An Interview with Actor Peter DaCunha

by C. Rachel Katz

Peter DaCunha has been acting for six years, and his list of credits—which is updated every few months, it seems—is impressive for someone who’s been in the business for less than a decade. Did I mention he’s twelve? I had a chance to catch up with Peter to chat about Hellions, one of two movies he’s in that are playing at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

C. Rachel Katz: Can you give us a non-spoilery rundown of Hellions?

Peter DaCunha: It’s about a teenage girl who becomes pregnant and she doesn’t even realize it. When she finds out she’s very shocked. Later that night—it’s Halloween—evil trick-or-treaters come knocking and try to attack her. And she has to try to stay alive.

CRK: And you’re her brother, you’ve been taken trick-or-treating, and she has to go through this ordeal by herself?

PD: Yes.

CRK: Have you seen it yet?

PD: No. I’m going to see it at the Winter Garden on Thursday. I’m excited. I didn’t get to see it [at Sundance], I was kind of bummed out about that. But I’m looking forward to the Winter Garden.

CRK: From what I understand, the movie’s a lot like a nightmare.

PD: It’s very supernatural.

CRK: Is it going to cause nightmares?

PD: Probably!

CRK: How was it on set? I hope it wasn’t like a nightmare to be in the movie.

PD: It was so amazing. Everyone was really, really nice. Everyone had to be nice on set. You’re running around and screaming, so it’s better to have people who are nice around you when that’s not happening, and not have people who are mean. You’d get emotionally scarred.

CRK: How did you get ready for your part?

PD: It’s the same for each genre: you study what your character is doing; you research the director and his tastes in acting. You do all this different stuff to piece your character together so you know what to do.

CRK: Did you work closely with Bruce MacDonald?

PD: Yes! He was great. I would consider him one of my best friends.

CRK: Did Bruce find you for this role, or did you go looking for this part?

PD: He found me. I worked on Reign and the producer, Frank Siracusa, was producing Hellions. He asked  me if I wanted to play Remi. I said yes, and I got the role.

CRK: You started acting in breakfast commercials, is that right?

PD: Yes, I started in Froot Loops, and then I did Tim Hortons and a couple of other ones. Then I moved on to TV shows. My first one was Rookie Blue, and I did Alphas and Flashpoint. Frenemies was my first ever movie, and then I did The Barrens, a horror movie, as my second movie. My mom was really scared because I was only eight. She was like, I’m not letting my eight year-old son do a horror movie. But then she met the director, Darren [Bousman] and he was very nice and he convinced her, luckily. I was trying to but it wasn’t working.

CRK: Did you get to travel for work, or has it all been Toronto-based?

PD: Mostly Toronto. But I went to Ireland for Reign. I went to Winnipeg for Home Alone 5. Oh! LA—I  keep forgetting. I went to LA for a pilot for Here’s Your Damn Family which is now called No Place Like Home. I now go between LA and Toronto. I’ve done that three times, mostly for auditions.

CRK: How do you balance acting with the rest of your life?

PD: I have a set teacher so whenever I’m on set someone will come into my trailer and do my schoolwork with me. They’re a board teacher but they work specifically on set. I usually get ahead of the other kids because I have that one-on-one time. I’m pretty much always caught up on my schoolwork. I’m never really behind. I don’t have much else in my life except school. And I play soccer sometimes.

CRK: I gotta ask, what scares you?

PD: Interviews! I’d definitely say snakes and spiders. Those are the scariest things. Whenever I watch a movie with spiders I feel like they’re crawling all over me, and I start to get the heebie-jeebies, and I turn off the movie. I cannot handle spiders.

CRK: You should see Eight Legged Freaks. That’ll help you get over spiders.

PD: Omigosh, the set teacher on my LA pilot was the set teacher on that movie and she told me the giant spiders started making people cry at first. But then everyone got comfortable.

CRK: Any plans for the future? Anything you can talk about?

PD: I’m on 12 Monkeys, I play Ramse’s son. It’s on Syfy and will be airing in January, so stay tuned! I’m also doing XX, which is a female horror anthology. I’m in one of the short films, called The Box. I also just wrapped on The Big Crunch which is a short film directed by Dusty Mancinelli, and I was really excited about that.

CRK: Looking ahead, are you going to keep acting or are you going to move behind the camera, maybe write or direct?

PD: I’m definitely going to keep acting. I’m really happy with acting.

CRK: Any advice to anyone out there who might want to get into acting?

PD: Number one, get an agent. Number two, being kind goes a long way. So always be kind and stay grounded.

CRK: Thank you, Peter DaCunha.