I had a chance to sit down with actor and screenwriter, Will Thompson, during my recent trip back to Chicago. I debated over whether I should accept the technological times we live in and film the interview but something about a write-up still seemed very authentic and retro to us.
I remember meeting him for the first time in 7th grade. I was a theater geek and he was the tough, rebellious-type whom I never imagined would grow into an artist. I even learned a thing or two, maybe three, about this fellow west-side Chicago kid. What better way is there to spend this time catching up than a summertime-chi chat with a childhood friend. Check out the interview below for his take on the film industry, and his collaboration with actor/director John Carl Buechler.
Lamya: When did you know you were an artist?
Will: When I was probably about 4 years old.
Lamya: When did your interest in film and television begin?
Will: Well, I’ve always enjoyed entertaining and making people smile. I got a certain kind of enjoyment from others’ enjoyment of my work. I started out in music, so that’s where I would say my interest in performing came from. It’s not TV and Film. It’s artistry.
L: Have you ever studied film or theater?
W: I’ve trained with acting coaches so I could hone my skills, and get some real acting chops and feedback. I’ve written poetry and acted in stage productions. This has all been interesting, long, and yet wonderful. You learn a lot about rejection.
L: How do you handle rejection?
W: I don’t (laughing). I don’t look at anything as rejection. It’s all teaching, timing and [how hard you] grind.
L: Describe the entertainment scene in Chicago.
W: Um, well living in Chicago; it’s very different I would say, because it used to be more commercial than anything and now there’s more movies being filmed here as well as TV series like Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. I think Crisis is filmed here, too.
L: You worked on Chicago Fire, right? What was it like?
W: Working on Chicago Fire was great. The cast and crew were all awesome people to work with.
L: What are some of your favorite films, and who are your favorite actors?
W: I would have to say All In The Family is one of my favorites. Carroll O’Connor is amazing, The Nutty Professor with Jerry Lewis, and the First Part of Malcolm X. I like the raw filming as well as movies like Juice, Menace 2 Society, Love Jones, and Jason’s Lyric. I don’t really have any favorite actors but I enjoy watching Carroll O’Connor, Jerry Lewis, Denzel Washington, Jackie Gleason, Samuel L. Jackson, Ellen Page, Dakota Fanning, and the list goes on. There are so many that I feel are great and I like to watch them perform because of the choices they make. I look at their movements and [character] choices.
L: What do you consider some of the main differences between cinema and television?
W: In cinema you have 1 to 2 hours to tell a character’s story and to connect with them, and after that, it’s over. In television you get to be with that character every week and you’re there with them to feel, sympathize, and relate to their issues and problems. The lens has a funny way of telling the truth in ways other art forms can’t.
L: Who or what do you cite as major inspirations for your career pursuits?
W: Life and people. I think everything around you should inspire you in some kind of way, good or bad.
L: What type of creative are you and how does it parallel the creative process of your new screenplay?
W: I’m a big dreamer. I have big dreams and I love building around ideas. My mind wonders a lot about [a number of] things so it’s easy to be creative when you can be open with your emotions whether it be your fears, beliefs, or something that makes you smile and you want to share it with the world. That’s how my creative process starts. For instance, people’s insecurities inspired my film. Listening to how people are closed-mined and easily influenced, and watching a lot of YouTube videos to see other people’s prospective on the topic.
L: What was it like co-writing a film with John Carl Buechler?
W: Working with John was great. He’s a real on-the-ball type of guy, and his work ethic is crazy which is why I believe we work so well together. I’m in the process of getting [the film] financed.
L: What advice do you have for anyone interested in trying to succeed in Chicago?
W: I don’t have any advice really. Everybody’s experience is going to be different so I would say do things your own way.
L: “Do things your own way” means…?
W: Doing things your own way means just that. Do it your way. What works for one person might not work you and vice versa. You have to trust yourself and your instinct in this business.
L: What’s your life’s motto?
W: The world meets nobody halfway.
L: Tell us a secret.
W: I lost 51% of my body. I’m legally paralyzed from the waist down. I had a herniated disk in my lower back I had to have surgery 3 times in a year. The second surgery was life threatening because I got a staph infection in my bone which was why I had to get the 3rd surgery. It was really bad so in my hospital records it states that I’ve lost 51% of my body
L: What’s next for you?
W: I don’t know, yet. Only life will tell.