Interview: Tyler Ross from "American Milkshake"

Movie Description(Click Here To Hide)
In mid-90's America, bookish high-school student Jolie Johnson knows the only way to get in with the gangsta crowd is to make the varsity basketball team. Making the team not only means approval from the inner-city crew of Maple Avenue, but also gets him a step closer to being the one thing he is not – black.
Photo Credit: © 2013 - Phase 4 Films
September 6th, 2013

Tyler Ross is the star of the comedy “American Milkshake” which comes out September 6th.  The film is about a high school kid in the mid nineties struggling with his own identity and trying to stay out of trouble.  Tyler was kind enough to tell us here at Movie Room Reviews all about his new film “American Milkshake”. 

Nick Leyland from Movie Room Reviews: Hi Tyler I saw your new film “American Milkshake” and would like to thank you for talking with us today.

Tyler Ross: Thanks.

MRR: It comes out on September 6th on VOD, right?

Tyler Ross: Right.  And in a couple of select theaters in LA, New York, and DC.

MRR: Could you tell our audience a little bit about the film?

Tyler Ross: Sure. It's centers around Jolie Jolson, the descendant of Al Jolson, the famous Blackface performer. He's a white boy growing up in Tacoma Park, Maryland, which is just outside of DC, in the '90s. And it's sort of a coming of age as far as how old the characters are. They're like iright at the end of high school. And it's sort of a comedy but I think there's more than just comedy to it, which is one of the reasons I really like it. And it centers around how this kid is letting the pop culture around him influence him to such an extent that he is kind of blind to what really matters, and because of that, you know, he does all of these ridiculous things but you manage to like him throughout it hopefully and enjoy the ride. So you can kind of laugh at him but sort of feel bad for him.

[laughter]

And so root for him throughout the whole thing.

MRR:  It's funny 'cause it takes me back to high school because it feels like it set in the mid to late '90s right when I was there. How much did you guys love playing with those props and stuff like the Sega and the new internet and all that kind of stuff?

Tyler Ross: Yeah. I was born in '89. So I experienced the '90s myself but I was obviously much younger. It was cool. I think the biggest thing in this for me was being in high school versus being a youngster. The way everyone treats you and what people are into is completely different and yet, the themes remained very relatable to what I experienced when I was in high school back in the early thousands. I don't know if I can compare, but you know if we were both into different tastes in music. However, me and Jolie, you know. But I could use that to relate. So it was essentially just like putting on costumes and performing a period piece. It was kind of cool. But all the important stuff still translated over. I can still draw from my own experiences essentially even though I wasn't in high school in the '90s. But it was really cool. My favorite was getting to wear the costumes because I didn't wear that stuff when I was in high school.

[laughter]

So, it was really cool to put on all these costumes and try to convince myself that this is cool. You know what I mean?

[laughter]

This is what it means to be cool. So.

MRR: That's what it did during the '90s.

[chuckle]

Tyler Ross: I think, I think my favorite piece... I mean, obviously I loved wearing the timbs. But one of my favorite outfits was this windbreaker, and I remember windbreakers so vividly. It was sort of blue and purple and green and neon pink. I don't know if you recalled all of them. I'm wearing it when I go see the sights at the Sub Shop and I was like pulled it over my head but  I didn't put my arms through the sleeve. I just kind of draped it over, got my hood up at one point.

MRR: It's funny that the important stuff is still the same even though a lot has changed since then. You know what I mean? With high school kids.

Tyler Ross: Absolutely. Well, that's what’s so funny is that what's important I think is a huge thing in this film that isn’t specifically addressed, but a keen observer would take notes that like... Jolie doesn't really get what's important. He's so set in what he thinks is important andI think in general, you know, through the past few decades the high schoolers tend, I believe, to find the same sort of things important even if they realize later in life that those things aren't so important, and I mean specifically, you know, what it means to be cool. How important is being cool? An example I used in a different interview is let's say it's not cool to not have your first kiss by let's say like 13 or 15. We'll say 15.  It seems to them that it doesn't matter if the person you were kissing is someone you care about or you love or whatever or if it means something special so much as that you have the status of having kissed someone at the age 15. You know what I mean? If you wait longer that, it's like you're not cool. You know what I mean?  [laughter]

It's important that you make that happen, and that's what's important in high school. And also, when you're in high school that's what's important. You think that, that's all is going to be important for life. It's hard to see past high school, and those things don't change through the decades in my opinion. You always kind of think that high school is gonna be everything, what you do right now will affect the rest of your life forever. In some ways that's true. The stuff that we tended to focus on in high school I think isn't necessarily that important. So, on top of the fact that I'm making a comedy and something that people can reminisce about and laugh at, I think it also is in a way maybe educational for high schoolers even if they don't quite realize what they're learning just watching this kid and the cracks that he goes through and where he ends up at the end. That's why I think the end is so important, Nick, which I won't give away. But the fact that after it all... I can't give it away. I'm not giving away.

[chuckle]

You've seen it, so I wanted to tell you.  Do you see what I'm saying there?

MRR: Oh yeah. Yeah. I really enjoyed the ending. I thought it was a great end and one piece I really liked about the film that I was gonna ask you about is how did you like doing the narration and how does all that work? Did you do the narration first and then act out the scenes or did you act out the scenes then do the narration?

Tyler Ross: It's so funny you said that. I have to admit that one of the things I'm most self-conscious about is my voice, and doing the narration was the thing I was most nervous about honestly, of everything, and the least comfortable with. And what happened is we had a lot of it written ahead of time, but when we shot all the scenes, we didn't pay too much attention to the narration. The directors, they knew sort of where there would be narration and had me take pregnant pauses and whatnot and be thinking about things and sort of told me. But for the most part, it was sort of just like we're gonna shoot it all, and then we cut it together, and before the cut I did it like a rough narration. I just read it all and they recorded it and used it as a filler so when they cut it together. And then later I came in and actually did what they had rewritten or whatever as far as narration goes and did the voice over. And then I came in once more and did some more rewrites and I think I might have done the whole thing one more time just to be safe, just went through the whole list of voice over script. So, it was definitely a strange process 'cause I had to kind of recall what was going on and I didn't know where they were gonna put what voices necessarily. So, and some pieces I did, but for the most part it was like just deliver it and then we'll put it in.

And so, that was a little tricky for me, you know what I mean? I'm much more comfortable when I have someone in front of me that I'm talking to or whatever and I can respond in that moment. Also I think, and I'm working on this, but I think in general I tend to be a sort of under the surface actor, if you know what I'm saying. So, like a lot of what I do, I feel like it comes... It's like through the eyes, maybe or through what's not being said. Using just my voice was interesting. I'm getting better at it, though. I actually just did a pilot this past season where I did voice over throughout majority of the pilot, so I had to quickly say "Alright Tyler, you're gonna do this and you're gonna do it well and get over it."

[chuckle]

MRR: Well, your character is someone that most people have me in their life, and what do you think Jolie would be doing today if he was a real person? Do you think he would have made it to the NBA?

Tyler Ross: I don't think he'd have made it to the NBA, sadly no.

[chuckle]

I feel like maybe he wisened up when he went off to college, if he went to college. I feel like he went through another chapter, and I think about sort of just what he realizes what's important. And I like the hope that down the line, maybe about five to ten years down the line maybe. I don't know how long it would take him, but I feel like it took him a while. Poor guy. 'Cause he was easily susceptible to everything that was happening. But I think down the line, I'm hoping some friends in college, I wanna optimistically say that he started to realize what was really important and was able to handle what happened with him. I think he starts to, right at the end of the movie, but I don't know for certain whether he decides to just get caught up in something else again, or whether he starts to try to pay attention to what really matters. Does that make sense?

MRR: Yeah. It does. And I think you're right. Maybe there'll be a sequel?

Tyler Ross: That would be interesting, that would be interesting.

MRR: Jolie goes to college?

Tyler Ross: If there was a sequel, I feel like it would have to focus on one of the other characters, though. Is that weird to say?

MRR: No, no.

Tyler Ross: I feel like the sequel should be someone else's story, like what happens to Henrietta's baby, you know what I mean?

I feel like maybe that baby grows up and... I don't know, like that's the next, I don't know. We'd have to do it 20 years from now, set it right now. I think that would be good.

MRR: Well, thanks so much for talking with me. The film comes out on September 6th. And what can we look forward to you from the future?

Tyler Ross: I'm just kind of hitting the audition road. I've got a few guest stars and whatnot. I can tell you a couple films that I've done in the past. One of them is already out. I mean they're both already out on VOD platforms, but I think both of them will be on Netflix Instant by September 17th. I know “The Wise Kids”, a film I did, comes out on Netflix Instant September 17th and is already on Video On Demand. And then another thing film I did, “Nate & Margaret” is already on Netflix Instant and a few other platforms.

MRR: Well thank you so much Tyler, I really appreciate you talking with me and I hope everyone gets to go out and see the new film “American Milkshake”.