has made a career out of being the tough guy that you don't want to mess with. His voice is unmistakable, and his face tends to scream danger. You may know him for playing Tom (Mr. Friendly) on Lost
or as the crazed naked man who chased after Paul Giamatti
's character Miles in Sideways
We recently sat down with M.C. and talked about his roles in the new film All About Steve
, Lost, Sideways and his upcoming series Happy Town
- due out mid-season on ABC.
Eric Stromsvold: I'd like to talk to you about the new film "All About Steve." I heard that you're playing a trucker named Earl who gives Sandra Bullock's character Mary a friendly lift, and we've seen you play truckers named Earl before (Breakdown).
M.C. Gainey: Yeah, you know what Eric. I'm just thinking of changing my name to Earl and Harlan. I think I've played a half a dozen of each one.
How worried should the audience be about what happens between this version of Earl and Mary?
Oh they shouldn't be worried at all. This guy is the flipside of all my other… well I shouldn't say all of the other truckers. I was thinking about this with this movie's coming out that I've played enough truckers I should have an honorary Teamsters card. I played psychopathic truckers, homicidal truckers, befuddled confused redneck truckers, but this guy here - he's pretty sweet.
How is that feeling for you to finally get the sweet trucker?
Well you know what, it's a time honored tradition in movies in America that if you kill enough people in your 30s and 40s and 50s that by the time you get into your 60s you become loveable. I think of the great Claude Akins
who was a murderous, murderous bastard for 30 years and wound up being one of "B.J. and the Bear"...I think he had a pet chimpanzee or something. I don't have a chimpanzee yet but I'm hoping.(Laughing) I actually did work on an episode of LA Law
with a chimpanzee and it was quite an experience, but "All About Steve" is a very loveable movie. I'm just crazy about Sandra Bullock. I was a big fan before I worked with her, and I'm an even bigger fan now. She's one of the nicest, most honest, straightforward people you could ever meet and she likes to have fun while you're working; which is always good for a comedy.
Gainey, left, In "Wild Hogs"
What about "Happy Town?" I think you're playing a good sheriff. Right?
I am playing a sheriff as far as we can tell. "Happy Town" has the potential to be the new "Lost" in that there are things going on there that are disturbing and inexplicable; and I'm really excited about it.
In "Sideways" - that was the scariest real character person that I've ever seen. How did you become so scary?
You know, that's a good question. 90% of it is just my face, Eric. All my life people have asked me what I was so mad about. Why you so mad? And I was never mad. I'm not mad, I just look mad. I just have that sort of face and when I got to Hollywood in the late 70s they took one look at me and said get him a gun. You definitely should be carrying a gun; and so a lot of it is just the way I look. I look like I'm angry and dangerous and in fact I'm loveable and kind.
You're the big cuddleable teddy I guess huh?
Yeah, that's what I'm going for nowadays; I think I am in "All About Steve." Now I have not seen "All About Steve" because I have been busy. I've spent a lot of time in Hawaii working on something over there.
Gainey (right) in "Lost"
Image © American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
What's really funny is how people always say how scary I am on "Lost." I think I'm one of the least scary characters on "Lost."
I was just about to ask you about that because I love you on "Lost" and Tom (his character) seems like the really nice, most pleasant good guy of the bad guys.
Yeah absolutely. They started me off terrifying. I will agree with that. We started off that first one I kidnapped Walt. It was like, what does he want with that kid, why is he taking that kid? I thought Tom was, as far as the Others go, the least frightening and most humanistic of 'em all. I thought he'd never do anything to anybody and it was only right at the end when I actually picked up a gun and paid with my life!
Yes! It was very sad to see you go, but I guess when it comes to "Lost" everyone can always come back.
Well that's what they tell me, it's that ultimately you'll get to see everybody again. That would be fine with me because that's a great cast. Some of the nicest people you could ever work with and as locations go, Hawaii is about as good as it gets.
Absolutely! I read that you took the role of Tom without knowing anything about it, just based off of Carlton Cuse.
Yeah, I worked with Carlton before and it wasn't just starting out not knowing anything about it; in the second season I ran barefooted in rags through the jungle for six episodes and in the seventh episode Jake found my beard in my locker. When I got that script I went wait, I got a locker?!?! And it's a fake beard? It's one of those things you have no idea what's going on and it's a very interesting kind of acting. It's sort of like, ro-sham-bo, the rock paper scissors game. That's sort of what acting on Lost is like. You're thrown out there and you don't really know exactly what you're doing but you do it and if you do it the way they want it that's fine and if you don't they shape you in a different direction -- fascinating exercise in acting. You know actors, we like to talk about our back stories and our motivation and a life set and all these things; in that job you have none of that, none of that whatsoever.
What is it about Cuse that enabled yourself to jump blindly into such a role and into such a series?
You know, that's just sort of my attitude about it. I was in Alexander Payne's first movie, Citizen Ruth
, and when he called me for "Sideways" I was sitting on my front porch and he calls and said, I want you to do a part in my movie. I said, absolutely. He said, wait a minute now there are some things you need to know about this. I said, no I don't Alexander; all I need to know is that you're directing and that I'm in! He said, well you might want to talk to your people about it and I said no I don't need to talk to… and he said, well ,you're going to be totally naked. I said you know what, I'm in. (Laughs)...It's one thing to be naked when you look good. That's one thing. But when you don't look good and you're naked, that's a whole other can of worms - excuse the expression.
It definitely leaves a lasting mark on everyone because it just comes out of nowhere.
Yeah it does. It really was a shock and believe me I think it's one of the two or three best movies I've ever been in. I think it's a fantastic movie and as far as comic relief goes, the laughter that I heard from an audience when I did that when they saw me naked, it was very complex because it was very gratifying to be the comic relief but at the same time it was like wow scary and naked at the same time, that's a really weird combination.
I know you probably get asked this all the time, and I kind of have to ask it. Without giving any spoilers away, do you know what's happening with "Lost?"
I do and I have to tell you that I was a "Lost" fan before I was on it and I wish I didn't know. To be honest with you I wish I could go back and say wow I wonder what's going to happen. I would never tell anybody what's going to happen because if you're a "Lost" fan you're going to love it. Let's leave it at that, you're going to absolutely love it. Absolutely worth the time invested.
Okay good, because that was going to be my follow up question. I was going to say, do you think that the producers of "Lost" are going to be able to provide the viewers with a great ending and not a Sopranos type of ending.
No no no. I'm in the minority. I actually like the end of "The Sopranos" because I thought it was brilliant. I still have hopes that "The Sopranos" will make a feature. They left themselves open brilliantly for that, brilliantly I thought. But yes, "Lost" will be more satisfying at the end than "The Sopranos" was, but like I said I'm not sure we've seen the end of the "Sopranos."
Story by Eric Stromsvold
Starpulse contributing writer