Gavin Schmitt Interviews Actor Arlen Escarpeta
Arlen Escarpeta, one of the stars of the new “Friday the 13th” movie, took time out of his schedule to chat with me on February 19, 2009 about the film and other related — and some not so related — topics. Focusing on the new film, where Arlen says, “I break the black guy stigma” of dying early on, I found Arlen to be very friendly, talkative, and a little bit nerdy… in a good way!
GS: You starred as Lawrence. And for those who didn’t see the movie, they may know you from the television show “American Dreams”.
AE: Yeah, “American Dreams” was a big staple in my career. Opened a lot of doors for me, and I think set me apart from my competition, as far as the acting thing goes.
GS: I didn’t actually watch the show, to be honest with you… but it had a long haul, with you appearing in 61 episodes.
AE: We had three seasons, which is actually pretty good as far as series go. I think we told some great stories and sparked some really good conversations. We also had a bunch of great musical guests playing stars from the 60s. We had children watching the show and their favorite stars were on there — you know, like Usher [as Marvin Gaye] or Kelly Rowland [as Martha Reeves] — we had families, people from different generations, watching this show and they’d have conversations… kids asking their parents, “Was this what it was like when you were growing up?” [Note: Kelly Rowland, for those who don’t recall, also appeared in 2003’s “Freddy vs. Jason”]
GS: We’re going to switch gears, since our focus today is horror. Marcus Nispel directed “Friday the 13th”. I met Marcus about two years ago, when he was promoting “Pathfinder”. How would you describe his directing, what made it unique?
AE: Marcus was great. He had a definite vision, and a great eye, but he allowed me a great deal of freedom. My character was very much my own and I was allowed to do more or less what I wanted with him.
GS: I think it shows. Most of the characters, frankly, I just couldn’t wait for them to die, but I found Lawrence to be more of an individual and had real personality. I couldn’t even keep many of the characters’ names straight, because I mostly just wanted them to die.
GS: But yours had more depth, it seemed.
AE: Yeah, I was really able to make him my own, and I’m grateful that I was given that opportunity. They really opened the door for me, and I hadn’t yet done anything so commercial or so “pop”. I also have to thank our cinematographer, Daniel Pearl, for doing such a great job.
GS: Let’s move on to the producer, Michael Bay. As you may know, he has a notorious reputation of not being respected by critics.
GS: How much control did he have over the picture?
AE: Michael Bay is a nice guy, but a serious dude. He didn’t have as much say as you might think, handing over much of the control to Andy and Brad [producers Andrew Form and Bradley Fuller]. He let them do their jobs, but he’s a serious guy, and he made sure things were right and we knew that if we weren’t going to do things his way, we could be replaced just like that. He let us know there are plenty of other actors who would love to be in our position. He had the awesome “Michael Bay muscle”, but at the same time he was cool, man. He hung out with us midway through filming and he was as nice as could be.
GS: Many people are wary of films they grew up with being remade… did you have any concerns about this?
AE: You know, I did. I grew up watching “Transformers” and I remember when the movie [ironically directed by Michael Bay] came out and I wasn’t sure how to feel about that. I was skeptical, but I loved it. And, you know, I think we’re bringing these movies to a new generation and that’s a good thing.
GS: What would you do for a Klondike bar?
AE: (laughs) What would I do for a Klondike bar? For me, for a Klondike bar… Wow, that’s a good question. I don’t know… oh boy… (pauses to think)
GS: We can skip the question if you’d like.
AE: No, I refuse to skip a question. Let’s just move to another one and I’ll think about the Klondike question in the meantime.
GS: Okay. I don’t want to give anything away, as far as if your character died, but if it were up to you, how would you want Lawrence to have died?
AE: How would I want to have died?
GS: Well, maybe not you so much, but your character, yeah?
AE: Oh man, that’s a tricky one. Like you said, let’s not give too much away, but I think Lawrence is a fighter and that’s what I’d want from him, to go out fighting. I don’t think I would want him to be any different than he was in the film.
GS: Are you ready with the Klondike answer?
AE: That just wasn’t enough time, but okay. What I would do for a Klondike bar… Oh my God, why is this so hard? I’d shave my head for a Klondike bar. No, no, that’s not nearly good enough. I’d shave off all my body hair, except for my eyebrows, for a Klondike bar.
GS: Do you have any dirt on David Hasselhoff?
AE: Any dirt on Hasselhoff? Well, I haven’t met David Hasselhoff. But, you know, I do have something to say about David Hasselhoff. Maybe that’s some dirt. David Hasselhoff is a dork, and I think that’s just wrong. I grew up with “Knight Rider” — I’m a huge “Knight Rider” fan — and he was very, very cool and now I see him and he’s such a dork. I don’t appreciate that as a “Knight Rider” fan, I think he should have been required to stay cool for the rest of his life. Hasselhoff has ruined it for us, there’s no way to think of him as cool anymore.
GS: How do we go about tricking you into signing a photograph for us?
AE: I don’t think there’s a trick involved, you probably just have to ask me. Seeing as how I’m a working actor, I’d be absolutely ecstatic. I don’t really get all that many requests for autographs. I think I’ve signed maybe three of them. One of them was for someone in Canada. Yeah, just ask me or contact my agency and I’ll be sure to do it.
GS: I’m not going to name names, but someone who does your public relations sent us some sample snapshots of you, and let’s just say they’re a little bit racy.
AE: Racy? Oh no.
GS: Well, not “naughty”, but I think the ladies out there will like them.
AE: Oh, yes. Those. (laughs) That’s the sort of thing you do for a Klondike bar!
GS: Will we be seeing you at any of the conventions?
AE: As a matter of fact, yeah. I don’t know the name of it, but I think we’re supposed to be going. It’s in New Jersey. I’ve heard about these conventions. I’ve never been to one, but you know I’m a geek at heart and I’d love to take part of that. I’m a big, you know, Nintendo 80s video game nerd, anyway, so I’ll feel right at home.
GS: That sounds pretty accurate to the crowd you’re see there.
AE: Love to meet the fans and the other horror movie actors. I hear they’re crazy.
GS: They can be a real circus, yeah.
AE: I think you’ll see me there. The cast will probably get together and make the rounds at some point. It will be cool.
GS: If you come to Chicago, I’ll be sure to say hello.
AE: They have conventions in Chicago, as well?
GS: A few of them, actually. Yeah.
AE: I suspect we’ll probably be stopping by one sometime soon.
GS: What’s on the horizon for Arlen Escarpeta, and do you have any last words for your fans?
AE: I want to say I appreciate everyone who supported the movie [“Friday the 13th”] and everyone who went to go see it. Thanks to all the cast and crew. You can see me next in “Doughboys”, (affiliate link) which will be in March. I have a new feature film coming out called “Rosyln” that will be great — it has a great, great, great script. And wish me luck on this pilot I’m auditioning for tomorrow!
GS: Nothing horror-related?
AE: No, unfortunately not… nothing horror just yet.
GS: That’s a shame. But we got a hold of you one time.
AE: Well, you never know what might be next. For the fans… thank you. I am where I am today in part because of you, so thank you.