The Netflix original movie Holiday in the Wild follows Manhattanite Kate Conrad (Kristin Davis), who decides to book a second honeymoon with her husband to cope with their son (John Owen Lowe) leaving home for college. But when their relationship suddenly ends, Kate goes to Africa for a solo safari, finding so much more than she expected, as she crosses paths with pilot Derek Holliston (Rob Lowe), some orphaned baby elephants and a group of friendly locals at an elephant orphanage, and rediscovers who she is and what she finds fulfilling in life.
During this phone interview with Collider, co-stars Rob Lowe and Kristin Davis (who is also an executive producer on the film) talked about being a part of a film with such an important message, the challenges in getting this made, reuniting 20 years after their last project together, working with wild instead of trained elephants, making this shoot a family experience, and the most memorable moments on set. Lowe also talked about his upcoming Fox TV series 9-1-1: Lone Star (debuting in 2020), his one-man show and starting a podcast, while Davis talked about her next project, a thriller called Grace that she’s also producing.
Collider: What does it mean to you guys to be a part of a film that’s sweet and fun and shot in an incredible location, but also with a really important message that you can really get behind?
ROB LOWE: Well, those were the reasons that I was attracted to do it. Kristin’s been at the forefront of elephant conservation for over a decade now, so I knew, when I signed on, that I was gonna be a part of something that was authentic and real, and was about something, and had a reason for being. I think all of that is captured in the movie, which is why people are liking it as much as they are.
KRISTIN DAVIS: Thank you, Rob. He’s so sweet. For me, I just wanted to share with people the experiences that I’ve had, for the last 10 years, going to a lot of different countries in Africa and meeting a lot of amazing people, who are dedicating their lives to trying to save elephants and rhinos, and all of the animals that are at risk. It’s something that not everyone is aware of, and I thought that, if we could do something that brought the story to life, but still was uplifting, it would be great. It’s important that we have entertainment that the whole family can watch, and that you’re feeling like you’re experiencing something different, and that also can be a part of the solution, if you want to do something to help or feel good about. That’s so important right now, in our time.
Kristin, was it challenging to get this to where it is now, so that it feels like the perfect representation for the work that you’ve been doing? Was it challenging to translate your own love of elephants to this movie?
DAVIS: Well, yes and no. I bounced around like a puppy, during the film. I saw the final mix of it the other day, and I was like, “Why am I so happy?” And then, I thought, “Well, ‘cause I’m around elephants and Rob.” Actually, filming it, I felt joyful and thrilled, but getting to that point was really hard and took a lot of years. I researched the two places that we filmed for about two years, and then I went on a research mission trip to meet them and get them to understand where I was coming from, and that I wanted to film in a different way than most Hollywood films do with animals. I wanted them to trust me, and they don’t really trust Hollywood because they know how the animals are used, traditionally, which isn’t always so respectful. So, I had to gain their trust, and I wanted that. I wanted them to feel comfortable and to feel good about being a part of it. I wanted to find the perfect place for us that had baby elephants, and then the perfect place for us that had big elephant, and I did. I found both places. And so, we were just so incredibly blessed, in the end. Once Rob signed on, everything just started moving quickly. And then, he got Johnny, his son. Everything was amazing. And now, people actually get to watch it, which just feels so good and really kind of like a miracle.
Did it ever feel like it wasn’t going to happen?
DAVIS: So many times! It took more money than people would normally spend on this type of a film, to film it correctly. That’s what I’m so thankful to Netflix for because they were different people in their world who were telling them, “Oh, no, you should film this other way with the trained elephants because it will be so much cheaper,” at which point, I thought I was going to have to quit my own movie. I called our executive in tears saying, “I’m sorry, I can’t. I just can’t do this because it’s wrong, and it’s not respectful to the elephants whose story I’m trying to tell.” And she completely understood and went to the bosses at Netflix, and they stepped up, which is rare. So, I’m just very thankful to them for putting the money towards shooting something that was done in the ethically correct way.
What was it like for both of you to be around the elephants and to work alongside of them? When you work with wild animals, in that way, do you just have to get to know them and their personalities, and then learn to work around their behavior?
LOWE: They were never asked to do anything in the movie. We worked around them. If they went to the watering hole, it could be sometime around mid-day, but you wouldn’t really know, so we were sitting there waiting. That is not the way movies are made.
DAVIS: The cameras would be set up and everybody would holding still, hoping they were gonna come through the bush.
LOWE: It was pretty spectacular to be sitting there going, “Is that them? Are they coming? Wait, I think I hear them. Roll camera!” It was really exciting.
DAVIS: It was. It’s impressive. But they don’t have to learn lines, and we do.
It’s very cool that this is not just a family friendly movie, but it’s literally a family movie. Rob, how did your son end up in the movie, and how was he, as a scene partner?
DAVIS: He’s mostly in scenes with me. I consider myself incredibly lucky because Johnny is really, really talented. He’s very present. He has an attention to detail, that I believe he learned from his father, and he’s just very professional, but also very, very real. It was a joy to work with him. I love him as a person, but you can also tell that he loved the act and he loves to be a part of the process. He’s also a great writer, so he understands story and storytelling. It was so magical and wonderful to have him. And also, Rob’s wife and his other son, Matthew, came, so we had the whole family and they did all kinds of crazy fun things. They went to Tanzania and swam with the sharks. It was great to see how they embraced the entire adventure.
LOWE: We had a blast there, as a family. Johnny is just a naturally gifted actor. He does the two most important things, which is that he’s a very good listener, as an actor, and he understands story really well. He’s now writing for Ryan Murphy, as a writer. He’s working in the writers’ room now. I’m happy that he’s not an actor who’s waiting by the phone for it to ring. Being a content providers is really something I’m proud of him for, on his path.
This film is a reunion for you guys, since you worked together previously, 20 years ago. In the time since then, had you ever talked about reuniting for another project?
DAVIS: We’d just see each other on the red carpet sometimes.
LOWE: Usually we’re dressed very fancy with lots of flashbulbs going off, when we see each other. But I love working with Kristin. I had a blast then, and I had a blast now.
DAVIS: Me too!
LOWE: When I knew it was her, I was like, “I’m in! I love her!” I
DAVIS: It’s such a joy, in our business, that it’s such a small world that sometimes you do get to reunite with the people that you would like to reunite with. It’s wonderful.
Especially with characters like this, that playfulness that you guys have when you know each other, can really add to the relationship.
DAVIS: Totally! Because when you don’t know them, or maybe you don’t love them, it’s tough.
LOWE: On something like this, where the logistics are unbelievably arduous, going through it with somebody you like is a huge plus.
DAVIS: It’s true. And I think it’s important to be able to just talk freely. You have to trust somebody, so that you can just talk freely. We had this one location, and there was basically no road to get to a location. It washed out from rains, so it was like a really weird amusement park ride that was painful to go on. So, Rob and I would get up there and have a little complaining session together, and then we’d feel better, we’d do it, and we’d plan how we were gonna get back down. You just wanna feel comfortable and free with the person that you’re working with, and if you can do that when you’re in these weird situations, it means a lot.
What would you say was the most memorable day or scene or moment, for each of you, on this?
LOWE: Honestly, almost every day was memorable. When I watched the movie, each scene that comes up, I remember exactly where we were, what happened that day, the issue, the crisis, and how we solved it, and that’s what’s special about it. Listen, 90% of the projects that we’re on, you can’t even remember when you shot it or how you shot it. With this one, every location was magical. I would say the entire shoot, for me, was filled with that stuff.
DAVIS: I agree. And I also would say the really, really huge elephant that wakes us up, when we’re sleeping in the jeep in the night, is such a magical elephant. And he is the biggest elephant that I’ve ever been around, in terms of my decade of being around elephants. To be around him, in general, is amazing. He’s just huge, but so gentle and how aware of where you are. Just to film a scene with a majestic creature like him is just amazing, in every way.
You guys both have other projects coming up. What attracted you to what you’re working on now or next, and what appealed to you about those characters?
LOWE: We’re in the middle of shooting 9-1-1: Lone Star right now, and it’s just a big, giant, massive production. I love the original 9-1-1, and this iteration has all of the stuff you love in it, but this version feels a little more gritty and more character driven, as opposed to incident driven, although our incidents are crazy. We just finished this big tornado sequence. I’m having a blast doing it. We’re premiering after the NFC Championship game. Fox is really behind it. It’s very exciting. I’m doing my one man show, continually, when I have the time. I’m in Thousand Oaks on the 9th of November. And I’m thinking about doing a podcast. I’m always busy. I’m just busy, and I like being busy. It’s fun.
DAVIS: I have something that I’m getting ready to shoot with Dermot Mulroney, called Grace. It’s a thriller and we’re shooting a Albuquerque, with a woman writer/director (Anna Elizabeth James). I was so scared to do it, and I’m not gonna tell you why. You’re gonna wait until it comes out, and then you’re gonna know why. But, Dermot gave me confidence. I was like, “If you get Dermot, I’ll do it.” I kept turning it down because it was so out of my comfort zone. But Rob has taught me that you sometimes need to say yes, and you need to keep reinventing yourself, so mommy’s gonna go do a crazy thriller.
And you’re a producer on that, too, aren’t you?
DAVIS: Yes, I am. They keep sending me many emails, so that means you’re a producer.
Is that something that you’re finding is more and more important to you?
DAVIS: I think so. We were so lucky on Sex and the City, in that we were really included in everything to do with our character – our storylines, our guys that were hired, and we were always in the casting. We really included and respected, in every way. And then, when we got off there and I started doing other things, I was like, “God, I forgot that they don’t always include the actors. Oh, my god!” It’s shocking. So, it is important. Who you choose to work with and surround yourself with is so integral to the outcome, and it’s important, making those choices, that you have a voice. The longer you work, you also just gain knowledge and you try to pay more attention to details. These are things that I’m still working on learning. I also just feel like, because it’s out of my comfort element, I would like be in close communication with the director about what we’re actually doing, and I have that. So, I’m lucky that I’m able to.
Holiday in the Wild is available to stream at Netflix.