Challenging the concept that a good person can’t become immoral has long been a debate that many teens delve into with their parents and peers throughout their adolescence. The new noir thriller, ‘Good Guy with a Gun,’ explores the need to have more nuanced discussion within American society about what drives some kind-hearted teens to want to rebel so much that they start using guns to make a statement.
‘Good Guy with a Gun’ had its World premieres at this year’s first annual Dances With Film NYC festival on Friday, December 2 at the Regal Union Square. The festival’s recent edition came after it celebrated its 25th anniversary in Hollywood this past spring.
The drama was written and directed by John Mossman. The filmmaker also stars in the feature, whose ensemble cast also includes Beck Nolan, Jack Cain, Tiffany Bedwell and Joe Swanberg.
‘Good Guy with a Gun’ follows a teen boy, Will (Nolan), and his mom, Tessa (Cain), as they travel from Chicago to a small Illinois town to contend with the aftermath of a family member’s death. Once they arrive in the rural town, their fractured relationship is widened by his deepening journey into gun culture. Amidst the increasingly dangerous path Will finds himself on, he and his mother struggle to repair their broken family.
Nolan and Cain generously took the time recently to talk about starring in ‘Good Guy with a Gun’ during an exclusive interview over Zoom. Among other things, the actors discussed that they were interested in appearing in the movie because they feel it presents an interesting dilemma that many Americans are dealing in regard to gun and gun violence. The performers also shared their happiness of being able to attend the feature’s world premiere at Dances With Films NYC with the rest of the cast and crew.
FilmFactual (FF): Beck, you play Will, and Jack, you portray Jonah, in the new noir thriller, ‘Good Guy with a Gun.’ What was it about the character, as well as the overall script, that convinced you to take on your roles?
Jack Cain (JC): This is my first feature, and I think it’s also Beck’s first feature, if I’m not mistaken. It came through after the audition process, for which I did a self-tape. I then did a call back, and Beck was there, and we did a chemistry read.
I was really fired up about it. I think it presents an interesting dilemma that so many Americans are dealing with when it comes to gun and gun violence, especially in certain areas. So I was really inspired by it, and that made me want to take on the role
Beck Nolan (BN): It was the same thing for me. I auditioned for it, but originally declined the audition because I had another thing going on. But then things cleared up, so I auditioned for it. I also did a chemistry read with Tiffany Bedwell, the woman who played my mom, Tessa.
John Mossman then drove out to the city and met me at a Starbucks. We then chatted for a couple of hours about the film and the role. This is my first feature and bigger project, so I was excited to get on board and help bring this story to life.
FF: Once you both signed on to star in the film, what kind of preparation did you both do into gun culture in America? How did you both prepare for your respective roles?
JC: We actually trained with John and some of the other team members beforehand. We were getting more comfortable around guns, including hearing the loud noises and where to put our hands while we were shooting them. We also worked to get to know the team.
I’m form a smaller town in Wisconsin, so guns were pretty prevalent to me when I was growing up. I have family members who shoot, and I hunt and have shot before. So I had a little bit of experience going into it.
But going to the bigger guns was definitely a different thing. So there was a little bit of training when it came to that.
BN: Yes, like Jack said, we did basic gun safety training.
I’m also from a smaller town, but I come from a family that’s pretty anti-gun. So there was a little bit of fear coming into it from me, as I’ve always had a little bit of a fear of guns. So going into the basic training definitely was an interesting experience.
FF: Speaking of Tiffany Bedwell, who you mentioned earlier, Beck, how did you approach working with her to build the mother-son dynamic between your characters on screen? How did you, Beck and Jack, both also approach working together, and with the rest of the cast, to create your characters’ relationships?
BN: Getting to work with Tiffany was one of my favorite parts about this process. I think one of the cool things about filmmaking in Chicago right now is that there’s a big emphasis on creating an ensemble, and I think we did a really great job of forming an ensemble of like-minded actors and crew members. So it was like a master class in acting every day, working with these people on set.
I was particularly impressed with Tiffany’s performance; she really dug deep for it. I think the character’s resilience reminded me a lot of my own mom, so that was cool to watch.
Jack and I spent the most amount of time on set together. This is a new experience for both of us, and we’re around the same age, so we got to do a lot of things together. With indie filmmaking, there was a lot of opportunity for us to form a bond. So I was honored to work with them as both actors and people, and I formed some great life-long relationships from it.
JC: I don’t think it could have been easier to get along with everyone and build that chemistry. John created an environment that was really conducive to everyone getting along and being a family as we made this movie, especially for the kids in the movie. We were having fun, and it was care-free, which leans into the story’s themes. We weren’t thinking about anything bad happening, and then all of a sudden, it starts to turn bad. So we just had to have fun in real life, and we did.
Beck’s a life-long friend, and it was great getting to work with him. Like he said, it was also a learning experience getting to work with the adults on set, as they’re such pros. So it was an awesome experience, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience on this film; it was awesome.
FF: Beck, earlier you mentioned John Mossman, who wrote and directed ‘Good Guy with a Gun.’ What was the experience working with him like for the both of you while you working on the drama?
BN: It was a lot of fun! Someone said this at the (Dances With Films NYC) screening, and we’ve been saying this for awhile; John’s truly an actor’s director, and he’s an actor himself. He’s a really great person to be around, and a pretty great director. So it was a great collaborating with him.
JC: Even in high pressure situations, John was great to work with on the movie. Even if the sun was coming down and we needed to get the shot, he was calm and maintained a fun, relaxed environment. He’d tell everyone, “It’s okay; we’re going to get this together.”
It was a small set and really intimate working with everyone, and John created a really fun, but also really poignant, environment. That allowed us to make something really special, and always consciously think about the themes of the movie.
FF: As the movie’s writer, did John encourage you both, as well as the rest of the cast, to add your own ideas about your characters, or did you mainly stick to the script throughout the production?
BN: I think John had a strong connection to the script, so I think there was some emphasis on upholding that and respecting his work. But in the moments off camera, when you have all those brains working together in the ensemble, there are a lot of things that come up.
In the movie, there’s a scene around a campfire where we’re singing songs, but that wasn’t in the script. That came out of a situation that was similar to that; we were camping one night…
JC: It was the night before!
BN: Yes, it was the night before we shot the scene! We were sitting around the campfire, and Jack and I both play guitar and sing, so we were playing some stuff. My friend and I wrote the song that we played while ago, so when John said he was putting it in the movie, I was a little bit surprised, as I didn’t think it would work.
But when we saw it all together, it was a fun moment, and connects the first half with the second half of the story. It’s a nice meeting point and reminder that as much as they’re so far apart in the world, these young people can have this moment of togetherness. It’s a really sweet moment just before everything goes wrong.
FF: ‘Good Guy with a Gun’ is set and was shot in rural Illinois. What was the experience like being able to shoot the thriller in the real location where the story’s set?
JC: It was awesome. It was an escape from (Chicago), as Lockport, where we shot the film, is an hour outside of the city. So Beck and I would carpool sometimes because he lives in the city, and I was staying there.
We were going to this small rural town in the middle of summer and were super hot. There were weeds, ticks and mosquitos, which really got us into it. We were really where the characters are supposed to be in the story.
We also stayed at this haunted house for part of the shoot, which was crazy and awesome! The producer set up his air mattress in the evil laboratory in the haunted house, and we were in bunk beds, and it was just a blast.
BN: It really was. I’ve done a couple of other things now, and a lot of times, it’s on sound stages and not really on location. So it was cool to be able to go out into the woods. Like Jack said, it was great to be able to get out from the craziness of the city.
So I had a great time, especially when we were able to explore. There were so many nights when once we were done shooting, we’d go on walks through the woods behind the haunted house. Those were some of my favorite memories from set.
FF: ‘Good Guy with a Gun’ had its World Premiere at Dances with Films – NYC. What was your experience bringing the drama to the festival?
BN: It was great and so fun. I think I was most excited to reunite with our cast and crew. We shot this in the summer of 2021, so it’s been a year-and-a-half since all of us have been together. So it was really cool to get to make the trip to New York, get dressed up and see everyone. It was fun to stand on the carpet with all of my friends. So it was a great experience.
JC: Yes, seeing everything come together was pretty surreal. It was my first experience at a premiere, seeing myself on a big movie theater screen. It was incredibly nerve-racking, but also incredibly exciting to be able to share it with people who you feel proud of and safe with.