Written By: Jayme Face
The Love Witch is quickly becoming a festival favorite. A unique film set in the 1970s and we caught up with its leading man, Gian Keys!
upfrontNY: Tell us about The Love Witch and your character Griff Meadows.
Gian Keys: I very much enjoyed playing the character of Griff Meadows. The character just felt very natural, very comfortable. Anna Biller saw what she wanted for her character, kind of a man’s man, rough, tough, rugged, masculine, without tooting my own horn. It was a blast. It was very difficult, very challenging. I didn’t want to make him like one note and not just this one type of character. It’s a period piece from the 70s. It was a very dragnet type of acting. It took a few rehearsals for me to kind of get the handle on that. I watched tons of movies from that era. You know, leading men like Gregory Peck, Cary Grant, Steve McQueen, Sean Connery, all these; guys; so that was a lot of fun. It was also nerve-wracking because I wasn’t really sure what was going to be the end result or product, but after seeing it I put a lot of trust and faith in Anna because I knew she was very clear in what she wanted and she was going to be a good captain of the ship. I knew I was going to be comfortable with her and I was never really questioning what was happening. I didn’t need to see the playback I trusted my coaching and her. I just kind of went with it. It was a blast, it was scary, it was kind of like the best rollercoaster ride you’ve ever been on!
upfrontNY: It is being called a feminist witch craft movie; what makes it so and how does it differ from other witchcraft movies or movies in this style?
Gian Keys: She [Anna} wanted to make a movie about women and she wanted to bring in the sexuality, the differences between men and women, and how we see things, how women see things. The part of the film where we’re at the renaissance thing and it’s essentially our inner monologues, it’s very clear we are on different paths; we think differently. I think she did that very well and I think that’s the reason why it’s generating so much buzz. It’s getting all these reviews. It’s the topic, it’s how she shot it, it’s on 35 millimeter, all the colors and the way that she and David Mullen, the director of photography, the way that they were able to capture this. At some point you got the idea that this is going to be a pretty special project. This was the story that she wanted to tell. The Love Witch played by Samantha Robinson, I think there is a little bit of Anna Biller herself in that character. I don’t know to what extent. I think she wrote that character a little bit about herself.
It’s labeled a horror film, but I think it doesn’t really feel like a horror film. It’s not a slasher, it’s not really scary which I myself prefer that it’s not the slasher scary, bloody thing. She had the witchcraft in there with it, but I think she did a really good job of not beating people over the head with it. I think she found a good balance with the witchcraft, the feminism, the differences between men and women, especially from that era which is a little bit different than they are now.
upfrontNY: Can you tell us more about you’re award winning web series F**ckin Actors?
Gian Keys: Yeah, it’s an unusual title. We usually get a laugh when it’s announced at the festivals. We came up with the name because it seems like everybody in the industry, whether it’s casting or directors or producers or agents and managers, everybody has had to deal with “Oh my gosh the f**ckin actors!” because there’s a couple different ways to say that title. We wanted it like “Oh these people are driving me crazy!” In the industry sometimes actors get a bad rap or a bad name. I went to my buddy Ashton Bingham, the other lead and co-creator of the whole series, he’s really good with comedy and I said “Ashton I need to get some footage, put together a reel, I don’t have any comedy anything.” He said “Maybe we should do a little bit more with it and maybe create a short.” We came up with our first pilot episode. It’s kind of old school to walk in with a headshot into a casting office. They don’t really do that anymore, but one of the things that an actor can do if they want to stand out among all the millions of actors in LA and NY too is to do these things that actors don’t do anymore. We have both had great results by walking in headshots. We wanted to continue making episodes on actual things that we do or things that happened to us. It’s popular now with casting to put ourselves on tape, a self-tape audition which is the second episode and of course in our episode it all goes horribly wrong because nobody wants to watch something that goes wonderfully right. That’s not funny. We didn’t think this was going to go viral. It was just to make our own content. Actors want to work that’s basically all we want to do. So, one of the ways to do that is to create your own content. Everybody has a phone; anybody can get a camera and we just happened to have a handful of very capable people who were willing to assist us in this project. We’ve won 6 or 7 best web series at film festivals which is about 6 more than we ever thought that we would. We didn’t have any aspirations for this kind of thing we just kind of wanted to create something. It’s been a very fun, exciting, unexpected wild ride. It’s the exact same thing The Love Witch. So, they’ve both been wonderful to be a part of and it’s also nice to be a part of something people enjoy.
upfrontNY: You also mentioned you’re a creator, writer and producer of F**ckin Actors, what is it like playing different roles of production in one series?
Gian Keys: Well, for somebody who it was new to, it was at times nerve-wracking. It’s very educational, sometimes very frustrating. The whole production of it is definitely an eye-opening experience. We both learned so much from doing this. I think it’s important to know how things work; not just I do this one thing, I show up, I do this and I leave and I don’t care about how any of the process works. Know about how everything works to a degree as much of it as you possibly can because who knows later on someone who starts out as an actor maybe they do go into directing, maybe they do go into producing start writing. My main focus now is acting because that’s hard enough. I didn’t have any background in acting, it’s not like I was in theatre in high school, drama in college, none of that stuff. If you want to create your own things you have to do other things to make it happen. Things can be scary, but if you just dive in and go for it in the end you’ll be like wow that was kind of scary, but that was a lot of fun. It’s kind of like a rollercoaster ride.
upfrontNY: And you have the electrician coming soon; can you tell us about that?
Gian Keys: My friend Richie Greer, I met him through Ashton Bingham. It’s funny how these things work because of F**ckin Actors I met Richie and a couple times through twitter people have seen that project and have contacted me to be a part of their project. Richie with the electrician, was the same thing. He said “I want to do a short film, I’ve got a lead character that I haven’t cast yet, you would be perfect for it, we would love to audition you and see if you want to be a part of it. Read It and see what happens.”
upfrontNY: You were in the Airforce and you were a body builder, how did you end up in acting?
Gian Keys: It came in a roundabout manner. Air Force right out of high school, they trained me to be in air traffic control, in a radar room, and that doesn’t really transfer easily. Obviously, there are civilian air traffic controllers, but going from that job in the military to that job in the civilian world wasn’t very fluid, so to speak. I used the G.I. bill when I got out, got my college degree. I guess, like a lot of people, when I was finished I was like hey this is not interesting at all anymore and I don’t even want to do it. One of my best friends said “Hey, why don’t you go on down to Miami beach and try the modeling thing?” and I was like well I don’t know anything about that, but that sounds like a great idea. So, I packed up my stuff and drove down to Miami beach. After a couple years in Miami beach, the next step is obviously acting. The next step would be to go to NY or LA. So back in 2002 I made the move to LA because I knew one person out here, I didn’t know anybody in NY. It wasn’t until 2012, when I met my acting coach Joe Pelise , did the whole process of acting start to click. I never really had any quality guidance until that point. He’s giving us experience and he learned form the best coaches; that’s when I started booking roles. I don’t know if that was a different route into acting.How do you make it in Hollywood? You just don’t stop.
upfrontNY: Do you think your other backgrounds have helped you in any way with acting?
Gian Keys: Absolutely. I think they play a huge role because so much of life’s experiences play a huge role in the process of acting. To do these different things and meet different people, all the experiences, all the good, all the bad, all the ugly can be utilized within the acting process. Despite the fact that you are reading somebody else’s script you have to infuse yourself to make that seem as real and as truthful as possible. It’s kind of a toss-up yeah I wish I had started earlier, but yeah I bring all these experiences into it with me by being older.
upfrontNY: It’s no secret you’re physically fit and you’re an actor, but what are some other things you like to do in your spare time?
Gian Keys: I’m a big reader. I love to read biographies. I’m kind of a war buff; I like to read about real experiences that have happened. I think I’ve read almost every Navy Seal book that has been written. For The Love Witch, Anna Biller asked if I would take some voice lessons because she wanted the voice of her leading male to be deeper and stronger. Through these classes I was able to strengthen and deepen my voice, basically they were singing classes which is also a challenge because I don’t have any kind of singing background. So it was scary, but fun. After seeing La La Land, my favorite movie of the year, watching Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling makes me want to dance. So, I think in the near future I’m going to have to start taking some dance lessons. I have seen a lot of the U.S., lived in 15 different states, so I would like to now go overseas.
upfrontNY: Do you want to share anything else with our readers?
Gian Keys: I would like to thank Anna Biller for believing in me with The Love Witch. I also look forward to more projects in the future.