By: Kayla Caldwell
THE CHANGED follows a group of everyday people, holed up in a house, questioning what to do next, as an unseen battle rages on outside. It’s not about COVID-19, but it’s not difficult to relate to the characters, what with feeling trapped, being afraid, and not knowing what to do next.
We were lucky enough to chat with one of the film’s main characters ahead of release, Jason Alan Smith, who plays Mac. We talked about getting into character, how we all need a little mini breakdown from time to time, and, of course, what it’s like to work with the great Tony Todd.
CREEPY KINGDOM: What drew you to this project?
JASON ALAN SMITH: I've got a good history with Mike Mongillo. So we've made some movies together, going way back to like, as boring as this is, like an actor working at a hotel, friends with a friend of his. And, the guy's like, "Hey, do you want to audition for this movie? I just did a guest star, and I'm an idiot, young actor, thinking "I'm going to do guest stars, not little indies with anyone." Right. Cut to two weeks later, no auditions. I'm like, "You know, what was up with that project that you had?" So then I auditioned via tape, and that was a long time ago.
Since then, this was the fourth time we've worked together. So, it's our artistic friendship and collaboration. Not to be too sappy about it, but it's been a huge part of my artistic life. That relationship's one of the more important parts of my artistic life, really, because we get to explore stories in a deep way together that, you don't always get. Especially with a built-in rapport that we have and relationship and trust.
CREEPY KINGDOM: Yeah. I'm sure that helps too with developing characters...
JASON ALAN SMITH: A hundred percent. Yeah. He gives me a ton of freedom, and then he shapes the humanity in the moment... and it's like, "Well, what about this? Or is this the truth of it? Or, you know, let's play with it this way." Really the deepest we had before THE CHANGED was Diane, which was another film that we did together. And I think that really solidified that relationship, and then as we've gotten older, and hopefully better, and more seasoned at what we do, rolling into THE CHANGED, there was all of that trust.
So, of course I wanted to work with Mike. But also, this is different, to have a film that jumps into the story where we're already surrounded by what the happening is, right? It's really interesting, and then I just love being locked in small quarters with people, and dealing with stuff. I think that's just a recipe for a combative interaction, you know?
CREEPY KINGDOM: Yeah. For sure. That's definitely a good way to get secrets to come out, and...
JASON ALAN SMITH: Yeah. There's no... We can't get away from this thing. It's like, all right. Let's deal with it.
CREEPY KINGDOM: There's a scene where Mac locks himself away for a second to just scream, and he's saying everything is alright... That moment was just so relatable, just that feeling of "I can handle this, but first I need to scream a little."
JASON ALAN SMITH: Yeah, man. I think when Mike wrote that he was probably exercising a little bit of his own reality at times, and it's relatable, because we all do that. And if we don't, I think we should, you know, taking a moment where you just talk to yourself or you say, "It's going to be okay." Or it's not okay. Whatever the situation is, it does kind of reset the old machine a little bit. And I think allowing in story that to be the culmination, we shot this really sequentially. Scene one was day one, you know, so it allowed the accumulation of the story to kind of get to that place. So by the time we did that, there was all this frustration and not knowing. I think if you allow as an actor or as a part of the story, if you allow that this can't be happening, but it is, what am I going to do? Just feeling so powerless, but knowing that you have to do something. That's where all that came from.
CREEPY KINGDOM: Yeah. And I think, honestly, without getting too much into what's going on in the world, it just kind of feels really relatable. I think definitely we're all warranted some screaming into a closet.
JASON ALAN SMITH: Some punching at nothing.
CREEPY KINGDOM: Yes! Now, if this were really happening, do you think you would be like Mac - or how do you think you would handle the situation?
JASON ALAN SMITH: This was the challenge, I think with any story, for me, there's the not knowing that I express in that story as Mac, and the inability, I mean, because Jane (Carlee Avers) really takes control a lot of times, you know? And, I think whether I make the right decisions or not in life, I usually take action over the situation. And I might blow it, totally blow it, but I'm at least going to do something. As Mac, there's a lot of like, "I don't know," and there's a lot of fear of that unknown. There is also a lot of denial, I think, until there's no denying. And even when we're questioning a subject and accusing them, the unspoken is, "Please just say this isn't happening." You're just joking, right? You're crazy or something.
I’d like to think that I would take action ,and get ahold of it, and I think Mac does that, too. It's all a shift of point of view. The joy of acting and storytelling, I think, is to look at the world through some other eyes and go, all right. This is how I see it, and this is what I'm dealing with. An amazing collaborator of mine always says, look, the most vulnerable place is, “I don't know,” for any of us because we can't take action. We can't make plans. We can't figure it out. We can't mourn it, celebrate it, we can't do anything. And so, that's what this story was for me.
CREEPY KINGDOM: Yeah, and especially when you live in a time when you can take your destiny into your own hands - when you don't know, we're not used to that.
JASON ALAN SMITH: Right. We're not used to slow either, now. We're not used to, “Okay, I'll do this, and that to get there. And it might take a long time…” but now, now it's like, “Well, I'm going to do this… tomorrow, it should be good.”
CREEPY KINGDOM: Yep. Instant gratification.
JASON ALAN SMITH: Crazy.
CREEPY KINGDOM: Can you talk about what it was like working with Tony Todd?
JASON ALAN SMITH: Man, Tony Todd, Tony is just such a beautiful person. He is beautiful to look at, because he is like 12 feet tall. And he has the deepest voice in the world, and he moves through space very smoothly for being, like, the biggest human in the room at all times. He's just got a poet's sort of spirit. And he loves music and people, and is just very generous.
To be working on an indie film - it's not Candyman. And he's down to play, and he's down to push it, and have ideas, and explore. Also, I think, you know to Mongillo’s credit, he wrote something and used Tony in a lot larger capacity than others have recently. And he is also saying, listen, Tony Todd's a weapon. Let's give him some time instead of just being, like, I got my poster cred by having Tony Todd there. Todd's an actor in this story. I really loved working with him, and I consider him a friend now. But he was just great. He bought us cookies, he bought a cookie and milk truck to come to set.
THE CHANGED releases in theaters and on demand March 4, 2022.