Embracing your true emotions, without fearing the effects of judgment, is a powerful sentiment held by both troubled characters and daring actions who are intent on taking control of their destines. Versatile and talented actor, Robert LaSardo, who has made a name for himself by portraying criminals and gang members, is powerfully highlighting his natural ability to rise above villainous stereotypes in all of his roles.

The intellectual film and television performer has notably embraced the creative freedom that independent projects have offered him throughout his career. As a result, he has expertly shown how allowing actors to share their personal input on their roles can help authenticate the human and life experience of their characters and their projects’ overall storytelling.

LaSardo has intriguingly moved past the judgment that can potentially plague him as an actor who regularly embraces cruel criminals. His benevolent portrayals in his projects show the struggle within the human experience that arise from the disturbing side of humanity. The actor’s natural ability to emphasize the underlying goodwill and altruism in his characters is sure to be highlighted in his upcoming horror film, ‘Darkest Night.’

The movie reunites LaSardo with fellow actor Shaun Gerardo, who was recently named the Executive Vice President of the new production company, Darkest Night Enterprises, Inc. The company is currently working on ‘Darkest Night,’ which will serve as the business’ first and flagship film. The two actors will be reuniting on the movie after Gerardo produced this year’s horror thriller, ‘Bleach,’ in which LaSardo stars as a supporting character.

‘Darkest Night’ will focus on the fears and insecurities that are tearing a family apart. The father believes the end of days is coming, as people are getting murdered in a nearby forest. LaSardo plays one of the villains in the horror film.

During a recent exclusive interview over the phone, LaSardo generously took the time to talk about starring in ‘Darkest Knight.’ Among other things, the actor discussed how he was drawn to star in the movie, as he was interested in reuniting with Gerardo and writer-producer, Michael Erickson, who’s also involved in Darkest Night Enterprises, Inc. LaSardo also mentioned that in general, he embraces working on independent films, as he finds that many of the filmmakers he works with on them have the same mindset as he does, and want to maintain integrity within the stories they tell.

LaSardo began the interview by discussing how he became involved in appearing in ‘Darkest Night.’ The actor explained that he was working “in Las Vegas, and I met Shaun Gerardo and Michael Erickson. After having some conversations with Shaun and Michael, I felt comfortable.”

The performer also noted that while working on movies, especially those that are made independently, everyone involved can honestly talk with each other about the project. “You can truly share your thoughts on films and life experiences. It can be inspiring and encouraging to realize you’re not alone in your creative pursuits,” LaSardo explained.

“It’s probably always been this way, but sometimes the human element can be removed from the equation. So in those instances, films can become pieces of entertainment that remove concern for the audiences’ liberation,” the actor also mentioned.

“These types of movies can take away various life experiences that people can relate to while they’re watching them. The films can instead focus on the tearing down of interpersonal relationships and the mechanics of life. They can also take away the feeling of soul that’s necessary for evolution that comes with the exploration of creativity,” LaSardo also stated as he continued to reflect on the importance of maintaining moments of inspiration in all creative projects.

The performer then emphasized the importance of being able to also entertain people “through storytelling in a way that raises the stakes. I think it’s dangerous if we only exploit the human experience over and over again.”

LaSardo added that as a result, “I’m always relieved and excited to know that there are other people out there who feel the same way, or at least want to maintain some level of integrity within the stories that they tell. That can help authenticate the human and life experience through the characters and storytelling. These types of people can better understand the world around them.”

So while speaking to Gerardo and Erickson, the actor felt as though his colleagues “share a lot of the same feelings that I have about telling stories that are meaningful. After my experience of meeting them in Las Vegas, and working on another project that Shaun had produced (‘Bleach’), he presented me with this new project, ‘Darkest Night.'”

After speaking with the two producers about the new film, LaSardo then read and enjoyed the script. “The story was really emotional and provocative, and was I drawn to it based on how I saw it,” he explained.

“I think if you have a good work experience with writers, directors, producers and actors who you feel are really passionate about what they’re doing,” the desire to continue working with them continuously becomes stronger, the performer noted. “Each time you find them along the journey, you find that they always improving their creative experience. I think it’s necessary to continue to move forward with people, whether it’s people who you have worked with before, or you’re meeting new people who also have the same work ethic,” LaSardo stated as he continued discussing the experience of collaborating with Gerardo and Erickson.

“It’s my understanding that Shaun and Michael will be collaborating on a variety of levels on ‘Darkest Night,” the actor also revealed. “I think Shaun’s going to be acting in the film, and he’s also going to be producing it. I also know that Michael wrote the script, and he’s also going to be acting in the film. So it will be interesting to see how they both multi-task on this very ambitious project.”

LaSardo added that with ‘Darkest Night,’ he feels “this will be the first time that we all stand on the stage together. Michael was also a producer on ‘Bleach,’ so we’re now moving into a new experience together. They’re introducing themselves as creative collaborators.”

The performer added that he thinks “there’s an advantage to working with people who are geared toward improving what they do. I’ve worked with several directors in the past who I’ve watched grow in their directorial capacity. The scope of their visions, and how they execute it, is larger now. So for myself, it’s always nice to observe that from the point-of view of an actor, since I’m not a director.” LaSardo also humbly mentioned that he’s “grateful that they continue to invite me back, and continue to want to work with me.”

The actor also noted that he’s appreciative that Gerardo also wanted to work with him again. “Shaun had observed what I had done. During my experience as an actor on the set of ‘Bleach,’ he was impressed with how serious I was about the character, and my overall work ethic,” LaSardo revealed. He added that “There was some dialogue that was thrown into my lap, and I had to get into quickly, and he appreciated my efforts.

“I think it’s really cool to be allowed, as an actor, to use variety with your characters, especially in the independent realm of filmmaking,” the actor also divulged as he then began discussing the experience of working on independent films. “I think the majority of the films that I have worked on in the recent past have been indies.”

LaSardo also described ho independent movies “have provided me with much more room, creatively, to grow as an actor, and take risks. The filmmakers generally aren’t dealing with being locked up by the dictates of studio policy. You can take those risks, because there’s less of a fear of upsetting the people who are financing the film.

“I generally find that the people I work with on independent films are working with, or are, the executive producers. So there isn’t much of a gap between the choices they make creatively, and what those who have the money decide how the product should be executed and presented,” the performer emphasized.

“So independent films allow me as an actor to have much more of a creative range, and take chances and risks. I’m allowed to talk and ask questions. I can ask, ‘Can I make a suggestion?’ They’ll say, ‘Sure, Robert. What are your feelings and thoughts about the character?'” LaSardo noted as he stated his appreciation for having creative involvement in the independent films he stars in.

“Whether they agree or not, the dialogue is still there. You’re allowed to speak, without the fear of retribution that will come down from people who abuse their power, and don’t allow for growth,” the actor further explained. “They can propagate stereotypes over and over again. So there isn’t any opportunity for an actor to authenticate anything. As a result, there’s very little character development.”

LaSardo further detailed the differences between independent and commercial filmmaking as having a metaphorical gap the size of the Grand Canyon between them. “So independent filmmaking is welcomed, especially from what I observed, especially lately. The range of opportunities and character types that I normally would not be allowed to portray, based on the way I look,” has changed in recent years.

The performer added that he thinks “Independent filmmakers tend to be much more ambitious, and less rigid in their vision. Their vision tends to be much broader and less condemning. I think if you want to communicate a story, no matter what the genre and story is, whether it’s horror, a thriller or a drama, there has to be some insight present. If you want to make the audience laugh, think or experience any range of emotions, I think there has to be some insight present, in order for that to actually happen.

“Otherwise, you’re just using sounds and visuals just to evoke people, rather than to communicate something deeper than that. You can utilize those elements, because they’re necessary for the medium,” LaSardo explained, before adding, “but you have to be careful. Otherwise what you’re communicating is hollow, and there isn’t any substance.”

LaSardo also admitted that he likes “when independent filmmakers are courageous enough to communicate and share their particular perceptions of whatever the storytelling is. They’re not afraid of the reaction” to their projects, as they’re more concerned about sharing their vision. “I think that fearless approach to storytelling within the medium of film is necessary, in order to keep it vital.”

The open collaboration between filmmakers and their actors is so important that LaSardo added that he thinks filmmaking can’t successfully work without it. He explained that when directors and the cast sign onto a project, “you never know what you’re going to get. You have to be optimistic, even if those around you aren’t completely immersed in being concerned with the task. But sooner or later they will be, if they see everyone around them is completely committed to the film.”

LaSardo added that he thinks “It’s very nice when actors are open. It’s also valuable when the director and whoever else is putting the project together can allow the creative process to flow, before the actual execution of the work. That way, it can be an experience that’s not driven by egos or fear. So the more you find yourself in situations with actors who are open to that, the better the results will be.”

But the performer noted that “that’s not always the case, because you’re going to come across people who are very attached to their methods. So they may not be open to suggestions or explorations.” As a result, LaSardo added that “I’ve noticed that each film production has its own personality. So you accentuate the positive, and focus on whatever will allow development and exploration.”

But that process can be difficult, the actor pointed out, because “some people have worked in the commercial filmmaking or television realms for so long. So they’ll bring some of that mentality with them. Sometimes, making the transition from the commercial filmmaking world to the independent world is not always easy,” he explained.

“So you may have to work with people who are attached to their methods, and they say, ‘I do it this way, and this is how I see my character.’ They may not always have respect for the writer and everyone else who brought the project together,” LaSardo also revealed.

“At the end of the day, I have to surrender what I’m doing to the people who created it. Unless I wrote a project, I’m not going to tell a writer or director, ‘This is how I see my character, so I’m going to do it this way,'” the actor noted. “I’ll make suggestions to the filmmakers and other actors, and ask, ‘In this scene, can we try this?’ It’s nice when the writer, director and other actors are open to that exploration.” LaSardo added that if the filmmakers tell him, “‘That’s great, but let’s maybe we should go this way,’ I’ll listen. You yield to the chain of command.

“I think that the director’s task is to ultimately look at the entire story. The actors also have to see every moving piece on the board, and consider how they relate to everything else,” the performer explained. “It can be fine at times if actors are too short-sided to see the overall piece, and only see themselves and what they’re doing. But they also have to step back, and be able to let go of what they think they have to do sometimes.”

LaSardo also revealed that he still occasionally works “with people in the independent realm who have an ego, and always say, ‘I think it should be this way.'” But he feels that “it’s so important to allow the people who constructed the stage for you to stand on to have the right to make the final choice. Later on, you may realize that they were right, and there was something you missed.

“So I think the best working situation is to be around actors who are courageous, humble and open to the possibility of growth in their own work. It’s important for them to see and understand that the directors and writers are the ones who are creating a situation of learning,” the actor further emphasized.

“If there’s loss of respect for who’s running the show, it can become quite messy. So the challenge is to be respectful to the craft itself, as well as the writers, directors and actors, and appreciate all of the variables that go into filmmaking,” LaSardo revealed. “Even if you don’t always agree, you still have to respect it and yield to those who may know things that you don’t know.”

The performer further divulged that “From what I’ve observed on mainstream and commercial studio film and television projects, there’s very little room for true collaboration. You can very tactfully make suggestions to the directors and writers, but if you say the wrong thing, the consequences can be quite dire.”

LaSardo then began discussing why he was interested in not only starring in, but also producing, ‘Darkest Night.’ “In the past, I’ve observed directors as they’ve cast films that I have been involved in. It’s so frustrating to see the potential that’s present, and know that the directors aren’t aware of it. They don’t always see the same things you see.” The performer added that “Since they’re trained to be directors, they don’t always understand the process from the point-of-view of acting. So they don’t always know how to direct actors properly.

“So I’m grateful for what Shaun has described, and the frustrations I’ve expressed to him. He’s understood them and has been sympathetic and open to my input,” LaSardo stated as he further described his working relationship with Gerardo.

“Sometimes I feel like I have to put the mute button on, because I’m not allowed to speak or make suggestions. I’ve been in the industry, both on commercial and independent projects, long enough to watch many people attempt to build something, and they had great potential,” the actor revealed.

“But then in retrospect, I thought, if I could have been in the editing room and made suggestions, it could have helped the project,” LaSardo also mentioned. “I could have said, ‘Do we really need a scene like this?’

“Or, I could have told them, ‘We can develop the personal relationship between these characters a little more.’ Then people can care about them more later on. But if you’re going to gloss over that, the audience isn’t going to care. Then your product is going to suffer, and what you’re trying to communicate isn’t going to have as much impact,” the actor also noted.

“One of the reasons why I’m so excited to work with Shaun and Michael is that I feel as though they’re going to allow me to have a voice to help build something,” LaSardo revealed. “I’m looking to collaborate, and help assist in the experience. I hope that it will only make it better.”

The performer then mentioned that in addition to acting, he has also given thought to working behind the camera. “I have written a screenplay, which I have spent the last year working on. It’s very personal and meaningful to me. I would also like to be in a situation that I could ideally a director.”

LaSardo concluded the interview by explaining why he has been interested in working on horror films throughout his career. “From what I’ve observed in my own experiences, there seems to be less judgment when you make these types of films. These projects show you the disturbing side of humanity, and the struggle within the human experience. With that being the genesis of it, you’re not scrutinized as a human being.”

The actor also revealed that he has been warned about being typecast. “But I’ve also felt that so much of casting is typecasting. It can be the casting of the clean-cut individual, who can never do anything wrong, or casting someone based on them looking like they would be trouble in a dark alley.

“But life shows us to be careful about judging a book by it’s cover. That can be so deceiving. Just when you think you understand the concept of evil, it changes. So I think that people who are really intelligent, and have insight into how movies are made, understand this,” LaSardo further explained. “If they’re smart filmmakers, they’re not so quick to stereotype human beings.”

The performer added that “there’s less judgment when I make these genre films. There aren’t good guy and bad guys; everyone in the story is struggling, or facing some dilemma. So it’s always exciting for me to bring to life a character who can observe the other characters who are dealing with their own conflicts.

“So I think it’s dangerous when we polarize characters and say, ‘Everyone on this side is good, and everyone on this side is bad.’ Life doesn’t operate that way.’ So being able to work in the horror genre allows me to develop a character, without my hands being tied behind my back,” LaSardo added.

“The writing also reflects the characters I can play. The characters in these types of films have more intelligence. They’re not saying the same things over and over again,” the actor emphasized. “In American culture, you can get locked up in the stereotype. You can think, how many times have I read this story and character before? There’s no evolution, which can lead to extinction.”

So the performer feels that “horror films and thrillers that deal with the human conflict provide a more honest way of dealing with the struggle within a story. Like in ‘Darkest Night,’ Shaun communicated to me that the narrative deals with religious trappings. The fundamentalist extremists are blaming some culprit that is hiding in the shadows.”

LaSardo also pointed out that the film’s story “raises the question if that’s really true, or if it’s just in the mind of the perceiver. Are people manipulated by their own fears and insecurities to such extremes that they create the idea of the devil? They use that as a scapegoat to avoid coming to terms with their own evolution and whatever they’re dealing with. So it’s cool to be able to explore that, as people have always had to deal with fear and superstition, as well as the idea that something that’s lurking around is responsible for the things that are happening.

“But if we look in the mirror and are serious with ourselves, and also have the courage to face each other, we cope with something that’s not easy to deal with,” the actor also noted. “I think it’s genius if any filmmaker can deal with that, as that’s how people learn.”

Interview: Robert LaSardo Talks Darkest Night (Exclusive)

Written by: Karen Benardello

By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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