Actor Michael Gross talks latest 'Tremors' installment

Actor Michael Gross has been playing the role of survivalist Burt Gummer in the "Tremors" franchise for 30 years — but back in 1990, he couldn’t quite understand why he’d received the initial script.

“My first thoughts were, ‘This is a mistake,’” says Gross, shaking his head.  “Not because I didn’t think I could do it, but because I had been playing one of the world’s sweetest and most liberal fathers for seven years on ‘Family Ties.’  So, I thought, ‘This is a stretch.’”

Of course, Gross took the role and ran with it — all the way through the original and its six sequels.  But the idea of "Tremors" becoming a franchise seemed far-fetched back in 1990, considering it wasn’t exactly a blockbuster hit.

“It was out for about two minutes,” Gross says with a laugh. “No, I’m exaggerating.  It was out about a week, and off it went.”

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But as new audiences discovered the horror-comedy about ground-dwelling Graboids, it gained fans — and sequels.  The seventh, titled "Tremors: Shrieker Island," is out this week from Universal 1440 Entertainment; co-starring Jon Heder, Jackie Cruz, Richard Brake, and Caroline Langrishe, filming took place in Thailand.

“We were in southern Thailand on the Malay Peninsula … and we went off to a lot of outlying islands and the jungles near there,” says Gross. “Beautiful, beautiful country.”

Of course, some not-so-beautiful things happen on that island over the course of the movie — continuing a three-decade legacy of hilarious, over-the-top horror. It’s a legacy Gross says can be a little overwhelming to think about, but that he's extremely proud to be part of.

“They say to me, ‘What do you take out of this?’ And I said, ‘Well, the world is a tricky place. The world is a daunting place. It’s extremely challenging, not just now, but always,’” the actor says. “We all need some sort of escape into a world where things might turn out a little bit better.’”

“If I could help people with that escape, I’m thrilled. I’m thrilled.”

"Tremors: Shrieker Island" is available now on Digital, Blu-ray, and DVD.

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