Nick Smyth’s dark journey

Nick Smyth in Motherly. Photo: Submitted

Halifax actor Nick Smyth is about to hit screens in Britain.

He’s one of the stars of Motherly, which makes its world premiere at the London FrightFest Film Festival (Aug. 26 to 30). Directed by Craig David Wallace, the film is about Smyth’s lead character Lewis breaking into an isolated farmhouse in the woods to avenge the death of his daughter.

For this home invasion thriller film produced during the COVID-19 pandemic, Smyth spent a lot of time preparing and getting into character.

“My character is just very damaged, very heavy with the past, and he’s going in there to get some answers,” he says. “He’s not a nice guy. He’s a guy that’s dealing with a lot of wounds, and it’s coming out in bad ways. That’s what pushes some of the story along, and it’s super fun to play these guys.”

Understanding the emotional side of his character was essential for Smyth.

“I tried to kind of put myself there, as much as I can, as best as I can,” he says. “You’re focusing on where this guy’s head is at and where his emotions are … Understanding where this guy is feeling and then things go from there. That’s when the happy accidents happened on set that just unfolded that maybe weren’t even on paper; they happen organically. It’s always a beautiful thing when that happens.”

Having worked with producer Avi Federgreen on For the Sake of Vicious (see this January 2021 Halifax Magazine story), Smyth knew he would be delving into another heavy, dramatic story.

“He had this belief in me to do something to be a bit different for that film; it’s a little film that kind of did some great things, and I think he’s even surpassed our expectations,” he says. “Again, this is another character that I think could have gone to another person that maybe had more of a history of being heavy in dramatic characters. But Avi is is a believer in me, and so he’s fought for me for this role.”

Federgreen introduced Smyth to Wallace and writer Ian Malone for the audition.

“We talked about the film, the character, and then we got through it, started reading for it, and he got me to do it several ways,” Smyth says. “In the audition room, you wanted to see that there were some different things you could play with.”

Smyth’s career is at a fork in the road. After years of being the funny guy (best known for 7-Eleven commercials), he’s becoming known for darker roles.

“You know, my dream career was always to just kind of play everything,” he says. “A lot of actors don’t want to be stuck to one thing … I have a dream career where I can play the one end of the spectrum playing goofy material and then go over the other end and do some films that can relate to people and make them feel other things besides laughter.”

With travel restrictions, Smyth is disappointed he won’t attend the world premiere of Motherly; he loves seeing an audience’s reaction to his films.

“That’s the that’s always the reward part of these productions,” he says. “Things are finally going back to audiences or getting people back in the seats again, so it makes you want to be there even more because it’s that much more special. People are just so excited to get out of the house and are allowed to sit in a movie theater with a crowd of strangers and watch a film … Boy, do I wish I could be there.”

On the heels of filming a movie called Trouble in Suburbia, Smyth is spending time with his family, who he hasn’t seen since Christmas 2019. Once he heads back to Toronto, he will begin production on a new film. In between all that will be more screenings of Motherly around the world, including the U.K. and Japan.

“I’ve been so lucky, especially in the last two years for me on a work level, it’s been a game-changer for me, and I just hope to continue to do that,” Smyth says. “I hope audiences that are watching these films continue to embrace them. I want to continue to work with talented people and great material, and hopefully, that continues.”

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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