Neal McDonough plays another wicked role in ‘Apex’

Rick's Reviews

Neal McDonough (left) and Bruce Willis star in “Apex.” (Photo courtesy of RLJE Films)

BAKERFIELD, Calif. (OPINION) — Neal McDonough is good at playing bad. He’s actually better than good at bringing to life some of the most wicked characters to come this way in TV and film. McDonough is considered by many critics to be one of the best at portraying bad guys. That’s a big compliment for a man who brings a deep humbleness to work with him every day.

His latest turn at taking on a terrible character is “Apex.” The film – available Nov. 12 through On Demand and other digital platforms – has McDonough portraying Rainsford, a ruthless hunter of humans. He and his five hunting buddies finally meet a worthy prey in ex-cop Thomas Malone (Bruce Willis) serving time for a crime he didn’t commit. He is offered a chance at freedom if he can survive a deadly game of Apex.

McDonough’s character could be described as a psychopath, sociopath or just the most arrogant person on the planet. That is the opposite of how McDonough decided to play him.

“I see him as the hero of the film,” McDonough says with a smile. “Whenever I play these crazy villains, I love tapping into them because they are not only so different from myself but from everybody.

“To play a billionaire who is bored with life and now instead of hunting game is hunting human beings is a pretty interesting character to delve into especially for a person who is so God fearing and humble in real life.”

The fact he considers his character the hero of “Apex” – despite all of the evil things he does – comes from having Rainsford believe that no matter how his actions look to others, he is certain everything he is doing is justified. He knows that the audience will pick up on this and realize the character is definitely a psychopath.

He calls the opportunity to play these complex crazed characters – or even the times like in “Band of Brothers” when he took on a hero’s role – as fantastic opportunities. The Massachusetts native has been dealing with these opportunities for more than three decades both on TV and in films.

His TV credits include “Boomtown,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Arrow,” “Flash,” “Yellowstone” and “Justified.” His latest small screen work is playing Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 10th season of “American Horror Story.”

McDonough is convinced his work as Eisenhower is one of his best acting performances. That comes from how much he lost himself in the role and tapped into playing the former President.

He’s been seen on the big screen in  “Walking Tall,” “Red 2,” “Flags of Our Father,” “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” and “Minority Report.” He made a leap into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the role of Dum Dum Dugan in “Captain America: The First Avenger.”

The bigger-than-life nature of the role of Dugan is one of the exceptions to the way McDonough generally plays roles. Over the years he realized that he could make both villains and heroes more interesting by playing them with quiet control. In other words, he tapped into his own way of living life to use as the foundation for the characters.

“It took a while to be able to play roles by simply being myself. I am quite a more quiet person. I can act crazy and be the life of the party but me personally, I am much more of a quieter, shy guy,” McDonough says. “So for me, playing a controlled character means that my character is always thinking.

“And, that’s like me in real life. I don’t like to have any dead space. It works for my characters especially in the last few years where I have played characters that are in my wheelhouse.”

McDonough is certain that the more he brings of himself to a character, the more the audience will appreciate the work. He has always loved acting but the fact he is playing more and more of himself is making work more of a joy than ever.

No matter how much of himself he brings to a role, McDonough attacks every role with the same acting intensity whether it be a theatrical release with a massive budget or a smaller film being released digitally. He feels like that is his obligation as an actor.

“The life that God has given me with my family and being in 100 movies and a thousand other television roles, it is pretty humbling and awesome that I have been given this gift,” McDonough says. “The last thing I want to do is let the audience down and not be entertaining.

“I never want to ever hear anyone say McDonough phoned that one in. My dad told me when I went to Hollywood that if they pay you a buck, give them two dollars worth of effort. That’s what I pride myself on.”

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