1 Jan 2015
In Their Own Words…..
No one is going to say I am ending 2014 with a whimper, as after two films screened and reviewed, it’s NOT time to relax yet! Another aspect of this year’s adventures in creating this website has been the true honor to interview several professional actors about their most recent projects at the given time. So, for my final “In Their Own Words” entry of 2014, and thanks to the efforts of “Convergence” director Drew Hall, I was able to speak for an hour over the phone from his in-law’s house in Texas with the film’s lead, Clayne Crawford. Another humble, down-to-earth, genuine individual, Clayne spoke at length and in depth about being an actor, some life philosophy, and of course, the film!
One Film Fan: The story so far, how were you first drawn to the acting profession and how did you further learn the art (ie: mentors, influences, schooling)?
Clayne Crawford: I grew up in a family where my uncles were heavily into construction and my father’s an engineer, so by the age of 13 I was working on job sites, brick mason labors, doing all the things that were NOT fun…toting lumber and doing cuts. My Dad slowly started educating me on AutoCAD and having me doing some of the easier things with his work, and I realized that none of that was FUN! So my old man kinda looked at me and said “You know…” He had been drafted by the (Atlanta) Braves and was an exceptional athlete growing up, and he said “Look, I was scared leaving my small world in Alabama, but as a result I’m happy, but I don’t do what I enjoy. So when I go to work, I GO to work and all I want to do is get away from it, and unfortunately work takes up most of your life.” So I think the only real advice, as he was a very quiet man, that he gave me was “You gotta do something you love.” So that kinda played in my mind growing up. I was an athlete as well, but I got into a Speech & Debate class when I was a senior, and I found being in front of people energized me as opposed to put me in a shell, which was very unusual, at least in my High School. Everyone kind of went into a box, but for me I felt the podium was such a platform to be who I really was…for some reason it took AWAY my fears that I normally had around individuals, so it was a wakening. And she (the class teacher) has us do improv. The point of this exercise was you had to understand that if you BELIEVE in what it is you’re debating, you have a better chance to win the debate, regardless of whether your heart is in it, you just have to tell yourself you believe it. And so she taught us this improv and I FLOURISHED…I realized that B.S.-ing was quite easy for me! So she brought in the Theater director and the other guys in the Theater department and they’re like “You gotta do something!” and I’m like “Well, that’s NOT happening! I mean, I’m a baseball player, football player, that’s just NOT gonna happen! But you guys are sweet”. But, it kind of stuck in my mind, and when I was getting ready to graduate, Simone (again, his teacher) being the greatest teacher on the planet, pulled me aside and said “You gotta pack up and go to Los Angeles”. And I was like “You’re CRAZY! I haven’t even been past Gatlinburg! ,” you know what I mean, “Never been to New Orleans! You’re crazy!”
I did go ahead and try to find out about things in Alabama, and I found one of those John Casablanca, pay-to-be-a-model type things, and maybe I could just see what the world’s about. This wonderful lady, Sherry Graves, was kind of running this studio, and after I’d been there a few weeks and trying to go through this thing she goes “This is a place that just takes your money. There’s nothing that’s going to come of this. But there’s something going on with you. You need to go do something with this.” So she was kind of the driving force, along with Simone, saying “Just GO!” And I did! She (Sherry) had a friend who lived out there (California) she’d gone to college with, his name was Bryant Turner. He was a Tampa boy from Florida and he helped me find a place and kinda showed me the ropes a little as it were. So I hit the ground running. I got there when I was 18, this was in ’96, and I started making fake resumes and getting head shots (laughing) and lying my way into every agency that there was in town until finally someone picked me up, and literally it just kinda started happening. I was quite naïve…I booked big movies, studio films like “A Walk To Remember” and “Swimfan” fairly quickly and I NO idea what in the world I was doing. So I backed away from the business and started fresh, doing theater and things that most actors would have done in High School…educating myself on film…my favorite film was “Predator” at the time, right? (laughs) “Predator” or “Robocop”! And look…I got really lucky. I watched a movie titled “Five Easy Pieces” that Bryant had given to me to watch and it had this actor John Ryan. So I am in a restaurant, and this is right after I booked “Buffy, The Vampire Slayer”, still don’t really know what’s going on, and I SEE John Ryan! Here’s this old school guy having biscuits & gravy, and me being this dumb kid from Alabama, I go up to him and say “Man, you’re awesome in “Five Easy Pieces” and I can’t believe you’re sitting here having breakfast! Look at you!” This guy slides his plate away from him, turns and looks at me and says “What’s your name?” I’m like, “Well…my name’s Clayne Crawford. My buddies call me Joey, so Joey Crawford. Nice to meet you!” And he goes “Sit down”. So this guy starts telling me stories, invites me to his home, and he gives me every VHS of every film nominated for an Oscar back to the 50’s. He gave me these boxes and books by Monty Clift and Elia Kazan…and he goes “educate yourself”. We had one of worst rain seasons is Los Angeles history, so I literally locked myself in my tiny apartment, hunkered down and watched every single film, read everything he gave me, and he then passed away soon after. But that was kinda like my education in the business…and I fell in love with it. I took HIS love for the business, a guy who had never had real STARDOM per se, but was a real ACTOR, and that’s what I want to do. He said one thing that’s really stuck with me…”When you get to the top, they stamp you with an expiration date. Just BE an actor and you can do it until you’re 90.” I was like…”Holy crap, that’s awesome…I didn’t think about THAT. I wanted to be famous!” (laughs) So that was a long story, but the roundabout way I got to where I am today, which is that guy whose worked on 50+ projects but nobody knows who I am, and I have a great life as a result, doing what I love, back living in Alabama on a farm with my children. I feel quite blessed to have those people that came into my path to point me in the right directions.
O.F.F.: When preparing for a role, do you always have the same routines/methods to get into a character or does that vary depending ON the role? Additionally, how much research do you tend to do FOR a character?
C.C.: My process, as far as the research, is the same….I’m quite diligent on trying to find as much information as I can find, whether it’s useful or not, whether it’s watching, reading, or just finding individuals. When I read a script, it’s very difficult to see myself in things. I usually see PEOPLE. And I’m fortunate if it’s someone I know or I’ve spent time with, as IN spending time with them, I try to pick up some of their characteristics that I feel would flourish in this world that I’m reading. I’m not a religious guy, but I’m a very spiritual guy. I grew up in the “fire & brimstone” thing, so I kinda went away from that. But I’m quite spiritual, and I guess I have to be considering my path, how the universe has really kinda made decisions for me that I was not smart enough to pick them up. And with my WORK, I go through a lot of times, once I get to set or the build-up before I get there, similar experiences to what the guy is going through or at least things that help parallel me to what this individual I’m playing goes through. So whether I’m doing a military film and my wife’s not able to come see me for four months because things happen and I’m genuinely sad and pulled away from my family as a solider would be. There are certain things that have happened that I’m really blessed with that, again, really help me get INTO who this guy is. And I ask for those things from the universe. So…as far as preparation, I educate myself as much as possible, and then throw it all away, and then just try to live like the individual through the process.
O.F.F.: Do you prefer more physically driven characters or emotionally driven characters and why?
C.C.: I prefer emotionally driven characters simply because it allows me to work through my own personal issues, with my OWN emotions. Again, growing up with a man like my father who was very quiet, I’ve been taught or programmed to keep those things to myself. So I find that those characters are wonderful outlets for me, and it becomes somewhat of a therapy session. And I find it allows me to access these great emotions that I don’t share with anyone on a daily basis quite easily, like the banks get really full and I can just pull deposits from them. So mostly emotional….physical, I mean, I have horses and cattle and I work my butt off all day, so I enjoy sitting down and just crying about that at the table, you know what I mean? (laughs) Much easier for me to get through!
O.F.F.: Has there been a certain character, not including “Convergence”, to date you’ve enjoyed playing in particular and why?
C.C.: You know, I have to say, and this isn’t because how recent it is, “Rectify” (a TV series on the Sundance Channel, playing the character “Ted Talbot, Jr.”). Working with a guy like Ray McKinnon, not sure if you or readers are familiar with his body of work as an actor, but look him up and he’s the guy who you go “OH…all right…” as he’s been in everything from “Deadwood”, “The Blind Side”, and “Mud”. He’s that guy who is so phenomenal and so layered as an individual. And for him to be the creator of this show….I love playing guys not typical. Sometimes in stories you have to have the “good guy”, the “bad guy”, the “funny guy”, the “sensitive guy”…but we as humans are very complex creatures, and we have ALL of those qualities in us, depending on the individuals we’ve surrounded ourselves with at that moment or the situation we find ourselves in. I think Ray has done a really great job with this show…there IS no antagonist or protagonist….there’re just human beings that make choices and then they have to be held accountable for those choices. So for me, I feel like I have played and experienced, in just 16 episodes, more emotion and more sides of myself than I ever have in any one role ever…EVER. And he (Ray) is so wonderful about pulling us back or pushing us forward…when we’ve been programmed to think “this is how a character should be played, this is how certain things…”, but HE is saying “No, no, no” and he brings you back to a very human element. And that’s great, because before that I always liked playing bad guys, because bad guys “had gone through something”, they had been hurt in the past and now they’re taking it out on others, and bad guys were more complex than the dude wearing the white hat. That, to me, is THE most boring guy on the planet is the good guys. I hate being the guy in the white hat on the white horse, but Ray has found that fine line of both, and it’s really nice, a creative dream come true.
O.F.F.: What have the overall experiences been like in TV roles for some seriously popular TV series over the years, including “24”, “The Glades”, “Justified”, and “Leverage” plus others? And did these roles prepare you for the move to feature film?
C.C.: I went the opposite way. My first job was a film, well, beyond the guest appearance on “Buffy”, I did film only for a long, long time. Because when I got into it, TV was considered taking a step back. So as a young, ego-driven man, I felt TV was beneath me, I was an “artist” (think snobby, British accent there lol). I did only film and theater and then “The Wire” happened, and “The Sopranos” came along. I actually quit acting when my son was born, and I was directing a documentary on Peru, went through a pretty crazy experience, came back and dropped my agent and my managers and said “I’m done, I don’t want to do this anymore. I think I want to direct documentaries and explore the world a little bit more, be a better father. I don’t think I need to just be an actor” and all that jazz. So this guy found me and he goes “You need to get into television, that’s where it’s at” and I was like “You’ve lost your mind, I’m a FILM actor buddy. I go to Sundance, I go to Toronto, and I am a “film festival actor” (British accent again!)”. He goes, “Yeah, buddy, TV is changing…it’s going to put you BACK into this business and is what you should be involved in.” So the first thing they sent me on was “24”, and it was to play Freddie Prinze, Jr’s role. It got down TO me and Freddie testing. And I knew Keifer. We were drinking buddies. (Here, Clayne shared a wonderfully hilarious story about a rather embarrassing picture taken of Keifer at a birthday party for Clayne back when, but for our sakes and for Keifer not to hunt me down and go all Jack Bauer on me, I must omit it. Sorry.) So they tell me “We just don’t think it’s going to work, we need somebody a little softer, so we’re going with Freddie Prinze. But, we’re going to bring you back for the scene.” I am like “yeah, sure you are”…the ultimate line from Producers “we have something for ya, buddy”…yeah, I’ll hold my breath in the parking lot!” Sure enough, they called me back and that’s how I got back into the TV side. Now, we’re sort of living in the Golden Age of television I feel, the line is kinda blurred. So look, as you’ve said, I’ve been fortunate…with “Justified”, those guys allowing me to come in and play that crazy nurse…I’ve been really lucky. “The Glades”, they just kinda let me do what I wanted to do. So I don’t know if it prepared me for film, but it whet my pallet again and I grew enthusiastic about creating and entertaining again.
O.F.F.: So, onto your recent project, “Convergence”, about to hit the film festival circuit (NO spoilers, sir!)….What drew you to this film?
C.C.: Before I even read the script, I was intrigued that a guy from Alabama, my home State, was dabbling in filmmaking. I was in Vancouver when he sent me the script, I was working on something else. So they go “you got a guy from ‘Bama” and I’m like “Oh, great! So where’s the shoot?” and they’re like “Alabama” and I go “SHUT UP! Where’s it really shooting?” They’re like “Dude, it SHOOTS in Alabama. Mobile, Alabama.” And I was “OH…I guess I need to read the script! I don’t know if I can say “No” to that!” So they were “Well, read it and tell us what you think.” I read the script and I was like “Let me talk to this guy!” So I finished up in Vancouver and I flew straight to him and was like “What is your plan with this thing?” And just talking with him I was saying “Well, you’ve got a high film IQ” and I saw he’d surrounded himself with some other really smart guys, plus he showed me a couple of things that he’d shot. The ACTING was horrendous…as he’d used all local guys, like one of those reenactment things…but it LOOKED so beautiful. There were moments that he’d build the intensity with certain shots, camera movement and sound. I said “Buddy, you’re onto something.” And I expressed some things that I saw in the script and that I felt the character could be a little more like this and not so much of a hero…gotta dirty up that white hat a bit…and Drew was enthusiastic to say the least. We went from there. Drew is the guy I hope to work with…we’re trying to get another project together right now. He is SO fired up…and I am fired up. I love giving 100% to this process at all times and he’s that way, as sometimes people get jaded. His enthusiasm and his love….he’s a good man, and I kinda want to surround myself with good people. He’s a family man…I’m a family man first and foremost. So that really solidified it and we went to town. What an experience. And when I saw the final product, I was like “We are just going to get better.” I watched this progression and Drew is going to make something really incredible one day, and I hope to be a part of it.
O.F.F.: Tell us about the character Benjamin Walls you play in it…again, no spoilers!
C.C.: I think Ben is….what DO I think Ben is….a guy who wants to do the right thing. But I think like all of us, he’s kind of ego-driven. I think maybe he doesn’t realize how good things are being the way they are, taking things for granted. He has difficulty letting things go. It’s hard to go further WITHOUT giving some things away, so he’s a good man with his heart in the right place, but he doesn’t always THINK with his heart…lets the brain get in the way…also like a lot of us!
O.F.F.: What are some thoughts about the potent underlying message of grace and faith in the story? Did that affect you in any way?
C.C.: It excited me. Drew and I are very similar in that respect. We both grew up in the Bible Belt. You’re taught at a very early age that Jesus Christ died for your sins, and that the Bible is literal, and Jonah WAS swallowed by a whale. I think our generation, as Drew and I are very close in age, has had to find our own path. When we went through this (script/story), it’s great to say a guy can have faith while blowing a hole in someone with a shotgun. He can FIND his path. I really enjoyed that facet. I mean, these things were kind of a play on “Die Hard” at times, you know. So yeah, I thought it was encouraging, because faith does not have to be ONLY on Sundays and in this fearful kind of way…it can be whatever you make it, as long as it gets you through whatever it is you’re dealing with. I felt that was the message….you’re going to find your form of faith at the time you need it, and how you carry it on is up to you. I thought that was a great message for Drew to get out there. We all make mistakes and we all should be forgiven, and we all start out with our heart in the right place.
O.F.F.: How was it working alongside actors like Ethan Embry, Mykelti Williamson, and the others?
C.C.: Mykelti I was fortunate enough to work with on “24”. We didn’t have any scenes together, but we were able to share some great laughs on set, and then again on “Justified”, as he was on there when I was doing that as well. So it was great for us to have an opportunity, we laughed about it often, that we actually got to have some scenes together. He is just such a quality, first-class guy. Ethan and I had known each other back in the day and had not really liked each other that much. He called me and was like “Hey, we can do this, right?” and I was like “Yeah, absolutely. We’re both adults now, aren’t we? We’re not slugging it out in the bars in L.A. in our 20’s anymore.” He’s actually married to one of my ex’s. So we had this moment of “This could actually be a lot of fun…we get to beat each other up without the consequences of hospital visits…and maybe we can work through some of this aggression we have towards one another.” We had a really good time. And the WHOLE cast, all around, I’m talking even locals…everyone that I worked with was first class, there for the right reason, no ego, down and dirty, let’s do what we can do to make this film happen. A lot of fun. And, you’ve gotta spend 3, sometimes 4, months with these people. So if they stink…I don’t care how talented you are…if you’re no fun to be around, go home. We were very fortunate that it was just a great group of individuals.
O.F.F.: What other projects are on the horizon for you currently, if able to divulge?
C.C.: I just finished a massive, 3D film for Legendary Pictures called “Spectral” with first-time director Nic Mathieu. It’s me, Max Martini, James Badge Dale, and Emily Mortimer, and is going to be 2 hours of kick-a** running, screaming, blowing stuff up (laughs). We just finished a few months in Budapest making this film and had a blast. So that is coming out in 2016. Ready to start up Season 3 of “Rectify”, which you’re going to become a huge fan of. On the side, I am doing “NCIS: New Orleans”. There’s an actor, Lucas Black, on there and he’s a ‘Bama boy, so they called and asked if I would come on for a few episodes to play his brother. So that’s been what I’ve been working on for the past year.
O.F.F.: I can only guess you feel a great sense of accomplishment as your career continues to develop and you finish projects and then move on to new ones. Do you consider the impact a given show or film may (or, may NOT) have on viewers and how does it impact you when you read reactions, whether from critics or fans, to something you’ve done?
C.C.: Um…I only focus on the project when I do it. Once I wrap, I’m done. I never read anything…I’m not a technology guy, so…when it comes to going online and researching stuff, it’s just not something I do. I did it really early on and it only hurt my feelings, I feel, for lack of a better word. I think there are some individuals out there who have nothing better to do than be mean spirited because of their own personal lives. For me to keep MY head up, I only focus on the challenges before me, I attack them, and I enjoy filmmaking and not the result or the impact it has on others. You know the old saying “You can only worry about things you can control” and I can only control my performance, my dedication, and the way I conduct myself, and how I treat others. If I do that only, it allows me to navigate the negative, because look…it takes an act of God to make a great project. To get anything made is almost a miracle, but to actually make something GREAT, is really difficult. So you can’t worry about that part of it. And I’m lucky, ‘cause I live in rural Alabama….I’m talking RURAL Alabama, and no one in that town cares anything that I do. They know me just as the kid who grew up there…and it’s not a big deal. It’s very therapeutic for me, cause it allows me, when I’m done, to go home and I drive my old pick-up truck, work on my property, drive my tractor, work on the garden, I tend to my animals and my children. The other stuff, I’m not a part of. I don’t go to Hollywood parties, I’m not at premiers. I approach it like any other job. When I’m at home, I’m AT home with my children and my wife and I just spend time with them. When I’m on set, I’m only dedicated to the work itself and not any of the other silly stuff that goes with it. I think that’s what’s allowed me to have a nice steady progression through this business without getting too high or too low, a nice and even keel. For me…that’s peace.
O.F.F.: What advice would you give to someone looking to get into the film industry in general?
C.C.: Go get a law degree! DON’T be an actor! Go to Law School or become a physician! (laughs)
O.F.F.: Always the final question….What is YOUR favorite film of all time? Why?
C.C.: I would say “True Romance” is my greatest film of all time. I would say it’s because I personally think it’s one of Gary Oldman’s greatest performances. I think the scene between Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken is probably one of the greatest scenes EVER. And the scene with James Gandolfini and Patricia Arquette…gee whiz, man…yeah, that film just….it makes me want to RUN to the top of a mountain and scream how much I love acting. I love that movie. It gives me everything that I want as an actor. So yeah…I love that film and I’ve watched it probably a hundred times…love it, love it, love it!
So there you have it folks! Quite a story and adventure in the business for this country boy from Alabama! Appreciated his time, candor, and honesty in knowing that he is getting to do something not everyone gets the blessing of finding….a job he truly enjoys. Hope you have enjoyed this concluding interview for 2014 and who knows what 2015 will bring!
Source: One Film Fan