In Conversation with Carlyle Edwards

I interviewed Carlyle Edwards earlier this week regarding his role in A Public Ransom and given below  is an excerpt from our online conversation.

What was your approach and preparations for the role?

I suppose I should have had more specific preparations for playing the role, as this was my first time in front of a camera—but then, I was rather type-cast, in a way, so that helped a lot, haha. The role was to be, though the central character, basically the actual villain of the piece—the arc of the character best described as someone who goes from “very, very disagreeable to absolutely reprehensible” during the course of the film’s run time.  Basically, once I settled in to portraying someone who was, for all intents and purposes, ME, circa the year 2007, it was just a matter of memorizing the dense runs of dialogue (often telephone monologue) and the blocking. Even the theatricality the role called for—Steven was basically less a human-being than a “perpetual performance, a put on”—was more or less my normal way of speaking and moving. It’s funny, because reviewers point out the “theater style” of the performance (often in a derogatory way) but even in addition to it being what the role specifically calls for…that’s just how I talk and move! Haha. I sometimes don’t know what to make of the critiques, it’s made me rather self-conscious, truth be told.  I suppose the short answer is, I found a way to enjoy being an out-and-out asshole (some of it is gallows humor, true, but much of it has to be full on “Steven is not someone any one will like”) and then just ran with it, decided to take it as far as I could without (though some would argue I did) hamming it up, too much.

Were there specific preparations?

 Other than as I just explained, I suppose the method of the shoot called for some specific preparations, yeah. The script (sometimes being retooled as it went, always for the better) was shot “in sequence” except I was the only member of the cast privy to the entire scope of thing (the other actors were given just their scenes and the on-set direction to avoid being influenced in their performances by making conscious choices based on the larger arc). This made sense, as I was on screen in every sequence, so I had to make sure that I kept the right head for the moment, not letting on that I was aware of the outcome and all. If that makes sense. It wasn’t really tricky, once things were going, because the scenes with Helen Bonaparte and Goodloe Byron are intricate and easy to keep on point during—but there were moments of having to think to myself “Wait, I would to be acting this way…yet…?” It was “what degree of a jerk am I supposed to be at this specific point, again?”

Carlyle Still 4

Were there specific challenges you faced while shooting?

 It was cold. It was bitter, sinful, ugly cold. And we (sometimes just me and the camera) were out in it for hours, especially to get all of the “walking around footage”.  That and I had to smoke a lot. A LOT. This got me physically sick on two occasions—to the point of dizziness and regurgitation—as the takes were long (single shot, five to ten minutes) and I’d smoke multiple full cigarettes during them. So, if one little mistake was made or something went wrong, the whole thing would have to be reset and, well, more and more smokes. It was a blessing the few times we actually started running low on cigs (due, I’m sad to say, more often than not to my fouling things up, haha) and so a three cigarette scene became a two, a two cigarette scene a one. Of course, by that time the damage was done, but it was still a nice respite.  The cold mixed with the smoking…well, now I just sound like I’m whining about it, haha.

How do you feel now that the film has been released to the public?

I am absolutely thrilled now that it is out there. And I’m thrilled to be getting the very mixed critical response, as well as the very mixed personal response from folks I know—writers and filmmakers, especially.  Aside from, as I joked about earlier, my existential dilemma at having my performance sometimes panned as “too theatrical to seem real” or what have you, the “love it or hate it” reactions to the overall film are ideal. This was a bare bones, underground bit of filmmaking and obviously not trying to be a critical or indie darling—my performance, you know, is meant to irritate as much as entertain, what with my endless jabbering and constant, manic body and facial movement mingled with the fact that I do nothing at all that any viewer will “like” or “find sympathy in”—so it’s cool to see it hitting buttons all over the place. Haha—when people hate it, I am pretty much singled out as the object of directed repulsion…but, that was the idea, I just take it as “Well, then I guess mine was a job well done.”  There’s really nothing like reading people’s reaction to one’s film work—so much of it is me, to the core, out there, as I said—really nothing like, as the performer, trying to separate people’s opinion of the work in the role from their opinion of me as a person.

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