It goes without saying that we’ve all lived colourful lives, some far more vibrant than others. When it comes to Charlie Gallant it’s been a 24-7 paint party and then some.
You’ll find him at his imaginative best playing a nameless orphan known only as Boy in Shaw Festival’s über dazzling presentation of Peter and The Starcatcher until November 1, 2015. He describes playwright J.M. Barry’s prequel to Peter Pan as ‘story theatre’ in which audiences are invited to become active participants in a communion of sorts.
As for playing a 13-year-old with an unbreakable spirit, sense of justice and natural born leadership instinct, the actor has never looked more comfortable on stage.
Charlie Gallant has a big heart much like the character he’s having endless fun playing at the Royal George Theatre this summer. It only takes a handful of Q&As with the spirited East Coaster to plainly see why.
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What did you want to be growing up?
A musician or an athlete. I think maybe I wanted to do everything and nothing; be everyone and no one.
One thought was a train conductor, actually.
Who were your childhood heroes?
My brother. I had to do everything that he did because he was the coolest and was always just a few steps ahead of me.
And my dad, because he was the biggest, strongest, happiest and most dependable man in the world. And they continue to be my heroes today.
But there was also Astro Boy, Raphael (TMNT), “Thriller” era MJ, and the other “MJ,” Michael Jordan.
Did you play sports as a kid?
Yea, I played everything (except hockey) competitively until the end of Grade 11 when I quit most sports because my hobbies were more fun: breakdancing, skateboarding, mountain biking, boxing, music, smashing things, blowing things up, girls & parties.
I actually gigged as a b-boy and also as a guitarist/singer in some bands.
But both sports/hobbies had the same goal: to ride what psychologists call a “white moment” when creativity and instinct meet to allow something awesome and unique to happen.
Were your parents strict?
Well, my parents are true Maritimers, through and through, which means they value strong work ethic, discipline, responsibility, and a good kitchen party.
So when I was out of line, my punishment fit the crime. And when I made them proud, I never felt better.
There were also times, like getting brought home in a police cruiser, where my parents understood the power of the silent treatment and the soul-bruising sting of the phrase “I’m disappointed in you.”
What posters did you have on your bedroom wall growing up?
I had one of Michael Jordan in 1988′s dunk competition because watching him was like watching magic; masterful and graceful. One of The Bones Brigade too just because those gnarly guys hooked me into a lifelong obsession with skateboarding.
Some magazine cut-outs of Jimmy Page, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Jimmy Hendrix because those were my guitar gods.
And one of Labyrinth, the best children’s fantasy film ever featuring a badass David Bowie.
What was your nickname in high school?
My buddy nicknamed me Byrd one night due to an inebriated and inspired night of streaking on the beach and through a surrounding cottage area.
For whatever reason, streaking was weekly affair for a few years when I was a teenager. My friends and I even had a team name as though it was a competitive event. It wasn’t unusual to run home in the nude after a night at the bar.
Anyway. That was, and still is, my nickname to my hometown boys.
What was the first concert you attended?
My first concert was in high school where I saw my brother’s band play a few KISS covers in full makeup/costume. They rocked!
Later on at Mount Alison University I joined the band as guitar and keytar player and we covered Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Phil Collins and played originals like the crowd pleasing Star Trek themed “set your phasers on love”.
But my first memorable pro concert was Hawksley Workman and Mr. Lonely at The Vogue in Vancouver in 2004. I was gobsmacked by his vocal presence, bravado and the playful story telling of his songs. It was a near spiritual experience.
What was the first job you ever had?
I think it was summer gig at Magic Mountain – a water theme park. I ran the arcade, the mini putt course, took tickets, and sometimes patched up leaky water tubes.
Have you ever been fired?
No. I quit working at a waffle factory after two weeks but I’m sure if I stuck it out I’d have gotten fired eventually.
Does that count? It was a bad time for me.
Who was the first person you were sexually attracted to?
My neighbour, Luella, sometime when I was around 9 or so. I have loved that name ever since.
She taught me to double Dutch and we had lots of grass fights at dusk and I remember getting really excited because she was a girl and she was beautiful.
How old were you when you had your first kiss and what do you remember about it?
Her name was Shannon. I was in grade 7 and she was in grade 8.
It took me the better part of the school year, passing notes, “dating” her, and then finally one night, way past my curfew after watching Dazed and Confused; I walked her halfway home and pecked her on the lips in the middle of a field across from the Old Folks’ home.
It was over in a second and it’s impossible to overstate just how nervous I was.
What do you remember about the first time getting drunk?
It was a beach party in Shediac, NB, and I drank a 2L bottle of Tropicana Cooler around a bonfire with what seemed like hundreds of other teenagers. Obviously, we went streaking (see nickname question above).
I was feeling pretty damn bold and very enthusiastic but got separated from the group when the beach patrol chased us on their 4-wheelers.
I got lost and hid in someone’s backyard. An hour later, I found my way to the road only to be caught in the headlights of my friend’s grandmother’s car; buck naked, and mosquito bites everywhere.
You’ve starred with a myriad of female performers throughout your career. What do you suppose the hardest thing about being a woman in society?
I think it’s disappointing and offensive the way pop culture objectifies women and imposes impossible beauty standards on them. We see it play out every day in the steady stream of misogyny from large parts of Hollywood/music videos and in the disparity between strong roles for men vs. for women.
Although we have been making strides toward equality for both sexes here in Western society, we have to remember that there are still some places in the world where women’s rights are almost non-existent. And that brings us all down.
I’m a big Amy Schumer fan; she’s doing some poignant comedy that exposes these issues.
What did you believe in at 18 that you wish that you’d believe in now?
I think when I was 18 I still had a lot of blind faith in humanity. Now,…oof.
With so many global crisis’ going on, like the state of our environment, oil, energy, and water (all exacerbated by pollution and over population), it’s increasingly frustrating to see how our culture still clings to its consumer driven ideology.
I don’t think we’re prepared to face the giant sh*tstorm, we’re likely to hit it within our generation. I’d like to find a way to create a better, more conscious planet for our children to inherit.
What is the best advice your parents ever gave you?
Do what makes you happy. Stay positive. Take smart risks. Pay your bills and stay out of debt.
What have you done that you will never do again?
When I was in grade 5 or 6 I thought it might impress my friends and elevate my social status if I publicly shamed a boy in my class.
Instead it left me with a profound sense of guilt, hurt and nausea (though likely nothing close to what he was feeling) that still resides somewhere in my gut and prevents me from repeating such a cruel and cowardly act.
What is the best lie you ever told?
“No, I didn’t light the garage on fire,” said I, while my toy cars lay burning in a puddle of gasoline next to the garage door, while I myself reeked of fuel.
What is the scariest thing that ever happened to you?
In a hurry to find out why I was feeling faint during a show at MTC, I went to a clinic and was misdiagnosed, without proper testing, with having developed an ASD.
This meant that, if left untreated, I would develop early hypertension and die unless I had open heart surgery right away.
I told my cast, cried, called home to share the life altering news. Turns out it was just malnutrition.
You’ve been exiled to an isolated island with no other inhabitants but permitted to bring one book, one CD, and one DVD what will this list include?
I’d bring the biggest survival book there is, learn all I needed, then use it as firewood.
A CD of Debussyor Bach. And a DVD of home videos.
If somebody made a movie about your life, whom would you want to play Charlie Gallant?
Well, there’s still decades more storyline to come.
But, I don’t know, maybe let Stephen Harper play me since he’s such a supporter of the arts.