By our guest blogger, Joel Crabtree
Make no mistake about it, even though Whitney Able, a self-described “blond-haired, blue-eyed, fair-skinned girl” who, in 2008, ranked No. 83 on Maxim’s Hot 100 list, she is one cultured actress with deep childhood ties to Spain and Mexico.
Able, who has been building quite a report in the indie scene with movies such as “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” and IFC’s 2009 release “Mercy,” continues her streak in the indie world with Gareth Edwards’ debut film “Monsters.”
The film takes place six years after NASA sent a probe to collect samples of alien life forms. Mission accomplished. The bad news, however, is that the probe has crashed over Mexico and the creatures have since been developing in that region, known as the “infected zone.”
Able plays Samantha, an American tourist in Mexico opposite her real-life husband Scoot McNairy. Together, the two must cross the infected zone and get Samantha safely back on to U.S. soil.
Whitney took some time recently for a phone interview with WeekinRewind.com to discuss the appeal of filming off Mexico's beaten path, the guerrilla style of filmmaking used for “Monsters” and her initial reaction after first seeing the movie at the South By Southwest Film Festival.
Joel Crabtree: I was just curious how your method of acting is different than your husband’s?
Whitney Able: That’s a very interesting question. There are a few differences. I don’t know, we’re both pretty loose in the moment, but I would say that I work for ... gosh ... you really asked a good question. I’ve never been asked this, and I feel like now I’m gonna give away all my secrets. I work from myself and my life and my experiences. And you’ll have to ask him how he works, and he’ll probably have an opposing answer. I would hate to answer for him, but he has an opposing answer, I’m sure.
JC: So, in the movie “Monsters,” you play an American tourist in Mexico, and I was wondering if you had been to Mexico before filming the movie?
WA: Yeah, actually, I had. I used to live in Spain, when I was little, for a year, and I’m from Texas, where nearly half the population is Hispanic or Latino. And I spent summers living with families in Mexico, and I have a very strong bond to Mexicans in general. Because, you know, even though I’m a blond-haired, blue-eyed, fair-skinned girl, I feel as if I have Mexican blood running in my veins. And I have a deep connection with all of the Spanish-speaking countries because I can communicate with them, because I speak Spanish, and kept going back and getting to know more about the culture and the people. I just completely fell in love with the Spanish-speaking world.
So yes, I have been to Mexico, that was half of the sell for me to go down there. Because I just really was excited to spend time there and really get to know the country outside of just the major cities and such.
JC: I was curious if you’ve ever been in a situation as a tourist where you’ve had a terrible experience? Not on the level of the character in the film, obviously.
WA: I don’t think so, honestly, I don’t think so. But I was exposed to the most I’d ever been exposed to during the filming of the movie. Meaning the scary stuff in real life as a tourist was happening simultaneously while we were filming the movie. So, there was sort of a real parallel story that was very related.
JC: What was it like filming in Mexico on such a small budget
WA: It was fantastic. It was really fantastic. It made me feel -- gosh, you know, there’s just something -- when you work with a big crew and set, and a lot of people and a lot of things, there’s just something that’s sort of imposing about it. Like you just came and popped up in the middle of somebody’s world, and just sort of took over for a day, and then you’re gone and everything’s gone with it. I wonder what it’s like for people in a small town when you come and set up shop and then you’re gone. I’m sure everybody gets excited and things. But this was just sort of more intimate and, more, you know, quiet.
And I think we had a different reaction doing it this way than had we done it [with a] more obvious, in-your-face kind of way. I think people were really receptive and kind, curious but not intimidated to ask or be a part of it. It was just a really nice, easy way to work.
JC: While filming, were you and Scoot given a pretty clear vision of what the creatures would look like or how that was all going to work out? Or did Gareth Edwards kind of leave it to your imagination.
WA: We had a rough idea. There were several sketches that were sent along in the beginning before we left. But they were just ideas. He didn’t go too far from the ideas, so we really weren’t quite sure what size they would be if we were standing here looking up at them until we got to the moment when we were shooting the first monster stuff, and he told us where to put our eyes.
JC: Did you first see the movie at South by Southwest?
JC: What surprised you most about the movie when you finally got to see it in its entirety.
WA: Well, for me, when I first see a film that I’ve worked on, it’s very difficult to remain objective and sort of take my personal stuff out of it. Usually, the first moments after the credits role I’m sitting there, and I’m processing and I’m decompressing. Actually, Gareth thought that we were displeased with the movie because we had to immediately go up and do the Q&A after seeing it for the first time, and I remember just being totally silent. And I was sort of debriefing myself in my head. Just trying to clear my mind.
But I really was so impressed. I was so taken by his artwork, from what he does best, and I was just really -- I’m actually very proud to be a part of this film. And I think that we made it a piece of art, if you will -- it’s all art, you know -- that is open enough for people to make up their own opinions and minds about methaphoric and underlying meanings, and connecting the dots and leaving it open enough for them to do so. And I think that all art should sort of have that element. If you ask a painter what his painting’s about, he’ll tell you to go [screw] yourself, (laughs) you know what I mean?
JC: I know what you mean.
WA: So, I think that we’ve made a nice painting.
JC: What other projects do you have on the horizon?
WA: You know, I’m not quite sure what I’m working on next. “Nikita” is coming out, and I did the second episode. I played a bad guy. I got to shoot people and have a Ukranian accent. And then “Tough Trade” is a pilot for the Epix network, about country music; we shot it in Nashville last year. I’m excited to know more about when people can see that, but we’re very excited about it.
”Monsters” is currently available on demand, and hits theaters Oct. 29. Below is the trailer, what are your thoughts?