Yes, this week’s interview with the “Harper’s Island” Victim of the Week is late, and I apologize wholeheartedly for that. I’d had the best of intentions to do the interview on Tuesday while in Columbus for a Bullz-Eye editorial meeting, but due to a combination of equipment malfunction, poor reception, and general bad timing, it was pushed back to Thursday, so I could be in the comfort of my own office to hold the conversation. Fear not, however: I’ll be talking to Victim #8 bright and early on Monday, so expect to see that conversation in a timely fashion.
For now, however, you’ve clearly waited long enough to read this week’s chat, so let’s dive right in, shall we?
Bullz-Eye: Hey, David, how’s it going?
David Lewis: Good, Will! Good, good, good.
BE: Glad to be able to hook up with you, and sorry about the issue on Tuesday.
DL: No, I heard that you had your drink on, so I dig that. (Laughs)
BE: So…you got it with the harpoon.
DL: (Laughs) I got it with the harpoon. You don’t hear that very often.
BE: You don’t.
DL: It was a pretty spectacular exit.
BE: It was. There have been quite a few of them during the series, but that was definitely one to write home about.
DL: Yeah, that was one of the best. Let’s just say it. We both know it, so let’s just get it out there. (Laughs) I think it was pretty cool.
BE: So I’ll do a few of the traditional questions that I ask of all of the victims, with the first being to ask how you came onto the series. Was it a standard audition, or did someone know you and ask for you specifically?
DL: Nobody knows about me. I’m an anomaly.
BE: Fair enough.
DL: No, it was a standard audition. I went in and didn’t really know anything about the series. They kept that all very hush-hush. It was just, “It’s ‘Harper’s Island,’ here’s the part you’re auditioning for.” They gave very minimal back story on the character. The script…or sides, rather, since I didn’t actually see a script…that I auditioned with ended up having nothing to do with the show, because they were keeping everything very under wraps and very secretive until you actually made it on the show. And then they were even more secretive.
BE: So when you did find out about the series, what did you think about it? As a series model, it’s definitely a little unique.
DL: Very unique. Very exciting. Like, there’s no job security, the audience is kind of always on their toes because they know that, inevitably, they’re going to have favorite characters who are suddenly pulled off the show, so your allegiance to characters is fleeting. You don’t know how long they’re going to last. And as actors, talk about actors showing up on time and knowing their lines. You didn’t want to screw up because… (Laughs) …the next thing you know, you’re not around!
BE: So how did you find out about your impending demise? Were you tapped on the shoulder? Did they play a “Survivor”-esque game with you?
DL: I was out shopping for furniture, I got a phone call from Karim (Zreik, co-executive producer), and it was never…Karim tried to make the phone call nice, but as soon as you heard Karim, it was, like, “Oh, man!” And he’s, like, “Yeah, I know.” His nickname was “The Assassin.”
BE: Yeah, he’s gotten quite a reputation as a grim reaper.
DL: (Laughs) Yeah, well, when you got the phone call from him, you knew that was it. He was, like, “I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is you’re going to die in the next episode. The good news is that you’re going to have the best death scene so far.” And when he told me I was going to get a whaling harpoon through the chest, I was, like, “Oh, that is awesome!” So all of the other actors were quite envious.
BE: Well, if you’ve gotta go…
DL: Uh, yeah!
BE: So how did you approach your character? How well-developed was the character of Richard when you got your first script? Was he already the subordinate type?
DL: Yeah, y’know, just off the first script, there’s so many characters that they’re introducing to the audience that I’m kind of a periphery character. And my character kind of grows as the series goes along, but just beginning, I’m just sort of briefly introduced. So one of the producers on the show, Dan Shotz, he came to me and basically gave me some back story on my character and my relationship with my wife and everything. They didn’t give out any details of how my character was going to become dark in the series. They were just, like, “He’s a nice guy, he’s a dutiful husband and great father, and he works for Thomas (Wellington). And he’s just…he and his wife, they’ve been together for 13 years, and they’ve got an 11-year-old daughter. He’s just a real stand-up, Harvard-educated guy. And I thought, “Okay, I can play this. He’s kind of boring, but I can play this.” Little did I know that I would be having a sadomasochistic relationship with my stepmother in Episode 3.
BE: You’ve got to like that.
DL: Uh, you’ve got to love that!
BE: How was Cassandra Sawtell to work with as your daughter, Madison? Because she manages to be both cute and…
BE: I was going to say “spooky,” but “creepy” is good. I’ll go with that.
DL: Yeah, creepy. Absolutely. Like, she’s one of the girls from “The Shining.” (Laughs) But she’s so good in this show. I mean, this kid is gonna have a career, and the best part about her is that…I’ve worked with kids over the years, and when the camera stops rolling, she’s just this normal 11-year-old girl, y’know? She’s not a Drew Barrymore type who’s been around adults on set too long and is all kind of weird. She’s just a kid. She’s goofy, she likes to talk about school and the books that she’s been reading, she’s extremely intelligent, but she’s not trying to be an adult. ‘Cause that’s just kind of weird, right? I mean, I don’t know, I’ve never met Dakota Fanning, but…well, you know, anyway, Cassandra doesn’t have that over-the-top actor prodigy thing. But, man, does she pull off the creepiness! I mean, I didn’t like being alone with her on the set. I always thought she was going to push me down the stairs or something. (Laughs)
BE: So which part of your character was the most fun for you to play: the scenes with Gina Holden (who plays Shea), or the scenes with Claudette Mink (who plays Katherine)?
DL: (Pauses) I get that you have to ask these questions, but it sounds kind of ridiculous to me, because of course I’m going with Claudette! (Laughs) How awesome is that? No commitment, I basically get to grope her, and…what’s interesting, actually, is that there’s that scene where she’s tied up and sort of hanging from the beam, and I was kind of groping her, and I’m, like, “What can I do here?” And she’s, “You can do whatever you want, it’s all cool, we’re acting.” So I’m groping away, but the producer comes over and says, “Um, you gotta do less groping.” “Really?” “Yeah.” And, meanwhile, people are getting cut in half and having their heads chopping off. But I can’t put my hands near her breasts, because you can’t have that on TV. But impaling someone with a whaling harpoon? That’s okay. (Laughs)
BE: What was your single favorite of the episodes in which you appeared?
DL: Well, y’know, at first I want to say the one where I died, because I had screen time and it was exciting, but I think my favorite was the first time you saw Richard and his stepmother together, because that was, like, “Oh, my God, this character is, like, 93% more interesting.” I mean, actors were coming up to me on set and saying, “Oh, my gosh, you’re so lucky. What an awesome character. That’s so cool that, this early in the show, suddenly we’re throwing the audience a little 180.” Yeah, absolutely, it was when Richard first sort of showed his dark side.
BE: So are you one of the folks who’s watching the series religiously each week?
DL: Sure! And this is how committed I am: I will even keep watching it even though I’m dead. You don’t hear a lot of actors say that. (Laughs) But, no, I’m drawn in. I’m curious! Right now, from here on in, I know as much as the general viewing audience does. After you’re done on the show, it is a very tight ship. They don’t want to leak out anything. I saw a bunch of actors at the wrap party at the end of the shooting season, and I was, like, “So how did it go?” And they wouldn’t say anything. They wouldn’t open their mouths. They would just smile at me. And I was, like, “No, you don’t have to tell me anything. Just tell me: how did it go?” And they wouldn’t say anything. So I was, like, “Okay, then.” They have been told not to talk at all about the show. They really want to keep it under wraps, especially with the internet. It’s just so easy to leak a little something out there, at which point it’s, like, “Aw, man, you’re just ruining it for everybody.”
BE: I just had a couple more questions about some of the other projects you’ve worked on. First of all, this isn’t your first “Island” show.
DL: (Laughs) No, it isn’t. It’s funny: I was ready to call this show “Harpoon Island” after my death. Hey-o! But, yes, I worked on a series called “Hope Island.” We did 22 episodes of that, based on an Irish series called “Ballykissangel.” It was about 10 years ago, and it was a much, much different island. Much different. I think the most dramatic thing that happened was a lost dog. “Oooh, a lost dog!” But it was a fun show to work on. It was just definitely a different feel.
BE: I was curious how it was to work on a show for PAX Television. I’d think it would be a different dynamic, where they’re trying to keep things as even-keeled as possible, if that’s the right phrase.
DL: Yeah, and the writers were doing their best to try not to make it sugary-sweet and to find the drama in there, but you can only push it so far, because PAX is definitely family values and all that sort of stuff. But you still have to insert some of the drama in there, and things happen. But it was a great cast, everybody in that show got along so great, and we had lots of dinners and parties together. The lead (Cameron Daddo) and I were great golf buddies. There was a real camaraderie, and it was a show where I was very sad when it ended…partly because I was making a lot of money on it… (Laughs) …but mostly because of the relationships.
BE: Speaking of shows that ended, did you have hopes that “John Doe” would’ve lasted longer than it did?
DL: I did! I thought that was really a unique show. I thought it had a lot of potential. But, you know, this is the thing: if producers knew what the zeitgeist wanted, then everybody would be a genius. But you don’t know. You think you’ve got magic in a bottle, but then they don’t take it, and you go, “Okay, let’s try reality TV,” and 40 million people say, “Wow, that’s incredible!” (Sighs) “John Doe” was a lot of fun to work on, but not for the lead actor (Dominic Purcell, who you may know better from his role as Lincoln Burrows on “Prison Break”). He was supposed to know everything about everything, and this poor guy…he had so much gobbledy-gook dialogue about everything, whether it was security systems or Greek porticos. You name it. I could just see him in the corner, constantly going over his lines and over them again. When that series ended, there was a weight off his shoulders. I had never seen anything like this. Every week, the writers were just throwing him more and more stuff to show the audience how intelligent he was, and I was, like, “Oh, man, you couldn’t pay me…”
BE: Last one: what’s your favorite of the film sequels you’ve done?
DL: Um…my favorite of the film sequels I’ve done? I don’t know. How many film sequels have I done?
BE: Well, according to IMDb, you’ve done “Slap Shot 2,” “K-9: P.I.,” “Halloween: Resurrection”…
DL: Oh, that’s right, and I did “The Butterfly Effect 2.” Well, you know, it certainly wasn’t going to win any Academy Awards, but “Slap Shot 2”…Steve Boyum, he actually directed me in an episode of “Harper’s Island” as well. He was great to work with. That guy is such a laid-back California director, and he was so much fun to work on that film. And you’ve got, like, 15 guys playing hockey. It was madness. But he handled it with aplomb. I loved working with Gary Busey. A total nutcase, but that guy knew his dialogue back to front. I would sit there and watch him with a page-long scene, and he would be word-perfect. So as crazy as you want to label him, as an actor, he’s fantastic. He’s a great, great actor. He’s insane to a point, I guess, as all actors are, but he was absolutely fun. Yeah, I had a lot of fun on that film. I wish it had turned out better than it did, but for what it was…
BE: Hey, at least it had the Hanson Brothers in it. That gives it some merit right there.
DL: Yeah, it did. And I got my picture taken with them, you can bet that!
BE: Okay, man, I think I’m good. I’m glad we finally had the chance to catch up. Great work on the show, and thanks a lot!
DL: Great, thanks. Take care!
* Missed our interview with Victim #1? Go check it out!
* Missed our interview with Victims #2 and #3? Go check it out!
* Missed our interview with Victim #4? Go check it out!
* Missed our interview with Victim #5? Go check it out!
* Missed our interview with Victim #6? Go check it out!