(Spoiler Warning: If you don’t want to know anything about the killer, dubbed “Gustav”, in Purcell’s new action-thriller, then turn away now and don’t bother to read this until you’ve had a chance to see the movie on Friday.)
ComingSoon.net: I haven’t seen the movie yet, but there’s a big part of the movie that we can’t really talk about, since the killer is supposed to be kind of a secret, right?
Dominic Purcell: In the movie? Yeah, well look, I’ve been telling everyone about the crocodile today.
CS: I assume you shot this movie on your last break from “Prison Break”?
Purcell: Yeah, I just finished “Prison Break” and went straight into it. I was very excited to do this role, primarily because it was a studio movie. I know that sounds kind of shallow, but it was for me to get on some kind of list there. Just the fact that this thing was based on a true story, and the opportunity to work with Orlando Jones, they were all appealing things to me.
CS: It looks like there might be a lot of action in the movie, so it’s kind of a rigorous way to spend your break. Did you actually shoot it in South Africa?
Purcell: Yeah, we did. The first month we shot in Capetown, the second month we shot in Durban, then we went to a place called Ladysmith, just outside of Durban. Three months. Initially, it was very very hot, then it got really cold. I had a lot of artificial rain thrown on me and at 3:00 in the morning, between takes, my shirt would freeze up, so it was a very demanding role. I dislocated my AC joint at one point. It was challenging on all fronts.
CS: Was there something about the genre or the script specifically that made you want to do this movie?
Purcell: Two reasons, it was the only thing offered to me. It was a combination of trying to make some kind of inroads into being on some kind of list, and obviously, I wouldn’t have done the movie if it was just sh*t, but I saw potential in it, plus the fact that it was loosely based on a true story. It touched on themes that resonated with me, talking about the Rwandan genocide. The analogy of the movie primarily is that we make our own monsters. Gustav, this crocodile, is the result of a war, this thing got a taste of human flesh from bodies that were thrown into the Rowese River, and as soon as it started getting a taste of that, it started preying on humans.
CS: Were there any real crocodiles involved in the shoot?
Purcell: No, the crocodile itself is CGI, and thankfully, the croc doesn’t look like Godzilla or King Kong. It actually does look like a real crocodile. It just allows the actors to act in a spontaneous way rather than having to be f**kin’ in a cage or running from a real crocodile. I don’t think we would have enjoyed that so much.
CS: So there weren’t any animatronic crocodiles or anything like that?
Purcell: No, no, not at all.
Purcell: I play Tim Freeman, who’s an arrogant self-assured [television] producer who believes that going to Africa to investigate this monster, this crocodile, is beneath him, but once he gets there, he becomes involved in the story and the whole civil war has an impact on him. He begins to empathize with these people.
CS: What was it about Orlando Jones that made you want to work with him?
Purcell: He’s a great actor. He’s a wonderful comic, obviously. He has a real organic sense of spontaneity with his humor. He kind of reminds me of Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy. I think Orlando is going to be a big star one day.
CS: In a movie like this, which is pretty serious, were you able to have some fun on the set or was it kept pretty serious?
Purcell: As actors, we understood what we were doing. This is a genre movie. It’s not supposed to be seen as a work of art, as they say, but certainly, we got into some conversations about Gustave and the impact that it’s had on these people. These people fear for their lives, and obviously, the croc has been built into mythology with all these people. It’s kind of terrifying for them.
CS: You have a bit of experience with the horror genre. You did this movie “Grave Dancers” which just played at the After Dark Horror Fest, and “Blade.” Did you consider this a horror movie or not really?
Purcell: When I signed up for it, it wasn’t a horror movie as such. It just became that with feedback from the studio, from [director] Michael Katelman, myself and Orlando, it just became this thing. I don’t have a preference towards horror movies. It’s funny, man. I’ve thought about this myself. It’s not likely I actively seek out these movies. They just come my way. At this point in my career, I’m just kind of going with the flow, as they say. I’m about to do another movie with Joel Schumacher in Romania. That’s not so much a horror movie, but it’s certainly another intense movie. One day hopefully I’ll be able to make a kitchen sink drama.
CS: What’s that Joel Schumacher movie about?
Purcell: I’m playing a Gulf War veteran who gets captured from this family that it’s in a cult, they have this connection to the Nazi regime, and I play this guy who escapes them and takes vengeance on them. It’s a very intense movie. I’m looking forward to it.
CS: You’ve been jumping back and forth between movies and TV shows with “Prison Break” and “John Doe” before that. Does it require to wear different heads while doing one or the other?
Purcell: Not really, man. The only different thing is that with films, I have a bit more time to research what I’m doing. TV is a very fast medium. I don’t have a preference with either one, just as long as I’m doing stories that are challenging to me, that say something to me. I’m a tradesman as an actor. I kind of just do what I gotta do, and make enough money to feed my wife and to feed my four kids. Again, I’m just appreciative and thankful and got my fingers crossed that things are going in the right direction.
CS: “Prison Break” actually features quite a few movie actors like Peter Stormare and William Fichtner on the cast. Is it similar shooting the show to some of the movies you’ve made?
Purcell: This show, “Prison Break” is very filmic, the way we film it obviously, a lot of this out and about on locations. The actors, as you mentioned, a lot of them have a lot of film experience. You don’t get the feeling that you’re doing a TV show when you’re doing “Prison Break.” You feel like you’re doing this massive action thriller. In that way, it feels like a film.
CS: Is it pretty demanding to do that sort of thing on a weekly basis? At least on movies, you get a break between them.
Purcell: Oh, absolutely. Like all of us in life, we do the 9 to 5 thing, it becomes a grind after a while, but I just see it as an opportunity for me to tweak my acting technique, to find the benefits of working on a show and working in front of the camera continually. You do sometimes fall into lazy patterns. It’s then that I take a deep breath and realize that I have this opportunity to improve as an actor. I just take the positives out of it.
Purcell: Yeah, you know I’m very thankful and appreciative. Fox are very much behind “Prison Break.” It’s one of their successful shows. “Prison Break” is massive around the world. I don’t think people, certainly here, are aware of that. It’s the #1 show in all the European markets. In Japan, it was the fastest selling DVD apparently of all time. It’s certainly filling the pockets of Murdoch.
CS: That’s an interesting way to put it. When you first hear the premise of the show, you don’t really think that they can have enough of a story to tell to make it last for a long time. Are you surprised by how much they’ve been able to do with that premise?
Purcell: Not at all. Sitting down with the writers and realizing Paul Scheuring’s vision, I realized that I was onto a good thing. The wonderful thing about “Prison Break” is that the writers have invested in the characters, and people are really for them. They’re redeemable characters, and that’s what makes great drama. “Prison Break” services all of that.
CS: Do you think William Fichtner might be coming back onto the show any time?
Purcell: I’m not sure. I think Bill is really happy on “Prison Break,” and if they ask him to come back for another season, I’m sure he would. He brings a great intensity and integrity to the show. I, for one, would love to see him still a part of the show. We just have to wait and see.
CS: At the end of the last episode, it seemed like your character was going to be teaming up with Paul Kellerman, despite all the awful things he’s done. Is that something that’s going to continue through the second half of the season?
Purcell: Yeah, well the Kellerman thing doesn’t last. It lasts for a certain amount of time, but something happens obviously between Lincoln and Kellerman and Michael.
CS: How far along right now are you into shooting the season right now?
Purcell: We’re up to Episode 17. We finish up in March, and we got about six more episodes to do, so we’re in the home stretch. Then I fly off to Romania to do a Joel Schumacher movie.
Primeval opens everywhere on Friday, January 12.