close

Polar

Wingman Wednesday

Robert Maillet

RobertMailletFeatured

Being a professional wrestler – performing live in front of thousands of people at a time – prepared Robert Maillet for his career as a film and television actor. Even on his first project, the big screen, big-budget adaptation of the graphic novel “300,” the man once called Kurrgan in the squared circle was now perfectly comfortable taking direction from Zack Snyder and having all eyes on set fixated on him. Compared to the audience at an event like WrestleMania, the cast and crew of a film, even one as ambitious as “300,” couldn’t match the headcount of what he was used to working in front of while at the WWE.

We recently sat down with Maillet to discuss his latest project “Polar,” fighting an invisible enemy at his audition, and how his successful Oddities run at the WWE stemmed from dancing at an after-party.

TrunkSpace: Looking back over your career thus far, would 12-year-old Robert be surprised by how it has played out?
Maillet: Yeah, I think my 12-year-old self would be surprised because at the time, to be an actor, work as an actor – and also work as a professional wrestler – it was far away from my mind at 12 years old. And though I used a lot of my imagination at the time – I was a daydreamer and I loved movies and stuff – never would I imagine I would be in films.

It’s also not surprising, though. What I was doing at the time, when I was 12, I used to draw a lot… tell stories. Caricatures and stuff. I was into Conan, all the animated stuff – cartoons. Anything that inspired me, I would draw and tell stories, so I was kind of a storyteller, much like being a wrestler and an actor kind of have similarities.

TrunkSpace: And with your new movie “Polar,” which is based on a graphic novel, it has sort of come full comic-book-circle.
Maillet: That’s true. Funny though, a lot of the stuff I worked on, most of it is always based on comic books… graphic novels and comic books. “300,” my first big feature film I did is a true story, based on the true event of Frank Miller’s graphic novel. So, that’s fascinating when you think about it. That’s true.

TrunkSpace: A movie like “300,” or “Pacific Rim,” which you also starred in, and now “Polar” as well… they all have a visual element to them that make them feel like a live action comic book.
Maillet: That’s right, and it’s great to see that medium, that form of storytelling – comic book form – that’s so popular to translate into TV or films. Imagination can go anywhere – there’s no boundaries – so you can get some really great original stuff out of it. It’s really cool to see.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned being a storyteller even at an early age. Do you view the path of your career as one career, or was professional wrestling something separate than your on-screen acting? Because from an outside perspective it seems that professional wrestling could be a really great boot camp for on-camera acting because there is so much character work involved.
Maillet: For sure. And you’re right, I see my career as kind of the same path – the similarities between acting and wrestling. And wrestling has prepared me for being an actor, because when I was with the WWE for a couple years – my big break, of course – it’s very much is like show biz. The way the whole machine was run, the marketing machine and especially for TV stuff – when they were doing the live events and Pay-per-views and WrestleMania – it was very much show biz. You’re in character, you gotta somewhat have a script as well, you gotta know the finish and all that stuff. A lot of it is rehearsals and it’s all about storytelling – making sure the audience gets sucked into your story, gets connected with your character and what’s going on in the ring. That’s the basis for acting. It wasn’t a shock for me the first time I went on a TV set or a movie set. It was very familiar. And to me, because I was in front of a live crowd, in front of thousands of people every night, I was very comfortable being on set… being in front of the lights and in front of 50 people behind the camera.

I remember my first day on “300.” I was in makeup – five hours of makeup – and we did rehearsals for like a month prior to it. And then finally the day comes to shoot my first day… a big Hollywood feature film. It was a big deal so there’s, like I said, 50 people behind the camera just looking at you. Lights and camera are on you and you think, “I should be nervous.” It’s the one time I would have been I guess, but wrestling prepared me.

TrunkSpace: Was the success and interest of “Polar” a surprise at all? Even on IMDb it peaked at the top MOVIEmeter spot, which is not an easy feat with everything else out these days.
Maillet: It was. I remember reading the script and I remember doing the audition – it was over a year ago now, just before Christmas of 2017 – and I had no lines. I had no lines for the sides. And they wanted me to reenact a big fight with Duncan (played by Mads Mikkelsen) that would never happen in the film. They wanted me to reenact it, basically by myself, so I had to pretend I was fighting somebody else who was invisible. (Laughter) The whole scene was described basically as I stab him or shoot him and then I punch him and I fall into a barn and eventually he gets swept into the barn and kills me. So I had to reenact the whole thing.

Maillet with Heather Doerksen in “Pacific Rim”

So I used my wrestling background, my acting background, to use my imagination and I hadn’t heard from them for over a month. And then a month later, January of last year, they offered me a role because they loved my performance. And when I read the script, it was in your face, I mean, they weren’t pulling punches in that film. And I knew it was gonna work because I loved those kind of films. That’s my genre, as a fan. It’s so different and unique and I like it when they’re not afraid to show the audience. It’s a great way to shock. I love that stuff.

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the end result is always the most memorable part of a film or TV show, but for you, we would imagine it’s the process. What will you take with you through the rest of your life – the thing that will stay with you – from shooting the film?
Maillet: Well, I think it’s the friends… the people you work with. I got close to the group, to the A-team. We got really close in filming. I had a great time with the people. We really got along very well, and I think it shows on film. It was so fun to work with all of the actors and the crew, especially with Jonas Åkerlund, the director, he was so nice and so open to our ideas. He’s easy to work with.

It’s funny with Mads – great guy, he’s a cool guy – I met him prior to that, maybe four years ago now, for a HorrorHound convention in Indianapolis four years ago. We were represented by the same convention agent, so after the event we would all go out, a group of us, to eat supper, including Mads, and so we got along very well that weekend. We started taking selfies together. (Laughter) Unbeknownst to me, four years later, I’m chasing him around the woods. It was kind of cool.

TrunkSpace: We talked earlier about how you were always a storyteller. You’ve been involved in some pretty wild storytelling in film, but are those the wildest storylines you’ve been involved with, or did your days in professional wrestling lead to more crazy things happening with you from a narrative standpoint?
Maillet: I think professional wrestling. At the time when I was there, it called the Attitude Era. They were pretty risky with the stuff they were trying to do. They had a wrestler who had a porn actor gimmick, behaving like one of those you see on www.hdpornvideo.xxx.

Maillet as Kurrgan in the WWE

TrunkSpace: Val Venis, right?
Maillet: Val Venis! But see, he worked that gimmick so well and he was this natural, great talent and he made it work. Not a lot of guys would have made it work.

At the time, it was very risky and I was afraid they were going to do something with me… something that wouldn’t be comfortable, which, in a way, they did. They put me in as this drooling monster, the evil Kurrgan who destroys everything, and then they pitched me the idea to do this fun-loving… The Oddities. I remember I was at home and I got a call from Vince Russo… not Vince McMahon… the head writer. And he never called. He never called my home before and I was like, “What the hell is going on?” (Laughter) I was kind of in limbo at the time. They weren’t sure what they were doing with me, with the whole Kurrgan thing, and then he pitched me the idea of this fun loving group, dancing and having fun while dressed up in tie-dyed goofy clothes. The whole thing was to introduce ourselves singing Miss America dressed up in tuxedos.

So, he didn’t see my face – my initial reaction while he was pitching me that – but I was basically saying no to myself. But I said yes of course. It was probably the only opportunity I would have to be with them. They would have let me go, probably, if I said no. So yes, it was very uncomfortable at first, doing that thing, because it was out of my norm, but it worked because it got over. The guys got into it. They got some great music from ICP and it got over. We got busy… really busy for a year. We did Pay-Per-Views, magazine covers and video games. So it worked, but it was not my thing to do, dancing in front of a crowd.

TrunkSpace: Unexpected lightning in a bottle.
Maillet: What happened was – this is a true story – there was a WrestleMania after-party in Boston back in ‘98. We could bring our wives with us, so I brought my wife. My wife, she loves to dance, so of course she wanted me to dance with her on the dance floor at the party. I should have known because there’s a lot of male wrestlers not dancing and they’re looking at me, staring at me. They couldn’t believe this dancing giant. So then Vince McMahon was there and saw me dancing and he couldn’t get the idea of me dancing out of his mind, so the whole Oddities thing came about.

Polar” is available now on Netflix.

read more
Wingman Wednesday

Lovina Yavari

LovinaYavariFeatured
Photo by: Angelo Manalac/Shirt by: Jon Lam/Location: E Blue E-Sport Stadium

As a lifelong comic book fan, model-turned-actress Lovina Yavari is having to pinch herself with her recent track record of on-camera roles. Not only is she starring as Junkie Jane in “Polar” for Netflix, but she will also be appearing in the upcoming film “Shazam!” based on the DC Comics character of the same name and in Amazon Prime’s “The Boys,” adapted from the comic book series by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. It’s a pop culture-palooza of celluloid sequential success and it’s exactly what she always wanted.

We recently sat down with Yavari to discuss how her look is suited for the modern on-screen landscape, Instagram blow-ups, and what her career best-case-scenario would look like.

TrunkSpace: From an outside perspective, it seems like you are single-handedly taking over comic book adaptations in 2019. Not only are you currently starring as Junkie Jane in “Polar” on Netflix, but you’ll also be appearing in “Shazam!” and “The Boys.” Was this part of a masterful adaptation domination plan or a comic book coincidence? Does appearing in projects based on comic books and graphic novels appeal to your own personal interests?
Yavari: This was actually EXACTLY what I wanted so it’s surreal as hell. I grew up reading comic books – I loved anything by Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Brian K. Vaughan, Joss Whedon, and Warren Ellis. It’s the best feeling in the world to be immortalized in these fictional universes. I never stop fangirling about it.

TrunkSpace: If we can spend some time talking about Junkie Jane… first, “Polar” is visually such an interesting film and sort of speaks to the future of mass market distribution. To us, this is a movie (along with “Bird Box”) that will make studios wake up and go, “Okay, maybe we don’t have to be in theaters anymore.” As an actress, do you feel like you’re working at a historically significant period within the industry where the new guard is replacing the old in terms of how things were once done? Can you see the change happening from your perspective?
Yavari: Oh yeah, I definitely see it. I feel like I joined the industry at the perfect time – there’s more diversity, better roles for women, more opportunities for actors and social media. I can create my own content and build my brand instead of waiting around to be discovered. Ten years ago someone that looked like me wouldn’t have had a chance in hell to be seen for auditions. It’s only been the last couple years that the industry has been stepping away from casting the classic Hollywood beauty types and actually taking more risks.

TrunkSpace: Once “Polar” hit Netflix, how soon after did you feel its impact? How long did it take for fans of the film to track you down on social media or for your rise on the IMDb STARmeter to take you by surprise? (Currently sitting at 191!)
Yavari: The “Shazam!” teaser trailer was released the same week “Polar” dropped, so my Instagram blew up immediately. I felt like I logged into some alt universe.

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the final product is always what’s memorable when it comes to a film or series, but for those working on the project, we have to imagine that it is the experience that stays with you. For you, what was the most memorable aspect of getting to work on “Polar” and slip into the Junkie Jane persona?
Yavari: Working with my SPFX makeup artist Traci Loader. She applied all the tattoos and track marks on my character. Funny fact, I started out in film as a makeup artist, and was once her assistant years ago. So it was crazy as hell to bump into her on set and find out she was my makeup artist. Since she knew I had a makeup background, she let me help apply my character’s tattoos. I even chose all the placements for them. All the tattoos I picked out told a story on my body, giving them meaning helped bring Jane more to life. That process helped the most.

TrunkSpace: We recently chatted with a number of your “Polar” costars, including Fei Ren and Josh Cruddas. One of the things that was a constant between every conversation we had was just how welcoming and creatively-inspiring being on this particular set was. Did you have the same experience? Was the “Polar” set one that you hated having to walk away from?
Yavari: Hands down, both the cast and crew were such a pleasure to collaborate with. Jonas was such a cool director – I had no idea I was already a massive fan of his work until I met him. He directed so many of my favorite music videos. He has such a laid-back and welcoming attitude. He trusted me to portray Jane how I wanted. I was given a couple guidelines, but had free reign to do whatever. I know experiences like that are rare in this industry, so I’m insanely grateful for it.

TrunkSpace: You’re also a model. Are there challenges to trying to cross over into the world of acting in that, do you find that casting directors view you as a model who wants to act, as opposed to an actress who happens to model?
Yavari: I feel like modeling helped me secure a lot of gigs, especially since I first started out doing commercials and print ads. I also try to maintain a diverse portfolio so I could be seen for other roles that someone wouldn’t normally cast me as.

Yavari as Junkie Jane in “Polar”

TrunkSpace: In a lot of your modeling shots, we see characters. We see you inhabiting a persona in the same way you would do an on-camera role. Do you approach modeling in the same way as acting in that, are you playing someone else when you’re taking part in a shoot?
Yavari: That’s exactly what I’m doing. I art direct and style all my photo shoots and one of the things I strive for is having my images look like stills from a movie or anime.

TrunkSpace: You’re still very early in your career but what has been a highlight thus far that you’ll carry with you moving forward?
Yavari: Oh man, being flown out to Cuba to work on a film. That was amazing. But honestly, every project I’ve had the opportunity to work on has been a highlight. It’s a constant reminder that working your ass off pays off. I’m eternally grateful for where I’m at and where I’ll be heading. I also have to give my agency, Hero Artists, massive props, too. They’ve been amazing with representing me and letting me be who I am, as opposed to trying to rebrand me into an existing artist. I get to be myself and work on projects I’m already a fan of. It’s unreal.

TrunkSpace: Give us the best of your best case scenarios. If you could pave your own career path, what would that route look like? What would be the ultimate dream?
Yavari: Work on “Star Trek,” have an action figure of my character and a comic book series (6-issue run with cover art by Junji Ito), voice for 30 video games and two abridged Shonen Jump anime series with 300 filler eps so I’ll never be out of an acting job, go to comic cons and do signings. Own a clothing, robotics, makeup and motorcycle company. Travel the world. Get my pilot license. Win an Oscar.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Yavari: Nah, I already know where I want to be in life. Anything that happens on the journey there is a bonus.

Polar” is available now on Netflix.

Shazam!” is in theaters April 5.

Featured image by: Angelo Manalac/Shirt by: Jon Lam/Location: E Blue E-Sport Stadium

read more
Wingman Wednesday

Fei Ren

FeiRenFeatured
Photo By: PHILIP JARMAIN

With the new Netflix movie “Polar” being so stylized and visually enticing, actress Fei Ren had the freedom in making her character Hilde her own. Adopting a soft look with her makeup over one eye and a harder look with the other, the asymmetric approach not only fit into the aesthetic of the film, but allowed her to tap into her character’s backstory and discover the A-team assassin’s duality.

“It’s a great creative playground because I had the option to make the character larger than life and explore it artistically.”

We recently sat down with Ren to discuss Hilde’s spirit animal, the film’s on-set atmosphere, and how acting was never part of her original game plan.

TrunkSpace: “Polar” is based on the webcomic/graphic novel of the same name. Comics continue to be a well that Hollywood taps, both for film and television adaptation. As an actor, what is it like having that source material (and existing audience!) available to you, but at the same time, not having the pressure of stepping into a brand that the masses have been exposed to yet, like a Spider-Man or Batman?
Ren: Finding Hilde and her layers was almost no different to working on any other characters. I think that with “Polar” being such a stylized graphic novel without words, I had lots of room to fill in the blanks of her backstory. It’s rather freeing. In acting, there is a saying that the more specific you get, the more universal and relatable your character becomes. I imagine that no matter how large a fan base a character has, our job is still connected to the human core and to make it our own. Pressure from the public will always be there, but when you are creating art, you can’t do it to please everybody’s idea of the character. You have to make it your own and step into that skin and become it.

TrunkSpace: The original comic was very stylized as you mentioned, and what’s great about the film adaptation is that a lot of that is carried over in terms of how it’s shot and the use of color. Visually, what makes the work you did on this project unique in comparison to previous roles?
Ren: It’s highly stylized and very edgy. It’s a great creative playground because I had the option to make the character larger than life and explore it artistically. The makeup, hair and costume department did such an amazing job creating my look. And working together as a team, I ended up discovering some of the character’s history. For example, the different makeup on each eye. It started as we were doing testing makeup on different eyes, and the whole team ended up loving the asymmetric look. So, Hilde had one soft look on one eye, and a harder look on the other, which worked with the hair too! The look inspired me to discover Hilde’s duality. Hilde’s past being soft and feminine didn’t serve her well in that world. Hence, she becomes the hardcore, sleek, efficient killer you see now. She only lets down her guard in front of Blut. So, every day, her soft eye is a reminder to her to stay focused and her hard eye shows her determination. Overall, it was plenty of fun because we were given room to create and explore!

TrunkSpace: From the outside looking in, this was a physically demanding project to be a part of. How did you prepare to slip into the butt-kicking shoes of assassin Hilde?
Ren: I had a personal trainer for kickboxing and did yoga daily. The production also gave me thorough gun and safety training for an entire week, so the weapons became part of my body. Listening to hardcore heavy metal music also helped me slip into Hilde’s mental space!

TrunkSpace: When you learned that you had been cast as Hilde, what aspects of her were you most excited to bring to life and did that change the further into production that you got? Did you discover new things about her that you ended up enjoying more than you would have expected?
Ren: When I first got the role of Hilde, I loved the idea that she is cocky, masculine and savage. I imagined her spirit animal as an ape. Then the chemistry of the “A-team” being so playful and family-like, Hilde becomes a black panther. She is sleek and economical with movements when she is hunting. She is protective of the A-team, playful at times and holds them together when necessary. So, she is still intense, but has more colors and shape, which is more fun to play!

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the most memorable part of a film or television series is the end product, but for those involved in it, we would imagine it’s the experience. For you, what aspects of working on “Polar” will you carry with you through the rest of your career and life?
Ren: The grounded passionate energy of the people in the film’s crew. Rumor has it that some Hollywood stars and directors are tricky to work with. I had an excellent first-hand experience! On the set of “Polar,” there were no egos and no games. Everyone is passionate about the work, and not taking themselves too seriously. During lunchtime, we all got together and joked around, ate, talked about the scenes, and we all come from different parts of the world, so we shared stories. The production was in the winter, and sometimes the days got long and freezing cold. Shooting a movie is not easy, so having a great ensemble makes a huge difference!

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, your career in the arts began after you started modeling. Did pursuing modeling ultimately inspire you to change direction with your life and take a path that you may not have walked otherwise?
Ren: Oh, totally! I was so nerdy before I started modeling. My world view was my parents’ vision: get a degree in accounting or finance, get married at 25 and have babies. I didn’t know what I wanted, let along dare to dream of pursuing arts. Growing up trained in dancing and painting, I always liked arts and performing, but to think this passion could turn into a career path was seemingly impossible. My family is made of scientists, engineers and professors. They appreciate art as leisure, but never considered it as a job. Getting into modeling, traveling and starting to discover different artistic expressions freed and empowered me in so many ways. It awakened parts of me that had been suppressed. In modeling, I learned to take control of my own destiny, follow my passion, persevere in learning, which becomes essential for building my acting career.

Photo By: PHILIP JARMAIN

TrunkSpace: You’ve been acting for about five years now. In that time, what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned either on set or in the midst of a job that you find yourself applying to all of your work moving forward now?
Ren: There is a balance in owning your character work and allowing it room to grow by collaborating with your team. You have to trust your instinct and allow yourself to play. I think filmmaking is such a collaborative art form. There is the initial audition, but once you’re on set, your role usually evolves and deepens or deviates quite a bit from your original idea. It’s important not to hold on to the idea of what you think your character should be, but get into the whole skin of it, get into the body, allow your body and instinct to play, allow yourself to be in the moment. It’s where the best work lives. On the other hand, though, you have to take ownership of your work. Sometimes people have inputs and ideas on what they think your character could be. It can be confusing if you take all the suggestions. So, you need to find a balance, trust what you’re bringing as long as you serve the true intention behind the story you are telling.

TrunkSpace: You’re also a director. Do you think having that perspective makes you a better actor and does knowing what an actor needs from a director make you a better director?
Ren: I believe they complement each other. When I am directing theater, I often use my own acting tools to help actors find the emotional truth of the characters and get very specific with relationships and intention in the story. Directing and coaching other actors can help me understand my own acting better. That said, I find it’s often still easier to bring other actors to do their best job than it is to direct yourself.

TrunkSpace: You have a passion for the theater. In terms of acting, does the stage give you a different experience personally than when you’re performing in front of the camera?
Ren: Very different in many ways. In theater, the effect of your work is immediate, there is an energy feeding back and forth from the audience. It’s electrifying. Especially in comedy, the laughter and energy of the audience become part of the play. Also, in theater, you live the character’s whole arc at once, without cut and reset. It feels more complete during performing. With film acting, lots of times there are hundreds of people around the set and when the director says action, it’s on. You’ll record a scene multiple times, from different angles. You experience the character in chunks and the challenge lies in staying focused, ready and keep discovering it moment to moment, takes after takes, with all that’s happening around you. Both are exciting and require you to show up and be present, put ego aside and serve the character and the story. And both are satisfying when you feel or see the impact and joy you brought to your audience at the end of the day.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Ren: (Laughter) Maybe not! Life is magical, and I don’t want to know how the magic worked, and then watch the magic show. It would ruin the fun. I want to experience it moment to moment!

Polar” is available now on Netflix.

read more
Wingman Wednesday

Josh Cruddas

JoshCruddasFeatured2
Photo By: Tina Picard

After reading the script, Josh Cruddas fought hard to be a part of “Polar” – the new Netflix film based on the graphic novel by Victor Santos –  so hard in fact that he worried that he may have come on too strong when he first met with director Jonas Åkerlund and producer Jeremy Bolt. Calling the screenplay the most “exciting, badass, funny and promising” he had ever read, the Nova Scotia native’s tenacity paid off and he was cast as the assassin Alexei, proving that talent, when mixed with passion, is a powerful combination.

We recently sat down with Cruddas to discuss the universe he’d sell his car to be a part of, the terror of being trained in terrifying weaponry, and the unexpected benefits of his career as an actor.

TrunkSpace: “Polar” is based on the web-comic/graphic novel of the same name. Comics continue to be a well that Hollywood taps, both for film and television adaptation. As an actor, what is it like having that source material (and existing audience!) available to you, but at the same time, not having the pressure of stepping into a brand that the masses have been exposed to yet, like a Spider-Man or Batman?
Cruddas: To me, it’s incredibly exciting. New, quality IP in film is hard to find these days, with the traditional studio model less likely to take big-budget risks on content without a big built-in fanbase. I think Jeremy (Bolt), Keith (Goldberg) and the other brilliant minds at Dark Horse and Netflix have really stumbled upon a gold mine in Victor Santos’ graphic novels; here’s a fantastic comic world begging for a film adaptation, compete with some die-hard fans, but underground enough that the rest of us can still be surprised by everything when we see the movie version. And for me, as the actor, I can rest a little easier knowing that nobody’s comparing my version of the character to, let’s say, Daniel Day-Lewis’ 1994 Oscar-winning version, you know? That all being said, I’d sell my car for a chance to be in a Marvel movie.

TrunkSpace: The original comic was very stylized, and what’s great about the film adaptation is that a lot of that is carried over in terms of how it’s shot and the use of color. Visually, what makes the work you did on this project unique in comparison to previous roles?
Cruddas: I got VERY lucky in this film to work with Jonas (
Åkerlund), who’s a visual maestro, as well has his team of PäEkberg, Susie Coulthard, Lea Carlson and Emma Fairley. These people have created this brilliantly vibrant world that myself and the other actors get to live in. I think it’s a welcome rebuke of a lot of the grey, so-dark-and-shaky-you-can’t-even-see-the-fight-scenes cinematography style we see in certain big action movies and TV these days. The TV show I’m shooting right now is also very colorful too, but I’ve never done anything as stylized and sleek as “Polar” before. Usually the most colorful thing onscreen with me is the four strands of ginger hair I have left on my head!

TrunkSpace: The trailer definitely has that bad-ass, pump-you-up feel to it. Upon first glance, it’s sort of “Taken” meets “A History of Violence.” When you first read for the project, what excited you most about it and did it meet those first impression expectations when you called wrap?
Cruddas: I thought I had made a mistake, reading the screenplay before meeting Jonas and Jeremy last winter – it was one of the most exciting, badass, funny and promising scripts I’d ever read. So when I went to meet with them, I loved the role so much and was so desperate for the part that I thought I went completely over the top in my excitement for the job. Thankfully they gave it to me anyway, and I think the whole team (including our huge, incredible crew who worked longer hours and longer nights than I ever had to) really captured the magic I found in the script as we shot the film.

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the most memorable part of a film or television series is the end product, but for those involved in it, we would imagine it’s the experience. For you, what aspects of working on “Polar” will you carry with you through the rest of your career and life?
Cruddas: Good point! There were a lot of memories I’ll take with me from shooting “Polar.” The A-Team (assassin squad) really bonded over the months, so we would go sing karaoke till the wee hours and post the results to our group chat… Johnny Knoxville once sank me in a game of pool by looking me dead in the eyes while he pocketed the 8-ball, and that kind of humiliation is something I’ll never forget. Also, being trained on the weapons was a terrifying and humbling experience – regular people like myself should have no access to those things! But more than anything, it gave me the confidence to play more action-oriented, stunt-heavy roles like this one in the future.

TrunkSpace: The film is a Netflix original. You also worked on “Cardinal” for CTV/Hulu, and will be appearing in “Wayne” for YouTube Premium. With so many platforms producing such incredible, character-driven content these days, how has that landscape opened things up for actors? Are there more opportunities today than there were even a few years ago?
Cruddas: Definitely. I was lucky to pop by on “Wayne” last summer and being in North Bay during the autumn for “Cardinal” was one of the coolest experiences of my career so far. It reunited me with my buddy Billy Campbell who was my first on-screen “dad” in “Copperhead” for Warner Bros back in 2012. So I don’t know if it’s just that I’ve finally figured out how to not be the world’s worst actor, or if there’s just more opportunity with Netflix’s incredible investment in Canadian productions and all these new streaming services (my next show is for another new streaming service) – but I’m just grateful to be working!

TrunkSpace: You’re also an award-winning music composer whose work has appeared in numerous projects. How do you balance your creative interests and do you view them as separate paths or one continuous path with different stops along the way?
Cruddas: I was super lucky that my parents decided to enroll me in piano lessons when I was six. I had an incredible teacher named Diane Krochko who didn’t punish me for not wanting to just play Mozart all the time. She actively encouraged creativity, along with a lot of other mentors in my early life, including my parents who home-educated me and my sisters who appeared in short films myself and my friends used to make. I think all of those experiences and people guided me to where I am hopefully going now, by giving me the chance to play – both musically and onscreen.

TrunkSpace: Creative people are always their own worst critic. Are you harder on yourself as an actor or as a musician?
Cruddas: Probably as an actor. But it’s fairly equal. I often think while I’m working on something that I’m the worst actor who ever lived and I’d be better off switching careers as soon as the cameras stop rolling. It’s only when I get up the courage to watch my work after it comes out that I realize it’s not abhorrently bad and I convince myself to keep at it. Musically, sometimes I’ll spend hours on four bars of a theme because it’s just not feeling right, but then I’ll often get carried away by the emotion when I’m writing – if I can make myself cry with a few notes, then I hope it can do the same for the audience.

Photo By: Tina Picard

TrunkSpace: What has been one of the most unexpected benefits of a career in the arts that you’ve experienced, but could have never anticipated when you first set out to pursue your dreams?
Cruddas: Cool question. Probably passing along the few things I’ve learned along the way. One of the greatest privileges of my life is my role volunteering at SickKids hospital in Toronto, reading stories and singing songs in the library there. I’m also very lucky to teach at a children’s performing arts/triple threat school called Stagecoach in Canada, and I never thought I’d enjoy that job as much as I do. I had turned down numerous teaching gigs in the past because I thought I’d be rubbish at it, but my talented friend Emma Smit convinced me to take over her class one day five years ago, and I’ve never looked back. I’m quite sure teaching acting has made me a better actor, and the kids keep me grounded – anytime I have to cut my already-receding hair for a role, I step into the classroom and get roasted more thoroughly than a Thanksgiving turkey.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Cruddas: That’s a difficult one! “Polar,” “Cardinal” and “Copperhead” are up there, as well as a film called “Duet” that I made a couple years ago with my best friend since age six, Andrew Coll. When I heard a violin section play music that originated in my head for the first time on a film called “10000 Miles,” that was insanely special too. And the project I’m shooting right now is extremely close to my heart but I’m not allowed to breathe a word about it or I’ll be dragged through the streets by my hair.

Hmm. I think more than anything, just being able to do what I love for a living is one of the greatest feelings in the world, and it’s not lost on me how lucky I am to be able to do that.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Cruddas: Great question. I think I’d want to keep my career a surprise for future Josh (hopefully I still have one), but I would love to see the state of the world in 10 years. We’re in a scary, pivotal spot right now, with social media, fear-mongering and gerrymandering the enemies of truth, democracy and our planet at large. I hope more than anything that in 10 years, we’ve invited empathy and facts back to the table, and we’ve started letting smart and compassionate people make the decisions again.

Polar” premieres Friday on Netflix.

read more