Shannon Kook’s made a name for himself in his native Canada with outstanding performances on shows like Rookie Blue, not to mention playing Zane on the beloved and quintessentially Canadian show Degrassi: The Next Generation. Now it’s time for Hollywood to start remembering the young actor’s name. Up next for Kook is a film role that catapults him into the company of some of the biggest names in Hollywood. In the highly anticipated adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s best-selling 2009 thriller, Dark Places, Kook will star opposite Chloe Grace Moretz, Charlize Theron, Christina Hendricks, Nicholas Hoult, and Corey Stoll to name just a few of his cast mates. It’s no wonder the actor was named one of the official TIFF Rising Stars of 2014. We caught up with Kook to find out more about his burgeoning career as an actor and why being a TIFF 2014 Rising Star is a lot like speed dating…
You’re one of TIFF 2014’s Rising Stars. Congratulations! What does that mean to you and how do you see it helping your career as an actor?
Thank you kindly. It’s a massive privilege and honour to represent Canadian talent among the TIFF platform. A lot of the battles and blows to the chin are alone in this industry – close family and friends often don’t understand your world, so it’s a constant dialogue with yourself to stay hungry, motivated and… to believe in yourself. To have TIFF echo that as I carve out my career is rejuvenating.
We have intimate, exclusive workshops and speed dating with great international directors and casting directors. I’m known in Canada and fairly known internationally, but this is a wonderful arsenal to extend my market further. TIFF Rising Stars also cultivates expanding your ‘brand’, because even with all the training on the craft of acting and auditioning it’s very much an independent business, and that sector is often overlooked. Workshops, VIP access to the biggest events and red carpets, and direct interaction with key industry players is all part of what’s been happening.
Your highly anticipated film, Dark Places, has quite the impressive cast. What was the experience of shooting such a star-studded movie like? Any brilliant pieces of advice from or shared moments with your fellow actors on that film you’ve taken with you?
The material was very dark for Christina, so I was careful not to disturb her focus and take her from her character. I was always sitting at the monitor and watching everyone act when I was on set. I’d come to set on my off days just to watch, and I loved watching all the work!
When you meet big stars and know you’re acting opposite them you play over that first moment you are going to meet them, debating how to behave, what to say, and how to connect with them. I first saw Chloe in the lunch room, and she came over to me, a complete equal, hugged me, then introduced herself. It let me exhale. I learned a lot from that.
Chloe kept the mood light and a lot of fun on set, and then just before a take she would turn her head, and bam! Just nail it. Me and some actors would sit there with our mouths open and scratch our heads. Someone said to me, “She’s so good it might throw you off, so be careful.” I, on the other hand, get so focused people start to keep their distance sometimes. My head is down and my eyes are somewhere else. People work differently and your method is always evolving. I learned being around them. The first lesson that came to mind though was about ‘kindness’ in the realm of status and fortune.
You went to the highly respected National Theatre School of Canada. What are some of the most important lessons as an artist that you learned there?
It’s an ongoing evolution, not just as an actor but as a living being. Your life experience bleeds into your work and the aura you emit entering a room. It’s not just about studying acting or technical factors, but fleshing out the parts your soul is asking you to grow into. To aid the depths of your potential and higher knowing to “arrive” into your physical manifestation.
I consciously try not to just focus on acting classes and circles. A big part of me being an actor was an excuse to “experience.” That doesn’t just have to be at the whim and cheer of an audience, but the gratification with myself when I’m alone.
What other movies are you most excited to see at TIFF 2014 and why?
Alexandre Landry in Love in a Time of Civil War and Julia Sarah Stone in Wet Bum. I’ve spent quite a bit of time with my fellow TIFF Rising Stars, so naturally out of being proud and happy for them I’m really excited to see them on screen. They’re now the first movies I want to get to. Their screenings have great buzz after last night, and the they are both in Hello‘s top 25 shortlist for up and comers this year. I think that’s so exciting and I love seeing them next to all these A-listers on the short list. A Québécois and a 16-year-old young woman.
What are three things you can’t live without?
Love, laughter, and your party dancing.
What’s one thing most people would be surprised to know about you?
My father is from Mauritius. My maternal family dealt with the oppressions of apartheid in South Africa, and I grew up in Mitchell’s Plain, Cape Town for a while.
What style trends are you currently obsessed with?
I’m wearing a v-neck, blazer, and hot pink socks today.