Exclusive: Actor Michael Rodrick on ‘The River Murders'


Michael Rodrick has starred in more than his share of genre films and TV shows, from Charmed to 24 to this year's The River Murders. Just released on DVD, the film is about a homicide detective, played by Ray Liotta, investigating a series of murders in which he has an unusually high personal stake – all of the victims are his ex-girlfriends. Rodrick plays the film's antagonist, John Lee, a sociopath determined to atone for his sins, no matter what the cost. Check out my interview with Rodrick after the jump

How would you describe The River Murders?

The River Murders is an allegory. A story discussing much grander ideas and truths. The River Murders is in many ways a morality tale. The film takes on the issues of marriage, infidelity, premarital sex, promiscuity, childbirth, absentee fatherhood, faith, absolution and redemption.

I think that the story is unique because Ray Liotta's character must face the fact that all the women from his past, that he had "intimate relations" with, are now being systematically murdered.

What can you tell us about your character in the film?

My character John Lee is a prodigal son, a sociopath haunted by violent ecclesiastical visions of how to atone for his sins and the sins of others. He is obsessed with penance.  John Lee has a master plan to purge his world and this world from sin. 

How closely were you able to identify with John Lee?

I can't truly identify with sociopaths and serial killers. Through my research, most especially Killer Fiction by Gerard John Schaefer, I found that sociopaths, serial killers, rapists are devoid of feeling, incapable of feeling, and inflict pain on others as a means of sexual arousal.

What I did identify with was John Lee not knowing his father, the character of John Lee being haunted by not knowing that "part" of himself, his father's side of himself. There are generations and generations of American men who do not know their fathers and I wanted this performance to be a catharsis for those men.

What did you find most appealing about your role?

The most appealing part of the role was essentially playing a "Hannibal" character. Playing a charismatic Ted Bundy.  Switching dual personalities back and forth between ultra friendly to an empty shell of maniacal despair.  Speaking in tongues as the character preyed on women.

There are three very bold personalities in the film's cast – with Ray Liotta, Christian Slater and Ving Rhames. What was the atmosphere like on set?

The atmosphere on set was open, friendly, and inviting. The director, Rich Cowan created a sense of play. An atmosphere where you were free to create, push boundaries, set new parameters.

Ray Liotta was great. We talked about Jersey City a lot, I was born and raised there.  Ray's dad had an auto parts store in Jersey City near my house. Ray was great to me during the audition process. I will never forget him telling me to simplify my performance at the callbacks. Great great advice.

What did each of these actors bring to their role?

 Ray is a star. He knows how to "bring it." He is always right there in the moment, but he is also elevating that moment, vibrating the performance to a higher level.  He plays the strings of his instrument with ease. Christian Slater knows how to move his dialogue forward with such quickness and velocity. His command of delivering lines is great to watch. He is stellar with his line delivery. Ving Rhames is a  pro. He acts with such a calmness, like a Buddha of acting.

You've appeared in a number of thrillers, both in film and on TV. What is it about this genre that you most enjoy?

I enjoy the genre especially because most of the time I'm playing the bad guy. I grew up around a lot of "characters" in Jersey City. I'm able to draw from those shady NY/NJ individuals the characteristics of most villains.

What are you working on now? Can you say what's next for you?

Looks like I'm guest starring on American Horror Story for FX.  Very FEARnet worthy.

In real life, what's your greatest fear?

I'm afraid of a lot of things, but I don't want to be motivated by fear or guilt. Took me a while to learn that. I'm afraid of losing. Losing my memory, depression, losing it all. Or having everything... and in the end, there will be no one to share it with.