Slice of SciFi reporter Linda Craddock has been very busy of late talking to members of the cast of “The Incredible Hulk.” First up is actor Greg Bryk.
Greg Bryk is well known in sci-fi circles having done important TV roles for “Blood Ties” (Father Cascioli), “The Dresden Files,” male lead in 27 episodes of “ReGenesis,” as well as many others. He also is no stranger to the big screen and will be seen in this weekend’s premiere of “The Incredible Hulk.” Coming up in the future SF fans can catch him in such major films as “Screamers 2,” “SAW V” and the high-action TV miniseries “XIII.”
Linda Craddock (SoSF): Hi Greg, thank you for taking the time and welcome to Slice of SciFi, how are you today? You are the recipient of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle award for Best Supporting Actor in a Canadian Film â€œPoor Boyâ€™s Gameâ€, that must have been a gratifying role for you. Talk a little about the experience.
Greg Bryk (GB): I was really fortunate to be cast in Poor Boys Game which was a Canadian feature directed by Clement Virgo, also starring Rossif Sutherland who is Donald Sutherlandâ’s son and Danny Glover. It was a raw drama about the racial tension between the white and black communities in Halifax as my younger brother is integrated from a life in prison back into a sort of economically challenged white community. The role was dynamic and I was fortunate in the writing which was also dynamic and also gave me a lot of latitude to add behavioral touches to the role I played as Keith Rose and he was a bouncer, sort of the local to local leader of his community. He had issues with racism and violence and temper management but there was a hurt vulnerability to the character as well in which I was attracted to and it allowed it to be a more to be a more complicated human character rather than just a one note arc-type.
SoSF: Were there any special preparations you had to make in preparation for this project?
GB: Unfortunately, the way the casting process works in Canada with financiers, they sort of work their way through a list of name options that I came onboard with the project fairly late in the process. I literally found out I was going to play the part 3 days before I had to leave for Halifax so I didn’t have a lot of lead time or preparation time but fortunately this time in my case, I had a really instinctual response to the character and Clement was able to sort of guide me through and I was able to find the character as we went along, to find the moments within it with the generosity of the other actors involved as well and just sort of creating things in the moment as we progressed.
SoSF: Your current project? Tell us a little about the storyline and your role.
GB: Right now I’m currently in Regina shooting the newest Stephen King thriller called Dolan’s Cadillac based on a short story and it stars Christian Slater and Wes Bentley and myself and I play Christian Slater’s character “Mr. Dolan’s” right hand man and muscle man and the character’s name is “Chief” and we have our lives and business interests intersect with Wes Bentley’s character “Robinson” and well kill his wife and the story goes where “Robinson” gets himself in a position where he can extract revenge or decide to turn away from that and it becomes very much a moral choice for him.
SoSF: What attracted you to this particular project?
GB: You know the script was fantastic when I first read it. A lot of times movies within a genre attempt to be too many things and wear too many hats but this movie definitely understood it was a psychological thriller the writing was tight and the source material obviously, a Stephen King’s short story, was fantastic. There’s a real history of his successful adaptations of his work so I think the idea that I could be a part of that history of adaption was exciting and it was the same idea where I play a bad guy but in the writing that was in the script that existed also through working with Jeff Beesley, director, I decided let me create a few behavioral moments that will hopefully make the character stand out from the rogues’ gallery of bad guys that have existed in film before this.
SoSF: The Incredible Hulk is schedule to be released June 13th. It must be exciting anticipating the premiere of a new project.
GB: Yes, in The Incredible Hulk I play a part of an elite unit of delta force commandos that the American government puts together to hunt down Dr. Banner and bring him back in to custody because he is infected with the serum that terms him into the Hulk and they want it back and Tim Roth is the leader of our group of guys and we are parachuted into the streets of Brazil, the streets of Rio, the chantey towns there and we hunt Ed Norton’s character then eventually run into his alter ego, The Hulk and without giving too much away, well, it’s not a happy meeting for us.
SoSF: How physically challenging did you find the role?
GB: The role was among the most physically challenging I’ve ever played simply because we were black ops with 40 pounds of gear on with machine guns and magazines and back packs and the authenticity where they spared no expense creating the gear and they trained us weeks and weeks leading up to the film with actual military advisers, police, S.W.A.T. team, actual soldiers from military. We spent the next number of months in Brazil and Toronto sprinting, essentially running up and down on uneven terrain and over hills and jumping over roof top to roof top. There were elements of parkour which is the freestyle street running involved and it was really exciting and hopefully it creates a great visceral punch.
SoSF: I am going to put you on the spot because I know Lou Ferrigno appeared in film, but had you seen the first film?
GB: Ang Lee’s. Yes, in fact, that was one of the first movies I took my middle son to see. And when we saw the original Hulk I thought it took some interesting risks as a movie and it wasn’t a traditional super hero fair. I think one of the difficulties is that there was so much energy spent on the Nick Nolte sub-story behind it. Marvel is in the business of bring their comic books to life. I think the action elements and the destructiveness of the character didn’t translate in the first movie as well as it does in the second. Lou who has directed and has a background in action films really concentrated on that element and really brought it to the forefront of this film.
SoSF: What about the series with Lou Ferrigno?
GB: I grew up as a little boy watching it, one of my favorite shows and I remember one of my earliest Halloween costumes was the Hulk painted green and the ripped up clothes, I loved it (laughter). The man on the run element was the focus of this movie and I think, and I don’t know if they call it a reboot or whatever this one is, more faithful to the tone of the series but brings it into our world of 2008 with the amazing CGI that they have now the effects you’re allowed to bring into a movie because the technology exists now
SoSF: Yeah, imagine someone getting that angry in real life!
GB: Well you know when you have 3 kids and you’re trying to get them off to school it’s not so hard to imagine sometimes (laughter). I think we all have a little “hulk” in us. There’ll be a lot of frustrated parents cheering in the audience “yes, that’s right” (laughter)
SoSF: Talk about shooting a film like this where a great deal of special effects and CGI are involved from an actor perspective.
GB: Working on a film that is so dependent on technology was interesting. A lot of actors have a resistance because it is a little more difficult. As an actor you want to be able to have the inter-play between yourself and either another actor or the environment around you because one feeds the other and in this case you are sort of operating in a vacuum and William Hurt of all people, who has a wonderful and rich background in stage and film that you would think would be resistant to the new technology had actually sat me down and we have become friendly since the shooting of “A History of Violence” and that picked with this film as well, and he was talking about how important it is for the actors to learn how to commune with the technology because at the end of the day this is the prism through which our craft is shown to the audience so you have to do a little more work and exercise a little more imagination. It almost goes back to being on stage where you don’t have the physical elements in front of you where you have to imagine them and react to them in an imaginary circumstance and you find yourself dealing more and more in this medium because you’re not surrounded by your physical environment which is typical green screen and you’re reacting to what they’re going to put there afterwards.
SoSF: Tell us what a typical day on the set was like for you.
GB: For the Hulk?
GB: It was sort of sprint and wait. The budget was enormous and it is a massive blockbuster major motion picture and no expense was spared. Spent countless hours lighting, setting the scenes so it’s going to look dynamic and beautiful, so there was lot of waiting around and you have to be in a state of readiness closer in kin to a sporting event where maybe you’re a special teams player and you have a specific task and you need to keep yourself mentally and physically alert so when they are ready after spending two or three hours lighting the shot to perfection, you have to be able to perform immediately and at this point there’s no wasting time because there are too much money on the line. You couldn’t get into a rhythm of take after take after take so it was a series of sprints and waiting and I think, again the challenge for the actors was to maintain the focus during long periods of inactivity.
SoSF: You worked on a film project with Gina Holden, Screamers 2. Is that movie based on the same concept as the film starring Peter Weller?
GB: Yeah, it’s the sequel to that film and what is happening is there’s a distress signal that’s been received from SIRIUS 6B where the first Screamers incident occurred and I play the commander of this space craft, Commander Andy Sexton and Gina Holden is the lieutenant on the ship and we’re a rescues expedition sent back to SIRIUS 6B to see if there are any human survivors and once we get back to the planet, we find ourselves in great peril as we work our way through rugged terrain, bleak desolate landscape looking for signs of human life and fighting off screamers. We shot in the minds of Bell Island out of Newfoundland in the Badlands and hopefully the movie looks fantastic. The script was full of action and adventure and hopefully a successful sci-fi thriller.
SoSF: So, when your agent calls you and says “hey Greg, we have another project, sci-fi genre,” especially back to back — is it something you have to think twice about?
GB: You know, I wish I could say that I’m at the point, well, I’m very fortunate as an actor in Canada with bits my career sort of tinseling down to Los Angeles and the States. I’ve been blessed since The History of Violence, I’ve worked non-stop. I’ve gone from 4 years on Re-Genesis to mini series like The Gathering, The Robber Bride and big American features like The Hulk and Shoot ‘Em Up and small independent films like Poor Boys Game and Weirdsville and the sci-fi Screamers 2 and a bunch of other horror films and the newest Saw movie. I really like to keep busy because A. as an actor it keeps me fresh and invigorated and just financially I’ve got to keep working I’ve got a wife and 3 kids and I am fortunate that I can do what I love to do and a comfortable life for them so I really don’t have the luxury of a Brad Pitt where you can pick and choose. Right now I’m happy and hungry to keep working and creating interesting characters, take the material given to me, whatever genre is it and try to create a believable, human and interesting character in that frame work.
SoSF: You mentioned Saw V. I know you have to have a good story to tell about filming that project.
GB: Well, because they really guard the script very, very closely, I can’t divulge too much information about my character other than I am one of the six people in the first trap that setup by jigsaw. Shooting that was so tiring because you’re moving through the traps and they shoot it chronologically, which is nice for us anyway and as we are progressing through the traps and people are sort of dying off but the difficulty is you’re always about to die and the most heightened, emotional state you could possibly be in because the timer ticks down and you know you’re strapped to something and you know that something terrible is going to happen to you. They shoot fairly quickly so for 13 hours a day you’re emotionally exhausted all the time and at the end of the two weeks, I felt bone tired and exhilarated, but exhausted. David Hackl directed and he was the art director on the first Saw movies. He has a wonderful eye and I think the rest of the cast was fantastic and I really hope that it lives up the expectation based on the precedence that has been set by this franchise. It’s a rabid fan base and I hope this film delivers exactly what they want to see.
SoSF: You mentioned 4 seasons with the sci-fi series Re-Genesis, so how did that role come about and what about the writing did you enjoy that inspired you to continue the series?
GB: I had never done a role on a regular series before and the scripts they sent me for the first couple of episodes literally kept me awake, on the edge of my couch. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the next one because the subject matter was so timely and so terrifying, dealing with bio-terrorism, dealing with compromised food chain and delivered in a densely scientific and also compelling and very watchable manner, and my character in the first season was where the lab was branched off where there were the scientists, then the bureaucratic arm which was the representative of the American Government and in the 1st season I was the assistant to Maxim Roy’s character Caroline. Fortunately for me the writers took an interest in my character as the seasons progressed and they started to develop the character more and more and Maxim left the show and my character Weston Field took over the lab and it became dynamic that I became the foil to character David Sandstrom, who was played so brilliantly by Peter Outerbridge. Not only was the over arching science behind the show interesting but they created some compelling storylines and for me as an actor I’ve always wanted to grab onto a relationship, something that is personal to me and not just in the realm of ideas but something that I feel in my gut. As the seasons progressed there were storylines that had to do with my niece which is a very simply surrogate for my kids to me, and family issues and my brother and failing health, my character had HIV and also contracted hepatitis in season 4 and tried to kill himself so there was a really dense, almost Shakespearian arc that played out through the 4 seasons and I really feel proud to have been a part of that series.
SoSF: Referring back to the question about back to back sci-fi projects — when you did switch gears with You Might as Well Live a comedy with Michael Madsen and Kristen Hager? Talk a little about the work you did and the production in general.
GB: That sort of speaks to “be careful what you ask for”. I had been shooting a mini series which is going to be aired on NBC in January called XIII based on a French graphic novel with Val Kilmer and Stephen Dorff and for some reason I just had in my brain the nostalgia about roller skating. When I was growing up in Winnipeg and that was a Saturday afternoon at Wheelies we would roller skate and I was sort of an awkward kid and I never had that moment where I asked a girl to dance. I never had that moment and I kept harping on it, talking about “aw wouldn’t it be great to go roller skating again, popcorn machine and the video games and the spinning light ball the songs from the 80’s”. I was talking about it and talking as it was in my mind and I was talking about it in the next movie I was on and when I got back to Toronto from shooting Screamers 2, Josh Peace who wrote and starred in the film and whom I did a movie called Living Death with a number of years ago had emailed me and said “Greg, I’ve written this movie and I’m going into production and I wrote a check and I would really like you to look at it to see if you want to play the role and it ended up being this cross dressing, undercover cop, Dixie who has this spectacular roller skating musical number where I ask the guy to dance. My first dance, her first dance and it was this really over the top, very funny script, really quirky and I just jumped at the character I played a lot of bad guys so to play the ingenue was hilarious for me. It was great, red wig, mini skirt, gold lame’ jacket and roller skating dance number you can’t beat that but I come back as this really rugged cop at the end but it was really a lot of laughter, the script was crazy. Watching Michael Madsen working a little bit was truly inspired by the work and let himself go in directions that you’ve never seen from him in a film and Josh as Robert Mutt was fantastic and Simon Ennis who is a very young director, directed this, he and Josh know each other well and I tell you this kid is voice that you will hear about in film for years to come, he’s fantastic.
SoSF: I noticed in your profile you played a linebacker for the Queen’s University football team.
GB: ‘oil thigh na ban ra gin, na ban ra gin gu brah,’ ‘Queen’s college colours we are wearing once again, soiled as they are by the battle and the rain, yet another victory will wash away the stain, so Gaels go in and win. What the sport of Kings? Queens Queens Queens .’
SoSF: Was that the direction you originally had planned for your future? What changed?
GB: I went to Queens University where I studied English and Philosophy. My father is a judge now, was a lawyer and I was going to go to law school and maybe into politics at some point and that was the direction my life was going to take. I started in my first season at Queens and had the ability to play there and we won the national championship in my third year and I’ve always had a slightly creative, artistic bend and in an elective in my 3rd year, I took a play writing class and the professor a gentleman named Fred Geringer, who was very well known in the Stratford and Canadian theatre is a guy who made brilliant, beautiful masks and he was my professor and he said “Greg, I really like the way you read your stuff and the sensibility of your writing. Have you ever thought about acting,” and I said “no, not really to be perfectly honest with you”. He said “I don’t know what your football plans are but next year, your 4th year, I’m directing a production of Hamlet and he explained that he was going to create masks and 5 different actors were going to play Hamlet at various stages of his life and he didn’t know what kind of part he could offer me in the play but he’d be interested in seeing me through the audition process to see what happens so I talked to my football coaches and I didn’t have a future, professionally and I recognize my limitations as an athlete so I started to audition for the play and was very excited about it and after we were sort of weeding our way through the audition process, and doing some table reads for the production he asked me to stay behind one day and he said “you know I’m getting to be an older man and I think this is my last production of Hamlet and I’ve always had in my mind, imaging mask work in it’s mutable self and I’m kind of throwing it out the window, would you be my Hamlet, it’s going to be you and it’s going to be a bare stage and how do you feel about that?” Being young and naive blissfully ignorant I said “of course I’ll play Hamlet” and that very week I was meeting the woman who is my current wife and mother of my 3 children. I was falling madly in love and the language of Shakespeare was coursing through my veins and I fell in love with my wife and acting all at the same time and it sort of created this inevitability to it and the production itself was well received and people suggested I had very strong instincts and that I might want to hone and train them so my wife and I packed up a suitcase, got on a train and moved to New York. I went to theatre school and we made our life happen from there. It was a divine accident, it’s been an up and down road but I truly feel blessed that I followed this path.
SoSF: That’s a really great story for two beginnings, truly. You have been quoted as saying: “It’s funny, I’ve stayed home and raised my kids for large portions of their life. And I’ve made cupcakes and volunteered for the tea at Montessori. And yet I play monsters.” How interesting is that for the fans to hear your point of view?
GB: At one time I questioned why this is. I think every person who is compelled in the life of the arts has, I want to say whether it’s a reaction to the human condition or background, but I’m lucky I’ve been able to spend time with my kids and be very hands on in raising them and with no exaggeration found this marvelous Martha Stewart recipe for cup cakes. I make cup cakes and I go to the teas. The week A History of Violence where I shoot the little girl in the face, and I create menacing but memorable characters and I’m walking with hand and hand with my 3 little kids to school and the moms in the school yard sort of recognize you and they’ve seen it and you can see them pulling their kids a little closer together (laughter).
I think I create interesting villains because I always try to find the grace and the humanity in why and where did that come from, yeah they are monsters in their actions but they’re also a deeply tragic character that I like to bring to life so for me I think it’s an interesting angle for fans because I play monsters. They are complicated, dangerous people and I can tap into things I can access as a boxer in college as a linebacker. I’m comfortable in the world of violence. I grew up in the north end of Winnipeg. Grew up in a world where men expressed themselves with their bodies and their fists and physical domination is part of the vocabulary and I have access to things that make you hurt and that rage that’s inside of you which makes The Hulk so compelling. I, as an actor, have access to my emotions in a way which lend itself to these types of roles and also as a Canadian actor, to be honest, when the Americans come to bring a movie here they’re going to cast their hero there but the best available role here is the bad guy and I’ve been lucky that I’ve gotten to play those roles. People get a kick out of it and the moms say “I can’t believe you do all those awful things on screen, you are so sweet with your kids” but it is what it is and I try to live my life the best I can, enjoy my children and have a more laid back lifestyle but I have access to a dark side. There is a dark heart beating and I just try to use that for the work, the art and to provide for my family so I leave that in a nice neat little box tied up and put away until I need to bring it out again.
SoSF: Greg, thank you again for taking the time out from your busy schedule to talk with me and good luck with your future endeavors.
GB: Thank you and it was great speaking to you and it was absolutely my pleasure.