Your new movie Art
of the Dead - in a few words, what is it about, and what can you
tell us about your character in it?
of the Dead tells the story of seven paintings, each depicting one
of the 7 Deadly Sins. Who ever comes into contact with one of paintings takes on the sin the painting depicts. My character,
Father Gregory Mendale, came into contact with the Envy,painting as a
young priest. The painting causes him to see images of himself
kissing a pretty girl, with a woman and child, and behind the wheel of a
racy sports car. To rid himself of these images, he pokes out his
eye with his crucifix. Now, as an older man, his mission is to
destroy the paintings before they can hurt anyone else.
What did you draw
upon to bring your character to life, and how much Robert Donavan can we
actually find in Father Mendale?
Every actor brings him or herself into the characters
they portray. In my case, I could relate to Father Mendale's
compassion and desire to help. The director, Rolfe Kanefsky [Rolfe
Kanefsky interview - click here], told
me early on about Mendale's bad eye. I grew my hair and my beard,
and along with the scar that accompanied the damaged eye, made for the
look that made me feel like the character. Answering the basic
questions regarding the character, his possessions, his dwelling, his
ideals, his fears, and his relationships all gave me insight into the
character and how he would react to the people and situations he was
exposed to. And he likes pizza. Sausage, mushrooms, and
Quite honestly, in your private life, which deadly sin
do you fall prey to
The sins I fall prey to have evolved. As a younger man,
it was lust. In middle age, it was gluttony. Now, as an
older man, it is sloth. The perfect night for me would be to be in
bed with a woman, eating tacos, and then taking a nap.
did you get involved with the project in the first place?
Rolfe Kanefsky and I go way back to 1996, when we first worked
together for Alain Siritzky. I knew about the project as he was
writing it, and auditioned for the part. The audition did not go
well, and Esther Goodstein and Andrew Brown, both in the production
department, gave me a second chance to put the audition on tape.
The producers liked it, and I got the part.
can you tell us about Art
of the Dead's director Rolfe Kanefsky [Rolfe
Kanefsky interview - click here], and what was your collaboration
like? And since you two have worked on quite a few movies together by now,
do talk about your previous films for a bit as well, and how have the two
of you first met even?
As I mentioned, Rolfe and I go back to 1996, when we worked for
Alain Siritzky on The Click films. We hit it off immediately,
admiring each other's sense of humor and creativity. He lays out
what he sees in the character, I mull it over for a couple of days, and
come back with my suggestions for the character's look and emotional
states. I am grateful and gratified that he has given me free rein
with the development of the characters I have portrayed, and he is happy
with the results and how they connect to the story. My favorite
characters are Agent 0014, who is twice the man as James
Bond, in Yesterday, Today is Tomorrow. Then there is Willy the Wonder Man,
the whacked out magician who considers himself a ladies' man, in One
in the Gun, Oscar, the pervert electrician in The
Black Room, and finally,
Father Mendale in Art
of the Dead.
Do talk about the shoot as such, and the on-set
of the Dead was a terrific experience for me.
We shot in Las Vegas for most of the shoot, and then went up to the town
of Pioche for the exterior shots. Pioche is one of those towns one
would not likely visit if not for the movie business. The
experience of being on location was great and added so much realism to
the shoot. I spent a month in Las Vegas, even though I shot for
only eight days. It was decided that it would be more convenient
to stay in town for the two week that I was not needed, and so I settled
into the real nice house where seven of us stayed. I found a
terrific gym in which I could work out, some restaurants nearby, and
spent a little time on The Strip. I got to see the comedy club my friend Brad
Garrett owns, and a night of dinner and gambling, hosted
by our producers, Michael and Sonny Mahal. I even got to take in a
baseball game played by the Mets AAA Minor League team. That
night, dinner was hot dogs, peanuts, and a beer. I love stadium
food. The atmosphere on set was great. The crew really got
things done for some very complicated scenes. Our sound man, Josh
Gerson, worked miracles with his skills, and production averted crisis
and overcame the obstacles that crop up while shooting. The cast
was wonderful to work with and to be around. And the food was damned good. You can't work on an empty stomach.
Any future projects you'd like to share?
of the Dead I took some time to attend an excellent
acting class, taught by Kimberly Jentzen. I then shot another
Mahal Brothers production, Attack of the Unknown, directed by Brandon
Slagle [Brandon Slagle
interview - click here]. It is an alien invasion movie with Richard Grieco in the
lead role. I spent the month of August shooting Corn in rural
Illinois. The director, Robin Christian, is a friend of Rolfe
Kanefsky, and after seeing the work I did for Rolfe, cast me as the lead
villain in this film. I portray a taxidermist who organizes an
annual competition where we kill and stuff people. Fun for the
whole family... If you are the Addams Family.
got you into acting in the first place, and did you receive any formal
training on the subject?
After my aspirations to play Major League baseball did not work
out, I saw a commercial on TV for Mel Blanc's School for Voices. I
have been good with accents since I was a boy, and that sounded like it
would be right up my alley. They convinced me to pursue film
acting instead, so I took their advice. I studied with the iconic
character actress Lurene Tuttle, and later with the wonderful Harvey
Lembeck. With Harvey I worked with fantastic talent like Maggie
Roswell of The
Simpsons, Jeff Richmond of Wings, and the incredible
Robin Williams. I also studied with James Best, and currently with
Kimberly Jentzen. I stress education and training to all who want
a career as an actor. Learn theory and technique, and then
practice what you learn on stage or in front of a camera. Never
stop polishing the talent that you have.
What can you tell us about your
filmwork prior to Art
of the Dead?
Currently I have appeared in over 60 motion pictures.
Most recently, you can see me in Sunset Society and The
both directed by Rolfe Kanefsky, and Killer Kate!, directed by Elliot
Feld, and starring his very talented wife, Alexandra. For Killer
Kate!, I was suggested for the part by the remarkable Tiffany
Shepis-Tretta [Tiffany Shepis
interview - click here]. It was particularly gratifying for me to make good
on Tiffany's recommendation. Attack of the Unknown, directed by
Brandon Slagle [Brandon Slagle
interview - click here], and Corn, directed by Robin Christian, should be out
sometime in 2020. And now, of course Art
of the Dead is
available through Amazon V.O.D. and Walmart.
How would you describe yourself as
an actor, and some of your techniques to bring your characters to life?
I have described myself as a character actor in a leading
man's body. Now that I am no longer a young man, I would say I am
a character actor in an old guy's body. One of the techniques I use
to develop a character I learned from director and cinematographer, Brad
Rushing. Develop a back story for the guy. Where he comes
from, who hurt him, who he loves and/or lost, what secret does he keep
to himself. I now use what I have learned from Kimberly Jentzen,
called the Five Ownerships, and the Eight Inquiries. The
characters possessions, relationships, ideals, abilities and strengths,
and his wounds. Then there is the character's name, the time and
place, where does he live, his vocation, is he married, single or
divorced, who is his most important relationship, what does he have,
own, or want to own, and finally, what is he protecting. These
techniques give me a good foundation for the character and determine how
he reacts to the circumstances he has to face in the script.
(and indeed actresses) who inspire you?
Actresses that inspire me are Carole Lombard, Bette Davis,
Meryl Streep, and Kate Blanchett. I also think that Jennifer
Lawrence really has something going for her. The actors would be
Gary Cooper, John Wayne [John
Wayne in the 1930s - click here], Gene Hackman, George C. Scott, Gary Oldman, and
My favorite movies would be Citizen Kane, The
Quiet Man, Doctor Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia, Young
Frankenstein, Star Wars, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
... and of course, films you really deplore?
As for films I deplore, I will plead the 5th Amendment here.
If I can't say anything nice about a film, I will say nothing at all.
No matter how bad a film may be, there is usually something interesting
about it. It might not be much, but there is a nugget of something
there. I have been in some films that are not well received, but I
learned something from all of them.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
You can find me on Facebook, although I only accept friend
requests from people I have met personally, or come recommended by
someone I know well. I have a YouTube page where you can find
clips of some of my recent work.
you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
As for mentioning anything else, I am a pretty private person.
I believe personal information is not for public consumption and has
nothing to do with the work I put up on the screen. I accept that
there are people out there who are not moved by my work, and have stated
that they don't know why I am in any films at all. That's life.
I am grateful to the people who like what I do, and have been very kind
in their praise. I am not great, but I constantly strive to be the
best that I can be, and to earn people's respect and support. I
appreciate you taking the time to chat with me, and for your kind
comments regarding my work. And to all I say, go out and get Art
of the Dead.
for the interview!