John Neisler – (Texas Killing Fields – 2011).

I recently got the chance to talk to John Neisler about his role in ‘Texas Killing Fields’. Here, John talks about what it was like working with Jessica Chastain on-set and which three people he would invite to dinner…

Hey John. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘Texas Killing Fields’.

What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?

‘Texas Killing Fields’ follows two cops, Mike (Sam Worthington), a local Texas detective, and Brian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a New York City cop, working together to solve the mystery of what locals call “the killing fields”, a desolate area that has become a dumping ground for more than 60 homicide victims. They’re aided in their quest by Sam’s ex-wife, Detective Pam Stall. After little Anne Sliger (Chloe Grace Moretz) goes missing, they race to find her before it’s too late.

Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…

I’m the first DPS officer on the scene of what looks like another murder, and am surprised to find my authority immediately usurped by take-charge Detective Pam Stall (Jessica Chastain). Like a good cop, I do a lot of shouting…

How did you get involved in the project in the first place?

Matt, I’m a New Orleans-based actor, and a bit of a journeyman at that. I sit by the phone breathlessly awaiting the next audition. When this one came along, with such a terrific director and great cast, I was delighted. I auditioned for a number of different roles in the film, eventually landing this one, probably because I look spectacular in a hat.

How would you say this film is different and unique?

What’s terrific about this film is the way director Ami Canaan Mann makes Texas itself a character in her movie. The landscape is beautiful, a little cruel, and sometimes just plain creepy. And I think smart audiences will also appreciate the way the film resists a pat resolution. It’s based on real-life events (some of these murders remain unsolved), and the script stays true to that spirit.

The film stars Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chloe Grace Moretz, Corie Berkemeyer and Tony Bentley – with Ami Canaan Mann onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?

I worked with director Mann and Jessica Chastain over the course of one very long night of shooting. Their professionalism and passion goes without saying. – I particularly enjoyed working with Ms. Chastain, who is not only a wonderful actress, but an engaging, friendly person to everyone on set. Ami Canaan Mann was great – she communicated clearly, took everybody seriously, and left room for improv. If someone has never been on a set, they can’t really imagine what enormous pressure there is on the director. She handled it easily, confidently, and assumed you could do your job as well.

Let’s talk a bit about you John. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?…

Honestly? I saw ‘Star Wars’ the summer I turned thirteen. Imagine my dilemma – I was too old to play with the toys, but still young enough to be transported. I wanted to live in that universe. The only way I could do it, I figured, was to do what the actors did – act. I’m not defending the logic of that decision – or the wisdom – but it changed my life.

You’ve had a number of roles in various TV series and films – who has been your favourite actor to work with so far, and which project has been your favourite to be a part of?

No favourites – how can you rate such different experiences? My first major film experience was pretty important, though. I got a line in Oliver Stone’s ‘W’ and on the day of the shoot I was nervous, to say the least. I delivered my big line to Richard Dreyfuss (as Dick Cheney), and after rehearsal, I happened to be chatting with him. When I confessed I was terrified, he put me completely at ease, and after we got the take, Richard Dreyfuss gave me the thumbs up. Richard Dreyfuss! It was a simple, incredibly gracious thing to do. I will always remember it.

If I was a genie and could grant you three wishes – what would you choose and why?

Well, first of all, you could make me British: you people are pretty cool, plus I like the way you spell “ favourite”…secondly, I’d like someone – anyone – to reform our American electoral process. Third, you could get me some porch board, and come over to fix the side gallery of my house.

What is your favourite holiday destination and why?

My wife and I honeymooned on Maui. Need I say more?

If you could invite three people to a dinner – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?

Wow. Okay, I’ll bite. Give me Abraham Lincoln, simply because I would like to dine with the only true moral hero that ever became a U.S. president. Plus, he’d tell a good joke. Next, let’s have Quentin Tarantino, to keep the conversation lively and unpredictable. I mean, wouldn’t you love to hang around that guy? Finally, I’ll invite you, Matthew, just for having the chutzpah to ask me the question.

What’s coming up for you in 2011/12?

You’ll see me on American TV as lawyer John Barron in the TNT movie ‘Hide’, and on A&E’s ‘Breakout Kings’. In movie theaters, you can watch me officiate at the wedding of Abraham and Mary Lincoln in the upcoming Tim Burton-produced ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’.

Thanks for the interview!

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