[Warning: Spoilers for episode 102 of EPIX’s From.]
Epix’s new series From is two episodes in and it’s already laying the groundwork for a seriously spooky season. Tonight’s episode demonstrated the careful balance of relief and horror that the show hits, with our characters’ worst fears realized, just not when and with whom they expect.
In “The Way Things Are Now,” it’s Kenny who experiences the biggest loss. After worrying about the possibility of finding that Kristi hasn’t survived the night in the RV with Boyd and the Matthews, he instead loses his father due to Sara’s mental breakdown. This week, I chatted with Ricky He about working on the show and filming tonight’s emotional arc.
The episode does a reverse build, beginning with a blood-soaked Kenny taking down a tree and then dialing it back to the beginning. It was the very first scene He shot, which worked as an icebreaker of sorts starting production on the show. “It was the second day out of quarantine and we were going to shoot that scene, and then Tuesday was supposed to be the scene where I find my father’s body,” he recalls.
“I’d been in quarantine for two weeks and preparing my butt off and I [had] a bit of an existential crisis of, ‘Am I good enough for this? Did they pick the wrong guy for this?’ I didn’t know if I really had it in me. And so I just prepared really hard and it worked out really well.”
“Meeting [director] Jack [Bender] in person was great and meeting Harold [Perrineau] for the first time was incredible. He was just the nicest guy. And I felt very safe to just kind of go for it. There was a sharp ax and then there was a dull one and our stunt coordinator, Tim Cody, as well as the props department, gave me a shot with both of them.”
“I actually do know how to do it, so we practiced it and I did have to get through that tree a little bit. I definitely was swinging that ax and I was definitely covered in blood. I think that that helped alleviate a lot of the nervous energy and a lot of the pressure.”
“Being in such a safe environment, doing something so physical, really helped to just get me out of my own head. I went home and ordered a peanut butter burger, which is like this random burger at this place called Darrell’s in Halifax and it was one of the best things in my life.”
He was grateful to play such an emotional arc right out of the gate. “I got to read those first two episodes while I was auditioning for the show and I was bawling my eyes out because this kid just goes through such an emotional rollercoaster in the course of 24 hours,” he shares.
“This woman that I adore is totally fine, thank God. And you get home…it’s like the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. The other worst nightmare has come true. Being able to play such a powerful arc is absolutely a dream come true for an actor. And especially because John [Griffin]’s writing is just so beautiful and so meticulous. Line by line, monologue by monologue, each piece has had such meaning.”
He was also grateful for the kitchen scene where Kenny has a heart-to-heart with Father Khatri. “Being able to work with Shaun [Majumber] in the scene where we’re drinking and Kenny is getting pretty drunk having that conversation about not wanting to find more bodies…that was one of the scenes that I auditioned with,” he explains.
“And it was tough to get into that place. It’s tricky to play drunk. But we just had such good chemistry and he really was so generous and so giving that it made the whole process really enjoyable.”
The setup for that scene is Kenny and Ellis getting snippy with each other, and He enjoyed getting to do that with his buddy, Corteon Moore. “We both definitely give each other a hard time in real life. I think that’s just a part of any real friendship and, and we got really close over the course of shooting the show,” he says.
“And that was the first and one of the very few times that we’ve been able to work together over the course of this season. It was a lot of fun and a really fun dynamic with Shaun there as well. It’s almost like an uncle and his two nephews usually get along. And as soon as we rehearsed that scene and then were getting ready to shoot, John [Griffin] said, ‘This dynamic needs to happen again.’ It’s like two young bucks that might just swing at each other any given moment. It’s a lot of fun.”
With a show where everyone could get written out at any time, He says the producers set their cast’s expectations accordingly. “[Producer] Jeff Pinkner, at our first table read-through over Zoom, gave us a very polite and kind disclaimer off the top, before we got started, that this was one of those shows where anything could happen and anyone could go and not because of performance [or] because of anything personal,” he says.
“It’s just the nature of the show and for the sake of storytelling. And so there definitely was an element of everyone constantly on their toes, especially when the new episode [script] comes out. When I booked the show, I’d read episode one and two. And so when we finally got episode three and four, I think maybe two and a half, three weeks into shooting the first block, it was kind of like this, ‘Whoa…’ [reaction].”
He says from there, he and his castmates couldn’t wait to get to the next script, and he and Moore would read the new scripts together. “We started having this little ritual where we would drop everything. I’d either go to his apartment or we’d be at a coffee shop and we’d read it in the same room together,” he explains.
“And that was the first little indicator to us as people participating in the show that this was special because we were just so excited to find out what happened next, almost like just genuine fans of the show. Corteon is a dramatic guy, and when we were reading it in the same room together, he read a bit faster than me and sometimes he’d get to a page and scream and I’d have to [catch up].”
In the series, aside from Victor, who has the most longevity in the town, everyone is on equal footing in being from somewhere else, and having to process that who they were in the real world no longer has any bearing in this new reality. “It creates a bit of an emotional dilemma, because, at the end of the day, I think every character in the show has one common goal, which is in an ideal world to get out of town and go home to their lives,” He points out.
“But they’ve also created a life here now, they have people that they relate to and have truly built really important relationships with. And Kristi and Kenny have this unspoken tension of ‘will they/ won’t they’ and Fatima and Ellis are in a full-blown, romantic relationship. If we ever get out of this place, what becomes of these relationships? The blank slate aspect [is one part and] everyone wants to get out, but at the same time, what happens if we do?”
The series filmed last year in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which meant building an offscreen community for the cast and crew away from home, albeit without the lurking boogedies in the woods. He says that helped the cast find their familial vibe. “Working on any project is a lot like summer camp. You’re there with all these people and you have to break the ice and it’s a little awkward at first. Everyone’s a little nervous,” he reveals.
“We’re all in the industry and we’re all supposed to be extroverted, but everyone’s a little nervous, a little awkward. But then we really did eventually just become like a little family because we’re an ensemble cast. It’s not like we have three or four cast members. Every time we grabbed dinner, there were anywhere from 15 to 20 of us…the whole cast and also the kids and parents and when we made these outings, we’d have to make these massive reservations.”
“I truly felt like when we all hung out [it was] like a big family reunion and like family reunions, you have the cousin or the aunts or uncle that you’re closer with, and you guys go do your own thing and grab lunch on your own. You find the people you hang out with more closely, but then every once in a while we all got together. We celebrated Simon [Webster]’s birthday at this crazy water park, bouncy castle thing. And that was awesome.”
Next up for Kenny, we’ll see him push through his grief as he takes Jade (David Alpay) under his wing. “Like anyone that’s grieving or under a state of trauma, [Kenny] is just trying to focus on his responsibilities. Sometimes, all you can do is put your attention on what you need to get done. Going back to work or back to life,” He explains.
“He understands his duty in town and is just trying to do his job regardless of how much pain he’s in. By doing that, he’s also still seeking the approval of Boyd—the closest thing left to a father figure. [And he and Jade become something] like two reluctant brothers.”
Photos courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.
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