As of this week, audiences now have a check to check out Spontaneous, as the film made its debut on Video on Demand platforms. The teen rom-com follows Mara (Katherine Langford) and Dylan (Charlie Plummer), two high school seniors whose lives are changed forever after one of their classmates literally explodes to smithereens at school. As the inexplicable spontaneous combustions become more common, and the government tries to figure out why they're happening, the local community tries to navigate their new normal, and Mara and Dylan spark a whirlwind romance.
Spontaneous has already charmed fans and critics alike, with the film currently holding a 100% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Much of that is thanks to the film's ensemble cast, which includes comedian and actor Rob Huebel, who portrays Mara's father, Charlie Carlyle. Huebel has been a recognizable face in the sketch comedy world for decades, with a filmography that includes Human Giant, Childrens Hospital, and Transparent.
ComicBook.com got to chat with Huebel about his role in Spontaneous, as well as the unintentional parallels between the film, his recent Netflix series Medical Police, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We also spoke about working with Katherine Langford, the challenge of playing a "movie dad", and what it's like to find comedy in such an uncertain moment. Mild spoilers for Spontaneous lurk below! Only look if you want to know!
ComicBook.com: One thing that really struck me about Spontaneous is just how unintentionally relevant it is. I know you guys filmed it years ago, but how does it feel to have it come out now when it almost feels almost too relevant to the current moment?
Rob Huebel: Well, I told [writer-director] Brian [Duffield], we talked last week, that I think he might be like a time traveler or something. Because there's no way that you could have predicted that. I mean, he really nailed this moment, but from two years ago. So it's, to me, really cool, that he knows how to time travel and came back and wrote this and directed this movie. [laughs] I just think he is also probably just the luckiest current director in the world. Because the movie, when you watch it, it does feel so relevant. It feels like they could have shot it last week or something. So yeah, I think either he knows how to time travel, or he's just the luckiest director in the world.prevnext
Putting all of its current relevance aside, what initially drew you to Spontaneous?
The script, really. When I saw the script, I was like, "What the f-ck are they doing? How are they going to make this movie?" I was more interested in -- how are they ever going to pull this off? Because it seemed so insane and also so funny, but then also, really sweet, and almost just life-affirming and profound. So I was more just curious how they were going to pull this off. That's why I wanted to be a part of it.
And I'm a big fan of Katherine. I just think she's so great in Thirteen Reasons Why, Knives Out, and everything she does. So I was totally on board.prevnext
What was it like to work with Katherine? Because I found you guys' dynamic to be so great.
I know everybody says this all the time, but she's just so easy to work with. I was really confused when I first met her, because she has this accent - I think she's from Australia - and I didn't know that. And I was like, "Wait, what's going on? Why does this person have an accent?" I always get so mad when I meet these great actors that I assume are Americans and then they're all British or Australian, and I'm like, "What is going on?"
Brian allowed everybody on set just to improvise to a degree so that it felt really real and authentic. I feel like when I watch the movie now, a lot of the dialogue feels really - I almost used the word spontaneous - but it feels really authentic, and like people are just riffing with each other. I feel like a lot of Katherine's stuff with Charlie, it almost feels like they're just making that stuff up. And I know that when Piper [Perabo] and I were shooting with Katherine, Brian was just like, "Yeah. You guys can say whatever you want." So he wrote this really great script based on a great book, but then allowed the actors to come in and just be themselves and improvise. It just feels like people in real life, the way you talk over each other and stuff like that. So yeah, I just think she's such a joy to work with, and working in that style makes everything just feel very real.prevnext
I really loved that whole family dynamic. Like you said, it felt like how actual people talk to each other, whereas it feels like a lot of movie parents - especially in teen movies - can be one-note or very stereotypical. What was it like for you to find that balance?
I think that was a relief, because I have tried to put off playing a dad for a long time. [laughs] I've been very worried about it -- I've done it a couple of times, in Transparent and a couple of other things, but I have dreaded that. And I am a dad in real life, I have a four-year-old girl, but it just ages you and puts you in a certain category as an actor. And I was like, "Oh f-ck, do I really have to?"
But this seemed like a fresh take on that, where Piper and I could be the laid back - to a degree - weed-smoking parents that also want to be friends with their kids, which is something I'm struggling with right now. Like I said, my wife and I have a daughter, and you just have that weird thing where you want to be their friend so much, and you want to be cool all the time. And you're not really supposed to be that, I don't think. So there is an element of real-life in this, too, I think for me. I just thought it was a fun challenge to try to do the parents of the troubled teen, but do it in a different way that didn't feel that familiar.prevnext
I really loved the scene where Katherine is making her drink for you. When I talked to Brian about it, he said that was one of the toughest nuts to crack in the script, but he was so proud of how it turned out. What was it like for you to play that scene?
That was one of the things where I think he just told Katherine, "Whatever you want to do." Whatever it was she was making - she was making some kind of martini or kamikaze or something, I can't remember what all the food coloring was for - but she didn't know how to make that drink, so I think she was trying to remember the actual recipe for it. But it doesn't matter, it's just a kid making a really gross, terrible drink because she's in such a spiraling way. But she was improvising a lot of that, and my job was just to be the straight man and be reacting to all of her insanity.
And she's just so funny in the movie. I watched the movie a couple of days ago, and I don't know if she's done a ton of comedy, but I just thought she was so funny in this. It was just fun to watch her do that. And then when they turned around on me - they shoot her in one direction and then they point the camera at me - and I just react to her. It's just easy to react to someone like that who is just doing funny stuff. My job is just to be super, super deadpan, just try to keep a straight face while she's being funny.prevnext
What do you hope people take away from the movie, especially considering all of the relevance that it has for the current moment?
I mean, to me, it's just a really hopeful movie. It starts off as this super dark, teen comedy, which really reminded me of Heathers. I don't know if you remember the movie Heathers.
Oh, absolutely. Yeah.
It's just so dark and so funny, and such a tricky tone, too. It's also like, "Wait, what are we laughing at?" This is really gory, but ultimately, I think it becomes this really special life-affirming message about how we don't know what's right around the corner, and we don't know what's coming our way, so you just really have to embrace today. I think also there's just a beauty in that message for teenagers, too, because it is so weird. If you're growing up right now and you're doing your school at home on a computer, the world is in such chaos.
I think by the end of the movie, it ends on such a high note that I was literally pumping my fist. That rant at the very end, [where Katherine is] going off on everything, I just thought was so powerful. And I think people will come to this movie - or pay to download this movie - because it seems like a really funny comedy, but by the end of it, you're just cheering. So I think it's a really fun ride.prevnext
I was reading another interview of yours where you spoke about Medical Police, and how it's weird that that also had parallels to the past seven months of our lives. What has it been like to have these two projects come out this year, and be extra relevant in this unintentional way?
Well, I'm about to find out. I mean, people freaked out about Medical Police. The people that I would run into were almost frightened of me because of that. And that was another thing, where we shot Medical Police a year in advance of all of this. But the guys that wrote and directed that, Rob Corddry and David Wain, they may be time travelers also, because there's so much in that. I don't know how they nailed that so far out.
So now, when this movie comes out, I'm going to be two for two. I think people might think I'm some sort of weird oracle or something, so we'll see. I don't know. Hopefully, people won't be making a pilgrimage to my house in Pasadena, because I can't deal with that. [laughs] I'm so busy.prevnext
What has it been like for you, just on a larger scale, to try to find comedy in this time?
That's a great question, because it is really hard. I've had a very hard time with my relationship to comedy, right now. Just in my own little way, I've been doing stuff on Instagram, and goofing around with live stuff on Instagram and on Twitch, doing Zoom shows and stuff like that. And sometimes, it just doesn't feel appropriate. You're just trying to thread the needle between crazy breaking news of tragedies and all this stuff. But I think at the end of the day, it's more relevant than ever, and I think it's more necessary than ever.
I think you just have to be careful about, as a performer, what you're doing and what your take is on stuff. But I know, just from my own little stuff that I've been doing online and everything, so many people are so appreciative. It makes me sad almost, that we are at that point where people are like, "Thank you so much for the comedy." They're just so thankful, which is sad to me in a way, but also beautiful. I mean, I'm all here for it. I can't wait until things go back to normal, and we can go see movies in theaters, and we can go to live comedy, because that's what we all love to do. But until then, we'll just have to hunker down and do the best we can with being creative, and finding comedy in other ways.
Hopefully, people will find out about this movie, too, because I think that it's one of those things. I think there's such an appetite right now for something like this. I feel like once people start to hear about this movie, it might just catch fire - bad choice of words - because people are so hungry for both comedy and just something uplifting right now. I think this movie just has that perfect combination, of something that's so f-cking dark and crazy, but in a totally cool and uplifting way. So, we'll see what happens.
Spontaneous is now available on Video on Demand.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.prev