Actor/Writer Dayton Callie is probably best known for his work on cable series such as Sons Of Anarchy and Deadwood. But he’s appeared in dozens of television shows over the years, and his voice might be familiar to you if you’re a gamer as he’s voiced video game characters in games like Left For Dead 2 among others. He can currently be seen on television on Fear The Walking Dead (Season 2, Episode 14: Wrath), and on the big screen in Writer/Director Darren Lynn Bousman’s latest film, Abattoir. He consented to this short interview to discuss how he got into the business of acting, and his experiences working on this film, and with director Bousman.
Gruesome Magazine: Thanks for your time today! I really liked the film, and it’s a pleasure to speak with you.
Dayton Callie: The pleasure is all mine sir!
GM: Before I ask about your work in Abattoir, I wanted to ask if acting is what you always wanted to do. After doing a bit of research on you, I got the impression that acting wasn’t your first choice for a career.
DC: No it wasn’t, not at all. I was a musician for 15 years prior to becoming an actor. Actually, I did a million things, I didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do! I was an athlete when I was younger, then I got into music, I was going to be a horse trainer at one point in my life. But while I was a working musician, I had a friend who was acting in plays in NYC. I had just come back from a gig in Reno, and I was getting kind of frustrated because I was trying to put together a new group at the time. My friend was trying to get a role in a play, but didn’t, so he called me up and asked if I would be interested in auditioning for the role because he believed I was right for the part. Of course, I told him “No fucking way. I ain’t no fucking actor!”. But he continued to bug me about it, and there were only 10 days left before the play was going to open, so I consented to meet the director. It was a small Off Broadway show, and once I met the director, it turned out that I really was just right for the part! So ten days later I was onstage acting, but I was still trying to put a band together at the same time. After a few days, I began to realize that this acting thing wasn’t too bad of a gig, and I could probably milk it while I was trying to put my band together. That was thirty fucking years ago!
GM: Well it seems like it’s been very good to you so far…
DC: On no, it wasn’t always! It took me eight years to get paid for any acting I did. I did a lot of free theater in New York. I appeared in 28 student films at NYU. But it was great! I was learning what to do, learning my craft. I always looked at being an actor as being similar to being a musician as you have to learn your instrument to be any good at both of them.
GM: Your character here in Abattoir, Jebediah Crone, doesn’t have a lot of screen time in the film. I think he’s got maybe 12-15 minutes worth of screen time in total. But you really made the most of that time. What was it about the character that appealed to you enough to take on a role that didn’t offer you a lot of screen time?
DC: It was never about how much screen time I was or wasn’t gonna have. What happened was I had worked with Darren on a film called The Devil’s Carnival, and we had a really good time on it. We all got to sing and shit, it was a lot of fun. So while we were working on that one, Darren had begun to talk to me about a project he was working on called Abattoir, and he wrote it with me in mind and shit like that. But most importantly for me, it was different, it was something I’d never done before, I hate doing the same kind of thing over and over. I was a jazz musician, and playing the same tune over and over bored the shit out of me, and I wanted to do different things as an actor as well. I was in Deadwood, John From Cincinnati, and other varied series that always offered me something different to do. Abattoir was different as well, and I thought that it would be fun to appear in it. Not necessarily fun fun, if you get my meaning, but fun to do regardless. So we talked about it, and as we talked – we kept rewriting it, and eventually my character became this person that I looked at as a challenge because he was different. I wanted to see if I could make him work.
GM: Was there anything about the character of Jebediah Crone that you found that you could relate to? Mind you, I’m not trying to compare you to the character, Crone is the villain of the piece, and he does some pretty villainous things therein. But since you just mentioned that you worked on developing the character as well, I wonder if you managed to insert a bit of yourself into his development?
DC: Jebediah does everything with a purpose. I can totally relate to every moment that he has. As an actor I believe you have to totally rationalize everything that your character does else your characterization will ring false. I’m on the outside looking in, and I’m not gonna go around killing people, but as a person I can see his justification. Every villain in the real world had one thing in common, they all believed they were doing the right thing, and for a purpose. That’s the way I approached the character.
GM: You mentioned that you’ve worked with Darren Lynn Bousman before, and enjoyed the experience, so I’m guessing that there’s an affinity there between the two of you. What is it that you like about working with him so much that made you want to come back and do it again?
DC: [Laughing] We can fight! He gives his actors the freedom to agree/disagree with him, and he’s secure in the knowledge that we both want the same result. It’s fun, and I’m probably not the easiest person in the world to work with either. If I come to work committed to something, I challenge you to change my mind. Not that I’m a close minded person, but don’t give me bullshit direction either. Don’t tell me to walk over there if there’s no good reason for me to walk in that direction – fuck that. Darren’s extremely sensitive, but he’s not thin skinned to the point where he feels he needs to be defensive with his actors. We all work together very well.
GM: Did the two of you get into many fights while working on Abattoir? Or on any film that you’ve worked together on?
DC: Not physical fights! Nothing that’s really out of the ordinary, although I’ve been known to get into some, let’s just call them “Discussions” with people in the past…
GM: I found that the end of Abattoir can be interpreted in two different ways. I saw it as Jebediah finally reaching his goal, and going off into the, not so proverbial, sunset. Others have seen it as being left wide open for a sequel. If there was a sequel to Abattoir, what do you see as Jebediah’s role in it?
DC: Well there’s no true way I can answer that question. All I can say is that if there is a sequel to Abattoir in the future, I’d be very willing to appear in it. I really enjoyed working with everyone on this film, so if the opportunity arose, I’d be more than happy to appear in it. I think!