Terry Dale Parks Talks ‘Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials,’ Meeting Arnold Schwarzenegger and Owning a Ranch
Thirty-one years have flown by since we first heard Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaim those chilling three words: “I’ll be back.” Well, he definitely had that right! Since the franchise first began, there have been four additional installments added to the series, the fifth film having premiered this year on July 1. Not surprisingly, over the course of its run, this action-packed franchise has launched the careers of a handful of iconic actors, and the next one in line may very well be Terry Dale Parks.
Growing up in rural Oklahoma, the path to Hollywood stardom was not so easily defined for Parks. Being on a farm gave him less access to the proper training and instruction that’s often required of an actor, but he didn’t let that stop him from pursuing his craft.
“When I graduated high school, I didn’t really have access to Juilliard or the Yale School of Drama. I didn’t know those places existed. I barely stopped playing football long enough to get in the drama program,” he says.
It didn’t take long for him to catch up with others in the industry, though, despite the obstacles that had stood in his way. Armed with strong determination, raw talent and a vivid imagination, this native Buckeye showed that if you believe in something long enough, it can come true. To date, he has been in over 40 films and television shows, acting alongside such stars as Chris Hemsworth, Morgan Freeman, and more recently, the fan adored Emilia Clarke in the summer blockbuster Terminator Genisys. And while he might not be the leading man yet, he is quickly adding projects to his already impressive resume, but that hasn’t stopped him from forgetting his roots and acting like the Southern gentleman he’s always been. In fact, Parks (along with his wife, Amber, and their 18-month-old son) currently splits his time between running a gas and oil business in Oklahoma and acting in L.A., both of which he finds equally fulfilling and enjoyable.
With the lights of Hollywood shimmering down on him, you can soon see Parks as Carl in the second installment of the Maze Runner trilogy, which is set to premiere nationwide on September 18th. The self-proclaimed “faith healer” is also currently starring in the new ABC period drama, The Astronaut Wives Club. Recently, we sat down with Parks to talk about these projects as well as the thrill of working with Schwarzenegger and the animals he keeps on his beloved ranch. Read on to find out which scene in Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials he enjoyed shooting most and what he thinks of director Wes Ball.
GALO: You’re involved in a lot of projects this year — most notably, your role in Terminator Genisys, the fifth installment of the Terminator series. As it often goes with such films, there are a lot of high expectations and hype surrounding this one. Can you tell us a little bit about who you will be playing and how this film differs from the others in the series, especially given the technological advancements since the first one? What can fans of the franchise expect when they walk into the theatre this July?
Terry Dale Parks: I would say that things do not go well for my character [laughs]. It was a lot of fun to shoot. We got to do our own stunts — well, I got to do my own stunts anyways. There was a lot of CGI and motion capture, and getting to fly around in a harness. It was a whole lot of fun.
I’m a big fan of the original James Cameron films that established the series. But those films weren’t just action, they had a really compelling story, and they were story driven as well as being an action film.
GALO: They definitely gave way to infinitely more action and CGI graphics in this latest picture. You told Examiner.com that Arnold Schwarzenegger brought “energy” to the set. Were you nervous at all about meeting him the first time around? Tell us a bit what that experience was like for you.
TDP: It was interesting because it was the second film I’d done that was an Arnold Schwarzenegger film, but on the first film, I never got a chance to meet him. So in this one, I got to meet him when we were doing the table read together. I don’t know if I was nervous about it, [though]. I was really excited about it. I am really lucky to work with some people that growing up (especially in the ’80s), I idolized.
As far as action films, I always idolized Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tommy Lee Jones. And you think that would make me nervous, but it didn’t make me as nervous as I was excited, [especially] to see what he was like and get the chance to meet him — and, you know, Schwarzenegger is Schwarzenegger. There was a time before he was governor, where everything he put out was anxiously anticipated. One of the things about being governor, and I don’t really know because I didn’t know him before, but it’s that he is just a humble guy, and he was the caring overseer of everything that was going on. That was really kind of refreshing for me to get a chance to see him in action and really kind of be there for it. I really enjoyed the chance to get to work with him.
GALO: Was there anything that you took away from him regarding your craft — or perhaps even on a more individualistic level?
TDP: It’s always interesting and fun when you get a chance to not just act, but act with some really great actors. I really try to sponge as much off every actor as I can — to kind of see what their experience is. That’s the way I learned the craft over the years. I grew up in the middle of nowhere in Oklahoma, so I didn’t really have access to all that stuff. I didn’t get a chance to learn the craft as well as other people did. I have really been acting, with theatre and film combined, for 30 years. So being able to sponge as much experience and how people go through their process off other actors, I really cherish that. I get a big kick out of that.
GALO: You mentioned your time growing up in Oklahoma. I remember reading that you ran a farm out of there and that you had an oil and gas business. In a way, this aspect of your life is slightly reminiscent of TNT’s Dallas, except without all of the unnecessary family drama. Are you still involved with these outside endeavors or do you reside in L.A. full time now?
TDP: No, I am not in L.A. full time. I am back and forth a lot. Right now, I am actually driving to Dallas from my home over the Red River in southern Oklahoma. I had to come down to Dallas for a meeting. I still own my oil and gas business. I thought to myself that I was going to sell it or be out of it at some point in my life, but that hasn’t happened yet. There are things about it that I still get a kick out of. And then, of course, [there’s] my family. I have a little boy who is 18 months old and my wife, and they’re up on the ranch. We spend a lot of time up here, especially this time of year.
In L.A., there is not as much for me right now, because episodic seasons are kind of winding down and it’s the summer time slowness right now. When I come in [at] the end of summer, when episodic features start back up, I think I’ll be in L.A. [Oklahoma] keeps me grounded, though. I’ll tell you, in L.A., it’s very easy to forget how the rest of the country lives. Not that they live in any sort of strange way, it’s just that in L.A., in a lot of ways, it’s different. And so, [Oklahoma] keeps me grounded. I enjoy being there.