Recently, I had the privilege of having a wonderful telephone conversation with Rick Worthy, a talented and skilled actor from stage and screen. He plays a mysterious character on ”Supernatural“: the Alpha Vampire. He is genuinely a very honest and sincere person, easy to get along with, an absolute pleasure to talk to, and probably one of the best conversationalists that I ever met.
The son of a retired UAW executive, Mr. Worthy is a native of the Detroit/Southfield area. He graduated from Southfield Senior High School in 1985, and then from the University of Michigan in 1990. First a stage actor in Detroit, Rick later moved to Chicago where he worked with several prestigious theatre companies before moving to Los Angeles to focus on television and film work.
Rick has played in a number of television shows and films and is no stranger to the Sci-Fi genre. He is a "Star Trek" veteran, having played several aliens and one human role in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”, “Star Trek: Voyager” and “Star Trek: Enterprise”. He has also appeared in the Star Trek movie “Insurrection.“ He guest-starred in "The Warrior", an episode of “Stargate SG-1”, where he made use of his Tae Kwon Do and stunt fighting skills as the Goa'uld Imhotep, and he appeared on the 2003–09 re-imagined version of “Battlestar Galactica” as Cylon model number Four, often referred to as "Simon". He has also appeared in episodes of “CSI”, “Dark Angel”, “Odyssey 5”, “Heroes,” and in my favorite series “The Magnificent Seven” as Nathan Jackson…a total of 55 acting appearances overall.
Of course, we know him best as the first vampire ever, the Alpha Vamp from season 6 and 7 of “Supernatural”. Hopefully, he will be in season 8, as well.
Rick talks about his career, his roles, his experiences on the “Supernatural set, what the series means to him, and a special message for “Supernatutal” fans everywhere. He has a few spoilers for season 8, also, so forewarned is forearmed.
Many thanks, Rick, for taking the time to talk with me. You are an extremely blessed individual, and I wish you a long and happy career.
Sablegreen: You hail from Detroit, where your father was a United Auto Worker executive and union rep and your mother owned and operated a photo restoration company. How did you go from that background to acting?
Rick: Well, I grew up in Detroit, Michigan, and later moved to Illinois. I got started in theater in Detroit and also as a student in college, University of Michigan. And gradually did small bit parts in commercial and things like that. One day I just really realized that's what I wanted to do. I moved to New York for a little while, went back to Chicago and went into theater in that area and was happy.
S: Being in theater first, how do you compare acting in theater to acting in television. Is there a difference?
R: It's very different, and I think a lot of actors have difficulty making the transition from stage to camera. And, believe it or not, stage acting is more lifelike than camera acting. Camera acting is extremely intimate; a lot of close-up, or extreme close-up shots, and it's kind of not lifelike. Stage gives you the opportunity to often time raise your voice or lower your voice or move around, and when you're acting on camera you can't always move around because you'd be out of the shot, or you'll be in the shadow, and they can't see you. So there is a lot of technical things you probably have to know for acting that’s more difficult. When I was on “Star Trek”, LeVar Burton and Jonathan Frakes always told me, "you're wonderful, but you got to learn where the camera is, you got to learn where the light is, all those things that are going to help your performance." So those are all the little technical things that stage actors need to learn when they do camera acting.
S: So you mentioned your Star Trek roles. I remember you as Noah in “Star Trek Voyager,“ and your other favorite series for me was the western, “Magnificent Seven.” Do you prefer westerns or science fiction for acting?
R: I grew up with the dad who watched John Wayne every weekend. There was always a Western on; if it wasn't John Wayne it was another kind Western. My dad was a huge, huge fan of classic John Ford movies, and it seemed like those were the ones that were always on television. I liked them. I didn't love them like I did science fiction stuff. It's ironic because one of my first big gigs in L.A. was “Magnificent Seven.” My dad was thrilled that I took that job because he's a Western fan. I totally 100% love and respect it. I remember one of the stunt coordinators said, "I'll tell you something; if you can shoot a Western, you can shoot anything. It will prepare you to do anything," and he was absolutely right. After I was done with that show, unfortunately as you know it was canceled… way too soon (S: I totally agreed), I was like, "I can fight, I can ride, I can shoot weapons, I can be outside," because before that I was used to being inside on stage. And when I did “Magnificent Seven,” we were outside four days out of six, so I felt prepared to do anything after that.
S: I noticed that you've done a lot of Sci-Fi's. Do you prefer that or would you like to go back to the Westerns?
R: I would always like to do [them], I mean especially after having watched some really great ones. I have been watching the "Hatfields & McCoys". It's so excellent. If I can do another Western, I'd like it to be if not a series maybe a movie or miniseries and have it be just as good as the "Hatfields & McCoys".
S: In your sci-fi roles, you have had some fantastic makeup done for some of the characters you portrayed. How long did it take to become Jannar from "Star Trek: Enterprise " or the Elloran officer from "Star Trek: Insurrection"?
R: It took a long time. Depends on the character, but Jannar and the officer took 2-3 hours, and it took half that time to take it off in the evening. So it's very common to be sitting in the makeup chair at Paramount Studios at 5:30 AM, which means I'm up at 4:00 AM to drag myself into the makeup chair.
The one thing that I hate is when they're gluing on the different parts of the face. The glue is really cold. Can you imagine if someone's packing your face with cold glue and spraying paint onto your face? But once you get through that, it's okay. That to me was the most annoying part of it, but I looked at it like “Star Trek” is like one of the best gigs in the world, so go ahead with the glue. It was a lovely job, and other people do their makeup, so it was fine.
S: Speaking of makeup, the only thing you wore for the Alpha Vampire was long fingernails. I'm assuming they were glued on as well. Were they a problem for you? Did you have trouble keeping them on or using your hands to hold things?
R: Those were the same nails we used in "Family Matters," which was about a year and a half ago. From what I understand, they've been sitting there in a cage waiting for me. When I got back up there, they pulled them out. They're pretty sharp and durable. You can scar yourself with them or scratch yourself or someone else if you're not careful, so I was always wary of picking up something or someone handing me something. The hardest part was when I had to use the bathroom or when it was lunch time. It was extremely awkward to try to pick up food with those nails, and it was doubly more awkward to relieve myself. So what we did was we worked out a way of removing maybe two or three of them so I can have some dexterity with my hands.
S: A friend of mine is a great fan of yours from “Battlestar Galactica,” and she wanted me to ask you, if the Alpha Vamp and Simon got into a battle, who would win?
R: I've never been asked that before. Great question! The Alpha vamp would definitely win, but he would get extremely soft and tired because Simon would regenerate and come back. Simon would say, "okay, fine, kill me, but I'll be back in 20 seconds." There are many copies of Simon. There's one surefire way to eliminate all copies if you watch the show; that's to get them out of range of their resurrection ship because that way they can’t download their consciousness. In fact, they did that on the show. They just nuked the resurrection ship, and that way they can't renew themselves.
S: For the Alpha Vamp role on "Supernatural," how did you get the part? Did you audition for it? Were you aware of the series before you took the role?
R: My manager called me and said there was a great role coming up on "Supernatural", the world's first vampire, and I should read for it. She knows how I felt about "Supernatural", that I really wanted to be on the show, and I had auditioned probably five or six times before. I additioned for the role Crowley, which I thought was a great role, and was devastated, just devastated [when I didn’t get it]. I remember the day I found out, I think I hit the bar pretty early. Donna, my agent, called me, and I just knew she was going to say I got the job…get ready to pack up and go play Crowley. But she said I didn't get the job, they gave it to a British actor named Mark Sheppard. Then I was like, "oh, man!" And any actor will lie if they tell you it doesn't hurt. Even Tom Cruise. And it has nothing to do with money; you just want to be the guy that plays the role. I knew Mark from “Battlestar Galactica.” He's a wonderful actor, and I knew he'd do a great job. I was happy for him, but I was devastated.
S: The Alpha vamp is a great role. Were you aware it was going to be a reoccurring character? Did you think it would just be one episode appearance?
R: I think the deal was initially two. They did "Family Matters," and they did the dream sequence where Dean becomes a vampire, and they wanted me to film that. So I went up and filmed them both at the same time. I was not sure I would come back. That wasn't written anywhere on paper, but the rumors kept floating around on set, and when I went to a couple of conventions people would always ask me, "are you returning? When are you returning?" So I was hoping they would return me, and people were hoping I would return, as well, and I think Guy Bee was one of them. I knew that Guy had really loved what I did and I heard the producers really loved what I did, so there was a rumor going around we may bring him back but we don't know when. So I'm glad they did because I always said if I can just get one more chance to play him that would be great. Either just one more episode or two or six or eight, I don't care.
S: Well, the last episode was really a shocker when you came out with "See you next season". When that episode was filmed, it was not known by the fans that the series had been renewed. We found out just before the episode aired. Did everyone on set know of the renewal or was it just considered a foregone conclusion? It was almost assured the series would return.
R: I don't know if they knew they were going to be renewed. I think perhaps they did but they couldn't maybe say it yet. When I read the scripts, I said, "okay, this means they are going to a season eight," which is great because that's what everybody wanted. I said to Guy, "Do you think it's real for the Alpha vamp to say ‘See you next season’? Maybe we can shoot a new version where he says ‘See you soon.’" So we shot two versions. Both of them worked really well. And the producer chose "See you next season ". So I guess they probably knew, but they couldn't make an announcement.
S: Well, you survived, and it's hard to survive on that show, so we do expect to see you back in season eight.
R: Yeah, my mother is like, "don't ever die."
S: Is the Alpha vampire ever going to get a name?
R: I know his name….his real true name. It's a very, very long name and he comes from royal ancestry. So the way he eats and talks…everything about him is regal. And I hope there's a chance for his name to come out. It will have to be totally worked out with the writers and producers. That is building an independent character with last and final secrets. They have a lot of secrets, and that's probably one of the biggest ones because it's the key to his origin….where he comes from.
S: So if the character continues on the series, how would you expect him to evolve? Do you have any direction specifically that you'd like to see him go in?
R: Yeah, I think there's been a couple of times when he said he has unfinished business with the Winchesters. And there's a conflict that needs to happen between him and the two brothers, but I think there's also a bigger conflict that needs to happen, as well. There is a war coming, I believe, and hopefully he's going to be part of it. Whose side he is going to be on, I think, is crucial to the survival of his character. So it may be that he makes some kind of an alliance with the Winchesters. But it's the kind of an alliance that has a lot of gray in between. You know he can't quite trust them, but you know they need him. So that's why when I read the script [for] “There Will be Blood," I was like, "okay this is going to go down." This script is really written well because he reluctantly gives up his blood to help them out. He doesn't just give it to them. There has to be a bit of a showdown first, and then he decides that, "okay, I'll help rescue you." It was so well written because it takes a lot for him to give up his blood. So if and when he comes back in season eight, I would love to try to continue along those lines were he'd like to help the Winchesters but he's not just giving up easily.
S: Wow! It sounds like they have a whole personality worked out for him. I hope I get to see more of that in season eight for sure!
So what are the dynamics of working on the set like, especially with Jensen and Jared? We've heard so many stories about how they play tricks on people and how every one likes it there. Did you have a good time with them?
R: I did. I almost retired last year. You know, I think people think we live glamorous lives, and everything is great, that we’re always flying off somewhere. Reality is that very few people live that way, and I'm not one of them. And I found myself wondering whether or not I could continue making a living as an actor. I mean, things are really, really tough for me the last couple years. So I had a little discussion with the man upstairs, or woman upstairs if you want, and wondered whether or not I should continue on, and "Supernatural" came along and literally saved my life. It brought me back to the game and gave me refocus, sort of why I'm here. So it all kind of lead up to -- until ”Supernatural,” I hadn’t worked in probably almost a year, and that's extremely unusual. I should probably say that's extremely unusual for me, because I'm use to working more than that. And when I got the job, I remember flying on the plane and thinking, "this is great. I just hope Jared and Jensen on the coolest guys in the world," because, not to give out any names, but I have definitely worked with some real jerks. High-profile people, and when it was over, I remember saying there was no way I would work with that person again. In the case of Jared and Jensen, these guys are the coolest, nicest, humblest television stars around. They really, I think, appreciate what they have, and I think they very much enjoy what they do. And that kind of tone is great and so unusual for that to happened, so I was just elated, and when it's over I'm going to miss really it.
Jared and Jensen, they kind of break that snobby, arrogant type of behavior. They have it all, and they don't carry that arrogance on their shoulders. It was a wonderful experience for me. I'm probably a good 10 years older than both of those guys. I'm kind of like the big brother on set. They were just super cool, and I hope that they continue to be that way.
S: Of all the series you have been in, which was your favorite? And no, you don't have to say "Supernatural."
R: I have to say there were about three, and a couple you guys haven't even seen because they were pilots that were never picked up. So "Supernatural” is on that list. I did a pilot two years ago, and it was just a great experience where I played the mayor of Boston. It was a cool role, and you got to hang out with the Boston guys and went to the Boston Garden and watch basketball. It was so much fun, and it was a great experience, but unfortunately the network didn't pick it up. And when I went to do “Battlestar,” that was a phenomenal experience, as well. It was a dream come true for me personally in that the cast was awesome. They were all very, very cool to work with. I had no idea that “Battlestar” would be as successful as it was. When I watched the pilot, I knew it was great. Probably one of the best things I'd seen a long time. Even today I will be in a restaurant or it will be 1:00 AM, and I'm coming out of a drugstore and someone is staring at me. And I'm like, "why are they staring at me?" And sure enough, they’ll say, "hey, aren't you a Cylon?" They developed a huge following, and to this day they are a well-respected show.
S: So, what plans are in your future? Hopefully you will be doing more "Supernatural," but any other shows or movies that you are going to be doing that you could tell us about?
R: Yeah, if you turn on a radio in California, you'll probably hear my voice for the California Highway Patrol. I'm doing a “Don't Drink and Drive” campaign. And if you are in my small group of friends, you would know that you don't drink and drive with me. If we are going to go out, I'll be the designated driver and make sure everyone gets home safe. A couple of good people that I liked died because of drunk driving, so I'm happy to help them out with that.
Another project is a sci-fi animated film which I put together last year. I'm not in it as an actor but I produced it. And I did voiceover for one of the characters. But it's all animated, and what my buddy and I are doing now is shopping it around trying to get people interested. And what can I say, that's not fun. Its business and its phone calling and e-mailing and all that sort of junk.
R: You have been doing some "Supernatural" conventions. I saw you last year at the Chicago convention, and hopefully you will do that one again this year. You seem to be having a good time. Do you enjoy doing those?
R: I do. Even now I'm still a rookie, maybe not a rookie because I'm more well-connected. When I did Chicago last year, that was my second convention. But I did do Jersey last year only because an actor couldn’t make it. And I don't have an agent for conventions, so Creation got hold of my phone number and called me. They said they were Creation and they do conventions for “Supernatural” and a few other shows that you may have heard of, like "Star Trek." (Laughs) They said another actor couldn't make it to New Jersey and wanted to know if I was interested. I said, "are you serious? I'd love to go. What do I need to do?" They said, "nothing. Just bring yourself we'll take care of the plane and everything else." It was awesome. I didn't do karaoke there, I chickened out. But in Chicago, I did karaoke and loved it. I think Creation liked having me be there, and they asked me if I'd like to do Los Angeles/Burbank convention. And it just so happened to be a week before my 45th birthday. I was overwhelmed and happy that they had invited me.
S: So if you have a message for "Supernatural" fans, what would it be?
R: I thank everyone so much for your incredible support of "Supernatural." And I'm overwhelmed by the response to the Alpha Vampire. I'm touched tremendously in my heart, and it makes me feel alive again. And I can't thank you guys enough. This character has managed to make me feel like an actor again and to be back in the game again. And that's all I ever really wanted.