The following is an interview with actor Joe Macaulay on his role in the film, Native. In this interview, Fanbase Press Contributor Erica McCrystal chats with Macaulay about his creative inspiration, his role in the upcoming sci-fi film, his experiences in a variety of entertainment mediums, and more!
Erica McCrystal, Fanbase Press Contributor: How did you get started as an actor?
Joe Macaulay: As a kid, I enjoyed acting in school plays and was forever messing about impersonating people and playing make believe. As I grew into my teens, I forgot about acting and became more heavily involved in sports and socialising with friends. I felt there was something missing during these times, a bit of a “hole in my soul” but didn’t really know why. One night as I was watching TV in my parents’ house, Goodfellas came on TV. Something about that movie triggered something in me. I was mesmerized by it; the performances felt more real than real life and I became obsessed with it! I kind of always knew I wanted to act, but Goodfellas drove it home. The problem was I was too self-conscious to do anything about it. None of my family or friends were in to anything like that at the time, and I was afraid of the unknown and the possible ridiculing I’d get from my friends! When I left school I had tons of jobs, but couldn’t settle. I had a burning desire to act again but lacked the courage to get involved. I was working as a cab driver/ Bouncer/ DJ/Bodyguard when I finally bit the bullet and went to acting class. I loved it. Not too long after this as fate would have it, the BBC were casting a new primetime drama about the police and gangsters in my hometown of Liverpool. I auditioned for one of the lead gangster roles called Jonjo Heinz and got it! I loved this job, and it confirmed to me what my purpose was! From then until now, I have focused all my energy and passion into acting.
EM: Which actors have inspired you?
JM: If I had to pick one, it would have to be Paul Newman. I first saw him in Cool Hand Luke and was touched by a natural presence and charisma which drew me in more than any other actor I had watched. He was relatable, troubled, funny, sad, and happy all at the same time. Of actors working in film today, I would go out of my way to watch anything with Denzel Washington in it. He has an undeniable truthfulness and soul in all his work. It was his performance as bodyguard John Creasy in Man on Fire which really pulled me in. I was actually working as a bodyguard when I first saw that movie and cried like a baby, I’m not ashamed to say! I also enjoy watching Scarlett Johansson; she has a charm, and innocence which makes her a joy to watch. The dynamic between her and Bill Murray in Lost in Translation was one of the most heart-warming I have ever seen on screen.
EM: You have worked in both TV and feature films. What do you enjoy best about working in each?
JM: I enjoy them both really. What I like about TV is that is gives you more time to tell a story. As an actor you can become completely immersed in a character for a longer period of time. The character, his clothes, and set become so familiar that you almost develop a split personality! This familiarity can really help bring out spontaneous natural moments in a performance. I also enjoy how invested and attached audiences become with TV series. It is a generally more intimate experience with people inviting you into their living rooms. Independent film on the other hand from my experience allowed for a great amount of creative input from the actors. We were allowed time in the rehearsal to discuss and develop character. Even in the shoot there was a certain amount of freedom to play around with the scenes and take risks. I like how film sucks you in as an audience member. In comparison to TV, it is a shorter more intense experience, like a mad dream which leaves you wondering what’s real. I feel that really effective film should feel like a slap in the face. It should change your emotional state, make you question things, and look at life differently. Film really can change your life and beliefs. It can hold a mirror up to the audience and show us things about ourselves that we may have never seen before. For that reason, it is arguably the most powerful art form we have.
EM: You recently starred in the sci-fi film, Native. Can you tell us about the premise of the film?
JM: Native is a film about 2 scientists who are selected to travel across the universe in search of potential life. It is a sci-fi film which really explores character, and what it means to be human. What I loved about this film is the issues it brought to my mind are very current. The universe is vast, and planet Earth is special; life is a rare and amazing phenomenon. It really makes you question how we as a species treat each other and this amazing planet.
EM: What do you like best about working in sci-fi?
JM: Sci-fi is great fun to work on as an actor. It’s the most extreme form of escapism. You can really throw yourself into it and immerse yourself in a make-believe world. It kind of reminded me of playing believe as a kid. I WAS Luke Skywalker, running around the house having lightsaber fights with my brother. And it’s that ability to invest in an imaginary world which makes sci-fi such fun to work in. I also like how sci-fi can carry a serious message which can allow us to take a peak into the future and bring into question environmental and moral issues.
EM: Is there a particular genre that you enjoy working in the most or that you are most eager to work in?
JM: I have been fortunate to work in productions set in the current day (Good Cop, Holby City, Pro and Versus), period shows (Ripper Street, Peaky Blinders), and most recently futuristic sci-fi (Native). All of these have been really interesting and each enjoyable in their own way. I would really like to work on a Western. My grandad gave me a book called Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and it sparked in me a great interest and affinity with Native American culture and history. I also think it is a great genre which we don’t see so much of any more.
EM: You recently moved to LA from the UK. What made you decide to pursue your career in the States?
JM: I have always been a massive fan of US film. I grew up watching America films, and LA is the entertainment capital of the world. The standard of shows coming out of the States has revolutionised television. The Sopranos was the first US TV show which reeled me in. I couldn’t believe what I was watching. It combined the best aspects of film and TV into a new viewing experience; I was quickly addicted! It started a love affair with other US TV shows such as The Wire, Breaking Bad, Ray Donavon, The OA, Boardwalk Empire, and Narcos to name just a few. I have noticed that within the great shows and movies coming out of the US there are a wide variety of actors from all different backgrounds, nationalities, and cultures who are given the opportunity to play interesting, multidimensional characters. Working in this environment on these quality productions is where I see myself.
EM: Do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
JM: I am attached to 2 upcoming projects by the director of Native. One is a sci-fi horror set in near future US, and the other is a film based on an award-winning Irish novel.