He’s the Devil on “Reaper,” he gave you nightmares as Leland Palmer on “Twin Peaks,” and he’s appeared in films ranging from “Bob Roberts” to “Robocop.” He’s Ray Wise, and I had the opportunity to speak with him in conjunction with the upcoming DVD release of “Reaper: Season 1“…and if you tuned in to the site over the weekend, then you had the opportunity to offer up a few questions for Mr. Wise to answer. In addition to the above topics, we chatted about his appearance on “Sports Night,” the likelihood of seeing him in “Jeepers Creepers 3,” why he so often ends up playing a bad guy, and when we can expect to see the return of “Reaper” for its second season.
Ray Wise: Hey, Will…?
Popdose: Hey, Ray, how are you doing? Good to talk to you again! Well, I’m currently still waiting on my copy of the “Reaper: Season 1” DVD, but I’m very excited to check it out. Meanwhile, I understand you’re back at work on Season 2.
RW: Yeah, we’re back and doing 13 more episodes. I believe we’re on Episode 9 right now, and I think we’re going to be back on the air in…they said either January or perhaps March. And, then, if those 13 episodes go well, then there’s a good chance that we’ll be doing more.
PD: I was able to speak to Bret (Harrison) recently, and he seemed really excited about the change in direction for the new season. He said it’s a little bit different from what we’ve seen before.
PD: How are you enjoying that direction? Is it still flowing in an interesting fashion for you?
RW: Oh, yes, a very interesting fashion. Even more so, I think. We’re just exploring more character relationships, getting some more interesting characters into the mix, and developing certain aspects of the story that I just find extremely interesting.
PD: Actually, one of our readers had wondered if the relationship between Sam and the Devil continues to progress at a decent clip during Season 2.
RW: Yes! It gets much more involved and much more intense, and they become…extremely close.
PD: That sounds ominous.
RW: (Cackles) Yep.
PD: The last time you and I spoke, you were working on Episode 11 of the first season, just as the writer’s strike had kicked in. You described it as “throwing everyone into a little bit of a tizzy.” What was it like to get back to the set post-strike?
RW: Well, it was a little strange, you know? We kind of left it in the lurch, and then we came back and stepped right into it again. But it didn’t take more than a day to get back into the feeling again, back into the old “Reaper” groove. (Laughs) But it was a little strange initially, yeah, because we…we didn’t even know if we would be coming back! Everything being up in the air like that makes you feel a little apprehensive.
PD: That would’ve been right around the time that Michael Ian Black and Ken Marino came into the cast.
RW: Yeah, that was right about that time. And they were great additions. We really enjoyed having them on the show, and they’re a lot of fun. Great guys.
PD: It changed the dynamic of the show, but it helped delve more into the intricacies of Hell, I guess you’d say.
RW: That’s what I like. I’d like to see more of the intricacies of Hell. I’d like to see us delve more into that…and I think that we are.
PD: I was wondering if you’d enjoyed that change of direction, because I felt like it really helped expand the show’s mythos.
RW: Oh, yes, I agree. Absolutely. And I think the more they do it, the better it’ll be. It really is about that relationship between Sam and the Devil, and the more we know about the Devil and the more we know about that relationship, the better it’ll be.
PD: How did you enjoy it when the Devil was given a back history of having a love interest?
RW: (Laughs) I really enjoyed that! In fact, I would’ve liked to have explored that a little more. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Devil in the sack with somebody! (Cackles) But I have a feeling that he’s got those love interests alllllll around the world. All around the world. And I also have a feeling that he can be in many places all at once, so the possibilities are endless.
PD: In the last moments of the season finale, it almost seemed to rewrite everything we knew about Sam and his parents and their relationship.
RW: You’re right.
PD: Does that proceed to get fleshed out a bit more when the new season premieres?
RW: Totally. Yeah. (Laughs) Totally “fleshed out.” (Cackles) Well put.
PD: Do you have a favorite “Reaper” episode from Season 1?
RW: Oh, my favorite episode is the one where I talk about God and my relationship with him, and how special the relationship was but how it went south and that we’ve both regretted it ever since. To me, that was very poignant, the Devil getting very personal about his relationship with God. It was kind of special… (Laughs) …in a far out, silly way. But I like when you can apply some of that religious mythology to our comedy. I think it’s interesting.
PD: How’s the relationship between the Devil and Sock, Ben, and Andi this season? Because it’s been pretty nonexistent for the most part.
PD: Or can you speak to that yet?
RW: Yeah, there’s going to be more interaction, but…not as much as I would like. I would like for there to be more, and I think there will be. I know that Tyler Labine, who plays Sock, he wants to have a scene with me. He wants to have a scene with the Devil. This is one of his goals, and we have to make that happen somehow. And we’re going to. But I think it would be interesting to see the Devil relate to these other characters a little bit more. But we have to remember to stay true to the relationship between Sam and the Devil, since that’s the key one.
PD: When I talked to Bret the other day, I told him that you’d said that he reminded you of a young Jimmy Stewart, and he said that he suspects that’s only because his voice cracks when he talks.
RW: (Laughs) Well, that’s true. That’s what first made me draw that comparison. But as we’ve gone on, he’s so…he just comes off so clean, you know? So squeaky clean. He’s like an all-American kid, and that was Jimmy Stewart. He’s everybody’s idea of an American kid, and he looks so good, and he’s a very good little actor, and I’m having a good time with him. We have a good time together.
PD: I have some questions from the readers that they’d like for me to pose to you.
PD: What do you remember about shooting “Bob Roberts”?
RW: Oh, my, we had a great time in Pittsburgh and the environs around Pittsburgh. For about 30 days, we got on this campaign bus, and we treated it just like it was a real political campaign for a senator from Pennsylvania. Our camera crews followed us around like documentary film crews…and we were shooting the movie like it was a documentary, you know. We just had a great time traveling around Pittsburgh. We’d stop in different places and do a scene and do a scene there, and we just had a great deal of fun. That’s all I can remember. And Tim (Robbins), it was his first movie as a director, and then he played Bob Roberts also, and of course he wrote the script…and he was doing rewrites right there on the set as we were shooting sometimes. He just wore all these hats beautifully, and he did a great job. We had a ball.
PD: Did he seem pretty confident right out of the gate?
RW: Oh, yeah. Right out of the gate. He knew what he was doing, he knew what he wanted to do, and he did it. He’s just a great talent, that guy.
PD: One of our contributors really just wanted me to thank you for your work on “Twin Peaks” as Leland Palmer…specifically, for the couple of years of nightmares you gave him by screaming, “You’re going back to Missoula, Montana,” and smashing Maddy’s face into the photo on the wall.
RW: (Laughs heartily) My goodness, yes. Well, yes, that was a day. The day that we shot that scene…that was amazing. Poor Sheryl Lee played Maddy…she played Laura Palmer, too, of course…and David (Lynch) didn’t want anybody to know who the real killer of Laura Palmer was going to be, so that day that the character of Maddie was killed, she was actually killed by three different people: Leland Palmer, Benjamin Horne, and the mysterious Bob. Poor Sheryl Lee. She had to go through that thing three different times. Imagine getting your face smashed into a picture by three different people! After a fourteen hour day, that poor gal…she had to lie down, I think, and have a couple of martinis or something. I don’t know how she recuperated from that. She was really wasted at the end of that day.
PD: Well, how did you handle your death scene as Leland Palmer? Because you had to ram your head a few times yourself.
RW: Oh, that was another trying day, another 12 or 13 hour day that was very emotional and very physical. There were certain aspects of it that were very difficult to do, so it was very challenging. I had to hit my head in the right place, and…it was quite a day. Both emotionally and physically. But I remember it fondly, because it turned out great, and it was a great episode. It was a good send-off for Leland Palmer, I think.
PD: What was your experience like working with Paul Verhoeven on “Robocop”?
RW: Oh, it was great. He’s just crazy. A crazy, crazy Dutchman. He said… (Adopts Dutch accent) “I love all my bad guys!” That’s what he would always say. And he did. We had a ball. I played Leon Nash, and there was Clarence and the other guys, and we just blew up a couple of streets there in Dallas. This neighborhood, they were going to tear it down anyway, and so we did it for them. We shot for about three or four nights there with our big, 50-caliber guns, and blew up all of these shop fronts. We just blew up the whole damned street! We had a great time. We were just like kids. And then we moved on to Pittsburgh, to the steel mill there and to the other part of the story, and it was just…it was just a great experience, and we had a ball. We were doing all of this nasty, bad stuff, like blowing poor Peter Weller’s head apart as Murphy, before he becomes Robocop, and we were doing it gleefully! We were having such a good time making it that we didn’t realize how horrific some of the aspects of it were until we actually saw the movie on the screen. We were just having fun, like kids playing cops and robbers. And it turned out to be a whale of a movie, so we were very happy and proud of it.
PD: Speaking of playing the bad guy, someone asked why you always play the bad guy. The only straight-up good-guy role they could cite off the top of their head was “The Journey of Natty Gann.”
RW: Yeah, there you go! I’ve had a few others…Don Hollenbeck in “Good Night and Good Luck,” that’s another…but you’re right, I’ve certainly done my share of bad guys. I don’t know, I guess it’s just that they…they suit me, I suppose. There’s something about me that makes me compelling and believable. It’s not because I’m bad! In real life, I’m actually a pretty good guy.
PD: For the record, I’ve met you twice, and you’ve been extremely nice to both myself and my wife.
RW: I have my bad moments. But I’m a pretty good guy. I guess it’s just a combination of my imagination and my own physical being, what my face looks like and so forth. Both of those aspects go into the bad characters, and they suit me pretty well, I guess.
PD: Do you remember your experience working on “Sports Night”?
RW: Oh, yeah, it was fun. I especially enjoyed working with Peter Krause and Josh (Charles), and I remember…I think Tommy Schlamme directed that episode. He was one of the executive producers on the show. And it was a lot of fun. It was a great cast. And Phyllis…no, not Phyllis. She’s on “Desperate Housewives”…
PD: Felicity Huffman.
RW: Felicity Huffman! Phyllis Huffman is actually a casting director! But, yes, Felicity Huffman, she was on the show, and she was great, but I remember having a good time with all of them. It was a great experience.
PD: Were you a regular viewer of the show?
RW: I never saw that episode of “Sports Night.” A lot of the episodes that I’ve done over the years, I’ve never seen. Even a few of the movies that I’ve done, I haven’t seen. It’s not because I don’t want to. It’s just…it escaped me somehow. I don’t know how, but it did. So, yeah, every once in awhile, something will pop out of my past on television or something that I’ve never seen, and, wow, there it is, and I’m 30 years younger! Wow…
PD: Another reader question: were you familiar with Kevin Smith before he directed the pilot for “Reaper”?
RW: Oh, sure, yeah! I’d seen…in fact, one of his films was a big favorite of mine: “Dogma.” I was very familiar with that movie before I shot “Reaper,” and I felt that “Reaper” was a kind of an extension of “Dogma,” maybe, at least in the same vein. And on some of the movie channels, I’ve watched his lectures in front of college audiences. Just hours and hours of…I mean, Kevin can just stand up there and talk for four hours straight and keep everybody interested. He’s fascinating that way. And he kept us enthralled, also, during the maker of “Reaper.” He was great fun in between takes, and he was just a great guy to have around and talk to.
PD: What’s the word on “Jeepers Creepers 3”? I’ve heard rumblings…
RW: The script is ready to go. I’ve read it, I’m in it, and I’m raring to go! In fact, I’m going to be meeting with Victor Salva sometime within the next three or four weeks, and we’re going to be talking about that very thing. And I think there’s going to be a start date on that movie very shortly, perhaps even in the next few months. It’s definitely on. Yep, “Jeepers Creepers 3” will be a reality.
PD: How did you end up on “Tim and Eric Awesome Show”?
RW: I was just called up by my manager, who said, “Hey, do you want to do this? It’s a silly thing, but these guys are great, and all of these other respectable actors have been doing these things for them…” (Laughs) “…and, so, I don’t think it would hurt for you to do it, so why don’t you go down there and do it?” And I did, and I went down and met these guys, and it was a wild, crazy day, but it was a lot of fun. I have to say, it was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed it.
PD: And, lastly, I know the last time I talked to you, you said that the most underrated TV show that you had done was “Savannah,” that it needed more of a chance to breathe than it got. But is there a particular movie you’ve done that you think deserved more credit?
RW: Hmmm. Oh, gosh…that’s a difficult one. Well, I wish that some of the independent films that I’ve made, the small-budgeted ones, had gotten either a bigger release or even gotten a release in theaters. But, no, I don’t have any regrets about any of them. I just always hope that whatever I do is seen by the most people possible and enjoyed by the most people possible.
PD: Before you go, can I get you to say a little something to the Popdose readership?
PD: Excellent. All right, Ray, it’s been a pleasure talking to you again!
RW: Okay, man! Bye-bye!