Over the past decade, Clayne Crawford has poured his heart and soul into each project, establishing himself as one of the most versatile actors in the entertainment industry. Crawford’s story begins when this Alabama native struck out on trek to Los Angeles in 1997 where immediately began to work in numerous theater productions. It wasn’t long before his talents were recognized on the big screen with lead roles in the features ‘A Walk to Remember,’ ‘Swimfan,”A Love Song for Bobby Long’ and ‘The Baytown Outlaws.’ Crawford then continued to build his fan base with eclectic roles on hit TV shows. He completed a memorable arc on the last season of “24” and was a series regular on the hit show “The Glades.” In 2010, Crawford booked a lead role in the pilot “All Signs of Death” for HBO and producer Alan Ball. His next epic project is the Legendary Pictures feature ‘Spectral,’ slated for a 2016 release, where he stars opposite Max Martini and Emily Mortimer.
No matter the medium, Crawford continues to gravitate towards character-driven material. This unrelenting drive led him to one of his most ambitious and rewarding projects to date; SundanceTV‘s haunting drama ‘Rectify.’ A Peabody Award winner, the show is the brainchild of creator Ray McKinnon and his fellow executive producers Mark Johnson and Melissa Bernstein, follows Daniel Holden (Aden Young), a man who returns home to George after serving 19 years on death row. Instead of warmly welcoming Daniel home, Ted Jr. (Clanye Crawford) feels this turn of events leaves him with everything to lose. Insecure and manipulative, Ted Jr. will go to great lengths to hold on to his livelihood – even if Daniel’s freedom is at stake. Season 3 picks up on the afternoon of Daniel’s plea deal. ‘Rectify’ continues to to turn the heads of critics and fans alike with amazing writing and powerful performances which has led to it being greenlit for a fourth season.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Clayne Crawford to discuss his unique career path, evolution as an actor, the challenges of bringing his characters from script to screen and what the future might hold for this star on the rise!
Let’s start at the beginning. What can you tell us about how you got started and discovered acting was something you wanted to pursue as a career?
It kind of hit me once I got out there. I had aspirations when I was growing up in a small town in Alabama. However, it really could have been anything to get me out of that town, even going to astronaut school. [laughs] Los Angeles just happened to be the furthest place away from where I was that I could get to by vehicle. When I got there, I met a girl who was doing a play and another guy, who was playing a small role, ended up getting sick and I filled in. I kind of fell in love with it at that point. It was a tiny little theater out in Sun Valley, in the middle of nowhere. It gave me an opportunity to make a lot of mistakes without anyone having eyes on it. It was a really great training ground for me. From that, I got an agent and started playing the game. I booked a few films early on like “A Walk To Remember” and “Swimfan.” I pulled back from the business a little bit to focus on the craft and what it was that I was doing.
Did you have any mentors who impacted you as an artist?
Absolutely. There was a young man by the name of Tom Ardavany who ran a small class in Los Angeles — The Ardavany Approach. When I say small, it was like five or six of us. He did the class from his house. He had so many dreams and aspirations himself as a writer/director but he really had a passion for this class. It was Josh Holloway, Matt Gerald, myself, along with some other guys. He taught us it is about the parts and you have to connect them and it isn’t always about the dialogue but the scene. I learned so many wonderful little things that I still use today.
Your latest project is SundanceTV’s series “Rectify,” which is in its third season. How did you get involved and what attracted you to the project?
I had taken a break from acting for a couple of years and got back in when I did the final season of “24.” At that time, TV had really made a jump and there were some really exciting things going on other than what was happening on HBO. So, I opened myself up to doing a series. I had tried one and was very disappointed with it, so the producers let me out of the contract. I read “Rectify” and it really seemed like an independent film. It was true storytelling based around great character development and it seemed as if everyone in the story had an arc. You don’t typically see that. Most importantly, I felt it was depicting the South in a very honest way and in a way I had only seen in literature. “Sling Blade” and “The Apostle” were great depictions of the South in film form but I hadn’t seen it in television. I also couldn’t deny the Sundance aspect. They represent all the reasons I got into the business and some of the films I was most proud of had been in the festival. For them to want to dip their toe into the scripted world, I certainly wanted to be a part of that.
Obviously, the script spoke to you and drew you in but what did you bring to the character that wasn’t on the written page?
I have played a lot of rotten guys who may not have had the best upbringing and have made poor choices in their life as a result. Teddy was one of those guys who I could see was going to be an antagonist in a very not typical way. I just wanted to bring humanity to him and create a story for who Teddy was and why he conducted himself in the way that he did and show he wasn’t just a jerk. I wanted to show it came from insecurities stemming from never being loved or accepted and really build this man up so that audiences could relate to him as opposed to only judging him. Ray McKinnon has given me such wonderful material and such an incredible arc. Honestly, Teddy wouldn’t be anything without Ray. He and I are kind of cut from the same cloth. He is from a small town in Georgia and I am from a small town in Alabama. We grew up with people like Teddy. We both knew the reason why they were the way they were. We really wanted to show that and I haven’t seen a guy like Teddy written for television, so my hat is off to Ray McKinnon.
What is the biggest thing you learned from your time on the series that you will carry to future projects?
If I could, I would take away Ray with me for every future project! [laughs] As an actor, I was always impressed with his work. I think I speak for every actor on the show in saying that none of us would be what we are without him. He is our eyes and ears, our monitor. We trust him fully to come in with notes. I will take the knowledge he has given me as an actor and carry it forward to future jobs.
What has been the biggest challenge for you with the role of Teddy?
I think the challenge I have faced is the same challenge anyone would face playing Teddy. We spend so much of our lives building walls and guarding ourselves, trying to deal with insecurities we may have and learning to, without sounding silly, love ourselves and not judge who we are. In my profession, we are judged by how we look, how we talk and stand, so you work diligently to not let these things affect you as a human. Teddy is eaten up with insecurity and self-awareness. He is very worried about how other people see him and tends to conduct himself in a manner based on how others perceive him, which is why he is different with his dad than he is with his brother, sister or step-brother. For me, being that vulnerable and insecure all the time is very difficult from day to day and season to season. Maintaining that level of insecurity and picking up a year later, essentially, is definitely a challenge.
You have another big project with Legendary Picture’s “Spectral,” which is coming onto everyone’s radar now. What can you tell us about the flick and what we might expect?
First, I was simply drawn to “Spectral” because of Legendary. I had met with them weeks before I knew about this project. I thought what they had done with Warner Brothers and Chris Nolan for “Batman,” and films like “300,” “The Town” and “42” was terrific. I felt like these guys really led the way for what film has become and, because there are so many options on television, people are only going to the theaters if it’s a big deal. I feel like they have really set the bar with these big films but they ground them with great performances and actors. They also tend to cast people who aren’t necessarily your stereotypical A-listers. I don’t think Christian Bale or Gerard Butler were at the top of everyone’s list when they were cast for the films. I thought that was really interesting and I really wanted to work with those guys. I read “Spectral” and it was a big, fun film. I found out James Badge Dale and Emily Mortimer were attached. I am a big fan of theirs, as well as Max Martini, who is a close friend of mine for over 10 years. This was a great opportunity for us to do a film together. The character is a tough, Delta Force guy from the Northeast and he is driven by trying to do the right thing. I can’t say too much about the film because they make you sign a whole bunch of stuff and that’s the business, but that is it in a nutshell. Me, Max, Badge and Emily get to run around like lunatics with big, crazy, futuristic weapons, ya know? [laughs]
You sold me on it! [laughs] What was it like working with director Nic Mathieu for the feature?
Nic Mathieu is somewhat of a savant when it comes to filmmaking. This guy is a commercial director and the commercials that I had seen were just fantastic. He has such a visual eye. He knows every single shot and every single cut at all times. On a film of this size, with so many moving parts and the visual effects being added in later, for him to keep track of everything is really extraordinary to watch. When it came time for the scenes driven by dialogue, he would really focus all of his energy on that and focus on the performance and adjusting. Watching him go through the editing process and put all the little pieces of the puzzle together is incredible! Again, my hat is off to Legendary for allowing to have his singular vision.
I know you have experience in the world of writing and directing as well. How have those skill sets impacted your craft as an actor?
I think, as a way of survival, I have always tried to write and not necessarily direct but always be shooting stuff. When I say we, I mean me and my buddies. Now, everyone is on shows or doing films and staying busy, so it is kind of tough to get everyone together. We used to shoot something every six months. I think it kept us all fresh. As actors, you aren’t always able to get the workout you need in a class and you have to be on set. It is a lot like being an athlete. There is a reason why you practice and go full speed a couple of days a week to keep yourself in tune. Now, we shoot when we can. I have been working the past two years on a film called “Tinker” that my son, Colton Crawford, is in with me. That has been very exciting. My buddy wrote it and directed it and I helped him put it together. It is a wonderful opportunity to work with my son.
By doing these things, you learn to wear so many different hats. Whether you have 10 grand and six guys and are trying to shoot a 20-minute short or 200,000 grand and we are trying to shoot a feature in three weeks, everyone plays a scene multiple types of ways and you are constantly learning. When you are in the editing room or even on set setting up the camera, you realize what the camera sees and how changing the lens can affect you as an actor. I have said it before but I kinda feel like I started in the mail room and was able to work my way up to CEO. [laughs] I have really learned how all the moving parts work and how they work together, along with what I can do better to help others execute their job properly and so that my performance is intact. I think editing a film was really beneficial to me in discovering what it is an editor is looking for. When something is cut, it is nothing personal, they are just trying to make everything have an even flow. It was really wonderful for me to go through that and learn, as an actor, how to protect what it is I am doing and also be aware of all these different elements.
You mentioned stepping away from acting for a time. What kicked you back into gear and drives you as an actor today?
I am drawn to acting simply because it gives me the opportunity to explore human emotion without the consequence. I am intrigued by the human psyche, the decisions we make, the impulses, our feelings, fears and the desires that drive us. Performing in that way and that form of art is really rewarding to me. Great material drives me. I can be in a state of suspended animation and then read something that captivates me and then everything within me is driven toward that. I want to research, explore and become this individual. I have tried to make it work with stuff in the past, when I didn’t have that drive, and it came off as false. Then you have to work for inspiration but, for the most part, I wait for it to come grab me. I am always open to it, perceptive and reading everything that comes my way regardless of budget or who is involved.
What is the best lesson we can learn from your journey so far as an actor?
If I have learned anything, it is that focusing on the craft is very important. I know that sounds so artsy fartsy. However, if you focus on the work, doing your part, don’t let ego get involved, focus on the process that takes place between “Action” and “Cut,” and really give your heart to it and show up everyday, there is always work out there for you. I have always worked, regardless of if I pulled away, made mistakes or rubbed someone the wrong way. If you just focus on the work and try to be a professional, the work will always be there. That is what I have learned along the way.
When you aren’t working on projects in television or film, where do you focus your energy? Are you involved with any charity or causes we can shine a light on?
My wife and I, after moving back to a small town in rural Alabama, have been focusing all our energy on a local level. That was our first priority. As simple as it sounds, we have been focusing on bringing recycling to our community and our schools. We have been educating them on sustainability in an effort to unify the community and better our town. It has been consuming much of our time but it has been a very rewarding experience.
That is awesome to hear! We wish you continued success with all those avenues. You are definitely an inspiration! Thanks for your time today, Clayne.
Thank you, Jason! I appreciate your time!