Your new movie Tailypo
- in a few words, what is it about, and what can you tell us about your
character in it?
is an old folktale born in the Appalachian Mountains about a lone
woodsman named Levon, his faithful dog, Jasper, and a cat-like creature that they
encounter one day while out hunting for food. Levon, for whatever reason, has decided that he is
tired of city life, and probably tired of people in general, and now makes his home in a meager
cabin in the woods living off of the land. He is a man who is at peace with himself, at
peace with his surroundings, and most of all, has a tremendous love for his only friend and companion,
What did you draw upon to bring your
character to life, and how much David Chattam can we find in Levon?
Playing Levon was really a lot of fun for me! As a kid growing up in
Calhoun, Georgia, I spent many hours playing in the woods behind my house with friends. We had all
sorts of trails that we made, had more cookouts than I can remember (almost burned the woods
down once), and even built a multi-level treehouse! Getting the chance to basically play
in the woods as an adult reminded me of those days and brought back a lot of fond memories. I will
say though, that most of Levon’s characteristics
were based off of my grandfather, Roy Chattam, who passed away in 1990. “Papa Roy”, as I called him, was a tall, slender man who
was very well respected in and around my hometown. He had a warm personality, an infectious
smile, and always looked you in the eye when he talked to you. Papa Roy was a self-made
man, and actually started a successful family-owned moving and storage company at a time
when Jim Crow laws were still in full effect. As Levon, the way I moved, walked, talked and
laughed were all based
pretty much carry the whole movie on your own shoulders, with only a dog
to act off of - so how much of a strain was that?
It really wasn’t a strain at all. Cameron McCasland’s [Cameron
McCasland interview - click here] script was so
simple and straight forward that anyone could probably have pulled it off. I do have to admit though, that
I am a big fan of Castaway and Dances With Wolves, two films in which the
main actor spends a lot of time alone, and that always intrigued me. So when I was presented with the
opportunity to do a film like
that, I jumped at the chance!
As for as my interaction with Jasper the dog (whose real name is Ranger),
that was the easiest part. Jasper was an absolute joy to work with. It was a little bit tricky
to get an untrained dog to do what you wanted him to do, but we figured out ways to do it. The funny
thing with Jasper though, was that he was very gun shy. The first time I discharged the
shotgun around him, he immediately called it quits for the day and hastily headed for home! I
have been a doglover since I was a child, and Ranger reminded me a lot of my last dog, a boxer
named “Motown” who was tragically shot and killed by some neighbors several years ago. I
recently found out that
has gone missing. That makes me sad. Hopefully he will return home soon.
did you get involved with the project in the first place, and where you at
all familiar with the folk tale of Tailypo
before making the movie?
I got involved with Tailypo
directly through Cameron McCasland,
the writer and director. I had never heard of the tale before. Cameron got in touch with me one day and
told me about a short film that he had written with me in mind as the lead (of course that
sparked my interest), and told me about the film’s premise. I was immediately hooked.
What can you tell us about your
director Cameron McCasland [Cameron
McCasland interview - click here], and what was your collaboration
like? And how did the two of you first meet even?
I auditioned for Cameron a few years back, and landed a small role in his
film The Lashman. As an actor, you’re always cautious of working with directors you don’t
know, especially on small budget films. You never know what you are getting yourself into. I have
to say that I liked Cameron immediately when I met him. He was honest and straight-forward.
When we shot my scene in The
Lashman, I was immediately impressed with all of the
camera equipment and gear he had in his possession. I knew right then and there that he knew what
he was doing. I also really like Cameron’s directorial style. He lets the actors act. In both films I’ve
shot with Cameron, he basically set the scene for me, pointed the camera at me, and said
“action”. For me, that style of directing makes me feel like the director trusts my
decisions, and the work I’ve put into developing a character.
talk about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
I completely enjoy shooting with Cameron and his crew, DP Josh Ickes, and
Mr. “Do Everything
Else” Joseph Drake (who also played the Tailypo). The atmosphere was
both very professional and very laid back. In fact, I remember one of the nights we were
shooting Tailypo, it was freezing cold, and I had to shoot wearing a t-shirt and some thin pants.
After joking with Cameron about him getting to stay warm in his cozy jacket, Cameron and
crew without hesitation (well, maybe a little hesitation) also stripped down to their
t-shirts and finished the night out freezing right along with me!
Both productions I’ve worked on with Cameron have been shot in Kentucky,
and both times I was lucky enough to stay at Copper Canyon Ranch, and make great friends
with the owners Tim and Carole Emory, and Chad Fuller. Tailypo
was actually filmed at Copper
Canyon Ranch, and if you haven’t seen it or don’t know what it is, it is the COOLEST mock
western town that I have ever seen! I really hope that one day I can shoot an actual Western
themed film there!
future projects you'd like to share?
I’ve got a few really cool indie films and web series that I’m working
on right now that should be out either later this year or early next year. My latest project was a
role in a feature film titled Holding Patterns, directed by Jake Goldberger, and starring Freddie
Highmore, Jake Abel, Haley
Joel Osment and Christopher Meloni. That one is due out sometime in 2016.
What got you into
acting in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the
I literally fell into acting and had no desire to do so before it
actually happened. Back in 2001, I was doing IT work at a company in Brentwood, TN, when the
Last Castle was being
filmed in Nashville, a co-worker of mine talked me into going out to be
an extra on the film and I
reluctantly did so. The first day I was on set, after about four hours of
doing nothing but sitting
in the extras hold area, I asked if I could go out and watch some of the
filming. I went out to
watch, and a few minutes later one of the assistant directors walked by me,
looked at me and said
he had an idea for a new character in the film, and told me to walk with
him. Next thing I know,
doing a scene with
James Gandolfini!!! Now, my scene ultimately didn’t make the final cut,
but that’s what got the ball rolling!
As for formal training, I did not go to school for acting, nor do I have
a theatrical degree. My formal degree is a B.S.B.A in Information Systems from the University of
Alabama in Huntsville. I was actually 32 years old when I landed the role in
Last Castle and had never done any acting before that. Since then, I have taken many great acting
classes and workshops, one of my favoring being a character building workshop with a fellow
named Mykelti (pronounced “Michael T”) Williamson, the actor who played
“Bubba” in Forrest Gump.
Mykelti and I still stay in touch to this day.
What can you tell us about your filmwork prior
As I said, the first film
I ever worked on was The Last Castle, but
my main scene got cut. My second film a year later was 21 Grams with Sean Penn, Naomi Watts,
and Benicio Del Toro. I had a great scene with Benicio that never saw the light of day either.
Since then I have had the privilege to work on over 40 different films and television shows, and
have enjoyed each and every one.
far as I know, you've also done your fair amount of theatre - so what can
you tell us about David Chattam, the theatre actor, and how does
performing on stage compare to acting in front of a camera?
David on stage in Titus Andronicus
I love theatre. The first acting
workshop I ever took was a theatre
workshop with Nashville’s Metro Parks department. I remember the day I walked onto the stage at the
Looby Theatre for the first time and the feeling of joy it gave me. I have had the pleasure
of working with some of the best professional and community theatres in Nashville, and have also
had the privilege of performing shows in theatres from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Theater is a totally different beast than acting on camera. Camera acting
is all about not being too “big”, whereas theater
acting is completely the opposite. To be able to switch from one type of acting to the other takes practice.
I love the instant feedback you
get (good or bad) from an audience when you are on stage. There is nothing like hitting that
comedic line and hearing the audience roll with laughter, or giving that poignant speech and the
audience is dead silent and hanging on your every word. At the same time, I love the subtleness of
camera acting. It’s just a more natural feel for me, and I love that you can reach out to so many
people through film. All in all though, I don’t care whether I am on stage or in front of a
camera, as long as I am doing what
I love to do!
would you describe yourself as an actor, and some of your techniques to
bring your characters to life?
Hmm… I guess I would describe myself as more of a character actor than
anything else. I love the challenge of reading a script and bringing some quirky character to
life. When developing a character, in most cases I try to draw on real life experience. I try to
remember how I felt or acted in a given situation and then try to recreate that feeling. If that
doesn’t work then I try to
draw from stories that I have heard from friends or family. I love to
just sit in a public place and watch people. To me that’s one of the best ways to get ideas for
characters. Most of the time I will come up with background story for the character. You’ll be
surprised at how easily you can react to a given situation as the character when you have an idea of
where they come from and why they may react a certain way in a certain situation. One of my
favorite techniques though, was one I learned in Mykelti Williamson’s class. He taught me to take a
script and initially ignore the punctuation as it is written. Reason being, there are SO many
way to deliver a line, and the line could take on a whole new meaning depending the way it is
delivered. If you take the
time to experiment, you may come up with something spectacular.
Actors (and indeed
actresses) who inspire you?
Not to sound like a cliché, but truthfully, ANY actor or actress, or
anyone for that matter, who is out there today grinding, working their hind end off just to make ends
meet to while striving for their dreams, those are the people who inspire me. Yes, I love to watch
Denzel Washington, Tom Hanks, Jodie Foster and many others on the big screen, and I hope to
one day reach that level, but it is the unknowns out there, people just like myself, who are
doing whatever it takes to make
their dreams become reality, those are the people in which I find true inspiration.
Your favourite movies?
The Color Purple is without a doubt my all-time favorite movie. It’s
just a great film. On top of that, there are the usual greats, Star Wars, Jaws, Poltergeist (the
original of course), Forrest Gump, Training Day, A Raisin in the Sun, In the Heat of the Night…
I could go on and
on and on…
and of course, films you really deplore?
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I can’t say that there are really any films that I just deplore. If I
don’t think I’m going to like a film, then I just don’t watch it. What I’m NOT a big fan of are all
of these modern remakes of films and television shows. More often than not, too much of the
integrity of the original is lost because someone wants to make a few dollars. Also, I am not a big fan of
CGI. Many films have used CGI and done it masterfully, but it most cases, you can
definitely tell it’s a computer image and that totally loses me.
Facebook, whatever else?
I don’t have a Facebook fan page so to speak, because I don’t like
the word “fan”. I feel like the
people who take the time to watch the films I work on are friends, not
fans. My Facebook page
is simply under my name,
“David Chattam”. I don’t have a website either, but I do
have an IMDb
Anything else you are dying to
mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
Nope. I think you pretty much covered it all.