Philip Winchester :: sleepwalking (and shirtless) in new film
Imagine you have a history of sleepwalking but suddenly open your eyes one morning to find a knife in bed with you as well as being covered in someone else's blood. That's the predicament that actor Philip Winchester's character Marcus has to contend with the new independent film release In My Sleep. For Marcus, he spends the film trying to uncover a Hitchcock-type mystery as to what happened while he was asleep, which is more than a bit complicated since Marcus is not only a sleepwalker but also a sex-addict who goes through life sleeping with just about anything with a pulse.
For viewers of the film, we get the chance to see Winchester wake up in various states of undress and his well-toned physique almost upstages the plot of the writer/director Allen Wolf's film. EDGE's Jim Halterman had the opportunity to ask Winchester questions about the research on sleep walking and sex addiction that he did for the role, whether the tattoo in the film is real or not and the pressure to stay in the top physical shape when he's without clothes many times in the film.
Research on sleepwalking?
EDGE: I read in the press materials that your In My Sleep director did a lot research on walking disorders - did you do any research on sleepwalking?
Philip Winchester: I focused primarily on Marcus’ day-to-day life, the things that happened before he fell asleep. Obviously Marcus leads a very promiscuous in-the-moment life and I felt like the only way to make his night wanderings believable were if they were anchored in some truth.
EDGE: What about research on Marcus’ sex addiction?
PW: I felt to grasp the depth of addiction I had to see it first hand. I went to SA meetings and just talked with people, listening to their stories, struggles and their victories.
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Watch the trailer to In His Sleep:
A real tattoo?
EDGE: As an actor, there’s very heavy drama in the film and then some more comedic/lighter moments. How was it to shift gears like that?
PW: Sometimes strangely enough the comedy can be the stressful bit; so much rides on timing and improv. However, having great comic actors on set, like Tony Hale really made that transition easier.
EDGE: Since waking up and not knowing what we did in our sleep is not a common occurrence, what did you draw from to convey that confusion and feeling of being lost?
PW: Again just focusing on what Marcus did and didn’t know in his day-to-day life influenced what he knew he was capable of in his sleep. I think this is where some of the films good drama comes through because the audience and Marcus are both finding clues and figuring out the truth together.
EDGE: I’m guessing the tattoo on your back was for the movie, right? Any real tattoos? If not, is it something you would do?
PW: The tattoo is actually real. I like to joke that it is a permanent reminder of a temporary feeling. After the ski hills closed and the snow started to melt, there wasn’t a lot to do in the spring time in Montana! I have spoken with my wife about getting other tattoos, just not sure what they will be yet.
EDGE: You have your clothes off a lot in the film. Was there a lot of pressure to stick to a fitness regimen?
PW: There was a lot of pressure to have the physique of a swimmer. My weeks prior to filming were taken up with weight training and swimming. It was difficult when we were filming to maintain fitness because our schedule was so grueling and there was not any time to work out or swim.
EDGE: We talked when you were doing Crusoe for NBC and you’ve done a lot of different kinds of roles in your career. Which do you find more challenging - comedic roles or dramatic or is all just acting?
PW: There is a funny thing that happens a few days into filming, where you just realize you’re doing what needs to get done. Whether it is comedy or action, drama or whatever usually the importance of knowing the character and letting that character come to life out weighs ’I hope its funny’ or ’I hope these emotions come across.’ It’s strange how simple things like not getting enough sleep, missing lunches...these are the things that make it challenging.
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Watch Philip Winchester in a scene from a 2008 production of King Lear directed by Trevor Nunn:
Learning from Shakespeare
EDGE: You have a background with Shakespeare, which tends to have a stigma of being stuffy and laborious but, having an acting background myself, I disagree with that. What do you think?
PW: I agree with you. I found Shakespeare to be some of the most challenging and rewarding work I have ever done. Every night on stage is different, every audience is different and every actor you’re working with is experiencing that moment for the first time again. It is the biggest rush I have had as an actor.
EDGE: What did you learn in your Shakespeare work that you bring to every subsequent role you do?
PW: The importance of language is one of the key things that I took away from my time at the Royal Shakespeare Company. I remember how beautiful it was to listen to older actors who had mastered the language and where able to give it back to you as if you were having a conversation at a coffee shop or pub. The words are so important to the characters.
EDGE: Gay roles also have a sort of stigma around them. How would you approach such a role since there isn’t one on your acting resume?
PW: The opportunity to play a gay character has actually never come up. Like with any decision to do a job or not to do a job it would really be based on whether or not I found the character to be interesting and challenging. Our sexuality is so personal and so delicate that to play a character with a sexually orientation that I myself do not have, the words and the story around that character would have to be very strong. In other words, I would never want to stereotype a character, gay or straight.
EDGE: What else have you been working on? Do you think you’ll do more television or are you focusing on film right now?
PW: I just recently got back from Canada working on two jobs. I have a role coming up on Fringe and a guest spot on Warehouse 13. I am also in a British independent film called Solomon Kane, which has yet to be released in the States. Whether it is film, television or theater, I just really enjoy working. As you know they all bring to the table different rewards and challenges. Each tastes very different.
In My Sleep opens this Friday in Los Angeles and April 30th in New York City. For further release information and more on the film, go to www.InMySleep.com.
Watch this behind-the-scenes video of In His Sleep: