Q&A Interview with Shaun Parkes of “The River” (for the DVD release of “The River – The Complete First Season”) (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

May 19, 2012 by  

The horror/drama series known as “The River” is coming out on DVD via “The River – The Complete First Season” on May 22nd.

“The River” was created by horror filmmaker/writer Oren Peli (“Paranormal Activity” films, “Chernobyl Diaries”, “Area 51″),veteran TV writer Michael R. Perry (“Millennium”, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”, “The Guardian”) and veteran TV writer Michael Green (“Smallville”, “Heroes”, “Everwood”, “Green Lantern”). The series also features Steven Spielberg as the executive producer.

With the upcoming DVD release of “The River – The Complete First Season”, J!-ENT will be featuring media Q&A’s with the several cast members of “The River”. We kicked things off with actor Bruce Greenwood, actress Elois Mumford and Joe Anderson, this time, we feature Shaun Parkes, who plays the role of Andreus Jude “A.J.” Poulaine.

Shaun Parkes is known for his roles in various films such as “The Mummy Returns”, “Notes on a Scandal” and TV series such as “Identity”, “Moses Jones” and “Harley Street”.  In “The River”, Parkes character of A.J. Poulaine is a cameraman who can rub people the wrong way with his sarcastic humor, but also his unwillingness to help people when they are in need.  He’s getting paid to film and he feels he doesn’t need to be involved whenever the others are in trouble.  And sure enough, people don’t take kindly to him when he behaves that way.

But like everyone on the crew in search of Dr. Emmet Cole, he also experiences the paranormal and begins to wonder if he should get the heck out of there.

Through this media Q&A we learn of how actor Shaun Parkes feels about working on “The River” and his thoughts on being part of paranormal thriller:

How would you describe your character in The River?

Shaun Parkes: AJ is a cameraman. He’s been brought to the Amazon solely to do that: to film people. He’s a top dude, but he’s not there to help or save other people, he just films whatever happens. He is like a news cameraman in a war-torn country where you see footage taken with a shaky camera. He’s one of those guys who’s been there and done everything. He’s not that scared, either. He knows it’s all about the shot. That’s who AJ is.


There are a lot of tense action scenes in The River. Was shooting the show as physically arduous as it looks on screen?

Yes, it was. For the most part, I have to do everything with a camera on my arm, which was very different to anything I’d ever done before. It was a real camera on my arm and it was filming everything, so I became an actor and a cameraman for The River. I had people coming up to me going: “Did you get that shot?” It takes on a whole different intensity for me.


The River is a paranormal thriller. How would you describe the supernatural element to the show?

Shaun Parkes:  There’s a lot of Amazonian folklore mentioned in the show. There’s a lot of mysticism and mystery. There are things out there that these characters don’t know anything about – and this group of people are confronting it and filming it at the same time. The producers didn’t want to create a show that was dependent on the look of monsters, so there’s a real psychological feel to the story. This isn’t Cloverfield or Super 8. The River is about a group of people reacting to what’s around them.


If you lived in AJ’s shoes and you saw all of these strange events happening around you in the Amazon – how far would you personally go before deciding the job wasn’t worth it?

I think I would have left right away! No, I’m joking. To be honest, I think I’d be interested for a while, but then I would have left. I can take quite a lot because I’m aware that there are things out there that I have seen and heard about that I couldn’t explain – but I find things like that incredibly interesting. I’ve also been in absolute panic when I was caught up in a riot, so I know what it feels like to be scared. I stood there and watched everyone else lose their mind, so I know that I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to panic too much. However, I don’t think I could stick around and carry on filming while a friend is being attacked or dying, which is what happens on The River.


Did anything scare you on the set of the show?

Shaun Parkes:  I will admit that a few things came very close to scaring me, but it wasn’t anything that was physically on set. It was the idea of the history of the location. We filmed in a haunted, old children’s asylum, which was located next to a cemetery and that was definitely creepy. There were lots of stories of abuse and how the nurses maybe killed a guy who was mistreating the kids. We were working with a local crew who refused to come into the asylum because of the stories from the past. There were people asking you: “Are you going in?” And I’d reply: “Yeah.” But then you watch your local colleagues standing next to you saying: “I refuse to go anywhere near that building.” That’s when it got scary. People really believed the stories. It was very creepy indeed.


How does a British actor end up on television in the USA?

Shaun Parkes:  I left drama school in London in 1994 and I worked in the UK for many years, doing various films, television and theater. And then a couple of years ago I decided to come to Los Angeles to give it a go. I love American TV and it all worked out well for me. I couldn’t be happier.


What do you like about American TV?

Shaun Parkes:  I love so much American television. I think one of the best TV shows ever made was The Wire. It absolutely blew my mind. And then you’ve got shows like Dexter and Weeds, too. I could go on mentioning loads more shows, but I’ll stop there. Obviously, The River is also one of my favorites. This whole project has been amazing to be involved with.


Is it rare for a British actor to find success in Hollywood?

Shaun Parkes:  To be honest, I know quite a few Londoners who have come over to the USA and are doing very well with various parts in TV shows and movies. We’ve all grown up together in the business over in London. Matthew Rhys, who was in Brothers And Sisters, and Andrew Lincoln, who appears in The Walking Dead, are both really good friends of mine. We were all in the same year at drama college, so we’ve known each other for half our lives. And then there’s Marianne Jean-Baptiste, too.


Was their success an inspiration for you?

Shaun Parkes:  Their success helped my brain realize that it can be done over here. If not an inspiration exactly, seeing these people come here and do something that they love to do within three or four years… Why wouldn’t I want a piece of that?


Have you moved to LA permanently now?

Shaun Parkes: No, I haven’t done that yet because it’s difficult to know what’s going to happen with my career. I’ve got a place in London that I call home, so I haven’t fully made the move to the States. We shot The River in Hawaii and I spent a lot of time traveling from London to Hawaii for the film shoot – but it wasn’t too much fuss. I’ll probably continue to travel like that for a while longer.


Is there a television production infrastructure in Hawaii that’s similar to shooting in London or in LA?

Shaun Parkes:  Lost was shot in Hawaii and that didn’t finish filming too long ago. We used the sound stages they used and we also used the same crew, too. It is fortunate for us to have the same people working The River who worked on Lost as they really know what they’re doing and they bring an element of professionalism that is very impressive.


Was there any discussion about where you should adopt an American accent for The River?

Shaun Parkes: I went in for three or four different auditions for two different roles – and I had to do two different accents for each of the roles. Essentially, they opted for the English accent because they wanted an element of realism and naturalism. They wanted the actors to be able to do things off the cuff. Sometimes with an accent, if it’s not your natural accent, it can be difficult to riff and improvise. However, they cast a British documentary crew with the British actor Paul Blackthorne (who plays AJ’s boss Clark Quietly) and a British cameraman, so it all makes sense.


Does your character get along with his boss?

Shaun Parkes: I guess it’s a fairly typical boss/worker relationship. Getting documentary footage is not similar to work in a creative film industry where you need to like the people around you; it’s an industry where you get the best people for the job. And in those situations, there can be problems with ego and there can be problems if you make desperate moves and you make desperate choices. At the end of the day, I don’t think AJ and Clark particularly love each other. I just think they respect each other for the jobs that they do – and that’s it. It certainly adds a fun dimension to their relationship.


“The River – The Complete First Season” will be released on DVD on May 22nd.

Images courtesy of ABC Studios.

(Note: The Q&A’s were conducted before the recent announcement that ABC had canceled the series.)

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