Sean Bridgers [Interview]


We have an absolutely amazing interview for you fine folks today! A couple of years ago, there was an amazing movie that was released and rocked the world with some cringe-worthy material and magnificent performances that deserved some well deserved acclaim. That film was called Room. The wonderful Brie Larsen received a well deserved Oscar nomination, and the whole cast was lauded appropriately. I absolutely adored this film, and considered the best of the year. And what was a major contributing factor? Well, that would be the subject of today’s interview! The great Sean Bridgers, who portrayed Old Nick in the film, portrayed one of the most hated characters in a film since Nurse Ratchet. He was a different kind of evil, one that didn’t completely seem intentionally malefic, just not in the right state of mind for a decent world. You had to hate him, but you could attempt the empathize, usually with no avail though.

And the man who brought this character to screen happens to be one of the greatest character actors of our time. The great Sean Bridgers. So convincing was his Old Nick character, that I totally forgot in the viewing that he was a cast member of one of the greatest television shows in recent history, the illustrious Deadwood. Two very different characters, in two very different worlds. And Sean handled them both beautifully.

With that, we are so excited to have a few words with Sean Bridgers here today. He has a career that is constantly flourishing, including a role on the new Epix Series based on the classic Elmore Leonard novel and Danny Devito flick, Get Shorty! Check out this amazing interview with a damn fine actor, and then go check him out on Get Shorty! So ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Sean Bridgers!

How early in your life did you realize you wanted to join the world of film and television? Was it an early ambition, or did it just pop up as an option?

I didn’t realize that I could be in a film until I was actually in one. I grew up in a small town in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and when I was young, I did not know nor did I know anyone who knew, a professional actor. I wanted to play quarterback for the Chicago Bears or pitch for the Atlanta Braves or both. I read a great deal and I loved movies and TV but I wanted to be Archie Manning not Harrison Ford … know what I mean? Joining the world of film and TV was not on my radar when I was a kid. Although … I wrote, produced, directed and starred in a couple of plays when I was in Elementary school. I got a few friends together and we got the props, costumes, etc. My 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Williams, allowed us to perform our “little show” on a Friday, during the period between last class and waiting for the buses. We just huddled up and I told them their characters and to simply do what I told them to do as I narrated. I had written the “script” on cue cards. We never rehearsed. We just went for it. It was titled “The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln”. I was to play Lincoln and narrate. I had the fake beard and everything. My friends who were Cub Scouts wore their uniforms and brought toy rifles and were Union Soldiers. My John Wilkes Boothe got stage fright and unlike the real JWB, he chickened out. So he played Lincoln, which was stupid because he was very short, and I had to play Boothe. So I shot him in the head, jumped off a table, broke my ankle (not really I was acting) stopped and narrated about Boothe fleeing into Maryland and then I ran to the corner of the room, where I had assembled chairs to make a “barn” which the Cub Scouts set on fire (not really) and I made a run for the classroom door as they shot me down with cap guns. It was a big hit. My next show was “Washington Crosses the Delaware” (I liked history) and I played Washington and we had a big cast because everyone wanted to be in it because “Lincoln” had been so well received. The story was that we would cross the Delaware in an imaginary boat and when we reached the shore we were gonna kill a bunch of drunk Hessians. That was pretty much it. It was going to be a bloodbath. We had sword fights planned. But just before we started, my teacher said that we couldn’t have any cap guns and she didn’t want us “running wild”. Which was the point. So I pulled the plug and I quit doing my own shows until I got to 6th grade when I created a redneck Sheriff character. I did a few skits about him. I’d chew on black licorice and spit it in a cup. It was stuff like … he arrests Santa Claus … because he thinks he’s a burglar because Santa is not real, because the Sheriff never got great gifts as a child, so even if Santa was real he must be a dick (didn’t use that word) and then Santa explained the spirit of Christmas or something. It was kind of a Kapra thing with a Jackie Gleason twist. So as a young kid, I never thought about being an actor but I seemed to be acting nonetheless.

When I was in 10th grade I went to a private school in Tennessee (St Andrews – Sewanee) and there were some older kids there, the kings and queens of the drama department, who were going off to college and were going to be actors. They actually said out loud, “I’m going to study acting and become an actor” and no one laughed at them. Around that time I saw the film Tender Mercies. My friends said there was a Burt Reynolds Western showing that weekend because they’d glanced at the poster as they walked past the movie theater on their way to school, and on the poster was a guy in a cowboy hat with a mustache. In 1983 Tennessee, cowboy hat + mustache = Burt Reynolds. So we went to see it and soon realized it wasn’t a Western, there was no Burt and my friends lasted 10 minutes but I stayed and watched the entire film and was just totally taken in by it. I didn’t know who Robert Duvall was but the story and the performances were so real it reminded me of people I actually knew in my own little hillbilly life. It was close to home and it was the first film that ever felt that way to me. If what Robert Duvall was doing was “acting” then I thought maybe I could do it. I kept that dream to myself but ended up playing Poseidon in the Trojan Women in 11th grade because my girlfriend asked me to and went from rehearsal (play practice, I called it) to baseball practice. My Senior year I was not allowed to play baseball and do the Spring play. So I chose to play the lead in Blythe Spirit and gave up my dream of pitching for the Braves. Even then I was a better actor than ball player. My coach was pissed off and thought there must be a little sugar in my tank … know what I mean? I’d rather act in a play than play baseball? What he didn’t consider is that a lot of girls do plays.

Meeting girls was what led me to do plays in college at Western Carolina University and I started getting great reviews from a critic in Asheville NC, named Tony Kiss. A friend suggested I take those reviews and headshot/resume and meet her agent. And I did. The agent was really a secretary and our “meeting” was when she got away from her desk and met me in the lobby for her smoke break. I didn’t hear from her until months later when she called for an audition for a movie in Charlotte NC. I showed up three hours early because I’d never been to Charlotte and expected to get lost (1991 – pre GPS). I found my way to the audition and got my sides (scenes from the script) and sat down and memorized 10 pages (which is a lot but I didn’t know that at the time). The casting director was Mark Finncannon and he could not have been more kind and encouraging. The audition went well and the Finncannons brought me back for other projects that were coming to the Carolinas and I did three movies that summer and realized at that point that not only could I be an actor but I already was one. Maybe not a very good actor yet but I knew I had talent and I wasn’t afraid to work to get better. I was “all in” at that point and my focus became getting better through experience. That led me to study for an MFA in acting at LSU and I grew as an actor while in Baton Rouge but left a semester shy of graduating because I got a role in a movie.

That was a meandering answer to a simple question.

When was the first time you can remember seeing your name appear on screen? Do you remember what the project was? And how did it feel to see it for the first time?

The first movie I did was a CBS movie of the Week, starring Helen Hunt, called Murder In New Hampshire. They misspelt my last name – left out the R in BridgeRs. It made me feel slightly pissed off. I got over it.

Time has proven that Deadwood will go down as one of the finest television programs that came out in the beginning of this Golden Age of Television. So, what was your experience working on this show? When you look back on your experience on the show, what do you remember fondly? And what impact do you believe the show has left in history?

I’m not able to communicate the experience of working on Deadwood yet. I’m still processing it. What I remember most fondly about the show are the people I had the good fortune to work with. There were some brilliant performers and artists on Deadwood starting at the top with the show creator David Milch. He was fully committed to getting the truth of every character and every scene and as a result everyone brought all they had to offer everyday. Assholes were not allowed. Not for long anyway. What we were doing was too important for us to put up with any bullshit. It was a wonderful place to go to work and I miss those people. It’s impossible to say what the impact Deadwood will leave on television history but I do believe that my great grandkids will get as much out of our 36 episodes as audiences do today. It’s a timeless piece of storytelling. Deadwood will withstand the trends of cultural change. If all three seasons of Deadwood were transcribed into a novel it would be an American Literary classic.

Your role as Old Nick in Room is probably one of the most gruesomely dark roles I have ever seen put to screen. What drew you to this insane role? And how do you prepare for such a dark performance?

What drew me to role of Old Nick was that they gave me the job. Even after 26 years of working as an actor, every job seems like a little miracle. Fortunately for me, Room was a wonderful script, filled with great performers, brilliantly directed and got the attention it deserved.

I have my own process that gets me where I need to be to play a guy like Old Nick. My job was to make him a real human being with hopes and fears, love and hate. So it’s important that I not judge any character I inhabit. The story determines what the character does or does not do … the why of it is for the performer … and is best kept a secret. I will say that I had a wonderful time working with Director Lenny Abrahamson and Brie and Jacob … but I was happy to wrap that movie and shed myself of Old Nick.

photo by George Krachyk courtesy of the Everett Collection.

But, Room was definitely not the first dark performance I enjoyed you in. Jugface was an insanely well done horror film, and I loved your work as Dawai. When working on a project like this, what do you find to be the most important thing an actor can do to bring about just the right amount of crazy in a role?

First of all —  thank you for the compliment. I’m very proud of that movie. It’s a very strange and haunting tale. As far as bringing the “right amount of crazy” to the role of Dawai well … the whole story was kinda crazy, so I had some latitude there. Again it’s a matter of trying to create a character who feels like a real human being. Most of us are motivated by love or an attempt to avoid pain. In the case of Dawai, it was love. He loved a girl who would never feel the way about him that he felt for her. But it didn’t matter to him. His love trumped his need to avoid pain and as a result he almost seems noble at the end. He’s also the fool in Jugface and playing the fool is one of my favorite things to do, on screen and off.

If you were given the chance to portray any American president (on screen, out of an elementary school classroom that is) in history, which one would you like to bring to life?

Well … since my early attempts to play Lincoln and Washington were thwarted …

I would love to play Jimmy Carter. It would be nice to inhabit the spirit of Carter for a few months – that would do anyone good.
After playing someone like Old Nick I think I deserve to play someone like Jimmy Carter. Don’t you agree? Let’s make that happen.

After all of your years in the world of film and television, in front of and behind the screen, what would you say you are most proud of?

I’m proud of the projects you’ve mentioned … but also proud of Rectify and The Woman. I was in Free State of Jones and that’s a story worth telling. I have a film coming out called Carolina Low, which I wrote, produced and star in. We made it in 1997 under the title Paradise Falls, won many awards at film festivals but could never sell it. We’ve done a fresh edit and mix and it will be available soon. I’m very proud of Carolina Low.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I am starring in Get Shorty which premiers August 13th on EPIX. It stars Chris O’Dowd and Ray Romano and was created by Davey Holmes who wrote for Shameless among others. The folks at MGM who produce Fargo are at the helm of Get Shorty and both shows share tone and quality. You never know what is going to happen next in Get Shorty. Definitely binge worthy television. It was a blast to work on.

Also, my producing partner, Michael “Ffish” Hemschoot and I have released a 6 part web series called Arkansas Traveler. Go to Travelinproductions.com and all 6 webisodes are available. We’re working toward making Arkansas Traveler into a feature or perhaps keep it going as a web series. So please go to the site and check out Arkansas Traveler and if enough people clamor for more we’re hoping someone will give us a little $ to finish the story.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Seeing my youngest wake up around noon, all sleepy faced and happy because it is still summer break.

Hey Folks! Remember, if you download Epix for a free trial you can watch the first 3 episodes of Get Shorty featuring our new friend Sean Bridgers!  You Don’t want to miss this year’s hottest new series!

Check out this trailer for the EPIX Original series Get Shorty, courtesy of Jo Blo TV Show Trailers:

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About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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