the garbage pail kids movie 8

Blake J. Harris: Yeah, I love that movie.

Mackenzie Astin: Wasn’t it a great film?

Blake J. Harris: How did you end up getting involved with that film? Being Will.

Mackenzie Astin: It was an audition. Probably on a Tuesday (I don’t know why I remember that!?) But I had a good audition, I really nailed the audition in the room. I think I was a good fit for the part. And all of the sudden, instead of smoking weed in Los Angeles, I was riding a dogsled in Minnesota. Which was an incredible, incredible experience on the shores of Lake Superior, in the winter of ’92.

Blake J. Harris: Like you said: you’re young, you’re trying to get girls, you’re smoking a little pot and you’ve got money in the bank. In some ways, you don’t really have to grow up; you know, you could kind of keep doing this. At what point do you feel like you did? And you started to take the craft, maybe, more seriously? Or just feel like you were starting to become an adult.

Mackenzie Astin: [laughs] Uh, I’ll let you know!

Blake J. Harris: [laughing] Fair enough.

Mackenzie Astin: I mean, if you ask any other member of my family I think they’d agree that my adolescence was delayed well into the next millennium. But if you wanna go there—as long as we’re here—it was probably about the time I went into rehab.

Blake J. Harris: Oh, I didn’t know you were in rehab.

Mackenzie Astin: Yeah. Not a lot of people do. I was lucky enough to be out of the spotlight enough that it wasn’t “news.”

Blake J. Harris: Uh-huh.

Mackenzie Astin: Which is fortunate because there was a stretch there in the late 90s and early 00s where I think folks were going into rehab almost as a career move. To get themselves healthy, sure, but also to be in the papers. Thankfully, I was (I don’t want to say “unpopular enough”) but I was not well known enough for my experiences with drugs and alcohol to have made any headlines. Nobody knew what kind of fool I was!


Blake J. Harris: That’s awesome. If you don’t mind my asking (and please feel free not to answer), but what led you in there? What was the final straw and what was your experience like with rehab? Did you get out of it what you hoped?

Mackenzie Astin: Yeah. Well there were a number of straws. But the final, final straw? I think it was my wanting to save the relationship I was in. I think I was able to recognize that I was in trouble (and I had been told so by a number of people in my life). As a matter of fact, when that Amy Winehouse song was out, the one called “Rehab,” where she was saying “no, no, no,” I was living in Baltimore at the time, working with my dad (who runs the theater program at Johns Hopkins University) and I had him snowed. Because I was drinking 8-10 Guinness’s a night, getting into a bindle of cocaine here and there…

Blake J. Harris: Okay…

Mackenzie Astin: My brother was like, “dude, you need to go to rehab.” And I was like: nope, my Daddy says I’m fine! So I was living those [Amy Winehouse] lyrics. Eventually my wife, who understood that I had a problem, said: You gotta do it. You gotta get help or else we’re not gonna be able to be together any more. And I was lucky enough to be in love with her enough so I could start loving myself. [laughs]

Blake J. Harris: Yeah.

Mackenzie Astin: And God Bless Sean Astin. God Bless Lord of The Rings. God Bless Rudy. God Bless Encino Man and all of those motion pictures because he looked after his little brother. And he ponied up a shitload of dough to put me where I need to be for about 90 days. And, you know, the fact that I’m here having this conversation is like a receipt, essentially. It’s proof positive that shit works.

Blake J. Harris: That’s awesome.

Mackenzie Astin: Yeah, it was time. It was time to start acting like an adult. I turned 37 in rehab, I think; and that was a pretty extended adolescence

Blake J. Harris: Yeah. Well, that’s probably part of the reason that your father was lukewarm about you getting into the business. It does tend to breed those sorts of outcomes. It’s a crazy business with successes and failures…

Mackenzie Astin: Right? It’s so true. And I’m glad that you said successes and failures because they’ll both make you fucking crazy.

Blake J. Harris: Yeah.

Mackenzie Astin: They’ll both lead you to the bottle or to the bindle; to making decisions that don’t turn out so well.

Blake J. Harris: Yeah, I mean you can do: Oh man, my movie’s #1 at the box office; let’s drink! Or: oh man, my movie didn’t even get a theatrical release; let’s drink!

Mackenzie Astin: Exactly.

Blake J. Harris: Either way, it’s a great excuse.

the garbage pail kids movie 11

Mackenzie Astin: Exactly. And actually, I don’t know how much of a part this played, but it was the week that Corey Haim died that I ended up going to the fix-you-up place; going to the treatment center. So here’s to Corey. Thanks for setting a really powerful example.

Blake J. Harris: And you know, there’s so much growth that happens in rehab (and still so much growth today), but what was it about the experience that…helped change your mindset. Or, I guess, if there’s someone out there listening and might be struggling; maybe they think “Oh, rehab’s bullshit. I can just read a book.” What is it about actually committing to it that you feel like actually helped you?

Mackenzie Astin: A number of factors. My father-in-law, as it happens, was a drug and alcohol counselor for many years; he ran a successful business offering counseling to businesses here in the Mid-Atlantic. And so he had plenty of experience with drunks and drug addicts. And by proxy his daughter was familiar with it as well, which I think is part and parcel with her pushing me to get help. But what Al, my father-in-law, said to me before I went in was something like: listen, it’s only gonna happen when you’re ready.

Blake J. Harris: Right.

Mackenzie Astin: Also, I ended up at a place that fit my personality rather well. I have come to call it the “Montessori of Rehabs.” They let you color outside the lines; that’s okay. They encouraged you to discover who you are. And it was a full-service place; they offered psych therapy three times a week, which was super valuable. And also they feed you three squares, they got you working out twice a week. I think there was some acupuncture involved. And the general philosophy of the place is: whatever happens to you in your life is for, ultimately, your benefit. And once you recognize that…there’s no ceiling on your ability. In other words: we all deal with shit. You know, a fairly well-to-do white kid, growing up in Southern California with a successful television career and quasi succes—well, no, a lousy film career.

Blake J. Harris: [laughing] At that point, yes.

Mackenzie Astin: Someone like that doesn’t usually get lumped into the “has a lot of problems” column. But we all deal with shit, you know what I mean? And once we put ourselves into a position to deal with that shit—whether it be child abuse, or growing up poor or battling institutionalized fucking racism—or whether it be making the worst fucking movie ever made, shit happens to us. And we gotta get right with it. And once we get right with it, we can be right. We can be who we’re supposed to be. So, like my father-in-law said, I was ready. And my brother picked a good spot. My brother picked a spot that suited my personality. And suddenly I was able to embody that which I had espoused from the corner of the bar; and I really kind of found myself. Which is a funny expression, you know? Because in order to find oneself, you’ve gotta be lost.

Blake J. Harris: Yup.

Mackenzie Astin: So it was a good thing, it was a good thing.

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Blake J. Harris: In terms of finding yourself in a professional sense, coming out of that experience as an actor—having a little more self-awareness, a better head on your shoulders—what did you start to look for as an actor? What did you think were your strengths and weaknesses? How did you perception as an actor change?

Mackenzie Astin: I don’t think my perspective as an actor changed much. I think my ability to get out of my own way increased. I remember after I came out, bright and shiny and brand-spanking new from rehab, I decided to move back from Baltimore to Los Angeles and throw my hat, once again, back into the ring. But I had a conversation with my dad about my concerns about the kinds of jobs that were available.

Blake J. Harris: What do you mean?

Mackenzie Astin: Like what I was looking for as an actor at the time was a job. In television, which is the medium that has been most welcoming to me. But over the last…well, a long time, has been filled with a lot of sexualized, fetishized violence.

Blake J. Harris: Yup.

Mackenzie Astin: Whether it’s cop shows or something else, there’s a lot of killing on television. And the jobs you’re gonna get as an actor starting out (which I sort of was at the time) are not necessarily the good guys, but the bad guys. So I said to my Dad, “I don’t know if I want to be part of a system that, whether they know it or not, is encouraging people to behave in a manner that is probably not best for fucking society.” And he said, “Well, you gotta ask yourself if you’re willing to dance with the devil in order to pay the rent.” And I decided that I was. [laughs] And the body count in those first two years was, uh, in the twenties. As an actor. I mean, I did an episode of Criminal Minds so that kind of boosts the numbers.

Blake J. Harris: What advice do you have to an aspiring villain? Or someone who’s going to play a villain for an episode in one of these shows?

Mackenzie Astin: Someone who’s going to be a bad guy in a procedural?

Blake J. Harris: Yeah, exactly.

Mackenzie Astin: Well, it’s the advice my Dad always gives: he doesn’t know he’s the bad guy. And also: be on time. Know your lines. Don’t ask for another one (too much). Be respectful. Everybody’s working hard. And when the camera’s on you: kill the fuck out of them. I can’t believe I just said that!

Blake J. Harris: [laughing] I mean, the last ten years you’ve been on so many shows…

Mackenzie Astin: Yeah, you can see when I got right. In the 7 years now since I got my act cleaned up, I’ve gotten more work than the previous 25 combined.

Blake J. Harris: Yeah, it’s crazy. It’s like: name a sitcom or a procedural from the past ten years and you did a guest on it.

Mackenzie Astin: Yeah I got lucky. My pal Timmy Busfield says, “It’s another line on your baseball card, Mackie.”

SCANDAL - "You Got Served" - Olivia knows she can't handle this latest storm on her own and calls for help from an unexpected source. Meanwhile, Mellie and Cyrus continue to pull strings from the sidelines and Jake is still occupied by a ghost from his past, on "Scandal," THURSDAY, OCTOBER 22 (9:00-10:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Michael Desmond) PAUL ADELSTEIN

Blake J. Harris: Ha! Well, there’s so many. But do you have any favorites that stand out? And I mean more your one-offs, not your recurring roles on Scandal or anything like that. But where you come in for a week, you’re working with these people. Do you have any favorites that stand out?

Mackenzie Astin: Well, this a tough question to ask me because I tend to fall in love with, like, every moment that happens!

Blake J. Harris: That’s good though. I mean, that’s better than the opposite!

Mackenzie Astin: Sure. It’s great. It’s fortunate. But let’s see? It was a real tough, long day on Grey’s Anatomy, which was one of the first jobs in this sort of “Second Act.” In that episode, my wife and I are kind of pinned under a Volvo that’s fallen into a sink hole that opened up in Seattle near the hospital. That was a very difficult long day of work. And the beautiful actress, the gal who played my wife [Amy Price-Francis], she was incredibly patient. And at that point I was happy to be on my knees, getting paid in showbiz. So that was a great day to go home and crack open a diet coke.

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