Tom Stevens is a film and TV actor known for his roles as in “12 Rounds 2: Reloaded,” “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days,” “Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome,” Fox’s “Wayward Pines,” The Hallmark Channel’s “Cedar Cove” and many more.
He’s acted with a plethora of famed talents including Carla Gugino, Heather Locklear, Andie MacDowell, Randy Orton and Christopher Heyerdahl. Stevens has been directed by the award-winning Nimród Antal – who directed “Predators,” “Vacancy” and “Kontroll” – and Martin Wood, one of television’s finest directors and producers who is known for his work on “Stargate SG-1” and “Stargate: Atlantis,” among others.
From growing up outside of Vancouver, using acting to overcome social anxiety, starring on stage before the screen, playing music and more, Stevens’ journey to becoming an extraordinary actor is a story out of the ordinary itself.
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Stevens, who gave the inside scoop of what it’s like being a successful actor both in front of and behind the cameras. Find out Stevens’ story, his production experiences and more in our exclusive interview below.
JC: Where are you from originally and how did you get into acting?
TS: I’m from North Delta, about 40 minutes outside of Vancouver. I got into acting because of a teacher I had in high school. He was one of the first teachers to treat me like I was capable and held me to a higher standard and just happened to be the theatre teacher. It was lucky that he treated me the way he did, because I could have just as easily been grabbed by any subject.
JC: What inspired you to become an actor?
TS: I was inspired to be an actor because I loved the idea of how it forces you to be constantly aware of what’s going on around you. I had a huge issue with social anxiety when I was younger, and acting brought me out of my shell. But working and studying has consistently taught me that you have to be present and aware of everything going on in the world.
JC: What movies and television shows did you grow up watching?
TS: I grew up on “The Simpsons.” I was raised by them. I grew up in a family of five kids being raised on one salary, so we only had three channels and one of them had the news and directly after that “The Simpsons,” so they became surrogate parents to me. As for movies, I was raised on the 90s classics: “Jingle all the Way,” “Romancing the Stone,” “Die Hard,” “Terminator,” “Ninja Turtles.” Films that kept me believing in magic, at least in the movies. There was a beautiful element to film in the 90s, where a hero was always there to save the day. I love that.
JC: Who are some of your influences or actors whose work you admire the most?
TS: Bryan Cranston, James Gandolfini, Dennis Hopper, Tom Waits, Robin Williams, Cate Blanchett, are some of many actors who never played into the predictable.
JC: What’s one thing about being an actor that people might never expect?
TS: I think the world of acting is transparent nowadays. People can see so much of what goes into productions, or show, that there’s very little that is surprising to the general public. I think if I was to give a younger actor a heads up about acting, I would let them know that it’s a grind. Just like any career it takes hard work and dedication above and beyond what you might believe is possible from yourself.
JC: You’ve worked on more than a dozen different TV series. What has that journey taught you since your inception to where you are today?
TS: That it is harder than it looks. Right out of the gate, I booked what I think was my third audition. I was flown out to Montreal and I was treated like a king. My agent at the time, Emilio Salituro, told me ‘I’m really happy for you, but I wish it didn’t go down like this’ because directly after that, I blew all my money, like an idiot. I really couldn’t see that the road ahead wasn’t going to be handed to me like that first job was. I had gotten lucky because I was the right fit for the part and I had the skill set to pull off the tone of the show, but, quite quickly I learned just how hard you have to work to be noticed in this field. That it wasn’t all going to be handed to me. And I had to toughen up.
JC: How valuable is it for an actor to have this kind of wide-spanning range and how would you describe your range?
TS: I think it’s huge. Obviously, there are actors out there that have found their niche, and are doing just fine with that. But ultimately this is a job that you’re going to be doing for the rest of your life, and to do the same thing over and over would be the death of creativity. You never know what kind of opportunity or audition is around the corner, so range keeps you working hard at stretching yourself for whatever gets thrown at you. My range is ever-expanding because there is no end to the amount of content that is out there. And when I find something that’s difficult for me I work even harder to find me take on that subject.
JC: What sets you apart or gives you an edge over other actors?
TS: My edge is my need to fix problems in my life. I don’t like things to be unstable to wobbly, even though that is the state we live in as actors. So in the chaos I like to keep my head on straight and know what I need to do to achieve my next goal. Where other actors will buckle under that pressure, I’m in it for the long game.
JC: What are some of your most memorable theatre roles and how did they help with your acting for film and television?
TS: Playing Padraic in “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” by Martin McDonagh taught me to hold my own on stage and embrace my mania. He was a psychopath who was driven by his love of his cat, Mr. Wee Thomas; that is some weird stuff to try and connect to. I did it and I loved it. Then there was Jerry in “The Zoo Story,” by Edward Albee; he was much more terrified by life. A sick dying puppy who needed comfort and would do just about anything to get it. For film and TV, all that has to be pulled back and behind the eyes, but finding those characters in my body and in my mind, it was easy to go to those places of real explosive rage or intimate need for film.
JC: Who are some fellow cast members you’ve enjoyed working alongside the most?
TS: I loved working with Carla Gugino in “Wayward Pines.” That was a real pleasure. She’s an amazing talent and consummate professional and is always there for you in the scene. I was the bad guy putting a bullet in her husband’s chest, but she was still there to give you a smile after the take to keep everybody feeling happy. Recently, I had the pleasure of working with Heather Locklear and Lochlyn Munro, who played my parents, in “The Game of Love,” and that was a party. They were hilarious to work with on and off screen; both were always there to have a good time and make a movie.
JC: Who is one actor you’ve worked with who you have absorbed or learned something really important from?
TS: Christopher Heyerdahl played my dad in “Falling Skies” and he was one of the most professional, hard working, and sweet people I’ve ever worked with. I knew him from seeing him in a few shows and was really excited to meet him, but when I did I got a lesson in life. His presence is powerful and it’s matched by him kindness and willingness to play.
JC: Who are some directors you’ve worked with who you thought brought the best out of your performances?
TS: Nimrod Antal, from “Wayward Pines.” We had to navigate a very tricky scene to shoot for a television show and he was a rock star about it. He approached it with a sensitivity and enthusiasm that surprised me and made me work harder. Martin Wood, on “Sanctuary” and “Primeval: New World,” just got me. We worked on “Cedar Cove” together in a few episodes and he really had my back on making my scenes great.
JC: You acted in the role of Lenwood Heath in “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” in 2012. A year later you played Tommy Weaver to “12 Rounds 2: Reloaded.” What are the similarities and differences between the two characters?
TS: They could have been buddies in elementary school, skipping class to smoke or drink beer Tommy stole from his dad, but nowadays Tommy would hate Lenwood. Way too square. Tommy would probably want to beat up Lenwood if he ran into him now.
JC: Who would win in a fight?
TS: Lenwood. With the Olympic swimming and military school under his belt, he’d beat Tommy senseless.
JC: What’s it like working with the wrestling star Randy Orton? Did he ever rough you up on or off camera?
TS: It was a lot of fun working with Randy. And we did have a fight scene together when we first meet each other on screen, which I lose. In real life, Randy got it into his head one day that he was going to show me a wrestling pin, and he didn’t know that I had been studying Jiu Jitsu, so he tried a few things and I held my own. We scared the hell out of the crew, but it was all in good fun.
JC: You had a 17-episode run on “Cedar Cove” alongside Golden Globe nominee Andie MacDowell. What was your takeaway in working with one of the top actresses of the last couple decades?
TS: If you can’t tell I really respect actors that like to have fun and play on set. Not only for making things go smoothly, but because I think it’s necessary to try things you wouldn’t expect. Andie was always up for that; usually it was her idea. It was in the rehearsals that we’d really try and go for something and if the director didn’t pull us back we’d put it in the take. The amount of rehearsal time she would take to find some cool thing in the scene was what I’ll take away from working with her.
JC: Did the topic of “Groundhog Day” ever come up during your time spent working with Andie?
TS: It did. And she told me a story that I’ll never forget about Bill Murray. That’s all I’ll say about it.
JC: What are some of your upcoming projects fans can see you in?
TS: There are things on the docket that I’m not at liberty to announce, but they’re hugely exciting to me. And I have the movie, “The Game of Love,” starring Heather Locklear and Lochlyn Munro, coming out soon. That one I’m really excited to see.
JC: What are some of your go-to hobbies or activities of choice outside of acting?
TS: I play a lot of music, I’ve been doing it for years, for a while I was undecided whether to go for music or acting and acting really won out. I also love yoga, rock climbing, training. I’m a handstand nut. Being upside down usually clears my head.
JC: Who is on your shortlist for actors or filmmakers you’d like to work with in the future?
TS: Tom Waits. I hope to meet him on a set before he retires. And I really hope to share the screen with him if I can. That would be a dream come true.
JC: It’s Oscar season. If you were on the Academy, what are your Best Picture and Best Actor selections?
TS: “The Revenant.” Hands down. Inarritu is a genius. Best actor should go to Leo.