Luke Baines spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about drawing from broken relationships as inspiration for Alex in A Dark Place and healing from the process.
This interview contains spoilers to the film, A Dark Place.
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: A Dark Place really felt like a story grounded in revenge. What did it feel like when you read the script?
Luke Baines: I think it’s interesting because I’ve played a lot of dark characters, so I was reading it more about a guy who was trapped in an uncomfortable situation. It didn’t feel you know, classically the bad guy, that I’ve played before. He really felt like someone who was struggling to be good and to have his life on track. That’s what I found most interesting about it. I love the fact that it is so grounded in reality and really focuses on human relationships and human dynamics.
There was a key line Alex says in the film when he’s giddy about potentially getting a job and his girlfriend turns it around on him. “When did you start hating me?” It was powerful.
Thanks! That was literally the only line I came up with on the spot! (laughs)
What inspired that line out of you? Since it wasn’t in the script as you say.
I guess it’s one of those things where I just felt that at the moment. We were having this argument and she just kept coming at me and it’s something that we had worked on with Chris [Pinero]. Before we had shot that scene, Jazlyn, Chris, and me did the whole scene through just on subtext. That was something that came out. This idea that Alex was always going to be on a bad foot with her. He was never going to be able to win.
There was really nothing Alex could do that would ever be good for her because at this point he’d just caused so much damage. That’s really what I felt like he wanted to say to her. That it was never going to be good enough, is it? “When did you start hating me?” I think that’s so important to a relationship because sometimes things happen in life that are never going to change. Sometimes, in a relationship you just can’t take it back. You can do all the work but the other person is just never going to forget it. There’s really no way back once a person decides they want out of a relationship.
It feels like, especially from talking to my friends, that women really work ahead when it comes to relationships. They’re usually one step ahead of the guy. That’s kind of where that line came from.
Why do you feel Alex didn’t murder Theresa [Jazlyn Yoder] after he kidnapped her? Did Theresa tell Alex she was pregnant with his child? Since that was not shown on screen, it seems open to the viewer’s interpretation.
I just don’t think that’s who he is. Obviously, he is a murderer because he killed someone. But that seemed more like a crime of passion. I think that the reason that he killed Mike Miller’s character (Keith) is because he was so thrown by what he heard, that he acted out in that way. All the hatred was directed towards him. I think that that’s something that we do in normal life. When something happens, I think we focus on one person and take it out on them. And I think once Alex had done that, he really regretted it. That’s why nothing happened and Alex didn’t actually kill or seriously harm his girlfriend.
When Alex has that moment after he killed Keith and says, ‘I’m going to turn myself in!’ Was that just to fool Shawn into helping him with the body? Or was he really considering turning himself in?
I think in Alex’s head, he always knew that suicide was probably going to be the end game. That he had explored the idea before. It wasn’t just the relationship. It was where he was in his life, not being able to get a job, feeling like a failure. The only thing that really was keeping him going on was his girlfriend and the idea of having a child. Getting to start a new life and create something else. When those pieces started falling away, that’s when Alex made the choice. So, I don’t think that he was manipulating his friends.
That section with Alex’s mom, was she supposed to have Alzheimers? It seemed that way when she asked Alex the same question about his girlfriend twice.
Yeah, I think so. We talked about the fact that she was teetering on the edge of some kind of memory loss and some kind of disassociation.
Chris [Pinero] told me he knew you were right for the role the moment he saw your audition. How did you prepare for the audition? Anything different than usual?
You know, interestingly this was one of the first auditions that I properly trusted myself with. Really because I thought I had no chance, the character was written a lot older than I’ve ever played. I was like I don’t know if they’re even going to take me seriously. I remember reading it and just thinking well if I was given the role, this is what I would do that. I played it exactly on my instincts that I got from reading the character descriptions and the actual script itself. And I I very much played that, as opposed to going into a room and trying to give someone what they wanted.
When it comes to number of takes, do you believe in reshooting a scene until you get it right? Stanley Kubrick The Shining style. Or do you prefer the pressure of knowing you only have a certain amount of takes and that’s it?
It’s interesting and it’s something that I’ve actually been working on recently. I do a show called Shadowhunters and on that you’re doing a lot more takes. I would say on average on Shadowhunters, you’re doing about 30 takes because of the different setups. So you do about five or six takes per setup and you have about four setups. On A Dark Place, we were doing one or two takes per setup so it was very, very different.
What’s interesting about it though, was when you go from something like doing an indie film to doing a big production, a Disney show, where you get more takes… Is that when I first started doing that show, I would get all my good takes out in the first couple of shots. And then I get to two and a half hours, three hours later where we’re still doing the same thing and I have to keep doing it… Keeping up that momentum was really really difficult for me.
It’s something I have to get good at and find different triggers to keep on going. Find new places to explore. So, I don’t know if there is one that is better. Maybe, an option C. Where I get a little bit more time but I’m not doing a ton of takes. (laughs)
What was it like shooting that scene in A Dark Place with the hammer?
It was intense and I really dug up some real stuff that I’ve been through. Which was interesting because I never really get a chance to do that normally. A lot of the stuff I’ve done has been very imagination based.
When you use sense memory to emotionally recall traumatizing experiences, does it become weaker over time? Or is the impact always the same for you?
Yeah, for me it does. I lean more towards imagination based acting when I do it because I find that never gets stale. For me, I think acting sometimes is like therapy and when you use those memories you heal them a little bit. This film was definitely that for me. This is the kind of relationship stuff that I healed by doing this film. I just don’t think that they have the same triggers that they used to, that they would have now.
Were you disappointed your character got killed because you can’t really be in a sequel?
(laughs) I think that from a personal perspective sure! But Alex needed to go through that. So no.
What did it mean to you to get nominated for Best TV Villain at the 2019 Teen Choice Awards?
You know it’s interesting, It’s so lovely to think that so many fans of Shadowhunters spent the time to go online and tweet, and vote like they did. I find that really, really endearing, flattering and lovely! But at the same time, it’s like you know, awards are very weird. I don’t think that just because I got the nomination, I was necessarily one of the best villains on TV last year. It just happened to be, that I was lucky enough to be on a show that had a very passionate fanbase. I’m really grateful for that!
Thank you Luke!
A Dark Place was named Best Thriller at the Manhattan Film Festival (2018), won Best Editing and Best Supporting Actor at the Hoboken International Film Festival (2018) and was the recipient of an Award of Excellence from the Accolade Global Film Competition (2018).