April 27, 2015

WYH Recap: 02/19/2015 Mat Fraser @withoutyourhead

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by Vic Schiavone
Hosts Nasty Neal and Annabelle Lecter welcomed actor, drummer, and performance artist Mat Fraser.  Mat is best known for his role as Paul the Illustrated Seal on the fourth season of the FX horror anthology TV series American Horror Story, which was entitled “American Horror Story:  Freak Show”.


Highlights included the following:

WYH:  How did you end up on “American Horror Story”?  Is it something you sought out or did they find you?

MF:  “I had heard about it, but my agent in Britain had been unable to secure me an audition, which I was rather disappointed about, and I put the whole thing in the back of my head and forgot about it.  Then, I was doing a show with my wife, Julie Atlas Muz.  We were doing an adult version of “Beauty and the Beast”, which smashed it and got rave reviews and sold out audiences in London.  We took it to New York in March, where we performed it on the Lower East Side, at the Abrons Art Center, and again got such great reviews from the New York Times that it sold out.  

Unbeknownst to me, a woman was just in New York…read the review and thought ‘Oh, that sounds interesting’ and went along.  Then when she saw me on stage, she thought to herself ‘Well hold on, my friend is in L.A.; she’s casting a show that was requiring differently-shaped actors’ and so suggested to them they call the theater and they got my details. So actually, I got the audition from the most random piece of coincidence and chance you could ever wish to imagine.”  

WYH:  Was the character of Paul the Illustrated Seal already there or did they write it for you?

MF:  “It was a kind a bit of both, really… I just recorded some pages…actually I was reading the part of the burned man, the Denis O’Hare character from the Series 1.  They knew they liked my body; they just wanted to make sure I could act…So when we got talking, they were like yeah; we want you to be this guy, the illustrated lizard man.  And I’m like, OK, so you’ve obviously looked up online, you’ve seen the lizard guy, for some reason that’s not worked out, but you now have it in your head that you want a lizard guy who is tattooed all over.mat06.jpg
And I said, well look, what I do is I traditionally do the Seal Boy’s act, and I’m called the Seal Boy in sideshow parlance; that’s my character…why don’t you have the Illustrated Seal Boy?  And they were, OK, we can go with that.  And then there was a lot of debate about my face, because they wanted my face to be tattooed and I didn’t want my face to be tattooed.  Well, I kind of stuck my heels down and said I’m not going to do it if I have to have my face tattooed… and amazingly they agreed…Then the TV company was happy with the Illustrated Seal Boy as a character and I was happy with it, and we ended up with Paul the Illustrated Seal.”  

WYH:  What was it like working with Denis O’Hare and what did you think of his demise on the show?
MF:  “Denis is a fantastic guy to work with.  He is a wonderful actor, and he brought so much to the show.  He’s one of those rare actors that’s on an acting contract with the television company.  He’s not just hired for specific productions; the actual TV company hires him as an actor and then they put him in various productions that they’re doing.  That’s like “old school” studio stuff, and it’s just a testament to what a wonderful character actor he is.”

“Coming to the demise; yeah…it was one of my favorite scenes in the entire series…It was really cold by then in Louisiana, and that was fake rain, but that was torrential fake rain that we had to do over and over again.  For every one thing you see, we’ve done something seven times, and that was like a six-hour shoot that rain thing; that was tough.  And Denis had the worst of it, quite easily had the worst of it, and he was a real trooper; never complaining once.  But the reason I want to say why that was so special is because of Loni Peristere, the director, because Loni Peristere is directly related to Tod Browning, who directed and produced the original film “Freaks”, from where that scene is an homage. In fact his grandmother, his wife’s grandmother I think, was Tod Browning’s partner until he died.

Indeed, he had Tod Browning’s passport on him, and he showed it to me, and on that big dinner scene, where we’re explaining to Denis what’s going to happen to him basically by explaining the plot of “Freaks”, he secreted the passport under a bowl of fruit so that Tod would be with us in some way during that scene.  Me and Loni were probably the two biggest experts on the film “Freaks” and the whole sideshow genre on the entire floor and set, and we kept scampering up to each other like excitable school boys going ‘Oh my God, this is so amazing!’ and going back again.  And that’s why I was very happy to spend six hours in the freezing cold rain, because I knew that Loni was at the controls and he was making an excited homage to that famous scene in “Freaks”.  It was really genuinely thrilling to be a part of that; it really was.”

Other topics discussed included:
What does the movie “Freaks” mean to him?
Why didn’t he start acting until he was in his mid-30’s?
What is his “dream project” that he hopes to do in the next five years?
What are some of the current horror films that he enjoyed?

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