America’s first known use of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), or a drone, can be traced back a century to World War I. The Kettering Bug was a $400 flying bomb powered by a 40-horsepower Ford engine, which weighed 600 lbs when armed with explosives. Though the government ordered 20,000 of them, only fifty were produced and never used in combat. But decades later the use of drones is commonplace in both battle and commercial usage, and leave it up to Hollywood to blur that line.
“I’ve seen videos on line of a drone with a handgun,” says Craig “muMs” Grant, who stars in SyFy’s neo-dystopian thriller, Hover. In the early aughts Grant was transitioning to the screen after tearing up New York’s spoken word circuit as Mums The Schemer. Notable turns in Spike Lee’s Bamboozled and as a regular on HBO’s Oz laid the foundation for what is now an almost two decades long acting career. In Hover he plays a traditionalist who isn’t comfortable with man’s growing dependence on technology. “It’s really kind of telling. Are we letting technology rule our lives to the point where we’re going to be subject to it in this type of way?”
Written by his co-star Cleopatra Coleman, Hover takes us to a near future where an agricultural conglomerate has deployed sentinel drones in America’s heartland to help glean crops from deteriorating land. Grant plays a man named John who works with an assisted-suicide firm called Transitions, helping terminally ill farmers to end their lives with some dignity. If that isn’t dark enough, things take a decidedly more macabre turn when a link between the two seemingly disparate companies emerges.
How did you become attached to the film?
They called me out of the blue, bro. They reached out to me, saw my reel and thought I was right for the role. I remember getting a call from my agent on a Friday and she said ‘I’m sending this script over and you have to respond immediately because they’re flying you out on Monday.’ I was like ‘OK.’ So I looked at the script and I said this feels interesting, I said yeah and we were in Baton Rouge in a couple days, sitting in front of a plate of something smoked. They have a great tax credit down there (for filming).
This is Cleopatra Coleman’s first script, so what did you like about it?
I love anything that’s like the near future, you know what I mean. The future is always interesting, you can do so much stuff with it and as a writer I appreciate that ability to tell stories unabated by any time structure. But when it’s the NEAR future and you make those connections to the present, that’s when it gets really interesting to me. This could ACTUALLY happen.
This has a “Black Mirror” meets “Children of Men” feel…
Black Mirror is my JOOOINT. And definitely Children of Men. I see that connection. The police drones scared me. You can arm these drones with weapons, so it’s the perfect villain. It’s cold and calculated and heartless. I just thought that was really interesting. Cleopatra is incredible and aside from her acting her career she’s a beast with the pen. We had nice long talks about her coming up from Australia and dealing with the whole Hollywood game. They better watch out for her because she’s coming strapped. She’s really, really talented.
Is there a challenge when you’re acting alongside someone who wrote the script?
She released all of that. I was working with the actor. She had already taken her writing hat off and handed everything over to the director. She never questioned anything or gave any direction outside of what the director was doing. It was super professional.
In the film the farmers are most effected but it’s not too far fetched to see this playing out in an urban setting. Do you think that would have changed the complexion of the film?
Yeah. When you think about America, it's mostly farms. That middle America, that ‘real’ America [laughs]. There isn’t a lot of people so people can get away with things they wouldn’t get away with in this rural farmland place that you can’t in say San Francisco or New York. Also, filming in San Fran or New York is a different budget. Maybe in Hover 2.
You mention middle America and there was a line for Vasgro to “be a good guy with a drone” which seems to be a call out to present day propaganda of “being a good guy with a gun.” Was that intentional?
I couldn’t tell you. We didn’t do any pickups so if you see it coming out of someone’s mouth in the film, it was filmed last year. It was definitely some smart dialogue and smart writing purposely pulling from current events in a smart way. Not too heavy handed.
Tell me more about your character John, who gave me some Will Smith in I, Robot vibes. He didn’t trust the self-driving cars, etc.
Sounds a lot like me, man. I thought I had drew the line at taking a picture of my check and depositing it [with my phone.] I was like ‘I can’t do that’ until one day it was raining and I had to put this check in the bank. I said lemme try this out. But me getting into a driverless car? Nah. That’s not an amenity that I need. I think John is a throwback to an older time. He’s one of those people who’s not really a futurist. He wants to have control over his life. Even with this sickness he has, he wants to be able to control when he can go. That’s the premise in the movie with people wanting to go of their own choosing. He really was about having control. In that he starts to see how things unravel.
Talk a little bit about the euthanasia debate in the film. What are your beliefs when it comes to that?
We all should have choice in our own lives about our own dignity and respect for the lives we’ve lived. I think people should have the choice to go out [the way they want] especially if they’re terminal. Between big Pharma and the insurance companies with their hands in your pocket, taking advantage of you at the end of your life. You have Cancer and need medication, but they ramped up the price of it because people know they’ll die without it. You’ve mortgaged your house to try and live a few more years and these big companies just drain you. I just put my mother in a nursing home back in 2014 and I almost had to hand over the deed to my house to the nursing home. The cost of the homes is ridiculous. That’s a decision for people with a higher pay grade than I.
You raise a good point because the government is enacting a form of passive euthanasia by making it hard as hell for you to stay alive, which is basically the same as killing you.
And all that money you made in your lifetime they take it all back in the end. It all comes back. That’s the part that kills me. Like in “Man In The High Castle,” the elderly [become] a burden on the state and when you can’t work anymore they take you out in the back and put two in the back of your head. Instead of that they make it so hard for you that you can’t survive. Ain’t none of us getting out of this life alive. [laughs]. No one ever wants to think about their own mortality but there is an end for all of us and people who are in control of it, that’s a well lived life.
Hover will be in theaters on June 29th and Available On Demand and Digital HD July 3rd.
Photo Credits: SYFY