In case you hadn’t noticed, and I’m pretty sure you did, the Black Gate webmaster got a little worked up by my last post. Though I was telling you about my latest indy-horror obsession, Shadowland, one might have gathered from the choices of accompanying pictures, that I was instead bringing you a story about lead actress Caitlin McIntosh and her former life as a beauty queen. Somewhere, wedged between those images was my interview with Wyatt Weed, Shadowland’s writer and director; but good luck finding it.
This is what happens when there are too many boys on the staff and they are left unattended for too long.
So this week I’m personally bringing you the second installment of my Shadowland coverage; an interview with lead actor Jason Contini and co-creator of the new comic series Legacies End.
I can assure you there will be no further shenanigans involving staff members who forget their professionalism and get carried away by lust.
Now where was I…?
A conversation with Jason Contini
Conducted and transcribed by Sue Granquist September 14 – Sept 22, 2010
GC: How did you first get into acting? Did you catch the bug from your Dad (actor John Contini) or was it primarily to meet girls?
JC: I actually started acting when I was 3 years old. My Dad, John, is a professional actor in St. Louis and has done half a dozen films and over 250 theatrical productions across the mid-west. When I was 3 he was doing a production of The King and I and the production needed a very young kid to play The Littlest Prince so I got drafted.
My Mom actually enjoys telling people how one night I got bored and pretended I was asleep onstage. There, during the middle of a performance, I started making Three Stooges sound effects and they had to get me off the stage. It wasn’t until a few years later when I played Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol, again with my Dad, that I got “bit by the bug” as they say.
I read that in addition to your movie career, you’ve also done a lot of theatre. Prior to Shadowland, what has been your favorite role in either stage or screen?
I’ve done over 60 stage productions. I love live theatre! There’s just something about that instant gratification you get from an audience that is missing in film work.
I did a production of Godspell a number of years back and was cast as Jesus which is such a fun and joyful character to play. All My Sons by Arthur Miller was another one that I really enjoyed. I got to play Chris Keller and my Dad played my father Joe Keller which was special and the only time we have played father and son on stage.
But as much as I love theatre, I think I love film more. My Dad made sure that my brothers and I grew up with classic films. Films like Lawrence of Arabia, On the Waterfront, The Guns of Navarone, The Searchers, How the West Was Won and the classic Universal Monster movies of the 1930s as well as the Hammer Horror films of the 50s – 70s. So, for me, there’s a certain magic to film and mythology that I personally don’t get from theatre.
I wish I could be humble and say that it doesn’t affect me at all, but the narcissist in me just won’t let me say that. It’s very cool.
Did Wyatt Weed really cast you in Shadowland after locating you on MySpace?
Yeah, in a way. Wyatt, Gayle Gallagher, Shadowland‘s producer, and Robert Clark, our Executive Producer, found my profile on MySpace. On my profile I have all my favorite films listed and Wyatt said he had to at least talk to me because we both loved all the same stuff; most importantly that we were both huge fans of the Hammer Horror films and Ray Harryhausen fantasy films of the 60s.
But I had no clue who Wyatt and Gayle were when they contacted me and my first reaction was “I’m not gonna do another no-budget film shot on mini-DV that no one sees”. Despite my reservations, I met with Wyatt and Gayle and the three of us instantly hit it off. Wyatt told me the idea of the film and the more I listened to him the more I realized “this guy is the real deal, I have to work with him!” They gave me a copy of the script to read and I blew through it immediately after I got home. I then came in to read for the role of Julian opposite Carlos Leon, who was auditioning for Lazarus at the same time. And Carlos and I hit it off just as well. So, I did actually audition for it, but yeah, at the beginning I was found on MySpace. I hardly use MySpace anymore but after that I decided to keep my page open.
I thought of Julian as “the Church’s demon hunter” which makes him a potentially controversial character. What sort of preparation or research did you do for this role?
I looked at him the same way. I’m a big fan of the television show Supernatural. Some would say I’m obsessed with it, actually. I think it’s my favorite TV show ever. So, for me, playing Julian was my chance to play a Supernatural-esque hunter, with the added twist of working for the church. I guess this could be controversial in the sense that, according to our story, the church is admitting to the existence of nasty creatures.
And yeah, there was lot of work that needed to be done going into a character like that. For instance, prior to shooting, I had never actually fired a gun before. So I spent some time with Sgt. Paul Bastean of The Lake St. Louis Police Force. He and I went over police procedures, the correct way to get information from a witness, how to hold my body when in action, that kind of thing.
As for the character, I really didn’t do research as much as I talked a lot with Wyatt about who this guys is, where he came from, what brought him to work for the church, and so on and together we sort of built the back story for Julian. I say “we” like I’m trying to take credit for it when in all honesty Wyatt really did most of that work. But I’m going to say that I did it all, just don’t tell Wyatt that I said that! Seriously, it’s easy to play a character when everything you need is already layered in the script by the writer. So in this case, all props there have to go to Wyatt.
What was the most challenging part of playing Julian? Did you have special training for the fight scenes?
I did have to train for the fight scenes with our fight coordinator David Martyn Conley, who also played the cook in the film. We worked a lot on a form of martial arts called Uechi-Ryu (You EE CHI Roo) which wasn’t the easiest thing for me to pick up. I did finally get the basics of the art form’s kata which is called Conjoubo (CON JO BO), and I probably could have gotten it down better had I had more time to work it.
We spent a lot of time with Carlos (Lazarus) just working the fight scene over and over again. That was actually a lot of fun. We were our own little “fight club” that would meet a few times a week and just run the fight. And Carlos was great to work with on that scene. I felt really bad because I did actually hit him in the head once!.
But none of that was as challenging as driving the Mini Cooper. About a week before filming, Gayle showed me the car that I would be driving and asked “By the way, you can drive stick, right?” And of course, that was something that I had never even tried to do before. So Gayle actually had to take me out to an empty parking lot and tried to teach me herself. I felt like I was 16 again and learning how to drive. I say she “tried” because I had a real hard time getting into first gear. Once there, I was fine. But usually when I tried to get into first, I just succeeded in killing the car. I believe there are outtakes of me trying, and usually failing, to drive the mini on the DVD special features.
Was it fun shooting a movie in your home town of St. Louis?
It was a lot of fun. I’ve lived most of my life there so it made working on the shoot a little more comfortable. I love St. Louis, although we shot in the middle of the summer and St. Louis is notorious for being very humid. So it was humid and blazing hot and here I am dressed in a thick shirt and leather vest chasing Caitlin McIntosh (lead character “Laura”) who is dressed in a leather jacket and wearing boots. But it was still fun! And I got to work with my youngest brother Sean, who plays the young man in the alley at the beginning of the film. In fact, that might be the best memory I took away from the entire experience; spending time with my brother on the set.
I’m a big fan of horror films. So for me, doing horror is a lot of fun. I do enjoy doing all the monster stuff and slasher stuff, which I’ve done a few times (Thanxgiving and Killers by Nature) but I really like the character driven, suggestive stuff as well, which is what Shadowland falls into.
I don’t think I like any one genre better than the other. Even though Shadowland is a vampire film, it’s not “just another” vampire film. It’s more of a thriller that focuses on the vampire and in turn almost makes the vampire hunter the antagonist. I shot a war film recently called Khyber and even though there are some pretty intense action scenes, it’s much more of a character driven piece. It follows these 5 soldiers that are stranded at their outpost at the Khyber Pass and what that kind of isolation will do to people.
Even The Anniversary, a romantic comedy I have coming out soon, doesn’t really follow the typical romantic comedy formula, so I tend to like things that do something different with an old idea. I’m kind of dying to do a western or a comedy in the style of a Mel Brooks film or the Zucker Brothers films like Airplane or The Naked Gun.
Your MySpace profile says you have experience in fencing, firearms, and “police procedures”. Ummm, care to expand on that at all?
The firearm training and police procedures I learned for Shadowland. But as for the fencing and broadsword training, that’s something that I learned a few years ago. I did a production of William Shakespeare’s MacBeth with a friend of mine Brian Peters, who was one of the stuntmen on The Dark Knight. Brian and I were actually roommates for a while before I moved to Los Angeles. Brian taught me the basic box steps of broadsword for the show and every now and then we would go out to a park somewhere and we’d have a little fun doing some sword fighting. It’s a lot of fun to do in a big fantasy swashbuckler epic like Errol Flynn.
But you also have a secret identity. Can you tell us about Archlight Comics and Legacies End?
Legacies End is a comic book that my friend Nick Hearne and my brother Nathan and I have been putting together for about two years now. We created Archlight Comics as our own comic company and we will be releasing other titles in the future but for now we’re really focused on getting Legacies End out there.
All three of us have been talking for years about doing a comic book and in the summer of 2008 we just decided to stop talking about it and do it. We took all these old characters that we had each created as kids and redesigned them and built a story around it. As we started getting all the plot points into place we realized that this was a much bigger story than we had initially thought. So we made the decision to just focus on Act One of the story which is called Legacies End: Celestials and Paladins.
The entire thing is a three act story, so it will take three rather large mini-series to tell; much like the TV show Lost which we were all big fans of. Our first full color issue, which is actually a zero issue, will be available at the end of October. It can be ordered at www.indyplanet.com. It will also be available to comic shops to order through www.comicsmonkey.com and we will have all the guidelines on how to go about doing that on our website www.legaciesend.yolasite.com for comic shops.
Currently, and only for a short time longer, we have a preview issue available for order at IndyPlanet for anyone that wants to check out the art styles and get an exclusive b&w 4 page preview of issue zero.
Tell us about the comic’s central character, Genesis. What is the inspiration for your story-lines?
Genesis is the character that has been featured the most and is technically the main character of the trilogy even though he is only seen in issue 0 and then in flashbacks throughout the story.
Our story actually follows the last member of a secret order of Templar knights called the Knight-Hawks. The last of the Knight-Hawks is Richard Wallace whose goal in Act One is to bring other retired heroes like himself, out of retirement. But since they are technically vigilantes in the eyes of the U.S Government, they are being hunted by some of the current generation of heroes. That is the story that will run through Act One which is 12 issues long (including issue 0).
We really drew inspiration from all over for this. We’re big comic book fans and some of our favorites are Crisis on Infinite Earths and The Age of Apocalypse. So those were very influential. We’ve also devoured the works of J.R.R Tolkien, Cormac McCarthy, Stephen King and Joseph Campbell. Campbell’s Power of Myth and Hero With a Thousand Faces are very prominent for certain characters. We really want the entire trilogy to have a grand feel similar to Star Wars, or Lord of the Rings. Will we pull it off? Only time will tell, I suppose. Here’s hoping.
If you could play one comic book hero on the big screen, who would it be? And, would you ultimately like to see Legacies End turned into a script?
Wow! That’s a tough one. I’ve been a rabid comic fan since I was old enough to read. If I could play anyone, regardless of whether or not I fit that role, I would have to pick Daredevil (Thor and Flash are actually my favorite characters though). But physically I probably look more like Nightwing.
It’d be fun to do an adaptation of lesser known characters too. I grew up on the old MLJ heroes that Archie Comics used to put out. I think DC Comics has them in their stable now. Characters like The Mighty Crusaders, The Fly, Jaguar, Black Hood, Comet, Shield… those guys. Or any of the characters from Project Superpowers.
As for Legacies End as a film? Sure. Absolutely. That would be great but not something we’re really even contemplating. We’re still a month away from releasing the first issue. But we have toyed around with the idea of doing 3 to 5 minute short animated films that focus on different characters. Again, that’s a little ways down the road.
When we met at the Chicago Comic Con you told me about your two upcoming projects; The Anniversary and a war film called Khyber. Can you let us in on some more details about both? And whats coming next for Legacies End?
Well, The Anniversary is a romantic comedy I did with writer/director John Campea. It follows my character, Cid, who is dumped by his girlfriend of 15 years in the very first scene for not being willing to take the step into marriage. The rest of the film takes place exactly one year after that as his friends try to get him off the sofa and back out into the dating world. He tries blind dates, online dating services….anything that can get him out of his yearlong funk.
And that was an absolute blast to work on. And a great cast, too. We have Ashley Oxford, Julia Voth, Manolis Zontanos, Ryan Patrick McGuffey, and Erin Cummings. They were easily one of the most fun casts I’ve had the opportunity to work with.
Khyber (previously known as Forgotten in Khyber) is a film by writer/director Kermit C. Graham about Russia’s occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980s. These five Russian soldiers are stationed at an outpost that is falling apart at The Khyber Pass. They’re running out of supplies, running low on food and ammo, and their communications gear is blown to hell so they have no clue how to reach anyone. But orders are orders. I play the sniper Misha, a Muslim practicing Russian, so I’m kind of the outsider of the group. And the other guys are absolutely fantastic. Dalton Leeb, Max Beard, Travis Stansberry and Joe Czajka were great to work with. We spent a lot of time just hanging out together out in Death Valley where most of the film was shot and had a great time. I believe there are trailers for both films on YouTube and Facebook.
As for Legacies End, the full plot of Act One will be revealed by the end of issue 0. From there, it’s a road story as Knight-Hawk and his team are on the run from the government. In addition to the actual mini-series itself, we have plans to release several one-shots that tell a little back story of the world where this all takes place. These one-shots won’t be essential reading but will add some color and depth to the mythology we’re creating. Actor/Writer Justin Mitchiner will be handling the actual scripting of those issues and he will be working very closely with Nick, our writing maestro, to make sure that everything fits into the continuity.
We will also be releasing a pin-up book in the coming months and a trading card set through Sad Littles Sketch Cards. So look out, here comes Archlight Comics!
Thanks Jason! Look for Shadowland being released everywhere on November 30 and the Legacies End comic series coming soon.
Only 37 days until Halloween so screw the Travel Channel! Here at Goth Chick News those worthless interns have been sent forth to find the scariest haunted attractions in America. Do you have one you think will make us scream like a little girl? Send the information to at Sue@blackgate.com. We’ll compile the best and post them on a future Thursday.