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Fanboy Comics Interviews Bill Oberst Jr. on His Upcoming Role in ‘The Chair’

The following is an interview with actor Bill Oberst Jr. (Criminal Minds, Legend of the Red Reaper), who will soon be portraying “The Warden” in the upcoming film The Chair. The creators behind the film recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for the film, with the hopes of bringing the graphic novel adaptation to the big screen. In this interview, Fanboy Comics Contributor Christina Brookman chats with Oberst about what initially intrigued him about the project, what makes a villain truly great, the challenges that he relishes when approaching a new character, and why readers should support the Kickstarter campaign for The Chair!

Christina Brookman, Fanboy Comics Contributor: You are well known for your work in the horror genre. How do you choose your roles, and what do you look for in a script or role?

Bill Oberst Jr.: First off, thank you for asking me to be on the Fanboy Comics site! I’m a comic geek from way back. (I still have my old E.C.’s and Warren Publishing titles in plastic.) What I’m looking for in a script as an actor is exactly what I was looking for in a comic as a kid – a great story. Peter Simeti’s THE CHAIR is that in spades!


CB: When did you know you wanted to be a part of The Chair, and what intrigued you most about the project?

BOJ: Peter Simeti wrote me and asked if I’d be interested. It took 5 minutes to realize who he was and the graphic novel the film was to be based on, and to think, “Oh, hell yes.” Then, I read Erin Kohut’s screenplay adaptation of Peter’s graphic novel and wrote back, “Oh, hell yes!” (or some enthusiastic variation thereof).


CB: Some may say that the Warden is a “good character.” What are your thoughts?

Well, they’d be right! The Warden in Peter’s scenario has both a human nature (the dark man he actually is) and a superhuman one (the even darker man he becomes in the mind of his imprisoned victims).  All great villains of film and comics have this duality. It is as if Peter wrote him for the screen. I salivate to play this guy. 


CB: What makes a character scary to you on screen, and what do you want audiences to take away from your character?

Unpredictability. That’s what makes a character scary to me. If I know exactly (and can safely predict exactly) what the character will do in any given situation, I’m bored. I want to be surprised. I want levels. I want shadings of nuance. And, at the same time, I want my meat: I want a scary character to be truly scary in the midst of it all! That’s a tall order, but I think it is what modern audiences demand, and it is what I myself demand in going to the movies. What I want audiences to take away from the characters I play is appreciation for the life they have. With the bastards I play, I want them to think, “My life may not be perfect, but at least I’m not that poor sonofabitch!” 


CB: What are you most looking forward to once filming gets started?

Working on a film set on Death Row. The drama of a Death Row prison story is built in. Any actor would die (metaphorically speaking, of course) to play in that emotional pool. The horror elements of THE CHAIR are icing on what is already a very tasty, if very dark, cake.

Did the comic book on which The Chair was based influence your interpretation of your character? Were you given leeway to stray or elaborate at all on the Warden’s characterization?

Erin Kohut’s screenplay stays true to Peter Simeti’s vision for all of the characters, and that will be my guide once we start filming. To get there, of course, we need the support of fans of Peter’s work. I’d encourage your readers to visit our Kickstarter page and consider helping us out, even in a small amount. This is a fan-driven movie!

What do you find most challenging about this role? The most fun?

The most challenging: avoiding the temptation to chew too much scenery. The most fun: the chance to chew scenery. 

What makes The Chair stand out from other horror movies coming out this year?

THE CHAIR is fiction but based in realism; the characters are all experiencing a situation that prison inmates faced for generations – a society that sanctions the putting to death of criminals. And, the main character, Richard Sullivan, is facing a situation that still happens over and over – being accused and convicted of a crime one did not commit. That is true horror to me.

Why do you want people to support this movie?

Because I know comic fans and horror fans and thriller fans will love it. Because Peter’s graphic novel cries out to be produced. And, because THE CHAIR is packed with a cast that is bound to make it worth the while. I urge your readers to take a look, and I thank Fanboy Comics for the opportunity to talk about a project I am very, very excited about.




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