by Matthew Lyn
So James, I am so glad you have decided to do an interview for your Canadian audience and I think your experience will benefit so many aspiring young people out there whether they want to be models or actors!
So my first question is always the easiest...
How did you get into the fashion industry?
Just after I finished high school I went to college for business with plans to be involved in my family's company. JJ Bean, a local coffee company in Vancouver, BC. After I finished my studies I decided that I wanted to focus on things in life that are categorized as impossible to succeed in ie: the entertainment industry.
During this time I had my friend take a few pictures of me and sent them out to local agencies. Shortly there after Liz Bell contacted me and we started working together.
The next week I booked my first job. It was British Vogue. I was one of a couple other guys shooting with Canadian supermodel Jessica Stam. The shoot was amazing and it gave me a taste of what the fashion industry is like on the high end.
How far did you think you would go when you started modelling?
I felt that the sky was the limit. I decided that if I were going to take myself seriously as a model I would have to move to New York. So with very few pictures in my book I moved there with no contacts. I stayed in a hostel in Harlem sharing a room with three random people. I called all the major agencies in New York and set up appointments saying I was a model with Liz Bell in Vancouver. I got rejected from most of the major agencies before Gaspard at Request models took a chance on me. A lot of the agencies would say, "He looks too much like an actor!" That brought a smile to my face because that was to be my eventual career path. The first week after I signed with Request, Prada put me under contract for their show.
At what point did you realize you could make a career out of it?
I have always thought that anyone is capable of whatever they put their heart and soul into, "Shoot for the stars and settle for outer space."
Did you ever have a backup plan in case it didn't work out? School etc?
I think if you go into something with a backup plan you are setting yourself up for failure. If you don't believe in yourself how are you supposed to convince other people to believe in you?
Is there anyone in your life that has been a significant influential figure?
I grew up in a very strong business family. When I was just a kid I was reading books on business development. I have always tried to read any book my father read. He is a great inspiration in my life. I respect his ethics and business sense tremendously.
How long have you been modelling now?
I have been modelling for just over five years.
What is the biggest campaign you have landed?
The last few days I just shot the GUESS? ads. I think that is going to be the biggest ad I have ever done.
Is there any campaign that you feel most accomplished about?
Thus far I would have to say the Belstaff ads I did with Steven Miesel.
Do you feel that modelling has opened up doors to other opportunities you never thought about before? Think of it in terms of University... sometimes people go through University for the connections you can make... the internships and business opportunities that follow down the road with a degree... can the same be said about being heavily involved in the fashion industry, as a model?
I think the people that I have met along this road of fashion are going to have a large impact on the rest of my life. I have been very blessed to have amazing people in my life.
Did your family and friends support you becoming a model? It can be a very rocky road to start initially because it can be something you work so hard at, yet never achieve any great success.
My friends and family have always been very supportive of me. I owe my family a lot. When everything is said and done what is there without love.
Do you think support was necessary in your career to pursue modelling or would you have done it anyway without the support?
I have always been a firm believer in following your heart.
At what point in your career did you want to be an actor? Was it always a desire?
I always had an interest in acting. Living in New York and modelling allowed me the freedom to go to various acting schools. I knew that actors have a longer life span than models. So I felt that it was important to focus on the modelling before I was too old. I never wanted to be one of those people in their 40's thinking, “what if I tried that.”
How long have you been acting now?
I have always been involved in acting. I was involved in drama from the early going in high school.
Have you been in any films or TV series we can watch out for?
I was in a short film last year called Runaround, directed by KT Auleta (ktauleta.com).
Are castings for TV/film similar to castings for models? How do they vary? And what are they like?
The process of casting is basically the same... You go in a room and try and convince the powers at be that you are right for the job.
What got you interested in becoming an actor?
My fear of public speaking... I always viewed acting as a massive challenge, that's what I like about it.
Is there any taboo about being a model / actor? And if so, how do you handle it?
I don't think that it's as relevant as it used to be... James Franco in Gucci, and Patrick Dempsey in Versace. I think that modelling helps the acting and the acting helps the modelling. I mean... would you rather see Clive Owen in a L'Oréal ad or some 45 year old "model?" I want to buy the product with the star attached to it. You can relate to the image more if it's someone you feel you know. We feel like we know actors and it makes them very marketable.
Do you have any plans to completely stop modelling and pursue acting full time?
I have already been more selective of the modelling jobs that I take on. I don't think I would stop modelling unless I felt it was going to affect my acting career. If you can win an Oscar and be the face of a fragrance, why not!?
Do you think there are any similarities to modelling and acting? Obviously you would feel more comfortable in front of the camera. Are there any drawbacks from going model to actor? Perhaps behavioral traits that were once considered desirable... that you had to alter?
I think one of the biggest things modelling has helped me with is dealing with rejection. You need to have tough skin if you want to make it.
You mentioned you landed the worldwide GUESS? campaign... that is very exciting and again congratulations!! When can we expect to see you in magazines and billboards?
The ads come out in September I believe.
What goes through your mind when you see yourself on a huge billboard in Times Square?
It isn't something you want to get used to.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 20 years?
Have a family of my own. Doing films that challenge and excite me as an actor.
Ok a random question now... have you ever had a crazy fan experience or a crazy modelling experience that you will remember for a lifetime?
Tokyo. It's crazy how much the Japanese follow fashion. Giggling girls that want to take a picture with you. It's kind of funny.
Is there any advice you can give to any young Canadians out there trying to get into either acting or modelling... and eventually making the migration south? Which to do first?
First of all I would take a good look in the mirror and really ask yourself if you are willing to go through rejection after rejection. If that answer is yes don't let anything stand in your way of your dreams. Treat everyone with respect. If you are on set with a big photographer get close to his assistants as they are the ones that will be making waves in the years to come.
Thank you so much James for taking the time to talk to us today and I know Canadians all over are rooting for you!