Amos Crawley [Interview]

 

Today’s interview subject is another incredible performer who has been in the world of entertainment longer than he has had full functioning memories. We’ve managed to talk with quite a few of these folks in the past, but it is always interesting how their experiences aren’t always similar. Fortunately for us, one similarity is that it all has worked out pretty well for them. But the main similarity is that they are all truly talented people who have continued to do incredible work through careers lasting over 30 years, yet they aren’t even 40 yet!

Such is the case with today’s incredible performer, the great Amos Crawley. Amos has been working both on screen and in the voice over world on some of the greatest projects you know and love. Some projects that have been reoccurring here at TWS quite frequently would be classic programs like Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Goosebumps, and the more recent Netflix Original Series Anne with an E, which features our guest from last week, Helen Johns, and our previous guest Philip Williams!

In the wonderful and inspiring words below, Amos gives us some great words about his beginnings in the world of entertainment, some antidotes about being a teenager on the set of Billy Madison, and so much for great stuff. So Folks, please enjoy some wonderful words from the incredible Amos Crawley!

 

******

 

What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment? Was it an aspiration you can remember having since adolescences, or did you just happen to find yourself in this world one day?

I actually just went into the family business. My paternal grandparents, Budge and Judy were filmmakers in the early days of the Canadian film industry, though they both died when I was very young. My parents, Alexander Crawley and Mary Long are both actors; my sister does hair on set and my brother is a post production guy. Which is to say that I don’t remember any particular aspirations so much as the world of film, TV and theatre has always just sort of been… like gravity or something. The story goes that my mother went for an audition and didn’t have a babysitter, casting needed a kid and there I was. From that point on I worked fairly consistently throughout childhood, though to be honest, I wasn’t particularly planning to do it beyond what was then the immediate future. Like all kids I had other fantasies of what I would be when I grew up. The turning point came for me at about 13. I saw a production of Waiting For Godot starring Tom McCamus and Stephen Ouimette and I remember sitting in the theatre afterwards simply stunned. I guess I didn’t know the length, width and breadth of what was possible on stage (and by extension in other entertainment mediums) and seeing the rules as I understood them be broken by a play like that was formative. At that point I took another look at this thing that I had been doing since the age of 4 and decided that I would invest more time, energy and thought into it. That’s what led to theatre school and genuine study.

 

What was your very first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still affect your work today?

So because I was so young, I don’t actually remember my first gig. Certainly most of my youth is littered with various memories from film sets and recording studios they way some kids have images in mind from summer camp or working at a fast food restaurant and I would like to think that there have been any number of lessons that were learned that are at least informing me from time to time. Acting, like many jobs is cumulative. You run into an issue on a gig and you solve it– therefore you’ve added a new tool to your kit. The more comfortable you get with yourself too, the better you are as an actor. That said, there is a rarely a point during any creative endeavour where I am not absolutley convinced that I haven’t forgotten everything and undergo a pretty intense bout of imposter syndrome. The lesson that I continuely come to peace with with each passing job is being okay with that feeling and not letting it interfere with the actual task at hand. I have a friend who rather eloquently talks about letting your nerves or your bullshit be in the car with you but making sure that all of that stays in the passenger seat, not letting the jitters take the wheel.  For the past several years, I’ve been doing some teaching and audition and on-set coaching, and getting the opportunity to look at the work from that remove as been wonderful with regard to the mechanics of what we have to do– once those are in place the  intangibles of the work feel less daunting. I imagine that it’s like a pianist knowing their scales cold so that they can improvise, or an engineer figuring out a structural solution because they understand function so well. I can go off on a bit of a tangent from time to time, but suffice it to say, the best lesson I have learned is that the work is ongoing, hopefully evolving.

 

At a pretty young age, you gave a now legendary performance as Rod in the now classic comedy film Billy Madison. I am curious to know how it was working on a film of this nature? Was it as fun to work on this film as it has been for audiences to watch over the years? Any fun on-set stories that you can recall?

It’s funny– between that film and a handful of other things I was lucky enough to be in as a teenager I find that I end up having these conversations with my peers and finding out that I was a part of their adolescence in some way. That movie strikes a real chord with people– I think it has a genuine sense of anarchy about its comedy that’s not really definable but that hits you where you live– though I have to admit it’s been many years since I have seen it.

Certainly it was the biggest project I had ever been a part of and everyone was so gracious to all of us kids. I was 13 and worshipped at the altar of SNL (my generation is pretty lucky to grow up with the casts that we got), so all the behind the scenes stories that I got to hear from Tim Herlihy and James Downey felt like being admitted to a secrect society. Mark Beltzman took my family and me to a Second City show where he jumped on stage with the cast. Josh Mostel told me stories about Henry Rollins (then as now an idol of mine) and Tamra Davis, along with being as formidble a director as she is, was tapped into such an amazing world because of Mike D, and her associations with Sonic Youth. She was super generous with her time telling backstage tales to a dorky young kid. Steve Buscemi was Mr Pink and he introduced himself to me. Norm MacDonald and I talked about Samuel Beckett and country music. And of course Sandler was a total sweetheart to us– way more than he needed to be… does a killer J Mascis impression.

 

Amos Crawley in “Are You Afraid of the Dark”

 

You have done a lot of really great work in the world of voice over projects. We have spoken with quite a few folks from this world, and I am always curious to know how they not only enjoy the work, but how do you manage to project a bit of your own presence into the characters using only your voice? How do you manage to make a character that was already given an appearance, truly come to life in your own personal way?

I’ve been so fortunate to have been able to cultivate something of a career in the voice world. It’s a great gig, as any actor will tell you. To be honest I am not sure that I have ever conciously thought about projecting my own presence into the animated character– like with all acting, I think that your own presence is essentially a given, the only thing you can really do is get in the way of allowing an audience to hear and or see it. That said I do think that there is an art to expressing yourself using only a limited set of tools– in this case, volume and inflection– to convey intention. I personally like limits and boxes when it comes to creating something, I think that it can force you into your best, most expressive choices.

I think the voice is an underutilised tool in general– how many times have you been unable to convey your meaning in a text or e-mail (unless of course you’re a writer who is versed in the nuance of that?) Breath and voice are all you’ve got in the world of cartoons, so you cultivate a wider range of expression and you allow it to be your body, your facial expression etc. At least that’s what we try do do– speaking form myself, it’s not always successful– but if it’s not, at least hopefully it’s funny or something. Plus the animation and the editing on a well produced cartoon do SO much of the work for you– you try your best with your little corner of the project and once in a while everything comes together in an effective manner. I’ve got a new cartoon about to start airing called The Remarkable Mr. King, and though I’ve only seen some of it, I’m very excited because I think everything is in concert, from the writing down and I think it’s going to be a very sweet series, perfect for the preschool set.

 

You have worked in just about every gig available to a performer. From film & television, to voice over work, to the stage, and so on. With that in mind, I am curious to know what your favorite method of performing may be? If you some imaginable reason you were only able to work in one field for the rest of your career, what would it be?

While the delivery methods at play in all the different mediums I have been lucky enough to work in are distinct, I actually think that at it’s core the job is essentially always the same. We play our small role in producing something that allows an audience to disappear from the world for a few minutes. As we do this interview I am backstage before the first preview of a play and while it’s true that the tightrope walk of a 2 hour show in front of living breathing human beings is a welcome scare, the actual work that goes into it is not SO different than the way I would prepare for a scene in front of the camera. You turn the volume down on the stereo and you dim the lights, but it’s still the same song and the same apartment if you know what I mean. But I suppose I am avoiding your question– I would happily work in any medium that would have me for the rest of my days. I don’t really have a lot of real life skills, and am blessed to be able to play make-believe for a living, so any way I can do that and get to spend ample time with my wife and my kids is ok by me.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers? 

I mentioned The Remarkable Mr King which will be airing by the time this interview goes live. I’ve got a cameo in a film called The Oak Room that I was thrilled to be a part of– it’s produced by my friend Ari Millen who also stars along with RJ Mitte. It’s based on a play that I worked on in the Toronto Fringe festival about six years ago– I have high hopes for it. I’ll also be featured in this season of Anne With An E, which I think is a pretty remarkable show in it’s own right, but also amazes me in that they’ve been able to breathe new life into a story that has been told so many times. I am very proud to be a part of it. 

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I’ve got 2 amazing sons, so I’m allotted more than my fair share of smiling moments. Corny but true.

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: