Bill Oberst, Jr. has acted in dozens of horror films, television shows, and web series, including “The Devil Within,” “A Haunting in Salem,” and Spike TV’s “1,000 Ways to Die.” He is known by Facebook fans as the cyber-stalker in the wildly popular “Take This Lollipop” application. A veteran stage actor, Oberst toured for 13 years in the first-person recreation of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.
Q. Bill, why are people saying you’re one of the best horror actors in a long time? What is it that you bring to your roles?
People are saying that? Really? Glad they don’t say it to me – actors are messed up enough without hearing stuff like that! If they DO say it, I hope it is because I bring a sense of dark fun. I don’t mean playing horror for laughs; I mean delighting in the pure majesty of unadulterated badness. Good always wins, but in horror evil has its day and that’s cathartic. I’m a horror fan, too, and that’s what I like to see in a film – an actor who has surrendered to the darkness (in the safe confines of a story) and is enjoying every minute of it. The old masters like Karloff and Vincent Price certainly had that quality. I got a review last year that said “Oberst has a malicious glee.” Made me happy, because that’s what I’m aiming for. When I have a film role that has no darkness in it, I suck. I’m awful as an actor without some darkness. I need the darkness in order to shine.
Playing Jesus onstage in “Jesus Of Nazareth” was the best acting experience I have had in my life. Pure emotion in those performances, because the words had such personal meaning to me and to the audiences. Any portrayal of Jesus is hypothetical – he could have been short and fat for all we know – but I approached it from (surprise) the darkness he must have gone through; his struggles with the Devil in the wilderness, his face-offs with demons who screamed at him when he cast them out. Robert Frost wrote in a poem of long ago, “I have been one acquainted with the night.” So was Jesus of Nazareth. So am I. So are we all.
Q. You’ve been known to play some very famous Southern gentlemen and for getting a lot of acclaim for it. What’s your favorite thing about the South?
The groceries, man! I was raised with people who could put away some food! Lewis Grizzard, a Southern writer I have played onstage, wrote once about a Southern gentleman of a certain size, “If he stepped on a cigarette butt you could by-God bet it was out!” I’m just a skinny white boy but when I go back to the South I do my best to live up to my heritage. Now I’m getting hungry…
You know I am really glad you asked that. No! People do not taste like chicken at all. I don’t know where that came from. It’s a gamier taste, like elk, along the legs and kind of a wild-fowl taste, like duck, up the arms. The palm is the sweetest section – it is kind of like chicken but with a little brown sugar. I’m just guessing, of course.
Q: Thanks for sending us those exclusive pics for “Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies!” How did you get into character for your role? Didn’t Abraham Lincoln have enough on his plate without Confederate Soldiers rising from the dead?
History books always leave out the interesting bits! Seriously, I had played Lincoln onstage and had all that research in my head. And Richard Schenkman’s script uses a lot of direct Lincoln quotations and the language of the 19th century. That, plus kick ass makeup by Renonda Anderson, made it easy to get into character. It’s not really an implausible premise. I mean, he split rails – why not zombies, too?
Q. What’s the most fun for an actor? Acting on television, the big screen, or in live theater?
The most short-term fun is live theater because like all humans, actors are selfish pigs and we want instant gratification. The most long-term satisfaction is film, though. Camera acting is an entirely separate skill from stage acting. I did stage for a dozen years and only moved to film three-and-a-half years ago to find out I was terrifying, so I am still learning the difference myself.
Never ask an actor that or he’ll plug his next film! But you already asked so here goes: I actually have two films coming out in 2012 that I am very excited about.
The first is “Children Of Sorrow” from director Jourdan McClure, whose last horror feature “Rogue River”, starred Bill Moseley. I play a cult leader in the desert in “Children Of Sorrow.” Jourdan tells me the cut is disturbing. I asked him if people will like it. His reply: “People who like sick and twisted shit will love it.” So naturally that got me excited, given my film reputation. Sick & twisted is gold to me.
The other 2012 release I think may do very well is the feature film “Scary Or Die” from director Michael Emanuel. It stars Corbin Blue of the “High School Musical” films. I play a racist xenophobe who finds out that he may not have the ‘guts’ for his work (insert Uncle Creepy laugh here.) “Scary Or Die” is a return to the horror anthology format. I saw a working cut in LA. It’s quite good; fun and scary.
Thanks for the chance to be on StuffMonstersLike.com and on behalf of monsters everywhere, thanks for a delicious site!