Friday, August 30, 2013

The Paul Dooley Project - Part 2: Paul Dooley talks with TV STORE ONLINE about Robert Altman's 1980 satire HealtH

In Part 2 of this TV Store Online blog series....Writer and actor Paul Dooley talks about HealtH the 1980 as-of-yet released to DVD Robert Altman political satire which he co-wrote and starred in alongside Lauren Bacall, Carol Burnett, Glenda Jackson, James Garner, Henry Gibson and Dick Cavett.

TV STORE ONLINE:  You wrote the screenplay for HEALTH (1979) with Robert Altman.  How did that collaboration come to fruition?

DOOLEY:   Well it's a interesting story.  Robert Altman was a gambler.  He gambled on the horses and on basketball games but that's not what I'm talking about.   He gambled on his career.    He liked to try things that he had never tried before and he liked to gamble on his casting as well.  He first saw me in a play called Hold Me, which was based on a series of Jules Feiffer comic strips.   Then Altman cast me in his film, A WEDDING (1978) where my wife was Carol Burnett.  At the time I told my wife, "If I don't do anything wrong Altman will probably put me in a bunch of his movies."   If Altman liked an actor he would use them over and over in many of his films.  That happened to actors Keith Carradine and Shelley Duvall.  As we were finishing up the shooting of A WEDDING, Altman cast me in the lead in his next film -- A romantic comedy called A PERFECT COUPLE (1979).   It was strange for me because I had played only character parts before that and while they were mostly comic they were never romantic.  So A PERFECT COUPLE was the first and only time in my career that I had a lead role.   

Robert Altman; Director of HealtH (1980)
After we finished that up he told me that he wanted to make a film about the health industry.    He told me that he was going to put me in it and that he'd be in touch when he was ready to start.   I didn't hear from him for a while and then one day he calls me and tells me that he has this script that he's sending me and he wants me to re-write it.  I said, "Bob, I've never written a screenplay."  He said, "You'll be alright."  That's the way he was.  Once he worked with you he could figure out what else you could do.   By this time I had already written for The Electric Company [1971-77] and then also several comedy bits on my own earlier but I have never written an entire screenplay before.

 Just  before I started re-writing the script, Altman told me that the only restriction I had was that I couldn't eliminate any of the characters in the first draft because he had already cast some of the actors. But he told me that I could change any aspect of the story that I wanted to though.  A couple days passed and he called me and said, "What do you have done?"  I said, "Not much. I've only got like six pages."  He told me to send them to him, and then a couple days later he asked me the same thing and I told him that I had a few more pages done and he asked me to send those to him. 

After a while of this I figured out why this was happening....When he was planning A WEDDING for 20th Century Fox he had secured a five picture deal with the studio.    When it came time to shoot HEALTH Altman turned in this script to the studio and they hated it.  They told him that the script was awful and that they were pulling the plug on the film.  Fox had given him up front money for HEALTH  and he had already secured his location for the shoot in Florida and he had hired actors.  So Altman said to them, "The script is just a road map.  You know how I work.  I'll work with the actors once we start shooting."    The studio told Altman that the script was so awful that it wasn't even usable as a road map and before they would green-light it, the script would have to be re-written.  He responded to that with, "It's already being re-written by Paul Dooley."   Now Fox didn't know anything about me!  They were in the final stages of editing A PERFECT COUPLE and I think they liked my work and thought that the film was going to be a hit because when Altman told them that I was re-writing the script they told him that he could go ahead and make the film.  They never asked him if I had written anything before as far as I know.

By the time I finished like 40 or 50 pages of the script Altman called me and said, "You can stop writing...The studio has given me the rest of the money."   Then he told me the whole back story just as I've now told it and right after that myself, Altman, and the guy who wrote the original draft of the script, Frank Barhydt, went down in Florida to make the film and we wrote the rest of script there and we made some of it up as we were going along too.

TV STORE ONLINE:  So how much of the final film is your contribution to the screenplay?

Cast of HealtH:  (L) Carol Burnett, Lauren Bacall and
Glenda Jackson. (Front) Director Robert Altman

DOOLEY: He didn't use a lot of what I wrote.   He already had his own ideas for the story and once the studio gave him the freedom to make the film he cut out a lot of what I had written.  I'd say that no more than a third of the film is my contribution.   There's some dialogue that I wrote that is still in there and some character traits stuff.  


DOOLEY:   There is that bit where all of the lights go out in the rooms but you see it happen from the exterior of the hotel.   It was almost like a Waltons parody.  Like when all of the kids on that show would say, "Goodnight John Boy..."   In the sequence you see all of the characters and their bedroom rituals just before they turn the lights out in their rooms and go to bed.  So I wrote three of the characters rituals.  I wrote Lauren Bacall's bedroom ritual where she takes all of these pills one-by-one.  I wrote James Garner's bedroom ritual where you see him putting out a joint in an ashtray.    I wrote Dick Cavett's bedtime ritual too.  The joke behind Dick Cavett's ritual was that before he had his own talk show on ABC he used to be a writer for Johnny Carson and so when you see Dick in the film he's laying in bed with a tall glass of milk next to him on the nightstand and he's watching The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.   I thought it would be really funny if at night Dick would still watch his idol on television.   Well Altman cut the first two with Bacall and Garner from the script and kept the Cavett one.   It got a pretty big laugh.   I wrote the scene with Henry Gibson where he gets into women's clothing as well. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  I love your character in HEALTH...

(L) James Garner and Lauren Bacall in HealtH (1980)
DOOLEY:   He was the third party candidate who was running against Lauren Bacall and Glenda Jackson. He was the guy that would've been the pig farmer that decided to become a politician.   My idea for HEALTH was that everything comes from the ocean.  So Altman just said, "Take this guy and make up his whole campaign.  We'll print up buttons and banners and flyers."    His name in the script was "Harold Gainey"  so I nicknamed him "Gill" because that sounded like something that was from the ocean.   I had him putting out a product called "Vita-Sea."  All he talked about was the ocean and the good stuff that came from it but he was a total idiot...

TV STORE ONLINE:  And he hated women too!

DOOLEY:  Yeah, he was just a jerk all the way around.    Then you see him at the bottom of the hotel's swimming pool and people think he's drowning and when he comes up he has a oxygen tank strapped to his leg.  He was a total publicity hound.  I was walking on the beach during the pre-production one day and I had a daydream about what Gill should look like.  I saw him with that blonde streak in his hair.   I called it "The Wave Of The Future" because of the ocean and when I told Altman about it he told me to try it out in make-up and see how it looked.   That's the thing about Altman... He really gave everyone so much freedom to work.

TV STORE ONLINE:   When the film came out it was savaged by American film critics....

DOOLEY:  Right, no one liked the film.

TV STORE ONLINE:  But one of the most poignant ideas expressed about the film at the time was that HEALTH was a "Satire about something that was already a satire...."

DOOLEY:  Yeah, I think that's true. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  Creating a character like yours in HEALTH and then being part of the film itself as a whole...When a film receives bad reviews across the board....Does it feel in the aftermath like everything you've done has been in vain in any way?

DOOLEY:  No...I don't find anything in vain.  One thing I learned from Robert Altman is that you should never fall in love with the work you've done but only the process involved in creating and making it.  Altman said to me once late at night when we were working, "Don't fall in love with any of the scenes we've just shot.   Don't even fall in love with this movie.  I don't know if I'm going to cut your scenes.  Your best scenes might end up on the cutting room floor if they don't help move the plot.  I don't even know if this film will get distribution.  It's all a crap-shoot!" doesn't matter if critics liked it or not because what makes it wonderful was the process of making it and the relationships that all of us formed during it.   

"The Steinettes" Altman would use them in Nashville (1975)
TV STORE ONLINE:  The reviews for Altman films by American film critics are always pretty funny to read...

DOOLEY:  Every review of every Robert Altman movie ever always has the first half of the review to mention his hits like M.A.S.H. (1970) and NASHVILLE (1975) and how he became a filmmaker and auteur.  Then they spend the rest of the review mentioning the story line of the movie and then the reviews always finish out with "Featuring a stellar cast that includes..." 

TV STORE ONLINE:  HEALTH has such a hectic pacing to it.   When you watch it you can't seem to catch your breath after the first few minutes of it.  That swimming pool sequence is just frantic and wonderful...

DOOLEY:  Laughing...That was fun.  There are lot of great moments in the film like that.

TV STORE ONLINE:  How long was the shoot for the film?

DOOLEY:  The shoot was scheduled for eight weeks but we only shot for seven weeks.    I asked Altman why we were leaving early and he said, "Ah...We've got enough. Let's go."

TV STORE ONLINE:  Was the collaborative process different in regards to how you worked with Altman on A WEDDING and A PERFECT COUPLE? As an actor in those films only and then on HEALTH where you're not only an actor in the film but its co-writer...Was Robert Altman the writing partner different from Robert Altman the director?

DOOLEY:  No. We would shoot during the day then go away for 90 minutes for dinner then come back and watch the dailies.   After we finished watching the dailies we'd talk about what we needed to shoot the next day.    It was myself, Altman, his editor, and cameraman and we'd just start talking.   It wasn't like we'd go off and sit down at a typewriter together.  We'd have a group meeting.  It was very open and spontaneous that way and full of energy.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What's next for you?  What are you working on?

DOOLEY:  I'm working on a one man show now.   I've actually been working on it over the last ten years but recently have been working on it seriously.   It's about how I went from a twelve year old kid who loved comedy and comedians to an actor and sometimes comedian myself.  It's gonna have some film clips in it, and also some of the short comedy films that I've made and some comic routines as well.  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Detroit Aug. 28th -  Michigan based pop culture, film, and television t-shirt and costume website TV Store has teamed up with former and current contestants from the Syfy Channel's hit television series Face Off as well as actors from the Friday The 13th film franchise for a horrific Jason Voorhees inspired charity fundraiser.

TV Store Online's "Design A Jason Voorhees Hockey Mask" contest will see the former and current Face Off contestants competing with one another as well as against other hand-picked horror movie special effects and make-up artists to see who can transform the now iconic horror movie hockey mask into a unique piece of truly horrific monster art.   All finished Jason mask creations will be voted on by TV Store readers via their Facebook page, a "Best In Show" awarded, then the Jason masks will all be auctioned off on Ebay in October at Halloween with 100% of proceeds going to Toys For Tots to help children in need during the upcoming holiday season.

"We have some incredible and unbelievably talented make-up artists contributing," says Fred Hajjar CEO of TV Store Online.   "We have contestants from the last few seasons and current season of Face Off involved as well actors from the F13 film franchise taking part to raise money for Toys For Tots.  This is an important thing for us to do," urges Hajjar.    "We have Derek Garcia, Roy Wooley, RJ Haddy and Beki Ingram as well as others involved from the Syfy channel show.  Steve Dash as well - Who played Jason in Friday The 13th Part 2.  David Katims from F13 Part 3-D as well. Plus we have Mr. Evil Dead himself Tom Sullivan on board to create a Jason mask too. We should be able to raise a lot of money for Toys For Tots".  

Artists participating in the Jason mask charity fund-raiser are sent blank Jason hockey masks by TV Store and asked to produce a custom painted version of the mask but they are also free to re-design, sculpt over, mold or alter the original Voorhees hockey mask any way they desire to produce a very unique piece of monsterabilia to raise funds for children in need this coming October.

Other artists involved in the TV Store Online contest and charity fund-raiser include:  Midwestern horror artist Lydia Burris as well as HorrorHound Magazine artists Nate Milliner and Joel Robinson amongst others.   

Just twenty artists have been selected to create these special one-of-a-kind Jason Voorhees hockey masks to raise money for Toys For Tots so please visit for more details or visit their Facebook page to follow the fund-raiser over the next thirty days and be sure to vote for your favorite and bid on an incredible piece of Jason Voorhees art.

 Be sure to follow TV Store Online on their Facebook page for updates here:

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Chuck from Friday The 13th Part 3-D: Actor David Katims talks with TV STORE ONLINE

"Chuck" from Friday The 13th Part 3-D talks with TV STORE ONLINE about working on the fan favorite of the F13 franchise as well as his work as a stand-up comic.

TV STORE ONLINE:  One of the things that many F13 fans might not be aware of is the fact that you've had this long term interest in stand-up comedy...

KATIMS:  Yes, I've done stand-up for 11 years now.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Did you have an interest in stand-up come before or after you appeared in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3-D [1982]?

KATIMS:  That's actually one of the regrets of my life because when I was living in Los Angeles and pursuing acting I did not pursue stand-up comedy.  I really wish I had.  At the time I thought that I could perform but I didn't think that I could write myself enough material.  I live up in Seattle today and I've been doing occasional stand-up here and there.  I've had some fun gigs and I've even performed at the Improv in Los Angeles.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  Even though you didn't pursue it until later on...I'm sure those comic sensibilities have always been with you...

KATIMS:  Well....As a kid I was the class clown.  I have older brothers and sisters so I was always trying to be funny so I could get their attention.

TV STORE ONLINE:  So were there any comedy films that you saw when you were younger that perhaps influenced your decision to become an actor or comic?

  Well, I don't know if one film comes to mind.  But I loved watching The Three Stooges, Laurel & Hardy and Jerry Lewis for sure.  That zany kind of comedy is wonderful. Also, I liked Bill Cosby, Bob Newhart and Woody Allen.  Then Saturday Night Live [1975-Current] too because I absolutely love sketch comedy.   I think I've seen every single episode of Saturday Night Live ever made.

How did FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3-D come to you?

KATIMS:  Well I got into the acting game kind of late.  At the time I was getting a degree in psychology at UCLA.  I was almost done but I needed a couple electives to graduate and one of the classes I took was an acting class because I thought it would be an easy A.   The first time I had to get up in front of the class I was terrified.    I had been confident as a kid but when I had to get up in front of these kids that had probably been acting since high school...You either run away from a situation like that or you face it as a challenge.   I decided after school that I would give myself 2 years to get a paying gig as an actor and it was about six months later that I got this reoccurring role as this sort of mental patient on the soap opera General Hospital [1963-Current].

How FRIDAY THE 13TH happened was that I had a friend of mine who had went in to audition for F13.  He had a reoccurring role on a big television series then.  When he went in for F13, the producers wouldn't tell him if the film was going to be a union or non-union film.    Because my friend was on this big television series he couldn't do a non-union film so when the producers asked him if he knew anyone that would like to audition he suggested that I go in to audition for the producers and that's how I got the part.

TV STORE ONLINE:    Can you take me through the audition...

KATIMS:   I went in and read and then I got asked to come and read with different girls several times and they hadn't even told me if I had gotten the role or not at that point.  They decided pretty early on that they wanted a male and female kind of Cheech and Chong, and one thing that I could do was dialects.   So I did that sort of Tommy Chong kind of accent that he does in that character and they liked it.   The producers had called me back at least five times before I got cast.  I read with so many girls.  There was this Hispanic actress that I read with that was really good and I thought for sure that they were going to cast her, then Rachel Howard the actress who played "Chili" in the film called me up and asked if I wanted to meet with her because she had been cast in the film.   I had never read with her in all of the times that the producers had asked me to come back  for them...laughing

TV STORE ONLINE:  So going back to General Hospital...What was that whole experience like for you?  It seems like working on a daily soap would be very rigorous.

KATIMS:  I was on it when the big story line was about "Luke and Laura".   It's kinda funny how I got the part.  When I was a kid my mother had a cooking show on television and one of the things she taught me growing up was how to make a pie from scratch.     I had met what I thought was an actress on General Hospital but she turned out to be a writer on the show.  We were talking about sweets and I asked her if she wanted a pie that was the closest thing possible to the human orgasm. She said, "Yes".  I told her that I'd like to met her casting director on the show and she agreed.   I just had a very small part on the show but I was always called back when they needed a foil to interrupt the mental ward on the show.   It's one of the hardest things you'll have to ever do. It's difficult because of all of the dialogue memorization an actor has to do.  The story line doesn't change much from day-to-day.

TV STORE ONLINE:  As for FRIDAY THE 13TH...Are the actors allowed to do an improvisation with their dialogue...There's some fun banter with yourself and Rachel Howard as Chili....

KATIMS:  I had hoped to do some on the film...You could change a line here or there is all.  Again, originally they had wanted this sort of Cheech & Chong thing and that's what I had done with "Chuck" up until we started shooting.  When we started shooting the director Steve Miner told me that he no longer wanted me to do that sort of Tommy Chong accent that I had done in the auditions.   I was kinda of disappointed with that because the way I had envisioned the character was that it would be really funny if he kept evading his own death because he was always stoned.   Chuck is in most of the film and I thought it would really funny to add in physical comedy.  He was always stoned so I thought it would be funny if he evades his death by tripping and falling down as an ax was flying toward his head or something like that.   I had ideas for the character but they just didn't take me up on them...laughing

TV STORE ONLINE:  Do you remember what the first scene that you shot was for FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3-D was?

KATIMS:  I do.   It was the scene where Chuck and Chilli and the others are sitting in the back of the van smoking pot and the van looks like it's on fire.  That was the first scene that I did.  I had never worked on a major film before, so what I liked the most about the whole experience was that they had a great caterer on the shoot.   I mean we would have stuff like prime rib and lobster at lunch time.  We had that on my first day!  We ate very well.

TV STORE ONLINE:   When you went in to audition were you aware of the previous two F13 films and their success?

KATIMS:   No I wasn't and remember when I went in to audition they weren't even calling the film FRIDAY THE 13TH.   The originally working title was "Crystal Japan".   The producers didn't want anyone to know that they were working on the third installment.   So they didn't tell anyone auditioning that they were auditioning for F13 3-D.  Once I was cast they told me what we were shooting and that it was in fact going to be a union shoot.

TV STORE ONLINE:  How did the success of FRIDAY THE 13TH 3-D impact you?

KATIMS:   I didn't have the same experience as others that were in the film I'm sure but I did enjoy a couple minutes of fame.  I had went up to see my family in Spokane, Washington and a theater there was showing the film and they got wind that I was in town.  So they sent a reporter out to see me and interview me.   Then they arranged for me to come to see the film and afterward I signed autographs for about an hour and a half after the screening.   It was really fun.  It really was a huge success.  The same weekend that FRIDAY THE 13TH 3-D opened up in theaters TEMPEST [1982] opened up with John Cassavetes and we beat that at the box office...laughing

TV STORE ONLINE:  Going back to that first scene you shot in F13....Your character and the others eat all of their drugs when they think that the police are going to pull them over...

KATIMS:  Right...The pot that we all ate was actually made out of barley.  It wasn't great tasting either.   The first time I had to smoke a joint in the film...It was made out of tobacco.  I wasn't a cigarette smoker so I just couldn't smoke it without coughing.   I went to a health food store and found these fake cigarettes. Why a health food store was selling fake cigarettes I'll never know, but you could smoke them and you could inhale them without it hurting your lungs.   When I came in on the next day of shooting the prop guy had rolled like fifty joints out these fake health food store cigarettes.

TV STORE ONLINE:  How many takes did you have to do on the eating of the pot/barley?

KATIMS:  I don't remember a lot of takes of that.  There were a few though just because there were so many people in the back of the van and everyone had to eat the pot in a close-up.   There were a lot of takes with the scenes that involved the 3-D.   That was very time consuming and it required a lot of takes because they had to get a focus in two different lens otherwise the 3-D wouldn't work.  The 3-D technology they were using at the time was new and it was much better than anything that had been used before it.  

TV STORE ONLINE:   Was it two different cameras shooting criss-cross like in traditional 3-D or are you saying that one camera had two different lens on it?

KATIMS:  It was one camera with two different lens.  It was a very weird set-up.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  I'm sure the passing of the joint or when your character breaks the fourth wall and offers the joint to the film's audience would be a good example of that?

KATIMS:  Right, yeah.  That took a lot of time to do.   There were days where I had a call time and I'd show up on the set in my costume and I would end up not even working because they were behind due to how difficult the 3-D process was for it.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Last question....Are you surprised how big the F13 film franchise has become and furthermore are you surprised at the fan support that they've given the film since it's initial release.

KATIMS:  No only am I surprised but I'm delighted.  I so appreciate the fans because without them I wouldn't even have the recognition that I have from being in the film.    I enjoy how shocked the fans are that I meet at the various movie conventions I've been too because as a character actor I look nothing like Chuck from FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3-D.  They're very surprised because they expect me to be this older guy with a beard and hair and of course I don't have a beard and I barely have hair on my head.   The fans are so great and terrific.  FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3-D came out thirty years ago and there isn't a week that goes by that I don't get at least one fan letter or an email or something from a fan from somewhere in the world.  That's whats shocking about it. But it's so delightful to have been a part of the film.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Everybody Loves A Free T-Shirt! Three New TV Store Online Contests: Enter Now!

We here at TV STORE ONLINE are giving away the farm!   That's right we're offering up totally awesome FREE t-shirts via our latest social media contests!

Currently we have 3 great contests running!    Hurry and enter now for your chance to win some totally awesome prizes!!!!

Contest #1: Instagram Contest

Tired of your old worn out, ratty, dingy, or just plan old  t-shirt?   Before you throw it out - we want to see it!   Enter TV STORE ONLINE's Instagram T-shirt contest today for your chance to win 5 t-shirts from TV Store!

Here's How To Enter:
Step 1: Follow us on Instagram @tvstoreonline here:
Step 2: Post a picture of your WORST t-shirt on your Instagram and use the hash tag #TVSOWTC
Contest ends September 26th, 2013 11:59PM EST

Contest #2:  TV Store Online Facebook Contest

If you have a worn out, ratty, dingy, or just plain ugly t-shirt, we want to see it! Enter our contest for your chance to win 5 t-shirts from TV Store!

Here's How To Enter:
Step 1: "Like" us on Facebook here:
Step 2: Post a picture of your WORST t-shirt on our Facebook page and use the hash tag #TVSOWTC
Contest ends September 26th, 2013 11:59PM EST

Contest #3:  TV Store Online Pinterest Contest

Pin it to Win it! Ten (10) winners will win their Wish List!   Winners will will up to a $200 value!

Here's How To Enter:
Step 1: Follow on Pinterest here:
Step 2: Create a " Wish List" board on your Pinterest Account.  Pin this image below - Plus up to 10 items from our site that you would like to see in your closet.

Step 3: Hash Tag each pin you put up on your Pinterest page with #tvstoreonlinewishlist so we can find you!

Winners will be chosen at random. Contest ends 8/25/13 11:59PM EST

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Contender...Somebody With Class: A Conversation with Harry Lennix From 24, Man Of Steel and the new NBC series The Blacklist

Chicago native / Actor/Writer/Director Harry Lennix talks with TV STORE ONLINE about Little Britain, Fox's 24, The Matrix films, Zack Snyder's Man Of Steel, The Five Heartbeats, his new film Mr. Sophistication hitting Netflix on September 6th and his new NBC series The Blacklist which premieres on September 23rd at 10pm/9pm Central.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Hey Harry!  Thanks for your time today.   I'm a huge admirer of your work in what I think is truly one of the most under-appreciated films of all time THE FIVE HEARTBEATS (1991).  How did that whole thing come about for you?

LENNIX:  Thanks.  I started acting more of less professionally when I was in college.   After I graduated I decided to stay in Chicago and to make ends meet I was teaching in public school.   I had heard that there was this open casting call so I took a half day off from teaching and went down and auditioned for the casting director for THE FIVE HEARTBEATS.   Afterward I had decided to go out to Los Angeles for pilot season in an attempt to get some work and while I was there I got a call that I had gotten the part of "Dresser" In THE FIVE HEARTBEATS.

TV STORE ONLINE:  So how did you find the character of Dresser in HEARTBEATS?

LENNIX: Well, I didn't have to put too much spin on the ball for him.   Dresser was a decent man that had just gotten himself into a common situation with his girlfriend.   To that end, he really was an archetype and I really liked him as a guy because he was really trying to do the best that he could once he found himself in the family way.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Did you and any of the other actors go back and research music groups like The Four Tops or The Temptations?

LENNIX:   Of course.  We watched on our own and collectively.   We were all very familiar with those groups because we had grown up with them.  I'm from Chicago and the Jackson 5 were from Gary, Indiana which was just a few miles away. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  I love that great sequence in the film where you're asked to dance for that hot shot choreographer...Did you endure any dance training for the film?

LENNIX:   Sure.  We all trained for two months prior to filming with Michael Peters.  Michael Peters did the choreography for the music video for Michael Jackson's Thriller.

TV STORE ONLINE:  You've got this new film coming out called MR. SOPHISTICATION (2012) that just looks incredible...

LENNIX:  Right it's coming out on September 6th.  We're releasing it via a bunch of different platforms.  The film is about a completely fictional comedian named "Ron Waters" and he's based on many of my favorite comedians like Richard Pryor and Bernie Mac.    Those were guys that weren't giving you punchlines but they were giving you social commentaries and that's who Ron Waters is.

TV STORE ONLINE:   I love how the poster art for MR. SOPHISTICATION is an homage to the poster art for the 1972 James Earl Jones film THE MAN.

LENNIX:  Right, yeah.

TV STORE ONLINE:  So for this Ron Waters character.... What do you think that you took from a comic like Pryor for example that you applied to the physical manifestation of the Ron Waters character in the film?

LENNIX:  Just how physical he was.   I think every comedian has tremendous physical control.  A comedian has to be a dancer in a way.  So I really looked at Pryor and other comics that I admire and how they moved across the stage and their timing too.  Stand up is really difficult because it's just you and an audience and there isn't any character to hide behind up on that stage.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Does the Ron Waters character have similar demons as say someone like Richard Pryor?

LENNIX:  Very much so.  He's dealing with his own character flaws.  The character finds himself out in Los Angeles and he gets involved with a woman but he's married.  His wife comes out after him in an attempt to salvage their relationship.   That's the backdrop for the story and it's filled with great drama and comedy as well.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Where does this title for MR. SOPHISTICATION come from?

LENNIX:  It comes from Danny Green the writer.  We played with a lot of different titles but we liked MR. SOPHISTICATION because it encompasses many ideas about the character.   It's a title that can mean many things too.


TV STORE ONLINE:  So what's your process for finding a character in general for any project that you become involved in?

LENNIX:   For me it just depends on the medium in which I'm working in.  My process for theater may be different than for a film or role for television.   When I was doing a lot of theater...The first thing I would do would be to figure out the look.  Then I would figure how he walked.  Then it would be important for me to be able to draw the character out in free hand so I could really see him.   All of that sounds superficial really because there is no substitute for the work that needs to be put into reading the script and learning your lines.  Then it's important just to live in the skin of the character for a while too with that dialogue.   I spend a lot of time doing "text work" because if you can really learn that script and it's dialogue then you can really figure out the character because you can see how many different ways a line of dialogue can come to life in your hands. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  Does that process relate to  MR. SOPHISTICATION?   Richard Pryor wasn't one for staying verbatim to the dialogue in a screenplay. Do you like improvisation or do you like to stick strictly to the written page?

  I like to stick to the script.   I like to go by the book!   I like improvisation comedy and it's important to work on all aspects of your art.  But I prefer to stick to the script.  You can't leave it when you're doing Shakespeare or on a three camera television series.

   Tell me about H4?  I saw that your all African-American Henry IV just got it's funding on Kickstarter.    What was your inspiration for the project?

LENNIX:   Well since everyone has to study Shakespeare at some point in the English speaking world it would be nice to have something to relate to when they're studying it.   So I wanted to contribute to that and I wanted to give black people in America something to look to when they study these Shakespearean parts. The reason why we study Shakespeare is because it's universal.  It applies to every experience possible.

TV STORE ONLINE:   But why Henry The IV?

LENNIX:  As black people in America we too have a nobility and royalty that we pass down from generation and generation and that's very similar to what happens in Henry The IV.    We're looking to release H4 in early 2014.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Then what about your experiences working with one of my favorite filmmakers Spike Lee on CLOCKERS (1995) and GET ON THE BUS (1996)?

LENNIX:  I only worked a day on CLOCKERS.  They cut my scene so I'm not actually in the finished film.  Spike is such a great director to work with because he really gives his actors a lot of room to work in.  I got to be in a scene with Harvey Keitel.   I got to work with him much more on GET ON THE BUS.   I saw him take a modest budget, some talented actors, a great script and re-create a significant event.  It was great.  We spent three weeks traveling around the country. Spike was great. He was like a great football coach.  I really enjoyed working with him.

TV STORE ONLINE:  For some insane reason Lee has taken a great many media attacks because of his attempt to finance his next film via the crowd-funding site Kickstarter.  What are your thoughts on that? 

LENNIX: I think that Spike Lee single-handedly revamped and reinvigorated the independent film movement of the United States when he came along.   We all owe him a debt of gratitude.  He did that because he was talented and tenacious.  If he wants to raise money on Kickstarter to make a film that he believes in he has my full support.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I just went back and took a look at your work on the British comedy series Little Britain (2008).   You play a United States President and that character talks and looks very similar to Barack Obama...

LENNIX:  I was asked to do that by David Schwimmer.  I went to college with David.  He directed those episodes.  I was happy to do it. We shot all of that stuff in I think two days.  Matt Lucas and Dave Walliams are just insane.  I really enjoyed working with them.  What's funny about it is that Obama wasn't even President when we shot those.   Any similarities are completely coincidental and I think I was doing an impression of Bill Clinton...laughing

TV STORE ONLINE:  That United Nations sketch with you is just hilarious...Your assistant is passing you those flirtatious notes....

LENNIX:  Right, yeah.  That was really funny.

TV STORE ONLINE:  In doing research in preparation to talk with you I stumbled across several articles on the internet about something to do with some comments you made about filmmaker Lee Daniels...

LENNIX: Right.  I made some comments about a year ago to a journalist friend of mine in Chicago when we were having a much broader discussion on the state of the African American image in the media.   I find the whole thing very troubling.  I just wrote an article that was published on the website The Rap about the idea of re-claiming the idea of black images.    I don't want to be associated in film with characters that are slaves or butlers or rapists.  I don't want to play a character that kills his own children.   There's a parade of misery and nonsense and trivialities that are representing the majority of black images now.  I'm tired of it, and I can't take it anymore.  Enough already.   I think this imagery has created manifest consequence.  There is no regard for black life in the black community even.   

When I made those comments I was responding to a question about that and used Lee Daniel's film THE BUTLER (2013) as a case in point.  I read the script for THE BUTLER and it's a horrible little story about this poor man that suffers all of these hardships and he's happy just as long as he gets to be this Butler.  It has very little to do with this man's actual story that it's based on.  It's not accurate.  It's an ugly script and I didn't want anything to do with that film.   In order to give relevance to the past in the film this man's story is bastardized and that's not fair.

I'm saying this because it bothers me, and someone has to say something.  I'm not trying to be a troublemaker in any way.  Enough is enough with this stuff.  I mean, it's 2013 and we're still telling stories about slaves.  Can we get past the point where we need to talk about the past?  Can we talk about today which is critical?   There are 1.5 murders a day in Chicago alone.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  On that note do those thoughts also apply to someone like Quentin Tarantino and his film DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)?

LENNIX:  I didn't see DJANGO UNCHAINED.  To be honest I didn't see it because I just didn't want to be reminded of what I just mentioned to you.  With that being said, DJANGO UNCHAINED might be a great film.  Tarantino is a talented filmmaker, but I don't need anyone revising my history for me to prove a point.  At least in DJANGO UNCHAINED there's a retribution.   Django is a man who's exacting some form of revenge on his own behalf.  In THE BUTLER, that man is just this powerless marginalized servant who is a fly on a wall of history.   Tarantino too, doesn't have the same obligation to black people that a so-called black filmmaker does either.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What are some of your favorite films?

LENNIX:  The list is very long...As an actor the films that have probably influenced me the most were the films of Marlon Brando.   ON THE WATERFRONT (1954) has been a huge influence on me.  On a visual level, the films of David Lean have been an influence.   PASSAGE TO INDIA (1984) is a favorite.  LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962) is one of the greatest films ever made.  I've fantasized about being in MY FAVORITE YEAR (1982) with Peter O'Toole and I really like films on that type of epic scale.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What is it about ON THE WATERFRONT that's been so influential?

LENNIX:   Just the performances.  Marlon Brando is so incredible.  Eve-Marie Saint is wonderful.   Also I love the films of Stanley Kramer too.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Are you a fan of IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD, WORLD (1963)?

LENNIX:  Of course! That's a great one.

TV STORE ONLINE:  People reading this will be quite angry if I don't ask you about your work in MAN OF STEEL (2013).   How did that come to you?

LENNIX: I was literally sitting around one day and a call came in from my agent telling me that Zack Snyder wanted to talk to me.   So Zack asked me to come in and help him with some casting stuff for the film.  The next thing I knew I was signing a confidentially agreement and I was in the film.  I had no idea what character I was going to even play.  It was great though.  Zack Snyder is an expert at the visual aspect of film-making.  He's really knows his camera lens, and he's a great story teller.  That MAN OF STEEL set was the most well run and most efficient film set I've ever been on.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Critics and fans alike seemed somewhat disappointed with the film as a whole...It seemed like expectations were so high for MAN OF STEEL that there was no way that the film could possibly be what the fans wanted it to be.  Is it possible to have too high of an expectation for a film, and can having expectations like that effect the way a critic sees a film as well?

LENNIX:  That's a good question.  I think that they can.   Overall I think that the fans really liked MAN OF STEEL.  I loved it.  I think it had two of the greatest storytellers behind it in Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer.  When you're a critic it's so easy to point the finger at someone.  We don't have film critics anymore we have reviewers.   Today's critics rarely mention what they'd do different in a film if they made it themselves. 

TV STORE ONLINE:   I think that today's film criticism is more about taste than criticism really.

LENNIX:  Yes I agree.   I'm not so sure about the tastes of critics today.  The movie did really well, the fans seemed to love it and there will be another one.
TV STORE ONLINE:  What about THE MATRIX films (2003)?  How did those come to you?

LENNIX:  Those came to me the old tried and true way.  I had to audition for those.  They were looking for a guy and I went in with a bunch of other guys and through the weeding out process I got the part.  I don't know why they chose me but I'm thankful that they did.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Lastly....You've got what looks like one hell of a great new show coming to NBC called The Blacklist (2013).    I've seen the promo and it's wonderfully disturbing.   What can fans expect from the series?

LENNIX:  It's going to be a thrilling ride.  There's a lot of intrigue in it, there's a lot of action in it, there's some cat and mouse in it.   Then there is also the great aspect of "Whodunnit" in it as well. 
TV STORE ONLINE:  What can you tell me about your character on the show?

LENNIX:  My character is the Asst. Director of Counter-Terrorism for the F.B.I.     James Spader's character "Raymond 'Red' Reddington" turns himself into my character on the condition that he's able to speak to one particular rookie F.B.I. profiler who is played by actress Elizabeth Keen.   It's a very interesting situation for a series.

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Shelly! Why do you do stuff like that? TV STORE ONLINE talks with Larry Zerner about Friday The 13th Part 3-D

"Shelly" from FRIDAY THE 13TH 3-D actor turned attorney Larry Zerner talks with TV STORE ONLINE about shooting F13 III as well as his big quarter of a million dollar win on NBC's 1 Vs. 100 gameshow.

TV STORE ONLINE:   When do you think that the acting bug bit you?

ZERNER:  When I was in the sixth grade I was cast in our school's production of H.M.S. Pinafore which is a musical that was written by Gilbert & Sullivan.  I played the role of "Dick DeadEye" who is sort of the villain of the piece.  I was only 10 or 11 years old but I got to wear all of this really cool make-up.  I can remember going on that first night yet and I had to give this big speech as the character and afterward all of the people in the audience applauded and it was right then that I knew that there was something to this.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Growing up as a kid were you a fan of movies?

ZERNER:  Of course.   When I was really young I just remember being really into the Universal Monsters and I can remember trying to convince my mom to let me paint my room all black and put up black light posters of Frankenstein.  She didn't let me do it though.   I'm a big movie fan so I actually see everything but certainly early on horror movies had a big influence on  me.

TV STORE ONLINE:  So what comes in between this sixth grade play and the point where you were eventually cast as "Shelly" in FRIDAY THE 13TH 3D (1982)?

ZERNER:  All through junior high and in high school I was in theatre and I went to theatre camp when I was sixteen years old.  That was a lot of fun because you just spent your whole summer just being in plays.  I was the thespian president in high school.  I didn't do anything professionally as an actor until I was cast in F13 PART 3 until I was eighteen years old.  I graduated high school in June of 1981 and I was cast in the film in January of 1982.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Is it true that the producers of F13 PART 3 saw you working in a movie theatre and asked you to come in to see them for the role of "Shelly?"

ZERNER:  It wasn't the producers, it was the writers. Then I wasn't actually working at the theatre either.  I was just standing outside of this theatre in Westwood handing out sneak preview passes for the film THE ROAD WARRIOR (1981) which hadn't opened yet at the time.

TV STORE ONLINE:  So what was going through your mind when these writers approached you for the role?  Being an eighteen year old kid did you take them seriously instantly?

ZERNER:  Well, I was a little skeptical at first.  I mean it wasn't like I was this cute little eighteen year old girl who was being approached by someone who was trying to get into her pants.  Maybe I took it with a little grain of salt at first, but then I asked myself, "How many guys are approached to be in a movie?"  I was approached by Martin Kitrosser and Carol Watson who were the screenwriters for the film.

TV STORE ONLINE:  So how did the whole thing work?  Did you have to go in for an audition?

ZERNER:  Yes, I had to go in and audition.   Writers don't have the pull to give an actor a role.  So I'm sure that Martin and Carol just mentioned me to the director Steve Miner and plus I had an agent at the time so I'm sure that really helped me.   But I just went in and read a scene for Steve Miner. Martin and Carol weren't even there.   I think I read that scene in the Volkswagen.   Then I got called back, and then I got called back again.  I just remember that I was feeling pretty good and I can't recall seeing any other actors in competition for the role of "Shelly."  I was the only fat kid with an Afro there that I saw.   They kept calling me back and I got to read with all of these different girls and I was really feeling great and I just remember Steve Miner noticing this and saying "You don't have the role yet!"

TV STORE ONLINE:   How did you decide that how you were going to approach the Shelly character going in for the audition?

ZERNER:  It was easy because Steve Miner told me not to do anything.  He just told me to be myself, and honestly there really isn't much difference between Shelly and the eighteen year old fat kid with an Afro that I was at the time.   Both Shelly and I wanted to be actors and we were both practical jokers.  How Shelly was in the script was exactly how I was.  There was very little separation between myself and Shelly.  We were both insecure.  If someone really wanted to write a role for me -- there couldn't have been a role that wasn't  written as well for me as this was.

TV STORE ONLINE:    Where did you shoot the film?

ZERNER:  We shot outside of Los Angeles.   We shot mostly around Saugus, California which is about 30 miles outside of Los Angeles.

TV STORE ONLINE:  How long did you shoot for?

ZERNER:  I think it was a twelve week shoot.  They did the first FRIDAY THE 13th (1980) in four weeks.   Shooting for twelve weeks was really a long time for the type of film that we were making, but the 3-D took a lot of time to do.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Was FRIDAY THE 13TH 3D as big of a success as the original film?

ZERNER:  It was huge.  We were the number one movie for two weeks in a row.  We were very hot for a few weeks.  There were a few weeks there where I really felt famous.  Everywhere I went people would come up to me or you could hear people whispering around me.  There was about a month where I really got a touch of what it means to be recognizable.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Did you have any expectations following the film?   Did you think that it would lead to other film roles for you?  

ZERNER:  I don't think so.  Certainly I wanted to work more but you really need to set yourself up.  If you look at the history of the FRIDAY THE 13TH movies and in particularly look at the actors who played the "nerd" with the exception of a couple actors it doesn't lead to more work.  Hollywood doesn't look at the actor in the big movie they look at the money that the big movie made.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  Afterward you did an episode of Fame (1982-87)...

ZERNER:  Right, but for that I was originally up for a bigger role in the episode.   I was up against another actor for it and he got the bigger part and I got the role where I just had a couple of lines.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What about the ill-fated television remake of Love, American Style (1969-74),  New Love, American Style (1986)?  You did an episode of that too right?

ZERNER:  That was a couple years afterward.  That was strange because I didn't have to audition for that.  I literally just got a call and they told me that I was cast in the role.  I still have no idea how I got that.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Then does your interest in the law and being a lawyer come pre FRIDAY THE 13TH or post?

ZERNER:  That came after FRIDAY THE 13TH.  I wasn't making the rent.  You can't pay the rent on one days work on New Love, American Style.   My dad was an attorney and he offered to pay for law school so I decided to go.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Where does your interest in copyright law come from?

ZERNER:  I just wanted to do something in the entertainment industry and as a lawyer now my work involves film and television.  I love what I do now, it's really great.

TV STORE ONLINE:  So what are you thoughts on the current state of the industry?   Will they ever be able to stop people from downloading movies and television over the internet?

ZERNER:  No.  Pandora's Box has already been opened.   I don't think they'll never be able to get control of it.  I saw all of this coming like ten years ago when the Ipod was released.  Plus storage space is becoming so cheap too.  You can take a thumb drive and put the 100 greatest albums of the last 50 years on it and sell it.  Soon someone will be able to put the Top 100 movies of all time on a drive and sell it.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Do you think they'll ever be able to change or regulate it in any way?

ZERNER:   I think it will be different.  The studios like to say that every movie or song downloaded is a lost sale and that's not true.  People that download stuff take it because it's free not because they really want it.  They wouldn't have ever paid for it at any point.  There have been studies put out that people that download music listen to music and then they go out and buy that music.   On the other side, younger people don't respect copyright.   That's why there are so many companies trying to shift to that "Spotify" model where they charge a monthly fee and their rationale behind that is that they're at least getting those people to pay them something .

TV STORE ONLINE:   Then about about big appearance on the NBC game show 1 vs. 100 (2006-08)?  How did that whole thing come about?

ZERNER:  I'm just really into pop culture trivia.  I've tried out for Jeopardy (1984-Current) a few times but haven't been able to make it on.   I went on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? (1999-2002) but I didn't make it into the hot seat.  Finally my nephew told me about this new show called 1 vs. 100.  So I went online and looked at a few clips and thought that I could do it.    I went in to audition to be on the show.  You take a test and then they talk to you.  If you haven't seen the show, how it works is that there is one contestant versus a mob of people.  When the contestant doesn't answer a question correctly then the mob divides the amount that the question is worth.  So if the contestant answers enough questions and get's up to the 100,000 dollar question and they miss it - that money goes to the mob divided up against how many people are in that mob.  A couple weeks later I got a call and they told me that I could be in the mob.  
TV STORE ONLINE:  So take me through to when you won the $250,000 dollars on the show?

ZERNER:  When I went on the show the first time I didn't win any money.   I found out that you could stay in the mob for as long as you wanted as long as you didn't get any questions wrong.  They took a shooting hiatus and just before they were about to start up again I got a call from the show and they told me that they were doing this one time only winner-take-all show that had a bigger cash prize and that I could do that show or skip it and come back when they were back to their regular format.  So I decided to do the winner-take-all show.   But when I got there I saw that they had brought in all of these trivia ringers like Ken Jennings from Jeopardy.   So I went on the show again and I ended up winning on that question about Larry King.   The fun part of the whole experience was that I couldn't tell anyone that I knew that I had won.  I had to keep quiet until the night that the show aired.  I could only tell people that I made it into the final five.  That was a lot of fun.

                                             WATCH LARRY ZERNER ON NBC's 1 VS. 100:

TV STORE ONLINE:  All these years later are you surprised at the success that the FRIDAY THE 13TH movies have had? 

ZERNER:  I guess.  It's hard now to imagine that thirty years ago there wasn't anything like FRIDAY THE 13TH out there.    Back when we were shooting it we obviously had no idea that there were going to be nine Jason movies that would be made after ours.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Are the FRIDAY THE 13TH movies modern day morality tales?

ZERNER:  I don't think so.   I've seen that said often about the movies but I don't think that they are.   The rule is that if you have sex in a FRIDAY THE 13TH movie that you have to die, or if you do drugs in the FRIDAY THE 13TH movies that you'll die as well.   But if you look at FRIDAY THE 13TH 3D "Shelly" doesn't do drugs and he doesn't have sex, but yet he dies.   I think the real rule of a FRIDAY THE 13TH film is that if you talk you die.  Everyone dies regardless if you do drugs or have sex in any of the F13 films.
 TV STORE ONLINE: Excluding FRIDAY THE 13TH 3-D....What is the best F13 film and which is the worst?

ZERNER:  Excluding 3.....I really like Part 2 (1981).   But I think that Parts 4 (1984) and 6 (1986) are the best in the franchise and I think that JASON TAKES MANHATTAN (1989) is the worst.  It seems like they didn't have the money they needed to make that one right.  When Jason gets to NYC it gets really good, but the rest of it I didn't care for.   No offense though to any of the people that made that one.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What about JASON X (2001)?

ZERNER:   There are some great moments in JASON X that are very smart and clever.   I really liked a lot of JASON X.  That stuff with the campers in really great.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Why do you think though that these F13 films have engrained themselves so much into the popular American culture?

ZERNER:  Well I think that it's because of the time in which they were made and who was watching them.  I think that a lot of their audience were just like twelve or thirteen years old at the time and they were just starting puberty.   This is maybe the first time that they saw sex on the screen.  Then there's the fear inside of a horror movie too.  These audience members are starting to feel emotions that they've never felt before in their lives and I think that's why the John Hughes movies have had a similar impact on popular culture today.   I can remember feeling that same way when I first saw George Romero's original DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978) when I was fifteen years old.   That was the movie that did that to me. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  Where can we see you next?

ZERNER:   I don't do a lot of conventions but I'll be at the Mad Monster Party convention in New Orleans on September 13th 2013.     Plus, I've got a cameo in a movie that's coming out next year called KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM. 

For more with Larry please visit his official website HERE:
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