Interview with Daniel Roebuck

Daniel Roebuck is well known from his role of Dr. Artz in the “Lost” universe. He has worked with Rob Zombie on numerous films. He is currently appearing in the new web series “Crafty” as a director who can’t leave his house so he directs from his living room. Movie Mikes had the chance to talk to Daniel and discuss his amazing career thus far and what is to come in the future.

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Mike Gencarelli: Tell us a little bit about your experiences working on “Lost.” Any secrets from the set you want to reveal?
Daniel Roebuck: “Lost” was about the best gift I’ve had in the last ten years in my life. They created a character and realized that I could be the guy for it. They just called one day and said “you’re going to Hawaii to do the show.” I hadn’t seen the show yet but once I went to Hawaii and started working on it I was, of course, like everyone else…hooked. The people were very nice. Here’s the biggest secret I can tell you from the set: Everyone was nice! I do a lot of shows. I’ve become the William Windom (popular character actor probably best remembered as Commodore Decker from “The Doomsday Machine” episode of the original “Star Trek” series) of my day. He was a guy you saw in every show and you always thought he was a regular guy. That’s me. And sometimes you go to be a guest star on a show and you think “these people have no idea how blessed they are in their life.” They don’t learn their lines. They act like “oh, it’s such drudgery to be making $55 thousand a week.” It’s hard to tolerate. I’ve had a couple of series in my lifetime and there was never a moment when I took it for granted. Never a moment where I didn’t think, “wow, this is as close to the lottery then most people will ever get.” Anyway, they created the character and he and Carlton Cuse wrote it with an EXTREMELY talented crew of writers…the best writers in television absolutely, bar none. And every episode I’d do I would always find another nugget of the Dr. Artz character…he was so crazy. I also did a show Carlton wrote called “Nash Bridges” and he wrote a character for me called Bettina. And every time I got a script it was always the best stuff I’d get to do. Bettina was like Artz. Stupid, arrogant. Believing beyond his own capacity. They always wrote well for me. The other big secret is that there wasn’t really a monster…it was all special effects. I will say this. The first time I went to the set and saw Evangaline Lilly and Matt Fox I thought, “wow, they sure do look good.” And then they started putting all of that shit on me….layer after layer of shit. Shit on shit on shit. Until I looked like shit on a shingle. The crazy man. They all get to be beautiful but Dr. Artz actually looks liked he really lived on an island.

I’d like to use your site as a soapbox and ask “Why don’t those guys who do the makeup on “Lost” have an Emmy?” They had to match the actors. Somedays they’d match a character to five years earlier. They had to match cuts and scars and hair. As much as I appreciate “Mad Men”…I shouldn’t make fun of that…it’s just that “Lost”….now I sound like I’m a mad man. I just don’t understand why they couldn’t win an Emmy for makeup and hair, gosh darnit!

Mike Gencarelli: We at MovieMikes will take up the cause. Maybe this year. Besides “Lost,” of course, you’ve obviously done a lot of television. Do you have a favorite show besides “Lost?”
Daniel Roebuck: I have a thousand favorites for a thousand different reasons. I was on “Matlock” for three years and I got to work alongside one of the icons of entertainment, Andy Griffith. I mean who wouldn’t want to go to work and work with Andy Griffith? We had a wonderful, collaborative experience on that show. I’d love having the opportunity to have my own show. That way I’d get to be the guy that the other people are to me. I would call guest stars when they came to Wilmington and welcome them to town. I’d give them restaurant ideas. “Matlock” was great. I’ve been watching the re-runs with my son, Buster. Our nightly tradition is that we sit down and watch an “Odd Couple” We’ve been watching Tony Randall shows. And we watched an episode of “A Minute With Stan Hooper,” which ran on FOX television with Norm McDonald. And that was also a great time. I played a gay guy. It was a great character. And it was great because they portrayed us (the gay couple) as just two regular dudes. We weren’t the smartest guys in the room or the best dressed guys but we were more like any gay couple that I know in my life. The whole show was a great, wonderful experience.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your appearance in the new web series “Crafty.”
Daniel Roebuck: I love how we went from “Lost” to “Nash Bridges” to “Matlock” to the web! I see you’re a journalist of great integrity. (laughs) The one great gift I have that I can give is me. I don’t have a lot of talent. My kid (Buster) plays every sport. He is the son my father never had. I can’t coach his baseball team. How the hell do I know how to hit a ball? I was usually the one ducking from it when I played Little League. I was the one in the outfield. If they wanted to hit it that way I’d try to catch it but I’d tell them don’t count on it. I can’t fix a car. My computer is something else I can’t fix. All I wanted to do is look at lesbians and look what happened (laughs). But acting is something I CAN do so when a friend like Jon Donahue calls and asks “can you be in this” unless I have a reason I can’t do it I usually try to pay that forward and do what I can. They have a very crazy, funny idea there that’s a little inside because it’s about craft services and you have to spend a lot of time trying to explain what craft services is. I’d say your regular ditch digger doesn’t know but my dad, who was a ditch digger, does know who the craft service guy is because that’s the first place he goes every time he visits me on the set. He goes over to the table and then complains to me “why am I eating all of this stuff?” I tell him it’s because that’s what we do.

MG: On the series you play a director who has agoraphobia right?
DR: I play a director who can’t leave his house so he directs from his living room. Jon and his partner (Mark Haapala) are talented guys. I hope something good comes out of this. It’s an interesting time for actors because…this is the first time that actors get to be on the same creative level as the owners. I mean, think of all the series you’ve seen. “Highway to Heaven” was filmed and created by Michael Landon. Kelsey Grammar did “Frasier” and owned a portion of it. Generally actors don’t get to own their work. They have to work for someone else. But in this new age of web series actors can create and imprint their own comic stylings or dramatic interpretations on a story that they own. I kind of like the excitement of working like that. Being part of something new.

MG: You were the writer/director/producer on the “Monsterama” series. Tell us about it.
DR: “Monsterama” came about from a good friend of mine, Kevin Burns, who was an extremely talented documentarian. Some of the best biographies on the Biography channel Kevin created. I was doing “Stan Hooper” at the time and Kevin as if myself and my friend Taylor White could kind of get together to do something for a new “Monsters” channel that was coming out on the Boom network. And if someone tells you that you can make little documentaries about the things that make you happy you do it. And that’s essentially what we did. If your readers take the time to go to DanielRoebuck.com they can see another side of me. I mean, Sean Penn is busy hugging Hugo Chavez but Dan Roebuck is busy buying Frankenstein masks. I have this love and basically we just made docs about the things I love. And what Ron Hampton loved. And what Kevin and Taylor White loved. It was great fun but it was tedious because we were shooting in high def and we had to see how the product looked. How did the monster models look? If I can brag about one other thing I was smart enough to do in my life, I was smart enough to have the right sister who married the right guy. Because my brother in law Cory, who’s a gaffer in Hollywood, was generally the one shooting for me. So it was kind of a collaborative family effort which was really great. He’s a great guy. I always joke that if he and my sister got a divorce I’d really miss my sister! (laughs)

MG: You worked on several Rob Zombie projects (“Devils Rejects,” “Halloween”). How did you get involved with him?
DR: I was actually at a screening with Kevin Burns for the Elvira movie “Elvira’s Haunted Hills.” I had actually met Rob once before at a model store in Hollywood. My friend had said “Hello, Mr. Zombie.” And my friend was obviously so much hipper than I was because I was thinking, “wait a minute…did he just call this fellow Mr. Zombie?” We met for a few seconds. So at this premiere I went up to him before the film started just to say hello and tell him I thought it was cool that he liked the same stuff that I did. And that was the beginning of a very nice friendship. I have to tell you…he is one of the most talented directors I’ve ever worked with. He is fluid and he is open and he is firm. You can love or hate his movies but you’ve got to look at the performances. The acting is GREAT! There’s a scene in “Devils Rejects” with Shari and Geoff Lewis that is some of the best acting I’ve seen in the last decade. Rob is a great guy. I grew up loving make up. I grew up loving monster movies. So the first thing they do on “Halloween 2” is to age my character 20 years. And they decided they would put together a great Frankenstein get up for me. And of course, since Michael Myers killed me I had to wear three different make ups in the movie, which was a big deal for me. Some actors hate it. They hate the process of it…they hate sitting still. Where I love the whole event.

MG: What draws you to acting? Were there ever any roles you wanted but missed out on?
DR: Well, the purpose of each job is that you’re trying to get the NEXT job. Some people must think that they bring movies to Al Pacino. An actor tends to invest too much into the MOMENT. But if I don’t get a part then they don’t get my money. Especially if it’s a big movie. I don’t get the part, I don’t go see the movie. They didn’t believe in me so they don’t get my cash. There’s a famous story…at least it’s a famous to me. I had just finished my first television series and was cast in a movie off of a tape. It was kind of a surprise. It was weird that I didn’t get to meet the director. They just cast me off of a tape. And when I went to do the movie everyone was cold to me. The producer. The director, who had a reputation of being a great guy, was a little cold. Even the co-star was a little odd, even though I was a big fan of his. So after two days of this they called me in and said “we’re firing you because we don’t think there’s any chemistry between you guys.” We hadn’t even shot anything. We had just been sitting in rooms and talking so I don’t know what the chemistry level could have been. That was the only job in my life that I’ve been let go from. Or at least replaced because sometimes in a series they write the character out. I was essentially fired and replaced. A few years later I go out to lunch with a girl who doesn’t know the story because it’s kind of a private story. I don’t go around saying, “Hey, let me tell you about the time I got fired!” So the girl asks me “are you the Dan Roebuck who was in this movie?” and I said, “well…I was. How do you know that?” And she says that she used to date one of the lawyers who worked on the project who had told her that it was already decided before I got to the set that they were going to fire me after a few days because the studio didn’t want to use their first choice for the role because I cost less than their first choice. But nobody wanted to say “Hey Dan, you’re not doing anything wrong. We just wanted this other guy but they forced us to hire you. So we’re going to fire you and get that other guy.” But nobody did that…nobody gave me that courtesy. And then I had to watch that movie become a huge hit. The movie was called “Home Alone.” Daniel Stern was the actor who replaced me…who they wanted in the first place. Here is the main thing that keeps me sane. “Home Alone” was a huge hit and it was a major blow to my ego that I could not be part of it. Now it’s more then 20 years later and…what difference has it really made in Daniel Stern’s career? I’ve literally had a hundred more opportunities then he did because perhaps people define him from that movie. Joe Pesci, who is one of the great actors of Hollywood, he doesn’t hardly work at all anymore. And he is a great actor…I could watch that guy all day. And when the thing happened he was kind of bragging that he had had something to do with that. I was a little disappointed. 22 years ago it was the worse thing that had ever happened to me and 22 years later it is such a little blip of unimportance. The only thing I take with me is that people weren’t honest and honorable with me. That would have made that time easier. I remember that they had to pay me off and I put a down payment on my first house with the money. But sometimes Hollywood is so evil. It wasn’t so much that they humiliated me at my own expense but they wanted to make it that I couldn’t take another job until after the time they were shooting or I couldn’t have the money. Weird, petty evilness. But again, 22 years later…would I have the same life I have now if I had been in that movie? Would my life be any different? What could have happened didn’t happen and I’ve got the best life. I’ve got the best kid. I’ve got the best friends. I’ve got the best life.

MG: What have you got planned for the future?
DR: The future is kind of exciting because we’re planning a web series that will allow me to do the things I want to do. I love America. I think it’s the greatest country on earth. I’ve never understood why people say we have a lot of problems. We’re not caning people for being homosexual. We’re not shooting people in the streets. We’re not keeping people from expressing their free will. I love this country and we’re going to go out and do a show about how great this country is. Hopefully if it comes to fruition we can get with your site and we can promote it.

MG: Absolutely!
DR: I’m at this new phase as I approach 50. I’d better shit or get off the pot in terms of what’s important. And when I die, which hopefully won’t be for awhile, I’d like to say “this is what I contributed.” And although the “Monsterama” series is very exciting I’d like to be remembered for creating more than that. It doesn’t really matter what I have planned…there are countless roles in front of me that I haven’t played yet. And we’ll see what God has in store for me.

MG: What’s the new web series called?
DR: No official title yet. Let’s just call it “Danny Roebuck Discovers America!”

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One Reply to “Interview with Daniel Roebuck”

  1. Mike, great interview. I’ve always admired Dan Roebuck’s work. The behind the scenes story on “Home Alone” is a classic Hollywood tale. Afterwards Daniel Stern was pretty much typecast as a goofy loser (like the “City Slickers” films as an example) while Dan has carved out an impressive niche for himself. Nice to see good things happen to good people.

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