With his new project “Escaping the Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story” recently released and a second season of “The Hollow” just announced for Netflix, we’re reconnecting with Mark Hildreth to talk the weirdness of The Weird Guy, getting to perform a famous song from your favorite band, and and why everybody should learn the incredible story of Nellie Bly.
(To check out our first chat with Hildreth, click here.)
TrunkSpace: Last we spoke, our kids had yet to discover “The Hollow.” Now that they’re super fans, we’re getting some serious street cred at home for sitting down to have another chat with “The Weird Guy.” As an actor, what are some of the creative benefits of getting to play in the animated sandbox? Can you tap into a different aspect of acting that is more heightened when you’re working in a medium where literally anything can happen and the rules of “grounding” a story don’t necessarily apply?
Hildreth: Well I’m honored to be able to help you get some “kid cred” – I know parents are sometimes in short supply of that! I’ve been lucky to get to work in voice-over since I myself was a kid. I got my first job at the age of 10 playing the role of Beany in a remake of the famous 1960’s cartoon “Beany and Cecil.” It’s been a big part of my career and has taught me a lot! Bringing a character to life using only your voice and the collaboration with so many other amazing artists who then bring your voice to life make voice-over acting a truly unique part of being an actor.
TrunkSpace: We hear that there is a new season of “The Hollow” in the works. What kind of weirdness can we expect for The Weird Guy heading into Season 2?
Hildreth: Netflix just made the official announcement last week – “The Hollow” Season 2 will premiere in 2020. It’s going to be even crazier than the first season! Everyone’s favorite characters are back, along with a slew of others who are truly hilarious! The Weird Guy will still be there, throwing monkey wrenches into all the plans and being truly crazy!
TrunkSpace: From what we understand, you’ve also recorded some music for the latest season of “The Hollow.” Music has been a passion of yours for a long time now, so we’re curious what is it like getting to combine acting and music on a single project? Is it a bit like having your cake and getting to eat it too – a best case scenario?
Hildreth: Wait until you see what The Weird Guy gets to sing in Season 2 of “The Hollow!” It’s a heck of a number. And let’s just say it’s a famous song from one of your favorite bands in the world! I’ve also been playing music and singing since around age 10 and I’m always looking, hoping and waiting for a project to come along where I can both sing and act. And then along comes “The Hollow” and boom! It’s been so much fun and I’m so blessed to get to do it.
TrunkSpace: Do you approach the discovery process of a character in the same way in the animation space as you would an on-camera role?
Hildreth: It really depends on the role and the show. In voice-over, there sometimes isn’t much research you can do because it’s a brand new concept and brand new characters. Some of my voice-over roles (such as X-Men, GI Joe, Action Man, Dragonball Z or Gundam Wing) I can do some background work on. But the discovery process is very similar once you actually go to act it. Once you’re in the room with a bunch of other talented, hard working actors and doing the work together you get to go on the best part of the journey – listening and reacting to the wonderful ideas they come up with and, when it’s your turn, throwing in your own!
TrunkSpace: “The Hollow” is a Netflix series. “The Looming Tower” has a home at Hulu. As someone who has been working in the industry since well before the current “Golden Age” of television, do you see this massive influx of quality content continuing forward, especially as more and more companies branch off and create their own streaming platforms? Do you believe there is a content bubble happening and eventually we are going to see it burst?
Hildreth: When I started working on TV we were still shooting on actual film! So much has changed, and the advent of cable TV and now online content has given people opportunities we used to only dream about. But I don’t think there can be a bubble. We are in a wonderful time for television because you no longer have to make content simply to attract the largest possible audience. These days you can make a great show, find your audience and have a hit show that is tailored just for them! “The Hollow” found a super committed following. So did “The Looming Tower,” as well another cable series I’ve done – “The Tudors.” Content providers are actually starved for content right now as more and more distribution platforms become available.
TrunkSpace: Do you think the current content renaissance has inspired actors to control their own destinies more so than in the past and directly involve themselves in developing projects? Is this something that you have interest in pursuing as you go forward in your career?
Hildreth: I’m sure that it has inspired more actors to develop projects. I am in the midst of developing a satirical sketch comedy series as well as two features and several stage productions. As a writer/producer I can shepherd along projects that tell stories that I feel need to be told. I’ve been a songwriter for years – I’ve released two full-length original albums and toured in the US and Canada. Getting to bring that creative process to film and TV has been a blast.
TrunkSpace: Your latest project is “Escaping the Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story” for Lifetime, which is based on a true story that we actually got caught up in learning about long before this project was first reported. As you learned more and more about the real life story, did the film itself become more interesting for you to be involved with?
Hildreth: Nellie Bly is based on the important true story of one of the first exposes of it’s kind in US journalism. It is based on the story of reporter Nellie Bly who, near the turn of the 20th century, infiltrated and exposed abuses at the Blackwell Island Mental Asylum for Women in New York City. It has been very educational to learn about this ahead-of-her-time woman, the people in her life and the impact her dedication to telling the truth had on American journalism.
TrunkSpace: Something we found interesting about your character Bartholomew “Bats” Driscoll is that he would have been a bit out of place in his time… someone who not only supported his spouse to have a career, but supported her even when she went to such great lengths. How did you approach trying to understand him, especially against the backdrop of his time period?
Hildreth: Nellie Bly, played by Christina Ricci, is portrayed as a woman who is determined, ambitious and principled. We talked a lot about what kind of man a woman like that would choose as her partner and fiancé. We placed him a little bit “out of his time” like Nellie, since it would take a strong, forward-thinking man to be able to keep up with her intelligence and drive. So we brought to Bartholomew a sense of grandeur and weight (so that we can believe he could match wits with people like William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer) but also a deep sense of compassion and emotion that he isn’t afraid to show.
TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the final product is always what’s memorable when it comes to a film or series, but for those working on the project, we have to imagine that it is the experience that stays with you. For you, what was the most memorable aspect of getting to work on “Escaping the Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story?”
Hildreth: Believe it or not, getting to work in the sub-zero temperatures and biting-cold winds of Winnipeg, Canada is a great memory because I always love working in the wonderful country I grew up in. Canada really does have some of the best people in the world. It is a vibrant, multicultural and loving country. I love being there – even if it’s so cold outside I can’t actually feel my ears!
TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Hildreth: No way! I come from the theater! The best part of theater is you never know what’s going to happen. One day you are finally up on the stage and the lights come up and you’re live. If I knew it was going to be a good night or a bad night, or that something was going to happen that I never could have prepared for, it would take all the fun out of it! But where I hope to be is working with great people, telling important stories that give a little glimpse into the most important parts of what it means to be human! Because that’s what acting is really all about.