Jon Paul Burkhart appears in the horror movie Sick For Toys, which takes the genre, adds some holiday seasoning, and creates something that will shock you. I had the pleasure of asking Burkhart some questions about his role in the film and his behind the scenes executive producer role, as well as about some of his other projects and appearances. I would like to thank him for taking the time to chat with me and if you are a horror fan you need to check out this interview and Sick for Toys.
Can you share a little bit about yourself?
Sure! Hi, I’m Jon Paul. I’m from Dallas, TX. I studied opera (SMU) and then theatre at the University of Oklahoma. After a few year of doing theatre in Dallas, I moved to LA to continue working as an actor. After being in LA for a few years, I began making fun little short films with a group of friends. One day out of the blue, I happened to be present when a good friend of mine tested positive for HIV. This profoundly influenced me; and I knew I wanted to say something about it, about the immediate experience. So I wrote a short film entitled, STIGMA. Not knowing what I was doing, I (along side my now business partner, David Gunning) produced the film. I never expected to love producing so intensely. STIGMA was accepted into TONS of film fests (Boston, Frameline, etc). After that, we made two more socially conscious pieces…Gunning and I then delved into the horror genre with a short film titled HENRY TOY. HENRY screened and won Best Supporting Actor in the Madrid Int’l Film Fest. After that we decided to start producing features. And just three years later–SICK FOR TOYS was finished!
How would you describe your film Sick for Toys?
Sick, in both senses of the word. Haha. It’s selling as a Horror film. However, it’s more of a psychological thriller. It’s not a slasher film, relying on blood and gore (which I love). It’s a character driven drama which explores themes such as lust, control and family…all with the backdrop of Christmas. It’s a disturbing little film. 🙂
Synopsis: Roy is the nice guy who finishes last. Sick of his current situation, he accepts an invitation to have Christmas dinner with the beautiful and strangely alluring Emilia. Once at dinner, he realizes that Emilia and her oddball brother Edward are not what they seem & he soon ends up fighting for his life.
What surprised me was the characterization of women within the film. Could you share some of your thoughts on how Sick for Toys alters standard horror movie tropes?
The writer, Justin Xavier wanted to show (men) what it was like to be victimized and not believed, the horror of that: When someone is told “You were asking for it,” or “You’re not the victim here.” As far as altering horror movie tropes, I’m not sure how much I can say without giving plot away! But…I think people will be surprised by who they end up caring for, in the end. This story is a slow creepy burn.
How would you describe your character Edward?
He’s an enabler, in a sense. Though his system of morals is completely skewed in the wrong direction. The anti-social behavior, the hostility, the intense mood swings…the self destructive behavior, the guise of control…. One could argue that Edward lacks the “superego” and therefore has no moral compass. He believes whole heartedly that he is safeguarding Emilia. It’s HIS moral imperative. He’s also very sad. And when confronted with the truth of his demons, he falls apart.
What was it like portraying the villainous element within the movie?
Fun. Lol Most of my roles to date have been comedic. So portraying such a broken human being was just fun — artistically satisfying, maybe a better word than just “fun.” I mean, we all have broken parts in us. We have all experienced loss and pain at the hands of those we love. We have all experienced unrequited love. And hopefully, we handle those emotions MUCH differently than Edward. 🙂 Edward’s world is almost Dadaistic in nature.
What were some of the more challenging scenes to film in Sick for Toys?
There is one memorable scene, where the camera is tight on Edward…for two to three minutes. I’m a BIG over preparer. I always break down scenes backwards and forwards, it’s just the kind of actor I am. I like the illusion of control. 🙂 I didn’t prepare for this scene at all. I didn’t know how. So, I went into the scene calm and simply played the intention of the moment. Everything else was an accident. Side note: The most challenging part of that scene was my Mother watching it. Haha.
You not only appear as Edward, but you were also an executive producer on the movie, what was it like balancing those two roles?
Difficult. However, we knew the challenges we faced and spent the needed time in pre production to make sure we were prepared for nearly anything. We didn’t sleep much, sometimes not at all. But honestly, I’d do it again. The reward is worth it. Plus, we are a big family and I couldn’t have more love for these people.
Do you personally have any favorite horror movies?
YES. It’s my favorite genre. I was born on Halloween 1977. My two favorite films are Halloween (original) and Alien. But also: Silence of the Lambs, Texas Chainsaw Massacre (love the remake as well), Hellraiser 1&2, Nightmares on Elm Street: Dream Warriors, uh, so many. Don’t make me pick! PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS!
You’ve appeared in an impressively diverse number of roles, is there a specific genre that you prefer?
I like to work. 🙂 I grew up doing musicals and farce; so any chance to do more subtle work is always rewarding. Having a background in music, I’m dying to do a musical.
Edward isn’t your only horror connected role, you previously appeared in the series American Horror Story during the second season, Asylum. What was it like acting on AHS?
When I auditioned for the role, it was one page and two lines. When production couriered me the script and I realized I had more scenes and the pleasure of being murdered by THE Francis Conroy…I about flipped. It’s a wonderful show and group of people. Ms. Conroy and I were similar actors and worked well together. And getting to watch Jessica Lange perform was a master class in subtle intensity. I actually still have my blood soaked undies in a props bag. lol
Outside of the horror genre, you’ve appeared on the series Netflix series, GLOW. What were some of your favorite moments?
I don’t think season two has aired yet so I don’t think I can say much but, AMAZING First AD. And it’s always fun to work on a well oiled machine where everyone likes what they do…and seemingly, each other.
Could you share some details about any of your upcoming projects?
David Gunning, of Delco-Cut Productions, and myself are in development on two new horror projects. One is a horror comedy written by Justin Xavier, who wrote Toys. We plan to lens that in the Mojave in the next few months. The second is a gruesome drama, centered around a family hidden in the mountains (written by me). David Del Rio is set to direct both projects.
Thank you again to Jon Paul Burkhart and make sure to check him out as Edward in Sick for Toys.
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