By Candice Anne Marshall
How do you begin a review of an Actor who, at the age of only 18 has surpassed any milestone that the average young adult has? I mean, we’re not talking about the first car, first girlfriend, first job, and graduation kind of milestones here either…this is something on a much grander scale…..
I am referring to the kind of milestones that only Los Angeles, California-based Actor Mateus Ward has come to achieve in his short, but very accomplished acting career thus far. In fact, his very persona reminds me of a middle-aged Johnny Cash: cool, confident, and bonafide talented without ever giving an air of pretension. I have observed him in interviews since the launch of the film ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’ in the Film Festival circuit, (where he plays lead Actor) and without fail, he exudes these aforementioned traits. I have also read interviews where he has been referred to as ‘an old soul’ and his responses are concise, sometimes cheeky, and brimming with mature sophistication. Ward has also mentioned his early talent for Elvis impersonations (he loves Elvis) at a musical theater debut which later earned him scores of wicked television roles (see film and television credits below his social media links) and an impressive roster of film credits under his belt as well. He has often played dark characters and delivers them with the kind of graceful, undaunted candor that, in relation to the acting realm, I can only compare to a young Marlon Brando. In fact, looking further into Wards’ background, I would never have guessed that his portrayal of Clyde Thompson in ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’ was that of a man half that age. (see my interview with his Father, Director of the film, Justin Ward here)
In this true-story film of convicted murderer Clyde Thompson, Ward manages to take this role from an innocent boy, to an aggressive and hostile young man, to a redeemed middle-aged man of faith seamlessly all in a matter of an intense 105-minute thrill-ride. The accuracy to which he portrays Thompsons’ character in this film is genuine in delivery and fiery in emotional display. Because his performance was so historically accurate to the original Clyde Thompson, Ward (recently) earned himself the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role at the IndieFEST Film awards in Florida. This doesn’t surprise me, in fact, I predict this to be the start of a successful string of awards to come. It does take a lot for young Hollywood to impress me since the days of Molly Ringwald and the ‘Brat Pack’(and even the original ‘rat pack’ for that matter), but Ward has earned the utmost respect from me for his ability to take this role at such a young age and make it undeniably twenty-four carat authentic. If you have any opportunity to attend a Film Festival where ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’ is showing, make sure you are there!
So, here’s my summation of Mateus Ward: undeniably, for me, he has earned the right to be compared to the reputable likes of Johnny Cash (even arriving to premieres all in black) and Marlon Brando (that confidence!). Yet, even with all comparisons to music and Hollywood royalty aside, there really is only one Mateus Ward, and he really is that predominantly paramount, remarkably distinguished, and naturally skilled. AND – he will always dance to the beat of his own drum. Period.
I connected recently with Ward for an exclusive interview for our SMC SPOTLIGHT. Here is what he had to say:
SMC SPOTLIGHT Interview | Actor: Mateus Ward ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’
May 9th, 2017
SMC – Hello Mateus! Welcome to the SMC SPOTLIGHT! We have been profiling some of the industry’s top Actors, Musicians, and Fashion celebrity profiles for a couple years now and are happy to add you to this roster. Let’s begin with an introduction: we discovered you via our friend and peer Joshua Shultz (Bellus Magazine) who also Directed the short film ‘STROBE’ which you have a starring role in. What are your thoughts on how the film will have in terms of an impact on society?
Mateus – I believe that STROBE will shock people into realizing the collateral danger of hard drugs.
SMC – Do you think that this film could be an educational tool on the effects of drugs and how they impact people’s lives?
Mateus – Absolutely! I really think it will wake people up!
SMC – What was it like working with Joshua Shultz (Director | STROBE)?
Mateus – Josh is a great friend of mine! He’s a true artist in every sense of the word. Working with him was a true pleasure and such a blast.
SMC – Okay, so let’s get into your film credentials – your film reel roster is impressive! Which films/TV shows are/were your favorite to be a part of and why?
Mateus – I have so many amazing memories from all of these sets, I’ve created amazing friendships with people. Tyrel Jackson Williams (Lab Rats, Brockmire) and I still hang out, and I’m always in touch with my onscreen sister Quinn Shephard (Hostages, Blame) I’ve kept in touch with most of the people I have worked with, but if I had to chose, the two best work environments had to be “Murder in the First” and “The Meanest Man in Texas.” The cast and crew on each of them were like a family!
SMC – What is it like for you to prepare for a role? You go from being a meth addict in ‘STROBE’ to being a hardcore criminal in ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’ to a Disney XD role on Lab Rats…. this has to involve some devoted time to studying for these kinds of roles and becoming the characters you are portraying. Tell us what your process is like when preparing for a role.
Mateus – I think each actor has their own process. I like to start with research of the world or time period, then answer all the motivation and intention questions of the character and get to know them, then find their physicality.
SMC – Let’s get into your role as Clyde Thompson in The Meanest Man in Texas – can you tell us how you landed this?
Mateus – Pure nepotism! Just kidding, my father was offered to direct the film and I set out to prove to him and the producers I could play this part. I read the book, studied the history, learned the accent, and eventually won the part.
SMC – There are some pretty intense scenes in this film that I have to give you a ‘hat’s off’ nod to. For instance, the scene where you took a ‘whupping’ from ‘Captain Colt’ (played by Actor Jamie McShane) – wow! These are things that not very many youth today know anything about. How did you prepare mentally for that kind of a situation?
Mateus – I focus on the situation, and play it as real as I can. For that scene, I honestly don’t remember much. I was just going through it.
SMC – In terms of the emotion portrayed in your character…. scenes like when Clyde is told his father has passed away, how do you prepare yourself for that kind of emotional expression? What frame of mind do you have to be in to get the emotions right?
Mateus – For me, as an actor, it always comes down to being in the moment. I tend to stay away from “tricks” or “substitutions.” That is not to say that I don’t use them. I think an actor needs to utilize whatever is necessary to convey a moment. I have always had an intense imagination, so putting myself in someone else’s shoes was always easy for me, once I’ve put in the work to know everything I can about a character.
SMC – Some of the scenes were played so well, I had actual tears! What are your thoughts on the story line and events that happened in the life of the real Clyde Thompson?
Mateus – It’s hard to believe all of these things actually happened to him. His story is unreal in so many ways, I felt an obligation to play it all as real as I could.
SMC – The scene where your father (played by Ben Reed) comes to you and encourages you to have faith in God…your reaction to him was pretty intense! (‘There ain’t no God! There ain’t no word!’) Can you tell us what filming scenes like that were for you? Religion is such a controversy these days….
Mateus – When playing any character, no matter who they are, you have to throw out all of your pre-conceived notions and beliefs. I believe I really learned this while playing a school shooter on “Murder in the First.” There is a certain level of separation that has to be done before you can play a character truthfully. I personally am not religious, but Clyde was. This story is about Clyde’s redemption he so happened to find through faith. Therefore, it is my job as an actor to put all my personal opinions to rest, so Clyde’s could come out to play. I always find that once I do that, I fall in love with every character I play. In that particular scene, it’s all about where Clyde is, mentally, at that point. So, I guess, in short form, I just played what Clyde was going through.
SMC – I love the ‘Got a Light?’ smart-alec comebacks woven in throughout…. you have one of those faces that can portray an angelic innocent young man and then a devilish hell-child (laughs)…. which of the two personalities can you relate to more?
Mateus – Depends on the day…
SMC- (laughs) Fair comment! Your on-screen chemistry with ‘Julia’ (played by Alexandra Bard) was also intense. Can you tell us a few words about your thoughts on her performance in this film?
Mateus – She made it easy to have that chemistry. She is an amazing actress and we had a blast on set.
SMC – I am going to ask the inevitable: what was it like working with your father on this project? (Justin Ward: Director of The Meanest Man in Texas)
Mateus – It was incredible! We read each other’s mind the whole time! He would go “Hey MC, how about—” and I’d reply, “I was just thinking that!”
SMC – On May 6th, you earned the award for ‘Best Actor’ at the ICFF (International Christian Film Festival) – That’s impressive! What are your thoughts on that?
Mateus – It is such an honor to be recognized for my work.
SMC – Can you tell us which other accomplishments in your career you are particularly proud of and why?
Mateus – Getting a chance to do what I love is the best accomplishment.
SMC – Can you tell us the most memorable fan moment you have had in your career?
Mateus – I was in New York on Jerry Bruckheimer’s “Hostages” and we took a family trip out to Mantauk. I tweeted I was there, and on our way back that night, my sister saw a tweet from a fan, so she got her address and we paid a surprise visit. Our families met and it was really cool. Another great moment, was meeting young women with scoliosis in Nashville during the film festival. These girls are so courageous and it was great to meet them and their mothers and hear their stories.
SMC – What are five unique things about you that no one else knows about? (our readers love this one)
Mateus – I am obsessed with Elvis. I love to draw and paint. I play piano. I have a 1953 Chevy truck. I am unhealthily addicted to superheroes and comic books.
SMC – I read that you have lived in Hawaii for a few years before pursuing a career in acting. Can you tell us what lead to your family’s move to LA?
Mateus – I like to believe it’s because I wanted to pursue acting, but I think it was during the recession, it was a tough time and we moved back where there was more work.
SMC – What inspired you to pursue a career in acting?
Mateus – I have always been a performer. I was super shy, and it was a way to hide behind characters. I didn’t even need an audience. I just liked pretending and using my imagination. I was a little Elvis impersonator at like 5, and I think that sparked the acting thing.
SMC – Which of your peers in the film have you created a bond with as a result of your character in the film?
Mateus – Alex and I have become close because of filming and on the festival circuit. But the most entertaining friendship is the bizarre “Tron” inside joke between Anthony Guerino and I, who plays Barney in the film. On set he suddenly approached me and asked, “Did someone say Tron?” It became a running joke. Now we text each other with Tron mimes, gifs and jokes all the time. He’s so funny!
SMC – Your whole family has such amazing talent! I did read about your sister as well – has she been involved in any of the projects you have worked on?
Mateus – It was a family production. Our company is Ohana Films, Inc. Ohana means family in Hawaiian.
SMC – That’s lovely! What has the family support been like for your career?
Mateus – I honestly couldn’t have done what I have done without my family and their support. My mother is the best. She used to own a salon and stopped working to make sure I could follow my dream.
SMC – Can you tell us your thoughts on your father’s work on this film?
Mateus – He did alright… I mean for his first film. Just kidding! Who gets to act in a film their father directs? It was incredible. He was so prepared, had such a clear vision, and yet, since we didn’t have much time, he was able to improvise and shoot on the fly in order to make the days. All the actors and crew respected him, and went the extra mile for him. It was an amazing experience.
SMC – For an Actor so young, did you feel intimidated by this role at all? You did so well!
Mateus – Thank you! It was one of those things that I was always worried about. I wasn’t necessarily worried about doing it. I knew that once I put in the work, I could get there. I was mostly worried about how people would receive it. The title of the movie has the word “Man” in it! I knew it would cause shock and a lot of doubt from the audience before hand, but the way the movie is formatted I think it works very well. I have always been told I have an old soul, and to be honest, it was more challenging to play the young version of Clyde.
SMC – Have you had any personal experiences that have shaped you personally and prepared you for the kinds of roles you have been playing as of late?
Mateus – Let’s see an evil robot who shoots lazers and is telekinetic, a smart-ass son of a drug dealer, an actual drug dealer, a school shooter and a 40-year-old man convicted of three murders? Hmmm… can’t really say I’ve had any of those personal experiences…
SMC -Ha ha ha – fair enough…. Where can the general public see The Meanest Man in Texas?
Mateus – We are still on the festival circuit. But check out our social media, all #TheMeanestManInTexas for updates.
SMC – Have you been approached for other roles as a result of this film?
Mateus – Not that I can discuss…
SMC – What advice can you give to new Actors pursuing a career in Hollywood?
Mateus – Work, work, work! Study film, watch as many old and new programs as you can. Challenge yourself! Make sure it is truly what you love, because it’s not easy.
SMC – Since we are also a Music website – can you tell us who the top five Artists are in your favorites playlist?
Mateus – Jason Mraz, Chance the Rapper, Elvis Presley, Childish Gambino, and Panic! at the Disco
SMC – We would like to continue profiling you via our SMC SPOTLIGHT Numbered Series. This is a documented chronological journey of our most celebrated Artists throughout their career. Is this something that would appeal to you?
Mateus – Sounds great!
SMC – Alright, final question…finish this sentence: If I didn’t pursue a career in Acting, I would be………
Mateus – I don’t know what I’d be if I weren’t an actor… I’ve never had a back up plan!
SMC – Thank you Mateus!
Mateus Wards’ Social Media links (click to view)
Film and Television: Wards television credits include: Murder in the First, Hostages, NCIS, Disney XD’s Lab Rats, Weeds, Parenthood, Norn MacDonald Show, Outnumbered (Pilot), Criminal Minds, Pit Boss, and The Incredible Bean (Pilot). Film credits include: Lonely Boy, House Painting, The Afterlife, The Hall Monitor, Devil’s Eyes, Love in the Time of Flannel, STROBE, and now, The Meanest Man In Texas.
By Candice Anne Marshall
Recently, we posted a SPOTLIGHT on Director Joshua Shultz for his short film ‘STROBE’ complete with an in-depth interview with he and his leading lady for the film, Chelsea Debo. In researching the background on other Actors in the film a little further, I discovered Los Angeles, California-based Actor Mateus Ward (see Mateus Wards’ in-depth SMC SPOTLIGHT interview/review here). His role as a meth addict in this film was so convincing, I decided I needed to know more about him. That’s when I stumbled across his Facebook Fan page and discovered he was cast as lead Actor in the upcoming film, ‘The Meanest Man in Texas‘(just hitting the Film Festival circuit now). This lead me down the rabbit hole and what I discovered was a kaleidoscope of magnificent talent and that talent has a name: Justin Ward.
Ward is the Director and genius behind this compelling film and it is evident in every detail that was portrayed historically and thematically. ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’ is a true story account (set in the late 1920’s and onward) following the life of Clyde Thompson, who, at the age of 17 was convicted of murder (self-defense) and sentenced to death in the electric chair. Within hours of his inevitable fate, Texas Governor Ross Sterling reduced his sentence to life in prison. This began the true account story (title of the same name) written in the early 1980’s by Author Don Umphrey who compiled a detailed and documented account of what turned this young man into what the media would later label ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’.
Aesthetically, this film scores high in my list of epic true-story cinematography: I have always been a fan of vintage films and the imagery, costumes, sets and final produced result of this film is exquisite. Lead Actors Mateus Ward (yes, he is Justin’s son, also, plays Clyde Thompson), and Alexandra Bard (Julia, Thompson’s love interest and savior) bring depth and emotion with conviction. I admit, I was a blubbering mess each time their on-screen relationship was tested with inevitable challenges and hurdles.
Actor Jamie McShane lends combustible energy to his role as Captain Colt. Now, I don’t want to give too many of the details away (you’ll just have to attend the Film Festival circuit to see what I mean!), but let’s just say that the friction between Wards’ and McShanes’ characters was on-the-seat-of-your-chair gripping, explosive, sometimes humorous, and compassionate. Characters throughout the film such as Ben Reed (Thompson’s grief-stricken Father), and Casey Bond (Preacher) lend depth to this already intense story. My hats’ off to Casting Director Laura Ward who, clearly, has a true penchant for recognizing strengths and weaknesses in each Actor and has suitably matched them for every role in this film – brilliant! A full list of the cast and crew for this film can be found (here).
There aren’t a lot of films anymore that motivate me to head to the theater and feel inspired by their stories and I am also not the kind of individual to watch even much television these days. For me to sit more than 10 minutes during any film, whether it be in the theater or in the comfort of my office or home, it must be compelling in its content, visuals, and supported by stellar performances. ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’ is this complete package delivered by a ‘Rolls Royce’ caliber cast and crew. Having a Journalist background, I am drawn to factual-based films where accuracy portrayed in the overall details, visual, and acting is congruent to the time/era it takes place in. In my opinion, Justin Ward along with Producers Casey Bond and Brad Wilson (Higher Purpose Entertainment, in association with OHAHA FILMS, Inc.) have brought truth, humor, emotion, and enlightenment to this otherwise dark story that I am certain will inspire viewers to look beyond misfortune to know that there is always hope and the ability to achieve a positive outcome.
If you haven’t heard about this film yet or the cast and crew mentioned, I encourage you to check out the social media links after this interview and stay tapped in to find out when it will be available for public viewing and where. In the meantime, spend two minutes of your day and check out the trailer to this incredible film below.
And did I mention the films ‘Rolls Royce’ caliber?
SMC SPOTLIGHT Exclusive Interview | DIRECTOR: JUSTIN WARD ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’
May 9th, 2017
SMC – Hello Justin! Welcome to the SMC SPOTLIGHT! We have begun expanding SMC into other areas of the arts such as the Film Industry. We are thrilled to be talking to you today about your new film ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’. Let’s begin first with some background questions…. can you tell us about your role in the making of this film?
JUSTIN: Thank you. I am the director and co-writer of the film.
SMC – Can you share your career background with us?
JUSTIN: I began my career working for Mick Jagger at Jagged Films, his film production company. I went on to work as an assistant to the producers on several studio feature films, and was fortunate enough to work with and observe such producers and directors as Robert Redford, Norman Jewison, James L. Brooks, Richard Donner, Ron Shelton, Arnon Milchan, Joel Silver, and Grant Hill. I developed a documentary sports series for extreme sports for ESPN, and produced and directed over 300 hours of programming from 1999-2005 on that network. In 2006, I was the Showrunner on a magazine TV series called “Inside the UFC” for Spike TV. I also created and was the Showrunner of “The BJ Penn Show,” and in 2011, I created, directed and Executive Produced the documentary film series “Rock Stars” on National Geographic. In 2015, I directed the award-winning syndicated farm-to-table series “Localicious.” I have also produced, directed and edited for The UFC, The USSA, The ParaOlympics, Nascar, Warner Bros. Marketing, CBS, NBC, FOX, The Travel Channel and the NFL. This is my feature film directorial debut.
SMC – What lead you to this story about the life of Clyde Thompson aka: ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’?
JUSTIN: Mateus Ward and I wrote an anti-bully film called REBEL in 2014, and I shot a teaser to help raise financing. Brad Wilson, one of the producers of “The Meanest Man In Texas” read the script and saw my teaser. He and his partner Casey Bond brought the project to me and asked me to direct it. I worked with writer Don Umphrey on the script for a few months, then we jumped right into production. It all happened very quickly.
SMC – Let’s get into the details of the film itself: how much of Clyde’s life story was accurate in this film? Sometimes in films, there is a true account of the biographical story and in others, it’s a ‘based on’ account….
JUSTIN: When I read the book, it was hard to believe any of this could have happened to one man! I was blown away by this unbelievable story. So, it wasn’t hard to stick to the truth—it was more dramatic and exciting than any fiction. Don Umphrey had spent years talking to Clyde Thompson and others to get all the facts, and we felt it was important to stay as close as we could to his true story. All the situations actually happened, and are true. However, we flushed out a few characters that Clyde knew or mentioned, but didn’t give much detail about. When I started on the script, I wanted to really explore more deeply Clyde and Julia and Clyde and Capt. Colt’s relationships.
SMC – Can you tell us what the importance of telling this story though film was to you? How did it resonate with you personally?
JUSTIN: I was so moved by this story, I had to tell it. There were so many themes that resonated with me in the story. First, I think it is a powerful story about redemption. That no matter how dark things get, there is always hope. The other theme I wanted to explore is the idea of how a corrupt justice and penal system can change you. Clyde went into prison a typical teenager, quite innocent in many ways, and soon gained the moniker “the Meanest Man In Texas.” I wanted to make a film that asks the fundamental question: do circumstances define who we are, or can we become the person we want to be in life, no matter our circumstances? Once I started re-writing the script, what really resonated with me in the true story was the unconditional love between Clyde and Julia, so I wanted to make sure we flush that element out more. Society wants to put us in boxes, they try and label us, for example he’s “a killer” and she’s a “hunchback,” but this is a story about two people who didn’t accept those labels—in fact, they defied them—and loved each other unconditionally regardless of how society saw them. So, for me, it became a powerful story about redemption, forgiveness and acceptance, and that was the film I wanted to make.
SMC – I also see that Don Umphrey, the author who wrote ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’ was involved in this project as well. Can you tell us how much of a benefit he was to have included in the making of this film?
JUSTIN: Don was a wealth of information. Having met and spoken with Clyde himself was a huge resource. It took Don 39 years to get this story to the big screen. I was very respectful when changing the script and ran everything by him, just to make sure it was historically correct.
SMC – Your Casting Director Laura Ward did an excellent job at assembling the Actor profiles for this film! Can you tell us a little bit about her background and what vision she had for the film also? (this could even be a question you could let her answer)
JUSTIN: Laura was amazing. Laura has a phenomenal eye and worked around the clock to find the best actors for every single role. Every actor we cast was incredibly talented! It was such a joy collaborating on this with my wife. I knew we had little time for rehearsal with the actors, and most likely we would get no more than a couple of takes, so we were really looking at auditions and audition tapes where the actors were “performance ready,” with maybe a few adjustments.
LAURA WARD: It was really important for us to find actors that looked vintage, as if they were from that era. We saw a lot of actors from popular shows, but it was important to find classic faces and great acting. During the process, it was great to see how many actors came really prepared and embodied the character they were portraying. I come from an acting background and have studied with some great teachers. Being the mother of a young actor, and watching roles being put out on breakdown, cast and then filmed, I was able to use that experience in searching for our cast. I was seeking actors who brought something special to each character. I am so very proud of this cast!
SMC – In conversation with you, this past weekend you earned ‘Best Picture’ at the ICFF (International Christian Film Festival) Film Festival in Florida! What an accomplishment! What are your thoughts on this?
JUSTIN: It is such an honor to win a Best Picture award. The festival also gave Mateus Ward a Best Actor in a Feature Film award. Brad Wilson, our producer, was in Orlando for ICFF, and said it was an extremely successful screening and festival.
SMC – Tell us about your LA premiere? Can you tell us what some of the reactions to the film were?
JUSTIN: I was thrilled we were accepted to the Independent Filmmakers Showcase Film Festival in Beverly Hills. It was great to show the film to our friends, family and industry peers. The reaction was amazing, and many people stayed after the Q&A to continue to discuss the film, which was incredible.
SMC – The emotion that was expressed in this film was very intense and laced with some humor throughout (‘Got a light?’) – can you tell us if that was your personal touch to the film or if those were true accounts of the kinds of things the real Clyde would have said or done?
JUSTIN: I have to admit, the line “Got a light?” was my addition. However, it was based on Clyde Thompson’s type of humor. I like to think it was something he would have said. I didn’t have much time, but I did my best to add humor and charm into the film where we could, since it was such a dark series of situations. The casting director and I wanted to make sure that the actor Barney had a great sense of humor, and Anthony Guerino brought in a lot of awkward charm and humor to the role.
SMC – What are your thoughts on Mateus’s skill as an Actor in this film?
JUSTIN: I can’t explain how extraordinary it was to work with my son on this project. I may be biased, but I believe he is one of the most talented actors of his generation. The fact that he’s won 3 lead actor awards for this film, backs up my belief. I don’t know any 17-year-old that could pull off what he did in this film, let alone many actors of any age. Not only did he lose 17 pounds for the role, research for months, reached out to the family, but he also learned a very difficult accent and certain cadence, aged himself up physically and vocally, and carried the film. The role required so much emotional, mental and physical range, and he nailed it. I am extremely proud of his work on this film.
SMC – I discovered your film through an industry peer – Joshua Shultz (Bellus Magazine, Director: STROBE), can you tell us what your connection with Joshua is?
JUSTIN: We met Joshua through an article he was doing on Mateus back in 2013. We have all kept in touch, and Joshua asked Mateus to be in his anti-drug film STROBE.
SMC – With the SMC SPOTLIGHT, we have begun a ‘Spotlight numbered series’ with some of our high-profile clients and would like to continue following your journey and career. Is this something that would interest you?
JUSTIN: Yes. Of course. We would love to be a part of the Spotlight Numbered Series.
SMC – What do you think is the value in having the support of media platforms such as SMC?
JUSTIN: SMC is such a great publication, with incredible talent and interesting interviews, I am honored to be included. I think there is huge value in SMC sharing indie films to their audience. Our goal as filmmakers is to make films so people can see them, and we are able to reach new audiences through publications like SMC.
SMC – Can you tell us which industry peers have been most supportive of your film? Who would you like to give a ‘shout out’ to?
JUSTIN: The success of the film is a culmination of everyone who worked on, acted in and helped support this film. First, the executive producers Don Umphrey and Marshall Danby, have been incredible to work with on this project. I have to thank the Producers Brad Wilson and Casey Bond, who hired me. My wife Laura, son Mateus, and daughter Adiana for their constant support. Shirley Roberts and Clyde Echols are members of the family who helped fill in the gaps. It was my first film, so I reached out to a few people in the industry for advice, like Ralph Bertelle VP of Production at Paramount, Greg Berry an incredible art director and production designer, and Clenet Verdi-Rose a director and 1st AD. So many people were so supportive, I’m sure I have missed some, but I am humbled by so much support by people like Dennis Lavalle, Eric Swanson, Andrew Morgado, PJ Ochelan and Joshua Shultz.
SMC – What are some of the projects you have coming up? Are you able to share that info with our readers?
JUSTIN: I have a couple of projects that I am trying to package right now, a feature film and a music documentary. Mateus and I are also seeking financing on the anti-bully film we wrote together called REBEL.
SMC – Will you be including Mateus in on more future projects?
JUSTIN: This was such an incredible experience for both of us, we hope to continue to work on projects together.
SMC – Pardon my ignorance, but I have never asked this question before: what is the process of getting a film completed? Can you give us a play by play from first concept to final output?
JUSTIN: Basically, it’s like bearing a child. For this film, we had a short window of pre-production which included budgeting, scheduling, re-writes, finding locations, casting and wardrobe. Production was 11 days. Post production included 4 weeks of editing, color, mixing and final output.
SMC – You had mentioned to me that this film took only 11days to complete – wow! That’s some intense shooting! Can you tell us what a typical day would be like on set from start to finish?
JUSTIN: Having only 11 days meant everyone had to be extremely prepared. I had every shot, every angle, every beat planed out. Then, when we got pressed for time, I had to throw away the game plan, and in the moment, create a way to get the scene shot in just one shot, with no coverage. This happened several times a day. The cast and crew all had to adapt and be fluid, because I refused to throw out scenes, I threw out set ups and coverage instead. We made every day. I couldn’t have done it without my first Assistant Director and the Cinematographer Will Barratt, or with a different cast and crew.
SMC – Can you tell us what the next several weeks and months look like in terms of Film Festivals and promotion of this film?
JUSTIN: As of now, we are waiting on a couple more film festivals, and just trying to create some buzz and get people excited about the film.
SMC – I have to say that I was pretty impressed by the portrayal Alexandra Bard gave of Julia in this film. Can you tell us what working with Alexandra was like?
JUSTIN: Alex walked into the audition and had morphed herself into Julia. I remember after she left, I asked the casting director for her headshot, thinking I found my Julia. When she handed me Alexandra’s headshot, it was a glamor shot of this gorgeous woman, I said, “No, the one who JUST auditioned.” Alex is one of the actresses every director dreams to cast. She was 100% committed to the role, did her homework, transformed herself for the role, never complained, took direction, and gave a stellar performance that has left audiences in tears. We lucked out that she walked through the door that day. I knew from her first audition she was our Julia.
SMC – Some of the other Actors in the film had some pretty stellar skills presented in the film also. Ben Reed, who played Clyde’s Father was compelling! Jamie McShane as Captain Colt – that was also intense! How do you feel about the skills that these two gentlemen portrayed?
JUSTIN: I am proud of every actor in this film. We assembled some amazingly talented actors, and they all stepped up and delivered strong performances. I cannot say enough about Jamie McShane. In New York, he won Best Supporting Actor at the Film Festival, and deserves many more awards for his performance. Jamie was a pleasure to work with and he stepped in and accepted this part late in the game. He didn’t have much time to prepare. He was so respectful of the script and my vision, yet brought so much to the role. We had some incredible discussions about Capt. Colt and his journey. Besides being a great actor, he is an extraordinary human being. Great example of the kind of actor / person he is, Jamie arrived on day 1, and it was over 100 degrees outside. Hotter inside the Morgue. Jamie shows up with 2 huge cases of water on his shoulders, and passes them out to the crew. Then stepped in, and delivered that performance that left us all mesmerized.
SMC – At the end of shooting, and it’s time to attend Film Festivals, do you feel like the cast has become a family? I mean, this is a story about a young man whose life was changed forever but there were key people along the way that helped to bring him to this epiphany in life…. surely this is the kind of thing that would connect people.
JUSTIN: Yes. Well, some of the cast and crew are actually family. Seriously, there is a certain connection with people when you make a film. This team was especially special. We were fortunate that the entire cast and crew were all really great people, besides being so talented. It made an impossible task fun, and everyone has been so supportive during the festival circuit. We have all gotten very close.
SMC – Can you tell us all the film Festivals that ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’ has been a part of and which are coming up?
JUSTIN: We have been accepted to 7 film festivals, including the Nashville Film Festival, The New York City International Film Festival, The Beverly Hills Film Festival, IndieFEST, The International Christian Film Festival, The Los Angeles Cinefest of Hollywood, and The Independent Filmmakers Showcase Film Festival.
SMC – What accomplishments overall can you list for us that the film has earned so far?
JUSTIN: It has been accepted to 7 festivals, with over 20 nominations and 10 wins, including a Best Picture.
SMC – Where will the general public be able to see this film?
JUSTIN: We are still on the film festival circuit, but check our social media for any updates on distribution.
SMC – How can one of our readers reach out to find out where they can see this film?
JUSTIN: Follow us on social media for more information and updates:
SMC – Finish this sentence: If I was not pursuing my career in Film, I would have been a……
JUSTIN: Theater Director… or a scuba or kayak instructor.
SMC – Okay, final question: Can you tell us what your thoughts are on the future of film and the role independent films play?
JUSTIN: I think studio films play a great role as pure entertainment, but it is the indie films that filmmakers have a voice. Films such as “Mean Streets,” “Momento,” “Resevoir Dogs,” “Precious,” and “Moonlight,” are all independent films and have very unique cinematic voices. I think Indie films are essential to the industry, it is where stories like this can be told.
SMMC – We couldn’t agree more Justin! Fabulous work!
The Meanest Man In Texas Social Media Links (click to view)
Photography by Joshua Shultz
Interview | By Candice Anne Marshall
SMC – Hello Chelsea! Welcome to Starlight Music Chronicles! (SMC) I recently was privy to viewing the film ‘Strobe’ directed by Joshua Schultz – before we get into questions about the film, can you give us a little bit of a background on yourself?
CD – HI GUYS! Thanks for having me! I am 1 of 6 children and I’m from Toledo, Ohio but I had been living in LA for the past 6 – 7 years. I am currently living in Dublin, Ireland but will return to LA in August. I have a dog named Chicken and I love taking baths. There’s a little bit about me, for now 😉
SMC – Can you tell us what it was that attracted you to this role?
CD – First of all, I love Josh, the director. His photos are great, but I can’t wait for the world to see his filmmaking… he really is phenomenal. Charlie, the character I played in Strobe immediately stuck out to me because I felt close to her. I have plenty of stories from LA parties where I felt uncomfortable but made impulsive decisions to go on wild adventures with people I barely knew. She is easily swayed and was infatuated with Steve, who she met that night. Drugs have affected my life immensely over the years and I have lost many great friends due to drugs. If I can help to shed a little light on how terrible this can be, count me in.
SMC – How did you find out about this film?
CD – I found out about this through Josh. He called me and explained the project and we chatted for a while about it, and I said yes. Sandu Negrea was also producing this and he and I have worked on many projects together so I knew things would run smoothly.
SMC – What was the filming process like for you? Can you tell us what a day in the life would be like during the filming of ‘Strobe’?
CD – The filming process was amazing. It was a group of friends who were making a meaningful film with no money, which were all very skilled at. We knew it was going to be hard but we’d pull through, and we did! The days were long and often went into night but it was never stressful because I had my pals around me. Explaining a day in the life of filming Strobe is tricky, as all the days were so different!
SMC – Tell us what you think about the kind of influence this film will have as an educational tool for society today?
CD – I just hope this film touches some hearts and maybe we can all be a little more open with each other about how harmful drugs can be. I hope people are influenced a bit by our work and maybe they’ll think about how many people can be affected by their actions. For the most part, I hope people know they can ask for help from loved ones.
SMC – Can you tell us which films you have been a part of and which ones are most memorable to you and why?
CD – They’re all memorable for different reasons! Ah! I filmed Stefan & Christy over the course of 6 years with people who I now consider family. You’ll be able to see that in festivals this year. That was a roller coaster and a half but through this film I really got to explore what acting meant to me. I got “the itch” as they say, and I haven’t really stopped since. I just wrapped a short film called HEN which was an all female cast of 5 girls here in Ireland. The writer and director were also women. It was so refreshing working with that many girls. We rehearsed for months so when we finally got to filming we were all so comfortable with each other that it never felt like work. It was all play. I’m really excited to see the final product. We had 3 night shoots in a row in the middle of nowhere in the country in a town called Sligo. We filmed in a glass house on the sea. It’s a psychological horror about a HEN, or bachelorette party, gone wrong.
SMC – There is an element of ‘romance’ to this film – do you think this will detract from the films purpose: to show society the dangers of drug use?
CD – Hmmm. I don’t think it’ll detract from the purpose… I hope it’s just another thing for the audience to connect with.
SMC – I believe your role in this film is a powerful one – what do you think?
CD – I believe it is powerful as well. Charlie is a fairly typical girl in LA, or anywhere really. She’s easy to connect with. She goes through a lot in a short amount of time and… well a lot happens to her. I don’t want to give too much away so I guess everyone will have to just wait and see!!!
SMC – Can you tell me what the team was like to work with?
CD – Like I said, they were magic. I love Sandu like a brother and Josh is one of my best friends. The entire crew was so lovely. No one complained about shooting late or waiting for rain to pass for a shot. The styling was amazing. I couldn’t even think of one mediocre thing to say about this production. I love them all.
SMC – Can you tell me what it was like working with Joshua Shultz?
CD – I JUST LOVE HIM.
SMC – Did you have to audition for the role?
CD – I didn’t have to audition for this one, no.
SMC – What are the previous projects that you have worked with Joshua on?
CD – Josh has helped me with tons of audition tapes in the past and we’ve done quite a few photo shoots together. We also did a music video together a couple years ago but this was our first film together.
SMC – Can you tell us what your own personal connection to this film is?
CD – My personal connection would be a heavy one dealing with the many beautiful friends I’ve lost to drugs over the years.
SMC – What other projects do you have coming up?
CD – I am doing a romantic comedy called “The Man Who Loved Women” which starts filming in June in LA. It’s very raunchy and very real and I’m so excited to get started on it!!
SMC – What does success mean to you?
CD – Oh man. Success means not having to work a part time job and living wherever I want but still working and playing enough to feel like I’m progressing? I don’t know! This is HARD! Success is…finishing the script I’ve been writing for over 6 months!
SMC – I have heard from many who have tried to make it in Hollywood say that it is a very tough industry to get into, can you tell me what your take is on that?
CD – Just keep pushing. Don’t wait on other people to help you. Make your own art and just keep on living. Something will happen eventually. Make art with friends.
SMC – This interview will be posted on our new SMC SPOTLIGHT! Website – we are excited to launch this in May. Can you tell us what your thoughts are on that?
CD – I’m so excited! I hope I’m not too awkward!
SMC – Do you plan on attending a launch party for ‘Strobe’?
CD – If I’m in town, yes of course!
SMC – In terms of the film and the roles – what is your connection to the young man who was robbing the convenience store?
CD – He’s my brother
SMC – What was the one thing about the script that made you want to accept this role in the film?
CD – I’ve never played the nice innocent girl.
SMC – Are you living in Los Angeles? If so, what is the competitive atmosphere there like?
CD – Kind of. I’m back and forth between Dublin and LA. It’s competitive but I don’t really look at it like that because I was there for so long. There are a lot of people making things at once and just join the force and keep creating.
SMC – Can you tell us five things about yourself that others don’t know about you?
CD – I was a synchronized swimmer for many years as a kid. I can move only my pinkie toe on my left foot, but not my right. I am married. I have 2 tattoos. One of my brother’s middle names is Ignatius. I don’t eat meat. I’m not a great cook and I really hate doing the dishes. I love picnics and laying in the park all day long.
SMC – I saw on your website in the portfolio section that you are being compared to a ‘Modern Day Twiggy’ – how do you feel you compare to the 1960’2 iconic model and how do you feel you differentiate?
CD – I really don’t feel like I’m that much like Twiggy at all. She is a singer, which I promise you I am NOT. She’s also English, which I am not. I guess you could say we have a similar style only because I enjoy vintage clothing. She had short blonde hair and I have that now, but I’d say that’s the only connection.
SMC – What do you feel are the similarities and differences between modelling and acting?
CD – Modelling is extremely internal because you keep a lot of emotions in. Acting is extremely external in the way that you’re emoting what’s going on in your head. Acting requires a lot of thinking, where acting doesn’t necessarily have to. You can be whatever (physically, mentally, etc.) the role requires for acting, but modelling requires you to be quite small to fit into sample sizes. I don’t know, I have a lot of respect for both but they really are very different.
SMC – What is your film/category preference when choosing a role for yourself? Do you gravitate toward dramatic or stories that are factual based?
CD – I personally love watching stories that are factually based in my own time but I haven’t gotten to play anything bases on a true story yet. I gravitate towards drama but I am definitely exploring comedy lately.
SMC – Have you ever had a bizarre or interesting story from a film set?
CD – I once had a scene with Woody Harrelson for a film called ‘Rampart’. It was my first role and it certainly was interesting.
SMC – Have you ever had any fan experiences that stick out in your mind?
CD – I get strange messages from bored middle aged men (I really wish that would stop) but that’s about it so far. I worked with a makeup artist who cut her hair after the first day of filming because she was inspired after seeing mine. That was really cool 🙂
SMC- What is the best compliment you have ever received?
CD – “You look like Charlize Theron”
SMC – Are there any awards of recognition as an Actor that you have received that you are proud of?
CD – Not yet!
SMC -Okay, final question – Is there any advice you can give to new Actors to the Film Industry that could help them in some way or even give them heads up about what they can expect?
CD – Study and make stuff with friends… prolific, I know.
Thank you Chelsea!
Chelsea Debo’s Social Media Links (click to view)