In Interview: Kevin Howarth, Star of The Seasoning House

by Alan Simmons on 18/06/2013

kevin howarth

Kevin Howarth stars in the forthcoming horror movie, The Seasoning House, released in the UK on the 21st of June. Written and directed by Paul Hyett, who has done special make-up effects on everything from Attack the Block to Jason Statham’s Blitz, this is Hyett’s first feature but not his first time working with Howarth – the pair have both previously worked on films like the Wesley Snipes flick, Gallowwalkers, and The Last Horror Movie.

In The Seasoning House, Howarth plays a bordello owner somewhere in the war-torn Balkans. He takes delivery of a young girl named Angel, a deaf mute with a birthmark on her face and puts her to work in his house of ill repute. They have an “uncomfortable” relationship and I sat down with Howarth to discuss this, his co-star, his jacket and to drink lots of lovely tea.

New Empress: The Seasoning House is a brutal watch. When you first read the script did you ever think, “Maybe I shouldn’t do this, it’s quite nasty”?

Howarth: No, because I liked the depth of the character that was there. It was something that I could get my teeth into. Paul is a very, very old friend – he’s done my make-up many, many times! He said many years ago “Kevin, I’m gonna do a film one day and you’re gonna be in it. Then I got the script, read it in an hour and I knew that he was on to something. I said, “This is tight, this could make a really good little film”. He said I have no-one else in mind but you to play Viktor.” When you get given something that’s really badly written you go, “Mmm, no thanks”, and I’ve had a few of those, but this was more than that, so I didn’t have a problem with it.

Although the first hour is rough going, you get that cathartic last half an hour of Angel’s payback, so you feel like you’ve worked through something and not just been brutalised for ninety minutes.

Yeah, there’s redemption. It’s not just some cheap torture porn flick, which becomes tiresome. “Oh, here we go again: Hostel 10”. It’s nothing like that. It’s a film of two halves and you get that cat and mouse ending in the woods. But I am a great fan of the first half. It’s almost an opiate window onto … sliminess … that sort of slides … it’s creepy and grim, but there’s a sense of reality.

What’s the mood like on set, when you’re working on something so grim?

It was … look, for me, personally, I like to stay focused. I love having a laugh, and you have to, especially on something grim, but at the same time, you don’t want things to get flippant and jolly. In all honesty it was all about work, work, work, every day – it was a short schedule, with long, tight days so … and there’s a lot of technical things too, lots of Steadicam work. This takes time and particularly for Rosie (Day, who plays Angel), with her little frame and what she had to go through, it’s hard, but we did have our moments of levity and joking. You have to. But if I had something tough coming up I’d take a moment to just stand and be on my own. That’s how I study my characters. I like nice, quiet contemplation.

How do you go about playing someone so morally bankrupt like that?

Well, if I’m playing someone who is quite jovial, I’ll look for their little dark corners. If I’m playing someone really malevolent, like Viktor, I’m looking for where he’s just normal. Something is very wrong if a character comes across as one-dimensional. Everyone is nuanced. Everyone has that in them. If you don’t find all the qualities in someone you’re playing then you haven’t done your homework. Then they forget that they’re watching you and that’s acting.

Is it hard to switch a part like Viktor off at the end of the day?

Some are easier to shake off than others… With psychotic characters there’s a heightened level to their personality, so they’re hard to shake off and you get almost withdrawal symptoms after you finish a film.

With Viktor, I found it hard to ever know how he really felt about Angel, if he ever did truly care about her.

It was like a cat with a mouse and I wanted the audience to never know what was going to happen when they were together.

You spend a lot of your screen time with Rosie (Angel), what was she like? She turns in a fantastic performance for a debut feature.

She was a little nervous, but that helped add to the timidity of her character. She has a very fragile quality, like a little mouse. She did a grand job. It was very physically demanding for her and she came out with a few bruises that she’s probably still got!

One thing I really wanted to talk to you about was your jacket. I loved that jacket. Did you get to keep it it?

I went with the lovely Brazilian costume girl … we went off one Sunday to look for something for Viktor. We knew we were hunting down a jacket to make him look different from everybody else, because he’s a guy who can get things. It was a status thing. We went marching down Brick Lane and hunted high and low. We went into one shop and there was this one jacket, I tried it on and it was so off the period, but also a bit 1970s. It looked like it was from The Professionals, but it was bright orange, so Raquel went through a process of breaking it down to make it a rusty colour. I loved it. I loved that jacket. I don’t know where it is now. Do you want it?

Yes! You’ve been in a lot of horror movies, are you a big fan of the genre?

The horror movies that I like aren’t the slash and gore. I’m an old-fashioned dude, really. I’m a great fan of Hitchcock and mystery and suspense and creepiness. Anything dark, psychological and mysterious. I haven’t actually gone to seek out these roles though, they’ve found me. It just so happens that they are films that are dark fare. I know The Seasoning House is touted as horror, but I don’t think that’s necessarily what it is … I can do fluffy! I can do romantic! Give me a chance!

If you could star in the remake of any horror movie, which film would you pick and what character would you play?

The part that Jack Nicholson played in The Shining. Jack Torrance. I also wouldn’t be averse to playing Damian Karras in The Exorcist. That’s a fantastic role. Undervalued. Not that I think either of those should ever be remade!

The Seasoning House is released Friday 21st June , read our review here .

Image of Kevin Howarth by ©Robert Viglasky, used with kind permission.

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