Exclusive: Method Man on Playing ‘The Mortician'

Hip-hop artist and actor Method Man may be best known for his work with the Wu-Tang Clan, but he's also enjoyed a successful film career, starring in films as diverse as Cop Land, How High, Garden State and the recent The Sitter and Red Tails. It turns out he's quite a fan of our favorite genre as well, which he discusses, along with his role in the new thriller The Mortician (now available on DVD, Digital Download and On Demand from Lionsgate), in the interview after the jump.

This is a pretty unusual role for you. How would you describe the mortician?

He doesn't have a name. He basically has a traumatic experience as a child. Which he carries with him through adulthood. So it kind of makes him more reserved in a chaotic world. He's basically a guy who wants to be left alone. He's closed himself off from the rest of the world. He has his routine, which is the mortuary. And at home, he's basically a sad soul that's never had time to heal.

His alienation is reflected in his retro wardrobe.

He likes to keep things simple. I think from the traumatic experience he had as a child he sort of got stuck in that time period. It reflects in his style of dress. I think more or less it reflects his environment also, because he kind of just wants to blend in. If you look at the environment that he's in, it sort of looks dated.

Was your character what drew you to the film? How closely could you identify with him?

What drew me in was the fact that it was an independent. You have way more freedom with an independent movie. It was my first one, and my first starring role since How High. So I like to keep myself fresh and my chops up and things of that nature. And I applaud them for giving me the opportunity to showcase some of my stuff, as well as learn. Because I'm definitely still learning.

Have you always been a fan of the thriller or horror genres?

Yeah, yeah. I like a lot of the stuff that isn't mainstream. When I first saw The Blair Witch Project, I knew it was a piece of shit, but it was the thought alone that maybe this could be real that intrigued me. Paranormal Activity did a fantastic job in the Hitchcock-esque way he played on people's fears without actually showing the demon. I love stuff like that, where it lets your imagination run wild, with however it is you interpret it.

But with this film, what I think actually stands out is the 3D aspect of it, which is fantastic. I think these guys did an excellent job with it. I don't know if it actually shows up this way on DVD, but if you have an actual 3D television it's gonna look magnificent.

Can you talk about the cast you led in this film?

The first person is the guy who plays Noah; his name is E.J. Bonilla. I think he comes from daytime soap television. A great guy. If he sticks with it, he's gonna go far in this business, a brilliant actor. Love his work. His girlfriend in the movie, Angelic Zambrana, she had a part in the movie Precious. They were all great. What stood out for me was Dash [Mihok], who's like a journeyman actor. People know who he is; they've seen him in almost everything but they still don't know his name. One of those guys. He's a brilliant actor, he plays Carver. He stood out to me. And Cruz Santiago – new cat, young guy, wise beyond his years, great upbringing, his parents are dope. He kind of stole the movie if you ask my opinion. But who doesn't like a cute kid, you know what I mean?

The director, Gareth [Maxwell Roberts]… Some directors, they do film. It's like they know where to put the camera, where the shot is, and things of that nature. Some directors know how to direct actors, like "Do this" or "Approach it this way." Gareth to me is equally equipped in both aspects. He made the project as easy as possible for me. Because it was hard for me to get a grip on the character at first. We had read-throughs and things of that nature so I could get a better understanding of where he was coming from, as far as his vision of the character, because he wrote it. So I wanted to complement whatever it was that he was trying to bring across as best as I could. Everybody just wants to see his baby be born. Because he's a good guy.    

What else are you working on right now?

After the Red Tails movie dropped, I did The Sitter. Right now I'm going to be doing a few auditions for television. I like that TV money. That's good money… I don't know. I have my whole life ahead of me, man. And the outlook is good for me right now. I just want to get into more groundbreaking stuff, things that people wouldn't expect me to do, and knock it out of the park. Like I said, I'm still learning. And I have a lot to learn.

There's a limited amount of roles for people out of my genre, which is music. And it's hard to get rid of that stigma. When I walk into a room, I try to shed the layers of Method Man in the lobby. So when I'm going upstairs to an audition they don't see the rapper Method Man, they see the actor Cliff Smith. Sometimes I can pull it off. But other times that's the whole reason I'm even in the audition, because I'm Method Man. So it's a double-edged sword, but I deal with it.

In real life, what's your greatest fear?

Being on the planet alone. By myself I'll go crazy.

So it seems like your Mortician character's personality is the opposite of your own, since he's so closed off to people. How were you able to climb under his skin?

Well, first off when we had our meetings, we discussed the character. [Gareth] asked me how I saw him. I said, "Well, I never met anybody that sad in life, so it's hard for me to relate to this guy." So Gareth comes up with an analogy – he walks with a hunch; he feels like the world is weighing down on his shoulders. He talks very directly, to the point. The analogy Gareth gave me was that it's like he has an ice block around his heart, and it's weighing him down. And the ice doesn't start to melt until he starts to have these visions. Which are sparked by the connection he finds with one of the corpse that are sent to the mortuary. The ice starts to melt, slowly but surely. With that right there, it was like, "Okay, I get it. I get it now." His eyes were open to where he's been, but wasn't comfortable there anymore. But he was so intrigued by it he had to go deeper and deeper and deeper. The whole ice block melted.

It sounds like it was an interesting challenge. Thank you for your time, sir.

No problem. Let me know when this Argento dude, who I'm a big fan of, comes out with this Dracula 3D.

Definitely! Have a good one.

Thank you. You too.