Actor turned director Cuyle Carvin has been a busy man lately between his roles on DC Universe’s “Swamp Thing”, “The Walking Dead”, and directing his haunted doll film, simply titled Dolls, which Cuyle sat down with me to discuss.
In Dolls, a struggling children’s book author and his rebellious teenage daughter move into a house they’ve inherited and find mysterious dolls in the attic. They soon learn that the dolls have a sinister — and deadly — past.
Thomas Downey, Trinity Simpson and genre icon Dee Wallace star in Dolls, written by Justin Hawkins and Josh Hawkins, with Jeff Miller (Ouija House, The Toybox) also contributing to the story.
Horror Fuel: “Do you mind if I ask about your role of The Walking Dead? And playing a Savior?”
Cuyle Carvin: “It’s my favorite show. Half of my career, especially at the start, I played a lot of bad guys. Bad guys are more fun I think. Most actors will probably tell you that playing a bad guy is fun. It’s something different. You know, The Walking Dead has been my favorite show since the first episode.
It’s not a direct answer to your question, but I had auditioned a few times over the first few seasons and no luck. When you audition for the show you don’t know the role you are actually auditioning for. They just say, ‘Hey, you have an audition for The Walking Dead.’ They give you dummy scripts that aren’t necessarily what your character will even say if you get the role. When I auditioned, it was a pretty cool scene and a short two pages and I was just a guy who was in a jail cell having a conversation with a guard. It could have been one of Rick’s men or it could have been one of Negan’s dudes. I couldn’t tell. When I got the notification that I got the role, obviously I was super excited. It had been a dream for many years. You still don’t quite know what part you’ll be playing, they don’t tell you for a couple of days, so you hope that you are on the show for a while. That’s the goal, to be on the show and kick ass for a while. It was the best experience. Then I found out I was a Savior and I was cool with that. Then I found out I die in the same episode. That was a bit of a bummer.
I don’t think the particular guy that I play was necessarily a bad guy. I think he was just on the wrong side. I think that’s for the majority of characters. Even Rick has done really bad things. If we didn’t see them from Rick’s perspective. We see his perspective for most of the story. If we didn’t know Rick and seen his perspective of Negan, things might appear as if he were a bad guy. We would have seen a different side to him and all his men. It looks evil what they are doing, but it might not have been. If we would have seen isolated events from Rick’s life, we’d be like ‘That dude is an evil dude.’
Horror Fuel: “In my opinion, you are right about the perspectives. I’ve always thought that when watching the show. Men and women are capable of doing truly evil things to survive. To be honest, I don’t really think either Rick’s people of Negan’s folks were truly evil. They were just doing what they thought they had to do.”
Cuyle Carvin: “Yeah, for sure. The Walking Dead was an absolute dream come true. It was the best day of my life and the worst day of my acting life, just because I was so bummed that my life on the show was so shortlived. I had wanted it for so long. It was certainly a blessing. Not everyone gets that opportunity. I was just so bummed that it ended so soon.”
Horror Fuel: “I’m sure. But one thing you can brag about is that still have one of the highest kill rates on the show of any Savior.”
Cuyle Carvin: “Yeah. At least I get to take that home with me. According to The Walking Dead Wikipedia page, my character has the most kills for any non-main character. Which I think is like 34 in one episode that I was responsible for. I was sad to read that my character was indirectly related to the death of Shiba. I was like, ‘No! Don’t associate me with that!’ (laughter). But it’s all good.”
Horror Fuel: “At least you can say you were on The Walking Dead.”
Cuyle Carvin: “Yeah, absolutely. It’s something that I’ll be thankful for.”
Horror Fuel: “You never know, the show is going to go on and on, and with all the spin-offs and movies, hopefully, you can get another role.”
Cuyle Carvin: “When we shot the episode, you shoot a whole bunch of different angles. When Isaw the episode, the way the show is edited, I have my first few lines in a room but you don’t see who is saying the lines, so I was like ‘Oh man, you don’t even see me. Then I come out and have a face to face with my boss, they show it from Carol’s perspective where she’s hiding in the ceiling behind me. Then, she kills me. You never really get a solid shot of my face, unless you know me really well and know it’s me. That’s another reason I was really bummed about it. But, the next day, I went to my agent and was like, ‘Hey, they barely saw my face. Can they still use me? Can I get another shot at something else? And because the fandom is great, so big, and so attentive to the show, he was like ‘No, trust me, they will know. Once you do it it’s your one shot.’ Ah, man! When Negan’s story continued, there were rumors that they will do more spin-offs. Maybe one will be Negan’s back story and we’ll get to see how he came to be. I’m in that world, maybe that’s my next shot and I can be part of that.”
Horror Fuel: “I hope so. I’d love to see you in action again. Maybe they’ll do that with one of the movies.”
Cuyle Carvin: “I hope so. Not just for selfish actor priorities, but as a fan, I’d love to see that.”
Horror Fuel: “You play another tough character, Hamel, in Swamp Thing. Tell us about him?”
Cuyle Carvin: “I just shot that like two months ago. We shot it out in Wilmington, North Carolina. Swamp Thing is another awesome, iconic comic book character. The comics have such a large fan base. It was cool because the casting director is the same casting director for The Walking Dead.”
Horror Fuel: “I did not know that.”
Cuyle Carvin: “With Swamp Thing, when I came on board, Hamel was a small role. It’s episode ten of the show. They already canceled Swamp Thing, which is a bummer. I know there are a lot of petitions out there trying to save the show. There were supposed to be thirteen episodes, but literally the last night I was filming, they made the announcement that the network was canceling the show. Basically, they were going to have to finish the season with the tenth episode, so they had to go back and do some re-writing to make it all make sense.
As far as Hamel goes, I’m a hired mercenary whose team has set out to go out into the wild to find Swamp Thing. We’re all geared up and go out in these cool swamp boats. That episode is all a hunt for Swamp Thing. The director and the writer are all big fans of the old Predator movies, so they wanted to recreate some scenes. We don’t know what we are looking for but keep finding signs, we’re finding his footprints. At the same time, Swamp Thing is hunting us, but we are not aware of it. They had rain machines on and huge wind turbines, recreating like a tropical monsoon. As an actor in the middle of this, it was crazy. After the first day, we spent hours and hours being drenched and it was cold. We were doing this at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. During filming, I was like, ‘I hate this. This sucks so much.’ After I got to cool off I was like, ‘No, I loved that.’ I loved – this is part of the reason I love The Walking Dead too – I love that it takes place out in the world and not some studio or some set. I really appreciated that. I love being outside. I’m a hiker. I love being out in nature. That was a lot of fun.
I don’t know how much I can and can’t say about Swamp Thing and the actual episode, so I won’t say too much. It was a cool role and I’m a big fan of what happens. I hope everyone enjoys it for sure.”
Horror Fuel: “It sounds like it was an incredible experience. I have my fingers crossed that Netflix, Hulu, or Prime might pick up the series. I think Swamp Thing deserves it. The fans do too.”
Cuyle Carvin: “Yeah, anybody. From my understanding, even during the filming process, producers and whatnot were talking about how good the show looks. There’s nothing like it on TV. It’s rated ‘R’ and they don’t pull back when it comes to violence, it’s pretty graphic. The language is a bit spicy. It really feels real, like real dialogue. It’s not just scripted for Hollywood, trying to be PC. I really like that. It’s perfect for something like Netflix. From what I understand, Netflix was already doing something with the show for the European market. But, I’m not sure if that’s necessarily true, I just heard rumors about it. I don’t know. I hope they will pick it up.”
Horror Fuel: “Netflix has rescued canceled shows before, like Lucifer. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.”
Cuyle Carvin: “Yeah, absolutely. I love it. The actor who played Swamp Thing, Derek Mears, he looks incredible. The design of it is beautiful. It’s really kick ass.”
Horror Fuel: “I’ve met Derek. He’s a really big dude, but then again everyone looks big to me, I’m only five-foot tall (laughter). He’s a sweetheart.”
Cuyle Carvin: “He is a really big dude and he’s such a nice guy.”
Horror Fuel: “I have a picture of Derek and I and I come up to his waist (laughter). ”
Cuyle Carvin: “With his suit on you may come to his hip (laughter). The suit makes him even bigger.”
Horror Fuel: “That’s awesome. I’m looking forward to watching the entire season. I think only a couple of the episodes are out now.
You’ve been busy. Your movie Dolls is coming out. I watched it earlier today. I can’t help but wonder what made you want to make the leap from acting to directing.”
Cuyle Carvin: “Directing is something I became interested in about eight or nine years ago. I think I enjoy the production side of things just as much as I do acting. Maybe a little more because as an actor. With acting, I can go show someone what I think a character is about and some times it doesn’t match what the producers want. With directing, I get to make the creative choices along with the team, but I get more creative control that way with making something. I can put it all on the line. It’s something I’ve been interested in for many years. I’ve made a few shorts. The very first film I did is called Amuse, and It was like a ten minute short and I made it in the small town I’m from in New York. I’ll tell you what it is based on. Back in the day, Entertainment Weekly had a column, – back when the movie The Crazies was remade – they mentioned why do we need all of these prequels, why do we have to see what went wrong? Why do we need all of these stories about where these guys come from? can’t we just leave it where it is? Why do we have to have a reason for everything? I liked the concept of that. Why can’t someone just be crazy? So the film I hope captures that. It’s about a woman that comes home and some lunatic is consuming the flesh of her daughter. And it’s about what you do when it’s just you, no help.
Dolls is kind of the pentacle of everything so far and what I’ve been learning over the years. To really get in there and make Dolls, was everything.
Horror Fuel: “Where can our readers watch your short films?”
Cuyle Carvin: “That short is on YouTube, but it’s also on my site CuyleCarvin.com. On the home page, there is a link to the productions stuff I’ve been doing. You can see it on that page and there are also a few more links. For the past couple of years, I’ve been working with a couple of friends on three-minute shorts, it’s called DarkCornersHorror.com We’ve made ten episodes so far. They are super short and they are all horror. We got together to learn the filmmaking process. We think they’re fun little stories. We’re working on those right now.”
Horror Fuel: “That’s how a lot of filmmakers get started. I will definitely check your short films out.
Where did the idea for those creepy dolls come from?”
Cuyle Carvin: “The dolls themselves, that’s an interesting story. We had a concept meeting about a month out from production. We had a doll designer who wanted to make the dolls from scratch, so we were like, ‘Cool.’ I thought we were going to get some old dolls and customize them, but he wanted to make them from scratch. That was the plan. And then as production neared, there were complications out of the hands of the doll maker and the night before production we ended up only having one doll completely ready to go. We were shooting our movie about haunted dolls and only had one doll. We scrambled around and one of the dolls is a doll we had used in one of our shorts, so we recru9ited her. Then one of the other dolls we actually found at a store late one night. It was just a twenty dollar doll. We got it and brought it back and gave it to the props team. They did some design on it to make it look vintage. The dolls themselves have a background. We were a little upset about it but I honestly think it was a blessing in disguise. Originally the three dolls were going to be very similar, looking at it now, I’m really glad that they are different. I think it helps the story. I think they make it open to a sequel or even a prequel to how the dolls came to be.”
Horror Fuel: “I agree about the dolls being better not matching. Often in big-budget movies, everything matches. Them being so different makes them more interesting. I have to confess, though, dolls freak me out anyway.”
Cuyle Carvin: “Really (laughter)? I know a lot of people like yourself. As much as it is a haunted doll movie, what we are trying to go for is that family drama and to touch upon some social issues, like addiction. We wanted to make more than just a haunted doll movie. Haunted doll movies have been done a hundred times and will be done a hundred times more. It’s just a classic subgenre. We wanted to try to do something a little different, something with a story. That was the idea anyway.”
Horror Fuel: “It is easy to see that it’s about a family.”
Cuyle Carvin: “I think the actors were great. The dynamics between the actors and characters were really wonderful.”
Horror Fuel: “It’s great that everyone worked so well together.
So when can our readers see Dolls?
Cuyle Carvin: “Dolls comes out July second on DVD and on Amazon Prime. I’m not sure exactly what streaming services it will be on right away. It will be available in Wal-Mart later this year. There will be plenty of ways to see it.”
Cuyle is humble with a real hunger to create films for movie fans. We will be seeing a lot more of Cuyle in the near future. Be sure to check out Dolls and his series of short films. Visit his official website and follow him on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date on his upcoming projects.