Interview with 'Hung' Star Stephen
‘Hung’ Star Stephen Amell Talks Kinky Acting, Stealing Other Guys’ Women, And The Canadian Mafia
For a minute there, things seemed to be going uncharacteristically well for Ray Drecker (Thomas Jane) and his third leg on HBO’s Hung. The raunchy comedy’s leading ho was raking in the cash, he and his partner-pimp Tanya (Jane Adams) had kick-started an even more potentially lucrative business teaching “orgasmic living” classes above a muffin shop, and his love life momentarily seemed to be, well, healthy.
But then, just as Jane previously shared with us, Lenore’s (Rebecca Creskoff) trifling, albeit sexy, self once again surfaced to throw a wrench in the sometimes-dynamic duo’s plans. Her secret weapon: A youthful, eager, and energetic rival named Jason (Stephen Amell). After discovering the equally-equipped waiter while enjoying a cup of joe (and sampling his wares shortly after), the vengeful Lenore took the naïve newcomer under her wing, her sights set on the protagonists’ clients.
With Hung’s strong third season coming to a close this coming Sunday, December 4th (at 10pm EST), Complex spoke with Amell, the cast’s newest star, to discuss (what else!) whoring himself out in the career-changing role.
Interview by Lauren Otis (@laurnado)
We understand that you might’ve set a new record for fastest-ever landing of a role post-audition. Can you tell us about that?
I was actually shooting a movie in New Orleans and didn’t realize they’d been looking to cast this guy for quite a while. I finished shooting the movie on a Monday morning, flew back to LAX on Monday night, had a bunch of auditions on Tuesday, got an email about this audition on Wednesday, found out their last possible casting day was Thursday and needed him for a table read—the season’s first—on Friday. I wouldn’t say I scooted to the front of the line, but I got to come in at the end of the process. Maybe I was just the freshest guy.
How was it jumping in and working with such an established and eclectic cast as the new kid on the block?
They made it very easy for me. The majority of my scenes were with Thomas Jane, Jane Adams, and Rebecca Creskoff. All of them took a minute to welcome me and tell me how excited they were to have this new dynamic added to the show. I think it’s true. When you’re on a show going into a third season… I’ve been on shows where people, even in the second season, are starting to find it a little bit monotonous. It was really nice.
How method does one get when prepping for the role of a gigolo?
Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that I was going to go totally method on this: Part of what people seem to like about Jason is that there is a little bit of a naïvité. I don’t believe he’s thinking about the dynamics of being a gigolo from a business standpoint; he’s thinking of it purely from a pleasure standpoint—a fun standpoint, an I’m-not-bussing-tables-anymore standpoint. The tedious methods are being left to various women in his life. I didn’t need to call upon any real life tactics because my character doesn’t really know what they are.
So you weren’t on the street corners at five in the morning for research purposes?
While it would’ve been fun, I’ve read stories about actors that’ll travel with cops, prostitutes and such. I take my work very seriously, but I didn’t have to get into that state of mind or use those sorts of methods. I did sit-ups! That’s what I did!
While getting paid to get laid seems like an ideal form of livelihood, what do you think would be the biggest downside to life as a male prostitute?
Practically speaking, the hours. It’s a job that you have to do during the night. It’d be tough on a relationship. I happen to be lucky on the show because the girl my character dates is somebody who views being a gigolo as a chance to live in a nicer house, get nicer appliances—that’s fine for the character, but not the basis for a good relationship. It’s a nice idea in theory and works well on television, and Hung does a really good job of making it real. But I imagine that in addition to being illegal, it would definitely put a strain on your basic relationship.
On a different note, one of your first TV roles was on Degrassi, which also brought Drake into the public eye. Being a Canada native, were you a secret (or outspoken) fan of the show growing up?
People really, really enjoy that show. I was a big fan of a lot of similar shows: I was a big 90210 fan, I was a big Melrose Place fan, all those. I wasn’t a fan of Degrassi only because I hadn’t seen it. I knew of Degrassi, but it was either my second or third job. The part that I played was a bouncer at a frat party that one of the kids still in high school was trying to get into. The funny thing about that was that the only line for that audition was, “Are you 19?” The drinking age in Canada, or at least Ontario, is 19.
If you just have one line, you go over and over and over in your head, “Are you 19?” “Are YOU 19? Are you 19?” I was happy to get it, I remember that! People used to ask me questions on my blog about how to break into the acting industry. You often have to start out in parts where you have very few words, but you still have to try to make an impact. Some of the most cutthroat auditions you’ll have as an actor are when you’ll have three words to say.
And they need the right person to say them.
It feels like you’ve got quite a few stars blowing up from your homeland these days, such as Drake and The Weeknd. Are there any Canadian exports you’re especially proud of?
Well, I really like Broken Social Scene and all the people that’ve come out of that, like Feist. Canada does a really a phenomenal job of producing music, actors, and entertainers. If you look at the number of people we have in our country relative to the number of people that are prominent in the entertainment industry, it’s pretty impressive. It’s a nice fraternity to belong to. It’s fun because it’s a conversation starter. I ran into a show runner the other day and discovered he was Canadian. It takes care of the first ten minutes of your conversation. It’s like, “Ahh!” You’re fast friends. It feels like there’s a Canadian mafia down here.
On another surprising note, you also starred in a show called Da Kink In My Hair. Please explain.
A lot of people don’t know this, but Toronto is probably the most multicultural city in North America. So many different cultures are represented and because Canada is much more of a melting pot, those nationalities and cultures celebrate their heritage more overtly than many might here. In Toronto, there’s a very distinctive Caribbean flavor, and Da Kink In My Hair was about a predominantly Jamaican-Canadian salon. One of the characters on the show is from this very proper white family and becomes a part of this world when she starts working at the salon. I play her very prim and proper lawyer brother. I would come on the scene and be the white guy on the show.
Kind of like a Canadian Barbershop?
Well, yeah. You can certainly make that leap, but instead of it being African-American community, there’s a distinctive Caribbean feel to it. The clientele of the salon that they’re working at is almost distinctly women.
Speaking of women, the very first sex scene of your career was your first day on Hung’s set. What was that like?
Well, the first scene was a quick one with Rebecca Creskoff at the diner where I offer to put a little courvoisier in her coffee and then it cuts to us having sex at her apartment. I didn’t know if I should be nervous or terrified or excited or a combination of the three, but one of the co-creators of the show [Colette Burson] directed that episode, and she was extremely helpful. And Rebecca Creskoff and I became very fast friends after we found out we knew a bunch of the same people.
The thing that makes you nervous about sex scenes tends to be the dynamic between the two actors. It’s not necessarily that you’re doing it in front of all these people because they aren’t the ones that you have to kiss and fake hump—the one you have to kiss and fake hump is your scene partner. We spent a little time together, got to know one another, got to laugh at the situation a bit, and that made it way easier. Especially since all I was wearing in the scene was a sock.
Ahh, the courtesy sock.
We call it a “cock sock.” Shooting that scene in rehearsal, we were told, “Just to get you comfortable, let’s go all the way through it. Just get all the way naked and actually do it.” Well, the gentleman that was supposed to bring me my robe after the scene didn’t know we were going to be going all the way, so when it finished, I stood up expecting to be covered up immediately and nobody was there.
A brief panic set in and then I looked around, looked at all the crew members and nobody cared that I was standing there basically in the nude. It didn’t give anybody pause whatsoever. I just relaxed and made a point of staying naked for three or four minutes. It was almost like getting in a very cold pool: It’s incredibly cold at first, but then you just kind of adjust to it.
With sex scenes, is there a lot of improvising, or do you have some sort of sex choreographer standing there, saying, “No, no! Move your pelvis to the right!”?
They are very much planned out in a “from Point A to Point B to Point C” sort of way. They do have to know what you’re going to be doing because they need to shoot the scene to the limit that they can. They want to show everything that they can, but there also needs to be some spontaneity in there because it’s not the tango—it’s sex! There has to be some passion there!
Shortly after you make your initial appearance as Lenore’s surprise discovery, you start stealing Ray’s chicks from under his nose. Have you ever done anyone dirty like that?
Not on purpose! I’ve never targeted any buddys’ girlfriends, but, you know, I’m sure I’ve probably met somebody that was attached. I tend to get protective of friends’ girlfriends and boyfriends for that matter. If they’re important friends of mine, their significant others become important to me and I get that paternal instinct around them. I remember I had a buddy that used to do that to me way back in like 7th grade or something. He’d immediately latch onto any girl I’d been dating. He’d just slide in! I was like, “Hey!” It was years and years ago and I still get pissed off when I think about that guy. That guy was a dick!
Ray and Jason also get pretty competitive with one another. What was the last big competition you were involved in?
I’ve got a nice running bet going right now on football. I’m in a fantasy football league. I avoided playing it until this year because I knew it’d definitely become my life and I knew it’d have the capacity to make me completely myopic and obsessive—and it has. I avoided it for the right reasons! Now I’m in forever. I’m kind of in the middle of the pack and it could really go either way right now.
There’s a difference between what makes a good fantasy football player and what makes a good football player, and I didn’t completely understand the distinction before the draft. Looking back, there were some picks that were just preposterous. One thing you can’t do: put it on automatic pick. We’ve got one guy who selected automatic pick because he doesn’t really care about the league: He’s not allowed back in next year. I’m pushing in the future for a substantial entry fee—that’ll make people pay attention.
Have you ever sat down and watched any Hung episodes with your family?
The vast majority of my nudity happens in the first two episodes, so I’d prepped my mom and sister for that. But, you know, when actors are asked about doing nudity for a role, they’ll often say, “Well, if the role calls for it.” I play a hooker, so I knew going in that it’d call for it. They’re proud of me. For any embarrassment that comes with watching your brother or son in various states of undress on television, it makes it easier for them that they’re on the Sunday night lineup of HBO, a dream of mine growing up and dating back to The Sopranos.
Watching sex scenes with relatives can be the textbook definition of awkwardness. What’s the most painstaking thing you’ve ever watched with them?
I did a movie called Justice For Natalee Holloway in which I played Joran van der Sloot, and there’s a scene where I choke a girl to death. It’s a Lifetime movie so the final cut wasn’t nearly as graphic as it could’ve been based on what we shot, but it was still very, very aggressive. I watched that while my mom and sister were both visiting me in California and nothing could possibly be more awkward than that. I can’t think of anything! I’m probably jinxing myself but if we got through that, we can get through anything.