THE INTERVIEW: Frankie Faison from the film Adam

Frankie Faison stars as Harlan in Fox Searchlight Pictures’ Adam (2009)
Copyright © Fox Searchlight Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

Here’s the thing, when a guy has been in as many movies as Frankie Faison (about a hundred) has, been nominated for Tony’s, has been featured on H.B.O’s “The Wire,” created the beloved character of “Barney” for more then one Hannibal Lecter movie, works in and supports not only independent film and local theater (his wife runs a theater in NJ, near my home), you assume a guy like that has a lot to say. What you might not realize (and what I didn’t until I met Mr. Faison, who plays Harlan in the soon-to-be released movie Adam) is that they guy is as passionate about speaking about the biz as he is working in it. Frankie Faison and I had a sit down (because that’s just how I roll, kids) and here’s what we spoke about.

I liked Adam, but to tell you the truth the scenes that touched me the most are the one’s your in, especially, the one where you and Adam are packing the van (go see it, I won’t spoil it for you).

Thank you, I appreciate that.

I was thinking that, with the obvious credits you have, do you still have to audition?

All the time. That’s a really interesting question…it’s tough ya know. I’ve been doing this business for 38 years, done at least a hundred films, and T.V. series, three of them have been unique and successful. Broadway, off-Broadway, everything. But still, people want me to come in, audition for one half-day scene and though I’m not so full of myself to say I’m beyond that kind of thing, in a way there is a body of work that speaks for itself. You know what I can do, after all this time I’m not different; I still have my fingers and toes (laughs)

So at your level, with your background, you’re still the typical ‘struggling’ actor?

(Laughs) People make assumptions. I’m an unemployed actor looking for my next job.

How about what’s happening with you and theater? (Mr. Faison was nominated for a Tony) Anything in the future for you on the stage?

Anything that comes up, we were going to do a production of Fences out in NJ, but it depends or not if we get the space. I really want to focus on doing more theater again. Theater is my first love. If I could do that I’m a happy man. I do film and television cause I have three kids. But they’re all grown now, now I have a little more freedom. I can sorta do what I want, not what I have to do.

And that theater you mentioned is the one that your wife runs, right? (This theater, in north NJ was in the same town that Mr. Faison lives in, but recently closed in that location). You did the highly-acclaimed Death of A Salesman there. I heard that that theater was closing, what’s the status of it?

We’re moving to… (I won’t name the town if this doesn’t go through, but it is one town over from where the theater ‘used’ to be), if we can find the funds. It’s like digging for gold trying to find money for the arts out there. What’s happening yesterday, today it’s like oh boy. Cause there’s no funds for the arts.

And that theater was there a long time?

I know, fifteen years, it is such a gem.

You have the distinction of being the only actor to appear in all the ‘Hannibal Lecter’ films; Manhunter (the first one, made years ago without Anthony Hopkins in the title role) then as the character “Barney” in the later, more popular films. How did that happen?

I did the first film, the one that Michael Mann directed and then Silence Of The Lambs came along and I didn’t even make the connection myself! I got to meet Jonathan Demme (J.D directed “Silence”) and he took to me and that character in the book, because the character didn’t exist in the first one. So I did “Silence,” the writer (Thomas Harris) loves that character. But the script came out for the next film and I had to go and audition for the same part I played in “Silence” (laughing) I thought, this is nuts, here I am, I have created this role, same character, so I had to go in and re-audition. I thought this is so bizarre and I wasn’t going to do it at first, but then again I thought, I love the story, I had to go in and win the role.

And you were in the remake of Manhunter too, right? Red Dragon?

Well I didn’t think there was too much for me to do there, just sort of flashback stuff. I wasn’t going to do it. I said no many times and Brett (Brett Ratner, director) said we have to have you in this film and because of that it made me feel good. When people respect me like that….I’m not really about doing the big roles. I am about the work, the ensemble, so it really warmed my heart that he really wanted me. I said ok and I’m glad I did it because I became a trivia question. (laughs)

Tell me what’s coming up for you.

There’s a film called Cirque Du Freak, vampires and circus freaks, with the Weitz brothers, they’ve been very supportive to me in my career. I play Rhamus Twobellies, a man with two stomachs. Then there is a another circus film called Splinterheads, circulating out there which is a little independent film that’s very charming, if it gets a good distributor it will be well received I think. And there was another film at Sundance, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.

You also were in one of my all-time favorites, Mother Night.

Amazing film, I love it. It’s a pretty good adaptation to (of the equally amazing Kurt Vonnegut novel, go out and get it after you finish reading this interview!). It’s one of those quiet little films. I love independent films, some of my great experiences have been films like Mother Night, like Adam. I love that you get to do these movies that have an impact.

Frankie Faison definitely has had and continues to have an impact; in the new movie Adam and spending the time he did with me. Thank you Mr. Faison and the good people at Fox Searchlight for allowing us the time to interview this hard-working actor.

Ralph Greco Jr.

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