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AN INTERVIEW WITH TOM GURNEE


Q: How did you get started as an actor?

Tom: I was working backstage for the traveling Broadway show, “The Will Rogers Follies Tour” and over a period of four months I had 5 different dancers, all at different times come up to me asking if I had ever done any acting or modeling before. At first, I laughed it off, but by the 5 th time, I pretty much got the hint the universe was trying to tell me something. Once the tour was over, I began taking lessons where I lived at the time in Houston, Texas, with Chris Wilson and her partner Jim Jeter. I’ve since studied the craft in such places as New York at The Actors Institute, here in LA with Melissa Skoff and Tom Ardavany, and even as far south as Sydney, Australia, with the Dean of the Acting program, Tony Knight, at the famed National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA), where OSCAR winners Cate Blanchett and Mel Gibson went to school.

Q: What has been your best moment so far as an actor?

Tom: I’d have to choose my role as “John, The Drifter”, in Director Adam Montoya’s short film, “The End”. I played the only character in the film – wandering from town to town in a world that’s been plagued by disease. For those that saw it, many mentioned they enjoyed how the strong subtext of the role really drove the story and were surprised at how much of an emotional attachment they had to the character by the end of the film.

Q: What roles are you best playing?

Tom: I’m best at playing men who are determined and driven. Military characters come to mind. Especially, WWII era soldier or sailor characters. “Band of Brothers”; “Saving Private Ryan”, are projects I would have done well with.

Q: What is your background?

Tom: I’ve had 15 leading and 7 supporting roles in various television, feature, short and festival-length film and industrial projects. I’ve played two leading and 4 supporting roles in theatre plays. I’ve been an on-air personality for a national cable channel and to date, I have two national and 15 local commercials under my belt.  For those that are not aware, I speak Russian and lived and worked there before I became an actor.


​Tom Gurnee talks about working on Spike TV's, "1000 Ways to Die"

Spike TV’s, “1000 Ways to Die”


Q: What's one of the more fun roles you've had?

Tom: Well, all roles are fun!  One that stands out is my lead role with Spike TV’s program, “1000 Ways to Die”.  My character was a 1970’s era, Russian Chess Master that plays against a computer. Something much akin to the Kasparov vs. IBM’s Deep Blue match played back in 1997.

Q: How did you play the character?

Tom: “Nikolai” was a determined and driven individual who would never settle for second place.  Because of his stern focus and attention to his game, he comes across as being quite snobbish.  Thom Beers, our Director, asked me to play him as a spoiled brat throughout the taping.  You can imagine how unlikable he might appear, although you still cheer for him because he's a human playing against a machine.  Nikolai’s ego, however, begins to get the best of him when he begins losing the second match and he goes into a temper tantrum that ultimately leads to his demise.

Q: What difficulty did you have with this performance?

Tom: Keeping a real Russian accent going while playing the role as natural as I could was probably my biggest obstacle.  All of my dialogue was in Russian, so keeping a natural accent in place while responding immediately to other character queries whilst being in the heat of the emotional moment, was a wonderful challenge that presented itself at times. I wanted to do my best for native Russian "comrades" out there watching the show by keeping my Soviet performance (and accent) natural, real and flowing.

Q: What did you learn from the experience?

Tom: Aside from working with accents, I learned how to properly “die”.  That is, how to safely fall upon hard concrete without banging myself up.  The DP commended me on how realistic my falls looked, but I remember during our third take I hit the outside of my knee on the floor and it wound up aching for a week.  Something else I learned was I really enjoy the challenge of working with body gadget props and intensive make-up work.  For my death, they outfitted me with a series of 2-inch diameter plastic tubes that ran inside of my clothing that they blew smoke through.  I just thought “dying” with this contraption fitted on me and having serious death-scene make-up to keep fresh was a total hoot and I loved every minute of it.