Date of publishing: 1st
A leading man with unusual depth, sensitivity, comic
timing, and vast reservoirs of explosive volatility,
Spencer thrills at playing
characters with complexity. Catalyzing sincerity,
subtlety, darkness, and humour, Spencer brings a palpable
sense of humanity to every role he plays. Born and
raised in Toronto, Spencer did some time on the stage,
but it was his other love -- for writing -- that sent
him to UVic, where he studied poetry, nonfiction,
journalism, and screenwriting. After university, Spencer
hit the stage again in the Winnipeg Fringe, but soon
learned to love the lens. He did an acting residency
International Film and Television Workshops in Rockport,
launching his on-camera career soon after with a role
as a crystal meth cook in an MOW with Diane Keaton.
Spencer took two years off acting to focus on writing
and filmmaking, returning to the screen in a supporting
lead role on House Party, a pilot for the Comedy Network.
He followed that up with a guest star role on Flash
Gordon and supporting leads on Stargate:
The Ark of Truth, and the MOWs Smokejumpers
and Ice Blues, the latest Don Strachey murder mystery.
Currently based out of Vancouver, BC, Spencer studies
at the Lyric. Spencer will be in the next X-Files
how did you choose to become an actor, what was your
Spencer Maybee: I don’t know
if I ever really chose to become an actor,
I’ve just always liked acting. As a kid, I think
most people engage in some kind of make believe, some
kind of role playing, whether it’s playing house
or playing guns or playing Dungeons and Dragons or
playing nice when you’ve just hit your brother
in the face. I always liked movies and TV and my brother
and my cousin and I used to re-enact the Star Wars
trilogy and the Indiana Jones movies in my aunt’s
basement. Pretty much anything with Harrison Ford.
Except Working Girl. We’d also invent goofball
comedies without plots or endings. We’d just
stop when our parents started clapping. They were
real crowd pleasers those shows.
Over the years, the underlying motivation has always
been just that I liked acting. But at different times,
there were different things about acting that I liked.
When I was in middle school I had a crush on the hottest
and coolest girl in school. She was a grade older
and a thousand times cooler than I was. But when I
got the lead in the school musical, she was cast as
my romantic opposite. In the play, she was the one
with a crush on me. There was a big kiss scene. It
was hot. I was cool. Then the curtain dropped. But
for a little over an hour, she wanted me. So for a
while, my motivation was to be cooler than I was.
That one keeps popping up, though.
When high school hit, I realized that drama class
and school plays offered me license to express emotions
that weren’t really acceptable in the world
I lived in. I was not only allowed, but encouraged
to explore and express feelings at the extreme ends
of the spectrum that in my normal life were supposed
to be kept private. In some ways, I felt I could be
more real on stage than in the real world. I was allowed
to get pissed off.
Today my motivation is really just to tell stories,
whether that be through writing, directing, or playing
a character in something interesting.
Nuytens: What are
your expectations for the future?
Spencer Maybee: I don’t have
any expectations for the future, but I do have some
plans. I’ve been writing and working with some
other writers and filmmakers to develop projects,
some of which will be vehicles for me. I love that
term: vehicles. Yeah, I hope they’re vehicles
– like a Porsche, a 40-foot sloop, a Lear jet…
No I’m kidding. I guess that’s what Variety
means when they say, “…a new Harrison
Ford vehicle,” but what I mean, of course, is
a script with an interesting lead character for me
Gilles Nuytens: You've
approached several fields in the business, such as
acting, writing, directing, producing, ... does this
means your real love is the Cinema/TV industry, instead
of just "acting"?
Spencer Maybee: My real love is storytelling.
There was a period of time when I felt a real urgency
to choose a role and drop the others, but it never
felt right to pick just one. I realized that it was
about storytelling – if there was a story that
I loved that had already been written, then maybe
I’d direct it, or play one of the characters,
or adapt it from another form into a screenplay. The
process of interpreting a story into a script, a script
into a film, a character into a person, that’s
really my passion.
Gilles Nuytens: You
have a part in the "top secret" movie "x-files",
as a top secret project, you probably can't speak
about it but is there anything you are authorized
to speak about? I mean, not especially to speak about
the movie itself but your feelings, this kind of things.
Spencer Maybee: I can’t talk
about the storyline or the characters of the X-Files
sequel because, like everyone in the cast and crew,
I signed a non-disclosure agreement, but I can tell
you that it was a great pleasure to work on. Chris
Carter was really fantastic to work with. He had a
really thoughtful demeanour about him and he did a
great job of cultivating the kind of working environment
for the actors to really believe in the circumstance.
The other actors – Gillian Anderson, Adam Godley,
Carrie Ruscheinsky, who played my wife, and the young
Marco, who played my son – were a joy to work
with as well. Everyone had a palpable sense of respect
for the imaginary reality of the story and as an actor
you could rely on that from the other players. I’d
liken it to playoff hockey: everyone on the team sort
of agrees that they’re going to play to the
death, Novocaine their injuries, and grow a beard
until they get to lift the Stanley Cup. Only I think
Chris Carter would have called “Cut” if
Gillian Anderson had punched me in the face.
Nuytens: In your
episode of Flash Gordon, you had to shave your head
for the role of the Verden, why was it so important
to have a bald character? Has it something to do with
Spencer Maybee: That was really funny.
Yeah, before the role my hair was actually quite long.
I’d been jonesing to shave it since the summer,
but there was always some part that I was out for
and I couldn’t cut it until I’d heard
back. Finally I sort of resigned myself to the surfer
hair and I went and organized and paid for a headshot
shoot with the long locks. When I got the call from
Webster, my agent, I was literally walking out of
the photo reproduction house with a huge stack of
brand new headshots that I just had printed. The plus
side was that I finally got to cut my hair and for
good reason. The producers were hoping to have someone
who’d go totally bald to spare the production
the hassle of putting a bald cap on and taking it
off and putting it back on. It would have been really
difficult, I think, with the way they were scheduling
the shoot. Plus, it would have played a bit weird
without a head shaving montage in the show and I don’t
think they had time in the broadcast hour to fit that
Gilles Nuytens: In
this episode you also play a false monk, I was always
curious if the language was something you had to learn
exactly words for words or if you could do some "improvisation"?
Spencer Maybee: No they have a language
teacher come in and give an intensive tutorial. Baylin
wasn’t kidding, man, it’d take a lifetime
to learn the monk’s language.
I’m just kidding. No the writers write the lines
and you’re kind of on your own to figure out
how to pronounce them. It’s funny though, because
once you learn the lines, you remember them, and when
I saw the show, I was like, “That’s not
what I said!” They actually clipped out a part
from the middle of the prophecy and reused a line
from the beginning of it.
Gilles Nuytens: What
will you keep in mind from this experience (Flash
Spencer Maybee: I will definitely
keep in mind the different advantages of hair. Like
as an early warning sign when you’re about to
smash your head. Or simply as a toque when it’s
cold outside. No, seriously, Eric Johnson, Gina Holden,
and Karen Cliche were a lot of fun to work with. It
was fun to work with a group of actors who were so
grounded in their characters and who had obviously
bonded quite a bit over the shoot of the series. There
were fart jokes and other kinds of fart jokes. But
between the cuts and rolls, all of a sudden, there
you are in Mongo. They’re workhorses, the three
Nuytens: As a French
speaking person, as I read the title of your short
movie "L'oiseau mort", I didn't immediately
realized it; but a few minutes later I said "wait
a minute, it's an English movie and the title is in
French!". So my question, why having chosen a
French title? Living in Belgium, I haven't got the
opportunity to watch the movie, so maybe the question
is answered in the movie, sorry in this case.
Spencer Maybee: That’s a really
good question. My buddies were like, “Dude,
that’s the definition of pretentious.”
But it’s actually germane to the story. L’Oiseau
Mort is set in a French immersion school where a young
girl isn’t really dealing with her grief over
her lost mother. She basically opts out of interacting
with the other kids, but when a bird dies in her lap,
she becomes the focus of the class bully and is kind
of forced to interact and thereby come to grips with
her grief. It’s a weird little movie. I kind
of like it.
Gilles Nuytens: If
you could pick any moment in your career thus far,
where you had a 'My God, this is what I love about
acting' moment, what would it be?
Spencer Maybee: Telling Diane Keaton
to keep her shirt on was definitely one of them. That
was my first ever professional acting gig –
a movie of the week called On Thin Ice, which is actually
playing again on LIFE network (or Lifetime?) in the
U.S. either this weekend or next week.
Definitely kissing the girl I had a crush on in middle
school. That was awesome. In high school doing Dennis
Foon’s WAR, I remember smashing a hockey stick
in one scene with such ferocity that part of the broken
stick flew into the audience and almost killed my
friend Josh. That could have been a bad one, but because
he didn’t die, I’ll put it in the “good”
category. Then on Stargate: The Ark of Truth, standing
with four other dudes, guns a-blazing like something
out of Hudson’s death scene in Aliens, feeling
the repeating concussion from the automatic shotgun
like a light tap on the face… Yeah, that was
pretty amazing. And almost a week later I got to live
out another childhood dream running through an obstacle
course on the movie of the week Smokejumpers, where
I play a sexist prick in an airborne forest firefighter
training camp. I have one of those moments on pretty
much every show.
Nuytens: In "Stargate:
The Ark Of Truth", you manipulate guns, did you
have any knowledge of this kind of weapons before?
Spencer Maybee: My brother and I
used to play guns a lot when we were kids. He got
a little carried away with the guns part and joined
the army. I got carried away with the playing part
and became an actor.
No, seriously though, I’d fired a rifle before
as a kid on my step-grandfather’s acreage in
Wisconsin, but it was really my brother who was my
first weapons trainer. He used to talk so much about
different kinds of guns and tactical weapons handling
techniques that I felt comfortable handling the weapon
and with some of the principles of safe weapons handling.
But it is a whole new thing when you’ve got
the real thing in your hands and there’s the
very real potentiality of someone getting hurt if
you don’t handle it properly with respect and
safety in mind. The armourer, Rob Fournier really
took the time with me to ensure I knew what I was
doing, because it’s kind of his job to make
sure that the soldiers on the show look like they
know a thing or two about soldiering. He was really
fun to work with.
Gilles Nuytens: What
is your best memory from your days on "Stargate:
The Ark Of Truth"?
Spencer Maybee: Definitely working
with Rob and playing with the guns. Hanging out with
Amanda Tapping was also really cool. She can be a
real goof between takes. I really had no idea.
Gilles Nuytens: What
does the word "sci-fi" represents to you?
Spencer Maybee: When I think of sci-fi,
sometimes it’s easy to think of lasers and space
ships, but I like thinking of sci-fi a little more
in terms of speculative fiction – “What
If?” kinds of ideas. Like The Eternal Sunshine
of the Spotless Mind – that film was kind of
sci-fi, even though it didn’t have that aesthetic
that we typically associate with the sci-fi genre.
Blade Runner had a lot more in common aesthetically
with the film noir genre than it did with sci-fi,
but yet it’s still sci-fi. Children of Men is
another example like that. I tend to really like movies
that push the concept of just what sci-fi really is
– like Eternal Sunshine or Michel Gondry’s
The Science of Sleep, which is a little more fantastical
than it is scientific. Primer was one of my favourite
sci-fi films, but it was unfortunately so poorly marketed
that I don’t think it really got the kind of
audience that it could have. It still made great money
– I think they made it on $7,000 or something
and it made four times that on its opening weekend.
It won the Grand Jury prize at Sundance and the feature
film award and went on to make almost half a million
dollars, so I guess a few people saw it. You should
see it. Whoever you are, reading this interview. See
Blues", what can you say about this movie and
Spencer Maybee: Ice Blues is the
fourth Don Strachey detective mystery about some money
that mysteriously appears in the detective’s
car and a young lawyer who mysteriously disappears,
turning up dead sometime later. I play the vulnerable
and volatile brother of the deceased, who sees Strachey
as the real reason that my brother is dead. It was
a lot of fun to work on – Ron Oliver runs a
really fun, very relaxed set and Chad Allen was great
to work with. He was really energetic and personable
and once the cameras were rolling I always felt like
I could go anywhere with the scene and he’d
step to it. It allowed for some moments that felt
more real than if we’d played them by the numbers
and you can’t do that with just any actor.
Gilles Nuytens: Do
you feel like you’re getting to do the range
of roles that you would like to play? Do you have
a "dream role"?
Spencer Maybee: I love to play people
whose depth gets explored in the story, rather than
those characters whose depth I get to explore as the
actor, but don’t get to share with the audience.
The X-Files sequel is a great example. Ice Blues is
also another great example. As for dream roles, there
are some stories I want to take part in, for sure.
I’d love to play a soldier in a war movie. I’d
love to play in a period piece. I’d also love
to play a cowboy in a really dusty western because
I love horses and ever since I was a kid, I always
felt a little like a cowboy. I want to play Billy
the Kid. I might be a little tall, but so was Kris
I feel like right now there are so many kinds of roles
that are within my “type” that I want
to play around with, that sometimes I think I’m
a little crazy. I once told my agent that I only wanted
to play cops, agents, soldiers, and assholes. And
then I get cast in the X-Files sequel as a young father.
That was a real joy for me to explore. It was kind
Gilles Nuytens: What
would you say was your biggest challenge in you career
Spencer Maybee: Truly, it was deciding
to do it, to pursue the career itself. There are so
many pressures, real and imagined, that beset people
to NOT do what they want to do. It takes a lot of
mornings of waking up and deciding that you want to
act more than you want to know where your rent is
coming from before it finally becomes your way of
Gilles Nuytens: Anything
else you would like to add, say, share with us?
Spencer Maybee: Thanks a lot for
the interview and the thoughtful, considered questions.
I know as a fan, I always like to hear about what
goes on outside of the story I see on the screen and
I think you do a great job of drawing those kinds
of stories out of your subject.
about this interview on the forum