Todd Stashwick

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Interview by Christine Schmidt and Gaby Eichberger


MyCoven took the opportunity for an interview with charismatic Todd Stashwick. He puts on his roles like other people put on their underwear. You need a guy from Vulcan, call for Todd. You need a crazy villain, call for Todd. He’s one of the reasons why Supernatural Episode 4×05 Monster Movie became unforgettable, aside from Dean strapped to a generator by a mad scientist … dressed in lederhosen.  No villain fled a scene with more dignity on a scooter than Todd’s Count Dracula. Check out our interview to learn more about a great, versatile actor.
You’ve started out in impro theatre and are also still teaching it to others. Can you tell us a little more about that?

I started improvising in College. Growing up in the 80s I became a big fan of Bill Murray. I deeply wanted to follow his trajectory. So I did my research and saw that he was a member of the famous Chicago comedy theatre, The Second City. When I graduated College I moved into the city where I began improv training at Second City and the Improvolympic. I was eventually hired to Second City. Thus began a long term pursuit of the art form. I formed two groups, one in NYC called Burn Manhattan, a group in Los Angeles called The Doubtful Guests, I co-founded an improv school called the Hothouse STC, helped create a show in Liverpool called Hoof! and I continue to teach and perform at festivals.It’s one of the art forms that will always intrigue me. I’m always surprised and excited by it. The live experience of it is singular. It’s kind of punk rock, controlled anarchy.
You’ve worked on a wide variety of series. Is there a difference working on scifi/fantasy/horror type series?

The only difference is subject matter. With any role it is my job to perform the role with credibility. The audience has to suspend disbelief. If the actor doesn’t invest in the circumstances, especially when the situations are as heightened as they are in sci-fi and horror, the thing falls apart. The technical difference performing in genre shows are the hours tend to be longer because you are accommodating stunts, practical on set visual effects and sometimes extensive makeup. When working on half hour sitcoms the lenght of the work day is far shorter.
How do you manage to reinvent yourself for each role? Is it hard not to repeat yourself?

The reinventing is done for me by the writers. They create characters with specific points of view and life circumstances. My work comes in the choices I make to try and give a truthful, authentic performance that honors the writers intentions. The fear of repeating one’s self is non-existent in that the roles are as varied as the many different writers who create them.
Given that your role on Supernatural was small, albeit extremely iconic, has the reception you received in the fandom surprised you?

Absolutely. Never in my wildest did I think my silly little homage to Bela Lugosi would garner the type of response it did. I’m humbled.
By and large, do you prefer comic or dramatic roles?

Comedy roles often feel like a vacation, after wrenching tears, fears, anger and pathos in the middle of nowhere for fifteen hour days. It’s nice to go into a studio on a lot and do some verbal and physical gymnastics to make the funny. It’s great. Ultimately though I enjoy characters that evolve over a longer period of time, their destinations are surprising. Situation Comedy counts on the characters being the same week after week, their situations change and we like watching how characters react to them. But the characters themselves are consistent. The show resets week after week. It’s comfort food. I’ve been really fortunate that I have been able to plant feet in both comedy and drama.
Is there a special appeal to playing the villain of the piece?

In episodic television the villains are often the most interesting characters. In procedural TV like Law and Order, the cops are often the hosts of the show and the villain of the week is the focus. As I’ve said before the villains usually get the best lines and costumes. As an actor looking for the humanity in a „villain“ is fascinating. To try and understand what drives a person to commit terrible acts. I also try and find the humor or relatable quality in them. The down side is I often wind up with a bullet in the head or in cuffs at the end of the episode and I’m back looking for the next job.
If money weren’t an option, would you rather do theatre or film/tv and why?

Without sounding like I’m dodging the question I have to say each medium of acting fulfills me in different ways. Film is finite, you tell one journey and out. TV is interesting because you can take your time to evolve the story. Theatre is immediate, the relationship with the audience is visceral. I’ll never do just one form.
What kind of a role are we going to see you in next?

I’ve booked a great recurring role on The Originals which is a spin off to the Vampire Diaries. It’s not the villain! I also did a western called Jane Got A Gun with Ewan MacGregor and Natalie Portman, that will be out next year.
Can you tell us a little bit about how Devil Inside came about?

In 2009 I was acting on the show Heroes. My collaborator, Dennis Calero, was the artist hired to draw the Heroes webcomic. That’s how we met. We had coffee and talked shop. He asked if I wrote. I told him this idea about the Devil having a crisis of conscience. He suggested that we work together and turn it into a webcomic. I loved the idea. We launched it at the San Diego Comic Con 2010.
Do you have the entire story arc planned already, or is it constantly evolving as you go along?

We loosely sketch out the years worth of story. The big events, themes, characters and where that year’s chapter will end. All of that is determined ahead of time. The order too which the story is spooled out week to week is more on the fly.
Is your personality reflected in the character of Jack Springheel in any way?

He certainly has my sense of humor. The strip as a whole reflects a lot of my philosophy of the world and the nature of choice. Jack is far more brutal than I.
How does the cooperation with Dennis Calero work? Is it a creative team effort, or does the story drive the pictures or vice versa?

Each week I write and send him a script for one episode. We shape it and he then does his magic. It’s a team effort. The story does drive the pictures of course but he will come up with ways to visually present the story that continue to blow my mind. He’s a genius.
Twitter – curse or blessing?

A blessing. It helps me spread the word of the work I’m doing that I hope people will enjoy. It connects people in ways never before imagined. Heck it’s been instrumental in political movements. I avoid the negativity and the snark. So I’ve really enjoyed it. There can be a dark side. The musician Ani Difranco once said „any tool can be a weapon if you hold it right.“ It all comes down to personal responsibility.
We’ve read that you love to travel. Are you the kind of traveler who organizes everything beforehand, or do you walk out of the door with some necessities and a general idea of where you want to go?

I don’t over organize. I like to plant myself in a new place and see where the day takes me. There are definite sites I want to see but once an improviser always an improviser.
It says on your homepage that you married on Times Square. What made you choose this location?

I love NYC. Time Square is such a vibrant place, electric, alive. The crossroads of the world, theater, life. It was such a part of my wife and my daily life, it seemed ideal.
What was it like to share such an intimate moment with a lot of strangers?

The dichotomy of such a private, intimate moment in a hugely public place, being shouted to
the world. It was uncommon, breathtaking. – Christine’s special interest questions:
Red curry is my favorite dish, so I took particular notice of it being mentioned on your homepage. As a vegetarian, what are your favorite ingredients to add to a curry?

Tomatoes, baby corn, peppers, vegan chicken, pineapple. Brown rice on the side.
Since I’ve never been lucky enough to meet you at a convention and I usually ask this question of everyone there: What kind of music do you listen to when you have a really shitty day?

Jack White. Mike Doughty. The Beatles. Rufus Wainwright. Basically the same music I listen to on good days.


Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer our questions and for the insights you gave us. It’s been a pleasure and we hope to see more of your wonderful work in the near future.


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