Jon Bernthal Interview For ‘Snitch’
Inspired by true events, ‘Snitch’ stars Dwayne Johnson as a father whose teenage son is wrongly accused of a drug distribution crime and is looking at a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years. Desperate and determined to rescue his son at all costs, he makes a deal with the U.S. Attorney to work as an undercover informant and infiltrate a drug cartel on a dangerous mission- risking everything, including his family and his own life. Alongside Dwayne Johnson, the impressive cast also includes the likes of Barry Pepper, Jon Bernthal, Michael K. Williams, Melina Kanakaredes, Nadine Velazquez, Rafi Gavron, David Harbour, Benjamin Bratt and Susan Sarandon. Directed by Ric Roman Waugh, ‘Snitch’ is pencilled in for a Febuary 22th release in the US and a April 5th release in the UK. My interview with Dwayne Johnson for the film can be read here. In ‘Snitch’ Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead) plays Daniel, a guy trying to get his life in order for his family.
What was it about this story and these characters that resonated with you?
Jon Bernthal: There was so much. It’s based on a true story, which is great, I think that starts us off with a great amount of street-cred, you know? I was really excited to work with the director Ric and it’s a wonderful cast. And at its core, ‘Snitch’ really goes into a close examination of each of these characters in the story. The fact that I got to play a guy who comes from this chequered past, but is only about trying to provide a better life for his son and his family – and he has to make some really hard decisions to do it, that was a thrill for me. ‘Snitch,’ it’s about a father and the lengths he’ll go to to keep his son out of prison, to try to get his son out of prison. It’s an unbelievable action ride, but I think it’s a character based movie with a real social conscience. I really dug that.
How did you get involved with the film?
Jon Bernthal: I met Ric when I was in Los Angeles for a premiere of ‘The Walking Dead,’ while I was shooting that, and we really connected. He told me a lot about his movie ‘Felon’ and what he did to research that, how he worked for years as a parole officer and the relationships he had. I just saw the passion with which he spoke, he’s just a real-deal guy. He’s just somebody I wanted to work with really really bad (laughs). Then about two weeks later after meeting him we got a call saying that they wanted me to come back to Los Angeles to have a screen test with Dwayne Johnson. I couldn’t believe it. I flew out immediately and I did the screen test and I thought I totally screwed it up (laughs), I called him on the way home and was like, “I think I might of screwed that up,” (laughs) but he said, “You were great.” He gave me the chance and I owe him forever for it, it was such an honour to play this part.
And then working under Ric’s direction, how was that experience?
Jon Bernthal: He runs such I tight ship across the board, you can’t imagine. I’ve been really blessed in my career that I’ve got to work with Roman Polanski, Oliver Stone, Frank Darabont, Martin Scorsese… people who are these iconic, amazing directors. And working with him, I put Ric right in that category. He’s a guy who really finds that unbelievable balance of somebody you can absolutely trust, who’s gonna run the ship, he’s somebody you can absolutely depend on – and then he’s a man who demands in every person that you come to it with your own creativity. He’s not there to walk you through it, he demands it from you. You have to come to deliver, and he welcomes you to be creative. It sounds crazy but that’s very rare when people have that combination. He’s definitely a soldier of authenticity.
You share some great scenes with Dwayne Johnson in this film, how was it building up that dynamic with your characters and working with him?
Jon Bernhal: Dwayne is such a humble guy and a gracious guy. There would be times where we would be sitting in that truck right before they yelled “action!” and Dwayne would just look at me and go, “How great is this? This is awesome that we get to do this everyday.” And Dwayne’s enthusiasm and the fact that he’s such a positive person… there wasn’t I second where I didn’t realise how lucky I was to be there (laughs), and how excited I was. And Dwayne felt the same way. We both come from athletics, so I think that bonded us pretty quickly, and we got along really really well.
While this movie is filled with tension and drama, I can imagine you two had fun working together….?
Jon Bernthal: Definitely. For Dwayne his body is his temple, he works out religiously – and it was really important for me that Daniel looked a certain way for this movie too. So we were both on a pretty strict diet and working out really hard. I do remember that our truck was full of the props one would have on taking a long journey in truck, in the form of twinkies, potato chips, all stuff we couldn’t eat (laughs). I will say that there were times in-between takes where we would just open them up and just smell them – that’s the most Hollywood thing I’ve ever said in my life (laughs), but it is true. I thought that was pretty funny. We’d smell them and then put them down (laughs).
There’s a conversation that ‘Snitch’ is shining a light on, with the “war on drugs” in the US. What do you hope this movie inspires?
Jon Bernthal: A conversation, exactly as you said. I think any time you have a situation where you have drug offenders spending more time in prison than rapists and murderers, I think you’ve really got to look at yourself and ask what’s going on, you know? I think anytime you have a mandate law that is unflinching, and that puts someone in a situation like this, with what starts this movie, and that somebody can snitch someone out and create these whole web of lies and put families in danger, I’m really hoping people will watch this movie and start asking questions and start to talk about it. If people do, I think we really did our job.
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