Acting in Canada can be a challenge. While there is a strong film scene, and many films are shot here, it can be hard to identify iconic Canadian actors. Actors that take the craft above fame, working to better their careers while always picking roles that are fun, interesting, and enjoyable for the audience.
Munro Chambers is one such actor. Known for his work on Degrassi and Turbo Kid, he has built a name for himself working within Canada and throughout the world. Now starring in the thriller Harpoon—most recently shown at the Fantasia Festival in Montreal—we had the pleasure of speaking to him on a phone call. Talking about Horror and genre cinema along with acting in general, Munro gives us a look at what it takes to excel as an actor in Canada.
CGMagazine: What brought you to Harpoon and what made you say “yes” to being a part of it?
Munro Chambers: [I was] originally with Mike Peterson in Knuckleball, and Rob Grant had edited Knuckleball. They had a script, which was Harpoon, and I think Peterson originally saw Jonah and my face kept popping up for the part. So he talked to Rob, Rob talked to me, we discussed the character in the film and showed him what I was thinking for the role and how I wanted to play it and the rest was history.
CGM: Jonah’s an interesting character in Harpoon. A lovable loser at the beginning, and then it devolves from there. What did it take to capture this character, as despicable as he is throughout?
MC: The character is part of the three-headed dragon. We each had to understand on the surface how the audience is going to perceive the three characters, Sasha, Richard, and Jonah, and then how they all are the exact opposite of how they’re perceived. Jonah looks like the weakest physically and the brains of the operation, Emily seems like she’s the one with the most heart and the most conscience, and then Christopher, he seems like he’s physically menacing, a lot of rage inside of him. Then when you watch this film, you really get to see how there’s a lot more depth to these characters than meets the eye, just in their personalities. I think it makes it a lot more fun for the audience to watch and let that all devolve.
CGM: You’ve now been an actor for a while. What’s it like being an actor in Canada?
MC: I think that Canadian actors are just a lot more on the forefront and are being recognized that they’re Canadian. What’s it like being a Canadian actor? It’s all I’ve known. It’s hard to compare myself as a Canadian child actor or Canadian actor to anything else. I think it’s a very humbling experience. I think it makes you a driven actor and an actor of the craft and a professional actor. Because in Canada it’s known for not having the kind of star system that some of the other markets like America or the UK have. In a hierarchy perspective, I think that’s a very positive thing.
You’re seeing them more and more, and it’s growing as they’re seeing that. The kind of talent and crews we have here in productions, writers, directors, and so many people who are Canadian who have made it in Hollywood made it in the UK. But you’re just starting to see more, because we have such a great country, such a diverse landscape, that you can really feel a lot of stuff here, it’s fantastic. It’s everything I’ve known. I love working abroad, I love working overseas and in the States, but filming in my hometown in my home country is special to me. I think it’s nice to grow talent here and grow production here. And like you said, we’re really seeing that. It’s just amazing to see where it’s come over the last 22 years of my career.
CGM: I want to quickly jump back to Harpoon. When watching the character Jonah throughout the film, the more unsettling and hard to side with him it becomes. What was it like for you to play that character?
MC: Over the last few years, I’ve had great opportunities to play roles like him. With Jonah, he has so much that’s happened in his life, and so much that you haven’t seen or don’t see, or that we talked about in this film, and things that we haven’t talked about in the film. [It was] a lot of fun to build and find moments when to strike, find moments when to pull back, and find moments when we want to hopefully stun the audience with each of our characters. Because like I said, with this film—and I hope you agree—what is obvious, is not what it seems, and hopefully, it surprises people.
CGM: How have you as an actor enjoyed the progression of genre cinema into a more mainstream voice, and what do you hope to see next?
MC: I’m learning as much as other people. I didn’t grow up on those films, but there are certain iconic ones that I was drawn to: The Shining, Rear Window, the classics. I watched because they were classics, but I didn’t follow it with a deeper look at genre cinema in my youth. Now that I’ve had these films and I’m able to watch them, I’m learning so much about the genre, and how passionate they are about it, and how much of a science it is to scare someone.
It’s not easy and it’s not something that’s like, “Well, we’re going to put spiders and we’re going to pop this guy out of the closet and boom, you’ve got a classic hit.” No, it’s really down to a science, and it has a lot to do with the entire aspect of filmmaking. That’s one thing I think people are really starting to appreciate right now, and you’re seeing that with Jordan Peele, who is really killing it, and John Krasinski, who also killed it recently. You’re seeing these new avenues that are really drawing from the classics. But it has everything; it’s not just a great performance. It’s not just the way it’s filmed. It’s not just the music out there, or the lack of music that we saw No Country for Old Men. It has so much to do with the entirety of the filming process. So with that, I think it’s gaining a lot more respect than perhaps it had in the past. I think it had it, but I think it was more of an underground.
We’ve seen blockbuster thrillers that did their job but they weren’t works of art, at least in the critically acclaimed sense. You’re seeing now that these films not only scare you and leave you with this lingering uneasy feeling, but they’re beautiful pieces of work both in front of and behind the camera. It’s really something cool to be a part of, even just on the indie front, and I think people are also watching these amazing indie films go through the festival circuit and go through Netflix and these other streaming sites, and they want to watch them because it’s now like, “Whoa, how did they do that? How did they get here?” It’s just fantastic. Jovanka, who just did the film Riot Girls that will also be in Fantasia and even Rob grant and Mike Peterson know this genre so well, and I’m learning so much from them. It’s really cool, man. It’s really cool.
CGM: Awesome. Thank you so much for your time. Anything else The audience should know walking into this film?
MC: Walk-in blind. I hope they pick up what we’re putting down…Emily, Tyra, Christopher, and Greg did phenomenal performances. We really worked hard on this and we’re really proud of it. I hope you guys go in there with an open mind and enjoy the bumpy ride.
To read the full interview with Actor Munro Chambers please pick up Issue #37 of CGMagazine