Destined for drama – Glass meets the Canadian actor Levi Meaden

LEVI Meaden is funny, warm and easy-going, so unlike the dramatic characters he plays. Tall, with blonde hair and soft golden green eyes, he nevertheless admits that he’s always been “a little dramatic”, which made theatre the obvious choice. Known for playing Matt Copeland in the apocalyptic Canadian TV series Aftermath, where he and his family struggle to survive as the world is falling apart around them, he also portrayed the unlikeable AJ Fielding in the fourth and final season of The Killing, the popular Emmy-nominated original Netflix series centred around a police investigation of the murder of a teenage girl in Seattle.

Meaden was born in Calgary, Canada, and developed an interest in film at a young age, watching the greats of the cinema, actors like Robert Redford and directors such as George Lucas on the silver screen. He admires and is inspired by these men to this day. He pursued this career across the globe and moved to Prague in the Czech Republic, where he studied writing and directing at one of the oldest and most prestigious film schools in the world, FAMU.

Now he lives in Los Angeles, the actors’ mecca. He’s currently filming his next venture, Pacific Rim 2, which is a sequel to the blockbuster sci-fi monster film by Guillermo del Toro starring Idris Elba. The action takes place in the future in a time when human kind is at war with the Kaiju alien monsters that came to Earth through a portal at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Meaden portrays one of the new generation of training pilots of the Jaegers, mechanical giants controlled by people inside, created to defeat the Kaiju monsters.

Glass talks to Meaden about why he chose acting, his characters, what he dreams of – and his dogs. He has three of them.

Levi MeadenLevi Meaden. Photograph: Ssam Kim. Leather jacket SANDRO, T-shirt
CALVIN KLEIN, Jeans DIESEL

How and why did you become an actor?
As far back as I can remember, I have always loved movies and have been obsessed with filmmaking. I grew up just after Steven Spielberg and George Lucas had become legends and just as the indie hot shots like Steven Soderbergh and Quentin Tarantino were taking over Hollywood. So it was a pretty great time to be a movie fan. I’ve always been a little dramatic so I started acting when I was young. Eventually, I moved into writing and directing for a few years, but while I was studying in Prague we found that there was a lack of English-speaking actors so I ended up acting in some 30-odd films and it re-ignited my passion.

You studied writing and directing. Is that still something you’d like to do in addition to acting?
I love writing and directing and it is something I still want to pursue. I just haven’t been able to put my time and energy into it yet because I’ve been focusing on acting, but I do plan on it in the future.
 
Who do you look up to? And why?
I look up to a lot of the naturalistic actors from the 1970s and ‘80s like Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford or Jeff Bridges. These are guys that made the work seem effortless and natural. There was also a less selfish air to their work in comparison to some of the work I see today. And they gave a lot on screen.

From the characters you’ve portrayed so far, which one was the easiest for you to identify with? And which one was the hardest?
There are a lot of my characters that I can relate to on some level. Sometimes it just so happens that the character on the page and who I am line up perfectly. The hardest was probably AJ from The Killing. He was such a horrible guy and I had to find some sort of humanity to these heinous acts he commits.

Levi MeadenLevi Meaden. Photograph: Ssam Kim. Blazer, shirt  THE KOOPLES,
Jeans DIESEL, Boots BOTTEGA VENETA

The TV shows you star in are often very intense and dramatic, such as The Killing or Aftermath. How did it feel filming them? And is there a reason why you choose this kind of dramatic genre?
I would love to do comedy but I just haven’t ventured there yet. I love drama because it puts me in direct conflict with barriers in my own life.

What do you like to do when you’re not on set?
I love cooking and taking care of my dogs. We have a Samoyed, a German Shepherd and Doberman mix, and we just added an Australian Shepherd to the family. And I especially love having fun with friends, because in this business you never know when you’ll get time off again.

You are currently working on a new film, Pacific Rim 2. Could you tell us a little about the film and your role? And what is it like on set?
My character in Pacific Rim 2 is called Ilya and he’s a cadet, training to be the next generation of Jaeger pilots. We had a lot of fun on and off set and trained like athletes. It was intense and schedules were pretty busy. But when we were in China, we all got to climb the Great Wall together as a cast which was an incredible experience. At one point, we had to get back down on this rickety old ladder that was placed with seemingly no worries about safety standards. It took a lot of team work and laughs to get us all down safe.

Levi MeadenLevi Meaden. Photograph: Ssam Kim. White shirt THE KOOPLES

What are your dream projects, filmmakers and other actors you’d like to work with in the future?
I have a list of directors I want to work with. I lucked out working with one early on when Jonathan Demme directed the last episode of The Killing. But the list seems to keep getting bigger and bigger. Number one would probably be a tie between David Cronenberg or Martin Scorsese. I would really like to do a spy role, perhaps something like John le Carré’s espionage novels. There’s also a huge list of actors I would love to work with. Because he is my dad’s personal favourite and one of mine too, I have to say Jeff Bridges is at the top of my wish list.

by Sara Hesikova

All photographs: Ssam Kim
Styling: Nana Acheampong
Grooming by Sheridan Ward at The Wall Group using Batiste
Photography assistant: Evan Woods