HomeInterviewsVictor Neumark, Rachel Alig, Kate Beecroft & Ryan Caraway on 'First Blush'

Victor Neumark, Rachel Alig, Kate Beecroft & Ryan Caraway on ‘First Blush’

Ryan Caraway, Rachel Alig and Kate Beecroft in First Blush
Photo Courtesy Gravitas Ventures

First Blush follows a young married couple as they work though the new reality of dating Olivia, an intriguing free spirit. The film focuses on the ups and downs of relationships and how opening your heart to love can be equally amazing and brutal. I had the awesome opportunity to sit down with the writer/director of the film Victor Neumark and the stars, Rachel Alig, Kate Beecroft, and Ryan Caraway as they share their thoughts about the film and what they’ve learned. For a deeper look at the movie, check out our review of First Blush.

The relationship we see blossom between all of these characters feels so believable. Victor, you mentioned that 90% of casting is being lucky enough to have the right people to walk through the door and the other 10% is paying enough attention to realize when it happens.  At what point did you realize you had found your lead characters?

Victor Neumark: I think I knew from the first audition honestly. Then I had them come in a few more times and read together just to solidify that, but it’s pretty immediate when someone gets it and can just deliver it. Rachel is always complaining about this and I don’t blame her, about how I give the actors like 12 or 13 sides to come in and audition with, which is just like a sadistic number of sides. I wanted to see them do a few different types scenes, because each of the characters has to do a few different things in the movie, so just to get a sense of their range.  From the beginning I was like “Oh, they know what’s up. They know what they’re doing.” It’s a very lucking feeling when it happens, like okay cool, I think the movie’s going to be okay!

Going into this movie, from an actor’s perspective, did you all see this role and these characters as an opportunity to give a voice to or help promote more of a discussion around the poly community, and help to de-stigmatize some of the assumptions people have regarding this type of relationship or did you simply connect with the character and just knew you wanted to play these people?

Rachel Alig: Honestly, I fell in love with Nena, I really did. I thought she was deeply flawed, very complex, but I also saw the good side of her too. And that’s interesting to me, right? Because as human beings, that’s how we operate. We have good qualities and bad qualities. I also appreciated the other characters; so as a whole the material excited me. As far as giving a voice to the poly community or just any type of community that isn’t necessarily the norm, that’s always a bonus.

I think in general that is what my hope is to give a voice to some person out there that doesn’t have the opportunity to share their story. So, right away I’m given an opportunity to do that and also for some, it’s almost like an education. Movies educate. They show you a subject matter or a different culture, and either you get to be someone’s advocate in a way or you get to educate someone. This was a specific community that I was excited to do that for.

Ryan Caraway: Before I had moved to Los Angeles, I had never really heard of polyamory and when I did start to hear about the atmosphere around it, it was kind of negative and a little bit demonized. Some people thought they were in monogamous relationships but it turned out they had a partner who was polyamorous, and so there was just a lot of jealousy and angst wrapped up in it. So, to see it through a different perspective and a different lens was certainly an educational experience. And then also to just take a subject matter and be able to almost put that aside to just honor the people, honor the script, honor what they’re going through and hopefully at the end the message will come together and be accentuated.

Kate Beecroft: Of course I love the character and went at it like any character I would play. What a privilege it is to play a character like this and for someone, an individual, to never see their kind of love or relationship put on screen before, we all got to portray that with a lot of love and respect. It’s a privilege.

Victor Neumark: I didn’t keep it in the forefront of my mind as much as I just didn’t want to screw it up. I wanted the poly community to feel like this was accurate and correct and to see a relationship that you don’t normally see. But, I felt that at the forefront of my thinking and approaching this was just to have the characters be as real as possible and have the relationship feel as authentic as possible as opposed to just making a film that is about polyamory. If you lead with the message first, it can become a little ham-fisted. So, my approach was to tell the most honest story I could and if we did our jobs, then hopefully the poly community will feel seen and people outside of that community will also recognize it in a way that maybe they didn’t before. I feel like you can only pull it off if you’re coming at it from an honest place, because I don’t really feel like it’s my job to necessarily give a voice to this community, they already have a voice, I just wanted to present a relationship like this as authentically as possible.

Speaking of authenticity, as someone who has reached their 30’s I wholly related to Nena’s comment about reaching these expected goals in your 20’s — marriage, good job, nice dwelling, and then hitting this “milestone” and confronting the reality that despite all that you’re not fulfilled. Rachel, were you able to bring any of your real-life feelings or experiences from society’s expectations into this character? It seemed like a very natural performance through each stage of her growth.

Rachel Alig: To be fair, I felt when I hit 30, I was much happier, I was able to let go. In my early 20’s I was trying to be something I wasn’t, with more pressure of what I looked like or what I should be doing or the influence of what the people around me were doing. Hitting 30 it was like “Ahh, this feels right!” I feel strong in my intelligence and where I’m going with my career. I say that and simultaneously I look back and think “Should I have done more already?”

For instance, I’ll be very open: like with my acting career. I’ve been going so hard for 10 years in LA. Nonstop, and it’s like “This is all I’ve gotten thus far, this is all I’ve achieved?” Getting married later, I’m from Kentucky so a lot of people I grew up with, it was much more traditional and [there are] a lot of expectations and I didn’t meet any of those expectations. So, initially there were parts of me that struggled with it. But, I think being surrounded by the right community of people saying this is just your path. The same with Nena, she eventually learns she’s just on a journey and right now we’re hitting a bump in the road. So there were definitely parts of me that I utilized, and just understanding human nature- just as humans sometimes question our purpose at times, and mid life crisis, what am I doing? Should I have a career change? I tried to infuse it with my own experiences sometimes and others was just what’s happening with the human experience.

*Spoilers included*: Olivia’s brother points out that she has a habit in her relationships of drawing people in and then letting them go when things get too real or too complicated. By the end we see that she is really invested in giving her relationship with Nena and Drew a real shot, but she clearly has some things to work through, so with her belief that we’re all responsible for our own happiness, Kate, where do you see your character’s journey going? Do you think she puts in the work to address her past negative habits?

Kate Beecroft: Yes, I definitely see that for her. I think being in a relationship like she’s in, she’s really questioning herself, and I think she’s someone who, I always felt, was handed a lot of things, or was one of those people who things just happen to like,” I just got this incredible job or someone just gave me this, I got this incredible gig.” I think that’s what she was always used to. When that magic fades, you’re kind of alone with yourself and when you’re lucky enough to be in a  relationship with people you really connect with, like Nena and Drew, and they can mirror back to you who you are, I think for the first time she’s being forced to grow up.

Photo Courtesy Gravitas Ventures

Ryan, your character Drew truly enjoys being more passive. He doesn’t fit the mold of the typical dominating male stereotype -in the best way. Instead of becoming jealous when his wife opens up about her feelings, he is supportive. Are you seeing more of these characters in your industry that aren’t portrayed a specific way due to their gender, or that challenge the outdated thoughts of what we consider the “stereotypical” male?

Ryan Caraway: That is a great question; I don’t know. I think it has always kind of been there, but I think of like a Woody Allen type of character who is always a doormat. I would have to say, I am a type of person who is prone to jealousy. I don’t understand the makeup of people who don’t get jealous. I think it is time for toxic masculinity to get pushed to the side and for these roles that either sex play — the ones that we’ve become used to and almost brainwashed by — we just let them go. We’re all vulnerable. We’re all sensitive, no matter what organs you have. We are what we are and I hope that that change continues and we just start to let men be the full gamut of who they can be and the same for women.

Before I ask my final question, Victor, as a former New Jersey alum such as myself, where do you fall on the Taylor ham/ pork roll debate?

Victor Neumark: This is blasphemy, but I was always more of a bacon egg and cheese on a bagel guy, than either of those. I’ll say that where I grew up I would always go to this one ice rink in Elizabeth and it was Taylor Ham, that’s what it was on the menu. I think it’s more of a North Jersey thing. So, I’m just going to go ahead and say Taylor ham. Pork roll is not a thing. Stop saying it!

A big message from this movie that I took away, was to make the brave choice. Has portraying these characters emboldened you to be a little braver in your day-to-day life when going after the things you want, or questioning what aspects of your life really make you happy?

Victor Neumark: Writing the movie and having to actually figure out in a lot of ways that that was what the movie was about was a process in and of itself. I didn’t know that that was the theme of the movie until I was working my way through “What’s going to be the most satisfying journey for these characters to go on and also how do I feel about all of these things?” So for me, absolutely. Just the process of writing this script and then following through and actually making this movie; I put a fair amount of myself on the line making the movie and it should be a celebration of bravery. I like making movies about people who go and try things and do things, even if they fall on their face a few times. That’s the kind of thing I’m interested in, because I’ve done it. I’ve gone out and failed and you’ve got to keep going, because I’m from Jersey … Jersey Strong!

Rachel Alig: Nena was such a control freak and dissatisfied and those are two things that are constant in my life, where I want control and I don’t get it all the time. Nobody does. And she was a reminder that trying to control things in certain ways that I would, it’s very limiting. You don’t get to live a happy existence doing so, so she was a good reminder of that. And as far as my own personal demons, recognizing those and their dissatisfaction and finding internal happiness, versus trying to find happiness through these outside elements.

Kate Beecroft:  As me, I’m probably the most similar to Nena, so I learned a lot about myself by watching Rachel and her character unfold. The thing I took away from Olivia thought is that she’s so in the moment and that’s what really adds to her charm and why people are so drawn to her, and I think that’s what I want to do more of. I have a hard time just being in the moment, I’m always thinking about the next thing or I have to be busy all the time, so that’s what I took away from it, just be in the moment!

Ryan Caraway: I think I’m kind of a “go along/get along” kind of guy and Drew certainly has a lot of that in him. I think when you’re not voicing your wants and your needs and who you really are as a person and you let people make decisions for you and you don’t speak up, it all bottles up and it’s not a healthy way to live. It builds a lot of resentment, and so to be able to play a character and then halfway through go “Oh my god, I share a lot of things with this person”, it really empowered me and was cathartic in a way to put a stop to that and move on from that aspect of my life.

First Blush directed by Victor Neumark and starring Rachel Alig, Kate Beecroft and Ryan Caraway is now available on VOD.


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