Justin Chatwin is stoked about life these days, and not just because he’s lucky enough to be calling the Georgia Straight from his adopted, sun-soaked home of Venice Beach, California.
The Nanaimo-born star of the new Canadian ensemble flick Funkytown reports that things are great on multiple fronts. The good news starts with the fact that he’s just received word that Shameless, the Showtime television series he’s part of with William H. Macy, has been renewed for a second season.
He’s also happy to reveal that he’s managed to find a sense of balance in the rat race that is Los Angeles, often escaping to nearby Mount Baldy to ski or heading north of the city for world-class fly-fishing. Chatwin is so in touch with his inner nature lover that later in the evening, he’ll be diving off the California coast with a buddy to catch Dungeness crabs.
Given all this, tying the 28-year-old’s rosy outlook on life back to the decidedly darkFunkytown seems about as unlikely as finding someone with something good to say about the 83rd Academy Awards. The film—which is like a Montreal-based mashup ofBoogie Nights and Saturday Night Fever—explores the druggy, oversexed underbelly of the ’70s disco scene. Looking back on the experience, Chatwin realizes that he liberated a part of himself while playing Tino, a young Italian-Canadian dancer who’s too much of a macho man to admit that he’s gay.
“It was a party,” he says of making Funkytown. “For me, I wanted to do the movie because it was an interesting time in my life. I felt like I wanted to find my own Funkytown, and take myself down to Funkytown.”
Elaborating, Chatwin reveals that he had come out of a long-term relationship and was ready to live it up in Montreal.
“Being in a long relationship at such a young age, it was a great time for me to go, ‘Wow—I have no responsibilities right now, so I just want to have fun and to let loose.’ What I’m looking for when I find a part is something that kind of aligns with my life. I felt like this was a good part to kind of let loose and take a descent into a darker world.”
Chatwin, who in another lifetime studied commerce at UBC after moving to Vancouver from Nanaimo, has no problem pinpointing what initially interested him about the role.
“A lot of young actors will get a part,” he says, “where they are playing a homosexual and go, ‘I don’t want to do that; I don’t want to kiss a guy.’ For me it was like, ‘That will probably make me feel uncomfortable, which is a perfect reason why I should do it.’ ”
Funnily, just as the character he plays in Funkytown—which opens on Friday (March 4)—isn’t all that he appears, the same goes for Chatwin. Based on the killer dance-floor moves he busts out in the film, one might logically conclude that the actor graduated magna cum laude from the Tony Manero Dance Academy. That’s anything but the case.
“I guess for me, I felt like it would be bold to take on the role because I haven’t danced a day in my life,” he cheerfully admits. “I’m the guy who sits in the corner at the club and doesn’t move.”