By Oliver M. Pulumbarit
“I was very attracted to the character first; I thought he was an interesting fellow in a very complex situation, and not the kind that I had played before, so I was quite intrigued,” said “Resurrection” actor Kurtwood Smith, prior to a press conference in Raffles Makati last Thursday.
“For me, it was really the story,” his costar Omar Epps told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “The idea to me was just so universal. The only things that connect us as human beings, more than anything, are life and death. I thought it was a treasure trove of a story.”
The American actors’ last destination for their promotional tour was the
“Resurrection,” co-produced by ABC Studios and Brad Pitt’s Plan B
Entertainment, is a fantasy-drama series about—as the title suggests—deceased
persons coming back to life. (It premieres Monday night, on Lifetime.)
Smith, 70, is best known for playing the abrasive dad Red Forman in the sitcom “That ’70s Show” for eight seasons. He had guest appearances in such shows as “The X-Files,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” and “24,” among others. Smith had roles in the films “Robocop” and “Dead Poets Society” as well.
Epps, meanwhile, played Dr. Eric Foreman in “House” for several seasons. The 40-year-old’s film credits include “Major League II,” “Scream 2” and “Higher Learning.”
In “Resurrection,” Epps plays immigration agent Martin Bellamy, who visits Smith’s character Henry Langston. Bellamy accompanies a boy, whom Langston reluctantly identifies as his son—but the kid’s been dead for more than 30 years.
You’ve played dads and authority figures before. How are your “Resurrection” characters different?
Smith: Red Forman’s a little bit larger-than-life. I think that Henry Langston is a bit more down-to-earth in that regard. Red was fun, he was great, and some of the other dads I’ve played were, too. I just find that Henry is probably closer to me in terms of demeanor.
Epps: Bellamy exists in a gray area, compared to characters that I played before. I’ve been on one side of the fence or the other, and he’s really in the middle. It’s been challenging to find the character.
How significantly has the entertainment industry changed since you started?
Smith: It’s transformed a lot. When I started, VCRs were just coming out … But mainly, television has changed. Because of cable, the competition for viewers is fierce. With that, it has brought about a great resurgence of quality into television. It was kind of like the “silly, lightweight” medium compared to film. And now it’s almost kind of reversed … The real quality work in smaller features is on television and cable.
Epps: Kurtwood hit that nail on the head. It’s a completely different business than it was. I’ve been doing it for 22 years. It’s exciting to be a creative, because there are so many outlets now, there’s so much more need for content. The cable channels are winning because they have a different structure in terms of how they run their businesses to advertisers and how they roll out their content—you can just run through without commercials so you can tell stories in a different way. Telling stories in a network format is a very hard thing to do!
So crossing over is much easier?
Epps: Yeah, because you have your second screen experience; people watch on their iPads, kids watch on their phones—they get the content so much faster. And in terms of us as artists, the line is almost completely blurred right now. When I came into the business in the early 1990s, television was frowned upon. I come from
a stage actor. It was very hard for people who were stars on TV to break into
film. Now, you get huge film stars going into television, then come back into a
movie. Now, you just go where the good work is. The audiences don’t pigeonhole
you as the television or movie actor.
What’s the most important thing about playing your “Resurrection” parts?
Epps: For me, any character I play, I want to be honest. With Bellamy, he’s kinda like the outsider. I call him the eye of the audience. He’s the one character that watches it unfold, with them.
Smith: For Frances Fisher (who plays Henry’s wife) and I, it’s crucial that we keep it grounded and as honest as possible. Because when you have all this crazy stuff going on, you gotta keep it real. Then the audience will be able to accept everything.
Do you believe in the afterlife or resurrection?
Epps: I believe the energy never dies. I’m a spiritual person but I believe that energy is forever. How that energy shifts is up to that individual journey. Anything is possible. Eastern philosophies, they believe in reincarnation; some people are more religion-based and believe in an afterlife of peace and utopia, which is heaven. But I believe that heaven and hell exist in this state, on earth.
Smith: Like Omar, I don’t disbelieve in anything. I concern myself with living this life, (modulates voice) “trying to do good while I’m here.”
What’s the most rewarding thing about working in the business?
Smith: This is one of it, going around the world, meeting interesting people, talking about what you’re doing. That’s an incredible perk. And it’s always great to feel that you’re entertaining people. Ever since “Dead Poets Society,” I’ve had people come up and say: “You know, because of that movie, the relationship between my dad and I changed.”