Since his early soap days on One Life to Life, Jeff Fahey has come a long way as a reliable presence on film and television. With nearly 40 years and over 175 credits, the actor isn't showing signs of slowing down any time soon with his latest project in Saban Films' The Commando. I spoke to the actor about working with writer/director Asif Akbar, his efficiency on set filming his scenes in two days, his co-stars, and reflecting on the 1992 revolutionary sci-fi horror cult classic The Lawnmower Man.
"Before I even read the script when Elias [Axume] produced it, I've worked with him a number of times," the Alita: Battle Angel star said. "He sent the script over and told me that Mickey [Rourke] was involved and Mickey's an old friend. Michael Jai White was involved, and I'm a big fan of both of them, and I was looking forward to the possibility of working with Mike. Then I read the screenplay, loved the idea that it was not only just an action film, but that it was dealing with the struggles of what Michael's character was going through emotionally and psychologically with himself and his family, and how that layer was put in and I was drawn to it."
The Commando is about DEA Agent James Baker (White). With PTSD, he returns home after a botched mission and must now protect his family from a home invasion after a recently freed convict and his henchmen come after their stash of millions inside of the agent's home. Fahey, who's had experience working with others with PTSD, plays Sheriff Alexander. "Over the years and going back into the 70s, I've worked with the veterans quite a bit," he said. "So I've been part of these conversations directly and indirectly with a lot of vets that have suffered from this and having worked quite a bit in my humanitarian work in Afghanistan and Iraq. You meet people when it's happening in the field and in the aftermath. [Seeing it first hand], it's much more difficult to be the person going through it. That's why I was happy to see them dealing with it in a way in this film that wasn't overwhelming the film and becoming a film only about that."
Going in, Fahey didn't have much time to prep for his character but credited Akbar for running a smooth set. "Because it happened so fast, I made the decision and then just showed up [on set]," he said. "I think we shot all my scenes, and if I remember correctly, I think in two days, some of the stuff one morning, and the other stuff in the house one afternoon the following day. [On top of the] producer that I knew and had worked with a few times, I'm also working with the actors that I know personally and then working with a flexible director like Asif. It's pretty easy to bring some things to the table right away and make immediate decisions on playing a character. So I thought with this, there wasn't a lot of preparation, because there wasn't time. When I do have time, there is the preparation that goes into research and so on and building a character. But this guy, I thought he was going to play down the middle with flexibility going either way. You only have a certain amount of screen time with a character like this. You can't add too many layers that you can't explain later. So we just had the flow with, you know what I'm saying? Because I mean, if you add too much, there's no payoff. So it becomes it stands out in the film in a negative way rather than being in the background and sort of supporting the story."
One of Fahey's most pioneering works was the virtual reality-driven sci-fi horror film in 1992's The Lawnmower Man. That movie followed a doctor (Pierce Brosnan) who helps a developmentally disabled man Jobe (Fahey), become dangerously superhuman not only as a genius but also the metaphysical. The irony isn't lost to the actor on today's smartphone-driven overstimulation culture. "We're talking 30 years. I could never have possibly imagined that we would be this far in this deep into how technology would have advanced so far," he said. "I think it's quite amazing. I would say this. I wish I had a fraction, just a tiny, tiny moment of what, what Jobe and in his awareness, because I mean, let's put it this way. I'm lucky I was able to pull off this Zoom, let alone have every phone in the world ring at the same time. But no, I didn't. You can see that I still don't even know how to answer that. That question is where and how far we have gone with technology. I mean everything. It's amazing." The Commando, which also stars Aris Mejias, Gianni Capaldi, and Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone, comes to theaters, on-demand and digital on January 7.