An interview with The White Crow star Zach Avery about his multiple upcoming movies, his approach to acting, and his future projects.
Over these past few years, Zach Avery’s schedule has been busy to say the least. In Ralph Fiennes’ The White Crow, he stars alongside Oleg Ivenko as the American journalist who follows Rudolf Nureyev’s defection from Russia. In Orson Oblowitz’s suspenseful thriller Trespassers, he takes us on a fun, edge-of-your seat journey as one of the leading characters. But that’s not all. Hitchcockian thriller Last Moment of Clarity and horror drama Shookum Hills are currently in post-production, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s autobiographical drama Farming (starring Kate Beckinsale) is about to be released, Michele Civetta’s The Gateway has just wrapped filming, and Zach was involved in all of them.
But the up-and-coming actor’s most recent career choices are only the latest chapter of his fascinating story. In fact, though acting has always been a passion of his, it has never been his only one. Before an injury prevented him from becoming a professional football player, Zach spent several years playing for Indiana University. After graduating, he entered a Doctoral program at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology and learned about human behaviour. When he decided to pursue acting professionally, he worked as a door-to-door salesman to fund his move to Los Angeles. During the years, not only has his determination helped him achieve his dreams, but his many interests and experiences have given him a unique way to approach every single role he plays.
We interview Zach on Trespassers, Last Moment of Clarity and his impressive number of upcoming projects and asked him about life/work balance, acting advice and the way he approaches the roles he plays. Here’s what he told us.
Acting: crafting personalities from human behaviour
Your story is very interesting, as your many passions must have given you a very unique combination of skills. What drew you to acting and what do you find most rewarding about it?
I have always been extremely fascinated with psychology and sociology. Why people do the things that they do, what makes them tick, how they interact with others…. I could sit in a park all day and simply observe behavior: we are all so unique. So, taking this interest and finding a career where I could use these observations and funnel them through the eyes of characters that I create has been fantastically rewarding.
I think the most rewarding part about this career is the life lessons that you learn by “walking in someone else’s shoes” for a role. Every single role that I have done has allowed me to completely dive into another person’s skin, and it’s almost impossible to not come out the other side with some perspective that can be added to your “real” life. It’s such a treat.
I can imagine your background in psychology might come of use when you analyse the characters you play in the films you choose to take part in. For example, The White Crow’s characters are extremely fascinating from a psychological point of view. Where did your interest in psychology come from? Do you think it affects the way you approach the roles you choose to play?
It certainly affects the way that I play every single role. I have always been interested in human behavior from my earliest of memories and actually started a doctorate program in Psychology before leaving to pursue acting full time. The decision-making process for every person (or character) is such a road map for me when crafting the personalities of the people that I have portrayed. Digging into the reasoning behind why people decide certain things in their life can really give you a very solid idea of who these people are and therefore choices you (as an actor) can make to play them. Psychology is embedded into every decision we make, whether conscious or not, so it’s such a great tool for actors.
Trespassers and Last Moment of Clarity
Congratulations for starring in so many exciting upcoming movies!
Thank you so much!
Orson Oblowitz’s thriller Trespassers has just been released. Can you tell us about your character?
I play a character named Joseph that has been going through some personal “trauma” with his wife Sarah. They recently had a miscarriage and wanted to plan a weekend away to be present with each other and hope to rekindle some of the flame that has been lost in the relationship. But when Sarah invites her best friend from high school and new boyfriend to join them for the weekend – this becomes the first of many “hurdles” that Joe has to overcome throughout the next 24 hours.
The film really focuses on the relationships between these two couples and delivers a human drama wrapped up in this crazy home invasion thriller. It allows the audience to genuinely care about and get to know the characters before taking them on a gruesome, scary ride which was one of the main reasons that I was drawn to the script and character from the beginning. I think Orson delivered such a fun film: it keeps people on the edge of their seat all the way till the end!
You also play “Sam” in Colin and James Krisel’s Last Moment of Clarity, which is currently in post-production. Can you talk about your character and what drew you to this film?
Sam is a “normal” guy who had his whole life in front of him: great job, great fiancée… Then, all of a sudden, everything is taken away from him and he hits rock bottom. He witnesses his fiancé (Georgia, played by the amazing Samara Weaving) being murdered, and flees to Paris not only to mourn, but to flee from the same people that killed her, assuming they would be after him as well.
After years of living in depression, he finds himself watching a film in Paris and an actress shows up on screen that eerily reminds him of Georgia. He can’t shake the feeling, so he goes to Los Angeles to uncover the truth and ultimately find out if true love exists in a time and a place or if it can last forever.
There were so many layers to play in this character that it was an absolute no-brainer for me. Not often do you get a script that allows you to play so many facets of a person – it was amazing.
Life/work balance and acting advice
How were you able to combine your work schedule with your personal life in these very busy past few years?
The past couple of years have been truly incredible, but certainly a professional juggling act. My wife and I had our first son in the fall of 2017 and, since then, the life/work balance has been something that both of us put tremendous effort to maintain. We made a rule that no matter what or where I was shooting, we wouldn’t go more than two weeks without seeing each other.
We both feel that it is crucially important to physically be together so that, as I grow in my career, I don’t miss out on growing my relationship with Mallory or our son Jax. It takes effort on all parts, but it’s 100% worth it!
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out as an actor?
The best piece of advice would be to learn all facets of the industry and how it works – not solely on the acting side. Especially the way that the film/TV industry is evolving right now… It is extremely important for actors starting out to understand what goes into producing the projects that you want to be a part of, because there are ways to get in the door that may not be the typical casting call. This, coupled with belief in yourself and the ability to quiet the “noise” and persevere through the “no’’s, is crucially important.
Acting is one of the hardest industries in the world to break into, but if you would rather fail at this than succeed at anything else… Don’t let anything or anyone get in the way of you pursuing your dream.
Is there a character you would love to play in the future?
I would love to play a highly intelligent “action” oriented character like Jason Bourne’s or Ethan Hunt’s of the world. I’m very drawn to physical acting due to my background in sports and personal lifestyle, so a role in which I could dive into that side as well as the creative side would be great.
Do you have any other future projects?
Later this fall, Farming, Last Moment of Clarity and Shookum Hills will all be coming out: keep an eye out! Then I am heading to Spain to start a really cool political thriller called “American Carnage”. A lot of exciting things ahead!
Trespassers was released in theaters and VOD on July 12, 2019. Farming won the Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature Film at the Edinburgh Film Festival, where it premiered on June 20. It will be released in the U.K. on October 11, while its US and international distribution are being handled by Momentum Pictures and GEM Entertainment, respectively. You can also see Zach in Ralph Fiennes’ The White Crow, which is already available to buy.