Paul Booth chats to Actor Robert Baker…

It’s always a pleasure to interview a filmmaker, musician or the many wonderful people I’ve met through Influx. I really have to acknowledge my gratitude for getting to interview Robert Baker. I will now admit, (aside from enjoying his other works) I’m a big fan of his work on Grey’s Anatomy last season. Yes, this movie John Ford Western loving movie guy, who uses Aerosmith as his daily oxygen likes a soap opera (smiles).

There is one sentence that made me really admire Baker. He’s a class act and the interview needed to start with his words before mine.

Robert Baker: It’s a blessing to work, period.

Paul Booth: What actor or film made you want to pursue acting?

RB: My parents weren’t too big on censorship in our household and we were allowed to watch and listen to a lot of things other kids my age weren’t. So, I really loved Jack Nicholson growing up. In The Shining particularly; he was terrifying and really funny at the same time. That was fascinating to me how someone could show all those things at once; be all those things in one moment.

PB: Are you theatre trained, or did you start out just getting on set as background talent and working in indie films?

RB: Theater trained and proud (BFA from USC). That’s really where I learned to act. It’s hard work and incredibly rewarding. And it’s really, really fun.

PB: What was your first big break to the next level/got you your SAG card?

RB:I did a pilot when I was a junior in college called The Ruling Class. I played a high school bully… And that scored me my SAG card

PB: Where are you from?

RB: I was born in Memphis and grew up in Arkansas just on the other side of the Mississippi river.

PB: Memphis is so historical and musical, how did that influence your art?

RB: Well, anyone is a product of where you’re from. My dad was a Memphis musician and so is my younger brother. Just playing music there, you can make a living. I play music, but at a certain level it deserves its proper respect.

PB:Which do you prefer, acting in TV or film?

RB: Film. You can really spend time on something to attempt to get it right. TV is getting better and better now, though with the profusion of cable shows. They’ve really saved the medium.

PB: You have worked with Oscar-nominated/winning directors like Spielberg, The Coen’s and George Clooney. Aside from their fame, what truly separates them from a very very very great unknown filmmaker?

RB: Their confidence. Over an unknown filmmaker they have security and, well, resources so they’re not so afraid of making a misstep. They will go for it. They aren’t tentative. With (Spielberg, Clooney, Coen’s) you feel better about yourself as an actor. You have an added confidence and ability to work out or change mistakes. Clooney is a good role-model for everyone. I had a great experience on Leatherheads.

PB: Did you have a movie you learned most from out of Indiana Jones 4, The Ladykillers and Leatherheads?

RB: I really look at those as what they were: opportunities to work with some of the most talented minds in the business. And on all of them I’ve gotten along well with the people and done a good job for them. They have all seen me for other projects since I’ve worked with them in these films, so keeping those contacts alive is invaluable to me.

PB: What was it like to be on a show as popular as Grey’s Anatomy?

RB: Pretty great really (smiles), I got to come in and do my thing. And since I was standing on the shoulders of other people’s hard work, I didn’t have to stress too much about how it was doing, or how I needed to promote it or anything else. I was able to come in and just act, and it was very nice. To be able to work on something in a place with such popularity. The lesson for me was ensemble acting. I kept my head down and did my work.

PB: Tell us about Devil’s Knot and your experience at the Toronto International Film Festival?

RB: Devil’s Knot was an amazing experience. I grew up near where the events of the story (the story of the West Memphis 3) took place, so it was an honor for me to be able to be part of a representation of those people. It’s an amazing and complex story, and one that deserves telling. Atom Egoyan (Sweet Hereafter) is an amazing director. There’s a reason that great actors like Colin Firth, Bruce Greenwood, Elias Koteas, etc. work with him over and over. He’s so actor-friendly and never over-complicated the storytelling with his direction. I’d love to do something with him again. TIFF is a fun festival. It’s massive! And there are more films than a person could ever see in a lifetime playing there.

PB: If you had something you wanted the readers or audience to know about you and your work, here’s your moment.

RB: Eh, I just love acting. As trite as that may sound. It’s so much fun and I’m so fortunate to be able to do it. It’s a blessing just to be able to work, and to be able to work with and meet the people I have come across is just more than I ever imagined. I’m a very fortunate and grateful man.

Interview by Paul Booth

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