Nick Frost has worked with Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright for 15 years, starting with the cult British television show, “Spaced.” From there, the three men would go on to make “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz” and “The World’s End,” which is also known as the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy. Frost and Pegg also worked together on the sci-fi comedy “Paul” and Steven Speilberg’s first foray in animation, “The Adventures of Tintin.”
With his latest film “Cuban Fury,” Frost gets the chance to be the leading man for the first time opposite Chris O’Dowd (“Bridesmaids”), Rashida Jones (“Parks and Recreation”) and Ian McShane (“Deadwood”). Frost plays Bruce, a former salsa dancer who finds his passion reinvigorated when he finds out his new American boss Julia (Jones) likes to dance salsa. However, the clock is ticking as his arrogant and horny co-worker Drew (O’Dowd) is planning to make his move on Julia soon. With the help of his sister Sam (Olivia Colman) and old mentor Ron (McShane), Bruce must learn to channel his inner fury to unleash some wicked dance moves. I had the chance to participate in a roundtable interview with Frost as he talked about Latin culture and working with O’Dowd.
You have played many roles whether it was as a man-child, a baby eater, a drug dealer or a slacker. I’ve noticed that with “The World’s End” and this movie, you are playing characters that are more mature compared to your co-stars like Simon Pegg and Chris O’Dowd. Do you look for more roles like the ones you’ve done recently compared to your earlier roles in order to avoid being typecast?
Nick Frost: I think the easy answer to that is that I am just kind of getting older. I am no longer young enough now to play a 25-year-old slacker who puffs away all day. In terms of life for me, it’s not really black or white whether something’s funny or serious. I don’t see why you can’t have a character that happens to be funny and sad. That to me seems more like real life. In terms of “The World’s End” and this movie, technically, the person at the center of the film is rarely the funniest. You sometimes surround yourself with a satellite of “Kramers” for instance. (Jerry) Seinfeld wasn’t the funniest character in that show. It’s also about the film. I’m not a vain person who sits and read the script and says, “This guy’s got more lines than me so let’s see what’s my single ratio.” For me and for Simon and Edgar, it’s about the film. If it’s good for the film, then it is good for me in the long term. If I have to be Danny Butterman in a film, than I’ll be that, but if I have to Andy Knightley, then I’ll be that. It’s doesn’t bother me. I wasn’t trained as a comedian. I was a smart ass that people laughed at. I never trained to do that. Just to pigeonhole yourself just to do that, it just seems kind of bonkers.
Were there any preconceptions you might have had with Latin culture and Salsa music in general that were shattered when you did this film?
Frost: I think the saddest thing that I’m about to say to you right now is the fact that I had no preconceptions about Latin culture and I think that was a failing in my character. I’ve seen soccer fans from Mexico and from Brazil and thought that they were about samba and winning every World Cup (laughs). That was my only preconception about Latin culture. I think I was a blank canvas when I went into the training period, where I immediately met some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. I realized there was a direct correlation between happiness and dancing. I must have hundreds of people in that training process and every one of those people were massively welcoming to me and honored that we would make a film about their culture and not be a parody of itself. It was important that the salsa was accurate. They taught me thinks and showed me bits and pieces and the girls talked to me. They made me feel welcome. Today, I did three Spanish-speaking TV stations and when I left there, I felt like I was leaving a family event. In our odd world that we live in, that’s counter-intuitive. We want to be on our own and you can’t talk to anyone, but it’s not like that in the Latin culture.
In a couple of days, it’s going to be exactly ten years since “Shaun of the Dead” and in September, it will be 15 years since “Spaced.” Do you find yourself often looking back at the work you’ve done with Edgar and Simon?
Frost: I don’t look back at all. We talked a lot about this when we did “The World’s End,” but me as a person, I’m not on Facebook, I don’t actively seek friends I went to school with. If I haven’t seen you for 20 years, there’s probably a reason why I haven’t seen you for twenty years. I’m about moving forward. I think once you start looking back, you run the risk of sitting back and thinking, “Well…I’ve done it. I won.” The face is that you haven’t. You have to keep making good things and I just don’t want to look back. I think the only time I’ve looked back is that…I have a DVD collection. Like Danny Butterman, I have 5,000 DVDs and Blu-rays at my house and there is a little section in my collection that has everything I’ve done. That’s the only time I would look at some of the work I’ve done in the past.
Do you change the channel when you see “Shaun of the Dead” or “Hot Fuzz” comes on?
Frost: Yeah…usually. About a year ago, I was somewhere with my wife at a hotel and we were out having dinner. When we got back, I think we were a little bit tipsy and “Paul” happened to be on. We sat and watched the whole thing. I thought, “Wow…that was good! I really liked that!” It was kind of a weird thing. It was almost like I wasn’t in it or I haven’t written it. That was the first time in a long time that I was so indulged to watch it and not being critical of myself.
I think what’s interesting in the writing, in the characters and the execution of the story was the balance of the amount of scene-stealers in the movie.
Frost: There’s no point in getting these amazing actors and not letting them do the thing they are great at. You might as well get rubbish actors. It also comes from the writing process with Jon Brown writing a great script. Chris, Rashida and Kayvan (Novak) are such fantastic improvisers, why wouldn’t you let them do the thing that they are great at. We always shoot the script as written. I always think of a script as a thing that takes such a long time and takes so much effort and work that it should be shot as written. After that, we always have a few takes where you change it up and that’s when it gets dangerous for me in terms of working with Chris O’Dowd. You can’t prepare for what he is going to say. If you are doing the script and you get a fit of giggles often, you can do that thing where in your mind, as you can hear the line that is going to make you laugh, as you can hear it approaching, you are thinking to yourself, “Here it comes. Here it comes. Don’t laugh. Don’t laugh.” It’s gone and then you can carry on, but with him, you couldn’t prepare yourself for it. On my phone, I’ve got the outtakes from the film and there’s a two-minute section that didn’t make the final cut where is Chris O’Dowd is eating blueberry muffins. If I’m a bit down or a bit homesick or in a hotel, I’ll watch it and it’s the f—king funniest thing I’ve ever seen (laughs). There was a lot of that. The film is cut into two bits. When it was dancing, it was business all the time. I was with my chorographer and dance partner drilling the routine over and over and over again. On the flip side, when it wasn’t that, when it was just us in the car or a bowling ally or an office, we just laughed all the time. The thing about me and Chris and Rashida is we all like each other and we all make each other laugh. I’m glad there was the dancing bit because otherwise, I would have to lie to wife about it being work.