Name: Mo McRae
Notable past credits: The actor is known for roles in “Sons of Anarchy” and “Pitch.” He makes his directorial debut at SXSW.
SXSW project: “A Lot of Nothing”
First impressions of Austin: “My first impression of the city was I quickly was able to understand why there’s a mass migration to Austin. You could immediately pick up on the energy and the sense of culture and the eclectic vibe.”
“A Lot of Nothing” is McRae’s first time directing, and it’s his first film at SXSW as well. “It feels like one of those things that I can’t fully process until I’m in hindsight. Right now I’m just taking it in,” he says. “But it feels purposeful, it feels right where I’m supposed to be.”
As the film was screened for the first time during its premiere, he was as nervous as to be expected — until he got the first laugh he was hoping for.
“Sitting there having an audience watch the film was probably one of the most nerve-inducing slash relieving experiences,” he says. “There is this one point five minutes into the film where if whoever is watching it laughs, then I know the absurdity of everything and the satirical nature is landing with the audience. So they laughed at that mark, and it was the loudest, biggest laugh I’ve experienced, so once that happened, all the nerves were gone.”
“A Lot of Nothing” opens with a Black couple watching the evening news, only to see a report that an unarmed kid has been killed by a white police officer, who happens to be their next door neighbor. The project was first a short film he made before turning it into a feature at the suggestion of his agents.
“The biggest learning lesson of going from actor to director was probably just understanding if you think about it as a painting, as an actor I’m a color, whereas as the director I am the painter, and I’m selecting all of the colors,” he says of making the transition. “I learned so much more about the process of filmmaking.”
Next up, he is joining the second season of the buzzy HBO Max series “The Flight Attendant,” playing a CIA officer named Benjamin Barry.
“Joining ‘The Flight Attendant’ has been a highlight of my career as an actor,” he says. “It was a show that I was a fan of from the first season; I thought it was extremely well-executed. They had complicated subject matter, complex character, but they handled it in a way that really blurred the lines between genres. It was right in my wheel house.”