The Mimic Interview with actors Thomas Sadoski and Jake Robinson, and writer-director Thomas F Mazziotti
In brand new indie comedy, The Mimic, Thomas Sadoski and Jake Robinson play rivals in a small neighbourhood, one of which recently widowed and the other happily married. The two square-off in increasingly irreverent, kooky arguments about love, friendship, and loss. I was fortunate to sit down on Zoom with the two leads and discuss what it was like working on this bizarre but very entertaining comedy.
Rhys: First of all, thank you for sitting down to talk with me today! I really enjoyed The Mimic, I was really impressed. I didn’t expect it to be as strange and as kooky as it is, but strange in a good way.
Rhys: So my first question is, what attracted you to the roles of The Narrator and The Kid?
Sadoski: That exact thing! That exact thing that you’re talking about – ahhhhh! What’s up Mazziotti?!
It was at this point that the film’s writer-director, Thomas F Mazziotti, joined the Zoom call, much to my surprise!
Rhys: I didn’t expect the writer and director, oh my god!
Jake: Jackpot, Rhys! Anybody could join from here.
Sadoski: It’s like the movie, once you open the door, the madness comes pouring in, anyone could join from here on out. Anyway, it’s exactly that thing you were talking about, that uniqueness that drew me to the movie. I had no idea what it was gonna be. You read that thing on the page and you go, I’ve never read anything like this before, I have no idea how you’re gonna shoot that, what it’s gonna look like, or how it’s gonna come together and that is precisely the reason that I wanna do it.
Jake: I would second that. Thomas (Sadoski) was at the first script reading, and I read it and I was like…what the hell just happened? (Sadoski laughs) What was I apart of? I had to go back and give it a think. Thomas (Mazziotti) and I hit it off really well and we talked about it for a while after, so just to reiterate what Tommy said, I had never read anything like it, and I knew, compared to a lot of the things I read where you know exactly what it’s gonna be, so I thought we’ll make it, I have no idea how it’ll turn out but at the very least it’s gonna be interesting.
Rhys: It definitely is interesting, and the director is here, Mr. Mazziotti, welcome, where did the idea for The Mimic come from?
Mazziotti: It’s interesting because I speak like this, so to me, everybody is like this, so it’s a surprise to me that they thought the script was so strange! But that’s fine. (Sadoski and Robinson laugh) I’m sorry, the idea came from a true story in my town, about a guy that still lives here that was trying to be me. He liked my lifestyle, my trucks, he wanted to be me. I didn’t know what was happening while it was happening, and only after it ended did I realise what happened, much like their process while making this movie.
Rhys: I didn’t realise what was going on either until it ended! I think one of my favourite scenes was the restaurant scene, where you guys are trying to work out if they’re the 1 sociopath out of every 25 people. I thought that was really funny, and a really well-made sequence, so I think you did what you set out to do.
Mazziotti: Well, thank you.
Sadoski: That whole scene is a hell of a lot of fun. Jake, that was our first day, right?
Jake: That was the very first day.
Sadoski: Building in all of those amazing other characters, the waiter, Gina Gershon…
Jake: Yeah! (in a heavy smoker voice) Gina! Gina showed up, Gina came in and we were all floored. That was our first day, did we go back there again?
Mazziotti: One day there, one day at the bar. That whole sequence she shot that in one day.
Jake: Shout out to Matt Maher, the waiter who just stole the entire scene.
Rhys: He was really funny.
Sadoski: So good!
Rhys: For you, Jake, this is probably one of your biggest roles in your career so far.
Jake: On a feature film, yeah, just from an indie film standpoint and being able to take on a role like this was a challenge. I don’t think there was many scenes that he (The Kid) wasn’t in, so it was my first experience of being in almost every scene, every day of a film, and the full on intensity of a film. You have to just give yourself over to it and go along for the ride.
Rhys: And how do you approach a script like this, where it’s so dialogue heavy? Is it ever daunting?
Jake: Dude, 100%. I remember Tommy and I sitting and trying to memorise the script for the next day together and trying to make sense of it for the entire shoot. You just had to do it, I think our gut instinct was what we went for.
Sadoski: And the panic, the sheer panic of only having 18 days to get this, we didn’t have time to do a whole bunch of takes, you gotta get it in this snappy way that Mazziotti writes. There’s no time to luxuriate in this, you’re not figuring it out, you’re there and you’re going for it.
Jake: And we shot it on the shortest nights of the year! We did night shoots, the darkness to daylight time was, like, 6 hours-
Sadoski: (laughing) It was in the middle of the summer!
Jake: At like 4:30am or 3:45am you’d start hearing birds chirping all over the place.
Sadoski: You’d see the DP (Director of Photography) start to get that panicked look in his eye, like, “oh god, we’re getting ready for daylight and it’s 4am!”
Mazziotti: And I’m there, and I’m like, I’ve got it, there’s no panic. I just want to touch back on the restaurant scene, when that scene happened in real life, people were looking at us, and I remember if people are looking at us back then, people will be looking at us now.
Rhys: So you’re saying that scene actually happened in your real life?
Mazziotti: Absolutely! I had to bring certain elements into it for clarity, but absolutely.
Sadoski: This whole experience of making this movie was like taking some sort of Wizard of Oz skip down PTSD lane for Tom. We just linked arms and watched him suffer.
Jake: We’ll guide you through, old buddy, it’s gonna be a good trip!
Mazziotti: Do you know how mentally draining it is writing dialogue for someone you dislike? (Sadoski and Jake laugh). It’s so draining!
Sadoski: It also felt like guerrilla filmmaking, I always felt like our entire production would look over its communal shoulder and see the actual person that this was based on. We were all on edge because he was around, he was in town at the time.
Rhys: Did you guys have a lot of time before filming to establish chemistry together?
Sadoski: We rehearsed once, that was it. We hit it off straight away. Jake’s awesome.
Jake: You don’t know if you’ll get on with someone, it’s a big role with a lot of dialogue and you gotta work with someone for 18 friggin’ days full on. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, I’d heard amazing things about Tommy, I had always admired his work, especially as a stage actor and all the things he’d done on screen, I was floored that he was gonna be my partner in all of this. I’d be lying if I wasn’t nervous about what we had to accomplish having not known each other, but I actually think that played into the film.
Sadoski: We didn’t have the option of not getting along, we didn’t have the option of not having chemistry. In order to accomplish what we were setting out to accomplish, we had to have it, there were no ifs, ands, or buts.
Jake: Can you imagine if we didn’t get along?! (Sadoski laughs)
Sadoski: It would’ve been unmitigated hell.
Mazziotti: You could’ve told that if they didn’t like each other, it’s sincere what you see, it’s all very genuine and sincere.
Sadoski: We were shooting in the weirdest places too. Do you remember that convention centre?
Jake: That abandoned, Chinese military base quasi convention centre?
Sadoski: It was this weird convention centre that no one had used in forever, so in the middle of the night, Jake and I would wander around this convention centre. There were these offices that you could get into that had been completely abandoned, and there was all of this old medical equipment there?! (All laughing). We’d be wandering around with these old skeleton hands and weird doctor stuff!
Mazziotti: It was like The Shining! They had a bartender who would just stand there with no customers, so it was very bizarre but it worked out for us.
Jake: It was like something out of Stranger Things.
Sadoski: Every once in a while people would see us walking through with a dismembered piece of medical equipment in the middle of the night looking absolutely psychotic.
Rhys: The magic of Hollywood is being torn down in front of me here.
Sadoski: You couldn’t have made this movie with the magic of Hollywood. That was the whole point. It’s this amazing, DIY, punk rock carnival, we felt like we were carnies in the best way. At any given moment, Penn & Teller were gonna show up and love us for being these weird carnies, it was awesome.
It’s at this point that Mazziotti reveals one of the dismembered pieces of medical equipment, encased in glass, signed by the cast and crew to memorialise the shoot. Throughout the conversation, the three of them really seemed like they had a ton of fun on making this film.
Rhys: Because the characters were from your own personal experience, did the other two have any input in changing how they were in the film, or was it pretty much as it was written?
Mazziotti: Well, some of the characters were composites and some of them I invented, but there was always room for them to bring in their own personalities, I was just a conduit. I write and they bring it to life, I’m there just to guide so it doesn’t go too far to the right or to the left, I’m just a guide, I’m not there to dictate, and I hope that comes across.
Rhys: It does have a very natural feel, even though there’s so much smart dialogue, it still feels like things that people would have a conversation about. I also loved all of the word play, like the attic and addict like, plus the way it all comes together at the end, it was really well woven together.
Mazziotti: Oh, well, thank you. And Tom got that line on the first take, that attic and addict line, that’s difficult to do.
Sadoski: I did! I didn’t trip over that one, I nailed that one right out of the gate, I was pretty happy with that.
Mazziotti: It took me three days to spell it right when I was writing it and he did it first try. (Jake laughs).
Rhys: Do you think your theatre background helped you in that regard with the line delivery?
Sadoski: Oh, for sure. Mazziotti writes old school. The heart of the dialogue comes from an old era of Hollywood where theatre and film were the same thing, Tom writes from that place and it’s very much alive in him. Having a background that appreciates that definitely helped me out. I think that’s why so many theatre actors flocked to this script. You look through the cast and it’s lousy with theatre actors. It’s not just a product of being close to New York, theatre actors really gravitate to that kind of work.
Jake: The people that said yes to doing this, we got people that star in their own films that said yes to doing one scene in this low budget indie. I think that speaks to the quality of the script that Thomas wrote.
Rhys: You got Lucille Bluth for a scene! (Only Jake caught my Arrested Development reference.)
Mazziotti: Be forewarned, theatre actors bust balls. You have to be very confident in yourself to deal with them.
Sadoski: There wasn’t a whole lot of not ball busting on that shoot, it was being handed out by everyone to everyone. It was great.
Rhys: With the dinner scene and the film’s 1 in every 25 people is a sociopath theory, did that ever panic you on set with the number of cast and crew together?
Mazziotti: (Sadoski laughs) Oh I did! When we screened it at Dolby, there were 200 people there, there’s at least 8 people here I have to be very cautious about.
Sadoski: The entire discussion has you looking over your shoulder at any given moment. It’s not just being on set, once you’ve read the script, it plants a seed and you start looking at the world differently. We shot this thing so long ago, all of the stuff we were talking about back then that seemed unique and outside of the moment has become very much of the moment. Like Tom was saying earlier, never have I heard the term gaslight more than this year. It was something you would hear once in a while, but not to the extent that you hear now, the word sociopath the same thing.
Rhys: It has affected me in the days since, it’s an interesting theory. Like, going to the shop earlier, I was looking around thinking, is someone here?
Sadoski: (laughs) The good thing I have learned from this movie is, if you’re wondering “is it me?” you’re probably safe. If you’re going, it’s not me, it’s probably you. Those are the people you need to keep an eye on.
At this point, I asked Mazziotti a question about the film’s ending, but I was rather embarrassingly shot down as having my theory about it be completely false. Sadoski was on hand to save my bacon.
Sadoski: I’ve always thought of this movie, and maybe this is an argument with Mazziotti that I’ve had before. It’s tricky because it is based on a true story, so when I say this, the implication can take some weight that I don’t intend it to. But, in the fictionalisation of a true story, what the movie has turned into is two people having a conversation around which one of them is crazy. There’s a very real possibility that’s both of them.
Mazziotti: Or neither of them!
Sadoski: Right! And that’s the wonderful journey through madness that this film takes you on. The whole thing is a completely worthwhile question about how real any moment really is. Don’t forget, Jakey and I and Austin Pendleton (who makes a brief cameo in the film), we have this big, huge car accident, and in as much as you see us in neck braces afterwards, there’s no make-up, we’re not made up to make it seem like we just had a big car accident. So, the whole question about, did it really happen, or is it a product of their shared imagination, the whole movie keeps very subtly asking these questions. The implications underneath all of that when you go in for a 2nd viewing give you pause for thought.
A massive thank you to Thomas Sadoski, Jake Robinson, and writer-director Thomas F Mazziotti for sitting down with us to talk about The Mimic, which is out now in the US to rent on VOD.