For actor Chris Mulkey, a real sweetheart in everyday life, playing bad guys must come from somewhere. But parenting?
“Shut up. I don’t know,” he said with aw-shucks charm before adding: “I told my daughters when I was raising them, I love my daughters [Amelia and Lizzy], ‘I can provide you with clothing, a place to live, nourishment, emotional stability and be really great, OR if you mess with me, in two seconds I can become THIS GUY. You can choose at any given time who you want to talk to.’ ”
The no-nonsense look that appeared on Mulkey’s famous face emphasized how unpleasant THIS GUY could be. THIS GUY doesn’t smile much. Mulkey was all THAT GUY with me.
THIS GUY and THAT GUY have made countless TV appearances — he booked a recurring role on NBC’s “Grimm” Friday while I was on the phone with his wife — and “probably over 70” movies, most recently “Captain Phillips” with Tom Hanks and Twin Cities actors who played the Somali pirates. “Lots of people count ’em,” Mulkey said of movie roles. “I just do them one at a time.”
He and his actor wife, Karen Landry, are also regulars on the Twin Cities and Los Angeles theater circuits. Landry is currently playing the religious grandma in “Falling” at Rogue Machine Theatre in L.A.
They let me crash one of their daily trips to an Anytime Fitness last month when they were in St. Paul, which is apparently their favorite place, although they also keep a house in Venice, Calif. They have been married “32½ years,” he proudly said. The three simple keys to that lasting love are provided by Landry, whom I had to bleep in my startribune.com/video.
Q How long are you going to keep acting?
A As long as I am interested, I guess. I like acting a lot. I get to play a lot of different parts.
Q Which do you like better, acting or playing music?
A Oooh, that’s not fair. On any given night in the club, music. I play down in Louisiana, Nashville, Texas, Los Angeles House of Blues. I have a band in Los Angeles, Chris Mulkey and Deluxe, which centers around music that I write and Marcelliano, an amazing keyboardist. But I also have a band in Louisiana. I play with Sean Vidrine and Eddie Bodin. Play Mardi Gras, oh yeah.
Q What kinds of music do you play?
A I play blues and America alternative. Mixture between John Lee Hooker and Los Lobos, Stevie Ray Vaughan, a little Bob Dylan. But I funkisize him up.
Q Name an actor whose voice you were surprised to hear on the other end of a phone call.
A Jon Voight. That was after he hit me with a decanter and we were doing a “24” and he cut my face. I had known Jon for about 25 years. Jon goes, Mulkey, it’s Voight. I’m sorry I hit you. Do you still love me? I said, “I still love you but I said a lot of bad things about you.”
Q In “Captain Phillips,” you spoke the prescient lines: “Captain, they’re coming back. They are not paying me enough to fight pirates.” What’s your price if the job is fighting pirates?
A Boy, they’d have to pay me a lot of money. Then I’d take that money and hire somebody to really fight them and I’d go on vacation.
Q Why aren’t some crew members on those ships marksmen, whose job it is to sit there, especially in daylight, and pick off those pirates or shoot holes in their boats?
A There’s a whole thing we get from television and movies about what we would do in dangerous situations. And it’s all kind of Rambo’d up and Jackie Chan. And you wouldn’t do that. It’s not as easy as you think. I think the best thing to do in situations like that is go the other way. Don’t get involved unless you have to, and then you really have to commit.
Q That movie left me wondering who has a bigger bladder, the real Captain Phillips or Tom Hanks, who did not indicate the need to urinate until about 2:53 p.m. in the 1 p.m. movie I saw.
A C.J., no one goes to the bathroom in movies. In “Gone With The Wind,” who went to the bathroom? They went to the powder room.
Q Would you shoot these tense scenes with the pirates and then have dinner with them?
A We were all from Minnesota so we hung a little bit.
Q If Hollywood could learn one thing from the Midwest community where you grew up, what would it be?
A Loyalty. Sticking up for your guys.
Interviews are edited (and in this case, bleeped). Reach C.J. at firstname.lastname@example.org and see her on Fox 9.