Paul Howard: A Secret Handshake with Horror's Latest Man of Shadows by Brian Kirst

If I was a ball I would want to be named after Paul Howard. Then I could be assured that I would definitely be on a roll! This young thespian has recently been pitching his talented wares in a number of thrilling productions with titles that should have every horror hound drooling! 'Tales from the Grave, Volume 2', 'Bleed for Me', 'Razor' and 'Stranger in the Doorway' are just a minor sampling of the recent product that Paul has been involved with. With the release of sexy thriller 'Cold Heart Canyon' just around the corner, the generous Howard recently took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for me. So, catch up with Paul here, and when you're through make sure to check out his vital website . If you're lucky, maybe he'll make you one of his 'Safety Friends' for life!

  Brian: Who were you first performing influences? - Luke Perry bringing home the babes on 'Beverly Hills 90210' - Vincent Price frying up the babes in 'The Abominable Dr. Phibes' - Or did you just know since you were a babe that performing was on your blood?

Paul: I think I've always known that I wanted to be in front of people performing. When I was very young, like 5 and 6 years old I used to put on "shows" for my family. I would create characters out of paper, color, cut them out and design them and then create a stage, with backgrounds and put on a show that I had "scripted". They were called the "Safety Friends" and helped teach lessons. - Which I find hilarious now, that at such a young age I realized that I could entertain but also educate. I've always had an idea of what goes into putting on a show, even before I had any real training. Many of my early influences, and some that remain today, were "performers," people who not only acted, but sang and dance. People like Michael Jackson were huge contemporary idols. I loved the fact that he put on a show and really entertained. He did things that were new and different, which I've always been attracted to. I'm interested in always growing and challenging myself. Remaining stagnate is my worst nightmare. I was also inspired by people like Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. It was only later that I became specifically interested in actors. Jack Nicholson being one of the first actors that I admired - His performance in 'Batman' still blows my mind today.

Brian: What was the most interesting thing that you discovered when you first began making films? Was there something about the process that you hadn't expected and shocked you once you found out?

Paul: I don't think I was overly shocked by much when I started doing films, because again I was well educate"behind the scenes" segments and always searched out information that was more than just publicity or gossip. Plus, I think I've always had a sense of the way things work, at least in the entertainment business. The only weird thing for me initially, being on a film set, was the fact that acting on film was so different then theatre, which is where I had been trained. It felt very weird, at first, to do things out of sequence and to literally film a moment or a line and not the entire scene. That took an adjustment since I was used to starting a character and then taking him on a journey. You do the same on film, but the difference is you may not follow a linear path. So in many ways, I believe you have to REALLY know your character and be invested so that at any moment you are prepared and can react as the character would. This is one of the challenges of film that I enjoy the most!

Brian: You've had some great character names - everything from 'Leroy' to 'Long John' to just simply 'Man'. Do you have a favorite character that you've played and/or character name?

Paul: Hmmm, a favorite character or name? It's so hard for me to pick just one. In a way it's probably like having children, you love them equally. Some may have better qualities while others may be tougher but you love them just the same.
However, I'd probably say one of my favorite roles to date would be 'The Man' from 'Stranger in the Doorway'. He was such a complex character. And while many of his actions I don't personally agree with, I understood him and felt sympathy. - Plus, as an actor the role was amazing due to the fact that he was split personality. The audience got to see what he saw, meaning that he saw different "versions" of himself (which I played) so that was challenging but fun. To act in a scene where no one else is there, but in post, YOU will be added, what actor wouldn't love seeing three "images" of him self on screen at the same time! Plus I think the film turned out great and who wouldn't love walking around playing a guy trying to stab people! Favorite name, I'd have to say Long John from 'A Secret Handshake'. What a random name! So different and fun! Definitely unique!

Brian: You got it! Now, can you tell us a little about working on 'Tales of the Grave, Volume 2: Happy Holidays'? (Whew, that was a long title. I am out of breath, just typing it.) It seems it was your first film and you got to work with the irreplaceable Stephanie Beaton!

Paul: 'Tales from the Grave, Volume 2' wasn't my first film but it was definitely one of my earlier films. It was also my first horror film. I really enjoyed working on 'Tales' it was a fun script and a really unique and a challenging character. Leroy lives with his grandparents and is autistic. While he may be "special" he knows how to use a knife. So that was a fun balance to play, to make him sympathetic to some extent, but also to be true to his condition and the script. Come to think about it... I've played a lot of characters with an affinity for knifes... hmmm... I love characters that are different or a challenge, I seem to gravitate towards them. As much as my mom would love for me to always play "the boy next door" I tend to be attracted to more complex, darker roles.

Brian: Interesting. - Do you have a favorite on set gore moment? It can be your favorite make-up or special effect from a certain project - favorite death scene etc...

Paul: Probably one of my favorite "gore moments" would be from the film 'Bleed for Me'. There is a scene where my fianc'e, who is possessed, of course, walks in, delivers a message wearing just a towel and then takes a gun to her head and pulls the trigger. The fun part for me was that most of the moment is "sold" by seeing my character's reaction, since the actual gunshot happens off screen. Not only did I get to really play a tough scene as an actor, but I got to walk around with blood and splatter for a few scenes after. Always fun to be covered in blood! Stage blood of course! Another fun scene was 'The Man I Killed', which also had a shooting scene where I get splattered with blood. The difference with this one however, was that the director wanted this scene to be more symbolic and "artistic" to help tell the story. Most the movie was gritty and realistic however, this scene became artistic. So in this sequence one shot from my gun, at some distance, at a character, gets me completely covered in blood! -My favorite death scene would be one I just shot recently for a pilot for Spike TV entitled, 'A 1000 Ways to Die'. I am being shot at, I trip and fall onto a rattlesnake who bites me in the chest. How great is that? I'm not sure if I'll be able to top that one anytime soon!

Brian: Alright! Please tell us about your character 'Long John' in 'A Secret Handshake'. I think it's got to be one of my favorite character's names of all time! "Hello, I played Long John!" I'd just love to say that to somebody. (Well, I guess I just did.)

Paul: Ah, Long John. Well there isn't a whole lot I can tell you about Long John from 'A Secret Handshake', since the plot has so many twists and surprises. However, I can tell you he is the best friend of the lead character, Jacob. He supports Jacob as he begins going through some weird "things". Well, he supports him for awhile, and then everyone starts to doubt Jacob's sanity. Long John is not exactly who he seems at first glance. He is a character with many layers to him and someone with a dark past. He is not the guy you'd want to mess with. He is a man of action, not words. He was an absolute blast to play, and 'A Secret Handshake' was an amazing movie to work on. Great script, cast, and crew! I had great times on that set.

Brian: You appeared as Jamie Navaroli in the 'Man in Shadows' episode of 'LA Forensics'. What was that experience like - and if you could truly be an undetectable man in shadows for one day what would you do?

Paul: 'LA Forensics' was a lot of fun to shoot. But at the same time a little weird, mostly because I was playing a real person who actually lived on this planet and was murdered. The things that I would normally be excited about as an actor, like the death scene, etc... were strange, knowing that this really happened to someone. It made me more serious about being true to the character and being sure I told his story correctly and did him justice. - To be a man in the shadows, undetectable, my answer is probably boring but I would love to just observe people. I've always been a "people watcher" and I love seeing how people interact, what they do when they don't know they are being watched. It's a great character study, and for me fascinating. No guards are up, so you see people how the really are, good or bad. I learn so much, and come up with tons of character ideas by just watching strangers. For me that is really what acting is, observing humanity and then imitating it. So boring as it may be, that's what I'd love spending the day doing!

Brian: Can you tell us about playing Tom in 'Razor'? It's a great succinct title and seems like it might be quite a fun production.

Paul: 'Razor' is by far one of the highest budgets I've worked on. The film had some awesome production value and was challenging but a lot of fun to work on. I play a supporting character named Tom. It's not the biggest role but it's important and has a lot of "meat" for an actor to dive into. He is a hiker with a group of his friends. At first glance he seems like a fairly normal guy. However, after they set up camp and start talking you see that Tom seems to have an odd familiarity with an old superstition about the parts that they are camping in. Something about a huge dog, with razor like teeth, that can smell impurities in a person, and seeks them out to destroy stuff.

Brian: Definitely! Lastly, do you have any words of advice (IE: Don't piss off an axe wielding guy in a Santa suit) or any other projects that you'd like to tell us about here? And thanks! It's been a hoot and holler!

Paul: Well first off I want to thank you for adding me to your site and taking the time to chat with me. I really appreciate the opportunity and support.
If anyone would like to find out more about me, or to see my work, please visit my website, - I have a couple of exciting things coming up. First up is 'Cold Heart Canyon', a "sexy thriller" that will be coming in January of 2008. This feature is being distributed by Maverick Global and is actually being officially rolled out at the The American Film Market (AFM) later this month. The movie will be one of five features that Maverick will premiere at AFM. So I'm very excited about the fact that many people will soon have the opportunity to see my work. The movie, once released, will be available in places like Blockbuster.
The other big thing I'm excited about is my film, "sauce (verb): to make agreeable or less harsh" this dark comedy short was co written and co executive produced by me, in addition to me acting in it. We are planning on officially premiering it next year. Many details are under wraps still, but it should be an amazing premiere and the film is something I am very proud of. I will keep you posted on details, and if people are interested they can check my blog for the latest updates. - Hmmm, now some words of advice.... well I guess the motto I live my life by is to always stay true to who you are. Too often we ignore our instincts and I think that most the time our instincts are right. So listen to them. They will help you get to where you want to go, and more importantly, you'll be happy and content on your journey because you are staying true to yourself and following what is right for you! You can accomplish anything if you stay focused, don't give up, and follow your instincts. Always keep the faith and you will be set!