Read our exclusive interview with actor Daniel Raymont, who plays struggling writer Ray Wyatt in the new comedy ‘Buzzkill.’ The film, which was directed and co-written by Steven Kampmann, follows Ray as he becomes upset that his girlfriend, Sara (played by Reiko Aylesworth), wants him to grow up; his landlord wants him to pay his rent; and his girl on the side, Nicole (portrayed by Krysten Ritter), wants him to loosen up. Deciding that he’s finished with life, he hits the road.
Ray’s life changes when he meets the notorious serial killer known as the “Karaoke Killer” (played by Darrell Hammond). After stealing Ray’s car and manuscript, the Karaoke Killer begins quoting his work. As Ray begins to obtain fame and fortune, he suddenly disappears.
Raymont discusses with us, among other things, what convinced him to take on the role of Ray, and what it was like working with Kampmann and his co-stars. The actor also reveals details about his upcoming guest appearance on the NBC musical comedy-drama series ‘Smash.’
ShockYa (SY): In ‘Buzzkill,’ you play lead character Ray Wyatt. What was it about the script and Ray that convinced you to appear in the movie?
Daniel Raymont (DR): Well, I was interested in the story about the writer who wanted to stay true to his own dreams without compromising. I thought it was a well-written story-that’s one of the first things that appealed to me.
I felt very privileged to be part of such a special cast, also. When I saw who else was cast in the movie, I did some research on the director, Steven Kampmann. (I was drawn to the fillm) between the story, the cast and the director, with his experience. I really liked the fact also that in addition to having a film background, he’s also a professor. He teaches screenwriting, so he has an interesting background, and that made for an interesting experience making a movie.
SY: Speaking of Steven, ‘Buzzkill’ is his second directorial effort, after the 1988 drama ‘Stealing Home.’ What was it like working with him?
DR: He was great. He felt like a kindred spirit. He was very funny, very receptive to adjusting and changing the scene a little bit. He was a lot of fun to work with, and funny.
Sometimes when you work with a director who has acting experience, or has done acting (like Kampmann has), it can be very nice. They know what it’s like being in front of the camera. So the experience can be very smooth.
SY: Since Steven also co-wrote the screenplay for ‘Buzzkill’ (with Matt Smollon), did that make it easier for you to work with him as a director?
DR: Yes, because we met several times beforehand. Before I said yes to the movie, we wanted to meet. I think it’s important because if you’re going to spend a month-and-a-half, 16-hour days with the same person, that you’re going to like them. You want to make sure that you understand each other and speak the same language.
I think because he wrote ‘Buzzkill,’ it wasn’t just a job for him. This was something that he had been working on. He had a co-writer, and they were both present on the set all the time. It’s nice, it’s a privilege to have the writer on the set.
Sometimes if you’re making a painting, and you have all the colors, but you’re missing a color, it’s not a complete painting. I think having the writer there is very nice, because you can fit in the last color to fill in the beautiful painting.
SY: Once you accepted the role of Ray, what was the preparation process like before you began shooting the movie?
DR: Well, there was a misunderstanding, I guess, which is why Ray is English. (laughs) I got a note saying it’s okay for him to be English. I didn’t completely understand it, but I just decided to go with it.
I think when you’re going to portray someone from a different culture, it’s really important to test-drive the character in real life, especially when you’re going to do improvisation. It’s important to understand the rhythm of the language.
The Brits speak a different language then we do. It’s English, but the rhythm is different. Sometimes they punctuate different words, and they have a slightly different sense of humor. So I really had to immerse myself into that. Also, the music is very telling about a culture.
But at the same time, Ray has dreams, desires, fantasies. I think the most important thing was to sell the screenplay and sell it. Unfortunately, his girlfriend didn’t have that dream. I think it’s a human story about what happens to someone who pursues his dream, and it doesn’t turn out the way he wanted it to. The people who started out with him for part of the journey, some of them disappear, and others come back later.
SY: Was there a lot of improv on the set, or did you mainly stick to the script?
DR: There was quite a bit of improv. In the car scenes with Krysten Ritter, we did quite a bit of improvisation, which was wonderful. For me, I’m very comfortable with the improv. Most of the people involved in the film have Second City experience, including myself.
That lends to a certain flexibility, to be able to complement the scene, and maybe add to something that’s not there by exploring where it goes. There are some actors who are more comfortable with improv, and there are others who become very rigid. But everybody on ‘Buzzkill’ was quite receptive.
SY: Speaking of Krysten, what was your working relationship with her like, and Darrell Hammond as well?
DR: Oh, it was terrific. It was a pleasure to work with Krysten and Darrell. It was very nice, they were very respectful, very professional people. With Krysten, I think I worked with her for two or three days. My first day shooting was with Kristen. I think the first day of shooting, everybody, including the crew and the cast, are getting used to the rhythm. But it went really well.
With Darrell, he’s a very serious actor. He was very much into the character. It was fun working with both of them. With Krysten, you look at her career, she’s on fire. I’m so happy that she’s so busy, and she has her own TV show now (ABC’s sitcom ‘Apartment 23’).
SY: ‘Buzzkill’ has received several awards, including Best Feature Comedy and Best Director at the Big Easy Film Festival. It has also been named as an Official Selection at such film festivals as the Hollywood Film Festival and the Portland Underground Film Festival. What is the feeling like, knowing the movie is being accepted and receiving acclaim?
DR: It’s a nice feeling, because you do some work, and you never know if someone’s going to see it. All you can do is experience what you’re experiencing, and enjoy the beauty of making a movie. Have fun, do your best that you can do. But you never know if anyone’s going to see it. So the fact that it made it to some film festivals and received some awards is fantastic.
There’s one experience we had in the Philadelphia International Film Festival, I think. They pride themselves on showing the movies in unusual places. ‘Buzzkill’ was shown in a beer brewery. Everyone sits down, and there’s about 75 people, to full capacity.
They’re about to start the movie, and the machines are very loud. We turn the lights off, and ask to the manager of the brewery, can you turn the machines off? He said, no, we can’t do that, because the beer will go bad. (laughs) So here we were, in a situation where you could barely hear the movie, but people stayed, nobody left, and everybody loved it.
It’s nice when it goes to the film festivals. It’s even nice when we speak to the people afterward, and see their reactions. Their reactions have been really positive. It’s very gratifying that people can see what you make, and even more gratifying when they love it.
SY: You’re also set to portray Sebastian in the upcoming episode ‘The Cost of Art,’ in the NBC comedy-drama-musical series ‘Smash.’ What was it like working on the show, and are there any details you can share about the episode?
DR: Yes. Sebastian is an art gallery owner, and it was a wonderful experience. I have a small, little scene with Anjelica Huston. So that is an amazing privilege to work with someone like her, who is very nice to work with.
I’m very excited to see the show. I don’t actually own a television, so I will have to see it with somebody else. But I hear fantastic things about it and everybody involved in it, and I can’t wait to see it.
SY: Besides ‘Smash,’ you have appeared on several television series, including ‘The Naked Brothers Band’ and ‘Home James.’ Do you have a preference of one medium over the other?
DR: Well, I love the idea in ‘Buzzkill’ that you get to go on a journey for a month-and-a-half, really working with the same people. With independent movies, it’s not like people are getting paid a lot of money. They’re not doing it for the money, they’re doing it for the love of creating the movie.
TV is fun, but it’s a brief experience. ‘Home James’ was seven weeks. It wasn’t an easy experience, because it was seven weeks of filming from 5pm to 5 in the morning. Imagine that for seven weeks. It’s like emergency room doctors who work at night, you have to force your body (laughs) to sleep from 5 in the morning to whenever you’re able to sleep.
I think I prefer film, because most of the films I’ve done have been road-type movies. I’ve had the great privilege of shooting a movie in Iceland called ‘The Good Heart’ with Brian Cox. It was a fun, fantastic experience, because film affords you the experience of learning about another culture. I knew nothing about Iceland, except for Bjork, before filming ‘The Good Heart.’ I fell very much in love with Iceland, it’s a magical, beautiful country.
Written by: Karen Benardello