People value stories. We love getting lost in novels, plays, and film productions. As someone who spends a lot of time thinking about fiction, I’m fascinated with how stories affect us as humans. I understand that on some level we live vicariously through the characters allowing them to serve as an analog to our own real world. Albeit, the external situations differ vastly from ours (e.g. we may not find ourselves using magic, aboard spaceships, or kidnapping mermaids), but the internal dynamics are identical. We hurt people we care about, just like the characters. We have to make hard decisions about our own value systems, just like the characters. And, just like the characters, we must ultimately decide what kind of person we want to be.

Which brings us to Friday night. You’ve got at least until 3 AM to binge watch something. A story.

But what never escapes me is how is that story affecting the actor? Does it? Does playing a role give them cause to reflect on their own lives? It’s like asking a writer if the process of writing a novel changes them somehow, or a dancer if a single dance can change their life.

And how the heck do you congeal all of the writing, directing, acting, filming, editing, etc. etc. etc. into a story? What’s it like on the other side of that screen?

Cambell “Like the Soup” Dodson

Enter this guy. Cambell Dodson.
Super cool. Good looking. And kind enough to answer some QA about screen life. At the time of this writing, he had just appeared on 20th Century Fox’s American Horror Story. As a dead guy. I didn’t want to waste any time asking questions 🙂

American Horror Story, 20th Century Fox

A: How did you die?
C: Wow, straight to the point. I like it. As far as I’m concerned, my fellow warlocks and I were attacked. However, I’d like to think I went out in a blaze of glory while protecting my friends.

A: Other than a corpse, what other roles have you played?
C: I played a naive space cadet who got his brain uploaded to a computer in Future Man’s 2nd season (available on Hulu!). I also played one of the villains in a series called Life as a Mermaid. I got to kidnap a mermaid in that, so that was fun.

Future Man, Sony Pictures

Life as a Mermaid Cast, Validus Productions

Life as a Mermaid Cast, Validus Productions

A: Outside of film, is there another creative medium you find yourself drawing inspiration from?
C: Right now, I’m dabbling in the Voice Over world. I’ve always considered myself a zany cartoon character trapped in a live-action body.

A: On screen, stories are told relatively quickly with resolve happening for a character over a span between 30 minutes to a couple of hours. What tools do you rely on as an actor to show the audience your character is changing? Any favorites?
C: Staying in close collaboration with your director has always helped. Even though you’ll pour hours and hours of work into a role, you have to remain open to new questions, ideas, answers, etc.

Life as a Mermaid Cast, Validus Productions

A: If you could play any role, what would that character be struggling most with? What transformation are you wanting to illustrate the most?
C: Honestly, who that character is and what they stand for. In my honest opinion, life is a constant struggle and who we are is a huge factor in that equation. For the 2nd season of Life as a Mermaid, my character (Stanley) had the big arc of the season. That arc, simply put, was figuring out who he is and who he WANTS to be. He had his wake up call eventually but he made a lot of poor decisions that hurt a lot of people beforehand. Thankfully, he forgave himself (and others forgave him) and if you jump forward to the end of our 4th and most recent season, he’s a completely different person. It’s never too late work on, change or improve who you are or want to be. Excuse my ramblings.

Atypical, Sony Pictures

A: I understand you have a spot in an upcoming series. Tell us a little about that.
C: It’s not a series, actually! I mentioned this above but I got a speaking role in a huge feature coming out soon. I don’t speak 1 word, mind you. It’s a full conversation with one of the leads!

A: …are you at liberty to tell us what that character is struggling with?
C: All I can say is my scene will speak for itself. You’ll see.

You can follow Cambell on IG @canofsoup_