|So Lee, can we start with a visual? Please
describe for the visually oriented racks and
razors readers the room where you are answering
Picture the nicest
hotel room youve ever seen. Well, this
isnt it. Im traveling back to Los
Angeles from the Texas Frightmare Weekend, where
we had a screening with a Q & A. Ive
been staying in those hotels where the TV is
bolted to the furniture. They usually have a few
dumb pictures or a mirror on the wall and a bed
that has seen better days. I drove because I just
bought a new Hummer H3 and wanted to break it in.
First off I want to talk
about the twisted flick KatieBird
about the birth of a serial killer. You play
KatieBirds dad Merl Daddy
Wilkins who is also a killer and shows her the
ropes so to speak. How did the role come about?
I was shooting a non-horror
film (can you believe they still make them?),
playing a very spineless husband, and I got a
call about an audition. I couldnt go, so I
sent my reel and never heard anything (typical
Hollywood). About a month later, I got a call
from Justin Paul Ritter, the director. He wanted
to know if I was still interested. I was, so he
sent the script, and I read it straight through.
I loved it. It was very dark, with a kind of
poetic language describing very twisted events. I
later found out that another actor was going to
play the role but dropped out. I ended up only
having four days to prepare 40-plus pages of
dialog, but I still feel I got lucky on this one.
What was the main thing
you wanted to convey to the film audience about
Merl is a third-generation
serial killer whos very conflicted. On one
hand, he wants to be a good father and pass along
to KatieBird the knowledge his father and
grandfather gave him that a truthful
life can be found through death. On the other
hand, Merl lives in fear of making a mistake.
Hes so worried that he will not live up to
his family name that he literally questions every
word he says. Thats what gives Merl a
rather slow speech pattern, and why he
doesnt feel comfortable making eye contact,
unless, of course, hes torturing someone.
Did you base your
characterization of Merl on any real flesh and
No, I didnt. I
really didnt have the time. I wonder how
that might have changed things. For me, I always
start with the script. Merl was a very well
developed character on the page. I just took that
and added my own dark spin to it. I have a very
dark side that I get from my dad and my auto
racing days. I used to be so intense that I would
walk around the race paddock in a good mood and
people would think I was pissed off. Thankfully,
through acting, Ive now learned how to use
that. You might say I do A-hole very well...and
many people have said so.
It also seemed you treated
Merls hunger for killing as a sort of
addiction. Do you think that compulsivity is
inherent in the killer nature?
Im not sure it is,
but its a great trait to give a character
from an actors point of view. Its
something that is very playable. I honestly feel
that everyone, good or evil, has reasons why they
do what they do. They all justify their actions
(in their mind) in some way. And yes, I did give
Merl a deep hole in his soul (like an addict)
that hes desperately trying to fill. But no
matter how hard he tries, he cant find the
answer. Merl even tries to find his own truth
through the actions of his daughter. But when she
starts abusing her body and combining sex and
killing, Merl learns the painful lesson of what a
lie he has been living.
I was amazed when I
discovered this movie was shot in something like
10 days!!! What were the most difficult and most
gratifying aspects of being on such a tight
Shooting on a tight
schedule can sometimes work in your favor. As an
actor, you get up very early in the a.m. and come
home very late in the p.m. By the time you take a
shower, its time for bed. Then you do it
all again the next day. You never get the time to
decompress. The character is always with you. And
sometimes, something strange starts to happen. A
building of the character takes place. You find
more levels, and the role deepens. The
disadvantage is that there is very little time to
experiment on set. And if its not
organized, its a living nightmare. So, the
secret to shooting on a tight schedule is to get
your stuff done first. Its usually the
scenes at the end of the shoot that get rushed.
What was your outstanding
memory of filming that movie?
There was one day about
halfway though when I could feel something
special start to happen. I remember talking with
Jun Hee Lee (who plays Kevin Cool), and we both
could feel it. Its very hard to explain,
but I guess I was finally able to see what the
film could become and what Justins true
You also played the doctor
in Shadows of the Dead
which was in the first Fangoria Blood Drive DVD.
How did that role come about?
Trust me, that one was a
surprise. I had worked with the director, Joel
Robertson, on another film. We decided to take
one of his scripts and shoot some footage to get
investors interested in a new feature. That
footage would later (five years later) be
re-edited into Shadows of the Dead.
We never found the investors, but Joel made a
great short that got Fangorias attention.
The critics loved it, even though I dont
think it was my best work. But I did end up
making some very nice connections from it.
Do you have any upcoming
or current projects you would like to brag, plug,
or inform the www.racksandrazors.com readers
Since Fangoria Magazine has
been so supportive, I want to mention that
KatieBird *certifiable crazy person
will be at their Weekend of Horrors in Chicago on
March 4 & 5. Well have a screening and
I think a short Q & A. On the acting side, I
have two films in post-production that should be
out this summer, along with a documentary.
Lately, Ive been contacted by a bunch of
horror directors about their upcoming films. Some
sound very cool, like Trippin
by Devi Snively. But the film Im starting
to prepare for is a thriller called The Red
Machine thats set in 1935.
I want to hear prior to
movies you were a professional car racer and
earned over 2.2 million in that career. How did
acting come about as your next career choice?
I had always acted from
an early age, but sports were my first love. I
played baseball, football and raced cars here in
the U.S. and in Italy and England. I took racing
as far as I could go, then I ended up on ESPN as
a commentator. The travel started to get old and
after 9-11, I just stopped. Thankfully, the
acting was running on all eight cylinders (a
little racing humor). So I just moved from one
phase onto the next. Hopefully this will be my
last, as Im running out of how many lives I
can live.But one day, Ill get back to
racing and do a kick-butt film, I can promise you
Are there any similarities
between formula car racing and filmmaking?
Now this is a great
question. Theyre so much alike. When you
test a car, its just like being on a movie
set. The crew chief is the director. The
mechanics are the film crew. Each one has their
own job that depends on all the other jobs. And
of course, the driver is the actor. For him,
theres a lot of sitting around waiting for
those few precious seconds when he actually gets
to perform. Both jobs are also filled with many
low lows and high highs. And there are the
women...but thats a whole different story.
You've also started
hitting some horror conventions --- I notice
Texas Frightmare Weekend --- what have you
noticed about horror fans that sort of sets them
apart from the movie fans you'd had prior to
Horror fans are the best.
Theyre a very tight group who are
passionate about what they like. Theyll
support good films...theyll support bad
films. But what I like best is that theyll
tell you to your face what they think. The Texas
con was special. The crowd was large and ready
for some horror. Many came up after the screening
and thanked me for the film (even though I only
acted in it). When Katie reaches the right
audience, they get this glazed look in their
eyes. Ive never seen anything like it.
Its a very cool experience. In fact,
its the best experience Ive ever had
with a film.
We're pulling the car into
the Lee Perkins Drive-In, picking our spot on the
gravel lot, and hooking the speaker in the
window...what three horror flicks are going to be
playing on the triple bill and what goodies are
they going to be serving up at the concession
The first movie playing is
The Exorcist. The second is The
Exorcist. And the late late show
you guessed it, The Exorcist.
The reason is simple: it still scares the hell
out of me. Im not sure if its because
I believe in God and the Devil, or what, but it
just strikes a chord in me. So to get through it,
were featuring free alcohol (even for the
kids, who shouldnt be here). I like beer
and will need a lot of it. Maybe some pretzels,
the big soft gooey ones. That might help me get
through three screenings.
What makes you go psycho
in real life?
People who dont
respect others. I just had an incident with a
neighbor who was being very noisy and
disrespectful to the older lady living below him.
He had two three-year-olds visiting and they were
running around (for hours) starting at 7 a.m. On
the day we had words, it started at 6:30. I went
up with the maintenance man to see what could be
done. When the neighbor didnt apologize and
said, Theyre kids, what can you
do, I went mental. I guess I scared him,
because later I heard he called the police. They
never showed; so the moral is...dont screw
with Merls sleep. Hes not an
early-morning type of guy.
What frightens you in real
Probably the thought of
losing my parents. Theyve always been there
for me and I really dont know what
Ill do without them. Its the total
opposite of what KatieBird had. I guess you can
say Im a very blessed guy.