Published: Wednesday, 15 February 2023 17:07 | Written by Jamie Ruby
In the film Condor’s Nest, a decade after the fall of Nazi Germany, American pilot Will Spalding (Jacob Keohane) searches South America for the Nazi Colonel (Arnold Vosloo) who executed his crew during WWII. The film also stars Jackson Rathbone as Nazi Fritz Ziegler. Rathbone recently talked to SciFi Vision in an exclusive interview about working on the film, connecting with the dark side of the character, affecting a German accent, hanging out with castmate Michael Ironside, and much more, as well as about working on a huge franchise like the Twilight films and if he still sees his costars. Watch the full interview or read the transcript below and be sure to check out the film.
SCIFI VISION: Can you start by just talking about what it was about this that made you want to be part of this project.
JACKSON RATHBONE:I'm quite partial to indie projects that really reflect a vision by the creator, and I think what Phil Blattenberger was able to do with such a small crew was admirable. And I love the fact that Michael Ironside, Arnold Vosloo, and these wonderful older actors were part of it. Anytime that I can do something that perhaps I can learn from my peers or people who have done this a lot longer than I have, I try to leap at the opportunity.
So, now that you said that, what's something that you learned from your cast members, like about acting or maybe just in general?
Well, Michael Ironside and I got to hang out for a long time, and he taught me a lot. We talked for hours: a little bit about filmmaking and a little bit about acting, mainly about life and kind of what it means. It's a strange world to be an actor. It's a lot of fun, and I love it, but there is a certain amount of insanity that it takes to pursue this line of work.
Obviously, you have quite an accent in this film, what was that like, and also staying in that? Is it hard to kind of keep it up? I mean, obviously, you're an actor, so you're used to doing it -
I worked with a dialect coach for for this film, and to get the German accent - you know, playing a German character, we wanted to really kind of identify exactly who he was with the voice as opposed to just doing a caricature, I suppose. So, we really went along with the idea that during World War Two he was a Hitler youth who was very inspired by the Third Reich and those evils and the atrocities and what that would mean in terms of his mannerisms, his voice. Then also the idea that of a lot of these Nazis were absolutely hooked on methamphetamines, and in fact, the Nazis were feeding their troops meth as a way to keep them going, kind of making super soldiers. But I mean, it's meth, so not good, plus Nazi not good, so just evil, bad, bad people.
When you learn the few lines or whatever that's in German, do you go and learn what stuff means? Or do you just kind of learn how to recite it? I'm just curious of your process with that.
Oh, no, it's definitely that you want to learn the meaning behind the words so you can have the proper inflection. I think, otherwise, you can just make guttural noises and say that's language. But to have the intention, I think that's the most important aspect of of dialogue, is really to convey in the intentions of your character.
That makes sense. So, you talked a little bit about this with the Nazis, did you go a lot into that research-wise before you did this? Or did you just take everything [from the script]?
I tried to do as much research as I could stomach, I should say. Yeah, there's a lot of evil and atrocities when you come to that part of history. I think it's important, and it's demonstrably important to understand the atrocities that were committed during World War Two. My wife and my children are Jewish, and I teach them about these horrific acts and what happened, because it's important to never forget, because if you forget, then it can happen again.
Now, you didn't necessarily do a whole lot of evil things directly on screen, it was mostly dialogue, but how do you kind of, I guess, connect with that evil? Like, how do you get yourself in that mindset that you can do that? I know, as you're an actor, that's what you have to do, but how do you sort of get into that and step into that evil?
I'd say the hardest thing to do is to sympathize with the character and not see it as evil, see it as purposeful, which was the hardest thing to do, I think, for a character like this, to make him sincere and earnest in a way. But also, to entertain the audience and to have that level of kind of explosive, for lack of a better term, fun, with the character in that way. Hopefully, once you get to that part of the film about the second or third act, [he] kind of start getting a little more explosive. So we wanted to kind of come in there with a really heightened energy, and to kind of wake the audience up a little bit, maybe.
I want to ask you about that, but first, I wanted to ask you, is it hard to shake that off to get back out of that side of it for you, or is it just on/off?
For me, it's on/off. I like to do a lot of research and prep, so that when I'm on set in, and they call action, I'm living in the character until they call cut. I don't tend to break character while I'm filming, but it's pretty easy for me to leave the character on set. It's I think it's important.
Yeah, you don’t want to bring that home. This character, this whole movie, really, I mean, obviously, it's a lot of dark subject matter, but it does have a little bit of campiness to it. It seems like you had a lot of fun though, with doing this. I mean, I assume so. It seemed like it was a pretty fun role for you to get into.
Oh, yeah. Greg Kriek, he played one of my little minions in the movie. Greg and I go back to South Africa. We did a film there many years ago together. So, when he was on set, he and I were just kind of having fun. We have a natural rapport. So, honestly, there were times when I felt bad, because the leads of our film are playing these very serious, morose characters, and then here comes my Nazi, and he's crazy and all over the place, and, you know, drinking and snorting meth, and it was fun, but I did like to take a hot shower when I got home to clean myself.
I get that. The one thing I did mean to ask you I forgot about, is this show does have good costumes it has period costumes and everything. How much does that affect you as you're creating it? Is that something that for you as an actor really helps you get into the character, Or are you more just about the script? I mean, I know different people look at it differently.
Oh, 100%. I think it if I back up a little bit, so I always equate film or movies to a wristwatch; all you see is the face and the hands of time ticking. It can be beautiful; it can be rugged. It can have many different facets to the look of it. However, everything that goes on on the other side underneath, inside of the wristwatch, that's really what makes it all tick. So, everything comes together to tell the story. When I'm getting ready in prep in pre-production, I'm doing as much work as I can for the internal aspect of the character. Then, when I come to set, and I put on the wardrobe, and then I step onto the set, and I feel out the other actors and the director and we're doing it; we're vibing, it can change, and it can change drastically from where the rehearsals were to what you're actually doing on the day. So, I think, for me, it is quite a bit to do with every little aspect. I really liked that input from wardrobe and the input from makeup and just getting a sense of who this character is, because all these little subtle differences, they matter. Like, why do you do your hair a certain way? There's a routine behind when you wake up. Like what is your routine? Do you shave everything? Do you leave a little mustache; do you have a beard? What kind of boots do you wear? Do you shine them? Do you care about them? All those little things inform character. As David Mamet said, “character is routine.” So, what is the routine of the character, and I think that that really parlays into wardrobe and all that.
I wanted to ask you, you said about doing independent movies, but other than that kind of side of it, is there anything else in particular that you look for when you're deciding whether or not you're going to do a project?
I really look for opportunities to expand upon what I've done, or something I've never done. I'd never played a nazi. So, that was interesting to me. I don't know if I’d want to play a Nazi for a [long time]. I don't know. It's never been a dream of mine to play [a Nazi], but getting to work with Michael Ironside, I think, was one of the biggest things for me. So, whenever I look at my projects, I try to find someone that I can learn from and hopefully do something I haven't done before.
That makes sense. Now, you have a lot of credits. You've done this kind of indie movie and you've done something like Twilight, which is quite at the other end of that. Do you approach it differently in that sense? Or is it really just you go by the character and it doesn't matter and you don't even think about that until after the fact?
Well, my thing is, at the end of the day, regardless if it's a big budget picture or if it's a small budget - I've done things that basically it's like a budget of a ham sandwich - and I do it, because I love storytelling. It's nice to have the big budget, the trailer, the nice craft services, snacks, and good lunches, and all that, but there is something kind of sincere and earnest that harkens back to the old days of filmmaking when you just have a shoestring budget and some people that have a dream and want to tell a story. So, for me, I approach them all with the same level of seriousness, the same level of heart, the same amount of research. I try my best to tell the story and tell my part of the story that hopefully makes people entertained.
When you talk to people, do you still get asked a lot about something like Twilight? Because I would assume that you would, that you still get that even though obviously it's been [a long time]?… Do you still get a lot of that or have they kind of moved on?
I'd say it's it's about fifty-fifty. You know, I think people ask me about Twilight, because it was a momentous series. It was it was a big deal, but it's wrapped up about ten years ago now.
Yeah, It's been quite a long time.
However, it was a film that spoke to a lot of people, a film series and a book series that spoke to a lot of people, and it made people feel things, and so it's it's cool to have been a part of something so momentous. Yeah, I look back at those years with a lot of fondness, and I love my cast, and I love the stories we were able to tell.
Do you still see them or talk to them? I guess now with Zoom it’s probably even easier.
Yeah, it's pretty nice. We stay in touch. I saw Peter [Facinelli], Kellan [Lutz], and Ashley [Greene] recently, and they're the sweetest people. You know, Ashley’s got a new baby. So does Peter, and so does Kellan. I mean, we're all parents now. Well, Peter was a parent back then, too, but now we've all joined the ranks of parenthood. Yeah, life just keeps on chugging forward.
So are you ever interested in doing something behind the camera, like the directing side of it or anything like that?
Oh, yeah, as an artist, I'm a cinephile. I love movies. I do hope to direct more. I did direct a short that I wrote called Couchsurfing USA and we won best comedy at the Vancouver Web Fest. We went to Marseille, France with it; we traveled around with it. That was a fun project. And I have a couple more that hopefully I can get behind the camera a bit more. I've produced quite a bit, but I really have fallen in love with [acting] I'm always going to be acting. I love it. It's my favorite thing, but I've quite fallen in love with writing and directing. It's a passion, for sure.
It looks like you have some other projects coming up, acting-wise, do you want to talk about them?
Yeah, I have a couple movies coming up. I have a wonderful kind of action thriller called The Island that I got to work with Michael Jai White. I got to be kind of his wisecracking best friend, which was a dream come true. It was a lot of fun. I got to do some fun action sequences, some good fights. Then, I did another movie called…[Black] Noise, which was with Alex Pettyfer. He's a lot of fun to work with and kind of pushes everybody forwards. That film was a kind of a horror action thriller. There was a lot, a lot of improvising on that film, which was surprising to me for a film of such a kind of sci-fi horror nature to improvise as much as we did, but it was a lot of fun.