“Altar Rock” cast script reading

Just prior to the production of the independent film “Altar Rock” there is a script reading with the main cast. Okay, where is everybody? Well, no video or camera shots or selfies are allowed during this process. But this is the room where it took place and where I was sitting. Just across from me were KJ Apa and Scott Atkins, who portray brothers Niko and Marco. Next to them was Sydney Park, who played the main character’s best friend, Felicia. And immediately to my right was lead actress India Eisley portraying Tillie.

KJ Apa plays Archie Andrews in the popular CW series, “Riverdale,” and recently starred in the feature film, “I Still Believe.” His father is a maori chief in his native country, New Zealand. He was up every morning at 5 a.m. doing wind sprints up a hill to stay fit. It worked, as he displays his physique in just about every episode of “Riverdale.”

I explained to India that this script gave her the ability to play just about every emotion imaginable for an actress: intense grief at the loss of her parents; drunken despair; joyous discovery of newfound love; fear; betrayal; anger; the works. She explained that, during a read-through, she holds back and just does the reading somewhat expressionless. Well, okay, but as long as you put it out during the actual shoot. She is beautiful, as expected, and is the daughter of Olivia Hussey, who played the original Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet.” India also played opposite Chris Pines recently in the limited Noir series, “I Am the Night.”

India Eisley and KJ Apa as lead lovers, Tillie and Niko

Scott Atkins is a popular international Martial Arts film star, more known in the far East and Europe. He’s playing the older brother, Marco, from Albania, who is trying to recruit his younger brother into a terrorist act to revenge their father killed by the FBI. He learned the dialogue and read it with a style or dialect as someone using English as a second language would speak. The director suddenly wanted him to speak perfect English as if he were trained at Oxford. The executive producer (and co-writer) of the film and I were aghast at this proposal. There needed to be a foreign quality about his presentation. The executive producer spoke with Scott on the sly and he assured her that he wasn’t about to change his reading at this point, as he had practiced and learned all his lines the original way. Crisis averted.

Brothers Marco and Niko, as played by Scott Atkins and KJ Apa

Sydney Park is known for her continuing role in AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” and probably headed toward bigger and better things. Watch her star rise. She has the potty mouth in the film and wears a drop dead bikini at one point. But her Asian father was with her the entire shoot and didn’t seem to object, but it made me feel a bit awkward. Not at the reading was James Remar, who plays the investigating FBI agent in the film. Viewers know him from dozens of appearances on television in series such as Showtime’s “Dexter,” where he played the father of the title character.

Sydney Park (Felicia) poses with the writer’s son, Justin

The reading went off smoothly, and I took notes, noting how certain lines of dialogue were delivered, and if they came off awkwardly and needed to be finessed. The only other persons at the reading were the director, script supervisor, and Kristin Alexandre, the executive producer and person who first had the idea for the story based upon her fears that her own daughter could have unwittingly have dated the younger, cute, and more personable brother of the Boston Bombers (she didn’t, but it was as good a ‘what if’ as any to launch a romantic thriller feature premise on).

The classic film “Romeo and Juliet” starring India’s mother, Olivia Hussey
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