Dead West is an action western following Tony (played by Jeffrey Arrington, John Freeman  Story, Vicious), brother of a victim of a serial killer known only as The Ladykiller (Brian Sutherland of Fat Kid Rules the World and The Shootout). However, what begins as a typical revenge story soon divulges into a complex study of love, tragedy, and murder revolving around The Ladykiller.

Wicked Horror’s April Bennett caught up with Brian Sutherland to talk Dead West, playing a murderer and everything in between:

WH: First of all, your work as The Ladykiller is stunning. This character is so dual-natured, but still realistic to real sociopaths. How did you craft this character?

Sutherland: Thank you. Jeff gave me a great script to work with that showed a man who had a beautiful charm to him, a vengeful rage, and also this lost child who wasn’t ever dealt the right cards. I started by reading everything I could on serial killers and their upbringing. I felt that the most important part was figuring out what exactly happened to this character as a child that set him on this path. After that, I created a diary as his character at around age 10, and wrote for a couple of months, until we got to the day before we shot the first scene at the bar. Then I just let him loose. It helped me create the world of The Ladykiller. His hopes, dreams, fears, and aspirations.

WH: Were you intimidated at all by this role? The Ladykiller can switch between charismatic and deadly almost within in the same sentence.

Sutherland: It was always kind of in my wheelhouse. I play a lot of innocent, comedic characters and a lot of dark vengeful characters, too. I’m very lucky to be able to dance between the two, and to finally combine a character who had both of those traits was a joy ride. I think the most difficult part was to find the stillness in him. He walks and
talks slower than me, so to slow all of my mannerisms down was an
interesting exploration.

WH: You are credited with many roles similar in tone to Dead West, be they thrillers or just darker movies in general. Do you prefer these types of roles or do they tend to fall into your lap?

Sutherland: I never thought that I’d be doing so many darker films. I actually teach comedy and like to take classes at The Los Angeles Clown School, somewhat ironically. But I really enjoy playing characters who have no boundaries or morals. Horror films tend to have many characters like this. Growing up, I was fascinated by Freddy Krueger and Chucky. How could such nasty characters be so comedic and charming? I guess Robert England was secretly giving me acting lessons through A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Brian Sutherland 2WH: Would you agree that Dead West is a revenge story, from the perspective of a victim’s brother or do you think it tells a broader story about The Ladykiller?

Sutherland: While I love the revenge aspect, to me it’s always been the story of: how does someone cope with being a monster? Can they find true love? Can they change who they are? I like that ideally everyone will have their own opinion of what the film is about.

WH: Throughout Dead West, we get peeks into The Ladykiller’s background. Given the information provided, do you think he should garner sympathy from viewers?

Sutherland: I think you have to have sympathy for anyone who has had a horrible childhood. As they grow up and make certain decisions, as The Ladykiller did, that’s a whole other issue. But when you are unable to choose how you’re taken care of at a young age and it leaves you with pain growing up…that’s just sad. People should feel for those who have to go through that.

WH: Do you hate smokers as much as your character

Sutherland: While I smoked before the movie, I gave it up while filming. The final thing we shot was the cigarette scene with Candy. When we wrapped that final shot, I took that bloody pack of cigarettes, went outside, and had the best drag of my life.

WH: And finally, what is coming up next for you?

Sutherland: I have a film called Emily doing a limited release around the country, a family comedy called Zilla and Zoe hitting festivals, and I’m very excited about another collaboration with my Dead West co-star Jeffrey Arington (who played Tony) called Riders of the Storm. It’s a psychological thriller that takes place on a rainy night in the hills of Idaho. I get to play a psychotic Cajun gypsy. Guess these dark films aren’t going anywhere anytime soon!

Catch Dead West on DVD now. Read our review of the movie here.