Interview: Deadwood’s Larry Cedar On His Role In She Sings To The Stars

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As the stars of one of HBO’s best series, Deadwood star Larry Cedar has more than won his share of fans and he’s likely to snare even more with his award-worthy turn in the upcoming sci-fi mystery, She Sings to the Stars.

Without water, a Native American grandmother continues to inhabit the desert, both ancient and alien. Her half-Hispanic grandson rushes to “make it big.” A faded magician, played by Cedar, finds himself lost at her doorstep.

First of all, have to say, as huge fans of Deadwood thanks for the amazing turn you put in as Leon. What are your memories of the show?
Thanks so much! No other acting experience (aside from filming She Sings to the Stars) has made quite the impression on me as Deadwood. As an actor, some characters leave you the moment you walk off the set or stage, while others linger for days, weeks, even months, which was certainly the case with Leon. Playing the role for three years, living in that cutthroat world, with its corrupt inhabitants, filthy taverns, and muddy streets was such a powerful and immersive task that for years after my character was murdered I felt compelled to post what I imagined were his continued thoughts via a Twitter feed called Leon’s Ghost (@DeadwoodLeon), and occasionally still do.

Working on the series was a highly fluid experience what with the capricious weather, last-minute script revisions, unexpected characters being killed off, and others introduced on a moment’s notice. The show’s brilliant creator David Milch would arrive on set each morning and give a dissertation-like speech about the profound significance of the day’s scenes. Rich production values, vivid scripts, and a first-rate cast also contributed to making work on the show the thrill of a lifetime.

My most memorable day was the one in which I was scripted to be drowned by the town tyrant, Swearengen (brilliantly played by Ian McShane) as retribution for having stolen his opium. I’d only appeared in a handful of episodes at that point, but David Milch was kind enough to call me at home the night before to apologize for penning my death, thank me for my work, and wish me all the best in my future career. But no sooner had I accepted my fate then I received a script revision which had Swearengen killing my drug-smuggling partner instead. For some reason I’d been granted a reprieve and went on to appear in the series for another two years, that is until my murder in the show’s final episode. What a ride.

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There’s talk, of course, of a new Deadwood series – actually, I believe it’s more than talk now?
Indeed, there are now definite plans for a two-hour movie to be filmed within the next couple of years. David Milch is currently working on another project, after which he’ll begin writing the new Deadwood script and reassembling whomever he can of the original cast for what should be another exciting journey into that twisted, yet profanely eloquent world. As I mentioned, my character (Leon) was stabbed to death by my boss Cy Tolliver (Powers Boothe) in the final episode, so it’s unlikely I’ll be back. David Milch did, however, mention the possibility of Leon returning as an apparition, perhaps to haunt Tolliver as punishment for his crime. One can only hope…..

You obviously are all about character. You went from Deadwood, a big-budget HBO series to a relatively low-budget independent drama, She Sings to the Stars. Is it all about the part for you?
Absolutely. Character has always been my first and foremost interest and I love nothing more than jumping from one type of role to its polar opposite. Actors are basically time travelers of a sort in that we look to transport ourselves into different eras, places and, most importantly, persons for the sake of telling what we hope are fascinating stories. If we successfully find a way to so completely inhabit a character that the audience is convinced to come along for the ride, then we’ve done our job. The secondary benefit for the actor is that in doing so we’re allowed to visit to a lot of interesting worlds through the sheer power of imagination. It’s a beautiful, intoxicating, challenging, yet highly elusive art form, and it never gets old. People sometimes ask me how various acting projects differ in terms of my experience and I always tell them the same thing; Acting is acting, the rest is simply logistics, i.e., how do I get the job done under these particular circumstances? But a good actor is nothing if not adaptable.

What attracted you to the part in She Sings to the Stars?
Any actor would do back flips for four weeks work on a film in a leading role. But employment considerations aside, I was completely taken by Jennifer’s script with its mystical, heartbreaking, funny, yet somehow tragic portrayal of three characters on a collision course with fate. And much like Deadwood, the fact that the story takes place in the barren, star-drenched plains of New Mexico gave this particular journey a truly magical appeal. I feel truly blessed to have been offered the role, especially as it seemed to come out of nowhere.

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You’re the male lead… was that a first for you?
I did play a lead role in a film called FEDS a while back, but it was nowhere as significant as playing Lyle.. But having undertaken major leading roles in a number of plays, many of which also happened to be one-man pieces (including my own one-man adaptation, Orwellian), I was not unprepared for the challenge. If anything, playing a lead can make things easier as you have that much more time in front of the camera to explore the nuances of the character and tell your story. Acting is as much a physical as it is intellectual undertaking. That said, the more time you spend actually doing it, the more adept you can become. Bottom line, I loved playing Lyle and have all my fingers and toes crossed that I’ll soon get another shot at a similarly significant role.

Has anchoring a movie like this opened doors for you?
The answer to that question has yet to be determined as the film is first making its way out into the world. But it is my sincerest hope that She Sings to the Stars finds the wide audience it deserves, not just for my sake, but for Jennifer and Jonathan Corcoran who have devoted so many years to getting their story told. As the saying goes, rising waters lift all boats, and if the film succeeds then everyone, including audience, will benefit.

What haven’t you played that you’d like to?
I’ve been cast as cops, surgeons, killers, cowboys, dope addicts, monsters, and kings, and I’ve enjoyed playing them all. Part of the fun has been never knowing what’s next. That said, what I’d really like to do is just keep working in as many and as varied projects as possible. I’ve been fortunate enough to do what I love for some 40 years, and with a little luck I’ll be doing it for 40 more 🙂 Thanks for the great questions, and great talking with you!

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Rock Hard \m/

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