If sci-fi is a strange and scary word to you, then it’s unlikely you’ll know who Mackenzie Davis is. But if you can’t get enough of dystopian universes and high-concept thrillers, the star of Terminator: Dark Fate, Blade Runner 2049 and Black Mirror‘s acclaimed ‘San Junipero’ episode should be as an old friend by now. Here’s the snag, though, Davis’ new film Irresistible is totally different.
Set between Washington D.C. and generic smalltown America, the soft-satire comedy is ex-Daily Show host Jon Stewart’s first political comedy. In it, Steve Carell plays a sarcastic Democratic strategist who helps a retired veteran run for mayor in ultra-conservative Hicksville. Canadian actress Davis plays said mayoral candidate’s daughter, but she’s got a secret that threatens to ruin everything.
We caught up with the sci-fi genre’s fast-rising big-hitter to talk Liverpudlian passions, the future of the Terminator franchise, and why Contagion is our best hope for saving the future.
Hi Mackenzie, you’ve got family from over here, haven’t you?
“Yeah! My dad’s from Liverpool. I was just there over Christmas. I love Liverpool. It’s been a very big part of my life and childhood.”
Did you pick up any classic Liverpudlian passions from your dad?
“I love The Beatles, but that’s not really saying a lot. I think staying indoors, having a nice cup of tea and some cake [is the most] Liverpudlian thing that we all do together.”
I watched your new film, Irresistible, last night – the ending is almost too crazy to be made-up! Did you wonder if it was based on a true story?
“I didn’t think it was a true story, but I did think it was bonkers. Reading that script was such a relief after… I cannot tell you how dispiriting reading scripts is. Day after day, there are not very many that break a mould or take a risk and this felt genuinely surprising.”
Your character has a serious secret – was that fun to act?
“Yeah, it was fun. I tried to blend into the wallpaper a bit and to not make a splash around everybody. It’s nice in busy groups when you don’t have any lines to just think: ‘I have a secret, nobody knows’ – and just keep that power the whole time.”
Steve Carell’s character, political strategist Gary Zimmerman, is a bit of an outsider in your character’s hometown – did you keep separated off-set too?
“No, I think it’s monstrous when people do that. I don’t like manipulating a situation or ostracising people so that they can maintain character. It’s acting! It’s not this Machiavellian plot. He was super lovely, kind and so funny to work with. I think he’s a great dramatic and comedic actor and he doesn’t need any social manipulation.”
Gotcha! You were in the ‘San Junipero’ episode of Black Mirror – have you seen this viral video of a Charlie Brooker-style robot patrol dog in Singapore?
“Oh my god no, that’s insane! Is having an artificially intelligent police dog something that scares me? What do you think? I feel innovation is the absolute gift and downfall of humanity. Innovating at all costs is so insane. Get it out of our world please.”
You’ve been in a few dystopian sci-fi films though, Terminator: Dark Fate for example – is there a sequel coming?
“I really loved the movie and I’m so proud of what we did, but there wasn’t a demand for it [at the box office] and to think that there’d be a demand for a seventh film is quite insane. You should just pay attention to what audiences want – and they want new things and I want new things.”
So that’s a no, then?
“There are many interesting people that don’t fit the mould of those who make these big franchises who have not had the chance to make movies. We should be investing in them right now.”
You said previously that sci-fi films are cautionary tales and we should pay attention to them more – is that still the case?
“I’ve been thinking about that always! And especially because I was going to make a pandemic show [HBO’s Station Eleven] which had our exact situation in the script. [In the past], the government has hired writers and producers to do brainstorming sessions about possible terrorist attacks. They use creative artists to create an action plan. Now everyone’s been watching Contagion – there’s a blueprint for this!”
Cinemas are re-opening in the UK next week – are you ready to go back into a theatre?
“No. I’m not ready until there’s a vaccine.”
What about a film set?
“I don’t think I’ll be put in a situation where I’m the one who decides if we go or don’t go. We have a very good union. I’m supposed to shoot a TV show soon and the idea of four months of hundreds of people coming and going in a major metropolitan city, it’s just not possible until there’s a vaccine. Temperature checks and wearing face masks for most of the day isn’t a solution. I don’t know how it’s going to happen.”
It feels like actors don’t get much of a say in whether they go back to work or not…
“I wasn’t taught to turn down a job in a movie or a TV show or a commercial or whatever. [Any job] could change your career. The whole mentality of being an actor is that success is around every corner so don’t ever stop. It can really drive you mad, especially when you’re younger and the idea of turning something down because you may get sick… I know so many people who would take that gamble. But that’s why SAG [Screen Actors’ Guild] is so important because they protect actors by not putting them in a situation where they have to be the ones to decide.”
‘Irresistible’ is available to stream online now