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Interview: Bree Michael Warner Disscusses Officer Down

James Woods, Stephen Dorff

While people may initially be surprised by the helpfulness of strangers, who seemingly commit random acts of kindness that save their lives, they may be motivated by an ulterior motive and need for their own help that they will later come back to collect on. That’s seemingly the case in the upcoming independent crime drama ‘Officer Down,’ in which a former bad cop will continuously have to pay for his past wrongdoings to a stranger driven by his own need for revenge. While the officer now wants to do what’s right, he has to question if his desire to change was built on a lie.

‘Officer Down’ is set to have an exclusive theatrical engagement on January 18, 2013, with a Blu-ray and DVD release to follow on January 22. Directed by Brian A. Miller and written by John Chase, the drama stars Stephen Dorff, Bree Michael Warner, James Woods, Stephen Lang, Dominic Purcell, AnnaLynne McCord, Walton Goggins, David Boreanaz and rap star Soulja Boy in his feature film acting debut.

‘Officer Down’ follows dirty cop Detective Callahan (played by Dorff), who one year ago was shot in a drug bust gone wrong and was saved by a stranger. He was then given a second chance to fix his life after the accident. But when the stranger finally comes forward, seeking revenge against the men responsible for a string of assaults on young women at a local strip club, Callahan must go rogue.

The detective must find the attacker in an effort to hide how his own past played a part in the crimes. Callahan’s desperation to find the attacker and cover his past mistakes takes him down a road of deception and fraud. He must find a way to play the good cop and track down the assailant, while keeping his reputation clean.

Warner generously took the time recently to answer some questions about the independent crime drama. Among other things, the actress discussed what attracted her to the character of Brogan, and how she prepared for the role; what it was like working with Dorff and the rest of the cast; and what it was like working with Miller, who has previously written and directed such crime dramas as ‘House of the Rising Sun’ and ‘Caught in the Crossfire.’

Question (Q): You play Brogan in the upcoming crime drama ‘Officer Down.’ What was it about the character and the storyline overall that convinced you to take on the role?

Bree Michael Warner (BMW): I think as a woman in the business you’re always searching for those strong female roles that allow us to be respected as intelligent, savvy and strong mined individuals. Emotionality and vulnerability are wonderful traits, but it’s a woman’s ability to balance the feminine and masculine that makes for much more interesting characters. Brogan is a woman who plays successfully in an otherwise men’s game.

Q: What was the casting process like for the role of Brogan? How did you become involved in the film?

BMW: Funny you should ask that. My experience with this particular film was rather serendipitous. While in pre-production there had been changes to the role, including switching it from Male to Female. Of course that meant that the Producers and Director were suddenly open to considering other talent. Thanks to my agent, my demo reel had gotten in front of them.

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This is where it gets wild. My husband and I had just landed in LA when the call came in. My agent received the offer on a Wednesday and I literally had moments to decide. If I accepted, production would need to fly me back to the East coast the very next morning to begin shooting the day after. At the time, all I knew was that (Stephen) Dorff and (James) Woods were attached and that I would be playing Brogan, the forensics detective opposite them. If I said, yes, in 48 hours I would need to report to set. The beauty of my business is that events like this can happen.

Q: How did you prepare for the role of Brogan? Did you do any kind of research for the character before you began shooting ‘Officer Down?’

BMW: As you can imagine I didn’t have the time that I would have normally preferred to really dive in and research. In a situation like this, there was no time to overthink it or worry; you simply just ‘Go’ and trust that all the experience up to this point will support you. It reminded me of the philosophy “Success is when preparation meets opportunity.”

It’s that moment when all the training really pays off, although I did have the good fortune of having my laptop with me. Thank God for the Internet. It’s amazing what you can research and accomplish on a trans-continental flight. But in between the technical knowledge and the clues in the script is the humanity, and you must find that in your imagination.

Q: Stephen Dorff plays the main character in ‘Officer Down,’ Detective Callahan, who’s desperate to find an attacker who threatens to reveal his past mistakes. Do you have any scenes with him in the film, and if so, what was it like working with him?

BMW: Yes, Brogan and Callahan (Dorff) work in unison to uncover the attacker, so we share a number of scenes together throughout the film. There’s a great deal of trust between these two characters and it’s evident in their relationship. Stephen was absolutely fantastic.

You have to remember that I had 48hours notice before I arrived in Connecticut to shoot. Day one was almost a bit surreal but Stephen made me feel right at home. I have to say that all the actors were incredibly welcoming and supportive of each other. I remember my very first scene was with Dorff, James Woods, Stephen Lang and David Boreanaz. Being part of collaborative character discussion in between takes with them was a gift.

I think in my business you discover that you’re always learning and growing. The best motivation in my craft is a healthy dose of uncertainty and fear. Having that edge can really propel a performance.

Q: Brian A Miller, who directed ‘Officer Down,’ previously worked in the crime genre with his writing and directorial efforts, ‘House of the Rising Sun’ and ‘Caught in the Crossfire.’ So what was your working relationship with Brian like when you were shooting ‘Officer Down?’ Did he offer you any knowledge on how to develop your character, since he has previous experience in the crime genre?

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BMW: Brian was great and obviously has a vast experience in that genre which helps. Sometimes you get on a set and the directors are being pulled in so many directions that it’s difficult to have those ‘character development’ conversations. With Brian that was far from the case and he did a great job, I thought, balancing his responsibilities. He was incredibly helpful and always made himself available to the actors for discussion. For someone like me that loves dissecting a script and really diving into a character’s behaviors, attitudes and what makes them tic, Brian was a perfect person to bounce ideas off of.

Q: For a crime drama, ‘Officer Down’ had a limited budget, a reported $12 million. Do you think that having such a small budget influenced the way Brian could shoot, and how you could act in, the film?

BMW: It’s amazing when you think about it, that in today’s world $12 million is a ‘small budget,’ but it is true to an extent. Since our film is largely character driven, I don’t feel like the budget had any adverse effects on us. In fact, I think it simply required everyone to be on his or her ‘A’ game.

Our shoot schedule was pretty accelerated. I mean, when you have a cast of this many names, there are a lot of schedules to contend with. For us operating on the budget we had just meant that we had to stay sharp. Everyone worked 200% to accomplish what we did. To me, that’s what made the experience special. There were times when we had five or six actors in a scene, shooting three cameras simultaneously. That can be intense, but what an education in managing pressure and focus.

Q: Anchor Bay Films, the studio that’s set to release ‘Officer Down,’ is one of the leading distributors of independent feature films, and many of its movies receive cult followings from fans. Have you screened the film for audiences yet, and if so, what kind of reception have you been receiving?

BMW: I know that during the post-production process there were a number of private screenings in LA to test the edit with an audience. I was actually back in New York during this time, but from what I heard the feedback was very positive. I’m also proud to say that our film had it’s world premier just last month at the Dubai International Film Festival.

Q: Besides ‘Officer Down,’ you have appeared in several other independent films, such as ‘Humdinger,’ and short films, including ‘The Shoemaker.’ Do you have an interest in appearing in bigger budget, studio films in the future, or do you enjoy starring in independent and short films?

BMW: Trust me, I never discount any opportunity. For me it comes down to the role and if it’s a story that resonates within me. Finding a project that I can believe in is key. I’ve been fortunate to step into the shoes of some incredible women. Ultimately my goal is to honor the role and help the writer and director tell the story.

In many cases, because of restricted budgets, independent films tend to be more character centric. Where they may lack in special effects they gain in the basic trials of being human. But of course it’s not entirely fair to compare apples and oranges. There have been some beautifully told stories coming out of the bigger budgets, especially for female actors. Actresses like Jessica Chastain are proving that the Hollywood formula is evolving, where women are hitting much later and forging a career that is less about tabloids and more on merit.

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Q: Speaking of ‘Humdinger,’ Chris Kerson is one of your co-stars in the film. While promoting his film ‘Broadway’s Finest’ over the summer, he mentioned working with you on ‘Humdinger.’ What was it like working with him on that film?

I first had an opportunity to meet Chris on ‘Humdinger’ and like many of the actors that I have grown to respect, his level of dedication was abundantly clear. Again, I think ‘Humdinger’ is a perfect example of what can flourish out of independent filmmaking. In order to overcome the challenges of a limited budget you have to check your ego at the door and level the playing field in order to make it work. Chris was a welcomed addition to our cast and I feel very fortunate to have continued that connection. In fact we are set to work together again in a feature film later this year called ‘The Only Girl.’

Q: Besides films, you have also appeared on several television shows, such as ‘Detective Force’ and ‘iCarly.’ What is it about television that you enjoy so much, and would you be interested in appearing on more TV shows in the future?

BMW: Absolutely, I would love to do more television work. I think for me the pace of television is an exciting challenge. Generally the time between getting cast and shooting is very quick, especially if you’re doing recurring episodes. There can even be times when you’re handed script changes on the day. It’s a great exercise in staying on your toes and keeping your performance fresh.

Q: Do you have any upcoming acting projects, whether in films or on television, lined up that you can discuss?

BMW: Currently I’m prepping for a feature called ‘Eleanor Rigby is Waiting,’ which begins shooting in New York in February. The film centers around an ensemble cast of characters all in search of love and connection. It’s the idea that although social media and daily proximity can bind us, we often times still manage to feel utterly disconnected to one another. The writing is incredibly honest and raw and there’s a lot of great visual symbolism that will play out in the film as well. It reminds me a lot of a Robert Altman film where the characters unknowingly overlap and intersect.

The best part is that the role is such a departure from what I typically play. Her values, her social behaviors even her vocal cadence is so different from my own. Finding her within me has been a fascinating process.