This week I was able to chat exclusively with Mitch Ryan about his upcoming film MISSIONARY, which opens today in theatres and on Video On Demand. You may remember him for his recurring role on “One Tree Hill”, where he played Alexander Coin, but if you don’t you will soon after his intense performance in MISSIONARY. Ryan plays Elder Brock, the handsome Mormon missionary with a troubled past who has turned to the religion for some structure. After having an affair with a single mother with a young son, Elder Brock thinks he has finally found his “Celestial Family”, but things don’t go as planned and Elder Brock has a hard time accepting things are over. It is an intense thriller that will keep you at the very edge of your seat. When I asked Ryan about auditioning for the part he told me he wasn’t sure he was even going to get the part, but a phone call may have sealed the deal saying:
“I auditioned for it like any old job, but I knew when I auditioned for it that I could bring something to this role that I didn’t think most people, like other guys my age could and I just went for it. It was two scenes one from the start of the movie and then one from the part of the movie where he kind of goes off the deep end. I really connected and related to this guy in a weird way. I just knew at the end of the day he was a guy who was lonely, vulnerable and searching for love and it was like a love story, but then it went off the deep end…I think they weren’t sure if they were going to go with me or not, but he (Director, Anthony Diblasi) had a conversation with me on the phone and he wanted to make sure I could do the American accent, so I spoke in it the whole time we were on the phone. He was like great come on over, like tomorrow.”
While obviously this is great news it also happened really fast, how did you prepare for such an intense role so quickly and how long did you guys shoot for?
“I was on the plane, I had a few days to prepare and a little bit of rehearsals. We just jumped straight into it. I did my homework on the plane and researched the Mormon religion, I did my actor homework of mapping the scenes and then I met Dawn and Anthony and we went to work…It was under a month (shooting schedule), maybe about 25 days it was a really short shoot.”
Elder Brock is an extremely layered character who is chipped away at during the course of the film. So we had to ask if taking on a character like this really fun, or if it was scary because at the end of the day you are essentially playing two very different characters.
“As an actor that is my favorite sort of stuff to do, I love a challenge, you don’t want to ever do anything safe. You want to challenge yourself and this was my first movie, so I thought, I know I can show some versatility there and that’s what I wanted to do. Being my first movie, I wanted to show this was a multidimensional character that has a bunch of different layers to him and he’s not just this one noted guy. I enjoy that! It’s definitely scary to see if I can pull it off or not, but I just try to do as much preparation that I could, just try to be free and tell the truth. I love those kinds of roles. Some of the other stuff I have done, hasn’t been layered characters, they were boring. The most interesting characters to watch are the ones who are complicated.”
There was this interesting moment for me while I was watching the film where I found myself actually almost rooting for Elder Brock. One of the things I loved about MISSIONARY was the way it slowly boiled and as a viewer you were given time to really care about what happens to these characters and through that I found myself wanting to see Brock be redeemed. He had this likability even though he was doing these not so likable things so I had to wonder if that was written into the script or if that was something Ryan brought to the character to which he responded:
“That was exactly what I was trying to get across. You don’t want him to be just a villain, or your typical villain, who you just hate. It’s just so much more interesting as an audience member if you find yourself kind of rooting for a guy who you shouldn’t be rooting for. All the good movies are kind of like that, you think, I really shouldn’t be sympathizing with this guy because he’s doing some really bad things. I love being able to mess with people like that…It could have very easily revealed too much too soon, or it could have been too big, too over the top, too much of a typical villain character. So I thought the more human I make him the more scary he will be.”
Anthony Diblasi strayed from his horror roots to direct this thriller and was able to make a seamless transition. So we had to ask what it was like working with DiBlasi and what he brought to the table while working with the cast:
“He brought a great vision and a great work ethic. He is great with actors and he really let us take the reins and run free with it. He wasn’t locked into any idea he had in his head. He was really open to change and he let us rehearse which is great. We had almost a week of rehearsals and that was fun. He had all the time for us on set, he was there for us until we got it right. The way he shot the movie, kind of documentary style, we weren’t locked into anything. We had freedom because it was all shot handheld, we could move wherever we wanted and the camera would follow us. That’s a great testament to him as a director a lot of people don’t have the time or the patience or the budget on that small-scale to give you that freedom…It was exciting for him as well because prior to this he had only done straight horror movies, so this was a venture out for him. He wanted to try something more dramatic, so this was exciting for all of us because it was all new for us. This was a new genre for Anthony”
Elder Brock falls in love and becomes rather smitten with single-mom Katherine, played by Dawn Olivieri, who is best known for the her role on “House Of Lies.” She is always a pleasure to watch on-screen and has a knack for playing these intense roles. Ryan has some pretty steamy scenes with her, so we had to ask what it was like working with her in such racy and intense scenes. Ryan responded with:
“It was great. She was game to go for it, it made it much easier for me to have someone who was willing to really be vulnerable and free. We have a lot of really kind of raw scenes where you have to really have trust in the other person and she was great. She was really open to just trying a bunch of stuff and she really went for it, it was great working with her”
Over the years we have seen many thrillers that consist of someone becoming obsessed with a lover, to put it mildly, like in THE CRUSH, FATAL ATTRACTION and most recently NO GOOD DEED. We wanted to know what makes this one different.
“For a start the whole religion aspect, I think people are going to be like oh, wow. People may have a different outlook or perspective now and question religion a little bit more. We aren’t trying to force it down anyone’s throat’s whether its good or bad, it’s up to you to make your own mind. It’s a nice suspenseful psychological thriller and I think people will rethink opening their door.”
With the movie opening on Halloween, It is up against plenty of horror films both in the box office and on Video On Demand. So why does Ryan think you should check out missionary this holiday weekend?
“This is not just a horror movie, you’re getting more. Your getting this real psychological thriller that is really going to mess with your head and keep you on the edge of your seat. It has all these twists and turns, it has aspects of horror, but it doesn’t rely on the special effects and the gore to tell the story. It just relies on these characters. If you are looking for something that isn’t just gore based and its super scary and suspenseful that is a character driven piece than this is the movie!”
At the end of our chat I asked Ryan where we will be able to see him next, to which he jokingly responded:
“Have you got anyone that wants to give me a job?”
Rest assured that after MISSIONARY is released Hollywood will come calling, between his good looks and the versatility shown taking on Elder Brock, Ryan is a star in the making. We agree that MISSIONARY is a wonderful intense psychological thriller that you won’t want to miss this Halloween. It being such a fun holiday with so many movies to choose from to get into the spooky spirit we wanted to know what film, besides MISSIONARY of course, would Ryan be watching:
“I’m going to watch Halloween on Halloween.”
Make sure and check out Mitch Ryan in MISSIONARY this weekend in theatres or on Video On Demand. You can check out our full spoiler free review here.