TAEM interview with actor Mark Weiler

Photo is courtesy of Brandin Rackley, photographer.

TAEM- Acting has many venues, and many actors forge their careers in assorted film genres. One such actor is Mark Weiler who has appeared in various films and television shows. Mark, we have many Students of the Arts who follow our magazine for inspiration. Please tell us what inspired you to take up acting as a career.

MW-  I grew up in the woods of northern Wisconsin.  There wasn’t a whole lot of stimulating opportunities beyond those that I created in my mind.  My only outlet to the rest of the world was television and I was fascinated by it.  It seemed so much more interesting than the deer, trees and cows I was surrounded by.  Even in kindergarten I took to the stage and fell in love with the creative process.  So I’ve always drawn to acting, even though it was not encouraged as a career.  It took a lot of courage to quit my day job and say, “I’m an actor now, and that’s all I do.”  I guess ultimately what inspired me to take up acting as a career was the realization that absolutely nothing else could make me as happy.

TAEM- Who was your greatest influence to do so?

MW-  That’s a tough question.  I was living in San Francisco at the time and was taking a good hard look at who I was, and going through a deeply spiritual process.  So my friends of spirit influenced me quite a bit.  I’ve been a long time fan of Sean Penn and Gary Oldman, so unbeknownst to them, they’ve been an influence on me.  Beyond that it was just a voice or a drive inside of me that said, “I can do this.  I have to do this.  And I at least have to try.”

TAEM- You first appeared on film in 1999 in ‘Where’s George’, then again in the following year in the television series ‘The West Wing’. You also appeared in the short, ‘World Record Guy’. How exciting was this for you, and can you tell us a little about these productions ?

MW-  I’m guessing your getting your timeline from IMDb which isn’t always accurate.  I did quite a few productions in San Francisco before moving to LA .  “World Record Guy” was the first thing I was cast in and that was very exciting.  It turned out to be a great project; great story, tremendous production value.  I was the lead actor, and got to sit in a bathtub full of ice for a half hour, ate about a hundred marshmallows in one sitting, stood in a shower in a Speedo for a day….  It was a blast!  It ultimately played at about 20 film festivals.  Unfortunately it set my expectations that all projects would be like that, and I was quickly surprised to find out otherwise.  Despite being shot in 1999, “Where’s George?” is just now finding release.  And then once I moved to LA in 2000, “West Wing” was a steady background gig that I did for the first season.  Good exposure to the workings of network television.  I learned the most by watching and talking to Martin Sheen, especially how he handled himself when the camera wasn’t rolling.  He was a class-act all the way; humble and friendly to everyone.  On the other hand, many of the other actors, although talented, were cold, arrogant or removed off-set.  And I couldn’t understand how these men, who were doing what we all love, could be so bitter and jaded about it all.  Here I was a background performer having the time of my life.

TAEM- In 2001 you were in a spate of films that included ‘Talk Sex’, ‘Bodily Sanctions’, Pearl Harbor’, ‘When Cupid Dances’, and the TV series ‘Rough Crossing’. With this variety of acting demands how did you apply yourself to them ?

MW-  Again, the timelines are not accurate, but yeah, I’ve been in a variety of different productions.  If I could spend every day on set as an actor I would.  I just do what I’ve always done.  Take in the script, absorb it, envelope the character, live it, breath it, walk it, find his voice and bring it to work with me.  Each project is unique, and I don’t apply my work to any character differently based on the budget or the expected exposure of the film.

TAEM- For the next few years you took to late night cable shows such as ‘Black Tie Nights’, ‘Sex Games Vegas’, and ‘Hotel Erotica Cabo’. You also did voice acting for the video game, ‘Halo 2’. How different did this style of acting compare with anything that you did before ?

MW-  There was no difference in style.  It’s all the same.  It’s all about being honest in the moment.  On bigger budget productions I may have gotten more takes, more opportunities to rehearse, to work it and develop it with the director and other actors.  But on these low budget shoots, we often had no real discussion with the director and usually only got one or two takes.  So that was tough.  I always wanted to do it again and try something different, but they didn’t have the budget or need to do that.  We actors would get together in the dressing room prior and run the scene as often as possible so that when we got our one or two takes on set, we were ready to go.

TAEM- You also appeared in three episodes of ‘What I Think About You’ in 2006. How did this change of venue affect you, and can you tell us something about this production ?

MW-  Yeah, that was very exciting for me.  I thought that was my “Big Break;” being on network television, playing an equal to Jennie Garth, Amanda Bynes, Leslie Grossman and Dan Cortese.  I figured there’d be no rest from work after that, but that was naive.  I remember spending the entire weekend before my first episode running and memorizing lines.  And then when I got to set, they handed me a brand new script.  And in between each take they would say, “now say this, now do this.” And each time it was fresh.  It was also filmed in front of a live studio audience, so that was both exciting and a little nerve wracking as well.  There was no place to hide from mistakes.  I was only expected to be in the first episode.  That was at the end of 2005 and so I was lucky that they invited me to their staff Christmas party. And at the party I was asked if I wanted to be a regular on the show!  Of course I said yes!!  It was the best Christmas present I had ever received.  Unfortunately, the show ended only five episodes later, but it was a blessed experience and I was very grateful to be a part of it.

TAEM- You continued to play roles in the late-night cable shows, but appeared in the television series ‘The Mentalist’ in 2009. Tell us about your role in this production, and about the production itself.

MW-  I played George the Gangster, who was accused of many murders.  Patrick Jane (played by Simon Baker) hypnotized me to get the truth, even though it was illegal on his part.  I was impressed by Simon.  He was well prepared, came in and told the director what he had in mind, and walked us all through it.  The director agreed and we did it as Simon had prescribed.  This was just after Christmas break 2008, and most of the cast and crew had been working steadily on the show since its inception, and hadn’t had much personal time.  So on set they were talking about their Christmas vacations and saying, “did you know this show was a hit? I had no idea.  My whole family loves the show.  Did you know that Simon’s on the cover of… (this magazine and that magazine)?”  It was pretty funny.  I knew more about how the show was being received than they did.

Photo is courtesy of NBC/Universal's "The Event."

TAEM- The following year saw you in a number of television series that included ‘The Young and the Restless’, ‘The Forgotten’, ‘Cold Case’, and ‘The Event’. How did you consider this period in your acting career, and which of them did you enjoy the most in appearing in ?

MW-  When the budgets are bigger, the stakes are higher, and so is the pressure. I felt like this truly was the next step, the next level for me, and it was great.  Having recurring roles on “The Forgotten” and “The Event” made me feel like I was part of the family; so much more comforting than a one day walk on role.  “The Event” was a huge production, big budget, hundreds of extras, wind machines, special effects, action, adrenaline, all of it. It was NBC’s baby for the Fall of ‘10.  They heavily hyped it the entire summer prior, so that was definitely the most enjoyable.  Having people call me all summer saying, “I just saw you save the President’s life!!”

TAEM- Who were some of the actors in these productions, and how did your character interact with them? 

MW-  I’ve been pretty blessed to work some some top performers.  On  NBC’s “Life,” I got to throw down and cuff Adam Arkin.  “Y&R” was with Cybill Shepherd’s daughter, Clementine Ford.  “Cold Case” was a scene with the star, Kathryn Morris.  On “The Event” I got to work pretty closely on several episodes with Blair Underwood, Laura Innes and Zeljko Ivanek.  Blair is another class-act all the way; very friendly and perfectly Presidential, shaking hands and kissing babies.  And then, of course, on ABC’s “The Forgotten,” I was Christian Slater’s nemesis.  He’s another great guy; always treated everyone with respect.  He’s a family man now, loves his kids.  We had a lot of fun working together.

TAEM- The newest project that you are working on is ‘Extinction’. Can you give us a sneak-preview behind the scenes and tell us what the theme behind it is ?

MW-  Actually right now I’m filming an indie feature called “Benjamin Troubles,” about a young man with magic money-making pants.  I play one of the bad guys, a drug dealer, who mostly just beats the tar out of everyone.

TAEM- Mark, we want to thank you for your interview with The Arts and Entertainment Magazine, and wish you much luck in all that you do. We hope that you keep in touch and let us know about more in your career in the years ahead.

TAEM