Exclusive Interview with Dead of Summer’s Eli Goree

Photo Credit: Freeform/Tyler Shields
Photo Credit: Freeform/Tyler Shields

Canadian actor Eli Goree has certainly had a successful run these past few years, from appearing as the gone-too-soon Wells Jaha on “The 100,” to his role in the hit Jesse Owens film “Race” and now starring as camera wielding counselor Joel on Freeform’s “Dead of Summer.” The down to Earth fitness lover and classic film buff recently took the time to chat with us about Dead of Summer, The 100, and his life off-screen.

Dead of Summer really hit the ground running from the start and it hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, so how did you feel when you were auditioning for it and you heard that you got the part?

Oh man, it was great. I lived down in LA for about three years and I was working down there, and I just decided I wanted to come back to kind of get settled and come back home again, and recenter. Within a few months, pilot season was up, that was my very first pilot audition and I kind of knew, I had a feeling when I walked in, that it was just a good fit. And I found out, literally, like within the day of the audition that I had it. (laughs). So it was a really cool experience, it happened really fast, I didn’t really have a pilot season this year.

Were you a horror fan before you auditioned?

No, I’ve never been much of a horror fan. I don’t think–it’s not my disposition, I get a little bit nervous. (laughs).

Your character Joel almost always has a camera in hand, which has gotten him into…something with Camp Director Deb, and it’s got some fans talking. What do you think is Joel’s attraction to her, and do you think she’s a good person, a bad person, somewhere in between?

There’s definitely an attraction–an intimate attraction–between Deb and Joel. I think Joel is a little bit more mature than the other counselors, he kind of already knows what he wants to do with his life. He has an idea about his future. And so, he kind of relates to somebody that’s older and more experienced, and I think with Deb, he kind of reminds her of her younger days and when she had a lot more life. He’s not afraid of Deb. I don’t know–I can’t say whether she’s a good or a bad person, but I can say that Joel’s not afraid of her. I think most of the other counselors have a certain healthy fear of her as an authority figure, but I think Joel feels like he’s grown up.

So, what did you do to prepare for Dead of Summer, and what was it like bringing Joel to life? Do you share any personality traits with him? Is there a little bit of you in there?

I mean, I think there’s always a little bit of yourself in every character. I think when this was written, it was the perfect match for me because I’m a huge film buff, Joel’s a huge film buff. I’ve been athletic my whole life, Joel has an athletic background, as well. So, there was a lot of correlations on that level, so yeah. I definitely feel a connection with this character.

I think that’s the case with all of the cast, I think we all bring–there’s something that kind of  resonates between our characters and ourselves. There’s pieces of us in every one of those characters.

Did you ever have the chance to attend sleep-away camp when you were a kid?

Summer camp? Yeah, I went to camp. (laughs). It was interesting, I really didn’t like it at the time, but when I look back now, I appreciate it, you know?

I do! And I hope it wasn’t anything like Stillwater.

No, nobody died! (laughs).

Good, that’s good news. So without sharing any spoilers, are there any scenes in particular that you can share with us that have been your favorite so far to film?

Any scenes, or any episodes?

Scenes or episodes! Anything that really stood out to you as just a favorite moment you had.

Well, there’s some pretty–there’s some scenes coming up with me and Deb that I think people will enjoy, that I definitely enjoyed, I will say that. I can honestly say that all of the scenes I did with Elizabeth Mitchell were just fantastic, because she’s such a gracious and wonderful actress that whenever you’re with her, she makes you better. It’s been really cool working with her, she has so much more experience, y’know, working on network series after network series and movies–it was great, working with her, and I love all those scenes that we have together, personally.

I saw that you and some of the cast and crew were doing some workout videos, the #FitofSummer videos–it just seems like you guys have fun together. What’s the energy like with the cast?

It’s really cool, man. Everbody’s so unique. Alberto is from Ethiopia and he’s Italian, Amber is a writer as well as an actress and she had a lot of success as a writer working with James Franco’s people, Zelda is, obviously, Robin Williams’ daughter and you know all that–every single person is unique on this cast. Yet somehow, when we come together, it feels like we all bring a little bit of ourselves to the front and we’re all able to learn and gain from each other’s experiences. We like each other for who we are, without judgment, which is really cool.

You’ve now gotten a chance to play roles that were both retro and post-apocalyptic future settings. A lot of The 100 fans, to this day, still mourn the loss of Wells–myself included–so what do you think Wells would have been up to if he hadn’t died so suddenly?

I think Wells–Wells was always a leader. And I think if he was still on The 100, he would probably be the leader of, by now you know, in the fourth season, a small community. I think he would’ve become part of a community of people who were focused on getting Earth back to what it used to be, and I think Wells being the visionary and the leader that he is, he’d be trying to protect people, he’d be trying to build, and trying to lead people to a better future.

Definitely, I could very much see that. So, who or what film inspired you the most in your own career? And, if you could pick one, what would be your dream role?

I don’t know what inspired me the most. (laughs). I definitely feel like the cast and crew of Race–we really, really had a special bond. I think we were all very proud to be a part of the Jesse Owens story, and there was also just, I don’t know, it was just the right time in all of our careers, so we connected–Stephan James, and Chantel Riley and myself, and Shanice–all of us were just really connected. And we still talk to this day, we still email each other, we still stay in touch. That was amazing.

What advice would you give to other actors who are maybe trying to break into the industry and are looking for direction?

I mean, it’s funny, that’s the question I probably get the most and the truth is, it’s like any other job. It doesn’t really matter what way you go about it, if you go to theatre school or film school, if you decide to do short films yourself or try to do YouTube videos, if you try to do theatre–you know, there’s so many different ways to try to break in, but it’s really just about having the patience, putting in the time, putting in the work, day after day, and that’s something that I even have to motivate myself to do, still. Everybody likes the result, but nobody really likes to put in the work. (laughs). So I think to break into that process, you know, acting is a job like any other job, and it has its ups and it has its downs.

I hear that. Can you tell us a little about other passions that you have outside of acting, or maybe what–if you weren’t an actor–what else you would be doing?

Yeah, I really–I love fitness, I love being fit, I love to work out. Like, tonight I’m going to this gymnastics gym that they have in Delta, I’ll be learning how to do like flips and tricking and stuff like that, and I like to box with Alberto and some of the other people I know that like to box….I just love anything to do with fitness. I love to travel. And if I wasn’t an actor–and I still might one day–be a pastor, I’m a Seventh Day Adventist Christian and I really love church, and I love to help people, and just be a part of the community. I think that’s something that–like, Martin Luther King was one of my heroes, that’s probably something that I would look into, being a pastor and being a community leader.

That’s awesome. And I guess as a last question, we like to ask, since the name of our website is Talk Nerdy With Us–what is one thing that you’re nerdy about, or that you nerd out over?

I’ll give you two. I really was a big fan of Star Trek when I was younger. (laughs). I was a big fan, and I followed it quite a bit, so it was cool working with Tony on the show, because he worked on Star Trek: The Next Generation. And also, I’m like a very big classic film geek. Like I love Sydney Poitier and Tony Curtis and Marlon Brando, and also those classic, classic films.

What would you say is your favorite?

Oh man. I’d have to say it’s a tie between On The Waterfront, Citizen Kane and The Defiant Ones. It’s a three-way tie.

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