Richard Neil grew up in New York where he cut his acting teeth at The Neighborhood Playhouse, and later the Chopstick Theatre in Charleston, S.C, and toured in such renowned theater shows as “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Ocean Without A Shore.” He later made the transition to the small screen where he scored guest roles in such series as “Cheers,” “Melrose Place,” “Port Charles” and “The Guardian.” On the big screen, he’s known for his roles in such films as “The Muppets,” Dead End,” and “The Pine Tar Incident.”

Robert’s latest Film is titled “The Prodigy,” and it is now available on VOD.

The Movie tells the tale of a psychologist who goes head-to-head with a young genius. In between acting gigs, Robert lends his lungs to video games. He has proudly performed voice roles in such games as “Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds” and “The Evil Within 2.”

Richard Neil recently discussed his career and more via an exclusive interview.

Theater, movies, and Hollywood

Meagan Meehan (MM): What inspired you to become an actor and what drove you to pursue theater as a youngster in your hometown?

Richard Neil (RN): I suppose, at least initially, it was watching movies. When I was very young seeing the old James Cagney films on TV. I thought he was so magnetic and compelling as an actor, and, I thought, “Wow!

If I could do that!” Actually, I didn’t really start acting until my freshman year in college, at UCSB. Those were my first acting classes, and where I was in my first play.

MM: Have you got any family that took the same path?

RN: Not acting, but my sister, Ellen Weissbrod, is a documentary filmmaker. She directed a documentary on Quincy Jones called “Listen Up!” She always turned me on to foreign and esoteric films when I was very young.

She would take me to see films by Godard and Fassbinder. I was born in New York but went to high school in a suburb of New Jersey. But we would get into Manhattan all the time to see films and go to concerts.

MM: What was your big break in Hollywood and how did “The Prodigy” come to be?

RN: My big break was getting cast in the Japanese film, “Best Wishes For Tomorrow.” I got to work with the incredible director Takashi Koizumi, who was Kurosawa’s Assistant Director for many years.

And to work at Tokyo’s Toho Studios for five weeks with the great actor, Makoto Fujita. That was a revelation. As for the new movie, I was cast in the traditional way. Audition - wait - call back - wait. Always wondering, “Is this film ever going to happen?” There’s a saying, “I don’t believe I have the gig until I’m on the set.” And it’s true.

Characters, more projects, and advice

MM: Can you tell us about James Fonda, your character, and where the movie was filmed?

RN: James Fonda is a psychologist who specializes in troubled youth. Without giving too much of the plot away, Fonda has experienced a personal tragedy in his past. This makes him empathetic, compassionate, but also profoundly sad on a deep level.

We worked in Riverside, California in an abandoned animal shelter. The director and producer worked really hard with the set design, turning these rooms into a military compound. We did have one nice exterior location at a park in San Diego County.

MM: Did you have time to get to know your co-stars before “The Prodigy” shoot began?

RN: Just a bit. I had several days of rehearsal, especially with the young girl, played by Savannah Liles. Working on the emotional transitions and general blocking. With the other actors, things were looser. They were more seasoned veterans than was Savannah. And, as my character is somewhat of a detective in the film, discovering constantly, I think it helped that we weren’t overly rehearsed.

I love a good, mystery, detective, western, even musicals. As long as it’s a good film, I’m there, and I love working on them too!

MM: What’s best about working with the movie industry and what projects are coming up next?

RN: Getting to work with, and to be around such creative people. There is nothing better! If it’s the D.P., the costumer, the writer, the production designer, doesn’t matter. Most people who go into this business have a real passion for what they do. And collaborating with them is such a joy. Of course, the better the actors you get to play with, the better your own work will be. Years from now, I want to be in more films, TV, voice work, theater. The great thing about this business is it will always surprise you.

I love traveling and working out of town and abroad, so, hopefully, more of that! I have a couple of films due for release soon. “Clyde Cooper” is a hybrid sci-fi noir piece. And “This Much” is a romantic comedy. I also voice one of the characters in an upcoming graphic series on Netflix, that being directed by Deadpool’s Tim Miller.

MM: What advice would you give to aspiring young--or even not so young--actors who are determined to break into the industry

RN: Just keep working! Always find a way to keep growing, in a play, workshop, any low budget project, My primary teacher was Sandy Meisner, and his adage was it takes twenty-five years to be a good actor. I only started to understand that.

Meaning, eventually, you will have experienced life enough not to have to work so hard to bring depth to your roles. Life catches up with you and acting, which is essentially just being really, really present and believing the imaginary circumstances of your character. So, along with acting, don’t leave your life behind. The more interesting you are as a person, the more your heart has been broken or brought to places of ecstatic joy, the more well-read you are, the more you’ve traveled, the more you will bring to your roles.