Actors shine a light on ‘IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON’s gravitational pull

Michael C. Hall speaking at the post-screening Q&A of ‘IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON’ at Fantastic Fest. Photo courtesy of Fantastic Fest. Photo credit: Arnold Wells.

Preston Barta // Features Editor

AUSTIN – Releasing on Netflix this weekend is the cerebral sci-fi thriller IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON.

Directed by Jim Mickle, the film concerns a Philadelphia police officer named Thomas “Locke” Lockhart (Boyd Holbrook). He is chasing detective status to join the ranks of his brother-in-law, Detective Holt (Michael C. Hall).

An opportunity comes knocking when a serial killer (Cleopatra Coleman) resurfaces every nine years to inject victims using a mysterious device that causes their heads to hemorrhage. The crimes defy all scientific explanations, and it sends Locke on a wild goose chase across decades that threatens to destroy everything.

IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON is an exceptionally entertaining and thought-provoking piece of popcorn entertainment. Read my full review on DentonRC here and James Cole Clay’s review on Fresh Fiction here.

Fresh Fiction had the opportunity to sit down with the film’s cast at this year’s Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX. Cast members Boyd Holbrook, Cleopatra Coleman and Michael C. Hall discussed what they took away from the sprawling narrative and what they recognized in themselves from playing their unique characters.

L-R: Bokeem Woodbine, Boyd Holbrook and Michael C. Hall star in ‘IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON.’ Courtesy of Netflix.

Preston Barta: I have always been fascinated with why actors choose to do certain films at specific moments in their life. In keeping with the film, which spans across 36 years, if we were to look at your filmographies 36 years in the future and this film sticks out for its story and tone, what would you say is the ultimate reason why you decided to do the movie? Did it at all reflect what you were going through in your own lives?

Michael C. Hall: “Whoa. I think the first for me was director Jim Mickle. I had worked with him before [for 2014’s Cold in July]. I would take up any chance to work with him again. I think this film was something that both engaged my head (from the sheer complexity of the time travel element) and my heart. I really felt for the isolation of Locke for being completely out on a limb without any advocates. You ask that, and I think, ‘Gosh. I wonder if 36 years from now – if we’re all still here – if this movie will seem prophetic and if there will be some technology that allows people to do something like what happens in the film.’ I hope not!”

Boyd Holbrook: “Hopefully, this is the upswing and not the downfall of our careers [Laughs]. There are only so many times that you’re allowed to do something on this level. I don’t think we will ever get a chance to do something with this kind of dynamic and reach.”

Cleopatra Coleman: “For me, I love a challenge. I love filmmaking. This is such a unique story and genre mashup. I love art that pushes the envelope and feels fresh to me. This was unlike anything I have ever seen or read. I found my character to be particularly compelling, and it was exciting to see her mystery unfold. It was a lot to delve into. The more I get to do, the better I feel – and I loved the challenge.”

I believe that this movie, like Hall said, engages you mentally and emotionally. While a sci-fi film, it has so much humanity throughout that rings true. The most significant moment of impact for me was a scene midway through when Locke and Holt sit down at a diner, and Holt asks Locke if the chase was worth it. It’s a great scene because that thought was in my mind the entire time I was watching Locke trying to prove that he wasn’t insane. Did that scene affect you in any capacity?

Holbrook: “I have always been a big fan of [Michael C. Hall]. He’s been a bit of a mentor to me. We shot that scene within the first week. I had to work myself up to that moment and keep it throughout the day. I needed to be able to prove myself to [Mickle]. That was an incredibly big day.”

Hall: “The way that it worked out, it was the second scene I did for the movie, and the second day [of production], I think. I had to do what was, really, the climactic moment first. It turned out to be a good thing, though, because Holt is a bit one-dimensional in the earlier years. So, to do what ultimately emerges from that first – you can go back and blanket it. It was nice, if nothing else, to have our connection and level of trust there to film where we end up before my character starts giving Locke a hard time.”

Coleman: “It’s a great scene.”

Holbrook: “Once we did that, it also set the pace for the rest of the dance. I thought, ‘Oh, we can definitely handle anything now.’ It gave me a better sense of energy.”

Cleopatra Coleman stars in Rya in ‘IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON.’ Courtesy of Netflix.

I can certainly imagine. I can pick up on it in the subtle instances. It’s heartbreaking when Holt is hearing all this from Locke after all the years later. Nothing has changed in him, but Holt is always hopeful that it will. You can see all that pain in Holt’s eyes.

Hall: “Yeah. We’re very much with Holt in terms of the legitimacy of he’s saying. It’s a testament to the writing that you can fully appreciate both characters. That’s what makes it a good scene.”

Absolutely, and also the question that it leaves you with. It had me thinking a lot about my decisions. I feel like I’m conscious of my choices, or at least I try to be. “Yeah, while this is something that I want to do, is it going to affect the big picture in any way? Is it going to affect my wife, or my son?” There’s a lot to keep in mind with our decisions.

Did the film cause you to think more about the reality of the in-between moments, the projects you do? Does diving into the psychology of your character change your life trajectory?

Holbrook: “This may sound pretentious, but I think if you’re going to be an artist, you need to be conscious because you are physically making choices about what you are doing. I think there’s a statistic that people are unconscious 97 percent of the day. So, that’s one part of my job that I love: to be aware, present, and thinking about stuff honestly and this sense of integrity. You really are trying to make choices other than the fact that we all need jobs.”

Coleman: “You are so right. We are so blessed to be actors and live in the present because, in reality, that’s all we have. That’s something that I try to focus on in my own life, and I think acting lends itself to that.”

Hall: “Yeah. I mean, it’s –”

Holbrook: “Deep.”

Coleman: “It’s deep, right?”

Hall: “Yeah. I’d like to think being an actor is some spiritual practice.”

Coleman and Holbrook: “It is!”

Hall: “It reinforces again and again and again the fact that the moment is all we have. It’s the only place you can actually be.”

Coleman: “Yep!”

Boyd Holbrook at the Fantastic Fest premiere of ‘IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON.’ Photo courtesy of Fantastic Fest. Photo credit: Arnold Wells.

I could sit here all day and talk about what I get from movies, especially when it’s horror or sci-fi. They teach me so much about society and how I interact with others because (with genre films) there’s a distance to them as well as an intimacy. That’s what I get from movies like this. It’s not the surface level movie that people may think it is. There’s a lot more on its mind, and there’s plenty to chew on.

Hall: “That’s gratifying to hear.”

Coleman: “Yes. Very.”

Speaking of areas to chew on, you play your characters at different ages. What does playing a character at a different age inform about your own future?

Holbrook: “[Pointing at Hall] I think you became vegetarian.”

Hall: “[Laughs] Yeah! That was a thing because Holt lost the bloat that was on him at the beginning. But I don’t know! I don’t know if there’s a lesson to take away from my character other than to maybe lighten up, man. It’s an easier road if you open your heart to people and give them the benefit of the doubt and realize you usually feel the same way if you view things from a different point of view. I stole that from Bob Dylan [Laughs].”

Holbrook: “You learn so much every time you play a character. You become like a marathon athlete in a way. So many things go into it besides making a movie. How you get ready in the morning, how you eat or figure out all these little tricks that make you find an easier way of life. It’s better to recognize these aspects about your character and within yourself than to keep one elongated emotion. Being constantly sour doesn’t produce good work. It’s less sustainable.”

Hall: “[Asking Holbrook] How many days off did you have on this movie? Like one?”

Holbrook: “Yeah. Maybe so.”

Hall: “Yeah. That was a marathon. A couple of marathons.”

Holbrook: “I was thinking, ‘You’re going to do all these changes. A lot of makeup hours. You’re going to wear a rug on your face and head. You’re going to be plastered, and your skin is going to burn from all the chemicals. Enjoy this!’ I don’t want to piss and moan. It was important for me to think that I was never going to get anything like this for a while. So just have fun, and we did.”

IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON releases Friday on Netflix.

Feature Photo: Michael C. Hall, Cleopatra Coleman and Boyd Holbrook walk the Fantastic Fest red carpet for the premiere of ‘IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON.’ Photo courtesy of Fantastic Fest. Photo credit: Rick Kern.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction ( as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.