It's not every day when you get such a dynamic comedy land on your doorstep, which is what happened to star Harvey Guillén when he got cast in Josh Ruben's Werewolves Within. Based on the Ubisoft video game of the same name, the film follows a group of townsfolk terrorized by werewolves on a twist on the whodunnit genre. I spoke with the star about working with Ruben, acclimating to the remote nature of cabin life, and the opportunity to use improv in the film.
"When I talked to Josh on the phone, he sold me on the project," Guillén said. "He wanted me to play Joaquim. Once I heard his passion about it and the genre, [I realized] he lives and breathes this. I felt really safe in his hands and jumped on board." Joaquim and Devon (Cheyenne Jackson) are a married couple caught up in the paranoia from the town. "They moved into the small town to live in their part of the Earth and live their best queer life," he continued. "When they move into town and pipeline is coming through, the vote is made for or against it. They come from a place of money. To them, it doesn't really matter for them to be offered money because they don't want it. They're like, 'We're fine where we are.' That's not everyone in town. They clash a little bit with their neighbors, and it becomes a little bit of 'Is it because they are queer?' Is it 'Are they being targeted because they are a queer couple?' and they're the only queer couple in town. It's kind of this 'Are we being targeted?' We find out through the story that everyone has a different reason for not liking their neighbor."
Guillén felt all the elements fell into place, especially when Ruben let the cast flex their improvisational chops. "Yeah, we absolutely did improv," he explained. "Josh said, 'Like 10 percent that made it into the actual final cut.' We have probably dozens of hours of footage of us improvising as well. I'm sure, because a little word added here, gesture or whatnot, every character was so well cast that what they did, even off-script, was brilliant. So that's what makes the film feel so organic and real is that you sprinkle a little bit of improv with an already written, fantastic comedy script. The result is what you see."
When it came to filming on set, the cast made the most of their surroundings, immersing themselves in small-town life. "We lived together," Guillén said. "We're living in this campsite that had been turned into like an adult sleepaway camp that hadn't opened yet. We were the first people actually to stay there. There were no TVs in the cabins. It was like barely any Internet. We're literally in the middle of the woods. There's one kitchen at the main house that we wake up in the morning from your cabin. You go to the main house, and you can get a cup of coffee, or you can play a record by the fireplace. It became like living in this community. We were really living and breathing as a community off-screen. We loved each other just hanging out every night after work, making dinner for each other in the kitchen because it was like no restaurants open past 8:00 p.m. in that area because it's a small town. We get home like at 11:00, and we're like, 'Oh, I'm so hungry.' It's like, 'OK, we'll make something.' We cook for each other, and it became really nice to be in a real community. We then get on screen and be at each other's throats with guns. It was a nice juxtaposition."
IFC Films' Werewolves Within, written by Mishna Wolff, also stars Sam Richardson, Milana Vayntrub, George Basil, Sarah Burns, Michael Chernus, Rebecca Henderson, Wayne Duvall, Catherine Curtin, Michaela Watkins, and Glenn Flesher. You can also check Guillén on FX's What We Do in the Shadows. The film comes to theaters on June 25 and on digital, rental, and VOD on July 2.