Interview – Alex Shaffer – Win Win

SPOILER WARNING: The following interview contains conversations about things in the film “Win Win” that may be considered spoilers. If you would rather see the film first, simply bookmark this page and come back to it after. Thank you.

In the new film Win Win, actor Alex Shaffer portrays the film’s young star Kyle, a wrestling prodigy who shows up in a small town and helps a losing team become one of the best in the state. At 16 years of age, this is Alex’s first feature film, basically his first acting of any sort. With the precision of a well-practiced actor, Alex embodies the disaffected Kyle and brings to the film a well-balanced cast of characters that make it one of the best comedies of the year. I recently sat down with Alex while he was in Seattle as part of the press tour for the film. The first thing I learned was that Alex is nothing like his character, he is very outwardly friendly and very upbeat.

Benjamin Nason: So this is your first film, right?

Alex Shaffer: Yes.

BN: You haven’t acted before this at all?

AS: No.

BN: So, how did you get cast in this film?

AS: Tom put out a casting call in the local newspapers for all wrestlers to come audition. My friend texted me and said, “You should audition for this.” And my initial response was, “No. I don’t want to audition for this,” because acting was something I never thought of before. There was wrestling seasons, and I just wanted to focus on wrestling. But my friend said, “No. You should audition.” So I thought about it and how he said it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and that’s what really got me to thinking about it. Yeah, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m probably not going to get anything similar to this again. So, I went and auditioned and came back about seven or eight more times and finally got the part.

BN: Since you come from a wrestling background, then were you able to bring any of that knowledge with you into the film?

AS: Yeah. I was able to bring that into my character, and I was also able to bring that into the choreography of the wrestling. Tom [McCarthy] wrestled when he was in high school, and the choreography of the film was already written very well. We went over it together, and then I went over it with the stunt coordinator and we kind of put together our own thing. A couple of my moves are actually in the movie, but Kyle and my styles are very different.

BN: Do you have any wrestling heroes that inspired you for this part?

AS: No. I never really had any hero wrestlers. If there was anyone, as lame as it is, it’s probably my dad because he wrestled in high school and college, and I kind of made my style similar to his and the moves he used to do.

BN: Was it your dad then that got you into wrestling?

AS: Yeah. It kind of was my dad. He got me into Judo at first, and that was when I was like five. I turned six years old and then I started going to kindergarten and I started wrestling. I loved it. I’ve been doing it ever since. But, I picked it out first. He said I was the one that brought the idea home.

BN: Do you plan on continuing doing wrestling?

AS: You know, I wish that I could, but I broke the L5 vertebra in my back this summer so wrestling is out of the picture.

BN: Oh really?

AS: Yeah, but I’m probably going to try to do one more thing this summer, sort of a last hurrah type of thing.

BN: Well, since that avenue is now closed for you, do you plan on doing more acting?

AS: Yeah, I do. I’m really looking into it. Focusing and doing better. I got an acting coach and I’m taking acting lessons. I’m really getting into it.

BN: Are you getting any roles offered to you yet?

AS: I’ve been auditioning around and just reading scripts and just becoming better at it. At first the auditioning process was very different for me. I never, ever am nervous. As you can see I’m very comfortable wherever. I went to my first audition after the movie and I was petrified. I didn’t even know how to talk. It was crazy. I’ve never been nervous about anything before and I’m finally getting nervous about something. It’s really I guess because I care so much about it, like I care about wrestling. I guess it’s similar to the nerves I used to get before some of the matches.

BN: Are there any actors you admire or would like to be like as an actor?

AS: Hmm. No. I don’t really want to be like any actor, I’d like to be like myself, as cocky or obnoxious as that may be.

BN: Are there any actors that at least inspire you?

AS: Well, I guess subconsciously but I wouldn’t really know who that was. As far as actors I’m interested in, I really like Will Ferrell, and I really like Paul Rudd. They’re both some pretty cool dudes. They’re my favorite actors on screen.

BN: Is that more the kind of acting you’d like to do, comedy?

AS: Not necessarily. I have read some comedic scripts, and I do enjoy them but, I find that I’m better at drama. I don’t know why. I guess I’m an emotional person or something. [Laughs.]

BN: Well, you did really good in this film portraying this character.

AS: Thank you.

BN: Did you have any trouble relating to your character at all?

AS: It wasn’t necessarily the fact I had trouble becoming him. It wasn’t hard. Tom helped me out more than I did. He set me up with an acting coach and that was fantastic, who I still work with now; she’s great. He also set me up with a movie to watch, Ordinary People.

BN: Great movie. What did you think? Did you like it?

AS: Yeah, I did. What I did get from that movie was I really got the anger from that kid. Every time the incident would come up he would get very upset and very angry, and I guess that’s similar of Kyle and every time he saw his mother. For instance, when he even thought about his mother or when they brought it up to him, obviously his face would change, and he would get upset. For my own learning how to be Kyle, I really listened to a lot of Screamo music and I thought about his life and how awful it must’ve been, and how awful his mom must’ve treated him. Because, you don’t know where this kid is, or when he’ll come home from school or something and see his mom passed out on the table. I mean, you don’t know how he feels. I really tried to capture that emotion.


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Benjamin Nason is a writer, film-maker and critic from the Pacific Northwest, where he lives with his cat Lulu.

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