While he may not yet be a household name, there is no denying the screen presence of Chaske Spencer. Best known for his role in the “Twilight” saga series as Sam Uley, the alpha male leader of the werewolves, he has been quietly honing his craft and building a notable body of onscreen work. His resume not only includes a recurring role on Cinemax’s “Banshee” but also a series of indie films including “Desert Cathedral,” “The Winter in the Blood,” “Shouting Secrets” and “Indian Summer.” 2017 is starting off with a bang with a for the young actor with a memorable role on Amazon’s critically acclaimed new series, “Sneaky Pete.” Starring Bryan Cranston and Giovanni Ribisi, the series focuses on a conman taking cover from his past by assuming the identity of his prison cellmate, Pete. Chaske Spencer plays Chayton Dockery, a bail bondsman with a dark side, who’s on a mission to collect money stolen from him. “Sneaky Pete” has proven to be a breakout hit for Amazon and was greenlit for a second season just days after it’s premiere. Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Chaske Spencer to discuss his role on “Sneaky Pete,” his journey as an artist and what the future may hold for this star on the rise.
Let’s go back to the beginning. How did you get involved with the arts early on in life?
I think it started through reading a lot as a child. I had been in a few plays as a kid through community theater. I think that is when I caught the acting bug but I don’t think I viewed it as a possibility, to make a living, until I was about 21 years old. At that time, I still didn’t know what I was doing or where I was going. [laughs] I moved to New York and began taking classes. I was a struggling actor, bartender, garbageman and cater waiter — fun times! [laughs]
Taking the plunge to pursue an acting career is a big step. Did you have reservations on going this route?
Yeah, of course. I think it’s a risk. If you really love something, you have to take the risk and get outside of your comfort zone. For me that was huge! I had never been to New York City before. Like I said, I came here when I was 21 with only $100 and a one-way ticket. I was inspired by New York City because so many of the actors I had admired came from there and studied there. That was a huge factor for me. When I got there, I started taking classes and started taking risks to get out of my comfort zone!
You mentioned influences. Who inspires you?
When in comes to people who have been very influential to my career, Renee Haines is at the top of the list. She is a casting director and she actually gave me a career. She has put me in most of the stuff I have been in. She really believed in me and has been a champion for me and a lot of other actors as well. When it comes to actors who have inspired me, there are so many, but Marlon Brando is a huge influence. I watched a documentary on him recently and I was fascinated by it. He was not only an actor but a student of human behavior. As an actor, you have to apply that to your work and whatever you are taking on. I find that very inspiring. When it comes to staying inspired, I think it comes down to living life. You learn so much by opening that door and showing up. I think a lot of things I experience in life are applied to my craft. I’m not one to sit on the couch! I always have to be moving! I find that if I keep moving forward, the more tools and inspiration I get. You have to get outside, take a look around and check out your environment!
You have a lot going on. Tell us about how you got involved on the new series “Sneaky Pete.”
I auditioned for it out in Los Angeles. I was out there at the time and I found out, when I was on the road, that I got the part and that brought me back to New York. When I read the first script, I really feel in love with it but I didn’t know where it was going to go. I was really excited to get the script every couple of weeks because it is such an exciting series. It is very comical in addition to the drama. It’s also filled with great actors, so I have been working with a lot of amazing people. There was no way I was going to say no! [laughs]
For those becoming aware of the series, what can you tell us about your character?
I play Chayton Dockery, who is a bail bondsman. The main characters in the show are on trial for methamphetamine and all that surrounds it. They have taken his money and he is trying to get it back. It all unfolds over the course of the series. What I liked about the character is that it is a fun character to play and there is a lot of meat in the character. I have really enjoyed having the opportunity to play around with it.
What did you bring to the character that wasn’t on the original written page?
That is a good question. I hope I brought a lot to it! I never knew because it’s not something I think about too much. I hope I brought a little bit of weight to it. I always look at what I bring to the table. There are a lot of other actors involved who are bringing in such beautiful work, so you just try to throw in what you can to make it a beautiful dance between everyone involved. I think you learn something from every project you are involved with. Being around other actors and actresses who you are comfortable and who are fun to work with really helps when you are on set and working these long hours.
What was the biggest challenge with the role?
I would say the biggest challenge was just trying to find the character. You can try to build something all day but, when it is gametime, you just have to throw caution to the wind and jump off that waterfall! If you land on your spot, great! If not, that’s OK too! The fun part is jumping off that waterfall!
When you take on a new role, what is your process fleshing these characters out in your mind?
It’s a bit tricky! The process changes all the time. I used to think I had to have a pattern when it comes to the work. Just as in life, I feel I have to be very fluid. I could be committing to one of my intentions for a scene but, when I get to set, sometimes the scene might be changed all together. That is why I always try to remain fluid. What I have learned along the way is that I have to adapt. Between takes, you have to sit on it, as they say, when it comes to your emotions or intensity you have during a scene. You try to maintain the energy and keep it going. That is a challenge! That is the advantage of working with amazing actors where you can bounce the ball back and forth to each other within the scene.
You have been a part of a lot of great projects in your career. Which of those projects had the biggest impact on you and your craft?
There are a lot of them. When I do a film and I am done working, I always feel I walk away with something. That is something I love about what I do for a living; I always walk away with something from the experience and it changes me and the way I look at life. Obviously, “Twilight” had a big impact on my career and I wouldn’t be here without that and I am always grateful for it. What I took away from that was the appreciation to be able to have a career from that and make some friends along the way. When it comes to my craft and my work, all of the projects have had an impact on me. I did a movie called “Desert Cathedral” with Lee Tergesen. That character was really difficult for me because I was trying to find out who he really was. Through the process, it turned out that what I was going through was also what the character was going through. I walked away learning that sometimes you just have to let things happen the way they happen and maybe it will become organic or maybe it won’t. That is what I love about what I do; you never know what is going to happen!
You are a working actor and the quality of the roles you are landing speaks for itself. Did you ever have an “Ah Ha!” moment when you felt you finally made it as an actor?
Every day! [laughs] When I wake up, there are times I can’t believe this is really happening! I’m like, “When are they going to find out I’m a fraud? Who’s coming in with my hat and coat and asking me to leave?” [laughs] I appreciate the opportunities I have been given every day and I am always grateful for them! Acting is a tricky business. No one just wakes up and becomes an actor. I always look at it as if I am some sort of a clown. I wake up each day, put on makeup, pretend to be other people and get paid for it! I mean, how big a hustle is that! [laughs] I’m always amazed by it because it’s a crazy life. At the same time, it is very humbling as well. I was very lucky to find out that I wanted to do something as a job that I truly love to do. I think it’s very rare that people are able to do what they love to do. Every day I wake up thanking God that I’m allowed this life. I don’t take it for granted and I’m pretty low key. I think that’s why I stayed in New York. I tend to just go under the radar, do what I do for a living and have a life. I think you have to live life, get off the sofa and get out there and take risks. If I wasn’t an actor, I would find some type of art form that would always have me challenging myself. That is one thing I definitely am able to walk away with as an actor; I’m constantly able to challenge myself, whether it is when I am working or between gigs and exploring other avenues. I can’t just pretend to be a character. I have to find a way to apply myself to explore new experiences and aspects of my life to potentially apply them to my work down the road.
You have a lot going on in addition to your role on “Sneaky Pete.” Where can we look for you next?
I did a movie with Jessica Chastain, Sam Rockwell and Michael Greyeyes called “Woman Walks Ahead.” I wrapped that about two months ago in New Mexico. I’m really excited about that movie. Again, I get to work with some amazing actors and actresses! It’s been a very fun journey to get to the point I am at now!
Awesome! Thanks so much for your time today, Chaske! I look forward to seeing where the journey takes you!
Thank you, Jason!
Follow the continuing adventures of Chaske Spencer on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Visit Chaske’s official website at www.therealchaske.com. ‘Sneaky Pete’ is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video!