One of the films of SXSW 2015 that’s being praised by nearly everyone who’s seen it is Charles Hood’s Night Owls. Telling the story of a drunken one night stand that takes a turn for the darker when one character takes a bottle of pills, Night Owls finds a way to be one of the most hilarious films of the festival. Much of that humor is thanks to the excellent chemistry between the two leads as they beat each other up and banter back and forth.
Those two leads are Adam Pally and Rosa Salazar, and we had the pleasure of sitting down with them the morning after the premiere to discuss the film. During our exclusive interview, we talked about stepping outside of comfort zones, being so comfortable on screen together, how to properly handle physical comedy and more.
Check out the full interview below, and enjoy!
WGTC: What was it that originally drew you to the movie?
Adam Pally: I really wanted the chance to play a romantic lead. In my brief career I’ve been playing a lot of best friends and goofballs and comedic sidekicks. I know I can do that, so I wanted to give this a shot. So, it was very fulfilling on that level.
Is that something you want to keep doing?
Pally: I think you’ve got to keep doing different things. I’m also playing it by the year and everything it’s like my first time. I don’t really know how to build a career or what to do. But I have the instinct to keep doing different things so people can see different things.
Is there any specific genre you want to hit soon?
Pally: I would really love to do an action movie. An action comedy would be right in my wheel house. But those are really hard to come by. I guess I’d like to do a straight-up drama someday down the line. But I just want to keep working. It’s so hard to work that I feel so lucky any time I get to work.
With this specific movie, was this kind of portrayal of a suicide attempt and the aftermath and the mindset something you had thought much about before taking the role?
Pally: Suicide is a really difficult thing. I think everybody in their life has someone, or knows someone, or has been affected in some way by that. So I know people and I’ve gone through similar things myself, but I think the thing about the script is it just resonated as to probably what it felt like or feels like to feel that way. It was easy.
The movie is funny, but not cheap. It could have easily fallen into more gags than it did. How’d you walk that line?
Pally: That was really a testament to Charles Hood, the director. I think that he had this tone that was very specific and unexplored before. He really knew what he was doing. For me, he kept wanting me to do it smaller and smaller. I have a tendency to be a bit of a ham, so it was a nice experiment in concentration, to not go for a gag. It was really fun.
Do you have any comedic training?
Pally: Yeah, Rosa and I both do. We both trained at the Upright Citizens Brigade and I taught there for a while. I started there when I was 19 so I’ve been there a really long time. It was nice to use those skills in a different way here. My buddy Rob Huebel who is in the movie and is so good. Him and I were buddies at the UCB for a long time. It’s a great place, an unbelievable place that I owe so much to.
It’s obviously romantic and a comedy, but it was far from the typical romantic comedy. Obviously part of that has to do with starting with a suicide attempt, but how else did you guys avoid falling into the typical romcom?
Pally: I think a lot of that is just the sheer luck of being put together with someone like Rosa. I’ve never encountered an actor with so much range, who can be so cunning and so funny and so smart and at the same time be so vulnerable and have such dramatic chops. I think when I got to really dig in and work with her, it made me a better actor.
If you’re falling asleep, and you have to stay awake at night, what’s your go-to method?
Pally: As a younger man? Now, I have two young babies, so sleep is not really a part of my day anyway. Last night we were out partying after the movie. And everyone was like “Make sure you’re at the interviews at 10:00.” And I’m thinking 10:00? That’s like four hours of sleep. That’s more than I’ve gotten in four years. I’ll be fine. I unfortunately don’t deal that hard or worry with a lack of sleep.
With the pool scene, did you put up any resistance to doing that?
Pally: The pool scene was facing us down. It was towards the end of the shoot. We did 13 nights in a row, which really started to make you go a little batty. The pool scene was on the 13th night, so we knew that it was building to that. It was really cold.
I think the challenge of a movie when it’s two actors in a house is to make it feel big. Make it not feel small and cheesy. I think that pool scene, with the way they shot it and the camera moving around, it’s a really good example of the movie does feel how it’s got a lot of action in it even though it’s in one house.
I felt like the bathroom scenes must have been tough with a crew and multiple actors in there.
Pally: It was tough, but it also added to it. It was easy to get into your mindset of what it must be like to do that. It was tough but it was also not that bad.
Who’s your football team?
Pally: College or NFL?
Well the movie is college, but either.
Pally: I’m not a huge college football fan. I went to University of Arizona, I know they’re better now. The program was not thriving when I was there. But I’m a Jets fan. So, born loser, but we had a nice offseason.
You’re welcome for that. Giving away Brandon Marshall.
Pally: A fifth round pick. What are you guys (the Bears) thinking?
Cleaning house right now I guess.
Pally: I guess so. I love our new defensive backfield, so I’m feeling good.
I heard you say the movie was very tightly scripted and that you didn’t improv a lot, but it almost felt mumblecorish in the smoothness of the banter. How’d you pull that off?
Pally: Again, for me it’s a big testament to Rosa. We worked a lot. We rehearse a lot. Sometimes you’re lucky to just feel each other on a certain level. It’s hard to come in on your tenth night in a row and look at 14 pages of dialogue. I think if you’re both really good and you can dig in, it can work.
Did you do anything with Rosa before filming to get more comfortable, build chemistry?
Pally: Rosa and I had done another movie previously where we had spent a good amount of time together. We were vibing. Even though we come from completely different worlds we just vibed, so we didn’t really need to go out and do karaoke or go bowling or anything. We just knew that we would have no problem being in a house for 17 nights chilling out.
This was your first time working with Charles, right?
Pally: First time working with Charles, yeah.
On an only 17 day shoot, how quickly do you get comfortable with a new director?
Pally: I think your job as an actor is to be comfortable right away. I think, in my opinion, the big thing that you have to do as an actor is to…
(Salazar joins the interview)
Pally: I was just spouting bullshit about “the craft”.
Rosa Salazar: Oh great.
Pally: I think that if your an actor, part of your job is to be comfortable with the director right away. For me, I was able to be like, “He seems like he knows what he’s doing. Tell me where to go.”
I was just asking Adam about getting comfortable with a new director. How quickly does that happen for you?
Salazar: I was pretty disarmed by Charles at the first meeting I had with him. He has really good taste, and I think that is the most important part for a director. He has a great bedside manner. He knows how to talk to actors like they’re human beings. How to articulate himself. I think that he gave us the freedom to do whatever we wanted with our characters, and that’s a huge exchange of trust already.