A bunker could be a sanctuary or a prison in 10 Cloverfield Lane. With Paramount Home Media Distribution releasing the film on a Blu-ray / DVD / Digital HD combo pack today, Daily Dead had the opportunity to speak with actor John Gallagher Jr., who plays Emmett in the film, about improvising with Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman, unknowingly becoming a part of the Cloverfield franchise, and his respective roles in Hush and The Belko Experiment, the latter of which he refers to as “Office Space meets The Purge.”

Can you tell me how you got involved with this project? My understanding was that it wasn't initially a Cloverfield movie, so what attracted you to this story and character?

John Gallagher Jr.: I checked my email one day, and saw that my agent had sent me a script to take a look at. The working title was Valencia, but then there was a parenthetical that said, “aka The Cellar.” I was intrigued by both of the titles, and I started to see some of the names that were involved, and of course, you can't help but have a name like J.J. Abrams leap out at you when you're looking at that.

I finished the script and I thought it was amazing, and then I met the director, Dan Trachtenberg. We hit it off, and I could tell that he had a great vision for the movie, and I believed that he could do it, and then I saw a short film that he made that proved to me that he absolutely had a lot of vision and some serious chops. For someone who had never made a feature film before, I totally believed that he had it in him to do it.

Then I found out that John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead had signed on, and my first thought was, “I don't think you could find two better people for those roles.” They're pitch-perfect. I've been a big fan of both of theirs for years, and absolutely believed that they would do some fantastic things for the roles. Then I sent in an audition tape and crossed my fingers that I would get the gig, and I did, and it was as much of a joy as it was reading it. Making the movie itself was absolutely a joy. It was so much fun.

At the time, I had no idea that I was signing up to be part of the legacy of Cloverfield, and that I would be in the spiritual successor to the film. I had no clue that any of that was coming. Even after we wrapped the movie, I didn't find out for about another year that we had entered into the “Cloververse”, as it's been referred to in the past. I just thought I was lucky enough to be in one thing, and then it turned out that I was lucky enough to be in this whole other thing. It was such a roller coaster ride, and a total organic series of surprises, being involved in it.

Some of my favorite scenes had to be when the three of you were having dinner. It really is a testament to how great all three of you are as actors and how well you jelled. Can you talk about how the three of you worked together on those scenes? Was it pretty much all in the script or was there a lot of improv?

John Gallagher Jr.: We would get drafts as we were getting closer and closer to shooting it, and things would get rewritten here and there, but in every draft there was one version of this dinner scene gone wrong, of these three people trying to sit down and have what, in the frame, initially looks like an ideal family dinner. Of course it isn't, and it devolves rather quickly.

We didn't have any rehearsal going into the movie. We'd just get there on the day of and talk through the scene. Dan totally encouraged us to improvise with each other, and in fact, some of the stuff that I say to John, and some of the conversations I have with Mary, is stuff that got improvised.

We started referencing board games in that [dinner] scene, which was in the script, but then Dan was like, "just keep going, and just throw in different board games and start to improvise about the board games we played,” and so Mary started talking about Trouble and the Pop-O-Matic bubble, and then I started talking about Operation, and we just kept going off of that with each other. There are things in that scene that actually ended up being improvised moments that they ended up keeping when they were editing it together. Those were some of my favorite moments, shooting those scenes where we really just got to sit and talk to each other.

Genre audiences got to see some different sides of you this year, as you starred in two very different types of roles for 10 Cloverfield Lane and Hush. As an actor, what types of roles do you look for to challenge yourself? How important is it to take on roles that are less comfortable for you?

John Gallagher Jr.: It really just begins with the script. If there's something about it that jumps out at me and feels original and exciting, that's something that I would like to see. The truth is that I don't necessarily want to be recognized as a personality, as somebody watching a movie and going, “Oh, here's that guy again, cool, I like this guy.” I'd rather have people go, “Wait, is that the guy from that other thing?” I like to change and evolve and challenge myself, and hopefully surprise myself in the end, and I like to do things that are a little scary. It's really terrifying to have that feeling where you go, “Oh my god, can I do this? I don't know if I can do this, but I'm going to try, because I want to try.”

I finished Cloverfield in November or December, and then in February or March, I got a call saying that this script had come in, and Mike Flanagan had offered me the role of a masked, nameless, psychotic serial killer with no background or motive, and I thought, “Why did they want me to do this?” I've never done anything like this. I've wanted to. I had to try to convince people to let me play bad guys for years, and nobody ever took the bait. Mike Flanagan, who wrote and directed Hush, asked me if I would, and I totally leapt at the chance. He was like, “I think we should give you a tattoo, shave your head, and I said, “Sounds great, sign me up. Let's go to the barber right now.” Let's find out a way to make this character seem scary, but also real in a sense.

I felt really, really lucky that I got to do such different things back-to-back that people have been digging this year.

After Hush and 10 Cloverfield Lane, a lot of people are wondering what's next for you. Do you have any genre projects coming up?

John Gallagher Jr.: I'm doing a play on Broadway right now with Jessica Lange and Michael Shannon and Gabriel Byrne. We're doing Long Day's Journey into Night, the Eugene O'Neill play, and we've only got two and a half more weeks left of doing it, but we've been doing it since April.

Then, I filmed a movie last year called The Belko Experiment that's an MGM film written by James Gunn, who wrote and directed Guardians of the Galaxy, among other great things that he's done, and directed by Greg McLean, who directed the Wolf Creek movies, which are these really freaky Australian horror movies.

We shot that last year in Colombia, and that's got a great cast: Tony Goldwyn, John C. McGinley, Michael Rooker, David Dastmalchian, Rusty Schwimmer, Brent Sexton, lots of really fantastic actors. It's a huge ensemble. I would describe it as Office Space meets The Purge.

It's funny, I did a lot of dramas and small, character-based indie films in the last year, and then somehow, last year I ended up doing three genre pictures back-to-back, which was a total surprise to me, but it's been an absolute joy working in that field, because it's the kind of movies that I've been watching since I was a teenager, so it's been really fun to start working a little bit more in that medium.