One would normally want to stay out of Liam Neeson’s way given the body count his characters typically accumulate films like the Takenfranchise. But Vancouver’s own Wesley MacInnes is more than happy to face the star in the frosty revenge thriller Cold Pursuit, opening this month.
Also known as Wes Mack to country music fans, Wesley has accumulated some impressive credits in his relatively young screen career from his first credited role on CW’s Vampire Diariespilot to schoolyard nemesis of the Power Rangersin the major film of the same name. He joins a mosaic of Canadian talent on his latest project including screen legend Tom Jackson and BC character-heavy Aleks Paunovic. Wes plays the character of Dante who finds himself in the unenviable position of crossing paths with a vengeful Liam Neeson, here playing a snowplow driver out for revenge after his only son is allegedly murdered by drug dealers.
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Wesley about the film, his career (both of them) and other highlights along the way.
How did you first get into acting?
I think I had a weird lightbulb moment. I was sitting in my quantum mechanics class in my second year of university and decided it wasn’t for me. I walked out and I dropped out of all my advanced math classes and I picked up a bunch of somewhat random arts classes, one of them was a theatre class. And I got a taste for it and started doing a lot of plays.
And then my last day of class in university (I got a political science degree) was my first day on set filming Vampire Diaries, a one line part in the pilot.
“Peeing Guy” according to your IMDB
Oh yeah. That’s almost a funny story because it’s not credited properly because it’s “Peeing Guy #1”. This relevant only because myself and now a guy whom I’m actually friends with were both cast as peeing guys. And we showed up, there was two trailers and there was “peeing guy #1” and “peeing guy #2”. It was very much a The Good, The Bad & The Ugly sort of stand-off in that we both arrived at the exact same time and we’re staring at each other, looking at the trailer doors and wondering “who’s number one and who’s number two?” Really high stakes stuff (laughs).
How did you come to be involved with Cold Pursuit?
Really the same way as anything else. I was sent the script by my agent, I auditioned. I went and met the director, auditioned again, and eventually was cast in it. Actually, theres a ton of Vancouver actors in it. In general, it’s a massively eclectic cast which I think kind of serves the film really well. Theres so many gnarly, gangster characters that are on the page and in reality are not conventional gangsters or drug dealers that you would find in most movies.
Can you tell us about your character, Dante?
Basically the way this film functions is that it’s a whole bunch of people being yanked into things. [Dante] is not a vicious gangster or drug dealer in this, but make(s) the mistake of getting involved with these guys. Through myself, Liam Neeson gets involved in all this stuff and it’s sort of a weird chain of events from one very small act [that] sets off just a ton of dead people.
Seems par for the course with Liam Neeson’s latest work
What’s interesting with this one and the reason I was really attracted to it is that I think he’s really good casting for it because he’s known for this. But in reality, in this film, it’s not the same as the Takenfranchise where he has a “specific set of skills” where he knows what he’s doing whereas this really plays up the comedy. It has a sort of Fargoor In Brugeblack comedy tone to it. He’s a snowplow driver who has no idea what he’s doing. He’s just read a bunch of crime novels and he likes them. He’s pulling his ideas from them as to go about exacting his revenge. You watch him try to figure that stuff out whereas everyone around him are professional killers. It’s really funny at points to watch.
What’s it like working with the legend that is Liam Neeson?
It was a really, really awesome experience. I grew up watching a bunch of his movies and always held him in really high esteem. It was a very pleasant thing to meet him and have him be a really pleasant guy who gives a shit about everyone around him. He goes above and beyond, was really kind to the crew and cast around him. The real joy was between “action” and “cut”. He is a superb actor. He goes between takes from being really soft-spoken, polite guy to masterful, intensive depth behind his eyes which is all you could ever possibly ask for in an actor.
As a Vancouver-based actor, how important is it to maintain some kind of presence down south?
It’s never been a really massive priority for myself. I’ve definitely taken trips down to L.A. I’m also a musician and spent a lot of time in Nashville. Obviously a lot of the industry is centred there, but I tend to focus more on character and craft and trying to bring the best things that I can to the roles I’m cast in. And from there, then if you wanna venture down south and be involved in anything like that, you can. But at the end of the day, you need to do a lot of work on yourself and you know, be true to the character.
Any favourite roles or experiences you’ve had over the years?
I guess playing in the Power Rangers film a couple of years ago which for my inner child was kinda fun. The director walks out and says “the Zords are gonna come flying out” and I’m like “Oh yeah they are!” That was real joy there.
There was also a project I got to do a couple years ago called Phantoms, it was a CBC movie. Over ten years ago, there was this boys basketball team in Bathurst and their van crashed. Eight of the students were killed and the following year the one student (might have been captain of the team) decided to play and to rebuild the team around him and the town rallied around it. They ended up winning the Provincial championship for the first time in 50 years or something like that.
I got really involved in that and we shot it in the town where it all happened. A lot of the real families were involved in the film. The guys who were coaching us in all the basketball-related stuff were the actual coaches of the team. It was a really powerful experience for me. You feel almost alien coming into a town like that after they’ve been dealing with something so tragic and severe. It was really cool to get to tell their story and have so many people come up after and say “I love that you’re doing this.” That to me, was challenging to work on at the time. You wanna give it enough gravity and play everything truthfully and not ham anything. It was really fun to be a part of.
Any advice for aspiring actors?
I’m never one to claim that I have the secret sauce or anything. You know, really focusing on becoming better at acting which is “goes without saying” kind of advice. It’s really easy to dive in thinking that you can say your lines, show up and that’ll be enough.
I’d highly recommend anyone who wants to get into it to be involved in theatre and take classes and find the kind of acting stuff that you really love, the stories that you wanna tell. The other thing they can do is bring their own life experiences. The more of that you have, the more ideas you have about what you wanna do as an artist, the more you’ll actually have to bring to it as opposed to just being an empty shell. The flip-side of that coin though is that you’re never gonna feel fully ready for any train you’re chasing after so don’t tap yourself out. Always be working on yourself, your craft and that kinda stuff. But if you don’t feel fully confident, that’s fine. Most of the actors that I really love entirely admit to feeling massively insufficient a lot of the time.
Any more upcoming projects?
I have a new single coming out to radio on Feb 15 and a music video shortly after. The song is called Never Have I Ever and features an artist called Sons of Daughters.
Cold Pursuit opens in theatres across Canada on February 8