Let Him Go is a new neo-western thriller starring Diane Lane and Kevin Costner as a couple who set out to find their only grandson when their daughter-in-law remarries and leaves town suddenly. The film, directed by Thomas Bezucha, has had a stalled release thanks to a little global illness, but fortunately we at FilmHounds had the pleasure of sitting down with actress Kayli Carter to discuss her role role in the film as Lane and Costner’s daughter-in-law Lorna.
Let Him Go is a Neo-Western that really puts the driving motivation onto an older woman, that’s not something you really see in Western films, that the drive of the narrative is in women, and women of a certain age. Is this something that drew you to the project?
My first experience of working in film and television was actually on a Western, on Netflix, called Godless. That was set in a town of entirely women, so the idea to revisit the genre which is so barren, in terms of women, with Diane, and to see that it was a Wester, a thriller really, about motherhood. What it means to be maternal really drew me into the film.
You kind of hit the nail on the head of why I chose to do it.
While watching it, I was quite surprised by how central Diane Lane’s character was. It appears to be a Kevin Costner film, and Diane Lane is in it, but it’s actually a Diane Lane movie and Kevin Costner is also there.
Diane was attached first, Kevin was not yet attached, when I initially read the script. There were a lot of conversations that I had with the director about how difficult it actually was to get some actor to agree to maybe play second fiddle in a scene or two to Diane’s character in a scene or two. Which is crazy to me because I think George [the role Kevin Costner plays] is an excellent role, and in so many ways, their relationship and their love for one another as women and men of a certain age is not well trodden. So, as an actor, I would expect actors to want to do that.
As for the film itself and your role in it, it deals with quite heavy themes – particularly domestic abuse and parental bereavement – is difficult preparing for scenes that deal with that level of intensity?
The day we did the most physical piece of it was pretty challenging, especially when working with a child. It’s one thing to trust and faith in everyone on the film set as an adult, to know that what we’re doing is acting. It’s an entirely different thing to add a three-year-old to the mix. That part of it scared me more than anything, because I knew that we were dealing with something in a way that was responsible and I had done my research and then put it away very early on, because I don’t liked to get too bogged down with my external expectations of a character. I was more concerned, which worked for Lorna, about the baby that we had on set, about the child and what he was seeing and able to process what he was seeing occur. That was my primary concern, and I think it really helped shape the character.
There’s one moment, not to give anything away, towards the end of the film that involves you and some stairs. Are you particularly into doing stunts or are you happy to let a stunt person do their thing?
My stunt double Sally is a genius person who did that in one take, and I sort of came in for the top and the bottom of it. But, I was very willing to do as much as they would possibly let me do at any given time. I’m always really excited when I get to do stunts because anything physical that takes you out of your head and into your body is so helpful as an actor. I don’t need to be in my brain at all, so stunt work makes me very satisfied.
In a previous life I was in a student film that involved me falling down a flight of stairs, and I swore off ever doing it again.
Oh yeah they would never let me actually fall on my own, even if I bagged. It was a very steep set of stairs, no runner, very wooden.
Is the set itself a fun set, the film itself is a very serious film, does that translate off screen or do you have fun with the cast and crew?
I didn’t feel that seriousness on the day, Tom [Bezucha, the director] is such a jovial presence, and I don’t think i ever saw him on set without a kind word or a smile on his face. He is a happy warrior as a director, and that translates to the crew. We also had a Canadian crew, so everybody was cheery.
The actors, we were definitely playing around, cutting up with each other in between scenes. Which is how I prefer to work, I prefer to be laughing right up until action. It just keeps it a little less ego, a little more Rock and Roll.
In terms of your career within the past five years, it’s been quite packed with projects. Godless, as you mentioned, Mrs America, Bad Education, this film, is there a desire in you to keep working on different things that have a message at their core or is it a case of what comes comes?
I am very particular, I’m a little picky. I’ve kept my pockets lighter in terms of saying no quite a few times, but I’m playing a long game in that there are people I want to work with. I think when you say yes to a particular project and walk through that door it leads to similar things. This community is sometimes so small, and it feels like everyone knows each other. I want to consistently work with writer-directors, people who have a very strong vision. Less than a message it’s more who is involved with this, how can I become better? Because I never want to be the best person in the room, which I have never been by a long shot. I keep working on projects with people who have a clear sense of purpose and a very strong artistic voice, and that is what draws me to it.
My very first job was working with Mark Rylance (in the play Nice Fish), and that experience has shook me to my core and what it means to be an actor to say yes to a project. His sensibility and the things he said to me as a mentor are so loud in my head whenever I read a film script.
It must be quite intense to work with Mark Rylance as a first job, rightfully considered one of the best thespians of all time.
Rightfully so. It was the least scary thing I’ve ever done because he and Claire van Kampen, who directed it, created a family and an environment of total trust that there was nothing I could do that was wrong.
Just finally, what’s next for you, is it a film project, is it taking time for yourself after a busy couple of years?
I’m actively seeking employment, and writing a lot. I’ve always been a writer, but at this current moment it has to be a priority, because it’s really one of the only things I can do. There were a couple of projects but in the nature of Covid I haven’t heard anything, so I am hoping those things that were on deck will happen. I’m looking forward to getting back onto a set, but it does look very different, it’s very sci-fi.
Let Him Go available on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital now.