Recently I had the opportunity to review the hard-hitting crime drama, Crown and Anchor for Pop Geeks. I found it to be a well-written, beautifully shot film full of great performances that created a fully realized world of drugs and vigilante justice. Seeking to get a full view of the production, I sought out one of the stars of the film, Michael Rowe about how the project came together. Read on to find out what this star seen on the CW’s Arrow had to say about making movies and the secret of his “Resting Ass Hole Face”.
Adam Pope: Crown and Anchor is set in your hometown of St. Johns, Newfoundland. Was the choice to use that familiar location a case of writing what you know?
Michael Rowe: Sort of. The characters came from writing what we know. These characters exist in our hometown, so in a way it was the characters that chose the location. We also wanted to explore certain themes that went along with small town life on an island and more specifically a life in crime on an island.
Adam Pope: Crown and Anchor is a collaboration with your brother Andrew. What has your creative relationship been together throughout your life that has led you to create this film?
Michael Rowe: There were always a lot of movie nights at our house growing up. Andrew always had great taste in films and we would discuss films a lot, quote films, impersonate characters from films. But we didn’t really start a serious creative relationship until we were adults. I was committed to a career in music and he was committed to a career in film. When my band broke up I decided to take a break from music. He turned me on to acting and we started making the short films that he had been writing.
The path to making this film is more so linked to my creative history with Matt Wells who plays Danny Power in the film. He was actually the singer in our band called Bucket Truck. We had spent half our lives creating music together and we missed that process. Making this movie was kind of like getting the band back together. Film is just an evolution of our creative relationship and Andrew is now a huge part of that.
Adam Pope: Have you always had a desire to create projects for yourself?
Michael Rowe: I’ve always had a desire to have a true collaborative energy in the projects that I’m involved with. Sometimes acting in network TV or studio film projects feels a bit like playing in a cover band. I always played original music that I wrote with my band mates. Developing our own projects feels more that. I come from a DIY (Do It Yourself) punk and hardcore music scene. Crown and Anchor is DIY punk rock filmmaking. The goal has always been to create our own original stuff.
Adam Pope: Did your involvement behind the scenes on Crown and Anchor change your work in front of the camera? Did you feel more invested in the character of James?
Michael Rowe: I think that it can be extremely difficult when producing and acting in a project. Luckily, Matt and I had an amazing co-producer in Vince Buda. So when it was time to act, we were able to totally focus on that. I was fully invested on all fronts right from the beginning. Working with my best friend and my brother gave me great motivation.
Adam Pope: As mentioned, you transitioned from a career in music to the world of acting. In what ways did your experience in the punk scene influence your soundtrack choices for Crown and Anchor?
Michael Rowe: We all grew up playing and being fans of heavy music. Andrew played drums in a straightedge hardcore band called Youth Diversion for a short while. It was his idea to make James straightedge in the film and score the movie with hardcore and punk music. He used the soundtrack to help define the characters of James and Danny. James’ songs are really fast, abrasive and aggressive. Danny’s songs are a little more melodic and fun.
Adam Pope: You have a great supporting cast in this film that really help to make the world more believable. Did you specifically seek out certain members of the cast for their roles or write with them in mind?
Yes, I agree. The performances in this film are fantastic. We always pictured Robert Joy as Uncle Doug and Andy Jones as John Woods. Andrew specifically wrote the final draft with them in mind. We were extremely fortunate that they were available to film with us. They also grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland and we knew that they would understand these characters. I have always been a big fan of them both and I learned a lot from working with them.
We were very fortunate to find Ben Cotton and Natalie Brown. They are perfect as Charlie and Jessica. Stephen MacHattie legitimately scared me on set. He’s so damn intimidating as Gus. To me he’s like shark in Jaws. He’s a huge part of the story. Everything revolves around his character, but you don’t get to see him until the very end. When you finally do, it’s such a big payoff. He’s so good. Working with this cast was inspiring. I feel like I came out of the project a lot better than I went in.
Adam Pope: In addition to the bursts of violence in Crown and Anchor, your roles as Deadshot on Arrow and Colin King in Ninjak vs. The Valiant Universe require some intense physicality. Do you have a background in martial arts that has allowed you to add more to those projects?
Michael Rowe: No, not really. I took Kenpo Karate for about 3 months when I was 11 years old, but I don’t think that counts. I think maybe it was more my obsession with professional wrestling when I was a kid. Plus I had 3 younger brothers to practice on. I also started a lunchtime outdoor “wrestling” club at school, but I thought wrestling was real back then so it was basically a fight club. Eventually the guys at the fire station across the street saw us beating the crap out of each other and told the principal. Big trouble. He shut it down.
Leading up to the Ninjak project I started training with a strength and agility coach in Torrance, California named Nick Curson. He trains legit UFC champions. Real life ninjas. I got to train with those dudes a few times and eventually started to move like them. My really good friend, Garett Davis, is a former pro MMA champion. I get him to show me kickboxing and jiu-jitsu techniques, especially if there’s specific moves written into a fight scene. MMA fighting has become so popular these days. The public has become educated when it comes to proper technique and what would or wouldn’t work in a fight. You gotta know your stuff or the viewers will call you out on it.
Adam Pope: Is your involvement in comic book inspired productions related more to that genre being the hot property of the moment or do you have a connection to these characters from the printed page?
Michael Rowe: Neither really. These projects kinda found me. I’m more surprised than anyone, but I guess the industry must’ve seen me potentially as a villain or a fighter. Actually, I have a theory. I suffer from something I’ve heard people call RBF… Resting Bitch Face. I call it Resting Asshole Face. So maybe that’s it. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing these characters. Putting on a superhero costume and beating people up in front of a camera has become my favorite thing to do. And it pays pretty good. Wrestling club became a job skill. TAKE THAT PRINCIPAL VAUGHN!
Adam Pope: Do you feel like Crown and Anchor is a way to ground your acting persona in a more real world setting away from the superhero genre?
Michael Rowe: It never crossed my mind. I guess maybe it does. If so, it wasn’t by design. I just work with what’s in the script. James in Crown and Anchor is supported by a real world story with very real world situations. Deadshot?… not so much. It’s all in the writing. I do view Deadshot as a grounded character though. Especially when you compare him to others in that Universe.
It was always important for me to humanize that character. Give him a sense of humor. Give him self-doubt, depression, a drinking problem. Eventually the show dove into his family and that whole backstory. The Arrow writers gave me a lot to work with.
Adam Pope: You also have a background in comedy. Do you find that your comedic training has benefited you in your dramatic work?
Michael Rowe: I did start out doing comedy sketches and shorts, but I have no formal comedic training. There’s always a benefit to understanding comedic timing. It’s interesting to find moments of humor in serious dramatic situations. I think that’s true to life. I’ve always had a dark sense of humor. It definitely came in handy with the Deadshot character.
Adam Pope: How do you feel your experience on Crown and Anchor will influence your future work?
Michael Rowe: I don’t know, but I’m interested to find out.