I recently got the chance to talk to Chriss Anglin, about his role as John F. Kennedy in ‘Call Of Duty: Black Ops’ and about his acting career. Here, Chriss talks about his views on the film and TV industries, ‘Black Ops’, and about his work on various film shorts….
Hey Chriss,. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to me! People can currently hear your gifted voice in ‘Call Of Duty: Black Ops’, where you play the character of legendary President, John F. Kennedy. I best start off with the most obvious question – have you had the chance to play the game yet? What do you think of the end result?
You know Matt, I’m not a gamer. I honestly have not played the game or even seen my part in the game. But, I do have a lot of friends who are gamers, and they absolutely love it. I also have two teenage daughters, and since doing ‘Black Ops’, I’m the coolest dad at their school.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I got involved in the project simply by auditioning for the project. In LA there are several actor websites where we can receive casting calls for different projects. Since I’m always looking out for new projects, I pursue them regularly. I saw the casting call for an “Untitled Video Game Project”, seeking an actor to play the role of JFK. I had never worked on a video game before and was really interested in it. So, I submitted myself to the project. The casting director Ivy Isenberg called me in for an audition. She ran me through the scene over and over again until she had a take that she liked. Whatever we did must have worked, because a couple of days later she called and let me know the producers wanted to hire me for the role.
Why do you think the game is popular?
I think the game is so popular because it’s part of a great franchise, and it takes place in a recent time of our history that most people don’t know a lot about. And, what’s not cool about Presidents killing zombies.
What has the fan reception been like for you? Do people go up to you and say – “Hey, you played JFK!”
The fan reception has been great. It’s funny. I have people come up to me all the time saying “Hey. You played JFK.” And, I always end up doing the voice for them.
You’ve played the role of John F Kennedy before, haven’t you, in another film? And you’ve just recently played the role of Bill Clinton in “Naked Run” – do you have a keen interest in American history? What has it been like to play these such iconic figures in history?
‘Black Ops’ was actually the third time I’ve portrayed JFK. The first was for the great David Zucker of ‘Airplane’ and ‘Naked Gun’ fame in “Big Fat Important Movie” (known as ‘An American Carol’ in the States). I had been told over and over again that I look like JFK, so I started playing with the voice as a joke (I sounded more like Mayor Quimby from the Simpsons than a Kennedy). When I went into the audition for David’s movie, I knew nothing about it. All I knew was, it was David Zucker, which meant comedy, so I just hammed it up, and he liked it. I worked with a voice coach to refine what I was already doing, watched every piece of video I could find of JFK to get the cadence and mannerisms down and read numerous biographies to learn what made the man tick. David idolizes JFK, and he told me from the beginning that even though the movie was a political parody, JFK was not a parody. He wanted me to be as true to the man as possible. It was the most research I had ever put into a character. My next portrayal was for a Finnish metals company for a promotional video and then of course ‘Black Ops’. As for portraying Bill Clinton, I seem to have a gift for voices and he was one I always had fun impersonating. Impersonating such an iconic figure and making people laugh in the process is great. I do have a keen interest in history. Not just American history, but world and political and especially military history. I’m always reading about different periods in time and different military conflicts. One of my favorite authors is the English military historian John Keegan. What I find amazing about history is that mankind never seems to learn anything from their mistakes, and so keeps making the same mistakes over and over again. It was a fantastic experience to be able to portray these iconic figures. And, it’s really eye-opening too when I’m researching them to learn there’s so much more to them than the scandalous tidbits the media feeds us on a daily basis.
Would you say that the film and TV industries always keep a balance with historical accuracy and genuine facts? Or do you think we’ve become too ‘Americanised’ – (in particular with our general news output)?
I think the film and TV industries ride a fine line when it comes to historical accuracy. Mainly because too much historical accuracy and facts would be boring, and the industry is just that, an industry trying to sell a product. So, they hit the high points, the interesting points and especially the scandalous points to draw an audience. I do feel that the news media has become too tabloid in its presentation of world events. In my opinion, they go out of their way to sensationalize news events and slant their reporting to their own point of view. Again, they’re trying to hold an audience with a very short attention span and sell advertising in the process.
Are there any other political / historical figures you would like to play the role of – if you got the chance?
I would really like the opportunity to be able to portray any of the following: Robert Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, Mickey Stone – (who was instrumental in forming the Israeli army in 1947), Douglas McArthur or Omar Bradley.
Tell us a bit about how you got into acting and voice-over.
I sort of fell into acting by dumb luck. I’ve always been a ham and loved being the centre of attention. I’m the oldest of eight children, so growing up I had a lot of competition. I remember being very young and telling someone I wanted to be on television, but never had an opportunity or encouragement to pursue it. Years later, after serving in the U.S. Army, I returned to my home town in New Mexico and became a Deputy Sheriff. After working as a patrolman for several years, I was offered the opportunity to work undercover narcotics. I decided to take a theatre class at the local college thinking the training would help me with the role play and improv skills I would need working undercover. There I fell in love with the theatre and acting. A couple of years later, I left law enforcement and was working in sales. A friend I had done theatre with returned after some time in LA. He told me he was teaching film acting classes and asked me to take one. There I started learning about the film business and film acting and fell in love with it. I found an agent in Albuquerque, New Mexico and began auditioning for parts in films and TV commercials around the state. I was really successful but always wanted to be able to do more. So, I began saving my money and started researching opportunities in Hollywood. In August 2001, after having worked three jobs and a run of summer stock theatre, a guy hired me to be his 1st Assistant Director and do some acting in his indie film near San Francisco. That film gave me the extra money I needed to make the leap to Hollywood. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been a lot of fun.
Who / what has inspired you as an actor / voice-over artist?
Acting in and of itself both inspires me and excites me. The most attractive thing about acting to me is that I get stop being myself for a while and slip into someone else’s skin. I get to learn things and investigate emotions that I otherwise might not get to. As to who inspires me? That’s a tough question. I’m a huge fan of the great actors of film’s golden age. Lawrence Olivier, Errol Flynn, Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne – all the greats. Great directors too like John Ford and Billy Wilder. I’m also inspired by success stories where someone rises from nothing to be a star. Like Sean Connery going from being a truck driver to James Bond. Stories like that help me believe. If they can do it, so can I.
You’ve done quite a number of shorts in the last decade or so – which one has been your favourite to be a part of and why?
I love doing short films. There’s no money in them, but they’re a lot of fun and a great place to make new friends. Most short film-makers are very young, and I love helping them realize their dreams. And, who knows? One of them may become the next Spielberg or Fincher.
My favorite short film isn’t finished yet. It’s called “The Deliverer” by my friend Kristopher Dolphin. It’s set in the near future when the world economy and governments have broken down. Only the hugest corporations have survived and reverted to using slave labor to remain competitive. I play the role of Murphy Daniels, a reluctant leader of a group of people trying to avoid capture by slave hunters. It’s a great piece, and we’re hoping the short will generate financing for a feature-length version or possibly a television series.
Do you have a particular fondness for the indie industry in general? Why do you think people have a fondness / love for indie films?
I am particularly fond of indie films. When you’re just starting out as an actor, those are the projects that you’re most likely to find work in. There’s something special about being involved with a film-makers struggle to realize a vision. There’s very little ego involved in indie film-making as well. Everyone pulls together and puts in horrendous hours of work and sacrifice to get the movie done and hope and pray audiences get to see it when it’s finished. I think audiences are fond of indie films for the same reasons. They can feel the struggle that went into making the movie. Also, indie films are more about the story. They can’t afford all the big budget flash, so the story has to be good. The acting has to be good. Audiences will overlook a lot of production value if you give them a great story portrayed by good actors. Everyone loves a good story.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in acting?
The only advice I ever give to anyone wanting to become an actor is: do it because you love it. You have to absolutely love acting to get into this business. The odds of making a living at it are astronomical. Rejection and disappointment are daily occurrences, and there are a lot of easier ways to make money.
What’s coming up for you in 2011?
2011 is an open book right now. I have four films in post production, but I have no idea when they’ll be released. I have a small role in “Decisions” which is Corey Haim’s last movie – which should be in theaters soon. I have several more independent films I would love to do, but they’re all still trying to secure financing. Also, I have a HBO cable series in the works, but we’ve been sworn to secrecy about it. I’m also working on a couple of writing projects too. In the mean time, I’ll be auditioning for every project I can find and making as many friends as possible. I guess my newest friend would be you Matt.
Thanks for the interview!