Striving to obtain the acceptance from their parents that they so desperately desire is one of the most powerful motivators for many adults to improve themselves, no matter what they’ve already accomplished and achieved in life. That’s certainly the case for actor Chris Kerson’s character of Paddy in the new comedy, ‘Last Call.’ Paddy is determined to do whatever it takes to finally receive the support from his father, Coach, who’s played by Bruce Dern, but must ultimately accept that they may never have the kind of relationship that he has wanted for so long.
‘Last Call’ is now available on Digital and On Demand, courtesy of IFC Films. The movie marks the feature film directorial debut of Paolo Pilladi, who also co-wrote the script with Greg Lindo. In addition to Kerson and Dern, the comedy also stars Jeremy Piven, Taryn Manning and Jamie Kennedy.
‘Last Call‘ follows successful real estate developer, Mick (Piven), as he returns home to his offbeat blue collar Irish neighborhood of Darby Heights, which is located on the outskirts of Philadelphia, for a funeral. While there, he becomes obligated to stay to ensure his parents’ ailing family business, the local Irish bar, gets back on course.
Amidst all of this, Mick grows closer to his childhood crush, Ali (Manning), who’s also back in town, while also enduring the constant ridicule from his old hometown crew, including Whitey (Kennedy), Paddy and Coach. As he begins to reconnect with the neighborhood he grew up in, Mick finds himself at a crossroads when he becomes forced to either close or resurrect the family bar.
Kerson generously took the time recently to talk about starring in ‘Last Call’ during an exclusive interview over the phone. Among other things, the performer discussed that he was in part drawn to play Paddy because he has long been a fan of Dern’s work, and has emulated his acting style to a certain degree throughout his career. Kerson also noted that besides embracing the experience of working with his co-star, he also enjoyed collaborating with Pilladi as the co-scribe-helmer to develop his portrayal of Paddy during the production, particularly the parameters of how Paddy behaves throughout the story.
The conversation began with Kerson explaining what drew him to play the character of Paddy in the movie, and how he became involved in starring in the feature. “Ante Novakovic was one of the producers on the film, and he and I did theater together when I was performing in some of my first plays in New York City. He was an actor, and also worked as Harvey Keitel and Colin Farrell’s assistant for large part of their careers,” he shared.
“When I was starring on (the second season of) ‘True Detective,’ I filmed with Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn on the very first day of filming. Colin and I talked in the make-up trailer, and I mentioned that I knew his assistant,” the actor divulged.
“I was a newcomer to all of these guys during ‘True Detective,’ and Colin was taken with what I was doing. So he started texting with Ante and said, ‘I’m talking with your friend Chris, who’s doing ‘True Detective’ with me,'” Kerson continued.
“Ante consequently called me a few days later. He had seen me a few weeks earlier in New York for a stage reading for a film he was going to direct. He asked me, ‘Are you doing ‘True Detective’ right now?,’ and I said, ‘Yes.’ That job happened overnight for me,” the performer divulged.
“We kept in contact while I was doing ‘True Detective,’ and I ran things by him because he’s been very involved in the industry. We then spoke again once ‘True Detective’ aired and I was back in New York. We met in person and talked about possibly working together because he started directing and producing,” Kerson revealed.
After the actor and producer spoke about collaborating together on a film, they both signed on to work on ‘Last Call.’ Then “one week before we started filming ‘Last Call,’ he called me up and told me what the cast of the film was before I read the script. He said, ‘You’ll be playing Bruce Dern’s son.
“When I first started acting, people told me that Bruce was someone whose roles I should look at and emulate. So when I heard I was going to be playing his son, without even reading the script, I was like, ‘I’m in!,'” Kerson revealed with a hint of a laugh. “It was an acting opportunity of a lifetime.
“Then I heard everyone else who was involved. Jeremy, Taryn and Jamie Kennedy are all great actors. The local hires were also great, including Peter Patrikios, whose character of Digits is in our gang,” the performer gushed about his co-stars. “So it was a great group that was being put together. Just on the strength of the cast alone made me say, ‘I’ll do the film.’
“What I liked about the film was how they got the local simple life that’s so representative of the stories in the bars. But I didn’t know how the bet these guys set up would go over,” Kerson admitted, as he referenced a bet Paddy and his friends make over how many women they could all seduce. “Obviously, nowadays it’s not considered politically correct.
“But I was really into the people and their lives and backgrounds in this area of Philadelphia. Paolo Pilladi, who co-wrote the film and is also the director, gave me some time to talk about who I was playing and what kind of guys these were. Paolo’s from this world, as is Greg Lingo, who also came up with the story and co-wrote the script,” the actor added.
“So I said, ‘I’d like to do a slice-of-life independent film with this type of ensemble.’ This movie reminds me of the films from the ’90s that first made me want to become an actor,” Kerson added.
Following up on the fact that Dern played Paddy’s father in ‘Last Call,’ the performer further revealed what his collaboration with the two-time Academy Award-nominated actor was like while they were shooting ‘Last Call.’ “Bruce came in on the second day of filming, and he was only there for two or three days. I think we covered 18 scenes together in those couple of days we filmed together,” he shared.
“My introduction to Bruce was when we were shooting a scene in the bar, and we hadn’t really talked yet. While we were doing the scene, Bruce started to improvise the disappointment and frustrations he had with me as his son,” the performer recalled.
“So investing in Bruce as my father in the scene, without having any conversations with him first, triggered me to either want to come back to him and stand my ground, or realize this is the relationship, and he’s the alpha male here. We went through several takes that went in a variety of directions,” Kerson added.
“Bruce’s gift through improvisation is to make things really personal between himself and the person he’s talking to. He basically told me that he looks at the person he’s talking with and thinks, what are they thinking about me?, which raises paranoia, and then fires off from there. I must admit that it was intimidating because it brought the paranoia out in me,” the actor divulged.
“That really grounded me in the wounds Paddy has about his father, and wanting his love and approval, yet never measuring up to his father’s approval. His father is very hard on him about the way he’s living his life right now,” Kerson added.
“I asked to go into Bruce’s trailer after that scene, and I started talking to him about how he saw my character, and who I thought my character was. I think he was giving Paddy a lot more credit than I was about what he could have done with his life,” the performer admitted. “We had a real, honest exchange about who we were, to a certain extent, and how we saw the parts.
“When we were first talking, Bruce almost didn’t break character. He stayed in character as he was talking to me as both Chris the actor and Paddy the character, which was genius,” Kerson further shared.
“The purpose of me doing ‘Last Call’ was to learn from Bruce. I wanted to have that type of exchange, and really get everything I could from him because he’s such an icon,” the actor added.
Besides working with Dern, Kerson also embraced the experience of collaborating with the rest of the cast on the comedy. “Jamie often emphasized the comedy and improvisation aspects. Peter Patrikios also emphasized the humor in between takes to keep the levity up,” he noted. “Jeremy’s a great actor, so watching him carry these scenes as the protagonist was really amazing to watch.”
Also following up on his collaboration with Pilladi and Lingo as the filmmakers, the performer expressed his happiness that they were able to collaborate closely together to develop his portrayal of Paddy throughout the production. “I had to go to Paolo about the direction and tone of the film because in some areas, the story is very slice-of-life, and other areas it’s kinetic. So he said to play it real,” he shared.
“I also had to ask him about the parameters of how Paddy behaves, and who these guys are. He described these guys who frequent these bars, like Paddy, are in the wrong all the time,” Kerson revealed with a laugh.
“I had an intuitive way of playing Paddy. When Bruce spoke to me, he talked about an innocence that he has. He also said that he thinks Paddy could have gotten out of the neighborhood and do what Mick did,” the actor added.
“So I was always going back to Paolo and asking him if my performance was okay, especially during the exchanges between me and Bruce. Paolo told me not to stand my ground, but to also maintain the innocence of the father-son relationship. Paddy wanted that deep connection, and he was going to try to get it,” Kerson divulged.
“Paddy probably has a lot of anger and disappointment about the fact that he may not ever get the love and affection that he wants from his father. So I may have improvised something, and Paolo may have said, ‘No, I don’t think that’s appropriate,’ or ‘The tone here is more like this,’ or ‘That’s okay,” the performer also shared.
“We were all staying in the same hotel, so I would meet Paolo in the morning for breakfast. We’d discuss the tone of the film, and what needed to come out to keep that tone,” Kerson added.
“I talked to Greg a little bit, but in my case, he basically left the directing to Paolo,” the actor also shared. “I like Paolo; in his own words, he’s very much a people’s person. He’s very easy to talk to, and he knew everything that was going on with the film, especially with the character development.”
The story in ‘Last Call’ is largely driven by the community, and how it influences the characters’ professional and personal lives. Kerson then delved into what the experience of shooting the film on location in New Jersey and Pennsylvania was like throughout the production.
“The set dressers, the prop department and the costumers, as well as the whole crew, made this fantastic atmosphere for us to create the environment. I’m very grateful that we had that environment because it felt very real. It helped show who these people are,” the performer revealed. “I do like filming on location, and that location in particular.
“Engie Hassan, our costumer, was putting me in different kinds of clothes. I might be a large or extra large, and she was putting me in mediums,” Kerson shared with a hint of a laugh. “That really made Paddy look like a guy who was sitting on a bar stool and drinking too much.
After production on the movie was completed, “The bar’s owner sadly passed of COVID. But she was always talking to us and walking us to and around the bar. It was like we were working in a live bar,” the actor sentimentally added as he remembered his experience of working with the woman who ran the bar that ‘Last Call’ was shot in.
With the comedy now playing On Digital and On Demand, Kerson also shared that he feels the digital distribution is beneficial for this type of film. “I’ve been in Seoul for the past 10 months with my family, so I watched the movie on Amazon (the morning of the interview) for the second time. It’s hard for me to get a perspective on how the film’s playing with audiences in America, since I’m not there,” he revealed
“But I know a lot of the members of the cast got together in New York and watched it together in a theater on Long Island. Then the people who worked on the film who live in Pennsylvania saw it together, and I missed that experience,” the performer added. “So I asked people in the cast what their perspective on the film, as well as what I was playing, was, since I wasn’t going to get the feedback from the audience.
“Some people might say, ‘He’s not a guy I like, since he behaves this way.’ They might take a stance against what the film’s about. But the people I trust seemed to really understand what I was trying to create with the character,” Kerson concluded.