After watching the fantastic new holiday horror film Mercy Christmas (review) I had the opportunity to speak with its star Steven Hubbell and ask him about making his acting debut in the movie and his history working the film industry.
Up until his debut role, Steven has been working behind-the-scenes in the film and TV industry, including films like The Avengers, Jobs, Date Night, ‘Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles’, and Seven Psychopaths.
In Mercy Christmas, when Michael Briskett meets the perfect woman, his ideal Christmas dream comes true after she invites him to her family’s holiday dinner. Micheal’s dream and his heart are shattered when he learns that HE IS the holiday dinner.
Gwen Van Dam, Casey O’Keefe, Dakota Shepard, McKenzie Coffman, Cole Gleason, David Ruprecht, Whitney Nielsen, Joseph Keane, and D.J. Hale co-star in this holiday horror film written by Beth Levy Nelson and Ryan Nelson who also directed.
Horror Fuel: “How did you get into the film industry?”
Steven Hubbell: “I work primarily behind the scenes. I became friends, just by chance, with Ryan Nelson our director. he approached me one day with this idea that he had, the script for ‘Mercy Christmas’, I loved the script. He was talking about making it and at that point, we hadn’t talked about me playing Michael. I hadn’t really thought of it that way. I felt like he wanted my opinion of the script. I told him that I loved it and I got a phone call from him one day, he and Beth were on the line and said, ‘We want to you to be Michael Brisket.’ I was blown away. I of course accepted. It was such a cool thing. It was cool because I got to be directed by one of my best friends. It’s an awesome experience and it was really fun.
Horror Fuel: “It shows that you enjoyed the role and you really did a great job. I truly enjoyed ‘Mercy Christmas’.
Horror Fuel: “I love your character, Michael. Was there anything special you did to prepare for filming?”
Steven Hubbell: “Honestly, no. I had read the script so many times by the time Ryan asked me to do it. I wanted to be prepared as much as I could be, and Ryan and I talked extensively about certain things, tones and stuff like that. I was able to get an inside track into Ryans brain. There were certain things he wanted, but also things were very organic. There wasn’t anything specifically that I did to prepare other than study my butt off and make sure I knew the lines.”
Horror Fuel: “I have to ask you, did you spend a lot of time tied up on the set?”
Steven Hubbell: “Yeah, all the time [laughter]. Ryan and I talked about this, it’s so funny, other than the beginning fifteen or so minutes, I’m not standing. I’m in the chair tied, on the floor tied, I’ve got Eddie on my back, all these crazy, all of these physically demanding things. I didn’t even realize it until I watched the movie. There aren’t many moments where I ‘m standing except for the beginning of the movie and I didn’t realize it. It’s a large portion of the movie that I’m tied up or bound.”
Horror Fuel: “That couldn’t have been comfortable. You really suffered for your art [laughter].”
Steven Hubbell: “There was one scene where Bart has to slam me on the ground. Oh Man, the position I had to be in it was so uncomfortable and physically draining that we had o do it so fast and any emotion or agony on my face is not acting. It was absolutely real. But they were really great all great. They made sure we weren’t doing it a bunch of times. They took good care of me. It went great.”
Horror Fuel: “They didn’t actually shock you did they?”
Steven Hubbell: “Oh, no. That was all fake.”
Horror Fuel: “You had great timing then.”
Steven Hubbell: “They were really turning on the lights, but that was a queue for me. I faked being shocked. We discussed how dramatic we wanted it to be. We came to this agreement that we liked not making a ton of the lights go off and on. To make it like it takes your breath away, your whole body clenches. Without the ability to use all these effects we had to do it on our own. It felt like it was the best way to do it.”
Horror Fuel: “It looked pretty authentic. I was impressed with the movie, and that’s hard to do these days. I watch a lot of movies.”
Steven Hubbell: “I’m glad. That’s one reason that I wanted to do this movie, it’s so different, but not like we tried too hard different. You can enjoy the moments, yet it’s a real family and there are some heartfelt moments. It’s not just this intense horror movie, there are a lot of elements to it. Ryan and Beth did such a good job capturing those and the casting, god, between Cole and Casey and Whitney, Ryan Boyd. Everyone was so into it and everybody was so engaged and just wanted to do the best that they could. It’s a complete credit to Ryan and Beth for their leadership and the script and the choices they made. It’s such a proud moment for me. I’m so happy to be apart of it.”
Horror Fuel: “How did it feel to take home the award for Best Actor at the Portland Extreme Underground Film Festival for ‘Mercy Christmas’?
Steven Hubbell: “Going into this movie I really didn’t know much about the film festival circuit. I didn’t even know those were options. I was blown away. It was so cool and not to sound ridiculous, but if it wasn’t for Ryan, Cole, and Ryan Boyd, and D.J., I fed off them. I learned so much from them. We were able to mesh together and it turned out so well. I couldn’t be happier. It’s a credit to everybody. Cole, who plays Andy, texted me right after to tell me congratulations and I was like, ‘Dude, this is our award.’ I don’t look at it like I won the award. Without them, there is no Michael Briskett. The way they handled things, to get out the message we wanted to get out, it was total teamwork.”
Horror Fuel: “Everyone did fantastically. I got a big kick out of the father”
Steven Hubbell: “He’s so funny. Ryan kept telling him, ‘For you, Christmas is everything. It’s the most amazing thing.’ He did such an amazing job at catching that innocence, everything is rainbows and butterflies. But he has that twisted side to him. Soon as Eddie said something about his wife, he was like, ‘what?’. David’s great.”
Horror Fuel: “I loved that conversation he had with his son while “fixing dinner”.”
Steven Hubbell: “Ryan and Beth did such a great job touching on those moments. Like when Cindy is freaking out about the fur coat. They captured those moments really well. When we watched it in the theater the reactions were so great.”
Horror Fuel: “I would love to see a sequel or a spin-off with your character.”
Steven Hubbell: “We’re working on it. The movie is gonna be called…’Mercy Christmas 2: The Leftovers’. Michael Briskett will be returning, it takes place at Christmas time and there may or may not be more Robillards in the mix.”
Ryan and Beth are working on a movie called ‘Margot Lives’. It takes place in Ohio during the opioid crisis. It’s basically a vigilante mom who has the everyday struggles of a mother during the day and at night she’s taking on drug dealers and crime bosses and stuff like that. It’s going to be another cross-genre movie. We’re going to be shooting that soon. I’ve done a couple of webisodes and a short with D.J. The goal is to keep on doing this acting thing.”
Horror Fuel: “That’s great news! I look forward to seeing the projects. Especially the sequel. Your character had such a great combination of innocence, hope, fight, and determination.”
Steven Hubbell: “Thank you. That’s really kind. We worked so very hard on that movie. Nothing means more than when we good reactions from people.”
Horror Fuel: “D.J.’s character, Eddie, is he a true amputee or were special effects used?”
Steven Hubbell: “He’s probably two inches shorter than me. He is not an amputee. When D.J. auditioned they were blown away. Basically, there are a ton of shots where he is wearing this blue screen things underneath his outfit. He had tracking marks and everything. They took the legs out and painted the background. It just looks like his legs are missing. They held auditions for amputees, but it didn’t work out. They decided to go with performance and cast D.J. He didn’t audition until after they had made that decision. D.J. did such a great job.”
Horror Fuel: “You often work behind the scenes, can you tell us about what you do?”
Steven Hubbell: “I am what’s called a “Grip” or “Dolly Grip”. The camera is on a dolly, basically a platform with wheels, that goes up and down and left to right. Whenever you see camera movement in a movie it’s usually done on this dolly. That’s what I do. There’s a camera operator and a focus puller, and then me, and we all work together. We work out shots with the director of photography. And that’s kind of what I do.”
Horror Fuel: “That’s interesting. It’s mind blowing what it takes to make a film. Your job sounds like a very important part of filmmaking.”
Steven Hubbell: “It’s crucial. There is some pressure and things like that, but it’s one of those things. You get in there and do it, do rehearsals and those types of things. You work together as a team to get that shot you are trying to achieve. It’s cool being that close and being such a part of it because you are right there in it. You see how everything is done and all those things and you learn a lot really fast [laughter].”
Horror Fuel: “Being part of making The Avengers had to be cool.”
Steven Hubbell: “I did reshoots on that. It was really, really cool. We did some cool stunt stuff on ‘The Avengers’ that I have never done before.”
During our conversation, I got a distinct impression that the nice guy we see in the film was not an act, but the actor’s real personality showing through. While this may be Steven’s first film role, it is clear that he a true talent for it.
If you haven’t seen Mercy Christmas drop what you are doing and watch it immediately. Luckily, you can now find the film on most digital platforms. Hopefully, we’ll know more soon about the sequel, Mercy Christmas 2: The Leftovers.
Mercy Christmas made two of our lists this year, “The Top 10 Best Indie Films Of 2017” and our “20 Holiday Horror Films That Will Fill You With Cheer And Fear“. Be sure to check them out.