How 'Coming Home in the Dark' Star Daniel Gillies Nailed Psycopath Role

Sundance 2021: “He was open to exploration and trying new things and getting back on the horse again and again,” director James Ashcroft says

In his new horror film “Coming Home in the Dark,” premiering at Sundance on Saturday, star Daniel Gillies had to go to a dark place to embody the role of Mandrake, a psychopathic killer who abducts two unsuspecting hikers. And his director says he was more than up for the challenge.

“He was willing to put everything on the line, and he was open to exploration and trying new things and getting back on the horse again and again and again,” director James Ashcroft said at TheWrap’s Virtual Sundance Studio. “That’s what I want as a director, is to work with an actor who’s willing to be risky and try and give them as wide a space to swing as possible, or as confined a space, being in a car.”

Much of the action of “Coming Home in the Dark” literally involves Gillies’ character driving his two captive prisoners back home in the dark. But Gillies manages to convey enormous terror and tension through very quiet, reserved tones — and not a lot of action — until it becomes absolutely necessary.

The film is set in New Zealand and features Kiwi stars, and Gillies had to put on a thicker Kiwi accent in order to play Mandrake, but do so without appearing exaggerated or cartoonish. And though Gillies frequently steals the show in the film, he singled out his co-stars, Erik Thomson and Miriama McDowell, for helping him reach the level he needed.

“There were moments where I wasn’t managing that tone, wasn’t I, James? It was a bit of an exploration with James, and it was trying to find that thing. And also, a character like that is only as good as his captives, is only as good as his victim,” Gillies said. “I was only able to go into those places once they achieved a certain sort of frequency of their hysteria, you know? In a way, I had an easier role I think than they did because they had to maintain a certain level of horror.”

See the interview for “Coming Home in the Dark” with Daniel Gillies and James Ashcroft above.

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