An Interview with Actor Sam Lukowski by Teresa McCormick Ertel

Up and Coming…

Charismatic and talented local film actor Sam Lukowski, AKA ‘Spooky,’ is one of the hardest working performers in the local industry. With a penchant for thrillers, Sam is a chameleon who is as versatile as he is friendly, with the ability to go from heartthrob, to outcast, to psycho on a director’s whim. Read on to discover his working methods and projects, and to find out how he got his nickname.

Teresa: How did you get your start into acting?

Sam: I’ve been acting since my youngest days – so I guess I started acting at about age 4 or 5. I’ve wanted to be a film actor ever since I was in the 1st grade and realized playing house in front of a camera could be a career choice. It has been a long hard road but I’ve kept at it and I’m always looking for more practice and more auditions. I’ve also done a lot of theatre – everything from school plays to community theatre. I’ve performed in musicals, contemporary dramas, Shakespeare, and even a few drag shows, and I’ve competed as a stage actor in different states at the KCACTF theatre festivals. I got into the indie-film scene in Baltimore City during my time at CCBC Essex after a number of auditions. Next thing I knew I was being cast in local movies – shorts, comedies, action thrillers, and of course horror. I guess it would be fair to say that I have theatrical training and that has helped me considerably. Besides the experience of performing on stage I also studied Theatre at Towson University. I actually just graduated this past spring with a Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre after vigorously studying acting on Towson’s Acting Track for nearly 3 years.

Sam Lukowski in 'Dress Code.'

What was your first film?

My first film role? Wow, I don’t know exactly, you see I made several short films when I was first starting out in high school – some of which have never seen the light of day. That’s how it goes for a rookie film actor – after the production wraps and the all the re-shoots and ADR have been recorded, the footage goes to the editors to be completed. This post-production process has nothing to do with the actors – and unfortunately a lot of films get lost and are never finished. Truth be told, it is actually considered rude for the actors to ask the editor or director about the movie during post.

Believe me when I tell you that it’s very hard to build a career as a non-union actor with nothing to show for it – even if you did everything expected of you, you have to remember that actors do not make movies – the techies do. Actors interact with one another performing the action and dialogue for each scene but it’s all for nothing if the editor doesn’t finish and release the footage. My teacher, Steve Yeager, used to say that movies are a ‘technocraft’ – an art form that cannot exist without the proper tech and technical processing. If there is no tech there can be no craft. Every now and again, one of my old projects will turn up on YouTube but I suppose the first indie-film I was ever cast in was a supporting role in Joe Ripple’s horror film, Jebediah. I did several other films afterwards – again none of which have been released. The first movie I was ever in that is currently available to an audience was Lee Doll’s children’s movie, The Adventures of Louanna Lee: Episode 4.

You seem to be creating a niche in the horror genre, with films like The Fixer: Dangerous Deception, Soulmate, Ninjas vs Monsters, Vampires: Rise of the Fallen, The Forsaken Pages, and The Bone Garden. Why do you like performing in horror films?

I love horror movies and there really is a market for slasher flicks here at the local level. The genre has been good to me so I will continue to work in it. I love high tension roles with ready-made conflicts and horror movies offer both to performers and audiences alike – let’s face it, no one wants to get their arm cut off so we can all relate to the panic-stricken average Joe or Jane running from the masked serial killer with a chainsaw.

In all honesty, I would love to be cast in heart-wrenching psychological thrillers so I really want to play in period and contemporary dramas.  What can I say? I grew up with serious plays like Macbeth, Hamlet, The Crucible,  Amadeus, The Elephant Man,  Equus, Doubt, True West, and Bug, but I was always fascinated by movies like Frankenstein, King Kong, Psycho, The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, Aliens, The Thing, 28 Days Later, The Dark Knight, and Silence of the Lambs.

Tell us about some of your favorite characters and your method for developing them.

My favorite character was actually for a short that I did back in my first semester at Towson. I played an extremely shy, clean cut, and socially awkward character named Anthony Burns in Danny Ligsay’s adaptation a Tennessee William’s short story, ‘Desire and The Black Masseur.’ Unlike William’s story, Danny made the short a comedy. Personally I wish it had remained a drama but the character was a lot of fun to play simply because the character was not me. Anthony was small, frail, and lonely. He had short hair, was clean shaven, wore glasses and dorky clothes, and most compelling for me was that Anthony was a closeted homosexual. I wore a wig, and even loss weight for the role. At the premiere, no one recognized me – it was a great feeling. I really loved the part – Danny gave me a lot of freedom to work – I love playing roles that allow me to transform into someone completely different for myself.

Simply put here is my acting process:’ Listen and respond to your scene partner.’ If the imaginary circumstances of the story are unrealistic and fantastic, the actor must always interact and behave realistically and truthfully with their scene partner’s behavior. If the actor fails at this task, the audience will never relate to the character’s struggle to overcome the conflict. And if the audience cannot relate they will not be entertained. The only reliable way I know of to behave realistically is to improvise without changing or violating the playwright or screenwriter’s dialogue. To achieve this, I fully listen and respond to the behavior of my scene partner. And the best way I know to train scene partner interaction is rehearsal. This is a tough way to work, though – rehearsals are rare in the film world because there simply is not enough time. Basically, I’d offer that an actor might try to approach their work in this way:  memorizes your dialogue immediately and try to work out a time when you and your scene partner can rehearse. If you can’t rehearse, practice alone as often as possible but be ready and willing to throw it all away on set if the director tells you try it a different way. In my opinion, an actor can respond truthfully a whole lot better when he or she has prepared ahead of time and is listening and reacting truthfully to

Sam Lukowski and Victoria Wile E at mm Concert 13.

I know you as “Spooky,” your fitting nickname considering your work. How did that name come to be?

My nickname has been ‘Spooky’ for a very long time. The short version of the original story is this: I was beaten up by a group of bullies back in elementary school and the name they used to call me was ‘Spooky.’ I hated it at first but when I got to middle and high school my new found love for horror movies and Goth Rock just seemed to fit in nicely with the nickname. The name stuck and I eventually embraced it.

You are an experienced special effects/horror makeup artist as well. Are you planning to continue work in that capacity as well?

I love horror so it’s not really all that surprising that I love special effects make-up. From Lon Chaney to Tom Savini to Dick Smith to Rick Baker to Stan Winston – make-up and animatronics make the unreal real. I love it and I get paid to do it – and that always helps. My girlfriend, Cotty, and I continue to work locally as special effects make-up artists for both film and live theatre. At least once a month we both work with Steve Bauer and Marianne Wittelsberger’s and the rest of their special effect team: ‘The Jokesters’ at Shock Trauma. Basically we are hired to train the doctors so that they know how to deal with patients who are in life or death situations. I love the work because the intensity and realism is an incredible acting exercise.

Do you prefer theater or film?

I prefer film but I think that a film actor should have theatrical training. Here’s the thing – theatre and live performances are a thrill ride for both the audience and the performers – there is an actual event taking place and both spectator and spectacle feed off each other to create the event. In film, the event has already taken place and the audience cannot influence to performance. So really difference is not so much a question of style as it is a question of what you hope to get out of the work. I prefer film because I want to create a memory that will not only out live me but will also never fade or be forgotten. Michael Cane and Lee Strasberg both agreed that while the process of film making was more artificial than the process of a live performance – the end result was equally truthful.

Describe your dream role.

My dream role would either be the romantic lead in a period film for a Hollywood studio or a psychopathic killer in a contemporary crime drama in some big summer blockbuster. Hopefully both will come with time…perhaps more than once.

What is coming up for you?

Auditions – auditions will forever be my future. My goal is to continue working locally as an actor in the indie scene and move out west to L.A.

Sam Lukowski - Makeup Artist - and Matt Shea.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=mIOInkFKYBI