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Dennis Perkins

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his lovely wife, the writer Emily L. Stephens, and their cat, Cooper. When not watching all the movies ever made or digging up stories about the Maine film scene, he can be found writing for the AV Club and elsewhere. The rest of the time, he's worrying about the Red Sox.

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Posted: May 11, 2015

Q&A with Michael Cassidy, who stars in Portland native Kyle Rankin’s ‘Night of the Living Deb’

Written by: Dennis Perkins
“Night of the Living Deb” was filmed in Portland.

“Night of the Living Deb” was filmed in Portland.

Michael Cassidy stars in Kyle Rankin’s ‘Night of the Living Deb’ as one of two humans left in a Portland overrun by the undead.

You guys remember when Portland was overrun with zombies, right? Last year? The undead shambling through Monument Square? Anything? Well, that’s what happened when Portland native, director Kyle Rankin (“Infestation,” “Pennyweight”), came back from his home base in L.A. to shoot his rom-zom-com (romantic comedy with zombies) “Night of the Living Deb.” The film is having a sneak preview advance screening at SPACE Gallery next Saturday and Sunday. I spoke to Michael Cassidy (“Argo,” “Men at Work,” “Smallville”), the film’s leading man, from his home in Los Angeles.

So, the IMDb synopsis of “Deb” refers to your character as “the most attractive man in Portland,” which has to feel good.

(Laughs in surprise.) That’s embarrassing! It’s got more to do with setting up our dynamic than anything else. That’s really funny. My character, Ryan, is the son of a wealthy Portland family who has a strong social conscience and desire to do well but no real success in that. He wakes up after a night of heavy drinking with a woman who is not someone who he would normally choose, only to find that they’re the only two living, breathing normal people around. They have to save the town and figure out what to do next. For Ryan, a zombie apocalypse is a terrible nightmare – and a great opportunity to find a purpose.

What drew you to “Night Of The Living Deb?” (As both leading man and producer.)

I met Kyle through a mutual friend in L.A. and I really dug him – we had really similar sensibilities. When he told me about the story (from Andy Selsor), I loved it. The script was so funny and tight and exciting. And once the Kickstarter campaign took off and I saw how well Kyle and I work together, I wanted to take the collaboration to the next level. Now we’re thick as thieves. (Laughs.) Plus, our cast is amazing. Maria Thayer as Deb – she’s part of the L.A. cool comedy mafia. Ray Wise at his most delicious. Syd Wilder is hilarious. And plenty of local talent – people will probably see a neighbor of theirs.

Are you a horror guy?

I love comedy – that’s definitely the level Kyle and I connected on. I like certain niches of horror – I really dig end of the world stuff, like “28 Days Later,” “The Walking Dead.” Solid zombie stuff. The dynamic between Deb and Ryan is more like a road trip movie. We thought about “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” “Due Date,” “Silver Streak” – that was a real guiding thing.

You’ve done plenty of big-budget Hollywood work. How was your experience filming on a shoestring in Portland?

It was phenomenal. For this to be my first outing as producer – when Kyle and I got there and did the prep work, everyone was so fired up to have us there. It was so exciting, with people shutting down streets for us, and to say that there was no problem finding people who wanted to be extras is an understatement. It was awesome, man. We’d go to lunch and people would suggest locations, offer help we didn’t even anticipate. Everyone was so generous. With our budget (around $200,000), you can afford to fly in your key components, but the back end is a huge amount of enthusiasm, and there’s a real dollar value to that.

Beyond that, there’s a tremendous amount of natural beauty in Maine that’s extremely photographable. Plus, the money we spent there renting trucks, catering every day, booking every B&B, all that stuff’s good for the economy. Maine has so many varied locations, so many weather patterns, it offers a lot of really special things in terms of storytelling. For a low-budget film, such enthusiasm and beauty is like found money. Honestly, I have such a warm place in my heart for the indie movie scene in Portland. I hope to come back there and work again someday.

“Night Of The Living Deb” is playing May 23 and 24 at SPACE Gallery.

COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS

NICKELODEON CINEMA, Portland | patriotcinemas.com

Thursday: “Neptune.” Derek Kimball’s new Maine film is an atmospheric, visually stunning coming of age drama about a teenage girl’s last summer on an isolated island. The Portland premiere is your chance to see one of the best Maine-made movies ever before it hits the festival circuit.

SPACE GALLERY, Portland | space538.org

Thursday: “Eight Miles High” A Tribute To Gene Clark.” This documentary about the life and music of Clark, a founding member of the Byrds is preceded by live music from Jeff Beam & Friends, Dominic & The Lucid and Chicken Wire.

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