When you think you’re going to visit the set of a feature film you have these glorious images of massive soundstages, cameras and movie stars running around.  You don’t think you’ll be driving to the middle of nowhere. In fact, on our way to the set of “Mentryville” we drove right past the Hollywood system and found ourselves smack dab in the middle of industrial Valencia, Ca.  Trade iconic numbered soundstages for nameless business warehouses and you’ve got one of the sets of “Mentryville.”  Today we visited one of the key locations for this sci-fi film about an out of control pharmaceutical company.  Right away it’s clear, that as far as this film is concerned, less is more. Jason Dudek is directing this indepedent sci-fi film for American World Pictures about an Iraqi war veteran who returns from battle to find his life once again in chaos.  Taylor Handley (Battle: Los Angeles) plays Dean, a young man who discovers that a deadly spore has been discovered in the basement of his hoarding grandmothers house.  However, things seem to go much deeper than the basement when Dean discovers that the pharmaceutical company, in charge of developing the vaccine, maybe taking advantage of the situation.

As soon as we rolled up to the set we were told that our leading man was ready for us.  Taylor is a good looking dude that has Hollywood written all over him.  The difference between him and other actors I’ve spoken to is that he doesn’t seem to have stock answers in him yet.  He speaks open and honestly about how he approaches things in his young career.  Below are some choice moments from our exclusive interview with Taylor Handley:

HeyUGuys: Tell us about Mentryville and how your character Dean fits into the story.

Taylor Handley: My character, Dean Pierce, is a distraught young man coming back home from the war in Iraq and basically has his world turned upside down once again.

My friends and I are supposed to go on a camping trip, when I get a letter from the DA of a town called Mentryville, where my grandmother lives, telling me her house is going to be condemned if I don’t step in and take some action. My friends and I take a side trip to her house to help her out. In the meantime this big pharmaceutical company, unbeknownst to me, has been harvesting a deadly virus in her basement and all of us become infected. At the end of the day I may have to put my hero shoes on to take down the pharmaceutical company.

HUG: You put your hero shoes on earlier this year in “Battle: Los Angeles” which was a big-budget action film.  How does Mentryville, an indie action flick, compare and what drew you to this project particularly?

TH: The great thing about this script, in particular, is the heart and enthusiasm it has. The Director (Jason Dudek) is so on point and knows exactly what he wants. It was different on “Battle: Los Angeles” because it really was a very different project. In this film my character really is dealt a raw deal.  It’s kind of been like that for him most of his life, but he wears it. It’s not a distraction for him, it doesn’t take him off his game, and it makes him sharper and makes him grow.  You get to see my character take this ride.  It’s been really great to create and explore him.

HUG:  How do you approach picking your next project? Is it the script or the people involved?

TH: Well, I’m not the biggest name out there,

HUG: Yet!!

TH: Yet! (laughs) so when an opportunity arrives and there’s a good project, you go with it and make it yours. The best thing about this script is that it really doesn’t belong in any certain genre. It’s really layered and has comedic and dramatic elements. It’s a thrilling film that has great action sequences. There is so much to it and it is a really well-rounded script.

HUG:  You are working with people like Danny Glover and Vinnie Jones, some pretty iconic action stars in their own right. Do you take queues from their work when you’re working alongside them?

TH: Yeah, today I was watching Danny and I just kind of watched his process and how he breaks down every scene. He’s very detailed. It’s a wonderful tool to take and add it into my own repertoire.

HUG: A lot of people talk about how much they relate to the characters they play. How much of Taylor is in Dean?

TH: You have to relate to the character you’re playing. I always say it’s half life experiences and half imagination. Besides a lot of prep, that’s what gets me into my characters. At the end of the day you prep as much as you can for that character and once the cameras start rolling you kind of let it all out there and run on instinct.

As soon as we were done chatting with Taylor we were told the set was open and that we could take a tour.  What surprised me the most is that this seemingly boring looking building, on the outside, is an actual working cancer lab.  During the day this lab is full of people trying to cure cancer.  “Mentryville” is the first production to ever set foot in the lab while the research team is on hiatus.  The production team was using the established lab to its advantage.  Besides green screens and a few logos here and there, this lab was camera ready before the production ever rolled in.  I call this smart and efficient filmmaking at its best. Using what you have keeps a films budget low and adds a lot authenticity to the film.

While the real lab is usually doing well by its human population, something about the movie lab seemed sinister.  Something evil seemed to be happening here and that’s exactly what the filmmakers want you to feel.  We turned the corner into one of the labs main research units when we met up with C.S. Lee (Dexter), who plays Danny Glover’s (Dr Locke) research assistant in the film.  Glover is a world renowned scientist, hired by the pharmaceutical company, who may or may not have an agenda all his own.  C.S. Lee had this to say about the film and his character.

HeyUGuys:  Tell us a little bit about Mentryville and your character.

C.S. Lee:  The film centers on these spores. Dr. Locke, played by Danny Glover, is tasked with creating the vaccine for these spores basically.  However, he kind of goes off the wild end, without giving too much away. I play his lab assistant and I pretty much go along for the ride with him, sort of unwillingly. I mean, I don’t want to kill people.

HUG: So, this secret Dr. Locke is keeping is something you are aware of?

Lee: I know that it is a dangerous situation. But my character is all about doing the work he’s asked to do. He is definitely reluctant but ultimately has to do what the doctor says.

HUG: What drew you to this character and this project?

Lee: I’m a huge sci-fi fan.  I have never done a sci-fi film or sci-fi role, so when my manager sent me the script; I read it and said “I’m down!” Jason is great too, he’s absolutely great. I love working with him. He’s open to ideas and I feel like he really knows what he wants.  At the end of the day, it’s really easy to work with a director who knows what he wants.  That’s really important.

HUG:  There is a lot of green screen in this room, is it difficult working with nothing?

Lee: Not really. It’s just using your imagination.  I come from a theater background so when you’re doing a play you have to imagine things that aren’t there all the time. That definitely helped me.  Plus, Jason put a lot of descriptions in the notes to help us out.  Really, it’s just about imagining what’s happening and it’s really easy and a lot of fun.

HUG: This is a sci-fi action film; did you get to do any of the action in your first sci-fi role?

Lee: Well, if you call typing on a keyboard and looking at vials of chemicals action. That’s the extent of that.  But yeah, I’d love to do some action in the future. In fact I just finished up an independent feature about month ago where I get to die in it. I get shot which is the first time I die onscreen.  That was a lot of fun.

One thing is immediately clear to me now that I’ve talked to two onscreen talents.  The director, Jason Dudek, has a vision that he has effectively rolled out to his cast.  The filming seems relatively high-speed but controlled, and while we didn’t get to see any real action on the day, the air seemed to be rife with it.  At this point I was extremely curious about this vision and what Jason Dudek had to say about “Mentryville”.

In our next exclusive from the set of “Mentryville”, HeyUGuys interviews four people, whose behind the camera work is crucial to what happens in front of it.

All Images Courtesy of  Brenden Toda