Tony Amendola is a top-notch actor whose resume teems with sci-fi credits, among them recurring roles as Bra’tac on Stargate SG-1, Geppetto on Once Upon a Time and Kagame on Continuum… and one episode of Star Trek: Voyager. It’s true that his Voyager role as Chorus Member #3 in the episode “Muse” doesn’t scream “You must interview this guy,” but as completists, we at StarTrek.com have wanted to interview him for a long time. Amendola is currently co-starring as Creon in the double-cast Antaeus Company production of The Curse of Oedipus running now through August 10 in Los Angeles. So not only is he playing another Greek character, but Deep Space Nine star Armin Shimerman and Kitty Swink (Shimerman’s wife and a DS9 guest star) serve as the company’s associate artistic directors, all of which made now the perfect time to speak with Amendola. So we did, and here’s what he had to say.
You’d done so much sci-fi before Star Trek and you’ve done so much after it, too. So how and why did you end up on Voyager in such an offbeat, modest-sized part?
AMENDOLA: I had many, many friends who’d done Star Trek… Armin and Kitty, Andy Robinson, John de Lancie, Ethan Phillips, people I’d known for a long time and who did Trek. Oh, and Kate Mulgrew and Robert Beltran. But I had done an episode of Crusade, the Babylon 5 show, which was one of my favorite credits. It was a short-lived series but a terrific character, and Mike Vejar directed my episode. He did my Voyager episode, and I think he helped open the door. I actually had auditioned for The Next Generation and for Deep Space when I first got into town, so I figured my turn would come.
What do you remember of the experience doing the episode?
AMENDOLA: The Voyager cast was like a Greek acting company. We could have been doing The Curse of Oedipus on that set. When I think about it now there are scenic elements of the show that remind me of that set. I got a chance to work with John Schuck, and we kept cracking up because of the prosthetics we had on our foreheads. And I loved the premise of the episode, which was, “Let’s keep everyone busy with fear and the arts, and they won’t go off to war.” So it was odd, but fun. I really wish we had a week to rehearse and then go in and do the episode, but you make do and become fast friends with the people around you, and Mike Vejar was great.
Did you know Schuck or your other chorus member, Jack Axelrod, before doing the episode?
AMENDOLA: No. We had many mutual friends, John and I, because he came up through ACT and many other theater companies. So I knew the name very well. And he did not disappoint to work with; serious when the cameras rolled, but just a joy and lots of laughs when they weren’t rolling. Jack, since then I’ve seen him in plays around town and run into him at auditions, but I did not know him before doing the episode.
Strange observation, but are we right in saying it’s one of the rare times you’ve shot something where you were actually clean-shaven?
AMENDOLA: (Laughs). Yes! Normally I do wear some sort of facial hair… a mustache, a beard, a goatee, mutton chops, something. And I shaved for that one. I’m actually grateful to do that for work.
You’ve been with The Antaeus Company from the beginning, right?
AMENDOLA: Yes. I was one of the founding members. An old friend of mine, it was sort of his brainchild. So when the first meeting occurred, I was one of the people there. It was just a way for actors who grew up in the theater to still stay connected to the theater even as they’re in a different stage of their career, i.e., they need to pay a mortgage or support a family, so they’re doing television and movies. We’re 21st century actors now, and so you have to make your peace with television and film. I have friends who ask why I do theater, because it doesn’t pay anything, and the work sort of just disappears. Someone had a great quote about theater, which is that it’s sculpture in ice, because it only happens that night for that group of people, and then it’s gone. And the theater people I know ask why I do television and film because it’s this and that, and not as satisfying. There’s truth on both sides, but I think you have to give it a shot, and I’m lucky enough to be able to afford to do theater.
What excites you most about The Curse of Oedipus as a production and Creon as a character?
AMENDOLA: Any time you go after the Greeks, it’s a big catch. It’s not an easy thing. It’s sort of the granddaddy of everything we do. One of the reasons I love being an actor is that there’s a direct lineage that you can trace back 2,500 years to some poor schmo trying to figure out how to play Creon. And generally the shows about the Greeks are what it’s about to be a human being, where your allegiance lies. Should it be to the family? Should it to be law and order or to justice? Those poles between the family and the city are very, very crucial to Greek drama and to how we live our lives today, I think. And Creon, it’s a big arc. He’s a man who starts out being a kind of bureaucrat and an enabler. He eventually gains power and realizes he’s been corrupted by it. He ends up being a sort of quasi-tyrant, but there is a realization that there is a cost for that.
2014 sounds like it’s been a good year for you. In addition to the play, you were in an episode of Intelligence, have recurring roles on Continuum and Once Upon a Time, and have the films Pizza with Bullets and Annabelle coming up…
AMENDOLA: You know, this is a very strange, schizophrenic business because it just does go up and down. I just did some reshoots on Annabelle, which is sort of a sequel to The Conjuring. That was great fun. I’ve also done a film called Babylon. It’s an edgy, artsy film that we shot in Austin. I’m doing a voice for the new World of Warcraft game. I do some narrating, too. It’s been wonderful to be so busy and have such variety. I was a terrorist on Intelligence and I’m Geppetto on Once Upon a Time and Kagame on Continuum. I have a very nice role as a priest in Annabelle, and I’m going off to do an episode of Being Mary Jane in Atlanta. The Curse of Oedipus is double cast, so I have time to run off and do other things. It’s been very, very nice, but I have no illusion that it’s going to continue.
Visit www.anteaus.org for details/tickets for The Curse of Oedipus.