Bill Heck spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about playing the scene-stealing Young Mickey Donovan on Showtime’s Ray Donovan and Jon Voight being generous with the character’s interpretation.
Any actor looking to learn the craft of conveying body language to make an audience believe in what you’re doing needs to watch Bill Heck’s performance on Ray Donovan Season 7 Episode 7 (“The Transfer Agent”). Young Mickey Donovan’s mini dance during a robbery spoke volumes about the character, a lasting immersive visual to frame on the wall.
During an exclusive interview with The Natural Aristocrat, Bill Heck discussed his fine-tuned work as young Mickey Donovan, Jon Voight sitting down with him on the second day of shooting, a Ray Donovan prequel show à la Better Call Saul, and even some preliminary thoughts on The Irishman’s de-aging tech! For those wondering about Jon Voight’s best tip to Bill Heck delievered in classic Mickey Donovan fashion…
“They got great writers, amazing story, everyone really knows what they’re doing… But every now and then before a take, just as they call action, tell yourself, ‘I don’t give a s**t!’ Throw it all out the window and do whatever the f**k you want!”
Interview with Bill Heck on Young Mickey Donovan:
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: Did Jon Voight personally comment on your performance? I’m curious what he thought of you playing young Mickey Donovan.
Bill Heck: Jon sent me a very lovely text after the episode aired, and it was a delight to receive. He was more than generous during the job. We were shooting up in the Bronx, and I think on the second day, Jon had the day off and came from the place where he stays during the season in Greenpoint (Brooklyn).
He came all the way up to the Bronx to sit down in the hair & makeup trailer with me and talk about the character and thoughts he had. And he was really curious to hear thoughts that I had. Jon was very generous and interested that I make my own choices, what views I had on the character, and really encouraged me to make it my own. As much as I could! You know, not to just do an impression. Which I’m no good at anyway! (laughs)
But it was amazing! It’s amazingly generous for Jon to come all the way up the Bronx and and sit with me to chat for almost an hour. We exchanged numbers and texted back a few times throughout the shoot. He really gave me permission. That is a real valuable thing to have as an actor. So he was lovely the whole way through. Then at the wrap party he said there with me and my wife [Maggie Lacey] for a long time. Just couldn’t have been more pleasant and more supportive. He was a real gem.
I thought the flashbacks could be a show in itself, something like Better Call Saul.
(laughs) We should put you in touch with the producers!
There’s just so much story there to explore, and it sounds like you’d definitely be willing to go back. Is that something you could see happening with Ray Donovan?
The impression I got from everybody was that they were pleased with how the flashbacks went generally. David Hollander, the showrunner, seemed pleased with how things went. I don’t know what their plans are for next season, by any explicit means. But I wouldn’t be shocked, I think they were definitely pleased to tread new ground in that way. And I had an interesting time, I wouldn’t be averse to any additional exploration, certainly!
Were you picked originally for this role because of your performance in 2013 film, Pit Stop? Even for anyone just watching the trailer for that movie, when you push off, there’s something instantly noticeable about your body language. It’s subtly reminiscent of the way you portrayed young Mickey Donovan. In general, as an actor you had great control of body language on Ray Donovan.
Thank you! That’s a really interesting parallel, I certainly wasn’t doing that consciously. I guess there’s a slight parallel in the characters in that they’re both trying to find their place in a world where they maybe feel a bit out of place. Or are not quite sure of how up to the task they may be. But no man, that was a long time ago that movie! It’s a project I hold dear. I’d encourage people to see that sweet little film.
What was it like working with Aidan Pierce Brennan as young Ray Donovan? Doing all those “Ray Ray” scenes. Those were some intense scenes, especially when Mickey’s stealing his wife’s money out of that can as Ray watches.
I mean on one hand, for me as a person being able to see what’s happening in that scene, it’s heartbreaking. But Mickey thinks he’s doing the right thing to a certain degree. Mickey maybe understands that it’s morally complex but he doesn’t pay attention to that side of things because he’s got a plan. And his plan is going to make things right.
Even if he’s deluded himself about how possible it is or what right is right or what’s best for his family. He’s moving forward in a way that he thinks is best for his family. So, in that sense even though he’s maybe got some conflicted feelings about how it may be perceived, he’s optimistic.
Do you feel in pilfering the money, that maybe Mickey was trying to protect the Donovan family as well? From the aspect that maybe James Sullivan would do worse if he didn’t pay back something.
Absolutely he’s telling himself that, yeah. Mickey’s got rings of stories that he tells himself and he believes them! Mickey doesn’t imagine that he’s deluding himself. He’s not as far as he can see in the future. He’s going to handle it, you know? It’s like he tells Ray as he’s going out, ‘everything’s gonna be fine,’ right? So I think Mickey believes it or at least he knows that to survive, he has to believe that.
That little dance Mickey Donovan does right when he’s about to rob that van, was that intentionally written into the script? Or was that you personally making an on-the-spot, Mickey influenced decision there?
No, I just tossed that in. Kyra (Sedgwick) who directed the episode and David Hollander, the showrunner, Jon, everyone included were extremely encouraging about being playful. It was a very available, open generous set. A very fun set and the character is a fun character.
I asked a few of the people which episodes of previous seasons I should watch to get a decent idea of Mickey. Everyone was really open and interested in making me feel comfortable riffing, more than I have in past gigs. I felt like I got to stretch my arms and play a little bit, which was a real joy. I had an ample opportunity with this character to do so.
Yeah, I thought those little details really made the scene. Kind of like what they call reveries on Westworld, those extra touches that make a character feel real. I mean obviously there was that iconic teeth sucking thing that Jon Voight does often on the series.
There were a couple of teeth sucking scripted moments. (laughs) That was the only little characterization that they specified! I threw in a few more here and there, and replaced a few here and there. I’m not quick to recall which ones they used in the edit but that one they definitely zeroed in on. I think at some point here I was like give me a tooth suck right here. (laughs)
Do you feel you were able to study the character more through watching other Ray Donovan episodes, meeting Jon Voight in-person, or a mix?
It’s definitely a mix. Early on I had to rely on the episodes, I think maybe watched in the neighborhood of 8 to 10 in total. I had a dialect coaching session where I’d work with the material and met Austin (Hébert) who plays Jimmy (Sullivan) and we worked through some of that and just spent some time building on it. Playing around and then we actually shot the van robbery, that was the first thing I did.
That was before I met Jon, the second day was when Jon came up and definitely he helped me expand on all the work I had done before. Just being around him you get a sense of how he’s carrying himself through the world generally, and how it applies to the work you see him do on the show.
I think maybe the most pointed tip he gave me was like, “They got great writers, amazing story, everyone really knows what they’re doing… But every now and then before a take, just as they call action, tell yourself, ‘I don’t give a s**t!’ Throw it all out the window and do whatever the f**k you want!” (laughs) That was advice to an actor that would definitely inform where the character came from and where he lives. So it was very helpful and fun.
What’s your viewpoint on a film like The Irishman where they used the same actors for flashbacks with de-aging VFX technology? Is there always going to be a place for other actors to play a major part of flashbacks or do you feel as the price of the tech drops the industry will become heavily reliant on it?
It’s a tricky one, my friend. (laughs) You know I have not seen The Irishman, though I’m certainly a lover of Scorsese and his crew. So I can’t comment on that directly. I certainly suspect it’s obviously something they’ll decide when it’s appropriate to use and when not. And I’m sure as you say it will shift as technology becomes more advanced and more affordable… I don’t know, I think that’ll come down to each individual artist.
I find it hard to imagine that a community of artists, especially when you’re speaking about a collaborative art like filmmaking or storytelling in general… That most artists would opt to interact with something that is not available to them at the moment.
You know to try and create a story or human moments, that is sort of waiting on the computer, three weeks down the road. So, in terms of The Irishman they were still working with the guys there in the room. But I can’t really speak to how the de-aging tech effected the work as far as The Irishman goes.
I think the artist will always choose what’s most fun, what’s interesting to them. I think some will find the technology very intriguing and it certainly is in its way, and some will say, ‘I want the whole warm body.’
I think actually the evolution of that question will lie more with audiences. What they’re interested in receiving. How crossable the uncanny valley truly is… Because the people are going to decide if they’ll buy it or not. That’s a good working answer down the line one way or the other.
Are you going to appear in any other flashbacks in this season of Ray Donovan? Without any spoilers of course.
That’s it for me… At least for this season.
You’re going to be in a new Netflix show called Locke & Key that’s arriving on February 7th. What kind of character will you be playing in that?
Locke & Key is based off a graphic novel series, written by Joe Hill and illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez. It’s a series of books that is just gorgeous. It’s beautiful. It’s sort of family drama, meets horror film meets father legacy. In that series, I’ll play the father of the family that comes to live in my childhood home. I don’t know how much I can say beyond it…
I mean it’s all in the books for anyone and they’re well worth the read. The show looks amazing and all the people that I’ve worked with who’ve seen bits of it are extremely pleased with it. So I’d say it’s well worth the look this February.
I saw Liam Neeson at BUILD series and he joked around, then got a bit serious, about how theatre actors are just better actors than TV/Film-only ones because they get to perform every night. How they get more practice in and have to constantly adapt to a live audience. Since you’ve had experience on both sides of the aisle, on-stage and on-screen, what are your thoughts?
(laughs) You know one of the things I love about what I do, and brings me into context with what other people are doing, is that there’s no real template for it. There’s not one way to get where you’re going. Nobody’s ended up where they are for the same reasons. There are definitely skill sets that come with different environments and different experiences and different lengths of experiences.
There are certainly things that I know having come up in the theatre side and being trained in storytelling and acting… That I wouldn’t know had I just come up through the Television ranks in Los Angeles. But there are definitely things that that those guys know that I don’t. That I’ve had to learn later in life that I’m still learning.
I think it’s hard to stick a pin in any one answer about what’s going to make an actor better, more effective or not. Aside from maybe if they’re still curious, if they’re still interested, if they still feel like they have something to learn. Anyone that thinks they’ve got all the answers about anything, is more likely than not to not know anything.
Do you feel you prepare any differently as an actor than from when you first began? Do you have any kind of ritual every morning to kind of get into that kind of mindset or is it different for every role really?
Yeah it’s different for every role, every circumstance. Like if I’m doing a theatre gig, I have a pretty standard warmup just to get get into my body. But I switch it out based on what I have to do for a show and where I am. Mickey is an easy guy to get into physically to kind of shake your fingers up in the right way and feel it through your body (laughs) as opposed to maybe a more still character.
I don’t know if you’ve seen the comments on the Ray Donovan fan group on Facebook but a lot of people commented on your performance and the episode (“The Transfer Agent”). Do you read those usually? You should go check it out!
(laughs) Oh no, that’s dangerous man! I’m glad to hear it came off well though for sure.
Bill Heck on Social Media:
Rob McElhenney spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about the production of the highly culturally relevant Mythic Quest: Quarantine, the future of Hollywood, shooting on iPhones and more.
This interview contains spoilers for Mythic Quest: Quarantine. It was conducted this past Wednesday, May 20th fittingly online during a journalist roundtable press day.
Rob McElhenney described the challenges of making Mythic Quest: Quarantine come alive on Apple TV+’s streaming platform to The Natural Aristocrat. The episode’s cast all shot their parts individually from home on their iPhones… Perhaps, an omen for the future of Hollywood for the next year or more. McElhenney detailed how one scene where his Mythic Quest character Ian visits a lonely, quarantine shellshocked Poppy was actually the actress’ real-life husband.
McElhenney on his unlikely body double:
“I left for one particular scene where I was walking outside. But then I just walked right back onto my property and walked into my garage. The person on the other end of that particular exchange is not me. That’s a body double, and that body double is Charlotte’s real life husband, Bayden.
Bayden [Hine], who is not an actor by the way. And he suddenly forgot how to stand like a human being. (laughs) So he could hear me because he we were all communicating through these earbuds and I was saying, “Okay, Bayden you know just stand there.” All of a sudden he forgot to do what you’re supposed to do with your arms when you stand as a human being. Standing! And he just started to like kind of raise up in like this robotic way.
I was like, “Bayden, Bayden, stop, just stand!” (laughs) The poor guy was such a trooper because he’s not an actor and has no experience doing this, and all of a sudden he’s not only acting, he’s pretending to be me. He’s a 6 foot 2, 200 pound Australian man and I am not. And he’s got me in his ear telling him how to stand!”
Rob McElhenney Interview with The Natural Aristocrat:
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: When I was watching Mythic Quest: Quarantine, all I could think was if this is the future of Hollywood… If shows for at least the next year, maybe even past that, are all going to be recorded from the actor’s homes. Do you feel that’s what’s going to happen?
Rob McElhenney: I hope that this is not the future of Hollywood. I hope that we can be back together working again on these soundstages. But I just don’t know. And I think anybody that pretends to know is not paying attention. So you know from my perspective, I always want to come up with a plan and be ready for the worst and best case scenarios.
But at the same time, I think we have to be respectful of what the situation is, the experts, and the people out there who do this for a living. And as a television writer, I am not one of those people. I respect science and I respect scientists, and I’m going to listen to them.Rob McElhenney as Ian on Mythic Quest: Quarantine – Photo Credit: Patrick McElhenney via Apple TV+
I feel with this episode that you were ahead of the game. I did notice the camera footage was still professional level quality despite the webcams.
Well, first of all, I appreciate that! Thank you. Yeah, the truth of the matter is we shot everything on the iPhone. At the risk of sounding like a commercial for Apple, we could not have done it without the technology of that company and those phones. And this is not hyperbolic to say, this is the truth. The camera in the most recent iPhone is better than the camera we shot Sunny Season 10 on.
It collects more information than we were able to do in Sunny Season 11, as well. So, the ability for us to do this is both, technologically based but also just simple human ingenuity. Sticktoitiveness and desire to want make something great… Under not so ideal circumstances.
I was excited to see the final scene with all the contraptions set up and the webcam boxes… I felt it was partially spoiled for me personally with the zoom ins. I was wondering if there is going to be an unedited version released where you just see it straight through?
It’s funny that you should say that because Craig Mazin (Creator of HBO’s Chernobyl & Lou on Mythic Quest) had the same exact reaction you did! I sent an early cut to Craig because I always check in with him because he’s really smart and understands what we’re going toward.
I said, “Well you’re crazy!” Both of you guys are crazy because you’re wrong. Trust me this is the way, it’s gonna be better this way emotionally. He said, “Yes I understand but trust me the way that my brain works is different than the way that your brain works. I’m telling you it’s gonna be more satisfying to just see this thing operate all the way through without cutting into each individual box.”
He said, “What you have to do is cut a version of that together and then release it after you release the episode.” So sure enough, I did that. I have it. It’s ready to go. And for people whose minds work the way that yours works and Mazin’s works you’re gonna get what you ask for. (laughs) And it really truly is pretty cool.
Thank you!Rob McElhenney as Ian on Mythic Quest: Quarantine – Photo Credit: Apple TV+
Watch Mythic Quest Quarantine now on Apple TV+. A free 7-day trial is available for non-subscribers.
Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about playing an unknown cartel’s ‘El Jefe’ opposite a shivering Jimmy McGill in Better Call Saul’s iconic, 5-star “Bagman” desert shootout.
Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez praised Better Call Saul’s co-creator Vince Gilligan as a visionary, with a sharp eye for the tiniest of details in our interview. Every second mattered in the Gilligan directed “Bagman”, featuring G-Rod’s crew abruptly stopping Jimmy’s $7 million-dollar sunswept, victory lap drive into a life-altering nightmare. For the first time on Better Call Saul, Jimmy’s silver tongue was unholstered to no effect. It shot blank, after blank, after blank. No word Jimmy could say was the missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle.
G-Rod’s ‘Jefe’ saw the abogado as nothing more than collateral damage, signaling the universal ‘cut off his head’ motion after confirming the money was all there. G-Rod walked The Natural Aristocrat through the intricate foundations that made Bagman’s shootout unforgettable. The moment when Jimmy McGill had to pay steeply for the actions of Saul Goodman, lives interwoven irreparably forever.Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez gives signal as El Jefe to take out Jimmy McGill / Saul Goodman on Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 “Bagman” Screenshot Photo Credit: AMC
This interview contains spoilers for Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 (“Bagman”).
Interview with Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez on Better Call Saul:
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: The shootout in “Bagman” is one of Better Call Saul’s greatest scenes. Arguably Top 2 alongside Jimmy’s speech to Kristy Esposito in my opinion. The entire moment has very little dialogue outside of Jimmy, building on explicit intimidation and chaotic silence. What was it like being the leader ‘Jefe’ of the scene?
Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez: When I first got the call, I was so excited that the episode was going to be directed by Vince [Gilligan] because he gets so invested in every single shot! All the details. That’s something that anyone who’s watched his work on Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad appreciates. I knew why they chose me for this role because they wanted to really dig in from all angles and provide the audience as much coverage as possible. So, that the audience could appreciate the intensity of the situation that Jimmy was in.
That’s why they wanted somebody with a stunt background, that had an action background. If you had to focus on not only providing that coverage and getting those angles that made that scene so intense, it would be that much more difficult to get an actor that you had a double. That way they could really just focus on Jimmy or Saul, I think it was Jimmy in that moment.Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez approaches Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) as El Jefe on Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 “Bagman” Screenshot Photo Credit: AMC
They opted for a stunt actor so they wouldn’t have to worry about those angles, they wanted someone who was going to sell the action, obviously safely. We were going to sell all the action safely. I knew going in when I read the script, I knew it was going to be intense and that Vince was going to go above and beyond. I was already visualizing from paper to the day that this thing was going to be very expensive. We were out there for two weeks, and I think that originally it was slated for around eight days.
At one point, the stunt coordinator Al [Goto], came up to me, “Hey Vince wants to get more of this. Would you mind sticking around for another 2-3 days?” I was like, “Let’s do it!” It ended up being two weeks out there in the scorching sun. (laughs) It’s so amazing the way Vince works, he wants to really dig into every single action. Vince told me, “I’m visualizing this guy really wants the money. He gets pissed off, goes this way, and then gets shot by Mike (Ehrmantraut).
Were you disappointed your character gets shot? I mean it was an amazing moment when you picked up the bags but also the Jefe’s exit from the series.
I loved everything about the scene! Of course, I would have loved to have lived through maybe a couple more episodes but I knew what we had to do. I knew what Vince was trying to get across. When I get sniped while running off with the money, it was funny because Vince was like “G-Rod you’re going to run this way, you’re thinking damn it, I want to leave with this money! And then you get sniped here.”
I kind of showed him how I would lay into my death, and he goes, “Yeah but you really want that money! You’re not letting go of that money, you’re hanging on to that money with your hands into your death.” Me and the stunt coordinator looked at each other for this five second moment, looking back at each other, then back at Vince. Because I knew what he was getting at. He wanted me to keep my hands on the money bags and then face-plant on concrete, on pavement.Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez as El Jefe attempts to run away with the Money Bags – Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 “Bagman” – GIF Credit via AMC
Did that hurt?
Oh yeah, I had to do it a total of nine to ten times. If you look at it, that’s a little dirt sprinkled on top of actual concrete pavement. Under the scorching sun, 110 degrees, whatever it was. So he looks at us and says, “Can you make this happen?” And we both go, “No problem!” (laughs) I knew what was coming! If you’re doing stunt work, it’s not going to be one take typically unless it’s going to be a hard reset where you’re going to swap in a whole vehicle or something like.
Vince told me, “I really want to feel that life steps outside of that body suddenly, and then you face-plant.” I had to really use that core strength to sell it while staying safe. To make things more complicated, Vince wanted me to land facing a certain way so the camera could capture my face, “There’s a tattoo I want the audience to see on your neck.” Think about it, you’re ‘dying’ and you have to really focus on all these intricacies. (laughs) Vince said, “Oh by the way, I don’t want your leg to land twice on the bag. I want the bags free and clear of your leg!” I was like, “Okay, got it!” (laughs)Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez as El Jefe takes Car Key from Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman [Bob Odenkirk] – Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 “Bagman” – GIF Credit via AMC
That sounds like hyper-attention to detail!
Oh it’s incredible! He is unbelievable and he is thinking of every single detail. It’s funny on one take, they were aware that I was deathly scared of tarantulas. And they were out there, they actually caught one. Word got to Vince that I was deathly scared, and on one take I died and there’s so much gunfire. You know these are real guns, we’re just shooting blanks. I have earplugs, so I didn’t hear them yell ‘Cut!’ and I’m not moving because I’m dead. At one point, Vince got closer and louder and yells “G-Rod tarantula!” And you better believe I got up immediately! (laughs)
The way everything was shot and the way Bob Odenkirk works is phenomenal. The guy really knows how to elevate a scene. There was a moment where we did a hard reset, a good 30-minute reset, they had to clear his shirt of dirt and such. And Bob jumped right back into it on the ground, crawling to the car like that! I thought, “Wow this guy logs back in so quickly!” A good thirty minutes, Bob just takes a sip of water. Within a split second when Vince said “We’re going hot. We’re going to spit fire” Bob is dialed back in. It was truly amazing to see that kind of sharp talent. I think we can both agree and appreciate, that he had to really step up. Jimmy had a situation that Saul had put him through. And now it’s Jimmy who’s got to deal with it.Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez in shootout as El Jefe while Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman [Bob Odenkirk] crawls on ground – Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 “Bagman” – GIF Credit via AMC
He had to really sell that Jimmy is in a f****d up situation and really elevate it. So, that the sense of fear would really come through. We know the guy is talented but to do it so quickly after over a thirty-minute reset process that pulls you out of it, to dial it back in two seconds is just amazing to see.
I thought there was so much incredible body language in this scene. You could practically watch it on mute and it would still come across. First when you grab the key out of Jimmy’s hand… And especially when the ‘Jefe’ gives the universally understood signal to ‘cut off his head.’ What went into crafting that major moment?
When I signal Kenneth Trujillo (Matedor) to kill in a way that Vince wanted to deliver, “Less is more”. The ‘Jefe’ goes for the money, he breaks a smile, he’s thrilled, can’t believe it. You’re done with this guy. You’re done, just signal your guy to kill him, what are you going to do? Vince gave me a bit of creative liberty there, which is where that motion you’re talking about came from. I say Épale which means “Hey!” in Spanish over in Venezuela, where I’m from. Then I’m back to the money.Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez as El Jefe signals Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman’s [Bob Odenkirk] fate – Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 “Bagman” – GIF Credit via AMC
It’s cool that they kept that in because I’ve had Venezuelas reach out to me and say “Oh you must have been a Venezuelan cartel!” Because we don’t really know anything about this mysterious cartel other then I’m the Jefe of it.
How do you feel about Stanley Kubrick style ‘take as many takes as needed until it’s perfect’ directing as an actor?
I love it! That’s what you saw with Vince and this scene. When you’re looking at a setup that takes thirty minutes just to get Jimmy in the right angle when he’s walking to that rear view mirror… Just to get that 1-2 seconds shot of that angle. Taking in 30-45 minutes of resetting to shoot it not once, twice, three I think it was four times, you’re thinking alright this guy has a vision.Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez as El Jefe signals Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman [Bob Odenkirk] to get out of the car – Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 “Bagman” – GIF Credit via AMC
He wants to have an arsenal of coverage, so when editing comes around, he has it all and then some! That was cool to experiment. I started my career in this business in ’09 and I have yet to see somebody who’s out to create that arsenal of coverage like Vince.Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez motions Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) as El Jefe to get out of the car on Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 8 “Bagman” Screenshot Photo Credit: AMC
I’ve read that you originally wanted to be in the U.S. Border Patrol before becoming an actor, and acted out a literal audition in a job interview for it. Is that true?
Yep, and after that you could hear a pin drop in the room. You know, it’s this big formal setting, with three senior level, big, armed border patrol agents. They’re been in it for ten to fifteen hours, and there’s a circular clock on the wall. It’s a pretty typical government room, all white walls and a table. So this guy looks at me and says, “Okay. Well, we’ve never had that before.” And he looks at the other guy.
“Typically when candidates do when we give them this scenario, they explain what they’re going to do. You have opted to show us. Okay, just give me a minute.” He confers with the other two guys and my heart’s f*****g racing. They might actually call a psych ward to have me taken out of here.
Then they turn to me, and the middle guy in charge says “After conferring, we’ve all decided that was a great job. Very unique. And you passed!”Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez – Behind the Scenes on Better Call Saul’s “Bagman” – Photo provided by Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez
What ultimately made you decide to pursue acting after passing? I assume being a U.S. Border Patrol Agent was your dream at the time?
I walked out of there, and I’m like, “What just happened in there?” I had a self-analysis that night, and realized, I enjoyed the storytelling. I enjoyed that most of all! I reached out to an artist crew and started auditioning for student films and they were like, “Man, your look is amazing!” I was like “What the f**k are you talking about?”
I always thought I just looked like a regular dude, I didn’t know I’d be perfect playing bad guys. I thought, let me explore this a bit further and I auditioned for Burn Notice and Graceland. I had all these passion directors calling me up saying I love your look! And I was like, “What the f**k is this man?” (laughs) I was like let me capitalize on this bad guy thing and the storytelling.Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez – Behind the Scenes Shot on Better Call Saul’s “Bagman” – Photo provided by Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez
What kind of weaponry training did you have over the years? It’s noticeable off Better Call Saul alone that you’ve obviously had experience and know how to hold a weapon realistically. Do you spend a lot of time at gun ranges in preparation for potential roles?
It’s constant, I own firearms and it’s our responsibility as stunt performers and stunt actors. Obviously, my passion is first and foremost acting but I’m always going to be in a situation acting-wise where I’m holding a gun, throwing punches, or something. My background is in Karate, Gōjū-ryū, so it’s my responsibility to keep my entire arsenal skillset ready and fresh. So, when I walk on to a set on a day like that day, they’re going to notice how I hold a gun… And the audience sees this guy knows how to handle a gun!
In the behind the scenes clip of “Bagman” you posted on Instagram you’re singing the lyrics to a song, what was it?
“In the Still of the Night” by The Five Satins, released in 1956. That got a couple of chuckles because you’ve got these two guys, ready to rollout for a shootout and listening to this.
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Minutes before last night’s shootout…WTF these guys aren’t so tough 🤷♂️🤨😂 #CartelBoys #NewAlbumDroppingSoon #BetterCallSaul #RIP . . . #stuntlife #goodtimes #throwback #actorslife #amc #stunts #ilovemyjob #livingmybestlife #classiccars #ford #stuntman #nevergiveup #instagood #instadaily #picoftheday #bettercallsaulamc
Thank you!Behind the Scenes Shot of El Jefe’s Crew on Better Call Saul’s “Bagman” – Photo provided by Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez
Be sure to read Saul Goodman Vs. Jimmy McGill: What’s in a name? on The Natural Aristocrat!
Elham Ehsas spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about Homeland’s notorious Jalal Haqqani going from exile to reclaiming the Haqqani lineage with pride.
Peace in the rearview mirror, a son lives vicariously through a childhood, idolized vision of his father. An RPG replacing the traditional bejeweled crown for his inheritance. Homeland star Elham Ehsas discussed the complicated dynamic between Jalal Haqqani and his father Haissam with The Natural Aristocrat. One inadvertently leading to the death of Max Piotrowski in the crossfire of black market, political chess. The potential for global war lingering with one triumphant speech leak via cell phone recording. What it means to carry on the Haqqani name in a world that already accepted the title’s curtain call.
Victory always peeking through the looking glass… Only to be an unremovable ship in a bottle. “Just strong enough to never lose, just weak enough to never win.”
Interview with Elham Ehsas on Homeland’s Jalal Haqqani:
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: Jalal Haqqani capitalizes on his father’s death by lionizing Haissam’s youthful aggression. Thus, maintaining the Haqqani lineage and right to be his natural successor. Is it a product of active adaption (‘never letting a good crisis go to waste’) or was it always his dream to follow in the footsteps of the man he once admired?
Elham Ehsas: I think Haissam was both Jalal’s biggest idol and biggest heartbreak. He grew up with a father who was the lion of Afghanistan, the one who stood up to what Jalal saw as an injustice and an attack on his country. Growing up with a father like that must have reinforced that zeal that was already growing in his chest.
Having been brought up in Afghanistan myself, my parents would often tell me that the first generation of Taliban were just the orphans of the martyrs who had lost their lives to the soviet invasion and they joined the war to avenge their fathers and drive the Russians away. They became a problem when their children grew up to take their father’s place in the Taliban and that is what I think has happened here.
Jalal is almost Haissam but version 2.0 even though he lacks the natural charm and charisma of his father, but his zeal for the war is double. He truly believes his father is wrong and is letting his land and country down with what he saw as cowardice by negotiating with the only enemy he has ever known.Elham Ehsas as Jalal in HOMELAND, “False Friends”. Photo Credit: Sifeddine Elamine/SHOWTIME.
In your opinion, did Balach choose to confront Jalal privately out of fear or respect for his father?
I think in my head, Balach and Jalal both grew up together, almost as brothers under Haissam’s roof and it can be argued that maybe Balach is the son that Jalal can never be. Supportive, understanding and always there for his father.
The confrontation was like a definite fork in the road, where Jalal gives him the choice to go with him or against him. But it’s different now. They aren’t the friends that I suspect they were growing up.Seear Kohi as Balach in HOMELAND, “False Friends”. Photo Credit: Sifeddine Elamine/SHOWTIME.
Why do you feel Jalal decided to shoot Max instead of keeping him for extended leverage with the Americans? Was the statement worth more than any trade or was it genuine payback for his father?
I think genuinely Jalal loves his father. Regardless of what he thinks of him, he was an idol to him. Max served no purpose and Jalal isn’t clever enough to use him as a leverage, he’s more head strong and uses his emotions. But I suspect he may be developing a little bit of tact, especially when he watches how Tasneem so expertly weaves webs in everything she does. Maybe he might be learning?(L-R): Maury Sterling as Max and Elham Ehsas as Jalal in HOMELAND, “Fucker Shot Me”. Photo Credit: Sifeddine Elamine/SHOWTIME.
Of the scenes worked with Numan Acar, Nimrat Kaur, and Seear Kohi on Showtime’s Homeland, what are some of your favorite behind-the-scenes memories?
I have watched Nimrat in a Bollywood film called Lunch Box, so I remember during lunch we would often talk about that film and what it was like shooting it (it’s an amazing film if you haven’t seen it). It was an absolute pleasure working with them all.Nimrat Kaur as Tasneem in HOMELAND, “Deception Indicated”. Photo Credit: Sifeddine Elamine/SHOWTIME.
Do you feel Jalal shares any remorse over the way he and his father left their relationship barren? Or was the public humiliation enough to leave a permanent mark of resentment for Jalal?
Yes, I do think there is always remorse because he did truly love his father and trying to get him assassinated was a form of that love. He didn’t want to watch his hero turn into the pathetic man he was clearly becoming in his eyes. But the public humiliation would have definitely burnt that bridge forever. But as with real life, we may burn bridges but we often think about the flames even years later.(L-R): Numan Acar as Haissam Haqqani and Damon Zolfaghari as the second guard in HOMELAND, ÒThrenody(s)Ó. Photo Credit: Sifeddine Elamine/SHOWTIME.
What was your daily routine to get into character as Jalal? Did you have any pre-filming military style training for handling the RPG?
Yes I did do some work with our great armourer, Thibault, who taught me different way to handle a gun and some basic military movements. I always prepared for the role a few month prior by hitting the gym because I knew Numan [Acar], my father, was very well built so I wanted Jalal to be able to hold his own with his father.(L-R): Numan Acar as Haissam Haqqani and Elham Ehsas as Jalal in HOMELAND, “False Friends”. Photo Credit: Sifeddine Elamine/SHOWTIME.
Do you feel Jalal has fully considered the consequences, to himself, his country, and globally through the revelation of taking down President Warner’s helicopter? Whether a lie or truth, he becomes public enemy #1.
I think what’s happened so far is everything that Jalal would have wanted to happen, in terms of elevating his position, taking the reigns from his father, and leading the war himself. But whether he’s ready for it, is something we need to wait and see.
Be sure to read Homeland: Would you have made President Hayes’ decision? and Homeland Season 8 Episode 4 Review: Must See TV, Groundbreaking for more in-depth analysis of Showtime’s jaw-dropping final season of Homeland.
Check out more coverage of Homeland Season 8 in The Natural Aristocrat’s Homeland category section.