This is an interview that I conducted with sci-fi & horror genre actor, Carel Struycken. He is best known and most recognized for his role in the three 1990s “The Addams Family” movies, in which he played Lurch, the giant of a butler for the Addams family (played by Ted Cassidy in the 1960s version). He is also well-known for his recurring role as Mr. Homn in “Star Trek: TNG.” Other roles includes parts in Dean R. Koontz’s “Servants of Twilight” (1991), “Charmed,” “The Vampire Hunters Club,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” “Babylon 5,” “Twin Peaks,” and “My Name Is Earl.”
A man of many talents, Carel has written a few screenplays. Outside of acting and writing, he also works witch computers and photography. In the early 90s Carel developed some virtual reality systems and now is trying his hand at spherical panorama photography.
Check out Carel Struycken’s Personal Website and his Spherical Panoramas site.
On with the interview!
John: How did you feel about your role as Lurch in the “The Addams Family” movies and taking on the role made famous by the original series’ Ted Cassidy?
Carel: I always considered it a great privilege to play Lurch. Ted Cassidy had a better Lurch voice, but I look more like Lurch and was not allowed to speak anyhow because of legal wranglings between the Addams estate heirs.
John: Being a part of the first two “The Addams” Family movies (The Addams Family, 1991, & Addams Family Values, 1993) with Raul Julia as Gomez, how did you feel after he passed away and was replaced with Tim Curry?
Carel: The film budget for the third “The Addams Family” movie was about 1/20th of the first two. It was shot as a pilot by a different outfit and considering the limitations I think they did a decent job. I am a fan of Tim Curry, but Raul was better typecast. The two first Addams Family movies were both very slow shoots, where we had to stand on the set for eternal stretches of time, waiting for the special effects rigging and lighting. Raul would entertain us all by singing the most fantastic opera excerpts.
John: Most of your roles are ones in which you portray giants, darker or “evil” characters. Does this typecasting bother you or does you like it, as Boris Karloff did?
Carel: Typecasting is something I expect, but it would be nice to do some comedy. I have trouble playing the silent heavy. If I have to play the bad guy, I find it much easier to play a crazed passionate killer. I get asked for low budget horror movies quite often, but sadistic torture scenes is where I draw the line. I don’t understand why people want to make or see those kinds of movies. It has little to do with the true horror genre in my opinion.
John: How do you feel your height (giantism caused by acromegaly) has affected your life (childhood, adult)? However little or much you wish to say.
Carel: I grew up in Curacao (Caribbean) and was always the tallest in the class, from 1st grade on. In those days, they did not play a lot of basketball in the Caribbean, so when I reached 6.10ft by age 14 there was none of the current glamour attached to being so tall. They just considered me a freak and treated me as such. You get very different reactions in different countries. In England, people will not show any reaction, while in other countries they treat you like a Martian. Even in California, when I walk through town with my 17 year old son (who is a “normal” 6.2ft) they will address HIM when they want to ask ME a question. I bet people in wheelchairs get that a lot too.
John: How do you feel your height has affected your acting career?
Carel: My training has been for directing and editing. Whatever I may have learned about acting was by doing, besides a few classes here and there. So, I am not your typical seasoned thespian, who can slip into any kind of character. With those limitations, you have to expect some typecasting.
John: Do you prefer your horror (“The Addams Family,” “Charmed,” “The Vampire Hunters Club,” etc.) or sci-fi (“Star Trek: TNG,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” “Babylon 5,” etc) roles?
Carel: That is very hard to say. It all depends on the character. I have always been very thankful that I fit so well into those two genres though. I would find it very hard to play a “normal” person.
John: I notice that you acted in two Netherlands’ projects (De Erfenis, 2004, and Tinnef, 2000). Did you enjoy acting in your home country of the Netherlands and/or Dutch language?
Carel: There was also a Flemish science fiction feature, called “Science Fiction,” which I cant find in IMDB. The shooting of “De Erfenis” was a very special event for me, because it was all shot in Curacao, which I got to revisit for the first time since having left the island at age 16.
John: I notice you had a role in an episode of the sitcom, “My Name Is Earl.” Do you enjoy comedic roles and do you think that you will perform more?
Carel: Yes, I like doing comedy and hope to do more of it. Especially the kind of comedy of “My name is Earl” where all the characters consider themselves normal and are completely oblivious to their own weirdness.
John: I greatly enjoyed your role as Kyle Barlow in the TV movie adaptation of Dean R. Koontz’s “Servants of Twilight” (1991). Koontz is one of my favorite authors. Who are some of your favorite authors and what book titles.
Carel: Koontz, King, Roald Dahl, Philip Jose Farmer, who wrote a great Science Fiction horror story “Image of the Beast” that takes place in one of the scariest bordellos ever dreamt up by man. Bruce Sterling, William Gibson, J.G.Ballard, Neil Stephenson – the list is kind of random. At the moment, I read mostly non-fiction. Julian Jaynes, Morris Berman and Paul Shepard have been great inspirations for me.
John: I love the spherical panoramas on your site, http://www.sphericalpanoramas.com. Can you tell us a little about how you became involved in the development of virtual reality systems and what you have been up to lately involving it?
Carel: In the early 90s, I made some virtual reality environments. One was a primitive version of the Star Trek Holodeck and another was an interactive dance floor. You could interact with the VR with movement of your body. Then the World Wide Web started up and people’s attention wandered away from virtual reality. About two years ago I discovered the small community of photographers who shoot full screen high resolution spherical panoramas and I was fascinated by the amount of detail one could get with the limited bandwidth of what we call “broadband” here in the US. It is much too slow for good quality video, so the panos are often a much better solution, with download times one can live with.
John: I see you did some Writing with the German “Go West, Young Man” (1980). Any future plans to write more screenplays or other writing projects?
Carel: I have been working on and off on a very complex project. Complex because of the subject matter, not because of the “no-budget” approach. It takes so long because I can only work on it when I have some financial “breathing-space.” The working title is “Paleolithic Revival” and it is about the evolution of consciousness. It is about how we are re-claiming our hunter/gatherer mindset through advances in technology.