Home Entertainment David Dastmalchian Answers ‘Late Night With the Devil’ Burning Questions: Is the...

David Dastmalchian Answers ‘Late Night With the Devil’ Burning Questions: Is the Devil in the Audience? Was Jack Hooking Up With Dr. June? And More

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David Dastmalchian was raised in a religious household where “everything was ‘the Devil’s work’” and he was constantly told not to open myself up to anything evil that could come in. “Fast-forward to me as a grown-up and I’m telling my wife not to order a cursed Ouija board off the Internet,” the actor notes. He’s also hosted seances, been published in “Fangoria,” penned the graphic novel series “Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter” for Dark Horse Comics and served as the brand ambassador for a line of caskets.

And, of course, starred in the hottest horror movie of the year as the lead in “Late Night With the Devil.” The indie feature from brothers Cameron and Colin Cairns was released by IFC in theaters, where it’s already made a robust $10 million. And as of today, it’s available to stream on the horror network Shudder.

Dastmalchian might be better known to audiences as “that guy I love from that thing” – be it “Prisoners” or “The Dark Knight.” He’s made a big impression in smaller roles like Polka-Dot Man in “The Suicide Squad” or “guy from Queen” opposite Jack Black’s Wolfman Jack in “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.” And he’s played the lead before — most notably in the acclaimed indie “Animals,” for which he also wrote the screenplay based on his own experience with addiction.  

In “Late Night,” he delivers a tour-de-force as Jack Delroy, a talk show host whose rise to fame might be connected to an occult organization and who recently lost his beloved wife Madeleine (Georgina Haig) to lung cancer — despite her being a non-smoker. In 1977, Jack hots a special Halloween episode of his show “Night Owls” and brings on several guests, including a psychic (Fayssal Bazzi) and a skeptic (Ian Bliss). But the centerpiece of the evening is Dr. June Ross-Mitchell (Laura Gordon) and her young patient Lily (Ingrid Torelli), the sole survivor of a mass suicide by a church that worshipped the demon Abraxas. And Lily has brought someone with her — an entity she calls “Mr. Wriggles” who Jack urges Dr. June to bring out during an on-screen exorcism.

Dastmalchian expertly portrays all aspects of Jack, mastering the clipped cadence of a talk show host while creating an driven workaholic whose palpable grief might only be outweighed by his ambition. And if you haven’t seen the movie yet, bookmark this page. Because with the film now streaming on Shudder, we felt spoilers were fair game.

You mentioned having eerie experiences before; did anything specific happen on “Late Night With the Devil” or is that too on the nose?
I’ve become such a pragmatist as an adult but I still carry that one percent absolute belief that any second a ghost could pop out of a closet and try to get me to help solve their murder. So I’m doing this movie about possession and things that are very meaningful to me, we’re halfway around the world with a tiny amount of time and money, and I’m under the pressure of not wanting to let these brothers down. And at one point, a table full of occult objects starts shaking — they were going to add a sound effect later. But at the time, it sounded like there were people all around the stage pounding on the walls of the stage. And when we were done shooting, I said, “Who did we have out there banging on the walls?” And there wasn’t anyone.

People have speculated about Jack and Dr. June’s history — that their relationship goes beyond the platonic. Was it something you discussed?
Absolutely. These are all choices I made that the brothers were supportive of and Laura and I discussed. There was definitely no affair when Millie was alive. After she died, Jack is unable to process the grief. And this book comes across my desk, “Conversations With the Devil.” I take a meeting — nothing illicit at all, but because I’m fascinated by this stuff and I see the potential for a great segment. And there’s chemistry there and a bond starts to form, which rattles Jack with guilt because still in mourning. He develops feelings and he truly believes in her — but he also knows she could be good for the show.

He honestly believes he’s helping her, too?
Yes. I don’t know if you can relate to this, but I certainly can… There have been too many times in my life — in relationships, in parenting — where I believe I had best intentions in mind but felt compelled to bend my ethical compass just a little bit to get us over the finish line. You omit a detail or skip one step of the process. If Jack were just a smarmy narcissist driven by fame and success, that movie is boring to me.

Do you think they are physically involved when she comes on the show?
I think that if things went well that night, there is a world where there’s a celebration in store and Jack could see June becoming an important relationship in his life, romantic or otherwise.

Does Jack overtly know that his fame will come at the cost of sacrificing Madeleine or is that a trick that’s played on him?
You know, the Devil is so cunning. And the closest thing I can relate to the devil in my personal life is addiction. I’ve been clean from heroin and opiates, alcohol and drugs for 22 years — May 10, I will be celebrating 22 years. And there is nothing more cunning, more devious, more relentless, than the serpent of addiction. Actually, that’s an insult to serpents, because serpents are beautiful creatures.

It’s never overt. It’s a nudge on the shoulder, a whisper in the ear. If someone had come up to Jack with a contract that said, “For ‘Night Owls’ to be number one, you’re going to have to kill Millie” — there’s no way Jack would have participated in that. I’m sure there were times he got lost in the moment and said things you might not otherwise say — that you would sacrifice anything to get what you want. I’ve said that to myself back in the day when I was just trying to catch one commercial break, get one line on a TV show. But you have to be careful. I know people who practice magic and they tell me about someone who cast a spell to get a certain amount of money and what ended up happening was there was a robbery. All of their things were stolen so they got a check from insurance for the amount of money they needed — but they didn’t consider at what cost. 

It’s the Monkey’s Paw.
It is. And whether people want to acknowledge it as giant sprawling mythology or not, we all get it — even if it’s in a subtle way.

To that end, do you think when Madeleine is trying to reach out it’s because she loves him — or is she angry with him?
Can both things be true at the same time? I believe yes. The people in my life that I love the most and I’ve had moments where I’ve realized I love someone so much but I’m so angry at them. I think Madeline has always loved Jack even as the ambitious, driven workaholic — because that’s part of his makeup. But he pushed it too far. And there’s appoint when you go, “God, I love you for who you are but stop it!”

Okay, I’m going to come out and ask it. The people in the audience in costume — particularly the mute skeleton — is that the devil?
The skeleton to me, in the end, is someone whose come from the coven to make sure and collect. The devil, in my opinion, really only makes one quick appearance in the film. And it’s quite subtle. I’m genuinely enjoying seeing on social media that people who have now been into their second or third view of the film and they’re going, “Ah, I see when we got a quick appearance!” Because as June says, she believes that Mr. Wriggles may not be the Satan itself or Abraxas itself, but a minor deity that is serving towards the greater cause, if you will.

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