Canadian actor Jesse Camacho got his big break by starring as lead character ‘Sheldon Blecher’ in Less Than Kind. The comedy drama aired from 2008 to 2013. In fact, you could say that he has acting in his blood – parents Mark Camacho and Pauline Little are also in show business. More recently, Jesse has a recurring part on Netflix hit Locke & Key, where he plays the role of ‘Doug Brazelle’, a member of the Savini Squad and friend of leading characters Kinsey Locke (Emilia Jones) and Scot Cavendish (Petrice Jones).
It was a delight that Jesse took the time to sit down with Courageous Nerd for an exclusive interview. We chatted about his career, the differences between acting on network TV and a streaming show, how he was inspired to enter acting by his parents and which television series was Jesse’s “religion” while in High School, among many more fun topics.
To kick this off, how have things been for you during this whole lockdown period?
Jesse Camacho (JC): I mean, obviously it’s a trying time for everyone. Myself, my family and friends so far, touch wood, have been super lucky. You know, as I keep saying, if the worst thing that happens to me and the people I know due to COVID is our production gets delayed a little bit, then I’ll take that. I’m absolutely fine with that, not a problem. With the state of the world, I’m just trying to listen and learn and support. Again, so far so good on my end.
You had a lead role on ‘Less Than Kind’. I was wondering how different is it being the lead compared to being a supporting actor in a project?
JC: I think the approach going in was different. First of all, Less Than Kind, I was, God, I think I was 16 or 17 when I started that job. But I was still really kind of finding my way as an actor. I was doing it since I was 8 but a project of that magnitude and a role of that size was really different for me and, you know, being sort of the centre of that show along with a phenomenal cast that I still keep in touch with was an exciting and big undertaking for me at the time. It ended up being really easy because it was so fun. Coming into Locke & Key, my biggest concern was not to slow the process down. That was sort of my intention. As an actor, obviously there are much harder roles than actors on productions, but the trickiest spot in my opinion is coming on as a guest star. They’re already pretty established, they know what they do, you just kinda don’t want to slow them down. That was the mentality that I went in with for Locke and Key and they were all incredibly kind and gracious to me. I used to pride myself on Less Than Kind as thinking I was really good at that kind of thing, welcoming people to the set and trying to make them feel at home. I felt like I did a decent job of that. These people knocked me out of the water. They made me feel like I was as big a part of the show as any of the really big regulars – the Emilias or the Darbys, Connor, Jackson. I felt like such a part of the team and that’s a testament to them. After the first hour being on set on the first day, I felt so much like a part of that team that I was instantly comfortable. So it ended up kind of almost being the same, even if my approach coming in was different.
You mentioned Locke & Key. How different are the experiences of being on a streaming show compared to network TV? Obviously, the whole season was released in one go and I’m sure there’s different production techniques.
JC: Yeah, absolutely. I guess the major difference, you know, if we’re talking strictly in terms of production is obviously time and money. Less Than Kind was really a labour of love and wasn’t the biggest budget. Everyone loved the show, it was a critical darling and we got it done in the time allotted to us with the budget allotted to us because we were a pretty well-oiled machine and all really loved each other. But, you know, it was stressful at times. It was really kind of pinching pennies in certain ways. Listen, it wasn’t a zero budget show but there wasn’t like ‘oh, we’ll just add more days here’. I remember in the final season of Less Than Kind, we had an issue shooting our series finale where there was a camera problem and we had to add on 5 more days of shooting to do some stuff. It was a big thing, massive overhaul. Locke & Key, Netflix has money, they believe in the show, they gave plenty of time and all the resources that were needed. If anything needed to be reshot, as far as I know, I didn’t really need to reshoot anything, they could’ve just done it. Not to say that there were times where we needed to move quick or we needed to rush. It wasn’t an endless budget but you certainly felt like we had more freedom on Locke & Key in terms of time and schedule, which was really really cool. Obviously, the sets are much grander and the shots were much more ambitious, that was really cool to be a part of. So yeah, I think the difference was simply scale. Scale, budget and also, you said Less Than Kind being released week-by-week. It wasn’t that huge a difference for us because when we were shooting Less Than Kind, we never really had an air date we had to meet. It was sort of like they would shoot the season and then they would find the time to release it week-by-week. Similar to Locke & Key but they just drop it all at once. That wasn’t really a factor, which is more the day-to-day kind of stuff.
There was an earlier attempt to make Locke & Key with Jesse McCartney as one of the characters. Did the knowledge of a previous attempt play into your version at all, if the cast brought it up?
JC: I think there was actually two other pilots that were done. There was one in 2010 for FOX and there was one for Hulu which they produced a year before ours. If I’m not mistaken, Carlton Cuse [showrunner] did the Hulu one as well. And Jackson [Robert Scott, who plays Bode Locke] was in the Hulu pilot. And if I’m not mistaken again, Thomas Mitchell Barnet, who plays Sam Lesser in the Netflix incarnation played Rufus in the Hulu version. Those were the only 2 cast members that crossed over, I could be wrong on that. It didn’t affect anything for me. I never saw the Hulu pilot, I don’t even know if you can. I know the FOX one’s out there. So for me, it all kind of felt fresh. I had read the comics after I got cast and I knew there was an adjustment in terms of tone, we kind of went for a broader audience which I thought was a smart move when you’re adapting something. The comics are the gold standard, they’re just genius, you can’t really top them. In a television format, I think the adjustments made were really strong. But from one pilot to the next, I’m not exactly sure what the changes were. I think the Hulu pilot was darker. Now that I think about it, the Savini Squad is an invention of Carlton and Meredith [Averill, co-developer], they’re not in the comics. So, it definitely benefited me in that way as the character didn’t exist. Tone or any massive changes from one pilot to another was way above my pay grade.
Just to shift gears a bit; looking on your IMDB, some of your projects include voice work in Arthur and you were in Kick Ass 2, which is two completely polar opposites. Have you had any other projects that people might not know you were in?
JC: I think the biggest one would be Kick Ass 2, I’m there for like three seconds. But that was so cool, I was actually just getting off Less Than Kind and I went in for that. It’s a nice little scene that I got to do with Aaron [Taylor-Johnson, who plays Kick Ass], where his Dad’s getting arrested and I kind of point that out to him. Again, it’s blink and you’ll miss it but being there for the day was a really really cool experience. Like, ‘wow, this is a big Hollywood production’. In terms of movies I’m in, a lot of the stuff that I’m actually the proudest of, excluding Locke & Key because Locke & Key is quite big, is a lot of projects that I think people would struggle a bit to find. Less Than Kind is definitely up there, I did another really nice independent film in Montreal called We’re Still Together that I’m not exactly sure where it’s available but I’m super proud of that movie. I just did a web series that recently came out. We shot it 2 years ago but it was kind of going through that regular development, after you’ve shot something so low budget. Like, ‘where does it go? where does it live?’ and the great creator, Rebekah [Miskin], she released it now as a sort of pay-what-you-can proceeds going to charity. That’s called Night Owl, the link to that is on my Instagram, really proud of that as well. Other fun things, my father’s an actor, he actually played Richard Nixon in X-Men: Days of Future Past. I got to go to that set and sit in the waiting area tent with James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, not to drop any names or anything, Nicholas, Peter Dinklage. That was probably the coolest day for me in terms of being on a set surrounded by these people. They were all so nice and kind to myself and my sister, who was with me and obviously they were kind to my Dad as well. So, I wasn’t in that movie but there’s a big sequence at a stadium at the end of the film and I was on set while they were shooting that. That was a real ‘pinch me’ moment.
Sticking in a similar ballpark, do you have anything in particular in your resumé that you enjoy being recognised from?
JC: Yeah, definitely Locke & Key and Less Than Kind are the 2 that are up there the most. Those are the ones that I feel I get recognised for more than any other. I did a couple episodes of a show called Cardinal, that’s a really great cop show up in Canada. I’ve been recognised for that. I would say probably Less Than Kind first and foremost, again not a lot of people watched it but that show takes place in Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada. If I go to Winnipeg when we were shooting that show, I would get recognised almost daily. That show was pretty successful there. Locke & Key, I’ve gotten a couple of times. Usually, I’m that guy where people go ‘Where do I know you from? Did we go to school together?’ That kind of thing. Those would be the two projects that I’m recognised for the most.
You’ve touched on it already; was there anything you had in the works before COVID came along, that you might want to talk about?
JC: Yeah, I would say that Night Owl is really the big one that just got released. It’s for a great cause, really fun web series that we shot in a 24-hour grocery store a couple of years back. I just think that in a kind of weird, poetic way, it’s really topical now. For a while, grocery stores were the only thing that were open and the people that work there have emerged as heroes right under the doctors and all that stuff. I think in that context, obviously we didn’t shoot it with COVID-19 in mind but it really does sort of ring true around now and that’s a really fun one. Otherwise, it was just gonna be Locke & Key that was supposed to have been going around now but we’ve been pushed. We’re not exactly sure when we’ll be going back. But again, as I keep saying, if that’s the worst, it’s not that big a deal.
You’ve already mentioned your father. Was there any other actors in particular that inspired you to pursue it as a career?
JC: There are many. Both my parents are actually actors, my mother is as well. I sort of came out of the womb wanting to follow in the family business and my sister’s an actress as well. It’s the whole family, the four of us. Other than my parents, which are obviously two massive inspirations for me, who’d it be? I really like a lot of character actors, meaning they’re not supermodels and that’s sort of the field that I fall into, whether it’s somebody like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, there’s a lot of those kind of great actors. Robin Williams was obviously a big influence on me. I’m really liking this new generation, now we’re talking people that I consider attractive as they are talented. The Jennifer Lawrences, Saoirse Ronans, Emma Stone. Every other actor in the world, I kind of idolise. Meryl Streep, all those people. In terms of whose career I’d really like to emulate, it’s definitely in that Philip Seymour Hoffman, John C Reilly, Paul Giamatti field.
Other than anything you’re in, if you could pick one show or movie for people to watch during lockdown or quarantine, what would your pick be?
JC: Other than stuff I’m in? Well, I mean everyone’s seen this but on Netflix I was always obsessed with Stranger Things, I just think it’s incredible. I was always a big Stranger Things fan. I’m rewatching LOST with my family, that was sort of my religion in High School, big LOST guy. I think that show is one with a benefit of a rewatch and a binge, I think actually plays a lot better. Everyone I think loved the early LOST stuff but towards the end, I think it gets a bad rep. Some of it’s deservedly so, some of it’s not. I’m also working with Carlton Cuse now, who was obviously one of the showrunners on LOST too so that was a really cool, surreal thing for me. So yeah; Stranger Things, LOST. I recently watched Succession which I very much enjoyed. On a lighter, fun note, I really enjoyed Outer Banks on Netflix which was new, fun, silly but well acted young adult show that I think was really really fun. Those kind of things, I’ve got the broadest taste in terms of television. All the way from I’m a big Survivor fan to Breaking Bad, I love everything. If there’s a show you haven’t binged, now’s the time to do it. The ones I highly recommend are Stranger Things or LOST, something like that.
To flip the question, something you were in that you’d recommend people to binge during this period?
JC: I feel like Locke & Key is a little too obvious. If anybody hasn’t seen Less Than Kind first season, I wish all four were there but the first season is on Amazon Prime. And I think our pilot is a little uneven, I don’t the show had totally found its groove yet and episode two onward, I think it’s a really fun show and I really do stand by it. That’s the one I’ll say because it’s the one that is the most readily available to most people. So, I would recommend Less Than Kind on Amazon Prime.
I’ve covered everything here. Is there anything else you’d like to bring up?
JC: I hope everyone’s staying safe and I think the great thing that’s going on with the world these days is there’s all this great information and perspectives that are coming out. It’s great for everyone to read, be well informed and also while it looks like things are slowly getting back to normal, we have to stay vigilant. I’m hardly an authority on anything. Stay safe, watch Locke & Key and stay informed.
Locke & Key is currently streaming on Netflix!
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Follow Jesse Camacho on Instagram: @jessejdcamacho.