What do The Love Boat, Only You, Bubba Ho-Tep, Lost, and The Man in the High Castle have in common? If you have no idea, this interview will help introduce you to a talented actor with an eclectic resume. If you know the answer and said Daniel Roebuck, you are correct and should read on anyway. You might learn something new about him.
As you can already tell by the above-listed works, Roebuck has quite the filmography. I recently interviewed him via email, so other geeks like myself could get to know him better:
Why did you want to become an actor and storyteller?
I believe from the bottom of my heart, the answer to that question, is because it was God’s intention for me from the very beginning to become an actor and storyteller. From the time I was 6 years old, some how I knew I would be on TV. Now what other reason could there be that I had the idea at six and that that idea became a reality only 14 years later. No one in my family was an entertainer, so that idea had to spring from somewhere. As I’ve reflected a lot about it the last few years for a book I’m writing titled “The Audition is the Job and Other Truths I’ve Learned in the Land of Make-Believe,” I realized all of us are given the opportunity to see what’s ahead and we just have to do our best to stay focused on the goal. If such a thing is achievable for the son of two hard-working people in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, it must be achievable for others.
Was acting your first love or was it something else like producing or directing?
I’m embarrassed to say that my first love was ventriloquism, then I quickly moved to doing impressions – by around 11 years old. By 12 I was a clown in a circus. Then I was a magician (an remain so to this day). It was at 13 years old when I realized that it would be as an actor that I would be on TV. After I had seen James Whitmore in the film version of the Broadway play “Give ‘Em Hell Harry.” That night I walked in the theater as an entertainer and walked out an actor. Whitmore’s performance as Harry Truman was literally life-changing for me. But it’s a great question, because it wasn’t long before I discovered producing and directing in the theater. So, I guess you can say that’s been part of my bag of tricks since I was a teenager.
How is it possible for you to be in such a variety of projects? How do you avoid being typecast?
Well part of that has a lot to do with people giving me opportunities to continually prove myself. Transformation has also been part of my bag of tricks since I glued on my first rubber nose at the Pennsylvania Playhouse in 1977. Some actors are extremely comfortable as themselves, and I think that I’m one of those too, but I’ve clearly been given some other gift that dates back to doing impressions in those talent shows when I was 11 years old, with which I can transform easily to a completely different person than I am in reality. Now, it’s important for me to make it clear that I don’t think so highly of myself that I think I’m special in these abilities. What I do think is that many excellent actors might lack the courage to try. So, for me, embracing the fact that I was a character actor from the very beginning has had a great impact I suppose on the course of my career. Think about it, the first film I ever starred in I was a goofy teenaged nerd (Cavegirl). The second film I was a despondent teenage killer (River’s Edge). The third movie I was a mohawked punk rocker (Dudes) and the fourth movie I starred in, I was a 35-year old cop from Newark, NJ (Disorganized Crime) and by the way I was barely 24 when I shot that film. From the very beginning, I was blessed enough to avoid Hollywood typecasting, thanks especially to the people who believed in me and my ability to change.
You’ve been in such a variety of works. Do you have a favorite genre to work in?
I don’t really have a favorite genre to work in. I am really at ease and enjoy greatly moving, let’s say, from horror movies to faith-based movies, to video games. I like that my life and opportunities are always different.
I’m a horror fan and have enjoyed Rob Zombie’s films. What was it like being on those sets and working with him?
Well Rob and I, I think, have a great respect for one another, and I really do think that he thinks I’m funny. We laugh often and I’m happy to do whatever he asks of me, whether I’m wearing a crazy Frankenstein head like I did in Lords of Salem, (in which he cut me out of the film), or as Lou Martini in H2, the fella who dies violently at the hand of Michael Myers, I’M ALL IN. Any director wants this level of commitment from his actors. Beyond that relationship, like you, I’m a fan of his work. Personally, I think he is one of the most underrated dramatic directors in Hollywood and I hope that one day he is given an opportunity to tell those stories. I also think that the comic undertones he weaves so successfully into his horror films proves that he would be equally adept to comedy. So, I look forward to seeing him do something specifically funny one day as well.
Because you were on Glee, I have to ask what kind of music you like. Do you have a go to karaoke song?
Go to Karaoke song, 100% is Sinatra’s “My Way”. Do I have a favorite kind of music? Absolutely. It would be a toss-up between classical music and Broadway show tunes. But given the choice, I guess what I listen to the most with my family – because none of them want to listen to classic music or show tunes – is music from the 70s.
River’s Edge is pretty gritty compared to some of your more family-oriented works. Do you have a favorite memory from that film?
I loved everything about shooting River’s Edge. Primarily I’m grateful that Tim Hunter and his producing partners took such a chance on me, because if I didn’t do a good job, they wouldn’t have a movie, because the entire story is predicated on believing that Samson’s actions were genuine. You have to imagine that before River’s Edge the entirety of my experience in front of an actual on camera acting was in Cavegirl and one day on the set of The Love Boat, so let’s just assume that I was mostly out of my league. I love every moment making that movie and remember every moment fondly, but as a life-long movie fan, you can imagine working one-on-one with Dennis Hopper, an actor with his talent and history, was the most sublime joy a 21-year-old man could experience.
What’s your oldest Star Wars memory?
It would be my first memory of sitting in the Boyd Theater in the summer of ’77 watching the movie time and time again. It was unlike anything we had ever seen in the movie theaters, and believe me, I saw EVERYTHING.
What’s your favorite Star Wars thing (a particular movie, book, video game, etc.)?
I was unfortunately, too old to buy the toys at that time, but I do remember looking at the advance purchase toy display at Teddy’s Toy Town in Bethlehem, PA of the first few toys and contemplating buying them, even though I was too old to play with them. But as I’m thinking about it more, it would definitely be the Star Wars movie poster. It was the actual movie poster, not the one you would buy at the mall, which I still have to this day.
What was it like being on the set of Star Trek: The Next Generation?
Another amazing time for me. When I was going through the casting process, I asked who was playing Spock in the Unification episodes and they looked at me like I had lobsters climbing out of my ears. You have to imagine that it was a time when Spock had only appeared in movies since the original TV show and movie stars generally didn’t do TV shows 30 years ago. It was just a different time then. Just being with Leonard Nimoy, as briefly as I was, was yet another extraordinary gift for me. I said this before, but it’s a funny fact that when you are a guest star on a show, when they call you to the set, you generally always get there before the series regulars, and although, Nimoy was a huge star, on those shows he was the guest star like me, and so he and I were always on the set before the other actors. He couldn’t have been nicer. One of my favorite memories on the first day, when there were less of us working, I was actually made up in the same trailer as him, as was Malachi Throne and Patrick Stewart. So, there I was, the kid who used to glue rubber noses on in the theater, having my pointy ears applied ten feet away from Spock having his pointy ears applied. Then, one more extraordinary thing happened on the set of Star Trek TNG. On that very first day, academy award winning makeup genius, Dick Smith, visited the makeup artists. So, can something fantastic become more fantastic? There I was hired to be on Star Trek in an episode with Spock, being made up a few yards away from the legendary actor, and then the guy who convinced me to glue cornmeal on my face as a child (as per his instructions in the Do It Yourself Monster Makeup Handbook which was published in the 60s – and I still have) stepped onto the set.
Tell us about Greez Dritus and maybe some inspiration behind his creation?
The guys who conceptualized Greez Dritus, considered his character to be a little bit of a blowhard, referencing specifically Don Knotts as Mr. Furley on Three’s Company. But, I feel that every actor should be smart enough to steal from other actors before them. And without knowing the character was a Four-foot tall, four-armed alien, I definitely channeled Ernie Borgnine during my audition and through the process of filming. However, once I figured out that Greez was a smaller guy living in a bigger world, I throw a little Joe Pesci in there too.
If you were in the Star Wars universe, what profession would you choose?
That’s a funny question because I am in the Star Wars Universe and the profession that chose me was “SPACESHIP PILOT.” But if me personally…if Danny Roebuck was in the Star Wars Universe, hopefully the Empire would consider having a theater program, and I could be one of the instructors. You know teach the storm troopers some song and dance. Maybe an all Alien version of TWELTH NIGHT. That kind of thing.
What is your all time favorite movie?
I have so many movies that I watch again and again and again. Schindler’s List, Nashville, Amadeus, Network, Citizen Kane, Mary Poppins. I can do this all day listing off the excellent movie I love, but I think the movie that I will always remember with the greatest fondness, is the movie that I made with my family and friends, Getting Grace. Forgive me if that sounds egocentric, but if you asked me, of all the excellent children in the world, who are your favorites, I would say Grace and Buster Roebuck.
Can you tell us something exciting about any of your upcoming projects?
I am extremely excited about the next movie that I am making as a writer/director called The Hail Mary. The Hail Mary is about a very funny nun who discovers a man in need of redemption, so she cons him into creating a football team for her all-boy Catholic school. Plus, I am thrilled about that being the first movie we launch through our new Non-For-Profit, A CHANNEL OF PEACE. If your readers would like to learn more about that, please ask them to visit achannelofpeace.org. And there are some other great things coming up that unfortunately I am not at liberty to discuss, but rest assured, it will be something that will be extremely fulfilling and joyful for me to do. Perhaps when we are done making those two, I can visit with you again.
As always, stay tuned to Film Combat Syndicate and we will keep you updated with projects as we hear of them.