Ron Perlman is one of the go-to guys for sci-fi, horror and fantasy roles. His resume is bursting at the seams with such credits: Beauty and the Beast (which co-starred Armin Shimerman), Sleepwalkers (which co-starred Alice Krige), Cronos, The City of Lost Children, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Alien: Resurrection, Blade II, Hellboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Mutant Chronicles, way too many videogames and episodes of animated shows to count, and the upcoming feature Season of the Witch, with Nicolas Cage and Christopher Lee. And yes, back in 2002, Perlman made a pit stop into the Star Trek universe, co-starring as the Reman Viceroy under Shinzon (Tom Hardy) in Nemesis. StarTrek.com tracked Perlman down in London – where he was promoting Season of the Witch, which will open on Jan. 7, 2011 -- for an extensive interview in which he talked about Nemesis, Season of the Witch and other current projects, among them the hit series Sons of Anarchy, and his status as a genre favorite. Part one of the conversation can be found below, and come back tomorrow for Part II.
Even though you’re busy for several months of each year with Sons of Anarchy, you’re still a regular in genre projects, turning up in major productions and supporting smaller indie films. What continues to be the appeal of sci-fi, horror, comic book and/or fantasy for you after all these years?
Perlman: I think that if something is just fantastical, if there’s not a reality that you can truly invest in, if it’s just nothing but a willing suspension of disbelief, I’m not down for it. But if there’s a real reality to it, to the horror or whatever genre it is, where the genre is a jumping-off point for something else, something that’s based in a real reality, that lets you sink your teeth in and care about the characters, and be engaged in the story and the characters as an audience member, then I am down for it. There’s a lot of stuff that’s purely gratuitous, where you just create a very flimsy story to hang some cheesy special effects on. And then I think there are things where you create a reality where there are high stakes involved for the characters and then, if s—t starts happening that’s supernatural, you can still buy into it because it’s juxtaposed against something that’s real.
Nemesis came out eight years ago today, on December 13, 2002. Some people were surprised to see you in the film since the role wasn’t particularly large. What compelled you to sign on to play the Viceroy?
Perlman: I think my manager said, “There’s interest in you for a Star Trek movie. They’re doing something called Nemesis.” I went, “Yeah, man, just tell me the time and the place and I’ll be there.” Then they said it’d be a heavy prosthetic makeup job and I said, “No problem. It’s still Star Trek.” I’d been watching the franchise in all of its many forms from a distance all those years and it was high time that I sort of became part of the family. That was it. It became a reality. And it was great in a number of ways.
Most of your scenes in the film were with Tom Hardy. Did you have a sense then that he had the goods and that he could really take off as an actor like he is right now, after Inception?
Perlman: Tom has become probably one of the most sought-after actors in the world. Did you see this movie he did, Bronson? It was brilliant. And now Tom is in everything. I loved him when I first met him. I loved working with him. I found him to be really smart, really a great kid. He was much younger then. He was also really humble and knew that he was kind of living a charmed life by playing major roles in major motion pictures. Everything I like about an actor was in this kid, and I’m so happy to see what’s happening to him now.
Hardy was a new face to you when you arrived on the Nemesis set. But you’d known Jonathan Frakes years before you did Nemesis, right?
Perlman: Yeah. Frakes and I had done a strange little theater piece at the Tiffany Theatre on Sunset (in Los Angeles) when we both first hit town, which was, I guess, in the mid-80’s. It was an unwatchable comedy called My Life in Art (with Frakes playing a character named Billy the Goat). Maybe parts of it were watchable. Anyway, we became fast friends, and then I watched his ascent to power. We never worked with each other again after Nemesis, but we keep running into each other and I’m sure at some point we’ll find something to do again together. At least I hope so.
What else came out of the experience for you?
Perlman: I met Jake Garber, who did my makeup for Nemesis. I’d never met him before, but he and I are now partners for life on any big makeup job that I do. He did Hellboy. He’s the best I have ever worked with. So a lot of good things came out of Star Trek for me personally.
Be on the lookout for part 2 tomorrow.