What do you dream of becoming when you grow up? A common question asked of every child and teenager. For Cameron Monaghan, he decided he wanted to act in movies when he was just a child. His energy and exuberance for life inspired his mom to channel his passion into local theater, and that same energy and exuberance has followed him through his acting career and landed him numerous roles. The versatility of Cameron’s imagination allows him to jump into a wide variety of roles, actually walk in the shoes of his characters and face the problems they face. Cameron is inspired by the weird, the mundane, and the aspects of humanity that contain a depth of character. One of Cameron’s goals in his career is to keep expanding the type of roles he plays, because he doesn’t want to get bored with the same type-casted role over and over again. Why change what works? In the wise words of Rafiki ("The Lion King"), “Change is good.” It’s important to challenge yourself. Cameron has a contagious energy that not only challenges himself to try new things and reach greater heights but those around him as well.
Can you tell us a little about your start in the film industry? You started doing commercials at age five. Is that correct? Well, I grew up watching movies and television from a very young age. Basically, how I learned to read was through the captions on TV. I had a lot of energy. I was a pretty hyperactive kid, and my mom wanted to find some way for me to focus that energy. I told her I wanted to be in movies, so she got me involved in local community theater, and I really took to it. So we started doing some commercial group work and moved on to film and television auditions at eight years old. I landed my first movie, it was The Music Man with Matthew Broderick, that I shot in Canada, and I really really loved it. I’ve been doing it ever since.
What sort of things inspire you as an actor?
It’s sometimes hard to narrow it down, because you take inspiration from anything you see. Just people walking down the street can inspire you. Or, if someone does something weird with a coffee cup, you might steal that. I’ve always been a massive fan of Gary Oldman ("Dracula," "The Dark Knight"). I love people who have the ability to shift between a large variety of characters and personalities, and not be pegged down to one type. I think Sam Rockwell did that as well ("The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy"). I’m a big fan of the Coen brothers ("The Big Lebowski," "True Grit"), Quentin Tarantino ("Pulp Fiction"), movies with really great dialogue and memorial characters.
Do you like to do accents like in Tarantino movies? Yeah all of that!
Have you taken any acting and film classes to learn technique, or has acting been an inherent skill since childhood? I did when I first started out. I took a few classes, mostly just audition thinking type stuff, like “Hey, you’re supposed to say your name” and “Don’t look at the camera,” but after that, the basic building blocks, I kind of just learned through on the job experience as well as studying other actors.
You said that you like to play a variety of characters. How do you usually choose what auditions to go for? Either I have to find the character intriguing or some element of the script. Or if the writer or director has done some interesting stuff, I might consider the project specifically for that reason, but I generally am only interested in projects that have something odd or different about them. That’s kind of been my main factor.
Are there specific genres of film you like to pursue? No, I don’t want to have a specific genre or a specific type of character. I really want to have the greatest spectrum possible.
It seems like you’ve accomplished that so far. I’m working towards it.
Do you have techniques that help you get into character before acting? Not really. It’s different with every character. Sometimes it could be a specific song or style of music might really reminds me of the character, sometimes it could start from the shoes and work your way up from there. It’s just about finding some greater element that reminds you of the whole of who this person is.
So you’ve been in a lot of movies lately: "Mall," "The Giver," "Vampire Academy," "Jamie Marks is Dead." Do you identify most with one of the characters you’ve played? Well that’s interesting, because the character I play in "Jamie Marks is Dead" is very shy and reclusive, as opposed to in "Vampire Academy," he’s pretty outgoing and sarcastic and affable. I think the character I play in "The Giver" might be my favorite in how complex his arc is throughout the story. It’s a little different from the book. The book is great, but it’s very short so it doesn’t exactly translate into a full film. So they had to add certain elements, and one of the elements they added was really boosting the character of Asher that I play. He starts as Jonas’s best friend, and then from there, kind of shifts...I don’t want to give anything away. It’s very hard to do without giving anything away. Basically, he becomes a very tragic character, very fallible, there’s something very human about his story that I really related to.
I imagine you’ve been pretty busy between filming all these movies and your show “Shameless.” How do you balance your time? Do you have time for hobbies or other things that you enjoy besides acting? Thankfully I really do enjoy my job, or otherwise I might go insane. Yeah, I play music. I play guitar, drums, harmonica, ukulele; I taught myself some keyboard. It’s not like I like to write music; I just play other people’s stuff. I also snowboard. I haven’t gone this season.
There hasn’t been a lot of snow this season. No, I was in Sundance for a couple of days though, but I unfortunately didn’t have a chance to go skiing. Other than that, I just like to spend time with friends and all that good stuff.
You mentioned that you do martial arts earlier today... I box. I used to do Taekwondo, and something called XMA (Extreme Martial Arts), kickboxing and a ton of different stuff. Now I just mostly do regular boxing. And then I ride bikes, I cycle, I run; I do a lot of different stuff. I like to remain pretty active. It’s mostly my short attention span though. Always wanting to be doing something.
So you were born in Santa Monica, but you grew up in Florida. Do you still split your time between both of the coasts? No, I’m LA based now. I’ve been living here for about ten years. You know, you go back and forth a little bit when you first move, but after a certain point...Most of my family doesn’t live there anymore anyway. I have a couple of relatives that live in Northern Florida. My hometown is much more south, so there’s no real reason to be going back there anymore.
You enjoy the LA culture more? Yeah, it’s a different culture. I enjoy LA. There are slightly more seasons here. Slight shift, but not as much as the rest of the world. I was a few decades younger than most of the population in Florida.
I’ve also read that you played in a bunch of crime dramas: “Monk,” “NCIS,” “The Mentalist,” “Law and Order,” “Criminal Minds,” “Fringe,” “Numb3rs,” “Rizzoli and Isles.” What sort of roles have you played in those episodes? I played a lot of killers, bad guys, and villains. I guess when I was younger, I had a sweet face and was pretty unassuming, but people obviously thought that it would be shocking for me to be a psychopath.
I could see that. Those were a lot of fun. I did a ton of guest stars in different things. It’s kind of how I learned and gained experience.
Interview by Michele Davis Photographed by Isaac Sterling Styled by Melissa Triber Groomed by Myke Spezzano
Clothing credits... Image #1 - Sweater: Penguin / Coat: Jacob Davis Image #2 - Sweater: Penquin / Tee: Civilianaire / Jacket: Jacob Halston / Pants: Penguin / Shoes: Paul Kaufman Image #3 - Sweater: Penquin / Tee: Civilianaire / Pants: Penguin / Shoes: Paul Kaufman Image #4 - Sweater: Penguin / Coat: Jacob Davis / Pants: Penguin / Shoes: Paul Kaufman