After nabbing a role as Lyle Mitchell in the much-buzzed-about series Escape at Dannemora, Eric Lange opens up about portraying the husband of the infamous Tilly Mitchell (played by Patricia Arquette), who assisted in the real-life prison escape of Richard Matta and David Sweat in the summer of 2015.
You play a character who had a real role in something that many Americans were watching on TV. Had you seen the coverage of the events that unfolded at Dannemora?
ERIC LANGE: I watched the coverage and what was happening. I do remember it was pretty situational. And very tabloid, you know, and one thing I do distinctly remember everyone talking about this woman and then one day, on The Today Show, there is the husband. Angry about how the story about what was happening and juggling to keep his family together. But at the same time, I think he was very confused.
That was really the only public footage I had of him. And so that began the process of trying to figure out who this man was, which included some fake teeth and trying to get the voice down. And I couldn't get the voice down until I had the teeth, because it is a sort of specific impediment. So, there's a lot of things that were put in place to get me on the path to the original audition and thankfully, Ben Stiller, who directed the show, enjoyed my take.
So there are small things you can hang the character on?
EL: Yeah, I sometimes get informed by the outside, so I'll find clothes or shoes or a voice and then that will sort of organically inform my insides, a lot of the time.
Sometimes it's not necessary and the person is much closer to me than that. But usually when there's a gap to fill, between who they are and who I am, that kind of stuff helps. I just have an inner needle that senses when my performances don't feel authentic and the quieter I can keep that the better. So my job is to kind of convince myself as much as possible that, what I'm doing looks legit and feels honest. Because of that I even ended up gaining about 40 pounds, over the course of two months.
Was there any anxiety over playing somebody who is living and could potentially see it?
EL: Sure, but it's not necessarily my job to make him happy with what he sees. That is sort of the trap in meeting someone your portraying. I've done that to actually become friends with people that I played in other shows and movies. And there sometimes feels like an obligation. You know the line, "do me good, don't screw it up."
I'm not a carbon copy of Lyle Mitchell, but it’s very close and my version of him. And what I think we did well was capture a really well-meaning, sweet-natured guy, who genuinely love his wife. So, I would hope he's happy but I'm sure it may be difficult for him to relive.
You share a lot of screen time with co-star Patricia Arquette, who plays the infamous Tilly Mitchell, a seamstress assisted with the jailbreak on the show. What was she like to bounce off of?
EL: God, I mean she's just effortless. When you work with really good people, they force you to bring your A game.
And so with someone like Patricia, she's so fully committed. The reality she brought, that I got to sit opposite and look at, was phenomenal. She also put me at ease very quickly because she's naturally a very down-to-Earth person, who has been very warm and generous to me. It's a plus that she's also an incredible actress and an Oscar winner.
What next for you? Are there you haven't done that you just want to go out and get and still do?
EL: I think, you know, picking people to work with that have great taste like Ben Stiller and Patricia Arquette. Ben is so smart and gifted as an artist. I look at a project and I look at who's doing it, who is directing and acting in it. And I ask myself if I can match them. Some things just don't feel where I want to go right now, but I'm looking forward to the next challenge.
Photography by: Photography by Michael Lewis