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Home Interviews David Del Rio on directing horror feature Road Head – Exclusive Interview

David Del Rio on directing horror feature Road Head – Exclusive Interview

by Conor O'Brien
David Del Rio

Known as an actor, David Del Rio (Pitch Perfect, Into The Heights) chatted about his new directorial project Road Head, from a script written by Justin Xavier.

Throughout his acting career to date, David Del Rio has appeared in a variety of projects, from the hit 2012 musical comedy film Pitch Perfect (directed by Jason Moore, written by Kay Cannon), to work with companies such as Disney and Nickelodeon.

Read on below for David Del Rio’s full interview with Courageous Nerd.

Welcome, David and thanks for taking the time to do this.

David Del Rio (DDR): Thanks for having me, Conor, appreciate it.

You’ve been working professionally as an actor for over ten years. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about the industry that you think new actors should be aware of going in?

DDR: Oh, that’s a good question. I think it changes every day. A new day on set is a new lesson to learn. I think always being in a state of curiosity and not being married to your outlook on the world and on life. Basically, our jobs in the industry is to showcase and expose the human condition. I think that we must be students, not scholars or teachers of the human condition.

In order to be open to share stories, you’ve got to be open to hear them. Once you feel like you’ve got it all figured out, no one wants to watch a movie for someone who’s got it all figured out. Leave that to Aaron Sorkin, he is the only one who has got it all figured out.

In addition to acting, you have also branched out into directing and producing. Does also being an actor influence your directing style?

DDR: Sure, it does. It means you can kind of weed out the people who are good employees first. You want to work with the people who are good employees, better than just being amazing actors. I was just saying in another interview, I do respect Olivia Wilde’s no a*****e policy. I think that’s really important, because at the end of the day, we are here to work. We have a job to do.

Dame Judi Dench actually says a quote which I really love, which is, “Take the work seriously but not yourself.” Once I read that, I was like: “Okay, I’m keeping that with me for the rest of my career”, no matter what aspect if it. Also, being an actor, you really understand maybe what’s going on with the actors on a certain day.

Sometimes, you want to approach an actor and be like, “Listen, there’s something going on with you and I understand that. Let’s have a time to talk about it later. Now is not the time or the place. Let’s go get our Margaritas in Applebee’s and talk it out, what do you say? Usually, most of the time, actors kind of respond to that.

Looking back on your career as an actor so far, do any specific jobs stand out?

DDR: Oh, my gosh. That really is a tough question because they are all your kids, those projects. You put yourself in a certain position to kind of be locked in a hotel room or wherever they have us stay, to really dive into these characters. Saying no to people who want to hang out, because they don’t know what your job is like, it’s not a 9-to-5.

I’m also not gonna lie, it’s a very luxurious, nice job. People are catering to you but you have to understand that they’re catering to you because it’s their job, not because they like you. The best you can do for a project is lock yourself in a room and figure out how to come in prepared. The way to prepare is really being one with the character.

So, what I will say because it’s just a little more personal to me is when I did a Broadway show, In The Heights for six months at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. Only because I met some really close friends there. I met my wife there, but we didn’t actually met, we came in happenstance. She was in the audience and we took a picture together outside the stage door. Then, we officially met each other four years later. That kind of personal story I have there, it makes [Into The Heights] a project that stands out, for me.

Your latest project is the horror feature Road Head, which you directed. How would you describe the premise, to anyone who is unfamiliar?

DDR: I would say Road Head is a horror-comedy about three friends who decide to take a desert trip and come across a very weird, but extreme villain serial killer dressed as a Medieval executioner. These friends need to figure out a way to survive, despite two out of those three really despising each other. That’s basically the logline, but to get in a deeper level, what really got me is that story.

If ‘David and Conor’, which is not the case, but they don’t like each other and were also stuck in a log cabin. Someone outside has a rifle. That story of the balance of what you are willing to sacrifice for survival is what really got me interested in the project, as well as the humour. People use humour as a defence mechanism which is where the comedy comes in.

Image courtesy of Nine Ten Films

I wasn’t trying to make a horror-comedy in terms of making people laugh, I think it’s a horror that has comedic characters and real-life comedic people in it, other than just ‘Hey, this is a thing that will scare you, freak you out, weird you out and also make you laugh.” Trying to achieve a genre is something I’m not interested in, I’m just trying to tell a story.

Before you officially signed on, did you see that Road Head had creative potential, or perhaps what you could do with it?

DDR: I think once you get the spark of inspiration… it could be something on page 12 and it’s one sentence. You’re kind of like, “Ooh, I want to hold on to that one.” That would really inspire me, but the thing that inspired me really was the human story. Everyone says that they’re interested in the human story and I get it, but there is truth to that, nonetheless.

Justin Xavier wrote for the screenplay for Road Head. How have you found the experience of bringing someone else’s vision to life?

DDR: I think you always find how to bring yourself into it. You use the script as a blueprint and not as sacred text that needs to be followed. Not that I’m comparing, but there’s scripts that you can do that with and script’s that you can’t do that with. This is a low budget indie so what happens is that you have the experience of what it’s like to be a writer in a multi-camera comedy that’s constantly changing jokes and trying to make it fresh.

We were in a very good position where myself, the actors and some of the crew came together and figured out how to make the script. A lot of what you see in the film are rewrites on the day. Justin Xavier had a really fun and imaginative blueprint for us to work from.

Image courtesy of Nine Ten Films

How did the ongoing coronavirus pandemic affect production for Road Head, if at all?

DDR: Not at all. We did it in the middle of 2019, like June. So, way in the clear. In 2020, I was very lucky in my career to continue to be working. I did a couple of movies, a show to shoot in September. People find a way but on Road Head, we were completely in the clear.

Are there any other upcoming projects you can tell us about?

DDR: Yeah, sure. I produced a feature film called The Big Feed that’s currently in post production, almost done. It stars my wife Katherine Del Rio, very talented actress Ivana Rojas and Manolo Gonzalez Vergara, Sofia’s son. Also, my wife and I have a production company. We’re a month in writing a screenplay to get into production sometime in the Fall.

Then, I’m in a television series called Maggie, it will be airing on ABC. I don’t know when, but we start shooting in September.

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

DDR: A couple of things, I guess. Continue working, getting my life together, building it back and kind of embracing the idea of not going back to whatever normal it was but to take head on, the new normal. Find acceptance in that and continue to be hired to join a team and tell stories. Something I try to do every day is be in a reflective state and on the right side of history, as best I can.

In closing, is there anything you’d like to Tease about Road Head?

DDR: Road Head is a bonkers movie and if you take a sit back with your popcorn or spliff and joint, have fun with the ridiculousness of it. Really enjoy these actors leading you in a crazy ride.

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

DDR: You too as well Conor, thank you.

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