As you’ve seen in the trio of Random Roles Rewind pieces I’ve posted over the course of the past few weeks, 2012 was a very good year for me when it came to working within my favorite of the Onion AV Club’s interview formats, but even a very good year has a few duff moments.
When it comes to doing a solid Random Roles interview, the key is to make sure you have enough time available to get through a decent mixture of an actor’s most famous roles, his favorite roles, and a handful of obscurities. Generally, if I can’t get at least 20 – 30 minutes, I feel like it’s almost not worth doing the interview, because everyone’s going to walk away disappointed…you, me, and probably the actor, too, because they generally start to get the feel of the format just as we get the “time’s up” sign. I had a couple of occasions this year where I got some great stuff from an actor, but it was so good that I didn’t want to run the piece unless I could get a bit more from them in order to flesh things out. In most cases, that worked out well. In some cases, however, I was left hanging without a follow-up, and in one particular instance, I actually finished the interview, but just in time to get shafted by the network issuing a cancellation decree.
Here are the big three from 2012 that you never got to see. I’m only offering one role from each, since I’m hoping that the future will offer an opportunity for the whole thing to see the light of the day, but they’re too good to sit quietly on my hard drive without getting at least a brief glimpse of daylight. Hope you enjoy ’em!
Current RR Status: The interview started late but still ended when it had originally been scheduled to end, and although Sir Kenneth was ostensibly gung-ho to get back on the phone, his responsibilities as director of and actor in Jack Ryan prevented us from concluding our conversation in time to run the piece in conjunction with the US premiere of the latest Wallander episodes.
Chariots of Fire (2008-present)—“Cambridge student, Society Day crowd” (uncredited)
AVC: Reportedly, your first onscreen appearance was in the midst of a crowd in Chariots of Fire. It’s in your IMDb listing, anyway, but then it also credits you as “uncredited.”
KB: In 1980, I was a student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and I was doing a cleaning job. In fact, I was cleaning the toilets in the St. Martin’s School of Art, Charing Cross Road. [Laughs.] But that’s down the street from RADA, and I went up there and…sometimes you get notices about accommodation or other jobs, but I went up there, and it said on a little postcard, “Would you like 10 pounds a day for two days, food included? Go to the Chelsea barracks on Saturday morning.” So I went there and discovered, oh, it’s a film. “You’re gonna be an extra. Go over there, we’ll put you in some 1920s clothes.” And we were driven down the next day in a coach to Eton College, and I met friends of mine who were in drama school elsewhere in London – there were a few hundred of us – and we did the scene where they run ‘round the courtyard, and we also recorded the hymn “My Vow to Thee, My Country,” which you hear some of in the film. We sang that all together in the chapel.
It was particularly interesting and memorable to me because I was introduced to show biz. It was 200 – 300 drama students standing in the quad, and the first assistant director said, “Would any of you like any lines?” And I was practically trampled to death, because 200 – 300 drama students…I mean, it was dangerous. It was like a fire alarm or something. And I realized, “Jesus, I’m gonna have to be really quick off the mark if I want this!” And it was for the group immediately around our heroes, saying, “Come on, Abrahams! Come on, you! You’ve got rockets on your socks!” Or something like that. It was sort of words of encouragement that we were going to be offering up. And, of course, if you’ve got a line, you get more money. I did not get a line. [Laughs.] But I remembered, “Wow, this is an emblem for my life in show business: 300 guys my age, and they all want the line to say, and they’re all quicker than me. I’d better do something about this…”
Current RR Status: We had a freaking fantastic conversation in advance of the the premiere of Fox’s The Mob Doctor, but despite the best efforts of people who really should’ve been able to get him on the phone with me, the conclusion of our interview never came to pass. This serves to confirm my longstanding theory that nobody tells Bill Forsythe what to do except for Bill goddamned Forsythe.
WF: Oh, yeah. [Laughs.] Yeah, it’s funny, ‘cause I used to be a doorman at the Troubadour, and one of my jobs was on Punk Rock Night. All of the punk-rock bands of the era would come in and play, and my job on Punk Rock Night was that I would go into the slam pit, and…I was 24 or 25, and I’d slam dance in the pit. Basically, what I was there for was that punks would grab girls who were walking by and throw them into the pit and start pounding on them, so my job was to slam over, free the girls, and then if the guy just kept doing it, my job was to slam over, look at the other door guys, and slam him to where they could drag him out of the place. So I had a lot of experience. And it’s funny, ‘cause some of the actual extras who were in the show were all these kids that I used to deal with when I was a doorman at the club. If you ever watch that clip, they’re throwing beers at my head. And I’m moving! You watch: they’re throwing ‘em right at me, these kids are trying to hit me, and I’m… [Bobs and weaves.]
My favorite group was Fear. This guy Lee Ving, I watched him put a steel toe right through this guy’s mouth and not miss a chord. He was the guy I thought about when I thought about Thrasher. He was my favorite guy of that era. I wasn’t even a punk fan, but he was just so real. So he was the thought in my head when I was going there. But come on: I had a Mohawk, and Ponch and Jon were after me. Again, I was just very glad to get the work. And, y’know, here’s a Ripley’s Believe It or Not moment for you: that part was the only decent piece of footage I had to show to Sergio Leone when I was after the role in Once Upon a Time in America. So I actually got Sergio Leone to watch an episode – unedited! – of CHiPs. [Laughs.] And he watched it…and I got the job!
Current RR Status: The interview was completed over the course of two phone calls, and it’s fantastic, but Animal Practice was cancelled before it could ever be slotted, so it’s just kind of sitting in limbo ’til we’ve got something else to attach it to. Let us all hope for that day to come far sooner than later.
Breaker High (1997-1998)—“Jimmy Farrell”
Tyler Labine: That was my first TV series as a regular. It was a UPN show, but it was from Saban TV, who did all the Sweet Valley High and Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers and all that shit. They were, like, “Well, we’re gonna take a foray into high-school-on-a-boat territory!” [Laughs.] Oh, well, that sounds interesting! I had auditioned for it very early on and for, like, every male character on the show, including (Ryan) Gosling’s part, Sean Hanlon, and…they didn’t have a character called Jimmy Farrell. But eventually they called me back and said, “Look, they’ve actually written a character for you. They just want you to come back in and read it. Are you up for that?” I’m, like, “Uh, okay, that’s flattering. I better not blow it!” And I came in, read for it, and they’re, like, “Yeah, that’s perfect!” So I got cast before anybody else in the show, and I had to help audition and read with other actors coming in to play my cohorts, one of whom eventually ended up being Ryan Gosling.
I guess the funny part of the story is that Gosling came in from Florida, and…I think he was on some teen show at the time, or he was still dicking around with The Mickey Mouse Club or something, but he showed up and was in the corner of the audition room. And I had brought in a friend of mine to read for the part, and I was, like, pushing really hard for him. Ryan’s sitting in the corner in a leather jacket, and he’s all tan, with his Leonardo DiCaprio haircut, and me and my friend Bill are, like, making fun of him. [Laughs.] I was being a complete dick! I wasn’t really making fun of him, I guess, but he was trying to get into the conversation, and I’m going, “Oh, this kid’s too cool for school, I’ve got to take him down a peg or two. You’re in my house! You’re on my floating school, man!” But then he came in and read for it, and my buddy blew it big time, but when Gosling left, we were all, like, “Holy shit, that kid can act, man!” He was funny and…basically he was the best actor I’d seen come in for that role, let alone any other role I’d auditioned for in my life. And he was just 16! The only complaint I had was that I still thought he was maybe too cool to play the character. So they flew us to L.A., and I read with a whole bunch of other people who were reading for Sean, but Ryan came in again and just killed it.
We shot that show for, like, nine months – we shot 46 episodes – and then it got canned, but it’s still stayed on the air for 15 years! So they made some money off that show. I didn’t. [Laughs.] But Gosling and I have remained friends ever since, so that’s great, and I’m still friends with a lot of the people from that show. One of my best friends in the world, who I lived with for eight years, was on that show with me: Scott Vickaryous, who played the tough guy of the show, Max Ballard. It was just a real formative time in my life. I went through a big ego blowup where I thought I was just God’s gift to acting. I’m on this stupid kid’s show, but we were, like, boy-band famous for awhile. We couldn’t go to the mall without getting mobbed. It was insane. And I just let it get a little out of control. But I was only 19, so I’m glad I learned that lesson really young, y’know?