I have been a long time fan of M. Night Shyamalan’s works since the beginning. I truly admire his sense of capturing a perfect ‘twist’ when it comes to his ever-evolving storylines. His Glass trilogy is one that I can honestly say won me over from day one when I saw Unbreakable as a kid. The fact that he took a ‘super-hero’ tale and brought it into our real-world reality created an even more special experience for me.
Speaking of Glass, which grossed about $111 million domestically, I recently had the opportunity to speak with Spencer Treat Clark – who plays Joseph Dunn in the film. Spencer was an incredible delight to speak with, and I can tell from my brief conversation with him that he truly believes in this series – and the impact of its powerful and emotional story has become a big part of his life. It was a great experience for me to hear about all his on-set memories, and I have to say that he captured his character with such incredible emotion – that Joseph became one of my favorite characters in the film.
A New York Native, Spencer began acting at an early age, appearing in films such as Gladiator and Unbreakable. He attended Columbia University in New York City where he studied political science and economics, before making the move to Los Angelos to pursue an acting career. In addition to the Glass trilogy, Spencer recently appeared in TV series such as Mad Men, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and TNT’s new series Animal Kingdom.
1. Out of all the actors you’ve worked with on the set of ‘Glass’, who would you say you learned the most from, as an actor? You got to be on set with Bruce Willis, Sam Jackson, and James McAvoy – that’s pretty outstanding!
That’s kind of hard to answer! Sarah and James are the top of the list of a lot of actors out there who they would love to work with, and I got to work with both of them at the same time, which was so cool! I was so excited when I read the scene with Dr. Staple where I was in her office and I realized I had this scene with Sarah. I got to know her pretty well, and it was really exciting. To watch James just do his thing constantly was incredible. The scene where he was on top of the van was actually his idea. Night has such a clear vision of what he wants but when James brought up that idea Night was like ‘awesome, do it!’. I remember staring up at him when I ‘out’ Mr. Glass as creating this whole experience when Kevin’s dad was on the train in Unbreakable and I remember looking at James on-top of the van growling at me and thinking it was such a cool experience as an actor. To just be in that moment. It was super exciting.
Bruce and Sam are just legends. I got to have dinner one on one with Sam in Allentown and just hearing his story about coming up as an actor and about his success and what he has done to keep himself grounded – and he told me his process, and that was an awesome experience. Then, Bruce, I had the most stuff with and to watch him die there on the ground in the movie was just this incredible experience. It was sort of the ending of our shooting and it was the end of this thing I’ve been a part of for 20 years. It was very surreal.
2. What was it like for you personally to work with M. Night Shyamalan?
As an actor, I can speak to how generous he is and how he is so good at fostering an environment to pursue what you want and to encourage others with his clear vision. I feel like that extends to a lot of people on his set. There were a lot of people my age and younger on his set and they all look up to him as a mentor. He’s a family man and he’s purposely stayed away from Los Angelos to be here with his family. His family came to set and to the premiere and his values really come across. It’s a pretty unique experience spending time with Night on set. We got to go to his house and every week he would have a bar or dinner night for the cast and crew. He creates a really genuine place and experience for everyone, everyone on set.
3. There are a lot of ‘Superhero’ movies out there. If you were to describe the ‘Glass’ trilogy to someone, how would you say it differs from other comic book movies – to you personally?
For one thing, it’s so grounded in reality. It’s truly asking and saying ‘this is the real world, this is Philadelphia. This is the culture and the world we live in now. There is no world-building, this is the world that we live in – reality. Another thing that is interesting is that the whole trilogy exists in a realm that ended and started on either side of the cultural phenomenon of the comic movie as we know it. It was really interesting to see with Unbreakable people were not as familiar with that genre of movie, at least not the way they are now, with Glass now they can be. The audience watching Glass has grown up 2o years with this series just like the characters. This whole culture has shifted around it. It’s a really unique experience, and it certainly was for me to film it… and the audience experiences a little bit of that as well, and that doesn’t happen in every genre.
4. What was the most challenging, or memorable, part of shooting ‘Glass’ for you?
Probably not having a giant grin on my face the entire time (laughs). The whole experience was really wonderful. A lot of the film had some pretty emotional scenes. I think sometimes those can worry about those and they’ll keep you up at night but I think that with this movie, and my history with it, I knew that those emotions would be there so it was really just a great opportunity for me to show up and learn and reconnect with some people. I sat next to Jason Blum on the plane ride to Philadelphia for the table read and we were like ‘we are making a movie!’.
5. Are there any elements of your character that you see in yourself?
Yeah, absolutely. One of the unifying factors in Joseph’s life is his family and his father and I have a really wonderful family that I look up to. I have a dad that has been a really awesome and central figure instability in my life, so that was something I was able to draw from. I actually sort of pictured in my mind the office where the security was as the company my dad worked at when I was 11 or 12 and it worked out incredibly well for me!
6. Can you give us a brief rundown of Animal Kingdom for any of our readers still unfamiliar with the show?
Animal Kingdom is a show about a crime family in Southern California they do a lot of bank robberies. I play a character where I grew up with this family and I’m a love interest of one of the family members so I’m not a bad guy, but I know all about some of their misdeeds… so I’m not necessarily a good guy either and I have some insight on this family as well because I grew up with them. It has nothing to do with animals, the people are the animals so it’s a metaphor. There’s a ton of action… a lot of bank heists. Ellen Barkin plays the matriarch of this family and she’s a total badass in this.
7. What advice do you have for young actors out there, looking to get a jump start on their career?
Just do it. There are so many avenues available now that weren’t when I was starting off as a young kid in the industry. I would encourage everyone to take classes and learn the craft of film and the goal should be the art in having fun; not necessarily getting the biggest project out there. Learn the craft and fall in love with it. In terms of career, you want to make content, for example.. having Youtube out there. I’ve had friends who started off as doing fun channels which led to careers. Link up with other people who share your similar passions!
It was truly an honor to speak with Spencer! If you have not seen Glass yet, the M. Night Shyamalan blockbuster is now available digitally as well as on Blu-Ray/DVD.