As actors, we’re always interested in stretching the limits. There’s no end as to how a character can be played. We have an idea in our head, but the director might have a totally different idea.
Creating your character is a lot of fun when playing a human. Now what if you are playing a supernatural character?!
Today we hear from six actors who have delved into the supernatural realm:
Mark Pellegrino (Supernatural, Being Human, Lost), Richard Speight Jr. (Supernatural, Jericho), and from the TV series Lost Girl, Paul Amos, Richard Howland, Rachel Skarsten and K.C. Collins!
Photo by Manfred Baumann
Mark played Jacob in Lost and is currently filming The Tomorrow People.
You’re no stranger to playing supernatural creatures such as the vampire “Bishop” in the SyFy horror series “Being Human” and Lucifer in “Supernatural.” Is there any extra preparation you go through?
Well, luckily the supernatural stories I’ve had to play in were very human stories. In fact, part of what attracted me to the parts of ‘Bishop’ and ‘Lucifer’ and even Jacob’ were their accessibility. They were, at their essence, stories about family. With stories that clear, as an actor, you need only know what you’re doing and how you feel about it to make it work. Interestingly enough I thought ‘Bishop’s’ story required a little homework. I was told he was turned in seventeenth century London and that little bit of info (which is never elaborated on in the series to my knowledge) got my creative juices flowing. I read Daniel Defoe’s The Plague Year…and a definitive history of London replete with maps and anecdotes from that time. I used those books as a spring board for a long ‘life’ journal that I wrote for ‘Bishop.’ Was this necessary? Probably not, but I love stuff like that that keeps your imagination fertile and active and involved and more than anything steers you away from clichés.
Make-up can be an issue, but more distracting than contact lenses that cover your entire eyeball…or gooey latex on your face…also fat suits, wigs, itchy wool clothing and dirt. Not to mention. oodles and oodles of sticky blood and all the malfunctions that can occur when these elements are combined with human actions and intensions…more distracting than all of this… is the weather.
I remember doing a scene with Aiden’ (Sam Witwer). It was a flashback scene to the 70’s. I was, as usual, trying to get him back, or steering him clear of some impending disaster. We were outside an apartment building in open polyester shirts and thin little pleather jackets. Only it was the dead of winter in Montreal and SNOWING. AND….vampires are supposed to be immune to weather phenomenon. HA. Talk about focus or die.
You’ve had a very healthy acting career before appearing as character ‘Jacob’ in the “Lost” Season Five finale. Do you feel “Lost” catapulted you into the public eye?
I think ‘Lost’ was very very good for me. They had such a huge and loyal fan base and it was such an innovative and unique show. I really feel like I was a part of something historical.
I think the especially good thing about it for me was to be seen by a large number of people as a good guy…not even just good…but potentially Christ-like. Even though it turned out â€˜Jacob’s’ past was far more checkered than one would expect of a messiah, it was the first big thing I’d done where I could be perceived as benign.
I HAD gotten fan mail before and it did increase with ‘Lost,’ but it also changed. That show inspired people and that became a part of what fans would write to me. It feels pretty good to be a part of something so impactful.
Please describe your auditions for “Supernatural,” “Being Human” and “Lost.”
I was fortunate for ‘Supernatural’ and ‘Being Human.’ I was offered those parts and didn’t have to go through the odd and awkward dance that auditions can feel like.
‘Lost’ I auditioned for. And that is a bit of a story.
I almost didn’t go. I had three other auditions that day and was worried that I would not be able to devote the amount of time to the material that I thought it would need. It was three or four pages of sides [part of the script] with A LOT of dialogue. The last thing I wanted to do was go in there and make a terrible impression.
But….my wife convinced me to go and I crammed as hard as I could before I went in (I like to memorize or at least be very familiar with the material before I go in. If I can rehearse it a few times before…that is even better), so I went in cold…dressed casually. The casting person and assistant working the camera were the only people in the room (I like these situations because they are more conducive to creative play). I knew what I was doing: It was a confrontation scene between two brothers. It was very easy to latch onto and in spite of the short time with the material and I felt I connected with it quickly.
It wasn’t until I was actually getting fitted…in Hawaii…that I discovered what part it was I had gotten and how much anticipation there had been for â€˜Jacob’s’ appearance.
What political topics are you currently thinking about and discussing?
Interesting question. Didn’t expect politics in this kind of forum.
Well, you should know that I love politics and history more than I love acting.
Even so, I find this a tough one to answer because political ideas, particularly those that contradict the conventional wisdom, cannot be distilled to a few characters of explanation. And rational ideas resist the sound bite (even though you say ‘go into detail’).
The main political topic, for me, revolves around the cause of human liberty…the most precious commodity on earth. Political ideas either promote human liberty or destroy it in the interests of some ‘higher interest.’ So I’ll answer you with a series of rhetorical questions and by that, I think you’ll know what I think is important: Is Individualism a good? Or Statism? Is there something higher than the individual that he is obligated to sacrifice for? Or is he an end unto himself? Is Capitalism a moral ideal? Or is collectivism and its attendant political policies? Is altruism or rational self-interest GOOD? Which has the better track record in human history for the preservation of rights and the prosperity of a people: Statism (with all it’s variants) or Capitalism? These, as a rugged individualist and aspiring artist, are the questions that consume me…
You teach at the repertory theater company “Playhouse West.” Why did you choose the Meisner technique? Why do you teach?
I chose Meisner by luck and then, when I saw the result of working moment to moment, it became love. I think Meisner offers something visceral that, in combination with other styles, is utterly fantastic.
I teach for a couple reasons. One is continuity. There is very little of that in American acting…particularly on the west coast. The last thing you want to do is sit around waiting for your agent to call you with an audition. Spend that off-time growing and learning. Teaching (and doing plays) is the way I keep focused and feel involved in the craft.
The second reason is I feel like I’m giving back. Passing something onto young peoples in the hopes that I am able to save them the one un-renewable resource there is: Time. John Adams once said that teaching was the one eternal art because you never knew where your influence stopped. I love that idea. That I could say something that can change someone two generations removed from me is pretty heady.
I know Bill Alderson [from The Neighborhood Playhouse who taught and directed in NYC.] He taught my mentor Bob Carnegie. He’s a good teacher I hear and he’s always been very nice to me.
Why is it difficult for you to watch yourself?
It used to be harder to watch myself. And it still is in public. I don’t mind doing it as a study now…but it is a study. And yes there is that element…that…’God if I could only do that now…’ kind of thing. But I’m growing past that and using my time to study my work for what to keep and what to throw out. It is an egoless venture now with the intent of learning.
How does it work when a stuntman is taking your place?
I used to do a lot of my stunt fighting on my own, but the years have taken their toll and if I can get out of it and let someone more capable take the reins I’m all for it. A stuntman will take your place whenever you need him to. And he is always on the set (unless it’s really low budget stuff) to take over whenever you need him to…THANK GOD.
Your wife, Tracy, is very supportive of your career. How and when did you meet her?
We met at Playhouse West over 20 years ago. We were acquaintances…then lost touch…became friends…then lost touch…became friends again…then lovers…then got married…ha. Acting is a vagabond life and difficult for anyone. The long hours are not the bitch. It’s the locations. It’s working everywhere BUT home that makes for the difficulty. We try to see each other every two weeks regardless of where we are on the globe. Or rather I should say…we try to go no longer than two weeks without seeing each other.
Tracy comes to the set with me quite often. And Tess (my step-daughter) came to Hawaii for awhile (and she was a â€˜Lost’ fan). But basically, anytime I can drag the kids over I will.
Are conventions and appearances such as Press Tours written into your contract or is there a separate contract for that?
That is a separate deal. I have a convention agent who books all that. Travel and accommodations are handled by the con. I usually get a little per diem too.
Photo by Bjoern Kommerell
Mark has also appeared in Revolution, Grimm and Dexter
Is your goofy but cute hairstyle your own look or do the hair and make-up people create your look?
Ha. Depends which goofy hairstyle.
Have you ever betrayed anyone in childhood or adulthood?
Do you wear prescription eye contacts?
I do wear prescription contacts. They sent me to an eye doctor to get a prescription for my full vampire eyes. So the contacts I wear in ‘Being Human’ are my prescription. But those full eye contacts are weird because you can only see through a little pupil sized pin hole. And if you are doing an action scene they have been known to shift in flight and leave you temporarily blind.
Tell us about your character, Dr. Jedikiah Price, in the re-make series “The Tomorrow People.”
Don’t know how much I can tell you so I will only say this. It is NOT campy. It’s actually cool. The kids in it are fantastic and the special effects are really good. I really hope it does something….cause I would really like to talk more about it with you.
RICHARD SPEIGHT JR.
You continue to have a very powerful career. What is the sequence of your representation from the beginning of your career to now?
I had an agent back in Nashville, TN, where I grew up. I worked on local projects or any
productions that came through town. There was really one agent in Nashville when I
started Betty Clark. If you acted, you were with her. Through her, I was able to get my
SAG [union Screen Actors Guild] card by working on productions shooting in Tennessee that would fill in the smaller roles with local actors. When I moved to Los Angeles, it was to attend college. I went to USC and majored in theater. I didn’t have an agent for the first year, but that was okay because I was focused on enjoying college and acclimating to Los Angeles. As a sophomore, I felt like I wanted to get my feet wet in the professional world, so I started looking. Somehow, someone I had worked with in Nashville knew a woman who was in casting, and she brought me in for a two line role in an After School Special (I still remember the lines: ‘Hey, Debbie’ and ‘Good work, Deb’). After I booked it, she put a call in on my behalf to an agent I believe she was related to somehow. It was Scott Manners, head of his own agency Stone Manners. She talked Scott into taking a courtesy meeting with me. I’ll never forget it because Scott had a bad back and couldn’t stand up straight. He had me walk with him down the street from his office. Here I was, a kid from Nashville, walking along with a hunched-over head of an agency down Sunset Blvd. It was surreal. He talked the whole time, and I listened. I guess I listened well because he told me I could come back in and audition with a scene. I prepped a scene from ‘The Odd Couple’ with another actor from USC — a seasoned guy with a lot more charm and experience under his belt than I had. We did the scene. Scott instantly wanted to sign the other guy (but he already had an agent). After a few days, he agreed to take me on. That was a big break for me I was actually going to get into rooms and audition. Scott did a great job for me, too.
He got me out. I even booked a pilot. But I didn’t book much else. At one point, I had giant sideburns. I went in for a small part on a sitcom, and they hired me! Thing was, in the two days that had passed since I auditioned, I shaved. Scott informed production, and the next day, they fired me. Good times.
When I entered my senior year of college, Scott dropped me. Can’t blame him. It is a business and I wasn’t making him any money. Fortunately, USC puts on a showcase for seniors to help them get agents. Again, I had the same scene partner I’d had years before to get Scott. From that showcase, I got two management offers. I signed with Ken Jacobson at what was then called James/Levy Management. Actually, it’s called that again now (Ken is a one man operation now), but for many years it was James / Levy /Jacobson. Ken was great. He helped me get a new agent. This was no easy trick. I was a tough sell. Not too handsome, not too ugly, not tall, not fat, not a red head (I was actually told all these things). I remember one agent flat out told me I would never work. I got rejected by a LOT of people. Luckily, Ken believed in me and eventually got me in for a pilot. I was offered a test deal but had no agent to make the deal. So Ken scored me a meeting with legendary agent Harry Gold. He negotiated the contract and signed me as well. I didn’t get the pilot, but I did score good representation for almost 10 years. I am a loyal guy, and I don’t like unnecessary change. Some actors I know get skittish in a bad year and jump ship. Not me. The acting business is like the financial market: it is going to have ups and downs, sometimes major, sometimes minor. But if you are good and stay focused and have the fortitude to withstand the downs, most likely you’ll get to some ups. Sometimes it may be the agent’s fault, but more often than not, it’s just the nature of the beast.
While at Harry Gold (later called Talent Works) I met a lot of young people working their way up the agency ladder, which is exactly how I ended up with my current agent, Sheree Cohen. Sheree was an assistant at Talent Works. We were peers. We hung out.
She eventually moved agencies, got promoted, became a manager, went back to being an agent, then joined a few other talented agents at The Paul Kohner Agency. When the time came to leave Talent Works, Sheree was Ken’s first and only call. I never met with anyone else because why? Sheree and her team were amazing, and their work ethic and reputation were off the charts. My one and only concern when finding an agent is personal passion. I want an agent who gets what I do and appreciates what value I bring to the table. That is a tough recipe to find, so when I find it, I stick with it. My commercial agent is a perfect example. I’ve done somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 national commercials, all with the help of one lady, Samantha Botano. She is and has been my one woman operation for years and years. When I started booking a lot in commercials, bigger agents came after me. If there had been a reason to switch, I would have. But there wasn’t. She was getting me in the rooms so I could book the jobs. There was no need to mess with that recipe. I signed with her when I was 25 or so and am still with her today. Theatrically, I am now with Don Buchwald because Sheree Cohen moved there and asked me to go with her. It was a no-brainer. Ken and I eventually parted ways, too, but not because he’s not great. He is. We’re still friends. But I was expanding into writing and directing and needed a firm that could cover all those bases.
When you auditioned for “Supernatural,” did you know you’d be playing a supernatural character, angel Gabriel?
I actually didn’t audition for ‘Supernatural.’ It was an offer. Executive producer Bob Singer directed a pilot I was in a few years earlier. It was a drama, but I suppose he saw something in me he thought would work as the Trickster. I’m very glad he did.
What discussions went on after you received the role of Gabriel / The Trickster?
There was no guidance whatsoever. The writing on the show is very good, so the blueprint was there. I made my own choices and added my own energy to it hoping it would match how they perceived the character. It seems to have worked. When I got the script for the episode where The Trickster reveals himself to be Gabriel, I asked production to put me in touch with the episode’s writer, Jeremy Carver (now the show runner). He and I discussed where the mythology was going and where it was coming from, but again they trusted me to make those transitions on my own. The writers aren’t on set. The show is written in Los Angeles but shot in Vancouver. The director brings ideas to the table, but in my experience with the show, there isn’t any handholding going on.
How do conventions work from a hiring standpoint?
After doing two episodes of the show, I was invited to a convention. I turned it down because I couldn’t understand why a convention would want me or really what a convention even was. It was not a world I was familiar with. When I got invited again, my agent suggested I go if for no other reason than to meet the fans and see what it was all about. Now I do at least ten a year. After the first few, I picked up convention agent Julie Caitlin Brown after being introduced by a fellow actor on the show. She specializes in that market and understands an actor’s value, the work expectation, and the overall pay scales. She handles the negotiations and the contracts. As far as pay and travel, that is all negotiated by her, and it differs from company to company based on what they are doing and where they are doing it. But I will say this conventions aren’t put on by Warner Brothers. It is companies (Creation Entertainment in North America) or enterprising individuals mounting them, so each one is different and unique to the people putting them on.
When you first started out as an actor, did you ever think you’d have the massive fanbase you currently have?
Building a fan base was never part of the plan. Fame and popularity were not the driving forces behind my pursuit of acting. I love the art of it. You have to love it to be willing to endure the complexities and inconsistencies of the business. That said, I love that I now have fans and try very hard to respect their appreciation. I do my best to answer fan mail or posts on my Facebook page and Twitter account. Acting is like a tree falling in the woods if no one is there to hear it, who’s to say if it made a sound? I’m a performer I want people to know I made a sound. When what I do triggers a positive reaction, it’s pretty amazing. TV isn’t theater. There is no instant gratification. Meeting folks at conventions and reading their mail, Facebook posts, and Twitter posts is the only concrete proof you get that people are enjoying what you do. So I value every piece of contact I get. I genuinely appreciate it more than anyone can know and do my best to respond in kind.
And how do I get fan mail the old fashioned â€˜arrives in the mailbox kind’? It goes to my agency, and they forward it to me.
What was it like growing up having two older sisters.
Fortunately, my sisters didn’t beat me up. I was the baby brother, so they were nice to me and saved their animosity for each other. My oldest sister is 4-Â½ years older than me, so we were all pretty close growing up. Still are.
They were into acting WAY before I was. They were doing plays, taking classes…
Because I was the baby, I got dragged to every lesson they ever took and forced to sit through every performance they ever had. Eventually, it made more sense to me to participate than to sit in the waiting room with my mom. And then I got hooked. Later, when my sisters had the good sense to bail out and pursue more manageable professions, I stayed in. It’s their fault.
Which do you prefer, music or acting?
Acting, for one simple reason I’m a sh*tload better at it. I love playing music and played in bands for years, but just for fun. I can play, but I don’t have that â€˜thing’ that separates someone who enjoys it from someone who excels. And no, I’ve never incorporated the two. One is a hobby, one is my profession. I don’t think they’ll ever mix unless I some day play a guy who wishes he were a better musician.
What are your hobbies?
Well, music obviously. I’m not in a band anymore, but I play all the time, usually in my empty living room with my kids. And I love the beach. I go all the time. I love anything in the water: swimming, body surfing, SCUBA diving, paddle boarding… you name it.
Richard wrote and directed a short film called America 101 which has been touring the film festival circuit.
Is there anything you sometimes think about in the back of your mind that you wish you never thought about?
My parents having sex.
What advice can you give to UN-represented actors?
Act. That’s the point, right? That’s why you’re in the game. Basketball players don’t get in the NBA by hanging around their apartment. They play ball. When I was unrepresented and there were a lot of years that I was I did plays. I think classes and scene studies are invaluable, but at the end of the day, you’re trying to master a very difficult craft, and doing theater allows you to do it in a team atmosphere with an immediate response. You only get better as an actor by acting. And mastering your energy and nerves is a part of the process. You’ve got to get out there and do it in front of people. I also recommend doing as much on-camera work as you can. In this day and age, you can make your own projects on your phone. Do it. Work on your friends’ projects. Audition for student films. Find out what is going on in your area and get involved. When my other actor buddies and I aren’t acting for money, we’re doing it for free. Sometimes I think people look at acting as a luck based profession. I couldn’t disagree more. For every â€˜overnight’ success, there are countless performers doing outstanding work on stage and screen who only got there because they lived it, sweated it, and focused on it with every fiber of their being for decades.
What differences do you see on low budget films vs. higher budget productions?
Not much. Big budget movies have more people involved, maybe better food… but as we all know, budgets don’t dictate quality. I firmly believe that from an acting standpoint, there is no difference. Acting is acting in my book. Whether it’s an indie film, a studio film, a commercial, or a play, comedy or drama, honesty is the name of the game. Make clear decisions and stick with them. That said, I will say that sometimes there is more creative freedom on a low budget set. When the filmmakers are passionate and have a clear vision, it can be very creatively rewarding to be involved with projects like that.
How was the Nashville Film Fest?
The Nashville Film Festival was great. I was there for a screening of a short film that I wrote and directed called ‘America 101′ (which at this date has been accepted to 15 festivals). I submitted my film to the Nashville fest specifically because Nashville is my hometown. It was a great opportunity to go back and mix with the film community that has grown exponentially since I lived there. It was an honor to be accepted and screen there.
What’s your favorite car and why?
A 1979 metallic pea-green Pontiac Catalina Safari. We took many a fun family vacation in that beast, and it was the car I drove in high school. Catalina Safari was also the name of my first band. Hard to believe a station wagon could have so much impact on one man’s life.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m excited about Week of the Eighth, an indie film I acted in along with my pal from Band of Brothers Rick Gomez. Rick co-wrote the script. It is a fun, darkly comedic exploration of adult relationships that is full of fun, rich characters. Anytime I get to work with him is a delight (Rick is the lead in my film). And the other members of the creative team were fantastic to work with.
I will be doing a lot of film festivals with ‘America 101′ and conventions for ‘Supernatural’ throughout the year. Follow me on twitter (@dicksp8jr) and on my film’s Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/America 101themovie) to find out where and when you can see me, America 101 or any other projects I may have coming out in the future.
PAUL AMOS is best known for his character Vex on the Canadian TV series Lost Girl, which can be seen in the USA on SyFy Channel.
Why did you become an actor? Why did you move from from England to Canada?
My grandfather used to sing and was similar to a comedian. I grew up with my parents and grandparents. From the age of four they would smuggle me into these clubs and I would always hang out with adults. In the 70s and 80s, they were quite popular and adults used to tell stories to each other and I was a part of that. From then on in, I hung out with my grandfather and we always told stories. That’s what we do as actors. I just carried that on. I went to the best school in Great Britain then got the great agent.
I was in a relationship with someone in drama school for five years and we did long distance. I moved to Canada because it was easy for me to get an agent. I felt there was more of an opportunity; they respect you more. With the British, they have a more secluded market.
You have a young daughter. Does she understand daddy is on TV? Do you plan on marrying your partner?
Yes, my 2-1/2 year-old daughter knows I am on TV and my friends are on TV. ‘Oh there’s Kris! [Holden-Ried]’ We hang out; he’s a good friend of mine. My daughter really likes that. Not that she watches ‘Lost Girl.’ My partner, Danielle, is really great. She’s not in the business. She’s incredibly supportive and my co-workers know her as well. Marriage, we’ll get there soon. We just moved to Toronto, so it’s been a pretty quick turn around. Danielle just got a really great job in the city.
What was the audition like for Vex on “Lost Girl?” Did you know you’d be playing a supernatural character?
I had a really great audition. I feel actors are all different they can feel how auditions go. I happen to just know. I know when I’ve had that scene and I’ve had that space. I sense it in the room; I’m usually quite big on that. The aura changes, you can see the body language of the producers and the casting directors. You can see when they’re excited or not excited. I only did the audition once. Then it was getting clearance from the network. I had a recurring role on a show called ‘Murdoch Mysteries’ and then I got ‘Lost Girl’ and they thought it could be a big thing. Vex was introduced as a villain and the pilot actually became episode 1.08. I remember we were travelling in Morocco and I got the call that I was cleared from the Network.
In the audition room was Jay Firestone, the executive producer, John Fawcett, the director, Wanda Chaffey, the producer, and casting director Lisa Parasyn. Everyone was there because it was a big project. I actually remember what I wore — I was wearing a Rag & Bone green olive combat shirt, black t-shirt, black trousers and boots. Of course they send you sides [parts of the script usually used for auditions] so you have a little bit of time to learn the lines.
Who invented the ” mind control crazy hands” you do when you’re working your magic as Vex?
I felt I would fit into a supernatural series because of the way I look. I had a really long discussion with John, the director, and I think we both came to that conclusion, but I was the one who was trying to manifest it. I worked really hard. From there on in I pushed that that all the power should be in his hands and only his hands. It just felt really cool and physical. It’s hard when you have supernatural powers and you know the show is not going to have a massive special effects budget, so you have to do a cool thing. It’s one of the best powers, to control people, but we had to have a way to make it work on screen. I think the music and sound effects are sinister and twisted, so I had a conversation with those people. The sound is all done later, so you just have to do what you do and hope that it works. It’s funny because usually there are guest actors on set and I have to control them. I have to work on the timing of my hands with them.
Like Emmanuelle Vaugier who plays The Morrigan she does an amazing job. It’s as much her work as mine.
There was a lot of costume fittings when you landed the role of Vex. Who ultimately chose the way you look on “Lost Girl?”
Lots of costume fittings. We went through tons of ideas. In the end I felt a goth street London punk thing worked for the character. Anne Dixon was costume designer. She was incredible. We had discussions with the director. They knew I was from London so they wanted to add a little street. They didn’t ask me to go North American, which I liked, since the Fae are from all over the world.
Ultimately it’s the executive producers and the network’s decision on the costumes. If they don’t like something they will say so. As an actor you can put your two-cents in. Also with the hair and makeup. When I was cast, my hair was quite short. They said they want something choppy and long, so I think they did an amazing thing with my hair. They do different things every time with my hair, as the character evolves. As he became a little bit more human, he looked a little bit more human. I hope he goes back to being crazy in the future.
Originally Vex was supposed to die, but it was decided to keep him alive? Did you have a contract for the pilot episode or it was just a one time gig before they decided to keep you on?
From the standpoint of a recurring character, it’s an interesting place to be. It’s difficult to navigate because, from a business standpoint, when a series starts, actors get options, and they get tied in for three to four years. As a recurring character, you get brought in to begin with and in every series there’s one or two characters that hit big with the fans. The writers and the network will realize that, and then they realize you get more of a response each time so they keep bringing you back.
What often happens is that you never get tied into the same contract as the original actors. So you have to be savvy about how you do it.
The script I got was a one off. I think they loved the character. It was more open ended for the pilot. So the network offered this possibility. I believe they kept the character going. I did not have my original contract altered because when it got greenlit, I was told they were doing it from the beginning. I wasn’t sure when the character wasn’t coming back. I knew he was in episode 1.08 so I knew he would be in four or five episodes of the season.
Vex got shoved a little to the back. Because of that they weren’t sure where the character was going. Things started changing so then I got a new contract. They realized that after they showed the first season that Vex was one of the great characters and a real hit with the fans. And especially in season 3 they realized the character was one of the more popular characters with the Morrigan. So the contract keeps changing because the character works.
My agent and I both talk all the time. At this point in time it’s interesting because you’re deep into a show that works. From my perspective, you have to look beyond this project. This is another thing about navigating a recurring role — you have to realize your commodity might only appear in this realm. If you try to push the character into being a regular, you might kill the character. Then you have to talk to the writers. You have to be honest with yourself as an actor — can they sustain that character being popular every episode? You can use this character as a springboard for other characters — you can create it into a more regular capacity.
Be honest with yourself and the character, don’t just go after money. A lot of people don’t have a strong enough relationship with their agent so they can’t really talk through the options. Some actors say I want more, I want more, I want more, but where do we go? It requires conversations with your agent. Everyone should feel comfortable talking to their agent. The business is all about relationships.
Vex, a Dark Fae, has switched back and forth from evil to good, back to evil, etc. Why?
You might meet with the show runner on occasion. You explain to him or her where you’d like the character to possibly go in the future. Ultimately, it’s hard to write arcs as everything revolves around the lead character. Unless you’re tied to the lead character, you’re not really in the game. This is really important to remember. Sometimes you may only have five episodes because that’s all you can exist in. You hope the writers are going for more. But I think we’re moving into that realm now more in season 4, where all of the characters will be major players, so that’s an exciting place to be. The network does a lot of market research and we are players within that.
You question words and motives, but you’ve got to realize the writers are working hard. They can’t rewrite the whole thing on set, so you’ve got to make it work. Hopefully you have a strong relationship with the production team.
Follow Paul on Twitter: @PaulRogerAmos. Paul is currently working on the animated webseries Captain Canuck.
As the show “Lost Girl” progressed, it seems that Vex’s motives are just to stay alive. Do you feel he has any real purpose in the show at this point?
He’s come to a point where his purpose is to destroy or to create. I don’t know, but we’ll find out soon enough, I think. I think he’s at a place where living with Kenzi and Bo, he was exposed to more humanity which I don’t know if that excites him or frightens him but it created some excitement. Whether that means he is going to be driven to a good or horrible conclusion, I don’t know. We’re just tools, and it becomes boring. Everybody needs an explanation and a purpose, and maybe the explanation is there is no purpose and you’re just there for chaos.
Do you watch the “Lost Girl” episodes you’re NOT in?
Yes, my partner watches the show. I like other shows, too. You only have so much time. I like ‘The Wire,’ ‘Breaking Bad,’ ‘Girls,’ ‘The Walking Dead’ and ‘House of Cards.’ They get priority in my house.
The interesting thing about Vex is that it feels like the character is still not fully developed, which gives him an edge and an excitement that usually disappears after a while. What are your thoughts on this?
I agree. We need to develop his character now. He does have a lot of edge at the end of season 3. There’s a lot of possibilities and what he’s going to do now that he has his powers back. I think these are exciting things that might come to a conclusion before the show ends.
How does working with a great director differ from working with a not-so-great director?
Different actors all have different favorites. I like people who leave you alone but give you enough to keep you on track. I like that they look at the overall thing. I like when they’re not on me all the time. The director negotiates with every single department, and doesn’t step on everyone’s toes too much. We are in negotiations for next season.
How is working in TV/Film different from working in theater?
Really different. The performances are different. It’s hard to compare them. I think actors should be able to work in both of them. I’m working on something that’s in the tentative stage.
You played another supernatural character on the Disney XD science fiction teen series Aaron Stone as U, a mutant who has the ability to shape shift into different people and turn parts of his body into objects. Tell us about that character.
That was more of a kid show. I had prosthetics on that. The character was funny and he changed into different people. My face was supposed to be melted off. It was fun. I don’t know if playing a human is different than a supernatural character. We had a silicone thing that went over my head which was hot and didn’t really pick up the expression in my face. I think when you do it really well it’s cool because you can use the mask really well. The one I had didn’t have enough expression. I used my body a bit more. I had to be super physical to make it work as opposed to real acting. I enjoyed the team but I don’t think I got to play enough on that one.
What’s it like working on “Sex After Kids” with some of your same co-stars from “Lost Girl?”
My co-stars are great. Zoie Palmer is amazing and Kris Holden-Ried is a really good friend. I like working with people but I think you have a short hand. You can say things quickly and be straight with them. They are two really great people to work with. They ask a lot of questions, they make sure everything is questioned and works.
What’s your favorite cartoon and why?
Transformers was my favorite cartoon. I was on the edge of my seat.
Do you have any hobbies?
I cook a lot in my spare time. My little daughter is very happy about that.
Is there anything you want to try but you’re afraid to?
I don’t like the idea of jumping off planes, but if I had to do it in a movie it would be great.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I will be at The Fourth Annual Vampire Ball on November 8 – 10, 2013?
I will start doing conventions. I will start looking into it more next year as the show goes on. People really like Vex in that convention environment. He’s edgy and weird. I don’t want to do the convention circuit for too long because I don’t want to get trapped into a genre. I studied classical theater and I want to keep my interests open.
I did ComicCon because I did an animation webseries. ComicCon was great for two hours. We had a line of people, lots of friends. So we’re going to do that again at a comic book store with some other actors who are in it. It also means we get to hang out a bit. I imagine all of us will be doing conventions this year, and in London — which gives me a chance to go home.
The evolution of Vex is extradorinary.
I’m looking forward to season 4 of ‘Lost Girl’ and there are other things I’d like to do. I don’t think if you realize you’re not a top 4-6 player, it’s good to look for something in the future and do something different. You’ve got to evolve.
RICK HOWLAND plays the supernatural Blood King Fae Trick on Lost Girl
Were you named after anyone?
I was named after an Uncle who died of Spinal bifida in the 1940’s. When I was young we moved out to the country and my first night alone in the house I found the obituary that had my exact name at the top of it. That freaked me out pretty good.
When you auditioned for the character of Trick on “Lost Girl,” were other actors in the waiting room with you?
Yes, there were. All of whom I have auditioned with/against on many occasions, all friends. So there was a fair amount of chatting and debating what we all thought they were looking for. For the audition, they had written a description of Trick and I felt I could bring what they were looking for. And I immediately set out to get this part I wanted it. So I tried to embody the strength and power of a leader, the kindness of having made mistakes and the wisdom of someone who has seen it all. I think I must have achieved something to that effect.
Did you decide to have the beard for “Lost Girl” or was that someone else’s idea?
I had a beard for the audition. And then shaved it off over the period they were making their decisions for casting. After I got the call. I asked at some point and they thought Trick should have a beard. Dyson also sports a beard. I think you could say facial hair is very ‘in’ with the Fae.
Did you know from the beginning that Trick would be the “Blood King” and also Bo’s grandfather?
I knew from the beginning Trick was a very powerful fae and had been a leader. I knew he was influential. I knew this new fae who Dyson introduced Trick too was connected to him. I think Trick ‘feels’ connections with fae, especially family, being a blood sage. I knew Trick had a huge part in Bo surviving the beginning of her life. Before we started shooting the first season, after we had shot the Pilot/Ep8S1, I had made up a back-story for my character and when I spoke with the writers about it they liked it and were able to fill it in for me with specifics and tell me more about the relationship to Bo.
How do you handle yourself it the actor you’re playing against isn’t as seasoned or gives you nothing to work off of?
Making TV or film is a collaborative effort, meaning we are all in it together. And actors and directors love to analyze scenes and dig the most out of them. It is the director’s job to steer or draw out of the actor the performance they want for the story. As a lead in a film, an actor may seem like they are ‘doing very little’ but every element of story telling involved in the piece is pointing the audience to that characters emotional state and story. And so as a supporting performer you have to understand your characters function within the leads. Sometimes when auditioning you can find yourself opposite a reader who isn’t giving you what you feel you need from them. At which point you can ask the reader to give a little more to help you get to a place emotionally but generally the actor manufactures this for the audition. I think improvisation is a good training ground for this aspect of the skill set required by an actor.
You’re big on improvisation and even formed your own troupe, the Four Strombones. What attracts you to improvisation and comedy?
If acting is a drug like cocaine, then improv is crack. Short strong bursts of absolute pleasure from making people laugh. The feedback from the audience is instant. I have always made people laugh I assume its one of the things I learned to diffuse and endear people to me. There are few rules to improv but very important to follow and within them you have a
heck of a lot of freedom for the performance and story. Again, a great training ground to acting. I think if you are able to make people laugh by leading them through the set up and punch-line in your head translating a visual or thought for them to see the humor in it, isn’t any different then leading an audience through a meaningful story line – translating an
emotional state of being or conveying a tragic situation. If the actor can ‘own’ the moment as his or her own then the audience will feel it.
How do you stop yourself from talking so much in real life?
It’s usually a sense of guilt or that sinking feeling or I note at some point in a conversation that my foot seems to be in my mouth.
You play a supernatural character with no extra make-up. When you’re doing a scene, do you think about how it would be different if you played a human or do you play it the same way as if you were human?
Fae are humanoid, they look like humans. I was happy to discover this with the role of Trick. I have played a fair number of creature characters in my career and enjoy my face not covered in glue. I wear a surprising small amount of makeup for Trick, the most important being his tattoo. I consider that these supernatural characters are human-like but with very
high life and death stakes in every moment.
Are you married?
Yes, I am married. Most of the fans know Nadia. @virtuallynormal on Twitter. She is in the industry but on the other side of the camera. She is the brains of the operation, I am the brawn when necessary and the emotion when unnecessary.
When you receive your fan mail through that special address that all of the “Lost Girl” actors can receive mail, is it opened and read by someone else first or delivered to you sealed?
Mine is not opened previously. I open my own mail. I answer my own mail. I personally run my Twitter and Facebook accounts along with the brains of the operation.
What makes you uncomfortable?
Racism. Bigotry. Judgmental attitudes. A lack of personal awareness. Motivated / passionate / angry mobs.
Rick’s Twitter: @Rick_Howland
What are your pet peeves?
Dragging feet. When someone walks and drags their feet if they don’t have to. I have had many occasions in my life when I was unable to walk or use my legs. So when I see that I think you have perfectly good legs that work well…use them!
I don’t like being late for appointments. And I really don’t like being made to wait for someone who is. If someone is running late or not going to show and don’t let you know then it feels disrespectful.
When someone uses ‘phobia’ as an excuse to be a bigot. We all have fears to confront and we must confront them.
Do you have a certain ritual for learning your lines?
Generally these days scripts and audition sides come as emails. But since I am from the fax/paper generation, I enjoy reading, marking and highlighting my pages. I read them over a bunch. I make decisions on how to play it and try to imagine all the possible ways the scene could go. If I am familiar with the set I am shooting the scene in I will imagine the blocking of the scene. I try not to get stuck in any one way of saying the lines as a director will sometimes have a different take on how the scene should go or the other actors delivery may inform and change your performance, collaboration and cooperation.
What are your thoughts on technology and technology on set changed over the years?
I use an iPhone now. It took me a while to switch over. I use a laptop. I am a Mac user now. I used to install PCs for a company and built my first desktop. I like technology. I am a fan – without it I would never had met my wife. On set: Yes, in every aspect. I find camera equipment advancements and the refashioning of technology to fit the film industry fascinating. Dollies are really cool. I think I am more into innovation, design and invention how the technology is applied to assist us in our activities.
Besides music, what other hobbies do you enjoy or wish you had time for?
This is a hard question. Acting and music were my interests and hobbies that I have made into my career. I would like to paint and be good at it. I have always struggled with perspective and faces are stupid hard to draw. Write more. I have written all sorts of things in different styles of storytelling but I seem to enjoy songwriting the most. I really enjoy light physical labor combined with problem solving: DIY handyman stuff, gardening. I recently have started to feel the benefits of working out in an interest way / hobby as opposed to something I should do…for my health. I enjoy art galleries, photography and the art of filmmaking. I like to cook for others. My Canadian signature dish is a Maple Syrup Cheesecake.
Have you ever been involved in any arguments on the set of “Lost Girl?”
No, no there are not. We as a cast and crew get along great. Like a big family…without the arguments…better than a big family maybe? There is also a lot of respect on our set.
Anything else you’d like to say.
I have been in the studio recording music while not shooting ‘Lost Girl’ and will be sharing it with everybody soon. And I will be attending charity events that help with hospitalization, rehabilitation, bone disease research and specifically those relating to Osteogensis Imperfecta.
RACHEL SKARSTEN jumped into Lost Girl, taking her supernatural role as the snarky Valkyrie Tamsin seriously while winning over the viewers.
Photo by Tim Leyes
Since you’re playing a supernatural character, a Valkyrie, do you feel empowered when on set?
I think my feeling of empowerment comes more from the sassy dialogue that’s written for my character. I just adore her one liners. Otherwise, I think it’s safe to say most of the actors on our show feel less empowered and more silly when we have to act out out ‘powers’ as we can’t see the final product and often have to exaggerate for what seems like an eternity.
Is your Valkyrie “face” make-up or special effects added after the fact?
My Valkyrie face is all done in post production. When we shoot scenes that require those special effects they draw these small black dots in specific places on my face as markers for the FX team to work with.
Did you get “wet pay / extra pay” for the bathtub scene with Bo?
Haha no. Is that a thing?
Does your “Lost Girl” contract state you must be available for more than one season?
I think I lucked out with Lost Girl. I signed on for one season last year because my character was at the time only joining the show for that year. The decision to bring me back was made towards the end of the season and I received a formal offer before Christmas for another year which I gladly agreed to since I truly had an amazing experience with both the show and the people involved.
Follow Rachel on Twitter: @RachieSkarsten
Photo by Tim Leyes
Since you started filming “Lost Girl” without having time to discuss your character, Tamsin. What was going through your mind as you read the scripts?
I’ve always admired actors who create back stories and spend so much time coaching or meditating on a character, but that’s just not me. I’ve never been to an acting class or to a coach. No, that’s not true I did go see a coach twice in a previous show because it was a service that show provided to all it’s actors and that I thought it would be a fun experience. I rarely spend a lot of time prepping. I like to read the material over once and have it be as fresh and off the cuff as I can have it be while still being fully prepared and professional. Otherwise, I tend to get too in my head and it feels rehearsed in a bad way. I take my job very seriously but I don’t believe that requires hours of prep or coaching for everyone.
What is the most painful event that has happened in your life?
Losing my Dad to pancreatic cancer at age nine was hands down the most painful thing I have ever experienced. Watching him deteriorate so rapidly (he lived only two months after his diagnosis) and being there when he actually died was the greatest tragedy of my life. That loss has permitted every aspect of my life. However, while I would trade it all to have him back, there has been a lot of beauty come out of that event as well. I would never have fallen in to acting for one. I also live life differently now. Losing someone like that so early on not only gives you this deep awareness of our mortality that really empowers you to take chances you might otherwise not have the courage to take. It also has helped me with other painful experiences because since that loss I’ve always known if I can live through that and learn to really laugh again, I can live through anything.
Name your top two fears.
1. Losing my Mum or my Brother is my number one fear. If I can’t get a hold of them or my phone rings late at night that’s always the first place I go in my mind. I don’t think I will ever get over that, because inevitably everyone does die and no one knows their time.
2. Fear of other people’s judgment, which is odd considering the industry I’ve put myself in. I’m much better now than I was five years ago but I still struggle with anxiety about that. It’s ridiculous and makes me angry to even admit since ultimately the only people who’s opinion matters are the people you care about and God.
Do you have any regrets, either from childhood or adulthood?
I try not to regret things, because the things I would count as deep regrets have also been incredible learning experiences for me. Having said that, I felt I lost myself between the ages of 18 and 23. I’d been a child actor (by choice) but when I graduated high school I felt I’d missed out on a lot of ‘regular’ experiences and I wanted to have those. I tried to be something I wasn’t and failed miserably. I hurt a lot of people in the process and for that I’m very sorry. I don’t think I will ever strive for the ordinary again or try to be someone I’m not. Embracing my imperfect sometimes crazy self is now the goal.
What are your obsessions?
My rosebud lip balm. If you know me I literally always have it with me. My lips get dry and I hate it. Although now I fear it’s become somewhat of a compulsion. Beyond that I’d say it changes with the seasons.
How do you maintain such an amazing, close friendship with your younger brother, Jon?
From the moment my brother was born I adored him. When he was younger he was like my little sidekick but when he turned about 14 or 15 the age gap started to close and now that we are both finished university I sometimes forget we are actually six years apart. My Mum and Dad would (and still does) always say to us growing up “remember your brother (or sister for Jon) is the most important person. No one else will ever know or understand you or be there for you like he will and you should always look after each other”. That became even more true after losing my Dad. It solidified for me the importance of that friendship. When we were little Jon and I always used to say ‘it’s me and you against the world’. We still say that today. I truly believe, however, that the credit belongs to my parents. Jon and I are very different people but being best friends was just ingrained from day one and for it I’m grateful. When the chips are down he is there for me and I would very literally die for him.
Do you have any allergies?
Mayo. Not actually, but I say I do because it’s the one thing I can’t stand.
Viewers tend to fall in love with CHARACTERS. How do you get people to fall in love with YOU?
People falling in love with ‘me’ scares me. Love is such a strong emotion. They aren’t falling in love with me, they are falling in love with a projection I personify and people confuse the two. I’m grateful for the outpouring of support I’ve received for Tamsin, but I’m under no illusion that it’s all me.
Are you supersticious?
Nope. God is in control not my superstitions.
What do you think about as you’re falling asleep?
Depends on the day but usually I think about the future or my dreams for the future and play those out in my mind. Either that or I’m humming a tune in my head. I always have a song in my head…for better or for worse.
Rachel’s brother, Jon, started a charity at http://www.nyantendefoundation.org
Photo by Tim Leyes
Who nicknamed you Rachie? Do you have any other nicknames?
My mum has pretty much given me every nickname I have. She used to call me Rachie or Ducky when I was little. Rachie for obvious reasons and Ducky because we have a swimming pool in our backyard and when I was little I’d swim behind her like a little baby duck. My brother and I call each other RSkar and JSkar…we actually have matching bracelets that have those nicknames engraved on them.
Out of all the acting jobs you’ve done, which character and show is your most favorite and why.
My favorite character was the one I played in an indie movie Virginia’s Run because the girl had lost her mother and being able to draw from my experience was deeply satisfying. The movie itself was also a wonderful experience.
Anything else you’d like to add?
One of my favorite charities is actually one my brother started years ago. I’m so proud of it. If anyone is interested they can check it out at www.nyantendefoundation.org
Thank you for such interesting questions, I hope I answered them all adequately!
K.C. COLLINS plays Hale in the series Lost Girl. His character took a dark turn when he was promoted to The Ash in the Fae world.
Why did you give up baseball to go into acting?
I actually gave up baseball for family. I wanted to work and focus on sponsoring my Mom. I wouldn’t have been able to make the amount of money necessary while being at college. I don’t follow baseball closely anymore so I can’t say I have a favorite team. Growing up my teams were the Toronto Blue Jays and Oakland Athletics. I’m a fan of Albert Pujols– he hits for average and power. Tough to do. Also Jose Bautista– he’s proof that if you work hard enough anything is possible. He was an average player who wasn’t used every game and with no set position. He pulled a Michael Jordan and over a summer became one of the best in his profession!
What was your response when you learned your character, Hale, in “Lost Girl,” would become the Ash?
I thought the news was great! As an actor you look to evolve and have different challenges. I loved it for the fans. There was a ‘Hale for Ash’ campaign on Twitter and Facebook during season 2. Fans can be great at helping you grow. The upgrade caused me to be more… distinguished for lack of a better term. I decided to treat it as my screen father would– firm, secretive and the ‘I know best’ attitude.
Knowing that most Ash’s get killed, once you found out you would be the new Ash, did you have any fear that you would not be asked to return next season?
I’m not sure there was a fear because I felt that killing every Ash would leave viewers disconnected from that character and I had the confidence in the producers that they would see that. Also if he was slated to die I would have approached the same way as if he wasn’t. Be the best Ash! I can’t speak about whether or not I’m doing the show next season. Sorry.
Who invented your Twitter account name @kccollinsworld?
I did. It’s my way of reminding myself that there is so much out there to be a part of.
Your Fae powers are not as prominent as the other Fae characters. Has there ever been talk as to why we hardly see you using your powers?
Yeah that’s been a topic of discussion. There’s something going on in the brilliant minds of the writers. No I portray him the same because he lives amongst humans. It’s important to blend.
It feels like Hale is conflicted with being the Ash — he still wants to help his friends but at the same time, he has this new, very important responsibility. Do you have any conflicts in real life that you draw off of to help you pull this off?
No, I just use Hale’s situation because I believe it’s common enough. I’ve been there, so caught up in a job that people you care about get ignored. I’m a Actor! It happens when we’re working and when we’re trying to work. Maybe I did draw off of real life, LOL.
Who’s idea was it for Hale to wear a hat?
The idea for hat as far as I know was our brilliant costume designer Anne Dixon. Yes I tried on a bunch and decided what I liked for the character and the final decision came from the producers. They were there during my first wardrobe session.
What does your manager do that’s different from your talent agent?
In general, a manager guides your career. Agents are more on a project to project basis, focused on getting auditions. Yes I’m based in L.A. but I keep a Canadian Manager because he’s someone that I trust 100% to look out for me. He’s been in the picture longer than anyone else, professionally.
What are your thoughts on religion?
That people should be free to practice it.
Tell us about your family.
My Grandmother raised me, I’m very close to her. She sacrificed a lot for me to experience everything. She was the person working three jobs to make ends meet. So that’s pretty much how I was able to become an actor–her support. I love the thought of family. Can’t wait to have a big one, I have five siblings. I’m not married.
K.C.’s Twitter: @kccollinsworld
Do you have a particular acting method?
I lean to the Meisner technique. Sometimes pure instincts kick in and I just become the character.
What’s your typical day like on set of Lost Girl?
Arrive to work, put on my wardrobe that is waiting in my trailer, go to make-up trailer and get purtied (prettied) up, then off to set. Once on set we’ll block out the scene, which is just walking through it with the director, director of photography and crew so they can set up the lighting and whatever else may be needed for the scene. Also to see if the staging works for them as well us the actors. Once the crew has done their work we head back to set to rehearse the scene, usually once or twice to make sure all the pieces; lights, dialogue, sound etc are working for what’s needed.
I have a trailer. Call time varies greatly depending on if it’s a night or day shoot, if I’m in the first or last etc. ‘Lost Girl’ has craft service (food made available to the production).
Some of us hang out together. It’s tough cause we’re always in different places when we’re off and when we’re working the schedule is busy.
How do you receive your scripts?
I like to receive my scripts by email. It saves paper and space. I don’t highlight my lines but I do add notes to my lines. There have been last minute script changes many many times in my career. And I mean very last minute, like right before action.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m also playing a surgeon on ‘Saving Hope’ and am just finishing of ‘RoboCop.’