FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Actor Chris Severio grew up in Louisiana surrounded by LSU fans and never played football.
Today, he is best known for portraying an Arkansas football legend in his feature film debut. Severio stars as Brandon Burlsworth in “Greater,” which premieres Tuesday night and will be released Friday in more than 200 theaters around the country.
Severio’s Baton Rouge home was destroyed recently in the Louisiana floods. You can read about that in an excellent story from WholeHogSports’ Matt Jones here.
But a couple weeks before the flooding, Severio spoke with SEC Country about “Greater” and his experience with the film. You can read that conversation below.
Q: What is your background in football?
A: I grew up around football. My family is full of LSU fans, but I never played football. I wish I would have at this point in my life. I wasn’t really a fan until I got this part, and then I learned how to actually play. From there, I’ve been a fan. I’m a die-hard Arkansas fan now.
Were you actually hitting guys in the movie?
I had a stunt double just for size comparison, but I actually got to do lots of the good hits in the film. It was really cool getting to learn how to actually play. Getting up on the offensive line and being right there, that was incredible. Even though we were filming, we were really hitting each other.
What was it like training for and then actually playing football?
We filmed football for a little over two weeks straight. We were filming 12 to 16 hour days, sometimes even longer than that. Those two weeks it was straight football.
It was mentally, physically and spiritually exhausting. That really broke me. It gave me a new respect for the sport and made me fall in love with it.
Was there a point when you realized just how big a deal all of this was to the Arkansas community?
It was probably the first day of shooting. We were doing a scene in the auditorium. I got there a week or two before shooting so we could do meetings, fittings, rehearsals.
But on the first day of shooting, that’s when I realized how huge this was. They brought in people from the community to be extras, and when we got there the first day and I walked into the auditorium, they had 500 to 600 people. They were all so excited to be part of the film just because they know the story of Brandon. That’s when it really hit me, “OK bro. You have a lot of pressure on your hands now.”
What was your relationship like with Brandon’s mother and brother (Barbara and Marty)?
Talking about it a lot gets me emotional. I met Barbara in an auditorium. I walked up to her and introduced myself. Within seconds of meeting her, she opened up to me and accepted me like I was one of her own. We talked a lot about Brandon.
There was one day Barbara was on set. She was watching behind the cameras. I could tell between takes that she was bothered by what was going on, because it’s very emotional for her. We were about to wrap that scene and I went over and talked to her. We sat down and chatted for a few minutes. The whole experience was emotional for me.
My biggest thing was that I just wanted Barbara and Marty to be happy. I wanted to give it my all. My mindset was to not let these people down. I know the night we screened it was really tough on them, but they gave me feedback about how great I did.
I’m just truly honored to be part of it.