Q&A with leading Canadian actor Darren Eisnor

Originally from a small town in Ontario, Canada, Darren Eisnor did not grow up aspiring to be an actor. It came to him suddenly, in an epiphany of sorts, and since that moment, he has never wanted anything else. Now, he is one of Canada’s top young actors, and he is quickly taking the globe by storm.

In many captivating performances, such as the films Holiday Joy and Early Release, as well as the acclaimed television show Anne with an E, Eisnor has gained fans from all over the world., and audiences are looking forward to his performance in the upcoming Syfy horror flick Never Knock. Currently, he is starring in the popular Blackpills series Skal, an enthralling story about the water disappearing across the planet overnight. To read more about the series, Eisnor’s career, and his life, check out the interview below!

IFR: What do you like about being an actor?

 DE: I get to be super cool. When people ask me what I do, and I say that I’m an actor as a career, they automatically assume I’m a cool guy. So that’s pretty cool. Really though, if you can get some lucky breaks and manage to carve a career out of the whole thespian thing, it is a ton of fun and incredibly liberating in a few ways. I’m the kind of guy who bounces around from friend group to friend group, and I’m always diving headfirst into new interests, as I like to keep things fresh and experience as much as possible in this life. Acting meshes rather well with that state of mind, because I get to become all sorts of different people in all sorts of different lives, and if I convince the right people that I’m really like those people – then I get paid for it!

It can be a great life experience for me to look at the world through all these different perspectives, even if it’s just for an audition or two and I don’t end up getting the part. We humans are such interesting and multi-faceted creatures, but I don’t think everyone gets the chance or has the courage to explore all their dimensions. Of course, there are some dark and dangerous sides to us as well, that are probably best left for the actors (and the Mixed Martial Artists). It really is a privilege to even have the opportunity to compete for all these roles that I go out for, and I am grateful for that.

When I first started training as an actor, it actually helped me in a therapeutic way. I didn’t realize how many emotional walls I had built up over the years, and I think this is especially prevalent among young men, and even more so for young men like me who were competitive athletes for most of their life. I actually think there is a fair argument for the building of these walls, because life is almost always very hard to tackle, and the battlefield of life can be easier to navigate if you are able to have a firm grip on your emotions. However, acting is a forum for the human condition to express itself, and to be successful and great at this profession, it seems to me that one must truly elevate emotional intelligence to a higher level of understanding and vulnerability.

IFR: Why did you want to work on Skal?

DE: Skal piqued my interest with its post-apocalyptic world, something that’s fascinated me in stories like The Walking Dead, or the Fallout video game series. At first, I auditioned for the role of Arthur, the outright leading role of the series. Arthur is a bit of a nerd, but he’s charismatic enough to operate a YouTube channel with three million subscribers. I submitted a tape that I really nailed down in terms of performance, and was really excited. The scenes they requested for the audition helped a lot in that regard, ranging from comical and cool, to raging and teary-eyed. I got a callback for it – but for the role of “Ylane”, which was a soon-to be-changed French name from the original French short film the series is based on. The character is Arthur’s best friend and manager, and an integral character within the series.

My agent set up a Skype session with the writer/director who is from France, Benjamin Cappelletti, who explained to me that my original audition was great, but I didn’t look enough like his vision of Arthur. He went on to say that I looked like a great “Ylane.” Luckily, I was able to flesh out this character into someone with some dark humanity, and they casted me! They even renamed the character “Darren” which was pretty cool, since I’m not sure if I’ll get the chance to play my own name again.

IFR: What was it like working on Skal?

DE: Working on Skal was an outstanding career experience for me. Living in Montreal for about a month during this shoot really made me feel a sense of independence. Of course, it came with the great responsibility of carrying a lot of the burden of the show’s success on my shoulders, which was more than welcome on my end. This was exactly what I’d be looking forward to, and I wasn’t about to back down now that it was staring me down.

Darren was an interesting character to play. In the first episode, before the apocalyptic world is born, Darren is a bit of an arrogant showman, talking all sorts of big game to the hottest girls in the room. That said, he felt relatively happy and content in his materialistic world. But when all the bodies of water in the world dry up, he immediately adapts a “kill or be killed” mindset. While it’s easy to condemn that sort of regression, it’s easy for me to understand why someone would fall into that way of thinking in that sort of world. Although there are times when it seems Darren is being overly aggressive, often it’s hard to disagree with his sentiment in a world where you can’t trust anyone, or take any chances.

Every villain is a hero in the story of their mind, and that’s how I took ownership of Darren when he makes decisions that may seem wrong on the surface. There is one particular part of the series where I wish Darren were a little more heroic, but I remained entirely understanding of his motive of self-preservation. I think there’s also an automatic connection with a character when he has the same name as you – and when the other characters address me as “Darren” there is an added element of personalization.

I also tried to get into character for one particular series of events by going without food for a day or so. It was definitely tough turning down lunch that day on set, but at least the last meal I had before all that was a delicious all-you-can-eat sushi brunch!

IFR: What was your character like?

DE: The role of Darren is important to the story, firstly as Arthur’s best friend and Emma’s romantic interest. There’s an awkward love triangle going on where Arthur lusts for Emma, but never makes any moves on her. Darren is far from low on confidence, so him and Emma have been going at it for a while, and it really irritates Arthur – even after all the water dries up, and the apocalypse creeps on in. After survival mode kicks in, Darren and Emma clash often. Emma has an empathetic desire to help as many people as she can, but Darren understands that there is too much danger to risk the group, especially after they come across a huge stash of water bottles that could keep them alive long enough to figure out what the hell’s going on in the world.

The group runs into two other people named Frank (a police officer) and Malika (a nurse). Frank misleads the group when he comes into first contact with them, and Darren never trusts him again after that. There are many fiery exchanges while they try to escape the dangerous city, but as the season crosses the halfway point, tragedy strikes, and the pack is split up. Darren becomes a prisoner of a violent gang of brutal men. With his life fully in jeopardy, his every action has extremely high weight to it. In season two, I think I will be exploring an even darker side of Darren if we keep the fun rolling.

IFR: What was it like working with such an all-star cast?

DE: It’s important for there to be a good chemistry between cast members, especially when a group forms in the show and your characters spend a lot of time interacting with each other. Everyone got along really well, and really put their best foot forward with their performances in Skal.

In terms of performance, it was superb. Evan Marsh (who plays Arthur) was a consistent rock in the center of the production, and there’s one particularly powerful scene where we really pushed each other to emotional peaks. Oliva Scriven (Emma) managed to tolerate an intense make out scene with me, so kudos to her for that. She’s very popular on social media for her role on Degrassi, so it was nice to have her bring some viewers on board with that. Trevor Hayes (Frank) and Mariah Inger (Malika) were playing characters that “Darren” viewed as outsiders, and didn’t trust, and there were some great heated interactions between us on screen – especially Frank, the hard-nosed cop who doesn’t take too kindly to Darren’s big mouth.

Shawn Baichoo played a late-season villain named Pablo, who is a leader of a violent gang. I only got to work with him for a short period of time, but he really brought his A-game and played a convincing madman. They gave him a contact lens that made it look like he had a white “dead eye”, which added to the aura of evil. We had some intense scenes that he totally owned and showed a possession of confident power. I should also mention that little Chelsea Goldwater, who played a young child prisoner, helped add to the creepiness of the scenes.

This project was Benjamin Cappelletti’s “baby”. He’d been pushing this story for a while as a young filmmaker in France, and it was great to help bring his vision to life. His passion for Skal was evident, and even though there were a few moments of language barriers, we were able to communicate together and get the scenes done to his satisfaction.

IFR: The series premieres on the streaming app Blackpills. How do you think streaming websites have opened the doors for actors such as yourself?

DE: Well, obviously there is more opportunity than ever for an actor with all these new avenues of distribution. In the past, films were limited to festivals and cinema, while television series were limited to cable and satellite subscriptions. Now there are all sorts of streaming avenues out there for episodic series and films alike, and the opportunity to get quality productions made has never been greater.

I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have a leading role in Skal, and it will be interesting to see how Blackpills performs overall as a company. It seems they are aiming to get a firm grip on the mobile-streaming game, as their app is currently only available for mobile devices as opposed to TVs. I haven’t had the chance to observe many of the other shows on their app, but they have already granted out several second season renewals for some of them, so there is certainly a chance for us to get back at it. At the very least, the show is of high-quality and makes for solid demo footage to show other productions what I can do with a meaty role.

Blackpills also stands out with the brevity of each of their shows’ episodes; the average runtime for an episode of Skal was about nine minutes long. Today’s generation operate very much from an extreme lack of attention span, so this format is designed quite well with that in mind. Here’s hoping it works out!

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