Justin Kucsulain, recently seen as Henry Rourke on Bloodline, a Netflix Original Series and as Ethan on AMC’s The Walking Dead, took time out of his busy schedule to speak with Talk Nerdy With Us about memorable moments and what it’s like to fight Rick Grimes. Justin was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1984, but moved to Tampa, Florida in 2007, where he began to study acting and mixed martial arts. Justin is a black belt in American JuJitsu and a purple belt in Brazilian JuJitsu. In addition, he runs a food blog called Your Machine Your Body . Justin has made multiple appearances on television, in film and on the stage.
You’re a relatively new actor with some big credits under your belt. What made you want to become an actor?
My first acting gig was in the summer of 2012 on Iron Man 3 and after that, I just focused my energy on training and learning the process. I had so much to learn. I had to figure out who I was as a person, before I could ever bring truth to a character and have that truth transpire to an audience. It was a pain in the ass and a very long road to discovery but I enjoyed every minute of it. It’s the best therapy. Self-discovery and growth in this business turned into passion and love for this creative outlet. I hope to call acting a career.
How easy/hard was it to get into acting while living in Tampa, FL? (I’m a Florida native myself).
I don’t believe the state you reside in has anything to do with success. You have to work your ass off in anything you want to be successful at. I wanted to fight in my early 20’s, I was overweight and thought that dream was probably impossible, but I busted my ass and never stopped and trained through blood, sweat, and tears and in a year I was teaching BJJ and MMA classes at the same Dojo I once walked into clueless and ignorant of the sport. I then went on to accomplish other things before I found my love for acting. It all boils down to work ethic, not your geographic location.
What has been your most memorable role to date and why?
Fighting Rick Grimes at The Hilltop and working alongside the majority of the original main cast of The Walking Dead. It was quite an amazing couple of days. Also portraying a character that happens to be on a cover of a comic book was gnarly; every time someone approaches my table at the cons with issue #95, I catch myself in a moment of disbelief. The Walking Dead is and I think quite possibly will always be my most memorable moment.
What was it like to work on Bloodline with veteran actors like Kyle Chandler and Ben Mendelsohn?
Kyle Chandler is a stand-up dude. He’s an extremely polite gentleman. Always asking if I need anything when he was headed to craft services, like “Hey Justin, want a bottle of water or a coffee?”. It was surreal. We seemed to click right off the start. Even on down time I started up small talk, asking him questions like, “how was it working with Leonardo DiCaprio on The Wolf of Wall Street?” Leo is another actor that I hope to one day work alongside, but there I was engaged in small talk over coffee with Kyle Chandler… it was great (laughs). I almost even called him coach a few times. Unfortunately, I never got to meet Mr. Mendelsohn, but I’m hoping to meet him on the set of season 3 of Bloodline.
Are you a TV fan yourself? What are you currently binging?
I’m currently binging The Ranch on Netflix; starring Ashton Kutcher, Danny Masterson, Sam Elliot, and Debra Winger. It’s a great family comedy. To me it’s That 70’s Show combined with Three and a Half Men, it’s a great comedy. I think it’s fantastic that Netflix allows creativity to be vast without all the rules network TV has, which governs expression. Go Netflix!
How do you manage to keep your balance with so many plates in the air – acting, MMA, your food blog?
Well, I no longer fight. I miss it every day. I train kick boxing for cardio a few times a week and try to get on the mat at least once a week. I have new goals with new things that I must do to complete those goals. I do go to the gym Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Kick boxing on Tuesday and Thursday. I try to eat as clean as possible with grass-fed, pastured, and organic products.
The food blog is easy, pick a topic and sit down one day and knock out a post. My main focus is acting. In this career, you have a lot of down time between jobs sometimes, so it is imperative to have hobbies, jobs, and other things to do to occupy your time. It’s easy to get discouraged and depressed in this business. You have to actually live your life. It’s so easy to focus on one thing and then you wake up one day to realize that the whole time you just existed and didn’t actually live. Not being successful is my last worry, that’s not even an option. My extracurricular activities help me do just that. I have not, nor will I ever learn too much.
Your resume lists some of your theater work – do you have a preference between stage and big and little screens?
I’m a fan of taking words from paper and transcending it to a living, breathing character; whether that is in theater or big and little screens (laughs)!
When stunt work is required, do you do your own stunts?
That depends on the stunt and production. Usually, they already have a stunt guy there and if that’s the case we talk and see what I can or can’t do myself. If I can I’ll always do my own stunts.
Have you considered a behind the scenes career training other actors in weaponry and MMA?
I have not. I don’t mind giving suggestions or throwing out ideas when the situation calls for it. There are so many different ways of doing things when it comes to a fight. It’s amazing to choreograph a fight and to watch it play out. It’s very rewarding. I don’t think I would be opposed to it, if the opportunity came around.
Our website is Talk Nerdy With Us – do you have any hobbies or activities that could be considered nerdy?
Hmmm… I have a real Thor hammer on my living room table. Yes, Mjolnir is my center piece. I’m a fan of Marvel, DC, and Star Wars. I tend to travel somewhere haunted and dress up every Halloween. To me, that’s not “nerdy” though, that’s just me (laughs).
If you were interviewing yourself – what is the one burning question you would ask yourself?
Marvel? If you were up for a role, who would you want? I would answer with: my doppelgänger Mr. Robert Reynolds aka The Sentry.
Last question – you have accomplished so much already – would a musical career ever be a consideration?
I do play guitar and I do sing, but I think I’d like to keep that as my own personal expression. I feel I’m already on the road to sharing everything with the world and I’d like to keep that to myself.