Interview: Michael Gross on Graboids’ Continued Appeal in the New ‘Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell’

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Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell interview with star Michael Gross

Although the potential plans for a television series reboot are reportedly nixed, Tremors fans still have something to celebrate. The sixth installment in the action sci-fi series, Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell, will debut on Blu-ray and DVD May 1, 2018 with the entire collection of six films available on DVD as Tremors: The Complete Collection the same day. In A Cold Day in Hell, deadly prehistoric graboids have awakened from an icy tomb in the Canadian tundra, and only the world’s best graboid hunters, Burt Gummer (Michael Gross) and his son Travis (Jamie Kennedy), can be trusted to put them back on ice.

I checked out the movie, and I think any Tremors fan will love the new addition to the franchise. Afterwards, I had the opportunity to chat with the series’ perennial star, Michael Gross, to talk about the new film and what makes people want to come back to Tremors again and again. Enjoy!

Note: This interview was edited for length and clarity.

GeekDad: “Did you ever think that after nearly 30 years of the first one, you’d be sitting here making the rounds promoting the 6th film?”

Michael Gross: “Never in my wildest dreams. I was just thrilled to be able to do the first one because the first one happened almost immediately after I finished seven years of Family Ties. And the question for every actor on a popular series is ‘Will I be typecast? Will I be made to play the same sort of character again?’ Because you become so familiar to them. And Tremors fortunately answered that question in the affirmative on many different levels. One, there would be work, and two, there would be work as a vastly different character. People were able to look at me as someone very different from the liberal-leaning, terribly kind and accepting father that I had played for seven years on Family Ties suddenly to be thrust into the role of this right-wing survivalist, comically paranoid, obsessive compulsive disordered [character] and was an absolute thrill. Now, having said that. I never thought it would go any further. That sense of worry that every actor carries with himself of ‘Will this be my last job?’ ‘Will there be success after this?’ So I’m thrilled because to revisit him every couple of years because he has been such fun. Before we did the last one, it had been about 13 years since we had done a Tremors, so I’m amazingly surprised that we’re having this conversation.”

GD: “So thinking about it not expecting to continue after the first one, what is it about Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell that brings something new, that hasn’t already been covered by previous iterations? What makes it special?”

MG: “Well, first of all, there’s a change of scene, which is interesting. All five of its predecessors took place in relatively warm climates. Either Perfection Valley, Nevada, Mexico, or Africa, and this takes place in the arctic. Thus the name. It has to do with the fact that we’re tackling climate change in some way. These monsters have been locked in permafrost for hundreds of millions of years and because of global warming, they’re being released from their icy prisons and bring their predatory behavior in a place we’ve never seen before. We hear all the dangers of climate change, but who knew that graboids [would bring such attention]?”

Graboid from Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell
The only thing worse than a graboid is a prehistoric graboid woken from an icy slumber.

GD: “Did you have a favorite creature feature growing up?”

MG: “I did have a favorite. I watched all of the great Universal horror movies…Dracula, Frankenstein. When I was a kid we had a television show that was on Saturday nights at 10 o’clock and it was called Shock Theater. It was something I looked forward to. That was the only night I was allowed to stay up late, and I used to freeze a Three Musketeers candy bar in the freezer and that was my treat watching Shock Theater. That’s where I became acquainted with all the great Universal films: Dracula, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Invisible Man, Creature From the Black Lagoon, those sorts of things. Many of them were done in the ’30s and ’40s. These were fascinating to me, so it’s wonderful [that] here I am working with Universal on Tremors. That being said, another big favorite of mine was film called Them!. I love it! It was produced at Warner Bros. int he 1950’s [with] Jim Arness and a wonderful cast of characters. That was always a favorite of mine.”

Michael Gross (far right) and the rest of the cast of 'Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell'
Michael Gross (far right) and the rest of the cast of ‘Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell’

GD: “So what do you think about all those creature features lasting throughout the years and the continued appeal leading to a 6th Tremors?”

MG: “I don’t know. These things keep coming back. Certainly escapism. Movies are always a form of escapism, I guess. I think they have their time. Will westerns ever come back? They ebb and flow in terms of the public’s taste. I do know that just the idea of sci-fi and horror has always had its appeal. Things that are even worse than our own congress and political system. As horrific as all that can be, as we watch the politicians go through all their nonsense, I think we need something that is even more horrifying. It’s hard to find. We love being scared and we love walking away from it unscathed…taking a journey. It’s like a roller coaster ride.”

GD: “The Tremors series is great because it gives you those scares, and then it gives you time to laugh it all off.”

MG: “That’s one of the difficult things about Tremors. I’m glad it’s found its place because it really didn’t theatrically the first time around. It was marketed pretty much as a straight horror film which was just all wrong. I don’t’ think Universal quite knew what to do with it. It was part western, part action-adventure, part comedy, part horror. It was this quirky thing. It really took time for people to find it, and thank God find it they did, which is responsible for our success today. It was a hard thing to put in to some simple genre. I don’t know if A Quiet Place has as much fun as Tremors does. It’s just such fun, the bait and switch that is Tremors.

GD: “The film this time takes place in the Canadian tundra. Where did you actually film and where and can you walk me through the production a little bit?”

MG: “We worked for about five to six weeks in front of the camera, but preparation long before that. Believe it or not we actually filmed in South Africa. It’s a remarkable thing. Our first choice actually was so snowed in and the winter conditions were so terrible that transportation would have been a problem. So our first choice had so much snow and so much cold that logistically it would have been almost impossible.”

GD: “Can you confirm with me one thing? When I was watching the feature, the first scene really is very snowy with an arctic feel. Now was that actually in the snow, or was that in sand and some visual effects afterwards?”

MG: “That was in sand. There were plenty of dunes. So that was just a great bit of work. Naturally, I had been in on the very beginning of this [production]. The concept for taking us north and taking us into dissolving permafrost…I thought this was a great idea and very topical, so I was gravely disappointed that we could not go into this extreme snow that we had wanted. But on the other hand, it worked well for the whole idea of climate change because of the joke being that here’s Burt in his heavy parka and the arctic is expressing a very different sort of temperature. So it ultimately worked. The arctic shouldn’t look like this, but it does.”

GD: “Lastly, personally, as a Cubs fan I have to know – was the Cubs hat a personal choice or was that a wardrobe decision?”

MG: “That was a personal choice. That was my input. I’m an ex-Chicagoan, I was born and raised on the North side. When the Cubs finally [won the World Series] I said ‘Look, the original Atlanta Hawks cap came along many years ago on the first Tremors and I was not particularly an Atlanta Hawks fan,’ I just think that ‘What do you think Burt should be wearing?’ and I said ‘I see him with a ball a cap with a brim, and I see it as a Southern sports team.’ That’s all I said. Somehow I think it should be Southern and I think it should be a sports team. It’s been Atlanta Hawks all this time, and this was my time. I said ‘Look guys, we’re doing this Tremors. C’mon! The Cubs just won the World Series for God’s sake! We’ve been missing this for generations, so why can’t we do that?’ And I love that we have no explanation for it. He’s asked several times [in the movie] ‘Have you changed teams?’ [and Burt says] ‘No, just hats.’

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the film for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

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