TV veteran Mok made headlines with America’s Next Top Model and producing the films, Invincible starring Mark Wahlberg, and Joy with Jennifer Lawrence. But the Golden Globe and Emmy nominated director and producer made a bold move with his latest indie film, The Right One — he also wrote the script.
What inspired this endearing, quirky story and characters?
“There were actually two sources that gave me the idea for the story. I have this fascination with the late actor Peter Sellers. He was an incredibly gifted actor. If you know Peter Sellers, he was an incredible mimic. He could play any character. He could do any accent. He did Indian characters. He did Cockney characters. He did American characters. And he really melted into those characters like there was no distinction between who he was and who the character was. But the interesting thing about Sellers was that when he was not playing a character, he didn’t know who he was. He literally was an empty cipher. It caused a lot of problems in his personal relationships. At the end of his life, he descended into a sort of madness.
“Then, a few years ago I read this article in The New York Times about a really big social influencer. She was a twenty-five-year-old girl who had a huge Instagram following and she suddenly quit. She gave an interview where she said, ‘I’m quitting because everything I’m putting on social media is fake. It’s not me. It’s a curated version of me. And it’s creating so much pressure on me that I can’t deal with it anymore. I’m leaving.’
“It made me think ‘wow, now in society today with social media and all of that, the level of authenticity of who we are is getting corrupted.’ And so, this made me think about creating a story about a guy like Sellers and a girl like the Instagram influencer.”
The casting process looks like serendipity…
“If you knew the real story, which I will tell you, it’s the opposite. I said, ‘oh my God, there’s this specific actor who would be perfect for the role.’ And so I kind of wrote it with him in mind. I sent him the script and said, ‘Would you like to do this?’ And he said, ‘I’d love to do it.’ And I was on cloud nine. He signs on and said he wanted this certain person to play the female role of Sarah and she signed on too. I’m prepping the film in Vancouver six weeks before filming starts. He drops out and the female lead also dropped out. So now I don’t have my two leads. But luckily, I am a big fan of Nick Thune and Cleopatra Coleman. And so, we quickly tried to lock them down, but it took a while. So, it was really nerve wracking.”
What was your best moment on set?
“I think one of the best moments is the scene where Cleo leaves her date at the club. Cleo’s comedic abilities really blew me away. It was amazing to see how that was going to impact the movie. But there were a lot of great moments. I loved working with Nick. I loved working with Cleo. I loved working with Iliza [Shlesinger]. I had such fun directing the film and working and collaborating with the actors. I’m a very big collaborator. I’m not a huge believer that the director is completely responsible for the vision. Film is a collaborative process, and any great film that you’ve seen, all of the elements of that movie are spot on, from the production design and the costuming to the DP and the film work to the actors and their performances to the direction. I always like to create a very big team environment on my projects.
“And the cast brought so much to the table and it just made me laugh out loud with so many scenes in that movie where I would be behind the monitor just putting my hand over my mouth because I was laughing so hard. And that was just delightful. I think the worst moment on the set with an indie film is that you’re really strapped for time. And, you know, I originally had twenty eight days to shoot the film and then all of a sudden they took away five days.”
What film do you want to make, that you haven’t yet?
“There are actually a number of them. A major portion of my career was on the TV side. But in the last five or six years, I’ve been very quiet in that space because I’m not interested in that space anymore. So, what happened in the last five or six years? I really said to myself, you’re getting bored creatively. You have to keep yourself creatively challenged. I had a lot of success in TV, but it wasn’t true to what I wanted in my career. I always wanted to write. I wanted to direct. So, at a certain point about six years ago, I said, ‘I’m not going to do any more unscripted projects. I’m going to focus on writing and making sure I can write material that people will want to make.’ So, I’ve just been writing scripts and now I’m in the process of setting up my next film.”
“The only thing I can say is that it’s an amazing story, a biopic and it takes place in a moment in time.”
The Right One is available now on Digital.