I recently got the chance to talk to Steven Scott about his role in ‘Real Steel’. Here, Steven talks about what it was like working with Hugh Jackman on-set and which three guests he’d invite to dinner…
Hey Steve. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film ‘Real Steel’ …
Matt, it’s a pleasure. Yes, ‘Real Steel’ opened at Number 1 its first weekend out. I think people are pleasantly surprised that it’s not just another pointless robot “chop ‘em up” movie….it is much more than that!
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
Well the story is set in the near future, where robot boxing is the top sport. Charlie Kenton, played by Hugh Jackman, is an ex-boxer turned robot boxing controller; he makes money by battling his robot against other ruthless bots, and they fight to the death. Kenton is down on his luck, and almost completely out when he gets the news that his son’s mother has died. When he gets to the court-house in Texas he’s ready to sign legal papers giving custody to the state. Charlie “Max” Kenton Jr. (Dakota Goyo) has an aunt with a wealthy husband that wants full custody of to the boy. Charlie sees dollar signs. He agrees to sign custody papers for a whopping $100,000 bucks. He has also agreed to watch his son for two months while the aunt and uncle go to France. “Max” convinces his dad to take him on the road with him while Charlie attempts to make money fighting robots on the underground circuit. Thus begins the journey of these two big personalities getting to know each other. ‘Real Steel’ is really about a father getting a second chance to be there for his son.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play the Lieutenant to King Pin. King Pin and his group of bandits are underground robot fighters. I’m King Pin’s right hand man, and I keep the crowd coming back and going crazy for the illegal underground robot boxing matches, which are held at “The Zoo”.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
Well before I moved to Los Angeles I was living in Howell, Michigan shooting a TV show called ‘The Wannabes’, starring Savvy, which is currently airing on Starz Kids and Family. I lived in Michigan for almost a year and a half working on this project. I was looking for future projects as ‘Wannabes’ would be wrapping soon, and discovered that the movie business was doing very well in Detroit at the time. The great tax incentives for shooting TV. and film was bringing Hollywood to “the D”. I kicked around the idea of staying in Michigan to see if I could land work to a few people, and Jeff Spillman, one of the producers on ‘Wannabes’ set up a meeting for myself and another adult actor from ‘Wannabes’. I met with a local Detroit casting director named Carrie Ray of Carrie Ray Casting. I walked into her office for the meeting…. and she took one look at me and said “Are you here to audition for the movie I’m casting right now?” Of course I said “Yes I can do that!” She lead me into her office and I auditioned for an underground fight promoter, who had a really cool scene with Hugh Jackman. Carrie Ray taped the audition, and later that same evening she called me and said, “Steven I would love for Shawn (Levy) to see you. Can you come in and audition for him on Thursday?”
So here I was fresh off of a great little PG television show that was already catching fire in Germany and Australia, and now I was getting ready to audition for the very popular comedy director Shawn Levy, who was directing the biggest budget film of the summer being shot in Detroit! Not bad for a kid from Port Arthur, Texas! I met with Shawn on Thursday and had my callback. He loved me. I loved him. He gave me a lot of direction in the audition and I thought that was a great sign. He thanked me for coming and I went on my way. I heard nothing on Thursday evening and nothing all day Friday. I thought I didn’t get the part, but settled on being happy about the experience. On Saturday morning Carrie woke me up with a phone call and said that Shawn wanted to offer me the part. I WAS THRILLED! I WAS ABOUT TO BE IN A DREAMWORKS PICTURE IN A SCENE WITH HUGH JACKMAN!
Okay now the real story is this: the role I auditioned for I didn’t actually play in the movie. About three days after I was offered the role of “fight promoter” I was informed that the production decided to go another route with the character completely; he wasn’t going to be an African-American actor after all….for whatever reason. I am in ‘Real Steel’ because Shawn Levy said I want this actor in the film! He had Carrie Ray call me and ask if I would feature in the “Zoo” scene. So about two months passed and I got the call with my shoot schedule. Once I got on set Shawn put me in a scene with Hugh Jackman and Dakota Goyo, and story boarded the bell ringing scene that perform in the movie. Amazing experience!
How would you say this film is different and unique? Would you say it’s ‘Transformers’ meets ‘The Fighter’?
No not really because ‘The Fighter’ tells an entirely different story about a fighter getting a starting chance; Hugh’s character doesn’t have the same story at all; his is more of a comeback story. ‘Transformers’ is totally different too because the robots control themselves; humans actually control the robots in ‘Steel’. It’s like playing a video game where you’re controlling a one-thousand pound robot. The film is so masterfully directed by Shawn Levy, Matt. I believe this is Shawn’s first action film, and I think he handles this insanely cool futuristic robot boxing sport very well. What makes this film great is the story about a kid who really wants his ex-boxer dad to “fight for him”. Shawn is able to tell this very human and honest story with so much heart and soul. I think that comes from his experience as a great comedy director; he can still see the story through all of the action. It’s also a movie about being on the road, and the pacing is so good that the audience feels like they are on this road trip with the characters.
The film stars Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly, Anthony Mackie and Kevin Durand – with Shawn Levy onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
Well I actually shot the last 6 days of what I hear was an intense shooting schedule. I worked with Hugh, Shawn, and Dakota. I have to say that the experience of working with Shawn was great! Even watching him work when he wasn’t working with me was amazing. Seeing him direct, understand, create and adjust on set, with around five-hundred extras and maybe a hundred or more staff was awe-inspiring. Dakota is going to be a huge star! He is an amazing kid with a great work ethic. He also is still a kid right now which is rare for some kids in this very grown-up business. Hugh Jackman deserves the celebrity status he has. He is an amazing actor, and the nicest guy in the world. He was so cool and professional on set. I also worked closely with John Gatins, the screenwriter of ‘Steel’ who also plays “Kingpin”. This guy is a class act, and one hell of an actor and screenwriter.
Let’s talk a bit about you Steve. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?…
I started off as a singer at a very young age. My story is….in high school (what’s up Lincoln High c/o 95) while sneaking into the school auditorium with my Boys II Men style singing group to practice, we were discovered by the Drama teacher at the school. He put us in a play to sing a song, and that’s where I discovered the talent for acting. I quit playing football to perform more. I went on to study theatre arts at Prairie View A&M University, with the great C. Lee Turner. We had the #1 theatre program in the nation at the time. I have performed in more than 60 plays and/or musicals, I have directed 10 plays and written and produced 4, I have been the Director Of Education for a children’s theatre, and private acting coach to upcoming stars like Davis Cleveland, who stars on Disney’s ‘Shake It Up’ and Austin Coleman who has appeared on ‘House M.D.’ and ‘CSI New York’.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to pursue a career in the industry?
I would have to say pursue it with all of your energy, heart and soul! Don’t look back or listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t do it or that there are more important things to do. Do acting and the more important things to do. You can do it! Most of all work hard! I tell my student actors to work on their craft like athletes work on their game. Your body, voice and mind are your tools as an actor and you must have knowledge of this art-form and take care of yourself. Acting is fun and you can inspire people with the stories you tell.
You’ve been in a number of TV and film projects – who has been your favourite actor/actress to work with so far?
I work with great actors all the time. Some of them I could name and you wouldn’t even know them. This business is filled with incredible artists that aren’t known by name, and I have enjoyed working with most of them. I will say though, I cannot wait to work with Shawn Levy again; the man has got something!
In a completely unrelated piece of film news, ‘Tower Heist’ was in the news a few months ago because of a proposed idea that new films should be made available to people in their own homes at a rental price – do you think this is a good or a bad idea?
That is really funny you ask that question because I was just talking about the fact that the same thing is happening in the NBA. The lock-out is all because the players and the owners can’t figure out how to split up all of the TV money the NBA is bringing in. The game is not even about filling up the seats on the arena anymore; no-one is coming to the game! No-one is coming to the cinema anymore either. Me personally I love the movie going experience. I think it’s too damn expensive though! The prices are way too high, and I bet that’s what most people feel.
If you could invite three guests to a dinner – (living or dead) – who would you choose and why?
Wow! If I could have one more meal with my grandfather (Rev. Raymond Scott) I would have breakfast with him. He loved to get up early. We’d have coffee and I would ask him what to from this point; how to keep going forward with purpose. I would stay there with him until Tupac Shakur joined us for lunch, and I would ask him what he really wanted to do to affect change in the way African-American youth view themselves. I would want to know what took him off the path from really doing that. We would all then talk until dinner when “The Role” walked in. “The Role” is “the one”. It simply is that one role…. that is perfectly matched for you, and there is no question in anybody’s mind that you are fit to play this lead. It is attached to a large and well-known studio, a seasoned visionary director, and a great cast of actors. It is the role that gives me the chance to show my fellow peers how good I am, and the opportunity to grow into being a great film actor; an actor only get better at acting when they work. Acting class is only the preparation for actually going to school on “the set”.
I would sit there…. at the table with Grandad and Tupac…. sipping a very old scotch, having a great conversation. The waiter comes over with “The Role”….sits it down in front of me…. the rightful owner…and I will devour it!
What’s coming up for you in 2011/12?
There are talks of shooting ‘Wannabes’ season 2 in January 2012. I am looking forward to that. My manager and agent are pushing to get me in ‘Real Steel 2’. I’ve just finished shooting a web-series called ‘Family Bum’, and shooting a couple of commercials. I’m also available for acting coaching here in L.A. The sky is the limit for me.
Thanks for the interview!