The Eight-Year Old Inside of All of Us: Interview with Levi Meaden

Levi Meaden is living the fan boy’s dream.

“The eight-year old Levi inside me is very happy right now!” He proclaims exuberantly.

There are a lot of reasons why Levi should be cheerful, especially when Levi is also slated to star in the blockbuster sequel to Pacific Rim, Pacific Rim II: Maelstrom.

 

Via Facebook
Via Facebook

 

Currently, Levi is co-starring alongside television and film nobility, James Tupper and Anne Heche in the SyFy apocalyptic action series, Aftermath. Levi plays eldest son and former high school athlete, Matt Copeland in this dramatic and tension-filled sci-fi series. Facing world-ending threats of biblical and mythological proportions and keeping his family safe is more fun when you get to brandish a 12-gauge shotgun in a world that’s gone insane.

“Yeah, my parents!” He says cheerfully, referring to Tupper and Heche. “I learned a lot from Anne and James about monster fighting!”

 

Via SyFy
Via SyFy

 

We asked Levi how that came about.

“Pretty much by the numbers; got the audition, they liked what I had done with some of the stuff I’d been doing and I was shooting Aftermath at that time so I was really busy. But I’m super-excited about it and can’t wait to start.”

Pacific Rim II is currently in pre-production phase so basically scheduling is the main focus right now with very little formal involvement with the cast, but the cast is incredibly promising: Scott Eastwood, Ron Perlman …

“ … And John Boyega from Star Wars!” Levi cheerfully includes. It’s an exciting prospect but in no way does the enthusiasm end there.

“I get to sit in the pilot seat of a fifty foot robot and kill kaiju monsters; what’s not to love about that? (laughs) It’s a really great for someone like me who grew up on sci-fi and fantasy, reading comics to get to be a part of this. I’m really looking forward to seeing the set, the intricate backstories and to be a part of this great world they’ve put together.”

Levi describes his background, growing up in the prairies in Western Canada and some of the science-fiction influences that found their way into his acting.

“Oh yeah, a whole bunch. I’m a huge Star Wars fan. I’ve seen all the movies, read the extended universe novels and comics at least a dozen times. I’m a huge sci-fi nerd; my favourite sci-fi movie of all time is Blade Runner. Acting wise, there was Kurt Russell and Harrison Ford – they were all modelling themselves after Clint Eastwood. They were the original bad-ass science fiction dudes and I guess I take a lot of influence from them.”

In terms of the prospect of working with Guillermo Del Toro (who has the screenwriter credit for Pacific Rim II), Levi had this to offer:

“I mean, I’ve been a huge fan since Pan’s Labyrinth – I‘ve seen everything he’s ever done: Mimi, Devil’s Backbone – you name it. In terms of modern visionary directors, I don’t think there’s anybody who does as much unique work as he does. More than anything, I just want one chance to talk one-on-one with him, to find out who his influences were!”

Apocalyptic fiction is an extremely popular trend in film storytelling. We asked Levi if there were any particular examples of this scenario in the geekculture world that prepared him for his work on Aftermath and for his upcoming role in Pacific Rim II.

“I’m really fascinated by this subject. During Aftermath, I really went on a run to find more of it. So, The Stand, obviously. The idea that apocalyptic stories always seem to cause a reversal in characters; that good characters can suddenly turn evil because the world seems to have gone upside down. So I drew a lot from stories like the comic book Crossed. How do heroes embrace the darker side of humanity but manage to bring themselves from the brink of darkness? It’s a fascinating idea.”

We see a lot of that in channelled into Matt Copeland in Aftermath.

“Oh – great! That’s what I was hoping for!” Levi agrees. ‘“People have a tendency to focus on what’s screwed up with the world. Optimism takes work; we fantasize about hitting the reset button and people see themselves as the heroes in these stories. That’s why they’re so successful.”

It’s Joseph Campbell 101. Actors draw upon the study of the heart of darkness concept as a prime motivator for their work. It makes the performance more poignant and real when an actor can visualize the struggle as something deeply relatable common to the human condition.

“I think a lot of actors use the Joseph Campbell model of storytelling: the individual facing evil by himself and overcoming it. It’s a solid backbone for their work. Apocalyptic tales work with every mythology and anyone telling a story is going to be aware of the commonality among all mythologies. I know we do a lot of that in Aftermath.

Pacific Rim II has a lot to promise. We asked Levi what we can look forward to when this film release in 2018.

“It’s a big budget film and with big budgets, you have a lot of room in talent, storytelling and scenery to play with – and that’s obviously a different level to tell a story from. I’m really curious to see how everybody is going to work together and see what type of story we’re going to come up with! It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Levi is more than living the fan boy’s dream – from his work in The Killing, The 100 to Aftermath and now with a promising major science fiction blockbuster in the works like Pacific Rim II, he’s living the fan boy life on a scale that most fan boys can’t even imagine. But there’s also the fact that his career is on a promising upward swing. After all, with his roots as a self-described classic fantasy and sci-fi nerd and his inner eight-year old’s happiness in his role, he’s also making the eight-year old in all of us extremely happy too.

Pacific Rim: Maelstrom hits theaters February 23, 2018.

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John "Captain" Kirk is an English and History teacher in Toronto, Canada. In addition to the standard curriculum, John tries to teach his students to make sense of geek culture. And with the name "J. Kirk," it's hard for him to not inject "Star Trek" into his lessons. Celebrity interviews, Comics, RPGs and the usual fanboy gear make up his classroom resources.
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