The romantic thriller Safe Haven, from director Lasse Hallström and adapted from best-selling author Nicholas Sparks’ (The Notebook, Dear John) novel of the same name, tells the story of Katie Feldman (Julianne Hough), who arrives in the tiny coastal town of Southport, North Carolina, looking to make a new start. Even though she’s hoping to keep a low profile, she finds herself interested in and attracted to local store owner Alex (Josh Duhamel), who has two young children. Each are haunted by their past, but hopeful for their newfound happiness and love.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor David Lyons, who plays a mysterious man from Katie’s past, talked about why he wanted to get involved with the film, the experience of working with director Lasse Hallström, being dawn to the darker aspect of the story, collaborating on the character with author Nicholas Sparks, and the challenge of establishing his story while being separated from so much of what’s happening. He also talked about what fans of the Revolution can expect when the NBC drama series, and his character Monroe, returns on March 25th. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
DAVID LYONS: They asked to see me. There was an audition with (director) Lasse [Hallström]. I was actually working on Revolution in Atlanta, at the time, shooting the pilot, and this came up. There were the bones of a script, but Lasse Hallström was helming it. At that piece of information, I jumped at the opportunity to get into a room with him. So, there was an audition process, but it was much more fluid than any I’d done prior. It was all improvised. We just worked on improvising different scenes between Kevin and Katie, and it went from there.
What was it like to go off script and improvise with Lasse Hallström?
LYONS: The thing that Lasse is so good at is bringing this air of reality to it. When he gets you to work off book, it constantly makes you listen. Listening is the essence of anything. You never really know what anyone is going to say, so you never really know what you’re about to say. That makes it exciting, and that translates to what you see on film, as well. I love his films. I really do. And I love his way of working. Lasse Hallström is such an amazing man and filmmaker. It was a pure pleasure to work with him.
Are you typically a sucker for romantic movies, or were you more drawn to the darker element of this story?
LYONS: Well, to be honest, it was more the darker aspect that I was drawn to, originally. The thing about romance and romantic movies is that they can be somewhat melodramatic. For a lot of actors, there’s a certain cringe factor that’s involved with that. So, when it’s grounded in reality, which is what Lasse does, it transcends that concept of melodrama and moves into something which is deeply sentimental, but not saccharine. Lasse is really good at emotionally engaging an audience without hitting them over the face with it.
Your character, specifically, is probably the biggest departure for Nicholas Sparks, as an author. With his involvement as a producer on the film, did you talk to him about the character, at all?
LYONS: I spoke to him while we were filming, and what was really interesting was his take on the etymology of the book and the character itself. He told me that what he had tried to do was create this through-line of fear, and then build the story and the context around that, so that it’s like two worlds interceding. So, I spoke to him, at length, about the essence of the character, how he engages in that world, and how he came to be in that world. It is very unlike his previous work, creating a romantic thriller, as opposed to a romance that is framed in tragedy. I think it’s a great departure and it adds another layer to a film that has so much heart. It has this shading of something that is very unlike a Nicholas Sparks movie.
Did you find it challenging to establish so much of your character’s story, being so isolated and separated from so much of what’s happening in the film?
LYONS: It was an interesting shooting experience because the main story is so removed from what I was doing. So, I inhabit a very different world, until those two worlds collide. I’m part of Katie’s history, as opposed to her future. But, it wasn’t difficult because the work environment was so beautiful, given Lasse’s involved, and also because Julianne [Hough] was so amazing to work with. She gave as much to my character as she gave to Josh Duhamel’s. She’s an incredibly giving actress, in that sense. It was very, very easy to engage with her, whether it was on a romantic level for Josh’s character, or for mine, which was a little more abrasive.
LYONS: The world expands and the name revolution becomes actualized. We start to see what is meant by “revolution.” That’s what is starting to happen. Now that the gang has completed the first task of rescuing Danny, they find themselves in a completely foreign environment. They’re together, but at the mercy of Monroe. When we left off, there was a helicopter hanging in mid-air with a gun pointed at them. Stuff is going to go down, obviously. When I read that next script, I went, “Holy mother of god!” Things change, and they’ll change quickly. The landscape changes, and we also start to see outside of the Monroe Republic. We move into other aspects of this world.
It’s been really interesting to watch the relationship between Monroe and Miles (Billy Burke), with the flashbacks running parallel to their present. Has that been fun to play out, as an actor?
LYONS: That’s the beauty of (show creator) Eric [Kripke]. When I first came onto the show, there was very little to go on. There was one little scene in a car with Billy’s character, and then another one, at the end, when I receive a letter. That’s all I had to go on, for the character. So, I spoke to Eric and he was very conscious of the fact that what he wanted to do was create this incredibly rich environment for these two brothers in arms, and then brothers at arms who are against each other. Around Episodes 7 through 10, that’s when I really started to feel that. He had set up the world and really started to explore the characters, and I was so thankful that he did, as was Billy. We’ve just got so much rich backstory to play with now. Every time each other’s name is mentioned or we make a move against each other, it’s filled with so much history, and that’s really fun to play with.
LYONS: Yeah, I think they are more vocal. If I’m standing with Billy, it’s a very weird environment to be in because it’s hero and villain standing together. So, when we got out for a drink in Wilmington, that’s always a weird concept for people to wrap their heads around. We’re very good mates and he’s such a great guy to be around, so we’re always laughing, but people are like, “Whoa, what’s going on?” But, nothing has been negative, in that sense. With a character like Monroe, the blessing is that, with the backstory that he’s got, I try not to think of him as a villain. That makes it easier for me to negotiate and understand the reasons for it. There are things that the character does that I’m appalled about when I read it, but then you try to find the reality of it and how they got to that place. The good thing about the character is that there is a very unfortunate reality to it.
Safe Haven is now playing in theaters.