James Gallanders on Acting, Sci-Fi, and Stuttering in Project Ithaca Image

Nicholas Humphries’ latest film, Project Ithaca is a very entertaining, well-crafted indie take on the classic Sci-Fi movie. Malicious aliens, secret military projects, gigantic spaceships…it’s got it all. I was very happy to speak with the star of the film, James Gallanders. Here’s what he had to say about his role in Project Ithaca, which is now available on VOD, and more!

How did you come to get involved with Project Ithaca?
James Gallanders: Well I actually was at first just asked to do a self-tape and I was given the sides and I was intrigued. So my wife and I put it on tape and not too long afterward I was told that they liked it and that they wanted to meet in person. And so I went in and I met with the director, Nicholas Humphries and writer/producer Anthony Artibello. He and I have since become really good friends and he told me that on the day that I walked in, he said he really liked my energy. Then he said, “When you walked up and shook my hand and looked me in the eye I knew we had our John and I hadn’t even done the callback yet, which was really cool. So yeah, it was on the night before that I did the callback, then I finally got to read the script and I was already intrigued with all the sci-fi elements. You know, the alien abduction, it takes place on a spaceship and all of that cool stuff. But then when I read the depth of the character that Anthony had written, I was like, man, I got to play this guy because he’s such a tortured soul. He’s a wounded man. He’s suffered a tremendous loss in the past for which he carries a tremendous amount of guilt. He developed a relationship with a young girl that he sort of sees himself as a father to, and you know, maybe a chance at some redemption. He’s got to put all that aside because he’s got to figure out a way off this darn ship. So it was just one of those things on the night before I did the callback, I was like, man, I want to play this part.

I got to play this guy because he’s such a tortured soul. He’s a wounded man. He’s suffered a tremendous loss…”

It’s a very interesting role. When you guys shot these scenes where there were the tentacles and all that stuff, was that practical effects?
They were practical, which was hugely helpful because as an actor you don’t have to do a lot of pretending.  So, we were tied up and covered in goo for about two weeks, which was pretty cool. I remember in the early days, I’d have to get a little step ladder to get us up to our perch and someone else would have to attach our harness. And I’d be like, “Oh man, we’re going to be here for two weeks and we have to act all of this stuff up here for two weeks!”  but within a couple of days, I was hopping up there like a monkey and I was doing my own harness and you know, the crew would have to come over to add on more goo and then they would wrap the tentacles around our arms. And so we were literally all tied up and covered in goo for a couple of weeks. and then there’s another part in the film where the creature appears and you know, they actually had it there, so that was hugely helpful.

Oh, that’s crazy. And where was the military base and all of that stuff shot?
Oh, that was so cool. That was in the mine in Sudbury. It was so cool down there. Well, in the lab that was actually a set in the sound studio… where you see the little girl in the spaceship and everything and where they’re pressing the buttons and all that stuff, but all the tunnels and everything, that was all in the Sudbury mine, which is so cool cause I don’t know if anyone ever gets to shoot down there, but somehow we managed to.

I guess it’s good to not be claustrophobic then.
Yeah, that helps. It was really cool to be down there. I know somebody I think had actually asked Anthony how they built that set? And they’re like, that’s not a set, man. That’s a mine. That’s a real mine. It was really neat to be down there.

“…we were literally all tied up and covered in goo for a couple of weeks.”

This movie in some ways reminds me of old 50s and 60s Sci-Fi movies like Roger Corman or stuff like that, and I was wondering if you were into those types of films?
That’s very astute of you and I think ultimately that’s exactly what the producers were going for. They wanted it to come across as one of those Sci-Fi movies, you know, like of the 70s or 80s. That was totally the look and the feel, that they wanted. In fact, Anthony and I have become really good friends over the course of this process and he said that the entire concept of the film was born out of John Carpenter’s The Thing. It was the blood test, where they’re all tied to chairs. He said that scene just really hung with him and he said this entire world of characters was all born out of that one scene.

Did you watch anything when you were preparing for Project Ithaca or did you just kind of work off the script?
I did. I tried to watch as much Sci-Fi as I could, like as much really good Sci-Fi and some really bad. I thought, you know, there’s plenty out there. There was one film in particular that reminded me of, and I don’t want to mention the name, but uh, where like a bunch of people are trapped and it seemed as though the actors were just acting in a panic the entire time. I thought it must’ve been exhausting for the actors because I was exhausted watching them. So I wanted to avoid that trap. I think what’s unique about this film is that in the way they tell the story, it really allows the story and the characters some time to breathe because they’re not frantic all the time. It’s not that heightened urgency all the time. You get moments to sort of breathe and to learn about each other. And I really appreciated that.

That can be pretty weird from a viewing perspective…So I wanted to ask, is there anything else that you’re working on right now that you’d want to talk about?
There’s a couple of projects that I’m waiting to hear about and just this morning I sort of wrestled with it. I was asked to audition for a role that would have tied me up for over a year and it was a tough call but I passed because originally, this (Project Ithaca) was actually meant to be the first in the trilogy. So we’re sort of hoping that if we get the numbers and you know if the stars align that we’re going to get to explore these characters again because it just makes sense.

“…how would you like to be in a movie called the Bride of Chucky? And I just thought I have to have that on my resume.

Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky are my two favorites. So, what do you think about the remake that’s coming out? Do you have any thoughts on it?
I’m excited to see it. I’m totally stoked about it. I think I was like right out of acting school and I remember my agent calling me up and saying, hey sweetie, how would you like to be in a movie called the Bride of Chucky? And I just thought I have to have that on my resume. I didn’t really know anything about the Child’s Play series or anything. I thought, oh, it sounds like, you know, cute kind of kitschy little movie. And I went, “Yeah, right on. Sign me up, let’s do it.” And then, I got to set and I was like, I think there’s a lot of money involved in this movie and this is actually a pretty big movie and I had a blast on that, so I’m really excited to see the new one.

Was there a film or a TV show that at some point made you decide that you wanted to become an actor?
I don’t know if I could name any one show in particular. My parents split up when I was very young. And so I was one of those kids was just plopped in front of the TV and for me, it came about in an odd way because I’ve got a stutter. I was the kid who if you asked me to read aloud in class I would try, but I would end up having to run out of the room sobbing. Then it was only when I had to give a speech in front of my class and I stayed after class and I said, no way, that’s not going to happen. I can’t even read. And the teacher told me to pick a topic that I could get excited about and I could find an emotional connection to, and so I finally did. To make a long story short, I went for my class and then I went for my school (speech competition) and then I went for my region and I want every year after that. And so, you know the director of the play at school said: “you need to do my play.” So all of a sudden I found my voice like I couldn’t read aloud in class, but if I was playing a character then I’d be fine. I mean, even when I got to high school, I was the president of the student council and the lead in the play and the musical. But when, you know, my teacher asked me to read aloud in class, I refused because I still couldn’t do it, so I got sent down to the office. So, yeah. So that was sort of my path into acting. I was into everything. I loved all kinds of TV shows. Like, I love to, to immerse myself into TV and movies but that was sort of, you know, how I got into acting in a nutshell.

 

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