Some actors just seem like they’re destined to play the villain and Julian McMahon continues to use his leading man good looks to turn some pretty despicable characters into charismatic baddies you almost end up rooting for. In Monster Party directed by Chris von Hoffman (Drifter), McMahon is the head of the Dawson family – an elite family putting on a bizarre dinner party where every guest seems to be hiding something. As three thieves masquerading as caterers plan to rob the Dawson mansion, they slowly find out everyone in attendance is in recovery from a very unique addiction.
Monster Party is stacking up to be one of the more original releases as we come to the end of the year and speaking with McMahon he seemed to be proud of the ensemble work in the film. There’s also a healthy helping of blood and guts served up for dessert. We talked about the fun of playing a diabolical patriarch, McMahon’s favorite genre roles from Charmed to Dr. Doom in Fantastic Four, and what’s coming up in season 2 of Marvel’s Runaways.
The story follows three thieves who plan a daring heist posing as waiters at a fancy Malibu mansion dinner party in hopes of paying off an urgent debt. When their plan goes horribly wrong, the trio realizes the dinner guests are not as innocent as they seem and their simple cash grab becomes a violent and desperate battle to get out of the house alive.
DC: Can you talk a little about the addiction that this group of elite dinner companions are going through without giving too much away?
JM: I think you’d liken it to any kind of addictive qualities whether it’s alcohol or drugs or food or whatever it is. With this particular family and this particular group, actually, it seems to be something that they flourish with and they’re just burying their demons when they can’t express themselves that way. Their demons are probably a little stronger and more overt and powerful than their lives without them.
DC: It seems like each character has a very dark history. Did you think up any backstory for your character, Patrick? It really feels like you and Robin Tunney have had some pretty crazy nights in the past.
JM: Yeah, definitely. When the movie opens and you’ve got Patrick getting into his slippers and going to the window, we had that scripted a little bit differently. What I really wanted to get out of that was that because of him keeping this, let’s call it a demon, keeping that kind of thing inside of him kind of put him in this place where he’s fearful and hermity…like he almost couldn’t get up for the day. Everything in his life had become dark because he had to shut that door based on this kind of addiction and his inability to connect with it.
DC: Getting both you and Robin Tunney as the head of the family really adds a lot of acting weight to the movie. You both really seemed to be having fun playing off of each other and I think this is the first time you’ve worked together, right?
JM: It’s the first time we worked together and, I got to tell ya, when I met her she’s such an adorable lady and she just brought it. The two of us were just, like, okay we’re going for it. I love her work in this. It’s so kind of simple, scary, she just brought a fantastic tone to it. It was really a pleasure to mix what I thought I could bring as Patrick and to bring those two together.
DC: There’s something about the setup of a dinner party that allows the characters to get away with more than they normally could in another situation. Everyone is so polite that the kids planning on robbing everyone don’t realize how strange the evening is getting. Was the setup before the twist happens more fun to play because of the secret society aspect or did you enjoy acting in the third act more when everything goes off the rails?
JM: You know, they were both kind of fun. And the thing is, what we just discussed kind of fed into the whole first act. Here’s this bunch of nutty people who are holding back from what they really want to being doing with their lives on pretty much a daily basis and it just created this kind of fantastic level of tension. I love that kitchen scene with Robin and myself…and then that whole speech that she has before we head into the dining room. The connection with Lance [Reddick] and his control over everybody and my disdain for his tonality in the way he treats people. Then things just go awry and the leashes come off and it’s just a free-for-all.
So they’re both really fun aspects to play because, as you see in the bit where all the guests come into the house, Robin’s character is very effusive and Patrick is more like what the hell are we all doing here? He holds a level of animosity that we don’t quite understand until we start to dig into the last part of the movie.
DC: I remember reviewing Chris Hoffman’s first film Drifter that’s pretty underrated. Did you take a look at that film before taking on the role of Patrick?
JM: Yeah for sure, in fact, it’s one of the reasons I signed on because I had read the script and I took a look at that film and then I met with Chris. It was those three elements that made me want to work with him. I think he’s an extraordinarily talented young filmmaker and this is just a part of the beginning of his journey.
DC: I don’t want to give you homework by any means, but Chris also mentioned that he was influenced by the cult classic Society when writing this film which should get horror fans more excited for Monster Party. Are you a fan of that film or of the horror genre in general?
JM: Oh, I am absolutely a fan of the horror genre and I didn’t know that film until he brought it up to me because we talked about his influences and I was interested in what he was influenced by in the writing of this and the production of it. All that stuff, we delved into before we started shooting.
DC: Out of all the genre roles you’ve played from Charmed to Runaways to Monster Party, do you have a favorite? I was definitely a fan of Zachariah in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.
JM: Oh yeah! Wasn’t he cool? I loved that show. Yeah, you know, they’re all so, when you put the list out there like that, it’s all really about having fun for me as an actor and as a character. What can you inject that’s maybe a little bit different than what you did last time? I’m a big comic book guy so I loved playing Doctor Doom, it was like a dream come true. I love horror movies, I frickin’ LOVE horror movies. So, to be in one that I think is shot so well and delivered so well and so unique and kind of a shifting of the space of the genre is just so cool. Nip/Tuck for me was a great show in a lot of different ways. And Charmed, the show was great but also the character I played was one of the funnest characters I’ve played. They’ve all got their own advantages based on what it is you can sink your teeth into as a performer.
DC: I’m definitely curious to see what’s going to happen with Jonah’s storyline in Season 2 of Runaways. That looks like it’s been a blast to work on as well.
JM: Yeah, first of all, that first season I really enjoyed but the second season? Oh man, you’re in for a treat. They shot some stuff on 70mm, the DP was really trying to mix it up as far as the photographic side of things. Jonah and the connection with the parents and with the kids, it really kind of takes off. It was an absolute pleasure, I love working with all those guys, all the kids and the parents and the writers and creators. It was great but that character, we really delved into him pretty deep and I’m excited to see, particularly once we start getting into it. The first couple of episodes are great, obviously, but when we get to three, four, five it starts to get really dark and really deep. It’s really cool.
Monster Party is now available nationally in theaters, VOD and Digital HD from RLJE Films.