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Exclusive: Lewis Pullman stars in Press Play, a new summer romance with a time travel twist

Carla Rugaard and Lewis Pullman
Carla Rugaard and Lewis Pullman. Pic credit: The Avenue

Lewis Pullman says that although his father has a solid film pedigree and his mother is a modern dancer, he wasn’t certain that he was going to follow in their footsteps.

Now, starring in the time-travel romance Press Play, the actor and musician is another family member taking the plunge into the entertainment world.

His sister, Maesa, is a singer-songwriter, his brother, Jack, is a puppet-maker, and his parents are modern dancer, Tamara Hurwitz, and actor Bill Pullman (While You Were Sleeping, Independence Day, and Sleepless in Seattle).

In Press Play, Laura (Clara Rugaard) and Harrison (Lewis Pullman) have a picture-perfect romance built on the foundation of a shared love of music.

After a deadly accident, Laura is given the chance to save the love of her life when she discovers that their mixtape can transport her back in time. Featuring a moving soundtrack with songs by Japanese Breakfast, Father John Misty, Dayglow, and more, Press Play reminds you that love can always be replayed. Press Play was written and directed by Greg Björkman from a story by Josh Boone.

“My dad was always kind of waiting on the sidelines to see what I wanted to do. He never pushed me in any direction. He was always supportive of whichever kind of alleyway I started to look down or try and explore,” Pullman exclusively tells Monsters and Critics.

“I did drama for a while and he and my mom, Tamara, were always just very, very supportive of whatever I wanted to do,” he adds. “My parents never nudged me in any direction.  I think in some ways it might have been a little bit of a surprise for my pops when I started to dive in.”

Lewis Pullman plays the drums in the band Atta Boy alongside Eden Brolin, Freddy Reish, and Dashel Thompson. They released their first album, Out of Sorts, in 2012 as a “whimsical experiment.” Their second album, Big Heart Manners, was released in 2020 after an eight-year hiatus.

Pullman began his acting career with several short films, starting with The Tutor in 2013. In an interview, he said he had to split his time between living in Los Angeles and Montana, where he worked the back-ho.

In 2015, he was asked by filmmakers Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris to audition for Highston, a television series from Sacha Baron Cohen and Amazon Studios.

In September 2015, his casting was confirmed and the series was given a six-episode order. The series starred Pullman in the lead role as a 19-year-old whose imaginary friends were real-life celebrities.

The pilot episode, guest-starring Flea, and Shaquille O’Neal were well received by critics. In December 2017, however, Highston was canceled after only one episode.

Pullman made his feature film acting debut in 2017 with The Ballad of Lefty Brown, a Western starring his father in the titular lead role. His additional roles in 2017 include the Arnold Schwarzenegger-led Aftermath, a British drama Lean on Pete, and the critically acclaimed film Battle of the Sexes,   the latter also starring his father.

He is best known for his leading roles in the 2018 films The Strangers: Prey at Night, and Bad Times at the El Royale. He had a recurring role in the miniseries  Catch-22.

He recently appeared as Lt. Robert “Bob” Floyd in Top Gun: Maverick and will be in the upcoming film adaptation of Stephen King’s Salem Lot.

Read on for Lewis Pullman’s flexible career plan, admiration for his father, Bill’s work, and why everyone will enjoy his new dramatic romance, Press Play.

Monsters and Critics: You come from a family of performers who I admire and watched through the years. Why this particular movie? What attracted you?

Lewis Pullman:  It was scary. I hadn’t done anything like it.  It felt like I never really saw myself in a romantic drama and so to be kind of just cannonballed into that world was terrifying. I try and kind of sniff out whatever scares me most because I feel like that’s what can kind of bring the most fruitful artistic experiences and kind of can expedite your growth in some ways. 

I think that the whole story’s so latent with themes of nostalgia and what ifs, which I think we all can relate to and all are victims of in our relationships, what if I did this and I should have just said that and everything would have changed, everything would have been different. Trying to grapple with and accept whatever life throws at you is a challenge we all kind of struggle with. I thought it was relatable and Clara Rugaard was attached and I thought she was absolutely phenomenal in I Am Mother.

M&C: When you were thinking about a career in movies and other similar projects was there kind of a roadmap or a plan? Or not really?

Lewis Pullman: I think when you’re starting out you can get really deterred by trying to have such a specific roadmap.  I think you kind of have to be like the current in a river, you’ve got to take and you’ve got to be flexible and slow and find something you might love in whatever’s in front of you.  I think it’s an honor to have somebody even be interested in putting you in their story.

I think it’s your job to find something within yourself that you relate to whatever may be in front of you. I think a roadmap sometimes I will try and come up with a roadmap for myself but I always end up being either disappointed or going down a different road and beating myself up for not sticking to the roadmap. So, I just kind of figure to be a little more flexible and a little more limber with what I’m interested in, where I want to go.  It has been helpful for me.

A surfing scene from Press Play with Carla Rugaard and Lewis Pullman
Clara Rugaard and Lewis Pullman in Press Play. Pic credit: The Avenue

M&C: How did you delve into your character in Press Play?

Lewis Pullman: Well, I took some surfing lessons I watched a heck of a lot of romantic dramas. It’s a genre I hadn’t really delved into that much.  A little bit, more rom coms is what I grew up watching with my sister a lot. And then this sci-fi element was interesting, too. I had to kind of watch some sci-fi because it’s such an interesting task.

I think Clara really had such a challenge. She really had to do such mental gymnastics to kind of put herself in where she was and what was happening at what points. I thought she was incredible. Especially, when you’re shooting out of order and trying to track where you are emotional, where you are physically and where your character’s arc is. 

I just tried to really dig into the blueprints of the script and where – Harrison once he dies comes in, he’s injected into the storyline in these little bits. Trying to fill in the blanks of where has his head been in between the times when Clara’s character’s coming back and visiting him. So, what happens in those gaps was really what I focused mainly on trying to fill.

M&C: Did you enjoy surfing enough to want to keep doing it?

Lewis Pullman: I definitely did.  I live like an hour from the beach so it can be a little difficult to get out there but I really grew to love it so much.  I didn’t grow up very athletic.  I wasn’t a huge sports guy.  But I think surfing is so approachable, you can have so much fun and be absolute trash at surfing.  You can have a horrible day surfing and still have spent your day out in the sun and learning about patience and observance.  You have to be okay with silence, and I enjoy tapping into that.

M&C: You have been talking about nostalgia, relationships, and romance. Why do you encourage my readers to see this movie?

Lewis Pullman:  I think all of us at one point have wondered or wished that we had had access to some kind of portal and we can take ourselves back to a moment or a time. I think in a lot of ways this movie is quite heartbreaking but I think it’s also very liberating to see what that would look like and see that oftentimes maybe that wouldn’t be the answer. Oftentimes living in our memories can make our present moments a little weaker in color. 

I think the movie did a really good job of capturing that. I would call it a good summertime flick you want to just pop on. I think everyone could maybe use a little bit of that.

A scene from Press Play, a  summer romance
The cast of Press Play. Pic credit: The Avenue

M&C: What, if anything, did you learn about your craft or about life from your dad, Bill Pullman? And did he want you to be a performer? Did he encourage it?

Lewis Pullman: It took me a while to really be dead set on acting. I always figured I’d have my eggs in a couple of baskets. I was a social work major in college, I played drums in a band and I would do a lot of theater and shorts and so I figured to put a couple of eggs in a couple of different baskets and see which one hatches first and then go and nurture that one.  My parents have been nothing but supportive and I am really lucky to have my dad as a North Star.

M&C: Do you know what you’re doing next?  Do you have your next project?

Lewis Pullman: Right now, I’m doing some reshoots for this awesome Stephen King feature, Salem’s Lot, directed by Gary Dauberman. I just did a whole night shoot last night so sorry if I’m a little demure and a little sluggish right now, Debra. That’s going to come out in September.  I’m really excited about that one.

I just finished Starling Girl, a feature directed by Laurel Parmet, who proved to be just an incredible director. It did not seem like it was her first film by any means. II was in it with Eliza Scanlen, who is a remarkable actor. Hopefully, maybe I can take a little breath for a second after this.

Press Play is now in theaters, and available on digital and On-Demand.

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