I recently got the chance to talk to Kevin O’Grady about his role in ‘Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes’. Here, Kevin talks about what it was like working with the cast and crew, and how he got into acting in the first place…
Hey Kevin. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. ‘Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes’ is currently in UK cinemas and has also been released worldwide. The film is a origin story set in San Fransisco, where man’s own experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
Yeah sure, well I’m the Animal Control officer that has to go and snatch up “Caesar” (the lead ape in the movie) and bring him to the “Special Primate Holding Facility” after he goes a little AWOL. (btw – I haven’t done any research on it, but I’m still wondering, do all big cities have these kind of “Special Primate Holding Facilities”?
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
You know, just like with all of us up and coming actors, I auditioned for it. It was one of those unique and cool times, which talking to a number of my other actors friends happens more than I thought. I auditioned for it and then it wasn’t until almost 4 to 5 weeks later that I found out I booked it, and that I had to be on set like 2 days after I found out! (FYI – usually it’s within 2 weeks or sooner that you find out if you’ve booked a gig or not.) Bookings like that are always a sweet bonus, especially when you find out you’ve just booked a huge, massive budget Hollywood feature! It was pretty cool…
Obviously, taking into account the previous franchise – which is your favourite ‘Planet Of The Apes’ movie?
Well, I’d have to say the very first one, the 1968 version with ol’ Charlie boy. It’s a classic for a reason. Its story still holds so much significance even today. You know it’s pretty obvious that major prejudices amongst the races, sexes, religions, etc. still plague our planet even now. Sure the plastic ape mouth flaps and Charlie’s acting can take you out of the movie sometimes but if you can get past that it absolutely still holds it’s weight and will for many, many years to come. Great movie!
How would you say this film tries to stand out and be unique to it’s previous instalments?
This new one ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’, is quite good actually. I saw it in the first weekend it was released and I thoroughly enjoyed it! (no bias either ‘cause I’m in it) This one really took the time to establish how a planet of talking, very highly intelligent apes could even remotely be a possibility in the not so distant future. This new one obviously stands out because of the CGI apes for sure (they look amazing — they used the ‘Avatar’ technology) and because it’s such a real story, that’s very grounded at the same time. We’ll be seeing a sequel in two or three years from now for sure!
The film stars the likes of Andy Serkis, James Franco, John Lithgow and Brian Cox – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
I was lucky - I got to work with all the leads in the movie, except for John Lithgow. James Franco was pretty laid back and was really easy to work with, very cool guy. I found out on set while taking breaks and in-between takes that he was constantly studying for his English degree at Yale. He seemed rather preoccupied a lot of the time I was there. It’s all good, glad I got to work with him either way. My big excitement of the day though was working with Andy Serkis! Mr. Gollum and King Kong himself! It took a lot to make sure my nerd hat didn’t come on and make him say, “Sméagol” or “precious” for me. He’s an incredibly gracious, humble and accommodating dude. One day, I had to put a real animal control noose around his neck (made of steel) and pull him out of the truck like an animal over and over again. Crazy! He never complained once. I did get to ask him some stuff about ‘Lord Of The Rings’ and ‘King Kong’ though, so my nerd hat did come on a few times while on set (what’s a guy to do you know, I couldn’t resist :p).
If an ape could talk – what do you think it’s first words would be?
It would either be “fruit punch” or “marzipan”. It’s debatable which one would be first, it all depends on the ape.
Let’s talk a bit about you Kevin. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
You’ve heard the term, “caught the acting bug” before I’m sure. Well in a nutshell that’s it. In 98’ I meet some cool peeps who are still my great friends today and they were taking an acting class and working at an acting school at the time and something clicked, I was like “that sounds like a cool idea”. I took a part-time class for a few months, “caught the bug” and the rest is history! Actually I always thought I was going to be a comic artist, or something where I was going to be a professional artist in some way or another, as that’s just what I excelled at growing up…well damn was I wrong. Still love drawing, but acting is my passion for sure.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into the industry?
Don’t do it man! Run! (I kid) No, seriously I would just say make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. “Fame and fortune” are crappy reasons and motivators to be an actor. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying making money is a bad thing, no way, making lots of money pays the bills and then some. It just can’t be your main purpose to want to act that’s all. It’s one of those things where you gotta just know that this is what you want to do in life. Take some classes somewhere with a good coach and you’ll find out pretty quickly if you want to do this or not. It takes work. The other very important thing is PERSISTENCE. You just gotta keep at it – don’t stop! It took me 10 years to book my first Hollywood feature, but I did it! Not saying it will take you that long but I never gave up. Take all this and add in staying extremely positive, having great patience and always wanting to be and do better as an actor and you’ve got the basics covered!
If you could have a dinner with three historical guests, living or dead – who would they be and why?
Wow, I’ve never been asked that before…ummm…probably Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King Jr., Oprah. You know, if I got those three together, we’d have a lot to talk about. The waiter better be willing to say up all night.
What does a Kevin O’Grady day usually consist of?
Most days I have auditions or I’m on set, so it’s prepping for, going to and from and/or doing the action of those things. Otherwise, I have a few other businesses I’m working on right now on the side from home that I’m pretty excited about, mostly online kinda stuff. It’s a lot of hard work actually, but I’m really enjoying it. Like I said earlier too, huge movie buff, so I go to see at least one movie a week.
You’ve had a number of roles in a lot of different TV series and films – which has been your TV show to guest star on and who has been your favourite actor to work with?
Okay, well as far as TV goes I’ve had nothing but great experiences, I guess my favorite so far was ‘Smallville’. Fun set and I liked my scene despite them cutting out my best line (dooh)! TV movies, well the Hallmark MOW ‘Come Dance at My Wedding’ was a fantastic experience! I got to work with a bunch of my friends and met some amazing people, yah lots of fond memories there. But my best experience by a long shot was what I did on ‘This Means War’ last year. I got to work with the soon to be extremely famous Tom Hardy (the new bad guy in the upcoming Batman movie next summer) and we hit it off great. So yah, favorite time, favorite show to work on, favorite actor to work with — ‘This Means War’ and Tom Hardy!
What’s coming up for you in 2011?
As I just alluded to; I have a supporting lead in the new Reese Witherspoon movie, ‘This Means War’ – coming out in Feb around Valentine’s Day. So I’m super excited about that! This will be my first big jump to the masses at large in such a juicy role. No guarantees of course, I haven’t seen the movie yet so let’s just hope all my good stuff stays in . But I’ll admit I’m feeling pretty confident everything’s gonna come out (as you say in Britain) “rather brilliant”! Otherwise, recently I’ve been auditioning for lots of sweet roles for shows and movies all over Canada and the US, so I’m at a point in my career, happily, where I just know that I’m never that far off until my next gig. The future is endless my friend!
Thanks for the interview!