I recently got the chance to talk to Paul Gregory about his role in new film, ‘This Is Martin Bonner’. Here, Paul talks about what it was like being part of the project and how he got into acting in the first place…
A pleasure to talk about a film I’m proud to have taken part in. Though my contribution was shot second unit by a very clever 2nd Unit Director, Dan Riesser, in Silver Lake right here in Los Angeles where I live now. The main locations for the movie were in Reno and Sparks, Nevada.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
The film is about Martin Bonner relocating from Maryland on the East Coast to Reno, Nevada in late middle age leaving his grown up family behind after a divorce – and getting a fresh start – his trials and struggles to adjust through his friendship with a released prisoner as he works successfully in the Prison Fellowship program.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
My character was modelled on Chuck Colson, a church minister who worked with Prison Fellowship – a program that helps released prisoners’ transition to life outside.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I actually met the director, Chad Hartigan, way back in 2010 soon after I first re-located to LA from London. A year later I played Francis Astley for him.
How would you say this film is different and unique?
The story is beautifully drawn by Chad in a sensitive, understated and riveting fashion. Bonner being based on Chad’s own father. It’s certainly unique from the point of view it doesn’t rely on a “car chase”, “copious sex scenes” and “extreme violence” – (current and banal Hollywood formula) to hold our attention – just plain good story telling from the main actors giving wonderfully realized subtle and REAL performances.
Let’s talk a bit about you Paul. What made you want to get into the industry in the first place?
Why did I want to become an actor? Easy, from the age of five I began to realize how much I could make my mother laugh. She became my audience from whom I learned every trick in the book. I always wanted to be an actor from that early age. I was born in India and in Lucknow – (where we lived) I led a pretty secluded but colourful childhood. Exotic countries greatly stimulate the imagination. It was continued in East Africa and I finally went to the UK to attend a private boarding school at 14 years. Leaving school at 18 with a very poor return on my father’s investment – one A level in Art and meagre passes in Geography and History, I ended up at Art College for a year and defying my father’s wishes became a stage hand at the Haymarket Theatre in London’s West End. From there I trained with a great acting coach, Denys Blakelock at RADA and within five years of becoming an actor found myself working for and with Sir Laurence Olivier who became my mentor at the National Theater at the Old Vic.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
My advice to youngsters wanting a career as an actor is to find a really good coach who has earned their living as an actor for at least 20 years and study/learn and improvise with THE best writing available. Characters from Shakespeare, the Sonnets, definitely Oscar Wilde, Sheridan, definitely Pinter, Stoppard, Frayn and Hampton, Tennessee Williams and Neil Simon. You learn fast and I mean really fast this way. Avoid method and impro classes at all costs – this will delay your development. Great writers and doing it in front of an audience as often as you possibly can will speed you on your way. I coach and know this is one of the best ways forward having started many flourishing careers as a teacher over these past 10 years both in the UK and here in the USA.
You’ve been in a number of different TV series and films – which actors/actresses have been your favourites to work with and why? Any good stories?
Favourites I have worked with have to include – starting with the great Olivier himself, Sir John Mills, Leonard Rossiter, Timothy West, David Suchet – (a very close friend), Kenneth Branagh, Dame Judi Dench, Roger Allam, Conleth Hill, Johnathan Miller, Michael Frayn and especially the great director Michael Blakemore who I have worked with ten times – that’s ten productions constituting seven years of my career. I’ve shared more laughter and amusing incidents with this group of wonderful individuals than could be humanly expected in several lifetimes.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
The three I would have for dinner? Easy – would be Sir Laurence Olivier , Johnathan Miller and Leonard Rossiter – what a scintillatingly witty, gossipy, stimulating evening that would be! I’d have my coffin standing by because I’d probably die laughing!
Which film was your favourite of 2012 and why?
That has to be ‘The Descendants’ with George Clooney. I was amazed that Clooney didn’t win the Oscar. Such a good performance. I identified hugely with the story of the film – as it reflected and mirrored events in my life.
What’s coming up for you in 2013?
What’s coming up for me in 2013? Well…
- An episode of the successful TV series ‘True Blood’, which I did at Universal Studios – a thrill for me – first time I’ve worked there.
- A feature film-comedy for the family, ‘Chihuahua Too’ in which I play a bumbling and confused Realtor who is trying to sell a haunted house. Coming out next month.
- An animated feature ‘Love Sick Fool’ in which I performed four different characters with Lisa Kudrow, Fred Willard and a star-studded cast due out later this year.
I’m also doing two movies – one here – in Los Angeles and the other on location in Atlanta, Georgia. Also – exclusively – I’m playing a leading role both visually and vocally in Sony Playstation’s latest video game for the PS4 – working title ‘Requiem’ to be released in 2014. A great thrill for me coz I finally have something I can show off to my son about.
Thanks for the interview!