Coming-of-age films resonate with audiences of all ages, although they connect with some more than others. Such is the case with Disney+’s “Crater.” Taking a cue from some classic adventures for young adults, like “Stand By Me,” “The Breakfast Club,” and even “The Goonies” but with a Sci-Fi theme, “Crater” tells the story of Caleb Channing (Isaiah Russell-Bailey), who was raised on a lunar mining colony and is about to be permanently relocated to an idyllic faraway planet following the death of his father (Scott Mescudi). But before leaving to fulfill his dad’s last wish, he and his three best friends, Dylan (Billy Barratt), Borney (Orson Hong) and Marcus (Thomas Boyce), and a new arrival from Earth, Addison (McKenna Grace), hijack a rover for one final adventure on a journey to explore a mysterious crater.
ThatsItLA joined their fellow journalists to talk to the young castmates about their experience filming “Crater,” their friendships, what they learned about playing their characters, and discovering what goes into a good moonwalk.
The cast went moon camp for two weeks to capture the experience of being on the moon. However, because of pandemic complications, much of their space preparation had to be done over Zoom. Still, they learned enough to help shape their performances in the film. “Altogether, we six weeks of prep to get the spacesuit fittings and harness stunt training as well,” Russell-Bailey said. They also learned how to make spacesuits with the team over at Legacy to ensure they looked like actual functioning spacesuits.
“For the last two weeks, we worked with Dave Macomber and his stunt team to help us look like real astronauts and perform like real astronauts in low gravity. And most of that was actually harnessed work. And they made sure our spacewalk looked as realistic as possible. And I feel we’ve accomplished that so well,” Russell-Bailey added.
When asked what goes into a good space walk, Russell-Bailey said, “wires and slow-motion.”
With “Crater” centering around a group of friends taking a lunar road trip to its titular destination, the cast talked about what modifications they would make to their rover. And for Russell-Bailey, he would make sure there would be “a lot of snacks.” And for Boyce, he would make sure that his fellow passengers had comfortable seats, like reclining chairs. And for Hong, we would want some improved suspension so it would be less bumpy.
And what kind of a lunar road trip would it be without having a few snacks? Although it could get a little complicated, considering it is in space. So, to be as accurate as possible, the young cast was given some space-aged treats, which means a lot of freezed dried goodies like astronaut ice cream. “We did many takes. I remember having to eat so many of the strawberry-flavored space ice cream,” Boyce said.
“Or the cold tater-tots,” Russell-Bailey chimed.
“It was a pie. There was a cherry pie that I really enjoyed,” Grace added.
Boyce addressed the biggest misconception that space ice cream has no flavor, saying it’s “actually not that bad” and compared it to “stale cotton candy.” Even Russell-Baily argued, “I feel it almost a little bit more flavor than the Earth ice cream.”
All joking aside, the cast went on to talk about the prep work of getting into their characters. For Russell-Bailey, one of the biggest challenges for playing Caleb was getting into the mindset that he was playing an orphan. In the film, his father died in a tragic accident while working on the lunar base. As such, Caleb had been given a free pass to go to “Omega,” a faraway colony that takes 75 years to reach. “Fortunately, I haven’t had to deal with a major loss like that. So I had to do a lot of work to prepare for that aspect of my character,” he said. “I got advice from family members and friends who have experienced that pain and grief because I know there are a lot of levels and layers to grieving someone so close to you.”
Grace feels that she and her character Addison are pretty similar. Though she admits she is not as smart as her character, they both know a lot. “I really enjoyed playing her. I felt like it was the most similar character to myself I’ve ever gotten to play,” she said.
“I think that this film, in a way that surprises me, and it felt like it had a lot of heart in the script,” Grace added. “I think it’s quite hard to take a film with a bunch of kids going on a road trip on the moon and make it feel grounded and make some of the scenes and dialogue feel quite real.”
Grace credits director Kyle Patrick Alvarez for capturing that sense of reality in a sci-fi film like “Crater.”
Hong felt that there was minimal acting involved to get into the mindset of his character, Barney.
Unlike his fellow castmates, Thomas feels he is different from Marcus. The actor describes his character as more selfless than he is and compares him to Lenny of “Mice and Men,” a loveable bear. “He’s he takes it to another level. He’s just kind of just the heart and soul of the group,” Thomas said. “I am not quite as, as go with the flow is as he is.”
For Barratt, he saw the similarities, but he also saw the differences between himself and Dylan. “Dylan cares for the people he loves, and he’ll do anything to make sure that they’re okay, happy, and treated well. But the differences are, I don’t think I’m as cool as he is,” he said.
It’s been a while since the Crater cast has been together, let alone spoken to each other. However, when they first started, they all became fast friends. “We were on top of each other the entire time. It was almost like having a sleepover for a week,” Thomas said.
“We would go swimming and paintball every weekend with the crew,” Russell-Bailey said.
Hong then chimed that the virtual press conference energy was precisely the same dynamic they all had with each other. “It was really nice to be able to connect with people on set and outside,” he said.
Thomas talked about spending time with Hong offset playing video games and Oculus and listening to Lo-fi beats while the rest of their cast mates were shooting their scenes. “We have paid to hang out and have so much fun,” he said. “Orson [Hong] and I, our characters, are so connected. We have an opportunity to have our own connection off-screen. So that was wonderful. And I’ll never forget those Orson and Thomas days. That’s awesome.”
To help prepare for this Sci-Fi coming-of-age story, the cast also looked back at a few classics, even though some of these films were released long before they were born. “I love all those movies. I love music, I love movies. So I watch how other actors do their thing, how they would relate to other people and also incorporate actual life experiences with people acting,” Barratt said.
For Russell-Bailey, he used “Stand by Me’s” River Phoenix and Wil Wheaton’s characters as a model for Caleb. “I love Stand By Me and all those old adventure movies. So I’ve always been a 90s and 80s fan, so watching those movies was really fun,” he said.
Though the beating heart of “Crater” centers around this young group of kids, the film’s biggest star is Scott Mescudi, aka Kid Cudi. Playing the role of Caleb’s father, Caleb wants to fulfill his father’s dying wish by visiting the titular location with his friends. Because to him, it wasn’t so much of the destination as it was the journey and who you took that journey with. While it was wonderful to see that dynamic play out on screen, it also impacted Russell-Bailey, who had to play opposite Mescudi. “I mean, working with Mr. Scott, also known as Kid Cudi, was a great experience. We take the same approach to filming scenes,” Russell-Bailey said. “We give ourselves that freedom to explore them in a way we rehearse between takes, and we like to stay in character between breaks sometimes. Also, he’s an amazing artist. I have ‘Day and Night’ on repeat to this day.”
“Crater” debuts exclusively on Disney+ on May 12, 2023.