The Dose: Actor, UNT Alumnus Peter Weller On Starring In ‘Skin Trade’

The Dose: Actor, UNT Alumnus Peter Weller On Starring In ‘Skin Trade’

The Dose: Actor, UNT Alumnus Peter Weller On Starring In ‘Skin Trade’
May 13
16:01 2015

Preston Barta // Contributing Writer

[dropcap]U[/dropcap]NT alumnus Peter Weller (“RoboCop,” 1987) has been on a hot streak lately, directing some of the latest and greatest episodes of shows on television– having recently directed episodes of “Salem,” “Hawaii Five-0” and “Justified.” Most notably, Weller directed and starred in a few of the strongest episodes of “Sons of Anarchy.” However, in “Skin Trade,” Weller takes off the directing hat to co-star alongside his friend Dolph Lundgren.

“Skin Trade,” co-written by Lundgren, focuses on human trafficking, Serbian gangsters and the police officers aiming to take them all down. In the film, Weller portrays Costello, a New Jersey police captain.

The North Texas Daily caught up Dr. Weller to talk about his role in the film, working with Lundgren and Michael Jai White, and his upcoming directing projects.

Preston Barta: Dr. Weller, you directed Ron Perlman in “Sons of Anarchy,” and I know you were friends with Dolph Lundgren prior to filming “Skin Trade,” but who got you attached to this particular project?

Peter Weller: It was my manager, Craig Baumgarten. I’ve always liked Dolph Lundgren. He’s a very smart guy. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for engineering, man. He’s smart dude. I think it was at [Massachusetts Institute of Technology], where he started as a security guy and an actor. He’s a very quiet guy, but very, very bright. He belies the muscle-bound action-hero outlook.

PB: Yeah. Actually, there’s an article in Time Magazine that talks about how both you and him are two of the most intelligent talents in the business.

PW: Oh, really?

PB: Yeah. I believe it was called “Top 10 Wicked Smart Actors.”

PW: Yeah, he’s really smart. I would also have to say there are two other actors whom I believe to be brilliant. One is Richard Dreyfuss and the other is James Woods. Dreyfuss is more of a humanist, while Woods is more politically smart. They’re bright guys.

Michael Jai White is a gifted cat, too. He’s a guy I really respect. All of those guys are really smart guys who brought themselves up from nothing. Just humble guys. But Michael Jai White showed up as this karate kid one day– just a great dude.

But anyway, I got in the film because my manager is a producer on the film. I was offered– well, they were looking at both me and Ron [Perlman] for these two different parts that were interchangeable: the head cop or the bad guy. But, I just couldn’t commit to the time to play the villain, so I played the cop. Ron was great in it, though. It was great to act with Ron since I’ve only directed him in ‘Sons of Anarchy.’ Great guy.

Dolph Lundgren, Tony Jaa, Peter Weller and Michael Jai White on the set of SKIN TRADE. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures and Magnet Releasing.

Dolph Lundgren, Tony Jaa, Peter Weller and Michael Jai White on the set of “Skin Trade.” Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures and Magnet Releasing.

PB: I was actually going to bring Ron’s character up because there’s a line in the film I was drawn to. When we first meet Ron’s character he speaks of legacy and immortality living in your genes. You have a child who is three or four now, right?

PW: Three, almost four, yes.

PB: How important is legacy to you– passing down the work you’ve done to your boy? What’s maybe that movie you’re most excited to share with him one day?

PW: I don’t know, man. You know, if he think his old man is a good dude and is kind to people that’s all I care about. I don’t really think of a movie legacy for him. If he enjoys it, fine. I don’t take this seriously by any means. I’ve been very blessed by having this very goofy career.

If all this is, is a blue collar gig and the service of entertainment– this is not the cure to cancer, man. It’s not about solving the world’s problems. Movies are entertainment. The best they can do is educate. I don’t think of any movie as a legacy for my kid. If he enjoys it, fine, but mostly what I want to leave is an impression of a kind and generous human being.

PB: Yeah. Well, I think movies are important and can create awareness. This movie, for example: it’s a hard-driving action movie– a 70s/80s throwback. This is one of those movies that gets you looking at the world differently. I feel like for most people, they are aware of sex trafficking and things like that– much like people are aware of slavery or whathaveyou. But it takes movies like this to really get people’s attention.

PW: Yeah. I agree with you! This movie does say something, like “Schindler’s List” (1993) or “The Lives of Others” (2006). It heightens the awareness of repression and marginalized people. It can really function as education; although, it’s really rare. Most of the time, the education is an emotional education. I’ve seen movies that have moved me. I’ve seen performances that have moved me. They are just as much a contribution to me as the social statement of “Schindler’s List” or “The Lives of Others.”

I’ve seen a couple of Marlon Brando performances, a couple of Gene Hackman performances– I just watched Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona” (1966). I can’t believe people had a problem with that movie when it came out. I look at the genius of the images, of a woman deciding to withdraw from a commercial world that is essentially, metaphorically eating its young. And in exchange of personalization with a nurse, the patient becomes the nurse and the nurse becomes the patient– there are interchangeable roles there. I look at that, man– that movie is genius! The performances are shockingly, polarizing real. What that movie says about the advent of commercialization of information– way before its time. It makes you want to go to a mountain to never speak again. That is as educational to me as “Schindler’s List” or “The Lives of Others.” You know what I’m saying?

See “Richard III” (1955) with Laurence Olivier or “On the Waterfront” (1954) with Brando. I just watched a movie called “Shoot the Moon” (1982) with Albert Finney and Diane Keaton. The emotional courage of an actor can many times be just as educational. They can be just as educational as a movie that informs you about a social problem.

PB: Can’t agree more. Yeah. I can remember in high school, learning about slavery. It was all very text book and learn more about the events. You don’t get that full grasp until you see a movie like “12 Years A Slave” (2013) or Steven Spielberg’s “Amistad” (1997). So as film fan, I appreciate movies like that, or this that educate you on the matter while also giving you that emotional awareness, as you were saying.

PW: Yeah. Yeah. It’s horrible, man. It’s all going on, and Georgia has a big problem with it! We have kidnapping and trading going on in the state of Georgia!

Louisiana, too. I was shocked when I watched “True Detective” and its visceral reality.

PB: I could discuss this all day, but what’s your upcoming project “March of the Hollows” about?

PW: ‘March of the Hollows?’ I don’t know what you’re talking about, man.

PB: It’s some fantasy project that you’re supposedly attached to with Malcolm McDowell, according to IMDB.

PW: Don’t ever believe everything on IMDB. They got my name wrong. Look at the name.

PB: It says “Peter Frederick Weller.”

PW: That’s not my name. Maybe you can write in a note and fix it.

PB: I could do that. Yeah, it says you’re currently filming this project titled “Yamasong: March of the Hollows.”

PB: Oh! “Yamasong” is a voice-over for a Japanese feature.  Ah, man. They’re such idiots. I mean, good Lord.

PB: Your directing-episode of “Salem” aired a couple Sundays ago, right?

PW: Yeah, man! It got a resounding response, I got to say. I’ve never got that much of a response, outside some of the episodes of “Sons of Anarchy.” It got a resounding response from WGN, FOX 21, the producers, the writers, and on. I’ve been slotted to do the “Outsiders,” a new show in Pittsburg about an Appalachian family. Do you know about that?

PB: “The Outsiders?”

PW: Yeah. Are you listening to me, man? Because if you’re doing something else–

PB: I’m all ears, man. I just was confused for a sec about the title of the show. I thought you were talking about a televised adaptation of the S.E. Hinton novel for a second there, until you mention the Appalachians.

PW: So you haven’t heard of it?

PB: Honestly, no. Too much content out there to keep up with. Tell me about it.

PW: Yeah. It’s an upcoming WGN series that follows this Appalachian family who live off the grid and above the law on a mountaintop homestead. They want me to shoot the finale of it.

Peter Weller dons the original robot armor in "RoboCop." Photo courtesy of Orion Pictures.

Peter Weller dons the original robot armor in “RoboCop.” Photo courtesy of Orion Pictures.PB: What about this new “RoboCop” series that’s coming out– heard anything about that?

PW: No. I haven’t heard about that! A new series for RoboCop?’ I mean, I hope so, because I want a piece of it.

PB: Yeah. Machinima, the Warner Bros.-backed digital media company, announced a couple of sci-fi and game-inspired, including a new show based on “RoboCop.” It’s being developed by the writer of “Star Trek Into Darkness” (which you’re in)– Roberto Orci.

PW: Orci is doing “RoboCop?”

PB: Apparently so. According to recent reports.

PW: Oh, that’s fun. He’s gifted guy. Love him.

PB: For sure. Are you directing any episodes of “The Strain” this year?

PW: No. I’m not. ‘The Strain’ was a great and challenging show with a terrific cast. I can’t speak highly enough of Guillermo del Toro, FX and the cast– they’re great. Filming that was a dark, bad time for me. My brother was dying and all sorts of stuff was going on. It was the coldest winter they’ve ever had. It would be a tough thing to revisit. I’m glad I did it. I love that show. There’s just other shows I want to do. I’m doing the second season of “Tyrant” for FX, though.

PB: Yeah. I remember you saying that, and “Hawaii Five-0.”

PW: Yeah. People ask me why I do “Hawaii Five-0,” because I do a bunch of them. It’s because “Hawaii Five-0″— Peter Lenkov lets you reinvent the wheel. Yeah, maybe they call me a lightweight or shallow, but the great thing about the show is all the freedom you have. You can do stuff in handheld, there’s a lot of action– it’s a lot, a lot of fun.

PW: How’s Denton?

PB: Denton is great. We’ve got all these new bars, restaurants, and apartments. It’s really grown to be a mini-Austin of sorts.

PW: I hear that downtown area is really popping.

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1 Comment

  1. Dr Jim
    Dr Jim November 17, 22:15

    Peter, November 16, 2016
    Terrific being an alumnus of NT, I’m with you. We were there at different times. Denton is ten times the size it was in the 80’s.. Also, Alcatraz II was built there. I call NT, Bonny and Clyde U, because Denton was their stomping ground. How are you doing, man? It is so nice being retired and local news having me on their program as an ‘expert.’ I was critically injured 13 years ago, live in a hospital home in Tigard, Oregon (of all places). Getting by well, but paralyzed. My acting days are over.
    Peace out,
    Dr. Jim McHugh
    drjimxlaw@gmail.com

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