After gaining fame as part of the now defunct YouTube supergroup Our2ndLife, Kian Lawley has accumulated more than 4 million followers between his personal YouTube channel and the one he runs with best friend Jc Caylen. Now, he’s set his sights on a movie career, and his debut horror flick The Chosen is premiering July 24 during VidCon. Plus, he just wrapped his second project, the coming-of-age movie Shovel Buddies. We talked to Lawley about what it’s like to make the switch from YouTube to the big screen.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’re known primarily for your comedy on YouTube. Was it tough to switch to horror? Are you a horror fan?
I grew up watching The Ring, The Grudge, all those scary movies. But as I got older, and I told people that I’ve been watching The Ring and The Grudge and these movies that aren’t too scary, people started giving me movies to watch like Nightmare on Elm Street. I’d never seen that before until recently. Same with The Shining — hadn’t seen that until recently. Now I’m getting into really thought-out, clever horror films, and I really like it.
So tell us a little bit about the character you play in The Chosen.
At the beginning, my character Cameron is really family-oriented. He has a sister that is like a drug addict, and her daughter isn’t getting taken care of by her, so my mom watches over her, and I kind of help with that. He cares a lot about his family, but when he finds out his niece is sick, he basically does anything and everything to keep her alive or to save her.
There’s a supernatural element to this, right? Can you tell us a little bit about that?
There’s a demon named Lilith, and she is a child stealer. She basically goes from child to child and kills them. And once she’s done, she’ll move on to the next one, and there’s basically no stopping her unless you kill six people in your bloodline, family members like your grandpa, your grandma, your mom, your dad. So the only way to stop her is to sacrifice six other lives in your family in order to save your niece.
That’s pretty dark.
It’s very dark. It’s kind of hard to explain, but I think I got it all out there.
This is your feature film debut. What was that like, making the jump from YouTube to movies?
It was kind of scary, actually. Terrifying. I went from basically filming in my bedroom by myself, filming some funny videos, and then overnight, I switched into filming in some studios and some warehouses and family homes. I started filming with directors and producers and editors, and there were so many people in the room, so it was definitely weird. It was a weird transition. But I love it. I loved every second of it. I got used to it the first day. It was kind of weird, seeing all the people there for the first day, but I got used to it, and everyone was so nice. I loved working with them.
When you were filming The Chosen, were you updating your YouTube channels and creating new content, or did you film new videos in advance? How did that work?
Jc and I, we have a joint channel where we make videos together and upload them twice a week, so during the film, I would film for YouTube on the weekends because those were my only days off, Saturday and Sunday. I would film one or two videos a weekend and upload those throughout the week. For a month and a half, I was just constantly filming. There was no downtime. There was always a camera in front of my face.
You’ve just wrapped your second film, Shovel Buddies. What’s next? Do you want to really devote yourself to film, or do you still want to stay in the YouTube space?
I want to stick with movies, but I also want to stick with YouTube. I’m never going to give up YouTube. I’m never going to stop making videos for the people who continue to watch them. That’s my home base. That’s what I love, that’s what I know. So, I’m going to stick with YouTube for as long as I can, but at the same time, I’m going to be doing movies. I’d love to get into comedy and test out new genres of film.
The Chosen will debut in Anaheim during VidCon and be available on demand July 24. Watch an exclusive clip below.