Christopher Russell INTERVIEW
Syfy’s Channel horror series “Day of the Dead” is out now.
The importance of being present and the No BS Technique.
When I was asked to do a Zoom Interview with Canadian Actor Christopher Russell, I was excited. I was going to have a chance to get to know a little of the real Christopher.
Best known for his roles in Star Trek Discovery, Flashpoint and Supernatural, Russell is also a husband and father residing in Vancouver with his family. I must admit that I was a little nervous…
First impressions? Much better looking in real life, perhaps because his beauty comes from within… Chris was seating in a place with a beautiful garden background, looking at my dining room with all the lights on, I mention that the time where I was (Portugal) was 1 am. To which he thanked me for staying up to chat with him. However, his reply to my first question followed by a huge smile told me this was going to be a fun conversation.
SD – To start with Chris, would you please introduce yourself to our audience?
CR: My name is Christopher Russell, he then smiles.
I could not help but smile as I replied, nice to meet you too. Christopher Russell.
Tell me when did you decide you wanted to become an actor?
Christopher fondly remembered how at the tender age of 4 in preschool, he already knew what he wanted to be. His career was a childhood dream. He then continues to explain in detail his first experience: “Yeah, for sure. It came about when we had a Nativity scene that we performed for our parents. And yeah, I was the donkey. I got such a favorable reaction to my handmade ears and tail. I felt very proud of myself and decided to pursue it further. So, after a few more, school plays around five and six playing various animals I progressed to taking on some human characters. “
I was in theatre camp growing up; I was about 10 years old the first time I went to it, and the counsellors or the instructors, who usually were university students going to theatre school, and part of their program was writing and directing plays for us kids in the camp.
So, it was a lot of fun and we got to have some input. And I remember the first one we came up with was about a planet made of candy, kind of like Hansel and Gretel, but in space.
Then in high school, I was in theatre school, and we compete against other schools in these competitions where you had to have a play with a certain time limit, I think it was 15 minutes and it could not be two minutes more or two minutes less. We had a very small window. It was extremely specific. So, we did that. That is sort of how I got into it for sure.
Oh, fantastic. Really fantastic. You have been a successful screen regular for years. Both with movies and series, The Goodwitch, Van Helsing, Star Trek Discovery, Chasing Waterfalls and Nature of Love, to name a few, out of so many great roles that you have performed as an actor which one was your favorite? And why?
Oh, tough. I don’t know if you mentioned it just then, but I definitely really enjoyed playing Panto Trost on BBC America’s Dirk Gently. Well, the actual title is Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective Agency.
I had to laugh because that was the only title, I did not mention due to its extremely long name, but I admitted it…followed by a few laughs, Russell very happily explains who one of his favorite characters is:
Panto is an exciting character to play it is hard to explain, but it is like a parallel universe, or another world called Wendimoore and he is a prince. He’s got pink hair. He has a secret romantic relationship with the son of the opposing family in this mythical fantasy world. It was just such an enjoyable part to play. A reminiscent of Carrie always in Princess Bride as far as the fun and the swashbuckling nature of it, but also in a more modern heightened fancy version of that. Russell then added: “playing Panto Trost was definitely really exciting, just saying the words the way they were written for me was just fabulous. My other one it is just airing right now would be Trey Bowman on Day of the Dead. I had a wonderful time playing that character he stayed with me for a while afterwards, I missed him when we wrapped that show. He’s just so much fun to play. So, will probably be those two, for sure, as far as characters go, I mean, I have had a lot of great experiences on different sets, but the characters themselves would be Panto Trost and Trey Bowman.
Okay, Panto Trust and Trey Bowman it is. I went on to ask: Every industry including the entertainment industry is full of competition. What do you do to stand out amidst the competition?
So that was definitely a long journey to discover how to approach that subject and sort of the point I arrived at was: if I am constantly trying to stand out and constantly trying to be something that I think people expect me to be or want, for me, I will inevitably fail. But if I embrace the qualities that I have, that are unique to myself and try to expand on those, then I feel like since I started doing that, I have been working a lot more just embracing who I am, instead of trying what people expect me to be. There is always like, don’t get me wrong, there is going to be moments where, you know, you try to do something you think people might like, that maybe goes against your instincts. But getting away from that is the goal at this point is just… Not in a way that is like, I don’t care what you think, look at me go but you know, trying to be complementary to the project, or whatever it is, that is coming my way, but also being truthful to myself. So, trying to find the balance of those two.
Oh, yes. Balance? Perfect. You are currently starring at the Syfy’ Channel’s horror series Day Of dead you just mentioned one of your favorite characters Trey Bowman. What attracted you to the character? Oh, you read the script and you thought, ah, like, I can be this guy.
Yes, there’s a lot of reasons. So firstly, when it first came around, and I saw the breakdown of what the character like what they were looking for with him before I even read it. Right away that little paragraph like, you know, that describing Trey. Like, I feel like I could do this and can I really have fun with this. Then when I read the first couple of scripts, I thought the writing was just fantastic. Especially for him. It was very clever. It was very funny, but don’t want to say an ironic way. But it is definitely poignant to the times, and I just felt like Trey is so stupid. But he doesn’t know it. Like he genuinely believes everything that comes out of his mouth. He believes everything he says. So, I took it upon myself to play Trey, as very factual. Not that he thinks he is smart, but that he thinks what he says is true. So, when he is saying the most preposterous things, I feel like it just made it more fun to play.
Because” I don’t know if you’ve met people like that in your life” But yeah, it is funny when he is just dead serious talking about something that sounds ridiculous. I had a good time with Trey on that; he also has a great journey through the show just emotionally and as far as his sort of character development goes. All of this was exciting to do.
Is shooting horror scenes, more challenging than any other roles you have played? Watching it is scary, but how is it for you?
Sometimes… it really depends on whom you are working with. It depends on who is with you and what the context of the scene is. I mean, if you are up against some zombies that are “they have some very good believable makeup and there’s lots of blood.” And they are coming for you, it is not too hard to stretch the imagination to get that feeling of impending doom in your body. But I mean, other times, I guess it all comes down to preparedness. For myself, especially with this role, any free chance I had, I was working on the script in the sense that I was just going over and over and over it. So, I knew inside and out so that when I got to the set, I could feel confident enough to just let it all go. And whatever happens there happens and I know that it is already in me to come out in the right and appropriate moment without trying to force it. So, that is my way of approaching it. Sidenote to that question, I find it a lot harder to play characters that are speaking in a way that’s not realistic, about trivial things that they are supposed to be excited about. That takes a lot more work in preparation to be able to do that believably… but if it is just running from zombies and fearing for my life? I can get there pretty quick.
With a smile, I agreed with him. Which of the fictional characters you have played, would you be most excited to meet in real life?
Oh, Panto Trost you like, man. I would like to meet Panto. He would be pretty cool. I mean, I don’t know if want to meet Trey. I feel like Trey’s a bit of a handful and I don’t know if he would be good to have around. He’s a bit draining. But Panto Trost, for sure. He has a good heart that Panto? Let me tell Ya.
You know, I am going to have to see that, Panto. Yeah, I am curious.
Yeah, you should check it out.
Do you still feel nervous arriving at a new set? You know, you have played quite a few roles, so every time you arrive at a new set, how do you feel?
Christopher when on to explain: Yeah, it is different now. I definitely have nerves but how they manifest has shifted. Initially, as a new up and coming actor, I would be nervous: Am I doing a good job? Are they going to like what I do? Should I even be here? Did they hire me by accident? Oh, my goodness. Oh, my God. Do I know my lines? Am I going to forget my lines? What if I forget my lines? What if I missed my mark? “So, it’s all that stuff! Arghhhh” But now, now it’s shifted and it’s more like: Is this going to be a good project? Am I going to work with a good cast? Did I get the script right? Or is this just going to be a disaster? Or, you know, like, so it is different things like that. It is like, and then is, is lunch going to be good? What if lunch is not good? Do I need to pack a lunch?
Listening to an actor telling me about packing a lunch, made me laugh aloud. Seriously?
Russell continues: Just stuff like that. But really, at the end of the day, I am at the point now where I just want to do a good job. I feel like I am my toughest critic. So, if I can leave a set, feeling satisfied with the way it went? that is the best. That is sort of where it is at now. But there are nerves that come into play all the time, it is just totally different from when I started.
I added: With experience and you build confidence as well.
Yeah, for sure. I think, that is the for me and to any actors out there listening; just getting into acting is the biggest hurdle; once you can find some confidence in what you are doing. It makes it so much easier because it is the nerves of feeling inadequate that get in the way of delivering that performance you are capable of, but your nerves are holding you back. So, if you can find a way to combat the nerves, and the way to do that is to be prepared.
Fantastic. Really good. Really good advice. After thanking Christopher for his sincere advice, I approached the family subject, not forgetting to tell him that I know, when it comes to family, he likes keeping his privacy. I have to say that his reply to my next question, left me a little shocked due to his sincerity. How do you balance fame and family?
I mean, I don’t feel like I am experienced much fame.
Seeing my disbelief, Christopher Continued: I mean yeah it depends on where I am for sure. The lady at the post office definitely knows my name. I live in an area where we can kind of just go out and do our thing. And I mean, yes, I do run into people that have seen some of the things I have been in, but they are very respectful usually, yeah. But other than that, yeah, I don’t know… I just try to live a regular life because I am just a regular guy.
A famous regular guy I insisted. Knowing how the pandemic has changed the world and our daily lives, I was extremely interested in hearing Christopher’s views. Not only as an actor but also as a husband and father. The pandemic has changed the world, making people more aware, a little more paranoid. However, he also made us more understanding of one another. How did the pandemic affect you as a person?
Christopher gave it some thought before saying: “That’s a good question” then continued. It kind of came in waves, initially, when everything was starting out, and they were closing things down because we did not know what is going on. I sort of just fell into Okay, well, nothing is open, cannot do anything but my children still need to, you know, experience a good and healthy family life. My wife and I just fell into a more hands-on role with them. I mean, we were already hands-on before but yeah, we have gotten them outside as much as possible in the garden. And when we could go on trails, we went on trails, and just kept them moving, kept them busy. And just really focused on that. And I looked at it this way, listen, this might sound a bit morbid, but I could leave the house tomorrow and get in a car accident, right? Or hit by a bus, whatever; that could have happened in 2019 before COVID, right? Yes. So now this has just illuminated the already known fact that life is impermanent. In a way, I was already sort of, in this path, but it made things feel more important in the moment, “you have got to be more in the moment”
You must be more present for today. Because if I am constantly worrying about tomorrow, and I am regretting yesterday, then what am I doing right now? I am missing it? So, it made me focus. Yeah. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I get like, I start thinking about the future all the time and thinking about a mistake from the past all the time, but it is a lot less now. The window of opportunity for it to consume my thoughts is gotten a lot smaller.
Oh, fantastic. Yeah, you know, we all realized what life was and how we were all the same. I think that is what this came to show us. You know, everyone was locked in. I repeated the word yeah, a few times because his answer made a lot of sense. But I was still very curious about the No BS technique, I had heard about…
Oh, yeah. The No-BS technique… that goes back to what I was saying earlier, it is not so much no BS, but just trying not to be anything but what I am because like I said before when I was, I mean, I have now been in this business for 18 years, but if I am being honest, I have only been seeing consistent successes for seven or eight. So, there’s a long time spent and even then, there are gaps there have been a spurt of success, but then a gap, and the gaps usually would come when I would kind of, start trying to shift into something that I am not necessarily good at but thinking that is what was expected. So that would be the no BS, what you see is what you get.
This is what you are going to get if you hire me, he says counting on fingers whilst he speaks:
“I’m going to know my lines, I’m going to be prepared, I will be groomed in the manner that you require of me. And I will wear the clothes you provide. I will be affable, I will be friendly, and I will not make any uncouth jokes.”
After we both shared a good laugh. I asked him if he would sign under what he had just mentioned, Christopher continued…what you see is what you get. I like that. When asked if he had any future projects he could talk about, I was pleasantly happy to find out Christopher Has been busy:
Jack Reach is coming out on Amazon Prime in 2022. They don’t have an actual release date yet. That is based on the Lee Childs about Jack Reacher. It will be the first season and I play Joe Reacher, Jack’s brother. That is all I can say about that. To which I reply with a big smile, that is plenty. Christopher went on to add that it going to be action-packed and thrilling. It is going to be a good one, he assured. He also has a Christmas movie, out on 5th December on GAC family, on Prime Hulu and friendly TV, a whole bunch of other things. And it is called A Lot Like Christmas. He also has about four other movies without release dates yet. He could not tell me much about them other than they should be coming out in 2022.
When congratulated on his projects he kindly replies: I mean, yeah, I have been stacking up the credits… yeah trying.
Christopher Russell is currently starring on the Syfy Channel Horror series Day of The Dead.
And on December 5th at the movie “A Lot like Christmas” as the end of our chat approached, I felt like I was saying goodbye to an old friend. A Down to earth actor, husband, and father. With a wonderful personality, deep sense of humor and sincere; to whom I could only wish continued success in his career.
Thank you so much. It has been great. He smiles.
I agreed totally, it was a very pleasant chat. It has been really great talking to you Christopher. Fantastic. All the best to the family to the wife and the kids and … Well, keep making movies. Keep doing them.
Thank you. It was great talking with you.
And then we said our goodbyes.