Shane West Discusses All Things Chariot And Working With Adam Sigal - Exclusive Interview

He melted hearts across the world when he blew up on the acting scene in "A Walk to Remember," and now he's experimenting in many new genres and style of roles. That's right: Mandy Moore's love interest from the beloved rom-com, portrayed by the immensely talented Shane West, is back on the big and small screens alike with the release of his new film, "Chariot." 

The chariot isn't just a tarot card or the vehicle driven by Apollo in Greek mythology. In fact, despite starring such few characters, the new film boasts a star-studded cast. As noted on the film's IMDb page, Thomas Mann, who has appeared in virtually everything over the last decade, stars as Harrison Hardy; Rosa Salazar of "Alita: Battle Angel" and "The Maze Runner" fame stars opposite him; and John Malcovich, the legendary actor, plays the nefarious Dr. Karn. West, on the other hand, portrays Rory, a businessman who operates as a henchman for Dr. Karn on the side, almost as if he owes him, though this relationship is left intriguingly ambiguous. 

The film, which centers on reincarnation, sees Harrison having dreams he's not meant to be having, positioning him as a glitch in the reincarnation system upheld by Dr. Karn, though the doctor makes it clear that he didn't invent the system, only invoking the reincarnation ceremony when necessary. It's then West's job as Rory to secure Harrison and bring him to him for the ritual.

We at The List were lucky to talk with Mann about bringing "Chariot" to life and also chat with West about the film, including how it challenged his personal philosophies, how he worked with director Adam Sigal, and more.

On knowing director Adam Sigal before Chariot

What can you generally tell us and tease to our readers about "Chariot"?

It's really a unique film that I was happy to be a part of. I knew the writer and director, Adam Sigal, and I think he wrote something that came out of left field that was a little bit more unique and a little more different than a lot of the films that we see all the time. The way to explain this is it's based around a corporation and a doctor who oversee the process of reincarnation. I know that's always been a fascinating story or an idea for a lot of people, but in this world, this corporation happens to run across a young man who's played by Thomas Mann, who has unknowingly become somewhat of a glitch in the system, so to speak. He's really become that way because he's an encountered a woman that he had loved in a previous life.

Basically, our lead character, played by Thomas, is now ruining everything that this world stands for. I thought it was a really cool concept and it's a concept on a thing that we may all talk about in reality, If we don't know what our future lives might have and hold in store for us.

What was your relationship like with Adam before this film?

I've known him for years. He's always been working on films, whether it's been writing or directing or trying to produce. I know he's really into producing as well. This one came along and happened quick. A lot of it happened quick because this was January/February of 2021. [It was] still in the [middle] of COVID, but it's also an isolated story and they were able to do all this in Little Rock, Arkansas. He came to me about playing this part who is not a glitch in the system [and] is well aware of what's going on. He gave me the opportunity to work with John Mal[kovich, who] is an acting hero of mine. That was pretty special.

How did working with him go? How did that work for you?

It was great. I'll be honest and say it was awkward because it's COVID. These days, things are tough. You're not really getting handshakes or the hugs or whatever. When I first showed up, they were maybe a week into filming, so people are still getting to know each other anyway. When I showed up, I had to get tested and I got tested before I went on the plane but then as I landed, I needed to get tested again before I could go to the set. 

Was Chariot Shane's first pandemic project?

When you do [get on the set] and all of a sudden you're wearing a mask and you're in zones of what area you could go to, it kills the old school reality of things. That was kind of a bummer, but when you see the film, you see at least the way I put it and you're working with someone who's as accomplished as John [Malkovich], you react. For me, especially with this character, I'm supposed to be the heavy, but don't end up really being the heavy. I pretty much got to work with him and react to his wildly awesome performance. He really was invested in this project, and I'm glad that he was.

I know when we spoke with Thomas [Mann] about this movie, he mentioned it was his first project that he worked on coming out of lockdowns. Was this the same experience for you?

No. I do remember him actually saying that because I was fortunate enough to have a scene with him too. He's great, brilliant in this movie. I did a film, which is coming out actually in three weeks, I believe. I think it's May 6 ... called "Escape the Field," and that was in ... July, we were quarantining. There was August and September of 2020. That was a solid eight weeks outside of Toronto.

Not only were we going to another country with whatever roles that country might have, we had a quarantine in the hotel that people got talking about, and that film takes place outside in a cornfield. It was easier to handle because of that. Crew had one section that they had to [use], and we had our own section and that was a lot more hardcore than "Chariot" because it was six months before, we were really in the summer of 2020. It was a lot more. 

I didn't know what any of the crew or hair and makeup looked like because you have the mask the whole time, all you do is see the eyes. I did have an experience. I know that Thomas, I remember him being nervous and coming into this and he had a ton of work to do too, but I did have an entire film where I got a little bit used to it before I went into "Chariot."

Oh, well, that's good at least! You were at least in a rhythm of everything.

Yes, as awkward as it may be.

Shane West reveals his own philosophies on life and dreams

Yeah, absolutely. Because of the pandemic, did you have more time to prepare for "Chariot"? Did you have longer with the script?

"Chariot" ... was not [a longer experience]. Yes, I had plenty of time but also I'm more the tail end of the film. It wasn't a starring role ... It wasn't Thomas Mann's or Rosa Salazar's workload that they had to do. I had knowledge that I was going to do it before I went out there at least a couple of weeks before I went out there, and honestly, what were we doing during COVID besides losing our minds? Everybody else was doing that. I basically wasn't doing anything. I spent my time at home learning what I had to do, and then I made my trip to Arkansas to do the film.

The film, at its core, is really about life and mortality and dreams. Did it test your own personal philosophy on these things?

Yeah. I've always said that reincarnation in general — I remember when I was growing up that I hated that idea. We all don't really know. We can pretend we do, but we can have faith that we do, but from at least a scientific experiment, it's hard to know. I was like, "Okay, if we have all these options, reincarnation bothers me the most because I don't want to forget this." I don't want to forget my mom, my family, your wife, your husband, your kids, anything like that. Why would that be a great idea? Someone brought it up to me and the older that I've gotten, I've changed a little bit more to that because if it is reality, we don't know that.

We're not going to remember that. It's not as sad as it sounds, because you won't know. When it was brought to me that way, and you move along life, [in] that sense, it seems pretty realistic. When you have so many things of feelings like you've been there before, maybe you've had this conversation before or I swear to God, I met that guy, or I met that girl before. I met that person before, I've been in this city before, whatever it might be, there's something to that. I don't know what that is, but there is certainly something to it, and maybe it's this.

On how the set helped bring Chariot to life

Hey, maybe.

Maybe it's not as dark as this, hopefully not as dark or as odd as the film is. There's some person actually taking care of it with some strange masks and things like that. Then, in the idea of, maybe it's something that you continue to re-live possible lives as you learn things in life. Once you've gotten to a certain level, whatever, for lack of a better word, your soul moves on, and all in a positive way.

Another thing we talked about with Thomas [Mann] is how the film seems almost trapped in time, which is really interesting, especially in his apartment building, whereas you are in more of a corporate office. How did that set design really help you bring your character to life? The contrasting with everything ... I don't even think we see a cell phone until over an hour into the movie, keeping things really ambiguous.

That's true. I don't think I thought of that whole cell phone thing. It was simple because putting on the suit, taking this off, shaving, being in a businesslike environment that doesn't really have a personality or a soul, it was simplistic for me to get into that. You sit at that desk, you get your phone, you have your secretary, everyone working in a very vanilla office, so to speak. It was easy to slide into that. I unfortunately didn't get to have the fun of being in that amazing apartment or [what was] actually shot in my hotel/apartment complex, but those sets were amazing. I never really got to see that. I wasn't stuck in that time warp, so for me, not as exciting, not as fun, straightforward corporate, but still entertaining for sure.

The film at first glance can be almost confusing because you don't really know what's happening and there's a lot going on, and viewers could even find their own path in it, really. Did you ever have any confusion with the script, or were you pretty clear on what was going on?

Yeah, I'd love to know what Thomas and Rosa [Salazar] said too, but having known Adam [Sigal], I could text him or call them right away. One of the first things I told him was when I read it, I was like, "I love this, what's happening also at the same time? And I apologize if I'm not on that level to be able to [understand everything by] reading it." He laughed and he was like, "I'm going to let a lot of people decide that on their own." He is like, "I've got an idea, but I don't really want to tell you."

Does Shane West watch reality TV shows?

He had to tell me a little bit because of what my character does or at least is a part of, because since I'm not a glitch, I am actually a part of the system. He was able to willingly tell me a little bit more, but he still really wants the audience to figure this out around and go on that journey, which is a good call and keeps it refreshing and unique.

Slightly off-topic, [but] we at The List we cover a lot of reality television. We usually ask everybody what are some reality TV shows that you like to watch?

I'm not a reality TV watcher. I don't know if I would be the best answer for this. There's no modern shows that I'm actually watching. I do know I could go old school to age myself. I watched real reality TV when "The Real World" came out and the first two or three seasons that came out, I believe that was MTV back in the day. I watched those religiously for a few years until it started to feel set up. Then I was like, "Oh, okay, well now I'm not as interested," but in those original, amazing years, I'd say the first few years of the first like three seasons of "Real World" were pretty impressive and pretty [entertaining] and made the whole world watch back then.

Honestly, I missed it, but I remember it was always on in my house. My family loved it.

Oh yeah, and it cycled over and over again for sure.

Shane West reveals what's next for him after Chariot

What can you tell us about what's next for you?

There's a current film on demand and on Amazon prime called "Outsiders" that was in Tribeca last year. They came out last month and that's a great film for people to watch. I'm also trying to do a lot of things different. I'm the old, grizzled sheriff in that one, put a lot of white and my beard in my hair and all that kind of stuff. It was a lot of fun. 

May 6, next month, is this cool movie I did during COVID called "Escape the Field." I also play something crazy in that one of [an] ex-military potential psychopath in that movie, which was a lot of fun, but it was important to me and Theo Rossi, Jordan Claire Robbins, that were in this film because it was one of the first films filmed during COVID.

Everyone didn't know really what they were doing, and it was an exciting and scary time. we think we put a really cool, unique twist on when six or however many strangers wake up in a certain situation. They don't know how they got there. The twist on this is unique and different. That's what makes that one special. That comes out soon, and we're excited about that. A few more, I've got a cool movie called "Mid-Century" with Sarah Hay and Steven Lang and Bruce Darn that I was able to be a part of, which is a very twisted, odd story about architecture and ghosts and the '50s and things like that. 

[There's also] a Spanish musical based [on] a telenovela called "La Usurpadora," which was filmed in Mexico, [and] you haven't seen me do anything [like] this one either. There's a lot of cool things that I was able to manage to do during COVID — small, unique projects that I'm very proud of that I can't wait for people to see.

"Chariot" is now playing in select theaters. The film is also available on demand and for digital rental or purchase.