As promised here is the next interview from Linda Craddock with a member of the cast from “The Incredible Hulk.” Christina Cabot is the daughter of the great jazz trumpeter Joe Cabot and singer/actress Cindy Lord. Being raised in such an artistic household it was almost destined that she would become an entertainer on some level. Christina found that love in acting. She attended New York University’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts, and was coached by the renowned acting teacher Stella Adler. After her college days Christina continued her studies in acting with the original Group Theater member Bobby Lewis, and Joan MacIntosh of the Performance Group.
Initially a stage actress, Christina eventually found her way to both television and the big screen with remarkable performances in such landmark TV shows and films like “The Sopranos,” “Dancing at the Blue Iguana,” “Fight Club,” “Cold Case,” “Hostage,” “The Maldonado Miracle” and many more.
Christina is next set to appear as Major Kathleen ‘Kat’ Sparr, in the highly anticipated film “The Incredible Hulk,” which premieres this Friday in theaters across the globe. She just wrapped shooting on another Edward Norton film “Pride and Glory,” a crime drama also starring Colin Farrell, Lake Bell and Jon Voight.
Linda Craddock (SoSF): Hello Christina. Thank you for taking the time and welcome to Slice of SciFi how are you today?
“The Incredible Hulk” is set to be released June 13th. What would you say will make this particular rendition outshine the first movie?
Christina Cabot (CC): Well, I never read the script for the movie that was made earlier, but when I first read ours I was struck by the fact that it was such a layered and artful rendering of this iconic character. If you go back to the TV series, to the comic book series, one of the things people respond to — in addition to the hugely appealing high-octane action — is how Bruce Banner deals with his situation. His morality, feelings of alienation, trying to survive as a fugitive… that’s what drives the story, that’s what people can relate to on a visceral, empathic level.
I think that when writing the script, Edward Norton was extremely mindful of that. The characters were textured and part of a really engaging storyline. And our director, Louis Letterier never shied away from the fact that Banner’s struggle, General Ross’s struggle, and Betty’s struggle is that of the Greeks (laughter)! I know that’s a big statement to make, but at the heart of the great comic book stories are conflicts that are almost Shakespearean in scope. I very much responded to the role of Major Sparr, because she was written to be more than merely functional…she was a character I found to be ripe for interesting interpretation. At some point during the Hulk-busting, I think Sparr finds herself smack in the middle of a crisis of conscience. Which in doing my research I found is a position that many soldiers today find themselves in. I mean, you believe in the good fight, you want to serve the institution, but… I thought a lot about the soldiers at Abu Grahib, the ones that had the courage to speak out, to “drop a dime” so to speak.. Our men and woman fighting in the military are some of the most loyal, the most honorable people there are… but what do you do with all your convictions and your very best intentions and your morality when you are not quite sure if the higher purpose is an honorable one? I definitely thought about those men and women serving, and tried to honor their strength of character and the struggle to maintain in the face of everything that they have to contend with these days.
Gosh, that’s kind of a long answer! But the point I’m trying to make is that there were so many layers to this script and I’m hoping it translates and that it’s all still there, because the work that everyone did was rich and quite interesting.
SoSF: What would you say was the most challenging moment for you on the set and what, if any, special preparations did you have to make for the role?
CC: Ah, does learning how to hoist and fire an AK47 during military training count? I’m a bit of a girly-girl — and a pacifist at that — so initially it was a bit of a challenge to start working with all those big guns. Although, I really did get into it I have to say (laughter). There was an intensely pure adrenaline rush I got during drills when our military trainers had us “take a room,” Seriously, it’s just like what you see on Kansas City Swat or those TLC reality shows. It’s all about busting into a room as aggressively as possible while shouting something to the effect of “get down you f—ers, I’m not kidding, get on the ground!” There’s definitely a feeling of raw power that comes with that. Even though my character Sparr is technically and strategically inclined, in her back story she has seen combat and been decorated with a purple heart. So, we thought it was important to do some time with Tim Roth and the other soldiers in military training prior to filming.
I loved researching stories about soldiers currently serving, and I watched a lot of YouTube videos that the soldiers themselves had posted. Now at the other end of the spectrum, Yoko Ono Lennon-s website Imaginepeace.com gave a great deal of inspiration. I found links to Cindy Sheehan-s site and other resources that remind us that our problems can-t simply be solved militarily. I love to work on characters that have multiple energies going on. In work, as in life, I think dichotomy always makes for an interesting study. With Sparr, I wanted to say, “here’s a soldier who-s committed to and engaged in the fight of her life, but let-s not play only the obvious.” We are all many, many things.
SoSF: The resources you found sound very interesting.
CC: Totally interesting!
SoSF: I think most people know that you and Edward Norton are pretty good friends and you have worked on several films together, and for those who might not know “Pride and Glory, Down in the Valley” which has you listed as First assistant director.
CC: That’s the role I played. There’s some confusion over that. In the film, Edward’s character stumbles onto a movie set, where an old-time western is being shot. I’m playing the role of the first assistant director of the movie within the movie. But yeah, everybody thinks I was first a.d. on “Down in the Valley.” Darn that IMDb (laughter). Edward and I met right out of college in the early nineties while doing the NY theater scene. We were cast in a few plays together and just really clicked. If I remember correctly, he asked me to be his partner for an Actor’s Studio audition, or I asked him to be mine, or something like that! Anyway, then I ended up coming to L.A. in late ’97, or ’98 and I booked a couple of TV and film gigs shortly after landing here–one of them being “Fight Club.” So there we were again! Karma or fortuitous circumstance or choice… whatever it is, we seem to be traveling the same roads and it’s great. It’s great. L.A. can be very isolating but we’ve all definitely got our little community going and there’s a lot of cross-pollination going on. Edward’s producing partner Bill is one of my oldest, dearest friends and his childhood friend Katherine is now like a sister to me. Edward’s been such a strong advocate of my abilities and so keen on championing my work, and that means a lot to me.
SoSF: That’s very supportive, it’s great.
CC: Yes, definitely.
SoSF: You play a cop in “Pride and Glory”, tell us a little about the project.
CC: It’s a cop corruption movie, basically a story about a scandal that in broad strokes shakes the core of the NYPD but on a micro-level really unravels a family’s entire identity, their legacy. I understand that it was a story that meant a great deal to the director Gavin O’Connor, one that he was really compelled to tell and execute authentically. It’s great to work for a director who has that kind of passion.
SoSF: So you got to go back home?
CC: I was actually already home. Just on holiday, visiting family. I got the call from the casting director — who in a trippy coincidence grew up in the town next to mine and used to watch me perform in high school musicals — and she asked, would I like to meet Gavin and maybe do a couple of days on the film? It gave me a reason to extend my time in NY, which is always a good thing.
SoSF: How physical was the role of “Officer Cole”?
CC: Not hugely. We do see me and my partner responding to rooftop gunshots and making a pretty swift and furious entrance into an apartment building, but you also see us cruising around the neighborhood from the comfort of our car talking about bad dates, Bob Dylan and you know the many varieties of Dunkin Donuts…(laughter)
SoSF: What do you look for when you’re approached with a new project? The writing, the directing, or the cast itself?
CC: I love doing a job — and this is particularly true in the TV world — where the crew has worked together for a while. It’s like a beautiful dance that all these people have really “got down.” I did a “Cold Case” episode where the director Alex Zyckerzsewski was someone they regularly used, he had directed many episodes of the show. You’d think that maybe in that kind of situation the people involved would be just lackadaisical, or doing it by rote–but no–it was the opposite. It’s a real family and people care so much about the work, and the stakes are really high! That kind of familiarity just encourages creativity, as far as I can see.
And also, after doing HULK, where several of the actors involved knew each other and dug each other personally and professionally I’m an even bigger believer in working with people you know whenever possible. It just adds this whole other fantastic element to the experience. Again, it tempers that sense of isolation one can feel. Of course you want to have a bit of a bubble around you when you’re working on a job, but at the same time it’s also nice to know that if you want to just hang, there’s someone in the next trailer you can really be yourself around. But of course as I think many actors do, I have sort of a fantasy list of those people I’d like to work with — Sydney Pollack was on that list — or an idea in my head about the next type of character I’d like to take on. I’m not sure I necessarily look for things per se, but I certainly recognize and am grateful for the various elements that will bring a project to the whole next level of satisfaction.
SoSF: The movie “Hostage” must have been quite an interesting project to work on with Bruce Willis.
CC: Oh, yeah! I’d forgotten about that one. I played a reporter covering this really intense hostage situation. You know once you leave the set it, you never know if you’re going to end up on the cutting room floor (laughter)… I’m not sure if that was one of those or not! We shot outside at night on a vista high atop the Hollywood Hills. Even within our little hotbed of filmmaking activity, there was such stillness to the night with a universe of stars hanging overhead. Really beautiful. Hawk Koch produced that movie. What a lovely and smart man he is. You know, for all the clichés about Hollywood that get thrown around, and the sometimes sleazy picture that often is portrayed, I have had mostly terrific experiences with people who are both brilliant and kind. Everybody’s genuinely been the real deal. I feel very, very fortunate for that.
SoSF: Based on talking to you, you generate that aura, so it’s a given.
CC: Thank you. I like to think we all eventually find each other.
SoSF: You attended New York University where you trained under Stella Adler, among other teachers. What was the one thing that stood out in your mind from that experience that you’ve brought forth in your acting career?
CC: Stella was very big on specificity and really doing your homework. Her take on it was only after you did intense preparation are you really fully free to embrace the character truthfully. But I have drawn on tools from other sources too. Sometimes I think teachers subconsciously — and maybe not so subconsciously â€“ want to present to “their way” as the best or only way. I just never bought into that. Certain projects call for certain tools. But getting back to Stella… Here’s something really specific: I had never worked with a Green Screen before — for anyone who doesn’t know that’s when you are essentially acting not with a partner but with some sort of proxy representing where the digitally created character or location will be — There’s a huge battle scene in HULK I mean one of just of monstrous proportions, that involves soldiers, tanks, helicopters and of course, a very big green monster. Now some of those things are literally there for you, like the soldiers, and some like the big green monster, are not literally there. Now we need to be very precise and congruent regarding what we are all, you know– “seeing” — like, we all need to be in agreement as to where an eyeline is for the hulk or the helicopter, and so forth. But personally we need to be extremely diligent and specific too in creating the actual image — in this case of the Hulk — that our character is responding to either with dialogue or physical reactions..I mean you have to be… how can you truthfully respond to something unless you believe it actually exists and see it, and it’s real to you? I’ve heard actors say that they find acting with something that’s not really there to be hugely horrible and something they really have a problem with. I totally dug it man! I mean, I’ve got plenty of colors and sounds and music running in my head all the time… It was like being given permission to color outside the lines or something. It’s having to take total responsibility for creating the images that will help you effectively conjure whatever the scene calls for — in this case it was utter panic and confusion and devastation! I mean, as actors we’re always relying on our imagination to create…and working on a scene like that, you have to access that resource to the bazillions degree. And that’s very, very Stella Adler. I’ve no doubt that I enjoyed working on that scene so much because of the great focus Stella placed on the actor’s imagination.
This is kind of a silly story, but I remember it like it was yesterday so I’ll share. My first year at NYU, while studying with one of Stella’s associate teachers, she had everyone sit in a circle and then passed around a rubber band for us each to take turns holding. We were to study it and “describe” it. Of course what most of us didn’t realize is, that it was not about saying, “Um, it’s kind of yellow in color,” or “It bends into an oblong shape.â€ No! If you wanted to say that you noticed it was kind of yellow and had a few marks on it, that was cool, but that was supposed to be just the starting point. As you “saw” those things, you were also supposed to be inspired to see the history in it and then let that history effect you… and so on and so on! Of course when you’re 17 years old it’s very tough and you’re like, “What the hell? Excuse me?” But now years later I get it (laughter).
SoSF: Well on the subject of inspiring, you are involved in an incredible effort to reach out to adults over 65 as a volunteer for the “Never Too Late” program to help grant wishes and make lifelong dreams come true. A very noble gesture indeed, God bless you.
CC: Thank you so much for mentioning that. I happened to catch a piece on TV. I was just home on a Sunday afternoon just doing chores and what have you and the show was profiling this organization and how this one man Bob Haverstick began fulfilling wishes for seniors by simply taking requests and “connecting the dots” to help them get whatever it is they need or hope for. I was so moved by the effort and the execution of it, by the stories of these remarkable men and woman who in the later years of their life still find themselves missing something that would bring them great happiness and comfort, or relief. Through my sniffles and tears, I Googled “Never Too Late” and I just immediately emailed the guy and I was like “I can’t come to Minnesota to lick stamps for you, but what else can I do?” By the way, we’re currently in need of a hotel in NYC that’s willing to donate 2 rooms that can help make an incredibly beautiful wish happen, so if anybody out there’s got a hook-up…
SoSF: I’m getting knot in my throat, that’s incredible.
CC: Thank you for bringing it up, that’s as important as anything, that’s the way I see it.
SoSF: It is inspiring. What would you like your fans to remember most about your work as an actress?
CC: For me, acting is… it’s sort of the way I’ve chosen to try and help close the gap between people. Whether it’s on stage, or on film or on the written page each character presents a great opportunity for an audience to get to know someone else’s story, to see what makes someone else tick. Maybe give us greater insight into the human condition. Because really, you can talk about this country or that country, my religion, your religion–but it’s one world, right, one people? We’re all one big ol’ source of universal energy–and I know you sci-fi folks can stand with me on that assertion! … and yet I’m not sure we all understand each other as well as we could. Anyway, I know that I love the feeling of exploring somebody else’s world and walking in their shoes while I’m playing a part and so I guess I’d like to think I’m able to bring others a bit closer to letting themselves get caught up in someone else’s journey, too. Even if it’s only for a short while.
SoSF: Thanks again, Christina for talking to me, very inspiring.
CC: Oh, it was so lovely to talk to you and thank you so much for your thoughtful questions, honestly that makes all the difference.
SoSF: My pleasure.