Julian Richings

Go to German Version 
Interview by
Angela Wegener (metalamazon) and Gaby Eichberger (angelinchains)
Julian Richings – you can’t miss this guy if you’re interested in the Horror-Genre. He’s one of these actors that makes you rack your brain by thinking about where you’ve seen him last (movie, TV-show). It’s because his appearances are – sometimes – very short but memorable. He played himself into the hearts of Supernatural Fans with his brilliant embodiment of ‚Death‘ and it wasn’t just Dean Winchester who he gave the heebie-jeebies. In our interview Julian talks about his career and the different parts he played as well as about his very first shoot on set of Supernatural and what lesson he drew from it. Enjoy:


What sparked your interest in acting?

I’m the middle son of 3 boys. I think I’ve always been aware of the need to morph and adapt to siblings, and to the society immediately around me. Different aspects of our personality shines with different people; we are not fixed, we are continually shifting roles according to the dynamics of the group we find ourselves in. When my older brother joined a youthclub that put on plays I would help him build and paint the scenery. (He later became a professional theatre designer ) I loved the place. I loved the whole process of putting on plays- rehearsals, lighting, costume and set design, technical dress rehearsals etc, etc. I knew I had landed in the community I wanted to work in. I wasn’t technically very skilled, but I loved acting.


In 1984, you moved to Toronto. What brought you there?

I toured with a British theatre company with a production of James Joyce’s „Ulysses.“ It was an imagistic, highly physical production,  that was successful in Europe then played festivals in Chicago, New York and Toronto. The show was invited back to Toronto for a second run, and I got to know a lot of people. I really liked the energy and openness of the city, and its thriving theatre, film and television scene.


Are you missing „Good Old Europe“, sometimes?

Europe is a part of me, of who I am. There’s a surprising amount of European enclaves and traditions in North America, and I think I’m instinctively drawn to them. But I love the size and space of the New World and feel completely at home here in Toronto.I return to Europe frequently to visit family, so I don’t feel as if I am disconnected.


In 1996 you gained critical acclaim for portraying embittered Punk Rock Legend Bucky Haight in Hard Core Logo. This movie became one of the best Canadian movies ever. What has particularly attracted you to this movie?

The director, Bruce McDonald, had edited ‚Top of his Head‘ by Peter Mettler, one of the first films I did in Toronto. I kept running into him on subways and streetcars and we kept each other up to date with what we were doing. When I saw the script for Hard Core Logo I knew I had to do it. The UK punk scene was a big influence on me in the mid 70’s and I was able to channel about 3 or 4 of my heroes. I love music and the film was a joy to work on. Since then Bruce and I have worked on several projects together. He’s a cultural icon in Toronto and it’s always fun when he’s at the helm.


You seem to have an affinity for dark resp. exceptional characters. What’s the process to get into a character for a scene?

Very simple. I play the scene. I serve the story.I make sure I understand the scene I’m in, and its function in the bigger story, and I try to bring whatever tones or colours are required. I rarely carry the weight of an entire movie, but I’m often asked to come in and kick it in a particular direction. It’s my job to be as entertaining but true to the film as I can be without distracting. I try to collaborate, and to truly embody what’s needed by the director.I don’t try too hard to be self-consciously brooding or dark- quite the opposite. I try to find the humanity and logic of whatever my character does. It’s up to the audience to decide if I am dark, or flawed or ‚evil‘. I can only play the character for his truth, moment by moment. That way he is hopefully believable and watchable.


You’ve been acting in Hollywood Blockbusters and Independent Productions. What attracts you more and why?

My heart is in independent cinema. I love working with people rich with ideas and willing to take risks. I respect their need to be creative and to compensate for lack of resources. I recognize that it can be exhausting, and it’s easier for an actor like myself who parachutes in for a few days, but for a director and crew it can be utterly grueling. I am privileged to be able to do big-budget films as well, and I enjoy the contrast.


Which criteria are important to you for choosing a part in a movie, TV-show or on stage?

It varies. Sometimes it’s because of the part, sometimes it’s the people involved, and sometimes it’s simply because I need a job!I don’t think the criteria are any different whether it’s tv, film or theatre.


Kingdom Hospital has been a great success in German speaking countries as well. Your character Otto wears these hilarious glasses all the time. How on earth was it possible for you to get a clear view?

Ha ha! Impossible !I’m glad to hear it’s successful- I had great fun doing it, and I was a big fan of Lars Von Trier’s original.When we started shooting the props master suggested I wear contact lenses that corrected the magnification created by the glasses. I found it very difficult to get the lenses in- but when I did, there was so much weird distortion I felt like throwing up. So we decided to rehearse with a pair of clear lensed glasses, then swap them for the magnified glasses. I was nearly blind for each take but then I figured that Otto was nearly blind as a character, so it seemed okay.


Let’s talk about your brilliant part as Death in Supernatural. What did you know about the show before you auditioned for it? Did you know the show at all?

I knew very little about the show. I was shooting the sequel to Hard Core Logo in remote Saskatchewan when my agent called and told me about the gig. I went directly to Vancouver after we finished and I was a bit groggy. I arrived on set and had to drive the vintage car in that amazing opening sequence. I soon woke up as I was terrified of denting it. Soon afterwards I did the pizza scene with Jensen and ate a lot of pizza in the first take because I was hungry. Big mistake ! I had to repeat the same moves each take, so by the time we finished, I’d eaten so much, I couldn’t look at pizza for about a month afterwards. But I had a great time. I was warmly welcomed and I really enjoyed working with Jensen. He made me feel very comfortable and was really generous. It’s a great scene, beautifully written, and we gave it our best.


You’ve got a more than positive response for your (and the writers) version of the Grim Reaper, himself from the fandom. Vice versa: What was your reaction when you heard about that?

I was surprised and delighted. I’ve never been on show with such a loyal and knowledgeable fan-base. The world of Supernatural is incredibly intricate and full of mythology and lore. I love that about the show but it can mean that I’m sometimes unable to give an intelligent answer when I’m asked about a specific detail. It’s humbling to realize just how invested and educated Supernatural fans are. I tend to answer questions from a narrow point of view and I can’t match the expertise of most viewers, many of whom have an encyclopedic knowledge of every show- over 9 seasons!


Conventions. How important are such events resp. the interaction with the fans for you?

I love it ! It’s a great opportunity to see your audience face to face. I come from a theatre background so I’m comfortable with the interaction and the q and a’s onstage. And it’s great to party with everyone in an informal setting at the karaoke. It means we don’t get too full of ourselves as actors. We let our hair down and not take ourselves too seriously. It really feels like a family celebration. 


How was it to return to the set of Supernatural in Season 9?

It’s always comfortable and relaxed. For such a high-quality show, it’s remarkably pressure-free for an actor like myself.  I think Jared and Jensen should take a lot of credit for this.


As Death, do you have a favorite scene on the show, if so, which one and why?

Well, I’m very lucky. All the appearances by Death have been well written. There’s always been a wry humour beneath the threat of Death’s presence, and I’ve enjoyed the different types of junk food. ( And I’ve learned not to eat too much on the first take ! )But I think that huge first scene I had in the pizza parlor was especially memorable; it’s full of great moments and darkly funny lines.


Meanwhile, you’ve earned yourself a certain measure of fame. Is it still possible for you to go shopping or buy a newspaper without being recognized?

No, I get recognized most places I go, but that’s fine. It’s not as if I’m surrounded by paparazzi, and people in Canada tend to be very polite. Also, I play such a variety of lurking dangerous characters that lots of people tend to be a bit nervous around me. I’ve often been told by people “ Oh my God ! You smiled ! It’s such a surprise !“I appreciate people saying hello- it’s totally fair. I work in the entertainment industry, and rely on the public to notice what I do. They are my audience, and indirectly pay my bills, therefore it’s up to me to be gracious when they say hello.


Can you spill the beans about any upcoming projects?

I can tell you I have a small recurring part in season 2 of a very exciting TV series created by a friend of mine. It is a brilliant show and I highly recommend it; it’s called ‚Orphan Black‘.I’m also the guest star in episode of ‚The Listener‘, a TV show filmed in Toronto.And in terms of more scary stuff, I’ve just completed 3 low budget horror films written by prolific Canadian writer Tony Burgess.And just this week, shot an antidote to syrupy Holiday movies- ‚A Christmas Horror Story‘


Many thanks for the time you took to answer our questions so properly. We hope to see and hear more from you, soon. Maybe, there might be even an appearance in Supernatural Season 10? We’ll keep our fingers crossed!


Julian on IMDB


Note: © MyCoven.com 2014 – This interview is exclusive to MyCoven.com and may not be published on any other website, blog or else. It’s allowed to share three questions if you link back to this site. Translations in any other language than English or German have to be posted with full credit incl. name of writer(s) and backlink to this site.