Tag Archives: Breaking Bad

Actor’s Spotlight: Nate interviews Louis Herthum

I’m pleased to bring you my first interview in some time, with the incredibly talented Louis Herthum! Louis is a dedicated actor who has recently gained worldwide acclaim for his galvanizing, scene stealing portrayal of Peter Abernathy on HBO’s Westworld, and he has an epic career that includes appearances in films like City Of Lies opposite Johnny Depp, The Possession Of Hannah Grace, Truth, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and more. He also has many memorable television roles including Longmire, What/If, Breaking Bad, True Detective, True Blood, Revenge, Sleepy Hollow, Narcos and more. Enjoy and thanks for reading!

Nate: What is your background, and how did you find your way into acting/the industry? Was it something you always knew you wanted to do or did you fall into it unexpectedly?

Louis: I wanted to be a stuntman since the age of 12 when my father took me to see the Steve McQueen film, BULLITT. It was the chase scene in that film that was the inspiration. I was somewhat of a stunt-kid, always doing things that would see me getting a few stitches (or worse) at the doctors office but stunt driving was what I wanted to do the most. I made no bones about it all through the rest of elementary school, high school and the little bit of college (LSU) that I attended. In the mid 70’s I was working for a men’s fine clothing store and they asked me to model for their adds. I did, which led to more modeling jobs with an agency, which led to some on camera commercial gigs, which led finally to working on stage. Once I got on stage, my fate was sealed. I played the lead role of “Starbuck” in the N. Richard Nash play, THE RAIN MAKER. I won an award for the performance and that was it. I stayed in my home town Baton Rouge, did a couple more plays, playing “Will Parker” in OKLAHOMA and “Kenickie” in GREASE, then in January of 1982 I move to L.A.

Nate: Who were some of your influences growing up, favourite actors you’d watch in film and admire?

Louis: I never really had a favorite actor because I was never really that interested in acting. But of course, McQueen was an influence but I didn’t even realize it since it wasn’t his acting that inspired me. But I will have to say that believe it or not, John Travolta’s meteoric rise to fame did make an impression on me. Mainly in Saturday Night Fever. It may be strange to say it this way but I just felt like I could do what he was doing. I think that was very possibly Travolta’s best role ever by the way. And then Grease came along and I felt like… Hey, I can do that! So his rise to fame is what I was more inspired by, not to take anything away from his talent and abilities of course.

Nate: Westworld: such a brilliant performance in one of the best shows out there. Were you approached for the role or did you audition? How was your process in bringing that intense scene to life, basically staring down both Jeffrey Wright and Anthony Hopkins and giving a tour de force in under five minutes. How did you prepare to play Peter?

Louis: Well, first of all thank you for that comment. I had to audition for the role, if was not offered to me. I went in for the initial audition with the assistant casing director and was asked to return to read for the producers. I had several days between the two and I was told to come in and that the door was wide open (what door? ha!) to go as far as I wanted to with the physicality of the character. The scene that I read in the audition was the one you are referring to with Tony and Jeffrey however it was three different characters and different dialogue of course. It was simply a scene they wrote for the audition and every male actor who was playing a robot had to do it. Then you also read for the part you were called in to read for. For me it was the Sheriff. I did pretty much what you see in the show in the audition. Lisa Joy was the only producer in the room and she liked what I did and made comments that let me know that. Then she asked if there was anything else I would like to show them. I answered, “No thanks. I think I will quit while I’m ahead.” They laughed, I left the room and in about 5 or 6 weeks I got the word that I had booked “Peter Abernathy” and of course, I had no idea who that was because I had not read that part. Then my manager said to me, you know that part you read for the audition, that is Peter Abernathy. It was then that I realized I would be doing the scene with Mr. Hopkins because every the audition script named him as Dr. Ford and I had read that he was playing that role. As far as how I prepared for the scene; as I say I did pretty much what you see in the audition so I already had the blueprint if you will for the scene. I did rehearse with Lisa and Jonah one day, running through the entire scene, full tilt, twice. They liked what I was doing and in fact, three days before we filmed the scene, which was five pages long, they added three more pages to it. Most of that was not in the final cut but I think they simply wanted to give me a chance to do more with the character and see what happened. I think it was the better more than not enough scenario. But I think it was edited beautifully.

Nate: True Detective: a very memorable scene and your performance adds to the overall vibe of haunting unease in that area. How did you get involved and what was your experience shooting that scene with Matthew McConaughey? You yourself are from Louisiana and your involvement has an authentic feel. Are you a fan of the show overall?

Louis: I auditioned for that role as well. But I have to say, I went in to that audition daring them not to cast me. I knew that one was mine. I knew I could bring a more authentic Louisiana character to life, especially using a Cajun accent for the character. As for shooting the scene, it was pretty fast really. When I got to the set, Matthew and the director Cary where sitting on the porch of that house. Matthew introduced himself, then Cary and we shot the scene with me holding the shot gun, which was longer than in the final cut. Then we went inside and banged that one out. I didn’t take long at all and it went very smoothly. And I was a huge fan of Season one. Not so much two, and still have yet to watch S3.

Nate: Longmire: very memorable character you got to play here, what was the experience working on this show?

Louis: Omar was a great, fun character to play. Great cast, lots of fun to work with. And shooting in Santa Fe, NM was great. Great locations and lovely place to be for work. As for the role of Omar, I only wish there had been more of him. That role was supposed to be a “strong recurring” character in the series. Omar is very prominent in the books and was so in season’s 1 & 2 but after that, he was hardly seen at all. I found that odd but I guess someone thought that they only needed one “jack of all trades” and found other places for the comic relief, which I felt Omar provided.

Nate: City Of Lies: this film seems to have slipped through the cracks and never got a proper release, how was your experience on it? I was very excited to see it as it has you alongside many other actors I also admire (Peter Greene, Xander Berkeley, Toby Huss etc)

Louis: Oh man. First of all, the film is locked in some kind of legal issue. That is why it has fallen through the cracks. I don’t know if it will ever be seen by the public in the States. But working with Johnny Depp was absolutely delightful. He’s a very sweet, kind person and I think gets a bad wrap. And very funny. He was a pleasure to work with, as was Shea Whigham. And while I didn’t work directly with him, it was nice to see and old friend and magnificent actor, Dayton Callie on set. I had a wonderful closing argument scene as the City Attorney but the director told me he hated to, but that he had to cut it. That was devastating because while filming, jokingly, Johnny asked me, “can you do it worse?” He and Shea said they thought it would make the trailer to the film. I knew it never would but that was nice of them to say. Anyway, I was so hoping to get that piece of footage but alas, I may never see it. Nor anyone else for that matter.

Nate: Of the roles you have played so far in your career, which are some of your favourites?

Louis: Certainly Peter Abernathy is at the top of the list. A close second has to be “Foster” in WHAT/IF with Renee Zellweger. Not only because Renee and the entire producer team were such a wonderful group of people to know and work with, but the role itself was one that I had never been given the opportunity to play. And I thank Mike Kelly (creator) for believing in me enough to give me a character no one had ever seen me play. Stoic, strong, loyal, brave and a forceful character. And like I say, not to hard to come to work when you are playing opposite Ms. Zellweger. She is a delight. Omar was great but too little, and another favorite character was “Ness” in a little indie film I produced in 2004 called RED RIDGE. He was a despicable character but sometimes they are the most fun. You get to do things you would never do in real life. Very few people have seen that film, but with all the streaming services, maybe they will one day.

Nate: How is your life aside from the job, what else do you like to do in terms of hobbies, interests etc?

Louis: I have a great life. I cannot complain. I love art and antiques and have a great collection of both. Love to search for treasures at estate sales and swap meets. I have two classic cars, a 1968 Mustang Fastback which is my homage to “Bullitt” and a 1971 Corvette Stingray. I love to camp, hike, ride my bike, walk on the beach, boxing workout, which I have been doing since long before it was the cool thing to do (1978 to be exact) and of course visiting and hanging with friends, though I have not been able to do enough of that of late but I look forward to getting back to it once the apocalypse subsides, haha!

Nate: Do you have any upcoming projects (film related or otherwise) that you are excited for and would like to mention?

Louis: I recently appeared in an episode of FBI: MOST WANTED and the second season of DIRTY JOHN but that was before he shutdown and they have already aired. But since production has come back, I have started a recurring role on the CBS show, ALL RISE and should be doing more of those in 2021. I have just completed my part in the Apple TV show, HOME BEFORE DARK season 2 (was in season 1 as well). But with the shut down, work was non existent for many months, lets hope things can continue to get better from here. Fingers crossed!!

Nate: Thank you so much for you time Louis, it means a whole lot to myself, our team and all our readers that you took this time to share with us. Cheers to you and your family and best of luck in the future!!

A chat with John Dahl – An interview by Nate Hill

I’m incredibly excited to bring you my latest interview, with veteran director John Dahl. John has a staggering resume, having helmed episodes of television shows including Hannibal, Breaking Bad, Ray Donovan, Justified, Kingdom, House Of Cards, Jessica Jones, The Affair, Californication, Outlander, The Bridge, The Strain, Dexter, Arrow, Homeland, Shameless, Caprica, True Blood, Battlestar Galactica and more. He has also directed some amazing films, including Joy Ride, Rounders, The Last Seduction, Kill Me Again and Red Rock West. It was an honour to speak with him and I hope you enjoy reading it!

Nate: Growing up, what was it about film that attracted you, and how did you discover that you wanted to pursue it? Were there any filmmakers you admired or have inspired your work?
John: I always love going to see movies but then I remember seeing a “behind the scenes” preview of Jeremiah Johnson. They were pushing the camera on dolly track, it was the first time I’d seen anything like that. It started me think about how films were made. Then there was A Clockwork Orange. I was an art student and I loved the production design of the film and the use of Beethoven. Again it occurred to the that someone had to make everything that was in front of the camera. This film has really stuck with me as one of my favorites. As for influences; Kubrick, Coppola, Hitchcock, Spielberg, David Lynch & the Coen Brothers.

Nate: You have spent one portion of you career making feature films, and a more recent section has been centered on episodic TV. How do you find that the two differ? In film school we were told that they get directors for shows who are kind of like ‘guns for hire’, who will be efficient and carry the overall tone of the show without changing it too much. Did you find with any of the shows that you worked on (Ray Donovan, Hannibal, Justified etc) that you were rigidly set within the parameters of the show, or were you able to give them your own style, even a little, at all?
John: In any endeavor I’ve know there was always a practical side to me. From playing in bands, making artwork and certainly in writing and directing. While studying cinema in college I was curious as to how directors got their starts. This is when I came upon Roger Corman and his low budget approach. I noticed that both Jonathon Demme and Martin Scorsese got started with him. At this writing Corman has 409 producing credits and 56 directing credits. Are they all great? No, however If every movie I watched was as good as The Godfather or Rocky I probably never would have left Montana. Corman was a window into how films could be made and how one could grow through time and experience. Supposedly he shot Little Shop Of Horrors in 48 hours. My first professional directing experiences were doing music videos in the 80’s. This was a great playground to learn about lens, lighting, editing and how to work with a budget and a professional crew. I directed about 30 music videos when I got the opportunity to direct my first film. I’ve never worked on a project where money and time were not a factor, in the 8 movies that I’ve done and almost 90 episodes of television. The process is pretty much the same as I can tell – yes when you direct a film you are more in control of the process until you show it to the studio and start testing it. Then you have to respond to the audiences, producers and studio desires to hopefully recoup their investment. When you make television the studio and producers are involved every step of the way. It’s a group effort rather than an individual one. I can’t help but bring my sensibilities to the work I do – so far it hasn’t been a problem because when I’m doing someones tv show I’m trying to figure out how I can make it as great as possible with the time, money and talent available. I see filmmaking as the art of what is possible.

Nate: Rounders: for some reason, feels like the most personal film of you career. Silly for me to say, I know, since I’ve never met you, but it’s such a focused, distilled style and seems like all efforts involved were purely concentrated upon making this something really cool. How was you experience on this film?
John: Rounders what a terrific experience for me. I never really saw myself as much of a writer. I wrote so that I could create opportunities to direct. After four movies I was finally handed a movie and it was Rounders – pretty much the way you see it on screen. I saw it as a sports movie, the sport was gambling, not baseball or golf but a game of chance in which if you study, work hard you would succeed. Miramax supported the project, they liked the script, the cast – everything went fairly smooth. Interesting that you would say it my most personal film. I would probably say Red Rock West would be my most personal film – but to each their own.

Nate: Joy Ride: a colossally fun film. How was your experience making this one? I’m very curious about Ted Levine. On the dvd there test clips for Rusty Nail auditions with both Levine, Eric Roberts and a guy called Stephen Shellan. Were you in control of who nailed the role? Did you get to work a lot with Ted in the recording process?
John: Ted did a great job on the film although he was not my first choice. I pitched the ending of the film to the studio, building on the idea that the movie had to have a suspenseful ending – not more surprise which JJ Abrams was big on. I set up the idea that if Rusty Nail had Venna and the cops were coming to the rescue, if Venna was in jeopardy by say a “shotgun to the head” it would be more exciting – kind of the way Silence Of The Lambs ended. That may have been the take away for JJ – Buffalo Bill thus Ted Levine.

Nate: Red Rock West: Classic desert noir. How was the experience? One thing with your films that always is consistent and incredibly memorable performances from your actors. Particularly Dennis Hopper (Lyle From Dallas haha) and JT Walsh, who was a family friend of my parents. What was it like working with them? This is a Segway into my next question:
John: They say 90% of directing is casting the right actor. I agree. I’ve been blessed to work with remarkable actors. My approach is simple, I try to get great actors, set up the scene and get out of their way.

Nate: Working with actors: how do you approach the working relationship between actor and director? How has that process evolved for you over time and what have you learned from it?
John: I try to say as little as possible. I trust that they’ve done their homework and want to be great in any role they play. I’m there to guide them. Help them do their best work. As long as they end up going where I’m trying to take them — I give them full license to find the role.

Nate: The Last Seduction: I’m very curious about what it was like working with Linda Fiorentino, who is a favorite of mine.
John: Linda was fantastic. It was clear from the moment she entered the room that she was perfect to play that part. She pretty much cast herself, all we had to do is get out of her way and let her be Bridget Gregory.

Nate: You have written both Red Rock West and Kill Me Again. How do you find working with a director with your own material as opposed to other projects where you are dealing with a script crafted by someone else?
John: I like working with a writer – gives me someone to bounce ideas off of – it allows you to challenge the material – make sure you have the best version possible when you start shooting and even while you are shooting. I’ve often thought that the people with the most skin in the game are the director, writer and actors – those 3 jobs live or die each time they make something.

Nate: Are you hooked on tv now, or will we see some more films from you at some point in the future?
John: I like television. I’ve been able to work on great shows with fantastic writing. I don’t see a big difference between the two – if the material is good, I’ll do it. Do I still want to do features? Yes, I just need a great script. 
Nate: Thank you so much for your time John, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you, and keep up the great work!

PTS PRESENTS ACTORS SPOTLIGHT with BILL ALLEN

BILL ALLEN POWERCAST

Please visit Bill’s website, to learn more about Bill and purchase his memoir, MY RAD CAREER and other RAD merchandise!

(c)Tony Donaldson/tdphoto.com
(c)Tony Donaldson/tdphoto.com

You wouldn’t have blamed a young Bill Allen if he had believed that the road to a thirty year career as an actor would be quick and easy.  After all, his first few projects seemed to point towards early success.  He earned his SAG card playing the lead in a movie where his supporting co-stars were Oscar winners, Hollywood legends, and two young unknowns named Miguel Ferrer and George Clooney; he had key roles in films by directors like Robert Altman and Oliver Stone; and he hung out with soon-to-be-famous actors like Lou Diamond Phillips, Brad Pitt, and Brandon Lee.

But Allen would ultimately find his career defined by a film that was barely seen when released and relegated by Hollywood to the VHS dustbin….where it became a classic and made Bill Allen a cult hero.  Because Bill Allen, you see, is the guy who played Cru Jones.  THE Cru Jones.

In case you weren’t a teenager obsessed with the growing sport of BMX (bicycle motocross) in the 1980s and early 1990s, it should be explained that Cru Jones was the hero of the film RAD, directed by the legendary Hal Needham (Smokey and the Bandit), a veteran widely regarded as the industry’s greatest creator of on-screen stunts.  Though rather formulaic (and a bit laughable today for its distinctively 1980s styles), RAD featured elaborate and at the time revolutionary BMX stunts and riding performed by many of the pioneers of the movement at their prime.  In the era before the X-Games and viral videos brought BMX to home screens, RAD showed young people all across the country how to execute (and not execute) moves that inspired a generation of extreme sport enthusiasts.  Never mind that the film didn’t get a very wide release and poor reviews at the box-office:  within a few years, RAD was one of the most-rented VHS films of all time.  Teenagers who couldn’t afford to buy the film outright (this was in the days when VHS tapes sometimes retailed for $60 or more) rented it, watched it, and replayed it endlessly to study the stunts, as well as to revel in the underdog story of a bad kid made good by the sport of BMX.

“There are people who have named children Cru Jones,” says Allen with a laugh today, “boys and girls – I hear about one every week.  There’s a porn star, and a boutique in Argentina named Cru Jones.”  Now grown up, the kids who first rented RAD thirty years ago – like superfan Comedy Central host Daniel Tosh, who swore on the air that “Cru” has a place on his show as long as Tosh.O is on the air – have given Allen new moments in the spotlight, and allowed him to reflect on just what a strange journey a life in show business has afforded him.

Allen doesn’t deny that some good fortune allowed him to escape a somewhat grim world of limited possibilities in suburban Dallas, where he grew up.  Never particularly ambitious – and prevented from playing sports or doing anything dangerous because of his smaller size – Allen had a family friend with a lofty idea about making a film about a jockey.  Suddenly Allen’s size and interest in acting found him as the film’s unlikely lead on set in Kentucky.  The director convinced legendary stage and screen performer Jose Ferrer, along with many other veteran notables, to take parts in the film, which lead to Ferrer bringing along his own two sons and nephew Clooney to make their own screen debuts.  The film was never completed, but it also introduced Allen to veteran film actor Adam Rourke (The Stunt Man with Peter O’Toole are among his many credits).  Looking for a way to make a sober living after a rough life in Hollywood, Rourke returned to Dallas along with Allen and began a film acting class that ran successfully for several years.  It is there that Allen landed a role in Robert Altman’s acclaimed Streamers, and met lifelong friend Lou Diamond Phillips as a fellow member of Rourke’s class.

Upon arriving in Los Angeles, Allen was, in his own words, “young, with an agent, a SAG card, and a look I could exploit,” and quickly found work on television in shows such as Hotel, Amazing Stories, and Family Ties, and in a key role with opposite Tom Cruise in Born on the Fourth of July.    When Needham was casting RAD, a film to be co-produced by Talia Shire and co-starring recent Olympic gold medalist Bart Conner, he happened to catch an episode of Hill Street Blues that Allen guest starred in, and within a few days Allen was hired as the lead and off to Canada.  Allen recently collected many of his stories, including many behind-the-scenes stories about the making and promotion of RAD, in his memoir, My RAD Life, where he explains the heady rush of making another major film, his disappointment in the film’s initial reception, and his eventual transition from hot new actor in town to a regular working professional.

A love for the stage led him to form a theatre company with friends Brandon Lee and writer/director John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, Saving Mr. Banks), allowing him to not only refine his craft, but join a blues band for one aborted stage production.  A longtime harmonica player and blues aficionado since childhood (Dallas was an is a hotbed of blues music, and Allen grew up idolizing locals like Stevie Ray Vaughn and T-Bone Walker), Allen’s band, the Pipefitters, toured nationally and performed several times on television, with old friend Lou Diamond Philips fronting the band.  That love for music continues:  recently Allen worked with his brother Sherman to produce and perform on a tribute CD (The King of Clubs) for longtime Texas bluesman Bugs Henderson.

RAD was in the rearview mirror for Allen, but came roaring back into view with the advent of social media.  “I was blissfully unaware of what was going on with the movie,” remembers Allen, “because of my career in music, but something definitely was going on.”  Because RAD has never been available on DVD (and VHS copies are increasingly rare), fans often arranged special screenings and invited Allen to attend.  At one such screening, director Needham (who passed away in 2013), noted to Allen that of all the films he had ever made, RAD had the most remarkable and profound impact over time.  That’s reflected in the film’s current rating on “Rotten Tomatoes.”  Though saddled with a “0%” rating from the few critics who reviewed the film, it has an amazing “91%” from fans and “amateur” critics – the most profound discrepancy in the website’s database of over 10,000 films.

For the last several years, Allen has been content working on his music and making a life with his wife, Carol, as well as doing regular acting work (he was seen in an episode of Breaking Bad and has appeared twice on Tosh.O).  But recently, he’s found great peace and good fortune in embracing the role that was almost forgotten in a film that refuses to be. “I own the batsuit, and they can’t take it away from me,” he jokes.  He plays a key role in a new BMX-themed film Heroes of Dirt, directed by one of the RAD generation, Eric Bugbee.  Released in US theatres in the fall, it will make it to DVD and VOD on December 8.

Allen, Bugbee and the Heroes of Dirt production team are also deep into developing a new film inspired by RAD.  That’s going to mean getting back on the bike – he’s busy studying both motorcycle and BMX with longtime pro Martin Aparijo (one of the stunt bikers featured in the original RAD), determined to do more of his own stunts this time around.  He’s also developing a traveling BMX / 80s Rock live performance tour, combining nostalgia and extreme biking for a whole new generation of fans.  Not bad for the kid who wasn’t allowed to ride a bike – but now counts airplane piloting and power-parachuting among his hobbies.  On or off his bike, there’s no question that Allen is always going to find someone who wants to meet the real Cru Jones – and he’s happy to give the people what they want.