Category Archives: Hollywood Insider

Mulholland Drive, A Justin Theroux Interview

Writer/Director David Lynch, who is best known for such off beat, cult classics like “”Blue Velvet”” and “”Twin Peaks””, is back in action. In his latest homage to film noir, or maybe just film weirdness, “”Mulholland Drive””. Love, deceit, a mysterious wad of money and the fantasyland of Hollywood make up this complex tale played out by a talented ensemble cast, created in the innovative and somewhat surreal mind of David Lynch. We recently sat down with cast member Justin Theroux to talk about what it was like working with David Lynch and the low down on Mulholland Drive. For those that don’t know, Justin Theroux is best known as Ben Stiller’s writing partner.

EM:What was your experience working with David Lynch?JT:It was wonderful working with David. I had never met David or seen David, didn

Colleen Haskell, From Survivor to Hollywood, by Tiffany N. D’Emidio

Colleen Haskell first burst into the headlines by being one of the original Survivors in the CBS series, “”Survivor””. This CBS show became more than a television show, it became a way of life and cultural phenomenon for over 30 million television viewers a week.

Viewers watched Colleen eat rats, bugs, and use political savvy to backstab her fellow “”Survivor”” cast mates – although Colleen became known as the “”nice one”” from the show. Colleen is one of the many cast members to parlay their fifteen minutes of fame into what they hope will become a long lasting career in the spotlight. After surviving, “”Survivor”” how difficult can it be to face the beasts known as Hollywood Movie Executives. Now that’s a jungle. In her first feature, Colleen plays Rianna, a kind-hearted animal lover, in the new Columbia Pictures, Rob Schneider comedy “”The Animal””. Recently, we sat down with Colleen, to discuss her new role in the comedy.EMLast year you were on one of the top-rated

Catch A Rising Star – Paul Bettany, by Michelle Alexandria

For years actor Paul Bettany has been making waves on the London film scene starring in such cutting edge films as “”Dead Babies””, “”Gangster No. 1″”, “”Bent”” and others. Now he is about to explode onto the American film scene. In his first major American movie, Columbia Picture’s, “”A Knight’s Tale””, he gives an over the top, hysterically funny performance as Geoffrey Chaucer: an oft-naked, unknown writer and compulsive gambler. Paul almost steals the movie from Heath Ledger (The Patriot). Paul’s Chaucer dazzles the crowd and the movie going audience with his glowing introductions, hip attitude, and quick wit. Note, This interview was done several years ago, before “”A Beautiful Mind,”” and of course “”Master and Commander”” was released. Paul is yet another EM Find, who is now part of Hollywood’s “”B”” List

He is currently shooting his second major film “”A Beautiful Minds”” produced and directed by A-List director, Ron Howard and stars Oscar winner Russell Crowe. We would say, that Paul’s future doesn’t just look bright, it glows.We recently had a chance to sit down and have one of our famous EM chats with Paul about his career and his experiences working with, “”A Knight’s Tale”” writer/director Brian Helgeland who also won an Oscar for his screenplay, “”L.A. Confidential””.EMLet’s start this interview with my standard overly broad question. Tell us who you are and why we are speaking with you today.PaulI’m here because I’m doing a press tour of “”A Knight’s Tale””. I’ve been traveling up and down the East Coast doing publicity for the film.EMHow long did it take you guys to make “”A Knight’s Tale””?PaulWe finished it last summer. I’m currently filming a new Ron Howard movie called “”A Beautiful Mind”” in New York with Russell Crowe. In this film Russell Crowe plays John Nash a mathematician who won the noble prize for economics that has a troubled life. I play his best friend.EMWhat is it like to go from playing the role of Geoff Chaucer, which is so over the top comedic to doing something as serious as this?PaulThe extraordinary thing is, that I’ve never played a good guy before. In London I always played the bad guy, or a gangster, so it’s strange that in my first American film, I’m playing this good guy.EMWhich is harder for you playing a good guy or a bad guy?PaulWell normally playing a bad guy is so much more fun. Although playing Chaucer was a lot of fun as well.EMHow much of “”A Knight’s Tale”” was adlibbed?PaulThe entire film was scripted. Brian Helgeland (the writer of “”L.A. Confidential””) is such a brilliant writer, that there wasn’t much adlibbing needed. Although, the line “”I’ll be here for the entire week”” was mine.EMIf you only played bad guys in London, how did you land this choice role?PaulBrian Helgeland is a dear friend of mine. He asked me if I wanted to play the role of Chaucer. When he sent me the script, he included a picture of a dwarf. At that point I threw out all pretensions and preconceived notions of doing any research or about what type of film this would be.EMHow did you guys manage to come up with those great introductions?PaulThe introductions were kind of modeled after a John Lennon performance that he once gave in London, where the Queen was in attendance. He stood up and jokingly said, this performance is also for all the people in the “”cheap seats in the back.”” It was that type of irreverence and “”shock”” value that we wanted to get at. We thought that how Geoff Chaucer would deliver his introductions.EMYour introductions where so hysterically funny and memorable – it truly made the movie.PaulI’m glad you liked it. Some things we made up on the spot, like the “”I’ll be here for the rest of the week””, but Brian is a very great writer. His words fall out of your mouth so easily. He gets all the credit for the introductions.EMCome on, you have to take some credit for your performance. Don’t give it all to the writer/director.Paul[Laughs] Ok, I made it all up and I scripted the entire movie! Seriously though, he’s a really great writer and we had an enormous amount of fun doing it.EMHow did you get your start in acting?PaulI started off in the London theater scene, where I stared in a play written by another brilliant writer name Joe Penhall. I was working a lot before this performance, but this play was what started things off for me.EMHow would you compare making American movies to London films?PaulAll film sets are almost entirely the same; they all have the same feel about them. The only difference is, and I assume it’s because of the enormous amount of money that go into American films, is the desperation and panic in the producers voices. EMSo you don’t find it anymore pleasurable to work on a major Hollywood film versus a smaller independent?PaulI really don’t know yet. The first film [“”A Knight’s Tale””] was such a joy to make because I was working for a dear friend and this one [the Ron Howard film] is such a serious subject, about schizophrenia. I haven’t had to sell my soul yet, to work. I just finished working in Spain on a film with William Dafoe. It was really difficult because we only had 2 1/2 months to make it and we needed four, and we didn’t have enough money. It was a real learning experience.EMHow long did it take to make “”A Knight’s Tale””?PaulIt took 4 1/2 months to shoot and we had two crews shooting in different locations simultaneously. Which was a lot of shooting.EMSo was there a lot of material left on the editing room floor?PaulYes, there was an enormous amount. Which I’m sure will find it’s way onto the DVD. In the original cut there were at least two more of my introductions that didn’t make the final cut.EMOf course on the DVD, there will be an option where we can watch just your introductions. As an actor how difficult is it to go from a film like “”A Knight’s Tale”” where you were really good friends with the writer/director and the type of film that it is, to something as dark and serious as “”A Beautiful Minds””?PaulI don’t know. [thinks] I guess one is more taxing than the other. Making “”A Knight’s Tale”” was long hard work, but it was such a joy that you didn’t notice. While making something like “”Gangster Number 7″” or “”Morality Play”” was just harder work.EMDo you find it more emotionally draining to do a serious role, or do you know how to separate your own personal feelings from what you are doing?PaulIt’s a difficult question to answer. When talking about the craft of acting you come across as sounding like an ass. You either say, “”it’s at the vanguard of changing people’s emotions…”” or you say, “”it’s better than working.”” Neither of which is really true. [Pauses] Even if you are doing a really intense scene with someone, you still have to remain a little playful otherwise I’ll stop listening. [Thinks] Or let’s put it this way, if you are in a Country House, alone, lying in bed, you hear a creak, it’s very easy to convince yourself that someone else is in that house and you get scared. It’s very simple, there’s no magic involved. If you are playing a character for two days where you are pretending to stab someone in the eye with a corkscrew, it’s hard not to feel a little odd by that. It takes a little time to come down off of something like that.EMDo you think a lot of actors have trouble separating the two?PaulI’ve worked with some actors who get so involved with what they are doing that they do take it home with them. I would suspect it is very painful for them. Taking off your clothes in the middle of the Czech Republic [He spends half of his time in “”A Knight’s Tale”” running around naked] is humiliating but I’m getting paid a lot of money and it’s better than working in a mind shaft somewhere.EMHow long did it take you to get comfortable with it?PaulYou never do. You never do!

Cheech Marin, Hollywood Vet Still Going Strong, EM Interview by Cathy Areu Jones

As part of Cheech and Chong, the comic duo which rejoiced in a world of marijuana-smoking and ignorance, Mexican-American actor Cheech Marin, 55, and his partner Tommy Chong, were the counter-culture icons in the 70s and early 80s. The duo won a Grammy Award in 1973, put out records that went gold, and made six movies (which are now top weekend movie rentals). In 1984, the pair, which had met in a Canadian topless bar, split up. What happened? According to Marin, it

Sean and Mandy, A Interview To Remember

The nerve of Mandy Moore. After a brief but memorable turn as the one-dimensional vixen supporting Garry Marshall’s “”The Princess Diaries,”” this chart-topper-cum-actress has gone and landed herself the type of role most teen actors would scrap their series on the WB for.

Moore signed on to play Jamie Sullivan – a reverend’s daughter who falls for an “”other side of the tracks”” boy – in the cinematic version of Nicholas Sparks’ best-selling book, “”A Walk To Remember.”” Just don’t act too surprised by this bubblegum diva’s transformation, as Mandy warns, “”I think this character is a lot more like me than most people asking that question think sometimes.”” Do tell, Miss Moore. Do tell: EM I watched the trailer for “”A Walk to Remember”” before a screening a few weeks ago, and hardly recognized you. Was this makeover a conscious effort to ditch the perception of “”Mandy Moore””?Mandy Moore: It was not a conscious effort. I had a small role in the “”Princess Diaries”” this past summer, and I just figured I would continue to do supporting roles until I felt really comfortable, to kind of venture out and do a part like this. But I was such a huge fan of the book, that I knew I couldn’t let this opportunity pass by. Forget it, I love this story, and I may not know as much about movies as the next actress, in terms of what constitutes the good script, but I knew scripts like this were few and far between.EM So you didn’t run the script by anyone for final approval? MM No, I loved the book so much and I was like, forget it, regardless of whether it’s going to be successful or not, I have to be a part of it. EM It certainly is a big step, jumping from one supporting role to your first leading role. Did you feel any pressure to succeed, that this film was sitting squarely on your shoulders?MM Oh, absolutely. I mean, it was a completely different type of film, and obviously having a bigger role (laughs) kind of adds a little bit of pressure. Initially getting over that shock was kind of hard, but after that, everything was fine. I got to that point where it all felt really comfortable. Plus, I colored my hair. I got rid of being Mandy for two months, and that definitely helpful.EM But you didn’t have a Garry Marshall in your corner this time out. Was he missed?MM Well, I went and met (the director) Adam Shankman, and I had lunch with him long before I even went and auditioned for the part. And I knew that finding someone who was as passionate about conveying the message of this story was going to be tough. But once I met Adam, I was like, “”Wow, this is someone who reallygets it, and who’s really excited to share this movie with everyone.”” And so I knew that I wanted to work with him. And Adam, truthfully, helped me so much on the movie. Especially in the beginning, getting me to some of the places. But once we got through the first three or four days of shooting, you just completely … you’re there.EM So how familiar were you with Sparks’ novel before you even heard they were going to make a movie out of the material? How far in advance were you involved?MM Probably a year.EM And you claim to have related to the Jamie character, even when you were reading the book the first time through.MM There’s a lot of me in Jamie, and a lot of Jamie in me. I think the fact that at first, I’m kind of a shy, introverted person when I first meet people. And I think that’s how Jamie comes across, because she doesn’t feel the need to kind of express herself all the time, and have many friends. I think the fact that we’re both kind of spunky, too. People describe Jamie as spunky, and I’ve been described as spunky before. I like that. That adjective is kind of fun.The thing that I wanted to learn through this movie, or get out of playing Jamie, was that she was so comfortable in her own skin, [and] that’s something I haven’t felt. Despite all of the stereotypes, and judgement against her in school, it didn’t change the way she felt about herself, and I thought that would be amazing, even to kind of just pretend I had that going for me for a couple of months. EM It’s also a rare quality to see in a teenage character. Unfortunately, teen characters seldom are portrayed that way.MM Right, especially someone who is the “”outcast”” of the film. You typically see that she’s self-conscious, or that she – or even the boy in the film – has to physically transform themselves in the end to gain acceptance and appease the person that they’re in the relationship with, or whatever. It was nice to have a female heroine, or even a guy, who didn’t have to go through that. No one did. In fact, I was the only character in the film that was consistent with who she was and what she did with her life throughout the entire movie, and it was kind of everyone around her changing.EM The book is set in the 1950s, but the film is not. What did the film lose or gain by updating to the ’90s?MM There are things I think it lost, but it would have been a completely different film if it were set in the ’50s. Besides the obvious, I think its a little more reasonable for people my age to go see it. It would have been a cuter movie, and a littlesweeter, to see it set in the ’50s.EM Would you have attempted the role if it were set in the ’50s?MM (Emphatically) Yes, because I just loved the book so much.EM But would it have been as effective?MM To teenagers? No. I don’t think it would have been as effective if it were set in the ’50s then if it were set here.EM Perhaps the studio could have marketed it to adults, in that case.MM Yes, but I think adults are still going to want to come see this film, because they’ve read the book and the main story and the main message is still there. EM Now, the message “”Walk”” delivers does resemble that of other teen movies – poor girl meets popular guy … How do you differentiate your film from the competition?MM We don’t have to rely on selling ourselves as having sex, drugs and rock & roll in a teen movie for once, which is great. There’s actually something to learn from this movie. You’re going to walk out and not feel like you’ve wasted an hour and 45 minutes of your life, watching the same old, same old. I was so moved by the book, and I was hoping that the movie could capture that, too. And I really think it has. Maybe in a different way, because there are some differences, but I just know teens are going to walk out and think about faith. And not necessarily in a spiritual connotation, but just faith in general. Like in each other. And in love. Especially young love. SO It’s a unique theme, faith.MM And it’s so taboo in Hollywood to even mention it. Anything to do with spirituality or religion has been so “”not politically correct”” to talk about. It’s nice that it’s done in a way that’s not forced [in this movie], and it’s not preachy and in your face. Like, “”This is what I believe in, and if you don’t, then you are very, very wrong.””EM The film shot in Wilmington, N.C., a hotbed for Hollywood activity. Any run-ins with the “”Dawson’s Creek”” crowd?MM Shane [West, Mandy’s co-star] did. Shane ran in to Joshua Jackson a lot. Ashley Judd came down for my birthday, to wish me a Happy Birthday. She was in [Wilmington] filming the “”Ya Ya Sisterhood.”” And Vince Vaughn and everyone, filming “”Domestic Disturbance.””EM So, no bar fights?MM I was not out that night (laughs). I think I was actually out of town. But it got a little crazy. Some of the locals were unhappy that there were these hot young actors there. Tempers flared … it was crazy. But still, I love Wilmington so much.EM It’s becoming very popular:MM We call it “”Wilmie-wood.”” My goodness. Outside of N.Y. and L.A., it’s like the biggest epicenter for making films. I would do another movie there in a heartbeat. In fact, I’ll read a script extra carefully and make sure I found something that I loved about it if I knew it were filming in Wilmington.EM Really? What’s the selling point?MM The town, and the charms that it has. The fact that people understand that we’re here for, well, sometimes a long amount of time filming a movie. And they’re very accommodating. You feel like you’re in the South! You can go get some sweet tea. It was so right up my alley. The food … the shopping, wonderful restaurants. It was like a vacation for two-and-a-half months.By Sean O’ConnellJan. 18, 2002

Series 7, Reality TV To The Extreme, by Michelle Alexandria

Series 7″” will be one of the most controversial and talked about films of the spring movie season. This dead on spoof of reality television, asks and answers the question, “”how far will reality television go?”” “”Series 7″” stands for a weekend marathon of a fictional television show called “”The Contender””. Each week on the “”Contender”” five people are selected at random and given guns. The object of the game – simple, “”kill or be killed””. The contestants are forced to hunt each other down. The winner lives to appear in the next episode, while the losers, well… Many will watch this film thinking there’s no way television would ever do something like this, well guess what? There is talk of several take offs on a “”Series 7″” type of show already in pre-production. Of course people will not be killed in real life, but the variations on this theme are eerily similar. Several months ago we conducted a fun wide ranging interview with “”Series 7″” director Daniel Minahan and the movie’s star Brooke Smith who many will remember as the kidnapped girl from “”Silence of The Lambs.”” The two were gracious enough to give us their time for an exclusive, unfortunately our tape of this interview mysteriously disappeared, therefore the interview below is an detailed in-depth interview that Daniel conducted for the “”Series 7″” press kit. If we ever track down the allusive tape that contains our exclusive, we will bring that to you as soon as possible. In the meantime enjoy this excellent Q and A.

THE CONCEPTIONQ: What is a “”series 7″”?A: It

Mark Dacascos – The Accidental Star, by Michelle Alexandria

Mark Dacascos is the son of Al Dacascos, Moriko McVey, and his stepmother, Malia Bernal. His father is of Filipino, Spanish, and Chinese ancestry. His mother is half-Irish and half-Japanese. Mark’s cosmopolitan mixture makes him, in his own words, a typical Hawaiian “”local boy.”” His parents ran a Martial Arts school.Many people may not know his name or even recognize the face of the Mark Dacascos, but this hot young star has starred in several projects that have garnered him rabid cult followings. Editor’s Note – Because of Mark’s recent appearance in Cradle To The Grave, I thought it’d be fun to rerun this exclusive interview that I did.

Those projects include “”The Crow: A Stairway to Heaven”” which was quickly building a huge fan base in syndication, when due to corporate politics the show was inexplicably cancelled. While his films include, the overseas cult classic “”Crying Freeman”” and now his latest film “”Brotherhood of the Wolf””, an international hit that is now coming to these shores. He’s built himself quite an impressive list of credits and his future looks bright. Mark is a man who seems to be both content with his career and his family life. Not bad for a man who had no ambitions on becoming an actor and was actually discovered while walking down a street in China Town. Ironically enough the man who discovered him was Chris Lee, who then went on to run Tri-Star Pictures and produce the film Final Fantasy. You can actually read an interview that I did with Chris last year. I recently conducted an interview with Mark, who called me from his California home. The interview went a little something like this:EMOk, let me start by asking you my standard, overly broad question, who are you and tell us why we’re here?MDMy name is Mark Dacascos, and I play the character of Mani in a new film called “”The Brotherhood of The Wolf””. Mani is a “”mythical”” warrior who fights for what he believes in and he represents the balance between man and nature. EMYour life and background, much like this film seems to defy categorization. How would you describe this film?MD It’s a mix of a lot of different genres, including Mystery, Suspense, Horror, 17th Century French Period drama. Director Christopher Gans has created a film that is truly originaland is a visionary masterpiece. What’s even more amazing is, the basic premise of the film is based on real life events. Their really was a “”Beast of Gevaudan”” that scared the King and caused political unrest in 17th Century France.EMWhat was your impression when you first read the script?MDI signed on to this project before I Christopher Gans even wrote the script. We went out to dinner one night and he told me about this idea that he had for this movie. Through the course of a 2 1/2 hour meal he laid out the entire story for me and what my character would be doing I was blown away by it. It seemed to work so well at blending all these various genres. He did such a great job of selling me on this film that I signed on, even before he started the script. When I finally read it, I couldn’t put it down and the ending was a real surprise to me. EMYou were the spiritual heart of the film. Yet you didn’t really say that much in it. How difficult was it to play a part like this?MDWhen you are not working with much verbal dialog, it forces you as an actor, to become more in tune with every other part of your physical body. How you move, your facial expressions, everything. The slightest gesture or look that you make ends up speaking volumes. I worked with someone from the Indian Tribe and she [Editor’s note, I don’t want to butcher the name of Mark’s Trainer, so forgive me for not mentioning it here] taught me a lot about their beliefs and how they feel about the nature and interact with their surroundings. I really felt like I became part of their culture.EMHow did you end up meeting her?MDI met her through my agent.EMDid you get a chance to visit any real reservations? What were your impressions?MDNo, I didn’t. But I would certainly like to visit one someday.EMWhat kind of performance do you find harder? One like you had in “”The Crow: Stairway to Heaven””, where you were the star and had a lot of dialog, or a film like this where you are not the star, but the spiritual heart of it?MDI think they both have their strengths and weaknesses. When playing a part like Mani, you are forced to pay more attention to the nuances of your performance than you do when play a part like Eric Draven [The lead character in “”The Crow””.] The fun thing about doing “”The Crow”” was learning how to play the guitar, working with a large cast, learning new lines, etc.EMDo you think doing a role like this improves your acting?MDYes, definitely. EMHow would you compare this experience with Christopher Gans to the last time you worked with him?MDThey were both the same. The only real difference was the larger budget, our editor was from Holland, our fight choreographer was from Japan, etc…We had a large international crew working with us. EMWould you categorize him as more of an Actor’s Director or a Technical Director?MDHe’s definitely both. He works really well with the technical crew, and knows how to handle actors. He’s the type of guy who loves to have fun on the set and loves what he’s doing.EMIn a recent interview with Christopher Gans, he said that he wrote this part specifically for you. Why do you think he did that?MDI don’t know, we worked well together in his first film “”Crying Freeman”” and I think there are lots of similarities between myself and Mani. EMTo me the character of Eric Draven in “”The Crow””, and Mani are similar yet different. In terms of how they view life it’s from completely different perspectives, but in their interactions with people it seems the same. Would you say this is true? If so, are you like this in real life?MDI would say there are similarities. Both characters are extremely spiritual beings. When Mani takes off his clothes and only uses a knife, while others are putting on heavy armor, he’s trying to become one with nature because he feels that it’ll make him a better warrior. He has a deep connection with a higher being. I’m someone who loves nature and would like to think that the best parts of each of these characters personalities, are reflected in me as well. I like to believe that, I do bring a little something of myself to each character that I play. Both characters are also Martial Artist.EMHow long have you practiced Martial Arts?MDMy parents ran a Martial Arts school, so I’ve been training since I was a young boy.EMTime flies when you’re having fun, looks like it’s time to end the interview, let me ask you two really quick questions. What happened to the television show? Are there plans to bring it back? What are your future plans? Ok, it’s actually three.MDI don’t know what happened with the show. Our ratings really started to go up when there was a shakeup in the Network. The new brass wanted to have a clean slate, so our show got unexpectedly pulled at the end of the first season. There was talk a few years ago about possibly bringing it back, at the time I was interested in such a prospect. Recently I heard rumors that it may come back yet again; unfortunately it’ll have to be without me, as I’m pretty content with the direction that my life is going right now. I wish them well, and hope they succeed in bringing it back. EMI hope so too, I thought it was just hitting its stride when it was cancelled. What are you going to be doing for the next few years?MDI currently don’t have any immediate plans, just waiting to see what the reaction is to Brotherhood and looking for other fun and interesting projects to do.EMLet me squeeze in one more question before you have to leave. Brotherhood is starting to generate some really good buzz. What are your expectations for this film?MDI really don’t know, it’s such a strange mix of genres, that I’m curious myself to see what the American reaction is.by Michelle AlexandriaJanuary 23, 2002

Sean Patrick Thomas, Hot Young Rising Star, by Michelle Alexandria

Many of you may not recognize the name yet, but the face may be familiar, Sean Patrick Thomas is quickly making a name for himself as one of Hollywood’s most talented rising stars. He recently had a memorable role in the hit film Cruel Intentions, and now he has a role in Wes Craven’s Dracula 2000 and is starring opposite, Julia Stiles, in MTV’s Save The Last Dance, which opens two weeks after Drac 2000. You can also see him in CBS’s controversial new Washington, DC police drama “The District.”



Editor’s Note – I originally interviewed Sean several years ago, right before he hit it big with the surprise hit “Save The Last Dance”, since then the actor’s career has really taken off, and once again he finds himself in the number 1 film of the weekend, “Barbershop”. Once again at EM we “discovered” someone who was on the verge of hitting it big, and now he’s done it. I thought it’d be fun to do an EM rewind. Congrats Sean!————————————————————–

The hot young star hails from Delaware. As many of you know, we love to catch people right when they are on the cusp of fame and fortune, so we recently had a chance to put Mr. Thomas on the Hot Seat.

EM

Tell us about Save The Last Dance.

SPT

It’s an old fashion love story, along the lines of Romeo and Juliet.

EM

When the film was originally pitched to us, we were like, yeah, MTV, Teeny Bopper Romantic Comedy. Wow this will be good. The film was surprisingly serious, not a chuckle or laugh to be had. It was a refreshing change from all of MTV’s other recent efforts. When you read the script was the film pitched to you as a comedy, drama, etc.?

SPT

They pitched it to me as a dance movie with interracial themes. I really didn’t take it seriously when I first got it, I thought, ‘oh, it was a teen movie that has some cool stuff in it.’ I did think that I could bring a different take to it, and add more ‘gravity’ to the part. I was very pleased with the way it turned out.

EM

Did you have a dance double?

SPT

I would say I did at least 80 percent of the dancing.

EM

What was your experience with dancing prior to doing this film?

SPT

Very little, growing up I didn’t spend a lot time at the clubs or going out. For this role I spent a lot time learning and hanging out at clubs in Chicago.

EM

How do you prepare for a role like this?

SPT

I had to learn how to turn my brain off and relax. Normally when I take a part, I spend a lot of time doing homework and disciplining myself. For this role I had to learn how to be more improvisational and just wing it.

EM

How would you compare yourself to your character?

SPT

We’re both ambitious, have similar goals, care about our families. When I was growing up I wanted to be a Lawyer. When I was in college, I was an English major and started acting to kill time, and I just got swept up in it.

EM

Being from this area, did you find it harder to break into the business? In your bio it says that you moved to New York. Do you still have to be in NY or LA to become successful?

SPT

You have to be in one of those two places, otherwise it’s very difficult. You have to be in NY if you want to get into Theater. DC has some great productions, but you still have to be in NY if you really want to make it. For me I had to go to NY, I went to NYU Graduate School for Film. My dream was to do theater and to perform on Broadway.

EM

This is arguably your first really big break. How is this different than the other things that you’ve done, do you feel more pressure?

SPT

Well, you’d think it would be harder, but for me it’s been better. The quality of my work is better when there’s more pressure on me, and when I have more to do.

EM

How is “movie” acting different than “TV” acting?

SPT

It’s basically the same. Acting is acting. I would say the only real difference is on a movie set you have more time to fool around and work on getting a scene down. On a weekly television series, you generally only have 8 days to do an episode, so the pace is faster – there’s not much time for rehearsal or reflection.

[pagebreak]

EM

Which do you prefer?

SPT

I love it all.

EM

Where is “The District” (SPT’s CBS Television Series) filmed at?

SPT

In Marina Del Rae, CA

EM

Before “The District” premiered, there were numerous articles slamming the show for its inaccurate and stereotypical portrayals of the city of Washington. Many felt that the premise of the show, which features Craig T. Nelson as an heroic white police chief, who comes in to single handedly save the town from the corrupt police force and the city’s crooked black male was offensive. Did you hear any of this criticism and what is/was your response?

SPT

I heard it and I thought it was funny. Most of it was based on an old pilot that was completely redone, which no one had seen prior to the show’s premiere episode. The pilot was changed before most of those articles were even written. Beyond that, you can’t criticize an entire season of a show, based solely on a pilot episode. I’ve noticed that once the show aired, the criticism disappeared.

EM

Are you happy with the way the show is turning out?

SPT

Very happy, it puts a really optimistic spin on fighting crime. Most cop shows are very pessimistic it shows the criminals are winning and that it’s a hopeless fight. Our show puts a very upbeat spin on it. It says that eventually criminals will be beat, if we stick to it.

EM

Along those same lines, the new Steven Soderbergh film, “Traffic” is getting rave reviews yet it’s not a very hopeful film.

SPTI haven’t seen it yet

.EM

To be honest, neither have I. But from what people have told me, the film shows the drug war, as a loosing battle, a hopeless cause. It lays the problem out there but doesn’t offer any solution or hope. How would you say “The District” differs?

SPTOur show is more positive. It offers solutions and hope. It’s more solution than problem oriented.

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EM

You have three projects out simultaneously, how did you squeeze all of this work into your schedule?

SPT

It all just kind of worked out. I finished “Save The Last Dance” last year, right after that, I did the pilot for “The District” and then Dracula 2000 came along. As soon as that was finished, we got the news that the show was being picked up.

EM

Has the show been renewed for next year?

SPT

We won’t find that out until April or May. We did get a full season pick up, which we found out earlier than any other show this season.

EM

Now that you are ‘out there’ do you find that it’s getting easier to find work?

SPT

To a certain extent, it’s always easier to get work and auditions if you have something that you can point to. A couple of years ago, I did a movie called “Cruel Intentions”, now when I go into a casting office, they say who are you “Sean Patrick Thomas?” When I say I was the black guy in “Cruel Intentions” they say “Oh yeah, I remember you.”

EM

Now that it’s easier to get auditions, do you find that you still get nervous, or is the process easier now?

SPT

Auditioning is always a scary thing, no matter how much they know you. As I’ve gotten older, I find that I don’t worry as much about what they think anymore. I care more about whether I thought I did a good job or not.

EM

Have you gotten any advice from any established actors?

SPT

Craig T. Nelson gives me advice from time to time, and during an audition, Denzel Washington gave me some tips.

EM

What kind of characters do you like to play?

SPT

Generally speaking, I like to play roles that aren’t written for black people. Those roles are ok, but I find that those parts [black] are not as well constructed or three dimensional as a role written for Matt Damon. I’d like to play that young doctor, or lawyer, or hero that usually isn’t written for a black guy.

EM

So do you want to break down boundaries?

SPT

No, I’m not trying to be an activist. I’m not crusading to change the world. I just want to work and do what I want to do.

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EM

Let’s talk about some of the racial issues that came up in “Save The Last Dance” How do you feel about your character in that?

SPT

I wasn’t trying to play the racial aspects of the role. I only wanted to show that this guy likes this girl, how is he going to pursue her to notice him and also maintain this relationship. I really didn’t think about the black/white issue unless it was part of a specific scene.

EM

Do you think the film plays into racial stereotypes?

SPT

No, I think it plays against type. Even though we live in the projects, you don’t see the things that are normally associated with it. My character is a straight A student on his way to being a Doctor, and we come from a good home, etc.

EM

Yes, your character is against type, but what about your ex-girlfriend and drug-dealing best friend?

SPT

Well the movie is a fairytale and you have to have your stock villains.

EM

Did you have any friends in real life that were like Malakai (his drug-dealing friend)?

SPT

No, I never had any friends who were straight up criminal. I’ve had friends who wanted to party to much, but that was about the extent of it.

EM

Do you feel the end product has anything to say about interracial relationships?

SPT

The movie puts out the opinion that a lot of black women don’t like to see black guys dating white women. Black women that I know feel that every time a black man makes something of themselves, they start dating white women, which some black women see as a slight to them.

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EM

How do you respond to criticism like that?

SPT

I’m definitely sensitive to it. But I think that point ignores the fact that before you are a Doctor, Lawyer, Black Man, you are just a man and that people fall in love for all kinds of reasons. Before you are anything you are who you are.

EM

Do you find it upsetting when a black woman comes up to you and makes those kind of comments, and I’m not implying that you are dating outside your race.

SPT

Upsetting? I wouldn’t say it’s upsetting, but it makes you think. I’ve never really dated anyone outside my race.

EM

I have friends who feel that way, and every time they say something, my response is generally, why do you care? You aren’t dating him. Are people bold enough to come and let their feelings?

SPT

Not strangers, I’ve had friends tell me that they get upset when they see a black man with a white woman. I’ve had strangers come up to me and say “you’ve been in two films now and in both of them you are dating white women.” It’s just a coincidence, I’m just a young actor and these are the roles that I’ve got.

EM

Do you think there are more roles for black actors today?

SPT

No, I think it’s about the same as it’s always been. It’s not the quantity that’s the issue, it’s the quality, there are lots of hoodlum roles, and roles where your eyes bug out. Just because there’s a ton of that doesn’t mean we’re getting anywhere.

EM

Are there more Matt Damon type of roles available for black actors today?

SPT

If there is, it’s very minimal – as far as I can tell. I still think that black characters and actors are still marginalized to a large extinct. I’m not particularly surprised or even upset by that it’s just the way it is. I just have to find my own way.

EM

In the early stages of being in a series like “The District” do you have any say in how your character develops?

SPT

Not now, but I think as the show progresses it’ll come. During lunch breaks I hang out with the writers and make suggestions, some of which are being incorporated into my character.

EM

Would you like to play more grown up characters like the one in “The District”?

SPT

Definitely. I don’t see myself doing teen roles much longer. I have a responsibility to myself as an actor to try something else. For the most part I find them to be limited, and the type of things that teenagers obsess over pretty boring.

EM

Boring? Like?

SPT

You know, “am I popular”, “does she like me,” etc. I’m sure they are important when you are 16, but when you are far older it’s hard to get excited about those kind of roles.

EMHow old are you?

SPT

A lot older than 16.

EMThe few teen roles that you have done, have all been against type and serious. Do think the Genre has gotten better or would you say that there are still to many “Never Been Kisses” and “Drive Me Crazy’s” out there.

SPT

You have to take it on a case-by-case basis. They don’t want a guy like me in a film like that – “Road Trip”, or “American Pie” I’m just not their type of guy and that’s fine.

EM

Why did MTV produce this film? It seems so out of character for them.

SPT

MTV didn’t produce it. Paramount did, when they saw the finished product they felt that MTV would do a great job marketing it towards their audience.

EM

What kind of job do you think they are doing?

SPT

Fantastic, every time I turn on MTV I see commercials for it.

EM

So are you going to be on TRL (Total Request Live) anytime soon?

SPT

No, I’m going to host MTV’s New Year’s eve party, and Julia (Stiles) is going to do TRL.

EM

How did you like working with Julia Stiles and how much of her own dancing did she do?

SPT

Julia was great to work with, very professional, fun to be around. She had dancing her background, so she picked up the moves easier than I did.

EM

What type of role would you like to do next?

SPT

My dream role would be James Bond, which I’m a little too young for. Currently I have to say that I just finished my dream role, growing up I always loved watching musicals like Singing In The Rain, and always wanted to be the cool guy that could dance and get the girl, and I got to do all of that in this film.

EM Interview
by Michelle Alexandria