RIDE OF A LIFETIME – American actor Shane Graham shares some new insight on the second season of hit TV series “The Son” and talks about starring in “Ride”
This has been quite a great year for Shane Graham, both on TV and on the big screen. For the former, the second season of the Western series “The Son” is about to hit the airwaves, while for the former, he plays the lead in “Ride,” the biopic of BMX legend John Buultjens—which, by the way, also won him an award at the Newport Beach Film Festival. Between these two titles alone, Graham has quite a tale to tell.
DAMAN: Hi Shane, thanks for having us. So, the second season of “The Son” will premiere later this year. Can you give us a brief rundown of the show’s newest season?
Shane Graham: Everyone is going to love season two of “The Son.” The intensity and tension can be cut with a knife as we see what happens in the aftermath of season one. As a family building an empire off of the blood of others, there are powerful consequences and events that ensue. We see the political tensions of the times in 1917 Texas, the struggles that the people went through, and the tenacity of the McCulloughs to take and hold onto what they consider theirs. It’s a little sticky for me to get into the story, since I’m not supposed to comment specifically. I can say that the story and characters are truly compelling this season. Every one of the cast brought their A-game and the writing gave me goosebumps every episode. I’m incredibly proud to be a part of “The Son,” and everyone tuning in, returning and new, will love it as I do.
DAMAN: How would you describe your character’s progression since the first season? What is—or will be—the biggest change for Charles McCullough?
Shane Graham: Charles has come into his own as a man. He has started to take notes from the men in his life. He was written very much as a human and I’m positive it will resonate with “The Son” fans. In the family and environment he’s being brought up in, Charles is quickly realizing that his family needs him. Especial with the new enemies the McCulloughs face. You’ll see a very well written shift, as Charles steps into the shoes of a leader.
DAMAN: Western themes are still quite strong on TV. What is it that differentiates “The Son” from the others?
Shane Graham: Story. It’s a fantastic fiction based on an honest portrayal of early Texas. It’s been some time since I’ve watched a western that hooked me. Most feel overly simplified. But, early America was anything but simple. Texas at the time was brutal and raw. People had survival in mind in everything they did. The subjects that effected people back then affect people today. The series hits on topics of race, discrimination and LGBT issues of the time. The line of good and bad is hard to define in this series and it makes it so compelling. The show is in a league of its own compared to other Western series.
DAMAN: You’re also set to appear in “Ride,” the biopic of BMX legend John Buultjens. Can you tell us a bit about how you prepared for the role?
Shane Graham: I approached the role of John Buultjens so differently than any past parts. The story is so relevant and powerful, that I felt I had to try something outside my comfort zone. John felt isolated and alone in his struggles. He carried so much past pain. He wouldn’t let people in. I am nothing like that. I’m pretty open and in most cases. Goofy. So, when I arrived for filming I started isolating myself from everyone, as a way to hold onto John’s pain. When I wasn’t filming on set, I stayed in my hotel room studying and listening to brooding music. Rehearse, meditate, and repeat. It was difficult. Then I’d get picked up in the morning and repeat the same process. Staying in that zone for those weeks helped, but I wouldn’t necessarily advise others to do it. Once we wrapped, I shook it off and was back to my normal self. It wasn’t until the wrap party that people got to meet the real me. [Laughs] It was rewarding to see the final product. And our director Alex [Ranarivelo] was fantastic. He has a clear vision for where the characters scenes lead and it made the character growth seamless. He understood my process and we had many great moments of collaboration.
DAMAN: What was the hardest part of getting into the character of John Buultjens? –
Shane Graham: I found it really difficult to honestly portray racism. I’ve never had it in my heart, so I did my best to play on my imagination. That’s something that’s so beautiful about this film, is how love breaks down barriers of race and prejudice naturally. Chris Bridges really helped me with the way he played Eldridge. We filmed mostly in script order. As the scenes progressed, John drops his defenses, so being in the moment progressively simplified.
DAMAN: If we’re not mistaken, Buultjens himself will play a role in the movie, right? What was it like meeting him and then acting as him in front of the man himself?
Shane Graham: Having the real John Buultjens on set with us was nothing short of incredible. I could pull from him and get his input, which was super useful. When the camera’s cut, I would occasionally turn to John and ask: “How’s it feeling?” John was open and honest. He really is the most inspiring person. All love, and open arms. It’s so amazing to have someone with such positivity around to set the mood. I loved performing in front of him and would do it again. We are good friends now and meet up when we can.
DAMAN: Did you get the chance consult with him and learn more about him prior to filming?
Shane Graham: I did everything I could regarding research of him online, but I didn’t meet him until I walked on set. Which was a great experience. John went right up to me, hugged me, and said: “Hey mate, I’m John Buultjens. So good to meet you Shane.” We’ve been friends ever since. From then on, if I had a question or concern, I would just ask.
DAMAN: What was the most surprising aspect of having to learn BMX tricks for the movie? Or perhaps: What aspects of the sport really took you by surprise?
Shane Graham: Honestly, I haven’t learned very much in terms of personal skill. We had such incredible stunt doubles (Ryan NyQuist, Chase Hawk, and others) who were readily available once dialogue stopped and stunts started, that I was strongly encouraged not to try. Something that took me by surprise was how incredibly brave these guys and girls are to compete in this. It’s not until people are ramping and tricking right in front of you, that you realize how intense it is. I have a huge of respect to the BMX community. It’s so liberating to hop on a BMX bike. While the core of this film is about love and second chances, I hope that this brings fresh light on the BMX world.
DAMAN: Initial reaction for “Ride,” including at the Newport Beach Film Festival, has been great. What do you see as the best parts of the movie?
Shane Graham: The drama is fantastic, but I personally enjoyed the funny moments that Chris’s character had. There are some great moments where you’ll just crack up. I think a good drama action movie needs those light hearted moments.
DAMAN: And you also won the award for Breakout Performance at the festival. How awesome was that?
Shane Graham: I was really surprised! We all put our hearts and best efforts into this movie. We stayed in the moment, and to see that work paying off is so rewarding. I’m grateful for the turnout. I’m excited for the rest of the world to see it.
DAMAN: One last question: Moving forward, what would be your dream role?
Shane Graham: I actually have a very specific answer! Warren Worthington III aka “Angel” aka “Arch Angel” [from the “X-Men” comics/movie series]. I would do it right … and I’ve always wanted wings. So, that mutant fits the bill for me. One day, maybe. [Laughs]
Photography JALEN TURNER
Styling TAYO FAJEMISIN
Grooming KAT THOMPSON
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