— My Network TV's latest show American Heiress wouldn't be a telenovela without it's signature villain character, Damien. Damien is played by actor Race Owen, who finds that his role is much more fun to play than that of a good guy. Race took time to talk to BuddyTV about how he feel in love with acting, the crazy process of landing his role on American Heiress and the new album that he is working on.
BuddyTV: How did you initially get started into acting? Was it something that you were always interested in doing?
Race: Well, you know initially when I was a young lad; I wanted to be a race car driver of all things. And I grew up in Missouri and I thought, "Well this is my way out of Missouri." And I thought that you know the racing world was interesting. I still have a lot of connections in the NASCAR world. One of my very good friends is Carl Edwards who drives the 99 Office Depot Car for Jack Roush racing. And I thought you know this is my way to get out of Missouri and find my way into a large farm.
I realized fairly quickly that that wasn't really where my heart was and I started falling into the music world so at that point I thought maybe I should be a musician. And at the time the whole Backstreet Boys, N'Sync, 98 Degrees phenomenon was very popular so my natural instincts were; I think maybe I'll be in a boy band. So I gave that a shot for a minute, realizing that that really was not necessarily my calling. I found myself in Kansas City and there was a modeling agency that I became involved in and they brought an acting coach into the agency. And I took the acting class. I decided that really truly was something I was drawn towards. So I gave up everything that had come before that, the modeling, the race car driving, and the music at the time, and literally feel in love with the acting expression. And that's been quite a few years ago.
How did you get involved with My Network and American Heiress? Had you seen a telenovela before?
I think it was in the early part of 05, no the end part of 05 when they started these, if I remember correctly. And it was initially it was Desire and Fashion House were being produced. I shot a print ad for Vera Bradley handbags and the girl that I was working with, her name was Rochelle, she was hired on to what was called Secret Obsession, to one of the telenovelas. And she was breaking it down how they were doing this, how it was going to be five nights a week etc. and there were going to be recaps, 65 episodes, and it'll be all this work. My initial reaction was wow that's crazy, I don't see how anybody could ever do that. Little did I know that later on I would be in one myself.
And one of my other friends ended up getting hired on to one of them. And time passes; I had an opportunity to audition for Watch Over Me, through the casting director. It was my first experience with this particular casting director, it went very, very well and Casper Van Dean was hired instead of myself, it was for the part of Andre. So a little more time passes and I receive a phone call that was on the border of being frantic. They said, "We really would like to have you come in and read for the American Heiress today." And I was all the way across town and if you know anything about Los Angeles, it's a giant city. So I was way in the Valley, I was in Burbank. And it was probably 12 o'clock in the afternoon and they wanted to see me at 2:30. So I hadn't taken a shower, I was going to the gym and so forth and I turned it down initially. I said I just can't make it all the way across town by the time you want me to get there.
They called back and said, "We'd really, really, really like to see you because we really enjoyed what you did last time on the other show or on the other audition." So I said, "Alright, I'll give it a shot." So I hotfooted it across town, went home, got a bite to eat, read the sides, had one of my friends who was in the apartment building reading with me while I'm eating. So my mouth was full and I'm reading and I'm thinking maybe I should wear this kind of clothes and I should act a certain way and so forth. And I make it to the audition and they're about 15 people ahead of me, there were a lot of people ahead of me so I thought, maybe I've got a moment to just breath and sit down. So I'm sitting and the casting director Derrick pops his head out and says, "Oh Race, come on in." So I grabbed my stuff and went on in. I have no idea what I'm getting into here. So I come in and I'm reading just out of curiosity I read for Parker, who was the good character, Elizabeth my sister's ex-boyfriend. So I read the stuff for Parker.
I did pretty well but I was a little flustered because of all of the time crunch. And for some reason it kind of came out, just in the midst of the audition I kind of got a little frustrated and it just kind of came out. I didn't break character but the dialogue became a little strident, it became a little urgent. And so the casting director said, "I like that, keep going, keep going down that track." So I did it a little more, that was where we wanted to go. I walked away thinking, that was just another audition in a long series of auditions. They call about two days later and say, "We'd like to see you back with the producers. This time we want you to read for Damien." I was like, okay, I know the other guy was good and Damien doesn't sound like he's a good guy.
So I went through and I read the information, I read the sides. Turns out that Damien was of course, the villain, the bad guy. So I thought well it's kind of an interesting casting choice to put me in as the bad guy but I'll do absolutely everything I can to get the audition. Once I showed up at the audition, we went through a long series of what they call a mix and match. There were girls there, there were guys there, people reading what they had initially come in to prepare but they were mixing with different women. So I think I read probably with four different women at the time.
We went through the entire audition process and by the time it was all over the producer stood up, gave me a very lovely compliment, shook my hand, and I figured you know, great, once again another audition in a long series of auditions. And they called that following Monday, I think the first audition was on a Monday, the second one was on a Thursday and the third call they made to me was on the following Monday saying, "Congratulations you're Damien." So from that point forward I was the villain on American Heiress.
Do you enjoy playing the villain?
It's the most fun you can ever play. Seriously, if you ever want to play anything, if you ever want to be an actor, and you want to play any particular character, try playing the villain. It's just so much more fun than playing the good guy. Not to say that the good guys don't have a redeeming value it's just that there's so much more fun. You have a little latitude to be a little crazy, to be a little goofy and by the time you really sink your teeth into it you realize you just have more fun than the good guys do.
For those that don't know, can you just give us a quick rundown of what American Heiress is about?
Sure, absolutely. The story is about a family that has quite a lot of money. The father is a shipping magnate. He works with the government, ships supplies and all those sorts of things all over the world. And he had four children and I'm the oldest of the four children. And I'd really like to take over the company but he just won't allow it, he won't pay any attention to me. But he pays all of his attention to my youngest sister Elizabeth. So I become very vindictive and jealous of her and of him and eventually I just start doing all sorts of bad things in the company trying to basically go after my father both physically and monetarily. My mother shows back up into the picture, whose been estranged for a long period of time and she also wants to take control of the company. So it's a bit of a struggle between my mother and myself to try to bump my father out of the picture.
You know My Network has been having some rating issues, which is totally understandable for a new network. Do you think primetime telenovelas have a chance to latch on in the US? You know five nights a week takes a lot of commitment.
I'm going to qualify my statement by saying yes, telenovelas absolutely have a place because they have built in drama. They're exciting, they're escapism, so forth and so on. Now the format of five nights a week is something that's a little difficult I think for some audiences to gravitate toward. But let's not forget that Ugly Betty, which I think that's ABC, I think that's one of their highest rated television shows that won all these Emmy's recently, was originally Betty La Fea, which was originally a telenovela. So I think if it's done correctly, the execution is done properly, it really does well. I think our show is a really good departure from the five nights a week. Five nights a week of anything was a little difficult for our audiences to grad hold of and gravitate towards. But once a week, for two hours, is something that our audiences really decided that they like and the audience is building.
One last question, do you have anything coming up outside of American Heiress? What are your goals for the future?
I have a film that I starred in, in 2006 we shot the film, and it's called The Disciple, where I play the disciple. It's quite literally as far away from Damien as you can go. He's a suicidal philandering priest that unfortunately has gotten one of his friends pregnant so now he's got to loose his day job. He's pretty much on the edge of tears the entire time. But the film is coming out in summer of 2007. Likewise I think I mentioned the music, how I initially got into the entertainment industry. Well, I decided over the last couple of years that I would pick up the music again for my own personal gratification. So I play the guitar and I sing my own original music and I'm actually cutting my album at this point. My sound is very much like Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, James Blunt. Guy on an acoustic guitar, very stripped down and very clean, very melodic, much like early John Mayer was.
(Interview Conducted by Royce Yuen)
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