If you look at Mr. Obersts's IMBD you find a filmography that is almost a bit confusing, full of twists and turns, with deep roots in theatre, a strong faith, he has played Jesus, JFK, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain and Lewis Gizzard(just to name a few), Oberst also has a comical side which was proven with his one man tour Stand Up! When Comedy was Funny. So with such strong roots in stage and historical pieces how did he find his way to horror and who should we thank for it?!
Well it started when he moved from stage to small screen in the tv movie documentary Shermans March. He played none other than General William Tecumseh Sherman, a role that garnered him some much deserved attention, begining him down his current path. Since then his roles have ranged from lead to uncredited cameos, with everything in between. He has won over audiences on the tv, big screen, and across media platforms. Many are likely familiar with him through either the award winning FaceBook App, Take This Lollipop, where Oberst Jr plays the role of "The FaceBook Stalker", or his numerous indie horror roles. I highly recommend fans check out his work outside of the genre too, its just as powerful as the performances that we love him for in genre. I, for instance, watched him in The Shunning recently, and was literally moved to tears by his performance alone. That is what makes Bill Oberst Jr so special, he is a raw emotional rollercoaster that brings a life of its own to EVERY production he graces, elevating what ever production he is a part of!
We were lucky enough recently that he has graced us at The Horror Nation with an interview! Learn more about the master behind the madness, and enjoy!
Heather, I find you much more interesting than me! I'm impressed by the honesty with which you have written about being a "horror mom," and the role that stories of fantasy, imagination and fictional fear can have in our children's lives. So often horror is shunned as a topic for "decent family folk," but really it has its roots in stories told round the ancient campfire for wide-eyed kids. Thank you and The Horror Nation for daring to say as much.
In answer to your question (and for readers who have never heard of me) this is who I am: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2454994/ I'm an actor because God put the desire to be an actor into my heart. It is both my career and my passion.
First off thank you, your kind words catch me a bit off guard, and I am fairly sure leave me blushing lol, but back to you! You are a uniquely and deeply talented actor so I have to believe you have a fairly large pool of roles to pick from which leaves me wondering why you have chosen to work primarily in the indie film world?
Indies are the place where we can explore without rules. As long as you don't try to copy what mega-movies are doing, you can make magic. The best indie directors realize this and take advantage of the freedom. It is also a creative networking paradise - I did a guest star role on CBS-TV's CRIMINAL MINDS earlier this year, and many of the crew were people I had already met on indie sets.
You have a very unusual past for a man who has become an uncrowned King of Indie Horror, you traveled for numerous years playing the role of Jesus, in countless churches nationwide, which actually leads me to a couple of questions, which I hope you will indulge me in, as its really a fascinating subject...
How did you become involved in that particular project to start with?
I'm in love with Jesus, and have been most of my life. Everything about Him - His words, His deeds, the metaphor of His life - calls to me. Without Him I would be nothing. Without Him I am nothing. The idea to present the teachings of Jesus Of Nazareth was a result of hearing preachers make Him boring, or mean, or irrelevant. I wondered what it would be like to hear these astounding words for the first time, with no middle-man to interpret them.
What compelled you to remain in the role for so long? It seems there had to have been other opportunities for you during this time, that would have been less inconvenient (in ways of travel) and more lucrative, so there had to have been some meaningful personal reason that you chose to continue on for so long.
And last what finally prompted you to move on from the touring production?
I did all of these one-man shows many thousands of times and expected to do theater for the rest of my life. After 15 years on the stage, I bumbled into a TV role in a History Channel docudrama, SHERMAN'S MARCH, playing General Sherman, and doors opened for me to come to LA. I had to decide whether to jump to TV/film or stay on the stage. being a lover of adventure, I jumped. Now I do stage so rarely that when I get to go back, it's a treat. It feels like home.
I have watched many of your films both in and out of genre, and one thing is evident in all of them. You seemingly offer a piece of your soul (for lack of better terminology) to each role, so how do you keep from being emotionally depleted, especially with as many projects as you are involved in?
An astute question, Heather. My profession involves ripping open wounds over and over again for the amusement of others (and I mean that in the best possible sense; that is the essence of the job.) You can get emotionally wiped out if you have no source. For me that source is routine. When not shooting, I live a very regimented and orderly life, so that when I go to work, where all hell breaks loose, I'm ready for chaos and I can surrender to it...temporarily!
I've read, and its evident in your performances, how deeply you commit to each role, doing things like sequestering yourself away in between shots staying in character for long periods of time etc, do you ever find it difficult to separate from a character once the role is over?
I do, yes. Frequently. They're all here in my head. Ray Bradbury said writers are "collectors of metaphors." In the same way, actors are collectors of emotions. You never lose the people you give life to entirely. They are like children. In my case, they are often very messed-up children, but I have to love them. It's my job. You cannot interact with another human being without being affected by them in some way. It is the same with fictional people.
How do you keep these often very dark characters from invading your "Real Life"?
Oh Heather, Heather, Heather - the way you get to the point! Yes, that is the issue, isn't it? The truthful answer is that you cannot keep them from invading if you have honestly invited them in (which you must do.) They linger. But you can give them a little corner of your mind to reside in, and try to learn a lesson, positive or negative, from having invited them in. They live in in you but they are filtered through you and ameliorated by you and they don't rule the roost. They are guests. Does that make any sense? I hope so.
Fans recently got to watch you take on the small screen with a role In the great series CRIMINAL MINDS, which begs the question... Why the cross over to television and is that something you would like to explore more in the future?
Matthew Gary Gubler, who plays Dr. Spencer Reid on CRIMINAL MINDS, is a filmmaker with an affinity for the horror/thriller genre. He asked me to play a character that embodies everything I love about monsters and much of what I believe about how we create monsters by alienation and cruelty towards what is different. I was so proud to do this role, and to bring a little of what Lon Chaney called "the humanity of the monstrous" to this great CBS show. Guest starring with Adrienne Barbeau and Tobin Bell was icing on the cake. I'd love to do more TV, yes.
The schedules are tighter and the prep time is less on TV than on a big-budget shoot, but compared to an indie it is about the same, so being an indie film guy is very helpful. I'm used to shooting fast. It forces you to be prepared. If you don't focus you will fail; even worse, you'll let down the rest of the team. I go off the grid when shooting for this reason. I love being off the grid! Being disconnected from distractions and connected with the work is utopia.
Which actually leads to another upcoming crossover, one that I as a parent am particularly excited about because this is one I will be sharing with my lil ones (and lets be honest here there's plenty of Bill Oberst Jr. films that you just cant do that with lol), But anyway you have a family movie coming up soon with Dean Cain can you tell us a bit about that, and when we can watch for it?
There aren't a lot of my movies that I can share with my own mother, let alone with your kids! I worry about children watching inappropriate things, so it is a joy to announce that this one is not only suitable for kids, it's made for kids. It's called THE THREE DOGATEERS SAVE CHRISTMAS and it stars talking dogs and Dean Cain. I play The Dogcatcher (my tribute to the Disney/Looney Tunes villains I grew up with) and Richard Riehle of OFFICE SPACE and GLORY plays Santa. I hope your kids like it! Director Jesse Baget says THE THREE DOGATEERS SAVE CHRISTMAS will be out this fall from his Ruthless Pictures Studios (which also produced my first werewolf movie, WEREWOLF RISING.)
It seems a very far departure from the types of roles you are most known for, what was it like moving into a genre so far removed from what we know you for?
It is only my second kids' movie in over 100 projects (the first was Rachel Goldenberg's THE PRINCESS AND THE PONY for The Asylum) and I can't tell you how much I enjoyed it. I love dogs, so it was really hard to be mean to them when shooting (after takes I was always saying "I'm sorry!") I'd like to do more. You know, Boris Karloff did The Grinch and he played Captain Hook, too. Kids loved him. Who doesn't want to be loved by kids? I think we are all kids at heart.
That effect on your sanity is exactly what director Trevor Juenger was aiming for. He's quite the young genius; a filmmaker who sees in indies the freedom to explore crazy cinematic paths that big-budget movies never dare to for fear of alienating a market segment. Juenger wants to alienate a market segment; the segment that wants a safe, predictable genre picture. COYOTE is a story that fits Poe's description from The Conqueror Worm perfectly: "much of madness, and more of sin, and horror the soul of the plot." Wild Eye Releasing picked up COYOTE after it won multiple awards at some festivals and was outright banned at others. A fall 2014 release is planned. It is an insane movie.
What a great and appropriate reference,love it! Now with so many projects both under your belt and in the works right now, what role has been the most challenging for you and why?
On stage that role would be Jesus Of Nazareth, for obvious reasons. On film it has to be Father Simon in Jourdan McClure's CHILDREN OF SORROW. I had just come off a film role in which I was terrible - my worst performance ever - when Jourdan hired me to play the cult leader in his movie. I was discouraged and didn't think I could act anymore. I told Jourdan this and he said "Then don't. Just come out to the desert and tell the truth." It was the first time I went off the grid for a role and it was the most honest I'd ever been onscreen up to then. Essentially the character is me, but without God in my life. Father Simon was a demon that needed to be exorcised. Not all reviewers dug it, but it was important to me. It was turning point from which I have not looked back.
As a man who seems to have just completely broken out in the industry the last few years in particular, is there anyone who you would really love to work with that you haven't had the opportunity to yet? & why?
TV. More TV. I've been a film guy but TV is so cinematic now that it is very, very appealing. Guest-starring on CRIMINAL MINDS whet my appetite for more.
I could literally ask you questions till the cows came home, you are such an interesting individual, with such an immense body of work, but I will go ahead and close things here with one final question... Is there anything we haven't touched on today that you would like the fine folks out there to know?
Other than my two big hates (pajamas and cheese) you mean? Yes, I'd like to ask your readers to hit my IMDb page and if they are so inclined, to leave me a message on the message board there. I really love interacting with people on that message board, because we're off of social media and the comments can be more thoughtful. The link is http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2454994
This was a real pleasure, Heather. I thank you and I thank the whole Horror Nation family for the opportunity. You guys make it worthwhile to be in this crazy business.
I can't close out without say a big Thank You to Mr. Bill Oberst Jr for being so generous, sharing his time with us! He is affable, approachable and just downright nice, add that to the incredible depth of talent and you have the kind of man that others aspire to be. One final treat, a glimpse at his stage days with this clip of him as Lewis Gizzard, proving once again that this man is a force to be reckoned with in the acting world!