Interview: Kevin Tanski Answers The Call Of The Undead, The Wanted Trail & More
Kevin Tanski is a police officer, martial artist, former pro-wrestler, and now an action star.
Tanski talks how his experience being on the set with Christopher Nolan and The Dark Knight Rises motivated him to go after his dreams. He tells us about his major roles in Call Of Duty Undead and Ride the Wanted Trail as well as filling us in on new projects and future plans.
Cosmic Book News: The last time we spoke, you just finished filming on The Dark Knight Rises. Can you give us a quick recap on your thoughts and experience about being on the set in NYC?
Kevin Tanski: It was life-changing; literally. It was my introduction to the wonderful world of film making, and it was the catalyst that made me want to continue to pursue the business. I had became interested at the idea of acting after watching a lot of behind-the-scene video of movies being filmed. I am watching these actors, who seemed larger than life, having such a great time - laughing, messing up lines etc. - just being normal people. I was like, "Man, maybe I can do that!"
When I walked out on The Dark Knight Rises set it was exactly like I imagined it would be. The scenes I was a part of were mainly filmed in NYC on Wall St.; however, when I walked out there, it was now Gotham City. The first thing I saw when stepping out was one of the camouflage tumblers that the mercenaries drove in the movie. I can remember getting right up next to it and just staring. Whoever was sitting in it must have had a good laugh because when he fired up that thing I must have jumped a mile. That sucker was loud! Meanwhile, you had crew creating fake snow and standing around spinning these buckets which were creating fog. It was incredible, and right then and there, I knew I was hooked!
Cosmic Book News: From there, you landed a major role in the Call of Duty Undead movie. Can you tell us how that came about?
Kevin Tanski: Well, as I stated before after my Dark Knight Rises experience, I knew I was hooked, and I wanted more. As soon as I left that set I was already mentally preparing steps I was going to take to try to learn as much as I could about the business. I wanted to know its ups and downs, and what it would take to get rolling. As I was reading every book I could get my hands on about acting and auditioning, as well as attending acting class, I started looking to popular websites for casting calls. I came across the casting call for Call of Duty Undead. There were audition dates listed that I was not able to make, I actually think one of them had passed already. So I responded to the call anyway and spoke directly to the director, Aleksandar Ivicic (editor's note: catch an interview with Aleks here). He was willing to let me submit a video audition and provided me two scenes in which to use.
I called up a buddy of mine, Andrew Streit, who also was eventually cast in a featured role later on, in which I get to punch him in the face! That was pretty awesome. Together we managed to try to figure out the best way we thought to do this as we were definitely on a time crunch. At that time, I wasn't quite familiar with how the process for a video audition is normally expected to be done; so what we did is act out the scenes similar to how I anticipated it would be filmed.
I feel that unique submission helped me stand out a bit from others, as I think I may have been lucky in providing the director something similar to what he may have already been envisioning. After Aleks reviewed the scenes, it wasn't long after that he called me up and said that he loved it, and he had to check with others involved, but as far as he was concerned the role was mine. And here we are, two years later finally seeing the film come to fruition, and now I am being interviewed by Cosmic Book News!
Cosmic Book News: Can you tell us about your character in Call of Duty Undead?
Kevin Tanski: Ahhh, yes. Keith Watzel [laughs]. Keith Watzel is a combat specialist, and part of an elite team known as the Alpha Squad. Keith specializes in two things, kicking butt and impressing the ladies, or so he thinks. It took me quite a while to realize exactly how I was going to portray this character. Thankfully, Aleks gave me a lot of room to play around with the personality. Sure there were general parameters and character traits that were given to me on how Watzel was to be portrayed, but Aleks really allowed me to fill in the gaps. As the filming of the movie progressed, it was becoming more and more clear who this guy Keith Watzel was.
I mean you can read script over and over in different ways and different tones and different speeds and have an idea on how you think you are going to do the lines, but at least for me, it wasn't until the camera was rolling and all things were in place that my acting choices were made. I really attempt to stay in the moment and not even think about my next line. It helps me when I really listen to who is opposite of me and respond accordingly. This was such an amazing cast to work with and so much fun. We often found ourselves utilizing quite a bit of improvisation on many of the takes to provide choices later on for the post-editing crew. In fact, Aleks, who also wrote the Call of Duty Undead script, was extremely generous in letting me alter his work with improvisation. If I was to sum up Watzel though, I would say he is Stiffler meets Rambo [laughs].
Cosmic Book News: You are going to be featured in a second movie directed by Aleksandar Ivicic. What can you tell us about that?
Kevin Tanski: At this point, I cannot share a lot about the plot itself, other then it brings in some strong political opinions and some emotional intensity. I was excited when Aleks contacted me about it. I feel it will not only give me a chance to explore my emotional range as an actor, but also gives me another opportunity to work with Aleks. I tell you what, working with Aleksandar Ivicic has been such an awesome experience. I feel like being forced to "grow up" together in this business, as quickly as we had to, has helped create a bond in which we almost knew what the other was thinking. As filming progressed, I found that Aleks was asking my opinion more and more on how I thought a scene was playing out. He was extremely open to any tweaks or suggestions I might have, which is a refreshing attitude to take, as it really seemed to bolster creativity and reinforced passion for wanting to put out the most entertaining film we possibly can. To demonstrate the kind of passion and desire Aleks has for bringing his vision to life, here is a little story:
We were out filming in a huge abandoned factory and Aleks must have been allergic to something he touched or rubbed into his eye. I can remember as the day was progressing that eye was getting more and more red. I kept asking him if he was okay, and he just sternly said, "I am alright. Don't worry about it." It was a long day of filming, and we still had another location to go to. By the time we resumed filming at the second location, his eye had swelled shut! I was like, "Aleks how can you continue?" He stated that these shots were very important, and they needed to be filmed in a certain way. Aleks finished out the shoot and immediately went to the emergency room. I can't recall exactly what had happened, but I believe something got into his eye, and he did not have vision for the following few weeks. The doctor told him that if he would have ignored that any longer, he may have lost vision in that eye completely.
Now that is dedication, and certainly somebody whom I am more than happy to team up with for future projects!
Cosmic Book News: Your IMDb page also lists you as having a role in Ride The Wanted Trail, a Rick Groat film. Tell us about that.
Kevin Tanski: Ride the Wanted Trail is going to be a good old-fashioned shoot 'em up Western. I will be portraying a bounty hunter/killer named Sam Hook, who lets just say enjoys his work maybe a little too much. This film is going to be fantastic, and I am very much looking forward to being a part of it. It is presently in the pre-production phase.
You know, I am really fortunate. Rick Groat is another fantastic director to work with who prides himself very much on putting out a top notch product that people will truly enjoy, no matter how long it will take. So many directors, especially in the Independent film world I have noticed, seem to almost rush out as many projects as possible. When that happens, I feel the quality of the film really suffers.
Cosmic Book News: You have been featured as a police officer in The Dark Knight Rises, a member of a Black Ops team in Call of Duty Undead and a cowboy in Ride The Wanted Trailer. So we take it you like action movies?
Kevin Tanski: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. I certainly love acting in action movies, that's for sure. Like many other children growing up, I loved to run around and do fake fighting with my friends, family and siblings. I am sure I have a few younger cousins out there who can vouch for that! I had many heroes in cinema growing up. Arnold, Stallone, Chuck Norris to name a few. I idolized these guys and how badass they were. I think it's pretty fair to say that movies started shaping me from a very early age. Those action flicks made me want to learn how to do martial arts and lift weights and get strong enough to beat the bad guys and save the girl [laughs]! I guess that is why I love doing my own stunts! I spent many years learning about different martial arts and even attended professional wrestling school, touring around a bit on the Independent circuit as Tank Tanski. It wasn't until I was much older that I realized I just loved to entertain people and make them laugh.
Cosmic Book News: What can you tell us about your future plans?
Kevin Tanski: I can tell you with certainty that I remain fascinated by movie making and everything that goes with it, from the filming end to the business side of things. I still strongly believe that there is no better place to work than on a set with amazing people who share the passion of wanting to make a great movie that entertains people. To watch a screenplay blossom from a script to a final product is something that is extremely satisfying to me. The relationships I have developed along the way have already lead to several more opportunities, with projects "in the works." I truly feel that if you are persistent and stick true to what you love, you will continue to align yourself with others that feel the same way, and man, when that happens... LOOK OUT! Movie magic is born!!