“Crown and Anchor” is a new movie with Canadian actor Matt Wells, known for his roles in “Designated Survivor” and “Dark Matter.” Here he talks about his beginnings as a musician, and latest film, “Crown and Anchor” – releasing on DVD and Digital in July.
Meagan Meehan (MM): Tell us about your beginnings, Matt. Where are you from?
Matt Wells (MW): I was born in St. John’s Newfoundland – Canada. Newfoundland is an island in the middle of the North Atlantic. It’s a unique, beautiful and special part of the word which has played a huge part in shaping me. The arts scene there is thriving with a long tradition of talented people. I have been lucky to be surrounded by that and soak up the inspiration.
MM: And did you come from a ‘showbiz’ family?
MW: Not in the traditional sense. Newfoundlanders are natural entertainers and story tellers. Some of the best musicians and actors I have EVER SEEN were in a kitchen, small pub, or tiny stage in and around my hometown. It comes from our history of long cold winters and geographic isolation. Newfoundlanders had to entertain themselves. My grandfather was a tap dancer but not professionally. My father a singer but as a passion, not a career. I come by it naturally but am the first in my family to have made it a career.
MM: Have encouraging folks?
MW: 100%. Encouraged me even when I left University to pursue a life in a hardcore/punk band. I won the parent lottery in that regard.
MM: You initially started in music. Is that right?
MW: Yes. It all started with music. I played in high school bands and then connected with a group of guys who would become life-long friends as we toured the world and made albums for 10 years. THAT was my university degree and I loved every second of it.
MM: Did you find it a natural progression to go into acting?
MW: I never aspired to act, it was a natural progression. I always loved movies, obsessively, but music grabbed me first. Then the success of my band brought me to a career as a music/film journalist on Music TV in Canada. As I began researching and interviewing actors, directors, and writers, something clicked and I found myself jumping head first into film. Now I’m all in. I find the act of writing music and performing very similar to acting. Similar feeling. Similar sentiment.
MM: Have you found one to be a more lucrative career over the other?
MW: A life in the arts is rarely lucrative. I try to work on projects that feel right which sometimes means less dough. Each stage of my career has given me something that I’ve taken into the next one so in that way they’ve all been important. Independent music and independent film life is exactly where I want to be and I’d say lucrative for the soul but not the bank account. The goal is just to keep doing it.
MM: Crown and Anchor seems to combine your two loves – music and film. That, I imagine, was intentional?
MW: The strong musical component in which the music is essentially its own character connected with me but it came from our writer/director Andrew Rowe. His idea to have music help shape the 2 main characters was really cool and helped me as an actor. The first version of the script which I wrote had a very different vibe, same characters but different approach. Music was written into it but when Andrew rewrote the script and had the idea to use only punk and hardcore music to help tell the story it was a no brainer and I love what he did. I think because music is so important in my life as well and my best friend and collaborator (Michael Rowe), any project we do will use music to compliment it.
MM: And a lot of the bands that provide their music for the film, you obviously knew from your music days?
MW: Michael (Rowe) and I essentially grew up in band together. We LOVED Quicksand and when we made our final album we reached out to Walter Schreifels of that band in the hopes he would appear on ours. It was a shot in the dark but he said yes. Then we toured together and he became a friend. Walter is a legend of the NY Hardcore scene, an incredible musician, and a really, really great human. His support allowed us to work with Revelation Records to secure tunes from his old school bands Gorilla Biscuits and Youth of Today. Once we had those songs secured it opened the doors to others.
MM: Tell us about the character you play in the film
MW: Danny is a mess but he’s trying. He grew up surrounded by abuse and addiction. He also suffered childhood trauma, all of which has continued to poison and haunt him now as an adult. Now that he’s a father and a husband he’s trying to balance between who he wants to be and who he feels like he is but he’s not doing a great job. People are broken and some of us deal with it internally, while others deal with it outwardly…that’s Danny. He’s repeating the cycle of addiction and violence he was born into but he loves his family and wants to be better.
MM: How similar is he to you?
MW: Much of this script was inspired by things I saw growing up. There was a lot of alcoholism in parts of my family and I’ve seen it take people’s lives. My mother grew up with an abusive and alcoholic father but she broke that cycle for me and my sister. So I could relate with the darkness that Danny came from. I knew what it looked like. I’m also a father and a husband and I understand the struggle and desire to provide and protect no matter what life throws at you. That’s very much like Danny and was easy for me to connect to.
MM: What’s next for you?
MW: There are some discussions happening about possibly turning Crown and Anchor into a series which we are pretty pumped about. Michael and I, along with Andrew and our producing partner Vince Buda have a handful of scripts we are developing. The indie film hustle is real!