Actor Will Ropp stars in the Warner Bros’ “The Way Back,” as ‘Kenny’ alongside Ben Affleck. Will also recently shot the lead role of ‘Nick,’ a gay teenager who survives a high school shooting and goes onto become an advocate for survivors of school shootings in “The Fallout” which just won awards at SXSW. Ropp is also attached as a writer to the series “FanGirl” a half-hour single-camera about best friends who become the first-ever female assistant coaches for their local team. We caught up with the actor to talk more about his debut in The Way Back, more of his upcoming work, and what he streaming from home.
MM: Where are you based right now and what have you been up to the last year?
WR: I am in Los Angeles, in West Hollywood in my room, I am just hanging out waiting for the end of this pandemic to arrive. I have been doing a lot of auditions and I am actually directing a movie this summer so I have been getting ready for that.
MM: You studied acting in college, but what sparked the interest in the first place?
WR: I grew up in Darien, a town in Connecticut. My mom didn’t want to drive me and my sister to separate summer camps. So I basically got roped into doing a musical summer camp in Darien called MTW. My first show was Peter Pan, and I played John the kid with the top hat. I got to fly on stage, and be in a harness and actually fly. At that moment I was hooked. I think it is an unfair first role to have because not every role you are going to get to fly unless you are a superhero. I kept doing camp every summer and then high school productions. I was focused on baseball for a while and went to a boarding school in Florida. Then I realized baseball in Florida is a lot different than baseball in Connecticut. I realized I was not good enough to hang with the Florida baseball players. I just kind of leaned on the theatre aspect of my life. So then I discovered that that’s what I wanted to do ultimately. I auditioned for college conservatories and my top was the University of Michigan. I got into thankfully, and I went and got my BFA in acting. I graduated from there and moved to Los Angeles and did the film and T thing. Yeah, my education was very much theatre-oriented. We had clown class, and movement class, and speech class, and theatre history. Some of it is more useful but I would never change it.
MM: Wow. You have to tell us more about Clown Class?
WR: Basically, it is taught by this extraordinary professor named Malcolm Tulip. You develop a character that is essentially your alter ego through the semester. So the first few months are focused on trying to find your clown, find out who your alter ego is. Then I develop a piece with it and at the end of the semester, we have the clown show which is a big deal. Everyone comes and watches it. It is hilarious and amazing. Everyone’s clown is ridiculous!
MM: Can you tell us more about your musical theatre side?
WR: It’s interesting because I am not an amazing singer. I was a good singer in high school compared to the general population. Michigan has one of the best musical theatre programs in the country. I have tons of friends from school on Broadway. I did Spring Awakening at Michigan because I love that show. I played Melchior Gabor. I like to do it but I know that I am not a Broadway musical theatre kind of guy. I applaud everyone that can really do it. I would like to do an acting role that involves some singing at one point.
PHOTOGRAPHER Cara Friedman
HAIR & MAKEUP Ciara Maccaro
STYLIST Ciara Maccaro & Byron Rod
PRODUCER Other Peoples Children
EDITOR Seth Travis
MM: Let’s talk about the Oscars and this film The Way Back. What attracted you to the story?
WR: A lot of people ask me what attracted me to this project. I say it was better than driving Uber at the time. I get paid more. Of course, I am going to do this movie. In all seriousness what attracted me to this film was the story of redemption. Ben’s character Jack just goes through the wringer and just really comes out the other end a better person. The basketball players become better young men as well. The moment we walked on set we started to become a family of young actors. Gavin became an absolute mentor to me. We still talk all the time. He is giving me advice on the movie I am directing this summer. He is helping in so many capacities. When Ben became our mentor he told us it reminds him of when he was getting into the business. He understood what it was like trying to get this audition or appease this casting director. He misses that world of hustle and grind. We kind of reminded him of that. I think we also reminded him of the general joy of acting. I think a lot can get in the way of that when you are dealing with $200M superhero movies but I think we kind of brought him back to this really fun thing. It was an incredible experience.
MM: Do you remember the first time you watched Good Will Hunting and is it strange to be playing opposite an actor who was your age in his first project?
WR: Good Will Hunting is the quintessential Hollywood dream story. You write a script with your best friend and roommate in a studio apartment and it wins the Oscar. Then your career blows up and both actors go on to do film franchises in Hollywood. The first time it hit me was when we had our final callback and we were in a gymnasium. It was this basketball scrimmage. It was five on five, and there were all these producers and the casting director and Gavin was running around talking to different people. Then I remember looking in the stands and there was this big dude with like a hoodie on and he was sitting with his head down. I thought is that Ben Affleck, I don’t know, and then I just forgot about it. Towards the end, the director came up to us and told us we each got the role. It was really unconventional. Then Gavin was like ‘hey, Ben come out and meet your team’ Ben Affleck just walks out there. I was like Woah this is Batman/The Good Will Hunting writer. It was surreal. Then we started to film and he was more like a friend. When we wrapped, he took us to Vegas. It was a lot of fun. He really treated us like friends. It speaks a lot about his character.
MM: I have to ask. Did anyone call him Batfleck on set?
WR: Umm. No. I don’t think so. I remember I posted on Instagram. It was a caption that said something like, ‘when we started this you were Batman, and now your still Batman, but you are my friend.’ I had all these DC Comics fans, asking if this means he will have a solo Batman film, blah blah blah. I was just honored that they thought I was that informed.
MM: As a young actor what is it like navigating the film’s themes and story opposite an actor who has been plagued by so many similarities when talking about alcoholism?
WR: My character is kind of in some sense the comedic relief at times. Within this very intense drama, I am like this goofy ladies’ man. The only scenes as actors we saw and were part of were the basketball scenes. We are playing basketball and winning games. We weren’t there when Ben is sobbing. We didn’t see that aspect. We had read the script but we didn’t get the full weight of the movie till we could see it. I was playing this young adolescent high schooler. It is a heavy movie and so beautifully done by Gavin and Ben.
MM: What did you walk away with from this experience?
WR: One of the main things I took away was how valuable the relationship with the other actors on set you have is to the process and the final product. The closer you are and the more chemistry you enjoy leads to a better product. We became such a tight group. We all had a group chat and we’re constantly hanging out when we weren’t shooting. I think that mirrors itself in the movie. Something that Ben Affleck encouraged us was to enjoy the process of where you are. Often times we are destination thinking. ‘If only I can get to this place…’ Take all that away and enjoy everything in the process. There are a lot of things in your control, but there are a lot more things out of your control. I think Ben’s message is just to enjoy where you are and don’t take it for granted and have fun. I think we all took that away.
MM: We know you were in Love Victor the spin-off of Love, Simon. What else are you up to that you want to promote?
WR: I was in the pilot of Love, Victor season 1. My character kind of disappears and comes back in season 2. Other than that I did this movie called the Fall Out. It is loosely based on the Parkland school shootings. It is directed by the wonderful Megan Park. It stars Jenna Ortega, Shailene Woodley, Maddie Ziegler a ton of amazing actors. It actually got in and won SXSW. It swept all the awards. We are waiting on the news on how it will be distributed. It is a really really powerful story. I think it is going to do a lot of good. I have a couple of movies lined up for Summer and the Fall. I can’t say what yet, but hopefully soon. I can tell you I am directing my first film about Little League Baseball. I grew up playing little league. We are just putting all the pieces together right now but I think it is going to be really good. I think it will be a big step for me to direct my first feature.
MM: Lastly, we are all watching a lot of TV and Films this year from home. What shows or movies are you most excited about right now?
WR: Made For Love. My roommate Caleb Foote is in that. It is an amazing show. I just saw it finally. It stars Cristin Milioti and Billy Magnussen on HBO Max. I have been kind of on the documentary grind lately, I watched the QAnon documentary. I saw Mr. Nobody yesterday I think Bob Odenkirk is a genius. I saw Godzilla Vs. Kong, it was entertaining. I’m excited for Mortal Kombat too.
Check out my extended interview with Will Ropp on our Youtube channel!