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NBFF Interview: Simon Quarterman on Estranged and Westworld

The new horror movie Estranged premiered at the Newport Beach Film Festival this week. I’ve been to NBFF in the past as it’s only an hour away, but this year I spoke with the stars and filmmakers by phone. You’re going to be seeing a lot more of Simon Quarterman in HBO’s upcoming series Westworld.

In Estranged, Quarterman plays Callum, a man who gets into an accident with his girlfriend January (Amy Manson), requiring them to take her home to her family’s secluded mansion. January does not get along with her family. That’s why she left, but they certainly don’t like Callum. That sets the tone for more terrifying secrets to come to light.


Nuke the Fridge: What came first: You wanted to help the film get made and then you wanted a role in it, or the other way around?

Simon Quarterman: It’s kind of odd how everything all happened. A few years ago, I was actually there for the birth of the idea for Estranged. Myself, Will, Simon Fantauzzo, Craig Conway who plays the butler, we all sat around this table. We had a house and we wanted to do a film together so we were just spitballing ideas for a movie. We ended up, and actually Simon came up with this idea that was called January at the start. Then a couple of years later, we went and shot it. After we shot it, I’d finished The Devil Inside and Steven Schneider who was on board to executive produce The Devil Inside, we got talking after I’d gotten back from shooting Estranged. He loved the idea of it and I said, “Well, listen, I can introduce you to Will and Adam.” So I did and Steven became part of the team, and I kind of got a bump up from being an actor to associate producer because of that little meeting.

Nuke: You made the introduction.

Simon Quarterman: I made the introduction, so that’s how I got my title of associate producer.

Simon Quarterman in Estranged
Simon Quarterman in Estranged

Nuke: Is Callum the sort of role you’d always wanted to play?

Simon Quarterman: Yeah, Callum was a very interesting role to play because he’s the one straight guy I suppose in the whole movie. Obviously, there’s the crazy family and there’s January who’s going through what she’s going through. Callum is kind of the rock for January. It was interesting to play him purely because he was a complete fish out of water, just right in the middle of something he had no idea what’s going on. It was fun playing that for sure. It was very fun to play particularly with James Cosmo and Jimmy Lance and Jane and Amy and Eileen. It was just very interesting playing a character who really had absolutely no idea what was going on, as well as January I suppose. He really was the isolated one in the whole film. It was very interesting.

Nuke: How much time did you have to create this relationship between Callum and January?

Simon Quarterman: We didn’t have long, to be honest. Amy and I just kind of clicked as soon as we met which always helps. So as soon as we had that immediate meeting, we just got on immediately so we did a lot of very fast character work. We actually stayed in the house we shot in as well so it was a very unique experience in that respect. We were always together. We were socializing together as well as working together  so it created a very fast and solid type of camaraderie between everyone. Amy and I just clicked straight away and I just loved working with her.

Nuke: Were you able to shoot in chronological order if you were living there?

Simon Quarterman: To a degree, yes. I can’t remember rightly. It was a long time ago but we did shoot quite in order actually. So that was really useful as well in the whole scheme of things. It was a very unique experience actually living on set as well.

Simon Quarterman in Estranged
Simon Quarterman in Estranged

Nuke: Did you get to ride the motorcycle in the beginning of the movie?

Simon Quarterman: Yes, I did. That actually didn’t exist until last year. We went off and did some pickups in Costa Rica. It really created a great idea of what was and what January was before the accident. As small as it is, you just see such vitality in her and you also see I think the real sweetness of the relationship between Callum and January, which I think really helps the rest of the film. I did bust around on that little moped all the way around Costa Rica which was really, really beautiful. Gorgeous country.

Nuke: The family makes it very clear they don’t want Callum around. Could you even imagine what you’d do in that situation when you want to stay with your girlfriend and have to face that every day?

Simon Quarterman: It was interesting because it’s a very ostracizing experience, not only for Callum but for myself as an actor. It wasn’t deliberate or anything but it was just very interesting. From the outset, Callum was the real outsider. The complete outsider. January was obviously being used for their revenge I suppose and Callum was the real outsider. So being around that energy the whole time, it was a very, very interesting thing because the odd one out out of everyone was Callum. So being around that and being in those scenes, particularly the dinner tables, was really good fun, a really good pot to play in with that feeling of isolation.

Nuke: We’ve started to see you in movies and shows really strongly in the past few years. What’s your training and background?

Simon Quarterman: I went to the Central School of Speech and Drama. I left in 1999 so I’ve been pounding the streets for a long time. I trained there for three years and then I worked a lot when  I first came out of drama school and then things got very, very quiet for me for a number of years. Then America came calling and out of the blue I got a lead in a Universal movie, The Scorpion King 2, and that brought me over here to L.A. This is where I found my home as well. Just now, things are really beginning to take off. I start shooting Westworld for HBO in July. We shot the pilot last year and we got picked up so I’m very excited about that. I think everyone’s in for a real treat with that. I haven’t seen any of the scripts just yet, but judging by what Jonah and Lisa wrote for the pilot episode, it’s going to be an incredibly exciting series.

Nuke: Do you have a lead role in Westworld?

Simon Quarterman: Yeah, I’m one of the regulars.

Nuke: Is it by any chance a character that corresponds to the classic movie?

Simon Quarterman: No, they’re all brand new characters. There’s not much I can say but this is out there already. There’s the androids that it focuses on but it also focuses on the people who run the park. I play the head of narrative design at the park so I create all the characters and the storylines within the park that the guests get to work with.

Nuke: Did the Westworld producers see you in The Devil Inside or did you just audition for them?

Simon Quarterman: No, I was kind of like the unknown really coming into that but I met John Papsidera, the casting director about a month and a half before for another project. He brought me into that to meet Jonah and we really clicked immediately. Then it just happened so that was for sure the moment as an actor that you wait for. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to get such a nod from working with such incredible people. I’m very blessed and very lucky to be a part of such an incredible crew and incredible cast of amazing actors.

Nuke: Was The Devil Inside a big breakthrough for you as far as Hollywood seeing you and a lot of audiences seeing you?

Simon Quarterman: Yeah, absolutely. It was huge in so many ways because it was an amazing experience shooting that. It took a couple of years for it to come out and when we shot it, Paranormal Activity had just that moment come out so we were kind of on the pulse of that particular point. But I met my best friends really, Brent Bell, Matt Peterman and Morris Paulson. They’ve all turned out to be my best friends so I just had an incredible experience, and then we obviously went and shot Wer together as well. The Devil Inside kind of changed my life to be honest for sure. Once it got picked up by Paramount, it was a beautiful experience, one I’m very, very happy to have had and feel very privileged to have had. Then to have all the success that it garnered was great but it was the springboard that I needed.

Nuke: Was Scorpion King 2 a fun one?

Simon Quarterman: Oh yeah, that was a riot. What was really interesting was at that particular point, I’d spent honestly five years out of work really. I think I had one line on a TV show in five years. I don’t even know how I kept going really but I did. I was like I’ve got to keep going. I’ve got to keep doing this.” And then this came completely out of the blue. So when I went off and shot it, it was seven or eight weeks in South Africa and we just had an absolute ball. It was a lot of fun and I also realized what I wanted to do. I wanted to move into films and into American Television. It kind of felt like my calling. It feels very right to be here.