Max Thieriot: “Disconnect”, Sex Cams and “Bates Motel”

Max Thieriot strips down as the misguided sex cam performer Kyle in Disconnect.

Taking the route of intersecting storylines, ensemble drama Disconnect explores the world of modern technology and how it connects us – or as the title suggests, how it disconnects us.

The movie is busting at the seams with hot actors including Max Thieriot, Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, Frank Grillo, Andrea Riseborough, Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist, Marc Jacobs, and Alexander Skarsgard. There’s a story about cyberbullying, a story about identity theft and, finally, a story about a sex cam performer who is befriended by a reporter for an exposé. Enter actor Max Thieriot (pronounced TERRY-OT). He plays the aforementioned sex cam performer – but before you get excited at the potential eroticism, his portion of the movie is quite emotionally intense and heavy.Turns out the seedy underbelly of the sex cam world isn’t such a turn on/

We had the opportunity to sit down with Thieriot after watching Disconnect, both to talk about the film and what it was like to sit next to his mom in the theater while he played a sex cam performer. We also asked him about his breakout TV role on A&E’s Bates Motel (he plays Norman Bates’ stepbrother Dylan).

You’ve played Ryan in House at the End of the Street and he wasn’t exactly a nice guy. Then there is Dylan, the bad son, in Bates Motel. Now you’re playing Kyle in Disconnect, a young, misguided sex cam performer. What is it that attracts you to these “damaged” characters?

I have a tendency to be known as (the) “pretty boy actor”. For me, being able to do these types of roles adds something different than I think people would expect. They’re just characters that interest me for whatever reason. Playing a psychopath is interesting because I think the minds of psychopaths are just so complex. (With) Kyle, he’s damaged, but he was a character that was so different from anything that I’ve ever had the privilege of reading. Beyond that, I don’t think I’ve ever personally seen that character played in a movie. That’s always exciting.

Henry Alex Rubin also directed the documentary Murderball. Did you see any differences in working with a documentary filmmaker rather than someone who is known for feature films?

It was definitely different. It was something I had never really experienced. Working with him is how you would assume a documentary is directed. It was more like dealing with people and just trying to get them to interact in real situations. It was trying to set an environment, create a scene and then just letting it go – as you would film real-life situations. There were times where it may have been difficult for some actors because he would chime in and talk in the middle of a scene. That didn’t bother me. I got used to it and then approached it more like I was not acting in those scenes. Instead, I just acted as I was being interviewed as (Kyle).

Max with clothes on in Disconnect.

Kyle is a “sex cam performer”, so obviously you show a lot of yourself in this film. In other words, you’re in your underwear a lot! Do you find it difficult to watch yourself undressed in a movie, let alone watching it with an audience? Specifically last night when you watched it with your family. Do you look out the corner of your eye and ask, “How is my mom going to react to that?”

I’m definitely always consciously paying attention to what’s going on. Last night was actually the first time I’ve seen this movie with any audience. It’s always interesting because when you watch a movie, you find out that things that people will respond to and laugh at. For me, I was happy because last night with the people in the theater, it was one of those moments where everybody was so quiet and it seemed so still and into all the scenes where they should be. Then they laughed in the moments that were just little comic relief points. It all seemed to be so fluid and captivating, which is what I really hope for when I watch a movie with an audience.

The movie is quite heavy, intense, and at times, depressing. Was it difficult to shake off your character at the end of the day?

I didn’t really shake off this character until we were done filming. On the weekends, I tried to have a little bit of a break, but I spent a lot of time by myself so I was able to stay in (character) as much as possible – which really helped me throughout the filming. I really saw a consistency come out. (The movie) can be very depressing – that’s what makes this movie so authentic. It’s not a movie about escaping life. Instead, it’s a movie that really makes you think about life. It serves as a different purpose than many mainstream features. This is a movie that has an impact and a punch which I think is awesome.

Andrea Riseborough gets a little too close with Max Thieriot in Disconnect.

In terms of television and movies, what are really into right now? Is there something that you’re obsessed with?

I just saw Django Unchained the other night. I thought it was good…and I’m usually not a reality TV, but I’m actually a fan of Duck Dynasty.

I’ve heard nothing but brilliant things about that show.

I can sit down and enjoy that for hours. Then as far as scripted television goes, I watch a lot of Game of Thrones and Bates Motel, obviously. (laughs)


Speaking of Bates Motel, how did you get involved with the show and how familiar were you with Psycho?

I was defintely familiar with Psycho and I’ve always been a Hitchcock fan. It’s hard not to be. It kind of came along all of a sudden – sort of a last minute thing. I got a phone call saying that they were potentially interested in casting me. At that point in time, I still wasn’t sure that I wanted to do television. Carlton’s (Cuse) has a great track record and I was impressed with everybody involved. At that point in time, Vera (Farmiga) was signed on and she’s obviously extremely talented. Then I didn’t know. My only concern, as weird as it sounds, was I thought they were approaching me to play Norman Bates. Having just done House at the End of the Street, I just played a character that was similar in many ways. I didn’t really have an interest in playing another character that was really similar to the one I just played. Obviously what an amazing opportunity but it was still difficult for me to think about. Then when I heard that it was a totally different character – that I’d be playing his brother (Dylan). It’s not the same at all.

Max as the bad son Dylan in Bates Motel

Dylan kind of comes out of nowhere which is pretty cool – and he didn’t exist in the film.

Exactly. That was exciting for me. I read the first three scripts, was hooked on them, and was willing to dive in. I think that the show, characters and the town are going to be constantly evolving and the characters and the town. It gets crazier and crazier. The show legitimately gets better and better as the season goes on.

Dylan’s relationship with his family is so screwed up. In one of the first episodes, you and Freddie Highmore’s character get into a pretty brutal fight. I’m sure that’s all choreographed, but how do you handle all that physicality with acting? Are you scared of getting hurt or hurting someone else? Or do you just go for it?

I’m a pretty physical guy so for me, that stuff comes quite easier than the rest of it. I get worried about other people sometimes. I might hurt them because I’m trying to make it look as real as possible so a lot of times I’ll do a lot of that stuff with stunt guys because you can beat them up a little more.

Max with Marc Jacobs, who, in essence, plays his “pimp”

Back to Disconnect, there are so many defining moments in the movie and what it’s trying to get across. Is there one scene in particular whether it be your own or someone else’s that stood out to you and made you say “This is what this movie is supposed to be about”?

I think one of the scenes I loved the most was Jason Bateman’s (character) stuff with his son – when he started realizing all these things that he didn’t know about and how disconnected he was from him. I think that was a big one for me. It shows how sometimes we can be close and connected with people but yet so unaware because we’re caught up in this crazy world. That to me was pretty big and important. Obviously, this is a pretty emotional storyline.

The movie explores the world of social media. How big of a social media user are you? Are you constantly on Facebook or Twitter?

I use more Twitter than anything (@maxthieriot). Definitely more Twitter. I just can’t also manage using multiple forms of social media at the same time, because it’s overwhelming for me.

Disconnect opens in theaters April 12. For more information visit the film’s official website