I recently got the chance to talk to Mark A. Herz about his role in the new ‘Star Trek film, ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’. Here, Mark talks about how he got involved in the project and what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set…
What’s the general plotline surrounding this instalment?
Unfortunately I’m not at liberty to talk too much about the plot line and the details of ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’. All actors had to sign confidentiality agreements, and they were super hush hush about the project until recently. We even had to put on black robes, not to reveal our costumes when exiting the sound stages.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play one of the main Enterprise security guards. I’m in several scenes by Captain Kirk’s side, on the move walking about the ship and with Benedict Cumberbatch’s character as seen in one of the stills on-set of the feature.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I was very fortunate to be part of this unique project. I was contacted by a casting director to come in for the role. Soon after, I got pre-fit for my costume and found myself on set getting the traditional pointy trimmed Star Trek side burns.
How would you say this film is different and unique to the previous instalment Did you know much about the ‘Star Trek’ franchise before signing on?
I’ve never actually been into ‘Star Trek’. I’ve watched the TV series in the past briefly. I was familiar with William Shatner and Patrick Stewart, and Spock. Everyone knew the words – “Beam me up Scotty”, but that was the extent of my ‘Star Trek’ knowledge. It was never really my thing. It seemed to have it’s own niche and large cult following. However, I did like the previous ‘Star Trek’ feature because it was more of a modern approach and I believe it appealed to more of a vast audience, (especially those non-Trekkie types) like me.
The film stars Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch – (playing�.John Harrison, ahem), Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin, John Cho and Alice Eve – with JJ Abrams onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
The whole crew on this latest instalment ‘Into Darkness’ was great. Everyone seemed to gel together, and J.J. Abrams is just a true professional. His vision, imagination, focus and tranquil energy seemed to make everyone comfortable on set. I should also mention that the First Assistant director and co-producer Tommy Gormley was a pleasure to work with as J.J.’s right hand. Together they seemed to make a great team and made the production flow smoothly.
Let’s talk a bit about you Mark. What made you want to get into the acting industry in the first place?
Acting was always my passion since I was a child. I always wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps as a professional soccer player, but acting was always the other passion that burned inside of me. I was always walking around with the camcorder recording videos of family vacations, and my own endeavours I did take an acting class briefly and went to a few commercial auditions when I was young, but nothing came of it, and my mother gave up.
About 15 years later I found myself working alongside a graduated film student who was doing background work on the side. I did not know anything about background work. My work colleague told me they were looking for period cars for a feature film set in the late 60’s. I submitted my father’s 1964 Mercedes to casting, and the next thing you know I was on the set for the very first time. It was the Steven Spielberg film ‘Catch Me If You Can’ starring Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio. For me this seemed to be fate, a window of opportunity had opened. After all, my work colleague was from South Dakota and working with me in a retail store in the suburbs of Los Angeles.
I immediately joined the Screen Actors Guild. I became familiar with working on many different productions, and becoming more and more comfortable in front of camera. I took professional acting classes, workshops, and read books on acting. I acted in a couple of student film projects, and then several independent short films and feature films to follow. I just built my resume adding credits however and wherever I could to gain the experience and meeting invaluable contacts along the way.
After seeding out two managers in my path I came across a manager that believed in me, and not long after, I landed my first co-starring role on network television. It was the J.J. Abrams series ‘Undercovers’, in which I played a German-speaking guard. I’ve been able to utilize my knowledge of two foreign languages to my benefit. Other than German, I’ve done a couple of projects in the Polish language as well.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
‘The best advice I could give to aspiring actors is, if you truly, truly want it, you have to hustle, fight for it, and never give up! Acting is like running a business. You really need to market yourself. I was at a Q&A with Malcolm McDowell for the premiere of a movie we worked on, called ‘The Employer’, and he said himself; “it takes about ten years to make it”. So start off small, doing low paying gigs, and work your way up earning experience and important networks of people along the way.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
Three guests I would like to have for dinner. That’s a really hard question. I guess it would be a person involved with each of my passions. Off the top of my head I would have to say maybe Lukas Podolski, Al Pacino or Robert DeNiro or both and Kobe Bryant.
Out of my passion for soccer, I for sure would invite one of my favourite players. Lukas, because he is a great footballer whom I’ve watched for years on the German national team and come up from the ranks with FC Koln. We also share in common the Polish and German languages which would make for interesting conversation.
I’d choose Al Pacino because ‘Scarface’ is still one of my ultimate favourite films ever ,and I just love the characters he’s played over his illustrious career. The same goes for Robert DeNiro. I’ve always loved the Mafia style films and the characters they’ve brought to the big screen. I feel I have a certain similar style and character myself.
I enjoy playing and watching basketball – (also a big Laker fan), for me there is no one better since Michael Jordan than Kobe Bryant. Set his amazing talent aside. This man has incredible passion for the game that you can see in his eyes. His determination, focus, competitiveness and will to win is unbelievable. This is the attitude you need to win and can be transferred in life in general.
Aside from sports and acting, I also really love music. I would love to have Kirk Hammet from Metallica for dinner as well, since they were my favourite band growing up. Aside from metal, I like many different genres of music. I even started to like some (and I stress some) of my sons Dubstep music which I was not feeling at first.
Which film was your favourite of 2012 and why?
My favourite film for 2012 was ‘Argo’. The story I believe is what made it so good. The rest seemed to just fall into place. Being based on true events seemed to make it even more appealing. This story was classified for so long and not many people knew of it. I’m quite surprised the Academy did not nominate Ben Affleck for Best Director on this film. The acting, the choices made, and the cinematography was great. It’s not easy to make such a period piece so successful. Affleck has done it with ‘Argo’. I was entertained all the way through.
What’s coming up for you in 2013?
I have two short films that are premiering next week at the Cannes Film Festival on opening day, which I’m quite excited about. Both productions are done by Swimming Wings Productions. One is a western called ‘Revenge’, and the other is called ‘Lunch Break’. In the western, I play the drunken, sadistic Deputy Jim Butler, and I’m a chef in ‘Lunch Break’. Both were amazing to work on, but especially the western. The costumes, props, and riding the horses was an awesome experience. The crew of Swimming Wings Productions, the director Gabriel Schmidt, and all the producers involved are all such great people, and I feel blessed to have met them.
I was also involved in the independent film ‘Gutshot Straight’ – (currently in post-production) which stars George Eads, AnnaLynne McCord and Stephen Lang with star talent cameos. I give thanks to producers Daniel Aldema, and Ross Otterman for the opportunity to work on their independent features such as this. Daniel is very passionate about film making, very ambitious, and a great friend. I look forward to seeing him succeed in his film-making career.
Within the first two weeks of June, I will be shooting another short film called ‘Johnny Games’ in which I play the mobster underboss Dominic DeLango. I can’t wait to be a part of this and have the chance to use my influences from watching the likes of Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro. The screenplay has already been selected in the Beverly Hills Film Festival 2013.
In late summer or fall I look forward to working on my first feature film with Swimming Wings Productions, called ‘Spychosis’. Still in pre-production, so details are still being worked out.
Thanks for the interview!