'Kin' Directors On How They Kept That Surprising Cameo Secret For Two Years

Kin is a science fiction film in that one of the main characters, a 14-year old boy, discovers a strange and powerful laser weapon in an abandoned building. But it's often science fiction adjacent, focused more on that boy going on the run with his brother with a dangerous criminal hot on their heels. For most of the film's running time, that ray gun is just a strange rogue element floating through a drama about brothers and fathers and sons.

And then, in Kin's wild third act, the science fiction steps to the forefront. And then there's a cameo from a major movie star that has somehow managed to escape being highlighted in any trailers or marketing material. When I spoke with the directors and writer of the film, they told me how this all came together. And yes, there will be major spoilers.

The Big Reveal

Late in Kin's running time, we learn the truth behind the strange laster weapon discovered by young Eli (Myles Truitt). It comes from an alternate dimension, one where a mysterious war rages on between two sides we never get to know or understand. Of course, Eli discovers this only after two soldiers from that alternate dimension arrive and freeze time, right as the vengeful Taylor (James Franco) is about to shoot Eli's adoptive older brother Jimmy (Jack Reynor) and the cops are preparing to storm the building, which has been the sight of a massive shootout between Taylor's crew and the brothers. It's a stressful moment for everyone involved, to say the least.

Naturally, Eli doesn't trust these strange visitors in bulky armor who have the power to freeze time and want him to hand over his powerful laser gun. So one of them lowers his helmet and reveals a face that should be familiar to anyone with with basic pop culture knowledge in 2018: it's Black Panther and Creed star Michael B. Jordan.

The mysterious man proceeds to drop a number of bombshells: he's from an alternate dimension, there's a war on, Eli is from the alternate dimension and he's been stashed in our world for his own safety, and the weapon arrived when assassins came to kill him, only for them to be intercepted by friendly forces. Oh, and this dimension-hopping soldier is Eli's actual brother.

Eli hands over the weapon. The visitors manipulate the time-frozen scene to save Jimmy and kill Taylor. And then they activate a glowing portal and go home with the laser gun, allowing the more mundane threads of the story to wrap up.

How It Happened

When I interviewed Kin directors Jonathan and Josh Baker and screenwriter Dan Casey, there was some initial hesitation about talking about this big reveal. After all, it was a well-kept secret. However, the team opened up after promises of spoiler warnings and running the Monday after release date. Here's our conversation.


The Michael B. Jordan cameo at the end, how did that come about?

Jonathan: That came about actually because of this man right here. We got a message from Dan saying, "Michael B. Jordan loves your short film and he just sent me a video watching it on his laptop and you can see him holding his phone in the reflection of the laptop, and he's loving it." He's like, "Man, we've gotta talk. I've known about this for a minute. You working on this thing?" And before we know it, we're at lunch with Michael, and he was very supportive. He just wanted to see more young black characters in sci-fi, and more importantly, in normal movies. Not black event films. Not anything themed, specifically. Just a regular film.

Josh: Michael's the guy that goes up for and steals all the white roles. He prides himself on it, as he should. I think he's one of those actors, and he basically just said, "How can I help, guys?" So he's an executive producer on the film. And he was a really good sounding board for a bunch of different things. From the spoiler side of things, we had him for a few days around the time, maybe just after Black Panther. The MBJ spoiler is something that, Hollywood just doesn't keep secrets anymore and it is super duper important to us, even more than financial success, we could be putting Michael at the forefront of this campaign and we're just not. It's not on his IMDb. I'm shocked it's not online already. We've kept the secret for two years. So yeah, we're really trying our hardest here. I think it's been for the experience. We played it here in Austin, we played it in Atlanta, and both times, you have three or four hundred people gasping as a group when that mask comes off at the end, and I think that's everything for us. That's what we want to try to get.

Jonathan: It's pure joy, man.

Josh: We wrote it into the script, that we wanted to surprise audiences with a reveal when that mask comes off.

Jonathan: My endgame is that we just land on a list of top 5 best cameos in a movie of all time. (laughs) That's all I care about.

Josh: When he was interested in doing anything with us, we went away and had a conversation like, "Look, we've got this role, we all know about it, we wrote it into the script as someone well known once the mask comes off. I think Michael's right for this for a bunch of reasons, but the main one is, you want Eli, this black teenager, to be able to look up in a place as an outsider where he's never actually belonged and he doesn't really fit into his own family group and his own community, to look at someone in the eyes who's standing in front of him with his hand out, saying, "I'm your brother." He's looking into the face of Michael B. Jordan. That's a very powerful image, and it's something we just wanted to put up on the big screen. Michael supported that, he understood where we were going with it, and fingers crossed, if there's ever some kind of sequel, I'm sure we'll learn a lot more about who Michael B. Jordan is playing.


Kin is in theaters now.