Persistently working outside of your identifiable and revered comfort zone, in an effort to fulfill your personal and professional goals, and prove to the world how adaptable and committed to your ambition you are, can be an equally daunting and liberating task. The main character in the action drama ‘Vendetta,’ esteemed Chicago detective Mason Danvers, who’s powerfully played by Dean Cain, proves that he’s so dedicated to his mission of avenging his wife’s murder that he’ll risk his own life and freedom to honor his allegiance to her. Cain, who’s best known for his role as Superman in the television series ‘Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,’ as well as numerous Hallmark films, also enthrallingly demonstrated how versatile he is in his own life by fully committing to the stunts-driven ‘Vendetta.’ The actor’s fans can witness his stunning transformation in the action film, which was helmed by twin filmmakers, Jen and Sylvia Soska, when it’s released on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD by Lionsgate Home Entertainment and WWE Studios on Tuesday.
‘Vendetta’ follows Mason as he finally catches and apprehends one of the city’s most dangerous criminals, Victor Abbot (Paul “The Big Show” Wight), who he has been determinately investigating in recent months. Mason and his partner and friend, Joel (Ben Hollingsworth), relish in their latest arrest, particularly since they were finally able to outwit the ruthless culprit. But their initial joy soon turns to dread and resentment when Victor is released from prison for lack of evidence. Mason’s intentions to start a family with his wife, Jocelyn (Kyra Zagorsky), are also dishearteningly defeated when Victor kills her in his quest for revenge against the detective for sending him to jail.
Against Joel’s advice, Mason decides to forgo his career and freedom in order to avenge Jocelyn’s murder. He takes justice upon himself and kills Victor’s brother, so that he can be sent to Stonewall Prison and serve his punishment alongside his nemesis. As he begins serving his time, and focuses on killing the man who murdered his Eklundwife, the former detective also learns that the prison’s warden, Snyder (Michael Eklund), is involved with Victor’s criminal endeavors. While the warden invites Mason into his operation, after deciding his skills would be beneficial to the prison’s illegal activities, the still respected former officer also becomes intent on finally bringing a complete end to the justice system’s imbalance of power.
Cain generously took the time to talk about starring in ‘Vendetta’ during an exclusive phone interview. Among other things, the actor discussed how he was drawn to play Mason in the action drama, as he not only appreciated the fact that the former detective had nothing to lose as he set out on his quest for avenging his wife’s murder, but also enjoyed the physical aspects of the character and story; how he loved working with the Soska Sisters on the movie, because not only do they love the filmmaking process, but they also support their actors’ performances; and how he also appreciated his working relationships with his co-stars, including building the rivalries, and developing the fights, between his emotionally-driven protagonist and Wight and Eklund’s at-times narcissist antagonists.
ShockYa (SY): You play Mason Danvers, a celebrated detective who purposefully gets himself arrested so that he can seek revenge on Victor Abbott, the man who killed his wife, in the action film, ‘Vendetta.’ What was it about the script, as well as the character overall, that convinced you to take on the role?
Dean Cain (DC): Well, I was very excited to play a character who has nothing to lose, and has a very clear focus on what he’s about to go do. There’s no question about what he wants to get done. (laughs) So that aspect was a lot of fun to play. To be able to play a character who’s that angry and bent on revenge is fun as an actor. It’s also an awesome physical role, which I also like and am good at playing. I also liked the directors, the Soska twins-I thought they were fantastic. I was very excited to work with them, and they did a great job with the film.
SY: While many action films are directed by men, ‘Vendetta’ is unique in the fact that it was helmed by the Soska twins, Jen and Sylvia, who you just mentioned. What was your working experience like with them both as you were filming the thriller?
DC: I’ll work with those girls anytime I can. The directors are the storytellers, and are the ones who are pulling all the strings. They work together brilliantly. They compliment each other, but they also argue. They do everything because they love the filmmaking process, and getting stuff on camera.
They get more excited than we actors do. But it’s really nice when we finish a take, and they’re jumping up and down and cheering; as an actor, it’s amazing to get that reaction from the directors. So I’ll work with them anytime I can, and I hope I get the chance to do so. I hope they hire me again, because they’re pretty brilliant.
SY: In the beginning of the film, Mason is caring and protective of his wife, Jocelyn, and is determined to protect society in his duties as a detective. But after she dies, he becomes so filled with rage that all he can focus on is carrying out his vendetta against Mason. What was the process of emotionally transforming Mason from a respected detective in the beginning of the movie to an unrelenting criminal, while maintaining his relatability?
DC: Well, you never get to shoot things in complete chronological order, but we were able to shoot some of it chronologically. We shot the beginning scenes first, which was great, and then I was able to cut my hair afterward, as I evolved into who Mason became.
In the process, it’s important to be able to change from the original character into the new version, and show how Mason ends up in jail. Once he’s sent to prison, he became a different guy from the police officer he was in the beginning of the film. It was great to be able to change his look and what he was like and his demeanor all the way around. We were able to shoot some of the film chronologically, so that really worked out well.
SY: Once inside the prison after he’s convicted, Mason both physically defends himself against, and purposefully sets out to attack, Victor and the other prisoners who have wronged him. With ‘Vendetta’ being an action thriller that’s driven by stunts and produced by WWE Studios, what was the process of creating the stunts for the film?
DC: I was a little concerned it was going to be too much work. I was worried when I saw there was a lot of fighting, and I was hoping I wouldn’t have to do it all. But once we got in the process, and started filming the fights, I did every single stunt.
Jason Day, who was my stunt double, is a great fighter, and I wouldn’t want to fight him in real life. He was fantastic, and the entire stunt department really taught me well. So I did every single stunt and fight. Jason did some of the fights, as well, so they had more takes to choose from, between the two of us. There are very few times in the film where I can tell who was actually doing the stunts. I’d look and think, is that me or Jason? That happened a couple times, and I wasn’t sure. (laughs) But most of the time, they used me, because they had me do every single stunt, which was a lot of work.
SY: Throughout the film, there’s a continuous power struggle between Mason and Victor, from the detective endlessly trying to build a case that will permanently send the criminal to prison, to the two trying to maintain control of authority once they’re in jail together. How did you build your working relationship with Paul Wight, who plays Victor, to showcase that constant battle between them?
DC: Paul’s a mountain of a man. (laughs) I know it seems cliche or obvious, but I’ve seen big guys in my life, and he makes all of them seem small. For such a big, strong man who’s a great athlete, he’s the nicest guy in the world. They have to be natural actors to pull off the things they have to do in the WWE, and he is a good actor. He has a long career ahead of him as an actor. Besides being so large, which is a clear character trait in this film, he’s a very good actor and a great guy.
So it was great to work with him, especially in the fight sequences, which are like a dance. If there was anything he or I didn’t feel comfortable doing, we’d suggest to try it another way. We’d take a break, and our fight coordinators would try a couple different things, and sometimes things would turn out better. So it was a great collaboration in that sense.
As far as our characters went, it was great fun developing them together, and developing that rivalry on set. We’d always be talking smack to each other, and always having fun together. He’s a great guy and co-star, and he’s going to have a huge acting career.
SY: Once he arrives in prison, Mason discovers that there’s a criminal enterprise that aims to protect certain inmates, and is led by Warden Snyder, who’s played by Michael Eklund. Why was it important to showcase that Mason still maintains some of his former detective instincts as he tries to dismantle the enterprise, while also serving his own vendetta?
DC: Michael Eklund’s a gifted actor. I’ve worked with him in the past, and I’ve seen that he can be both a character actor and a lead actor-he can do it all. When I first heard that Michael was playing the warden, I thought it was an odd choice, but he can do anything. (laughs) Michael’s so fun and good, and he becomes such an evil and terrible person as the warden. It was great to have him as the ultimate bad guy. He’s such a talented actor with such range, he can play almost any of the roles. He’s a wonderful bad guy. He goes full force into any kind of character he chooses to play, which is great.
SY: What was the process of filming ‘Vendetta’ independently, particularly since it’s a stunts and action-driven thriller?
DC: I like starring in independent films, because I want my directors to be able to tell the story. Sometimes when you work on studio films, you have too many cooks in the kitchen. WWE was great about letting the Soska girls doing the things they wanted. There were fights over different creative things, but they really held their guns and did a great job. So when you have a filmmaker who’s allowed to make a film that they want to make, I think it’s a great situation, and that’s pretty much what happened with the Soska girls.
SY: With a majority of the thriller being set in the prison where Mason is sent after he’s convicted, what was the process of shooting in his cell and throughout the jail? Did you actually film on location in an actual prison, and if so, how did that influence your performance?
DC: We actually filmed in an old, abandoned insane asylum (Riverview Hospital) that was really creepy, and they really did it up to make it look like a prison. Our set decorators and production team really did a great job of turning the mental hospital into a prison. What they were able to do with the set was really smart and clever, and worked so well for the story we were trying to tell.
SY: The action movie (received a) theatrical and On Demand (in June). Are you personally a fan of watching films on VOD, and why do you think the platform is beneficial to independent films like ‘Vendetta?’
DC: Televisions have become so great, especially with the screens becoming so large, and the sound systems improving. But going to the theater is an event, as you have a huge screen, and get to watch the film with so many other people. I enjoy going to the theater to watch movies, but a lot of the films I watch now are at home. So I love the fact that people can immediately watch movies on VOD at home the same day they’re released in theaters. But the preferred way for me to watch films is in theaters on the 40-foot screen-you can really take everything in. It’s completely different than watching movies on your television at home, which is still a great experience.
SY: Besides ‘Vendeta,’ do you have any other upcoming projects lined up that you can discuss? Are you interested in starring in another action film like this one?
DC: I would love to do another action film like this one. But I have so many projects going on right now. I (recently) finished filming the third season of the television series ‘Hit the Floor,’ which should begin airing soon, I hope. (It has been reported that the drama will premiere its third season on VH1 in early 2016.) I’m also playing the foster father (Jeremiah Danvers) of Supergirl in the new CBS series, ‘Supergirl,’ which is set to premiere in October. So I have been keeping busy. (laughs)
SY: Also speaking of the Soska Sisters, and your interaction working with them on the film, are you interested in directing a feature in the future, or are you more focused on acting?
DC: The great thing about being in the film business is that you don’t have to choose to just do one thing. I’ve been a screenwriter for 25 years, and have written all kinds of things. I continue to write as I act, and both are a lot of fun. I also enjoy directing, but it’s a lot more work-the director works harder than anybody else. I’m the son of a film director, so I’ve been involved in all aspects of this business since I was a little boy. So I certainly would like to direct again, as well as continue writing. I also love producing and acting, so I’m going to continue doing everything.
Written by: Karen Benardello