properly. Again, I think this is a common theme. It is real in today's society, and is misunderstood entirely. It becomes the bird in the cage theory, if you love something, let it go. For Roy, however if he can't understand or control something, he must stop it. Repress. Terminate. Kill. This was also a challenge for me as an artist, because in essence I understand human respect and compassion. Roy loses sight of that, and can only focus on control, not letting his world unravel. But it by the laws of nature, it must.
Nightmarish Conjurings: When it comes to choosing roles, what do you typically look for in a character?
LT: Well, as I said before, I am always seeking something that I have not experienced before. As an artist it is important for me to evolve. I want to challenge myself on every project. COME, SAID THE NIGHT was just that project for me. I was enthused by the story first and foremost. A project must have a story for me to help tell. I was very impressed by the team that was building the story. I don't ever want to do a role that is safe. Rob Zombie has said that " Art is often times not safe", I agree wholeheartedly. I get thrilled by the challenge and discovery of building the character. Roy Grady was that for me. I have mentioned Andy often, but also the producers Colby Miller and James Datri. They were clearly just as passionate about this film as Andy and myself. They demonstrated to me countless times that they were fully supportive of what means were needed to build COME, SAID THE NIGHT in it's entirety. Andy, Colby and Jim were so trusting with me in their story, that I felt a great deal of pride in being part of developing this experience with them. The cast was also so important. Obviously our lead, Nicole Moorea Sherman was an integral part of our success. She was put to task in the role of Sprout, and delivers with each stride. A very talented actor. As is Tate Birchmore, Daniela Leon and Max Page. Then Danielle Harris came aboard, and that really raised the bar of talent and performance. Everyone was a joy to work with, and I am very satisfied with our effort.
Nightmarish Conjurings: As we have discussed, the film deals with a lot of heavy themes and messages. What did you take away from the film?
LT: COME, SAID THE NIGHT is about Family at it's core. It resonated with me, that how we are raised, is who we become, forever, or at least our ever. I recognize how much a parent can influence a child, and how the childhood of that parent is carried over into the parenting. It can become, in Roy's case, a viscous cycle of emotional and physical abuse. How then to break this cycle. How to become the parent that you want your children to become is what it gets down to. As a parent, I am made aware of this more definitively by experiencing this film. Also the idea of sexual development in childhood, and repression in adulthood. The idea, that one is pure and natural, and the other is taught and employed as a accepted behavior. This then gets down to a belief system. A faith. A religion if you will. For me it reinforces the idea of having a relationship to your faith, as opposed to having a religion as your faith. These are indeed big themes, but truly are the issues that we experience in our society day to day. I think that as in all good films, COME, SAID THE NIGHT presents these themes in a heightened presentation. I am made also to understand that we are many faceted humans, who through grief and trauma, can become something that we may not set out to be...A Monster!
Nightmarish Conjurings: Lastly, are you working on any projects that we should be keeping our eyes out for in the future?
LT: Your questions are all so thorough and well thought, I appreciate your effort. As I have offered, I like to be diverse and to stay busy. An artist is always building, always creating, and I think that does not waiver. As I have said, I seek out new projects for a new experience. Each has it's own wonderful place in my continued journey. I am excited for the world to get to each and every one of these delights...First and foremost is, COME, SAID THE NIGHT. That can't be overstated. On the other end of the spectrum from Indy Film making is Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, directed by Quentin Tarantino. He is a master, and the opportunity to work with him was a gift. That cast, DiCaprio, Pitt, Pacino, Russell, Robbie, Fanning, Madsen, Roth, Lewis, Olyphant, McNairy, Marsden, Perry, Hirsch, Dean, Collins, etc., it was like being part of an all-star team. I was honored to be attached. I am very excited for Feral, out on blu-ray by IFC. It is directed by Mark Young, starring Scout Taylor-Compton. A cabin in the woods creature feature, but smarter. The Endless is on Netflix, a sci-fi thriller, directed by Aaron Morehead and Justin Benson, these boys will make you think, hard. Apartment 407, starring Frida Farrell, human trafficking true story, very heavy topic, great performances. A Boy Called Sailboat, directed by Cameron Nugent, starring JK Simmons. A coming of age comedy with heart. The Iron Orchard, directed by Ty Robbers, a rags to riches oil wildcatter story from the 1940's in the vein as Giant or There Will Be Blood. Texas Cotton, directed by Tyler Russell, dark comedy, small time crime drama. Limbo, directed by Mark Young, a supernatural, courtroom drama based in Heaven and Hell. Finally Homeless Ashes, directed by Marc Zamitt, a social commentary drama on homelessness in the UK. Will be going into production this coming year on Self Storage, Cake Rotten, and Dirge. So I am busy, I am building, I am discovering. Thank you for your time.