Tag Archives: The X Files

Actor’s Spotlight: Nate’s Top Ten Billy Drago Performances

Some actors were just born to play villains, they just had that aura of menace, animalistic charm and the kind of personality that lent itself to baddies. That can definitely be said of Billy Drago, a reptilian character actor with a slinky, measured voice and a gaze that could pierce walls. Of the hundred or so credits he racked up over his career I’d say about three to five were not antagonists, he made a living and legendary work out of embodying badasses and troublesome dudes. He’s passed on now but these are my top ten of his performances!

10. Drake in Seven Mummies

This is a pitiful From Dusk Dawn rip-off that doesn’t even have one mummy in it, never mind seven. However, Billy hams it up spectacularly as the maniacal ghost of an evil sheriff, decked out with supernatural powers, cackling like a madman and having a ball.

9. John Bly in The Adventures Of Brisco County Jr

He takes centre stage as the main villain in this cult SciFi western series as Bly, a deadly, treacherous outlaw gang leader who proves to be quite the adversary to Bruce Campbell’s hero.

8. Edward Anthony Heller in Freeway

A frightening, bible quoting mass murderer, Heller prowls the urban highways in a big black Lincoln looking for victims to maim and authorities to fire his rocket launcher at while hard boiled detective James Russo races to find and stop him. This is one of those villains who is heard for awhile before being seen, and Drago’s evil zealot’s fervour in delivering fire and brimstone passages before brutally killing people is something else.

7. Barbas The Demon of Fear in Charmed

Charmed was a dope show from what I saw, and benefited greatly from Billy’s intermittent presence as a spooky, otherworldly entity who controls the very essence of fear. Clad in black and scenery chewing like nobody’s business, it’s one of his most memorable TV guest arcs.

6. Asmodeus in Demon Hunter

Another demon! This time instead of fear it’s sex, and although in classic mythology the physical manifestation of this guy isn’t exactly Billy’s type, he rocks the charisma here, hanging on every hissed syllable and seductive boob grab. This is a terrific little TV B movie produced by the legendary Stephen J. Cannell and starring one half of the Boondock Saints, Sean Patrick Flanery as a sort of Constantine like badass.

5. Charles Thibodeaux in Dark Moon Rising

Finally a good guy!! This is a low budget but fun werewolf flick set in the New Mexico desert. Billy plays an ex homicide detective gone rogue, hunting down the vicious beast that murdered his wife years before. There’s a mournful, nothing to lose attitude to his character here, even in more heroic roles he always inflected the work with a trademark edgy darkness.

4. Ramon Cota in Delta Force 2

Billy played villains opposite Chuck Norris a few times but none were as terrifying and over the top, WTF crazy as Cota. Columbia’s nastiest drug lord, he’s got a fucking gas chamber in his living room that he uses to dispatch enemies, disloyal cohorts and basically anyone he doesn’t like the sight of, and he watches it go down too.

3. Frank Nitti in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables

Slick, evil enforcer to Robert DeNiro’s Al Capone, Frank is a straight up psychopath who laughs in the face of Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) after killing one of his best friends and taunts him like a true monster. It’s a supremely evil turn that outshines every other villain on scene including DeNiro’s cultured Capone.

2. Orel Peattie in The X Files

He’s an antagonist here but one with an understandable perspective and tragic backstory. Orel is a Gypsy with mysterious voodoo powers who has targeted a Doctor (James Morrison) that he deems responsible for the death of his daughter years before. Both these characters are hurt, Orel lashes out by casting creepy spells on the guy and one can sense the seething hatred and sorrow in Billy’s excellent performance.

1. Danny Bench in Cyborg 2: The Glass Shadow

Man this sequel is just so much better than the shitty first one with Jean Claude Van Damme. Bench is a psychotic renegade bounty hunter employed by a corrupt corporation to hunt down their asset, a rogue cyborg (Angelina Jolie) and the army man (Elias Koteas) she’s run away with. He’s a scary, imposing villain with ties to Asian occult, an arsenal of savage weapons and a bad case of the crazy.

-Nate Hill

Actors Spotlight with Raymond J Barry

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Joining us is seasoned veteran actor Raymond J. Barry to discuss his long and amazing career. Raymond speaks about being a theater actor and playwright, to appearing in such films as Falling Down, Interview with the Assassin, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Year of the Dragon, Born on the 4th of July, and Training Day among many. He shares wonderful anecdotes from the films he has been a part of, and his candid thoughts on his roles and people he’s worked with. We hope you enjoy listening to this podcast as much as we enjoyed recording it. Please visit Raymond’s website to view his reel as well as his artwork.

 

ACTOR’S SPOTLIGHT with JAMES MORRISON

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Today we have an incredibly special episode for you guys. Joining Frank, Tim, and Nate is veteran actor, playwright, and musician James Morrison. James has graced the stage and screen for decades, appearing in SPACE ABOVE AND BEYOND, MILLENNIUM, THE X-FILES, THE WEST WING, four seasons of 24, PRIVATE PRACTICE and recently appeared on the third season of TWIN PEAKS as Warden Murphy. James also appeared in Steven Spielberg’s CATCH ME IF YOU CAN and Sam Mendes’ vastly underrated JARHEAD. He has also released two albums, I BROKE FREE and SON TO THE BOY. To sample or purchase James’ music and his plays, and for everything else James Morrison, please visit his website JPMORRISON.com.

PTS PRESENTS ACTOR’S SPOTLIGHT with STEVE RAILSBACK

RAILSBACK POWERCAST

Steve_RailsbackWe are incredibly proud to present our podcast with veteran actor Steve Railsback.  Steve has been in everything, from Richard Rush’s THE STUNTMAN, to Toby Hooper’s LIFEFORCE, Todd Solondz’s STORYTELLING, Rob Zombie’s THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, HELTER SKELTER, BARBWIRE, ED GEIN, IN THE LINE OF FIRE, and an important arc as Duane Barry in THE X-FILES.  Steve gives a candid, hilarious, and heartfelt account of his incredible career speaking at length about working with Elia Kazan, Richard Rush, Clint Eastwood, and how Chris Carter specifically courted him for the role of Duane Barry.  We hope you have as much fun listening to this as we did recording it!

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!

Episode 20: THE GOLDEN AGE OF TELEVISION with SPECIAL GUEST MELISSA MAERZ

EPISODE 20

We were joined by Entertainment Weekly television critic Melissa Maerz to discuss the continuation of the golden age of television.  Follow Melissa on Twitter, and check her podcast on Sirius/XM Women on Pop.

A chat with actor Debra Christofferson 

I recently had the opportunity to speak with actor Debra Christofferson, a super talented performer who has done work in films including Wild Wild West, Mouse Hunt, Anjelina Jolie’s The Changeling, White Oleander, My Favorite Martian, and more. She also has television appearance in shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Ally Mcbeal, American Horror Story, Crime Story, The X Files, NYPD Blue, CSI, Weeds, Bones, The Mentalist, NCIS, Southland and a legendary arc in HBO’s Carnivale as Lila. She was an absolute pleasure to speak with. Enjoy!

Nate: Since I don’t see much about your background or training on imdb, would you care to speak about that? Did you come from an artistic background, how did you know you wanted to pursue acting, where did you train etc?
Debra: I honestly don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be an actor. There’s a video of me at about a year and a half old where I come tearing around a corner and look up at my dad, who is holding the camera. I glance down at the floor like I’m looking for my mark, adjust my position, then look back up at the camera and smile like, “Okay, I’m ready for my close up!” It’s pretty funny, and kind of prescient. I was always dressing up as a kid, making up scenarios and entertaining myself, or anyone who would listen. We didn’t have a theatre department in school, but I sang solos and did plays at church, and also performed for years, as did many townspeople, as an extra in the Black Hills Passion Play, a three hour pageant about the last week of Christ’s life. The professional actors in the production were always very kind and encouraging, and made a lasting impression on me.
I attended college on a vocal scholarship, and double majored in music and theatre. I moved to Minneapolis after graduation, and took acting classes and did several plays before moving to Los Angeles to pursue tv and film.
I’ve studied with several acting coaches over the years, but the biggest influence in my process has really been studying metaphysics. The basic idea of being in present moment at all times keeps one honest as a character, and influences the choices I make as an actor.

Nate: Upon first entering the industry and auditioning, where did you expect to go, character wise? Did you have any certain genre or character style you wanted to explore? Did you get to go down the avenues you hoped for? Did it surprise you the characters you did end up portraying?
Debra: Oh, I was so very naive! Training in theatre gave me no preparation whatsoever for working in the television and film industry. I had no idea of how to put together a resume, no clue what it was like to be on a set, no concept of the enormity of it all. I started doing student films to get some footage of myself on camera, so I had something to show prospective agents; I did some extra work to find out what it was like to be on the set of a big production; and I continued to do theatre to keep myself feeling productive. Ultimately, I got an agent, joined the unions, started getting auditions, and was on my way. Very, very slowly, but on my way, nevertheless.
As for a genre, I’ve said in previous interviews how influential the movie “Star Wars” was to me. I had always thought I’d end up in New York and on Broadway, but after seeing “Star Wars,” I just wanted to make magic like that. And now that JJ Abrams is restarting the franchise, I guess there’s still hope! A new hope. LOL!
Besides making scifi movie magic, I wanted to have a variety show like Carol Burnett. I love the idea of being part of a fabulously talented ensemble, playing a myriad of characters, singing and dancing, having wonderful guest stars, etc. That genre has been out of style for awhile, but one never knows when it might make a resurgence!
I am extremely pleased, and I guess somewhat surprised, at some of the characters I’ve been privileged to play. I’ve run the gamet from a normal blue collar worker (“T.J. Hooker,” among others) to a demon (“Good vs. Evil”), to a sexy bearded lady (“Carnivale”). I’ve worked with some of the nicest and most talented people in the Industry, and have had amazing opportunities.

Nate: What would be your dream role in film? Existing or an imaginary, yet to be written character.
Debra: As a kid I wanted to play Scarlett O’Hara. Or maybe it was to just be Vivian Leigh playing Scarlett O’Hara. Dream role – are you listening, JJ Abrams? I want to be a recurring character in “Star Wars!”

Nate:  Carnivale- Lila makes such a huge impression on the show, and is somewhat underestimated by others, she’s kind of a cunning, wily girl. Did you enjoy working on that, and playing her? Are you a fan of the show as a whole? It’s such a tragedy it got cancelled so early.. Did you ever have any idea where it might have gone post season 2?
I adored playing Lila! The 1930’s is my favorite time period for music, architecture, clothing, etc., and it was wonderful being able to inhabit that world. I thought the show was amazing – stunning production values, beautifully shot, brilliantly written and performed. It was before its time, and it broke my heart when we were cancelled after only two seasons. Dan Knauf, the creator of “Carnivale,” had the entire series planned out, so there was lots more to see and experience. I recall that the third season was set a few years after season two, and involved Samson gathering the carnies back together as they had all gone their separate ways.

Nate: Mousehunt- pure, delightful physical comedy. The auction scene is like the peak of the tumultuous, chaotic events throughout the film. There was a lot going on, a lot of actors present, and a wonderful screwball comic vibe. How was your experience filming that sequence?
Debra: I made life-long friends on that shoot. We started out near Yosemite, shooting the flooding sequence. The first week there were several minor mishaps on the dangerously muddy terrain, but we all made it through and production held a “whew!” party for us at a local bowling alley. And I fractured my wrist bowling. Yeah, slipped in very slippery bowling shoes and fell throwing a ball down the alley. I had to be flown back to L.A. to get it set, and then we managed to cover the cast adequately for it not to show in the mud and water sequences. It worked out kind of miraculously, and by the time the auction scene was shot, my wrist had healed.
I remember having a blast shooting that sequence. It took several days, and between the mice and the fire, we were kept on our toes. And when you’re working with really fun, talented friends, it’s a joy!
The hardest thing to shoot was a scene involving the main actors floating and swimming through the floodwater. Production built a huge water tank on the Universal backlot near the “Psycho” house, and we were drilled on safety measures with the divers who were under water with air tanks if we needed them. Camilla Soeberg, who played my sister, and I got into the water and tried to dive under to get to the proper depth for the camera, but we kept floating to the top. Our wigs had been built on styrofoam bases, which wouldn’t let us stay under the water. It was hilarious, but an expensive mistake. Ultimately, the whole scene ended up on the cutting room floor.
Nate: Wild Wild West- The scene with you and Will Smith. One of the funniest bits. Were you two given lots of room for playing and improvisation, or was it mostly to script? Did you have fun with that project?
Debra: I loved working on “Wild Wild West.” I had originally read for the role of the bartender early in the movie when Kevin Kline was dressed in drag. They cast someone else, but liked me enough at the audition to still want me in the film, so asked me to dance with Will. That evolved into a couple of other scenes as well. My first day on set involved the dance. We rehearsed it twice and the timing just wasn’t working. I knew musically how to fix it, but was hesitant to say anything to this rapper guy, because I figured he knew rhythm, and I didn’t want to overstep. But when the third try didn’t work, I spoke up. Will nodded and said to Barry Sonnenfeld, the director, “Debra has an idea I think might work.” We tried it and it worked perfectly. After that, I was “in.” I was invited to sit with Barry, Will and the other leads in “video village,” which was surrounded by Will’s bodyguards (there were hundreds of extras on the set), and I kept getting more bits to do. One of my fondest memories is of when the set was cleared for rehearsal and I found myself alone with Barry, Will, Kevin Kline, Ted Levine, and one of my all-time favorites, Kenneth Branaugh. We spent a good 15 minutes working on a scene, and I suggested a line about being “back in the saddle” which ended up in the film. The best part of all, however, was every morning when I got to sit next to Ken in the make-up trailer and chat. It was heaven!

Nate: You made an appearance in the video game L.A. Noire. How was your experience with recording in a sound studio? I ask because in my work I absolutely love doing VO stuff, it’s such a rush, and so wildly different from on camera acting. Did you find this as well?
Debra: When I first moved to L.A. I did a lot of voiceover work for cartoons and dubbed several foreign films. L.A. Noire was a unique experience however, unlike anything I’d done before. The dressing up in the neoprine suit with little ping pong balls all over, working in a black box with yellow gridlines and imagining everything, sitting in a round white room being photographed by hundreds of cameras – crazy! The motion capture included the vocal performance, so there wasn’t separate voiceover work for that. However, when I went in to have my face photographed from a gazillion angles, they asked me to do a bunch of additional lines as various characters, so I got to use different voices and accents to play as many parts as possible.

Nate: Do you haven my upcoming projects, film or otherwise, that you are excited for and would like to speak about?
Debra: Yes, I do. I’m thrilled to be working on an exciting new project, but can’t talk about it! It seems to be de rigueur anymore that one is required to sign a non-disclosure agreement so nothing leaks out about high-profile projects. Thanks, Internet! LOL!
 I can say that the powers that be and the lead actors on this particular project were at ComiCon last summer promoting it and that it will be out sometime in early 2016. So maybe check back with me next year!
Nate: I look forward to this mystery project! Keep up the awesome work Debra and thanks for chatting!