Home » Exclusive Interview: Grant Bowler on 400 Days

Exclusive Interview: Grant Bowler on 400 Days

Grant Bowler

Wicked Horror recently had the opportunity to sit down with the talented and highly affable Grant Bowler to discuss his new film 400 Days. We got the lowdown on Walter (his character in the film) and why he often finds himself playing the villain, we also got to talk a little bit about his character (Cooter) on True Blood. Head inside for the full conversation!

400 Days sees four would-be astronauts taking part in a 400-day long simulation project to observe and test the psychological ramifications of embarking on an actual deep space mission of great length. The line between reality and everything else quickly begins to blur when a communication interruption causes the team to lose all contact with the outside world.

The film is written and directed by Matt Osterman. In addition to Bowler, it also stars Brandon Routh, Caity Lotz, Ben Feldman, Dane Cook, and Tom Cavanagh. 400 Days is now available in limited theatrical release as well as on VOD. 

Wicked Horror: I have read that you choose a lot of your roles based on the kind of character you want to explore at the time. What was it about Walter that made you decide you wanted to play him?

Grant Bowler: What was interesting about him–I guess to me–was you don’t know who he is. I love kind of blank slate characters and I particularly like it when you walk into a meeting with the director–like I did with Matt [Osterman]–and he says, ‘I don’t want to know who this guy is, I don’t necessarily want the audience to know whether this is a good guy or a bad guy.’ Because that leaves the door open for a lot of subtlety or you know the opportunity to try and play with minutia. And then, leave it on the floor for the director to kind of make his mind up later. You know, give him Walter the good guy, give him Walter the bad guy, give him Walter the enigma and he can go and cut whatever he wants to cut out of that. That’s been a bit of an exercise for me, probably over the last couple of years, just in terms of what I’ve been interested in because, weirdly enough, I’ve been on this kind of journey of trying to let go of the characters I play and maybe let somebody else make the decisions about them, just as an exercise as an actor. The basic premise of the script was also what attracted me. You probably know but the movie is based off an actual experiment in Russia.

Grant Bowler

Wicked Horror: Right, the true story makes great fodder for Hollywood magic to happen.

Bowler: It’s just so intriguing to me. God love them, that idea that you just bury a bunch of people underground for a couple of years and see what happens to them. That’s definitely the stepchild of the totalitarian regime. The thought of that was intriguing to me. And the character in the film leads into where we’re not quite sure wether these guys are losing touch with reality or while they’ve been under there something really terrible has happened. Which, again, is one of those classic nightmare scenarios we all imagine.

Wicked Horror: Speaking of working with a blank slate and the magic of the editing process, I took it as though your character seemed to have some ulterior motives. And the cast definitely did not seem to fully trust him. He had certain markings of a villain. You also played a villain on True Blood and you played a villain on Ugly Betty. Do you think that you maybe gravitate towards roles where you get to play the bad guy or do you think it’s just happenstance that you end up being sought out for those parts?

Bowler: It’s interesting to me. You’re right, I do. But usually–and this is very much in the vein of Ugly Betty–if this makes any sense, they’re usually the kind of good kind of bad guys. Like, he’s the bad guy who is a good boyfriend but he’s just a bad guy. With True Blood, we kind of did the same thing. Brit Morgan and I decided that Debbie Pelt and [Cooter’s] relationship was like Romeo and Juliet. These two, you know, are like desperately in love. I always hang my hat on something. There’s always like a super romantic core or something like it because I think that what we see as the bad guy from the outside, that dude is always the hero of his own story. He goes to sleep at night and puts his head on the pillow and falls fast asleep. And in his head, he’s fighting the good fight. I do, I have to admit that I really do love morally conflicted characters. Whether they’re the good guy or the bad guy or the in-between guy. Even in Defiance, I was playing the kind of hero but he was a very amoral character. Yeah, you’re right, when I’m cast there always seems to be a wrinkle in the blanket, that’s for sure.

Grant Bowler Wicked Horror: You make a great villain and not only that, you had some of the best dialogue on all of True Blood. Coot had such a way with words.

Bowler: [Laughs] That was such a gift. The thing is–when I went in for that audition–and this is when you know that it’s just right…When I went in for that audition, there were some very, very good actors auditioning for Cooter. And you could hear the auditions because they were in Alan Ball’s office. You can kind of hear them through the wall. I was listening to the guys before me. They were all good actors. I recognized everybody. They all went in and they were all as scary as possible. And I kind of thought to myself when I was sitting out there: Either I’m doing this really wrong or these guys are kind of off center because that’s not how I see this character. So, when it was my turn to go in, I thought: I think I’ve got this whole audition wrong. I went in and played the whole thing as a comedy. I thought Cooter was having a ball, like this is the best time of life. He’s large and in charge. When I walked out of the audition, they were all laughing their heads off and I thought I’d blown it. But about half an hour later they rang and asked when I could start. You know, that’s the thing: If the bad guy is not the most entertaining guy in the room, you’re in trouble.

Wicked Horror: Thanks so much for opening up about that. I was such a huge fan of that show and of your character, so it’s such a delight to hear your breakdown of how you approached the part.

Bowler: No, no, you’re welcome. The same goes for a character like Walter: He has gotta be the most personable guy in the room. It’s the guy who is incredibly personable that I fear. Dave Chapelle always used to say that he doesn’t fear the three guys walking down the alley at night on the same side of the street as him. He fears the guy with the suit and the tie and the briefcase. And for me, it’s the most politically correct, well spoken, emotionally well-adjusted guy in the room that I get scared of. I wait for the other shoe to drop.

Grant Bowler

Wicked Horror: Well said. In terms of some of the other villains you have played, I think Connor was motivated by money and Coot was largely motivated by primal urges. Not to say that Walter is a full-fledged villain but what do you think it is that makes him tick?

Bowler: I think in a situation like that, the dangerous man is the idealist. If Walter genuinely believes in the value of what he’s trying to get them to do, that makes him truly dangerous, because he’s going to place his ideals above their well being and above what they consider as being in their greatest interests. The most dangerous person is always the idealist, like the Germans in 1934. You’ve gotta be careful of that guy. I think that’s Walter. I think Walter’s a true believer. And I think because of that, he may be willing to push the experiment further than they would be willing to go. Do you know what I mean? And idealist always has an excuse to push things a little too far.

Wicked Horror: Awesome. It has been a pleasure speaking with you. Thanks so much.

Bowler: Thank you. Thanks for helping us with press for the film.

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Written by Tyler Doupé
Tyler Doupe' is the managing editor at Wicked Horror. He has previously penned for Fangoria Mag, Rue Morgue Mag, FEARnet, Fandango, ConTV, Ranker, Shock Till You Drop, ChillerTV, ComingSoon, and more. He lives with his husband, his dog, and cat hat(s).
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