Photographer Robin Nielsen / Triumph Street Photography
Jeremy Raymond of Star Trek Into Darkness is an actor and musician.
Being a Lemming is not for Jeremy Raymond. He's amusing, charming and old school which brings back great memories of how things used to be. He has an interesting story, so let's get on with it!
What was the first thought (besides a practical joke from your friends) that went through your mind when you heard that J.J. Abrams wanted to meet directly with you for Star Trek Into Darkness for the character of Lead Nibiran?
When they flew me down to L.A. I had no idea what the role was, just that it was something in the J.J. Abrams Star Trek sequel. We had sent down some photos from Vancouver at first, but I had nothing to prepare, no audition, so I just focused on remaining calm and present. I also felt that it was important to be myself; I knew they had seen something else I had done (although at that time I didn't even know what film they had seen) and had liked what they saw, so I had a little faith in that.
Before I met J.J. I met about a dozen other people involved in the film, from the producers, to the head of wardrobe (who took a bunch of measurements), to the lead creature designer. However, since my involvement in the film was uncertain at this point, nobody was able to tell me anything about why I was there. It was kind of surreal.
At the end of the day I went to Bad Robot and sat down with J.J. one-on-one and he described the part he wanted me to play in the movie. Then I got really excited. Since I had so little information, I didn't want to waste a lot of mental energy trying to figure out what the role could be, but I guess I still had some hunches, and what J.J. was asking me to do was even more exciting than I had imagined.
By the end of that meeting, he told me he wanted me on board, then the next day the studio threw their weight behind my U.S. visa application and made it happen.
Do you spend hours developing your characters or do you memorize the lines and just go in and do it?
I like to be as prepared as possible when I walk onto set, and then just let it go when the camera starts rolling. For me, preparing each new role is like tracking a wild animal. It's different each time, and every role is likely to take you someplace you've never been before. The role dictates the approach needed. There are some tools and tricks I can go to when I can't find the trail, but when I do start finding something real, I let things unfold in their own way.
Each day of filming, each scene even, also has different demands, and therefore will necessitate different preparation, but the basic formula is two parts: clear the canvas and get into the space to create, then start setting things up for the role/story/scene.
And with something as physically demanding as Star Trek Into Darkness, I also needed about 30 minutes to an hour to get my body ready for the day to come which can be particularly tough when your call time is 2:30 am.
What was it like growing up with your unique look?
I come from a long line of interesting people, so I didn't even think I had a unique look until kids at school started pointing it out to me. It's always been a double-edged sword. For starters, I stand out whether I want to or not. When I was starting out in my career, that meant that a lot of the smaller roles weren't open to me -- I was constantly being told that the directors really liked me, but I pulled focus away from the lead actor, but later on in my career it started to open doors that just aren't open to more conventional looking actors.
As a kid I decided to embrace the fact that I stood out from the rest of the kids, and developed a pretty good sense of humor. Even though I was one of the smallest kids in my grade, I could use my words to disarm (or even dismantle if need be) bigger bullies. I was half class-clown/half anarchist, but my teachers always seemed to like me; so even though I was sent to the principal's office constantly, they never wanted me expelled.
I always loved stand-up comedy, so when I was in my early 20s I wanted to take a crack at it. I had developed an act that was half improvised/half prepared material, and ended up traveling with a ventriloquist/comedy magician as his opening act. It was on those stages, in front of hundreds of silent, vaguely hostile audience members that I realized stand-up comedy wasn't for me.
On the bright side, I collected a bunch of bad-show stories that are a lot of fun to tell now. For example, we showed as the featured entertainment at the end of a big secretary's convention. The gals were pretty boozed up by the time we got there, so when I stepped on to the stage, they were convinced I was a stripper. Even when I insisted that I was just there to tell jokes, they demanded nudity anyway. It got pretty dark.
Were you ever bullied in school?
I was bullied a lot in my early school years. I was a funny looking kid and I had a wicked temper, so if provoked I could be counted on to fly off the handle. Which was exactly the sort of reaction certain bullies love. When I was in fifth grade I started studying martial arts (and have continued to train to this day), and that provided me with a way to get more control over myself. Then I was fortunate to have a couple great teachers who helped rein me in a little more. My big mouth would still get me into trouble, but I wouldn't lose control like I did when I was younger, so the bullies lost interest and moved on.
If I had to go back in a time machine, I would teach myself assertive communication much earlier. Being able to stand your ground and tell people that it's not okay to step on your toes is an immensely powerful skill that a surprising number of adults haven't yet mastered. I had reacted with aggression, which often created more problems for me, but to be able to respond assertively is what really makes a difference. And, full disclosure: I still struggle with this at times, so I guess it's okay to make mistakes.
You play the harmonica which is a very difficult instrument to conquer. Why did you choose this particular instrument?
I've played music for most of my life; starting with obligatory piano lessons as a kid, then moving on to drums, clarinet, guitar, and eventually singing. In high school I got deep into blues music, and the harmonica is such a key part of blues. Over the course of a summer, I spent a lot of time shut away in my room, listening to old blues albums and trying to copy what they were doing.
At that time, I was singing with a garage band and started playing harmonica at shows as well, which always got a good response from people. Over the years, I have sung with a wide array of groups -- from acoustic duos to full rhythm and blues showbands -- and my harmonica seems to make an appearance each time.
Music has always been, and will always be, an important part of my life.
Having grown up with the original Star Trek and Star Wars, do you consider yourself a sci-fi geek?
I would watch the original Star Trek series with my dad as a kid; I've seen bits and pieces of every other Trek incarnation, and I liked them. But then I met the die-hard Trekkers, who would attend sci-fi conventions in costumes or have entire libraries of Star Trek literature and I realized what true fandom looked like.
That being said, as a kid my inclination would be to play sci-fi more than to watch it. My friends and I were always pretending to be killer cyborgs from the future, or that we were exploring strange and hostile alien landscapes, usually something fantastical like that. Perhaps playing like that better prepared me to help make sci-fi than to watch it.
If I was fanatical about anything as a kid, it would have been the Ninja Turtles. I was nuts about them. And now one of my best friends is a lead animators on the new Ninja Turtles series, so I've been watching that one too. That makes my inner eight year old very happy.
Nowadays I have to be very careful about getting into a new TV series, because I know that once I'm hooked, I'm in it for the long haul. I'll confess that I'm a little neurotic that way. A few of my current favorites would be Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and the BBC's Sherlock Holmes.
Is it in your Star Trek contract to use Social Media to promote the film?
It's not in my contract that I have to promote Star Trek Into Darkness, but I'm doing it nonetheless. A few years ago, after seeing J.J.'s first Trek reboot, I was really pushing my friends to go and see it, because films like that are the reason I love movies so much. I recognize that with Into Darkness, my contribution to the film may be modest, but I'm still proud of it and I want people to see it.
Ever see Weird Al Yankovic live in concert?
I haven't yet seen the Weird One live, but it is certainly on my bucket list. There seems to be a weird curse where each time he comes to town, I have something going on that I just can't get out of.
I've started to think that the reason I was so into Weird Al as a teenager was that it was the only music I could find that really annoyed my parents. My dad has a really extensive music collection and will usually find something he likes in any music he's presented with. Yet Weird Al drove him up the wall, and I had a teenage rebellion that needed a soundtrack.
I still keep a healthy dose of Weird Al on my iPod because whenever one of his songs comes on, it reminds me not to take life too darn seriously.
Photographer Robin Nielsen / Triumph Street PhotographyTwitter: @MrJeremyRaymond
You've had some interesting non-acting jobs in your past. Tell us about your work at your uncle's llama farm.
I had recently moved to Vancouver from Edmonton, where I had gone to music school, and needed a little money to make ends meet. My uncle had a llama farm on the island so the plan was to go over on weekends, which would keep my weeks free for acting work. I only lasted one miserable weekend there.
After that I got a job at a coffee shop in an aggressively skuzzy part of town where it was not unusual for violence to break out in or around the store... and I still preferred that to the llama farm. Smelled better too.
On Star Trek Into Darkness, did you have your own trailer or dressing room?
I did have a trailer (I think it was a half trailer) but I really didn't spend any time in there so I didn't bother decorating it. Since we were shooting on an outdoor set we worked at a breakneck pace to get all the shots we needed while we had the light. Between that and the makeup application and maintenance, there wasn't much time left to chill in the trailer.
What was it like being fitted for wardrobe for Star Trek Into Darkness?
The wardrobe people on Into Darkness were amazing. Michael Kaplan and his team created gorgeous work in impossibly fast periods of time. I can't say too much about the creation process at this time, but there was a film crew documenting how the look of the Nibirans changed and evolved over the course of several months. I've been told this will all be on the DVD. And though I can't give specifics right now, I will say that I feel tremendously grateful for the amount of creative input I was able to have on the various elements of this role.
What bores you?
Going with the herd. If everybody else is going right, I want to go left; and yes, that has gotten me into some interesting predicaments before but it's also paid off more times than not. I'd say that most people aren't as healthy, happy, or successful as they'd like to be, so why would I want to do what most people are doing?
Which martial arts is your favorite and why?
I've trained in a smorgasbord of martial arts styles over the years. Some of them focus more on sport goals or on traditional rituals, but I've always preferred the ones that are focused on functional combat applications. There is a place in Edmonton called the Urban Combat Specialist Group where I've been training at for the last decade, and it's perfect for me. It draws tools and tactics from Jeet Kune Do, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Filipino martial arts, and a variety of other styles, but they also focus on the psychology and sociology of conflict and violence which has given me a much bigger picture than anywhere else I've trained.
Now don't get me wrong, I don't like violence and I would do whatever I could in order to avoid a fight, but I still believe in preparing myself for the worst-case scenario, mentally, physically, and emotionally. I may wear a seat-belt, but I also drive carefully.
Do you have a significant other?
I don't have a significant other at the moment, although my acting and music muses often feel like two demanding wives. I've always valued strong women with backbone who will take me to the curb if need be, but that are also strongly in touch with their femininity. I want a woman to be my equal in the relationship, but we need to embrace the differences between us in order for it to work.
Also, anyone I date needs to have a good sense of humor. Otherwise they're probably going to try to kill me fairly early on.
Anything else you'd like to say?
I apologize that I don't have any candid self-portraits from set, but for the last several years I've been resisting getting a smart phone or anything that might have a halfway decent camera. I've been sticking with the lowest tech cell I can get away with, and I carry notebooks with me at all times, because I've been seeing a disturbing trend of people disconnecting with the world around them to pour themselves into their phones. No matter how stimulating social media may be to my brain, I'm always going to value face-to-face interactions with people more.
Plus, whenever people see the outdated hardware I'm sporting, they always look at me like I'm a dinosaur that's just pulled up on a horse-drawn carriage. Like I said, I prefer the road less traveled.