Let's get one thing noted at the start: Shiloh Fernandez is admittedly not an artsy, actory actor—he's just a guy paying the bills, as a million people watch. Some of the things that have paid his bills are EVIL DEAD, WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD, RED RIDING HOOD, THE EAST, RETURN TO SENDER, and the upcoming, WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS. For a kid who nearly flunked his high-school drama class, he's paying those bills just fine.
“Acting is my job, I don't see it as art. When I paint or play guitar, that's art. That's just my own personal opinion. I'm probably wrong to say acting isn't an art, but to me it's my work,” he says, peering off into the dry canyon hillside.
It's not a quarter way through our interview and Fernandez is aiming a BB gun, firing it off into his gypsyfied garden of trees, cacti and bushes. We're at his house, it's sunset, drinks have been had. We're off to a good start, sitting on his deck, spreading out along a downward pitch in the Hollywood Hills. Fernandez may currently live somewhere in the Hollywood Hills, but he wasn't made in the Hollywood Hills. He came from elsewhere, a small rural town in Northern California, where his bathroom was an outhouse. It doesn't bother him all that much to talk about it. It's a real past.
Cautious but not hindered, intense but not brooding. Light on the feet, and older than he looks—and he listens. He'll let you talk even when it's your job to get him to talk. He tells stories the way you wish everybody could, the way some people hope to use exclamation points, as an imprint of intensity. He'll possibly even play guitar for you if you catch him the right way at the right time. And when Shiloh looks at an audience of one, really looks at you, it feels like you may be in a little trouble. Open but veiled, wrung out, waylaid in a poetic way. Forthcoming. Dark eyes. Sensitive. Sharp brow. Twitch of a grin. He regards things sideways, thinks before speaking, but speaks freely. It seems to amuse him to speak about his acting career. He doesn't scowl or use a tag-line or fall into an eyebrow routine. He is himself. So I'll let him speak for himself.
Approach to acting
“As an actor you try to bring as much as you can to a role. You think you've thought a lot about it and encompassed everything that you want to say in any given scene, but sometimes when you're in the moment, your own thoughts become menial as the bigger picture becomes clear to you. Your own ideas go out the window and instinct kicks in. Trying to better myself as an actor means giving myself over to a character more than anything. In the end what I hope for, is to be in moment, to look at the other actor who's giving you something, to just react and feel what you're going to feel. The best thing that can happen is that you have a connection with that person. My hope with other actors in a scene, is that you're sharing a moment in time together and conjuring authentic feelings.”
Filming his dark role in RETURN TO SENDER
“I filmed that movie so back-to-back from my last project that I didn't have much time to adjust or prepare and that role sucked me so far down a rabbit role. Then being back in LA after five months away, and trying to figure out what's next, has been difficult because that character was so strange. It was weird segwaying back to real life. I had to find ways to reconnect to my life, which for me, has always been through family or close friends. Brings me out of my head real quick.”
“There was awhile in between projects where I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Then I got hired to do SKATELAND, which I really wanted to do. I realized I had to stop doing jobs merely for money. I had this idea that to be an interesting actor, I had to be an interesting person. So I felt I needed to go out and live life a bit more. I went to college for a year, then I came to LA and started working gain as an actor, the whole time trying to make my rent. Then after SKATELAND, I didn't do another movie for a year because I wanted to live. I wanted to grow and learn about myself. Wanted to read and write and study and buy groceries. After that, I did RED RIDING HOOD. I'm starting to understand this now, that I was scared of what was to come. All these people had been telling me to be prepared for stardom and I didn't know what to do with that. So the day after I finished RIDING HOOD, I found a play happening in my tiny hometown. I went there for the next four months and ignored all the opportunities given to me after doing a movie like that. I shunned it all. I wasn't trying to go against anything. I just looked at the choices I wanted to make and I wanted to be a really good actor. I wanted to do theater, so I went and did that. But when I came back to LA six months later—the opportunities that I once had weren't really opportunities anymore. I decided I just wanted to make movies with people I found interesting whether it made me money or not. That's where I've been ever since.”
“I don’t really like to relive the past or dwell on what might have been. I think that’s an easy way to remain a statue in your own life is to look at what could have been. I used to be a highschool quarterback, what if I had gone to the NFL? If you live in that world of woulda/coulda, then you're frozen in that time period and you won't grow. For the most part I really live in the moment. It's not that I don’t have moments where I think back to the past or imagine different paths, but I'm very aware of reality and live within that.”
Motivation in a scene
“Sometimes sad moments don't have to come from a place of tragedy, they come from a place of beauty. Beauty can be such an evocateur of raw and painful emotion.”
A wrinkle in time
“One of my favorite things is a moment in time. You can share a moment in time with someone and it can be nothing, you forget about it almost immediately. What I want to do is create moments in time that are a little deeper, that mean something fuller and aren't so transient. Sincere, compelling moments, whatever you wanna call it. A moment in time is a beautiful thing.”
3 things necessary to happiness
“Home, friends/family, and never getting so comfortable that I stop pushing myself.”
Written by Heather Seidler
Photography by Josh Shultz