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Actor, Shawn J. Hamilton

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with Actor, Shawn J. Hamilton
January & February 2017 Winter Edition

Actor Shawn J. Hamilton is building up quite an impressive resume with most notable recent works on Suicide Squad (2016), Orphan Black (2013) and Covert Affairs (2010). Hamilton, who served 14 years in the Canadian Armed Forces, including 6 years in Special Operations units, comes to the wonderful field of acting bringing a wealth of expertise, knowledge, and skills.  Hamilton worked in Special Operations units that selected personnel from all branches of the military: Army, Navy and Air Force. Although he enjoyed his career immensely, Hamilton knew he had the acting bug that needed to be fulfilled. In this exclusive interview with our publication, we discuss the transition from Canadian Special Forces Officer to currently one of the hottest new faces in the acting industry. Here is his story.

Isaac: Thank you for allowing us to speak to you today.

Isaac: Let’s discuss a little about your background as a former Canadian Special Forces Officer.

Shawn J. Hamilton: I served 14 years in the Canadian Armed Forces, including 6 years in Special Operations units.  I received extensive training in weapons handling, survival in all environments, emergency medicine and communications.  I also received unofficial training in developing a good sense of humor in the face of adversity.

Isaac: What did you enjoy the most about your role as a Canadian Special Forces Officer?

Shawn: I really enjoyed the challenge of achieving goals, mission or otherwise, that might at first glance seem near impossible either for shear audacity or due to extreme time constraints.

Isaac: What do you miss the most about your role as a Canadian Special Forces Officer?

Shawn:  I miss my teammates the most.  It is truly amazing what you can achieve as a group with like-minded, highly motivated people.  By like-minded I don’t mean clones, these are people with a wide variety of specialties and knowledge that contribute to the overall effectiveness of the team.  Special Operations units select personnel from all branches of the military: Army, Navy and Air Force.  Experience is obviously great, but a junior member can also offer an insight that no one else saw.  The key to really getting to the ‘next level’ is that we must remember that no single person has a monopoly on good ideas.

Isaac: You also a bit of an overachiever. You have both your helicopter and airplane licenses. What were the driving forces for you to obtain these licenses?

Shawn:  I had attended an Aviation College prior to my enrollment in the military and I earned a Private Pilot license on airplanes at that time.  In the military, I was selected for Pilot and subsequently received flight training on High Performance CT-156 Harvard II aircraft which is the Canadian variant of the T-6 Texan II used in the United States.  After completing training on the Harvard II, I was selected to be a helicopter pilot and trained on the Bell Jet Ranger where I received my Canadian Forces Pilot Wings.  A final round of selection led to my first operational assignment as a Tactical Helicopter Pilot on the CH-146 Griffon, a military version of the Bell 412 which is an evolution of the venerable Huey family.  I completed examinations to receive civilian licenses for both Rotary-Wing (Helicopter) and Fixed-Wing (Airplane) categories.

Isaac: You also went to Afghanistan. Describe your experience when you served over there.

Shawn: It was definitely interesting and memorable.  Our missions were part of the greater objective of stabilizing the security of the country to a level that the people of Afghanistan would be able to handle all security matters independently.

Isaac: How did you get involved in acting and what draws you to want to act?

Shawn:  I have always loved a good story and I was drawn to be a part of telling those stories.  To me, there is a real power in being transported into another time or place along with characters that we can relate to and connecting to the story being told.

Isaac: How long have you been an actor? From where did you get started?

Shawn: I would say I have always had a bit of a performer in me, but my professional journey began in 2012 when I decided to start taking courses in Improvisation at Second City Toronto and scene study / on-camera work at Pro Actors Lab Toronto.  I figured that no one shows up at a hospital and realistically thinks they are going to be a doctor without training, so I applied the same logic to being a professional actor.

Isaac: In the films you have performed in up till now, what is your favorite role and why?

Shawn:  I played a mercenary in the BMW Films production called The Escape directed by Neill Blomkamp and starring Clive Owen, Jon Bernthal and Dakota Fanning.  It was my favorite role so far because I was able to explore being on the wrong side of the law with the understanding that villains don’t necessarily think that they are doing immoral things.

Isaac: Speaking of various roles; what kind of roles have you performed throughout your career? Are you satisfied with most of them?

Shawn:  I have been a police officer, a murderous doctor, a spy and a friendly neighbor to name a few.  Each role has been satisfying insofar as I’ve been able to explore different aspects of each character.

Isaac: How different is it to act in a movie?

Shawn:  I would say that acting in a film and other mediums are quite similar as far as preparing for your role and doing your homework, but the main difference I have noticed is that larger film productions can often film scenes out of chronological sequence and it takes an attention to detail to make sure your portrayal of the character in a scene is congruent with the events leading up to and after that scene.

Isaac: Tell me about an area in which you would like to improve as an actor?

Shawn:  I need to keep broadening my toolbox as an actor by continually pushing into different roles and being uncomfortable in order to grow.  There are so many disciplines in the craft of acting to work on, such as: accents, voice acting, dancing and stage combat; each facet that develops will bring something new to your work.

Isaac: Do you ever think that you could have done a bit better in any particular role?

Shawn:  I think that there is always a tendency to do an analysis on each performance and attempt to find ways to improve.  I believe that the process is really never ending; perfection is a journey not a destination.

Isaac: What are your strong points as an actor?

Shawn:  I try to keep in perspective that I am part of a very large team of professionals trying to tell a story and deliver to the best of my ability every day.

Isaac: What have you learned from the directors that you have worked with throughout your career?

Shawn:  I’ve learned that there are many different styles and to be open-minded to the process and how the director is working to realize their vision.  In many ways, a director is similar to a mission commander:  they won’t always have time to tell you exactly why they are asking you to do something a particular way, but you trust that they have a good reason in asking for it to serve the greater good.

Isaac: What have you learned from your senior actors?

Shawn:  I’ve learned that preparation is very important so that you know your material inside out and can then connect organically to your scene partner without being in your head overthinking things.

Isaac: What are your educational qualifications?

Shawn:  I received a Bachelor of Arts in Geography and Political Science from the University of Manitoba. I originally started off at the University of Toronto in East Asian Studies, Japanese Language Major with a Minor in French and German, but I left in my second year upon receiving an offer to join the military.

Isaac: Do you think that you have matured as an actor?

Shawn:  I think I have to a certain degree, particularly in being in the moment and embracing the inevitable unrehearsed variations that happen as opportunities.

Isaac: Do you think that you have the potential to carry a film on your shoulders?

Shawn:  I am optimistic to reach that responsibility knowing that it truly takes a collaborative team effort.

Isaac: What has been your biggest achievement in the field of acting?

Shawn:  The level of growth I have experienced, as an actor, has been my biggest achievement.  I believe it has been accelerated by being able to work with so many professional and creative people on both sides of the camera.

Isaac: What kind of roles do you prefer?

Shawn: I don’t have a preference other than that the role serves in telling a good story.  I really enjoy working on a variety of roles: drama, comedy, and action.  A dream role would be playing a Bond villain.

Isaac: Give me a few tips to being a successful actor?

Shawn:  Practice your craft relentlessly and never give up.  Ensure that the preparation of your skills has the sense of urgency that an opportunity may come sooner than later and you need to be ready.

Isaac: Who is your favorite actor?

Shawn:  That’s a hard one as there are so many great actors out there.  Personally, I really like the work of Tom Hanks and Robin Williams.

Isaac: Are you working on any current projects?

Shawn: I am currently working on a feature film called KIN that is directed by Jonathan and Josh Baker.  It is starring Jack Reynor, Dennis Quaid, Zoë Kravitz and James Franco.  I play a Tactical Squad Leader and also serve behind the camera as the Military Tactical Advisor.

Isaac: What are you looking forward to the most for the upcoming Holidays and 2017?

Shawn:  I am looking forward to some downtime with family and friends over the holidays.  As for 2017, I’m sure the universe has something interesting and unexpected in store for me.

Isaac: Thank you once again and we are looking forward to seeing you in our new projects.

Shawn J. Hamilton’s Official IMDb’s Website:
Shawn J. Hamilton’s Official IMDb Page