By ROCCO T. THOMPSON
Aaron Martin‘s SLASHER is returning to Canadian screens this month with FLESH & BLOOD, starring legendary director David Cronenberg as a wealthy patriarch who pits his family against each other in a cruel game of life and death as they’re stalked by a mysterious masked killer. The eight episode event series features cast members from previous installments including Paula Brancati, Jefferson Brown, Patrice Goodman, Sabrina Grdevich, and Christopher Jacot. Alongside Cronenberg, new additions to the cast include Rachael Crawford (Heartland), Jeananne Goossen (The Walking Dead), Sydney Meyer (Departure) and Alex Ozerov (The Americans). Rue Morgue caught up with the “King of Venereal Horror” to discuss his surprisingly lengthy onscreen resume, what he learned working under COVID protocols, and how SLASHER: FLESH & BLOOD puts some meat on the titular subgenera’s bones.
How did you initially get involved with the SLASHER series?
I guess it was an email, to begin with, asking me if I’d be interested in playing a role in the series. So, it was very straightforward. Actually, I think it was the casting person who got in touch with me, which is the normal way. Yeah, it was just very traditional and, ultimately, I had a call with the director, Adam, and one of the producer writers, Ian Carpenter, to just discuss it, discuss what would be involved, what they expected, what’s expected from me, because in terms of time, it worked out. That’s always the crucial thing. The production that I’ve got currently happening now, Crimes of the Future, that hadn’t come together yet, so I had time.
I loved the role. It was really not the kind of thing I’m normally offered. I’m normally being a scientist or a doctor and this, of course, was quite different. Also, I was really curious about COVID. That is to say, this series would be shot under COVID protocols, and anticipating making my own movie, I wondered how that would feel. Would it be awkward, difficult, impossible? So, I was curious. So, [this] was one way to really experience being on a COVID-protocol set. All of those things came together, and there I was in the series.
What were your major takeaways with it being a COVID-protocol set?
That it was very possible to do. That, yes, it would cost you some more money, which makes it harder to raise the budget because you need to have a mechanism to check everybody and so on every couple of days, and all of [that]. The masking was interesting because, I mean, I worked with crew members that I’ve never seen. I’ve never seen their faces. You really realize, of course, as anybody would know, but you really feel it, how much is communicated by the lower half of your face. So, when you’re being directed by a director whose face you can’t see, it’s quite strange, I have to say.But then you get used to it. That’s the thing – I think you adjust your sensitivity to the eyes and the body posture, then you take your cues from that and the voice. So, it was all interesting and what it meant to me was that, yes, it was more cumbersome and difficult to make a movie in COVID, but absolutely possible to do.
The proof was that no one got COVID on the set of SLASHER as I understand it. Also, in my 100 days working in Athens to shoot Crimes in The Future, we also had no instances of COVID. So, the protocols can work if they’re rigid.
You’ve appeared in so much film and television over your career, but it feels like you’ve really ramped up your acting roles in the past few years. What sort of itch does acting scratch for you that maybe directing doesn’t?
It’s not as hard. [Laughs] It strikes me as a way to experience life on the film set without the huge responsibility, the complexity, and anxiety of being a director. Part of the reason that I’ve done a lot of acting is because I haven’t been doing directing. I missed the film set. I missed the feeling of being on set and working with the technicians, and actors, and so on. Acting gives me a chance to keep in touch with filmmaking without necessarily having to be the director, having [to] struggle to raise the money for the production, and so on, and so on.Your responsibility as an actor is your character, basically. That’s it. You have to know your lines, you have to be a good actor, but that’s it. So, when people often, reasonably, ask, “Do you try to direct when you’re on a set as an actor?” The answer is, absolutely not. It’s the last thing I want, is to be a director when I’m being an actor.
But conversely, do you feel like that it’s made you a better director?
I believe it has, yeah. When I started, I had done a lot of acting before I started making commercial movies because, in the early days of filmmaking in Toronto, it was underground filmmaking. They were not films but shorts. Underground films. We would act in each other’s films, but it’s different when you’re in a commercial film set with union rules and everything else. It becomes a completely different structure.
So, I had some experience of acting before, but it was quite different when you’re working now with professional actors who have had a lot of experience usually. Of course, in the early days, they all had more experience than I had. It did give me insight into the existential reality of being an actor. I think it not so much made me a better director, but a more understanding, compassionate director, let’s put it that way. I would understand why some actors would behave the way they did, or that I could give them things that they needed, that I wouldn’t have understood they needed before this. So, yes, the answer is yes. I think all directors should do some acting.
What drew you to the role of Spencer Galloway, and what do you typically look for in your acting project?
Well, I really don’t have any specific thing that I’m looking for in acting, other than something interesting that’s different, and the Spencer Galloway character was certainly that. I had never played a character remotely like that before. That is the biggest attraction. It’s a challenge, something you haven’t done before. You can’t just walk through it. You have to really develop this character and become this person who is extremely different, in this case, from me.
This series obviously expands the definition of what a slasher is, but do you consider yourself a fan of slasher movies?
Not particularly. I think if it’s only slashing, and it’s only that, then it’s not that interesting. If it’s the case where if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, then that’s not very interesting. But with this series, it’s also a family drama, and that family drama is completely intertwined with the slasher elements. That makes it interesting because there’s a lot of emotion in it, a lot of complex relationship intensity amongst the characters who are siblings, and their spouses, and husbands, and so on. So, it’s not only slashing. It’s really quite complex, and pretty delicious.
What scares you?
Well, I should say, to quote the Viggo Mortensen-characterized Crimes of the Future, “Everything.” But, seriously, I don’t think I have an unusual fear quotient. I think the normal things really, honestly. If you have children or grandsons, you worry about them. You fear for their safety. You worry about that mole, “Is it getting cancerous?” So, you know in my case certainly, that I would not like to live in a war zone. I would be very afraid to have to do that. So, I don’t have any exotic fears. They’re pretty normal, I would say traditional fears.
Ultimately, what was your biggest takeaway from working on SLASHER: FLESH & BLOOD?
Well, it’s very egocentric, I suppose. I came away with feeling that I could, in fact, handle a role that stretched me, that had me doing things, and having to go to emotional places and physical places that I had never gone before as an actor. So, I really think that was fantastic for me, just in terms of the art of cinema.
SLASHER: FLESH & BLOOD premieres October 4th on Hollywood Suite.