Director Mark Kemble’s Bad Hurt doesn’t simply just hurt — it bleeds and aches.

An adaptation of his play, Bad Hurt on Cedar Street, and based on true events, Bad Hurt is the big screen actualization of the Kendalls, a Staten Island family plagued with difficulties.

Elaine (Karen Allen) and Ed Kendall (Michael Harney, whom you may recognize from Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black) are the parents of three children — and two of them prove to be a struggle to care for daily. Their adult daughter DeeDee (Iris Gilad) is mentally challenged; their eldest son Kent (Johnny Whitworth) suffers from PTSD after the Gulf War; and their youngest son Todd (Theo Rossi) struggles to gain his father’s affection and approval. It’s an arduous feat, given the two extremes of his siblings’ afflictions taking priority above all else in the Kendall household.

Whitworth as Kent, in particular, is accessible in his vulnerability, which is etched into the soul of his performance. The South Carolina native shines with his acting in Bad Hurt, a penchant that’s proven true throughout the run of his acting career in well-known TV shows and films such as Empire Records, Party of Five, The Rainmaker, Limitless, The 100 and Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance.

Currently, Whitworth is working on a film titled Finding Her by Romanian director Vlad Feier. The film looks into how one investigative journalist in New York gets caught up in the drama of a girl gone missing and how the justice system fails poor communities.

“I’d been studying the craft in every city that I lived in until I moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting,” Whitworth says. He made the move when he was almost 16 and hasn’t shied away from Hollywood since. He’s worked with the likes of Nicholas Cage, Christian Bale, Claire Danes and more.

GALO was able to get on the phone with Whitworth in April, where the 39-year-old actor spoke about how he tapped into emulating Kent in Bad Hurt, his shooting of the NBC pilot Blindspot and insight into the craft of acting, a passion that’s been with him since the age of six.

GALO: I watched Bad Hurt and thought it was brilliant — I thought you were phenomenal in it. The world premiere of the film took place at the Tribeca Film Festival this year. It tells the story about a family, the Kendalls, who are really dealing with difficult, hard-hitting problems, both individually as well as a family. In Bad Hurt, you play Kent Kendall, a man suffering from PTSD. Could you tell me in detail how you went about preparing for such a heavy role? I mean, your performance was very compelling.

Johnny Whitworth: Thank you very much. Well, it was based on a true story. It was based on the life of the director, so he was very informative in just [providing us with] information… When he would talk about his brother, he would go into an impression of him. He would just tell me stories, and I took my idea of Kent from him and made it my own — his impression, the way he carried himself, and the way he would speak in these slow drawls. [This] was where I came from as far as the characterization of [Kent].

The story and what he’s going through was just using my imagination and research of what I’ve experienced in life, and then [figuring out] how I can manifest that [or] embellish [it] from a place of truth, so that I can then have something to play — mostly because I don’t have any war veterans or people suffering from PTSD [in my life]. So it was kind of imagination informed by information that was given to me via the director and what was inside the script.

GALO: I know you’ve said that your role as Kent has been your most difficult yet due to the physicality of the character and his vulnerability. You’ve also mentioned that those two distinct elements were similar to ones in your role as Donny Ray Black in The Rainmaker. What would you say is the hardest part about being comfortable with visualizing vulnerability for the big screen?

JW: There’s nothing really hard about it. I mean, that’s my job, and I don’t think about outcome and I don’t mind getting ugly. I just ingest everything from the character’s standpoint and let that inform me and fill me up, and [when] it’s [time for] action, that’s what happens.

The similarity between those two characters is just on the physicality level and [in] somebody dealing with death, the idea of death. But I wouldn’t say emotionally that they were the same kind of guy. It does take a bit of a task to carry that [physicality]. In Kent’s case, I think it was for about six to eight weeks. And then in The Rainmaker, I had three months where I was 25 to 30 pounds underweight throughout the shooting. But that helped to let the audience believe what I’m going through. Because if there’s anything we can do as artists or actors to bring truth to what we’re doing, if there’s something we can do physically to help that, [then we should do it]. I don’t want to make a viewer have to work too hard. And if you come from a place of truth within yourself and your own life, it’s going to resonate on some level.

GALO: Are there lessons or anything that you personally feel you’d want the viewers to take away from your performance as Kent in Bad Hurt?

JW: That life is hard and through the struggles, we grow as human beings — and everyone’s got their own fight. But through love and compassion of family, you’re able to do that. You’re able to overcome these sorts of things. But it’s hard to speak from the standpoint of Kent because he doesn’t do that really well.

GALO: You also recently were a cast member on the CW’s The 100, where you played the character of Cage Wallace, who was an antagonist, but still a fan favorite. Unfortunately, your character was killed off. But let’s say if he were to return in some plot twist, what would you like to see happen to him next?

JW: I wouldn’t even venture a guess. That would just be something that [creator] Jason Rothenberg would have to somehow invent, a way for the guy to come back from death [laughs]. I would like to see it be an interesting, believable passage back into their world. I don’t really see that happening, though.

GALO: Speaking of TV, could you tell us a bit about the NBC pilot you’ve recently shot for as well, Blindspot? It’s a series I’m pretty excited about since I know it’s written by the creator of the L.A. Complex, Martin Gero, and I thought that show was incredibly fascinating, but also a pretty intense drama.

JW: The pilot itself is very fascinating. It’s a mysterious character — for me as well. It’s something that would evolve over the story, over the seasons, where you’d get to know more about the character. But what I can tell you, [and the only thing] since it’s supposed to be kept a mystery, is that [my character] is trying to take down the FBI.

GALO: That sounds very cool. I’m excited to see how that plotline pans out. So, you dally between television and film. Do you have a preference when it comes to either one?

JW: I like film because I have an overview of what the character’s going to go through to help build their [story] arc, and I know how to service the piece better once I know what I’m servicing. On TV, the exciting thing is that I don’t know [what happens next] — you only have that script, maybe an overview from what a writer has told you, but you don’t know how those things come to fruition. So it’s exciting when you get a script and go, “what am I doing this week?” And you look at it, read it and go, “Wow, that’s very interesting. I wouldn’t have thought of him doing that!” [It’s also] why I prefer short runs or films, because I look at my craft as a cathartic experience and I want to be able to finish it.

GALO: And what’s your preference when it comes to indie film productions versus big-budget Hollywood productions?

JW: I don’t really have a preference. It’s about the script and the people behind the project, because ultimately, my goal is the same: how do I work in these parameters and how do I achieve the most truthful performance, and how do I get to know the guy that I’m playing well enough to just be him on screen? There isn’t a difference [between the two film types] to me; you just shoot less per day. You shoot two pages a day for a studio film, and I’m shooting 10 pages tomorrow [for Finding Her] of the story [laughs]. It’s exciting on both avenues, but it’s more about the workload that you’re carrying per day. I like them both — it just depends on what I’m doing because it’s a struggle before they say “action.” And what I mean by that is that I’m constantly thinking of the character, what’s going on and maybe how I might do it, but I never like to suppose how I’m going to do it. I just need to be available for anything to happen in the moment.

GALO: You said you knew that you wanted to be an actor since the age of six. What about the profession drew you in at such a young age?

JW: It’s just what I’ve always known. At that time, [during my childhood], cable was new and Beverly Hills Cop was playing on HBO all the time. And I was watching Eddie Murphy and it looked like he was having fun, which I think gave me the idea that I wanted to be an actor. Around that same time period — my father’s a Clint Eastwood fan — I was watching The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. And when I watched Eli Wallach take a bath at the whore house in a tub (and him getting ready to take the bath), I felt, just without having any dialogue, it just set up what was going on — and I felt how great that bath was going to be, because he was so dirty and mangy and it just felt exciting. And that’s when I thought, ‘I want to be an actor.’ I mean, the Eddie Murphy thing was like, ‘yeah, I want to make movies,’ but what kind of actor I am, the spark of my interest happened with Eli Wallach. Then I moved on to Marlon Brando, James Dean, Montgomery Clift, Spencer Tracy, Robert De Niro, and [all] those guys [who’ve] subsequently influenced each other. So that’s where I got my passion for the craft.

GALO: You’ve worked with so many actors in the industry, from Bradley Cooper to Angelina Jolie. Are there any actors or actresses that you’ve worked with who have made some sort of lasting impression on you to this day?

JW: In general, I can say my consensus from all the people I’ve worked with is that the people that happen to be the most talented or the most versatile are the people who have the most humility. I find that, both in life and in work, people who don’t have something to prove are very kind, genuine and generous with themselves. The humility and gratitude that I’ve seen within these people you’ve mentioned is what I try to carry within myself, both in life and in work.

GALO: My last question for you is: how do you think you’ve evolved as an actor from your first project to your most recent one?

JW: Oh God…well, that’s a good question. I have an answer, I think. I’ve evolved from my first to my last definitely in my confidence within myself, and in my ability to relax and trust my instrument. And I think a key for good acting and being available for what’s happening in the moment is being relaxed. And that’s something you get through experience — and I’ve had a lot of experience. I have a stronger clue of what I’m doing now. It’s been a fascinating journey [laughs].

Video courtesy of Film Festivals and Indie Films.

For more information about Johnny Whitworth’s current and future endeavors, you can follow him on Twitter @johnnywhitworth. || Featured image: (L to R) Iris Gilad, Karen Allen, Michael Harney and Theo Rossi star in “Bad Hurt.” Photo: Charles Steinberg.