In 2016, Jovan Adepo made his feature film debut opposite Denzel Washington in the Oscar-nominated Fences. He followed that up with a featured role in Darren Aronofsky’s totally bonkers mother! After ensemble roles in such acclaimed series as HBO’s The Leftovers, Facebook’s Sorry for Your Loss and Amazon’s Jack Ryan, he commands the big screen with his first leading role in Overlord, just your average World War II, mad scientist, Nazi undead action horror thriller now available from Redbox on DVD, Blu-ray and On Demand.
Directed by Julius Avery and produced by genre-master J. J. Abrams under his Bad Robot Productions banner, Overlord stars Adepo as Boyce, one of a team of paratroopers whose eve-of-D-Day mission is to penetrate a church tower in a Nazi-occupied French town and blow up a radio tower. His fellow soldiers doubt Boyce’s killer instinct, but beneath that church, he discovers a Nazi lab where unspeakable experiments are creating an army that turns evil up to 11. Adepo spoke with Redbox about signing up for this outrageous mission, how playing pretend as a child prepares you for battling monster Nazis and the most important advice Viola Davis has given him.
Redbox: As an actor, which is the most challenging or intimidating; battling the Nazis undead, working opposite Denzel Washington or trying to explain the plot of mother!?
JA: (Laughs) Oh, man, how does somebody choose from those three? I feel like you’re setting me up to fail here. You know what, I’ll take the easy way out and make my own answer; they are all equally difficult for different reasons. The best thing you can do as an actor is to keep challenging yourself and one of the most difficult things is having the responsibility of envisioning a character that is not there and making that believable. You have to commit or the audience won’t believe; you have to go back to when you were a child and running around with your friends and pretending you’re Batman or that you can fly. (As for) Denzel Washington, he is one of my acting heroes and he’s just such a larger- than-life person in my eyes, so getting to work with him was obviously a daunting task, but such a blessing to have. And mother! was an awesome experience, but I don’t think that many actors could accurately tell you what it is about. (Director) Darren Aronofsky would be the most fitting to describe it to you.
RB: I don’t know if you’ve seen From Dusk Till Dawn….
JA: Of course!
RB: It starts off as this crime movie and the next thing you know there’s all these vampires. Overlord is very much like that in how it starts out as a war movie and becomes something completely different. How was it pitched to you?
JA: It was pitched with as little detail as possible because this is a Bad Robot production. (The company) is very secretive about their projects in early stages of development. All I knew was that it was a World War II and sci-fi thriller from J. J. Abrams. That was all I really needed. He is known to create original stories with complex characters going through these extraordinary situations. I was on board as soon as I got the call from my agent.
RB: I’ve read that as a young actor, you were introduced to Viola Davis, who is the sister of someone from your hometown church and that your future Fences co-star became a mentor to you. What is the strongest advice she has given you?
JA: Enjoy the journey; this business is more of a marathon than a sprint. That is something many of my veteran colleagues—Ann Dowd, Justin Theroux, Denzel Washington—have expressed to me. (That advice is) harder to accept when you first start out because you see some of your favorite actors doing these great roles and you so want the opportunity to do that. The best way to get to that level, which is something I truly aspire to, is to take one step at a time, one job at a time, do my best and be truthful (onscreen).
RB: On The Leftovers, you portrayed the son of this year’s Oscar frontrunner for Best Supporting Actress, Regina King. Do you actively solicit advice more experienced actors?
JA: (emphasizes each word) All. The. Time. I can’t remember the original quote, but it’s something my father sent to me when I was in college. It was something along the lines of, ‘No one would care about today’s modern princes if it wasn’t for our past kings.’ We would never get to the level or heights of artistry we want to get to if we didn’t confide in the people who were there first. and who have experienced the level of success we want to have.
RB: What is your favorite scene in Overlord?
JA: It has to be the opening sequence (in which the plane carrying Boyce and his fellow paratroopers is hit by enemy fire and he is forced to eject, sending him somersaulting through the air and splash-landing in a lake). It was the most difficult to shoot. As far as the adrenaline and pace of the movie that scene really kicks it up; as soon as it happens the film never really stops from there.
RB: Finally; sequel?
JA: (laughs) I have no idea. The writers were brilliant in that the movie stands well on it’s own, but I don’t think anyone (involved) would be opposed if there was to be a sequel. I can’t be the person to say it.