EoM contributor Thomas Manning recently had the opportunity to interview Angela Sarafyan about her role in the official Fantasia Film Festival selection, King Knight. They discuss her performance as the character Willow, her interactions with co-star Matthew Gray Gubler, and working with director Richard Bates Jr.
Thomas Manning: Something I really loved about your character, Willow, is how incredibly loyal she is to her family, especially the character of Thorn (Matthew Gray Gubler). She’s someone who believes in second chances. But it’s not necessarily that she’s loyal to a fault, or in a way that takes away from her independence and autonomy. Is that something that you appreciated about your character? And are there any other particular traits with the character of Willow that you especially connected with?
Angela Sarafyan: I love that point-of-view, thank you so much for those observations about Willow. I agree about those qualities that she has, but also I think that she believes in Thorn so much. It felt like their relationship was a unit, so it’s not about the sacrificing of oneself to be a part of that unit, but rather the celebration of who you really are and the growth of that. So, bringing out the best in each other. And that’s sort of what the movie really is about. It’s about the fact that [Willow] didn’t know who [Thorn] was in his past, and even maybe judged it. But I think that by the end of the movie, the idea is that by being our true selves, we can be the happiest, and we can put our best foot forward in any situation. That’s sort of what that relationship ends up being.
Thomas Manning: You and Matthew Gray Gubler are basically from the same generation of acting talent. Both of you have had great careers over the past 20 years or so. Considering that your characters are husband and wife in this film, does this shared background have any impact on getting into the characterization of that relationship?
Angela Sarafyan: That’s an interesting point-of-view as well, I like how you think. Absolutely, I think even subconsciously we had that awareness that we do come from similar generations. We had instant chemistry when we met. He was so kind and we hugged immediately. And I could tell that this was the relationship, this was the dynamic that Willow and Thorn will have throughout the movie. And I kind of lived with that reality. It was just very, very easy – the whole process of filming and working together, and the way that they inform the characters. That ease of chemistry, that understanding, and coming from the same generational time colored how we connected on screen.
Thomas Manning: King Knight is definitely a very funny film. Some of the funniest lines of dialogue are really made all the funnier because they’re delivered with such a deadpan style of humor. What was it like for you and the rest of the cast on set to deliver these hilarious moments, and still keep a straight face and maintain your composure, delivering them with such sincerity?
Angela Sarafyan: I always think humor is great if you’re very serious about the situation. The stranger, the better, and this film really celebrates that. [Richard Bates Jr.] would always say, “remember, this is a serious movie,” before every take. He was screaming, and would say, “this is so serious, we’re filming a drama!” It was just very funny. And there were times when Matthew would say things and I would unfortunately – less than a handful of times – laugh and ruin the take. But he’s very funny, it’s so much fun to work with him. And I kept it straight. Sometimes I wonder if it was too real.
Thomas Manning: In the past, you have worked in other genres, like drama and sci-fi, that are a little bit heavier in tone compared to the comedy and satire of King Knight. What do you like about this contrast and having the opportunity to work on such a wide array of projects?
Angela Sarafyan: You’re absolutely right, in the past I have been working on a lot of drama and heavier stuff, and I felt this hunger for comedy. The timing of this script coming my way was perfect, because my brother actually was with me. I was in a fitting for season three of Westworld a few years back. I had gotten the script, and it was a time-sensitive issue. So, my brother started reading, and he started laughing. And then I took the script, and as I was getting fitted for the outfits for Westworld, I started reading a few pages. And I know very quickly, within the first five pages, whether I like something or not, and I liked this instantly. I miss humor. It’s taught me that we can even look at life with a sense of humor. Comedies are so much fun to do and this was just the best way to do it, with a Richard Bates Jr. movie.
Thomas Manning: This was your first time working with Richard Bates Jr. as writer and director, so what was that experience like?
Angela Sarafyan: It was such a pleasure, I loved working with him. He has this very intoxicating confidence. He’s such a lovely human being. He’s got great energy, he’s just so special. And that definitely translates to his set. Everybody really gets on board with that joyous, grateful, beautiful, and appreciative quality that he has, and the entire process was so seamless that it felt effortless. Usually when you’re cast so late in the game, it can be stressful, but even that wasn’t stressful. I’d have times during lunch where I’d memorized some of the lines and I didn’t know where we were going with everything, because I was so late into it. But my point is that everything felt so easy and fluid, and I felt very grateful to be a part of it.
Thomas Manning: King Knight is making its premiere at the Fantasia Film Fest. I’ve always thought that the entire concept of film festivals is really a beautiful thing. Having independent filmmakers get to see their work distributed and shown around the world. What are some things that you appreciate about the film festival circuit and Fantasia in particular?
Angela Sarafyan: This will be my first time at Fantasia, and I’ve heard amazing things about this festival. I’m really excited to be a part of it with this film. In the past with previous festivals, because we could meet in person, I could go to a different place. I’ve been to Sundance and a few others. Toronto really sticks out. It’s so lovely to be in a city where these films are being celebrated, because the city itself or the town that you’re in really colors your experience. You get to meet other filmmakers, actors, and other people in the industry. You meet other artists too, like musicians. And it’s a lovely, lovely experience to be able to do that. But I think in this particular case for Fantasia and King Knight, we’re going to celebrate. I’m really looking forward to that. And I believe [Richard Bates Jr.] and I will do a Q&A after the film. So this just brings a smile to face. I’m just grateful for the whole process, certainly.
King Knight is an outsider’s outsider comedy starring Matthew Gray Gubler and Angela Sarafyan as Thorn and Willow, husband-and-wife high priest and priestess of a coven of witches in a small California community. When Willow unearths a secret from Thorn’s past, their lives are thrown into turmoil in this kooky, clever treat, decked with a wild cast that includes Nelson Franklin, Johnny Pemberton, Barbara Crampton, Ray Wise, Andy Milonakis, and the voices of Aubrey Plaza and AnnaLynne McCord.
Screening during the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival.
Thomas Manning is a member of the NCFCA and SEFCA, and also the co-host of the television show and radio program “Meet Me at the Movies.” He has served as a production assistant and voting member on the Film Selection Committee for the Real to Reel Film Festival. He is currently studying film, television, and English at Gardner-Webb University.
Categories: Filmmaker Interviews