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!