I spoke with David Lipper about his new mini-series Sons of Liberty, which premieres tonight on History. It’s a three-night event that also stars Kevin Ryan, Ben Barnes, Michael Raymond-James, and Dean Norris. David plays Amos. He discusses his character, what you can expect from the mini-series, working with the cast, the unique way his role came about, working in Romania, going to Sundance, Hot Daddy and the Monkey Puppets–that awesome band that he was in with Uncle Jesse (John Stamos) on Full House, and so much more. Don’t miss the three-night event that is Sons of Liberty. It begins tonight at 9/8c on History.
Lena: When are you going to go on tour with John Stamos?
David Lipper: Ah! That’s a great question. It’s funny when we were on the show, obviously, we had that band on the show; I actually asked John why don’t we put an album together. We had such a great band—we had Ted on keyboard who played with Guns N’ Roses. We had Chuck on the bass who played with Quiet Riot. We had a couple of other great studio-based musicians that filled in and we got some great songs and some of us were like, why don’t we put an album out? At the time, John said that he would like to keep Full House and his music separate. He went on tour with The Beach Boys. Now, I don’t know, maybe he would revisit it? At the time, back in 19[cough, cough] he did not want to do it.
Lena: Well, the world could use some Hot Daddy and the Monkey Puppets right about now.
David Lipper: Right! Let’s bring the Monkey Puppets back together again.
Lena: Sons of Liberty premieres tonight on History. What can you say about the mini-series and your role as Amos?
David Lipper: I think it’s an epic mini-series. The level of this production is as good, if not better, than some of the 80-100 million dollar movies that I’ve done in my time. There was no expense spared with regards to wardrobe, authentic costumes, wigs, makeup, special effects, accurate pistols, muskets, cannons, horses—I mean we had extensive horse training for weeks before we even started shooting. My character was a merchant, so I was a horse and buggy guy. I did some horse and buggy training while other guys rode horses. Ben Barnes had a lot of work on the horse. We had training with the muskets and the pistols. I would say that they put all the money into the production itself. We had great cranes and camera rigs and some rigs I have never even seen before. We had really topnotch producers. To shoot one movie is an undertaking; to shoot three [laughing] is a little insane. We shot three movies that will be played over three nights.
Lena: History does do a great job. Do you watch Vikings?
David Lipper: Right! We had Kari Skogland who has directed a lot of Vikings episodes as our director. Dermot, who plays the Irishman, he had an arc on Vikings as well. There is some crossover there between Vikings and this mini-series.
Lena: It’s a great show.
David Lipper: I go way back with Katheryn Winnick. We did a movie called Trump together about Donald Trump where she played Ivana Trump and I played his brother Robert Trump. I know her well and I’ve definitely caught a couple of episodes to see what she’s doing in there.
Lena: How do you approach period pieces?
David Lipper: It depends on the period piece. On this one, they were very specific that the British would be British and the Americans would be standard American accents, so they actually hired me to coach with some of the British actors on their accents, on top of being an actor. I worked a lot with Emily Berrington. The producers were pretty clear that they didn’t want an old American accent. They wanted a standard American accent for the Americans and standard British accents for the Brits and that would be less confusing for the audience, although it’s probably quite clear who the Brits were because they were mostly in uniform and we were in our old, rugged clothing.
Lena: How much research did you do?
David Lipper: My character was not one of the iconic characters, had I been playing one Sam Adams, Paul Revere, or John Hancock, you can be sure I would have researched those guys to death, but for me I was one of the few made up characters that represented a whole bunch. There was a whole group of merchants that were part of this gang, the Sons of Liberty, so rather than confuse the audience with a whole bunch of leads, because we have a whole bunch already in this movie, they kind of morphed them all into one character, which they created for the movie called Amos. Amos is representative of all the merchants who helped put this gang together and helped start the war. The merchants were the street guys in those days. They got the booze, the firearms, and all the stuff that your street guys would get today. We were those guys, the go-to guys to get the things that you couldn’t get. My character is the guy that helps facilitate this underworld gang, so when the Sons of Liberty started the first move really was to create a system by which the people that could trust each other only bought and sold goods from each other. This was a way of avoiding the tax from the British, which started the whole independence movement to begin with. The Brits were taxing the Colonists really heavily and making it so that no one could really make a living. It seemed like everybody was working their butts off just to serve England. This system was created and the merchant Amos was kind of key on developing it. You see a big montage sequence in episode one where I am handing out these coins to people and these coins are what you needed in order to say that you were part of the gang and you could buy and sell the goods that weren’t being sold to the rest of the people. Back in those days, they were limited on the things that they could do. It’s not like they had Twitter. [Laughing] They had to get creative.
Lena: If you had to go back to that time period, what present day conveniences would you miss the most?
David Lipper: A hot shower. We were a pretty smelly bunch I have to tell you. Also, they wore a lot of clothing, which is great in the winter but not so much when it’s 100 degrees and you are shooting a battle scene in a mountainside with no coverage. They have some funky insects in Romania. There is a scene at the silo where we steal some ammunition and stuff, well that night I’ve never seen a mass of mosquitos on a level like this in my life. It was a night scene and they really come out at night. We were sprayed head to toe and we had these bracelets that were supposed to keep them away. What I loved is the fact that they laughed at these bracelets—those mosquitos. Our director showed us her arm and she had a bite right next to the bracelet. The only good thing that we had that they mosquitos didn’t like was when we smoked up the set. Luckily, we had a lot of smoke going on in a lot of the shots. But god, these things were on a level that we don’t see in America.
Lena: Did you get to meet Copper, Kevin Ryan’s dog? I don’t know if he could bring her to Romania. He usually brings her everywhere. Kevin is a great guy.
David Lipper: He’s an awesome guy. No, Kevin did not have his dog in Romania. I left my two dogs in L.A. as well. But Kevin and I became very good friends. I talk to him all the time. Kari and Kari’s daughter, who was helping out for the whole shoot, she found a little puppy at the studio. It’s kind of crazy in Romania because wild dogs are literally everywhere. If you are walking on the street you’ll see a dog walk by that’s a street dog. When you go to the countryside it’s even worse. Even in the back lot of the studio we were shooting and there were hundreds of dogs running around. Kari’s daughter found a cute little puppy and adopted it, so they ended up with a dog.
Lena: Can you talk about being a part of that phenomenal cast?
David Lipper: It was amazing. Usually when you are in a movie, you have a few top leads that you are with for a long shoot and then a whole bunch of people come and go. In this one, I was there with some of these guys from May until September. Some people did come and go with some of the supporting roles but those of us, who were part of the Sons, especially those of us who lived—some people die in various battles. I’m one of the guys that actually make it to the end. Those of us who were there for the whole shoot had a chance to bond; and boy did we have a lot of fun. Kevin and I hung out a lot; Diarmaid and I hung out a lot. Ben was probably the most hardworking because he had the biggest part, so he didn’t have as many days off to go out and get in trouble drinking. [Laughing] Let me tell you, going out with the Irish guys—that’s an experience. We had a lot of fun and everyone was staying at the same hotel. We had the World Cup actually going on and we would watch it together, which again the Irishmen took very seriously, as did the French. Our whole stunt crew was French. We kind of became a real family. The first person that I met was Michael Raymond-James, who played Revere. He got there early for makeup, hair, and for some horseback training. I was the first one there because I was already there, that’s how all of this happened for me. I had just come off of a movie in Romania and I got a phone call from Kari saying that she just bumped into my director from the last movie that I shot there in the elevator at the hotel. He told her about me and she wanted to meet. She read me for a two-week role and they ended up booking me on a four-month role. Of course, that was four more months away from my doggies but they were okay, they were in good hands.
Lena: Can you share any funny stories from the set or working with the cast in general?
David Lipper: Aside from wild dogs and the mosquitos and the nights in Bucharest. Well, we all went to the beachside when we had a long weekend off and all I can tell you is that I don’t remember much of what happened but everybody kind of lost each other at one point and our stuntman got so drunk that our hotel, which was literally across the parking lot, got into a taxi and told them to take him to our hotel that was in Bucharest, about three hours away. All he had to do was walk across the parking lot and three hours later, he ended up in the right place. [Laughing] I don’t know how. It was nice to be with a group of guys who got along so well. Probably the only downside was that we had no women. This was a testosterone-filled cast. It was pretty much Emily, and that was it for leading women. Poor Emily. She was just coming off 24, which was probably another heavy testosterone-filled show. Emily has had it good. [Laughing] Bucharest is a charming city—the cafes, bars, and the nightlife. None of us knew too much about Romania and it really is a great place.
Lena: What can people expect from the three-night even?
David Lipper: I think they can expect a lot of action, night three especially. That’s when we really get into more of the wars. There are so many iconic events: The Boston Tea Party, which is probably my favorite scene for me; The Battle of Bunker Hill, which is another big event scene for me; The Boston Massacre. These are massive historical events for Americans and I think to see that come to life—I think those are going to be the moments that the audience is really going to love. I think understanding more about these people, the personalities behind them, and the behind-the-scenes, if you will, about the personal lives of Sam Adams, Paul Revere, and John Hancock, especially Warren and his affairs. All of that backstory that people didn’t get in their history classes that will be interesting. They didn’t really spare any expense when it came to the majesticness of it all, the majesty of it all. To see the hundreds of extras, who were trained everyday in the heat to walk right, to sit right, to march right and to see these battle scenes come out so accurately is really going to be something to see. I think that we are all really proud of the production and looking forward to it being a really big event for the History channel. They’ve had some very big success with other mini-series especially Hatfields & McCoys. They copied that format in this because that was three two-hour movies three nights in a row. Those were ratings that even major networks like ABC would love to have. Not only did they do it once, they did it again with The Bible. I think this mini-series is on par with those events.
Lena: I’m definitely looking forward to it.
David Lipper: The strange thing is that I only went to Romania to shoot one movie, about a year and a half ago, and I ended up shooting five movies there. This was the last one that I did but one of them was a little Romanian film. The reason I came to Romania in September of 2013 was because I got asked to teach a Master Class at an acting school there. After a month of teaching, I ended up getting a lead there in a movie and then the casting director for the Nicolas Cage movie Dying of the Light asked if I could come in and meet with them. They put me in that movie and then the director from the movie I did in the fall was back and asked me to do this movie. The Romanians, who were involved with the school, were shooting a movie and wanted to use all of my students from the Master Class that I had coached. They wanted me to work with them some more and do a part in the movie. I had a layover of a few weeks between movies so I said sure. The next thing you know, this movie is in the Sundance Film Festival. Out of all the movies that I’ve shot, this is the first one that has ever played at Sundance. Funny enough that it’s the one foreign language movie that I did that made it to Sundance, so I’m really excited to go and one of the nice things that I heard from the director is that when they called to tell them that they’ve been accepted into Sundance—they said that it was because the acting was so good. To hear that with a bunch of kids that had never done a movie before and a few that had, to know that I worked with them all was really nice to hear. It was a lot of fun to shoot as an actor. There is a lot going on this month. I’m excited for the premiere of Sons of Liberty and for this movie that is playing at Sundance, Pioneer’s Palace.
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Sons of Liberty premieres tonight at 9/8c on History.