Ethan Embry is an actor perhaps best known for his work in ’90s comedies such as THAT THING YOU DO, EMPIRE RECORDS, and CAN’T HARDLY WAIT, but recently he has been transcending expectations in darker films like CHEAP THRILLS and LATE PHASES. His most recent role is as the caring patriarch of an unconventional, heavy-metal-loving family, who may be possessed by Satan, in THE DEVIL’S CANDY.
DAILY GRINDHOUSE: Was there a key to getting directors and casting directors to take a chance on you with these darker roles?
ETHAN EMBRY: DUTCH was my first movie when I was 10 or 11, but my first crack at doing drama was WHITE SQUALL, the Jeff Bridges/Ridley Scott film. When you have that on your resume, they give you the benefit of the doubt. But the first dramatic role I was given as an adult was the show, BROTHERHOOD, where I played a cop that’s really tormented, he’s an addict and an alcoholic. Being given that role with that group of actors, I wanted to step up my game. I got super fat and dove into that. I think that’s where people saw for the first time as an adult I can do that stuff, too. I’m still an audition actor, so it’s about what I can manage to find in that audition room. I am a far more aggressive person than one would think, from seeing my earlier work. That’s more of a put-on than the other stuff I do. That being said, I’m happy-go-lucky and easygoing, but when that other side comes out, it turns out really fast and really hard. So it’s easy to convey that in the audition room –if anything, I can be a little bit too intense.
DAILY GRINDHOUSE: In THE DEVIL’S CANDY, you certainly bring the intensity, but the thing I enjoyed was the relationship between your character, Jesse, and his daughter, Zoe. Was it inspired by your own relationship with your teen son?
ETHAN EMBRY: Yeah, he’s 17. Very much so, with my son I’m always balancing friendship vs. parenting. Some people would say I’m a little too heavy on the friend, and should be more of a disciplinarian. They don’t see the times I need to step in, but as a parent, friendship is one of the most important foundations. Personally, I don’t have much of a relationship with my dad, and I would love to have that friendship, so I try to give that to my son. And that’s what I try to convey in THE DEVIL’S CANDY. On the top of the script, when I would open it, I wrote “this is a love story,” and it’s a love story about a father to his daughter. That was the most important part to me. Everything else about the scares, the editing, cinematography, sound design: I’m just trying to convey that this dude would do anything for her.
DAILY GRINDHOUSE: This movie works well because it’s not the stereotypical possession — it’s much more of a grounded realism.
ETHAN EMBRY: Well, the Devil’s pretty fuckin real.
DAILY GRINDHOUSE: But it’s not like a typical EXORCIST–type story, you have Pruitt Taylor Vince and questioning if it’s the devil or schizophrenia.
ETHAN EMBRY: Well that’s what we were going for, not really spelling out if this about possession or two characters going through insanity. There’s a couple elements that do make the case for actual possession, actual demonic influences. If you watch, there are a couple things that could not have happened without some sort of force being involved. We didn’t want to spell it out.
DAILY GRINDHOUSE: The soundtrack of this movie has Metallica and Pantera, Sunn O))). You’ve been attached to several movies that have iconic soundtracks –do you get into the music of the films that you take?
ETHAN EMBRY: I think music is a super-important element of film. It changes the tone of anything, depending on what music you put with it. The music my character listens to is a big part of my process. It says a lot about who we are, the music we indulge in. I’m a musician; music is super important to me personally. The soundtrack to this is more in line with my personal taste. I wanted to try to convey an honest look at what metalheads are actually like — we’re not characters, we’re not cartoons, we’re not the airheads we typically become portrayed as. I just wanted to play a normal dude who just happens to raise his daughter loving metal.
DAILY GRINDHOUSE: Zoe seems genuinely into it — it’s not just something she’s doing to please her dad.
ETHAN EMBRY: That’s a testament to the acting ability of Miss Kiara Glasco, because she fucking hates it. She could not hate it more. I tried, I tried to send her mixtapes- modern day mixtapes which are dropbox files… all my favorite music. I started light with Rage Against the Machine — that’s LIGHT! She just thought it was noise. All she wanted was to sing the soundtrack to FROZEN. Eventually she ended up winning. That poor girl went through a lot while we were making this movie, so she deserves a little FROZEN.
THE DEVIL’S CANDY is available from IFC Midnight this Friday, March 17th, on VOD and digital platforms.