The name Ken Foree needs no introduction in the horror world. A tremendous, versatile actor who’s familiar with fans of the silver and small screen, but will always be a legend to horror fans since his breakout performance as tough as nails Peter in Dawn of the Dead. Since then he’s had stints on TV classic’s such as The X-Files, The A-Team and Kenan & Kel, but over the last decade has teamed with visionary director Rob Zombie and gave us memorable characters such as pimp Charlie Altamont in The Devil’s Rejects and Big Joe Grizzley in Halloween (2007). The great man generously sat down and gave up his time to speak with us a little about his career so far.
Ladies and Gents… The Legend that is Mr. Ken Foree!
Stephen Harper: Mr. Foree it’s an absolute honour that you are chatting with us sir, it’s greatly appreciated. With a CV like yours it’s quite daunting where to begin as you are an absolute legend in the horror community. Did you always want to be an actor, as I heard you we were pretty good at basketball in your younger days?
Ken Foree: I have no idea what else I would do. A journalist perhaps, writer of some kind might be interesting.
Stephen: Obviously Dawn of the Dead was your break-out role that basically started everything. Even though you’ve probably spoken about this a million times over, how important was it landing this role and did you ever think back then it would become the phenomenon it is today?
Ken: I was lucky. It’s a great ride, and I don’t think anyone can predict what will happen with a role or film. I’m sure none of us knew that it would be as successful as it’s been. It hit the silver screen at the right moment for everyone, writer, director, producer, actors, and genre audiences. I don’t think we could have topped it; you never can when it all comes together and that’s exactly what happened with Dawn of the Dead.
Stephen: Did you base the character of Peter on anyone in particular or draw off any influence?
Ken: Yes, it was the seventies and racism was as prevalent as it is today. Peter was isolated in a state of anarchy. I had a few references for the character that helped, but I’m not telling.
Stephen: Did your life literally change overnight after Dawn of the Dead? What were the highs and lows of suddenly becoming famous?
Ken: I received a lot of attention from family members for a while. Basically I was still just a working actor looking for work after it premiered. Much later I discovered how important it was to horror genre fans and cross-over fans as well.
Stephen: You have been in some of the most famous TV shows that are iconic in pop culture, such as; The Fall Guy, The A-Team, Knight Rider, The Dukes of Hazard, T. J. Hooker, Kojak and The X-Files. One of my favourites was Hunter as Fred Dryer was cool as hell. Do you sometimes just sit back and pinch yourself as it’s truly amazing what you’ve achieved? Do you have any funny stories you can share with us from your time on any of these shows?
Ken: Nothing really special about those shows except getting to meet and work with some amazing people I’ve admired. Again it was work and I was glad to get it. Feast or famine, a very exciting time.
Stephen: Being a father and having to sit through endless episodes of various shows on the Disney and Nickelodeon channels, I honestly don’t think anything has ever made me laugh more than Kenan & Kel. I think I began to enjoy it more than my kids. That was a pretty cool gig you landed. How enjoyable was that experience? And do you like orange soda?
Ken: A pie in the face – slap stick comedy is sometimes a lot of fun. Yes, I do as a matter of fact like orange soda; I can’t say the same for Kel.
Stephen: How easy or difficult is it for you to jump into different genres such as horror, then things like Kenan & Kel, or do you treat it as another acting job? Do you favour a specific genre? (Please say horror!)
Ken: Listen, I, like any other actor worth his salt, would like to work continuously on interesting projects. I’ve been blessed to find a nice niche in horror, but it’s not difficult to make the transition from one genre to another = at least it hasn’t been problem during my career.
Stephen: In 2004 Zach Snyder did the impossible and did a very grand job of remaking Dawn of the Dead. You had a sweet little cameo in the movie alongside Tom Savini. Looking back, how well did you think he did considering how beloved the original is?
Ken: Zack did a wonderful job. Different, imaginative, while still keeping true to the original. I thought it was a very good horror film and a tribute to us.
Stephen: Since then it seems every horror film seems to be being remade or rebooted. What do you think of this current trend or do you believe art is dead?
Ken: It’s not easy to come up with creative new ideas to suit the demands sometime. We’re still enjoying brilliant films and I would only have to guess that keeping product on the market to be profitable requires repeats and sequels.
Stephen: 2005 started your relationship with director Rob Zombie, firstly with The Devil’s Rejects. Let’s get something straight, we consider Mr. Zombie to be a modern day genius. We’ve seen all his films, attended his concerts and I even have his snarly face tattooed on my hand (yes I cried like a baby throughout the experience). How familiar were you of him before The Devil’s Rejects and what attracted you to the role?
Ken: I wasn’t familiar with Rob or his previous work and what attracted me to the role was the script, wonderfully written. I’ve sense become a fan of his music and I’m always impressed when I attend one of his concerts. It helps to have a director who you feel comfortable with, and I do with Rob. I enjoy him so it makes the process easier.
Stephen: You’ve come a long way since General Hospital. What would you say your highlights have been so far? And what advice would you give to people wanting to break into the industry?
Ken: Getting up in the morning is a highlight! 🙂 Really too many to mention, but the reality of keeping busy in a very tight market is a huge highlight in one’s life. If I were to give any advice it would be to act, act, act, whenever. Learn something new about the art when you’re not working.
Stephen: You attend film festivals and conventions throughout the year and even have your own festival in the UK named after you – Foree Fest. Do you enjoy attending cons and meeting the fans, or do you find yourself answering the same questions over and over? How do you keep motivated?
Ken: I don’t attend a lot of cons yearly anymore, but it’s always a joy to meet folks who appreciate you and I’m very lucky to have met so many interesting people, who just happen to love me! 🙂 The UK festival was a one-time event, a private party with fans, so it’s not hard to be motivated. Some celebrities are in a different city weekly, that’s not for me.