Interview With Actor Mark Milburn, “A Gift To Remember” & “Runaway Christmas Bride”

By Ruth on January 5, 2018 in Interview, movie, television
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Whenever I watch a new movie or show that features my favorite people, I always keep my eyes open for actors that are new to me. And in the case of Runaway Christmas Bride, I am already good friends with Cindy Busby and Karen Kruper, and I’ve interviewed Travis Milne, so spying Mark Milburn in a supporting lead role caused me to investigate his career. It was then that I discovered his Hallmark connection as well, and I am so delighted that he agreed to a quick interview right before Christmas. Due to my busy schedule, I am only now able to post our entertaining interview, and I hope that all of my readers enjoy it as much as I did!

RH: Mark, I’m so glad it worked out to talk with you today.

MM: Nice to chat with you too, Ruth.

Is it true that you are somewhat new to acting?

I have been in and out of acting for about twelve years, but as far as doing it full-time, I have been doing it for about one year.

I started out modeling from around age eighteen to twenty-one. Then I did theater at University and continued with that. Then I predominantly stuck to sports modeling. I always planned to go into acting full-time as soon as I turned thirty, so that’s what I did.

Why did you initially start modeling?

When I was sixteen, I was on vacation, and my mom took a photo. She was like, “You should model.”  I was like, “Oh, okay. Sure.” So we went and did this open casting call for a thing called Casting Scout or something like that. I actually got the most callbacks of the two thousand people that went. That was really cool, and I figured it must mean something. I was in Calgary at the time, and I ended up getting a local agent. They got me working right away and placed me in Athens. After that, I ended up going to Honolulu and shooting for Abercrombie. Then I shot for Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs, Nike, Adidas, and so on.

I did that for a couple of years, and it was great. But it wasn’t really fulfilling any part of myself to be honest. So I quit and went back to University. After finishing at University, I discovered that sports modeling was a fantastic way to make great money and get to do all sorts of great stuff. So I jumped heavily back into sports modeling.

So how did you decide to make the switch to full-time acting?

I knew I always wanted to do acting full-time. I loved theater, and I loved performing and public speaking. I knew that if I waited and accomplished the things that were more age-dependent in my life, then I would be more secure to become an actor when I was older. I didn’t want to be another actor that worked at a restaurant making tips. So I took my twenties to establish a couple of businesses and really learn from an entrepreneurial side of things so that when I became thirty, I was pretty self-sustainable and had good income sources coming in. I wanted to be able to live the actor lifestyle, but not have the typical actor financial stresses.

That actually sounds like a pretty smart plan, Mark. I’ve heard about how some actors do struggle at the beginning of their career until they get established, and that can take several years.

I knew at the age of thirteen that I wanted to own a gym, and I knew what it was going to be called. So when I was twenty-one, I opened my first gym, and when I was twenty-six, I opened my second gym. And at thirty, I opened my third. I knew that all of these gyms, if I set them up the right way, they could create at least a passive income source. But also over that time period, I could become an expert in something, which is fitness. So regardless of acting if I book a job or don’t book a job, I would always have something to fall back on that was either a business or a skill set and it would keep me sane. It seems like so many actors, even very trained actors, go crazy when they don’t get the job they think they should or the job they need to make ends meet.

It sounds like you really planned things out and didn’t go into this haphazardly. It sounds like you were committed to doing these things, and now you’re reaping the benefits of those decisions. {pause} When you did get more into full-time acting, what was the first thing you booked?

Actually, the very first job I ever booked…I was in between flights going from one place to another place, and my agent was like, “Hey, there’s a pilot of a show being shot and they need some extras. Do you want to make some extra cash while you’re waiting for the flight?” I said, “Sure,” and it was a pilot for a show called The Advocate. It never got picked up. Essentially, I was just supposed to be an extra, and they upgraded me to a doctor. So all of a sudden, I had a bunch of lines, and I had never acted on a show before. And here I was acting with some of the stars from Grey’s Anatomy. I was like, “This is cool.”

The next job I booked was for iZombie.  That’s where I met one of my best friends, Robert Buckley. I played a mercenary.

My success in acting is limited in the sense of the time frame I’ve been doing it, but I have achieved my goals that I set out for myself as I’ve gone along. And I’ve gotten to work with really great teachers along the way, and I’ve gotten to land roles that were unexpected so soon into my career. With regard to casting directors, I’ve been grateful working with every casting director in town and getting callbacks on almost every job that I go out for. I’m in that percentage that seems to be making it. It’s a game of luck, but it’s also about being ready. And that’s what is so exciting about it right now. I’m not impatient at all. I don’t mind having to wait or take time for things to happen.

Well, I happened to discover you because of your role in Runaway Christmas Bride, which I watched mainly because Cindy Busby was in it, and I’ll watch anything she’s in. And that was when I realized you were in the Hallmark Christmas movie, A Gift To Remember, which incidentally seemed to be a pretty popular Christmas film this year. Are there any stories connected with how you got that role of Anthony Parks?

Yes, A Gift to Remember was my first Hallmark movie, and the way I got this role is pretty funny. My agent sent me the script because I was auditioning for William, which was done by Vincent Dangerfield in the movie. But I went in to audition for William, and I had been sent two sides by accident. William was aged twenty-five to forty, but she also sent me Mr. Parks, who was aged fifty and older. Mr. Parks had such a fun part that I decided to practice with it too.

When I went into the room, it was a director callback. I did William, and they thanked me and said it was great. Before I left, I asked if I could read for Anthony Parks. They were shocked because out in the waiting room were like ten gentlemen older than fifty. The director agreed. I read it and they were like, “Do it again.” I did it again. Then they had me do it again in another style. The way I played him up in the audition room was far more entertaining. Mr. Parks was far more charismatic and really engaged in this story he was telling. The concept of the way I presented this character was that he was someone who you would never expect to write a Christmas movie about anything he was relating to. You would think that he was supposed to be an older character, and that was the surprise. Like, this younger man is so in tune with his romantic self–his soul essentially.

A Gift To Remember

After I was done, I went away on vacation or I was filming another movie, and I got a call from my agent. She was like, “Hey, you booked A Gift To Remember.” I was like, “That’s great! I booked William.” She was like, “Who’s William?” I said, “William’s the guy I read for.” She was like, “No, you booked Anthony Parks.” And I was like, “Sorry, what?!”

My favorite part about filming this role was I have this huge dialogue that is more or less my voiceover in the movie. It’s about eight pages of dialogue of just me chatting about Christmas. They cut a lot of me out and just used my voice. Right before I got up to do this part, I found out that not everyone connected with the film initially wanted me for the role.  And I was thinking, “Wow, that’s a really nice thing to hear before you’re doing a part in front of a whole crowd of people you don’t know.” Then I was thinking, “Okay, let’s just get through these eight pages of dialogue.”

Thankfully the part wasn’t reshot or recast, and people seem to appreciate who the character was. I guess the powers that be must have convinced them that I was right for the role, and in the end, everyone was on board with my character. It’s always tough when you imagine more of your character and you see the final edit, and you think, “There really wasn’t a lot of him.” Romantic comedies and Christmas movies like this are not focused on the external characters so much; they focus on the primary ones.

Well, that kind of thing happens to all actors. At least your character wasn’t completely cut out. 

Absolutely!

And even if not everyone connected with the movie initially wanted you, it must have worked out pretty well because people are loving that movie. And hopefully, you’ve gotten your foot in the door with Hallmark. 

I hope so. I audition for Hallmark pretty regularly, but I know sometimes it’s just finding that perfect fit. So I’ll keep trying and hoping that I get to be in another Hallmark movie. I truly enjoyed my experience. It just takes a director that likes what he sees, and a producer who sees that casting you is profitable for the project. And then it takes a network who says that you fit the realm of what they want.

Runaway Christmas Bride

You had a supporting lead in the Ion film Runaway Christmas Bride. When did you shoot that one?

We shot it in May.

Any story connected with how you got that role?

That was a great one. I got the sheet for Alex. My background is…I’m a professional skier. When it comes to a ski movie, if I can’t book the skier, then there’s something up. Ironically, I booked the character that hated skiing, so if people believe that, I’m a fantastic actor.

I auditioned for Alex. I read for the director and casting director and had the most fun audition. Sometimes I’ll go into the audition room and just to break the ice, I’ll tell a joke. My view of acting and auditioning is that I have absolutely nothing to lose and only something to gain. Also, no one is in control of my life. I am purely in control of my life. So I’m not gonna let somebody else control it. I’m going to give my all every time, and then it’s up to those in charge to make the decision about whether I’m right for the role.

So it was a great audition. My agent called and said I booked the lead ski patrol. I was like, “I didn’t even audition for ski patrol.” She said, “Well, you might book Alex, or you might not.” So essentially I booked the lead ski patrol guy. Eventually, one of the producers really wanted me to play Alex. So that’s how I got to play Alex, and it was a super fun character. I loved the dynamic between myself and Bruce Dawson, who played my dad. I really enjoyed playing opposite him. He’s incredibly talented.

Runaway Christmas Bride

It was a fun film to watch. There was a lot of good interaction with the cast. And I thought you did pretty well with your role. I thought it was very believable. That role was the main reason I looked you up. 

That’s awesome. I appreciate it.

I don’t know what the ratings were like in the movie, but Cindy Busby was a big drawing card amongst Hallmark fans.

I’m sure you’re right. And Travis Milne too.

Oh, of course! He’s done a couple Hallmark things too. 

The cool thing about Travis is that he may not read his scripts until forty-five seconds before he goes on, and he has a photographic memory word for word.

Runaway Christmas Bride

Oh really?! I didn’t know that! 

You might think he’s the flakiest human being on the planet and you’re super-concerned. Then somehow, he’ll drop word for word the script. In fact, my understanding is Ryan Paevey is the same way. He’ll get a script, read it once, and then know it word for word. Super not fair.

Anything else upcoming you can mention?

I just shot a pilot for a show that a friend of mine wrote that we’ve been working on with the director of Letterkenny called Dumbbells. It’s an office-style satire about a gym. Super funny, and not very “Hallmarkey.”  But it’s a very strong cast. People involved with the pilot are from all types of shows.

Last year, my agent and I set our goals for me and we actually hit our goals. So going into 2018, we’re just pushing hard for even more. We wanted to get that supporting lead under my belt. And now I just have to go into the room and fight against the others. I always tell Robert Buckley, “I’m taking your job from you next year.” {laughs} So it’s time for me to go up against those guys.

Unfortunately, I know the role that I can best play. I’m typically cast as the fitter, faster guy versus the others.  So now I have got to go into the room and play against the guys with bigger resumes because with the smaller roles, they don’t cast a lot of guys who look like me or who are built like me.

Yeah, you look like the lead who would get the girl rather than the guy who wouldn’t get the girl. Is that what you mean?

Yeah, exactly. It’s more, I’m the guy who gets the girl or who doesn’t get the girl, but I’m not the guy at the corner store. In Canada, we get a lot of auditions for roles that are for principal roles, but you can’t be too memorable to be a principal. You kind of have to be a forgettable character. For example, I auditioned for a popular show several times where my character would have died, but the casting director said they couldn’t use me because they had to hold onto me for something else where my character would have staying power.

So you’re too memorable, huh?

I don’t know. I’ll take it. I’m either too memorable or too hateable. Both are equally valuable in acting. The good thing for me is that I have Canadian, American and European citizenship so I can work all over the place. I’ll probably be down in LA for a couple of weeks during pilot season. I’m excited. I’ve seen a lot of the good pilots that are coming out and a lot of the scripts, and there’s a lot of really great stuff coming down the pipeline. And of course, there’s always Hallmark.

Are you ever thinking of doing any writing or directing yourself?

I’m actually involved on the production side. I’ve produced a couple Best Buy commercials with the company, and I produce my own social content. I really like shooting and producing commercials. And I like working with brands to produce really inspiring content.

I was actually working on a script concept with the director of The Notebook, Nick Cassavetes and another writer, Mike Garvin. We were working on putting together a movie about a true story that happened to me in my childhood with my school. There was an avalanche that killed seven of my classmates. We were trying to put that together, but unfortunately, the way Hollywood works, stuff happened down there, and those guys have been MIA. But I have a company up here that’s interested in that, so who knows? Maybe directing and producing will happen. But for now, I’m just cleaning up the focus and making sure that  I’m focused on doing good auditions and working with great coaches and being ready for when luck chooses to strike.

That does seem to be the way things happen in acting. You’re not looking for it, and an opportunity falls into your lap, and you have to be ready to jump in and take it.

Exactly.

I realize that fitness and athletics are a passion of yours, but when you do have free time, what do you like to do?

I feel that my goal and purpose in life is to really help and inspire people to get out and adventure. So within the next year, I’m trying to organize a trip for thirty people to go watch the sun rise over Everest and teach them financial ways to save up money for a trip like that and how to approach their boss to get time off work. Then I’m organizing a trip this month to take eleven people into the backcountry for two days of an introductory course in backcountry ski touring and snowboarding. My life and my passion is just getting out and adventuring.

That’s certainly ambitious. You don’t ever seem to have a dull moment in your life. 

I feel like life is far too short to sit around questioning what to do next. I truly appreciate the journey that acting gives you and the amount you really learn about yourself. You start to become highly aware of your interactions with people because you want to start using those interactions when you get a script. And the other thing it’s really taught me is when you get a script, how to read between the lines and try to understand why one character is trying to do something. What is their internal and external truth? And that’s what I find the most fascinating about it is yeah, you can get fame and followers and money and all that stuff. But really what’s so cool is you truly start to understand a different way to understand a human being. And that’s pretty priceless.

Thank you, Mark, for sharing so much of yourself and your perspective. I really have enjoyed learning about you.

Thank you, Ruth, for the opportunity. I really appreciate this so much. And here’s to a healthy, inspirational, successful 2018 for everyone!

Although many in the film and TV world may be unaware of Mark and his incredible talent, there is no doubt that he has entered into this world on a full-time basis with a bang. Mark is one of those individuals whom I would describe as a person of action. He doesn’t just sit around and wait for things to happen; he actually goes out and makes things happen. Moreover, he doesn’t advance without a meticulously prearranged plan, but he also is equipped for the unexpected. There is no doubt that Mark is a gifted actor, athlete, fitness expert, model, and more, but at the core of his being, he is inspirational and motivational. To a degree, he enjoys the recognition that acting supplies him, but he is not about to rest on his laurels and use that attention for his own edification. Instead, he is intrinsically impelled to share his vision with others and encourage them to be the best versions of themselves. He is in tune with his goal and purpose in this world, and no matter what opportunities come his way, he is always ready to deflect any accolades he may receive and teach others to accomplish their goals and dreams through the world of adventure.

If you happened to see Mark in either of his Christmas films, I sincerely hope you enjoyed him (I know I did). While we await his next venture, I do hope that my readers will check out all his links below and keep an eye and an ear out for the next time he may brighten our screens. It may be that 2018 is the year that Hallmark or another innovative network will feature him as a lead, and I have no doubt that all of us will want to applaud him and his success when that time comes. But regardless, I am honored to have chatted with a sincere artist who knows what he wants in this life, pursues what he wants in this life, and then in turn, teaches and inspires others to do the same. There is honestly no better feeling in this world than giving back when you have been blessed with so much, and I think Mark is a solid example of what that looks like in this sometimes far too egocentric world in which we dwell.

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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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