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An Interview with Rob Riordan, Star of The Surprise Visit

by Mike Haberfelner

December 2021

Films starring Rob Riordan on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie The Surprise Visit - in a few words, what is it about, and what can you tell us about your character in it?


It’s about a young, impoverish couple who decide to rob an estate to pay for a new life. Their plan ends up having…a few wrenches thrown in the gears. I play Casey, one half of the couple. He loves his girlfriend Annabelle so deeply, but he’s consumed by his meth addiction. I’d describe him as an emotionally volatile, ticking time-bomb.


What did you draw upon to bring your character to life, and how much Rob Riordan can we find in Casey?


As a child, I was…concerning? Haha. I mean, I just remember being super impulsive and reactive—like Casey, but with less life-altering consequences. It was actually a big problem in school until I was diagnosed with ADHD in 3rd grade. I feel like I tapped into the little devil I once was. Casey’s impulse control is severely lacking, like that of a child’s, so it felt appropriate to bring that part of me to Casey.


How did you get involved with the project in the first place?


I submitted on Actor’s Access and went through Zoom callbacks! I had no agent or manager at the time. It was 2020 and I was bartending at a beer garden in Brooklyn, NY. I feel super lucky.


What can you tell us about The Surprise Visit's director Nick Lyon, and what was your collaboration like?


Nick was always down to let us play! He really enjoyed the chemistry Jacqi Vene [Jacqi Vene interview - click here] and I had and let us improvise and find the scenes physically, letting us bring our own ideas to the table. I was in such an intense headspace for the shoot, so he was also a really grounding force; his confidence in the quality of what we were doing was very reassuring. It was my first lead in a feature film and I’m so happy we found the rapport and trust in each other we did. He taught me so much and I’m so grateful to him.


Do talk about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere!


I really liked how intimate the whole project was. I mean, being an indie film with a small cast in the middle of a pandemic with no vaccine at the time we shot…I think we were all just grateful to make new friends and collaborators doing what we love. And luckily we all had a lot of space to stretch or take a lap or get ready for our scenes with some alone time when on set because our sets were these HUGE estates and super beautiful. I always felt safe and excited to work—even when the call time was 5:00am. Also being in Wilfree’s chair for an hour of make-up every morning was always so relaxing.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


I wrote and directed a sci-fi comedy short film that’s currently in post-production—crowdfunded $15k with my co-producer Lana Dvorak and shot in Las Vegas, NV. I also starred in a short called Concessions by Mas Bouzidi which will be hitting film festivals in 2022 and has gained attention from people such as Kevin Smith and Sean Baker. Some other stuff in the works too, but nothing I can talk about yet.


What got you into acting in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


Yes and yes. I went to an arts high school and studied in theatre at a conservatory in college (Webster University). Most of my training was for the stage, so I didn’t really learn how to act for the camera until I joined Kimball Studios a few years after I moved to NYC.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to The Surprise Visit?


I said 3 lines in a film called Sweet Caroline by Jorge Xolalpa, but other than that I had just been doing a lot of theatre all over the country (before the pandemic, of course).


I was honestly so nervous when I got The Surprise Visit—I mean I was beyond excited when I landed the role, but then I was like “oh shit, am I ABLE to do this?!?!” But I attribute my prior theatre credits for helping prepare my nerves, because I remembered quickly—when the self-doubt started to creep in—that there’s no TIME to doubt yourself when you’re telling a story. You just have to tell the damn story! Put the ego away!


How would you describe yourself as an actor, and some of your techniques to bring your characters to life?


I use a smorgasbord of tools that I’ve picked up along my journey. Every role needs a different approach. With Casey I made a kind of diary of memories to explain his past. And since he’s an addict I found an amazing, but heart-wrenching Youtube channel called Soft White Underbelly by Mark Laita: real interviews with drug addicts talking about their experiences. The interviews are so raw and hard to watch, but I studied the physicality of the people in those videos and others…stuff like that. Oh! And music! I need music to get me in the zone. But also, that’s just the prep-work. I like to fill my brain with goodies so I can come to set with ideas—a brilliant teacher I know says something like “bring ideas to set and you’re more than halfway there”. It’s true. As long as you’re curious, you’ll find something.


Actors (and indeed actresses) who inspire you?


Lauren Ambrose is so inspiring because you can put her in anything and she shines. I’m watching Servant right now and am so addicted to watching the way her eyes move and how specific her thoughts appear to be in the silent moments between dialogue. But I’ve loved her since I saw her in Psycho Beach Party!

I also love Marc Menchaca—an insanely talented character actor. I’ve been following his career ever since I saw him play a veteran suspicious Damian Lewis’ character in Homeland. I love when an actor can deliver a monologue and I forget it’s a monologue. He’s one of those actors.

And of course…Daniel Day Lewis. That man is unreal.


Your favourite movies?


In no particular order: Mysterious Skin, There Will Be Blood, Pan’s Labyrinth, Superbad, Smiley Face, The Florida Project, Moonlight, Psycho Beach Party.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


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“Deplore” is a strong word. I mean… House of Gucci was a bad movie but in a fun way...? In the same way that The Room was bad, ya know? Like you can’t stop watching even though you’re thinking “what the hell are these people doing?” Films are really really hard to make, so at the very least I try to find ways to respect aspects of them all.


Your website, social media, whatever else?


Instagram: @rob_riordan


Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


I had so much fun working on this film but doing the combat was SUCH A JOY. Violence is horrible but fake violence is delightful. That’s all! Haha.


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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and shall not be held responsible for
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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD