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Interview: Eric Ladin

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AMC’s The Killing just recently finished a four season turbulent run. The series premiered to critical acclaim, but didn’t seem to fully connect with viewers. After two seasons, the network cancelled the series. After an outcry from fans, the network decided to bring the series back for a third season. Again, the show was praised by critics, but just reached its core audience. For the second time, AMC decided to cancel the series. In steps Netflix, who picked the series up for a six episode final fourth season to close out the story for its devoted fans. One of the reasons that show received its loyal fanbase was the work of actor Eric Ladin who played the campaign manager of Mayoral candidate Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell) in the first two seasons.

Let’s not throw all of Eric’s eggs in The Killing’s basket as he enjoys a very successful career. He’s played J. Edgar Hoover in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire, appeared in multiple episode arcs on series such as Mad Men, Big Love and Surface. He’s also guest starred on shows such as Dexter, Justified and Castle to name a few. On the big screen, he recently appeared in the hit horror film Annabelle as well as the films Cursed and Bar Starz. Next up, Eric will join Jack Black and Tim Robbins in the HBO series The Brink scheduled to premiere in 2015.

Today, Eric sits down with us to discuss his work in film and television, what he looks for in his next project and what he sees as the biggest changes in television in the last ten years.

Pop Culture Principle – You play Detective Clarkin in the current film Annabelle. Can you tell us about the film and your character?

Eric Ladin – I play Detective Clarkin who is a character that steps in and has some reservations when he meets the family the first time whether there is really some paranormal activity going on. He thinks it’s a freak thing or some occult activity, but nothing out of the ordinary in terms of paranormal. The next time he sees the family, the girl Annabelle particularly, he has studied and read a little bit more on the case and tentatively and hesitantly tells her that it was in fact members of a cult that did this and not to be worried about any paranormal activity.

Pop Culture Principle – Annabelle is a spin-off of the hugely successful film The Conjuring. As an actor, being part of the spinoff, did you feel any pressure or concern about the film being a hit like The Conjuring?

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Eric Ladin – I think that there is always pressure when you are working on a prequel or sequel. You know, I think die-hard fans are always going to judge it very hard and will have certain expectations. We didn’t necessarily feel that as a cast. The director John Leonetti, who was the director of photography on The Conjuring, knows the franchise so well and also the film had the same production team behind it. I am sure that they felt some sort of pressure that the film lived up to what people had hoped, but as a cast, that didn’t leak down to us and I don’t think anyone had any pressure in that regard.

Pop Culture Principle – Why do you think there is such fascination with things like the occult, demons and things like that?

Eric Ladin – You know, I don’t know. For me, it’s difficult because I’ve never been interested in demons and vampires, but I do understand the fascination. I think that so many kids grow up reading comic books and graphic novels and to be able to enjoy this alternative reality as opposed to the “mundane” world is fun to them. I think coming up with the possibilities that people are demons, vampires or ghosts, it’s kind of fun to go down that imaginary road.

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Pop Culture Principle – You are part of the cast of the new upcoming HBO series The Brink? What can you tell us about the series and your character?

Eric Ladin – What I can tell you is that this show is unlike anything that is on TV. I say that in the most non-cliché way. HBO always tries to break the mold and do things that are different and I think they really do that with this show. It’s a half hour dark comedy that follows three separate storylines that are all dealing with the same crisis, but they aren’t necessarily dealing with each other. So, you really get three separate shows within each show. One of the neatest parts about this series is that as soon as you get used to one storyline, you are jumping right into the next one. I think it’s going to be really cool. I play a fighter pilot and we have such a fantastic cast that included Jack Black, Tim Robbins and Pablo Schreiber to name a few. I really think this could be something special and I am really proud of it. It definitely has a recipe for success, so hopefully it will speak to people when they tune in.

Pop Culture Principle – One role you are known for is your two years as Jamie Wright on The Killing. What was your experience like on that show?

Eric Ladin – Oh man, it was great. You know, that show to me was so special, especially the first season. It was so dark and so palpable the way it was shot having Seattle being a truly central character in it. You really felt dark and wet when you watched it and I felt it really set the mood for the show. I thought the writing was fantastic and the filmmaking was spectacular and they were doing something that I was extremely proud of. Shooting it in Vancouver was amazing and my wife and I got to live up there for two winters. It is such a great city and we enjoyed our time there. It was a special experience and I really love that show.

Pop Culture Principle – Your character had so many levels. As an actor, what was it like playing a character like that?

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Eric Ladin – It was a difficult character and a difficult process for me at the beginning because unlike most jobs where you get an idea of your character’s entire story arc, the people behind The Killing were being so secretive and didn’t want anything to be known. The showrunners and writers couldn’t tell us anything that would be happening to our characters. I had to wrap my head around adjusting to that and making my process work for that, but it ended up being great. I trusted the writers and anytime that I had questions about what might be coming that I needed to have answered in order for me to do my work, they were always there for me and would let me know. There was definitely a lot of trust between the writers and the actors.

Pop Culture Principle – What do you think made that show so special to come back twice after being cancelled?

Eric Ladin – The way that it was shot and the format in terms of every episode being a day, you really saw what something as horrific as this little girl being killed over the entire season can do to a community. I think that people fell so in love with the show and were so wrapped up in the series, unfortunately, at the end of the first season; we had that huge backlash because we didn’t reveal the killer. If nothing else, that really just spoke to how much people had invested in that show and how emotionally people loved that show. I’ve said it before in interviews that I don’t think we deserved the backlash for not revealing the killer and I think that there were ways that it could have been handled differently. Most shows that are serialized like that leave you hanging at the end of the season because they want you excited to come back for the next season.

You know, people just really loved the show and when you are emotionally invested in a show like that, then that is how you react and I think that is a testament to all of us.

Pop Culture Principle – Boardwalk Empire just had its series finale. You had a nice arc on the series playing J. Edgar Hoover. Did you have any concern playing such a notable person in our history?

Eric Ladin – Scary! That was a job that I was really nervous about because a) you are going to be working with top notch actors, writers and directors and b) when you take on a character that is as well-known and iconic as J. Edgar Hoover and other people have played him, it’s nerve-wracking for sure. I loved the challenge and it was an opportunity to do something I have never done before. I did as much research as I possibly could and once I started shooting, I put away all the other stuff and just committed to it. You are not doing an imitation of J. Edgar Hoover, but doing a portrayal. I loved working on that show and wished that I was able to come back and do one or two more episodes in that final season, but it just didn’t work out. I am so happy for them and what a great show.

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Pop Culture Principle – You’ve had great appearances on shows like Mad Men, Castle, Surface, Justified and Generation Kill. Is it easy for you to come on set of an established show and fit in during your time their?

Eric Ladin – I think it really circumstantial and it depends on the set and the show. Some shows are more welcoming than others and some shows are kind of easier to slide in and do your thing from the beginning. Fortunately, I feel I have a body of work that is respected among my peers or at least I hope so and I usually feel pretty welcomed when I go on a new set. It’s like any job; there is different energy around different shows.

Pop Culture Principle – What do you think has been the biggest change in television over the past ten years?

Eric Ladin – The emergence of television is what has been the biggest change. I think a lot of that stems from the fact that the film industry has changed so much and not as many films are being made as there used to be. When the amount of films that are being made starts to shrink, then the work has to go somewhere. HBO and Showtime have always been doing their thing when it came to scripted television, but AMC, FX and places like that are now using their platform for scripted television. They are making really smart decisions with amazing material and the good actors are going to go where the good materials is. I think that cable television is what independent film use to be. The great storytellers are telling stories on cable television and it’s a great format to be able to do it. I’m not saying there isn’t great storytelling on network television because there is, but you are able to get away with a little bit more on cable based on their standards and that’s why we are in the place we are right now.

Pop Culture Principle – When you receive a script for a show or a movie, what do you look for when you decide on a project?

Eric Ladin – There are so many factors when it comes to making a decision. Content always kills and that is going to win every time. I guess it starts with reading a script from an objective point of view and deciding if it is a story I want to tell. If it is, then you start to physically look at the character and realizing that you are going to live with this character or a couple of months and is this something I want to take on. Then you have to look at the producers, the production team and the filmmakers behind it. You want to see if the vision you have for this project is the same as the vision they have for the project as well and that everyone is on the same page.

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Pop Culture Principle – What advice would you give to up and coming actors?

Eric Ladin – It’s a grind. My advice would be to persevere and know that it takes time. You can’t compare yourself to any of your peers and everyone has their own path. What might take someone three months to get a break and it might take you three years. I think that you have to be very secure in who you are and your ability. As long as you have that confidence and you persevere, chances are it will happen for you.

Pop Culture Principle – What other projects do you have coming up?

Eric Ladin – I shot a movie this summer with Clint Eastwood called American Sniper that will be released on Christmas Day. It’s going to be just phenomenal and the trailer was just released which is amazing. I got to work with Bradley Cooper and Clint Eastwood who are both at the top of their game, so that was pretty special. As I said, I just finished The Brink and now it’s back to the grind that I talked about. It’s time to read scripts, get another job so I can take care of my family.

The Pop Culture Principle would like to thank Eric for taking the time to talk with us. If you would like to keep up with all his latest news, you can go to his official website here or follow him on his official Twitter account @EricLadin.

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