Interview with The Black String star Frankie Muniz
I love seeing where child actors go with their career when they shift into adult actors. Actor Frankie Muniz was one of the hottest young across through the early 2000s with his hit series Malcolm in the Middle and the Agent Cody Banks series. Since then he has done all sorts of things from reality TV, to scripted series and movies. Now he is taking on a different kind of lead role with the film The Black String. I had the chance to sit down with this great young actor and discuss his work on the film.
Bobby: How did you get involved with The Black String?
Frankie: I was sent the script and I loved it. It was one of those scripts that you read and so anxious to know what was going to happen that I found myself skipping ahead to try to see what was going to happen. I really wanted to be a part of it after reading for it, so I went to LA and auditioned for it. It was one of the first auditions I have done in fifteen years or so, but I wanted to do whatever I had to do to be a part of the project. Fortunately I was picked and thrilled the way it turned out.
Bobby: Is this your first foray into this horror/thriller genre?
Frankie: I did a movie that was supposed to be very horror, but Disney bought it and turned it into more light horror back in 2005 called Stay Alive. This is the first kind of dark and suspenseful film where you don’t really know what’s going on or what’s real that I have ever played. I love more dramatic roles, which I didn’t know, but I really enjoyed it.
Bobby: As an actor that comes from comedy and being a child actor on top of that, how hard or refreshing is that to come into a movie like this that is totally opposite than those things you are known for?
Frankie: When most people think of me as an actor they do think of Malcolm and more comedic fun roles, but there is something about doing these kinds of dramas that feels easier. It feels more like where I am supposed to be. Fans may not agree, but I really enjoyed it and getting to show so much more emotion and getting into it. You are showing anger and passion. I really enjoyed it and have to give my fiancé tons of credit to rely on her to make sure I was acting on the right level of crazy / passion when we were filming. It was fun, maybe I am just good at being crazy. (laughs)
Bobby: Speaking of crazy, it’s one thing to play a normal person go through daily life, but here you are going through something not so normal yet still grounded in addiction and/or mental issues. Where do you have to go to as an actor to find that performance?
Frankie: The most important thing for us was just figuring out the levels of where was in what part of the script. You know you don’t film a movie in order, so we filmed the end of the movie as one of the first scenes. So knowing at what level I wanted to be at was the most important thing and then after that we just wanted my character Johnathan real. We weren’t trying to keep the audience guessing with my performance. I was 100% committed to this is happening and no one else believes me. It was easier in that since because I didn’t have to go back and forth playing it different ways. If this was really happening you would just seem crazier the harder you pushed to prove them wrong and it was fun to do that.
Bobby: There is a scene late in the movie where you return to see your friend to convince him what is happening and he agrees to help. At that moment you get this innocent and almost comical look that works great before returning to your more heavy approach. Was that scene always meant to be that way or was that just your performance making it lighten up and work?
Frankie: That scene is the first scene we filmed in the entire movie. It is the most dramatic and funny and depending on how you look at it crazy. It was one of those things that just kind of happened. It was obviously scripted, but Blake who plays Eric and I completely adlibbed that scene. They wanted me to come in and just keep going and ramping up the crazy to explain to him. My reaction to him believing me was kind of genuine because no one has believed him and I finally have someone that will go with me. I love that scene. There is a moment in the scene that mirrors another scene that you might not have noticed that makes you wonder if they were dealing with the same thing.
Bobby: I did notice that visually, but never thought about it like that, but it makes total sense and adds another level to the film. I hadn’t thought about. There are so many moments that your character is struggling through. Was there anything one aspect that you found to be more challenging as an actor?
Frankie: As an actor you have an image in your head of how you want to portray the character and don’t necessarily always get to get there. This is a low budget film so we didn’t have the luxury of having a lot of time to film. We were cramming a lot into each day so we didn’t always have time to more takes or film certain scenes. I am more than thrilled with the finished product, but there is a scene where I am at the hospital for the first time and I had just beat up someone. I don’t know why but that scene was the hardest for me. I was having trouble finding where I was because I was playing where I am still kind of dazed and confused, but also angry because no one believes me. As an actor I couldn’t get how I wanted to play it, but in the film it ended up working.
Bobby: I really enjoyed the film and will be honest I knew nothing about it going in, but I love seeing actors grow. Not only from being child actors, but into getting to expand into new types of roles as opposed to just being pigeon holed into their past work and I think you did great.
Frankie: To be honest I will be the first to admit that I probably am since most people just think of me as Malcolm. To get to play a character that is so different and let me tell you I am not one to say I think I am a great actor, but when I saw this film I was really proud of the job I did. I think people see this movie they will quickly forget about seeing Malcolm and see the character of Jonathan.
Bobby: I agree and really enjoyed the film. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. Like most I was a fan of Malcolm, but love you in this film as well.
Frankie: Thank you so much, I appreciate it man.
Check out The Black String available now on DVD, Digital, and On Demand from Lionsgate.
Check out our review of the film here.