Interview with The Driver
star Mark Dacascos
by Bobby Blakey
Through the years there have been a ton of great martial arts action stars, but few that have crossed so many genres than Mark Dacascos. From his debut feature American Samurai in 1992 to his Capoeria action flick Only The Strong and more recently his turn as Zero in John Wick 3: Parabellum he has been racking up the hits. While known for his martial arts mastery he has also crossed into reality TV as the Chairman in Iron Chef and network TV as the reoccurring villain Wo Fat in Hawaii Five-O. I had the chance to sit down and discuss his latest film The Driver and working with his real life wife and daughter in the film.
Bobby: How did you get involved with The Driver?
Mark: The director, Wych Kaosayanada he is from Thailand who I worked with years ago on a kid’s film. We stayed in contact over the years and last February I was working on a Hallmark film and he sent me the script. This was between the Hallmark and before I knew about John Wick 3. I told him I would read it after production but couldn’t help myself. Over the lunch break that day I read it and loved it. I told him I loved this part, but to please consider my actual daughter and wife to play those roles in the movie with me. We got the green light about two weeks before and this is the first time in over twenty years my wife and I have worked together.
Bobby: That was on Crying Freeman right?
Mark: Yes! Crying Freeman. That is where we met each other working together. This was going to not only be the first time since then we worked together, but the first time that all three of us worked together with my daughters first lead role. It’s a very special project to me.
Bobby: You are a veteran in the industry and have done everything from action to reality and everything in between, but this time you are on set playing a father to your real life daughter going through some dramatic things. Does that help your performance or make it more challenging?
Mark: I have to say all three of us talked about that beforehand. The script was so well written and we are a tight knit family so it really felt like I was cheating. Once we locked into the characters situation and the story, because we are already connected in real life, we just got to play. It was actually so easy. I can imagine with a different story or script it could be more difficult, but this felt so natural for me to play.
Bobby: I always wondered when I see family working together, especially in a movie like this where there is a lot of death and things happening to people does it distract your performance with seeing someone you care about go through it or does it just make it work all the better?
Mark: Julie and I were telling Noelani that this is the beauty of art and making a movie. We can explore these thoughts and feelings, but once the director says cut we can come back out of it ok. We can enjoy the pretend for those moments and just go
for it. As a father yourself, you can imagine that trauma of what happens in the film and as actors we get to use that reality of our relationships and the pretend of the situation and just got there. It was so freeing and I feel like it brought us closer together because at some point life as we know it ends and new life begins. We got to explore these things and come out of it and still be with each other. It was all beneficial I think.
Bobby: With you guys spending so much time as the only two people on screen at times does it make it harder to stay in character and not fall into just you and your daughter talking?
Mark: In a more casual story it may have, but we come into these scenes emotionally loaded due to the things that have happened previously in the story. We kind of skirt around what happens because I am trying to get us somewhere and then we can deal with it. She is carrying what happened before as well as my character and what is going to happen along with the guilt of not telling her. Its casual but locked and loaded at any time because of the situation so that kept it very alive even if it seemed like we are talking about little things.
Bobby: It’s not as action heavy as I had anticipated, but there is some to do. Do you find having to prepare yourself differently for these varying roles?
Mark: With my characters I have always tried to physicalize them, so in something like American Samurai, I want to fight like Kenjiro. In John Wick 3 I want to fight as Zero so the fighting to me is physical dialogue so I try to prepare my mind, body and spirit as the character. In this one there were specific things to this character and situation that was different. The vessel is of course me, but you try to highlight certain points and it was really fun to play because I haven’t played the father in too many roles and certainly not in a zombie world. There were a lot of different elements. What I really love about this is that there are a lot of zombie movies and since people really know this kind of world, we got to focus on the intimacy and private relationships our family built inside of this apocalypse. This is what I think the focus is really on, people coming to terms where they are at this moment.
Bobby: After doing some research it appears that this film is supposed to be a part of a trilogy, is that correct?
Mark: Yes, this was actually the third part of the trilogy but can be viewed as an individual film or part of it. Not sure if they’ve shot the second one yet, but I know they shot number one.
Bobby: That makes more sense then, because without spoiling it the person that shows up at the end of this one made me lose my mind. (laughs)
Mark: That is fantastic. He is a lovely human being and fantastic fighter.
Bobby: My only disappointment with seeing him is not getting to see you two fight.
Mark: I don’t want to give too much away, but its coming.
Bobby: That’s the best news ever! I cannot let you leave without asking you if we are ever going to get an Only The Strong 2?
Mark: I love that question and we are still hoping for it. Things were looking really good last year, but we lost the producer that had the rights last year. Now it’s in the hands of his brother and so we are talking to him now to see about getting it going. My Capoeria teacher in real life and in the original film Amen Santo and I with all of our hearts are trying to move this forward. So I am going to say yes in hopes that it happens.
Bobby: This was a huge honor and really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me today. You have been a big influence on me in my martial arts career and it means the world that I got to speak to you today.
Mark: Thank you and much respect to you.
The Driver is available now on DVD from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.