Read our interview with Once Upon a Time guest star Chad Michael Collins, where he talks classic horror and playing Frankenstein’s monster.
We spoke to Collins following the airing of the Doctor Whale-centric episode “In the Name of the Brother,” where he appeared as Frankenstein’s brother and monster Gerhardt. You can also listen to this interview in full via Hypable’s Once Upon a Time podcast Onceable.
Tell us about the filming process.
Chad Michael Collins: We shot everything against a big blue screen, but they had this wonderful CGI program that allowed them to see what the finished castle was going to look like on the playback monitors. Which was really neat for the actors because it allowed you to get a sense and a feel for what the finished product was going to be.
They didn’t want us to commit to any real accents or anything. We did, through the costumes and our tone of speaking, try to give it kind of a more throwback sort of feel to it, something historical. And the great thing with the director (Milan Cheylov) was that he just wanted it to be natural. He didn’t want me lurching around as Frankenstein, kind of the mindless zombie type of deal, so I thought it played out really cool, it was almost modern in the way that [my character] had the thoughts and the feelings. So I liked the way it all came out.
How did you approach portraying such an iconic character as Frankenstein’s monster?
CMC: In the script, basically, by the time he got shot and my character died, to the time where Viktor was finally able to resurrect me, something like a year or two had passed. That was part of the performance, where he’s kind of out of his element, he’s probably got itchy skin and he’s turned off by loud noises and bright lights, and all of his senses are kind of firing back up.
But you know, he still can access his humanity a little bit. He feels guilty when he realises that he killed his father. So it was fun to play that fine line between being out of your element but also retaining your humanity, your feelings, your emotions, and understanding the consequences of what I just did.
Which character did you most enjoy playing, Gerhardt or the monster?
CMC: Gerhardt is a goody-two-shoes. I play a lot of these roles, the cops, the soldiers, the good son – I know how to play Gerhardt in my sleep, you know? So it was more of a challenge as an actor, and probably a lot more fun, to play the monster. It’s all very primal, he’s getting back in touch with these basic emotions, and they’re very intense and they’re magnified by his strength and confusion and his fear.
The director didn’t want it to be a caricature or a parody, he wanted it to be very real and relatable and emotional. It wasn’t over the top, and I think the show in general does such a great job of taking these wonderful characters – you know, fairytale characters or Disney characters or what have you – and they put such a great modern spin on them. And I think they’ve got their finger on the pulse, they know exactly what they’re doing and how to do it, and I think this storyline completely followed suit as well.
Will you ever return to Once Upon a Time?
CMC: All I was left with was, ‘People come back on this show all the time, even when they’re dead. So we could have you back at any point.’ So I don’t know. I don’t know if David Anders will be coming back and doing more of his stuff, as far as the Frankenstein stuff goes, but yeah, we’re both very alive and well, even though [my character is] a little disappointed that I’m alive because I’m realising what I’m capable of and that I’m a bit of a monster.
But they told me, basically, ‘keep your cell phone on, because you could be called to come back up at any minute, and people have a way of coming back on this show.’ So we’ll see.
What other fairytale characters would you like to have interacted with on the show?
CMC: I was thinking: how cool it would be, since you’re opening the door on classic horror creatures, to get Dracula or a wolf man? At the end of the episode, Henry is basically saying that Frankenstein’s story isn’t in this book. So what does this mean? I think it’s kind of brilliant that they’ve opened the door to other classic characters from any tale or story to come in there, including horror stories. So if Frankenstein’s gonna be around, why not throw in the wolf man, why not throw in Dracula or the Invisible Man, I mean, the door’s wide open. And that’d be kind of fun, to have a little monster squad going on.
What was the atmosphere like on set? Did you get a chance to meet any of the other actors?
CMC: I did meet a few of the cast members in passing. My shooting schedule was basically working with David Anders and Gregory Itzin, who played our father, just about all the time. But just in passing I did get to meet a few of the other cast members, like Lee Arenberg (Grumpy). When Robert Carlyle came in as Rumpelstiltskin he was very courteous, very kind; he’s a very sweet man.
It’s a very friendly set. It’s all smooth, it’s a very well-oiled machine, and everybody likes going to work, you get that vibe. It’s fun, they’re making something fun, and they’re having fun every single day. It was really fantastic and I really hope that I do get to go up there again, because Vancouver is a great city and the cast and crew are wonderful, and very talented.
What can people look forward to seeing you in next?
CMC: I have a film coming out on February 26, it’ll be out on DVD/Blu-ray and On Demand. It’s called Company of Heroes, and it’s a WWII action movie. It’s really fun, it’s based on a video game by THQ called Company of Heroes – and I think they’re re-launching the video game actually. It’s about a bunch of everyday common soldiers at the end of WWII who take over this mission that sends them into the heart of Nazi Germany, to basically save the planet from a nuclear bomb. It’s the story of the underdog, and banding together, and killing the bad guys and saving the day. It’s a wonderful little movie – it’s got a lot of action, it’s got a Saving Private Ryan feel to it, it’s really cool. And you know, who doesn’t like watching Nazis get killed?
Other than that, I did a film called Sniper: Reloaded with Billy Zane which came out in 2011. I play Tom Berenger’s son, and we’re gonna do a sequel to that movie. We’re probably gonna do it in the spring some time; Billy Zane’s gonna be directing this one, and starring in it alongside me, and I think we’ll be running around in the rainforest and jungles of South America, from what I hear. And I’m very excited to run around and play ‘kill the bad guys’ with Billy – it was a lot of fun the first time so I’m excited to do it again.