Out this week courtesy of Anchor Bay is the indie thriller Shadow People starring Dallas Roberts, which is based on a true story about small town radio personality Charlie Crowe, who unravels a conspiracy about encounters with the mysterious shadowy figures.
As it turns out, these “shadow people” are the cause of hundreds of unexplained deaths over hundreds of years in many different cultures throughout the world. Through his own investigations, Charlie (Roberts) encounters CDC Epidemic Intelligence Agent Sophie Lancombe (Alison Eastwood), whose discoveries end up leading them both into a dark world and a decades old cover-up.
Directed by Matthew Arnold, Shadow People (review) also explores the actual historical evidence of these occurrences and the real phenomenon of an inverse placebo effect where the mind can actually kill the body through false belief.
Dread Central recently chatted with Roberts exclusively about his involvement with Shadow People in honor of Indie Horror Month 2013, and since we couldn’t resist, we also briefly spoke with him about Milton’s future on “The Walking Dead,” which is winding up its current season in the next few weeks.
Check out our interview with Roberts below, and look for more on Shadow People soon!
Dread Central: I thought it was really interesting the way the story in the film was structured- a narrative cut with documentary footage. That’s not something we see every day. Was that part of the appeal of coming on board Shadow People? How did you get involved?
Dallas Roberts: You know, there is this show that I fell in love with called “Locked Up Abroad,” which does a similar thing to what we do in Shadow People so immediately it caught my attention because, as you mentioned, not many projects do that dual-style storytelling so I knew this was going to be an interesting film to be a part of. Then as we began shooting, I absolutely fell in love with the approach- it really sneaks up on you at times.
And as far as how I got the part- it just came about through the regular sort of channels; I think there were some auditions and meetings, everything typical when you first come aboard. What’s sort of funny is that once I decided to go forward with the role of Charlie, I decided to do some research about the mythology of the shadow people and it really gets under your skin; the notion that this is something that has existed throughout different cultures and during different time periods and cannot be defined by Western medicine really raises a lot of questions. I knew nothing about this phenomenon before we started working on the movie but I definitely do now (laughs).
Dread Central: Did you ever experience any shadow people yourself while making the film?
Dallas Roberts: I did; I noticed it once I became exposed to the idea so I’d start to see things out of the corner of my eye during certain scenes. It happens a lot in your peripheral vision because there are so many times just normally where we think we catch something off to the side but when you look at it straight on, everything is perfectly fine. I found that fascinating, that your mind can almost will you to see something just because you’ve read something that suggests the idea that this phenomenon actually exists, and it definitely did happen to me.
Dread Central: How much of the real-life Charlie inspired your performance, if any at all?
Dallas Roberts: Not much really. When presented with the real Charlie, he was nothing like me at all; he didn’t even look like me. I knew there was some footage that Matt was going to use in our film and I knew we were going to dramatize this story a bit, but I wasn’t really sure just how it was all going to come together so I chose to focus on the scripted story and use that to inspire my performance as Charlie. But I could understand some of the decisions he made; I understood the family aspects of his life and how he felt trying to live up to what he thought his son believed him to be. I found that to be really relatable.
Dread Central: To me, it almost felt like you had to play two different versions of the same character since Charlie goes through this mental breakdown because of his experiences with the shadow people. Did you approach this at all like you were playing two characters, or was it just splintered versions of the same guy?
Dallas Roberts: To me, every actor and audience member wants to watch someone who starts off one way and ends another; otherwise, what’s the point- right? There’s some change that we all want to see in the characters we watch so my job ultimately is to find a way to connect these two Charlies together and make it work onscreen.
Dread Central: I think what I really appreciate about your career is that every role you play, it’s a transformative process. All of these characters – from The Grey to Shadow People to Milton on “The Walking Dead” – it’s almost like watching an entirely different person in each role. Which I mean as a compliment so hopefully it sounds like one (laughs).
Dallas Roberts: Thank you, it does (laughs). And as an actor, that’s all I can hope for and that’s the kind of compliment I really appreciate because it means that maybe I’m doing my job well then.
Dread Central: I won’t even try and get any sort of spoilers out of you about what we can expect in the next few episodes of “The Walking Dead” so let’s talk about Milton a little bit and how he fits into the conclusion of Season Three; we get a sense that he’s beginning to question The Governor, but do you see him as a the type of person who could ever stand up to a guy like that considering he can barely kill a zombie?
Dallas Roberts: Well- no, not really. That’s not how Milton functions. He knows he wouldn’t survive without The Governor or alone in the woods for more than a few hours, and that’s if he’s really lucky. I think he’s a guy who just wants to continue his studies and find solace in his work even though the world has gone to hell around him. His research is his escape and that’s where he finds comfort. He’s also not naïve enough to not realize that having a community like Woodbury doesn’t come without some kind of price tag attached to it and in order to protect the people, sometimes it takes serious violence to get the job done.
I find the analogies between that world and our society so relevant, especially when you really consider what those freedoms cost. We never take into consideration that at the fringes of all those freedoms we hold dear is true brutality; it’s not something we like to think about, and that’s something that is definitely reflected in “The Walking Dead.”
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