Timothy Lee DePriest isn’t new to the Hollywood scene.
With guest roles in shows like Sons of Anarchy, Southland, and many more over the years, he’s more than familiar with the challenges of breaking into the industry. However, with starring roles in the sci-fi film, 2307: Winter’s Dream, and HBO’s mega-hit series Westworld, DePriest has finally stepped into the limelight. With all the attention, he admits that the sudden notoriety has been somewhat overwhelming.
“I’m [thinking] ‘What just happened to me?’” he remarks. “That [first] Westworld episode aired on a Sunday. On the Wednesday, I got a call from a director that wanted to meet me and that’s never happened to me before. It’s just so weird.”
“Just to be on set with Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, Geoffrey Wright, you learn so much. You see how it’s really done. Ed Harris is the coolest guy in the world and it just looks effortless to him. He’s just being [so] natural. So, that came along around the same time [as 2307] and it takes a couple of years so I wasn’t even sure what would happen with those things.”
With the release of 2307: Winter’s Dream, DePriest continues his work within the sci-fi world. Still, what excited him most about the project wasn’t the post-apocalyptic storyline or the epic action scenes. For him, the most appealing aspect was the opportunity to work with director Joey Curtis.
“I was really excited because [of] Joey,” he responds. “When I first learned about the project, just hearing his name and that he was involved with BLUE VALENTINE was a big sell for me because I love that movie. I’m always looking to do more quality stuff.”
2307: Winter’s Dream takes place in the year 2307—or 141 years ‘after man killed God’—as earth has become a barren, frozen wasteland. Forced underground by the extreme cold with a depleted population, mankind creates the ‘Humanoids’, superhuman slaves bio-engineered to stand up to the harsh conditions. When rogue humanoid named ASH-393 escapes from captivity, a team of elite military operatives, including Ishmael (DePriest), is sent into the ice-covered wilderness to eliminate the leader and the ensuing Humanoid threat.
Although science fiction isn’t necessarily his favourite genre, DePriest admits that the chance to star in films like this (or series such as Westworld) is something that he really enjoys and wouldn’t want to pass up.
“It’s odd because the films I like—and the reason I got into the business— are these scrappy, weird little films like Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, I love Jim Jarmusch’s early films, Aronofsky, Jonathan Glazer, Noah Baumbach. I like these indie, character-focused films but, of course, I love to have fun. When you’re doing sci-fi, you’re [basically] playing a superhero and that is extremely fun.“
Of course, ‘fun’ isn’t always the case when shooting a film like this, especially when it takes place in the midst of a glacial, post-apocalyptic desert.
While many of the indoor scenes were shot in a Los Angeles studio—DePriest muses that it was funny to be wiping away their sweat “because we were all bundled up shooting in Southern California”—the majority of the film takes place outdoors.
In the middle of nowhere.
In the snow.
Amazingly, the director found what he needed in an almost unexpected location: Buffalo, New York. Filming shortly after the infamous ice storm of 2014, DePriest explains that they were able to get the right effect by shooting on top of frozen Lake Erie.
“We had to wait until we could actually physically go there,” he recalls. “[Due to the weather], we would have died because it was so cold. We came in the spring but it was still cold, and we shot on frozen Lake Erie. We were just outside Buffalo and we stayed in the cabins [of a nearby Christian camp]. The lake was right behind there and they would take us a mile out in snowmobiles to the sets that they’d built out there and we shot on Lake Erie. It was about negative 20 with wind chill. I was wondering how they would do that and it made so much sense being out on a frozen lake. It looked like there was no one out there. It was such a great location.”
With this in mind, DePriest also feels that science fiction also opens up doors for conversations about our current culture as well. In other words, while the film maintains an aura of fun, he also believes that 2307 also speaks to issues about human rights and how we treat the disenfranchised in our world.
“I had a friend who just came back from Greece and she was working with Syrian refugees. We’re all trying to find a place and, man, when you’re not wanted. Her frustration was that nobody wants these people. Why don’t we want them and how do we deal with that? It’s kind of the same deal with the humanoids. We created them and we think we own them and that we can just toss them out.”
Somewhat ironically, while 2307 claims to take place in a time after ‘man killed God’, the film also lands on a distinctly existential question by asking who has the right to a ‘soul’. Although he, himself, doesn’t hold any specific spiritual worldview, DePriest also recognizes that this search for the soul can be a source of hope and healing.
“I went through a really dark time in my life where I was going off the rails in Hollywood, throwing myself into every excess, and I kind of hit a wall. The only thing that saved me was kind of going within. I guess that… every religious practice is like that where you try to find meaning and that soul within is probably a good place to start. For me, that’s what it feels like.”
With a hard-working attitude and a strong sense of hope, Timothy Lee DePriest seems ready to leave his mark on Hollywood. From Westworld to 2307: Winter’s Dream, he is grateful that he continues to have the opportunity to tell stories that matter.