Gavin Schmitt Interviews Anton Troy and Vernon Wells
A new multi-media phenomenon has been unleashed on your TV screen and at your local comic shop. The tale of Rusty Revolver, which blends a bit of superhero action with the classic western and even a dose of horror. The plot is summed up as follows:
“10 year old Rusty just isn’t fast enough to save his parents from Deacon (Vernon Wells) and his goons. He spends the next 20 years of his life studying the one thing he can believe in… TV cowboys. Now as a man in a modern world, Rusty (Anton Troy) hunts down the demons of his past while leaving a blood trail of his own. This time, vengeance comes at the end of a revolver.”
I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with the show’s two stars, Anton Troy and Vernon Wells. Anton Troy is not only the title character but also the show’s creator and co-producer. Vernon Wells should already be familiar to you from such cult classics as “Mad Max 2”, “Commando” and “Weird Science”. Let’s get into this story a bit deeper…
GS: There is both a “Rusty Revolver” series and a comic book. Just to clarify, is one based on the other or are they running in tandem?
AT: They’re launching at the same time. The comic book actually comes out today (November 8) and we created them at the same time. When I say we, I mean Paul Morrell and myself who have been working together for about five years. Paul is the director of the show, and we worked together on the comic. Technically we created Rusty Revolver as a comic character first and then the series to go along with it, but either product is a stand-alone. Although both are based on the mythology we created for the character, you will find different things in the comic than in the TV show. The first episode is the origin story of how Rusty becomes Rusty.
GS: What tone are you going for? From the pilot episode, we get the impression that this is bloody, dark, gritty… not the sort of family entertainment many superheroes are seen as.
AT: I really wanted to capture that 80s or 90s grit, or even the 70s western. For example, when we wrote the character of Deacon, I told screenwriter Alejo Ramirez that I had Vernon Wells in mind when I outlined the story. As you know, Vernon played a lot of iconic 80s and 90s villains. It was very important that Deacon be dark, but also charismatic. Someone who may say nice things in one moment and then chop your head off. Someone who may charm you into a bad situation. That was important.
One of my favorite comics growing up was “The Punisher” and I’ve always favored the anti-hero over the hero. I find them much more interesting. Rusty is very much an archetype; people will be familiar with him, at least as far as his background and setup is concerned. Briefly, a boy sees his parents killed in front of him, grows up, and then avenges them. That’s nothing new. What we did for Rusty was simply take a bunch of stuff that we felt was awesome, different things from our childhood, and sort of mashed them together. The whip, for example, is very much from Indiana Jones. Rusty has a fire whip, and other kinds of whips he can use as nunchucks, a baton, and many other things. For this, I have to thank Anthony DeLongis, who trained Michelle Pfeiffer in “Batman Returns” and Harrison Ford in “Indiana Jones”. He even played Blade in “Masters of the Universe”, which is pretty cool. The whip is very much a character in itself. Being dark, I think the series will also appeal to horror fans. It’s not meant to be fluffy, though there is some circumstantial humor.
GS: Vernon, you’ve obviously played some nasty characters over the years. With this being such a dark show, does it push you into an even darker place for who the character of Deacon is?
VW: No, not really. I always saw him as someone with a touch of evil, but also a touch of humanity. This comes out in the first episode’s gunfight scene, for example, where he is very playful with Rusty. He doesn’t just do evil things for no reason. Rusty’s father is killed for two reasons: he lied, and he did something very stupid by stealing money from a powerful man. There really is a humanity to Deacon. He can be talking to you about the most mundane thing, such as cooking bacon, and the next minute he will ask you to lie on your back so he can pour scalding oil on your stomach. We’re never quite sure where Deacon will go, but he’s not one-dimensional. As the series goes on, I think we’ll learn more and more about Deacon. Remember, he is the one who says to Rusty, “You will go on, and you will grow up. You will come for me and I’ll be waiting for that.” So there’s this whole expectation that eventually the two will have to face each other. But the wonderful thing, as an actor, is I know they can’t face each other quickly, because if they did you wouldn’t have a show! They might come close or cross paths, but it might be a while before they eventually face off. Deacon knows what he’s doing, he sees ahead of the game and he’s quite prepared to play.
GS: I’m not sure where the “humanity” is in a character who murders and maims…
VW: Well, there is the scene where one of Deacon’s henchmen suggests killing the kid, killing Rusty. And Deacon says something like, “If you kill him, you better enjoy it, because it will be the last thing you ever do.” He’s not just out of hand viciously deadly. Deacon killed Rusty’s mother to press a point. But I think he killed the father because the guy lied, stole money and didn’t have the money to give it back. Deacon couldn’t just kick him in the butt and say “don’t do it again”. There had to be a message that those who work in that world cannot behave in certain ways or that’s how they’ll end up. Rusty had nothing to do with it, so he was spared and becomes the avenging angel.
GS: Anton, as one of the writers, I’m curious about the character names. Clementine calls to mind “My Darling Clementine” and I’m curious if the other names are a reference or homage?
AT: I do have writing credit on the project. The characters were developed by myself and Paul Morrell with the script being fleshed out by Alejo Ramirez. But yeah, there are plenty of homages I love homages. We didn’t want to be literal with our references like Tarantino. I didn’t want to be Clint Eastwood. But we did want strong villains. When Vernon agreed to play Deacon, he actually said he didn’t want the part unless he was going to be multi-dimensional. I think Vernon said that “a good villain is someone you should be willing to go home with.” That stuck with me and shaped my thought process on creating the other villains.
Clementine was named by Alejo, but I think you’re right that it came from “My Darling Clementine”. It also just has a very western feel to it. The character of Bear is more literal. He’s brute force, brute strength. Not an intellectual but a bear of a man. The actor, Paul Duke, is an incredible athlete and almost 7 feet tall. I was influenced by 1970s westerns, and my all-time favorite western is “High Plains Drifter” with Clint Eastwood. What I love about that film is that there’s a psychological aspect. And everyone in town is a character. You might have someone called “Skinny” and it would e a really skinny guy. Eastwood was also the director, and he brought in some great character actors. Hollywood tends to glaze over the character actors and get people who I think are too pretty. Vernon, I’m not saying you’re not pretty.
VW: Don’t worry, Anton, I’m putting notches next to your name each time you say these things and you’re going to suffer for them later. (laughs)
AT: Yeah, okay. (laughs) But I wanted these villains to be characters. Bear is a bear. Grimm is a very grim type of guy. I didn’t want to be literal about it, but in the case of the villains I think that best captured who they were. As the series and comic book go on, you’ll get to know a lot of other really fun villains. What makes the Rusty universe different from “The Avengers” or “Iron Man”, is I think we’re more based in reality. Of course, some things are going to be over the top, but we want to keep it grounded in reality. Again, I’m sort of using “Punisher” as my touchstone.
GS: Being an anti-hero like the Punisher, I can’t help but wonder if Rusty won’t have just as much trouble with the police as with the villains.
AT: Yeah, I don’t want to give too much away, but you’ll definitely see Rusty struggling with who he is as a man and who he is with regards to his moral code. As he hones his skills and exorcises his demons, it will change the projection he has in his life, brushing him up against a lot of different people. There will be a wide variety of characters, and that certainly includes the law trying to both aide him and stop him at the same time.
GS: Vernon, between when you saw the script and when the cameras rolled, was there something you brought to the character of Deacon to make him the multi-dimensional character you wanted?
VW: Yeah. When we had our first meeting, with Anton and Paul sitting down to talk about it, they asked me what my feelings were. I had already read the script before we met and I liked what I read. One thing I hate is that I’m very well known for what I do. I don’t mean that I hate being well known for it, but that it leads to me getting scripts for characters who are walking around pissed off all the time. Those characters don’t take you anywhere, don’t give you anything as an actor or as a viewer. If I play a character well, the audience should get as much fun out of it as they would from the Rusty character.
To me, James Bond is the perfect example of an anti-hero. Which may sound strange. Yes, he kills people, and we think that’s what he’s supposed to do as 007. But the point is, if you go into the mythology of 007, he’s still just a murderer. Sometimes it may be people who don’t need to be killed, but there is that charismatic aspect. Daniel Craig would make any woman happy if he was talking to them in a bar. But you think about that and you wonder, is she still going to be alive in the morning? To me, that’s the point. People need to be willing to associate the villain, be willing to go home with them. But are they going to survive? Will he decide halfway through something that it’s not worth it and just start strangling someone? You’re never quite sure which way it will go. Deacon is not simply a “bad guy”, but very much the anti-hero of his own world. What sold me on Deacon was the gunfight, the thought that maybe Deacon cares about Rusty in some way. Maybe Deacon had a kid that he lost at some point? We don’t know.
GS: There’s a theory I think you’re getting at, and I’ll paraphrase it. Evil people don’t see themselves as “evil”, but actually believe what they’re doing is right. So we could say that Deacon is not evil any more than Rusty is good; they are each the heroes of their own perspective.
VW: Yes, exactly. The hero always thinks he’s the hero and his job is to stop the villain. Whereas, the villain always thinks that he’s the hero and that the hero is the villain. They are each doing what they consider to be right, and I do think villains are better if an actor plays them as though they are a hero rather than a straw man of pure evil. They are each doing what they need to do. Looking at it like this, as an actor, you can bring a lot more feeling and dimension than if it a simple case of good versus evil. Villains are people, too. It’s that simple. They might have their own set of rules, but they have feeling, too.
AT: It’s interesting that Rusty will have multiple father figures throughout the series, and one of them is Deacon. It may be in a gross, sick way, but it’s there. Rusty’s father is a father figure, of course, and then there’s also the “Sunset Comanche”, the character from Rusty’s favorite TV western. Rusty is raised by this fictional television character, as well. He watches these old reruns and takes on the role of a cowboy because that’s how Rusty sees justice.
GS: The first episode is available now on Amazon and those with Amazon Prime can watch it for free. What platform are we going to see the rest of the show through?
AT: At the moment, we’re an indie and we’re releasing it ourselves through Amazon. There will be an expansion to other VOD platforms and at some point I’m expecting there to be a bigger venue. I’m not exactly sure where just yet.
GS: Alright, we’ll keep our eyes out for it. And one last, unrelated thing for Vernon.
VW: Go for it.
GS: You’ve worked multiple times with director Stuart Gordon on some of his lesser-known films. Have you heard any word on special editions in the pipeline, or been asked to do interviews for them?
VW: I love Stuart. I think Stuart is just the most amazing person. My wife actually calls him Uncle Stu. I would love to see those films get a good Blu-ray treatment, especially “King of the Ants”. I think it’s one of the better films that I’ve ever been involved in. It deserves a special edition, but they don’t tell me when these things are happening. I usually find out after they’ve already happened.
GS: Well, hopefully someone picks them up. Thank you both for your time.
VW: Thank you.
AT: Thanks, Gavin.