I recently had the good fortune to speak with the witty and charming Vancouver born, film and television actor Gil Bellows.
Gil Bellows is a prominent actor in popular television shows and films such as "Love in a .45", "Shawshank Redemption," "Ally McBeal," "Law and Order" and "Unthinkable."
In his sincere and utterly musical voice, Gil told me about being Canadian, about having a family, and about the nature of acting itself.
Tracy Wren: Do you feel there is a different way of being in Vancouver?
Gil Bellows: Yeah, I think people are a little less aggressive in nature, more polite and sillier in nature. Think of it - the best comedians come out of Canada: John Candy, Dan Aykrod, Catherine O’Hara, Mike Myers, to name a few. I mean, it is the home of SCTV (Second City Television). Canadians really appreciate English comedy, you know like Benny Hill.
TW: So, Canadians must laugh a lot.
GB: I think so. (laughs)
TW: You recently played the lead in an adaptation of three Raymond Carver short stories, ‘Triptych.’ Are you conscious of a difference in style between Canadian actors and American actors?
GB: It’s not a conscious distinction. I think actors all have their own style. Some things you connect with, some you don’t. Opposites attract.
TW: When you look back do you see that you were ultimately suited to become an actor or could you just as easily have become a doctor or a shellfish farmer, for instance?
GB: Yes. Although, I would have been a helluva shellfish farmer. But acting was part of my DNA. My mother has a sister whose husband is an actor in France. I enjoyed being around them when I was small. Also, I went to a lot of movies and stories were always a part of my life.
TW: What do you look for in a script?
GB: Something that feels original and that triggers an emotional response in me as opposed to an intellectual one. It can be funny or serious, but something that I respond to on a visceral level.
TW: Which roles would you like to be remembered for?
GB: Well, I’m really proud of a movie that not a lot have seen – "Love and a .45" –that was one of the first things I did. I’d say that I’m super proud of only four or five things I’ve done, but mostly I’d like to be remembered as a really good actor who people enjoyed watching.
TW: Do you feel you perform best when you personally ‘like’ the character or do you even believe that ‘like’ and ‘dislike’ even have anything to do with performance?
GB: What works is if I can connect to the emotional center of a character – that’s what feeds you and makes you resonate for an audience. I don’t think you have to be that person, but you have to feel some connection.
TW: Do you feel that you are as a flute that the wind blows through or are you the music?
GB: Sometimes you are the music and sometimes the talent flows through you and sometimes in a way what you to is just get the hand movements right!
TW: You are also on occasion a producer. How do you feel the work of a producer to be different to that of an actor?
GB: The only criterion is that the story is a great story. Sometimes that leaves me behind the camera. There doesn’t have to be a role for me in every story I’d like to tell.
TW: What are you working on at the moment?
GB: “Temple Grandin” will be out next weekend on HBO. (Claire Danes, Julia Ormand. A young woman finds a way to use her autism to change the world). “Unthinkable” is coming out soon.
TW: A theatrical release?
GB: Yeah, with Michael Sheen, Sam Jackson, Brandon Routh and Carrie-Anne Moss. I play Agent Vincent. A psychological thriller…
TW: You have a family. How do you return to your daily life – how do you focus when you’ve been working for a long time on a very intense character?
GB: It’s very hard when certain characters require a kind of investment that makes me difficult to be around at home. It’s easier when I’m on location and don’t have to burden my family with the character’s weaknesses. My work is filled with drama and complications so I can leave that behind when I’m at home. Some people live a very orderly life at work so they bring the drama home with them. But I find my work to be liberating and rewarding. I love what I do.