Feeling as though they’re finally old enough to maturely make their own decisions about what they want to do with the rest of their lives is a powerful coming-of-age journey that many young characters make in films. But the gripping new crime thriller, ‘Adverse,’ showcases how those teenagers and young adults aren’t as in control of their lives as they initially believe until it’s too late.
The movie’s main character, Ethan, who’s played by Thomas Nicholas, was in the same situation as his younger sister when he was her age, as the two both started spending time with people who brought them into dangerous situations. While she hasn’t seen the errors of her ways yet, he eventually came to regret the choices he made, and decided to straighten out his life. He tries to convince his sister that the decisions she makes all make have consequences. However, she doesn’t start to realize how much danger her life is now in until she finds herself in a situation she can no longer handle.
‘Adverse’ follows rideshare driver Ethan as he struggles to make ends meet and take care of his teenage sister Mia (Kelly Arjen). But when he learns that she and her boyfriend, Lars (Jake T. Austin), are deep in debt to drug dealer Dante (Brian A. Metcalf), Ethan’s life begins to spiral even more out of control.
When Mia then goes missing, Ethan discovers that crime boss Kaden (Mickey Rourke) is behind the act. In order to get close to him and take out his revenge for his sister’s increasing troubles, Ethan takes infiltrates Kaden’s operation by taking a job as his driver. Ethan then hunts down members of his new boss’ crew in order to wreak bloody vengeance as he prepares to confront Kaden himself.
Lionsgate is releasing ‘Adverse’ on Digital, On Demand and DVD today. The digital and disc distribution comes after the drama premiered in theaters on February 12 by Black Jellybean Productions. Metcalf wrote and directed the film, and also served as a producer, alongside Nicholas.
Nicholas generously took the time recently to talk about starring in and producing ‘Adverse‘ during an exclusive interview over the phone. Among other things, the filmmaker discussed that he wanted to play Ethan as soon as he read the script, but had to convince Metcalf that he could accurately portray the protagonist, as he’s primarily known for starring in comedies, notably the four main ‘American Pie’ movies. He also shared that he cherished having the opportunity to collaborate with Metcalf and the rest of their co-stars as they built their characters’ backstories and relationships, as well as their actions sequences, together.
The conversation began with Nicholas revealing why he was drawn to play Ethan, and how he became attached to star in the thriller. “My first involvement with Brian A. Metcalf was getting to read one of the first drafts of the film. I thought the story was amazing, and was compelled to play the character of Ethan,” he shared.
“But Brian was unsure that I was going to be able to pull it off. We’ve done a few films together, but he was unaware that drama was more of my forte. In the beginning of my career, I was a lot stronger in drama, and comedy was my weak point. So I needed to work on my weak point, as per my acting coach and mentors’ advice, and then ended up in a 10+-year comedic career,” the actor revealed.
“This film started with Brian and I doing workshops to develop the character before he agreed to let me play the role. After a few weeks, I was able to change the way that I sounded, looked and moved by building enough of the backstory, which I did by using people I had grown up with as inspiration for the character. After that, we were able to move forward with rehearsals with Kelly Arjen, who played Mia, which I think is the cornerstone of the film,” Nicholas continued.
“One of the main reasons why I like the film so much is at the core, it’s about family, and not so much about the things you’re seeing; it’s more about why you’re seeing what you’re seeing,” the performer added.
Following up on his experience of working with Metcalf as the writer-director, as well as his fellow producer, on ‘Adverse,’ Nicholas gushed about reuniting for their fourth feature collaboration together. “The thing that I really appreciate about working with Brian is that he knows what he wants, and has envisioned, for his projects. He has become adept at giving us the tools to get there,” he shared.
“We were so involved together in the development of the character, and that’s something that I really enjoy doing as an actor with a director. I like building the backstory for the character together so that it serves the purpose of the story. They’re at the helm, so why not involve them in some of that early building?,” the actor also questioned.
“Brian and I have worked together for so many years now that we’ve developed a shorthand. There’s probably a bit of confusion if you’re watching us from the outside, as we speak in half sentences and completely understand one another,” Nicholas admitted with a hint of a laugh. “But it’s all for the betterment of the project. I feel like what we do as a team continuously improves, and I’m definitely the most proud of this film.”
Being able to also work with Metcalf as co-stars, as well as the rest of the cast as they developed their characters’ relationships, was also an experience that Nicholas cherished throughout the production. “Our third business and producing partner is Kelly, who plays Mia. Not to repeat myself, since the relationship between Ethan and Mia is the cornerstone of the film, after the character of Ethan was flushed out and brought to life, the next bit was focusing on their relationship. We rehearsed those scenes to the point of really being ready to put them on screen,” he shared.
“We got very fortunate to have such an amazing cast, from Lou Diamond Phillips and Penelope Ann Miller to Sean Astin and of course, Mickey Rourke. Working with all of them was a great experience, and different with each of them,” the performer gushed about his co-stars.
Nicholas praised Astin by saying, “It was great to see (him) play something so against type, and do it so well. The nuances of his performance are great.” He also shared his gratitude of “seeing Lou Diamond Phillips giving a nod of approval. I still remember thinking, here I am in this scene, and he’s so natural, calm and powerful. So to get that nod of approval from him was amazing.
“Of course, Mickey Rourke is so intense. I learned a lot on how to really have every ounce of your being committed to the role, to the point where his performance confused me at times,” the actor admitted.
“His character uses a cane, and there are times when he gets into the car. You know when someone has trouble walking, and they go to sit into a car, with that last footing they kind of fall in, and you wonder if they’re okay? That would happen with us in our scenes,” Nicholas also divulged. “I would find myself wondering, is Mickey alright? I would have to remind myself, yes, he’s fine-he’s got a six-pack, and is working out between camera set-ups! But he would be so committed that even off camera, the way he would get into the car would draw me in.”
Working on the stunt was also an experience that the performer cherished throughout the movie’s production, which he shared as he explained what the process of create the action sequences for the feature was like. “Brian had a distinct vision for the main action sequence near the end of the film. Not to give away any spoilers, but the film isn’t as much of an action thriller as it is a suspense drama. It’s driven by these characters who all have flaws.
“Similar to ‘Taxi Driver,’ this film has tension and is a slow burn, but then also has this sequence at the end. Brian showed me and the cinematographer (Derrick Cohan) ‘Old Boy.’ He never really talked about it, but there is a reference to that film in the action sequence at the end of our film,” Nicholas shared. “We rehearsed that scene all morning up until lunch, and then we started shooting it. We shot it a dozen times or more, in order to work through the choreography and camera movement, and to make sure we got a shot that got all of the elements that worked perfectly.”
In addition to enjoying the experience of starring in ‘Adverse,’ the filmmaker also cherished the opportunity to serve as one of the producers. He explained why he decide to also produce the drama.
“There are a bunch of things that I enjoy about getting to produce and act in a film. Being a member of the PGA, the Producers Guild (of America), isn’t a vanity title; I actually did the work with Brian and Kelly,” Nicholas noted.
“The first aspect of producing that I love is being able to choose a project and build it from the ground up, as opposed to jumping on board of something that’s already in motion, which I did for a few decades as an actor,” the producer noted.
“The other part I enjoy about producing is that there’s less down time. Set life is my focal point, and the thing I love the most about my career. So when I’m acting in a film and I don’t have any other responsibilities, I wind up with a lot of down time, which is partially how I started playing music and writing songs,” Nicholas continued with a laugh. “I would bring my guitar to set to keep myself sane.
“But when I’m producing, I don’t have that downtime because as soon as the camera’s moving, I’m handling other responsibilities. It’s kind of fun and exciting in an intense way, and there’s something addicting about that work flow,” the producer admitted with a laugh. “I love that, and the responsibilities that I have as a producer.”
Nicholas also shared that he’s embracing the dual theatrical and Digital, On Demand and on DVD release that ‘Adverse’ has received from Lionsgate, and explained why he feels it’s beneficial for this type of film. “Brian and I are old school in the sense that we love putting movies into theaters. We really want to support that experience, and make sure it’s here for years to come. We’ve been very fortunate to put all of the films that we’ve made into theaters first,” he noted.
“Working out our deal with Lionsgate, and having the film come out in these times, was a blessing. Movie theaters, and the overall entertainment industry, have been hit very hard from lockdowns and shelter in place. So we fought very hard to make sure we could release the film in theaters, and it worked out,” the actor continued.
“Our theatrical release was only set for a week, but the ticket sales were strong enough that most of the theaters ordered it for another week. That meant that we did what we wanted to do, and that felt really good,” Nicholas enthusiastically shared.
“We were only in theaters in select cities, so people who don’t live in those cities (were) counting down the days until the digital release, when we (came) out on streaming platforms. It’s been a fun experience preparing for the release,” the filmmaker continued.
Nicholas also admitted that it has “also been weird to promote the movie from my home studio. Usually we would do a press junket in a hotel (before the pandemic started), but now I’m at home, and hearing my kids playing in the background in the other room,” he added with a laugh.
“So it’s been a whirlwind experience, but I’m very thankful that we get to provide some entertainment for people. I know I want some escape from what’s going on right now, and I can’t wait until we’re on the other side of it,” the actor-producer concluded.