Kevin James and Zulay Henao on Making Netflix’s ‘The Memoirs of an International Assassin’

     November 10, 2016


Premiering this weekend on Netflix is director Jeff Wadlow’s The Memoirs of an International Assassin. The action comedy stars Kevin James as Sam Larson, a mild-mannered would-be author who gets mistaken for a killer-for-hire when his fictional novel about an international assassin is published as a true story. When the book is a huge success, he is suddenly kidnapped, taken out of the country, and forced into an assassination plot. The film also stars Zulay Henao, Ron Rifkin, Andy Garcia, Maurice Compte, Rob Riggle, Kelen Coleman and Kim Coates.

Last week I landed an exclusive interview with Kevin James and Zulay Henao. They talked about their experiences working for Netflix, doing the action scenes, what filming on location added to the film, how much they improvised on set, who ruined the most takes, the way they like to work on set, and more.

Check out what they had to say below the trailer.

How did you guys pull this movie off in 41 days?

the-memoirs-of-an-international-assassin-poster-newKEVIN JAMES: That’s a really good question. It was a very tough schedule, it was tight and we shot in Atlanta and the Dominican Republic. We had a lot of intense fight scenes and a lot of work going back and forth. But I gotta say the one thing is when you have a great cast and crew it had to happen that way that the crew knew what they were doing, they were on top of it and we just it got it done. It was grueling, you know that one I gotta say was grueling but it was so worth it when we saw the final product.

ZULAY HENAO: I just have to take a minute to Jeff Wadlow’s professionalism he was really the one that..

JAMES: He was intent on making it you know right.

HENAO: Shots everyday.

Well for each of you what was it about the story that you really liked?

JAMES: Well for me I get to play dual characters you know, I get to play this alter ego. I get to play an author. I get to play this assasin. I get to play all this rolled up in one and then having them kind of switch roles and having to draw from the other one, you know from each other actually, and learn from each other. It was just kind of unique for me in that way in that I had never done a movie like this before, so really that was exciting for me.

HENAO: And for me I have to say you know obviously the physicality of it all was pretty insane and amazing and challenging but I loved all of the specific character she had so much to prove. She worked so hard cause of all the sacrifices that she made so for me it was playing a character that had so much [inaudible 2:03] to a character and just to be a professional while doing all of that was a great combination,


Image via Netflix

I think one of the reasons the film played well for me is that it wasn’t just shot in Atlanta or New Orleans. You guys went out of the country for some of the location work. So can talk about filming on location and what that added to the film?

JAMES: Well it’s funny you said that because you’ve gotta give credit to Jeff Wadlow because when he said we’re gonna go to the jungles of the Dominican Republic and we gotta shoot this because there’s no other place that will look like there. And I’m like, “Can’t we find it in Atlanta?” I was like, “Can’t you just find some woods that we got to?” He was like, “It will not look the same, you’ll never get the same feel.” And just because I hate traveling, it’s just the flying that I didn’t like. You know being there thinking I was gonna be away from my family for a little but and then they were gonna come down. You know it was a grind but to make it happen I realize now that you needed all that and it really did make the film.

Well one of the things I keep on hearing from everyone how awesome Netflix is to work with and how they’re always there for you and they give good notes, so are you guys gonna espouse the same stuff I keep hearing?

JAMES: I am only cause it’s true. Honestly, if it was a bad experience I wouldn’t do it again I don’t need the ya know.. it’s one of those things that you say, “Man it just didn’t work and I wanna do my own thing” or this or that. They were just incredible partners in that you do get to do that. They see your vision, they never say, “Oh you can’t do this or you can’t do that.” They were like do your thing and they really had great creative notes, which kind of threw me. I was like, “Whoa alright.” Honestly it was just seamless working with them and I think we all felt that. I don’t know what to say it was a great experience.


Image via Netflix

For both of you talk a little bit about improv versus sticking to the script.

JAMES: Yeah, I mean we always like to encourage improv once you get what you need in a scene, you know once you get what’s written on the page in most cases the written word Jeff Wadlow did a great job with it so we stuck to that. But once we had it and again making our days was always tough so we didn’t have that much time, but there would be time to play once we got it they just would have fun with this take and do something different and just try different stuff. There’s stuff that Kim Coates does in this movie that I couldn’t stop laughing at this guy.

HENAO: There wasn’t a lot of improv involved for me. I pretty much stuck to the script, there’s too much going on to the fight scenes, there’s too much going on really for, as Kevin said, we really had to make our days. So I really stuck to the script and Jess was pretty adamant about that just for purpose of the story too I think. For the story to really be told the way he wanted it to be told I think it was important especially for my character to stay on script.

For both of you who ruined the most takes and why?

JAMES: Zulay did, we all know Zulay did we’re not even gonna try to fake that part.


Image via Netflix

HENAO: I ruined the most takes partly because I was laughing so much. You know Jeff would say, “Can you settle, settle.” So that was part of it and also just the choreographed fight scenes were pretty intense so we did go over those a lot. I think I’m very happy with the end product and I think everybody is too and Jeff said he’d work with me again so that’s good. But I just got myself a job on Kevin James show so that’s good.

I spoken to a lot of actors and some love the Clint Eastwood method of shooting the rehearsal, doing a take or too and moving on and some really enjoy the Fincher method of fifty takes. For each of you, how do you usually like to work when making a movie?

JAMES: Really it varies for me, most of the time I would say I like the Clint Eastwood method where you kind of if you get it you get it and you can move on you don’t wanna out do things. But it depends on the scene if you feel like you can find different stuff and do it I think it’s great to do that. With a movie like this where you have such a tight schedule and if you feel like you got it there’s always that danger if you’re not doing anything different and new let’s just try to make it work and move and you feel like you know that the scene you’re working on now is in detriment of the scenes you gotta try to do later, you know you wanna make sure you get in.

HENAO: Yeah, I think it all depends on what the scene is. I know that working for Tyler Perry you know there are a lot of times you shoot the rehearsal and then we have maybe we have another take and that can work or it can not work depending on the nature of the scene. So I personally like a little rehearsal, not if I‘m gonna have a super emotional scene you wanna have it be a fresh thing. I think both can work like I said depending on the nature of the moment.

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