During this past Supernatural Chicago Convention I had the wonderful opportunity to sit down and talk to Rick Worthy a talented and skilled actor from stage and screen. It all started with a couple of tweets that gradually turned into emails and then finally the interview. He is so easy to get along with and our conversation that was supposed to be only twenty-five minutes long ended up over two hours and probably one of the best conversations that I ever had.
AM: How did you get your start as an actor?
Rick: I was twenty years old and this was back in 1987 is when I got my first start. When I was a teenager the break dancing scene came on with Michael Jackson with the moonwalking and all the great dancing me and my brother just got on top of it. We formed our own break dancing troupe which was just basically me and him. We taught ourselves how to moonwalk and pop lock and I still got a couple of moves and that was my life for about five years. It culminated with us going onto at a time, which was reality show called Dance Fever.
AM: I read about that! Actually, I have siblings who remembered the show and were excited to hear that you were on it.
Rick: [laughs] Yes, I was on it! [laughs] It was very cool; it was actually fairly popular during the time. We tried out, they liked us, but they put us on standby. We were like “damn it,” but something happened and they called us and said they liked to have us on the show. We were like “YES,” and they flew us out there and we did the show and it was very wonderful and we had so much fun. My brother and I grew up very close. We are ten months apart in age and we shared everything, lockers, sometimes girlfriends…[laughs] We did the show and we didn’t win, but I think if you looked at the show, you would say that we were good and that we should of won, but whatever. So when I finished dance fever, I came back to Detroit and I knew I wanted to do something, but I didn’t know what. I kept thinking should I pursue a career as a dancer, music videos were really popular at the time and Billy Jean and Beat It and all the stuff that was happening, my brother and I thought we can be dancers in music videos. So our plan maybe to move back to L.A., but what happened, I was in college at the time and I wanted to finish. My brother and I are the first two in our family to go to college and it was important for me to finish my degree. So when I came back I kept on thinking about being on stage as an actor and pursuing that so I basically against the wishes of my mother and my father, who were totally against this, got a degree in theatre and film. Which basically meant that I read a lot of plays, acted in some and learned a lot of movies and tv (history of film and television) and graduated on the sly from parents who thought I had a degree in media studies. Parents always want to make sure that you have a roof over your head and that you are stable. Flash forward years later, I find myself in Chicago looking for a talent agent and someone who could get me auditions and I found a wonderful guy, Lou Johnson. I did this wonderful McDonald’s commercial where I was the only guy in the commercial. The idea of the commercial was that for each month there was a different hamburger. So like in January, there was a guy with the afro, in February it was the guy with the dreadlocks and March is the guy in the business suit. So they kept on doing all this different changes and I thought this was so cool and this became my demo reel because this was all I had. So I did the commercial which was a huge break and did a lot of theater in Chicago and then I moved to L.A. with my McDonalds commercial and some theater credits and got an agent. She started really getting me out there with the networks and stuff and just started booking things. So that was the short story of how I got started.
AM: Why do you think acting is your passion?
Rick: Cause I think I am crazy. It is like they say actors are a little loco. It is not about the money or the fame, I could be broke and no one could even know who Rick is, but I have to act. There is something in me, psychologically were I have to be the Alpha Vamp, the Police Officer or whatever it is, there is something psychologically rewarding about playing a different persona, a different character than myself. Part of it is myself and most of it is an idea of what that character is. If I am doing it and doing it well there is no higher feeling, drug or whatever that could compete with that feeling. That is what I get when doing a great job. You meet so many characters in Hollywood and they want that house in the hills and five cars, but they don’t really care about the craft so much, they only care about the fame. There are a hundred thousand people like that in Hollywood and I see them all the time. I think that if they put more effort into what they are doing as actors instead of being super famous they may have some degree of success. It really is funny, because I wasn’t really aware of that type of person until I moved to L.A. All my buddies here in Chicago were all actors. We did theater together and sometimes sleeping on the floor or on the couch…we knew what it was like to struggle.
AM: So you care about the story being told. What it represents to someone else.
Rick: Hopefully. If you write a script and it is really amazing….I just saw this movie called Drive with Ryan Gosling. It is really good film and I really like him and not only is he a handsome guy, but he is a fantastic actor. The movie is dark and is violent, but man is it good. There is something in it, but it is just good about him as the character, about the relationship he has with the woman down the hallway. That is what is sexy to me, the relationship between characters within the context of the story. That is why I think Supernatural works so well because the relationship between Sam and Dean is so complex and interesting within the context of fighting demons and ghost that if you took Sam and Dean and put them in Chicago in police uniforms and you are still gonna have a great show. If you have that brotherly relationship set, then you can have that anywhere. In this case it happens to be in the world Supernatural. I think that Eric Kripke did a wonderful job just coming up with the concept of the show, of Supernatural.
AM: I know you did quite a bit of theater in Chicago, such as MacBeth – The Somalian King, Eden, The Black Star Line, A Few Simple Truths, just to name a few and performed at the Victory Gardens, The Goodman Theater and the Chicago Dramatists Workshop, what drew you to Chicago and why go the route of theater first as oppose to television?
Rick: I actually thought at twenty-one about going straight into Hollywood. A lot of people do that and they are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, some of them turn out to be stars and develop a career. I wanted because since I did theater in college to perfect my craft and act as much as I could before I went to L.A. I was living in Michigan then came down to Chicago because there is a lot of great theater happening here. It has the Steppenwolf Theater Company where some of my favorite actors came out of: John Malkovich, Joan Allen, Aiden Quinn, they all came from that Chicago scene. All these people are great I thought I should go there. I kept on saying that I was going to New York and then I did and I was hanging out in the lower eastside and it was dirty and drug dealers down the hall and all kind of craziness happening. I don’t mind so much, I can put up with that, but I kept thinking that maybe Chicago would be a better fit. It is more affordable, like when I was living on the northside of Chicago eighteen years ago my apartment was $335 a month versus the same apartment in New York City would probably go $1200 dollars a month. It is more economically affordable for me to be in Chicago and not only that, but there is great theater and actors in Chicago so I went here. I came to Chicago and really just dove in, and it wasn’t easy. There is a definitely some that I went hungry, but things were getting better and developing contacts…it is really about who you know.
AM: All about networking.
Rick: Networking and contacts. All of that is at the upmost importance when working the entertainment business. So getting out there and developing relationships with people, helps you to start working. Then you either stay in Chicago or go to L.A. or [laughs] go to New York and I knew that I wanted to be on TV and film and moved to L.A. which was also hard because at the time I didn’t have a lot of money and I didn’t have a car. I moved to L.A. with no money and no car, but with a great resume and an agent. So my agent was like, ‘tomorrow morning you are gonna meet whoever and you just got to be amazing.’ So she didn’t care if you didn’t have a car or went to bed hungry and she wanted is you to be there and be fabulous and that is how it is in L.A. I had a lot of days like that where I didn’t have a car, but I got my ass on a bus and got myself to the audition. Two years later to make a long story short I booked a really wonderful job on ABC’s Murder One. I played a basketball player who was on trial for murdering the owner, disturbingly kinda like the O.J. trial. That was kinda like my break. It got me a lot of attention from that show and it eventually lead to the Magnificent Seven that eventually lead to other pilots. I was really on a role then September 11 happened and after that for some reason I wasn’t working. For the following year it got really tight for me that I was at a point of thinking that maybe I had to start selling things to stay alive. I remember calling my dad and saying that I didn’t know what was going on and he just said to ride it out. So I did and things started to get better later for me, but that was the period that I wasn’t sure if continue or should I try something else. I stuck with it. It is like a rollercoaster ride, when it is great it is great and when it is bad it is really bad. It can be really hard to the point where you don’t sleep at night because you are worried about the following month. Being an actor is something that you really have to know that you want to do. It is not like being a nine to five accountant where you get a guaranteed salary every year. Like at the beginning of each year I never know how much money I am going to make for that year. I have an idea, but I am never sure. I can live like that because that is all I have been doing for the past twenty years as an actor. If you can live like that you are gonna be okay.
AM: In your experience what is the difference between working in a television studio as opposed to a live theater stage?
Rick: I would have to say the first thing is that the fact you may have up to 300 to 500 or even fifty people live means that you have to do the play pretty much error free. You can’t forget your lines, you can’t say start over. You have to know it inside and out through your bones. I remember I was on the stage at the Goodman Theater doing a play by Frank Galati from the Steppenwolf Theater Company. He was just a genius and a truly a force of nature. He wrote his own adaptations from novels and one from a Gertrude Stein novel called Three Lives and he wanted me to be in it. He saw me in something and said that he loved my work and wanted to know if I wanted to work with him and I was like of course! The play had a lot of text; I mean a lot of text. I was one of the narrators, there was two (one female and one male) and it was unusual text. It wasn’t like a standard conversation it was more like poetry and it when on for days, like page after page after page. A lot of the language was repeated, like you can say one sentence and it will be repeated fifty times in one section of a specific piece. There is no room for error. You can mess up Shakespeare a little bit, especially if the audience doesn’t really know it.
AM: They won’t really catch it.
Rick: Exactly, the audience won’t really notice it. But with this, if you mess it up, then you are gonna pause for a minute to fix it and people are gonna realize that you screwed up. I thought to myself I could do this play and I remember one night, that I will never forget, we are backstage and halfway done with the play and I could not remember what was next. I just drew a blank and I was gonna go onstage within the next ten seconds. I just remember my heart beating so fast and it was a full house. I remember someone had a couple of the play and I just grabbed it and started going over it until it all just came back. That is the pressure on being on stage, because it has to be done live. For TV you have the luxury doing a lot of takes or being able to go to the bathroom whenever and be able to stop. Being on stage also requires so much voice and body stage movement which is communicating from your voice and your body which I love coming from a dancing background. So you are able to move around and really project your voice almost like singing. As for TV you really don’t have that much room. People say it is more lifelike to be in TV, but it is really more lifelike on stage because you have that whole freedom to move around. For TV you don’t have that freedom because if you do then you will be out of the light and if you are out of the light we can’t print that take because we can’t see you in that shot. All the little technical things that are required for film and TV acting are not require for stage acting. You really do have a lot more flexibility on the stage. For TV so much of it is close-ups.
AM: All you see sometimes is the face and sometimes you really don’t see the person as a whole. It can be very one-dimensional at some points depending on what you are watching.
Rick: That is exactly what it is. As a viewer while watching the play you can look at anything you want. TV is more selective and they chose what they want you to see. They call TV more of a director’s medium while stage is called more of an actor’s medium. Clive Owen one said that he is a film junkie and that is how I perceive myself. I love to be on set, be at the craft services table [laughs] you can ask my mom she will tell you that I love the craft services table. I love the people that you meet, the teamsters, the makeup people, the special effects people. I respect each department so much and as I have gotten older I have such a profound appreciation for what each department does. It is not just about the actors, we get a lot of the attention, but we can’t do the show without the over ninety-nine people on set.
AM: So you see how each department’s role is utilized as a whole in the bigger scheme of things. So each one flows into the next completing one another to make the show.
Rick: Absolutely. When I am doing shooting the crew has another six weeks in editing, of music and reshoots. They make the movie later. I respect the entire process of the whole thing. I got a couple of friends who are editors, or they work in sound and I have one friend who works in Vancouver, she did my hands with the bolt through them and the fingernails on Supernatural. That is what she does for a living. She worked on Tron and she can do anything. Her name is Mo and I go to her and say you are an artist. To do what you do, to me, there is no difference in painting a picture. I don’t know if she saw it the way that I did, but there is artistry to that.
AM: Most definitely. You need an incredible imagination and passion to create what they do. Also, you need to have the eye for it. It truly is a gift.
Rick: It is a gift. I was said that I was going to marry a singer, but now I think I will marry someone who is a special effects artist. [laughs] I just love what they do.
AM: Would be great for Halloween!
Ricks: [laughs] Oh my god, you would win every contest out there. There is no contest we are going to win next year and the following year. [laughs]
AM: Do you ever consider of doing more stage work?
Rick: I do and I think the guilt is haunting me. It has been, more than twelve years ago since I was on stage. The last time was at the Goodman Theater doing the Black Star Line play by Marcus Garvey. It was a fantastic experience, but in that time span I have seen a lot of theater in New York, Chicago, L.A. Seattle, Vancouver, D.C. wherever I am I go see a play. And every time I go see a play, I am like ‘god damn it I need to get back on stage!’ I don’t know when or where, but I really need to do it at some point.
AM: Yes, and you need to return to Chicago and do a couple of plays here.
Rick: Of course!
AM: Is there any plays you would like to do or revisit once again?
Rick: I like doing stuff that is unique and original. When I was doing plays at the Victory Gardens Theater one of the great things about it was that it is a theater that develops playwrights. What you are doing is something that was developed that year. So it is a new play, new work and I am kinda more into that. I would definitely like to revisit Shakespeare again, not sure which character again, maybe Othello would be cool or Iago would be even cooler [laughs] I get to play the villain! I always wanted to do a David Mamet something like Oleanna or plays like True West. Those are somethings that I would love to do.
AM: You are no stranger to the sci-fi genre Battlestar Galactica, Heroes, Star Trek, Dark Angel, Stargate. Is it a genre that you lean towards to or is more just depending on the role you get?
Rick: It really is both because there is the element of having to make a living so if something happens to come up and it happens to be sci-fi awesome, but also I happen to be a fan of sci-fi. Long before working on Star Trek and all of these different shows, I may have been a bit of a Trekkie. I have seen a lot of sci-fi and superhero films and probably I have like five or six superman t-shirts and stuff similar to that I wear all the time. I have this belief that deep inside you desire something sometimes not on a conscience level, but let’s say you desire science fiction or something, maybe that is why I am getting all these show, because I am subconsciously draw these roles my way. I played cops a million times and now that I am getting older I am a cop with a teenage daughter. As an actor all you want is a great character, you want it more than sex, money, or fame you just want a great character play. So when I get home from playing a cop or a soldier or any roles like those I probably pop in a movie and watch a sci-fi show or watch Doctor Who. I have been watching a lot of Sanctuary, it is just great! Some of the coolest, funniest, smartest, humblest people I have met came from conventions, sci-fi conventions. The fans that watch these types of shows are amazing. Like I go home from coming from conventions and I just feel so much better about my life because I met someone who has a connection like me because they like the same things that I like. Sometimes I will be hanging out with my buddies and I will want to talk about sci-fi and they look at me like I am the man from Mars. So when I go to these conventions I kinda find someone that I can relate to. I can wear my Iron Man t-shirts here and no one will give me shit about it. Like I was on date with this woman and I was wearing a really cool Iron Man shirt that had this glittery gold that made it look like his eyes were glowing and is just an awesome shirt. I will never get rid of this shirt. So I wore this t-shirt on a very casual date and she said to me ‘Do you always have to dress like a little boy?’ Then right away I said ‘when this date is over then we are done.’
AM: That was a pretty rude thing to say to someone especially over a t-shirt.
Rick: It really was and I haven’t seen her since.
AM: Speaking of Dark Angel, I know you did an episode and Jensen used to work on the show, do you ever find it more nowadays like six degrees of separation?
Rick: It is really like. If you go to IMDB.com and there is like IMDB Pro and you can buy it to get more information, so I bought it and it will list all the different degrees of separation of an actor that you worked with. It really is such a small world when you see all the connections listed. There is hundreds of thousands of people in this industry, but when you really think about it is just these people running into one another. So it is like six degrees of separation. Cause I worked with Jensen on Dark Angel when he was in his early twenties and we didn’t have any scenes together. So flash forward now, ten years later with him having his own TV show and he looks older and more mature and I am thinking to myself that this guy looks familiar and then I go, oh he was on Dark Angel. So the first day shooting he came up to me and he says ‘hey man I don’t know if you remember, but we did Dark Angel.’ I was like yes and we didn’t have any scenes together so we talked about being on set and Jessica Alba. Definitely there are areas of connection. I like him, he is a good guy….they both are. I don’t know them personally, but the guys or should I say “the boys,” they are just super cool.
AM: When you get an acting role, how do you get into a mindset of a character?
Rick: You know Ben Kingsley he is one of my favorite actors and he does something similar to what I do which is that you isolate yourself from people and you read the script then you read it again and then again and again till it starts assembling itself in your mind and internal to the point where you understand the play and the character. I think about the character about what he wants within the context of the script and I ask myself some questions for example if the character that I am playing is seeking revenge, how does he go about doing it? Then I build a series of objectives throughout the script for each scene and that is what I play, me willfully trying to execute a series of logical, playable, physical actions to get to the super objective of the character. So I try to identify the character’s objective and within that I give him a direction. Sometimes it may be wrong, but at least it is truthful. Like a director may say that is great, but the character needs to go in this direction. I use what is called the Method of Physical Direction. It is not the method. There could be a lot of controversy and debate over what he acting technique is because it can means different things to different people based upon their own opinions. For me though method acting and taking that home is very dangerous and psychologically damaging. When I was a much younger actor that was what I was doing. I called myself a method actor and before I go on stage I would do something that the character would do. So like if the character hasn’t slept in two days, I wouldn’t sleep for two days either. Well I did that, and when I go on stage I would be so tired that I wouldn’t remember my lines, so you have to act. Like I think Pacino once said ‘you just have to pretend.’
AM: I imagine it can be very emotional draining to be method acting all the time to the point you almost lose your identity from being the character day in and day out.
Rick: I think it can be, but you have to get to the point where you say that you are done. I was playing this gangbanger in a play called The Mighty Gents and I was taking this character home with me and at the time I was living at home in Michigan and the character I was playing was the lead in the play and the leader of gang and the character was named Frankie and I was taking Frankie home with me and everyone noticed. Like my mom would say ‘what is wrong with you?’ Apparently, my whole behavior and mood changed and my mom actually said that ‘you are taking all these characters home with you and it is changing you and I don’t like that.’ So I went to my acting teacher and he said to leave Frankie on stage. When you are done you are done and that is what I had to learn. The mannerisms sometimes creep in, but that is different than being emotionally connected to the character. That takes a great deal of work, but that is what you want, for it to be exhausting and tiring, but you have to leave that on the stage or in the studio or you end up in a mental institution.
AM: Who do you consider your mentors and why?
Rick: I had one mentor throughout my life and he is the one that gave me my basic training in terms of how to approach a script, how to build a character, and how to approach an entire play. Now that I am my own person, I really don’t have any mentors, I have actors thatI love such as Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Ron Pearlman, Andre Braugher, Laurence Fishburne, and Morgan Freeman. I think the actors from Battlestar Galactica particularly Edward Olmos and Katie Stackoff are geniuses. I loved working with them very much and when I wasn’t filming I would still be on set watching them do their thing. Even though I am an actor, I am very much so a fan of actors. I respect the craft so much that if I can watch someone do it then it is exciting to me. I would love to work with those guys again. I did a movie called Duplicity in 2008 with Clive Owen and Julia Roberts and I happen to love them both, but I don’t think I would ever do a movie with them again because sometimes there are people you get along with and sometimes you don’t. That is just the reality. Now Paul Giamatti, I will work with him on anything because not only is he a fantastic actor he is one of the guys. If you are the star on your own show and someone is on your show it is important to be generous to that person. You don’t have to go bowling with them, but saying hello and welcoming them on the set came all the difference. That makes my job all the difference because it is hard enough to get the job then you go on the show and no one wants to talk to you because you are not on their level, it makes it very difficult to do your job. What I love about theater when working in Chicago was that there was no star tripping when you were on stage. That is what I miss when working on stage because everyone is on equal ground and there is no hierarchy that you normally find on film sets. It is just everyone working on a common goal.
AM: Going from Supernatural and then to the conventions how has the experience been?
Rick: It has been great, I actually started Thursday night [laughs] just sitting where we are actually [restaurant lounge] just hanging out with some of the convention goers. It started with five then there were two ladies from Ireland sitting behind us, so we invited them over. We talked, laughed and drank and just did-a-get to know you conversation. I think that is why I like coming to these conventions, I mean the Q & A is great, but just having a conversation like you and I are having is what I look forward to.
AM: Is there a current show that you would like to act on?
Rick: True Blood, because it is really good. I would love to do Doctor Who and I have a lot of friends who love the show. I even sent an email to the producers with my reel and everything and I haven’t heard anything. I don’t even know what it would take to be on Doctor Who, but all I want to do is just do one episode. I don’t care so much for sitcoms I like Eureka, but that was just recently cancelled. The show was definitely interesting with this town and everyone is a genius the concept was very cool. I just heard there is going to be a remake of Battlestar Galactica as a movie. I believe Brian Singer is directing it and I think he is a great guy, but I don’t know. You can’t make anything better than the series. I just see how it is going to work in a two hour time frame. It worked as a television show because each year it got better and each season just brought it to another level. I always think about the scene were Sharon comes back from the Cylon base ship and then she shoots Adama, it is still shocking to me. I have seen it seven or eight times and that scene shocks the shit out of me. You don’t expect it and it is just total drama. It is almost Shakespearean in the depth of it all. I re-watched the whole series within a week and even though I was like a zombie toward the end it was like wow! I just don’t understand how you get that same excitement or level of connection within a two hour span.
AM: What profession other than your own, would you like to attempt?
Rick: Hmmm. Well, the only thing that I am doing now is producing an animated short movie and being a producer is very different than being an actor. It is a lot of business which I don’t always like. It is a lot of hiring people and trying to find people that you can trust and a lot of time on the phone because you are trying to get your project off the ground. It takes a lot of work, but if I wasn’t in show business I would probably be a priest or a counselor. Something in a position that I could help someone and I can listen to their problems. They say that Pisces are very good listeners and have a very empathic ear and I think that I am like that. I know that at some points I can talk too much, but I know when to listen.
AM: I think active listening is a very hard thing to do.
Rick: I agree. To really listen to someone is a very hard thing to do. To be a priest or a counselor you really need be able to do that. I remember one time I was on the bus in L.A. and I was heading home and this woman came on the bus and she seemed really alone. She seemed so depressed and really needed someone to talk to. So she comes to my side of the bus and says ‘do you mind if I sit here and I say no go right ahead.’ She asks if it was okay if she talks to me and she just unloaded on me with everything that she was going through. She was having a bad day and she just wanted to talk to somebody and I just happened to be that guy. For ten minutes or so I happened to be her sounding board and then we arrived at her stop and that was it. It would have to be something with people or animals particularly dogs. I can tell right away about how I feel someone or if we are going to be friends depending whether or not if they get along with my dog. There was this woman that I went on a date with and she didn’t know that I had a dog and she was talking about how much she hated dogs and I show her a picture with of my dog and me and basically I go to her and say that you are nice but me and him we come as a packaged. Animals just give unconditionally love and they are very spiritual beings, so I would do something with animals or people.
AM: Do you have a message to your fans especially those who want the Alpha Vampire to return?
Rick: All I can say is thank you and appreciate all the love and support that the fans have given me. I actually have a name of the Alpha Vampire like I said at the panel, if and when they bring me back I am gonna talk the writers and see if I can put it in the show. He has a whole background that I created for him and I can’t wait to explore that. I am so happy that I am here, but there is no definite date I can say when the Alpha Vampire will return. I believe in the power in prayer to whatever what you want to call it and I pray a lot and I remember one prayer specifically with me hoping for some additional episodes so I can do this character justice. So it is out there and I am just waiting for it to return with an answer. I think whether or not if I played him or whoever else did it is a wonderful character. I don’t think you can write a great character like that and leave him alone; it is a character that needs to be revisited. There is so much that you can do with that character. I was scared to play this character and I am not usually scared, but this time I had a feeling what to do, but I wasn’t certain. The fear came from that it has been done a million times, how do you make it unique? I didn’t like what they did with Twilight, I liked with what they did with Blade. Those vampires were scary, powerful, resourceful beings as they should be. There is a lot that I know of the Alpha Vampire that makes him sit and speak that way and that is why I want to come back. It is a great character. I was kinda surprised when I got the role because originally I read for Crowley two years prior to that and they gave it to Mark Sheppard. I also read for some other roles in Supernatural, but they just didn’t hire me. So I said to myself they didn’t like me. So my agent calls me and tells me about this part and she sent me the material and it was just so good. So I braced myself, because I do take it personally. So I went in, did the audition and it was a long audition a good eight or nine pages of dialogue. I went in did it and two days later my agent called and I got it and the rest is history.
I would like to thank Rick Worthy for taking the opportunity to do the interview and just a great conversation in general. He is so humble and down to earth that you can talk to him for hours. I really do hope fans get a chance to meet him and just be able to talk to him because I can guarantee not only will you have one of the best conversations of your life, but more importantly you will have met one of the most genuine and kindest individuals around.