Christopher Mann, likely best known for his roles on The Wire and House of Cards”, has a lead role in a dynamic new dark thriller titled What Death Leaves Behind. The film, based on a true story, tells of a man who starts having frightening, vivid flashbacks to his organ’s murder. The acclaimed “Hitchcockian Journey” will receive a theatrical release across North America this September and October via Artist Rights Distribution following the premiere in Los Angeles today, the multi-award winner will open in other markets including Ohio, San Diego, New York, Tennessee, Florida, DC and Philadelphia.
Directed by Scott A. Hamilton, and scripted by Scott A.Hamilton, Chad Morton, Nico Giampietro, and Rachel K. Ofori, What Death Leaves Behind tells of a man who, after a kidney transplant, experiences reoccurring nightmares he believes to be visions of his donor’s violent murder, sending him on a dark path of vengeance, leading to an unbearable truth.
Look up versatile in the dictionary, and there you’ll find a picture of you.
Christopher Mann: Thank you… I do appreciate that so much.
How have you managed not to avoid typecasting? Is there a secret?
Christopher Mann: I’m not certain as to how, but my vision of who I wanted to be as an actor was to have a wide range. I’ve been fortunate to be able to show versatility in my work. I look forward to being able to stretch and show more of that in the future.
Do you think there’s a role you’re most recognized for?
Christopher Mann: I’m almost certain the role of Tony Gray on the HBO series, The Wire is probably the most recognized.
You played in Creed 2 – which was a colossal production and a successful one at that. Does a film like that open doors for you that might otherwise have been closed?
Christopher Mann: I would like to think that scenario would bring that desired result. So far this year would not reflect that outcome. But I remain optimistic.
Is there less pressure doing a smaller part in a film like Creed 2 or Loving than there is playing a large role in a lower-budgeted production?
Christopher Mann: No, I wouldn’t say there is less pressure in any situation. Smaller roles in any production are challenging because you don’t have room to develop the character you’re playing. You have to nail the scene and make that character believable instantly. Where larger roles give you breathing room. The moments are spread out and you develop a flow and your character evolves as the story is being told.
You’re also known for your TV work – in which you’ve given us such memorable character as Tony on The Wire and Smooth on Underground Kings – did you ever find it hard to crossover from the small screen to the big?
Christopher Mann: As far as character development and the process of being in the moment and creating, no…. I never found it difficult to crossover. Television is challenging because it happens quickly. New scripts are coming every other week. And each script will have a number of modifications (drafts) by the time the episode is shot. So keeping up with which draft is current and knowing if any of your scenes have changed is a big part of that process. You may be on a 12 to 14 day shooting schedule for each episode. So time is a big factor.
Christopher Mann: In movies you pretty much know what’s going on from beginning to end, script wise. The shoot schedule may be two months or more depending on the project. If there are changes made, you will probably have ample time to make the adjustments. Sometimes changes will be made on the spot… But that’s part of the creative process.
How do you think you’ve improved as an actor since that first, small part in Homicide : Life on the Street back in 1997?
Christopher Mann: I’ve grown tremendously since that first role. I’ve been blessed to work with a good number of extremely talented actors and directors over the years. Those experiences coupled with my own maturity, sensibility and God given talent continues to enhance my understanding and ability with the craft. We never stop growing.
Are the types of roles you’re being offered now different to those you were being offered, say, a decade ago?
Christopher Mann: A lot of the roles now are age appropriate. I used to see mostly detective roles. Now I will see detective, doctor, lawyer, judge, chief of police, etc. I really like to play real people, like Jake in What Death Leaves Behind, or Smooth in The Underground Kings. Those are two completely different characters, but you get to feel their presence, their humanity. Lots of times the professional roles just require you to be believable as someone in that profession. It’s not focused on the individual so much. Although I do look to give some personality to the character I am playing in the moment.
How did you get involved in What Death Leaves Behind?
Christopher Mann: I was fortunate to have worked with Rachel Ofori and Scott Hamilton on a different project prior to What Death Leaves Behind. Rachel mentioned that she had a project coming up and would like to have me involved. So the moon and the stars aligned themselves and here we are today.
This is a film based on a rather spooky true story, I believe?
Christopher Mann: Yes, Chad Morton, our executive producer had a family member who received an organ transplant. Afterward he started having experiences that were directly associated with the donor of the organ. I don’t want to give too much of the story away for those who haven’t seen the movie. But this very real phenomenon is known as Cellular Memory Theory.
And what is Henry’s motivation throughout the film?
Christopher Mann: Henry’s motivation from the start was that of the patriarch of his small family. He was there to try to pick up any pieces that were left out of place. He did that for, Jake, Lisa and Alexis.
Could you relate to his plight?
Christopher Mann: I could relate to his situation having had both my brothers pass away and me having eight nephews who I’m the only uncle. I’ve also lost so many family members in what would appear to be very untimely periods of their lives. That feeling is tough to come to terms with. I also have had to deal with family members who have turned against you for no apparent reason. The confusion it causes and how to rationalize their behavior can be baffling, to say the least. I also know the nervousness and the anxiousness of waiting for a family member to receive and organ for transplant.
Is he in a different place by the end of the film?
Christopher Mann: Henry will always be that person to stand in the gap for his family. But he has developed a different appreciation for life in general. He sees it more as just transition from one state to another, more so than life and death. Although he may not agree with Jakes choices, he does understand why Jake did what he did. Jake’s secret will remain with Henry. He also finds himself as a father figure once again.
Is there a lesson to be learned from this story?
Christopher Mann: If there is a lesson to be learned from this story, I would have to say that when someone close to us is having problems and trying to reach out for help, don’t brush it off because it doesn’t make sense to you. There may be something there, far more serious than what meets the eye.
I think there are bigger questions to be asked like, whether it is meant for humans to receive body parts from other humans? Is there some confusion caused in the quantum realm or spiritual level of existence by transplanting one person’s memories into another’s life experience? Does keeping those transplanted cells alive have any affect on the spirit of the individual who was believed to have passed on? You will leave the theatre with all kinds of questions after seeing this film.