A LOVE AFFAIR WITH ACTING – DAMAN chats with Spencer Treat Clark about superhero universes, his dreams of directing and his latest film projects
These days, when an actor appears in a comic bookbased film, it’s no surprise to see him reprise his role in sequels and maybe even a spin-off show or two. In 2019, american actor Spencer Treat Clark will appear in the superhero thriller “Glass.” What a lot people might not realize is that he’ll be reprising a role he played in “Unbreakable,” which came out in 2000. Apparently these two movies, along with 2016’s “Split,” form a trilogy … and might just be the first entries in a much larger universe.
Of course, “Glass” is not the only project that keeps Clark—who you might have seen in everything from the unforgettable “Gladiator” to hit TV series “agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”—going, as he also has a recurring role in “Animal Kingdom,” whose fourth season is coming up, and is currently working on “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” for Netflix.
DAMAN: Hi, Spencer. Thank you for having us. How are you?
Spencer Treat Clark: Hi. I’m great! Thanks for having me.
DAMAN: A short while ago we saw the first official trailer of “Glass.” In a nutshell, how would you describe the movie?
Spencer Treat Clark: “Glass” is a comic book movie at its core, but it’s way more grounded in reality than the majority of films in that genre. “Glass” explores the outer limits of human ability and the line between what we know to be possible and the supernatural. It’s thrilling, It’s smart, it’s darkly comedic, and it’s a really good time.
DAMAN: Can you also give us a brief description of your character? And how does it feel to reprise a role from nearly two decades ago?
Spencer Treat Clark: I play joseph Dunn, David Dunn’s [played by Bruce Willis] son and partner in his vigilante crime fighting. I’m the biggest believer in David’s abilities and also just a guy who looks up to his Dad. Reprising this character was insane. For almost two decades there has been chatter about a sequel to “Unbreakable” but I never thought it would happen. “Split” caught me completely off guard. I had no idea there was a crossover with “Unbreakable” until my phone started blowing up with messages from friends who saw it on opening night. I honestly don’t think it will feel real until I’m sitting in a theater full of people watching the movie.
DAMAN: What is it like working with director M. Night Shyamalan—twice?
Spencer Treat Clark: Night can juggle a million things at once and still manage to elevate the people around him. He’s so good at what he does and he absolutely loves telling stories and making movies. I really look up to him. I would imagine a lot of people who work for him feel the same way. Not just the actors. He’s been so supportive of me and that was as true 18 years ago as it is now.
DAMAN: We’ve seen a lot of attempts at creating new “movie universes” that failed. In your opinion, what is it that makes the “Unbreakable”-“Split”- “Glass” trilogy different?
Spencer Treat Clark: There isn’t a lot of world building in this trilogy, because these movies don’t exist in a bubble, they exist in the world as we know it. They aren’t asking “wouldn’t it be cool if these humans existed?” They’re saying, “maybe they already do.” There’s also something to be said about “Unbreakable” preceding our current cultural obsession with super heroes. It’s pretty cool for the trilogy to conclude all these years later in a landscape where people are way better versed in the genre than they were when “Unbreakable” was released eighteen years ago.
DAMAN: On a more personal note, what was the most challenging—or otherwise memorable—part of shooting for “Glass”?
Spencer Treat Clark: Night’s style is uniquely cinematic. The camera is doing a lot of work to help tell the story. There were a lot of long takes and very little coverage. A lot of the blocking was done before the actors even stepped foot on set. That just isn’t done that often anymore, especially on TV. Generally you have a lot more latitude to decide how you want to use the space and the camera will follow you. On “glass” it was much more of a dance. It was fun and challenging and it ends up looking incredibly amazing, especially when you have someone like Night directing. There were a lot of memorable moments on and off set. I had one dinner in particular with Samuel L. Jackson where he got on a role telling stories and I got to ask just about everything you could imagine and he was totally game. As an actor and a fan, it was a dream.
DAMAN: We’ve heard a lot of people say how appearing in a superhero film opens up a lot of new opportunities. Is this true in your case?
Spencer Treat Clark: I hope so. I’ve had a great year. I’m looking forward to the movie coming out and then seeing what comes next.
DAMAN: Moving to TV, in July news came out that “Animal Kingdom” will have a fourth season. Is there anything you can tell us about what to expect from the next chapter of the show?
Spencer Treat Clark: I know next to nothing about season four other than the fact that the character I play, Adrian, is in a lot of trouble at the end of season three. It’s either going to bring me closer to the Cody family, or pit them against me. I’m excited to see where the writers go with it.
DAMAN: Can you give us a brief rundown of “Animal Kingdom” for any of our readers still unfamiliar with the show?
Spencer Treat Clark: “Animal kingdom” is the story of the Cody family, a family of criminals, set in Oceanside, California. It’s based off of a great Australian movie of the same name written and directed by David Michod. Season one kicks off when a 17 year old kid named J, played by Finn Cole, gets sent to live with his three uncles and grandmother that he’s never met. The show is not about animals. It’s a metaphor, everybody! The people are the animals. The number of times I’ve had to explain that to people… You should watch it if you don’t already. It’s a great show.
DAMAN: And what would be your number one reason to binge watch the first three seasons of “Animal Kingdom” now before the fourth comes out?
Spencer Treat Clark: Because the show is badass. The writing is awesome and the actors in it are great.
DAMAN: Looking back at your time with “Animal Kingdom,” what would you say are the best parts of being on the cast of the show?
Spencer Treat Clark: Most of my scenes are with Jake Weary who plays Deran. I’m lucky because he’s a really talented actor and also a great guy. The whole cast is super cool and we get to do some really fun stuff on this show. It’s a treat filming a scene on a surfboard in the ocean rather than spending all day on a dark soundstage. The Cody house was actually built on the Warner Brothers ranch in Burbank. Aside from wider hallways and doors to accommodate lights and cameras, it’s pretty much a real house with running water. They did an amazing job. It’s nice as an actor to work in a space that actually feels lived in … And I’m not complaining when you have a pool scene on an 85 degree day.
DAMAN: Now, throughout its first three seasons, “Animal Kingdom” has consistently maintained high ratings and received positive reviews. What do you think is behind the show’s
Spencer Treat Clark: John Wells knows how to make good TV and TNT believes in the show and supports it. The show has some really awesome fans.
DAMAN: In what ways do you see the upcoming fourth season surpassing the first three?
Spencer Treat Clark: Each season gets a little broader in scope and intensity. The Cody family is more at odds at the end of season three than ever before. I suspect that in season four things are going to go off.
DAMAN: You’ve been acting for more than two decades and have appeared in—correct us if we’re wrong here—almost three dozen films. Which titles would you say are the biggest highlights of your career so far?
Spencer Treat Clark: There’s a lot of different metrics for that, but I think for me the most memorable projects correlate to the people and experiences I’ve had on set. Working for Night again was pretty surreal. I’ve been really fortunate to work for some great directors and he’s at the top of that list. I filmed a movie in South Africa called “Last House on the Left” almost ten years ago. It was a really tight knit cast. I took a semester off of college for it and it remains a really formative experience for me, both personally and professionally. I’ve really enjoyed working on “Animal Kingdom” the past few seasons. It’s a fun challenge to get to develop a character over time and it allows for a lot of growth as an actor.
DAMAN: You famously started acting at a young age. Have you always wanted to be an actor or was there a moment that happened later on—your Eureka moment, if you will—where everything finally clicked and you felt that this is the path you wanted to take for the foreseeable future?
Spencer Treat Clark: I’ve always loved acting. It’s scary and thrilling and always new. I’ve felt that from a very young age and I hope that never goes away. I have a lot of other interests and ways to express myself creatively but none have been able to fill me with the same sense of excitement and discovery on such a regular basis.
DAMAN: Which elements of acting would you say really came naturally for you?
Spencer Treat Clark: Diving in head first. I can be a little bashful in other aspects of my life, but on set I’ve always been willing to be vulnerable.
DAMAN: On the flip side, what are some of the hardest parts of this line of work to get used to?
Spencer Treat Clark: I feed off new experiences and change, but the unpredictable schedules can be hard on friends and loved ones and logistics can be a nightmare. If you book a vacation for example, you’re more or less guaranteed to get a job that conflicts. It’s a little hard to explain to your girlfriend.
DAMAN: Have you ever considered trying your hand at other aspects of filmmaking like writing or directing?
Spencer Treat Clark: I have always wanted to direct. Whenever I had down time on “Glass” I’d shadow Night. Days I wasn’t working I’d still spend on set. Night was super gracious about it and it meant a lot to me when I wrapped early one day and he wanted me to stick around to watch a cool shot he was really excited about. After “Unbreakable,” Night gave me a camcorder as a wrap gift. I think he was hoping I’d become the next great American director. So, yeah, I better get started.
DAMAN: Finally, what are your long term plans? Where do you see yourself—as clichéd as it might sound-in five years or so from now?
Spencer Treat Clark: It’s hard to say in this job. A lot of it’s not up to you. I know that I’m going to continue to challenge myself. I’ve gotten to play some really evil characters recently which have been new and exciting. It’s important not to get too comfortable.
Photography Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
Styling Jenny Ricker
Styling Assitant Grisel Rodriguez
Grooming Robert Bryan
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