Byron Mann is no stranger to big projects. From “Street Fighter” to “The Man with the Iron Fists” and CW’s “Arrow,” he’s proved he can command the camera. This winter, he’s in the new film “The Big Short” and the upcoming final season of AMC’s hit “Hell on Wheels” is not far behind. He talks with us about his passion for acting and being challenged in his craft.
At what point did acting shift from being a hobby to being something you wanted to do vocationally?
When I ran out of excuses. I was studying philosophy in university, which was really an excuse to not do anything useful. Then I was studying law in graduate school, but realized law was nothing like what I saw on TV, so I didn’t want to do that either. By the time I graduated from law school, I finally had to man up and do something. The only thing I wanted to do was act. So, I made sure I killed at every audition so I could work. You can say I backed into my vocation by running out of things to do.
The cast of “The Big Short” reads like a who’s who of Hollywood. How did working on this film challenge you as an actor?
Working with director Adam McKay and Steve Carell, you kind of have to stay light on your feet. There was a lot of improvisation. There’ll be many takes where Adam would just say, “Okay, on this take, say whatever you want. Go!” So Steve and I would make things up during the take. It wasn’t quite Saturday Night Live, but on some takes it came close. Funny thing was, a lot of the improvised stuff made it into the final cut.
While shows like “Hell on Wheels” are on a scale that is comparable to a film, what has been the biggest difference between the two for you?
The difference between doing great TV like “Hell On Wheels” and a feature film is getting smaller and smaller. The main difference is that on a feature film, you have to tell your story and develop your character over two hours. On a TV show, you can do that over 6 to 13 hours (episodes).
When you aren’t feeling inspired, what do you do to find inspiration again?
I stop what I’m doing and get out of town. I literally create a break for myself and do something I haven’t done before, or something I haven’t done in a long time. Anything that wakes me up. Or sometimes, I just surround myself with people and activities that inspire me.
What’s coming up?
I’m doing a film in China next. That’s always a little scary, so I’m hoping that inspires me.
For more on Bryon, follow him on Twitter and be sure to watch “The Big Short” in theaters this winter.
Photographer: Diana Ragland
Groomer: Mishelle Parry
Wardrobe Stylist: Jordan Grossman
Stylist Asst: Bria Stone