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Interview: ‘Orphan Black’s Kristian Bruun Talks ‘Red Rover’

May 12, 2020Ben MK

Best known for his role as Donnie Hendrix on the critically-acclaimed sci-fi series Orphan Black, Canadian actor (and proud Torontonian) Kristian Bruun should be a familiar face to TV viewers and moviegoers alike. Aside from starring alongside Tatiana Maslany, he's also appeared with Elisabeth Moss in The Handmaid's Tale and Samara Weaving in Ready or Not. And now, he's taking on his first ever leading role in the indie comedy-drama Red Rover, a passion project in which he plays Damon, a mild-mannered office worker who applies for the rare opportunity to be a part of the first human colony on Mars.

I caught up with Kristian Bruun to chat about Red Rover, acting opposite fellow Canadian Cara Gee, and the parallels between going to the Red Planet and being in self-isolation.

First off, how have you been adjusting to the new normal and how have you been keeping busy during this quarantine period?

Bruun: I think I'm still adjusting. Every time I think that I've fully adjusted, I think of the future of my job and the future of my family and I get a little stressed out. But for the most part, I've adjusted to the current reality that we're in. We have a lot of time to ourselves. So I guess the things that I've been doing to keep busy would include a lot of guitar playing. [laughs] Been doing a lot of Zoom calls with friends — catching up with people that I haven't seen in a very long time. Reading a lot of plays on Zoom with fellow actor friends, just so that we can feel like we're doing something productive. And I'm just finishing up a feature film script. So I've been doing a lot of writing, which is nice.

Going to Mars does take social distancing to the extreme — only for Damon, he wants to go there to start over, in a way. What drew you to the character and to this story?

Bruun: First of all, I really love Duane [Murray], who is one of the writers and is a good buddy of mine. He and one of his best friends, Shane [Belcourt] (who directed the film), wrote the film. And I just thought it was so sweet and had so much heart. They approached me with the script and they said, "We got no money for this thing. This is ultra low-budget. But it's a really sweet story." And I read it and I just fell in love with [my character] — this sad sack of a dude. And there was a part of me that I saw in him as well that I wanted to explore.

So, first and foremost, I was attracted to the character, and then I was also really attracted to the other people in his life. And the challenge of how we were going to shoot this film on a shoestring budget. All of the other people that were getting involved [in the film] I'm all friends with and big fans of. I love working on independent films, so it was kind of a no-brainer. And also, I don't normally get to play a lead in a film, so this was an opportunity for me to try out being a leading man. [laughs] That's terrifying, but I think every actor wants that opportunity at least once in that career. So I felt very lucky to be given that shot.

You mentioned the other people you worked with in the film. Of course, you star opposite fellow Canadian Cara Gee. What was it like working with her and the rest of the small cast?

Bruun: Cara is the best. She's a good buddy of mine; we just never worked together before. And there's something about this job where it requires you to have this instant intimacy with someone [whereas] in reality you only met them five minutes ago — that's how it can be on-set sometimes. But with her, we just get along so well. She's so easy to work with; she's such a joy to work with. And she's just a presence — she's really good at giving you everything. And she can do the dance — she can improv, and it's just fun to keep up with her.

It was just always a joy — every day was a joy. Nobody was pretentious on the set; everybody was doing it cuz they just wanted to work on this sweet, sweet story. Anna Hopkins, Meghan Heffern, Morgan David Jones, Sugith [Varughese], Josh [Peace] — so many awesome people just coming out because they wanted to make a fun movie. And I think we all just really enjoyed working with each other and making something really beautiful for so little. It was a great challenge.

Was there a scene that was most memorable for you to work on?

Bruun: We did sort of a renegade shoot at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. I think our last day of filming was actually a full day and night shooting from the hip at the Ex. So we had a very basic camera for that. It was for this sequence where Cara and I are going through a "fun" flight simulator training at the Ex. And we just had this amazing day on our feet running around the Ex shooting scenes — and mostly we didn't need audio, so it just looked like we were just people hanging out, having fun, and shooting dumb photos and stuff like that. And we were just getting all this really fun, swirly light, colorful footage that I think is a really beautiful moment in the film. It was just such a perfect last day of filming. It was a really neat way to end off this crazy short, two-week period of filming this movie with no budget. We had the best time. I really, really loved that.

And what about filming in Toronto — it's always fun to spot the local landmarks in Canadian films. How did you find being back in the city for this?

Bruun: I love any excuse to film in Toronto cuz it's my hometown and I can always visit my family. And at the time, I was still living in Toronto, so there were days where I was able to bike to set — that's the dream right there. [laughs] It's so nice when you get that opportunity, and it's so rare. So any chance to show Toronto and to enjoy Toronto and to put it on-screen, I'm all for it. It hasn't always been captured [as itself] on film; it's been other cities — New York or Chicago or wherever you want to imagine it — so it was just nice to have a sweet indie film that just shows off Toronto in all its beauty and all its glory, really. It's a great city; I love it.

Not to spoil the movie, but by the end Damon manages to learn something valuable about what he's really looking for in life. What do you want viewers to take away from the movie?

Bruun: I'd love if someone lonely — someone who felt like they were stuck in a dark place and was a little bit hopeless — watched this movie and realized that maybe it's not always necessary to close yourself off from love and life and experiences. I want people to watch the film and wanna go out there and make connections — and not sequester themselves away in isolation, whether it's on Mars or in your apartment. Granted, it's a little bit hard to do that right now, but we'll get back there again. And maybe while we're all in isolation these days — being safe and healthy — people will watch this film and remember how great it is to connect with another human being.

Speaking of isolation — once the quarantine is over, what will you be working on next? And, on a more personal level, what are you looking forward to most about when everything eventually starts up again?

Bruun: In terms of work, I have a couple of possible projects on the go. But they weren't finalized, so I don't know if or when those will get going again. Some productions will unfortunately fizzle before they start. So right now, I'm doing a lot of voice-over auditions — because I can record audio at a somewhat professional level in my closet [laughs] with sound dampeners and a good microphone on my computer. Right now, the future of the industry looks like animation and voice-overs and podcasts and things like that, until we can get back on camera.

But things that I'm really, really looking forward to — to be honest — is being able to go to a movie theatre; I love going to the cinema and watching movies, whether it's by myself or with friends. I look forward to that and I look forward to restaurants — even just being outside without a mask or being able to go for a run without a mask without a mask would be nice. And, of course, I can't wait to be able to get back on a plane and fly home to see my family back in Toronto, because I miss them dearly.

Red Rover is available now on all digital platforms.

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