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Dayton Callie Talks Abattoir, Fear the Walking Dead, and More!

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daytoncallie - Dayton Callie Talks Abattoir, Fear the Walking Dead, and More!

Darren Lynn Bousman’s (Saw II, III, and IV; Repo! The Genetic Opera) Abattoir deals with the grief contained within physical places and the power they keep—a power Jebediah Crone (Dayton Callie) has been seeking. Jebediah is the film’s villain—a misguided preacher and mastermind of a small town. Callie’s performance is grounded, invoking great gravitas in a certain weighted look, a certain silence.

We have seen this mastery before in Charlie Utter from HBO’s “Deadwood,” the straight man to Calamity Jane’s (Robin Weigert) chaos. He was seen in blue as Wayne Unser, a police chief playing both sides of the law to protect his town in “Sons of Anarchy,” and now, continuing with his character Russell in “Fear the Walking Dead.”

Dread Central recently had the opportunity to speak with Dayton about Abattoir (review) and “Fear,” his start in acting, and the great state of New Jersey.

daytoncallie - Dayton Callie Talks Abattoir, Fear the Walking Dead, and More!

Dread Central: When you read the script for Abattoir from Darren Lynn Bousman, what was your initial reaction to the character you were going to play?

Dayton Callie: I said, ‘What the FUCK?!’ [Laughs.] I started working with Darren on a movie called Devil’s Carnival. All the time we were doing that, he was telling me about this Abattoir thing. So before we finished, he sent me the script, and I thought, ‘Well – I enjoyed it.” I thought it was different. It was very different from things I had been coming across. I liked it right away. I thought, ‘It’s weird!’ But it’s strange because I don’t really do horror movies, so I thought this would be a nice challenge. So we talked and we rewrote and we did this, we did that. A bunch of rewrites later, we did it.

Dread Central: Do you generally get the chance to go in with the director and do rewrites?

Dayton Callie: Well, we talked about it for probably a year, back and forth. Just talked about it – he’d write it and I’d read it. We’d talk about it and I’d say, ‘Maybe this is too much’ or ‘This is too little’ or ‘What about this?’ or ‘What about that?’ and then he’d write some more, and Chris [Monfette] would write. Darren and I – and Chris – we were the only ones that… Actually, Darren did most of the rewriting I guess, after Chris did the original kind of thing. – No, that’s not true, Chris did a lot too – There was nobody else, no other actors involved, except myself, so we talked about Jebediah Crone.

Dread Central: How did Jebediah Crone evolve from what was in the original script?

Dayton Callie: Not a big difference – just… You did see the film, right?

Dread Central: I did see the film and think your performance is very solid and also sort of wonderfully underplayed, which is why I was interested in talking to you about your process in bringing this character to life. It’s like a very realistic character in a very stylized world.

Dayton Callie: Yeah, we talked about making the character just ‘real,’ you know? I don’t know how to play something that’s not really real; even as far-out as it is, I have to get something real out of it, you know? Every bad person has a reason for doing things, a justification for everything, so there’s nothing that – I don’t even know how to play a ‘bad’ character. I just play a character on a mission – and Crone is definitely on a mission. He doesn’t think things are wrong – it just is the way it should be, and I think any person who might be considered ‘evil’ doesn’t think they’re doing something wrong; they’re doing something toward someone’s benefit – the world’s benefit or the people they’re looking for, for their benefit. It’s no ‘I’m gonna do bad just to do bad’. You know: ‘I may kill you because you’re a bad person.’ Bad people think that. They think that they’re right and everyone else is wrong. So we just worked through that – and we just edited down, built a bunch of stuff where I thought maybe something needed to be said more or something was said too much. So it was more or less fine-tuning along the way. And then it came to this, which I was quite happy with. I was surprised. I’m always surprised when something actually works. [Laughs.] Especially with all the special effects and everything, you don’t know – you’re acting with nothing – and then all of a sudden, when you see it, it works. There’s a lot of faith in that, you know? Having faith.

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Dread Central: How was it working with Lin Shaye?

Dayton Callie: You know, we only worked two days, [but] it was great. We had a lot of fun. We just had a good time. We actually have the same agent, so it was pretty easy. Some actors you work with, it’s not – it could be difficult, you know? But it was easy.

Dread Central: What are aspects that make it easy to work with an actor?

Dayton Callie: Well, some actors stink! [Laughter.] It’s like they’re really shitty actors and they want to do something – and you want to go, ‘Don’t do that!’ And you have to convince them not to do this shit! Like, ‘What are you doing?’ [Laughter.] So that’s the difficult part, like ‘What the fuck? Where’d you learn this?’ Or they just get worried and they start upstaging you, they start doing too much. And you gotta go, ‘Calm the fuck down! What scene are you doing?’ You look for the director to save it, like, ‘Please, can you help here?’ [Laughter.] And then they gotta step in, and you’ve got to be gentle, like ‘Why don’t we try it like this?’ You can’t always say what you want to say – but sometimes you can. So that makes it difficult.

Dread Central: How do you build a character like Jebediah? How do you generally approach the characters you play? Do you have a backstory, or do you just play what’s on the page?

Dayton Callie: I usually come up with a backstory because there’s got to be a justification for saying every line that’s there. It’s got to come from somewhere. It may not be what they had in mind, but it’s my job to convince them that my way is right. By making it very believable. Because if you believe it, they’ll believe it. Sometimes you get stuff that’s really hard to make believable – and that’s when you have the discussion like, ‘Who wrote this shit?’ [Laughter.] A lot of the time, it’s how much they believe in you, if you can get them to change it, or stuff like that. Sometimes things play on the typewriter better than they play in person. You need to adjust it a little bit.

Dread Central: What was your backstory for Jebediah?

Dayton Callie: Actually his backstory was pretty easy: He’s a family man. And he’s a die-hard family man who would do anything for his family. I think that’s a pretty common thread – man or woman… especially if you feel your family was taken away from you, and you want to get them back, you’ll do what you can. So I believe that was the meat of his backstory. And then he was a religious man, who felt he was scorned, scoffed at, left forlorn. A lot of people turn to religion, and if it doesn’t happen overnight – it happened in his case – but, ‘Where are you now, God? How could you do this to me? What happened?’ So then you go the other way – strictly, ‘Fuck God. I’ll be my own God.’ So it wasn’t that difficult. I mean, going in and believing it: You had to jump in, you had to immerse yourself in the character. But getting the road map wasn’t too difficult. He has a lot to say. He don’t shut up, I know that! [Laughter.] Once he starts talking, he’s just talking. And there was more! We trimmed it down!

Dread Central: Did you research any cults leaders, like Jim Jones or Charles Manson?

Dayton Callie: No. I don’t look at other… no, I don’t do that. I think, for me, that would screw me up because then I’d start acting like someone else… [One time] I was in a recording studio and this guy wanted me to play like this other guy. I just said, ‘Fuck it: Why don’t you just get the other fucking guy?’ And I left. So if you want Manson, go get him! Don’t get me to play him; go get the real thing! So I can’t look at other people.

Dread Central: How is Darren as a director of actors? What do you look to him for when you’re on the set with him?

Dayton Callie: He’s a pain in the ass. [Laughter.] He’s good, you know? He’s there when you need him. He’s very supportive. Lot of energy on set, which is great. I tend to fall asleep. He’s always snapping pictures of me sleeping in a corner somewhere. He’s got a lot of energy. Very intelligent. He explains things pretty well… sometimes your mind will go somewhere with all the special effects and I don’t know what the fuck he’s talking about, so I’ll just say, ‘Listen, why don’t I do this and put the special effects around me. [Laughs.] Let’s work this out, so I don’t go insane and you don’t go insane. ‘Cause if I go insane, I’ll drive you insane.’ We get along good. I’ve worked with him a couple of times – three projects so far. We became, I think, good friends – He may have something different to say! But I’m under the belief that we’re friends. [Laughter.]

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Dread Central: Can you tell us a little bit about your work on “Fear the Walking Dead”?

Dayton Callie: Awww, wouldn’t you love to get me to rat myself out? [Laughter.] Nah, nah, I can’t –

Dread Central: All I’ve read is that you’re in it.

Dayton Callie: I did the one episode at the end of the season. They introduced me into this current season – which we start shooting January, first week in January. We weren’t sure where it’s going, and I’m not totally sure yet either. He’s got a touch of bad in him – we know that. And he’s got a touch of good in him. I sat down with [showrunner] Dave [Erickson], and he was kinda going – maybe he was just telling me and is full of shit – he goes, ‘We’re kind of on the cusp about where this character [will] go.’ So that’s really all I know about it, and I’ll know more when I get the script.

Dread Central: Well, that’s very cool that they’re going to evolve your character as the season goes on.

Dayton Callie: Yeah, I think it’ll be fun. It’s another thing that’s gonna be different. I’m excited about this; I like doing different things, like I said. All kinds of characters.

Dread Central: Is there a particular type of character you’d love to play that you haven’t already?

Dayton Callie: [Thinks.] Um – No. I’m hoping that this one in “Fear the Walking Dead” will have different sides. Jebediah certainly was different. “Deadwood” was different. And then there was “John from Cincinnati,” which was different. I might do this Johnny Depp movie with Forest Whitaker – I’m supposed to do it, but now they’ve switched the dates so they’re trying to work something out so it doesn’t conflict with “Fear the Walking Dead” ’cause I’m under contract with them and that’s my first choice, so we’re trying to work the dates out… might be a couple of days that overlap. So, if they can work that out, that’s a different thing: I’m a detective, Johnny Depp’s boss, and he’s got some different sides to him. I don’t like to play characters that are just totally one-dimensional. I can’t play those characters. I look at television and I go, ‘I can’t do this shit’. I tell my agents, ‘I can’t imagine those words coming out of my mouth.’ I don’t know how to do it. I’m more of a cable guy, you know? Certain TV or a cable guy… and films.

Dread Central: What made you want to become an actor at the very beginning? Online it notes you were born in Scotland, but you have an accent like my Uncle Joey.

Dayton Callie: No, I was born in Newark.

Dread Central: That’s why! I was like, ‘Why do you sound like every member of my family?’ It’s been haunting me this entire time. [Laughter.]

Dayton Callie: I was born in Newark, I don’t know where they got that shit from. I don’t put that stuff up there… I’ve got no idea, the stuff that people tell me they’ve found. Yeah, I don’t understand that being born in Scotland and stuff. People call me from fuckin’ Ireland, from Scotland: ‘I think I’m your cousin!’ – I don’t think so! I didn’t want to be an actor. I got into acting by accident. I was a musician for fifteen years or so. When I was putting together a band, I came back from playing Reno blah-blah-blah, I came back and put together another band. A friend of mine was doing an Off-Broadway play in New York, and he couldn’t get this role, and he said, ‘You know, you’d be great: Why don’t you do it?’ I told him, ‘I’m not an actor, blah-blah-blah.’ He talked me into coming over and meeting the director. I met the director, bullshitted a little bit, told him I was an actor – next thing I know, ten days later, I was on stage. I remember being on stage, looking out, going, ‘What the fuck?’ Then I thought, ‘Wow, I guess I’ll just do this for a little while. I’ll do this for a little bit and then I’ll get my group together and I’ll get back to being a musician.’ Then shit just overlapped – that’s how I got about being an actor.

Dread Central: And you like it?

Dayton Callie: [Pause.] Well, uh, yeah; it became a challenge – as music is: You want to get good on your instrument, you want to play everything. So I wanted to be good as an actor. So I figured, ‘Let me maybe just see what happens.’ – I didn’t make a dime for eight years, but it was fun… I used to work in a machine shop, building sets for industrials. That was about as close to Broadway as I got.

Dread Central: You were also in the Navy as well, I read?

Dayton Callie: Yeah. I did that shit for a while. [sings the Johnny Cash song:] ‘I’ve been everywhere man / I’ve been everywhere’…

Abattoir Release Details:
Momentum Pictures released Abattoir in limited theaters and on VOD and Digital HD on December 9, 2016. Written by Christopher Monfette and directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, the film stars Jessica Lowndes, Joe Anderson, Lin Shaye, and Dayton Callie.

The film centers on a real estate reporter (Lowndes) who unearths an urban legend about a house being built from rooms where horrific tragedies have occurred. The investigation ultimately leads her and ex-lover Detective Declan Grady (Anderson) to the enigmatic Jebediah Crone (Callie) and the answer to the question, “How do you build a haunted house?”

Abattoir is produced by Jesse Berger and Brent C. Johnson under Radical Studios’ genre label Dark Web Productions. Billy Hines serves as co-producer. The film is executive produced by Lynwood Spinks, Kevin Niu, Robert Cain, Michael Yedwab, Steve Ponce, and Trevor Allen. Abattoir was financed by Lumenova Entertainment, Pacific Bridge Pictures, and Ingenious Media.

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