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Exclusive: Stephen Bishop Talks "Moneyball," Opening Tonight

Exclusive Interview with Stephen Bishop of Moneyball
Interview by Jamie Ruby and Lynn Tackitt
Written by Jamie Ruby

Stephen BishopFans may recognize Stephen Bishop from films such as The Rundown, Friday Night Lights, or more recently The Company We Keep. The actor has appeared in television series like Lost, Grey's Anatomy, and CSI: Miami. He can also be seen in the upcoming films Safe House and Battleship.

Starting tonight, Bishop, a baseball player in his own right, can be seen as the famous player David Justice in the new film Moneyball. The film stars Brad Pitt as the Oakland A's general manager Billy Bean, as he attempts to create a competitive baseball team based on computer data given to him by Peter Brand, played by Jonah Hill. Justice is an A's outfielder. The movie is based on Michael Lewis's book of the same name.

Stephen Bishop recently sat down in an exclusive interview with SciFi Vision to talk about his new role.

Stephen BishopDavid Justice is a real life superstar from the Atlanta Braves and the New York Yankees. "He's brought over in what is ultimately his last year in baseball and has a little trouble adjusting to the new ways of doing things."

Bishop knew Justice before becoming involved with the film, so it wasn't as difficult for him as some roles are. "He did not come to the set, but I did get a chance to speak to him while we were filming and right before we started filming. I knew David and he was actually somebody that I kind of idolized as a teenager and wanted to be like because of our resemblance and the fact that he played at such a level. So I studied him a lot when I was a kid, so I knew him a lot better than most guys would know their character. I mean, I knew his mannerisms; I knew some of the things he did at the plate. But I also knew him personally, he took me under his wing when I was with the Braves and he became like a big brother to me. So I knew David and it was pretty easy for me to jump into his skin, especially because I really wanted to play him in the best light possible and make him look as good as possible on the screen. It was exciting, but it wasn't very difficult for me to transform."

Bishop did, however, feel some pressure to portray Justice in a positive light. "That was the real pressure that I felt...I felt the pressure of wanting to play David in the light that I felt he should be played in without compromising the story that needed to be told. He's a good friend of mine, so I didn't want there to be any type of negative view of him, but at the same time, he's a bit of an antagonist in this film and he needed to played as such.

"So he and I had discussions about that. I told him what it was, what was going to be expected of me, and I told him what he should expect from the performance. I assured him that I was going to make sure I did as good a job as I could making him look good.

"...I think that the fact that he gave me his blessing and we were friends and we have this rapport and this affinity for each other, I think it really does come out in the performance."

Bishop may be a baseball player, but there were some things he needed to do differently for the role. "I'm playing somebody that is an actual person so I had to change, I had to hit left handed...

"I'm a right handed hitter, I was a right handed hitter throughout my career. I dabbled with switch-hitting at the college level and at the professional level, but I never really got to the point; I never did it in a game. Growing up as a kid, if you're [into] baseball, you grow up, you emulate your favorite guys, and you play whiffle ball. I actually learned how to hit for the first time left handed when I was a young kid, two years old. I was taught to hit left handed, but somewhere a long the way it got switched, and so I had some experience and a comfort level hitting left handed. I just needed to polish it and I needed to make it look like David's swing and make it look like I was swinging the bat with the authority of a superstar, a major league hitter.

"...I had to do things like that, and I had to be aware of where his mind was at that point in his career.

"But being a baseball player, I didn't have to go and completely revamp myself and learn a completely foreign skill I had a lot of the fundamentals and the techniques already ingrained, so it added a lot of ease to my ability to act and I think it actually comes through in the film. I feel like my performance was very natural and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I was comfortable in the occupation of the character; I was comfortable in the fact that I knew the guy already so I was very confident in what I was trying to execute."

The actor got the part after auditioning. "I became involved when I was sitting in my agent's office and got a text from a friend telling me about the film and the role. I immediately told my agent that we had to call over to the casting agent, as I felt I was perfect for the role. Four auditions later, I got the part."

Bishop considers each role before he chooses to take it on. "I choose roles by thinking about the quality of the project and whether I think I am right for the role.

"...[It's about] whether it's going to be a positive addition to what I've already done. If it's something that is a worthwhile, if it's something that's interesting. I make my decisions based on how I feel and what I think it's going to do for my career and my body of work."

Bishop could not choose only one favorite thing about working on Moneyball. "My favorite part about working on the film was, well it was kind of 1 A and B. 1A was being able to work with A-List talent and production staff and director, across the board. I mean, that gave me an opportunity to really test myself and gauge my progress as an actor and see how I stood when I got to go up against the big boys, and it felt good. It felt like I was in the right place, and I felt like I held my own. That will be left to the viewers to decide.

"1B was the camaraderie that the guys that played the A's shared; we really felt like we were a team. We went out together; we ate together; we worked out together. We really felt like a baseball team and all of us had been on baseball teams at a very high level, so were all able to really embrace that feeling and recognize it when it was there, so the camaraderie and the bonding that we did as teammates was my second favorite part about it."

Bishop said that some of these A-List actors include, "Brad Pitt; Jonah Hill; Phillip Seymour Hoffman; Bennett Miller, the director; Oscar nominated director of Capote, Wally Pfister; the Oscar winning cinematographer for Inception, Michael De Luca; Scott Rudin, Oscar nominated for Social Network. The list keeps going."

The actor's favorite moment during the filming was with Brad Pitt. "The moment I was doing my scene with Brad and we cut from rehearsal for the scene, and Brad looked at me and he really kind of, just matter of factly said, "Huh, you got some skills don't you?" and walked away from me and just left me hanging there with that moment. That was the most memorable moment for me when Brad Pitt validated my ability, and he's done it several times since that moment. Brad's been very cool and very complimentary about my work, and at the Jerome Film Festival, he again came to me and said how much he liked what I did in the film. That kind of validation from somebody like that goes a million miles in boosting your confidence."

Bishop's confidence was definitely raised after shooting the film. "I've been doing this for quite some time, so the major thing that I've learned, is that I'm actually on the right track. I'm doing solid work and the people that are making the most quality films, and the actors that are acting in them, are garnering critical acclaim and huge success, are validating my efforts. So I've learned to be a little more confident in my abilities, not that I lacked confidence, but you just kind of don't know. You're out there and you're interpreting something that there is no real right or wrong way to interpret. It becomes a matter of whether you are touching an audience and making them believe that you are in this part and you are in this moment, and that you're not an actor playing a part. So from this I walk away with the confidence that I'm actually at a place where I no longer have to worry about my abilities. I'm skilled, I've been trained, I've paid my dues, and now I can walk with the confidence with saying that I'm actually a quality actor."

Justice was a role that Bishop was really happy to get to play. "David Justice is a dream role I often thought about this opportunity and being perfect for the role if it ever was to surface, and when it did it was just an amazing case of serendipity; I couldn't have asked for a better role than this one."

The actor, however, has some other television shows that he would like to guest star in if ever given the chance, yet he's up for anything. "I'd like to work on Peter Berg's Prime Suspect, I'd like to work on Parenthood. I was actually very, very close to booking a four episode arc on that. I hear this American Horror Story is really good. If they were to bring Spartacus back, I would love to work on Spartacus, because that's one of my favorite shows.

"But you know, I'm at a point right now where I just want to work as much as I possibly can, and there's a tremendous array of quality shows that are coming at this point and films as well, and I'm just the kid who wants to play in as many games as possible."

Bishop has thought about who he would like to work with in the future. "I'd like to work with Daniel Day Lewis, he's an incredible actor to me. I would like to work with Javier Bardem, he's incredible. Russell Crowe, Christian Bale is one of my favorites I'd love to work with him.

"As far as women are concerned, I'd obviously, clearly, like to work with Halle Berry, I mean, she's the quintessential black actress of our time. Paula Patton is a person that I would enjoy working with. I actually know her a little bit personally, her and her husband Robin Thicke, they're great; Paula's awesome. So I'd love to work with her. And, you know, there are so many actors and actresses that are out there that I enjoy, it's tough to limit myself to saying "I wouldn't want to work with any one in particular," but the ones I mentioned are some that come to mind right away."

Bishop has a few more movies in the works. One is Safehouse. "I play the head of the Marine Guard that is charged with guarding the American Consulate in South Africa, and we are faced with a situation where we have a fugitive of sorts running through the consulate, and it's our job to track him down and bring him into custody before he hurts himself or somebody else.

"It was a lot of fun to shoot that movie, I got to work opposite Denzel Washington for a few days and that was awesome for me. I mean that was a dream come true; he's one of my favorite actors. I believe he's one of the best, if not the best black actors of all time, and it was such an honor and a privilege to be able to work with him."

Another film that Bishop has coming out is Battleship, which comes out in May. "Battleship is going to be a great film. Peter Berg directed, starring Liam Neeson, Taylor Kitsch, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, John Tui, Jesse Plemons from Friday Night Lights. It's going to be a big, big movie. I mean Peter has really sunk his teeth into this one; he's coming off of Hancock. He's got an opportunity to make a gigantic blockbuster, and from what I've seen from the teaser-trailer, it's going to look really real and it's going to be a fun summer movie."

Even before his next few projects are released, he's already talking about more future roles. "I'm waiting for a couple of projects to start going. I've talked to a couple of producers about some projects that are supposed to start going in the beginning of 2012...they haven't been solidified and signed yet, but I've got a couple of things in the works that I'm looking forward to. Hopefully they all go according to plan and I'll be working towards the top of the year if not before that."

Bishop may love acting, but that is not his final goal. "The ultimate goal [is] to be a producer and a director. I have a great mentor in Peter Berg. I've been on several of his projects and he's become a very close friend, and he allows me to watch his work, and gives me some insight and teaches me to transform me into what he is, and that is an actor turned director producer, and that is definitely a goal."

In between work, Bishop is very active in social media. "I have a personal Facebook page, a public fan page, and I also have a twitter account, and I'm very active on all of them. I respond to every tweet that I get personally; nobody is running my page for me. I'm doing all of that myself. I feel that that's the way it should be. I don't think that it's really that cool to have somebody running your page, when you have a kid who thinks he's talking to you and he's really talking to somebody's assistant. If you don't have time to be on Twitter, then don't be on Twitter, in my opinion."

"I've been getting a lot of good feedback because I post my interviews and I post my television appearances, my radio and talk show appearances. I give the fans who follow me an opportunity to live it almost real time. As soon as I get it, I give it to them, because I'm a fan too.

"This is kind of a weird existence for me. I kind of see myself from the outside; it's like an out of body experience. I know what I'm doing and I'm there but it's almost like I'm watching myself, so I'm a bit of a fan like they are. I'm enjoying the ride and enjoying the opportunity to do a lot of the things and be on the shows that I watch and listen to on the radio, and things like that. So, I think I interact and get involved with it because I actually enjoy it, and I don't want them to feel that I'm inaccessible. That's not the kind of guy that I am and that's not the kind of actor that I want to be."

Bishop also watches back his performances. "I watch it and I pick it apart, that's the fun of it. It's like watching at the bat and see when you swing and miss, and why you swung and missed, and when you connect a home run what perfect position you were in to hit the ball that far.

"I'm not averse to seeing myself on scene, it's not that big a deal to me. I don't really watch while I'm working. I trust the director that he wouldn't move on until he got what he wanted and what was good, so I just wait for the premiere. But I definitely watch it, I don't have a problem watching."

Fans of Bishop might be surprised to know that he loves golf. "I am really dedicated to my golf game. I am a single digit handicap golfer and when I'm not working or doing something like this I am playing golf. I'm not jet-setting or doing the club scene too much; I'm not your typical Hollywood guy. I come from a sports background and I approach this very similar to the way I approach sports: you have some success, but you should also know you're going to have some down times too, so you can't get too high and you can't get too low, you've got to stay on an even keel.

"...I am also a Green Building advocate, and I'm working really hard to try and help the United States government with their efforts to green government buildings, and actually try and set up a situation where I'm going to Washington D.C. to be on the news out there to talk about green issues. I work with a company, and one of my associates and I have come up with an idea to create about 30,000 high paying green jobs, and I think that's another side of me a lot people never knew existed." Bishop has been involved for about three years.

Fans can see Stephen Bishop tonight in the film Moneyball, which hits theaters tonight nationwide.
 
For more information about Bishop, please check out his official site or follow him on Twitter @StephenCBishop.


Photo by Chris Patey

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