Your upcoming film Christmas with the Dead - in
a few words, what is it about?
It's about a man, possibly the last man, trying to make up for what he
wouldn't do when his family was still alive. And that's being a good
husband and father. Celebrate some Christmas. And there are zombies. Is
that a few words? It's more isn't it?
How do you prepare
to play what's essentially the last man on earth?
I often feel like the last man on earth everyday. Nah. Got to get into the
mindset. Of what it could possibly be like to lose your family. The people
you love, and vow to defend, and fail to. Everyday things you take for
granted, all gone. Why you would continue to try and make a life for
yourself, or simply continue living. You can't just rely on the dialogue,
the lines put there for you, you have to go deep. Very deep. It's a
disturbing place to go.
heard your (Christmas-)movie was shot in the heat of June. How much strain
did that put on you physically, and on your performance?
York (where I live) can get pretty humid in the summer, but wonderful
Texas, East Texas... it's the kind of heat that you would out of the house
and it hits you and you curse at the sky and air around you. At least
that's what I found myself doing, quite often.
That said, I think I did pretty well with it. I sweat like a jungle boar
just thinking about Texas, so other than drenching my wardrobe within
minutes, I handled it well. And the crew made it easy on us, getting us in
and out, providing places to go. Like a brisk shade of 102 degrees. Quite
lovely. My character is a Noo Yawker, and the time and location of the
shoot line up with the film (Texas in June) so I just took it in as long
as it didn't threaten my life. There was one day, I'll not forget it. It
was my birthday in fact (thank you) and we were filming out in a field,
devoid of shade, and it was brutal. I love what I do, but I had to remind
myself that I wasn't being punished for something.
to my information, legendary writer Joe R.Lansdale [Joe
R.Lansdale interview - click here], who wrote the story Christmas with the Dead,
discovered you for his film when he saw you in the stageplay A Night of
Joe R.Lansdale (also based on his work of course). Would you like to
elaborate on this, and what kind of a person is Joe R.Lansdale?
A Night of Joe R. Lansdale was the first encounter between
myself and that guy. Patrick Kennedy, who I had not talked to since
college, called me up one day and said he was doing a play of Joe's
and he wanted my participation. I was heading off to do a film, but
I told him when I got back I could help out. Wound up playing a Rod
Serling-esque narrator opening the first and second act. I didn't do
much in the show, but what I did do, Joe must have liked, because we
stayed in touch.
What kind of person is Joe? Hmm... he's smart. Saw me and wanted to
work with me. Kudos. I can tell you, I had been a fan of Joe's for
some time before I met him, and having read his work, and seeing his
manly back cover photos, you wonder what kind of guy is going to
show up. Will he chew nails in front of us? Look at us, grunt, and
chop a park bench in half?
The guy that does show up is as personable, funny, and as enjoyable to
be around as anybody I've known. And he's a wily sumnagun. I don't have
to tell anyone about his talents, he's brilliant, and the fact that you
can't peg him down into a genre, or set pattern, makes him the legend
that he is. But don't get on his bad side, he'll chop you in half.
also had your hands in the production of Christmas with the Dead.
How did that come about?
I think I was one of the first
people Joe called about Christmas with the Dead, and it was still in the early birthing
stages, so we weren't sure exactly what we were going to do with it
production scale-wise. I just put some feelers out, got some folks
involved, both in creating websites and such for it, and those would later
on work on the actual production. I contacted a terrific artist named Alex
McVey, who I had been seeing the work of on many a Lansdale and Brian
Keene cover. So he and I got to talking and we hired him to do what turned
out to be a series of teaser posters which all represent the magic of
A few words about your director
Terrill Lee Lankford [Terrill
Lee Lankford interview - click here], and what was your collaboration like?
Lankford is aces. He came in and took over the production, hoisted us all
on his shoulders, and dragged us across the finish line in style. And in
first place. I loved working with Lee, he's a smart s.o.b., and I think he
carved out a pretty damn cool film here. And we complained about the heat
leave the present behind for the moment and head forward to your past.
What got you into acting in the first place?
watching movies with my mother, going to see shows. She was a film fan,
and even when I was sitting there watching some B film, she'd point out
some veteran actor and pull out some adorable tidbits of information on
them. Or tell me how underrated they were. I started to recognize some
performances standing out from others in movies, and that was exciting. I
wanted to do that. We'll see about that.
As far as I
know, you attended the William Esper Studio for Acting in
Manhattan. In what way did that shape you as a performer?
first real foray into acting came at Nassau Community College. I thought I
was hot shit coming out of High School, and got cast in my first play at
the college (Raft of the Medusa) and so I really thought I was hot
shit. I was apparently more like misshapen steamy shit, because I
got my acting ass handed to me. Director and theater chairperson Victor
Abravaya pushed and pushed until real moments started spilling out of me.
It was pretty incredible. I remember coming home from rehearsals pale
white, and a bit lightheaded. My mother thought I was "doing
drugs". Except she knew I couldn't afford them, so she bought the
whole "acting"-thing. After NCC, I went to the Esper studio. NCC
proved to be a wonderful launching pad, and Esper helped shape me into an
actor who wants to make that interesting decision. My teacher there, a
brilliant teacher named Terry Knickerbocker, runs a tight ship. Being real
through the given circumstances.
can you tell us about your first experiences on a movie set?
I guess that was Nikos
the Impaler. I was still in Esper, and a friend of
mine (Marcus Koch) was heading to Long Island to do the f/x for the movie,
and they were still casting some smaller parts. So I threw my hat in there
and scored Officer Cole. Big score. The most memorable experience for me
on that set was me showing up one day (non-work day) to visit Marcus, and
they were preparing to film a scene that I guess someone overlooked,
that a body needed to be on the ground for. So... I'm there. My visit
consisted of me laying on a cement floor for 2 hours, with another actor
laying on top of me (we introduced ourselves after he was laying on me for
25 minutes) and buckets AND buckets of blood being dumped on me. It's
precisely what I was going to acting school for.
have also done quite a bit of stagework. How does live theatre differ from
acting in a movie?
It can be pretty funny. Generally, if
you do a lot of stage then set out and do your first movie without making
an adjustment... the results can be pretty alarming. Horrifying. I've been
horrified. The camera man, it picks up everything. And it can be obnoxious
too, if you don't do exactly what it wants. Stage is a bit more giving,
bit more free. Usually you get a part and rehearse, you grow as a
character, fun stuff starts to happen. The instant reaction from an
audience is a wonderful thing for an actor, but it's a curse too. One
night you'll go out, and what you're doing is the funniest thing. Ever.
Next night's audience... not so much. But you've got to keep doing what
you do. Don't add on, don't push, don't "improve". A good actor
will feel it. And sometimes there is no audience. The big test of theater
comes after however many number of performances, and that thing you've
invested so emotionally, doesn't mean anything to you anymore, because
you've done it so many times. I can only kill Fido off in my head so many
times before the well is dry and I've got to go somewhere else. Keeping it
fresh and real can be a bitch.
On the other hand, when you see a great performance in a film, we usually
take it for granted. Film's don't generally allow for all that much
rehearsal time, or takes. With all the variables in play in every given
scene, between actors and equipment... a great performance is just that.
And usually means someone did their work beforehand.
What can you tell us about Ghost
Lake, on which you had a supporting role and also did quite a bit of
Ghost Lake is a movie that once
again, Marcus Koch was doing the f/x on, and I was friends with one of the
director's friends. I knew they were still casting some parts, and I
wanted everyone to know that I was going to be in the movie. Even if I had
to jump on a bus and take an 8 hour trip to upstate New York and show up
and wander around until they put me in. Which is what I did. That was a
great shoot. Very small cast and crew, most of us stayed in this lake
cottage and it really became a team thing. It was unusual to put that
number of people in one place, shooting something as tense as any movie in
the best of times can get, and not really fight. As for the
behind-the-scenes thing, someone was initially supposed to film it, but
that didn't happen, so I elected myself (I was in the zone). I had no real
crew experience, or talent for it, but I wasn't leaving, so I became
behind-the-scenes guy. And I shot the hell out of it. It didn't occur to
me that someone would have to go through 30 hours of behind-the-scenes
footage (including 4 hours of a stray cat which didn't make the cut) until
You had your first lead role in
a movie in Jay Woelfel's Closed for the Season, right? What can you
tell us about that film and your role in it?
technically my first lead was in a film called 7 Couches, which is
slinking around somewhere. Neat film, it should rear its head one day.
As for Closed for the Season, I played James, son of the caretakers of this abandoned
amusement park in Chippewa Lake, Ohio. One night a woman runs up to the
house shouting and pleading for help, and so we head off into the park.
Me, the valiant sort, wanting to help. But instead, we find ourselves
trapped by a park that's none to happy to have been left alone for so
I had worked with Woelfel on Ghost Lake, and he had contacted me about
doing this one. He said a whole bunch of stuff but all I really heard was
"shooting in an amusement park that has been abandoned for 30
years." Sign me up. That kind of stuff is directly up my alley, so I
was totally for it. Script and part and stuff would fall into place later
on. The place was incredible. It's amazing what plant life will do to stuff
when you just leave it be. I knew from a documentary and book I had been
sent, that when you enter the parking lot of the park, you'd see the giant
wooden roller coaster that stands right at the fence. But when I arrived
there to be brought around... I didn't see no roller coaster. Because it
had been completely surrounded by plants gone wild. And that's what the
whole place was like. It was a privilege to shoot there, and really kind
of sad. The movie and locals made you think about what a fun place it used
to be, all the memories there, and it was just left to rot.
A few words
about Ext. Life?
Ext. Life is a cool short film I
did about this actress hoping that she just caught her big break. I play
Dave, some guy that appears out of a bonfire at a part. Shot on Long
Island, it's a bizarre, dark little piece, and I really enjoyed doing it.
As far as I know the director, Kevin Kolsch, had intended on making it a
three part piece, which I still think is a cool idea.
Anything you can already tell us
about your upcoming Castaways?
Castaways is going to
be badass. It's an adaptation of a Brian Keene novel, and I've been a fan
of Keene's for years, so getting to be in on this is a giddy little
feeling. I had met Brian through Joe and Kasey Lansdale [Kasey
Lansdale interview - click here] and I got the
Lansdale company behind Christmas with the Dead, Drive-In Movies, to
option the rights to Castaways, with my solemn oath that it would be
supremely badass. And it will be. Kasey and I started gently pushing it in
the right direction, and since then it's simmering wonderfully.
The book (and movie) are about a reality show called... Castaways that
puts contestants on a deserted tropical island to fend for themselves
whilst performing hard to ridiculously hard tasks (I think there's a show
like that on TV). There's the usual stuff, you've got romance, lust,
intrigue, alliances, backstabbing, emotions run high, and a race of mutant
cryptid cannibals who don't care about the show but rather their selfish
feeding and mating needs. As a horror fan I'm excited for it. Ted Rypel is
penning the screenplay, and his combination of intelligence and the balls
to go where the thing needs to go, is cause for excitement. Jon Wagner is
on to direct, and I'm very pumped to be working with him. He's a force to
be reckoned with.
Any other films of
yours you'd like to talk about, any future projects?
to talk about Castaways some more. There's some great stuff cooking along
for me, but I'll mention a play that I'll be doing in the near future
called Suckerfish, which Patrick Kennedy of A Night of Joe R.
Lansdale put me on to. I'll keep the details vague on this one, but
just know that it's way awesome. So you folks that don't like to sit in
building and watch people run around on a stage, live, can just stow that.
And it's going to be produced (unleashed?) by Thomas Jane and Tim
Bradstreet of RAW Studios, and if those two aren't enough to peak
interest... then you're already dead.
of the films you're in are horror movies. A coincidence, or is horror a
genre dear to you, and why?
Horror is dear to me. Folks
have asked why I love horror films, and frankly the questions always comes
from someone seeing me on stage, or having become familiar with my stage
work. They want to know why such a "serious" actor, such a
"delightfully and wonderfully talented actor" (quoted myself
there) loves horror movies so much.
I dunno. Just do.
Let's just say there's something about an effective horror film. I still
sit there and watch anything, but I don't get the enjoyment out of the
rubbish like I used to. But I still search through all of them, hoping for
the best. So that has a lot to do with why the majority of stuff I'm in
falls in that genre. The horror community is a solid one, it's unlike any
other genre. There are society's dedicated to this wonderful thing. Dozens
of successful conventions fire off around the country every year, and
they're a whole lot of fun to attend. So growing up as a horror fan, you
have the advantage (especially with that there internet) of linking up
with other horror fans. Some of those horror fans go on to do stuff in
movies, and you can team up to build a better tomorrow.
Roles you'd really love to
play (no matter how improbable)?
I'd love to play Pseudolus
in A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum on stage. I'd love to
play Mitch Brenner in The Birds (and be horrified at a remake at the same
time). I'd also love to play a small town sheriff in a horror movie. Looks
like fun. I can squint.
Actors (or indeed
actresses) who inspire you?
Claude Rains. Roy Scheider. Clu
Gulager. Darren McGavin. Guy Pearce continues to inspire.
Your favourite movies?
Invisible Man, The
Descent, The Birds,
Aliens, The Thing (Carpenter),
Defending Your Life, Black Christmas (original)... I'm going to stop
myself, otherwise we'd be in trouble. I'd like to have more artistic films
on there, and I do have my cultured moments, but... I did leave off The
and of course, films you really deplore?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
I can't really
tell you, can I? I'll tell you what, I'll invite you to hang around with
me for a day or two. Inevitably someone will mention a movie that will
cause an instant reaction to my face that is undeniably me disgusted. This
will more than likely happen several times. Good fun.
Facebook, whatever else?
The website is
It gets updated every so often. You can track me down on Facebook, as long
as supplies last. Just throw in my name, I'm the Damian Maffei that looks
like me, and not like the other ones. Similar rules apply to twitter:
@damianmaffei. Go forth and follow me. I'm good with the following back
unless you're just selling jewelry, or penis enlargements. Got enough of
one, and I've given up on the other.
Anything else you are dying to
mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
I don't think
so. Just don't forget to ask me to play the part of small town sheriff if
you're ever casting the role of small town sheriff in your small town
Thank you, Mike, I enjoyed the hell out of it!