David Rysdahl talks about No Exit, his passion for Film, and Human Interconnectivity
During this movie awards season, there’s a wondrous quote that’s applicable to the magic that Hollywood serves up, a quote that goes — “So why not live with the magic? Be a kid again and believe in the fantastical. Life is more fun with a little smoke and mirrors.”
Indeed, actor/producer David Rysdahl who co-stars in the edgy and chilling new thriller No Exit, relates a story that resonates. He was with his producing and life partner Zazie Beetz, and recalls, “I was at a big awards show with Zazie and an older actor saw that I was nervous and whispered, ‘Remember, it’s all made up.’ It made me laugh and helped me take myself less seriously. I got out of my head and was able to be present with the people around me. I think of that moment often.”
No Exit, directed by Damien Power, is based on a novel by Taylor Adams which is set in the Colorado mountains during a ferocious blizzard where a group of strangers find themselves in a terrifying life-or-death situation.
Interestingly, the movie was actually filmed in New Zealand not Colorado, and Rysdahl, who was last seen in the critically acclaimed Edson Oda feature, Nine Days, opposite Winston Duke and Zazie Beetz, says of that experience Down Under, during quarantine: “Flying to New Zealand, we spent two weeks in isolation in a hotel room. It felt like great prep for the movie, which had us isolated in a winter storm. I would walk around the small room trying things out and getting into (my character) Lars’ head. I felt a little crazy half the time.”
Along with his acting work, Rysdahl is actively developing projects with Zazie Beetz under their production banner, Sleepy Poppy. Beetz and Rysdahl say Sleepy Poppy is “a place where humans can feel like they are playing in a sand box of creativity. A place where storytellers can embrace their true, authentic selves while exploring story with joy, passion, wonder, and humility.”
But, up first, David Rysdahl talks to us what attracts him to projects like No Exit, about working on set with his partner, and why this is an opportune time for storytellers.
Q — Coming out of the Pandemic, why is this an exciting time for storytellers, and how can they help with issues like the environment and other social challenges?
A — I’ve recently been reading about the beginning of the nuclear age. Nuclear energy shifted how we saw ourselves and what we owed each other — we needed new agreements to make sure nuclear war (nuclear annihilation) didn’t happen. I feel like we’re in a similar place now. Covid, climate change, and the ubiquity of internet conspiracy theories have emphasized how interconnected we are and how our survival depends on us learning how to communicate and cooperate in this new age we’re living in. We’ve had a collective, worldwide crisis. As we come out of it, we have an opportunity to refocus on what is possible and what is essential.
Q — What attracts you to scripts, and specifically to “No Exit?”
A — I read the script in one sitting. I was laughing, then cringing, then crying out at the plot twists and revelations. I was struck by the fact that there wasn’t a villain, or at least the villains were complicated. The characters are on the fringes of society and make their evil decisions out of desperation. Talking to director Damien Power, he wanted to approach them with empathy. It’s really a character study wrapped up in a good thriller.
Q — What did appearing together with Zazie in Dead Pigs (2018) and Nine Days (2020) teach you?
A — Zazie is my closest collaborator. It took us a few years into our relationship to be able to share our storytelling. We had to grow in our strength before we could be that vulnerable in front of each other. Since getting over that hump, it has been amazing. We know each other so well and we know our “tricks.” I have “David acting tricks” that Zazie can see right through. We push each other to be truthful on every take. Dead Pigs is a funny story because Zazie was just chilling on set, and they asked her if she wanted to play a character. Easiest audition of her life
Q — Let’s talk about independent projects, and tell us about Sleepy Poppy, and what’s in the works?
A — I guess I don’t try to compare myself to other artists or production companies, which I know might be a cop out but it’s true. I find comparing myself to others only leads to misery and toxic jealousy, which does no good to anyone. So much about my and Zazie’s journey into storytelling has been learning to follow our inner child into the work, to trust our gut and to follow what is interesting. We are drawn to characters and stories that explore the wonder and absurdity of being alive in all its dimensions. We love scripts that feel like they are an outgrowth of the artists behind them, scripts that feel like we’re seeing the world through someone else’s eyes.
Check out the trailer for No Exit, which will release exclusively on Hulu on Friday, February 25.