WINTER GARDEN — With most jobs in show business anchored in hubs near New York City and Los Angeles, finding big-time work elsewhere can be a challenge.
But don’t tell that to Tyler Cravens, owner of Thai Blossom in Winter Garden, who has garnered several supporting roles around Florida and is trying to grow the state’s film industry.
Cravens plays Ralph Lawler, a hit man who has appeared in three episodes of the first season of “Bloodline,” a dramatic thriller on Netflix filmed in the Keys that premiered March 20 and received many reviews calling it Netflix’s best original series.
“About Episode 10, you’re introduced to Ralph unexpectedly,” Cravens said. “I’m an extended upper-crust hit man, so to speak. I play the heavy of a main drug lord. He handles things on his own and then brings me in when things get too heavy.”
The show’s creators are known for making the FX legal drama “Damages,” which starred Glenn Close and had similar elements to “Bloodline,” such as flashbacks and flashes forward that have changed television and storytelling, Cravens said.
“Bloodline” focuses on a tight family of four adult siblings whose black-sheep brother unveils family secrets in his return home.
“If you have any dysfunction in family or your life, it has that drama,” Cravens said. “It has some language but not gratuitous. Some violence. Just a real good story, and I like good storytelling.”
Good storytelling comes from a basic film structure applied to the series, Cravens said: exposition, a catalytic event, activity across three acts, a climactic resolution and then denouement.
“They wrote the entire season as a film structure,” Cravens said. “My character comes in in a big, planned moment. That doesn’t mean I can’t be in the second season, but we’re not sure. What my character does in the show is pretty dramatic.”
The character was not supposed to have a formal name at first, just a title of “White-Haired Man,” which would require the actor to dye his hair platinum white, Cravens said.
“I actually got called to shoot another production in Alabama and hadn’t finished that,” he said. “I had a week left in Alabama when I shot my first episode of ‘Bloodline.’ They were nice about it and said, ‘No problem — we’ll keep your hair and give your character a name.’ I didn’t know what I was gong to be doing until I got there and they had me read a script for my first episode.”
The role particularly interested Cravens as a Central Floridian, he said, and he had to audition several times with little more than a few lines to go on, because the creators wanted to keep plot details secretive. Cravens submitted some of his auditioning from his home studio via video upload, per the recommendation of the show’s Florida casting director, Lori Wyman.
“Through the process, I could kind of tell what was happening in the story,” Cravens said. “They cast the show in the sequence as they were going along. I know Lori Wyman pretty well. She said (the role) was a big deal.”
The shift from Cravens’ personality is also a big deal, he said, with swearing and violence locals would not normally associate with him, but he is thankful for the many who support him, especially his wife, Patcharee.
“Some may take away great acting, but some might take away something not so positive,” he said. “If there’s anything negative, it would be only that.”
CENTRAL FLORIDA FILM
The big positive takeaway from work with “Bloodline” is the showcase for Floridian actors, Cravens said.
“I’m very passionate about living in Central Florida and being able to act in Central Florida,” he said. “This is very important because the Central Florida film industry is directly intervening in government legislation to have more work in Central Florida. (Producers) are going to Georgia in Atlanta, which is booming, South Carolina, North Carolina, Louisiana. This type of role is important not only for myself but for other actors who choose to live here, not Los Angeles, New York or other major acting metro meccas. We like to be considered top-notch entertainment talent, and we are. We work as well as anyone in major markets.”
This legislation would create tax incentives for film business in the state and help show how local actors are meant for roles such as Ralph Lawler, whereas they otherwise might not be considered, Cravens said.
“I’ve been very fortunate in my career,” he said. “I don’t have hundreds of credits, but I’ve worked with some of the icons of our industry. I did work with Tom Hanks. We didn’t get very close, but he’s nice and a genuine person, and that’s always refreshing.”
That fortune drives Cravens to get the industry to see the talent in Central Florida, capable of working at the highest level as he has. For example, Cravens had small roles in “Any Given Sunday” and “Tigerland,” his favorite apart from “Bloodline,” in which he was in the opening scene and helped Colin Farrell with his Southern accent in his breakthrough role for which he won Best Actor.
“We have writers and creators of new television shows that are going to be on national networks that were born and grew here,” Cravens said. “If they could’ve stayed here to accomplish that, they would’ve.”
With trailblazers such as those creative minds and Cravens, as well as the studios already in the area, perhaps Cravens’ wish for recognition of area talent will soon come to fruition.
For more on Cravens, visit TylerCravens.com.
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].