He owns an array of strange items that could rival the displays of Marvel's The Collector, and with a heavenly voice that can kill, Lily is the prized possession of the eccentric Mr. Nyx in Gregg Bishop's SiREN. Based on David Bruckner's "Amateur Night" segment from V/H/S, SiREN comes out in theaters today from Chiller Films (ahead of its VOD, Digital HD, and DVD release on December 6th), and Daily Dead recently had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Nyx himself, Justin Welborn, who discussed bringing the enigmatic character to life in his fourth collaboration with Gregg Bishop, and also reflected on their midnight movie masterpiece, Dance of the Dead.
What was your initial reaction when you heard that they wanted to do a feature film adaptation of David Bruckner's segment from V/H/S?
Justin Welborn: Well, Bruckner actually called me up and asked me about. He was like, "You think this is a good idea?" And I was like, "F*** yeah, it's a good idea!" I was really excited. I was like, "Well, David, if you can't do it, Gregg's the perfect person to do it. We've been drawing these lines parallel to each other from The Signal crowd to the Dance of the Dead crowd for a long time, and to have those lines finally meet up was really fortuitous. It was a strange synchronicity—Dave had some other things going on, he'd still be involved, but Gregg was going to take the helm.
As an actor, you got to do so much with this character, going from spectrum to spectrum. Was it a juicy role for you to dig into?
Justin Welborn: It absolutely was. Gregg really gave me a lot of leeway to play with it. As a matter of fact, Nyx had another name to begin with. I'm the one that came to the table with that. I brought my concepts for a lot of the costuming. I was like, "Just let me play with this." Let me find where this fits in this movie. It was developed, but it was also developing. That's the wonderful part about independent movies, and when they're happening right at the moment, is that you get the right people. Just stand back a little and let them drive. Really the actors can take a little and make a lot out of it.
Not that the script had anything lacking in it, or anything like that. It suggested so much that it was really great to get a hold of it. I'm very excited to see it again. It's really one of my favorite roles. I feel like Dante from V/H/S Viral was a lead up to it, was sort of a taste of what Nyx could be. And Nyx just really got to go and play and not be so much of a dupe. Dante's kind of controlled by this cloak and this demon and things like that. Nyx does the controlling.
Since you brought so much to the table with Nyx, and Nyx has quite a collection, did you ever come up with your own backstory for how he got into that unique business of gathering all of those strange things?
Justin Welborn: A bit, yeah, because I wanted him to have already come in, and he's been doing this for a long time. I think he's been at this work for longer than he should be old. It's sort of like continuously making a lot of different deals. It's not just one deal. Your soul is ticking away little pieces of your mind, and your past, and your memory. He says at some point, "Who sent you? That grubby little shaman from Panama City?" It's a line similar to that. He's got these connections and collections. I don't think he's in any way the ultimate evil. He's a purveyor in vice. He's along the lines of John Constantine in a way.
There something about the fact that he just carries a knife—a real knife, not a magic blade. He's not throwing spells around. It's not that kind of magic. You have to leave that to the magical creatures involved. There are incantations and spells that need certain potions, and leeches or delivery mechanisms, whatever they're going to be. He's been doing this a lot longer than he should be alive. You just keep bargaining away little pieces of yourself. I do think, though, that once he gets a hold of the Siren, that really pushed his collection and ability and powers into a whole different level. He was able to siphon off more youth. When she's gone, he begins to drain a bit. His control is waning.
I've certainly thought about it quite a bit. I don't necessarily do a lot of thinking about it while I'm acting, but it's all informative. It's all stuff that is really there to source from while you're doing it. Once I'm in the costume, and I get the glasses and the hat, got that knife tucked away, you know it's there.
You and Gregg work so well together. Is there anything in particular about working with Gregg that you enjoy?
Justin Welborn: It's fast. That shorthand really does make the pace and the understanding between the actor and the director is already there. He trusted me to bring Nyx, and then when I walked into the room, that's what I did. It was the same thing with Kyle [Welborn's character in Bishop's Dance of the Dead]. A quick, funny story about Dance of the Dead: when I turned into the zombie as Kyle, I told those kids, I came in through the kitchen and I was about to rise up, and I walked over to the boys, and I was like, "If you don't stop me, I'm gonna bite you, and I'm gonna hurt you" [laughs]. And they fought like nobody's business. It was safe, but it was real. It's all up there on the screen, and that's the sort of thing that Gregg appreciates. He doesn't necessarily have to go, "Okay, let's really bring up the intensity."
You have some exciting projects on deck like Beyond the Gates and a few other films. Is there anything that you can tease that you have coming up?
Justin Welborn: Currently I'm filming Godless, which is a Netflix Western, with Michelle Dockery and Jeff Daniels. I'm actually in Santa Fe right now and I've been filming that for about three months. It's a great exploration and departure into the entire Western genre, which I have absolutely loved. I've gotten to learn how to ride a horse low and shoot guns and take the whole bad guy thing to a different level. It's been quite an adventure. I'm wrapping it up soon and I'll be back in L.A. I'm very excited about getting home to L.A. to see the film and sit next to Gregg, and we can both go, "Can you believe that we made a movie?!" [Laughs.] It doesn't matter how often that we've done it, it's always exciting to see your work on the big screen.
In case you missed it, check out Patrick Bromley's review of SiREN, and view the trailer below for a tease of what to expect.