Terry Dale Parks Talks ‘Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials,’ Meeting Arnold Schwarzenegger and Owning a Ranch
GALO: According to your Twitter, you have a deep love for animals. What animals would we find on your ranch if we were to pay a visit? And do you have any pets that travel with you to L.A.?
TDP: No, we keep most of our animals on the ranch. We do take our dogs back and forth if we know we are going to be in L.A. for a long time. We will probably take our dogs back in the fall. On the ranch, we have cattle and I used to train horses for a while. We have kind of dwindled down our animal population on the ranch. It belongs now to the deer and the hogs and whatever wants to live there. I’m not a hunter, but everyone around me is a hunter, so I imagine the animals who live in our place have [something of a] sanctuary because no one is shooting at them. Hunting is pretty big in southern Oklahoma.
GALO: So I take it that you don’t partake in the recreational hunt with your friends in Oklahoma?
TDP: Oh, you know, when I was younger, yes, but I never really got into it. I didn’t care much for shooting things. Especially since they don’t have the chance of at least fighting back [laughs]!
GALO: Yeah, I can only imagine it becoming useful and necessary when stranded on an island or lost in the wilderness. So, going back to that Examiner.com interview, you stated that you’re a huge science fiction fan, which prompted your interest in the original Maze Runner movie. How surprised were you to find out only a few weeks later after seeing the first film in the series that they were interested in you for the sequel?
TDP: It wasn’t even a few weeks later, honestly. On a whim, one night [when] I had [some] free time, which isn’t so easy to come by these days, I went to see [The Maze Runner] by myself and I really enjoyed the movie. The next day after seeing it, I got a call from my agent that said, “Would you like to read for this?” And I thought, ‘that’s really a coincidence.’ I had seen the film [only] the night before and discovered then and there what it was, because it had not been on my radar before. I don’t know why, but I had not heard much about it. The director [on both films], Wes Ball, really was a joy to work with. I think this is only the beginning of what he is going to be doing in the film world because he is very talented.
GALO: The majority of the characters are played by a younger cast, many of whom are new to Hollywood. As an actor with a 30-year career under your belt, what was it like working with such a young cast?
TDP: They were awesome! Those kids — The Maze Runner cast were mostly kids — they’re not tiny kids, but a lot of newcomers. They have had so much success with the first film that I thought, ‘well, now that they have had success, it will be a bit of a different story,’ because you expect people to get proud of their work. But these kids were the most amazing, humble, close-knit group of kids I have ever had a chance to work around. The comradery that they have on-screen is completely honest because they have that comradery off-screen. They really enjoyed being around one another. They are really humble kids, and they show up, do the work, and have fun doing it. You can’t ask for more than that. It was a delight to work with them.
GALO: Without giving too much away, what element of the films did you enjoy the most? In other words, what entranced you about this story from the time you saw it in the theater to when you had the script in your hands of the continuation?
TDP: The first day of shooting for me was out at night in the dunes of Albuquerque, New Mexico, running all night long. At one point, I was carrying one of the cast members. That was a lot of fun and taught me how old I was. If you are running through sand dunes all night long, it is definitely not easy to do — and I was huffing and puffing! That’s just a lot of fun to be able to be a part of that creation, where you kind of know where things are going. That’s the thing about the new film, because it’s not years later, they literally pick up a split second after the first film ends. So it is literally a continuation of a story that has already been established, but then [it] takes it in a whole new direction. It’s really an interesting story. I think working around Wes Ball and the [cast] was probably my favorite thing.
GALO: Apart from these two films, you’ve also landed a recurring role in ABC’s The Astronaut Wives Club. What can you tell us about this project, especially when trying to convince those who have yet to tune in to watch it?
TDP: Well, I’ll tell you, the first episode aired [last month], and I don’t come in until the second episode. The thing about The Astronaut Wives Club that I love so much [is that] it’s a combination of two things that I think completely different groups of people would find fascinating. It has the whole aspect of what’s going on in people’s lives. These astronauts were the superheroes of the ’60s, they did something that, literally, up until that point, people didn’t think was humanly possible — and some of them died doing it. It was a really tough program to sell to the government, which is how my character comes in. He is a government official in charge of what happens when, what money goes where and whether things can continue or not. Because of all the dynamics of things that went on in people’s personal lives, it takes these people who were superheroes [and it shows us who they were]. It’s kind of a biopic in that way. They actually did these things, but it takes them and shows us the human side — which is always the most fascinating part for me in any story, to see the human element behind [the] people who did these extraordinary things.
GALO: How important do you think it is to tell the story of the “First Ladies of Space?” and not just the men who changed the course of history?
TDP: It’s a fascinating show for women coming from the aspect of the appeal of the women in the lives of the astronauts, and what the people involved with them went through and their stories. It appeals to people, female or male, that are really interested in the historical aspect of the astronaut wives club, and the fact that it isn’t made up. These things are true stories.
GALO: The show is being compared to Mad Men by some media outlets due to the period it focuses on and the atmosphere it evokes. Would you agree with this statement?
TDP: Absolutely! In a lot of ways, it does. In fact, when we were first working in the meetings and figuring out what everyone wore — especially the women in this period — that was actually one of the fun things about it.
We got to have this really cool [wardrobe], and you don’t get a chance to do that on every project. That was a really fun aspect of the whole thing. It looks amazing and there is a lot of really cool stuff. There is one scene in the first episode, where you see this line-up of all these astronauts who have convertible Corvettes, and working with those old cars was really cool. It was really fun to be involved with something that has that historical aspect to it.
GALO: With a number of hit movies and character roles under your belt, where do you go from here? What is the next level you want to take your career to?
TDP: Right now, I think that I am doing something I have never really done before. We are in the middle of two different projects, now that we are writing and producing our own project, which is a new road for me. I’ve never really been down the self-producer road, writing my own stuff. I’ve never really had the time to do it.
With all the media outlets available to us and the ways you can put a story out there that you want told, the time has never been more prime for people who have a story they want to tell [while still being able to] put it together in the best time. You can actually afford to shoot it [at a reasonable price] and get it distributed online where people can see it. That hasn’t really been the case pretty much through any other time in history. There is so much online content, and all of these companies wanting to have online content are hungry for it. So, for me, that is the next direction I want to go. I’m a storyteller at heart — that’s what I’ve always been. Putting together my own projects that I really feel passionate about telling, that is where things are going next for me.
Video courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
Want more of Terry Dale Parks? You can follow him on Twitter @TerryDaleParks to stay up to date on his endeavors. And be sure to tune in this Thursday, July 23 at 8/7c to ABC for a new episode of “The Astronaut Wives Club.”