When Ron Perlman isn’t creating characters such as Clay Morrow, the tragic motorcycle club co-founder in Sons of Anarchy, or the demon-crushing comic book superhero in Hellboy, he’s been known to unleash a martini-dry sense of humour.
It erupts in the living room of a Prospect Lake home where he’s having lunch during a break from shooting Poker Night.
“Please, have some,” Perlman says, offering what appears to be a tray of white puff pastries.
A cautious nibble reveals they’re actually decorative sea shells, prompting Perlman to grin and chuckle devilishly.
The tall, New York-born actor best known for playing roles that require heavy makeup, including Amoukar, his prehistoric character in Quest for Fire, the hunchback Salvatore in The Name of the Rose, and Vincent, the lovestruck creature in the 1980s TV series Beauty and the Beast, said he welcomed the chance to play another role that doesn’t require prosthetics.
He plays Calabrese, a veteran cop whose advice helps a rookie cop outsmart a serial killer in Greg Francis’s crime thriller.
“Sometimes prosthetics can be helpful, and sometimes they can add to the challenge of getting through the day,” Perlman says. “There isn’t one character that doesn’t present some sort of challenge, which is why I’m attracted to this business.”
His playful sense of humour resurfaces when asked a question we note he must have been asked a zillion times.
“What’s a gazillion-and-one among friends?” he deadpans, recalling his early days when such roles meant employment.
“It was the only way I could get work so I was thrilled to do it because it was synonymous with me being able to call myself an actor,” recalled Perlman, 62. “I loved these transformation roles, so whatever one had to do to play them, including all of the annoyances like sitting in the makeup chair for so long, made it worthwhile. It enabled me to do what I loved the most — to be in that creative mode and find a way to merge what springs out of someone else’s imagination with my own.”
Poker Night marks the second time Perlman has made a feature film here for Corey Large, the Victoria producer who also hired him for John Stockwell’s Kid Cannabis last summer.
“He seems to have very good taste in material,” Perlman said. “It’s always the writing with me, and this is really well rendered.”
Seven years ago, Perlman also joined Burt Reynolds, Jason Statham, John Rhys-Davies and others in East Sooke to shoot medieval village sequences for In The Name of the King, Uwe Boll’s action picture based on the game Dungeon Siege.
The actor, who has been frequently spotted around town this month, eating at John’s Place and watching Lincoln at Cineplex Odeon, says he feels at home. It helps that he’s reuniting with some old friends, including co-stars Titus Welliver, Ron Eldard and Giancarlo Esposito, who he’s working with for the first time since they were struggling actors in New York.
“It’s great to be around people you feel are family, who you’ve broken the ice with,” he said. “We’re cohorts and there’s fondness for each other as characters, but what happens between ‘;action’ and ‘;cut’ is only part of the experience.”
Many readers have called to report sightings of Perlman chatting with fans and signing autographs.
When he sees “genuine enthusiasm” in the faces of fans eager to share their excitement over something he’s done, he appreciates that, noting an actor’s objective is to reach people and share experiences with them.
“We don’t do this for ourselves,” Perlman says. “Any actor who feels that isn’t part of the conversation is missing the point of it all. You’re trying to resonate on a level that creates some sort of a collective consciousness.”
It isn’t Hellboy, as comics fans might expect, but Sons of Anarchy he says he’s most recognized for.
“That’s been a game-changer,” Perlman says. “I think you just reach more people on TV and we’ve been around for five seasons. There’s also a true enthusiasm for the very outlaw, very romantic world we’re depicting. People get swept up in it.”
He admits he’s been somewhat seduced by that biker world himself.
“I haven’t taken to it with the same kind of zeal as some of the other guys on the show who’ve changed their wardrobes, their whole way of thinking,” adds Perlman, confiding he does plan to buy a Harley-Davidson.
“That’s their main mode of transportation now. They really bought into it hook, line and sinker. But I’m more reticent. I’m the oldest dog on the show, and it’s kind of hard to teach an old dog new tricks.”
With the Hamlet-esque outlaw series still going full-throttle, the fate of Perlman’s aging, Claudius-inspired character remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, he says doing films like Poker Night fill him up creatively.
“I love the travelling, the camaraderie, being around guys like this particular ensemble,” he says. “It’s fun and incredibly enriching. These things I’ll take to the porch when I’m in my rocking chair and I can’t do it anymore.”
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