I’m not going to waste any time with a lengthy introduction to this interview. If you’re hanging out around these parts, you know Ethan Embry is an absolute stud. You also know he just took a leading role in a quiet little production known as The Devil’s Candy… and it was hands down one of the absolute finest of 2017.
Naturally, we couldn’t resist any opportunity to throw a few directions in Ethan’s direction. Being the chill fellow we all love, he was happy to tackle some questions. So, read on for the full interview!
AddictedtoHorrorMovies: You’ve worked on everything from comedies to coming of age pieces, dramas to horror. To call you versatile may be an understatement. But your work in the horror genre has been stellar, and when you surface in a genre film, viewers can’t help but see some legit passion for horror. Give me your take on things: are you enjoying shooting horror films, and can we expect you to continue popping up in macabre features, or is there any leeriness due to the fact that you could be potentially pigeon holed?
Ethan Embry: If I got pigeoned into becoming a horror/thriller staple, I would be a very happy man.
Our job as film makers is to trigger an emotional/physical response from our audience. Heartbreak/laughter/fear. Hit them hard enough with one of those and I’ve done my job. We can all remember when we were young or even in our immature moments as adults, trying to spook our family and friends for our own selfish pleasure. To give us a laugh from others fight.
That’s not a far cry from the way I feel when a crowd of people cower back into their seats. Maybe I’m a demented being, but that brings me immeasurable pleasure.
ATHM: Before I jump into the Devil’s Candy, I’d love to hear some of your positive appearances in horror work. You were terrifying in Incident On and Off a Mountain Road (and you weren’t even the “uber” villain in the film), Late Phases, The House Across the Street – the list really goes on and on. So, give me a few stories about your experience in the genre.
EE: With Mountain Road the thing that stands out the most for me, was the opportunity to work with Don. Phantasm was one of my favorite horrors in my teens, I would watch that film over and over stoned into oblivion.
Don is truly a Master of Horror. Still laying down great work. I love what he did with John Dies in the End.
ATHM: Tell me what it was like to be involved in The Walking Dead, even if your position in the series wasn’t exactly a long lasting one.
EE: They are a great group of people over there. Every one of them works so hard and -from what I saw- leaves their ego at home. I had tried to be a part of that show from its infancy so I was thrilled to be invited. Even while knowing my face was doomed from the beginning.
ATHM: One last non-Devil’s Candy question: What was the greatest working experience for you, genre be damned?
EE: It’s pretty hard to nail down the “best” experience. When I was younger the winner would go to the film that brought me to the most exotic locations. The travel involved in the business is an amazing perk. But now I think it’s the people, the personalities, that make jobs stand out. Maybe that is why I enjoy making these thrillers of late. People involved in these projects tend to be more along my tastes and styles. It’s where I seem to find my people.
It’s also dependent on the character I become, and how successful I am in playing them with truth. There’s a lot of deciding factors so it’s not something I could be satisfied with a singular choice.
Now, The Devil’s Candy…
ATHM: I only tuned into this flick when I learned you were fronting the picture. Honestly, I tried to keep my expectations in check. Then I screened the film and was utterly floored. You absolutely KILLED that role, and standing out in a film that features Pruitt Taylor Vince, who in my opinion, turned in the greatest performance I’ve seen from him thus far, only amplified the true power of your performance. But was there any point in which you felt like ‘hey, I’ve got to perform at my absolute peak to not only help create a great film, but also to keep pace with a few of the picture’s standout performers’?
EE: There was definitely a very strong choice to take my work a little farther. But it was coming from knowing I had a lot of responsibility. The other cast members only made my job easier. Kiara (who plays my daughter) is so damn good, being in a scene with her is nearly effortless. The choices she makes and how naturally she delivers them is astounding for any actor, let alone one her age. The film is elevated immensely from her work.
ATHM: What do you do to put yourself in a state of mind when you’re taking on a role as multilayered as Jesse Hellman?
EE: Ohhh Jesse. The Emo Jesus. We (Sean Byrne the director) worked on him for a long time. I read the script more than a year before we started shooting and Sean would send me these long emails about his backstory and how it effects him today. We would get on the phone the two of us and talk for hours about what we wanted to convey. Then the work I did with the head of the makeup department Galaxi. Nailing down his appearance. Hitting his wardrobe right with the designer Stacy. It was a team effort. The only part I did completely on my own was the physicality. No one helped me lose 30 pounds. That was all on me.
ATHM: You do a wonderful job of portraying a strained, but emotional father fighting to keep and maintain a great relationship with his daughter. Some of those intimate sequences between Jesse and Zooey are deeply touching. Are you a father, and if so, does that help you in delivering a strong, believable father figure in front of the camera?
EE: Yeah I’ve got a 17 year old boy so I put a lot of my relationship with him into this film. My son is my closest friend. Many parents may frown on that, saying
“You’re his father not his friend” and to that I say
He’s hopefully going to be an adult much longer than he was a child. And we soon will spend far more time in our relationship as peers. I don’t want him ever thinking there wasn’t mutual respect in our relationship.
ATHM: You had a noticeably different look in The Devils Candy. You had some awesome hair, and looked slim but extremely fit: did you spend time in the gym preparing for this role specifically, or had you already gotten yourself in fantastic shape prior to this pic… and did you grow the lion’s mane specifically for the film?
EE: The look was a very specific mission for this. I was aiming for Heavy Metal Jesus. We all know that Jesus was a dark skinned dark haired Middle Eastern man, but I was going for the false interpretation catholicism has forced on us. Maybe I should say “Aiming for the lie that we consider truth about Jesus. With tattoos and good tastes in music”
It’s a very visual film. So much is told with silence. And with Candy in the title I needed to present some for the eyes. (With my body)
You can’t taste a movie…
ATHM: One of the moments that really stood out to me unravels in the later portions of the film. In those moments when it looks like Jesse really ran the emotional gamut, clinging desperately to his own sanity, battling financial troubles while growing increasingly strained and confused as Jesse begins to uncover the meaning behind his chilling painting. What does it take to bring out a myriad of high-tension responses to the problems Jesse is experienced?
EE: Editing. Cinematography. Sound design. Mood lighting. And mutual team trust?
ATHM: Before I let you go here, I want to know a few things: your favorite film that you yourself appeared in; your favorite film genre; when might we see you in another horror film; and of course, how are you enjoying the extremely positive response the film has elicited by both fans and critics alike?
EE: It’s strange because my favorite is so dependent on the general consensus of the viewing public. It’s not up to me. The reasons for myself that I do this are financial and mental. Mentally meaning sometimes my mental health depends on leaving my personal experiences for the experiences of these other characters for a while. Literally get out of myself.
So if you’re happy I’m happy and can then take some pride in an accomplished mission. My recent barometer has been time. If a film is still being enjoyed and shared five/ten/twenty years after its release, then I consider that a success. I’m looking forward to how people see Cheap Thrills 10 years from now. What they say about The Devils Candy when I’m 50 means more to me than what is said now.
ATHM: Anything you’d like to say to the fanatical folks like myself who’ve been supporting you since Empire Records – or longer?
EE: Damn the Man?
We just want to thank Ethan for sharing some thoughts with us. His passion for the genre is absolutely great, but his attitude as a man, as well as a business man is simply priceless.
You can catch The Devil’s Candy right here.