Konstantin Lavysh Interview
We spoke with actor Konstantin Lavysh about his role in the Audience Network’s Ice, the upcoming HBO comedy, Room 104 and more. Below, a transcript of that conversation.
What first inspired you to get into acting and filmmaking?
I have always perceived the profession as something noble and tremendously fascinating. My family had me exposed to some of the best theatre available since I was a kid, and the movies. It was always the books that fascinated me the most, and our ability to transform dreaming up the characters into actual physical life. Consequently, I did a lot of acting as a kid and filmmaking came later when I moved to LA and found it to be possible.
Can you talk about your first acting role and what you learned from that experience?
The very first time I acted is lost in history of my childhood – but the one remembered is when I did a one-man show for my grandmother’s Geography students at an expedition, and received some serious laughs. My first film was for an AFI cycle film, playing a Russian trapeze artist, when Bob Yerkes asked me if I really was Russian. Having confirmed my origin, he told me to climb up there and guided me from the ground – with no safety or anything. I learned that my level of fear of heights had to be adjusted. As for the real big set experience – my first TV appearance was in My Own Worst Enemy, torturing Christian Slater! That’s where I really learned a lot about the life of a big set, and about the correct behavior (one actor got fired and replaced in front of me), and many professional traits of preparation.
You have made guest appearances in a number of TV shows. Which one of those roles was the most challenging for you? Which one was the most rewarding?
The most challenging thing to do sometimes is to get over the star-struck state, when facing an actor you really appreciate, and I was blessed with many of those encounters. Christian Slater, Maria Bello, Ray Winstone, Donald Sutherland, Nathan Fillion – just to name a few. Naturally, when you are in character, the “real” world evaporates and it becomes irrelevant – but there is a moment before, when you just want to jump for joy of having such an amazing opportunity. Oftentimes a challenge could be strictly physical, like wearing a space suit and running in it in Castle, or synchronizing the squibs with the gunshots with the fall. The most rewarding experience is also not an easy question – I had plenty. Some of the deepest connections I had though where with an actress Eva Korchkov who played my daughter in an AFI thesis film, Against Night (Directed by Stephan Kubicki, Oscar nomination pool) – it was just so precious. Another gem was playing the brother of Inbar Lavi’s character in three episodes of Gang Related, it was just magical. Moments like that really are the reason we actors do the job and love it.
Can you share what your experience has been like working on AT&T’s drama series Ice and working with Antoine Fuqua not to mention the impressive cast of the show?
It was bliss. Really. August to December of magic. Mr. Fuqua is an outstanding director, one of a kind – such attention to detail! And he allows us actors to play and find moments together at a whole different level. The cast is an amazing collection of talent, and working on the show surrounded by them and for so long – unprecedented in my professional life. Rey Gallegos, Ella Thomas, Jeremy Sisto – and of course the legendary Ray Winstone. The story itself is very interesting and once you dive into it, you really don’t want to leave. Amazing crew, too – they made it all seem easy for us, both Vancouver and Los Angeles.
Coming from Belarus to America, did you experience any culture shock or was it an easy transition for you?
I had a major shock – but that was back in the day when I spent a year in Sandstone, Minnesota as an exchange student. It was the first time I spent this long away from home, and first time in a really foreign country. Again, I was lucky – the host family I had, the Thorvigs, made me feel like I really was their son, and through them I fell in love with America. So when I came to Los Angeles, the only culture shock was how LA is in no way representative of America I knew after Minnesota. Took a little while to adjust to the crazy volume of cultures, that’s for sure.
That being said, what made you study International Affairs and then shift your focus to acting?
Upon return from the exchange program, I had a choice – BA in acting or Diplomacy. From all the books I read, the diplomatic profession seemed so very glamorous and fascinating (James Bond, am I right?), I just had to try it. I really am glad I did – although after a while of working in that world, the longing in me grew, and I had to leave and try my other dream.
Do you have a special skill or talent for which your fans would be surprised to learn about you?
I love to cook. Might not be all that surprising, but it’s definitely something I enjoy a lot. And saying toasts.
How long have you been working with Project Angel Food and can you tell our readers how they can get involved?
It’s really easy to get involved – check out their website at angelfood.org. You can pick a way you can help, cook or deliver, depending on your abilities.
Do you have a dream project that you want to work on someday; and if so, can you share details about that project?
I am dreaming up a few things, but the oldest dreams are helping the Dark Side in Star Wars (which became possible now that the Saga continues) and fighting James Bond. Theatrically my dream is to play – when I am older, of course – Hamm in Endgame by Beckett.
Would you want to write, direct and/or produce a project of your own someday?
Directing is an aspiration I have to ripen up to – it is an ambition of the future me. I have done a number of gigs as a writer and producer, and expect to do more. Again, there are a few ideas brewing in there.
Do you like to watch TV? Which shows are you watching?
I never get enough time for all the shows I want to watch – and nowadays there are so very many to watch. Obvious shows like Friends and the Wire and Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Ray Donovan, plenty shows, really. No favourite genre though, I devour Comedy and Drama alike.
Can you share any spoilers about your upcoming HBO comedy Room 104?
Unfortunately, not yet – but it will be truly amazing!
What is the best piece of advice you have received from a family member, friend or mentor? And that being said, what advice do you have for those aspiring actors out there?
I was blessed to have amazing teachers in life, both acting profession and otherwise. Acting teacher Tony Savant (Playhouse West) is one of the biggest influences I had, who taught me to listen, and to be specific. Gunnar Rohrbacher of the Actors Comedy Studio, who brought out the funny and helped me a great deal in more ways than I can recite here. The biggest lessons in life though, applied on all levels, are from my Grandpa, Anatoli Lavysh. He taught me more than I even know, all the biggest values a man can have – do the best job you can do at anything you do, never break a word you give, respect all equally, I can go on for pages.
The best advice I can give to the aspiring actors is – work hard. If you think you know enough, you never know enough. Always learn, read, watch – the learning may never end. And start by studying fundamentally, any technique may work, it all depends on what you find available, although I have my preferences (Meisner and the Russian school). Most importantly – fear nothing and no one, and dare to fulfill the dream.