Berlin: Colson Baker (aka Machine Gun Kelly) on “Being in a State of Pure Panic” on His Upcoming Thriller ‘One Way’

March 4, 2021

Colson Baker — the man also known as musician Machine Gun Kelly — continues to expand his onscreen acting résumé with his latest film, the thriller One Way.

Baker plays Freddy, who finds himself on a bus headed into the California desert with a potentially fatal wound after a robbery of his former crime boss goes wrong. Baker’s onscreen father is played by Kevin Bacon, while his daughter is played by Colson’s real-life daughter, Casie.

Baker only began his feature acting career a handful of years ago with the 2019 Mötley Crüe biopic The Dirt. He has since appeared across streaming and studio projects, working with directors like Rupert Wyatt (Captive State) and Susanne Bier (Bird Box). One Way, which is on offer at the European Film Market in Berlin via Highland Film Group, is the second film that Baker has shot during the pandemic — the first being the action Western The Last Son, co-starring Thomas Jane.

Baker took time out of a busy schedule to talk to THR about what he looks for in roles, the decision to cast his daughter in One Way and diving into production the day after performing on Saturday Night Live.

What do you look for in projects?
I think I’ve only really started looking for roles as of last year. The Tommy Lee role [in The Dirt] was something that the second I heard they were making that book into a movie, I was relentless, making sure that I was the one who ended up playing Tommy Lee. But other than that a lot of my friends or people I was fans of, or I would run into, were directors and we would just collaborate. I was really open to their visions. And now is the first time where I’m also incorporating wanting to say something [myself] with the roles that I choose. Spotlighting characteristics that aren’t just reflective of me — being more vulnerable instead of playing versions of me. That’s still really new for me. I feel like I have a long way to go.

What was it about *One Way* that attracted you to it?
It being in one location, narrowed down to one seat on a bus for the entirety of a movie, was the challenge that turned me on to it. I wanted to do something that pushed me to make something so simple interesting. It was all going to be in the face or in the breathing. But the parts that related to my life ended up coming out more as we were on set, like the way that the character ended up dressing. We are trying to redefine what a modern lead looks like. Before it felt like there was only three ways you could look to be a lead in a movie — the same haircut and the same body types. And my daughter plays my daughter.

How did that happen?
With [the girl] who was originally playing my daughter, we realized I was reading a lot younger on camera … it didn’t look like it was possible for me to have a teenage daughter. Even though my daughter’s 11, which is almost a teenager. It was such a plot point in the movie, so [we] wanted to make sure the viewer stayed invested. We went through all these different options and I was finally like, “My daughter’s coming down to visit me next week. What if my daughter plays my daughter?” There’s no way the viewer can not be invested in it when that’s the case.

Had you done a creative project like this with your daughter before?
She grew up seeing me tour and coming on tour with me, and that was its own creative process. She would watch how we would design the stage and saw those projects come to life. When those [film] productions are set up, with the cameras and the lighting, and it’s on her to deliver, I didn’t even realize the pressure of that until I was sitting behind the monitors, watching [her]. It was almost like I asked a favor of her not realizing that it is a lot of pressure and if she doesn’t connect with what’s going on in front of her, she’s just going to be like, “I can’t do this.” Then the whole movie can come to a halt. So, to watch her deliver and naturally have this talent, I was like, “Wow, I think we might’ve just unlocked something.” That was a really cool moment.

Did you have time to rehearse ahead of this movie?
I did SNL the night before we started filming this movie. So I was in New York putting all this energy toward doing a great musical performance and then was on a plane and woke up the next day and in this bus. I’d been going hard for like a year with music and then this moment of ecstasy happens with the SNL night, and then I just wake up and I’m in this dark bus, bleeding out and going, “this is going to be life for the next month.” That natural panic just became the norm on the movie: freaking [and] going, “Why are you here?” Which is exactly what that character should be feeling because that character is in a state of pure panic the whole movie.

Is there a genre or type of movie that you haven’t done yet that you would like to try?
I love the Lucifer graphic novels — can’t stand the TV show — but I always wish they would make a movie out of that brilliant series. But outside of that, I just want to do movies that matter. That’s all I give a fuck about now.

By Mia Gallupo