Interview With Actor James Clayton

By Ruth on July 5, 2017 in Interview, movie, television
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Not long ago, I not only had the opportunity to screen a film starring James Clayton, but I interviewed him, and he impressed me immensely. Even though that interview was conducted via email, I found his outlook fresh, his dedication commendable, and his authenticity phenomenal. Imagine my surprise when the time came a few weeks ago for me to interview him yet again, but this time, we were able to schedule a phone chat (I always prefer live interviews when arrangements can be made).  In many ways, it is as though we picked up where we left off last time, and he was definitely everything I had envisioned him to be, and more!

Photo Credit Kevin Clark Photography

RH: So good to finally get to chat with you, James!

JC:  So good to get to talk with you too, Ruth.  I wanted to be sure to tell you “thanks” again for that fantastic review of CANDiLAND– I really appreciate it. It was actually quite lovely to read.

You’re welcome. I was glad I was able to do that and I still find myself recommending that film to people and talking about it even to this day. I think that the message of the film and the way it was done–I think it has the ability to really stick with you, and I thought it was very well done

I appreciate that.  You know, it’s funny, I got a Facebook message from someone who watched it and she said that she hasn’t been able to stop thinking about it for a week. It’s bugged her so much in a good way, you know? So I’m glad to hear that there’s something there in that film that sticks with people.

Yeah, it was definitely a step outside of my comfort zone, but I often find that if I’m willing to do that, it ends up being a good experience.

If I was to be honest with you, Ruth, it was out of my comfort zone, too.  I always tell people when they ask me about how dark that film is, and I go, “Well, to be honest with you,  my favorite movie would be Silver Linings Playbook.”  I want to make a romantic comedy, but it was such a tremendous part that I had, and to be a part of the film was amazing. I relate to what you’re saying.

from CANDiLAND

And you certainly got into that part. Once I read all the stuff about how much you got into that role… after that, I viewed the movie much differently. I thought, “Wow, no wonder it was so powerful because, in one sense, you were almost living part of the film.”

Yeah, it’s true. I went down the rabbit hole, and I tell people that it was probably one of the worst experiences of my life and yet one of the best experiences in my life because you literally end up becoming that character and it’s really intense. I’m sorry, I’m not trying to digress on your interview.

Oh no, I was actually going to ask you about the film just because I know that now that it’s officially out, I wanted to chat a little about it. I know last time we didn’t chat much about this film. The kind of interview we are doing today always seems a lot more authentic because you can go in different directions as needed. Written interviews are fine, and sometimes that’s the only way it works out, but they tend to be more structured, and they miss the instant feedback. You know, sometimes when you’re writing it all down, you cover the important stuff, but it’s much more formal and less interactive.

Yeah, I couldn’t agree more.

So I realized after our first interview that you actually were in Timeless. I watched that show before I knew who you were, but I am a huge fan of Timeless. I was so glad they renewed it. I was sad when it got canceled and then three days later, I was so happy they changed their minds and decided to renew it.

It’s so funny because when I first heard the news it had been canceled and then they renewed it again right away, I thought the first time they announced the cancellation that it had to be a mistake because I know how rabid the fans are. It’s got a huge following. And then when they said, “Oh, no actually we’ve decided that we are going to renew it,” I thought it might have been a press mistake. Was it ever really canceled? It just didn’t make any sense. Especially when I was fortunate enough to be on set, the energy on that set and everyone there was amazing. Not only was it good for audiences, but in terms of a work environment, it was a really cool work environment–one of the most amazing sets I’d ever been on.  And all those people deserve to consistently be a part of that show

I’ve interviewed a couple other people who were on the show– they came on as guest stars–and they said the same thing. So now it’s been renewed, I see no reason why Roosevelt couldn’t come back.

from Timeless

Oh, that would be amazing! I would love that! It was really surreal being on the set at the very first world Columbian Expo–the exact date escapes me now, but it’s like 1890.  It was the first time Pabst won the blue ribbon. I learned a lot actually just in researching that whole exhibition in that era.  It was incredible because the set was at Riverview and they actually had this entire State Fair setup so when I stepped on set and I had the authentic clothing–I’d actually had a beard through the winter months so they shaved the mustache for real–it was like literally walking into Timeless, like this age that time had forgotten. It was really interesting. They had real horses and everything on set.

Which reminds me. There was actually almost a major accident on set when I was there. They had a horse and buggy and what happened was as they were doing a take, and I was up above on a podium, one of the horses was going by and the arm to the carriage that basically was attached to the horse, it broke. What happened is when it broke, it touched the horse’s feet and the horse became frightened and actually started charging the set. The thought occurred to me how very quick and surreal that situation was. People jumped out of the way miraculously because it would have killed someone at the speed it was going. The cart stayed attached and flipped and was being dragged. The horse was trying to get out onto the road, but there was a chain-link fence that was actually on the other side of the hedging that stopped the horse from doing that. Otherwise, it could have been a major car accident as well.  And whoever the horse wrangler was came and calmed the horse down immediately. That guy knows his horses. If I ever have horses on set, I’m gonna hire him. He handled that situation fantastically. But that was the big thing that I remembered from that set. It was just bliss, and then all of a sudden this big moment of panic. And then it was over, and we were filming again. It was really surreal.

Wow! I guess whenever you have things like that, whether it’s animals or stunts, you never know what’s going to happen. You can’t plan for those kinds of things, but at least it all worked out. {pause} Now, I believe your next film, Residue, is coming up this month, right?

Yes, the film comes out July 18th.

from Residue

I had heard about that film because I interviewed Dan Payne, and he mentioned it. I don’t think I’d even made the connection that you were in it at that point. What can you tell us about your character or the story without spoiling anything?

I have to start off by saying that Residue is probably my most favorite film project I’ve been involved in. I saw a cut of it at the world premiere in Florida back in May, and it is so much fun. It is like a summer popcorn flick and it’s got a great ensemble cast. Dan’s in it, and he’s amazing in it, so I’m happy to hear that he’s talking about it ’cause I think he had a great experience on set.

The film is called Residue. It’s a supernatural crime horror film, and it’s got a lot of Neo-Noir elements in it. My character is Luke Harding, and he’s a private investigator who’s down on his luck. He’s kind of like a Humphrey Bogart-type character, a real throwback to film noir. But he also has elements of Indiana Jones in terms that he does get involved in some weird happenings in and around the city. This film revolves around a supernatural book that he inadvertently comes in contact with. And when he reads it, it essentially releases demons into his apartment. When this happens, it pulls all the people in the tenements and in his personal life into this waking nightmare.

Is this film based on a book or anything else, or was this is an original idea?

This is an original idea. Rusty Nixon, who adapted the screenplay and directed CANDiLAND, came up with this idea. He was really inspired by H.P. Lovecraft. He always wanted to do something that was  in the horror realm, but he wanted it to be fun and more accessible for audiences. He had originally started off being inspired by Pulp Fiction,  and there are some elements of that in the film, and it’s just developed over the years.  We had an opportunity to go into production after CANDiLAND wrapped because there was some excitement and some hype with that film coming out. And we just were off to the races.

from Residue

That gave me a really good overview of the film, and it sounds very intriguing. It sounds like something a little bit different and fun like you’re talking about.

What’s nice about this film, or at least what I think is really accessible about it, is… I essentially pitched you the log-line about what the entertainment value of the film is.  But what really drew me to it from a story and an actor’s standpoint is that it’s a story about the reconciliation between a father and a daughter. In the film, I do have a daughter played by Taylor Hickson. She was in the series Aftermath on the SyFy Network. While he’s trying to deal with this book, he’s also trying to deal with the fact that he’s been a real deadbeat dad. And as he’s dealing with all this, she’s getting pulled into the nightmare as well. So on a deeper level, I think there is something really beautiful and poignant about the message of the film, and while I don’t want to give anything away about the conclusion, I think people will really connect with the message of the film.

Is this film going to be a theatrical release or will it be a “streaming release”?

We’re confirmed that on July 18th, it will be available on iTunes. We’re waiting to hear back on some select theaters that may screen it, and then ultimately, it’s going to go to Netflix later on in the year.

Moving on to The 100,  season four has now concluded. It is one of the shows I have not gotten around to watching yet {but I am now}. What can you tell us about the episode that you were in?

It was fantastic. I guest-starred in the second-to-last episode of the season called “The Chosen,” and I played a character called Hassler, and my character has a wife named Sonya Hassler and she was actually played by Alika Autran, who’s a Vancouver actor and she’s actually in Residue as well. It was a really happy surprise. I also know Jessica Harmon,  a recurring character on the show. So right off the bat, it felt like I was  going to work with my friends, which doesn’t happen all the time.

Since it’s already aired, I’m not spoiling anything to tell you about my part, so here goes. Basically, it’s gotten to the point where there are all these nuclear blasts that are happening and there’s only room for a hundred people from each tribe to stay in a bunker. So essentially The 100 is resetting itself to a hundred. They can only choose a hundred people who have come from the space station from up above, and my wife and I on the show are essentially chosen as part of the 100. I’m hoping that we get brought back next season and they expand upon our part because I know they’ve done it for other people on the show.

I remember I interviewed an actor that was on The 100 for quite a while, and I remember he would say that he would get a script and he’d go to the end and see if his character was still alive, and if so,  he would start celebrating because then he knew that he might get brought back the next time.  

They kill people off like crazy on that show. I think that’s why the fans are so crazy about it because the stakes are always so high. It’s always the little things–who’s going to die and who’s going to live–that get the fans going. They’ve gone through some really important characters. It’s great.

 I know because usually the fans will go crazy: “Oh no! They killed off my favorite character!” One of these days, I’m going to have to set aside some time and just sit down and watch it from the beginning because I know it sounds like something that I would be interested in.  It’s just finding the time; there’s so much great stuff out there and I don’t always get a chance to sit down and watch all the stuff that I want to.

It’s the same way with me.  I haven’t watched a lot of stuff in a long time simply because I’m just too busy with life. It’s crazy when you’re in the industry and you try to find time to watch all the stuff you should watch or just want to watch.

Do you still have other upcoming projects that may or may not be listed on IMDB?

Let’s see, Genesis Code is actually in post-production and I haven’t confirmed the release date yet. I was a producer on the movie; it was a co-production with my production company. The actual production company was Good Friends Making Movies and a friend of mine, Bryce McGlaughlin, is the writer/director, and one of the other writers is another friend of mine, Mike Farrell. I was drawn to this script because it was a real simple thriller about a man whose wife has been murdered and he’s been accused and he’s setting out to essentially clear his name. What I found interesting is it sounds like The Fugitive, and what was a little different about it is that there was definitely a faith-based undertone. But I didn’t think it was overtly done in a way to make it inaccessible to a wide audience. And I thought it had a really sweet message and interesting actors attached to it. So we shot that last summer and we’re just going into color correction on that film right now.

That’s often the way it is with independent films as it seems like it can sometimes take several years to get a film produced and into and through post-production.  It’s always finding the money and finding the people to do all the work on it.  I greatly respect independent filmmakers and it’s always amazing to see what you guys do.

Well, thank you. You know, it’s true.  Independent filmmaking is really no different from making a film on any scale except for  the fact that because money and time is usually very, very limited, it really is against all odds…it’s quite a feat if you finish a film and it’s even more of a feat if you actually get it distributed in any capacity. Especially nowadays with the quality and time, and I’m not talking just aesthetically, but also in terms of of technicals, in the way you deliver the film and the way the sound has to be done, the way the color has to be done. And those costs, a lot of times, cannot be worked around. And so it is those things that really can be a big hiccup for filmmakers. And especially with all the legalities behind the scenes and the paperwork. The first time I made a film, I had no idea the amount of paperwork that is required in order to just be allowed to exhibit your film, profit from it and distribute it. It’s been a journey; it’s been a five-year journey in which I’m always learning. It really is a lot of work,  and I think the benefit of being on a studio film or network show is that there is money there to fall back on. You can always hire a couple more people to speed up the process or whatever you need. You can pay for all these things, but independent film is all about ingenuity.

I agree with you completely. And I think that’s why also when it comes independent films,  sometimes people come in with the idea that they are going to compare independent films to what you might see in a theatrical release. They don’t come in with the mindset that this is an independent film and it’s probably going to be a little bit lower budget than what you’re going to see in a theater. I think people need to need to realize that maybe it’s not going to be all about the special effects and all this stuff, but it’s really about the story. It’s about the fact that these people have worked very hard to bring this production to you. So for me, whenever I’m watching an independent film, even if it’s a film that maybe is not something that is my typical genre or the film goes a different direction than I might like, I can always look at it and say, “You know, these people put a lot of time and effort into this, and let’s look at the positives rather than negatives.” 

I agree with you completely. It’s so easy to be a detractor. I think you’re hundred percent correct in that when you go to a studio film, especially these summer blockbusters, it’s not always story first. It’s spectacle first. It’s like going to an amusement park.  There’s nothing wrong with that and I actually really enjoy those films. But the independent films,  like you said, are almost always story first as a budgetary constraint. And you know, there’s nothing wrong with telling a good story.

I remember someone telling me that it’s really easy to be the one sitting there saying, “Well, I would have done it this way. I would have done it that way or…”  Realizing it’s easy to criticize someone else. You’re not the one that actually got in and did it and so if you’re not going to be the one that’s going to get in and actually do it… you know, being critical is really easy, but actually getting in and doing the work is really hard.

from Down the Line

I have a specific example. We have another film, Down the Line, that we will be releasing this summer. I only have a confirmation of a Canadian release; I’m not sure when it’s going to come out stateside. It’s a little sci-fi thriller comedy that we did–a really offbeat film about a comedian who gets trapped inside his mind and when he wakes up, he has to battle multiple versions of himself. I play like nine characters in this film. I don’t want to give away the ending, but I remember we were on set, and there was one specific person who was really trying to be forceful about how the movie had to end; they just would not let up. And what’s so fascinating about it is that the ending they were pushing for, you could tell that they hadn’t thought it through because it was an ending that we had discussed.  Rusty had actually come up with it originally, and he had already come to the conclusion it hadn’t worked and it wouldn’t work because of all of these multiple, multiple, multiple reasons. But no matter what you said to this person, they would not let up. Thank God we  didn’t relinquish and think that maybe they’re right because that person was eventually wrong. If we had listened, it would have ultimately ruined the film. I agree with you again.

{laughs} It seems like we’re agreeing on a lot here–that’s good.

{laughs} Yeah, it is good.

 I’ve interviewed so many actors and directors and producers, and so a lot of what I understand about film has come from those people because I really try to listen. I’m always learning and trying to pick up on something new. I’m also a teacher, and so I consider myself a lifelong learner.

I think that’s the way you have to do it.  I would have to say my experiences have been the same. I’ve been acting since I was a kid. I did train as an actor, but in terms of being a filmmaker, I really learned from being on set and being fortunate enough to get that experience of producing and soaking it up. And then having the opportunity to make a lot of mistakes and learn from that. So I haven’t had any formal education in terms of the producing, and in a lot of respects, I feel like that’s been an asset. I think anything’s possible. There are all  different types of resources at our disposal in today’s society.

You’ve done all this acting and producing, but you have done other things that are listed as well.  I think that’s what happens when you’re doing these independent films. I think lots of times you get called upon to do other things that maybe you wouldn’t necessarily do like editing and other aspects of filmmaking.

You know, I haven’t officially done any of those jobs, but I have been a part of the process. Especially in Vancouver here, and I think this could probably be true anywhere where there’s a film community; it’s so tight knit, it’s so small, and we’re all helping each other make these movies.  A lot of these credits that I’ve been lucky enough to acquire has come from bouncing around friend’s sets and being there and going, “Hey, I need help doing this.”  “Well yeah, I’ll come and do that absolutely. You supported me on this thing. Let’s tell another great story, if we can.”

That’s where–I don’t know if you saw I was on Dark Harvest— they gave me a PA credit, which was nice. I didn’t expect anything, but I wasn’t even really a PA on that; I was just helping out for a few days. Director/writer James Hutson is a friend of mine, and I was more than happy do it.  I just love being a part of the whole thing. I just love filmmaking.

Are you going to move towards directing or writing in the future?

My main focus is always acting; really it’s my first love.  I’d like to do it at some point, but I think I have a lot to learn. Maybe in a couple of years I’ll consider that, but I think I’m just gonna stick with the producing and acting for now. We’re actually doing another one later this year. We’re gonna do an action film called High Caliber  Rusty is gonna direct it, and actually there’s two writers. Rusty is one of the writers of the film. The other writer actually came up with the idea and the first draft of the script, and Rusty is doing the the second revision on the script. We haven’t done any casting or anything yet, but it’s going to be our biggest production to date and we’re really looking forward to doing it.

That sounds fantastic.  I’m amazed at how quickly, I mean how relatively quickly I would say, you guys have been able to get these films together.  You guys seem to be able to work faster than at least some of the independent filmmakers I have talked to.

Rusty is a very fast, very proficient professional; he’s got years and years of experience and he’s very fast on set.  My producing partner, Blaine Anderson, is a little bit older than me–he’s like my older brother. He’s got a decade more experience in production and acting as well. Both those guys are super efficient. And I think mixed with the fact that I’m very unreasonable. {laughs} They are always telling me, “Oh, my gosh, James, you know you’ve got to like give us a break!”  I don’t know if I’ve got like a horseshoe kidney that is a medical condition that gives you hyper energy, but I have a lot of energy, and I think the three of us probably have the same amount of energy individually. I think that’s why it’s been going so quickly.  I really am amazed by the whole thing; it’s very fortunate I have those two guys in my life.  I don’t think I would be experiencing what I’m experiencing now if it wasn’t for them.

It seems like you guys work really well together and I’m just impressed when I saw how fast you were getting out these movies. I was amazed you were already ready for another interview. Sometimes actors want to wait a little while to be interviewed, but I was excited to get to chat with you again.

I appreciate it.  I’ve got a lot more to say now, and more to come for sure. I had a lovely time talking with you about everything coming up. And I look forward to the next time we get to chat, Ruth.

It was lovely talking to you too, James.

It seems like the only fault I can find with James is that he’s so darned agreeable! Rarely do I have a chat with someone where we just continue to say, “I agree with you.” While it was practically laughable at times, it was also an outstanding feeling because I knew that he and I were on the same page. We connected as professionals, and we shared a mutual respect. I often cannot believe just how fortunate I am to come in contact with such gifted, benevolent, and sincere people like I do, and James is indeed one of the foremost, at least in my opinion. If there’s one thing James does exceptionally well, he absolutely annihilates the pretentious stereotype that actors still often have to squelch even in today’s society. There is not an egotistical bone in James’ temperament, and I have no doubt that though zealous on set and “unreasonable,” he always has the best interest in mind of everyone involved in the production. (And if not, it sounds like he works with a couple of men who could easily remind him if necessary–the beauty of a partnership fashioned in paradise.)

Therefore, if you are so inclined, consider checking out his various links below. Perhaps you might consider purchasing/renting CANDiLAND or maybe pre-ordering Residue. But if nothing else, watch out for this enterprising film producer and actor because his “overnight success” ticket may be just around the next bend; you never know. But till that time, he is honored and humbled to be able to make a living with his passion and expertise, and this is unequivocally the kind of person I adore having the opportunity to support in any way I can!

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About the Author

RuthView all posts by Ruth
43-year-old single mother of an active 14-year-old girl Born in Tacoma, WA; lives in Yelm, WA Entertainment Writer Available For Interviews and Reviews Substitute Teacher

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