david j. moore chats with Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson and James Wilson about their new film Paying Mr. McGetty…
Kickboxing legend turned action star of over 30 feature films Don “The Dragon” Wilson is back in the radically unique action comedy Paying Mr. McGetty from Traditionz Entertainment, the same company that produced Don’s previous hit film The Martial Arts Kid. Don and his brother James Wilson, who produced both films, sat down with with Flickering Myth for an exclusive interview on Paying Mr. McGetty, and they discussed Don’s role as an assassin (a rare villain-type part for Don) in the film, as well as their company Traditionz Entertainment.
What’s the magic formula for you guys in taking on a project? How do you go about deciding what’s your next project? You’ve done two in a row with director Michael Baumgarten.
James: I like working with Baumgarten. I would anticipate trying to do more. We like to work as a family. We bring in a lot of the same people in both movies. We kind of like working together. I see the chemistry is good. We’re not committed to doing every movie together, but the idea for Paying Mr. McGetty was originally to make it more like a Jackie Chan movie. There would be more comedy than action, but the star R. Marcos Taylor was injured on the first scene on the first day, so we changed it right away. We went in a quirky different direction. We knew the movie would be risky from the beginning. We tried to make this a very unique and unusual movie. I think we accomplished that.
Don: In my other films I usually work very heavily on story, casting, and editing, but on this one I just had more input on my own character. I’m not used to being the bad guy, so I tried to make this character like Leon, The Professional from that movie with Jean Reno. And a little like the villain from No Country for Old Men. But I had scruples. I did not want to take out Marcos because he did not do what they thought that he had done. I’m not just a hitman who will do anything for money. He actually has a code. I basically just play the good guy all the time, so this was great.
James: Don doesn’t give himself enough credit. He helps us with ideas and changes, and when we’re in post-production he sits in on the editing sessions. When we do pick-ups he suggests scenes that are helpful. For instance, he noticed how important it was that Marcos’s character and Anita Clay’s character is really felt. Don felt the strongest scene in the movie was the final scene between those two where they’re on the porch. It was Don who suggested we add a scene where Anita is at the beauty shop with her friend. That scene was needed so that the girlfriend character wouldn’t always just be seen chewing him out on the phone.
Don: It’s a love story. It can’t just be one-sided. We see his side of the story, but not hers. We needed to show that she does love him and she does stand up for him and respect him. When I’m not working with James on other movies, I go through every single page of the script, every line of dialogue, every character and make all kids of changes.
Don, your performances over the last handful of years have gotten better and better. I don’t know if it’s because you’re a more seasoned human being or a more seasoned actor, but I’ve been paying attention to your work and I really like what I’m seeing. I think you’re better than ever.
Don: Oh, thank you. If you do anything for over 30 years you should be comfortable doing it by now. I am much more comfortable on a set in front of a camera, doing my dialogue, becoming characters. I never envisioned from my martial arts background that I would end up doing movies. It was Chuck Norris who suggested it to me back in the ’80s. I’ve been doing this for 30 years now.
James: I would say that Don has become a better actor. His face has become more expressive in a more realistic way. A lot of that has to do with the directors of his previous films. He had been typecast.
Don: I’ve actually been told by directors, “Don’t show any emotion!” I think it was in fear of that I would show the wrong emotion and ruin the scene. If Don doesn’t do anything, it would be better than doing something wrong. Michael Baumgarten does not do that. He allows me to be creative as an actor. If that makes the performance more realistic, then that’s a good thing for me.
James: He is a better actor today. He’s a more interesting actor today. He was never given the opportunity in a lot of his previous films.
Say something about your company Traditionz Entertainment. Personally, I think that this brand you have going is very exciting. What are your goals? Do you intend on making a movie a year? Is Don always going to be attached to these movies? Say something about the market you’re aiming for with Traditionz.
James: Thank you. We all have a martial arts background. The members of this company are Don, myself, Cynthia Rothrock, Dr. Robert Goldman, Cheryl Sanders, and all of us in the group have a strong martial arts background. We want to show some martial arts and we want it to be more realistic in our movies. We always want a message in our films. We are planning to do two movies a year, starting 2017. We’re not looking for exploitation films so much as films with a message with some action. We believe our film The Martial Arts Kid is much more realistic than The Karate Kid because we wanted real martial arts training in it. No “wax on, wax off.” We didn’t want a dysfunctional, hard drinking sensei in it either. Don and Cynthia play characters that are respected members of their community and they run a dojo. In Paying Mr. McGetty we wanted a diverse film with a black lead, but we wanted to show a black man who is in love with his woman, who works his butt off trying to get ahead. He’s trying to start a business and have a family, but he screwed up one night and he ends up having to show courage to fix it. He runs all day, but when he’s on that soccer field and sees Don coming for him, he doesn’t back up a step. At this point, we wanted to show that’s he’s responsible. We didn’t want his character to be a stereotype.
Don: It’s my brother’s company … if I don’t participate in it, my mom is going to give me room restriction! She’ll cut my allowance! I always give my brother preference in my schedule. I can’t say that I’ll be in every single project they’ll make …
James: He’ll always be involved with the corporation.
I’m not going to ask what’s next for both of you because I assume that The Martial Arts Kid 2 might be in the near future, but in the future, Don, what roles would you like to see yourself playing?
Don: I’ve got a tentative idea for a film, and a script has been written. It’s to remake the character, basically, of Billy Jack. He doesn’t fight for himself, he fights for the Indians. I have a character in mind. To play that character, and it could be a franchise. Someone who puts his own life on the line for others.
James: I have an idea that I’ve been discussing with others for Don. His character is a little unusual. He hasn’t heard this, so I don’t want to say too much. It’s the kind of character he’s never played before. I’ll say this much: He will look like he’s not too brave, he’ll seem to be a guy who has luck occurring at the right moments, and then at some point you’ll conclude that he’s the baddest guy in the world.
Don: That sounds like Columbo! The Asian Columbo!
Paying Mr. McGetty will be released in 2017. Read our review here and check out our interview with director Michael Baumgarten here.
Many thanks to Don and James Wilson for taking the times for this interview.
david j. moore