THE HARD WAY. Jon Bernthal was never destined to become a famous actor, but he made it happen anyway. He lets DA MAN into his world
Regularly cast to play tough guy characters who have had to fight their way to the top, it is fitting that Jon Bernthal already has life experience in this area. Now starring in movies alongside actors such as Brad Pitt and Benicio Del Toro, he has remained utterly dedicated to learning and improving himself as an actor. Growing up, Bernthal came through his fair share of scrapes, but after securing a place study a theater school in Moscow, Russia, he never looked back.
DA MAN: Jon, we’re looking forward to seeing you in upcoming WWII epic “Fury.” What’s the premise of the film?
JON BERNTHAL: “Fury” is about a five man Sherman tank crew in WWII. Doing one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, these men only had each other to rely on as they experienced war in a moving mental room. The movie is about brotherhood under unbelievably tough conditions.
DA: Can you tell us a bit about the character you play?
JB: Everybody has a very specific role in the tank. I play a man called Grady Travis who is the loader. His job is essentially to keep pumping rounds into the cannon of the tank which is essential for the crew’s survival. Grady grew up during the great depression and he had never left the small town he grew up in before going to war. Now he’s in a world far, far away with people from all over the country as his new brothers and family. Though consumed by worry and fear, he is brave enough to get the job done and do anything to keep his brothers alive.
Outfit By Ermenegildo Zegna
DA: Brad Pitt takes the lead role in the movie. What was it like being on set alongside him?
JB: I genuinely can’t say enough good things about Brad. He was committed, enthusiastic and focused throughout the entire journey of making this movie. At no time did he hold himself in a different light than anybody else in the tank crew. It truly seemed to me that the colder, wetter or rougher it got, the happier Brad was. It was an honor to work with him and I’m proud to call him a friend.
DA: How did the actors form the sense of comradery that is so essential for this film?
JB: We spent three months together in the UK before we started shooting. We lived together, did boxing training together, spent the afternoon in the tank before rehearsing every evening. We were literally in each other’s faces for over six months and though we put a lot of work towards creating our chemistry, mostly it came naturally.
DA: Do you think you’d make a good soldier?
JB: I’ve portrayed soldiers quite a few times in my career and it only deepens my respect for what they do and the sacrifices they make. What’s different about this movie, is that we portray scared and war torn young men who, no matter how terrified or beaten down they are, go into battle anyway. This, in my opinion, is all the more realistic and heroic. Again, it’s an honor to play them on the screen but being a solider in real life is a whole different thing.
“Theater is an athletic endeavor, there is nowhere to hide and you don’t get a second take”
DA: In terms of TV shows, you’re known for your portrayal of character Shane Walsh in post-apocalyptic horror series “The Walking Dead.” What do you think has been the secret to the show’s success?
JB: At first the secret to the show’s success was complex characters, brave storytelling and a truthful look at what happens to people when you strip the veneer off the comforts of everyday life and their only focus is to survive. After that, I think people just genuinely love watching zombies getting killed! [Laughs]
DA: Your character was killed off in season 2. tell us, how did that feel?
JB: [Laughs] It hurts! No, more seriously I am and will always be deeply grateful for my time on “The Walking Dead.” I continue watch the show and think of everyone involved as family.
DA: “Mob City” is another great show you’ve been involved in. What attracted you to the project?
JB: “Mob City” was all about collaborating with Frank Darabont again. His trust in me meant a lot and I think that by the end of that show we were onto something really special. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see the whole project.
DA: We’ve heard that you have your own theater company. Between TV, movies and theater, which is your preferred discipline?
JB: They are all so incredibly different, theater obviously is my first love and I absolutely love being involved in putting plays together. Theater is an athletic endeavor, there is nowhere to hide and you don’t get a second take. I will always consider myself a theater actor first and an on-screen actor second.
DA: Was a career in acting always on your horizon when you were growing up?
JB: Definitely not. I guess I had to make it happen. [Laughs]
DA: What can we expect from you next?
JB: After “Fury” I got to work with a great director Gerardo Naranjo on his movie “Me, Earl & The Dying Girl” which was really enjoyable. Otherwise, I’m in an upcoming movie called “We Are Your Friends” and I’m about to start production on David Simons’ HBO project called “Show Me A Hero.” I also recently got to work with one of my favorite directors in the business Denis Villeneuve in “Sicario” with Emily Blunt, Benicio De Toro and Josh Brolin. It was a small role but I had a wonderful time and was thrilled to be a part of the production.
DA: Which actors most inspire you?
JB: Obviously, actors like Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall and Sean Penn are among my favorites but I also get inspired by actors I’m working with currently. For example, I’ve always been an enormous fan of Benicio Del Toro as he is equally as good a guy as he is a wonderful actor. I will always be a tremendous fan and friend of Shia Labeouf, but my favorite ever is Woody Harrelson.
DA: What do you do to take your mind off your day job? We saw from your twitter account that you are into pit bulls?
JB: Yeah, I love my dogs! They go with me everywhere. I enjoy hanging out with my friends and boxing in the gym, but nothing compares to my kids and my wife any free time I have, I want to be spending it with them.
“It’s not about getting into the room, it’s about knowing what to do when you get there”
DA: Do you life your life by any particular mottos?
JB: It’s not about getting into the room, it’s about knowing what to do when you get there. This is the advice I always give to young actors starting out, not to concern themselves with trying to take shortcuts or getting in front of the right people. I always encourage them to train and get better and be the best possible artist they can be. I’ve since I realized that this statement doesn’t only ring true in the acting profession, but for life in general.
“I’ve portrayed soldiers quite a few times in my career and it only deepens my respect for what they do”
DA: Tell us something we don’t know about you.
JB: I’m an absolute monkey when it comes to computers. I just recently learnt to navigate the internet and I had to get somebody else to type this up for me as otherwise it would’ve taken me days! [Laughs]
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