Read our interview with Curtis below!
First, we’re going to talk about you Curtis, and then, of course, we’ll get into “Shadowhunters,” because everybody wants to know about “Shadowhunters.”
“Of course. Everyone wants to know that, yeah.”
Let’s talk about your blog. What made you want to write a music blog?
“Yeah. You know what? That’s funny. That’s really sweet that you’d bring that up. Basically, it’s a music and entertainment blog. My whole thing is very simple. For me, the music industry’s been suffering a lot in the last few years. A lot of times you’ll hear poor quality music or poor quality artists get out and get a lot of promotion. Meanwhile, really good stuff, quality stuff is getting left behind or not getting as much money behind it, because it doesn’t have the sugary, mind-numbing pop thing that some labels want to push these days have.
I’ve always been a fan of music. I’ve been listening to music, not just hearing it, but listening intently since I was four years old. That’s a long time. I’m not going to say how old I am [laughs], but that’s a long friggin’ time. I consider myself a student of it. I have a really good ear, and I have friends in the industry. Nasri, the lead singer of Magic!, is actually one of my good friends. We’ve known each other well for 15 years. I have other friends in the Canadian Music scene. Many of them, seek me out and talk to me and ask me, “Okay Curtis, what do you think of this? What do you think of that?” It’s always been like that.
I’m actually going to tweak the blog. It’s going to get a little better as we go into next year. I tell myself, let’s put the good stuff out there. People hear the good stuff, then they’ll stop tolerating the bad stuff, and we can fix this broken thing.
Then in terms of the movies, I’m just a movie buff. I put first run trailers of movies that are coming out. I try to get them out there before everybody else does. I love movies. I love the medium of film. There’s also a lot of bad movies out there, too. My idea is the same. When I see a trailer or when I know there’s a director I like, or it’s really got a unique idea, I’ll post about it. My blog is different. I’m trying to find something that sparks creativity. Once I do that, I put the trailer out there.
I’m in Toronto, so we do the Toronto International Film Festival every year with my TIFF crew. I see all these movies that are going to come out later in the year, and I try to let people know about them and to let them know that there’s some good stuff coming. Favorite TIFF movie of last year was a movie called “Spring”, go find it. It’s brilliant. I’m an artist, and I think it’s an obligation to push the art and keep it alive as much as you can. That’s why I do that. Long answer. [Laughs].”
You sing, too, right?
“How did you find that out? I do. I don’t sing much anymore. I sang a lot in high school. My thing is r&b. My type of genre is r&b, hip-hop. I do pop too. I love the new Taylor Swift album. It’s phenomenal. I have no shame in saying that. It’s a great album. I got to give props where they’re due.
I used to sing in an r&b group. We did a lot of Boyz II Men back in the 90’s. The cool thing about that, not a lot of people know, I was the lead singer and I had my parts, but it’s a 4-part harmony, so I also taught all the other guys their parts. I was singing lead and making sure everybody sounded right. We did that for a few years. It was fun.
When I came out of high school, I was going to actually possibly pursue a singing career. My voice was changing but it was still okay. [Laughs]. My songwriting, I was still new at it. It was okay too. The funny thing, the way I got out of it is, I met Nasri about 15 years ago now. I played my first song for him and showed him my writing. He played his first song for me and showed me his writing. After I heard his song, I’m like, “You know what? This isn’t for me.” He was that good back then, 15 years ago, that I was just like okay, I know when I’m licked. I know when I’m okay at something versus I’m really good. Because Nasri was what really good sounds like.
I don’t like to do anything unless I feel like I’m really good at it. That’s the same with everybody, I think. I dropped the music thing in terms of performing, but the listening thing, that’s been with me since, like I said, I was four. That’s what the blog’s about.”
What’s your most played song on your iPod?
“Oh, wow. That’s a great question. I am an equal opportunity person on my iPod. I currently have about 6,000 songs on my iPod, and it’s growing every other day. I don’t seek out music. My iPod is always on random. I’m that kind of guy that doesn’t care what mood he’s in. If I’m sad and a fast song comes on, I’m going to jam out to that. If I’m having a great day, and I’m working out and a slow song comes on, I’m going to listen to that, too, because I listen to it for the art.
I’ll tell you what my favorite songs are, which, when they come on, even though it’s been out for a while, I’ll still get really excited for. There is a group called New Edition! I don’t know if people that are on your site know who they are, but they should. New Edition, they started Bobby Brown and BBD and all these other groups, but New Edition is probably my favorite group. They have a slow song called “Can You Stand the Rain.” It goes back to why I love art. Art makes you feel things. When it comes to “Can You Stand the Rain,” it’s just a song about love and are you going to be there even when it’s tough or are you just going to be there when it’s sunny? That is probably one of my favorite songs.
My second favorite song would probably be Jodeci, “Love You For Life.” It’s along one of those same lines. Just classic r&b renaissance from the 90s. I’d say those two are probably my favorite. Also, I know it’s probably going to get a bunch of people hitting me up for sneak peeks, but I also, and this is no word of a lie, some of my favorite tracks on my iPod are some never heard of stuff that Nasri did before Magic!, about 10 years ago. They stand up, even today, as some of the best songs I’ve ever heard, no bias. Some songs that he’s written for other artists like JoJo that I wish everybody could hear. I hope you guys hear it one day. Phenomenal music. That’s my stuff.”
Since you’re also a movie buff, what’s your favorite and least favorite movie?
“That’s a great question. Favorite movie. I have a lot of favorite movies. Basically, almost anything Denzel is in, but I’m going to try to name drop one. I’ll keep it real. I’ll do a recent, because every year you have a favorite movie. I haven’t had a favorite movie this year, but last year’s favorite movie, hands down, which basically took over in terms of favorite movies for the last two years was “Guardians of the Galaxy.” That was perfect. That was a flawless execution in my book in terms of absolutely nothing wrong with that movie. There’s nothing that I can point out that is not right in that movie.
My least favorite movies are ones that feature an actor who’s name rhymes with “Ridiculous Rage”. (which also happens to be his unfortunate signature go-to move in most of those movies.) [Laughs].”
Now we have to get into “Shadowhunters.”
“Of course. Love to.”
Had you read the books or anything before auditioning for the role?
“Actually, no. I was familiar with the movie, like everybody was. It was filmed here in Toronto. I didn’t know actually it was from Toronto until I started working on the series. I knew the movie was relatively well-received. I thought about maybe seeing it, but I think it got caught up in that “Twilight” hype that was happening around the same time, because the last “Twilight” movie came out around the same time.
For me, I noticed there’s two types of people. There’s people that read books and there’s people that listen to music. I’ve never met someone who reads as much as they listen to music. I listen to music. Literally, my iPod is with me everywhere I go.
When you ride the subway, you either see people who are reading or listening. You don’t see both. I sit in that listening category in terms of the music. I don’t read a lot and not as much as I should, definitely. I wasn’t familiar with the “Shadowhunters” world, but I became a quick study once I got the part. I did a lot of research online.
I actually did find some excerpts and read them to get a feel. The whole idea was to create a whole new take. A lot of the characters you see, you’re going to see a lot of similarities when you watch it with the main cast, but you’ll also see some new things.
I’m speaking now in contrast with the movie. Like I said, I’m not familiar with the book. You see a lot of similarities, but you’re also going to see a lot of departures from the portrayals in the movie. When you have a series, and you go from a film or even a book, it’s a different medium. When you go from a film to a series, you have a lot of freedom to expand what’s been looked at before.
The books are dated, at least the “City of Bones” is dated now. On our show, we have characters involved in situations that are more current in terms of what kids now can relate to, and yet still keeping true to the plot, and keeping true to the characters.
If you look at the cast now, I remember watching the cast get announced. There was a lot of discussion on Twitter with these amazing fans this show has, which is ridiculously awesome. The groups, the fans and the people that just came on board and were excited about this and basically schooled me on how things work in the “Shadowhunters” world.
They did a lot of it. They educated me on a lot of stuff. I look at every tweet. I look at every re-tweet, and I look at every reply everyone sends to me. I may not reply back, because I might not know what exactly to say at that time, but I look at them all, and I love it!
The world, it’s just an amazing world, and it’s hugely supportive. For me, it was just nice to get into that. In terms of the show versus the movie versus the book, fans should be excited to see, like I said, common themes with variations on that. If we just went and shot the book line for line, I mean, eventually, people get bored. They already know it.”
There’d be no surprise.
“Exactly. Fans are going to see a lot of twists, turns and surprises. Some of the plot-lines that happened in the book, they’ll be examined and done. Some of them, you’ll see changed or maybe even left out or twisted.
If you look at the cast, one of the things I saw and noticed when I got the part, first thing, I did some research, and the first thing I saw was some article on MTV.com. It was months ago, and the show doesn’t air until January (2016), saying this is the hottest cast on TV or the sexiest cast on TV. The show hadn’t even aired yet. We hadn’t even shot. I don’t even think when they put that out, that we’d even shot a single scene yet.
That’s what you’re looking at here versus the book and the movie, you have various things, various levels. Everybody’s younger in this. If you look at Dot alone in the book, Dot was an old woman, and in the movie, Dot was an old woman, but we cast the beautiful Vanessa Matsui as Dot, and she’s definitely not an old woman, I’ll tell you that. There’s that.”
ABC Family’s really good at casting age-appropriate characters for their viewers. It’s a very good network for this type of show.
“Yeah, it’s a great network. We’re really happy that’s where we’re based. To be on line with “Pretty Little Liars” and a lot of great shows that they’ve had already. Hopefully, that works out. Here in Canada, we don’t have ABC Family, but usually those shows that are on ABC Family get picked up by MTV Canada, M3 or Much.
There’s just a huge demand for this show. I don’t see it not airing in Canada, but, we have ABC Spark, and I don’t know if it’s going to show on ABC Spark, but hopefully it does! This is a show that I think everybody needs to see, not just people who are into “Shadowhunters,” into the books, into the Mortal Instruments. “Shadowhunters” is a show for new people too that want an entertaining show.
“Shadowhunters” is executive produced by McG. McG has a track record a mile long for making entertaining, amazing content. Anybody who likes shows like “Supernatural” or action movies like “Charlie’s Angels” or shows that deal with the human condition or love and substance while giving you something flashy to look at, they’re going to find something in this show. I think it’s going to do very, very well.”
On Instagram and Twitter, we’ve seen Kat, Dom, Matt, Emeraude, etc post their training photos. What kind of training did you have to do?
“Along the same lines. I had to do some sword fight training. I still keep up with it. I still make sure that when called upon, my skills are where they need to be. Also, I personally do my own stunts. Not really all of them, I like to say that, though. [Laughs]. I did have a stunt guy, but I think I fall through a table or two. I get thrown around a bit. I do some throwing myself. The action’s there.
With the seraph blades, you want to make sure you look like you’re handling them like you’re a pro. We have a great stunt coordinator on set. We have a great team. They make sure that all of us, Dom and Kat and Matt, all of them look great with it. Even Emeraude with her whip. Everything looks real. When you talk about McG and you talk about ABC Family, the action is there. We spare no expense to make sure that this show is thrilling people all the way through.”
How many episodes have you guys filmed?
“Right now. We are on episode 6. We’re about halfway through. We have a few more months to go.”
What’s it like playing a villain?
“It’s funny. This is not the first time I’ve played a villain. This is my biggest TV villain role, but I’ve played a small villain once or twice in all the stuff that I’ve done. Most of the time I’m playing a protagonist. I’m playing the good guy, and I love playing the good guy a lot. That’s my thing, but I do this mean guy face when I’m upset. I guess people like it.
When I’m upset or mad, which is rare, it comes through. I’ve heard a lot of other guys who just played bad guys their whole life, say, “With the bad guy, you have a lot more freedom. You can do whatever you want. You can say whatever you want. You don’t have to hold true to some ideal that people have for you.”
The hero has to be the hero pretty much all the time. He has to be nice to everybody. He has to make sure that everybody’s safe and all the stuff like that. The bad guy doesn’t care. The bad guy can throw a guy across the room and not care. [Laughs]. The bad guy can throw a girl across the room and not care. Not that I’m advocating throwing a woman across the room. But I can do that. It’s fun for me, because it really allows me to stretch myself, because as you can hear, I’m a really nice guy. [Laughs]. Being a nice guy, and then playing a bad guy, and hopefully doing it well, it’s real acting.”
I know you have improv training, so who’s the funniest person on set?
“Who’s the funniest person on set? Wow … When McG did our episodes, he was pretty funny. When McG wasn’t there, …I don’t want to blow my horn.”
But that the answer is you. [Laughs].
“I’m pretty sure it was probably me. I’ll sum up the cast. Kat is literally the nicest person I’ve probably ever met in my life. She’s very sweet. She’s always caring about people. Whenever I show up I get a big, huge hug. She was the first to follow me on Twitter and Instagram. I didn’t even have to ask her. She just looked me up and did it on her own, and she’s busy. You know what I’m saying? She’s one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met.
Dom is a great guy. He’s fun. But he’s Mr. Macho. The way you see him when you see him as Jace, that’s how he is. To go along with that, Alberto, that’s exactly how he is. He is Simon. If you look at Alberto’s credits, he’s done a couple shows here and there as a guest, but he landed one of the leads in this role.
Alberto is Simon. He is actually Simon. It’s uncanny. When you see him talk as Simon, just imagine the camera’s off. That’s exactly how Alberto talks. That’s exactly how he is. Great guy.
Magnus literally oozes out of Harry, who is a great guy too, he’s so cool. He’s the first actor I’ve worked with who can actually dance better than me. [Laughs]. He’s full of surprises and he will be a lot of people’s favorite character.
Alan as Valentine is soooooo intense, there are some scenes were he literally terrified me, Alan is a great actor and person who has become a master at what he does. I tried to learn as much from him as I could.
Emeraude is a wonderful person. She’s a little quiet, but when it’s time to work, she is quite a professional. She is one of the most professional people I’ve ever seen.
We all have our quirks. For me, my whole thing is, when I’m on set, when I’m around people and we’re not actually rolling and we have time to chill, I just want to make everybody laugh. That’s always been who I am. We had a good time.
Me and Jordan, actually. Jordan’s funny, but I usually open the door for Jordan. I set the joke up and he walks right through. That’s how it was. He’ll probably tell you otherwise, don’t believe him. Me and Jordan, who plays Blackwell, became an amazing tag team. As a matter of fact, we hang out a lot off set. I even posted some stuff on Instagram of us hanging out together. I see him when we’re not working.”
Did you originally audition for Pangborn?
“It’s funny how I got this role. I did get to audition for it, but I didn’t actually go for it. There’s a few casting agencies in Toronto. One of the bigger ones who I hadn’t auditioned for in about four years called me up to audition for “Heroes Reborn”. “Heroes Reborn” is shooting here as well! Talk Nerdy With Us fans would obviously know about “Heroes Reborn.” If they don’t, they need to go and watch season 1 of the original “Heroes.”
Forget about season 2, 3 or 4. Just watch season 1 of “Heroes” and they’ll understand what real TV really looks like. It was amazing.”
I binged that in 24 hours.
“Really? Because you can’t stop watching it. The way they set up that first season was phenomenal. It really scared me halfway through, because I was like, how are they going to top this next season? They can’t. It was contained.
But “Heroes Reborn” looks very promising. I had a small role for “Heroes Reborn” for this particular casting director that I was going to audition for. I went in there, I worked on that one for a long time, not just because of the casting agent, but because I’m a “Heroes” fan. I didn’t hear from them for the first couple of days, so when that happens as an actor, you’re like, I probably didn’t get it.
Then this casting house called my agent and she didn’t say anything about “Heroes Reborn” so it’s possible that I still might’ve got it, but then she was like, “We want to see him for this other thing.” That’s not usually how it happens. Usually, your agent sends your picture and your bio out, and they look at that and then they’re like, “I guess we’ll call him in to read.”
This was different. She found me in the “Heroes” audition, and she is a really brilliant woman. Not just because she cast me, but a brilliant woman because she’s been doing this for years. [Laughs]. She saw me in the “Heroes” audition and said, “You know what? You might be good for this.”
Basically, I came in and did the audition for Pangborn. I had my own little take on it. I think I did pretty good, but I wasn’t feeling 100 percent confident, but no actor really is when they do that. Then I got the call a couple of days later that I was Pangborn. Then my whole life changed. Just like that!”
You also do accent work. Does Pangborn get to have a Canadian accent or does he get to have a British accent like in the movie? What is your accent?
“There was actually no specification. McG didn’t specify. In terms of accent, on this show, really it’s only Valentine. Alan is the only one who’s bringing his medieval accent. I wouldn’t even call it British. It’s just a medieval, authoritative accent that he’s bringing. You’ll see it when it airs.
Everyone else just had freedom. To be honest, when I’m doing most of my stuff, I like to put on an American accent, like right now. I don’t know if you can hear it. I don’t think I sound Canadian.
For me, I go into most of my auditions trying to do an American accent. That’s not for any other reason. I just think it’s cool. It’s not even just for auditions, it’s normally how I talk, because I grew up on American black music.
My idols were Michael Jackson and Bobby Brown and New Edition. That’s where I got my swag from. That’s where I found my cool. From a very young age, everything was centered around that, around that world, you know?”
I understand! Do you think Toronto’s becoming the new L.A.? So much is starting to film there?
“We call it Hollywood North up here. That’s been the moniker for about four, five, maybe actually even 10 years it’s been like that. With Toronto, it comes and goes. We have great shows up here. Even shows that aren’t fully filmed here, like “The Flash,”. The special effects are done here in Toronto.
People that worked on this show, “Shadowhunters,” the makeup people are from “Hannibal,” we have crew from “The Strain”, “12 Monkeys” and “Supernatural”. For me, what I see is, there’s opportunity. It’s not even that we do a lot of shows here. We don’t do a lot of shows. What we have now…”
“Is the quality shows. Right, exactly. Networks are coming here, whether it’s for tax breaks, or for the fact that Toronto could pass for New York or Chicago if we need to. For us actors, it’s good and it’s bad. The acting situation for “Shadowhunters,” for example, six of the eight main leads are Americans we brought in to do the show. The other two are Canadian.
When you go down the line, then you have me and Jordan as the other Canadians, and then everybody else (guest starring) on the show are Canadian. It’s good for us in the sense that we get some screen time, we get to do some work, but what we’d ultimately like is to be a lead, too. Sometimes in Canadian/American co-productions, the leads are brought in from The States. Sometimes we have to go to The States to get the lead parts, and don’t get me started on how hard that is.
American shows are willing to take a chance on someone that they don’t know as well, to break people. I find that more American shows do that. In Canada, when they save the money on the tax breaks, they come in, turn around and spend the money on the big-name American talent they bring across. That’s the catch 22, but the good thing is all of us actors here can say that we work on this movie, we were in this show! It’s a business. We all understand that here.
For example, “Suicide Squad” has been shooting here for the last four months and I think they have another three months to go. That’s been huge for the industry here in Toronto, and it’s great business. Definitely. If I tried to get in “Suicide Squad,” I wouldn’t have an opportunity to go for Will Smith’s role or anything like that. That’s the difference.
If I lived in The States, if it was happening in The States, I feel like there’s more potential for a lot more unknowns to get discovered. Ask me this question three years from now or a year from now when I’ve become a known person, and then I might have a different answer. Who knows?”
You and Alan tend to tweet in character. It’s super fun, but what started that idea to actually tweet as the character Pangborn versus yourself?
“That was just my idea I came up with. I didn’t even think about it. I think the first one was for Alan’s birthday. This is what I’m saying, I got educated by the fan bases, the groups, like TMI Toronto, TMI Uruguay, TMI India, TMI Northern Ireland and all these other groups, all of them, there’s so many.
It was early one morning and I was lying in bed, and they’re saying happy birthday, Alan. I just thought, it’s Valentine’s birthday. Let’s see what we can do with this. [Laughs]. It was fun to see the reactions.
The thing is, that literally took three seconds. I knew enough about the story, well, I’m not going to say what we shot, I knew enough about the story to know that this would actually tickle the fans. That’s my thing. That’s why I did the tweets that we did yesterday and today.
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