Edson Oda’s feature directorial debut Nine Days may be a high concept original story with supernatural trappings, but it’s first and foremost a moving and though-provoking look at the very nature of life and existence.
Winston Duke plays Will, an arbiter who decides which unborn souls are worthy of the gift of life. During the selection process, a number of candidates with vastly disparate personalities undergo the selection process, including two-time Emmy winning Veep and Arrested Development star Tony Hale’s Alexander, This Is Us alumni Arianna Ortiz’s Maria and actor, writer and filmmaker David Rysdahl’s Mike.
In an exclusive chat with We Got This Covered, the trio offer their insights into Nine Days, how closely they resemble their characters and what they would do if placed in a similar situation, which you can check out below.
On paper, Alexander, Mike and Maria could broadly be described as the cynic, the pessimist and the romantic. Is that reflective of yourselves on a personal level, or were you encouraged to create the character how you imagined them in the context of the story?
Arianna Ortiz: That’s a great question.
Tony Hale: It is. I’m a dark dude, Scott. It all tracks for me.
Arianna Ortiz: I don’t know if I’m very romantic, I’m incredibly practical. When my husband was trying to woo me I was like, ‘Whatever. Who are you, really? Get to the hard stuff’. So I don’t know, what about you, David?
David Rysdahl: I mean, I can be pretty sensitive. I’m assuming I’m the pessimist in this example, right? I guess I can be pretty pessimistic. I try to fight that part of me a lot, I guess fight’s not a great word, but I try to… There’s definitely parts of me that are like Mike, for sure.
Arianna Ortiz: I think Mike is more sensitive than pessimistic.
David Rysdahl: Yeah, yeah, yeah. He’s probably pessimistic in the sense of his life in the world, what he could do, but I think sensitive can go into self-sabotage, for sure. I can align with some of that, for sure.
Arianna Ortiz: A lot of artists can, perhaps.
Tony Hale: There was a real gift, I will say, of Edson being both the writer and the director, because there were a lot of conversations of just, ‘Who are these people?’, where they came from. He could just give all these layers to us, so it’s always a real gift to have that on a project.
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Nine Days is a personal film, but it’s full of universal themes we can all relate to, was it key to try and maintain that balance between the broad and the intimate with your characters as well?
Tony Hale: Gosh, you got good questions, and you got a great accent, man, like the whole package is great!
Arianna Ortiz: Well, I think that when you’re an actor and you’re playing a character, you’re also trying to make Edson’s vision come alive. And I think in a lot of ways, our job was to ground the story as much as possible. Like really, in a way, let the themes come across through the existence and discovery, and these characters living these journeys. And we talked about that a lot in our rehearsals and discussions, to all kind of get us on the same page as these brand new souls, as we’re emerging into this pre-life experience. And I do think it’s tricky, and we were very lucky that Edson’s such a skilled director.
David Rysdahl: I think, piggybacking off of that, you just play the truthfulness of the scene, and hopefully we trust the themes will be there, that the universal themes will be there. I just played the stakes of where I was at in that moment, and then trusting that the rest of the cast and the crew and Edson have the rest of it.
Tony Hale: But it was cool, really, to each have this love for what it’s saying. ‘Oh, we’re missing small moments in life, we’re not, I’m not appreciating life enough’. Here I am playing a soul that’s do desperate for life, and it’s like, ‘I have a life and I’m missing all of these moments that I should be appreciating’. Because we all had that. But to David’s point, I was a piece of this puzzle that I have to focus on, but then most of our discussions were centered around those themes.
Based on what you’ve told me about how close you guys are to your characters, if you were in the movie and had to choose a moment to relive before the end with [Winston Duke’s] Will, what would you choose?
Arianna Ortiz: With Will, specifically? That’s a good question.
Tony Hale: I liked telling him off. I know that’s giving something away, but he’s such a presence and he was in such a controlled place in our lives, or our possible lives. I really enjoyed just telling him off, I think that was kind of fun.
Arianna Ortiz: It’s difficult to answer, because I so just relate to Will as Maria. So if it was me, Arianna, I think I would be much more impatient with the process.
Tony Hale: Oh shoot, I did it wrong! I, Tony, don’t wanna tell Winston off!
David Rysdahl: It’s hard, because the idea of reliving a moment feels like it’s gotta be so sad. To relive it, part of it is beautiful if you’re living a moment you’ve not experienced yet, you know? And like, David has experienced life, like reliving a moment’s going to be full of nostalgia and trying to hold onto that, versus the characters in this are living something that they haven’t experienced yet, and they’re getting a sense of the beauty of what that thing is.
And I’m overthinking the question, which is a very Mike thing to do. I don’t know if I’d go back and experience another moment in my life, I don’t know. Maybe I would. I do it all the time in my memory, but I don’t know. I’m answering your question by not answering it!
Arianna Ortiz: It’s not an easy question to answer.
Tony Hale: I don’t think any of us have gotten to the answer that he was asking! I completely missed the mark, so maybe hodgepodge that all together into a great answer. From all of us!
I’ll make it work, I’ll get something out of that.
Tony Hale: Oh yeah, feel free to edit the crap out of that situation!
That concludes our interview with Tony Hale, Arianna Ortiz and David Rysdahl. Nine Days is coming to theaters on July 30 in a limited release, before rolling out nationwide on August 6.