Chaske Spencer grew to fame after starring as Sam Uley in the occult teen drama The Twilight Saga. His role was one of his biggest yet and brought him some serious superstardom. However, Spencer is from a rather small place in Idaho and talks about growing up with big dreams of being a movie star in his latest interview with IAE Entertainment.
You can read the interview here:
IAE: Can you please tell us where you’re from and what inspired you to pursue an acting career?
CS: I’m originally from Montana and Idaho. I grew up on 3 different Indian reservations. My parents finally settled in Idaho and I attended college for one semester there. I dropped out because I really started taking an interest inacting and photography. So I moved in New York with $100 and a one way ticket. I was sleeping friends couches and floors. I started studying with David Gideon out of The Actors Studio. Before moving to New York I thought it would be a fun job but when I finally made it there it turned into a serious craft instead of just something fun to do.
IAE: Early on, what was the toughest thing to cope with while trying to establish yourself in Hollywood?
CS: Being broke was the one thing that was hard for me to cope with. Paying for acting classes and headshots can be very expensive when you’re living in a major city like New York. When you’re going from job to job, living paycheck to paycheck, eating Ramen noodles everyday and not knowing if you’re going to be able to pay your rent it’s tough. Eating $.99 specials at McDonald’s was considered dining out for me. I bartended, was a sanitation guy, and even catered events, so I definitely struggled. But that’s how it is when you’re on the grind trying to make ends meet. [laughs]
IAE: We all know you as ‘Sam Uley’ from the TWILIGHT series (New Moon & Eclipse) and you will also be in the upcoming TWILIGHT: BREAKING DAWN as well. What was the audition process like when you initially went after the role and how did you get the opportunity?
CS: I was fortunate enough to have Rene Haynes as one of my big supporters; she’s the casting director that cast me in a few other films. Rene gave me a call and said there was a big project coming up but she couldn’t tell me what it was. At the time, I didn’t know anything about Twilight. I’ve seen the posters and some things on the New York subway but I still didn’t have a clue what it was. So I went and auditioned for pretty much every role of the Wolf Pack, and about a week later they came to me and said they wanted to see me for ‘Sam Uley’. A few days later they told me I booked the role, but the production company told us that we couldn’t tell anyone. That was pretty hard too, because I couldn’t even tell my parents, so I just told everyone that I was filming a pilot in Canada. From there, I had to figure out who Sam was so I started doing my research and discovered that he had a key role in the books.
Also, when I booked the role I was still working in catering and also on garbage detail with the sanitation job I had. Just knowing that I had booked this huge part made it tough to work hard my day jobs for another month. [laughs] With my catering job, sometimes we’d be working on these huge events and some of the people there would treat us like slaves. It was very hard to take that and not respond sarcastically. I just had to sit there and say, “yes sir” or “yes ma’am”. [laughs]
IAE: In what ways are Chaske and Sam Uley alike?
CS: It’s funny because when we first did NEW MOON, I didn’t have a lot in common with him, so I had to find something. What I did is I started looking at various leaders because Sam is the alpha male. I’d watch documentaries on generals and different U.S. Presidents, but what really got me was when I watched GLADIATOR with Russell Crowe one night. At the beginning of the movie when he’s walking down the line and looking his soldiers in the eye before they attack Germania, that’s when I said, “That’s who Sam is. He’s a general.” I didn’t copy Russell Crowe but he definitely inspired me in my portrayal of Sam on screen. Sam is a leader and he doesn’t have to say much, but he’s very intense and he knows he’s got the respect of his men.
IAE: What other film projects are you working on at the moment?
CS: I’ve got a movie called WINTER IN THE BLOOD that starts filming in July. I just signed on to do a movie called THE CABIN which starts shooting in late August. Then there’s a movie I’m producing called THE BLOCK that we’re going to start shooting around November. Twilight has definitely opened a lot of doors for me and I’m very grateful for that. I just like the fact that I can finally work as an actor for a living. The roles that I’m doing now are totally different from what the world knows me as with Sam Uley.
IAE: Tell us about your non-profit organization “United Global Shift”.
CS: United Global Shift is about making a shift around the world. For me, it helped me start my project BE THE SHIFT. I’m using the spotlight of Twilight because I’m so visible with that. We had a project where the Cheyenne Sioux River Tribe needed media coverage to get their water infrastructure fixed. Their water infrastructure broke down and they were without hot water and electricity for a couple of years in the Dakota area. I lived there before and it gets really cold there, so they were really hurting. I asked a couple of the Twilight actors, some of the actors from True Blood, and a few other personalities to come in and do a PSA to help this cause. It’s how I give back. Be the Shift, for me, helps shifts systems that don’t work. I think it’s pretty obvious that today’s political system doesn’t really work for us (citizens). There are too many people in the government pointing fingers back and forth and it’s the everyday people who get left out. So what I’
m looking to do is make a sustainable change instead of putting a band-aid on things and waiting for the next guy to clean it up. I try to find projects where I can make a positive impact and use this gift of spotlight from the Twilight movies to shed light on some things that would probably slip through the cracks in mainstream media.
IAE: What advice can you give to aspiring actors currently struggle to get that big break?
CS: Perseverance is the main thing. I wanted to quit several times and Twilight was going to be my last audition. I had gone out on a couple of other roles where I came pretty close, but it’s kind of devastating when you don’t get those roles. You work so hard at it and you open yourself up to the casting directors and producers only to find out that sometimes it’s not really about the acting. So you end up losing out because the other actor has a bigger name or resume than you, or you aren’t the right look for the role. So I decided that if I didn’t get the role in Twilight, I would go into some other line of work, or maybe doing something else in show business other than acting. It’s taken me almost 15 years of being a struggling actor, so it wasn’t overnight. Basically, I would tell an aspire actor that it’s all about perseverance and knowing your craft. If you want to do it right and be an actor or an artist you really have to study. Anyone can be a movie star today and we see reality TV stars do it every day, but if you really want to be a good actor you have to study and work hard. Take a page from the greats like Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Sean Penn, and all of those others…they all went to classes and really started working at their craft.
My friends and I all moved to New York when we were like 21 years old and now we’re in our 30’s. Three to four of my good friends are far better actors than me and they’re still struggling. All they need is a break, so I help them out whenever I can. I know there’s some guy somewhere working the bar or cleaning toilets who is probably the next Marlon Barndo, and all he needs is that break. So don’t give up on your dream because this business is all about perseverance.
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