In horror filmmaking, there’s a sense of equality amongst actors that one doesn’t normally see in corroboration with other cinematic genres. Whereas drama, comedy and action have clear and mandated stars, aside from a scene-stealing cameo performance or breakthrough supporting role time and again, horror films seem to have an equal respect for every contributor, whether it be the “final girl”, the resilient victims or even the masked killer himself. This is even more justified by the loyal and vocal horror fanbase that will hold up A-list Hollywood Celebrities like Jamie Lee Curtis and Tom Cruise on the same pedestal as Kane Hodder and Udo Kier, as they judge not by the size of the paycheck or amount of screen time, but the dependability of a performance.
And for an actor to standout amongst these memorable and persevering performers, one must deliver a performance with gusto and absolute respect for the material, and it’s through that process that Sean Bridgers has proven time and time again to be one of the most gripping actors working in the genre today. Whether it’s performing with shocking and sinister duality in The Woman or grounding himself in impressive realism amongst character acting greats in Deadwood, Bridgers has equated versatility with intuition and has made dependability his modus operandi within his craft. Bridgers wears a new face as Dawai in Chad Crawford Kinkle’s Jug Face, reuniting with The Woman producer Andrew van den Houten and actress Lauren Ashley Carter to offer a naïve and heartbreaking character inside of a frightening tale of tradition, betrayal and destiny. Bridgers gave his time to Diabolique for JUG FACE WEEK and spoke on his new role, understanding the world of Jug Face and the mindset behind his methods…
DIABOLIQUE: You play a very crucial role in Jug Face, a genre film that almost entirely exists in its own living, breathing universe. What would you say attracted you to this role, specifically?
SEAN BRIDGERS: I loved the idea of playing a shaman, or “the seer”. [Dawai] is sort of the chosen one. He’s like a witch doctor, but he’s sort of an imbecile. So I thought that idea was something I wanted to play with. Also, when I read it, I saw that Dawai was completely in love with Ada, so I played with that too. [laughs]
DIABOLIQUE: Considering you have previously been in secluded world environments in Deadwood and Children of the Corn II, is there something about unfamiliar worlds that is creatively attractive to you, in terms of performance?
BRIDGERS: Yeah, that’s one of my favorite things about working in movies or television: creating an illusion. I get paid to play and make whatever is not real seem real for an audience, so I’m always looking for that type of challenge; to see if you can pull off another world. It’s always great and it’s one of the things I’m most pleased with in Jug Face, because I had concerns about [the film]. I was like, “How is this world going to make sense?” But everyone did such a fantastic job at creating the tone: the sets were fantastic, as were the costumes; Jug Face was shot in such a way that it felt like a place you recognized, but it was off-kilter. I always love exploring those things.
DIABOLIQUE: You previously worked with Andrew van den Houten in The Woman, where you took on an antagonistic role. Was the vulnerability and helplessness of your character a quality that you wanted to portray following your power-hungry villain role in The Woman?
BRIDGERS: Yeah. I mean, to be honest with you, I don’t always give a lot of thought to what role it is [in the film], in terms of playing the villain or a sympathetic character. I really liked the script of Jug Face and had thought it was a good story. I would have been happy to play anybody in [Jug Face]. But I did have an idea on how to approach the role. Andrew and I discussed [my approach], which I then discussed with Chad, and I thought it would be unique, so I was excited about trying that. But it doesn’t matter to me if the role is a good guy, bad guy, whatever. It’s all about the story for me.
DIABOLIQUE: Was there anything that wasn’t in the script that you specifically wanted to bring to the role of Dawai?
BRIDGERS: Yeah. I was given a lot of freedom to come up with my version of Dawai. I understood what his purpose was in the story. But in terms of my choices, I had a lot of freedom, and I’m very grateful to Chad for that. He’s a great director and a great dude to talk to and just run ideas off of. I decided [Dawai] should have glasses because he reminded me of someone from my hometown who had qualities like Dawai.
But those ideas sort of come together and then come to you. So I don’t always really know what I’m going to do until I do it anyway. I don’t like to rehearse a lot and I try to create a believable person and then just see what happens. I did that with The Woman and with Jug Face: I just let it happen and then roll with it.
That’s just how I work because what I’m looking for is a real moment, or real moments to occur. I want to surprise myself and I want to be surprised by the people I’m working with. My job as the actor then, in film and television, is to give the director lots of options. So I go at it where I just sit myself into the character and then I just play.
It’s really up to the director and the editor to craft the performance. So I gave Chad a bunch of different options. On just about every take, I’d do 2-3 different versions of [the performance]. [Film] is really a director’s medium, so your job as an actor on a film is to be real and to be present in that specific screen and at that specific moment. Beyond that is just too much for my little brain to handle. [laughs]
DIABOLIQUE: Your character is unique for the fact that even amongst this backwoods colony, he is still considered an outsider due to his duty to the Pit. Did you find it difficult to adopt an outsider mentality for this character?
BRIDGERS: You know, I think that was one of those things that was really well crafted into the story. There were little things that did become apparent when we were shooting the film. One of them is, if you notice in the film, Dawai never touches anyone. Dawai is probably the sanest person in that group; he’s considered the outcast but Dawai is quite sane compared to the rest of them.
If he grew up in a cult like that, Dawai, at a very early age, must have realized that you can’t completely trust relationships. So he doesn’t touch anyone, except a few times that he touches Ada but it’s very specific and it’s kind of a big deal for Dawai to touch her. But that wasn’t something I thought about when I read Jug Face. I was just playing the character and working with all of those other wonderful actors, and those things just happen. I also think the ending of the movie is a gorgeous, beautiful shot that’s really well conceived. I think Dawai is left where he started: alone with his work.
DIABOLIQUE: Considering the synchronicity that may be difficult to achieve when crafting a world that’s unfamiliar to the cast, did you collaborate with your fellow actors in order to nail down the inflections and cadence of that society’s language?
BRIDGERS: No, I didn’t. I did what I did and then they did what they did, and then we sort of let things happen. Everybody in Jug Face was really brilliantly cast. It was just a real treat to work with everybody. I don’t want to tamper with that. I had discussions with some of the other actors and we talked about our choices in each scene and the different ways it could go. But that would happen at night, after shooting, preparing for the next day. But there wasn’t much rehearsing, and I don’t want to tell anyone what to do if I don’t need to. [The cast] were all fantastic.
DIABOLIQUE: Jug Face absolutely gives a good amount of focus to Dawai’s unrequited love for Ada. Was this emotional story arc something you might have been worried about being overshadowed by the main conflict of the film?
BRIDGERS: I wasn’t worried about [that arc] being overshadowed, because that was up to me to find those moments. I don’t really know, but I certainly wasn’t worried about it because, again, you make different choices when you’re shooting a scene. If you have 5 or 6 takes, you play with the performance and can give slightly different versions of [the scene], and then it’s really up to Chad and the editors to craft it. The final product is really up to the director.
But I knew Dawai was in love with Ada. Whenever you play a character, it’s important to know what that character loves and what that character fears. The interesting thing about Dawai is that what he loves and fears is Ada, and that how affection was doomed anyway, in a sense. That’s why I think the ending is so beautiful and it really surprised me when I first saw the movie how touched I was because it’s a horror movie, and I was really enjoying it and then the ending comes and I was like, “Oh my God, that’s sad.”
DIABOLIQUE: The ending is absolutely somber, more so when you factor in how much you root for those characters and how close they get to succeeding. How did you and Lauren Ashley Carter work on your characters interpersonal relationship, especially after the relationship your characters had in The Woman?
BRIDGERS: Well, that was a relief to not have to drag Lauren around and scream at her. [laughs] I was just grateful that I could be nice to Lauren in Jug Face. We would talk about things and talk about the script. Lauren is really talented and really smart, and she was pretty locked in to what she was doing. Many of the scenes I had with Lauren, to a huge degree, she drove the scene, meaning her intentions is what drove the scene and my job was to react to that, facilitate it and just keep it going. So, really, I just reacted off of her. Lauren was pretty clear about what she wanted to do, and I think that she accomplished that for sure.
DIABOLIQUE: Were you at all concerned with working with Chad Crawford Kinkle on his first feature film, considering how ambitious the story was going to be and how wide of a mythological scope he was going to cover?
BRIDGERS: I trusted Chad. I had a couple conversations with him on the phone about Dawai and on the script. Chad is very calm and intelligent, and he knows what he wants. I wasn’t concerned at all, and I actually think that it’s exciting sometimes to work with a first time director. I had no concerns about Chad, and another aspect of the production that would put to rest any nervousness, had I had any, was that Andrew van den Houten was producing Jug Face. I knew Chris Heinrich was going to be Director of Photography. Chris was the Focus Puller and First Assistant Camera Operator on The Woman, so we worked really closely together on that and Chris is just a brilliant artist.
So I knew Jug Face would look good, the other actors were great and that we had a solid story. I knew that Chad had a vision for what he wanted. You always go into things with trepidation and fear, like with any new job, but as soon as we started working, I knew that the whole movie was going to work. And Chad is a very steady, calm person, so that was nice. If he ever was panicked or pulling his hair out- actually, he’s bald so he couldn’t do that [laughs]- but he never tipped his hand towards those feelings, which is important for a director.
DIABOLIQUE: Do you think Kinkle’s directing style works better for you as an actor, especially since your performance is Jug Face, and amongst many of your projects as well, is more quiet, emotional and more physically rooted?
BRIDGERS: Well, I don’t like being told what to do, and that doesn’t happen very often. I’ve made my living as an actor for over 20 years, so it’s been quite a while since I’ve had a director who gets out of line with you and are real pricks because they don’t really know what acting is. I want a director who will let me try what I want to try, so that’s what I’m doing and if it’s not quite hitting the mark, help me find the focus on [the performance]. That’s all. A lot of times, that’s best done through, at least for me, communicating calmly with a certain amount of brevity and clarity, and then I’ll have something else to go for. Then we’ll just try it again, and see what happens.
Chad worked that way and Lucky [McKee] worked that way. I know that Lucky had a conversation with Chad where he told Chad to not necessarily yell “Cut!” sometimes when I’m working because I’ll just keep going sometimes. We did that on The Woman, quite a bit and as I said, some of it works. Sometimes I’ll do that before they yell “Action!” where you’ll kind of start [your performance], especially if you’re coming in, like if you’re starting within a scene that’s already started. You ramp it up and you get into the script and you get it. Then, you get into the dialogue and go on, and sometimes I’ll carry on later because, as I said, I’m not always exactly sure of what I’m going to do.
So you should just sort of let it all happen and everybody is comfortable with that. That can be a lot of fun and I enjoyed doing that. I’ve been very lucky because I’ve liked 98% of the directors that I’ve worked with for the over 20 years that I’ve been working. The 2% know who they are, because I let them know. But it’s a hard job to direct, but the actors need to have faith in the director and the director needs to have faith with the actors. Anyways, it’s all really about communicating as human beings and realizing that we’re all trying to tell a story. That’s what everybody is there for: the crew, the grips, the electricians, the sound guys, make-up and hair. Everybody is there to tell a story and that’s what is important for everybody to keep in mind so that nobody freaks out.
DIABOLIQUE: Do you have any future projects currently in development or awaiting release?
BRIDGERS: Well, I don’t have anything awaiting release. I’m working on a TV show for the Sundance Channel called Rectify that aired this summer. We shot six episodes and I’m not sure when we’re going back, but we’ve been picked up for a Second Season, so I’m just waiting to hear. That’s all scheduling stuff, though; who knows?
I’ve got lots of things in development. I have a couple of movies that I thought I’d be doing right now, but you know how independent movies are. What I’m doing, as we speak, is that I’m in Shreveport, Louisiana with my son, Jackson. He’s playing The Last of Us and I’m going to meet with a director on a project. So hopefully, wish me luck. Knock-on-wood, I’ll get it. It’s a great script and a great, great part so hopefully, I’ll be doing that for the next couple of weeks.
As mentioned before, Jug Face is releasing this Friday, August 9th in select theatres, and the film is still available for rental now on iTunes, Amazon and VOD platforms. The film is also releasing on DVD and Blu-ray on October 15th, 2013, and is available for preorder on Amazon and other retail outlets. For more information on the film, you can visit its official website here or visit here for a list of screening locations. For more from Sean Bridgers himself, you can visit his official website or follow him on Twitter: @SeanBridgers.
For more information on Sean Bridgers and Jug Face, including our exclusive interviews with Lauren Ashley Carter and Sean Young, check back later on DiaboliqueMagazine.com during our JUG FACE WEEK! Additionally, you can check our previous JUG FACE WEEK interview with producer Andrew van den Houten here and Chris Hallock’s interview with Jug Face director Chad Crawford Kinkle here. Also, don’t forget to pick up Diabolique Issue #17, our incredibly great and star-studded horror-comedy issue, which is available for preorder now and will be on shelves and available for Digital Download soon!
– By Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine, as well as a contributing writer for Diabolique Magazine and Fangoria Magazine. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on several screenplays spanning over different genres and subject matter, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.