Hollywood, with its bright lights and beautiful people, is a mirage of the insidious nature of the business. The backstabbing. The abuse. All of it. That’s not to say success is unattainable, it’s just that most people don’t get there by following the straight and narrow road. In Netflix’s new series BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR, we see that come to life with the neon lights of the ’90s as filmmaker Lisa Novak navigates that world in bizarre and horrifying ways.

From the twisted minds that brought you Channel Zero comes BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR, based on the novel by Todd Grimson. The 8-episode limited series centers around Lisa Nova (Rosa Salazar) a filmmaker who comes to LA dead set on directing her first movie. But when she trusts the wrong person and gets stabbed in the back, everything goes sideways and a dream project turns into a nightmare. Finding herself in dire straights, she meets a mysterious tattoo artist (Catherine Keener) who has a penchant for cats and likes to put curses on people. However, not everything goes as planned as Lisas going to have to figure out some secrets from her own past in order to get out alive.

Recently, Nightmarish Conjurings’ Shannon McGrew had the chance to speak with Eric Lange (“Lou”) and Jeff Ward (“Roy”), where they discussed everything from playing a hated character to preparing for a squeamish and disturbing sex scene, and more.

Thank you both so much for taking the time to speak with me today! Eric, I need to start with you because oh my god did I hate Lou. What was it like to portray that type of character? 

Eric Lange: As an actor, the rule is you can’t judge the people you’re playing, right? It’s easy to hate Lou. I always found Lou endearing and pathetic, more so. Even to the hair… I had this amazing wig maker, Natascha Ladek, who made the wig for me and I said, “can we put a little bald spot in the back? You know, like his hair is one of his powers but even that is going away?” He’s losing his grip on this career he once had and he has these Oscars but he hasn’t had a hit in many years. I’ve seen a lot of people like that in Hollywood and I watched the way they talk and tell the same story over and over to everybody. And there’s something sort of sad to me about that. So when he comes across someone who he’s drawn to, who is powerful to him, I think he’s drawn to her romantically, even albeit inappropriately, I feel like I constantly have to say that, I still think he’s trying to be, as we were just talking about, the hero of his own story and he really thinks he’s helping this girl produce this thing. All while knowing without her, he can produce nothing because he’s not the creative, he’s just the delivery device.

So I understand people hating Lou and my job was to do everything I could to find any bit of empathy the audience can have for him. And that was my boxing match the entire show. There is a touch of violence [featuring Lou] in the very beginning, which is inexcusable in every way, and I kind of weirdly… Because we shot this whole series for a long time and then the pandemic hit and then it was a year basically or something, and then we came back and finished it and that [scene] was one of the things we did later in the day. So weirdly I always disconnect that moment from the show. But it just shows the slightest bit of threat to this guy about, “I’m going to tell your wife” or “you’re washed up,” his vulnerable little ego becomes almost childlike in his temper tantrum against [Lisa].

Jeff Ward: That moment when you choke her [Lisa] when you say…one of my favorite bits of acting in the show is right after he says, “Now get out of my driveway or I’m going to call the fucking cops,” and he starts walking away… there’s this little look, I’ve never told you this and I love it so much, you look to the sides to see if anyone saw you like your rich neighbors in Beverly Hills. And it’s this very specific kind of look to the sides, like did anyone catch that? They’d also be rich, powerful people, but I still need to make sure no one saw that. And that to me is indicative of how weak and pathetic he is right after this act of violence.

Eric Lange: To me, it almost surprises him the way it comes out, his rage. It’s just impotent rage because he is impotent in many ways on this show.

BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR (L to R) ROSA SALAZAR as LISA NOVA, ERIC LANGE as LOU BURKE, and JEFF WARD as ROY HARDAWAY in episode 101 of BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR Cr. SERGEI BACHLAKOV/NETFLIX © 2021

Now it’s your turn, Jeff! Halfway through the season you and Lisa, share a very intimate, albeit disturbing, sex scene together. What was it like to film that? 

Jeff Ward: I would be curious if anyone has seen that scene… I feel like everybody is like, stop, don’t do that! That’s how it felt filming it [Laughs]. As soon as I got the part, I read the first four or five episodes and I read that scene and it’s exactly what you see. My first instinct was like, “I am nervous. This is crazy. I don’t know if I get it.” Like, I’ve never done anything like this. And then I started to get excited because I was like, I don’t know how many scenes I’ve done in my life that I can say I’ve never seen a scene like this before. It was really interesting finding the exact level of how erotic but how comforting and kind of more about doing what it is that [Lisa] needs at that moment and kind of being along for the ride, in every sense of the word. This is someone that he’s so intrigued by and is so different to him in every single way that it’s kind of like when that happens, it’s like “this too?” [Laughs].

Eric Lange: I have two things to say about that scene. One, I think it’s the most talked-about scene in the entire show, I’ve read more comments about it, heard more comments about it and it is the one moment in the show when I was watching that I went, I don’t know if I can tell my parents they can watch this [Laughs]. There’s blood, there are vomiting kittens, there are guts, they are zombies, but that hole in her side… I cannot [Laughs]. And the way he touches it before he goes in… I can’t, my parents can’t watch this [Laughs].

Both of your characters are so complex and multilayered. What do you hope people take away from your individual characters?  

Eric Lange: It’s easy to look at someone from the outside and go, what a douchebag. If you knew your enemy on their worst day, you’d pity them. And I think with all the gray and all these people and their collection of wants and needs are also personal to themselves and they all really think they’re doing a good thing. But at the end of the day, it’s how it looks on the outside that somehow that’s how it gets framed. So I dunno, that’s kinda my thinking about it. I love how blurry all the lines are.

Jeff Ward: One of the things that I really enjoy about the show is everybody’s mortality is up for debate. To me, an always interesting scene for Roy that came out very differently from how I expected it and I think says a lot about him is when he is wrapping the body in the shower curtain with [Lisa]. Because it’s kind of like…Nick [Antosca] and I were laughing when we were shooting that scene because he was kind of like, “I think you should just go into this [scene] like, how do we fix this mode? Not like there’s a murdered person here and the murderer is the girl I like and she’s covered in blood from biting his head off.” It was more like this okay, someone did know I was here so…he’s instantly doing the math. It’s funny cause it does shine a light on the kind of narcissistic and selfish tendencies that everybody has. But clearly, those are there in Roy. He’s trying to fight for the right thing. The sad thing is he’s in love with [Lisa] and we all know what happens when you’re in love with someone, red flags don’t mean anything [Laughs].

BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR is now available exclusively on Netflix. For more on the series, check out our review here.

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