Comisery Week: Interview with Richard Anderson, the Man with Two Roles
Comisery is an Asian-American Science Fiction Screwball Comedy that Quentin Lee and I created and made over eight weeks during the lockdown. It stars Bee Vang, Harrison Xu, Amy Hill, Jennifer Field, Nat Ho, Sheetal Sheth, Richard Anderson, and Verton Banks. It was a screwball comedy response to the pandemic and living under lockdown. It premieres on September 1st on Quentin's streaming service AsianAmericanMovies.com and on Amazon Video.
Full disclosure: when I'm not working on screenplays and film work, I'm a correspondent for Bleeding Cool. In the week leading up to the premiere, the editors of Bleeding Cool have let me run a series of interviews with the cast and crew to talk about what it was like to make a movie during the lockdown, shot on zoom, without leaving home. It's a new form of narrative filmmaking that the industry is still coming to terms with.
Today, we talk to Richard Anderson, who has been acting since the age of 9. The Montreal-born Richard met Quentin Lee on a play when they were teenagers. He is a consummate character actor; he has played a baddie in The Kingdom, horror director Brian Skiba's Rottentail, real-life killer Gerald Lee Powers in Murdered by Morning (Oxygen), Inclusion Criteria. It was written by and starring former Waltons star Judy Norton, and most recently as one of the main characters in Repo Man director Alex Cox' Tombstone Rashomon. Richard plays two roles in Comisery: Dave Lighter from Florida, a racist harasser whose entire life is really a cry for help, and Howard Hapman, Camila Kang's boss at the TV station where she works as a reporter. Both characters are radically different. Dave becomes a client of Camila's aunt Mary Suzuki Miller, a psychotherapist, and Howard has a deeply complicated relationship with Camila.
Richard, you were the first non-Asian cast member to be recruited after we got the core cast. Quentin had created this right-wing troll. How did he pitch it to you?
First of all, I was honored that he even considered asking me — although I think this was based on a budget lol. Jk. — because I'd been wanting to work with Quentin for quite some time, but the opportunity just hadn't presented itself until a series of text messages between him and I about a script of my own that I wanted his opinion and feedback on. That's when he asked me if I'd be interested in a role in a web series he was developing. Of course, I said yes, without even knowing what it was about or what the role was. So he didn't really have to pitch it. For me, it was a no brainer. It was an opportunity to work with a childhood friend from Montreal who, IMO, is one hell of a Director. Where do I sign?
How long have you known Quentin?
I met Quentin when I was 12 or 13, I believe. You might have to ask him; he may have a better idea. He saw one of the stage productions I was in back in Montreal and cast me in his first stage production called "On the other side of the Rainbow." Since then, we both pursued our dreams to work in the film industry — Quentin as a Director and myself as an Actor — and stayed in touch ever since.
How did you approach the role when you first appeared?
Like I approach every role… I was all in. I think almost every roll I've ever had, has been the type of character that if an actor doesn't completely commit mind, body, and soul, then they come up short. You have to immerse yourself, or the characters come off as silly or over the top unintentionally. So I approached both Dave and Howard in the same fashion. When I went searching for the most human parts about them, I found through that process the comedic elements of their personalities, like their mannerisms and idiosyncrasies. These things made them come alive. They were real now, not just a name on a page; they were tangible.
When I saw you, I completely rethought the role of Dave Lighter from Florida. I filled out the character, so he's more of a person. Then I thought Dave was still not quite substantial enough for you, so I created Howard Hapman, Camilla's producer at the TV station, and her boss. I already had his messy relationship with her in mind. What was your process in creating him and adding the layers?
I think I answered part of this in the previous question, but to reiterate it was to find the human characteristics about the characters that made them funny and engaging. These were absurd characters that I think we've all come across in our lives at one time or another. The type of people you didn't think existed until they showed up in your life for better or worse. I also added some flavor with the usage of props, background, and a couple of times with lighting to help define the characters and their situation. Then I just let them speak for themselves. It also didn't hurt to have [the] awesome talent to work off of and kick-ass directors and writers. ;)
Would you be up for a sequel if we get to do it?
In a heartbeat.
Comisery is available AsianAmericanMovies.com and on Amazon Video.