‘The Space Between’ Interview: Phillip Rhys On What To Take Away From 9/11 Based TV FilmPosted: September 10, 2011
Phillip Rhys is a British actor that has done extensive work in film, television and on stage. He continues to flourish in the states and is most recognizable for his roles in television’s Nip/Tuck, 24 and playing Proto Zoa in Disney’s Zenon series. The critically acclaimed Rhys can now be seen in The Space Between, a commemoration of the 10th anniversary of September 11 playing Pakistani ex-patriot Maliq Hassan, a father trying to pursue the American Dream. Ology got the chance to speak to the incredibly passionate actor about the TV movie and what future projects we can expect from him.
OLOGY: So tell us about this role.
PHILLIP RHYS: It is marking the 9/11 anniversary but it’s not necessarily a 9/11 movie. I’d say it’s more of a backdrop. It’s more of a setting to tell a story about three people who are coming to terms with loss and grief. You have the Melissa Leo character who’s an air stewardess. And what’s later revealed is that she lost her husband from the bombing…And myself, playing a single parent, a single father trying to make ends meet with two jobs. Moving to America as an immigrant because I too, it’s kind of dealt with in the very beginning of the movie, I’ve lost my wife. I want to set up new opportunities and give the best abilities to my kids. So I come to America.
So you’ve got three people trying to make the best out of the situation. Three people dealing with grief and loss and how the choices that you have or can make, move on. Which is sort of the best of human spirit. Regardless of how bad things are, we did move on. The default setting I think is that you move on and you don’t give up.
Is that something you wanted audiences to take away from this film?
Oh, for sure! Because you know, the opening of the movie, one’s initial impression of the movie and when you read the script, it can be, “Oh, this is a 9/11 movie. Oh, this is about this and that and different cultures…” But you know what? It’s a universal theme of a father who loves his son, and the son who loses the father, and a wife who lost her husband. So it is that–it’s that we’re all connected. We’re all the same. We all laugh pretty much the same. We grieve the same as human beings regardless of where we’re from.
And the first images of Melissa’s character are of her walking. She’s an air stewardess walking through the airport boarding the plane to go to work. And you have that image and then all of a sudden you hear Islamic prayers and then you cut to myself. You cut to a man and boy praying. I guess you can’t help after the events, after a small select group of a**holes with what they did, that you have extremists in every society…every culture, religion. After that you see essentially what people see and then again, it’s dealt with later. With the kid he’s praying on the bus so they’ll go, “Ah, I know this. We’ve just seen an airport, we’ve seen an airplane, and we see these two Islamic people praying. Oh, this movie’s aboutthat.” Meaning, you know. And in fact it’s not. You’ve got a father and a son praying. Billions of people around the world pray every morning, so one’s preconceived judgments and what they might come into in this movie–it’s turned on its head.
How was working with Melissa Leo on set?
Well you know what? It was just phenomenal. She had just shot The Fighter. I was a fan of her work from Frozen River and over the year’sHomicide and all that stuff. She’s just a thoroughbred. There’s no other way about it. She’s a blast and I have a scene with her–my son at the airport–when I give over my son to her.
Did you have to gain any kind of weight for the role?
I did, a little, a little but not drastic amounts. Nothing like (laughs) what De Niro did on Raging Bull but a little bit here and there. And that was just logistics, timing, because I’ve just come off this show in the UK called Survivors. I came back in mid-September and we were shooting in early October.
What kind of roles do you look for?
Different roles. Challenging roles. I was speaking to a journalists yesterday (and) he’s like, “I’m so glad we’re doing this interview because I had no idea that was you! I would have not known it was you.” A lot of my work is more of a leading man kind of thing, but I haven’t done the accent before or the beard. I got the the role and we shot in a very short period of time. I would’ve liked to put a lot more weight on and stuff like that. So it was kind of challenging.
What’s next for you? You’ve worked on two projects with Pacino and Spielberg.
Yeah. They’re coming out at the end of the year so that’s very exciting. Then I’m going off to London in October or November to shoot this movie called Magnificent Eleven, which is basically a take on Magnificent Eleven, the western. But the cowboys in this movie are a group of soccer players. Like a rag-tag team of soccer players and the bandits are the ones that are trying to sabotage them and destroy them. And the local Indian restaurants, they will sponsor the Cowboys, and then the Cowboys have to work at the Indian restaurants. It’s a big ole’ comedy. Its like Bad News Bears meets Monty [Python]. Fingers crossed. It’s very funny, something different that I’ve never done before.