INTERVIEW: Actor Thomas Dominique Talks SyFy’s ‘Blood Drive’
A discussion with the star of the new grindhouse series on SyFy.
Thomas Dominique is an English actor known for his appearances on the television series Undercover and the Netflix episodic drama Black Mirror. He can now be seen starring in the SyFy thriller series Blood Drive. We recently had the chance to talk with him about this new series and his career.
Hello Thomas and thanks for joining us. Let’s start with you. Who is Thomas Dominique?
I was born in Hammersmith, West London. I grew up on a council estate called Brunel estate on Westbourne Park road. I’d always been interested in acting, but it was a million miles away from me. No one around me ever talked about being an actor, my friends all wanted to be footballers, rappers, or entrepreneurs. My mum and Dad were salt of the earth kind of people, they wouldn’t entertain the idea even if I told them. So it was kind of like my little secret.
One day later on in life I bumped into an actor I’d seen in films and bombarded him with questions. He told me to go down to audition at the same place John Boyega trained, so I did and I got in. After a few months I left there and found a mentor named Robert Whitelock. He taught me the most, and is still my mentor. But it wasn’t until I was introduced to my agent; Paul Byram that opportunities began to come in, he took a chance on me. I hadn’t done much and he’d just met me but he believed in me, and it all worked out in the end.
And now you are currently starring in Blood Drive. Could you run down the premise?
Blood Drive is told from a past perspective and as such is set in the future of 1999. Gasoline costs $2000 a barrel and water is rationed. Because of these facts crime and poverty is rife so in an attempt to control the population the police force is privatised and become extremely violent, their motto being “We kill because we care”.
Arthur Bailey (Alan Ritchson) is the last good cop in this world, he and his partner Christopher Carson (Dominique) stumble across an underground race called the Blood Drive where the cars run on blood and the winner is given a $10 million prize. Arthur is mistakenly paired up with Grace D’argento (Christina Ochoa) and forced to participate in the race. It’s a bit like Mad Max but with the gore and horror from Dusk Til Dawn.
What’s Christopher all about and what’s it like playing him?
Arthur and Christopher are best friends and partners in the privatized police force called Contracrime. Christopher’s a cocky, confident ladies man. He has less morals than Arthur believing that the violence the police inflict on the public to be the right way to deal with them. Because he’s so close to Arthur, he can often be convinced to see Arthur’s way as being right, so he’s not a bad guy and he’s as good as Arthur.
It’s was very interesting playing Christopher. He’s a police officer with a moral compass slightly off that gets in way over his head, and I’d never played a cop before so it was all new ground for me. The 2nd day of shooting I had to do a nude shower scene, the first one of my career. Then two weeks later I had three days of nude scenes consecutively. I was really nervous but we had some fantastic directors that made me feel very comfortable quite quickly. I had to do a lot of research and have a lot of stunt driving, prosthetics and fight choreography to become Christopher, it was quite full on.
The series has a dark grindhouse style with lots of violence and gore, which of course, naturally means it’s great. Walk us through a typical shooting scene, one with lots of visual effects. Would love to know the process.
Oh, it’s definitely dark … There’s a particular scene where my character does something he’s not supposed to and as a result is punished by fluid spraying out of him. For that we had a rig with piping spraying the fluid, and I had to move in such a way that looked natural but also so you couldn’t see the piping. Those days are always fun because you see the cameraman and camera covered head to toe in plastic and you know this going to get real messy.
It was quite difficult shooting some of the visual effects stuff, because a lot of it is practical effects you are at the mercy of everything doing what it’s supposed to at the time you want it to. If you ask anyone in visual effects, they’ll tell you it never goes right 100% of the time, but we had an amazing visual effects team that worked so hard to bring the vision to life.
As you mentioned, the series is set in an alternate 1999. How much attention is made in keeping look and feel of the year as part of the story?
The show and sets are heavily stylized but the same time there are loads of nods to design aspects of that period. There’s even nods to other decades for instance in the Contracrime headquarters if you look closely you can see we’re working on computers from the 1980s. Being set in an alternate timeline gives the show artistic license to put things in from post 1999. Like in the intro of the first episode, they have a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo Vlll which was put into production in 2003. I’m sure the car enthusiasts were a bit confused by that one but if you watch the show it makes sense.
You’re starring in all 13 episodes with co-stars Alan Ritchson and Christina Ochoa. Care to share some stories about working with this cast?
Yeah they’re great, and totally dedicated to their craft. Alan is a machine, I’ve seen that man in situations where most actors would’ve quit push through and deliver some great performances.
As with Christina she actually has all the strength and tenacity as her character on screen. For instance she was very sick on the last 2 weeks of shooting and she had to do some of the most physically demanding stuff in the show and she did it, she didn’t only do it, she did it to perfection. The cast and crew of this show were amazing and it pushed me to do better.
Especially Marama Corlette who plays Aki. She is the best actress I’ve had the pleasure to work with and absolutely fearless. She made my time on set a dream; she brought so much to the project and to our scenes, which took them to the next level.
The series clearly has its influences in classic exploitation grindhouse films both old and new. Are you a fan of the genre?
Yeah I love it! I grew up watching classic exploitation/blackploitation films. My Dad was really into them. I grew up on films like Shaft, Superfly, Foxy Brown and Kung Fu movies; Snake in the Eagles Shadow, Lone Wolf and Cub, Five Venoms, Drunken Master. Then, as I grew I liked my own like Evil Dead and (George )Romero‘s dead series from Dusk Till Dawn. Then the newer offerings like Death Proof, Planet Terror, Machete, Hobo with a Shotgun, and Black Dynamite.
Quite the list. So are they any other projects coming up that you can talk about?
That’s a tough one … The business is shrouded in secrecy now, most times we have to sign non disclosures even before we meet the director or casting director, so much money is at stake no one wants to chance that their story will get out. OK, what I can say is I have been meeting for some great projects with amazing directors.
Trailer for SyFY’s Blood Drive
We’ll keep our eyes peeled. Now on our website, we often write about great moments in movies and ask all those we interview to tell us about a movie moment (or moments) that have had influence on them. Is there a moment in a film you like that you’d like to share with us?
Oh, definitely. The first film I saw that made me actually believe I could be an actor was a French film called La Haine by Mathieu Kassovitz. Here’s these three kids that were a couple years older than me, that looked like me and my friends, dealing with some of the same issues me and my friends were dealing with, but in a totally different country. It blew my mind because it spoke to me so clearly. Another one was Leon the Professional by Luc Besson, wow! As did the films by Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino; Goodfellas, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and the films of Shane Meadows, A Room for Romeo, Brass and Dead Man’s Shoes. Those are all very influential to my decision to Pursue acting. I couldn’t believe the stories these guys were telling and it made me really excited to want to tell stories … I just had to get there first.
Anything you’d like to say to the readers before we close?
I’d just like to thank everyone who has embraced our little crazy show, and of course those people who responsible for giving me an opportunity not just on Blood Drive but on Undercover and Black Mirror, people like Nancy Bishop, Kristina Erderly, Andy Pryor and Jina Jay, all the casting Directors, thank you. Also thank you for this interview.