Villain Media has an exclusive interview with Josh Stewart as he talks about writing and directing the gripping drama, Back Fork. Known for his onscreen roles in The Collector and Netflix’s The Punisher, Stewart dives deep into the plot about how the strain of tragedy can take a heavy toll on a young couple in Appalachia.
Waylon (Stewart) is struggling to hold his life and family together after a heartbreaking tragedy. He and his wife, Nida (A.J. Cook) barely recognize themselves, let alone each other. Their inability to continue on and to heal, leaves them hopeless. With the growing burden of the unanswered questions of why, and a heavy dose of self-blame, it’s only a matter of time before Waylon turns to the magic of the pills to make the problems disappear. He finds a kindred spirit in his sister, Raylene (Agnes Bruckner), as he sleep walks through life with addiction. It’s only a matter of time until Waylon finds himself at a crossroads.
With Back Fork arriving on all VOD platforms on April 9th, 2019, Stewart discusses returning to the director’s chair, raising awareness about the opioid epidemic, and handling the many challenging roles including actor/writer/producer for this film. So join us as we have an in-depth chat inside the director’s studio about the world of filmmaking.
Villain Media:Tell me how Back Fork came about?
Josh Stewart: You know, it was a combination of a few different stories I had floating around in my head. And with that, growing up in West Virginia, where the opioid epidemic has run wild, it all just came from that. Hearing stories, seeing them first hand, it just felt like the right setting and the right circumstance for it all to come to fruition. It seemed fitting. The story came easy from that place.
VM: You previously directed The Hunted. How did you want this directorial project to be different?
JS: Well, honestly they’re two completely different films. So the approach and the filming were completely different. Writing the scripts were two completely different animals. I mean, there are the physical shooting days that are similar in what needs to happen, but even the way they were shot were completely different. But I certainly learned a lot from the first time around and was eager to not make the same mistakes again. I guess we’re always looking to improve. To be a more effective storyteller; so that’s always the goal.
VM: You also wrote the script to Back Fork. How important were the lines? How loose are you with the cast on dialogue?
JS: I’m fairly loose with the dialogue if something’s brought to me and it’s better. I have no ego with that. As long as it serves the story and not someone’s personal agenda, I have no problem with it. But with that said, there are some words that I want said.
VM: Tell me about playing Waylon, who is dealing with hopelessness, self-blame, and addiction.
JS: In a weird way, I think acting in the film was the most simple. I feel like when I write something, I’ve done all the homework on a character. I’ve done the work on the script from the approach as an actor. That’s where all the heavy lifting is done for an actor. Set is just the playground to go have fun.
Waylon is in a bad spot when we meet him and it only gets worse. So emotional days can be physically draining, but it’s what the character requires sometimes. But like I said, having written it, I was into the head of this dude from the jump. And when you really have a handle on a character, filming it is fun!
VM: There is a disconnect between Nida and Waylon after a tragedy. Tell me about working with A.J. Cook, who plays Nida.
JS: A.J. Cook is great! We’ve known one another for 12 to 13 years. So our working relationship is great! All the guesswork is taken out of the questions of how someone’s going to come at something. You get to know their instincts a bit, the way they move, the way they work. And from that, an ease comes. It makes the work a safer place; a place where you can just tell the story.
VM: How did Back Fork change you as an artist?
JS: Writing, directing, producing and acting in it just exposed me to the production and the creative from every angle. It’s all you’re thinking about, so it consumes you. It eats you alive; but, in the best possible way. So I’m not sure if it changed me as an artist per se, but I hope it’s helped me grow as a filmmaker. It would be a shame if it didn’t.
VM: How can the readers of Villain Media find your movie?
JS: April 9; it will be everywhere in the digital world. iTunes, Amazon Instant, Google Play, Vudu, Xbox, YouTube Transactional, Fandango Now, Dish Network, Direct TV, and through local cable providers.
VM: What are you working on now?
JS: Writing the next thing that will bury me alive, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
VM: Thank you!
JS: Thanks so much!
[Writer’s Note: This interview has been edited for clarity. Links are highlighted in bold.]