You've seen the creepy ghosts hiding beneath the water of ABC's new series, The River. But what horrors could possibly be lurking in the shadows? We chatted with actor Joe Anderson (a.k.a. the former deputy from The Crazies) about playing Bruce Greenwood's surly son and what scares him deep in the Amazon.
How has your character been impacted by his father's outward bound show?
Joe Anderson: I think Lincoln, he was used as a kid in the show. He was used as a bit of a prop to create this sort of family ambiance for the TV show. And I think when he reached puberty he sort of wised up to that and he'd had enough and wanted to get away and live his own life. So off he went to med school, and now here he is on an expedition to go and find his lost father. I think he's somewhat begrudging to go out and pay for the mistakes of his crazy dad, as he sees it. But at the same time, he's his father and he loves him and he's going to go, so he goes.
One of my favorite parts of The River so far was when it was revealed that the production crew won't fund the expedition unless your character joined the search party, as it made for better TV. What was your favorite clever bit from this series?
I remember that was one was the things that stuck out to me was the initial blackmail, almost, to get Lincoln to come along. And the idea of reality TV, I must say I'm not a huge fan of reality TV. But at the same time I think that's where Lincoln sits with it. To be blackmailed and to be put into that situation, "we're not going to even bother looking for your father unless we can make a drama and a show out of it." I think that, that couldn't be more morally wrong, in Lincoln's eyes. That sort of him sets him off in terms of his viewpoint on things.
The River is pretty scary, especially the scene with the tree of babies! What has been the scariest moment for you thus far?
There's been a lot of scary stuff in and out of the water. I know people have been buried, I know things have collapsed and covered people in dirt and caves, just claustrophobia. At one point, I had to swim underneath the backside of the boat to clear out reeds that got wrapped around the prop-shaft of the boat. And I actually got tangled up in these reeds, at night time, underneath the boat — and I couldn't come up because I was underneath the boat. There have been difficult and scary things to do. But we're in good hands. And we have a lot of good safety people around.
How much of the filming on this show is improv Blair Witch style?
It's very difficult to shoot a TV show in an improvisational way. You've gotta have a format, you gotta have a structure. When are your commercial breaks going to be? So in terms of improvisation, it wasn't so much the plot, but more how the characters interacted with each other, whether they added a line here or there to make it seem more natural. But in terms of plot and action, most of those scenes are written from the get-go. It's just about how we bring them to life. Unless they interview you, because sometimes they'll just grab a camera and they'll interview you in character and you have to just make it up as your character.
How are you going to keep explaining Amazon supernatural traditions to the audience? You already have the little girl who can talk to dead people and the blonde daughter of the cameraman, but how else are you going to convey this info?
Those devices are going to range. They could be anything, really. For sure Jahel [Paulina Gaitan's character], she knows a lot about the myths and the legends. And of course, [the character Tess] because she spent years making documentaries in this area and knows a lot. But then there may be people that we might encounter. There's many, many sources of information out there, and that's just where we have to trust the writers, and the imagination of the writers to provide us with that information, for it not to seem cliché or contrived in a way.
You seem to have really fun taste in scifi, The River, The Ruins, The Crazies. What is it about these films that speak to you?
It's kind of funny. I like the arc of the character, and I like doing stuff out in the jungle. The Ruins and The River are both jungle pieces. I'm a big hiker. I love going out into the wilderness. But really it's about the arc and about playing somebody who isn't a one or two note wonder, that they maybe have a flip side to them.