Last week scifipulse along with other members of the Digital Media had the opportunity to take part in a conference call with Ving Rhames, who over the years has played a great many roles in movies and television and isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty when it comes to battling Zombies, which is something he’ll be doing a lot of in tomorrows Syfy Saturday movie Zombie Apocalypse.
Below are some of the highlights from this call.
When it came to getting the role of Henry Ving revealed that Syfy reached out to him about the role, but when asked what attracted him to the role. The answer was pretty simple.
Ving Rhames: I did a zombie movie called Dawn of the Dead some years ago with Zach Snyder, who directed The 300, and honestly it’s – I don’t want to say a part of it is just fantasy and fun, but a lot of it really – the bonding with the actors was a – it’s fun. A little bit of fantasy-fiction, but fun.
When asked about the movies plot and his role in it. Ving was careful not to give to much away, but did manage to do so in such a way that it kept the movie sounding like a fun ride. Simply put. This is not Sharktopuss or your average Syfy B-Movie.
Ving Rhames: Basically it’s about one, two, three, four – about eight people who really survive a catastrophe where zombies have basically taken over the Earth. And it’s a story that deals with our survival, how we bond as friends. How we work together to survive.
When asked what the most enjoyable part of working on a Zombie movie was. Ving gave a really upbeat answer.
Ving Rhames: Well, I would really say the bond that the actors developed working with each other. Because even in the film, of course we have to work together to survive, and so we just – we got a nice group of actors who had very good chemistry. So you know, making new friends – it was pretty cool.
When asked about how he prepared for the physical demands of the film. Ving gave a bit of a run down of all the fight preparation he did.
Ving Rhames: I’m already a black belt so that wasn’t really – the most preparation is really just being in shape. So I work out like four to five times a week. So as long as you were in shape, a lot of running, some fight scenes. My character wields a huge sledge hammer.
So I lift weights, I run, and I box so things went well.
When asked why he though Zombies were making such a big comeback in television and film Ving blew us all away with his explanation for the modern zombie uprising.
Ving Rhames: I didn’t really think it really died honestly, because – maybe it wasn’t called zombies. Let’s just look at you know, a whole lot of these vampire-type TV shows or movies or what have you.
I think things like Twilight and what have you – I’m not going to say they’re zombies, but you kind of get my point. It’s in the same realm.
So, I think that just – honestly, there are probably going to be more films – zombie-ish. And I think what Syfy has done with this for television, I don’t think we’ve seen a film like this on television before.
So, how exactly does Zombie Apocalypse stand out from the crowd of similar projects that we’re seeing of late.
Ving Rhames: Honestly, I don’t know what other projects are dealing with zombies, and I haven’t seen them so I don’t know how much it stands apart. But all I can really say is that I think especially this being a television original, I think that is one of the things that will really make it stand apart.
Because to my knowledge, I don’t really remember a zombie oriented film airing on television first. I’ve seen ones – like I’ve done Dawn of the Dead in theaters, and then months later or a year later it comes on television. But, I just think that this is really in your face a (DP) – did a great job.
So, I think it’s going to be a very different television experience.
When it came to working with the special effects and such. Ving revealed that they did a fare bit of improvisation.
Ving Rhames: Well I would really say that, the actors – we did a lot of kind of improv on that one – I think that zombie tiger let’s say. We did a lot of improv because the director would have to say, “The tiger jumps here.” “The tiger jumps there.” And then, you had to basically act and react.
So I’ve seen some of it you know doing looping, but I’m interested in seeing it too. But I think that – forgot the guys name who designed a lot of that stuff, but I think for the actors, it worked well. All of the actors, we had a good chemistry together and we just went for it. So I’m looking forward to seeing it myself.
When asked for his favorite scene from the film. Ving revealed that it was one of the action scenes.
Ving Rhames: I think that there’s one scene where the group of about seven or eight of us are being attacked by zombies and we really had to do a lot of work strategically with each other and it was choreographed extremely well. So without giving away too much, that would probably be one of my favorites.
But also I think from a real acting perspective, there’s a scene between Lesley-Ann Brandt and I that is – shows a lot of compassion. So my character protects her a lot through the film. We’re kind of paired up and I think we had a very good natural chemistry.
And there’s something very human about this film where we deal with a lot of intricacies of life and of being a human being and of building a relationship with a stranger. So we deal a lot with the human condition in this film, which was a bit different from quite a few of the other zombie movies.
Over the course of his acting career Ving Rhames has fought Zombies, Sharks and piranhas. So what was the scariest for Ving.
Ving Rhames: I’d probably have to say piranhas, and I mean Piranhas 2 oddly enough that’ll be coming out, because it’s – they come more from you know ocean as the unknown. And I think the fact that something small could bite you once and you could kind of say, “Oh, that’s nothing,” and then you’re attacked by thousands of them. So piranhas.
When it comes to his role of Henry in the film. Ving pretty much reveals that the character is the oldest in the group.
Ving Rhames: I’m kind of the enforcer/major protector of the group. I’m probably the eldest of the group also, so my character has a lot of wisdom. He really – I take on – they pair us up at times and I take on kind of the (unintelligible) lead of the movie as far as protecting her and most of my scenes are with her when they’re not with the group. So, I would basically say I’m the enforcer/protector.
Asked why he thinks Zombie movies are so popular Rhames gave the following answer.
Ving Rhames: I think one really does the research on it and you deal with let’s say voodoo or what have you, there has been some evidence of — I don’t want to scare anyone — but of “zombies” existing, or “someone without a heartbeat walking or moving or talking or exiting.”
So I do think there’s still – there’s some question marks about it. But the fact that it is a little controversial as far as can a zombie really exist or not. It’s just like ghosts. You know, why – well the supernatural and whatever – now these films Paranormal Activity and what have you. I think there is a sense in general where there’s a possibility that a zombie could exist.
So I think with that possibility becomes intrigue, and I think that’s why this whole genre kind of exists, because there’s a slim possibility that this could happen.
When asked how Henry differs from his character in Dawn Of The Dead, which was the zombie movie that he did with Zack Snyder in 2008. Rhames was more than happy to compare and contrast.
Ving Rhames: I know he was police officer or something like that.
I think with this character, he is a little more of a loner, and I don’t want to say doesn’t have as much to live for, but I think this really becomes something that my character – he loses whatever he had and he talks about his horse you see. And so I think now he’s more alone on the planet versus — if I remember correctly in Dawn of the Dead — that guy might have had a family and was still looking for his family.
One role that Rhames has become known for in recent years is his recurring role as Luther Stickell in the Mission Impossible films. So when asked about the fourth movie, which is called Ghost Protocol. Rhames managed to answer in such a way that it had you scratching your head thinking hmmmm.
Ving Rhames: Well I can put it this way, the team that they’re using – the Mission Impossible team that starts off in that film is not as skilled and professional as the one – the actors in Mission Impossible 3. That’s kind of all I can say on that.
Ving Rhames: Well, I’m one of those people where I just realize how I had to pace myself. And of course, there’s quite a bit of downtime when doing a film. Thank God we had air conditioned trailers. And so, I basically – a lot of liquids and pacing myself.
But, we were filming out in some dessert-type places, so there was a couple of 90-something degree days. And with running and being physical in that type of weather, you know you have to be a little careful. I basically would pace myself. And when I wasn’t on set working, I was back in an air conditioned trainer – trailer.
By Ian M. Cullen