Interview with actor, Richard Gunn

Today I’m welcoming actor, Richard Gunn. Thank you, Richard for stopping by!

Tell us a little about yourself.

I live in Los Angeles with my beautiful and talented wife, writer Jenna Mattison. We’ve had the good fortune of having been able to collaborate on many projects together. I like fly fishing – actually catching fish is exciting but I find the mere act of standing waist deep in a river to be deeply rejuvenating and connective.  I’m a DIY aficionado – I like working with my hands. I don’t have any pets, per se. But there’s a California Scrub Jay (small blue and white bird) that lives in our yard. We call him “Birdo”. He and I have built a solid friendship over the years. In the mornings, he often comes to my kitchen window and lands on my finger. I give him a peanut and off he flies, cawing triumphantly. Birdo rules.

What inspired you to become an actor?

I grew up just outside of Los Angeles. I was a shy, introverted, and cerebral kid but for some reason my mom and grandma thought it would be a fantastic idea to take me to an open audition for one of the child roles in the movie ‘Mr. Mom’ – remember that one? I really had no idea what acting was but I did love movies, so I reluctantly agreed to go. We got there and found ourselves stuffed into the hallway of some Hollywood office building with a bunch of excitable child actors and their parents. A lady was approaching each kid asking names. She got to me and I, shy as ever, muttered “Richie” – everyone called me Richie back then. I think her response was “what did you say?” – so I turned my mumble up a notch. Apparently it wasn’t enough. The lady didn’t miss a beat, she immediately moved on to the next kid who was annoyingly extroverted and gregarious. He got invited to the next step.  I got invited to go home. First encounter with acting = less than amazing. Possibly traumatic.

Cut to high school – my shy, introverted tendencies were starting to blow it for me socially, so I decided to finally do something about it. I asked my guidance counselor for advice. He suggested I take Speech class or Theater. Both sounded utterly terrifying but I guess my logic was that theater might at least be fun. So I signed up and found that I was right… oh it was still terrifying – scared the absolute shit out of me – but the pain of being “shy guy” was worse so I pushed myself and to my surprise I actually started to enjoy it. It was more challenging than anything I had attempted before in my life. Pretty soon I found myself totally smitten, doing as many plays as I could and I kept at it throughout college. Somewhere along the way it hit me that I could make career of acting and I moved to Los Angeles right after graduation.

 You’ve played roles in TV series and films such as Hemlock Grove, Dark Angel, Granite Flats, Dark Places, and Gridlocked just to name a few. Is there a favorite role that you’ve played and if so, which one and why?

I put a lot of time and care into creating and researching the roles that I play and, as you might expect, I end up becoming very attached to each one. That attachment is always unique to the role because each is a completely singular experience. You can probably guess where I’m going with this — it’s hard to pinpoint one that’s a favorite. That’d be like having a bunch of best friends and then having to choose just one to place above all the others. I’m just too fond of all of them.

What are some of your other onscreen accomplishments?

I have a great role in a film called ‘Clemency’ that won the Grand Jury Prize in the US Dramatic Competition at Sundance 2019 and premiered in theaters last December. It’s a powerful piece that takes a hard look at the death penalty and its effects not only on the death row prisoners but also on the professionals charged with caring for and eventually carrying out their sentences. I play Thomas Morgan, the Deputy Warden who reports directly to the Warden of a death row prison played by Alfre Woodard (in a truly heartfelt and powerful performance). Also, last summer, I did a film called ‘Portrait of a Young Man’ playing the father of a teenager suffering from the effects of Anorexia/Bulimia –  a piece somewhat reminiscent of the film ‘Manchester by the Sea’. It was quite an experience and I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out. I’ve done some other films recently as well, along with a guest star on ‘American Horror Story: 1984’ – that was a fun gig. My character was shot to death and I was squibbed (tiny explosives placed on the actor’s body that spurt fake blood when detonated) – a first for me.

What would you consider is the most challenging part about being an actor?

I’ve always found the work to be quite challenging in general – one of the things that initially drew me to the profession. And still does. The creation of each life is exciting and there’s so much that goes into it – it could easily never end. Auditions  – the process usually moves so fast that it’s a challenge to create and present a full and rich life in that short amount of time. The time line of shooting – there’s really never enough time – definitely keeps me on my toes.  And then there’s the challenge of balancing my personal life with my profession. Making sure I don’t get so caught up in my work that I’m not present in other important areas of my life. It can be difficult line to tread when everything needs to happen now, now, now…

What’s next for Richard Gunn?

Next… next… there’s always a next. I just wrapped work on a film called ‘Catharsis’ that will be out… someday J, and a sci fi film called ‘Demon Star’ (best described as ‘Battlestar Gallactica’ meets ‘Momento’). Beyond those… I’ve got a couple of films on the books but Covid 19 has put a damper on shooting for the time being – I’ve yet to find out when production will resume.

How can fans follow you and your work?

Twitter: @RichardGunnInc

Facebook: @richard.gunn.inc

Instagram: richard.gunn

What kind of advice would you offer to anyone wanting to be an actor?

Anyone wanting specific advice on being an actor – contact me on one of the social forums above. I’m happy to give you the skinny – just know that I won’t sugar coat. There’s an old saying that many people accosted me with when I was starting out and I’m sure it’s still floating around. It goes something like “if there’s anything else you can do besides being an actor, go do that instead.” I admit that I do see some merit in this advice (it certainly weeds out those who are committed from the ones who aren’t and commitment is a big factor in achieving any kind of success in this business), but I’d like to offer what I consider a more positive alternative: If you really want to be an actor – research what the career and the work entails, learn what kind of sacrifices you’ll be making, what kind of ups and downs you can expect (hint: there are many) – and if you’re willing to embrace all of this, then go for it and give it everything you’ve got. It can be truly rewarding as well as utterly devastating but I’ve always found the pros to far outweigh the cons. And consider learning a skill you can rely on to keep yourself afloat during lean times – I don’t know any actor who has not experienced lean times. I’m not talking about a “Plan B” (Plan B’s have a way of quickly becoming Plan A’s) – just a solid skill that is marketable outside of acting that allows your time to be flexible and that you can count on to pay the bills.

Any words of wisdom you’d care to share?

Talent alone will only take you so far. Work hard for what you want but remember to make it a priority to bring joy into your life and the lives of others. Use your creativity and ingenuity to find ways to add value to whatever you’re involved in. Your “failures” are vital learning experiences. Embrace them. Remember that the only way to truly fail is to give up.

Actor, Richard Gunn. Photography by Diana Ragland.

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