Interview by Shena Verrett
South Magazine: So let’s talk a little about the project you’re working on here in Savannah called CBGB and who you are portraying
FR: CBGB is loosely based on Hilly who is the man that started the club, and the people around him that helped him start the club. Hilly was a real person and that’s who Alan Rickman plays, and there’s another guy named Merv played by Donal Logue, and my character Idaho, but my character is an amalgamation of different people and I was one of the guys who helped start the club. But in real life the people that my character is based on were heroin addicts. The club CBGB was right next door to a flop house like a transient hotel, where people like heroin addicts, people of that nature, could rent a room for $2 to $2.50 a night or something like that, and so my character is based on those guys and I play a heroin addict and I tried the best I could to help Hilly open up the club.
SM: Is the character, Idaho, also a musician?
FR: Well yes, well he’s not a musician in the rock-n-roll, CBGB,
like the Ramones or Blondie or anyone like that; he’s a violin player, that’s where his connection with the Hilly character is—Hilly in real life, was a violin player.
SM: Had you ever gone to the venue when it was open?
FR: You know ironically I was one of the last people to do a photo shoot there!
SM: Wow! Wonderful.
FR: Yeah, yeah, which is really ironic there you can see online it was an underground indie magazine in New York called Un Chin. I was on the cover of the magazine. I forget what I was promoting.
SM: Some fantastic project you were doing…
FR: (laughter) Right, right! So they put me on the cover, I remember I was doing Lady in the Water in Philadelphia at the time, and I had just come down to New York to do the photo shoot they said they were going to do it at CBGB’s and that they were planning on closing [the venue] down. And I had heard about the different bands that came out of CBGB and the significance of the club. So the photo shoot revolved around a campaign—it was a “Save CB’s” campaign—so while I was there I got to meet the real Hilly at the time, and I believe I met his daughter at the time, and here we are ironically seven years later I’m doing the CBGB movie!
SM: How apropos!
FR: Yeah, yeah!
SM: You’ve worked with Alan Rickman, who is playing Hilly in CBGB, previously correct? Just briefly describe your experience working with Alan Rickman from both your past project and now on this movie.
FR: Well Alan Rickman is a consummate professional and he is diligent about his work and that’s inspiring to me, obviously—he’s been at this as long as I’ve been alive. Yeah I actually worked with him and Randall Miller and Jody Savin, who were both the director and writers of Bottle Shock as well as CBGB and we all kind of knew each other from that. And that’s where the connection comes from in terms of my presence.
SM: So you were cast in CBGB based on your work on Bottle Shock?
FR: I think that was part of it. We had a very pleasant experience working together on Bottle Shock, and the reviews were very favorable with my character in the film so the experience was really positive overall. Randy and Jody are incredibly nice and grounded people who like to work with…you know, they like to create sort of a “theatre company” atmosphere and bring the same people back so this experience has been just as pleasant.
SM: Speaking of theatre, is that how you began your career, doing stage plays and theatre?
FR: I did, yeah, yeah I started when I was 13 in Chicago and I was in my first theatre company when I was 13 and when I was 14 I went to an arts high school and majored in drama for four years. I did all theatre all through high school and independent theatre stuff like that, then right after high school I got my first film in A Walk in the Clouds and I moved out to L.A.
SM: So I have to say, Six Feet Under was arguably one of the top five shows ever to air on television, from actors to writers it was just stunning! After five award-winning seasons, is it difficult to select new projects? You guest starred on Ugly Betty, but how do you choose the next role after such a great run?
FR: Well, you know, those great runs are very far and few between, so when they come along I think as actors we all realize we’re a part of something very important, something special. And so, I can’t necessarily base my next choice on that, right?
FR: I’m not going to base my choices based on what I think the next American hit is going to be. I just think that would be the wrong way to approach it. So After Six Feet was done I approached all my projects like I normally do: Depending on the type of roles that I wanted to play, the types of projects that speak to me or characters that speak to me. You mentioned Ugly Betty—I did Ugly Betty because I felt that I never really did romantic comedy before.
SM: How was it playing the main love interest?
FR: Yeah, I’d never done it, you know, and I had great respect for the stuff they were doing on that show and I was flattered that they even thought about me. I think that when people think “romantic comedy” I’m sure I’m the last person they’d think about.
SM: You have a couple of projects coming up?
FR: Yeah, Code Name: Geronimo is the story of how the navy seals went in to kill Osama Bin Laden.
FR: I play one of the Navy Seals and it’s just a wonderful, wonderful project to be a part of and I think that the execution was pretty spectacular. It was the same producers who did Hurt Locker, and Harvey Weinstein is on board now to be distributer. Harvey Weinstein’s company won an Oscar last year for The Artist, and the year previously it was Voltage pictures, the guy that did Hurt Locker, that won the Oscar. The two people that are behind this film won the Oscar so, um, I think we’re in pretty good hands. That’s supposed to be coming out in the fall sometime, I think November. I’m really excited about that project. I’ve never played a Navy Seal before, so I’m really eager to see what that’s like.
And Over the Wall is a project that I’ve been producing for the last four or five years that has finally come into fruition. As a matter of fact I think it’s the film I’m going to do after this one.
SM: So what is your passion outside of acting?
FR: Music! I grew up on great music and really grew up listening to the ‘90s hip-hop like A Tribe called Quest and reggae. Plus, we grew up having a lot of vinyl records around, and I just enjoy listening to good music. I have turntables at my house.
SM: We talked about the heat being a little high, but what were some of your best experiences about Savannah you’d like to share?
FR: I love Savannah! Obviously it’s a beautiful city. I love the atmosphere—it’s like a Chicago or New York—and with SCAD being here it lends itself to that artist environment. Having gone to an arts school I can really appreciate it here and feel really comfortable here.
And the food! Man, I’ll tell you, that’s what’s been really difficult for me. Trying to play a heroin addict in the [CBGB] movie with all the good food around! It’s hard to, shall I say, maintain a certain look for my character with all this great food around!
SM: Good thing you’re an avid runner!
FR: Yeah, I run a few miles every day…that helps, for sure, but I have to run a little extra.
South magazine web bonus material: Exclusive interview with Joel David Moore
Interview by Shena Verrett
The filming of the movie CBGB brought Hollywood to downtown Savannah. The simulated music venue transformed a small store front on East Congress Street into the lower east side of New York City, circa 1970s. The actors that filled the CBGB set were all big names in their own right, making it a star-studded cast. South correspondent Shena Verrett had a chance to meet one of the film’s stars, Joel David Moore, while he was in town. You recognize him from the cinematic blockbuster Avatar or in Fox’s series Bones. For a big star, he could not have been more down to earth. After an almost-missed opportunity to speak with the star, Verrett picked up the phone one day and on the other end was Joel David Moore. What a gentleman.
SM: How are things going post-production?
JDM: It’s great! I was just in Santa Barbara for my beautiful baby cousin’s wedding. We wrapped up CBGB with wonderment and excitement. It was an absolutely fabulous project to work on; from the actors, to the director, to the vision, the way that it was shot. Everything, you know even the hair and make-up… the design of this [movie]. When you’re trying to fit something into an early 1970s look, it’s very specific. All of these punk rockers of this time were very specific looking. So, [the crew] had to use a lot of comps and look at a lot of the history to make it right.
SM: You play Joey Ramone in the movie. Tell me about researching Joey and getting into the character. Are you musical at all?
JDM: Yeah, I’m musical, I’m not a musician. But, it was more about getting his specific character down, his accent. He’s from Queens, he’s Jewish … the environment he grew up around all affects how he walks and talks. Just going back and doing a lot of homework about it, reading as much as I can and watching documentaries. Literally standing in the mirror and finding the way that he kind of hunched his shoulders and the way that he turned his head a certain way. All of this was so important to developing that character. I got the offer about a month before we started shooting. So I had plenty of time to really kind of dig into the character and find what I needed to find out about him.
And there was so much drama in this band between the Joey Camp and the Johnny and Dee Dee Camp; with drummers going in and out. Then Dee Dee leaving for a while and coming back. But you know it all came down to this girl, Linda, that dated Joey for a while and Johnny essentially took her away, and then married her and lived the rest of his life with her! So, it created this…I would say hostile environment but it was always kind of under wraps. It was never out in the open.
JDM: Yeah. Joey is a very specific character because he was awkward. He was tall, 6’5” or 6’6”, very skinny. That was part of his charm and that was part of people being able to relate to him. Relating to the fact that he was this sort of role model to people, who stuck out in society and weren’t the cool kids at school. And that is where his charm and confidence came from. You’d see this guy; if you would have met him he’d be kind of awkward and gangly. But if you saw him on stage there’s just…there’s something that takes over, this confidence that takes over. That was part of trying to ride that line between playing the socially awkward inept or kind of not necessarily available person, but then on stage really being a punk rock legend.
SM: Who did you share the screen with? Who was engaged in the Joey Ramone part of the story while shooting the film?
JDM: Most of our [The Ramones] scenes were with Alan Rickman and Donal Logue. I’ve known Donal actually for a while and we’ve worked together before. We share an admiration for each other. Alan is just absolutely brilliant…I think he is one of our best character actors over the last few decades. We were all delighted to be able to work with Alan.
The Ramones were made up of these three other wonderful guys and wonderful actors: Julian Acosta, Stephen Shoop and Catfish [he laughs]. He was actually a local that ended up playing Tommy Ramone, the drummer. The director actually just saw him in town, and he’s a local musician…but he’s not a drummer. But he looks exactly like Tommy Ramone! So, they ended up having some conversations, found out that he was an actor and he came and played the part. And he played it perfectly. He learned drums for it and everything. So I was proud of my band! I had an easier job, all I had to do is lip-sync. I didn’t have to learn actual notes; they had to look like they knew how to play.
SM: Exactly. You can hold a microphone.
SM: Tell me about your experience here in Savannah, did you like our town?
JDM: I loved Savannah! Let me tell you! It’s such a charming little town. The city planning is so wonderful. They’ve done so much work with SCAD. And I know that SCAD has a lot to do with helping with the city planning and cleaning up the look.
But Savannah is such a special town because it has so much history. There’s cultural history, there’s racial history and you really feel that when you go in. And I think that you feel the fact that you’ve added to this history. This wonderful history it just kind of has in being so progressive—with having the first African-American police officers and everything beyond that. I was basically walking through all of these great little moments that Savannah’s had in its history. And you put that with the fact that it’s a clean city, it’s a fun city. It’s full of art, it’s full of music, it’s full of great Southern hospitality, which was my favorite part. Whenever you go to shoot somewhere you like to shoot somewhere where at least the people are cool. It’s almost more important than it being a cool town, it’s just that the people are cool. And that was definitely part of the enjoyable part it. Plus, I get to drink on the street!
SM: Yes, how fantastic is that?
JDM: That was fun. That’s like a boy’s dream! A beer…from a bar, put it in a plastic cup, walk out onto the street and walk into another bar. This is great!
SM: [laughs] It’s not a dream, this is a fact.
JDM: The nice part about that was, because it was summertime, we walked out and had a beer and sat on a park bench and listened to the outdoor bands that were going on. I was able to meet a lot of local musicians and then get some true talent feedback and Eric Culberson was one of them. Eric Culberson is somebody that we ended up connecting with and took us out on his boat. Took us out to the ocean and showed me an entire side of Savannah that I would just would not even know. We went to an old plantation; we went and saw that very old tree, that 300 year old tree down by the bay. It was an absolute joy to shoot there and I will definitely be back!
SM: We look forward to having you back, you were a tremendous down to earth pleasant person to meet and we welcome you anytime.
JDM: Well, thank you Shena. You know The Ramones have a song in your name, right?
SM: (laughs) Yes! And I am a punk rocker. It’s my theme song.
JDM: You are a punk rocker! Yes! (laughs)
SM: I’m going to switch gears just a little bit. You seamlessly go back and forth from TV to film. Tell me about some of your television experiences—more specifically Bones.
JDM: Yeah, well sure, the majority of what I do is film but I am able to go back to Bones and they write me in while I have availability. It’s my favorite show I’ve ever worked on. From Emily [Deschanel] to the show runners to the creator Hart Hanson; everybody is just wonderful on that show.
SM: And when they write you out your character, Dr. Fisher, you’re in an institution, basically.
JDM: (laughs) I’ve taken a couple of trips, yes.
SM: And when you are there, you live with your mom.
JDM: (laughs) But that’s kind of fun!
SM: It is!
JDM: Although, they’ve developed the character and I’ve asked them to do fun stuff with it, you know. And they really have. So his mood swings are very interesting. When he started out I had a pierced lip and black nail polish and was very goth and strange. Then that turned into—after traveling to the loony bin and coming back—I ended up very happy and trying to look at life positively. Then I’d come back from another trip to the loony bin and I’m somewhere in the middle and looking at life for exactly what it is. Now it’s to being sad and bummed out and depressed all the time. The character has elevated and it has become complex, which I have thoroughly enjoyed.
SM: So complex. I say that because within all of it—the loony bin, your mother—your character is also a ladies’ man.
JDM: Yeah! No doubt. (chuckles). It’s a fun show all together. It also makes it that much better when you can work with friends and people that you really enjoy.
SM: So you and your best friend Zachary work on different film and TV projects together, are you two the next Ben Affleck and Matt Damon? Any projects in the works?
JDM: We always try to find things we can work on together. We did the pilot this year called Let it Go, which the brilliant BJ Nash created and wrote. It didn’t get picked up, so we didn’t get to do that one together. But we’re always finding things to work on. We do shorts together; we just did a short for his company, The Nerd Machine. That was a whole group of really strong people and it was like a little short webisode. It was just a strong little short, you can find it. It’s definitely worth taking a look.
SM: Sounds fun! I’m all over it.
JDM: That’s me and Zach having a lot of fun. We’re always obviously looking for things to do together. He’s out of town shooting and a lot of times schedule don’t match. But they have fortunately this year a couple times.
SM: If I may slip into fashion mode, when are you coming out with your own line of hats? Is that one of your favorite fashion accessories?
JDM: Fedoras? Yes, I am known to sport a Fedora. But now that I have shorter hair it doesn’t work as much. I have to actually style my hair, how boring is that! [laughs]
SM: Anything else you want South magazine or you fans to know?
JDM: I’ll sign off by saying, it was a pleasure to be in Savannah. And I hope that either just my travels or another project brings me back there. I really enjoyed that town.
SM: Well, we look forward to that. I’m writing a letter to Hollywood right now to make sure they do that and send you back this way.
JDM: Really? Well, thank you Shena! Thank you so much.
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7th Annual Savannah Mile Run
- Hilton Head Savannah
- South’s Weekend Guide:
- Adventures of the Coast Guard
- The Wildest Jobs in the South
- Retirement Celebration for
Dr. John Duttenhaver, M. D.
- Lowcountry Staycations by Air, Land and Sea
- South’s Weekend Guide:
May 3-May 5
- Repurposing the First Friday Art March
- Cirque du Soleil: Quidam May 7-9
- South’s Top Travel App Picks
- Play Hooky-A Girl’s Day in Savannah
- South’s Weekend Guide:
April 25-April 28
- High Speed Action comes to Macon, Georgia
- The Mother of All Advice-Dawn’s Daughter by Dawn Baker
- May 23 2013
- Savannah Economic Development Authority Annual Luncheon
- Healthpac Benefit for the Alzheimer's Association of Coastal Georgia
- Preservation Festival Wrap Party
- May 24 2013
- Spoked! at Desoto Row Gallery
- War of Jenkins' Ear
- May 25 2013
- Armed Forces Festival
- The Savannah Mile
- Disney Junior Live on Tour! Pirate and Princess Adventure
- May 26 2013
- Armed Forces Festival
- May 27 2013
- Armed Forces Festival