“He is America’s favorite TV dad.” Jamie Kennedy said it best describing Actor Michael Gross (“Family Ties,” “Tremors”) who is currently starring in “Tremors 5: Bloodlines in which he returns as his legendary character Burt Gummer with a new, cool co-star Jamie Kennedy. Gross has been in this industry since the 1970’s and he continues to make films and television shows. I had the honor of speaking with him for a Horrornews.net exclusive.
“Tremors 5: Bloodlines” was terrific, the dynamic chemistry between you have with Jamie Kennedy was great.
We were walking a fine here introducing a new character and for the first time in thirteen years and so we thought we might be a little out of practice. So we tried very hard to keep the spirit of “Tremors” along by doing something that was new and would satisfy a newer audience.
“Tremors” was a great original film and it was something different and unique. Do you feel “Tremors 5” kept that unique feeling going?
We hope to preserve that same craziness, having a bit of horror, having a real threat but also having a dark humor to it and again set in the wide open spaces.
What was it like for you to reprise your character Burt again?
Well, whether I like it or not I am the old man on the scene. I’ve been doing this longer than anybody there. We felt very responsible coming with new people. As much as people or anyone says Oh I get it, I know the flavor of “Tremors.” It is a very funny thing and a very special thing. We found ourselves behaving somewhat for lack of a better word as guardians. We were making sure that new people like Jamie and the director Don Michael Paul, as good as they are understood that this is a special world.
What was it like working with director Don Michael Paul?
Don Michael Paul was just great. He’s done a lot of Action/Adventure as you could tell. We wanted to make sure amidst that action/adventure we didn’t lose the spirit if you could call it that of what we were doing. We were vigilant for lack of a better word and felt like guardians or protectors of the franchise. I hope it worked out well. There were some things I missed here and there. Some things I wished we had done a little better but and large we’re happy with it.
What challenges did you face working on the film with all the action/adventure scenes?
I can tell you that physically it was a challenge for both of us. Jamie was very game to do this sort of thing. Jamie was dunked in the water here and there and there were whole sequences he worked on which one of them did not make the final cut. The whole underwater scene, the movie was just running way too long. Physically in action/adventure there’s always a hurdle. I broke a rib, gashed opened my leg at one point, you know sprained this or that. I hurt myself on other “Tremors” films, just running over even ground at night and tweaking something and I had knee surgery after one of the trailers years ago because I severed a tendon in my knee. We are all healthy now and we lived to tell about it so it is challenging in that way physically.
Out of all of the “Tremors” films, do you have a favorite one?
Well, naturally I love the first, it was my introduction to this thing. I loved the work between Reba and myself and just that whole communal feeling we had in that little town of perfection. Having said that my second favorite up until now is “Tremors 4” where again we were in a small community and I got to play Burt’s great-grandfather, a very different character. For me what I loved was the change to which this man had to take the film. He came from the East, educated, snobbish. In the course of the film had to not only accept rejection but embrace it and embrace the people. He had a little flirtation with the woman who owned the hotel in town, that sort of thing. I just thought that was a favorite of mine because of the changes the man went through from beginning to end. And also I think it has that same feeling that we had in “Tremors” where were protecting an entire community of people from the monsters. I think “Tremors 5” actually has that same feeling.
What was it like filming in South Africa?
Well, the people were wonderful. They made it easy. I’d go there again in a minute, I thought the people were wonderful. I made some good friends.
You have an amazing long term career, what advice would you provide to fellow actors in this business who want a long term career?
Well, I’ve always thought that it’s from the fact that I’ve tried to take material that varies. One of the great things about “Tremors” for example all these years about twenty five years ago it was one of the first things I did after “Family Ties.” Which immediately answered the question for me would there be work after “Family Ties” and would it be vastly different from the work I have done for seven years on the series. So I was thrilled to find out that yes I would have work and yes I could play different types of characters. I think the stage is excellent training ground. Not that people cant learn perfect well on film or on television but its very challenging. It is a different set of muscle. People work those muscles from time to time to go back to theatre. I recommend that people look for good material and surround yourself with people who are better than yourself, as good or better than yourself because then you are learning something from them as well. That’s a little bit of what I think.
What projects are you working on next?
As a matter of fact, believe it or not speaking of “Family Ties,” my former co-star Meredith Baxter and I just co-starred together in a Lifetime Network movie which is going to be their big holiday special so that will be available in December in which we play, believe it or not Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus. It is called “Becoming Santa,” but that may be just a working title but it is great to be Lifetime’s big Christmas special to the United States. I think it really is a dear piece. Again a wonderful cast with Laura Bell Bundy. Laura is a Country Western singer who has done a variety of things. She was on Reba’s show for a while. She was on “Anger Management” and she is delightful young girl. She is really the lead with Meredith and I supporting Laura Bell as she tries to bring her fiancée to the North Pole to meet mom and dad so it’s really quite fun. There is a film I am in now, a short film. Making the rounds at the festivals, an Award winning film which I play a man with late stage dementia.
Out of all the characters you have portrayed do you have a favorite character?
Oh boy, Janel! You know in some cases it is always the last one I played because you know you put your heart and your soul and your commitment into whatever you are doing at the moment. But, you know I do think, I mean “Family Ties” has opened so many incredible doors for me over the years. I would not have “Tremors” or half of the other things I’ve done had I not done that but having said that my preference would have been Burt Gummer to Steven Keaton because I love the extremes of people. You know in “Family Ties,” Meredith Baxter and I had to be the solid foundation of that family while the kids had the adventures and in “Tremors,” I get to have the adventures. I much prefer to have the adventures and to be the whacky one.
Will there be a another “Tremors” sequel?
As you saw from what we did we left the door wide open and if the fans accept it there will be. I think there will be.