The Nightmare closet

Kevin Nickelson:

Looking at your biography it seems your passion for film arts came later than others in the industry, having attained a Journalism degree before heading off to Los Angeles to seek your fortunes. Was there a point in your childhood, growing up in Albany, New York in the 80s, where you said “maybe one day I can do this” while watching movies on the tv?

Chad Michael Collins:

Honestly, acting never occurred to me during my childhood, or even a few years into my post-college LA experience. The first time I even entertained the thought was when a talent manager inquired about me acting, and I also happened to be watching Band of Brothers on HBO. That's when the first tiny little light bulb went off. I thought, "hey, wouldn't it be fun to play a WWII soldier in something like this? Crawling through the muck and the mud, playing pretend in that way?" That's what prompted me to take my first acting class. The rest is history as they say.

KN: You come out to L.A. and your first job is working for a boutique PR firm handling publicity for other clients. At this point, you had talent reps suggest you give acting classes a go. This seems to be a way of telling a person two things: that they have a certain look fit for Hollywood and that more than that is needed if you’re going to succeed. Was this just the push that you needed to give things a go as an actor?

CMC: Yeah, as I detailed above, it was the perfect synchronicity of that talent manager planting a seed and also watching something that I really enjoyed. Of course, I knew it would take much more than a passing interest, and for years I just had fun with it - the occasional class, the odd indie film. I had a lot to learn, but after a few years of exploring it, it was Sniper: Reloaded for Sony that truly got me to double-down and commit to the craft and profession.

KN: Your first break came in episodic television with a guest part in the 2005-2006 legal drama series Guilty or Innocent? One would think that the tight shooting schedule of a tv series would be the perfect learning session for a fledgling actor when it comes to behind the scenes production. How did this guest shot come to be and were you able to take all of the experience in as you learned your eye lines, blocking and dialogue?

CMC: Yes, that was probably the first role I ever booked, a non-union TV show that was a good experience for me. At that point, any experience was valuable, and the producers of that show also cast me in a low-budget psychological thriller called Room 33. Both were baptisms by fire - in class, they don't teach you the technical aspects of filming like you l laid out above. So I learned a lot just from being on set and absorbing all the information I could.

KN: Your first meaty feature role was in the 2005 chiller Legion of the Dead for director Paul Bales. Can you illuminate on the experience of being not only in your first film but also your first horror genre piece and getting to work alongside veterans like Bruce Boxleitner and Zach Galligan?

CMC: I think doing a horror movie is a rite of passage for an actor just starting out. They are almost always low budget, and there are always tons of them being filmed. So it was a great opportunity to learn, not just in playing a lead role, but in watching established veterans like Bruce and Zach do their thing.

KN: After Legion, you spent the next several years moving between film and television (tv movies Lake Placid 2 and The Christmas Card, guest work on the series Greek, the excellent 2009 horror entry Room 33) with some ease. Did having your first gig in tv allow you a certain comfortability to work in both entertainment mediums?

CMC: At that point in my career, I was pretty wishy-washy. I'd want to audition and act for months at a time, then the next six months I was focused elsewhere. I was fortunate to continue to book bigger and better things, which allowed me more opportunities to learn and grow, but I was still very much a neophyte actor. I still had much to learn about all mediums, genres, and types of shoots.

KN: Room 33 was your first starring feature. What intrigued me most about the picture was the setting of a mental institution for the horrors besieging a group of friends and that filming actually took place, primarily, at the famed Griffith Observatory along with the Lincoln Heights Jail in Los Angeles. What was that experience like? Location shoots can always be both fun and problem-laden I understand.

CMC: Yes, I shot that one early on in my career, and met a lot of people that I'm still friends with to this day. So it was a great experience, getting to play the male lead, some different material, night shoots, etc. Being up in the woods of Griffith Park (where they shot the famous scene in ET where he's riding his bike at night) was definitely a highlight!

KN: Your big break came with being added to the cast of Sniper: Reloaded in 2011 as Gunnery Sergeant Brandon Beckett. Elaborate on becoming a part of this hugely popular film series (in fact, you’ve now done four entries in the series) and being dropped into a worldwide fan base (of which I am a big member of). I’ve always felt that, if I needed a total badass at my side in a fight, I want it to be Beckett!

CMC: While all the TV and film experiences up to that point were a lot of fun and valuable to me, it was Sniper: Reloaded that really changed the game. The producer of LAKE PLACID 2 thought that I was a dead ringer for a young Tom Berenger, and for a few years, he was talking with my manager about trying to reboot the Sniper military action franchise. I was flattered to be considered, and when the movie finally came together, it was surreal. I hopped a flight to South Africa, and was in business class with Slash, which was a fun way to kick it all off! Filming was incredible - we were mostly on a nature preserve, so there was semi-wild animals all around us. Working with Billy Zane and Director Claudio Faeh was a gift. After that experience, that's when I knew I had to commit to acting full-time. It was life-changing, and being able to play Brandon Beckett across three more films in the franchise has been truly amazing.

KN: More television roles came and went. Then you stepped into role linked to an iconic character from classic horror, both in literature and movies: Frankenstein. In this case, it was as Gerhardt Frankenstein in the popular ABC series Once Upon a Time. The season two episode, called In the Name of the Brother, has you as the sibling of Victor Frankenstein. Yet, you are also a construct, in a way. One of his lab experiments. What was it like, getting to play in the waters of such an iconic horror name as Frankenstein and become part of the legacy?

CMC: Playing Frankenstein in Once Upon a Time is still one of my favorite all-time roles. When I auditioned for it, I had no idea what the role was. When I booked it and arrived in Vancouver, all was revealed. Getting the chance to play Gerhart, who is then re-animated as the monster, that was fun and made the character really sympathetic. For a role that only lasted one episode, I continue to be surprised and delighted by how many Once fans loved it, and how it resonated with them through the years.

KN: With credits such as the above-mentioned Legion of the Dead and Lake Placid 2 as well as the 2008 tv-chiller/fantasy Rock Monster, you seem to be equally at home in the genre as much as you are with other genres. What is it about creature features that appeal to you (other than just being a paid gig, of course! Lol)?

CMC: Honestly, at that point in my career I was open to working on anything - I needed the experience. And the barrier to entry on lower budget genre productions is much lower than mainstream TV, so it was a great place to cut my teeth as an actor. But all of those projects were just so fun. The creature features are always a blast, especially the ones that infuse an element of humor in them. I got into acting for the fun of it, so projects like that were a total joy for me to do.

KN: You have a pair of pending projects that I’ve read about and am really excited to see as a horror fan. First up is Creepshow, based on the George A. Romero/Stephen King film and the E.C. horror comics of the 1950s, for AMC television’s premium streaming service Shudder. Fantastic acting talents are involved here. In your episode, #3 in the first season, you are alongside Adrienne Barbeau, Giancarlo Esposito, and Tobin Bell. Can you shed some light on the series and what your episode entails?

CMC: Yes, I grew up with the Creepshow movies and I read a ton of Stephen King novels. So when I got a chance to guest star on the TV series anthology this year, I jumped at it. What's cool about this show is that everyone associated with it has a deep love and appreciation for the films, for King's mythology, and for the horror genre. The producers, writers, directors, F/X people - they are all top notch, and they all hopped aboard to pay homage. I can't say much about my episode, other than that it won't let audiences down - a lot of blood, a lot of camp, a lot of fun!

KN: The second project is one that is really catching fire. High Moon has been described as “Blade from the old west”, pitting a werewolf hunter/gunslinger from the 1880s against a modern-day werewolf biker gang. Seems like a perfectly fun mashup of the horror, western and action genres. Describe a little bit about your character in the piece, Colt, working with writer/actor/director Josh Ridgway, and shooting in what can be intense weather in Dallas, Texas. Oh, and working with that Boondock Saints legend, Sean Patrick Flanery.

CMC: Yes, High Moon releases 5/14 and we couldn't be more excited to have our action-horror-western out there. It's a ton of fun - an undead cowboy, an outlaw biker werewolf gang, a hot rod, and lots of fun fisticuffs and weapons. Total popcorn movie, and 80s throwback from start to finish. Josh was a fan of the Sniper films I'd done up to that point, so I was offered the lead role of Colt, which was a dream - an old West cowboy werewolf slayer? Definitely an actor bucket list item for me! He was great to work with, it was a fun collaboration. Sean Patrick Flanery was just great - as a human being and as an actor. He's hilarious in this movie and it was such a pleasure. Everyone did a great job, and I'm proud of what we made. The Texas weather wasn't too uncooperative, luckily, although there were a few days where we had hail, high winds, and some other issues, but that's filmmaking for you!

KN: Always the busy performer, are there any projects on the horizon that fans of Chad Michael Collins can eagerly look forward to? I noticed you are in production with the romcom The Christmas Cabin for director Dustin Robison for one.

CMC: With High Moon releasing and Creepshow coming out later in 2019, I'll also be in The Christmas Cabin, a light holiday rom-com where I play the main lead. Details for that will be coming later this year. Hopefully, we do another Sniper film before year's end, as there has been talk and the fans have been patiently waiting for another installment!

I always end my interviews with this question: What advice would you have for the youngster glued to the tv screen (or cell phone) who dreams of becoming an actor?

CMC: I've had such an unconventional journey to acting, and I think that's pretty true for everyone starting out - there is no handbook, no two roads are alike. My advice is to really get clear about it - if you want to become an actor, really get clear on why you want to, have an endgame in mind. What's the perfect project, what really floats your boat? It’s essential to stay connected to that joy, that excitement because the competition is fierce and you will mostly hear “no’s” throughout your career. Outside of that, be willing to learn and stay focused on possibilities - one closed door is not the end of anything, so you have to commit to making your own statistics.

My thanks to Chad Michael Collins for agreeing to do the interview. I think he has my childhood hyphenate vocation desire of space captain/pirate/cowboy beat with gunnery sergeant/undead cowboy/werewolf hunter beat, but he is one down-to-earth, cool dude at the core. May he have unbounded success in his Hollywood future.

A Journalism Degree and an undead Cowboy Werewolf Hunter: The Unusual Actor’s Journey of Chad Michael Collins

The passion for vocation is often tricky as to when it strikes in a person’s life timeline. For many, it starts during those pre-teen or even toddler years when the imagination flares the moment the tv comes to life or dad or mom come home with job tales to regale the kids with. For some, it arrives later (in high school or college, usually) after fate itself has thrown its customary array of curve balls. Myself, I started in the former category (dreaming of space captain/pirate/cowboy work) but ended with the latter (writing about movies and the artists involved after eighteen years of government work). However I arrived at it, I made it to the point where I could interview incredible talents such as Chad Michael Collins. Collins’ road to the performing arts and entertainment realm sprouted out of the unlikely seedlings of a college journalism degree, of all things. Armed with this citation of achievement, Collins began work with a public relations firm in Los Angeles. How this turned to acting pursuits can only best be described by the man himself. Without further adieu, I bring you my chat with Mr. Chad Michael Collins….

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