Movie Interviews

Published on July 17th, 2014 | by gareth


Talking ColdWater and Call of Duty With Actor James C. Burns

Recently I spoke with Actor James C. Burns about his new film Coldwater. James also played Sgt Frank Woods in Ball of Duty: Black Ops and Black Ops II and he was kind enough to speak to us about the film and his work on the franchise.

What is the background and setting for the film please?

A troubled young man is sent to an isolated rural juvenile rehabilitation facility run by a retired Marine Colonel with good intentions. What initially looks to be an opportunity for change descends into crisis and chaos of character flaws.

What can you tell us about how you became attached to the film and your character?

I was in production on Black Ops 2 when they sent me the script, I read it and i was in. The Colonel was a natural extension of the Sgt. Frank Woods character I had been playing for the last 3 years. The part offered an opportunity to play a complex and flawed character, a man who’s good intentions are eroded by his unwillingness to face his own demons. It was Woods, after he leaves the service. Its the effect of leaving that highly structured environment and going into the “world” alone with minimal support and maximum attitude. the character was very familiar…. An Actor’s dream role.

The movie looks to be very intense, what type of prep did you do for the part and did it differ from your usual method?

Basically I just find out what the director wants, I hit my mark and say my line…..Again, the Colonel and Sgt. Woods were basically the same guy, So I could transfer all the prep and practice from Call Of Duty and apply it as back story for the COLONEL. Playing tough military – authority roles is my bread and butter, I just modify what I have in my “mental library” to meet the need of the project. I had also been a Professional hockey coach and spent quite a few years dealing with young men of this age group with similar situations of broken families, addiction and loss. It was a case of identifying the COLONEL’s “wound”, his damage so to speak, and let it slowly ooze out. Vince and I both agreed that the Colonel needed to be a sympathetic character in that he wasn’t just begin an A-hole for the sake of being an A-hole…he had success “transforming” boys into men as a Marine, and was sincere that he could do at Coldwater. He just didn’t account for the all the factors involved. A great study in the warrior mindset after he puts down the sword…I am so grateful they gave me the room to explore this character so throughly…

How did you manage the mood on set as I am sure making a film with such a tense story must have required you all to purge when you could.

Tense? Not at all….This was a blast. Great camaraderie , we shot at summer camp in the Malibu hills, late summer, it was beautiful, for me it was like being at hockey camp. The shoot was well set up, the cast was awesome. For a lot of these guys it was their first job so the energy was amazing. All that testosterone flying around made my life really easy, I love those “team” environments. Everyone feeds off the synergy. This a special project in that way, everyone really got along and supported each other in small and big ways, hats off to Dave Gare the Producer for creating that space for us…and of course to Vince for putting on screen.

How did you get into acting and what would you say was your big break?

Hah.. I have no other life skills. I was a professional hockey coach for 20 years, then one day I quit and decided to be an actor. I turned the “coach- teacher” eye on myself to see what I could build. Using the rules of success I preach to my players and applied them to an acting career….my BIG BREAK? Hah, still waiting for it. I approach the biz with a brick and mortar approach, if lightening strikes? great..if not then at least you’re still moving forward. I did have a few helping hands once I got some credits under my belt..MARK TESCHNER over at General Hospital put me on the show as VAUGHAN for a couple of years, thank you Mark.….but really every part has been a battle, a freaking war…I started in the “biz” late, so the opportunities are few and the competition fierce.

What were some of your fondest moments from filming?

Life in the dining hall, the crew, the cast, the production team all having chow together. Negotiating for the coveted internet passwords….and morning bike rides along the PCH. Listening to PJ screaming at himself in the woods trying to get into character before the scene…even when it was my coverage…love him for that.

Looking at Black Ops and Black Ops 2, how did you become involved with that and how would you describe acting for the games compared to stage, tv, and film?

Kinda by accident. 2009…Treyarch wanted to tell a more nuanced story and decided they needed to capture a full permforce, to do so. This means to record the face, body and voice all at once, the same as in movie and tv, Prior to BOPS1 the three had been done separately and by different people. They were testing the new performance capture technology and needed an actor with weapons and stunt training, and experience playing this character. who was called FRANK BARNES back then.

I auditioned, got offered the job, almost turned it down…worked with them for 3 months and then did not hear from them again. They had offered the role to some “Name” and weren’t liking his performance, so they finally called and asked if I’d want to be WOODS..the rest is history. As far as the “acting” technique, there is no difference really, film, tv, stage, all have technical requirements that are specific to each medium..but at the core its the same. authentic,
Hit your mark, say your line.

What do you remember most about making the games and do you have a favorite weapon in game?

The teamwork, I have made lifetime friends working on COD…the talent in the room was immense, the desire and selflessness was awesome…everyone was great at their jobs and was 100% committed….it demanded that I bring my best every day..I love that shit. Favorite weapon? Me.

Any chance you will be making a return to the Call of Duty universe soon?

Hah…Always a chance…but i have nothing else today on the subject!!! Might want to track things on the sgtfrankwoods youtube channel or jamescburns twitter…(wink wink..plug plug)

To what do you attribute the success of the COD franchise?

They really care about the product. They are all gamers and know that a 75 dollar investment is often a difficult one and they want the buyer to feel they have gotten their moneys worth….simple as that, they care. And it also is a very inclusive community, a bit brash..but a lot of fun.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Free time? Hah..whats that? I’ve written and now producing a film called NAM ZOMBIES….Black Ops fans will love it….zombie fans will love it…. action fans will love it!!! LOGLINE: It’s Predator meets Platoon andResident Evil when a battle-scarred sergeant and his elite Special Forces unit are sent to uncover the truth behind a covert research facility in 1969 Vietnam, only to find the truth is uncomfortable, unforgiving – and undead.





About the Author

Syndicated movie & game critic, writer, author and frequent radio guest. His work has appeared in over 60 publications worldwide and he is the creator of the rising entertainment site and publication “Skewed and Reviewed”. He has three books of film, game reviews and interviews published and is a well-received and in demand speaker on the convention circuit. Gareth has appeared in movies and is a regular guest on a top-rated Seattle morning show. He has also appeared briefly in films such as “Prefountaine”, “Postal”. “Far Cry”. and others. Gareth is also an in-demand speaker at several conventions and has conducted popular panels for over two decades.

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