Joel Allen discussed Ben Gardner’s connection to The Purge’s memorable God Mask, its symbolism, and Season 2’s intense scenes at NYCC 2019.
There is no question late into season 2 of The Purge, that Ben Gardner and The God Mask have merged into one. No longer Jekyll and Hyde, Ben Gardner is still wearing the mask even when he isn’t. During a one-on-one exclusive interview back at New York Comic Con 2019, just a shade under two weeks prior to The Purge Season 2 Premiere… Joel Allen discussed what The God Mask meant to him as both a character and as an actor, the amped up intensity of Ben’s scenes, and what’s it like shooting them on-set.
Watch the full interview with Joel Allen above or read the transcript below:
Nir Regev: What does The God Mask mean to you as both an actor and as a character?
Joel Allen: I mean you can just dive right into that symbolism and just lean into that hard. The God Complex that comes with it. So, for the character it means a ton and for me as an actor, it’s like a gift from the writers.
During the The Purge Season 2 premiere, when the original owner of The God Mask gets on top of Ben… Was that supposed to be an attempted sexual assault? He did say ‘he wasn’t really going to do anything’ once Ben got the upper-hand with the knife. Yet, it definitely felt like more than just intimidation was happening there.
I mean, my fear in that moment was pretty genuine because it was very vague in the script. And it wasn’t till we showed up on the day to shoot it, that it was apparent, that oh… This is a sexual assault situation! So yeah, it was pretty intense for me and scary. But that’s what’s going on, yeah. Which is something that I haven’t really dove into much, in this series at all, or the franchise. So, it’s kind of a unique moment.
Is that the first time you’ve done something like that in your acting career? Having to be vulnerable to that kind of level?
Yeah, and I’m a big guy as you can see. So, it was difficult to find… But I have been on the other side of that as an actor in some projects. So, it was nice to be on the other side. Not that I would want that to happen ever to me but you know to get that flip of perspective for sure.
When somebody survives an attempted Purge… Do you feel there’s some kind of attraction to the Purger’s power that on display?
With my character definitely, you get a sense of that. It’s teased that perhaps there is a complete shift in behavior and personality. But I don’t know through Marcus’ character if there is that… Right? So, you get to see two different trajectories for different purposes but obviously within the first episode you see that, you know, it wasn’t just an attempt that it led to…
How much did Ben hate his friend Turner after he left him there after the suicide bridge scene?
Oh it was terrible! I mean, I pretty much hate him throughout the show because of that. As you can imagine… Being devastated like that. Swell guy, great actor [Matt Shively], really nice person… But yeah, you’ve really got to hate him! You have to… It’s the job! (laughs)
That stabbing scene in the premiere… That was brutal! Did you shoot that all in one take?
No, no. That’s very difficult because you know this is my first big franchise, big TV thing. So the machinery of it is not necessarily conducive to acting. But you have to really kind of stay in it because there’s like you know, you’d stab a few times and then spray me with blood. Then stab a few times, then spray again, and just like take after take after take.
You’re doing different angles and I had to be shirtless throughout the day, being doused in the blood. But then cleaned up to have less blood for when you reshoot the scene.
What is it like having to stay in that mode?
Miserable! Oh, It’s awful! But you learn a lot. But I’m not missing those days when I had my body covered in this cold blood. And it was really dirty, this shed we were in. So, not the most enjoyable thing to do.
The first season cast didn’t make it to The Purge Season 2. Would you like to be in a potential The Purge Season 3? Not in the sense that your character Ben lives or dies this season. Ben Gardner could always still make a cameo in a flashback, even should something happen to him this season. More, do you think they’re going to keep resetting the The Purge’s cast every season?
Right, I won’t tell you what happens to my character but… If it were possible to bring me back, yeah, I had the time of my life shooting this show! Everybody in the cast and crew is awesome and we tell a really compelling story. So if they were able to tell another compelling story in another season, yeah I’d be back! For sure!
I’m just curious, do you wear glasses on this season ever?
No, I don’t wear glasses on the show. I wear my contacts on the series.
A lot of actors say if they have some kind of makeup for an injury on their face and they look in the mirror it effects the way they act. Do you feel whether you have glasses on or not when you’re performing, that it affects your portrayal at all?
Yeah, yeah of course! Everything has to be really specific, physically, at least if you want to believe the world you’re living in. So, definitely yeah! I try to take into consideration all the things, the posture, and the way they talk, and hold themselves. The physical things you take on.
You’re like The Purge Clark Kent, you take off the glasses and go Purging!
Yeah, exactly! (laughs) You recognize me? (takes off glasses, looks straight into the camera).
Missed last week’s episode of The Purge? Catch up with The Purge Recap of ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’
Catch more of The Natural Aristocrat’s coverage of USA Network’s The Purge in The Purge category page.
Rodrigo Santoro discussed the role of Joel Kelly in Hulu’s Reprisal which debuted today, the impact 300’s Xerxes had on his career, and finding inspiration everywhere as an actor at NYCC 2019.
Rodrigo Santoro, a memorable standout as Hector Escaton in Westworld and the one and only Xerxes in the 300 franchise is back on the scene once again! This time around, Santoro is playing Banished Brawler de facto leader Joel Kelly in Hulu’s Reprisal, which is available today for subscribers. During an interview, Santoro spoke about finding inspiration as an actor everywhere you go, mentioning how seeing a dog while doing recon for a role as a homeless man moved him.
Santoro described what it meant to him to play an Irish written character like Joel Kelly on Hulu’s Reprisal, where they didn’t change his character name to something more Latin sounding just to suit his Latin origin (Brazil). He spoke of how 300’s Xerxes definitely opened doors for him in his acting career but he didn’t want to raise his own expectations because that only leads down the road of frustration.
Watch the full interview with Rodrigo Santoro above or read the transcript below:
Nir Regev: What was it like after you portrayed the role of Xerxes in 300? Did you feel your career moved in the trajectory you were expecting?
Rodrigo Santoro: You know I try not to raise expectations in anything because I think that leads to frustration. We idealize things and then you know… I just try to do the best I can in my work and my life in general. But yes, since you mentioned Xerxes for those who saw 300 and Xerxes it was a big turning point for me. Absolutely! I got much more opportunities to work in the United States after that project but every role is a new challenge. I’m pretty happy where I am right now. You know the opportunities that I’ve been having. Especially, being a foreigner and I think we’re living in a very interesting moment right now.
I’m glad to be a part of it and to be here talking about a show where I play a character whose name is Joel Kelly. It’s not Raúl or Jamon. It’s not Latin, it’s not written Latin. I am Latin, I’m from Brazil. I’m playing a character that was written Irish. They didn’t change the name of the character. Joel Kelly is the de facto leader of the Banished Brawler. Doris’ brother who left her is Burt [Rory Cochrane] and he’s disappeared. He hasn’t been around for a while, and then Joel which was his right hand man, is in charge.Reprisal — “The Tale of Harold Horpus” – Episode 101 — Years after being left for dead by her brother and his gang the Banished Brawlers, Katherine Harlow reemerges as Doris and begins to plot her revenge. Meanwhile, a kid named Ethan is in over his head when he joins the Brawlers’ world of the Bang-a-Rang. Joel (Rodrigo Santoro), shown. (Photo by: Antony Platt/Hulu)
Does Reprisal have a big post-apocalyptic aesthetic? I mentioned Mad Max as a comparison to one of your co-stars earlier and he said it wasn’t really like that visually.
It’s hard to describe but it does have different references like from the 20s, from the 50s, from the 80s. We can’t place because we don’t know when it is. We don’t know where we are. It has a tone of like a fantasy to it, which allows us a tremendous amount of freedom. And also, I think at its core, this show is truly a revenge story revolving around the theme of family. Family you were born into and the family you find along the way. Family that you choose to be a part of. So, it’s really about the relationships of those characters. And then the era we’re in, we don’t know.
You have so many references Tarantino, David Lynch, people that have watched the pilot, you know journalists and people that have seen some of it… They have been describing it as David Lynch meets Tarantino. Great reference by the way, which we love! But it’s a hyper-noir kind of… The tone is just very unique. It’s something that I haven’t seen it you know out there.
When you say Tarantino do you mean cuts like Kill Bill style?
Kill Bill style, the way it’s shot, the way it’s written, especially the way it’s written! Our writer, creator Josh Corbin is in my opinion, a brilliant writer! And just the scenes that carry on, and then you don’t know where they’re going to go, and they’re just interesting to watch and very engaging. The characters are very, very engaging.
It’s an ensemble, every character’s interesting, every character has a back story and it’s going somewhere. They’re not just there. So, that’s what makes it very compelling. And I think people will quickly be engaged and they will get excited to actually binge it. And it will be available, all the episodes! So I think that will be a great experience.
I’m curious as an actor, do you like having all the episodes release at once or do you prefer the more traditional weekly episode? Do you check ratings yourself and that kind of thing?
Oh no, I don’t [check ratings]. I think that I’m getting used to the whole thing about having everything available at once. I take my own time. I have binged before, it depends how much time you have. But I think it depends. I don’t mind if they don’t come all at once but I kind of like to have them there. So, if I really get into it, I can just go through it and it’s a great journey when you just get hooked. You want to go to watch, you want to discover. You get really involved and that allows you to experience that.
Do you feel you prepare the same ritual wise as an actor? Do you have a kind of go-to method for each role you undertake?
Always different man! I don’t believe in formula, I think that every actor and even talking just for myself, every time is a bit different.
Well I like to research as much as I can. Actually because I really have fun. To me the most interesting part is actually beforehand. When you’re researching, when you’re trying to understand the universe of the character you’re gonna play, the world that you’re getting into, and watching films, seeing pictures, listening to music. All that good stuff that you do for research, to me, it’s such an interesting part of the process. But I don’t have a specific ritual that I go through every time.
One thing I do is to sort of like put myself into it… Let’s say, if you’re ever in a car, and you have the gear in neutral… I try to drive myself to the neutral place. So, I don’t have a preconceived concept or a pre-judgment of the character I’m gonna play, or the world that I’m about to step into. Let me be neutral so I don’t judge much. I research, I study.
Do you actively go to meet people related to the roles you’re portraying for inspiration?
Oh yeah, I try to do everything! It varies sometimes. You know, inspiration is an interesting thing. It could come from the least expected thing. One time, I was walking down the street, I was researching for a part that was a homeless man that I played. I just saw this dog on the street and it just moved me so much. It was a dog on the street. It just was very meaningful for me! Now, is this a method? Does that happen every time? No. It did happen that time.
So, I just try to be open, not judge, not try to put things in a box. I think you just have to be open to receiving and feeding yourself with as much as you can. And then you forget about everything and just do it!
Thank you Rodrigo!
Catch Rodrigo Santoro as Joel Kelly in Hulu’s original, exclusive series Reprisal starting today!
Fear the Walking Dead’s Jenna Elfman talked to The Natural Aristocrat about June and John Dorie’s passionate relationship and her on-screen chemistry with co-star Garret Dillahunt.
Acting Dedication: Elfman also discussed meeting a real life Head of Trauma in Austin, Texas to get fully immersed for the role of June.
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: How does it feel to be at the center of every Fear the Walking Dead ‘shipping conversation on Twitter? I mean, the fans absolutely love the June/John Dorie relationship. They’re in love with John pretty much, how does that make you feel?
Jenna Elfman: I get it, I’m in love with John Dorie too! (smiles) June loves him and cherishes him. Garret [Dillahunt] and I get along great. Ever since we first met, it’s just been effortless, acting together. I really enjoy it. It’s one of those things you luck out with sometimes with an acting partner, you know? I think we have that.
Is it more captivating for you as an actress to be more of an unreliable character where you don’t know if June might walk away from one script to the next?
I get excited, I just love the storytelling and I trust what they’re going to do. They write fun stuff for me. I love what they’re writing for me, and I’m really really committed to it and enjoying doing it. I love the trajectory they have happening. I dig it a lot. I’m always very excited for the next script.
Do you prepare any differently as an actress from when you first came on Fear the Walking Dead as Laura?
Well, when I read the script I’m always just looking for “Where are the moments of change?” in the script. In every scene, which character is changing and how and what is the impetus of that change? And I really make sure I understand the storytelling in that way. The overall theme and the message. What are the characters’ agreements and what are their problems? And so forth.
I think, maybe now that June’s point of view is very clear and she’s very committed to what they’re doing, I guess I’m approaching this season slightly different. Really because June kind of has a new constitution for herself. But it’s all the same kind of script analysis and character analysis.
Did you visit nurses and doctors for acting research and inspiration?
I met with the Head of Trauma in Austin (Texas) and I had him walk me through. Obviously, there’s triage and trauma nurses and trauma doctors, there’s a clock ticking on life or death. It’s a different sort of mentality of the things you’re looking for. I wanted to know what am I paying attention to? The heart rate, the breathing, the pupils, the skin color, all the things.
If I do this, what would happen? If I do that what’s important to her in that moment with that particular injury? What is she thinking about? I just had him walk me through the whole thing. It was interesting because before he was the Head of Trauma, he was a battlefield surgeon, and so a lot of the stuff he was walking me through was very similar to this scenario that the characters find themselves in. It was very helpful.
You had an amazing line in Fear the Walking Dead’s Season 5 Premiere where you were treating a patient, ‘Well, I’ve never done this in a truck stop before! Only at a trauma center.’ Do you ever get to riff on the lines at all or do you read straight from the script?
No, it’s not me. If I have questions [on the script] I’ll contact the writers, I’ll sent them an e-mail and ask for clarification or something. But no, I don’t change the lines or anything. Unless I ask them to clear it up ahead of time.
What does it mean to you as an actress to get a spot on this show?
It was very thrilling for me, I really wanted to start a new chapter in my career. Something new. I’d done drama before but I’d never done anything like this. They just offered me the role like eleven days after I kind of reconciled myself to what I wanted to do next. So, it was perfect timing and openly accepted by me!
Your character has changed names the most on Fear the Walking Dead! How does that feel, do you ever get confused yourself?
(laughs) No, but I think it just shows sort of an evolution about trying to find yourself, and needing to heal. once again. Luckily, the John Dorie effect… (smiles) You’re able to kind of heal and become yourself. I think this season, we see this beautiful June in full bloom. A new version of herself but connected to her truth.
Be sure to check out The Natural Aristocrat’s interviews with Fear the Walking Dead cast members Austin Amelio (Dwight) and Colman Domingo (Victor Strand) during New York City’s Split Screens Festival at the IFC Center.
P.J. Soles is back as Marcy Taylor in new retro-themed horror, Candy Corn, and spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about the film, her life as an actress and everything in-between.
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: There was a time in your life when you stepped away from acting. What brought you back to the horror film genre and ultimately playing Marcy Taylor in Candy Corn?
P.J. Soles: I was happy to do the fan conventions, which are wonderful, and spend time with my grandkids. I didn’t want to really work in movies anymore. I felt the conventions kept me connected to that part of my life. I was also busy doing other things, always toying with the idea of writing my autobiography… It’s just so hard to get going on a project about yourself! The first one to approach me for Candy Corn was actually Director Josh Hasty. He just made it sound so appealing and I liked him, we had a really nice conversation on the phone. But I laid it out! I said, “You know, I don’t work that great, I’m getting old, I might forget my lines!” It takes a lot of energy to pull it together. For me, making the moment real, being realistic on screen, and presenting a character that’s not you, not myself is important to me. But Josh convinced me!
What struck me first about Candy Corn was the beautiful cinematography. I always look at that, then I look at the characters and everybody was just painted amazingly. A great cast of characters! I liked the story and setting in the ’70s. I thought Director Josh Hasty was going for that retro look, which is appealing to me because it’s kind of familiar. [laughs] In terms of special effects, I thought they were beautifully done… If you can assign the word ‘beautiful’ to a ‘terrible’ special effect like someone’s spine getting ripped out. You can say they’re realistic! [laughs]
So, Candy Corn was the first ‘Yes!’ but I actually filmed it in December. I did Hanukkah first, then Killer Therapy, which is actually going to have a screening this October. There’s been no press about it, they’re keeping it on the down-low. In the horror community these days, they wanna keep things kind of quiet until the project has been fully edited, music added, and really pulled together.
When I was watching Candy Corn, there seemed to be a relationship in the air between Marcy and Sheriff Sam Bramford. Thus, I was anticipating some kind of interaction between Marcy and the Sheriff’s son, the lead antagonist as well. It felt like a natural fit. How do you feel about that?
Oh yeah, that would have been great! Well, it can’t happen in the sequel, if there is one. I live, he doesn’t! [laughs]
It’s nice to be in a horror movie and not get killed, right?
That’s actually my guiding principle now! I’m happy to play in any movie, I just don’t want to get killed. Not too many lines and no death scenes, that’s what I tell my agent! [laughs]
I recall an interview with VH1, where you mentioned wanting to ‘milk your death’ scene (as Lynda van der Klok) in Halloween for as long as possible to get screen time. Do you feel that’s what it takes as an actor to get time out there?
It’s your swan song. When you do that last scene on set, they say, “That’s a wrap on P.J. thank you,” and I don’t want that moment to come! (laughs) When I was going out of frame in Halloween, I suddenly realized I’m not going to be on screen anymore… So, I just kept doing the choked noises till John (Carpenter) yelled Cut!
Speaking of that era… You did a commercial for Pizza Hut Tacos back in 1979, how do you reflect back on that?
(laughs) Oh my God! You know what’s so funny about that? The shirt that I wear in that commercial is also the same pink-and-white stripped shirt that I wore in some of the promos we shot for Halloween. The promos were taken back at the casting offices by Kim Gottlieb and I had that very shirt on! Obviously, one of my favorite shirts. When I first saw that commercial I was like, “Oh my gosh, that’s the shirt in all the Halloween stills!”
I actually don’t eat beef and never have since I was a kid and heard beef comes from cows. Which made me sad. Every time I took a bite in the commercial I had to spit it out. There is a spit bucket for those of us who don’t eat what we’re advertising! (laughs)
That incident that happened on the set of Carrie, where you ruptured your ear drum… As an actress, did you have any regrets about doing the role at the time because of that? Obviously, it did lead you to getting a role in Halloween so things more than worked out. Do you have any permanent hearing loss from what happened on Carrie?
What? (laughs) Just kidding! It was so painful… It was unbelievably painful to rupture my ear drum which was caused by a fire hose that the fire marshal said is not a good idea to use. Especially, (Carrie Director) Brian [De Palma] wanted it to bat my head around back and forth. So, Dick Ziker, the stunt coordinator, said, “Oh man, that fire hose!” It was an accident for sure but it went full force and I literally just blacked out, went down and slid down the bleachers. The grips came running and picked me up. It was the most intense pain I’ve ever felt besides childbirth!
For six months, I went to the doctor and I got workman’s comp, they put drops in my ear. I can hear better than ever! I do have a little scar tissue there and I have go to my ENT from time to time but it didn’t leave any lasting problem. I’m definitely totally happy that I did the movie! Probably, would have rethought the firehose in retrospect. But it all worked out okay.
It’s a good effect and talking about the last time you see me on the screen now, that was actually my swan scene on the film. I didn’t come back to the set after that. When you see me wince in that scene, that’s actually the pain, the initial pain of the ear drum. So, it’s kind of strange but these things happen.
Are you surprised how things work out, that John Carpenter noticed you for the way you said “Totally” in Carrie? I was even half expecting you to say it in Candy Corn!
Yeah, we talked about it but that would have been too much! (laughs) People expect me to say, “Merry Christmas, Totally!” now! It’s become my trademark! I wear the red hat in Carrie, I say “Totally!” in Halloween, and I have that awesome wardrobe in Rock‘n’ Roll High School. #1 fan of The Ramones.
I told John [Carpenter] and Debra [Hill] that I was going to push it and try to say it every time I spoke, and if it gets annoying to let me know. But they never did. I’ve never made an accurate count actually. But a group of college boys told me at a convention that they have a drinking game where they take a shot every time I say “Totally” and they’ve never seen the end of the movie! I said, “I didn’t say it that many times!” (laughs) I think the real number is eleven someone told me but it seems like more than that.P.J. Soles Headshot – Photo Credit: P.J. Soles
Would you consider a role in a reboot of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School?
Reboot? When is that happening?! (laughs) I don’t know, depends who’s making it. Years ago, Howard Stern wanted to do it. But I think that was 30 years ago. (laughs) Maybe a sequel? What happened to all of us. Can you even find another band these days like The Ramones? I don’t think so! God, I wish! Don’t you wish? Where are the new Rolling Stones and The Eagles, where is this generation’s music? Come on guys! I’m waiting for it!
In the VH1 interview above, you mention not being a fan of The Ramones’ music until you met them. How come?
Well, no because I’d never heard them.
How did that happen?!
Well it was 1979, and I was listening to The Eagles, Jackson Browne, and Joni Mitchell all those people at the time. The Ramones weren’t on the radar yet in California. Maybe in New York which is probably why Allan Arkush, the Director, knew about them. But they were just starting, they were just coming aboard the scene, definitely well known in the CBGBs and all that in New York but not in Los Angeles. So, when Allan gave me a cassette and I put it in, I just really didn’t relate to it and I didn’t know what it was… But I said, “Alright, I’m their #1 fan!” (laughs)
It took me I would say, probably ten weeks to two years to really hear their music and understand what it was. Now, it’s just so commonplace and amazing! I really love The Ramones!
What happened at that Star Wars audition for Princess Leia with George Lucas?
We weren’t told what movies they were casting, we were just told there would be two directors at that time. This was back around in 1975. They weren’t really that known yet. I mean I think Brian De Palma had done a couple of movies but he wasn’t really an established director yet, at least not in the mainstream. Probably, again in New York City. So, I walked in, I had my red hat on! I had just moved to L.A. two weeks prior from Manhattan, where I had lived for five years and wanted to get into movies. I was living at the Magic Hotel in Hollywood, and my modeling agency sent me up on this audition.
Brian just looked at me and then looked at George and said I’ll put it on my list. Then he said, “Next audition bring your hat!” Then there were three subsequent auditions after that with the whole cast that actually ended up being in the movie. I don’t think he picked one person in all those three subsequent casting sessions and screen tests that didn’t end up in the movie. So, he had a very good eye I think for casting. A year later, we found out it was for Star Wars. But even then, it wasn’t what it was today. Star Wars took a while to catch on too at the time.
Was that the one role you wish you got?
No! Oh my gosh, I love my Norma! She wasn’t even in Stephen King’s book, there was no Norma in the Carrie book. But Brian De Palma had put the one line in, ‘Thanks a lot Carrie, ‘ when she blew the volleyball game in the beginning. I really was only on for a week. But after he saw the dailies for that… I had rainbow pins on my hat and I hit Sissy [Spacek] over the head with my hat.
The pins got stuck in her hair and I just yanked it out. So, it just looked so nasty! I apologized to Sissy but she said, “No, this is going to look great!” Brian laughed and thought it was so funny. He said she’s on for the rest of the shoot. I’m going to pair her up with Nancy Allen, the two of them are going to be my my little bad girls. [laughs] So, that was awesome!
You mentioned wanting to work on your autobiography earlier. What are some parts of your past that you’d like to be part of it?
I went overseas for all of my childhood. My father was from Holland and my mother was from Englewood, New Jersey and they met in Germany after the war. Her first husband was killed and she went over there to help with the rebuilding as a secretary. My dad was helping Jews escape Holland and he was captured and put in a Nazi work camp. He was released by the American army and brought to the same base as my mother and so they met.
It took a whole lot of circumstance for me to be brought into the world! I was born in Germany and then my dad got a job with a company where he had to open up branch offices for around the world. We moved to Morocco, Venezuela (Maracaibo) where I spent six years, and then Brussels in Belgium.
I went to a high school in the International School of Brussels and learned French and Spanish. I was really on a writing and language track rather than an acting thing. Although, I had always acted in a lot of the school productions but it wasn’t something I thought was even possible. I hadn’t watched a lot of movies growing up. I went to Briarcliffe College in New York state in the summer between my Freshman and Sophomore year, where I was going to transfer to Georgetown University in Washington.
My roommate was from the city and I stayed with her for the summer because my parents had transferred to Istanbul, Turkey. I happened to come across The Actors Studio and there was a sign, ‘We’ll trade running spotlight for auditing classes,’ so I ran a spotlight on Joanna Miles and Scott Glenn that whole summer. I met a guy who happened to be Joshua White of The Joshua Light Show.
He told me, “Girls, on the catwalk probably shouldn’t be wearing short dresses!” [laughs] He convinced me to quit college and get serious about acting, and start acting, so he got me an agent. I did commercials, I was on a soap opera and it got everything Rolling. But when I think of my autobiography, I’d start with my life as a child because I think that was enough of a life… Without anything else afterwards. But then on top of that there was this wonderful acting career!