Stepping outside your comfort zone to truly embrace both new experiences and what you love most in life is the enthralling theme that not only pushes the actions of the lead character in the new independent horror film, ‘The Damned,’ but also the actor who portrays him. Versatile actor Peter Facinelli powerfully showcased the harrowing and realistic emotions and motivations of a protective father who’s desperate to take any means necessary to save his teenage daughter in the latest movie from director Victor Garcia. While ‘The Damned’ is the first horror film Facinelli has starred in, the actor creatively embraced shooting the film independently on location in Columbia to highlight the extreme actions any parent would take in order to keep their child out of danger.
‘The Damned,’ which is now available on VOD and in theaters, chronicles an American father, David Reynolds (Facinelli), who’s still emotionally contending with the recent death of his Colombian-born wife. Their teenage daughter, Jill (Nathalia Ramos), decides to travel to her mother’s native country and spend time in Bogota, as a way to rebel against her father and cope with her grief. In order to protect his daughter, David travels to the city with his new fiancée, Lauren (Sophia Myles), to pick Jill up and bring her home.
Despite warnings from a native police officer and treacherous weather, David, Jill and Lauren are accompanied by Jill’s boyfriend, Ramón (Sebastian Martínez), and the sister of David’s late wife, Gina (Carolina Guerra), to try to retrieve the teen’s passport so they can return home. But after the group gets into a car accident on their way to the city of Medellin, they’re left stranded at a rundown isolated inn, whose keeper is inexplicably hostile. The group ignores the innkeeper’s instructions not to roam the area, and end up discovering he has chained his young daughter in the basement. But the girl isn’t as innocent as she initially appears to be, which David and his family quickly learn after gruesome deaths quickly ensue. The travelers are forced to try to find a way to escape before the girl tortures all of them and reveals their darkest secrets.
Facinelli generously took the time recently to talk about filming ‘The Damned’ over the phone from Los Angeles. Among other things, the actor discussed how he was drawn to star in the movie not only because he had never appeared in the horror genre before, and is always looking to try new experiences as an actor, but he also feels Garcia’s directorial work has a passionate, talented and collaborative vision; how he embraced shooting the horror film independently on location in Columbia, as it allowed him the opportunity to be more creative with his portrayal of David in an environment where the genre’s fans truly embraced the story; and how releasing smaller films like ‘The Damned’ On Demand is a positive decision, as the platform allows the independent projects to be seen by a wider audeince.
ShockYa (SY): You play David Reynolds in the new horror thriller film, ‘The Damned.’ What was it about the character of David, and the script overall, that convinced you to take on the role?
Peter facinelli (PF): Well, I hadn’t really done horror before, and as an actor, I like to try different things. I have done action, drama and comedy, but this was my first foray into horror. I also enjoyed the script-I thought it was well done, and it had an interesting story. I liked that it had to do with a family whose lives are at stake.
I also liked that there are parts of this movie that took place in a foreign country, and there’s a little bit of Spanish in the story. I have never done a movie that mixed Spanish and English in the way this one does. That was one of the intriguing qualities that made it a little different. I had a good time making it.
SY: Speaking of the fact that the movie is set in another country-Columbia-what was the experience of shooting there on location, particuarly since it was filmed independently?
PF: I’ve done indies before, so I knew what I was getting into. People always ask me, “What’s the difference between an indie and studio film?” I say, “On indies, there are less people doing the work, so that means more work per person.” You also don’t necessarily have the money to spend while you’re the set, so you have to get creative sometimes. There are times you get to be more creative, because you’re on a tightened budget.
As far as working in Columbia, I thought the crew was great. I studied Spanish in high school, and it all started coming back to me. It was a lot of fun being able to use some of that Spanish. The whole crew spoke Spanish, so I had to speak Spanish to get by with them. The director spoke English, so he would help translate. Even if I wanted a cup of coffee, I’d have to speak Spanish. (laughs) It came back quick.
SY: Sophia Myles plays David’s new fiancée, Lauren, who accompanied him to pick up his daughter, Jill, in Medellin, Columbia. How did you build your relationship with Sophia as you were preparing to shoot the movie?
PF: I think whenever you’re in a foreign country, and you’re all stuck together, you form a bond. We all stayed at this little hotel in the middle of nowhere. We would all meet for dinner and eat together. At that hotel, there was a woman who would cook for us, so it was very family oriented. The director, writer and the actors would get together every night and eat together. We would go over the script and talk about the scenes. So we formed that family bond right away.
SY: Nathalia Ramos played David’s daughter, Jill, in ‘The Damned.’ How was your working relationship with her on the set, as well?
PF: She was so sweet, and we really got along. She kind of reminded me of my daughter, so I was very protective of her. We would have fun, and do work-outs and go to lunch together. I still see her sometimes here in L.A. She’s sweet, and a good actress, too.
SY: The mystery film was directed by Victor Garcia, who has previously helmed such horror films as ‘Hellraiser: Revelations,’ ‘Mirrors 2′ and ‘Return to House on Haunted Hill.’ What was your experience of working with Victor on the film like, since he has experience in the genre?
PF: Well, Victor was fantastic. He has such a specific vision, and he’s so passionate, it’s infectious. I love working with people who have that passion, because it then makes you excited, as well. One of the biggest reasons I signed onto the film was because I saw one of his shorts, and I thought he was talented. He’s so collaborative, and is one of the nicest directors I’ve worked with. Every morning, he was excited to go to work, and that’s how I am.
SY: Victor has said that he has always thought that no matter how creepy or gory a film is, the movie isn’t going to fully work unless you’ve got a sense of real drama and characters. When making a horror film, do you agree that developing the characters’ backstories and relationships helps set up the effectiveness of the physical scares of the story?
PF: Yes, I think that’s 100 percent true. If you don’t care about the characters, no movie works. That’s especially true in horror movies, where you have people dying. If you don’t care that the characters are dying, then there isn’t any tension there. For me, the horror aspect is really a release of tension. Sometimes in movies, if that aspect becomes over-glorified, then that doesn’t work, because you become numb to it. So to me, good horror is mostly tension, with the horror being the relief of that tension.
SY: What was the experience of performing the stunts in the film? Do you enjoy taking part in the physicality aspects of a role, particularly since you have experience in the action genre?
PF: I tend to love doing the action stuff, because it’s fun and exciting, and your adrenaline gets pumped. What I found as an actor on this movie, the emotions were always riding high. For about 85-90 percent of the movie, my (character’s) family is at risk. I was going to work every day, and the stakes were so high, that my adrenaline was running high. That was emotionally exhausting, but it was fun at the same time.
SY: ‘The Damned’ is currently playing on VOD and in theaters. Are you personally a fan of watching films On Demand, and why do you think the platform is beneficial to independent films like this one?
PF: I think that’s where films are headed, unless they’re big budget studio movies. For indies, when they try to compete with Marvel films, or movies like ‘Twilight,’ it’s more difficult to get them into theaters.
For indies that have interesting stories, I think it makes sense to be able to say, “You can watch it in the theaters, or you can watch it from the comfort of your home.” Sometimes I’d rather watch it from the comfort of my home, because there’s only so much time to go to the theater. I like the way this platform works for smaller movies. Many people have big screen televisions in their homes, anyway. So it’s like being able to have your own movie night in your home, and you can watch films you wouldn’t necessarily have gone to see in the theater. If you choose to see it in the theater, you have that option, as well.
SY: The horror thriller, which was released on VOD on July 29, debuted in the number 1 spot on the iTunes horror list. What does it mean to you that the film reached the top spot so quickly? Do you think that it helps prove that movies don’t need a big theatrical release to connect with fans in the horror genre?
PF: With any film you’re a part of, you always hope it’s number one in something. (laughs) Whether it’s the number one movie in theaters or on VOD, you’re super excited. I was happy the fans watched and enjoyed it, and hope it does well in theaters, too.
SY: The Damned’ is the first horror film you have starred in, like you mentioned earlier. Would you be interested in appearing in more movies in the genre in the future?
PF: For me, when I’m looking at projects, it’s not about the genre, it’s more about the script. I think if it’s a good story, it doesn’t matter which genre it’s in; it’s more about what I’m drawn to. If the script is good and it’s in the horror genre, then that’s the one I’ll do next. But if it’s in the comedy genre, I’lll do that one.
It’s hard to say what I’ll do next. With this film, it helped that I hadn’t done a horror film before I got the script. But I also liked the characters and the story. It just happened to be a horror movie, and that’s a genre I hadn’t done before, which is why I gravitated towards it. But I didn’t have a bad experience appearing in the horror genre, so I would for sure love to do another one.
SY: You attended ‘The Damned’s premiere in Bogota in June with some of your co-stars. What was the experience of bringing the supernatural film to the country where the story was set, and how did audiences react to the film there?
PF: Well, what was fun was that the Columbian fans are so sweet. They would show up on set and wait outside the hotel. So being able to go back for the premiere was almost like getting to see friends again. You’d see these familiar faces when they came out for the premiere.
Having the premiere in a foreign country was fun, because we shot it there. So there was a lot of pride, especially since we had a Columbian crew. Having the premiere there was great not just for Columbia, but also the filmmakers. Columbians are such passionate people, as well, so I was excited to be around that again.
SY: Besides films, you have also starred on such television series as ‘Nurse Jackie’ and ‘Glee.’ How working on a television show compare and contrast to making a film, and do you have a preference of one medium over the other?
PF: I am doing another series, actually, and it’s called ‘Odyssey.’ It starts in January, and it’s an NBC series. I’ll also be going back to do a couple more episodes of ‘Nurse Jackie’ for the next season, and then I’m going to switch over and go right into production for ‘Odyssey.’
It’s all a different medium of telling a story. So whether you watch a story on VOD, in theaters or on television, I gravitate to great stories. The platform you watch it on may be different, but when I go to work, it’s the same work, whether it’s film or television. But with that said, I love being able to do both.
There’s something about having your movie on a big screen in a theater that’s bigger than life. It’s exciting to be able to have a premiere for it, and have people come out and watch it. I’m fortunate enough to be able to do both, and hopefully I’ll be able to keep crossing back and forth and do both.
Written by: Karen Benardello