Interview with Jeff Galfer: ABC's Beloved Cameraman: Sammy on 'The River'

Jeff Galfer, an Illinois native, is an artistic triple threat! Theater, television, and photography, he can do it all! He was last seen in ABC’s ‘The River’ as Sammy, the cameraman. He has lived in New York, San Francisco, and currently LA. He is very passionate in his work, and is currently working on filming a short, with director Leslie Hope. When he is not working, he can be found walking through a dog park, or enjoying a meal at Buffalo Joe’s. Check out our interview with Jeff below and be sure to keep a look out for our exclusive news on his short!

How was ‘The River’ different from other shows you have done like ‘All My Children’?

Jeff Galfer in 'All My Children'

“It’s obviously a totally different world, the soap world, It’s very regimented. I wasn’t on it [All My Children] that much, only about a month and a half, and even within that it was only six full days, which is six episodes. You’re there all day, from 7am until the evening, and essentially it’s just a lot of waiting around.

I remember the very first soap I did was in New York, and I think it was ‘Guiding Light’, and I showed up and I had no idea what was going on. When I showed up the security guard said something like “you go down to your dressing room and they’ll call you,” and I’m like ok? So I went down to my dressing room, and I waited many hours, and then I got called into hair and makeup and then somebody took me into a rehearsal. Then I was sent back to the dressing room, and I waited another six hours, and then I went on and did my line or two. It was maybe two full takes and that was it,then I was sent home.

It’s very fast, you know they just kind of do it, and then they get you out. But because they are doing so much material throughout the day, it’s a lot of waiting around. And for those who are leads on the show, they’re shooting a lot, but they’re also waiting around a lot. They’re just doing so much material, they’re memorizing all the time, they’re always doing multiple episodes at once, it’s a lot of work for them.

Prime time was a little bit different, it’s a little bit more flashy I guess. You’re still sitting around a lot, but I feel like you’re catered to in a different way. There they have a dressing room, and it sort of feels like an office with big time soaps, but with prime time it still can be that kind of atmosphere, but they’re always taking good care of you. You’re always being fed all the time, and they’re looking after you. There’s still a lot of waiting around, but the sets are more elaborate

[For The River] We were working on location so all that stuff on ‘The River’ is actually on

Jeff in a commercial

a river. It was the coolest thing. On most sets you get in a van, and they take you down to where they are shooting. [For The River] We got on a little motor boat, and the boated us out to this big boat where we were shooting. That was really awesome, I just remember thinking “I’m getting into a speedboat to go to work, you can’t beat that.”  I shot a little bit in Hawaii, but mostly was in Puerto Rico, because I was the one who as you know, died pretty early on and we went out into the middle of this weird area where there was this jungle. There was this river and all this greenery and it was so gorgeous and so strange and you’re out there on it. You’re not doing it on some little set. Although parts of that show have a set, a lot of it is on location, and I feel like that’s something else about prime time. A lot of it is on location, a lot of it is out there and it’s fun. I love feeling like I’m actually at the places that were filming.”

Even though you were killed off very early, did you get to stay on location the entire time or did they fly you back home?

“In Puerto Rico we were all there for about three and a half weeks. Some people were there a little longer. I was the last one cast, so there were people there waiting around for them to fill in this role. So I know a couple people got there a week before I did, just waiting out for them to cast this role so they could get going. By the time I got there it was up and running. I found out at 8:30 in the morning on a Tuesday, I was on a plane by midnight, and then was up getting my costume the next day at 2:00pm in  Puerto Rico, and then we were filming the next morning. And then we were all there for the shooting, which I think was about three weeks.

I think the day that I died was one of the longest days. We were filming me falling down on my head,

R.I.P Sammy, the cameraman

and getting dragged around at six in the morning after a fourteen or sixteen hour day. I remember thinking that I had been looking so forward to dying, it was going to be so much fun, and then it became this very painful process, after a very long day in the middle of the night. I think they were very kind to me, because I think they threw my body double in the water, because it was almost seven in the morning and they were like “I don’t know if we need to throw Jeff in the water after this day of banging his head and flying around.” So they were being very good to me. But I think I was supposed to spend another hour there jumping into the water.”

What originally drew you into ‘The River’?

“Of all the pilots last year that I came in contact with, potentially, I found this one the most exciting and most fun. I knew it was going to be shooting in Puerto Rico which I’ve never been to, and thought that would be a blast.  I loved horror genre, I always have. Peli, the guy who brought us ‘Paranormal Activity’, I told him early on that that movie, when I was living with a roommate, when it came out, we came home and stayed in the living room with the lights on the entire night and slept like that the entire night. I commended him constantly for making a grown man do that. I have always loved that genre. I was a big 80’s slasher film, loved all that stuff, ‘Nightmare on Elm Street,’ and there was an old movie ‘When A Stranger Calls.’ 


Who was your favorite ‘The River’ cast member to work with?

Because the age range was so wide, I mean the youngest girl was nineteen, and then we had people, and we had Daniel [Zacapa], one of the older people. It was a wide net, I think I fell somewhere in the middle. Then in terms of cultural background, I think Eloise [Mumford] and I were the only Americans, and we had a couple folks from England, Thomas [Kretschmann] was from Germany, Leslie [Hope] and Bruce [Greenwood] are from Canada, Paulina [Gaitan] was from Mexico, and Daniel is from South America.
“That’s tough to say. They were actually a pretty crazy fun group of people, and again, that is why I was so happy I landed on this particular pilot, because of the diversity of this show. I’m not trying to sound political, because if I didn’t like people I would just say one person and say they were my favorite, but the truth of the matter is that it was kind of a familial atmosphere.

The Cast of Abc's 'The River'

There were so many different personalities. I remember we went out the first weekend and I was sitting with this group of people, and I thought this is absolutely awesome. Everyone is so likable, so different. Turns out though that Shaun Parkes, who was the other camera guy, lives in my neighborhood. We found that out when we got back, that we live three blocks away from each other, and we hang out quite often. I’m actually writing something and the two of us are trying to get something going there. 

In terms of everything else,  I was most star struck by Bruce, because Bruce has been in everything in the world. And a year and a half ago, I remember watching ‘Start Trek’, the new one and I’m a huge ‘Star Trek’ geek, and I remember thinking holy cow, Bruce Greenwood is awesome in this. And we were hanging out and he was so good to me throughout that pilot. We never worked together, but he was so good to me the entire time and always looking out for me. I remember I said to him at one point “Well why don’t I just get this off my chest, because I’m not going to be able to have a normal conversation with you until I do,  I’m really wigging out that two years ago I was literally thinking how awesome you were on ‘Star Trek’, and now we’re doing this together.” So I got that off my chest and then we had a normal relationship. But it’s never normal, you see these people years ago and you think they’re really interesting, and then all of a sudden, you’re working with them and then they’re calling you to go hang out somewhere, and it’s very strange.”

Are you more into photography or acting?

Jeff with his photographer's cap on

“I have been acting my whole life, and photography was something I picked up four years ago. I was actually going through a very strange rough patch when I was in New York, and I needed to find something to do that was going to make me feel alive again, and photography was always something I was very curious about. I was literally sitting at home with my family at the time, and we were having a little pow wow about how to move forward in terms of how could I improve the situation mentally and feel better about what was going on in the world.

I kinda came up with this idea that I would pick up a camera and take it on as full hobby, and every weekend go out in new york and shoot a different neighborhood and feel what it’s like to feel a camera and play with it.

Four years later, I had an exhibition in LA with my brother who does a lot of photography, and a lot of traveling. We did this whole show about how my brother I spent many years not getting along very well and photography became this thing that allowed us to become friends. So we did a whole show about putting our work together, and showing how our work evolved based on our friendship evolving. Made a couple videos online where you can see the story of that show and how we put it together, and how we raised the money for it, it’s been great.

People started offering me money to ship things and I of course said Ill do it for free, and after a little bit of that I said .. yeah I’ll take the money. I’ve been doing that for a little bit. I help out friends with actor’s head shots and I do some product photography. But it’s mostly head shots, corporate and actor head shots. Its been a nice little side gig for the fun of it. I really love it, but it it’s something that I love that’s outside of the business. I don’t have to worry about money and sacrifice, I can do it on my own, I don’t have to listen to anybody. I don’t have to have a conversation with anybody, I can just go shoot. Acting is different, you rely on a lot of different factors, it’s difficult and complicated, and it’s a struggle, but it’s something that I’ve taken on because I love it so much.

I like that photography is not involved in all that. When you’re doing something where moneys involved it can at times poison certain aspects of it.”

When/If ‘The River’ comes back for season 2 what would you like to see happen?

Jeff on the set of 'The River'

We all know that what I’d like to see happen and the 8 million people who watch this show would like to see happen is Sammy come back and the show really be about Sammy, I think that’s what everybody is clamoring for right now. I think everybody thinks “I want more Jeff Galfer.” (jokingly)

But of course I’d like to make appearances back, it would be fun to come back as they’re driving down the river and they run into my body and all of a sudden I’m  not a fun nice guy anymore, I’m the evil guy on the ship. It looks like that there’s potential for me to be involved with stuff that happens before, like when they flash back and they’re doing stuff before all of this begun.

But you know, I don’t know any of that. I think everybody right now is worried about whether or not its coming back. So there’s not a lot of talk about what’s the next story line, because I think everybody’s kind of worried about their job. But I will say that the producers of this show are so awesome, just constantly been looking out  since I was involved with it in October, and when I was involved with it back last March. They’re always brain storming and coming up with stuff so we’ll see.

I know that Zack Estrin whose one of the producers, is writing Paranormal Activity 4. So that’s kind of exciting. Michael Green is also working on a new TV show, it’s called ‘Gothem’, and so that might be out next year for Michael, that’s another sci-fy type show.

I don’t know, I don’t know what’s going to happen with it. I know there was some talk posted online about some interest that Netflix seemed to have in the show, but there’s been very little details in what that entails, and what’s going on there. It’s exciting to think that there is a chance. I think if the show got some more episodes its viewership would get better.

But you know this is a business where there’s not a lot of time that they allow for their show to get its start. It either has to run right out of the gate or they  kind of give up on it. Hopefully, from what I’ve heard, ABC really loves this show, really wants it to continue and do well. Everyone’s been trying to figure out how to get the viewership for it to make it continue.”

What have you been doing since the show? Auditioning for pilots?

Ladies and Gentlemen, for one last time I give you Jeff Galfer

“I auditioned again this year, and then we will see what happens and go from there. In the midst of all that though, I’m working on a short film that I wrote and that my now friend and co-worker Leslie Hope is going to direct. She is fabulous, she has done quite a bit of directing, and I’ve seen one of her shorts and it’s amazing. So I contacted her and talked to her about it and she is going to direct that. So I’ve been working on that for the past 8 months, and we’re hoping to get that shot over the next couple months. That’s where my brain has been.

When you’re in this business, you kind of have to always be working on something so that you’re not thinking about the auditions as much. Because you can drive yourself a little crazy worrying about the next audition or worrying about the next job. This has been a really fun project that I’m excited to see it progress. But we still have a couple months to go, we still have money to raise, and we have a crew to put together and all that, but it’s coming along.”

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