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INTERVIEW: Rahul Kohli, Katie Parker, and Mali Elfman Break Down ‘Next Exit’

Rahul Kohli and Katie Parker in Next Exit

The Tribeca Film Festival is wrapping up, and we got to speak to the incredible cast and creatives behind the film Next Exit for its New York premiere. The film gives us a look into a world where ghosts are part of the world just in the same way we are, and being able to talk to your loved ones has normalized death in a way that has some unexpected ramifications. (A word of warning for those who may want to watch: The movie’s plot heavily involves suicide.)

Getting to speak with director and writer Mali Elfman, she talked a bit about what pushed her to tell this story. “I think it was always the characters that I was drawn to and that spoke to me,” Elfman said when I asked why this story. “And when I was writing they told me what they wanted to do. But in terms of the concept, it was, especially at the top of COVID, you see one thing change in the world and then you see this ripple effect of what happens. And so for me, wanting to take that into the afterlife and seeing, ‘okay, well, everybody has their beliefs and has their ideas of what happens when you die. What if we just take that away? How does that affect everybody?’ And that was a really interesting case study. And then two people who the world has not been kind to them, and they’ve been struggling through putting them into that and then seeing what they do.”

The two people she’s referring to are Rose and Teddy, their relationship being the driving force of the film. Being forced to drive with each other across the country to get to the doctor, the two go from complete strangers to two people who need each other whether they like it or not, so I asked Kohli and Parker about that dynamic and how they kind of found that relationship together, to which Kohli jokingly responded, “We hate each other.”

Building a relationship

Parker went on to talk about how much she loved working with Kohli and the dynamic they found together. “I feel like we have like such a family dynamic, I’ve always felt really comfortable with Rahul and all the ways you do with a family member where you’re like, I hate you and I will kill anyone who actually hurts you,” she said, “and there’s respect and there’s love. And what I’ve been saying a lot is best actor I’ve ever worked with, most supportive, most connected, most collaborative, interesting, very respectful.”

But as Parker kept complimenting Kohli, he kept making faces and hating being complimented, but much like that relationship she was talking about, she kept teasing him about it anyway, but Kohli then gave a beautiful response about their growth together. “There were two relationships. We were obviously playing one and we were experiencing one at the same time because in terms of the acting department, it had two members in it. So it was Katie and I, and we were the only ones going through that side of things and we needed each other and that relationship became codependent in a way. Like I think sometimes you needed me to be silly and let go of stuff.”

Kohli went on to talk about how they found that push and pull with each other and how it helped them create a bond as actors to bring Rose and Teddy’s story to life. “And there are other times where like, I guess tell myself short here, but I can be a bit moody and serious and we are on the road and it was a long journey and I’ve come off another thing. And sometimes I just needed love and Katie’s one of the most warm, beautiful souls I’ve ever met and actually lifted me sometimes when I don’t know if I wanted to come out of my room the next day, you know? So we had that going on at the same time. Like we really learned how to work together.”

Next Exit is a hard emotional journey but one that is so incredibly moving and beautiful, and it was a delight to speak to Elfman, Kohli, and Parker about this incredible piece of art they’ve created.

(featured image: Katrina Wan)

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She/Her. A writer who loves all things movies, TV, and classic rock. Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. Star Wars makes her very happy. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast. And also a Harrison Ford one.