Former Memphians Ryan Masson and Shaw Jones tangle with aliens in a new movie, Proximity, which airs May 15th on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and iTunes.
Neither actor knew the other when they began work on the movie. When they met, Jones said, “Hey, it’s nice to meet you. Great working with you,” Masson says.
They exchanged contacts. “General actor tradeoff. And he was telling me his home phone number and he said, ’901.’ I said, ‘Wait.’”
Masson, son of Rick and Carla Masson of Memphis, plays “Isaac Cypress,” who he describes as “a pretty low player at NASA jet propulsion laboratory. I’m kind of doing busy work for other people’s projects. But a signal I sent out in space gets sent back to me and I don’t know where it’s coming from. We bounce frequencies off our different satellites.”
As the movie progresses, a meteorite lands and Masson gets abducted by aliens. “I happen to have a camera on me and I record the whole abduction when I was up there.”
He doesn’t know if people will believe him or not. “The rest of the movie is me deciding if I want to share it with the world or keep it to myself.”
Masson describes his character as “a timid, smart, earnest guy who this extraordinary thing happens to. And most people don’t believe. And this adventure ensues.”
Asked how he prepped for his character, Masson says, “I think I kind of tried to keep it at home. Keep it me. I can understand the outsider, kind of the loner person. That’s kind of who I am. This person is already alone, a smart, nerdy guy, and then he has this incredible experience, which isolates him from the world. No one believes him and they try to take advantage of him.”
In Involution, which was released in 2017, Masson plays a similar character — "Hamming" — a therapist who works remotely with his new therapy app. "People could sign in and have a therapy session," he says.
In Proximity, Shaw Jones plays “Agent Graves,” one of those people who try to take advantage of Masson’s character. “I play an agent for a government agency that is trying to get more information out of him for my own use — that you’ll find out about later on,” Jones says.
His character has been described as a good cop on the surface, but a loose cannon underneath, he says. “He has a self-fulfilled mission to quiet anyone that deals with this sort of alien conspiracy.”
Graves, whose mother, Patricia Walsh, lives in Olive Branch, says he “tried to bring some honesty” to the role by incorporating experiences that happened to him in the past.
He tried to understand how his character became who he was. “I brought some underlying fear and anxiety and sort of a quest to understand what happened to me when I was younger.”
The movie is the first full-length feature directed by Eric Demeusy, Jones says. “His background is in special effects, so they’re pretty phenomenal in the movie. He’s gotten two Emmys for his special effects work.”
Jones, who appeared in 17 network shows, including Criminal Minds, Prodigal Son, and Snowfall last year, also was in Blue, a movie released in 2019 on Amazon. He describes his role as “a man who’s dealing with a terminal illness and you sort of see the progression of it. So, that was a really difficult role to tackle. And gratifying.”
He has a short film, Proxy, which is slated to be released in June. The movie, directed by Australian director Sophia Banks, also stars Emma Booth. “I play a very odd character. He’s a grown man, but he had some issues, physically and mentally, that he’s never gotten over.”
Movie work for now is on hold for the most part for Jones and Masson because of the quarantine. “I just did some voice work for a show I have coming out on Amazon,” Jones says. “It’s called ‘Them.’”
Describing what is was like to go to work during the pandemic, Jones says, “I got very detailed instructions that when I arrived to the studio I would text them and let them know and they would come down and open a door for me. I would, by myself, follow signs to the booth. Once in the booth I put on sanitized headphones and they would come in through the glass and talk to me. For me and my personality being raised in the South, it’s hard to deal with this type of non-mannered relationships.”
As far as actual filming of movies, Jones says, “None of that has really started back yet. I was shooting on a film called Nightingale when this happened. It kind of went for a few more days when people were trying to figure out what’s up. It eventually had to stop production. I’ve heard reports and rumors that they’re going to try and take everyone’s temperature before they enter the sets, but it hasn’t started yet.”
Jones has been spending a lot of time at home with his wife and their two sons.
Masson says he’s in a an apartment with a roommate. “No one has been making movies, I think,” he says. “TV or anything. LA’s been really good about being really strict about staying at home. So, most businesses except for essential ones have been on pause. I was already pretty much of a homebody, so it wasn’t such a change for me.”
They’re looking forward to watching Proximity, but they’ll be watching from their homes, not in a theater. The movie was supposed to have a theatrical release until the quarantine hit.
Both actors were impressed with each other. Masson describes the way Jones plays Graves as “so steely and intimidating. Shaw had to play both sides. Someone you can really trust and someone who is really a bad guy. He had to bridge both these sides and he did truly amazing.”
Of Masson, Shaw says, “I, honestly, think he’s very unique. And he brings a lot to the character. He has a quirkiness about him that is just perfect for this character. And I think he’s able to bring forth what his character is going through.”
They both felt it was a great experience working with a fellow Memphian.
It just helps you feel comfortable, Masson says. “Kind of the same way with people from the same high school. You kind of have a camaraderie.”
That same feeling goes when you’re making movies together, he says. “Something similar when you’re both from the same city and you’re working on the same project together.”
Says Jones: “I think there’s an automatic sort of ease and respect for the other person knowing that they come from where you come from.”
Watch the Proximity trailer.