Yuri Lowenthal Talks The Phoenix Incident With Agents of Geek!
The science fiction thriller The Phoenix Incident is quickly approaching its recently announced theatrical release date on April 8th! Agents of Geek was fortunate to able to get an interview with star Yuri Lowenthal to talk about the film, his career, and the entertainment industry as a whole. Be sure to check the check the end of the post for even more information on The Phoenix Incident as well as links to Yuri’s personal projects.
Craig-Yuri, thank you so much for your time and thank you for joining us. It is an honor and a privilege, and I mean that sincerely.
Yuri-Thank you, Craig. I appreciate it
C-No problem. I will geek out briefly before we get into things. I am a big fan of your work from video games to the Cast of Characters podcast which I’m a listener of, so this is a treat for me.
Y-Well, it’s a treat for me too, so thanks for saying so.
C-So we’re here to talk about The Phoenix Incident, but let’s also talk a little about yourself. You’ve been a director, producer, writer, and your voiceover work speaks for itself. This is your first live-action, starring theatrical credit. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey that brought you to The Phoenix Incident and took you to where you are today?
Y-Yeah, absolutely. The thing about this business is there is never any direct route. Like, if somebody says to me, “How did you get to where you are and can I do that too?” and I’m like, “You can do it, but it’s not going to be the same way I did it.” For this role, it came from relationships I built through my voice acting work, specifically in video games. Working with (Director) Keith Arem for a long time, you know, we’ve worked on more games than we could possibly cover in this interview today (laughs). But through that we’ve created a relationship and we’ve gotten to know each other-him as a director, me as an actor. It’s funny, all the guys-the mains in the movie-are known primarily for their voice acting, but they’re all, like, crack actors too and that’s where it all came from. It’s just interesting to get a chance to see everybody. I mean, we all, the four of us, had some experience even before we got into voice acting by doing theater, television, and/or film. It’s just been a great opportunity for us all to get together, work with a guy we’ve all worked with before in his first big motion picture gig directing, and all I can do is just really thank him for trusting us. For a lot of these Hollywood things they always want to sell the movie, they always want to get name people, people you’re used to seeing on the screen, and he trusted us with it and I’ll never be able to thank him enough.
C-That’s great. Looking at the history of some of your co-stars from Michael Adamthwaite, Troy Baker, Travis Willingham, and Liam O’Brien, it was such a cool experience as a viewer to see all of you together on the big screen, some of you for the first time in this capacity. This wasn’t a short, but a full fledge, theatrical film production.
Y-Yeah. For us being good friends-especially Travis, Troy, Liam and I-it was an excuse to go and mess around in the desert. You know, run from aliens, goof off, and have a good time. I truly can’t thank Keith enough for that.
C-That sounds like a great time, and actually leads into the next question I had for you. You’ve done so much voiceover work, as have many of your co-stars, and with Keith doing what he’s done in the video game industry, and all of you as well, what was it like to have this role, live in front of the camera, while handling a larger production like this?
Y-It was super fun. It stems from what we do even as voice actors, but you’re just working a different muscle. It was great. So often when we’re voice acting, even though we work on projects together, we don’t always get to be in the same room together and act off each other. Some of this movie comes from improv, so to get out there with those guys and really just have fun, explore, work with each other, and incorporate the relationship we have with each other in real life with our characters was just exciting. It was only partially work and mostly fun, I’m not going to lie (laughs).
C-That’s great. You can totally feel that-without going into spoilers-in the early parts of the movie where it follows a group of guys just hanging out with each other. It is like you just stuck a camera on your head and someone said, “Go have fun in the desert for a little bit.”
Keeping things somewhat secretive-we don’t want to give too many details away-you play the character Glenn Lauder in The Phoenix Incident. What can you tell us about the character and what it was like to play him?
Y-It was fun. It touched home for me actually, not only because this was a found footage style film, but because of the type of role that I play in the film. A touchstone for me was the character of Hud from Cloverfield (TJ Miller) because you don’t always get to see a lot of Hud throughout because he’s holding the camera essentially. I remember being most connected to that character even though you don’t see him most of the time. So at first glance I was like, “Oh, wait a minute. I get to play the guy you really don’t hardy see at all in the film?” (Laughs) But, I remembered how much I connected to Hud in Cloverfield and it clicked, I was like, “Okay, I’m gonna be fine. There’s plenty to do here.”
Glenn is kind of the hot shot, thrill seeker, adrenaline junky of this band of guys. You know, everyone’s got their own story, Glenn is tied closely to Travis’s character (Mitch Adams) and they have a brother relationship. It was an interesting experience also because, of all the characters I worked very closely with, the Director of Photography/Cinematographer Brandon Cox and I had to get to know each other really well because most of the film he is actually holding the camera. I am dancing with him, almost attached to him over his shoulder, acting into the back of the camera (laughs). So it was an interesting relationship and dynamic that I had never really dealt with before in my on camera stuff. So it was super exciting. Glenn’s a fun guy. I’m not going to tell you too much more so I don’t spoil anything.
C-Of course. You actually answered one of the questions I had watching the film when Glenn is holding the camera where I thought to myself, “Is Yuri getting some first hand DOP/Cinematography work or is he looking funny running alongside Brandon Cox?” So that clarifies that (laughs).
Y-Right? I hope there’s some behind the scenes stuff where they show the dynamic Brandon and I had. I almost got closer to Brandon, both literally and physically, than almost anybody else on the shoot. There were a few times when he couldn’t be with me or I couldn’t be with him due to limited space, so there’s some shots in the film that are just him and some shots where it’s just me-probably the worst shots that look the most out of focus and shaky (laughs). There were some shots in a Jeep where he just couldn’t be in there with us, and it was just a fun ride.
C-That’s great. Since we are touching upon Arizona, specifically the desert outside of Phoenix where most the film takes place, going from your familiarity in your career working indoors in a sound booth so often to working in a harsher environment, what was it like for you guys?
Y-It was great. You know, the desert is the desert; it’s really hot during the day, and our costumes weren’t necessarily built for that. They were built for riding ATVs, being safe, and covering up, so it wasn’t always comfortable (laughs). There were a couple of really early morning shots, where I want to say it was below freezing when we showed up, so it vacillated quite a between hot and cold, all the extremes. We were shooting primarily, almost entirely, at night. So we got into this crazy schedule of: wake up around 3-3:30 in the afternoon, have some breakfast, get to set around 5pm as the sun was going down, get ready, shoot all night, get back to the hotel around 6 in the morning, go out to the pool and have a few cocktails cause it’s the end of the day for us (laughs). Which caused no end of entertainment, I’m sure, to the business people staying at the hotel. You know, showing up in lobby in morning in their suits, they’re going to work, peeking out, and there’s a bunch of hooligans out by the pool, drinking at 6am (laughs).
C-(laughs) “Who are all these guys day drinking, and what are they doing here?!?!”
Y-Right?! I wanted to yell out, “Hey! We earned it! We worked all night! With…aliens…and stuff!” (laughs). It was a lot of extremes in situations like that because even when you are uncomfortable you still come out of it having a great experience. I’m sure I complained at various times throughout, but looking back it was all good.
C– That’s great. We’ll keep some of the details aside, but in your career you’ve worked with aliens before like in Ben 10 (Lowenthal has provided the voice for titular character Ben Tennyson across multiple platforms since 2008), albeit these are MUCH different aliens. So what can you tell us about the aliens the audience can expect to see in The Phoenix Incident that we have seen brief glimpses of in the trailers?
Y-Let’s just say the aliens in The Phoenix Incident are NOWHERE near as kind or as funny as the aliens in Ben 10, as much as I loved working with both of them (laughs). In Ben 10 some of them are the kindler, gentler aliens and those definitely aren’t the kind in The Phoenix Incident.
C– (laughs) Definitely a little different, that’s for sure. I wanted to give you a chance to talk about what else you have on the horizon. I know you have tons of stuff you are doing between film, video games, your podcasts, and all the work you do with your wife Tara Platt. Can you tell us some of the upcoming projects you have that we can look out for?
Y– Absolutely, thank you. We have plenty of stuff going on, we are going to start shooting a web series that Tara conceived in about a week. That is mostly her project, I have to give her all the credit for it, and it’s going to be terrific, so keep your eyes peeled for that. We’ll definitely be tweeting about it (@yurilowenthal and @taraplatt, respectively).
You mentioned the podcast Cast of Characters (LINK) and I have another podcast that I am absolutely in love with called You Are Awaited (LINK) and it is all about Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s a weekly podcast and every week we talk about Mad Max: Fury Road (laughs). We take the movie 4 minutes at a time, in succession, and talk about it for 30-45 minutes; occasionally having a guest episode and just really exploring the film from another angle. I fell in love so hugely with the movie that I just want to talk about it all the time. I’m borderline obsessed with it (laughs).
I’ve got a web series that I’m working on right now that we’re in post-production on. We’re coming to an end of it and hopefully be releasing it in a month or so. It is about post traumatic stress and it’s called Breaking Silence (LINK). It came from a figure I heard reported about the number of American service men and women who take their lives everyday because of PTSD and because they are afraid to talk about it or don’t feel like they can talk about it, and, I just couldn’t…that number just stuck with me. I started doing some research and I realized that a lot of people suffer from that, and not just veterans: emergency room nurses, first responders, police, firefighters, victims of abuse, and survivors of tragedies, So many of them are afraid and in some cases nobody knows exactly what to do. So we started this web series and we met with four Marines and a Navy Corpsman who served during the Battle of Ramadi in 2004, and basically just had a big discussion with them interview style. We’re going to be putting that out soon. We’d like to have every episode be a different group of people suffering from PTSD and trying to find a commonality to see what we can all do to support them, make it easier to talk about the subject, and remove the stigma around it. A lot of people are embarrassed to talk about it and don’t think it’s a real problem, but it is. So you can go to the website and check that out and I’ll be tweeting about it as well.
In addition to working on video games and other films, I worked on a Western at the end of last year that I’m really excited about called Any Bullet Will Do (LINK) and I got to play a villain which is really exciting for me because I mostly get cast as good guys (laughs). I don’t have any details on when that will be out just yet, but I’m looking forward to it. So there’s plenty of stuff on the horizon.
C-That’s great, always keeping busy and active. I hope we get to see more of you following your first starring role in a full feature, theatrically released film. You did a great job in the movie and I look forward to seeing more of your work.
Y-Thank you, me too. I’m excited by the prospects and excited to keep telling stories, as that’s what we do. There’s sort of a central website that Tara and I put together where you can check out all the things we are working on called Monkey Mayhem Hub (LINK) and it has everything from the books we’ve written, what we’re producing, and our personal stuff as well. It’s one stop shopping for everything Tara and I have going on and it’s easy to check out. And thanks, being a huge geek myself it’s a pleasure to talk to you, Craig.
C-Well, thank you so much. The pleasure is all mine. Thank you very much again for taking the time to talk to us here at Agents of Geek, and we look forward to catching you in The Phoenix Incident on April 8th!
Y-Excellent! Thank you so much!
The Phoenix Incident opens in select theaters nationwide on April 8th. Go to www.phoenixincident.com and www.twitter.com/phoenixincident for more details on the film. Click HERE for theater and ticket information!
The Phoenix Incident is written and directed by Phoenix native Keith Arem and stars Yuri Lowenthal, Troy Baker, Travis Willingham, Liam O’Brien, and Michael Adamthwaite.
Also, be sure to thank Yuri Lowenthal for taking the time to talk to us and follow him at:
YouTube-The Yuri Lowenthal
Personal-Monkey Hub Mayhem
Professional-Yuri Lowenthal Website