Metal Lords: Analesa Fisher On Metal, Fitting In, And Playing D&D With D.B. Weiss [Interview]

The upcoming Netflix film "Metal Lords," written by "Game of Thrones" co-creator D.B. Weiss and executive produced by fellow "GOT" alum David Benioff, will hit the streaming service on April 8, 2022. It's the story of metal fan Hunter (Adrian Greensmith) and his friend Kevin (Jaeden Martell), who start a band named Skullf***er. (If I could put a horns emoji here, I one hundred percent would.) They need a bassist, but instead find cello player Emily (Isis Hainsworth), who joins them for the Battle of the Bands. As a metalhead myself, I cannot recommend this lovely movie highly enough. It was produced by Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, features actors Brett Gelman and Joe Manganiello, and also contains music from "Game of Thrones" composer Ramin Djawadi. 

Analesa Fisher ("Pretty Little Liars," "Chad") plays the role of Kendall, a young woman who isn't comfortable in her own skin. Through a connection with another outsider, she learns that fitting in doesn't have to be your goal in high school, and that being yourself is much better than being the same as the rest of the crowd. I got to speak to Fisher about not only this film that I adore, but their introduction to metal, how D.B. Weiss has mentored them in their acting and writing career, and how they and Weiss got the cast into an ongoing game of Dungeons & Dragons. 

'It's okay to be different and to be yourself'

["Metal Lords" is] a feel good movie, and I feel like everyone really needs that right now. So I'd love to hear your thoughts on the story of "Metal Lords" and the message.

Absolutely. Yeah. I completely agree. I mean, just the sheer theme of it being about outcasts trying desperately to make their mark on the world is what makes it, I think, so fun. It really centers around the two teenage outcasts, Hunter and Kevin, who are struggling to form a metal band in a high school that's filled with other struggling high school kids that are desperately searching to form their own identities. So I think it just does a fantastic job at using metal music as a catalyst to kind of portray that theme that is metal music, which is like truth to power. It's okay to be different and to be yourself. And everything is going to work out in the end.

I'm a huge metalhead, so I really appreciate this. So tell us a little bit about Kendall and her interaction with Kevin.

So Kendall, she's one of those characters that I think a lot of people can relate to being in high school, and you don't have a lot of options for finding your people, necessarily. She's kind of found herself in the outs of this popular group. Not necessarily wanting to be there, but not having any other place to be and having no idea who she is herself.

So in the beginning, when she meets Kevin, you can see how much anger she has about the place that she's stuck in the world. Then she watches as Kevin becomes his full self — becomes a person that she didn't think that this nerdy kid could ever become. And it's through that entire transformation that she's able to see, "Holy Toledo, I can be myself, too. And I can embrace the things that I like that maybe other people might think are different. Because this kid did it, so why can't I?"

'We play Dungeons & Dragons together all the time'

There is a scene at the party where [Kevin is] staring at her a little, and she just seems very upset by it. And wow, I think everyone's going to connect with that particular scene. Did you connect with that, too?

Oh yeah, that was one of my audition scenes, and it came way too easily for me. Just like, "You can't possibly be looking at me because you like me. There's no way. You're making fun of me. Leave me alone." I love that, especially with D.B. [Weiss] there, he really reinvented the idea of meet-cute in this movie. I think he did a really good job with that.

That's a perfect way to put it — a reinvented meet-cute. I love that. So, you got to work on a project with a showrunner from "Game of Thrones." How much interaction did you guys have?

A lot. A lot. A lot. D.B and I actually, I mean, I pinch myself every morning, but I am so unbelievably grateful for him because through this entire process, he's become a fantastic mentor on and off screen to me. I would not have three books written right now if it weren't for him. He is always answering my emails to give me notes. He would read chapters. We play Dungeons & Dragons together all the time. We bonded over the nerdiest things in the world. When we were in Portland, I went out to like a game store and I got him like metal dice and wrote "Metal Lords" all over it so that he could use those in the next game he plays.

Everyone thought that it was going to be so intimidating, I think, to work with D.B and Benioff. But the second that you're in a room with them, you realize that these are just two normal guys who are absolute nerds for things like Dungeons & Dragons and "Metal Lords," or just metal music and all things that are just fun in life. And I love hanging out with them.

I love that you've play D&D, because I also play D&D. So I have to ask: what class do you play?

My favorite character — we're in a campaign right now that has been running for about four years. And I am playing a Shifter Druid who has very low, common ability.

I do want to ask your thoughts about CODA winning Best Picture at the Oscars, because I know you're fluent in ASL.

I'm unbelievably astounded. This year alone, I think that there were some movies, even that didn't get as much attention as they should have. "Sound of Metal," for example, was another fantastic one that came through. I think it was last awards season, which had a ton of deaf actors in it. 

Any time that community is being seen fully and aware for themselves, it makes me just absolutely beam with joy, because there's very little of it. I think that Hollywood still has a really long way to go, and I am hoping that "CODA" is a huge catalyst for that. What I would like to see is deaf protagonists, and making hearing-abled children, hearing-abled siblings, hearing-abled best friends, be the secondary characters. That's what I personally would really like to see. But I think we're heading in that right direction.

'We had to listen to it maybe 700 times while we were filming'

As a metalhead, there's some really great music in here. Is this type of music something you listen to, or did you discover anything new?

You can listen to the "Machinery of Torment," which is Tom Morello and D. B. Weiss' genius, mixed together there. It's out on Apple Music and Spotify right now. And then that song became one of my favorite songs ever, I think. We had to listen to it maybe 700 times while we were filming. Never got bored of it. It was like, "Run it back." And we just all start jamming and head banging, and I found a new love for it. I was not a metal fan before, but now it's kind of like with the rest of my music case: If I find a song I love, I will play it till it's dead. And "Machinery of Torment" is one of those songs for me.

I'm the same way with music. The Battle of the Bands scene looked like so much fun. What was that like to shoot?

It was awesome. The coolest part about that in particular, because of COVID, we had to be sequestered a lot, separated as much as possible just for the health and safety of us, as well as slowing the spread. But with the Battle of the Bands, it was a two story auditorium that we were filming in. So anytime that they were filming the band, for example, everything was turned around on the stage. We all got to go up on that second story balcony and just jam out to the super loud music and watch all of the metal kids just bang on their instruments with the soundtrack blaring throughout the auditorium. And we took about a week to film that. So every day showing up to set was just awesome. We're like, "Yes, we get to do more raging today."

'I want to learn how to play so badly'

I was going to ask you about filming during COVID. So what did you guys do to keep yourselves busy when you were all quarantined?

So pretty early on, we realized that we weren't going to get to bond like a normal cast does. Normally what we end up doing is we go out to dinners a lot or we go bowling, or we end up having literally cast-sanctioned activities that either production provides for us, or we kind of do by ourselves else. But we didn't have that. And so pretty early on, it was actually D.B. and I's idea to put together virtual D&D games for us to play. So I have a very good friend who's a dungeon master. She works with Freddy Prinze, Jr. She's so fantastic. And she came on and we would all get on Zoom. We'd organize it every couple of weeks to play a D&D game together.

She would always incorporate "Metal Lords" somehow. I think in our first game, it was that we were all on set and D.B. found this mysterious orb. And then when he tossed it to, I think it was Jaeden or something, we all got transformed into this D&D world and had to fight off all these bad monsters. So it was really cool because D.B. and I specifically were pretty much the only two who had ever played D&D, who were versed in it. So we ended up getting to teach this whole cast how to play Dungeons and Dragons and use D&D Beyond. We did that a couple of times, and I think we have one more coming up that we're going to play to ring in the movie coming out.

And you have a musical theater background from what I read. Was that part of the appeal of this movie for you?

It definitely was. Kendall doesn't have as much to do with the musical side of it, but any time that I could be a part of musical movies or anything that has to do with music, I get very excited because I grew up doing musicals. And I miss it a lot. Every now and then I'll get auditions for musicals and I have to weigh how much I want to do it or how much work it might be to take a step back from TV and film. But I do think about it every time, because I desperately miss that world. But I'm very excited specifically about "Metal Lords," and very jealous of Jayden's character because he plays the drums. I'm a huge fan of the drums and I want to learn how to play so badly.

'I can step away and say that I am proud of it'

I'd love to hear a little bit about your books ["The Only Series"].

I don't know how to describe how shocked I am that I was able to do it and that I can step away and say that I am proud of it. Because I've been writing for about eight years. I have written everything from being a ghost writer on movies, to writing my own features, to adapting books, to adapting Broadway plays, to writing animated shows, to doing the pitch grind, doing everything. And I just decided one day I wanted to learn how to write a book, and it became this really cool series. It's close to my heart.

So I'll give you a little spiel here. It's essentially a young adult book series about three teenage girls from three different time periods that are overcoming a specific traumatic event. So if you think like the "Fear Street" trilogy on Netflix or anything like that, it follows three teenage girls through the three different eras. So one of them is kidnapping era of 1991, the MySpace and mental health challenges of the year 2005, and the uncertain future of beyond in the year 3001. So it's an attempt to give young girls a place to go when they're hurting.

It ties together themes of sexual assault, mental illness, abusive relationships, loss, love, and growing up across three different genres. So whether a teenage girl is really into true crime thrillers or grounded high school romances or epic fantasies, there will be something on the shelf that they can take down and go through a journey where somebody is overcoming a lot of traumatic things that happen to young teenage girls throughout a book. But see it come to fruition, and see the protagonists either get help or seek the help that they need in order to get through that and lead a full life. It was something I didn't have when I was younger and something that I really want to give to the world. So that's why I wrote it.

"Metal Lords" hits Netflix on April 8, 2022.