Originally published at Fangoria.com on August 26, 2011
In THE CALLER, Mary Kee (Rachelle Lefevre) has been receiving tormenting phone calls from a mysterious woman. Day and night, the calls never seem to end. Who is this stalker? Could Mary’s abusive ex-husband Steven (Ed Quinn) be setting her up, or has Mary completely lost her mind? Fango spoke with Quinn (a veteran of TV series like EUREKA and TRUE BLOOD) about his new supernatural thriller, currently in release from the Samuel Goldwyn Company.
FANGORIA: Tell us about your role in THE CALLER.
ED QUINN: THE CALLER is sort of a psychological thriller. I portray Steven, Mary Kee’s ex-husband. On the surface, he seems very abusive, very angry. It’s a very real sense of terror. There’s an aspect to the script that’s so psychological, it’s almost surreal in trying to figure out what’s happening. What’s genius about the screenplay Sergio Casci created is that audience members can open up to the psychological horror that’s taking place among the time-shifting and all of the scary moments. There’s a very real terror, the domestic violence and being a prisoner in your own home. Even if you haven’t experienced it, people can relate and understand it, so it adds another layer of fear.
FANG: Was it the psychological aspects that attracted you to the script?
QUINN: What attracted me was the smartness. Without giving away too much, audiences, as they’re watching the film or seeing it a second time, will see things that are different. On the surface level, it’s just a psychological thriller with all these crazy supernatural things happening, but there’s an entire cerebral aspect to the film. What I loved about it, as you watch it a second time, in my character’s case, watch how his clothing and demeanor changes. Pay close attention to when I’m wearing the wedding ring. I love the attention to detail. When I first got to Puerto Rico, [co-star] Stephen Moyer called me down to have coffee. We started talking about all these aspects of the script, all the events and time changes, Sergio and [director] Matthew Parkhill’s attention to detail. That’s what I loved about the screenplay. It’s very smart. It can be straight-ahead horror or it can be this psychological thriller. It’s this web where you have to pull together and extract all these ideas—a lot of duality.
FANG: Steven might possibly be the cause behind Mary’s terrorizing phone calls, or he could be the red herring, a distraction from the real culprit. Though the audience doesn’t know what happened between them, Steven feels wronged by Mary. How did you approach the character within those scenes?
QUINN: I’ve played a few cool villains, and the key to a villain is you’re the hero of your own movie. Everybody else is making one movie. You’re making your own. I think the weak place to play someone like Steven, especially when dealing with domestic violence, is to play him out as angry and power-hungry. In domestic violence cases, they’re people who are frustrated, confused, embarrassed and hurt. I tried to layer a lot of that in. One, because I think it makes the character a little more scary. When he’s hurt or wronged, you’re more scared of him because he feels justified. It’s one thing if someone’s just mean or if they seem a little unhinged. There are some moments of physical altercation, but Mary Kee is another aspect. Is he exhausted after this long relationship with someone who’s bipolar or schizophrenic? When he comes home, she’s just gone nuts. He’s tired, at the end of his rope. Because we’re seeing it through her eyes, this guy is scary, he’s abusive and stalking her. Or is it, because they’re in a relationship and he knows her better than anyone else, and she is in a manic state? There are so many layers, there’s no exposition offered. But you can look at my performance and then look at the movie as a whole. You’ll start going, “Huh? What’s really going on here?”
I’ve played the bad guy, and it’s not fun. You have to do it in some films, but there isn’t a lot of justification in it, and it’s not very fulfilling. But with a role like this, you can offer a little bit of duality.
FANG: Because of those moments of domestic violence, is it a challenge to play a flawed character whom an audience might see as unsympathetic and unlikable?
QUINN: It is when you go to bed at night. I’m being honest. I’ve done roles where I’ve just felt crummy for days after. It’s acting, it’s not real, but emotionally, you kind of go to this real place. You have to accept the fact that to tell a story, everybody has to do their jobs. Some jobs suck sometimes, but you gotta do the work. Which is why when you’re going to play that kind of character, it’s really nice when you can present a character who’s smart enough, where you can justify your actions. That’s the difference between a good and bad script. In a good script, the bad guy can justify his actions and it becomes so much more compelling. It’s a far bigger challenge for the protagonist, than the antagonist, has in justification. It’s more fun to play and it’s far more compelling for the audience, because the stakes are higher.
FANG: In the scenes between Mary and Steven, just as you said, where you’re menacing, she comes across as vulnerable and even fragile. Tell us about working with Rachelle Lefevre in those scenes.
QUINN: Rachelle’s an incredible actress, with a lot of range. She leaves herself open and so vulnerable in scenes, it’s very easy for me to be haunting. It’s a dance. When everyone plays their steps correctly, it’s beautiful to watch, or scary to watch in this case. Rachelle is not a timid little flower. She is a really smart, sexy, talented, tough girl. Yet she can look at the script, at a scene, and she knows where she needs to be emotionally and allow herself to be open. That’s why the audience follows her on this journey and roots for her, even as weird as it gets.
FANG: On EUREKA, sometimes you were working in front of a greenscreen for the CG FX, but for THE CALLER, you filmed in Puerto Rico. Discuss shooting on location.
QUINN: I had the best time ever in Puerto Rico. I love the tropics. I’m a surfer. I couldn’t have been happier. It actually worked out amazingly well for me. I had just come from doing a movie where I was just freezing to death. Because of scheduling, they had to shoot Moyer out and shoot [Luis] Guzmán out. They had to take some days off to go back to London. I got to stay the whole time! I had the best time ever! No one enjoyed filming this movie more than me!
The best part when you’re doing a television series is, you have a lot of sets. That’s the kind of world you create. When you’re on location doing a movie, it’s like an adventure. My favorite films are those huge productions like APOCALYPSE NOW, where they were filming in the Philippines for two years. All hell broke loose on that. Being in Puerto Rico, the color, the people, the sounds, all added to the texture of the film.
FANG: How was it working with director Parkhill?
QUINN: Almost every actor, when they do a film and it turns out well, they say wonderful things about the director. It goes so much deeper on this film, because of what Matthew had to go through. This film had a few bumps on the road that would have derailed most productions. Matthew was determined to see this film through and finish it, just to get the movie shot; it’s just incredible. But to do it so well, and do it under the pressure he was under, and to still never compromise, and his attention to detail… I’m just so happy. It sounds weird. I’m proud. To know what he went through and then to look up to see that movie, there’s nothing gratuitous. It all sets the mood, the pace. To pull this movie off under the circumstances he had, that’s a leader.
FANG: In EUREKA, you played Nathan Stark with perfect comedic timing. In TRUE BLOOD, you were this strong and tough vampire, Stan. In THE CALLER, you’re this menacing figure as the antagonistic Steven. With such a wide variety of roles, how do you differentiate each character?
QUINN: It’s weird. To me, it really comes down to shopping for clothes. I’m a really big guy, and the clothes don’t fit. The sad thing is, because of my size and stature, a lot of roles don’t fit me; they just don’t. It’s heartbreaking and it’s frustrating, but every once in a while, one does. EUREKA was one of those situations. TRUE BLOOD was one of those situations. And this film was another where I walked in and it was a perfect fit, which rarely happens to me. I find myself fighting for most roles. Whatever reason, that one in a million that I’m up for, when they fit me, they’re just really easy. I could go back and forth from Nathan to Stan to Steven. It’s not difficult, yet it might be different genres, but to someone on the outside, “Wow! Look at that range!” For me, it’s like different clothes and a wardrobe perfectly made for me. I’m just so happy to go to work. The job can be pretty easy. I can tell when a job isn’t, and they tend to be not very good.
FANG: What are you working on now?
QUINN: Right now, I’ve actually been doing a lot of writing. I have been working on coming in second place for very large films. It’s been a year of heartbreak—losing some really extraordinary projects at the 11th hour. It seems like at all times I’m up for astonishing projects and, like I said, ones that fit, but then art becomes commerce. I’ve been writing a lot, and I have big projects that are on the horizon, just waiting to fill out.