Eugene Lipinski is a veteran actor in theatre, film and television. He first worked with Louis Ferreira on Boozecan in 1994 and then again in 2015 when both of them worked on Ghost Unit and The Romeo Section. Eugene joined The Friends of Louis Ferreira with an exclusive interview in Ferreira Fest 69.
AN INTERVIEW WITH EUGENE LIPINSKI
We’re thrilled to bring you an exclusive interview with veteran actor Eugene Lipinski. He and Louis have been friends for about 20 years, ever since they worked together on the movie Boozecan. This Fall they’ve been able to work together on both The Romeo Section and Troy Mundle’s Ghost Unit.
We’ll let Louis introduce his friend.
Listen to the sound clip here:
“Folks, say hello to one of my closest, dearest buddies, Eugene Lipinski, my brother – I love this man with all my heart. He’s literally a living miracle. I love this man through and through. He’s an example of everything that I believe in; someone who has persevered and has taken his pain and his struggle and has learned to use it to serve others through his gifts.
I feel very very blessed to have this man in my life and I’m sure you will all enjoy his interview.”
Click here to listen to the interview:
FF – Hi Eugene, this is Bea, I’m so happy to have you at Ferreira Fest today. We’re so glad to be talking to you this evening. And welcome!
EL – Thank you, thank you Bea. It’s nice to be here, nice to talk to you all the way on opposite ends of the country.
FF – It’s exciting! So, let’s start with something really simple here. Who is Eugene Lipinski and what gets you up in the morning?
EL – Well, at the moment what’s getting me up is I’m working on a new show here in Vancouver, which is where I’m staying at the moment, called The Romeo Section. A great show, it’s by a Canadian guy, Chris Haddock who’s done shows like Da Vinci’s Inquest and Da Vinci’s City Hall and Intelligence.
So this is his new show and it’s loosely based around the heroin drug trade between Vancouver and Hong Kong.
So that’s what’s getting me up these days. And I get up, I exercise, try to get to the Y as much as I can and just go like that. Get up and go!
FF – That sounds great. Now, looking at the body of your work, you’ve played so many different roles, in movies and TV shows, but mostly you get to play the deliciously evil guys that you just love to hate.
EL – Yeah.
FF – And a lot of them seem to be Russians. So what kind of characters are your personal true passion? And is there a kind of character that you would just love to play some day?
EL – Oh, okay. I do love playing bad guys, I have to be honest. It’s good for me because my personality is quite soft. I have a softer personality, I’m not really that aggressive in my real life. Sometimes people say I’m a little too soft. But when I’m playing these nasty bad guys, it seems to fulfill me. It seems to balance me out.
I like to play them and often they’re intelligent as well, so they’re not thugs.
FF – Right.
EL – So when I play a bad guy, he’s usually a bad guy who’s big, because I am big, I’m like six foot one and two hundred pounds. But they’re also thinking bad guys which is what I love, I love doing it. It’s either bad guys or priests or something.
FF – Yeah. Is this kind of typecasting you think more a blessing or a curse for you? Or a little bit of both?
EL – I think it’s good. I understand what the entertainment industry is all about and it’s really a business. When I first left drama school in 1976 or whenever it was, there were more roles, and you were allowed to act, capital “A C T”, they would throw a wig on you or a hump or a fake nose, and so we were really given more opportunity to “act”. But then as I got older and I started doing basically film and TV, I am typecast, and people say, oh, you’re always playing the same role.
But well, there are different types of bad guys, and for me, it beats digging a ditch.
But well, there are different types of bad guys, and for me, it beats digging a ditch.
FF – Yes, certainly. As long as you get to do what you love. What’s not to love about that? That’s great.
EL – Yeah.
FF – When did you get bitten by “The Bug”? Was it the thrill of playing that tree in eighth grade?
EL – Yeah. How do you know about that?
FF – You did that CO-OP interview at Christmas, last year. Remember that?
EL – Oh yeah.
FF – I was in correspondence with the people at CO-OP Radio and they allowed us to do a complete transcript of that interview and it’s in Ferreira Fest 61. And so, we all know about the tree in eighth grade.
EL – Yeah, no, it was that, and then I went straight to the careers counsellor and I said, I’ll be an actor. And I got to join the Regina Little Theatre and I did all the plays like Christmas Carol and there was a man here called Louis Riel and we did a play about him. And then, What the Butler Saw and all these great Samuel French’s dramas, and then I was lucky enough to become an apprentice at the Globe Theatre which was run by two people who had trained in England. And then they convinced me that I should go to England because I was born there anyway so I didn’t have to worry about any papers.
And then I went to study at the Drama Studio and also at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. And the first ten years of my career was just basically stage work. I worked a lot with Steven Berkoff and I worked in the West End and stuff like that.
So, it was nice, and I got to be a proper actor. That’s how it all happened for me. But it all started with the tree.
FF – When you started out and also during your on-stage career, who were your mentors during that time? Are some of them still your mentors? Who helped you along the way?
EL – Some of the teachers that we had were amazing. For example, Sir John Gielgud would come to our school and teach.
FF – Oh my god, are you kidding?
EL – Yeah.
FF – Wow.
EL – Yeah. And then when I was at the National Theatre, there was an Irish actor called Stephen Rea and he helped me along as well. And then I got hooked up with this amazing guy called Steven Berkoff. He was trained by Jacques Lecoq in France and he does a very physical form of theater. I was involved with him and then I was involved with a Polish guy called Jerzy Grotowski.
FF – Oh my god! Are you kidding me?
EL – Yeah. I’m Polish. Yeah, so I met him. And I was in a theater company called Triple Action and we did, that’s the style of work we did was the Grotowski style of work.
FF – Yeah, wow.
EL – Yeah, so that was really good.
EL – I’m older, I’m fifty-eight. I know Stephen Rea is still alive, but most of the people that taught me, or came to our school, have passed away. In my early times, I worked with Alec Guinness, do you know who he is?
FF – Yes! Wow, what a pedigree, my god.
EL – Yeah. I mean, I was with him in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Smiley’s People, the original John Le Carré. And in Smiley’s People, I played his bodyguard, Nicky De Silsky. So I got to know him well.
FF – Yeah.
EL – You wouldn’t believe the names I’ve worked with, like Harrison Ford, and Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep; and I love directors, like my favorite all-time director is Nicolas Roeg, he’s a British director. And I worked with [Jerzy] Scolimowski as well. I did a film with Jeremy Irons called Moonlighting.
I’ve been so, so lucky. Like in my apartment I’ve got photos of… I’m just looking at a photo of, right now, I was in The Empire Strikes Back.
FF – Right.
EL – You know, the original Star Wars. And I’ve got a picture of Mark Hamill sitting with Irvin Kershner, the director, and John Morton’s in it and Chris Malcolm and I’m in it and Denis Lawson, he’s a Scottish actor, he’s in it, we’re all sitting around having a script consult.
I don’t have much in terms of wealth and things like that, but I feel very blessed. I feel very rich. My memories are huge. I hear from people that I’m well respected. So, I feel very strongly about actors being public servants.
I feel that I had a vocational calling to become an actor and serve the public. I like being of service to people. And I believe through my work I am being of service to people who have to truly work hard, and when they come home, they can put their feet up and watch a bit of telly or whatever.
So I feel I’m doing something worthwhile. And I believe that being an actor in this day and age is a very, very important job.
FF – Do you yourself have an interest in mentoring and passing on that guidance that you’ve got from your mentors as you’ve gone through the years of your career?
EL – I do, I do. I started to try to teach a little bit and I help young actors with auditions and if they’re poor and don’t have any money I said, well, if you get the job you can pay me. I don’t make much money doing it, or hardly any. I like doing that and people always come up to me on the set; the other day I was on set and they were going “Hey man, how long have you been doing this?”
And I go, “Since 1976.”
And they go, “Oh wow, will you teach me some stuff?”
So I try to help like that if I can, and, it’s a great job.
The thing of it is, I had to stop acting, which I guess it was about two and a half years, I’ve just started coming back to it now.
I had been in London, and I was trying to rush home from the airport and I needed to go to the washroom and I came running through my house and I have all these hardwood floors and I have a little rug in front of the bathroom which I’d forgotten about and, because it was dark, and I hit this rug at high speed and I landed on my chin and I actually broke my neck.
FF – Oh my goodness.
EL – Yeah, and I had a spinal cord injury and I was paralyzed for some time and at one point they didn’t think I’d ever be able to walk again. And I was at this amazing rehab hospital called G.F. Strong, so… My mobility is still slightly limited, but I’m getting improvement all the time, I can walk and I can do most things. On really good days you can hardly tell at all.
I keep working really hard on the physio and it’s paying off because I’m getting improvements all the time.
I’m so grateful to be working. You wouldn’t even believe it, but I didn’t think I’d ever be able to do this work again. And it was frightening.
FF – Yeah. We’re such fragile creatures, really, if you think about it. One slip and it could all be over. And it’s amazing how our bodies are able to heal themselves, every once in a while.
EL – Yeah, yeah. If the body hasn’t been pushed to the part of where it’s irreparable damage then, like, my surgeon said to me – “Eugene, you had an incomplete injury. You have as much chance recovering as you have not recovering.”
FF – Right.
EL – He said it’s just how things are going to fall. “Just work really hard and don’t have too high expectations. But just know that everything you do is for the benefit of your recovery.” So, that’s the attitude I’ve taken with that.
The man that I’m working for, Chris Haddock, he’s a wonderful man, and he hired me about ten years ago to do a show called Intelligence, up here. And then after we did the pilot for that and then he hired me to do another show called Da Vinci’s City Hall.
And, yeah, so when he called me in for this and I went and I did the audition and he was there, and the guy, the director, Stephen Surjik, he works a lot in the States, they were sitting there at the table and I walked in and I saw them and it just brought me down memory lane and I just started weeping.
I said to them, “I’m sorry that I’m crying but this is very emotional for me. I didn’t honestly think I’d ever see you guys in a professional situation again.”
FF – In Romeo Section, is that a regular or a recurring character on the show, do you know?
EL – Yeah, I’m a regular character, yeah. Up here we have CSIS, I know down… you guys have FBI, and the CIA and the DEA and all that, but our intelligence gathering organization is called CSIS. And that’s my character, he works for them.
FF – Right.
EL – There’s a lot of American shows being made; I was on Fringe for five years. And then I did the first two seasons of Arrow. And then in season two when I broke my neck they had to let me go because I was the head of the Russian mafia, of course. They were so nice to me, but I just couldn’t fulfill that role anymore. My function was pretty limited. But when now I got to talking about it, I realize how much I’ve improved in just two years.
FF – Right, right.
EL – The other thing I did while I was recovering was, have you ever heard of the online video game The World of Warcraft?
FF – Yes I have, yeah.
EL – So, they did a movie up here, Duncan Jones, who’s David Bowie’s son, directed it. I played a guy, he’s called a mage, it’s like a wizard. So that was kind of fun. I think it’s coming out in December 2016 or something. It was a huge CGI film, our set was all green screen. The special effects are going to be just amazing.
FF – Yeah.
EL – The actor has three tools: imagination, our bodies, and our voice.
FF – Exactly.
EL – So, those are our three tools that we have. But I find that so many actors don’t use their imagination that much and I guess I was trained that way, but I’m a big one on imagination. You’re not exactly in a park, like I’m working on some scenes from Zoo Story right now, Edward Albee’s play.
FF – Oh, I love that. Oh, that’s a great play.
EL – Okay, let’s pretend we’re in a park, so I do this warmup and try to get them to talk about the trees and the warm sunny [day], because if you can, what do they say, if you can conceive and believe you can achieve, or something like that.
FF – Well, and others can see too. You can help others see that by seeing it yourself. – So now I want to come back to that CO-OP radio interview real quick for a second. In that radio show we got to see quite a different side of you. Not just the actor, but also other stuff that you’re involved in. Apart from acting, what are some of the things that you enjoy doing, personally?
EL – Oh, okay, well, before my injury, I used to be really physically fit. I love riding my bike around, there’s a park here called Stanley Park, and I like to go golfing and skiing and did like the teaching when, even if you’re on a show, you don’t work every day.
It must be the Eastern European work ethic that I got from my mom and dad because, oh, I just love to work every day. I had another job, as well, as a sampler of grain. I would go to the ports here and I would take samples of lentils or flax or wheat or whatever, and then send it to our lab and then they would inform the buyer what quality of grain they were getting.
I was working right on the docks and I loved that. Because I loved being on the water and I loved meeting all the longshoremen, really cool guys.
And I made some nice friends, and when I was in the hospital, it was amazing, so I had actors come to visit me, I had longshoremen, they’re all rough, like that…
And then I do the teaching, and then sometimes I go and help at the Native Friendship center. And Louis Ferreira and I, we went and sometimes they put on plays, and we go there. They just like to have professional actors come and give their five cents’ worth. So I do that.
Yeah, and I go to England a lot because I have family there. And I like to go to Hawaii, to Kaua’i.
I love traveling. I really have traveled all around the world. That’s just, I guess, how I fill my time. I don’t get too bored or too lonely. I’m glad to entertain myself. But I’m a good cook because my mom taught me well.
FF – Fantastic.
EL – I can sew my own buttons on my shirt, so that’s cool. I’m self-sufficient.
FF – That’s wonderful. What a great thing to be able to say!
EL – Yeah. Yeah. In fact, I don’t even like going out to restaurants that much because I’m such a good cook that if the food is not at least as good as I can make it then I get angry.
FF – I hear you. – Everybody keeps asking you, I’m sure, about Indiana Jones and Star Wars and the big parts but are there any smaller things that you’ve done that you are particularly proud of that nobody ever asks you about and you wish they did?
EL – Yeah. I used to do a lot of little independent movies. I did a movie, I don’t know if you can even get it, it’s just a two-hander, it’s me and an actor, I think he’s American actually, he’s called John Bourgeois, and it’s called Maximum Capacity. And basically the story is about these two men who are having their day in court.
My son and the other guy’s daughter were dating and my son was drunk, in the movie, and got into a car accident, and the daughter died.
So then they’re in court. So what happens is, they get stuck in the elevator together.
So you know how in all elevators it says “maximum capacity”, right? These two are stuck in this elevator, and it’s just how they figure out that both of them are the losers here.
FF – Yeah, yeah.
EL – This guy lost his daughter and me, my part, I’m gonna probably lose my son who’ll go into prison for what he’s done. And then these two men, after this really gut-wrenching time, and then they finally get the elevator to open and, they’re not friends, but they acknowledge that it’s a tragedy all around for everybody. I really, really love that film and that’s one of the things that I really am proud of.
You know what’s becoming really popular up here is these web-series. The actors are doing them, so I’ve done one already called Paranormal Solutions which is sort of a comedy, and then…
EL – Did you interview Troy?
FF – Yes. And he was actually just last month, he was with us. So I’m so excited you’re on Ghost Unit, right?
EL – Ghost Unit. Yeah. So Louis and I are both gonna be in Ghost Unit. Yeah. So, the first time we worked together was, I think it was in the eighties, we did this film together called Boozecan.
FF – Yeah. Do you have any memories of working with Louis on that film? Since we’re talking about Louis right now?
EL – Yeah, yeah. No, I did, I just remembered that he reminded me a lot of Sylvester Stallone, young Sylvester Stallone. And I remembered that he always used to keep his head down, right? I used to say to him, “Look up, man, look up! People might get bored with the top of your head. Look up man, so we can see your face.”
FF – Yeah.
EL – Actually, I gotta be honest, I love that movie.
FF – I absolutely adore it. I’ve watched it so many times, and it still hits me like a fist between the eyes every time I watch it. It’s just so heart-breaking but the scenes to me feel so natural, it’s not even like watching a movie, in many ways.
EL – Yeah. One part of it that I really love is, you know that bit when I catch my girlfriend and, he’s a boy, but, you know…
FF – Yeah.
EL – So I’m, I straddling him, and I just came up with that stuff and I go, you know where chop suey comes from?
FF – I know, yeah, yeah, yeah.
EL – He goes, China. I go, nope, United States.
And you know where tulips come from? Oh, nope. Turkey. I don’t know why but I just had in my mind that I wanted to explain to him that things are never what they seem.
I actually loved working with Nicholas Campbell, he was the director. I’ve worked with him a lot as an actor and he directed that and he directed some of the Da Vinci show and he directed some of the Intelligence shows.
He and I are very good friends, but we don’t hang around with each other any more now because he’s in Toronto and I’m here, but yeah, I think he’s very talented. I think he did a great job, the DOP, I forgot his first name, but he made Toronto look so beautiful in that movie.
FF – Even your character, Braston, he’s obviously a very mean and twisted guy, but he’s not a hundred percent, like you said, he’s an interesting bad guy because we do get to see that he has the mother in the nursing home, and that difficult situation at home and then, the lover that lives in this oddly empty apartment with the sandbox.
EL – I know.
FF – It’s just so fascinating and he’s like obviously the antagonist here, but you can’t help but feel for him as well.
EL – You know that’s what I mean about your physicality works for you and it works not for you, I’m not going to say against you. But the great thing about being a character actor, there’s always five or six character actors but there’s always only maybe one or two leading men, right?
FF – Right.
EL – So I’m sure Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise or whatever, they think, oh, wow, we’re really limited to the roles we can play. There’s advantages and disadvantages of everything.
Given how I look and my upbringing and all this kind of stuff, because I come from a really, really working class family, from East End Regina, you know, I’m probably the only one of my group who’s still alive. Most of them got involved in bad things.
The theatre saved my life. The theatre saved my life because I was going down a very bad path, you know how you do, when you’re an immigrant in the east end of anywhere. But the theatre saved my life. It introduced me to broad-minded people, thinkers and the exciting lives they had. And there were even judges that were involved in the Regina theatre.
FF – Just the fact, like you said, broad minded people and the fact that the theater world, or the arts world in general, tends to be very accepting of other-thinkers because that’s what’s valued.
EL – Yeah.
FF – If you think differently and if you think in different ways and you come up with new ways of looking at things, that’s what’s valued there. And that’s not necessarily so in industry where being steady and being the same and being consistent is more what’s being valued.
It’s a very different outlook on life if you think of it that way. And meeting people who think differently than you yourself do, and then having that valued, really does open up your mind as well.
EL – Yeah.
FF – It’s really quite fantastic.
EL – They’re not judgmental. There’s a great saying that goes: “Never exercise contempt prior to investigation.”
FF – Oh, oh, that’s good.
EL – Yeah.
FF – I like that, that’s excellent. That’s a good one! Eugene, we’re at the end of the interview here.
EL – Okay.
FF – And here comes the difficult question that all of our interview guests get to answer: if you could describe Louis in four words, what would they be?
EL – Okay. Passionate. Let’s say compassionate. Very generous. And very loyal.
FF – Those are fantastic words, Eugene, thank you so much.
EL – Thank you so much, Bea, thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure.
FF – And I really enjoyed having you here tonight and hope to keep track of what you’re doing and best of luck with Romeo Section. And we’ll see where your next adventure takes you.
EL – Thank you so much, Bea. Lovely to meet you on the telephone.
FF – We’ll talk to you soon.
EL – Yeah, come to Vancouver, come to Vancouver!
FF – All right, we will, thanks again, Eugene, and good night.
EL – Good night.
Thanks to Casey for the transcript!
If you’re an actor in the Vancouver area and are interested in Eugene’s acting coaching, check out his webpage at MyActingTeacher.com.
The Friends of Louis Ferreira would like to thank photographers Brendan Meadows and Tim Leyes for their kind permission to use their work on this site. Please visit their websites by clicking on their names to see more photos of people and shows you will recognize!