INTERVIEW The Gray Man cast: talking to Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Billy Bob Thorton and others about the new Netflix thriller

The Gray Man launches today on Netflix, and officially premiered last week on July 13 in Los Angeles. On that occasion, journalists from around the world, including Playtech’s editorial staff, attended a press conference with the stars of the streaming network’s new thriller.

Actors Dhanush, Julia Butters, Billy Bob Thorton, Alfre Woodard, King-Jean Page, Jessica Henwick, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Ryan Gosling, as well as directors brothers Joe and Anthony Russo answered questions as follows.

What sets The Gray Man apart from other spy thrillers?

Joe Russo: Well, this is a modern story. I think you know, Bond is about 60 at this point and Bourne is about 20. This film is connected in many ways to some issues that are happening in the world right now. The characters are extremely existential, quite funny, and we found that they fit our sense of humor. It’s the kind of film that we think will work well with today’s audiences.

Ryan, Is The Gray Man one of the films that has demanded the most of you physically and what was your preparation like for this film?

Ryan Gosling: Yeah. There was a lot of preparation for the movie. But I had an incredible amount of help. There was an amazing stunt team. In the beginning, they went through all these different styles of martial arts and tried to organize them for me and the character. And then I had an amazing advisor named Chili Palmer, who is a former member of Delta Force. I tried to keep up with him. He had all this amazing tactical advice, but also really amazing ideas. With all of that, I would go back to before the movie and tell myself to work on my cardio more. I wasn’t expecting all the running in Prague (ed. – laughs).

Chris, you’ve portrayed excellent villains before in your career, but this is the first time you’ve done this with the Russo Brothers. You certainly seem to be having a lot of fun in this role. Would you say that playing a role as complex as Lloyd gives you a more liberating experience as an actor?

Chris Evans: Yes, absolutely. I mean, playing a villain is always a little more fun, you have a little more freedom, you get a lot more jokes. But working with the Russo brothers is what gives that sense of confidence and freedom. You know, when you trust directors, you’re more willing to take risks, and certainly a character like this takes risks. So without them, without the relationship and rapport that we have, I don’t know if I would have had such a rewarding experience.

Ana, you’re a busy and in-demand actress. To take on a project you have to identify with it on many levels. So what was it about The Gray Man that attracted you?

Ana de Armas: Many things. I was very, very excited that the directors thought of me, and as soon as I got the Zoom call with them and they introduced me to this character and the story, I accepted without a second thought. And I wanted to work with Ryan again, I wanted to work with Chris again and this whole amazing cast behind me. I also loved the character. I love who this woman is and all her training, her mentality and how fearless she is.

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Alfre, if you look at the spy movies that have come out over the years, there always seems to be this iconic woman at the helm of an agency. So how does it feel to take on this role in the film?

Alfre Woodard: When I read the script, I was excited and made an instant decision to join the project.

Billy, your character is an interesting one, in that he did some intense things. It’s really fun that there’s so much history between all the characters in the film, but at the same time, he has these super protective relationships with both Six and Claire, played by Julia. So how do you think your character balances that kind of history with these intensely personal relationships?

Billy Bob Thorton: Well, the thing that really interested me about the character is that he’s a guy who’s a high level, you know, spy, and there’s a part of it where you have to be somewhat cold-blooded in a lot of ways. I mean, you have to make life and death decisions all the time, but when you bring personal relationships into the equation, it’s like: “How can I stay human and still do my job?”.

King, your character is American in this film. What was the preparation process for becoming that character? And what kind of work did you do to develop the American accent you have?

King-Jean Page: It was very similar to the training I put into any role. I try to come to every film with an open mind. I’m aware that any character always has a past, has had a reason for being the way they are, because the immediate reaction to Lloyd is that you look at him and say, “Who would do that?” I wanted to give Lloyd a bit of depth, I wanted it to be something interesting and I hope I built the character well.

Jessica, your character has a really interesting role in the film, in that she watches the chaos that ensues from Denny’s orders and then decides to step in and do something about it. So can you tell us more about this dynamic and complex character?

Jessica Henwick: I wanted to “humanize” my character. Especially because you have these strong characters in the film and she’s quiet and stressed out, a lot of the film. Then when she explodes, it feels justified.

Julia, you had the opportunity to work alongside some iconic actors and actresses in this film. Did you enjoy the opportunity to work alongside this amazing cast and did you learn anything from your time spent filming with them?

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Julia Butters: Well, working with these people here has been a delight because I’ve seen half of them on SNL before anything else. Yeah, it’s been amazing working with these people. I respect them so much and I think they’re incredibly talented. And I’m more of an observer than someone to ask for advice. I honor them so much in their process. For me, taking notes by watching what they do is my form of learning and seeing how professional they are and growing, seeing that through everyone I work with, really trying to get as much as I can. So thank you so much for being so amazing. And the Russo brothers, you guys are just incredible. So thank you so much for letting me be a part of this.

Dhanush, this is your first Hollywood blockbuster, though obviously you’re no stranger to blockbusters. What has this experience of working with the Russo brothers and this cast been like for you?

Dhanush: That was amazing. I had a great time understanding how Hollywood works. I made about 50 films, 22 years of working in the Indian film industry. It was really amazing. Growing up watching Hollywood movies and being in one is amazing. It’s really nice and I’m very grateful to the filmmakers for finding me and choosing me.

Ryan, as an actor, how do you balance the comedic moments and the serious, action-packed moments? Do you prepare differently depending on the tone of the script?

Ryan Gosling: Well, I think so, you prepare differently. It depends on the directors. The Russo Brothers have a very great process, one that I’ve never done before, where at the beginning of the film we sat down with all the department heads and put the script on a big screen and everybody talked. You know what film you’re making. And it just became clear that I was filming for the things that I grew up loving in the ’80s and ’90s, that had a kind of sense of humor to it.

Anthony Russo: Ryan reminded me of something. Just to give you an example of how we like to work with actors: he was in a car with Ana and he tried to make a joke, and I walked up to him and said, “Yeah, you’ll never say that” (n.r. – laughs).

Joe and Anthony, The Gray Man ends with the disappearance of Sierra Six. Do you think there’s a possibility for additional stories in the Gray Man universe?

Anthony: Part of our motivation in putting together an amazing cast like this, who can embody so many interesting characters, was the hope of creating a kind of universe where you wanted to follow them all, either forward or backward, from this moment in time that we captured in this first film. So yes, hopefully there will be more stories to tell in The Gray Man universe.

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