The Natural Aristocrat spoke with Hexany Audio’s Lead Composer Matthew Carl Earl about his inspirations for Star Trek: Dark Remnant’s musical score.
Matthew Carl Earl may have started off only a Star Wars fan growing up but Michael Giacchino’s 2009 film score for Star Trek stole his heart. After being approached to compose the soundtrack for VRstudios and Dave & Buster’s featured VR attraction, Star Trek: Dark Remnant, he was soaring on cloud 9. Earl would fully immerse himself in anything and everything Star Trek, listening to piece after piece in his car… Imagining every corner of its universe.
Earl told The Natural Aristocrat about the differences of composing for a virtual reality-centric project, using Pro Tools to make the magic happen, and how it’s all in the details. Fun fact for those curious what the ‘Hexany’ in ‘Hexany Audio‘ means: “A Hexany is a contemporary six-note geometric musical structure.”
Interview with Matthew Carl Earl on Star Trek: Dark Remnant
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: How much creative freedom were you given with the Star Trek license for the score?
Matthew Carl Earl: Yeah, I had a lot of freedom, for sure! When we first set off on the project we went through a lot of the Star Trek music and were looking at what we wanted to bring into the game that was just super iconic. Obviously, the Michael Giacchino soundtrack for the 2009 film, was like ‘Duh, we have to use that!’ I mean it’s just so iconic!
We obtained the license for much of that [Giacchino] soundtrack, and I wrote and cut the music within that style while employing those themes. But other than that, it was really about staying within the universe and staying true to the whole Star Trek kind of sound. I’d say I was pretty free.
What’s it like to compose for a VR project? Do you ever wear the headsets yourself while recording to test out the experience so-to-speak?
At our studio, Hexany Audio, we do a good amount of VR games and I’ll always play through the game before I start writing music. Just to get a feel for things and look around, see what the game really feels like. We get a video capture while I’m playing and then I’ll bring that back to my desk when I’m writing. So I’ll watch the video capture and write through it, almost like scoring a film. But even just going through and playing the game to get the experience does help tremendously.
As for the actual music, for me I feel VR music has to be more atmospheric and a little bit more mood setting. Instead of in your face wall to wall music. Definitely more immersive than just music on top of something, you know? So I do tend write VR music a little bit more underscored, and a little bit more ambient.
Do you need to have a lot more leniency in sound effects then because of the potential for jump scares?
Yes, I guess but sometimes those jump scares are the desired effect! (laughs) The sound guys also do take the fact that it’s VR heavily into account. For example, not in this one but in other games, you could pick up an object and hold it right up to your ear.
Let’s say you grab a torch and put it right beside your head, you want to hear the fire going crazy! But in a normal game you couldn’t really do that. So there’s a couple of extra things you take into account especially with the sound, but also with the music.
Were you inspired at all by ambient-focused material like the original Thief games by Eric Brosius? I notice you mentioned torch sounds.
Yeah, yeah definitely. But for this project not as much because this was a weird middle ground where yes, it’s VR so you want to make it immersive but it’s still Star Trek. The music in Star Trek is bombastic and huge, ridiculously orchestrated. So I was trying to find a middle ground where I was using only the orchestra but creating a lot of textural music.
How do you feel fans have reacted overall to the audio work? Do you ever frequent Dave & Busters just to see how people react?
Yeah, yeah! We’ve done a couple of projects with VRstudios and Dave & Busters that were similar to this project. It was really fun to actually go there and see people freaking out about it. It’s often people’s first experience with VR. And it’s also VR plus, motion based, and has a ride-based features like the wind blowing in your face and stuff. It’s pretty cool to see people’s reactions!
Were you a Star Trek fan growing up?
You know I actually wasn’t I was a big Star Wars fan! (laughs) But I knew the new Star Trek films and I was pretty familiar with the music already. When I heard we were going to be working on this project I was so excited I binged on everything for two weeks. I listened to Star Trek in the car so I could get fully immersed in the Star Trek mindset and the music would come more naturally.
Do you feel it can overly influence you creatively to hear other people’s work on such a level? Or that with a license-based game people have certain audio expectations you have to meet?
You know it depends. In other games if I’m trying to write something that’s a totally original style, yes, I’d definitely worry about listening too much to one composer or style. As I wouldn’t want it to sound only like one other thing. But since this is Star Trek, and you’re trying to sell that experience, I totally want it to be within the sound that’s already established by Michael Giacchino. We did have the license for a lot of the themes, so I obviously employed those.
How big was your team? I know you’re the lead composer but I know there is a lot of other composers at Hexany Audio so I was curious, do you work primarily alone with just slight assistance here and there?
At our studio we have fifteen people and that consists of mostly sound designers and production people who help manage different things. Then we have our music team. For this project, on the music side of it, I was the sole composer until the very end.
Then another composer here, Obadiah Brown-Beach, I had him help me with the multiple branched endings. We went back and forth working on each other’s themes to make sure it’s seamless and reach deadlines. The fact we all work in the same building makes collaboration really easy.
What software do you use to record on digitally? Cubase?
Pro Tools actually.
Is that what you got used to when you were younger? Or is it a professional standard on the gaming audio side these days like Unreal Engine and Unity is on the visual side?
No, no Pro Tools was what I first started using when I was like 13 or 14, and I’ve used it ever since! I know it really well and it fits my needs, so I wouldn’t want to switch to something new. I’m totally 100% fine with it! (laughs)
We actually use Pro Tools almost exclusively in our studio because sometimes clients will actually ask for Pro Tools sessions. Especially on the sound side, not so much on the music side.
Using Pro Tools keeps everyone really synchronized, it’s still the industry standard for recording, sound engineering and stuff like that. For music, it’s not used as much but it has no drawback. So a developer wouldn’t really request to use different software in place of it.
Are you possibly going to work on a Star Trek sequel to this VR attraction?
I have no idea but more Star Trek please! This was honestly some of the most fun I’ve ever had writing music. I would 100% love to be working on more Star Trek stuff!
Find Matthew Carl Earl and Star Trek: Dark Remnant on social media
Read more about Hexany Audio and and VRstudios at their respective official websites. Pro Tools is available for purchase on their official store page and Amazon for those looking to begin their own scoring journeys.
Carole Brana talks Sci-Fi film ‘On/Off’ and using vulnerability as inspiration
The Natural Aristocrat spoke with ‘On/Off’ star Carole Brana (Meredith) about vulnerability as a source of acting inspiration in the silent void of space.
At the heart of every human fear is the beating truth of real possibility, just as actress Carole Brana’s Meredith discovers in On/Off. The Sci-Fi French short took film festivals by storm, amassing over 16 awards, and recently seeing its first public debut through DUST. The film’s easy attraction of maximum calamity and catastrophe in the helplessness of space, the new wild west, speaking to genre fans.
Then a timely film twist left them wondering about the future of technological depravity. How advanced civilization is doomed to search for a connection to the humanity they intentionally left behind. Meredith’s imprint of an aged voice message throughout the picture embodying the concept. A subconscious human need to cling desperately to an idea without even remembering its true origins.
Actress Carole Brana told The Natural Aristocrat it was through the power of vulnerability that she found inspiration to play the title’s lead, Meredith… Who watches her very spacecraft disintegrate before her eyes.
Interview with Carole Brana on Sci-Fi film short, On/Off
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: As Meredith, you portray the ultimate vulnerability of space. Despite being fully shielded in your exterior, even minor objects flying toward you like a screw could spell the end. What do you look to as an actress to connect with this concept? Do you utilize sense memory and emotionally recall a particular point in your life where you felt similar vulnerability?
As an actress I need to use vulnerability as a source of inspiration. Vulnerability is often considered in real life as a weakness unfortunately. To play Meredith, I needed to mute the daily mental brainstorming and let things emerge organically. This is not about memory or recall, but about finding the limits inside myself, the failure to catch the light.
In the film, Meredith asks for the music to be turned off despite her plunging serotonin levels. Was she truly irritated by the music or did she want ‘the headache’ to continue in order to access the voice message memory in your opinion?
Excellent question! This moment is interesting because you have the choice. You, and only you can decide Meredith’s mood! So, I won’t tell you what I think and but I’ll let you choose which decision speaks more to you.
What went through your mind when you visualized the spacecraft disintegrating? The last refuge evaporating before your eyes…
This scene was very intense, I remember the vertigo of the soul. Something broke forever inside Meredith and I needed to make a step and jump in it.
What did it mean to you to be nominated for a Maverick Movie Award for On/Off for Best Actress in a film short in 2014?
I was very proud and very honoured to be nominated for the Best Actress Maverick Movie Award. It means a lot to me. I’m passionate about my job and to receive a nomination is a gift. I’m very proud that On/Off won the VFX Maverick Movie Award on 2014…
I’m very grateful to (Director) Thierry Lorenzi who gave me this opportunity, and very grateful to the technical crew. I hope to see this movie have a long life.
Should it someday be possible to live on like Meredith as an android of sorts, would you just choose that for yourself?
I don’t know. Today I believe that life is a continuum of states and we haven’t explored all of the possibilities. But being an android is not really one of my goals!
Were you inspired by the replicas of Blade Runner 2049, HBO’s Westworld, Ex Machina, A.I. Artificial Intelligence or any other Sci-Fi work for the revelation that you’re a robot?
I’ve been interested in the Sci-Fi world since a very young age, so I’ve been watching a lot of movies, I’ve read a lot of books and I think I’m somewhat created by this culture. To play Meredith I decided to act like a computer. I used my body as machine with uploads, updates, bugs etc… So I proposed a machine reload more than a conscious revelation.
[End Spoiler Warning]
On/Off Film Premiere Trailer and Synopsis
Obsessed by a mysterious voice message, astronaut Meredith will face its paradoxical condition in order to stay connected to her humanity.
* For English Speakers: The film has English subtitles with French being the spoken language of the picture.
Visit the official DUST website to watch On/Off (no subscription needed) and other intriguing, curated, independent Sci-Fi films. Take a tour of the official On/Off website for more information about the short film by Director Thierry Lorenzi.
Pollyanna McIntosh talks Darlin’ at NYC premiere (Exclusive Interview)
The Natural Aristocrat caught up with Darlin’ visionary and Walking Dead star Pollyanna McIntosh before the NYC premiere of the film at What the Fest!?
Pollyanna McIntosh’s picture Darlin’ debuted in the big apple last Thursday (3/21) to a warm reception at the What the Fest!? film festival. Screening in New York’s renowned IFC Center, mere blocks from NYU and beautiful Washington Square park, the film was comfortably home at the art house cinema. The eloquent McIntosh would later do a Q and A with fans post-credit roll, with more than a few Walking Dead devotees of Jadis/Anne in attendance!
The Natural Aristocrat had an opportunity to speak with McIntosh who starred in, directed, and wrote the picture just a few hours before the film’s smashing NYC premiere on the silver screen.
Interview with Pollyanna McIntosh on Darlin’ :
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: You wrote the script for Darlin’ and following in Jack Ketchum’s [Dallas Mayr] work, who sadly passed away last year. I was curious what that was like?
Pollyanna McIntosh: It’s a good question because I first started coming to the character of ‘The Woman’ by doing Offspring which was based on novel of his. The Director / Producer of that film just sent me the book and said “Read this” which is very smart. It wasn’t with an offer, he just said, “Read this,” and I was like, “Do I get to play that woman? She’s amazing!” So I love Dallas’ writing and him as a person. I have so much respect and love for the man. Lucky (McKee) and Ketchum and co-wrote The Woman together. And of course Lucky directed it, that was the second one, and then now with Darlin’.
I was very conscious that it was gonna be the third in a series inspired by Ketchum. In many cases, written by him. But I was also aware that I really wanted to make it my own and make it really personal. And as a Writer / Director, that it had to come from my experience somewhat. That I had to be really grounded in it as my own story. So I spoke to him about what I was going to write and the idea that I had, and actually Dallas wasn’t so keen on writing about religion. It was something he didn’t want to do in his work. But I absolutely got his blessing to explore that part of the world in this story.
We had him visit on set that December that we were shooting in. So only a month before he passed away he came to visit us from New York, we weren’t sure if he’s going to be able to with his health. It was so great to see a great big smile on his face and grinning away! He absolutely loved the experience of being there and seeing it come together. So I feel like we’ve honored him with this film and it’s dedicated to him. But yeah… It’s no small thing to follow The Woman!
That’s one of the reasons I made it very much my own like I say but also there’s some homages to Lucky’s work as well. To that Ketchum / Lucky world that they made in The Woman, which I won’t say anything about because that will be for fans to find out.
The strongest line of the movie for me was when the Bishop [Bryan Batt] said, “There’s no after without a before.” Especially, the whole scene where they tarnish Darlin’ [Lauryn Canny] and dirty her up for the camera. How often do you feel that happens in the entertainment industry in general?
In the sense of trying to make somebody appear one way for their own benefit? It happens all the time. I think it’s unfortunately, a very human thing we do. Where we try and manipulate others to be what we want them to be, often for nefarious gain. That goes along really well with the larger theme of the film, which is the idea of the church taking over a woman’s body. Which is unfortunately a very real horror in our world today still.
As far as shooting that scene, I could feel that it was really working! I mean Lauryn Canny’s performance is so incredible and she really went there in that cage. She absolutely went for it! It’s funny that you bring up the line, “There can’t be an after without a before, just ask Jesus!” (laughs) Bryan Batt who plays the Bishop is one of the most fun people to work with. He would often say, “Just ask Jesus!” as kind of a one liner. (laughs)
It was also a line that was actually questioned whether it should be cut from the film… I fought very hard to keep that line in because it is ironic and it is slightly cheesy. I was well aware of that. But the bishop’s denial of who he really is, also in his sort of dad-joke references, and his absolute assurance of himself, makes it a ridiculous line to say under the circumstances. I also thought it made sense with his belief that he was doing a good thing, him trying to mask his work in that.
That was important to him to be in that denial. And it’s often an abuser’s perspective that they have to find reasons that what they’re doing is right, in order for them to live with it. Which sounds ironic. But of course, it’s not a black and white being a bad guy.
“It’s not a black and white thing being a bad guy.”
For your Walking Dead fans, you have three cast members (Cooper Andrews, Sabrina Gennarino, and Thomas Francis Murphy) in the film, and especially I felt Cooper Andrews had a major role. You have great chemistry with him on-screen! I loved the scene in the car, it was quite funny. ‘The Woman’ was looking almost like a walker.
Oh thank you! Yeah, I know it’s funny that there was an image that went out online recently of me as ‘The Woman’ and a lot of Walking Dead fans were saying, “Oh, she looks great as a zombie,” and then I’m like “I’m not a zombie!” (laughs) But there kind of is a little bit of an undead look to her for sure.
Being a Director is typically pictured as this creative authority figure. Many will visualize that symbolic Director’s chair when imagining it. Is it surreal to direct your old cast mates, your peers, and friends?
Yeah! It should should have been maybe weirder than it was. It felt very natural and right. I felt very confident in my role as Director on the film, especially with the actors because I’ve been there. I’m from that world. And of course, I was in that world in the film playing ‘The Woman.’ So it was like we were all in it together. I thought it was really ironic that I cast Sabrina Gennarino and Thomas Francis Murphy as a prostitute and a cardinal respectively because there’s a kind of British party theme that we have. It’s called “Tarts and Vicars.” And so I really cast them in the right and left of that and very different roles for them than the roles they’re playing on The Walking Dead with me.
Sabrina is such a delightful and excited fun actor, very focused into what she’s doing. She was a delight to to direct for that reason. Cooper wants to hear it straight like it is and one of the things he compliments me on is that I always did that. I think that’s one of the benefits of being friends as well. But also just being an actress, knowing that I’d rather hear it straight from the Director than be sort of babied in any way.
Cooper (Andrews) wants to hear it straight like it is.
So if something wasn’t working for me, I’d be quite clear with him, like this physical things happening or whatever and he appreciated that. I don’t want that to sound like he needed it or that he was doing all sorts of things wrong. (laughs) We all need direction, that’s the point. And that was something that worked pretty well. We just had such a laugh! Me and Cooper in that car is such a fun scene to shoot.
We were really enjoying it, actually we went too far in that scene. We lost our police escort and we got pulled over by the cops, me and Cooper with no driver’s licenses. Looking the way I did, and him being a big guy they thought that we were in a real fight together.
Was that police car chase in Darlin’ legit then?
No, not the car you see! (laughs) But it did turn a fake cop car chase to a real cop car chase with another cop car getting in between us, and not realizing we’re filming. The car was swerving, you know? So that was that was bizarre.
I’d be remiss without going on about Thomas Francis Murphy, who’s just an incredible character actor. Though he doesn’t think he had much to do in the movie, it was so important that the Cardinal was believable and I thought he did a great job!
How do you compare directing Darlin’ to your directing experiences in the early days like The Woolgatherer?
Oh, thank you for your research! (smiles) I think the same joy, the same excitement, the same adrenaline rush of seeing people achieve great things. Which I definitely had on this film as well. But it’s very different directing theatre to directing film. Of course, I’m glad that I’ve had so many experiences as an actor on sets, where I sort of got free training in a way.
How do you feel you’ve evolved as an actress starting from the age of 16 to now?
I think I’m less self-conscious. I’ve gotten more brave and I guess just the same experience of growing up that most people have has happened for me and my career too. I feel more confident in what I’m doing and less afraid to take chances.
Whats it like meeting fans at the conventions, Walker Stalkers, and all that?
It’s the biggest joy meeting fans especially of this show. I mean with The Woman fans I always go, “Oh God, you love The Woman!” because you know I have such a loving connection with that film. And it’s the same with Walking Dead. I absolutely love respect the show and I think anyone who loves that show like we’ve got lot to talk about. We’ve got a lot in common.
It’s been an honor to experience it through other people’s eyes, their love of the show, by them just seeing you and going “Oh my god, it’s you!” I know that’s because of a bigger thing and it just feels really cool and lucky. It’s like a giant connector with people.
Do you feel you would do such a project like Darlin’ again where you write, direct, and star in it?
Yes, I love it! I love it! I did want to ensure that ‘The Woman’ wasn’t the lead in this film, partly because I felt that we’d done such an amazing thing with her in The Woman (film). Taking a silent character into the city is gonna be a difficult way to do something new and to keep people for a whole feature with somebody who really doesn’t speak that much. I didn’t want to do the same thing that we’d done in The Woman. But I also was aware that I wanted to make sure I was behind the camera as much as possible.
I think there’s a good balance where she’s this shadowy figure and then she really lets it rip as well but she’s not the lead. So Darlin’ was that for me.
Did you select Lauryn Canny yourself for the role?
Yeah, I mean we had a great cast director David Guglielmo in L.A. who brought in a bunch of different young women for me to meet and audition. Lauryn was the first one that came in the room and she was the first one I met downstairs. I thought if she’s half as talented as she is beautiful, interesting, cool, kind and down to earth, somebody you really want to work with… You can see what a hard worker she is just from meeting her.
And I thought if she’s all those things and a great actor, please let her be! Lauryn was amazing and blew me away with her performance! We auditioned a bunch of other people after but I really wanted her. She was the one.
We spoke a bit off camera about how fantastic you are at expressing a character on-screen through facial expressions and body language. Even if you don’t have many lines for a scene. How are you able as an actress to convey characters like Jadis and ‘The Woman’ so strongly without having those monologue-like lines to win the audience over?
Thank you, I’ll take the compliment! I think honestly, if you’re connecting and you’re feeling a great sense of reality and the experience that your character is going through. Who they are, what they want and what they’re trying to get, then you’re always alive with the character and with the drama of the situation. So to me it doesn’t feel that different doing that with less words than it does doing it with dialogue. Those are the kind of performances that always grabbed me when I was younger.
I’ve always wondered, why didn’t they pair Jadis up with Rick?
They tease it a lot with Rick! (smiles) They probably did me a favor because those Michonne fans, they they love themselves some Michonne! You know it’s a beautiful love story and it always has been. They’re so equal in their relationship and they work so well together. I think that would really tear people apart, if he were to just cheat on her with somebody else. I mean that just seems crazy!
I think you could have ruined it a bit.
Well, people have their different opinions. (laughs) But I think that toeing the line in the way we did with it was really fun and took it in unexpected directions. And I don’t know because of course, the continuation of the story may happen with the films that they’re making. So Rick and Jadis/Anne may very well be reunited in the first feature that’s going to be made.
We’ll have to see. But I don’t know if they’re necessarily going to be in a romantic relationship.
They should be!
Do you think so? (laughs) Do you want to write some fan fiction?
If you had to describe Darlin’ in one sentence for people who didn’t catch The Woman or Offspring, what would you say?
I would say it is about a teenage feral girl coming in from the woods and the Catholic Church getting hold of her, and wanting to prove their miraculous work through conversing her into a good girl and taking her to our holy communion.
I could really just say a sentence as long as I wanted! You said a single sentence, I really could just carry on right saying a whole paragraph! (smiles)
Is that an arrow on your finger by the way?
Yeah, I have an arrow here, these four quivers are for me and my three sisters. This is all the sisters. The moon is for my boyfriend who’s called Van Madden, his last name is Van Madden. He’s not called Van Madden that sounds like I’m dating Vin Diesel or something. (laughs)
Awesome, thanks a lot Pollyanna!
Pollyanna McIntosh’s Darlin’ is a Hood River Entertainment Production.
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Sandy Martin talks Ray Donovan’s Sandy Patrick (Interview)
The Natural Aristocrat spoke with Ray Donovan’s Sandy Martin about her extraordinary performance as the multilayered, true to life Sandy Patrick.
There’s a family member in all of ours hidden somewhere in the soul of Sandy Patrick on the sixth season of Showtime’s Ray Donovan. Actress Sandy Martin’s portrayal was so effectively comforting that Mickey and Bunchy weren’t the only ones who let their guard down, it was us. Close your eyes and you can still visualize the iconic sizzle of a lit cigarette as Sandy rides off a heist as a presumed millionaire. Ice Cube’s “Drink The Kool-Aid” roaring in the background with the thumping heavy bass of the car’s audio system. A Donovan in every sense of the word.
Martin told The Natural Aristocrat about the grand experience of working on the series this past season. The juxtaposition of a character longing to escape her loneliness while robbing herself of the opportunity by taking the money bag. Only to realize it wasn’t impressing others that she was after… It was having a family to call her own again. Having a purpose instead of just a home.
Interview with Sandy Martin on Ray Donovan’s Sandy Patrick:
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: Was it decided early on that you’d have the same first name on Ray Donovan? How did that happen?
Sandy Martin: All I know is by the time I was shooting my third episode, one of the producers said to me, “We wrote this role for you because you auditioned for us once before. You were so funny and great, we never forgot you!” I think because of that, they used my first name Sandy.
How often did you get to ad-lib on the show? I’ve seen a lot of fans, myself included, love the “Cop Kebab” bit!
(laughs) They have a little bit of wiggle room but mainly the reason I was attracted to the show is because the writing is so, so fantastic! And it’s up my alley. I mean, of course, I ad-libbed here and there. Like when I’m telling him all the jokes in the living room and they all rush out the front door, and I go “Wahh, fun buster!” That was definitely something I buttoned down the scene with. But you know the writing is fantastic, I love the writing on the show. I trust it!
Speaking of Ray Donovan’s writing, how do you feel the show depicts Sandy Patrick’s story arch relative to the Donovans? It seems like Sandy is riding in euphoria after she takes the money, only to discover there’s no one to show it off to. That all her old friends have passed.
I just think they need a hideout and remember that their long lost brother Cormac had a widow and she was a live wire and a lot of fun. But that’s not their first reason for looking her up! The first reason is that nobody would ever think to take the house of a widower from the Vietnam war which was so many years ago. They were smart to figure out to go to her house.
She mentions once or twice that she’s been a bit lonely and that’s why she’s playing horrible comedy nights at horrible bars. Making stupid jokes that she thinks are funny. She needs to meet some more friends because she’s lost quite a few of friends, as we find out later. The tricky part about Sandy Patrick is why would she run off with all their money when she finally has some family in her life? But I guess money talks, bullshit walks! (laughs)
Would you like there to be flashbacks showing Sandy and Cormac’s relationship next season?
Well yeah, but I don’t know what plastic surgery we’re going to need to have to make us believable! (laughs) Sandy Patrick is dedicated to every kooky aunt you’ve ever had that danced in a party bombed out of her mind, with a lampshade on her head. I just think that they stumble into coming to her house and then realize that, “Hey, we can relax around here!” I’m like a scammer myself. You know? I get in this nun’s outfit and he says, “Well, what are you doing?” And I said, “Haven’t you ever heard of a clerical discount?”
I’ll go out and pretend I’m a nun and beg on the street, I’ll do anything. So they hit gold when they arrived at my house… Because I’ll do anything to have all those hunky men around for me to put the make on! (laughs)
I thought whenever they said, “Go to Sandy’s,” on the show you knew something was going down. It always delievered too, like in the season 6 finale when you chopped that guy’s head off!
(laughs) I’d like to say that I come from these people because I have a lot of relatives that are detectives and cops in Brooklyn and stuff like that. But certainly me and my family are not running around chopping people’s heads off! I think it’s just that New Yorkie, Boston attitude, and I’m originally from Philadelphia.
I’ll never forget Esquire magazine once ran a survey on all these popular towns in the United States and Philadelphia came up as the vendetta state! (laughs) So, I’m used to that kind of rowdy East Coast toughee stuff. It’s a pleasure to be back in those shoes after living in L.A. for so long.
What was it like shooting that dance scene with Jon Voight? It felt organic and really had a classic Hollywood feel to it. As if Sandy and Mickey were right there dancing in your living room.
Yeah, Jon’s very creative in that sense! In the last few episodes when Bunchy’s in the room he dances with him a little as well. When Sandy was dancing with Mickey, I was playing that I was so bombed, that it was just making me sad that my husband wasn’t there.
Mickey tried to cheer me up and I’m just trying to function because I’m not used to plowing one whiskey after another. But when Sandy’s in this crowd, she’s just letting it flow. So I sort of played it like, “Okay, you want to dance? Well, I can barely stand up but I’ll have fun with you for a minute!”
I thought your character had a interesting relationship with Bunchy. One second you’re taking care of Bunch in a grandmotherly fashion then the next, you’re openly flirting with him. How did you feel about the scene where Bunchy tries out the priest uniform with Sandy in the room?
I’m really flirting with him, I say from the minute he walks up to my front porch that he’s “well endowed for an infant!” That was the clincher line for me! I had a couple of people swimming around me for jobs and when I read that line, I went, “Well, I’m in!”
Then, I showed him the back bedroom and he’s gonna have to sleep on the floor but I tell him, “I’m happy to share!” So I’m trying to get one of Bunchy and Mickey into my bed… But I don’t know as Sandy Patrick, the back story of Bunchy’s traumatic experience with his priest. She can’t play that because she doesn’t know that, you know? So she’s just like, “Oh come on, put that thing on! Don’t worry!” She’s a little bit lighthearted about it because she doesn’t know what the poor guy is going through.
I thought that was a really fun scene to do because I act like, “Come on, we’re going to take pictures! You’re just going to wear that.” I think he’s just uncomfortable wearing something different. I had no idea about his past history and that’s why I go, “Okay, come on you can put this on!”
I thought one of the most memorable scenes, if not the most memorable, this season was right after you stole the money. When you see Sandy smoking in the car and listening to Ice Cube rapping, delighted. It was just a really fun scene! When you were reading the script did you think she’d get away with it?
Oh, she thought she was going to get away with it! She just has a whim, she’s bombed, everyone’s passed out in her living room, then gets up and sees all that cash there and loses her mind! She stuffs the cash in her bag and takes her bottle of vodka and hits the road in her crappy car. I don’t think she thinks of the consequences too much at all. Her plan was to get together with her friends and wave some money around, take them for big dinners, and buy them things that they needed. She was gonna play God for two seconds.
In the back of my mind, in my back story… I think after I’ve spent some money, I’ll go back and return it, because I miss them. You know? The key to this character to me is how lonely she’s been and now she has a house full of fun. So when Bunchy catches me, chokes me, and is yelling “Where’s the money?! Get in the car!” Daryll is like wait a second, ‘This is a really old lady! Why are you tossing her around like that?’
And next thing you know we’re in the car and I’m telling this story about two guys, the snap monologue. One of my favorite pieces of material! Big Peter and Peter the painter, they were playing a game of snap and suddenly two 10s come up. Then Bunchy, even though he was so pissed at me and he’s lost so much because of me… He couldn’t help but think, “Christ what a funny old lady she is.” Dash Mihok had this kind of sneaky smile on his face after I finished that monologue.
My favorite Sandy joke this season was the cannibal clowns saying ‘You taste funny!’
(laughs) That was one of my favorites too! I love it! That’s one of my favorite jokes because it worked better than, “Did you know that pigeons die when they have sex? No. Well, the ones I have sex with do!” I think that’s one of the worst jokes I’ve come up with! But I’m trying it out because I want to do it a comedy night and Bunchy breaks my fun.
When you work on Ray Donovan, do they generally tell you your character arc ahead of time. Do you know if your character is going to make it into the next season or do you just go episode by episode?
They just tell you when you’re working and get over to Brooklyn because I live in L.A. now. You know I got very little direction. I mean, some people said a few little things to me but I just went with the rhythm I think is right for that character. Everybody was laughing so much that they didn’t want to mess with me as far as changing things up. But no you don’t really know what’s happening.
I jokingly said to show runner David Hollander, “Well… After chainsawing somebody’s head off I guess I’m not going to live very long!” (laughs) He goes, “Oh don’t worry, don’t worry! That’s not a problem at all.”
I thought your performance was incredible this season and you had great, seamless chemistry with the entire Donovan family. Especially with Mickey, all your scenes together felt so effortlessly natural on-screen.
Thank you! Jon Voight is a wonderful actor and he’s very thorough in his approach. One thing David Hollander told me is he couldn’t believe how easy it was for me to just sink into this family, and get all the different people. All their different jokes and rhythms. He was impressed by that. I said, “Well, these are my people. What are you talking about?!”
Do you feel your acting method has changed significantly since you started?
I’m very lucky that I can do drama and comedy believably. I go from ridiculously different roles. A couple of years ago I played this really sad sack, goofy, losing your mind, mother of Tennessee Williams in the last play he wrote called, A House Not Meant to Stand. It was in a renowned theatre here in L.A. called The Fountain Theatre and people just couldn’t believe that I went from Mac’s mom on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia where I’m this weirdo who doesn’t speak, just grunts to very believably this sad old woman who’s just lost her son but has a sense of humor.
But now, Sandy Patrick to me is so thrilled to have people back into her life because she never remarried. And these are her people. Now they’re in, thick as thieves. I mean, they’re in it so deep, they have to stick together. They’re not going to just pull away from her house and say, “See you! We’re going to stick you with three bodies in your backyard!” I’m really glad I can switch gears and play different kinds of roles, where it’s a certain caliber of a person. Where you can say, ‘They’re not that awful yet!’
I feel that’s what makes Ray Donovan’s characters so special because they all have their own flaws but they’re still extremely likable. Every single one of them really, even dangerous ones like Sam Winslow.
Yeah, that’s true about Sam Winslow. I’m sad to see her go actually, I was like, “What?! Woah…” I unfortunately had no scenes with her. I have my own little pack back in the house of sin! (laughs)
I used to hang out with Tim Burton back in the Beetlejuice days because a friend of mine, Glenn Shadix, was playing the Interior Decorator (Otho). The big guy with the crew cut hair. He unfortunately is not with us anymore but he had a lot of parties at Tim Burton’s and his own house, so I knew him. And the DP on Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was also the DP on Dumbo.
They were saying, “Where are we gonna get somebody who sounds real New Yorkie or East Coastie or whatever to play Michael Keaton’s (V. A. Vandevere) henchwoman?” The one guy (Ben Davis) who was the DP said, “Well, we had this funny old lady on Three Billboards, her name is Sandy Martin,” and Danny DeVito was sitting there and goes, “She’s on my show!” Then Tim Burton says, “You mean Sandy Martin from the 80s? Yeah, she is New Yorkie… Okay, let’s fly her out!” (laughs)
So I was given that job and it was great to see Tim again. I don’t have a very large role, but Tim Burton works magic with little funny characters bobbing in and out of his fantasies. I was thrilled to be there! I play the head of the secretarial pool and I have a bunch of secretaries that I bark at. They run around and help me!
Check out Sandy Martin’s official website to watch some artful moments in her Drama, Comedy, and Combo acting reels! Be sure to catch Dumbo when it arrives in cinemas across the U.S. on March 29, 2019.