Take2IndieReview sits down with award-winning actor Jim Thalman.
Currently, Jim Thalman has major roles in the feature films Ramsey, Splinter and In The Shadows coming out in 2022. Jim was the villain in Dirty Sexy Saint Directed by Tosca Musk which was released in the U.S., Brazil, Italy and Spain in December 2019 and is still extremely popular in Europe. Jim was fortunate enough to have received two Best Supporting Actor Awards in 2019, following eight Best Actor Awards in 2018. Jim is President of HExTC, which produces both theater and film and is part of the creative team that developed and produced West Of The City which took home Top Honors on the Amazon Development Platform. Out of 20,663 Spec TV shows on the platform, West Of The City took home Best Drama, Best Series and Most popular show on the platform.
At what age were the arts introduced to you?
It’s funny, from 3rd grade onwards, I always did the school plays and my principal whom served in the military with my uncles, and was good friends with my mom, always said “Fran, mark my words, the kid’s gonna be an actor”. I don’t think she took him seriously but, nonetheless, always took my brothers and I to the museums, galleries and the movies. Every Friday night we went to the movies. I remember Jaws, ET, Raiders, The Cannonball Run franchise, The Thing, Excalibur, etc.
When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
When I was 17 I did a play (Directed by my current business partner Arian Blanco) at the Park Theater, an old vaudeville house, 2,500 seats, massive. The problem was it was the Hudson County Performing Arts Festival, so you had teenagers from every high school in the area; Jersey City, Hoboken, West New York – and they were loud, screaming, cracking jokes, ya know, being teenagers – and I’m backstage shaking like a leaf, terrified but I walked out on stage and my first line of dialogue was “You Bitch” and the crowd erupted with “oohhhhhhhh and then they got quiet and listened, it was the craziest thing. I was hooked after that.
Did you have formal training to learn your craft?
Yes and no. I studied Stanislavski in college, but it’s a theory 100 years old. I spent summers at HB Studios, did classes at the Atlantic, did Meisner in LA for eight years, but have also trained in really obscure systems – Gestalt, Diderot, Zola – now I’m playing with theories on meditation and neuropathways and the physiological reaction of the body to stress induced situations. I’m super curious about everything in this world, its kinda why I love this business, it encourages you to go and explore things that you normally wouldn’t.
Did you start your career on the New York stages?
No, I actually started cluelessly as an extra on every NY TV show there was, all during college. I remember watching Sam Waterston doing a different monologue (closing summation) and wondering how he could do “all that prep work” that the Stanislavki system called for, it seemed impossible to me. That’s when I started questioning my professors, much to their chagrin. Therein the real learning began. Only after graduation, when I had a nominal grasp on acting did I have the courage to hop on NY stages.
What were the types of roles you would be cast in?
It’s funny, because I view myself as a warm, caring, empathetic human being. But I’m almost always the villain, out of 68 movies, I’ve been the villain in probably 60 of them. I love it because I always think the writer(s) give the best dialogue to the villain and I’m a verbatim style actor, all those years doing Mamet at the Atlantic left an impression. It’s only every now and again that I’m the lead in a movie and those roles are definite Anti-Heroes. I do love character roles as well though, whenever I have the chance for true character work, where I completely disappear into the role, I’m ecstatic.
At one point you lived in Los Angeles. Was that a career move for you?
Yes, I wanted to be a principal in movies. My first four years out of college, I had become a utility stand-in on everything, which was great; union salary, steady work, GREAT LEARNING LESSONS. I literally would be right there in ear-shot of the discussions between the Director, DP and Lead Actor. I learned my lenses (officially, as a stand-in, you work for the Camera Dept). I learned how to find my light, how all departments worked together, how to block for a set-up that went from a 25mm to a 85mm, where you work in a 50mm as opposed to a 110mm. All the stuff I still use today, so it was my blue collar grad school. That being said, after four years, I felt if I didn’t leave NY and my comfort zone, I would be forever a stand-in and I wanted more.
How did you break into the indie film scene?
One rung at a time, as I matured, so did the roles – from extra, to featured, to one line, then a few lines, then to a character with a name, then to lead in short films, then character work in features, now main characters (top five on the call sheet) on features. Just recently, I’ve started working with name actors and Oscar nominees. Its been a slow and steady process.
As an actor, do you prefer stage or film work?
Movies, all the way, I love movies. I’ll do a play every now and again to keep myself sharp but I always love making movies. It’s the impossible dream of it all. I did many movies with a great filmmaker by the name of Lou Pappas, who unfortunately passed in 2018. But every time we’d start a film, he’d look at me and say “into the breech once again, the battle of never enough begins.” Which is what indies are – never enough time, or money, or crew, or equipment, or resources – but somehow you and the other artists and craftspeople pull together and make the impossible happen, and then a year or so later, you all gather in a darkened movie house to see your work up on the big screen.
You have major roles in three films coming out this year. One is the Supernatural Thriller Splinter. How did this script come to you and what role do you play in the film?
The Director, Tom Ryan, and I played the 2018 Film Festival circuit together with other projects and we would wind up talking movies, seeing movies, our respective films were always competing against each other For Award Consideration, so we would bust each others chops about it, but good naturedly. His producer, Todd Staruch, brought him the story and Tom adapted the script, allowing for a much more physical transformation in the character, which he had seen me do in another film, but I still had to audition, which I was happy to do and I booked the lead role of Scott, an everyman dad who inherits a home and ultimately comes face to face with the sins of his estranged father. That’s all I can say, other than you need to see it on the big screen. We’re screening in IMAX on 10/28 in Reading, PA. We just screened at FrightFest in London. And we’ve got some cool screenings coming up before the film gets distributed as part of the Theatre Of Terror Anthology, which has some great films in all genres of horror. After Reading, we screen at Sin City Horror on 11/6 and then at Kevin Smith’s SMOD Castle on 12/2. Please follow us at Theatre of Terror on FB and IG. Ramsey is a Murder Mystery, Crime Thriller that has just secured Distribution via Indie Rights on Amazon. Please watch and review. You can find it on Amazon by typing Indie Rights Ramsey in your search bar. Pretty please watch and review. We NEED ratings.
What was the Collaboration process like with your Director and Cast?
Super easy, It’s a Tom Ryan Film, so we now have a short hand and a shared history. I love working with him because he’s like, let’s talk about this scene and we’ll just have a conversation about it, then while they set up, I’ll go off in a corner and just meditate/daydream about the scene, what he said, the key points that he’s looking for. It makes it so easy. As far as the Ensemble, they’re all actors that I love, every one of them. I’ve done at least one movie or play with, with the exception of three that were all recommendations of our other two leads, Jeanine Bartel and Nixon Cesar, and those actors were a perfect fit for our Cassavetes style family.
From The Shadows is a horror film. What made you want to tap into this genre as an actor?
It’s just a really fun style of making movies. The genre has so many subsets; Slasher, Gore, Ghost, Demon, Horror Comedy, Horror Thriller, Serial Killer. It keeps maturing to the point where there are some incredibly intelligent, thought provoking, horror films with strong moral and social messages that are attracting big names. Shadows has An Oscar winner and an Oscar Nominee in lead roles, Bruce Davidson and Keith David, and the sound mix is being done by Oscar Winner Cecelia Hall. My next film with this production company, Alt-House, has 3 Oscar Winners attached. Certainly horror has grown up as genre.
When were these films shot in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic?
All of them were shot during the Pandemic and, oddly enough, there wasn’t a single outbreak. Makes you go hmmmmm. For the record the Unions’ Zone A policy is a lark that’s crippling Production everywhere, it’s gotta change and fast.
What is your process like as an actor in preparing for a role?
It changes dynamically for EVERY film. The only steadfast rules for me are: what’s my point of egress and how do I get in this guys head and know my dialogue verbatim? That’s it, everything else is subject to change at will, depending on a thousand variables that are going to arise.
Do you like to rehearse for a film?
I’m not a fan of rehearsal at all. Know your dialogue before you come to work and then let it be “first blush” in other words, the first time I say these words should be while the camera rolls. Just explore it there, that’s where all the interesting work is, the nuance and detail, the human insecurity and quirks and foibles, its where we are most human. I certainly have no interest as an audience member in watching movies where everyone is perfect, who cares? I want to see raw, conflicting emotions happening simultaneously, like people feel every day. That’s easily accomplished by just playing with an open heart, without ego, with joy and exploration. With the understanding that moment to moment changes repeatedly and continually. The search for perfection is boring, the search for humanity is exciting.
You are President of HExTC which produces both theater and film. Tell us more about the company’s mission and your role in it.
The Hudson Exploited Theater Company (HExTC) is dedicated to producing quality multimedia and live performance programming in an environment where artists and craftspeople are given the opportunity to develop, refine and showcase their talents. We are committed to expanding the notion of what is “American” by featuring stories that reflect the variety of experiences, backgrounds, races and cultures that make up the American landscape. We are always looking for new partners, new members of the company (membership is free) and new material to develop and co-produce. Please feel fee to reach out to us anytime @www.HExTC.org or via Facebook @Hudson Exploited Theater Company.
What advice would you give to a struggling actor?
Enjoy the journey, it’s a lifetime of adventure. Don’t try to be famous, try to improve a little bit each day. Your acting style should change continually over the years. It should not be your religion. Explore, learn different styles of acting – from clown, to mask work, to Alexander, to Meisner, to Adler, to Chekhov. Your way is not the only way, its just one way. Feel free to change course, challenge the status quo. Always be curious, open, heartfelt, egoless and if you don’t love doing it, do something else. Your passion is what will see you through the tough times of bad reviews or bad auditions or lost jobs etc. . . Live your life first, it makes you more interesting. Get married, travel, love, laugh, live, have a rich full life. Remember we don’t age out. Hopefully, we all get to act up until death. Lastly, but not least, build and nurture relationships in a real and meaningful way.
What’s next for you?
Death Class from Alt-House Entertainment, Tale of Nicky Newark from Light Year Pictures and we’re in discussions for two sequels to the Ramsey franchise, which would be cool. Pretty please, watch Ramsey on Amazon, you’ll help us greatly secure those sequels.