Noel Jason Scott is an actor cut from the same cloth as such luminaries as Ward Bond, Walter Brennan and Sydney Greenstreet. He’s a consummate journeyman who brings to each project he’s associated with a level of panache and steadfastness that is impressive to witness.
I first encountered Noel quite unknowingly back in 1994 when I checked out director Michael Lehman’s big budget paean to rock grunge music, Airheads. At the time I was living in New York and had no idea who Noel Jason Scott was, let alone that he was even in this film. How could I even dream then at the height of my flannel and grunge days that I would one day be fortunate enough to boast that I had done an interview with this solid character actor? Noel is a chameleon when it comes to acting and – perhaps because he makes it look so damn easy – he has the talent to slide in and out of roles of varying sizes and stature unnoticed, never detracting and always adding that indefinable something that is the bread and butter of any good and successful actor.
Over the course of a long and storied career he has played relentless and brutal judges (The Crucible), vampires the like of which would make Bela Lugosi sit up and take notice and now, in 2020, Police Chief Ed Redfern in director Shawn Schminke’s A Dead Dame in Hollywood (now available to stream courtesy of Amazon Prime). It’s this last noted role in particular that I’m here to talk with Noel about and it’s a doozy of a part, calling on a deft comedic touch from this seasoned vet.
Vents: Getting the proverbial ball rolling Noel, how have you been doing amidst these very difficult and trying times in the world?
Noel Jason Scott: I’m hanging in there the best that I can. It’s a very weird world we are living in now. Trying to stay positive and keep going to take care of my family.
Vents: Let’s talk a little about a film that really came out of nowhere and flattened me in the best possible ways, A Dead Dame in Hollywood. For those not in the know, what is this Shawn Schminke written and directed film about?
NJS: A Dead Dame in Hollywood is about a Private Investigator, named Stone Evergreen, who stumbles across a crime scene at the apartment of an ex-girlfriend. Under very suspicious circumstances, it’s up to Stone to figure out what happened.
Vents: Speaking of Shawn Schminke, what was it like working with this insanely talented director?
NJS: Oh Shawn is a crack up. He not only directed this, but he wrote Dead Dame as well. From the moment I read this script I was dying of laughter on my couch. He has a great vision and created these zany characters, all running amok in 1940s Los Angeles. He and his wife Alicia worked very hard to make this movie a reality. I really think this film could become a franchise.
Vents: A Dead Dame in Hollywood has been advertised as a loving and humorous homage to the brilliant film noirs of the 1930s and 1940s – films such as The Maltese Falcon, The Lady from Shanghai and Double Indemnity. How important of an inspiration were those classic noirs to not only Shawn Schminke, but to you and the other cast members?
NJS: Oh Very important. Those Noir films are fantastic time capsules that take you back to a time when Hollywood was being born full of drama, suspense and glamour. It’s a perfect time period to revisit and use the city as a backdrop. There are many parts of Los Angeles that still look the same today. To be able to recreate that kind of nostalgic vibe and tell a funny story at the same time is what makes this film very special; definitely a nod to The Naked Gun, too.
Vents: Can you give Vents readers the skinny on your character is in the film and how you fit into the overall plot?
NJS: I play Ed Redfern, the Chief of Police. I happen to be Stone Evergreen’s old boss and friend. I help Stone with his search. I take my job very seriously, yet I’m a bit oblivious to what’s happening.
Vents: The film was shot in black and white which is an almost unheard of rarity in the Hollywood of 2020. Can you speak to why it was so important to shoot this in that format?
NJS: It helps set the tone and style. You know this second that this film starts that it’s not your typical buddy cop movie. This film was shot with almost no budget. Shawn and Alicia even built sets in the middle of their apartment living room.
Vents: You work alongside a very talented ensemble of actors in A Dead Dame in Hollywood such as Alan Maxson, Allie Rivera and Breeanna Judy. What was it like to show up for work every day and get to play with these super-talented folks?
NJS: It was ridiculously fun on set. They are some of the best actors in town and are like family now. I have worked with Alan Maxson about 7 or 8 times. We all have great chemistry together. I think you can see the connection between everyone. I can’t wait to work with them all again…. (plant seed here for sequel….lol)
Vents: Film noir is usually presented in slightly skewered and exaggerated ways to convey some pretty deep and complex emotions. That being said, how important was it to everyone working to attempt to get the period detail of 1940s Los Angeles correct? The set designs and the wardrobe were breathtaking to my tired old eyes!
NJS: I can’t speak for everyone, but, it was very important to me. I have many vintage suits and I bought my Stetson fedora just for this film. I started wearing it all the time, to help me get into character. The fit felt very natural…like it was meant to be. In the 40s, men always wore hats in public. The women always looked to die for. That generation had style.
Vents: I understand that you are known as an actor who likes to do his own character makeup. Did that hold true for you in your role as Police Chief Redfern in A Dead Dame in Hollywood?
NJS: OHHHH No. That make up you mention is for a different genre all together: HORROR. I have a darker side to me that’s full of zombies and vampire characters… more scary. The only thing I did for this character is dress the part. That fedora was all the makeup I needed.
Vents: Your first credited work is for the 2014 short film The Tragedy of Petey Pompeii; any special memories of that freshman project?
NJS: Yeah that was a great short. Actually, my first film I worked on (Uncredited) was Airheads in 1994. I was a rocker extra. I did a bit of extra work back in the 90s, but took a 20 year break. I’ve been acting again for about 10 years now. I love it and want to act for the rest of my life.
Vents: Who has inspired and informed your own considerable acting chops?
NJS: I am inspired by Lon Chaney Sr. I found it amazing that one hundred years ago he was able to transform himself into so many characters…all with self-applied makeup. Today, I really look up to Gary Oldman, Christian Bale and Tom Hardy. They get so deep into their characters; you forget who’s playing the part. So I guess I have a thing for chameleons.
Vents: Glancing at your filmography, I noted that you have a ton of work in the hopper. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the projects we can look forward to in the near future and how has the coronavirus affected production on these projects?
NJS: The next big project on deck is a Full Moon movie in the Puppet Master universe, called Blade: the Iron Cross. I play a 1940s police officer… (starting to see a pattern here). Ironically, it also stars Alan Maxson. It too has been affected by the Covid-19 along with almost every project in the entertainment industry. Luckily, we had finished shooting all principle photography before the Corona-Virus attacked.
Vents: You’ve done a ton of acting along with credited work as a producer, art department, costume and wardrobe and even special effects. Do you have any immediate plans to write and direct your own feature?
NJS: Yes, I would really like to direct my own feature. I have some ideas I have been saving for the right time. In the meantime, I’m mentoring my 15 year old son Mason, who has been writing, directing and editing his own films and who has a promising career ahead of him. I’m not sure who’s teaching whom. My daughter Cheyenne also stars in his projects. Quite a family endeavor.
Vents: Final (Silly) Question: You’re stranded on a deserted island. What is the one film you have with you to pass the time while awaiting rescue and why that film in particular?
NJS: Pulp Fiction. I love that film. Every time it’s on, I can’t help but watch it. Quentin Tarantino is one of my favorite directors.