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My Interview with Actor & Stuntman Jeff Wolfe

     About 2 months ago I attended the Hugh O’ Brian Youth Leadership Conference, otherwise known as HOBY. At this event, as part of Day 2, all participants were able to have lunch with people from different professions. The catch was that you had to be one of the few that signed up. If you didn’t sign up first you probably weren’t going to get in to see the one that you wanted to see. I was fortunate enough to have lunch with Jeff Wolfe.

     As soon as I saw his name on the list, I thought of the first thing that I had to do; IMDB search him. Here, I discovered that he had a wide range of filmography credits. He has been on shows like NCIS, Chuck, the upcoming Revolution, and had recently been in the third highest grossing film of all time, Marvel’s Avengers. In addition to a role in Revolution, he is also directing some of the fighting scenes that take place in the show. See his personal website for more on filmography, here at http://theofficialjeffwolfe.com/ 

     As soon as we sat down and got settled, Jeff opened the group up for a Q&A. Being a Chuck fan, and having seen that he had been on the show, my first question was, “Can you tell me a little about what you did on Chuck?” Jeff explained that he had played the role of a Russian bad guy. He demonstrated speaking in Russian for the group and talked about what happened to his character.

     After he was finished explaining his role on Chuck, someone asked what his favorite stunt was. He was fairly quick to answer. He said that his most memorable stunt was on the set of Punisher: War Zone. He was running along a scaffolding, doubling the punisher, and then had to jump off, into the alley, and directly into a window. He commented that while it was difficult to get it done just right, it was fun. Something that was stressed at HOBY was enjoying what you do and to be passionate about it. I can tell from the short lunch that I had with him that Jeff thoroughly enjoys his work.

     Being a stuntman, we all assumed that he had, had his fair amount of broken limbs. Our assumption was correct. Jeff has had three broken ribs, a torn ACL in his knee, a torn rotator cuff, and numerous broken bones. According to Jeff, one of the most painful injuries occurred on the set of The Green Lantern. He was punched by Ryan Reynolds and flew backwards over a truck at 27 feet per second! He had his shoulder dislocated along with a torn rotator cuff. The very next night he had to do the fight scene that led up to that punch. If that’s not dedication to your job, I don’t know what is! He further explained that if you watch closely you will notice that his character favors one arm in the fight leading up to the punch, as a result of his injury.

     Another item that we were all interested in was how they make some things look so real in films, besides computer special effects. Jeff told us about filming a scene for the movie Drive. He was playing a hitman and Ryan Gosling’s character was going to beat him to death. The group was very interested in the process for faking such a gruesome scene. He said that they had to make a mold of his face and put “blood” on the inside of the mold. Then once it was time to film he did the fighting and then stepped aside while Ryan Gosling kicked the mold to pieces.

     Something else that I noticed on his IMDB credits was all four of the Pirates of the Caribbean films. He seemed to be very proud of his work on the films. He played slightly different roles in all 4 films, but, as could be expected, always played a pirate. He showed all of us a picture of himself with makeup from Pirates 4, which is to the left. Apart from the questions about which roles he had played, there were a wide assortment of questions about the process of auditioning for a role. I understood the general process of it, but figured I would ask to make sure I completely understood it. He explained about how to send in an audition tape or do a live audition. He said that there are many different stages (no pun intended) to getting a role. He said that the stages can go like this.

 1. Send in an audition tape for the role that you are interested in.
 2. If they like your tape they will normally interview you one on one and want to see a live performance.
 3. He also added that if, for whatever reason, you do not get to the 2nd stage you can be selected for a different role. He emphasized that it cannot hurt to audition for a role.

     At the end of the lunch, Jeff gave a number of pieces of advice, both for those going into the acting business and other fields. For those going into the acting business he emphasized the importance of doing independent films and entering into contests. He also said not to be discouraged if you don’t get a lot of roles at first. He stressed that the key to getting jobs in movies and television is connections. At the end of the day, it doesn’t hurt to know someone that can help you. This reminded me of how Josh Holloway got the role for Sawyer in Lost. He tried out for the role of a little different version of Sawyer, but forgot his line and immediately threw out a number of profanities. The producers liked him and rewrote the character for him. This audition, while not successful, gave Holloway the connection that he needed for a major role.

     For those going into other fields he said that whatever your number one goal is, regardless of what it is, you have to give it your all. He criticized having a Plan B because as he put it, “Often Plan B too quickly becomes Plan A”.

     I think that anyone who willingly chooses to spend time with 10 teenagers to discuss his career is someone who genuinely cares about the future generations. To conclude, I would like to thank Jeff Wolfe for taking time out of his day to visit with my group. Also, below is a picture of Jeff Wolfe and I at the lunch.

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