Dean Ambrose on starring in 12 Rounds 3: Lockdown
If you’ve ever had the chance of seeing wrestler Dean Ambrose (born Jonathan Good) in action during his relatively short time as a WWE Superstar, you may be a fan of his “lunatic” persona where you literally have no idea what he might do next in or out of the ring. At his best, Ambrose’s antics are on par with something you might see in “Looney Tunes,” although he has the moves and skills to back them up.
This may be why it’s surprising to see the unpredictable Ambrose as the latest WWE Superstar to make his way to the big screen (as well as VOD), as he stars in 12 Rounds 3: Lockdown, playing Detective John Shaw, who returns to duty after recovering from a gun shot wound only to find that the entire police department around him has been infiltrated by corruption. Realizing that his former partner is onto him, the officer responsible for much of that corruption, Burke (Roger R. Cross), sets his men after Shaw as he tries to find the evidence to out them.
ComingSoon.net got on the phone with Ambrose for the following interview, mostly about his feature film debut, but we also got to talk briefly about the changing face of WWE and his role in it.
ComingSoon.net: You’ve been pretty busy the past week with a lot of big matches, so I’m surprised you have time and you’re not exhausted.
Dean Ambrose: Yeah, you’ll be amazed how much stuff we can fit into our daily lives, especially in a week like this.
CS: I’m sure. I don’t know how long ago you shot “Lockdown,” but how were you first approached about doing a movie for WWE Studios?
Dean Ambrose: We shot this movie last year, almost a little over a year ago to the day that we did it in Vancouver. It was about a six-week shoot. It was an interesting process to make because I had no idea really how a movie even gets shot, because it was my first time really on a movie set, let alone being the star of a movie. WWE is kind of like show business boot camp where you learn a little bit of everything and you get so used to being in front of the camera with marks to stand on and cues to go to. You just learn so much about so many different elements of all entertainment, anything that’s in front of the camera or the mic. We do all our own stunts, we do all our own dialogue and fights, and everything is in one take. It’s such a high-pressure form of live entertainment that I found once I got out there being on a movie set isn’t that different from being on “Monday Night RAW.” It’s all stuff that I was prepared for. I feel like I did a really good job or as good as any experienced actor could have done with that role.
I definitely didn’t want it to be “Dean Ambrose plays a cop,” just a WWE pro thrown into a police uniform and that’s the movie, because to me, that wasn’t any good. I wanted to show that I could really do this and be good at it, especially the more I learned and as I got better, I really started figuring out how the process worked. I really wanted to make people forget that they were watching Dean Ambrose and buy into that I was a cop, who has a much different life from my real life or the Dean Ambrose you see on TV, who is probably a lot closer to my real life personality.
The thing is that not only do you learn so much about being in front of a camera and stuff, being on “Monday Night RAW,” but at the same time, I’m not really acting on “Monday Night RAW.” To me, what you see is what you get. I don’t go out there and put on any sort of front for people. If I’m in a good mood, I appear in a good mood on TV, and if I’m in a bad mood, I just go out there and look like I’m in a bad mood. I just go out there and be myself, and turn up the voltage a little bit for entertainment value. I’m one of the few guys that I’m not doing any acting on “Monday Night RAW,” so I wanted this to really be a chance for me to completely slip into somebody else’s shoes and really become somebody different, like an extremely confident detective, a guy who has a lot of responsibility and there’s a lot on the line here. Life is really a risk and he has skills and so forth. You have to keep thinking to stay alive and problem solve and really become this kind of person, not just some dude throwing chairs across the ring. It was a really fun challenge to me, and I think I did as well as I could have hoped for.
CS: One thing you don’t do on TV is that you don’t shoot guns, so did you have to any training for that kind of stuff?
Dean Ambrose: Oh, yeah, yeah. That was another thing, just the whole experience was so much fun, because not only the acting part of it, which was a challenge, but there’s so much fun stuff that comes with being an action star for a period of time. You get to work with former Marine guys who are weapons trainers so you get to do weapons training and how to shoot all different kinds of guns and how to properly clear a room. I’ve shot guns before, but I’ve never been taught properly how to like jump over something while shooting behind my back. Learning how to do all that stuff properly, learning how to turn and shoot from a low stance and how to run with a gun and run up stairs, all that stuff. Learn how to duck and roll and all that. That was so much fun because you get to play G.I. Joe for a few months. Then the fight scenes were extremely fun for me and something I picked up on really well. From all the background that I come from, it was very easy for me to pick up on. Like a long extended fight scene, I could memorize it in seconds.
CS: Did you have to go easy on the other actors?
Dean Ambrose: Some of the stunt guys I worked with, it might take them a couple days to get this whole fight broken down to where they remembered everything that’s going on, but I took it up quicker than those guys sometimes. It just came so easy to me from wrestling. That was so much fun for me to get to do the physical stuff and learn new stuff from the great fight coordinators they have. You learn different kinds of fighting and you go out there and roll around and kick each other in the face and shoots guns. It was such a fun experience.
CS: I can imagine. You’ve only been with the WWE for a couple years so being asked to do a movie so soon, did you have to think twice about it because it would take you away from wrestling or was it just too good an opportunity to pass up?
Dean Ambrose: Oh, I took it in an instant. Are you kidding me? “For sure.” It came out of the blue actually. I don’t really know how everything came through the pipeline where they thought that there would be a character that I would be good at, but the second the opportunity was presented to me, I jumped all over it. How often do you get a chance to be in a movie, you know what I mean? It wasn’t something I had put any thought into pursuing at all. When you’re going to 300 towns a year and being on the road all the time wrestling, you’re just so sucked into that world that when you have a chance to step out of that with a part that’s ready made for you, it was like, “I can’t pass this up for sure.” I didn’t realize until I already agreed to do it that I would be the lead role in the movie. I thought I would just be a background player, have a bit part or something. Once I realized the position I was in and the challenge I had in front of me, it became even more exciting. If I got hit by a bus tomorrow, I could say I starred in a movie.
CS: It must be hard coming from the wrestling world, because it’s harder to be taken seriously as an actor, although we’ve seen a lot of wrestlers cross over. Dwayne Johnson is a great example and Bautista, they’ve made the switch pretty well. Even someone like Ronda Rousey from the MMA world. Do you think you might want to do more acting when you get the chance?
Dean Ambrose: Nah, I hadn’t thought about it too much before, but I think I found some of it came very easy to me. It’s kind of a skill I think I’m naturally gifted with being able to do different character stuff in front of the camera. It kind of opened up a whole new world of possibility and stuff to do after wrestling and during wrestling. As soon as we were done, I already had my legs underneath me a little bit and I was starting to figure stuff out and I was like, “Man, I wish I had known six weeks ago what I know now.” I wanted to dial it in and make it absolutely as perfect as possible. I’m kind of competitive, so I was instantly looking forward to the next chance I’d have to maybe reprise the same role or a similar role or play a bad guy in another movie. I definitely think it’s something that… I never know if it’s an opportunity that will come knocking again and should I choose to pursue it, I feel like I can see that.
CS: It’s a cool first movie for you, because I think fans of your wrestling will like although John Shaw is different from yourself as you say, but I think the movie that’s in the vein of genre that people who like your wrestling personality might dig.
Dean Ambrose: I’m hoping that there will be a curiosity factor. I mean, you’d expect John Cena to star in a movie, but you might not expect Dean Ambrose to star in a movie, so there’s a lot of that curiosity factor, but it’s really different from any of the other WWE movies. It has a faster pace and it’s almost a more realistic kind of action movie. I hope everyone who watches it likes it. It’s a very powerful movie. I’m very excited to see what people think of it and I think (director) Steve Reynolds did such a great job with everything that he was given, making everything look so cool. The movie has such a cool look. Then settings, the police station, the weapons, the fights and everything looks so cool that I think everybody’s going to like it. It has a certain style of its own. I gotta certain style all my own, in the ring and out of the ring, so I think this fits quite well with my body of work.
CS: I was at SummerSlam on Sunday and it was a great line-up. It’s interesting to see where the WWE is going these days, because there isn’t as much good guys/bad guys and you’re a good example because you’re a fan favorite without being the typical fan favorite. Do you think wrestling is getting smarter about what the fans want?
Dean Ambrose: All I know is that all I can do for me is… I don’t want to be inauthentic. The thing about me is that I was never created in a creative meeting. Nobody ever came up with the idea of Dean Ambrose. What you see in the ring on Pay Per View or “Monday Night Raw” of Dean Ambrose is just the total good and the bad of 29 years of life and ten-plus years experience in wrestling. Some of its good, some of its bad and some of its ugly, but this is just the person that has shaped me. I don’t want to be anything that I’m not, because I don’t think it would come off right. If you like it, cool, if you don’t, whatever. All I can do is be me to the hilt and if people like me, then it’s probably that authenticity and that honesty that they like ‘cause I’m not out there asking them to like me. I’m just going out there and laying my body on the line.
CS: You’ve had some great matches with Roman Reigns over the weekend and the Dudley Boys are back in action, so do you think you two will stay as a tag team and maybe take them on? That would be a pretty amazing match.
Dean Ambrose: Yeah, anytime I can team with Roman Reigns is always a good day, because it’s always fun to be out there with your friend and a guy you have good chemistry with. It just takes everything to a different level. It gives it a football game type of atmosphere, having that extra guy to play off. I will always welcome that opportunity.