Getting the proverbial ball rolling here Hans, these are strange and tumultuous times; how have you been doing during this pandemic?
Yeah, it really is. You know, at first, it was a little scary. I think everybody kind of had this feeling of underlying anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. We are going through something unprecedented. But as I’ve settled in, I’ve really come to appreciate things in a different way. I think a lot of people have. There were so many things I was overlooking in the grind and the hustle of this business. I guess a silver lining out of all this is it’s re-connected me with my friends and family. It’s opened my eyes to what and who are most important in my life.
Congratulations on the renewed interest and popularity of the historical drama, Waco. Netflix seems to have been the exact home Waco needed as far as bringing this controversial story to a wide audience. How do you feel about the renewed lease on life that Waco has received?
Yeah, thank you! It’s almost like a second premiere of the show. I think Netflix knew most of their audience loved Julia Garner from Ozark‘s, and with Michael Shannon and Taylor Kitsch headlining, it would be an easy sell at a time when everyone was looking for something to watch. You know, when it was originally released, I think people really didn’t know much about it with it being premiered on the new cable channel. So this renewed interest has been a pleasant surprise, and people seem to be liking it, so that’s good.
You play the character of Randy Weaver in Waco. For potential viewers who have not yet watched the show, what can you tell them about your character and why they might be interested in checking out such an important story that Waco represents?
Yeah, that was interesting because it was my first time playing a role based on a real person. There’s a sense of duty or responsibility that comes with it. You get the opportunity to dive into the history, the articles, the interviews, all in hopes you can tell and honor their truth. And for Randy and his family, it was such a tragic situation that didn’t have to happen. It’s like what Michael Shannon says to me in the show, “I get to show the people what really happened at Ruby Ridge.”
Did you sort of go all out in researching the subject of Waco? Are you the type of actor that thrives on going to the source material (i.e., books, newscasts, interviewing the real-life participants) in preparation for the work?
Oh absolutely. With it being based on a real person and story, I was lucky to have so much material to work from. I did do a good amount of work learning about Waco, but only as it pertained to the story of Ruby Ridge. For me, it was all about Ruby Ridge. So I took a deep dive into everything I could involving that standoff. From Randy’s background as a Green Beret in Vietnam to his anti-government and isolationist beliefs to the attempted FBI cover-up. I learned everything I could.
You worked with a stellar cast in Waco: Michael Shannon, Taylor Kitsch, Andrea Riseborough, Paul Sparks, Rory Culkin, and the list just goes on and on. How did it feel to be in such great company every day, and did this packed cast serve to up your own acting game?
Oh man, it was a dream come true. I still don’t know how they were able to pull all those names, and I’m not going to lie to you, I was a definitely nervous that first day. But Michael and Shea were so professional and easy to work with that as soon as we started shooting, everything was smooth. And as far as what I learned, just seeing how they approach the work, their professionalism, how they treated everyone, it was great. I take that with me on every project I work on now.
With Waco currently on the bubble, so to speak, it’s easy to overlook that you’ve done a ton of critically and commercially lauded work since the show ended: Midnight, Texas, The Yellow Wallpaper, Dreamland, Progeny, Light as a Feather and so many more. You’ve got an extensive filmography. Do you like to stay busy, jumping from one project to another, or do you prefer a little downtime once you finish a project?
You know it’s funny, I always love the thought of downtime when I’m really in it, you know. Ridiculously late hours, super intense and physically and mentally demanding atmosphere, but then usually about day two or three into my r&r, I start going stir crazy and need something to work on. I think I just function better when I have a character or role to dive into. It’s almost like I’ve reached a point where I just enjoy this process; it’s just a part of life.
Speaking of Progeny, congratulations on your win for Best Supporting Actor in that film at the Miami International Science Fiction Film Festival. What was that recognition like for you as an actor?
Yeah, thank you. Well, it was a little weird because they didn’t hold the Festival with the Corona Virus thing happening. I actually didn’t even know I was up for it until Justin, the director Progeny, let me know I had won. But I was incredibly proud of that film and the work I put into that character, so it was nice to receive some recognition for it.
You’re listed as the director of the 2014 short, Superproblems. Is directing something that you enjoy and would like to do more of in the future?
Ha ha, wow, that is a name I never thought I’d hear again. And you will not find it anywhere, thank god. But you know right now I’m focusing on the acting thing. But I definitely could see myself leaning that direction in the future. It is such a different world, directing, you have to really be able to step back and see the entire thing. A good director, it’s unbelievable what they can do. I’m definitely a ways away, but I do have a few scripts I’m working on that I would love to direct. So we’ll see what happens.
What initially attracted you to the world of acting?
Originally for me, it was my girlfriend at the time. I was studying Biology at Long Beach, I think, and I remember going over her lines with her. I mean, I absolutely loved it. She could transform herself, her mannerisms, the way she talked, it was absolutely fascinating to me. Also, it kind of terrified me in a way. But the more I worked on it with her, the more I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So eventually, I faced my fear and decided maybe I should give it a shot, and the rest is history.
Has your family been encouraging and supportive of your acting career?
Oh yeah, they are definitely my biggest fans. Also, my strongest critics. No, I’m lucky, growing up my parents never made me feel pressured to do anything I didn’t want to. I still ended up following my Dad’s footsteps towards medicine but eventually found my way to acting. It’s funny; my mom will call me while I’m working on a project to try to get the inside scoop on what’s happening.
Is there any actor who has inspired and informed your own acting?
Absolutely. A few examples, and it’s always changing. I’ve watched a lot of Viggo Mortensen, Jared Leto, Michael Fassbender, Ben Foster. I like to watch and study artists that are in my vein, see how they started out and developed. The roles they play—the choices they make and how they go about it. I love watching interviews with them to get a perspective on how they prepare for roles and their stories of getting into characters and how working on some of their projects went. But as far as inspiration, yeah sometimes it’s from actors, but many times it’s from real people. You can learn so much about people by just watching them, really paying attention. Humans are so fascinating. I have an entire collection of all types of interesting people saved that I watch and study for character work.
What’s coming up in the future for you?
I have a few projects that are on hold for now. Hopefully, we can get them going once the industry goes back to some kind of normal. Other than that, I’m writing much more now, so that’s cool. I’d love to come out of this with a few pilots I can pitch. Right now, I’m working on dialects and voice while I have the time. Just working on expanding the range of roles I can play.
Word around the campfire is that you are a confirmed Western film aficionado and that you are planning on writing and acting in a story that prominently features that too often neglected genre. What is it specifically about the Western that appeals to you?
God, I love westerns so much. It’s funny, too; I couldn’t stand them as a kid. I thought they were just so boring. I don’t really know when it changed, maybe with “Deadwood.” What an amazing show. Yeah, I think its the idea of the frontier, that unknown, the Wild West. It just feels so close to us, so familiar historically. Just fascinates me.
Final (Silly) Question Time: You’re stranded on a deserted island. While awaiting rescue, what is the one film that you watch to pass the time?
Ha ha. Okay, okay. I got one. There are some movies that, for whatever reason, I can watch over and over, and they never get old to me. “Cast Away,” for some reason, is one of those movies. I didn’t even love it when it first came out, but every-time it’s on, I have to sit down and watch it. But I guess I might not want to watch a movie about a guy being stranded on an island if I’m stranded on an island. Okay, so maybe “Shawshank Redemption” or “Forest Gump” then. Yeah, I’m good with one of those.