Chris Connor chats with Mimi Cave and Jojo T. Gibbs about Fresh…
To celebrate the release of her debut film, the much discussed thriller Fresh starring Daisy Edgar-Jones and Sebastian Stan, we were delighted to speak with director Mimi Cave about her debut feature film, along with actress Jojo T. Gibbs who stars as Mollie.
So Mimi, how did the idea of Fresh come together?
Mimi – So Lauryn Kahn wrote the script, and I pitched myself to direct it at the end of 2019. And yeah, I got offered the movie right before the world shut down. Almost exactly two years ago. I’m just looking at the date right now. Anyways, so yes. So that’s kind of how it all started. Then obviously, we tried to make the movie in a pandemic.
Jojo, this is the first feature film that you’ve worked on. How did you how did you find the process of that?
Jojo – Yeah, it is my first feature film and so it was amazing. I was extremely excited to be given an opportunity. I was so happy that Mimi chose me for the role of Mollie and I just really saw it as a great opportunity to expand what people’s perception was of my range. So it was I was really excited to be a part of it.
How did you find working with Daisy? And had you seen Normal People beforehand?
Jojo – I loved it so much. I had not seen Normal People beforehand, but when I met Daisy, she was just incredible. She’s so smart, and so brilliant, so generous, and no ego, she just is amazing. We had to do our own chemistry read. She was so sweet the whole time. And I can just feel her energy through the screen. And I was like, I really hope I did this well because she’s so good. So she’s been amazing. from literally the start.
How did you find developing the film? I’m guessing it was almost entirely developed during the pandemic? How did you find that process?
Mimi – You know, it was tough, because you never know, at that point in time I think everyone in the world was always like, if you start something you don’t know if it’s going to quickly end tomorrow. And so there was always just a feeling of like, we have today, you know, and I think that energy, while it was stressful, it was also really helpful for our process. So yeah, I think COVID made things more stressful than they needed to be on making a movie because it’s already such difficult work. But in a way, it also focused our attention towards the movie in a really specific way that I think we all recognized sort of after the fact.
Were there any particular films you had as influences for Fresh?
Mimi – Yeah, I had a lot of different films that I liked specific elements of and so I had a very long list that I would send out to the actors and people to be like, I just want this in terms of tone, because the tone is so specific. I needed some references to show people to sort of let them know what I was going for. There’s a film by Pedro Almodovar called The Skin I Live In, which is a beautiful film. And it’s really odd and has some elements to it that I really loved for Fresh. Mostly in sort of the colour grading of it, the richness of the colours. they didn’t shy away from that in that film. And I liked that a lot. And just his films in general have a really interesting tone to them, because the characters tend to be quite over the top but yet everything’s very rooted emotionally. So that was a big influence for me.
Jojo – When I read the script, I loved it because yeah, it starts off one way and then it tastes a significant change and there’s a switch. I love that because my background was mostly in comedy, you know? The last show that I’ve been on is a comedy, and I do stand-up comedy. So, you know, Mollie is funny and light-hearted and that helps with developing the friendship between her and Noa. But I also love that we got to do action, we got to be afraid, we got to to show a range of emotions throughout the entire project, and appreciated that as an artist to be able to play with and execute.
Was it always your ambition to do something a bit more serious, coming from a more comedic background?
Jojo – I think because the character Hattie [in Twenties] is very specificly loosely based off of Lena Waithe, I didn’t want to get ushered into a particular box, basically. So, I was trying to be very, very strategic and particular about the next project that I wanted to choose. I wanted her to be, you know, more feminine, I’m like, I’m fluidly fine, you know, so like, I love that Mimi chose for Mollie to have braids. I was talking my agent Houston and I was like, ‘I really hope they don’t want me to wear my hair short.’ I hope I can. So in between projects, I’ll grow it out. And Mimi was like, ‘Yeah, I want you to have braids’.
Mimi how did you find moving from shorter form storytelling to a feature?
Mimi – It’s a big jump, and I knew it would be, and I loved it. I mean, I’ve wanted to do a feature for a long time. I think, for me, I think I work better in that space, because it’s something I get to sit in for a while and focus on and I’m not doing 30 other things. So it’s like a hyper attention that I actually really kind of love. I don’t know if that makes me a sick person. But yeah, I found it challenging, but in all the right ways.
Having such a good cast for your first film must have been absolutely amazing. Having Daisy and Sebastian and obviously JoJo as well. You couldn’t really have had a much better cast for your first film.
Mimi – Yeah, I mean, it makes my job a lot easier when I’m working with talent like that.
What have you got planned next? Are you able to tell us anything about what you’ve got lined up?
Mimi – Not yet. I do have a couple things lined up. But I should be able to tell more about that soon.
How heavily involved was Adam McKay with Fresh? Obviously he’s one of the producers. Did he have much of a role in any of it?
Mimi – Yeah, you know, he was following along. He was shooting Don’t Look Up at the same time so he had his plate full. But he was really great and was there in all the right ways. In the moments that we were making some bigger decisions, he was very much involved to make sure that those were serving the story at the end of the day. And yeah, he’s just really awesome and Kevin Messick our producer, who’s also his producer, is this kind of a superhuman amazing producer with his support to myself and to Adam.
Jojo, are you able to tell us about anything you’ve got lined up?
Jojo – I have a project. The only thing I can talk about I guess is Something from Tiffany’s that is being produced by Hello Sunshine and it should be out of the end of the year. It’s got Zoey Deutch as the lead and it’s a good time, it’s more of a Christmas film.
Is there anything else you’d like to cover about Fresh?
Jojo – I broke my ankle on set.
How early on into the shoot was that?
Jojo – It was only a small fracture.
Mimi – It was luckily at the very end of the shoot.
Jojo – The last day yeah, I just got too caught up. Sebastian is an incredible actor and he gave me free range to go ham. And I forgot I was chained to the floor. And yeah, you know, mistakes happen.
Mimi – I want to post that video. I think I might post it.
Jojo – Go ahead and post it. Yes, I was pretty pitiful afterwards. We persevered and pushed through, and it worked.
You must be very happy Mimi with the reception the film has had so far. The general consensus seems to be very positive.
Mimi – Yeah, absolutely. I’m not surprised, but with a topic like this, you just don’t know. I think it is a little bit about timing in terms of audiences being ready for it. So I’m extremely happy that people are liking it. I can’t imagine being unhappy with something like that.
How was it having it at Sundance, as the premiere?
Mimi – Just so wonderful. I think , we all the Sundance filmmakers were pretty sad about it being cancelled in person. So there was definitely a like a level of sadness there that was palpable on the Zooms with other filmmakers, but but it’s still such a great like honor to have your film chosen and it gives it so much exposure that not many other things can.
Many thanks to Mimi Cave and Jojo T. Gibbs for taking the time for this interview.