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Dave Vescio as a Prof Net expert

Posted by Levine Communications Office on January 23, 2012

Interesting Expert of the Week, Villain Edition

Friday, January 20, 2012

Kevin Spacey in “Seven,” Anthony Hopkins in “Silence of the Lambs,” Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight.” A good actor can elevate the role of a villain and turn a movie into a must-see. But being a good movie villain is harder than it looks. Witness Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Batman & Robin,” John Travolta in “Battlefield Earth,” or Sharon Stone in, well, pretty much everything. For this week’s Interesting Expert column, we turned to Dave Vescio, horror actor and expert villain, to find out what makes these villainous actors tick. Vescio, a former CBS photojournalist, has played numerous movie villains since making his movie debut in 2005. Since then, he has worked alongside Alec Baldwin, Blake Lively, Juliette Lewis and more. We sat down with Vescio to find out more about how he started acting, how he prepares for his roles, and what he likes most about playing a villain.

What led you to acting? Is it something you always wanted to do?

I actually didn’t start acting until I was 32 years old. Before that, I was a TV photojournalist working for CBS News, and all of my mentors (who all won Emmys up the yin yang) told me that if I keep on doing what I’m doing, I could win an Emmy within the next 5-10 years. But I didn’t care for that, to be honest. I just worked as a TV photojournalist because it was easy to do; I had a natural talent for it. But it’s not what I really wanted to do with my life. So, I took a year off to co-teach TV production and electronic newsgathering at Virginia Tech to figure things out. That’s when I decided to become a professional actor instead. So, I read over three-dozen acting books; two of them really stood out to me. One, “True and False,” was written by David Mamet, and the other was written by his students. So, I applied to Mamet’s acting conservatory in New York City, finally got accepted, and I then started to train full-time there as an acting student in June of 2002.

I guess what led me to becoming a professional actor versus anything else in life is that as a TV photojournalist, I was just an observer of life, and I guess I got jealous of the characters in these stories that I was hired to shoot/report about. So, I guess I chose acting as a profession so I could just experience my own scenarios and become a character that others got to observe from a distance instead. I just wanted to perform and stop being the constant observer. So that’s what I did. I switched sides.

You have a preference for provocative and controversial roles. What is it about those roles that appeals to you?

Actually, that’s a three-way street. Yes, I love to perform in provocative and controversial roles, but, at the same time, these controversial storytellers like to hire me as well. But a movie or a TV program cannot exist without a paying audience, which happens to be the third element, and they also enjoy watching me in these types of storylines. Or maybe they just watch these storylines to criticize them. Either way, they paid for the experience, and they want to be taken to these very dark places we’re all taking them to.

As for what appeals to me about these type of roles, I guess I just want the audience members to feel something, to experience something, to think about something, versus to just entertain them. I’m always trying to open the audience’s heart, mind and soul to an idea or to a feeling that may get underneath their skin somehow someway — to give them an experience they have never experienced before or rarely get to experience in real life or on screen. But, in the end, it still affects them somehow someway, but from the safety of their own home, or from their movie theater seat instead. Because we do live in a very dangerous world; people are raped, molested, killed, used and abused, stolen from, etc., every single day of every single year of every single century. So, I feel it’s my job as an artist to remind them of these things, to get them to ponder about these monstrosities, but, in the end, to protect themselves from these types of human beings, as well, because they do exist — and the more one knows about the evils of this world, the more one can protect oneself from these types of experiences.

What kind of preparation do you do for roles? (I hope it’s not Method acting!)

Ha ha ha — yep, it’s definitely Method acting!

For me, it’s either Method acting or it’s just pretend acting — and pretend acting just doesn’t work for me. Trust me, I’ve tried. In the end, my audience has told me over and over again that they would rather watch me perform my characters naturally (for real) versus pretending. Otherwise, it just doesn’t affect them at all; it doesn’t seem truthful or authentic to them. So, I do feel it’s my job to give the paying audience what they want/need from me, because they did pay for this experience. I was taught the customer is always right; no matter what, so I’m constantly listening to them and figuring out how to change my acting style to fit their needs – but, at the same time, fit my needs as an artist, as well. It’s a collaboration between me the industry and the audience, all at the same time. And I really do enjoy this kind of collaboration. It’s what I live for! And the paying audience wants me to be a Method actor, so I became a Method actor for them, which means that I try to make the scene and the relationships of these characters as real and as truthful as possible. That’s what I try to do with every single one of my characters in every single scene that I ever perform in. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but I’m always trying to make it as real as possible.

Does your experience as a photojournalist affect your acting?

I think it does. I think everything I’ve ever done in my life affects my acting somehow, someway. It all feeds off one another. Plus, I’m a big fan of using sense memory to help make these imaginary circumstances as truthful as possible, meaning that I need to make this stuff very personal. And if I can use a past memory that means everything to me, then it does make my job a hell of a lot easier. Plus, it gives me something to focus on in the scene. It’s a win-win situation no matter how you see it!

What’s your favorite horror movie?

That’s a tough question. I’ve enjoyed so many horror films over the decades. Since I can only pick one horror movie, I would have to say it’s “Psycho.” I remember seeing this movie for the very first time on TV when I was maybe 6 or 7 years old, and it really scared the hell out of me. I mean, that mother was so wicked and so violent towards those women. She definitely did not want Norman to be in love with any other woman besides herself. When you finally find out that it was Norman the whole time — very, very scary. I never saw that ending coming. That was a total mindblower.

The other reason “Psycho” is my favorite horror movie is because it has lasted as one of the top horror movies of all time for over five decades now. To create a piece of art that lasts beyond one’s death is, in my opinion, considered great art. “Psycho” has definitely done that. To this day, it’s still seen by the masses all around the world — pretty impressive if you ask me.

Tell us about your latest projects.

If you get the chance, you should definitely check out my controversial dark comedy called “Hick,” starring Alec Baldwin, Blake Lively, Juliette Lewis, Rory Culkin, Chloe Moretz and Eddie Redmayne. It comes out to a movie theater near you this spring. Also, my science fiction movie, “Air Collision,” starring Reginald VelJohnson and Jordan Ladd, will be released on Netflix, Redbox, and possibly Syfy this coming March/April. And you can always check out my upcoming movie trailers at my Twitter account: @DaveVescio. Enjoy!

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