The actor dishes on his latest projects including his web TV series and a potential directorial debut
It's always great to speak with an actor like Clifton Collins Jr. because he's always working and always has something to talk about. During our interview for The Perfect Game, which is currently in theaters now, Collins Jr. also told us about his upcoming film The Experiment, his thoughts on a renewal for the TNT series Southland, which he joined last year, and also about the hilarious web TV videos he has been churning out at the website he and his friends run, TheTVFantastic.com. Also, while he couldn't talk much about it, he did share some info on a possible project in the works that could mark his directorial debut. Take a look at this second part of my exclusive interview with Clifton Collins Jr. below.
I've got to say, I'm really pumped for The Experiment as well. Have you heard anything about a release date for that yet? As far as I know there hasn't been a release date set.
Clifton Collins Jr.: You know, I don't. I was actually hoping you might know something.
I was looking around and I saw they released a promo poster for it, so it seems like it's moving forward. As far as I know, though, they haven't set a release date yet. It just says 2010.
Clifton Collins Jr.: Yeah. I mean, I'm a big fan of (the original German-language film) Das Experiment. That was a fantastic movie.
Can you talk a bit about your character? You had said before that he was an Aryan and it doesn't seem that this was based off one of the characters in the original film.
Clifton Collins Jr.: Sure. After watching the original, there's this really great military character. It contains a lot of unanswered questions in the original Das Experiment, which is also part of the fun, because you're trying to figure it all out. There's this one character that, I think, Paul Scheuring involved nicely and strayed away from the military aspect and made it more of a common man, somebody whose expertise resulted from actually being in the system, being in the prison system. My character is just down on his luck, hasn't worked in awhile, and as an ex-con, it's hard to get work when you get out, so you take menial jobs, a janitor or a busboy, something that is not going to have a serious background check. When you have an opportunity to make $1,000 a day for an experiment, it's like hitting the lottery. I've got some homies that, when they get out, they're really hard up for work and I try to help them. They'll do stuff for me and they're dear friends of mine and they're really loyal, so I take care of them. I'm going to head to Chino next week to visit a buddy of mine there.
Did you draw on those friends of yours for this character then?
Clifton Collins Jr.: Are you kidding? Absolutely, man! They gave me rewrite notes. I'd send them little tidbits and stuff and I had another buddy of mine from Watts that's been in and out, and gave me very structured and clear rewrite notes, stuff like that, which I would shoot to Paul when he had time. Paul not only had his hands full directing the film, but he had a child as well. He flew back for a week and we were kind of left to our own and direct ourselves. We had Amy Vincent, the director of photography, and we knocked out some stuff. My adaptation of my character, though, I'm pretty happy with. I try to bring an honesty to the piece and try to stay within the paramaters of whatever creative liberties we're taking to tell this tale. Sometimes you bring too much research to the table and the character becomes so real that he doesn't fit the tale, because the tale itself is a bit of a fantasy, so you have to balance it and find the right ways to fit it in.
Have you heard anything new about a renewal for Southland yet?
Clifton Collins Jr.: People seem to be pretty optimistic. We're just waiting for TNT to pull the trigger. I know there are a bunch of us that can't wait to get back, so we'll see. I know that there are bunch of us that, if it doesn't get picked up, that we might be pretty much done on the TV grind and just go back to the movie grind.
Clifton Collins Jr.: Well, for me, personally, I had dinner with a couple of the actors and actresses and there were a few that were so spoiled by Southland. I'm hard-pressed to believe that I'd have another experience like Southland in a long time, unless it's (executive producers) John Wells or Ann Biderman. Any one of those two call me and I'm in.
Are you guys expecting to hear word on that soon then either way?
Clifton Collins Jr.: It might even be the end of this week. I know it's in the next week or two, yeah. It keeps getting extended and when you have a show like this, you don't mind waiting as long as you need to wait. Southland, to me, was like my first experience with the level of collaboration and input and actor appreciation is on par with something like working with Steven Soderbergh in Traffic. I remember Jacob Vargas and I wrapping Traffic and I said, 'You know Jake, it's never going to be like this again. They spoiled us.' They treated us the way that, I think, middle America thinks that every movie is made, which is not the norm. Working with Soderbergh and people of that level, is just flawless and effortless. I mean, you work hard, but when you have everybody talking and communicating and collaborating, a lot of empty holes get filled quickly. There's no egos. It's really beautiful.
I was checking out the new web TV stuff of yours and you were saying that you shot some more videos for that. What are your plans for that? Do you just want to do a bunch of series that spin off of each other?
Clifton Collins Jr.: It's funny. So many people loved the webby's we've come up with in the past, that we decided to corral them up into one channel, The TV Fantastic (http://www.thetvfantastic.com). A lot of these shows, people have been talking about spinning them off into movies and stuff and, I've got to be honest, Brian, I want to do these in a simple, 3-5 minute format and keep them as webby's. I'm sure there will be a point in time where Tijuana Cops or some of the others, some people might want to do a feature and we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. Really, we designed the site because we just wanted to get back to shooting stuff and having fun with our buddies. Slash's new album is out and it's tearing up the charts and you've got to listen to it when you get a chance. I can't stop listening to it. Just when you thought somebody couldn't get any better, your jaw hits the ground. I haven't seen anything like this ever. So even he's got a cartoon that we've been talking to him about. I've been talking to Mike Judge and he's really excited to jump on board with some stuff. It's amazing how many people want to get involved. We want to do something different too in that the people that we work with, we want to be able to give them a piece of the pie. I love Funny or Die. I think it's hilarious, but I want my people, like Slash's cartoon, I want him to be able to own a big chunk of it. It's kind of like a hang-out spot where you can come and do different things.
Yeah, I was checking out some of the older stuff and it's pretty hilarious.
Clifton Collins Jr.: It's out there, and this is the place for it. Until our hands become creatively tied, we're just going to go along being as crazy as we want to be. It's a good time.
I know you probably can't talk about it a whole lot, but is there anything you can tell us about the horror-thriller that you've been having meetings for? Anything about the story?
Clifton Collins Jr.: Yeah. You know, we're partnering up with Mr. Cartoon and his people. We're taking meetings and we've kind of got a three-hander, in that we've got a graphic novel and a video game and a three-part feature with some really big actors in it. I'm really really psyched. To bring the realism to a horror film, the very real street elements, the very few laws of the street that are honest and not Hollywood.
We'll be sure to keep you posted on any and all news surrounding these projects as soon as we have more information.