I spoke with Shannon Kook about Dark Places, The Conjuring, A Christmas Horror Story, and so much more. Shannon plays Trey in Dark Places, which is available now on DIRECTV and will be opening in theaters on August 7. Shannon spoke about his character in Dark Places and how he can relate to him. He was fantastic to speak with. Definitely check out Dark Places, which also stars Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Christina Hendricks, Drea de Matteo, Chloë Grace Moretz, Corey Stoll, and Tye Sheridan.
Lena: I was just laughing at your Twitter posts about public nose pickers.
[You guys have to follow Shannon on Twitter @ShannonKook.]
Shannon Kook: [Laughing.] Yeah, I keep on seeing that all the time. They are not discreet at all. I’ve seen them doing it on the street curb or just sitting on a corner. They just ram their finger right up there. That is just so gross. Then you see them wipe it or they eat it. It’s so nasty.
Lena: [Laughing.] Ugh! That’s very disgusting.
Shannon Kook: Oh, yeah. You see some weird things.
Lena: You were fantastic in The Conjuring.
Shannon Kook: Thanks a lot. That was a big blessing. I didn’t realize that it would do so well. I just thought I was doing another horror movie. I guess some horror movies can get backed into a corner. An acting teacher said to me to take the work of some people in a horror movie and change the genre into a World War II film, and it could be taken completely differently, like they could get nominated for an award. It’s the same level of work, the same depth of emotion, it’s just in a different context. I was watching Mad Max and that director really pulled it together. There is so much symbolism in his work and comments on society, women, and the patriarchal system. It was really interesting and I think if it were a war movie, maybe it would get nominated for an Oscar.
The cool thing about The Conjuring was that it became a respected film just for being a film. Tarantino rated it as one of his top ten films of the year. James Wan sent me a text on my birthday, while he was doing Furious Seven. Everyone loved working with him. A lot of them commented to me saying how it was a different set and all of that trickled down from James’ demeanor.
Lena: Norma Bates was in it. [Vera Farmiga is incredible as Norma in Bates Motel. You definitely have to check it out when it returns to A&E. It has been renewed for another two seasons.]
Shannon Kook: Yes, she was leaving to shoot the show. She is as beautiful in person as in essence—just the way she exists and talks to people—as she is physically to look at. You meet a lot of beautiful people and sometimes the way they talk to people is gross, and you don’t find them attractive at all. Vera has this esoteric and graceful magic about her that when you are with her it’s a parallel. She was great. She called me a peacock because I would always be joking around with her. She would laugh at me all the time.
Lena: Horror movies seem to be your thing. You are also starring in A Christmas Horror Story with William Shatner.
Shannon Kook: Yeah, horror seems to be my thing. I don’t know how that came about because before The Conjuring I said to myself that I really wanted to do a horror. It sort of manifested into that. A Christmas Horror Story worked out and a guy on the radio made a comment to me that Canada is really good at filming Christmas movies and horror movies. Every actor has been in either one or both of those. I guess that is a thing. I’ve been in Holidaze and now A Christmas Horror Story. I was really impressed with A Christmas Horror Story. It’s not like any horror movie that I’ve seen before. It’s an anthology, so there are three different stories with three different directors. The tone of each of the stories is completely different. One is very eerily comedic and twisted, one is more dramatic, and one is more for teens. There is one with a family and then one with a bunch of teenagers and myself and one with Father Christmas, or Santa. Father Christmas is fighting all the elves because they are possessed by the zombie virus. It’s not the typical Father Christmas that you’ve seen. He’s chopping off the heads of the crazy elves that are attacking him. It’s so operatic and dramatic that it is sometimes indirectly funny and then you’ll switch to another scene, but it’s all tied together by William Shatner who is the radio DJ. He’s talking over the radio during Christmas and he ties the story together because we are all related in some way. I play a high school student, who is a bit of a jock. He helps his friend with a school project where they investigate a death that happened in a school exactly a year ago. The film got a great festival reception. I’m excited. It’s supposed to come out later this year.
Horror is drawn to me right now. I’m a spiritual guy anyway, so I kind of like that I’m getting to delve into that realm of things outside of the common consciousness. I’m supposed to shoot a comedy later this year. I think my part in Dark Places will definitely change the way that people see me as an actor. I usually play these more together people, maybe pretty boys sometimes, but in this case he’s not as likable and a bit more imposing and dark that’s for sure.
Lena: You play young Trey in Dark Places. You are the younger version of J. LaRose’s character.
Shannon Kook: J. LaRose has one scene in the film. The bulk of the storyline is mine. I’m the younger version, but they main character arc is my Trey. He sort of brings it full circle in the end where he has one scene when Charlize confronts him. My character is based in the 80s when Charlize’s character was a kid. They try and figure out what happened with the whole massacre of the family. I’m closely tied with her older brother, played by Tye Sheridan who plays Cyclops in X-Men: Apocalypse. As a male figure, I have a big influence on him. His father is not in his life and is an alcoholic. He only has his sisters and I always berate him about his manhood. I rub off on him. Chloë Grace Moretz plays his girlfriend Diondra. It’s interesting because I think Ben and Trey are very similar characters. I just think that Trey channels it in a different way. He lashes out and has more of an Aries energy, if you are talking astrology. Ben internalizes it, he holds onto things and doesn’t really know what to do with his emotions. I think Ben really pisses of Trey because he sees himself in Ben but Ben is a reflection of what Trey doesn’t want to be. He thinks Ben is like a pussy basically, and he tries to make him man up a bit. Then we get involved in drugs and those sorts of things and it all leads to Ben being convicted of the massacre of his family. All of his sisters are slaughtered and there is blood all over the walls and his mother and stuff and then Charlize confronts him as an older brother, Corey Stoll plays the older version of Tye.
Lena: The film has a phenomenal cast.
Shannon Kook: It was. I wish I got to work and meet the rest of them, but we shot it as two separate movies. They shot present day first and then the 80s. I feel so lucky to be part of the cast.
Lena: Christina Hendricks from Mad Men stars in it. Were you a Mad Men fan?
Shannon Kook: I’ve heard of her scenes from acting classes. People have brought her up specifically, but I’ve never really watched it. I’ve heard that it’s a great show. I should watch it but there is just so much to watch. I’m now watching Breaking Bad. I’m totally addicted to that. Christina Hendricks was really gracious on set. She has the heaviest stuff to deal with in the storyline, so I was always very weary of chatting with her because I wasn’t sure if she was in a working process. She would often be in her trailer at lunchtime, but when she was sitting with us I was reluctant to speak with her because I wasn’t sure if I would be breaking her flow. When you are around big stars it is a little bit intimidating. I’m a very friendly guy and people always think that it’s strange for being friendly as it is, but when you are friendly with celebrities it just feels like you are kissing their butt.
When I arrived in the lecture room Chloë Moretz just came over and hugged me straight away. That really put me at ease and made me feel welcome. There was no attitude. She was lovely to work with. She’s very interesting and also an Aquarius like me. She would be joking around between takes so easy and just switch it and do it. She’s so good. I guess we are different because I really like to sit with the character between takes. I just try to stay in that energy. It’s hard to stay in those spaces because physically you feel it in your body. You are carrying it off set and you need to regulate your energy. Chloë is just seamless. She’s like a prodigy. She does a lot of work. She’s always working with her brother, who is her coach. They work the scenes at night off set. She was also taking cello lessons because she was playing a musician in If I Stay. She’s a hard worker. I loved seeing the way she approached me because sometimes when you arrive on set it’s hard to integrate your energy and feel that you are with the group. The way she came and welcomed me reminded me that one day when I’m the lead on a TV or movie to just be welcoming to the new cast, to actually bring them in rather than expect them to come to you.
I’ve always found that gracious people are the most successful ones. Tatiana Maslany, who is on Orphan Black, I used to work in a self-taping studio where people tape their auditions to go in for auditions in L.A. or New York. I taped her and she was one of the first actors to actually come back and thank me for being a reader. Stephen Amell, who plays the lead in Arrow, I taped him and he came back about a week later and thanked me for reading with him. I run my own studio here now and I coach actors and they’ll book the lead in something and you’ll never find out. It’s just cool to see people be conscious and gracious and not caught up in being number one on a call sheet.
Lena: Dark Places sounds really interesting.
Shannon Kook: Yeah, I hope people really like it. Gone Girl was phenomenal. I really liked the performance of Rosamund Pike. It’s a different director, so it will be a different sort of film.
Lena: Did you read the book?
Shannon Kook: I read the book in two days. It’s sitting next to me right now. It’s got all these notes sticking out of it. I had it on set with me at all times.
Lena: How does it compare to the book?
Shannon Kook: It’s so hard to make everything from a book be included in an hour and a half movie, so hopefully it will be communicated in the performances in the film. I need to see the final cut of the film. I really dug the script and obviously all of the cast that joined the project. I’m pumped to see it. I was researching as much as I could. Every scene that I would do I would compare with the book and I would look at it as a bible. I would try to see how I could bring everything from the book into the scene. At the end of the day, it comes down to what the director cuts and what the producers like. There are so many voices in it that it becomes it’s own thing. That’s the whole beauty of film. Film is a collaboration between the crew, makeup, wardrobe, sets, actors, and directors—all of those things rolled into one. The book is just one person writing it and maybe two people editing it. I’m hoping that equation speaks to a lot of people.
It’s one of those books that it’s common for people to put down because it’s just too heavy for them. It’s a dark piece that has a lot of depths about family. The depths in it for me were about family. The love we have for each other that is expressed in silence that some of us may never know of. You have these things with your parents, or loved ones, that you can never really say I love you. Within that there can be a lot of misunderstandings. You often don’t know what the other person feels or what they are doing for you without you being aware of it. My dad immigrated to Canada for his family and he had two BMWs and a two story house and now he’s taking the subway and goes to Chinatown every Sunday to get his groceries. He never really talks about what he’s done and all the sacrifices that he’s made for his family. He put himself in a place of discomfort for us. He could have just stayed there. That’s very much reflected in this book. People don’t understand that there are a lot of misunderstandings that happen. It’s just a catastrophe in the end. It spoke to me on many levels. I was extremely honored to be able to play Trey and he spoke to me on a personal level. I’m mixed in race. I just don’t look like my family on my maternal side. They live in an area that was the result of apartheid. I grew up there for a while and was really attached to that side of my family as well as my paternal side. I’ve always never felt like I belonged on either side of my races. In South Africa I felt like an outsider and in Canada I felt like an outsider. I’m not quite South African. I’m not Canadian. Identity was always a question of mine, so I could relate to Trey. In my opinion, he’s not as attached to his Native heritage. He’s just angry–his family, heritage, and society—he’s very fiery and emotional but has decided to be the strongest person around but in turn bullies people and comes off the wrong way. Bullies are the ones that need a hug. The last thing that they want to be seen as is weak, so they overcompensate. Trey has obviously expressed himself in a different way than I have or that previous characters that I have played have. I think Zane on Degrassi was gay and very uncomfortable with himself. He was a very hurt and suppressed character too. They both manifested in completely different ways. Zane expresses himself like an Aquarian, very humanitarian, cerebral, and innovative. Whereas Trey is an Aries, more forward, temperamental, impulsive, and fiery. Zane took a more objective understanding of his situation when people would bully him and tease him and throw him in dumpsters for being who he was. They were both very interesting to play, having just played Zane and then Trey.
They were both very therapeutic for me. I felt like I gained insight on myself, and my life, from both of them because I got to see how they expressed themselves towards others in situations. You don’t get to see all of that in a movie or a TV show because at the end of the day they have to cut it to the story. Some of the scenes that I had scripted we didn’t get to shoot. A lot of the stuff that’s in the book isn’t in the script because it had to be tailored down to fit into a film.
Dark Places is available now on DIRECTV VOD and will be opening in theaters on August 7.
Shannon Kook on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SHANNONKOOK
Shannon Kook on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Shannon-Kook/133124946726420
Photo: Shanna Fisher