Protagonists are meant to inspire and encourage people to courageously commit noble acts, but some of television and film’s most noteworthy heroes instead garner attention for their most illogical ideas on how to improve their worlds. Some audiences balk at the inhumanity, pessimism and amorality that these anti-heroes bestow on their supporting characters. However, the new crime comedy television series, ’24 Hour Rental,’ is actually encouraging its viewers to laugh at life’s most challenging situations that those very unethical protagonists continuously face. One of the show’s ensemble cast members, Michael Biehn, is enthusiastically urging the public to welcome the series’ black comedy take that not all leaders admirably support those they’re meant to protect.
Independent film distribution company XLrator Media acquired the U.S. distribution rights to the Canadian series from it production company, Reel One Entertainment. The distribution company’s first episodic show premiered its initial 13 half-hour episodes, which were all directed and executive produced by showrunner George Mihalka, this fall exclusively on XLrator Media’s MACABRE Collection on Hulu.
’24 Hour Rental’ follows former Mafia boss Tracker (Romano Orzari), who having barely avoided early retirement in a shallow grave, now operates a seedy video store. Struggling to stay afloat in the Internet age, Tracker runs his shop as a front for a host of petty crimes, from fencing jewelry to peddling drugs and renting illegal videos to his loyal customers for 24 hours, all in hopes of returning to power.
With the help of his associates and employees, including Ace (Adam Kenneth Wilson), Floyd (Aaron Berg), Buzz (Biehn), J.R. (Gavin Crawford), Sam (Marc Senior) and new hire Sarah (Kate Ross), Tracker hopes he can combine his profits from the store and his illegal enterprises to pay off his debt to his previous colleague, ruthless Mafia mastermind, Khvisto (Vlasta Vrana). With little time left to pay the relentless Khvisto back, Tracker must determine what he’s willing to sacrifice, in order save his life.
Biehn took the time recently to talk about starring as Buzz in ’24 Hour Rental’ during an exclusive phone interview. Among other things, the actor discussed that he was drawn to play Buzz on the television series because he appreciated the story and character’s humor, as he hasn’t starred in many projects in the comedy genre throughout his career; how there wasn’t much room for improvising on the set, but he thought his co-stars naturally infused the script and their characters with their own senses of humor; and how, through his production company, Blanc Biehn Productions, he believes in working with young talent on low-budget films, in an effort to give them the opportunity to write and direct, and work their way up.
ShockYa (SY): You star as Buzz on the first season of the new comedy crime show, ’24 Hour Rental.’ What interested you in portraying an associate of the show’s main character, former Mafia boss Tracker? How did you become involved in working on the show?
Michael Biehn (MB): Well, I’ve only done two other comedies in my entire career. I’m not usually thought of as funny, just based on the movies I’ve starred in throughout my career. I’m known for playing more intense roles, like soldiers and bad guys. When I first read, and was offered, this comedy, I thought it was outrageously and politically incorrect. But at the same time, I also thought it was funny.
Bill Burr is my favorite comedian right now, and I also enjoy Louis C.K. I just love laughing, and being around people who are funny. All the actors on the show are either stand-up comics or comedians. I was in (the 1998 comedy,) ‘Susan’s Plan’ with Dan Aykroyd, which was great. Being around funny people is a lot of fun.
When I read the script for the show, I knew I would be around funny people, and have fun making it. I don’t often get the chance to be around funny people, which is why I did it. All of the other actors on the show were so funny, and I enjoyed being around that humor. So I didn’t really have to be funny myself-I just had to be this drunk ex-cop who’s at the end of his life and withering away.
SY: ’24 Hour Rental’ features a diverse cast, including Romano Orzari, Adam Kenneth Wilson, Aaron Berg, Vlasta Vrana, Mike Smith and Gavin Crawford. How did you build your working relationships with your co-stars, especially since the series features an ensemble cast that plays such diverse characters?
MB: Well, working on the show really wasn’t any different from any acting in any movie I’ve done before, or collaborating with other actors I’ve worked with before. Everyone who’s involved in a movie, whether they’re an actor, the director or a crew member, want it to be successful. Everyone who worked on the show was very easy to work with, and very funny.
I also thought the script was very funny, so there wasn’t much improvisation. If anything, I thought there was sometimes too much humor, and it could have been pulled back. For me, working on a drama is so different than this type of comedy. But for the show, I didn’t have to be funny; I just had to play this broken-down cop who has these weird fetishes, and is also an alcoholic.
You can play comedy in two different kinds of ways. You can either be like Robin Williams or Louis C.K., and be really funny. Or you can just be the straight man in those situations, and that’s what I did for the show. So it was an easy role for me, because the rest of the cast was doing all the work and comedy around me. I was just watching it, as I was the straight man.
SY: George Mihalka, who served as the series’ showrunner and one of its executive producers, also collaborated on its story with its writer, Al Kratina, and directed all 13 of its episodes. What was the experience like for you working with George, who helmed all of the crime comedy’s shows, and was so involved in the series’ development?
MB: I absolutely love George. He’s an extremely knowledgeable and talented guy. He’s really informed about the film and television industries, including directing and working with actors. He also about a lot about history in general. He’s a very classy guy and a smart director, and he’s full of energy. He directed ‘My Bloody Valentine’ 34 years ago, and he had that great energy going on back then.
He’s been working ever since, and he always knows exactly what he wants. Sometimes if I did try to do a little improvising, or drop a line I didn’t think was necessary, he would immediately pick up on the fact that I wasn’t following his vision. He would say, ‘Michael, you dropped that line there, so let’s make sure we pick it up on the next take.’
The show is really his creation, along with the writer. It’s incredible that (Kratina) wrote all 13 episodes of the show. I have worked on other television series that have also had the same showrunner throughout the entire season. But there would be different writers for almost every episode. Sometimes a writer would work on two or three episodes per season. But (Kratina) worked on the script for every episode of our show, and I think he’s going to have a brilliant career.
SY: Besides being a television and film actor, you have also written and directed movies in recent years. Are you interested in returning to writing and helming in the future?
MB: I’m not really that interested in going back to those areas of filmmaking. There’s only one film that I really directed; my IMDb page isn’t exactly correct. The one movie I did direct was called ‘The Victim,’ and it was made for $120,000. It was a low-budget grindhouse film that taught me how to make Roger Corman-type of films.
I have previously worked in the genre with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino (Biehn starred in the directors’ 2007 double feature horror film, ‘Grindhouse,’ in Rodriguez’s ‘Planet Terror’ segment). So I thought I’d give directing an exploitation movie a try. So I did, and I would certainly give the idea of directing again, but not under the same circumstances.
I wrote (‘The Victim’) in 12 days, and while I was writing it, I was also doing pre-production on it. That’s not the way you’re supposed to do things; you’re supposed to have finished the script before you go into pre-production. But I was casting the film, finding locations, working on the wardrobe and getting transportation as I was also writing it. I then rolled into the 12-day shoot. There were circumstances that led me to have to make the film that way.
But it was very demanding on me to write, direct, produce and star in a movie that only took about 24 days to make, from beginning to end. I did enjoy the experience, and I’m proud of the movie. The thing that was really great was that I was able to make all of the decisions. But if I was going to direct again, I don’t have the energy anymore to make another film that quickly.
I have a company (Blanc Biehn Productions) now, and we’ve made other movies. We’re continuing to make more movies like that. We have Angus Macfadyen in one of our projects (the horror film ‘She Rises’). We also just sold (the thriller) ‘Treachery’ to Anchor Bay, who we have a really good relationship with. We currently have two films with them. The budgets on the films that we work on with Anchor Bay are typically between $20,000 and $400,000.
Blanc Biehn Productions is basically my wife, Jennifer’s (Blanc), company. It has produced ‘Treachery,’ ‘The Victim’ and another film we’re working on, which is called ‘Hidden in the Woods.’
I don’t star in the movies as often as when I helped start the company. My name is still on the company, but Jennifer is now mainly running it. As long as we keep selling the movies, we’ll keep making them. But I don’t star in the films as often as I used in, as we have a young (eight-month-old) son.
I did just shoot a movie (the thriller ‘Shadow’) with Jonathan Rhys Meyers, however, down in Atlanta. There is a lot of production going on in Georgia now, as Hollywood is building studios there. I think there’s more production going on in Georgia than anywhere else in the United States, besides Los Angeles. Working with Jonathan on the film was fun.
But I don’t like working for other people that much anymore, so I like working at our company. Jennifer also loves working at the company. It’s like a miniature Roger Corman situation. Even though he has made about 2,000 movies, and we have only made 10, we have the same idea.
We believe in working with young talent, and people who have never had the chance to make a movie before. A lot of people, like Rodríguez, have started out making low-budget films, and have worked their way up. So we give young people the opportunity to write and direct an opportunity and chance. It’s fun to watch them work, and work their way up.
SY: You shot all of your scenes for ’24 Hour Rental’ over the course of three weeks, and all 13 episodes of the series were filmed together, like a long film. What was the experience of creating your character of Buzz for all of the episodes he appears in during that timeframe?
MB: Well, for the majority of my career, including on television and in films, I haven’t shot in sequence, with (the 2011 sci-fi thriller) ‘The Divide’ being the only exception. But as long as you know the flow of the script and characters, you can make the project work. I worked hard and fast on this series, but I’m used to that. Filming is hard work.
One of my older sons was with me in Canada as we were shooting the show. He said, “Dad, you’re working 12-hour days.” I told him, “12-hour days are normal for a film crew, and a lot of times they go over that.” You’re always putting in a lot of hours, so I’m used to working quickly. I know the tricks of the trade, including learning dialogue and working at that quick pace. I look at it as entertainment-we’re not saving the world.
Written by: Karen Benardello