Celeb Dirty Laundry had the exclusive opportunity to chat with Jeremy Childs about human cloning; his new film, Closer To God; and, believe it or not, Meryl Streep! Human cloning is the go-to staple food for theoretical science fiction. Controversial at best, the topic has caused havoc amongst bioethicists, secular quasi-intellectuals, and die-hard religious theorists. Is human cloning unethical and immoral? Should scientists dabble in the unknown? Would human cloning lead to an exalted form of therapeutic cloning?
Described as an ‘ambitious, thoughtful and provocative take on the Frankenstein story (ScreenDaily)’, Closer To God, starring Jeremy Childs, takes a closer look at the philosophical and/or moral implications of human cloning.
The official synopsis reads: “Dr. Victor Reed (Jeremy Childs) is a brilliant geneticist who has just achieved a huge scientific breakthrough by successfully cloning the first human being, an adorable baby girl named Elizabeth. This immediately becomes a media spectacle and ignites a firestorm of debate concerning the moral and religious implications of such a discovery. Soon, Dr. Reed and his family lose all sense of privacy and safety as they are swarmed by protesters and the media. Their biggest threat, however, could be Victor’s own secret.”
“What man has joined, nature is powerless to put asunder.” – Aldous Huxley, A Brave New World.
Check out our interview with Jeremy Childs below, and be sure to leave any thoughts or comments you have for him in the discussion section below. We’d love to hear from you!
What research did you do for the role of Dr Victor Reed?
Well I’ve been very fortunate because I have worked with [Director] Billy Senese on several different occasions so when the concept first came to him, of course the biggest influence being Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, I was privy to it so of course I went back and re-read the novel but it took on its own path, a very different story with very different themes than Frankenstein although similar.
He wrote me a 20-page back story. We met with a genetic scientist and this was all over a period of a year and a half, maybe 2 years before we got into principal photography so I had plenty of time to prep for it and understand who the character was and then went into it.
What are your views on human cloning?
Oh boy. I knew you were going to ask me that question. Let me say first, I’ll answer that question in a roundabout way if that’s cool. The purpose of the film was not to land on one side or the other in terms of the issue. The central theme of the film is actually very different from the biggest influence, of course being Frankenstein. The film is about the inevitability of progress and how we deal with that.
The fact that there is no black and white, that if science can make it happen, they will make it happen. In past variations, the Frankenstein story it’s always about the Doctor having a God complex. This is not what we were going for at all, it was about the inevitability so in terms of my stance on it, if I was faced with a loved one whose life could be saved by using a cloned organ then I think I, like most people, would be all for it, right?
Now, if you’re talking about cloning a loved one and bringing them back to life because they had passed away, I think that would just basically creep me out. I think it would just freak me out, man so that’s about as close to an answer as I know. I mean, it would depend on the situation. I think cloning human organs and things, I think it’s a good route to go. I mean, I think it’s something that we will embrace ultimately if that happens but I don’t know if it can go much further than that.
And therapeutic cloning?
Like I said, in my situation if I were faced with somebody who could be saved by that I think I’d be a hypocrite if I said no. I know it’s a complicated issue but I think I would be a hypocrite. I think most people would be hypocritical if they said no. I mean, if your life, if your wife or your son or daughter could be saved by this research I think you would have a very different take on it.
I’m obviously not gung-ho one way or the other which was one of the things. The character Victor of course, he’s very pro on the idea and I was able to … I mean, I understood that so in terms of building the character I don’t really try to find the character. It sounds weird but I try to let the character find me and I do that by sending out smoke signals and the smoke signals are things like an actor’s research and understanding where you are in the scene, where you’re going and motivational, all that kind of thing.
Then the point of an actor’s technique is basically to fill in the gaps if that doesn’t happen. With Victor it was really easy I think, for that character to find me because I understood everything that he was going through on a human level like reading a character in a book. You empathize with him.
What interested you about this film? Would you say the character? Would you say the back story of Frankenstein? Why this film?
Well, I’ll be honest with you. Probably the biggest thing for me was about the opportunity to work with Billy Senese, the director. It’s nice but rare to find a director who has the same sentimentality that you do, who is influenced by a lot of the same things that you have been influenced by, who you have a shorthand with. That was the biggest thing for me and I was very happy with the products, the pieces that we had done together.
I am a big fan of the novel and I thought this cloning take, this genetic take was a really interesting, updated idea to attach to the classic tale but then again we keep comparing it to Frankenstein and if you go in looking for the Frankenstein influences they are obviously there but if you don’t, you’re not going to necessarily find them. We don’t really hit you in the face with it, it’s a different theme. It’s more akin to… To me the film has always felt more akin to a Shakespearean tragedy which is another reason I was really excited about getting to play the character.
Would you ever accept a role that goes against your personal beliefs and morals? I know it’s a weird question to interject but I’m very interested to hear your thoughts on that.
Absolutely. I’ve done that a lot. I do that a lot. It’s called paying the mortgage. No actually, it’s a lot more than that. It’s fascinating to take on characters … I’m more fascinated and tweaked by the idea of doing a character that is further from me just because it allows you to step into somebody else’s shoes for a little while. I would say the lion’s share of stuff that I’m on film is not remotely like me. I hope not because I’ve played a lot of sleazy, creepy characters so yeah, that’s an easy one. Absolutely not,
What was your favorite performance of your entire career? What was the standout moment for you?
The thing is, I have done a ton of theater. I’ve done more than a hundred equity shows over the years so it depends on the medium. I think I am … The best time I’ve had professionally in terms of film or video, whatever, media that you capture, right? Not temporary art but some, has been Closer to God for sure. Because even though I’ve done quite a few indies it’s rare to be able to be the lead in a film and to see if you can handle it. It was just a really cool, enchanting process and I want more.
In terms of theater, it’s a whole different thing. Probably Stanley [Kowalski] in A Streetcar Named Desire or Lennie [Small] in [the play] Of Mice and Men.
If a human being is cloned, does that mean that we are now closer to God?
Sure. I think that’s an excellent question and that’s one of the questions that we raise in this film. Victor’s back story is really interesting because he is on this path to do this. He’s driven by this desire to do this because he lost his father who was the biggest influence in his life, to Parkinson’s [Disease].
This is all in the back story. It’s one of the things that’s driving him is to find a cure for these things that take away people that we love. I think it’s a fascinating question. I’d be lying if I knew the answer to it. Again, I think that’s what makes the film unique is we’re not preachy. We try to give both sides equal billing and say, “Look. It wouldn’t be a hot topic if it was an easy answer.”
Therefore the question is, the absolute truth is the inevitability of progress. That’s what we know for certain. Do we know for certain that a human being is going to be cloned? No but we know that if a human being can be cloned, they will be cloned and possibly they’ve been cloned already.
Do you think religious views and religious opinions should stand in the way of science? I know that’s a very weird question.
You ask me a lot of biggies. I would say that it would be … I’d feel like it would be ignorant of us not to hear everybody out. There is a metaphysical realm, there is a spiritual realm I believe and I think that if religious leaders or philosophical leaders are posing questions about cloning, these kind of things, this is something we have a responsibility to hear out.
I do not believe they should be ignored. I think there are extremists who should not be taken seriously but I also believe there are philosophers and doctors who are also religious people from different faiths and they should of course be taken seriously and be heard out so, yeah.
On a lighter note, is who is your favorite actor and actress? Out of an actor’s point of view, who would you say is the best actor and actress technically?
This is my longer answer. In terms of actors who have had the most influence on me, and I’m not saying this because of his recent death but probably … I know Christopher Lee has probably had the biggest influence on me as an actor, definitely. Peter Cushing is right up there. Brian Dennehy and Carroll O’Connor had a big influence on me. Steve McQueen and Marlon Brando had a big influence on me.
If you’re asking me who I think the best actor, film actor, cinema actor technically I would go with [Marlon] Brando, hands down. I feel like he, for a multitude of reasons, the right time, the right place, the right look, so on and so forth. I feel like our finest living cinema actor or actress rather, is Meryl Streep.
Closer To God releases in cinemas across the country on July 3, 2015.
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