Netflix’s film Metal Lords follows a pair of high-school friends whose decision to form a heavy metal band sets off a series of events that tests their friendship and delivers more than a few hard lessons about life, love, and what it really means to be totally metal. And yet, Metal Lords is more than just your typical coming-of-age comedy, thanks to memorable performances from stars Jaeden Martell (It), Adrian Greensmith, and Isis Hainsworth, who play the pair of childhood friends and the talented cellist they recruit for their band, respectively.
Directed by Peter Sollett (Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist) from a script penned by Game of Thrones co-creator D.B. Weiss, Metal Lords features a powerful soundtrack filled with new and classic metal and a story that takes some surprising turns as Kevin (Martell) and his friend Hunter (Greensmith) deal with family drama, high school bullies, and the trials and tribulations of love and life for today’s teenagers.
Digital Trends spoke to Martell about his preparation for Metal Lords, how the experience shaped his musical tastes, his wonderfully talented co-stars, and what he learned by throwing himself into heavy metal.
Digital Trends: Congratulations on a wonderful film! What was your reaction when you first read the script for it?
Jaeden Martell: Thanks! Well, initially, I loved how funny it was and how it seemed like it was written without a care in the world. I think when Dan [Weiss] wrote it, he wasn’t trying to please anyone but himself, really, because he’s obsessed with metal music, and it was so purely him. I loved that. And I was in love with the characters he created — how intricate they were and how the story progressed, and specifically, how Kevin progressed throughout the movie.
That’s the perfect segue because Kevin changes a lot over the course of the film. How did you approach showing the way Kevin was changing?
Well, the easiest way was through the wardrobe and the hair. It all helped to show that evolution to the audience, but it also helped me, too. It was like, “Okay, I’m wearing sleeveless t-shirts now, so that means I’m a little bit more confident.” It was a good reminder of where Kevin was at in the story at any point. For me, it was just about trying to be more confident, but it really was all in the writing — how Kevin approached situations was different as time went on. He showed a little bit more anger later in the film, which is not necessarily a good thing, but in doing so, he showed more of himself rather than being so reserved.
Were you a metal fan before the film?
I was a little bit, but I wasn’t super knowledgeable. I had to get into it doing this film. Dan and Peter [Sollett] put together a playlist of all of these metal performances, and I just studied those and watched drummers play, and… yeah, I just love the genre. It comes across as this very emotional, no-holds-barred music, which it is in a way, but if you look closer and look at the details, there’s so much craft to it and it’s so precise. It’s like controlled chaos, you know?
Did you end up with any new favorites, music-wise?
Yeah, there’s always Metallica, of course. They’re the best. I listened to a lot. I can’t listen to metal too much, though. I come back to it when I’m in the mood. There’s this band Death Grips [that] I really like, which is a newer band, but they’re sort of on the metal side, and I listen to them all the time.
In terms of prepping and getting used to drumming, was that something you had some experience in already or was it new to you?
I didn’t have any experience with the drums. I always did want to be a drummer, though. Watching drummers just go off is such a satisfying thing. We can all appreciate it. When I watch someone play the guitar, I’m like, “That sounds beautiful, but I don’t completely understand what you’re doing and how that sound is coming out of that instrument, but it sounds great.” With drumming, you see everything. It’s very physical. It’s very human. It’s very barbaric, in some ways. So I always wanted to get into it, but I never did. And now I really fell in love with the instrument throughout the process of making this film.
I was surprised to learn your costars haven’t been in a lot of films before this, because they’re so great in it. What was it like to be the veteran actor in that trio?
It was amazing. They’re the most lovely people. It was a great learning experience for me watching them, too. Adrian works the hardest out of any actor I’ve ever worked with. He’s so invested in his character, and he knows [Hunter] so well, and he’s constantly asking questions. He’s obsessed, and it really inspired me. The same with Isis. She’s so naturally gifted. They both have a theater background, so to see them get comfortable with the camera was really amazing.
What were some of your takeaways from the experience of working on this film? What did you leave with that you didn’t have coming into it?
Well, I can play the drums now, which I’m happy about. I’ll continue to do that for the rest of my life, hopefully. I love it. And from working with Adrian and Isis, and seeing how hard they work, I want to replicate that. It’s easy as an actor to be complacent and play the same person over and over again. These two actors are so different from their characters, and I really respect that.
Without spoiling anything, is there a particular scene in Metal Lords you’re looking forward to audiences seeing?
The performance towards the end of the movie, at the Battle of the Bands, is pretty special. It was such a crazy experience filming it and getting a peek into the life of a musician. It was physically exhausting, but I’m excited for people to see that. It’s such a fun scene.
What’s next for you?
I’ve got a movie called Mr. Harrigan’s Phone coming out on Netflix as well, directed by John Lee Hancock. And that’s it right now!
Netflix film Metal Lords is available now on the streaming service.
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