EXCL: The Signal’s A.J. Bowen & Scott Poythress

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These guys have got the crazy

The Signal is set to become a cult classic – just the premise alone is different than anything we’ve seen. A transmission comes out of the television, and turns everyday people into psychotic killers. It’s one full solid movie, split into three parts, directed and written by Dan Bush, Dave Bruckner and Jacob Gentry (interview).

Scott Poythress and AJ Bowen were brought into the “Signal” world. The two actors became part of the Atlanta-based PushPush Theater that started the theme of multiple people taking on one play. Scott and Jacob have known each other for 20 years, and when this story came to him, he jumped at the opportunity to be in it. “I didn’t read the script. Just to make a horror film with your best friends – it’s like absolutely. And then I read it and knew this was going to be a lot of fun. It was very guerilla, being on set 18 hours a day, but when everyone knows what they’re doing, no matter how stressful the day got, we’re always having a good time, so it helped being around your friends.”

“The approach to it was a dream scenario,” notes AJ. “We’ve all known each other for so long, it was an opportunity for everyone to go back there and work with your friends. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses; we were able to get what we wanted to get and the most fully realized of all the movies I’ve worked on.”

AJ just lays it out how it really was on set. “If my director can’t call me a f**kin’ idiot and have me understand him… and not take insult to it. Jacob and I can fight for 15 minutes and then smoke a cigarette right after – then go back there and do it again. I could have been that, but not as much as Jacob; we’re all just a bunch of f**kin’ idiots. It’s a miracle that we were able to capture anything on film.”

In the film, a couple of Scott’s weapons to kill are an air tank and fire extinguisher. Of course, he’s only hitting pillows, but that doesn’t spare him from getting splashed in blood. “I think it was Jacob or Dan down there with this big canister filled with fake blood, just spraying me the more I’m pounding on this thing – it was fun.”

And as we heard from the directors here, there was only that one bucket of the perfect blood. “I hated it so much, and I’ve done mostly horror films,” adds AJ. “Every time I do one, I’m like, ‘I just need a break, let me just do a romantic comedy right now.’ And that’s always because of the blood. It stains your face after a while. And Dan was the one who found the perfect blood, and he was so pissed because we shot mostly in sequence. [Dan shot the final sequence of the movie.] But it didn’t matter to me because I was covered in it the whole movie. I felt sticky, and kind of like a used tampon after a while.”

Taking himself out of his character, Scott thought about what he would do if a signal started to affect the world – how would he react? “Dan Bush did a lot of research on ELF and conspiracy theories, so he would send me a lot of stories. But I am not much of a conspiracy theorist, but my character definitely is and it was fun to get into that. I related to Ben’s character [Justin Welborn] the most, facing all obstacles to find the woman he loves. And my character, there’s a lot of comedy, so I loved doing that. I thought the final look of it was fantastic, and it was a lot of fun to watch.”

If AJ was in that same situation, “I’d want to be far away from people, in a cabin, far away. I’m a fan of technology, and it’d be hard to not get on MySpace and not go insane. I wouldn’t rule it out, I’ve seen a lot of crazy sh*t. But I’ve also done a lot of psycho tropics in my younger days. I saw a lot of weird things during college, none of which were real – but I was pretty convinced they were at the time. I tend to be pretty skeptical of the supernatural. But do I think the world could fall off its axis? Hell yeah, it does every day on a microcosm scale. I think the idea is everyone thinks that they’re Ben, everyone thinks that they’re doing the right thing when they’re doing things. And unfortunately some of the time, you end up being Lewis [AJ’s psycho character]. But at the same time, I don’t think that Lewis was getting off on what he was doing. I think he was protecting his wife and felt completely justified and being heroic. So in his case – maybe a few too many girls hit in the face.”

The Signal goes handheld camera all the way, and that was just fine for Scott. “I knew it was going to be like that, and they’d be chasing us around or we’d be chasing them around. So I’d be trying to keep a good idea of what the framing is at all times – you know it’s going to move all over the place. So when I saw it, I knew what it was going to look like, but it ended up better than I thought. Dave can hammer out some takes, but he gets it and it’s worth it. You can watch the dailies and learn from what you just shot. You can say, ‘I need to raise the stakes a lot on this.’ The most challenging scene for me was one of the first couple days. I was being chased, and I had just gotten the knives taken out of my arms, and we were being chased by Lewis after he was being pounded in the face by Ben. That was a pretty arduous scene, and as challenging as that way, I was able to learn.”

AJ, on the other hand, he got the worst of the shooting – especially being tied up with duct tape. “I hated it, it was terrible. I thought it would be cool, and I thought I’d get all actory and sit in a chair for hours at Jacob and Alex’s house. But then I realized I’m not a real actor, I just play one on TV. And I’m not going to do that. But once I did get taped up, I couldn’t move and I couldn’t break out of that chair even if I wanted to. They put duct tape across my mouth and they put blood effects up my nose and those started to dry.”

“I was having a hell of a time trying to breathe,” he continues. “And then I started hearing them have conversations about what to do with me, how to knock me over onto this concrete floor – I was not allowed to speak. I don’t recommend doing that, and with a beard. There’s no acting in that scene when Ben pulls the tape off Lewis’ face. He took skin and hair with it several times. It was very unpleasant, but hell yeah, I’d do it again. Give me two weeks off and I’ll do it again. We earned our Varsity letter on this one. Justin and I went all out for it. We were like, ‘F**k it, I’m going to try and hit you with a bat, and if you don’t get out of the way, I’m going to hit you.’ ‘That’s cool man, I’m going to do the same thing. I’m going to stab you with a knife, you got it?’ I think that translates; I had to get hit, he had to get hit, he had to get stabbed, I had to get knocked over. And I think that helps.”

And all of that takes place in the first 15 minutes of The Signal! See a whole lot more when the film opens in theaters February 22nd.

Source: Steven Chupnick