The Scarface actor discusses the art of emoting with only a bell, drool and bowel movements in AMCtv.com’s exclusive interview.
Q: What was your reaction when you saw the character Vince Gilligan wanted you to play?
A: I thought it was a great relief. But then I thought that it would also be also very difficult to stay in touch with everyone when I’m connecting only through bells. I was a student of Stella Adler and then later Lee Strasberg and they were into sensory work. At its best, acting is not about words — even when the words are important. There’s much more going on than words, and it was an opportunity to go completely away from words and yet have a whole existence, a whole life. So I had to communicate by drooling on cue. And then I soiled myself [Laughs].
Q: How did you approach using the bell to communicate?
A: There were moments where I would be ringing the bell critically, to show that I was all up in arms. And there were other places where the ding is meant to mess with their minds. The scene where Aaron [Paul] is across from me during the police interrogation and they’re asking me if this was the guy that was there that night: I took a very long time on my own to enjoy Aaron’s discomfort. I became a kind of prima donna, because the bell initially wasn’t in a position where I could get to it easily with the limitations I have, and the prop people had to screw around with it to get it in the right place. And then later it wasn’t dinging properly, even though they can put it in later in post. But I needed it to ding for me. I was kind of a pain in the neck about it.
Q: At one point, you ding out morse code to warn Tuco.
A: Bryan Cranston gave me a suggestion about that in order to give the moment more of a dramatic edge: I start sending an SOS to my nephew, but my nephew doesn’t pick up on it and Bryan’s and Aaron’s characters do. I had been going “ding ding ding, diiinnng, diiinnnnng, diiinnnng, ding ding ding,” and he asked me to slow it down so that it would slowly dawn on Walt what I was up to, and it would be frightening for him. And I thought, “God, that guy’s smart.”
Q: What were you thinking about when Tio is off in his own world?
A: I just gave myself the freedom to go off — to relive some experiences that I had, because I didn’t have to be that connected. I could hear what everyone was saying, but I could go off and dream these things very freely.
Q: What sorts of things were you dreaming?
A: I don’t want to go there because some of them were erotic [Laughs]. An old man who still has feelings.
Q: Jesse does say you’re upset because you Walt turned off your erotic TV show…
A: That’s right! I didn’t even think of that. The Telenovela I was watching actually wasn’t particularly fascinating — they were actually screening it while we were filming, and I would go into space just looking at it.
Q: What was going through your head when you crapped your chair?
A: What was going through my head was the joy with which I’d laid that on Dean, so to speak. If I’d had the ability to raise up and just pop it in his face, that’s probably what I would have done.
Q: What was the most challenging aspect of the character for you?
A: It was physically painful at times. The way I was set in the wheelchair — though I had set myself that way — I developed a back ache on one side. And I couldn’t quit what I had gotten myself into because Tio doesn’t have the physical ability. Plus, when we were in the shed, there was a place about a mile from us that had hundreds of horses, and because of that the place was crawling with zillions of flies. They couldn’t get rid of them — it was quite horrendous for a lot of people.
Q: And you couldn’t swat at them.
A: I could not swat them! [Laughs]
Q: Do you think we’ll see Tio’s revenge?
A: I don’t know. Vince Gilligan sent me a very flattering note and he said he’s not making any promises, but he’d love to bring me back. So I guess it’ll all be up to him. I joked with him that Dean could take me around to high schools in the show to teach kids that crime doesn’t pay.Read More