BWW Interviews: Patrick Wilson and Jack Plotnick Talk Quirkiness of Space Station 76
South by Southwest (SXSW) continues its film portion of the festival with a special screening of the movie Space Station 76 starring Patrick Wilson as Captain Glenn and is directed by Jack Plotnick. SPACE STATION 76 is a comedic drama about a group of people (and several robots) living on a space station in a 1970's-version of the future. When a new Assistant Captain arrives, she inadvertently ignites tensions among the crew, prompting them to confront their darkest secrets. Barely contained lust, jealousy, and anger all bubble to the surface, becoming just as dangerous as the asteroid that's heading right for them.
I caught up with Patrick and Jack during their visit to SXSW and they shared their experiences creating and starring in this new movie.
Do you like doing these things and getting away?
PATRICK: I love coming here. I was here; I shot my first feature here 11 years ago or so, The Alamo. I lived here for 6 or 7 months which was great. I went to a lot of concerts then. It wasn't really a film festival. All my friends that came didn't come for the film. They came to see bands. I love to see how the film festival has grown and it's become a real major player. We have something that we are extremely proud of.
You're known more for your acting and you decided to write and direct this movie. Is this your first one?
JACK: Yes. And my needlepoint...world renowned (laughter). In the very beginning, I was putting on sketch shows and directing those and then I created and directed a TV show called Lovespring International. This grew out of everything I was doing. I wouldn't have directed this if I wasn't so passionate about needing this movie to be a reality. This story and this script that I wrote with my co-writers had to be made and it's such a specific tone and idea that there really wasn't anyone else who was going to be able to direct it. But I did fall in love with directing and I would love to direct another film.
How did the story come to be?
JACK: I conceived the idea of wanting to tell a 70's suburban story but I wanted it set in space in the future of the 70s and then I gathered my favorite actors together at my house and through months of improv I would direct them through scenes and record the whole thing. At night I would type out that was working. So it evolved through improv.
Is that how 5 writers came to be a part of it?
JACK: Yes, they're all geniuses that breathed life into this idea; and created these indelible characters so it was easy to turn it into a movie. It was there. We just needed to open it into a world and we added a few characters.
And your character, Captain Glenn, Patrick, tell us a little more about him. It was interesting how he developed throughout the movie.
PATRICK: I was sort of working backwards as you read a script and you see where he goes at the end and the cathartic moments that he has with the moments with the robot and the moment at the end of the movie coming to terms with who he is as a person. Then you work backwards and cover it all up. And that's the fun part. When you first meet him and everything's bottled and pushed down. The emotions are all very real but the whole aesthetic of it ; that's where the comedy comes in. Once you feel very settled in the core of it then you can fill a universe when you have this great script and great set and design and the costumes and the way Jeff was shooting it and the way you understood how you fit into the rest of the movie then I could blow him out a little bit.
JACK: Glenn goes through the biggest change and the one you discover the most about and I feel that when I watch it. You get so much empathy for him in the end.
PATRICK: I love that. We talked about that earlier. The types of comedies; I like to find awkward moments when some people find alarming or emotional and other people find really hilarious. To me, that's the human condition, the awkward laughter, the awkward situations. Some of the scene with Liv who's so earnest and so open you want to play the complete opposite for the scene to sync. When you think of any comedic team, it always works with the balance of how the complete opposite that they are. So when you see someone that's so open and honest, you want to really shut down and go completely the other way to have a further journey.
JACK: And I love that they just sit there at that tiny bridge in silence all day and do that.
PATRICK: It was completely horrible.
Are you the kind of actor that does character backstories?
PATRICK: If it serves the play. I'm always about what you need. If some director comes to me and says, "I've got this whole backstory." I'll look at it and enjoy it. It's usually informative but for me, a lot of that's answered in the script. If there are major gaping holes in the discovery of your character, that's nice to fill that in but I find it easier to play moment to moment when dealing with the relationship. Not necessarily, "When Glenn was 10." That's helpful for some people. It just depends on the role. It's usually supported by the script. You get as much of a backstory on these people as much as you need to know.
Did you know each other prior to this project?
JACK AND PATRICK: Oh yeah.
PATRICK: We have the same Alma Mater which is nice to have the same reference. We met the first time through Seth at La Hoya in 1997.
Any plans to do a play soon?
PATRICK: It's just trying to find the right one. I'm excited to do Guys and Dolls at Carnegie Hall (one night only on April 4, 2014). That'll be a trip. To share the stage with Nathan (Lane) in a role that I saw him in probably one of the definitive productions of Guys and Dolls revival. I remember seeing that in college. Just to be up there with him will be a thrill.
Do you like doing movies or live theater more?
PATRICK: I love stage. That's like a musician being in a studio wanting to get the lick right or I made a record. But it's nothing like saying and now we're going to play it out to people. I love making movies. I've now done more movies than I did theater and that's in a weird way sad to think but there's nothing like the experience of doing theater. I'm constantly looking for things and get offers and want to get things.
JACK: When I get Disaster to Broadway.
PATRICK: It's also the complete opposite of the schedule so it's very difficult for me. When you've done something for a year, year and a half; and I was always the guy that if I'm doing theater, I 'm doing theater. I don't call in. I love that. So it's gotta be something that I want to live with for many months and that's hard to find. Even in the movie roles it's always about finding something really different. And that's very difficult in the state of theater, in the state of musical theater to find something that is really different and something not done before. Film you have much more. You go from this to a horror movie to a western. I like all that stuff.
Are you still keeping your voice in shape?
PATRICK: Yes. I got away from it for a while. I've been much more conscious of it in the past 6 months. And my voice lessons that I have not had in years. I want to sing more. Singing a couple of times a year with a band is not; truthfully doing the movies is much more s especially doing horror movies just wrecks your voice. So I need to go back. I never had any vocal trouble in a play but in movies it's so easy to go, "Great, just scream really loudly. We're just going to do a few takes of that." You'd never do that in theater.
Space Station 76 was written by Jack Plotnick, Jennifer Cox, Sam Pancake, Kali Rocha and Michael Stoyanov and produced by Edward Parks, Rachel Ward, Dan Burks, Joel Michaely and Katherine Ann McGregor. Niraj Bhatia and Frank Mele serve as executive producers.
Look for more information at spacestation76.com and where you can see this comedy/drama. It's worth a look.
PHOTO CREDIT: Kathy Strain