Actor Matt MacCaull talks Tomorrowland, iZombie, WWE’s Vendetta, and being a Star Wars geek

Photo by Bobby Quillard

Matthew MacCaull may not be a household name yet, but with all the projects he has lined up this year, he definitely will be. He received rave reviews for his role in the acclaimed psychological 2014 thriller Black Fly, which was nominated for Best Canadian Feature Film, Best BC Film, and Best Emerging BC Filmmaker at the Vancouver International Film Festival in 2014. He has also made notable appearances in many of our favorite geek shows: Rush and King & Maxwell for TNT, Bates Motel for A&E, Motive and Once Upon A Time for ABC, Emily Owens, M.D. and Supernatural for The CW, The Killing for AMC, and Fringe for FOX. Now, he’s hitting the big sceens in one of the most anticipated films of the year, Disney’s Tomorrowland. He will also be seen in the new CW hit iZombie, and in WWE’s film Vendetta.

We chat with MacCaull about Tomorrowland, iZombie, Vendetta, and being a Star Wars geek!

Nerd Reactor: So, tell me about your role in Disney’s Tomorrowland.

Matthew MacCaull: Good question. My role is, from what I can tell you, a mysterious character who is looking for George Clooney and Britt Robertson’s characters. And, I think that’s all I can tell you or Disney is going to make sure I never work again. [laughs]

NR: Oh, of course! I know you are the right hand man to Hugh Laurie’s character [David Nix]. That’s what we do know. So, how does it feel to be playing a Disney villain/minion.

MM: Honestly, it’s awesome. I don’t know. It’s like when you get into acting, you don’t necessarily think about all the things you could do in terms of what kind of career you want to do. I think in the back of your mind, you always think certain things that would be really great to play. I think very stylized character that is so Disney in so many ways is such a gift.

NR: That’s awesome. Were you a big Disney fan prior to getting the job?

MM: Yeah, absolutely. I grew up with a lot of Disney films. I grew up way back in the day, I would watch Mary Poppins over and over with my cousins. [That] whole brand of Disney is so well known and recognized; and to be able to associate myself with that and to be part of that family is fantastic.

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NR: Would you say Tomorrowland is your favorite section of Disneyland, or would you say you’re more of an Adventureland kind of guy?

MM: I think Tomorrowland, from what I remember, was at Epcot. It was really cool and very interesting. I sort of say they might do some sort of cross promotion and re-brand Tomorrowland and create a new theme park or theme area for it, which I think based off this movie/story would be outstanding. It’s such a great film, and it’s written by Damon Lindelof with his vision of worlds – if you know from his previous work on Star Trek, Prometheus, and Lost. It is just so rich and full of interesting characters. So I think this will be a great Tomorrowland if they are making a theme area for it. I think classically, I was a Pirates of the Caribbean guy. My dad and I basically go on the ride and go around and around.

NR: Well, Tomorrowland is about the future. What invention would you like to have in the near future?

MM: I’ve always been partial to flying cars. I don’t know if that’s just something that I would want myself or something that I think would be interesting for us all to have. It’d be completely dangerous, but movies like Back to the Future really highlighted flying cars. Not only would it be cool, but it would also be very practical. I think I am a very practical guy.


NR: Well, tell me about iZombie and your character Sebastian Meyer.

MM: So, my character is introduced towards the end of the season and he is initially trying to help Rose McIver’s character, Liv – help her uncover some evidence that sort of expose the theme of zombies in the world. Initially, in the beginning stages of this series, not many people know zombies are around and among us. So I’m brought in to help her uncover this proof that they are indeed among us. Then, as episodes go on, there are some twists and turns and changes. My character really gets to go through a really remarkable arc in terms of storytelling, but also in terms of acting. It’s really great fun to play somebody who has many turns and changes in his character and his overall direction.

NR: As a fan of iZombie and knowing the zombie traits from iZombie, I noticed from your Instagram that your hair color has changed.

MM: Yeah, that’s it.

NR: So, I can only assume that you are playing the undead.

MM: Um, that would not be an incorrect assumption. There is a point where I don’t have blond hair and a point where I do have blond hair. If you could figure out what blond hair means in the world of iZombie, I think you might be on the right track.

NR: I did some detective work. Well, speaking of iZombie, if you could eat anyone’s brains and get their thoughts/memories, who would it be?

MM: Alive or dead?

NR: Alive or dead.

MM: There are so many good ones. I think I’d have to go with Mahatma Gandhi. Just somebody who is just so impassioned, someone with direction in their life, with purpose, and just such a remarkable character and in many ways a visionary. I think that would be somebody that I would pick or eat their brains.

NR: What would you do and how would you do if there was a real zombie apocalypse?

MM: Actually, initially I was a big fan of The Walking Dead as well. My partner Chloe and I talk about, “Okay, what would we do?” We live in Vancouver, so we have a certain readiness for earthquakes. So I think I would do is try to hold up in my house as long as possible and let the dust settle. Then, I would probably try to get up the highway towards a small town called Squamish. I have a really good friend who is basically a hunter/outdoorsman. He’s the guy with all the guns and weapons, so I would head up that way. Because, unfortunately, in that sort of apocalypse, you would need to defend yourself as terrible as that seems in our civilization. Right now, I would think that would be the new reality. Yeah, I would lay low for a while and live off of our rations that we have prepared. Then try and make it up to my friend’s place with all the weapons.

NR: Well, since you are from Canada, I would think that the zombies would be nicer.

MM: [laughs] There is no doubt they would say ‘sorry’ every time that they ate your brains. “I’m really sorry about that, eh.”

NR: That’s hilarious.

MM: That’s a really good point to make. That’s hilarious.


NR: Now, can you tell me more about your movie Vendetta?

MM: Yeah! Vendetta, for sure! Vendetta is directed by the Soska twins, who are visionaries. They just have this great attitude of “We’re just going to keep doing what we want, how we want to do it, when we want to do it.” If someone told them they can’t work in this town anymore, they would just continue on because they are just that driven with the project they want to do and the focus that they have.

So this movie is about a former police officer who has made enemies with a powerful gangster in town. To get back at this police officer, the gangster, played by The Big Show, tries to go after the family and things go badly very quickly. Vendetta itself suggest vengeance and a direct purpose to get back at the people who wronged you. So, the policeman, played by Dean Cain, decides with no holds bar attitude to go after this gangster and his family – and just destroy this gangster’s life until he could get to the gangster in prison and take him on in there. He ends up putting himself in prison through a series of unfortunate outcomes. The bulk of the story takes place in a prison.

NR: Would you be playing a villain or one of the good guys?

MM: Now that is a really great question. Even during filming, we had many discussions about how to play my character. His name is Ben Pearson and he is a former police officer who is now a corrections officer at the prison. The questions are raised if he’s trying to help Dean Cain’s character or if he’s on the side of the bad guys. If you watch the movie, I hope I played it with enough ambiguation that you won’t be able to tell if I’m a good guy or a bad guy, right up until the last scene when everything is revealed and exposed and you see what my character, Ben, has been up to. That’s what you have to watch the movie for.

NR: We are big fans of WWE and we love our wrestlers. How was it working with The Big Show?

MM: He was really cool. He was physically a really big force of nature. He was 7′ 3″ and weighs hundreds of pounds. When you meet him, he’s such a gentle guy. I think he has such a understanding of his physical presence and life. He’s even talked about it – he’s always been [played] as the mean guy and he’s really worked against it to be an educated and well verse man in literature. He’s quite a down to earth, sensitive guy, which is really great because it helps with his acting. I’ve never seen him act before until this movie and he does a fantastic job. I think it’s that sensitivity and the fact that he’s more than just a hulk of a man. He’s really able to access some really true human emotions and bring a well-rounded character to his role.

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NR: Well, since you are working with WWE actors, what would your wrestling name be and what would be your move?

MM: Okay, so I did another WWE film called The Marine 4 and in that movie, there were two wrestlers – Summer Rae and Mike “The Miz” Mizanin. Throughout filming, we were all hanging out on set. They had as many questions for me about acting as I had many questions to them about wrestling – his whole concept of performance and what they do to get ready, because they are playing a character as well. So the more we talked about it, I thought “Wow, I wonder if I could be a wrestler. If I could be one of these guys in the ring.” I’m not the biggest guy in the world, but in the last five years I’ve been hitting the gym and really trying to build my physical stature. I thought I could take on a couple of guys on, for sure.

And, funnily enough, my character was a secret service agent. He was always wearing a suit. So the joke around set was they were calling me “The Suit”. They’d say “Here comes The Suit” because everyone else is in their fatigues. My character is just bloodied up for three quarters of the film, but everyone else was dirty and in fatigues carrying all sorts of weapons and grenades. And, here I am in my suit with a Glock or Galil rifle in hand. I think everyone was a little jealous because I got to keep a little cleaner. They would always call me “The Suit” and I thought ‘That would be great!” I really thought for me, what I really love to do in acting is play the villain. Playing the hero is great too, but I think what’s great about playing the villain is that they are in essence the same character. They are two halves of the same character, except the villain doesn’t have that moral constraints that the hero does and the villains is willing to go that much further to get what he wants. It’s so much more fun to cross those boundaries in a story, when you can’t in real life because they’d send you to jail quite happily.

I started devising this character called “The Suit” and if I ever became a wrestler, that would be my guy. And, Mike “The Miz” says “You need a name, a finishing move, and a catchphrase.” I figured out my name would be “The Suit” and my catchphrase would be”I make this look TOO good!”. Just to get under the skin of the audience and that my outfit would be a suit that I could tore away and all I’d have underneath is a speedo – with a little bow tie on the speedo! I would call that the Tuxspeedo! And my finishing move would be “The Windsor Knot” – where I would wrap my arms around the person’s neck – in a sort of a chokehold – and do a suplex into the mat. That would be my move – the Windsor Knot! I really put some thought in that.

NR: Wow, you really put some thought into that! Detailed! So, you would be a heel!

MM: I guess a heel. Yeah, I would be there to antagonize the audience and antagonize the wrestlers. Really, raise the stakes of the hero and really have the audience to get behind the hero. I just want to generate more excitement and generate more entertainment, because honestly, that’s what it’s all about. I don’t need to be pretentious or be the hero or necessarily be the bad guy, so long as everyone who is paying the money are getting what they paid for. They are getting excitement and entertainment out of it. I would want to serve that kind of purpose. I think that goes for something like a movie like Tomorrowland. Something that people are involved in  – George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Damon Lindeloff, Brad Bird, and Hugh Laurie – they command such respect and great storytelling in each of their chosen avenues, that I think that this movie is going to be such a great experience and such a great thrill ride for anyone. It’s going to be a very exciting film and I’m just so happy to be a part of it.

NR: We are all excited about your appearances in Tomorrowland, iZombie, and Vendetta. I am watching iZombie religiously.

MM: Yeah, keep watching. I am at the end of the episodes this season.

NR: It’s GEEK TIME now!

MM: Alright!!!

NR: We need to know, what is your nerd/geek fandom? What fandom you love?

MM: Oh man, honestly, I have to say Star Wars. I think that’s a lot of people’s answers, especially these days with the next three movies coming out. I was raised on Star Wars. I have an older brother – four years older than me – who went to see the original movies in the theaters. I just remember him being so excited about it and I always looked up to my brother – I still do. Star Wars was one of the things we both bonded as brothers. I just loved that world – the adventure of it, the bad guys and the good guys so clearly defined, the heroics of it, the fact that they have such cool tech, the lightsabers and the speeders, the stellar spaceships, the Millennium Falcon, and very cool characters. Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Obi-wan “Ben” Kenobi were such cool characters.

I’ve always been a big fan of these films. Back in the ’90s [when] they started producing the first three films (I, II, and III), before I started acting, I literally wrote in [I found an address for Lucasfilm somewhere] not knowing where this letter went, telling these people how much of a fan I was and if there was any way I could get into an audition, just to be a part of those films in any way. To my surprise, somebody wrote back to me and said you had to be an actor. But, what they did say was that you could subscribe to this magazine (they had this magazine, which I don’t know if it’s still in publication) called The Star Wars Insider. So what happens is when you sign up for it, they send you a magazine and membership card (that I still have on my desk) and it says “You are an Official Jedi Knight.” So I signed that right away and I’m happy to say I am an official Jedi Knight.

NR: So would you consider yourself a Sith or a Jedi?

MM: I think deep down I’m a Jedi, but I’d have to go through the whole Sith path to come back to the good side. Probably start out as a noble Jedi, get taken by the trappings and power of the Dark Side – again, part of storytelling goes, there is just something about the villains and what they go through and their tremendous sadness and loss. If you look at Darth Vader’s character, he’s gone through so much loss in his life that has forged who he is today. So, I would be a Jedi by way of the Sith. The good Jedis would turn me back to a Jedi.

NR: Who is your favorite superhero?

MM: Yeah, I think… I grew up in the ’80s when the original Batman came out, so there was a big push and excitement for Batman in those days. I grew up reading comics and I liked the superheroes and people with superpowers. But, sometimes, what spoke to me and why the Batman movies have done so well is because it’s really just a man without any superpower (he’s got some cool gear), but it’s really man against nature. Really, against supernatural nature. He’s up against supervillains. There’s something about Batman that speaks to me about his ability to go up against forces that is much greater than himself. I think that speaks on humanity at large. Nothing against Superman, it’s just that it’s tough to root for Superman when you know he could just fly and shoot laser out of his eyes. If it all goes wrong, he could go around the globe and turn back time. Batman can’t do any of that, he has to win the day now. He gets hurt and bleeds. I think I really respond to that and see myself in Batman. We bleed, we get hurt, we have foes, we all are just humans that sometimes have to go against forces that are seemingly greater than us. So, Batman is definitely my hero.

NR: GEEK BATTLE!!! This is a challenge where I ask you to pick between universes. DC vs. Marvel?

MM: DC. Actually, which DC? These days or classic comic books?

NR: There can only be one!

MM: There can only be one. I have to say Marvel, because Disney owns Marvel! [laughs]

NR: Battlestar Gallactica vs. Firefly?

MM: Battlestar. I am a Joss Whedon fan though!

NR: Star Wars vs Star Trek?

MM: Star Wars.

NR: Indiana Jones vs. Han Solo?

MM: Oooh, I’m going to say they are the same guy.

NR: There can ONLY be one. If you could hang out with one of them – Han Solo or Indiana Jones?

MM: Indiana, only because I’m an academic. I love anthropology and I love just the accessibility of Indiana Jones because he’s a guy on our planet, in the real world, who goes out hunting treasures and that’s something that people do. I think that’s interesting. He’s a little more real in my mind as cool as Han is.

NR: Zombies vs. Vampires vs. Werewolves?

MM: Hmm… that’s a good one. I like the idea of vampires, because – although, what iZombie has done with zombies is really interesting. They really brought the humanity to zombism. I think this is the first time I’ve seen it in any form of media, publication, storytelling, what have you. As a person who is a zombie, they can still retain their humanity. So, given that, given the fact that iZombie has been able to do that so ably, I would say zombies.

NR: The Hobbit vs. Game of Thrones?

MM: The Hobbit.

NR: Okay, last one… Hunger Games: Team Peeta vs. Team Gale?

MM: Ummmmmm… Gale was who?

NR: Liam Hemsworth.

MM: Oh right. Ohhh, you had to ask that questions, wouldn’t you! Team Peeta or Team Gale. I think Peeta for sure. I think he’s trying to do the right thing. I think Gale is doing the right thing, but I think Peeta has harder decisions. As storytelling goes, I like real hard issues, but I’m not necessarily up against one or the other.

NR: Thank you so much for the interview. It was so nice and fun talking to you!

MM: Thank you so much!

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