I recently got the chance to talk to Tyson Kaup about his role in ‘Episode 50’. Here, Tyson talks about what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set and how he got into acting in the first place…
Hey Tyson. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. Of course we‘re here to talk to you about your new film ‘Episode 50‘.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
The film follows a group of paranormal investigators who debunk hauntings on a reality TV show led by a no-nonsense hot head named Jack (Josh Folan). The title, ‘Episode 50’ refers to the final episode and what happens during filming. The team is hired by a dying man (Jim Thalman), with a debaucherous past to find out whether or not there is a hell (since he figures if there are hauntings, there must be a hell, but if not, he has nothing to worry about.) The site he invites them to investigate is an old insane asylum that is notorious for hauntings and murders. Jack’s team is excited because this is the most legitimate haunting they’ve ever investigated. When they arrive, they are surprised to find another team has been hired by the same man. A Christian fundamentalist named Dylan (Keithen Hergott), leads this second team and they are there, not to debunk the hauntings, but to prove the existence of an afterlife. Both teams settle in for what you can imagine is quite the unsettling series of events, but I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll stop there.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I had worked with the directors, Tess and Joe Smalley on another project they had started about two years before. We were able to film a couple of scenes, but this was in 2008 right before the financial crisis. When that hit, they lost their funding and were unable to continue production. When they were casting ‘Episode 50’, they remembered me, called me up and basically offered me the role. I was flattered they thought of me, and even more excited for them to be working on another project.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
The movie is called ‘Episode 50’ so there has to be an Episode 49 right? That’s where my character comes in. My wife (Marie Weiss), and I are afraid our new house is haunted. We’ve invested all we have in this place so we can’t afford to sell. So we hire Jack and his team to investigate along with their camera crew. It turns out that the team is able to unravel the mystery of the haunting, while giving my character a bit of a scolding for shoddy workmanship. This adds to Jack’s hubris in thinking that they can disprove any ghost story and ultimately propels him into the next act of the film.
How would you say this film is different and unique?
I think this film is unique because, while on the surface, and certainly genre wise, it’s a good old-fashioned haunting movie, at its core is this philosophical question of whether there is an afterlife, and if there is, is it something that should be feared by the evil. It’s one of my favourite plot points in the movie when this dying man who has suffered no consequences for his actions throughout his life, explains to this paranormal investigation team, that is essentially made up of fresh-faced kids, that he needs to know if there is a hell. That’s pretty scary. I think that’s a smart idea. I remember reading that and thinking, “Hmmm… that’s different, but makes sense”. As opposed to some other horror movies where you think, “Oh give me a break!” I personally would not want to know if there is a hell, because if there was, I’d have to spend the rest of my life repenting, but I can understand wanting to know.
The film stars Josh Folan, Chris Perry, Natalie Wetta, Eleanor Wilson and Justin Brutico – with Joe and Tess Smalley onboard as directors – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
I love working with Tess and Joe. They really take care of their actors and know how to work with you on set. A lot of directors I have worked with take your performance at face value. Joe and Tess do a great job of pushing you beyond your comfort zone in a very supportive way. I think that half of a director’s job is instilling confidence in the actors while also guiding them toward what they need from the performance in order to tell the story. They definitely do that. The other actors were great as well, it was fun to have them all there for the scenes we shot, it made it feel more like an ensemble cast even though my scenes were a bit isolated from the rest of the characters, at least during shooting.
I was in the opening scene of the movie which takes place during a perceived haunting, so there was a lot of screaming, and calling for help. We were shooting in this residential neighborhood in New Jersey and at one point a neighbour actually called over the fence asking if everything was okay. When we finally spoke to him, he had already called the local police! Joe and Tess had to call the precinct and let them know that everything was okay, we were just shooting a movie. That was pretty funny. Somehow the cops always get called. I was on set on another movie a few months before when I actually had a cop draw a gun on me, but that’s another story for another time!
One more funny thing that happened – I was in the middle of a very intense moment, after having struck my wife with a hammer, thinking she was an apparition, I was crying over her body, but I couldn’t remember her name, which I was supposed to call out. So in the middle of the scene, tears running down my face, I looked up at the Joe and Teresa and said, “Oh God! Oh God!… What’s her name!?” Everyone roared with laughter, and we shot the scene again.
Let’s talk a bit about you Tyson. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
The idea that people made money doing it! I remember watching a sitcom when I was around seven years old. I didn’t understand that the shows were taped, so I thought everything was live, that these people were acting out these stories all day every day. I thought they were doing it for fun. I asked my Mom where they found people to do that, and she told me they were actors who got paid to do it. I was floored. After that, there was no turning back. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t act just for the money, no one does. I think most people do because they want to be noticed. They have a point of view on the human condition and they want it to be heard. I think that’s great because people should want to be noticed.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
There are a couple of things I think are very important. The first is a lot of it has to do with who you know, which people always told me, but I never wanted to believe because I am not much of a networking type of person. But think about it. When you’re casting a movie, especially in the indie world, the first thing you think about is who you know who would be able to play the role. You want to cast people you know and believe in. You basically want to work with your friends, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
The second thing I would say is know yourself, know who your character is in the story, and know their place in it. Things got a little screwy in the seventies for the acting world philosophically, and we’re still dealing with that. Making movies is about telling stories, not about any actor or individual. Actors always want to do too much. That’s the most prolific cause of bad acting, it’s all about them. Your real goal should be to understand what the story is and stay out-of-the-way of it being told. And if you look like Wallace Shawn, don’t try to be an action hero! Be yourself, make yourself the only one who can do what you do.
If you could choose three guests to have to dinner, (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
I would say Anthony Bourdain, Bob Dylan, and Robin Williams. Bourdain because he would probably cook some amazing meal and be able to tell me about every ingredient, where it came from and its social significance to the indigenous people it originated from. Dylan because the entire dinner conversation would read like an epic beat poem full of double entendre, riddles and allegoric insults that I wouldn’t understand until two years later, by which time I would be too impressed by his craftsmanship to be offended. And lastly, Robin Williams because it would be like having dinner with 50 different people at once; the genie from ‘Aladdin’, ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’, and an alien from outer space would all be there.
What is currently on your I-Pod right now?
I love this ‘80s influenced pop thing that’s going on right now. CSS, The Faint, Le Roux, and Empire Of The Sun. I got really excited by the movie ‘Drive’, so I’ve also been listening to the Kavinsky Featuring Lovefoxxx song, Nightcall pretty much on repeat; especially at the gym. I’m just pissed off because I want to be as cool as Ryan Gosling.
What has been the most interesting piece of local / national news you’ve heard in the last month?
I’ve been following the Republican debates so far, and I can’t get over the amount of anger there is in the country right now. When people are cheering for the fact that Texas executed over 200 people, and booing a gay soldier, it makes me embarrassed for our country. I don’t consider myself a crazy liberal artist or anything, but I can’t seem to understand the mindset of people like that. I’ve never voted Republican, but I may if there was someone out there who didn’t pander to the social conservative base and made a strong case for fiscally conservative policies. The fact that most of these people hide behind this veil of Christianity is disgusting. I couldn’t vote for someone who uses religion as a lightening rod to incense people to their side. It’s so manipulative.
What is coming up for you in 2012?
I’m a producer and director as well as an actor. I have a feature I’m working on getting distribution for and another two projects in development. I think it’s going to be a very exciting year. It’s scary putting yourself out there, but I just keep thinking that doing nothing is even more scary because then I’ll always be thinking what if, and the idea of looking back in twenty years and wondering what I could have done…that’s scarier to me than any horror flick.
Thanks for the interview!