TORONTO – Two decades after starring on “Felicity” and playing the beloved Ben Covington, Scott Speedman is having something of a renaissance moment. Or, as he humbly puts it, “a few good years.”
The Toronto-raised actor is the latest leading love interest on “Grey’s Anatomy,” he became a trending topic on Twitter with his role on the Netflix series “You” last year, and is spending this summer promoting projects helmed by the likes of Lena Dunham and David Cronenberg.
In Cronenberg’s “Crimes of the Future,” Speedman makes a full transition from a simpler heartthrob to a more complicated and tortured soul in as dark a film as audiences have ever seen him.
Set in an era when the human body has evolved to the point of experiencing entirely new mutations and no pain, Speedman plays Lang Daughtery, a man who leads a cult that subsists on microplastics in hopes of furthering humanity’s bodily progression.
Viggo Mortensen and Léa Seydoux play artists whose primary work is slicing into the former as performance art. Having just lost his son, Lang is keen to have them cut the boy open on stage and validate his push for a more plastic world.
“It’s Cronenberg,” Speedman says of the director’s love of twisted themes and body horror with a laugh in an interview Monday ahead of the film’s Toronto premiere.
But, he adds, “It’s not just this weird, crazy, surgery, gore fest. It’s a very cerebral movie, there are so many different factors at play.”
Although he says he sometimes wondered “what the hell the characters were talking about” when he first got the script, Speedman explains, “I felt right at home with it right away, very quickly I started to feel and see the character in a meaningful way that goes beyond words. Of course there were some things to figure out, but at this point in your career, you know that comes with time.”
His is a nearly three-decade tenure, beginning with the 1997 Canadian cult classic “Kitchen Party,” and populated largely with television roles, most notably the recent “Animal Kingdom,” which he parted ways with in 2018.
Still, it was a surprise when he woke up one Monday morning to discover an email from Cronenberg himself, asking him to be a part of his latest project.
“I’ve had a nice career, but not many emails from David Cronenberg asking me to be a part of his movie. There’s usually much more of a process to getting a big job like this; it was an amazing feeling.”
So, too, was working with an esteemed cast that also includes Kristen Stewart and Don McKellar. They’re a calibre of actor that Speedman says has been “rare” for him to work with. Mortensen in particular, is someone Speedman says he’s long looked up to as a leading man.
The most jarring part of working on “Crimes of the Future” for the actor was jumping from its dystopian set in Athens over to the sunny “Grey’s Anatomy” set in Los Angeles.
Just two days after the film wrapped, Speedman learned he’d been invited back to the Shonda Rhimes series for season 18 as an official cast member after winning over fans during a single episode appearance in 2018.
“I agreed to go back to ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ while shooting the last scene of ‘Crimes of the Future,’” he says. “It was crazy, my girlfriend was also about to give birth, so it was all nuts, but so great.”
The actor plays Dr. Nick Marsh, the love interest of Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo). With all the love triangles and fan fervour, it’s returned him to familiar “Felicity” territory.
“Even the shooting style is similar, and it is a bit of a play on my ‘Felicity’ character. … It took me a long time to get where I’m at right now where I can let it go, be easier going and not get too heady about my choices so that I can do this movie and then jump right into this show.”
It’s what led him to also doing Dunham’s latest film, “Sharp Stick,” which hits theatres in July. While he loved the experience and getting to play something starkly different again (a porn star, in this instance), the actor adds, “It’s another project I probably wouldn’t have said yes to even a few years ago.”
It’s a push and pull, he says, between wanting to take on diverse material and feeling discomfort in the spotlight, something he’s avoided for a while.
“It’s the public nature of the job itself that has not always been the easiest for me,” Speedman says. “There are people I know who fit it hand in glove. They’re extroverts, they see a red carpet and they’re at ease. I’ve never been totally at ease with that stuff, but I’m more now.”
And with good timing. The actor’s at a point in his career where the work is consistent, and an exciting mix of television, features, and independent film. It’s his ideal — and very practical — cocktail.
“I’m having fun now much more in my career getting to do these type of movies,” says Speedman. “My heart will always be there, but television is really good for me because I love going to work everyday, it’s better for me. After I spent some years not working, I just want to go for it and also not get pigeonholed into one thing.”
The hope, he says, is that people will see him in “Crimes of the Future” and “Sharp Stick,” and more opportunities that allow him to go deeper, darker or funnier will come. That, and a Toronto-set series that would bring him back home is all on the wish list.
“Getting to work with directors like David, where you can shut your brain off because they’re so good, that’s what I want. However the movie turns out, I’m not precious about it. I just want to do the work.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2022.
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