Its amazing how much preparation can go into a 48-hour shooting schedule. SAMARITAN has been a well-orchestrated, well-executed production from concept to script, right through wrap. Johnny Alonso, who stars as the enigmatic character Victor, reflected from the Toronto set of Blu where he was shooting with Robert Deniro and Orlando Bloom.
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Ethan Marten: Hey Johnny.
Johnny Alonso: Paisan! How’re ya doin Kid?
EM: Feel great? Hows Kelly and the kids?
JA: Everyones happy and healthy, thanks.
EM: We have a screening in Norfolk this weekend at The City Arts Festival. If you werent in such demand –
JA: Im with everyone in spirit! Give everyone a big hug and kiss from me.
JA: So how do you want to start this thing?
EM: Im gonna give some skinny on why youre such a big star.
JA: I wish.
EM: Paisan youre modest. Here we go
Johnny got his degree in acting from N.Y.U.s Actors Studio. A scout from ABC caught Mr. Alonsos improvisational technique and asked him to audition for a role the studio had not been able to properly cast for the better 2 months.
The result, Johnny landed a 1-year contract role as Seth, a pine valley high school student and Susan Luccis nephew on All My Children, straight out of the Actors Studio.
JA: Not a bad first gig.
EM: Not bad. Not done. From there many gigs have followed: a guest starring role next to Ned Betty and Andre Brauer on Homicide; a 2 episode guest starring contract on Buffy, The Vampire Slayer you worked with Sarah Michelle Gellar right before she left All My Children didnt you?
EM: Aaah! SNAKES ON MY BLOG! You landed a contract role next to Samuel L. Jackson in Rules Of Engagement.
JA: A real gentleman.
EM: Then Axe, the bass player/boyfriend to Rachel Leigh Cookes character in Stateside.
JA: Thats when things really picked up. I was cast in a recurring role on the last season of Dawsons Creek —
EM: Jimmy Franco?
JA: A snide junior stockbroker next to Joshua Jackson and Katie Holmes. Originally a 2-episode contract (directed by Joanna Kerns from Growing Pains/Lifetime) became an 8-episode run.
EM: I hear you earned a place in Guinness for this.
JA: I hold the record for the only actor to audition 28 times for a series on the WB before landing a job!
EM: You were the Susan Lucci of Dawsons Creek! I heard you didnt actually get cast. In fact, you were there auditioning so often they thought you were already part of the cast! Meeting Joanna Kerns was fortunate, yes?
JA: Call it fate to have worked with Joanna. She said we’d would work together again one day well, right after Dawsons Creek came to an end, my agent got a call from ABC and Disney. I got the chance to work with the original cast from the series Growing Pains in Growing Pains II Return Of The Seavers as Mickey Chrissys r-n-r, bad new boyfriend.
EM: You spent 1 month on location in New Orleans Co-starring with Kirk Cameron, Ashley Johnson (Chrissy), Joanna Kerns, Traci Gold, Alan Thicke….
JA: It was wild working with a cast that I grew up watching as kid after school. Joanna told me that if I auditioned for her when the show was still running, that I was a dead ringer for the Mickey character she always wanted for the series. How wicked is that! That always getting into trouble character left a lasting impression with the viewers poll as a cool/upbeat story line/change of scene and pace from the usual Seaver issues.
EM: Then the Disney summer special Stuck In The Suburbs the WB series One Tree Hill with the recurring role of Joey D. Again this was a 2 episode deal which extended to 9 episodes! Youre the only actor to segway from Dawsons Creek to One Tree Hill (which took Dawsons Creeks place). How many auditions?
JA: This time — only once — this time!
EM: Okay, lets rattle some off. Other co-starring and Guest Starring credits include F.B.I. Files, The Adventures Of Young Van Helsing, Johnny Come Lately, Night Cry, The Tango Dancer, The Passing the list is getting heavy!
JA: I didnt realize how much I had done in 8 years.
EM: Your odometer must be spinning like crazy?!
JA: Call me Road Warrior.
EM: So how did you first hear about SAMARITAN?
JA: Karen Whitlow- Jones of Atlantic Talent. She mentioned it to me on the set of One Tree Hill.
EM: What were your initial thoughts before the audition?
JA: How badly I wanted to ride my skateboard on the newly paved parking lot outside across from where the auditions were being held. (Laughs).
EM: I remember that skateboard. It had an awesome look — it almost got cast in the lead!
JA: Johnny and the skateboard are a package deal! Really, I saw how serious some of the competition was in the holding area — so I got my game face on, Zenned out, and pulled it all together — the way an actor should.
EM: This is cool. Ill tell you what was going through my head when I first saw you, and you can give youre impressions. You already got the job, and we cant edit around you so go for it! As an actor Im always wondering what the hell theyre thinking on the other side of the table.
JA: You’re the best, Paisan! That’s why we roll the way we do. Actors should know they’re called in basically on looks through a glossy, and maybe what ‘s seen on a resume. But, once you’re there, it’s your attitude, your personality — you’re star quality that puts ink on paper. Plus, you have long hair too, which makes you cool in my book.
EM: Yes. Everyone in the company’s calling me Johnny, Jr. now, which is cool with me. Victor called for a disciplined actor who could be in control of any situation with a Zen-like quality; be any age, and maybe not of this Earth. We needed a subtle intensity that could be both benign and deadly without being campy or boring. You nailed it. So it ends up being a love-fest. You gave your all — and scored a Toronto shoot with Bobby D. and Orlando Bloom (Blu). What’s the difference between a big budget with Bobby and our modest Indie?
JA: There are many differences between a big budget production with name stars and signing to an Independent project like SAMARITAN. First of all — a ton of money, the names, a roster of 100 or more working on set and in the production office — making sure every detail is going as planned. On SAMARITAN we had — what — ten? That included the director — Kimball Carr — efficiently doing the work of 100! When you make your way onto an Indie –everything I just mentioned has now been downsized to actors willing to work for scale and demo footage. The locations are usually donated with limited — very limited — and odd hours for use.
EM: Ten! I dont remember having that many!
JA: Remember, before the money people decided to back up the script, that script too was an independent. And technically it could have been shot with the small budget, but time, locations, set up, man power and power-talent requires cash and thats always been the problem. With new ways of filming, cutting down wasted energy on set ups, dailies, post, money on stock, rentals, and over time – the independent way of filmmaking will eventually become the industry standard. With a decent independent budget, which is always leagues lower than the big budget films, you can now afford a named actor which will help sell your project. Then everyone benefits from it.
EM: So how does all this effect the actor?
JA: As actors that have worked both sides of the celluloid, we generally hunt for well-written scripts. There’s a lot of crap out there. When you find one like SAMARITAN that has been put together with focus, energy, and that certain something — which can lead to great things — some things never found on the big budget films. I can’t stress how important that is to us actors. Hands down, a script any actor on any level would have been willing to work on. I’m just glad I got one of the leads!
EM: You earned it. Can you remember a moment from SAMARITAN where you got to play?
JA: Definitely. In the interrogation scene with J. Michael. I’m a very animated actor — lots of hand and body movement. I had to find something to cool me to make this character work. I broke it down to an actor’s exercise I learned at NYU’s Actor’s Studio. I played with my language and my eye contact. My eye movement and pregnant pauses became my sole movement and expression. It wasn’t easy — Paisan, believe me — but I like how it turned out. Victor became something not of this Earth. I dig it!
EM: We knew you had it at audition. When you brought your homework onto the set — we were ecstatic. When you saw the scene at the first screening what went through your head? What were you generally thinking when you were watching? Do you think I like these guys I hope they didnt blanking make me look like sh*t?
JA: Dude — positive all around! Your crew worked like any other big budget production I’ve ever been on — in fact — better than some. You guys were totally on point with time — no wasted energy. No waiting around in the trailer for four hours. We’re there to work, to create — without being idle for so long, all your heightened energy is ready to go! that’s where some of your best energy comes from.
EM: How did you approach the character of Victor and his relationship with the Detective?
JA: Victor – where do you begin? If anyone has ever been typecast in their acting career like me rebel with a heart, Mr. Rocknroll, troubled boyfriend type Victor was one character that enabled me to show diversity and acting skills that weren’t tapped yet. This character is really like no other. Ive never read for a character like this before, and I jumped at the possibility of booking it.
How many of my collegues can say they’ve played someone not of this earth with Zen like qualities? Kimball (Director Kimball Carr) really helped me get there. I knew in order to reach that level I had strip down the usual TV/film choices I have in my acting arsenal. Plus, working with seasoned vet J. Michael Hunter put me one on one in the actor’s boxing ring – a challenge. With a good director, script, and talent all around you can get anything accomplished. Im proud of what we captured in those 2 days long nights of shooting. I trusted you, Kimball, Richard and company that it would be there, and it was.
EM: What made the chemisitry?
JA: My producers Ethan E. Marten, Richard S. Marten are from Manhattan,
EM: Dont get formal on me now!
JA: Paisan, cmon!
EM: Oh Johnny you had me at Paisan –
JA: Did you know the human head weighs eight pounds?
EM: I heard that.
JA: Anyway, Actor Humberto Gettys is from Brooklyn, and myself Queens New York, even our “Roc Doc” (Dr. Daniel Cohen) was from the Queens – that made me feel at home. I was familiar with J. Michael’s work and have respect for him not only as an actor but now as a friend. It was fantastic working with Kelley Davis (Mrs. Gredenko) who I’ve known from the audition circuit. Finally getting to see her in action was really something else. This doesn’t usually happen on the big sets. on the big set for the first season of shooting, its strictly business — to see whos being asked to stay or getting replaced, after that its comfortable. the Indie sets have a personal, easy, home-like feel immediately. Its easier to work when everyone is on the same team. Its family – that means a lot.
EM: Well, you are family. Im looking forward to Baltimore September 20 at Gardel’s. I hope you have a couch worthy of a big time actor/producer.
JA: Paisan for you only the best couch will do!
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