Eoin Macker in THE CELLAR | ©2022 Shudder

Eoin Macker in THE CELLAR | ©2022 Shudder

Eoin Macken gets around, in reality, in his career, and in the stories of the projects he does. Macken, born in Dublin, Ireland, is an actor, and a writer/director/producer, along with being a cinematographer and a film editor. As a writer/director, Macken’s feature film credits include the thriller CHRISTIAN BLAKE, DREAMING FOR YOU, THE INSIDE, LEOPARD, and HERE ARE THE YOUNG MEN.

As an actor, Macken, whose first name is pronounced “Owen,” starred for four years in NBC’s NIGHT SHIFT, as well as Syfy’s NIGHTFLYERS. His feature acting credits include THE FOREST, RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER and THE HOLE IN THE GROUND.

Macken gets on a Zoom call from Melbourne, Australia, where he’s currently making Season 2 of NBC’s science-fiction drama LA BREA, which will return later this year. Macken plays Gavin Harris, who finds that the visions he’s had his entire life are connected to a huge sinkhole that opens up in Los Angeles, dropping Gavin’s wife Eve (Natalie Zea) and son Josh (Jack Martin) into a primeval world. Gavin and daughter Izzy (Zyra Gorecki) try to rescue their family, with results that involve time travel.

Macken also stars in the new feature THE CELLAR, which opens theatrically and streams on Shudder beginning April 15. Written and directed by Brendan Muldowney, and shot in Macken’s native Dublin, THE CELLAR is a horror film. Macken plays another father of two, Brian Woods. Brian and his American wife Keira (Elisha Cuthbert) have moved their family to an isolated house outside of Dublin, much to the fury of adolescent daughter Ellie (Abby Fitz). Some very odd occurrences happen in the home, where it turns out that most of the previous occupants vanished without a trace. Keira and Brian clash over their conflicting beliefs about what’s actually going on.

ASSIGNMENT X: Did you do THE CELLAR in between seasons of LA BREA?

EOIN MACKEN: Actually, we did THE CELLAR just before Season 1 of LA BREA. And in between Season 1 and Season 2 of LA BREA, I shot a different movie, called I USED TO BE FAMOUS. It’s a Netflix original movie with an actor called Ed Skrein. I think we come out later this year. It’s [made by] this really cool director, Eddie Sternberg, and it’s a really beautiful movie. Ed Skrein plays an ex-musician, my character used to be in a band with him, and it’s a comedy/drama.

AX: Did you do THE CELLAR pre-COVID?

MACKEN: No, no, it was deep in COVID [laughs]. It was near the tail end of 2020, I guess. Time has no meaning anymore.

AX: Was one of the reasons they wanted to make THE CELLAR at that time because it was a COVID-friendly production, which only had a few locations and, except for a few specific sequences, only a couple of people together in a scene at any one time?

MACKEN: No, no, no. THE CELLAR, like any movie, especially movies when you’re building them with the Irish Film Board, it takes a couple of years for that process to happen. So, THE CELLAR had already been planned before COVID happened, and they’d been working on it for a while. It just ended up being that it worked out really well in terms of, we were in quarantine, myself and Elisha and Brendan, for a couple weeks before the movie, on location.

And so, when we were shooting, you couldn’t leave for those five or six weeks. So, it created this really interesting bubble that I thought really worked for creating the atmosphere of the film, and just for us who were making it. We were in this quarantine bubble, and it just happened that it worked for this film, because of the location.

AX: You’re also an executive producer on THE CELLAR. When did that come about in terms of your involvement with the film?

MACKEN: That was during it, just coming aboard. I’ve worked with [producers] Richard Bolger and Conor Barry before, they produced HERE ARE THE YOUNG MEN with me. First and foremost was just me acting in the project.

The production was Richie and Conor, and I didn’t really have anything to do with any of that. The executive producer is purely for when you’re coming on board and you have a conversation with Brendan about giving you some elements, just some character stuff. It’s a little more complicated than that, but it’s nothing to do in terms of the actual production. Richard and Conor really look after everyone, and they do a great job.

AX: How would you describe THE CELLAR?

MACKEN: I would describe THE CELLAR as a slow-burning, get-in-your-bones, psychological, inexorable horror film.

AX: You work a lot in the horror/sci-fi genre. Is this a genre you particularly enjoy, or is that just where the work has turned out to be?

MACKEN: I think it’s like anything. I think you gravitate towards stuff that you enjoy doing. I grew up reading Asimov, and reading Tolkien, and just getting lost in fantasy and science-fiction worlds. I haven’t really written anything of that [genre] myself yet, I’ve written more [drama], but performing in those types of shows, it is what I love doing. I love that fantasy element to it. And horror is something that’s always scared me. I believe in ghosts, and I always enjoy doing horror movies, because I do find it a little bit terrifying, watching these movies, so I get a kick out of that.

AX: There’s also a surprising amount of mathematics in THE CELLAR? Did you find that scary? I certainly do, I’m not a big math person …

MACKEN: I did [find it scary]. I wasn’t good at math in school. He has to solve an equation, I’m like, “You know what? Just leave her. Leave her down there, we’re not going to solve this equation, it’s better if we just – the evil has got her now, forget about it, it’s over.” [laughs]

AX: How is playing opposite Elisha Cuthbert?

MACKEN: I adore Elisha. She’s one of my favorite people to work with. We had so much fun, even doing press [for THE CELLAR] at South by Southwest, and she just had a new child, and she’s incredibly enthusiastic, she’s so talented, she’s one of the nicest people, and she really gets it. So, we had a great dynamic on set, and I couldn’t say enough good things about Elisha.

AX: You’re from Ireland, so were you particularly happy to go back there to make THE CELLAR?

MACKEN: Yeah, because a lot of the time, I work abroad, like Australia or Albuquerque or South Africa, so when I get to work in Ireland, for me, it’s quite exciting. And especially because there’s a lot of Irish filmmakers I want to work with, and Brendan was somebody who I’d worked with on one of his early films, but only in a very, very small part, so getting the chance to work with Brendan for me was one of the big draws in making this film, because I just think he’s a beautiful filmmaker, and I think he’s got some crazy ideas, and I really like how he shoots. For me, that was why I really wanted to do the movie, was to work back in Ireland, and work with Brendan.

AX: Is it also easier to do a role where you’re using your regular speaking voice, as you do in THE CELLAR?

MACKEN: When I’m doing my Dublin accent? Yes, it definitely is.

AX: With LA BREA, your character has some odd time-loop elements, including one where there’s a younger version of him, played by Diesel La Torraca. Did you have to take time to get your head around the time paradox, and have you worked at all with Diesel La Toracca?

MACKEN: I haven’t worked with him yet, but I have this really interesting stuff that’s happening in Season 2. All that time loop stuff was a difficult one to figure out the best way to play it and how it works in the story. It’s a really interesting facet, and an interesting layer, and that was what drew me to LA BREA, was adding that kind of element to it, because it’s similar – in a way, it’s almost the flip of THE CELLAR. In THE CELLAR, my character doesn’t believe Elisha’s character, because if you’re not privy to that kind of supernatural element, how do you explain that to someone? It’s hard to explain, and if you don’t experience it, no one’s going to believe you.

And that’s a similar thing for Gavin in LA BREA, whereby no one believes him with these visions that he’s having. He’s experiencing the pain of it, he’s seeing these visions, it’s really messing him up, it’s ruined his family and his career, and yet no one is going to believe him, because it’s all in his head. So, it was interesting just trying to find that kind of level, and also the emotional importance and impact of that. So, this season of LA BREA, where I’m seeing it’s developing into, I’m excited, because it gives you an awful lot of depth to play with.

AX: Are you dealing with CG creatures this season?

MACKEN: I think so. That’s what I’ve been told. [laughs]

AX: Are you looking forward to that? I’m supposing you dealt with at least some CG elements in previous projects like RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER.

MACKEN: Yeah. CG is never the most fun to do, because it’s more fun doing physical stunts, or actual elements. CGI is a lot more time-consuming, and you just have to be really patient, because it takes a while, and it’s a lot more specifically crafted from how they shoot it, and how it’s all designed by the team. It’s fun, but it’s more fun when you see it afterwards, and you’re like, “Oh, that’s what they did, that’s cool.”

AX: You had previously done NIGHT SHIFT for NBC and NIGHTFLYERS for the NBC-affiliated network Syfy, so were you sort of in the NBC casting family when LA BREA came up, or was that totally separate?

MACKEN: I have no idea. I hope so. I mean, I’ve always had a really nice time working with everyone at NBC, and I’m really lucky that I’ve done a couple of shows with them, and they’ve always been great to work with. You like working with nice people, and you like working with people you get to create with, so I’ve always enjoyed being part of the NBC family. So, if that’s what I am, then I’m honored.

AX: Can you contrast at all working an indie film, where you’re under a lot less supervision, but you also have fewer amenities than with working with a network show like LA BREA, where you have more people weighing in, but you have, for instance, better craft service?

MACKEN: It’s all about the craft service. [On a network production], we get a couple more amenities, for sure, but it kind of ends up coming down to the same thing, because you end up being on set, and you work with your director and your writer and your d.p. and your crew and your actors. The rest of the stuff always ends up becoming superfluous. It’s just about who you’re working with and trying to create something, from my point of view, and you can be doing the toughest indie in the world in the middle of the snow, and it’s just as much fun as if you’re being looked after on a lot doing an NBC show. It’s really just about who you’re working with, and what show or film you’re making, to be honest. I enjoy it all equally. I just like being on a set, and making things with people.

AX: Do you want to do more producing/directing?

MACKEN: I do quite a bit of it, yeah. I’m working on another film next year. We haven’t announced it yet, but we’ll do that shortly. Writing and directing and producing is something that I love doing, but I just honestly like creating things with people, and that’s what I love about acting, is meeting new people and creating stories. And I really like to do that with directing and producing, because that’s why I got into this industry and this business, was to create things and work with cool people.

AX: And what would you most like people to know about THE CELLAR?

MACKEN: What I love about THE CELLAR is that it doesn’t necessarily have the ending that you’re going to expect, and I think that’s really interesting, what Brendan has crafted. Because a lot of movies, you have an idea of where it’s going to go to. And I don’t think you’re going to expect the ending of THE CELLAR, because it really does play in that idea of, what’s the most frightening thing about that ghost, or about the supernatural, or about evil, or about something terrible or haunting? There’s something really interesting that Brendan does with this story, which is why I wanted to do it, because it really got in my bones. It was like, “Oh, man, that’s freaky.”

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Article: THE CELLAR AND LA BREA: Exclusive interview with actor and director Eoin Macken


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