This interview originally ran in April of 2018
Brad Dourif is a character actor’s character actor, an Oscar nominee whose credits include One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the Child’s Play films, two installments in The Lord of the Rings saga, Dune, Blue Velvet, Mississippi Burning, Jungle Fever, The X-Files, Priest, Deadwood, Once Upon a Time and many more. Thanks to his foreboding voice and sinister features, he’s played way more than his share of villains, criminals, psychos and sociopaths. He slipped on his sociopath hat to play Lon Suder, the dangerous, deeply troubled Betazoid crewman, in the Star Trek: Voyager episodes “Meld,” “Basics, Part I” and “Basics, Part II.” Dourif’s latest project is the super-creepy indie horror-thriller Wildling, which will be available on VOD and Digital HD starting April 13, 2018, and is currently in limited theatrical release as well.
Wildling centers on Anna (Bel Powley), who’s spent her whole childhood in a single, secluded room, raised by a man she calls "Daddy" (Dourif). Daddy convinces her to fear the "Outside" by sharing horrific, fantastical tales of the "Wildling" and goes to extreme measures to thwart her maturity process. She’s eventually rescued by a small-town sheriff (Liv Tyler) who takes her into her home, and Daddy seems to go away for good. As one might expect, however, hormones kick in, Daddy may not be gone forever, and the mythical Wildling may not be so mythical after all.
StarTrek.com recently spoke with the always-fascinating Dourif. The actor filled us in on his current project and recounted his Voyager experiences.
StarTrek.com: Do you remember how you landed the Suder role? Was it an audition or an offer? Did you know if that’d it be a recurring role?
Brad Dourif: Offer. I don't remember if I knew it was recurring or not. Maybe. Maybe. I’d think it was.
Did you know that he would die heroically?
BD: No. The hook to me doing it wasn’t dying heroically. It was the mind meld (with Tuvok). Who doesn't want to talk like a Vulcan?
Were you at all a Star Trek fan?
BD: Of course. I mean, I'm not like a huge Trekkie, but I saw Star Trek when I was still quite young. I saw The Original Series with Shatner and Nimoy, right. My mom and I, we both sat and watched it. She was just wanting to see what it was like. Science-fiction was, relatively, at a comeback stage. We were also reading Ray Bradbury then.
Given Suder's sociopathic tendencies, how perfect a place was the Maquis for him?
BD: He was at home with the Maquis. He did what they needed him to do, which was the dirty work.
What do you remember of working with the Voyager regulars, particularly Tim Russ and Kate Mulgrew?
BD: Kate was wonderful. I had a great time with her. Tim… we went diving and did all kinds of stuff together.
BD: He's just a really good dude, yeah. My girlfriend was there when I did the mind meld scene with Tim, and it was great fun to have her there and have me do that scene with her there. She doesn't always get to watch the work, and she's a real artist. I wish I had a tenth of her talent, but she was very interested and I remember it was a really fun day. She's a very hard person to impress, but she was happy and I think she liked what I was doing, for sure.
At the end of the episode, after your demise, Tuvok says a Vulcan prayer wishing you in death the peace that you couldn't find in life. How fitting a farewell was that for Suder?
BD: I think that was dead on. It was a short little thing. There was another death there, which I think had more meaning to other people, but it was just a private little thing for Tuvok, giving Suder some closure. And I thought that was also appropriate because Suder was sort of an alone person and only one person recognized him. For a sociopath, empathy is impossible and you almost have to create it intellectually, and you never feel it. But I think people felt for him. Suder tried. He really, really tried.
Let’s shift to Wildling. You’ve played characters like Daddy/Gabriel before, but there are some glimpses of humanity in this guy, especially at the beginning. Was that part of the reason you agreed to do this movie?
BD: Yes. I’d kind of stopped doing bad guys, so I was not going to do Wildling, but then I had a long talk with (director) Fritz Bohm and we decided to really put some humanity in him… and then he goes crazy.
Bel Powley and the younger actresses who play Anna are all terrific…
BD: Bel felt like my daughter. We really, really clicked first rehearsal and she was wonderful to work with the whole time. She's really a solidly good actress. And everybody else was wonderful, too.
This looks like an expensive movie, but I’m guessing it was made on a very small budget…
BD: Yeah, that's about it. I just think they were very smart about the look of the movie and found good locations, and most of the stuff was really worked out. I think they kept improving it. We went back and did some re-shoots in which they did even better stuff. Bel’s makeup was great, but, as always, impossible. All special effects makeup is so difficult and hard on the actor.
What else will we see you in? IMDB lists about eight projects in pre-production, post production, production and/or announced. But what's actually next for you?
BD: I don't know. I'm being very picky now and I don't do bad guys, and all I get offered are bad guys. So, it's going slow. Honestly, I don't care anymore. I'll work if I want to. If I don't, I won't. I don't feel like there's anything I really want to do that I haven't done. I'm at a funny phase at this point, but I'll still work if I find something interesting.
This interview has been edited and condensed.