In my four years as a Fan Fest Writer, I have met a lot of people and I have spoken to a lot of incredibly talented actors. I find myself highly enjoying their life stories, especially those beyond the field of acting. In those four years, I can say without a doubt that Chased lead actor Ray Hopper is one of the most passionate rising actors out there, and is certainly someone for filmmakers everywhere to keep on their radar. The amount of research that Ray puts into diving into the backstory of his characters is incredible, which creates quite an empowering character presence on camera. Ray has a pure and extraordinary talent for portraying characters with an exhilarating emotion, something that many actors spend years training to accomplish. It is actors like this who create such a wonderful and lasting impression on screen, and from Ray’s performances that I have seen – they are extraordinary.
Born and raised in San Leandro, California, Ray was born into a creative family – his mother an incredibly talented artist and his father an ironworker. In 1990, Ray joined the United States Air force and after completing his Military Police Training, was stationed in the Middle East during the Persian Gulf War. In 2016, Ray auditioned for and received his very first acting role – the lead actor in a featured film, Chased. Since that time, Ray has been involved in multiple short films as well as commercials for Amazon Prime and Mercury Insurance.
This upcoming 2019 season is looking extremely promising for Ray, as he has already been cast in several upcoming feature films. With upcoming projects on both the east and west coast, Ray is an inspirational and incredibly talented actor on the rise – and as I mentioned before, is someone that filmmakers can absolutely expect to deliver in any role that he is placed in.
I recently spoke with Ray, and through my interview with him – got to learn exactly how much being a part of the film industry truly means to him.
Jules: You’ve been cast in over 30 projects and there have been times when you’ve been in multiple films at the same time. How do you keep them all separated in your mind and focus on them individually?
Ray: I have to prioritize which characters have the heaviest weight to them. When I say that, I’m not just referring to the amount of dialogue that each of these characters possess. Some of them I play have very emotional backstories or situations that they find themselves in – and I know that in order to portray that character and do them justice, I really have to wrap my mind around that one in particular and do more homework. I really like to dive deep and give each of them one hundred percent of my effort.
If some of the characters are more like ‘Ray Hopper’, I don’t have to do as extensive research and get into that character as deep. Those are the ones that I am extremely comfortable playing either because of my experience in certain fields of work or everyday life. If it is a role that is out of that element, and has characteristics of something I have never played before – I really put a lot of my focus into creating that person. I’ve had a lot of hands-on jobs; mechanic, military cop, firefighter/EMT, teacher, coach, and electrician. For example, if I were to play something unfamiliar such as a dance choreographer or oil rig worker, I would approach that part like a new career by interviewing professionals or taking a class, or reading a book to familiarize myself with the particular intricacies of that job.
Jules: Tell me about a time you took on a difficult role. What was it, and how did you overcome that challenge?
Ray: I played a suicidal cop in a film called Telephone and I had a crying scene that we had to do five takes in a row. To do an emotional crying scene, is something that I can nail every single time but usually just once. It’s pretty hard for me to complete that scene, stop and take notes, and then start it up and do it all over again.
I’m not just talking about a simple cry – I’m referring to a deep and emotionally moving cry. That was probably the toughest thing that I’ve had to do, considering the fact that I’m typically a very cheerful guy. A lot of my co-stars and crew members on set said that I nailed it, but it was really difficult to do. I had to put myself in a really emotionally dismal place in order to pull that off. It was challenging – but it was also super rewarding. The day before I was wrapping up a completely different film playing a haunted man that eventually hangs himself. It was quite dark, so I had a tough time getting out of that place. As I mentioned before, I really do love giving it my all – and I find myself deeply invested in all of these characters.
Jules: Let’s talk about your role in ;Chased’, your first feature film – where you were actually cast as the lead. It sounds as though there were a lot of physical challenges involved in that film for you. What was the most challenging part of that role in particular?
Ray: I would say the handful of times where I had to fall on purpose. Pratfalls are challenging because you have to make it look real. So there were times when I was running at full-speed and the director would tell me ‘fall here, before you get to this mark’ and then ‘fall here, and hide behind this stump’; and I was running as fast as I could, trying not to break my leg…or neck.
I played Sheriff Hastings, who was this really intense Afghanistan veteran. So maintaining that sense of character while running through the woods doing these pratfall stunts was the most difficult part for me, because falling intentionally without flailing around like Kermit the Frog when you are wrapped up in these powerfully evasive scenes is tough for a new guy! When I watched the finished project, I was pretty happy with how it all turned out. Bruce Troxell was a great Director and it all looked wonderful on screen. Everything else about that role was pretty close to being ‘everyday Ray’.
Jules: Speaking of playing the Sheriff, you play a cop in a lot of your films. Is it easier for you to relate to, or portray those characters than the others you have played in the past?
Ray: It is! I have experience in both military and law enforcement, which gave me a sense of weapons familiarization and proficiency as well. It’s second nature to me, so I really don’t have to do much homework to get into those kinds of characters. Those are some of the ones that I really enjoy portraying probably because I can relate to them so easily.
Jules: You keep referring to some of your characters as ‘Ray Hopper’; who is ‘Ray Hopper’?
Ray: Who I refer to as ‘Everyday Ray’. A lot of Directors will tell me that they wrote a character around my mannerisms and just gave me a different name and some dialogue. Occasionally, a big difference between ‘Ray Hopper’ and these other characters is their backstory and that might influence the behavior or postures or speech delivery or reactions to other actors.
Jules: Not only did you act in ‘The Coach’, you also Directed and wrote the script. That is an incredible feat for a lot of actors. What was the inspiration behind the story?
Ray: I had a very difficult and emotional relationship with my father, and I reference my dad in this story. That’s why it was really easy for me to have such an emotional delivery in the film where I say ‘the good Lord took that man from me’. That reaction is based on deep-seated, unfortunate emotions that I confronted after he passed away. My pain in The Coach is present because I grieve over the relationship that we never had, and still long for.
In addition to that, I was also a high school baseball coach. That was something that I thoroughly enjoyed – motivating all of my players. So it was really easy for me to write as well as act in. It was a really fun little project, and I am currently working on expanding that character and storyline.
Jules: Do you plan on doing more writing in the future in addition to acting?
Ray: Yes! Right now I have sixteen stories that I am writing and occasionally take a break from and then come back to later. I’ll re-read them and then do some tweaking to further develop an idea that I previously had. It works for me because it adds even more components that I didn’t think of before – and in the end, I feel makes it even more intriguing.
A lot of those stories revolve around the relationship between me and my father. Another is about my little brother who passed away when he was twenty-two years old back in 2007. It’s a really touching and emotional story, but it is also one that is really tough to work on. I really enjoy emotional roles because they send an empowering message to all those that watch them, and as an actor they wind up being the most rewarding ones to portray. They’re hell on my psyche, but if others can relate to the story, then it’s entirely worth the emotional torture to me. I have yet to write a light-hearted and funny story – so maybe I need to consider doing something like that!
Jules: You’ve been cast as ‘Deputy Lewis Tucker’ in ‘Friday the 13th: Vengeance’. ‘Friday the 13th’ has been around for almost 40 years and has a continuously growing fan base. What does it mean to you to be part of the series?
Ray: It’s a huge honor. I can’t name many people that haven’t heard of that franchise. To be a part of a project like that, especially at this caliber, with the other actors that we have – Jason Brooks, Julia Valenti, Steve Dash and C.J. Graham; I am truly excited. The script is incredible, and I think this is something that fans of Friday the 13th are really going to get a kick out of. Mike Meade did a fantastic job with it, and I am looking forward to seeing how the fans take to this film. This is a franchise that, as you mentioned, will only continue to grow. So I’m truly eager to be one small piece of a gigantic cinematic puzzle.
Jules: ‘Friday the 13th: Vengeance’ has two ‘Friday’ alumni in it, Steve Dash and C.J Graham, both men who have donned the Jason Voorhees mask. What does it mean to you to be involved in a shared project with them?
Ray: I’m rubbing shoulders with horror film royalty. Just to be in a project with these incredible actors and stuntmen is exciting. I’m really looking forward to working with C.J and being on set with him, especially since our story takes place 30 years after Friday the 13th: Jason Lives – where C.J played Jason Voorhees; a character that is well known throughout not just the horror community, but the cinematic industry as well. I’m truly privileged, and it really is going to be a great film. I never got the chance to act with Steve Dash personally, but I cannot explain how rewarding it is to have my name in the same film. He has been a part of so many projects, both as an actor and a stuntman. If you look at his IMDB page, he has an incredible life-time of experience – and not just in film, in his personal life as well.
Jules: Steve Dash, unfortunately passed away recently – which was a huge impact on the ‘Friday the 13th’ community. If you could say one thing to Steve Dash, what would it be?
Ray: “I know that you wanted me to be in Florida when everyone flew down to shoot that last scene with you, in your final film – and you kept asking everyone where I was… I’m sorry that I never made it down there, because I know it would have been one of the most memorable experiences ever to me. I’m honored to be playing one of your deputies in this film, and we are all going to do everything we can to make you proud.”
Jules: Out of all the projects you have worked on, which has been the most meaningful to you and why?
Ray: I have to say Chased because it was my very first role. I learned a lot and it is always going to be very meaningful to me. It’s like your first pet, your first car, your first house. It was an incredibly surreal and rewarding experience. I had never been an extra or had a small role in a film before that, in fact I have never had an acting or drama class. I still remember to this day getting an agent and then what seemed like a few days later getting a phone call asking if I wanted to be the lead in an action movie.
Jules: That’s pretty incredible, stepping into a lead role like that right out of the gate. Was that intimidating for you at all?
Ray: I wasn’t nervous until immediately before we started shooting. Ciscoe Morris is a local celebrity here in the Pacific Northwest who has his own gardening show and also appears on KING5’s New Day on TV. I always hear him on the radio, but to be in a movie with him, the very first time I’ve ever been in front of the camera was totally surreal. He’s literally one of the nicest people you will ever meet, which made it really enjoyable having him on set. He also gave me some great advice about maintaining my rutabagas. (laughs)
So there I was in my uniform, getting ready to go and the whole crew was there with their lighting and camera equipment and that was when the initial feeling of ‘Wow, we are making a movie’ started to sink in. The very first scene in the movie was me walking up to his car after the Sheriff pulls him over and as soon as I heard the word ‘action’, that was when the reality hit me. It was an overwhelming sense of ‘Is this really happening right now?’ That was definitely an experience that I will never forget.
Jules: What are some acting roles or film genres you would like to seek out in the future?
Ray: DC Universe, for sure, would be something I would love to be a part of. Especially the DC Universe shows that are on The CW Network. Actors like Stephen Amell and Grant Gustin have brought something new and rewarding to that universe. Stephen Amell, who plays Oliver Queen on Arrow, absolutely dominates that role. For the past seven years, he has done an incredible job portraying this character with a dark past and I would love to one day be able to work with him. He’s incredibly well-rounded in terms of that emotional delivery that I mentioned before, and I admire actors who put that much time and effort into building up their characters. He likes to shake things up story wise, and we have that in common.
Jules: How do you like to encourage creative ideas in others?
Ray: That is a really good question. My wonderful mother is an artist, so as a kid, every day after school was “art day”. My sister is still a creative genius thanks to my mother’s influence. Having a different perspective and predisposition than a lot of people I grew up with never stopped me from trying to inspire others to think creatively. Creativity is a muscle that can be exercised and improved upon! Read blogs, books or articles you normally wouldn’t consume. I had a creative writing class in college where we had to rapidly write a 3 page paper without any direction; no topic, no headline, no editing. Needless to say, there were some really outlandish things passed around the class afterwards, but it really worked. Food also affects how humans think, and I try to maintain an extraordinarily clean diet. I can’t hork down a bag of twinkies and expect to get much from my brain, so I’m constantly helping others with proper nutrition, whether at the gym or at work.
Jules: What are some lessons you have learned as an actor either from fellow cast-mates or directors you have worked with in the past?
Ray: That’s another great question! (laughs) Half of the people I work with encourage me not to take any film classes, and the other half tell me that I should do as much training as possible to really build up that experience and gain perspective from multiple standpoints. I know what I like to see from film actors and directors on TV, and I try to emulate that particular character when I am in a certain role. Not saying I’m too good to learn, I’m just going with what is working for me right now. If a Director wanted me to take a particular class for an upcoming role, I would sign up immediately.
Jules: Is there a film director in particular that you would love to one day work with?
Ray: M. Night Shyamalan, for sure. The Sixth Sense is a thinking person’s thriller that was both unnerving and emotionally satisfying. Ever since I watched that, I started to really admire his work. So I went back and started with his first movie, Praying with Anger and watched everything up till now, including Glass. An amazing filmmaker with a wildly creative mind.
All these years later, I find myself still wanting to create with someone like that. He obviously does a lot of research when he writes his characters. Like in his films Split and Glass. To dream up a character like Crumb, with 24 different personalities is absolutely mind-blowing and I would love to sit down and chat about what inspires him.
Shyamalan has a unique sense of how to bring about the real ‘mystery’ to film, and his out-of-the-box style of thinking is one that is a rarity nowadays in the arena of filmmaking. I would love to be a part of creating an artistic project with someone who thinks like that. His style of writing, and the characters he creates along with it, is the type that I really appreciate.
Jules: What is your biggest goal you are set out to accomplish as an actor in 2019?
Ray: Directing, and starring in a feature length dramatic film that I wrote is on my agenda for this year, but as of now I currently have 8 feature films that I have the lead in and a handful of really fun and rewarding surprise projects that I’m doing on the East Coast in the next few months. So my personal film will probably have to take the back seat for now!
Jules: Okay, I gotta ask you this one now, since you mentioned DC Universe. If you could be the sidekick to any superhero, who would it be?
Ray: Oh man! There are a few, but I’ve been so many bad guys lately that instead of a sidekick, I might be more excited to be a super-villain! (laughs)
I have to say, in closing that Ray is by far one of the most passionate people that I have ever come across; both on and off screen. Ray’s continuous displays of indomitable will and the courage to chase after your dreams is something to be desired, and should absolutely be an inspiration for rising young actors to look up to. A lesson that all can learn from Ray is that no matter what ridiculous curveballs life will throw at you, there is nothing more important than to pick yourself up and keep moving forward… it is within that strength and courage that the heart of a true champion is made. His consistent ‘Never Give Up’ attitude has certainly left quite a lasting impression on myself, as well as the film community.
It was an incredible pleasure speaking with Ray, and from our conversation I have learned that he is one of those talented people out there with an incredible passion for film and all aspects of it. When I’m referring to ‘all aspects’, I am talking about not only the acting and the labor of getting ‘fit’ to that respective character… but the creative illustration of the writing an directing as well. All of these things are the ingredients that go into making the art of film. I’m hoping that following this 2019 acting season, big things keep coming down the pipeline for Ray. DC Universe, Ray is certainly someone to keep your eye on! His drive and determination to not only quit, but never stop learning is unbound and what could be more motivational than that?
For those of you in the Northwest, Ray’s performance as the main antagonist in Rich Phelp’s short film One Way or Another can be seen at the Destiny City Film Festival in Seattle, Washington this weekend. Be sure to check out the official trailer for the film below, it is an incredible film based on True Events.
Ray’s motivational speech from his short-film The Coach was also featured in our ‘7 Sports Speeches for Monday Motivation‘, which is something you should absolutely check out.