20th Century Studios’ No Exit is one of the most enjoyable suspense thrillers I’ve seen in a long while, thanks in large part to an excellent cast full of diverse talents playing wonderfully layered characters.
At a recent press conference for the film, which included Havana Rose Liu, Danny Ramirez, David Rysdahl, Dennis Haysbert and director Damien Power, it was clear that the cast shared a unique chemistry that strengthened their performances. They also repeatedly praised the way that the story provided them the opportunity to play interesting and multi-faceted roles.
Liu, who stars in the film as Darby, talked about how quickly she connected with her character. “[W]ith Darby, I barely even had to think. It just felt like it was flowing right from me. I find her to be gritty, and bold, and charming, and also tortured, and also very vulnerable in a way that I don’t think we always see heroic characters holding onto throughout the course of the film, not to give anything away,” Liu said. “And I think for me, it was just the best, most sort of complex, nuanced character I could have asked to play, given that so many of her faults really are her strengths, and vice versa. And I think playing around with that duality was just something that made me feel so alive every day.”
At the start of the film, Darby is the kind of protagonist who can’t help herself, let alone anybody else. She’s been in and out of rehab numerous times and her family views her as such a nuisance that they don’t even want her to see her dying mom. Liu does an amazing job with a character who is finally able to overcome her inner demons in a time of crisis.
Liu talked about how she was able to channel her own anxiety of leading a feature film for the first time into her character. “Darby doesn’t know what to do. Darby is terrified out of her mind. Darby’s in a new situation. And for me, in some ways, it was, like, a perfect marriage, because I was able to sort of exercise all those feelings I had about acting with such a trustworthy and lovely group of people,” Liu said.
Ramirez, who plays Ash, echoed Liu’s comments about the duality of the characters. “[T]he film definitely required [us] to find ways to empathize with people that you normally would write off right away,” Ramirez said.
For director Damien Power, the depth and complexity of the characters is central to the film’s plot. “[T]his is not a film about a character or characters who go on a journey, and grow and change. It’s really a film about how true character is revealed under pressure, and that applies to every single character in that room,” Power said. ” [T]he film asks the audience, you know, the audience is trying to work out who is the kidnapper. So, Darby’s trying to ask, ‘Who are you?’ and the film asks that question of the characters all the time. Who are you when this happens? Who are you now? Who are you when the pressure’s really on?”
Each of the main characters are facing external and internal pressures that cause them to react in different, and sometimes unexpected, ways. Part of the fun of the film is trying to figure out what is motivating the characters and that brings with it empathy for them because many people can relate. “I think that that’s a very human experience. And also, for me, I think it’s about, the film is in some ways about how desperate people sometimes do terrible things. How desperation pushes people to do terrible things,” Power said.
Even for a veteran actor like Dennis Haysbert, the realistic depth of his character, Ed, impressed him. “I played a lot of military characters over the years. And the one thing I’ve noticed about all the military characters, and I’ve also traveled extensively with the USO, no two soldiers are alike,” Haysbert said. “So every time I play a soldier, he’s not the same guy. Ed is looking for an opportunity to show who he is…what I learned most about Ed is that he has issues, and he’s gotta deal with them. And when it comes up, he gets that chance.”
Haysbert expressed what a great experience it was to work with this cast and crew and how it was a special group.
“[O]f all of the movies I’ve done, it’s very rare when you find every single character, every single actor that you absolutely adore,” Haysbert said. “There’s always one, you know? There’s always one throws that cog into the wheel. But not on this cast. This cast was an absolute delight to work with. And Damien was an absolute delight.”
No Exit is streaming now exclusively as a Hulu Original in the U.S. and internationally as an Original on Disney+ under the Star banner and Star+ in Latin America.
Ron is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of POC Culture. He is a big believer in the power and impact of pop culture and the importance of representation in media.