If you want/need something moved, moved fast, and moved right, you get Frank Martin. He carries anything, anywhere, no questions asked. He has acquired the driving, fighting and survival skills to make the delivery on schedule and he never quits until the package is where it’s supposed to be. He is — The Transporter! This fast paced series focuses on Frank Martin, an Ex-Special Forces agent, who can handle any situation. Spawned from the hit movie franchise of the same name, ‘Transporter: The Series’ is an action-packed thrill ride that delivers a new story line every week. It is, without a doubt, one of this Fall’s can’t-miss series!
The man raising the bar when it comes to on-screen action is none other than Chris Vance. Instantly recognizable from his high profile roles on series such as “Rizzoli and Isles,” “Prison Break” and “Burn Notice,” he continues to turn the heads of fans and critics alike as he breathes new life into the character made famous by action icon Jason Statham. However, Vance’s role in this epic series isn’t limited to being it’s leading man. A multi-faceted artist, he also serves as the Executive Producer on the series; which is shot at break-neck speeds in some of the world’s most glamorous locations, ranging from Morocco, Prague, Paris and more.
While relishing ongoing opportunities as an actor such as ‘Transporter,’ Chris is also presently returning to his love of storytelling in the broader sense of writing and producing and is currently in development with several new projects, including a TV pilot and a feature, which he will be directing. His hard work and dedication to his craft coupled with this powerful new role leaves him poised to become a breakout star in the years to come.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Chris Vance to discuss his career, evolution as an actor, the challenges involved with his role on this larger-than-life-series and what the future may hold for him in front of and behind the camera!
You didn’t have the traditional start when it comes to becoming an actor. What can you tell us about your journey and what made you want to pursue acting as a career?
Good question! I was working as a civil engineer and, when I was about 25, I saw a long career of that ahead of me. It was going to be much of the same thing for the next 40 odd years. I decided to take a little break, take some time and explore some other things before I jumped back into that. One of the things I wanted to explore was writing, so I went to London and did a writing course there. That led to playing around with some theater stuff and training there. I got lucky enough to be cast in a couple of small plays, which led to me setting up my own theater company. I did some more plays, directed some stuff, wrote some stuff and I just sort of progressed from there. I got an agent and, the next thing I know, people were actually employing me! It was kind of cool! I mixed it up doing a bit of engineering and a bit of acting for a while just because the bucks don’t come in when you are just starting off. You have to put the time in. I went back and forth between those two worlds until I was about 30. After that, I got lucky enough to be an actor full-time.
Who were some of the influences and inspirations who helped shape the actor we see today?
I kind of looked to everyone for inspiration when I was younger. There are many actors in the British theater circuit who were amazing when I was growing up there in my 20s and being exposed to a lot of stuff at The National Theater. Honestly, I think anyone I have crossed paths with in this industry has influenced me at some point. You get to work with people and pick up the weirdest things at the weirdest times and it affects you in different ways. It is very hard to put a detailed description on it. It is more serendipitous. You take away from any experience what you can like any student and you are always learning. That is what I like about this profession, you are always exposed to different things. Whether it is a new business model, new writing or a new distribution platform, there is always a new challenge ahead. If I can be so bold, I can say the overall influence that people have brought to me is to be as collaborative as possible, have as little ego as possible and be open to everything.
You have a huge new project with “The Transporter” series, which is coming to TNT here in the United States. Were you familiar with “The Transporter” before you became involved and how did you become involved with the series?
Yes, I was very familiar with the movie franchise that starred Jason Statham, who did a wonderful job. I remember clearly enjoying the film at the time it came out. I watched it again when this project came to the table. My agent was approached and I was available at the time. Obviously, there was still an audition process. These things just don’t jump into your lap! We ran through, put some stuff on tape and played around. Eventually, I was lucky enough to be cast in it. I watched the movie franchise again to take what I could from it but essentially, through that process over a couple of months, I decided not to emulate or try and mimic anything from Jason’s brilliant performance. I tried to make it my own. That is the only way I can approach any project, with some kind of truth and honesty, by doing my own take on the character by using my own process. That is what I did.
What was it about this character that intrigued you and what did you want to bring to the role?
I thought it would be fun! Who doesn’t want to play the central protagonist in the action genre at some stage in your career, especially when you are young and physically capable of doing it. I thought it would all be a great challenge. The tongue-in-cheek humor, along with the physical challenge of the fight and stunt work. I thought it would make a change for me because I have played a lot of doctors and lawyers, not that there is anything wrong with that but it just made a change and that is what I was interested in! It hasn’t disappointed, I’ll be honest with you. It’s been great fun!
What type of physical and mental preparation went into taking on this role?
Physically, I trained for a few months before each season. I trained pretty hard, actually. You have to make sure your body is strong and you are in shape because the shooting schedule is generally over six months to shoot the 12 episodes. It is quite demanding and takes a lot of stamina to get through it because there are long hours and it is fairly relentless. You have to be in some sort of shape to manage it. The metal preparation, you know what, you just jump in and have a go! You get up every day, try to enjoy it the best you can, try not get annoyed by the politics and try to put all of your energy into the actual playing of it.
Are there glimpses of your own personality we might see shining through with this character?
There are glimpses, yeah. There is a little bit of cheekiness when I don’t know what to expect or the sense of humor where I am not taking things too seriously might come through. There is a bit of those elements. Without being arrogant, maybe a little bit of charm, comes through as well! [laughs]
“The Transporter” is a series full of action and I am sure you get to work a lot with stunt professionals to bring it all to life. What did you learn from these seasoned veterans and making of television and film from their perspective?
What was established in the beginning and we all learned in the beginning that the shooting schedule in television, particularly in this one, is very tight. We had to find some method of making sure we got the rehearsal time, which is so limited because I am in every scene doing different stuff in different units. We figured it was a lot tougher than the movies in certain ways. We didn’t have the rehearsal time so we had to block a lot of the moves, so we are familiar with them, then slide them into the story each time, if that makes sense. We kind of know what we are doing before we go into it and we just tailor make it to each location. There are obviously exceptions. When we did a very big fight sequence, we do take some time to rehearse it because, ultimately, it all comes down to safety and the entertainment value of the piece. There is no point in just throwing it together and we want it to be the best it can be. That was an interesting process and the schedule was as much of a challenge for the stunt coordinating team as it was for me really.
You take a little something away from every project. What did you learn from the talented cast and crew from your time on this series and what did they bring to the table?
Well, it is that international sensibility, I think. It is the diversity. We have a very diverse cast from many, many countries. We were shooting everywhere from Toronto to Morocco to the Czech Republic to France to Germany. It is the diversity of those cultures I think that brings such a rich texture to the show because everyone brings something a little personal, along with their own background, all with good intentions and a lot of energy and humor. For me, that is one of the best parts of the project, the international collaboration.
What are some of the biggest challenges you faced on this series?
I had an injury in season one that I had to fight my way back from. That was a bit of an obstacle! The second obstacle, I would say, was the structure of the business model and coordinating different market needs. A model of this nature is transcontinental. With commissioners or broadcasters, as you want to call them, they have their different market needs and somewhere in the middle is us. We need to find a way to bring the best stories possible with these different cultural intensities and the different market needs of these broadcasters. That was always a constant challenge but I think we managed to pull it off in many, many ways and we have certainly learned a lot doing it.
You have become such a familiar face through the years being a part of so many film and TV projects. Looking back on your career so far, how have you evolved as an actor along the way?
That is a really interesting question. I think I have become more confident and less afraid, for sure. I really enjoy it more now. I like to have fun with it a lot more now. I like to invest all of my energy in a character and a story, which is something I feel I may have been a little afraid to do when I was younger. Now I am not!
Your career isn’t limited to time spent in front of the camera. What can you tell us about that part of your career and how it affected you as an actor?
Another good question! Typically, as a lead on a TV show, you slide into a certain role in protecting your set, protecting the story and protecting the characters because you have a fair bit of clout when you are the lead of a series. You end up taking on a lot of producer’s duties. I did that in a couple of shows in the past. You start to learn a lot about directing, logistics, the different departments and how they all slot together and you see weaknesses and strengths. Ultimately, when you are doing it long enough, and this is one of the particular challenges I wanted this season, was to take on the role of executive producer. I wanted to do that so I could learn more and influence what we were trying to do and how we were trying to do it, along with what we were trying to say and how we were trying to say it. That has an effect on the acting because you are able to bring more strength to the table when you are executive producing your own show.
Do you have any interest in exploring the world of directing as well?
Most certainly! Absolutely! One thing at a time, basically! [laughs]
You have been on quite a role, so I figured it was worth asking!
[laughs] Absolutely! My wife and I are writing a movie at the moment, which we intend to produce and direct in the very near future. That one I will certainly jump in and direct! I will of course make a dozen phone calls to my director friends to pick their brains endlessly! [laughs] I will probably annoy them to death with all the technicalities of it. But yeah, I will certainly jump in! Why not! I used to direct theater, so I am familiar enough with this medium, I reckon I can give it a shot!
Your career continues to be very diverse. Is there a role or genre you are eager to explore in the short term?
Ya know, I couldn’t answer it. I never approach things in a way of shutting anything out! I never say, “I am going to zone in and I want to play Hamlet.” That is true by the way! I did always want to play Hamlet but now I am not so sure! [laughs] There are a lot of things that come to the table, so I never shut anything out. I am open to absolutely everything and it will entirely depend on life’s journey and the opportunities that are in front of me. I will leave it open to that. I never block anything out.
What other projects are on the horizon we can look forward to in the near future?
As a producer, I am in development with two other television shows. I am not committed to either of those. We really have to see how “The Transporter” plays out. I still have to be available to work that one through and, like I said before, “One thing at a time!”
You split your time between Los Angeles and Paris. Has it been difficult to find a balance there with everything you have going on?
Yeah, sometimes and no. It depends on what is going on in the year. For the time being we have been spending more time in Los Angeles because we have just been on the road for nine months. We will spend the rest of the year here and then will probably go to Paris and England for a month or so around the Christmas period to catch up with friends and family. Then we will come back because we have more stuff in development here. We just take it one day at a time or one week at a time and try to enjoy ourselves along the way.
When you aren’t hard at work, how do you unwind?
I spend time with my wife and one year old son because that is very important. I like to read a lot and I will read just about anything you throw in my lap. I was reading a book on the elementary table yesterday and later today I think I will be getting into a Clive Cussler novel I have had hanging around. I like to do that and we also spend a lot of time with our dogs. We have eight dogs, so we are kind of crazy in that way! [laughs] It takes a bit of time to walk them!
You are a great person to look to as an inspiration for aspiring actors and creative types. What is the best piece of advice that has been passed along to you about a career in the entertainment industry?
Everyone has a story, you just have to listen. That is probably my best advice to a young actor, to have that in your mind as you play and explore. Just know that when you get into this game, it is really, really hard work. Whether you are working or looking for work, it is hard work. Between those two things, it will take you a long way to not being disappointed, no matter what comes your way.
Are you involved with any charity work we can help spread the word on?
Fashion Tails is a great cause we are involved with at the moment. Basically, it is an awareness for spaying and neutering for pet owners to help control the pet population. It is a really strong campaign and we did a fashion shoot for them just last week. That is my charity of the moment!
Thanks so much for your time today, Chris. It has been a true pleasure!
Thank you, Jason. I have really enjoyed meeting you. Take care!
Deliver the goods. Get out alive. Transporter: The Series is coming to TNT October 18th at 9/8c!