Interview with Eugene Byrd of the movie “Immanence” and many TV shows by Suzanne 1/28/22
This was a very fun interview! I always liked Eugene in the many series I’ve seen him in since “Bones,” but this chat with him showed just how much fun he can be and why he’s such a great character actor who can do film, TV, comedies, drama, scifi, voiceovers – anything. He’s really versatile and laid-back. If you like horror, you’ll probably like this movie, “Immanence.” It has a mixture of horror and supernatural/religious phenomenon. Do make sure you watch him in “Secrets of Sulphur Springs” and the other projects mentioned.
Suzanne: So, tell us how your role in this movie came about?
Eugene: Well, I got a phone call from a really good friend of mine, Michael Beach (the star of “Immanence”), and Michael was like, “Hey, listen, man. I’m gonna get you. So, just come on and play with me, man; play with me. Let’s play. Let’s do this thing together. Let’s do it, and you’ll just have a good time.” And I was like, “First of all, who is this?” But then I was like, “Listen, man, if you really like this script, and you really think it’s a good idea -” because I had met Kerry and Summer at an event, and it was really great. I hadn’t seen the script. I heard him talk about it. I had no idea. Then, Beach called me and said, “Yeah, I want you to do it.” I said, “Okay, cool.” I hadn’t seen the script. I took him at his word, and his word was good, because, I ended up enjoying Davis and the idea that this script was playing with.
Suzanne: Okay, great. So, no audition necessary. That’s good.
Eugene: No, those are the best things, when you get that offer, when you get a friend beg you. I love when Beach has to beg me, “Come on, man, do something.” I’m like, “Yeah, I got you by the ropes.”
Suzanne: So, did they give you any backstory at all on your character or just the script?
Eugene: Beach gave me the backstory. Then, when I talked to Summer and Kerry, they gave me the script, but I had already signed on. I already trusted my friend, because I know he has really good taste, and especially when it comes to independent films, and doing something that’s very interesting and different. So, once I got the script, I started to delve into Davis and say, “Okay, he’s the fun guy.” He’s the guy that likes to have fun, make jokes. But obviously, he changes, as everybody does, as the script goes on.
Suzanne: I noticed that your character is kind of the “dumb guy” who has to ask everything–
Eugene: I don’t know that I’d call him a dumb guy [laughs]
Suzanne: Wait, let me finish. “Dumb” in the way that he doesn’t know all this science stuff. So, they have to explain it to him, and in doing so they’re explaining it to us. So you’re that guy.
Eugene: Yeah, I’m the audience, but it’s funny, because he still says, “So, you guys are chasing aliens?” And they’re like, “No, see, we’re after these extraterrestrials.” And I’m like, “Aliens. I don’t know why you can’t just drop it down in layman’s terms.”
Suzanne: Right. It’s a pretty small cast. Did that make it more fun, having such a small cast?
Eugene: Oh, it made it more fun, because at least two of the people I knew, and and then I knew Summer and Kerry, but not fully yet. I knew Asenneth’s husband, and then I just met Kasia. I think what it did for us is that everybody’s personality worked it [together] in that way. Sometimes everybody’s personality – but you’re on a boat together, for twelve hours, from 4pm to 4pm. If you don’t get to know each other and get to have fun, you’re gonna be miserable.
Suzanne: So, you filmed on an actual boat?
Eugene: Oh, we filmed on an actual boat. This was an actual boat, and we were on the actual water. And I was not excited about it, because I can’t swim, and I don’t like boats. So, this was a lot of faith. They kinda lied to me. They kind of lied to me a little bit and didn’t tell me we’re going out on the water. Then, they kind of let it out that, “Oh yeah, we’re getting on the water,” and I’m like, “What are you talking about?” [unintelligible] on a boat. They’re “Like no, we got to go out.” Yeah.
Suzanne: Well, I’m not a good swimmer, but I do like boats, but I guess you couldn’t have a life jacket or anything on while you were filming…
Eugene: I didn’t wear one, because I was like, “You know what? I’m just gonna jump off the boat immediately onto the pier,” if there’s a pier. If there’s no pier, then, “Well, you know what? Life was good.” [laughs]
Suzanne: And have you done any horror movies before?
Eugene: Yes. Well, I guess you could call – I’ve done a couple, but the one that I did that everybody knows, Anacondas, which I guess is action, horror, comedy in a weird way. So, I had done that. And I’m a huge fan of horror films, so that was the other thing. I was like, “Yes, I’ll do this.” And I was working on a horror film with a friend of mine, too, independent. So yeah, this was right up my alley.
Suzanne: Oh, that’s good. At the beginning of the movie, some of the characters are not religious, and some are. Where does your character fit into that range of beliefs?
Eugene: You know, with Davis, I played a more sort of, like, he grew up with a religious background, but he doesn’t really follow anything. He’s pretty much a tech guy. He believes in money and believes in those type of things, but it didn’t take him long to fully believe, to know that something was up. I think that’s a lot of people these days. There’s spirituality, and there’s an underlying belief, but you kind of leave it away as you get older and you pursue different things, and that’s how I played Davis.
Suzanne: And if this isn’t too personal, where do your own beliefs fit into that?
Eugene: I grew up Baptist. I’m spiritual. I’m spiritual, because I grew up Baptist, and I have a lot of ideologies that are around me, like my manager when I was growing up was Jewish. My mom’s best friend was Seven Day Adventists. I went to Catholic school. So I mean, you could pretty much – I dated a Buddhist. So, you can put all of these pieces together and know that I had a lot of influences – oh and one of my best friends is Muslim. Do you see what I’m saying? So, for me, I don’t really follow a denomination.
Suzanne: Okay. Yeah, I live in a Baptist town right now, a small southern town in Arkansas.
Eugene: Wow. I don’t even know how to put that together. It’s a lot.
Suzanne: No, I know. I’m from San Diego. So, it’s very different.
Eugene: It’s extremely different.
Suzanne: Yeah. Were there any particular challenges for you in doing the role?
Eugene: No, I mean, other than the boat, and possibly having to swim? No, no other challenges. I mean, it’s always a challenge. When you’re taking on a role where science and religion are a part, and you’re playing this sort of, “How do I play this guy?” but when it came to being an actor, no challenges. When it came to me being on that boat and then dealing with different people trying to figure out how – It ended up being like smooth in that respect.
Suzanne: What about as far as COVID? Was that a problem at all?
Eugene: There was no COVID. Well, COVID wasn’t known yet.
Suzanne: Oh, wow. This was filmed long ago.
Eugene: This was the end of 2019. I think we heard that there was something, but it was overseas, but no, we had no COVID issues.
Suzanne: Oh, well, that’s good. I can’t imagine filming in a small area with a bunch of people.
Eugene: It wouldn’t even have happened, because well, it could have, because, some of the people stayed down in the area. They didn’t go back home. So, it would have been a version of the bubble. I guess everybody goes into this thing, and they don’t leave it for about sixteen to twenty days. So, I guess we could have done it that way, but yeah, we didn’t know anything about COVID at that time.
Suzanne: And now you’d just all be vaccinated and tested frequently and that kind of thing.
Eugene: Tested like crazy, but at the same time, I don’t know. If you’re in the bubble, you can’t move. You can’t go see family or friends, and you test once or twice in the beginning. I don’t think COVID would have been an issue at that point.
Suzanne: How long did it take to film?
Eugene: It was sixteen days. I could be wrong. I’m trying to remember– I think it was sixteen days. And it was all night. All night shoots. So, it was switching straight from [day] and that’s it. So [unintelligible] every day.
Suzanne: Wow. Yeah, it’s –
Eugene: Six days a week.
Suzanne: It’s a nice atmosphere, kind of claustrophobic and night and everything.
Suzanne: It made for good horror atmosphere. I see that you’re doing some voiceover work with Spidey and His Amazing Friends. Do you enjoy doing voiceover?
Eugene: Yeah. I loved doing voiceovers. It’s so freeing, because there’s no worry about how you look. You know, I don’t have to go through hair and makeup. I could go in in my pajamas, and not have to brush my teeth. I [did] brush my teeth though, [laughs] but I don’t have to go and be something in front of the camera; I just have to let my voice and my acting do the talking, and that’s a lot of fun. And doing Spidey and His Amazing Friends for Disney has been a lot of fun, just because I could play in a comic book world. I’m a nerd. I grew up a huge comic fan. The fact that I’m playing Miles Morales’s father is crazy to me. It’s fun.
Suzanne: That’s good. And you’ve been in so many shows, including The Cosby Show, when you were just a teen. Do people recognize you for that, or mostly for your newer shows and movies?
Eugene: I think if you grew up on The Cosby Show, or you grew up on the shows I did when I was younger – you know what, I do get called out for it quite quite a bit, but they’re usually either older, closer to my age, or just a little – but closer my age, but rarely do I get younger people like in their twenties going, “You were on Cosby,” because it’s been off the air for so long, and there’s no way they would know, unless they watch TV Land, and then I’ll be surprised they know it.
Suzanne: How old were you when you started acting? You were pretty young, right?
Eugene: Yeah, I started off when I was seven years old. So yeah, it’s been a long time. This year – wow – will be my fortieth year.
Suzanne: You’re lucky that not only do you still look very young and can play really young roles and have most of your career, but you’re not one of those child actors that either had terrible problems or look unusual. Some of the child actors, they look like children, and then when they grow up, they look kind of weird.
Eugene: I do look kind of weird. I got lucky in the fact that I never took this business – you know, I looked at it as fun. Then, when it became a job, I had to reorder, because I think every child actor has to reorder exactly what it is, because when you’re a child actor, your job is your life. You know, you’re an actor, so you kind of identify yourself as an actor and then what all those things mean. But I can’t sit there and say that I haven’t had my own issues with it, because you’re trying to re-identify yourself, and you’re trying to make sure you have longevity. I think a lot of people [are] trying to be stars, or they were stars, and then they are no longer stars, and they had to deal with that aspect. Luckily for me, I’ve always been sort of in the middle. I’ve been a known actor, but I’ve never hit the stardom level where I can’t walk down the street, and then all of a sudden [I can’t].
Suzanne: Yeah, I’ve seen you on a lot of shows, but I don’t think I really – no offense – didn’t notice you until –
Eugene: I appreciate that, though.
Suzanne: – until your role in Arrow. That was such a great role for you. Even though it was a superhero show, did you feel that challenged you more than some of your earlier roles?
Eugene: Roles are challenging, because they’re a role I haven’t played. So, there’s always a different psychology attached to each character that I enjoy, or I try to push myself a little further in certain roles when I get them. And by the way, I did not take offense to that, because I pride myself on people not knowing, because the fact is I try to disappear in my role. I try to play my roles honestly, and if you don’t remember me, that’s cool, but if you start going, “Wait a minute…” that means there’s some recognition, but you don’t know what it is, and I’m fine with that, just because I’d rather keep my anonymity a little bit. I think that’s [where] a lot of actors, a lot of people have issues. That’s what happens; they lose that anonymity, and they can’t move around the world the way they would like.
Suzanne: It’s got to be difficult, a lot of pressure on people.
Eugene: I know a few people who have exploded, and it’s been difficult for them. Yeah.
Suzanne: Getting back to Arrow, I mean, it was a great role with you and and the guy that plays Diggle, your brother?
Eugene: We’ve played brothers before.
Suzanne: Oh, you did?
Eugene: Yeah. We did a pilot together called The Proud Family, and it was with Gabrielle Union and Essence Atkins and Selma Hopkins, and it was a really great cast. We just didn’t get picked up, but David and I kept in touch as friends. And then one day…he was like, “Hey, I want you to play my brother,” and I was like, “Oh, Okay.” I knew he was in Arrow, but I was like, “Man, that would be a dream come true.” And it was fun, because I got to play a duplicitous character, which I feel like I’ve [done] a lot [laughs], but it’s like I’m like playing the duality of a guy who’s evil, and then all of a sudden, he’s good, but he never was good. He was always [evil]. So, that was fun. That was fun.
Suzanne: Yeah, it was good. It is very surprising. We never knew he was, but he was always sympathetic, because you were playing him, and you’re very likable on screen. I also loved your character on Bones, that seemed very similar to the role you played on Crossing Jordan.
Eugene: Right, which, I think, helped me, gave me a quick way to jump in. Because Sydney is a little bit – actually, Sydney was way more open than Clark ever was. Clark was always super buttoned up very much like Bones, you know, and the fact that “I don’t share my personal life; this is about the work,” and then as time goes on, he starts letting himself be loose and being more of a personable person in that show. I love that show. That was like one of my favorite shows I ever did. I did it for ten years, and I have two of my best friends from that show.
Suzanne: Okay, can you tell us which ones?
Eugene: Pej Vahdat, who was Arastoo, and Michael Grant Terry, who played Wendell. So, they’re two of my closest friends.
Suzanne: He’s on another show. I can’t think of which one.
Suzanne: No, Michael.
Eugene: Michael did Roswell.
Suzanne: Yeah, I think just something else though. I can’t remember it. Never mind.
Eugene: He did a Lifetime – was it a Hallmark or a Lifetime show? I want to say it was Hallmark.
Suzanne: I think it is something on Showtime or STARZ, but I can’t remember.
Eugene: He’s got something he was doing, but those are only two I know we’ve talked about. If it’s something else, he’s gonna be mad at me that I don’t know. [laughs]
Suzanne: It’s fine. You can’t be expected to remember all these shows.
Eugene: Pej right now is doing like a thousand things. Sometimes I’m like, “Which one is this again?”
Suzanne: Well, I’m glad to hear that the Squints are still friends.
Eugene: We all are. You know, the beautiful part about that show is we all had great chemistry with each other, and that’s rare. That’s rare where the recurrings have great chemistry with the regulars, and it feels like we’re all regulars.
Suzanne: No, definitely. And do you have any other projects that you’re working on that you can tell us about?
Eugene: Oh, that I could tell you about? Well, you know, actually, they’re all on right now. They’re all coming out. Today is The Legend of Vox Machina, a cartoon for Amazon Prime, where I play Captain Jared. And then Secrets of Sulphur Springs. Just everything else I can’t even talk about yet.
Suzanne: I love that show. You’re coming up on that?
Eugene: My character showed up fully last week, and today –
Suzanne: Oh, I haven’t watched last week’s yet.
Eugene: You see him way more today.
Suzanne: Okay, cool. I haven’t watched last week’s yet. I know it’s a kid’s show, and I don’t have any children –
Eugene: But here’s the funny thing, I watched it. It’s more for everyone. I’ve realize that, because before I even did it, I was like, “This is a kid’s show. All right, I’ll just do it.” Then, I worked with the kids, and I worked with the other actors, and two of them I knew, well, three; three people I knew on that show. And I was surprised. I was surprised how accessible it was for adults and that the kids were just natural. I got to work with Elle Graham most of the time; she plays Savannah, the little blonde girl. Well, she’s not little, that girl’s tall. [laughs] I had such a great time working with that cast and that crew. So, I’m glad you like it. It just surprised me.
Suzanne: Yeah, I don’t remember why I started watching. Oh, because the people who wrote it used to write in soap operas, and I watch soap operas.
Eugene: Ah, yes. That’s right. I think Tracy did – I don’t know about Charles. Charles did 90210, which is what I did. I did the original 90210.
Suzanne: He’s been on a lot of those types of things, and I think daytime briefly too. But yeah, I like that show. I’m always telling people watch the show.
Eugene: The funny thing is because they think it’s a kid show, they’re not thinking that you’re going to watch something that’s still appealing to you as well and that’s wholesome and interesting. I wouldn’t have believed that either. If you asked, if you told me.
Suzanne: Yeah, well, I have a lot of science fiction friends, and so, I would tell them, “it’s got time travel!”
Eugene: It does, and I’m curious what you’re gonna think about this season we’re doing right now, this season that just came out. It’s interesting, and it deals with, obviously, time again, but there’s an even deeper mystery now.
Suzanne: Well, they’ve got to change it up every season. And anything else that you’d like to say to your fans?
Eugene: Thank you for supporting me all these years, and there’s some stuff coming up. I can’t talk about it, but it should be very, very interesting.
Suzanne: All right, great. Well, thank you for joining me today. I really enjoyed it.
Eugene: I had a great time.
Here is the video version of it.
Interview Transcribed by Jamie of http://www.scifivision.com
Buffalo 8 has announced the acquisition of IMMANENCE from filmmaker Kerry Bellessa. The thriller/horror film will be available on demand a several digital streamers, including iTunes, February 4.
While investigating a meteor strike in the Bermuda Triangle, a team of radio astronomers discover a mysterious signal in the deep sea that could be the world’s first contact with extraterrestrials. After witnessing various impossible phenomena, the team becomes convinced that something is trying to communicate with them.
Aboard their boat is Jonah (Michael Beach, Aquaman, “S.W.A.T.”), a loner with a mysterious past and cryptic motives. His faith leads him to suggest that this communication may be a manifestation of divinity, a hypothesis which the scientists immediately reject.
Soon the communications go from inexplicable to terrifying, threatening not only the team’s beliefs, but also their lives. When chaos culminates in an ominous revelation that makes everyone a threat, the team must fight for sanity and survival in a nightmare against the ultimate evil.
Rating and Run Time: Not rated (R equivalent), 90 mins.
Short Summary: Radio astronomers discover a mysterious signal in the deep sea that could be contact with extraterrestrials. After several terrifying manifestations threaten their beliefs, the team must fight to survive the ultimate evil.
Director: Kerry Bellessa
Writers: Kerry Bellessa And Joshua Oram
Producers: Kerry Bellessa, Summer Bellessa, Michael Beach
Cinematographer: Oscar Ignacio Jiménez
Starring: Michael Beach, Summer Bellessa, Eugene Byrd, Anthony Ruivivar, Kasia Pilewicz, Asenneth Del Toro, Jamie Mcshane
Proofread and Edited by Brenda