- Interview by Thief12 (Carlo Giovannetti)
Charlie Hofheimer is an American actor who appeared in the 24 spin-off, 24: Legacy. Raised in Brooklyn, New York, Hofheimer began acting at an early age, appearing in notable films like Lassie, Father's Day, Music of the Heart, Black Hawk Down, and The Village.
Aside from films, Hofheimer has appeared in numerous shows like Law & Order, NCIS, House, and a recurring role on AMC's hit show Mad Men. Wiki 24 interviewed Hofheimer to know about his life and career, his experience filming 24: Legacy, as well as his future projects.
The following interview was done by phone on February 1, 2017. It was coordinated along with Hofheimer's manager, Vera Mihailovich, and Adrianne Sandoval, at Forward Entertainment, as well as Fox publicist, Annie Geffroy. The interview was posted on September 3, 2017. It also features SPOILERS about the events of 24: Legacy.
Wiki 24: I'm very curious to know a little bit about you. I was reading some of your bios and I saw that your first official work was on Lassie. You were 13 years old, right?
Charlie Hofheimer: You know, that was not my first ever job. I think maybe there's a couple that maybe predate IMDb, or predate that list in any case. But my first major movie was Lassie, yes, with Richard Farnsworth, Helen Slater, Tom Guiry. An iteration of the old classic.
W24: Ok, and what did you do before? How did you get into acting
CH: You know, I grew up in Brooklyn. My parents moved to Brooklyn when I was 1 year old from Detroit. So, being born in Detroit and moving to Brooklyn when you're one means I have street-cred *chuckles* But I was in public school, in fifth grade, and a teacher was approached about a Broadway play, Conversations with My Father, which starred Judd Hirsch. And I was maybe 10 years old, and the teacher had to choose two kids from class to send on his opening call audition, meaning unrepresented actors, could attend for the role of Judd Hirsch's son. They had been doing the play somewhere else, I forget where, and were moving to Broadway. But it came down to me and the kid who had been doing the play elsewhere and they rehired him, they didn't hire me.
But I believe the casting associate at the time was Meg Simon, who's now head of casting for Warner Brothers; and at the time she said "You should try acting", and introduced me to a small commercial agency in Manhattan, and I met Jana Kogan there. Jana was my first long-term agent, and she and I eventually moved into Innovative Artists together, and I did begin going on auditons.
W24: That's pretty cool! And how did your family take it? Did they like the idea?
CH: My father is a would-be painter, fine arts painter turned contractor; and my mother studied Art History and is an artist herself, although she was at the time in Business Management. So I think I may have been an opportunity for them to give me the artistic encouragement and freedom that they didn't necessarily get.
So, you know, my parents attitude was very much hands off, "if this is what you want to do then we'll take off time to do it, but we're not gonna push and we're not gonna ask you to do this", and "I have other things to do with my time. But if this is something that you're invested in and something you want, then we will support it".
So I felt very fortunate, especially at that age. You go to these auditions and find many of my contemporaries sort of pushed into acting, or there for reasons that were not their own. I always was grateful to have parents that didn't push, but always supported me.
W24: That's pretty cool. Did you ever see yourself doing anything else, any other job?
CH: Ha! It's funny. Having started so young, I don't know if I... Some of my first thoughts were about watching TV and seeing actors, and I remember getting my hands on a VHS tape of the original Broadway production of Sweeney Todd, and feeling incredibly compelled by that. I don't remember any full thought like "This is what I wanna be".
You know, having spent many years as an actor... by the time I was seventeen, the digital editing software was available, so I bought myself a digital video camera, and an early version of Final Cut Pro, and using the tutorial, taught myself video editing. Out of that and my curiosity about the mechanics of storytelling, I've sort of always had a fascination with playing more in other roles in the telling of the story. And I still do today. I'm an aspiring director, I'm a producer. I have a production company that has produced many dozens of short format projects, music videos and short films, a couple of which I've directed, and several of which had very successful lives, one was shortlisted for an Academy Award. And in fact, in more recent years, my production company Filament Features also participated in the production of two documentaries and two narrative features. Neither of which, or none of which were our creation soup to nuts, but which evolved as a piece of sort of growing a team, and laying the groundwork to produce and direct, and decide which stories we want to tell.
So when you ask me any other profession, for me growing up in this industry, I love it. I only aspire to become more well-rounded and multi-hyphenated in my abilities and understanding of the various mechanics of storytelling.
W24: That's great, I actually was planning to ask you something about your work as a producer and as a director. Which one do you prefer? Do you prefer acting? directing, producing, or editing?
CH: Acting fulfills in me something very unique and I never intend to stop acting. It's very different. I also have much more experience as an actor than as a producer or director. You know, when you come to telling independent stories, I think it's a very gray line that divides storytelling; that divides producing and directing. Because many of your decisions about how best to spread x over y are not wholly producorial, they're more creative, and therefore overlapping. So I have endeavoured to develop my skills as a producer to understand that piece of the equation. But in the long run, I would love to just probably direct and act, and produce only insofar as directing and acting relates. Does that make sense?
W24: Let's get a bit into 24: Legacy. Where you a fan of 24 before getting the role on Legacy?
CH: I was! I was late to the party. I was not an obsessed fan who was there from the pilot episode. But I remember coming across it 2-3 seasons in and really enjoying. I've always been a huge Kiefer Sutherland fan, so my curiosity about him probably brought me to the project, and then of course, 24 itself is like popcorn. Once you start, you can't stop. I found myself going back to the beginning and consuming all of the previous shows and I became a big fan.
W24: That's great. Apart of Kiefer Sutherland, do you have any favorite character or maybe any favorite moment from the show?
CH: Well, I've really enjoyed the journey of Tony Almeida, just because from an acting standpoint, he really covers the gamut. I like that his character was not fully good or bad, and that there was a grayness in him, and that kept you questioning his motives and machinations.
W24: And now we have him on 24: Legacy! I can't wait to see what happens with him. He's actually my favorite character.
W24: Yeah. How did you get the role?
CH: Well, I suppose very similar to many of my castmates. I had the privilege of being invited to audition by Lisa Miller Katz, our casting director, and she wasn't sure that this was the right project for me, so she first just met with me, and then on that day asked me if I would stay a couple of hours until the writers/producers showed up. And then I had a session with them, and for the test both Evan [Katz] and Manny [Coto] and Lisa and her assistant and Stephen Hopkins, the director of our pilot, were all in the sessions and had a third round of auditioning in which a tape was made, which was shown to the network, and upon approval, I got a very good phone call.
W24: Great, that's great. Congratulations! Your character is described as suffering from PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. What else did the script gave you as an actor to shape the role?
CH: The backstory that I'm sure you have heard permutations of. I understood that Corey [Hawkins] and my character, that Eric Carter and Ben Grimes were brothers in arms, and that they together had been in this raid which had led to the death of Sheik Ibrahim Bin-Khalid, and I did not know many of the details surrounding that. Some of them became clear to me as we went, but I understood that he was using drugs, there was a reference to track marks which you visually see in the pilot episode, and behaviorally he is Jonesing for. And I understood that he had PTSD. So what did the script gave me? The script gave me that sort of intelligence upon which my work was laid.
W24: Ok. Did you do any research on PTSD or maybe talk with any veterans, maybe to get a footing on how to act as Grimes?
CH: I absolutely did. However, it's throughout the process of acting, rather than how to act. I mean, there is an observation of behavior. To me the process always begins with developing your empathy, and I think we all, in the abstract, whether or not we know someone personally who's been wounded, or are ourselves veterans, that we have a sense of responsibility and appreciation to our veterans, and a sort of abstract notion of their sacrifice for us.
But to further develop that empathy, calling the VA (Veterans Affairs) myself, having great difficulty getting anybody on the phone, and then contacting two different Marines; and I personally happen to know and be friends with a former Seal Team Six Member. I'm obviously not going to disclose any of their names, but needless to say, hearing their stories and understanding their loss, and understanding and developing visuals for what they saw and experienced, grew my, Charlie Hofheimer, the actor's, sense of empathy for soldiers with PTSD.
Of course, along with that, a great deal of reading. There's a book called On Killing by a lieutenant who talks about the fire rates, the rate of soldiers firing, and the apprehension in humans generally to fire a weapon at another person, and the consequences of that behavior. I also read a book by Bessel van der Kolk called The Body Keeps the Score which enumerates various ways in which trauma manifests in psychosis, addiction, and PTSD specifically.
And in the process of that, you learn statistics. One of the statistics that really sat with me and that really drove home, made me feel more honored to get to play an American veteran with PTSD was the statistic that more soldiers, almost by a factor of two, come home after war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and kill themselves than die in combat.
CH: And I think until five years ago, or ten years ago, if you weren't missing a limb or a digit, you were not seen as wounded necessarily. And after my research, I realized that you might rather lose a limb than watch your friend blow up in front of you, or witness the death of a young child, or any of these numerous other atrocities of war that really leave an expression that's not entirely visible, and the many American veterans that live here, come home every day.
So through this empathy, and I'm sorry I'm being so long with this, through this research and developing a personal sense of stake and responsibility to this character, you find that the stakes of the character, Ben Grimes is decent, and the connection to his inner life enhances.
W24: That's really, really interesting, and I commend you for doing such a thorough research, for feeling that empathy that you talk about. It's really, really interesting, and really great. So what can the audiences, especially old fans of 24, what can they expect from Legacy?
CH: You know what, I think Fox has really done it right. Of course, our incredible team, Evan Katz, Manny Coto, Howard Gordon, and then their bosses, they really thought about how to bring this together in a way that would work both for a new audience and for the old audience. What the old audience can expect is every ounce of heart-pulsing intensity, moment to moment, real-time action that they got from the previous series, if not even more. They get the now famous, genre-defining format of the real-time itself that I think fans were, that's really part of the DNA of the story-telling. And they get an entirely new cast of characters that exists within the universe of the old show, with the potential for old characters to reappear.
So you're really getting to live in an expanded piece of the universe that already was defined by the previous show, and all tailored by the people who had 10-15 years of experience constructing the previous one.
W24: When you see the social media, the Internet, there are a lot of mixed expectations about Legacy. There's a lot of people arguing that "24 without Kiefer isn't 24", that "I'm not gonna see it cause there's no Jack Bauer", or stuff like that. Did you, as an actor, or maybe your castmates, feel any pressure from the crew, or maybe from the audiences themselves about how the show will be received?
CH: Certainly that question has lived in probably all of our minds. No doubt, Kiefer well deserves, earned the love and devotion of the old audiences, so I can understand that people who have never really seen this new version to be able to say what their reaction is to that. I do understand the feeling that they may have being alienated by the fact that the character they love so much was not in it. However, to those fans I would say, don't rush to judgment. Give the show a shot on its own terms, and then decide if it lived up to your expectations. Because, to rule it out without having seen it, it kinda is more posturing on the Internet than it is a reaction to something tangible.
W24: Yeah, I agree. I wholeheartedly agree. So how do you think you, and the rest of the cast, faced that challenge of following up on the original 24?
CH: You know, I think that the trick really is that... You know, our job as actors, and I will speak for myself, but I believe my castmembers would agree, is to dedicate ourselves to the characters we play and to the world of 24: Legacy, and this new world that we see, and to make the best... You know, we don't even think about it in terms of good and bad. Perfect is the enemy of creativity. Our job is not to aim at some abstract target outside of ourselves, but to give everything we have in making this iteration everything it can be. And we have a lot of confidence having seen some of the show ourselves, and also having felt the unity and the devotion of our constituents, that this new version is going to live up to the very high, rightfully so, expectations of the existing fan-base.
In the end, of course, there is a pressure, but it's a good pressure because we all feel very privileged to be a part of such a loved brand, such a loved story. And all feel a great responsibility to bring the same level of life and excitement and investment to these characters and their lives and our plot as Kiefer and his cast did with the previous 24.
Lemme think on that too... You know, what I can say too is that the elements of the physical form of the show that everyone loves so much are still there, are still unique to the story, and this entity of... you know, you just have to wait and see. What I can tell you from seeing firsthand is that in Corey Hawkins you have an incredibly gifted and dedicated actor who takes his responsibility to this character very seriously, and who brings an incredible life to this new character. So we have to ask those old dedicated fans to give us a chance and watch us do it and see how you think, see what you think then.
W24: That's great. I personally can't wait. I'm really pumped up. So overall, how would you describe the experience of filming 24: Legacy?
CH: I'm loving it. I really feel so blessed. I just finished talking a little bit about Corey. I wanted to say, it's not every time that you go work with a show that you are met with that kind of collaborative experience, that really Corey set the standard for with all of our cast are in line with. It's remarkable to feel like every person there is dedicating themselves to the process, setting aside egos, and putting the work first, doing everything we do to serve the story, and coming together to make the show great. When I think about this, I think of the many television experiences I've had in the past that haven't necessarily lived up to this level of co-collaboration and mutual enthusiasm.
W24: It seems that Fox always brings it in terms of 24. I've interviewed other cast members and crew members from the original show and they've said the same. Many of them have said that "working with 24 was one of the best experiences they've had". I remember I interviewed an assistant director from the original show, she started working from the first episode, Nicole Burke, and she said that the moment she stepped on set she said "I'm not leaving this show until they fire me", and she was with the show for the whole first eight years. So it seems that the experience of Fox creating the show always has that result that you speak of.
CH: Yeah, I tell you, I'm ready to sign up to do any job down the road in the future with Fox, after this one. Because this guys have been and continue to be really wonderful to work with. Really, from the writers to our producers to even the head-honchos, Gary Newman and Dana Walden, they really have made us feel so supported along the way.
W24: That's great. Is there any funny anecdote or maybe any memorable moment from filming that you'd like to share?
CH: Uh, let me think... there are so many... I'm trying to think of something witty and clever. It's a mish-mash of so many great and funny anecdotes. I'm thinking of shooting the pilot in Downtown Los Angeles and in the sequence that you see from the trailer, where we run out into an open construction yard, and Corey and I are sprinting up a dirt hill [while] being chased by some jihadis. And well, that sequence we used dust cannons which are pneumatic, air-pressurized, sorta conical cones that are packed with all kinds of debris and dust and powder and cork, and then being shot from six different angles by those machines as the virtual piece of steel piping falls off the crane and hits the ground, and Corey and I walking away from those scenes like we were just stepped out of a powder keg.
W24: *laughs* And what happened?
CH: Well, we just got shot with dust cannons dozens of times until we were virtually white like Casper the Ghost covered in dust and debris, and then time for take two, and take three, and take four. You know, but when the going gets tough and you're in those moments with people that you respect and admire, it's all a fun laugh, you dust yourself off and go at it again.
W24: Just a couple more questions. You also filmed a short prequel called The Raid, it was shot as VR experience with Samsung equipment. It was really interesting, I saw it in the Internet. How was that, shooting something where there's a camera always on you, and the audience could rotate the camera and look all around. How was that experience?
CH: Oh, man, you gotta watch it with the headset on and the headphones on, and it's great if you see it online but it's a really, incredibly immersive experience. I'd love to say some stuff about that: I tell you, it feels like, certainly watching people experience the VR The Raid experience, it feels like the Lumiere brothers and the famous footage of the first editing of the train barreling towards the frame and the audience sees it, jumping to their feet, running out, ducking for cover, and it's so exciting to get to be on the front line of a new technology and a new world. It really is like we've caught the Rubicon and we don't have any idea what will come next, and how this will manifest.
But it was a great experience, there was a premiere at Samsung Media Center down in Lower Manhattan. Doing a Q&A with our directors, and Howard Gordon and Corey Hawkins, and being asked these questions about the future of VR as it relates to television, and I tell you, nobody had the answer. It just tickled me to be participating in this speculation about how will this manifest, to talk to the audience about the technical process of, when at this point at this moment in time, to film something in high-resolution and 360 degrees, how unique to shoot it in plates with a very high-resolution cameras, and after you finish filming one entire take in one direction, turn it 90 degrees and do the entire action again, and do that 6 or 8 times depending on the sequence, which is then stitched together to create this immersive, seamless world.
You know, as an actor, from an acting standpoint, I think an interesting anecdote might be how... just as 2D filmmaking developed the language around its craft of the line, and not breaking the line, and in what ways bringing an eyeline close to a lens or how there's a sort of emergent craft that's born of the technical constraints of 2D filmmaking. That is, in 3D VR it's almost more theatrical. As whereas you had a control in editing in 2D to guide the audiences eyes and to sort of point the narrative, in a 3D realm we found that you needed a sort of physical orchestration, whether it was gestures or sound to pull an audiences eyes before a crucial piece of information or plot were revealed. Very exciting to get to be a part of what, as I understand it, is the most sort of technically enhanced action sequence ever to be filmed in 3D, of that resolution, just really exciting to get cast in a part of that.
W24: That's great. You mentioned theater. You also do theater. We started talking about how you started in acting and in plays and in theater. I know you've done several plays, you do theater, regularly, I understand. What's your preference?
CH: Oh, it's interesting. They're such different animals. I tell you, I would never stop doing theater, and if I have my way, I'll never stop doing film and television either. There's something really wonderful in the unique sort of unfolding nature of television, the way in which even you and your character may often not know what's around the next corner; it really leaves you responsible for the present moment in an interesting way.
And yet, somehow in theater of course the present moment is very different. You know, it's so immediate and visceral, and uninterrupted. They say that film is a directors' medium, television is a writers' medium, and theater is the actors' medium, and I certainly can relate to that, because when the rubber hits the road you answer to your audience directly, and the only moment to moment direction is the immediate and visceral give and take that you have with your castmates but also with the audience.
I did just win an LA Drama Critics Circle Award for my performance as Horst in "Bent" in the first major revival, since its Broadway debut in 1981 with Richard Gere having moved from the old Globe where Ian McKellen did it. And I worked with Moises Kaufman who's a wonderful director. And you know, in the end of the day I answer to the characters and the story and the medium is secondary, but I couldn't say easily that I would take one over the other. I really love different things about each of them.
W24: That's great. If you have the chance to do both as you're doing now, go ahead. You do both. What other projects are you working right now, aside of Legacy?
CH: Well, I can say that has most of my attention right now. As we talked, I'm a producer and my fiance is one of two partners in my production company. We have a script in development, and we have an option on another script. Both projects that we intend to produce in the future, but they're not immediately pressing and right now I give my full focus to Legacy.
W24: Do you have any particular director, actor or actress that you dream of working with? That you look forward to working with?
CH: Well, I really have loved working with Stephen Hopkins from 24, I would totally leap at the opportunity to work with him on any project. I mean, David Lynch would be incredible, I haven't checked him off the list. I feel very lucky in that I've gotten the privilege of working with greats like Ridley Scott, Mike Figgis, Mary Harron... let's see, Richard Linklater would be another person that I'm a huge fan. I would also love to work with the Coen Bros. I would also love to work with, what's the other brothers name? Not the Coen Bros, but the...
W24: Wachowskis? The Wachowski Bros?
CH: Well, I would love to work with them, but I was also thinking of those brothers who are producers, writers, and directors... Oh, I'm blanking on their names, but the Wachowski Brothers, absolutely. There's a little list.
W24: Well, you have a lot to choose. You've worked with some great directors, like you've said. I have to tell you, you worked with M. Night Shyamalan. You had a brief scene in The Village. The final scene. I'm a fan of The Village, I'm one of the few, I think, but I'm a huge fan of that film.
CH: *laughs* It definitely has a polarized audience, some people just love that film and other people just hate it.
W24: No, I love it, I really love it. You worked with Wes Craven, right?
CH: I did, on his departure from horror, called Music of the Heart, in which I was so fortunate to play Meryl Streep's son. And I also got to learn the cello. I played the first five minutes of the 6 Cello Suites written by Bach...
CH: On Carnegie Hall stage with Itzhak Perlman, Isaac Stern, Allison Crowd, Mark O'Connor, some of the, ten of the world's foremost string musicians. So I guess there's yet another way to get to Carnegie Hall stage. I did practice but not as much as most who end up there *chuckles*
W24: That's really cool. That shows that you're really dedicated to the craft. That's great.
CH: I hope my peers feel that way. I don't do anything half-measured in life. If you're gonna do something, give everything to it.
W24: That's great. I think that's a great closure to our interview. I like to thank you for the time. You've been great, and I'm really looking forward to the show. So I hope it's a success. I wish you the best in your career. Thanks for your time.
CH: Thank you so much, Carlo. Again, thanks for reaching out. Wonderful to talk to and I hope we can do it again.
Wiki 24 got back with Charlie Hofheimer after 24: Legacy finished to ask him a few more questions about his role in the show. This second part of the interview was done via Twitter, and posted on September 8, 2017.
Wiki 24: I have to say I was genuinely shocked when Ben was shot. I know other people that felt equally surprised. How did you feel about the way his death occurs, and about his overall arc?
Charlie Hofheimer: I thought it was great the way that Grimes dies so suddenly and so unexpectedly. While I was sad to go, I was very satisfied with the arc they wrote for Grimes. As short as it was, he has a huge and complicated arc with a redemptive and compelling ending.
W24: Why did Ben shave before meeting Gabriel? Was it a way to be more presentable to perhaps increase his odds? or was it a conscious decision of him to sorta "clean" himself before heading towards what could be his death?
CH: More the latter. I thought of the shaving as relating more to a desire, conscious or otherwise, to go out like a soldier. Kind of like the scene in Men of Honor when the soldier gets dressed to the nines before taking his own life. I don't think Grimes is planning to die but I do think he wants to do right by [Eric] Carter, the only family he has left, at any cost.
W24: Did you do your stunt work? running around, shooting guns? or did you have someone assigned?
CH: I did have an awesome stunt man named James Laski. We looked so similar after hair and make up it kept freaking people out. I did do a lot of the guns and running until I had a freak accident and snapped my Achilles' tendon after we shot the pilot! I was walking by the second episode in Atlanta several months later but could not do a lot of the running in Episode 2 or 3.
W24: I'd be interested to hear about how the story changed during writing and/or filming - there was supposedly a version where Ben died in episode 2?
CH: As actors we don't witness many of these changes. We tend to see later "locked" drafts once they are in preproduction. There's always the possibility of some generally smaller changes close to production. I had an inkling of the scope of this role based on the story and my deal, but you never know what they will decide to do.
W24: The critics and audience reaction to Legacy has been mixed. Obviously you won't be involved in any future seasons, if the show is picked up, but how do you feel about the show's future?
CH: I have not been reading about the numbers or keeping tabs on the speculation, all I know is that I loved watching every episode. I think the show deserves a second season.
W24: Thanks again for all your time. You've gone beyond with this interview.
CH: Thanks, guys!