Rick Yaeger: Hello, everyone. It’s Rick Yaeger from One Question Interviews again. Today’s guest is Mark Hildreth. You’ll know his face from “V.” You’ll know him from “The Tudors,” and he’s got a new pilot that he’s working on as we speak and hopefully, you’ll see that very soon. He’ll talk about it on this interview right here.
Mark Hildreth: Thank you very much. Hello.
Rick: Hello and welcome. Please tell the folks what you’ve been up to. Like I said, you recently released an album.
Mark: I did. It’s actually my second record that I put out independently. I just put this one out in January. It’s called “Signs of Life.” If you can imagine a sound right in-between Elton John and Stevie Wonder, that’s kind of what it sounds like. It’s a pop/R&B mix. It’s got a lot of soul in it. As I said, I released it independently through my website at mark-hildreth.com and it’s been going great.
I’ve been playing it. I just played a show at the House of Blues in LA. I’ve been playing a few places which have been fantastic. It’s one of my favorite things to do in my life.
Rick: I get that from you, that you’re, of course, an actor but you’re one of these people that has such a heart for music that it’s more than just sequential notes on a page. It comes from some place deeper.
Mark: Oh, yeah. My dad, I remember, told me when I was little, “Never give up on this.” He’s like, “Never stop singing.” I had been acting since I was little so it was advice that I never forgot. He used to play records, vinyl, when I was a little kid. Elton John, John Lennon, Bob Seger, Billy Joel and all these great singer/songwriters from the ’70s. There’s something about it I just always loved. I taught myself to play when I was 10 years old just because I loved it.
We tried piano lessons and I hated them. I hated them. I’d already taught myself how to play a little bit so I went and the teacher would play like, “Here’s what we’re going to play,” and she’d play me the song. Then we’d do some work on the music and she’d teach me how to read the little round black things with the little stick on them and the lines.
I was like, “This is confusing.” I would come back the next week and I could play it. She’s like, “You’re my best student!” and then she’d take away the music and I could still play it. She’s like, “No, no. This isn’t working. This isn’t working at all.”
Rick: I took piano lessons, too. I didn’t really read the music and I couldn’t count as I went along, but it didn’t turn out as well for me as it did for you.
Mark: I still can’t count along very well. Thank God, I can talk to musicians. I can understand the language of music. The actual reading…If you gave me sheet music to read, I’d be dead. I’d be lost. I was definitely the only kid in my high school who was working on TV sets and listening to Elton John. Those are two unique things about me.
I started acting when I was five. My first job was in an opera in “Madame Butterfly” at the Queen Elizabeth Theater when I was five years old.
We still have the news. The CBC news came to interview my dad and he’s sitting in the lobby of the Queen Elizabeth Theater with this great handlebar mustache and he’s talking to this woman about “what it’s like to have a son who’s so young and going into acting and playing on this big stage?” and all this stuff and “does it go to his head?”.
He’s like, “We try to keep his feet on the ground,” and then they like pan over to me and my dad stops talking and looks back. They zoom in on me and I’m hanging on the railing of the stairwell going, “I’m rich. I’m rich. I’ve got $100 in the bank,” singing this song. My dad’s just like, “Oh my God. What have we done?”
Rick: [laughs] I hear you’re also working on a pilot with Omar Epps.
Mark: I just started a pilot. I’m actually in Atlanta in a wonderful hotel room. Here, I’ll show you where I sleep. That’s my bed right there.
Rick: It’s the glamorous life of Hollywood pilots.
Mark: Yeah, it’s very glamorous. It’s not very glamorous, actually. Acting, in general, is not a very glamorous job. It looks glamorous from the pictures you see, but they take those pictures at just the right moment when everything’s been set up and somebody’s come in and done your hair just perfectly and someone’s come in and brushed your jacket and you’re like Downton Abbey or whatever.
They’ve made you look all good and then give your “everything’s great in my life.”
Rick: Takes an hour and a half to set up that perfect reality moment.
Mark: The rest of the time, you’re like everybody else. You’re buying groceries. It’s normal.
Rick: You’re stuck in traffic like everybody else.
Mark: Especially Hollywood pilots. It’s a show called “The Returned.” (Since the recording of this interview, the show has been renamed “Resurrection”. See trailer below.) It’s a pilot for a series on ABC starring Omar Epps. We have a great ensemble cast. It’s a really interesting premise. It’s based on a book. Basically, what happens is there’s this eight-year-old boy who’s found in a field in rural China and no one knows who he is.
He’s not speaking to anybody. Social services from the US go over and get him and they bring him back home. They take him to this town in middle America that he says he’s from. They get out of him where he says that he lives so they take him up to this house and they knock on the door and this 65-year-old couple answers the door.
They say, “Are you the parents of Jacob Bellamy?” and they say, “Yes, we’re Jacob’s parents. Jacob died when he was eight years old, 30 years ago.” Then they see the kid and it’s their son 30 years later, still eight years old. This is what kicks off this story. This is the story of the return. People start to come back.
The idea is, what would you do? What would it be like if your loved ones started to come back to life? My character’s…I play the town’s local Baptist pastor. Jacob was my best friend when we were eight years old when he drowned and now, he comes back. He’s here and he’s really there.
They do DNA tests and they do all that stuff and they confirm it’s really him. My character has been preaching about the miracles of God for 10 years and then when he sees a real miracle, he can’t believe it’s real. He goes into this whole crisis of faith and doesn’t know who he is anymore.
It’s this really beautiful, interesting exploration of human beings and why are we here and what does it mean to be here and looked at from all these different perspectives. It’s a really interesting premise and I think we’ve got a good chance to make a good show out of it.
Rick: You say it’s a pilot. I’m ignorant of this. Do we see pilots or do they get hidden away until somebody…?
Mark: Yeah, you hope that you see a pilot as a pilot which is the first episode of the series. Sometimes you see a pilot and they call it made for TV movie, which often means it wasn’t that good. We’ll just pretend like we made a movie for TV. We’ll just put out this movie.
“It’s like one episode.”
“No, no, no, let’s call it a movie. People will love that.”
You will see it one way or another. Usually, what happens is they do all kinds of very complicated tests on these pilots to see do people like it, what do they like, what do they not like, do all kinds of crazy things that I don’t understand that only TV executives understand. Then they figure out which shows they want to pick up and then they go and shoot a season of three or four of those pilot episodes that they make during a season.
Rick: As you know, the show is called One Question Interviews. I have almost 1,000 different questions ranging from the profane to the profound…
Mark: That doesn’t really sound fair. If it’s one question and you have 1,000 questions, how do you…Wait a second.
Rick: …I’m choosing them at random. You’re just going to answer one…
Mark: I may be an actor but I can do a little bit of math, alright. 1 and 1,000 is not the same thing.
Rick: I round down quite a bit. [laughs]
Mark: You round down from 1,000 to 1. I got it. Hit me.
Rick: I’m going to choose one at random and answer it seriously or in a funny voice, everyone goes home happy. Sounds good?
Mark: Got it.
Rick: I’m glad you got this question. Mark Hildreth, you’re on TV and movies, you write incredible music. Many things about you have me curious but I can only choose one question. Your question is If it were possible to truly experience something again for the first time, what album would you rediscover?
Mark: “Songs in the Key of Life” by Stevie Wonder. Definitely. I never got to hear it for the first time. Sometimes I imagine what it must have been like to go to the record store and go get the record and take the record home and you put the record on the spindle. You just sit in your house and there’s a whole gestalt about that that I imagine would have been so cool.
I started to listen to music in the cassette tape era, which was already moving into your car.
Actually, I remember 8-tracks. I remember having an 8-track in our car when I was really little. The vinyl era, I think, I don’t know if it’s just because I wasn’t around, but it has this romance to it. I imagine myself sitting there, putting that record on for the first time and hearing that voice and that particular collection of songs at that particular time with what was going on in the world just then and the reflection on the apathy and the cynicism and the violence that was going on in the world.
And then this, really, in a lot of ways, I think controversial commentary about what people were doing and thinking and how people were thinking and what was going on, but such joy. So much joy. That’s what I love about Stevie Wonder. That’s why if I could meet anybody living or dead, you know sometimes that’s the one question.
Rick: That’s in there.
Mark: Without a doubt. In a second. Shakespeare is probably close. He’s definitely in the running. There’s so much joy in everything that Stevie Wonder writes and in his expression that, to me, is the highest form of human expression is where you’re coming from a place of joy. You may be critical of something, you may be disagreeing with something, you may even be standing up to something, you may even be resisting.
It could be on a small scale or a large scale. You come from a joyful place inside. Anything’s possible. That’s something that, to me, he embodies so well. That’s probably really, maybe, his greatest album. I feel the most connection to it and there’s just so much in it. There’s so much. It’s like an encyclopedia of what was going on at that time.
I’m so moved by his music in general, but that particular album. Not to mention he’s the only guy that won Grammy of the Year three years in a row and that just happened to be at that time.
Rick: He’s got a bit of talent in him somewhere.
Mark: Stevie Wonder is a musical genius.
Rick: He is that. No kidding. I’m going to have to go on iTunes and buy that album again because I bought it as the album and the cassette and the CD. That got stolen out of my car. [laughs]
Mark: There’s something about the vinyl version where there’s no breaks and there’s no two second gap between the songs and all this crazy stuff we have now. An MP3 which is like, oh, my goodness—for a musician, MP3 is, I don’t know, it’s like being a painter and someone taking an iPhone picture of your painting. The quality of the music is so compressed and really destroyed.
Rick: I think that’s why Sony put us through the Walkman era, so that we had these things on our head deafening us. So that eventually, when it went to MP3, you couldn’t tell the difference anyway.
Mark: That’s a good plan. That’s probably why AC/DC keeps touring, too. “Let’s put them out again. I can tell they can still hear the music. We don’t want that.” I put on vinyl and I’m like “Wow, there’s actual instruments here I didn’t know were in these songs.” It’s amazing the difference.
Rick: I do remember what you’re talking about. You go and buy that vinyl, take the bus home, and just make sure no one else is in the house. I’m putting that on. I’m lying down on my elbows looking at the liner notes experiencing an entire album start to finish.
Mark: It’s the whole thing. There’s a whole thing about it. We don’t do that that way anymore. It’s more about you’ve got your single. Now, it’s just about that song. It’s not even a single, it’s just that song. “There are other songs? Shouldn’t it just be that song? What do you mean? What is this album of which you speak?”
Rick: Even if you buy the whole album, you download the whole thing, it goes into your collection, and then you go shuffle. [laughs] You’re lucky if you ever hear that song.
Rick: That’s good.
Mark: Everybody’s got such a random collection. That’s pretty much the summation of my music library that I just gave you. Beethoven, Stephen Wright, New Kids On the Block. That’ll tell you my appreciation for Stevie Wonder. I’m glad that I chose those three.
Rick: I like it. That’s a great answer. I totally agree with you. Love Stevie Wonder. Thanks, Mark, for coming on the show and answering your 1 question out of 1,000. I hope you can come back again. Look for Mark Hildreth on “The Returned,” whether it’s a TV series or a TV movie. That’ll be on ABC. (Since the recording of this interview,ABC has confirmed, it will be a series and the show has been renamed “Resurrection”. See trailer above.)
Follow him on Twitter. Your Twitter handle, again, is…?
Rick: He’s not verified yet but he will be and this is his verification until that day occurs. (That day has occurred; Mark is now verified!) Follow him on Twitter, buy his album on iTunes. You can get all his latest info on his website. All of these links are right here in this general area and will also be on the website One Question Interviews, in the show notes, along with anything else we might have mentioned, say Stevie Wonder albums, perhaps, a few Stephen Wright ones (Nope.).
Everybody, this is Rick Yaeger from One Question Interviews. Thank you so much for watching. Thank you, Mark, for being my guest. Check back next week. Bye bye.