IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Columbus Short Talks 'The Girl Is in Trouble' and 'The Losers' Sequel

Tuesday, 07 April 2015 17:25 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Columbus Short Talks 'The Girl Is in Trouble' and 'The Losers' Sequel

Actor Columbus Short stars in the new crime thriller The Girl Is in Trouble, which opens in theaters on April 3rd. 

Short first gained attention for his performance in Stomp the Yard, and went on to appear in such films as Cadillac Records, Whiteout, Armored, Death at a Funeral, and the underappreciated action movie The Losers. But it was his role as Harrison Wright on the extremely popular ABC drama Scandal that made him a household name. 

The Girl Is in Trouble revolves around a Lower East Side bartender named August (Short) that becomes entangled in a murder mystery involving a desperate woman, a missing drug dealer and the scion of a powerful investment firm. In addition to Short, the film also stars Jesse Spencer (Uptown Girls), Alicja Bachleda (Stealth), and Wilmer Valderrama (Larry Crowne). The Girl Is in Trouble was directed by Julius Onah(Don’t Look Back), and produced by Spike Lee (Oldboy). 

I recently had the pleasure of speaking exclusively with Columbus Short about his work on The Girl Is in Trouble. The talented actor discussed his new movie, film noir, playing an “everyman,” drawing from his own life experience, Wilmer Valderrama’s career transcending performance, director Julius Onah, and the possibility of a sequel to The Losers

Here is what Columbus Short had to say about The Girl Is in Trouble and a sequel to The Losers:

IAR: To begin with, The Girl Is in Trouble seems like a throwback to classic noir films like The Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity. Is film noir a genre that you have always wanted to be a part of?

Columbus Short: Absolutely. I grew up watching the Humphrey Bogart movies and watching all of that film noir. That whole era was just beautiful. The way the storytelling was back then was amazing. That is what attracted me to the script in the first place. I watched Julius Onah’s films after my agent sent me the script. I said this dude is amazing! He is a creative and is certainly on the front lines. It’s modern film noir but it really might be urban film noir. 

In many ways August is really an “everyman” type of character, and if audiences don’t relate to him the film simply won’t work. Did you feel a lot of pressure playing this role?

Short: That is a big thing. Let me tell you that. In not diminishing Jesses Spencer’s role but if August does not work than Angel (Valderrama) does not work. If Angel does not work, August does not work. All three of those characters have to work. When I was approaching this, it was very important to show humanity because August is a flawed character. He is morally ambiguous. He is kind of the antihero. I wanted to bring to him the humanity aspect. What drew me to him was the desire that he has. He knew what he wanted to do and he was willing to struggle for it. As an artist, I understand that. As a dancer, as a musician, as an actor it is hard. In a city like New York, L.A. or Chicago it is a hard life. I know that struggle, and there is a depression that comes with that struggle. Those were things I wanted to tap into in going there. I had to go around that. I wanted to make my narrative flat and very dry because that is how he was.

You just mentioned that you understood August and were able to pull from your own career struggles for the character. Have you drawn on your life experiences for any of your other roles?

Short: I put Columbus as far as away from the character as I can. The way to do that is to get out of my natural body movement. Harrison (Scandal) would spin his phone when he is thinking. That is his natural tick. That has to be consistent. I do not spin my phone, but every time I was on that set, it naturally starts to happen. So I go with that. Those are things that became natural. There are different aspects of people. With August I had to really spend time in the lower east side of New York. I grew up in California, so it was a different life. For that it is a different hustle. It is a different vibe, and I had to capture that, even in dialect. One of the most important things for me was my body language. How do I show depressed? That was with my body weight. You can tell if you are depressed or not if you are in tip-top perfect shape. I did not want to be this hot-bod guy. That is not how August is. He is not that guy. I wanted to play that man and “everyman” truthfully.

Wilmer Valderrama is really good in this movie and so different than anything I have seen him do before.

Short: I have to take full credit for that. Tell Wilmer that Columbus takes full credit for his performance in this movie if you do interview Wilmer.

I will definitely tell him! I assume you were familiar with his previous work, but when you were on set and saw how committed he was to his performance, what was your reaction?

Short: It took us to another place. I have been in scenes in movies that hopefully you have never seen, where I was literally like, oh my God. This is an awful scene right now. You have this out of body experience where you think I am in an awful scene. There is a scene where they are torturing me, and they do not want to. It’s the interrogation scene. We went some place else. I remember after the scene, we just looked at each other. That was just amazing. It was so powerful and I was so proud of him because it was a risk for Wilmer to do this role. It was a risk for him to step out of his comfort zone. I said, Wilmer, you are going to kill this. Guess what is going to happen? Hollywood is going to get to see you go from Fez (That ‘70s Show), what they know you, to the complete antithesis of that in a way that we have never seen before. You are going to kill it. He did exactly that. He went above and beyond everyone’s expectations.

Can you talk about working with director Julius Onah, and what are you looking for from a director on set?

Short: First of all, I have never worked with a director that was younger than me, so that was weird. When you are looking for a director, you want a director that is decisive and can be a leader. Literally you have these troops that are the cast and crew. Is this director leading us? He did a wonderful job of being hands on at every level and in every department. He knew he had an opportunity here and a platform to really do something special, and he took every alternative to do that. He killed it! Julius had a clear vision. There was no looking around. He had the movie edited in his head before each scene so there was no figuring it out. I love working like that. Everybody was working. There was no sitting around. We were moving. We were a unit.

Finally, I’m a big fan of The Losers. Do you think there is a chance that they will ever make a sequel?

Short: You have to look at it like this. Sometimes it may take six years to rewrite it as a franchise in the right situation. Sometimes it needs to become a cult classic. Scarface did not kill it in the box office, but it became something that was remembered forever. We have a comic franchise that was amazing. Everyone from that movie has had a lot of success including Chris Evans, Idris Elba, Zoe Saldana, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and myself. Everyone has blossomed since that movie. I think it is the right time. We can call the studio out right now and say, hey guys, let us make another one! It was a bigger hit than it was probably perceived at the time. We came out in a crowded marketplace that summer where you have to remember The A-Team and The Expendables were also coming out. We were not stand alone, and that A-Team franchise is what Hollywood was really looking forward to. The Losers was an awesome franchise that deserves to be revisited I think. I am not a sequel champion, but I think this one does deserve it. I would love to go back and play with those guys.

The Girl Is in Trouble opens in theaters on April 3rd. 

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