April 03, 2018 at 02:00 PM EDT

In writer-director Bobby Miller’s horror-comedy The Cleanse, Johnny Galecki plays the heart-broken Paul, who attends what turns out to be a very unusual retreat.

The Cleanse is about a group of people who are unhappy in their lives,” says the Big Bang Theory actor, who is also one of the film’s producers. “They go on one of these kind of trendy retreats that are quite the fad now, not really knowing what to expect, and not really knowing what they hope to be the result, but they want, and probably need, change in their lives. And so, they are given a cleanse on their first day, at this retreat, and what the cleanse does is expels all the toxins from your body. What they don’t know, and what they soon learn, is that those toxins form into your own personal demon, your own personal pain in an embodied form — literally.”

What attracted Galecki to the project?

“I thought the film was fun and fantastical, and I hadn’t read anything like it before,” he says. “Yet, at the same time, it was very nostalgic of things that I had seen and loved growing up, like Gremlins, [and] other things that I loved as I got a little bit older, like The Brood, or even Rosemary’s Baby, a lot of [John] Carpenter films.”

The little monsters which the bodies of the retreat attendees’ purge were, for the most part, practical creations.

“Early on, Bobby and Jordan Horowitz (another of the film’s producers) bonded over the idea of using practical effects,” says Galecki. “Nobody has anything against CGI as an additive. I think we all see the benefit of digital effects. But I think audiences have missed seeing these puppets, I think they miss seeing the sweat and the fingerprints. We used CGI as a sweetener, very, very subtly, in expressions in the eyes and things of that nature. Otherwise, we had real puppeteers there, whether they were under the table with their hand in the puppet or whether they were within the puppet, as the creatures grow bigger. It was a blast; it was really fun. Oddly, when you spend 12 hours a day with these puppets, they become little personalities. They just feel like fellow castmates, as absurd as that sounds.”

Galecki’s human castmates include Anna Friel, Oliver Platt, and Anjelica Huston, who plays one of the retreat’s organizers.

“Anjelica’s fantastic,” says Galecki. “Everyone knows she’s an amazing, gifted actress. But she’s also a lot of fun to hang around. Bobby and I were having our initial meeting with her at her house in Venice, and we weren’t even sure if she’d even read the script yet, but we knew that we very much hoped that she would read it, love it, and agree to do the movie. As soon as we got there, she told us that she had read the script, she loved the character. She immediately started showing us wardrobe ideas for her character and poured us a flute of champagne. It was like, ‘Oh, I guess Angelica’s in. Alright, let’s go shoot a movie!'”

So, has Galecki himself ever done a cleanse?

“I’ve done that lemon and cayenne thing, and I’ve done a few fasts and things of that nature,” he says. “I think with anything like that, if you approach it with a healthy goal in mind, it’s probably a good thing. I’m not giving any cleanse or fasts any commercial or anything like that. But I certainly haven’t had the experience that Paul and the other characters had!”

The Cleanse is released in theaters and on demand on May 4.

Exclusively watch the film’s trailer above, and see the new poster for The Cleanse below.

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