Black Wood
Stelio Savante, Tanajsia Slaughter, George Thomas Mansel, Casey, Birdinground, and Bates Wilder. PHOTO CREDIT - THOMAS ONG

PopHorror Interviews the Stars of New Western Horror ‘Black Wood’

Last week, we posted our interview with the director and one of the producers for the upcoming Western Thriller, Black Wood. The film is directed and written by Chris Canfield and produced by Eric Corneliuson and Ryan M Hall. It stars Bates Wilder, Tanajsia Slaughter, Stelio Savante, David Fralick and Glenn Morshower. The cast is rounded out by Andrew Stecker, George Thomas Mansel, and Casey Birdinground. The film is currently filming throughout South Dakota. I recently talked with Bates Wilder, Tanajsia Slaughter, and Stelio Savante about how they got involved with Black Wood, their characters, upcoming projects, and more.

Black Wood Poster
Black Wood Poster

POPHORROR: What inspired you to get involved in the film industry?

Bates Wilder: I was inspired to perform by a scene I saw on the Ed Sullivan show when I was in 3rd grade. There were two kids (my age) acting out an adult boss/secretary relationship. It was actually playfully inappropriate. Wouldn’t fly today. I didn’t know how to voice my dissatisfaction or the fact that the actors looked false and contrived in their work so I simply asked my mom, “Can you get me on the Ed Sullivan show? Those to kids don’t make sense to me. I think I could do it better!” She told me she’d keep her eye on the local paper (like it would have audition listings for the freaking Ed Sullivan Show in the local news rag in Scituate Massachusettes!) to see if they had any openings. “But in the meantime,” she said, “Join the drama club at school!” I did just that. And soon, I forgot about my mom keeping her eye on the newspaper for me… and now I’m doing all this stuff!

Tanajsia Slaughter: I wanted to act to enable myself to reach a larger audience and get the indigenous population of people into mainstream media.

Stelio Savante: After many years of grinding NY theater roles in runs of shows that went for months, I found myself far more inspired by the film movements of French New Wave and Italian Neo-Realism. I loved the verite of them…I loved the way they breathed and that on-screen conflict was built not only through dialogue but through cinematography and the actors’ behavior and musical score. Instead of just ‘talk, talk, talk’ which is what theater had become to m. In that, I discovered cinema and film itself to be the greatest art form because it combined so many of the other arts (cinematography/writing/music/art dept/lighting/editing/ acting/color grading/sound mixing/costume design/hair and makeup etc) together and then people would come together in the dark for two or so hours with complete strangers to watch this art of moving images in cinema. So, I dove into it fearless almost 30 years ago and it worked out very well for me.

Bates Wilder and Glenn Morshower in Black Wood
Bates Wilder and Glenn Morshower in Black Wood

POPHORROR – What is your favorite film of all time?

Bates Wilder: There are many. They’re surrounded by favorite actors.  And many different genres from dramas to romcoms. So, pretty much everything that Kevin Kline touches, Ha!  Morgan Freeman’s work, Samuel Jackson, Meryl Streep, Melissa McCarthy, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hanks. I loved Les Miz the Musical. Forest Gump was genius, Sophies Choice, Dave, An American President, Inglorious basterds, and most recently, Joker… oof!!  All inspiring and with the ability to touch my heart or even funny bone.

Tanajsia Slaughter: My favorite film of all time is Insidious by James Wan because it deals with spirituality and the exploration of the unknown. I would love to work with him one day.

Stelio Savante: I have a list that changes from time to time…but to pick one favorite film or even top ten is very difficult….probably De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves (known as The Bicycle Thief in the USA). It is a devastatingly powerful film about the human struggle and was far ahead of its time. My late father and then myself being immigrants I could closely relate to its theme and it’s two central characters. Truffaut’s 400 Blows is definitely up there for me as is The Godfather, Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, and Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai…probably the most remade film in history.

POPHORROR – Tell us about your character and what drew you to the role?

Bates Wilder: The character I play in Black Wood is named “Dutch Wilder” (No relation to Bates). On the surface, he’s a ruthless, heartless killer and leader of a gang of outlaws. As the film progresses, layers start to peel off this man who is actually quite tormented by a tragic event in his life. He finds parallels in his current circumstances that bring back these painful memories and he has to process the choices he’s made in his life and search for some redemption. I love that the character has such a delightful opportunity to tackle his pains while trying to maintain his rough and tumble veneer.

Tanajsia Slaughter in Black Wood
Tanajsia Slaughter in Black Wood

Tanajsia Slaughter: My character is a Lakota woman who goes through just about every struggle possible in her journey and she still triumphs. I was drawn to her because it shows a Native woman as strong and capable of facing anything.

Stelio Savante: I play Henri… French scout of the Dutch Wilder gang. He has a conscience and isn’t a yes man. Writer/director Chris Canfield and I had long discussions about the character after my friend Hamid recommended the script to me. It was Henri’s journey of being his own man in the realization and reality of their (the Wilder gang) circumstances that I knew I wanted to invest in. I also really liked Henri playing the Harmonica and really dug Chris’s early teaser promo. Having Myke Michaels on board was a big draw for me as well. I’ve worked with and brought Myke into many of my films. He’s brilliantly gifted on the Special FX side and good people to work with. I also loved the idea of a Western Horror.

POPHORROR – Do you have any new films/series that have recently been released and what can we see you in next?

Bates Wilder: A recently released film of mine that I’m quite proud to point out is Andrew Kightlingers Tater Tot and Patton. It’s a heart twisting drama that takes place on a midwest ranch where two people (Erwin “Patton”, the uncle and Andy “Tater Tot”, the niece) learn how to cope with substance abuse and animosity toward each other. We watch as their lives crumble and regenerate with the bonds they ultimately forge. Tater Tot and Patton is available on iTunes and Amazon Prime and has an “84” on Rotten Tomatoes!  Ha. Certified “fresh”!

The next project I have coming out will premiere in LA during December of 2019! It’s a World War One film called The Great War. It’s a terrific film written and directed by Luke Schuetzel. My character suffers from the devastating effects of shell shock while trying to lead a unit of soldiers on a mission to assist in the evacuation of a battalion of black soldiers (the heroic Buffalo Soldiers). He is torn by the racism in the ranks of his unit. The film tackles this subject of racism among soldiers deftly during the last few days of the war.

Tanajsia Slaughter: I was recently in Custer’s Strategy of Defeat which will be out next year. I was also in two other local films that will be released next year as well. I am currently working on booking more roles and have a music project in the works. I am a writer and have a piece that I wrote about missing and murdered indigenous women that will be featured in an anthology of Native American writers.

Stelio Savante in Black Wood
Stelio Savante in Black Wood

Stelio Savante: Yes it’s been busy… Running For Grace starring opposite Matt Dillon and Jim Caviezel very recently released on Netflix. Also, Times Square Thriller Rapid Eye Movement starring opposite Francois Arnaud just released on Amazon. As did the horror film The Cleaning Lady and Human Trafficking Thriller Apartment 407 which won awards at Raindance and San Diego film festival hosted by Variety.

Soon to be released: Middle Eastern Political Thriller Infidel, filmed in Jordan and directed by the acclaimed Cyrus Nowrasteh. Starring as a journalist opposite Jim Caviezel and Claudia Karvan. Family Comedy Pups Alone starring opposite Dolph Lundgren and Nick Turturro. And another Comedy Lapham Rising, starring opposite Frank Langella and Bobby Cannavale. I’m also in the second half of season one of Dallas Jenkins series The Chosen on Vid Angel which airs this November.

About Tori Danielle

Tori has had a passion for Horror and music ever since she was a little girl. She got bit by the writing bug in high school where she was involved in both the school newspaper and the yearbook. While getting her Bachelors degree, she took Journalism and Creative Writing classes where her passion grew even stronger. Now, in between work and family, she spends all of her spare time indulging in music, Horror movies, and nerdy fandoms, all while running/assisting one of the biggest Horror groups on Facebook and writing for various websites.

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