Lew Temple, one of the world’s most diverse actors was kind enough to take part in an interview exclusively for this website.
He has CV that could well be the envy of many an actor with movies (and TV shows) that include Halloween, 31, The Lone Ranger and Kidnap where he starred alongside Halle Berry playing the role of kidnapper ‘Terry’ plus many other titles that are too many to name here!
Lew is also better known for his role of Axel in TMCs The Walking Dead.
So as you can guess, I was blown away by Lew’s generosity in spending some time to answer just a few questions I posed to him.
DGE: So, the first question I usually ask when doing these interviews is, what got you into acting in the first place?
LEW: Hey Chris, great to be a part of Dads Great Escape forum, as I always enjoy the variety of questions that lead to a deeper in-depth conversation.
I was always a person with a gift for entertaining.
Growing up I recognized that I could get attention by putting on a performance of some sort.
I was typically the class clown, but also a keen observer. Those two traits have always been a part of my makeup.
But athletics took me on my most passionate journey, baseball specifically. I played as far as my talent would allow, and after my playing days were over, I coached, and scouted for a professional team, the Houston Astros (World Champs).
I actually had a brilliant career that I was carving out in Baseball, when I followed a girl (always about a girl) into an acting class, to chat her up for a date. I noticed right away what was happening on stage, and was infatuated from that point on.
I would leave baseball my first real passion, for acting and pursue this dream. It spoke to those traits that I mentioned earlier, and I could not deny the calling. I have been fortunate to have realized two dreams.
Oh, by the way I got the date as well!
DGE: Oh, there is always a girl involved, no truer a sentence has ever been uttered!
Now, if I’m correct in saying, you starred alongside Vanessa Redgrave in ‘Julius Caesar’ way back early in your career? That must have been an amazing time!
LEW: Again, starting out at the time that I did, most of the opportunity you received was on stage. I had been doing small community theatre in Houston, Texas for a while, when Ms. Redgrave and her troupe came to The Alley Theatre in Houston.
I auditioned for Julius Caesar, and was fortunate to be cast in a small supporting role. It was an eye opening experience to say the least.
To be on stage with the likes of Vanessa and Corin Redgrave (Theatre Royalty).
It was such a learning opportunity.
Also in that production with David Harwood and Anthony Skordi, both having success in their own right. I learned more than I could ever possibly imagine in that production, as well as Antony and Cleopatra. I was in acting heaven.
At that time and place the entire production was about the work on stage. We played to sold out audiences every night, and it was just a magical time.
I learned what the craft of acting was all about at that time in my life. I have never let that go.
I learned that the play is the thing, the story above all must be told.
Not the celebrity of it, not the special effects of it, but the story.
DGE: I will be honest and say that I was nicely surprised, when looking back at your career so far, to see that you have well over 100 movie/tv show credits to your name. A tricky question to answer but out of all the roles you have played, be it in TV or the movies, do you have any personal favourites that stand out from the rest?
LEW: That is like picking your favorite child! I will break it into three parts.
Major Studio film, that would be Ned Oldham in Unstoppable. I loved that film, working with Tony Scott (his last picture). It was such a exhilarating experience.
It was also a lot of work as I was a man on his own mission. I had to land him in the beginning of the film so that he would be memorable at the end when he saves the day like the calvary.
Denzel Washington and Chris Pine, a real acting lesson every day. And Tony Scott the director, was like working with Willy Wonka.
Independent Film, Cal in Waitress. This film is so lovely, and I am so privileged to be a part of it.
It was a special experience, like none other I have had.
Directed and written by Adrienne Shelly (who was murdered before the film came out), had such a good actor’s instinct, because she was an actor. She gave my amazing direction, that I had never considered as we did scenes.
Especially in the speech, “Happy Enough” – we all, Kerry Russell, Jeremy Sisto, Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, all benefited from her genius.
The world lost a great filmmaker. We all miss her very much. That movie was like coming home, after being away for a long time.
Television would have to be Axel on The Walking Dead. At the time I was cast, I didn’t know how visible this show was.
I knew about it, but had no idea how enthusiastic it’s audience was. I was so taken by the work ethic on set.
This is from every department, not one, but all. I think this is why the show has had the success that it has. Everyone is pulling on the same side of the rope. I was always made to feel a part of that, and to be part of the family that is The Walking Dead, forever.
I loved what we were able to accomplish with Axel, although, I thought there was more to be done, I am proud of what we did.
You must honor your character with respect, and I feel that was the case with Axel.
DGE: So do people still come up to you in the street and talk about Axel?
LEW: The Walking Dead was a very special experience, one that I have never encountered in all of my years in the industry. They as a production are a family, that is very supportive of one another. That is rare in today’s arena.
I am amazed at how much the audience and production support each other.
The show seems to know what the fan base needs, and vice versa.
I loved Axel, and still get recognized as him occasionally, not as much when I am sans stache!
But I was honored to be a part of the show, and that is the general sentiment from everyone who is on the show. I know that I will always be a part of this Walking Dead family.
I am proud to be a part of it no doubt.
DGE: To be fair, I didn’t think that question would be answered ha so I guess I should ask, have you ever turned down a part in a movie or tv-show only to regret it afterwards (you don’t have to name names).
LEW: I have turned things down, but mostly because of scheduling conflicts. I have committed to something, and then this great opportunity come up, and I just am not going to break my commitment.
This has happened recently with an Indy Film that won a lot of awards in the festival circuit, and a television show that is as popular as The Walking Dead.
At the time, you don’t know how big they are going to be, or at least I didn’t with the television show.
The indy film, a western, I had a good sense of how great it was. But I was busy doing something else, trying to make it just as great.
Timing, as always, is everything. That being said, there are plenty of parts that I was given the opportunity to audition for, that I did not get that turned into big things.
And that is just the universe saying things are as they should be always, because the guys that got the roles are always amazing (Oh Brother Where Art Thou, Maze Runner, Logan, etc).
DGE: On a personal note, whenever I speak of you to my friends and other movie lovers, the horror genre always comes up and yet The Devils Rejects was the first ‘horror’ movie you starred in. Do you have a preferred genre or would you gladly throw your hat in the ring and give anything a go?
LEW: I think that I am non-genre specific. I like the challenge of every story, every part that I am offered in every story.
As Bill Moseley told me when we were doing The Devil’s Rejects, the horror genre has opened the opportunities to do a bit more in a role.
Often times the television work is built so exact, that there is not much room for development.
For example, I find that comedies are tied into the timing of the bits, so you have to stay fairly tight on the script.
I think action is based a great deal on movement, and that is all about being physical.
All of the genre’s have the same thing in common, again telling of the story. I like comedies, but seldom get to take on those roles.
I would like to explore that opportunity a bit more. It’s fun to laugh, and laugh with others.
Still story is story.
DGE: I think you would be perfect in a comedy role – be it in a movie or TV show as you have the personality to make people laugh! But can I go back a moment to The Devils Rejects as there is a scene in which Bill Moseley’s character, Otis, cuts off your face to wear as a mask. I read somewhere that your parents weren’t particular happy with that scene so I guess that may have been a little hard to take in?
LEW: Well, I think my mother felt upset that anyone would do that to her little boy. I tried to explain to her that Otis was also a little boy once, and what went astray to make him do something like that.
Perhaps he didn’t have the loving parents that I did.
Not sure any of that eased the personal sadness she had. We forget sometimes these are stories we are telling, not unlike our toys, they get pulled out and played with again the next day.
I don’t think dying is ever an easy thing to do on film or television. I treat it with respect and I try to honor my characters death.
It is an honor to watch somebody die in my opinion, so that is how I approach a dying scene. None of us have really had the practical experience of actually passing away, so we have to develop that place from imagination.
That is what I like about the work, it’s like going to a play place, like when you were a child, with your imagination to find reason.
DGE: ‘A play place’ – I like phrase haha! So, you have since worked with Rob Zombie on several of his movies such as Halloween and recently 31. Your role in 31 in particular was amazing if not a little disturbing. I guess my question is how do you get into character to play someone like Psycho-Head?
LEW: Psycho-Head was particularly difficult, because he didn’t have a logic or reason as foundation. I had to find a way to honor his approach to life and death.
I try not to judge my characters, that keeps me honest, and gives me a place to build from. Rob puts the blue print on page, and it is up to us as actors to fill in the rest.
I have never done anything near what Psycho Head had done, but I try to explore some of the times, I have been at my worst and go from there. I generally try to find some likeabliity in my characters, not easy in the case of Psycho-Head.
Remember, we were all lovely little children at some point. I think that the roles I do for Rob, are challenging, and he expects the best from those challenges. I truly appreciate those opportunities, and I think that is why I enjoy working with him.
He is a true story teller, that has an original voice for sure.
DGE: And this leads on to my next question, and I have to ask, is Rob Zombie as crazy in real life as his music and movies seem to imply! (only joking!!)
LEW: Rob is as intelligent and interesting as anyone you are ever going to meet. He has a great sense of humor, and to be honest is the most down to earth person you will ever meet.
He is very secure in who he is. He has a tremendous amount of respect for everyone, especially his fans. He understands the business side of entertainment better than most, and knows that in order to get things done, you simply must do things.
He also knows what he wants and wants what he knows. As a person, he is incredibly charismatic, and is a performer of the highest level.
Again, in the end, he is a story teller.
And a darn good one.
If that is crazy, me too.
DGE: When I look back at the movies and tv-shows you have starred in, there are many big names I could mention, from Johnny Depp to Halle Berry to Tom Hardy to Denzel Washington (the list in endless). As well as being a big name yourself in the acting world, do you yourself ever get star-struck or nervous when first meeting them?
LEW: I have had the good fortune of working with incredible talent.
Everyone is actually a gift to be bestowed upon with their talent.
I am generally well aware of the job I have to do on the day. I know that I am usually there to support the story and those telling it.
I want to be as available as possible for everyone on set. That is hard to do, if you are influenced by the trappings of something else that precedes the work at hand. But I will say that I am often impressed by athletes and I know what it takes to do what they do, and I know to compete at a certain level, is incredible.
I do marvel at the talent these people have.
Occasionally in a scene I will get lost in the observation of their work, and forget, I have a job to deliver.
That is actually fairly enjoyable, until you hear “Cut, Lew, it was your line”.
DGE: You played a character called Terry in a movie called Kidnap, starring alongside Halle Berry. I have to say that movies that involves children usually gets to me (with having three kids myself) but what is it like as an actor to get into a role that involves kidnapping a child?
LEW: Like you, I am also a father, so to offer anything that harms children is never easy. I don’t like telling stories about children getting harmed, but unfortunately these stories really happen.
I think that by telling these unfortunate stories, we do bring awareness to the world.
With Kidnap, I wanted to be a part of a story that shows how a parent will do anything to protect their children. It was as much about empowering the parent as a super hero, as any.
It is very difficult to portray these types of characters, and yet you must be honest to the character.
Why would anybody abduct a child, but sadly that is happening in our world today.
DGE: If we are talking about things in movies that get to me, such as kids being abused, kidnapped – whatever, are there any roles in movies you just wouldn’t like to get involved with?
LEW: I don’t like harming children, or putting them in terrible situations. I don’t like sexual abuse of anyone. I don’t like racism. I don’t like mean spirited themes, without reason.
That being said, I have certainly, done all of these things in film.
I have tried to find reason or motivation in all of these efforts – they might not be my choice, but somehow they seem to chose me.
DGE: Your career is not only in film but also in the gaming industry as you have provided voice-over’s in games such as Killzone, Rango and Mafia III – so I have to ask, are you a bit of a gamer yourself? Do you play games on consoles such as the playstation or xbox?
LEW: In short, I am not a gamer. I respect those who are, because that is another conduit to story telling, and the level of participation is much higher than film/tv.
So it is more like theater in a way, because of your participation.
I know what an amazing technological industry it continues to be. I have never found the time to give myself to be a part of it.
I suppose I would be just as interested as everyone if I did.
DGE: You have recently appeared in a movie called The Endless, written and directed (and starring) Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson who both gave us the excellent Spring movie as well as Resolution – what was it like working with those guys and in a nutshell could you explain what the story is behind The Endless (for our readers).
LEW: This is a must see Indy Film, that will blow your mind. I am so proud to be a part of this project.
Aaron and Justin, really are wonderful young human beings. They are the story tellers of our future.
When they approached me with their story, I was sure about the script, and then upon meeting them, fairly certain.
This is a story about cults, about the higher power, about free will, about family, about choices. You will leave the movie theater, having had an experience, that very well may leave you with questions about how you are living your own life.
These two are very good at what they do. They are special. They know story, they want to know how to get better. They love films, they love books and music.
They reminded me of what it is to love craft.
That turns out to be a play on words, as their films have often been compared to Lovecraft and are a joy to be around.
They have a good sense of humor, and a curiosity that is forward thinking.
I can’t wait to watch them conquer the filmmaking world.
The reviews on this film are so good, it is just Endless.
And justifiably so.
DGE: We haven’t yet had the privilege of seeing The Endless here in the UK (I think its released sometime in June) but I’m hearing and reading great things about it. It seems Justin and Aaron are fast becoming the go-to guys for unique and wonderful movies!
LEW: Again, this is a film that has such an original concept, that it is hard to find any flaws. It is so earnest, and they tell a story that reflects the darkness in our sub-conscious, they do this in broad daylight most of the time.
They are entirely available to suggestions, and they are eager to try new things, to learn new things. They are very courageous, and supportive of their brethren that are filmmakers.
I am obviously a huge fan of theirs.
Thankful that they invited me along for the ride.
My place in there film, is as indescribable as the film itself.
DGE: Before we finish, it seems that no matter what people ask of you, for instance you have been very kind to participate in this interview, you are always willing to go the extra mile for your fans and I can give many examples of forums and social media where people have nothing but high praise towards you. Is this something you find comes naturally to you – taking the time out with your fans I mean?
LEW: I like people. I am people. We all are.
I find it entirely natural as a planetary inhabitant to engage and interact with others. This connection is life. It is a collaboration, life. Made up of us all.
This I believe and no man is an island.
I like being available when possible and I would hope the world is to me, as I am to it.
DGE: So what next for Lew Temple? You have a lot of movies set to be released this and next year but are there any other things us fans can look forwards too such as conventions etc?
LEW: I try to stay busy and I try to stay diverse.
As you know The Endless is out right now, and doing well, as it should.
Next will be Feral released here in the US 25th May. It is a creature feature that is rather smart.
Then The Iron Orchard, and ole fashion Texas Oil Movie. Come Said The Night, is another drama with horror nature. Limbo a super natural court-room drama.
Then off to film Homeless Ashes, in the UK. This is a story that must be told, the value of homelessness.
And Self Storage, such a great story, I can’t wait to dig into.
I am off to Dallas International Film Festival 5th May with The Iron Orchard.
I’m going to Amsterdam for a convention in June, and a convention In New Orleans in June.
I am writing as well, Bud and Sponsor…two television shows that are dark comedies!
DGE: Well, thank you Lew for spending time with me answering the question’s put to you. It’s been a pleasure to hear you talk so passionately about the movies and roles you have starred in. I wish you all the very best in your career now and in the future and cannot wait to see the upcoming movies and tv shows you have already mentioned above.
LEW: Thanks for your time Chris, I hope this gives you some great place to escape to. Ever Forward. Everlong.
Many thanks to Lew for taking some valuable time away from his busy schedule to sit and answer the questions you have read above. It mean’s the world to me that someone of Lew’s calibre is so sincere and kind to spend time with his fans.
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