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Katharina Kubrick talks Stanley Kubrick, 2001 MoMI Exhibit, A.I. (Interview)

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Katharina Kubrick spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about the timeless nature of her father Stanley Kubrick’s films, the new ‘Envisioning 2001’ Exhibit at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI), Stanley choosing Steven Spielberg to direct A.I. Artificial Intelligence, the Barry Lyndon threats, The Irishman’s de-aging tech, and much more.

It was a great honor for The Natural Aristocrat to interview Katharina Kubrick, daughter of Stanley Kubrick, about her late father’s lifetime of contributions to cinema at the Astoria, Queens based Museum of the Moving Image. New York City’s MoMI will be home of the Envisioning 2001: Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey Exhibition open now until July 19, 2020. Rarely does The Natural Aristocrat get sentimental but to be personally connected to Stanley Kubrick’s family and history in any fashion is truly surreal.

Katharina Kubrick discussed film as an art form, why her father’s work connects seamlessly with generation after generation, her favorite part of MoMI’s Envisioning 2001 Exhibit, Stanley as a family man, and questions film aficionados may be wondering about. Including: Would Stanley have embraced The Irishman’s de-aging technology? What ultimately made Stanley decide to hand directing of A.I. Artificial Intelligence to friend Steven Spielberg? The details of the threats made during production of Barry Lyndon, and the tragedy that made Stanley abandon flying.

Watch the full interview with Katharina Kubrick above or read the transcript below:

Interview with Katharina Kubrick:


The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: You mentioned earlier at the ‘Envisioning 2001’ presentation that younger fans have come up to you and said, ‘this film is G.O.A.T!’

Katharina Kubrick: (laughs) I’ve only just learned that phrase!

It really makes Stanley’s work timeless. What does it mean to you to have multiple generations always returning to these films no matter how many decades pass?

You know, why do people still listen to Bach? Why do people still look at Van Gogh’s paintings? I think if the art, whatever it is, whatever form it takes, whether it’s a painting or music or film is honest and speaks to people, then it will last. I think a lot of people think that film is a sort of a one view consumer project.

I mean obviously a lot of films are. But if you’ve put a lot of heart and soul, thought and effort, and money into making a movie, to my way of thinking, you should be wanting to make a film that lasts. Why would you make something that you just think, ‘Oh, people are going to forget it by the time they’ve walked out of the cinema’?

Film is one of the great art forms, it involves story and music and acting and design. And it is so all encompassing of all the arts. You have a lot of different artistic disciplines that come into making a film. It’s new, in terms of world art but I think good films make a great contribution to the quality of our lives. But I would say that, wouldn’t I? (smiles)

Were you were heavily impacted by your mother Christiane in pursuing art as well?

Yes, my mother is an artist. She’s a very good painter and has a very good website, ChristianeKubrick.com. Stanley found her when he was in Germany making a film called Paths of Glory, and wanted an actress for the last scene. He was watching television and saw her in a play, called her agent, asked for an interview. And you know the rest as they say, is history.

She had been acting for a living but didn’t really want to be an actress, she always wanted to be an artist. Being with Stanley meant that she didn’t have to act anymore and she could be a painter. So there were two artists living in the same environment and encouraging each other. They were a great team those two. (smiles)

I’ve noticed while listening to you earlier and in general that Stanley always wanted to make his work a family affair. He’d feature you and your sisters in film cameos, utilize family-made paintings and music. Essentially, want all of the family involved in some fashion.

I think if Stanley had his way we would all have worked in the film industry because as far as he was concerned… Why wouldn’t you want to work in the film industry? He was very pleased that I went into the art department and films and had my own career apart from working for him. My late sister Anya was an opera singer, so obviously the film business wasn’t for her. And then my youngest sister [Vivian Kubrick] made a documentary on The Shining.

So, he was very keen for us to be involved because he thought it was the best business to be in. He would involve us whenever he could. We were always together as a family. We always traveled everywhere together. Everything was based from home. And so we were all if not directly involved, we were all there and he would show us drawings or concepts or talk to us about ideas he had. “What do you think about this, and what you think about that?” We were always a team.

One of my favorite movies personally is Barry Lyndon. I’ve read that Stanley received threats for having British soldiers essentially on Irish soil?

No, they were Irish soldiers. Well, what we had is a British film crew and we were in Waterford (city in Ireland) and the soldiers were all Irish soldiers and a lot of the crew were also Irish. But the main film unit was British. We were renting a house and there was a cleaning lady and she said some guys came to clean the windows or paint the house. I can’t remember which way it was. And they said, ‘Oh you know, these people are not who they say they are. We know who these people are.’

There were difficult times in Ireland at the time. And then I think there was a phone call received and it was made very obvious that we needed to not be there anymore. That there was a potential threat against the crew, if not us directly.

I was actually not in Ireland, I was back in England at the time when it happened. They just had to hightail it out of there. Stanley said it’s just a movie, it’s not worth anybody getting hurt for. So he was very pragmatic from that point of view. They moved to England, the whole unit move to England. I went back on the picture and we all started looking for locations again, and we set up the production offices in Salisbury (city in Wiltshire, England).

I’ve always been curious about A.I. Artificial Intelligence, a film that Stanley started being interested in making all the way back in the 70s. From what I’ve read over the years, Stanley really wanted to make this film and it seemed stuck in development limbo. Eventually he asked Steven Spielberg if he would direct the picture.

Why did Stanley feel the technology was never quite good enough prior? I’ve read Jurassic Park had a considerable impact on Stanley decidedly pushing for Spielberg to direct, although Spielberg still wanted Stanley to direct the film. Would Stanley have directed the film after Eyes Wide Shut had he not passed?

No, there were certain sequences in A.I. that CGI hadn’t caught up to at that point. They weren’t very good at doing fur and water. Stanley was very impressed with Jurassic Park. When he approached Steven and said, “I really think you should direct this and I’ll produce,” Steven was surprised obviously. But then I think very encouraged and he didn’t give it back. Stanley was going to do it, after Eyes Wide Shut it was fully his intention to work on A.I.

He told me that he thought he would make it too dark and that it was more Steven’s subject matter. That the two of them would collaborate very successfully. They were really good friends and they talked about it a lot. I think it probably would have been a very good collaboration. I feel is already a really dark film and Stanley thought that Steven’s sensibilities were more appropriate for the subject matter.

I think they more or less agreed that Steven would direct it and Stanley would produce it. I’m very pleased that Steven made it.

How do you feel Stanley would have looked at the de-aging technology recently used in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman?

I haven’t seen The Irishman but Stanley would have loved all the new technology for sure! I think he would have just been finding ways that he could incorporate all the new stuff into a new story. He never knew what film he was going to be making next. Stanley was a voracious reader and he said that finding a good story that he wanted to make and fallen in love with was the most difficult thing for him.

It took him years to decide what to make or to find a good story that would sustain him throughout the filmmaking process. Because you have to really love it and believe in it and trust in your instincts. And then you have to do all the research, which was part of the thing that he liked doing a great deal, was the research. It’s like he cut filmmaking into thirds first third was research, second third was filming it, and then the last third was editing. That was his favorite process of the whole thing, the editing.

Did you personally watch Doctor Sleep?

Yeah, I’ve seen it. Well, I haven’t seen it finished. I saw it a couple of months before it came out.

You mentioned earlier how much Stanley loved New York. I’ve read that after Stanley got his pilot license, he felt that commercial airlines weren’t safe and didn’t really like traveling by flying anymore. Do you feel the choice affected his life in any way?

He did have a pilot’s license and he flew a very small plane himself. What happened was that his good friend was killed in an air accident. Stanley, being his close friend was sent all his personal effects and I think it just freaked him out completely. He just couldn’t cope with it. He just didn’t fly, didn’t have to fly. We always went everywhere by ship.

What’s your favorite part of the ‘Envisioning 2001: Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey’ Exhibit here at the Museum of the Moving Image?

I like seeing all the sketches and the the artwork, actually. It’s good fun. It’s very interesting to see the process, the way people’s minds work in getting to the final result. There’s lots to see!

Thanks Katharina!

Thank you!

Be sure to check out the full MoMI Envisioning 2001 Exhibit Press Presentation and The Natural Aristocrat’s tribute article to Barry Lyndon’s use of Handel’s ‘Sarabande’ as a prominent piece overlaying the film.

Follow Katharina Kubrick on Twitter and Instagram. Learn more about the Museum of Moving Image’s ‘Envisioning 2001: Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey’ Exhibit at this link and book a visit today!

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Interviews

Rob McElhenney talks Mythic Quest: Quarantine (Interview)

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Rob McElhenney as Ian on Mythic Quest: Quarantine - Photo Credit: Patrick McElhenney via Apple TV+
Photo Credit: Patrick McElhenney via Apple TV+

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.

Thanks Rob!

Thank you!

Rob McElhenney as Ian on Mythic Quest: Quarantine – Photo Credit: Apple TV+

Be sure to check out The Natural Aristocrat’s interviews with Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet’s Charlotte Nicdao on portraying Poppy and F. Murray Abraham on C.W. Longbottom’s backstory.

Watch Mythic Quest Quarantine now on Apple TV+. A free 7-day trial is available for non-subscribers.

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Better Call Saul

Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez talks Better Call Saul’s Bagman (Interview)

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Gabriel 'G-Rod' Rodriguez as El Jefe and crew - Photo provided by Gabriel 'G-Rod' Rodriguez
Photo provided by Gabriel 'G-Rod' Rodriguez

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.

Thanks G-Rod!

Thank you!

Behind the Scenes Shot of El Jefe’s Crew on Better Call Saul’s “Bagman” – Photo provided by Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez

Follow Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez on social media on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and his official website! Discover all of G-Rod’s acting roles on IMDB.

Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez Promo Picture – 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!

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Homeland

Elham Ehsas talks Jalal Haqqani in Homeland Season 8 (Interview)

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Elham Ehsas as Jalal in HOMELAND, "Fucker Shot Me". Photo Credit: Sifeddine Elamine/SHOWTIME.
Photo Credit: Sifeddine Elamine/SHOWTIME

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.

Thanks Elham!

Thank you!

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(L-R): Numan Acar as Haissam Haqqani and Elham Ehsas as Jalal in HOMELAND, “False Friends”. Photo Credit: Sifeddine Elamine/SHOWTIME.

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.

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