Jaeden Martell & Keean Johnson Interview: Low Tide

Kevin McMullen’s freshman feature film, Low Tide, deals with buried treasure and brotherly bonds on the Jersey Shore. After receiving a warm welcome at the Tribeca Film Festival, it’s coming to theaters on October 4. At the heart of the story are young actors Keean Johnson and Jaeden Martell, who play siblings that grow closer as their summertime pastime gets more dangerous. The stars sat down with Screen Rant to discuss their characters’ journeys as well as their upcoming projects.

Congratulations on the film; I love this kind of stuff. First of all, Alan really tries to protect Peter at any cost. Talk to me about the bond between the two.

Keean Johnson: I think that the beginning of the film, there's a bond with blood. Obviously, we are brothers; I don't think we've necessarily felt that bond [become] strong yet.

I have a younger brother that I went through the same thing with, where you at one point in your life realize that your sibling will be with you forever, and you can trust them more than you can trust any of your actual “friends.”

So, I was looking in the script for the point that he kind of notices that or finds that out, and then ultimately just wants to take care of him. I think he always has that feeling of wanting to take care of him, but it becomes his duty almost to care for and love him like he should have.

Now, did the director give you any films or books or properties to look over in preparation for the roles?

Keean Johnson: Yeah, a few. Outsiders. We talked about Stand by Me. We joked about The Goonies, although more just for chemistry. The Assassination of Jesse James, just for stylistic choice.

Jaeden Martell: Oh, yeah.

He gave you the same stuff, too?

Jaeden Martell: Yeah, but I've seen all these movies before. Except for Jesse James; I never watched it. Because I’m bad.

Talk to me about Alan's decision making. Because whether it's his relationship with Mary or bringing his little brother along, it seems that that a lot of his small choices have game-changing effects.

Keean Johnson: Yeah. Especially when you're that young, everything feels like a game-changing moment in your life. And when you're given a real adult situation, I think that it's already dramatic in the mind of a child. But when you're dealing with adult situations, it's probably even more dramatic.

I like how everything almost feels like life or death with Alan. He meets this girl. And Kristine, who plays Mary in the film, has short moments – but you feel this kind of beautiful love that all of a sudden, they feel for each other. Even though they've known each other for two days, but when you're young, you're like, “I love this feeling.”

I wanted to feel that, and I wanted the audience to feel that. This young kid had the ability to feel like, “I'm ready to marry this girl.” Even in small ways, I feel like Kevin did a really good job of trying to show how impactful and meaningful all these small moments were for these young kids.

Let's talk about Peter. He’s younger than the others, but he has a mature and deliberate nature about him. What kind of person do you envision him growing into?

Jaeden Martell: Yeah, I feel like he's already grown up. I don’t know; hopefully he becomes a person that is responsible, like he is now. He works hard, and I think he’ll live a simple life with his family. Obviously, that can all change, because he's used to taking care of himself. I feel like once you're used to something like that, really taking care of yourself, I feel like you forget how to be there for yourself in the future.

But he's just a kid who has had to grow up fast.

What do you think Red and Smitty’s fates are when the film ends? Because it's still left pretty unclear.

Keean Johnson: Yeah, I think Red is definitely found dead, floating.

Jaeden Martell: Spoiler alert!

Keean Johnson: Spoiler alert. And knows what happened to Smitty. He's one of those guys that maybe ends up becoming – Smitty is one of those characters that you end up thinking, “This kid's dumb.” You could say anything, and it would just go right over his head.

But then by the end, you start to notice that he listens to a lot more than you actually think. So, I hope that they all turn out all right. I hope Red makes it to heaven. He’s a pretty shitty kid, I don’t know if he deserves it.

The ending leaves a lot of room for more story. Would you like to see a follow up to this film? 

Keean Johnson: No. I think that in the age of sequels and remakes, it's good that there are films that are just one offs. You can leave it up to the audience to decide what happens. Because I feel like if the director tells you what should happen, it's not going to be what everyone wants.

I couldn't agree more with that. This film explores a whole new side of the Jersey Shore. What do you hope to illuminate for those who may only be familiar with the old reality show?

Keean Johnson: Honestly, I used to go there every summer, because I grew up in Philly. So, I feel a sentimental attachment to it. It's interesting to think about – these tourists go here, what we call “Bennies”. They go to the beach and rent summer homes, and you forget that there are people living there.

This movie’s a window into their lifestyle and how they deal with those people coming into their lives every once in a while. And there's a weird feeling; this place is only good enough for them for a little bit, but it's our home. It's kind of a defensive feeling, and there's kind of a beauty in it.

So, it's very different from the Jersey Shore. No steroids and greasy hair, just good old-fashioned teenagers.

Water has a huge presence in this film. What does water signify to you here?

Keean Johnson: That’s a good question.

Jaeden Martell: Something that I discovered after, which you pointed out and which Kevin pointed out, was that the whole movie is an allegory – I don’t know if that’s the right word – is a metaphor for pirates. So, this water represents them being pirates and traveling along the seas. Because they're obviously on boats a lot throughout the movie. I'm not sure what it represents exactly, though.

Keean Johnson: I mean, our father is far away on a fishing boat. So, I guess the closest we can kind of get to him is him selling fish and me driving boats around. It’s part of our second nature and to where we've grown up.

Jaeden, I’ve got to ask. How has the success of It changed things for you and your career?

Jaeden Martell: I'm not sure, but I think the most impactful part about doing it was not the success but the friendships that I made with all those kids. I think we make each other more passionate about acting and storytelling and filmmaking.

So, I think that was the biggest part that I took away from that film. Obviously, it did change my life in a way… I don't want to say anything; I can’t tell right now. Maybe I will be able to in ten years or so, but right now I'm just trying to live in the moment.

Shea Whigham and Keean Johnson in Low Tide

You got another heist movie coming up, which I'm super stoked about. What can you tell me about Cut Throat City?

Keean Johnson: I can tell you that I hope it comes out soon. Indies are so tough when you're in the process, because you just never know when that thing is going to come out. I'll be doing press probably sometime next year and have to remember what it was like filming it.

But I grew up as a hip-hop dancer since I was five years old. So, 36 Chambers was very close to my heart at a very young age. Being able to work with RZA, being able to be a part of that world and seeing him work as a director and spit a lot of knowledge outside of that, was really inspiring

The trailer just dropped for Knives Out. What can you tell me about that? 

Jaeden Martell: It's a fun movie, I’m in it for a little bit, but it just revolves around this insane cast of family members. Despite it being a super fun and exciting movie, it also has deeper meanings when it comes to privilege and immigration; stuff like that. I think Rian Johnson did a beautiful job with it.

More: Knives Out Official Movie Trailer

Key Release Dates
  • Low Tide (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
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