I recently got the chance to talk to Ken Arnold about his role in Taylor Lautner’s new film, ‘Abduction’. Here, Ken talks about what it was like working with Alfred Molina on-set and about his favourite food and drink…
Hey Ken. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film ‘Abduction‘.
Thanks, Matt. It’s a pleasure.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
The film is an action thriller that centers on a high school student who discovers his photo on a missing person’s website and the people he lives with are not his real parents. Everything quickly unravels for him as he suddenly is thrown into a world where no one can be trusted. Even the authorities. He quickly realizes he is the target of some really bad folks who want him and anyone he is associated with…dead.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
My character, Thermal, is a CIA agent who has been tasked with the mission to bring Nathan Price – (Taylor Lautner) in so we can protect him. I work for CIA agent Burton (Alfred Molina) who is in charge of bringing Nathan in before he is captured by the bad guys or killed. My character is very business like in his work. Determined to complete his mission at whatever cost. He follows orders and just does his job. There is a very physical component to the character, as well, as we had to do some difficult action including scaling a steep hill, more like a cliff, in pursuit of Taylor. And it was no easy climb. Rocks were falling, the soil was loose, roots were being pulled out. But to have a high level of realism, you have to haul ass up the climb. Fortunately, I have a background as a professional athlete and was able to scale the hill quickly. After the first take, I got to the top of the hill and ran right up to the director John Singleton. He looked at me and smiled, gave me a high-five and said something along the lines of, “That was awesome, you flew up that hill.” It was good to hear that.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I got a phone call from casting director Donna Belajac, in Pittsburgh, who I had done work for in the past. She asked if I was interested in a role in this new Taylor Lautner film directed by John Singleton. My answer was an emphatic, “YES!” She sent me the sides and I put myself on tape for the audition and sent it in. Funny, we still say tape, even though it’s digital acquisition. After a few weeks thinking I wasn’t getting the role, Donna called me and offered me the role. I did not have to go for a call back or send in another audition. Since the role had little dialogue, mostly just action, she said I had the look they wanted.
How would you say this film is different and unique to other thrillers?
The hero is very young but he is more than capable of defending himself. At no point do you feel he is defenseless. He is going to find a way and he has been trained for what is coming. He just doesn’t realize it…yet. Most thriller/action heroes are a bit older.
The film stars Taylor Lautner, Sigourney Weaver, Lily Collins and Alfred Molina, with John Singleton onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
Absolutely an incredible experience all around! On my first day on set, Taylor came right over to introduce himself. He was a very classy, polite, and charming young man. It was refreshing to see someone who had achieved the fame he has so quickly still maintain a very down to earth manner. He has a very long, great career ahead of him. Lily was much like Taylor. Very down to earth and pleasant. She is also going to do very well.
Ms. Weaver was nice. During my second day on set, I was sitting down checking my email and she sat right next to me. She introduced herself and asked me how I was. I didn’t say much as I was in awe of Ripley!
And the most phenomenal person I met was Alfred Molina! This guy was awesome! He was always quick with a joke and telling stories about things from his career. A joy to be around. I was standing by crafty one day looking to get some tea. He spotted me and of course came over to show me the proper way to make tea. “You Americans just don’t know how,” he said. It’s true. We don’t. But now, I always make my tea the way he showed me. As best you can when on the set of a film.
And John Singleton was great. He lets you create the character on your own and then comes in with minor adjustments to get where his vision was going. A lot of fun to be around!
This was by far one of the best sets I had ever been involved with. Everyone was focused yet they were having a good time. I have been on sets that were totally the opposite and people were miserable. This was completely the opposite. And I still keep in contact with a few people from the cast and crew.
Let’s talk a bit about you Ken. What made you want to get into acting in the first place? I understand you were playing baseball for the Chicago Cubs at the time…?
I was coming to the end of my career as a professional baseball player and was trying to figure out what I wanted to do next. My dream of playing big league baseball seemed to be further away from me than ever. So one day as I was feeling sorry for myself, I was watching a soap opera and I just remember saying out loud, “I can be as bad as that guy!” I have since learned that being on a soap is no easy task. But that is what set my acting career in motion. I called a local arts centre and signed up for an acting class. I loved it. The instructor recommended I get a headshot to send out. I did and within a week of sending it out I was working. It was only extra work but I was on my way. I immersed myself in everything acting. Classes, workshops, marketing and more. The rest is history.
You’ve been in a number of different TV series’ and projects – who has been your favourite actor/actress to work with so far and who has given you the best piece of advice?
Alfred Molina, of course, my favourite. But I remember working with Sir Ben Kingsley on the film, ‘Tuck Everlasting’. I was a stand-in on the project for the other actor in the scene with Sir Ben. It was a small set, only two actors and a small crew. At lunch I was sitting by myself and Sir Ben walked into the catering tent, saw me and invited me over to eat with him. WOW! How cool was that!!! As we talked I just remember his general advice. That I should immerse myself in the craft and look forward to it every day because if you don’t look forward to doing it, why do it? I believe that’s true of anything you do.
We should mention that you’re also a writer, producer and director – as well as an actor. Do you find all these jobs hard to juggle around, or is it just a normal day in the office for you?
Just a normal day at the office. I wear many hats and I like to be busy. Sitting around doing little is not my style. I try to create my own opportunities opposed to just waiting for my phone to ring. I like the action. I thrive on it. I also have five children and they keep me pretty busy as well.
What is your favourite beverage / food?
Let’s see. My ancestral background is German, English and Irish so my beverage is…beer! Although I do a web series called ‘Appletinis With Ken’. My favourite food/restaurant is Graziano’s near my hometown in New Jersey. I love Italian food.
What’s the most interesting / funny piece of news you’ve heard in the last month or so?
Oh my god. With the onslaught of media out there this question is next to impossible to answer. The most interesting story I’ve found is about the online gamers, who in just three weeks, deciphered the structure of a key protein in the development of AIDS that has stumped scientists for years. Hopefully this discovery will have a profound effect leading to the eradication of HIV/AIDS.
Funny news is any story about reality stars. Who cares? The mere fact that it’s “news” makes me laugh.
What’s coming up for you in 2011?
Things have been good. Three films that I’ve had roles in recently will be released in late 2011, early 2012. The biggest being ‘Men in Black III’. Also ‘Lovely Molly’ from the director of ‘The Blair Witch Project’, which recently premiered at the Toronto Film Fest and an indie low-budget horror film, ‘Pearson Place’.
I am also producing two films that are comedy/horror films. ‘The Night Watchmen’ and ‘Sinkhole 2’ as well as producing the web series ‘ParaAbnormal’ in which I star as lead ghost hunter for a sad sack of paranormal investigators. You can check that out at: www.paraabnormal.tv
I look forward to the challenges coming. I am blessed to have the opportunity to do what I enjoy.
Thanks for the interview!