FRAN KRANZ INTERVIEW
Interview conducted by Steven Wood
Fran Kranz is a man that wears many hats, whether it be stage, small/big screen, horror, rom-com or drama; the man has done it all. He is probably known best for his roles in the TV series Dollhouse or the genre insta-classic The Cabin in The Woods, though his resume is far more impressive. I had the pleasure of talking to Mr. Kranz about anything and everything stage/screen related, we also somewhat touched on his current release Bloodsucking Bastards; my review can be found here.
Steven Wood: I've read that you started acting really young; do you have any roles pre-IMDB credits?
Fran Kranz: Frasier was my first job, I think I was a junior in high school, I’m not sure if it’s on there. Predating that, no; Donnie Darko was my first movie and Frasier was my first TV job. I was acting in high school plays and I remember my first audition for some Nathan Lane TV show called Encore, which I think was on the air. I think I was auditioning to play, not his son, but whoever was the young person on the show. I was lucky to grow up in LA, I had friends whose parents were in the business, and people would come see the shows and a casting director found me.
SW: You've done a lot of stuff outside horror, but with Cabin in the Woods and Bloodsucking Bastards, do you wish to be involved in more genre films?
FK: I love horror films, I always have going back to a little kid. They scare the shit out of me. I love blood and effects; I’m really into all of the visual effects like monsters/make up. I’d go into the video store and look at the back of VHS tapes to find the freakiest, bloodiest photos, like judging a book by its cover, I’d judge horror films by the back of the case. I would rent the most twisted looking movies to see how they did the effects, I really enjoyed that. I had a third grade art teacher that called my parents saying, “I’m concerned about Francis; all he draws is bloody pictures.” I was into it when I was older also. I’d make bloody home videos, they sort of turned into war movies or mafia movies; I had my Scorsese phase. Personally I’m not sure what the connection is, but horror and comedy are so related and I think the best release of fear is laughter; it’s sort of the natural response to being afraid, assuming it’s not a real terror. You laugh at yourself or with someone because you share this moment of fear that takes you out of yourself, and laughter is a way to sort of make fun of yourself. To me they’ve always been so closely connected, it’s considered a sub-genre, but I’m surprised there aren’t more of them out there, but horror is difficult and comedy is difficult, to have that balancing act is really difficult.
SW: If you were to create a horror movie, what would it be?
FK: I love the supernatural and the monsters, and like I said, I grew up trying to find the goriest practical effects. But as I get older the things that scare me are based in reality. I think The Silence of The Lambs is one of the scariest movies. I like to think about the idea of what is evil in the real world. Questioning what insanity is really fascinates me; where does it come from and is it all pre-meditated, and is it enjoyed by the person. I think that’s something that’s really interesting because it’s terrifying and something we cannot understand, yet it’s definitely human. That would be a storyline or a backdrop of a horror film that would really disturb me.
SW: How does Broadway help you with your acting, if at all?
FK: I think the process of a play is so intense, well, fun, but you have to know exactly what you’re doing in the sense of blocking, where everyone is going to be standing and how the scene is going to move. You even have to know why you’re saying lines, you can fake it, but it’s difficult. Its real time, you’re playing this other human being in real time and to get other places, emotional places, you have to follow a chain of events. You have to ask a lot of questions and I’ve brought that to my film work and honestly it’s sometimes kind of obnoxious because you want to be slightly unprepared and come in with a bunch of ideas and see what works. You might have five takes on a setup and you want each take to be different; the best actors will give the director choices. In a play, it’s not to say you don’t have variation every night because you do, but in a play you’re going to have a window of where it works and where it doesn’t. In a movie you have to expand that, it’s ok to fail in a take and try something crazy. In a play if you do that, you potentially throw off the other actors and totally sidetrack the production, these things are somewhat obvious but it’s interesting. What I found is that when I get on a set, I’m much more demanding about knowing exactly why we’re doing things, and then you can play around with takes. I scrutinize screenplays a little more now than I did before having done theater because the rehearsal process is basically tearing the script apart.
SW: Do you have a preference between stage and screen acting?
FK: It’s tough to say, I honestly don’t know...they recharge you, refresh you so much. I just did a play for 26 weeks and that’s long, that’s a long, long time to do the same thing every night, really takes a toll on you. You have to be physically and mentally prepared and have to sell the show to the audience; it takes a lot of energy. After you do something like that, you want the different work load; you kind of need that in order to continue. As long as the story is good I’m not really too sure which I like more. As long as you’re excited about the work.
SW: Do you still dabble in improv, or would you like to get back into it?
FK: I was in a group in college; more than anything I did it because it kind of freaked me out. I had friends in the group, they were in a grade higher than me, we got along through doing a play and they encouraged me to do it. The fact that I was kind of afraid, I felt I should do it. It would help me on set, you get on a comedy and they encourage it, they let the camera roll and see what happens. I wanted to be more comfortable with that. This movie was cool because Dr. God is an improv group, and the five of them all played parts in the movie, Brian also directed. It was fun watching them work and to catch up with them and work with them, it was really satisfying. Joey Kern was so good to work with and improvise with. It’s something I feel comfortable with, but the challenge is still there. Also, keeping a straight face is hard because I laugh at everything. That might be why I’m scared; because I know how close I am to breaking at all times.
SW: Lastly, do you have any advice for up and comers into the industry?
FK: It’s overwhelming, with all the content out there online like Netflix, Hulu and web series. For young actors it’s so empowering because you can make stuff that potentially gets seen by a lot of people. You get a funny video on YouTube and it gets over one million hits; that’s more people than have seen most of my movies. That’s a real thing, it’s that powerful. A good idea in this world goes so far now, so I encourage a person to just work with anyone who wants to work and to make little shorts, however small, just do it. It can get out there and it can get seen, you just have to remain positive, it’s such a grind and there could be so much rejection, you have to have real optimism and confidence. Just continue to make stuff no matter what. Not to sound cheesy but you never know who you’re working with. You share a project with them, goals and passion; you’ll probably keep in touch. It is all about connections and getting your foot in the door and everyone has had help, it’s important to work and get to know people.
SW: Hey man, I really appreciate you taking the time and congrats on your upcoming wedding.
FK: Thank you man, I know it’s intense, I can’t wait though!
SW: Thanks a lot, have a good one!
FK: Take care!
HorrorTalk would like to thank Mr. Kranz for taking the time out of what had already been a hectic day.
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