With 18 years of experience as a filmmaker, actor and writer, Kevin Downes feels certain he is exactly where God wants him. When you have a hit film such as Like Dandelion Dust produced with his brother Bobby Downes, that wins 20 film festivals, you could call that confirmation. You know him as “Officer Shane Fuller” from the faith-based film Courageous and you certainly won’t forget him as “Kevin” in Mom’s Night Out.
SCH: If Mom’s Night Out was as fun to make as it is to watch you must have had the time of your life!”
KD: Mom’s Night Out is a film that we truly enjoyed making. We know that we need more movies like this that are clean wholesome family comedies. There are not many of those available. So I am hoping that Mom’s Night Out works really well so that we can see more films like it.
SCH: Do you have children and if so, are you in this stage of life that is portrayed in the film?
KD: My wife and I have three kids under the age of six. So you have theses three guys, Jon, Andy and I, all with toddlers and little kids, who are attempting to make a movie about motherhood. We all wanted to speak to moms about the joys of parenting in an entertaining, laugh out loud film.
SCH: You had a couple of positions in this film, producer and actor. You have also been a director and a writer. How do you go about picking your projects?
KD: I really pray about what to do next. I wanted to do something that my wife could enjoy, something about moms. My wife was actually suggesting that I do a film that would encourage moms. I was looking for a script and came across this one, by Andrea Gyertson Nasfell and it was perfect; just exactly what I was looking for.
This was so different from other films I had done in the past. A lot of faith based films are very serious so it’s great to find one that affirms your values and is a laugh out loud comedy. We really have something we think the audience will love.
SCH: What an amazing cast you have assembled! Did you have specific actors in mind for each role?
KD: We were purposeful in our casting and drew from various fan bases. We knew we had a good thing when we didn’t get any rejections but got our first choice in each character. Some were hand picked and a few, the part was written specifically for.
The parts were definitely purposed for particular actors who we knew had the talent and the ability to pull off the role. When I read the script and saw the part of “Marco” I couldn’t think of anyone other than actor Robert Amaya for the role. And the part of “Bones” that Trace Adkins plays, well, we had absolutely no backup for him. We just wanted Trace.
SCH: This film appears to not only have a dream cast, but a dream team of filmmakers involved in you, the Erwin Brothers and Alex Kendrick. How did you all get connected? Are there future plans to produce projects together?
KD: We had all worked together on Courageous. I think we will all work together again. Jon, Andy and I are already talking about what is next. It is fun to work with your friends and you want to work with people who are fun.
It is important that you know that you can trust one another from a creative standpoint. Honestly, right now we are looking forward to the release of Mom’s Night Out. But, yes, I think we will all work together again in some way, shape or form
SCH: As a faith-based filmmaker, what was the core message you wanted to drive home with Mom’s Night Out?
KD: We knew that women really needed to hear the message that God loves them and they are really enough. Motherhood can be a mess at times, but it is a beautiful mess. We want moms to know that everything they do is important. We want them to enjoy and treasure the journey they are in. God has them exactly where He wants them to be.
SCH: This particular genre, the ensemble buddy comedy, has not been done much from the perspective of moms, if at all. Earlier I spoke with Jon Erwin and asked if he would consider a sequel to Mom’s Night Out.
KD: What did he say?
SCH: He said he is already thinking about it and has a specific idea in mind. It’s a really good one too!
See the fun trailer!
SCH: Let’s talk about your character, also named Kevin. He seems to have the personality of an adult child whom Allyson, Sarah Drew’s character does not have much trust factor for. You portrayed that part very convincingly. What did you have to draw from to make that character work?
KD: The character of Kevin came from the mind of Jon Erwin, who came on after I found the script and co-wrote with Andrea. I don’t know if he modeled it after himself, but I know I had so much fun with it. As a director, Jon encourage me to kind of let go, just kind of let the dialogue be itself. I got to take my performance in a direction that I hadn’t before.
Sometimes you find characters that are unassuming characters but often turn out to be the smartest guys in the room. It was great to play that guy that is kind of just around for the ride but actually ends up knowing more than the people around him. One of my favorite scenes is at the end when Allyson comes home and expects to find me in a state of chaos with the kids and instead all is quiet and I am reading Peter Pan to them. It’s kind of poetic.
SCH: There is definitely a good amount of physical comedy in this film and it works so well. Is this a first experience for you, acting in a comedy and if so, do you want to do more?
KD: This is my first experience making a comedy as a whole. I have done films that have had comedic elements in them, but this is the first full-blown comedy that I have dived into. You have moments that are physical but then you also have these quiet moments that end up being really funny.
It is a fine line knowing how to play both of those and just let it be simple. Mom’s Night Out actually has many of those quiet moments. We were so fortunate to have Patricia Heaton on board because she is a pro with physical comedy. There is a scene at the police station where she is hysterical. Sean Astin has a physical scene at the hospital and he is hilarious.
We did use improvisation and it was one of the most enjoyable things as an actor to have all the cast work together that way. We could draw from personal experience or whatever we had in our tank. To my shock and amazement you really do end up with a lot of it being kept in the film. It is so fun to work with talented actors. We have that with this movie; the cast is really good, they are just really, really good.
SCH: When I saw the film, I did literally laugh out loud. When you watched dailies, did the cast and crew have that reaction?
KD: Comedy is so subjective, so there are things that we would laugh about on set because it was funny in the moment. There were also things we didn’t necessarily think were that funny, but then it is funny on film. Here is an example.
When we were shooting the scene in Courageous where actor Robert Amaya is sitting in the back seat of the police car and he portrays the “snake king” we had no idea if it would be funny or not. We just thought, ok, we are going to shoot it because it might be funny. When we saw it with an audience it was a “wow!” this is really good. It is like that a lot, when it really works.
SCH: At what point did you realize you had something really special on your hands?
KD: There really wasn’t an “aha” moment, but as things came together we knew we could believe we had something that our audiences would like. But you are never really sure it is going to translate to an audience until you watch it with them. We found out just how special it is as we previewed it with a few full houses. We could see how much they were enjoying the movie by how much they were laughing.
SCH: What about the role of Mom would you like women to walk away feeling reaffirmed about by viewing Mom’s Night Out?
KD: I would say for them not to beat themselves up. To remember, as the scene in the end with Allyson and Bones, that they are enough and that God is there to love them and wrap his arms around them. That’s really it. I love that this film tells moms that they are enough.
SCH: It is this writer’s opinion that moms everywhere should show up this Mother’s Day, May 9th at the box office to support this film. Take it from me, you will laugh, relate, identify and be encouraged by this wonderful look at the beautiful mess called “parenting” in Mom’s Night Out!
To get connected with Moms’ Night Out, visit their Official Facebook Page
Loved this interview? Go further behind the scenes with ‘Moms’ Night Out’ Interview with Director Jon Erwin