Rahul Kohli – I dont say yes to s**t scripts

Teaser for NEXT EXIT by Blue Finch Films UK

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Does Rahul Kohli believe in ghosts? “No,” he said swiftly over a crackly Zoom call. “I am a staunch atheist – but it’s funny when you look at my credits and all I seem to deal with is the afterlife and things of supernatural nature.” It’s low-hanging fruit, but Rahul has become one of horror’s poster boys in recent years, after working with the Netflix horror maestro, director Mike Flanagan, so closely on a handful of projects. The British actor recently starred in The Haunting of Bly Manor, Midnight Mass and The Midnight Club; and later this year he’ll head up the TV adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher. In between projects, though, he shot the Mali Elfman picture Next Exit, a haunting road-trip picture that allowed Rahul to dust off the cobwebs.

Next Exit is set in a world where the afterlife is decidedly proven with the first documented proof of ghosts. As a result, people begin flocking to specialist euthanasia centres across America to experience the next step of their journeys.

Teddy (Kohli) and Rose (Katie Parker) are two such death tourists who – for their own mysterious reasons – are done with life. After a string of serendipitous issues, Teddy and Rose are forced to road-trip across America together to meet their perfect doom as not-so-perfect strangers.

Kohli’s Teddy is a far cry from his most famous role, Sheriff Hassan from Midnight Mass. Instead of being a calm and collected defender of the peace, Teddy is falling apart at the seams. Past traumas come back to haunt him, and self-doubt rears its head at almost every decision. While I posited that Teddy felt undeniably human, Rahul maintained he did not put any of himself in the character.

“He’s not me in the slightest,” he explained. “There is no way in hell. I’m way too aggressive and angry and confrontational. There’s more Rose in me than there is Teddy.” When Teddy and Rose first cross paths, Rose makes it clear that she doesn’t want to travel with a stranger, before making it difficult for him to even follow her. “I wouldn’t continue talking to someone who wanted nothing to do with me,” Rahul pointed out. “I would have hit that with as much hostility as was given to me.” 

Regardless of how unlike Teddy Rahul says he is, the 37-year-old confessed he “used” the character to drag himself back out of living in Sheriff Hassan’s headspace.

The character was an outsider. Hassan was newly hired law enforcement in a small town full of cliques and cliches. And, as well as being the only Muslim around, the local crazed Catholics were worshipping a vampire. On top of that, he was brooding, emotional, troubled, and powerful in his stoicism. Rahul has spoken out in previous interviews about how deeply he entrenched himself within the compelling character. But it couldn’t have been an easy feat. 

Teddy, however, was a different story. “Sheriff Hassan had so many layers that I wasn’t there anymore,” Rahul recalled. “Sheriff was buried and Teddy wasn’t. I used Teddy as an exercise of being free and present in the character.”

Rahul explained he didn’t want to wear a “giant costume” while playing Teddy – whose heart is well and truly on his sleeve. “I wanted to play the material as honestly as possible,” he said. “With the least amount of layers on me, and just react in the moment.”

This is obvious throughout Next Exit. Teddy explodes with emotion in a few poignant scenes that will not leave anyone with a dry eye. And while Rahul has toyed with emotions and powerful displays of affection in his past work, his work as Teddy felt like it really came from within. Perhaps a little more surface-level. Maybe, if Rahul didn’t use parts of himself to create Teddy, he learned something about himself through the character.

Rahul admitted: “There were less barriers,” before stressing: “He wasn’t me.” With that, he granted: “It was more in the moment. I’m not wearing a mask; usually, you wear a mask on the character as a layer. There wasn’t really a layer.”

One thing is for sure, Rahul would not have been able to crawl out of Hassan’s mind palace to explore the depths of Teddy’s complexities if it weren’t for Next Exit’s gripping storytelling.

On that, Rahul prodded: “It was a good script – I don’t say yes to s**t scripts. It goes without saying that I enjoyed the material, but it’s always got to be a little more for me than that. Teddy jumped off the page to me as an easy win, to tell you the truth.”

Next Exit is available on digital download now.

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