Thursday, August 16, 2012

Searching for the Truth with Actor Dave Vescio: An Interview

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Actor Dave Vescio has led an interesting life. He has served in the American Army. He has also worked in journalism for CBS. At one point, he spent time in Fort Leavenworth Maximum Prison for running a drug operation. How did all of these life events lead to acting?

Vescio wanted to experience more of what life had to offer and he found acting as a tool to experience life more fully. He brings a lot of his roller-coaster life into the roles he plays. And, Vescio admits that he prefers playing villainous roles that expose the darker sides of reality.

In this exclusive interview, Vescio talks about his past, the truth of the moment and his future projects. Have a listen as this prolific actor reveals some of the highlights of his experience in film.

(Michael R. Allen) Dave, you have served time in Fort Leavenworth prison for a drug charge. You have also been trained in jungle warfare for the American infantry. You have led an eclectic life. What made you transition into acting?

(Dave Vescio) "I actually did not start to become an actor until I was in my early thirties. After I finished serving time in prison, and federal parole, I decided to become a TV photojournalist. So, I trained at Virginia Tech University with an Emmy award winning journalist, and a year later, CBS News pulled me out of school to work for them.

For CBS News, I mainly specialized in covering spot news, which involves natural disasters and man-made disasters. After covering these stories constantly, that is when it hit me. I wanted to do something different with my life. I honestly was jealous of the characters in these tragic new stories; they were truly living life by experiencing all these different types of emotions and some of them all at once. I actually was jealous of all of that. I wanted that in my life. I wanted to feel life. I wanted to feel emotions like everyone else did.

I grew up in a military family where you don't really feel or share your emotions with others. Plus, the U.S. Army taught me the same exact thing. And, in prison you never really show your true feelings as well. When I worked for CBS News, covering these tragic news stories, you are not supposed to become the character of the story either. You are the outsider looking in, observing, and telling their truth. So, I figured that becoming an actor would do all the above for me and it eventually did."

(MRA) You also trained in the David Mamet School of Acting. From my reading, Mamet believes that acting is a form of transformation. How do you allow yourself to transform into the characters you play? How do you prepare for your roles?

(DV) Actually, Mamet does not believe there is a character. So, there really is no transformation at all. Mamet teaches us that you are the character. So, just be you in the scene. And figure out how to turn this imaginary circumstance truthful by doing the same exact action that the written character is doing. It is the physical actions that make the character come alive for the audience. Acting is just two or more actors on stage, or on set trying to physically get something or do something to one another and that’s it. There are no characters at all. There are actors saying the dialogue truthfully. Truth is saying what I would say if I was in that same exact circumstance. This is what creates an illusion of character for the audience.

For me, I try to do the same exact thing. I try to do the actual actions of my character for real on set and treat the other actors the way my character is treating the other characters. I am constantly trying to be the character by just doing the actual physical actions of the character and that is it. There are no funny voices, no funny faces - just being truthful to the character and to myself. And, that is when you can actually get a multi-dimensional human being on set versus a fictionalized character. Honestly, it takes years if not decades of study & practice to get to this kind of level of acting. But, once you can, then you can actually do anything with your artform.

Every week I am out on the street corners of Hollywood practicing my artform in front of total strangers and learning from them, the watching audience. I learn how to make this real, personal and very alive. There is no acting; there are only actual truths."

(MRA) Now, I am most familiar with you from your acting in Dana Schroeder's Lost Soul, (2009) House of Flesh Mannequins, (2009) Air Collision (2012) and more recently Hick (2011). Basically, I know you from your work in the genres of horror and thrillers. Is there anything in particular that attracts you to this genre?

(DV) "Yes, definitely! They tend to have real life villain roles in them, which is what I love to do best. I decided a long time ago that I wanted to show the actual truth of these villainous characters to the world. I did not want to show a one or two dimensional character that most actors portray on screen. I wanted to show an actual human being who is afraid just like everyone else. But, he has to break or choose to break these moral codes that we all live by. At the same time he has to pay the price for these crimes as well by either being horribly injured, killed, or sent to prison. This is what happens to real life villains.

I am here to show the truth of this villainous world and I do feel that this is what true art actually is, showing the truth to the world. There can be no lies, no bullshit, no make believe. There needs to be just actual truths. And if I can do that, then I may be able to change the world for the better in the end. That is my journey in life. I want to educate the world about these god awful truths and maybe I will teach them enough that they can prevent evil from happening in their own personal life. If I can do that, then I have done my job as a villainous actor.

I scared the crap out of you, but I have also taught you an actual truth that can save your life or another person's life as well."

(MRA) I wonder if truth is marketable in Hollywood. Much of the industry is focused on entertainment rather than evoking a response from viewers. I am just thinking out loud.

Now, I wanted to stick with horror and thrillers for a bit. Some filmmakers believe that working in horror or thrillers can be cathartic because one is tuning into their darker nature. Do you think this is true? And, do you feel more comfortable playing villains or the more heroic?

(DV) "That is a good question. I honestly don’t know. I would like to say that this darker nature does reside in every single one of us, but I do not know if this is true for everyone. Maybe the idea of it lives inside everyone; and maybe they do feel the need to play around with these ideas in a very safe environment, meaning, a film set. But, I see acting differently from most artists because I am different from the mass majority. I see it as an opportunity to express an actual truth to the world and to help protect the world from the real life evil that lurks around us.

I do see myself as being heroic in showing the truth of my characters to the world. At the same time, I am a real life villain. So, I do feel more comfortable in these types of roles, as well. It is what I understand best and it is what I have lived with for so long. At the same time, I want to express these truths to the world. I want to help protect the world from these real life monsters as well."

(MRA) Dave, you talk a lot about finding truth in your art and expressing it. Since you have had such an interesting life, what are some truths that you have learned from your experiences in Fort Leavenworth Prison, your journalism career and from acting?

"I have learned a lot. Whatever you focus on, and set your mind on to, and study religiously, you will eventually become it. Humans err. So, I definitely show that in my art. Alos, some real life villains are made and others are born this way. As well, severe punishment is a good thing. It re-teaches proper values. People can change if they choose to change. Life is very, very short, so definitely make the best of it! Follow your bliss no matter what. Figure out what you most want in life and figure out what you are willing to give-up to get it. Figure out what you are willing to do to get it, and then get it. And love whatever it is that you love in life!"

(MRA) I agree that you have to go after what you want in life. This is the only way to find happiness in your career and life at large.

Now, because we are a horror, thriller and sometimes sci-fi site, I want to focus on one of your upcoming features, Gemini Rising. This title sounds like a sci-fi thriller involving mystery and alien technology. Can you tell us a little bit about your character, Dr. Bainbridge? And, can you expand on the film's story for me?

(DV) "Yes, Dr. Bainbridge is a top military scientist who was used as a guinea pig for a former top military scientist, which happened to be his father. So, young Bainbridge was drugged, tortured, abused, you name it. Let us just say that Dr. Bainbridge’s morals are not so normal anymore and he is very anti-social towards most human beings now. But, he loves his work and he wants to be the best at it in the world. He will do anything to make it come true and at any cost: life or death.

Gemini Rising is about a rogue Marine Colonel who wants to make as much money as he possibly can. He sells the secrets of these captured aliens to the highest bidder. And there is a top government crime officer who wants to stop all of us from making this happen. So, lots of con-games are being played including: torture, abuse, hard core martial art violence, and a thriller mystery. Some romance is also encompassed into this otherworldly film. Let us just say that the aliens are not happy that we have them caged as guinea pigs for my character's experiments."

(MRA) How do you prepare for a science fiction film where reality has to be stretched to a certain extent? How do you display your character's truth when alien beings are not real nor true (as far as we know)?

(DV) "I still try to play the scene as realistically as I can. Instead of pretending to talk to an alien, I just actually put a real life human being right in front of me off screen and talk to them instead. This way I am still talking to a real life being. And, I also try to bring today’s science into the plot line somehow, as well. This way, I can ground it into today’s reality of truth versus fiction.

Don’t get me wrong, sci-fi acting is definitely similar to theatre acting compared to anything else, especially with all the green screens all around you. At the same time, I do have human beings on set with me that I can interact with. So, I focus on that instead. I just focus on the actual truth and the actual environment that I’m in versus trying to make believe an altered reality instead. This is method acting.

Not everyone sees acting the same way. Some actors have a great imagination. I am not one of those. I am grounded into the reality of the "now." So, that is what I focus on. That way, it will be true for the watching audience. If it feels like real life to me and looks real, then the audience will feel reality as well. That is the goal that I'm always seeking to create with my art.

(MRA) Thanks for answering all of these questions today.

So, what would you like to say to film fans who follow you and the films you star in? Are there any films that you are especially proud of that are coming up in the near future?

(DV) "First off, thank-you for inviting me into your homes or seeing my movies on the big screen. I totally appreciate it! I’m very, very grateful; so, thank-you for that! I definitely loved being in Hick with Chloe Moretz, Eddie Redmayne, Blake Lively, Alec Baldwin and Juliette Lewis. Hick can be seen on DVD, VOD, or iTunes now. And early next year, my film The Trials of Cate McCall with Kate Beckinsale and Nick Nolte comes out. Then, Beginning of the End with Eric Roberts, Brian Bosworth and Sting the wrestler will release. Later, there is The Odd Way Home with Rumer Willis Chris Marquette.

So, if you get the chance definitely check these out. And thanks again!"

(MRA) Thanks again Dave for filling us in on your approach to acting and we will definitely be looking forward to seeing you in these upcoming pictures.

(DV) "Thank-you as well Michael! It was fun! :)"

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