Exclusive: Connor Paolo Talks Stake Land

Horror fans may not necessarily recognize the name Connor Paolo, but there are millions of people worldwide who will. The up-and-coming actor is part of the ensemble of young talent that makes up The CW’s hit show “Gossip Girl.” Now Paolo is set to leave his impression on the genre everywhere when Jim Mickle’s Stake Land opens in limited theatrical release this Friday.

Recently Dread Central had the opportunity to chat with Paolo about what attracted him to the project, the difficulties of juggling a hit television series and his role in Stake Land, and how he prepared to take on bloodthirsty vampires alongside co-star Nick Damici.

Paolo said he knew from the moment he picked up the script that he had to play the role of Martin, a tragic young man who gets saved by a mysterious stranger named Mister (Damici). The pair then set off for the fabled New Eden community in hopes of escaping the perils of the vampire-plagued world around them. “As soon as I read the script in the spring of 2009, I immediately saw how brilliant the part of Martin was and knew I wanted to be a part of it. Then, when I read with Nick, I just absolutely knew I wanted this role and I had to work alongside this guy. His delivery and range was amazing.”

Exclusive: Connor Paolo Talks Stake Land

“The day that I got the offer with Stake Land, I basically tried to be around Nick as much as humanly possible for training since he’s a professionally trained martial artist. In Stake Land he worked martial arts techniques into staking vampires so I would train with him just to get a sense of the technique and timing. It was exhausting but worth it because I think that adds a little something to the film when you see us actually doing the moves. You believe it,” added Paolo.

When production was set to begin on Stake Land, both Paolo and Damici decided to head to set early to settle into their roles before the cameras started rolling.

“We both arrived to set about a week early so Nick and I actually camped out together the entire time before we started shooting just so we could get used to spending all our time together,” said Paolo. “We both believed that Stake Land’s success hinged a lot on Mister and Martin’s relationship so we knew what we needed to do to ‘get there’ as actors. We wouldn’t even shower or anything, which I know drove everyone crazy.”

For Paolo one of the more challenging aspects of Stake Land was that he was still continuing to work on “Gossip Girl” while in production on the indie horror feature. “I had made a commitment to the role of Eric (van der Woodsen) so I couldn’t just completely stop working on 'Gossip Girl' while making the movie. It was nice when we had the break for a few months to let the seasons change for Stake Land so I wasn’t nearly as stressful.”

“When we came back to film the second part of the movie, I was a little nervous that the time away would have changed dynamics on set, but it did the opposite,” added Paolo. “Everyone fell right back into the swing of things, and I think the time away from set actually made all of our bonds that much stronger.”