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Luke Baines Dishes On Untitled Horror Movie - Exclusive Interview

During a year that was pretty miserable for everyone, "Shadowhunters" and "Truth or Dare" star Luke Baines was busy giving the people what they want: a meta quarantine horror film. Rounding up longtime coworkers and friends like Nick Simon, Claire Holt, Emmy Raver-Lampman, and "Shadowhunters" co-star Katherine McNamara, the talented group of actors put together what we now know as "Untitled Horror Movie." And yes, it's untitled on purpose. They say that life imitates art, but in this case, Baines wanted his art to imitate life. With productions closed down everywhere, most artists and actors were out of work — which, of course, provided the perfect premise for Baines' and Simons' horror film.

So, what exactly happens when a group of actors out of work come together on Zoom to create an epic horror movie? Well, if you ask the film's characters, they would probably say, "Nothing good!" But for Baines and the rest of the cast, it seems like it was just a bit more fun without the presence of real demonic energy. Instead, the film is a delectable mix of Gen Z satire topped off with caricatures of the Hollywood stars you know and love — and, of course, a heavy splash of O negative. But moreover, you can tell that the cast had the time of their lives making the movie, making the viewing experience that much more entertaining.

Looper spoke to co-writer and star Luke Baines, who dished on the movie's creation, ad-libbed lines, his "Shadowhunters" ending, and working on the "Mandalorian" set.

Pitches and pendulums

I watched "Untitled Horror Movie," and I loved it. It's just so unique and interesting. Definitely one of the coolest and most innovative projects that I've seen come from quarantine, especially since you guys were actually filming in your houses. How did the film come about?

Thank you very much, firstly. How did it come about? Basically, I had this idea of writing a horror film about a possessed pendulum, and I pitched it to Nick Simon, who I've worked with a couple of times on "The Girl in the Photographs" and "Truth or Dare." 

He was like, "It's a great idea, but let's, instead of writing a script that we're hopefully going to make, let's just shoot it right now." As soon as he said that, I took a couple of days to think about what that would look like and how it could possibly work. The idea hit me that it should be about a bunch of actors trying to make a horror movie. We just started writing, and it took a life of its own from there.

Getting the gang back together

What was it like working with Claire Holt and having a much-needed reunion with your "Shadowhunters" co-star, Katherine McNamara?

It was great, honestly. I've been friends with Claire for the better part of ten years, and we've never had a chance to work together. I did, actually ... I wrote a pilot about some unemployed Australian actors living in Los Angeles about five years ago. It was kind of about me, Claire, and another friend. 

We really wanted to get it made, and it just never really happened. So when this idea came up, she was the first person I thought of. I thought immediately, she has to play this Kelly character, who is someone that I feel like is an amalgamation of at least three or four people that I know and love — but they just have this way of being able to say things that are really horrible, that you don't realize at the time.

Kat, I've known Kat ... she was actually meant to be in "The Girl in the Photographs," which was the movie that Nick Simon directed. Yeah, she was going to be in that, but because of scheduling the "Shadowhunters," the pilot of "Shadowhunters," she couldn't do the movie. 

We had met in that audition waiting room back in 2015, I think it was. Then we obviously got to work together on "Shadowhunters." She's become such a really close friend, really like a sister, in the best possible way. So when I was trying to assemble this crew of people, I thought, "Who's going to enjoy this and who's going to, you know, really take it ..." Because that's the thing about Kat. She is 110% when she commits to something. So I was like, "I know she's going to do this justice."

DIYing an at-home set

Definitely. How did everyone handle all of the technical aspects of the film, like lighting, camera angles, and makeup? Were there a lot of outtakes?

You know what? I don't know whether I did something good in a past life or what. There were barely any. There were a couple of times that a couple of people forgot to roll either camera or sound, but less than five times, I would say. There were no continuity issues whatsoever, touch wood. 

Although I'm sure people on Twitter are going to tell me if there are continuity issues. But there was actually ... I was pleasantly surprised in the best possible way about how everybody just jumped on to work and sorted everything out. We did not lose a single frame of footage. Everybody managed to get all of their audio and all of their video uploaded to our editor. So we were actually incredibly, incredibly lucky.

That's awesome. Did you have a funny moment behind the scenes when you guys were all putting this together?

So many. I think my favorite moment of filming was to do sound on a film. You would normally have the clapper that comes in and does the clap. Obviously, we couldn't afford to send everybody a clapper, so we just clapped our hands.

That's so funny.

That would give you the hard sound that you need to line up the audio and the video together. What was funny was that our editor would do ... because we would try and get everybody synced, even though it was impossible. We never really needed everybody to be synced, but we would try and get a rough idea from everyone. And so it was always really funny, as our editor would count down, "Three, two, one," and then everyone would always clap, clap, clap, clap. We never got one in time, the entire shoot.

Meta + Meta = More Meta

You co-wrote the movie. Did any of your co-stars offer any insight into their characters or contribute to the dialogue at all?

We were very up front with the cast that we'd written the script, but it should be a guidelines, go nuts, have fun, improve as much as you want. A lot of what is on the screen is from the script, but some of my favorite jokes are ad-libs. Because I think that's part of what makes the movie even funnier, is when someone has a real response and has a natural response to something. Yeah, there's definitely a couple in there where I think they're the funniest parts of the movie, and it was not anything that Nick or I wrote.

Can you think of any in particular?

"Hello, is this 911?" Baines pointed to his hoodie with the line on it. 

I love that.

It was Kat ad-libbing, and it was funny because I don't know if you've seen it, probably not yet, but there's a behind-the-scenes documentary that comes out with the movie. It's Kat saying the line and me being like, "Yes, great, do that. That's really funny." And Nick being like, "I don't get it." [Laughs]

I need that sweater.

I am obsessed.

Was "Untitled Horror Movie" a one-and-done project, do you think, or do you think there's a chance for a sequel?

I would love a sequel. I already have the idea for the sequel, and it's some more meta. I think the sequel should probably be called "Untitled Horror Movie: More Meta." It's definitely ... if anyone is stupid enough to give us some more money to make a sequel, I will make them the most meta sequel they can possibly imagine.

The emo Shadowhunter

Switching gears, you played a dark, twisted character in "Shadowhunters." How did you get into the mindset of Jonathan, and what drew you to that role?

Jonathan was probably one of the easier people to get into because there was so much material there. You have the book series and you have the TV series that obviously was already on before I joined it. Then you also have the film. So there was a ton of material there for me to draw from. And the character was just written so vividly in the books that it gave me so much material to jump off from. My go-to trick was a playlist. I had a Jonathan playlist, which was filled with the most emo music that you could possibly imagine, including "I Miss You." I don't know if you know that, I think it's Simple Plan. I can't remember. Blink-182 maybe. Anyway, I don't remember. 

It could be a My Chem line. Is it My Chem?

My Chem. It was My Chemical Romance?

It might be. I know that there's a line in the My Chem song "Cemetary Drive" that says, "I miss you."

That's it. That's it. 

Okay, yeah.

It's in like three-part harmony as well, so it makes it even more depressing. I would just sit there on set, listening to this music, trying to feel that angstiness of being an emo teenager. Because that, at the end of the day, is who Jonathan was. He was someone who had a very dark upbringing and was tortured and everything else and then ends up obviously becoming a monster himself. But on a TV series ... it's like if I was playing that character on a film, we can go a little bit darker ... but I tried to keep him in a world that made the most sense. For me, that was emo.

Never a mundane moment on Shadowhunters

Luckily, we got a two-part finale after the initial cancellation of "Shadowhunters," giving Jonathan a real ending. Do you know where your character might've headed had the series continued? Where would you have liked to see him go if the show had more time?

The Season 4 storyline for Jonathan was going to be pretty much everything that you saw over two episodes. It was going to be a gradual progression of him completely losing his humanity. So the human developing claws and the coming out of the sack of goo, or whatever it was, was that progression of him completely losing his humanity and then turning into the demon and/or demons.

That was really where they wanted the storyline to be, that the showrunners had said to me, we did such a good job of trying to show the humanity in Jonathan, show his backstory, show how he was hurt by his mother, show how he felt like the forgotten child, and all this sort of stuff. Season 4 was going to be him finally stepping into himself as a 100% fully-formed demon. I was really looking forward to it because that's the most fun when you don't have to...

The last episode, I think, where Jonathan's walking down the street, and looking at everyone and just killing people like, "I'm so strong, I can kill people just by looking at them." That was going to be, you know, six episodes. I think that was obviously ... it was very, very sad when we found out about the cancellation.

Where would I have liked him to go? I would've liked him to go completely into it, the uber-villain of all villains, and then for him to go completely the other way. I actually believe, in my head, that's what happened. When she hugged him, she hugged all the evil out of him, and he is just a human being walking around Toronto right now. He's a mundane in Toronto, yeah, really confused, no memory whatsoever. I think he's working in a coffee shop in Toronto.

Beating the clock (and the waterworks)

I think without some of those memories, he might be a better person without all of that trauma.


That final scene was so raw and emotional. On top of the general feelings of nostalgia for the series ending — what was going through your head when you filmed those final moments, and what was the most challenging aspect of that scene?

The most challenging aspect was the fact that it was five o'clock in the afternoon and the sun was going down, and we had no more days. So if we didn't catch what we could catch in the 40 minutes we had daylight left, we wouldn't have had an ending to the show.

Oh no!

So that was pretty much going through my head, but it was also because it was so emotional. A lot of my inner monologue was, "Don't cry. Don't cry, don't cry, don't cry." Because Kat had also started crying before we'd even got to set, we got out of the cast van, and we were walking to set, and she was like, "I just realized, this is the last time we're going to get to work together." And I'm like, "Seriously? You're going to do this to me right now?"

So all through blocking, she was just crying, and all through rehearsal, she couldn't stop crying. I was crying in rehearsal, and Todd Slavkin, our showrunner, who was also directing the episode, was like, "Guys, this is all great and everything, but Luke, you have no emotions. You're devoid of humanity at this point. You need to suck it up." [Laughs] So that's very much what I was thinking of, and then, up until the bitter end.

Meanwhile, Kat just gets to cry her heart out.

What's actually funny, though, is that Todd also said the same. He said to her, "Don't cry too much, because you know, with the audience, they're going to remember that he's also just killed everybody in the whole institute." Like we can't ... You know what I mean? So she was trying not to cry, to hold back the tears as well.

New memories, who dis?

The Shadowfam is still such a massive movement. How do you feel about that? Would you be willing to return to the show if it ever gets another season, or do you think Jonathan's storyline is closed?

I am still in awe every time I open Twitter and look at how engaged, and how motivated, and how kind the "Shadowhunters" fandom is. Like I saw, I think this morning, one of the "Shadowhunters" fans on Twitter did their own competition to win tickets to the premiere of "Untitled Horror Movie." 

That kind of community is not something that you could ever buy or experience again. So, 1000% I would continue to do the show, even if it was just to make the fans happy, so I don't have to hear about it while I'm getting coffee or something, which has happened to me before. A barista at Starbucks was like, "Listen, why isn't there another season?" I was like, "It's not me! I do not control the show."

But no, I absolutely would. I really think that, honestly, there's a world where it can totally happen, and it would be amazing. I would campaign very hard to be mundane, with no memories.

Two Lukes walk into the Cantina

You also appeared as a pilot in "The Mandalorian." What was that set experience like, and who did you get a chance to really work with?

That was amazing. I would say it's probably the coolest set I've ever been on, walking into. We shot on a green screen, but there is the second studio that has a complete studio built out of LCD panels. So you stand there, and it looks like you're in the middle of space. That was such an incredible experience. Jon Favreau was there on set that day, and so it was really cool to chat with him and see him interact with the other actors. And just as someone who is a filmmaker, I obviously look at things in a different way.

So I was very much like, "Okay, so that's how you're getting that note. That's how you're doing that. That's what you're doing with the lighting. That's what you're doing with this." It was very much like bring your kid to work day. I was just really like a bit of a tourist on set, which was really nice. And then, obviously, you've got to act on top of it. It very much felt like I won a set visit. I didn't feel like I was working. It felt like someone had given me a gift, and I'd won a competition to be on set. So that was fun.

Who's your favorite "Star Wars" character?

Luke, obviously.

I'm Leia forever.

You know what's so funny? I hadn't seen "Star Wars" up until 2013. I'd never seen it. I lived my whole life with people obviously saying, "Luke, I am your father," and I didn't want to watch it because everyone had said it to me for so long. I was on set for a movie called "As Night Comes." One of my co-stars was like, "I can't live another day without you having seen 'Star Wars.'" So he bought it on iTunes and made me watch it in one of my breaks on set. That was the first time I'd watched it.

"Untitled Horror Movie" is available on VOD beginning June 15, and fans can watch every season of "Shadowhunters."