In the world of entertainment, perhaps Burt Gummer isn’t a name that immediately jumps off the page to the random fan. But to those who follow the Tremors franchise, it’s a name that creates quite a stir. Gummer is an iconic character that actor Michael Gross has watched grow over 28 years and five movies. That number will grow to six on May 1 with the release of “Tremors: A Cold Day In Hell,” arriving on Blu-ray combo pack, DVD and Digital and On Demand from Universal 1440 Entertainment. That’s right, Burt is back and Graboids better beware. But this time, things are a bit different.
“People are certainly going to see a change of scenery,” said Gross. “The first five had us in very arid, very dry climates. We are taking Tremors 6 to the Arctic, which is feeling the effects of global warming. The question was where do we take these monsters? It seemed like an interesting idea to have them stuck in the permafrost and then wake up.”
Gross said that what people like about the new offering will differ, but noted that “There’s a lovely cast and some throwbacks and homages to the past and past characters. Tremors 6 will refresh their memories to a degree.”
While new faces and new storylines will emerge, fans of the Tremors franchise will focus much of their attention on Gummer. Gross said they can expect to see some changes in the character in the new film.
“In Tremors 5, Burt had to deal with the inclusion of someone else in his life, ‘Oh, by the way, I’m your son,’” said Gross. “Burt’s a solitary man, a man that keeps to himself. So, in Tremors 6 we decided to take that personal hurdle a bit further. While he’s somewhat acclimated to having a son around from time to time, in Tremors 6 he had to learn to give up control to some extent.”
Gross noted that Gummer is used to micro-managing things and people in his sphere, but Tremors 6 requires him to let others lead, plan and execute.
“As an actor, I enjoy the professional side as well as the personal side,” said Gross. “Burt is a professional hunter of Graboids. But it’s far more interesting to look beneath that professional side.”
Gross explained that playing Gummer has been “completely different” each time and that because the six shows have transpired over 28 years, there’s been some nice changes that were easy to dial in to the character.
“It’s not as if I’m doing it (playing Burt) all the time,” said Gross. “I never become bored with him. Between Tremors 4 and 5 there was 13 years. I never expected to see another one. However, I would not like a steady diet of Burt. I like him for the comic possibilities of the man because I love a variety of acting. And I think Burt always needs a great ensemble around him. He’s just one of the wackier characters in the community, but it’s always got to be about the community.”
“A Cold Day In Hell” brings back Jamie Kennedy as Burt’s son Travis Welker, as well as Jamie-Lee Money, Tanya van Graan and others in a talented cast. Looking ahead, could there be a Tremors 7 in the mix with some of the new faces carrying the torch?
“I think there’s a feeling at Universal Studios that these are all one-offs,” said Gross. “That’s my feeling. It’s a bit complicated by the fact there seems to be another series in the works. Should it (Tremors) continue will be determined by the bean-counters at NBC Universal and the fan base.
“That being said, there are story ideas about a Tremors 7 floating around if that should come to be,” he added. “I have very strong ideas about what that should look like. A lot of it, you may not be surprised to hear, is determined by budget. It’s one of the reasons I’ve never produced one of these things – I like showing up and doing my job and taking care of Burt. I don’t want the headaches of creative people fighting with money people. It’s tedious and disheartening.”
Tremors fans are many and they are passionate about the franchise. With Tremors 6 dropping May 1, Gross offers some thoughts on why he thinks the show has hit a long-term nerve with folks.
“The first one set a great tone for what I think is iconic,” said Gross. “It’s always about solitary people, about these people who lived in Perfection, off the grid. I think it appeals to the way Americans still think of themselves, even in three piece suits, in their vacation homes – as rugged individualists. It’s a taming of the west thing. Burt is still out there taming the west in some ways.”
Gross said that Tremors delivers a throwback to simpler times and that resonates with people. An interesting aspect of the Tremors culture revolves around guns. Burt’s passion for guns and weapons does give Gross pause at times.
“I do examine Burt’s love of guns from time to time and the way I justify it is that I remind people who are new to Tremors – actors, directors, or others – that human beings never point their guns at other human beings. Tremors is an old-fashioned throwback where we weren’t at war with each other. The violence is perpetrated against the monsters.”
Gross did note that there is one exception to that. It happened in Tremors 1 – by accident. Other than that one blip, the guns remain trained on the Graboids in the Tremors world.
“Over the years we’ve had people of color, different ethnic origins, Asians, Latinos, Africans, and African Americans as part of Tremors and in all them the humans are allied against the monsters,” said Gross. “Tremors keeps reminding people we live under the same umbrella.”
With a boatload of acting credits to his name and more work coming down the pipeline, what is it about the profession of acting that keeps Michael Gross interested?It’s simple, really. He gets paid to pretend.
“Acting, at its heart, is pretending,” he said. “I come from simple people, the Great Plains, and I see people who struggle to exist. I see hard times and I know the frustration that exists for some people. I have to keep reminding myself that I have the luxury of pretending when others don’t have the ability to pretend. I’m being paid for something I did as a child for free.
“Someone is actually paying me to be an action-adventure hero,” he added. “And the ability to explore the human condition with people as a visual artist is like being paint on canvass.”
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