As a student navigating the aftermath of a school shooting in Megan Park’s directorial debut The Fallout, Will Ropp showcases the trauma of sudden and tragic circumstances and the solace of friendship. Below, we spoke with the Connecticut native and The Way Back actor about the pressures of tackling sensitive material and taking a deep dive into triggering subject matter.
Available for streaming on HBO Max on January 27th.
Tell us about your current project.
I’m playing Nick in The Fallout, a film which tells the story of a young girl and her friends who attempt to navigate the aftermath of surviving a school shooting.
What drew you to the role?
Nick is an intriguing character because he chooses to cope with the tragedy much differently from the film’s other characters. He gravitated towards activism and decided to take matters into his own hands. He feels the obligation to take action and attempt to prevent this from ever happening again. As the film progresses, his movement grows in size. This eventually throws a wrench in his relationship with Vada [played by Jenna Ortega], but ultimately helps them grow in different ways.
Did you have to do any specific training for the role?
I wouldn’t say I learned any new physical skills, but I did a lot of character research. I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone who understands the ins and outs of preventative gun laws, gun control legislation, and grassroots activism. I watched a lot of documentaries; read a lot of pieces published by activists, and followed a lot of organizations that specialize in school shooting prevention and awareness. It’s a topic that I’ve always had a passion for, but once I got this role, I started to realize how much work we still have to do if we want our schools to be safe.
What has been your favorite part of working on this project?
I loved working with the director Megan Park. As an aspiring filmmaker myself, it was so cool to see an actor take a stab at directing her first feature and succeed with flying colors. As an actor herself, she’s so comfortable communicating with performers. She has such a specific vision with her work, and you could tell how much that paid off in the finished product. It also helps that she’s just an all-around super cool person; she sets the tone of a really comfortable set. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for her career.
Most challenging part?
The subject matter of this film is obviously extremely sensitive and can be triggering. It was a challenge navigating such a delicate topic because at the back of my mind was the realization that there will probably be families watching this film who have been affected by gun violence. Knowing how important it was to [Megan Park] that the film shows the kids, especially those who have gone through it, that they are not alone made me even more inspired to give the film my all.
What will you remember about the making of this project?
One thing that I’ll always remember is Nick’s fashion choices. I’ve never played a character who dressed with such a sense of identity and purpose. He’s never afraid to go against the status quo, and his sense of style mirrors his bold personality. I may or may not still have a pair of smiley face socks I wore in a scene… hoping the costume department isn’t reading this right now.
Who did you most lean on during this time?
We shot this film during COVID, so pretty much the only people I saw in person were the cast and crew and my two roommates. I think this helped create a special bond on set, and I still consider everybody involved a friend of mine. Jenna Ortega is an absolute force of talent. Despite being older than her, I feel like I probably leaned on her throughout the process. She led the cast so brilliantly that it was hard not to notice.
Do you have any hobbies that help keep you sane?
I’m obsessed with sports. I’m also obsessed with barbecue. Sometimes I’ll involve them both at the same time—smoking a brisket on an NFL game day with my friends and little brother. This probably sounds so lame, but I also love to work out; I think getting exercise helps clear the cobwebs and increase my focus. I signed up for the LA marathon in March. We’ll see how that goes…
Who is your role model in your industry and why?
Any actor who also directs their own work never ceases to amaze me. Some that come to mind are Ben Affleck, Mark Duplass, Taika Waititi, and Greta Gerwig. And Megan Park. I aspire to act and direct films and watching these actors create such amazing films while continuing to act simultaneously is a huge inspiration.
CHECK OUT WILL
As Nick in HBO’s The Fallout
As Kevin in The Greatest Beer Run Ever
As Kenny in Gavin O’Connor’s The Way Back