Dead West will hit the masses on February 7th, and those with a taste for contemporary westerns or ice cold thrillers are going to discover a serious sleeper success story. We’re certainly happy to spread the word on the film, and Josh Hancock, who covered the flick (read his review here), was certainly up for a few conversations with a few of the movie’s crucial players.
Enter Jeffrey Arrington, one of the film’s two leads. Arrington offers up some very cool insight into the production and his character, so if you’ve got a minute, get yourself primed for a killer viewing experience with this brief Q&A session!
Josh Hancock: What drew you to the film? What qualities in the script seemed the most significant to you?
Jeffrey Arrington: Well from the moment Jeff Ferrell, the writer and director, sent me the script for my first audition, I was very impressed and intrigued by the dialogue and the scene work. I was given two scenes to prepare for the reading and I really just couldn’t wait to say the words on the page out loud, experiment with the scene, create my own intentions and bring the scenes to life. Soon after that reading I was cast as Tony, and from that point on it was an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to work with such incredible dialogue and explore the remarkable scenes in this epic story. Each an every character in this story is so vivid, even the smallest characters are very intriguing. Jeff took the time to write very complex and interesting characters. These complex characters, combined with sharp dialogue and brilliant scene work really take this script and story to a whole other level. My character, Tony, is definitely one of those vivid characters. Tony embarks on a tremendous journey in this film. He has an incredible character arc that gave me the opportunity to really dig deep into his circumstances, his life, his emotions, and his ultimate agenda, revenge.
JH: Your character, Tony, is motivated by one of film’s most well-known themes: the desire for revenge. Did you find Tony easy to relate to, and did you find his actions justifiable or reprehensible (or both)?
JA: I found Tony extremely easy to relate to and I think that his journey in this film is extraordinary. As an actor, you use the dialogue, the relationships, and the circumstances in the script to create every aspect of the character and the story he or she is trying to tell. To give every character that I play that much more depth, I create an extensive backstory, starting with imaginary details of the characters entire life, even if they don’t pertain to the story. I eat, sleep, drink, and breathe as my character, I get so lost in their imaginary life that often times I struggle to get back to my own life once filming is finished. This process gives me everything that I need to relate to and truly become my character inside and out.
I feel that every single action and decision that Tony makes is completely justifiable, he is an incredible character and he embarks on an honorable mission. His main goal and agenda is to avenge the death of his sister, but that’s really not all that he is after. Tony also wants to understand, he wants to understand why evil people are capable of doing such horrible things. How could this man brutally killed his sister behind a bar and just leave her beautiful body next to a dumpster? I feel like his journey is very admirable, maybe not the most intelligent course of action, but I believe it is what we all wish we could do if we were in this situation. His sister is dead and the police have done nothing to solve the crime. Tony constantly blames himself for her death, he feels like it happened on his watch and her death and avenging her death becomes an obsession. And in his mind, there is really only one way to deal with an obsession, challenge it head on. Will this end up being Tony’s downfall in the film? He is such a morally good person, when it comes time to pull the trigger, will he be able to do it? Unfortunately, his adversary is evil. A serial killer who has no problem pulling the trigger, drawing the knife: taking a life. We shall see…
JH: You have had an extensive career, appearing in film, television, and onstage. What about the experience of performing in Dead West makes it stand out in relation to your previous work?
JA: So far in my career I have been very fortunate. Over the years onstage and onscreen I have had the opportunity to bring an amazing variety of fascinating characters to life. That is the beauty of being an actor. We are given the unique opportunity to not just portray or imitate another human, but actually physically and mentally become another human. For me, the success of my work is measured by how truthfully I can transform into this other human. I created a very honest and personal connection with my character in this film and I believe this translated very well on the screen. I prepared for this role for months and really sunk deep into his circumstances, often times a little too deep for my own mental health. I spent a lot of time researching obsession and revenge and how it motivates and often times destroys people. I built lovely and horrifying relationships with the other characters and actors in the film. I developed an extraordinary love for my sister Charlene, and a terrifying hatred for the Ladykiller. I found depths to this character and this story that made this journey extremely visceral for me in preparation and while filming. I believe this extensive preparation, the incredible discoveries I made throughout the process, the heart-breaking relationships created onscreen, and my overall sacrifice for this film took my work as an actor to new heights.