Interview with actor, Robert John Burke

Today I’m welcoming actor, Robert John Burke. Thank you, Bobby for stopping by!

 

 

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am frighteningly ordinary.

 

 

How did you get into the career of acting?

I got into acting through an experimental acting class in my high school. It also offered an internship with the professional equity acting company. Then it was onto college, where I attended the acting conservatory at SUNY purchase.

 

 

In one of your earlier films, you played the role of the well-known character of Alex Murphy in RoboCop 3. What was it like playing the part of a cyborg?

It was very daunting playing RoboCop three. I thought Peter Weller did such an amazing job that it should have been left alone. No Peter no sequel. I was resistant for about eight months and then I finally acquiesced. The physical demands of the role were great. It involved movement training with a man named Moni Yakin, who had also worked with Peter. He is a teacher at the Juilliard school and he’s amazing. I think if I did anything at all right in that role, I owe it to him.

 

 

In the horror film titled, Thinner, (that was based on Stephen King’s novel) you portrayed the main character of Billy Halleck. Tell us about that and did you encounter any challenges in playing such a diverse role?

Thinner was the ultimate role for me to play. Getting to hide under five hours of make up should excite any actor. But the schedule was pretty grueling. I would get in the make up chair at 2 o’clock in the morning to be ready to start shooting at 7 AM. Then shoot to about 10 PM in the evening.

I was a little disappointed with the way the film turned out. There were lots of different directions that people were pulling it in. Although I must say, quite a few people really enjoyed that film. Meeting Stephen King was a complete thrill.

 

 

Your other on-screen accomplishments include Limitless, 2 Guns, Safe and Dust Devil, just to name a few. Aside from your films, you’re also on the t.v. series: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Allegiance, Banshee, Nurse Jackie, Army Wives, and Rescue Me… (the impressive list goes on)… How do you maintain such a balanced schedule?

On paper it can look like I’m doing a lot of different projects. The reality is that I lead a very balanced life. There were times when I was doing two and three television shows at a time. But somehow it was always manageable. And to tell you the truth, it keeps things interesting that are a hell of a lot of fun.

 

 

Is there any one role that you find in particular to be your absolute favorite?

People ask you what’s the most fun or is there any one role that you find to be your favorite. I think there are several for different reasons. I’ve met a lot of really amazing people on all the productions I’ve been on. Got to travel to exotic and beautiful places. The work I’m most proud of is probably the work that the least amount of people have seen. Films like First Love Last Rites, The Unbelievable Truth, and No Such Thing, are among my favorites.

 

 

Aside from being an actor, you’re also a NY State Certified Firefighter. You helped with the rescue efforts during 9/11, mind telling everyone about that? 

My best friend was in FDNY, captain named Patrick J. Brown. He fell on 9/11/01. Because all of Long Island New York is voluntary fire service, I decided to join my local department and dedicate my service to his memory. It’s been 16 years. I think I missed my True calling.

 

 

What’s next for Robert John Burke?

I’ve taken some time off recently but I’m also developing several projects and working hard on them.

 

 

Where can fans follow you and your work?

I don’t really have a website or anything like that. Sometimes I’ll post pictures of a particular project I’m working on on social media. Certain shows I’ve been on, particularly SVU have legions of very loyal enthusiastic fans. So I treat them with great respect and try and post stuff that keeps them in the loop.

 

 

Any positive words of advice you’d like to share?

I rarely give advice. But I do make suggestions. I suggest people remember to be kind to each other. And I say remember because people forget. I have a coffee mug that says “be kind” on it. It reminds me because I don’t ever want to forget to extend even the smallest gesture to another person that could mean a great deal to that person at that moment. If we take care of the little stuff, the big stuff takes care of itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Interview with actor, Todd Robbins

Today I’m welcoming Todd Robbins, host of Investigation Discovery’s television series, True Nightmares. Thank you, Todd for stopping by!

 

 

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am a performing and creative artist that has spent a lifetime immersed in the shadowy worlds of arcane popular entertainment, dark illusions and sinister realities.

 

 

You have quite the impressive background from being an actor, an author, magician and even a carnival performer. What has all that been like for you and what has been the drive that got you to where you are today?

I have always been drawn to character. I like life that has twists and turns. The safe and easy has never called to me.

 

 

You’ve worked for Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Tell us about that and what were some of the highlights of your performances?

Ripley’s is a brand that has presented reality as its most interesting and amazing for almost a hundred years. I love everything that this brand stands for, and it is an honor to have done a few things under its banner. It was a real challenge performing in their show in Branson, MO. That is a town where everything is false, and our show was a bit too real for their taste. When that show ended, I was very glad to get back to NYC, where anything is possible…good and bad.

 

 

You’re also the host of the television series, True Nightmares on Investigation Discovery (ID). What was the spark that got you into this role?

True Nightmares grew out of my theater show called Play Dead. I created that show with Teller (of Penn & Teller) and he directed me in it. That show was filled with stories of people, some good and some not so good, that had a relationship with death during their lives. We used magic as special effects to give a sense that these dead people were gone but they were not far away, and when they came back to visit the living, the resulting spectacle was terrifying. I was approached by Discovery Studios to develop a TV project along these lines and Investigation Discovery saw that I told true stories of dark people with a twist that was complimentary to the content of their channel but also an expansion of that they currently present. In the first meeting with the network I brought up the idea of have me “ghosted” in the reenactment scenes, popping up when things take a turn towards the evil. With Executive Producer Eddie Barbini, I developed the concept into a series. The result is a show that presents quirky stories of murder and mayhem that all have an ironic twist to them. I look upon my role not so much as a host or narrator, but much more of a storyteller. This lifts the series out of the docu-drama genre and puts it into a whole different field.

 

 

Share with everyone what your book, The Modern Con Man: How to Get Something for Nothing is about and where can readers get their very own copy.

This book is about the mind of the con artist, and the best way to understand it is to try out some simple cons and scams that you can perpetrate on your friends and family. The book, along with three DVDs that compliment it, are available on Amazon.

 

 

What have been some of your most memorable moments throughout your career?

I came upon the world of the sideshow when I was a teenager and was lucky to have learned how to do all the classic stunts like sword swallowing and fire eating from performers that were the last generation of true carnival and circus sideshow entertainers. It’s true that I have devoured somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 light bulbs. I learned it from a fellow that did an act called The Human Ostrich and it consisted of him consuming things like lit matches and cigarettes, razor blades and tin cans.

 

 

Do you have any upcoming projects?

Yes. I am working on a wicked storytelling podcast that will be titled Dark Illusions, Darker Reality, and there are a couple of TV projects that are in the planning stages right now. One is a travelogue that tells the twisted history of places I visit called Down a Road, Darkly, and a few others that too early to speak about. Yes, the word “dark” does seem to be theme in much of what I do!

 

 

Where can fans follow your work?

They can follow me on twitter @toddrobbins, on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Todd-Robbins-923440934335323/ and at my website www.toddrobbins.com

 

 

Any words of wisdom you’d care to share?

Live each day as if it was your last, because one day it will be…and for many, it’s later than you think!

 

 

 

todd-robbins

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Marty Schiff

Today I’m welcoming actor and producer, Marty Schiff. Thank you, Marty for stopping by!

 

 

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Well… I don’t really know where to start. I’ve had a pretty interesting life… much of it is public knowledge. I have been focused on a career in entertainment since I was 10 years old. I started doing regional theater when I was 14. Sometimes working on three shows at a time, acting, building sets and rehearsing was common for me. By the time I was 20 I had already done two dozen shows in some capacity. Some things that are not as public are: I was a volunteer fireman for many years. I learned to drive a stick on a 1956 American La France fire truck. I have two wonderful children, both who have interests in production. My daughter works as a Production Manager for PBS and my son is finishing up college. I’ve survived some pretty serious health issues…. and you’d never know it. As the song says…”ain’t found a way to kill me yet”.

 

 

What was the initial spark that inspired you to go into the film industry?

I think, and believe, it was in my DNA. I was a TV junkie at a very early age. I can still tell you what was on the air on Saturday mornings in Pittsburgh during the early 60s. It started with a test pattern. My family was also very into going to movies. I was never a noisy child in a dark theater. My grandmother would take me to the Warner Theater on Fifth Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh nearly every Saturday. Drive-ins were big for my parents and siblings.

When I was 12 my father gave me a Kodak Brownie 8 mm movie camera. I shot hundreds of hours of film… most lost in the Northridge Earthquake in 1994. But it was my joy at a very early age. Again, without any formal training I knew how to set up shots, light, direct and edit short films. I was always daydreaming about shooting something and never paid attention much in school. My imagination was… and still is… off the hook. My goal was always to get to Hollywood… and did just that after getting my theater degree at the age of 23.

There is a very real possibility that a past life connected me to Hollywood. When I moved there in 1979 it felt extremely comfortable… not many people say that about Los Angeles… and I knew my way around without maps. I have a particular fondness for The Hollywood Cemetery and used to take my daughter there for “Picnics with the Demilles”… next to Cecil and Agnes DeMille’s burial plot.

 

 

Some of your earlier work include great titles such as Dawn of the Dead and Creepshow. What are some of the other films that you’ve worked on?

I think the one film I’m remembered most for is CREEPSHOW but my favorite film to work on, also a Romero work, was KNIGHTRIDER. It’s a non horror film but still great. Some lesser known are CHILDERN OF THE LIVIND DEAD and PARTY ANIMAL. I also worked on BLANKMAN, CAN YOU FEEL ME DANCING, THE ASSASINATION FILE and others.

As an actor my career was very heavy in television. Most people don’t realize how many times they’ve seen me in commercials and shows from the 80s and 90s. I’m very proud of OUT OF CONTROL which was Nickelodeon’s very first show they produced for themselves. Until then they had been buying shows produced for other networks. We started it all. OUT OF CONTROL starred Dave Coulier who would go on to do FULL HOUSE. OUT OF CONTROL had an ensemble cast that I loved. It was still the most fun I ever had going to work. A close second was the two seasons I spent on DALLAS. I did many shows and still get residual checks for 12 cents when one of those shows runs somewhere in the world.

 

 

What’s your favorite role you’ve ever played and why?

In film it was probably Trashman 1 in CREEPSHOW. It was so much fun making most of that performance up. Of course working with George Romero is always a treat and acting alongside my on screen partner Tom Savini is always a blast. We’ve been partners on screen 5 times. (DAWN OF THE DEAD, KNIGHTRIDERS, CREEPSHOW, EFFECTS, CHILDREN OF THE LIVING DEAD)

On TV it was HERN from OUT OF CONTROL. We had a lot of creative freedom with that show and my fellow cast members, directors and producers were just awesome to work with. An actor’s dream come true. If you search the show on Youtube there are many episodes there.

 

 

You have your very own production company called, SCHIFF MEDIA. Tell us about that.

Schiff Media was one of the first all digital production companies in the Pittsburgh region. It was started by my brother Bill and I with four XL1s and Final Cut Pro 2… we were early adapters. We did lots of commercials, a documentary or two and some special projects. We had a studio set up in the back of Schiff Printing Company and it was a lot of fun. I would move on to other projects and a new company called Jeffrey Martin Global Media. JMGM is more of a distribution company but we still do production from time to time. Recently, we produced a pilot for TV called THE ODDS… focusing on gambling.

 

 

What’s next for Marty Schiff?

I have some shows I’d like to get off the ground. A few game shows, some magazine shows and a film or two. I’m teaching directing for the Cinema Department at Point Park University, where I graduated from way back in the 20th century. I have some interests in non production businesses and I might even slow down a bit… no… that’s a lie… I’m happy working… I will sleep when I’m dead.

 

 

How can fans follow you and your updates about current and upcoming projects?

Fans can find me on Facebook and if they are professionals on LinkedIn. If they are interested in the film program at Point Park I’m always available to discuss that.

 

 

Words of advice for those who’d like to follow in your footsteps?

It’s not easy… but so worth it… and obviously not impossible. The key to success isn’t so much talent as perseverance, practice, commitment and believing in you. And … most importantly… be passionate about it.. live it… breathe it… love it. Never give up, make interesting and smart choices and be brilliant.

 

 

 

Marty Schiff