It sometimes seems as if Linden Ashby has been in everything. He’s popped up in popular films like WYATT EARP, RESIDENT EVIL EXTINCTION, and as Johnny Cage in the MORTAL KOMBAT film. He’s worked extensively on television in soap operas, comedies, and dramas. One of his most recognizable roles to date is that of Sheriff Stilinski on the hit MTV series TEEN WOLF. Going back to his action roots, Linden has taken on the villainous lead in Nicholas Gyeney’s action/sci-fi hybrid BETA TEST. I almost blew this interview but Linden and I found a groove in our conversation and this is it.
Corey Danna: Hey Linden, how are things out in Los Angeles?
Linden Ashby: Good, man, good!
CD: I actually just flew home from L.A. two days ago.
LA: Really? What were you doing out here?
CD: I was doing a book signing at Dark Delicacies in Burbank.
LA: Very nice! What sort of book is it?
CD: I was a contributor to this massive encyclopedia of action stars.
LA: Oh wow! What’s the title?
CD: It’s called “The Good, The Tough, and The Deadly: Action Movies and Stars 1960 to Present”.
LA: I need to find this book. Did I make it into the book?
CD: We followed a set of guidelines so things didn’t get out of hand. We only included action stars who crossed over from the world of professional sports, martial arts, wrestling, etc.
LA: Oh, gotcha, right!
CD: We have a couple of your films in there. MORTAL KOMBAT is in there, we included Robin Shou.
LA: You included Robin Shou and not me? This interview isn’t going to go very well. It’s already headed downhill.
CD: I know, I really screwed this one up.
LA: I guess the chosen one got chosen (laughs).
CD: Since I already brought up MORTAL KOMBAT, it’s been twenty one years since that film was released, looking back, what are your thoughts on it and why didn’t you return for the sequel?
LA: I was doing something else when they did the sequel and they wrote a crappy part for me. I didn’t like the sequel script, I didn’t like the part they wrote for me in the sequel, and they weren’t going to honor my sequel deal. So, in a nutshell, that’s why. And I would of had to work with that asshole Robin Shou again (laughs)!
CD: There was another film of yours we covered in the book, AGAINST THE DARK with Steven Seagal.
LA: Oh my god, yeah, I was in that one. I’m not sure I should admit it but I don’t think I’ve watched that one. Was it good?
CD: Um….not really. It didn’t turn out so good, it had nothing to do with you or the acting, it just didn’t come together very well.
LA: Um, yeah, well I actually have pretty mixed feelings about Steven Seagal. I respect what he accomplished as an actor and he became this huge star, but I know too many guys that he actually hurt.
There’s just too many stunt guys I know and he hurt them. He doesn’t pull his punches, he doesn’t pull anything and just beats the shit out of stunt guys.
CD: At the signing, we had several different directors, writers, and actors like James Lew and Don “The Dragon” Wilson and these guys all talked an no one had anything nice to say about Seagal.
LA: Yeah, and I really like James Lew, such a nice guy. I don’t think Seagal and I will ever be friends at any point in time so I don’t have to worry about what I say. No, I don’t approve of what he does or how he works. It’s not cool to hurt people, it’s not real fighting, there’s just no excuse.
CD: You actually have a pretty extensive martial arts background, don’t you?
LA: I do! It’s a little all over the place and at this point it’s been a really long time since I’ve trained hard. A few years back I was training pretty hard in Krav Maga and I broke an ankle and my tibia so now my ankle is just crap anymore. So I’m pretty much done and I haven’t trained since then. Through the years I’ve trained in different styles of martial arts, I never earned a black belt in anything, though I kind of wish I had, but I would get work and I’d be in a different city. I would just find a dojo closest to my hotel to I could take classes and workout. It was actually fun because I was able to learn a broad spectrum of different disciplines. I never really did it to earn belts, I did it because I enjoyed it, the styles, and I enjoyed fighting.
CD: When did you hear about BETA TEST and what were your initial thoughts when you read the script?
LA: Nicholas Gyeney called me up and told me it was a homage to action films from the 90’s with a modern twist and he wanted to offer me this part because of MORTAL KOMBAT. All that plus the fact they were creating real video game footage for the movie and the script was really intriguing. Then I heard who else would be be in it so I said yes, it sounded fun. After I said yes, then Nick tells me there will be no stunt doubles. I was like, “Jesus, Nick! Come on, I’m not as young as I used to be!” In my fight sequence there’s a guy who is thrown trough a window, that wasn’t me. Other than that, there were no stunt doubles. That’s me with all the slow, old kicks. It was a blast for me to get back into that old world for a bit.
CD: The movie was interesting how it played out. It starts out slow with the majority of the action taking place within the video game world. Then the film takes a turn and everything just sort of comes from out of nowhere.
LA: I think they did that because Manu’s character was being controlled and there was this level of violence that would have caused problems with the ratings board. There’s things you can get away with when showing it in a video game that you cant if you were to actually film it with real people.
CD: My first experience with Nicholas Gyeney was with his film MATT’S CHANCE. I appreciate how he always goes that extra mile to make his film a little more unique than everything else out there. What were your impressions of him?
LA: The exact same impression. I think he’s a really smart guy and he has a vision that he follows through with. He’s pretty uncompromising in achieving that vision and it’s not easy to do what he’s doing. Especially when he’s doing it on the budget he’s doing it on. He takes what is essentially a B-Action film and elevates it, that’s pretty cool!
CD: Tell me a bit about your character, Kincaid, and what you did to prepare for it.
LA: I find myself with things happening in the world these days not disagreeing 100% with Kincaid’s views on gun control. I’m an actor and I despise it when actors start preaching about stuff. We really do need some form of gun control in this country. It’s not about wait periods, it’s not about cool off periods, or background checks, it’s not going to stop what’s happening. To me, it seems pretty simple: you ban any gun with a clip. I grew up with guns and I’m a gun owner, I have guns, and I go hunting. People get wrapped up in the idea of an assault weapon but it’s not about that, it’s about the clip. These guns, even a Beretta and the like, will give you between thirteen and fifteen rounds. Someone can go into a club like they did in Orlando, quickly empty the clip, pop it out, then put in a new one. It’s the ability to re-load quickly that’s allowing mass quantities of people to get killed. If someone comes out and takes away guns with magazines, you can have a revolver, a shotgun, or a rifle, but if you take away that ability to re-load quickly, it will change everything. I will defy anyone who can tell me why they need a gun with a clip. You leave those weapons to the modern military so if someone tries to go on a spree, you call in the task forces or the military and there’s no way they can match wits, it’s over. That’s some of my Kincaid wisdom and now I will step down from my soapbox.
CD: I couldn’t agree more. That answers most of my next question as to whether or not you agreed or disagreed with Kincaid’s beliefs.
LA: I believe in his beliefs, except for the crazy part (laughs).
CD: You had the opportunity show off some skills with the sword in the film, can you talk a bit about shooting your action scene?
LA: Manu and I really worked together , I was pretty confident he wouldn’t kill me and he was pretty confident I wouldn’t kill him, so we were on the same page. We just went at it and we had fun! I don’t have a huge sword background, I’m pretty good with sticks and O.K. with a staff but the moves are all really similar. I really love to work out fights because it gets you thinking that if you went there, you can then go over there and never goagainst the flow of the fight. One move will flow organically into the next move and there’s always an action and a reaction. I really enjoy putting all that together so we didn’t stab each other or chop each others heads off, so that was good.
CD: So it was a success then!
LA: Yeah, and it was hilarious too because we were filming on a rooftop in Seattle. People were peaking out there windows and you could see the buildings were just full of cell phones filming this thing. People were just wondering what the hell was going on.
CD: Can you tell me a little about working with your co-stars Manu Bennett and Larenz Tate?
LA: They were all better than Robin Shou (laughs)! Seriously though, they’re great! Manu is a tough guy, he’s like a physical specimen and he can take a licking and keep on ticking. I didn’t get a chance to really work much with Larenz but he’s a really nice guy and a smart actor. It’s nice because on these sort of films you there to do the job but, and this should be done on every film but, everyone really works to make it better. We’re all there to see if we can make something fun or really cool and I hope that we did.
CD: It’s funny, just a few days back Nicholas Gyeney and I were in a friendly argument about the current state of action films. The funny thing was, that night, I was sent the screener for BETA TEST.
LA: Nice! Nice! What exactly was the argument?
CD: He had made a comment about how there weren’t any filmmakers working in the action genre who were making films that focus on story and character. To an extent, he’s right but I had to defend guys like Isaac Florentine and especially Jesse Johnson who I think are exceptions, they are trying to mix things up as well. I recommended a couple of their films to him and he wanted to hear my thoughts on BETA TEST so it all worked out.
LA: It’s not like the 90’s anymore where there was this whole subculture of really cool action films. Albert Pyun was doing some great stuff and it was a blast! Was JOHN WICK an independent film or was it a studio film?
CD: I think it was a studio picture but it was a damn good action film!
LA: No kidding! I really loved that movie, the world they created, just everything about it.
CD: It’s one of the best action films, studio or independent, that I’ve seen in a very long time.
LA: I couldn’t agree more.
CD: I assume you shot BETA TEST on your down time from TEEN WOLF.
LA: Yep, we were on hiatus so it worked out perfectly.
CD: Now that should be coming back here in a few months, any tidbits about the season you’d like to share?
LA: I just saw the rough cut of the trailer and it’s really good, so is the season. I actually showed the trailer to Paul Anderson who directed MORTAL KOMBAT and he told me it didn’t look like a trailer for a show ready to start its sixth season. He said it looked like a trailer for a show starting its first season when it’s out to prove something to the audience. We just keep growing and getting better at what we do and I think the sixth season (which has just been announced as being the shows final season) is going to rock pretty hard.
CD: I didn’t get into the show until the second season had already premiered and I couldn’t help but to just scoff at the whole idea.
LA: Me too! I was the exact same way, trust me! When they sent me the script for TEEN WOLF, my first reaction was, “Really?”. Then I read it and I was like, “Holy shit! This is good!”. I think the title was a double edged sword because I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me and tell me they didn’t expect it to be so good. You’re a prime example, you scoffed at it, watched it, then said, “Wait a minute, this is really good!”. It’s really good storytelling, you care about the people, and I think it’s a damn good show.
CD: I’ve always appreciated the show’s mythology and how it has grown and evolved over the seasons.
LA: Yep, and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Last season with the Dread Doctors we got a little bit carried away but with this upcoming season we reel it in a bit and get back to what makes the show so great.
CD: How do you feel Sheriff Stilinski has changed over the course of five seasons?
LA: He got older! Once he learned all this crazy stuff was going on in his town, that obviously changed him. He’s more aware and open-minded but he’s still the same person. Gosh, that’s a really interesting question, I’d have to think a bit more about that one. There’s the obvious ways since he knows the supernatural world exists, and he trusts his son. He’s watched Stiles grow up from being this crazy kid to being this crazy almost adult person. I think he’s grown to be open minded, much more open minded.
CD: I’ll be honest with you, TEEN WOLF is one of my favorite shows on television right now.
LA: Yes! I’m so happy to hear that.
CD: I’m a forty one year old man and I watch it religiously. Part of the reason I had originally avoided the show was the abundance of shirtless dudes, the eye candy for the young girls. Once you get past all that you’ll realize it’s a damn good show.
LA: Yeah, it is, for sure. I agree with you 100%, we have eye candy for the young girls and the young guys. Hell, we have eye candy for everybody! No matter what flavor you like, it’s there.
CD: Do you have a preference between working in film or television?
LA: No, I think those lines that used to be pretty well defined are completely gone at this point. I think some of the best storytelling that’s happening right now is in television. It’s another golden age of television right now.
CD: There’s so many great shows that are on the air or are ending their runs.
LA: What are you watching on television that you’re liking right now?
CD: Well, TEEN WOLF of course, but I think SCREAM is a pleasant surprise. Long running shows like SUPERNATURAL, THE WALKING DEAD, and shows that recently ended like JUSTIFIED and MAD MEN.
LA: Do you watch GAME OF THRONES?
CD: Honestly, I’ve never seen a single episode. No reason for not watching it, I’ll probably just binge watch it at some point.
LA: It’s great! You’re in for such a treat, you’ll have a great time! You know what I found that’s actually pretty amazing: BLACK SAILS.
CD: Really? I’ve been curious about that show since they cast Ray Stevenson as Blackbeard.
LA: I have no interest in pirates but it’s really good. PENNY DREADFUL is another I like though I wasn’t too crazy about the final season.
CD: You’ve worked in just about every possible genre there is. Is there a particular one you prefer or is there something you haven’t had the opportunity to do that you want to?
LA: I’d really like to do another good western. It really doesn’t matter though, if it’s good, I’ll do it. God knows I’ve worked across the board. I’d like to do a good period piece, that would be fun.
CD: I think there’s been a bit of a resurgence in westerns the last couple of years. I really liked THE HATEFUL EIGHT and I loved BONE TOMAHAWK.
LA: THE HATEFUL EIGHT was amazing but I’ll watch anything Tarantino does. I didn’t see BONE TOMAHAWK, what is that?
CD: It’s basically a western where you have Kurt Russell battling cannibals.
CD: It’s an amazing movie! I highly, highly recommend it. Russell, Patrick Wilson, Sid Haig, Matthew Fox, it’s really great!
LA: Perfect, I’m on it! I think I’m the only person in Hollywood that didn’t go gaga over THE REVENANT. Did you love it?
CD: No, I enjoyed parts of it but it was way too long.
LA: It was o.k., but I thought his BIRDMAN was amazing!
CD: One of Keaton’s best performances. I want to thank you Linden for taking the time out to talk with me.
LA: Anytime, anytime! And thank you for taking the time out to talk with me.
You can see Linden Ashby in BETA TEST in select theaters NOW and when the final season of TEEN WOLF begins to air in November.