The rising star talks gritty new film Embattled and learning MMA for the role.
While it might feel like we’ve binge-watched everything on TV the past month, but Netflix and Amazon Prime have been feeding our appetite with an array of new shows and movies to keep us occupied. And at the top of our must-watch list is Nick Sarkisov’s roaring mixed martial arts film Embattled. Taking us through the complex relationship of a ruthlessly tough MMA champion (Stephen Dorff) and his son, the film focuses on the 18-year-old son Jett (Darren Mann), a talented fighter who attempts to break free from the vicious abusive cycle that his father inflicts on him. Peeling back the layers of their relationship, the estranged duo are explored against a backdrop of toxic masculinity, gritty battles and broken families.
“I never want to feel like ‘Darren’ on camera,” Darren Mann reveals. “My acting coach and I did our usual process in creating Jett and understanding his every move. It was not a stretch for me to understand some of the feelings Jett is going through. I too grew up with a single mother and a brother, I had a dream to become a professional athlete, and I did not have much of a relationship with my father – yet I always had dreamed of that.”
From gracing our screens in the highly addictive Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina and the critically acclaimed drama Giant Little Ones, Mann is currently one of the brightest stars to break out of the industry, with a wide selection of roles tucked firmly under his belt. Confirming to take apart in upcoming film Stanley’s Game Seven 3D, we sat down with Mann talking his approach to playing Jett, learning judo for the role and potentially getting into the MMA scene…
Check out the interview below….
Hey Darren! How is everything, how’s quarantine been?
Quarantine has been interesting for sure, but a lot of fantastic things have come from it for me personally. I recently got engaged and it’s thanks to quarantine for me getting to this place sooner than later.
What’s one thing you’ve learned about yourself during this time?
I think this time has really reiterated how important physical exercise is for me. I need that time to shut off my brain and just make my bodywork – a good sweat goes a long way for my mental health.
You actually started your career at the age of 8! What was it like starting this early?
Well, I started then – but I definitely was not commercially successful for a long time. My mom had worked in multiple facets of the industry for years, and she thought acting would be the perfect thing for me to get out of my shell – so to speak. I was a very shy kid, it really was a great way for me to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
And you landed a lot of roles on the stage and in film, which do you prefer?
I am 100% a film actor. I only did some very small roles on stage as a kid.
Congratulations on your new film Embattled, how did this come about?
Thanks! I was on vacation with my mom and brother when I received this audition, and at the time I was working on the show Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. I read the script for Embattled and knew that I had to have it. Some people questioned my decision of wanting to leave the show to do this film but I couldn’t pass up this opportunity – this was the kind of fulfilment as an actor that I was looking for. We set up a Skype read with them, and the rest is history.
And you also had to learn Judo for the film, what was training like?
When my hockey career came to a finish, I started really getting into training in boxing and MMA. It was something new for me to learn that I had a lot of interest in, and it kept me in great shape. Working with the stunt team, and our awesome squad at SBG Alabama was one of my favourite things I’ve gotten to do in this life thus far. It felt like I was back in my hockey days, it felt like a training camp – the days were long, they were tiring, but I was learning a lot, and I love to learn. I am blessed to have made such great friends in the MMA and stunt world through this film.
How did you approach your role as Jett and could you relate to him in anyway?
I put in work. I don’t like acting, I like becoming the character. I never want to feel like “Darren” on camera. My acting coach and I did our usual process in creating Jett and understanding his every move. It was not a stretch for me to understand some of the feelings Jett is going through. I too grew up with a single mother and a brother, I had a dream to become a professional athlete, and I did not have much of a relationship with my father – yet I always had dreamed of that.
Looking back on the filming process, what was your favourite scene to film and why?
I had a lot of fun filming this movie. My favourite scene to film was probably the scene where I confront my father in his house after he hits my step-brother. It was really the pinnacle moment for Jett, it’s where a lot of things become clear to him, and he gets to make a stand as his own man for the first time. I’m a sucker for those heavily dramatic moments where I get to react however my character would in that moment, it feels like I’m really able to let go of myself and become them, feeling their every emotion.
A lot of the films you’ve been in have been sci-fi or fantasy-based, what has drawn you to these roles?
I’m from Vancouver, it’s the Sci-fi capital of the world – I just needed to work. I’m a fan of everyday drama.
After quarantine what’s next for you, any upcoming roles?
Who knows? Just rolling with it right now, I’m sure something interesting will come about soon enough. If it doesn’t… maybe I’ll get more into this whole MMA thing [laughs]