Cast Chat: “Guardians”

I sat down with 3 of cast members from the intense, faith-based drama “Guardians” to discuss the film and its surprising leap onto the indie film radar.

Wil Wilson plays Gabe, Willa Darian is Madison White and Cherish Rodriguez takes on the challenging role of Emily Aguilar.

Welcome to each of you and congrats on the excellent reviews for “Guardians.”

Cherish Rodriguez has won 3 best supporting actress awards and been nominated several times, congratulations Cherish. This was a great vehicle to showcase your acting talents. What’s the message we should take away from this movie?

Cherish: “Well, thank you Chuck and I think the take-away is that we can all be someone’s guardian angel. We can be someone’s support and help someone focus on their passion instead of someone who enables their addiction. Keep your eyes and hearts open.  Someone out there needs you.”

Wil: “It’s a great story, isn’t it?! All of us, cast and crew, are quite excited about how well received it has become. Two women struggle with their own demons and find themselves in dangerous, dark places where they may need a little help. It could be the love they have for each other is far stronger than their own personal issues. Sometimes focusing on another person and their issues makes the troubles that we’re facing seem smaller and — we begin to see ourselves through the other person. We begin to see all the things that we’re encouraging them to do also apply to ourselves. if you’re quiet and look around and stay aware, you’ll find you have the potential to be someone’s guardian angel. Someone needs you.”

Willa: “It is always so wonderful to see a group of people who have really put in the time and effort to bring a story to life – get the recognition they deserve. Guardians is a story of redemption, moving through the pain of life to see the hope that surrounds us everyday. With one small action, we can all become a Guardian to those around us.”

Cherish Rodriguez (Emily) in “Guardians”

Tell me about being on the set of this film.

Wil: “Every time I walk onto a Rick Walker film set I know, without a doubt, that every contingency is covered. The cast and crew are 100% laser focused and at ease because of the way Rick runs his set. Efficient, effective and focused. All while keeping it fresh and upbeat.”

Willa: “Stepping on set, I felt both the cast and crew were actually ready to create a story together.”

Cherish: “Being on set was a lot of extreme weather. Utah snow, Oklahoma wind and Arizona heat and ALWAYS long days. I enjoyed every minute of it. Our EP Noble McIntyre put a lot of faith in his cast, his crew and Rick who assembled this team. It paid off for sure because this film really leaves you with a feeling and it’s one of those you talk about long after it’s over.”

Let’s talk about working closely with Rick Walker on ‘Guardians’. Wil, how would you describe your experience working with Rick?

Wil: “Rick is the best, man. Truly. The guy is sincere and a visionary. He’s ultra creative and super chill. I love working with him. He makes great cinematic choices. He picks script apart then puts it back together in unique and clever way resulting in a fascinating movie. It’s no surprise that he is gaining in popularity. His direction absolutely, positively contributed to the success GUARDIANS is experiencing. The man puts the work in.”

Willa: “Rick Walker is a ball of fun. Don’t get me wrong, he takes directing very seriously and supports his cast and crew with a clear vision. But he also knows when to lighten the mood on set while his actors are reaching and exploring deep emotion. I look forward to working with him again.”

Cherish: “Rick Walker is someone who can look at all of the elements in his hands, meaning actors, locations, budget, time limits, scheduling, and put that puzzle together. I always joke with him that he “landed the plane”. He’s a pilot. He keeps his cool, puts out fires, and keeps the passengers calm. It’s been amazing to watch him work and collaborate with him. You can’t win best director awards without landing that plane. I was really impressed by the FLEET of planes that Rick landed. He was wearing so many hats and coordinating so many things at the same time with so much grace.  When he gave his acceptance speech after winning a recent “best director” award, he dedicated his award to the entire cast and crew.  That’s what makes him a great director, understanding that movies are a collaboration between so many different artists and talents and knowing how to guide them to do their best all while working together as a team.  This is something he does extremely well.”

Wil Wilson (Gabe) in “Guardians”

Talk about working with the rest of your stellar cast.

Willa: “Although I did not share screen time with Eric Roberts, I’m very grateful to be in a film that allowed him to show his charismatic self. Mackenzie and Cherish both created a welcoming environment on set. Taylor Armstrong, with whom I shared the most screen time, was such a kind human and supportive scene partner. It was a joy to see her take her first film role and run with it.”

Wil: “Taylor Armstrong is a very sweet soul. Totally enjoyed working with her. So much so that I got a selfie with her. Poor woman. I totally ambushed her and she was completely gracious about it. Mackenzie is awesome. She’s intelligent, humble, focused and graceful. She’s an amazing talent. Cherish never wilted under the pressure of this role. She thrived. Watching Mackenzie and Cherish work together is captivating and amazing. I mean, the energy levels they had to maintain. They blew me away.”

Cherish: “Taylor Armstrong gave a sensitive and natural performance.  She is known for reality TV so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but she was truly lovely and her performance was perfect.  Wil is a power house.  He only has a couple of lines in the movie; he’s mostly doing action, but he really owns the screen.  Mackenzie is a natural.  Everything she did was really nuanced and she really proved that she can do just about anything she decides to do.  Her performance was rich and gorgeous.”

What might viewers find surprising when they watch ‘Guardians’?

Willa: “Viewers who think ‘Guardians’ is only a “faith based” film will be surprised. The story is for every audience and captures your attention with each storyline. It’s real and gritty. It’s hopeful and inspiring.”

Wil: “I agree, even in script form, I was surprised by how deeply I felt l for and related to an aspect of each of these characters.”

Willa Darian (Madison) in “Guardians”

I was at the European premiere in London and the US premiere in Arizona and the audience response for the characters in this movie really surprised me. I caught a half dozen viewers with tears throughout the movie. By the way, I should mention the excellent pacing by the editing team of Walker with Jacie Quillen. Also, Quillen’s award-winning production design was stellar throughout lifting the story without getting her personal fingerprints everywhere. And Dalton Spence was spot on with his hair and make-up looks.

How does hair make up, wardrobe, set design, locations help your performance?

Wil: “Jacie has a great eye and feel for the overall tone of the film and it shows in each and every set design and look she brought to the viewers. Hair and makeup genius Dalton Spence created some incredible looks for each of us. GUARDIANS wouldn’t be what it is without these incredibly talented creatives and their influence.”

Cherish: “The more details we can get right, the more natural the performance.  Film is the most collaborative art I can think of and when everyone is on point, magic is made.”

Let’s get personal for a minute. You’ve each amassed a nice body of work in a few short years. What personal advice can you offer other actors?

Wil: “You are enough! You got the call to audition for a reason. Someone on that production, a decision maker, asked YOU to come audition. Don’t stop. Ever. Keep moving forward. Always evolve. Learn your craft. Pursue it. Relentlessly.”

Cherish: “If you love it, do it. This probably doesn’t make a lot of sense but, it’s neither as easy as it looks or as hard. I’ll leave that up for interpretation.”

Willa: “I tell my acting students this every day – you are there to allow someone else’s story to live. Your character deserves your attention and support to help guide their story to come to life. Move out of the way and magic can happen.”

“Guardians” premieres in Oklahoma City on Sunday, March 3rd with nationwide release details coming soon.


– Based in Los Angeles, Chuck Davin is the Editor-in Chief for Film Rumor and a regular contributor to Indie Wrap.

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