Steve Howey Interview

The actor talks about playing the lead role, riding motorbikes and the influence of John Ritter.

Movie PictureSteve Howey loves his work. As a young actor getting to play different characters and follow in the footsteps of the people he admires, I don't think I have ever spoken to someone who seems more grateful to be able to do what he does. Having done a bunch of TV stints on various shows, Howey has played the regular role of Van Montgomery on the TV hit Reba for the past 5 years.

However, it was his big screen debut as KC Carlyle in the action packed, motorcycle extravaganza Supercross, that presented a most interesting challenge. Howey had never really ridden a motorbike before. Featuring some amazing riding footage, solid performances and an up and coming cast of young actors, Supercross, at it's heart, is the tale of two brothers, KC and Trip Carlyle, doing the same thing differently and both of them learning to respect each other in the process.

Can you describe the character of KC Carlyle in Supercross a little bit?

Steve Howey: He's the older brother of the two, Trip and KC. He's more of the conservative rider. They're Dad was into bikes, he got them into bike riding. Which was actually Jesse James, the motorcycle guy from Orange County Choppers, who is actually now the proverbial Mr. Sandra Bullock. So he dies earlier and we're raised by our mom, who is Daryl Hannah, who was cut out of the movie which was bullsh*t.

These interviews are really not my forte because I'm always honest in them...

Please.

Steve Howey: (Laughs).

That's great.

Steve Howey: She was our mom and for whatever reasons, through corporate manipulations she got cut out. She was great to work with. Her character raised us and she had a lot of emotional problems, in the storyline, that you didn't see... there was just trouble. We lived in a trailer, poor white trash and always had the dream to be motocross stars. And we would be these poolboys just to pay for rent, food and to repair our bikes.

KC was always conscious of that. Of taking care of our mom, taking care of the rent and taking care of the daily grind... and our bikes. Trip, the younger brother, just cared about riding and going big and being a knucklehead; having fun. So there's that kind of Abbott and Costello there. That he's supposed to be the wise older brother taking care of the family, because he's the man of the house after the father wasn't there anymore.

So now based on what you were saying was Jesse James cut out as well?

Steve Howey: Yeah, he was cut out as well.

Interesting.

Steve Howey: So was Rip Torn and George Clooney and Julia Roberts. They were all in the movie and... (Laughs again).

Before doing the movie had you ever ridden a dirt bike?

Steve Howey: Yeah, you know my brother's into it. My brother's really into it. The irony with that is that my brother, who is my older brother, who took care of me growing up, he had a 450 and a 250 and I used to ride around with him. Personally, no, I'd never ridden one. He has a bike now and we ride now but I wasn't really into it.

How much riding did you do in Supercross?

Steve Howey: (Laughs)...

Well, if you want to break it up into percentages...

Steve Howey: If you see me on the bike that's me. If you just see the helmet and the goggles that's not me. All the racing was not me, that was stunt guys. Professional riders that are pretty young because it's a young man's sport. You're like out of your prime if you're in your mid to late 20s. Which is awful but a lot of guys still do ride into their late 20s. I rode. I just didn't do any of the jumps or races.

Doing this role, what was one of the biggest things you learned as an actor?

Steve Howey: As an actor? Coming from comedy, five years of coming from a sitcom, Reba, into doing this it's a totally different animal. It's a totally different discipline. It's just a totally different world. You're going from a set, four camera rehearsal trying to feed a joke, and now we have like one or two cameras or they have them cable rigged, they have cameras on cranes. They're setting up for a shot and you get these close-ups, you capture a lot, so as an actor I was just trying to be this guy. Trying to stay as close to the story as possible.

I hung out with a lot of the riders to get their attitude and they're all like men. Men among boys. They have a certain calm to them which is really impressive. They go out there and they're racing 80 miles per hour, or jumping 60 foot jumps, I think they get all their adrenaline out. So during the day, they're just quiet, aloof and stoic superheroes kinda, you know what I mean? They're very, very respectful. It's a very family oriented sport. Everybody knows everybody so there's a lot of respect and understanding.

Have you always wanted to be an actor?

Steve Howey: No, I didn't always want to be an actor.

How'd you get involved in it?

Steve Howey: My father was an actor and then he became an acting coach. He taught in LA for like 25 years. I grew up around him and he directed plays and he worked on sitcoms. Then I got into basketball and that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a pro basketball player. I wasn't good enough to go Division One right away, and I got a scholarship to a Junior College in Colorado. And then after that, playing for two years, I was like, "Wow, this sucks." I wasn't a blue chip athlete by any means but I was good enough to start. After that I think reality set in and it just told me that this isn't fun, because there's a lot of politics involved.

So I started to get back into it. I made a short film in Denver where I stayed at. It got accepted into the Denver International Film Festival. I was in it and I produced it.

The name of the short is Class, right?

Steve Howey: Yeah. It was what it was but I think my Mom and Dad being into it, I think the fire started and I started to get really into it. I'm like, "Wow, this is something I might want to do." When I moved back out to LA, which was in ‘99, I came out just knowing I was going to get a movie or a television show. It happened to be a television show, first, and the role was like this football player and I don't think my size hurt it.

Your father wrote and directed Class and you produced it, do you have any plans to work with him again like that in the future?

Steve Howey: I would love to. The reality of it is... I don't know. I would love to. There's this script that my dad wrote that portrays my brother's life, and I don't want to bore you with the details, but there's something in that that's really great. I would love working with him. I don't know in what way, but if I need a coach next time I'm on the set, or to produce or make something, absolutely. He's one of the main reasons I am where I am today. His mentorship and guidance.

What's been your most rewarding experience as an actor?

Steve Howey: Working. Working is huge. The TV show. Any time you're playing, this is the gift, you get to play someone else. You get to be someone who you're not. So I got to learn how to ride motocross bikes. I got to go to China for that other movie DOA, and I stayed there for three months, but the show, it's just... it's great.

I grew up with television. I love television and to be working in it is awesome. I think where I do well at television is because I grew up watching the great sitcom actors Jackie Gleason, I love Rob Reiner, also John Ritter. I got to meet him before he died, tragically. I met him actually on Hollywood Squares when it was still running. He was one of the coolest people I've ever met. One of the nicest guys. It was so great because now you think back, and with all humility, I think maybe there's some kid right now, boy or girl, watching me, being entertained by our show or by me alone thinking, "Hey, I want to be an actor. He can do it. He makes me laugh. I like what he does."

A lot of the stuff that I do came from John Ritter and Three's Company. I don't know if there's a legacy there, but it's nice to just fantasize.

What do you have coming up next?

Steve Howey: Right now, there's just auditions. I'm just still plugging away. Now that the WB no longer exists, I think we're more than likely going to go over to the CW because we've been a bona fide hit for the WB as a sitcom. I think we're gonna go over there. I think it's gonna be really great because we're gonna have one network with potentially a lot more viewers than before.

I'm looking into writing still. I still have projects that I am going to pitch to see if they can be made, if we can work on them. I'm just enjoying myself. It's a good time. I'm in no rush.

Supercross is currently available on DVD through Fox Home Entertainment.

Dont't forget to also check out: Supercross