As TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE the podcast presents Glenn McQuaid’s “CONVICTION,” The Pale Men sat down for a chat about the audio play’s origins, the casting, and Jesus on a dinosaur.
Larry Fessenden: Glenn, this story has political overtones not usually found in your stories. In fact many thought this one was penned by myself. What inspired this story?
Glenn McQuaid: In the past I have shied away from politics in horror because the work I like to tap into aims to be an escape from the troubling realities of current affairs. Growing up, Hammer Horror and Universal Horror offered a reprieve from all the real life terror I was seeing happening locally and globally, and so that’s a place I like to go, to offer that same break from troubles.
Of course the great thing about Tales is that it allows us to try new things and this story came out of me quite quickly. I was religious as a kid, I was also a very frigtened gay kid and I found great comfort in prayer, that I might pray away my homosexuality seemed possible to me back then, and that I might pray for the Cold War to end or pray that I might gain super powers or to befriend ET all seemed reasonable and it offered me a magical escape from my worries. The praying itself was an OCD type ritual that involved blessing myself countless times and repeating prayers ad nauseum, sometimes backwards, until I felt an overwhelming sense of hope and joy and optimism. So I think the story came from reflecting on what was going on with me back then, and the idea that one can create one’s own belief system regardless of reality and it can offer short-term comfort. After these sessions I was no longer going to turn out to be a homosexual, the world was a safer place, I would learn to fly and I’d get to make friends with ET, all these wonderful things were possible so long as I didn’t question anything past that belief system.
The idea that dead soldiers might return home to haunt those that sent them to their deaths was also on my mind, to that end Bob Clark’s DEATHDREAM and WHEN JOHNNY COMES MARCHING HOME (Hellblazer #5) by John Ridgway and Jamie Delano were inspirations. The working title of Conviction was Spirits Never Forgive.
LF: Talk about the casting. The main character seems like a Dick Cheney type but you cast Lance Reddick which gives a more interesting texture to the piece.
GMcQ: As we prepped the show Daniel Noah and Specrtrevision were helping us with casting and I think that’s where the connection to Lance came from. What can I say, I’m a huge fan of Lance and his voice is absolutely incredible so I jumped at the chance to work with him. Colin Powell was an inspiration for the character too. Walker will do whatever it takes to protect conservative America regardless of the amount of corpses he has to walk over to do it. After we performed Conviction we went straight into The Vampire Party and I was so impressed at how easily Lance discarded the staunch republican character of Walker and dived head first into playing a really fabulous gay vampire, it was a wild transtomation to the other side. Lance is very talented and a really lovely man too.
LF: The boy was also very good, not an easy feat.
GMcQ: I had seen Cooper Roth in Cooties and was delighted when Daniel mentioned we might get him for the role of Holland. As you know, we don’t get to rehearse a lot with actors before curtain call but when he came in he rolled up his sleeves and joined our motley crew. Lance and Cooper had great chemistry on the night.
LF: There’s a bit of surreal whimsey portraying Christ on a dinosaur.
GMcQ: Yeah, the creationist aspect of the story was very important to me as it tapped into how powerful and dangerous certain belief systems can be. Walker is basically an atheist who has used religion for political strategy and leverage, and here we see all of that come home to bite him in the ass. His daughter and now grandchild have drunk the kool aid he was shilling and that’s the tragedy of the piece and the justice of it too.
I didn’t want to portray Jesus for laughs and putting him up on the dinosaur really was to honor Cooper’s beliefs but when he showed up riding that thing the audience had a good chuckle as I don’t think anyone had seen or heard something like that in a while. It was wonderful to perform live and see the reaction.
LF: Did you have alternative endings to this story?
GMcQ: I think there was a slightly more convoluted ending where Holland tries to kill his grandfather but instead gets shot and, as he dies, sees Jesus arriving on a pterodactyl for them to fly off on.
LF: How was the live performance of this one?
GMcQ: This was a tough show to pull off (three half hour audio-dramas live!) and we had a few technical hiccups but my memory of it is warm and I’m really proud that we got to LA and showed them what Tales from Beyond the Pale is about.
Photos: Conviction poster by Trevor Denham; Glenn procrastinates in an LA hotel; Glenn procrastinates outside the venue, October 29 2014