Exclusive Interview: Jose Colon & Cooper Koch on queer body-horror Swallowed “it’s not flashy nudity it’s part of the story”

With Sundance award-winning filmmaker Carter Smith’s sexy and unsettling queer horror Swallowed now available on demand and digital in the US, two of its stars, Cooper Koch and Jose Colon, speak exclusively with The Queer Review’s editor James Kleinmann about how they got involved, shooting in a cabin in the woods in rural Maine, working with co-stars Jenna Malone and Mark Patton, their thoughts on being naked on screen, and their own horror favourites.

Koch recently starred in the LGBTQ+ teen horror They/Them, and can be seen the series Power Book II: Ghost. Colon is an actor and model with a background in competitive boxing and mixed martial arts, who makes his screen debut with Swallowed. They play lifelong best friends Benjamin (Koch) and Dom (Colon) who find themselves fighting to survive a nightmarish ordeal after a drug deal goes awry the night before Benjamin is set to leave Maine to pursue his career in gay porn in LA.

Cooper Koch & Jose Colon on starring in queer horror movie Swallowed 

James Kleinmann, The Queer Review: Jose could you take us back to how you became involved with Swallowed?

Jose Colon: “I shot with Carter for his All The Dead Boys series and then he told me that he was working on this screenplay. So I sent him a bunch of tapes with different versions of what I felt like the character of Dom might be like. I feel incredibly lucky.”

Cooper Koch as Benjamin in Swallowed. Courtesy of Momentum Pictures. 

Cooper, was it a fully formed screenplay by the time that you became involved?

Cooper Koch: “Yes, I got an audition for it from my team. I already knew Carter and there had been a couple projects that we had almost worked on together but didn’t happen. So I sent a tape in, had a meeting with Carter and then he offered me the part.”

What was your initial reaction when you got to read the script for the first time?

Cooper: “I loved it! It was one of those scripts where I didn’t want to stop reading. I was fully invested the entire time and I didn’t know where it was going. I’m always excited by stuff where I’m like, ‘Oh my God, how are they going to do this? How could I do this?’ So that was really exciting and terrifying and I was fully on board from the get-go.”

Jose Colon as Dom in Swallowed. Courtesy of Momentum Pictures. 

The visual effects in terms of the mysterious bugs are brilliantly done aren’t they? One thing I always love in a horror is when we don’t see too much of something like that, as with this film, where some of it is left to our imaginations.

Cooper: ‘They were actually puppets, we had these bug like replicas on set and they had things attached to them to make them move, then the special effects just enhanced things like their teeth and their movement.”

Mark Patton as Rich and Cooper Koch as Benjamin in Swallowed. Courtesy of Momentum Pictures. 

Were you involved in moving them yourselves?

Cooper: “There were a couple shots when we did. In the rest stop bathroom scene there was a table that we could lay underneath to control the puppet, so there were a couple times when I was the puppet master!”

So puppeteering is something that you can to add to your resumé now.

Cooper: “It’s already on my resumé because I did Avenue Q in high school!”

What a great show to do in high school.

Cooper: “Right?! We did the high school version though.”

There’s a really beautiful relationship at the centre of the film. Could you each tell me about creating the bond between Benjamin and Dom, which is very sweet and mostly unspoken, we get it from the way that they are with each other.

Jose: “Me and Cooper met up in Maine a week before making the film and spent so much time together. Our characters loving each other had nothing to do with with this guy being straight or that being gay. There’s no need to identify with any of that. It’s passed all that, it’s just love. Love is love. I love him. So, I really got to know Cooper, he’s a great guy.”

Cooper: “It was just the two of us there in a cabin for a week before we started shooting. We didn’t have a lot to do, so we just hung out, watched movies, and drove the Jeep. That Jeep that you see in the film was actually Carter’s car. We’d drink and we made meals together and formed a friendship. We talked about our characters and the story and we were so excited about getting started. So it happened naturally and we got along and had so much fun together.”

Jose Colon as Dom in Swallowed. Courtesy of Momentum Pictures. 

There’s quite a lot of nudity in the film and it’s never gratuitous, it’s always to do with the characters and the situation that they’re in. What were your thoughts on approaching that aspect of the film as actors? I guess you knew what you were getting into from the beginning from the script, but did you have any reservations at all?

Jose: “Well, I like being naked, so there we go! No, it was great.”

Cooper: “My mother had some reservations. She was like, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ But, for me, like you said, it’s not sexualized and for my character at least it’s about survival in the moment. It’s part of the story, it’s not flashy nudity that’s just there to garner some attention. I did Hair in college, where we all got naked on stage, and I did an art installation with a director where I was naked. So I’ve had some experience with with nudity as a performer before and it’s always been done really respectfully and artistically. I was definitely still a little nervous and apprehensive about it, but I think anyone would be that way. Ultimately though, it was great and I was super okay with it.”

Jenna Malone as Alice in Swallowed. Courtesy of Momentum Pictures. 

As well as the bugs that we mentioned, you have some great human co-stars too! The fabulous Jena Malone and Mark Patton, from movies like A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. What they like as scene partners and to be around in Maine?

Jose: “Jena Malone is a very good actress and such a pro. Mark Patton is a legend.”

Cooper: “Jenna became a really maternal figure for me. We’re such great friends and she doesn’t live too far from me in LA. She’s obviously had so much experience as an actor of working on sets and I’m still pretty much at the beginning of my career, so I learned so much from her. She helped me to feel free to speak my mind and have opinions and say no if I didn’t like something or wanting to change dialogue. She really took charge of the set and it was awesome to watch that. She put on the assistant director hat a little bit because we didn’t really have an AD. She put on a lot of hats on set and was so wonderful to work with. I love calling her my friend now.”

Cooper Koch (“Benjamin”), Eric Nagy (Editor), Rob Younkers (Costume Designer), Carter Smith (Director), Dora Wang (Production Assistant), Liyae Yang (Production Assistant), Ashley Kotzur (Sound Mixer) and Jose Colon (“Dom”) on the set of the horror/thriller/LGBTQIA+ film, Swallowed, a Momentum Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Momentum Pictures.

This film spans a few different genres, but one of them is definitely horror and I know it was very successful at various horror festivals. Is it a genre that either of you are particularly drawn as viewers?

Jose: “There are a few specific movies in the horror world that I really like, like the It movies with Pennywise. I really like Lost Boys too. Modern horror is a bit different because it’s way more fucked up. It’s not just blood, it actually puts you in these weird positions where you’re thinking about what you would do if you were there. Modern horror is really scary.”

Cooper: “I first started getting into horror with American Horror Story, that was when I fell in love with the genre. But I would rather be in them than watch them! I loved Pearl this year, that was my favourite one.”

Benjamin is a budding gay porn star and has a very sweet porn star name. If you had to pick a porn star name for yourselves what would it be?

Cooper: “That’s a good question, I needed this in advance! Well, my name is Cooper Koch, so maybe Cooper Cock?! That’s the first thing that came out off the top of my head.”

How about you Jose?

Jose: “Probably just Dom.”

By James Kleinmann

Swalllowed is available on demand and digital on Tuesday, February 14th, 2023.

Screens at the 37th BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival on Thursday, March 16th and Friday March 17th, 2023.

Cooper Koch & Jose Colon on starring in queer horror movie Swallowed
SWALLOWED – Official Trailer

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