Richard Neil, best known for his work as Aratak in the best-selling video game ‘Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds’ and for such films and TV series as “Veronica Mars” and “Eli Stone”, stars in the upcoming supernatural thriller Prodigy, a film about a psychologist who engages a dangerous, young genius in a battle of wits — unaware of the supernatural power the girl possesses, or that her life hangs in the balance.
Neil was kind enough to take us inside Prodigy and answer a few of my questions about both the film and his career.
Horror Fuel: “: How did your work in theater prepare you for your acting career?”
Richard Neil: “Well, for me, it’s getting over yourself, and trying to conquer one’s nerves. Relaxation and staying present really is the secret. Being “in the moment” as they say, not anticipating what is to come. Even though you’ve rehearsed it a thousand times, doing whatever it takes to trick your instrument; your body, mind, and emotions, that you are simply THERE and reacting. And with a live audience, which is always different, that danger of not knowing what will happen next can be truly exciting. And terrifying as well. I guess that’s the thrill which is so addictive.
Horror Fuel: “You have voiced many game characters during your career. Is it easier or more difficult to do voice roles or traditional roles?
Richard Neil: “Well, in a way, it is easier, because you only have to worry about the voice, and making sure you’re delivering what’s needed. As VO actors, the standard joke is you can show up in your pajamas, unshaven, etc. It doesn’t matter what you look like. So there’s a certain liberation in that. Simply focusing on providing the best emotional and technical performance.
Neil as Aratak in ‘Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds’
Horror Fuel: “You star as the character Fonda in the film Prodigy, can you tell us a little about the film and your role?”
Richard Neil: “I play a psychologist, Dr. Fonda, who is brought into a military compound to try and rescue this young girl who’s got super telekinetic powers that the military is convinced are dangerous. So I’m brought in as a sort of last-ditch attempt by a former associate of mine, as I’ve worked with troubled youth in the past. So, I try to expose her humanity, and, in turn, garner some sympathy from the forces that want to basically do her in.”
Horror Fuel: “What can viewers expect from Prodigy?
Richard Neil: “It’s a bit of a cat-mouse game between this clever psychologist and this 9-year-old wunderkind. She is capable of doing some pretty wild and dangerous things with her mind. There are forces that want to destroy her. I believe it’s a film that works on many levels.There’s the sci-fi stuff, but there’s a heart to the story. I, as the therapist am also transformed and saved by what happens.”
Horror Fuel: “You have to love a movie with heart and depth.”
Horror Fuel: “The trailer looks really intense. There seem to be a lot of special effects. What’s it like to act out a scene with effects that are added later in editing?
Richard Neil: “Well, believe it or not, almost everything you see was done on a somewhat practical level, meaning the CGI done in post-production was quite minimal. So to react to stuff and being thrown around….well, I was pretty much thrown around. I did have a stunt double for one shot. But it was all pretty real.”
Horror Fuel: “It’s great to hear that practical effects were used. They always make things feel more real in my opinion.”
Horror Fuel: “Your co-star Savannah Liles plays a little girl with special powers if you could pick a supernatural ability to have in real life, what would it be and why?”
Richard Neil: “Wow, that’s a tough one. I suppose being invisible. I remember being fascinated by the old Claude Rains film, The Invisible Man, when I was very young, and thinking of the mischief, or the good one could do by being unseen. Seems the possibilities would be endless. But as I recall, things didn’t end too well for old Claude.”
Horror Fuel: “No, I don’t think they did. But I can imagine that there are a lot of interesting things someone could do if they were invisible.”
Horror Fuel: “What was the most difficult part of your role as a psychologist in the film?”
Richard Neil: “Probably keeping that even-keeled disposition, refraining from reacting with anger or frustration. Always keeping my cool, and delivering a performance that would hopefully still come across as dynamic.”
Horror Fuel: “I’m sure it will.”
Savannah Liles stars alongside Richard Neil in Prodigy. Jolene Anderson, Emilio Palame, and David Linski co-star. Written and directed by Alex Haughey and Brian Vidal, Prodigy is now available on VOD.
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