Billy Zane Says Actors Should Receive ‘Emotional Stunt Pay’ for Traumatic Roles: ‘The Body Registers It’

Billy Zane knows the body keeps score — and the “Titanic” actor wants his paycheck to reflect that.

In the era of intimacy coordinators and therapists on sets, Zane told Entertainment Weekly that perhaps protocols should be taken one step further.

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“Actors should get emotional stunt pay,” Zane said. “The secondary experience encroaches on the primary. It really does. You’re recreating much weird trauma. We’re putting coursing adrenaline through our bodies and depleting serotonin and dopamine and freaking ourselves out and the body registers it.”

Zane stars in Lifetime movie “Devil on Campus: The Larry Ray Story,” portraying the titular Sarah Lawrence cult leader Larry Ray who is currently serving 60 years in prison.

“I’ve played nefarious characters in the past and then shied from it for a while. I couldn’t resist this one because of just the curious nature of it,” Zane said. “And I hadn’t gone there in a while like this. I liked the platform a lot for it. I have never done a Lifetime movie. I hadn’t considered it. And I thought the network was so well suited for the story, because had it been on any other streamer, the story would’ve been eclipsed by graphic nudity and violence. The fact that there was restraint and a level of censorship required in this story, we could go deeper into character.”

He continued, “I was as mind-blown as anyone [by the story], and then started watching the docs and listening to the podcast and thinking, ‘How on earth…?’ I was initially fascinated by how susceptible we are as a species, how easily swayed we are by suggestion and our desire to keep coming back for more. Then, of course, from a character study standpoint, I’m always interested in the why and what proceeded and what led to this wiring and logic. It was the cycle of trauma, right? Clearly this is a recurring theme in our society. We just see it: bullies were bullied, and rapists were raped, and cult leaders were maybe cult members — even in one’s own home without knowing it.”

Zane became “absolutely fascinated” by Ray’s “rationalization of how he arrived at these decisions” that spiraled into a sex cult.

“I don’t think [Larry reflected] on it other than solving [problems]: We’re out of money? Gotta get money! So, convince himself and convince someone else that they owe you money. And if they don’t [have] it, they’ll get it from their parents. Just keep the ball rolling,” Zane said. “You got to keep the lights on, keep the machine going. You couple this rationalization with chemistry — the guy was an Adderall addict. He was running from his own demons, and his mother. I’m not absolving. I’m not whitewashing at all. The man is doing time and should be, but from a performance standpoint, it was really interesting character study and subject matter.”

He continued, “As an actor, I enjoyed [the] transformation, putting on a bunch of weight because he was imposing not just in height but in mass. Getting a big belly. He was obviously trying to feed something. I think there was trauma eating going on there. Then the accent, and the weird affectation of his lisp. It’s a lot to chew on, so to speak.”

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