Cooper Koch has become one of the most exciting new writers in the business. He has been in popular movies like Power Book II: Ghost and They/Them. Right now, he’s in the must-see horror movie Swallowed.
In this backwoods body-horror movie, two friends must endure a nightmare of drugs, bugs, and terrible closeness after a drug deal goes wrong.
Pop Culturalist got to talk to Cooper about Swallowed, how much he loves making independent films, how he thinks the movie makes sexuality in media more normal, and more!
PC: Tell us about your role in Swallowed and what made you want to work on this project.
Cooper Koch: It’s mostly about Benjamin (Cooper Koch) and Dom (Jose Colon), two friends. Benjamin is about to move to Los Angeles to become a porn star. Dom wants to send him to Los Angeles with some extra money, but they get caught up in a drug trafficking scam and have to take drugs that aren’t what they seem to be.
Before I got the story, I had known Carter Smith for about four or five years. We almost worked on a few projects together, but it didn’t happen. Then I got a copy from my team. I loved it when I read it. It keeps you turning the pages. I didn’t want to put the book down. I loved the role, so I recorded myself playing it. Carter liked it a lot. We met, and then he told me I could play the part.
PC: For this part, you need to be able to show a lot of weaknesses. As an actor, how did you give yourself the space to get into the arc and journey of your character?
Cooper Koch: I made up much of the bond between Benjamin and Dom, as well as how Benjamin grew up and why he wanted to move to LA. He was done with living in the country. He wanted more sparkle and shine. He knows that he looks good. He is aware of how much he enjoys having sex. That was the path he took. I put a lot of work into that.
But I didn’t pay too much attention to what happens in the movie because Benjamin doesn’t know what will happen to him. I wanted to get into it and see what would happen as if it were happening right in front of me. I didn’t want to think too much about how I would look, what I would do, or how I would feel about it. Instead, I wanted to live through it as if it were real.
PC: Carter has a very clear reason for making this movie. He wants to bring justice to the screen, which has been missing for a long time. Did that give this project a different weight?
Cooper Koch : Yes, of course. That’s what makes this one stand out. It has nothing to do with being gay. It doesn’t shine a light on it or call attention to it. It doesn’t shine a light on what it means to be gay, how to come out, or the gay experience. It has nothing to do with that at all. It’s about love that isn’t returned. It is about staying alive. It’s not about that. It just so happens that the main actors are gay. That’s a really important way for movies to normalize sexuality. I hope to see that in all kinds of stories, not just horror. I want to see a romantic comedy where the fact that the two main characters are gay has nothing to do with the plot. They are just like that.
PC: Carter wrote this project and led it. Is it different to work on a movie when the person who built the world is also the director? How did that work together go?
Cooper Koch: Carter gave me a lot of strength. If I didn’t like something, I could say so and make it better. I could make things up on the spot. I was free to move in the way I thought was best. He was interested in my thoughts and ideas. This is the best way to be when making something because it makes you feel like your voice is important. He worked with everyone and was very open. It’s great to work with him.
PC: You’ve worked on a wide range of tasks. What about making solo movies gets you excited as an artist?
Cooper Koch: What gave you that idea? It’s the best. I like working on smaller projects because they are so much more personal. You learn more about the people who live near you. That is so much fun. I’d rather wait for the set-up in the truck we’re shooting in than return to my trailer and be alone. I’d much rather hang out with the cast and crew and have fun with everyone. I also think working together is easier when the project is smaller. I like working with a random group of twenty directors because it feels more personal. I like it better. It’s more interesting.
PC: This movie has been to many film festivals, and it’s been a huge hit everywhere. What do you think people are most interested in?
Cooper Koch: I didn’t expect that at all. It’s hard to tell. It stinks. It’s weird. It gives you the creeps. But at the same time, there’s this beautiful unrequited love story and bond underneath it, as well as a friendship that I hope is what people remember most.
PC: There’s a lot of great chemistry on screen, especially in those last few seconds. How did the two of you become friends and build the bond you needed to understand the relationships of your characters?
Cooper Koch: About a week before we started shooting, Carter flew us to Maine. Jose and I hung out and got to know each other for a week. It grew on its own, like a bond. Both of Carter’s movies were shown to us. We all got together to watch The Ruins and Jamie Marks Is Dead. We watched a different movie every night. Carter drives that jeep. We drove around in the car. We went for a drive. We had drinks. We made dinners. We talked about the story and the people in it. We got along. Over a week, we became friends on our own.