Interview with Drew Powell, “Straw Dogs”

Drew Powell is an American actor best known for his role as Hoss Cartwright on the PAX series The Ponderosa, and for his guest roles on Malcolm in the Middle and Leverage.

His first television role was as a cadet on Fox’s Malcolm in the Middle. He appeared in thirteen episodes. Soon after, he portrayed Hoss Cartwright on the series The Ponderosa, a prequel to Bonanza which premiered in 2001 on PAX. Powell has had guest appearances on many television shows including House, Leverage, ER, Cold Case, and Without a Trace.

He will portray Bic in the 2011 film Straw Dogs, a remake of the 1971 Sam Peckinpah film of the same name. The remake is directed by Rod Lurie and stars James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, and Alexander SkarsgÄrd. It is scheduled to be released September 16, 2011. While shooting The Ponderosa in Australia, Powell met his wife, Veronica, who was a make-up artist on the show. They have one son, Leo, who was born in January 2011. They live in Los Angeles.

I spoke with Drew in July 2011 while he was stuck in glorious LA traffic.

GS: You appeared on “Monk” in 2006, and I have to ask what that was like because Tony Shalhoub lives 15 minutes from me.

DP: (laughs) Where do you live?

GS: I’m in Wisconsin, near Green Bay.

DP: Oh, right. I remember hearing he was a Wisconsin boy. I remember talking to him on set, and I had worked with Jane Kaczmarek, who is also a Wisconsinite. [Gavin notes: Jane is from the Greendale area in Milwaukee.] He said they had run into each other back in the day. It was interesting. But yeah, he was great. There’s a reason he has won all those Emmys — he’s a great actor. I have to be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of the show. I barely watched it, but I was curious why he kept winning the Emmys. Then I worked with him, and I saw why. Good actor and good at what he does. We actually ended up appearing together again in “1408”, though we had no scenes together.

In the episode of “Monk”, I had to throw this battery acid in his face that made him blind. It was a hard thing to do, I’d hit his clothes or hit the wall. It was kind of comical. What they used for the battery acid was prune juice, so he was being doused with prune juice over and over. When I left, I left behind a bag of prunes in his trailer. I don’t know if he ever got it or not, but hopefully he got the joke.

GS: You mentioned “1408” (2007) — did you get to interact with John Cusack or Sam Jackson at all?

DP: Yeah, I worked with both those guys. I loved “Pulp Fiction”, and it’s different matching an actor’s real persona with the one they portray in the movies. But I had a good time working on that film, for sure.

GS: “Camp Hell” (2010) is getting a big push from their unbalanced marketing campaign featuring Jesse Eisenberg…

DP: I haven’t seen much out there. Have they been releasing trailers and stuff?

GS: I haven’t seen trailers, but I have been seeing advertisements in magazines. And it’s funny how much they’re focusing on Jesse Eisenberg.

DP: They’ve definitely taken that as far as they could. I met him while we were working, though we didn’t have any scenes together. The film has a lot of great actors in it — Bruce Davison, Dana Delany, Andrew McCarthy. The child actors were pretty good — that one kid from “Gladiator”. It was almost like the film was cursed, though. They had problems with the crew, the set got shut down for three days, maybe five or six days. The crew walked because they weren’t getting paid. Then they had to come back and finish it. But I had fun. I kind of play a secondary role as the music director at camp. And even more sadly, I think the director’s son was killed in a car accident a year ago. George VanBuskirk is a really nice guy and I was sad to hear about that tragedy.

GS: I think we can safely say the “Pee-Wee Herman Show on Broadway” stands out as the most interesting thing on your resume.

DP: (laughs) It was a hell of a ride. We did it in LA, then on Broadway last year October through January. We closed the show, took a day or two off, and then we shot it for HBO. It was a great experience. If you said I was going to make my Broadway debut with Pee-Wee Herman, I’d say you were crazy. But I should know better.

GS: And you really can’t ask for a better debut. The attention that show got and will continue to receive is just amazing.

DP: For sure.

GS: From what I can gather, “Straw Dogs” (2011) is a pretty violent movie…

DP: The original, with Peckinpah, was noteworthy for its violence. He was really making a commentary on the violence that was going on from ’69-’71. Doing a remake and not having the violence would be doing a disservice. But it’s not gratuitous, it’s not horror porn. To me, it feels more real. You have these guys attacking your house. How do you feel and what do you do? I’ll be interested to see what people feel about it, but it’s not a slasher film or a blood and gore film. It’s a psychological thriller focusing on a siege around this house. There’s definitely violence, but we build it up and you see the reasons for it. I’m really proud of it.

GS: You have said you would like to have dinner with James Taylor… why him?

DP: Oh man, I LOVE James Taylor! James Taylor is great. You don’t know about James Taylor? I grew up listening to him, I play the guitar and I’m a big fan. People like to knock on James Taylor, but I don’t think they realize that in the 1960s he was Kurt Cobain. He was strung out on heroin making great music. He kicked the habit and continued to make great music, in my opinion. A lot of people don’t feel like it’s cool to like James Taylor, but I think he’s great.

GS: A solid defense of James Taylor.

DP: Thank you.

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