Anyone who has seen Mr. Skipper in film or on stage can attest to his eyes convey a lot of emotion. Graham returns to Midnight Madness with writer, director Joe Begos in The Mind's Eye. Mr. Skipper has channeled some serious intensity with his portrayal of Zack Connors. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Graham about acting.
It is fascinating to learn about the genesis of an actor. How did you get started in acting?
I've been acting since a very young age. My father was an actor in LA (where I was actually born) and then in Texas as I was growing up, and my mother was very involved in our local theatres, so both of my parents were very supportive. I did lots of plays and musicals as a kid, including one film when I was 12 that ended up going to Sundance, so you could say acting has been in my blood from the beginning. I went to school for it at Fordham University in NYC, and have been acting professionally ever since!
What have you learned about the craft of acting while making Almost Human and how did you apply that knowledge to The Mind's Eye?
As with anything, I just try to be as truthful moment to moment on-screen as I can be - and I think that's especially true with horror films. It's so easy to comment on something at outrageous as some of the scenarios you find yourself in with a horror movie, but it's so much more effective to live it honestly and react truthfully to the ridiculousness going on around you. If you're believing what's happening to you, then the audience will, too. I think that was the main thing I kept with me coming out of Almost Human: I had to do my best to ground Seth in what was going on so that the audience would take that ride with me. The same I feel is true for The Mind's Eye - or any role, really. It also should be said that having worked with Joe on Almost Human just helped to solidify our friendship and make working together on The Mind's Eye that much easier. There's a shorthand we developed really quickly on Almost Human, and that just continued on into The Mind's Eye. Plus it just makes it fun!
Making a film can be such a surreal experience. Do you have any funny anecdotes from your time on film sets?
There was a really weird, hilarious moment on the set of Almost Human that was thankfully captured in the special features on the blu-ray and DVD, that is truly one of those things that only an actor would ever find themselves doing. I had to record some wild lines at the end of a long day out on a cold forest road - it was freezing cold, it was getting dark, we were all exhausted, and they had to get several takes on audio of me yelling various obscenities - "fuck, shit, goddammit" - all the things my mother would have hated hearing me say. And so there I am, screaming these curse words at the top of my lungs, covered in blood, freezing cold, just shouting them into the air while like twenty people just stood around watching me. It wasn't til it was over that we all burst out laughing. Such a weird, surreal moment.
As an avid aficionado of horror films are there any performances that you have drawn inspiration from?
Oh man, there are so many... Bruce Campbell in Evil Dead 2 is one of the greatest cinematic performances of all time. Same with Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West in Re-Animator. It's not exactly a horror film but Stallone in First Blood is like one of my favorite performances of all time. Also Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani in Possession are two just totally remarkable performances, in what must have been a tremendously difficult film to wrap your head around as an actor. Marilyn Burns in the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a testament to commitment as an actor - any time I would ever get tired or sore or whatever, I would think to that performance and remind myself of her and what she went through, and that I needed to suck it up and push through. I really admire the work of some of the old greats - Peter Lorre, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Vincent Price...there's an elegance mixed with madness that they brought to every role that I think every actor should study. Oh! And who could forget the great Robert Englund! There's so many...!
THE MIND'S EYE screens:
Tue, Sept 15, 11:59 PM RYERSON
Thu, Sept 17, 3:30 PM BLOOR HOT DOCS
Sat, Sept 19, 7:00 PM SCOTIABANK