Last week, Remedy Games released “The Signal," the first of two downloadable chapters for the moody action thriller Alan Wake. Needless to say, having an excuse to jump back into the terrifying happenings surrounding Bright Falls and the town’s tortured author in residence was quite welcomed.
Traversing the horror-stricken pacific northwestern locale got me thinking about the superb game tie-in mini-series Bright Falls again, and so I decided to go back and catch up with our old pal, actor Christopher Forsyth, who starred in the series as dark and troubled writer Jake Fischer, and take a look back at the widely discussed series, his role in it, and what the future could hold for Jake and the darkness-laced town of Bright Falls.
G4: So how did you get involved with Bright Falls? When did you first find out about the project?
CF: I got a call in January of this year from my managers that [casting director] Mary Vernieu (Grindhouse, Sin City, Requiem for a Dream, and many others) wanted to see me for the lead role of Jake Fisher in a production titled Bright Falls. That’s the first time I’d ever heard of the project, or [Alan Wake] for that matter. She saw a number of people for each role, and from those initial meetings, she selected a handful to bring back in to meet with the director, producers, and writers. Then they did some chemistry tests where they had different actresses who were there for the role of Ellen, read with me. From there, they offered me the role, and I began having pre-production meetings with the Director and writers.
G4: So you didn't know anything about Alan Wake before you found out about Bright Falls?
CF: No. I do play my fair share of video games, but I’m not a hard core gamer, per-se...I don’t keep up on the development cycle of games, so I had no idea what Alan Wake was, but it didn’t take much digging to find out about it online. I watched trailers, and read about the game, and that got me excited about Bright Falls, because I am a big fan of the psychological thriller genre in general.
G4: I assume you’ve played Alan Wake by now. What did you think of it, especially since you are now forever part of the game’s narrative universe? Was it strange to see Bright Falls in video game form after living in that world for the mini-series?
CF: I have indeed played the game. I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie in real life – roller coasters, sky diving, etc – so I thoroughly enjoyed the game. I like the concept that what you are up against is something unconventional, a power or force that is supernatural or paranormal in some sense, and foreign to us. I think Remedy Games did a really superb job with this game, and to have been a part of it in any capacity is very cool. As to the last part of your question – it wasn’t really strange; in fact it had kind of the opposite effect. It was almost a distraction (in a good way) in that I often found myself (when I was temporarily free from the danger of being axed) stopping to look around at my surroundings, to see how similar they were to what I had experienced during the filming of Bright Falls. And I have to say that this is yet another area where Remedy did an excellent job – the visual landscape. I think for me, having experienced that world first hand made the game that much creepier and even more relatable.
G4: What was your approach for bringing the gradually-going-insane Jake Fischer to life? The character definitely has shades of Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
CF: First of all, the fact that my name has now been mentioned in the same paragraph as a legend like the great Jack Nicholson, well….I’m going to frame this interview and put it on my wall! On a more serious note, while I am always incredibly inspired by the performances given by great actors and actresses, referencing performances from other films isn’t really part of my preparatory process. Intuitively, it might seem like a great idea, but in reality it would only end up getting in the way (for me at least), and might run the risk of yielding a performance that is a mere caricature of that actor rather than a genuine, organic, unique performance.
G4: Jake goes to some very dark places. Did you do anything in particular to gear up for that kind of experience?
I did a variety of things to really try to immerse myself in Jake's world as much as possible. Here’s one example: To really understand what Jake might feel like waking up in the woods in the middle of the night, I actually went out to a wooded area along Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu in the middle of the night one night, and just walked out quite far into the woods barefoot in only jeans and a t-shirt, and I just sat out there for over an hour, by myself. You hear noises, but you can't see what’s around you in the dark. You rationalize that it's probably just harmless nocturnal animals, but your mind begins to play tricks on you, and you begin to wonder if whatever it is you hear, might make you its next meal. I was really able to draw on that experience and the fear it generated, during the shoot.
G4: So…Jake was some kind of demonic were-deer, huh? You are in elite company there, since I can’t remember another occurrence of a were-deer in movies or TV. Congratulations! What are your theories about Jake’s fate and the general oddness of Bright Falls?
CF: You know – its funny – the whole “were-deer” theory. I’d never even thought about that as a possible interpretation until the theory was proffered by viewers. In retrospect, it is certainly one feasible theory, but there are other, equally plausible theories. I personally think it was left intentionally open ended, to force the viewer to discover for themselves what they think might have happened to Jake, and to create mystery that can only [maybe] be answered in the game, or in future episodes of Bright Falls. As for the oddness of Bright Falls – I LOVE it. It is for me – the very thing that makes the series so addictive and interesting to watch. Credit for that goes to our brilliant writers, Phillip Van and Mat Bunnell. The “oddness” of Bright Falls is itself, a main character in the series (the title character in fact), and a very watchable one at that.
G4: The reception for Bright Falls has been unanimously positive, with many people (myself included) calling for it to be turned into a regular series. Has the warm response surprised you? And would you like to see the show expanded on in the future even if Jake’s current arc seems complete?
CF: That the response has been so overwhelmingly positive has indeed taken me a little by surprise. But I had a really good feeling about the project early on, for several reasons. As I mentioned earlier, the fact that Mary Vernieu was casting the project lent it a great deal of credibility from the start. In addition, the script was really well written, and as the cast was being assembled and I began to meet everyone – it became apparent to me that this project had a lot of talent behind it in all departments. I’m a huge fan of the genre in general, so I’d love to see Bright Falls expanded upon in the future with or without Jake. Let’s just say – I have a “feeling” that we haven’t seen the last of Jake Fischer. Whether or not the series is expanded upon, depends a great deal on how much fans of the series continue to demand it.
G4: I read recently that your favorite game of all time is Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Aside from simply being an excellent choice, why is it your favorite? Are you playing any games right now? Any upcoming games that you’re particularly excited about/interested to see?
CF: Ocarina of Time is just one of those games that I feel really has it all. There are so many different, well developed worlds for the player to explore, with a variety of highly interesting characters, tons of things to figure out and items to collect along the way. The game provides a well sustained level of challenge that is immersive and engaging almost 100% of the time – and I love games that require you to develop and use strategy. Plus, the underlying story is just truly interesting. I never tire of playing it. As for what I’m playing now – I’m still playing around with Alan Wake, and I play Halo 3 online occasionally. I am looking forward to Halo: Reach, but I am only privy to that because I play Halo 3 now.
G4: What are you working on now?
CF: I executive produced and played the lead character in a film called “On The Outside” in January of this year. It was one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve had as an actor. In addition, I am also a budding screenwriter, and have a few scripts in various stages of completion, one of which is nearly finished and is starting to generate quite a bit of buzz already. I have already raised a considerable amount of funding for the film, so that is really going to be my passion project for 2011.
G4: Are you interested in working on more video game-related projects in the future?
CF: I am interested in working on projects that inspire me, stories that are compelling and well written, and in working with talented and dedicated people. Whether that comes in the form of video game related projects, films, theatre productions, music, or whatever, is of no consequence really.
For more about Bright Falls, check out my interview with the series' director/co-writer Phillip Van. And to find out more about Christopher's work, head over to his website.