Rahul Kohli on Next Exit, Mike Flanagan, iZombie and The Fall of the House of Usher

Rahul Kohli on Next Exit, Mike Flanagan, iZombie and The Fall of the House of Usher

“iZombie still has that hold on me.” We speak to Rahul Kohli about his genre projects to-date, his new movie Next Exit and his upcoming collaboration with Mike Flanagan for The Fall of the House of Usher

Directed by Mali Elfman and starring Rahul Kohli, Katie Parker, Karen Gillan and Rose McIver, upcoming sci-fi road trip thriller Next Exit follows two people who are volunteering to commit suicide.

This is because the widespread acceptance of ghosts has led to ‘Life Beyond’, a radical scientific study based in San Francisco through which volunteers can commit pain-free suicide. After all, what’s left to fear about the afterlife when you know life carries on? In New York City, two ready-to-die strangers, Rose (Parker) and Teddy (Kohli) randomly end up sharing a rental car for a cross-country trip to their respective appointments. Initial friction leads to an emotional connection as their dates with death loom in.

We spoke to British-born star Rahul Kohli about Next Exit, working with Mike Flanagan on Midnight Mass, reuniting with his iZombie co-star Rose McIver for this movie and his upcoming project, The Fall of the House of Usher.

How did you first get involved with Next Exit?

It was actually Mike Flanagan. We were making Midnight Mass and Mike sent me Mali [Elfman’s] script. Mali had produced for Mike back in the day and basically used Mike as a way to get the script in front of me. We took a meeting and we both agreed on where we saw the character and made it happen.

What was it about the script that really jumped out at you to want to be involved?

To be honest, it was more about where I was at the time rather than the script. I would never have done it if I didn’t like the script, so saying the script’s good goes without saying really… I’ve never read a shit script and gone: “I’ll do it”.

I was playing Sheriff Hassan on Midnight Mass and it was a very involved role, one that I had been working on for a very long time. [There was] a lot of prep, a lot of classes and extracurricular stuff, trying to play this guy and honestly I wanted a bit of a freebie on the next one. I just wanted to play something a little bit close to me. With my own accent. I also missed comedy. So Teddy came along at the right time and it felt like that would be the next thing I’d like to do.

A lot of work went into the character of Sheriff Hassan on Midnight Mass.

How would you describe Teddy?

He has his demons, like Rose, but they hide them in different ways. I think Rose pushes people away very obviously. She wears that on her sleeve. She clearly has a sign around her that says ‘I have troubles, I have problems, stay away from me’.

Teddy hides it with humour and conversation. [He] will talk about everything as a distraction to not talk about the one thing that they really care about. His comedy is a shield, making people laugh is a distraction from his own pain.

How would you describe Next Exit?

At its core, it’s a road trip movie. It’s about two people who are in very different places who share a common goal, but they don’t get on. The destination is the destination like in most road trip movies but it’s about how they open up to each other and how they change along this road trip.

That’s the movie really to me, I know [Katie] Parker describes it differently. To me, for my eyes and my experience, it was a fun road trip movie, trying to make my co-star laugh basically.

How did you and Katie Parker work together to create that bond between Teddy and Rose?

We knew each other anyway. We knew each other through friends – she was Rose McIver’s roommate when we were doing iZombie so I knew Katie but we hadn’t worked together. When we were on [The Haunting of] Bly [Manor] she was in the episode none of us were in.

So we were comfortable with one another and I was in a very weird place where I was very relaxed with the character. I might have been different if I hadn’t just done Midnight Mass. To me, playing Teddy, sitting in the car was the easiest thing in the world compared to what I had just gone through on Mass. So I was super loose. I was putting snacks under my seat and mucking around, just talking nonsense and that kind of broke Katie a little bit.

I think we were going through our own kind of Next Exit because Parker was very much feeling the weight of her character. She had a lot to carry on her shoulders. Both our characters hold different bags of shit and her’s is definitely heavier than Teddy’s. So Parker was very much in the moment, trying to really bring that weight and gravity to Rose and I wasn’t having it really [haha]. I’m sure she wasn’t happy about it at the time, but I wasn’t having it and I was very much like ‘nope, this is fucking easy’. Fart joke, you know, whatever. Then Parker was mucking around as well by the end and just having fun.

Rahul Kohli and Katie Parker had their own Next Exit moment while filming the movie.

What was it like reuniting with your iZombie castmate Rose McIver for Next Exit?

She’s like my sister. We will always share a deep love and appreciation for one another. Her show Ghosts is a juggernaut and she deserves all the success in the world and my career has not been too shabby either since iZombie.

Her, myself and Malcolm [Goodwin] – the three of us shared most of our time together and Malcolm also kills it. He did Reacher, one of the biggest shows on Amazon and he’s in The Fall of the House of Usher with me!

It’s just family. That’s how it feels. It rarely happens. Actors fall in love with everyone very quickly. That’s an actor thing, you can only be filming for a week and then you’re best mates. I fell into that trap years ago, but I don’t do that so often anymore. But iZombie still has that hold on me. There was something about that cast.

No disrespect to any of my co-stars, [but] me and Rose have, to this day, the most effortless chemistry on screen I’ve ever experienced. We adore each other, so it was nice to see her. It’s funny because when I saw [Next Exit], to see Rose standing there and myself and we just shake hands and go ‘hi’ and that’s it, when we have this like 75 episodes together of being best mates [in iZombie], that was funny just to see. I kind of got a bit emotional.

“Me and Rose have, to this day, the most effortless chemistry on screen I’ve ever experienced.”

You’ve worked with Mike Flanagan on a number of his projects now – The Haunting of Bly Manor, Midnight Mass and more recently The Midnight Club – how has that collaboration been for you?

It’s nice to be wanted. It’s nice that someone as talented as Mike was like ‘you’re one of my guys’. It’s awesome. Mike is very much in demand. Every time we hang out, another A-Lister has contacted Mike to be in the next project. It’s like ‘oh for fuck’s sake’! I’m waiting for Dev Patel or someone to just call him up and then he’s like ‘hey, I’ve got an A-lister now, you’re done’.

But he keeps coming back. It’s because we have a deep appreciation for each other as people, as artists and I want all of Mike’s dreams to come true. Honestly. He’s got the rights to his boyhood project. I love to see Mike hit the heights of his career and I hope he feels the same about me. It’s a real special project.

What’s next for you?

I have been a busy boy! I’ve got a couple of shows coming out this year. One is The Fall of the House of Usher. It’s another Mike Flanagan joint. That one’s super special and the buzz I’m hearing from co-stars and people who’ve seen it and people at Netflix are very excited for this one. It’s a real treat. It’s Mike’s last next Netflix thing. So it’s a goodbye from Mike, and it’s a hell of a goodbye.

Next Exit is on digital download 20 February. Read our review here