August Richards is one the gorgeous young stars of the series
Angel on the WB network. He recently sat down for a telephone
interview with Nadine for The TV MegaSite.
Even as a young man growing up in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, J.
knew that he wanted to become an actor. To that end, he did as many
plays as possible as a child. He landed his first role on the
“Cosby Show” in 1988. When it was time for college, he moved to
California, where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the
University of Southern California.
Both of J.’s parents are Panamanian and came to
the United States as adults. Although J. was born here, he says, “my
parents made sure that me and my sister went [to Panama] as often as
we could”. The effects of this were far-reaching. Richards credits
his connection to his family in Panama with giving him a sense of
groundedness and confidence that has served him well in his career.
It is a career that is actually pretty unique, if only for the
simple fact that the vast majority of actors are unemployed.
Unfortunately, many of them stay that way for most of their careers.
Richards, in contrast, has been working steadily for years. He has
appeared on “The Practice” and “West Wing” among other illustrious
television shows. He also appeared in the big screen flick “Why Do
Fools Fall In Love”, starring Halle Berry.
Currently, the dynamic actor may be seen in the
WB action thriller/dramedy “Angel”. Yes, it is all of the above—and
more. In it, Richards plays one of a group of crusaders fighting
evil in all of its many forms. The show is, in fact, a spinoff of
the WB’s critically acclaimed series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”.
Both were created by Oscar nominated Hollywood scribe Joss Whedon.
The title character “Angel”, is a vampire with
a soul (which means he is noble and heroic), whose life’s mission is
to fight evil- vampiric and otherwise. Richards plays Charles Gunn,
a brash yet… noble and heroic character who along with Angel fights
This Fall, the drama began its fifth season on
the WB, began running in syndication on TNT and UPN. Asked what he
attributes to the growing popularity of shows and movies with the
same or similar themes, Richards says he believes that, “… vampire
shows and movies do well because [they] are part of an international
shared mythology… lots of cultures have myths about vampires”. He
also holds to the assertion that although there are vampires and
other dastardly creatures on the show overall, they are really just
metaphors for the demons that confound all of us as human beings. He
says, “ I think [the show] is just a metaphor for redemption, and
can you be forgiven for all the terrible things you’ve done in your
life that you can’t forgive yourself for…” We can all relate to
Indeed, the show has characters and stories
that viewers tend to care passionately about. For example, many
people were deeply disappointed to see that Charisma Carpenter was
not appearing on any episodes early this season. Many an internet
message board burned up with talk about this turn of events.
Fortunately, she will be returning the week of February 4th and
possibly for future episodes as well.
As for his long-term plans, J. aspires to
leading man status, but not your run of the mill leading man. He
wants to play the same sort of offbeat characters for which Johnny
Depp is known. He is more interested in the artistic aspect of being
an actor than in becoming a star. He does not believe being a “star”
is worth the price one has to pay. He says, “What it takes to be a
star and to maintain stardom—you have to create a lot of smoke and
mirrors in your life…” Richards wants no part of that. What brought
him to respect acting as an art was a workshop led by Eric LaSalle
(ER), and Michael Beach (Third Watch). After doing this workshop he
said that he stopped wanting to be a “star” and became more
interested in “… being the best artist I can be.” For him, that
means, “Giving the viewer an original experience.” He’s off to a
good start as this show definitely delivers on originality.
He’s not completely against doing ordinary
Hollywood movies though. He would even do an action film if it were
“…smart and different.” The bottom line for Richards is that he is
interested in stories that “… illuminate some facet of human
existence.” He is aware though, of the drawbacks of this type of
professional outlook. He realizes that, “… maybe when you make that
choice, the rewards are not as great.” Nonetheless, he remains
steadfast in his belief that it is the art that is most important.
He is not necessarily looking for the blockbuster film. He feels
that potentially a smaller movie can have more of an impact. He’d
rather a studio “… spend a few million [dollars] on a movie that
actually says something and that illuminates people’s lives, and
that kind of movie is not gonna be a success based on receipts. It’s
gonna be a success based upon its position in the cultural psyche,
and that’s what I’m shooting for”. He’s starting off on the right
foot in that regard. Joss whedon’s original series “Buffy The
Vampire Slayer” as well as “Angel” have definitely made an impact on
the cultural psyche—and not just in America. These shows have become
international phenomena. Hundreds of websites devoted to Whedon’s
shows have popped up. Books have been written about them- scholarly
books analyzing them, biographies of the actors, novelizations,
comic books, etc. There have already been fan conventions much like
the ubiquitous “Star Trek” conventions. Not to mention the massive
market for merchandise using logo and characters from the two shows.
Richards is clearly proud to be part of this experience.
When asked about his favorite movie of the past
couple of years, he answered that it was a toss-up between two
movies; both of which say “… something very profound about the human
experience”. One is the “Matrix”, which stars Keanu Reeves and was
very popular with the general public. The other is the French film
“Code Unknown”, starring Juliet Binoche. Ever heard of that one?
Didn’t think so. Still, Richards says it is a film that keeps you
thinking long after the closing credits have rolled. This says a
great deal about who J. is as a person and as an actor. He is part
everyman, but still holds on fiercely to his individuality. This is
also the reason why he is so much fun to watch!
Check out J. and the rest of the “Angel” gang
out on the WB Wednesday nights!
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