I got a chance to chat with Thomas Nicholas, who stars as the brooding, tire iron wielding, rideshare driver Ethan in the crime thriller Adverse.
Adverse was written and directed by Brian A. Metcalf and in addition to Thomas, the stellar cast also includes, Mickey Rourke, Lou Diamond Phillips, Sean Astin, Jake T. Austin, and Penelope Ann Miller.
Synopsis: Thomas Nicholas (Red Band Society) and Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler) star in this gritty, intense urban thriller about one man’s quest for revenge. Struggling to make ends meet, rideshare driver Ethan (Thomas) learns his sister Mia is deep in debt to a sleazy drug dealer. When Mia goes missing, Ethan discovers that crime boss Kaden (Mickey) is behind the act, and to get close to him Ethan takes a job as Kaden’s driver. One by one Ethan hunts down members of Kaden’s crew to wreak bloody vengeance as he prepares to confront Kaden himself.
How would you describe Ethan?
Thomas: That’s a loaded question because Ethan is a pretty layered character with some seeded history. On the surface, he seems quiet and kind of brooding, but as the story progresses, I mean, even from the onset of the film, you start to get the sense that there’s more going on. We don’t delve too far into explaining his mental illness, but similar to Taxi Driver, there’s something a foot there and we don’t really explain too much about his criminal history as well. But we get all these inklings and can kind of put these things together, so he’s not an easy one word description sort of character but he’s definitely the product of his environment.
So, because a lot of his backstory wasn’t super clear. How did you prepare to play him?
Thomas: When I first had the opportunity to read the first draft of this script, I was compelled to play Ethan but [writer/director] Brian A. Metcalf was unsure that I was going to be able to do it to the likes of his vision. We started work sessions together and had weeks of discussions about what type of person he is and was. I kind of revealed to [Brian] that I had a few people that I was friends with back in, gosh, the late 80s that really fit the description and had similar upbringings to Ethan. So, we started developing that and there was a lot of what Brian had in mind for the character. Some of the stuff just didn’t make the final cut like his criminal history was more breaking and entering. And there were even bits in there that got removed where we showed how Ethan got into the warehouse by expertly picking a lock but that kind of slowed down the movement of the scene. There’s always bits in a rough draft of a script, that get taken out of the final film, that give someone like myself, as an actor, nuggets to kind of then expand on when you’re writing the history of a character.
Something intriguing about Ethan is that he blames himself for a lot of the things that happen in the film.
Thomas: He definitely feels responsible for things. It’s interesting that you caught on to his, a bit of his own self loathing. There was another scene that ultimately got cut, you get the gist of it still in the in the film, but after- I mean, I don’t want to give any sort of spoilers away but there was, there was a scene where he kind of has lost everything, and attempts to take his own life and can’t. So she chooses the path that we watch him go on and that sort of that’s sort of the basis of why he’s willing to do what he’s doing because he really doesn’t care what happens to him at a certain point in the film because of his own self hatred. And it’s really a mental illness that he’s suffering from, whether it’s hereditary or due to his environment.
Things start to get really violent and you have quite a few fight scenes, did you have to choreograph them?
Thomas: There was a lot of a lot of choreography that went into those sequences, especially I guess, most artistic shot which is a one steadicam shot for a big sequence in the warehouse near the end of the film… ultimately, the presentation of it was inspired by Road to Perdition where you’ve got Tom Hanks and Paul Newman and the music swells up and the sound effects duck down to the point where we actually failed [sound] QC every time where the QC report would come back in. ‘You’ve lost all your foley sound during this two and a half minutes sequence to the end of the film,’ we’re like ‘yeah we know.’ So, yeah, it was that sequence in particular, we choreographed for, gosh, I mean, an hour and a half at least before we started rehearsing it, and I don’t think we started shooting those dozen or more takes until after lunch. So, not quite Orson Welles with Touch of Evil, where I think they spent four days rehearsing the opening sequence… So, we weren’t quite there. We didn’t rehearse it for four days, but we definitely weren’t just running and gunning it, so to speak.
Yeah, that shot was amazing and it left me speechless, wondering how it all comes together so nicely.
Thomas: Those are those are my favorite moments in film where you’re wondering like how they achieved that. That’s all Brian Metcalf and his crazy vision, I just follow along and do my part.
Some of your scenes are super intense, how do you prepare for them but also how do you decompress after shooting them?
Thomas: As an actor, I would usually have too much time to think on the day and burn out my energy before shooting the scene. I had to make sure that my preparation for this film really happened during the pre-production rehearsals. At least 90% of it. Once I had spent enough time in Ethan’s shoes, the transition became as quick as Mickey Rourke slipped into character as Kaden. For the decompression, I had producing responsibilities to distract me after shooting as my cool down. Without that I would have replayed the moments in my mind and it would have taken a long time to come down. No time to second guess my previous scene work when I’m busy.
What do you hope the audience takes away from this film?
Thomas: My answer for that is slightly altered now that we’ve all experienced this lockdown. I feel like we all have the ability to lose our minds but sheltering in place has heightened that possibility. I hope the initial experience is for audiences to be enveloped by the story and the take away is to get to the head space that Ethan eventually achieves but hopefully without having to lose everything in the process.
In one word, how would you describe this movie?
A fun question to leave off on: Do you have any interesting rideshare stories?
Thomas: I had a meeting in Santa Barbara and I took a rideshare from Los Angeles. To this day it was the longest rideshare trip I’ve ever done. 180 miles roundtrip.