Danny Ramirez And David Rysdahl On Getting Into Character For No Exit – Exclusive Interview
In Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit,” there’s the famous line, “Hell is other people.” Darby learns that quickly when she’s thrust into the main plotline of the 2017 novel “No Exit” and its subsequent film adaptation.
The young college student, played by Havana Rose Liu, just wants to get to the hospital to see her ailing mother. But the forces that be have other plans as she’s sidelined and forced to stay in a visitor center with a group of strangers until the blizzard passes. You would think the only thing she has to overcome is impending boredom, but she soon discovers that one of the people she’s staying with has kidnapped a young girl. She has to lay low as to not arouse suspicion so that both her and the girl can make it out alive.
Two of the suspects in this intriguing thriller are Ash (Danny Ramirez) and Lars (David Rysdahl). Both actors spoke exclusively with Looper to talk about their roles in the film and how they went about making the audience question their characters’ motives.
On their favorite movies ever
What are some of your favorite movies of all time?
David Rysdahl: Oh, wow. That’s a great question. Should we go back and forth, Danny? Movies we like?
Danny Ramirez: I haven’t even been thinking about other movies at all. My whole brain is on “No Exit” things.
Rysdahl: I watched “Seven” before this. I watched “Fargo” before this movie. They’re movies we watched for this. If you want to say it, Danny.
Ramirez: I’ve been keeping those all in my pocket. Recently, I saw “After Yang” at Sundance, which was … oh, my, that’s one to be excited about. It’s Colin Farrell, and it’s , whoa, it’s one of the best meditations on grief that I’ve seen. I’ll actually keep that one, but we’ll talk about “No Exit.”
What drew you both to sign on for “No Exit” in the first place?
Rysdahl: I read the script late at night, and I thought I was going to read half of it at night, and then half the next morning, but I kept on going. I knew I was auditioning for Lars, and I find this guy, so I think there’s a way in for me. As an actor, I have to ask, “Is he in me?” And, I felt Lars.
Talking to Damien [Powers, director] and the way he wanted to approach it, it was going to be a thriller, this old fashioned … throwback thriller set in one place. It had these characters that would slowly go from being two-dimensional into three-dimensional by the end. You’re going to understand them, and characters will be opened up throughout the film. I really was drawn to that.
I think our online personas … we show two dimensions a lot. We judge people on these dimensions, and then, we get to know them more. That really messed up decision comes from a place. That comes from some trauma in their past … To do a thriller about past trauma, I thought was interesting. That’s what drew me to it.
Ramirez: As I read it, every character is, in some ways, an actor’s dream, in some capacity. Everyone was so complex, but also, they had so many twists and turns. The nuance of who they were was something that you could really take a big bite. There was a full meal there, to be had. With Ash, seeing all these turns, and all these reveals [happening], was exciting. It was also, speaking with Damien, and Havana [Rose Liu, costar] asked it, and David, truly how to create this cocktail of an explosion, when everything hits the fan, was exciting. It was reading that script, and I couldn’t put it down. I started imagining, oh my God, this role would be amazing. This [part and story are] amazing.
On exploring their characters' darkness
There’s some darkness to both of your characters, without giving anything away. Was there anything you did to get into a more sinister mindset?
Ramirez: The reason I have been omitting all movie references is because there was quite a bit that I drew inspiration from, but then, Damien also sent me some source material that he drew inspiration from. We combined it and sat on it for two weeks, beyond the moment I got the role, flew to New Zealand, and we had to be in quarantine for two weeks. That was one of the things that charged up the battery, and, really, created a nuclear reactor in my belly, is what it felt like to create … less darkness, but more desperation. He is a twisted character, in some capacity.
Tying to justify everything he did in a human way made it scarier for me, because it also was, as David says, that it could be a human situation, that people stumbled upon. It was getting that energy, and letting the situation guide the way, and then, playing off of what Lars is doing, what Darby’s doing. It made it so much easier, when everyone brought so much juice to the table.
Rysdahl: Sometimes, for this character — actually, I live in New York — and I had this long hair, and I would put the clothes on, and I’d walk around at night. I’d go into Rite Aid, and see how people felt, how they treated me. I didn’t really think about being sinister. I thought about being all misunderstood, and being a loner, and yearning for connection, and yearning for love, but having this block of what I look like. I did a lot of that work, of feeling like an outcast, and what that felt like — really going in there, and then yearning for connection, and yearning to be the hero.
Danny Ramirez discusses The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Danny, you were recently seen in “Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” Is there anything you can tell us about the future of Joaquin Torres in the MCU?
Ramirez: I can’t say a thing. It was fun to film, and to shoot, and experience that, but there’s always a trained sniper, if I say anything, that’s got me on target at all times.
How does working on a Marvel project differ from something smaller scale, like “No Exit?”
Ramirez: What differs is the genre. “No Exit” was, from top to bottom, everyone was at the top of their game, and is at the top of the game. There was [crowds of people] that worked on both sets, but the genre itself was the difference.
Other than that, it’s working with people that inspire you, with every choice they do, with everything that they bring to the table. The story itself, being a single location, was the really juicy part of “No Exit” that, we all got to know this place so well that by the end of those three months, I could close my eyes, and walk back into the space and know there’s so much in it that had so much texture. That’s the big difference, is being able to really sit and explore one location, which was, in some ways, a massive privilege.
The cool thing about Marvel was, yeah, we got to go shoot in all over the world, but, I also crave to be able to sit in one space, and be able to throw down with five people, one room, what’s going to happen, let’s crank this thing up.
Is there an actor or a director you’d love to work with?
Ramirez: I’d say Luca Guadagnino.
Rysdahl: Great one … My favorite actor for a long time was Philip Seymour Hoffman. I know he passed. That’s [how] I used to answer that question, and I haven’t thought about it since. Even though he has passed, the way he would take … you could tell his empathy underneath, it was so vast, that he could see the world through so many different viewpoints. [He could] bring truth to so many different types of people, and [I], try to do that, within my own self.
Do you guys have any projects coming up after “No Exit” you’d like to talk about?
Ramirez: I’m trying to think of which ones that I can. Well, “Top Gun” is coming out in May. I’m really excited for, finally, [it] took three years, but we’re waiting for the exact perfect month. David is an amazing writer, he’s a world-class writer. I had already told you that I finished reading what you wrote, but it’s truly, honestly, keep your eyes out for that.
Rysdahl: I didn’t know you read it. That’s so —
Ramirez: Yeah, I realized today, “Oh, s***. I haven’t told him.” I’d read it months ago.
Rysdahl: Oh, that’s so nice. Well, I’m shooting something in March, but I can’t really talk about, either. Danny’s [also] a great writer … there’s a lot of love here, as you can tell. [You can tell] in the movie too., not to spoil anything.
“No Exit” is now streaming on Hulu.