The Machine: Caity Lotz on Robot Acting and Arrow
Caity Lotz is awesome, and that's my professional opinion. The star of the hit CW series "Arrow" and last year's Battle of the Year has a new sci-fi thriller out now on VOD called The Machine, in which she plays a sophisticated android who turns against the corrupt government that created her. It's a film with a lot of heart, and a lot of violence, and it shows off what this talented physical performer can do with a complex performance and the kind of fight and dance choreography her fans have come to expect.
So I caught up with Caity Lotz via phone this morning to talk about what went into her performance in The Machine, psychologically and physically, and to talk about the work she's doing on "Arrow," her favorite stunt so far, why she didn't dance much in Battle of the Year, and whether we'll ever see her character on "Arrow," Sara Lance, train her sister Dinah to be the Black Canary… since in the comics, Dinah wore the fishnets, not her.
CraveOnline: Is it every actor’s dream to play a robot, or was it a tough decision to make?
Caity Lotz: No, that was definitely a dream. [Laughs.]
What is it about playing a robot that has so much appeal?
You get to really create something different. It’s fun when you don’t feel like yourself anymore. You’re not playing a character that’s just a little bit different from you, and if you’re a robot, obviously, hopefully it’s something you wouldn’t do in real life. There’s just a lot to do there, the whole physicality. You really get to create. How does she move? How does she speak? You get to get creative with this.
Was there an underlying philosophy behind how she moved, so you knew when you were moving wrong, or did you just feel it out?
I knew when I moved wrong, but only because it was what I set up as how I wanted her to move. I just wanted it to be, everything is conscious and calculated for her. So if she blinks it’s because she’s choosing to blink. Her eyes don’t get dry because she’s a robot, so she doesn’t need to blink. But she wants to mimic human behavior so she will consciously make herself blink. Stuff like that was just what I kept in mind…
I was sort of fascinated by Ava because in some ways she’s more of a child than anything else. Is that something that’s easy to tap into or do you have to turn a lot of things off?
By Ava, or by The Machine?
By The Machine, sorry. I get the names confused.
Oh, no worries. You know, it’s hard to remember The Machine is the machine. [Laughs.]
But yeah, the childlike part? When I watch it now, when I went and actually watched the movie for the first time, I remember thinking, “God, that’s kind of really vulnerable,” like in a way I felt really vulnerable watching that. I was kind of surprised that I was that open… I don’t know, I was almost embarrassed that people would see me, because it just felt… I guess at the time it wasn’t difficult for me to play. I was so not in my head for anything. It was such a consuming character, which luckily made me not think about the performance or anything like that external process.
Was your voice altered entirely in post or did you speak differently on set?
I changed my voice. I spoke higher and smoother, like there wasn’t as much inflection. The funny thing like this is when I was doing it, it was just a little bit higher and soft, it was like, I don’t know.
What about the eyes? Where those contact lenses or were they all CGI?
No. Done in post. We had an awesome post team, especially for a little indie movie like that. We had some really cool stuff. So yeah the glowing eyes were… That would be cool if they had glowing contacts.
I don’t know. One of the things that impressed me about The Machine was how practical it all looks. Sometimes when something is all CGI it just looks fake, but you were working with cool sets and that body suit, which, I assume they weren’t actually slicing a scalpel down your face to let you out of that costume…
[Laughs.] Yeah, no, that was… how did we do that… Well, when I put that mask thing on? You can’t breathe. I literally had to hold my breath for the first half of that scene because I would suffocate, and then we would cut to one that was already cut. They didn’t do it like that.
Did you undergo different kinds of fight training on The Machine as you regularly do on “Arrow?”
The fight styles actually weren’t too different. In both of them they’re very practical with how you do an action fight. But with this movie, with The Machine, we had no time. So everything, all the stunts, all the fights, we learned on set right before we did them. With “Arrow,” those are huge parts of the show and we actually get more rehearsal time, and more set up and wires and stuff like that.
I’ve seen you do a lot of dancing, in particular in your earlier movies. Has your background been entirely in dance or have you been doing fight training or martial arts this whole time?
I started with dance. Dance was main my thing. I didn’t start martial arts until I was, I think, like 18. I wasn’t going through the belt system, I was just learning through friends. I would go to this gym where I would breakdance and practice and there were a lot of martial arts artists that would go there, so they would ask me to teach them stuff and I would ask them to teach me, and I just kind of learned that way. That was my fight training.
You look very good at it.
Thank you. [Laughs.]
I see you every week on “Arrow” and you’re kicking tons of ass. One of the things I love in “Arrow” is that practically every week there’s some kind of training montage. Do you even have to train off-camera now, or is all your exercising done for the show?
What do you mean?
Well, there’s that great thing… I don’t know what you call it. There’s that pole and you jump up a level…
The salmon ladder?
That thing is awesome and it looks like I could never do that.
You know, it is hard. Like, I’m not going to lie, it’s hard. When the producers told me that they wanted me to do it, the first time, I couldn’t even do a pull-up. I had I think two weeks before we shot, and that I practiced every day. Stephen [Amell] was actually helping me. He’s really good at it. He can have full-on conversations going up and down these things. But I did end up being able to do some pull-ups. You should try it.
I also can’t do one pull-up because I’m a big fat guy and have no upper body strength. It’s all in my legs.
Well, you should try, because honestly I could do one pull-up, and after a week of just trying every day with those muscles, it goes pretty fast. You just have to do it every single day, like three times a day. Just try to do a couple of them.
Should I just be hanging, straining? How long until I know I’ve actually tried, because obviously just trying once and going, “Ah, I can’t do that” shouldn’t count, right?
Well, at the gym they have machines that can fix you so you can’t… they balance it out so they kind of lift you a little bit from below so you can do a couple. I had someone who would spot me, so I get a little bit of help. Once I found that one [pull-up] I would do it really slow coming down. But yeah, getting that first one is really hard unless you’ve got somebody lifting your ass up in the air. [Laughs.]
Is there any other cool thing you’ve done on “Arrow” that was really hard, or even that you just couldn’t wait to do?
Well, I’m actually really excited for what we’re shooting on Thursday, which is the last day of the season. There’s going to be some cool stunts. I’m excited for that. I guess on “Arrow” the coolest stunt, we did this scene where we jumped out into the ocean from the Gambit, when it capsized, and they built a big tub, a huge pool and then they had fake rain and a wind machine and waves, and it was heated which was nice. [Laughs.] But that was really fun, because you just jump in the water and all of a sudden there’s fake rain and wind. It was cool.
That show looks so expensive.
It must be, right?
The producers swear they don’t have any money, so who knows?
They’re just calling in tons of favors every episode.
Do you have a multi-season contract with them, or do we have to prepare ourselves for them to kill you off at any time? Because I don’t want to do that.
Well, I don’t have a contract with them, so who knows? You’ve got to stay on your toes.
Damn it. It was weird for me when you came on because in the comics it was Dinah that became The Black Canary. Do you think you’re going to have to train Katie Cassidy to fight on the show at some point?
I think it would be a cool evolution for her character, especially because of how down and out her character has been, so if they could bring her back up into the Black Canary, I think that would be pretty cool.
In Battle of the Year, is there more footage of you dancing on the cutting room floor? Because I kept expecting you to “serve” Chris Brown.
Yeah, oh yeah.
What did we miss? Was there more dancing or whole scenes?
Yeah, you missed a lot. [Laughs.] But that’s what happens sometimes in the setting, cutting board. Yeah, I had some cool… We actually added a scene because I’m like, “I’m not dancing in this movie! And I am a dancer!” I wanted to, so we added a scene where the guys are training, in a circle, breaking. I come into the circle and I run forward and do a backflip, and I’m spinning on my head, I did headspins. I did a fun little power set, and I don’t think they even… maybe they used a little clip of it. But yeah, maybe they’ll put something out by itself. That would be cool.
What else have we got coming up from you in the near future? Because I want to see more Caity Lotz.
Hells if I know. We’ll see. [Laughs.]