COLIN CUNNINGHAM THRILLS WITH ONE OF THE BEST VILLAINS EVER ON “BLOOD DRIVE”!
By: Andrew Cristi
These days, it sometimes feels like the only villain that’s ever really celebrated in the fandom universes are the many different incarnations of Gotham City’s infamous madman “The Joker,” and while each wildly colorful version of the DC antagonist has his own right for praise, the world has certainly been calling out for an exciting new on-screen evildoer to applaud. Enter Julian Slink on SYFY’s “Blood Drive,” a character and a series both so unique that they are re-writing the rules of what a villain should be while constantly reaffirming why it’s important to have classic adversaries in media.
Played beautifully by the gifted Colin Cunningham, the talented actor bravely takes his flamboyant character into every uncharted territory known to man as he goes to any length that the wild and explosive show demands of him. Never holding back, Cunningham is downright Shakespearean in his performance as he articulates his zany dialogue and makes it come alive, and he is always offering a wonderful acting table-tennis partner for the always incredible Alan Ritchson as they play off each other in a way that constantly elevates the other. All this just shows that while the set-up of the series might seem silly at first, and the hook might seem only suitable for certain viewers, “Blood Drive” is in fact very sophisticated viewing, complete with top-shelf directing, cinematography, story-telling, tongue-in-cheek humor, and of course, acting.
Last summer, Hollywood very quickly learned that the world was crying out for original content that could be blockbuster entertainment on the small screen with “Stranger Things,” and “Blood Drive” very much fills that void- right down to the nostalgic factor. Also like “Stranger Things,” the characters are larger than life memorable characters that can be cult-icons and perhaps even be made into Halloween costumes- particularly Cunningham’s devious master of ceremonies. For so long in entertainment, any costumed character or antagonist has been either forgettable, a reboot of a character that has already been in existence, or a character that has been fairly low-key in mannerisms, speech, and style- and Cunningham’s outstanding Slink changes all that. Every time Cunningham speaks on “Blood Drive,” it seems like an event, and his very entrance into the series alone has cemented the character instantly into the fandom universe as a brand new villain that will forever be worshipped and idolized, and many years down the road, other actors will desperately try their hand at trying to reboot Slink in tribute to Cunningham’s brilliant work.
Of course, a big part of the magic behind the mischievous “Blood Drive” ringmaster is the mystery surrounding him. Not quite a complete out-and-out villain, Slink seems shrouded in interesting shades of grey as he toys with Ritchson’s Arthur Bailey- making them both fascinating to watch as they slide on a spectrum of morality and constantly raise the depth of the show. Ritchson’s Bailey, while seemingly steadfast “good” is constantly showing through the cracks that he is more of an anti-hero than picture perfect, and Cunningham’s Slink is constantly managing to meet him halfway as she shows his anti-villain true colors- and both actors are hitting every note perfectly, and they look like they’re having a fantastic time doing so!
And that should come as no surprise considering that Cunningham is already a king in the science fiction and fantasy universe. Having already been on three of the longest running science fiction series of all time; “Smallville,” “Stargate SG-1,” and “The X-Files,” as well as starring in Steven Spielberg’s widely praised TNT hit “Falling Skies,” the talented performer has more than made the rounds in the fantastical genre. And, having already had tons of practice behind the camera writing, directing, and producing on some of his own projects- many of which have been nominated for several awards, the multitalented artist clearly knows what it takes to make a project successful!
With “Blood Drive” being the hit of the summer and fans desperate to know more about the magnetic and charismatic actor behind the man who plays Slink, Wingman caught up with Colin Cunningham to ask him all about his juicy new character, what it’s like working with our summer cover man Alan Ritchson, what else he would like to do behind the camera, who his grindhouse inspirations are, and MORE! Read below to see what Colin had to say!
WINGMAN: You are certainly no stranger to sci-fi as you have been on all three of the longest running sci-fi shows of all time; “The X-Files,” “Smallville,” and “Stargate SG-1.” What was it about “Blood Drive” that particularly drew you to the project, and what were your thoughts about this intensely wild script? This is truly some of the most unique and original content to hit TV in a very long time!
COLIN CUNNINGHAM: Straight up, the scripts were absolutely bat shit bonkers. Yes, they were offensive. Yes they were disgusting, but, they were also brilliant! Yes, I just used the word ‘brilliant’ to describe a show about cars that eat people! Only its brilliance wasn’t necessarily in its prose or premise, but in the sheer explosion of creativity in it. Obviously, “Blood Drive” isn’t for everyone, but, if you’ve been around long enough, the show is only considered ‘shocking’ because we now live in a world suffocating in mediocrity and PC bullshit. But, back in the 60’s and 70’s, crazy stuff like “Blood Drive” was all just considered bawdy fun. “Blood Drive” is a COMEDY. It’s a live action Bugs Bunny cartoon (before Bugs himself was banned.) Yes, it pays homage to every great Drive-In movie/B-Horror flick ever made, but it’s more than that. “Blood Drive” is actually a love letter. And I know that sounds nuts, but it is. It’s a nod to the awkward kid who didn’t quite fit in and so he stayed home to watch the “Godzilla” movie marathon instead. It’s for the teenage girl that was picked on for not decorating herself with lipstick, but instead, decorated her ‘dork’ friends in black eyeliner, liquid latex and red corn syrup. It’s for those that chose Fangoria over Teen Beat- and then grew up to win Academy Awards for Best Makeup and Production Design. “Blood Drive” is a swan song to what I call ‘the last summer’-the one before Facebook.
WINGMAN: Are you a big fan of sci-fi, and with that, grindhouse films? What were some of your favorite science fiction movies or shows, or grindhouse movies that inspired you growing up?
CUNNINGHAM: Wow, that’s… so hard. There’s no question that guys like Romero, Carpenter and Corman are B-Movie royalty. But, there are a few names that I keep in a twisted little room of gold. Marjoe Gortner, Kitten Natividad, Fred Williamson, Stuart Lancaster, and of course legends such as Sid Haig and Karen Black and Tom Laughlin. Directors like Russ Meyer, William Castle and Tobe Hooper. I’ll argue ’till the day I die that Russ Meyer was, and is still, the greatest Director/Editor ever to hold a Bolex.
WINGMAN: Slink is the kind of character that entertainment really needs right now. Outside of franchises, there has really been a void for dynamic villains that are original and become part of cult-culture. Can you talk about that, and explain how you went about creating Slink?
CUNNINGHAM: In short, Slink was an amalgamation of four brilliant actors; Gene Wilder, Joel Grey, Tim Curry and the incredible character actor Frank Nelson who often appeared with Jack Benny back in the 40’s and 50’s. Frank’s catch phrase was, “Why, YESSSSSS!!” There’s also a wonderful actor- and buddy of mine- Hjeron O’Sidhe’ in Vancouver, BC. Hjeron plays the character of Reverend Heathen Strangefellow in the brilliant musical/theatre troupe, “The Vaudeville Vagabonds“- which I highly recommend. But, without exaggeration the role of Julian Slink is the most complex and unique character I have ever played. Probably ever will. I’ve quite simply never read anything like him. So often, an actor’s job is to dignify shitty material. Scripts better served lining the bottom of a birdcage. But, then along comes James Rowland, David Straiton, John Hlavin, and this unbelievable writing team, and it was a game changer. It was no longer a question of, “How can you possibly do something like this?” Instead, it was, “How can you not?” And, as for Slink being such a great Villain? That might be a better question for James. Perhaps villains aren’t as fun or dynamic anymore because they’ve had their balls snipped. Many Villains today reek of agenda. People aren’t stupid. They flip on their televisions and they know they’re being played. Everywhere you look, you’re told what you can do and what you can’t, what you can say and what you can’t- we’re now even being told what we can think. But “Blood Drive” hits the reset button. “Blood Drive” says, “Fuck you.”
WINGMAN: And you’re in phenomenal company here- everyone surrounding you is great. Christina Ochoa is incredible, the directors make every episode look cinematic, and you know we’re huge fans of summer issue cover Wingman hero; Alan Ritchson! Can you talk about the great cast and crew you’re surrounded by?
CUNNINGHAM: Is Christina Ochoa a phenomenal Grace or what? She really is amazing. It’s such a hard line to walk. To play the iconic bad ass/hot chick/lolly-pop lickin’ vixen, but to also to bring a real depth and gravitas to the role. She’s perfect. As for Alan, I think Alan Ritchson is comedic wonder. Any actor can play “dumb” and make it work. Alan’s brilliance, in my opinion, is so beautiful and so subtle. That he’s chosen to play Arthur with a “normal” intelligence is just so much more sophisticated and difficult to do. Arthur is not dumb, he’s decent and Alan Ritchson distills the character down into one beautiful beat of “sincerity.” The scene with him on the payphone at Pixie Swallow where he left a message for Christopher had me pissing my pants.
WINGMAN: Speaking of Alan, another show you both share in common is “Smallville.” Not only have you guest starred on that mega-hit show, you also guest starred on “Stargate SG-1,” and “The X-Files,” making you one of the most popular faces in science fiction. Can you talk about any experiences from those shows that particularly stand out to you, or which of those worlds you would most want to re-visit?
CUNNINGHAM: Chris Carter from “The X-Files” is one of the most generous and respected men I’ve ever worked for. In Vancouver he’s a legend. And many of the fans I met via “Stargate” are still friends of mine to this day. But, life is to move forward. Or should I say “drive.” [Smiles coyly]
WINGMAN: Of course, audiences are also very familiar with you from TNT’s alien hit “Falling Skies,” produced by the amazing Steven Spielberg. That must have been a grueling show to work on as every action scene looked extremely intense. Can you talk a little bit about what went into the work behind the scenes to make that show come to life?
CUNNINGHAM: Naturally, to have Spielberg on a resume is a pretty cool thing. But, I’m just as proud to have names like Greg Beeman and Michael Wright up there too. And as I’ve always said, Noah Wyle is one of the best and most generous actors I’ve ever worked with. And the character of John Pope was a Godsend. Well, at least until Slink chopped him up, stuffed him into the gas tank of that old Harley Davidson, and shot him out of the tail pipe!
WINGMAN: You also were just in the widely applauded “Little Pink House” alongside great actresses like Catherine Keener and Jeanne Tripplehorn- which has already won a few awards in the festival circuit. Can you tell fans about that film?
CUNNINGHAM: My friend Courtney Balaker is an extremely gifted and driven Director who obtained the rights to The Susette Kelo Story “Little Pink House.” A true story of one incredible woman’s fight against big pharma and big government. It was an honor to work with Catherine and Jeanne and to actually meet Susette herself. It’s a great movie and an incredible story.
WINGMAN: You also won several awards for your own film; “Centrigrade” which you wrote and produced, and you’ve directed, written, and produced several more films! Is that a major goal- to get more behind the scenes?
Thanks! Basically, “Centrigrade” is being developed into a feature film along with myself and Producer/Creator Madison Graie. But I hate talking about things that are in development! In life, it’s always better to show people what you’ve done vs. what you’re going to do. [Smiles] But, I will say that there comes a point in your career when you can no longer wait for someone to knock on the door of your trailer!
WINGMAN: You’ve worked with so many amazing people throughout your career like Steven Spielberg, Noah Wyle, Alan Ritchson, Anson Mount, and on so many great projects that we love. Who else would you love to work with, and what other roles would you love to play?
CUNNINGHAM: Right now I just count myself blessed to be working the wonderful actors on “Blood Drive.” So many of them South African. Carel Nel and Rob Van Vuuren are two of the best actors I’ve ever seen. And both are local to Cape Town. Out of all the crazy actors I saw on that first day of shooting, it was Carel that I first noticed. I didn’t even know who he was. He was working on his “walk,” And I asked the Assistant Director, “Who is that?” And he said, “That’s Carel. He’s playing Rasher.” I remember thinking to myself that if I didn’t bring my A-game that son of a bitch was really going to have me for lunch!
WINGMAN: And, what can we expect coming up for the rest of the season on “Blood Drive”?
CUNNINGHAM: You’ll have to tune in and see. But I can promise you one thing; It will NOT be boring.
And with a cast we love, amazing action sequences, great comedy, and Cunningham bringing his A-game week after week as he turns in a killer performance as one of the best villain’s we’ve ever seen, we trust that promise entirely!
“Blood Drive” continues Wednesday nights at 10/9C on SYFY.