Iron Chef America chairman Mark Dacascos
Long before he became the Chairman on Food Network’s Iron Chef America or was cast as Wo Fat, Detective Steve McGarrett’s archenemy in the new re-imagined Hawaii Five-0 TV series, actor and martial artist Mark Dacascos played Eric Draven, an avenger from beyond the grave in The Crow: Stairway to Heaven.
This 1998 syndicated TV series is a continuation of the 1994 feature film The Crow starring the late Brandon Lee. In it, Dacascos’ character of Eric is a brilliant young rock musician who is brutally murdered along with the love of his life, Shelly Webster. Caught between life and death, Eric’s restless soul is possessed by The Crow, an unstoppable force against evil. At first, our hero believes he has been returned to Earth for a singular purpose, but soon realizes that is not the case.
“Eric is an extremely passionate individual and, obviously, very much in love with Shelly,” explains Dacascos. “When he comes back, of course, all he wants is revenge. As The Crow he wants nothing more than to visit upon the muggers exactly what they gave to him and Shelly. As the series goes on, however, Eric comes to see that it’s not about just him and Shelly. He realizes that everybody and everything is in some way connected directly or indirectly and that his every action affects others and, ultimately, the universe.”
The actor was on-location working on another project when his manager and agent were approached by one of The Crow: Stairway to Heaven executive producers, Edward R. Pressman, and co-producer Jeff Most about Dacascos’ possible involvement in the series.
“We met with them and a few executives from PolyGram Television [the series’ American distributors],” he recalls. “We discussed the concept of the show, how they would handle character development and numerous other issues relating to its production.
“It all sounded great to us. They wanted me to come back to audition and that was quite exciting. We actually did it on film. They hired a director specifically for the audition and also brought in a makeup artist, hair stylist and wardrobe specialist to give me the look of The Crow. I read four or five scenes with a couple of different actors in as many hours. It was like a normal shooting day on the set, only I wasn’t required to do any action sequences. I guess they knew I could handle the physical demands that went along with the role but had to be sure I could carry lines and so forth. So I did all that and a short time later they offered me the part.”
In the show’s premiere episode “The Soul Can’t Rest,” Eric Draven returns a year later to the site where he and Shelly (Sabine Karsenti) were killed. Not quite sure whether he is alive or dead, Draven begins to piece together events of that evening and discovers that he and Shelly were murdered by contract killers. The case is still being investigated by the police, and the officer in charge, Detective Daryl Albrecht (Marc Gomes), suspects that Eric staged his own death and murdered Shelly. It is up to Draven, with some assistance from The Crow, to set the record straight.
“Things were a bit intense during the filming of the pilot,” says Dacascos. “There was a lot of pressure on everybody. Several executives were on the set for the first few days of shooting and here I was still trying to figure out the physicalities of The Crow and of Eric. The cast and crew were also getting to know each other and trying to jell. Fortunately we did and, I thought, rather quickly.
“I loved working with director Kari Skogland, who did the pilot and our second story [“Souled Out”]. It was scary, though, jumping into not one but two characters and trying to bring them to life - no pun intended,” he jokes. “As an actor you’re given the chance to rehearse and to get the feel of your character. However, until you’re actually on the set, dressed in the clothes as well as the makeup and there with the actors you don’t quite know what is going to come out of you and that’s the beauty of it. If you’re open to spontaneity then some terrific things can happen. So it was scary but at the same time extremely exciting. It was physically tiring, too, because when I wasn’t in front of the cameras as Eric or The Crow I was thinking about the characters and how to play them.”
In “Souled Out,” Eric tracks down his and Shelly’s killer and, as The Crow, is nearly destroyed trying to defeat this superhuman adversary. While his victory exonerates him in Detective Albrecht’s eyes, it does not grant Draven passage to “the other side” and his much anticipated reunion with Shelly. Eric’s soul has been sent here to fight for those unable to defend themselves. Each wrong he rights as The Crow brings him closer to crossing the bridge between life and death. “Shelly is my character’s one and only soul mate,” says Dacascos. “He would trade anything for her. Eric loves her without reservation and knowing that he will one day be with her is what keeps him going.”
Please note, all The Crow: Stairway to Heaven photos above copyright of Alliance Communications.