Mohawk, writer/director Ted Geoghegan’s follow-up to his acclaimed haunted-house frightfest We Are Still Here, draws from the distant past for its storyline of Native Americans fighting to survive against renegade soldiers during the War of 1812. When it came to wrestler-turned-actor Jon Huber’s role, however, a much more recent event came into play.
Geoghegan and co-scripter Grady Hendrix had written Lochlan Allsopp—one of the military men in pursuit of two young Mohawk warriors and their British companion—with a broken leg, and Huber, better known as the WWE’s Luke Harper of the Wyatt Family, had recently suffered a similar injury when he was offered the role. “It was at a Dark Match for Raw in Philadelphia,” he recalls. “I took a step and my leg buckled—it kind of snapped in two, a patella dislocation. They had to fix a ligament on the other side of the patella,” and it removed him from the game for six months.
That left him open to take his first non-wrestling acting role in Mohawk, which world-premieres this Saturday, July 15 at Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival. “I’ve had a few offers here and there, but Mohawk came as kind of a perfect storm,” Huber says. “With me being out injured, I had a little extra time and I thought it would be fun. And it was a blast!”
At the beginning, though—the art-imitating-life element of Allsopp wearing a leg brace notwithstanding—he admits to feeling out of his element performing away from the wrestling ring. “I actually texted Ted maybe a day before we started shooting, and told him that I felt woefully unprepared for everything that was about to happen to me,” Huber laughs. “A) because I didn’t know how to fucking act, and b) I just didn’t understand the gravity of the situation my character was in, and how to formulate who Lochlan is and where he’s coming from in the time period. I didn’t really research it until I got to the set and saw what we were working with, and then I looked into it a little bit. But then I just approached it based on how he was written, and played that up. Knowing the Civil War, and that this was the lead-up to it, I felt like I had a pretty good grasp of it.”
Allsopp and his fellow soldiers spend the entirety of Mohawk pursuing their quarry through forbidding, treacherous forests (filmed in upstate New York in the heat of summer 2016), and Huber’s many years of grappling served him well on the shoot. “Pro wrestling is so physical and taxing and just hurts your body; it’s very aggressive entertainment. Mohawk was also pretty grueling; I was up at 5 in the morning to get to the set by 6, worked all day, went home at night to get up to do it again the next day. It was mentally taxing too, because now I had to remember lines, I had to know where my character was going and what the action was; it was a crazy mental exercise at the same time as the physical one. It was fairly similar to wrestling, where you have to figure out what people want to see and how to appeal to them while you’re in the middle of a match. So they’re kind of the same but different in certain ways, but both are physically and mentally challenging—and they’re equally gratifying at the same time.
“But the thing about making the movie,” he continues, “was that when I did a scene, I couldn’t say at the end of the day, ‘Hey, that was great,’ because I honestly didn’t know [laughs]. Whereas with a wrestling match, I can say, ‘OK, that one was good.’ So I was a little out of my element on Mohawk, but I think I did well!”
With the WWE moving deep into film production in recent years (though it wasn’t involved in making Mohawk, which was produced by Snowfort Pictures and Dark Sky Films), a number of its stars have taken horror/action roles in its movies. Huber confesses that as of this interview, he has only seen the two See No Evil flicks, starring Kane as serial killer Jacob Goodnight, “so I don’t know what the bar is. The problem is, my wife absolutely cannot watch any horror because it terrifies her, so my viewing of it is limited. But the first See No Evil is one of my favorite horror films. I thought it broke ground for wrestlers, though at the same time, it didn’t get the proper play because of that. People said, ‘OK, it’s a film with a wrestler in it,’ and it was kind of written off that way. But I thought it was a great movie.”
Now back in action on WWE Smackdown!, Huber says he would welcome the opportunity to tackle further feature-film parts. “I always look at stuff like Mohawk this way: I don’t know if I’ll do it again, so I try to really enjoy what I’m doing at that time. So that’s what I did on Mohawk, and I don’t know if I’ll do anything like it again—but I would love to.”