Cody Saintgnue, actor and model, has a treasure chest filled with experiences which he undoubtedly will make fair use of as his acting career continues to unfold. Seeing as the last season of 'Teen Wolf', where he played Brett, a 'bisexual, Buddhist werewolf', recently saw its end, it will be intriguing to see what he does next. In the meantime, photographer Amber McKee captures Cody’s soft demeanor against harsh bricks and fencing in the hidden alleys of LA. Stylist Andrea Tsanas gives him a slight edge to counter his pretty boy looks and dresses him in the stylish comforts of Gucci and Saint Laurent, to Alexander McQueen and Paul Smith.
Life can offer some surprising twists and turns at times. One moment it shows you complete darkness, but then abruptly, you’re granted an excess of light. It happened to Cody when he was only nine years old, as he found himself in the childcare system and later adopted by a single woman. It took him about three days to realise how at ease she made him feel, so he figured he might as well start calling her mum.
In addition to his werewolf skills, Cody recently added producer to his namesake and has two projects in pre-production, 'Alma of My Heart' and 'The Mafia Ain’t Dead', which he also happens to be acting in. Seeming to enjoy discovering being involved in another side of the industry, Cody's talents are unfolding in exciting ways - he might just be ready for life.
How is New York treating you?
New York is good. What’s funny though is, a couple of days before I got here, it was warm, and somehow I didn’t bring the California warmth with me because now it is super cold.
How long have you been in LA?
I’ve lived in LA for about ten years. I moved out there when I was 14 with my mother, and I’ve just been hustling and ingesting a lot of learning experiences since. What a journey it’s been!
Did you get into acting when you moved there?
Actually, I got into modeling first when I was around 12.
How was it to become part of that industry at such a young age?
There was definitely a specific intention. It’s a pretty funny story. When I was 12-13 years old, there was this neighbour girl of mine who didn’t pay attention to me - she didn’t like me and wasn’t attracted to me. However, she did like my friend, but my friend didn’t like her, so I thought; “how can I get this girl to like me?” I decided that I would have to become an Abercrombie model; “all girls like Abercrombie models, so if I become one, she will have to like me!”
How did that work out for you?
No, it did not work out. What ended up happening was that I went to this modeling/acting/talent show in Texas, and as soon as I got back to Ohio, there were these acting agencies in LA that wanted to work with me. The last time I saw this girl was maybe six years later, after LA - I was 5’11 at the time I left, and I came back 6’2 in this long trench coat. It was raining in Ohio, and I went to knock on her door, and her mum opened; “Hey, you used to babysit me. Remember me, Cody?” “Yeah,” she said. “Is her Erin here,” I asked. “No, she is in Alaska with a couple of other kids.” I was like; “Oh, that’s a plot twist.”
Alaska - that is a plot twist. Did you get in contact with her later?
We briefly chatted on Facebook later, and she said; “That's such a cool story. I’m so proud of you.” “Thank you for being my first crush,” I replied back.
It was a very productive crush, I must say.
Yeah, it’s always about the girl.
A lot of the time you're playing other people, so who is the real Cody behind these characters?
That’s tricky. I would describe myself as positive, loving, and strong, but sometimes I can be a little bit messy. I’m artistic. I think I’m just a regular guy who loves his friends and family. I love to work, and I love what I do so much. Any opportunity that I get to do that, I will do it. I like to be a positive role model, and I would want to do some good and be an example for others. Does that answer it?
I can twist the question a bit, what does it feel like when you’re acting?
Oh man, it’s exciting! It’s like the best feeling in the entire world next to being in love. I mean, it’s two loves, so it's impossible to compare. There is this adrenaline to it where everyone on set has a vision. The director has a vision. The writer has a vision. The network has a vision. And you have a vision. You’re all working together to create this one vision that, hopefully, when it comes out, you’re proud to show to the audience. When they say; “We are ready for you,” and you walk onto your mark - it’s exciting.
I can imagine. Let’s talk about 'Teen Wolf' - how has it been working on such a hit MTV show?
You know what, I was shitting bricks scared. At the time I didn’t know, but when I realized it was turning into a reoccurring role, I was like; “Oh my god, I’ve never worked on something where I have to do it again.” I was usually a guest star or had parts in indie films. This time around I had to see these people again. It was a part of my craft which I had never gotten to work on, so it was exciting but terrifying. You just feel so lucky and blessed, because of the fact that someone would change your part from your head getting chopped off to saving you to developing your character all the way into a final season of a very successful show. There are a lot of talented people in this world, and a lot of good-looking people. The fact that I got to do something like this was incredibly humbling, and I’ll never forget it.
Actors tend to face a lot of rejection. How do you handle “no”?
My mum taught me how to handle rejection. She was like; “Cody, you’re going to get rejected a lot in your life, so you should just get used to it.” I was like; “what does that even mean?” That was before I even got into acting. Rejection, it happens in many ways. Mum, sort of in a half-joking/half-truthful way taught me how to face rejection. I was just talking to these kids over at Drew University today, and they asked me the same question. The answer I gave them is that you can’t take any of it personal, and here’s why: these people, their job is to judge you for the way you look. They have this vision of what they need to bring, and it has nothing to do with the integrity of who you are as a person, but it’s business. If you fit into that niche of their vision - that’s great. And then if you don’t - that’s great too. You made a great relationship, you got to work with someone, you got to get to know someone and build something, and then you let it go. You wouldn’t want to be part of someone’s vision that they don’t want you to be part of, because that's like getting invited to a party which you were not supposed to be invited to.
Brett, your character on Teen Wolf - you described him as a “Bisexual Buddhist werewolf.” I’m curious as to how you went about developing the character?
With Brett being a bisexual Buddhist werewolf, I called it that because that’s what the writer said he was doing to my character, but honestly, I didn’t dive too much into that. There was one scene where I danced with a girl, and then a guy at the club at the same time, but it’s not like I had this Titanic kiss with either of the sexes. It was talked about a lot in the script so, as far as the work I had to put in to be comfortable with that and explore that, I didn’t have to dive too deep. Not that I wouldn’t, but for that particular thing, I didn’t have to. They had me more being a werewolf and fighting in stunt scenes – and you know, my shirt off; being a piece of meat for everyone on the show haha. As far as how I dive into my characters in the work that I’ve done, it changes, and it’s never the same. I do a lot of research: anything about the role, where the character is from, I research the writer - what else have they worked on before? Then, it’s about whatever inspires me. Sometimes when I’m reading something, it’ll be a mile apart from my experiences. Sometimes I'm so affected by the writing that I can fully imagine it. I’m very open to what inspires me, and I use that as fuel.
I’ve read that you took classes at Gray Studios while studying there, did you explore a specific acting technique?
The funny thing about Gray Studios is that Tyler Posey went there for a long time as well. I met Tyler at Gray Studios, in fact, and then he booked 'Teen Wolf', and then years later I found myself working with him on the show. I did two years of the Meisner technique - it was terrific. I have quite the inspiring story about Meisner and what that did for me. I was 15-years old when I auditioned for the TV-series 'V'. My agent said that it would be perfect for me, so I felt that I was going to book this. I got out of the audition and called my agent; “you have to get feedback on this one. I know I booked it.” She said; “That’s great. I’ll give him a call right away.” I sat there waiting and an hour went by until I finally got the call. She went; “Cody, you bombed the audition. You did terribly, and they won’t see you for six months. You’re green.” I went; “Green, what does that mean?” “You’re not a professional - you don’t know what you’re doing yet,” she said. Can you imagine that? You just moved out to LA with your single mum - you’re trying to make something out of yourself, and you get told that you’re shit. I cried for like three days after that: It destroyed me; my heart was just completely cracked. And so, I decided to go to the hardest acting class I could find and train my ass off so that I could become a great actor. I ended up studying the Meisner program for two years: Monday through Friday, four hours a day. The next audition I had after completing Meisner was 'House, M.D.' on Fox and I booked a guest-starring role as a kid with autism. My agent was like; “Where did this come from?” Hard work, damn it. The moral of the story isn’t that I booked 'House', but I think with anything in life, if you have the real passion for something or the genuine desire and you work at it, you will eventually get better.
When you were 9-years you ended up in foster care and then you were adopted. How has this shaped you?
It’s the biggest blessing, way grander than acting or even a girl or anything that I could have ever experienced. I was always a really loving kid, but I would never have had a chance at having a healthy life. My mother, Brenda Rose, is the best woman I’ve ever met. Instead of me becoming a victim and using my circumstances to define who I am, I’m not saying it has never given me drawbacks - it still affects me, but I don’t like to use it as an excuse. My mum taught me to turn negatives into positives: build a castle with the stones thrown at you. It forced me to see life with another pair of colored glasses. I think I have a lot of empathy, understanding, and patience because I was forced to grow up a lot faster. In some areas, I’m really wise, but in others, I’m a little child. It’s given me a purpose because, for me, acting is not just about doing projects that inspire me, as I feel like I’ve got a story, not only to tell, but I have kids to encourage. I have inspirations to inspire. Becoming successful at what I do is not just for my mum and me - I want to inspire people: give them hope, or at least a nudge that it’s possible. What they decide to do next is up to them and their instincts.
How was your first meeting with your mum?
It’s actually quite a funny story. I showed up there with nothing. I had no clothes, just what I was wearing, and I was in this one-bedroom house in Franklin, Ohio. I walked in, the social worker chatted with her for a second, and then the social worker said; “All right Cody, I’ll see you later.” I just sat there on her couch - looking around - and so she went; “So Cody, is there anything you want to ask me?” I went; “yes, actually there is. Do you smoke?” And she said; “No.” I said; “Good, I hate the smell of smoke. Do you like dogs?” She went; “Yeah.” I said; “All right, good, I’ve got a dog back home and I might need to bring him here, just so that you know.” Then I asked her; “what’s your middle name?” And she went; “My middle name is Lee.” I said; “My middle name is Lee.” And I thought to myself; “Okay, this might just work.”
That’s sweet. When did you start viewing your mum as “mum”?
It was the second or third day that I had slept at this woman’s house. I was like; “I wasn’t kidding about my dog, we got to go get him at some point.” And so she said; “Oh, well, what type of dog food does he eat?” “Iams,” I said. It was the only dog brand I knew, because I had seen it in a commercial once, but so we went to the pet store, and we got him some Iams and some chewing toys. For the first time I felt comfortable with her, and so I was going to see if she could get me a bag of lollipops. I saw this bag of blow pops, and I went to grab them, and she was just; “What else do you need?” I had never seen a full fridge before. I had never been taken to a store to go shopping like this in my life. I just felt at ease. I felt taken care of; I felt safe. Coming from where I came from, I was used to hostility, and so I wasn’t used to this normal, motherly behavior. I felt so at ease that in the grocery line - it makes me almost choke up while thinking about it. I remember looking up at her, and at this point, I was shorter than her (now I tower over my mother), and I said; “I have a question for you. I have a feeling I will be here for a long time, do you mind if I start calling you mum now?” She just looked at me and said; “You can call me whatever you want.” From that moment on, we were like two peas in a pod. I knew in my heart - my soul - that I was going to be there. I saw my granddad, my biological mum’s dad, a couple of months later and I told him about that moment. I said; “I’m calling her mum now, I think I’m going to be here a long time.” He just looked at me and went; “I’m glad to know that.”
She must really be something.
The thing that is so great about my mum is that she did it all by herself. She didn’t have a man or woman in the picture - she just took on this kid by herself. And she did it. She so did it.
You’ve got two projects in pre-production at the moment: “The Mafia Ain’t Dead” and “Alma of My Heart”. You’re a producer on these projects - tell me about that.
It is a rough business, and I haven’t had as much time to dive into the producer craft. I’m learning as I go, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be trusted with a couple of projects. The “Mafia Ain’t Dead” has a fantastic cast. With acting, once you’ve signed the contract and you’re on set, it’s pretty much guaranteed - unless they cut you out of the movie, but you’re still going to get paid. With producing, until you get them to sign a contract or people hand you money, it’s not guaranteed. You always have to keep people together, because you’ve got all these different schedules. Directors need to work on this; actors need to work on that. What I can say about it is that I’m happy to be able to work in another capacity of the field that I do, and to understand what the people I'm working with do. When we get the money for the film, it’s glorious, but the way there is hard.
What is your dream role?
I would love to play a fighter, sort of like 'Southpaw' with Jake Gyllenhaal. There are so many interesting characters out there, so it’s hard to choose one. I am inspired by stories - by writers and their writing. Although, a dream of mine would be to tell my story cinematically: I would hope to inspire anyone who is or has been in a similar situation as me, and have him or her think; “Wow, this guy came from this and now he is doing this.” I would love to attach a charity to the movie - that would be a dream situation.
What’s it like to fall in love?
You know that perfect day where you find twenty bucks on the ground and your friend treats you to drinks? Everything just works out. Everything is peaceful. Everything is okay. It’s a high. It’s actually a chemical reaction, because when you’re in love there is a chemical which drops in your head and you feel like you’re on top of the world - walking around with extra glow. I think falling in love is one of the craziest things you’ll ever experience and you will feel the highest highs you’ve ever felt and the lowest lows as well sometimes. Who you are as an individual will be stretched in ways you’ve never thought capable. I’m not even sure I can really describe it.
What mark would you like to leave on the world?
I’d like to be an artistic person who strives for excellence. I’d want to be the role model you never had in your life, and teach others what no one thought to show you. I want to empower people and help them realize themselves.
What makes you happy?
Buffalo wild wings haha. There is truth to that. What makes me happy is working, good food, good people, and good conversation. That’s paradise, because what else would you want? If I could have all that wrapped up into a buffalo wild wing, then we’ve got a blessing. Also, what I did today, talking to young artists at a university, spreading what I’ve learned to those, so they don’t fall into the same pits that I did. I want to help people and take part in a community. When you have a good conversation with a stranger on the street, it's great because you just don’t expect it. I love talking to homeless people. I would talk to anyone because you don’t know what people have gone through, so I just let them speak and assure them that someone is listening to them. I want to hear what they have to say, and I think they appreciate that.