Actor Johnathon Schaech is certainly on a roll in his career, with interesting and intriguing projects in a variety of genres. After a pivotal and integral role on Season 1 of the hit Showtime drama series Ray Donovan, and a memorable performance as the often villainous Castor on The CW’s Star-Crossed, he has since gone on to play Colonel Sidney Sherman in the History Channel mini-series Texas Rising, about the Texas Revolution against Mexico and starring Bill Paxton, Ray Liotta, Brendan Fraser and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, among others, which will premiere in 2015. On top of that, he recently finished the Bruce Willis sci-fi/action film Vice, about a resort that offers its wealthy clients a chance to live out their fantasies until it suffers a mishap that causes one of its staff members to seek out revenge.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Johnathon Schaech talked about working on such a massive project as Texas Rising and collaborating with director Roland Joffé, his experience on Ray Donovan and wishing he didn’t have to leave the show, what he enjoyed about playing Castor on Star-Crossed, and doing a Bruce Willis action film. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
JOHNATHON SCHAECH: It’s been amazing. First of, the director is Roland Joffé, who did The Killing Fields, and he works a certain way that just empowers the actor. I have to go back and forth from Mexico to Los Angeles because I’ve got a little boy and don’t want to leave him for too long. I get to work mostly with Bill Paxton and Crispin Glover, which is fantastic. I have at least one scene with pretty much everyone. It’s a massive cast. And I’m playing a real guy, named Colonel Sidney Sherman. You read non-fiction, and then you’re trying to make the non-fiction as real and truthful as possible. The biggest challenge, which is a great thing because everyone is very collaborative there, is to bring these real men to life.
How did your experience on Ray Donovan compare?
SCHAECH: Ray Donovan was all fiction and pure fun, to be working with such greats as Liev Schreiber and Jon Voight. My character was recurring, but my storyline was intricate to the whole thing. With the character that I played, I got to go through all aspects of my instrument. I got to bring it to tears and to laughter. It’s not often that you get to do both. I was always told by Jon Voight that we were making magic, and I felt that. I knew what was going to happen because I had a contract for a certain amount of episodes, but I was so looking forward to every script. I couldn’t wait to read what was coming next. I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen to the characters. The show has got great actors, and I think the second season has got even better actors. I can’t wait to watch Hank Azaria on that show, and Kip Pardue. They’re just raising the bar. I cannot believe they got rid of me!
SCHAECH: I didn’t know exactly, but because it was so intricate to the main story and characters, I knew that 20 years ago, something happened that sent Jon Voight’s character to jail. And I knew that Sean Walker was one of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood. What happened was all my fault, but it was blamed on Jon Voight, so I knew something was going to come for him. So, we did the reading for “Road Trip” (Episode 9), and I had the most fun, in my life, doing that episode. But, I knew what the next one would be because we were reading the next one while we were shooting that one. So, when we shot the sequence where James Woods gets so pissed off that he puts the gun to my head, I raised my hand and put my hand to the gun thinking, “If I just deflect the bullet enough . . .” I didn’t want it to end. I wanted that to be my family that I got to go play with, every week.
That must be tough, because you want to do what’s best for the story, but you also don’t want to have to leave.
SCHAECH: You nailed it! Those were the exact feelings that I had. It was an important part of the storyline, but I knew I was going to miss everybody.
And then, you were on The CW series Star-Crossed.
SCHAECH: Now that I’m in my 40s, my roles are changing. When they first offered it to me, I thought Castor was going to be fighting for his people and trying to find ways to educate himself, so that he could get his people out of repression. The big turn with Castor was that he had to become the evil guy to make the lead guy look better. But when it came down to it, he was just trying to free his people, and he was willing to do anything possible to do that. We see that around the world. Most Americans take their freedom very seriously, but they don’t realize that not everyone is free. The repressed are not free to do what they want. That’s what Star-Crossed was all about for me. When they cancelled it, it sucked because I really liked all those people over there. They were great because they worked around my schedule, with my wife having a baby. They were so good to me. But now, I’m doing Texas Rising, which is a fantastic project about the Texas Revolution. Texas wasn’t free. It was under the repression of Santa Anna. This is about all of the volunteers that came from different parts of America to fight and possibly die for the rights of a free state of Texas.
SCHAECH: Yeah. There is a script that is written, and you have to embellish it and make it so that it’s entertaining, and then you need a lead character for which there are supporting characters. I’m a supporting character, but there’s truth to who he is. The director and the producers are open to what I’ve researched. I called the Texas library about Colonel Sidney Sherman and did all of my homework, and then I saw some discrepancies about what really happened and what they had written. It all works in favor of the storyline. I was mentored to talk it out with my fellow actors, as well as my director and the writers, prior to filming, to give over to the betterment of the story. As an actor, your main goal is to tell the truth.
How was the experience of shooting the sci-fi movie Vice, with Bruce Willis?
SCHAECH: It’s this imaginative world, like if Las Vegas were somewhere that you could go and do anything that you wanted to do. Maybe we need a place like that. Idiots that go shoot up everybody could go fake it somewhere and get it out of their system, and then someone could teach them morality. So, the movie is about a fake world where you could go rob a bank, if you wanted to. Bruce Willis and I run this place, called Vice. They’re all fake robotics, made to look like human beings, and one of them starts to become creative. It’s a robot, but qualities come out that make her want to understand who she is and where she comes from, and she wants to have a voice. We try to repress her and put her back into the world of Vice because she’s supposed to be a robot that follows along. So, it’s pretty intelligent, but it’s a Bruce Willis action film.