What made you decide to become an actor?
Acting is all I have ever wanted to do. I’ll be doing it till the day I die. I’m not always good, but I have done over 70 projects in the last 4 years (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2454994) so I am at least getting a lot of practice. I am secretly delighted that people call me a “horror genre actor.” I read a quote from Vincent Price who said, “Sometimes I feel I am channeling the dark soul of the whole human race, and I love it!” I can understand where he was coming from. It’s a great feeling.
What is it about horror that appeals to you?
I am (like all humans) afraid of a lot of things. Horror allows me to face my own fears, and to give people who watch the chance to face theirs. Good horror is cathartic. I’d even say good horror is good for the soul, because it is like a thunderstorm: afterwards there is a cleansing rain and everything is refreshed. Pretending that we are not afraid is not good for us. Horror lets us stop pretending and still keep our facade up, because we can feel the fear vicariously. Afterwards, we are stronger. I am speaking of good, intelligent well-made horror, of course. Some of it is just silly garbage. And I’ve done my share of that. But we all hold out hope for the rare film that scares the hell out of us…and makes us like it. ‘The Exorcist’ still gives me nightmares.
Your popularity is constantly growing, how hard was it to get where you are now?
Well, it’s not physical labor so I am not gonna bitch about how hard it is. I get paid to pretend to be other people. But yeah I do work hard at it. I came to Los Angeles 4 years ago from a 13-year east coast stage career. It’s a tough town and a tough business, but if you work hard and pay your dues, you’ll eventually get noticed. The German in me doesn’t mind the hard work and the discipline. There’s a 98% unemployment rate in this business; I’m grateful to be working. I work a 12 to 14 hour day every day whether it is on set or off set. There is never a moment when you can relax. It’s a very uncertain life and it can get stressful, but I trust God and I trust my manager (in that order.) I am learning to be patient and to wait for the good roles. Lord knows I have done enough bad ones. But you know, when something like the trailer for ‘Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies’ comes out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tFaQYSFLuE and it gets 8,000 views in 7 days and people write me and day, “Dude your Lincoln is badass!” that makes all the hard work more than worth it. That’s what it’s about: making people smile and entertaining them. That’s what it is all for and that’s the reward.
What has been your favourite experience so far in your career?
Touring with the show ‘Jesus Of Nazareth‘ as Jesus. I did a thousand performances in churches all around the country. I met wonderful people who prayed for me and who fixed my Jeep when it broke down and who fed me at their tables. I wouldn’t trade the experience for an Oscar (not that anyone has offered one.) When I started down the path of horror films 4 years ago, the experience of having played this role and now scaring people for a living gave me lots to think about. I wrote a blog post on the subject of horror and faith and I get a lot of mail about it, all of it positive. http://www.billoberst.com/2012/01/and-it-was-night-thoughts-on-horror-and-faith/
What has been the most difficult hurdle to overcome on your journey?
Making peace with my face; my appearance; my overall creepiness on camera. Onstage I played all types of people but when I switched to camera the darkness and the creepiness were what the camera loved. I had always been ashamed of my scarred face and my weird body and had covered them up with make-up and padding and costumes onstage. And suddenly on film, with a camera right in my face, I was naked, so to speak…I mean, there’s nothing to hide behind. You can’t lie to the camera. So I was forced to stand in front of the mirror and to say “This is me. This is what I look like. This is what I have to offer.” And the moment I did that is the moment I started working regularly in film. It seems the more I embrace that, the more I work, so I haven’t looked back. There’s a whole section on my new website devoted to that topic. It’s called ‘The Anatomy Of Fear‘ and I’m proud of it because it is who I am, not some image bullshit. There’s a freedom in saying “God made me a little weird, but here I am.” http://www.billoberst.com/anatomy-of-fear/
When you’re not acting, what are you generally doing?
I work out a lot. I’ve got this whole lean creepy body thing going as a part of my brand and it takes a lot of work to keep defined. Naturally I am just a skeleton. So there’s protein powder and the gym a lot. I love to hike in Griffith Park. And I love to read. My tastes in books are towards the old and the odd. I am re-reading Washington Irving’s ‘Sketchbook’ from 1820 right now. ‘The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow’ is in there, and I scared myself reading it before bed the other night. Beautifully written. I’m a huge Ray Bradbury fan, also. I’d recommend his short story ‘Pillar Of Fire’ to anyone who loves Halloween. I never get tired of it.
Who or what do you class as your main inspiration?
A couple of guys who died before I was born: Lon Chaney Sr. and Boris Karloff. Offscreen both were good and decent men who treated others well. Onscreen both gave their monsters a touch of humanity, so that we always saw a bit of ourselves in their eyes. I aspire to this. My sympathies have always been with the monster. On a few occasions I have been compared to these gentlemen. I pretend to brush it off, but it makes me pinch myself. It makes me happy. It makes me hope their ghosts aren’t laughing at me.
Do you have any upcoming features at the minute?
Yeah I have 7 features due out this year and am filming 4 more in a row between now and September. I would invite folks to visit my IMDb page to see what’s up: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2454994/
I have lead roles in 3 horror projects that will be out soon and about which I am pretty excited:
– Richard Schenkman’s ‘Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies,’ which has a release date of May 29 from The Asylum,
– Jourdan McClure’s ‘Children Of Sorrow‘ which is so disturbing that the 1st composer quit because watching it make his skin crawl, &
– Michael Emanuel’s ‘Scary Or Die,’ a wickedly fun horror anthology film co-starring Corbin Bleu of the ‘High School Musical’ films.
Each of those has the potential to do very well. I am also doing lead roles in Gregory Blair’s thriller ‘Scare Tactics‘ and Trevor Juenger’s art-house horror film ‘Coyote‘ this year, and am in talks with director Mark Savage about his next horror project.
On the non-horror front I am doing the lead in a gritty New York drama called ‘The Little Matchstick Boy‘ for director Heather Ferreira next month and the lead in Micheal Bonomo’s hitman thriller ‘Assassins‘ in August. Oh and I just wrapped a reprise of my role in The Hallmark Channel TV-movie, ‘The Shunning‘ for the sequel, ‘The Confession,’ again directed by Michael Landon Jr. I think that’s all. It has gotten kind of busy since Jason Zada’s ‘Take This Lollipop‘ became a viral phenomenon and made internet history. Playing The Facebook Stalker was good for me. I am very grateful for all these chances to do what I love for a living.
If you were to set a goal for the future, what would it be?
When I was a kid in South Carolina, and a man would die in our small town, I’d hear the people in church talking about it the next Sunday. There was one phrase that stuck in my head: “He was a good man.” If they said that, it was the highest praise they could offer. I think that by “a good man” they meant that he had met his responsibilities, worked hard, taken care of his family and treated others the way he wanted to be treated. That’s a tall order and I have not always lived up to it. But at the end of life, I’d like them to be able to put that on my tombstone. “He was a good man.” I think that would be enough.
And finally, who is your favourite horror icon?
The Wolf Man. He’s tragic. He’s tortured. Yet, he’s going to rip your throat out. What’s not to like?
And that’s a wrap. We hope you liked our feature on Bill Oberst Jr, because he is going to be joining us as a guest blogger real soon! (And you say we don’t treat you!)
Keep a look out for future updates of when The King will be joining us!