Sam Rockwell’s acting career has taken him from playing a recovering sex addict (“Choke”) to TV host Chuck Barris (“Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”) to a comic book character (“Iron Man 2”), among dozens of other divergent acting gigs.
“Yeah, I’ve played some murderers. I’ve played some criminals,” says Rockwell about past roles. But he’s quick to note that “Conviction” is the first time he’s ever played what he describes as an “accused-but-not-real-murderer” in his portrayal of Kenny Waters, a Mass. man who was imprisoned for 18 years for a crime he didn’t commit.
“He wasn’t a boy scout. He had a temper,” says Rockwell. “But he was essentially a good-hearted guy.” Though Rockwell never met Waters, who died six months after his release from prison, he relied on jail-house tapes and watched court house footage of Waters.
He says nailing the accent was almost as challenging as portraying the conflicted emotions in “Convicted.”
“We had the best dialect coach in the country and she drilled certain phrases into our heads: ‘A dull dark dock’ and ‘from a cheap and chippy chopper.’” says Rockwell about the strong accent he and co-star Hilary Swank adapted for their roles. “It’s an accent with a lot of mine fields. It’s intimidating. But once you get the cadence, it’s really fun. There are a lot of very sharp, violent transitions in the vowels.”