From writer/director Jay Martin, the crime thriller 7 Minutes tells the story of three desperate young men (played by Jason Ritter, Luke Mitchell and Zane Holtz) who are forced to commit a robbery after becoming indebted to a psychopathic drug lord. What begins as a simple plan quickly escalates, as true motives are revealed and unexpected twists raise the stakes.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, Aussie actor Luke Mitchell talked about why he was interested in being a part of 7 Minutes, the non-linear storytelling, playing a good guy that makes bad choices, and how crazy it was to shoot the heist sequence. He also talked about how nerve-wracking it was to join the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. family, becoming a regular in Season 3, his character’s Inhuman journey, and his desire to keep working in film and TV.
LUKE MITCHELL: A little bit of both. I got sent the script, and I read it and loved it. Then, they set up a meeting with the director, and Jay [Martin] and I got along really well. He seemed to like me, and he asked me if I’d be interested in auditioning. I said, “Hell, yeah!” So then, I went in and auditioned for him and the producers, and I guess they liked what I did. The next thing I knew, I was off to Everett, Washington. I’d never been to that part of the country before, so it was all very new and exciting. Jason Ritter was my brother, Zane Holtz was my best friend, and Kris Kristofferson was in it. It was crazy and cool, at the same time. It was a really cool, unique experience and I loved every second of it. We all stayed in this little hotel in this medium-sized town and, aside from living in a hotel, we lived the life that these characters we were playing because we didn’t really escape outside of the town for the whole month. We were visiting the local bars, and having beers and bonding. Jason and I had never met before. I met briefly with Zane and Leven [Rambin] before we went to Everett, just to have an initial chat and to talk about the project. But once Jason, Zane and I got together, we all got along really well, really quickly, and I think that really helped with the film. We’re three very different guys, but the connection or the bond that we created comes across. The dynamic between the three of us actually worked really well.
Do you like the opportunity to meet and chat with your director before you start shooting, to make sure that you’re on the same page?
MITCHELL: Oh, completely. That’s the first experience I’ve had with that. Even just being on set, whether it’s film or TV, I try to communicate as much as I can with the director and the writer. On this, they were the same person. As an actor, you can get very internal or self-indulgent, and so focused on yourself, but you’re a cog in the machine that the writer and director is creating, so you’ve gotta check in and make sure what you’re doing is on the same page as what they’re trying to achieve. I try to keep that communication as open and flowing as possible. It was really cool to meet with Jay beforehand.
What was it that stood out about this story and character that ultimately made you want to sign on?
MITCHELL: Initially, it was the style. I loved the non-linear storytelling. But at the core of it, I like the fact that Sam, my character, is essentially a good guy who does a bad thing, or a couple of bad things. I like to see what happens to people when they’re thrown into really crappy situations. I think it’s really interesting to watch what decisions they make, how they deal with the feelings they have, and all of that stuff. Sam is between a rock and a hard place, and then it’s complicated even further. To try to bring that to life was really challenging, but really fascinating, at the same time.
Do you feel like, because Sam really was trying to do the right thing, even though he had the wrong method of doing it, that helped you understand him a little better or made you less judgmental of his actions?
MITCHELL: Totally. I think the beauty of these three guys is that they’re just boys, but they’re acting like they know what they’re doing. They’re the opposite of professional. They think they’re just going to wave some guns around, get the money, and get out. They’ve got this fairy tale idea of what a robbery is. I think the naivete really comes out when Tuckey (Kevin Gage) is introduced. The three boys and Tuckey are complete opposites of each other. He’s basically a cold-blooded killer, and these boys don’t even want to pull the trigger on their guns. It’s tragically beautiful to watch these boys make these decisions. As an audience, you’re like, “What are you doing?! Don’t do that! No, you did that. Oh, crap!” It’s cringe-worthy because the choices they make, as an audience, you’re going, “This isn’t going to turn out well.” I liked that element to it.
How was the experience of shooting the heist? There are some very heated and intense moments, so was that pretty crazy?
MITCHELL: It was crazy, it was fun, and it was exhilarating. I just had to throw myself in there and give it my all. Luckily, we were able to shoot that in sequence. We didn’t have to shoot it out of order. It just would have been too difficult. It was great because it was four days straight of shooting the heist. It starts off intense, and it gets more intense. I had a lot of coffee. We did long days, and we just had to get it done. On the fourth day, we knew there was no coming back for a fifth day. We had to get out on the fourth day, and there were certain things we had to do. At times, it felt like guerilla filmmaking. We just had to do it, but that added to the intensity of it and probably, in some way, helped me.
Even though you’re acting and playing pretend, what was it like to put on the mask and pick up the gun?
MITCHELL: It’s fun, in the sense that, as the character, you don’t think you’re going to use it, so you’re like, “Yeah, let’s put on a mask, get a gun and just do it.” Without spoiling it for people who haven’t seen the movie, Sam has got a little something extra going on, at the start of the heist, that isn’t revealed until later. In that sense, he’s not intending on using the gun, but then, as things progress, it’s one of those things where, when you’re holding a gun, it’s designed for one purpose. When you start thinking about that, that’s scary. And then, when you have somebody like Kevin Gage pointing a shotgun at you, you’re like, “Holy, crap! This is intense. I’m holding a pistol at him, and he’s holding a shotgun at me.” It’s a mixture of emotions.
Because of the flashbacks in the non-linear storytelling, you have a football sequence, which must have been intense, in its own way. What was that like?
MITCHELL: We had one night to shoot, to get everything. That was a separate shoot. We shot for about a month in Everett to do everything else, and then we had to come back to get the football sequence. We had two local football teams that came to help us out, to play and be a part of the shoot. We shot from 6 pm to 6 am, or something like that, and we had two full teams and the coaches for the teams. And then, half the town came out to fill out the stands, to watch the game and to be extras. There was a lot to organize to make that happen, and we could only do that for one night. And I was in the middle of shooting The Tomorrow People. Luckily, I wasn’t too far away. I was in Vancouver and we shot it in [Washington]. It was pretty mental, but really fun. As an Aussie, I had never really played NFL before. I had a crash course in different moves, so that I could look like a quarterback. At the start of the shoot, Rick Rosenthal, the producer, gave me a ball that was signed by Joe Montana, which is really awesome because it was personalized to me. From that moment on, I was practicing throwing and catching, every day. It was cool. I like to throw myself into stuff like that, especially when it’s something that’s so foreign to me. You just keep doing it, to get it in you.
As bittersweet as it was that The Tomorrow People didn’t get a second season, it was cool to see you go on to be a part of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Was it nerve-wracking to go from a show that you were at from the beginning to one that you were joining in the second season, when that cast was already really tight with each other?
MITCHELL: It was extremely nerve-wracking. Just to touch on The Tomorrow People, I was sad when that was over. I had such a fantastic time on that show. I learned a lot and I made some really great friends, but network decisions are completely out of the actors’ hands. So, I moved on and I was very excited to get a guest role for Season 2 on S.H.I.E.L.D. It was very daunting because they are such a tight knit cast who are all such talented people. My first episode was pretty big, and I had all this exposition. I just had to fit in and be like, “Hey, I’m Inhuman. Let me help you through this.” Two weeks prior, I didn’t really know what an Inhuman was, so I had to do my research with the comic books, and all that stuff. Working with Chloe [Bennet] was really great. She’s such a sweetheart and such a professional that she made my first day really easy. After the first day, I felt like I’d got one fit in there. And then, after the three big days in a row, I took a big sigh of relief and went, “Okay, good, I’m in. People know me.” Everyone was so welcoming. It really is a nice, talented group of people. I did feel part of the family, very early on. So then, when I got the green light to continue on with the show as a series regular, I was over the moon. I couldn’t have been happier about that decision. They’ve done such a great job. You just have to look at their guest stars. Their main cast is great, but they’ve had some incredible guest stars. I’m just hoping they bring Sam Jackson back.
It’s cool because the Inhumans aren’t something that’s really been explored yet in the Marvel films and TV shows, up until this point. What’s it like to be a part of exposing audiences to that aspect of the Marvel universe?
MITCHELL: It’s fun, but you feel a little bit of weight of expectation. You want to make sure that you do your part right. The writers do such a good job of creating the world that you just want to play the part that they’ve given you. In that respect, it’s really, really cool to be a part of it and to be one of the first Inhumans in the MCU, and to expose this whole new world to audiences. Obviously, comic book fans are aware of them, but if you’re not a comic book fan, you wouldn’t know what they are. It’s really cool.
Obviously, you can’t reveal any secrets, but what can we expect from Lincoln’s journey in Season 3?
MITCHELL: It’s going to be difficult. I’m really excited about Season 3. I’d love to tell you so many things right now, but I can’t. I’m very, very excited about what I’ve been reading and what I’ve been doing on set. The whole vibe and dynamic for Season 3 feels very new and fresh and exciting. Obviously, you’re going to get to see a lot more of Lincoln. You’re going to get to see different sides of Lincoln. He was introduced in Season 2 with a very specific purpose, and that purpose was to help Skye transition. He was also within the Inhuman hierarchy at Afterlife. In Season 3, Afterlife is no more and that Inhuman hierarchy is no more. Lincoln is a man without a country, so to speak. He feels betrayed, but he also feels guilty. That’s really going to force him to try to work out the best course of action for him and what that means for his humanity, no pun intended. He needs to find out who he is, as a man, and where he stands, and all of that stuff. That might not be the easiest path.
How cool is it to be in this place in your career where you’re doing TV and film, and you can explore characters where you have the beginning, middle and end, while you also explore characters where you have no idea where they’re going?
MITCHELL: All I know is the current episode and maybe the next episode. They really give you very little. I’m literally having the time of my life. I’m having so much fun, and I’m trying to make the most of it, work hard, and learn as much as I can from both the world that I’m working in and also the actors. I just hope to keep having fun and see where it takes me. I feel very lucky and very blessed. I just hope that I can keep doing my job and that people keep liking what I do and that the opportunities continue. That’s the best that I can hope for. And if I’m able to manage doing film and TV, at the same time, that’s the dream, right there. We’ll see. I don’t know what’s in the future, obviously. I’m just trying to enjoy right now.
7 Minutes is currently available on iTunes and On Demand, and will be out on Blu-ray/DVD on September 1st.