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July 15, 2013

‘True Blood’ actor Robert Kazinsky talks genre, ‘Pacific Rim’ role

Posted in: Movies

Charlie Hunnam, left, as Raleigh Becket and Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

The United States' Gipsy Danger in a scene from "Pacific Rim." Gipsy Danger is a Jaeger, one of the fighting robots invented by humans to defeat an alien kaiju onslaught. (Warner Bros.)

Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost, left, and Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

Rob Kazinsky as Chuck Hansen, left, and Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

Max Martini as Herc Hansen, left, Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost, and Clifton Collins as Ops Tendo Choi in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori, left, Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost, and Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

Robert Maillet as Lt. S. Kaidanovsky and Heather Doerksen as Lt. A. Kaidanovsky in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

China's Jaeger Crimson Typhoon, left, and Russia's Jaeger Cherno Alpha in a scene from "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket, left, and Mana Ashida as young Mako in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

The United States' Jaeger Gipsy Danger, left, and Australia's Jaeger Striker Eureka in a scene from "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

Rob Kazinsky as Chuck Hansen, left, and Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

Charlie Hunnam, left, as Raleigh Becket and Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

Max Martini as Herc Hansen, left, and Rob Kazinsky as Chuck Hansen in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

Max Martini as Herc Hansen, left, and Rob Kazinsky as Chuck Hansen in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

Charlie Hunnam, left, as Raleigh Becket and Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori, left, and Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost, left, Max Martini as Herc Hansen, Clifton Collins Jr. as Ops Tendo Choi and Rob Kazinsky as Chuck Hansen in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

Charles Luu, Lance Luu and Mark Luu play the Wei Tang triplets in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

Ron Perlman as Hannibal Chau, left, and Charlie Day as Dr. Newton Geiszler in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

Actor Robert Kazinsky is, as they say, having a bit of a moment. The English thespian who appeared on the BBC soap “EastEnders” has been wooing Anna Paquin’s part-fairy telepath Sookie Stackhouse on HBO’s vampire saga “True Blood” this season, and he can currently be seen in Guillermo del Toro’s “Pacific Rim” as Chuck Hansen, the talented Jaeger pilot with an outsized ego who comes into conflict with heroic Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam).

Even Kazinsky seems to be having a difficult time getting his head entirely around his good career fortune. In a recent phone interview, Kazinsky, calling from London, repeatedly marveled at finding himself working with Del Toro on a sci-fi project — he considers himself a “massive” fan of the genre. And that “True Blood” gig? That’s not so bad besides.

HC: It’s been a great year for you, between “Pacific Rim” and “True Blood.”

RK: It’s not been bad. I’m still kind of giddy about the whole thing.

HC: What was your initial reaction to the concept for “Pacific Rim”?

RK: My immediate reaction was “Holy crap, that’s cool.” In the hands of somebody else, you might sit there and go, “Well, this might be terrible,” but with Del Toro doing it, you kind of go, “This is going to be amazing.” We got the script eventually after we’d been cast, and I read it through. I was like, “This is the most incredible spectacle, I think, that I’ve ever imagined.” And the most amazing part for me — and it still sends shivers down my spine — on the very first day of shooting, on the first day of prep, we did a big read-through with all the producers and all the actors and a bunch of other people that I never saw again and probably were vastly, vastly important. After that, Guillermo pulled up a 45-second Industrial Light & Magic test that they’d done of what it was going to look like. It was a nondescript sequence that isn’t in the movie, it was just showing how they would do Jaeger vs. kaiju combat. He pulled down this giant screen and showed it and there was just this silence afterward — until I went [adopts high-pitched, excited voice], “We’re in that! We’re actually in that!” Now that I’ve seen the movie, it’s even more amazing. It’s just beyond comprehension unless you’re an 11-year-old boy, which I kind of still am. Most fully grown men are still 11-year-old boys.

HC: Yes, and why is that exactly?

RK: Being a kid is so much more fun than being an adult. I think that’s the crux of it. I think men are just less inclined to grow up because it’s much more fun being a child.

HC: What were your first meetings like with Guillermo del Toro and what drew you to this role?

RK: It wasn’t like a choice, hmm, should I do this part? It was like, “Oh my God, I might get this part.” That’s amazing. It was like, “Please, please give me the job.” The first time I met GDT he came to London. We did a very, very cursory read-through of a scene, and he was like, “OK, that’s great. Let’s go and have a coffee.” I was like, “All right, let’s have a coffee with Guillermo del Toro. No big deal.” We go next door, myself, Guillermo and Callum [Greene], the producer. We sat outside for an hour and we talked about the movie and we talked about the character, and we talked about our lives. I was just absolutely blown away by how human this titan of cinema is. We were just chatting normal rubbish stuff. He’s just a fascinating and open man. He was so passionate about the movie. I kept sitting there, saying, “If I don’t get this, I’ve just had the biggest tease of my life because this is everything I ever wanted to be in.” I’m a massive science-fiction fan. I was like, “Please God, just make this one thing happen for me.” Now that I’ve sat here on the other end of the experience… I’m still, not even pinching myself, more like battering myself with fists and hammers to make sure that I’m awake.

HC: What was the experience like actually shooting the film and working with him on set?

RK: I keep on extolling the man’s virtues and it sounds like I’m just sucking up in the hope of getting another job, but I’ve worked with some difficult characters in my time and it’s amazing to find an amazing human being. He’s an immensely powerful man with a dream and an image who is so passionate about his craft and so capable who is genuinely the nicest human being I’ve ever met… You’ve got a man here with no ego whatsoever. We would sit down with him and we would talk over scenes and he would listen to suggestions and then he would rewrite. You’re talking about a man who on a movie of this pressure, we’re working 14, 16 hours a day, and we’re exhausted. We’re in tip-top shape — we had to get for this film — we’re busting our asses off and we’re falling asleep during lunch breaks. We’re getting just enough sleep each night to carry on. He’s even working through his lunch breaks and he’s there for three hours before everybody else. It’s insane to see this man’s work rate. And I never, not once, saw him get angry or stressed or impatient. He’s still a fan, he’s still a fan of what he does. And that’s wonderful. While it’s been my privilege to work on the film, to work with him has been an even greater privilege.

HC: What sort of rapport did you have with Max Martini on set? He plays Chuck’s father and I’m curious if the two of you did some father-son bonding.

RK: He hated the fact that I was his son! I’m only 13 years younger than him, and he’s used to playing the young male guy. So, we made sure that every single day we reminded him how old he was. Max became and has remained one of my favorite people and a good friend. Because we were working so tight together, we would finish and then we would go out for dinner every night and we would go to the gym together on days off we had. I still see him. We have coffees or dinners. The emotional scene toward the end with the father-son parting, it was very easy for me to play because I had grown to actually genuinely love Max as a man and as a friend. Sitting there, I didn’t have to imagine that I cared about him, you know what I mean? I got to work with a guy I came to think of as family.

HC: Whose idea was the bulldog?

RK: That was Guillermo’s idea. It was a bit of a bone of contention for me. I even said to Guillermo, I said, “Dude, can I just have one scene where it’s about me and not the dog? Can I have one scene where I can really do some really heavy-duty acting?” He said to me, and I’ll never forget it, “There is not a single scene in the world that’s not made better and more poignant by having a dog in it.” The dog’s name was Max, ironically, and we ended up using Max for so many things. The story was that Herc and Chuck have difficulty communicating, that they communicated via the dog, and all the love that they couldn’t show each other they would show the dog. Max became a very important part of this triumvirate of me, Max and Max.

Actor Rob Kazinsky on "True Blood." (HBO)

Actor Rob Kazinsky as Ben Flynn on “True Blood.” (John P. Johnson / HBO)

HC: Did your experience on “Pacific Rim” at all help you to prepare for your “True Blood” role?

RK: Working on “Pacific Rim,” there was a lot of green-screen stuff — look out at this big green screen and then Guillermo would come and show you sketches of what you were going to be looking at and what the scene was going to be. There was still a great amount of imagination needed to try and match up and convey the reality of the fantastical moment. Perhaps it was that freedom to use your imagination, which you kind of stop doing as you get older. To be allowed to use your imagination and to imagine things which are unimaginable has also allowed me the freedom to express my imagination more in a fantasy setting like “True Blood” too. To be able to play fairies and the magic of it all, it’s as ridiculous as 2,500-foot-tall monsters and robots.

HC: You mentioned that you’re a big science-fiction fan. What are some of your favorite films or novels?

RK: I’ve read everything that Isaac Asimov ever wrote, for a start. I’m massively into my fantasy genre, anything by R.A. Salvatore or David Gemmell. I’ve read every single book those writers have written. When it comes to favorite science-fiction films, that’s huge. I’m a massive Trekkie. I’ve got original artwork from the ’70s. I’ve got outfits. Yeah, I have actual “Star Trek” outfits that I wear. I’m a massive, massive “Star Trek” fan. When the films were being made, when the second one was being made, I called my agent, I was like, “Just call Bad Robot. Just tell them that I want to be an extra. I would do anything.” “Star Trek” is my absolute favorite.

HC: So, what did you think of “Into Darkness”?

RK: I loved it. I absolutely adored it. People always need to differentiate between “Star Wars” and “Star Trek.” “Star Wars” is a grand soap opera and “Star Trek” is about technology, they tried to explain the reality of it, as far-fetched as it might be. And that’s why I’ve always liked the science behind the fiction. I loved what Benedict [Cumberbatch] did.

– Gina McIntyre | @LATherocomplex

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