Friday, August 15, 2014

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Chris L. McKenna on 'Taste,' 'Blind Pass,' 'Runaway,' and Working with the Other Joey Buchanan, Nathan Fillion (Part 2 of 2)

Chris McKenna. Photo Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/
Getty Images
Serial Scoop recently caught up with actor, Chris L Mckenna, who has become an instant fan favorite this year in the role of Detective Mark Harding on the CBS daytime drama The Young and the Restles.  In Part 1 of our interview, McKenna shared his thoughts on playing Y&R's hard-nosed cop, and revisited his time as Joey Buchanan in One Life to Live.  In Part 2 of our exclusive interview below, the talented actor discusses working with Nathan Fillion, the actor who replaced him as Joey, and offers an update on recent projects including the play "Taste," as well as films Blind Pass and Off the Grid.

SERIAL SCOOP: When you started your career there were still soaps shooting in New York City. What do you think the impact is to actors of not having those soap jobs anymore?
CHRIS L. MCKENNA: That’s interesting. The soaps have been the only steady job in the industry. Granted, you’re not guaranteed to be on there forever; but it’s the only show without a hiatus, and there is nothing else like that. You lose a lot of opportunities as an actor with those shows not being there. I don’t know the climate in New York because I’ve been living in Los Angeles now for 17 years. I think it affects them more, because we have more opportunities in Los Angeles than New York. It’s a shame. When you’re a working actor, that’s a big loss of jobs and opportunities and creativity. It’s really sad to see.

SERIAL SCOOP: Actors used to be able to do the soaps during the day and then pursue their passion for theatre at night.
CHRIS L. MCKENNA: Right. I remember Erika Slezak (Viki Buchanan on One Life to Live) having one of the only jobs where she could take some time off. She had a steady job and could spend time with her family, and know she had a job to come back to. It's completely different now.

Chris McKenna and Nathan Fillion on the set
of Castle in September 2012.
SERIAL SCOOP: You were in an episode of Castle with Nathan Fillion [in 2012], the two Joeys coming together. What was that experience like?
CHRIS L. MCKENNA: He and I have been friends. I know him, I’ve always known him. Right after One Life to Live, he and I screen tested against each other for the same role over and over again every year. I remember we went into Boston Public as the new teacher three years in a row. I would run into him here and there and we would catch up, and then I got a call when I was in Scotland, saying they were offering me an episode of Castle, and they picked the month I'm in Scotland doing a play. I called Nathan and say, "What the hell, they brought me in for that show over and over again, and they are finally giving me one, and I’m in Scotland." [Laughs] But it worked out great. When I got back into town, they offered me the next episode. Nathan and I hung out, he took me out to lunch, and we had a great time. He is a lovely, lovely guy. That was really fun. It was great working with him.

SERIAL SCOOP: If you had stayed on One Life to Live, you could have had an affair with Robin Strasser's Dorian.
CHRIS L. MCKENNA: Well, I think that was the reason I wasn’t there anymore. They’re like, “I don’t think Chris can pull this off, he is freaking out about kissing a teenager. [Laughs] We forget how young he is because he’s tall.”

SERIAL SCOOP: Can you tell me about "Taste," the play you were recently in? It had intense subject matter but you received great reviews.
CHRIS L. MCKENNA: Thank you for asking. It was an amazing thing. I’ve been attached to that play for years. Now it’s been three years ago that I first got that script. It’s a director I’ve worked with before. There were two roles in it that I could play, so he asked me which one I wanted to play, and I wanted to play the role I ended up playing (Vic).

Donal Thoms-Cappello and Chris McKenna in "Taste." Photo
Credit: Credit: Jessica Sherman Photography
It's based on a true story; I get killed and eaten on stage, and this really happened. My character is supposed to be a suicidal gay guy who wants to die and wants to die this way. It seemed like a challenge that it wouldn’t be a guy my size. But I really believed I could do this role and I thought the writing by Benjamin Brand was amazing. The director trusted me that he thought I could do it. I thought I could do it, and he gave it to me. It took years to get a theater that would actually do it.

Donal Thoms-Cappello and I did a two man show on stage the whole time, never left and in real time are engaged in this macabre dinner party, the last one they will ever have. And it was amazing. I believed the whole time it was going to be great. I knew people were worried about it. They weren't sure how it was going to come off, but I was always confident from the start that there was something really special and human about it. You hear what it's about and you think it’s going to be a nightmare. But it’s very funny, people are laughing, people are crying. After the show people would routinely come up to me and hug me, strangers trying to tell me it would be okay. And I would tell them, I’m fine, I’m fine. [Laughs]

SERIAL SCOOP: Right, this didn't really happen to you. [Laughs]
CHRIS L. MCKENNA: It was an amazing experience. We got extended. The reviews were the best I've seen in all the theater I’ve done, and I’ve been doing theater for a long time. So I’m really proud of that. I hope we get to reprise it again. There is much talk about it.  We’ll see.

SERIAL SCOOP: What's your favorite medium?
CHRIS L. MCKENNA: I can’t possibly pick. I wouldn’t feel right without doing them all. I took a long break from theater because nobody makes money doing theater, and agents don't want you to do that.  Then I went back to it and, my god, what a mistake it had been to be away from it. I won’t let that happen again. They are all wonderful. Television certainly pays the bills very well. There are things you can only do in live theater. That play, we actually cook on stage; we cook onions, and things that people are smelling. "Oh that smells good", and then they realize they are cooking parts of my body. That kind of visceral experience can’t be duplicated on film or on television. I’ve done all of it. But I wouldn’t feel right picking one over the other.

SERIAL SCOOP: The ideal experience would be in a position to do all three.
CHRIS L. MCKENNA: Right. We intend to do a movie of "Taste" at some point.  That will probably happen. But it won’t be the same experience as people who saw it in the theater, who actually had to duck when the blood came near them. [Laughs]

Chris McKenna as Dr. Michael Roselli in Blind Pass.
SERIAL SCOOP: You were in a move called Blind Pass?
CHRIS L. MCKENNA: It's doing the festival circuit right now. Who knows what will happen with it. We won the Sarasota Film Festival. I won best actor in it.

SERIAL SCOOP: Congratulations!
CHRIS L. MCKENNA: Thank you. You never know with these movies. It's a small movie; an independent film about a psychiatrist who has a suicidal patient who he is falling in love with and trying to keep her from committing suicide. But there is a twist. It's a psychological thriller. We filmed in Ireland. It was a lot fun to film. We will see if it will get distribution.

SERIAL SCOOP: You have a new film coming out Off the Grid?
CHRIS L. MCKENNA: Off the Grid is completed. That movie is with Sherry Stringfield. I play her love interest. That one I think you will see. I don't know where it will go. It may be a Lifetime movie or a Hallmark movie, but I'm confident that one will be seen.

SERIAL SCOOP: You're working with Sherry Stringfield, the soap world coming together again!
CHRIS L. MCKENNA: And I play another detective [Laughs]

EDITOR'S NOTE:
Off the Grid has now been renamed Runaway, and make its Lifetime premiere on Sunday, September 28 at 8 p.m. ET/PT>

Michael Goldberg is a freelance writer, producer and actor based out of New York. He regularly contributes television and web series features to Serial Scoop.

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