Bruce Campbell, who plays Captain on AMC’s Lodge 49, discusses introducing his larger-than-life character, why he bonds with Dud and Ernie, and his gruesome fate.
Q: How did your involvement in Lodge 49 come about? What did you respond to in the show?
A: Two words: Paul Giamatti. I had no intentions of doing anything of the sort. I’d finished a very grueling 35-city book tour. I was looking forward to going home to Oregon, walking in the woods, large amounts of marijuana – ya know, normal things that people do. [Laughs] I’d known Paul in a friendly way. We’ve had dinner together and we almost did a Bubba Ho-Tep sequel together, so we danced around some stuff. I’ve always had enormous respect for him. He recommended this part. As actors, we kill for good material. TV has gotten better and better. The writing has gotten so good. That’s what got me. It was the writing. This had a weird sweetness to it. It’s bittersweet and it’s very unique. When I read it, I thought, “OK, this is going to be different.” This is not a standard TV show. Not by a long shot. That’s what’s so great and refreshing.
Q: What was the challenge of playing this character who had been teased out all season as this larger-than-life guy?
A: [Laughs] There’s not much you can do when they introduce you sitting in a kiddie pool in a gutted construction site. I actually think that was an appropriate intro. You expect him to pull up in a limo and get out with bling and hookers and blow, but the guy’s just sitting in a kiddie pool and getting wasted.
Q: Despite all the lead up and bluster, Captain turns out to be a bit of smoke and mirrors. How would you describe the character and what he wants?
A: He’s another miserable success story. He’s the downside of raw capitalism. Capitalism for the sake of capitalism. Development for the sake of development. It’s great to play a guy who, on the surface, is incredibly successful – big house, beautiful wife, the whole bit. I think a lot of people can relate to that. In America, we’re sold that if you work really hard and completely subjugate your entire life for your work, then you will be happy. I think people look back and realize, “Sh—, I’m 60” and wonder how much of your life you’ve wasted working for somebody else or in jobs you didn’t want to be in. It’s weird, but from the time we’re little, we’re sold that the guy who dies with the most toys wins. It’s fun to play a guy who is conflicted. Deep down, his life is going down the sh–ter, but not on the surface.
Q: Do you think he’s created this myth around himself or have others done that for him?
A: I think it’s all of the above. People become who they are because of what other people say about them also. Think about social media. Good Lord. If you see a guy who’s successful, you assume they know what they’re doing. You assume that if you have a mansion, you must be successful.
A: He, too, is a seeker. The lodge is for seekers. I’m a member of the Elks Lodge. I joined almost 10 years ago. The lodge was formed as an after-hours actors’ drinking club, so there’s always a bar in every Elks. The same people go there. Every time I’m there, I see the same people. It’s where locals go to bond with their pals. I think this guy felt completely disconnected. I get that sense in my own life. If you have an assistant for 20 years, you stop learning how to do anything. Could you book a hotel? Could you book our own flight? Do you manage your own accounts? It creates this floating disconnect. I think rich people and famous people hang out with rich people and famous people because those are the only people who understand what they’re going through. It’s a very small, insulated circle. In this case, it sounds cool and completely unrelated to the job he no longer likes. This guy doesn’t like his job. It’s the beauty and the horror. The good news is you’re making a sh– ton of money. The bad news is you f—ing hate your life. Be careful what you wish for.
Q: What does it mean for Captain to fully admit that he’s a fraud to Ernie and Dud? Is he being genuine or is he still running a con?
A: I think he probably figures it doesn’t hurt to tell these guys. He might not want to say that to a city councilman he’s trying to bribe, but he might tell that to a plumbing supply guy. This plumbing supply guy wants to be him and he just wants to go back to plumbing supply when everything was easy and made sense. Dud is a pool guy, so there’s really no harm. He takes me around in the s—tiest car on the planet. These guys are not a threat. … He’s shady, but it’s not like he’s always swindling everybody. That’s the important thing. People have a lot of gray areas. I heard a director give this advice to an actor: You need to be a different character in every scene. The actor was like, “What the hell are you talking about? I’m supposed to develop the character and be the character,” but [the director] was like, “No. I want to see the tired side of you in a scene. I want to see the elated side of you in a scene. I want to see the angriest version of you. The smartest version of you.” We’re all a little bit of everything.
Q: What does Captain make of the situation with Avery as it spirals out of control?
A: It was all going fine. I think he started to like those guys to the point where he’d rather do business with these guys, but then Mr. Crazypants shows up. Everything was going fine until it went to Hell.
Q: What was your reaction when you read Captain’s gruesome fate?
A: Appliance makeup, which I’ve done a lot of. They had a really talented guy in Atlanta to do it. You take a mold and go through the whole process. It’s one of those things that takes a couple of hours to do. It’s a very strange phenomenon. It’s part of sci-fi, horror, fantasy movies. All of these Marvel guys are in makeup for like 42 hours. I was very used to it. Compared to most sh– – like for Army of Darkness, I had to do four head molds, a body mold, two arm molds – this was nothing. Since I got into the business, the process of effects makeup has gotten so much better, lighter, less toxic and faster. It was a hell of a way to come in and a hell of a way to go out. Every actor wants a good death and a good monologue.
Q: Do you hold out hope that Captain might come back?
A: [Laughs] Never count the Captain out! He’s a survivor.
Q: What was your favorite part of this experience?
A: I’m just glad that I did it. In the core of my being, I wanted to say no to it. That’s the beauty of what we do in the arts. You do something that can be very difficult and challenging, but once you’ve done it, it’s done. I can’t wait to watch the episode.
Read a Q&A with Eric Allan Kramer, who plays Scott.
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