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Film Intuition's Interview
With William Sanderson
With William Sanderson
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Although he jokes that he'd "rather be typecast than not cast at all,” versatile actor William Sanderson has portrayed more than his fair share of villains or types he classified in the start of his career as "prairie scum."
And finally he's gotten the chance to play a man on the right side of the law as the vampire hunting Sheriff Bud Dearborne in Alan Ball's Golden Globe award-winner True Blood which garnered Academy-Award winning Piano star Anna Paquin a statue as Best Actress. Moreover, thankfully for both fans of the series and those of us without HBO-- you can catch up with the vamps as True Blood's first complete season is released via HBO DVD and Blu-ray on May 19 before the second season kicks off on June 14.
Still, despite the new clean-shaven, clean-cut character-- Sanderson hasn't turned his back completely on those dark and quirky roles for which he's become famous. For, in a recent guest-starring role, he arrived on J.J. Abrams' cult-favorite Lost to very memorable effect. Likewise, Sanderson can similarly be found in current rotation in DVD players around the globe for his award-winning work on HBO's wild, wild west series Deadwood alongside Ian McShane as well as in the recent double-disc release of TNT's George Wallace (opposite Gary Sinise above) or in yet another awesome collection served up by Ridley Scott for his incredible science fiction cult classic Blade Runner. All in all, Sanderson is one of those actors whose stellar supporting performances keeps him in high demand and elevates those around him.
Frequently cast alongside Tommy Lee Jones since his one of his first acclaimed turns in the Oscar winning Coal Miner's Daughter, Sanderson first flew on my radar as a kid growing up watching the CBS sitcom Newhart. Taking what should have been a one-shot guest appearance, Sanderson turned it into one of the series' funniest running gags over the course of eight years as Larry (who always showed up at random with The Brothers Daryl).
Now as an adult who's seen so much of his work without even realizing it from one stunningly different turn to the next, I was honored that Mr. Sanderson would generously share his time and incredible stories with not only me but the readers here at Film Intuition.
So without further ado, here's the
Film Intuition Interview with Mr. William Sanderson:
Film Intuition Interview with Mr. William Sanderson:
1) Obviously, one-liner-wise you’re probably most famous for “Hi, I’m Larry, this is my brother Daryl, and this is my other brother Daryl” on the CBS sitcom Newhart.
Off the top of your head, do you have any other favorite lines you’ve gotten the chance to say in your career that have particularly stuck out as enjoyable or memorable personally?
Yes. Playing Loretta Lynn’s uncle, Lee Dollarhide in Coal Miner’s Daughter, I got to say “if you’re born in the mountains you’ve got three choices: coal mine, moonshine, or move it on down the line.” I loved saying that line. Another line that’s fun to recall and which fans of Blade Runner often ask me to write on autographed pictures is “home again, home again, jiggedy jig.” That’s the line my character, J.F. Sebastian, says to his toy friends upon returning to his apartment.
2) I have to ask—your bio says that as a kid you had the ability to assume characters and sneak into some pretty high profile places such as Graceland where you heard Elvis play a piano ballad. How’d you swing that and do you remember what he played?
As a young boy I did sneak into concerts and ballgames but the day I was in Graceland and watched Elvis play piano I actually was invited. Guy Lansky, owner of Lansky Brothers Clothing on Beale Street, let me ride out to Graceland with him to deliver some new clothes to Elvis. Guy told me to sit down in the living room. Elvis’s mother was standing, watching, off to the side. Elvis played three songs while I was sitting there. I remember him playing "Blueberry Hill" and "Don’t Be Cruel." I can’t remember the third song but I do remember as Guy and I were leaving Elvis said to Guy, “I wondered who that was sitting in my living room,” obviously referring to me.
3) Not too many actors can list the fact that they’ve completed a JD law degree from the University of Memphis but opted out of the bar examination to become a New York actor.
Was the law degree something you’d always wanted to achieve perhaps as the old “fall-back career” or was it just something you pursued, all the while knowing you wanted to do something else?
Hard question, probably a number of reasons. I had a juvenile offense when I was 15 and I remember telling my parents I’d make it up to them. I also thought it would look good on my resume. I loved acting more than the law. When I went to New York to pursue acting a fallback plan was never in my thoughts.
And how perfect was it when you returned to Memphis for a Grisham movie?!
It was great to go to Memphis to shoot The Client. In fact, ironic, because the character I played, Wally Boxx, had a law degree but didn’t know what to do with it. The Client was also the sixth project I did with Tommy Lee Jones so that made it special too.
4) Did you have any idea while you were making Blade Runner that it would eventually take on such a life of its own as a science fiction classic?
We thought Blade Runner might be a hit because of Harrison Ford. He was just coming off two huge hit films. I remember clearly the term “fascinating failure” being used to describe the film when it was first released. I’m happy to be in a cult film.
And likewise, are there any films or projects you’ve worked on that you were amazed didn’t catch on the way you and/or those involved assumed it or they might?
I thought the TV series Maximum Bob, based on the book by Elmore Leonard*, would be a hit. My character was an inbred alligator poacher. There was some funny stuff in that show. I was surprised when Michael Eisner canceled it after only 7 episodes.
* Note: One of Jen's favorite authors*
5) Having already worked successfully in your award-winning turn on HBO’s Deadwood, did you know Alan Ball from another network hit-- Six Feet Under—and/or how did you join the ensemble of True Blood?
I knew who Alan Ball was but I had never met or worked with him before I went in to audition for the role of Sheriff Dearborne. At that meeting, Alan told me he had never seen Deadwood. Maybe that helped? Whatever the reason was that I was cast as Bud, I truly feel blessed to follow working for one great writer, David Milch, with another, Alan Ball.
6) What was the biggest challenge and greatest pleasure of moving from Deadwood to True Blood?
The biggest challenge is to play a normal person. I usually play quirky off-beat and dirty characters. I love getting to wear clean clothes and shave. Having the scripts to read and ponder, in advance, is also a pleasure. I’m sure many are aware, because it has been written about many times, that on Deadwood we often got our lines just the night before shooting. I got used to it but it was nerve racking.
7) What is it like working with the cast of Blood and filming in Louisiana?
It’s exciting to work with some of the best writers and young rising stars. My challenge is to keep up with them. I’m a gray-beard geezer now, you know, and I’m at the mercy of the writers. Louisiana is a very romantic and mysterious place. When I was there shooting my scenes the locals were wonderful to me. I also like getting Per diem when we are on location; I try to stay out of the casinos, ha ha.
8) True Blood fans will be dying to know—not to risk sending you to HBO jail—but can you offer us any hints as to what we can expect this season?
More murders and more romantic pairings. In the first episode you’ll see me out of my uniform and wearing an interesting outfit, for a brief time.