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Home Interviews Philip Winchester: SVU alum on new film ‘Endangered Species’ – Exclusive Interview

Philip Winchester: SVU alum on new film ‘Endangered Species’ – Exclusive Interview

by Conor O'Brien
Philip Winchester

Known for playing ‘Peter Stone’ in Dick Wolf’s NBC television universe, actor Philip Winchester discusses his new film Endangered Species from Lionsgate.

The film, which was set and produced in Kenya, also stars Rebecca Romjin, Jerry O’Connell, Michael Johnston, Isabel Bassett and Chris Fisher.

Endangered Species will be available on Apple TV on May 28th, followed by Blu-Ray and DVS on June 1st.

Read on below for Philip Winchester’s full interview with Courageous Nerd all about Endangered Species.

Welcome, Philip and thank you for taking the time to speak with us.

Philip Winchester (PW): Thank you, Conor.

For anyone who hasn’t heard about your new film Endangered Species, how would you describe the premise?

PW: It’s a family drama that looks like it’s going to stay in that boat, then everything goes horribly wrong. It goes off the rails.

In Endangered Species, you play “Jack”, the patriarch of the central family. How did you join the project and what made you want to play Jack?

PW: I was filming with MJ Bassett (director and co-writer) in Johannesburg, South Africa. We were doing a movie called Rogue. We were supposed to turn around and film this movie right off the tails of Rogue. There were a few things that held up it a little bit longer and pushed it into 2020. Of course, as we all know, the world sort of fell apart.

And so, the movie got pushed indefinitely. I got a phone call from MJ, I think around August-September time last year. She said to me, “Look, I think we can pull this off in Kenya. We’re putting a team together and going out to do location scouting. I’ll let you know.”

I didn’t hear from her from quite a while and basically got a phone call saying, “We’re going to do this. We’re going to go in the next two weeks.” That was around October. So she reached out, we pulled the trigger. They put a team together – her and a producer named Molly Hassell. They did an amazing job putting a crew and cast together.

We went out to Nairobi and did a little quarantining. Then, headed out to Ambesoli National Park and shot the movie.

The film is both set and shot in Kenya. Overall, how was your experience of filming in Africa and how the did pandemic affect shooting?

PW: It did and it didn’t. I mean, we had pandemic protocols to go through, COVID testing. Nowadays in movies, you get COVID tested sometimes every day or every three days. We were tested twice a week. We had to quarantine at the beginning, so as not to infect anyone if you had unfortunately picked it up on your travels over.

Mostly, we were pretty free to shoot the movie and to drive around these amazing parts of Kenya and pick up what we could. It was a very free experience in terms of filming, as we would stop what we were doing if we saw something happening and shot it. If we saw a better view or more animals walking through the set. We were in this national reserve.

We kind of had to have the whole script in the back of our heads the whole time. MJ would just call out scene order and we’d shoot it. There was everything going on with all the restrictions in the world at that time and still to this day, unfortunately. We were hugely fortunate to have the freedom we did.

As well as yourself, the cast also includes Rebecca Romjin (X-Men), Jerry O’Connell (Stand By Me) and Michael Johnston (Teen Wolf), Considering the current effects of the pandemic, did you all have to isolate together? Were you able to develop a bond outside of work?

PW: It’s funny, I was talking to someone the other day about that. What I’m really enjoying about this period of time before a film starts is the quarantine time. You get all this time to spend with the script and all this time to discuss stuff with each other. You just didn’t get that before. You’d get off the flight, have red eye, show up the next morning and start filming sometimes.

Now, with the quarantine, I get to make lemonade out of lemons. More time to digest the words, develop the character, discuss those characters with the other performers. It’s just a gift, because that wasn’t the way things were done. A silver lining in all this really is the amount of time we can spend working on it and developing those relationships.

Image courtesy of NBC

Actors have said in the past that they try not to judge their characters. Were you able to relate to Jack at all, or is he very different to your real life personality?

PW: He is very different to my real life personality. I was able to… I guess the word is empathise a little bit. The dynamic in a family can be challenging sometimes to have different opinions or views… Jack is, unfortunately, not a very likable person. That’s sort of what made him fun to play, so oily. He’s such a twat, you know?

It was kind of fun to play that role and just have the antithesis in every scene – not helping out,

In your opinion, do you think fans of Chicago Justice and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit will be surprised by your new role?

PW: I suppose Jack would be closer to those characters. I mean, he’s obviously not a leader in that sense like Peter Stone was. It’s a far cry from Michael Stonebridge (Strike Back) and Alex Kane (The Player), things like that. So, especially doing it with MJ Bassett, we’ve done so many action projects together. This was such a far cry from that.

It was very strange to look up over the camera, to see MJ and not be in the position where we were doing something sort of silly; blowing stuff up or running around. We really had to resist the urge to do that and just trust the words to allow these characters to develop naturally.

In addition to serving as director, MJ Bassett also co-wrote the film alongside her daughter, Isabel (who plays Jack’s daughter, Zoe). How would you describe the experience of having both writers in such close proximity, compared to other films when they may have been more separate?

PW: Yeah, that’s a great question. A lot of the time, the writers aren’t around, like you said. In this case, it helped us because MJ and Izzy could talk about a scene, whether it worked or didn’t work. They could come up with different variations. Then, we could explore that possibility on set right away.

That’s another great thing about working with MJ and Izzy, they’re not precious about these words. They write it because they see it a certain way. Sometimes, when it gets on its feet and starts coming out of actors’ mouths, it just does or doesn’t work. If it doesn’t work, they’re very open to ideas that help. We all have a saying when we work together, “the movie always wins”. Can you come up with something better? That’s what’s going into the movie, because the movie wins.

Actors have said in the past that they try not to judge their characters. Were you able to relate to Jack at all, or is he very different to your real life personality?

PW: He is very different to my real life personality. I was able to… I guess the word is empathise a little bit. The dynamic in a family can be challenging sometimes to have different opinions or views… Jack is, unfortunately, not a very likable person. That’s sort of what made him fun to play, so oily. He’s such a twat, you know?

It was kind of fun to play that role and just have the antithesis in every scene – not helping out, not leading, which is kind of dragging Peter. Always pointing out the negative, which is not the role I usually play.

Philip Winchester
Image courtesy of Lionsgate

Professionally or personally, what do you hope to accomplish with the rest of 2021?

PW: You know, with what the world’s gone through and with the loss that a lot of people have experienced, my hope is that we can just keep plugging away and creating. For me specifically, keep creating stories, telling stories, working with people that I really enjoy and being close to my family.

If I learned anything over the last year, it’s: “Man, this ride’s quicker than we all want it to be.” The stuff that matters is right in front of us. We get so damn busy, so preoccupied with life, politics, noise that we miss it. Just stripping that stuff away, being with people you love and being able to work on projects that you’re passionate about.

For me, that’s all I ever wanted to do and I’ve been very, very fortunate that it’s still happening.

Thanks again for taking the time to speak with us, Philip! Take care and stay safe!

PW: Conor, you as well, thank you for your time, buddy.

Watch the Endangered Species trailer here!

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