Bruce L Hart and Leon Acord play enemies in the digital series “Old Dogs and New Tricks”
After five years of playing bitter rivals on the hit digital TV series Old Dogs & New Tricks, Bruce “Nelson Van Eddy” Hart and Leon “Nathan Adler” Acord move to the big screen in the new gay feature film comedy OPEN, playing — wait for it — BFFs. QueerMeUp talked to the two actors to ask them about their drastic change!
Q: So do you two really hate each other?
Bruce L. Hart: (laughing) Of course not.
Leon Acord: We can’t stand each other! (laughs)
BLH: We wouldn’t be working together in another project if we did. Actually I love working with Leon and he inspires me with his energy and creativity. It was a treat to be back on the set with him.
Leon Acord: Sometimes I wish we had pretended to hate each other, simply because it would add interest to our relationship on the series! But the truth is, Bruce and I hit it off from our first meeting. He’s become one of my best friends, and I seek his counsel often. We have very similar work ethics, and senses of humor.
Q: How did OPEN come together?
BLH: OPEN came about from a conversation at a cocktail party where I was discussing monogamy vs. open relationships with a good friend. From that conversation came the grain of an idea to develop this into a full blown script. The script took almost 4 years to finalize. My brother Paul Hart and I workshopped the script for quite a while. Even though it’s a comedy, there were so many attacks on gay marriage going on in the past few years that we wanted to wait for a calmer time to produce a story about a monogamous couple questioning their fidelity. After Marriage Equality became the law of the land it seemed a good time to explore this topic.
Q: What happens in OPEN?
BLH: It’s a comedy that tells the story of a monogamous couple on the eve of their ten-year anniversary who start to question if fidelity is working for them. They are inspired by another couple, who are happy with their successful, open relationship, so the monogamous couple sit down and draft a set of rules for their newly forged open relationship and then proceed to experiment with mostly calamitous, sometimes poignant and often hilarious results.
LA: I really like that the film explores aspects of different kinds of relationships, with humor, and without being judgmental about alternative choices people can make. If anything, the moral is “be true to yourself,” which is great advice.
Q: Bruce, what prompted you to think of Leon for the role of your best friend, considering how good you two are at hating each other on screen?
BLH: The role was written for Leon.
LA: It was?
BLH: There was never any thought to casting another actor in the role of Richard. Having worked with Leon on Old Dogs I knew he would bring exactly the right quality to the film and he does! Richard is witty, passionate and also a good friend to my character Kyle. Especially when he cautions Kyle against having an open relationship.
LA: Back in our first season, Bruce told me he was working on a script and there was a role for me, and was I interested? I immediately said yes, because Bruce has been so good to me, and he’s fun to work with. But you don’t get too excited until you actually get a script, because you hear “I’m working on a script, there’s a part for you!” a lot, then nothing comes of it.
When I got the script, I was thrilled when I read it. Not only was it funny and had a lot of heart, but Richard is a bit outrageous, a 360-degree turn from Nathan [his role on ODNT]. I can’t believe how quickly he pulled it all together, got it shot and finished!
Q: Which do you two prefer, playing good friends or worst enemies?
BLH: Well that depends. Right now I prefer playing old friends. Besides in real life we are good friends. But just get me back on the set of Old Dogs and I am sure my answer will be worst enemies. Honestly, I just enjoy working with Leon. He brings energy collaboration and professionalism to every project.
LA: I have to admit, I prefer playing enemies. Acting is like a tennis match, and when you’re playing friends, you’re kind of gently lobbing the ball to each other. When Bruce and I are being Nelson and Nathan, there’s an element of competition, even though we like each other. We’re slamming that ball back and forth. We’re both pretty good actors, so I really enjoy that intensity. But it was also a lot of fun to play a different kind of relationship in this film.
Q: ODNT is known for its fight scenes with your characters. Is there a fight scene in OPEN?
BLH: No, those fight scenes are exclusive to ODNT! There are some moments in OPEN where there are some funny verbal arguments, but nothing like the fight scenes in ODNT. Leon and I do not fight in OPEN. Our characters are friends. In fact, in one scene when my character is arguing with my husband, you can see the genuine concern Leon’s character has for us.
Q: The indie gay film scene, like every other aspect of show business, seems to be changing so rapidly. Fewer festivals, more streaming distribution online. Do you two like how things are changing, or not?
BLH: Yes it’s rapidly changing just like our everyday electronic technology is changing. Festivals are almost a thing of the past. You used to need a festival to get a distributor for your project. From there you would create DVDs and then finally it would stream on a few limited platforms. Today you can bypass festivals and even DVDs and go to one of the many platforms both mainstream and LGBTQ specific to stream your films. I do miss the glory days of the festival circuit though because it was a chance for filmmakers and film buffs to gather and talk about film.
LA: I have a love/hate thing about technology. On one hand, I can’t be too bitter, because doing the web series has been very good for me. It’s given me a larger footprint, at least in the queer arts community, than I’d had before. And it’s very democratic, in the sense that anyone can get their work out there. But unfortunately, as a result, there’s a lot of crap out there now. And it has altered everything, from film distribution to music to book publishing. I worry that we’re giving up aspects of life that we don’t realize we’ll need, or we’ll eventually miss.
- What’s next for you both and for OPEN?
BLH: For OPEN there are a few planned Southern California screenings (we just did one at Raleigh Studios) and a few festival appearances on the East coast in the works. And we are in talks for a few different streaming deals so look for OPEN in your living room sometime in early 2017! As for me I would love to return to Old Dogs and work with Leon for another season and my brother Paul Hart and I are discussing collaborating on another film project which we are keeping under wraps for now.
LA: My only plans are to remain somewhat sedated until after the election–and then, depending on the outcome, possibly longer! (laughs) Old Dogs is on hold until after the election. I’d love to do the final season, which is written. But we’d still need to raise the money. I’m so proud of that last special we did, I’m okay if we don’t. It’s not a bad way to end the show.
I do have a couple script ideas I’m mulling about, and an idea for a mini-series for the web. But seriously, the world is nuts right now, and I’m just riding it out.
Leon Acord and Bruce L Hart (left to right) are best friends in the feature film “Open” with Brian Nolan (far right)
(left to right) Bruce L Hart, Brian Nolan and Leon Acord in the feature film “Open”
(left to right) Bruce L Hart and Leon Acord battling it out on the set of “Old Dogs and New Tricks”
(left to right) Leon Acord and Brian Nolan play the swinging married couple in “Open”
(left to right) Bruce L Hart and Rebekah Kochan play brother and sister in “Open”
(left to right) Bruce L Hart and Peter Szeliga play the married monogamous couple in “Open”
The feature film “Open” is due on streaming platforms in late December.