Today we have American actor, director and professional athlete in to talk about his film career, his latest work and his leg amputation and how that has shaped his professional and everyday life. Read on for our exclusive interview with Kurt…
First of all can you tell our readers a little about Quarry and what we can expect to see when it reaches us?
I’m not sure when it will air, but sometime soon I would suspect. It’s a wild ride of heartache, action and real life drama that actually took place with a few folks coming home from Vietnam in the 70’s. Not everyone, and not most, just a few.
The main goal of the show is to reveal how these few guys dealt with the war and returning home. It’s absolutely NOT a cross section of the average guy who came home from Vietnam. I work with veterans, know a lot of them from many conflicts and they are some of the best people on the planet. I hope they can get behind the project, seeing some similarities of difficulties they experienced, even thought we heightened some experiences for an entertainment format.
What was it which really attracted you to the project?
I’m really a sucker for period pieces. I love to work on set which is from another time, another place! It’s so helpful to me in terms of performance because I believe in the situation even more than normal. When the set designers do a killer job, like they have done on Quarry, it makes my job so much more enjoyable and believable.
Of course, Michael Fuller and Graham Gordy are amazing writers, so the material is extremely rich. The showrunner Greg Yaitanes is a great benefit to actors, letting them discover the character yet guiding the story he needs to capture. Honestly, the books by Max Allen Collins are amazing. I read all but two of them and I love them, so the source material is also rich. There are really too many attractive qualities of this project to mention them all.
How does your approach to a recurring character like that differ to one in say a film or your work in Close Enough?
My character in Quarry is complicated. He’s dark, very dark but his humanity still finds its way to the surface. That is the joy of an actor, finding what makes a character tick. For me it does two things, one teaches me humility and openness to everyday humans I don’t understand and two, it allows me to discover more about myself. When I can relate to the good or bad of a character it really makes me question who I am and my motivations.
The difference between my approach is based on the character, not the project. I don’t consider the differences in a projects format to divergently change my process of character discovery.
My father’s death really prompted Close Enough. He was the best person I have ever met and he just happened to be my father. He was kind, hyper-intelligent, warm, loving, gentle and was a silly man who liked to joke, a lot! I wanted to make something he would be proud of, not only because I made it but because he would be proud to watch it. See, he’s what I call a Jesus Christian, i.e., the real deal. He walked the walk long before talking any talk. He treated everyone with respect, love and kindness, behaving in private exactly the same as in public. He was the antithesis of hypocrite.
He didn’t drink, smoke, curse or anything in fact. His favorite movie stars would be Laurel and Hardy, so I wanted to make something in that genre of archetypes – a silly romp of stupid characters getting into silly situations.
What’s been the greatest challenge for you both in terms of work and otherwise since the amputation?
Amputating a limb is sort of like loosing part of yourself, which hurts. It also is beyond frustrating when the leg limits me in any way. Being a former professional athlete, I’m still more athletic than most people, including most actors. I can run full speed; flip a BMX bike over a jump, and anything you can do. I don’t mean to say it in such a cocky way, but it happens to just be true. So if I can’t run as fast as my old self, or jump as high as my old self, or have perfect balance like my old self, it becomes overtly frustrating because my mind is willing and capable but my body is now slightly limited.
In terms of acting, nothing has changed in the negative. I play both able and disabled characters. I do all of my own stunts, as far as insurance lets me. I love to be hyper-physical as a character. In Quarry I did a couple of great stunts, one down a staircase and when the director yelled cut the crew erupted in applause. That made me feel exceedingly good.
The hard part of being an actor, who happens to be an amputee, is convincing industry folks that I am more physically capable than most other actors, that there is no increase in insurance costs, I need absolutely no extra help or assistance and I didn’t loose my acting abilities because part of my leg is missing. In fact, I believe my acting abilities have grown because of it. I’ve become a more well-rounded human having lost one of my human parts.
Am I right in saying that you only really dived into acting after the amputation? Was there a correlation?
That wouldn’t be accurate as I was in the industry before the amputation. I was cast in a live action acting tour recreating the kids show Rocket Power. I was the lead character in the show which played to 5-10 thousand people a night in a large arena type environment. I think I was in my early 20’s then… man that is a long time ago.
For Quarry, I lost weight, about 20 pounds of muscle to thin myself out to fit into the type of character Rick Suggs is. Plus I have a naked scene, so well, you know… Got to do what you got to do.
Mostly, I’m already in a pretty athletic shape so varying that by 20 pounds either direction is pretty easy to do.
Are there any types of roles/projects that you would like to take on in the future, irrespective of your leg?
I play a lot of hardened characters, probably for the most part because of growing up in a rough place. You tend to look people in the eye and tell them you’re willing to defend yourself regardless of the outcome and I think that leads to being cast as a certain character type. So, I’d love to play a character in a project that is a little lighter, a comedy with heart but not cheese. I would really enjoy that because it would give me a break from having to be very dark all the time.
And what else do you have in the pipeline Kurt which we should be looking out for?
I’m working on a couple of shows right now, which I have created. Might be collaborating with a network called PXTV on a couple of other shows which I would love to do not only because they are in the extreme sports markets but have a really solid core to their network, and are going after quality content.
I also have been slated for a new film called Freedom Café. We’re waiting on a start date yet, but the project looks great. Besides that, I’m looking like everyone else. I think after Quarry my phone will be ringing and I’ll be hoping it’s network TV saying there’s this perfect idea they have that is just right for me.