On Aug. 25, atombash.com had the opportunity to exclusively interview actor Shiloh Fernandez about his new films “We Are Your Friends” and “Queen of Carthage.” Warner Bros. release “We Are Your Friends,” also stars Zac Efron and Emily Ratajkowski. The film will hit theaters on this Friday, Aug. 28. In the Max Joseph directed flick, Young Cole Carter (Zac Efron) dreams of hitting the big time as a Hollywood disc jockey, spending his days and nights hanging with buddies and working on the one track that will set the world on fire. Opportunity comes knocking when he meets James Reed, a charismatic DJ who takes the 23-year-old under his wing. Soon, his seemingly clear path to success gets complicated when he starts falling for his mentor’s girlfriend, jeopardizing his new friendship and the future he seems destined to fulfill.
Fernandez also co-wrote and produced the independent drama/thriller “Queen of Carthage,” which stars Keisha Castle-Hughes, about an American drifter (Fernandez) who discovers a New Zealand singer and becomes obsessed with him. That film will be released via VOD on Sept. 1. Fernandez is currently in production on “Long Nights Short Mornings” for writer and director Chadd Harbold. He recently wrapped production on two independent films, “Chronically Metropolitan” alongside Ashley Benson, and Mary-Louise Parker; as well as in Rob Connolly’s film “Backcountry.” He also shot the independent thriller “Return to Sender” with Rosamund Pike and Nick Nolte, about a nurse (Pike) living in a small town who goes on a blind date with a man (Fernandez) who is not the person he says he is. Read our exclusive interview with him below:
Shaina Moskowitz: Can you talk about getting into character and any challenges you faced playing this role in “Queen of Carthage”?
Shiloh Fernandez: I was shooting “Evil Dead” in New Zealand and it was exactly up my alley as far as films that I act in and I think that it’s inspired by being in a strange place and doing a job that wasn’t exactly fulfilling all my needs as an actor. The film that we wrote was actually a little bit different than what came out. I think that having to juggle both things was a part of the reason why that character became so dark, which was the place I was at in my life. Like a modern day social networking and how people believe anything that you say on the internet even if it’s a lie. In a grander aspect we chose to make a character that lies about himself and it’s sort of accepted when someone is rejected from that. I think that there was really no preparation because we wrote the script and two weeks later we started shooting, so there wasn’t a lot of time to think about it. But the character of Graham is played by Graham Candy and I think a lot of it was taken from real life things about him.
SM: Can you talk about what it was like to write and produce “Queen of Carthage”?
SF: I wrote it with my hometown friend who directed it, Mardana. He and I have written stuff together and traveled all over the world. It was sort of just a creative exploration for us. Obviously I didn’t ever go to acting school or theater so I earned how to act through making movies and TV and so with that, I gained a lot of knowledge about different aspects of filmmaking. And so that was one of the greatest experiences and challenges to put all I thought I knew into the work, which proves to be way more difficult than you can ever imagine. But I think being a part of a lead role in the film where sometimes as an actor you’re sort of a cog in the machine, was something that I was drawn to.
SM: Without giving too much away, can you talk about the ending of “Queen of Carthage”?
SF: I think it was hard because I and my friend made it together. There were a lot of compromises on both of our parts. During the edit, we had a lot of challenges going back and forth about how things should play out. Ultimately, he is the director and this was his visual construction of our idea and the end is really in his hands and in the hands of the viewer. I think that that’s something I used to really love about film was when movies didn’t lay it all out for you but gave you some sort of question mark at the end to think about and go home or walk away from and had you sketched about it. I think that that’s more of it. How do we feed these people? What’s real and what’s not real? I think that’s why we chose the ending that we did.
SM: Can you talk about what it was like working with Keisha in “Queen of Carthage”?
SF: Keisha is great. I met Keisha when I was doing an audition for “Red Riding Hood,” in Catherine Hardwicke’s garage in Venice Beach. Obviously she’s an amazing actress and she’s doing fantastic right now. I met her and I really liked her as a person and as an actress. I asked Catherine Hardwicke for Keisha’s information, she passed along and luckily jumped on board. She is just an interesting person. I’m so proud of her for all of the work she is doing right now.
SM: Can you talk about some of your favorite scenes from “Queen of Carthage”?
SF: It was such a whirlwind, it was really hard because I was working on “Evil Dead” during the day and then shooting our film at night so it all kind of bleeds together. But, the scene on the beach when we go to the natural hot spring, that was a really great day for us. We didn’t have a lot of time to travel and shoot all throughout New Zealand but that was the day we took a few hours to drive, we’re all together and we sort of had a really great bonding experience that day and the drive home was really fun.
SM: Was there anyone on “Queen of Carthage” that you connected the most with?
SF: Obviously my best friend. Making a movie with him is the ultimate goal and I’m so grateful that I have that opportunity to work with him because that’s just a special thing from knowing him since I was fourteen for our lives to have culminated in this place to where we can make a movie together is really special. But Graham is such an interesting person … His music is taking off too. He just went on tour with this band and he lives in Germany now and when I saw him playing that was his second or third musical outing. That was big deal too to sort of find him and push his talents forth.
SM: Can you speak on what casting “Queen of Carthage” was like to find someone to play Graham’s role? What made Graham Candy the perfect fit for this character?
SF: Yeah! Basically when I was in New Zealand, I was there for a week and I was walking home one night from a bar when I heard him singing. Then we were hanging out for a couple days and the idea sort of struck me. So I wrote it for him. It wasn’t a match or anything, I just thought he was so fascinating that I knew he could live in this world. It was written for him, there was no one else who could’ve played his part.
SM: Can you talk about how the relationship between you and Graham built from that one week there in New Zealand.
SF: Yeah, it was great. He was like “man, let’s hang out all the time” and I was like you know what I would love that but I have something I want to do, which was make a movie. So I went away for a week came back and I was like look I want you to be in this movie that I’m going to make. He couldn’t believe that it was even true, obviously because that’s insane. I think our friendship was weighted upon by the fact that I was having to make him show up at odd hours of the day and act and give up so many hours of his time for free to us. So it was kind of strenuous as friends, as new friends especially because making movies is so difficult and there is not a lot of time for dilly dallying especially on these small independent films. But we love each other and he lives in Berlin now so he’s really flourished. I am really, really proud of him.
SM: Can you talk about the significance of the title “Queen of Carthage”? Does it have any parallels to Dido, the Queen of Carthage from Vergil’s “Aeneid”?
SF: We struggled with titles and finding what the movie meant. And Mardana is really interested in history and so he was sort of doing research on what the themes of our movie were. We really wanted Graham to sing that as one of his songs, so in the bar he sings “Remember Me.” I think that’s what it was just sort of representing that. Giving some context to something that might not make a lot of sense is sort of a staple. We with that and it informed more decisions about how we were going to keep it together.
SM: Now moving to “We Are You Friends,” what did you love about your character Ollie?
SF: I’ve known Max for about a year before we ended up making this movie. And the first day that he was sitting to interview a DJ or something; I saw him outside of a bar and ultimately I think he sort of had me in mind when he wrote the part. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing; I’m not sure how my character comes out in the end. It was kind of scary. I didn’t necessarily know what to do with Ollie at first but I thought it was so telling about Los Angeles, where I spend most of my time, and the people and why the actors want their dreams to come true and that’s something I see and had seen or do see in Los Angeles. I was kind of drawn to that idea.
SM: How was it working with Zac?
SF: Zac is really, really special. He’s been doing this for such a long time that we really had an awesome rapport and a great work ethic. I think he is such a special person and a lot of people count on him every day to give them inspiration, and I think that’s a hard place to be in for anybody but he handles it so well. He has a great heart and is so talented. He taught me a lot about acting and how to make scenes come alive that aren’t really there. Unfortunately my character was on the outs in the beginning so I didn’t have tons of connection with the other cast members because my guy was sort of pulling away. But he is everything he is cracked up to be and more.
SM: What were some of your favorite moments while filming?
SF: The film ends while we are all dancing at the house with the DJ playing. They set up the whole show just to shoot the movie. At the end, I remember we all got so close. Max was like a brother to all of us. Zac and I bonded so much and hung out all the time, and at the end knowing what we’ve achieved was probably the best moment.
SM: Your character is a sort of a hustler, what was to like getting in to the role? Were there any challenges you faced playing this role?
SF: Ollie takes himself so seriously and that was ultimately what I found kind of funny but not necessarily super comfortable to play. In the beginning, I was talking to myself in the mirror, doing monologues, dressing this way, and sort of having this fake swag about myself that was sort of uncomfortable and a little bit “douchey.” At the same time I think that’s what makes acting fun, to lose yourself and present in ways that may not be like you at all.
SM: What were your thoughts on the film’s music selection?
SF: That was something Max and I spoke about. My character didn’t necessarily like EDM or listen to it. So when that stuff was going on, I wasn’t really a part of it. I still don’t really know anything about it and I think that’s because Ollie wasn’t really interested. When Zac was telling him that he was going to be a DJ and that he should listen to this, my character was like this all sounds the same to me and I don’t really care. Whether it was a character choice or not, I didn’t really participate in that part of the movie.
SM: Who are some of your favorite artist right now?
SF: I really love one of my friends Jimmy he’s in a band called Lolawolf with Zoe Kravitz. He’s making amazing music, I think, with or without the band. There’s another group called Little Wolves that are my friends and I think are really great for coming up that’s going to be fantastic. I did get to meet Alesso.
SM: Any upcoming projects?
SF: I just finished the film “Long Nights Short Mornings” which is probably my favorite film I’ve ever done. It’s directed by Chadd Harbold and I was just in New York for the summer making this movie. It’s really interesting because it’s narrated and doesn’t take the traditional route. It’s definitely the most challenging and rewarding project I’ve ever worked on, that’s for next year.