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Bill Heck as Young Mickey Donovan on Showtime's Ray Donovan Season 7 Episode 7 "The Transfer Agent" - Screenshot/Photo Credit: Showtime Bill Heck as Young Mickey Donovan on Showtime's Ray Donovan Season 7 Episode 7 "The Transfer Agent" - Screenshot/Photo Credit: Showtime

Ray Donovan

Bill Heck talks playing Young Mickey Donovan, Jon Voight (Interview)

Screenshot / Photo Credit: Showtime

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Bill Heck spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about playing the scene-stealing Young Mickey Donovan on Showtime’s Ray Donovan and Jon Voight being generous with the character’s interpretation.

Any actor looking to learn the craft of conveying body language to make an audience believe in what you’re doing needs to watch Bill Heck’s performance on Ray Donovan Season 7 Episode 7 (“The Transfer Agent”). Young Mickey Donovan’s mini dance during a robbery spoke volumes about the character, a lasting immersive visual to frame on the wall.

During an exclusive interview with The Natural Aristocrat, Bill Heck discussed his fine-tuned work as young Mickey Donovan, Jon Voight sitting down with him on the second day of shooting, a Ray Donovan prequel show à la Better Call Saul, and even some preliminary thoughts on The Irishman’s de-aging tech! For those wondering about Jon Voight’s best tip to Bill Heck delievered in classic Mickey Donovan fashion…

“They got great writers, amazing story, everyone really knows what they’re doing… But every now and then before a take, just as they call action, tell yourself, ‘I don’t give a s**t!’ Throw it all out the window and do whatever the f**k you want!”

Interview with Bill Heck on Young Mickey Donovan:

Bill Heck as Young Mickey Donovan on Showtime's Ray Donovan Season 7 Episode 7 "The Transfer Agent" - Screenshot/Photo Credit: Showtime

Bill Heck as Young Mickey Donovan on Showtime’s Ray Donovan Season 7 Episode 7 “The Transfer Agent” – Screenshot/Photo Credit: Showtime

The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: Did Jon Voight personally comment on your performance? I’m curious what he thought of you playing young Mickey Donovan.

Bill Heck: Jon sent me a very lovely text after the episode aired, and it was a delight to receive. He was more than generous during the job. We were shooting up in the Bronx, and I think on the second day, Jon had the day off and came from the place where he stays during the season in Greenpoint (Brooklyn).

He came all the way up to the Bronx to sit down in the hair & makeup trailer with me and talk about the character and thoughts he had. And he was really curious to hear thoughts that I had. Jon was very generous and interested that I make my own choices, what views I had on the character, and really encouraged me to make it my own. As much as I could! You know, not to just do an impression. Which I’m no good at anyway! (laughs)

But it was amazing! It’s amazingly generous for Jon to come all the way up the Bronx and and sit with me to chat for almost an hour. We exchanged numbers and texted back a few times throughout the shoot. He really gave me permission. That is a real valuable thing to have as an actor. So he was lovely the whole way through. Then at the wrap party he said there with me and my wife [Maggie Lacey] for a long time. Just couldn’t have been more pleasant and more supportive. He was a real gem.

I thought the flashbacks could be a show in itself, something like Better Call Saul.

(laughs) We should put you in touch with the producers!

Young Mickey Donovan leaving 'Ray Ray' and his ill wife in the middle of the night on Showtime's Ray Donovan Season 7 Episode 7 "The Transfer Agent" - Screenshot/Photo Credit: Showtime

Bill Heck as Young Mickey Donovan leaving ‘Ray Ray’ and his ill wife in the middle of the night on Showtime’s Ray Donovan Season 7 Episode 7 “The Transfer Agent” – Screenshot/Photo Credit: Showtime

There’s just so much story there to explore, and it sounds like you’d definitely be willing to go back. Is that something you could see happening with Ray Donovan?

The impression I got from everybody was that they were pleased with how the flashbacks went generally. David Hollander, the showrunner, seemed pleased with how things went. I don’t know what their plans are for next season, by any explicit means. But I wouldn’t be shocked, I think they were definitely pleased to tread new ground in that way. And I had an interesting time, I wouldn’t be averse to any additional exploration, certainly!

Were you picked originally for this role because of your performance in 2013 film, Pit Stop? Even for anyone just watching the trailer for that movie, when you push off, there’s something instantly noticeable about your body language. It’s subtly reminiscent of the way you portrayed young Mickey Donovan. In general, as an actor you had great control of body language on Ray Donovan.

Thank you! That’s a really interesting parallel, I certainly wasn’t doing that consciously. I guess there’s a slight parallel in the characters in that they’re both trying to find their place in a world where they maybe feel a bit out of place. Or are not quite sure of how up to the task they may be. But no man, that was a long time ago that movie! It’s a project I hold dear. I’d encourage people to see that sweet little film.

What was it like working with Aidan Pierce Brennan as young Ray Donovan? Doing all those “Ray Ray” scenes. Those were some intense scenes, especially when Mickey’s stealing his wife’s money out of that can as Ray watches.

I mean on one hand, for me as a person being able to see what’s happening in that scene, it’s heartbreaking. But Mickey thinks he’s doing the right thing to a certain degree. Mickey maybe understands that it’s morally complex but he doesn’t pay attention to that side of things because he’s got a plan. And his plan is going to make things right.

Bill Heck as Young Mickey Donovan and Aidan Pierce Brennan as Young Ray Donovan on Showtime's Ray Donovan Season 7 Episode 7 "The Transfer Agent" - Screenshot/Photo Credit: Showtime

Bill Heck as Young Mickey Donovan and Aidan Pierce Brennan as Young Ray Donovan on Showtime’s Ray Donovan Season 7 Episode 7 “The Transfer Agent” – Screenshot/Photo Credit: Showtime

Even if he’s deluded himself about how possible it is or what right is right or what’s best for his family. He’s moving forward in a way that he thinks is best for his family. So, in that sense even though he’s maybe got some conflicted feelings about how it may be perceived, he’s optimistic.

Bill Heck as Young Mickey Donovan on Showtime's Ray Donovan Season 7 Episode 7 "The Transfer Agent" - Screenshot/Photo Credit: Showtime

Bill Heck as Young Mickey Donovan on Showtime’s Ray Donovan Season 7 Episode 7 “The Transfer Agent” – Screenshot/Photo Credit: Showtime

Do you feel in pilfering the money, that maybe Mickey was trying to protect the Donovan family as well? From the aspect that maybe James Sullivan would do worse if he didn’t pay back something.

Absolutely he’s telling himself that, yeah. Mickey’s got rings of stories that he tells himself and he believes them! Mickey doesn’t imagine that he’s deluding himself. He’s not as far as he can see in the future. He’s going to handle it, you know? It’s like he tells Ray as he’s going out, ‘everything’s gonna be fine,’ right? So I think Mickey believes it or at least he knows that to survive, he has to believe that.

Young James 'Jimmy' Sullivan played by Austin Hébert on left and Young Mickey Donovan played by Bill Heck on right on Showtime's Ray Donovan - Season 7 Episode 7 "The Transfer Agent" - Screenshot/Photo Credit: Showtime

Young James ‘Jimmy’ Sullivan played by Austin Hébert on left and Young Mickey Donovan played by Bill Heck on right on Showtime’s Ray Donovan – Season 7 Episode 7 “The Transfer Agent” – Screenshot/Photo Credit: Showtime

That little dance Mickey Donovan does right when he’s about to rob that van, was that intentionally written into the script? Or was that you personally making an on-the-spot, Mickey influenced decision there?

No, I just tossed that in. Kyra (Sedgwick) who directed the episode and David Hollander, the showrunner, Jon, everyone included were extremely encouraging about being playful. It was a very available, open generous set. A very fun set and the character is a fun character.

Bill Heck as Young Mickey Donovan dancing during robbery on Showtime's Ray Donovan Season 7 Episode 7 "The Transfer Agent" - Screen captured GIF Credit: Showtime

Bill Heck as Young Mickey Donovan dancing during robbery on Showtime’s Ray Donovan Season 7 Episode 7 “The Transfer Agent” – Screen captured GIF Credit via Showtime

I asked a few of the people which episodes of previous seasons I should watch to get a decent idea of Mickey. Everyone was really open and interested in making me feel comfortable riffing, more than I have in past gigs. I felt like I got to stretch my arms and play a little bit, which was a real joy. I had an ample opportunity with this character to do so.

Yeah, I thought those little details really made the scene. Kind of like what they call reveries on Westworld, those extra touches that make a character feel real. I mean obviously there was that iconic teeth sucking thing that Jon Voight does often on the series.

There were a couple of teeth sucking scripted moments. (laughs) That was the only little characterization that they specified! I threw in a few more here and there, and replaced a few here and there. I’m not quick to recall which ones they used in the edit but that one they definitely zeroed in on. I think at some point here I was like give me a tooth suck right here. (laughs)

Bill Heck as Young Mickey Donovan 'teeth sucking' on Showtime's Ray Donovan Season 7 Episode 7 "The Transfer Agent" - Screenshot/Photo Credit: Showtime

Bill Heck as Young Mickey Donovan ‘teeth sucking’ on Showtime’s Ray Donovan Season 7 Episode 7 “The Transfer Agent” – Screenshot/Photo Credit: Showtime

Do you feel you were able to study the character more through watching other Ray Donovan episodes, meeting Jon Voight in-person, or a mix?

It’s definitely a mix. Early on I had to rely on the episodes, I think maybe watched in the neighborhood of 8 to 10 in total. I had a dialect coaching session where I’d work with the material and met Austin (Hébert) who plays Jimmy (Sullivan) and we worked through some of that and just spent some time building on it. Playing around and then we actually shot the van robbery, that was the first thing I did.

Young Mickey Donovan shooting back on Showtime's Ray Donovan Season 7 Episode 7 "The Transfer Agent" - Screenshot/Photo Credit: Showtime

Bill Heck as Young Mickey Donovan shooting back on Showtime’s Ray Donovan Season 7 Episode 7 “The Transfer Agent” – Screenshot/Photo Credit: Showtime

That was before I met Jon, the second day was when Jon came up and definitely he helped me expand on all the work I had done before. Just being around him you get a sense of how he’s carrying himself through the world generally, and how it applies to the work you see him do on the show.

I think maybe the most pointed tip he gave me was like, “They got great writers, amazing story, everyone really knows what they’re doing… But every now and then before a take, just as they call action, tell yourself, ‘I don’t give a s**t!’ Throw it all out the window and do whatever the f**k you want!” (laughs) That was advice to an actor that would definitely inform where the character came from and where he lives. So it was very helpful and fun.

Bill Heck as Young Mickey Donovan shoots back in vain on Showtime's Ray Donovan Season 7 Episode 7 "The Transfer Agent" - Screenshot/Photo Credit: Showtime

Bill Heck as Young Mickey Donovan shoots back in vain on Showtime’s Ray Donovan Season 7 Episode 7 “The Transfer Agent” – Screenshot/Photo Credit: Showtime

What’s your viewpoint on a film like The Irishman where they used the same actors for flashbacks with de-aging VFX technology? Is there always going to be a place for other actors to play a major part of flashbacks or do you feel as the price of the tech drops the industry will become heavily reliant on it?

It’s a tricky one, my friend. (laughs) You know I have not seen The Irishman, though I’m certainly a lover of Scorsese and his crew. So I can’t comment on that directly. I certainly suspect it’s obviously something they’ll decide when it’s appropriate to use and when not. And I’m sure as you say it will shift as technology becomes more advanced and more affordable… I don’t know, I think that’ll come down to each individual artist.

Bill Heck Headshot - Photo Credit: Jeff Galfer

Bill Heck Headshot – Photo Credit: Jeff Galfer

I find it hard to imagine that a community of artists, especially when you’re speaking about a collaborative art like filmmaking or storytelling in general… That most artists would opt to interact with something that is not available to them at the moment.

You know to try and create a story or human moments, that is sort of waiting on the computer, three weeks down the road. So, in terms of The Irishman they were still working with the guys there in the room. But I can’t really speak to how the de-aging tech effected the work as far as The Irishman goes.

I think the artist will always choose what’s most fun, what’s interesting to them. I think some will find the technology very intriguing and it certainly is in its way, and some will say, ‘I want the whole warm body.’

I think actually the evolution of that question will lie more with audiences. What they’re interested in receiving. How crossable the uncanny valley truly is… Because the people are going to decide if they’ll buy it or not. That’s a good working answer down the line one way or the other.

Are you going to appear in any other flashbacks in this season of Ray Donovan? Without any spoilers of course.

That’s it for me… At least for this season.

Young Mickey Donovan fake surrenders on Showtime's Ray Donovan Season 7 Episode 7 "The Transfer Agent" - Screenshot/Photo Credit: Showtime

Bill Heck as Young Mickey Donovan fake surrenders on Showtime’s Ray Donovan Season 7 Episode 7 “The Transfer Agent” – Screenshot/Photo Credit: Showtime

You’re going to be in a new Netflix show called Locke & Key that’s arriving on February 7th. What kind of character will you be playing in that?

Locke & Key is based off a graphic novel series, written by Joe Hill and illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez. It’s a series of books that is just gorgeous. It’s beautiful. It’s sort of family drama, meets horror film meets father legacy. In that series, I’ll play the father of the family that comes to live in my childhood home. I don’t know how much I can say beyond it…

I mean it’s all in the books for anyone and they’re well worth the read. The show looks amazing and all the people that I’ve worked with who’ve seen bits of it are extremely pleased with it. So I’d say it’s well worth the look this February.




I saw Liam Neeson at BUILD series and he joked around, then got a bit serious, about how theatre actors are just better actors than TV/Film-only ones because they get to perform every night. How they get more practice in and have to constantly adapt to a live audience. Since you’ve had experience on both sides of the aisle, on-stage and on-screen, what are your thoughts?

(laughs) You know one of the things I love about what I do, and brings me into context with what other people are doing, is that there’s no real template for it. There’s not one way to get where you’re going. Nobody’s ended up where they are for the same reasons. There are definitely skill sets that come with different environments and different experiences and different lengths of experiences.

Bill Heck Lead Headshot - Photo Credit: Jeff Galfer

Bill Heck Lead Headshot – Photo Credit: Jeff Galfer

There are certainly things that I know having come up in the theatre side and being trained in storytelling and acting… That I wouldn’t know had I just come up through the Television ranks in Los Angeles. But there are definitely things that that those guys know that I don’t. That I’ve had to learn later in life that I’m still learning.

I think it’s hard to stick a pin in any one answer about what’s going to make an actor better, more effective or not. Aside from maybe if they’re still curious, if they’re still interested, if they still feel like they have something to learn. Anyone that thinks they’ve got all the answers about anything, is more likely than not to not know anything.

Do you feel you prepare any differently as an actor than from when you first began? Do you have any kind of ritual every morning to kind of get into that kind of mindset or is it different for every role really?

Yeah it’s different for every role, every circumstance. Like if I’m doing a theatre gig, I have a pretty standard warmup just to get get into my body. But I switch it out based on what I have to do for a show and where I am. Mickey is an easy guy to get into physically to kind of shake your fingers up in the right way and feel it through your body (laughs) as opposed to maybe a more still character.

Bill Heck as Young Mickey Donovan schmoozing and buying drinks at the bar on Showtime's Ray Donovan Season 7 Episode 7 "The Transfer Agent" - Screenshot/Photo Credit: Showtime

Bill Heck as Young Mickey Donovan schmoozing and buying drinks at the bar on Showtime’s Ray Donovan Season 7 Episode 7 “The Transfer Agent” – Screenshot/Photo Credit: Showtime

I don’t know if you’ve seen the comments on the Ray Donovan fan group on Facebook but a lot of people commented on your performance and the episode (“The Transfer Agent”). Do you read those usually? You should go check it out!

(laughs) Oh no, that’s dangerous man! I’m glad to hear it came off well though for sure.

Thanks Bill!

Thank you!

Bill Heck on Social Media:

Follow Bill Heck on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, IMDB, and his official website.

Relive the memorable Ray Donovan Season 7 episode on Showtime Anytime or subscribe to Showtime on Amazon.

Be sure to check out The Natural Aristocrat’s interview with actress Sandy Martin on Ray Donovan’s Sandy Patrick and more coverage of the series on the Ray Donovan category section.

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Interviews

Nico Tortorella: ‘Younger was cute but I get to act again for real on TWD’ (Interview)

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Annet Mahendru as Huck, Nico Tortorella as Felix - The Walking Dead: World Beyond _ Season 1, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/AMC
Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/AMC

Nico Tortorella told The Natural Aristocrat that while ‘playing a version of myself’ as Josh on Younger was “cute” & “fun”, ‘I wasn’t being challenged as an actor’ like as Felix on the upcoming The Walking Dead: World Beyond. Embracing the darkness of Felix’s backstory, the horror genre is where Nico feels most comfortable as an actor.

The following question was asked by The Natural Aristocrat® during a press roundtable for The Walking Dead: World Beyond with Nico Tortorella, Annet Mahendru, and Julia Ormond.

Interview with Nico Tortorella:

The Natural Aristocrat : Nico, I watched you portray Josh on Younger, so I have to say the darkness of Felix’s backstory and your lines in The Walking Dead: World Beyond are quite a jarring departure.

On yesterday’s press day, Alexa Mansour (Hope) mentioned you’re always saying that ‘you’re the Rick Grimes of World Beyond’. What is it like going from romance as Josh on Younger to the brutal darkness of Felix on World Beyond? It’s quite a transition. I mean from MILF Hunter to Zombie Hunter!

Annet Mahendru: (laughs hard)

Nico Tortorella: MILF Hunter to Zombie Hunter! (laughs) Well, I’m actually more familiar with this genre than I am with the rom-com genre. I have been on Younger for a long time but that’s a 22-minute show with eight series regulars and I only work maybe one day a week, for a couple months of the year. But I mean if we’re talking Scream 4, Odd Thomas, The Following, I’m more used to the darkness.

As a person, I have no problem stepping into the darkness. I spend a lot of time there. I can face it quite regularly. This actually feels like a more comfortable genre for me than the rom-com. The rom-com was like a relief when it came because I’d been working in heavy material for so long.

It was like, ‘I don’t want to have to kill anyone or I don’t want to worry about being killed.’ Let me just go and be sweet & cute for a little bit… But as an actor that only goes so far! I’m not really challenged on Younger, I’m playing a version of myself and it’s fun, it’s cute but this… It’s like okay, I get to act again you know, for real!

I get to step into the darkness, and it’s somewhere where I’m actually comfortable.

Annet Mahendru as Huck, Nico Tortorella as Felix, Aliyah Royale as Iris – The Walking Dead: World Beyond _ Season 1, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/AMC

Thanks Nico!

Thank you!

Annet Mahendru as Huck, Nico Tortorella as Felix, Julia Ormond as Elizabeth – The Walking Dead: World Beyond _ Season 1, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/AMC

Be sure to watch Nico Tortorella as Felix on The Walking Dead: World Beyond series premiere over at AMC on Sunday, October 4 at 10 p.m. ET (9 PM Central).

– TWD fans, read a non-spoiler review of The Walking Dead Season 10 Finale and test out your trivia knowledge with Who wants to be a Carollionaire? – Carol Peletier Quiz and How well do you know Melissa McBride? Trivia Quiz

– Younger fans, be sure to read Will Liza say ‘I Do’ on Younger Season 7? on The Natural Aristocrat®!

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Film

Marc Menchaca on Alone: ‘Probably, the most physical thing I’ve ever done’ (Interview)

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Marc Menchaca talks Alone - Jules Wilcox and Marc Menchaca in ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.
Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing

Marc Menchaca spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about portraying one of horror’s darkest, colossally twisted villains in Alone and the final, muddied fight being one of the most physically demanding things he’s ever done.

This interview contains spoilers to horror picture, Alone.

The Natural Aristocrat : Your character in Alone caught me off guard a bit because I was so used to Russ Langmore on Ozark. Russ was good natured but troubled, while The Man is pretty much entirely a monster. The sharp contrast was quite jarring. Did you have any outside inspirations for The Man?

Marc Menchaca: They both have some good in ’em! I’m sure elements of other characters were playing subconsciously but I can’t think of something specific off the top of my head. The film had a pretty quick turnaround, so I’d say my inspirations were still within the script.

There’s an intense scene in Alone where The Man is driving and ambushed from behind by Jess. What was it like shooting the scene? Was it primarily a stunt double there?

No, I did all the stunt work in this film outside of one thing. It was definitely intense and it was as fun as can be doing it! The whole film was taxing when it came to the physicality of it. Obviously, the car was controlled as well in that scene. We were able to have a good time with it and thankfully, I didn’t break Jules’ nose or anything in the process.

Jules told The Natural Aristocrat the last fight scene didn’t need any makeup applied, that it was all down in the mud for real. What was it like filming that final climatic 1 on 1 fight between Jessica and The Man?

I think it was probably the most physical thing I’ve ever done. It was raining that day… I’ve never been that muddy in my life, not even as a kid! I remember when I took my coat off at the end it was soaked, it was coated in mud. There was a layer that stripped off. My shoes weighed about 10 pounds a piece and we had these buckets with warm water that we’d place our hands in, in-between takes because it was so cold.

Jules Wilcox in ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

For me, the strongest scene in Alone was when The Man tries to manipulate Robert into believing Jessica is his sister and is having an ‘episode’. Essentially, discrediting Jessica’s story by anchoring it to bipolar disorder. I asked Jules about this moment as well. I was wondering your thoughts, being on the other side of this pivotal scene?

I love that part of the movie because you kind of find out that he’s (The Man) actually a good actor as well. I felt I had to be so convincing in order to get what I wanted. I had to really play that card that she’s actually just off her meds or whatever. I loved that scene in particular. It was just another obstacle to what I needed to get.

Jules Wilcox in ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Why do you feel Jessica doesn’t take the gun when The Man is offering her a chance or perhaps challenging her to take it? Despite being hurt, it seemed like it was Jessica’ only chance at survival at the time.

You know, that’s a good question! I think because I know that she’s hurt… I think there was a moment in there when he was at his breaking point in that scene. The last thing that can happen for him is to be exposed. There very possibly was an element of ‘Just take me now, and I won’t have to deal with it.’

I thought there were some definite Ted Bundy vibes to The Man when his arm is in the sling and you approach Jessica’s car early in the film. Did you watch any documentary or film footage of him for the role?

No, I didn’t. I know who Ted Bundy is and I will say there was obviously an element of Ted Bundy in this. But I can’t really say I watched him in something beforehand.

You mentioned earlier that you feel there was some good in The Man like Russ Langmore on Ozark. Certainly, The Man’s double life gave him some ambiguity in his other ‘real life’ so-to-speak. He was at a loss for words when Jessica turns the tables and dials up his girlfriend. What did you think about the mysterious nature of the character?

I think it worked for the film, I don’t think we needed to know anymore about him other than what we find out in the phone call. Because then the film would become a completely different film instead of focusing on just the chase. Which is what I really like about the movie, that it just kind of boiled down to the barebones would I think it would have become a completely different film. Instead of focusing on just the chase, which is what I really liked about the movie.

It was just kind of boiled down to this barebones film. This is who this guy is, this is who this girl is, and we’re going to show you this chase that happens! I think that was one of the great things about the film, that you got a little bit of information about both of them. Even though that does inform you about who the characters are, the film doesn’t majorly focus on that part of their lives.

Marc Menchaca in ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

I thought the scene where you first captured Jessica and bring her to that basement was one of the most brutal scenes I’ve seen in any horror film. Everything from the one-minute-too-early 911 call to when you tell her to strip and mock her pleading with you… Jessica’s tragedy with her husband. You just get the sense there’s nothing she can do at all, no immediate escape routes. That’s difficult to accomplish properly for any horror film. How did you feel about the way that whole moment?

Jules Wilcox in ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

I feel what happens in the basement is you’re seeing The Man be intimate, it’s another thing for her but that was The Man’s way of intimacy. I think he finds peace in that grotesque manipulation.

Would you like to make a cameo in the last season of Ozark? A flashback maybe?

I’d love to! Put the word out!

Thanks Marc!

Thank you!

Theatrical one-sheet for ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Alone Trailer and Where to watch the Film:

Be sure to follow Marc Menchaca @marcmenchaca and the film’s official account, @AloneMovie, on Twitter!

Alone can be seen now in select theaters and on Video On Demand services. Rent Alone on Amazon today!

Disclosure: TheNaturalAristocrat.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

– Be sure to read more interviews with the entertainment industry’s top talent in The Natural Aristocrat®’s Interviews section.

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Jules Willcox talks Alone, breaking her foot for real in film (Interview)

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Jules Wilcox in ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.
Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing

Jules Willcox spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about portraying Jessica in Alone, one of 2020’s darkest psychological thrillers, and breaking her foot for real during shooting in a reversed ‘life imitates art’ moment.

This interview contains spoilers to horror picture, Alone.

Jules Willcox illuminates Alone with her portrayal of Jessica, a woman forsaken by fate. You never know when you’ll meet the wrong person that sets off internal alarm bells across your chest. When you can’t shake an icy gut feeling about an unsavory individual. What if every cloudy intuition, every ‘don’t talk to strangers’ childhood lesson you ignored ended up being true? Perhaps, no scene in Alone encompasses this better than when Jessica believes her car is being followed by the film’s unknown antagonist and dials 911. She informs the operator it’s a false alarm after the car behind her passes but it wasn’t… Jessica had just dialed a minute too early.

Thus, the audience can easily place themselves into Jessica’s shoes, their worst fears escaping the nightfall jail of their 3 AM nightmares. Forcibly shipwrecked on land via a slashed tire. Only the will to live, to survive, driving Jessica to escape her island, her captivity in an unmarked basement. After all, if you scream in a forest and nobody is around to rescue you, did you really make a sound?

Interview with Jules Willcox:

Jules Wilcox in ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

The Natural Aristocrat : For me, the strongest scene in Alone is post-escape when The Man claims you’re his mentally ill sister and that you’re having ‘another episode’ to a third party. Naturally, the third party (Robert) is confused & unsure who’s telling the truth. There’s so many layers to this twisted interaction. It’s a commentary about society not explicitly believing those perceived to have bipolar disorder or otherwise. As if the label disqualifies their credibility instantly. What was it like shooting that moment?

Jules Willcox: It shows how manipulative Marc’s character is… He’s playing chess, you know? I don’t even think Jessica realizes how sick of an individual he is! He really took it to another level. In a way, it also presents Jessica as an unreliable narrator of her own story.

It was a tricky scene and it showed what depths The Man was willing to go down to. He was working on a physical level and on a psychological level. It’s not only ‘Woman Against Nature’ as we find with the river scene but ‘Woman vs The Physicality of a Man’ & also on a mental level.

When Jessica takes that big plunge into the river, was that you or a stunt double?

It was both, Michelle Damis was my stunt double and she is incredible! Michelle had to do quite a bit more than she thought she was going to do because I broke my foot in the second week of filming. So, two thirds or three quarters actually of the film I’m in a walking boot which you can’t see in the final edit.

You broke your foot while filming on-set?

It happened during filming, it happened during a stunt. It was just a freak thing! I was running barefoot in a cleared path, when I was running away from The Man and getting out of the house, and we went for a couple of takes. Then they’re like, ‘Let’s do one more and then we’ll throw your shoes back on,’ you know because they wanted to see the bare feet. The stunt coordinator was amazing and he had cleared everything, and we’d walked the path several time. And that one last time… I hit a root that was sticking up out of the Earth!

Jules Wilcox in ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Wow, so it was practically just like what happens in the movie?

Yeah, we had to improvise because the really bad wound that Jessica was supposed to have, was the gunshot through the shoulder. But because I broke my foot, we had to put that limp in that I naturally had. That’s when they rewrote the scene of Jessica stepping on that.

I thought the opening of Alone was captivating. The film was really able to build this foreboding sense of being stranded just like its namesake. What was your routine to get into this anxious, panicked state for each take?

We were shooting in the Pacific Northwest and it was beautiful of course and it’s wide open. I was living in Manhattan at the time so I didn’t have a ton of time to prep on the film. It happened really fast! So, I flew out to Oregon, and I’d worked with the director before on a television show. They needed an actor who could do all the grueling physical stuff and also the emotional stuff, and so he contracted me to do it. I really connected to the grief that Jessica was experiencing. We’ve all experienced grief in our life and it’s such a universal experience. She’s really running away from her grief in the beginning with her husband killing himself.

Jessica’s wanting to get a new start, she’s not wanting to talk her mom because her mom is going to want to talk about things and emotions… And she doesn’t want to deal with all that. When you’re alone, you’re confronted with the truth in your mind whether you like it or not. I think Jessica does whatever she can to try to push things away. But ultimately, having The Man show up, forces her into a very present state, where she has to be active. She has to fight.

I think I really prepared by being in nature, it’s such a beautiful place. You wake up really in the morning, 4 AM, whenever the call time wise and watch the sunrise. I’d just put myself in the circumstances of where Jessica was, having lost someone and trying to escape from that.

The scene where Jessica freaks out initially and calls 911 when she thinks she’s being followed really throws viewers into a loop. For a second when the car passes, you really think she’s okay. Then the film pulls the rug under out from viewers, before relief washes over the audience. What did you draw on outside of the script to craft that moment?

We question ourselves all the time when something really crazy happens or even just in an abnormal way. I find myself wanting to have the benefit of the doubt for the other person, probably because I’m mid-western! (laughs) Surely, they didn’t mean that! There’s a little bit of, ‘Am I blowing this out of proportion?’ There’s a little bit of her questioning herself and I can connect to that in my own mind. Can people really have such harsh, mean intentions? I’m a glass half-full person, so I hope for the best! I think in that scene there’s almost a disappoint when seeing, oh that wasn’t what I thought, maybe I am ‘blowing this out of proportion.’

Jules Wilcox in ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Have you ever had such a gut instinct about person like Jessica does in the film? There was some definite Ted Bundy vibes when The Man approaches Jessica’s car with his arm in a sling and asks for assistance.

Gosh… I think probably in the early days of moving to Hollywood! (laughs) Again, being a midwestern girl, I had to be quite careful and skeptical of people’s intentions. We were actually shooting when all the Weinstein stuff was coming out, really the height of the Me Too movement. We talked about that a lot, all the gas-lighting of women and how they’ve been taken advantage of for so long. I’m from Missouri, the ‘Show Me’ state, ‘Show me who you are with your actions.’

Jules Wilcox and Marc Menchaca in ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

I’m curious how were you able to film that final fight scene with a broken foot? Were the scenes shot in narrative order?

We shot in order, which was crazy! I was in the Whitewater rapids with a broken foot, with a boot on. (laughs) Our stunt coordinator would help me. I was in crutches most of the time with the boot, and the stunt coordinator who’s just a massive human being, lifted me up and put me in the water. (laughs) I knew he felt bad every time he did it because it was so cold, we were shooting in November in the Pacific Northwest.

Director John Hyams filming a scene for ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

That last fight scene was on our last day of shooting. We had rehearsed the fight in the fight coordinator’s jiu jitsu gym. We practiced on mats several times, and between me and Michelle my stunt double, we just did it all. It’s also choreographed to be very scrappy. We’re not professional fighters, Jessica doesn’t have any training. She is just relying on pure adrenaline and at that point, so was I. We were in our costumes, I also had layers of freezing cold mud.

So that wasn’t makeup on your face, that was legit mud?

(laughs) Oh, it was legit! That was legit! When I was crawling out of the car, they were like, okay are you ready? I was like ‘Oh jeez, I’m putting my face in mud!’ My skin has never looked so good, it’s like a spa treatment. But the mud weighs a lot, once it starts caking on to your clothing, so the movement starts to get so much harder. You’re like basically caked down in clay.

You’re rolling around on the ground, the kind of stuff that Michelle, the stunt person would be doing would be like kicking with both legs because I could only kick with one leg. We really went for it! Thank God it was all on the last day because I was exhausted after! (laughs)

Why do you feel Jessica doesn’t go for the gun when The Man offers her an opportunity to even out the playing field in the forest?

I think at that point, she didn’t trust him at all. There’s a perceived opening but why is that and why? She’s going by instinct, period.

The scene where The Man takes Jessica to the basement is one of the most brutal scenes I’ve seen in a horror movie because it looks like she has zero chance. Usually horror movies leave the door open a little bit but Alone makes it clear Jessica has nowhere to go, no immediate escape routes, nothing to plead with her captor… Then The Man tells you to “remove your clothes.” Viewers are definitely going to have strong, unsettling feelings about that whole section. What was it like filming such a traumatic moment?

Yeah, she’s caught in a trap, Jessica’s a helpless animal at that point! She’s just trying to do whatever she can do… You know, she asks The Man, ‘Can I go to the bathroom?’ to buy time. You’re left wondering, how many people has this happened to?

Jules Wilcox in ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

A friend of mine, he’s a playwright, wrote a play about a person being held captive because he was so influenced and traumatized by those young women who were held captive in Cleveland. They were released several years later. Unfortunately, this happens, these things happen. I really had to put myself in this person’s shoes, what are you going to do? How can I manipulate in any way? Can I beg, can I plead? She does all this and there’s utter hopelessness at this point.

You understand that it’s not just brute force he’s after… He’s playing this sick mental game by leaving her there, and confronting her with her emotional trauma, as opposed to physical trauma. I truly think The Man is one of the most evil characters I’ve ever seen, just how twisted and dark he goes. And Marc Menchaca is the most lovable person on the planet!

Marc Menchaca in ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

I was definitely surprised because I was so used to Marc Menchaca’s character on Ozark!

I know! (laughs) He does such a great job. That monologue when I’m in the bog in the forest is just pure evil!

Did you enjoy Jessica’s final revenge on The Man, when she calls his girlfriend?

Oh yeah! I think what was so shocking is when Jessica escapes, she can hear The Man talking on the phone and his life is totally normal. He’s making a sandwich. It’s like ‘Hey Buddy, you know that normal life you think you can have? No way! That doesn’t exist anymore!” At that point she thinks ‘I’m going to die. Hopefully, someone will come to get me but if this guy is coming after me, I’m definitely going to try to kill him.

I’m going to try to survive! But odds are… I’m not going to make it. So I need somebody to get my body and get Robert’s body and let Robert’s wife what has happened to him.’ Jessica’s an ethical person, she’s not like The Man. She’s trying to escape at the beginning but she’s moved by the kindness of strangers, by Robert taking her in and helping her. Even though she’s skeptical because she’s been through so much.

At first, when Jessica gets in the car with Robert post-escape, I thought he was going to drive her right back to The Man. That Robert was in on it. Did you think that’s where the story was heading initially?

Oh God, I’m glad you think that because I thought that too when I was reading the script the first time! (laughs) ‘Oh no! He’s in on it!’

I felt The Man’s civility while on the phone with his girlfriend, preparing the sandwich was part of what made Alone work as a film. It was just so convincingly real, you’re left wondering, ‘How many people like this live double lives?’ It reminded me of the film The Strangers a lot, that film also didn’t give direct names to its antagonists, preferring Man in Mask, Dollface, Pin-Up Girl like The Man in Alone.

Yeah, it’s this alter-ego. It’s not who he is in ‘real life’ but what he does on the side ‘anonymously’. There was the documentary recently on HBO about the Golden State killer (I’ll Be Gone in the Dark) and The Man reminded me of that. That somebody could have this kind of evil double life.

I feel Alone’s grounding in reality will hit people harder because they can picture the possibility of it happening to them. No matter how low the percentage of that is… The situation is not impossible and that stays in your mind. It resonates with a person’s core fears of random strangers.

I think during this time in quarantine, when people are feeling isolated and alone the film is timely in a way. As if we’re confronting ourselves.

Thanks Jules!

Thank you!

Theatrical one-sheet for ALONE, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Alone Trailer and Where you can watch the Film:


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Alone can be seen now in select theaters and on Video On Demand services. Rent Alone on Amazon today!

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– Check out The Natural Aristocrat®’s exclusive interview with one half of tomandandy’s composing duo, Tom Hajdu, on The Strangers soundtrack.

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