Ryan Kwanten is always looking for new ways to challenge himself as an actor. His latest one is an action star in AMC+ and RLJE Films' Section 8, where he plays Jake Atherton, a former soldier who is serving a life sentence for avenging the murder of his wife and child. He's given a shot at freedom when a shadow government agency recruits him for an off-the-books assignment, and he soon realizes Section 8 isn't what it seems. The True Blood star spoke with Bleeding Cool about why he signed up for the film, director Christian Sesma, the dedication of action veteran and co-star Dolph Lundgren, and any physical and mental prep.
Bleeding Cool: What intrigued you about 'Section 8?'
Kwanten: It's a great question. I made a career out of playing the bad guy or character actor who steps in but never takes a lead gig, particularly in an action movie. I'm always up for a challenge. I don't theoretically fit the bill of your atypical kind of action style, but I thought that was something worthy of tackling.
How do you describe the set that Christian ran?
Christian's incredible. We're trying to work together again. In independent movies, you really have to put a lot of faith in the director. On something like this, not only do you have to create a set of time and budget, but there's the element of locations on this which Christian's like an unofficial mayor in Palm Springs. We got so much production value based on his connections and friendships over a couple of generations of living out there. That was incredible, and it gave it a real homey sense and being on set. He knew a lot of people around.
You go to work with some action veterans there with Scott Adkins, Mickey Rourke, and Dolph Lundgren. Can you tell me what it is like to work with them on set?
I was definitely nervous, and there was a little bit of trepidation. When many of those guys came on, I felt like I'd found my steam and had a pretty good beat on the character. For instance, when you have someone like Dolph, he was the first icon I met. He came in with such a level of professionalism. It was the "been there, done that"-type of philosophy, which is great. It wasn't an "I'm over it" type of thing we've seen those actors… it's like they should have gotten out of the business years ago. They don't have that glazed look on their face, and they're going through the motions. The talent that was once is a little bit dwindling by then. Whether it's selling out or whether they're finding themselves, I'm not sure. For me, it was nice to see someone of Dolph's talent and repertoire to step up and give a shit about this one.
Was there any additional physical prep work you kind of had to do?
Physically, there's always stuff that I do. Specifically, with this, there's a decent amount of gun training. It was also one of the biggest tricks was the psychological aspect. Living and breathing a guy who's got very deep wounds and trauma that'll never heal in terms of the loss of his son and his wife. That's something that I have to live with, which ended up being a couple of months actually because we split up the shoot. I took it as a heavy burden and one that I didn't take lightly and also for those who served in the military. These are big staking points for a character. It was important to kind of always give credence to that.
Written by Chad Law and Josh Ridgway, Section 8 also stars Dermot Mulroney. The film comes to theaters and streams on AMC+ on September 23rd.