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Vincent Kartheiser - "Angel" Tv Series - Bbc.co.uk Interview

Saturday 26 July 2003, by Webmaster

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Vincent Kartheiser, the grown-up version of Angel’s son Connor, took time to chat with us during a recent UK visit to attend the End of Days convention and to promote the release of the Angel 4.1 VHS Box Set from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Hear what Vincent had to say about teenage angst, split trousers, and the real reason he’s growing a beard.

Vincent Kartheiser - Interviewed in London, April 2003

Baby of the show

Tell us about how you came to join Angel.

When I first got the sides [casting description] for the audition, it was for a role called Street Kid. They did not want to let out anything about the character, but what my agents would tell me is that, "this isn’t the character you’re playing, it is just an auditioning piece and the actual character will be very different from this."

So I went in and I auditioned for it. It was a very basic scene, and I auditioned for Tim [Minear] and, I believe, Joss and David Greenwalt. They said, "Well, we really liked you a lot, and we’d like you to meet the cast next week."

I went and met the cast, [who] all seemed very friendly, and then they brought me in for a screen test. They bring in all the cameras and the lights and the set and everything to see how you fit. It’s mainly for the studio, for them to give it the once over.

So I did that with David, and then, right before they told me I made it, they called me up and said, "We want you to know what kind of character this is." They let me know that I was going to be playing Angel’s son, a demon killer from Quor’toth. I was excited because I’d never even imagined to play anything like that before.

Was that the screen test that’s appeared on the [Angel season three] DVDs?

Yes, I think it is that screen test, with me and David. I’m bending over and tying my shoe. "I’m getting out of here - you’re not my father..." That sort of thing.

Made up with the make-up

As the product of two vampires, are you pleased or disappointed that you don’t get to wear the full vampire make-up?

I don’t know. It’s one of those half-and-half [situations]. I’m pleased every day [when] I get there at nine a.m. and I see Andy’s been there since five - and I’m sad when I see the actual results, because it really does look cool. It’s pretty hip, and it would just be an added benefit to my character, I feel.

Family advice

If you were Connor’s dad, what advice would you give to him?

Oh man. The primary advice Angel gave me half way through the season - just get over it. Tough, life’s rough, get over it, deal with it.

That’s one of those things where you can say to someone, "You’ve got to go through it." That’s one of the most frustrating things about being one of those adults who’s been through some stuff in their life. You can look at someone all you want and say, "Things will get better, things will change, I know it’s hard right now," but people have got to figure it out on their own terms and in their own way.

For some reason I think words don’t quite work when you’re trying to explain the facts of life and what it means to be a suffering human.

Bouncing babies

How’s it been working so closely with Charisma while she’s been pregnant?

Whenever you have some outside source affecting someone on the set, it’s going to have some sort of outcome that’s going to be different, but she was a great sport and would suck up the pain even though you could see that she was in it. She didn’t like really wearing her shoes to set, which I understand because I have sisters and [pregnant women’s] feet get so swollen.

I guess the only technical thing that came up was during our love scene. I was terrified because they were like, "Well you’re going to be on top," and I was like, "Oh my God, she’s four months pregnant and I’m laying on top of this woman." So I was hovering about two and a half feet over Charisma throughout the sex scene, just to make double sure that I wouldn’t harm her or her child.

Doing the splits

Have you had any dodgy moments whilst filming your stunts for the show?

I think, [in] my second episode, there was this scene where this heroin-addicted girl was being beaten up by her drug dealer. I find her under a bridge and I go and jump on top of the car, grab the drug dealer and pick him up and slam him on the car.

At the time they had me wearing these leather patchwork pants that were sewn together with what you would think would be something you would find in a hell dimension, so shiftily put together. I was practising the jump onto the car, and there was this beautiful young lady sitting inside the car. I lifted my leg and just heard rrrriip, and looked down.

From about the base of my butt all the way around to about the nape of my tummy there was a big old gaping hole. It was one of the days - I don’t know what happened to me that morning - but I hadn’t worn underpants. So I looked down and everything was quite exposed. In a moment like that you don’t quite realise who’s been exposed, you just know that you must put that thing away and get away from set, and so I did.

No one actually saw it. I mean I went through all that trouble, [but] someone might as well have gotten a glimpse, you know.

Life choices

Has the fact you started your career young helped you, or do you think you’ve missed out on things because of it?

Probably a bit of both. I mean it’s hard to look back on your life and say, "I’ve missed out on this," or to say, "I have a foot up on this person because of this."

I definitely did miss out on something. There are some prize life experiences I missed, there’s also some life experiences that I’m sure a very few others at my age had ever had. I’ve always looked at [things and] instead of [thinking], ’What am I going to gain from something?", [it’s], "What do I have to sacrifice to get that something?" because oftentimes it’s the sacrifice that’s going to become more important in your life than the actual materialistic or even spiritual gain of something.

So that was a sacrifice I was willing to make in my youth, sports and other things like that, extra curricular activities. Acting really became my extra curricular activity, became my family.

I personally think that if you get any seven or eight year old child into something, they’re bound to be more committed to it because they learned from such a young age. The brain is growing at such a large pace at that age too that I think if you start teaching a six year old Spanish it’s much easier than teaching a 20 year old Spanish, or even a 16 year old.

Interactive Angel

If there was one Connor related DVD extra that you could create for a future Angel DVD, what would it be?

What really pisses me off with DVDs is when you get them and there’s no extras. I think there should be loads of extras on every DVD.

The one Connor thing I’d like to have as an extra is some sort of computer [animation]. They did this computer graphic of me for a couple of things, and they put you in this real skin tight outfit and you go and stand in front of this thing that goes, "chica, chica" [makes noise]. It takes all these pictures of you in these laser graphs, and then you go over and you look in a computer and you get to see your body 360 degrees which was completely terrifying. I joined a gym immediately afterwards, which I still haven’t been to, but that was what counted.

I would like [it] if they put [onto a DVD] something like the computer graphic of Connor, where you could move him around the screen. You could download him or a whole segment where one of the CGI guys takes Connor and puts him through an action sequence. I think that would be cool.

Action hero

How physically demanding are the stunts the role requires?

It is physically demanding in the sense that you get your butt kicked. [If] there’s a scene between me and David where he slams me up against a wall, and there’s dialogue while we’re doing it, I have to be there. He’ll pick me up and he’ll slam me into a wall, we’ll do the scene and it doesn’t really hurt. [Then] we’ll do it five, six, seven more times [and] you start to feel [it] a little bit more. It’s really the next day that you wake up and you notice the bruises and [that your] back hurts.

When it comes to the guy jumping off a building or something, none of that’s me and most of the wide shots of me fighting someone are not me either. If I was to get in there I probably could do I’d say 80 per cent of the moves, but not as well. So in my humble opinion I think it’s better just to throw a stunt guy in there who’s going to make Connor look really badass, because that’s what he is. There’s no need for me to go in there because of my pride and make something not as great as it could be.

We have a really amazing stunt co-ordinator, Mike Massa. Chris Daniels and Andy Dillon are two of my stunt men. I also have another stunt man named Zak, but they are all very, very good. They would help me out with the small stuff I would do, but generally it was them and they worked really hard.

Up against the wall

Who is the worst person to get slammed up against a wall by?

I didn’t really get slammed, not many people whipped my butt. Eliza Dushku did it in one scene, but she wanted to do it with the stunt person because she really is quite strong and she didn’t want to hurt me. Which I [thanked] her for. Other than that not many people whipped me around too much.

Usually it’s me who gets myself into trouble. We’ll be doing a scene and a vampire will pick me up and swing me around, and I’ll be acting so much I’ll really go for it, [and] I’ll smack my head into a corner and have to finish the scene with a knot on my head.

When me and David do scenes together we do get passionate, and what I expect is, if he was to lighten up on me, the scene would lose its effectt, so I embrace that. It helps too - if you get slammed up against a wall and it doesn’t hurt, it takes something away from your performance, so if you really do get slammed it just adds to everything.

Teenage kicks

How deep did you have to dig into your acting skills to play a sulky teenager?

When you put it that way, not far. A sulky teenager is generally most teenagers, so not far.

I’d like to think there is more to Connor than that. I’d like to think that it comes from a deeper place than just sulking and that’s just what comes out on the surface. I’m not a method actor by any means, so I’m not going out and really becoming the role, but there are parts of me in the role and there’s parts of me that are not in that role and there’s parts of the role that are not in me.

Depending on which episode was coming out [it changed]. [In] some episodes they had me very angry, some they had me brooding and sulky, and some they had me cracking jokes, so it was a bit of each. Sometimes I had to stretch a little bit, but most of the time it was pretty apparent what they wanted me to do and so I just did it for them.

Role model

ow do you feel about playing one of the few strong teenage roles around?

I feel good. I think there are more teenage roles than are really recognised, but I feel good about it.

I don’t know if necessarily I’d say it’s a good influence, I wouldn’t say that, even - if I was playing a good character - that anyone should ever be influenced by films [or] should ever be influenced to change themselves or be like a film in the sense [of] a role model type.

I think if you say, "Well, we watch this movie because there’s good role models in it, that’s the right thing you should do," - well, okay, but then what are you going to say about this other film that you like that’s maybe a little darker?

I think that we have to be very careful in putting labels or jobs to our films. I think they should be kept as entertainment, and if they move you or they influence you to think that’s one thing, but to change your life or political motives, I’ve never really had a real strong head for it.

Hell-dimension haircuts

Do you like the haircuts and the look of your character on Angel?

Not really. I wish I could take the haircut away. In fact my hair is cut now, you might notice.

I begged and begged and begged and begged but it just didn’t happen. I wanted my hair to be different. I didn’t want short hair like David and Alexis, or Jay, but just something like this [indicates current, more layered haircut], to take a little bit off the top because I just felt it was a little bit heavy.

We’re all our own worst judges, so every time I look in the mirror I go, "Oh, David Cassidy hair-do, I just want to get rid of it." That’s how I felt about it.

David Cassidy, I hadn’t thought of that before...

It’s true. In fact on set sometimes I would make a joke, I would take the mic and I’d go, [sings] "I think I love you, so what am I so afraid of..." and it was perfect.

A dedicated follower of fashion

Were you pleased to get out of your animal skin Quor’toth clothes and into something a bit more normal?

Yeah, yeah, kind of. I wish they had done a little bit more with the costuming of Connor too, in the sense that I felt we could have established right away some more [interesting] clothing for him. I don’t think he would necessarily just drop into jeans and tee shirt, but unfortunately you’re dealing with a very sensitive public and I think oftentimes it’s better to be safe than to maybe make a big decision that’s going to go wrong.

Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn’t, but I’m just as much to blame as anybody else for that because it was my call and my character. In retrospect though I would have liked to have right off the top changed a couple of things.

I suppose he does have quite conservative fashion taste for somebody who’s never seen an advert.

Yeah. The way that it was told to me, and the way that I read into it also, was that that’s the first thing he was ever put in. They put him into jeans and tee shirt after he got out of his other clothes, and so he just took whatever was available. In fact, in one episode I thought it would kind of be a cool idea if at the beginning of the episode I dusted a vamp and right before I dusted him I looked at his jacket and ripped his jacket off and dusted him and put it on. So that [would be] how Connor got his clothes.

I always wondered, "What, does he go shopping or something?" so I always thought that would be kind of cool if I would dust a vamp and then go into his closet and look around and then go, "Oh that’s nice," and that’s how he picked out his stuff. But they never really established that.

The best a man can get

You’re wearing a beard right now. Is it for an upcoming role?

No, I just said that to shut [the audience] up at the End of Days] convention. Everyone kept wanting to put make-up on me at the convention, which I don’t mind - they were very nice people - but it’s not like I looked at any of them and said, "Hey why don’t you put a wig on your head and dance around."

People at the convention kept asking me to put on make-up like a girl, so I just said I was growing it for a role. I’m actually growing it for a few reasons: I’m lazy, number one. Number two, it really hurts to shave. You probably shave your legs but it hurts, am I right? It hurts like a son of a bitch, always, and then the day after it kind of hurts too.

I’ve been doing it all year long for Connor, every morning I wake up and shave my face, and I just don’t want to, so I’m just not. And my girlfriend loves me with a beard, so I’m growing it out as a little thing for her.

Bring it back

What reason would you give to the WB network executives as to why they should renew Angel for a fifth season?

The story has yet to be told. Has yet to be finished.

Was your relationship with your parents at all stormy, like Connor’s?

Yeah, but I mean who’s wasn’t? Anyone who was perfect through their teen years is just going to rebel in their twenties at some point.

At some point that’s essential to the psyche, to feel against the grain. We have to face these challenges, we have to face our own individuality and sometimes that means separating yourself from everyone who wants to take care of you and do the right thing for you, in doing the wrong thing. You need to experience those life changes, you need to know what the wrong thing is before you can automatically omit it from the rest of your life

So of course my parents and I would fight, only because they loved me. Now my relationship with my parents is great, but with anybody you’re going to have differences of opinion and people are going to try to help you and you’re going to see it as, they’re defying your whatever it may be. I think that’s just natural.

Top reads

I know you’re quite a literature fan, so do you want to recommend any books to the fans?

I love books and I think that there’s hundreds of books out there that everyone should read. Dostoyevsky has so many splendid ones: Crime and Punishment; the Idiot; Demons which was previously called Possessed; the Brothers Karamazov.

There’s many other writers that I feel are just as compelling. Rght now I’m in the middle of Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Grey and I’ve just finished [George Orwell’s] 1984. I’m getting round to some that I should have read a long time ago.

Check out poetry by [Ranier Maria] Rilke, the plays of Shakespeare. Any Dickens or Steinbeck is amazing. I wish I knew some more independent ones, but I’m determined to finish all of the classics before I start reading modern classics so we’ll see if I ever make it.