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(Editor's note: Writer-director Tommy Stovall's indie movie "Sedona," featuring actor Seth Peterson, was released Aug. 22 on DVD, VOD, online, Amazon.com and iTunes.)
One of the top 100 celebrities to follow per Twitter #followfriday (or #FF) rankings, Seth Peterson is a film and television actor, a family man, and a great guy with a good sense of humor. He has also delivered some brilliant gay character performances in Tommy Stovall’s indie films “Hate Crime” and “Sedona.”
In person, Peterson is sharp, at ease with himself, and all in all a really pure soul. He loves his poker, his iPhone, mid-century popular culture, and his life with actress wife Kylee Cochran and their two children, Fenix and Lennon.
In the exclusive Q&A interview with San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, he talks about his latest film “Sedona,” the trials and tribulations of being a Hollywood actor, and other juicy topics.
Your latest feature film, Sedona, is about living in the now, detaching from technology, and focusing on your surroundings. What’s the No. 1 message people will take with them after seeing the movie?
Seth Peterson (SP): I think that it really is about breaking out of your routine. When you become so task-oriented you tend to lose sight of the bigger picture and enjoying the little parts the little moments and you lose sight of so much. The lead character who is played brilliantly by Frances Fisher [“Titanic”] is so focused, that’s pretty much her whole life in a nutshell. She goes to a place where that’s just not done, and she is almost on Mars, you know what I mean? And the minute she takes the opportunity to smell the roses her entire life changes. In the end she receives this amazing gift for actually settling down for a minute and just knock off that focused thinking and consume what’s around you.
Are you able to put your different personas, the public and the private Seth into compartments, separate the two lives?
SP: No. I only have one compartment [laughs]. It’s play all the time, and I’m that way at home and I’m also like that at work. I like to have fun at work, laugh and joke, and have a great time. Unless my job specifically is in the opposite emotional range, in which case I just stay with myself. That’s one of the blessings of being Nate on “Burn Notice.” He is silly, he is funny, and I’m pretty much like that all the time.
To our readers: If you haven't watched “Burn Notice,” catch up on Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, USA and enjoy a superb spy action drama series with a twist. You're in for a good ride. "Burners" worldwide are known to do marathons!
The beauty about your acting is that you portray characters so realistically; you seem to give away a big part of yourself on screen. What method of acting is this?
SP: It’s an organic method. I try to fit every character into me as much as I can. My acting coach Manu Tupou [founder of "New Era Acting Technique" (NEAT)], may he rest in peace, studied at the actor’s studio in the ‘70s with all the major actors there, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, all those guys. He used to have this exercise called “private moment,” where you get up in front of class and you just exist, you do things like laundry and you wouldn’t talk for about 20 minutes. It was my least-favorite exercise. He would nail me every time I’d do something for the audience. Ultimately, he broke me down and finally got me to a place where I was exceptionally organic.
I’ve suffered getting jobs because of that. I remember reading for a lead in “Ten Things I Hate About You,” and I think Heath Ledger got it, and the guy said, “Well that was really boring. Is there any way you can make it more spicy?” [laughs] And I was like, “No that’s pretty much what I got, that’s me.”
Give us an example of how you prepare for a role.
SP: I remember once I had an audition for a show called “The Shield.” And for that I was a gay murderer. I was a stalker, I was obsessed and then eventually I got over stalking and decided to do some murdering. In that case I prepared by listening to Elliot Smith and singing out loud in a very crowded room of actors that where waiting to read for the same role, and all of them were “shhhht’’ to be quiet, and I refused to be quiet, and then I started to cry in front of them all to let them know I was in for it, and then I went ahead and booked a job. As a matter of fact I did the same thing on the set, because the people there were so chummy and chatty that I put my earphones on to drown them out so I wouldn’t have to listen to them speak and I could stay in character. That’s the Meisner Method right there.
Tell us about your favorite onset experience of all time.
SP: One time I was working on a movie called “Godzilla.” The director was Roland Emmerich and they had decided to break for lunch and everybody left except for him and me. And he wasn’t talking to me, I was staying behind him and I was kind of overhearing this conversation he was having with himself. And he, out of nowhere, started to chuckle and said to himself, “I ask for one boy, and they send me two boys.” I left at that moment and laughed as hard as I could possibly laugh not knowing what he was talking about but it sounded hilarious to me.
That’s a fun little story! You’re an incredibly creative individual- - acting, poetry, zombie fiction, music … What’s the primary source of your inspiration?
SP: I started writing poetry because of Jim Morrison. I was a huge fan of the music of the ‘60s and ‘70s when I was growing up. I read the book that I think was written by his brother, “No One Here Gets Out Alive.” That kind of self-destructive brilliance intrigued me. I read his poems and I thought ‘anybody can write this stuff.’ So I started writing poems and they basically, for a good year and a half, sounded like Jim Morrison poems. And then I just kept writing and I found my own voice, right around the time The Doors movie came out.
How would you describe yourself in five words?
SP: Silly person, never grew up.
What’s your favorite pair of shoes?
SP: To be honest with you, people laugh at me. They are white Adidas shell tops with white laces, and I keep them white, and I cycle them out. The slightly dirty ones I can wear, the really white ones I can wear on occasion, and then the brand new ones I keep for when I go to an event. Next time I go to an event I’ll pull out the brand new never been worn ones and a brand new T-shirt or wear a suit with the white ones, if they’re bone white.
What have you been told you cook best?
SP: I cook filet mignon best. I make it with a butter garlic and other things I can’t tell you about sauce.
And sometimes I take the garlic and actually insert it into the steak.
Boxers or briefs?
SP: I used to be a boxers guy, and then I went through a quite long metamorphosis to go back to boxer briefs. Basically, the short version is boxer briefs if you will.
Who’s your favorite female villain in James Bond films?
SP: Famke Janssen! She’s hot, too! She was in “Golden Eye” with Pierce Brosnan, playing a Russian bad girl who’d wrap her legs around guys and they’d think they were going to have sex with her and she would just crush them with her legs, and they would die. She also played Phoenix in “X-Men.”
What is your most prized memorabilia?
SP: I used to have a James Dean Porsche Spider. I’m going to say my grandfather’s watch, my grandpa’s Rolex.
Who’s your favorite Hitchcock blonde?
SP: I’m going to say Norman Bates with the wig on [laughs].
This is for aspiring talent, what’s the single most important thing you've learned over the course of your acting training?
SP: Well, you need training. It’s like your crutch, it’s like a super most of the time you don’t need it. Most of the time you’re doing the job because you’ve been cast specifically because you are like that guy. There are only two people in this world that are just like that guy who wrote this script and that’s why they audition between 150 and 300 for this role. It’s pretty much that hard to get work.
But you clearly don’t pursue typecasting. We’ve seen you in a range of performances, from streetwise screw up to family man.
SP: The first step is to be that guy. You have to have all those natural things that come with the role already. But when things start to get sour you need the training to rely on. You have to have it like an ace in your pocket.
I was sitting there doing a scene where I was ‘dying’ on the floor and I had been lying on a floor for about and hour and half and when they did a camera rehearsal, the actor came up and went ‘1-2-3-4 I declare a thumb war’ instead of saying the dialogue because you don’t want to use up the dialogue. We were going to basically make it up, so we didn’t have any dialogue to say. But that might have gotten really up to my head had I not done all that preparation. Since I had all that preparation it became even better. Sometimes you have to have something to fall back on, right?
What are your last few downloads? We’re talking music now.
SP: I love talking music! I don’t know about you but I have over 5,000 songs on my iTunes. I can’t listen to the radio; I just can’t have it. Here you go: “Crazy on You by Heart.” “Pretty Eyes” Stephanie Deveilliers, somebody I met on Twitter I supported. “Graffiti the World” by Rehab, which is kind of an older hip-hop song that somebody recommended to me because they might have heard that I had written graffiti, once or twice. The last song I bought that was brilliant was “Andrew in Drag” by the Magnetic Field. It’s one of the funniest songs I’ve probably heard in a year. And one the saddest songs I purchased in the last couple years is “Oysters” by Meshell Ndegeocello. It’s just about taking everything you love and wishing on that shooting star.
For information on Seth Peterson’s upcoming projects, check out his Twitter timeline @sethpetersonla.