Shane West On Working With Willa Holland & Dermot Mulroney

November 20, 2023 - Movies


  • The Dirty South is a captivating film with many twists and turns set in a small town where everyone knows each other’s business.
  • Shane West was drawn to the project because of director Matthew Yerby’s passion and enthusiasm, and the opportunity to film in his home state of Louisiana.
  • West plays Dion, a brooding drifter with a mysterious past, and was excited to bring his own personality to the role while also exploring the connection between Dion and the main character, Sue.

The Dirty South follows Sue Parker as she attempts to save her family business. A local tycoon has been sniffing around her family’s bar which is facing struggles due to her father’s negligence. However, when a handsome drifter blows into town Sue believes she may have found a way to keep the bar from falling into the tycoon’s hands.

The Dirty South stars Willa Holland, Shane West, and Dermot Mulroney. The Dirty South is written and directed by Matthew Yerby. Yerby also produced the movie along with Andrew Vogel, Suzann Toni Petrongolo, and Todd Slater.

Related: Gotham’s Shane West Wants To Play Batman Villain Harvey Dent/Two-Face

Screen Rant interviewed Shane West about his new movie, The Dirty South. He discussed working with co-stars Holland and Mulroney. West also explained what attracted him to this role and what Yerby’s directing style brings to the movie.

Shane West Talks The Dirty South

Screen Rant: Look, first of all, The Dirty South is a fantastic film, and you are excellent in it. I love this film. It has so many twists and turns. It’s about a small town. Thing about small towns: everybody knows everybody’s business, and this is even bigger than that. Matthew Yerby is a first-time director. He directed this film and wrote this film for the first time. What was it about Matthew’s vision that got you on board, Shane?

Shane West: I just think his passion about this project. He’s so animated, he was, I mean, I know he’s producer as well on board, but everything that he was involved with on this project besides writing, producing, directing, it was like he was a part of the crew. He found all the sites, he found all the locations. This was just something that he was really, really into and it’s hard not to be excited when someone else is so excited.

Absolutely. Shane, I know you’re from Louisiana. What was it about The Dirty South that resonated with you to make you jump on this project?

Shane West: A lot of it was that. A lot of it was the fact that being born in Louisiana, always wanting to have a kind of connection and being able to film out here or film out there, the tiny town of Natchitoches is well known in the state of Louisiana as being kind of the city, a great Cajun city that’s got a very good university, but then during Christmas has the Festival of Lights, and if you’ve never been, at least you knew that much. So for me, it was I had never been, I had in Shreveport filming three years on a series called Salem.

So this was the closest I had ever gotten to Natchitoches. But it was also exciting to be able to go there and now tell my family down in Baton Rouge that I was able to finally spend time there. I was able to see the Christmas, the Festival of Lights, and that I was able to film an entire movie out there.

That’s incredible. Now you play Dion, who’s a brooding grifter who takes what he needs. What excited you about this role, and what did you want to bring to Dion that wasn’t on the page?

Shane West: I think it was being able to play almost kind of what you just said, the brooding drifter, being able to, those roles are kind of fun. And I was just really wanting, he’s very conflicted. I love conflicted characters. I love characters with just all sorts of places that he can go and backgrounds that are dubious, things that you can kind of create on the spot.

And I think with Dion, he was very much like, all right, well I’m going to bring my own personality to him, but I love the fact that he’s kind of that grifter on the road, which I’d never played before. So being able to play something like that, a role that I’ve always been interested in and in my home state and in the town that I’ve always wanted to work in and spend time in, it was kind of a no brainer.

Also, I feel like it had this … True Romance is my favorite movie from Quinn Tarantino and Scott, and so it felt like it had a little bit of that and I wanted to bring hopefully that to it, as well as a little bit of Bonnie and Clyde, which I’m a big fan of and bring a little bit of that. So it’s not like we’re going around murdering people, but they’ve got this feel of this love and connection between these two characters of Sue and Dionne.

Absolutely. Now Willa Holland plays Sue, who she’s been through the ringer. She has to come up with 30K to save her dad’s bar. She’s also raising her little brother along the way. How was it working with her on this film?

Shane West: It was great. I met Willa years ago when she was essentially a baby, just starting and it was very evident back then she could be a star and would be a star and she has just those qualities. And to finally be able to work with her so many years later was a blessing. And I think she brought such gravitas and such edge and emotion and realism to this story. It was already a real story, but you could make this film and this script in so many different tiers.

You can do so many different things with it. You can make it safer, you can make it edgier, whatever it was. But she brought that realism to it that, I was going to say it wasn’t unexpected, but in a way it did. It gave it this kind of edge that I felt it needed. It was something I knew I could bring and I have in the past, but being able to do this and being able to connect immediately with those two characters, I mean, she carries the movie and I think she did an amazing job.

shane west & willa holland in the dirty south

Yeah. Can you talk about Sue and Dion’s relationship a little bit and why Dion would risk it all for Sue?

Shane West: I think at this point with Dion, clearly he’s been through a lot. Some of it the audience has given a glimpse of, and some of the audience will never know, and some of it I won’t even know and I didn’t want to know fully. It was fun to just be able to play with that. I think at this point he’s been through the ringer himself, in the different capacity, and sometimes there’s that thing of kindred spirits when it just suddenly kind of connects. And that’s what I was hoping was going to be apparent in that opening scene, at least for Dion in the bar, seeing her for the first time.

I think at this point in Dion’s life, he’s looking for a connection that he can’t find and that’s why he keeps continuing to do what he’s doing and is always on the road and kind of can’t stop. I think she made him stop in more ways than one. And yeah, I think that’s kind of what, it gives him a glimmer of hope.

With characters like Dion, there’s this side of them that’s a little shady. And Dion’s a great pickpocket. Did you learn how to become a pretty good pickpocket during the process of working on this film?

Shane West: Man, we had no chance. No time, no chance, no time in hell. It was sort of like using the technique of sleight of hand, but sleight of camera. So I had to trust our DP. I had to trust Matthew. I had to trust just the whole team that they were filming correctly of me, or filming or not showing me at all being able to do that kind of sleight of hand thing. And I think what helped was steady cam. I think getting the camera up and on the ground and off the ground was able to kind of help with that. But no, we didn’t have much time.

Hell, for Willa being a pool shark, she didn’t have much time to learn how to play pool either. So those scenes, we had people, really good pool players playing for her at times. Then her making the shot at times. We had a lot of help, but we just started so, this movie suddenly, I mean it took a long time to make in its infancy, but when it suddenly got green lit and the actors came to it and the money was there, we were all there almost instantaneously without much time to bond or anything. So it’s really just kind of like trial under fire. Get out there and give it a try.

If you would’ve told me that you had learned how to pickpocket, I would’ve totally believed you because it’s very convincing in this film.

Shane West: Well, thank you.

Yes, absolutely. Now, Dermot Mulroney plays Jeb Roy, who’s from the other side of town, different side of the tracks. He brings this gravitas to Jeb. What excited you about working with Dermot?

Shane West: Well, I’ve always been a fan. I’ve been a fan, at least from my memory, maybe Young Guns Two, wait, shit, no, excuse my language. I think it was Young Guns One. But regardless, I had always liked his work and I mean, he’s got a vast amount of work and always wanted to work with him. We have similar representation, so I was hoping that this would kind of resonate and connect with him. And it did.

But the problem was, the joking around about it was I still need to work with him again because I barely did anything. I work one day with him at the very finale between him and I and her, and by the way, and that was being shot, I don’t know, three o’clock in the morning, four o’clock in the morning. It was freezing cold. So we barely got to connect or work with, he did most of his stuff in about a week, I think, four or five days.

And so ultimately when I saw the movie, I was weird of me to say this at 45 years old, over him being my elder, but I was proud of him in that sense because I loved what he did with the character and that he came in, that he cared and he put in the time. And he made me laugh. His character made me laugh even at times, maybe we weren’t supposed to. And I thought he did an amazing job.

He did a fantastic job. Yes. Now what did Matthew’s directing style add to this film? And did him being an actor kind of help with his process?

Shane West: I think so. I think it’s more hands-on, but at the same time he knows when to let the actor experiment and do what they, or do what they need to do to go through their process. But he was always there to listen. I think that’s the most important thing, honestly, that’s the most important thing I think from a writer, a director and an actor, an acting perspective is to listen. If you can do that, then the ability will take you far.

But with him, I think it was, he was always there for notes. He was always there to help out. He had to be there a lot for Willa, because Willa also came in last second, a lot more than last second than I did. To be able to wrap her head around that character and the background with her dad and her son, and the ex-boyfriend, all of these different characters. And he was always there and always present. And I think that’s the most important thing.

About The Dirty South

The Dirty South poster

Sue Parker finds herself in a desperate battle to save her family’s struggling business, which is on the brink of collapse due to her father’s neglect. When a handsome drifter comes into town, she sees him as the only chance to prevent their bar from falling into the hands of a ruthless local tycoon.

Check out our other The Dirty South interview with Matthew Yerby.

The Dirty South is now available on digital and On Demand platforms.

Source: Screen Rant Plus

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