American television and movie actor Andy Gates has been on the entertainment scene since the 1990s. Now residing in Los Angeles, Andy’s latest project is called “The Blessed Ones.”

The horror film focuses on a cult who is living in a desert preparing for an apocalypse whilst following a demented yet charismatic leader modeled after Jim Jones. In hopes of avoiding a suicide pack, two followers escape. Pegged as dissenters, they are subsequently hounded by the cult and must fight to survive in the middle of nowhere.

Recently, Andy Gates discussed this movie, his roles in the entertainment industry, and more via an exclusive interview.

Acting, characters, and cults

Meagan Meehan (MM): What inspired you to become an actor and how did you land upon your biggest breaks to date?

Andy Gates (AG): I’d say there were several levels of inspirations at work for me and it has spanned from my grade school days when I’d pretend to be a cast member of “Return of the Jedi” or “Knight Rider” and later “Lost Boys” or “The Goonies,” then came more sophisticated fare (I suppose you could say) where I discovered the great actors in my opinion – George C Scott and Robert DeNiro. If there was one particularly inspiring performance that acted as a rocket blaster, propelling me into this crazy profession it was Brad Douriff in “Exorcist 3” – that was where a bar was set for me, a level I wanted to get to, etc…and it also opened me up into the wonderful world of horror films.

The “big break” has been elusive in the way I define it; which is to support myself and my family on my acting revenue. I feel I am definitely heading in the right direction but that is always how I saw “making it”, a very blue-collar approach. My first big role acting in a feature film was in 2002 when I shot “The Cleaning Lady.” I was twenty-nine.

MM: How did you get involved in “The Blessed Ones”?

AG: My creative and producing partner, Patrick O’Bell – also the film’s director – showed me a documentary about the “Heaven’s Gate” cult from 1998 that detailed the personalities of its leaders and chronicled their beliefs and ultimate demise – it is fascinating stuff, and it got us thinking about that as a back drop for a thriller centered around escapees of a similar and fictional cult.

At the time we were struggling with financing a horror movie we had hoped to shoot (and still do!) so we pivoted to this which we felt we could make for a lot cheaper.

MM: Can you tell us about your character and whether you relate to him or not?

AG: My character is a dreamer and searching for a more profound meaning in his life. I can certainly relate to that. He is also deeply lonely and lost which, I mean, who hasn’t felt that? I tried to dramatize those features of his personality in ways that best served the story. The tone of the movie is very moody and psychedelic to represent the descent into madness of some of the main characters. It also has a meandering quality, in a good way I think, that represents the fact that he (Spencer, my character) is literally and figuratively lost for much of the movie.

I’ve always said that this is a movie that I would love for David Lynch to see as I think that he’d appreciate what we’re trying to achieve – so if anyone out there knows him please feel free to forward it along!

MM: How close to real life events, like Waco, is the film’s story?

AG: I think the closest models to real life events would be either Heaven’s Gate or Jonestown. We definitely leaned heavily on the structure of those two story-wise, for the cult leader and the followers and their method of suicide.

MM: Did any actors or performances really inspired your performance in “The Blessed Ones”?

AG: We were lucky to enlist so many of our talented friends in roles that I hope they felt excited to play.

To mention a few Dave Vescio as Elyon the leader of the cult, Tamzin Brown as Ursa a fellow escapee who I spend much of the movie trying to find, Jonathan Erickson Eisley as Draco, the cult enforcer and “loss prevention specialist” who spends much of the movie trying to find me. Plus, we had a great supporting cast featuring Alex Essoe as a heavily medicated nurse, Michael Wallace as a cult “deprogrammer” and Mara Luthane and Sean Sommers as grieving parents who lost their daughter Ashley Cordelia to the cult. I am proud and fortunate to call all of these fine actors my friends.

Recent projects, television, and movies

MM: Can you tell us what else you’ve been up to in recent times?

AG: Patrick and I continue to collaborate with our company Lost Order Films.

We have two films in production right now; one is a slasher called “Departer” and the other is a dark comedy called “The Inheritance.” I act in both in addition to produce and write. It’s funny, I love horror so much but I am probably not a good poster boy for the genre because I look like a soccer dad. The comedy genre is something I am very good at and enjoy, so I keep mining material and carving out that specific genre that is mine alone, or close enough. I worked on a horror/comedy movie last year that is coming out soon called “Garden Party Massacre” by Gregory Blair that is right up that alley, I am super proud of that film. And another film project that I just completed this year called “Fantasy” which is a quirky drama about a struggling couple – that was an amazing experience, I am blown away by how good that film is.

MM: You do TV too, so which do you prefer – film or television?

AG: I guess the short answer is film based on…well nostalgia I guess, coupled with the love of going to the theater. But that line is blurred now, there is so much fantastic TV being made these days that is just as “cinematic” in nature, and now streaming entertainment takes both mediums literally anywhere. So, it really doesn’t matter anymore, there is no clear distinction. But when I think of making that living as an actor, quite honestly. I think about a series regular role on a TV show (as I am sure every actor does), the stability of having a role like that is one of my goals. The fact is, every time I am on a set I feel at home and that this is where I belong.

MM: Where do you see yourself in ten years and advice would you give to aspiring entertainers?

AG: As a regular on a TV show, most likely playing a loveable dad of some sort, and then on hiatus from that show I will continue to make edgy material with Lost Order Films. My advice is that life is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to pace yourself and prepare yourself for the gut punches that will inevitably come. Work on growing thick skin because you’ll need it and balance that out with having a genuine and earnest sense of self. I think the thing that stands out the most are actors that own who they are. So much of what is seen is that special part of a personality that sets one apart, I think you can tell immediately.

There is great temptation to walk in the shoes of whatever “authority” you listen to is telling you, but be yourself – I guess the clichés are true. And even though I am on social media here and there, please do not lose yourself in that garbage. That is NOT real life.