When it comes to young actors who absolutely light up the screen with their performances, Tyler Labine is at the top of a very short list. A dynamic young actor, he has spent the last fifteen years quietly amassing an amazing arsenal of credits while honing his acting abilities. It is only now that Hollywood has taken notice and started tapping into his amazing potential. There is no better example of this than his latest film, Ted Koland’s “Best Man Down.” The film focuses on bride and groom Kristin (Jess Weixler) and Scott (Justin Long) who’s obnoxious and over-served best man, Lumpy (Tyler Labine) unexpectedly dies at their destination wedding in Phoenix. In the wake of his death, the couple are forced to cancel their honeymoon and fly home to the snowy Midwest to arrange for his funeral. But when they arrive and meet Ramsey (Addison Timlin), a fifteen year-old girl who knew Lumpy, the newlyweds realize there was a lot more to their friend than met the eye.?”Best Man Down” not only marks the strong directorial debut of writer/director Ted Koland but showcases the incredible range of which Tyler Labine is capable. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Tyler Labine to discuss his journey in the entertainment industry, his influences, the challenges of bringing his characters to life and much more!
Thanks for taking time out to talk to us today, Tyler! I have to tell you, I had the opportunity to meet you for the first time a few months back at Monster Mania is Cherry Hill, NJ. I think it is very cool that you take time out to meet the fans!
Yeah! Absolutely! I am doing a few more of them in the future! My little brother, Kyle, and I are doing Texas Frightmare in May and another one in March. Any time my little brother and I get to hang out is awesome!
I wanted to go all the way back to the beginning of your story. How did you originally get started on your journey in the entertainment industry?
Porn! I started in porn! [laughs] Just kidding! I started in Toronto with my brothers, Cameron and Kyle. I have an older brother and a younger brother. We had a video camera growing up. My Dad had one of those VHS, cramp-inducing giant video cameras, which I am sure was the height of technology at the time. We started making scripts, auditioning kids in the neighborhood and making movies. We were doing stunt sequences, developing franchise and everything in between. We just loved movies! Our parents had the foresight to ask us if we wanted to do it professionally and we were very confused by that notion; thinking that what we were doing was already quite professional! [laughs] We went downtown in Toronto and they had a kid’s agency. I was nine, my older brother was eleven and my little brother was four. We just took it from there and started auditioning and booking things. Then we moved to Vancouver in 1991. Vancouver was a hotbed of sci-fi tv activity. I probably totaled a good thirty credits in Vancouver during a period of three or four years because it was so crazy busy there. That was it! Everything took off from there when we moved to the West Coast.
Who were some of the influences that had a big impact on you as a young actor?
Oh man, honestly, I wish I had something really poignant and artistic to say but it was SCTV! Second City TV was awesome when I was growing up. It had John Candy, Rick Moranis, Dan Akroyd. I didn’t even know what SNL was because we had SCTV, which is where all the Canadian greats came from. When they started breaking in the States, there were the John Hughes movies. My influences were definitely guys like John Candy. I still watch John Candy movies all the time because I feel like people don’t do it like that anymore. Big guy, comedic actors don’t have the heart anymore, ya know? There is just something missing? It is something I try to bring to the table for every performance. I can obviously play the buffoon or the big guy but I want there to be another element under there and John Candy is the best example of that in my opinion. If you watch “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” when he finally breaks down to Steve Martin, the whole scene about him not liking himself — it was tear inducing! It was great! So, I love guys like that and I love John Hughes movies. That was the catalyst, the genesis.
I am trying to say this in the least ass-kissing way possible but I definitely see a lot of the John Candy influence in what you do.
Thanks, man! I just always loved that he could make me feel the happiest and giddiest I had ever felt watching his work and he was so likable but at the same time, he had so much control over it. On camera, he seemed to have such a control over how his presence looked like to people. I always thought that was a real gift. Definitely a big influence for me!
We are here today to talk about one of your latest films, “Best Man Down.” For those who aren’t familiar with it yet, what can you tell us about the film and the character you play?
The film was originally called “Lumpy” and I played the title character, who is kind of the jackass again! [laughs] We meet him at the wedding of his best friend Scott and his wife Kristen, who are played by Justin Long and Jess Weixler. They are both so talented and are amazing in the movie! You meet Lumpy, who is kind of a drunken asshole at this wedding, and before you know it, the misdirect has sunk in deep. You think it is going to be a movie about this guy who is a bit of a jackass but he dies within the first fifteen minutes! [laughs] The story is really about his friend learning that Lumpy was not at all who he thought he was, even though he was his best friend. He has had a lot of strange thing happen to him in his life. Unbeknownst to his best friend, he has developed a friendship with a fifteen year old year named Ramsey, who is played beautifully by Addison Timlin. Scott and Kristen, in lieu of their honeymoon, have to get my body back to Minnesota for a proper burial. Along the way, learn all these crazy things about him and realize they don’t really know him at all. It is a really neat story that I think is really taking people by suprise. It is advertised as a comedy but it is a real tearjerker! Figure it out!
What was it about the original script or the character itself that really attracted you to the project?
The script was amazing. Ted Koland, I think, is going to make a big, big splash in Hollywood. He is an amazing director as well. He managed to take a character that is very well known territory for me, the role of the jackass, and do that thing we were just talking about! He John Candy-ed it! He gave this guy a total flip-side of the coin that we learn about through the course of this movie. It was fun to play! It was redemption! A lot of the time with these characters, I am there for one — to make you laugh or say something gross. With this character, I got to do that and be the hero of the story, in a roundabout way, as well as in a very touching way. I thought that was really cool! Then when I found out we were shooting in cold ass Minnesota, I was like “Sign me up!” [laughs] “I get to go into a lake in Minnesota in the middle of December? I am in!” [laughs] It was really fun and it was a real challenge. I was really, really pleased that Ted chose me to play his “Lumpy.”
How did you go about preparing for the role in the film before you hit the set?
This one was a funny one. If it hadn’t been what we were just talking about and the beginning of the movie in total was just a drunk buffoon, that is easy! [laughs] I mean, it is never easy. It is always hard work but it is something I wouldn’t have necessarily felt like I had to tuck away for a few days to prepare. Adding the other elements, I did have to prepare. Also, Ted really put me through the ringer for this one! [laughs] I met with him and he wouldn’t offer it to me. He made me audition with four or five different girls who were auditioning for the part of Ramsey. Then he still didn’t let me know if I had the part. I had to sweat it out early, planning me revenge on Ted! My revenge was to be the best Lumpy he could ever imagine. I got started quite early knowing that there were some really great and touching scenes in there that I really wanted to nail. I started preparing the emotional elements very early on. I really wanted to make sure that I didn’t over do it or under do it. There was a lot of personal practicing on my end. Ted rehearsed Addison and I together when we got to Minnesota, so we got to play together before we went to camera which was great!
What did you learn from working with writer/director Ted Koland and what does he bring to the table?
My time working with Ted was pretty brief. I was the first one sided on to the project. I met Ted way before this movie was really up and running. I had signed on to do it and then it went away for a while and I didn’t think it was going to get made. It ended up getting refunded and we did it. I originally sat with the character and Ted for a while. Then when we got to do it, I was really blown away by the stick-to-it-ness that he has. He has a very successful writer in Hollywood but he had always wanted to direct this love letter to Minnesota, which is where he is from. I just thought the voice that he has and brought to this to this mid-western smorgasbord is so genuine and so unique. It wasn’t stereotypically at all. It wasn’t like we were asked to come in and do a Minnesota Maccent. He just wanted to capture the tone of the Mid-West without it being schticky. It was really admirable to watch him get what he wanted. When he wants something, he is not afraid to tell you how he wants it to be, which as a director, I think is great. Some directors can talk a big game but when it comes to actually directing actors and getting them to do what you want, sometimes the language is not there or something is lost in translation between the page and the direction. That wasn’t the case with Ted because he was so certain about what he wanted and there was no way you felt like he would let you fall flat. He was definitely the watchdog for the tone of the movie and I found that really impressive.
This movie really showcases a lot of the ability you have as an actor. Is there a particular type of role you are anxious to tackle in the short term?
Yeah. I have a short list of genres I feel I was anxious to be in. I always wanted to have a cult classic movie, which I think I hopefully got with “Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil.” I think that film will go down in history as being a cult favorite. I always felt I needed to do a big romantic comedy, which I just finished shooting with Lucy Punch. It is called “Someone Marry Barry.” I also felt like I had to do a really great horror movie because I really love the horror genre. I feel I got that element from “Tucker & Dale” because it is a gore fest! [laughs] I would love to do a really smart psychological thriller. That is one of the things on my bucket list. I also need to have my art house flick, which I think “Best Man Down” is sorta scratching that off my list a bit. I really like it! It is not my movie though, so I would like the lead in some type of art house indie flick. As far as working with people, my brother and I are still making movies together. We just had one greenlit and will be shooting in the new year! That is my whole jam right now — doing stuff that I get to help create, produce and do it with people that I love!
You mentioned making a film with your brother next year. Do you have aspirations to direct as well as act?
I do a little bit. I don’t know if I would be great at it honestly. I really am the epitome of a flighty actor. I just sorta follow my emotional stasis wherever it leads me and a director needs to be super even-keel and direct because they are the puppet masters. I have been collaborating on a lot of projects as a co-writer and executive producer. I have two movies slated for the new year that are shooting where I will be the executive producing and helped put together. I am co-writing a show right now with John Carcieri, who is a head writer for “Eastbound and Down.” We are working on a new show together that I created. I am starting to really put myself out there that way. As a director, I would have to pull a Bryan Cranston, where I am on a show that is hot for four years and I can direct an episode, only if I felt safe enough! I certainly want the fate of a show to rest in my hands in that regard!
Looking back on your career, how do you feel you have evolved along the way?
For me, it feels like a flash. I am just now feeling that people are starting to notice me. My wife put it really well the other day. She said “It is kinda like you have been just getting started for fifteen years.” When I first heard that I was like “Ewwww!” But then I thought, “What a great feeling!” I don’t feel pressured. It’s not like I am the face of a franchise and if it fails my career is over! At the same time, I am not a no name actor. I have a name but it is really only valuable to certain people, you know! [laughs] Thankfully, those people keep me employed and trust me to do things I find interesting. I think it is a really great place for me to be right now. I would love to rise into the A-list one day but honestly, I am feel very content and privileged to be where I am at. I have always felt that way. It has always been about the work and feeling I have to get people to like me enough to hire me! [laughs] If I look at stuff I did when I was sixteen, it’s like “Oh you ham-fisted fucker!” [laughs] Watching yourself act when you are a kid is hard to do! I think I have become a lot more polished but at the same time I have become a lot more open, raw and have honestly tried to become a better actor, not just fall in line. I really want to take chances and make a good impression on other genres. That is how I see my evolution.
I can’t talk to you an not mention “Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil.” It’s a great film and is so much fun. Is it shocking to you that it has taken hold as a blossoming cult classic?
Yeah, man! For sure! I get tweets multiple times a day from people who just discovered the movie. I love it because I see the long reach of this thing! It is not fading away! If anything, it is becoming more and more popular all the time. It is one of those movies where I have already been invited to repertory screenings of it where people people come dressed up like the characters and have PBRs and are quoting lines to the screen! It is crazy man! People are dressing up like us for Halloween! It is really, really cool and super dorky! I appreciate because I am a dork and do that stuff too! I totally get into that! It is very flattering and really amazing to be a part of that slow-ride to popularity with this movie.
Obviously, I have to ask about a sequel. No matter the answer, we definitely hope to see you team with Alan Tudyk again soon! You two are awesome together!
Thank you! The sequel is neither here nor there right now. We all want to do one but the team isn’t thinking of it in the same way. It is a tricky one to tackle, so I will leave it alone right now. The Alan Tudyk saga continues! We were just talking a few weeks ago about doing something together. He is developing some things and I am developing some things. We are always checking in with each other to see if we have the time or the desire to do that project with each other. It is only a matter of time before we find the right project to do together! It will be very different from “Tucker & Dale”. If we are going to do something, we want to find something isn’t the same thing again.
What is the best advice you can pass along to young actors who might look to you for inspiration?
Wow! That is a big question. I don’t want to sound too cliche but you have to be true to yourself. You have to be willing to take chances and not let your nerves get the better of you. I think that is the biggest thing that has stuck with me. I used to be so afraid of my nerves and had the butterflies in my stomach when I was taking a chance of doing something unfamiliar to me. Then I realized when I was around twenty five years old; that is the part I love! When I don’t have that now, I think “Maybe this isn’t helping me grow.” When you start taking chances, that is the most alive you feel as an arist. To the young people, I would say “Take chances,” Try to find the things you are most afraid of and do them.
Solid advice! Thank you for your time today, Tyler! It has been a pleasure! We will be spreading the word on everything you do and will talk to you again soon!
Terrific! Thanks a lot, man! Take care!
You can catch up with Tyler Labine and interact on Twitter at twitter.com/tylabine!