I recently sat down with actor, Cuyle Carvin, to talk shop about his blooming career. His tumultuous beginning in NYC when he was hired to be a nude body double in the middle of Manhattan...in the winter, all the way to now, where he works regularly in television and film.
Where did you grow up and did you have acting ambitions early on? If not what steered you in this direction?
I grew up in a small, farm town called Oneonta, NY. I didn’t have any interest in acting during my schooling years. When I was younger, I just wanted to be a professional ball player of some sort. After high school, I attended Hartwick College but I had no interest in the educational degrees the school offered. I just went there because my mom was an employee so tuition was free. I ended up taking an Intro to Theatre class and I didn’t love it at first, but I kept taking more and that’s how it all started. I was just curious about acting and decided to try it out.
My greatest influence was the movie Braveheart. It's still my absolute favorite movie. It's the first time I remember being so emotionally moved by a movie. I wanted to be William Wallace and live my life with all the spirit and honor he did. Braveheart may've been the catalyst for my interest in acting.
How did you get started with finding an agent and what were your first television and film credits?
I started my career at the end of 2004. I didn't get an agent until 2009. It can be very tricky getting an agent. The industry's insane, and it took me a good two years to really get my focus in the right direction - and not because I wasn't trying but rather it's hard to figure out how to begin.
One of my very first jobs was one of my worst. I was a body double on Robert DeNiro’s film The Good Shepherd. I basically was hired to be the naked stunt double for a character in the movie who commits suicide by jumping out of a building and is found lying face down, dead and naked on the street. I showed up on set in the middle of New York City where there were a thousand people standing around and trying to get a glimpse of the movie making. It was January and about zero degrees out. Soon enough, I found myself bare-ass naked in the middle of NYC and I heard the crowds gasp and laugh immediately – which made me feel horrible. Then, I had to lie down on the sidewalk, face UP. They lied to me! They told me that I'd be face down, my ass would be showing. The only saving grace was that they had me lay with my leg covering my dick, so at least that's not on camera for all of eternity. Needless to say, it was freezing out and I was naked and being laughed at. One of the worst days as an actor I’ve ever had – but still fun for sure.
In the horror films you've appeared in did you handle your own stunts? Any particular favorite horror moment you would like to share?
I'm an enormous fan of horror. A lot of the lower budget films require actors to do their own stunts and I didn't mind at all. I shot a film called Alien Opponent, which was probably my best overall experience as an actor so far. The amount of horror, humor and insanity are perfectly blended to my taste of a really entertaining film. There are 50+ characters in this film and all of them die except for one. Each death is unique and over the top, and some characters die within seconds of meeting them. It's fantastic.
Another one of my favorites was while working on Fog Warning, directed by Christopher Ward and available for free on YouTube. I got to play an evil character which was incredibly outrageous for me. There's a scene in the film where I, along with my best bud in the film, force another friend's hand into the garbage disposal. I like unique deaths and ways of inflicting pain in horror films, and I thought the disposal was a great way to maim someone.
Are horror films a personal favorite?
When I was younger, my family had a lot of weekend movie nights. I love all genres of movies but horror seemed to scream at me the loudest. My dad really enjoyed horror films and I got into them through him. He would always laugh at the violence and gore and I came to really appreciate that as well. Every weekend, at least two horror films made their way into our old school console TV.
Many of the classics still remain favorites - Nightmare on Elm St films, Friday the 13th's. I'm also a big fan of possession movies like The Last Exorcist - Romero's zombie movies can't be beat. The Hills Have Eyes, Leatherface, and Texas Chainsaw movies are very near and dear to my bloody heart as well.
Tell me about your roles in the motion pictures Mineville and The End of Something. Do you have a favorite between the two?
I love both of these films. Mineville represented my biggest opportunity in my career. I was the lead in the film alongside some fantastically talented actors, including Nick Wechsler (series lead on ABC's Revenge, and cult hit, Roswell), Golden Globe Nominee Phil Casnoff, industry vet and celebrated actors Bill Sadler & Paul Sorvino, Jamie Tisdale (series regular on Dusk til Dawn) - I could keep going on this all star cast. The talent on the production side was also fantastic - plus this film is based on real people and real events.
The End of Something is a film that means so much to me in so many ways. The creator of the film, Colin Rivera of Vintage Youth Productions, took a chance on me that I'll always be grateful for. My character in this film is so vastly different than any I’d ever played before and honestly, might not ever be able to play again. I had only ever played the leading man, very military, manly kind of roles before. But in TEOS, I got to be a dweeby, emotional, techie hipster kind of guy. It's my favorite performance. The film is fantastic - again, the cast all do a great job. Colin wrote, directed, edited - you name it, he did it. It's such a passion project and a niche film that I don't think many audiences will find the film. But I highly recommend it.
You've been in both independent and mainstream film and television productions. What is the difference, from your perspective, as a performer?
Money. Bigger projects have business as a priority. Of course, every project is made with a goal in mind, however, once you get into TV and Hollywood - money is the biggest goal. ‘The art' of it still exists but it takes a back seat to profits. The smaller stuff I've done feels different. It's personal and more collaborative. Hollywood doesn't need any one actor. We're all replaceable, ALL of us. Unless you're a series regular or have the privilege of working consistently, you don't get the chance to build the kind of relationships that make you feel like you're an integral part of a project. Usually it's plug n' play with the roles and there's thousands of capable and willing actors for any one role. With smaller projects, there's more of a feeling that everyone is doing it for the sake of the project, the love of the game, the love of doing what they do.
Over the past two years you have been seen on several primetime television shows. Could you tell me some of highlights working on these programs?
It's been an incredible couple of years and it's such a huge achievement any time you get work as an actor. Highlights are getting to work, experiencing and building relationships and of course, the money. I recently did Hawaii Five-0 which I spent two weeks in Hawaii filming. The role was fantastic and on top of that, I only worked 4 of the 14 days I was there, so I had time to explore and have fun. I also had a really great time on Criminal Minds because of our location. We filmed in the dankest, least trustworthy hotel I've ever seen. It's the kind of place that horror films are based on. Thinking about it, I've had such a great time on all the shows. It’s been awesome to travel and see places that I probably wouldn't see otherwise.
You've also appeared on soap operas (Bold and The Beautiful, Days of Our Lives, As the World Turns, All My Children). Is your acting method different performing on a soap than a night-time drama series?
No not at all. People seem to have this odd misconception that soap acting is different. The only way it's different is in the same way that film acting is 'different' than theatre acting. Actors still go through the same process, it's just a matter in the size of the performances. The technical stuff can be a little different from medium to medium but the method behind the work is not. Soaps tend to really salivate at the end of each scene - the camera holds on the actors faces longer than other media - perhaps that's what people call for 'soap acting'. It's just the style. One thing people should know is that soap operas usually shoot an entire episode each day, which is incredible. Most television shows film one episode in an 8 day span.
You've also gotten into directing and producing. Your company By the C Productions seems to focus a lot on the horror genre. How did this begin and where have your films been seen?
The more I worked, I found that my creativity is often stifled at my level. I can only do so much with many of the TV roles - again, it's a plug n' play system and until you're the lead, you just have to go in and do the job. I often had ideas on how a scene should go, or how a story should be told, or what angle to shoot the next scene. But I was an actor on set, not the director. It was not my film.
I started to want more creative control on the aspects of making a film. So I started By the C Productions so I could direct my own films and I plan on making films for the rest of my life. I think directing other actors and writing screenplays have also, in turn, helped my acting. I see how actors work and, probably most importantly, how it's the story which matters, not the actors. I've learned how important it is for the actor to serve the story and not the other way around.
Producing horror films is fantastic - you can honestly be completely creative in your structure of the film. Anything goes and it’s all appreciated. The horror fan base is ridiculously loyal and forgiving - I love that. Plus, more often than not, you really are having more fun doing these no matter what your job is on it. There is just inherit fun on set when your biggest worry is getting the blood to spurt at just the right angle.
The logo of By the C is inspired by a photo that I took in Salem, Massachusetts. At Salem Willows Park there is a small shed which sits right at the edge of the ocean. It’s a boat or fishing rental place, just a small little cabin. I don’t even know if it is in business. But there is serenity in Salem that I love and this isolated shed on the edge of the ocean is one of my favorite pieces of inspiration and wonderment. Someday I would like to live in Salem and make that the home base of By the C (By the Sea).
You have a coloring book to your credit. Could you explain how this came about and what it involves?
My friend and PR pal, Fred Grandinetti, presented the idea to me and I thought it was awesome. Dave Hudon, the artist, created a cool little story and it definitely puts a 'healthy' spin on the impressionable crowd that it's geared for. It's been distributed to children's hospitals, youth groups, and youth-focused charity groups. It's also available per request. We're now working on an anti-bullying comic book style project. Hopefully that will be ready by the end of the year.
Thank you for taking the time for the interview, Cuyle, and best of luck in your endeavors.