Jeff Dylan Graham: The Future King of Horror by Brian Kirst

Out of all men that I have come across in the horror movie field, no one impresses me as much as Jeff Dylan Graham. Even though he is only in his very early twenties, Graham has, skillfully, played everything from a suicidal teen (Cremains) to a macho police officer (Bad Movie Police) to an above and beyond, committed husband (Book of the Dead) and, last but not least, a local punk turned hero (Dead and Rotting). His wide range is sure to increase with age and, though, I am filled with a friendly envy of his enormous talent, I cannot wait to see what the future brings for this dedicated young man. Graham, stage trained as a child, is devoted to the indie film making craft and it was with my supreme pleasure that he, recently, agreed to answer an e-mail’s worth of questions for me. I am sure that once you finish reading his responses that you will agree with me that Graham is a current bright light and future innovator in the ever-burgeoning low budget genre scene.


Brian: Was the Selena experience your introduction into the performing world and was that your inspiration to pursue a career as an actor?

Jeff: I had already done tons of theater before "Selena". It's really funny how I got the part, as minuscule as it is..... I had heard about an extras casting call going on, so I decided to drop my picture off to see if I could maybe be in a crowd scene. The next thing I knew, I was doing wardrobe fittings and getting two days off of school! I was only thirteen at the time, so the whole experience of being on a $20 million dollar movie was amazing! It was interesting to see Jennifer Lopez before she became JLO. I don't think anyone had a clue as to how huge she would soon become.

It's funny -- I was the only kid in the scene who was asking the director for his opinions. I think it kind-of put him off a bit, that this little pipsqueak was asking him all these stupid questions, like what thier budget was. I was such a nerd. But it was still tons of fun, and I think I learned a lot from it.

Brian: Two of the biggest Scream Queens have different perceptions about theatre work. Brinke Stevens doesn’t like it, preferring the immediacy of film. Debbie Rochon enjoys it – though, apparently, she hasn’t done a lot lately because she can’t afford to. Which category do you fall under? Are you a “Stevens” or a “Rochon”? As a playwright and stage director, I am interested in your response.

Jeff: Well, first and foremost -- I'm a Jeff. hahaha! No seriously, I respect both of these women so much. Debbie has been very supportive of me, and Brinke is truly a great friend. She has really pushed for me in so many ways, and has been there for me through a lot of bullshit. Anyone would be stupid not to hire these two women. They bring so much professionalism to any set.

So back to the subject -- I think that theater is so very important. It takes so much discipline. It's also a wonderful way of emotional release. Film is like that too, but it's a much different process. I find that in film, with the wrong director or editor, your performance can be ruined in the wrong hands. That's why you have to take what you've learned from theater, and use it when you're working on a film. So I guess to me, they are both very important. If I had the ability to juggle both, I would definitely try my hand at both. I can honestly say, I do miss the theater a bit.

Brian:Your segment in Cremains is the most effective in that film. How intense was the process for that portion and how closely, if at all, did you relate to the character you played? In fact, you appear to still be a teenager when that was filmed.

Jeff: I had no idea what the hell I was doing. Luckily, I had a great director. I remember we had a lot of laughs, but when it came down to the scenes, there was definitely an intense vibe going on. I could easily have related to the character, but I was so inexperienced, I think I was just trying to figure out the whole low-budget b-movie thing. For the budget and equipment, however, I think Steve (the director) really pulled it together. And I WAS a teenager! I believe I was only fifteen at the time.

Brian: I think that Dead and Rotting is my favorite of your available films. How was the experience of working with Tammi Sutton as, both, a co-star and as a producer on that film? Wouldn’t that, essentially, make her one of your bosses, also?

Jeff: Yeah, Tammi was great! I loved  working with her -- and she was a great producer. I haven't kept in contact with her over these last few years, but she is a wonderful person!

Brian: I really enjoyed the first segment of Bad Movie Police. I thought it was energetic, wisecracking and fun. Do you appear in the third installment of the series? While I love Arianna Albright and Lilith Stabs, I was truly disappointed that the rest of the cast didn’t appear in the second installment. Was there any particular reason for that? It almost looks like they were filmed in different states.

Jeff: You'll have to check out the third installment. That's where I get a lot more screen time. I think there were time contraints that led to all three guys getting cut from the second episode. But I can tell you that all three episodes were shot in L.A.

Brian: I thought Hellbound: Book of the Dead was a very interesting film and that your character was very similar to the "Alice” character in the original Friday the 13th film. Both characters were artists and had many moments were they stared off, contemplatively, into space. But –off of the mood and onto the gore – were those real maggots that you had to contend with in the final scene and what did the effects artist use to create that torrential mess that poured out of the stab wound of the zombie character at the end?

Jeff: Hellbound was probably one of my favorite characters. I really appreciated that role, and I was extremely concentrated throughout the project. The character really went through the ringer, and you almost feel like "why the hell is he doing this? He loves her so much, that he's willing to lie for her". I found that intriguing about him. It's about how far will a person go for the one that they love. I definitely found a place in myself doing that role.

As far as the gore -- I wasn't around for a lot of the "insert" shots, so I couldn't tell you about that.

Brian: Do you have a favorite film role or film experience – or both?

Jeff: Two of my favorite roles are Home Sick (2005) and Hellbound (2003). I'm excited for Home Sick to finally come out, because when it does, it will kick your ass! haha Should be coming out before the end of the year. I believe they are working on the 5.0 surround right now.  That was probably the best time I've had on a flick.

Seriously, I've found that every movie is an experience. Good or bad, it's an experience.