Award-winning ac­tor Kieran Charnock likes to in­habit his char­ac­ters, but some­times they stick around af­ter­wards.

New Zealand Listener - - CONTENTS - By SARAH CATHERALL

Kieran Charnock’s award-winning

per­for­mance in Stray; Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot; Beast

His per­for­mance may have won him a ma­jor act­ing prize, but Kieran Charnock hasn’t watched him­self in Stray, the in­de­pen­dent New Zealand movie that has been a ca­reer break­through. It seems the 26-year-old Welsh-born Welling­ton-based ac­tor just doesn’t want to watch him­self act.

“I be­lieve in be­com­ing the per­son and let­ting that per­son in­habit the space rather than man­u­fac­tur­ing the char­ac­ter and hav­ing a tech­ni­cal ap­proach,” he tells the Lis­tener.

Doesn’t he want to see him­self? He shakes his head. And his Master­ton-based fam­ily, although sup­port­ive, don’t quite un­der­stand why ei­ther.

“It’s dif­fi­cult for me be­cause it makes me feel iso­lated, or like I’m in the wrong. There are some other ac­tors out there who don’t watch their work and that gives me courage.”

Charnock, who de­scribes him­self as a “heavy, heavy in­tro­vert”, flew to the Moscow In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val in

April for the world pre­miere of Stray. He later won its best-ac­tor prize. How­ever, he left be­fore the screening of di­rec­tor Dustin Fene­ley’s crowd-funded de­but fea­ture, though he did go on stage to col­lect his lav­ish Sil­ver St Ge­orge best-ac­tor tro­phy.

In the mea­sured, min­i­mal­ist drama, he’s the softly-spo­ken Jack, who, freshly paroled from a stint in­side for at­tempted mur­der, heads for the wide and chilly hori­zons of Cen­tral Otago. He con­nects with Grace (Arta Do­broshi), a re­cent im­mi­grant who has her own trou­bled past.

Jack doesn’t say much in the movie, but still, Charnock says, he couldn’t shake the char­ac­ter af­ter­wards.

“I have an ex­treme call­ing to be­come these peo­ple, but it’s a strug­gle be­cause I have a per­sonal life. The jour­ney I went through in Stray took a huge toll on me – my body and my mind, my psy­che. It took an ex­treme toll … It was made two years ago but it still af­fects me to this day.’’

His mind­set for Jack leaked into Cleaver, a short film he did soon af­ter­wards in which he plays a sub­ur­ban loner who’s a wit­ness to do­mes­tic abuse. “The rea­son Cleaver works is be­cause I was in that place. I was in a very, very dark place in my full-time life for quite a while. I had made it an oc­cu­pa­tion to put my­self in [Jack’s] headspace and that’s an un­healthy thing. I be­came my ver­sion of that char­ac­ter.’’

Although act­ing is his first love, Charnock is also writ­ing his own scripts. Stranger, a short film he co-wrote and co-di­rected, is pre­mier­ing at the Show Me Shorts Film Fes­ti­val, along­side Cleaver. It’s earned him a nom­i­na­tion for best di­rec­tor at the fes­ti­val.

Stranger is about a young boy and his fa­ther, a fire­fighter, who is se­verely dis­fig­ured in an ac­ci­dent. Charnock was in­spired by an ac­count of an Amer­i­can po­lice of­fi­cer, who sur­vived se­vere burns, and his re­la­tion­ship with his chil­dren.

“It was a re­ally beau­ti­ful story about their con­nec­tion.’’

The Stray award has opened doors. He has an­other role in an up­com­ing New Zealand fea­ture, which he can’t talk about yet, and it’s shown him that his ap­proach, his non-self-view­ing rule and all, is work­ing.

“It has reaf­firmed what I am do­ing … I don’t need any­thing else. They should give awards to some­one else now.’’

Stray is in cin­e­mas now; Show Me Shorts is in Auck­land from Oc­to­ber 6, Welling­ton from Oc­to­ber 12, and through­out the coun­try in Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber.

Kieran Charnock re­ceives the best ac­tor Sil­ver St Ge­orge from Nas­tassja Kin­ski for his per­for­mance in Stray (above).

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