Lance Reddick on Relishing the Villainy of ‘Monster Party’

We chat with the actor about why it’s so fun to play bad and the thin line between CEO and serial killer.
Monster Party
By  · Published on November 5th, 2018

For the last three weeks, I’ve been on a diet. Trying to erase salt and sugar from the menu. I say “trying” because I’ve already succumbed to temptation on multiple occasions. Coffee calls for sweetness and I am a weak individual. I cannot imagine the pull of a more serious craving. Alcohol. Heroin. Murder. To break such an addiction requires the sternest of willpower, the warmest embrace of friendship, or just a straight-up miracle.

When three thieves attempt to crash a fancy schmancy dinner party in one of the largest mansions in one of the plushest neighborhoods in America, they accidentally stumble into a diabolical celebration of recovery. Each guest hides a secret hunger, and a desire to rip the weak limb from limb. They are led by the restored and righteous Milo (Lance Reddick), never mind the pretty girl seemingly chained to his arm. He is here to keep them on the road to good health and sane minds.

From the opening credits, there is no doubt that Monster Party will surrender to the base urges of its addicts. The pleasure comes from watching them squirm and struggle under their primal wants. Milo is not able to keep their leashes strapped, and we’re doubtful if even he can deny his ravenous nature.

I spoke to Lance Reddick over the phone, and it was clear that he had an absolute blast delving into the darker reaches of his psychology. Our conversation begins with the ease in which he has in portraying the more crooked individuals in cinema. Why is it more fun to root for Darth Vader than Luke Skywalker? Why does Hannibal Lecter get all the attention instead of Clarice Starling? It only took forty years for Halloween to reverse the narrative from Michael Myers to Laurie Strode. We love the bad.

For Reddick, dipping into evil is fascinating and simply easier than delving into true human misery. We discuss the dark joys of murderous Milo and the attraction of serial killers, as well as the thin line between monsters and executives. Maybe we should all fear a man in a business suit.

Here is our conversation in full:

How do you even begin to understand a character like Milo, or maybe you never understand him?

Do you mean as a viewer or as an actor?

As an actor.

I’ve always had a bit of a fascination with psychopaths. It’s not an obsession or anything, but I’ve done some reading. I’d done some reading about psychopaths about 10 years ago. My son actually recommended the book that I read, because he was a psych major in college. I read it about a year and a half ago. The whole notion of serial killing as an addiction is interesting because I just found it fascinating.

Gillian Anderson in The Fall, when she’s chasing the serial killer. They had a really interesting interaction; I think it’s the second season. She says to him, “It’s just an addiction. You’re nothing special, it’s just an addiction.” So that whole aspect of it, I thought was really fascinating. Milo’s really interesting because there’s a side of him that’s so brutal. I say that only because the way that he kills the young man with that cane.

Everybody’s kind of got this thing where it’s just knives slashing, or guns, or cutting people up. I feel like Milo’s is brutality. There’s something deeper with that. At least that’s what I incurred from reading the script, that’s what I put into my backstory. I feel like he’s one of those guys that with just a slight nudge, he could have been a CEO or head of a drug cartel.

You know your comment about addiction, what’s interesting about Monster Party is, how all these characters are fighting this urge inside of them. Which separates this story from similar characters.

Well when you say similar characters, what do you mean? Do you mean from other people’s-

Other films. He’s not Hannibal Lector. He’s fighting the hunger. He’s in recovery.

Yeah, I agree. I agree. But Milo is suffering from megalomania. That is kind of high on the psychopath scale. As it is said in the film, he’s a bit of a cult leader. That’s the truth.

Is it easy for you to play villains?

Well, it’s tough, because I’m not a – at least I don’t think I am, a psychopath. So, what I had to try and hook into was loving that sense of being in control. That’s one of the things that I feel like all leaders have, they love interacting with people and they love being in control, and playing head games with people. The other thing was, hooking into that sense of rage. Continuous rage.

And it’s no big deal to go there?

Yeah. I’m not one of those actors that fall into character 24/7. When I was at Yale, when we would do a play and the performance was over, we would always go to the head of the department and get a critique. We’d discuss what he thought of it, what we thought of it, and how our work was going. I remember there was something that I did, and I was really disappointed in my performance. I felt like I didn’t cross the line. I had this notion that you had to lose your sense of reality to become the character and you forget who you are.

He laughed at me and said, “Why would you want to do that?” And I said, “Because I think that’s my romantic notion of what being a good actor is.” And he said, “If you do that, you’d be psychotic, you’d be crazy, it would drive you crazy.” So, don’t get me wrong. It’s interesting, rage is such a hard thing to play. Now, for example, I don’t know if … you probably watch Bosch.

Oh yeah. Deputy Chief Irving!

The second season of Bosch, the scene with Martin being my son when I discovered his body-

For sure, yeah.

That was hard. Because me as Lance, I don’t want to go there. That’s not a pleasant feeling. In some ways, rage is a more comfortable feeling than sadness and shock and loss. And so, having to get to that place, over and over again. First of all, having to find it, and then having to be able to call it up on cue, take after take after take, that was draining, that was draining.  But by the same token, once the night was over, it was like, “Man, I’m so glad to be able to let go of that shit.” (Laughter). Because it was hard, I feel beat up.

You’ve been lucky enough to have lived inside several characters on TV, like in Bosch, like in The Wire, Fringe, Lost, where you get to return to those characters over the course of several episodes. It’s a wildly different experience than a film. Do you prefer one realm over the other?

Well, it’s interesting because the past couple of years I’ve been doing a lot of films. I did three films this year, well two films this year and I’m about to do another one when Bosch is over. And then, Monster Party is one of three films that I did last year. So, I actually like both things. The character that I played on Corporate is a bit of an insect. He’s a multi-national corporate CEO. But even because of how strange the show is, he’s a bit of a psychopath. But he’s also very different from Milo.

I don’t know if you’ve seen Corporate?

Nope. Not yet.

Corporate’s a great show. It’s funny and it’s really fabulous. Watch it.

Monster Party is now available in select theaters and Digital HD and VOD.

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)