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William Fichtner Talks Mastering Characters [Exclusive]

William Fitchner

There are odd films, and then there’s stepping into the mind of Quentin Dupieux. Proving to be a character actor’s dream, director/writer Dupieux has a taste that expands past the conventions of oddball humor. It’s a quality that jived well for his latest absurdist film Wrong and proved to be an even better fit for scene-stealer William Fichtner.

In many ways, Wrong is a love story about a man and his dog. Dolph Springer (Jack Plotnick) is having an extremely horrible day. He awakes to find his best friend (his dog Paul, of course) missing. Desperate to find his beloved pooch, Dolph embarks on a surreal journey. On this journey, Dolph comes across absurd characters including a very promiscuous pizza delivery girl (Alexis Dziena), a French-Mexican gardener (Steve Little), and the enigmatic, most eccentric character of them all — Master Chang (William Fichtner). As luck would have it, Master Chang is immediately willing to take Dolph under his wing to teach him his metaphysical lessons in order to reconnect man with his best friend.

For those that love to watch characters blossom, it’s about witnessing character-actor Fichtner reach a new level of hilarity as he channels the quirky Master Chang. A man whose credits spans the likes of Entourage and Prison Break to The Dark Knight, Go, and Armageddon, Fichtner once again loses inhibition to play one of his wildest characters to date. Master Chang is the enigmatic, pony-tailed, Asian accent affected anti-hero slash guru of this story, and, if that sounds ridiculous, then Fichtner delivers a performance that makes the viewer think otherwise. The seasoned actor uses his knowledge of figuring a character out and delivers a gem of a performance that’s simply entertaining.

William Fichtner spoke with The Inquisitr’sNiki Cruz to discuss his wisdom, his most memorable roles, and all things Wrong.

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THE INQUISITR: Wrong was such an offbeat but hilarious journey. What appealed to you about the project?

WILLIAM FICHTNER: Everything you just said. Truly! It’s completely out there. I don’t know what it is. I probably got hit in the head when I was a kid or something. My agent said, “Listen, I don’t know what you’re going to think of this but I’m going to send it to you.” I read it and said to him, “I think it’s whacked. I’d love to meet the guy.” I spent 15 minutes with Quentin, and I loved his rhythm, his energy, everything about him. The best things you do in your life, is not talking yourself into doing things. You read it, you hear about it, and you think, “I really want to be a part of this.” That’s what I thought about doing this film.

THE INQUISITR: Were you worried about pulling off that accent? It’s a pretty trippy thing to hear.

FICHTNER: I took a liberty with the accent. I felt like this was a guy that created his life and persona. I thought “Well then how does he want to be perceived in the world? And what did he want to look like?” I said to Quentin, “You gotta give him a ponytail.” I fully know that people think, “Well that’s a little stereotypical.” But I wanted to find out who this guy was when he evolved into everything he wanted himself to be.

THE INQUISITR: Did you look to any other characters for inspiration or did it have to do more with your thought process?

FICHTNER: No. I really didn’t think about anything else. I was sitting in my office one day, which is what my wife lovingly calls “the man cave” and I thought, “Wow. I think this voice is feeling like the guy.” I told Quentin a week before we shot that I was playing with this little voice thing. After two or three takes I could tell he was like, “Wow! That’s uh, wow!” So he had faith in me.

THE INQUISITR: I was thinking if played differently, Master Chang could have been a very intimidating and menacing character.

FICHTNER: You know what? That’s an interesting thing! Yes! I thought that was a possibility because of the way he is, but I really wanted to play him like he was somebody that truly meant to do all good things. As odd, and as twisted as he may be, I think that his intentions are really good.

THE INQUISITR: Just touching upon your other roles because you’ve tackled great characters. In Entourage how did it feel to play the “business” side of the industry as a TV producer?

FICHTNER: Well, it was fun but the interesting thing about Entourage is, I had this thing whether it’s a tough guy, or whatever the character is, I really believe that the guy has to be real, otherwise you’re playing a caricature. Sometimes bad people don’t think they’re bad people. Some people don’t think they’re weird. I never saw Phil Yagoda as a bad guy. I always liked the character. What I loved about Phil was he really believed in the character of Johnny Drama. The business was the business, but he really believed that he could really do something with Johnny. He really believed in his talent. I never lost that. I always thought that was more important than anything. Hopefully that’s what came through, that I really felt that way about him. I never really thought it was the business side of things, because Phil Yagoda made his decisions based on his belief in Johnny.

THE INQUISITR: The character did come off as genuine. There’s an Entourage film that was announced. Do you see yourself revisiting that character?

FICHTNER: Oh I have no idea. I would highly doubt that Phil Yagoda would be in that. That’s really more of something for the characters on that show. I mean who knows, but no I haven’t heard anything and nor would ask. I would probably go see it but it’s fine if I’m not in it.

THE INQUISITR: Going down the list of films you’ve been in, which role do people stop you on the street the most for? I’d imagine it would be for Go because Burke is so quotable.

FICHTNER: Go, in the industry, for sure. Go has a certain sort of “It” cool vibe for people. It’s a very “hip” cool movie. Unfortunately Go didn’t have the massive success like other movies, like Armageddon. Armageddon is one of those films you switch on the television and it’s on. That has a big recognizable factor, but I would say within the business, probably Go. That’s probably a real definitive character. I’m really super proud of it.

THE INQUISITR: You’ve made huge leaps and turns in your projects. Is there a highlight for you that sticks out in your mind?

FICHTNER: Anticipating that there will be more highlights to come? I would put Go on that list, and I would definitely put Black Hawk Down. I did a little film a few years ago that absolutely nobody saw called The Amateurs with Jeff Bridges, and Ted Danson. We shot on a wing and a prayer and it’s my favorite experience I’ve ever experienced. It’s a true highlight. As far as characters go, another film that I did a couple of years ago that not a lot of people saw was Drive Angry. I think for characters, it’s absolutely at the top of my list. I loved that character.

THE INQUISITR: Since you’re a character actor, what medium is more gratifying for you? Is it television or film? You hear in the industry that it’s better to work in television because you’re given a longer period of time to work on a character. Is that the same for you?

FICHTNER: Television is eight or nine pages in a day. Sometimes a little independent film will be the same thing but for most films there’s a little more time for the creative process. There’s a little more attention to details, especially when you get into bigger budgets. With a great director there’s an enormous attention to detail, and I love that.

THE INQUISITR: At the end of the day what’s your definition of a successful actor?

FICHTNER: One who goes home at the end of the day and feels in his heart that he got very close to doing what he wanted to do.

Wrong is now available on VOD and opens theatrically in select cities March 29.

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