Posted by: Drew | September 9, 2008

30 Minutes with Actor Jay O. Sanders from Greetings From the Shore

Jay O. Sanders

Jay O. Sanders as Commodore Callaghan

Veteran actor Jay O. Sanders is in the hot seat today.  Tapped to play the over the top bad guy,  “Commodore Callaghan” in Greetings From the Shore, Sanders delivers a performance that while laughably self absorbed, is viciously evil and acidic to those who get in his way.  Yet as is often the case, the mustache-twirling bad guy couldn’t be a nicer guy in real life.

I for one never make opinions about people I interview but much as Kim Shaw did, I remembered Sanders most vividly as the announcer in Angels In The Outfield,  Ranch Wilder. So I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Well let me tell you, if you ever have the ability to meet him in person or speak on the phone, Sander’s love for his craft washes over you almost instantly. He is the consummate professional working actor. He keeps his schedule packed with diverse roles and venues from the Emmy Award-winning PBS series “Wide Angle.”, audio books, theater and motion pictures.  I for one was a bit awestruck for a few moments after we spoke.   It’s refreshing to see such passion in this day and age.

Sanders was the very first person to audition for the inaugural theater program class at (SUNY) State University of New York at Purchase in 1971.  He made his off-Broadway debut in a 1976 in a production of Shakespeare’s Henry V.  His IMDB entry is a real screen scroller, playing everything from the Biker Ziggy on Rosanne in the 80’s to performing Hamlet in Shakespeare in the Park.

What type of film do you find yourself working on most?  Major studio films, or independent movies?

“I do a lot of everything; I have about five or six independents coming out right now as a matter a fact. ” Sander’s is currently in production on Edge of Darkness with Mel Gibson.

How long were you on set in Lavallette?

“My whole role was done in 4 days.”

What was it like working in Lavallette?

“Fantastic, they brought me in, treated me well…the residents of Lavallette were fantastic, very, very welcoming the whole town took us in, they put me up in a house on the water and really made me feel at home.”

“The whole cast was quite cohesive, they had already been there a little bit…it all felt very familiar the moment I went on the set.”
“I really feel like if I were to show up in Lavallette, I would have friends all over the place.”  Sanders recounted the now famous poker game saying “It was fun, with the whole gambling scene, that was all people who were locals.”

“It’s sort of a family film done on a professional level.”  In commenting on the endless Dirty Dancing comparisons of the film Sanders has a oddly unique link in that a long time friend wrote the top 40 hit “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”

“The thing that made that (Dirty Dancing) work was the believability of all the people even the Jennifer Grey (character)… it got the familiar texture of those families and the people from there and this girl really is an innocent.  You don’t think of her as a Hollywood starlet dressed down for the roll”

“The Commodore” , how was your interpretation developed?

“The opportunities to be fun and smug , to be powerful… they need some one powerful enough to counter balance Paul… that’s not an easy thing to find. It’s the weight and the humor, If I would have just had the weight then it would have been Goodfellas, and that wouldn’t have fit what the tone of this was. You don’t want somebody who’s going to have bodies in his trunk. You want someone who’s unrelenting in his greed… what’s his title, the Commodore of the Yacht Club in Lavallette.  His high reaching is not that very high considering how seriously he takes himself.

His thoughts on the group of foreigners that are so important to the storyline.

“I recognize these guys…there’s nothing more wonderful than feeling the texture of the truth”

How was it pairing off with Paul Sorvino, given each character was at polar opposite?

“I found it very easy, very natural, very fun. The funny thing is that we could have played each others rolls; we would have both felt at home in either roll.

That’s probably the fact we have so much experience doing so many different kinds of things, but that said we both appreciated what the other person was brining to it, recognizing and appreciating a balance to what your doing. When you’re playing something that overtly good or bad guy you really need someone on the other side to give you something to push off of.”

“Paul is about a big a presence as your going to find… to get to take that big presence and cut him down to size knowing that the audience is feeling OH S&*T.  The nastier I was the more he just watched me the more tension build till you can cut it with a knife.  That’s helped by the fact that… he’s holding it in, waiting for the moment until he can do something about this”

In a particular scene you unleash “the tiger” against a cast-member, it was very shocking to see you go from 0 to 100 and back again.

They had written the scene and didn’t know how it would play till we did it.  I saw it as an opportunity to immediately , it’s like a private moment, one of those flashes were you go OH WOW I didn’t know what we were dealing with here.  It gives me a moment to completely counterbalance the guy who you laugh at because he’s charmed by his own picture on the wall, the silly side of it where you go… You love to laugh at him and with him but it needed some solid grounding so it would be genuinely dangerous.

So that moment with ______(see the movie) ____   you going to go ‘If he’s capable of doing this with ____(see the movie) ____  what won’t he do with anyone else”

How was the comedic banter with Andrew Shaifer on the set?

“He was a complete cut up, he and I hit it off tremendously well, we used to slay Sorvino, he would be mister serious and we would be looking down at him and he would be in hysterics, which is a very good thing actually.  We had a great time and I did not know Andrew from before that, we have various friends in common, but he’s a very funny out there guy”

And speaking of Andrew’s performance as Flip Dooley

“He’s the maitre d’ with the Commodore complex, he’s the captain of the dingy that rides behind the ship, and the funniest thing is with the accent where he’s trying to be all appointed… and he even sounds even more ludicrous. ”

What is you best advice to the new comers into the industry?

“Always continue to challenge yourself, always continue to grow, and don’t be limited by other people’s blindness or desire to pigeonhole you…”

“I also believe in always returning to the theater …  Part of the art is looking at the challenge put in front of you and learning to apply your talent to that,  and the more difficult forms you do the more it informs how you cross over to the next thing. ”

“There’s a lot of development of new plays that get done, in New York especially, but with the theater world in general. There are lots and Lots of readings with playwrights trying to hear their stuff and develop it, to see what they are doing right, and what their doing wrong, and I do as many of those reading that I can fit into my schedule. They are like going to the gym.  And at the same time your meeting all the people at the gym, you meeting all these other actors, writers and directors …  In working terms with nobody judging you, your doing them a favor but your learning things because everything is raw. ”

Like “The Commodore,” Jay has traveled the world, performing on stages in London, Boston, San Francisco, Washington DC, and extensively in New York-On-Broadway and Off. Jay is also a staple of Shakespeare in the Park.  He can next be seen in and Revolutionary Road with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

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