Justine Warrington finds her joy
Justine Warrington is brimming with joy.
This joy shoots through the phone in the first minute of the interview, when she delivers an enthusiastic “Why, hello, Sabrina!” – and it continues when I congratulate her on her outstanding work in Dragged Across Concrete, a highly stylized and brazenly violent feature film from Bone Tomahawk filmmaker S. Craig Zahler that had its world premiere last September at the venerable La Biennale di Venezia and recently hit VOD.
“I was so happy to be part of this really incredible production, and I felt like I was finally getting to do work that I’ve always wanted to do with people I’ve always wanted to work with,” says the Vancouver-based actress somewhat breathlessly. “I was on fire. It was joyful for me.”
That joy was apparently something of a surprise to a whole whack of people, including Dragged Across Concrete’s director – because the role isn’t written to be joyful. YVR Screen Scene is a spoiler-free zone, so we’re not going to tell you what happens to Cheryl, the bank employee that Warrington portrays in Dragged Across Concrete, but we will tell you Cheryl has a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
And yet, while Cheryl was having the worst day ever, her portrayer was living her best damn life.
“I was happy to be there and to get to play and be able to strut my stuff. It was a really challenging role and I really loved getting into that type of work,” says Warrington. “[Zahler] said to me when we saw each other at the festivals, ‘You had every right to be grumpy but you weren’t.’ The dark nature of the work, the desperate and dark places that these people go to, that was certainly a challenge because luckily I haven’t had those challenges in my actual life, so to get to play in this realm was a joy because I’d never done it before.”
Even Warrington’s management team initially had reservations about her participation in the film. Says Warrington: “The concerns were the places that this character needed to go, and is it something that I as an artist, do I need to explore that? Is it something that’s going to be okay for me? Is it too dark? Is it too scary? Is it too strange? And I was like, ‘Bring on the darkness!’”
Dragged Across Concrete – which stars Vince Vaughn and Mel Gibson as suspended cops with complicated lives – isn’t the only critically acclaimed film that’s brought Warrington an abundance of joy over the last couple of years.
Warrington achieved one of her career goals in 2017 when she shot a role in The Professor, opposite Johnny Depp. Depp stars as a college lecturer who is shocked to learn he has six months to live, and so he transforms into a rebellious party animal. Warrington plays someone who helps Depp’s character begin his new life. (Okay, I know I said that YVR Screen Scene is a spoiler-free zone, but here’s one tiny spoiler: They have sex).
The Professor premiered at the Zurich Film Festival in October 2018, and hit theatres and VOD in May 2019.
This role represented a bona-fide dream come true for Warrington. She remembers living in Toronto 10 years ago and proclaiming that one of the goals of her then-burgeoning career was to act opposite Depp (who she’d met in passing on the set of 21 Jump Street and had admired ever since).
So how was the experience of working with Depp in such an intimate scene?
The answer probably won’t surprise you.
“It was a joy,” says Warrington.
The Professor and Dragged Across Concrete were landmark experiences in a year of landmark experiences for the busy actress and filmmaker. Warrington’s now pouring everything she’s learned from these experiences into new projects, including a short film she’s co-starring in with JR Bourne and the feature film version of her award-winning sexy sci-fi comedy short, Earthlickers, which Warrington will further develop as a finalist in Whistler Film Festival’s Producers Lab.
“My goal now is to harness that joy and put it into all of my art,” says Warrington.
Watch the trailer for the Earthlickers short film below.
Dragged Across Concrete is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD. The Professor is available on VOD.