Brent Harvey stars in the upcoming spy thriller "Sleepless" written and directed by Izzy Traub (Publicity photo).
LOS ANGELES - Brent Harvey always had a passion for performing. From an early age, the Indiana native had a zeal for taking on characters and bringing them to life for the amusement of his friends and audiences in school plays. Today, Harvey is making his mark starring in the upcoming film “Sleepless,” portraying an entrepreneur who aims to save his kidnapped girlfriend from the Chinese mob.
Written and directed by Izzy Traub and produced by Ace Salvador, “Sleepless” delves into the world of industrial espionage, international corruption and murder, and the difference one righteous man can make to battle evil.
Himself a former U.S. Marine, Harvey is known for bringing a disciplined hard-nosed persona to films and for his ability to do his own stunts - even if it means jumping off a four-story scaffold. Harvey chats with us about his upcoming film and his career.
Question: Where are you from originally and what sparked your interest in acting?
Answer: I am originally from the east side of Indianapolis, Indiana. What sparked my interest in acting was in second grade, my class was putting on a play for grandparent’s day and one of my classmates got scared and backed out, so they gave me the cowboy hat and scarf. I had one line and it was exhilarating, and that was the moment that I got hooked on acting.
Q: What kinds of films and roles attract you and why?
A: I like films that teach me new perspectives or open my imagination. Films like “One Flew Over a Coo Coo’s Nest”, ”Vanilla Sky” or even “8 ½”. I’m always up for some mindless action, but stories that inspire me as a storyteller or get me excited are my favorite. “Twilight Zone” the series is my favorite show of all time because it taught us about ourselves as human beings and society while entertaining, very intelligent and its influence shows in my work to this day.
When it comes to roles, I look for ones that challenge me creatively like “One Flew Over the Coo Coo’s Nest” or physically like “James Bond.” The anti-hero or the villain is always my favorite though, there is something fun about being the bad guy and not apologizing for it. I would love to work with David Fincher or Damien Chazelle because their characters are rich and have depth to them like Popeye in “French Connection”. I seek characters with depth, I find them the most interesting.
Q: Many actors struggle with their families about becoming an actor. Did you face similar opposition from your family about acting?
A: People who aren’t artists don’t understand artists and that was the same for me mostly in my life. Growing up in the mid west, there isn’t much of a community to thrive as an artist, though there were artists all around me. My cousin, my mom, my dad as I just found out recently, but no one pursued it because they we are taught to go to collage, get a good job, buy a house, get married, have kids, retire, die. That’s life, well I didn’t accept that, yet I had no one to show me the way, most of my family criticized me the others didn’t have a way to help me so I was lost for many years finding my way. I have found in life most people are afraid to follow their dreams because others who were afraid to follow theirs told them it couldn’t be done. It’s a cultural epidemic.
Q: What made you decide to join the military and pull away from acting?
A: I didn’t join the Military to pull away from acting, I used it to get closer. It is disappointing how damaged our education system is in America. Children are not supported or guided, they are managed to become workers, not owners. When someone like myself shows interest in something other than the basics, there isn’t a structure in place to support them. Without guidance or support on getting to where I wanted to go I did the only thing I knew would get me out of Indiana and into the world. I joined as a combat photographer, so I was still able to be creative and used the resources there to learn to make my own little movies, which allowed me to still act while serving.
Q: What aspects of the military experience help you at work and at home?
A: The military taught me how to balance being creative with business, which was great preparation for Hollywood. It is easy to get caught up in saying “I do it for the art”, which is great, but if you want to thrive and build a career with your art, you need to follow the saying, “do one for them so you can do one for yourself”. Art, like life is a balance.
Q: How did you decide to come to Los Angeles? Was it a big culture shock?
A: After I finished my time in the Marines I had to make a decision, to move to New York or moved up to Los Angeles. I honestly decided on Los Angeles, because I didn’t want to live in the cold anymore. L.A. really wasn’t much of a culture shock for me at first because I had just gotten back from Iraq, which was a culture shock! As I began settling into Los Angeles, I started to realize how hard it was to make close intimate friendships.
Q: Talk about "Sleepless." What kind of character do you play and what appealed to you about that film?
A: In “Sleepless” I play a drug “manufacturer,” a man who has created a new type of drug that takes all the pro’s of drugs without the con’s, and it becomes the biggest selling drug in the world. Though he is a drug dealer, he is more of a businessman, basically like the big pharma. What I liked about the film is it was an action film, which I hadn’t had the chance to do much of. Once in awhile I got to do some action but not a full action movie, so I was excited about that because the director told me it had the “John Wick” feel to it, I had to do it. I’m just a big kid at heart and love to go outside and play!
Q: The boxing movie "Dive" was another intense film you did. What attracted you to that project?
A: My friend came to me with an idea he had been kicking around about a boxer who was gay and I immediately thought that it had to be told. We have seen the story of many boxers before go through the battle of being the best or getting a fighting chance, but we never really saw what would happen if the boxer was hiding a secret that could destroy not only his career, but his family and his lovers life. Since it is more accepted in modern day to be homosexual, we put the story back in 1970 so the stakes where much higher. As a storyteller whether in front or behind the camera I’m always looking to tell stories that can open a conversation, minds and empathy for others. It is the only way we are going to fix our human species is to start seeing things from other people’s perspectives and I feel Art is one of the strongest tools we have available to do that.
Q: You've played cops and bad guys many times. How do you prepare yourself to play really bad people as opposed to a cop?
A: I don’t look at good guys and bad guys much different, it’s all about perspective. If a “good guy” kills someone it’s OK because society says it was justified, but if a “bad guy” kills someone it’s wrong because the same society deems it wasn’t justified. Now what I will say is when I am playing the “bad guy” I just remind myself that he doesn’t apologize for who he is, he is true to his passions, cravings and lusts, where as the good guy is usually ashamed or hides those things because he was raised to believe that it is wrong to feel those things. The good guy doesn’t embrace his dark side and the “bad guy” doesn’t embrace his good side,” but in the end they both come from love, either protecting someone or something because of love, or destroying someone or something because of loss of love. It’s all about love.
Q: You've also decided to write a children's book. What inspired you to go in that direction?
A: My first niece was born last year and it changed my world. It’s funny how someone can just show up in the world and affect you so much, put so many things into perspective. Watching her interact with the world reminded me to pay attention, look at everything like it was the first time and take it all in. One day I was sitting outside at a restaurant and I saw a balloon floating up into the sky, I looked down and saw a small boy crying because he had let go of the balloon that was now flying away and it just hit me like a truck. “The Balloon Who Was Afraid of Heights” would be a great title for a book that I could write for my niece to teach her about not living in fear, but living with joy and love as she explores this world.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I have a few projects coming out this year like “Sleepless” and a T.V. pilot that is not yet named as well as I am this month Victory Motorcycles is releasing their Spring apparel catalogue of which I am the male model for the new gear, which is exciting. I am also finishing writing a few films, one which is a film noir detective style film, with a Tarantoesk twist and the other is one that is very close to me which follows the life of a young Japanese boy who live in a Japanese Internment Camp during World War II, which is a topic most Americans are not aware of and I feel it is another conversation that needs to be had. I also have another niece being born this month who has already inspired me to write a book for her, “The Lost Little Puzzle Piece” all in all this is going to be the busiest year of my acting career and I’m having a great time already.
For more, visit www.BrentHarveyFilms.com.