Keith David has enjoyed a career that has spanned over thirty years and seen him work in both film and TV.
I caught up with him to talk about No Saints For Sinners, which is out on DVD this week, new movie Cloud Atlas as well of his directorial debut.
- No Saints For Sinners is about to be released on DVD here in the UK so can you tell me a little bit about the movie?
I think it’s such an exciting movie as the acting was great and I had a great time working on it. Of course the ending is a big surprise, you don’t really expect that you know. It was quite a while ago since I worked on it and I was really wonderfully with the result of it.
- You take on the role of Victor in the movie so what was it about this script and character that drew you to the movie?
I love the fact that he was interested in flowers. A friend of mine he knew Jack Palance and early in his career he played a lot of bad guys and one of the things that he did to get that energy off him was to work in the garden and I found that very interesting. Victor came up and so I remembered that.
- Nathan Frankowski directed as well as penned the script so how did you find him as a filmmaker?
I love it when a director knows what they want and he was very clear but at the same time he gave us room to bring what we had to the table. It was a short role of me but I loved working with Rick (Crawford) and I just had a great time.
I thought ‘wow this is kind of an international thing going on here’ and the plot was great. I especially liked when they finally killed Victor with the lighting and the shadow and the blood and I thought that he did a really good job with some of those kinds of arty shots.
- Rick Crawford, Marty Maguire & Kate Tomlinson are just some of the names one the cast list with so was it a fun set to be on?
Whether you are working with someone who is a veteran or someone who is a novice…. it’s a funny thing about the movies someone may be a novice to the genre but that doesn’t mean that they haven’t been acting for the ten years before that.
But I thought everybody brought a very nice thing to the table and Rick is an especially good actor. I really enjoyed working with him and I loved watching him.
- We are also going to be seeing you in Cloud Atlas towards the end of the year and it is one of the highly anticipated movies of 2012 so can you tell me a bit about that and how you got involved?
I was invited to the table and it was a really wonderful time. I didn’t realise until I got there that there would be so many wonderful actors who I have respected for years and getting to work with them closely in some scenes was a thrill for me - it is really one of the highlights of my career I think.
One of my favourite movies is The List of Adrian Messenger and it was the first movie that I saw where actors wore prosthetic makeup and revealed it at the end to show that there were all these big stars and that was the first movie that I ever saw that was like that.
In this movie everybody plays multiple characters and there were times that I was actually sitting next to some one I knew.
One day I walked into the makeup trailer and as I was getting my makeup on someone was getting their makeup off and I said hello to the gentleman and it turned out to be Hugh Grant - the makeup was so marvellous that I had not idea until it was off that it was him.
- Prosthetics can be a very long and painstaking process so is it something that you personally enjoy - it’s almost like getting into character?
It is but it’s such a great tool to character, when I was at school we got to do lots of mask work; and you don’t get to do mask work unless you were doing the Greeks or something.
There is something about it that allows the acting to take on a whole other quality and something else gets revealed when you allow it and that happened in this film. There are so many wonderful wonderful performances.
- It's an adaptation of David Mitchell's novel so how familiar were you with the book? And how useful was the book when you were developing the character?
I was not familiar with the book until I got on the movie and then I started reading it. In itself it’s a great journey, the arc of the movie is not the same as the book, but I think that so many things do get touched on.
So if you are a fan of the book then you should enjoy the journey of the film.
- You have enjoyed an acting career that has spanned over thirty years so how has the way that you chose your roles changed over the years?
Essentially not a whole lot. Early on you take what is offered but I have been lucky and extremely fortunate as I have always been offered very interesting projects and interesting characters.
The difference now is that I get to pick and choose a bit more and the projects have to story driven and character driven, I really want to play interesting characters and something different to what I have done before.
Every once in a while you get to do something that is close to what you have done before but it’s up to me to try and find the difference.
Years ago when I heard the term typecasting and we all understand what they means but it’s up to the actor to being something different to the table even if it’s the same type of person.
We all have friends who are similar to other friends but they are not the same guy, they may share fifteen characteristics but there are one of two distinctions as they not twins and they are not the same person.
So when someone asks me to play somebody similar to what I have done before I have got to find that one thing that is different - I may not always find it but I look for it.
- While you have worked predominantly in film you have also done some TV projects so how do the two mediums compare and differ? Is TV an area that you enjoy?
I like working so it doesn’t matter what the genre of the medium is. The difference between TV and film to me is you get more time to do… TV is very fast and you have to film an episode in a set amount of time and an hour series has to be cut into a certain amount of time, allowing for commercials and so on.
But with film you don’t have as many of those types of restrictions and so you have a little bit more time to develop the character or certainly develop the scene.
But good acting is good acting it doesn’t matter what the medium is you just have to find the truth of the moment that you are in and in the given medium.
- I have touched on the longevity of your career already so how have you seen the industry change in the years that you have been a part of it?
Oh my god it’s every evolving, especially as technology in the world continues to grow and expand. Ultimately actors are communicators and we do that through the medium of film, theatre and television and as they evolve… the work essentially hasn’t changed as you still have to develop the craft.
In some respects I don’t see as many craftsman and it seems like when I was coming up people were more interested in developing the craft, which meant that you could switch genre and you could switch medium but you still had a grounding in craft.
But today everyone wants to be in film or on TV and the way the media rewards just looking good it dilutes something, but that is just my personal opinion.
But if those pretty people study the craft then they have just as much right to be there as anybody else and lots of people have wonderful natural talent but even the most natural of talents needs some nurturing and that is what the point of studying.
- We have seen you do a little bit of producing in the past so it behind the camera anything that you would be interested in as we so many actors now turning to producing, directing and writing?
Well I am embarking on my first directing adventure we are currently still in development but I have a wonderful script and I am shopping around.
So that is my next foray and I would love to be behind the camera as it is just another way of telling a story - we are storytellers and that is what we do.
- So how much do you think coming from an acting background will help you as a filmmaker?
I am confident at least in the fact that I know how to talk to actors and communicate to actors, and I learn more about that everyday; I have directed theatre before.
Earlier in my directing endeavours it was easier to demonstrate but some actors don’t like that and I can understand that so it just means that I have to buff up my communication skills.
Ultimately it is an art of collaboration and part of the reason that you choose that actor for that part is because you know what they can bring to the table and what they might bring to this character.
Then we have to shape it by the point of view of the director and out points our points of view may sometimes differ and so how do I communicate to get the actor to co-sign on the point of view of what we are doing and bring what they bring to get to a new baby?
- Finally what's next for you in front of the camera?
I am working on a new TV series for TV 1 and we have a certain amount of episodes to film so we will see what happens.
No Saints for Sinners is out on DVD now, courtesy of Trinity Filmed Entertainment
FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw