Let’s start out with a little of your past work. You started your theatrical training at the age of 12 and have been going at it ever since. Was acting something you really wanted to do from the time you were a kid, or was it something you just sort of fell into over time?
I can’t say for sure when the acting bug first hit — I guess it was when I first saw a Bruce Lee movie and wanted to start learning martial arts. I began taking Tae-Kwon-Do lessons when I was about seven, and did that for some time. During my training I would sometimes get hit very, very hard, but my instructor knew I was tough and would say things to motivate me. It makes me laugh now to think about it, but he would tell me I was faking my pain, and then tell me I was a movie star and that I should get up and stop acting. I thought, "Hmmm, acting. Sounds good!" [laughs]
Actually, acting was something I wanted to do anyway, so I started investigating opportunities. I participated in various youth performance groups, where I learned to sing, act and dance. In high school I began thinking about college and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I realized there was probably a lot of competition in the acting arena, so I chose instead to focus on dance. I studied ballet and modern dance at SUNY-Purchase in New York. I then lived in New York for a time and seriously pursued dance, but began to get "ants in my pants" (like I often do) and decided to move to a new place and start doing something different. So I thought about film, which led me to Los Angeles, and here I am.
You’ve performed in various places in the world. Where are some of your favorite places to perform, and what sort of performances were you doing?
I performed on the island of Guam, where I was part of a Las Vegas-style show. It was great — I loved living and working on a tropical paradise. Of course, I’ve toured around the United States too, and I’ve worked in Japan doing voice-overs, which was an amazing experience. I love so many things about Japan that it’s impossible to tell you everything in just a short interview. However, for a time it was my home away from home, and I left some beautiful people back there. Not just coworkers, but good friends that welcomed me into their country and treated me like family.
You’ve done voice acting in English dubs of anime shows and even on a couple of video games. How did you get into that sort of a thing?
Just like any other audition, I ran across an ad seeking voice actors for the Sega game "Shenmue" and went for it. I was lucky, because everybody liked my voice as is, so I didn’t have to do any weird vocal contortions to get into character. However, for the first game they wanted my character Ryo to sound just a bit less mature, so using electronics they changed the pitch of my voice so I sounded like more of an 18 year old.
How challenging was it doing voice acting, and is it something you’d like to do more of in the future?
What’s nice about voice acting is that you don’t have to do anything really physical. There’s no mark that your face has to hit while delivering your line. However, "Shenmue" was a role-playing videogame, and there are myriad places to go and people to see throughout the game. So almost every day the script I had to read was inches thick. Still, it was one of the best jobs in the world, and I would love to do more. It’s definitely nice work if you can get it!
Now when it came to doing "William Winckler’s Frankenstein Vs. The Creature From Blood Cove," how did it come about that you ended up playing not only the creature, but also a werewolf and the ghost of Dr. Frankenstein?
Don’t forget the man in the bar who gets his arm ripped off by Frankenstein’s monster. I had to play that role, too! Actually, when you think about it, it’s easier from a time, money and effort perspective to have a single person play all these roles. You have to get a body cast, a head cast, plus your teeth and hands cast, so why not do that for one individual instead of multiple actors? I think that when I went into the audition William Winckler wanted different people to play the various parts. However, perhaps because of my dance, martial art and full-body costume background, he loved the movement I offered for all the characters. Which is, depending upon how you look at it, either lucky or unlucky for me, since I then ended up playing four different roles in the same film! Fans will get the chance to see all those characters when the open-region DVD goes on sale at Amazon.com on October 4th.
How long did it take to get into the make-up and costumes for each of the characters, and which one was the most tedious for you?
They all had varying degrees of difficulty, both in terms of the time it took to get into costume and what my limitations were once I was in character. The ghost of Dr. Frankenstein was certainly the easiest and fastest because his face was simply a mask — the face slipped on just like a Halloween mask. However, in some regards the ghost of Dr. Frankenstein may also have been the most tedious character due to the fact that I couldn’t see or breathe. The mask was actually made so well it fit like a second skin. Over time latex tends to shrink, and after awhile it felt like my head was caught in a vice.
On the other hand, the Creature was relatively easy: every part of the suit simply slipped on, though it was also tight and restricted my movement. I wanted to do more stunts as the Creature, but I couldn’t risk destroying the body of the suit, which was comparatively fragile.
The werewolf actually took the most time, because I had prosthetics that were applied to my face in a manner similar to Frankenstein’s monster (who was played by a different actor, Lawrence Furbish). Unfortunately, in that suit the freedom of movement I had was great. Of course, as luck would have it, we only used that suit for one day of the shoot! [laughs]
A little bird told me to ask you about the casting for the Creature suit. Apparently it took hours and you had a little difficulty at the end. What happened with that?
That process was truly an experience! For technical reasons, the mold for my body had to be created with me in a standing position. So the special-effects crew propped my arms up on wooden poles, put me in a one-piece spandex suit and covered my entire body with Vasoline before they started applying plaster all over me. Well, this took place in a garage, which had a bare concrete floor. I wasn’t wearing shoes and the weather outside was fairly chilly. I also quickly realized that the plaster was mixed in cold water instead of hot, which apparently caused the entire process to take much longer than it should have. I was warned not to lock my knees, and I did remember to do that, but after three-and-a-half hours of standing in very cold conditions I began to feel, well, not right. I thought I was going to get sick, but the plaster cast needed to get done, so someone on the crew got a trash can and held it up to my mouth as they continued to work.
Ultimately, I let the crew know I needed to get out fast, so they began to pry the front half off of me. When they got it off, and I tried to stand on my own, my legs simply didn’t work. Scott Randall, one of the crewmembers who has since become a good friend, had to lift my Vasoline-coated body, because I was unable to stand. Then, when I was placed in a chair, I began to shake uncontrollably. It didn’t take too long for everyone to realize that I was suffering from a mild case of hypothermia. Fortunately, we got that part of the costume done that night, and when I came back two days later to complete the process, the special-effects team got the plaster mix right and everything went smoothly.
Did you have any problems with the Creature suit in the underwater scenes?
One of the reasons I got cast as the Creature from Blood Cove is that I already have a set of gills that help me to breath both on-land and underwater. [laughs] Seriously, you might think there would be problems, but there was a layer of foam latex underneath the skin that allowed me to swim with ease. The trick was trying to stay submerged — that was the hard part! Before we began each shot I had to be forced under the surface to allow the water to saturate the suit, so I would be neutrally buoyant. Even then it was an effort to keep from floating to the surface.
How do you feel your performances came out in the end? Are you happy with your work in the film? Was there anything you think you could have done differently or better?
In my view everything came out fine, though one could always do better, don’t you think?
Do you tend to be overly critical of your own work?
As you can probably tell from my previous answer, I absolutely am overly critical, and I recognize that’s a fault of mine. I know in my eyes I’ll never ever be good enough, but I’ve learned over time to let it be. What’s done is done. I do the best I can at any given time, but when I look back and think I "shoulda, coulda" it makes me better and more prepared for the next time I’m in a similar situation.
You do all your own stunts, and I’m assuming that the fact that you’re a martial-arts enthusiast with two black belts has a lot to do with that. How long have you been doing martial arts, and what types of martial arts have you studied?
I have been studying martial arts off and on since I was seven, and so far have studied Tae-Kwon-Do, Karate, Kung-Fu, Capoeira, Jujitsu, Judo and a bit of Aikido. I’ve also become pretty proficient on various weapons. I’m currently studying Kuk Sool Won, which is a Korean form of martial arts that’s a fantastic blend of different martial styles. This work not only helps me in moviemaking, stunts and so forth, but in all aspects of life. It’s certainly helped me avoid serious injury more than once, and also enables me to be mentally prepared for whatever challenges come my way. I’m able to focus and accomplish tasks without the mental burden of doubt.
Have you ever been injured doing your own stunts, or in doing martial arts in general for that matter?
The worst injury I received was in gymnastics practice. I was doing a simple backhand spring pass when my arms collapsed beneath me and I landed on my head. I heard every vertebrae crack, and I thought I’d broken my neck. Fortunately, nothing terrible happened, but I subsequently re-injured it during a full-body costume show and have been dealing with some pain ever since. I’ve actually been pretty lucky — over the years I’ve had so many injuries you’d think I’d be dead, but here I am, still kicking!
At the complete other end of the spectrum, you recently toured with Sesame Street playing the Cookie Monster. What was that experience like?
The best part of that job was touring the East Coast of the United States. I have wanderlust, and at the time this totally satisfied my craving for travel. I loved getting on the bus and watching the beautiful countryside fly by, and I loved being in another city every week. I enjoyed checking off each city and state on my mental list, and thinking back I find I have a story for every single location. For example, I recently found myself reminiscing about New Orleans. It’s a city filled with magic and mystery, where you can walk down the street with a book or a guide and see buildings that held vampire crime secrets for generations, or explore the scenes of unsolved supernatural murder mysteries. It’s a city that seemed perfectly designed for such stories — I could go on and on about the food, music, voodoo, architecture, culture and so on. I can’t wait for this national treasure to be rebuilt. Still, this was just one stop in a months-long tour, and all in all I gained a real appreciation of what we have here in the United States.
Currently you’re the host of the Warner Bros. Children’s Show at Six Flags, Magic Mountain. Tell us about that show and what you’re doing in it.
I’m a host at the WB Kids Club show, which is a production that includes lots of games showcasing everyone’s favorite Looney Toons characters. We have a lot of fun with it, and everyone gets wet. It sure beats a regular nine-to-five job, plus I get to work with a lot of great people.
What do you have planned for the future career-wise?
I’ve found it’s best not to have a plan — if you create a plan, there’s the possibility that it won’t work out, which denotes failure. I just go with the flow, which allows many more possibilities to be open. I do so much because I have never turned down an opportunity to broaden my personal spectrum, which gives me a nice arsenal of talents to offer. You need a stunt man? That’s me. You need a dancer? That’s me, too. Or you need a crazy, man-eating Creature from Blood Cove? I’m your man. Whatever comes my way is my way.
What’s the best advice you could give anyone who’s looking to become an actor?
Sacrifice to the point of insanity! [laughs] Actually, I’ve never heard a satisfactory answer to that question from anyone, including actors, directors and philosophers. However, I will say that you really must do anything and everything — from working at a studio to producing your own projects, writing your own scripts and performing whenever you get the chance. You also need help and support from friends and family along the way, because without that support the task can quickly become overwhelming and seemingly impossible. It’s also important to recognize where your talents lie — don’t struggle attempting to become something you could never be. Keep working towards your goal, never stop striving and you’ll make it.