Scifipulse was recently fortunate enough to interview Raphael Sbarge. Who KOTOR fans will know as Republic pilot Carth Onasi. Indeed, Raphael’s made his stage debut in 1973 in Edward Bond‘s stage production Lear. Since then he has had numerous roles on stage and in films and on TV over a career spanning five decades. Additionally, Sbarge has directed On Begley Street and Jenna’s Studio. As well as being executive producer for those titles. During this interview Raphael discusses how the film and TV industry has changed and the most important skill an actor can have.
SFP: What made you want to be an actor?
Raphael Sbarge: I was 4 when I got a job on Sesame Street. I was living on the Lower East side of NYC, they were looking for kids and well— someone knew someone and I got the job! I did several episodes in a cold drafty sound stage— both with Magical Beings in it. My mother had to go with me and she at the time had a successful career as a theatrical costume designer. So she really didn’t want to be a “stage mother.” She told me later that they had offered me a contract— but since it is such a tough business, she said, “if you are gonna do this, it was going to have to be your decision.” I then did my first play at 7, then more plays at the Yale Rep at 11 (mom was a professor at the drama school there). So then at the ripe old age of 12, decided to become an actor. My father (who was a photographer) took my headshots, and then I called an actress friend and got the name of her agent. Then, on my own, I bicycled over to the East side to meet them. When they met me they said they would give me a shot, and decided to start sending me out. I got my SAG card right away by doing a Jello commercial and then started studying with teachers in the city. I then had my first Broadway show at 16 (opposite Faye Dunaway) Then my first big movie at 18 (Risky Business), and then have been working ever since. I am grateful every day, that I have been able to work for so many years as an actor and now also as a director.
SFP: Do you think the film and TV industry has changed since you started out?
Raphael Sbarge: Yes– goodness! Profoundly. In many ways for the better. There are many more opportunities to work, on TV, on streaming, in Video games, and movies small and large. I read the other day that we spend 11 hours a day consuming media (on TV, radio, news, internet, our phone, etc), and so the appetite for more has increased exponentially. This has, I believe, only given everyone a chance to work more, and the lines between “Film actors, TV actors,” which was once seen as either/ Or, has leveled out. So Big film actors are now working on the small screen, AND big screen, and there are, by a magnitude of 100, so many more opportunities to work on a multitude of platforms.
SFP: What was your experience of working on Sesame Street like?
Raphael Sbarge: I have vivid memories of meeting Big Bird, and Oscar the Grouch. I was amazed at how real they were and couldn’t take my eyes off them. I remember Bob McGrath sang us a song on the stoop (can’t remember the song, but do remember how kind he was).. And then I remember Mr. Hooper (he ran the candy store on Sesame Street), put me on a donkey and we talked about the difference between horses and donkeys. Vivid Memories, considering they were so long ago. But— ones I cherish.
SFP: How do you feel about the fan reaction to Carth Onasi and Kaiden Alenko, your characters from KOTOR and Mass Effect?
Raphael Sbarge: I love being a part of the Mass Effect family. That is an astounding passionate group of people, who continually extend such caring and love to one another. It’s been such a gift to be a small part of that giant universe that Bioware created. I have to say that sometimes the passionate relationship that people have with Kaidan makes me blush. But. It’s such a wonderful community to be a part of. Carth too, has his passionate fans. Both of these games— instant classics when they landed, have been remade. So— it’s remarkable to me, how a new generation of people have discovered both of them.
SFP: Following on from that question, please can you tell us if you are going to reprise Carth’s role in the KOTOR remake?
Raphael Sbarge: I don’t know yet. Fingers crossed.
SFP: What are you working on at the moment?
Raphael Sbarge: I have just opened a movie I directed, called Only in Theaters. It’s a love letter to “going to the movies,” and a story about a 4th generation family who have run a very influential art house cinema chain. Wonderful people spoke to me about how much the theater meant to them becoming a director— like Ava DuVernay, Cameron Crowe, James Ivory, Allison Anders etc. etc. We are currently 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and have had a theatrical release in NYC and Los Angles. We are also opening in theaters around the country. (www.onlyintheaters.com to find out where)
I have also directed a docu-series for PBS called 10 Days in Watts. It’s an uplifting story of a farm opening in the middle of a food desert, and the voices of the community, an underserved community, but with people who have enormous pride about the city, and have dedicated their lives to helping others in the community. It will air on PBS (and Stream) on Feb. 12 and 19th, corresponding to Black History month. Here is the link for that: https://www.pbs.org/show/10-days-watts/
SFP: What would you say is the most important skill an actor can have?
Raphael Sbarge: Most important is working well with others; having had some time on stage, developing ones’ voice with voice work (I love Linkletter technique), and a sense of confidence/mission that will allow you to keep going. Acting is profoundly difficult, and it’s full of rejection. But. If you can stay with it— continually look for ways to stay strong and keep your feet under you, you can survive the ups and downs.
SFP: And finally, who would win at paintball; Carth and the KOTOR crew or Kaiden and the Mass Effect team?
Raphael Sbarge: Nahhhh. Not gonna touch that one! I love Carth AND Kaiden— and their crews are both badass. BIG tent, Big tent!! Haha.
Scifipulse would like to extend our most heartfelt thanks and warmest best wishes to Raphael Sbarge for so graciously taking the time to answer our questions.
Raphael’s Instagram: Raphael Sbarge (@raphaelsbarge) • Instagram photos and videos
His Twitter: @RaphaelSbarge
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