By Jacob Sahms
Standing on Legion Field at the University of Alabama, Kevin Sizemore was tossing a football back and forth with Nic Bishop and Caleb Castille in between takes. Suddenly, a shadow appeared on the wall behind them, distinctly impacted by the brim of Coach Bear Bryant’s houndstooth fedora. Sizemore froze, caught in the moment, before reality caught up with him: he was on the set of Andy and Jon Erwin’s film, Woodlawn, preparing to film the epic showdown between Woodlawn and rival Banks High School. It wasn’t really Bryant, but another legend, Jon Voight, who began to toss the ball with the trio of other actors.
“Even though we weren’t filming, it felt real,” remembers Sizemore, “because you lose track of who you are and where you are. You forget what you’re doing.”
Woodlawn’s impact on the actor is still evident, as he talks about the relationships he has maintained with the cast and crew. In 2015, he played Coach Jerry Stearns, who he grew to know in real life. Stearns, who passed away during filming, actually took over the team in real life after the events of the film, leading the school to the championship game. And Sizemore muses about what might have been if I Still Believe had come out first…
“The film would’ve had different marketing if the films had been flip-flopped. People didn’t know about Woodlawn but it’s one of those movies where people come across it, they’re just floored. From an entertainer’s standpoint, you go to a movie and it is what it is. Some people love it, some people don’t. You move on. There are a handful of movies where you connect to the cast and the crew. It wasn’t the biggest role I’ve ever played, but the message, the product, the relationships have lasted. We knew we had something – it just didn’t get promoted the right way.”
Now, the veteran of films and shows like Fear the Walking Dead and Resurrection has a starring role in Pureflix’s The Dark: Great Deceiver. A five-part miniseries centers on a group of survivors holding on during the Tribulation. Sizemore’s character Peter Braxton was married, with a son, and leading a church before the world changed.
“Something happens and we can’t explain it. It’s like a Twilight Zone trance. At this point my wife has died and her death really affected me. When we wake up, my son has disappeared and we don’t know where he is. I come from having everything with a congregation and a family to having nothing. I do get a glimmer of hope. One of the people who was out in the woods – they say they saw something and it looks like my son. It tells me my son might still be living.”
Tackling the character means struggling with the difference between what the people who remain know and what they have to discover about the world around them. Questions like, what is the Dark? Is it a thing or a person? Sizemore says that the show is like The Walking Dead without zombies, where the survivors have to navigate a no man’s land.
“That kind of fits me – once I have an opportunity, I’m going to go. [Peter’s] a leader within the congregation, but he’s lost everything – he’s lost all hope, even in his faith. He starts to gain that back with the handful of people behind him.”
Sizemore says that the series discusses faith from an organic level, within the plot but not from a preachy position. He’s looking for stories that are messy, that take the audience with them rather than telling them where to go.
“I’m not an avid fan of things that are over the top and hit you in the mouth with the Christian message because that’s not how people act in the real world. I think The Case for Christ was a beautiful way to talk – an honest depiction of figuring this world of Christianity out. I think Woodlawn was like that – as real as possible, and messy. You’re not going to watch Dark and think it’s beautiful and stunning – it’s about people in the woods literally trying to survive. I don’t know what I would do if I thought the end times were here. When you’re telling it as a story and offering to take the audience with you, my character is not just going to start giving you Bible verses because that’s not actually what would happen.”
Gunnar, Sizemore’s fifteen-year-old son, has been working on films and television since he was five, with voice roles on Kung Fu Panda and on screen with Nashville. But Sizemore says that his son has decided he doesn’t want to be on screen anymore, but to write, direct, and do voiceovers. Sizemore shared Gunnar’s breakthrough: “He said, ‘Dad, the problem with some of these projects is that they say it; they don’t show it. With film, it’s about how you show it, because you don’t have to say it.’”
Sizemore clearly appreciates how his son has evaluated and discerned his way through show business. He says it took trial and error on his part to differentiate between the projects he wanted to work on and the projects that left him uneasy afterward. “I’ve been affiliated with heavy-handed stuff, and it doesn’t feel right. With religion and politics, you know that no one can walk out of the situation going, ‘You respect my opinion and I respect yours.’ Someone is always getting upset.”
“I would walk off set, shaking my head, and go, ‘That just doesn’t feel right. The character wouldn’t say that.’ You’re smacking the audience in the face, unless it’s getting to somewhere in the script that makes sense.”
Too often, a film gets “faith-based” tagged on it, instead of “family-friendly.” Sizemore says that this stops the film from ever reaching half of the audience. “You’re allowing a potential audience member who is secular to not come and walk out thinking, ‘I learned something.’ You don’t want to tell them what to do, but to have them go research on their own and get inspired.”
Now, audiences can catch Sizemore in The Dark: Great Deceiver on Pure Flix, and stay tuned for a new project he hopes to get moving by March. Sizemore has co-written The Seven, a script that all takes place in a musty, rough, dirty bar, where once you get in, you can’t get out. Sizemore says that’s because it’s purgatory. “It’s the spiritual side of what is going on in the world.”
Whatever project you check out of Sizemore’s first, you’ll realize two things pretty quickly: he’s involved in projects that will make you think, and no two projects are exactly alike. No matter what, you’ll realize that the stories will draw you in and help you see your own life from a different perspective.
Check out The Dark here.