I can’t speak for all womankind, but I’m guessing that most girls crush on Radio Free Roscoe’s Travis because he’s well spoken and mysterious. He’s also cute, knows something about everything, and quotes Buddha in a sexy bedroom voice. But who’s counting?
The $64,000 question is whether or not Nathan Carter, the 21-year-old man behind the boy, is anything like Travis. The day after wrapping RFR’s second season – that’s right, he already knows what’s going to happen between Travis and Lily – I hooked up with Nathan via phone. The similarities? He’s articulate, passionate about his beliefs and wishes we lived in a more enlightened society. The differences? He’s motivated by politics, he’s not into anime and he thinks that sometimes it’s better to pursue friendship over love.
What film do you feel best portrays the reality of teenaged angst?
I think that there’s certain realism in a couple of films. Have you ever seen Kids or The Corner? The Corner was a book by David Simon who did Homicide: Life on the Street, and they then made a six-part series based on the book, directed by Charles S. Dutton [that was originally aired in the U.S. on HBO]. It was basically the story of crack in inner city Baltimore, through the eyes of one family; specifically, through the eyes of this one teenager who had to live through the experience.
There’s this other movie called Fresh. Have you seen it?
Clearly I’m not up on my indie films.
These aren’t necessarily indie, they’re just great hard-to-find films that weren’t ever released very well. Fresh is a really amazing movie [about a 12-year-old drug pusher] that has Sean Nelson and Giancarlo Esposito.
The point about these three films that I’ve mentioned is that there’s a sense of reality that a lot of teenagers grow up with: They have to face difficult situations. In all of these projects the common theme is that you have young people who have no one to talk to or no one to help them. When you’re young and you’re new in this world, things are so much scarier when you don’t have anyone to turn to – you don’t know how to figure things out.
Kids, especially, is one of those films that – I was talking about this just the other day – that the film really captured the way young people communicate, and there’s just a realism to it. When I look at teenage stuff a lot of it isn’t as real. It doesn’t translate.
That film was cast with several non-actors, right? Kids who had been in certain situations and would be able to portray their roles better than child actors?
And it worked. I mean, some of those people continued acting later on. But this was a big start-up movie for a few cool actors, like Chloe Sevigny and a couple of others.
You told The-N that your favorite date was staying out all night and watching the sunrise in the morning. Which, as you probably know, is similar to Before Sunrise, a fabulous movie with Ethan Hawke. How else is your life like cinema?
I think life has cinematic moments all the time. The fact that we’re all still here, living another day, there’s something special about that.
There are moments where you come home from working on a project and your show is on while you’re walking through the door – it’s not so much cinematic as it is serendipitous. Just random occurrences. I’m blown away by coincidences all the time. I have so many six degrees of separation stories where I’m bumping into people. Everyone is connected.
I have a friend who’s a big anime fan, and he keeps trying to get me hooked. He’s so overzealous about it, though, that he can never give me a place to start.
Yeah, that’s the thing! I have a couple of friends like that, and you’re almost afraid to ask questions because it might make you seem kind of stupid. I really love art, and I’ve always seen anime as an art form. I think sometimes I’m more interested in the art aspect than I am the storylines, because you get a little too much into the comic book/superhero/evil villain kind of thing, and that’s not really my cup of tea.
Anime is really interesting, but I don’t know much about it.
Is there an anime series or artist who is your favorite?
No. That’s really more of a Travis thing. I think I read somewhere on the Internet that said I was actually a fan of it.
That’s true, that’s where I heard it.
But that’s actually a bit of disinformation.
If not anime, is there a type of film or writer or director who resonates with you?
There’s always Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, Paul Thomas Anderson – people who really try and not be anything other than who they are and actually try and make films that tell stories. Actors like Daniel Day Lewis inspire me, actors who make films that you watch and you have to talk about for hours and hours afterwards. Or it’s so good that you can’t talk about it, you need to sleep and dream about it before you can fully digest it.
Something that I saw recently that was very cool was Fahrenheit 9/11, from Michael Moore, and there’s this other film called The Corporation. Those two films are probably among the most important films this year, with it being an election year.
How does that affect you, being just north of the United States, hearing about the election, the Republican National Convention just closed…Obviously you care about it, you’ve gone out and seen these films and you felt a certain way about them. But you can’t vote in the election.
It’s unfortunate, because a lot of people don’t vote in the election in general. In Canada, we get American influence in a large part of our every day lives. It always surprises me how people take pride in where they come from. It’s something in which you have no choice; it’s just the way things are dealt out. So, I’ve always considered myself to be North American. Canadian or American, we’re all on the same boat here.
In terms of the election, I’m very interested in politics, and I’ve been following American politics specifically for many years now. I’ve been following these conventions, and I think it’s so important, we’re at a really crucial stage right now in the world and what direction we want to take. It’s like we’re either going to go one way, or the other, and they’re pretty definite directions.
The country is so divided right now, and that’s something that concerns me. At the end of the day, we all have to realize that we’re people, we’re just human beings, and we can’t live in a world where people don’t have health insurance or health care. There are important necessities of life that need to be provided to everyone, regardless of where you’re from or whether or not you can afford it.
Do you think politics is something that you might want to get involved with at some point?
I can’t stand bureaucracy.
So that’s a big no.
Yeah. (laughs) That’s why I couldn’t be a lawyer, either – the bureaucracy. I think it’s weird, I don’t want to be a politician, or only be in projects that are highly politically motivated, but 85 years from now, I’d like to look back and think that whatever I did contributed to making a difference. There’s stuff I’d like to do – I would like to be in projects that get people talking about things. That seems to be so effective.
Michael Moore, he’s not a politician, but he’s getting people to talk about politics and every day issues. People say, ‘I don’t vote, I hate politics, I don’t follow it,’ as if it’s some club that you’d never join, but the reality is, politics is all the legal ramifications of how we live out our everyday lives.
Name one place you’ve been that you wished you would never have to leave, and one place you’ve always wanted to go but haven’t made it to yet.
I would say that New York is a place that I never wanted to leave. I’ve had the opportunity to be there a few times, and the way that energy feels – just to watch the smoke coming out of the steam pipes in the streets, the taxi cabs, everything. People say that Toronto is sometimes like New York, but it’s nothing like it. Toronto is like New York, but watered down a lot.
A place that I’d want to go to is probably San Francisco or Los Angeles.
Those are two completely different places. I was talking to some people recently about how once you’ve lived in San Francisco, you automatically despise LA and vice versa. They’re very different experiences.
I think in terms of my personality, I think I’d probably have a better time in San Francisco.
What’s one question you’d like to ask everyone and they would have to answer it truthfully?
Okay. So. This is a really interesting question. What’s your question? What would you ask everyone?
I’ve been thinking about it, I have. And it’s very hard! I think, truthfully, I would want to ask people to step back from themselves and tell me what they see. For instance, when I look at photos of myself, I never think they represent what I actually look like. Photos don’t represent what I see in the mirror. How do you see yourself, when you’re outside of yourself?
You’re right, that’s very interesting.
I was asking people on the set the last couple of days what their question would be, and I got some different interesting answers. My question about this question is, is the point of the question to get a unified answer from a group of people?
Well, I think the point is to find out if there’s something you always want to know about people, something that will influence the way you react to them, a way that you can tell if you’ll be friends with someone, or give you insight into others.
Wow. Okay. Let’s come back to that one.
What is one song that you wish everyone loved and understood as well as you?
Here’s a song I just wish that everyone could hear, at least once: “Maybe,” by Janis Joplin. Janis is one of my heroes.
What would people get out of that song? Is it the quality of her performance?
I just think there’s something about it. When I first heard it, it encapsulated that struggle any two people who love each other can go through where you do love each other, but sometimes the words aren’t coming out and you’re having a hard time communicating and you don’t know how to love the person the way they need to be loved or they don’t know how to love you. You don’t know how to tell them that it isn’t working.
There’s something really beautiful about the way she put it. From the first time I ever heard it. Some songs just do that to you. They knock you on your ass, and you’re like “Wow, that’s it, that says it.”
If you were wooing a girl by making her a mixed tape, what would be the first song on it? Your Janis Joplin song?
Yeah, quite possibly.
What would you title the compilation?
It’s to woo a girl? I guess it would depend on the situation, the specific person. If I was just trying to let somebody know how I feel – I’m just trying to think of something that wouldn’t come off as cheesy. Something like, ‘Loving Me, Loving You,’ or something so stupid like that, and she’d see that title, and she wouldn’t even listen to the CD. She’d throw it right out. (laughs)
You know, I’d just title it “Listen to This.” Just totally avoid any…(laughs)…I’ve been trying to think of nice one-liners, “Loving Me, Loving You,” “Us Loving Each Other Together.” (laughs) And none of these things are working, it’s just not happening, and I was thinking, you know, if somebody gave me a CD, not that I would really do this, but if somebody actually wrote something like that, you’d have to throw it out. It’s a bad sign.
I’m a big fan of the one-word title. A random one-word title, like “Spoon.”
Wow! “Spoon.” Yes.
I don’t know what the first song would be, but “Spoon” would be a fine compilation.
You know, I’ve never actually done anything like putting together a CD for somebody before. Some couples have a song that is their song, so that would have to be on there.
I’ve never really had a special song like that.
No? Have you ever made somebody a compilation before?
But for someone special?
Yeah. It’s hard, because you want it to be cool, so you want the songs that they might not have heard but would think were cool, like the rare bootleg from 1978.
Exactly. You don’t want to try too hard.
It could take weeks to get the right mix. I almost always include a Toad the Wet Sprocket song on there, because when I was 14 I was madly in love with the lead singer. There’s a long story about him, Chinese food, and me acting like an idiot, but I’ll spare you the details.
Oh, no. That’s terrible.
Well, it’s hard to talk to your heroes sometimes. I bet that, if she were still alive and you were to come face-to-face with Janis, you’d have a hard time.
You know what, though? I think you’re right, you never know who it is that you’ll be able to speak to, but what catches you off guard is that you’re looking at somebody and you know them from something else. You know that they’ve had so many thousands of experiences that you’ve never had. Like, I’ve never toured and performed at different places. So when you’re talking to someone and you know they’re coming from such a special, unique set of circumstances, it’s all about trying to find the thing that you can both relate to.
I know what you mean, because you’re looking at someone and you’re thinking “Holy shit, holy shit,” but at the same time you’re just trying to get to know somebody.
But I’ve tried to sort of talk to anybody as if they were just a person, regardless of where they’re coming from. I’ve talked to a lot of famous people, and they’re just people too, right?
I think there’s a distinction between people who are famous and people you really admire and look up to. You want those people to like you more, because you’ve seen something in them that touched you, and you’re hoping they can see the same in you. But now I’m just making this all about me.
So, I read that you’re a Leo. And you just had a birthday, where you turned 21. I heard that you were a little annoyed on a recent New York trip, because you couldn’t order a drink yet.
It was kind of silly, because I was there a week before my birthday and in Toronto the legal drinking age is 19. Going from a place where you’re legal to a place where you’re not makes you feel like you’re 18 all over again.
The drinking laws, that’s kind of funny. What do you think about that in the States, how people are theoretically supposed to wait until they’re 21 – but nobody does?
And how at 18 they can enter the armed forces?
Yeah, yeah. You can die for your country—
But you can’t get a beer in a bar. I was pretty straight-edge growing up, though, so I didn’t do much drinking before 21. I felt there were better things to do with my time.
Of course there are better things, but the problem is that when you wave something in front of somebody, it’s just taunting. “Not until you’re 21, not until you’re 21.” When you tell somebody you can’t, they spend all their time trying to find a way to do it, right?
Right. But don’t you think it would be the same at any age?
I think if we were truly an enlightened society, we wouldn’t have to have a drinking age at all. We’d be aware enough to know what we were capable of handling, and at what age. Individuals would be able to understand that about themselves. But, like, prohibition just made people want it more, and I think that raising the drinking age – keeping it so high – only stimulates people to be way more interested in it.
How do you feel about the laws that keep people from smoking in public spaces?
It’s nice to be able to go out without choking on someone else’s smoke, but on the other hand, there are some really cool clubs that just seem completely different without it. So I’m thinking that what we should do is just get fog machines, just to keep up the mystique. It adds a cool look – it doesn’t smell great when it’s cigarette smoke, but we definitely need smoke in bars, you know?
So that you don’t have to see the person you’re dancing with, and eventually the morning sunshine will reveal that they look completely different than you had thought.
Going back, do you identify with any of the typical Leo characteristics?
Have you ever heard of Leo the Leader? I think I have certain leadership qualities. From what I hear, I am pretty much a Leo, but I understand that Leos really like the limelight and need to be the center of attention. I’m not the guy at the party who would be trying to get everyone’s attention. I’d be sort of holding my own in a little spot in the corner. If we did talk, it would be a great conversation and it would go on for six hours, but I wouldn’t put myself out there.
I took it upon myself to look up your horoscope for this week. Tell me if any of these things came true: “Someone is waving a pretty tantalizing financial deal in front of your face, but your instinct is that it seems too good to be true. Your instincts are right on. You’re in conservation mode these days, and you’ve recently learned that all that glitters is not gold. Guided by this knowledge, you’re going to spend the week taking a more intellectual approach to your life — you may even find yourself having a political debate with a friend, just for the heck of it. Spending less money is always a wise move. There is so much you can do in life that’s really fun and absolutely free.”
My gut instincts are pretty right on. It’s kind of strange, being on set, wrapping out yesterday, we’ve sort of been in our own little world for the last five months. It’s amazing how the rest of the world can really stop while we’re on set, trying to get the episodes out every day. It’s strange to look at a horoscope and think, “Oh yeah, the rest of my life, the rest of the world is out there.”
I think I always take an intellectual approach to things in my life. “Recently learned that all that glitters is not gold…” I’ve always known that. And, in terms of political debate, I’m always up for that. I try to pick fights with people.
I feel fairly politically savvy, but I don’t think I would want to debate you. I think I’d get fired up, and you’d laugh at me.
No, ‘cause I get kind of fired up, too. For some reason I feel like it’s my responsibility to tell everybody what’s going on so that people get out there and vote or do something. I’m kind of concerned about the state of the world right now.
I think we should probably move into some questions about the show. We could talk forever about other things, but people do love the show, you know.
(laughs) You know, it’s been really cool doing it. All the crew and cast are like a family. It’s been so wonderful to have the opportunity to work with these people. It’s been great.
You won’t know for months whether or not Radio Free Roscoe will get picked up for another season, right?
Yeah, we’re going to sweat it out for a while. But, hey, it’s totally the nature of the beast. It’s the way it goes in this business. You just hope for the best.
It’s really picking up momentum in the States, so I think you’ll be okay.
When you were in high school, which RFR character would you have been more likely to be friends with?
You know, it’s so funny. I was reading these questions, and I was trying to think of some things, and I got to this one, and I started thinking back to high school and it was like, “Wait a second, wait a second!” I totally had the RFR group. There were four of us, we were all friends. There was a girl, and her name was Katie. Then there were two other guys, and between the three of us, we had the Travis/Robbie/Ray qualities, but it was more like Travis/Travis/Robbie than anything else.
You didn’t have the class clown guy.
No. But I guess that’s just because no one has ever made me laugh in my entire life like Ali [Mukaddam, who plays Ray]. The guy kills me. (laughs) My hardest job this entire time has been not laughing during some of the takes. I was talking to some of the editors yesterday, we had a little party for the wrap – not the official wrap party – but it was our last day on set so we made a little event out of it, and some of the editors were talking about how they were making a blooper reel.
They were asking me questions about where all these jokes were coming from. There are all these inside jokes that Ali and I have going. During my coverage scenes, where the camera is on me and Ali is off-camera just doing dialogue, he’ll go into an impersonation – he has all these accents he’s done – and it just kills me. It is unbelievable, the spontaneity of his humor. It’s not like he works on his material. It’s the most natural thing. I’ve never seen anybody like that before.
That’s a talent that could take him far.
At the very least, he’ll never be without friends. He can’t go anywhere without making people laugh.
Do you have actual skills on the turntables, or do you fake your way through episodes like “The Imposter”?
The turntable thing is…I spent some time with a guy who went over some stuff [with me]. I didn’t have previous experience with turntables. Even if I had, they wouldn’t be able to play my stuff on the show. Basically, they just need my hands to match what the song is. So, faking it. But I think we could put a nicer spin on it. I’m not fond of “faking it.”
If you had the option, you wouldn’t fake it, but for the sake of the show…
Right. For the timing of everything, it’s such a fast-paced show.
But you’re not going to be out at a club spinning any time soon.
No. But learning about it opens up a totally different world, mixing different sounds with different beats. The people who are into it have these walls in rooms that are filled with crazy records, and I think that’s cool. I wasn’t before, but who knows, maybe I’ll get into it. It was definitely interesting. It could be a phase.
I got this from my daily Zen mailing list, a Buddha quote: “He who loves 50 people has 50 woes, he who loves no one has no woes.” This seems like a very Travis thought to have.
I think it explains why people are generally afraid to get attached to anyone. In that quote, it’s fairly specifically saying that it’s a lot safer to not put yourself out there and take that risk of saying, “Hey, I really like you, I think you’re really cool. I’d like to get to know you more.” Your life might be a lot simpler if you said that, but it might be a bit lonelier, too. It’s definitely the safer way to do things, but it’s really no way to live your life.
You have to choose: Singing a song for an episode of RFR or acting in a scene where Travis has to dance at a club.
In this season, we actually did both. Travis did both. We’ve had club scenes where we’re all dancing around, palling around. It would be weirder to choose to do an operatic aria on the show, or to do break dancing. I guess it would just come down to what I had more time to prepare for.
When I spoke with Jake Epstein from Degrassi: The Next Generation, he said that he doesn’t dance. He’s very against dancing.
Really? I guess it’s hard to find your groove sometimes. The thing I really love about dancing is that it’s one of those things where if you aren’t feeling good, you can get up and dance for just a little bit and you’ll feel so much better. There’s nothing like going out dancing and having that feeling of coming back tired at four o’clock in the morning, your feet sore from dancing, but you feel great.
If Travis was your best friend, what kind of advice would you give him about Lily?
I’d say “take it easy,” I think. With someone like Lily, it would be very easy to fall in love and then have that broken heart be the one that screws you up for ten years. My advice to someone like Travis, based on my own experience, would be [this]: If a relationship can’t work out in that type of relationship-relationship way, but it can work out being friends – you can have other aspects of a relationship, a different dynamic – you can be just as intimate, if not more, with that friend status.
You’re not the enemy or the other boy, you’re on the inside. You’re her friend. I’ve realized with certain people that a relationship couldn’t work, but you can still have something pretty special with somebody. It just doesn’t have to be in the typical boyfriend-girlfriend context.
I’m wondering if you think Lily should pick Travis, and what would draw him to her in the first place – besides the fact that she’s gorgeous and talented?
There’s so much more. I think, in a town like Roscoe, she’s one of those kids who really does see things differently from other people, she has an alternate perspective, and also an inner goodness. There’s so much that’s special about Lily. I think there’s been some great character development in this second season, but Lily is the character that I can see her growth forever, because there’s so much to her.
One of the initial things that Travis would be attracted to is that, here’s this girl, she can play the guitar and rock out, and who wouldn’t fall in love with that? That’s a pretty cool quality, but that’s not her only shtick. Behind the guitar – and the beauty and all that – there’s someone unique and down-to earth.
You’re at a total advantage, because you know how things turn out. But who should Lily pick?
The thing is, in the storyline we’re all so young. I don’t think you ever really know who’s right for you at this stage. I think we’re still figuring it all out.
(laughs) That’s a great way of not answering the question.
My personal bias is that Audrey was never right for Travis – I’ve never been a fan of her character. How did you feel about that relationship?
I don’t think they ever really got a chance.
But if they had a chance, it wouldn’t have worked out.
It wouldn’t have. Seeing couples where they are the two most unlikely people in the world for each other always surprises me, and yet they make each other incredibly happy. That always astounds me. Like, when you see two people and you’re like, “Hey, that makes sense,’ and then there are those oddball relationships where one person zigs and the other person zags, and yet for some reason it’s a beautiful thing.
I’d like to give you the opportunity to refute a possibly embarrassing RFR Internet rumor. Some say that one of Travis and Audrey’s kissing scenes was so steamy that it had to be edited before it could air. To the best of your knowledge, is this true or false?
To the best of my knowledge, judging on what I know about the shooting of the scene in relation to the final product, I would say yes. There probably was some editing.
Well, that’s that.
In preparation for this interview, I trolled around several website where girls were posting things like, “My dream about Nathan Carter” or “I just know that one day I’ll meet Nathan Carter.” How easy is it to make this sort of idolization part of your life?
I’ve always wondered – I mean, it’s not something I would strive towards – but I’ve sort of wondered what that type of thing would feel like.
The one realization that I’ve had is that it really isn’t me at all. It has nothing to do with me, in terms of who I am. You see something on television, or you see a picture of someone, and you look at it and you make something of them, because you don’t know them. It’s very surreal, because they’re not talking about you.
Even if you meet a fan, it’s not you they really want to meet. It’s the character that you’re representing, or what you look like, and it’s kind of superficial. It’s a weird thing to deal with, seeing the way other people react.
However, I’ve been really fortunate with a lot of the fan experiences that I’ve had. People have been really kind and really supportive. That feels great. It’s a wonderful experience to have someone come up to you who says, “I’ve seen what you’ve done, and I liked it.” That can mean the world to an actor.
That’s a great segue, actually. If you could do anything for a living, regardless of talent or training or wealth, would you still be an actor?
I’m an actor’s actor. That’s what I’m here to do, that’s what I’m here to be. There isn’t any backup plan, so if it doesn’t work out, I’m in a lot of trouble. I really believe that life is too short not to be doing what you love.
When we’re on set and we’re shooting, that wasn’t work for me. It was being able to wake up and just be in love every day with what I was doing. When you’re doing what you love it doesn’t feel like work, it doesn’t feel like a job, you don’t ever feel tired. I didn’t ever feel like I needed to sleep or that I didn’t want to be there. I hated leaving, I didn’t want to come home, I wanted to keep on going.
Thanks so much for talking with me, Nathan. I wish you good luck in your upcoming auditions.
No, you can’t say that. You have to say “Break a leg.”
You know, my best friend is an actress, and she would be so ashamed of me right now.
You should take it back.
Right. Break a leg.
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