Canadian born Tyler Labine, known to REAPER fans as the plain-spoken and often peculiar Sock, brings his sarcastic yet likable chops to the new CBS sitcom MAD LOVE. He plays a very different character in the upcoming feature film RISE OF THE APES, and is happy to discuss all of the above in Part 2 of our two-part interview.
ASSIGNMENT X: Do you feel like you put a lot of yourself into the characters that you play?
TYLER LABINE: I don’t believe that you can create a character without putting a lot of yourself into it. That’s impossible, but I feel like this character [Larry] on MAD LOVE is much more akin to Sock, which I played on REAPER. I don’t want to say they’re the same character, because they’re not, but it’s that same sort of freedom within the character, like really, this guy does not care about ramifications of his actions or consequences, says what he means all the time. That’s really fun, because on TUCSON, I played a real schemer, and you really have to play chess with that writing and try to make sure you’re telling the right lie at the right moment. It’s just nice to sort of be all out in the open again.
AX: Is there still a fandom for REAPER?
LABINE: Yeah, definitely. I miss it. I’m very proud of this show, but I’m still kind of in mourning for REAPER. I never wanted that show to get canceled, I was very invested in that show. At the same time, I hope that moving on could also result in the opportunity to one day have a reunion, which I would love. And there are still rumors about a comic book that are circulating. Not a rumor, I think it’s actually happening, [although]. I think it’s a pretty slow process, getting a comic book launched.
AX: Can you talk about your work in the upcoming feature film RISE OF THE APES?
LABINE: The script blew my mind. It’s touching, and Andy Serkis is basically the leading character as Caesar the ape, he’s such a pioneer of motion capture and craft and he’ll have people crying behind monitors without saying a word, he’s so great. John Lithgow is a very touching character in there and there’s a lot of humanity with what’s about to happen. We need to see how [the situation develops] in the beginning, so there’s a bit of rivalry between the humans and the apes, by the time we get to PLANET OF THE APES. This is the prequel to all of the APES franchise movies, even including Tim Burton’s remake. This is before any apes have become [evolved]. The first instance actually happens in this movie where an ape interacts with a human in a brand-new way.
AX: Were there any real apes on set, or is it all motion capture performance from human actors like Serkis?
LABINE: No real [apes], no. A lot of guys in motion-capture suits with arm stints. It’s WETA doing the effects. We were doing things that I still have no idea why we were shootings things a certain way, because they don’t slow down to explain to you how the effects are going to come together, you just have to know that, “Oh, remind me in this one” or “We’re shooting you with a giant silver ball on your head.” You don’t really know what’s going on, but it’s trying, it’s a harrowing process.
AX: Did you personally have to do any motion capture?
LABINE: No, but I did do a lot of scenes with motion capture actors. Because I have the clinic that the story is originating from, I’m the head primateologist there, so I do a lot of scenes talking with apes and carrying apes and doing surgery on apes and have a couple of big fight scenes with apes, but I was never in a motion capture suit myself.
AX: Did you find any research was necessary for the role?
LABINE: Not really. I did a little bit anyway, just to sort of know a little bit about what I’m dealing with and just see what it takes to become a primateologist. There’s not very much information available on being a primateologist [laughs], but it didn’t take a lot of research, because the script was so carefully put together and the words were counter-indicative of what my character did for a living. I was playing sort of an ape myself, a guy who just loves apes, who did all the schooling and everything, but he’s sort of become like the bleeding heart of the clinic, and so it was less like medical jargon and more just sort of me being a caretaker for the apes.
AX: Is the role sort a bit of a departure for you?
LABINE: Yes, definitely. He’s a big sort of teddy bear who is sort of thrust into these really heavy decisions that directly affect the outcome of what comes to be with the apes and it was nice, it was some really dramatic turns in there, and it also didn’t rely on me just being a smartass [laughs].
AX: Does the movie, because it would seem like it would almost have to, deal with the animal rights issues surrounding research on primates?
LABINE: I think that’s sort of at the basis of the franchise itself, a good outside look at how we treat animals. I guess the genesis of this story – the apes have jumped up to rebel because we’ve sort of taken everything else for granted on this Earth, we take these creatures for granted, and they decide to rise up. So that’s pretty cool. I think it’s going to be awesome.
AX: Where does APES fall in the making MAD LOVE timeline?
LABINE: They had actually shot the original pilot before I went and shot with Lizzy [Caplan] and Minka [Kelly – neither actress is in the aired series]. There are so many reincarnations of this show.
AX: And what’s TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL? You play Dale …
LABINE: It’s comedy/horror genre. It was at Sundance, it’s getting a lot of buzz. It’s me and Alan Tudyk. He’s awesome. He lives up the street from me in Hollywood, so we hang out a lot. He might actually come do a guest star on [MAD LOVE]. He’s outstanding – we’ve become really, really good friends, we talk every day, pretty much. And then I have another movie coming out called OUT WITH A BANG with Jason Sudeikis and Lake Bell, Martin Starr, Nick Kroll, a very, very funny man. It’s going to be really good.
AX: Do you have a preference between features, hour-long TV, half-hour TV?
LABINE: You know, it’s funny. I love big movies – I think deep down, I would love to be picking and choosing my next Oscar nomination or whatever [laughs] – but I also really love TV. I think it’s almost in some ways a more prevalent medium than film. More people tune in every night to watch television and unwind or laugh or think or whatever – every type of show you can imagine is available. I think that’s a really neat thing. People are saying, “Oh, TV is going by the wayside,” but I think TV is having a huge comeback, so I really enjoy doing TV. As an actor, TV, single camera or multi-camera, I think it’s all just about the character. If I enjoy doing the character, then I think I can do any format.
AX: You had done INVASION, an extraterrestrial incursion series, shortly before REAPER, and now you’ve done two genre feature films, RISE OF THE APES and TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL. Did you find yourself missing the genre when you weren’t doing it?
LABINE: I jumped into BOSTON LEGAL right away [after INVASION], I was going to be a regular on that show and it just didn’t work out the way we wanted it to, the character wasn’t what we were hoping for, but after BOSTON LEGAL, I definitely considered doing just films. In time, it just came to me that [REAPER] was something I really, really wanted to do. After I met Kevin [Smith, who directed the pilot], and I knew Bret [Harrison] and Rick [Gonzalez] were doing it, things just crop up and you can’t really deny the draw. I found myself missing that kind of [work].
As exciting as [INVASION] was when it aired, it was very exciting to shoot. Every week, they had the Ritter fans out and rain machines and jumping in the pond, in the water, in the lake, in the ocean – I was definitely very happy to leave that for a little while. But I guess somewhere, subconsciously, I was very happy to get back to a monster of the week kind of show. It’s a funny thing. I’m a character actor, I love doing characters that sort of push me in different directions. And doing a lawyer and an assistant district attorney on BOSTON LEGAL was a very interesting turn for me in playing that very strait-laced kind of lawyer. That was exciting in its own right.
I definitely do enjoy something a little more exciting. I enjoy the physical aspect. [laughs] I think genre – the ones that I tend to be the most drawn to usually ends up being sci-fi or adventure. I didn’t even realize that until I’d done like three sci-fi shows. I was like, “Yeah, I guess maybe I really like the science-fiction element.” I don’t really like where I do just a straight sci-fi show, but I like shows with a little twist to them, almost like LOST, like INVASION was – it’s got a certain twist to it. REAPER wasn’t sci-fi, but it’s genre. So yeah, I enjoy that stuff. And comedy always stands out to me. But I do enjoy dramatic work as well. So no, I don’t have a preference – I’ll do anything, is what I’m saying [laughs].