It’s no secret that I fell in love with the film Blood Brothers (Divine Tragedies). So when I was offered the opportunity to interview Jon Kondelik, who delivers an equal parts ferocious and heart-wrenching performance as Thomas Lo Bianco, I jumped all over it.
Anthony Trevino: How’d you get involved with Blood Brothers?
Jon Kondelik: Graham, Jose, and I were hanging out at Jose’s watching an old Orson Welles movie called Compulsion, which is based on the Leopold and Loeb case. Jose didn’t tell us much about it going in, so we just watched the movie and we really dug it. Afterward, we were finishing our conversation just of our general thoughts about the movie and Jose says, “I want to make a movie like this with my own twist on it, and I want you two to be brothers.”
We weren’t really expecting that so it was a surprise, and we thought all right let’s do it. I said maybe I can produce it as well for you and asked if we could get a script. About a month to a month and a half later we were going back and forth with the script, and I think that was October-November of 2013 and then February of 2014 we were in production—once you get the passion ignited things happen.
AT: How’d you approach playing Thomas?
JK: Thomas was fun. One thing I’ve always said is it’s great for both Graham and I, because we get to kind of play both characters essentially, but we both had our own way of approaching it. I more so didn’t want to do anything transformative. I just wanted to find that inner Thomas that was already within me instead of completely changing myself. I started a diary to get into that mindset to kind of develop this relationship, and extend what was in the script. So I was trying to write diary entries based on Thomas and Charles’s relationship with each other, and his disdain toward Charles, his mother, and where that came from.
So, I explored that some more to strengthen what was already on the page. For me, preparing it is one thing, but actually being there on the day is a whole new thing, and I think that makes it more real for me. Especially when I’m in costume—we all even went out and got haircuts and it’s not what I’d usually do. So, in a way it’s a mild transformation. However, when I look at myself I don’t look like me typically and I think that helps that much more that I can sort of be in that vibe.
It was tons of fun. I think being the creepier version of Thomas comes very natural and easy. It was the other side of Thomas, toward the end of the movie, when he gets more fragile is where it gets challenging.
AT: I think you pulled it off though. That’s one of my favorite aspects of the film. At the start you get the impression that, yeah, he’s a sociopath and the one leading Charles, but in the second half of the movie you see this genuine vulnerability. I think that definitely came out in your performance, and that moment between you and Barbara Crampton solidified that for me.
JK: Thank you! That was actually one of my prouder moments in that shoot. When we’re yelling at each other, me and Barbara, we did a take where we really kind of cranked it up, and after Jose said, “Cut!” Barbara’s just looking at me and then she smiles and gives me this huge thumbs up, and I thought, “Oh, great! Cool!” That was a fantastic moment for me.
AT: It paid off, man—that scene is great. It’s also one of the reasons I love this film so much. I think it’s really easy in movies with similar subject matter, where the killers just come across as very straight forward monsters, and there’s a lot more humanity to both Thomas and Charles than in the average serial killer flick.
JK: Yeah, absolutely, and I think that’s what really drew us to it, ya know? How Jose explained it to us, and explained his vision, it was definitely grabbing—hard way to say no.
AT: Did you and Graham do a lot of rehearsing together?
Jon: Yeah, well, Graham and I are friends. I think we trust each other and feel comfortable so it wasn’t like showing up and meeting each other for the first time. We have that already and while we were shooting he was staying at my place and we were rehearsing every single day, trying to nail that down and break these scenes down to find the little nuances. Things we hadn’t discovered before and it was really fun. I think that was the closest we’ve ever been.
AT: Were there any scenes that were emotionally rough for you?
JK: Yeah, there was a scene that we kept doing over and over again where we’re on the hood of our car after we did the kill. I can’t remember what was going on, maybe it was technical or something, but we had to keep doing so many different takes and Jose keeps his coverage rather limited, and he knows what he wants, so instead of doing everything a million ways he’s very selective. Actors will usually save their energy for their close up or whatever, but in this case it’s just a two shot of us, so we always have to be on our game in every single take. We couldn’t really save ourselves for that one close up.
So, having to do it several times over was really tough. And I think the makeup girls had the sprayers or blowers to put in your eyes to make you cry, but I can’t do that. If I do that it just hurts and I can’t see so I have to do everything for real. I was doing it, and then a few takes in I was sucking and it wasn’t working, and then I had to work even harder to try and pull that out of me again. Finally, I pulled it out, but I knew in the back of my mind if we keep going I’m going to run out here. My tear ducts are just going to be gone, dried up. That one was really tough emotionally—trying to keep pulling the water out of a well that keeps progressively drying up.
AT: Are you a horror guy?
JK: I love horror it’s been my brother and I’s favorite genre since we were kids. The Evil Dead is one of my favorite series of all time. We love John Carpenter, Wes Craven, and Universal Monsters. The Shining is one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s been in my blood and I don’t really know where that came from because my parents don’t like it. It’s something that’s always been with us since we were kids.
AT: I was taking a look at the Dual Visions website and noticed that a lot of the films were horror or suspense, which is why I asked.
JK: Absolutely. We just made a film called Behind the Walls, which is a haunted house film and we have a bunch of films in development that are either horror or thriller. We definitely know what we like and horror is definitely one of them.
AT: Do you want to talk about Behind the Walls a little bit? I love the concept.
JK: Absolutely. Thank you. Behind the Walls is a haunted house film from the perspective of the house. We’ve written a haunted house film before, and we didn’t want to do the same thing over again where you kill the whole family and it’s a blood fest. So, we said if we’re going to do it what would be unique? How about if the house is a character itself that actually lives, breathes, and has emotion? And instead of the family moving in and discovering something bad happened there many years ago and learning the dark mythology of the house, the origins of the house are unknown.
The house is learning more about the dark mythology and past of this family that comes in. It definitely leaves some room for dramatic moments in this film and there’s a good drama at the core of it. My brother and I, we get bored very easily. If nothing happens in 10 or 15 minutes we check out. So stuff does happen throughout the movie. It’s not just a blood fest.
AT: When’s it coming out?
JK: We’re still mixing right now. Everything will be done a hundred percent by the end of the year. We took it to the American Film Market (AFM) recently and did very well. Everyone was excited about it. We were selling foreign territories already—so things are great. They love our artwork and we just released a great trailer. We have a fantastic cast. Vanessa Angel from Kingpin and Weird Science, Reggie Lee from NBC’s Grimm, Lew Temple from Rob Zombies 31 and Walking Dead, Hutch Dano that was on the Disney Channel and in Zombeavers, and Bailey Spry from It Follows is also in it.
What’s next for you as an actor?
JK: Oh, gosh, as an actor I have no idea. Whatever comes my way. I’m a business person. I run our business and direct. Acting is just for fun. I love doing it. I would hate to actually call myself an actor because it would be disrespectful to tons of people that actually go to class and put the hard work into it, and really kill themselves and struggle. I was in Jose’s first movie The Haunting of Whaley House and that’s where we first met.
If someone asks me to do it I’ll be happy to oblige, but I don’t consider myself a professional actor by any means. I know that sounds weird, but I think we’re all just story tellers, and we’re all working together to try and make a good story and a great film, and I think we made something really interesting with Blood Brothers.
AT: Anything else you want to get out there?
JK: Yeah, Blood Brothers is out now on VOD and digital pretty much everywhere. There’s Amazon Video, VUDU, iTunes, and plenty of others. It’ll be in select theaters December 9th and DVD will be February 14th.
AT: Awesome. Thanks, Jon!
JK: Thank you! Take care!