Interview: Clark Freeman

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We are our greatest stories and storytellers… We are the characters that harness emotion, horror, walls and the ability to empower others. We hold ourselves back… break the chains and take the leap into the darkness. Words like that reflect the current dark drama on SHUDDER.COM entitled WE GO ON directed by Andy Mitton and Jesse Holland. This film offers insight into a character named Miles who has reached a point in very fragile life and decides to search for proof that something more exists in the beyond, to give purpose in his life. Miles is embodied by the talented actor Clark Freeman who through the journey of being a performer, professional, father, husband and kick ass human offers depth and substance to Miles. Clark spent some time with Jay Kay to discuss the film, finding insight into the look of Miles, the cast that brought this story together, epiphanies and more for this conversation for FROM DUSK TILL CON.

 
 
Jay Kay: Thank you Clark for taking the time out to talk with me about your work on WE GO ON. In the early part of 2017, it's one of the best films I've seen on several levels. It's naturally scary, thrilling, enlightening and intense. The film offers storytelling surrounding inspiration, coming-of-age, supernatural delights for horror fans and more.
 
 
Clark Freeman: Thank you so much, Jay. I’m glad you enjoyed the film.
 
 
JK: Before we jump into the film as we talk about your role as the curious, fragile, and realistic embodiment of Miles, the film had been played in at least five different countries at genre film festivals like FANTASIA, CINEQUEST, MONSTERS OF FILM & DEAD BY DAWN! They are very diverse film festival lineups to be selected and play as a part of. As an actor, what does that mean to you after the journey with this film?
 
 
CF: As an actor, it just means that I got to attend some amazing festivals, and even get flown to some (Thank you, Cleveland). Honestly, I have to give kudos to Andy and Jesse, Truffle Films, and whomever they were working with during our festival run. For this film, I was solely an actor, so I wasn’t too involved in the festival circuit decisions. I got emails from Andy and Jesse letting me know that we were accepted to a festival, and usually I had to sit on that information for a couple of weeks. That’s one of the hardest parts. Not telling everyone the exciting news right away. I’m just sorry I wasn’t able to make it to every single festival. They all were so giving and supportive. We shot this movie over 2 years ago, and the festivals are one of the only times, as an actor, that you can really feel the appreciation from audiences for the work you have done. I love going to as many as I can.
 
 
 
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JK: The film will have a DVD release coming up this spring and is currently streaming on SHUDDER.com. Many films that go to film festivals, never come out of it with anything other than at exposure or maybe VOD release. That's not the case WE GO ON. What do you believe has drawn these sort of platforms, viewers and critics to want to make this very deep and honest film growing its audience?
 
 
CF: I hope it’s because we have made a film that resonates with people. Look, in independent film the distribution aspect of the process is one of the most exciting and terrifying parts. We have been so fortunate with both of our features (YELLOWBRICKROAD and WE GO ON) we have found audiences and distributors that have felt so strongly about the film that they want to put themselves behind it. It also helps that we are in the horror genre. Horror fans are so dedicated and enthusiastic that they constantly seek out new and original material. That opens a sizeable door for us as artists and filmmakers to push the boundaries with our films, so that we are not just making a carbon copy of what sold last year. Luckily, we have been rewarded for that gamble, so far. We’re not making a huge $100 mil studio feature that HAS to make $250 mil it’s opening weekend. . .although that would be amazing. I don’t even know if I answered the question. I hope that whatever direction feature film distribution goes, that we have a place on that wave, because we’d love to continue making these types of movies that push the boundaries and conventions.
 
 
JK: WE GO ON has layers but at the foundation it's a very dark and supernatural drama with some fun scare moments offset by uneasy humor. What drew you to this project?
 
 
CF:  What drew me to the project are my good friends, Andy and Jesse. I have known them since college, and Andy and I actually started a theatre production company in LA back in 2004: The Sight Unseen Theatre Group. We have been telling stories together for quite a long time – a family of collaborators. They actually brought the script to me, and asked if I would like to join them on the trip as Miles. After reading it once, I knew how much I wanted to do it, and how much Andy and Jesse had already been thinking of me.
 
 
JK: This is the second collaboration for the writing and directing duo of Andy Mitton and Jesse Holland. Back in 2010, they released YELLOWBRICKROAD which was a trip but did garner praise and exposure. However, it would take at least 5+ years to get WE GO ON before any sort of eyes after the project was finished. What was it like to work with this duo first on YELLOWBRICKROAD? What does this duo bring to a production and overall but more importantly for you the actor? Did you ever think that WE GO ON would be made or be their follow up?
 
 
CF: Working on YELLOWBRICKROAD seemed like an obvious next step in the working relationship between the three of us. Like I said before, Andy and I had already been running a theatre company for years and we practiced our craft as actors, directors, writers, producers, musicians, designers – we made sure that we tried it all so we had a deeper understanding and skill at story telling. When YBR came along, it was the biggest and most ambitious project to date, and it graduated us out of the non-profit theatre world into the feature film game.
 
 

Andy and Jesse worked so hard on that script and the process of getting that movie made. They were always open to notes and ideas, while still keeping the original integrity and seed of their idea alive.  It was so cool to see something materialize really solely from love and belief.  That is the incredible talent and skill that Andy and Jesse have as a duo: even with their unique perspectives, they divvy up the artistic vision of the project in such a way that one of them is “on point” for a scene while the other runs “back up” for them.  Yet, they are so connected and on the same page about the story they want to tell, that the finished product ends up being singularly cohesive, instead of two disparate movies, or just a bunch of different scenes.  As an actor, you feel doubly supported.  Like having 2 head coaches.  One with you on the set, and the other at the monitor, so no matter what, they were going to get what they needed. I’m glad WE GO ON came along when it did though. . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

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JK: The character of Miles is a very intense and complex one with so much damage done from multiple points of his life including relationships, family, the world outside and self-inflicted to put it simply. When you were offered this role, and started working through it, what were your initial thoughts in embodying him? Where did you draw influence to help craft Miles in the different stages of his development during the narrative? What was your unique fingerprint on it?

 

 

CF: Wow, hell of a question. Let me see if I can do it justice.

 

 

When I was offered the role, I was excited to tackle it for personal reasons, but Andy and Jesse led very much with the idea that Miles was VERY different from Clark. I could not agree more. Here was a man who had been dealing with his many phobias for so long that he had built a fortress of walls around him. From his clothes, to his beard, to his physicality, everything! Even his house. I don’t think I am spoiling anything here, but next time you see the movie, check out Miles’ apartment. Look at the shelves. (Hats off to Yong Ok Lee and her whole art department). Miles has supplies lined up so that if the “worst” happened, whatever that might be, he could hole up for a long, long time. If this guy could fold into himself to stay safe, he would.

 

 

Thankfully, that is not me in real life. To attack Miles’ character, we worked on the idea of stillness and I wanted to work on stiffness. I tend to be a more fluid, happy-go- lucky guy in real life, and I wanted to clamp way down for Miles. Imagine being afraid all of the time. You would be so tight you’d get stress headaches. . .which I started to after a couple of weeks. I remember Andy telling me that Miles might not smile, and if he did we should use it sparingly. Imagine going through your life where smiling was a very rare occurrence?! That sounds absolutely awful to me. But it works for Miles. When this movie starts, Miles is approaching the end of his rope. He NEEDS to find some other way to live. He cannot continue this existence anymore. His body and mind can’t take it.

 

 

That was the jumping off point for the character. The rest was discovered in what little rehearsals we had, and what we learned on the day, in the scene. As far as unique fingerprint, I just tried to figure out what kind of shell Miles would put on, then I would let myself go on his journey and let myself shine through Miles’ walls.

 

 

 

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JK: The character of Miles wants to believe and not just believe in something but to believe in something tangible unlike the inner hurtles he lives with. Belief is a huge theme within the layers of narrative! Many people instantly give in just to the aspect of faith hoping that whatever they feel is enough to manifest into something that will change their lives. Miles is beyond that stage and needs proof. In the narrative without giving too much away, Miles has an epiphany based in signs around him (including his profession of being a video editor) and takes a step forward to face his fears as well as reclaiming his life. Have you ever had an epiphany moment like that can you real life? Perhaps in becoming an actor? If not, how did you connect to Miles if you never had a moment like that?
 
 
CF: Have I ever had an epiphany moment in my real life? Possibly around acting? Well, I have probably had a handful of epiphany moments: * When I was 10 and saw my older brother on stage for the first time and thought to myself – “Cool! I want to do THAT!” * That time after a theatrical production in college that my mother came to see, and afterwards she hugged me and said in my ear, “don’t you ever stop acting” (funny side note, now that I think about it, that production was the first play that I ever worked on with Andy! Wow. Full circle). * The moment I met my wife and soon after realized that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. * The moment my son was born, and I knew that my life was no longer just about me. Those are some of the handful of epiphany moments that come to mind. As for how they connect to Miles? These epiphany moments are moments that make it impossible to go backwards. They are moments that change our lives. Like Miles, he will do anything he can to find his truth, or any truth, that proves to him that we don’t just “go out like lights”. Something that will change his world, where he is imprisoned by his own fear. There is no turning back for him in his journey, even when we as an audience maybe want him to. . .
 
 
JK: From that moment, Miles goes on a journey to find out if there is a tangible reality to the afterlife. He posts the newspaper ad which is symbolic on so many levels and with the help of his overprotective mother played by the brilliant Annette O'Toole, they select four different perspectives to prove that it possibly be true. The medium, the scientist, the businessman and the unknown caller. I understand you're a very talented actor but did any of your personal belief play into the coping, perspective, and overall physical behaviors as well as reaction with the character of Miles?
 
 
CF: Annette O’Toole is brilliant, isn’t she? I’m so lucky to have been able to play this role, and to play it along side her. I guess this is where I will tell my personal story: I lost my own mother in real life about a year and a half before shooting WE GO ON. My great friends and collaborators soon after approached me with a role about a man who goes on a journey with his mother to find out the answer if there is life after death. So yes, there was a lot of my own personal belief, perspective, and physical behaviors within Miles. Even though Miles was a very different outer layer than Clark, the engine burning inside of him had many of the same questions and desires. I had to go on my own journey with Miles to see what my personal beliefs were. Still very much grieving, I was lucky enough to have someone like Annette go on that journey with me, and be the very best movie mom I could have asked for. She’s the best.
 
 
 
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JK: How much did Miles's wardrobe and the beard affect and/or impact your performance?
 
 
CF: Very much so actually. Miles’ wardrobe and beard are all different layers of Miles’ armor. He rarely shows any of himself to the world. He hides behind the layers of shirts and jackets. He hides behind his beard. Even his bag. He clings onto that thing like a shield at times. Anything that can put a buffer between himself and the real world. It’s so cool to watch this movie, and watch this character slowly start to go on this journey and open himself up to the unknown. It’s the thing that really drags Charlotte along with him. The idea that her son is finally excited about something and searching for answers outside of his own fear.
 
 
JK: Was it more of a challenge to deal with Miles's unique traits, quirks and phobias or was it more challenging with the character to deal with how affected everyone else around?
 
 
CF: Well, much of the fun of acting is living truthfully under the imaginary circumstances of your character, and then reacting to the people and world around you. That’s much of the freedom and fun for me as an actor. Andy and Jesse just gave me some difficult imaginary circumstances! It was a challenge creating the seed of who Miles was, and I was lucky enough to have a little rehearsal time with Annette before we started shooting. Could we have used more? Sure. Would have loved that, but we had enough to start us on our journey. Each location and scene and set up helped me find out more about Miles as he interacted and reacted with the journey that he was on. You can never plan out exactly how a scene will go, or even how your character might react to something. Because, if you’re doing it open and freely, it should change almost every time! Now, we were on a tight shooting schedule, so I had to learn about how Miles VERY quickly. How it affected everyone else around Miles was up to them! Ha.
 
 
JK: Which stage was more challenging to embody as an actor? His fearful existence pre-newspaper ad. His journey to understand. His transition to living his life and letting go.
 
 
CF: Oh god. That’s the ARC of Miles. That’s the good shit. It was all challenging, but in the best way! Honestly, the most challenging part was shooting out of sequence. Rarely do you have the good fortune to shoot a movie in sequence, but our shoot schedule was so ambitious that we had to do something called “block shooting” at times. What this means is that, to save time, if we were in a location that we used multiple times, we would shoot all the scenes from one direction first – change the camera – and then do it again from the other direction. I’ll give an example: in the kitchen where Josefina works and her family lives, we shot all the times I walk into the kitchen back to back to back. We set up the camera, I got into costume 1, we shot when Annette and I come in to meet her. Then I changed costumes and make up, and we shot when I come in after meeting Nelson. Then we changed again and did a different entrance. Once we had all of our kitchen scenes from THAT angle, we moved the camera, and started over again from the first scene. Now, THAT is challenging as an actor. To keep track, in your mind, where Miles is emotionally, physically, etc. I had to stay very focused on where Miles was on his journey constantly. But that’s what also makes the process so rewarding as an actor. I get to craft this character’s arc, and really live truthfully inside of it. Partly because I was working on it constantly, and partly because we were moving so fast I had no other choice! I had to give myself over to the process completely.
 
 
JK: What was it like working with talents like John Glover, Annette O'Toole, Jay Dunn, Giovanna Zacarias and Laura Heisler who all create incredible characters? How much did they push you reach the reality and depth of Miles?
 
 
CF: Seeing those names on the page and in a question, makes me realize what an incredibly gifted troupe of actors we had in this movie! Unreal. I can honestly say, and I know Annette and I have talked about this, but through the collaboration process of making this movie, every single one of these people made me better. Whatever accolades this movie receives, it is because of this group of actors. Jay Dunn and I went to college together (like Andy and Jesse), and we worked on several plays together. Having him as Nelson was so much fun, because it felt like a reunion of sorts. And speaking of reunion, Laura Heisler and I got to share the screen again thankfully! It had been since YELLOWBRICKROAD, and I was so lucky that she was on board WE GO ON as well. I’d say our relationship in the movie is one of the trickiest, and I’m so glad I got to do it with Laura. She can go from 0-60 in no time! Annette? I’ve already gushed over Annette. We know how I feel about her. John Glover came in and saved the day actually. His part was originally slated for Michael McKean, Annette’s husband, but due to scheduling conflicts with his show Better Call Saul, he was unable to join us for the shoot. Out of the heavens came John to take the part of Dr. Ellison and totally kill it! I can’t imagine anyone else doing that now. John worked closely with my sister, Cassidy Freeman, on the show SMALLVILLE for many years (along with Annette, actually). They had a ton of inside jokes between them, and I felt like during my scenes with John he was initiating me somehow. He’s always thinking, and processing a scene. Constantly questioning, and as an actor, that is one of the most important skills to have. I sincerely hope I get to work with John again sometime soon. And Giovanna!
 
 

What a force of nature that woman is. I believe she flew in from Mexico for a couple of days to shoot all her scenes. She was so emotionally available for all of our difficult scenes, all the while asking exactly what the English meant. We were kind of translating on the fly because English is her second language. I couldn’t imagine giving a performance like she did in a foreign language. Unbelievable talent, and quite the gregarious personality to boot. She fit right in. I miss everyone dearly.

 

 

 

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JK: WE GO ON was finished in 2015. What are your thoughts now about the overall experience as the leading man for this feature film a couple years later? Where did this also take you as a person after you finished this film?

 

 

CF: 2015! Insane. My thoughts are that it feels like yesterday, and it also feels like a lifetime ago. The best lesson I learned as “leading man” for a film (it feels so weird to say that) is that you set the tone for the entire production. If there were days that I came in and was tired, or in a bad mood, that energy would start to spread through the entire crew. Not on purpose, but just subconsciously. I had to make sure to keep my energy up and give my 110% all the time. Many of the people working on the film I had known for years and are like family to me. I made sure that everyone else who came and gave their time, effort and artistry to the film was treated like family as well. A film set is family. No matter what you’re doing. We are all there to serve the story and collaborate. I just happened to be there everyday. . .

 

 

Any big artistic undertaking changes you as a person. I was lucky enough to work on WE GO ON because it gave me a sense of peace. It gave me a confidence to move forward not only as an actor, but as a person in my life with a new and deeper confidence. I will always be immensely grateful to have had this experience and it is just gravy that audiences across the world are reacting so positively to our movie.

 

 

JK: What's next for you and where can we find out more?

 

 

CF: For me? Well, after shooting WE GO ON, I guest starred on my sister’s new show, LONGMIRE, as well as NCIS: NEW ORLEANS. I am also executive producing Andy’s next film, THE VERMONT HOUSE, which is in post-production now. Besides that, I can talk briefly about a TV show that my sister and I are developing about siblings and art smuggling. . .but that’s about all I can say about that. There is also another movie I am trying to help get off the ground about a historical figure that existed during WW2. A man who was gifted in the occult and was a close confidant of Hitler. He was also an undercover Jew, and used his psychic powers and mental control of Hitler to try and bring down the Third Reich from the inside. You know, a comedy! Just kidding. It’s called either ADOLF’S SECRET or THE HANGED MAN.

 

 

As for finding out more about WE GO ON, we have a twitter account (@WeGoOn) and a Facebook page as well. I think that’s where most of the updates happen. AND, thanks to AMCs Shudder network, we are available to stream right now! Our DVD and BluRay release is set for April 4th as well.

 

 

Thanks so much for asking me these questions, Jay. It was a real pleasure to revisit the movie and talk with you. All my best.

(Images found on Yahoo and Facebook)

Follow Jay Kay on Twitter @JayKayHorror

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