BGB Actor Portrait: DOM BURGESS
Dom Burgess, actor, writer, filmmaker, is a part of our BGB Community. In the time he’s been part of BGB, we’ve seen him evolve into a multi-hypenate powerhouse, his talent bursting forth in a multitude of ways. He’s also one of the stars of the limited series, FEUD, alongside Susan Sarandon, Jessica Lange, Alfred Molina, Stanley Tucci, and more. He’s a part of the cast of THE MAGICIANS, playing “Ember” the Ram God, and wrote an exceptional short film, SAM DID IT, that is about to go into pre-production, being financed via Indie-Go-Go. Spend some quality time with Dom here, as one of the ACTORS OF BGB.
HOW DO YOU FEEL?
Right now? Very happy, it’s a rainy Friday afternoon, my cats are stretched out on the couch, I have no plans for the rest of the day, so I think I’ll catch up on a couple of movies… Unless you’re asking in the broader sense and what is happening politically across the globe… Then, I feel anxious… But look! Cats!
IF YOU COULD PLAY ANY ROLE EVER- SOMETHING CLASSIC, A FILM OR TV ROLE FROM THE PAST OR PRESENT, OR YOUR DREAM ROLE TO COME- WHAT WOULD THAT BE?
Oh boy… I’m a bit of a geek at heart. Science Fiction. Fantasy. ‘GAME OF THRONES’ is my jam right now, I’d love to be involved in something like that. When I was young, I’d do my homework to shows like ‘STAR TREK’, ‘BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER’, ‘THE X-FILES’ or ‘BATTLESTAR GALACTICA’… There’s such a fun scope to tell allegories about our society in shows like those, to study differing points of view, I like that a lot. My favourite films (and books) are ‘THE LORD OF THE RINGS’. I could marathon those films on a loop forever and never get bored. And I’d love to take a crack at Lenny from ‘OF MICE AND MEN’ some day.
HOW DID GETTING A GREEN CARD CHANGE THINGS?
Getting a Green Card was so liberating. It’s been a long process. My first Green Card case was rejected, and my second case was a very drawn out laborious process. I was on an O-1 artists VISA for my first seven years here, but there’s still so many restrictions in place with those, certain Studios/Networks/Shows that you can’t work on. I booked a role on ‘TINTIN’ with Steven Spielberg; went for the WETA digital scans, got fitted for my motion capture costume, and then a week before I was due to shoot, got told that the studio wouldn’t take my O-1 VISA. I was heartbroken. And then, it subsequently happened over and over. I’d book a show, and I couldn’t do it. Booked it. Can’t do it. Booked it. Can’t do it. I’m pretty tenacious, so I always persisted… But yes, getting the Green Card and being able to walk into audition rooms without the niggling thought in your head that “you won’t be able to do it anyway” is so freeing.
HOW HAS YOUR WORK CHANGED IN THE PAST FEW YEARS? WHY IF IT HAS?
I think maybe I’ve gotten more confident in my auditions. I used to really struggle with nerves in audition settings. Or trying to please those on the other side of the camera. Now I present what I want to present. I make the choices that I want to make, and if they like them, great, and if they don’t, that’s also great. But I’m giving them my interpretation of a character. I’ve found the joy in just going to auditions and playing. And that’s freeing. I used to get anxious about auditions and now it’s more of a joy. No pressure. I don’t know where that change came exactly. But it’s one that I’m embracing.
HOW DID YOU APPROACH WORKING ON YOUR FAVORITE ROLES IN THE PAST YEAR OR TWO?
I play Ember on ‘THE MAGICIANS’, he’s a childish, churlish, self-centered Ram God with a mean streak, he likes to toy with others. He’s a joy to play, and think for him, it was finding what he loves. Really finding what drives him. I’m working under five-six hours of prosthetics for that role, so sometimes facial expressions might get lost, so I try and communicate more physically where I can. Ember I found through play and exploration. On ‘FEUD’ I play Victor Buono, who was a wonderful character actor who worked from the 1960s through to the early 1980s. That was a much more methodical approach, soaking up mannerisms and vocal nuances, cadence, and then finding a way to get that to flow from me from a natural place. A good gauge for me with Victor was being able to improvise as him and have it feel natural.
YOU’RE FUNNY… WITH A DARK SIDE & ALSO HAVE STRONG DRAMATIC CHOPS… HOW DO YOU DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN WORKING IN COMEDY & DRAMA? IS IT DIFFERENT?
Hmmmm… I mean… I guess the work is all the same. Your emotions have to come from a real place, right? And then everything else can shift? Pace can be changed, things can be made-broader for sitcoms, brought down for features and drama… But everything still has to come from a drive, and what that character wants and needs… That work I think is the same…
You’re a character actor with a very unique physique, voice, presence. How does that work for you? Against you? Have you embraced that about yourself? Have people tried to type you, change who you are?
You know, I used to struggle with it, I used to hate it, I’d get very self conscious… But now I’m really starting to embrace it. It’s my weapon, right? I’m bringing something different to the table. I kid you not, I was doing some industry showcase a few years ago, that was meant to, you know, showcase the actors… and the director of the show gave me this note: “You’re a big guy. What are you? Six-five? Three-Hundred Pounds? You’re too big. Every time you’re on stage you’re pulling focus. So, just hit your mark and don’t move. Don’t move your arms“… And I guess at that point you just have to shrug your shoulders and say, “fuck it“… This is what I am.
You’ve started writing, and it’s GOOD. How has that changed you as an actor? An artist? Your career?
I love it! I’ve written sketches for many years now, going through improv/sketch programs here in LA, and I’ve always enjoyed that, but it wasn’t until I started taking the writing classes at BGB that my eyes were opened to storytelling for features. Before, that had always seemed so daunting. But yes, now I have a few features under my belt, and in April I’m going to be directing and producing my first short film, ‘SAM DID IT’, which I am beyond excited about. Alfred Molina is on board, which is mind boggling to me… So, this whole process I feel is broadening my artistic horizons, I’ve got my directing and producing hat on for the first time, and I guess I feel like a real storyteller. To tell the stories that I want to tell, to be making it happen, and trying to make it as good as it possibly can be… It’s feeding my soul…
OKAY… SO WHAT’S WITH THE CATS?
Oh shit, I love cats! I love all animals. If I weren’t an actor I think I would have maybe looked into veterinary medicine. I want to find a way to get involved more with Wildlife Preservation, hands on. That’s something that’s very near and dear to my heart. But yes… cats… I have four rescues; Frodo Baggins, Pippin, Ripley and the latest addition is Blink, who is blind. They’re just the best. They make me happy. Four is my limit though… though by California State law, you are permitted to have five cats in a rental property… I’m just saying…
What advice do you have for actors coming to LA from other lands? Other places?
I’d say persistence. I get sad when I hear that people come to Los Angeles and throw in the towel after three months or a year after “nothing happened“… I’d say get in class. I love being in class. Meet like minded people. Find a part of town that you LOVE. I love North Hollywood. Everything I need is a ten minute walking radius. Seriously. EVERYTHING. Movie Theatre, Metro (LA has a metro system everyone!), bars, restaurants, grocery stores, park, library, pet stores, comic book store, yogurtland, BGB! A great deal of my friends are local, and it feels like a little community. I’m so happy here. I love Los Angeles, it has so much to offer. Just give it a chance.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
When I skype my family back home, or if I get a little bit tipsy, my native Stoke-On-Trent accen
- Website: http://www.dominicburgess.com/
- IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1941237/
- REEL: https://vimeo.com/177480602
- Dom’s film project: SAM DID IT: Become a Backer!