Thursday, June 21, 2012

Interview: Will Patton on Saving the World

Will Patton (photo by James Dittiger)
Veteran actor Will Patton has done it all — from his earlier work in Silkwood and Desperately Seeking Susan to his almost seamless transition to big-time Hollywood blockbusters like Armageddon and Remember the Titans to critically acclaimed TV shows like 24 and Numb3rs. Now Will has a new challenge in life: saving the world from aliens. Will co-stars in the TNT hit show Falling Skies — which airs Sunday nights at 9 ET/PT — commanding the 2nd Massachusetts Civilian Resistance Group. And when Will isn’t too busy saving the world or starring in feature films, he's earning awards and rave reviews for his narration of audiobooks. I spoke with the multitalented actor recently about the second season of the Steven Spielberg-produced action drama, and he’s excited for his fans to see what the show has in store for them.

[*Note: This interview contains minor spoilers for those who haven't seen the two-hour premiere episode that aired this past Sunday.]

Celebrity Extra: Talk to me about Capt. Weaver: What are some of his qualities that you admire or that you can relate to?

Will Patton: It’s very interesting when you think about what it would be like to have to command in a situation like this. What you would have to do is maybe not what you would think, and being fair is not necessarily what we would normally think it would be. I think it requires not allowing people to see certain things about you. The greatest commanders had to find ways to wear masks, which was the greatness of their command. That’s what’s interesting about Weaver: When that mask comes down a little bit, it’s powerful. That’s intriguing to me about people, because I think we all, in order to survive, have to pretend sometimes to be something that we’re not.

CE: What can you tell me about the fate of the 2nd Mass and what they are going to face?

WP: We’re all working toward a common goal, with some dissension. Many of us have bonded in a new way. I think those of us who can step up to the plate and have a solidity are becoming more solid. For those who aren’t, it’s becoming clearer that they’re not, and it becomes a little more troublesome. I think we’re going to go through hell, that’s what I can tell you, but there are moments of blue sky. I think there are probably more moments of blue sky in this season than there were last season, but there’s a great deal of dark danger, too.

CE: One of the things I like about the show is there’s a really good balance of action scenes versus human-interaction scenes.

WP: I think so, too. It’s what interests me — it’s kind of like a weird metaphor, which I think a lot of people are feeling, like: “Is this world going to completely fall apart? And if it does, how will I really behave?”

CE: In the second episode of this season, when Tom returns from the alien ship and they discover he has that tracker thing in his eye, and Anne has to remove it ...

WP: Ew! That’s one of the craziest scenes! That scene was one of the craziest scenes I’ve ever been involved with in my whole life, and I actually really liked it because it was so far-out. I remember when we were shooting it, we were just like our minds were blown by the situation.

Will Patton (with Noah Wylie, photo by Ken Woroner)

CE: Can you take me through, say, a day in the life on the Falling Skies set?

WP: (Laughs) Because we’re shooting outside in Vancouver in winter, mostly at night, it’s freezing. Every actor got sick at one point or another, so in that way, there is a certain amount of survival that’s required. It’s like you’re shooting a whole action movie in eight days. Everyone on this crew has a really great work ethic. And every day is different, so there’s not an average day on this show. You never know what you’re going to be doing. One day you’re fighting skitters, and the next day you’re in a really intense emotional situation with another character, or you’re exploring something that you never thought about before that has to do with your life and your love. But really, a day for me is just coming in and deciding how to best make sure that I command 2nd Mass properly.

CE: Now, aside from Falling Skies, I see you’re keeping really busy with other roles. Tell me about The Girl, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival this spring.

WP: It was a beautiful script, which we shot in Mexico last summer. I have high hopes for it. I think it’s quite a beautiful story. I really liked the director, David Riker, and Abbie Cornish (who stars) is great. The little Mexican girl who’s in it — Maritza Santiago Hernandez, about 8 years old — was just beautiful.

CE: And you were just out of town filming another movie. What movie was that, and what can you tell me about it?

WP: I finished filming it in Seattle just last week. It’s called You Can’t Win with Michael Pitt, which is a pretty interesting movie. It’s sort of a true narrative about bums and thieves in the late 1800s. It’s based on the book written by a guy named Jack Black — but not the Jack Black we know. It was a memoir based on his life and published in the early part of the 1900s. It was William S. Burroughs’ favorite book. It’s an interesting script, so I’m excited to see how that turns out.

CE: Aside from all your work in feature films, TV movies and TV series, I had no idea that you were so prolific in audiobook narration — about 40 books so far, including Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, Al Gore’s The Assault on Reason, Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon and many more. You’ve also won numerous awards for your recordings. How did you get into that?

WP: When I was a kid, I always sort of lived inside books. There’s nothing more exciting than being able to sort of live a beautiful piece of literature by reading it aloud. It’s a great thing for actors to do, you know? It’s just you with a microphone, kind of doing a little play. I’d think any real actor would be excited by it. It’s hard to do, because it’s really important you don’t try to show how well you can act, and you make sure you’re staying out of the author’s way. You need to keep it as interesting as it really is without saying, “Here’s how good I’m reading it.” It’s a tricky little thing, and it’s a constant challenge. I find it to be very exciting work for an actor — as long as the book’s good.

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