Q&A: Actors Phil Hanley & Luke Lalonde and Director Pavan Moondi

Q&A: Actors Phil Hanley & Luke Lalonde and Director Pavan Moondi

Q&A WITH PHIL HANLEY (“ALEX”) and LUKE LALONDE (“JUSTIN”)

Phil Hanley is a stand-up comedian at New York City’s much-revered Comedy Cellar. Luke Lalonde is a musician and front man of the popular band Born Ruffians. They both mark their acting debuts in Sundowners.


 Q: Have you acted before?

PHIL HANLEY (ALEX)

I had done some improv before I started doing stand-up, and over the years I have done a couple of commercials, but that was nothing compared to acting as one of the leads in a feature film.

LUKE LALONDE (JUSTIN)

I played the Mock Turtle in the 1998 Regent Elementary School production of “Alice In Wonderland”.

Q: How did you get involved?

 PHIL HANLEY (ALEX)

Pavan saw me do a late night set on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and then I randomly received an email from him asking me to be the lead in a film he wrote. At first I didn’t think anything of it, then about a year and a half after receiving the first email we met for a drink in New York where I live, and talked about the film, which is when I realized what a big opportunity it was.

LUKE LALONDE (JUSTIN)

I randomly met the director of the movie, Pavan, at a bar in Toronto. Several months later he invited me to be a part of the movie. That’s really all there is to it. It all came fairly out of the blue for me.

I’m not sure why but I’m glad Pavan and the film’s producers decided to take a chance on me. I always really wanted to try acting but never had the nerve to go out and do it on my own.

Q: Without any acting experience, how do you approach building a character? How was it working with Pavan to build your respective characters?

PHIL HANLEY (ALEX)

Pavan and I discussed the character extensively and we read through the script together. Alex, the character that I’m playing, really reminded me of someone from my personal life, especially how he overreacts to situations that aren’t going his way. I’ve never been a photographer at a destination wedding but when I was starting out in stand-up I did a lot of undesirable gigs so I could relate to that struggle.

LUKE LALONDE (JUSTIN)

I tried to play it as close to my own emotions and self as possible because that felt like the only way I could do it. The character isn’t really that different from me when you break him down – we’re similar ages etc…

I think acting is a really different creative process than what I’m used to. When I’m in my comfort zone, making music, I express myself hyper-personally. Music is also at and by my own means and my own will. I’m used to being in charge more or less. I’m also used to directing things or fully creating a song or a recording by myself. Acting, however, is really a group effort. You’re not personally in charge of very much creatively speaking. You’re told what you’re going to say, where and how to say it etc… And ultimately you’re there to serve the story along with the other people on camera with you.

I really liked being a small part of something bigger and just tried my best to be as authentic as possible at all times and to listen to Pavan as much as possible.

Q: What was the rehearsal process like?

PHIL HANLEY (ALEX)

Pavan and I did a long Skype call and we went through every single scene talking about the intention behind all the lines. Then we met with Luke and went through the whole script together. We arrived in Colombia 5 days before we started shooting and we would rehearse all day. Then, once we started shooting we would meet in Pavan’s hotel room and rehearse for a couple of hours each night after we’d wrapped for the day.

LUKE LALONDE (JUSTIN)

Phil and I would run scenes together and Pavan would sit in and give us notes. It was fun hanging with Phil and Pavan.

I went into the rehearsals under the assumption that the dialogue would be largely improvised. In fact I was instructed by Pavan not to look too closely at the script for fear that I would come to rely on it as a crutch. As we got closer to shooting though it became clear that we were going to be going pretty strictly off the script.

Q: What attracted you to Sundowners?

 PHIL HANLEY (ALEX)

I thought the script was great. I love the idea of two best friends going through this struggle together, especially after meeting Luke because Luke is someone who, if we grew up together, I think we would have actually been friends. The idea of filming in Colombia was appealing and I enjoyed working with a crew that was primarily from Ontario because that’s where I grew up. It was surreal to be so far from home yet there was this feeling of being at home on set. The collaborative spirit was also great because Pavan invited me to give a lot of input and it’s a very different process from writing standup alone.

LUKE LALONDE (JUSTIN)

Well I was really itching to try something like this. I liked the idea of the project, the cast that Pavan had put together when he approached me, and the general vibe I sensed from people involved behind the scenes. I was ready to take a leap into something different personally and creatively. It ended up being one of the best and most fun experiences of my life.

Q: What was a memorable moment working on the film?

PHIL HANLEY (ALEX)

Wow, there are so many that I feel like I can almost remember each individual day. Something that stands out is that for the scenes where we’re out partying in the town, we were actually out partying in the town. Within ten minutes of being out, everyone forgot we were filming a montage and really started to enjoy themselves. Also, the scenes that Luke and I did with Nick Flanagan are memorable because Nick is so funny and nailed his character so well. When we were rehearsing, Nick would be reading the scene off of his cracked iPhone and I was thinking, “Oh boy, I don’t know how this is going to go.” Then Pavan would call “action” and Nick would nail it, while Luke and I struggled to keep a straight face. Also, in the scenes with Tim Heidecker, I’d be wondering how it’s possible for someone to be that funny.

LUKE LALONDE (JUSTIN)

The entire experience in Colombia was incredible. I think it being my first film gave the whole experience a sort of rush. I loved the entire atmosphere and group of people who worked on this movie too. We shot and stayed at a resort in Colombia in February so at the most basic level it was a nice vacation. But on top of that we had a South American/Canadian crew filled with great, cool folks.

I’ll never forget the first day of shooting in Colombia. We started with the most dramatic blow out scenes between my and Phil’s characters. I think we were both pretty nervous as it was but starting with these scenes amped everything up. We were basically inside of a small hotel room with thirty or so people for fourteen hours. It was intense.

One of the last nights we had was an amazing night where everybody stayed up until sunrise and went swimming in the ocean at dawn. I remember swimming and chatting afterwards in one of the resort’s gigantic pools with Nick Thorburn, who I had just met on the set, and thinking how it was a sort of surreal moment for me as a big fan of his work.


Q&A WITH WRITER/DIRECTOR PAVAN MOONDI


Q: What was the inspiration for the script and the characters?

PAVAN MOONDI

The film is actually loosely based on a trip I went on to Mexico to shoot a destination wedding in my mid-twenties. I had been shooting weddings initially as a means of getting experience that I thought would be helpful to establish a career in film but had continued doing it well past the point of it having any value in that respect. I think I had shot something like 30 weddings that year while working during the week at a call centre and I was desperately searching for a way out.

I knew as the trip was going sideways that it would be great material for a script, but it took me a couple years to figure out exactly how to tackle it. The film ended up being based as much on the trip itself that I went on as the disillusionment and uncertainty that I was grappling with at that stage of my life.

Q: What were the more memorable days when you were shooting? Good or bad.

PAVAN MOONDI

For a variety of logistical reasons, the Mexico portions of the film – which we shot in Colombia ­– were scheduled to move twice as fast as the parts of the film we shot in Toronto. We started out in Colombia and so that whole leg of the shoot was incredibly hectic and eventful and fun.

We had a very claustrophobic and demanding first day. Also, we shot a party montage by just walking around Santa Marta drinking and then eventually buying out a bar for an hour and just filming everyone getting progressively more drunk. That was fun.

We were shooting in an old night club when our camera operator Abe was on the roof setting up some lighting equipment and he literally fell through it and into the bathroom below and destroyed the sink. He could’ve been seriously injured but he shook it off like a pro.

In general though, hanging around Colombia and partying in our resort suites with the cast/crew after a long day of shooting was just the best. We had a lot of laughs and I think were all well aware of what a weird, once in a lifetime situation we were in.

Back in Toronto, working with Tim Heidecker gave everyone a real renewed energy after leaving Colombia. We were all fans on the crew and we even had some cast dropping by on their day off just to watch him do his thing. The very first take he gave us was 23 minutes long and just an absolute master class in improvisational acting. The way he would build edit points and alternate jokes into his dialogue was pretty remarkable and extremely helpful when I was cutting the film. I was a little intimidated about directing him but he proved incredibly collaborative and down to earth. I’m still a little blown away that I had a chance to work with him.


ABOUT THE CAST/CREW

PHIL HANLEY / “ALEX”

Phil Hanley began stand-up comedy by performing at open mics around Vancouver, often in between bands at music venues. In these establishments, he discovered and honed his unique blending of material and crowd interaction that makes no two of his performances the same.

Since settling in the New York City, Phil has become a regular at the renowned Comedy Cellar. He has also appeared on The Pete Holmes Show, John Oliver’s New York Stand-up Show, and The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson twice. Recently, Phil has appeared on Late Night With Seth Meyers, @midnight and been on the road with Aziz Ansari. Phil’s Comedy Central stand up special The Half Hour aired in 2016.

Phil makes his acting debut in Sundowners (2017).

LUKE LALONDE / “JUSTIN”

Luke Lalonde is a Canadian musician known primarily as the front man of the band Born Ruffians. The band formed in 2004 and has toured the world many times over, with the likes of Franz Ferdinand, Caribou, Peter Bjorn and John, Hot Chip, The Hidden Cameras, and Tokyo Police Club.

Luke released a solo album, Rhythymnals, in 2012. He is an avid comedy fan and marks his acting debut in Sundowners (2017). He currently splits his time between Toronto and New York.

PAVAN MOONDI, WRITER/DIRECTOR/EDITOR

Pavan Moondi is a writer/director based in Toronto. He has written and directed two critically acclaimed feature films available on Netflix in Canada, the latter of which also saw a successful US release and earned its first time actress-lead a Canadian Screen Award nomination. His third feature film co-stars Tim Heidecker and first time actors, comedian Phil Hanley and musician Luke Lalonde.

Pavan recently directed all 8 episodes of a CBC TV half hour primetime sitcom (FOUR IN THE MORNING), which aired in August 2016.

He has just finished writing his fourth feature film and is developing a television series of his own with a production company in Los Angeles.

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