White Rabbit follows the life of Harlon, a mentally ill teenager who is not only bullied in high school but has an oblivious father who makes him kill a rabbit at a very young age. This troubled teen continues to struggle with his mental state throughout the story and starts having visions after being forced to murder an innocent creature. His world in turmoil, Harlon’s undiagnosed condition leads him to carry out unspeakably violent acts on his schoolmates and teachers.
Krause took some time to talk with me about playing such an emotionally taxing, but rewarding role– as well as the shift from comedy to a topic much darker and challenging. He spoke of his on-screen love interest Britt Robertson (Julie) and the overall dynamic of the cast. Not to mention, we discussed some of his favorite pastimes and he even teased his new movie Darwin, which is scheduled to come out later this year.
MCKENZIE MORRELL: Tell us about your film, White Rabbit and Harlon, the character you play?
NICK KRAUSE: White Rabbit is a film that kind of takes an analytical view of what it takes to drive someone to conduct a high school shooting. It centers around Harlon, the character that I play who really is a good kid, a normal kid, but he has so many things plotted against him. He has mental illness, and is bullied but the biggest thing is that all the people in his life failed to help him. He has no sense of direction from anybody and he suffers so many great losses in a row. So it’s kind of the story of how all these events in his life kind of lead him to such an act.
MM: Now, what else do you think contributed to Harlon’s emotionally unstable state? Do you think being forced to kill the rabbit, as a young boy was his main trigger or were there other factors?
NK: I think using the word trigger is correct. It really was just a trigger that has been allowed to affect him in a heavier way. The biggest problem that Harlon has is such an extreme isolation from everybody. He’s bullied in school. He really doesn’t have many friends and when he does make them, they disappear from his life.
MM: Harlon is an undiagnosed mentally ill high schooler who is bullied, events in the movie prompt him to act out some pretty horrific behavior, that’s got to be a tough role to take on… what type of research went into this character?
NK: I mean it was absolutely a challenge, for sure. I did a lot of research before I got the role. It started with kind of getting the technicals down. The preparation, it was me sitting in a dark room and asking myself a bunch of very hard questions. Everytime Harlon lost something, I’d think of the way he reacted, figure out how much that meant to him and put that in terms of my own life. After I did that, I’d ask myself questions like if you lost this, what would you do? If you lost this, how would you feel? If you lost all of these things at once — to get to the end question of what would lead me to do something or what would lead me to an edge where it would be in the front of my mind. And that’s hard, to be that kind of honest with yourself and so that was the biggest challenge, I think in kind of preparing Harlon.
MM: Did you find it overwhelming at all? Did you do anything to destress after you were done with the role to kind of get out of your head?
NK: It was stressful because I was constantly pulling tricks in my mind to feel like I was being chased to get in touch with Harlon on screen. So my fight or flight was always a little jumpy for sure. My girlfriend at the time, came down toward the end of the shoot and spent time with me. But the role definitely stayed with me for quite a while after I shot. I think every role that I’ve played or that anybody plays, it stays in the little archive in your mind.
NK: Everyone on the cast and the crew was really cool to work with. We’re all working a job where we get to do what we love so everyone’s happy to be doing that. Britt was very, very cool. She had a fascinating character and it was interesting to talk to Britt in real life and watch her tweak her mannerisms as she does for Julie. It was an interesting half and half blend. Then Ryan Lee (Steve) who plays my best friend in the film, he and I had known each other for many years before working on White Rabbit. It was cool working with him as well. Sam Trammell (Darrell) and I hung out a little bit before we started shooting, but kind of intentionally kept a certain emotional distance from each other. Not because we didn’t like each other because he’s an awesome guy but because I think it really helped with our characters’ dynamic on screen I think part of Harlon’s relationship with his father is that they’re both really unpredictable with each other. It kind of gave this wider ground of conflict and more chance for us to surprise each other through the performance because we didn’t a general idea of what the other guy was going to do.
MM: As an independent film, did you have any additional creative liberties to tweak the character or how you portrayed him?
NK: Yeah. I had a lot of creative freedom with Harlon which was very nice. On most projects that I’ve been on I’ve been fortunate enough to have creative input. I know that on the set of White Rabbit, it’s a very fluid and fascinating process. So what was cool about that was getting to explore the idea of him and just kind of go off on my own with Harlon and whatever scene and have fun with that. It was more or less an open direction for me which was really nice and I got to do what I wanted with him.
MM: You won Best Actor for your role as Harlon at the Catalina Film Festival– congratulations by the way– what was that like, sort of getting that validation or praise for something you worked so hard on?
NK: It’s really cool. Whenever I work on anything, I think this is true for most people, you’re not in it for awards but it was really cool to get that recognition and also to know that the performance affected somebody in the audience, enough for them to vote for me. Someone saw it and was moved in one way or another.
NK: Yes. That was kind of part of the deal. With this kind of subject, it becomes very easy for an audience member to come in with a whole lot of preconceived notions about what they want it to be and for well earned opinions on either side, political or any other kind to kind of mix in with their opinion of this film. I knew that singing on to White Rabbit. It can be a tough film to watch for some people and it deals with sensitive stuff. That’s always going to be polarizing no matter how well the film’s made. I’ve gotten some criticism because a lot of people saw me from the beginning, they’d seen me doing comedic stuff and this seems out of character. It’s all interesting really, that kind of thing is out of my control. I very much enjoy the progress and I got to take on a huge challenge with a difficult character which is all the things I’ve ever wanted to do. I’m very happy with the film and portraying this character.
MM: That’s wonderful. The film was just released on VOD. What do you think about the shift in how we watch movies and things moving to the streaming online realm?
NK: It’s really interesting. It’s kind of a cool development in the film industry. You kind of see it as polarization. I think Steven Spielberg predicted this a few years ago, he and a few others. Like when you go to a theater like ArcLight theater in LA, you’re going to see a roller coaster ride, something like Transformers or Interstellar or something like that and a theater setting can really help the experience. You see fewer and fewer true to the story movies where quality story and all that is the main thing they have to offer. I think Netflix distribution and all kinds of electronic ways to consume media are great for the film industry and Indie films because they allow people to find new stuff that they never would have seen advertised on a billboard. They can get very comfortable and very invested in the story which is harder to do in a crowded theater atmosphere. I think it’s really cool.
MM: Speaking of finding new things and consuming things and rapid succession, have you binge watched any TV shows or movies recently? What are some things you like to watch?
NK: I did just binge the whole last season of House of Cards which was really awesome. I’m a sucker for political themes so House of Cards was great. I’ve probably watched every season of The West Wing like five times. I loved that show. When the material gets really dense and I just can’t keep on with the arches, I’ll switch off to something more light hearted like 30 Rock or Parks and Recreation especially is a really nice comedy show that I like.
MM: Now you’ve worked on TV shows and films. Do you prefer one over the other and what are the major differences you’ve seen while shooting on them?
NK: They’re Both very different really. TV is much faster moving. I did a show called Hollywood Heights a couple of years ago, where we were shooting almost 80 pages on an average day and that was a hectic atmosphere. But I kind of loved it because you get a sense of adrenaline from minute one to the end of the shoot. It was a very exciting process. It was a trade off because when you’re moving really fast on any TV set, you don’t have as much time for preparation and analysis of the character to decide where your archs going to go and how you’d like to see it change. I think that’s the biggest difference for actors working on TV and film. TV you’re working much more on a consistent character. You want to keep a lot of the same things throughout the show and the writers introduce the change for you, whereas film, a lot of your focus on the character, you have more time to figure out their arc or conflict. In a film, you want to see everyone switch from one kind of emotional opposite to the other through the course of it. So, the overall movie process, a lot of the time is a more perfectionist process from everyone. And so I think that I personally enjoy working on a film set more just because my inner OCD is a little more satisfied. I feel like I got enough time and chances to really get everything right but I also love television sets just because of the atmosphere and the energy that’s on there.
MM: Yeah. it’s got to be a trade off and you can enjoy both of them in different ways. I don’t know if you have much downtime but what are some things you like to do when you get a free moment?
NK: I do two things mostly. I play guitar and I make websites. I’ve played guitar for twelve years. I usually bring one to set to have it throughout the day. I love the instrument. It’s just an extension of me. It’s just so much fun. Writing code, I love it a lot. That’s a different kind of thing for me. It’s much more frustrating. It moves slower and it’s very cool like you’re learning a new language like French or Spanish or something like that. Your main challenge in writing a program is to really cleanly and exactly define an idea. So it’s a challenge, to me of articulation, to see just how well I can express something at a very, very base level which is a challenge I really like.
MM: Well that’s awesome that you’re keeping yourself challenged. As a final question, what are you working on next? Is there anything coming up that people can look out for?
NK: I have a film that’s releasing later this year. I don’t have an exact date but the film is called Darwin. I play, the main character Darwin. He lives in a world where there is absolutely no human connection. Everyone on earth lives in a computerized pod where they are segregated their entire life. As a side effect of that, a lot of people are very fat and they can’t walk. Nobody knows how to speak with their voice. Everyone’s so used to typing. So that adventure that Darwin goes on, he kind of goes on a journey to go see the world, was a very fun one to do and it’s going to be a cool one to see.
MM: That’s going to be awesome. We’ll look out for that.