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Interview: Joe Mignone and Lydia Zelmac on Love Kills

Last week I had the lucky opportunity to talk to Joe Mignone and Lydia Zelmac, the two leads of the indie comedy thriller Love Kills.

A madly in love couple with a huge age difference decides that "Love" is not enough and to bind themselves together forever they must kill someone. The question is who?

Read how they made this feature film in five days, how they crafted their characters, their inspiration for their characters, and what it was like to act opposite Matthew McConaughey… or somebody who thinks they’re Matthew McConaughey.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How did you two set up the relationship between Lindsey and Hunter [the main characters]? Without that relationship, this whole film wouldn’t have worked.

Lydia: “In real life I’m big on loyalty and monogamy, so I drew on that. My suspicions of him not being fully with me makes me super angry. But what helped a lot was Joe and I spent a lot of time together as friends. We went out, ran lines, and just hung out as friends. That got us really comfortable with one another and work really well with each other because we know each other not just as characters but as people.”

Joe: “I agree, that definitely helped played a big part. Lydia and I had a lot of scenes and a lot of dialogue. So we spent quite a bit of time going over it. It was great to have that benefit to work with one another before we actually started filming and build that camaraderie and that rapport and trust with one another. So when it came time to actually film, I felt like Lydia and I had great chemistry.”

I imagine the energy must’ve been wild on the set as the film varies drastically from tone to tone, from the dance-off scene to the scenes discussing who will kill who. What was the energy like during shooting?

Joe: “It was a blast I think; I felt like the energy was really good. There were some times when it was a little stressful. The main thing was getting the right shot. It felt like there were some instances where lighting was an issue, normal stuff on set. But as far as the energy and the vibe on set, I thought it was great. Everybody was super professional. Everybody was super happy to be there. The extras were having a blast. I felt like it was a traveling circus for five days, one big happy family. People getting to know each other, meeting each other for the first time, getting to work together for the first time, and building a relationship while we’re working together. I thought it was super positive to be on set; a lot of fun. Even though it was a five-day [shoot], I didn’t feel like it was a stressful five days.”

Lydia: “Yeah, definitely. I had so much fun. Like you said, there might have been a few issues in regard to sound and lighting and stuff… I remember for the most part it being really professional. The crew did an amazing job, and the cast did an amazing job. And everyone was so kind and so nice, and overall a really good experience.”

After seeing the film, what are your favorite characters or moments in the movie that you can remember from the set?

Joe: “For me, it was Micheal Phillip Taylor for sure. And Carlo Mendez. We were laughing a lot in between some takes. With Michael because his portrayal of Matthew McConaughey was absolutely hilarious. He was really spot on. [He] kind of looked like him, sounded like him, and acted like him. So it was really funny… There was this one part, and it may sound silly but I could not stop laughing. Right before we actually filmed this scene, we were running lines with one another and I could not stop laughing… I said, “Alright, I gotta get all the laughs out now.” So we just kept running lines, having fun with it. Everybody knew their stuff so it was great but I just had to get all those laughs out so when it came time for actually filming, I had all the laughs out of me. Even though I really wanted to laugh again, I wanted to maintain my composure.”

Lydia: “We were sitting on the couch and finished our scripted lines and [director] Bruce hadn’t called cut yet, so we kind of just kept on talking and improvised conversations.”

Joe: “Oh, that was a blast. I love the fact that we had that opportunity.”

Lydia: “Yeah you brought up Harry Potter, which is what I love in real life, and things that people would talk about normally. I was really impressed with how we improvised that conversation. And I was also really flattered because Bruce left that in the film. Honestly, I don’t think improvising is my strong suit, so I was really happy when he left that in the film.”

Can you talk about what it was like to act opposite Michael Phillip Taylor? His character being somebody with a syndrome of thinking he’s Matthew McConaughey is uncanny and one of the film’s funniest parts.

Lydia: “I know Michael personally outside of this. The funny thing is we were talking about celebrities that you look like and Michael would always say, ‘I always get Matthew McConaughey.’ And we would say, ‘That is so funny. You do kind of look like him. You remind me of him.’ So that part was just perfect for him. He really got into that role. So it was fun to know him outside of shooting, and then knowing him in that role was crazy. He really did a great job. Copying his mannerisms too, it was amazing.”

Joe: “The first time I met Michael was during rehearsals right before shooting. I didn’t know he sounded any other way but like Matthew McConaughey because he remains in character. There’s no switch for him; once he switched that on, he wasn’t turning it off. I absolutely had no idea what he sounded like until after we were done filming, and then he slowly got back to his regular voice. We hung out recently, and I was like, ‘So is this what you really sound like, Mike?’ he said, ‘Yeah, pretty much. It took a little while for that character to fade off of me’. Talk about being professional, Michael’s it. He’s a true pro; he landed his character I thought perfectly. [He] kept a lot of comedy in it and believed that he was Matthew McConaughey by the time we filmed. I actually learned quite a bit from Michael, so it was a real blessing and a privilege to work with him.”

There are shades of noir and erotic thrillers in this film. I wanted to see if you guys watched any movies or had any movies in mind in preparation for these roles.

Lydia:Out of the Past was one of the main films we studied. Jane Greer has a simple, calm exterior [in that film]. I was trying to draw from the classic Femme Fatale, Ava Gardner type. But I don’t want to copy too much from other things. I want to develop my own style and develop the character my own way. So yeah, I would draw inspiration from certain films that I’ve seen before but I don’t want to do it too cookie-cutter from that.”

Joe: “Bruce had sent me a copy of the script… the vibe I got was, it gave me that Pulp Fiction vibe. So I watched Pulp Fiction again to get into that mindset of dark comedy thriller. A character I definitely identified with for Hunter was Bruce Willis’ character. He’s a regular guy, but he’s dealing with a lot of craziness.”

Lydia: “When you just said that, I was thinking of Natural Born Killers a little bit. Thinking that Mallory and Lindsey are both a little crazy. So I wanted to think that in her mind, she’s thinking that she’s like Natural Born Killers. And that the murder and the craziness are part of her romance.”

Our community has aspiring filmmakers shooting their first short film or only having a few short films under their belt. Can you guys give any advice to the people reading the blog any knowledge you grabbed, or advice you’d give to another actor about doing a five-day shoot?

Lydia: “Try to stay as calm as you can by getting support from the people you’re working with. If they’re not kind or giving support, it’s going to make things ten times harder. Be professional but also try to get a good relationship going with the people you’re working with.“

Joe: “That’s a really great point. And especially if you’re just starting out, be authentically you. When you’re starting on set, you’re a working actor; you always want to be professional and courteous, and kind to people. You want to help while also being open-minded to receiving help as well. Every time we’re on set, we’re always going to learn something new. I don’t care how long you’ve been in the game for. Nobody knows everything. So it’s always great to have that open mind, continue to learn, continue to create. Continue to help and pay it forward. Trust who you are as an actor; it’s always good to hone in on your craft and sharpen your sword so-to-speak but always keep that authenticity of who you are because that’s what’s going to show on screen. And have fun at the end of the day. We’re in the best industry in the world. We get to play pretend and have fun and be professional. It’s a dream come true to be doing this, so enjoy every minute of it.”

The film will be available to stream on Amazon Prime Video in September.

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