Interview: Treva EtienneApril 11, 2019
Recently we had the chance to talk with actor Treva Etienne about his career, including his new movie Acts of Desperation.
Did you always want to be an actor or did that interest develop over time?
Treva: I kind of came about after watching James Cagney. I grew up with a stutter and James Cagney used to speak in a kind of rat-a-tat-tat rhythm, so watching him kind of encouraged me to find a rhythm of my own and subsequently, teach myself to speak. From that, I asked a teacher what James Cagney did and she said he was an actor, someone who pretends to be someone else. I thought that was interesting and so from that seed, from that initial conversation, it just grew into something that was first a hobby and then turned into a profession.
What piqued your interest in doing theater?
Treva: I used to go see a lot of theater when I was in school, Shakespeare, stuff like that and really, I always loved the live stage, that kind of connection with the audience. I was young, about fourteen when I started doing a lot of stage work and I ended up playing Macbeth at the National Theater when I was twenty-one and I guess from that moment on it just grew into a love of theater, really. In the UK that was huge, because the British tradition of theater, that’s the kind of training and environment you grow up in as an actor, so it just became a natural progression of that as well.
Do you think theater is something every actor should experience, that sensation of working without a net so to speak, or is it just not for everyone?
Treva: Yes, I think all performers should experience some kind of live theater. Live performances in the theater give you a kind of understanding of the effect your energy can have when telling a story, singing a song or doing a dance. I don’t think it’s essential but I think it’s a good experience for everyone in the creative world to experience the theater at least once. I don’t think there’s anything quite like it, it’s just an amazing human experience.
Hollywood is in a strange place right now. There is the independent film world, the blockbusters and then not much in between. As an actor does this affect you in any way or is the process pretty much the same?
Treva: It really doesn’t affect me too much and yes, the process is basically the same. Auditions are the same, you go in, read for the part and then you get it or you don’t. It’s true, there is not a lot of middle ground these days but for me, how I approach my craft, the auditions, all of that, nothing has changed.
Let’s talk about the movie Acts of Desperation. How did you come to get involved in this film?
Treva: Well my buddy Vince Lozano, who’s also in the movie and produced it, I’ve known Vince since we did Pirates of the Caribbean, he called me and said there was a good role in the film for me, would I be up for it, and I said yes. I read the script, loved it and agreed on the spot, really, I thought it was great.
Your character Glen is not the usual, everyday character you see in a film. How much fun did you have playing him?
Treva: He was a lot of fun to play. The whole idea of doing comedy, and it’s one of the hardest things to do, is trying to convince people it’s funny. That’s not easy to do when you’re trying to make it look natural as well. We had such a great cast, wonderful director, everyone was just so warm, open and friendly, it made for a fun atmosphere and a really great experience. It was nice to be working with great material, meeting the writer Nathan and his family, they came down to the set one day, hearing the whole story, it was just a really cool and easy experience. It’s really nice that people are responding to the movie in a positive way, they seem to be really enjoying it, people are making a connection with the characters and the story, so that makes the work, the whole experience, that much more valid.
There are a lot of interesting characters in Acts of Desperation. Did you and your fellow actors do a lot of ad-libbing or did you basically stick to the script?
Treva: Most of it was on the page to be honest, which is a credit to the writer. There might have been some ad libs or word changes here and there but a lot of it was already there. We pretty much stuck to the script, Richard, the director, he was pretty loose so he allowed us to play but we didn’t go too far off script. Everything was relatively on the page so it made making this film even more fun, knowing you were working with good material.
Earlier in your career, you did some producing and directing. Do you plan on doing more of that in the future or are you happy to stay in front of the camera?
Treva: No, I’m planning on doing more of that, absolutely. I’ve got my own project I’m pitching right now, so the plan is to at some point get some of my own stories out there.
Do you think actors make good directors, having been in front of the camera themselves?
Treva: I think so. There are so many examples of actors who have gotten behind a camera and created some amazing stories. I don’t think it works for every actor but I think if you have a desire to write, produce, direct, to do something behind the camera, I think it just fuels your creative landscape, really, and enhances your confidence. It’s not an easy thing to do, be in front of or behind the camera, it’s not an easy industry, but I think perseverance and endurance have always been examples to me in how people get from point a to b. I think it’s good for any performer to look at the big picture and see how it’s all put together.
The independent film world is very important as so many different voices can be heard because of it. What do you like about working in independent films?
Treva: I think there is a wonderful sense of freedom and the material is usually very interesting. If you look at a lot of the indie films, because they don’t have the big budgets and big names, you’re allowed to tell more personal stories, stories that may be a little off center, and touching on what’s going on in the world today. I think in that sense, the indie world is really vital because it cares about the underbelly of our society, it tells a different truth and I think is really important. Now it’s really interesting because independent film is basically part of the mainstream, if you take a look at who’s been winning Oscars the last ten years, indie films have had a huge influence on their take on society and what we’re looking at as well.
Acting is a tough business to make into a long and stable career. What would you say to someone who wanted to become an actor?
Treva: Well, I think first it’s about passionate desire to want to be in the industry. Not only that, they’ve got to understand that patience is an angel, they have to love patience. Passion and excitement are some of the ingredients you need but I think the key ingredient in terms of being part of the industry, and for a long time, is patience. They need to understand they are in a line, and it’s a long line, and that many people have the same dream, both in front of and behind the camera. I go to schools and speak to young people all the time and that’s really what I tell them, if you can embrace patience and find other hobbies and things to keep them afloat while they are pursuing their dreams, then it’s worth the pursuit.
So what projects do you have coming up next?
Treva: I’m in the next season of the Amazon show called Bosch and there’s a project I did a few years ago that’s on Amazon right now called Compulsion, I play a detective in that project. There’s a couple of other things floating around me right now but I can’t speak about them, still waiting on a green light for them. I also have a couple of my own projects steadily moving forward so yeah, just keeping busy and forging head.
I want to thank Treva for taking the time to talk with us