RedEye

Interview: Zach Gilford, once scared, is returning the favor

Zach Gilford had a hard time listening to “Thriller,” Michael Jackson’s classic song about things that go bump in the night, when he was a child growing up in Evanston. And the “Friday Night Lights” actor said it had nothing to do with the menacing werewolf or dancing zombies featured in the music video.

“I would listen to music before I went to sleep on my yellow Sony Walkman when I was 7 and put on the Michael Jackson tape,” Gilford said last week over the phone from Los Angeles. “When the guy came on at the end of ‘Thriller’ talking about (‘Darkness falls across the land, the midnight hour is close at hand,’) I was like ‘What is that?’ I thought the devil was coming through my headphones. I couldn’t listen to ‘Thriller’ forever. Honestly, it was the thing that scared me the most as a kid.”

Now 31, Gilford will have a hand in scaring others, the way Vincent Price’s voice scared him, when he appears in two horror films this year: “Devil’s Due” and “The Purge 2.” Gilford plays one half of an expectant couple in “Devil’s Due,” a found-footage film that opens Friday. It’s being called a contemporary “Rosemary’s Baby” because of its satanic pregnancy theme.

He said he was drawn to the script because it was a love story gone awry in which you actually like and cheer for the couple, unlike in some horror movies where the protagonists are so irritating you cheer against them.

“It’s not your typical horror movie where things jump out at you,” Gilford said. “It felt like we were always fighting against the genre. We really focused on making the movie logical with, obviously, an unreal idea of a devil baby. If this happened in the real world, how would it happen?”

He also clicked with Radio Silence productions, the quartet behind “Devil’s Due” and the last short film featured in 2012’s “V/H/S.” And that’s become very important to Gilford, who said he looks for roles that he will enjoy filming and tries to avoid the ones in which “I want to shoot myself in the face the whole time,” even if they might sound like better projects. “You have to enjoy what you do,” he added.

In recent years, Gilford has been part of two short-lived medical dramas: ABC’s “Off the Map” and Fox’s “The Mob Doctor.” He took pains not to be critical of the latter series, which filmed in Chicago, but he admitted its title was “more on the nose than it needed to be,” and he would have liked to have seen the show not rely so heavily on the mob aspect every episode. Gilford felt “Mob Doctor” began to come into its own by the end, but by that point its fate had been sealed.

Hollywood doesn’t seem to be holding the shows against him. “Devil’s Due” and “The Purge 2” are two of Gilford’s biggest film roles to date. But don’t expect Gilford to stress about their significance. He believes there are too many factors involved in a film’s success to put added pressure on himself. Gilford is more focused on enjoying the ride. Like “Devil’s Due,” Gilford feels “The Purge 2,” which began filming last week and is expected to hit theaters June 20, will make for a fun shooting experience.

“Blumhouse is a cool production company,” he said of the “The Purge 2” creators. “They keep egos in check; there are no trailers. Everyone is there because they think it’s a cool movie that could do well. At times it feels like we’re making a college film. Everybody is there because they want to be, not because they’re getting paid a ton of money.”

It also helps that Gilford gets to work with his wife and Glenbard North High School alum Kiele Sanchez, who plays his wife in the film.

“That was a huge part of it,” Gilford said. “We made the decision at the same time. She went out for a role, but for whatever reason they thought she didn’t look old enough, so they offered her another role that happens to be my wife. It’s superweird to be in scenes together. It took a while to get used to.”

It’s difficult, however, to tell if he’s more excited about working with his wife or co-star Michael Kenneth Williams, who played the iconic Omar Little on HBO’s “The Wire.”

“He only works one or two days, but I’m pumped to meet him,” said Gilford, a fan of “The Wire” and Williams’ other HBO show, “Boardwalk Empire.” “I don’t know what to do. It’s always weird to meet an actor you really like when you’re an actor. You don’t want to be a nerd, but I also want to let him know how much admiration I have for him. I’m going to try to play it cool.”

lgomez@tribune.com | Twitter @TribLuis

For more celebrity news and sightings, go to chicagotribune.com/luis

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Marrow's 'The Gold Standard' raises the Chicago rock bar

    Marrow's 'The Gold Standard' raises the Chicago rock bar

    The four musicians in Marrow know quite a bit about bringing diverse influences to the table. After all, three of them, singer-guitarist Liam Kazar, singer-keyboardist Macie Stewart and bassist Lane Beckstrom were in Kids These Days, a now-defunct septet that combined jazz, funk, rap and rock in...

  • The Kids These Days family tree

    The Kids These Days family tree

    From its 2009 beginnings to its 2013 demise, Chicago's Kids These Days seemed like one of the most promising acts the city had seen in years. While the band split up at the height of its hype, its members have since gone on to do bigger and better things—seriously impressive considering the hip-hop/rock/jazz...

  • Chicago sues red light camera firm for $300 million

    Chicago sues red light camera firm for $300 million

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration has sued Chicago's former red light camera operator, Redflex Traffic Systems, for more than $300 million on grounds the entire program was built on a $2 million bribery scheme at City Hall that has already led to federal corruption convictions.

  • Solid 'Gold': How ex-Kids These Days members came back stronger as Marrow

    Solid 'Gold': How ex-Kids These Days members came back stronger as Marrow

    After the dissolution of Kids These Days, the much-buzzed about Chicago fusion-jazz-rock-rap septet that split in spring 2013 just a few months after releasing its only album, “Traphouse Rock,” some of its members spent what seems like all of 20 minutes bandless. "We were driving back from the...

  • Mr Twin Sister's 'In the House of Yes' is one of last year's hidden treasures

    Mr Twin Sister's 'In the House of Yes' is one of last year's hidden treasures

    Welcome to RedEye's "Song of the Day," an ongoing feature where music reporter Josh Terry or another RedEye staff member highlights something they're listening to. Some days the track will be new, and some days it will be old. No matter what, each offering is something you should check out. Check...

  • GrubHub's weekend customer-support issues made people hangry

    GrubHub's weekend customer-support issues made people hangry

    Technical difficulties at GrubHub and Seamless over the weekend drove hordes of hangry would-be customers to air their grievances on social media. The food ordering and delivery sites, which merged in 2013 and use GrubHub’s back-end technology, errantly accepted payments on Saturday evening without...

Comments
Loading
83°