Freddy-With an interview of Xander Berkeley for the new film titled THE DARK AND THE WICKED out this Friday (Nov. 6th) in theaters, On Demand and Digital.
Xander is an excellent character actor, that’s probably best known as George Mason on 24 but he’ll always be Tood Voight in TERMINATOR 2 to me.
Xander plays an extremely creepy preacher in THE DARK AND THE WICKED. One that proselytizes to the family on the farm late at night without an invitation. It’s an excellent part and each scene represents another tier of terror for the poor local family.
Freddy Beans: Hey Xander, how are you doing today?
Xander Berkeley: I’m good man. Where are you?
FB: Sacramento. Where are you at?
XB: I’m in Maine. Outside of Portland. You’re in Sacramento. The fires still up there?
FB: I’m up in the hills but I can finally say I see some steady blue skies.
What are you doing up in Maine?
XB: We moved up here a couple of years ago, full time. We got the farm about six or seven years spending our Summers here. Fell in love with it. We decided to work on getting film production into the state by working on getting tax incentives here and developing properties to shoot film in.
FB: That is fucking awesome. I don’t really know much about Maine so maybe this is a start. (Laughs)
XB: (laughs) It’s a good atmosphere for smart dark horror movies, like THE DARK AND THE WICKED.
FB: I honestly loved the movie. You’re super unsettling as the creepy and politely/rude Christian priest. What did you enjoy most about playing him?
XB: I have kin from Texas. I had a film in SXSW. A producer on the film asked me, “My god, what are you doing next week? We’re casting this movie and we need you. You can age up, right?” I immediately thought of relatives who I’d been reminiscing recently with, on when we were kids. They were just such characters. I feel like I dipped back in time to tap into these older memories. I had their voices and cadences in my head. There was also a spider that crept into my hat on set. That thing stayed up there and made a nest. He was up there for every take and odd angle. It was almost dictating, or pulling the strings. There were all these spider references in the film. It felt like, oh there is something going on here.
FB: Did you give him a name?
XB: I forget it but at the time I did. It was disconcerting as well. I didn’t bring him with me.
FB: Your priest is only in a few scenes but each one is really important in showing this family’s breakdown. I was wondering how you approach a smaller as opposed to a larger role in film?
XB: In this case, he wanted to resonate with two different archetypes. One is the priest, who has a folksy comforting feel. In that a man of a cloth is here, all will be well. With the sort of simultaneous suggestion that, as was suggested to me by the writer/director Bryan Bertino, I may be the Devil. That’s an archetype you don’t often get to do. I was in a series titled THE BOTH AT THE END, where you have to find out if this guy was God or the Devil. At any given moment, you’re able to see him as one or the other. In this context, of an old creepy priest who hangs out at the end of the driveway, until invited in or shows up at 3 in the morning without a car. I was aiming for the old archetype and the familiarity I had with the old world Texas voice and some of the spider’s physicality which was a lucky accident that happened. The script was smart and grounded enough to let me transcend a gratuitous genre movie, into the realm of art film. I am an artist and I do hanker towards art, wherever I can find it. It came to me and I’m just happy to participate in it on some level.
FB: You brought up art. I know you’ve been living a dual life as a sculptor/artist. If you could have one piece of art from anyone, showcased in your home, what would it be and why?
XB: Wow. I took out one of the ceilings in the properties in Maine so it’s this cathedral height ceiling now. I have these great barn boards from 1793 that are thick and probably from 300 year old growth wood. I’ve been sculpting them in what I would call sacred art. Without being particularly religious, I’ve been a fan of religious art through the ages. From paintings to Spanish Santos wood sculptures. More contemporary like the French impressionist Georges Rouault. You will find his work if you ever visit the Sistine Chapel in Rome. He did a couple of christs that are so gothic. They’re almost black lit but the paint is super thick and textural. Those left a real impression on me when I was a kid. Especially with the work I’ve taken up recently. I’d take a Rouault.
FB: Thank you for sharing that man.
Fair or not, you’re probably most famous for playing Todd Voight in TERMINATOR 2. You find your exit on the end of an extended pointer finger and all you wanted was some milk. Did you have a favorite experience working on that film?
XB: Robert Patrick and I had been friends long before that film. I was so happy for him, that he got that part. That we were going to get to work together. I got to be really good friends with Jenette, who played my wife Janelle in it. She had worked on Aliens with Jim. I was good friends with Bill Paxton, so there was just this great camaraderie. There was a family feeling that came with working with Jim. He’s a stern task masker but he’s so smart with what he does. Those were new effects, my Shish kabob through the milk. I had to help him out because he forgot to take the counter into account. I could have been a sword swallower at the end of the two weeks. (Laughs)
FB: (Laughs) I think that would be hard to act through. To pull it off, like you’re actually hanging off the end of that thing.
XB: It was all the way down my throat and something at the back of my head to retract it. So it wasn’t so hard to pull off.
FB: Good luck Xander. Thanks for talking with me and you were fucking awesome in THE DARK AND THE WICKED.
XB: I appreciate that! Stay safe in Sacramento!
I apologize, this one was cut way too short. I had quite a few more questions to go. Wanted to at least hit on 24.
Until the next time,