Thursday, July 14, 2016

Interview: Bruno Gunn on the Groundbreaking Officer Downe and Westworld

Bruno Gunn
(by Byron Ashley Bryson)
The last time I caught up with Bruno Gunn, he was just coming down off the high that is playing a pivotal role in a ridiculously popular movie franchise: He was Brutus, the scary and lethal career tribute from District 2 in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." He's been quite a busy man since those days. He currently co-stars in the movie "Officer Downe," which is generating quite a lot of buzz as a groundbreaking entry into the graphic-novel film genre. He also plays a role in the upcoming HBO original series "Westworld." I spoke with Bruno recently about these latest projects, and I can tell you without a doubt that he is beyond excited for us to experience these roles with him.

Celebrity Extra: First tell me about "Officer Downe." It's been getting such rave reviews. It's been described as groundbreaking in its genre and is being compared to "Deadpool."

Bruno Gunn: No one has seen anything like this. This is a rated-R movie, much in the vein of "Deadpool," and it doesn't shy away from its origins of being a graphic novel. It's a comic book that is graphic, and they didn't hold back any punches. It is a punch in the face that the world has been waiting for.

CE: I can't wait for this to open wide, because I have been hearing such great things about it. Just the preview alone had my jaw on the floor!

BG: I'm super-excited. It's been getting great press, and deservingly so. Kim Coates (who plays the titular character) is fantastic. It's one thing to watch him while you work, and it's another thing to see him onscreen. He's pretty amazing. He really is. He does justice to "Officer Downe," and pardon the pun, because that is what "Officer Downe" does. He's justice -- just in a different way.

CE: What can you tell me about your character, Fritch?

BG: Fritch is a veteran officer, and he's assigned to clean up after Officer Downe, and he doesn't like it. He thinks he should be further along than where he is; he feels like he's due for that promotion. And instead he keeps getting assigned to cleaning up Downe's messes. But the great thing about Fritch is, and I've said this before, any great character goes through a change. They have an arc. They start in one place and finish in another. You don't want your character to start in one place and then finish in the same place. There's no arc. There's no growth. There's no change. And ever so subtly Fritch does this. He goes through that change. And it's pretty cool.

That's a product of Joe Casey, the writer, who just stayed true to the comic book. He would come in, and he'd have conversations with you and ask, "What do you feel?" And he would take those notes and come back the next day and shirt off, he would find places for these notes. So he was fantastic. I encourage everyone to get the comic book. Chris Burnham, the graphic artist, is sensational. He is such a pro. His stuff is so captivating and unique. The comic book is a treat to have.

CE: Are most of your scenes with Kim?

BG: Yeah, mine are mostly with Kim and with Reno Wilson, who played Carl on "Mike and Molly." And Tyler Ross, who's the other supporting star in this film. He's fun. That's really the core of it.

CE: This sounds like a really fun and intense movie.

BG: Yeah, you'll be along for a ride. Your jaw will be open most of the time.

CE: Isn't it amazing how much the world of comic books has blown up in recent years?

BG: It's interesting, right? The whole superhero graphic-novel world is just exploding. And I was new to it. I wasn't a comic book guy. I didn't know much about that culture. And I'm just blown away at the popularity and how good these comic books are: the artwork, the storytelling. It's impressive. And we'll be seeing more of it. I don't think it stops here.

CE: "Westworld" sounds like it's going to be amazing! Tell me how the whole thing came about for you.

BB: I went in to audition for it. At the time I had just come off "Officer Downe," so I had this ginormous mustache, and I thought, "God, this is perfect." I mean, this really is. The character is a wanted outlaw. He thinks he runs the town -- and I emphasize "thinks." The character's name was originally Bulldog. And so I read for it, and a couple of weeks later, I get a call and they're like: "Hey, you booked the job. And not only is it yours, but they have changed the name of the character. They changed it to Walrus."

That mustache had a life of its own, I swear to God. I think that thing was booking me more jobs than just me. It dictated a lot. There have been a lot of conversations about that mustache. So, that's how it came about. I read for it, and it was one of those reads where you leave it and you're like: "Ah, that was terrible. That's just never going to happen." I've come to learn to not even remotely try to figure out if that was a good read or a bad read. You always want to feel good about coming out of something, but sometimes you don't. And then the ones that don't always go well can be the one. You never know.

Bruno Gunn
(By Byron Ashley Bryson)
CE: How would you describe "Westworld"?

BG: It's a straight-up Western meets sci-fi. It was my first period piece, since it's set back in time in the Wild West, and it was just mind-blowing, the authenticity of it all. That's really what impressed me the most was the authenticity of it all. Everything from your costumes to the sets to the people. It was just mind-blowing.

CE: Tell me about Walrus.

BG: He's on the run. He's a wanted lawbreaker. And he feels that the town is his, and he gets put in his place. Which is awesome, because it's a great piece, and I'm super proud of it, and I'm incredibly excited for everyone to see it.

CE: How was the cast to work with?

BG: Every single person I came in contact with was fantastic. Everyone. I'm working with James Marsden in this. He and I have a scene together, and he was terrific. We were bouncing ideas off each other and saying: "OK, well, maybe you try this and I try that. Let's see what happens." That's what any actor really wants to do is get in there and just play around.

CE: He does seem like a nice guy, so I'm happy to hear that he really is.

BG: One hundred percent. He's always smiling. I'm like, "Dude, it's 6 o'clock in the morning." He's just smiling. People like that on set are good to have.

CE: With all the shows that viewers have to choose from nowadays, what sets "Westworld" apart, and why should we watch it?

BG: Great question. I feel like it is groundbreaking. Look, Westerns are hard to do. A good Western, that is. And then let alone throw in sci-fi. That's a heck of a cocktail, Western and sci-fi. So, I really think of it as groundbreaking television.

CE: One of the fan-submitted questions for this interview was "What was the hardest role that you've ever had to play?"

BG: It was Walrus from "Westworld." It's definitely Walrus. And that's because it was my first period piece. It's one thing to bring yourself to a character, and it's another thing to have to explore who this character is in a different time. Especially when your wardrobe is dictating how you walk, and the words you say are different. Just doing a period piece like that was fantastic. Every turn it was something new, like, "Would I do that in present day? How would I hold that?" So, all those things are important, and it was by far the hardest. So many different things were dictating the character: the time period, the sets, the boots, the costumes -- all of it.

The most physically challenging role would have to be Brutus (from "Hunger Games: Catching Fire"). That was a physical role. I spent three months wielding that spear and climbing rocks and jumping in 10-degree water. It was intense! That water was cold. It was November in Atlanta. So, physically that was the most demanding.

CE: What's next for you?

BG: There are a couple of projects on the horizon there. It's always a waiting game until things are finalized. But I'm excited. I'm in a film called "Craftique," and it takes you into the world of crafting. Believe it or not, it's a billion-dollar industry, and they have these huge conventions. The movie is a mockumentary, like "Best in Show." So, it's a comedy and, again, I'm so excited to be doing more comedy. It's something I love to do. It's challenging. And when do you get to see a big bald guy be funny? It's not like a common thing. I love it and I'm having fun with it. I can't give away anything about the movie, but let's just say I have special skills.

CE: You are also involved with the #URhand4Ecuador campaign, which was started by fellow actor Augusto Aguilera. So far you've raised more than $20,000 for victims of the Ecuador earthquake and have gotten celebrity friends to join in, including Alyssa Milano, Nikki Reed, Sophia Bush, Nina Dobrev, Max Carver, Taylor Hicks, Michael Raymond-James, Lance Bass, Johnny Whitworth and Kendrick Sampson. (Go to gofundme.com/letsbuildhope to learn more about the campaign and how you can help.)

BG: I got involved with this because it was unimaginable, these unthinkable statistics I was hearing. The idea there was hardly any media coverage of this: 2,200 people dead; 26,000 people left homeless; scores of children who are now orphans. This was a no-brainer. This needs to have a voice. I was really happy to be able to help out and participate in that.

CE: I, too, did not realize the devastating statistics of the tragedy! I'm happy to do my part in getting the word out about this.

BG: It's just so disheartening that we are not on top of that, so I am, again, really grateful to have that opportunity to help them. You know, "Westworld" and "Officer Downe" will take care of themselves, but we've got to help spread the word about this.

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