Today feels like a celebration. Out now on VOD is North Hollywood, Mikey Alfred’s long-awaited feature-length directorial debut. The story behind how this film got here is intriguing, and it was dope being able to check the film out during its limited run last month, but now that we’re here, we are just excited that the rest of the world is able to see it!
The film’s premise feels simple: it’s about a kid named Michael who has dreams of becoming a pro skater. We find him at odds with his father (played by Vince Vaughn) about this decision, and examine how he juggles a budding romance (with Miranda Cosgrove), as well as his relationship with his homies. Alfred enlisted Illegal Civ representers Ryder McLaughlin (Mid90s), Nico Haraga (Booksmart), and Aramis Hudson to help execute his script, which is based on his own relationship with his father. Their bond as friends helped make this process a fun learning experience, it seems, and after the trials and tribulations of distribution, it’s dope to see that the squad did it.
Complex recently caught up with McLaughlin, Haraga, and Hudson to talk Hudson’s acclaimed performance, McLaughlin putting the film on his back, helping execute Alfred’s vision, the audition process during quarantine, and more.
I’ve been waiting for the moment to say, “North Hollywood is finally out,” but I’m wondering, what’s it been for you guys?
Ryder McLaughlin: I’m happy that it’s out. That’s really just the main thing; I’m happy that it’s out in the world and other people can experience it. So I’m just happy.
Nico, you’re probably one of the more seasoned actors out of the crew. What’s it been like for you, going through what has been a crazy process and finally be able to come out on the other side of it.
Nico Haraga: It’s been cool, man. It’s been nice. I’ve been enjoying the feedback. It’s been really great. The thing is I’ve been seeing feedback from a lot of fans that were already big fans of IC, and myself, Aramis, and Ryder. So, not a bias opinion, but if you already fuck with IC then you’re going to fuck with the film, right? I’m curious to see what some dude in the crypto world would think of it. I’m curious to see feedback on that. I’m wondering if they would get it and resonate with it.
I feel you on that, but it also cracks me up. When I spoke with Mikey, we talked about the feedback he would get from distributors. I was always surprised that they felt it wouldn’t work for wider audiences. I feel like the story, at its heart, is very relatable. There is a love story. There is a guy who has a mission and he’s trying to do that shit by any means necessary. I don’t know. I feel like people should be able to relate to it if you had any type of dream. Now Aramis, I recently read Mikey’s GQ profile, and I’m glad that they specifically called you a standout in the film. I’m glad somebody said it, because I wanted to echo that. I really felt your performance, especially when the tension gets heightened in the film. I was watching like, “That man is really hype about what’s going on with Michael.” Are you hearing a lot of that talk about your performance in the film?
Aramis Hudson: Yeah, actually, I met Vince Vaughn once, after the first little premiere that we had, and he said I was his favorite character in the movie. Hearing that from him was crazy. And I was just… I’m not into all this stuff, so I don’t really know how to feel about stuff sometimes, but just to know that people think [that] not only I can skate, but they actually respect me for doing other things too, it’s crazy for me to even hear. I still don’t even like hearing it, but it was like, “Oh shit, I guess.”
What was it like for you being able to work alongside your homies that have that skill?
Aramis: Working with my friends just felt natural at the end of the day. I knew these guys before Booksmart and all that. It wasn’t really like a crazy experience for me because I just felt comfortable in the situations, but to see it come out and now these guys are in TV shows and all that stuff. It’s like, “yeah, that was the homies, I worked with them.” I can always say that.
I loved the scenes in the film where we just got to see you guys skate. I imagine in other films about skateboarding, you would get maybe a couple of clips here or there, but Ryder, we’re seeing Michael going for trick after trick and some of those scenes felt like they were outtakes from GODSPEED, just seeing the amount of work you guys were doing. Did that help make things easier for you guys on the set being able to have those moments of release and being able to chill doing what you guys normally do? Was that a big help for those days on the set?
Ryder: Yeah. The only day that I didn’t want to skate was the last day, the end of the film where it’s the big climax. It’s hard to skate, but all this stuff at the park and just the way it was shot, it was so… It’s pretty. And it was like somebody from a distance just watching natural skaters in their habitat. Not fisheye, “these are the clips, let’s hit the rail.” It’s just someone standing in the bush just watching from super far. So yeah, that was a lot of fun. Being with your friends is makes everything a lot better.
Are there any particular scenes or moments people are speaking about specifically?
Ryder: No. I feel like it’s a lot of, “Good job, love the movie.”
Aramis: Specifically, they talk about our scene towards the end of the movie. Me and you, Ryder. That last scene between me and you was so powerful to some people. They really related to it, because I think everybody in their life has argued with their friends at a point where they thought they weren’t going to be friends no more.
What about you, Nico?
Nico: Yeah, I’d say that end scene. I’ve heard some stuff about me throwing out my butt cheeks.
Your ass was definitely out, man. Your ass was definitely out.
Nico: (Laughs) It’s usually just the whole sequence of the movie.
I will say, Mikey did the damn thing I will say. You could tell… I don’t want to say, “it’s a young Spike Lee in the making,” because he’s himself, but you could see that man has his own vision. The style.
Aramis: Yeah, he’s got a vision.
Ryder: We know exactly what you mean, and he’s always had that. Whether it was him drawing, he has his specific style of drawing. Whether he was making clothes, he has a specific way of doing things. I think that was really important for him. When we would go to the fittings and stuff and remember we went to the fittings, it was important for him to pick out those clothes exactly the way he wanted them.
There’s also a lot of dope music cues in the film, too. Was that stuff that was in the script? Did things in the script end up changing when it came time to shoot?
Ryder: It definitely changed.
Nico: Yeah. I remember one time, me and Aram were like, “Man, does this sound right?” Like, “Nah, we’re not really fucking with this right now.” And Mikey would be like, “Switch it up.”And we would switch it up. It gradually just worked a whole lot better. He made it more rooted in what we are as a friend group, ‘cause that’s really what it is. It’s not like we were putting on too much of a front. Our roles were kind of easier to act on because it was us.
Aramis: A lot of those scripts… I wouldn’t say the script was new and got 100 percent switched around, but some days it looked great on paper, but then when you see it in person was like, “Oh, this is not cutting it.” And sometimes we snowball; sometimes that’ll work, [but[ he’d be like, “Oh yeah, say that. Switch that, but say that.” That’s how some of these scenes came about.
Ryder, I have to admit that I wasn’t prepared for how much of this film you had on your back. There’s a big transformation with Michael. How difficult was that? Do you have aspirations to be that leading man in a film in the future?
Ryder: Definitely. I think this was definitely like a big, big learning everything. I mean, everything’s always learning. You’re always learning. If you’re not learning, what are you doing? A lot of days it definitely seems like a lot of work, but literally going there every day having to… In Mid90s, I’m not in every scene. With North Hollywood, it’s every day I’m showing up to set. I’m in the scene from start of the day to end of the day. Nico and Aramis go home, I’m still…
Nico: Me and Aramis, our day is just starting when we get off work.
Ryder: It definitely was just a lot of learning.
It being a learning experience is probably the most important part for whatever future projects you guys have going on. Speaking of which, I know we’re still in quarantine, but we’re working our way towards getting out of it. Have you guys been doing any auditioning? Any future gigs you coming up?
Aramis: Well, I’ve just been doing self-tapings. That’s about it. Not too many places are letting people come in and go and try out. Hopefully that’ll change soon, though.
Ryder: Yeah. I like going in. The self-tapes or so…
Aramis: It feels so awkward.
Ryder: So weird.
Nico: I like the self-tapes; just throw yourself down on tape and be like, “OK, cool. Let me just send that in.”
Well, Nico, you also seem like a guy who kind of doesn’t give a shit either way, no disrespect, but I mean, you really just let it roll off your back, whatever the case is. (Laughs)
Nico: Yeah, for sure. (Laughs) I keep it 100, for sure. I’ll be fine. So it’s just like, if I go into an audition, I’m not sucking up to anybody or anything. I’m just going in. I just got back from doing a project in London. I went into that audition in a crop top and some crazy ‘fit. You just keep it 100. I think it works more…
Ryder: That’s what I’m saying though. You’re pulling up in the room. “Oh, hey, I’m Nico.” They know exactly who you are.
Aramis: It’s kind of weird. You just sit there and then you’ve got to act out to be this guy. When you walk into a room and people can see your [face], feel your presence and know what type of guy you are, kind of like your smell. It’s just better for me.
Ryder: I like it a lot more.
Before I let you go, I did want to say, because all three of you were in it, I probably ran back GODSPEED a couple of times when it first came out. Just loved it from front to back. Are there any other tapes coming out anytime soon, anything you on that end that we can see?
Aramis: I don’t know, but I do think that me and Ryder owe the world something.
Ryder: I haven’t skated in a long while.
Aramis: Me neither, so this would be perfect timing.
Nico: I haven’t skated in a little while either, I’ve been injured and been in London, but [Davonte] Jolly’s always working on something.
North Hollywood is streaming on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, and anywhere good movies are found.