I recently got the chance to talk to Don Wood about his role in ‘Satan Hates You’. Here, Don talks about how he got involved in the project in the first place and what is currently on his I-Pod right now…
Hey Don. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film ‘Satan Hates You’…
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
There are really two plot lines unfolding, roughly in parallel, crossing occasionally. The film follows two characters as they struggle with their demons. They start low, spiral lower, then lower, then even lower, but continue to fight and to try to turn things around, reaching out toward helping hands revealed along the way.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I think the first thing to know about Marc is that he is, in this particular cinematic tradition, an archetype. Usually an actor is looking for interior motivations. In this case that motivation would be “Marc is an extremely troubled guy, completely unable to deal with elements of himself he doesn’t want to see, but he can’t avoid them and the attempt to flee from them or cover them up leads him to commit unspeakable acts.” However, in this genre, you have another, equally true motivation, and that is “He did that unspeakable act because Satan told him to and as a non believer he was unable to fight it.” Either way, Marc is screwed. I mean, Marc is nobody you’d ever want to spend time with, but people do react positively to him, so he’s not creepy-terrible, maybe more sad-terrible. I felt sort of bad for him, even at his worst, and a big part of my job was to try make it possible for the audience to feel bad for him as he did terrible things.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
This is my fourth film with Monsterpants and James McKenney. We’ve worked together so many times that it usually comes about through a conversation or an email. He plays everything ridiculously close to the vest. Nobody ever knows anything until it happens, so you just sort of get a script in an e-mail attachment one day…
My involvement in this was a bit more interesting because when I read the script I didn’t know if I could be involved in it. When you just read everything written out, scene-by-brutal-scene, it is unrelenting and I thought “Wow, my name will be on this forever. Do I want that?” In the end, I had to just trust that I knew James and his previous work and that he would use his directorial style to put everything in the stylistic context it needed to keep from being 90 minutes of hate and nihilism. And he did just that, in my opinion.
How would you say this film is different and unique?
Oh, man. One thing I can say about McKenney is that he makes movies you haven’t seen before. If you’ve seen “scare” movies before, either Christian, or driver’s education “Blood On The Streets” or “Reefer Madness”, you’ll recognize the general arc, it’s “If you do or are (insert bad thing), look at the eye-poppingly bad stuff that will happen to you!” However, James always adds more…um…depravity, sprinkling it with just a hint of Warner Brothers cartoon humour to pull you back from the brink. He also stops long enough here and there to allow the characters to fill out and I think that lends some humanity to it. You won’t see a more despairing/gory/funny/hopeful/violent movie.
The film stars your good self, Christine Spencer, Angus Scrimm, Reggie Bannister, Larry Fessenden and Michael Berryman – with James Felix McKenney onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
Let me tell you, you show up on the set, you go over that list of names you just mentioned, (plus Debbie Rochon), and you realize you’re not really going there to work, you’re going there to learn and to try to keep up. There’s over a hundred years of experience and over a hundred movies behind that group! It was a real education, and like most education, for every one thing I learned, I learned ten more things I needed to learn. There isn’t time to do three takes on movies with this kind of budget, much less 20 or 30, and these actors just show up prepared and turn it on–bang–nail it, and it’s on to the next shot. I’m used to that, but am always super nervous about it. Seeing people so in command, so pro, was a treat/revelation.
And I know it’s a cliché to say that people are down-to-earth, etc. but I think these genre pros are a special breed. They do a ton of movies, but also tons of events, conventions, podcasts, and more. It is a level of fan interaction you just don’t see in the mainstream film world.
As for the crew, that is why I do these movies in the first place. Just like the genre actors, crew members on a film this size are doing something they probably don’t have to do. The spirit and camaraderie are just a blast. Not to mention the incredibly dirty jokes. James has always cultivated a family type atmosphere on the set and it has paid off. Most people who work on one of his films will try to work on the next and so by the time this one rolled around, some of us have worked together on three, four films. It’s kind of a reunion.
Let’s talk a bit about you Don. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?…
I kind of fell into it, starting with stand up, finding that kind of limiting, doing sketch comedy, trying a little acting on the side and then just sort of doing more and more acting and less and less sketch comedy. Sketch comedy is a young person’s game, it’s just incredibly gruelling.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
I wouldn’t say I have a career in the industry and I’m not sure I have good advice. I’m not sure there *is* any. I used to tell younger people doing live shows “Be sure to record everything, one day you may want to apply for a grant or show a director your work” but nowadays that’s kind of antiquated advice. Recording is cheaper, easier, higher quality and everyone *does* record everything, and edit it, and post it for everyone to see. So that’s my one good piece of advice, shot down.
That does lead to something relevant to this film. Don’t wait for someone to cast you in something, make something and cast yourself in it. There are always people around who want to make stuff, make stuff with them. When you are out, auditioning, you’re meeting a couple of people behind a table who won’t remember you and a hundred people who look just like you and hope you suck. When you are in, making stuff, you are hanging around with a group of people who are fun and interesting and who hope that you are really good at what you said you could do. Those people go on to do other stuff and they’ll call on you to help them if need be and you’ll get more experience. Your odds are much higher that way, I think, and you can look at the rise of Felicia Day and the shrinking of television audiences and see the writing on the wall.
What is currently on your I-Pod right now?
Well, I have to admit I am an Android phone guy, but let’s see here, the last stuff I brought was
“1977” by Anita Tijoux which I heard on ‘Breaking Bad’ and that led me to a bunch of other Mexican electropop stuff. I also bought “Paris(Ooh la la)” by Grace Potter And The Nocturnals before I realized it was going to be in every other TV commercial.
If I hit “Shuffle All” here’s the first five:
- “Adrenaline”- Throbbing Gristle (off the excellent “Left Of The Dial” compilation)
- “I Saw Three Ships”- Sufjan Stevens (someone gave me a Xmas mix with no song info and now I can’t find them and purge them…really irritating.)
- “Trip at the Brain”- Suicidal Tendencies
- “Perfect Disguise”- The Contrast
- ”The Gospel”- Saturday Knights
If you were stuck on a desert island – what three things could you not live out?
I learned a while ago that I could go without technology, though the withdrawal is painful. I’d go with the practical flint-and-steel fire starter, hatchet and crossbow. Because you never know, it might be a zombie island.
What is your favourite food and drink?
Oh, just about any Mexican food is good for me. I also love Peruvian food, but man, that cheese keeps calling me back to Mexican. I also like margaritas, but I usually drink red wine.
What’s coming up for you in 2011/12?
As far as film stuff goes, I’m really looking forward to the release of the latest film I did with James McKenney, ‘Hypothermia’. It’s a straight up, throwback monster movie featuring Michael Rooker. It’s in some sort of distribution limbo right now but I’m hoping it’s out soon. After that there are a couple of projects on the burners, but like I said, I never know what’s up until I get a script in the mail!
Thanks for the interview!