Before coming an actor you were an army ranger, what lead you to join the military?
Tim: My Pappy Abell used to tell us kids about when he served in the US Army during WWI as a Blacksmith in France. He’d show us photos from a book regarding the Division he served with and would vividly recall his experiences both good and bad…his story telling got me interested in the Army….playing with my little plastic soldiers…setting up battlefields. And also with my full size GI Joe’s too! I started reading military histories and biographies…. watched war movies as well as the Vietnam war which was always on the news. It was after reading Robin Moore’s “The Green Berets” and watching the movie w/ John Wayne that I decided I was going to join the Army when I was old enough. I joined the Army on the Delayed Entry Program in the 11th grade w/ a Ranger Contract due to there being no available slots for Special Forces. As a young man I wanted to serve my country and also test myself to see what mettle I was made of. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made serving with Cco 2/75 Ranger Bn. And with the 3rd US Infantry (The Old Guard) Caissons.
What made you decide you wanted a career change?
Tim: I intended to stay in the Army with the condition I could get a slit in OCS (Officer Candidate School) and/ or get an assignment in Alaska, but my Re-Enlistment Officer couldn’t make that guarantee, so he suggested I attend ROTC at the University of Md. College Park which I did fully expecting to graduate and go back into the Army as officer. But it was in college where I found a love for theater and acting….
Your big break was in Soldier Of Fortune, how did you land the role?
Tim: when I first arrived to Hollywood I was working as a bartender, set builder, catering and as a model which I sucked at but did get to be on “Star Search 94” which was a lot of fun! I was also studying acting w/ Jeff Corey out in Point Dume at his home studio with some outstanding folks. I was also doing some commercials which helped pay the bills as well as a few low budget films where I met my good pal Fred Ray!
“Soldier of Fortune inc” came about first from a pal back in Baltimore whom notified me that there was a great role for me in a Simpson/Bruckheimer project. At the time I had just finished playing a Navy SEAL in a low budget film called“Steel Sharks” and was also on the very first Interactive Web series called “The Spot” which was getting some attention on ET as well as other shows and publications. I talked with my manager Danelle Allman Del about getting in for “Soldier of Fortune inc”….. she made some calls to the Cast Director April Webster to see if they’d read me for the project but it was a no go.
After a day of two I met with Danielle and pleaded my case as to why I was perfect for the show and guess I made a compelling case. She called me the next day to inform me she’d called in a huge favor with a friend to get me in to read foe the Jimmy Lee Monroe character (later changed to Benny Ray Riddle) who was a Marine Scout Sniper who was a no nonsense tough as nails NCO who was very good at his job. I remember my manager saying,” This is a huge favor getting you in to read, so please don’t suck!” Lol! I was sent 14 pages encompassing 3 scenes from the pilot. I worked my ass off breaking down the scenes and who the character was.
I worked with an acting pal Sam Hennings and with my writer pal Daryl Matthews until I knew the character and the scenes inside out….. when I got to the Casting Directors office on Sunset Blvd I was cool calm and confident… I sat in the waiting room looking at all these well know TV and Film Stars thinking….. I don’t got a chance booking this show if I’m reading against all these guys…. I was the last guy to read and before I walked in April Webster walked out leaving me to read with her assistant David Block who was nice as could be and said that April had to make a call but would see my audition on tape. I remember nailing all three scenes and the character… I even pretended to have a dip of tobacco in my lip which I felt fit the character.
Afterwards David looked at me and said,” Tim that was great…… April needs to see this…. can you do what you did again?” I remember when April came in she said,”David tells me I need to see your reading…. are you really that good?” I did it again and she made a call and then asked if I could do the same thing tomorrow for the Bruckheimer people…. which I did and ended up being the first officially person cast on the series. I also had the pleasure of being asked by April to be her reader for the other characters she was casting. Getting SOF inc was definitely life changing and a dream come true for me!
The first season was so badass, but the second seemed quite tame, right? Why was that?
Tim: Season one of “Soldier of Fortune inc” was going to be a true and authentic portrayal of what military special operations was really like. Jerry Bruckheimer wanted it as real as it could be…. he hired crack Showrunners Greg Strangis and Bob McCullough to bring creator Dan Gordon’s story to life along with Navy SEAL Tech Advisor Harry Humphries to assure the authenticity of each script.
It was a dark gritty world where there was a lot of killing in many authentic ways… but since the show was syndicated and aired at different times throughout the US, many viewers complained that their kids were being traumatized watching SOF inc at 5 pm in Chicago as opposed to 10 pm in Los Angeles…. so the writers had to create new ways to take down the bad guys without actually killing or showing headshots or other brutal ways of dispatching the bad guys.
Then in Season two Showrunners Frank Cardea and George Schenk (NCIS Showrunners) to take over and were given directions to take the show in a bit different direction….. the cast was changed up…. Benny Ray lost his outstanding Flattop…. some humor was added…. and the kills toned down quite significantly…. I remember Director Steve Yaconelli getting angry with me after a scene because as I walked by a bad guy who was down I shot him again just to be safe…. Steve kinda flipped out asking why the hell did I have to shoot him again!
It would be amazing to bring the show back, even for a limited series, would you be on board?
Tim: That would be awesome if that happened Jeff! I’d love to revisit Benny Ray Riddle and where he’d be today with the SOF Team! Noam Dromi who was an assistant to the producers as well as a writer has tried to get the rights to distribute the two seasons of SOF on DVD or one of the streaming services but Paramount won’t budge for some reason….. it is cool that SOF still airs around the world just not the US. Here is something i always found interesting about Solder of Fortune inc. I remember hearing that Soldier of Fortune inc was Jerry Bruckheimers producing partner Don Simpsons baby…. and that he really wanted to make a movie out of it….. so when Don Simpson passes away, Jerry decided to bring Soldier of Fortune inc to life in honor of his pal. I always loved that story…. I like to think it’s true.
I have noticed you play a lot of Military characters, is that preferred?
Tim: I’ve played a lot of military characters because that’s what I’ve been offered! Especially after SOF series… I’m not complaining though, because it led to some great films like “We Were Soldiers….”, which I got after my deal to be in “Blackhawk Down” fell through…. it was a great consolation prize. I also loved playing SFC Mosby in my pal Fred Olen Rays “Sniper:Special Ops” with Steven Seagal few years back.
What was it like working with Richard Norton and Michael Dudikoff on Strategic Command?
Tim: I absolutely loved working with Michael Dudikof and Richard Norton on “Strategic Command”! This was the heyday of Cable and VHS action movies. I loved working with the Director Ric Jacobson… he knew what he wanted and allowed us to bring our ideas to our characters. I loved that I was able to play Dino as a German terrorist! It was a great cast too: Stephen Quadros, Amanda Wyss, Larry Poindexter, Paul Winfield, JSU Garcia, Michael Cavanaugh, Gina Mari and Brian Cranston!
A blockbuster you worked on, We Were Soldiers, starring Mel Gibson! Man what was it like working with such a big cast?
Tim: Working on “We Were Soldiers…”, was an incredible experience indeed! I was so stoked to get cast, especially after my “Blackhawk Down “ deal fell through at the same time…. I remember my manager Danelle calling me to tell me I may have lost the “Blackhawk Down” role but I now had a deal being worked on for “We Were Soldiers…” I was beyond excited to be working with Mel Gibson and Sam Elliott! Two of my favorite actors….. and now I was going to be working with them together….and although it was only three scenes, they were pivotal scenes to the film. And due to the weather I ended up being in Paso Robles, Ca for 6 weeks hanging out with pal Patrick St Esprit and fellow Ranger Jim Grimshaw. I love that “We Were Soldiers..” airs all the time…. it was an outstanding book about an outstanding leader Col Hal Moore whom I had the pleasure of meeting as well as writer Joe Galloway.
Did you ever bring your own knowledge to the table for that movie?
Tim: As an actor that’s important for me to bring my own knowledge to the characters I play… my military background has been quite influential in all the military roles I’ve played from “Steel Sharks” “Hybrid”, “Strategic Command” to “SOFinc” and “Sniper Special Ops”….. all of my experiences as a human come to play in all the characters that I bring to life…. even playing a
Serial killer like James Beckett in “Instinct to Kill” based on Lisa Gardeners book “The Perfect Husband” I brought my experiences and knowledge to create the character…. I did extensive research on serial killers… read books… watched interviews…. look at crime scene photos from serial killers handy work…. in my opinion the best actors are those that do bring their own knowledge and experiences of living life to the characters they play.
So, Tim. You have a couple of ‘creature features’ under your belt, Mega Shark, Super Shark, Komodo… Are you a fan of the creature feature genre?
Tim: I became a fan of the creature feature genre by virtue of being cast by directors Fred Olen Ray, Chris Ray and Jim Wynorski over the years! I remember on”Hybrid” When Chris was but a young pup, he was the one wearing the creature costume…..chasing and killing folks like my pal Ted Monte! I absolutely love the world of make believe and creating creatures in my minds eye to be terrified of…. or being stepped on and squished like in Chris Rays “Mega Shark vs Kolossus”! Actors should never loose that childlike wonderment and imagination…..
What drew you to the Sniper: Special Ops script?
Tim: Director, Writer and Producer Fred Olen Ray and I were having dinner at my home one night….. Fred told me about his new project he was writing.. and he said he had written one of the main characters especially for me…. we talked about the story, about Special Operations currently fighting the GWOT….. and that Steven Seagal would hopefully be playing opposite me…. needless to say I was in like Flint!
How was working with Steven Seagal?
Tim: Steven Seagal is an interestingly individual….he quite liked and respected those of us that were veterans… especially the Ranger, Special Forces and Marsoc types … I personally only worked with him one day in person and he was quite nice to me. In my opinion he gets cast in all of his movies to be himself….Steven Seagal and his martial Arts… not anything else…. and that satisfies his fan base and keeps him cranking out films. I’d love to see him play something completely opposite of who and what he is!
You starred as Balthazar Kane in Circus Kane, did you enjoy playing the role?
Tim: I cannot tell you how much fun I had bring Balthazar Kane to life in Writers James Cullen Bressack & Zack Wards script directed by Christopher Olen Ray! I got a call from Chris as I was just being wrapped from filming Stacey K Blacks and Shea E Butlers “ Troubled Creek”, and as Chris told me about the film and about Balthazar Kane I knew immediately that I wanted to play this character….to bring him to life. Chris allowed me to bring my improvise skills alive and trusted me to infuse what was on the page with all my fucked up issues….from nursery rhymes to Shakespeare to ad libbing, “Did you know the human Head weighs 8lbs? to Jonathan Lipnicki as I dispatched him! We all got a
Big laugh at that and I got a thumbs up from Jonathan for using his famous line from “Jerry Maguire”!
What attracted you to the character of Kane?
Tim: Balthazar Kane the ultimate showman, Circus of Hoor Ringmaster, Carnival Barker, Freakshow aficionado, entertainer, master magician and actor! What actor wouldn’t be attracted to playing Kane. “Believe in Magic”
Man, why no sequel?
Tim: I’d love to revisit Balthazar Kane in either a prequel or sequel….. Chris Ray has mentioned he has an idea about what he’d want to do if Kane is revisited, but that’s all I know. It all comes down to fan interest, the interest of the producers, writers and especially Chris Ray the director. Many fans think Circus Kane would make an outstanding franchise and I’d have to agree with them!
Navy Seals vs Demons, tell me all about it! I loved Seals Vs Zombies
Tim: I had worked with director Jeff Reyes on “Invasion” an outstanding short film about the USA being attacked and “Zulu Six” a zombie flick prior to “Navy SEALS vs Demons”.
Jeff is a veteran and he loves working with real veterans in many of his projects. My pals Matt Anderson a Special Forces veteran as well as Mikal Vega a Navy SEAL veteran were working on Jeff’s then untitled project so when Jeff asked me to play a former SEAL turned CIA type I of course said yes! I didn’t know much about the films story or script except for what Jeff told me…. my character Max Martini (I believe an homage to actor Max Martini) was monitoring drone surveillance with his team of his assets on the ground. I really didn’t know much more than these assets were my former teammates and they were in a bad situation.
“Navy SEALs vs Demons” is pretty self explanatory lol! It’s about a covert team undercover as bikers following up on strange happenings in a small desert town only to find themselves dealing with actual demons! Fun fare for the SyFy aficionados out there!
Whats next on the slate for you, Tim?
Tim: I love what I do… I love bringing new characters to life… I love evolving as I get older to new challenges as an actor… the psychological dive into different characters… I love the research and discovery into how I’ll approach each character. And Indy films have been a great place for me to play. I recently was asked to be in a short film based on characters from Navy SEAL/ Author Jack Carr by my pal actor Michael Broderick, who was producing as well as starring in. Vernon Mortensen wrote the outstanding script and Ryan Curtis directed. All veterans put together to create an outstanding short to show what veterans are capable of as a creative team. Jack Carr loved the film and has given it much love! Cool thing for me is Jack told me he was a fan of “Soldier of Fortune inc.” and Benny Ray Riddle! He and his teammates would watch the show and get fired up! The film, “Fathers & Sons- A Terminal List Story” has been accepted to a few film festivals and recently won The New Jersey Best Dramatic Short which made us all quite happy.
Here is the link: https://youtu.be/C22rfT0rkt0
Some other Indy films are Mikal Vega’s poignant autobiographical short “Message in a Bottle”, about his journey to self love and recovery, “WhiteBlood” a feature film about the southern border, immigration, family, love and drugs….Director /writer Ben Butler created an awesome script! Bringing Abraham to life was an interesting endeavor indeed…. kinda reminded me of James Beckett from “Instinct to Kill”.
I did “Young Lion of the West” in Rochester Ny. I play Joey Sasso’s old man who’s a mechanic trying to set the example for his son to folllow… without much success. Joey, who was the winner of Netflix’s “The Circle” plays a kid lured into a life of drug dealing and the local Goodfellas lifestyle with tragic results. Had some fun with “Shooting Star” a western with Michael Pare, Peter Sherayko and directed by Michael Feifer, “American Desert” playing another SEAL with Will Brandt, “Middleton Christmas” with Michael Pare and Eileen Davidson…. a nice Holiday movie.
“MBF:Mans Best Friend” with my filmmaker pals in Michigan playing DJ Perry’s father….. DJ does a wonderful kid playing a Marine K9 dog handler suffering from TBI from an IED blast. Outstandingly directed by Anthony Hornus! Hopefully I’ll be working with them again soon on a WWII project in Iowa! “I am that Man” directed, written and starring Matthew Marsden was a film dealing with a veteran dealing with issues transitioning to civilian life.
Projects in works are “Un Plan Simple” directed by pal Ted Monte….. Ill be playing an interesting character named The Judge, “Calabasas Criminals” series created by Brennan Karem and “Blue Motel” written and directed by Ted Campbell the winner of Your Script Produced.
Thank you for your time Tim, I really appreciate it. Keep Safe, brother.
Tim: Thanks Jeff! And thanks for being a fan brother! Cheers!