It’s not easy playing the bad guy/villain in a movie but if you have to, bring your best! Actor Houston Stevenson has been trained by the very best and he knows how to get into character. Like many of the greats that have come before him, he does what it takes to immerse himself into the character. Every actor has a bag of tools and Houston brings his with him on every set. He knows his motivation and objection, because he’s lived it. He can regress back to an experience and bring that raw emotion, that freshness to each scene. It’s wearing, it’s daunting, it’s draining… but it’s what the pros do and Houston is more than happy to walk in those shoes.
Houston Stevenson reprises his starring role as Bruce in the third installment of the sequel thriller, A Predator Returns – slated to debut on Lifetime Saturday, May 22, at 8pm. Houston also stars as Brandon in the pulse pounding Horror feature film ‘Fear Pharm’ now available on demand.
In A Predator Returns, Houston is starring alongside Matthew Crawley, Leigha Sinnot, Hannah Jane McMurray, and Chris Jehnert. It’s directed by Colin Theys and written by John Doolan. A Predator Returns is set on the beaches of the fictitious Hunter’s Cove when a late-night boating trip for high schooler Courtney (Leigha Sinnott) leads to an unexpected encounter with a shark and a charming mysterious savior when her normal life is turned upside down. Houston plays Bruce, a charming, observant young politician’s son who hides a violent, obsessive past under a false name. He is laying low in a lighthouse on an island, resisting exposing himself to the temptations that have led him astray in the past. However, when Courtney and her friends come to visit, he rediscovers his obsessive tendencies. He wants to complete his family and feeds the sharks around the island, which he considers to be his brothers and sisters.
Houston can also be seen in a leading role in the pulse-pounding horror feature film ‘Fear Pharm’ as Brandon, your typical all-American Jock, an easy-going guy, who’s all about his buddies and high school football. The feature film is an American horror about four teenagers that enter a maze, which is home to a deranged family. If 4 high school seniors make it through the ‘human maze’ in under 2 hours – they’ll win the Cash Grand Prize! Fear Pharm also stars Emily Sweet (Desert Shadows; Castle Freak; Cry Havoc), Aimee Stolte (Battle Star Wars; Verotika; Megalodon), and John Littlefield and is available on DVD, Apple TV, Google Play, Amazon Prime Video and FandangoNOW.
After graduating high school Houston moved to London, England to study with renowned acting coach Andy Johnson. Next move to Los Angeles where he worked for producer Julia Verdin and studied with Ivana Chubbuck then back to his hometown Vancouver and studied with Mel Tuck at RailTown Studios.
Houston currently resides in Vancouver and holds both a Canadian and US passport.
I had the outstanding opportunity to catch this incredibly busy actor between films. He’s charming, he has swagger and he has the best stories from the trenches. Here is how some of that conversation went:
HNMAG “In addition to acting do you also write in your spare time?”
HOUSTON “I actually do, I’m actually working on a project about Robert Pickton. I’ve been researching him for the past year and a half and what fascinates me about the complexities of the case is, there was the worst heroin epidemic happening in the world in Vancouver and the police didn’t know if people were overdosing or getting murdered. In a city the size of Vancouver, nobody would suspect such a thing. Anyways, I’m writing it now in a Pulp Fiction/Magnolia type frame where there’s all these different people that don’t know each other but they’re all part of each other’s story. Lincoln Clarke was a man that would take photos of these women and some of those photos end up in the Vancouver Art Gallery, only to notice later that the women are going missing. There was a female lead investigator that had suspected Pickton but because of the sexism in the ‘90’s they downplayed her position. There were the 2 sisters that were working as escorts and one gets murdered. There’s parties with the Hells Angels and the whole drug trade going on. I’m taking all these different things and trying to find the fine line, where it’s artistic but it also honours the stories of the victims and gives them a voice.”
Picture Courtesy of Lifetime PR
Houston continued to discuss the case and its compelling string of events. A murderer that was killing for 20 years without regard or fear of being stopped. It’s a horrific history that nightmares are made of and Houston has been able to uncover many details and facts of the case that need to be told. Victims need a voice and like many other true crime stories, the murderer is locked up. If this was the US, Pickton would likely be executed for his crimes. It doesn’t bring the victims back but it takes away his privilege to breathe, which he failed to consider, when he took his victims last breath.
HNMAG “Speaking of killers, you play a similar character in your last film, A Predator Returns. This is the third installment of this Predator series. Were you in all 3 films?”
HOUSTON “The Lifetime Network made a film, about 4 years ago called, Stalkers Prey. It was a hit and was one of the most rerun movies on the network. 3 years later, they wanted to do a remake of the film. It’s essentially a remake that takes pivot points from the last story but it’s a fresher new version that they called it A Predators Obsession, rather than Stalkers Prey.”
HNMAG “Can you tell me about your character?”
HOUSTON “I play a guy who’s quite normal until his girlfriend dies in a car accident. He can’t accept that she has died, then he meets this new girl and because of this mental block, he thinks that she’s Allison. He basically starts murdering everyone around her, including her friends and family. The next film coming out, tops that. I’ve killed her best friends, her dad and it looks like I get taken out by a shark and I’m dead… but I’m not. Spoiler alert, he’s not… he’s just hanging out in an abandoned lighthouse on a small island in Connecticut.”
Houston’s character has an infatuation with sharks in the story but he informed me that his passion for sharks continues off camera and into his personal life. He is an advocate for protecting sharks around the world, especially from the threat of being caught and de-finned to satisfy the cruel shark-fin-soup industry. If the sharks go, it impacts the marine food chain/ecosystem, which in turn – destroys phytoplankton, which in turn impacts the amount of carbon that the oceans of the world produce. If the phytoplankton dies, the climate warms far beyond the impact of man-made carbon pollution. The plankton is the air filter of the oceans and they are directly related to the food chain, the ecosystem and the sharks play a huge role in sustaining that system.
HNMAG “In this film there are sharks in the story that you consider friends and you feed them. Did you have an opportunity to feed any actual sharks in the making of the film?”
HOUSTON “I did not but I’ll tell you, we were in Norwich, Connecticut and over the radio there was an announcement about a great white shark spotting. I thought it was great timing, considering that we were about to shoot a film about sharks. I didn’t see any sharks, it was all CGI and they did an incredible job on the film. If there are any filmmakers out there making another shark movie and you need an actor to swim with sharks, I’m in – I’d love it.”
HNMAG “Considering you are comfortable around sharks, what’s the biggest shark you’ve ever encountered?”
HOUSTON “I do have my advanced diving certificate and have been lucky enough to dive in some pretty cool places. I had a 7 foot lemon shark swoop over my head and I’ve swam with black tip sharks but no great whites that you might find in South Africa or Australia.”
HNMAG “How long did it take to shoot the film?”
HOUSTON “It was a little strange, it was about 6 months ago and before the vaccination rolled out. We were the only film crew in the eastern US that were shooting. Have you had the swab up the nose yet, because I was a master at it on the go. The crews were restricted to half, so the days were much longer. The good thing about it though, was that everybody was ready to go and were tired of staying home. Every department was excited to be working again and the passion was everywhere. I wasn’t allowed to leave my hotel room even to go to a restaurant because it could jeopardize the risk of catching Covid and then spending 2 weeks in quarantine. It was unlike anything I’ve ever done and we were on a very strict schedule, which was great for the safety of everyone.”
HNMAG “You kill a lot of people in this film. What is your preferred weapon of choice?”
HOUSTON “He has a harpoon, I’ve killed someone with a knife, a gun and choking. There’s been 12 murders between the two movies.”
HNMAG “You play a fictional killer in this film but how would you feel about playing a real killer in a true story?”
HOUSTON “I’ve never done the bad guy before so with this character, I didn’t want him to be hated, I wanted to be the person that you watch but feel sick to love and give him some vulnerability. He had lost his family, he’s broken-hearted and although I don’t want the audience to root for me to kill people, I did want to make a connection. Playing a character like that was very interesting for me because I’ve never played that bad guy. To prepare for some of those scenes, I’d text my ex-girlfriend and tell her I miss her. She’d block me and my heart would sink, then they yell Action! (Laughing) In the scene I’m being rejected, so the emotion is real and fresh in my head. I try little tricks to help me get into character.”
HNMAG “This is the second time playing the character Bruce. How did you prepare for the reprise of this role?”
HOUSTON “It was a year between films and it was pretty fresh as to who he was but this time around, the script makes him 10 times more amplified, so I really had to bring on the villain, which I hadn’t done before. I would listen to Avenged Sevenfold, Three Days Grace, System of A Down and read dark poetry, light candles in my room in order to get into that headspace. If those actors that I look up to, such as Heath Ledger, Joaquin Phoenix can take those steps in order to get into character, then I don’t have an excuse not to. I want a taste and I want to put my toe in the swimming pool to feel whatever I can to move towards that goal. If that means shutting myself off from the outside world and listening to mood changing music, eventually its like hypnosis and it will put me in that world. It was heavy and I’m glad I’m out of it.”
Headshot by Jenna Berman
HNMAG “You’ve been in TV and film. Have you done theatre and is it on the bucket list?”
HOUSTON “I have done theatre but sadly only in high school but it was pretty cool. I as a bit of a theatre nerd, which led me to pursue acting after school. In terms of the future, I would love nothing more than to do theatre. A lot of actors of today don’t realize that you need that theatre background in order to get into the movie world. In theatre, there’s one take and the scenes are more amplified. On a set, there might be 100 people running around and doing their own thing, you’re with the cast and you can forget about the cameras. When you’re in a play, you’re aware that there’s a massive crowd watching you. That takes so much confidence knowing that there’s two hundred people watching your every move and not walking around. It will definitely bring in the confidence needed to play the role and the structure of the character. I hope to win a Tony Award someday, that would be badass.”
HNMAG “You’ve had some extensive training in London England with renowned acting coach Andy Johnson. You then moved to Los Angeles where you worked for producer Julia Verdin and studied with Ivana Chubbuck before returning to Vancouver and studying with Mel Tuck at RailTown Studios. Where did you learn the most and who most inspired you?”
HOUSTON “Andy Johnson over in England is a crazy cat. He’s like a Mike Myers and full of energy. He’ll yell out profanities ‘Shut the f#*k up and do that again!’ type of thing. It slaps you into place and makes you feel scared and I needed that to get out of my comfort zone. As an actor, you have to be confident in yourself and he helped me to break down those barriers of feeling shy and vulnerable. In terms of craft however, the most I’ve learned was at the Ivana Chubbuck studio in LA. She’s taught Brad Pitt, James Franco, Halle Berry and is renowned. She’s all about taking your past and putting it into the film. When you’re determining your objective; what do I want, why do I want it, where am I going and where am I coming from? In the circumstances of that, finding pieces of your life that connect with that, so you can feel it. Being able to feel what you say portrays it much more realistically than pretending.”
HNMAG “If you won an Oscar next week, who would you thank?”
HOUSTON “My momma. My mom and my agents. They’ve always been by my side. Everyone in my family believes in me but my mom has always been my number 1 supporter.”
HNMAG “Are you the only actor in your family?”
HOUSTON “I am. It started with my mom though. I was doing theatre in high school and my mom was on reality TV’s Housewives of Vancouver. She was offered an agent to get into scripted TV but she wasn’t interested, so she knew I enjoyed acting and gave me the agent. I was really nervous and instead of sending her a resume, I made a short movie which turned out to be pretty cool because I made it with a friend that was very talented. I sent that to her and she agreed to give me a shot. After my first audition, I got the part. That sort of thing never happens today and is comparable to going into a casino with putting your first quarter in a slot machine and hitting 777. The rest is history but I am the only actor in the family. She’s pretty incredible and like a godmother to me. She’s still my agent since 2013.”
HNMAG “What’s the most extreme activity you’ve participated in?”
HOUSTON “(Southern accent) Probably being down in Arkansas and shooting some big ass American guns and riding horseback. I went catfishing, shot a bunch of 306’s and a lot of AK’s. I got the real taste of the American south. I’d say, that was the most extreme and I was with my dad and his business partners and it was a fun hillbilly time.”
Houston Stevenson has aspirations for theatre and bigger films as he moves forward in his career. We know he will get there and we will all be able to say that we knew him when…