The 411 Interview: Richard Brake
Richard Brake is a well-known British-American character actor who has been working in movies and television, according to imdb, since 1993. Brake has appeared in such movies as Death Machine, Batman Begins, Hannibal Rising, Kingsman: The Secret Service, and Mandy, and TV shows like NCIS: Los Angeles, Above Suspicion, Mob City, and Game of Thrones (check out his entire imdb filmography here). Brake’s latest movie is the highly anticipated sequel to The Devil’s Rejects, Three from Hell, once again written and directed by Rob Zombie and starring Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley, and Sid Haig and which can be seen in select theatres via Fathom Events on September 16th, 17th, and 18th, 2019 (tickets are available at FathomEvents.com/3FromHell. In Three from Hell, Brake plays unknown (until now) Firefly family member Winslow Foxworth Coltrane and gets to join in on the usual Firefly family mayhem. In this interview. Crane talks with this writer about making Three from Hell, working once again with Rob Zombie (Brake appeared in Zombie’s Halloween II and 31), and more.
Bryan Kristopowitz: How did you get involved with Three from Hell?
Richard Brake: Same way I always get involved with Rob – which I love. You’ll be hanging out at home, and the phone will go “bing” with a text from Rob saying “Hey man what’re you doing in February or in two months’ time?” or whenever he’s doing the project, and inevitably I write back and say “Hey man, I’m doing nothing if you’ve got something in mind.” So Rob got in touch, I got the little “bing,” I called him, we spoke, he told me what the project was, and of course it was incredibly exciting. Then he told me who the character was, which made me even more excited to be involved. Amazing, amazing, world that Rob has created over the past two films, and he now continues with 3 from Hell.
BK: How did you approach your Three from Hell character Winslow Foxworth Coltrane? Was it difficult to get into the headspace of a character who is, for the lack of a better phrase, a bad guy?
RB: No, obviously I’ve been doing it for a long, long time and I’ve been playing people from the dark side for a long time. I really don’t find it very difficult at all. I actually relish and enjoy it. I think at some point when I was a very young actor, it just dawned on me you have to be fearless and everyone has it inside them, this dark side, and you have to be willing to go there and not let your little head go “A! I can’t think thoughts like that!” and just embrace it all. So, no, I don’t find it difficult, in fact I love doing it. It keeps me sane, I think. (chuckles).
I get to go to – I remember I was doing Hannibal Rising and I went into work and in that movie I ate a child. So I went to work and ate a child, and then I would go home and at the time I had two young boys – I’d put them to bed and think that’s crazy. It’s catharsis. I get to go to work and do some pretty evil stuff and then I go home and am a normal dad.
BK: What was the hardest Three from Hell scene to film? The easiest?
RB: None of it was difficult. All of it was an absolute joy. Which was the easiest? It was all easy. That’s why it’s so great working with Rob. It’s such an exploration of creativity from the top down. Everyone is inspired to be their very creative best, including the actors, producers, and crew, even the runner who may be doing his first film as an intern is just inspired to be as creative and hardworking as they can be. Rob just brings that out in people, which is one of the many reasons why I love working with him. I never found it difficult to work with Rob in the three films we’ve done together. If anything, precisely the opposite.
BK: What was it like working with co-stars Bill Moseley and Sheri Moon Zombie? How long did it take you to become a family?
RB: I’d worked with Sheri before, and I just adore her. She’s an incredible actor. My favorite scenes in fact from 31 are the last scenes when I’m with her because she’s so brilliant, and it allowed me to do some of my best work. You can only be as good as the person you’re working opposite and she was phenomenal in those scenes at the end of that movie. I relish in the opportunity to work with Sheri.
Bill I hadn’t worked with, but I knew his work and I couldn’t wait to start working with him on this film. It was incredibly great to work with the two of them. My first day on the film was a scene with the three of us in the middle of the movie. It’s opens with just Bill and I working in the scene together and that was going well, we did some improvisation and that was fun, then in walks Sheri, she was just on fire. She plays that character so well. Watching her being Baby and thinking “God, she is brilliant.” Then realizing actually the camera was on me and thinking “Fuck I should be thinking as Foxy” and taking a second and realizing: well actually, this is probably what he would think. Something along these lines. It really gelled right away – the relationship between the three of us, and I think it just grew stronger and stronger as we shot the movie.
BK: How was Rob Zombie as a director?
RB: He is absolutely the most fantastic director I’ve ever worked with. I love the man. I’ve worked with incredible directors, many of them have won awards. Spielberg, Brian De Palma, Ridley Scott – just a host of incredible directors I’ve been able to work with, and not taking anything away from them, I’ve never actually worked with a bad director. I’ve been really lucky, but Rob is always my all-time favorite. He’s just a creative force of nature unlike anyone else, and he inspires, like I said before, everybody, including myself, without doubt to do their absolute best work. So, yeah, Rob’s a genius.
BK: You worked with Rob Zombie on his previous movie 31 and on his Halloween II. How were those experiences compared to Three from Hell?
RB: Well, they’re all great experiences. They’re all very different just in terms of they’re all different movies. Obviously Halloween II was the first time I worked with Rob, and obviously I was in that film a lot less, but just the few days I worked with him was so much fun. He’s a lovely man.
I remember I hadn’t met him before I started filming, I went on tape with the casting director, and then I got offered the role and of course I was incredibly excited to be a part of Rob’s films. And then I of course know Rob for his music, movies and the image he gives off is this absolutely crazy, mad-wild man of rock n’ roll, and then when I flew to Atlanta, I remember sitting outside of my trailer and over comes Rob, and we start talking about vegan cheese, because I’m a vegetarian, but I just can’t give up the cheese. Anyway, I’m sitting there talking to Rob Zombie about vegan cheese? Oh my god, this was just not how I imagined it. Because he is just an incredibly lovely human being. Incredibly gentle, kind and big hearted. A great guy.
Then 31 and 3 from Hell, of course we had a lot more work to do together, but there wasn’t much different other than the movie. We approached the characters differently. But other than that, working with Rob Zombie is just like being in a playground of creativity, which is probably the best thing an actor can have.
BK: How much of Coltrane’s hilariously profane dialogue was what Rob Zombie wrote, and how much of it, if any, was improvised? Some of it sounds very “off the cuff.”
RB: Yeah, I mean it’s a mixture. Rob’s a hilarious writer, I think he’s an incredibly underrated writer. He’s just so, so good and dialogue in particular – he just has some really funny stuff. I have no idea how much was improvised or how much was in the original script. It’s hard for me to remember all of that. But I will say that you know even a lot of the improvisation sort of found their kernel in the mind of Rob Zombie, because he would often come over before we started improvising something and say “How about you try this?” He’d give me a few ideas of something, so even if it’s improvised, it still may have come from Rob. I give credit where it’s due. But I have to give Rob a lot of credit for that mind’s madness. It’s just a jumping bean of creativity.
BK: You’ve worked on a number of high profile genre movies and TV shows over the years, like Batman Begins, Doom, Game of Thrones, and Supernatural. Do you seek out genre roles or are those the roles you just tend to get?
RB: No I just try to stay busy as an actor, I love acting. I don’t particularly check out genre pieces. I love genre pieces as a person who watches films and TV. But in terms of my own career, I just like taking on good roles and being involved in good projects, and most importantly working with people who are easy to get on with and very good at what they do. I’ve been very lucky to do that. Especially when it comes to Rob and the people he brings around him.
BK: Do you consider Three from Hell a horror movie, or is it more of a crime movie/western?
RB: Well I think, again, one of the real strengths of Rob is that his movies really cross genres. I mean they’re definitely horror movies, and that’s the one they get pigeon-holed into for obvious reasons, but definitely all of his films can be other genres as well. There’s definitely touches of western and crime movies in this particular film, and likewise in 31 (other genres like sort of a thriller, a The Running Man vibe to it) and you could look at that across all of Rob’s movies.
BK: The “Mexico” location looked pretty rundown and, well, nasty. Was it as nasty in real life as it looked in the movie?
RB: No, that’s the magic of movies. Also the result of having an incredibly good production team putting it together. Again, I think that boils down to how Rob surrounds himself with very, very talented people and why he often uses the same cast and crew in so many of his films. These are people who really do their best work and that’s definitely the case in terms of the set designing, all of the DP, everybody.
BK: What do you hope audiences and fans experience while watching Three from Hell?
RB: You know, I never think about things like that. I just hope they enjoy it. That’s the most important thing. When people come out and just really enjoyed the last few hours.
BK: Would you be game for a Winslow Foxworth Coltrane standalone movie?
RB: All in the mind of Rob Zombie. I’m happy to do whatever Rob comes up with. People ask if there’s ever going to be a sequel to 31 because they want to know what happens at the end. Again, that’s in the mind of Rob Zombie. One day the phone will go “bing” and Rob will say “Hey, man, I’m doing a new movie and I want you to be in it.” So we’ll see. Who knows?
BK: We know what Coltrane thinks of it, based on his T-shirt, but how do you, personally, feel about disco?
RB: I like disco in extreme moderation. I don’t mind a little disco especially if I’m out for the night.
A very special thanks to Richard Brake for agreeing to participate in this interview and to Judy Merrick and Priscilla Rios for setting it up.
Three from Hell’s three night nationwide release via Fathom Events is September 16th, 17th, and 18th and tickets are available at FathomEvents.com/3FromHell
Check out the Three from Hell Facebook page here
Check out the Saban Films Facebook page here.
All images courtesy of Lionsgate/Saban Films.