Monday, July 27, 2009

The Deadbolt Interview - James Van Der Beek and David James Elliott Talk Up a 'Storm' for New Miniseries

The Deadbolt Interview - James Van Der Beek and David James Elliott Talk Up a 'Storm' for New Miniseries

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Interview for 'The Storm'

Here is the link to the article:

And the article:

James Van Der Beek and David James Elliott weather the storms of Hollywood
July 22, 11:18 AM By Carla Hay

What’s scarier: facing down a disastrous storm or facing down a power-crazy billionaire who wants control the world’s weather? That’s the problem facing Kirk Hafner (played by James Van Der Beek), a good-guy scientist in NBC’s two-part miniseries "The Storm," which airs July 26 and August 2. In "The Storm," wealthy mogul Robert Terrell (played by Treat Williams) has achieved "weather creation" technology though his Atmospheric Research Institute, with the ulterior motive to have the technology used as a military weapon. An Army official named General Braxton (played by David James Elliott) is in cahoots with the billionaire in the ambitious plan. But when a top-secret test run leads to catastrophic hurricanes, lightening storms and other weather horrors around the world, it’s up to Hafner to expose the real purpose of Atmospheric Research Institute and stop its technology before it’s too late.

In real life, Van Der Beek and Elliott know a few things about dealing with stormy situations — as in knowing the ups and downs of being an actor, particularly one who has to rebuild a career after starring in a long-running TV-series. ("Dawson’s Creek" for Van Der Beek, "JAG" for Elliott.) In a recent telephone conference call with journalists, Van Der Beek and Elliott discussed "The Storm" and other topics, including the worst weather they’ve ever experienced, how they want to emerge from the long shadows cast by their successful TV series, and why there is a lot of truth in "The Storm’s" fictional drama.

James, you've had some really diverse roles this past year, so where exactly does "The Storm" fit in?

Van Der Beek: I was fascinated by the idea of a scientist who's kind of in love with the exploration and follows his knowledge as far as he can. But then all of the sudden [he] creates something that somebody else can use and for other kinds of nefarious purposes. I mean, this guy created this technology with the best of intentions and then somebody else took it and is using it for their own power. And so it puts him in a difficult situation. It's a guy trying to do the right thing when the right thing isn't entirely clear. And it just seemed like a lot of fun.

Is this your first miniseries?

Van Der Beek: I believe it is, yes.

How was it working with such a great cast?

Van Der Beek: It was fun. Every day there was somebody new to talk to and somebody else's brain I could pick. I had a very good time.

Is there a lot of action in the series?

Van Der Beek: Yes, there's a ton of action. I was outside underneath the rain towers about every night. It was a very, very … wet shoot for sure. But I had fun. You know, running around and it was good.

Do you think you'll be making a return appearance on "One Tree Hill"?

Van Der Beek: I don't know. They gave me a pretty good send off … But I don't know, I had a great time down there. I might go down and direct one, we'll see.

David and James, could tell us a little bit about your characters in "Storm" and maybe any specific acting challenges you found with these particular roles?

Elliott: Well I play the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I'm awfully young for the role; however, we decided that he was a brilliant military mind and he rose through the ranks at lightening speed. And as the film kind of supports, he may have got there just a little too soon. You know, every role is challenging and bringing, nuance and levels to the character and keeping it truthful and interesting. Just in time, so those would be the challenges I might have faced. He was a military man and I've certainly played one of those but there were definite differences. And he had to struggle with his morality ultimately. So those were the challenges I faced.

Van Der Beek: I play a scientist who is working for Treat Williams’ character, Treat Williams plays a billionaire. And so my guy is somebody with a huge imagination, very creative, very brilliant. And all of the sudden has all the tools at his disposal to push the limits of science as far as his mind will allow.

And is then kind of a bit betrayed by the guy he was working for. And all of the sudden has no idea who he can trust. He has no idea who's after him but is now charged with putting a stop and an end to this thing that he's helped create. And I'd say the biggest challenge for me was keeping warm at 4 o’clock in the morning underneath rain showers. That pretty much trumped any other acting challenge.

Could you tell us a little bit about the effects in the miniseries, like green-screen work versus practical?

Elliott: I didn't really face any of the effects challenges so James would have to answer that.

Van Der Beek: I tell you the rain was real. There was no green-screen rain in this thing. We really didn't have to do many green screen issues at all. There were even some of the graphics that points in the scene were there. Really, a lot of it was just kind of practical and right there everything from the lightening flashes to the wind and even explosions … if they were in frame with me they were there on the day. So it was a pretty real environment. I didn't have to use too much imagination for a lot of it.

Aside from your characters, what attracted you to the story?

Elliott: What attracted me to the role was, you know, the script looked like it would be a lot of fun and was certainly an interesting topic. And the director is a very old and dear friend of mine and we've worked together. H directed maybe 50 episodes of "JAG," so any opportunity to work with Bradford May, I know the shoot would not only be fun but it would remain interesting and the film would look fantastic. So that's why I wanted to be part of it.

Van Der Beek: Yes, yes, I think I've spoken a little bit about the kind of the dilemma. I mean, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. And I think that was one of the themes in this story that definitely, you know, attracted me to it and made it interesting. And I just kind of thought it would be fun to watch all this bad weather, some guy out in the middle of it. Who can he trust? He's on the run. It just seemed exciting. It seemed like something I would kind of want to maybe curl up and watch on a dark stormy night so.

The Atmospheric Research Institute reminded me of HARP [High Altitude Research Program]. Do you think "The Storm" was inspired by it at all?

Van Der Beek: I'm not familiar with HARP.

There's an actual machine like this up in Alaska, you know?

Van Der Beek: Oh really?

Elliott: Oh really?

For real, yes.

Van Der Beek: Oh boy.

Elliott: Well, hopefully they get it right. Yes. Our guys did not.

Do either of you have an interest or a passion for environmental issues of any kind?

Elliott: Well I work a lot with Saving the Reef Foundation. I went to the Bahamas and some areas that are near and dear to me. I have done some charitable stuff and hope to do a lot more with the Bahamanian government in saving that environment or preserving that environment. James?

Van Der Beek: I'm pretty much your average, energy-saving-light-bulbs-recycling citizen. I haven't got involved in any charities but it is something that I'll look [up] online and go through the newspaper and constantly kind of try to figure out how to reduce the carbon footprint wherever I can. And I'm very fascinated by all the new technology out there. I feel like we're at a very, very interesting time. I mean, [we’ve] got all this economic upheaval which I think is a really good reason and excuse to kind of reinvent how we look at energy and how we look at business. And, you know, with a real eye on...

Elliott: Opportunity.

Van Der Beek: Yes, it is an opportunity to keep it as efficient as possible. Not just because it's the right thing to do but because it just makes the most sense economically and for the planet. So I'm a very avid bystander.

Have you thought about how disaster movies are scarier than monster movies because hurricanes and earthquakes real and monsters are not?

Elliott: Well I've certainly, you know, stared down the barrel of a few hurricanes, so I know how scary weather can be because I have a house in the Bahamas, and [I] spend a great deal of time there. So I'd have to agree with you, those kind of movies scare me a lot more than the slash-and-gash film. But I've sat through a couple of small earthquakes, and apparently they say the big one is coming soon.

How do you suppose you would measure up in a chaos situation, like an earthquake or the scenario in this film? Would you be the type that steps up and takes charge and or be the type that curls up in a little ball and lets somebody else take the reigns?

Elliott: And screams like a little girl? Yes. James, how would you measure up?

Van Der Beek: How would I measure up? I've been through quite a few hurricanes. I worked in North Carolina, where there's a housing development whose name was Landfall. And so, yes, in situations like that, I think I tend to get pretty calm and pretty level-headed, which I think is probably the best way to get. But you never know. It's one of those things you never know until … you're in it just how you're going to react.

Elliott: That is what they say.

Van Der Beek: So hopefully, we won't get tested. I'd like to not have to find out, let's put it that way.

If someone said you could harmlessly change the weather, would you have wanted to? David, you grew up in Canada …

Elliott: Oh, I would have changed it in a minute. I hated the cold. And when the opportunity arose to come here [California] I jumped in my car and left immediately. And I haven't looked back. So I am not a fan of bad weather, inclement weather. I like snow if I'm skiing but I don't like slogging around in it. And I I dislike rain and that's why Southern California is a great place for mem because I like the heat. I don't like hurricanes and I don't like earthquakes but who does?

And James, growing up in Connecticut, did you have some kind of weather that you would have changed if you wanted?

Van Der Beek: There [are] three things I do not miss about living in Connecticut: January, February and March. Yes, I would certainly do away with that kind of post-winter, pre-spring cold, dry wasteland, yes.

James, what was it like working with Luke Perry? Because you guys certainly in effect were in the same teen-idol situation, about a decade apart on TV. Did you guys just chat about similarities or the interesting things the two of you had bumped across?

Van Der Beek: I tried to get as much out of him as I could. I was fascinated. I think he's a little bit further past it so it wasn't as present for him. But yes, it was really interesting. It always is, to talk to somebody who's been through something so unique like that. Because it's something you could only really know from the inside. So it's fun. There's kind of the mutual understanding for … something bizarre that really doesn't make sense on so many levels. But … it's fun. And Luke is a great guy. He's got a great perspective on it. And, yes, I really did enjoy the time in between setups.

You were talking about this scientist has good intentions but it gets out of control, much like the story of Frankenstein. Do you think that concept is relevant to the nuclear age and beyond?

Van Der Beek: Absolutely, especially as technology keeps on advancing. You know, we've got to kind of also make sure that we keep up with it … as far as our humanity and how we use this technology and what our intention is behind it … It’s a quandary that's existed as long as we've been inventing things. And technology and science is certainly not slowing down anytime soon so, yes, I think it makes for great drama for sure.

What’s the worst weather that you guys have been through?

Van Der Beek: David?

Elliott: You know, I remember some horrific snow storms. The most alarming thing, I think, is the change in the weather … I remember as a kid having so many snow days. And, you know, I realize my perspective has changed a little, but you'd walk out the door and the snow was up to your neck. I remember, with a shovel, we were tunneling toward the road to go to school when we got word that the school had been canceled that day. And now there's barely a snowfall these days in the Toronto area.

Van Der Beek: Wow. That's really frightening. I just remember in North Carolina, one year right after I'd bought property [there], we had about three hurricanes in one season. I remember hearing that [a] hurricane-relief concert had been canceled due to another hurricane. And so that was pretty crazy. You just realize how helpless you are, especially as a new property owner. You buy a house and you get it checked out and you feel like you've kind of made your mark here in some way. And then an act of God just comes up the coast and has the potential to just completely wipe it clean. Weather like that is certainly humbling.

James, were you into science at all when you were growing up?

Van Der Beek: No, actually. I could write, so I was good at English and anything where you kind of, you know, BS your way through an essay. That was my specialty. I was dyslexic, so math and formulas were not necessarily my strong suit.

Weather machines are a perennial science fiction device. How did this one become a little fresher?

Van Der Beek: Just the power struggle, really. You know, whether it's the weather machine or whether it's a nuclear weapon or whether it's cloning or just any kind of technology that concentrates a mass amount of power in the hands of one person. You know, that to me is what the movie was about. And the responsibility of creating such a device and it ultimately kind of comes down to one man against another. One kind of fighting for a greater good and one fighting simply for his own good. So to me that was kind of the struggle that attracted me to the story.

James, you’re the hero in this story, but you spend a lot of time in front of a keyboard for a hero. That's usually the sidekick's job. Is there a new kind of geek hero emerging here?

Van Der Beek: Possibly. You know, you start relying on people who are good in front of the keyboard more and more these days. So yes, I mean, that was kind of the idea behind this guy too … I mean, I've played guys who were athletic and strong and the kind of typical action hero. But what I liked about this guy was that he's not your typical action here. He's not particularly suited to being on the run, to being shot at, to being chased. But just kind of through his own kind of internal fortitude, he somehow scrambles his way through it. And that to me was kind of the more exciting journey as opposed to, you know, watching Rambo or somebody. This is somebody who decidedly is not Rambo.

Hurricane Katrina must have been in the back of everyone's mind when they were making this film.

Van Der Beek: Well, I mean, that was the idea behind the my character's motivation creating the technology was that we can avoid that. Wouldn't it be amazing if we could have diverted that and not had to have gone through that catastrophe?

James, this is kind of a reemergence for you since the end of "Dawson’s Creek"?

Van Der Beek: Yes, I was pretty burnt out after six years on a series. And I don't know that I was really ready to jump back in. One thing that's happened, I will say in the past year, year-and-a-half is I've really started to rediscover my passion for acting and for being a part of a story and in a leading role capacity. So it's fun. I'm really having a good time right now.

What was your most memorable moment you had from filming "The Storm"?

Van Der Beek: This might be kind of funny to you actually. There was a moment where it was about 4 o’clock in the morning; we were shooting in Van Nuys [in California]. It was very, very cold. We're underneath these rain towers. The entire crew, the camera crew, everybody was underneath the rain at this point. And I was hiding behind a dumpster and there was a big Rottweiler that was supposed to come up against the fence and snarl and just scare the be-Jesus out of me. And I was attacked by a dog when I was very little so I kind of have a natural fear of dogs anyway.

And this huge Rottweiler, which probably weighed about twice my weight, was being held back by a chain ready to come up and pounce against this chain link fence. And it being 4 o’clock in the morning, by the time they let go of the Rottweiler he just kind of ran up and was not angry at all. I mean, [it was] just kind of sitting there panting. But in order to save the shot I knew I had to rile him up so I turned around and actually started barking at the dog and snarling and baring my own teeth. And which point he started barking. And so, you know, I think the dailies from that day are probably pretty ridiculous: me, on my hands and knees in the pouring rain, barking at a dog.

Elliott: I was just excited to work with Treat Williams and so then my first day was probably my most memorable working with a guy I had been a big fan of for many years so. Other than that … business as usual.

What did you like most about working with the director of "The Storm"?

Van Der Beek: His passion and his energy. As David can tell you … Bradford May just comes every day with a huge zest for life and loves being on film sets. He's done every job there is to do pretty much on a film set. He started when he was 14. His parents were in the industry. He's one of those guys who really knows everybody's job on set. And was incredibly gracious about allowing them to do it and then kind of educating them on how they could do it a little bit better in a respectful way.

And [he’s] just one of those pros who you get an opportunity to work with in the business, one of those lifers who just kind of reminds you that this is really fun stuff we get to do. You know, it's a job, it's a business but when you're on set, we're all kind of telling a story and we're making a movie. So that's what I loved about him. I'm sure David has stuff to add to that too.

Elliott: Yes, there's no bullsh*tting Brad on any level because he knows everybody's job. It's one of the great things about working with Brad. And you move quickly and you don't waste time. And, you know, as James said, he's incredibly passionate and he's a gas to be around. It's not only there's not only the work done efficiently and done extremely well, it's a lot of fun. I remember the first time I met him. He walked onto a set — we'd been together, I don't know, six, seven years; I was on a show that went to 10 years. And Brad walked on the set and … nothing fazed him. He was this character … We all looked at him like, "Oh my God, who is this guy? This is not going to last." And within two, three days we fell in love with him. He's just that kind of person. You know? Great filmmaker. Probably the most underrated filmmaker in Hollywood.

How long did it take to shoot "The Storm"?

Elliott: My role was pretty quick. So James, he had to endure the worst of it.

Van Der Beek: I was on it I think five or six weeks, six weeks, seven weeks, I can't remember.

And it was all in California?

Van Der Beek: It took a while. Yes.

James, do you still have family and friends in Connecticut?

Van Der Beek: I do have family back there … I get there, you know, maybe once or twice a year. I have very, very fond memories of Connecticut. Great place to grow up. A lot of great theater out there too.

Your involvement in theater came as kind of an accident, right? You were more going into sports until you had an accident?

Van Der Beek: Yes, I mean, I had a concussion when I was eighth grade, which kind of led to me doing theater just on a community level, like, little children's theater. That's when I fell in love with it and started pursuing it. And then, yes, I just started on that path.

Were there a lot of opportunities for young people?

Van Der Beek: You know, honestly I think the best thing in the world for me were just the children's theater productions that I got to be a part of when I was 13, 14, 15 years old. There's a guy named Dave Gardino in Waterbury who ran the Cheshire Children's Theater or Cheshire Theater Ensemble that I was a part of. And I think those experiences more than anything else really prepared me to get up on stage with professionals. I had my first play in New York when I was 16. But I remember things going wrong on stage … and I was fine with it, because I'd been on stage for other children's theater production where light falls or a set goes down … and you just kind of know how to deal with it.

So I really hope that there's still that kind of opportunity for kids just even as an expression, you know, as a way to get together and work as a community and learn to work as a team. You know, I was very, very fortunate that there were opportunities for me as a kid to get up on stage and just try stuff and play different roles and, yes, I'm very grateful to Connecticut for that background.

Treat Williams is from Connecticut as well.

Van Der Beek: Yes, he is. He’s also a New York theater guy so we got along famously from the get-go.

David, does doing a project like this make you think about getting back into series TV or are you happy to do guest-starring roles and do miniseries and different projects?

Elliott: Oh no, you know, I'm thinking about it. I mean, I've been away long enough that. What I miss about series television was working the craft every day, you know? We're developing some shows at the moment with various partnerships so we'll see what happens. Series television has changed a lot since I left. It's a different game now. And the rules have changed. Getting something made, there are less opportunities.

I guess if you look at everything as a new opportunity, like James was saying earlier about dealing with the changing environment, that's kind of how I'm approaching this. I'm just happy to work, believe me. I've been doing a lot of films and I just dig working.

What are the biggest changes that the industry has gone under since "JAG" premiered?

Elliott: Well, good God, reality TV has changed everything. Certainly, there's less opportunity for scripted television. And there's less money to be made; advertising has changed. TiVo changed that. Then the networks, they may not go away; they may just have to change how they do business and it seems to be happening. Cable television is probably the savior for most of them now that everyone's amalgamated over the studio. It seems and they own a lot of the cable television stations which are booing their present situations like NBC and CBS.

So, you know, there's less money, there's less opportunity. But it's less stifling an environment to be creative in, which is great. You know, standards and practices don't have a grip on cable television like they have had on network television — not that that's good or bad but it's different …

David, are you drawn to the military parts?

Elliott: I don't know, this really was the only other time that I've done it. I mean, I did it for 10 years [on "JAG"] and [my character in "The Storm"], he's a completely different character … I believe he really at heart he was a patriot and then he found himself deep in it and then had to make some personal choices … He had to struggle with his integrity and his morality and ultimately he took the easy way out. But so this was the second time. I may have been offered a few [military roles] and turned them down just on the basis of it being another military thing and not wanting to be stuck in a box, but this one felt different. And it was fun and it was quick. And I got to work with Brad. And it was a groovy project and a great cast. And why not be a part of it?

James, you mentioned before that by the time you got to the end of your run at "Dawson's Creek" you were pretty burned out. Was there a way that that could have been avoided or is that just the nature of the beast? And would you give any advice to young stars who on are on a hot show now?

Van Der Beek: Oh boy. Wow, it's kind of a complicated question. I think really the only thing to kind of avoid burnout is a level of appreciation that I don't know you can really come to without stepping away from it for a little while. The hours are so intense. And the opportunities kind of come so fast and furious that it's almost impossible to really be able to appreciate them to the level that you should. I was doing movies during the hiatuses and doing movies during and then doing press and photo shoots and all that kind of stuff. You know, and it was a six-year run. Is there anything I could have done to avoid it? I don't know. I mean, I think now that I'm older and can kind of have a little bit different perspective on it, I'd like to think now that I can probably handle it not be burned out for so long.

I think also it started for me at age 20. I wasn't in the place of really being able to handle everything that was thrown at me. And I came out OK, but what I would say for anybody going through it: "Just focus on the work, keep good people around you. And don't believe the hype either way, good or bad. Just really keep it all about the work and make sure the people you're surrounding yourself with are just high-quality human beings and you should be OK."

Is that hard to do?

Van Der Beek: It's tricky … especially if there's money that comes into the picture, it's kind of an indiscriminate magnet. It attracts all kinds of people; some of them with good intentions, some of them not. So it really is tricky. It's not impossible, but it is tricky …

I'm sure David could probably attest to this too, but the one thing that I kind of came out of my experience with is a real compassion for anybody else who goes through the same thing. It's very easy to stand on the outside and judge and look at people making bad decisions and say, "What the hell were they thinking?" Having gone through and been in the eye of that storm I think I would try to judge a lot less than your average person looking at somebody going through a train wreck.

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