Throughout most of his career, Glenn Morshower has been cast as a hard-nosed authority type more times than we can shake a stick at; from early roles in movies like Under Siege, In the Army Now, and Air Force One, to his appearances in Black Hawk Down, Pearl Harbor, the Transformers series (where he plays a military general named for him). And of course, there are the TV shows like West Wing, 24, and Friday Night Lights. Morshower appears to have been destined to lay down the law in one capacity or another since he started acting.
But that just makes his latest film, the indie picture Flutter, a pleasant surprise. The film is about JoLynn (Lindsay Pulsipher, Justified, True Blood) a young mother raising her son Johnathan (Johnathan Huff Jr.), who suffers from nystagmus and severe narrow angle glaucoma, on her own; she grows marijuana in her home to help treat Johnathan's ailments, as it's the only medicine that effectively relieves the pain inflicted on him by his condition. It's a personal film for director Eric Hueber and, as it turns out, for Moshower as well, who helped produce the film when approached about participating to begin with.
We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Morshower about working on Flutter, what the movie came to mean to him as an actor and as a motivator, as well as his work on Netflix's Bloodline, shifting gears in his roles, and the empowering effect of serving others.
Screen Rant: I didn’t realize until after watching the film that you were a producer and not just one of the stars. How did you and Eric Hueber come together on Flutter?
Glenn Morshower: Eric’s first film, Rainbows End, played at the Dallas International Film Festival a few years back, and he told me about a project he was writing at the time that he wanted to create as a vehicle for his nephew, because his nephew has a very interesting circumstance that he lives with in that he has nystagmus. And his actual nephew in life is Johnathan Huth Jr., who played Johnathan in the film. [Eric] sent us the script, and we loved it, and they were asking about my availability as an actor only. I was not in the producer aspect of it at all, I just wasn't scheduled to be involved in that capacity. But when they wanted to have me do it, they asked six months in advance, and at the time I was doing the series Dallas for TNT and was not going to be available, and I said, “Why are you waiting six months down the line if you’re shooting it in Austin?” It can’t be a seasonal film, because they don’t really have much by the way of seasons in Austin. It looks pretty green year round.
He said that it was an issue of money, and I wanted to do the film so badly that asked him, “What’s your budget?” He told me, and I said, “So in a perfect world, if the funding were there now, how long would it take you to get underway? What’s your pre-production?” He said, “Well, about three weeks, but that’s not the world we live in.” And I said, “Well, if you can get ready in three weeks, then you’re officially green-lit for three weeks from today.”
Boy, you could have heard a mouse piss on cotton, that’s a great old Texas saying for you. He said, “What did you just say?” I said, “My wife and I would like to fund the movie.” Because we really believed in it! They sent us a demo of Johnathan, two scenes, a little sizzle reel, and we thought that the camera loved him. We were able to see it in our mind’s eye as being a little train that could, so we decided to fund it and the rest was history.
I immediately took advantage of existing relationship capital, and called several key friends that had been in my life for many, many years, and asked if they would come join us in this endeavor. We had a parade of “yeses”. His vision for the role of Jolynn was Lindsay Pulsipher, who he had seen at DIFF called The Oregonian, and he loved her on True Blood. We did not know her, but that was Eric’s choice, and when we offered it out to her she said yes, and she and Charlie Halford, who plays Curtis in the film, were the only two non-Texans in the movie. So the fact that they could sound like this in the film, the reason is that all of us were native Texans. Jesse Plemons, who played my son, is also from the Waco area. So we’re a whole bunch of authentic Texans, and three generations of Texans redheaded men, and that’s why they wanted me. They had already chosen Johnathan, if whoever financed the film would agree to it, and they needed a father with red hair and a grandfather. So once they hired me, I said, “I’ve got the perfect father for this kid, and he played my son in Friday Night Lights.” They knew Jesse - not personally, but they knew his work - so I called him and asked if he wanted to play my kid again, and he said “absolutely.”
So we feel like we’ve made a really compelling movie. We love the message of the film, and we feel like we did our job as filmmakers.
That’s really amazing. The movie is about family, obviously, but it sounds like there’s a metaphorical family going on behind the scenes with your relationship with Jesse and everyone else. Was that a dynamic that everyone else had on set together?
Glenn Morshower: Yeah. And in fact, not only is that an accurate assessment of it, I really believe that it was the driving force behind the authenticity of the film. I believe that it’s impactful because it’s rooted in the truth of a family that really cares about itself, meaning the actors care about one another. I couldn’t have been any closer with Lindsay, and frankly no matter what big star we had asked to do the film, there’s not a mega A-list star in Hollywood that could have done a finer job with that role than she did. So I’m most impressed with Lindsay and Johnathan, and equally impressed with everyone in the film. But to me Lindsay and Johnathan just made that film.
I thought they were quite good myself. I’m curious now, because this was Eric’s passion project but it sounds like it became a passion project for you. Is that how everyone else felt about it?
Glenn Morshower: Well, you know, I travel extensively in my personal life as an inspirational speaker, and many, many people accuse me of being the most passionate man they’ve ever met. I’m absolutely filled with passion, passion overflows, and I don’t believe in doing anything in life unless you’re going to do it with passion. Eric shared that passion, and we became friends, and everyone rallied around a mutual respect and love vibe. And that’s the beauty of indie film. When you get into these $100 million plus movies, and I’ve done several of those, there are all these different jurisdiction, all these different department heads, and nobody ever crosses the lines. If you see a piece of cable on the ground that someone might trip over, they don’t want you to pick it up because that would be stepping into someone else’s department. In an indie film, everybody does everybody’s job. If it’s there and you can pick it up, it just became your job. I love that. We didn’t have a huge number of people around, so you really feel like you’re at summer camp making a film.
So this sounds like it was a lot more of a collaborative experience for you than working on something like 24 or the Transformers films, things like that?
Glenn Morshower: I can certainly say it was more collaborative than Transformers, but not, strangely enough, not more than 24. 24 was one of the most collaborative things I’ve ever worked on, because every day at 7AM, we sat down as a family and talked about the entirety of what was getting ready to be shot for the day. John Cassar was kind of at the helm, our primary executive producer - he directed more episodes than anyone - and everyone on that show had a voice in the wellness of the show. Those kinds of experiences will leave you spoiled rotten, because there’s no finer way to work.
I can totally believe that!
Glenn Morshower: And invariably, it produces a great outcome. Look, if whatever you’re planting your life in at the root is love, and respect, and empowerment, and service of others, if that’s the prevailing vibe, I really don’t see how that can go wrong. If you’re in it for selfish reasons, those things implode all the time. But we had a nice, close-knit family in Flutter, and I think it managed to translate to the screen.
For 24, you all worked for the wellness of the series, and listening to you speak it sounds like you worked for the wellness of the film, and I agree - that’s how it should be.
Glenn Morshower: Yeah!
But it’s funny to talk about something like 24 and then talk about a movie like Flutter. I think when people think of Glenn Morshower, they think of you as a military man, or a very authoritative figure, or a law enforcement officer, whereas here... you are playing that man, but he’s retired. He’s a gentler authority figure. Did you see any distant relation between Mark and other characters you’ve played?
Glenn Morshower: Well, like you said - he was dialed down from that, retired from that, and a softer, more gentle soul. But frankly, my interest in doing the role is, I said to Eric the first time we met - well after, so the second time, over the phone - I said, “So let me get this straight. Please repeat what you just offered me. You’re offering me a lead in a film where I do not have to wear a badge or a uniform?” And he said, “That’s correct!” So I said, “I’ll be in jeans and a plaid shirt and cowboy boots, and it shoots in Texas? I am so in!”
And that was it! And that’s interesting, because it began a trend in my life where for the last two years I have not been saying “yes” to anything that is police, federal agent, or military. Nothing. And I’ve had the busiest year and a half of my life, and I’m now playing a hardened killer on the Netflix series Bloodline. I play the drug lord on the show. So I’m not doing those things for a while. I’m gonna give it a rest. I became, kind of, Hollywood’s go-to guy when they needed a military or government official with a great deal of authority. They would come my way, and I just wanted to take a break from it. So I’m getting some wonderful roles now. I’m playing my first gay character in an indie film called Bug, and that was a blast, and I’ll be playing the President of the United States in another movie shooting in Utah this year.
So my three things on my bucket list were: a serial killer, a flamboyantly gay character, and the President of the United States. All three offers came within about four months of each other.
I gotta say, I really can’t wait to see you play the flamboyant gay man. That’ll be a sight for sure.
Glenn Morshower: [changing his accent] He’s based on a friend of mine who lives in Nashville, Tenesee, and he sounds exactly like this. I’m not making fun! His name is Jay, and he always goes, “Hiiii Glenn, how’s everything?” [reverting to his natural accent] And so we’re doing a character who’s name is Gerold, and he’s the head of the choir at a small northeast Texas baptist church, and that’s the way he sounds. I cannot wait for people to see this. I have this nice little groomed beard, and I think people are going to be blown away and remember that I’m actually not a government official! I’m an actor that plays one. They’re going to see this and they’re going to go, “Oh my god!” That’s the only reason I wanted to do it. I wanted to shake the minds and hearts of the American viewing public.
So this is about changing pace for you. With Flutter, you’re changing pace from what people expect of you, which is to play the military man; with Bloodline you’re changing pace from Flutter and playing more of a traditional villain. And now you’re going to change the pace again with Bug. Sounds like you’re really seeking out more varied roles. Does that typical image people have of you ever weigh on you?
Glenn Morshower: No, in fact it doesn’t bother me in the least. What it amounts to is, I have a great career as a speaker, and I make enough to live very comfortably off of my speaker income annually, which means I don’t even have to make movies. I don’t have to make films or television shows at all anymore. So, I do it purely by choice, which means I can pick and choose what I want, and although yes, Aaron Pierce was a government official as the head of the Secret Service responsible for the protection of the President of the United States, he still was a very, very feeling man, a heart-driven, heart-centered character, and that’s why audiences responded very favorably to him. So when I got done with 24, I was seeking more roles that are really driven by the heart instead of driven by procedure. There’s not a lot in the way of procedure in Flutter, if any. It’s a heart-driven story about a mother’s unconditional love for her child, and the great lengths to which she’ll travel to provide for him. So I’ll be doing a lot of love-themed stories in the next couple of years.
And between these love outings, I’m getting a chance to deal cocaine and kill people on Bloodline!
It sounds like you’re kind of living the dream though; you’re doing a lot of different, varied things, and you’re saying that you don’t need to keep making movies, but for fans’ sake, I hope you keep doing it.
Glenn Morshower: Oh, I do, but my primary interest by far is helping to facilitate changes, favorable changes, in the lives of others when people are looking to basically experience a sense of personal restoration. I’ve done it for twenty eight years, but it was limited to actors with a program I developed called The Extra Mile, and it was a course in audition mastery designed to help actors increase their booking ratio for jobs. As actors, it’s divided in half: there’s doing the job, but then there’s also the getting the job. Until you perfect the art of getting it, guess what? You don’t get to do it. So that’s why I developed that program. And my agent said, “You know, you have helped so many clients here at our agency increase their booking ratio, I think you should take it on the road and teach this program around the country.” He was right. It was as popular on the road as it was in LA, and one night fourteen years ago, I was in a Houston, Texas theater, teaching actors from all over the southwest, a big crowd of like three hundred people, and this good ol’ boy walked up to me at the end of the show, and he said, “Hey, Glenn,” - and I loved him because it took him two syllables to say my one-syllable name - he said, “Hey, Glenn, my granddaughter told me that if you were ever in Houston, that I was supposed to come hear you speak. And as you can see, son, I have done that, and I want to tell you something: on the way over here tonight, I didn’t see the sense of coming because I’m not an actor. But son, you weren’t up there talking about acting. You were talking about love, you were talking about power, you were talking about miracles, you were talking about connectedness, you were talking about self-respect, self-esteem, honor, and integrity, and I’m just wondering if you’d come talk to my people at Exxon.” That man was the CEO of Exxon. That man changed my life, because I started speaking to corporate America. I asked him what I would need to do modify it and tailor make it to your team, and he said, “Son, I don’t want you to change a damn thing. You do exactly what you did tonight and they’re going to scoop you up like good ice cream.”
And that was a life changing evening for me, and that was 14 years ago, and all of a sudden I started getting booked by so many companies to come in and just help rewire their mindset so that people would wake up with a renewed sense of optimism about the matter of their personal lives, simply with a better attitude and a healthier approach to living, and increased joy in their marriages, in the workplace, work sufficiency, all of that, and suddenly I discovered that I didn’t miss acting at all. I’m on a plane almost every week to fly to some city, which is why a couple of years ago we relocated to Dallas. We’re out here on business in LA this week but we live in Dallas regularly because it’s centrally located, and it makes flying around a lot easier.
That’s an absolutely incredible story, and it sounds like it’s changed your life much in the same way that you’ve changed Eric’s by getting involved in Flutter. Is that something you could see yourself doing again - working to help boost someone else’s dream and make their dream come true, as you’ve done for Eric?
Glenn Morshower: The answer is “yes”, and emphatically “yes”, and without a long-winded story about it, I’ll just sum it up by saying here’s why: no person in life who is selfish ever truly knows the meaning of joy. Selfish people don’t know the actual meaning of happiness. The only way to truly experience joy and happiness and joy in this lifetime is to in some way, shape, or form be involved in the service of others. When you are serving others, you now have a right to step up to the front of the line on the receiving end of joy. I’ve known this for years, and years, and years, and every radiant being that I’ve ever met in my life, what they all have in common is that none of them are selfish.
Flutter is available on digital and VOD platforms today, April 7th, 2015.