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Interview: Actor Johnny Alonso on ‘Gotham,’ His Horror Films, Westerns and More

Johnny Alonso is a graduate of New York University and the Actor’s Studio with many television and film credits to his name. A few of his acting highlights include Dawson’s Creek, Rules of Engagement, horror franchise Coffin, appearances on hit series Gotham, and a hosting gig on Emmy Award-winning show NASA 360. He expects to begin work soon on Coffin 3 this year. I caught up with Alonso recently to find out more about his interviewing, acting, and producing projects from the last year.

You’re a Gotham alum and I know you went to the red carpet for the final season screening. How did that go?

My agent saw it was coming up. It was almost impossible to get on that carpet. It was amazing! All of the actors said it was very sad to see it go, but it had to end. This could have gone forever, but they said it was the perfect time to let go of the reins. I got to talk with everybody, Ben McKenzie, Sean Pertwee, Robin Taylor, everybody. You can see them on my episode of <em”>Click on This. I swear to you, I said, “So what are you guys doing next? What’s in store?”

Everyone said they’re auditioning for things! It’s just funny because so many A-listers are just offered roles. I’ve never heard A-list megastars say that they’re all auditioning. But here I heard them saying it like any actor would with auditions in Hollywood and New York. It brings a cool human element to it. None of them could give away anything about the story line. They were happy to be part of the Gotham family. I even asked if there’s going to be a spin-off show.

If they do a one-off or a webisode, would you come back as Kazz with the band?

Absolutely! Even Robin was saying, “I’ve got to get you back with me.”

I said, “Oh, is there – ?”

He said, “You know that I can’t tell you.”

I think they might team up for another show.

Image of the poster for 'What Death Leaves Behind' Tell me about one of your new projects, <em”>What Death Leaves Behind.

What Death Leaves Behind is screening on January 26 at Sundance. We were selected to screen at the Utah Film Studios in Park City at 6:30 pm.

Have you screened anything there before? 

I have not. I’ve only worked Sundance several years in a row at the red carpet for Click on This. I’ve interviewed actors. Now I’m on the red carpet, which is very cool! I had a movie that was runner-up another year. It didn’t make it. This is my first film at Sundance, on the screen! I think the screening is going to sell out. There’s a red carpet, film screening, and a panel.

What was the process for you in making the film?

The film itself is very Hitchcockian, non-linear, and film noir beats. The nightmare sequence in the movie that I do with actress Erin O’Brien was shot linear, page one to page 30. Our time is now. Everything else in the film is like Memento. If you’re not used to watching a non-linear film or something that’s not standard, it can be hard to follow at first. Then you get into the groove and say, “Oh, I see what they’re trying to do.”

Every time Erin and my character showed up, it’s easy because all you have to remember is where we left off in the last scene.

It’s quite an ordeal for the main character with the transplant.

We had no idea about that when we were putting this together. It wasn’t explained in the director’s script, producer’s script, and our acting script. Our job as actors is do what the director says and just work. We shot those dream sequences on the sound stage in Philadelphia at Sun Center Studios. It was a huge flight hangar. You could play indoor football in there. There’s a depth of field when you shoot in the dark, which is what they wanted to capture, like when you have nightmares.

Have you worked with Erin before?

No, never. I can’t wait to work with Erin again. We had great chemistry on set. She’s a talented actress. She has a lot coming up, like The Fifth Boro, a new mob series on Netflix. We were fans of each other’s work before we met. We couldn’t be any closer on set. We were the perfect couple you don’t want to have move into your neighborhood! We both had the same vision. When actors have a mind’s eye of the script and they have an idea of what they think the director and audience might like, life is much easier on set.

Photo of Johnny Alonso from upcoming film 'Coffin 3'

How would you describe your film The Riddle House?

We’re coining it a “horror romance.” I was approached with a script a year and a half ago at ScareLA, where my franchise film Coffin 2 had a booth. ScareLA is the summer Halloween festival for darker films. Edward Abramson approached me with the script, saying, “I thought of you since day one.”

He told me it’s about a rock and roll couple. They find their way to a house because Peter Gunn, my character, is over-exhausted from touring and needs a break. They get to the house and turns out it is haunted… I got to my hotel later and I couldn’t put the script down. Horror films already have a big fan base, but it’s even better if you have a great story. There’s the mixing in of the elements of rock and roll, a makeshift family that comes together, trapped in the house, and cool Rob Zombie stuff going on. I think it’s going to be a home run. For a year I’ve been trying to produce this. I got a great director Erick Geisler from G2 Studios who did post-editing for Sinister and Annabelle. Also there are great actors – Robin Mukes from Coffin 2, Sara French, Tracey Fairaway. I love the rock and roll element because I’m a musician.

Did you learn any big lessons as a producer?

Taking on producing is a pain in the a**. I was exhausted at shoots because I was putting out fires constantly. As an actor, you go to the producer and ask for things. As a producer, you have no one to go back to. You have to do it yourself. I was to produce the trailer. It looks like the film has already been shot.

I found out in the last year that a lot of distribution company people don’t read scripts anymore. They don’t have time. Also, with really big money people, half of them don’t speak English. So how would they read your script? Young filmmakers are shooting promo pitch trailers to entice investors and show them what the films are about…

Producing has been a lot of fun. Once we get into production, I’m hoping by March, I’m doing pre-production with everyone, but then I’m just going to let go of the reins and be strictly an actor on set in L.A. for it. You get a lot more respect as a producer. I never realized that.

What can you tell me about Bill Tilghman and the Outlaws?

I had a blast working on it. It’s the second western film I’ve done with director Wayne Shipley. The first one I did with him was called Day of the Gun, which made a big splash. I think that’s the fifth most played western on Amazon Prime right now.

Wayne recycles his actors and puts them in his other films. I was offered Bill Tilghman and the Outlaws about year ago. I shot in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, last April. I play Big Joe. I was part of the Darling family. It’s Big Joe, Little Joe, and Ma Darling. Ma Darling was played by Lana Wood, who is Natalie Wood’s sister. She was also a Bond girl in Diamonds are Forever with Sean Connery.

Boy, did we have a blast working together. Ma Darling was this 4’11” fiesty chick. As Big Joe, I’m only 5’8.” The joke with my younger brother Little Joe [Patrick Boyer] is that he’s like 6’8.” We were the most odd looking family.

Bill Tilghman and the Outlaws had one of the biggest casts I’ve ever worked with. There’s Darby Hinton, Robert Carradine, Richard Cutting, Brian St. August, Ken Arnold, and even Johnny Crawford from the Rifleman series. These are great old Western names! We shot in Berkeley Springs on a sound stage that looked like a Western town from the 1890s. It was so cool.

Photo of Johnny Alonso and Lana Wood on set of 'Bill Tilghman and the Outlaws What is the story?

The movie itself, I think has a better story than Day of the Gun. The real-life guy named Bill Tilghman was a sheriff at a town. A crew from Hollywood is making its way east to do a silent movie about a bank robbery in the town. Instead of using actors to portray the robbers, they want to use prisoners, real outlaws to play the robbers.

Back in the day, outlaws of the west were glorified in the east coast. People love the stories about Billy the Kid and Jesse James even though they were nothing but criminals. That’s what this film is showing. The whole thing turns into chaos.

The Darling family is more of the comedic relief though in the film. I had fun playing Big Joe, because he’s a character I don’t get to play often. I was on the set for two weeks, where everyone was dressed up as cowboys and shooting guns. I have a lot of love for the film. It looks like a beautiful Western.

That’s three huge projects. Is there anything else on your plate?

I have a new film called The Driver, directed by Connie Lamothe. The director of photography is Jeff Herberger, who also was a DP for Bill Tilghman. I was brought on as a producer. I was also cast as Lenny, who plays both sides of the fence in his undercover role. I’m not one to be trusted. We shot this on the border of North Carolina in 4K. It’s an Italian mob meets Russian mob sort of film. It has the love of The Godfather and Goodfellas to it with a nice edge like New Jack City.

About Pat Cuadros

Pat Cuadros earned a B.A. in Art History on a full scholarship at the University of Virginia. Pat is a frequent reviewer of all things Washington, D.C., but she's also covered events in Canada and London. Highlights in her work include articles on Simon Callow, Ian McKellen, and Mark Rylance. Pat particularly enjoyed interviewing Lawrence Gowan of Styx, Ndaba Mandela, and Sir Derek Jacobi & Richard Clifford.

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