Fans of Nathan Kress probably know him best from his work in the long-running Nickelodeon series iCarly, but now they’ll get to see him behind a camera in Steven Quale’s feature film Into the Storm. The natural disaster picture uses a found-footage convention, with Kress starring as one of the students chronicling the storm’s destructive path via a handheld camcorder. Off camera, Kress spoke to our select group of journalists visiting the Detroit set about his camera work, just how the found-footage aspect would be used, and his character’s relationships. He also commented on his reaction to ending iCarly.
Also starring Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Arlen Escarpeta, Max Deacon, Jeremy Sumpter, Kyle Davis, and Jon Reep, Into the Storm opens August 8th. Be sure to check out the film’s recently released trailer here. Hit the jump for more from Kress. Spoilers follow.
Nathan Kress: I play Trey. Trey is the youngest member of the Fuller family. Gary’s the dad, Donny’s the older brother, Trey is the younger brother. He’s kind of the rebel black sheep of the group. He doesn’t really take anything seriously. He’s very immature as the movie starts and he always gives his brother a hard time. But you can tell they have a very good relationship. But his relationship with his dad is very strained. As the movie progresses the relationship between Gary and Trey changes quite a bit because they’re forced to go together on this journey through this ridiculous disaster and through that process their relationship is strengthened and Trey matures quite a bit because he’s really forced to and there’s a lot of things that happen that are very emotionally intense and very difficult to get through so by the end of the movie Trey has grown up quite a bit. So in way it’s actually kind of a coming of age story for that character. And it’s cool because there’s not only that but there’s like three movies being thrown together from every different angle. So everybody is going through character changes as the story progresses even though there’s so much action involved you can see those changes happening with everybody.
So you’re handling the camera for most of it?
Kress: There’s several camera guys which is hilarious because I’ve been doing a show on Nickelodeon for five and a half years where I was the camera guy so I was able to use quite a bit of experience to actually help me out. Some of it’s been a little bit different because there’s been times where with muscle memory, I had been doing that show and would always tell me hold the camera lower because we don’t want to block your face when you’re on camera. With this they realized that doesn’t look real so I’ve had to relearn rather than holding it in places so that my face is above or below the camera it has to be right there if I was actually shooting it. So it has helped and in some ways it has actually hindered because I’d been doing it for so long and was so in the groove of doing it a certain way. But I’m learning so much from this director and our director of photography. The crew here is absolutely amazing and they’re so good at what they do and I’m loving following around the camera guys because since I’m doing the camera work I have to match everything that they do so I feel very official in that way sometimes.
Are they actually using some of the footage you’re shooting?
Kress: Some of it yeah. A producer came up to me, we were sitting at lunch with a couple other cast members and he went up and said “I talked to the editor and a couple of you guys have some really good footage so we’re actually going to put it in the movie. Nathan however, not so much.” Because so much of what I’m doing is running from place to place I don’t have a steady cam, I have a little itty-bitty camcorder. So when I’m running it’s like. So there’s not probably going to be much stuff that they can use because all the stuff when I’m standing still I would be looking at cameras and lights and everything else so it would kind of blow the illusion. So I’m going to trust much of my part to the official camera guys because they’re a whole lot better at it than I am.
Character wise how do you justify continuing to shoot when you’re searching for a lost brother?
Kress: There’s a lot of different aspects that go into why we’re doing this. For one the movie is set up at least from our perspective, as we’re doing a time capsule for the town. So in a way I’m kind of taking it upon myself to document this event that’s going to undoubtedly change the entire course of everybody’s lives in Silverton. One of the other reasons is that the storm chasers kind of recruit me to be a supplemental camera guy and he offers to pay me, which is great for young Trey. So while all this stuff is happening, and granted it’s not 100% of the time. There’s a lot of times where during the emotional stuff I don’t have a camera and not like hey let’s have a scene. But for a lot of the action they were able to justify me trying to document everything that was going on.
What’s your character’s relationship with Donny, your brother who’s missing?
Kress: It’s a very good relationship. They’re brothers. And I have two older brothers in real life so, and he has a younger brother who’s about my age, so it was pretty easy to slip into that character. They’re working together on the time capsule stuff. Dad has assigned both of them to get testimonials and stuff from everybody all over town and then neither of them are particularly happy about it but they do have a good relationship because you’re kind of thrown into the conflict of the story there isn’t as much exposition but a lot of a lot of what you see at the beginning, especially at the end when it comes to the more intense climatic stuff you can really see their relationship. He’s older, I believe it’s 17 and 16. SO we’re very close in age. And in real life he’s 22. And I’m 19.
Did you guys fill in any back-story on your character’s mother?
Kress: Yeah actually there’s going to be some explanation that happens from Donny about halfway through the movie. We also, it was so cool because I’d never really been able to do this before, we had…not necessarily rehearsal time and we also didn’t have a table read, which is kind of unusual, because there’s so much action in the movie it was kind of pointless to just sit down and have somebody read stage direction for us. So we sat down in different groups depending on who would have the most interaction with each other, and we sat down with our director and we just talked and we asked questions and we wanted to learn more about our characters and to give the ideas that we had but then other people also had ideas so it was a really cool collaborative effort. So I had one of those meetings with the storm chaser crew but then I also had a meeting with Max and Richard so we were able to sit down and really figure out the family aspect and certain things that hopefully will come across on screen when that stuff is fully explained but it was cool because I’ve never been in a position to get that deep into something and really sit down with the actors and the director and really go through it. So I think honestly that’s one of the things I’m going to take away as one of my favorite times.
Kress: I was and then certain stuff ended up getting cut out so I’m not actually going to do too much. At the same time so much of what we’re doing is ridiculously intense with special effects and fire and stuff falling all over the place so it’s still very very cool stuff. Unfortunately no wirework for me. I’m not going to lie I’m kind of disappointed about. But that’s okay I still get to do a lot of really cool stuff.
Do you get to be in the tank?
Kress: I do. I got to say, I kind of have the cool job in the movie because I’m up in the turret. And we did a lot of that stuff yesterday actually finishing a bunch of green screen work when we’re in the turret. So that stuff is extremely cool. Except for the fact that Titus actually leaks a lot so we get very wet even though we’re inside and it’s supposed to be this impenetrable thing. There’s leak everywhere. People are getting completely soaked which is kind of hilarious. They actually…I don’t want to blow this story so I hope nobody else brings this up but our producer…there was a bunch of issues with the Titus at the beginning when the doors would be closed too hard the windows would break and there were mechanical issues and the leaking was really bad. So our producer actually had somebody from props or special effects or the art department paint Bruce the shark on the back because you know in Jaws the shark never worked. So we kind of have a little homage to that. You can see that if you look on the back bumper you can see it. That’s the story. So it’s our own little Bruce the shark.
Is that on hepatitis A or B?
Kress: I believe it’s on both because it has to match. Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B are almost identical except one is four wheel drive and one is two wheel drive. So there’s a little bit of different handling there. And I spoke with Matt Walsh about it and he definitely prefers Hepatitis A.
How does your story intersect with Matt’s?
Kress: Believe it or not we’re shooting that scene today. Where we’re seeking shelter from the storm and we happen to be at the same place at the same time and our car gets taken out of commission so we ask them for help. That’s the cool thing. All of our stories intersect at different times. So it feels very immersive and yet organic at the same time. It really doesn’t feel contrived at all because it’s just everyone trying to survive. It casts a very very cool light on the whole concept. Not only as found footage but it’s intersecting found footage. So I think that’s one of the really cool, innovative things about the movie.
So you get to play off Matt and Sarah a lot?
Kress: Sarah is almost all the time following in a weather van so it’s mostly me and Matt. And we had some fun stuff yesterday where we were bantering back and fourth. We’ll see how much of that ends up in the movie. In a way I’m kind of becoming his protégé a little bit in the movie because I’m so enthusiastic about it and he respects that a lot and he’s kind of proud to have a little guy who’s interested in the same stuff who’s willing to…because his whole thing is “you got to get the shot” and I want to get the shot. So they hit it off really instantly.
Did you get to do a lot of improv?
Kress: Not too much. Most of it’s during the really intense stuff. Where it’s like “Run!” Or “Look out!” So fortunately they did at the beginning when we were doing some of the introductory stuff with me and Max we were able to not necessarily improv but be loose with the words because the whole concept of found footage is that it has to feel like it’s really happening. That it’s not us following a script so if that meant rearranging a few words or adding in a little bit of something that sounds similar but feels a little bit more natural coming out of our mouths then they were totally cool with that and that was great. It felt good to not feel like we were just doing lines, that we were actually having a scene together, which is becoming more and more common which I really like and I like the direction that Hollywood is heading in that way. But yeah, we’ve been able to be loose but not so much sitting down and coming up with stuff. Who knows, we’re only half way through with this thing so maybe that will happen too.
Do we get to see any of the documentary about the town?
Kress: Yeah, that’s how most of the set up happens. Interlinked with some of the set up of the storm chasers. Introducing the Titus and giving a tour of it so it starts out…well I cant say it starts out slow because it literally starts out extremely fast but then it comes back down to a normal level and then things eventually ramp back up. So in the first scene of the movie you are literally thrown into this incredible environment and then you’re kind of shocked back to reality with the slower stuff and the interviews with the townspeople. So I think it’s really cool that the whole time capsule thing is really effective at capturing the human element of it. It’s not just people in a tornado; it’s human beings trying to survive this horrific event.
Can you talk about interacting with a tornado that’s not actually on set?
Kress: That takes a whole lot of imagination. Especially the stuff that we were doing over the past few days with green screen Titus work. They would just have tennis balls on poles and say “here’s your eyeline, imagine it’s a force of destruction that’s tearing apart everything in front of you.” And then one time it was “alright and then cars are going flying” so then they went like this as they were running by pretending to be cars flying. So it definitely takes a little more work but now that we’re coming into the digital age of filmmaking it’s something that I’m going to have to get used to if I want to keep doing this stuff. So it’s not too hard just makes you stretch our acting muscles a little bit more. But it’s going to look so cool.
Was Richard in those scenes with you?
Kress: Uh, no. He’s in the weather van with Alison so they’re together and then in order for me to be safe, because Titus is such a tank, they wanted me to be in the armored vehicle. And that’s cool because then you get to explore different relationships rather than keeping it Alison and Pete and Gary and Trey. So you’ll also see that kind of evolve as the movie goes on.
Did you do a lot of research of documentaries?
Kress: Because my character is kind of thrown into it, this is something he has no experience with. His dad just gave him and his brother a camera and said all right go out and say what do you want to say to people in 25 years? So a lot of it is really just me kind of being thrown into it but being so enthusiastic about it that I put a lot of effort into it. So Trey isn’t the best filmmaker but he’s just happy to be doing it. So not as much research as a documentarian because I feel like that would make it a little bit more contrived and not quite as organic as being thrown into the environment.
You mentioned your brother was excited to do this, do you think he realizes this is something he enjoys that he wants to do?
Kress: Once the tornado stuff starts happening, that’s when it gets cool. It’s lame when it’s just following people around but once the shocking events start happening, that’s when he starts to care a little bit more. Especially when Pete offers to pay him money for what he’s already doing. So he’s not quite as excited about it at first but then once the craziness starts happening, then it’s a little bit more of an interest to him.
How does it feel for you as an actor to get a broader demographic than your usual show?
Kress: Yeah, I’m extremely happy to be a part of this because iCarly just wrapped. We wrapped June 20th then there’s more episodes that are going to be coming but that’s it for us. So I was looking very hard for a project that kids could and would watch but that would also appeal to an older audience too so the kids are going to bring their parents and the parents are going to enjoy it as well. One of the people that I’ve really tried to emulate in my career is Shia LaBouf because he handled it so well going from Even Stevens which was a Disney kids show to Holes which was a family drama that everybody could enjoy, to eventually doing Disturbia and then going on to Transformers, Eagle Eye and everything else.
Do you see a Lars Von Trier movie in your future?
Kress: Possibly. That would be awesome. But he handled it so seamlessly in changing demographics without having to compromise because a lot of the time people will get the mentality of oh you have to do something R rated to break out of being a child actor but this is going to be an intense movie and there’s going to be content that’s not suitable for young children but it’s something that strikes that happy medium. And it’s something that I’m absolutely ecstatic to do that appeals to more than just the 8-14 demographic.
Do you have any other features on the horizon?
Kress: Yeah, it’s always a process of reading scripts. Nothing set in stone right now but I also didn’t think a week before I did this movie that this was set in stone either. So it’s crazy how fast this business works. For all I know, by the time I get back I could be flying out to somewhere else. So nothing for sure yet but I’m always looking. But I got to say, after doing two months of this movie I’m probably going to want at least a month or so of not really doing anything.
Of being dry?
Kress: Yes thank you! That’s been one of the hardest things. The rain has made every scene just incredibly difficult. There was one scene where I read he script and I saw the lines and was like okay this is going to be a heartfelt moment between Gary and Trey and we got to set and they were like oh by the way it’s also going to be pouring rain during this. Which kind of threw a kink in things. We had done rain stuff before so I thought I was going to be okay but all of a sudden as we were running the scene I started to not be able to keep my eyes open because the rain was getting in there and everything. And by the end of the lines I literally had my eyes closed. I just couldn’t open them at all and we didn’t know what the problem was. I thought it was just because we were using a different kind of rain tower and since I was looking up at my dad and the rain was coming down it was just getting right in my eyes. Later on we found out that to keep my hair looking wet they put conditioner in it, leaving in conditioner so as soon as it started raining it was just washing down into my eyes. So there’s going to be a scene, you guys will see it the movie and when I watch the scene I will be cringing the whole time because I’m just going to see my like this Dad come on. Because I have this hot, burning conditioner running into my eyes and I had no idea at the time. Fortunately we have corrected this mistake and it will not happen again.
Any other projects you’re interested in doing? Like is there anybody you’d like to work with?
Kress: Yeah absolutely. One of my favorite actors is Denzel Washington so if I was able to do anything with him that would be absolutely amazing. One of my other things I’ve always wanted to do is…I love Lord of the Rings. Favorite movie franchise of all time so when I heard they were making the Hobbit I was like yes maybe there’s some sort of teenage role or young Frodo or something. Which also was really cool because when I found out it was something Richard was doing that blew my mind. Because the Walking Dead is one of my favorite series on TV so we have one person from that and one person from my favorite movies of all time. So it was a little bit intimidating coming into this whole thing. But now that they’re making a third Hobbit who knows. Maybe there will be something in there. And it’s a New Line movie. So maybe there will be a little bit of a connection. But in general I love epic action/adventure movies like Lord of the Rings but I also love war movies. Anything military is always hugely effective for me. Saving Private Ryan is one of my favorite movies. Doing something of that caliber with that kind of incredible imagery and amazing acting would be huge for me. Granted I don’t really look like I’m old enough or big enough to be in the military so it would have to be kind of a particular part I guess.
iCarly is completely finished?
Kress: Yeah we wrapped a couple months ago and I think new ones will be airing until November.
How do you feel about that?
Kress: It’s definitely bittersweet. We had such a great relationship with everybody on that show and it was like graduating form high school. Everybody that we spent, really, our adolescent lives together was just suddenly gone. It was really hard. But at the same time Hollywood’s a pretty small place you always know you’re going to run into somebody at some point or another. So as hard as it was I’m sure I will run into everybody at some point. And everybody still keeps in touch. I’m sure after I get back from this we’re probably going to have a movie night or something and our executive producer, there’s a couple really big episodes coming up, we just did a cross over with Jimmy Fallon in New York and I think when that airs he’s going to get everybody together and we’ll watch it together and reminisce a little bit.
Be sure to check out our set visit interviews from Into the Storm with the following cast and crew:
- INTO THE STORM: 35 Things to Know about Steven Quale’s Natural Disaster Film Starring Richard Armitage and Sarah Wayne Callies
- Director Steven Quale Talks INTO THE STORM, the Film’s Timeframe, Shooting from Multiple Perspectives, Interlinking Stories & His Special Effects Background
- Richard Armitage Talks INTO THE STORM, How the Story Incorporates Found Footage, Character Interaction, Wire/Waterwork & Practical Effects
- Sarah Wayne Callies Talks INTO THE STORM, Insight into Her Character, Intimacy of Trust, Green Screen vs Theater, Wirework Stunts, and Tornado Chasing
- Producer Todd Garner Talks INTO THE STORM, Found Footage in Natural Disasters, Shooting on Multiple Cameras, Special Effects & Their Real World Influences
- Matt Walsh Talks INTO THE STORM, Researching Storm Chasing, Cameras on the Titus, Driving the Vehicle, Tornado Anecdotes & His Character’s Serious Nature