Dylan Sprouse's next film is a pandemic thriller that has nothing to do with COVID-19. Timely as it may be, Tyger Tyger was filmed long before our own global crisis changed life as we know it.
Writer-director Kerry Mondragon's stylized fantasy-drama is a Robin Hood story, of sorts, set in prescient times, about a woman (Sam Quartin) who robs a pharmacy and enlists a drug addict (Sprouse) to help distribute the stolen medication to those in need. Eden Brolin, Craig Stark, Max Madsen and Barbara Palvin (who also happens to be Sprouse's girlfriend) co-star.
"This project holds a really special place in my heart," Sprouse tells ET. "It's experimental by nature, and it's definitely in line with the kind of films I like to make, personally. As a creative and as an artist, these are the kind of movies that I love to be a part of. It's just an intriguing and interesting ride from front to back. I really do think that if anyone jumps in and watches this with that in mind and learns about it, hears about the history of this [and] the making of this project in general, I think you'll be very pleased with the outcome."
ET is exclusively debuting the trailer for Tyger Tyger (watch above) and hopped on the phone with Sprouse to find out what made this film one of his most memorable yet and tease his next project, Mindy Kaling's HBO Max comedy, The Sex Lives of College Girls.
ET: I think a lot of people will be surprised that this was filmed in the before times. What was it about the project that spoke to you at that time?
Dylan Sprouse: I have a taste for experimental projects, and I also tend to like working with first-time feature directors. So, when this script fell onto my table, I read through it and saw what Kerry was trying to do and I really thought it was novel and interesting. In truth, my criteria for working on projects is not solely but largely influenced by how I think the projects will be shot and the people I'll be working with will be on set. This was such an interesting idea on top of being in such a bizarre and cool location that I just knew I wanted to be a part of it.
When did you actually shoot this?
Oh, man. I want to say, like, almost two years ago now. It was quite a while ago.
How did you react then when you first heard about our pandemic, then? Was it just surreal? Or did it feel like this experience had prepared you in any way to handle COVID a little better?
Well, I think to say that anyone fully had a handle on it might be difficult to say. It was certainly surreal, and it's interesting because this was a project that had similar notations to COVID, though obviously indirectly related. Weirdly enough, I had actually seen other projects come across my desk that had this dystopian air quality poison scenario frequently after that, to which I said no thank you, largely because I had done Tyger Tyger. But it's weird how writers, it seems in a lot of ways, tap into this kind of mystical foresight and manifest what seems to happen. I hate to be a wizard about it, but it seems like this is all too common. [Laughs]
We're seeing content come out now that's about COVID or set in COVID times, and I think people have mixed feelings about it, about wanting to see our world reflected back to them versus wanting escape. This is not COVID, but why should people watch a pandemic movie like Tyger Tyger right now?
It's tough to say. First off, I think that anyone who's a fan of indie films will really like this film. Its experimental nature is very intriguing, and the story behind how this was shot and why it was shot the way it is is incredibly interesting to me still. It's probably one of my favorite, most memorable shoots I've ever done. Like you said, this is not explicitly COVID-related. I mean, COVID wasn't even a thought at that point in time, but I think, at its core, this deals with the subject of escapism. So, those who go into watching movies looking to have an escape or looking to understand their reality currently, this is what this movie is about. So, I think that that subject matter should and would be intriguing to anyone who has the same thoughts.
What made this your most memorable filming experience?
It's Slab City and Bombay Beach, filming down there is probably one of the most memorable experiences I've ever had on a shoot. The nature of it is very guerrilla and very gritty. A lot of the group down there is wary of outsiders. Kerry had been down there previously and had made friends with the locals and had known everybody. If it weren't for him, then we would have never been able to shoot there. At the time, I think they had only ever had one film crew on location there and something had gone wrong on the shoot, and so they were very wary of anyone trying to come in and mess up the scene there. So, what resulted is this inside look on a community there that's so intriguing and so beautiful. Just the stories that came out of that afterwards of our interactions with people in Bombay Beach and Slab City were so intriguing. At one point in time, some people that were in the movie with us, we had called them to set the next day or the next week, and we couldn't find them anywhere. And it's because they had hopped on a train, they had just taken a train to go to their next location. A lot of them were rubber tramps and travelers and they'd just gone. And that was that. We just had to make do. That was the nature of the life down there.
You've been back on set working in these strange, strange times. How has that been?
I have, yes. I've done three projects. It's interesting. Depending on the budget of the project that I'm working on -- everyone has an extreme caution, as you can imagine -- some, though, have the budget to be almost excessively cautious in a way, which I think makes everyone feel safe. That's a good thing. But there's definitely an inherent fear, right? As an actor, it's interesting because so much of the faculties you know is being able to bond with a cast and crew, they're either remedied by alternative means or they're taken away entirely. But that being said, it's all for the best. I think everybody is being as safe as possible. And even though the film industry and TV industry has opened back up, even on set, we're all working very hard to make sure that COVID doesn't spread any more than it already has.
You're filming The Sex Lives of College Girls now, which is your first series since The Suite Life. What made you want to return to TV?
My reluctance to return to TV has always been partly rooted in the fact that I wanted to film a diverse amount of roles, to, for lack of a better phrase, show people what I got. I had been sheering a singular role for almost six years, and as an actor, after a while, that can be kind of draining. Especially on a network television show that is a lot about pushing a large amount of episodes out. I know a lot of actors feel that same sentiment. So, I wanted to return primarily to film, so that I could have shorter gestation periods for my roles and characters that I was playing, but furthermore diversify what I had previously done and challenge myself a little bit. Now that I thought that that mission was kind of complete, my idea was to return back to television on a show that I could be really proud of being a part of, and on paper and off paper, Sex Lives of College Girls is exactly that. The team that's involved with it, the crew, the cast, the scripts are hilarious, everything about it is just perfect. So, I'm really happy to be a part of it.
Tell me about your character, Nico. What drew you to him?
He is the brother of one of the leads named Leighton [played by Reneé Rapp], one of the college girls in the dorm. He's a senior in college and he's ushering his baby sister into the same college that he attends. They come from this very wealthy, upper class, East Coast family, used to vacations in Montauk and things of that sort, and Nico is reluctant to play into that path. He's trying to move away from his silver spoon past in an effort to be more humble and live more humbly and get along with his college peers in a way that doesn't use the hand that he's been dealt. He is also a shoulder to lean on for his baby sister, who is wrapped up in that past still. And throughout that, he ends up striking up a very friendly friendship with Pauline Chalamet's character, Kimberly. It's a fun character. He's somewhere between a traditional frat bro and an upper-class elite from the East Coast.
Never Have I Ever was one of my favorite series last year. What do you think will surprise fans of Mindy's work with Sex Lives?
I think you can expect a similar quality in anything that she touches and Justin Noble touches. And also, David Gordon Green is our director, so it's just quality all across the board. But I think they can be surprised by how true and real to life this very much feels. The characters are very distinct and it's a really fun ensemble. We've had a great time on set -- safely, six feet away from each other when we can be -- but through that, the narratives that people will relate to in these characters, there is definitely a character for everybody. That's really fun to see. At the same time, it's so humorous and it's so lighthearted in some degrees that I think people will really be impressed and have fun watching the show. I'm very proud of what we shot so far.
Tyger Tyger is in select theaters, drive-ins and on demand on Feb. 26.