Can you imagine being an actor who’s worked in TV for the past few years and, when you finally score your first movie gig, it’s “Star Trek”? Nice work if you can get it, as the song says, and Antonio Elias – who plays one of the officers of the Kelvin in the opening sequence of the film – will be the first to tell you that the work was very nice, indeed. We chatted with Elias about how he got into the acting game, got the story on how close he came to picking up a series-regular gig with Dylan McDermott a few years ago, found out a bit more about how “Star Trek” originally would have opened, and learned about his next film, “Spoken Word.”
Stay tuned for…
Antonio Elias: Hey Will, how are you doing?
Bullz-Eye: Pretty good. So, “Star Trek”, that’s got to be pretty awesome to have worked on that.
AE: Yeah, it was awesome.
BE: So how long were you actually on the shoot?
AE: Three weeks.
BE: Did you have to sign a legal document swearing that you would not tell anyone about anything that you had seen?
AE: More like six. (Laughs)
BE: Nice. So for anyone who hasn’t seen the film, in what capacity were you in the film?
AE: I play a character called Officer Pitts. I’m a Starfleet officer onboard the USS Kelvin. I’m on the bridge, in the opening sequence of the film.
AE: And I work directly with the captain of the ship and the first officer, which is George Kirk. Have you seen the film?
BE: Yeah, twice, actually.
AE: You know, the whole opening of the film was much, much longer.
BE: Oh, really?
AE: Like, they had…there was more dialogue. I had more dialogue, the captain had more dialogue. George Kirk even had more dialogue. The whole opening sequence was much longer; they cut it down by probably almost half I would say.
AE: But it still works out better. I mean, the movie just kicks off right away and just goes with the action, which is good. But, yeah, it was a cool experience.
BE: And one of your co-workers just got a really big gig, too.
AE: (Laughs) I know, Chris Hemsworth got “Thor”!
AE: That lucky…uh, son of a gun.
BE: (Laughs) Now how did you fall into the film? Was it just a standard audition process?
AE: It was an audition process, yeah. I got an audition one afternoon, and my representation said, “Hey, you got an audition for ‘Star Trek.'” And I was, like, “Cool, who am I reading for?” “We don’t know, they won’t tell us.” I’m, like, “Okay, well, are there any lines for the audition? Am I going to get any lines?” “No, they’re going to give them to you when you get there.” “Okay…” So before they would give me the audition lines, I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement. So I get the side, and it just said “first officer,” and it’s just generic “Star Trek” dialogue. There’s a ship that’s under attack, and I’m reading out this, that, and the other. The thing is that everybody at the audition was reading the exact same thing, both men and women. So I had no idea what the heck I was doing. I mean, I was just, “Alright, I’m going to go for it.” Afterward I felt like an idiot, because I’m, like, “Oh, man, I sucked.” And then I got a call a few weeks later saying that I booked a role. I said, “Well, what role did I book?” And they said, “Officer Pitts.” I said, “Well, great, who is that?” “We don’t know.” I couldn’t even get a script. So I shot three days without any dialogue. I wasn’t given a script, so I had no idea even if I had one line of dialogue at all. I didn’t get any dialogue until the day before I started filming my dialogue scenes.
AE: Then I was, like, “Wait, I actually have a real part! There’s a good amount of dialogue in here! Wow, awesome!” I knew the casting directors, April Webster and Alyssa Weisberg. They had cast me in the second job I booked out here in L.A. It was a pilot for ABC called “A House Divided.”
BE: Right, I saw that on your IMDb.
AE: It starred Dylan McDermott and Jason Wiles. That was back in 2006, so I knew them from that. I hadn’t gone in for them again since then, though. Well, no, wait, I think I went in to Alyssa once for, like, a small, one line in “Cloverfield”…and I didn’t even get it! But I like to think they knew who I was, because I can imagine how competitive it was to get in that room for “Star Trek.” I mean, everybody wanted to be a part of that film. I like to think that, because they knew who I was and because they already cast me as a series regular in a pilot before, they saw my picture submitted and then they called me. I think that relationship helped me out a little bit, as far as getting the opportunity.
BE: A minute ago, you said you came out to L.A.. Where had you been living before?
AE: I was born in New Jersey, but I grew up in South Florida – Boca Raton – and I lived there until I was 21, and then I moved out here.
BE: How did you first get into acting?
AE: Well, when I was a kid…I mean, I remember I was still living in New Jersey, I lived there until I was six, and I always loved movies. I mean, my family always exposed me to old classic films like Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart…the real old, classic films. I just loved films in general. I would remember them. I would remember the dialogue, because I would watch a film, like, five or six times, and I would always do impersonations and act out scenes from films. I remember being in school in New Jersey and being with my friends on the playground during recess, and telling them, “You stand here, you stand there, and we’re going to act this out,” and I would direct it. I never asked to be an actor. My parents divorced when I was eight, and my mom enrolled me in acting camp that first summer, like a day camp, and I just went with it. We did a play at the end of the summer, and I got hooked. I mean, it was just so much fun to me…and it never stopped, so I kept doing theater. I did the summer camp for a few more years. I started doing professional local and community theater. And then when I was ten, I got a manager in Miami, and I started going out on auditions for commercials and things like that. I started doing that and I got my SAG card when I was 11.
AE: And I was still doing theater this whole time as well. I went to high school for acting. It was a private school. It wasn’t like an art school, but my tuition was paid because the owner wanted to develop a fine arts program. I couldn’t afford the school, so he gave me a scholarship – it was theater – and part of me was always…like, theater is what I really wanted to do. I mean, at one point, I wanted to move to New York and continue doing musical theater and things like that. But deep down I wanted to do films. So I think halfway through, I was, like, You know what? I think I want to go to L.A..” So it was a very natural process: started acting at eight, got my SAG card at 11, and everything just kind of happened really smoothly. I never had a moment where I said to myself, “Am I doing the right thing? Is this what I really want to do?” It was just, like, “Okay, this is it.”
BE: So when you came out to L.A. and you got the “House Divided” gig, did you just think the world was going to be your oyster…and then, suddenly, you had your heart broken?
AE: Absolutely. I mean, I had moved out here in 2004, and…the lucky thing that I had was that, the year before I moved out here, I lived in Orlando. I was attending a workshop with this man named Philip Karr, who used to be an agent out in Los Angeles. I was taking this auditioning workshop with him in the summer of 2003, and he has what he calls…well, he passed away, unfortunately, but his wife still does it with the workshop…The Backstage Tour. The L.A. Acting Workshop Backstage Tour. You can pay them, and they bring a group of actors from their workshop out, and you actually get to have a meet-and-greet with these agents, casting directors, and producers that they are all associated with, and you audition for them. So I did that program, and I got my agent that way. So, thankfully, I signed with an agent before I even moved out here, and I had my SAG card. That made it so much easier for me.
BE: Oh, yeah, I would think.
AE: So, like, my second day out here, I had an audition. But for the first few years, I was going out on a lot of auditions, and I was getting a lot of call backs, but I just wasn’t booking anything because I didn’t really have any current credits as far as TV, and I had never done a film before. So in 2006, I booked this small role on a show called “In Justice” that was on ABC, and then within a week of me filming, I booked the series regular on this pilot. I was, like, “Oh, my God, this is awesome! The world is my oyster! I’m really living now!” But I also had a really realistic outlook on it. Not like pessimistic or negative, but I was just, like, “You know what? The world could still be my oyster because I booked this, and if it gets picked up or not, this is another credit on my resume. It’s experience and I get to meet and work with these people.” And, you know, Dylan McDermott is a star; Jason Wiles is a star. So for me, it was like…the day that I got it was surreal, you know? It was absolutely surreal. And then, like, my last day filming “In Justice,” they flew me to Texas – first class! – and I got to meet all these people, and that’s when it really set it. “I’m going, man, I’m really doing this. This is weird!” But it was cool.
BE: So when the pilot didn’t get picked up, did you have a moment of horror, like, “Oh, God, now what?”
AE: You know, no, not really. I was disappointed, because I’ve seen the pilot – I have a copy of it – and it’s actually a really good show.
BE: I mean, it sounds like a very interesting concept. I was reading about it online.
AE: Yeah. It’s actually kind of scary how ahead of its time it was, talking about unemployment being so high, gas prices are high, almost $5.00 a gallon. This was three years ago! Even at that time, obviously, I wanted it to get picked up, but I had a feeling…I’m, like, “This may be a little too controversial to get picked up.” And I remember hearing all the feedback for the pilot was really positive from ABC and the test audiences and things like that. So the fact that it wasn’t picked up was kind of a surprise. But I was, like, “Hmm, well, it makes sense.” But what happens when a pilot doesn’t get picked up…I don’t know if you know, but the studio can extend what’s called the series option and then the hold the actors another six months. They pay them again, and then they decide what they are going to do with the show. So at one point I was told it was going to be made into a mini-series and they were writing episodes for it. So I said, “Okay, well, it’s going to be a mini-series, cool. That’s awesome.” I remember going to an audition, and I found out from one of the other actors. Dylan McDermott’s best friend, actually. I got to audition for ABC for some other small role on a TV show, and the casting director goes, “Oh, I hear they’re making it into a mini-series.” For me, that kind of like validated what I had heard, and I was, like, “Oh, yeah, I’ve been hearing that, too!” And inside I’m going, “Yes! It’s really going to happen! Yes!” And then it never did. But I wasn’t, like, “Oh, no, what am I going to do now,’ because I never quit my job. I’m not the type of person that is going to book a commercial and be, like, “Alright, I’m a star now, and I’m going to quit everything and buy a BMW.” Unless I have $100,000 in the bank, I’m going to keep working.
BE: Now do you do theater work as well?
AE: No, actually, I haven’t done any theater work in probably seven years.
BE: Oh, wow.
AE: Yeah, it’s been a long time.
BE: So do you just regularly go to auditions for shows?
AE: I go to auditions regularly, and I also study, so that takes a lot of time as well.
BE: Yeah. By the way, I saw that you were in an episode of “Moonlight.” That alone should earn you the stamp of approval from all the vampire fans out there.
AE: I hope so! It’s a good show. I didn’t get to play a vampire, unfortunately.
BE: No, no. But just being in the company of vampires gives you instant credibility.
AE: (Laughs) Yeah, I know, right?
BE: I also saw that you finished “Spoken Word.”
BE: Which I don’t know much about it, but I saw that Miguel Sandoval is in there, and I’m a big “Medium” fan, so I approve of that.
AE: Did that get canceled?
BE: No, actually, CBS picked it up.
AE: Oh, that’s right, I’d heard that CBS picked it up. All these shows lately have been getting the ax, like “My Name is Earl.” and I’m, like, what is going on? Yeah, “Spoken Word” I filmed last year. I was in New Mexico from March until April of 2008. That was a really, really cool experience. That was my second feature film and my first lead in a film. I mean, I’m working opposite Rubén Blades, Kuno Becker, and Monique Curnen, who has a series that unfortunately was also just canceled, one over on ABC called “The Unusuals.” She’s great. I mean, she was in “Half Nelson” and “Dark Knight,” too. Going from a 150 million dollar film to a four and a half million dollar independent film is a completely different monster. But, like, for me, it was just as much of an amazing experience, and I learned so much about myself as an actor…like, what my weaknesses are as an actor and what things to work on. It was just really inspiring to work with actors of that caliber who have been around for so long, who have worked so much, and been so successful. To be in that company was just amazing. The film finished post-production just this past February. I spoke to the executive producer recently, and it’s being submitted to film festivals, and they are actively seeking distribution. So it’s slated for release next year, but…who knows? Maybe it will get picked up before the end of the year. If not, early next year, hopefully.
BE: Well, it has a pretty elaborate website for an indie film, so clearly they’re trying to keep a presence out there until it gets to theaters.
AE: Yeah! And I saw the film recently. They sent me a copy of it, and it’s pretty good. It’s really heavy, drama-wise, but it’s a nice little film, and I think…you read what it’s about, right?
AE: Yeah, well, there’s a strained relationship between…I play the son of Ruben Blades and the brother of Kuno Becker. The men in the family have a strained relationship. I mean, there is a lot of guilt between them, shame and pride, and they don’t really express to each other how they feel. There is a lot of animosity between the brothers as well. Aside from Kuno’s character, you know, drug abuse and alcoholism spiraling out of control, I think, as far as the family relationships go, there are certain things there that I think a lot of people may be able to relate to. You know, families not getting along, not being able to communicate with each other, things like that. That’s kind of what hit home. Well, not really hit home, but I can understand that. Thankfully, I have a good family relationship! But I think there are some things in there that people will be able to relate to, as far as that goes.
BE: And to bring it back to “Star Trek” for just a second, can you believe how high your IMDb star meter is now, just from having been in the film…?
AE: (Laughs) Yeah, I know! I don’t normally check it. Like, when I first started it was something like 900,000. That was three years ago. And then I just got a text message from my publicist, and she goes, “Hey, your IMDb is at 1,800!” I was, like, “What?!?” And I went and looked it up, but then I was, like, but what does that even mean? Can someone please tell me?
BE: (Laughs) That means that because of the way they do their stats, by virtue of having been in the number one film in the country, you have skyrocketed.
AE: Hey, I checked it out. My rating is actually higher than some of the people that I’ve worked with in the past. I’m, like, too bad it’s not getting me any film offers right now! It’s still pretty cool to be, like, “Yeah, my number’s that high.” I mean, it’s crazy, right? But yeah, that’s pretty cool. When I saw that, that was a nice surprise. It was neat to see.
BE: And the last one: what was the most disappointing part of the opening sequence of “Star Trek” for you to see get cut? I mean, I guess it will end being on the DVD, but…
AE: Well, you know, just not being able to see everything that we all did, that we all shot. And, of course, it was my first film, so I want to see everything that I shot up there. Do you know what I mean?
BE: Yeah, sure. Was it character stuff that they cut?
AE: No, it was just more dialogue and a scene with the captain in the corridor of the ship. Like, the first shot you actually see in the film, you see the captain and myself. You see our backs walking onto the bridge of the ship. But there was a scene before that where the captain comes out of the elevator and I meet him in the hallway in the corridor. We walk down, and I’m telling him what’s going on, about this lightning storm in space and all this stuff. So that’s all one single steady shot cam, down the corridor and onto the bridge. I mean, in the film, when you first see Eric Bana’s ship, he comes out of that worm hole and he starts attacking the Kelvin right away. Before that, that didn’t happen. He kind of sat there for a little while, and we come across this ship. The captain asks me to try and hail the ship, and communicate with him. I try, and all my hails are met with silence. We talk about it and I scan the ship, you know, for damage. But there’s this whole little sequence about me trying to figure out what’s wrong with the ship and what it is, and Chris Hemsworth has more dialogue with Jennifer Morrison. Every character has a little bit more. It was just really cool to film. But it would have made the film probably two and a half hours long. That was really my only regret: not being able to see all that other stuff. Just to see how it turned out and see how it kind of goes with the film. Honestly, I’m just grateful that I’m there, that I’m in it. If one line was left in the film, I’m still grateful. Do you know what I mean?
AE: I mean, it’s “Star Trek”! It’s such a film and such a franchise. It has had so much cultural weight since the 1960’s. I mean, it’s part of our culture; it’s part of society. Even for me, not being a “Star Trek” fan, so to speak. Growing up, I was more of a “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” fan. But I still appreciated “Star Trek” for what it was, and I enjoyed the films when I would see them, so for me to be a part of that was amazing. It’s like a dream come true to be in it. And, also, that was my first film. So to be part of a huge blockbuster film and a franchise like “Star Trek” is just, like, who could ask for more?
BE: It’s a nice first film gig, to say the least.
AE: Oh absolutely. Nice gig, period.
BE: (Laughs) True.
AE: It’s amazing. When I was first on set, doing the walk through with Chris Hemsworth and Faran Tahir, who plays Captain Robau, the first day we were actually filming our dialogue on the bridge set of the ship, the detail on that set was unbelievable. It was just…everything just looked real. I remember we were walking through with JJ (Abrams) and his first AD, and I literally had to stop and was, like, “Guys, I’m sorry, but I’m totally nerding out right now. Am I the only one that’s nerding out right now?” They started laughing, because it was just so cool. It was, like, “What am I doing here?”
BE: I think it would be a little overwhelming.
AE: That’s an understatement, to say the least. I mean, I’m still excited about it. It’s still so surreal…and I filmed my part a year and a half ago!
BE: Okay, I promise I will wrap up after this, but…was there a wrap party? Did you get invited back for a wrap party? I don’t know how that works.
AE: There was a wrap party, and I was invited, and the invitation was really, really cool. It’s an envelope, and it has the “Star Trek” logo and it says “WRAP” in “Star Trek” font, and the A was the federation emblem, you know.
BE: Very cool.
AE: Unfortunately, I was in New Mexico filming “Spoken Word” when I got the invitation, so I couldn’t go. They rented out a hangar in Santa Monica airport. (Sighs) That must have been amazing.
BE: That sucks. But at least you got the very cool invite.
AE: Yeah, right. And I saved it, believe me! (Laughs)
BE: Something for the scrapbook.
AE: Actually, I save my scripts from everything that I do. I’m kind of a sentimental person. You know, for me, this is fun, and it’s a dream come true. I don’t ever want to lose that feeling of gratitude and fun, so I save everything.
BE: Plus, you can do the “Star Trek” convention circuit now, too.
AE: I know, right? Although I don’t know who’s going to care, because so much of my stuff got cut. But you never know. Sci-fi fans are the most hardcore fans out there.
BE: Dude, if you’ve got two lines in there, someone will create a back story for you in a future “Star Trek” novel, so don’t worry about it.
AE: I know someone that did an episode of “Enterprise,” like in maybe the show’s first or second season. A friend of mine, his roommate did an episode of “Enterprise,” and he had like the smallest part in one episode, and to this day he still gets fan mail.
BE: Yeah, in fact, one of our other writers did an interview with Annie Wersching, who is on “24” this season, and she did an episode of “Enterprise,” too, and she also gets fan mail!.
AE: And that’s great, to be honest with you, that your work is appreciated. You know what I mean? It’s kind of cool.
BE: I can only imagine. Alright, man, well it’s been good talking to you.
AE: Awesome. I hope I answered your questions well and you got all you needed.
BE: Yeah, absolutely. You did great.
AE: Alright, thanks, man!