There are original ideas, and then there are ideas that are so out of left field they make your eyebrows rise and jaw drop. That’s the case with Glorious, a Lovecraftian horror that revolves around glory holes and otherworldly creatures. Wes, played by Ryan Kwanten, decides to drink himself into oblivion at a rest stop after a difficult breakup. Things go from bad to downright weird when Wes encounters an ominous voice (J.K. Simmons) in a bathroom stall. The voice locks Wes in the bathroom and takes him on a psychological journey that breaks his spirit until he’s allowed to end his suffering by offering a sacrifice through a glory hole.
That synopsis may be difficult for many to understand, but Kwanten saw it as an exciting way to challenge his capabilities as an actor. In an interview with Digital Trends, Kwanten explains how Glorious became one of the most satisfying experiences in his life. He also discusses the True Blood reboot and if he has any interest in returning as Jason Stackhouse.
Note: This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.
Digital Trends: Glorious is a Lovecraftian horror film involving glory holes. What is your first reaction when you hear that?
Ryan Kwanten: [Laughs] Well, now I actually have to think J.K. Simmons is the first thing that comes to mind. It was all those things. Shudder and J.K., they were already kind of percolating before I was sort of brought on board. So it would [take] a far braver man than me to say no to something like this with that kind of caliber and juice attached.
When you eventually read that script, what stood out to you?
I truly read nothing like that before. It had allusions to those great plays from back in the day. You know, the sort of two-handers where they keep people entertained just based [on] the fact that the dialogue in the setting was so intense. This kind of had great allusions to that. Rebekah actually said at some point [while] laughing that “we could do this as a play.” It could quite easily run as that.
We were fortunate in the fact that we were able to shoot a lot of it in chronological order, which made it feel very organic and new. When you’re shooting something as crazy as this, as anarchic and absurd as this movie is, it’s important to know where you’ve come from and know where you’re going, and that chronological style of shooting definitely helped us.
I had the chance to speak with the film’s director Rebekah [McKendry], and she said the role of Wes had to be played straight. It couldn’t be comedic or silly. How were you able to give a dramatic performance in this weird, absurd story?
I have to just take it off to J.K. Look, this movie doesn’t work unless you have [him]. I guess I’m more of the laconic character, but J.K.’s sense of timing, his sense of both the horror and the humor in it. He’s greater than a human. He’s playing a god. So, in essence, you really do want someone that has a sense of reality to the cadence of that delivery.
Did you talk to J.K. about your scenes before shooting them? It must feel different acting alongside a voice instead of a human.
Yeah. Look, I’ve been fortunate enough to have done a lot of voice acting in the past [in] movies and television. This was unbelievable because we did get the chance to do hours of research with J.K. as well as do two, two and a half full read-throughs so we could really get an understanding of where he was going. But then for the 18 days that we were shooting, it was a producer that sort of filled in for J.K. and did the voice. He did a surprisingly good J.K. impersonation, believe it or not.
We had a really good sense of where J.K. wanted to take it. He even got the chance to kind of react to my performance and how Rebekah kind of found the project after shooting it – how it had changed and how that might have affected J.K.’s original sense of it.
You touched on how Glorious was shot like a theatrical production with the way you were blocking and rehearsing all of the movements. Rebekah said you were doing ten-minute takes. How did you kind adapt to this style of filmmaking? Did you enjoy doing long takes?
That’s a fantastic question because it’s really quite unusual even if you have those scenes that are written that are ten pages long. For the most part, those scenes are a minute a page. Very rarely do you get the opportunity to run them from beginning to end, but Rebekah was adamant from the get-go that we were going to be playing those scenes in one take.
For me, spending a lot of that time on set by myself really did help to gain momentum. A movie like this lives or breathes in its pacing, and so for us, it was really important to keep us on our toes. Theoretically, we were in a truck stop restroom for over 80% of the movie so we want to cover every inch that we can of that rest stop restroom. We want to take Wes to every gamut of emotion possible in that 80-odd minutes.
Was it intimidating being the only person in a scene for long periods? Was it a nice reprieve to act with another person when Wes interacts with people at the rest stop?
It’s funny, man. That’s why I love movies like this so much because I don’t see myself as different from anyone else. Everyone was so uniquely important, particularly in a movie of this size. Everyone’s doing the job of two or three people, sometimes two or three departments. Whatever I’m doing, I can promise you it’s being outclassed and outworked in at least a dozen other departments by other people. So I’ve got sort of many things to be inspired by on a movie like this when I look around. It was honestly one of the most fruitful and satisfying movie experiences I’ve had in a long, long time.
With True Blood, there have been reboot talks since the show went off the air. Casey Bloys said multiple versions have been presented to him, but they haven’t decided on one. Any news to share on that end, and would you be interested in exploring Jason again?
No. No on both of those things. Like Glorious, that time on True Blood wholeheartedly changed my life. It’s been nothing but incredible to me. But we did seven seasons, and I just think that’s enough for me personally. I feel beyond fortunate to have gotten that far. We came out before the real “binge craze” where you sort of had to wait a week before seeing the next episode, and it really did build up nicely. I think I’d be looking to replicate that experience, and I just don’t think I’m not in the business of replicating.
With streaming, I don’t even know if a show can go seven seasons anymore. Certain shows deserve the weekly format, and I think it’s slowly coming back. Not everything should be watched all at once. But, I think you’re right. It’s hard to replicate what you did in the past.
I agree with you. I think that there’s something [in] having to wait. This is probably a silly segue, but I liken it to reading a book where you have to kind of pick up where you left. Sometimes, a couple of days after. But, it does promote a different form of long-term memory and long-term emotionality as well.
Glorious is streaming exclusively on Shudder.