CS Interview: Star Kyle Gallner talks punk comedy Dinner in America
Just in time for the coming-of-age dark comedy’s debut at the virtual film festival Nightstream, ComingSoon.net got the opportunity to chat with star Kyle Gallner (Scream 5) to discuss his work in the highly-acclaimed Dinner in America!
Gallner’s connection to Dinner in America is a “weird, long story” that goes back at least four years, with the 33-year-old actor having originally read the script years prior to actually signing on for the film but feeling he wasn’t quite right for the project at the time and letting the script sit for a while until reuniting with two collaborators involved reminded him of the project.
“I was in the middle of filming a TV show and I had a brand new baby and everything was so crazy that I actually only read the first couple pages, and then, like, I had to stop and then forgot about it,” Gallner recalled. “Then cut to a couple years later, I’m in Romania filming another movie with J-P, the guy who shot Dinner in America, and he started talking about this movie that fell apart, and when he was describing it, it sounded really familiar. He told me the name, and I was like, ‘I think I got sent that script like two years ago or three years ago.’ I looked at my email and sure enough, I actually still had it, so I finally read the script and I fell in love with the script and I ended up asking my reps to set up a Skype with Adam. We ended up talking for two or three hours and kind of high fives over FaceTime, then, you know, two or three months later, I was in Detroit, but it was like a four-year journey or something like that [laughs].”
In getting to the heart of his punk rocker Simon, Gallner found some of his biggest creative challenges came from trying to figure out the “physicality” of Simon and “the way he walks and the way he moves and the way he talks,” having a few key inspirations for his performance.
“My goal physically was I kind of wanted like old school, like young Henry Rollins type of thing, that like beat, lean and mean kind of — and even his mentality, I mean, Rollins’s mentality is, you know, very forward and aggressive,” Gallner described. “I listened to a lot of like Dead Kennedys and like Agent Orange and Bad Brains, and I pretty much just made a big punk playlist and would just listen to that on repeat. You know, watch old punk videos and hardcore videos and see just how the way these people moves, especially when they perform. What I got really lucky with was the band Disco Assault, who did the music for PSYOPS, they’re a punk band out of Windsor. They actually played a show in Detroit while we were there and they invited me up to perform with them. So I was able to actually play live before we did, and seeing where my band actually performs, and that was really helpful, too. Then just sort of having that turned-up-to-11 mentality for the entire time was really exhausting. It was it was hard to keep that going. So as it was just remembering, you know, kind of who he was and always staying in that in that mindset and always pushing it and pushing it and pushing it, like Simon’s kind of like a shark. He never stops moving forwards, you know, so he can’t really slow down, so it was really just kind of coming up with that stuff. You know, the punk world and the hardcore world and stuff isn’t something I’m unfamiliar with that’s kind of like a scene that I grew up in, so I knew those people, I knew that world. So I at least had a good foundation to start from, but, you know, it was just kind of fine tuning it from there.”
The Veronica Mars alum chuckled as he looks back at the show with Disco Assault, revealing he doesn’t have any experience with the instruments Simon plays in the film, having “kind of picked up guitar” but wouldn’t call himself “an accomplished musician by any means.”
“All I had to do was sing man, all I had to do was shout it out,” Gallner laughed. “It was a lot of fun. Seventeen year old me was psyched. I mean, shit man, 33-year-old me was psyched.”
Though turning to the punk world for inspirations for his character, Gallner noted that writer/director Adam Rehmeier’s script was “incredibly specific” for what he wanted from his characters scene to scene, not allowing for much “real improv” or “veering away from the script,” but found it to be really nice.
“It gave us a really solid foundation to, you know, start from,” Gallner expressed. “Then Adam just really trusted us, you know, we did the work, we got on phone calls and talked about character and, you know, discussed sort of our ideas, and Adam would send us playlists of music. We actually got to go out there about two weeks early and we recorded all the music and we hung out all the time and had all these conversations about the movie and character and things like that. So by the time we got there, we were really just ready to go.”
One of the brightest points of the production for Gallner came in developing the rapport with co-star Emily Skeggs (The Miseducation of Cameron Post), finding her to be a “really special” and “incredibly talented” person who was “so open and welcoming” to work with that made every scene smoother for the duo.
“We really made a point to spend a lot of time together, you know, get to know each other, but also we built this trust where we have to do a lot of kind of strange and intimate stuff and there’s things all over the board that we build a trust that we knew we could push it with each other,” Gallner explained. “We didn’t have to sit there and ask a million questions or, you know, we got to the point where we didn’t have to be like, ‘Is this OK, is this ok, is this ok?’ It was more just we would look at each other and be like, ‘Do your thing.’ So being able to have that trust in another person and then have that trust in you really allows you to take it to where you need to go. This movie operates at a really bizarre, elevated, you know, place. It’s a strange world that Adam has built, so you can’t play it at 90 percent. You really have to be in it 110 percent or a film like this doesn’t work. So I was really fortunate to have a partner like Emily to allow me to really just go as far as I needed to go and then push it even further, you know, and we allowed each other to do that for each other. I mean, it was it was pretty special in that way.”
Written and directed by Adam Rehmeier (Jonas), the film follows an on-the-lam punk rocker and a young woman obsessed with his band as they unexpectedly fall in love and go on an epic journey together through America’s decaying Midwestern suburbs.
Alongside Gallner and Skeggs, the cast for the film includes Brittany Sheets, Pat Healy (The Pale Door), Griffin Gluck (Locke & Key), Mary Lynn Rajskub (The Tomorrow War), Lea Thompson (Back to the Future) and Hannah Marks (Daniel Isn’t Real).