The Badlands can be a very dangerous place nowadays.
Rhys Coiro stars in this intense thriller Valley of Bones about a paleontologist discovering a T-rex bone in the Badlands of North Dakota. She enlists the help of a recovering meth addict, but eventually their shady pasts caught up with them.
The film also stars Autumn Reeser, Steven Molony, Mason Mahay, Alexandra Billings, Bill Smitrovich and Mark Margolis. It is directed by Dan Glaser.
LRM got a chance to sit-down to speak with Rhys Coiro one-on-one in Los Angeles about his role in Valley of Bones. He plays the brother to Autumn Reeser’s character in the film. It was a refreshing role, in which he was known playing bad boys or bad guys for most of his career. He also discussed about North Dakota film production, which is a rarity for any films to be produced there due to distance, logistics and the environment.
Coiro is best known as Billy Walsh in the Entourage television show. He has performed in many television shows afterwards, including The Lizzie Borden Chronicles, Texas Rising, and Graceland. He is currently on the Ray Donovan television show and will star in the bank heist film Finding Steve McQueen.
Valley of Bones will be in theaters for a limited release this Friday, September 1.
Read our interview transcript below.
LRM: How cool was it last night at the movie premiere of Valley of Bones at the Arclight Hollywood?
Rhys Coiro: If you’re going to have a movie and you want it to premiere—that’s where you want it to premiere. Arclight is the best movie theater in the world. I love it there. It’s great.
LRM: Now you mentioned it before that it’s the first time you saw the film on the big screen.
Rhys Coiro: Yeah, it was.
LRM: Critique yourself. How was it?
Rhys Coiro: Critique myself or the film? [Laughs]
LRM: Both. [Laughs]
Rhys Coiro: I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was amazing on how these boys put this film together. They had the challenges with the budget and time. It just looked beautiful. It looked like a hundred million dollar movie. It’s the cinematography. Michael [Lloyd], the cinematographer, did an unbelievable job. The sound is also beautiful. Performances were really great. I really enjoyed it.
That’s my critique. [Laughs] Very positive critique.
LRM: When you were brought on the project to play Nate—talk a little bit more about that character. Why is this character so attractive to you? What made you say, “You know what? I want to play Nate in this indie project.”
Rhys Coiro: The story, itself, was attractive. It’s an adventure. An adventure with heart. It’s also interesting fact that the lead character is a woman, a mother and kind of cold. In those terms, she’s so focused on her work. Her passion is her work. She doesn’t quite know on how to be a mother.
It was an interesting counterpoint to the character I play. I am the boy’s uncle, the deceased husband’s brother. He’s more of a father, a parent and the parental figure to the kid than she is.
In watching the movie, it played out nicely to see the [relationship] he has with Ezekiel. The boy froze into sharper focus to tell that story for this woman. That was a cool thing to play.
For me, it’s nice to play the good guy. A nice guy. A solid guy. He is a steady, solid guy. It was a challenge to be understated. I don’t often get that chance. It was very nice.
LRM: Tell me about this difficult or challenging transformation. You usually say you play these bad guy or bad boy roles. Now you finally got a role that shows a softer side. Was there an on/off switch? How did you mentally prepare for something like that?
Rhys Coiro: He’s the uncle. He’s the fun, rascally uncle too. There’s a sense of humor to the character here. I was that benevolent uncle on set…..that wise-cracking good natured uncle. It’s a nice role to play. As opposed to Stephen [Molony], who is the psychopath and it will take its toll.
LRM: That’s true. [Laughs]
Rhys Coiro: It’ll takes its toll staying in that mindset. This character is close to who I am really.
LRM: Do you have kids? Are you an uncle in real life?
Rhys Coiro: I have three kids. And I’m an uncle.
LRM: So it’s pretty easy to relate and to act with Mason [Mahay].
Rhys Coiro: He made it easy. It can be tough. I had experiences when it was not easy. He’s clearly a pro and very talented. He’s rolls and flows with changes. There was a scene where it was completely changed and completely rewrote right on the spot. It was filmed and improvised. He was having a blast. It was easy for him. There wasn’t a false note with him in the movie. He was a huge anchor in the movie as well. It was all in his performance.
LRM: Was there a lot of improvisation or mainly everyone stuck to the script?
Rhys Coiro: For me, there was quite a bit of it. We did some [improv]. We did some changes. It was cool. Improvising is one thing, but altering and polishing are another things. That’s what we were doing. It’s great to have Dan [Glaser] as the writer, director and producer. He was ready to be willing and able to roll with all of those ideas. Collaboration—that’s what you want. He’s a partner and collaborator. He’s someone who appreciates you and has a clear vision.
LRM: Absolutely. Are you more of an improvising guy or more of a script guy?
Rhys Coiro: Like I said, improvising is one thing. Taking a look at the scene to see certain ideas [is another thing]. Every script has to come to life off the page. How that happens, it’s always different. Sometimes it means doing it exactly on how it was written. Sometimes it means to massage or to adjust some things. Sometimes it means to be completely changing it.
That’s all part of the fun of taking something on a page that is two-dimensional and making it to come alive. That’s our job. That’s my job. It’s to make it breathe life.
LRM: When they pitched this film to you and you heard you were going to North Dakota, was that even on your wish list? I wouldn’t even imagine this for myself by saying, “Hey. You’re going to work in North Dakota for a few weeks.” Do I even want to go? What was your reaction to it?
Rhys Coiro: I always go with great gusto to locations. I love to go to locations. It’s a great gift to be able to shoot in the exact location on where the movie is set. That’s what we had with this movie. My character was from that location. It’s a beautiful thing to go to a place and become of that place. It’s to soak it all in.
LRM: It’s probably a lot better than going to Palmdale, Lancaster or Bakersfield, right? [Laughs]
Rhys Coiro: That’s true. [Laughs] Nothing against those places, but it’s Big Sky country out there. It’s an amazing part of the country. It’s an amazing part of the world.
LRM: So when you first stepped into The Badlands or the countryside of North Dakota—what was that like? I’ve never been there myself.
Rhys Coiro: Why do they call it The Badlands? What does it have there? It’s perfect for raising cattle. It’s hard to plant any crops there. There are cattle, fossil fuel and fossils there. All of those three things are represented in the film.
The spirit of the country is there, too. There are wagon trails there. The little roads are the original wagon trails there. You can look at the original maps and realize that they are the same trails and roads. There was even an old wagon trail that ran through the ranch at where we were shooting. There are all sorts of lore about ambushes from Native Americans.
Interestingly enough, I went back to North Dakota about a year after we shot [this movie]. I was at Standing Rock.
LRM: Oh, really?
Rhys Coiro: I was there around Thanksgiving last year for all of that protest.
LRM: I was going to ask if you would ever go back and you did.
Rhys Coiro: I did. I felt a strong connection to that place. It’s powerful. There is a strong connection from the Natives there to the dinosaurs. It’s on another scale with that place.
LRM: It’s worthy for preservation, right? Just to keep it the way it is.
Rhys Coiro: It’s worthy to take care of our land and give thought to what goes on.
LRM: What do you think is the most difficult thing you had to do on this project? You make it sound so easy.
Rhys Coiro: There are difficulties, for sure. Not the least of which was filming at night. It was very challenging. It was all out in the middle of the deep bush. It was very cold. It really added to the film. In the climatic sequence, you can see the wind blowing. You can see the storm that hit us. You can see everything that was setting in.
There was no acting required. The wind was blowing. That stage was set. You’re just trying to keep as warm as possible and get the job done.
LRM: So were you camping or on a ranch for your stay?
Rhys Coiro: We were on a ranch. But, while we were shooting, we were way out. There were parts that you couldn’t get to with a non-four-wheel drive vehicle or horse. That’s a special thing. That’s what part of film is all about. Many of my favorite things about film is to take place in nature or the big wild world.
LRM: How was it working with Autumn [Reeser]? Was that pretty good too?
Rhys Coiro: Oh, man. I don’t know on how we could’ve done this movie with anyone else. She was so stoic. She was tough and adaptable. She was a great leader. That’s what you’ll need. As the lead of a movie, that’s what you have to be—a leader. She lead by dignified example. It’s very difficult to look beautiful, be glamorous as to be in the middle of the back country with no amenities. There was no room for any kind of diva behavior here, which is the exact opposite of Autumn.
She’s earthy. It was a great role for her. She’s a mother. She’s very compelling in the film. She brings that kind of mother, who was fiercely determined and conflicted. I loved her role and her interpretation of it.
LRM: Is Dan’s style of directing helps out a whole lot?
Rhys Coiro: Yes, he is very collaborative and opened to ideas. It’s nice. He also edited the film. Especially having seen the film now, I can see that [he really dedicated himself]. That’s what you have to have. You have to have your director. The more that they can visualize it and on how it all stitch together—the better off you are. After I’ve seen it, I can see on how he had it all mapped out.
LRM: Let me start wrapping things up. Could you talk about some of your upcoming projects?
Rhys Coiro: I’m on the new season of Ray Donovan right now. That’s cool.
LRM: That is cool.
Rhys Coiro: That is a great show. I’ve got this heist movie with Forrest Whitaker, Bill Fichtner, Travis Fimmel and Rachael Taylor. It’s a heist movie coming out next year called Finding Steve McQueen. That’ll be cool. It’ll be coming out early next year.
LRM: Who do you play?
Rhys Coiro: It’s a bank heist. I play one of the robbers.
LRM: Oh? You’re back to the bad guy again? [Chuckles]
Rhys Coiro: The bad guys are good guys in that. [Laughs] Well, they’re protagonists at least. I have a little role in Kevin Connolly’s Gotti starring John Trovolta, which should be coming next year I hope. And then I have this very fun horror comedy called Dead Ant, which is premiering at the LA’s Screamfest on October 13. That’s a really fun movie. It’s about getting attacked by giant ants.
LRM: [Laughs] What’s the criteria for you to pick these roles in these movies? You get offered with a whole bunch of roles. What do you look for to say, “I want to do this?”
Rhys Coiro: It’s really a blessing to have variety. Variety is the spice of life. I feel very happy to have a great variety of roles. That’s really fun. I would hate to do the same things over and over again. Maybe there’s a joy in that as well. For the time being, it’s a pleasure to see where the next journey takes me.
LRM: Terrific! Thank you very much.
Rhys Coiro: Thanks.
Valley of Bones will be playing in limited theaters this Friday, September 1.