Last week saw the release of the action movie A Good Man starring Steven Seagal and Victor Webster. We caught up with him at his home in LA and discussed the film, Continuum, Steven Seagal and the trouble with long hair.
Your role in A Good Man gave you an opportunity to showcase some of your own martial arts skills, what sort of specific training did you go through for this film?
I spent a lot of time with Ron Balicki who is an incredible martial artist who comes from the Inosanto lineage. (Dan Inosanto is a Filipino-American martial arts instructor from California who is best known as a student of Bruce Lee and renowned authority on Jeet Kune Do and Filipino martial arts including Eskrima and Silat.) He travels around the world doing seminars and truly is a great example of what it means to be a modern day martial artist and not just a fighter. We spent countless hours in my backyard just coming up with choreography and our goal in this movie was to never do a technique twice. If I threw a knee to someone’s stomach, I would never throw another knee to the stomach in the entire movie. Also, we wanted to use available props, so in almost every single fight scene, I use a prop – something close to me – I wanted it to be very real, very gritty, and very dirty. We wanted Sasha to take a lot of punishment but still come out on top.
At the end of the movie you have an epic fight with one of Chen’s henchman. You pull off this crazy jump with a flying knee – can you talk us through how that scene was put together?
(laughs) Yeah! That was filmed in an old abandoned concrete building and I was about six feet up and had to jump ten feet out and land on a stunt guy’s chest. We wanted a couple of ‘wow factors’ in the movie, but still being realistic and in the realm of plausibility. We didn’t want anything to seem like it was wire work or ‘movie action’ that wouldn’t really work on the street. For this scene we probably did about five sessions of two hours each – in my backyard – and when in Romania another six or seven two hour sessions in either the hotel or on location. It was great because Ron and I work really well together. He had ideas, I had ideas and he was very open to what I wanted to bring into the scene.
In addition to stunts he also appears in the film as a gangster and has his own fight scene with Steven Seagal…
Yes, he is the bad-ass looking guy with the scar on his face. He is one of the best knife and stick fighters in the world and he really gets to show off some of his skills in this.
This is your first time working with Steven Seagal, did he offer you any martial arts tips?
Ummmmm…no. (laughs) When we would talk it was usually about guitar. He is an incredible player. I remember one time during the shooting it was a particularly warm day in Romania – we were on a lunch break and I was sitting in my trailer with the door open and I heard this blues guitar. I thought maybe someone had cranked up on the radio or it was coming from a local bar or something. So I walked out and followed the sound to Steven’s trailer where his door was open. I popped my head in and it was him playing – he just smiled and nodded his head and damn…. that man can play the guitar. So a lot of the conversations were about actually about blues music.
Sasha is clearly a good man who is forced to do bad things in order to protect his family, which adds a bit more complexity than your average action movie character, is that what appealed to you about this role?
Exactly. When I sat down with Binh and Keoni (executive producer Binh Dang and executive producer/director Keoni Waxman) and we talked about the role, I didn’t want it to be black and white. I wanted it to be a good guy – like you said – who is forced to do something he wouldn’t normally do to protect his family.
We could see he had some rapport with the female cop who only sees him as a gangster. The way you played it – it was obvious Sasha was not happy about her perceiving him in that manner. Much like your character of Carlos in Continuum, both are being thrust into positions of having to do and say things that are total opposites of what they would normally do. Both conflicted characters but on different sides of the law. You seem to really relish those type of roles…
Yeah, I don’t like black and white characters or predictability. I like to play roles where there is a conflict or inner struggle because I feel they are much more fun to play and more interesting for the audience to watch. It adds layers and makes the roles a lot more colorful.
Any talk of a sequel?
I am not sure but I like the idea. Maybe Sasha brings his family to America but his troubles follow him home. If we do it though, the long hair will have to go. It was such a pain in the ass! I am never doing a role with long hair like that again. I would start a fight scene dry and by the end my hair was soaking wet. It was dripping on me and getting in my face. Just so annoying (laughs) – at least with The Scorpion King my hair was tied back into braids – so no more long haired fight scenes for me.
Between Sasha and Carlos, which character would you say has more of your own personality?
I would say Carlos. It has been three years now doing Continuum and it has been a great opportunity for me to flesh out the character and they have been writing Carlos really really well so I think I identify with him most, so maybe that’s why I feel that way. There is a lot of Sasha’s character in me as well but I think any character that I play; inevitably I am going to draw on my own experiences and discussing the direction with the director and producers, I think a lot of Victor is going to end up as part of the character also.
There has been a great outpouring of fan support on social media with the #RenewContinnuum hashtag campaign. Any news to report of the show’s status?
Nothing yet but I am hopeful. I know they have some great ideas for seasons four and five, and I hope the fans get to experience that and I would love to play out those stories. I do want to say thank you to everybody who has taken the time on social media to mention the show and get the word out to help keep the show on the air. Your support means a lot and I can’t thank you enough.
Both of the action shows you have been on (Continuum and Mutant X), have had a large and dedicated fan following. As an actor that must be very satisfying knowing that your work is really having that type of effect on people.
Absolutely. One of the differences was, back in Mutant X there wasn’t Twitter or Facebook and social media wasn’t like it is today, so you didn’t know. We would go to conventions or talk to people on the street and you would get an idea but now there is such a direct connection with fans of the show, you see exactly what they think and feel immediately after they watch an episode. One thing with Continuum, there was always someone from the cast, if not multiple members, live tweeting during an episode and it was really embraced by us. Everyone is so grateful to be on such a quality show and felt blessed to be in that position to give back in any way we could.
Earlier you mentioned The Scorpion King and coming up we have The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power where you reprise the role of Mathayus – what can you tell us about that?
The last Scorpion King film took a bit of a detour from the original and The Mummy franchise which were action/comedy movies. It was more of a full on action movie but with this one they went back to the original formula so it’s a family movie, it has a lot of comedy in it and the action is incredible. We brought in Grant Powell and his team from Cape Town – he worked on Strike Back, Safe House, Dredd and Black Sails just to name a few, so he has some great projects under his belt and he really brought such a great sense of humor – in the fights we injected comedy – everybody was incredible. This will be a completely different movie; the action is going to be incredible and it’s a very creative and fun ride.
What else do you have in the pipeline that fans can look forward to?
I have a yet-to-be-named sci/fi disaster movie where I play a mechanic in a small town when a meteor hits and everything starts freezing so we have to evacuate the town. It is a lot of fun and should be out in the fall. I just finished a show A Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce with Lisa Edelstein from House. I have trips coming up to Italy and Australia for fan conventions which are always fun, and just spending a lot of time in the gym – a lot of martial arts – a lot of jiu jitsu. Just staying in shape so I am ready for the next project!