Hey friends, Barbarella here. I had a nice chat with Ryan Guzman, whom you may know from 911, but who also stars in the fun horror flick, THE CLEANSING HOUR which is currently out on VOD, Digital HD, and DVD. The film, combining both horror and social commentary, takes the story a little further than I had originally expected, which proves very satisfying. Keep reading to see what Ryan has to say about the film and find out about an actual ghost encounter he once had.
In THE CLEANSING HOUR, you play Max, also known as Father Max, who's obsessed with his social media status, number of likes, followers, etc. How obsessed are you with those things?
“Oh, absolutely not obsessed anymore. I will say that a previous version of me was very obsessed. When I started doing the movie and even pre-production, Damien LeVeck, the director, had asked me for a couple of pictures to use for Father Max's Instagram, and I started going through them and started being cognizant of the fact that I was being kind of vain in my own real life. I was like, "Oh, I've got to take some of this stuff off. I'm believing myself too much with certain things I'm saying. So let's get a little bit of humility with this stuff." And yeah, now I don't care one bit about it. I actually deleted all my social sites, and when I feel like I want to post, I'll open them back up, post, and then delete it right after.”
What do you think the future of social media will be?
“I think the future of social media is a very scary topic because the influence aspect of it can really push some people into negative spaces in their own lives. I think it also can be a very big positive with the connection that we can all have and how we can all help each other. I don't know if everybody's seen THE SOCIAL DILEMMA documentary on Netflix. That one opened my eyes up to a lot of different things. I think there's a time limit that we should all have with the social sites, and we should all be living in our real life, because I feel like a lot of people are on their phones a little bit too long and not looking up from that screen realizing there's a whole life in front of them.”
Right. So, in the movie, on the live-stream chats, there are a lot of people who express how hot Max is. Do you see yourself as a hot guy? And how does it make you feel when others see you that way?
“The only one I care about thinking of me as good looking is my girl. Yeah, I'll do anything and everything to make her see me as attractive and what not. But as far as everybody else, again, a younger version of me fed off of what other people said, and I would lean towards certain looks and certain ways of talking and acting. I think a more authentic version of me right now is just whatever package I come in at this point in time. I think there's an attraction level to certain people that goes beyond looks, and it's more attitude and behavioral habits and carrying yourself a certain way. I feel like I'm attractive. I want to be attractive for that.”
Yeah. That's kind of a segue into my next question. How do you define beauty?
“I think I personally have found beauty in so many different things. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I really think that holds true. What I might find beautiful, other people might not. But I know that if other people were to share with me what they found beautiful, I would be able to empathize with that and see how beautiful it was. It's really just seeing that life in general is beautiful. WE deem things ugly.”
You spend most of the movie in one room, so it's almost like being on a stage. How does working in a confined space like that impact how you work?
“So many things happened because of the tight space that we worked in and how long we worked in that space, and they're beautiful things because it offered us a level of comfort. We really lived in this space, and you can feel that when you watch the movie. There could be a level of pressure that comes with that, with being one of four or three actors that are on that set, and then you have the whole show to carry on your shoulders, but it felt like a play. It felt like we were just so in tune with each other and so feeding off each other's next action or reaction that I was excited to come to work and just have fun.”
How did you go about exploring the role?
“We went through a couple of different things. Me and Damien had a conversation about how he saw Father Max and how I saw Father Max. We actually talked about our own personal lives, and I told him at some point in time, I went to a seminary when I was a boy. I was an altar boy for the longest time. I was raised Catholic, very strict, and when I went to the seminary to see if I wanted to even become a priest, it shed light on a lot of different things. And as I grew older, I started seeing different sides of the coin. Damien had a similar kind of background, not the seminary. We wanted this guy to be very egotistical. We wanted him to mirror the worst versions of ourselves that we see on the internet. And we also wanted not so much that people hate the guy, but people can understand how he got to be who he is.”
What was it like working with Damien?
“It was awesome. I feel it’s very seldom in my past that I've been able to work with certain people that are so collaborative and creative in that collaboration. One of them happened to be Richard Linklater. The other one is Damien LeVeck. There are a couple others, but Damien was so open to working with Kyle, Alix, and me in the ideas that we had, changing up a little bit of the dialogue and the intent behind it. All of that was kind of malleable. Damien is an incredible person. I think he has a very bright future in front of him. I think he's refining his skill set. He came as an editor, and now he's a director/editor, which I think are the best kinds of directors, so I'm excited to see what he has in store for us in the future.”
What do you think is the most important thing people should understand about Max?
“I think at the end of the day, he's a very lonely person.”
This film addresses exorcism and demonic possession. What are your thoughts on those subjects?
“Me personally, I've had an encounter with a ghost, actually. It was the weirdest fucking thing in the world. I don't know how to describe it. Every time I talk about it, I get chills. I don't know if people are going to think I'm crazy or not, but I heard a ghost at one point in time. I was living in a house, and I was with my roommate's dog. He jetted out the room, started looking downstairs. I told him to come back. I [went] to get him, bring him back in the room, and as I was out and trying to get him to come back in the room, I heard a voice call out his name, and it was a very eerie voice. I reached out to all my roommates because I thought they were playing pranks on me. I reached out to everybody that might've jumped into the house or what not, and they were not there. They were not even close. One was in Sacramento while I was in LA. The other one was in Europe or something.
“So I do believe spirits are there for sure. I do believe there is something else out there. I don't think that we as humans know everything and can categorize everything. Anytime that I feel that there's a presence or something like that, I automatically go, "Hey, I'm on your side. Don't worry. We can have fun."”
What did you learn about yourself from working on this film?
“What I learned through this is, again, it goes back to humility and honesty. Some of the things that I saw about my own self by searching through the character of Max, I didn't really like about myself. I had to realize that I needed to change, that at some point in time, if not now, before my son or daughter picks up on some habit that I don't want them to pick up on. I learned a lot about myself and what really matters in this life.”
What was the craziest thing that happened on set?
“A lot of crazy things as far as effects, but something that actually no one really knows was the scene where Alix headbutts Father Max, and this is the first indication of the demon coming through. That actually really happened. She actually headbutted me straight on the eye and gave me a welt over my eye and a black eye. We just went through with it, and I was like, "Hurry up. Put some makeup on, and let's keep on going. This is awesome." And yeah, that's how crazy it got on our set. But I mean, there were a lot of people getting strangled and thrown around the room, and it was crazy.”
Do you consider yourself a workaholic?
“If you asked my family, they would say 1,000% yes. They'll say, "Yeah, this fool cannot stop working at something. He's always got his hands in twelve pots." I don't feel like I'm a workaholic. I just feel free in this work, you know?”
Yeah. So when you're working on a project, do you ever dream about it?
“Yeah. Yeah. I get kind of obsessed with it. Because I didn't really go to acting school - I've only taken two acting classes in my life - I was learning on the go and [through a] trial-by-fire type deal so I have to throw myself in the situation so that way I'm not really trying to act. I'm more so just trying to be natural when the camera goes on. So, I find myself with some crazy dreams, some demon dreams when I was doing CLEANSING HOUR. When I was doing BOY NEXT DOOR, some crazy dreams that I was like, "Okay, buddy." But yeah, it all depends on what I'm a part of.”
Do you ever dream in character?
“A couple of times I have. It's a weird feeling, but then I'm kind of lucid dreaming so I know that I'm part of the character so I can do what I want.”
Of all the characters you've played, which one do you relate to the most and why?
“Mm, that's kind of a difficult question. I don't know. I feel like every character that I've ever played has a little bit of me in it. That's the only way I can play those characters. But I think 911 has been doing a pretty damn good job with using my real life and implementing it in the storyline. It’s closer to home than a lot of other things, but I don't know. I think I'm on my fourteenth or fifteenth project... I can't remember. I wouldn't be able to answer that. I mean, because there's versions of me throughout my entire life. EVERYBODY WANTS SOME with Richard Linklater, that was a version of me back in college. And that was weird to revisit college through the seventies. BOY NEXT DOOR was a version of me, not to say that I was a serial killer or anything.”
(Laughing) That's good to know.
“But a version of me that was like a love-obsessed person back when I was a little boy just figuring out what love was. Dancing [re: STEP UP: REVOLUTION] - when I was in Sacramento, dancing used to be a good thing for all of us to get together. Granted, it wasn't battles or anything like that. So, it was just parts of me there in every single film I've ever done.”
This was filmed in Romania. Did you get to do any sightseeing while you were there?
“Yeah. Yeah. I love Romania, actually. I think the first day we got there, me, Kyle and Alix all linked up, and we just started to walk around, and everything and the people were super nice. Actually, the people are very honest and very blunt about how they feel, which I appreciate, but a lot of other people might not. If they don't like something, they'll tell you right away. Or if they don't think something looks good on you, they'll be like, "Nah, you're ugly." So outside of that, the scenery and everything was incredible. The atmosphere was incredible.”
Did you make any New Year's resolutions this year?
“No New Year's resolutions. I name the years. It's not so much what the year's going to do, but it's what I need to focus on within that year. So last year was the year of clear vision and maybe seeing things that I don't want to see that I need to work on or seeing things that I haven't seen in a while that I need to be appreciative for. The year before that was the year of balance, trying to find a balance in life, trying to understand what balance is even incorporating in my life. And then this year, it's been a year of humility. Really being completely honest with myself and how I feel and allowing other people to really help me in my own growth and getting out of my own way so that I can do something bigger than myself and bigger than my own ego.”
Well, folks, that’s all the time we had to chat. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to have spoken with Ryan, especially because I love the idea of picking something on which to focus at the beginning of every year as opposed to just making a resolution. Self-improvement is an ongoing process, and his method of refocusing annually on an area needing attention is a fantastic idea I may use going forward.
I also really enjoyed Damien LeVeck’s energetic film in which Ryan Guzman stars alongside Alix Angelis and Kyle Gallner. THE CLEANSING HOUR is available now. Check out the trailer.