Imagine, if you will, that you have volunteered to chaperone your nephew’s kindergarten field trip, and just when you think life can’t get any worse, zombies from a nearby government facility appear and start wrecking havoc. You find yourself, along with the object of your affection – the school’s teacher, Miss Caroline, and a world-famous child entertainer, fighting off the horde of flesh eaters in order to protect the children. For failed musician, and overall man-child, David, that’s exactly what happens in director Abe Forsythe’s horror-comedy, LITTLE MONSTERS.
For the release of the film, we had the chance to speak with actor Alexander England who plays the hot mess that is David. During our chat, we discussed everything from David’s story arc to working alongside acclaimed actress Lupita Nyong’o, as well as why they had to sing Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off’ so many times.
It’s such a pleasure to speak with you today, Alexander. To start things off, can you tell us a little bit about your character Dave and what interested you in the role?
Alexander England: I was immediately attracted to the project just to get the chance to work with [director] Abe Forsythe again. We had worked together on a film called Down Under a few years earlier and I just loved his dark comedy and twisted aesthetic that he has. Once I read it I was really just laughing reading the script and I thought it was really funny and had all that beautifully offensive kind of humor all while acknowledging what’s wrong with the things that we were reading, but with a lot of heart at the end of the story. It also has a lot to say about children and protecting children and what an amazing job teachers do. I just knew it was going to be great to get a chance to play a character that goes through a journey that does change by the end of the film and is a character that has been able to learn, alongside the children, from that beautiful Miss Caroline character.
Dave’s character arc is definitely one of the best aspects of the film, can you talk a little bit about your process of bringing that character to life?
Alexander England: I was interested in the failed musician aspect but ultimately the biggest element of that character, for me, is that he’s just a kid, a man-child. He refuses to take responsibility in his life for his actions and for the feelings of other people. He’s just kind of a selfish guy. As an audience, we don’t hate him for that, we can see where it comes from, but he’s definitely got a lot of growing up to do. I just really focused on what might be going on with him, this lack of awareness in a number of areas of his life. In terms of actually shooting, working with Lupita Nyong’o, she did so much of the work for me because she’s so amazing as that character in that role, it’s such a nice fit on her and she obviously did a tremendous amount of work to bring Miss Caroline to life as a teacher. My character spends a lot of time just watching her and trying to replicate her behavior.
As you mentioned, your character is a failed musician. That said, were you familiar with playing the guitar prior to taking on this role?
Alexander England: No, no, nothing, which was pretty terrifying. However, I did have the wonderful caveat of the storyline point that Dave isn’t a good musician so I think it’s a little bit different as opposed to tackling a character that’s an amazing musician. I was safe in that my guy was bad at what he did (laughs). Lupita had assured me she was not a musician or singer herself, so I thought we were going to be on equal footing and then I heard her singing and I just knew that she lied to me (laughs). We did a bunch of music lessons and I really focused in on trying to look the part as best as I could. I also knew that the story wasn’t so much about [Dave] being a musician as it was about him learning to sing from the heart, which we see in the second half of the film. It was a hurdle to try and hold a guitar in the correct orientation but I think we get away with it.
Outside of your wonderful experience working alongside Lupita, what was it like to work with a horde of small children?
Alexander England: It was amazing, actually, for a few reasons. A huge amount of energy went into casting those kids and acclimating them to the shooting environment. Obviously, there’s a lot of zombies around so that was a hurdle to get over (laughs). A lot of effort went into showing the kids how the prosthetics work as well as the makeup process. We had an actor come in and the kids actually watched a time lapse of one of the actors having all the zombie makeup put on so that they could see it was a person underneath and watch as all the makeup went on. Then we had that actor come out in the zombie makeup to say, “Hey kids, it’s just me, not a terrifying monster” (laughs). The kids were just so, so wonderful and shooting alongside them you learn that they just have this wonderful lack of self-consciousness, they really are just existing, just playing and mucking around distracted and it’s amazing to watch. It’s a great reminder as an actor what an aid it can be to try and be as self-conscious as little as possible.
Lastly, the film features Taylor Swift’s song, Shake It Off. How many times did you have to sing that song?
Alexander England: (laugh/sighs) a million, but it’s so fantastic. It’s so great that we got access to Taylor’s music as well because it was a big part of the story and the script. It was always Taylor’s music because it speaks to the children on an incredible level so we were all so excited when we got the go-ahead to use Taylor Swift’s music throughout the film.
LITTLE MONSTERS will stream on Hulu October 11, 2019.