Duking It Out: Interview with Dragon Day's Ethan Flower

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Actor Ethan Flower

In today’s world, no country can feel 100% safe from an attack by a foreign power, especially if the assault is technological in nature. The upcoming 2013 independent feature film Dragon Day shows the United States of America falling victim to such a crippling security breech, and to make matters worse, the threat comes not only from outside forces, but also those operating inside the U.S. border. As the proverbial dominoes begin to fall around them, a man, Duke Evans, and his family must fight for survival.

“I would describe Duke Evans as the consummate hero,” says actor Ethan Flower, who takes the lead in this present day struggle to stay alive. “He’s a guy who really wants to do the best for his family as well as everyone around him. He is faced with problems, though, some of which seem to be beyond his control. Duke’s reactions to these situations are very human and, again, they happen because he’s trying to protect those he loves. Sometimes Duke makes bad decisions and other times he makes good decisions according to what’s going on around him at any given time.

“From the moment I first heard about this project and the role of Duke, I felt an affinity for the character and had quite a good understanding of what he was facing. Sometimes when you go in to audition for certain parts, they can be close to you and other times they can be far removed from who you are, do you know what I mean? That’s not necessarily representative of whether the role fits you or not, but rather how you react to the writing and the piece as a whole. This character, however, seemed to be really close to me and fit me very well.

“I had, I think, three callbacks, and each time I went in I dressed quite casually in jeans, a button-down shirt and cowboy boots. I’d also nod off while sitting there waiting to be called into the audition room,” he says with a chuckle. “I would sort of drift and zone out, which actually worked in my favor. I was able to clear my mind and audition as myself. It must have worked because I ended up getting the role.”

When, in Dragon Day, the U.S. defaults on its debt to China, the latter superpower launches a devastating cyberattack on an unsuspecting America. All “Made in China” computer chips unleash a secret virus that lays waste to the U.S. infrastructure, forcing power, communications and transportation to grind to a halt. Basics such as food and water become sought-after commodities for all of U.S. society, including Duke Evans and his family. On the surface it appears as though the source of the problem is thousands of miles away and on foreign soil, but there is a pervading evil closer to home that also threatens the liberties and freedoms on which the U.S. is based. Duke’s suspicions are raised early on to the impending danger, but such foresight does little to cushion the perils facing him and his loved ones.

“My character is an independent contractor who has been working on some very important projects for the NSA [National Security Agency],” explains Flower.  “All of a sudden, the agency isn’t hiring him anymore and Duke can’t understand why. He’s being inundated with bills, his house is being foreclosed upon and he has no income, but the burden of continuing to take care of his family remains on his shoulders.

“Duke’s grandfather, who passed away, left him this little cabin in the woods, and he’s basically left with two options: get divorced or move up to his cabin with his wife and daughter. Duke is now faced with the challenge of trying to be this strong man, yet he’s emasculated by the financial crisis and loss of income. My character’s story arc and subsequent change involves his negative reaction to the people he initially meets and who come into his life at the cabin. For example, Duke meets a Mexican man Alonso [Eloy Mendez] who’s squatting in the cabin. At first he’s scared for his family and wants Alonso to get the hell out, but ironically this stranger is the one who helps save Duke’s family.

“My character goes from resenting this illegal alien to embracing him, which is something you don’t see in the movie’s trailer. I won’t give away the ending of the film, but the whole idea of acceptance and rejection has a lot to do with that. So my character goes from this stubborn hero to one who is willing to give up absolutely everything to save those he loves. The disaster that strikes brings Duke and his family closer together, and their love as well as trust for one another grows stronger in the face of an exterior force that is trying to break them apart.

“Duke’s other main ‘relationship’ in the movie is with him and the people working against him at the NSA, including one of his friends there, Phil, played by Scott McNairy. He was sort of Duke’s boss and their friendship is really interesting because it takes an unexpected turn.”

A native of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Flower navigated some rather choppy waters while growing up, but his efforts were eventually rewarded when he discovered his passion for acting.

“I led a sort of bizarre childhood and one mixed with a combination of very lower class and very upper class upbringing,” recalls the actor. “When I was around five years old, my mother got remarried to a British man who had quite a lot of money. Before that, we were literally sharing an apple for dessert. When you’re young, though, you just don’t understand certain things, so I had a great deal of anger inside me. My second father certainly provided for us, which was fantastic, but he wasn’t really there for me much emotionally or as a father, so I had a lot of lost father anger inside me, too.

“When I was 11, I discovered The Berkshire Theatre Festival. I met a woman there, Josephine Abady [artistic director], who was auditioning children for small parts in a play called The Rose Tattoo starring Cicely Tyson and Hector Elizondo. I got one of the parts, and during the show, me and a couple of other kids would run across the stage and scream a couple of lines. It was such a magical feeling to have an audience watching you and trying to figure out what you were going to do next," he enthuses. “That was especially true for an angry little child who spent most of his time stealing from cars or the school and hiding out in the mountains from fire department search teams.

“All of a sudden I was up onstage and the center of attention. After a performance or during intermission, we’d go downstairs and Hector would be singing and playing guitar to me in the dressing room. Here were all these older actors who seemed to love so much what they did. They ‘lived’ in these roles where it seemed like anything was possible. I couldn’t get enough of it and had to do more [acting]. Summer after summer I continued working at the Berkshire Theatre, and then one day Josephine said to me, ‘You should think about doing this as a profession.’ She suggested that I go to a high school in Michigan called the Interlochen Center for the Arts, so I did, and that was that. Theatre became my family and it gave me the father figures I was lacking at home. It took me years to understand that, and that’s what drove me into the theatre.”

After graduating from Interlochen, the actor spent a brief period of time at Carnegie Mellon University and then at the age of 19 traveled to England where he lived for six years and continued his studies at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA). “I learned a great deal and had an incredible experience in London,” notes Flower. “I worked professionally in the theatre and did a number of plays and a bit of TV. After a while, I started missing American writing as well as living in America, so I moved back to the States. I eventually came out here to California and that’s where I’ve been ever since.”

On TV, Flower has appeared in such series as The Young and the Restless, Passions, ER, Go On and The Spoils of Babylon, while his big screen credits include Live Free or Die Hard, Willoughby, Calling Lights and The Chaos Factor. “It’s probably not the best film in the world, but The Chaos Factor was my first meaty role, and I was scared,” admits the actor. “I was playing a soldier, which wasn’t something that came naturally to me because I grew up in a family of artists. The stillness and severity of this character wasn’t something I was used to, so my performance was a little staid, but I still had fun doing it and enjoyed the challenge.”

Having found a professional “family” that thinks like him, there is no other job that the actor would rather be doing. That familial feeling, though, is just one aspect of acting that makes such a career rewarding for Flower.

“I’ve recently come to understand that the reason I love doing what I do for a living is having the opportunity to work on material that can alter a viewers’ perception of the world and make them ask questions,” he muses. “Dragon Day does that a little bit and there are definitely some things that happen in it that will make people think a hell of a lot more about what they do on the Internet and that everything we rely on is fragilely connected. To be able to tell such messages and try to alter even one persons’ perception of their life is such a blessing to me.”

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A native of Massachusetts, Steve Eramo has been a Sci-Fi fan since childhood, having been brought up on such TV shows as Star Trek and Space: 1999. He is also an Anglophile and lover of British TV. A writer for 35 years – 17 of those as a fulltime freelancer – Steve has had over 2,500 feature-length…

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