Michael Nardelli sits down to discuss his latest film, The Tribe, from director Roxy Shih, which already garnished 4 wins and 1 nomination on the festival circuit.
BC: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your upcoming film “The Tribe”? How did you become involved in the project?
MN: “The Tribe” a post-apocalyptic drama. It doesn’t really have one single genre to define it. It has elements of a thriller, the western, and science-fiction. It centers around the relationship between three sisters living on their own on a farm at the end of the world. They were raised to protect themselves and never let any outsiders in. One day, my character Ryan shows up and, for better or worse, some of the sisters decide to let me in. The story goes into a lot of surprising directions after that setup.
As for me, I became involved just by auditioning. My manager sent me the script and I devoured it. I loved what it said about humanity and our survival instincts and what a world looks like when all the rules are gone. It’s stripping human beings down to their primal selves and seeing how that plays out. I loved that Ryan had clearly lived a tortured, chaotic life and yet, he has innocence about him. He hasn’t given up faith yet, even if it’s blind faith.
BC: How did you go about understanding and developing your character in this movie? Were there any difficult or challenging scenes?
MN: “The Tribe” deals with loss, survival, death, etc… so yeah, there were a lot of challenging scenes! Filming in the desert was also a challenge in and of itself. We’d have scorcher days and then all the sudden at night it would freezing. Once your wardrobe is set though, that’s what you’re wearing come rain or sunshine. So that was a daily adventure! As for Ryan, he has a lot of hope for rebuilding the world, but he’s seen so much loss that he’s kind of hanging on by a thread. Things happen in the movie that really test his belief in humanity and the future itself. I did a lot of research into cults since Ryan’s “tribe” is very much that. I tried to learn how it is that certain minds can be prone to things like thought-reform and buying into false prophets or philosophies. If that all sounds a bit psych-heavy, it was! Ryan had seen the best and worst in the world, so his brain’s a bit all over the place. I also read Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” while we were shooting and watched a lot of post-apocalyptic movies to get into the headspace.
BC: The film is about a pandemic and post-apocalyptic world. How does it differ from other similar films?
MN: Simply put, it’s told from the female point of view, which I don’t think we’ve seen in these kinds of movies. Usually it’s that lone tough guy out there taking out the bad guys and forging a path forward to survival. We haven’t seen a story about three sisters surviving a post-apocalyptic world. In “The Tribe”, Jenny (Jessica Rothe) and her younger sisters have all the power. They have shelter, food, water, sustainability – they even have weapons and know how to defend themselves. What makes “The Tribe” really exciting is seeing the conflict that arises when the sisters go head to head with your more traditional, patriarchal gang of male survivors.
BC: What has been the most thrilling moment in your career?
MN: Screening our film “Circle” at Comic Con was pretty darn awesome, as someone who’d been going to Comic Con for years as a “spectator”. I’d say I’m in the middle of the most thrilling one right now though, with our series “Dark/Web”. I co-wrote it, am acting in it, directed an episode, and produced every single frame of the show with a really great team. It’s been a marathon. Like film school on steroids!
BC: Many actors gain inspiration from many great sources including directors and actors. Who/what are your sources of inspiration? And how do they influence your craft?
MN: I grew up loving Harrison Ford and, as an actor, he still inspires me. He’s done this great mix of comedy and drama, bigger and smaller movies, even a few romantic comedies. I’ve always been a huge James Dean fan too. “Rebel” and “East of Eden” are those movies I’ll put on a few times each year. And everything to do with Hitchcock inspires me. He masked so many ideas and symbols in his films and they work on so many different levels; it’s true pop art.
BC: What makes a film great for you? Do you think there certain qualities that make a film better?
MN: Well there’s all the elements: performances, cinematography, direction, music, etc. When all of those elements are really firing on all cylinders, you usually get a good movie. But I think most specifically, I like it when movies disguise important topics or conversations as entertainment. “Arrival” did a great job of that recently. Sure, it was an alien movie, but it was about so much more beneath the surface: how we communicate, how we survive the human condition, how we deal with grief and people we don’t understand. When I’m so entertained I don’t even notice I’m learning something about the world and myself… that’s when a good movie turns great, for me.
BC: What realistic advice can you give to aspiring actors?
MN: To work on and express your creativity every single day with whatever time you have and whatever means you have access to, so that you’re not waiting on the industry. Hone your craft and feel confident about what you’re bringing to the table, and let the industry find you. I think that the more an aspiring actor can write and direct their own short, put up a play, or create their own YouTube content – you’re putting the power back in your hands and creating things and not waiting around for someone to give you permission. The waiting game can destroy you. “Act” everyday somehow, so that you believe it yourself when you tell people you are an “actor.”
BC: You have quite a few credits in the horror/thriller genre, and you are now working on “Dark/Web”. What is “Dark/Web” and who are you working with to develop it? Do you particularly go after projects that are horror/thrillers?
MN: I’m drawn to darker material. I like to explore those recesses and find meaning, or a way out of them. I don’t necessarily chase only dark material – I did a Hallmark Christmas movie just last year – but it does sort of feel like home to me.
“Dark/Web” is a series I created with Mario Miscione and my brother, Tim Nardelli. We made a film called “Circle” together two years ago that’s become sort of a cult hit with people playing versions of it online and theorizing on the ending. We wanted to do a series that could talk about modern technology and how it’s affected specifically my generation, who may be the last to remember what an analogue world looked and felt like. We both grew up watching “The Twilight Zone”, so this is the modern take on a show like that. The show tackles things like cyberterrorism, hackers, freedom of information, the viral nature of things, fakes news, the price of Instafame, etc… all that stuff we’ve invited into our daily lives, for better or worse.
BC: Many people have a favorite horror film. What film hooked you on the genre? And why?
MN: “Halloween” was huge for me. It terrified me. It felt very real and very close – I grew up in the seemingly safe world of the suburbs. To have it invaded by someone like Michael Myers was so haunting. At the same time, those horror films are also really fun and have such great characters. Hitchcock was also huge for me growing up. “Psycho” and “Rear Window” changed my life.
BC: Everyone needs outside interests to recharge themselves for another role. What are your interests?
MN: I don’t have many hobbies. I love film, TV, books and video games. I love learning the art of storytelling. That’s what we’re all doing: actors, writings, directors, producers – we’re all just telling stories with our different instruments. But aside from that, I love spending time with family, friends, dogs – and exercise is kinda essential for my sanity!
BC: What do you have coming up?
MN: “The Tribe” is out now! I hope everyone will give it a chance. It was a true labor of love for everyone involved and is definitely an example of a really talented filmmaker (director Roxy Shih) not waiting around for the phone to ring. She put this movie together, got it made and, now, got it released. That’s a huge feat. I think aspiring actors and filmmakers could learn a lot from watching “The Tribe” – Roxy was only 26 when she directed it! Aside from that, I’m working to get all our episodes of “Dark/Web” finished and released this year!
BC: Where can the readers and fans find you online to keep up with your upcoming work?
MN: I keep my website pretty well updated: htttp://www.michaelnardelli.com And I’m pretty good about engaging with fans of my work on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. My handle is @thenardelli – come say hi!