Mark O’Brien delivered a fantastically raw performance in Goalie last year, and now he’s in a fantastic new thriller called Parallel. The science fiction film revolves around a group of people who discover a portal to multiple universes, and soon come face to face with other versions of themselves – as well as other threats they have to deal with if they don’t want to destroy everything.
It’s completely different from the last time we saw him on screen, and I connected again with Mark to talk about his experience in the sci-fi genre, as well as what appealed to him about Parallel and how it was to keep track of all the different universes within the film. Learn more about the movie before it releases this Friday, both on demand through your favorite digital platform and in limited theaters.
You can also read my previous interview with Mark here.
Brittany Frederick: You’ve appeared in a few sci-fi films in your career, including Arrival and now Parallel. Are you a fan of the genre, or is that just how things have worked out?
Mark O’Brien: I never grew up as a sci-fi fan at all. It was never particularly in my wheelhouse of interest, but through doing several movies, several sci-fi films, I’m kind of growing my interest. As a film fan, I have gotten more into sci-fi and stuff, so it’s creeping up on me. And now it’s become a thing, so I’ll take it.
BF: What was it about Parallel specifically that appealed to you when you initially read the script?
MOB: I liked the director Isaac Ezban’s work and I thought he was a great choice for it. With the script in particular, I found it a little weird that that kind of idea hasn’t really been done. I was like, this is such a good idea. This is so something that everyone can kind of grasp and it makes you interested to know what’s going to happen next. I mean, finding a parallel universe is a pretty wild thing, and it was just something that I wanted to know more about.
BF: With parallel or alternate universe films, though, continuity can become a big issue. As you were filming, did you ever lose track of where you were or what was going on with your character?
MOB: In the second half of the film, which we didn’t shoot in order, probably a bit more than the first, yeah. There are a number of conflicting things going on with emotion and timeline and plot and stuff. You just talk it out with the director and you kind of figure out where you are in it. But definitely, there’s a bit of a puzzle that you’re putting together, for sure.
BF: How would you describe your character’s arc in Parallel? How did you keep hold of who he was in the middle of everything happening?
MOB: I think my character goes through quite a lot in the film, We had a lot of attention to detail on that, because they go into parallel universes where they see versions of themselves, which is a tricky thing. You can’t just glaze over that. That’s pretty serious. So there are scenes when you see a parallel version of my character that I found fun to do. It was interesting to see how it’s like the same person, but it’s not. It provided a unique challenge that I’ve certainly never gotten to play before, and I think that’s cool for the viewer too, because it’s a really cool hook.
BF: How did you actually film that logistically? Was it a lot of special-effects work for you?
MOB: Isaac and the director [of photography], Karim Hussein, they did an interesting thing where a lot of times when they shot it differently when you’re in a parallel universe. They actually shot it through a mirror, which was really funky. I’d never seen that done before and it’s practical, as in camera. I thought that was really cool.
To be really honest, the fun thing is when you do a sci-fi thing, you don’t know how it’s going to look in the end. There’s not a ton of VFX in this. A lot of it was practical, but you still don’t know certain things are going to look. So it’s kind of fun to shoot it being like well, I don’t know. I don’t know if this is going to play out. I haven’t seen the finished product. They’re going to do some CG. They’re going to do all kinds of stuff.
I actually find that fun because in a way, you’re acting in the film, but you’re sort of becoming an audience member too because you’re like, “How the hell are they pulling this off?” and then they always do It’s kind of a weird treat.
BF: How is it for you to have Parallel come out right now? Not only did you film it a while ago, but we’re talking about a film that’s all about exploration and possibility being released in a time where people are looking for that kind of escape.
MOB: We filmed this four years ago, so you never know a film’s trajectory. You never know a film’s path. I had another film come out this year called Hammer that I was really proud of, and we shot that two years ago. As the actor, you don’t always know what’s going on. And then it came out during this, and I think it helped the film’s life a lot. It had some really good reviews and stuff like that in all the major publications.
It’s really hard for independent film with the actual releases. It’s very difficult. It’s a tough existence. I think during this time, as awful as it is, there is that, that people are watching stuff at home. People are taking some chances because they don’t have to leave the house.
I’m a purist. I go to the movie theater to see everything. Even day-and-date releases, I always go to movie theater. But you also want people to see something that they wouldn’t necessarily always watch. That’s why this time has that unique benefit of people having the time and the convenience of just watching something that’s right there, and especially what you said, something that can kind of take you away a little bit. So as much as I’m a purist and I miss the movie theaters and I can’t wait for them to come back, I can’t be blind to the opportunities that today’s world presents.
BF: Is there something in particular you’d say to people as to why they should take that chance on Parallel?
MOB: I think it’s a really cool movie. It’s [got] some familiar faces in there and it’s a bit of a throwback. I love films from the ’70’s and the ’90’s. Those are kind of my favorite decades for film. It reminds me of films like that. I watched The Trial of the Chicago 7, and I thought it was great. It reminded me of a ’90’s movie because it’s just a solid story, and even if there’s something a bit highbrow or something elevated in this movie, it still just tells the story and it’s without too many pyrotechnics. I love that, and that’s what I really love about this film.
Parallel premieres in select movie theaters and on demand this Friday, December 11.
Article content is (c)2020-2021 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr, on Instagram at @BFTVGram.