Shock horror... it’s Cuyle Carvin | Viva!

Shock horror... it’s Cuyle Carvin

Tony Wardle talks to a US actor who likes to frighten the life out of you

Actor Cuyle Carvin has made US horror films something of a speciality, which seems somehow to run counter to his strong green and veggie credentials.

He doesn’t do it just to get work, Cuyle is seriously attracted to the paranormal and actually likes horror movies, despite what happens to the characters he plays. In the vampire film Fog Warning he gets stabbed in the throat with a knife; in Dirge to the Sea he leaps off a lighthouse; in Assault of the Sasquatch it’s back to the throat but with scissors this time; while in Victimized, it’s the throat again but with a meat cleaver. I didn’t ask what happened to him in Ghost Wolf, Mind Morgue, The Severed Inn or Opponent but you can guarantee it wasn’t pleasant.

So Cuyle is obviously good at playing dead – is that a challenge? “Not really. The only thing remotely difficult is trying to remain completely still and not breathe. It’s also fun deciding if you want to be dead with your eyes open or shut and if you want to twitch a little before going still.” Uuummmm!

Mind you, Cuyle often gives as good as he gets and can wield a chainsaw with the best. He hails from upstate New York – the little town of Oneonta in Otsego county with some 13,000 inhabitants. The names and the way Cuyle describes it makes it sound like a location for one of his films:

“It’s a fairly poor area, a farm town that’s sparsely populated and where the college options are usually farming and nursing.” I can see it now – Scythe Psycho! Or perhaps Ward of the Damned.

“Education stands in the way of change and our culture is not designed to be questioned”

In fact, Cuyle’s upbringing was pretty pleasant; his father earning a reasonable income as a freelance plumber and the house teeming with people – two brothers and two sisters plus an array of students who lodged there.

Because his mother worked at the local Hartwick college, Cuyle was able to get a free place but the allure of nursing or farming was minimal and so he opted for “the least worst option”, acting. In fact, he was extremely successful and gained tremendous reviews for some of the parts he played.

You hear it so often from actors that the first moment they set foot on a stage they knew what their career would be. Not this guy – it ignited no spark whatsoever. He gained a BA in film production. Cuyle was, in fact, a really good athlete and changed from one discipline to another, excelling in all of them. The grid iron beckoned as a professional football player but that didn’t happen either.

“I was extremely fit and worked out a lot and the whole vanity thing led me into modelling – but I hated it. I really disliked the whole macho, football, women conversations that seemed to be all that the other models talked about. I gave it up to take a job as a telephone sales rep and that was just boring. I wanted to do something creative and suddenly acting reared its head again”.

What followed were parts in a string of US TV series, including Hawaii Five-0, NCIS Los Angeles and Criminal Minds.

But there was another dimension to his life. “As a kid, I was very into the environment and nature and had an affinity with it – I had a powerful desire to clean things up. With the decaying state of the world I don't know why we're given so many choices when it comes to our everyday living.

“We should only be allowed to buy and consume products that are sustainable or come from sustainable practices. The cars we drive, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the technology we use, cleaning products, packaging, almost everything we do and use has an earth-friendly way of being done. We should be given no other choices than what's safe, friendly and healthy for us all as a community”.

Not unusually for environmentalists, animals didn’t feature back then – that came when he moved to Los Angeles five years ago and his girlfriend, Angela Relucio (in the CBS drama Code Black), adopted a dog called Pippin and Cuyle became vegetarian.

Popeye historian (and volunteer PR for Cuyle), Fred Grandinetti, has produced a Cuyle Carvin colouring book for children providing a powerful environmental message. But there’s something else at work in Cuyle’s psyche.

When he was a lad, Cuyle had gone on a trip with his church youth group to the infamous town of Salem, Massachusetts. He says he felt an instant bond with and was engulfed by the atmosphere:

“I just felt a mysterious affinity with the place as if it was my home. Just sitting on a park bench feels comforting, something I’ve never felt in Oneonta.”

It was in Salem, in 17th century colonial America, that Puritans convicted 20 people of witchcraft, mostly women, and executed them. In a febrile atmosphere where the devil supposedly stalked and small pox ravaged the community, all it took to convict someone was an allegation by another that they were the cause of their illness or pain.

This ‘spectral’ evidence was banned soon afterwards and apologies issued to the dead’s families but Salem had gone into history to spawn films and plays. But this is all in the past and Cuyle is focusing on the future,

“We are slowly moving towards sustainability as awareness grows more and more. There are still 400 million animals slaughtered in the US each year but the figure is starting to fall.

“If we don’t start living today like it’s tomorrow, there will be no tomorrow. Education stands in the way of change and our culture is not designed to be questioned. People think they can’t make a difference but it’s not about being perfect but being better and that’s where the difference comes. We’re not told how to be better and that has to change – why did it take me 30 years to realise how the animals we eat must feel?”

But let’s finish on horror. Cuyle wants to make a movie called Recykiller, which will have a kind of violent karmic theme. For example, if a driver nonchalantly tosses a bottle from his car window onto the road, our green-minded Recykiller character – Clark Kent with attitude – will pop up and kill the guy with the bottle.

I didn’t like to ask how but I bet throats are involved.