Noah Segan is the kind of actor you recognize from somewhere but can’t quite think of where, the kind of brilliant performer who blends into scenes and elevates even the smallest parts just by virtue of his presence. Horror fans have known hi for a while, thanks to take-notice turns in the likes of Mohawk and Camera Obscura. This year, Segan made himself known to multiplex audiences via his hilarious turn in Knives Out as the nerdy state trooper to Lakeith Stanfield’s focused straight man. Scare Package signaled his arrival as a writer and director in his own right, with the frequently laugh-out-loud funny short “M.I.S.T.E.R.” which skewered MRAs, MGTOW and every cretin in between.
Now comes The Pale Door, Aaron B. Koontz’s horror-western that finds Segan playing opposite the beloved likes of Pat Healy and Happy Endings star Zachary Knighton. A role like this should have Segan on autopilot, considering he can do the fun, goofy guy in his sleep at this point but, as always, he utilized an opportunity to shine — although, not necessarily in the way one might expect. Wicked Horror caught up with Segan from the safety of quarantine, where he’s juggling a toddler and a newborn, to talk playing the fool, when is the right time to take your shirt off, and why he still doesn’t know where your keys are.
WICKED HORROR: We’re here to discuss The Pale Door, this sort of horror-western hybrid. Walk me through who your character is and how he fits into the greater story being told here.
NOAH SEGAN: I play Truman, who is a member of this gang of bandits led by Zach Knighton’s character. They’re the classic western, ragtag, son of a gun types who love to rob and steal and do so with aplomb and hopefully with a little bit of charm, before they accidentally steal the wrong thing and end up in the wrong brothel, which is run by a coven of really zealous witches.
WICKED HORROR: It’s quite an impressive ensemble cast, from Zach Knighton, as the leader, like you said, to Pat Healy and the great Stan Shaw. How do you, as an actor, differentiate yourself within a lineup like this? ‘Cause there are quite a lot of different characters jostling for attention here. How do you ensure you stand out?
NOAH SEGAN: As much fun as it is to joke around about making sure that you’re in the center of every frame and, if you’re not, you wanna draw everybody’s eye to whatever side you are on, you wanna play the right instrument for the orchestra, you know? And I was very lucky in that respect, because I got to play the goofy guy, so I got to go pretty big and joke around and show that side of myself within the team. But you’re really just trying to find your spot and you’ve got James [Landry Hébert], who’s this very imposing, stoic character, then you’ve got the kind of sexy, bad ass kind of guy, Bill Sage, and then Stan Shaw, too, so you have to find your own nook and cranny to work in. And it might be a little bit goofy. You might even find a little bit of silliness in there, too, and hopefully it brightens up the team.
WICKED HORROR: You say that, but I feel like you have this very sexy, almost beefcake moment in the brothel, when you’re in the bathtub.
NOAH SEGAN: [laughs]
WICKED HORROR: It’s not something we’ve typically seen from you, and not to say it wasn’t appreciated, but it was certainly a different flavor from you as a performer.
NOAH SEGAN: [still laughing] I’ve been doing this for, like, 16 years, I think I’ve been in something like 50 movies since I started and I don’t think I’ve ever taken my shirt off before. I’ve been burying the lede on this, and it’s a shame because now I’ve got the Dad Bod. They should’ve asked me to get sexy 15 years ago when I was attractive!
WICKED HORROR: But the Dad Bod is so in right now. The timing is actually kind of perfect. Really, you’re lucky you waited.
NOAH SEGAN: Please put that as the headline! I will personally bankroll promoting the Tweet suggesting the Dad Bod is the one right now. And please make sure that my wife sees it [laughs].
WICKED HORROR: I was talking to Aaron [B. Koontz, director and co-writer of The Pale Door] and he was telling me about how you guys all sort of lived in this town for the duration of the shoot. Were there any challenges, or drawbacks, to being stuck in that environment for an extended period of time? Or did it give you a better insight into your character?
NOAH SEGAN: It’s challenging because you’re on set without modern conveniences, and your clothing fits this old school western style, and you’re doing a lot of action, so there are inherent challenges in pretending this is real and committing to it. But it’s also like summer camp. You’re there with a team of people and, in this particular case, many of us already knew each other and had worked together before and were friends, so there’s a sense of camaraderie. There was this sense of a kind of a traveling theater group kind of vibe to the whole thing which I hope comes across in the movie because it does have these really theatrical clashes between the western side and the horror side, with the witches. It’s a big movie and a big idea, so I hope that being in that environment boosted that feeling for you, the viewer.
WICKED HORROR: It definitely feels like a very personal, character-driven story. I said the same to Aaron, it feels very rooted in these human interactions, aside from all the more bombastic stuff that’s going on.
NOAH SEGAN: I really appreciate that. The credit really goes to Aaron, for his direction and his writing, as well as Keith and Joe Lansdale, for their writing as well. I’m a huge fan of Joe’s work, and his books, he’s always been a character based writer, as has Aaron. If you look at Aaron’s previous movie, Camera Obscura, it’s a very deep, emotional, psychological investigation into a man’s psyche. I think that as much as, again, we’re hoping to invoke the classic western ensemble as well as this crazy, witch plot, he never forgot that movies are about characters.
WICKED HORROR: Is that what drew you to the project, the chance to work with Aaron and the Lansdales?
NOAH SEGAN: The first thing that drew me to it was, of course, the chance to be back with my friends and working with people I’ve worked with before who I love so dearly. You never want that experience to end, you never want to go home from summer camp, I hope, you always wanna get back there. But in terms of the character, and in terms of what Aaron wanted, it was the chance to bring some levity to it and have some fun and really chew the scenery. It gave me the space to embrace that goofy Dad side of myself that I am!
WICKED HORROR: It’s been such an incredible year for you, between Knives Out, this, and also, obviously Scare Package, your short for which was just so funny and clever. I’ve been repeating that one line “I don’t know where your keys are!” ever since I saw it. It’s so fantastic.
NOAH SEGAN: I gotta say, I can’t take credit for much of that, because Frank Garcia-Hejl, who plays our main bad guy, co-wrote it with me and helped bring this dream team of comedians together. That line was entirely ad-libbed. These guys just really understood what we were trying to take the piss out of and who we were trying to do it to, and really embraced it for us. And then they went and got into crazy werewolf makeup and knocked that out of the park too. Much like The Pale Door, you want to build a dream team and I was really lucky to have that, in both cases.
Catch The Pale Door in theaters, On Demand and on Digital from August 21, 2020
Scare Package is streaming on Shudder now and will be available
On Demand, Digital, DVD, and Blu-ray from October 20, 2020
** This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity purposes.