Pancho Moler has had an extraordinary career, from becoming the first ever professional Little Person skateboarder to turning his attention to acting following a devastating back injury, and finally finding a home in horror. The past few years alone have seen Moler make a serious impression in Candy Corn, American Fright Fest, and now, of course, 3 From Hell.
The highly-anticipated follow-up to The Devil’s Reject is Moler’s second collaboration with Rob Zombie after his take-notice role in 31 as a bloodthirsty Nazi. Wicked Horror caught up with Moler as 3 From Hell hit home video to talk working with horror icons, the eternal struggle of being a jobbing actor, how skateboarding prepared him for his current profession, and how welcoming the horror community is to talented newcomers, plus plenty more besides.
WICKED HORROR: You kind of show up a bit late in 3 From Hell; it’s not until the Rejects get to Mexico that you become involved in their story. What’s your character up to before they roll into town?
PANCHO MOLER: That’s a great question. My character, Sebastian, has been through a lot, and he doesn’t really have anything. All he really has is his painting, that’s what he does and that’s what he loves. He’s the town muralist; that’s his passion. We shot a lot of it in Scottsdale, so that’s where I was predominantly based. Sebastian is an assistant to the local hotel manager, who kind of treats him like crap, but he takes it. So he takes a liking, or he becomes fascinated by, and kind of builds up this brotherly relationship, with Sheri’s character in that he’s going to do anything to protect her. The best way of describing Sebastian is someone who would sacrifice his life for others.
WH: He forms this bond with Sheri’s character, as you say. Can you empathize with that? For horror fans, these guys aren’t really villains, but I suppose that’s kind of true for your character too?
PANCHO MOLER: I mean, he doesn’t really know too much about her, but he’s never really been accepted and the one time he puts himself out there, he builds a bond with her even in this short time they spend together. It’s really beautiful. And, for me, it was a great opportunity to show some range as an actor as well as getting to play around with Sheri, because she describes me as someone that she really loved and someone that’s gone but someone she has beautiful memories of. It’s fun to work with people who are willing to be that vulnerable. Doing a character so different from my character in Rob’s other movie , Sick-Head, who’s just this psychopathic killer, was good too. It was good to play someone more grounded.
WH: Was that what attracted you to the project, working with him again?
PANCHO MOLER: Rob is the dude who discovered me, not as an actor, but who trusted me to join this world. I was actually the only one who auditioned or 31 because everybody else he’d already worked with before, so he liked my work and he wrote me an email about a year and a half ago saying it’s movie time again, I’ve written this part for you in the sequel to Devil’s Rejects, I’m not sure whether you’re familiar with it. And, I mean, Devil’s Rejects is one of my favorite movies, so there was that, and then he told me Sebastian is the complete opposite of Sick-Head, he’s a humble soul, he’ll do anything for anybody, he’s just the heart of the whole movie. How can I say no to that? Rob brought me into this horror world, the convention world, the cult of Rob Zombie kind of world, that I never even knew existed and never got into before, and now I have this huge fan-base of people who are so loyal and love horror and love Rob’s work and it’s just a surreal, humbling feeling. I’m really happy and proud to be a part of Rob’s movies and to get to work with such an amazing director.
WH: Was there any pressure, knowing he’d written this role for you? Were you anxious about it in any way?
PANCHO MOLER: I don’t really get nervous anymore, particularly with these characters he writes for you, even though it’s challenging and you’ve really gotta do your homework and your research and be willing to be vulnerable and emotionally there. It wasn’t any pressure, it was more excitement and just happiness that he’d accepted me into the Rob Zombie family, because it’s work, you know? Work begets work. And I get to stick around and be part of this horror world, so I’m just so happy. No pressure at all.
WH: He definitely has a talent for bringing actors out of the background, putting them front and center, and really showing off what they can do.
PANCHO MOLER: Absolutely. It’s a really amazing feeling to work with a director like Rob because certain directors just direct you the whole time, but Rob will stop you and tell you, this is your moment, take your time, you own this. As an actor, it doesn’t happen that much, so it’s a great feeling to do what you do, what you trained to do, what you’re ready to do, and feel so supported. It’s great.
WH: How was the shoot itself? ‘Cause you’re involved in the, shall we say, more fun part, the back end after they’ve broken out of prison and everything else.
PANCHO MOLER: The Devil’s Rejects is one of my favorite movies of all time, so to be a part of that sequel, to work with people like Bill Moseley, who I’ve looked up to for ages, since Rejects and House of 1000 Corpses was incredible. That was the first scene I was thrown into, with him. You know, we haven’t even met each other yet, and I run into the room to tell him the Black Satans are coming and I have to be so crazy, I’m wearing my wig and my beard and my eye-patch, and we haven’t even met! I think that Bill thought he was being punked or something because I run into the room and I’m telling him this and he’s just like “What the f**k!?” Rob had to tell him, Bill, this is Pancho, Pancho, this is Bill, and you guys are working together, and that’s how it happened, that’s how we met for the first time. It was really funny because he’s sitting there with a gun in his tighty-whities and there are these naked girls in the room, too. It was just the craziest thing ever [laughs].
WH: Was there any aspect of the shoot that you found challenging?
PANCHO MOLER: It’s always a challenge. I feel like the challenge for me was just going from being so grounded and chill in those moments with Sheri to being in a panic, and having to be so scared, truthfully and believably. That transition can be challenging.
WH: You’ve had quite a big couple of years, between this, Candy Corn, and American Fright Fest. Do you feel like you’ve found a home in horror? Is that where the good roles are, do you think?
PANCHO MOLER: That’s a great question. I feel like being an actor and a Little Person, it’s always a challenge, I’ve always had good teachers and good people, I’m a lifetime member of the Actors Studio, which isn’t something you can pay your way into, you have to earn it, so I take what I get and I make the best out of it. Horror has been very kind to me. I don’t want to pigeonhole myself and say that’s where the only roles are for me, but I’ll take it because it’s fun and I just want to work, I just want to act, and play around because I love acting and I don’t see myself doing anything else.
WH: I know you said you love Rejects, but are you a horror fan in general or have you sort of become one by working in the genre so much?
PANCHO MOLER: I’ve definitely become more of a horror fan, but I’ve always watched horror movies, some of my all-time favorite movies are The Exorcist, Cujo, and The Shining, I’ve always been a Stephen King fan, so I definitely feel like I’ve always been a horror fan but now it’s 100 percent more.
WH: It’s definitely an exciting time to be a horror fan. There’s more choice than ever before.
PANCHO MOLER: That’s definitely true and I feel like, working in this genre, I see myself watching movies like Halloween again just to see how it’s shot and the pacing of it, how the actors work together, because you research and you see where the scary moments are, what works, what doesn’t and it’s cool to see the growth from where it was then to where it is now. I think certain movies can be remade and made better and others just have to stay the way they are because they’re already great.
WH: You were a pro-skateboarder before; do you think there’s any correlation between that an acting? Anything connecting the two disciplines?
PANCHO MOLER: I feel like when I used to skateboard professionally and just skate, it was something I was going to do whether I was getting paid or not because it was my first passion, and I loved it. Then when I’d be practicing a trick, and we’d film it, when the camera went on you weren’t even getting close to making the trick anymore because it was this weird pressure. And it was the strangest feeling because you’re just skating, you’re not trying to impress anyone or be emotionally vulnerable, you’re just trying to land a trick, but when the camera was on after a while you started forgetting it was there and just ignoring it. So I think that definitely helped me in becoming an actor, because when you’re filming you’ve just gotta ignore the camera and be in the moment. Skateboarding definitely helped me conquer that. Thank you, skateboarding [laughs].
WH: Is there another world you’d like to conquer, after skateboarding and acting. Would you maybe want to move behind the camera at some stage?
PANCHO MOLER: I definitely would. I work on things with my wife, she’s an actress as well, a great actress. It’s funny because you always want to work with someone who’s great but we just barely started working together and we’ve been married for five years now, together for nine, and only started filming our own content six months ago. It was one of those breakthrough moments where you just realize one of the greatest actresses in the world has been right next to me this whole time and I never noticed it so I definitely see us making content together and working behind the scenes more in the future. It’s funny, because editing your own stuff makes you realize it’s way easier than I thought it would be. That’s exciting too, to move behind the camera. We make a lot of comedy together. I love comedy, but unfortunately I haven’t really been seen in that way, but fortunately I have been seen as a horror actor as of now and I’m proud of it.
WH: Horror can incorporate comedy too, often in really wonderful ways, so that could happen for you down the line.
PANCHO MOLER: That’s true, [American] Fright Fest was somewhat comedic, my role in that was quite comedic, but yeah you’re definitely right horror-comedy can be really fun.
WH: All is not lost.
PANCHO MOLER: Right!
WH: What have you got coming up, after 3 From Hell?
PANCHO MOLER: Right now, I’m working on a movie called Ben Makes a Film, with the writer of Bird Box, I’m flying to Detroit actually in a couple hours. So we’ll see where that goes. I’ve also got a couple pilots on the shelf that are comedies, but some of those things you have to wait around and see what happens, you know? I’m also just kind of letting these movies that just came out breathe a little bit, because I feel like movie after movie after movie can just catapult you to the next level and hopefully catch the attention of some other amazing directors.
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