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In Don’t Breathe, you play the character of a blind man. What kind of preparation did it take?
I did a lot of reading and looking at photos, articles, and YouTube. There is plenty out there about the limitations of blindness, but the really useful stuff is about overcoming obstacles. So many people from so many avenues of life — students, athletes, artists, veterans— surpass the limitations that society has imposed on the blind. This was a positive place to begin. In my approach, it moved Blind Man past the stage of self-pity and victimisation to a place of empowerment and self-determination.
How challenging was it to portray the moral ambiguity of Blind Man, who has undergone personal tragedy but appears menacing to intruders?
I concentrated on the physical challenge of being blind. As far as Blind Man is concerned, from his point of view, there is not a lot moral ambiguity in the situation. He has arrived at his understanding of the world, a very dark view, and the actions that he takes are motivated by a compulsion to take a stand, to impose some order on his life, to not continue to be a victim of fate.
You have played many iconic characters on stage such as Colonel Nathan Jessup in A Few Good Men and Harold Loman in Death of a Salesman. Which are the characters that have impacted you?
I suppose every character leaves a mark on me. They are like my children. On any given day I may have a favourite, but in the end I love them all equally. Conversely, I can be frustrated or unhappy with my roles from time to time, and want to put them aside or not think about them. But I’m always drawn back to them because they are my responsibility.
You shot to international fame as Colonel Miles Quaritch, the antagonist in Avatar. How excited are you to reprise the part in the sequel?
Avatar was and continues to be a breathtaking adventure. Working with magnificent actors and crew, so many masters of their crafts, inevitably brings out the best efforts. Leading this extraordinary effort, of course, is James Cameron, who is, in my opinion, the Leonardo Da Vinci of our time. It is an honour and a challenge to be part of his workshop.
You have featured in popular television shows such as Crime Story and Terra Nova.
I love working in television. You tell a character’s story over a period of time, so there is room for incremental development as well as major changes. As the series progresses, there is an equation between the writing and the acting where they feed off each other. I also love the speed of television. It demands swift, and clear choices, and that is a good thing.
With Netflix and Amazon Prime around, how is television going to evolve in the coming years?
Making and watching television followed very stable and predictable patterns back in the day. With the arrival of the internet and the multitude of platforms, everything has changed. There is much more niche viewing now. I don’t pretend to know how things will evolve but it seems to me that the menu of what is available has vastly grown.
Don’t Breathe premieres on Sony PIX on June 14 at 9 PM.