Exclusive Interview With William Eubank On The Signal

The Signal William on set with Lin

Regarding Laurence Fishburne, he is still best known for playing Morpheus in the Matrix movies. He’s not playing that kind of character at all in The Signal, but you still can’t help but be reminded of Morpheus at times. Were you ever afraid that everyone’s familiarity with his work in those movies might adversely affect this one?

William Eubank: No. It never really scared me. In fact, just to get him and to get to work with somebody as awesome as Laurence, it was such a huge moment for me. He’s such a champion and has so much gravitas that I just knew he was going to give the weight to the character that we wrote, and if we didn’t have someone like Laurence then we wouldn’t have had that sort of presence. I never was too scared about Matrix or anything because any kind of nod to that is going to be from a fan of science fiction in the first place and they will probably dig what this is. It’s such a different beast. It’s not a big movie, so I don’t feel like anyone will judge us negatively.

What was the casting process for this movie like?

William Eubank: Mary Vernieu and Venus Kanani cast it, and they are extremely talented people who from the get-go who were putting really smart, intelligent people in front of me. At a certain point you see so many great people that you’re like, “Gosh, how do I choose?” It really just came down to finding actors that embodied the characters, actors that really narratively could be these people. Brenton Thwaites is really a good dude, Olivia Cooke is really a great human being and Beau Knapp is such a nice guy that you can become his friend when you really get to know him. So I knew that they were these kids and that they could all be friends. Beau was just talking about how he’s never been on a film where he’s been better friends with the people he’s worked with, and that’s because they are all wonderful human beings.

Lin Shaye we got through Brian Kavanaugh-Jones’ connection to the movie Insidious, and she literally just comes out of the box and opens up a character that might be one way and just put so much of a personal spin on it that you’re just left flabbergasted. She was just wonderful to get, same with Robert Longstreet. I don’t know if it was Woody Allen who said it, but your movie is going to always be judged by how good your smaller roles are. I always thought that was good advice.

I love how natural the acting is in this movie because it’s not always the case in a sci-fi film. All the characters really come across as down to earth and relatable. Was it a challenge making the movie seem natural to an extent?

William Eubank: No. I think I look at particular films that I like in terms of that realm. For instance, the movie Like Crazy, it’s a great little relationship Sundance film. That felt really organic and natural. I’m always trying to create a balance between making something just feel organic and like you’re watching real life, and then obviously I deal with so many other things which are not from the realm of real life. But I feel like when a character has a perspective that is grounded, suddenly as an audience member you’re engaged. I think that that part of being organic is just recognizing in yourself what you would do in this crazy situation. I always like that, approaching it from a very grounded place no matter how crazy the world is.

The great thing about this movie is how it unveils itself to you as a goes along. It’s like you’re peeling away at different layers of an onion to where you are discovering things with the characters from start to finish. In terms of keeping the suspense up throughout the movie, what was that like for you?

William Eubank: You just try to gauge it. You just sort of try to project to yourself how the cut is going to go, how the edit’s going to go, and then you sort of pretend to be experiencing it for the first time. You try to pretend to be an audience member to see it from that light. Sometimes you watch something so much that you forget that this is a real mystery, this is a real crazy twist, and you try to keep reminding yourself so that you can keep that fresh perspective. That helps inform how you tell the story. That helps inform how you reveal certain things.

That concludes our interview, but we’d like to thank William very much for his time. Be sure to check out The Signal, as it’s now playing in theatres everywhere.