Behind the Scenes: Off Set with Colin
Interview with Colin Hoffmeister, SAG/AFTRA
- What roles do you prefer to play, Colin?
In general, I’ve been cast as stern characters — military types, intense, surly, or uncouth characters. These roles are a blast to play. Casting directors have typically seen me as an intense character . . . clearly based on my leading man good looks -(laughs). I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on my performance playing General Kelly in The 11th Order. A role I was truly honored to play. I had similar accolades when I played a fictitious and very different role as Eddie Gerber, a white supremacist in Sons of Anarchy. People who know me don’t generally see me as being intense, but that (intensity) is an authentic trait of mine. My family loves to play jokes . . . we have some great family prank stories. My dad was a perpetual jokester and I’ve certainly carried on that tradition. Some friends have suggested I do stand-up. Comedic roles would also be a lot of fun. I would love to play the straight man like Leslie Nielsen did in Airplane! I have comedic timing though not many CDs (casting directors) would get that as a first impression.
- How do you research your characters?
Depends. While preparing for the role as General Kelly in the film The 11th Order, since he is a real person I had snippets of his life to read about and video of him to watch to learn his essence…that to me is the best kind of backstory but not necessarily the easiest… a real person has so many layers. General Kelly is also a father, a husband, and career military officer. He surely has had triumphs, sorrow, pain, and joy. He started his military career as an enlisted Marine, then went to college. After graduating from college, he reenlisted as an 1st Lt. in Marine Corp and retired as a four-star general. In the film, which is based on a true story, two young Marines defend their base against a suicide bomber. In real life, John Kelly personally went to investigate the events of this attack. Two years later, he was scheduled to give a speech acknowledging the sacrifice of LCpl. Jordan Haerter and Cpl. Jonathan Yale who gave their lives to save American soldiers and Iraqi police. Four days before Kelly was scheduled to deliver his speech (now famously known as “Six Seconds to Live”), Kelly’s son, 1st Lt. Robert Kelly, was killed by a landmine. General Kelly still had the fortitude and strength of character to show up and give a heartfelt speech about these two young heroes who gave their lives. I honestly cannot imagine what he was thinking and how he held it together as he delivered his speech… the loss of his own son had to be on his mind, yet he honored these other young men who sacrificed their lives to save others. It was raw for me then and still is now . . . I get choked up thinking about. That’s the most intense backstory that I’ve had. Typically, I’ve had to create characters and backstories. But to do research on the emotions and experiences of a real person – this kind of method acting was a welcomed challenge.
- From where do you derive inspiration when preparing for a role or auditions?
I get a lot of inspiration from the characteristics of people through daily observation. I enjoy the human experience and I thrive on reading faces of strangers in an average day. I find it fascinating that we all pretty much share the same DNA, but our unique experiences shape a character. There are family influences, where we are born… the way people walk–their gate–really tells me part of a story about a person. We may speak the same language, but cadences and how emphasis is placed on certain words also reveal something about who this person is…a person’s character. That’s where writers do incredible work. They bring out those unique facets about a character by writing idiosyncrasies into the script. What is your coffee routine? Quirks, tendencies, to me make a character come to life, not big sweeping things. Why are some actors so good? I sense it is because they capture subtle tendencies in speech, body language, movement, breath . . . to me these things make a character compelling. That’s what I strive to put into a character.
- What’s a behind-the-scenes anecdote about working on the set that you can share.
While still living in western Massachusetts, I went to an open casting call for a film called Before and After starring Liam Neeson and Meryl Streep. I was cast as a juror. I was fascinated watching Liam Neesom prep. It was my first exposure to a Hollywood set. Meryl Streep came into the room. She gazed at the jury. She and I made eye contact and she winked just as the director called “Action.” I was astounded at how she immediately fell into character. Her whole demeanor just changed, and she became the anguished Carolyn Ryan. That hooked me. I witnessed firsthand why she is such a lauded actress. Another story — I was cast to play a highfalutin extra for The Cider House Rules. On set, the director thought Charlize Theron should lift her love interest, played by Paul Rudd, into the wheelchair. I spoke up and said something like, “really a soldier would be more likely to do that.” Many of those on set were aghast that I would speak up as an extra. But the director, Lasse Hallström, was gracious and said, “alright let’s try that.” So, my role as an extra was expanded to a lifting extra and I was given the direction to lift Paul Rudd out of a car and into the wheelchair. When the film came out, you could see my big head dip into the scene for a moment as I lifted Paul Rudd. Friends and I thought my film debut, all 3 seconds, was comical. It can be fun to see one’s performance, but what motivates me is the creative process. I feel the same way about sports. It can be fun to watch a game, but to me nothing replaces playing a sport.
- What do you like most about the movie industry?
I like the medium of film to tell a story of the human condition. More than any medium, film really brings a story to life. The role of the actor is a small part of the whole process. There are so many people involved in putting together a story before an actor even steps foot on a movie set. I find it fascinating that it takes hundreds, if not thousands, of people to bring the story together–writers, producers, set builders, talent scouts, catering, transportation, lighting, film editing, pre- and post-production. The Director has the vision to bring this symphony all together. I struggle with routine and redundancy. My brain is just not wired to sit down and do the same task day in and day out. I look at acting as a kind of creative escapism. As an actor, I don’t see all the other moving parts, but then BOOM, there’s a feature-length film. It takes countless hours, skills, and vision. Actors are just the tip of the spear.
~ Colin Interviewed by Threshold Domains March 25, 2022