By The Old Man
Lance Henriksen Fan Interview
24th April 04
with Sue Myatt of Lance Henriksen Magic
On Lance’s side of the Atlantic it was midday Saturday 24th April, a sunny 85 degrees, and Lance was sitting in his garden with birds singing blissfully in the background. He had a firing of some of his new pots going and I could tell that life was simply perfect for him!
For me, late in the evening, I could feel some Californian serenity being piped down my phone line, extending the glorious day that I had already spent lying in the sun watching nature in my garden (and trying to protect it from my two kittens!). So I think we were both pretty chilled.
Lance was clearly honoured to have so many people with such heartfelt gratitude and deep respect for him. He was also totally chuffed that his fans had remembered his birthday. He wanted me to pass on his warmest regards to you all for taking an interest in the interview and sending him birthday wishes.
I admit I was a little nervous; I had so many good questions and I didn’t want to disappoint. But Lance soon put me at ease. He began by telling me about his next project, which he is obviously excited about. It’s a new movie, the story of Evil Knievel – the motorcycle daredevil that kids of my generation adored (yes I had the toy motorbike and action man!). Lance plays Evil’s mechanic, Bill Awful Kawful (? not quite sure of pronunciation!). Lance says that his character is “a real geyser, he’s a very funny guy.” In fact he took the part because he really wanted to play this character. He’s just starting to get into the role for the movie, which starts filming May 19th in Canada. It sounds like it could be fun to see Lance in this role!
Here’s the rest of the interview:
Q. Hi Lance, We met a number of years back while you were here filming "Gunfighter's Moon". I don't know that you would remember me, but I wanted to extend my thanks once more for how gracious you were not just to myself but to all of the townspeople of Maple Ridge. It was a true privilege to have you here. My question that I'd like to ask is do you face any particular challenges in creating your performance when you play a real-life individual, such as Wally Schirra or Charles Bronson, and have you ever received feedback from somebody that you played? Robert Richardson, Maple Ridge, Canada
A. “The hardest part about playing a real person in a movie is that it makes you very self-conscious. But once you start working then you’re ok, you get into it and don’t think about it. But it’s different if you meet them beforehand, it would make it easier. But I’ve only ever played guys I’ve never met. It would be better to meet them beforehand.” Lance brought to mind his movie, The Right Stuff. Although this was made in 1983, in June 2003 he spent some time with heroes of the NASA space programme, as part of a ceremony inducting former NASA astronauts into the Hall of Fame. At the Space Center Lance found himself sitting next to Wally Schirra, the character he played in The Right Stuff. “Wally turned to me and said ‘it looks like I didn’t do anything’. [Lance’s role got cut out of the movie to a large extent]. But you can’t combine the Chuck Yeager story and the astronauts. But they did make the astronauts look like fools. By the way say hello to Maple Ridge for me!”
Q. Dear Lance, I know, that you have two daughters; one nearly an adult girl, and the other still little. What future do you see for your daughters? Would you encourage them to follow in your footsteps? Sergeyenko Anastasya, Russia
A. My older daughter wanted to be an actress when she was young but I refused to let her because I wanted her to have childhood. Children need to be allowed have a proper childhood. But I got her into a [Millennium] show: she played a runaway child in one episode. And she loved it. I would take her to set and the make up people were all over her because she is such a cute girl.
Q. Happy Birthday Lance! (a little early) Hope you have many more. I read somewhere you're not like any of the characters you play. What are some of your favorite things? What music, food, sports, books, do you like? Annie Nichols U.S.
A. Eminem is one of my favourites right now. I like Thai food, but I’m a terrible cook. I just like to throw food together. I like palm trees and the sun. I love Hawaii. I haven’t been to see many movies lately. But I thought Kill Bill 2 was a terrible movie. You know Tarrantino must’ve worked in a video shop or something, and he just has these scenes in his mind that he wants to shoot over again. It’s too stylized.
Q. My question actually has something to do with breaking into the Film Industry Business. I was wondering if you had any tips or secrets about working as an Actor or Painter on a set. Xircuits
A. I started in theatre, my first job was designing sets. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I had a talent for making dramatic sets; I had been a painter for years. The first play I did, I got the job because I had built the set! And I didn’t even know I got the lead part. The key thing to remember in this business is that they don’t invite you in, but once you’re in they won’t kick you out. So start small and it will grow
ABOUT MILLENNIUM :
Q The most powerful episodes of Millennium were directed by Thomas J. Wright. Is it accurate to say that you two clicked in a major way, almost to the point of professionally knowing one another so intimately as to be able to know what the other wanted? Could you explain the working relationship that developed between you two throughout the run of "MillenniuM"? DAVID F. BARRY, US
A. Absolutely! Tom Wright became a close friend and it got to point where I would just know where he was going with ideas, we didn’t even have to talk. He’s brilliant. He is an artist as well … a painter. He used to do the storyboards for Alfred Hitch****. When we first met we didn’t like each other, we had these preconceived ideas about the person that the other was. But after long hours working together we became very close.
Q. Had you ever the ambition to write and/or direct an episode of MillenniuM, like David Duchovny did on the X-Files ? Alexander Grodzinski, Germany
No, I have no desire to direct. I never have. But I like writing scripts. I’m working on one at the moment – it’s called Melt. I’ve been writing it for the last 10 years. It all started when I read the line from a Dylan Thomas poem, “The ball I threw while playing in the park has not yet reached the ground.” [from Should Lanterns Shine]. That line got my attention, it inspired me. It’s about a guy throwing ball in the park when he was a kid and it has still not hit the ground now he is an adult. It’s a sci-fi story … about time. You know there’s this little kid in all of us, he’s still in there, deep down in us those atoms are the same as when we were that kid.
But doing Millennium, I couldn’t be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral. I really needed to stay subjective and didn’t have the chance to get objective enough about it to think about directing.
Q. Hello`MR H We loved your work In 'Near Dark" and "Stone Cold". We also Enjoy your Pottery as well.. Do you know of or remember any of the cut footage from "Millennium" . Were many parts of "Millennum" cut out because they were just to rough or bloody for TV??
A. A lot of jokes would happen, we would start laughing uncontrollably because of the tension of the show, so some very funny things would happen on set. Mostly in terms of language [the dialogue was, at times, complex], I’ve already told you about the line: 'I detect an unusual level of mindfulness associated with the violence.' Well some of these things Chris would get me to say I’d have to get 10 dictionaries out to understand the words. So we’d end up saying something out of context or doing a scene out of order. You’d catch a look from another actor and start laughing. The guy who played Giebelhouse had been fisherman in Alaska, he was a real man, very funny guy, me and him would crack up a lot on the set.
Q. Frank Black was a wonderfully crafted and realised hero in the truest sense of that word, and I still find both the character and some of the episodes an inspiration. My question is, with several years' distance now between you and the character, how far has the experience of playing him affected your outlook on life? Adam Chamberlain, London, England
A. Quite a bit. When I look back I have 20/20 vision, and I can be objective now I’m not playing him. It makes me realize all the things that could have been done to make the show more powerful. The show should have never have ended when it did. Cases can’t all be solved by 9 o’clock when the show ended. I would’ve also liked the chance to show more of the process of [Frank’s] thinking in that situation [his thought processes]. I would love to get the chance to play a similar character and show all this – it’s certainly a role I’d look out for in the future.
Q. Hey Lance, In Sue's interview, you mentioned "secrets" that you learned about Frank Black as the season progressed and share with Chris Carter at the end of each season. As an aspiring screenwriter, I've learned how important a character's "secrets" (untold back story) can be in telling a good story. Did Chris use what you'd learned about Frank during the first two years? At the end of season three, Frank and Jordan were heading on a journey. Where did you think they were going and where did you want them to go? Thanks, Wayne
A. No, the demands of a TV show like that are so hectic there was no chance. Chris couldn’t incorporate my ideas, there was no time. Where do I think they’re off to? I’m an addict for the South Seas … somewhere warm and beautiful.
Q. Lance: Considering the undeniable brilliance and breaking of new ground that went into Millennium, can you elaborate on how the show's premature cancellation affected you? It must have been extremely frustrating. Ric Fisher USA
A. Very frustrating. We all knew it would have its found legs in the fourth year. The plans were getting very strong. The problem we had was that the producer was fired and another guy took over and cancelled Millennium. Then he got fired soon after!
But the fourth season would perhaps go in the direction I was hoping; the shows would not have been solved so quickly. Look at the brilliance of shows like The Sopranos, brilliance of it is that they don’t wrap it up at the end of the night. Life is not like that, it doesn’t all come with a neat answer wrapped up within the hour.
Q. Hello Lance, I hear you have a birthday approaching, so I would like to wish you a very happy birthday! I am looking forward to the DVD release of Millenium. I consider it to be one of the finest things ever shown of American TV. I was wondering, were there any actors, films, etc... That have been an inspiration to you as an actor? Michael, IL, USA
A. Certain actors’ performance even in bad films can be incredible, and inspiring. Some of my favourite actors weren’t very well noticed in their careers: John Malone was a great actor, he came from the Peking Theatre. And Chow Yun Fat (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), John Woo [directed Hard Target] is a great guy and an inspiring person. Along the way there are moments from all kinds of movies, if I find 5 mins in any film worth watching it is worth watching the film. I love finding that gem of a performance, There are so many actors who are so talented. The one best thing on millennium was meeting new actors every week. I always tried to make them feel welcome .
Q. Thank you for your wonderful work in Millennium. I have read that you were originally not interested in starring in a television series until Millennium. Would you consider acting in another series, and if so, what criteria would need to be met for you to agree to do more work in television? Sage Lutton, New Jersey, USA
A. It depends on what the goal is, on what the show is about. Doing TV is a lifestyle; you need to really want play a character and have respect for what [the character] is doing. I loved doing the Millennium show because I felt like a working actor with a lunch box in my hand. It was very unusual for me to get to play a character for that length of time. It was like being on Broadway.
[i asked him if he had ever felt the urge to go back into theatre, as this seems to be a popular trend amongst some actors, ie Kevin Spacey.] No because I’m so addicted to film, the process is so extended. In theatre you have to go to lengths to get the show extended. But perhaps a small obscure play, somewhere out of the way, might be more interesting.
Q. Dear Lance, Thank you very much for your portrayal of Frank Black on Millennium. Your work is exceptional. Happy birthday! My question is this: if you could re-live any moment during the three years of making Millennium, what would that moment be, and why?
A. Boy that’s a tough one. There was so much dignity in the family, Brittany Tiplady was sweetest child I’ve ever met. Being a family in those stolen moments would be something I would like to relive. The rest was like going to war!
There are some serial killings going down in the U.S. right now, and when I watch those stories in the news I slip back into Frank. I lean back in my chair and start thinking about the case, thinking like these guys think. [i asked him how he thinks someone like Frank (and the academy guys) distance themselves from all the horror of it all]. You have to divorce yourself from the emotion, get objective about it. And the key thing to remember is that these guys are the only ones speaking for victim in all this, they have a job to do.
Q. Hi, I was wondering if you and Chris Carter have discussed a possible film dealing with both Millennium and X-files?
A. Yeah, I’m hoping that happens. If enough people write to Fox it could happen.
Q. Last July, we held an interview with Sarah Jane Redmond. SJR was asked her thoughts on working with you: "[Lance was] By far the greatest example of grace, talent, joy, commitment, and generosity I have ever come across. Lance is one of, if not the, most giving, dynamic powerful, and daring actors I have thus far worked with. He loves his craft, and his exuberance for life comes through in his work." Were you aware of how much of an impact you had on her as a professional colleague? Best regards, Graham Smith. UK
A. She's a wonderful actress. No I wasn’t aware, I was so busy enjoying their company and who they were, that it was a wonderful experience. It makes my heart swell … [to hear how these actors see him]. I see the vulnerability of actors. It always moves me in some way.
Q. First of all, let me thank you for the rendition of the best TV character ever. Frank Black and Millennium had a great impact on my work as a writer, so thank you again. Millennium ending abruptly as it did, I guess there were a number of secrets and possible plot hooks that you never had the chance to reveal to the public. Are there any you know by any chance? Riccardo Raccis, Florence, Italy
A. I know that Chris and his group had the next season figured out already. They were all disappointed. We all just got numb [when we heard]. I was in my truck heading home down from Canada when I got the news on my cellphone. My wife and two dogs were in the car with me. I just felt numb.
Q. Did your time doing the show affect you personally? It always had such a spiritual theme, and so I was wondering in what way, if any, that affected you and your life. Erin McRaven
A. Both negative and positive. On the negative side wherever I went with my wife I was looking out of the car window, saying I know what’s going on in that building. My wife would have to ask Frank: “Can lance come out and play?” In that respect it wasn’t much fun. But the positive side was knowing how rich my life was. I took it serious. It was a psychological nightmare, facing all the demons that there are. It gave me a lot of faith in human beings. Meeting the academy group made me well up, that these people are so caring and trying so hard to solve all these cases. Even though they were all retired they were still doing it .
ABOUT HIS CAREER:
Q. I know you put in a lot of preparation for your roles. I wondered out of all the many and varied characters you have played, which ones you felt were most and least like you? which roles were 'less of a stretch' to get to, and which ones meant playing someone as far removed from the REAL you as possible? Hogan (Nr. Edinburgh, Scotland).
A. That’s hard, there’s such a list. The villains I play are very far removed from what I am. I never play a bad guy before I’ve found out what makes his character feel alive, human. I always look for the humanity. For example Chains in Stone Cold [a tough biker]; I saw small window in that. Like Chains was this soldier willing to pay the price for what he had done. I used that to get into the character. And Fouchon in Hard Target, he was like a guy having been at war where his speed limit is so high that to feel normal you have to raise your speed limit to get that feeling and feel normal again. So he goes around creating huge conflict and chaos around him to get back to this feeling of normality. I find a way to FEEL like that person. It’s about feeling, not about an intellectual understanding. I wanted to know in my body what it felt like so I could go there. Like in Gunfighters’ Moon, this guy had been in so many fights, he had fought all his life. But he was a humanist, just crippled by his [notoriety and fame], but fame was the last thing he wants. He’s worn out by it. He goes to a place and everyone stands and stares because they know exactly who he is. It’s a bit like when you go to a restaurant and get recognized, it’s the last thing you want. So I will try to find things that I can use that everybody can relate to. It’s very much a physical thing for me. Pottery gives me this freedom, to do this physical thing. It’ s not intellectual at all.
[i asked him if this physical aspect to his acting was related to his training at the Actors Studio.] There’s a way that the Actors Studio works, they want you to create character based on some experience from your own life so you personalize it. If you put that in your role your gonna do it: once you commit and make it personal, it’s like a thread. That thread, once its pulled … channeled, you don’t know where it’s coming from. You start this ‘channeling’. And it starts coming at such a speed …
Q. Hi Lance, I would like to ask you how it was like for you at your exam of admission at the "actor's studio". Do you remember which roles/ scenes you played? Were you nervous or rather "cool"? Nicole Malige , Bochum, Germany
I was so nervous! A playwright named Bond [sic] wrote a play called Saved [sic], the premise was that this guy has baby with a girl, it’s illegitimate, and some toughs in London stone the baby. It was a strong play. I was doing it in Boston at the time of the Actors Studio audition. I went to the audition for as for the Studio with that play, and I went with actress I was with in Boston. At first they wouldn’t let me into the Studio because thought I was British. I was playing a ****ney in the play. But me and the other actress both won a place - out of 300 people!
Q. Have you ever been injured whilst filming? And if so, what happened to you. Was it serious or funny?
A. Oh yeah! I’ve broken bones doing stunts, I’ve always been one to have a go. But after a while I realised that there are some things not worth doing. Stunt men pay a price, some of them can hardly walk when they’re older. John Woo set me on fire twice for Hard Target. It burnt my ears, but I would’ve done anything for John Woo.
Q. Is it true you did a movie, together with Andy Garcia, about the painter Amedeo Modigliani? Could you tell a little about the movie and your role?
A. Andy garcia is a friend of mine...i played Randolf Herst on a shopping spree in Paris...one moment in the film for good luck...that story has always been close to my heart.
ABOUT HIS POTTERY:
Q. What kind of pottery do you like to do the best?
A. I like stoneware, I have a dozen simple glazes, and some slips and overglazes. I just touch the surface of what is available. But there is too much otherwise. And today you can get ingredients from anywhere – so many choices from all over the world. Need to limit myself [to get to know the medium thoroughly].
Omada [sic, a Japanese potter] had a road down to his studio. All the workers would line up along it waiting for him to come to work. By the side of road they would put all the pots from the last 5 or 6 firings, and as he walked past he would pick one to work on. I thought how graceful, peaceful that is.
Q. Where do you find the inspiration for your pottery?
A. In the material, I don’t believe there’s any such thing as a mistake in pottery. It is all an accident to begin with, so I just pursue the accident. Potters that say they are bored out of their minds are trying too hard. I don’t restrict the materials, I like to see what the materials would like to do; not what I want to do to them.
[What Lance is saying here is portrayed beautifully in a quote from Alan Watts in Taoism Way Beyond Seeking: "A good potter does not force the clay to obey his preconceived ideas. He evokes the spirit in the clay to do some magic. So then, because the clay did that, these artists love the clay." ]
Q. Lance, thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions and connect with us. You are truly a unique and generous person. I was fascinated by the interviews you did in Prague with Sue. You were a painter. What made you get interested in becoming a potter? Allison, USA
A. I’ve been doing pottery for 40 years, it has the same kind of energy that I do. I like the heat of it, I don’t like the dryness of canvass. It’s like comparing a painting that you do on wet, muddy canvass in the rain rather than on dry canvass.
Q. Hi Lance, I share your passion for clay and have been a working potter for 15 years. Your work is exceptional and your glazes are wonderful! I'd like to ask you which is the greater passion in your life, your pottery or your acting - and if you had to go without one of them, which one would it be?....and have any of the roles that you have played inspired or been reflected in your pottery? Wendy Gacparski, Bright, Ontario, Canada
A. They are equal obsessions. There are times I get up and can’t think about acting because I’ve got a firing on. And vice versa. I need both in my life, I am equally obsessive about both. [About roles that have inspired or been reflected:] It’s not happened yet, but I want to do the George Orr story. He was a potter in the 1800s and he was way ahead of his time. He was a Southern practical man, working class - he had 10 kids! His father was a blacksmith. People saw him as eccentric, crazy. Yeah, I’m very excited about this.
Q. You have said that you were going to reconstitute your pottery site and I'd like to know more about your plans for the work you want to display; what is your wish list for your site? Pam Janisch/USA
A. I’m doing a lot of big platters not many small things … and tiles. They’re more like paintings on clay.
Our sincere and grateful thanks to Sue & Lance for this wonderful opportunity.
Fans may wish to download the attached transcript in Microsoft Word Format.
I recently bought Haunted on Blu-ray as part of Kino Lorber's going out of print sale for $8.99 along with The First Power (a Milleniumistic horror movie starring Lou Diamond Phillips). Haunted lasted for 11 episodes and only the first six aired on UPN. It follows Frank (Matthew Fox)- an ex-cop turned private detective- who has a near death experience after getting stabbed by the guy (Simon) he believes responsible for the disappearance of his son two years ago. After his near death experience, the door to the other side isn't closed and he is haunted by ghosts including the ghost of Simon. The TV show has the same color palette of Millennium and a score by Mark Snow. I wish Haunted lasted longer, but Matthew Fox went on to do Lost
By Frank Black Jr
From time to time, I try to make photos to tweet to Fox. I think the best chance that the fans have for a movie is to make noise and say to Fox: We want our hero back.
And for me the only way to have it is with Lance and Mr. Carter. If they are not involved, neither will I.