Calum Worthy: On embracing the mind of a murderer on ‘‘The Act’’, and being a contender for the Emmy Awards

PHOTOS: Emily Sandifer
VIDEOGRAPHY: Anissa Amalia
STYLING: Apuje Kalu
STYLIST ASSISTANT: George Nelson
GROOMING:  Anna Bernabe for Exclusive Artists using Oribe Haircare and Glossier
LOCATION:  Casement Studio
WORDS: Thilda Riou

After spending 5 years portraying Dez Wade on Disney Channel’s Austin & Ally, Calum Worthy has proven to the world that he is capable of taking on both comedic and serious roles, and committing to those characters perfectly. Since March, the actor has put himself in Nick Godejohn shoes on Hulu’s series The Act, and has absolutely blown our minds away. We caught up with him to know everything about how he approached this experience.

Originally from Victoria, British Columbia, the 28-year-old actor grew up surrounded by the entertainment industry. Raised by a mother with an acting background, who also ran a theatre program at school, Calum was already doing shows at 4 years old. “I had so much fun when I was on stage,” he recalls on how he became passionate about acting. “I saw Macaulay Culkin doing Home Alone and I realized that he was doing a version of what I was doing on stage!” Although he embraced a lot of acting jobs in the early years of his career, most of his fans got to know him from his outbreaking role as Dez on Austin & Ally, a Disney Channel’s journey that is close to his heart. “It was my first time doing comedy in that way,” he explains. ”I also had an incredible time creating a family with everybody on that set. We are all still best friends and I think that’s a very special and unusual thing for a show.”

When that time came to an end, Calum knew that he wanted to push his boundaries and explore more serious roles. “It was important for me to grow and I think that the key to longevity in this career is taking risks and continuing to challenge yourself,” he says. “My goal is to work in this industry until I’m 80, so I wanted to do everything that I possibly could to make sure of that.” Challenging himself is definitely what the actor did, as he ended up booking his part on the true crime drama series The Act. The series follows the real story of Gypsy Blanchard (Joey King) who tries to escape from her abusive mother Dee Dee Blanchard (Patricia Arquette), and eventually organizes her murder alongside her boyfriend. Calum plays Nick Godejohn, the murderous boyfriend, whom he describes as “a kind, sweet man who suffers from many challenges and made a big mistake.”

Even though Calum had heard of the case on the news before, he didn’t immerse himself into it until he got the part and really committed himself to step into the mind of his character. This groundwork included spending a lot of time at a center working with adults who have autism, in order to try to understand what it was like for Nick to be on the spectrum. “I also knew that he suffered from disturbing thoughts, so at night I would play disturbing videos and then go to bed to fall asleep,” he reveals. “I also put a picture of Dee Dee’s crime body on my phone at night, because I knew that he was haunted by these images of her body. So I wanted to make sure that I was also haunted by those images as well.”

“It was a very dark period,” the actor explains while being asked if he felt overwhelmed to embrace such a tragic story. “I spent a lot of time in that zone and making sure that I was doing justice to the character.” However, he could count on the help of his co-star Joey King to escape from Nick’s mind in-between shooting heavy scenes. “She would show me memes on her phone and they would make me laugh all the time. That really helped me!” As the series involves real people and a famous case, Calum felt a great amount of pressure when the show finally aired. “I get nervous whenever anything comes out because I want to make sure that I am doing justice and doing a good job, but I was terrified,” he recalls. “Our goal was to tell a fascinating story and really do a character study of these very interesting individuals. We never wanted to offend anybody or say that this person is good or bad.”

Calum graced our screens with an amazing performance and is now a contender for the 71st Emmy Awards. Nomination-round voting is open until June 24th, but the actor couldn’t be more humble as we hit the subject. “I would never have thought that I actually would be a contender for something like this. It means a lot! I’ve seen all these other projects and I’m actually rooting for all of them!” Moving forward, the actor will star in the upcoming film Corporate Animals, which he amusingly teases as “a very dark, but funny film about a group of co-workers who get trapped in a cage for a while and are forced to do things to stay alive.” Moreover, he lets us know that one of his dream projects would be to write and produce a TV show where he could also be an actor on. 

As he looks back on his career, Calum reflects on how it is important to surround yourself with great artists and people you look up to, so you can be inspired to work harder. “The way I stay grounded is that I have a wonderful group of friends and family,” he tells. “I also write a gratitude list every morning. Things that nobody can take away from me and that I always try to remind myself of, like music and laughter.” Besides acting, Calum is a devoted climate change activist. “When I was in high school, I realized that this was going to be my generation’s challenge, and that it was the crisis that will determine the future of our children and grandchildren.” Therefore to conclude our chat, he shares one last message with us. “Educate yourself, learn as much as you possibly can. Also, support girls education around the world because that is the key to so many issues and it’s the right thing to do as well.”

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