Adrian Glynn McMorran On His Complex New Thriller, Volition

Over the weekend, mainstream audiences finally got a look at Volition, a new movie from filmmaker Tony Dean Smith and starring a number of memorable character actors from around Vancouver. If you watch it and think "hey, I know that person from Supernatural" or "...iZombie," the reply would probably come "which one? There are like three people in this movie who were on that show." Leading up that great ensemble was Adrian Glynn McMorran, whose work has run the gamut from Arrow and Men in Trees to The Revenant and Warcraft. In the film, he plays someone who can see the future -- but what he sees is that he's going to die soon.

After a lifetime lived in quiet resignation, accepting his visions as gospel and working only to benefit from them to the best of his limited ability, seeing his death convinces him it's time to try to actually change something. And, yes, with potential futures and definite futures and people trying to change it, or change it back, all movie long, it's a bit of a mindf--k.

"I invented a system for myself, and I had never really done anything like this as an actor before," McMorran told "I always like to be locked in to work and like to have an idea of where I am in the story, but I knew this was going to be so confusing. And so I invented this whole chart where basically I would have what the scene was, what had just happened, what was happening after this scene, what James' mental state was on a scale of one to five, what his physical state was on a scale of one to five and then a bunch of notes about where he is at in his journey -- is he still suffering from the punch that just happened, is he... -- and then without giving too much away, other psychological stuff is going on in the script. And so I would have this, cause it would be like four in the morning and we were somewhere in the middle of this crazy script and I would just need to be able to jump into exactly where it was like and be like, okay, so psychologically he's here, physically he's here, this is what's happening. I kept showing it to people on the other rest of the cast and the crew, and they'd look at the table weird, this flow chart I had created, but it was so useful, it saved me."


The end result is a movie that features a lot of twists and turns, mostly springing out of a huge plot twist about a third of the way into the movie -- with a revelation that changes the face of the film's back half.

"It's difficult to not give it away, but I know the moment you're talking about, and that's just one of those one of those key story moments for a character where things fall into place and all of a sudden there's an entirely new reason for being and a whole new drive for everything he's going to do in the story from here on out," McMorran explained. "That becomes the undercurrent of everything, it becomes the focus. And a scene like that is nice to have because then things get complex, it's like, okay, this is what he needs to do, and everything can kind of stem from that."'

The film centers on McMorran's James and a woman named Angela (Magda Apanowicz), who gets ensnared in James's problems as he becomes the target of some organized crime flunkies looking to rob him of a valuable parcel he's holding onto for their boss. He can see that it's going to go bad -- but not how, or who's responsible, and he needs the money, so he lies to the mob boss to get the job, saying everything is fine.

"It was also cool to think of this clairvoyant thing as an affliction," McMorran said. "I think a lot of times we think, to be able to like see into the future would be such a gift and of course for him, it's the thing that held his back because he's seeing this future where he doesn't really seem to amount to much and so it's kind of killed his ambition. To me that was a bit of a flip, if you could see that not much was going to happen for you, you probably wouldn't try very hard. But maybe you try hard for a while and realized that nothing's really changed anything and then you kind of just become complacent I suppose."

With flashbacks, flash-forwards, and a future always in flux, the logic of the film holds up pretty well -- but that doesn't mean it was easy to remember, especially for McMorran, who is onscreen in almost every scene.


"We, we didn't shoot the film in order. That would have been way too simple," McMorran said with a laugh. "That's part of the reason I had to create the chart. Because shooting out of order is like weird at the best of times but in this case it was just like, holy crap what's happening? So we did shoot out of order and I too, I can't remember those opening scenes. I can't remember how early we did those, but I can tell you that Magda and I, we did just have an awesome chemistry right off the bat. She's hilarious and crazy and she was a real open book, so it was just really easy to relate to her very, very quickly. Yeah, I don't remember. I almost don't think it mattered if we shot those early or not because like we very quickly had this like super open rapport with each other. It was awesome."

You can get Volition on Apple TV, Vudu, and other streaming video on demand platforms now.