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A chat with actor Peter Onorati

Pleased to bring you my latest interview, with veteran actor Peter Onorati. Peter has appeared in many films including Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, Rocketman, Shelter, The Last Ride, Postcards From The Edge, Blood Deep, The Last Ride and more. He’s also acted in Television shows including Sex And The City, Tales From The Crypt, CSI, NCIS, Monk, Crossing Jordan, ER, Batman Beyond, The Wild Thornberries, The Outer Limits, 24, Blue Bloods, Sons Of Anarchy, Castle and many more. Enjoy!
Nate: You have done quite a bit in life, before and besides acting, including playing football. When did you know you wanted to be an actor, and knew it would be something you would enjoy doing indefinitely?
Peter: I really never thought about acting until I was challenged to take a 1-night stand class in comedy in NYC, which turned out to be a class in Improvisation. At the time, I had my MBA and I was the Director of Marketing and Research for 3 of McCall’s magazines and dating a childhood crush who was the Art Director of one of the magazines. After the 1-night class I was asked to join an Improv group in NYC that ended up being called Port Authority Theatre Ensemble or Pate (pronounced Pattay like the French word). The Group was named so because NONE of us were in the acting business and we came together from as far as Boonton N.J. (me) and Queens and the boroughs. We were indeed very much like a Pate. We played all he shit-holes in NYC for a few years and competed in the Improvisation Olympics in Chicago at Second City. I met a starving actress in the group named Jeanette Collins who was classically trained in Improv and who had moved to NYC from California. When my childhood crush broke up with me Jeanette took pity on me and dated me. Soon after I had some of my research published in Advertising Age and was being sought after by some big package good firms like P&G. I let my boss at McCall’s know and she decided that I wasn’t worth keeping so she made my life miserable for a few months. During that time Jeanette said “I think you could be an actor” to which I replied “Yeah, so I can have 4 jobs and starve like you?” When I subsequently removed the ice-pack from my eye, I decided to try acting. I walked into McCall’s and quit and within 2 weeks was on hold for a national beer commercial. Within about 2 years I had made more money as a commercial actor than I did as a Marketing Exec and I got my first break in TV on the last season of Kate and Allie. From there you can check my resume cause there’s too much to type.
 Nate: Who are some actors/filmmakers whose work you enjoy and maybe have inspired you in your own work? 
Peter: Actors who inspire me: DeNiro (whom I worked with in my first big movie Goodfellas) Robert Duvall, John Casales, Christian Bale, John Garfield, James Gagney, Spencer Tracey (too many to type) – Filmakers/Actors – Redford, Stallone, Clooney. Barry Levinson, Scorsese (again too numerous to type)
Nate:  You have a very rambunctious, energetic nature to your work; many of your characters have a vitality that lights up the screen and commands attention. Is this something you consciously have done with practice and training, or do you think it comes out of your own personality?
Peter: Most of what I do comes from me. I have no real formal training as an actor so I have nothing to draw upon except my own life experience. For better or worse, there is always a huge piece of me or somebody I loved or hated in what I do. Let’s face it, I have no other resources.
Nate: 24: how was you experience working on this show? 
Peter: My experience on 24 was GREAT and would have lasted longer except for the way this stupid business works. I am an acquaintance of Jon Cassar the Exec Prod (he has subsequently climbed on board with a script I co-wrote to be the Exec Prod.) They offered me that role and that doesn’t happen too much to actors at my level. However they did not make it a “Regular Role” and lock me in. (probably because they didn’t want to pay me). So in the middle I was offered a 4 episode arc on Desperate Housewives and took the guarantee over the possibility of more episodes of ‘24’. So as most of the stories of this business go, ‘24’ called me for more eps but I committed to Desperate Housewives so I did no more.
Nate: You have done a fair amount of voice work in your career. How did that come about, do you enjoy it, and how does it compare to acting in front of a camera in live action? 
Peter: As one who got kicked out of Catholic School in 5th grade for mimicking the Nuns and Priests, I never thought I’d make money doing exactly what I did wrong so long ago.
Nate: I remember a little film you did called Shelter, with Kurtwood Smith and Costas Mandylor, who played your brother. You stole the show as the hyperactive Greek mafia boss. Any memories from that one, and how was the experience? 
Peter: One of the best experiences of my career. Not only did I get to sit across from the great Charles Durning but I got to do something actors at my level NEVER get to do. Unless you’re Dustin Hoffman or Christian Bale, you never get to do maladies or accents. The writer/producer and the director let me speak in Greek and do the Greek/American accent at my suggestion for the character. This is unheard of for us guys at the lower levels.
Nate: Any upcoming projects you are excited for and would like to mention? 


Peter: Nothing in acting right now. I have had some success writing and have put together some strong and interesting packages for my work. Actually I am writing something right now with my wife ( in 30 years together we haven’t done this) She is part of a writing team Collins an Friedman and has been everything from Exec to Co-Exec producer on shows since we moved to California.
Nate: Some of your favorite roles you have played over the course of your career so far?
Peter: I love ALL of my own series. They gave me a sense of security and a long term approach to finding my characters. I specifically loved doing a show that my agents and managers kept me from doing for a while as it was not “the thing to do”. The show was Walker Texas Ranger and I had a BLAST and Chuck was incredibly congenial and respectful of my ideas for my character. I can’t mention all the special jobs that stretched my chops like “Harry’s Law” and the joy and fatigue that accompanied the work. I guess that when I’m not working like most actors I feel unaccomplished. When you come to this town it’s all about the trophies and the P.R. but when you’ve been here as long as I have, you realized it’s a major accomplishment just to raise a family, put your sons through college and stay in your house. So I guess I made out ok.

Playing Elektra’s Father and encountering The Mummy: A chat with actor Erick Avari

Proud to present to you my latest interview, with Erick Avari, an instantly recognizable, charming actor who seems to pop up all over the place. He has very memorable appearances in films including The Mummy, Independence Day, Planet Of The Apes, Stargate, Daredevil, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Mr. Deeds, The Glass House, The 13th Warrior and more. He’s also done work in television shows like The X Files, Madam Secretary, The Mentalist, NCIS: Los Angeles, Castle, Lie To Me, Burn Notice, Heroes, The OC, Alias and many more. Enjoy! 
Nate: When did you know you wanted to become an actor?
Erick: Age 14 (1966) It was something the late Fr. McGuire said in a class named “moral science” which was essentially a forum to talk about just about anything at all. While on the topic of an artists’ responsibility to society, and he astutely pointed out that societies have flourished when artists hold up a mirror to life and crumbled when artists stopped doing so. It seemed like a noble profession and the final nail in the coffin sealing my fate as an artist. If he were around today I’d have to ask if he thought Art imitates life or the other way around?


Nate: The Mummy: Care to speak a bit about your experience on this film?
Erick: Little bit of trivia. I was originally cast in the role Jonathan Hyde played and Omar Sharif was set to play the curator but two weeks before the shoot they called to say Omar had emergency hip surgery and so they were bumping me up to the role of the curator. It was a wonderful shoot! A couple of weeks in Marrakesh, a couple of weeks in London great cast and the most fun director to work with. It was magic. Made some lifelong friends and reestablished contact with some old. Who could ask for more?
Nate: Care to speak a bit about your years growing up in Darjeeling, India? It’s an area I’ve heard a lot about and would be fascinated to hear what you have to,say about it.
Erick: Funny you bring that up as just the other day some one posted a video of Darjeeling on Facebook and a flood of memories came pouring back. It is situated in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. Nothing like you might imagine India to be at all. Small tourist town nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas with the most spectacular views of the worlds highest mountain, Kanchenjunga. I believe natural beauty stimulates the creative mind and it’s no wonder the residents have always had an affinity to the arts. Growing up I was surrounded by music, dance, theater, literature and given my father owned and operated the only two cinema halls in town, I was a very popular kid on Saturdays when traditionally the two would flock to see the latest “flick” that was playing at either the Capitol Cinema or The Rink (formerly a roller skating rink).
Nate: You have probably the best line in the movie Independence Day, despite only briefly appearing in the first scene. How was filming that for you, and how did it end up that you were uncredited for it?
Erick: Another story behind that. That was Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin’s way of saying thanks for my work on Stargate, shot the year before. Without going into too much detail but it was my first, “offer” and a very generous one to boot and I was overwhelmed with gratitude and though (mistakenly) and by not asking for billing I would be giving back in some stupid way. It was so wonderful to be appreciated and best of all, not having to go through the audition process. I can’t tell you how much of a joy that alone was but to be reunited with the same team even if it was for a week was heaven.
Nate: If you had to think of some of your favourite roles, in both film and theatre, what might they be?
Erick: Sir Richard in Jean Genet’s The Screens performed at The Guthrie theater in Minneapolis. One of the grandest productions on stage that I have been a part of (including King and I on Broadway) and perhaps the most acrobatic role physically I have ever undertaken. I ended up tearing ligaments in my ankle and finished the run on crutches. Best part, people thought the crutches were part of the play!

Vasquez in ’Tis Pity She’s A Whore at the Public theater with Val Kilmer, Jean Tripplehorn, Jarred Harris and on and on. Anyone who know the play knows that’s the run away role. Just loads of fun playing a smooth talking, eye gouging villain with an exit applause line designed to elicit applause to boot!

Nate: Daredevil: Nice to,see you pop in a comic book universe, playing Nikolas Natchios. How was your experience on that film?
Erick: I was completely charmed by Jennifer Garner and I had become friends with Michael Clarke Duncan over the 6 months we worked on Planet of the Apes together so that was …god I’m running out of superlatives but you have in fact touched on some wonderful moments in my career. Sufficeth to say, I miss Michael and feel he died way too young as he had so much to give to the world. He was a wonderful soul.
Nate: Tim Burton’s Planet Of The Apes: an underrated film for me, doesn’t deserve the negative reviews it’s gotten. How was your experience on this one?
Erick: I think a lot of people got robbed on that one starting with Rick Baker for make up. Tim Burton had a wonderful concept going into the film and we, the actors were so excited about where this one was going to go. It’s too bad there were too many opinions that had to be considered in the making of the film and it ended up to be a completely different animal (pun regretfully intended) and was perhaps one of the biggest disappointments of my career. 
Nate: Any upcoming projects you are excited for and would like to speak about?
Erick: I am returning to the theater, that is as soon as I find a job! I have been burning to get back to my roots and fortunately I am no in a position in my life where I can afford to do just that. There are roles in the cannon that I have been waiting to grow into and King Lear is at the top of my list. It will be a challenge that I will have to work toward but that is on my bucket list. Shylock is one I’d like another shot at as well and I could go on and on on that score. I am also transitioning into directing independent features and working to develop several projects. 
Nate: Films/Actors/Filmmakers that you admire and enjoy, and maybe have inspired your work?
Erick: I have learned so much from every director and actor I have ever worked with. I have been fortunate to have worked with some of the greats of our era and I was always cognizant of the fact that I was getting a free education every time at bat. I think you learn so much from just observing and being privy to the conversations that move the creative process forward. To mention Woody Allen and Lasse Hallestrom and leave out Mike Nichols (whom I worked with although my scene from Charlie Wilson’s war was cut) or many of the theater directors I’ve worked with would be remiss of me.
Nate: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat, and keep up the great work Erick!

My chat with veteran actor Pat Skipper

Greetings again! I just had the chance to interview veteran actor Pat Skipper, who has appeared in countless films including Erin Brockovich, Lethal Weapon 2, Demolition Man, Rob Zombie’s Halloween, Seabiscuit, Ed Gein, Independence Day, Predator 2 and more. He’s also shown up in many a  TV Show, including Mad Men, ER, That 70’s Show, Charmed, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Bosch, The West Wing, Bones, Cold Case, Criminal Minds, Medium, Justified, The Mentalist and an intense character arc on The X Files as Bill Scully. He’s been a force to reckon with in the industry for a long while, and it was a pleasure to speak with him. Enjoy!
Nate: How did you find your way into acting, was it something you always knew you wanted do? What was your background before that?

 

Pat: I was a total TV head when I was a kid. I loved Lost in Space. I loved Billy Mumy (Will Robinson). Then, I saw him in a Twilight Zone re-run and he scared me to death. That’s the first notion that I had that someone was “acting.” I was amazed. But I got into doing it myself in the way that most kids from the sticks do. I got a part in the high school play. I probably had six lines. I was an Irish cop, I think. I realized that actors were “my people.” I kept doing it and never stopped.

 

Nate: Tell us a bit about your book, ‘The Working Actor’. How was the process of writing, and coming up with it? I will also include a link here in the blog post so that anyone reading who is interested can take a look.

 

Pat: I had been coaching a friend of mine, a young woman–a girl really–on auditions. I began to look back over my career. I saw my younger self reflected back at me while I was working with her. I thought, “I wish I had me for a teacher when I was 21.” So I started taking notes. Six drafts and 2.5 years later, I have my book, The Working Actor.

 

Nate: You have an impressive, intense character arc on The X Files. Did you enjoy creating the character of Bill Scully, and how was working on the series for you?

 

Pat: I loved X-Files. I was a big fan of the series. I thought then (and still think) that Gillian Anderson is one of the best actors alive. Playing opposite her was so engaging. She’s a tremendous athlete. She made me better.

 

Nate: I saw a comment from Michael Connelly on the website for your book. Did you know him prior to being cast in Bosch, or did you meet as a result of that. He’s a wicked author, and you are an incredible actor, I feel like he should write something just for you. Did you enjoy working on Bosch?

 

I was very excited to get cast in Bosch. I had been aquainted with the Producer Eric Overmyer 30 years before (when we were both starting out in New York). Something happened in that audiiton room. I just fell apart emotionally. I got the part. I was over the moon to meet Mike Connelly as I had read every single one of his novels. I couldn’t wait to meet him. When I did, he reminded me that I had worked with him before in a pilot for a TV show that he had written in the 90s! I didn’t remember him at all. I loved working with Titus Welliver. The guy is the quintessential Working Actor. He’s worked his way all the way to the top. Titus wrote the foreword to my book. That said, playing Sam Delacroix was brutal. Such an awful, selfish, morally corrupt and lost person. It cost me a bit of my soul to play him.

 

Nate: thank you for sharing that, and it’s super exiting about Bosch, I hope to start it soon. Any hobbies, interests besides acting and writing?

 

Pat: I had 12-year-old twins. They keep me busy. I play very mediocre golf. I read A LOT. I love football season.

 

Nate: Working with Rob Zombie on Halloween- Did he pursue you for that role? He tends to specifically request actors, and cast his films, even down to the minutest role, with old familiar faces and impeccably picked talent. Did you enjoy your experience on that film? Working with Scout, Dee Wallace and everyone?

 

Pat: Rob Zombie is a very sweet guy, surprisingly. And he’s remarkably inventive. He creates a very fertile work environment. Dee, Scout and I loved each other. He helped us create a very credible little family. Then he covered me with gallons of blood. I went to audition. That’s how I get all my jobs. No one has ever requested me for shit.

 

Nate: In your website bio it says you initially had trouble finding jobs just out of school. Care to elaborate? Specifically the esoteric nature of preparing for a performance or audition, versus the practical, professional way to go about searching for the work. The art vs. the know how etc.

 

Pat: Everybody has trouble starting out. Everybody. I had no idea how to audition for jobs. I totally sucked. I came to a revelation. If I was going to work in this business, I was going to have to create my own work. Cutting to the chase, I produced a hit play starring the then 21-year-old (and unknown) actress, Marisa Tomei. It opened doors–for both of us. I have come to the conclusion that Acting is not an art form. Acting is a sport. Acting is taught as if it were some fancy, magical, mystical thing. I advocate in my book (and with the people that I coach) that we should attack our careers–and our work–with the dedication and tenacity of professional athletes. Take the magic out. Work our asses off. Have a repeatable process. Learn through repetition. Work out to stay sharp. Never settle. Never stop getting better. Expect the best out of ourselves. Deliver every time.

 

Nate: Your career is primarily acting, and now the book. Have you ever considered getting into other aspects of filmmaking such as script writing, producing or directing your own projects?

 

Pat: I act. I coach actors. I wrote a book. That’s it.

 

Nate: What are some of your favourite roles you’ve gotten to play?

 

Pat: Bosch, X-Files, Bones, Boston Legal, Halloween. A lot of my best stuff has been in other projects that no one ever watched. So it goes.

 

Nate: Besides Bosch, any other projects coming up, cinematic or otherwise that you are excited for and would like to mention?

 

Pat: I’m a Working Actor. Right now, that means I’m looking for work. I auditioned for some TV show today. I’m running my studio. I’m coaching other people’s auditions. The book comes out in a month. I’m as busy as hell making that happen. It’s exhausting. It’s also kind of scary. Mostly, though, it’s pretty cool.
Nate: It’s the coolest profession anyone could hope to a part of indeed. Best of luck, I’ll see you soon in Bosch, and will most definitely be getting ahold of your book. Thanks so much!