MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL Star Kayvan Novak Talks Tackling Three CGI-Intensive Roles - EXCLUSIVE

MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL Star Kayvan Novak Talks Tackling Three CGI-Intensive Roles - EXCLUSIVE

As Men in Black: International makes its debut on 4K Ultra HD & Blu-ray, I was recently granted an exclusive opportunity to sit down with actor Kayvan Novak, who played three characters in the film!

By RohanPatel - Sep 03, 2019 08:09 AM EST
Filed Under: Men in Black

With the arrival of Sony Pictures' Men in Black: International on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD today, I was recently granted an exclusive opportunity to sit down with actor/comedian Kayvan Novak (What We Do in the Shadows), who played three unique alien characters in the F. Gary Gray-directed sequel.

Novak performed the mo-cap for Vungus the Ugly and physically played Nasr while also voicing his little beard Bassam. All three parts had interesting relationships with Agents H (Chris Hemsworth) and M (Tessa Thompson) as Vungus was a friend to our heroes while Nasr/Bassam went from reluctant allies to betraying the MIB.

In the first part of our chat, Novak shares his experience tackling three very CGI-intensive roles, the conception of his characters, which one he had more fun playing, and joining the wider Men in Black universe.


ROHAN: Both of your roles in Men in Black: International are very CGI-heavy, and I think this was really your first time taking on such an effects-driven role. What was that like for you, as an actor, just getting ready for these CGI-intensive parts?

It was very exciting and intriguing because I'd never done a motion capture role before, so it was a real eye opener because most of the stuff I’d done prior had been kind of prosthetics-heavy if I wanted to play a very different character from myself. So, then to play Vungus, I basically had to get dressed up in a blue lyrca suit and put on all the dots on my face and all that. It was pretty cool.

ROHAN: Did you have any design input on either of your characters - Vungus or Nasr/Bassam - or did you just show up Day 1 and they showed you what your characters would roughly look like?

KAYVAN: Pretty much, they had a bust of what Vungus would kind of look like, just to give me an idea of what I’d look like on-screen and also, the good thing was that the voice I’d kind of chosen for him kind of suited the look anyways, so that worked out nicely.

ROHAN: Which role did you have more fun playing? Vungus? Or Nasr and Bassam? Both parts have interesting dynamics with H and M - one is trying to help them while the other ultimately betrays them.

It was really cool playing Vungus because I was there with Chris and Tessa in the nightclub and then, of course, I was also there with them again when I was playing Nasr and then, for his beard Bassam, I wasn’t. I was in a studio just doing the voice, so they had already animated the beard and I was just adding my voice on top of that. So, it was kind of different disciplines. Amazing though, I mean, I was so chuffed. I got to play three different parts, you know?

ROHAN: Oh, yeah had to be plenty of fun.

KAYVAN: Chris is still getting paid more than me though. *laughs*

ROHAN: Yeah, that’s that Thor bump.

When you’re coming from a comedy background and getting to play these characters that have a few shades a grey, what do you try to bring to the roles as an actor?

With character stuff, you're hoping that whoever is running things makes sure that the tone of your performance fits in around everyone else's to make sure you’re not giving too big or too zany a performance when everyone else is keeping it a bit more real. At the same time, you’re playing a comedy character and you get a sense of what feels funny to you when you're performing, so you still don't want to hold back in that way or play it safe.

I always feel safe making mistakes than I do not making mistakes because I haven't actually risked anything by my choices, so I'm happy for a director to slap me back down rather than underwhelm the director with something that doesn't quite touch the sides, doesn’t touch the edges. I've always found that I'm not afraid of making mistakes, I guess. It's almost like I need to make mistakes to find out what's right and what's the true path? Sorta Star Wars-y. *with a Jedi accent* “What’s the true path?!”

ROHAN: It’s a big film, but did you have any opportunities to improv?

KAYVAN: Less so than What We Do in the Shadows, but yeah, Gary definitely gave me a couple of takes where he was like ‘Just do your thing, buddy. Just go to town and be as ridiculous as you’d like.’ You do that and then it gets a laugh in the room, but then, you never see or hear that take again, but it's great to work with a director like him, a director that instills that confidence to perform. He wants you to entertain him, he wants you to feel free and have fun. It's really great.

ROHAN: The film doesn’t spend too much time with Vungus, so you have just a few scenes to make him likeable to the audience after he’s sort of repeatedly described as unlikeable. Then, you have a big death scene that needs to resonate with fans. How do you approach that kind of closed arc?

KAYVAN: I mean, again, they are just words on the page and I really just wnat to give him the right energy. Luckily, he’s a rambunctious kind of guy, he's a party guy and he’s big and he's enthusiastic. That's how he was written and I just used that as a guide to shape him - ‘okay, let's have him sound like this and see what happens.’ And then, just take it from there. Then, doing a death scene was cool as well because in comedy, you don’t necessarily get to do death scenes.

ROHAN: Were you a fan of the Men in Black franchise before you joined the series?

KAYVAN: Yeah, absolutely, I was a fan of the first one. I was a big fan of F. Gary Gray and through Thor, a fan of Tessa and Chris, and the fact that my scenes were with them, this whole film was super exciting. When you're playing a smaller part in a massive film, you just hope that you’re scenes are going to be with someone that you're excited to work with. I totally lucked out. I got to play three parts.

I am not worthy Rohan. I don’t know why they keep picking me, what it is about me that they can’t get enough of. *laughs*


Men in Black: International is now available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD - click on any of the covers below to order yourself a copy today!


The Men in Black have always protected the Earth from the scum of the universe. In this new adventure, they tackle their biggest, most global threat to date: a mole in the Men in Black organization.

Men in Black: International features:
Director: F. Gary Gray
Chris Hemsworth as Agent H
Tessa Thompson as Agent M
Liam Neeson as High T
Rebecca Ferguson as Riza
Kumail Nanjiani as Pawny
Rafe Spall as Agent C
Laurent & Larry Bourgeois as The Twins
Emma Thompson as Agent O

Men in Black: International hits Digital HD on August 20 and
on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & DVD on September 3
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Se4M4NSt4ine - 9/3/2019, 8:08 AM
Cool interview Rohan!
RadicaLarry2 - 9/3/2019, 8:14 AM
This dude is funny as hell in the What We Do In the Shadows TV Show. Cannot wait for season 2
Chasm - 9/3/2019, 8:31 AM
Yeah but...when will we see him tour with System of A Down again?
zephyrrr - 9/3/2019, 12:19 PM
I hadn't realized he was in the film - I only know Kavyan from his BBC series The Fonejacker (if you haven't seen this, you should search for it on YouTube; hilarious!).
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