TAEM interview with Actor Anthony DeLongis

TAEM- The Arts and Entertainment Magazine is very excited to introduce actor Anthony DeLongis to all of our readers. Anthony, you have been in many popular movies and television shows for quite a few years. Please tell us about your training for this profession and what influenced you the most to take up acting as a career.

AD- I began as an actor performing Shakespeare in the 1970’s at one of the finest repertory companies in the country, the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. I continue to do theater as my schedule permits because I love the challenge, rewards and instant feedback from the audience that only theater can offer. Performing live theater is a bit like the old Hollywood studio system, the broader your training and the more varied your skills, the more often you’ll work. My favorite role has been playing Iago in Shakespeare’s OTHELLO, a wonderfully complex and layered role.

I love acting and I also love action. My favorite roles are ones where I get to combine both. To me IT’S ALL ACTING, whether I’m telling my character’s story with words or with deeds. Action is a dialogue of movement instead of words and can be subtle as a whisper or as dynamic as a shout. Such opportunities dramatically define character and invigorate the story, providing the actor commands the skills to deliver a safe, exciting, believable performance and the director can bring those images to the screen. Good action articulates character, anything less is just eye candy.

TAEM- You played a few roles before landing a part in ‘The Quest’ in 1976. How exciting was this for you, and can you tell us all about it?

AD- THE QUEST was a big lesson for me. I learned you always save something for your close up coverage because that’s where you best get the chance to reveal to your audience your true feelings and you’d better have something to show them when it’s time for your coverage.

I’d played Tybalt to Tim Matheson’s Romeo at the Old Globe Theater, so it was nice to see him again. Tim was the show’s co-leads along with Kurt Russell. In this episode we hung Amanda Blake, known the world over as “Miss Kitty” from the classic western series GUNSMOKE. I was doing a small part so they shot the performances of all the main actors first, by which I mean the Master Shot, Close Ups and Over the Shoulder coverage shots and I was acting up a storm in all of them, even when I was peripheral to the scene and barely in the shot because, coming from theater, I was used to always being in character. By the time they got to my Close Up reaction, I was toasted and had very little to offer in the way of performance. Our director was a kindly old pro and he gave me another chance the next day. We were no longer on the ranch location, so he put the cameraman up on a step ladder to mimic Amanda Blake’s position on a horse and surrounded me with a couple of extras in the dirt of the studio parking lot. An invaluable lesson for a young actor starting out in film and television and I’ve never forgotten it.

FearlessTAEM- The following year your career took off, and you played roles in three very popular television series: ‘Family’, ‘Quincy M.E.’, and ‘Logan’s Run’. How did landing these roles boost your confidence in your acting abilities?

AD- Work always helps your confidence. You’re very aware of the effort and work you put into a scene (not all of it productive when you’re first starting out) and seeing it in its varying degrees of success gives me the incentive to do better. Each of these roles offered different challenges and opportunities and each provided valuable lessons that improved my craft as an actor, especially a film and television actor.

Unfortunately talent isn’t always enough to get you the role. The only thing you can control is the quality of your work and making the most of your time at the audition. I’m always looking to add to my skills, because that gives me more choices and your unique artistry happens in those choices.

“Be prepared” is not just a motto for the Boy Scouts. It is an absolute necessity to achieve success in the turbulent waters of a show business career. Take responsibility for your own training, the set is not the place to learn your craft.  I tell my students, ‘you have the skills you show up with and you can’t wing it unless you’ve taught yourself the skills to fly.”

TAEM- The following two years found you in a spate of television and movie productions that included ‘The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries’ and two episodes of ‘Battlestar Galactica’ for television, and the films ‘Circle of Iron’ and ‘Jaguar Lives’. You also played a role in the documentary film ‘In Search of Historic Jesus’. This was quite a plateful. Tell us something about each of these and the roles that you played in them.

AD – The Hardy Boys offered a nice role and introduced me to Gene LeBell, “the toughest man alive” and a legend in the stunt industry. He’s been a friend ever since.

In Battlestar Gallactica I played “Taba,” the youngest of the Borellian Nomen, a warrior race from a desert planet. They were grooming us to be the new antagonists to replace the Cylons but we only got one more appearance before the long running show was cancelled.

Circle of Iron was my first film and we shot on location in Israel at wonderful locations. It was like walking the blood soaked sands of history and quite unlike what I’d imagined. This was a film originally written by and for Bruce Lee to play 5 different roles to aid ‘the seeker,” originally to be played by James Coburn, in his search for enlightment. Alas that didn’t happen but in this incarnation I got to play Morthand and work with the wonderful actor Roddy MacDowell. This was also my first time working with David Carradine and we got along so well, they asked me to play another character to fight him in his introduction as the “blind Master.” David and I would work together again in “The Warrior and the Sorceress” in Argentina and Kung Fu – The Legend Continues in Toronto.

When they filmed some additional fight scenes back in LA, I met World Heavy Weight Karate Champion Joe Lewis who invited me to join him as his friend and later adversary in Jaguar Lives, also starring John Houston, Donald Pleasance, Woody Strode, Barbara Bach, Christopher Lee and Joe Weisman. We filmed in Almeria, Spain, where I would return 23 years later to guest star and co-stunt coordinate the television series, The Queen of Swords.”

For In Search of Historic Jesus we filmed in Salt Lake City Utah. I played Simon Peter opposite John Rubenstein and had a wonderful time re-reading my Bible for inspiration. Probably my most daunting role was playing Jesus in an Easter television special called The Three Days.

There was a joke among my friends that I always died in my roles because most of them were bad guys. I told them that this time I wasn’t a bad guy and although I still died, after 3 days, I come back.

 

TAEM- ‘Battlestar Galactica’ was a groundbreaking show for television. Please tell us about the set for this production and the other actors that you played alongside of.

AD – This was a great opportunity for me as both an actor and as a life long fan of movie great Fred Astaire who was guest-starring along with June Lockhart, whose daughter, Ann Lockhart, was a regular on the show. It was great to see him in action and a ton of fun for me to be working with such Hollywood royalty. Coincidentally, a couple years back I was the villain / master assassin in a picture called The November Conspiracy and got to murder Dirk Benedict and this last month I doubled Richard Hatch for some stunt driving in an indie film called The Pod. Small world, isn’t it.

Meeting and working with Fred Astaire was an unforgettable experience. I’ve been blessed to work with many of the greats including Charlton Heston (Macbeth at the Ahmanson Theater), Richard Chamberlain (I played Valvert to his Cyrano and choreographed “the duel in rhyme”), Angela Lansberry in Murder She Wrote, Placido Domingo (I staged action for Los Angeles Opera from 1985-2005, Michelle Pfeiffer (I trained her with the whip for her portrayal as Catwoman in Batman Returns, Angelica Houston and Ellen Barkin (I trained them with the whip for Calamity Jane in Buffalo Girls & Wild Bill respectively), Jet Li (who I performed with in Fearless) and of course Harrison Ford who I trained for Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

TAEM- During the next two years you played in two other productions, ‘King of the Mountain’ and ‘The Sword and the Sorcerer’. Describe these to our readers and your parts in them.

I refer to my portrayal as Roderigo in Sword & Sorcerer as my final “ingénue” role, I was in my mid-thirties at the time.D – King of the Mountain was one of my “third ski mask from the left” fist-fodder bad guys, but The Sword & the Sorcerer was a real treat. The film starred Lee Horsley (who I later worked with in Vancouver on the television series Hawkeye with Linda Carter, aka WonderWoman).

TAEM- In 1984 you played in countless roles in many of the most popular television shows around. Television seemed to love you and could not get enough of you. Some of those shows on the list included ‘Matt Houston’, ‘The A-Team’, ‘Trapper John, M.D.’, ‘The Master’, ‘V’, ‘Murder, She Wrote’, ‘General Hospital’, and ‘Dukes of Hazzard’. You also had parts in the TV-movie, ‘Velvet’, as well as roles in film, ‘The Warrior and the Sorceress’ and the short, ‘3 Days’. Tell us about this period in your life and the ability to undertake so many varied roles and characters.

AD  – I was grateful for the opportunities and challenges each role afforded to grow and get better as a performer. An actor’s job is to act, but most of our time is spent trying to get the job, made harder by the difficulty in finding a way and chance to show your skills to the people who can hire you. I keep adding to my skills so I can continue to improve and to hopefully generate more of these chances.

Acting is both the hardest and easiest thing I’ve ever done, it still is. I find that contradiction fascinating. The work demands your very best, always, and I love having to rise to the occasion when failure isn’t an option. The business is often very difficult because you seldom have control over whether you get the job, or even get the opportunity to read for roles you know you’re right for and can hit out of the park. It’s the nature of the beast and it’s one of the hardest lessons and challenges for nearly every actor pursuing a career in show business.

TAEM- This busy period extended through 1987 where both television and the silver screen saw you play the character ‘Blade’ in the movie ‘Masters of the Universe’, as well as roles in ‘Dangerously Close’, The TV series’ ‘The Twilight Zone’, ‘The New Mike Hammer’, ‘MacGyver’, ‘Moonlighting’, ‘She’s the Sherriff’,  and ‘Simon & Simon’. You also undertook voice acting parts for the movie’s ‘Starchaser : The Legend of Orin’ and ‘The Chipmunk Adventure’. Your versatility as an actor far surpasses many of those that we have interviewed in the past. One of the most outstanding roles was that of ‘Blade’, and you had also performed as a stunt double for another character in this movie. Please tell us about these and your performances in ‘Masters of the Universe’.

AD – Thank you, I appreciate that very much.

I was hired to play the character of Blade, the double swordsman in MASTERS and all I had to do was shave my head, just kidding, I had much more on my plate than that. It was a fun role to play and I got to enhance my efforts by working very closely with He-Man, Dolph Lundgren. Walter Scott was the stunt coordinator (I’d work with Walter again on Far & Away, the series The Magnificent 7 and the film Secondhand Lions. Loren Janes, past president of the Stuntman’s Association was the sword trainer. Loren had been the fight coordinator on MacGyver when I played one of my favorite parts, “Piedre – the Assasin.”  He knew my skills and sword background and insisted that I train Dolph with the sword and choreograph our sword duel in the warehouse.  I also fought Dolph again at the end of the picture when I doubled Frank Langella as Skeletor.

For StarchaserThe Legend of Orin I played the antagonist, Zygon. It was the first 3 D animated feature and my first big Voice Over role. Soon after I was Klaus the evil diamond smuggler in The Chipmonk Adventure.

TAEM- How do you compare your voice acting roles with those others where you portrayed actual characters?

AD- . I love VO work, it’s “theatre of the mind” and it keeps my acting chops sharp. I play Marshal Leigh Johnson in RED DEAD REDEMPTION, General Serrano in BULLETSTORM and Mick Cutler in REDEMPTION 3, Hiroshi in MYTH & MAGIC and Mercer Frey in the new ELDER SCROLLS – SKYLINE.

TAEM- You continued your love affair with acting, and we saw you in the movie ‘Road House’, multiple episodes in ‘Star Trek Voyager’, ‘Queen of Swords’, ‘Highlander’, and ‘The Hunted’. You also appeared in Babylon 5′, ‘Kung Fu: The Legend Continued’, The Outer Limits’, ‘Pacific Blue’, ‘ER’, and ‘The Days of Our Lives’ amongst many others. You also continued voice roles for video games, too! How were you able to keep up the stamina for such a wealth of roles and productions?

AD – It takes far more stamina not to work than to work full time. It’s  much worse when you’re between jobs and don’t know when or if “you’ll ever work again.”

As for the work itself, it’s regenerating if you love what you do, and I do. I’ve often said on a set that I’d rather work 14 hours straight than sit around for three. Of course waiting and learning to pace yourself is part of the craft. It does you no good to give your best performance in rehearsal or when the camera isn’t running. As I said, I learned that lesson early on The Quest. You can have a 5am call and due to unforeseen circumstances not shoot your scene until 5 or 6pm. It comes with the territory. You have to be ready and you have to deliver when it’s your turn. There are no excuses.

But to answer the question, I love the work, it challenges, me and inspires me. So far from being exhausted, I’m exhilarated. That’s a good reason to get up every day and I have no desire to ever retire. I firmly believe my best work is yet to come.

TAEM- Tell us about this past year and some of the new projects that you are working on.

AD – I’ve just written and directed my second film, BLOOD TRAIL 2 – THE TRAIL HOME. Good story, great production values, powerful acting and exciting action. BLOOD TRAIL won the Best Western catagory last year and this year we’re nominated for Best Western, Best Period Piece, Best Action Short (we’re 30 minutes long), Best Fight Choreography and I’ve been honored with a Male Action Performer of the Year nomination. The old man can still bring it.

I’m currently writing chapter 3 of my western trilogy, TRAIL’S END, with the idea to combine them all into a feature. It’s a crazy way to make a film, but these days you do what you must to get the job done.

Set in Texas in the mid 1800’s, BLOOD TRAIL 2 tells the story of Love, murder, revenge and justice. It opens with beautiful vistas and a somber tone, then quickly escalates into epic western battles. This film is a continuation of BLOOD TRAIL 1, in which Kendall, seeking vengeance for his wife’s murder, is hunted down by Anthony, his former teacher, for killing an innocent woman. In Part 2, Anthony is returning home after capturing his rogue student. But everything is not what it seems. Ambushed on the trail, Anthony discovers that his student may have been set up and there is a greater villainy at work.

This is what independent film does best, tell a story on a human scale.  This is real action, done by real people, performed in real time – no explosions, no car crashes, no CGI. We want to make another REAL western with honor, values and great action! To make that happen, we are seeking to make this a true community effort. Please contact me on my web site at www.delongis.com and we’ll let you know when we begin our next funding campaign. No amount of money is too small, and every dollar will be spent on THIS production. Thanks for your help and support.

TAEM- Aside from acting you have performed stunt work in more that twenty productions and we learned that you have performed work behind the camera as well. Please describe this other part of your career as well as these new abilities that you display.

AD- To me it’s all acting, whether with words or deeds, and my favorite roles are ones where I can combine both elements, it adds layers and textures to the performance and makes me a better story-teller as an actor, director or action coordinator.

Behind the camera I work as a Sword Master and fight choreographer. I’ve been a student of the bladed arts for nearly 40 years. I choreograph and perform a broad spectrum of bladed weapons periods and styles. I’m able to impart technique and confidence quickly while teaching weapon-specific adjustments that maximize the effectiveness of each tool. It is this hands-on resource of knowledge and experience that I bring to whatever director, stunt coordinator and performer I’m working with. In other words, I help them make the most of their character and story action opportunities. Like any prop, the sword can be an enthusiastic ally or a cumbersome adversary. In skilled hands it dynamically defines character, elevating simple action to unforgettable visual credibility and authority.

The whip is one of my passions and specialties. I’ve spent the last twenty-five years refining my “De Longis Rolling Loop” system, creating a new whip style that is more efficient, more combatively effective and more visual onscreen. For me, the whip is the ultimate flexible weapon: precision, power and versatility in one explosive, super-sonic package. It can perform the same feats as other flexible weapons including nunchuku, mace, flail and rope dart, but only the whip is super-sonic. It shatters the speed of sound, clocking velocities up to 900 mph. Fortunately, my system also keeps everyone on set safe.

Horses are another great passion. It was my dream to ride horses as a boy. I came to it late in life, but I’ve now performed and trained horses in 11 countries on 5 continents. The horse has been a wonderful partner for me personally in many different roles. Few partners can offer an actor and director the power and emotional impact of a well-ridden horse. Nothing confers credibility or exposes ineptitude faster than a few moments on horseback on camera. All actors say they can ride and sword fight, both usually a distortion. A true rider convinces his mount to perform willingly, repeatedly and obediently. When partners communicate, man and beast combine to achieve superior results.  But you don’t learn these skills overnight.

Careers change and take many circuitous routes. Most of the people I knew or started out with have left the business, it’s that hard to just make a living. But the work is wonderful and I keep adding to my skills so I can continue to create roles, tell stories and help others make the most of their character and action opportunities when I’m behind the camera.

As I said, I know my best work is yet to come. I’m just getting started.

TAEM- Anthony, I am truly humbled by your many talents and abilities, and I want to thank you for spending your time with our interview. I am sure that Hollywood and television is far from finished with you and I am sure that the readers of The Arts and Entertainment Magazine will hear much more about you in the years to come. We certainly wish you much luck in all that you do.

TAEM