Rahul Kohli on Next Exit and Preparing for The Fall of the House of Usher

Feb 12, 2023

Last summer, audiences at festivals across the country got to embark on a beautiful, melancholic journey to death with Mali Elfman’s directorial debut Next Exit, which stars Rahul Kohli and Katie Parker on a cross-country trip to bring an end to everything. Along the way, the unlikely duo is forced to confront their trauma, examine who they are as people, and explore what it means to live and die. As Collider’s review of the film hailed it, “[Next Exit] leaves its little flecks of light in your soul once the credits roll.”

Ahead of Next Exit’s home release, Collider had the opportunity to chat with Rahul Kohli in a 1-on-1 interview to discuss the film, how Teddy fits into the long line of memorable characters he’s played, reuniting with his former iZombie co-star, Rose McIver, in addition to talking about his work with Mike Flanagan, how the director gives actors freedom to play different types of roles, and reading Edgar Allan Poe for the first time ahead of filming The Fall of the House of Usher.

Image via No Traffic for Ghosts LLC 

COLLIDER: First of all, I just have to say, I love your social media presence, whether it’s Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, it’s always a good time.

RAHUL KOHLI: Oh, thank you. Well, one of them is gone for good now.

I know. I know. Very sad. Before that, it was always good.

KOHLI: Not for me. I’m very happy. My mental health and happiness is going that way since getting off Twitter. But it is a shame. I know that I was known in a weird way for also that, outside of my work, and for an actor who’s never really been in something as a lead, huge with a big kind of… Like a Wednesday or something that gets this massive social media attention. Well, having half a million followers is—

A lot of people saying a lot of things all the time.

KOHLI: It’s true, it’s true. But it did feel weird walking away because it’s a decent marketing tool, and it helped me stand out from my ensembles and smaller roles that I’ve been playing most of my career, and I just deactivated it one afternoon from barely any thought. And I was like, “I’m good. Done. Bye. Goodbye.”

Getting into Next Exit and talking about volatile emotions, Teddy and Rose are on this road trip to death, and I feel like that predetermined destination of it all seems to make things feel a little bit darker, a little bit brighter, a little bit more extreme. So what is it like for you as an actor getting to explore these really volatile emotions? Specifically thinking about the bar scene, for instance. There are so many emotions built into that.

KOHLI: Honestly, it’s not something I haven’t done before. Looking back, most of the credits that I have or people have seen me in, that’s kind of been what my characters had to do, I think. My earliest job or my big break was Ravi in iZombie. And that required stakes of world-ending magnitude, romance, and love triangles as dramatic as the CW loves him, humor and sharp wit, and timing that Rob Thomas demands from his shows. So that was why I did 70-plus episodes, and Ravi in particular had to do a lot with that. He provided, he was part of the audience to a certain degree, so he was constantly reacting and involved in most of the drama.

And then to be fair, Owen in Bly Manor was fairly like that, too, to a certain degree. There was more levity than any other character, but also still had to bring it with the tragedy. So Teddy was a walk in the park. I don’t know. Teddy just kind of fits right into that. It’s sort of becoming a job that people are hiring me for, which is, can you make me laugh and cry in the same scene? And that’s what I think.

Image via No Traffic for Ghosts LLC 

And you do it well.

KOHLI: Thank you. I think it’s a trick. It’s easy. I think people are more willing to be upset and care about you if they like you, and you make them laugh. It’s kind of easier that way to win them on both. If you can make someone laugh and if they can immediately feel like they know you or they like you, they’ll feel for you down the road.

You mentioned iZombie. I was so excited to see Rose McIver in this. I have been a big fan of hers, as well as iZombie. So what was it like getting to reunite with her on this project for a little bit?

KOHLI: We’re very close. We are like brother and sister, and it’s one of those things like I knew what days Rose was going to be working with us. And when she pulled up, I think I was already outside, so I greeted her first. I was smoking a cigarette, and we had a big hug, and then it was like we’d never really had a gap, you know what I mean? It was just like whatever. But I think the only tragedy was that we had almost nothing to say to each other in the scene. And it’s weird, we have all this history. We’ve been making a show together for five years and [she is] probably one of the people I’m closest to in the industry. I think we shake hands in the scene once, and I just go, “Teddy.” And it’s weird for those two people to only interact that little. But yeah. Me and Rose will always champion each other and be available for the other one if she wanted me. I told her if she wants me to pop on Ghosts, me and Malcolm [Goodwin] would do that in an instant. Vice versa. Us three are obviously very tight. Malcolm’s in The Fall of the House of Usher, so we’re always looking out for each other.

Well, you mentioned House of Usher, so I feel like I naturally have to ask a question about that. Big fan of the Mike Flanagan universe. I’m curious to know, how would you compare your role in the House of Usher to your previous Flanaverse characters?

KOHLI: I mean, yeah, we are really not allowed to talk about it, but it’s different. This is a Mike Flanagan thing rather than a House of Usher thing. Mike doesn’t really want to see me play the same thing twice, and so far that’s not been the case. And he enjoys from his kind of regulars, now I guess I’m one of those. I think Mike enjoys kind of not auditioning you and seeing if you can do it, but believing you can and just setting you off to work and giving you something. And, “I know you can do this. I’ve seen shades of it,” or, “I know you’re capable of it.” I mean, he cast me as Sheriff Hassan, which was one of my first offers in the industry where I didn’t have to audition. It was the first time that had happened. He did that based off working on Bly. I don’t know what he saw in Bly that while I’m wearing glasses and a mustache, and I’m telling jokes and talking about batter—that I could play this tragic widower.

The duality of man.

KOHLI: Exactly. That’s kind of the same with Usher, which has nothing to do with Owen or Hassan, but is super fun to play.

Image via No Traffic for Ghosts LLC 

I think that’s the one I’m the most excited for because I am an obnoxious Edgar Allan Poe fan.

KOHLI: Edgar Allan Poe fan. Yeah.

Yeah, so I’m very excited to see his take on that entire world of literature.

KOHLI: I was not. I mean, I know Edgar Allan Poe obviously, but I just don’t remember ever us in the UK having any poem in our curriculum. I don’t feel like we ever touched on it. So when he told me about the House of Usher, obviously I bought the Collected Works and went through his reading list. So it was a bit of a… So I read my first Poe story in like 2021, so it’s all very new to me. But already I can tell that there were a lot of other Poe fans on the show who were loving what Mike’s done with the material.

That makes me excited. Getting back to Next Exit, I’m so excited about it getting a home release because I have been pestering everybody I know to try to watch this movie because it was one of my favorites from last year. I saw a lot of movies, and it still made it onto my top 10 personal list of favorite movies from last year. So I’m curious, what are you hoping that audiences take away from this film? Because I know I came away crying and questioning life.

KOHLI: Yeah, I don’t know. I just hope they had a good time. That’s all I was trying to do was… I know it’s got heavy subject matter, and there are deeper meanings in there. And I know that there’s also… (director) Mali [Elfman] created a very interesting kind of backdrop that asks a lot of questions. But for me, I didn’t make that movie. I didn’t invest too much time in that side of things. And I spent a lot of time dealing with loneliness and companionship and kind of going back to the basics of there are people out there for you. That’s what I took. I wanted to create this believable friendship; a relationship blossoming that allowed two people to heal. I hope it makes people want to, I don’t know, call someone, persevere with maybe someone at work that they didn’t necessarily get on with or understand. Maybe there’s something more to it, not to give up on each other, maybe.

That’s a good one. I think talking about the idea of companionship, something I’ve noticed with the pandemic—obviously, the pandemic has completely changed the film industry—but I’ve noticed that we’ve got a lot more films that feel much more quiet and much more small-scale and focused on these one or two people in a scene. And I wonder if it’s changed at all as an actor to find yourself on these sets where it’s a lot more intimate feeling. There’s fewer people on the stage watching you, and it’s really just like you and another person. Does it change things for you?

KOHLI: No. I feel like it was the opposite for me. I was one of the fortunate, although at the time it felt unfortunate, people to work immediately in the pandemic. So we started with Midnight Mass. We were one of the first shows back with the strictest guidelines. And then I subsequently worked on three more, four more gigs during the height of the pandemic. And I didn’t find it quiet or intimate. I found more people. It sounded like, “Oh, okay. Well, we’ll isolate you,” but you weren’t. You were being isolated from the rest of the world, but not from each other. There felt like there were more checkpoints, more people, more people in your face.

“Here, put your PPE in this box.” There were more barriers in a way to keep us safe, testing and then multiple testing. And then there’s a check-in person at the beginning that goes, “Have you shit yourself? Have you got a temperature?” And that’s before you’ve stepped out of your car. I found it incredibly frustrating. It lost intimacy. The cast was split up, okay, so it felt more chaotic. It’s weird. There were so many… And it’s just with every job, there were so many kind of hypocrisies where you go, “Well, why am I allowed here? But then we can’t be in the green room reading our lines together. Why has that happened? But we were also in the makeup trailer together, but we can’t be in the…” So there was an inefficiency to it too. I mean, on Next Exit, it’s one of the most, I felt, people… How can I put this? I’m going on a rant here. You’ve touched on something.

I’m so sorry.

KOHLI: I felt that pre-pandemic, I had more isolation. I had more freedom to piss off to my trailer or eat my lunch there or go leave and go somewhere else here. There was like, “Do I want to be picked up or do I want to drive myself?” There was just freedom, and it felt like I could go anywhere. Two actors could go and disappear into a corner somewhere and read together quietly. Or you could sit with the director in a rehearsal quietly, and stuff like that. So in that respect, it felt like there was more air, there was more room, more freedom. And then with the COVID stuff, for me, there were more checkpoints. There was more inefficiency, which meant there was more chaos to a certain degree. And we couldn’t… Even trying to get together for rehearsal required everyone to be rapid tested before you could do the most basic… Do you know what I mean? So to me, it’s the busiest I’ve ever felt with the most people in my face dressed as minions. And obviously, this is a 1% privilege rant.

Image via No Traffic for Ghosts LLC 

Well, you’re making me glad that I didn’t go back because I used to work in film, and the pandemic changed all that. And now I’m like, “Oh, now I’m not sorry, actually. That sounds horrible.”

KOHLI: I mean, look, it’s nice to work, obviously. It’s nice to have work. And with most jobs, we all, no matter what we did, had to figure out how to do our basic job safely. And we did do that. It’s great. And I’m glad we didn’t completely shut down. At the same time, I think there are still myths about it. Like I said, there were more people, there wasn’t less. I didn’t feel like I saw less people because it was COVID. There were 50 new jobs that were all COVID-related. Even my trailer, for instance, every 30 seconds someone would walk past and wipe my door and my hand-railing. That’s not less people, right? That’s more people. And so that’s how I interpreted that. And it’s so funny that it’s translated on screen where we know that it’s a pandemic show because they’ve got less background, it’s quieter. The scenes are smaller. So it shows in the picture, but it didn’t show outside of that camera for me.

Next Exit is now on DVD and On Demand from Magnolia Home Entertainment under the Magnet Label.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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