Interview: Cro-Mags Founder Harley Flanagan Talks New Role in Michael Imperioli Film

Flanagan and Imperioli - Courtesy
Flanagan and Imperioli in Between Wars - Courtesy


Harley Flanagan of the Cro-Mags is more than a punk rocker, he’s an actor with a range of credits under his belt. His most recent project is the film “Between Wars,” which he scored and in which he stars.

“Between Wars” looks at the struggle of re-entering civilian life after combat. In the film, Flanagan plays McManus, old school Bronx Irish gangster, one of the standout characters. The film has a message, telling the story of veteran marine Franny Malloy (Shaun Paul Costello) as he struggles with integrating himself back into civilian life after war time in Afghanistan. He finds hope in advice given by Marine-turned-PTSD psychologist, Sarge, played by Michael Imperioli.  

CR: Tell us about your history as an actor. How did you start your journey?

Flanagan: The first thing that I acting in was Blue Steel with Jamie Lee Curtis. I was an extra, I didn’t have any speaking lines, so it really wasn’t acting but that was my first time on the big screen. I never pursued acting, music was always in the forefront of what I was doing, it was kinda accidental that I got this part. I wasn’t trying to get any acting gigs, this one presented itself to me and knowing that Michael Imperioli and Dominic Chianese Jr were in this I felt that – how could I go wrong, I had to at least try. 

CR: Who are your current influences?

Flanagan: Joaquin Phoenix, Daniel Day Lewis, Christian Bale, there’s a lot of actors that I like, but I don’t try to emulate any of them, because that’s not really my gig, I love what they do, they really get into their characters, they really transform themselves. I don’t see myself being able to necessarily transform myself, but I think those are great actors.

CR: What five TV shows do you think everyone should watch this year?

Flanagan: To be honest I have no idea, I really don’t watch very much TV.

CR: Cat or dog?

Flanagan: I love both. I always thought I was more of a dog, turns out I am more of a cat; who knew?

CR: What was the one movie you saw that made you want to become an actor?

Flanagan: There really was no movie that I saw that made me want to become an actor; this was all by chance, and I’m enjoying it.

CR: How was working on Between Wars? What did you learn from the experience?

Flanagan: It was a lot of fun. They’re a very dedicated, hardworking group of people; and that was very inspiring.

CR: What music (other than yours!) inspires you to create?

Flanagan: More than I could name right now. I listen to a wide variety of music.

CR: Talk us through your creative process as a writer, musician, and actor.

Flanagan: I try to speak with my own voice, try to connect to the audience and be as honest and truthful as I can with what I do. That’s really the only way I know how to do it.

Cro-Mags in the day - Courtesy
Cro-Mags in the day – Courtesy

CR: What tips do you have for new actors?

Flanagan: I really don’t have any tips, I am a new actor.

CR: What part of your work as a creator do you geek out about the most?

Flanagan: The finishing details… at least that is a big thing with my music, ultimately, I have to settle, knowing that you’re always going to look back in hindsight and say, ‘aww I should have done this differently, I should have done that’ – so you have to just use that same creative fire to move forward into the next project. Whatever you learned in the previous, you can apply to the next.

CR: You’re very hands-on with your projects. How hard is it wearing all the hats?

Flanagan: It is hard to run everything, but it is even harder to let other people do it when you have a vision for how you want it to be, how you want it to sound, what you want it to look like; it’s very difficult to relinquish control to other people who may not have the same vision as you. Sometimes its good to do it, but it’s not easy.

CR: If you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Flanagan: I do not know; it’d have to be a very long movie.

CR: What’s your next project?

Flanagan: Whatever presents itself. I have a new record coming out soon, and I am always open to opportunities that come my way. My team is working on a documentary based on my life at the moment as well as a scripted series- I am not sure how involved I will be other than behind the scenes, but again, I am always open to opportunities that present themselves.

CR: Have you worked with mentors in the past? How would you recommend people go about finding them?

Flanagan: I don’t know if you can find them, I think you just know when you have found them. Seeking them out may not necessarily be the best way. All I know is that the people who have influenced me the most, came into my life accidentally… or by forces beyond my control.

CR: What has been your biggest failure?

Flanagan: According to my wife, its being too trusting, but at the same time I feel like if you don’t have the ability to trust, you can’t really make progress.

CR: What’s your passion as an actor? Name the most important thing you want viewers to experience when watching your movies.

Flanagan: My passion as an actor—to try to make it real. The most important thing I want viewers to experience while watching my movies… well, I haven’t been in enough movies to answer that but, in this particular movie, Between Wars, I want them to feel uncomfortable; maybe a little nervous, like they don’t know what to expect.

CR: What has been your biggest success?

Flanagan: Staying alive as long as I have.

CR: Can we expect to see any episodic television from you anytime soon?

Flanagan: If the opportunity presents itself, it would be a lot of fun to take a shot at it.

CR: What’s your five-year plan?

Flanagan: I stick to 5-day plans. 5 minutes is hard enough.

CR: What artists should be on our radar?

Flanagan: What artists should be on my radar? That’s my question to you.

CR: What’s your favorite film of all time, and what did you learn from it?

Flanagan: There are several but I think the one that influenced me the most, for a number of reasons, was A Clockwork Orange; which I saw when I was maybe 13 years old, with Adam Yauch from the Beastie Boys, tripping on LSD for the first time.

CR: Who would compose the soundtrack of your life?

Flanagan: I think I would have to do that.