When interviewing Colin Michael Day, lead actor in The Loneliest Road in America, it felt less like work to me and more like talking to an old friend, which I think most people would find when speaking with him. With that being said, our planned thirty minute conversation extended into an hour; and I’m still not even sure we covered it all.
Day made his film debut in the Loneliest Road in America and he also had his hand in developing pieces of it with long time friend, director and writer, Mardana Mayginnes. In the film Day plays the role of Jamie, a twenty-something post graduate college guy who’s a bit disillusioned or maybe just confused and feeling suffocated by women, and takes a road trip to Nevada via Route 50 (also known as “The Loneliest Road in America”) with his good friend Matt (Chris Hayes), who at the onset seems to be the antithesis of him. Later they’re joined by Matt’s friend Ashley (Abby Swaggart) who throws a bit of a monkey wrench into the plot. The film takes some unexpected twists and turns and the audience walks away with intimate insights of these three brought to life by ancillary characters and story lines that develop with every mile of the film.
Day easily adapts to the role of Jamie with natural delivery of his lines and he seamlessly captures the essence of scene purely through his facial expressions and body language, which I later learned was part of the training he participated in when arriving in California.
In the generous sixty minutes we spoke, here’s what I learned about this world traveler’s life and his road to California…
How his time on the road influenced his acting career
Day’s no stranger to the road, which is probably why this was a natural first film for him. Although native to Denver, he’s been traveling internationally since he was about ten years old and it was this that broadened his imagination, lending to his acting abilities. When traveling, he frequently imagined “being in other people’s shoes” and in some instances, this wasn’t just a thought – he actually took the time to experience other kinds of jobs and the daily grind of locals when abroad. Once on a trip to Europe he recalled, “I picked up some shifts in the kitchen doing dishes for a few hours, getting to know some interesting people.”
On meeting his creative partner - it wasn’t bromance at first sight
I asked Day about how he first met and became friends with director and writer Mayginnes and I was surprised to learn it wasn’t a “bromance” kind of thing at first. Day and Mayginnes met at University of Denver their junior year after Day returned from a semester abroad. Mayginnes was a new face and Day didn’t care for him all that much, but this all changed in a moment. One day, Colin overheard some of the guys saying some unfavorable things about him and Mayginnes stepped in and stood up for him. It was this kind of loyalty, from a guy he didn’t even consider a friend, that brought them together and from that moment on, they were like brothers.
Day and Mayginnes decided after graduation to head to California together. Day was a native of Colorado and Mayginnes having been born and raised in California didn’t have to travel as far. Although the thrill of moving to Hollywood could prompt any one person to jump right into the adventure with little more preparation than a dream, unabashed enthusiasm and a handful of cash, they carefully laid out their plans. Day’s first priority was to train at the Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio and there he focused on the Meisner Technique. This calculated move aligned with his competitive personality in that it was what he called “in your face training and I wasn’t babied there.” The structured and rigid environment was reminiscent of his days when he played tennis competitively and had to deal with a coach who expected the best performance from him.
How was The Loneliest Road born?
Day and Mayginnes knew they wanted to do a feature together, so it really was as simple as the two of them heading to a coffee shop and hashing out the idea. While Day takes no credit in writing the screenplay, he did help Mayginnes in the development of the characters, many of them mirages of people in their lives.
It takes a village to raise a child…and to shoot a movie
After the script was completed, they were ready to shoot the film and it truly was a labor of love from actors; talented DPs they were fortunate to have on board; and family and friends not only contributing financially, but rolling up their sleeves to assist when needed. There was one shot filmed at a hot spring in the middle of the night that required lighting, and for an independent film, the effect was quite impressive, but equally impressive was how they made it happen. Day tells the story of how the generator they were using for the china ball light above the hot spring malfunctioned when sand from the desert clogged the engine. With only a day to spare, friends were called and without missing a beat, they made an eight hour drive with a newly rented generator. Worse off for Day and his co-star was that when they were re-shooting, the temperature hovered around 40 degrees while they completed the scene in their bathing suits. The entire schedule for the film ran about a month and was completed in October 2008.
On becoming Jamie and leaving him behind
Day had to audition like everyone else for his role and he tested well with his co-star Hayes. Day said becoming Jamie was challenging and self admittedly, he wasn’t sure he could pull it off, so it was important for him to make this character his own. He went into what he called, “a dark place” in the three months prior to shooting and during this time he also paired up with Swaggart and Hayes and “felt a bit like an acting director” as they all prepared for their roles together.
After completion of the film, Day needed to take a step back and get back to being himself and in order to accomplish this, he isolated himself at the beach to decompress from things like that it was “his character who was in love with Abby, not him.”
It’s a wrap…
Day’s been busy at work since the completion of The Loneliest Road in America with roles in two original plays – the sold out Love Bites which ran at the Elephant Theater Company and Block Nine which won the Best Production by LA Weekly . He also just completed Pawned, which is in post production.
An avid soccer fan, this ever traveler flew to South Africa to catch some of the 2010 World Cup and as for the future, he’ll continue to collaborate with Mayginnes and will have his choice of projects.
With any luck at all, we’ll see Day light up the big screen again soon.
The Loneliest Road in America
Run Time: 1 hour 37 minutes
Director: Mardana M. Mayginnes
Release date: March 30, 2010
Starring: Colin Michael Day, Chris Hayes, Abby Swaggart
Annie Vinton Annie Vinton is a freelance writer and film critic living in NYC. You can read more about her and her writing at her blog here.
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