New Zealand native Martin Henderson has led a fascinating career, including appearances in films like The Ring and Smokin’ Aces and television series like House M.D. His latest project is Sundance Channel’s The Red Road, a gripping drama about two unlikely allies who must overcome tragedy to face the secrets from their past.
You starred in The Ring, one of the scariest films of the last 20 years… yet in many ways, I found The Red Road to be more unnerving due to the ever increasing tension on the screen. How do you unwind after a day of shooting such demanding material?
The TV schedule is a lot more brutal than on a feature film so typically it’s a matter of heading home, grabbing a bite and looking over the scenes for the following day. If I have the time I love to hit the pool for a while or at least just walk my dog. If the scenes go well then I feel quite energized and not wiped at all. It’s when the scenes don’t go as well as I’d hoped that I get a bit wound up.
You were born and raised in New Zealand. How were you able to relate to the struggle of an unrecognized Native American tribe? What sort of research did you have to do?
We have similar issues with racial tension in New Zealand and ongoing historical resentment, mistrust and prejudice between the native people and those that colonized the land, so it’s not an uncommon story. Sadly, wherever the white man stole land there exist these struggles. As for specific research, there were a few articles and a documentary that the producers sent us as we were preparing for the shoot.
Your character, Harold Jensen, is doing all he can to hold his family together. Does his job as a police officer cause him to be a bit heavy-handed, especially when dealing with his rebellious oldest daughter?
There’s maybe an element of that in their dynamic but I feel it comes more from the history that exists between Harold, his wife Jean, and Kopus. Rachel’s behavior is reminiscent of what was going on back in her parents youth and the painful circumstances of that time threaten to resurface and with them a bunch of secrets that Harold wants to keep hidden. So it’s his own fears and regrets that become activated by Rachel’s disobedience that tend to make him overreact. I think he feels out of control given the situation with Kopus and now his wife being so unstable.
One of the themes that I noticed in The Red Road was that of parents repeating the mistakes of their parents. Which of Harold’s past mistakes is going to end up haunting his family in the future?
Yeah, that’s definitely one of many themes that deal with the past and how it continues to influence and threaten the present. Because Harold is hiding something from his past, it adds a great deal of pressure to how he deals with the legitimate issues of the present. And he then makes more mistakes which could very easy damage his family. I can’t talk specifically about what the secrets from the past are, because that would give too much of the mystery away, but it ain’t gonna be pretty when it surfaces.
The Red Road airs Thursdays at 9/8c on Sundance Channel (Channel 557).