The mental health profession is one seldom really spoken about, with much of the focus being placed on the mental patients and how to best treat them. However, what many don’t understand is the toll that psychiatrists, especially emergency room psychiatrists, take by working in a constant state of madness. In his latest project, THE DEAD CENTER, actor Shane Carruth explores this idea of madness impacting madness in his character Daniel Forrester, an ER psychiatrist who works hard to try to help others while dealing with the state of disorder around him.
For the upcoming theatrical release of THE DEAD CENTER, I got the opportunity to interview actor and producer Shane Carruth about the film. During the interview, we discussed everything from how Shane tackled the research portion of developing the role of Daniel Forrester in THE DEAD CENTER to how the personal topic and theme of death and inevitability speaks to me, as well as how the character of Daniel Forrester reminded him of a younger self.
Thank you so much for speaking with me today, Shane. To start things off, can you tell me how you became involved with THE DEAD CENTER?
Shane Carruth: I came to be involved with the project because they sent me the script and I liked it. And so, I said yep. I liked it so much. Billy’s exploration into the void. The darkness. The offscreen forces and I said yes.
I’m curious about diving deep into your character, Daniel Forrester. Did you do research into developing the character of Daniel Forrester? Was he fleshed out in the script? I’m just curious about how he evolved once you came onto the project.
Shane Carruth: I went looking for what a psychiatrist was because I don’t know those people. There’s a documentary on Youtube about Bellevue and I sent that to the production team and I said, “Is this what we’re doing?” And they said yeah. And it’s a documentary that shows that doctors don’t really cure anymore. It’s just processing. Nothing gets better. They bring these people in. The patients spend eight hours in an isolated environment and then they leave, expecting to be better, and then they come back the next week. And the doctors are being driven mad while their patients are being driven mad. That and maybe some other books. I visited a hospital in Albuquerque to try to get a sense of what the hell is going on with these guys. That’s what I did.
It’s interesting that you mention that because Daniel is someone who is dealing with his own psychological trauma while administering care to patients. I’m curious about how you tackled balancing his professional, psychiatric side and his more emotionally vulnerable side that resides underneath that role of psychiatrist.
Shane Carruth: What would be an example of an answer to that question?
[laughs] Probably you did what came naturally. Having seen the film you can tell that he’s wearing his emotions on his sleeve.
Shane Carruth: That’s the key to Daniel. This is at least what Billy was okay with. My approach was this is me. It’s just me. We’re all broken. We’ve all had trauma. We’ve all seen things. We’re all dealing with it. So, it’s great. I have dealt with those things. I’ve seen those things and so, I just showed up and more or less just pretended to be Daniel. It’s just me. It’s just me.
On a more personal note, the film talks a lot about the inevitability of death. Death can come at any time and we see various examples of this throughout the course of the film. I’m curious what about this theme really spoke to you. Because you said that the project was dark and that it was real, but I am just curious about how you felt about the theme of inevitability.
Shane Carruth: Hm. How do I say this? I have a lot of people in my life that I know and I love and they have got trauma in their past. And I love them and I try to learn from how they crawled from that dark place. And I guess that’s how I saw Daniel. Even though it’s a horror/thriller/sub logical drama, all that stuff – great. His path is trying to put the past in the past and it seems to be the universal trait that we all have once we reach a certain age. I don’t know. Maybe that doesn’t answer anything.
Well, it gives me insight on how that theme hits you in a way because of inevitability. It’s inevitable that we’re exposed to trauma and sometimes trauma is linked to death. So, this gives me insight.
Shane Carruth: I’ve gotten into meditation in the last year. Small things like making tea processes things that constitute life on earth. So, I think Daniel is in a place where he hasn’t gotten there yet. He doesn’t have those little things. He doesn’t have those little meditations. And he’s being driven mad because he’s dealing with madness all day. Every day. He sleeps on a couch. So, I don’t know. To me, that was my life between 30 and 40 and now I realize I can’t do that anymore. I have to create a day that has a clock, has three meals a day, has running in the morning, has meditation. Tiny processes that get us through this thing. So, I was attracted to Daniel because he’s just not there yet. He just doesn’t see it yet.
And, in a way, it’s a revisitation of self for you it sounds like.
Shane Carruth: Yeah. For sure.
I’m just going to end with this final question. Do you have any upcoming projects that we should be keeping our eyes out for?
Shane Carruth: I do, but I can’t say anything about them right now. I would love to talk to you in the future about the things that are happening, but yeah.
THE DEAD CENTER will be released in select UK and US Cinemas, and on 4k Digital HD, on October 11, 2019. It will also be available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray from October 22.