Fright Exclusive Interview With ALMOST HUMAN/RE-ANIMATOR: THE MUSICAL Star Graham Skipper!

Editor’s note: Graham Skipper has been making a good name for himself in some good and interesting genre entries, acting in everything from genre musicals (as Herbert West in Stuart Gordon’s RE-ANIMATOR: THE MUSICAL), short films (Will Rot’s THE CARTRIDGE FAMILY) and one of horror’s most recent fan-favorites, Joe Begos’ ALMOST HUMAN. Natty was able to chat with Skipper for a bit, regarding his recent roles, as well as about a acrobatic stage show mixed with live rock and roll that he’s producing. Read on!-Jerry

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Of course my first question is going to be regarding REANIMATOR: THE MUSICAL. A lot of people began taking notice of your performance of Herbert West in that,  how did your involvement come about with Gordon’s musical?

I lived in New York City for many years, I worked in a lot of theater in a lot of Comedy through my comedy work in New York I came in to contact with George Wendt. George was originally involved with RE-ANIMATOR: THE MUSICAL from the very beginning and they were looking for someone to play Herbert West, George thought of me and we got in touch with Stuart, then I came out to audition, and got the role.

Awesome! Have you always had an interest in musical theatre?

Oh yeah I’ve grown up doing live theater, that’s what I have my college degree in. I have a life theater performance degree from Fordham University. It’s what I’ve grown up doing and also my whole life, I’ve been a huge horror fan,..especially a fan of Stuart Gordon, so the opportunity to combine those two passions was quite literally a dream come true, I couldn’t think of a more exciting, or more appropriate job for me to get.

So it’s definitely safe to say you would consider doing more musicals in the future?

Oh sure yeah! I love performing, I love musicals and I just love being an actor so whatever comes my way.

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Did you have a lot of pressure or stress, stepping into a role that was originated by Jeffrey Combs?, or was it easy to tackle that?

Well you know when I sat down with Stuart, obviously RE-ANIMATOR is one of my favorite movies, pretty much through my whole life. So the last thing I would want to do is a Jeffrey Combs impersonation, he is so iconic in that role, and you know nobody can hold a candle to that. So I said I want to approach this, as honestly as I can. When I first got cast I had seen the movie before, and I owned it and everything but I had made the decision not to watch it for a while. As we were, you know, developing the show, just to get it in my own voice and feel it in my own skin. Then we went through and we found some of the very specific moments of the film that fans would want to see, and what we are already doing. I just wanted to make it my own and I wanted to bring a new life to Herbert West, and I think that I was really successful in that. I was lucky to have the opportunity.

I want to talk about ALMOST HUMAN. I watched it a while ago and I have to say, it’s one of my new favorite movies, it reminded me of being a kid and watching THE THING or INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. While it felt like it was an homage to those films, it definitely stood on its own two feet. Can you tell us about the experience of making it?

Oh yeah, it was a blast from start to finish. I met Joe (Begos) the writer/director when he was also working on RE-ANIMATOR: THE MUSICAL. He worked with Stuart Gordon for many years and when we first started to do the show here in LA, he was our stage manager and he and I got along really well. We both wore horror movie t-shirts and I thought I had known everything there is to know about horror movies, but he would bring up obscure  movies that I had never heard of. It totally opened my eyes, and we became friends. At a certain point he came to me with the script, he was sort of shy about it and asked if I would be interested in reading. So I asked what it was about and he said it’s an alien science fiction movie and I said I’m in! So we all went out to Rhode Island and we made this film for very little money, but it was evident from the beginning that everybody involved had a huge passion for horror films and for making movies, and for making really amazing things on a small budget. Joe is just brilliant, he is supremely talented. I think it’s a combination of all the people who were involved, and with our collective love for the genre, we ended up with a really special film.

You can tell that everybody who was a part of it, just gave it everything that they had. It just felt real. I loved the use of practical effects, they added so much to it.  What was it like working with practical effects, as opposed to today’s CGI-stuff?

Oh yeah it was always an adventure. Dealing with practical effects, it takes such a perfectionist’s eye to get it just right. There was Joe and our special effects guy Rob Fitz, they worked really hard together to make sure that the effects looked cool. Whenever we had to troubleshoot anything on set, they would be able to adapt and change stuff is needed. It couldn’t possibly be more fun for me to be covered in slime with blood splattered on me, and at least I was able to stay fully clothed.

I know, you look like you were nice and warm the whole time (laughs).

One thing that nobody was, was warm. It was very cold on that set but like you said at least I got to wear pants and a jacket. Some people were not quite so lucky.

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You mentioned earlier that you’re a fan of the genre.  I’ve been really impressed with where the genre is headed lately, with a lot of good genre films coming out. I’m curious to know your opinion on where the genre is going, as a fan, do you think it’s headed in the right direction?

Oh absolutely! Indie film in general is really doing a lot of amazing things across the board, particularly in genre cinema. ALMOST HUMAN was at Midnight Madness this year, and to be able to be there, and to see some of these other independently produced horror films that are just mind-blowingly good and getting the attention that they deserve, it is really inspiring to see the directors you know that started from very humble independent beginnings. Like James Wan with SAW, or Eli Roth’s CABIN FEVER or Ti West who has done THE SACRAMENT that just came out, you see them rising up in the ranks but maintaining their independent film spirit. I think that’s the direction it’s all going in like these amazing, ultra-violent movies and the micro budget films that are getting attention, like CHEAP THRILLS. And WE GOTTA GET OUT OF THIS PLACE just had a great feature in the New York Times. Movies are being made for very little money, that have a lot of heart and that is so inspiring. It just shows that yes, you can make a movie, you can be successful, and you can make it just as good as anything that a big studio is putting out.

So now you’re producing a live stage show featuring your wife, which sounds great from what I’ve read. Is there anything that you can tell us about that?

Yeah! It’s really exciting. It’s called SHAPESHIFTER and my wife is an aerial acrobat. Her name is Jordann Baker. We met in New York because my comedy troupe was doing a show with her circus troupe, and since moving to L.A. a few years ago, one of the things that we have been talking about was over New York there’s circus and aerial theater that people just put up mainly because there’s just a plethora of spaces to do that in and it’s a feeling that is not missing in L.A., but something that L.A. could have more of. This was all spearheaded by my wife, who then asked me to help her produce it cause I used to produce a lot of independent theater in New York, So the idea for a circus show came about.

It’s all about change and it’s  a metaphysical story about lost souls, having to go through the trials of the sinister force Kali, in order to go from the darkness into the light. It’s all set to the music of this amazing L.A rock band called The Shakers, and they are performing live in concert every night as the show happens around them and it’s totally an immersive 360 degree aerial rock show, and it’s very exciting. There isn’t really anything else like that in LA that’s going on right now, and it’s been really fun to watch a show progress and become something really special. I’ve been honored to be a part of making it happen and it actually opens this Friday. It runs Friday-Saturday May 23rd and 24th, and May 30th and 31st and it’s in a place called Way 2 Much Entertainment at 1910 West Temple Street (Los Angeles, CA 90026), and yeah it’s going to be really spectacular. I hope a lot of people come out to see it. It just paves the way for more exciting and more avant-garde circus theater. You can’t possibly have too much of that.

That sounds awesome! After SHAPESHIFTER, is there anything else that’s coming up for you?

Well, I’m finishing up post production on I film that I wrote and directed, it’s called SPACE CLOWN, and I’m finishing up editing that. It started as an experiment just to see if I can make a micro-budget horror film, and sort of do all of the different aspects of it myself, and I got a lot of very talented people to help me do it, so I’m excited to finally get that finished. I’m talking with Joe right now, the director of ALMOST HUMAN about another project, which hopefully will be filming sometime next year, and just working on writing another project I’m trying to get involved with, and hopefully producing more live theater.

Nice! Once again, I loved ALMOST HUMAN, so if there is a chance to see something else directed by Joe, starring you…I will definitely check that out.

(laughs) Thank you!

 

SHAPESHIFTER runs Friday-Saturday May 23rd and 24th, and May 30th and 31st at Way 2 Much Entertainment at 1910 West Temple Street (Los Angeles, CA 90026). You can get tickets by visiting this site

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