Before WWE Superstar Seth Rollins heads into SummerSlam on Sunday, August 20th, you can watch him suit up for some spooky action in Armed Response – a new paranormal thriller from WWE and KISS legend Gene Simmons that opens in theaters and On Demand on Friday, August 4th. Starring Wesley Snipes, Anne Heche, Dave Annable, and Simmons himself in a cameo role, Armed Response follows a team of special forces soldiers as they investigate an artificial intelligence gone wrong inside a secret high-tech facility known as The Temple.
Rollins, in his very first movie roll, stars as one of the most brutal members of Snipes’ highly-skilled black ops unit and as the mystery deepens and the danger rises, Rollins’ Bret starts to become more and more unhinged. I had the pleasure of speaking to Rollins about his first foray into film and what it was like to go toe-to-toe with…Anne Heche.
IGN: When did you film Armed Response?
Seth Rollins: It was all shot in April of 2016, I want to say.
IGN: Yeah, you looked pretty mobile and I was wondering how it coincided with your knee injury.
Rollins: I was right at the end of my rehab period. So I got hurt and had surgery in November of 2015 so this was probably five months or so out from that. I was at the very end of my rehab so I was moving around pretty well, though I still had a ways to go before I was ring ready, but I was certainly silver screen ready.
IGN: When I watched the trailer, you’re only shown a few times so I thought “Oh, he’ll die pretty quickly.” But you’re in this until the very end. It’s a pretty prominent role. What was your favorite part about playing this guy?
Rollins: Yeah, Bret’s just a hard dude, man. Clearly a veteran of many battles and conflicts and he’s pretty straight-forward when it comes to what he thinks is true and how he wants things to get done. And he doesn’t like taking orders necessarily. I think he just likes to tell it like it is. Or at least how he sees things from his perspective. He’s not shy when it comes to sharing his opinion. He’s constantly ready to let you know what he feels about everything that’s going on.
IGN: In these types of films, there’s always the one soldier who’s had it with all the craziness. Like Hudson in Aliens.
Rollins: Yeah, that was the fun part. Bret’s role in the film is the guy who’s looking for logical answers to everything. He’s saying “Look, I’ve been in situations like this before and it’s not ghosts or aliens or anything crazy like that.” He looks at the hard empirical evidence and wants to move forward based on that. Some of the other characters in the film are thinking about things in a different way so it creates some good drama. It was cool though to just get into that zone and be a little bit of a jerk.
IGN: From the poster, you’d think this was just a straight action film, but there’s a big ghostly mystery element to it. Also, a sci-fi bend.
Rollins: When I first read the script, I thought it was pretty damn cool. I thought it was very interesting because it had a lot of elements that I think people are afraid of when it comes to today’s technology and the power that artificial intelligence can wield. It also had the whole “Whodunnit?” deal of people being trapped in a space and not knowing what’s going on. It had a strong suspense element to it. And like you said, the poster sort of makes it look like a huge action blow-out, and there are some big action pieces in it for sure, but I don’t think that’s what the soul of the movie is. I think it’s cool that it’s able to cross over different genres and give you different feelings from moment to moment.
IGN: How does it work with the WWE Studios films? Were they like “You’re up. Time to be in a movie?”
Rollins: It’s definitely an option. They called me and said that they had this script and this movie and obviously I had this time off due to injury so it made things easier to schedule, but yeah they said they had this role they thought I’d be perfect for and asked if I wanted to read the script. It was an open invitation and I’d never done anything like this before so it was very intriguing. I wanted to check it out. The script was cool and the cast was awesome so I figured “Why not?”
IGN: Obviously, you’re able to perform in thousands of people, but how nervous were you headed into this?
Rollins: It was a little nerve-racking, sure, since it was my first time. And I was dealing with some pretty great and seasoned actors — like Wesley Snipes, Anne Heche, and Dave Annable who were the other players in the movie — and they all had a ton of experience. Working scenes with Anne, who’s amazing and has a great emotional range, I’d have to try and match her level of talent. Or to work with Wesley who’s just always calm and cool and always very subtle in his scenes, I’d try to pick up on what he’s doing in specific moments so that I could play off them and how he delivers his lines. So I was always focused, just so they could see me as a peer and maybe not some idiot who’s coming in from the pro-wrestling world. I’m sure they had their preconceived notions about me so I just hope that once we were finished with a scene, or finished with the movie overall, that I managed to change their perspective based on what they were expecting.
IGN: Speaking of Anne Heche, of all the people to actually have fight scenes with in this film you get into it pretty harsh with Anne. What was that like?
Rollins: Yeah, it was fun. It was cool. Doing fight scenes in movies is a lot different than in WWE, but it was still relatively easy. One of the things that’s very interesting to me is that the fight choreography, on these movies – someone like Anne who hasn’t done that many movie fights in her life, it might take her a bit more time to memorize the steps of a fight. But she was into it. She really got in there. But it’s something that I do all the time so it came second nature to me, so I didn’t have to rehearse all that much. The fight coordinators are very particular and they’re safety-oriented so they really want to make sure you got it all down, but if you tell me once, I’m there. I don’t need to go over it a million times. I got it. It comes very naturally to me to do that. And our industry is a little more physical than I think some people know, with regard to how much contact is made between WWE Superstars when we’re wrestling a match. Whereas on set, sometimes actors aren’t familiar with that sort of physicality. There’s a scene where Dave and I sort of quickly brawl and Dave’s heart rate definitely went up when I snatched him by his vest and dumped him on a table. But it’s just a different atmosphere so it was cool to just bring a little bit of my world into the mix and I think they appreciated it.
IGN: Where was this shot? Was it an abandoned prison?
Rollins: It was an actual working prison. It was not abandoned. It was actually built somewhat recently. It’s a newer prison in southern Louisiana, probably about an hour south of New Orleans. The entire movie was filmed in that area and even the scenes, the desert scenes, where we’re supposedly over in the Middle East, they somehow managed to make that look great even though we were just in New Orleans. It was a cool experience all around. The prison was wild. It definitely had its inmates rolling around. It was a functional working prison.
IGN: I noticed that your costume in the movie was basically your old Shield gear more or less.
Rollins: Yeah, it didn’t too feel strange. [laughs] To put a vest back on and stuff like that. It was funny. I thought that was an interesting costume choice, but it worked out well. It was cool to sort of jump back into that outfit for a while.
IGN: Switching gears slightly, how does it feel to be on the cover of WWE 2K18? And were you expecting any fan backlash after smashing all those ironic wrestling items in the reveal video?
Rollins: No, I didn’t really expect too much backlash. I thought it was cool and exciting. I got to smash things with a bat. Take off Andre’s head. Burn a bunch of stuff and break glass with my fist. It was a cool experience. We shot it in LA in this abandoned mall, which felt super weird. I know they filmed some scenes from Westworld in there too, which is a great show so I was just excited to be on the same set of that show. It was a really spooky experience to be in an abandoned mall, but I think the spot turned out great. It was a big win for 2K, WWE, and myself. There’s certainly an element of responsibility that goes with being on the cover, but I’m just stoked for it. I think it’s awesome for our generation to have a guy on the cover who comes from the group of guys and girls on the road right now who are grinding it out every single day and night. I feel honored to have gotten the opportunity and that I was chosen to be that guy when it could have been anyone from Charlotte Flair to Sasha Banks to Roman Reigns.