Meet the men of Columbia Pictures’ Escape Room, the new suspense thriller from the director of last year’s worldwide horror hit, Insidious: The Last Key, and produced by the team behind the Fast & Furious series.
In Escape Room, six strangers have chosen to be part of an escape room experience and, they will discover, there’s a mystery that links them all together. Because each of the characters has an independent and unconnected back-story in the narrative, the casting goal of the filmmakers was to find an eclectic group of performers. Playing the men of Escape Room are Logan Miller, Jay Ellis, Tyler Labine, and Nik Dodani, whose characters have to work as a team (together with the characters played by Deborah Ann Woll and Taylor Russell) to successfully escape the mysterious rooms overseen by games master Woo Tan Yu, played by Yorick van Wageningen.
Logan Miller, known for his work in films including Love, Simon; Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse; and Take Me to the River, plays Ben, a lost young man who lives his life in self-destruct mode to block out his trauma of being the lone survivor in a horrific car accident.
“Ben is a pretty grounded kind of character,” says Miller. “He’s dealt with something tragic in his life, and now he’s having a lot of trouble dealing with what has happened. His friends are dead, he has nothing left, so I think he brings a ‘screw the world’ attitude — and that leads him to becoming an unlikely hero as he deals with his trauma.”
To prepare for the physicality of his role, Miller says he trained for six months, but could have saved himself some of that effort. “My trainer and I were jumping off of roofs, running around, chasing cars, going through tanks, hitting each other, doing kung fu… I was in amazing shape and the filmmakers said, ‘Hey Logan, we’re going to have to dilute some of the shape because you play this burnt-out guy,’ so I stopped my workouts and decided to hang out in Cape Town.”
Jay Ellis, whose credits include HBO’s Insecure with Issa Rae and the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick with Tom Cruise, plays Jason, a charismatic, competitive, and egocentric finance executive. He uses the finer things in life to block out his past.
Ellis says his character is simultaneously a financial hotshot charmer living the high life and a stone-cold killer. “You can think of this guy as Christian Bale in American Psycho, Pacino as the guy who is ‘always closing’ in Glengarry Glen Ross, or Ben Affleck’s character in Boiler Room.”
Tyler Labine, currently starring on TV series New Amsterdam and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, portrays Mike, an everyday, blue-collar trucker from West Virginia, and the oldest in the group. A former coal miner, one would think he’d be accustomed to confined spaces — turns out, not so much.
To prepare for his role and the different traumas his character will face from each of the rooms, Labine explored the Internet to find “actual real-life accounts of people going through what we have to pretend to experience in the movie. What happens when you get hypothermia, what happens when you get electrocuted, and what happens when you are subjected to intense heat.”
Nik Dodani, a star on the rise because of his roles in the Murphy Brown revival and Netflix’s Atypical and Alex Strangelove, plays Danny, a young cyber geek and an avid escape room enthusiast. The team will need all of his skills and expertise in order to survive.
Dodani says that his Escape Room character hit close to home. “I have a bunch of personal experience to pull from: I drag a lot of my friends to escape rooms, and during the last project I did, I took the whole cast out to an escape room as a team-bonding exercise. From the moment I read the script, I knew exactly who this character is; I am that guy. I can’t count how many escape rooms I’ve experienced. Sadly, I’ve never beaten one, but I will one day.”
In Philippine cinemas February 27, Escape Room is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.