You grew up in the New York City / New Jersey area and come from a theatre background. How has your theatre background has influenced the way in which you approach working in film and television?
I think that in television and even in film, it is easy to fall back on tricks. In theater, its not possible to rely on editing or, for instance, doing several takes in a row.
I enjoy the spontaneity and thrill of that. It is important to try to carry that attitude onto the screen as well.
You have been a part of multiple projects with ensemble casts, including The Vampire Diaries for eight seasons and most recently the first season of Tell Me a Story streaming now on CBS All Access. What do you enjoy most about working with an ensemble cast and the ability to collaborate?
This is a lame answer, but with ensembles it allows someone to have days off which is always nice!
But on a more serious note, i do think that an actor is only as good as the person they are working opposite. It is important to surround yourself with people you admire and respect as actors.
Many years ago Bryan Cranston played my father on a television series. I learned a lot working with him, not just because he's an exceptional and present actor but because he has an incredible level of humility that I try my best to emulate.
In later seasons of The Vampire Diaries, you directed and produced multiple episodes. What was the experience like switching between actor and director/producer?
I dont particularly enjoy both acting and directing a given production. I much prefer to only wear one hat. i will say that when you’re the director of an episode and time is always tight, it forces you to put your ego in check. No watching playback to obsess over minutia or even some silly aesthetic concern. The most importan thing is the performance.
After having starred in The Vampire Diaries for multiple seasons, did you discover anything new about your character upon assuming the roles of director and producer?
After having directed, I discovered, in hindsight, that I had been hard headed some creative issues or ideas, and I was not necessarily “right”.
As an actor, I had been viewing my role in the production from a very myopic point of view.
theres an over-arching theme and an overall objective and the director is the maestro so to speak.
many actors, such as myself, will argue over the slightest things, which are of course very meaningful to them or to their character. And it is important to believe in things or have a point of view, no doubt. But sometimes we lose sight of the entirety of the piece. As an actor, I now approach my work and my relationship with directors much differently after having directed.
Tell Me a Story is an anthology series in which fairy tales such as The Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, and Hansel and Gretel are re-imagined as a psychological thriller set in modern-day New York City. What drew you to this role?
Many things. NYC for one. And then the idea of reinventing and twisting classic stories we all grew up with. Kevin Williamson, the writer, is the king of that. He first did it with “Scream”. He twisted the horror genre on its head.
With the season one finale of Tell Me a Story recently released, what do you hope that viewers are able to take away at the end of the season?
A cautionary tale. Every character has flaws and mistakes. And they all pay for it in the end. No bad deed goes unpunished, in one way or another. At least that’s what my takeaway was after watching the series.
Tell Me a Story is set and filmed in New York City. How does the energy of the City play into the creation of the show?
NYC is my favorite city in the world. I feel very active here, mentally and physically. Everything moves at a faster pace. The pacing of the series i think is indicative of that. Theres also a sort of unexpectancy here. At any moment, you can bump into someone on the street or witness somehting you were not expecting. thats how the series plays.
Kevin Williamson is the mastermind behind both The Vampire Diaries and Tell Me a Story. What was it like working with him again?
Hes a good friend and I was humbled he asked me to join the series. Especially considering the fact that my character on TMAS is the opposite of the one on TVD.
You are someone who wears many different hats – multi-faceted actor, director, producer. What’s next on your list that you’re looking to check off? Anything that you’re eager to jump back into?
I would like to direct a feature film. My friend Damon and I are cooking something up as we speak. We have a similar taste in film. I admire filmmakers who create an atmosphere of excitement and improvisation, such as Jon Cassavetes. Obviously that a high standard, but my goal is to create a film that doesnt have all the familiar beats. Almost a cross between a feature and a documentary, perhaps half fictionalized and half reality.