|Andy Hallett: Living Green and Loving It|
It ain't easy bein' green, unless you happen to be Andy Hallett, the horned, green-skinned Host of the (frequently demolished) Caritas karaoke bar on the hit television series Angel. And even Hallett could live without the three hours of make-up it takes to transform him into an anagogic demon named "Lorne," who reads people's secret thoughts when they sing karaoke.
A shy kid from a small village in Cape Cod, Mass., Hallett's first taste of performing came when Patti LaBelle pulled him from the audience of a Boston concert for an impromptu duet. Although still addicted to the music of LaBelle and the soul-shouting divas of the 'Sixties and 'Seventies, Hallett now relishes taking the stage and talking about everything except the next episodes of Angel. Talking with Crescent Blues at Dragoncon 2001, Hallett shared his thoughts on special effects, his two new movie roles and the possibility of recording his first CD.
Crescent Blues: Are you a fan of science fiction and fantasy?
Andy Hallett: In all honesty, no. I never was. Now that I've been working on Angel, I've been growing more and more interested in it. Not so much because of the most obvious reason that Angel is a science fiction show. I'm becoming interested in it as a result of seeing how things are done.
On our show, they ended the last season by cutting off my head. That's my definition of sci-fi: a demon getting his head cut off, then finding his head again and being able to reattach it. Watching how stuff like that is done and seeing the process that goes into it and all of the blue screening and the CGI, just the amount of work it takes, and how involved it gets -- that interests me. Also, visiting Optic Nerve Studios, which used to do all the prosthetics for Angel and seeing everything that they've done.
The first time I visited [Optic Nerve] to have the cast done of my face, they had a body -- well, a prosthetic body, but it looked like real body. I could not believe the authenticity. It was lying down on a table. It think they used it for E.R. or a show like that. The stomach was opened up. It was pretty gross. But it was so authentic. I was amazed by it.
Now the prosthetics on the show are being done by a company called Almost Human, owned and operated by Rob Hall. He's wonderful. He's become a good friend of mine. I love his creativity and his imagination. It's fun to watch him work and come up with all these outrageous characters and demons, especially on Angel this season. Starting with the third season, they've got some real wild stuff as far as demons go. I think everybody's going to like them.
Crescent Blues: You mentioned the third season of Angel. Can you say anything at this point about what we're going to be seeing when the broadcast season begins?
Andy Hallett: Joss Whedon, the executive producer, and David Greenwalt, the other executive producer, get so upset if we say anything. But I can tell you the season starts off with a bang. My character (Lorne, the Host) will be back, probably about as much as he was around last season. I've been guaranteed 13 episodes, so I know I'll be around that much. I think it will probably play out like last season did for me. But I really can't tell you much more about it.
Crescent Blues: Understood. It's just the question you have to ask. Let's talk about your role on Angel for a moment. According to a number of Web sites, you knew Joss Whedon before you started working for him, and he created the role of the Host with you in mind. When you auditioned for the part, did you have any idea what was coming?
Andy Hallett: No. Never, never, never. [Laughs.] When Joss first told me, I remember thinking: "This is wild. This is crazy. This is great stuff." I was really excited about it. He said that it was inspired by me, so I knew that was because of the whole karaoke singing, lounge-y that of [persona]. But then, of course, making me a demon just was wild.
I was worried that they were going to exhaust the character. I thought there was going to be over-exposure, going back to the karaoke bar every time. I thought the viewers would get tired of it, like the same old thing. What else can you do, going back to the karaoke bar? But they've come up with some great stuff, and every time they do go back it's a little bit different. And everybody on the show has had a chance to sing.
Crescent Blues: Whether they should or not.
Andy Hallett: Exactly -- whether they should or not. It's really thrown a different mood into the show. It's much lighter than the regular parts of the show. I think it's worked well. I've been floored by how often they've brought me back. I've been even more floored by the response from the fans. It's amazing. It's just amazing.
This just started a year ago, and I've already done a bunch of conventions and met with people. It's amazing to go to these different cities. People were lining up to see me in the rain in Scotland. Here I come from this little town in Cape Cod, and now I'm in Scotland, and people actually know me and want to see me just because they like the role. It's amazing. It's really wild. It's fun, exciting. I love it.
Crescent Blues: It looks like you're having fun. Speaking of which, in the last show of your first season [Angel, episode 44], how did you keep a straight face when Joss Whedon was doing Numfar's Dance of Joy?
Andy Hallett: Wasn't that hilarious?
Crescent Blues: How many takes did it take?
Andy Hallett: Oh, he got it in about…
Crescent Blues: Not him -- the rest of you.
Andy Hallett: Oh, we were screaming -- screaming laughing.
Joss didn't want anyone to know it was him. He was very, very adamant about nobody seeing him come onto the set or getting into make-up. He actually had his make-up applied in a different trailer so no one would know it was him. He really didn't want me to know. It was supposed to be a practical joke.
David Boreanaz [who plays Angel] knew Joss was going to be doing some type of cameo, but he didn't know in what part of the show or what he was going to be playing. So it was a trip. We went up for this rehearsal, and I was standing around talking to the guy who played my mother (whose name is Tom McCleister, and who is hilarious). I was looking over Tom's shoulder, and Tom yells, "Numfar, do the Dance of Joy."
I looked back, and I started cracking up. I saw this guy going back and forth. He kept going higher and higher. I'm dying laughing.
Then everyone stopped laughing, because it was time to go back to the rehearsal. I couldn't get my lines out, because I was still laughing. The director, Tim Minear (who's one of the writers on the show and is now one of the co-executive producers) said, "OK, it's time to get back. We've got to get serious here. We're on a tight schedule. Let's go. Let's go."
I couldn't stop laughing. I still didn't know it was Joss. Still didn't know.
Then, all of a sudden, David Boreanaz nudged me and said, "Oh, my God. Do you know who that is?"
I said, "No, I have no idea who that is."
"That is Joss."
Joss was mad that David blew his cover, because Joss wanted to come up to me after we did the real take and say: "Hi, um, I just wanted to say, um, that I'm one of your biggest fans." I would've never known it was him. Joss was completely unrecognizable, and he didn't have any lines, so I wouldn't have recognized his voice. But he never got the chance to do it, because David blew his cover.
Crescent Blues: You mentioned that the make-up for the Host takes three hours.
Andy Hallett: Yes, three hours.
Crescent Blues: Do you suffer any ill effects from the make-up, or is it just a time-consuming process?
Andy Hallett: Primarily, it's just a time-consuming process. I definitely don't enjoy it. There's nothing fun about it. The first time was fun, because I didn't know what to expect. The first time was a blast. After that, it went down hill fast, because I have to be there much earlier than anybody else does, which usually makes my call-time fairly early in the morning. That's fine, but it's a time-consuming process. I do OK with it, but I have good days and I have bad days with it. Sometimes I get a little claustrophobic with it. "Claustrophobic" isn't the right word for it, but I don't know what is.
Crescent Blues: Enclosed?
Andy Hallett: "Enclosed" is a good word. It's knowing that there's something glued to my face. It's there, and it's very evident, and knowing that I can't take it off. You can't peel it off. They have to use a solution to get it off. It's practically super-glued on. You could never get it off.
I do have some difficulty with that. Usually, once it's glued on and they start painting it, I'm OK, because it's no longer skin contact. And I'll be OK until it goes into the tenth hour or so of wearing it. That's when I start to get a little antsy again.
Crescent Blues: Do you have problems with the contacts?
Andy Hallett: I do have problems with the contacts, yes. [Laughs.] The first pair was too thick, so they didn't feel good at all and hurt my eyes, but I could see out of them OK. I complained, and they gave me a new pair. My new pair is thin, so they feel good, but I can't see out of them. It's one way or the other. They're actually working on another pair for me now, so hopefully, we'll get that right.
Crescent Blues: In your panel today, you also mentioned a couple of movies that you're working on. Would you mind elaborating on that for our readers?
Andy Hallett: I worked on Amber Benson's movie. Amber Benson plays "Tara" on Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. Amber put together her own movie, called Chance. Amber plays the lead character -- Chance. I give Amber all the credit in the world. She wrote the movie, directed it, produced it, starred in it -- everything. Now she's editing it. She's done it all. It's her baby.
It was a blast to work on. I play a character named "Jack," and I'm a night club singer. "Chance" comes in, and she's in a confused state of mind. She's a girl, probably in her early twenties, and she's confused about life, what's going on, and whether or not she can find her true love. It's definitely a funny movie too. She half falls for my character, then she realizes that she can't have him. I don't have a very big part in the movie, but it was a fun part and a delight to work on it.
Then I also worked on Meredyth Smith's movie. Mere's a writer on Angel. She did an independent movie called The Enforcers, where I play a guy named "Wallace," and I'm a real sleazy scumbag who works behind the desk at a real awful hotel. I'm hiding money, and some leg-breakers come in and want to get the money back.
Crescent Blues: Did you enjoy breaking out of the lounge singer mold?
Andy Hallett: Yeah. It was so fun to play Wallace, because as Wallace I got to be mean and nasty, and I had to grow a heavy five o'clock shadow. They greased up my hair. I got to wear what they call "the wife-beater t-shirt," and I got to curse and yell at people.
Crescent Blues: Which you can't do on network TV.
Andy Hallett: No, you sure can't. It was quite different from what I'm used to.
Crescent Blues: So far, what's been your favorite episode on Angel, and why did you like it so well?
Andy Hallett: My favorite episode, in terms of filming and how it affected my character, was episode 13 from last season. It was called "Happy Anniversary," and it was my first big episode. The Host can read auras. A guy came into the bar, and the Host sensed that the guy was going to stop time, because he was in love, and he didn't want that wonderful feeling to go away. So the guy was trying to stop time. I went to Angel and said, "We've got to do something."
That was my first time ever out of the karaoke bar. Now, I love working in the karaoke bar; it's wonderful. But this was the first time I got to go into the lobby of the hotel [the current base of operations for Angel Investigations] and here and there. I really enjoyed getting out to the other sets and getting those different experiences.
But when it really hit me was when we were on location. This was when it really hit me good. We were driving through the streets of L.A., late at night. It was a Friday night, about 1 a.m. It was a scene with Angel and the Host in the car, and we were being towed around on the back of a flatbed truck.
I was looking up at the stars and around, because we weren't speaking at the time. We were waiting for the next take. People were walking down the streets of L.A. and walking out of clubs and yelling and waving at us. I was like: wow, this is really cool. I've got a really cool gig here. That's when it really hit me. I thought it was wonderful, and I'll never forget that moment.
Crescent Blues: So how did a little guy -- well, not so little guy -- from Cape Cod, Mass., wind up singing the blues?
Andy Hallett: I don't know. Isn't it funny?
Crescent Blues: I've read about Patti LaBelle pulling you up on stage when you were very young.
Andy Hallett: I just sang with her about two weeks ago in Pala, Calif., at the Pala Casino. We sang "Lady Marmalade" -- that's my song. She sang the first verse, then I sang the second verse. We never sang the third verse. We were just harmonizing and vocalizing. I had a ball. I think she did. She was screaming.
My friends in L.A. are convinced my parents must be black. I have this wonderful friend, Joey. She's black, and she's about 54 years old, and she is a trip. She is really soulful -- very, very, very soulful. She's a show girl. She's always all dolled up and her hair all up.
We met one night when I was singing in a club. Joey was there, and she came up to me and said: "Where are you from?" I said, "Cape Cod." She didn't believe me. She said: "What!" She was the first person who commented on [the incongruity of Hallett's voice and background]. To this day, she says, "Honey, I'm sure your daddy's black. I just know it." She always says that.
Of course, blues is the only type of music I really…I shouldn't say that. I also like Frank Sinatra. I've loved Frank Sinatra for years, and he is still a strong influence on my musical taste. But my taste leans more to Patti LaBelle, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner -- those type of singers. Those are the vocal styles that I love the most. Where it came from, I have no idea. I really don't, because my parents aren't into it. My family's not. I didn't grow up with any of that. So I don't know where it came from.
Crescent Blues: Have you found that working on Angel has helped your singing career?
Andy Hallett: Definitely. Occasionally, they'll have me in different shows in L.A. Some of my friends sing in different shows in L.A., and they've had me appear as a special guest singer. I've done some duets with some of my friends in those shows. I love doing it.
I love singing anywhere. I love getting out there, whether the audience is big or small. Like the other night with Patti -- that's amazing. There were ten thousand people there, and that's wild. But then I'll go to a little club, and there'll be about fifty people out there, and I still love it. I always love it if the audience is digging it. So whether it's big or small, it's always fun for me.
Crescent Blues: Any plans for a CD or tour?
Andy Hallett: Yeah. A lot of people have been asking about a CD. I would love to do it -- which sort of plays off of your last question of whether this show has gotten me any opportunities in that respect. Definitely, because now all these people are asking about a CD, which is an indication to me that it would work and that people would like it, hopefully. I'm really motivated to do a CD right now. We've been talking about it, and I've started to approach Fox Music about it. Hopefully, they'll want to do something, because if they want to do something, that's a major label, and it would be great. It would be a huge, huge opportunity.
But if they don't want a part of it, I'm still going to do something on my own, whether I have to produce myself or not. I want to do it.
Crescent Blues: The fans will be glad to hear that. One more question. You've gone to a lot of conventions in the past year, and you've been interviewed a lot. What is the one question that you've wanted to answer that no one has ever asked you?
Andy Hallett: Oh, wow. That question is the question. I have to say people have asked so many creative questions. Things that I never thought people would ask, they've asked. One of the best questions, I thought -- and I didn't know how to answer it -- was when a girl in London asked me if the Host could read me, Andy, what would he see? I thought that was a cool question.
But I have to admit that there's really nothing I thought people would ask that they haven't. In these last couple of months when I've been going to all these conventions, I think they've come up with every question that they could.
Crescent Blues: Anything you'd like to say to the world at large?
Andy Hallett: There is one thing that I love to say, which I say in every interview, and I love saying it. I'm just living life and loving life. Living and loving -- that's my saying. I feel so fortunate and so blessed. I think it's a blessing to wake up every day, just to have a good day ahead of you, and I try to make the most out of every day. So when I have a job that I love, a job that is something that I've always dreamed about, that I get up and love going to, love doing it, I feel like I must've done something right.
Click here to learn more about Andy Hallett.
Jean Marie Ward (with additional questions supplied by Melanie Barta)