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article imageJohn Pyper-Ferguson unleashes his inner beast for 'Wolves' Special

By Earl Dittman     Jan 27, 2015 in Entertainment
For Pyper-Ferguson's role in David Hayter's film 'Wolves,' the seasoned actor ('The Last Ship,' 'Unforgiven') spent torturous hours transforming himself into the wily wolfman of Lupine Ridge and dug deep into his own psyche to unleash the animal within.
For veteran television (The Last Ship, Alphas, Burn Notice) and film (Unforgiven, Drive, X-Men: The Last Stand) actor John Pyper-Ferguson the most challenging aspect of portraying a feisty and hard-bitten lycanthrope in the exciting cinematic thriller Wolves wasn't trying to channel his inner lupine for his role as Wild Joe, it was having to spend countless, excruciatingly long hours in the prosthetics and make-up chair to appear convincing as a bloodthirsty man-wolf.
"Oh, God, what an experience that was — the make-up folks were always sticking brushes up my nose and stuff," the amiable Australian-born Canadian actor jokingly says with a hearty laugh. "Basically, though, when you are doing a movie like this, you're a palette for these artists who stick stuff on your face. And, then you get to perform afterwards. All you can do is just sit there, though, and that's what's really difficult. The first couple of times it was like three-and-a-half to four hours to put the full wolf prosthetics on. Then, it was about and hour-and-a-half to two hours to get out of it, because they have to slowly peal it off, otherwise they would rip your face off. And, you certainly don't want that.
"So, you have to put yourself in this weird meditative state, as well as trying to search for as much patience as you can muster while you're getting all the prosthetics applied," Pyper-Ferguson continues. "There are some days where it's really difficult. You certainly can't read, so you listen to music. I mean, they need your face. So, it's like getting a haircut, they are going to keep grabbing you and pulling you back. You find your ways to get through. It was never less to two-and-a-half hours. At the end of the day, though, it was all worth it, because I look awfully frightening in the movie."
Wolves, the big screen directorial debut from David Hayter (writer of X-Men and Watchmen), tells the story of popular high school student Cayden Richards (Lucas Till) who wakes from a horrific nightmare, only to realize that he’s living it — he is changing into something vicious, unpredictable and wild. Forced to hit the road after the brutal murder of his parents, Cayden tries to hunt down the truth of what he is. In the remote, mountain town of Lupine Ridge, he discovers others like him — including the fierce Connor (Jason Momoa) and the beautiful Angelina (Merritt Patterson), a young woman caught between two ancient clans of “wolves.” And, when he finally discovers the shocking truth behind his ancestry, Cayden realizes there is only one way to save the woman he loves… a grisly fight to the death against forces more savage than he could have ever imagined.
As mentioned, John Pyper-Ferguson — who he has been shot, stabbed, run through, lost his head, met his maker, kicked the bucket, paid the piper (if you will), been run over and has succumbed to infection (in addition to suffering various other maladies) in his more than forty deaths in both film and television — plays the wily wolfman Wild Joe in Wolves. Originally, however, John auditioned for a totally different role in the film.
"I was shooting Alphas, at the time, when the script for Wolves came my way," the former Caprica and Brothers & Sisters star explains. "I actually read for Jason Mamoa's role. A buddy of mine, Eric Johnson, who is on The Knick now, did what is called a self-tape audition with me. But, while we were doing it, I basically said, 'Look I am not going to get this Connor role, they are going to cast someone much bigger than me, size-wise. And, in terms of career, they are going to cast someone with more marquee value. So, I am going to play this part like I would play the Wild Joe role, because I think that's role I can get.' And, that's what I did, and that's exactly what happened. David and the producers were like, 'This guy is not Connor, he's Wild Joe, we should get this guy to play him.' That's how it all happened."
John Pyper-Ferguson as Wild Joe in  Wolves
John Pyper-Ferguson as Wild Joe in 'Wolves'
Ketchup Entertainment
Wolves (now available on DVD) is not your standard furry transformation monster movie. In fact, director/writer David Hayter insists it's more of a "beast within" film as opposed to a werewolf flick. Wild Joe is a mad dog of a wolf who has been exiled from the town of Lupine Ridge. A mentor of sorts to Cayden, his pure, untamed power makes Joe the closest thing to a classic werewolf in the film. Make no mistake, though, Wild Joe is not your typical movie lycan. And, Pyper-Ferguson — who dug deep within his own actor’s psyche to uncover of his animalistic nature — certainly doesn't portray Wild Joe like your everyday uber-canus carnivore.
"I think his name sort of says it all about his personality and who he is," John admits with a laugh. "He's a guy who is edgy and isn't concerned with making the politically correct choice in any circumstance. He's also so much of a narcissist that anything anybody else is doing is irrelevant. He's going to get to the top of the heap, no matter what it takes.
"While I was doing the role, I didn't think about playing a wolf, per se, although I used characteristics from the animal," the 50-year-old thespian added. "I concentrated on his driving force. Basically, the animal within the human animal. What's interesting about any performance, regardless of how you're doing it, it's about that their human side of their ambitions and intentions in life are. I had a lot of fun finding that beastly side of myself.”
John Pyper-Ferguson in a scene from Season One of  The Last Ship
John Pyper-Ferguson in a scene from Season One of 'The Last Ship'
Having finished Wolves well over a year ago, Pyper-Ferguson is back at his daytime job, playing Tex on The Last Ship. He is currently in Southern California filming Season Two of the highly-rated TNT series about the crew of the Naval Destroyer Nathan James, who are forced to confront the reality of a new existence when a pandemic kills off most of the earth's population.
"We are about halfway through the new season, but it's been a crazy, complex shooting schedule," explains Pyper-Ferguson about the filming of the action-packed series (which returns to TNT this summer). "We're shooting at lot at the studio here in Los Angeles, but we also go on the actual naval base in San Diego, whenever there is an actual destroyers available. Depending on the storyline, we shoot all over the ships' exteriors. One any given day, if we are not on a destroyer, we'll be at Pyramid Lake or Lancaster, so we go all over the place."
Produced by Michael Bay (Transformers, Pearl Harbor) The Last Ship became an instant ratings hit when it first aired in June of 2014. While many TV insiders initially harbored doubts that another "disease-of-the week" series about a ship of full sailors and scientists searching for a cure would attract many viewers, Pyper-Ferguson says there is a bona fide (albeit intangible) formula behind the show's runaway success.
"I think people love the show because, more than anything else, it has alchemy — there's a real chemistry going on," he says of The Last Ship, which also stars Eric Dane, Rhona Mitra, Jacko Sims, Christina Elmore and Adam Baldwin. "I think that's true of any successful show. There's a chemistry going on between the events, the actions in the show and the characters that are executing them. Success for a series is kind of like mixing a magic potion. You don't know what's going to make happen in the end. You just hope it all blends together right. Actually, I don't think you know it's really happening until it airs. You might think that you have the best series in the world, and suddenly it airs, then you watch it and everyone goes, 'This is crap.'
"You have no idea what you've got until it goes on and you've got an audience," he continues." More than anything, I think The Last Ship took off because there's something very compelling about the story. Also, as opposed to some of the other plague genre stories, what happens in our show is in the realm of actual possibility in the nearest future. I think that's really compelling to watch. I think it really pulls you in. It's magnetic. Plus, it's safer to watch people trying to fight a deadly outbreak as entertainment rather than it is to see it on CNN."
John Pyper-Ferguson and fellow cast mate Jacko Simms at the June 2014 screening of  The Last Ship  i...
John Pyper-Ferguson and fellow cast mate Jacko Simms at the June 2014 screening of 'The Last Ship' in Washington, D.C.
As soon as his duties for this season of The Last Ship wrap up, John is hoping to add a few more stage credits to his already impressive acting résumé.
“I love doing theatre,” John admits. “As opposed to film or television, there’s that immediacy when you work on the stage. And, it's more than just the applause. It's performing in front of living, breathing human beings that are not necessarily focused on what you're doing. That's part of the challenge, dealing with the candy wrappers, cell phones, wondering how the material is working and how to keep that interplay going. It's an absolute blast.
"I just love being an actor — period,” adds Pyper-Ferguson (who is also a self-professed "living room only" singer/songwriter). “I'm one of those people who had no Plan B. I guess, I’m fortunate that it's worked out pretty well, wouldn’t say?”
Ketchup Entertainment
Wolves Bonus DVD Features: Deleted Scenes and Make-up Featurette.
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