Robbie Amell on Code 8’s gray characters, robots, and powers

Code 8 has been released in theaters, and it has been praised by critics with a fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film stars Robbie Amell, Stephen Amell, and Sung Kang, and it takes place in a distant future where people with powers are living in poverty. Robbie plays Connor Reed, a person with powers who turns to a life of crime to help pay for his mother’s treatments. Stephen Amell is the leader of a criminal group who entices Connor to the underworld, and Sung Kang plays the head of a militarized police unit on the hunt for those misusing their powers. Nerd Reactor had the chance to chat with Robbie Amell on his role and the world of Code 8.

Nerd Reactor: What was the origin story for the Code 8 project?

Robbie Amell: Well, it kind of started as just Jeff Chan, who directed it and is one of my best friends, Stephen and I talking about movies and what we like and always wanting to work together. And we just kind of thought, “You know what? We think we can do this.” So we started planning a short film and then we lost Stephen to scheduling because of Arrow.

Luckily Sung Kang took a chance on us and was great in the short film. The short film just kind of caught fire on the front page of reddit, which was huge for us. The Indiegogo campaign went so well. We just ended up being able to make this movie that was so much bigger than we ever anticipated. But we knew what we wanted to make, we knew we liked grounded sci-fi, we wanted to kind of take the genre and just give it our own spin, and just get to work with friends and do something that we could all be excited and proud of.

Nerd Reactor: What was it like to work on a project with friends compared to other projects?

Robbie Amell: First of all, Jeff and Chris, who wrote the movie and kind of captained the whole thing, they included Steve and me along the way. We put in our two cents, and Chris was so good at writing for mine and Stephen’s voices. Once we were on set, we felt things out and we wanted to make sure it felt real to us and felt like it was at a place that we felt good about. It is very casual to be working with your friends and to have so much say and not have to climb a flagpole of nine different people to give the approval to make life changes or anything like that. It helps to have talented friends.

Code 8 Robbie Amell

Nerd Reactor: What’s the inspiration for creating relatable characters and a grounded world?

Robbie Amell: We’re huge fans of the sci-fi genre, and obviously we lived in that superhero world for a while. We were huge fans of Chronicle so we talked a little bit about movies like that. Essentially we wanted to make a crime drama that was very character-driven that happened to have this sci-fi background to it. We wanted the sci-fi to just feel like background noise. Obviously, it helps for entertainment purposes, elevates it, makes it feel more expensive and kind of puts a little glitter on this world even though it’s very dark. It’s this dark and dangerous place. It just gives you a little bit of something extra to watch for. But we want it to be this real character-driven story that people could relate to. The idea of somebody who will push his moral compass to its limit to save his mom just kind of feels like something that anybody can relate to.

Nerd Reactor: What I like about the character is that they’re not superheroes. They just have powers and are doing what they need to survive.

Robbie Amell: We never wanted anybody to levitate a stadium or anything. Not to say that that’s bad. I’m a huge fan of all of those movies. Those are the movies that I go to the theaters to see. First, we didn’t have the money for it, and second, we wanted to do something that felt like we were on our way there. So we did a lot of research and looking at Boston Dynamics and kind of the future of robotics and drones, and we just wanted to something that felt like it wasn’t that far off. Like if people did start to develop these small abilities, how would the general public react to it? I think that the first thing they would do is be scared and they would militarize their police force, or they would at least take them to a much more aggressive level to protect themselves. With where we’re going with drones and robotics, this kind of feels like it could be 10 years away sort of thing.

Nerd Reactor: I like that the characters are very vulnerable. Your character is not 100% perfect and he isn’t able to handle everything, and so they make mistakes. What was the balance of the moral compass like?

Yeah, I mean, we wanted it to feel real and relatable. And you know, these are people who are looking out for themselves. Even though Connors doing this for his mom, that doesn’t make him the good guy. He’s doing bad things. He just has a good reason. And Garrett is a victim of his circumstance and if you’re not given anything, you eventually start to lash out and try and take it. So we just wanted the movie to ask questions or to pose questions that people wouldn’t necessarily agree on the answers. Like some people don’t agree with how Connor handles his arc in the movie, and some people won’t agree with how Garrett handles his. That’s what we wanted. We didn’t want black and white. We didn’t want right and wrong. We wanted a nice gray area of life and people making mistakes and people doing bad things or good things at the wrong and the right time.

Nerd Reactor: You’ve played a different superhero before like Firestorm in The Flash. Did his powers help with the acting of just making electricity come out of your hand?

Robbie Amell: Yeah, I mean, it’s pretty much the same. I just shoot my hands forward and it’s either fire or its electricity. When you’re making these projects, you have to let go of all self-consciousness.  You just need to trust that the people you’re working with will not let you look silly and we had such an amazing visual effects company that I never had any doubts with what they were going to do for us. They’re just they’re so good at what they do. They worked on the short film with us, they did the movie, they did so much work throughout the entire process and they’re great friends. I was never worried about how the powers would come out, which made my job a lot easier.

Code 8 will be getting a spinoff series starring Robbie Amell and Stephen Amell with Jeff Chan helming. It will be made for the short-form mobile video platform, Quibi, according to Deadline.

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John Nguyen
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