"I don’t trust technology, right off the bat", says Supernatural actor Alexander Calvert. One broken Wi-Fi connection and two Skype call attempts later, we embark on a conversation which wanders with bittersweet irony onto the topic of the beauty of human exchange. To bear your naked soul for the eyes or ears of someone else is to feel a freedom like no other. Wearing nothing but his truth is when Alexander feels most alive. Although in performance the words he speaks may not be his own, the message takes root deep inside and entwines itself around every fibre of his being: a tapestry of an artist and his art. This is the kind of connection that Alexander now feels with his character Jack Kline on The CW’s Supernatural, and it is exactly this human ‘truth’ of the show that resonates so powerfully with audiences. As of now, it is the longest running live-action fantasy TV-series in America.
As the curtains close on Season 14, leaving Jack broken and banished to the Empty, a black void, photographer Jenna Berman captures the actor backstage of the show. A time when Alexander can decompress and begin to piece together again the soul that he was forced to part with under his character’s influence. Though Alexander freely admits it is the quiet interludes that are a struggle, under the photographer’s gaze, his sensitivity and groundedness are captured in its purest form.
Stylist Briana Skye and Groomer Hannah Schell work together to effortlessly frame Alexander in his downtime. Draped in vintage, a sense of anonymity is offered as Briana opts away from established labels. Never one to fall into the ‘boy next door’ paradigm, Alexander’s identity is a work in progress, in constant evolution. With the 15th and final season of Supernatural looming, it seems Jack’s fate is yet to be decided, too.
Who is Alexander?
That is such a tough question because nowadays there is kind of this struggle between the ‘image’ versus actual identity. I definitely fall somewhere in between those two things. I think it’s important for people to have an identity in terms of core values, but I think as I’m getting older the whole concept of identity for me is becoming less important. I feel like people are clinging to notions of themselves: their past selves or what they’re supposed to be - which is maybe taking away from possibilities or keeping them stuck in old patterns. Whereas if you're not really anything then you're kind of like water - not to say that I am like water!
What makes you happy?
Creating in every capacity. I love going to work - that is a big part of my identity, I’ll say that. But really just creating and having little moments of pure safety and exchange with someone is the most beautiful thing that I have experienced in my life, whether that be with my friends or on set. Being able to create something intimate and special that is only there for that moment is the most exciting part and what drives me.
Your character Jack Kline in Supernatural is a very complex and an extraordinarily powerful entity. How do you balance the ‘light’ versus the ‘dark’ within him?
The fun part about the character for me is that he fluctuates between the two; he hasn’t necessarily committed to darkness or light and he really struggles with the two sides of him. What I like about Jack’s identity is that he is not necessarily one side: he deals with the white, black and grey like all of us. He is all-encompassing.
What has been the biggest challenge filming Supernatural?
I can't even think of a challenge. I love working. I love the crew. I love going to work every day and having that as my purpose in life… The biggest challenge for me working on the show was not working! It would be the in-between times and all the other stuff around the business and real life that is challenging. To be frank, the work is easy; life is hard. It’s that way round for me.
Season 14 was left on a huge cliff hanger. What can we expect from the final season?
The 15th season is going to be the conclusion to the story. Stories with open endings - there’s no finality to it. But I like the fact that we are going to see the end of the Winchester Brothers’ journey and the conclusion to what has been an all-over-the-place and crazy ride for fans and for the brothers.
Jack initially appeared on Supernatural as a guest star. After he was made a series regular, how did you navigate this transition off-screen and in your personal life? Were there any significant shifts?
As soon as I did the first episode, I actually knew that Jack would become a series regular come Season 14. So, I had this window from March all the way until October where I was a bit up in the air and waiting to see what would happen.
Although, I really can’t say my life is that different. I have lived pretty much the same as I always have. I go to the same grocery store, I go to the same bars; I do the same things that I’ve always done. The biggest thing for me was that it opened me up to a network of people that love the character, Jack. I have been given the opportunity to interact with them and maybe have this small impact on their lives, which has really been overwhelming. It has offered me some really beautiful and touching conversations that I definitely wouldn’t have expected to have if not for this opportunity and for the show that people are really affected by.
Earlier you spoke of the difference between ‘image’ and ‘identity’. Are you referring to social media and projections of an online person
With social media, we are all kind of directing our own image and I don’t think everyone is honest about it - and that’s fine. It’s a tool. More importantly, though, it’s about what you think of yourself, and if that matches what people think of you. I hope that there is still enough truth to it that people still feel like it’s you.
For me, a great part about the work is that you can be completely nakedly honest, but you have a bit of protection because you are saying someone else’s words: your character’s. You get to tell whatever truth you want to say to the audience, or to someone you love, or even someone you hate, and it just gives you permission. I really think the difference between, say, the character and me, is just enough so that I can really express myself well through Jack - and I think that’s what resonates with people. In any kind of art, the truth of us is ultimately what makes the connection and has people buy it or love it or relate to it and that to me is the most important thing.
How do you practice self-care?
I’m not good at it. Every self-care thing I have learnt has been because of my girlfriend. She’ll buy the nicest candle and I’ll be like: ‘oh, that’s a nice-looking candle, maybe I should get that’. She got this great incense and I was like: ‘I think I might have to steal that!’. For your own personal longevity, self-care is extremely important, whether it’s taking time with friends or going for a walk (probably my favourite thing to do). I live in Vancouver, so there is this beautiful sea wall that’s all around the downtown wall and any time you can do that, it’s great. I think self-care is something simple too - I love going to the movies alone. I love taking that time and space to reset.
What is your relationship to mental health?
An ongoing discussion; I am going to say it. I think as I’ve gotten older, there’s been the realisation that you need to take care of yourself and - I don’t want to say ‘save yourself’ but no one else is going to do it for you. You really have to be your own ‘giver-back’ and give yourself permission, because in order for things to progress you have to take that time. This year we've had a three-month hiatus from filming, so it’s definitely been nice to not be working; not be thinking about work; not be on set every day for 14 hours… Just to decompress and be a person has been its own journey for me.
How do you get yourself out of a dark place?
Exercise. I started doing this boxing group with a couple of my buddies. I had something really traumatic happen to my close people and me last year and I felt myself just needing an escape. Instead of running away from the situation or overindulging, I wanted to try something different, so I got together with one of my friends who is a coach and he put together a small workout for a couple of my friends. That really kept me sane in a really dark time.
How did you prepare for your role of Lonnie Machin/Anarky in Arrow, the psychopath and sadistic murderer?
Haha shifting from mental health to that..! Oh man, that was fun. It was my first larger recurring part on a TV show, and they were nice enough to send me some of the old Batman comics which had Anarky in them. I read those and I really loved the character just because of the Joker-esque take to what he was doing in the comics, which is not necessarily how it turned out on the show where it was about destruction for the sake of destruction. He destroyed in order to build, so the people could see how ridiculous it all was. Very Dark Knight. What was great about my audition piece was that I had a three-page monologue that was almost his manifesto, which really laid out what he was all about for me. Unfortunately, they cut the monologue from the show, but I still got to do that initial take, so I felt I had a really strong place of where that character was coming from.
I read in a previous interview that Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas is one of your favourite characters. Did you draw from that gangster/mob inspiration for the role?
Not exactly. What I like about Anarky is that he had this desperation to want to impress the mob boss, Neal McDonough’s character, so he was coming from a place of desperation to belong. But what I liked about those mob movies, and what I love about Joe Pesci’s character, is that all of them - even though they are psychopathic, wild, deranged men - they needed to belong, too. They still needed to have friends and a community in some sense, even if it is a fucked up one. I liked that Tommy DeVito had a desperation to want to be liked: his whole ‘am I funny? Am I here to make you laugh?’ thing is coming from a place of major, major insecurity. I like that it fuelled all of his violence and all of his rage. I saw the movie when I was 15/16 and I was just blown away by Joe Pesci’s energy. I looked at him and was like ‘I want to do that’.
Do you find yourself drawn to the darker roles?
Yeah, absolutely. They have always resonated with me. I have always thought that playing the ‘hero’ guy was more difficult than playing the serial killer. I have a couple of actor friends who are incredible at playing the smiling guy - the guy who gets the girl - and that just never made sense to me at all. I really wish it did, but it just doesn’t. What has been nice about Supernatural is that I have gotten to be really naïve and nice: I have had little moments of purity that I could relish, as it’s not my easiest look, but I’ve enjoyed doing it.
What are your thoughts on masculinity and what does it mean to be a man in today’s society?
That is so tricky in 2019. Masculinity is definitely something that is important, and there are actually very beautiful notions about being a man and about even the nobilities that it represents. But at the same time, I think we really need to balance that out with ‘feminine’ energy. Absolutes are bad, you know? For me, I’ve always felt more feminine and sensitive than masculine, so, if anything, I have struggled with the masculine part. That being said, I think the ‘divine feminine’ is the way! It is the reason that things get done in so many aspects. It is a really interesting time for that.
I have a couple of male friends that I discuss this with. What I like about my friend group is that we don’t shy away from ‘I love you’ or giving each other hugs, and it really makes me value those kinds of people because we don't shy away from what we’ve been plagued with in previous decades.
Do you think on-screen representations of masculinity are changing?
Yes and no. We see a lot of damaged male archetype heroes, usually with a gun - and don’t get me wrong, I like that kind of movies - and in a way, those aren’t changing. But in other ways, I think we have really great actors out there right now that are representing more evolved versions of masculinity - male characters that are fragile and sweet - that we might never have had before.
Do you have plans to pursue film, rather than television, further?
Yeah, absolutely. I think I just love television because these people can become your friends and a part of your life. But going to the movies is still a magical and sacred space in my mind. You have nothing else to distract you. I really believe in the power of that kind of experience.
Do you have any film projects coming out in the next year?
Not that I want to say just yet! This industry trains you to be so cautious and pessimistic that I have been very careful about sharing things in case they fall through - probably to my own detriment.
I understand! Besides acting, what are you passionate about?
The problem is, not much of anything, and that’s a sad boring answer but its absolutely the truth. Since I was 15, I have dedicated every part of my life to this - once again, to my own detriment. You miss weddings; you miss funerals; you miss birthdays. Just little milestones that you can’t really get back. Not that I regret those things, but maybe when I am older I will have slightly different priorities. This job is very all-consuming, and I guess that is what I like about it too: that it takes so much of myself.
Is the dream to continue acting until the end then? Where would you like to see yourself in the next couple of years?
Hopefully, I will continue to act. I definitely see myself slowing down at some point, but I can’t see that happening in the near future. Partially for me, the dream has already happened. I used to clean dishes in a restaurant - washing up after drunk people - so in a lot of ways, I am already succeeding. More long term, however, the dream is to make things that I am in love with and obsessed with and make those projects part of my reality. Though at the same time, I think about where I was five years ago; I think about the times I have been broke - and I think this is a lot better!