Erik Fellows chatted about his new film Break Even, working on NBA 2K20 and his wider acting career to date, in this Exclusive Interview.
Welcome, and thank you for taking the time to do this.
Erik Fellows (EF): Absolutely, thank you for having me.
You’ve done a variety of projects in your career. Especially in the Entertainment industry, how much do you value being a multi-faceted performer?
EF: I value it a lot, tremendously. I’ve always wanted to be able to play many different characters as an actor. I started out in modelling, that led into commercials. In between that, I somehow ended up doing a handful of music videos, daytime soap operas. I’m grateful for the opportunity to play many different characters – for the longest time, I was playing the ‘bad boy’ sort of roles. Presently, I have a series called Purgatory on Popstar! TV, where I play probably the edgiest character that I’ve ever played – “Bobby”, an ex-con/murderer, who has done some bad deeds. That particular character was a stretch… not for me as an actor, necessarily because I was really intrigued to play it. Seeing me in that role and how I have been cast previously, it’s like: “Oh, can he be gritted up with a beard, dirty and do these awful acts?”
Coming from the modelling world, doing these commercials and playing on soap operas, can he be that guy? They made sure to get me a neck tattoo and make me super edgy. I live for that kind of stuff, so I’m really grateful that I was given opportunities like that recently, even going as far as playing in the comedies I’ve done.
Lots of dark comedies coming out, I have a really interesting one coming out in the New Year called Starf*cker, which is about Hollywood. The journey of this character, Jimmy Starr, who is on this dark spiral downhill in the game of Hollywood. It shows the real underbelly of what that dark mystique of Hollywood is. At times, they venture away from letting people see what Hollywood really is. That dark understanding is scary to show for Hollywood, but we did it in a dark comedy fashion. To teach lessons, to have some points come across with questions that people have.
Seeing an actor play that quintessential type of character was very interesting to me because I’ve been in LA for 19 years now. I’m watching and going like: “There are a lot of elements of this guy, Jimmy Starr, that are part of my life.” That was very surreal to portray an actor, being an actor going through that path. Not all of it, because there’s some crazy stuff, but a lot of that is very nostalgic. Once I found my passion for acting, it was my goal to portray extreme characters.
I looked up to people like Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Cruise. I love lots of actors – Ryan Gosling, Ryan Reynolds. There are so many people out there that I take bits and pieces of. Watch what works for them and then enable myself to bring that out of me. I’m not looking to mimic anyone, I just give them the Erik Fellows version of things. I think, at the end of the day, the audience wants to see you. They want to feel you and fall in love, regardless of what you’re doing. That’s how I see it.
Was acting something that was always on your radar? Would you have found yourself in this position, had events played out differently?
EF: No, it was never on my radar, never something of my interest. I loved movies and TV. Something I haven’t mentioned in a lot of interviews, but I knew a lot about Hollywood, celebrity world, old Hollywood. I knew all the terminology, where people are from and actors who I looked up to. I never thought I would be in that world. I grew up in Maryland, close to DC. Played basketball growing up, was going to play professionally in Italy. Point guard, obviously didn’t get super tall, I’m only 5’10. I got injured in my senior year and tore my ankle. That diverted my path a little bit, as a basketball player. I still could have went and played – I do regret it, they say you’re not supposed to regret. Looking back, I wish I’d done it for a few years, that would’ve been cool.
It was my life goal as a child, growing up into my late teens. I invested a lot of my life into basketball. There was nothing else I really cared about. I kind of fell into the business, introduced to an agent in DC through an ex-girlfriend’s friend. Their child was a little modelling commercial kid. She asked me if I ever thought about modelling, and I said no. She was like: “Well, I think you have a great look for it. You should give it a shot, you might have some good luck with it. It could be your calling.” Never once did I think that was actually going to happen. Life just went that way – made a move to New York in 2000, September 11th happened, I had visited LA in the July before. Gotten [signed] with a modelling agency when I was in New York.
To the short end of it, I had gotten with a smaller agency originally and strived for a bigger modelling agency. I kept getting: “You’re too short”, “Too commercial looking” in New York, because it’s a high fashion city. A fashion stylist that I was at a casting with shaved my head. All the agencies that he knew, all the ones that turned me down, acted like they’d never met me before and all wanted to sign me. It was crazy – all because I looked edgier and had a shaved head. The big agency told me I had a good look for acting – look into it, take some classes. I signed with a Theatrical Agency in New York and that’s kind of how it started, man. It took a while to get my passion for it, because it wasn’t something I ever strived to do. Now you’re looking at 20 years later.
Your new film Break Even was released on December 1st. What can you tell us about the project and the character you played?
EF: Break Even, we’re excited about right now, doing a lot of pushing on it. It just came out in North America on December 1st. People are seeming to really enjoy [the film]/ It’s a fun, fast-paced smaller action film. You know, it moves. It’s about four friends, that end up going on a sailing excursion for the day and taking a dive. Co-star Brett Bailey (who plays Sebastian) and I, playing Dash. The other lead girl is Tasya Teles from The 100 on The CW, she plays Jaq. My girlfriend in the movie is Rosie, she is played by Alisa Reyes, from Nickelodeon’s All That. Us four leads in this film are on this action-packed Into The Blue meets a small version of Fast and Furious, with a hint of Fool’s Gold and Gone In 60 Seconds., if you were to merge all those things.
We take a dive and end up finding $50M of dirty money in the ocean. Then, we try to figure out how to get it clean. Without giving too much away, they catch on to what’s happening, the money’s missing. So, the drug lord and corrupt DEA is now on our tail. We’re in the water stealing yachts, speed boats. That’s when the pace of the film is like: “Boom, boom, boom.” Great music. Sexy girls, handsome guys, well all-round performed – a great ensemble cast, Steve Guttenberg, Ivan Sergei, Joanna Pacula. She plays the lead corrupt DEA agent. James Callis is in it. We’ve got a really cool, ensemble, young, hip cast, man. If you want to see cool, fun action, something in that genre, it’s for you.
How would you describe the process of landing the role of “Dash” in Break Even? Did you read opposite any of the other actors that were cast?
EF: That’s a funny story. Right after Christmas, it had just turned 2019 and I got back from vacation on the East Coast. My agent had sent me an audition to put on tape, but initially, it was to read for a smaller role, What happened was, Shane Stanley the director – very close friend of mine and also a producer of Gridiron Gang with The Rock and many other projects – CJ Walley is the writer, this is his first feature. They were in the midst of casting and I don’t know who they already had on board, I think they already cast Tasya, from what I understand. We had a virtual launch party event last week and [Shane] came on as a surprise guest and told the story of how we all got cast.
Basically, I auditioned for this smaller role opposite the character of Dash, in the script. I was reading the script, going: “I feel like I’m really right for Dash.” I called my agent, because he didn’t go through my Theatrical Agent, he went through my Commercial Agent. He was looking for day player roles. My Commercial Agent said: “Hey, I have an actor who leads films and is on shows. You should have him read for one of the lead roles.” He didn’t put two-and-two together that particular time of who I was. So [Shane said] “Have him send in his tape” and whatever.. Not knowing any of that stuff, I took it upon myself to put Dash on tape too. I put Dash on tape and it was funny because I didn’t know anything about the movie. I just saw the sides. I didn’t even know what the movie was about, to be honest with you. It was all so fast. I remember I had a full beard on my face and these big, fake diamond earrings in my ears, messing around. We shot it in awful light – my fiancée’s Dad, we shot it in his room because I had to get it out in like an hour. The lighting made my pupils red, like a vampire. It was the weirdest thing.
All around, it was like: “I cared, but I didn’t care”, about the situation. Next thing I know, two days later, I get call saying: “Hey, he loves you for Dash.” I go, “Who loves me for what?” I didn’t even know what he was talking about, I didn’t pay attention. Shane calls me, we start having a long conversation and he goes, “Hey, you should read the script.” So then, I read the script and I’m like: “Oh, this is freaking cool!” I didn’t even know what I auditioned for, when I auditioned. I sent completely different tapes, thinking “Dash sounds like a cool name and this is a cool character.” I didn’t even know what it was for. It’s just funny how things happen.
Mentioning Shane Stanley, how would you describe his directing style on Break Even?
EF: Shane is… two things. Shane, from the minute that I had my first conversation with him on the phone, he was extremely well-rounded and had an understanding of actors and all of it. Shane has done everything in the business. He was an actor, he produces, he writes, he directs. This isn’t his first rodeo, you know what I mean? He’s already produced a very successful film, Gridiron Gang and many others. He’s already put out a blockbuster film was that #1 in the box office. So, I knew going in, having done my research. He makes you feel very comfortable, very much an actor’s director. Hence, was an actor for years of his life. He just knows how to talk to you and make you feel comfortable, even when stuff is very complicated.
He learned how to talk to all of us – especially me, because sometimes I need to be spoken to in a certain way. There’s certain language that I need and I’m like: “Oh, got it!” He and I hit it off very very quickly and we’ve been very close friends ever since. So, I loved working with him. It was very easy for me to work with Shane.
Bruce Dern, Val Kilmer and Cloris Leachman are just some of the acclaimed actors you have worked with. How much pressure is there in acting opposite such renowned performers?
EF: Another good friend of mine, we’ve now been friends for many years, a director by the name of Mark David. He is actually the director and producer of my movie Starf*cker that’s coming out in the New Year. He also directed me in Texas Heart, I was the lead of that a few back and in Jonny’s Sweet Revenge. We went to London Film Festival and won, the last time I was in London was for Jonny’s Sweet Revenge. The first project he ever put me in was American Cowslip, with Val Kilmer and that whole legendary cast.
A funny story about that is that I was introduced to Mark through my manager at the time, but my manager had a connection with Val Kilmer. Mark had reached out to my manager, saying: “Hey, we’ve got a script for Val Kilmer and your name is under his publicity rep.” For some reason, my manager was doing his publicity too. We were friends for years, so he said: “I’ll tell you what, I’ll give the script to Val if you put my client in the movie.” Literally, he had just started managing and I was his first client. We worked it that way and the funniest thing is, we always laugh about it now, but Mark David said: “Isn’t he just a model? Can he even act?” He saw my pictures and I hadn’t done a whole lot by then. I’d done some stuff, but nothing where I could stand up next to Val Kilmer, or any of these big actors. He said: “Alright, I’ll meet with him. We’ll see if the guy can even speak”, kind of making jokes of it.
When we sat down and talked for lunch one day, he came with an actor by the name of Ronnie Blevins, who is doing really well. Ronnie was the lead of American Cowslip, actually. It was to critique me, see if I could handle even doing one line in the movie. Long story short, he was like: “Oh man, you actually have a personality. You’re not just a face.” I go, “Who said I was just a face?” He was like, “Well, you’re a male model.” It was very funny. I went from having one line in the movie from the first day on set, to putting me in the movie for 35 minutes. He gave me the whole climatic ending sequence, putting me basically in a scene with all of them. I’m working opposite Val Kilmer, Blake Clark and Lin Shaye – very ridiculously funny, crazy movie. I was like, “I’m working with Iceman from Top Gun.” It was wild, like, one of my favourite actors.
From what I understand and how it all turned out, Mark said: “Listen man, you carried your own. One day, I’ll put you as the lead in my movie and do everything I can to make you a star.” He stuck by every single word. And Val… that was really a moment in my life where I think, “I didn’t expect anything to get to this point.” Val came up to me when we wrapped our scenes together, shook my hand and said I did an amazing job. Coming from Val Kilmer, I went: “Wow”. That was a pretty amazing point in my life that I was able to achieve and I’m grateful for it.
You have also been part of a successful video game franchise – 2K’s NBA series, playing “Jonas Biel” in NBA 2K20. How did you find the experience of working on this project, compared to film or other mediums?
EF: That’s an interesting story. The director, Sheldon Candis, is a friend of mine and really talented. He had a movie at Sundance years back called LUV, with Common and it’s a true story based on his actual life. It did really well and he’s done a bunch of things. Sheldon’s been a close friend for, God, 18 years now. Over the years, we’ve been trying to work together. He called me about an audition and said: “Hey, I’ve got this video game I’m doing.”
It was under NDA he had to sign, they couldn’t speak about what game it was. They said it was something called Flight School. I had no idea it was about NBA 2K20. First of all, I came up playing that game. Second of all, basketball was my first love. To be a character in the game, I would have never expected that. I didn’t know until I got to set, mid-way on the first day that it was for NBA 2K20. Then, I found out I’m working with Scottie Pippen – my favourite player of all time is Michael Jordan, I was the biggest Bulls fan. I got to work with Scottie, which is very funny because his kid plays on my stepson’s basketball team at their school. I was always scared to talk to him and ended up doing a game with him, talking the whole time. Such a small world.
Yeah, man – I’m Jonas Biel. It’s my face, my voice, we had to do the mo-cap stuff. Got to meet so many people – Idris Elba is in the game, Rosario Dawson’s in the game. So random. That was pretty surreal. My kid’s playing the game, with me in it. It’s still weird, a little bit but I’m very grateful that Sheldon was able to bring me in and it worked out.
Was your personal background in basketball coincidence, or a factor for the game?
EF: Yeah, to a degree. Sheldon and I actually met playing basketball, we had a lot of mutual friends playing basketball. The guys that they’ve hired are people that have played basketball before. I happened to fit the character of Jonas Biel and I have a very strong basketball background. If anything, going in to hiring me, we had to discuss our basketball background. I was a very big basketball person at one point. It was interesting that I still had to audition – we’re performing scenes, the story throughout. It’s dialogue like you’re in a TV show but in the story of the game. We had to audition like it was a TV show, then talk about our basketball experience. It definitely came into play and it helped. It didn’t hurt and I just happened to know that lingo, I know that world. Yeah, it was really cool.
If people wanted to find out more information – about your work or you personally, where could they look?
EF: My Instagram is @erikfellowsofficial, Facebook is @actorerikfellows – anything with a blue checkmark will be me, there are some fakes out there, imposters, so be careful. Twitter is @erikfellows. I just joined Cameo – it’s ErikFellows23. My person told me to hop on it and it’s actually been fun. People are reaching out and asking interesting questions. Asking me to sing songs, I can’t sing and they’re like: “We just want to hear you sing something!” Alright! So, it’s been interesting, but it’s fun.
Lastly, what are you most looking forward to in 2021?
EF: It would be nice to have some of the human understanding back to this world. We can all kind of compromise and figure this out together. Kind of get back to where we were and move forward caring about each other, instead of all the hatred. Especially since I live in LA, you being there too… it’s tough. When you’re in a major hub, you hear a lot more of everything that’s going on than being in the outskirts. You know as well as I do, it’s very tough, you’ve got to be careful with what you’re listening to on the news, to a certain degree. You’ve got to trust your gut, friends and family. It’s dividing a lot of us and I’m praying for 2021 to start off the first day with a different feeling on our shoulders.
I’m looking forward to getting back to work – have some projects coming up, Starf*ckers, Jimmy Starr will be coming, probably second or third quarter. No release date yet, but some time next year. Couple of comedies and my second season of Purgatory, looking forward to those coming out. I know I have a couple of projects lined up to start – again, depending on what we’re going to be dealing with, a lot of stuff’s going to be delayed. I just want to keep working, very grateful to be working. And stay healthy!