Fans of science fiction blockbusters will certainly be seeing see a lot of Terry Dale Parks this year. The Oklahoma born actor will be seen in no two of the most highly anticipated films of 2015.
First up is Terminator: Genisys, a film that returns Arnold Schwarzenegger to the series he made famous that opens July 1.
Next up is “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials”, the sequel to last summer’s blockbuster and the second part of the young-adult dystopian science fiction trilogy written by James Dashner. The film opens in theaters on September 18.
And if all that weren’t enough, Parks also has a recurring role on the upcoming ten-episode ABC drama, “Astronaut Wives Club” alongside actors Yvonne Strahovski and Desmond Harrington.
I recently spoke with Parks about these blockbuster projects and how he got started in acting.
Without giving too much away, what can you tell me about Terminator: Genisys?
For purists of the original Terminator films, this one is completely dedicated to taking it back to the original feel of the first films, particularly with the whole Sarah and John Connor relationship. Plus, there’s some great twists and turns that no one will see coming. Even the way they’re able to have Arnold return is so creative. The storyline is definitely for the Terminator purists.
What was it like working with Arnold?
It was amazing. I remember when we first got to New Orleans for a table read. Arnold was there and there was such energy in the room that everyone was excited. The interesting thing about Arnold is that he has gone through a character arc in his own life – especially with his political career. He has such a kind, almost fatherly essence and charm to him that was just fascinating to watch.
Another film you’re involved in this year is “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” . How did that project come about?
I’ve always been a big Sci-Fi fan and one night on a whim, I decided to go the movies to see the original “Maze Runner” film. It just blew me away. It was such an entertaining ride and the chemistry with the kids was amazing. The next day, I happened to get a call from my agent who told me that I had a reading scheduled for Maze Runner 2. The turnaround was so quick that within a week, I found myself standing outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico with the same kids I had just seen in a movie only a week ago! [laughs].
We’ll also be seeing you in a recurring role in “Astronaut’s Wives Club”. What can you tell me about that?
It’s based on a series of books that follows the mission of astronauts from the 1960’s. It was during a time when all of these big things were going on: the civil rights movement, rioting and war. The astronauts back in those days were like superheroes. They did things that were not humanly possible – like going to the moon. I think the great thing about the story is that we’re able to see that these people are human beings and put their pants on one leg at time just like everyone else. I play the role of Jim Webb, who was the government official in charge of overseeing NASA. He wasn’t necessarily a well liked person from the astronauts’ perspective, but he’s a very interesting character.
Can you tell me a little about how you got started in acting?
I grew up on a cattle ranch in Oklahoma with an older brother who was very artistic. The two of us would always watch sketch comedies together like The Carol Burnett Show and Saturday Night Live. He’s one of the best storytellers I’ve ever met and we would often put together our own sketches for the neighborhood kids to watch. Then when I was in junior high school my brother started getting involved with competitive drama. I remember following him around to his tournaments and was just fascinated by it. It made me realize there was something else to do in high school other than play football. That’s when I started to get involved.
What happened next?
After college, I moved to LA and spun my wheels there for a long time. It eventually got to the point to where I was either going to be homeless or I could go home to the ranch I had recently inherited. It was a no brainer. I decided to move back to Oklahoma and started working a day job. Then one day, a friend of mine wanted to take me to a casting director workshop. I was hesitant at first but had such a great time and a few weeks later the director cast me in a film with Thomas Haden Church and Joshua Jackson called “Lone Star State of Mind”. That led to more films and the next thing you know, I was back in Los Angeles! It’s funny how things come together.
What excites you the most about the future?
I feel like I’m at a point in my career where I’m in the right place at the right time. I just finished another great role on “NCIS New Orleans” with Scott Bakula, who is another fantastic guy. It’s really rewarding for me to be involved in projects where I can pick up a lot and be around people who are so good at what that they do. It’s been a really rewarding career.
Photo by: Peter Konerko