I recently got the chance to talk to Charlie Hewson about his role in Jesse Eisenberg’s new film, ‘Holy Rollers’. Here, Charlie talks about what it was like working with the cast and crew, how he got into acting and what’s coming up for him in 2011…
Hey Charlie. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. ‘Holy Rollers’ is in UK cinemas right now. What’s the general plotline surrounding the film? I understand it’s inspired by a true story?
That’s what they tell me. It’s based on a New York Times article from the late 90’s about a group of ecstasy-smuggling Hasidic Jews living in New York City.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
As a matter of fact, my sister, Tory Tunnell, was a producer on the film. She was kind enough to get me an audition.
How would you say this film is different from other dramas released this year?
I think its strongest attribute is the way it combines a visual style and pace that borders on an art house feel – with a fairly classic drug movie storyline. It’s got the arc of movies like ‘Blow’ or ‘Scarface’ with the look and feel of a quieter, more contemplative film. It’s also quite funny in parts.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the film…
I play a young Polish guy named Andrew who’s the driver for the drug-dealers, as well as the resident bodyguard/muscle/dimwit of the operation. I got to act tough and beat people up, which is a real departure from what I’m used to.
What was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Obviously, it must have been great working with Jesse Eisenberg…
Jesse is a prince amongst men. Really. Kind, whip-smart, and hilarious, but never at anyone’s expense but his own. Everyone else was a pleasure to work with, as well. The DP, Ben Kutchins, is a renegade with a golden eye. Kevin Asch, the director, is a real team player that managed to effectively bring together a number of disparate elements. Hair and make-up, wardrobe, PA’s, everybody was great. And of course Justin Bartha, who is easily one of the best actors I’ve worked with. Oh and Tory Tunnell, the producer… did I mention her? Very talented lady.
Let’s talk a bit about you Charlie. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
My mother sent me away to camp in New Hampshire when I was eleven in an effort to develop my (wafer-thin) interest in sports. Half way through the summer I joined the theatre group there and that was the proverbial that. So, yeah, it was the lesser of two evils sort of thing. But seriously, I love it for all the typical reasons. I’m a sucker for attention. I like to dance around and make a fool out of myself in public. I also like a challenge and I get bored easily, so acting is perfect for me. It keeps me on my toes. I knew I didn’t want to do the 9 to 5 thing pretty early on. For better or for worse, I’ve avoided that all together so far. Quick piece of trivia that is slightly related to this: I recently learned that I LOVE dying on film. I’m at two gruesome deaths and counting.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into the industry?
Keep your chin up, brother. It’s almost definitely going to be a long and tiresome road. But when you’re doing it, there’s nothing better, so what else are you going to do?
You’ve had some great opportunities so far in your career – who has been your favourite actor to work with and who has given you the best advice?
Oh, geez. You’re putting me in a tight spot here. Okay I’m going to say the first thing that pops into my head: Russell Brand, in ‘Arthur,’ was the biggest personality I’ve ever been in a room with, and I really admired that. Not only was he very thoughtful and a good listener, but he was WILDLY funny at almost every moment. Truly a force of nature. And a force of manhood. But I guess you guys over in Jolly Old England have known that for a while now. Advice-wise, my friend Larry Clarke, whom I did a play called ‘Streamers’ in Boston in New York City with, led by example in a way that’s really impacted me. Larry so fiercely seeks out the performance from himself that keeps HIM entertained, because he’s his own critic. He was always fully present on stage, every night. The results from that kind of tenacity are really impressive, and I learned a few things from that. Never give up – on yourself or the text. Never let it get easy. And always be working on it. The process doesn’t end opening night. Overall, don’t sleepwalk, you know? No one wants to watch something like that. It’s a terrible habit, into which a lot of actors fall: finding the safe thing and sticking to it. So, thanks, Larry.
What has been the most interesting piece of local / national news you’ve heard in the last month?
The gay marriage thing in New York is a pretty big one. “It’s a very exciting time and place to be a part of,” as Hunter S. Thompson would say. I have some gay friends who have been in relationships forever, and now the moment of truth has arrived. This city is going to explode with weddings next summer. Can you imagine the parties??
What’s coming up for you in 2011 in terms of acting and projects? I understand you‘ve just been in ‘White Collar‘ haven‘t you? What was that like?
Yeah, my third episode just aired. First of all, it was an incredible experience to be called back for another episode. Nothing like that’s ever happened to me before. Second of all, it has one of the most positive sets I’ve ever worked on. They’re a huge team of happy people, doing what makes them happy. Very inspiring. Thirdly, the show itself is great and, many praises to Jeff Eastin and his staff – my part in it has expanded a bit every time. In the last episode I got the chance to improvise a little, and by some miracle they left the weirdest stuff in. In one scene, I’m sitting out in a hallway, doing a witness protection type gig, and at one point I leaned over to sniff a potted plant out of sheer boredom. I couldn’t tell you why. Typical Agent Blake, I guess. I also did a whale song impression. Seriously. Other than that, I’ve got a few movies in the can, release TBC, including one I just shot in the middle of The Redwood Forest. That was a fun one. ‘The Prospects’, a movie I shot a few summers ago with my buddy David Brundige and featuring my own original music, was recently bought by IFC, so hopefully something will come of that sooner rather than later. I’m also eagerly awaiting the release of ‘The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best’, a movie written, directed and starring the very, very talented Ryan O’Nan, and in which I play the banjo and sing a little. Finally, my theatre buddies in New York are always stewing on some weird piece of out-there theatre. It’s going to be a good year.
Thanks for the interview!