Exclusive interview with Dustin Milligan for Demonic, which premieres at this year’s Film4 FrightFest film festival.
Kat Smith conducts our exclusive interview with Dustin Milligan…
Staging its UK premiere at this weekend’s Frightfest is the intriguing Demonic, the latest in the line of demonic possession films, this time produced by James Wan. The film stars Frank Grillo and Maria Bello as Detectives who are called in to find a missing girl after a spate of murders happen in an abandoned house with a history of turmoil. Their only chance of finding the girl is from the testimony of her boyfriend and massacre survivor John, played by Dustin Milligan.
Milligan is no stranger to horror having starred in The Messengers, Shark Night 3D and also appeared for a guest spot in an episode of long-standing CW show Supernatural.
Ahead of the premiere we spoke with Dustin about the project, his thoughts of the supernatural, and his desire to leave horror behind so he can hone his comedy skills.
How did you get involved in Demonic?
I got involved the usual way, my agent sent me a script, I read it and went out to audition. A couple of auditions later I was flying down to Baton Rouge to start filming.
What was it about your character John that you liked?
Because the film jumps back and forward in time, and it’s before and after a horrific event that John survives, the character I get to play isn’t one character. It’s almost two in that he is very much a sceptic of all things supernatural going into the ghost investigation that him and a group of friends decide to do. He goes from being a disbeliever to, even though he can’t quite believe it himself, he completely believes that something supernatural has occurred and that something very evil is responsible for the ultimate murder of a lot of his friends.
I think that the difference between playing a character that is on two extremes of the scale; I just love that challenge. In the audition I had to, it’s only like a ten minute audition, two or three scenes, two of the scenes I’m John who doesn’t really believe what’s going on. I’m like what’s going on? and don’t believe in ghost, and then in the other scene I’m John who is trying to convince these Detectives that it absolutely was this thing or the house or something completely unbelievable that had a hand in this massacre. To me that’s such a challenge to go from chill, cool guy to have tears streaming down your face and freaking out. As an actor that’s a challenge I just really wanted to take on and luckily the director Will [Canon] and the producers thought that I was the right guy for it.
Watch the trailer for Demonic :: Exclusive interview with Dustin Milligan continues below
The film also stars Frank Grillo and Maria Bello, how were they to work with?
It was great. I love any opportunity to learn from any experience I have on set, but specifically when I to learn from actors who have been doing it for a long time, but also doing it well for a long time. Both Frank and Maria fall into that category. Maria and I have a lot of one on one which is such a treat to get to do. Frank as well, we had some stuff to do together. I think both of them, just their professionalism, their attention to detail and their focus on just each moment as it occurs, that’s what I really liked. It’s also refreshing to see people who do have quite a bit of status not being assholes on set. It’s always a relief when they’re just like normal people on set too; when you’re famous you don’t automatically become a jerk.
You’ve done your share of horror projects; do you believe in the supernatural?
You know, I believe in the supernatural, but I’m also very much a believer in science and proof. So I don’t know if I’m a believer in the more traditional supernatural things like the idea of a vindictive ghost whose coming back to get revenge on people, all that kind of stuff. I’m not sure I quite buy into it. But the idea that there are forces at work that we aren’t aware of, or cannot perceive, I really want to believe in it. I want to believe very much.
As of yet in my life I have not yet had a really truly Earth-shattering ghost experience, so it’s hard for me to fully get on the bandwagon.
Demonic gets its UK premiere at next weekend’s Frightfest, a festival devoted to every spectrum of horror, what’s your favourite scary movie?
Well first of all, because you said the words scary movie, I love that film Scary Movie. (Laughs) Not a horror movie, I mean it’s a mockery of horror movies, but it’s still a great movie though. I mean I hate to say it, but I do like The Shining quite a bit. I know it’s just everybody’s first choice but it’s a good movie. I probably like more sci-fi horror like Aliens and The Thing that kind of stuff more than just straight horror movies. Although I will say I saw It Follows before it was all hyped up. I think it had been out for two days and saw it, and as of late, that would absolutely be my favourite.
The first time I saw it I kept looking over my shoulder.
Yeah I had the same thing when I had just seen it, some people had been like ‘just go see it’, they’re like ‘it’s really good’, some people were like ‘I don’t know if I liked it or not’ and I loved hearing that. When I saw it the ads hadn’t started coming out yet where it was ‘It Follows is the best new horror film in a decade’ etc. I got to see it kinda fresh. That’s what I love about that movie, it’s grounded in reality and even though it’s completely crazy and like a weird concept for a film, and for your main supernatural element to just be this ever-changing, ever just constantly walking towards you with that deadpan stare, oh God I thought that was very well done.
Demonic isn’t the first time you’ve played a ghost hunter – will you ever learn your lesson?
(Laughs) Oh Corbett, oh Corbett. Great reference, indeed I have played a ghost hunter before on Supernatural. Here’s something, I have had a kind of creepy ghost experience. I went to York which I understand is the most haunted place in all of Europe?
So for Supernatural I went for like a convention with the rest of the ghost hunters and we got to do a couple of ghost tours on that. That was a little spooky sometimes. There was some pretty creepy stuff. But mostly it was because we were walking with a bunch of attendees of this event and they were breathing real close to the backs of our necks., just really quite clingy so that was a little scary at times.
Your episode of Supernatural is one of the many fan favourites. What was it like working on the show and how does it feel knowing that all these years later AJ still has a legacy?
It’s great. Every now and again I get a post on my Twitter feed or something that will be a rest in peace Corbett that pops up. Every now and again I still run into Brittany and A.J and a bunch of the other actors. It’s great, I mean I loved the show, it’s not the type of show I’d usually watch, but I actually really like Jensen and Jared. Considering they’re buhjillionaires from doing the show and are total pros, again they could have easily turned out to be jerks, but they were super supportive and super nice.
In a lot of ways they [the show] have episodes like ours where it’s not totally about them, the stars, but is more about others. It’s like that thing that Lucile Ball would always do, make her cast and her supporting players, she would support them so that they were doing their best work as it makes everybody look better. I really got that sense with the two of them. That they were there to really make sure the episode was good and that we as guests felt comfortable and felt included. They were just total gentlemen. It was a good lesson for me in just watching how to be a leading man in between takes.
More on Demonic here :: Exclusive interview with Dustin Milligan continues below
You also had a great guest spot in Silicon Valley, is comedy a genre that you’d like to explore more?
Comedy’s my absolute favourite thing to work in. I write a little bit myself and everything I write is a comedy. I’ve worked with Mike Judge before, a few years back, which was a dream come true for me and to get on Silicon Valley as well was such a nice thing as well.
For me, as much as I enjoy doing any kind of genre, for me comedy that’s what’s most inherent in my sort of performance instinct. Just because as a kid growing up it was telling jokes and making people laugh that ultimately drove me into the theatre and to pursue acting.
Would you have told Blaine?
(Laughs) I don’t know. Do you let Blaine die? Ah I think I would have told Blaine. Yeah I think I would have told Blaine. I’m a good, nice Canadian boy so I would’ve. The episode really could have gone in a different direction if they had a not told him at all.
You recently turned thirty which is seen as a big milestone to some, how are you finding life out of your twenties?
How am I finding life out of my twenties? Thank you for bringing it up, yes I am old. I have been worried about turning thirty since I was nineteen, so I think I got through my quarter life crisis a little earlier than most people do. It’s not as scary. Probably the last year, a couple of years ago was when I was like ‘oh no thirty actually is going to be way better than my twenties’, and it is so far. I think there’s just a sense of self, you’re not trying to be other people or figuring out who you are as much once you turn thirty. You kinda just say eh, you look in the mirror and you’re like ‘this is it, this is what I am’. You just accept it and move on.
Last year you wrote, produced and starred in a feature called Bad City, how was life behind the camera, do you have any plans to do it again?
I didn’t direct the film, that was directed by a director I’ve worked with a few times called Carl Bessai. But producing it and certainly writing it with my writing partner, and then starring in it opposite him as well [was fun]. Comedy is where I want to be I really want to expand the most. So Bad City to me was such a dream.
We shot for very, very, very, very little money. But the idea was to always- because it is an intentionally bad seventies buddy cop movie – so the idea even in the writing and the creating of it between me and my writing partner was since we know we’re not going to have any money for this why not just write a concept that exploits the fact that we don’t have any money? So then we don’t need to try and hide that we don’t have any money. We just get to show it off and flaunt it.
That alone was such a liberating experience, just because I think that’s what is such a struggle for independent film makers, they try to make it look like it cost more than it did. For us we got to go in the completely opposite direction, and try to make it look shittier than it was, and I think we succeeded (laughs). It’s a pretty crappy film sometimes.
That was such an amazing experience. Actually have have a hand in producing and get the full producing experience. I’ve done it before as an actor where I’ve gotten a producer credit but my actual producing was limited. Whereas in this it was full on. It really made me realise certain things I do want to do in the future and don’t want to do in the future in regards to producing. But the most difficult thing is just getting it out after you’ve made it. That’s something that we were / are really struggling with. We’ve had it available online, I think it’s available online to download in the UK at Badcitymovie.com. But yeah it’s just really tricky finding a distributor. Everything is going to Video on Demand, nothing’s really getting any theatrical releases is virtually impossible. But for us we just need to get audiences to see it because we know once they can take a look at it they’ll find some merit in it. It’s just how do you make yourself known in such a huge, dense market which it is the independent film market. Everyone’s got a movie coming out, how do you stand out? It’s really tricky, especially like I said with literally no money.
What other projects should we look out for featuring yourself?
I have a TV show that I’ve done two seasons of now called Schitt’s Creek, and that’s with Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, which is a very fun half hour comedy. Then I’m also working for a show called X-Company which is a World War II spy drama / thriller. That must be it for right now, two jobs, it’s pretty good.
Exclusive Dustin Milligan interview conducted by Kat Smith, August 2015.
Catch Dustin in Demonic when it screens at Frightfest on Friday 28th August from 6:30pm. Alternatively you can buy the DVD from 7th September.