There’s no mistaking the man in the baseball cap (apparently he’s switched teams) – it’s the man with the firepower to burn and all the hatred in the world for those damn graboids! It’s Burt Gummer, or as we’ve all come to know him over the years – Steven Keaton!…no wait, it’s Michael Gross! There we go! No matter what name he goes by, the man has been entertaining the masses for years, and his latest tilt takes him back to the character that loves to spray the lead and ask no questions as the no muss-no fuss bad-ass Burt Gummer in the recently released Tremors: A Cold Day In Hell. He was gracious enough to give up some of his time to discuss the latest installment into the franchise, as well as what was his most recent discomfiture that he suffered on set, so sit back, read on and enjoy!
DC: With this latest installment ready to fire, what’s Burt Gummer up to these days?
MG: Well, this is probably Burt facing one of the greatest challenges he’s ever had, because he comes as close to facing mortality in this piece than any of the other films. There’s something that happens in this movie (if you haven’t seen it yet), that happens to him about which he can do very little – Burt is very much in charge of things, and he’s facing an obstacle in this movie that he’s never faced before, and he’s contemplating the prospect that he might not be around very much longer. This is a lot different than what we’ve done in the past, and he’s forced to turn over control to someone else in the meantime, and he does not enjoy it at all – so I think that’s part of the conflict: Burt having to give up some authority and control. With this film set in an Arctic region, there’s a whole new dynamic at hand with the climate change melting off some of the permafrost, and there are nasty things up there that have been trapped in ice for tens of thousands of years.
DC: Now the last time we spoke during Tremors 5, you ensured me that while you got hurt during that filming, you’d try to take it easy this time around – so, any notable injuries to speak of?
MG: Well let me put it this way: it’s still ambitious with the filming, but I made sure to wear some of the proper padding and was far more careful of myself. When I broke my rib on the last movie, I’d done it taking a fall improperly, so I made more of an effort to pay attention to the stunt people this time and actually wore padding. I made it out of this one relatively unscathed – I never come out of one of these films without at least a few cuts and bruises (laughs) – I mean we’re chasing monsters for golly’s sake! Oh, wait a minute!! I broke a tooth. I forgot about that – broke it on the scope of a gun, so I had some dental work in the middle of filming (laughs) – but there was no blood! It was literally one of the last shots of the day, and I had to be whisked into town to get this emergency repair done – was on set from 6am to 6pm, then had to find an after-hours dentist who could get me in the chair, so I think I got home about 10-11pm that night, so I was wrong- I guess I did get hurt!
DC: What’s it been like working with Jamie Kennedy, and what has he brought to this franchise in your eyes?
MG: Jamie and I work very differently – he’s a comedian, and he likes improvisation and things like that, and I pretend to be more like Burt: dotting the Is and crossing the Ts with less improvisation, and when the two of us get out there it’s like oil and water, but in a very good way which is good for the characters. He’s like “let it all hang out there and see what happens, and Burt is far more rigid” – Mr. Gummer is not a relaxed sort of guy (laughs), so I think it’s not only a great addition in what he brings to his character with his talent, but we both work in very different ways and it shows on screen – it just works really well for the characters that we’re trying to play.
DC: Back in the 80’s you played the dad that millions wanted to call their own on “Family Ties”, and over the course of your career you’ve played a multitude of characters and personas – is there one still out there that has escaped you that you’d love to get your hands on?
MG: To be honest with you, I can think of very few – I’ve played sons-of-bitches, I’ve played loving SOBs, and I’ve played very good guys, but I really can’t think of something. I’ve played kings, paupers – I’ve been very fortunate, and it makes for longevity because I can do a lot of things, but I don’t know if it makes for stardom. I’m a character actor, and I don’t want to be just Michael Gross up there, but it does make for a great deal of longevity. I’m playing a very outlandish gay man on “Grace And Frankie” on Netflix, and the character is the complete opposite of Burt Gummer, and I love the variety of it all. I think that’s one of the reasons I started in theater – I love the variety of doing several different characters in a year, so to revisit Burt from time to time is really a lot of fun for me. I don’t know if I’d like to do “Burt Gummer: The Series” but revisiting him every couple of years is a hell of a lot of fun.
DC: Lastly, after the release of the latest Tremors film, what’s going to be filling up your work slate that fans can expect to see?
MG: I’m also working on the show “The Affair” on Showtime, where I play Maura Tierney’s psychiatrist, and Meredith Baxter and myself are doing a bit of touring in a play called “Love Letters” and we might do some more touring with that this fall. I’ve also done a film for Disney that won’t be out for a while (holiday time 2019) – it’s got Anna Kendrick in it, Shirley Maclaine and Bill Hader – it’s their big holiday feature. I’m trying to keep busy and I just love the variety.
DC: Thanks very much for the time – take care of yourself, please!
MG: It was a pleasure speaking with you, and I look forward to the next time I can discuss my latest injury with you! (laughs)