Story by Elberta McKnight
Hometown: Titusville, Pennsylvania
High School: Titusville Area High School (Graduated in 1992)
College: Art Institute of Pittsburgh (Graduated in 1995 earning degrees in video business and music)
Spouse: Karen Labbe
Current home: Atlanta
Favorite movie? “It all depends on what kind of mood I’m in. It could be “The Deerhunter,” which is dark. Or it could be “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Usually, if it’s raining, I watch “The Deerhunter.” You can probably tell what kind of mood I’m in depending on the film (laughs).”
Favorite music? “I’m a metal head at heart. I grew up listening to Metallica, Iron Maiden and stuff like that. But nowadays, I download random piano music. It starts to get eclectic. I’ve started to realize that as I get older, I use music for certain moods. Bjork, Tori Amos. Let me pull up my playlist real quick. I don’t know how to use it too well that’s another problem (laughs). Oh, I’m listening to a lot of David Bowie… anything I can find on Harry Dean Stanton, Pearl Jam, Tom Waits, that kind of stuff.”
Favorite food? “I love the classic Thanksgiving turkey and mashed potato combo (pauses) and pizza (laughs). I have to add one more thing because my wife is from Quebec. I have discovered Poutine. (Poutine is a Quebecois dish made of fresh-cut french fries topped with cheese curds and gravy.) That has become one of my favorites for sure.”
Favorite place to visit in Atlanta? High Museum
Did you always know you wanted to be an actor? “My parents actually encouraged me to get into acting when I was younger. I went to a school for the other side (of acting). I went to school for sound. But if you think of the entertainment arena as a whole… I started out with baseball, because that’s entertainment, too. It really is. I always loved when there was a crowd. Where we were from, we were always scrappy and didn’t have fancy uniforms or anything and people used to make fun of us. And I used to love hitting a home run and make them mad for making fun of us for not having fancy uniforms (laughs). So that theatric atmosphere got me into music and skateboarding and then I went to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh for sound. They had a couple film classes and I took them out of curiosity. And I absolutely fell in love with editing first… editing made me want to make movies.”
A lot of people from Atlanta and the outlying region work as background artists/extras on movies and shows being filmed here. What advice would you give them? “First off, I would absolutely say just keep working and become an active listener. When there are breaks in-between takes… when you have that chance to just be invisible, just be quiet and listen and watch and hear how people overcome obstacles by listening in on those conversations because you can learn so much about the process that will help you out when you do start to audition. And if you get the chance, go see theater. Do plays. Do all of that. “But also, you’ve got to do the basic thing of getting headshots. Don’t ever judge your resume. Just make one. If you’ve got like two or three credits, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how big or large it is. Just get some good headshots and send them out to agents. “If you really, really, really want to do it, it’s completely possible here.
“Reprisal” is my first series regular role and I booked it from the Southeast. This show has a ton of actors from the Southeast and I would definitely have to say I’m thankful for the Fincannons. The Fincannons are casting directors who work in the Southeast. I’ve known them since the late 1990s, but they go back to the 1980s as casting directors. I actually read for a role (for “Reprisal”) which I wasn’t right for, but they were still trying to cast Bru. They were taking a while to find the right person for Bru and Lisa Mae Fincannon suggested to the producers ‘why don’t you read Shane for Bru?’ I did and when it came to the call back, one of the producers, Ann Johnson, said ‘There’s your Bru.’ And that’s how it all happened. And it would have never happened if Lisa Mae didn’t suggest me for that. For a fellow like myself, it was pretty lifechanging for my career.”
What do you like most about your character in “Reprisal”? “One thing I absolutely love about the character is how comfortable he is. I’m a member of the banished brawlers and we’re not, you know, the most classy citizens of society. We’re the bad guys and gals. But I really enjoy the fact of how comfortable he is. I feel like he’s empathetic. There’s a lot of people around us in the gang. Like he’s very loyal. And he’s very concerned about his brothers and sisters in the gang. I love the fact that he’s willing to try and feel people out and gauge their concerns. I feel like he’s an empath in that kind of way. For instance, Joel, who is Rodrigo Santoro’s character; Joel’s obviously fighting through a lot of pain which he plays fantastically throughout the series. And I love that. Bru is like a really good brother who is there for people. He’s the kind of guy that you’d want him with you. And that’s what I love about him.”
Is it his acting ability playing off your acting ability… is there something unique happening there that you usually don’t experience as an actor? “With me and Rodrigo? Yeah man. We’ve become great friends. It’s one of the great things that comes out of all this. He’s so detail oriented. It’s intense. It’s fantastic. It’s every scene. No matter what’s going on … for it to be the best it can be and it’s fantastic and very inspiring to feel that energy and feel that dedication. You want to jump on it like, ‘yeah man let’s do this.’ “Part of acting, I’m sure you know, is listening. And you work at home. You score your script and you figure out your intentions and objections and how you’re going to get them and what you’re going to do and all that jazz. But once you get to set, you don’t necessarily know what the other actor is going to do. You also don’t know if the other actor is going to be listening to you, as well. And I’d say everybody in this show is just fantastic across the board about being present and playing off you. And that doesn’t happen all the time. I really do feel like this is just a great core of actors responding to each other.”
Any advice about auditions? “You’re talking about specifically going into a room, correct? It’s ok to be nervous. You can do things to work on it. One of my best acting teachers, she changed my life, is Tammy Arnold. She works in the Southeast and presides in Wilmington, North Carolina. It’s something she taught me and I still do this when I go into a room. She said just pinch yourself on the shoulder… and it reminds you you’re okay. You’re human, right? And you know what? So are they! And actually every actor that goes in, they 1000 percent want you to be the person (they hire). And that’s a good feeling to know.
Once you go in and they look at you and they’re thinking, ‘Oh, this one’s going to be it. This is going to be who we want.’ Then there’s no more anxiety for them that they have to find someone. “I did “Gods and Generals” a real long time ago. It’s a civil war movie. And I remember talking to Stephen Lang. He played General Stonewall Jackson. And I remember in the van, we were being driven to set. I was maybe 24, 25 at the time, and I remember asking him ‘what do you have going next?’ And he said, ‘I don’t know. You know it never ends. You’re always looking for that next job.’ “And for me, I thought at some point, you always have something right around the corner, you know? But you don’t. And then another time, I was working with David Morse on “Outsiders” and after the scene, we were talking and I said I wish I would have done this or done that. And David Morse looks at me and says, ‘It never stops. It never ends. I feel the same way.’ And it actually felt kind of good. You know what he did was fantastic.
But you always think how you could have done it differently. He (David Morse) is just the same as the rest of us thinking I could have tried this or tried that. It’s just nice to know that with all that experience and being that phenomenal an actor that he still felt the same way as those of us who are finding our way.”
Is there anything about the film industry in the Southeast you’d like to add? “I do think in terms of the show “Reprisal,” I really love how the producers… and this goes for Atlanta, New Orleans, Wilmington and all the regional film-making hubs… about how awesome they are about hiring local and regional crew people for really cool positions. Like a friend of mine Derek E. Tindall. He was a camera operator on “Reprisal” and he also got to do some second unit photography work, which is nice. He ended up shooting one of the episodes and he did a fantastic job and they loved it. “You know a lot of times some people who aren’t that familiar with the film industry think they are bringing in everyone from Hollywood and New York or the Southwest. But there are a ton of people from the Southeast working on Southeast productions. And in great department head positions and camera operators and directors of photography and leading roles and supporting roles and series regulars and guest stars. And of course, everything from production assistants and on up to that. But it’s not just a few. It’s many. And “Reprisal” and Hulu have been great in keeping that going and giving opportunities to people who might not have opportunities otherwise.”