Jeffrey Combs - "The 4400" / "Reanimator"
Comic Con International - San Diego, CA - Sun. July 29, 2007

Jeffrey Combs is a classic icon in the horror genre of films. He has starred in five films based on H.P. Lovecraft tales alone, and more recently had appeared in the cult phenomenon TV show “The 4400” as Dr. Kevin Burkhoff, a rather schizophrenic character who apparently helped invent the ingredients of Promicin that created the 4400. Although we were supposed to talk a bit about the TV series, we were pushed for time when meeting with Jeffrey Combs at the recent Comic Con International in San Diego. Time was running short at the press free-for-all, and so we only got to chat quickly about a suggested and rumored “Reanimator” sequel. When we met up with Jeffrey, he was just talking with someone about collectibles.

JC: One of my prized possessions is a poster of “The Reanimator,” and “The Frighteners,” signed by Peter Jackson.

K2K: Peter Jackson did some cool stuff early on. His first movie was...
“Meet The Feebles”? No, it was “Bad Taste.” And “Brain Dead,” which was called “Dead Alive” everywhere else. And then later, “Lord Of The Rings.”

K2K: Yeah, I think I’ve heard of that. (laughs) What else are you working on right now?
Well, I’m very proud of an episode I just did for Masters Of Horror, called “The Black Cat.” It just came out on DVD last week. It really came out really well.

K2K: So the cat’s out of the bag?
The black cat’s out of the bag.

K2K: You’re doing another Reanimator film, right?
Maybe. At this point...

K2K: It was announced on IMDB.
I know. IMDB announces a lot of things that aren’t really “announceable.” I’ve gotten more questions about that than any other theoretical films. I mean, it’s a movie that doesn’t even have a script yet. No one has...

K2K: It has a poster, but no script.
: Yeah, yeah. Right. It’s the Roger Corman world that does filmmaking. So we’re just waiting on that one. It’s “House Of Reanimator.”

K2K: Who would be in it?
Bruce Abbott, who was in the original movie. William H. Macy said he’d do it, would like to be in it.

K2K: So this will be a bigger budget film?
In theory? Maybe that’s some of the reasons why... I don’t know. See, we’re kind of running out of time. There’s something topical about it. See, the “House” of Reanimator is the White House. The President has a heart attack, but he can’t be dead, because he runs the country. There is no basis on reality.

K2K: Of course.

And with that, Mr. Combs was ushered off to the next group of press-ies, waiting to have their quality chat time.

About an hour later, there was an open-audience panel for “The 4400,” where Jeffrey, along with others in the cast and production, answered questions and talked with the crowd about the show. A selection of questions and answers are included here, which also includes producers Ira Behr and Craig Sweeny talking about Jeffrey and how it is to work with him.

Audience Member: Which has been your favorite film or role?
I’ve been asked that question before, and it’s like, which one of your children do you love more. Really. Because you put your heart and soul and focus into each one. They’re all very near and dear to me. It’s really hard for me to pick one over the others. I just cherish them all.

Audience Member: Ira, were there certain characteristics that you saw in Jeff[rey Combs] that you thought would fit the characters in the Star Trek series?
Jeffrey Combs: Oh, I want to hear this answer. (audience laughs)
IB: Here is the thing that is so... I’ve done a lot of shows, and worked for a lot of people, and sometimes you meet people who remind you of characters quite a bit. You can see the characters in them. Let’s put it that way. And then there are people who are nothing like the people that they play. The thing is is that Jeff is known for playing some very “out there” type of people. (audience laughs) He’s very quirky, and very interesting. He’s never boring as an actor. He is incredibly boring as a human being. (audience laughs)
JC: You may not understand it, and you’ll continue to not understand it because you’re not that smart. (audience laughs)
Jeff is so awesome, in his life, to his family, to his kids. He’s a family guy. You know. We’ll hang out. He’s nothing like those characters. It’s all stuff that he brings to... and again, I know what he can deliver. I know that whatever we throw to him, he can do, much like everyone in the cast. We [“The 4400”] have a very strong cast. We wanted the best cast we could get.

AM: You’ve played so many different characters, but they all stand out...
That’s because I’m a big ham. (smugly smirks) I eat scenery.

AM: Could you explain how you make those characters stand out in such a small role.
I don’t know. I don’t know. Actors probably can’t answer that, just because they’re the choices that you make. The material, in the first place. Artists try to just do different things, to find something different, or another way. Or if you’ve done that, “What can I do here?” I’m just constantly trying to challenge myself. I really don’t know if it’s more existential that I could articulate.
IB: Obviously, because you’re a very boring person. (audience laughs)

And that was the final question of the panel, as the cast went off to do a signing.

Written by Philip Anderson / Photos © 2007 Keith Denison

Philip Anderson is a musician, in addition to being a writer/photographer. He has performed as a guitarist/vocalist, as well as songwriter, in several bands over the past 20 years. As a writer and photographer, he has been published by several magazines and in several books, and had his works appear on television.

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