Matthew Ashford (Jack Deveraux, Days of our Lives) joins OutTakes Interviews to discuss his role in the paranormal WWII horror feature film The Castle. This blend of horror, history and psychological terror also stars Lew Temple (Axel, The Walking Dead) and Tierza Scaccia (Fast Looker) and is directed by John Patrick Tomasek of Distant Star Pictures. We also discuss Days of our Lives, the Daytime Emmys and more. Enjoy!
OT: How did you get involved with The Castle?
MA: Through my friend and business partner, David Ross. David told me about The Castle and had talked with director John Patrick Tomasek. He was very impressed with the material and with John; and so he asked me if I wanted to be connected with it. I’ve done a little bit of horror film. Who hasn’t? But this idea I found very intriguing. I’ve never really heard of a horror movie set in WWII because WWII itself was a horror. Because of that, the story stands alone. I wanted to see how this would come together. Lew Temple is also a friend of mine who I wanted to work with. So I threw my hat in. And here we go.
OT: Who do you play?
MA: I play “Jim”. I don’t know if I would describe him as an international playboy, but he certainly is in his own mind! Imagine these two guys that were young once in Europe, hitchhiking around. Walter (Lew Temple) grew up, went back to Chicago and became a professor of history. My character, Jim, kept traveling and picking up odd jobs here and there, building his resume in his mind. So when they meet in midlife, they are still friends, but Walter is always thinking about what could have been while Jim is saying, “Look at who I’m with. Look at these beautiful babes. I’m over here. I’m over there. I’m over in Russia. I’m out in North Africa.” He’s living the life. Then Walter gets this interesting once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stay at a castle in Germany. His wife (played by Tierza Scaccia) finds a way to make sure that Jim knows about it. So all of a sudden, Jim pops up at the castle. All of the characters think, “Wow! This is the best!” But we find out more and more as the story progresses. The castle is not what it seems…
OT: So you are friends with Lew Temple. What was the experience like working with him on the set?
MA: Lew has been working about as long as I have. We’re roughly the same age. He’s been in a lot of films working with a lot of A-list stars. And of course, he was in The Walking Dead and has done a lot of westerns. He’s a very wise man. Very funny. We just connected. He’s very immediate. He’s very funny. And he’s ready to play anything. Whatever you need. I’m very excited to work with him because he’s a very honest truthful actor who wants to bring the best. He’s the kind of person you want to work with.
OT: So the trailer was filmed in an actual castle outside of Chicago?
MA: Yes, we filmed inside Stronghold Castle, about an hour and a half more outside of Chicago. It has its own kind of wonderful history. Walter Strong, owner and publisher of the Chicago Daily News, owned the castle. While he was battling for justice and the people, he took on Al Capone who was really corruption itself in the 1920s. Capone didn’t like anybody speaking up to him. When Capone threatened Strong and his family, Strong moved his family outside of Chicago and built a castle to protect them. One way or the other, it worked. This castle, which is full of all kinds of nooks and crannies, survived all this time. When John (Tomasek, director of The Castle) became aware of this location, he wanted to use it. In the movie, the castle is centuries old, going back all the way to the 15th century. The place has its own storied history…illustrious, glorious and very dark. The plot flash forwards to our time. But these vibrations, these echoes, the things that have happened in and around this castle, just don’t go away.
OT: Just for fun, what are your favorite horror films?
MA: The Others (2001) which starred Nicole Kidman was an amazingly spooky and moody movie which is really wonderful. That film also kind of takes place in a castle actually, and you’re not quite sure what is really there. Cape Fear is very suspenseful. The Night of the Hunter is another one. Are they horror movies? There’s something horrible in them.
OT: I would say they are horror movies.
MA: Yeah, there’s stuff that’s pretty horrible and frightening in those movies. But I like a lighter touch. I don’t necessarily need the blood and gore. Even the first Freddy Krueger Nightmare on Elm Street was very spooky and evocative. And of course, Halloween. Those are the movies from my young days.
OT: You and David Michael Ross are also involved in the production company Tranquil Bay. What is your role with that?
MA: With Tranquil Bay, we are co-producers and have been working on projects over the years. We have a whole number of scripts we are working with. It’s been a wonderful outlet in times when I’m not working so much. It’s a chance to do something. To make something happen. And I’ve been working with some of these people for a long time.
OT: Congratulations on your Indie Series Award nomination for The Bay as “Steve Jensen”. Did you have any part in submitting for that?
MA: Thank you! I see Mary Beth Evans (Kayla, Days of our Lives; Sara, The Bay) at work; and we still laugh about some of the stories we have played together. I’m lucky that the nomination happened, but I had no part in actually submitting for it.
OT: What about the Daytime Emmys? Have you submitted for your role as Jack on Days of our Lives?
MA: Yes, I submitted my work with Kassie dePaiva and Missy Reeves (Eve and Jennifer, DAYS). The reel was tied together as the one big storyline that Ron Carlivati (headwriter of DAYS) wrote. Part of it was Jack struggling and fighting with Eve to find out if she was truly on his side and trying to help him get his memory back. Also the scenes with Jennifer, getting his memory back. There was so much material to choose from, but I tried to keep it as tight and simple as possible. So hopefully there’s a good response to it. There’s a lot of good actors out there; and I’m one of many.
OT: DAYS fans were so thrilled to see that Jack Deveraux had survived that elevator crash and returned back to Salem alive. What was your favorite part of playing Jack’s return last year?
MA: Getting a chance to meet Jack’s family. All those scenes with Kate Mansi, Casey Moss, Missy Reeves and Mary Beth Evans (Kate, JJ, Jennifer and Kayla, DAYS). For Jack to meet these people for the first time and have no preconceived notion of who they are. He was constantly asking “Who are you?” As an actor, I was able to really dig back down again and get a fresh perspective. I enjoyed that. And I am back to work at DAYS tomorrow happily so we have more hijinks going on there. Also, a heads up that I will be appearing on NCIS with an airdate on St. Patrick’s Day.
OT: That’s terrific news! Finally, what advice do you have for anyone interested in getting into the entertainment industry?
MA: Follow your passion. If you’re doing it for the money, you might not see much. Try to bring your best and demand that from everybody else. Good friends and coworkers will end up appreciating you for it. Mark Harmon on NCIS has been there for 17 years, and he’s the first one there and the last to leave. Harmon’s very low key. He does his work, and he expects that of everyone else. He sets the tone. He’s a leading man. That’s kind of a cool thing. We can all lead. We can be leading men and leading women in our lives with whatever we do. You treat people square, people will remember it. They will remember how they feel when they’re with you. There’s no hay to be made using people and just tossing them. You’re the heart of the heart of everybody around you. That’s my feeling. Like every other work place, follow your passion but be good to everybody around you.
OT: Thanks so much, Matthew. I look forward to seeing you and Lew in The Castle fighting the ghosts and the Nazis…
MA: And lions and tigers and bears!