Masi Oka discusses playing the mysterious title character in Searching for Sonny, hitting limited theaters, Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD platforms August 28
In today's landscape of independent film, it isn't uncommon for a movie to be released in theaters and other platforms simultaneously. Searching for Sonny is the latest to take advantage of these multiple venues, arriving in limited theaters, Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD August 28. Fans can CLICK HERE to request a screening through Tugg. This comedy centers on a group of friends who reunite at their 10-year high school reunion, only to discover they are the prime suspects in the disappearance of their old friend Sonny (Masi Oka). They realize that these unfolding events bear an uncanny similarity to a play once written by Sonny himself.
I recently had the chance to speak with Masi Oka over the phone about his character in writer-director Andrew Disney's new comedy. Here's what he had to say.
The first thing I thought about when watching this was that I would love some sort of drama like this to happen at my high school reunion. It might actually make it worth going.
Masi Oka: Absolutely. I didn't have that kind of experience in high school, but it was definitely a fun thing to reflect on.
This is a kind of character we don't normally see you play. Was that part of the draw for you when you first heard about this project?
Masi Oka: Absolutely. The script was really well-written, and there was a playfulness that I was very attracted to, as well as my friend Minka (Kelly) being there. It sounded like a unique experience and a lot of fun. It all worked together, in terms of timing.
In playing a writer, did you approach this character differently than you would have approached others? Was there anything in particular that you did differently, as opposed to what you normally do?
Masi Oka: In terms of preparation, there wasn't as much. Ironically, during that time, I was writing a lot as well, so that kind of helped me. The writing in that other part of my life allowed me to hop into the character much easier.
Can you talk about where you actually shot this?
Masi Oka: We were in Fort Worth the whole time. I believe Andrew went to the high school that we shot at. We definitely used a lot of locales there.
I can't imagine it was a terribly long shoot, but can you talk a bit about your time there and how Fort Worth treated you guys?
Masi Oka: I was there for only a week. I came in late in the production process. Once I got there, everyone was very welcoming. Everyone treated us very nicely. I believe there was a golf tournament in town at the same time, so there was an influx of tourists for a day or two. I liked Fort Worth. Everything in Texas is really spread out though. Coming from Los Angeles or New York, everything is crunched together for maximum space. There, it's like, 'We'll build something here,' then there's 30 miles of nothing before another big city pops up. It's like what I would imagine Bio-Dome would be like.
You said you came on late in the process, but did that help with who your character really is? Did that add to playing this guy, being more isolated?
Masi Oka: I think so. That is part of the fun of it. My character had something with Jason (Dohring)'s character, so we have that friendship. But, other than that, it's like, 'Guys, what's going on here?' I think that definitely did help.
Can you talk about Andrew's style on the set? This is his first feature after doing a couple of shorts. Can you talk about your impression of his work?
Masi Oka: I thought Andrew did a really great job. He was very energetic, he was very clear, and he was very fast. He was straight to the point, and I really liked his vision coming in. He was very prepared, he communicated his tone really well. It was definitely a lot of fun working with him.
There is quite a great cast here. Can you talk about a day on the set with a cast as diverse as this?
Masi Oka: Yeah, it was really fun. The only one I knew beforehand was Minka, so it was great to bond with everyone. We had one trailer for all the principals, so we ended up hanging out there, playing games, singing. It was just a hoot and we were all just making each other laugh. It was kind of like going to summer camp. It was really fun, which probably worked to our favor in this kind of movie.
That is interesting, one trailer for the cast as opposed to a huge trailer for each big movie star.
Masi Oka: Right, exactly.
This kind of multi-platform roll out is getting more and more popular, with theatrical, VOD, Blu-ray and DVD rolled into one. Could you give me your thoughts on this new kind of release strategy, and how you think it benefits a smaller movie like this?
Masi Oka: I think it's really smart. In this day and age, when you get a good, quality film, the more word of mouth you get, you take away the overhead. I think that's a really smart thing to try. There are so many ways to get things through, and there is so much clutter too, so you have to do whatever you can to get it in. If you go through a bigger distribution channel, there's a lot of politics and different baggage. With smaller models and more innovative models, people are a lot more open to trying things out. I think it's really fun. Some things work, and some things don't, but I'm always for embracing new technology and new methods, because that's how we evolve.
You mentioned earlier that you were writing some things. Are you working on movie scripts or TV stuff?
Masi Oka: Actually, both. Right now we're pitching out two ideas, one is an adaptation and one is an original idea, so we're going out with that right now. For movies, I've got about six or seven things in development right now. The big one that I'm excited about is Bleach. I'm working with Peter Segal, the director of Get Smart, and that's been going great. We have a great writer, Dan Mazeau. I'm also getting into game development. I have a few ideas I've been discussing with various developers, and trying to do some stuff on my own as well. I'm just trying to do everything. You never know what's going to happen. It's great to be back creating stuff on the tech side.
I know you started at ILM in visual effects. Are you looking at bigger visual effects-driven pieces that you could do your own effects with?
Masi Oka: Yeah, absolutely. I don't think I could program any of the effects anymore, because I've been so out of touch, but yeah, definitely.
You're turning into a one-stop shop.
Masi Oka: I know. I'm trying to, but there's only one of me, unfortunately.
There's never enough time.
I believe you're in Hawaii shooting Hawaii Five-0 right now. Is there anything you can say about the new season?
Masi Oka: It's a lot of fun, the things we've been doing. There are always these great characters, with great action and scenery. Max is a little off as well. We see him on a cane, which has been a really interesting thing to deal with. There are things you don't think about like, 'OK, I have to hold books in both hands, but I have to be on a cane.' There are all these things that come up. I was also told some things about the character that are coming down the line, but I can't reveal yet. I'm very excited though. The other thing is we have the premiere on the beach, on September 23, for all the locals and fans of the show.
One of the bigger episodes last season was the crossover with NCIS: Los Angeles. It seems CBS is the only network that embraces these crossover episodes. Have you heard anything about another potential crossover with another CBS show?
Masi Oka: No, I haven't. Personally, I'd love to do a crossover with The Big Bang Theory. I just think it would be funny to see that crossover. I don't think it will ever happen. The network has balls to do that, and that's what I love. It's those tongue-and-cheek moments that are great. Actually, on Heroes, I actually pitched a 'Where's Hiro?' week, where I would be an extra on every NBC show. I thought that would be fun. We were talking about doing crossovers, and it would be fun if he literally just teleported to different shows.
That would have been awesome!
Masi Oka: I know! It would be kind of like a Where's Waldo thing.
Or like an Observer thing with Fringe. You never know when these people will pop up.
Masi Oka: Exactly. I thought that would have been fun.
What would you like to say to any fans of yours, or anyone else who might be curious about Searching for Sonny, about why they should check it out in theaters, Blu-ray, DVD, or VOD this week?
Masi Oka: It's a really fun, quirky comedy, with a great cast. If you're just looking for a fun time, definitely check it out. It's definitely worth your time.
Excellent. That's about all I have. Thanks so much. It was great talking to you.
Masi Oka: Great. Thank you very much.