Dazed featured the rising actor in the current June issue and we get hold of an uncut Q&A where Yelchin talks about his already-long acting career.
From, Dazed's RISE profile of Anton Yelchin in the June issue, it's safe to say that the actor has truly risen on the back of starring in two heavyweight blockbusters (Terminator Salvation and Star Trek). We publish an uncut Q&A with the 20-year old actor where he talks about his beginnings and his inability to shut up.
Dazed Digital: Tell me a little bit about how you came into acting at such a young age. You don’t strike me as the “son of a stage mother” type.
Anton Yelchin: Not at all, my parents were actually figure skaters, believe it or not. They immigrated to America from Russian when I was little. I guess they were performers too in a way, but they never pushed me into acting. I actually came about it in a kind of ironic way. When I was a kid I was incredibly shy, painfully shy and a teacher at my elementary school suggested to my parents that they enroll me in an acting class to help me overcome that. We were living in LA, so that kind of therapy I guess seemed logical. And the weird thing was, it worked! Not only did I overcome my shyness, I actually totally fell in love with acting and totally went for it. I went from the kid who wouldn’t talk to the kid you couldn’t shut up!
DD: Why do think that is?
Anton Yelchin: The obvious. It let me pretend and when I pretended I didn’t have to feel like I was exposing myself, or revealing myself, even though you are, of course. With acting, you can be someone other than yourself and who doesn’t want to do that once in awhile?
DD: What was the transition from acting class/therapy to actually becoming a professional actor?
Anton Yelchin: Again, total weird luck. An agent came to class, saw me, got me my first jobs. I was a TV actor first, I did an episode of ER when I was only about 11. From there I did all sorts of stuff other TV roles, NYPD Blue, Law and Order. I got to play all sorts of characters. And then I did Alpha Dog with Nick Cassavetes and it just, luckily, keeps moving forward and I keep getting jobs.
DD: What role, out of this long history of working in film, over a short amount of time, do you feel most connected to?
Anton Yelchin: That’s a hard one. If I had to pick I would say Charlie Bartlett, he was really fun to play because he was this total smartass kid who did exactly what he wanted. I was the same age and kind of going through some the same things, so that made me feel really close to him in a lot of ways. But I wasn’t exactly him. He’s really ballsy and funny and doesn’t take any bullshit, which is definitely not me, however much I might wish it were. But, yeah, that character felt the most real to me I guess.... It’s funny though, because I love that movie and that script, but it’s not really how kids talk. Kids don’t say much really except for maybe shit or fuck. Young guys anyway, it’s not like they do a lot of talking.
DD: But you seem to!
Anton Yelchin: Ha! Like I said, the kid you can’t shut up. But really if you think about it, one of the hardest thing about writing a script for teens is really figuring out the ways they talk to one another. I’m actually in the process of trying to write something like that right now. I really like reading and I really like writing, so I wanted to start doing it more. I’m working on something really dark and funny about some teenagers, but even though I’m basically just stopped being a teen-ager it’s kind of hard to write that kind of dialogue.
DD: Well, you’re in two huge action movies now, which is an entirely different kind of dialogue.
Anton Yelchin: Very different, but I still try to find the character in other ways. I’ve done bigger movies but also really small ones and it’s always another learning process, but maybe with a bigger trailer and better food this time around. I try to read books, listen to music and really try to find the character that way, to develop these likes and dislikes and secret back stories about them that only I know about!
DD: What sort of story did you invent for your characters in Terminator and Star Trek?
Anton Yelchin: Star Trek was easy because I was working from a character a lot of people are familiar with and adding my own take. I wanted him to be really innocent and enthusiastic, it’s a supporting role, and so it wasn’t like I was carrying the whole movie on my character’s back. That was such a fun movie, because there are so many fans of the story and everyone involved, especially, J.J. Abrams, the director, was a total Star Trek fanatic. So even though it was a big budget, I think they would have done this with any budget, they were just so psyched to be adding to the legacy that Star Trek is, and it’s quite a legacy! And with Terminator, it was a supporting role again, but a really intense one. I read a lot of bleak literature and listed to a lot of angsty music and tried to put myself in a place where I could really understand what this character was going through.
DD: That seems like a pretty dark place to go.
Anton Yelchin: Definitely. I was glad to let it go when we finished shooting, because it was such a dark place. He’s lost everything.
DD: And in real life, you have everything to gain!
Anton Yelchin: Absolutely. I know all actors who have some success say this and they should – but how lucky am I? I’ve gotten to do so much interesting work so far and I’m only 20. I want to keep exploring and keep moving ahead and keep learning. Every time I do a project I learn a hell of a lot about a lot of things, about acting, about filmmaking and about myself too.
Text by Jessica Hundley. Photography by Doug Inglish.
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