Chris Massoglia for “Cirque de Freak”

Up and coming young star Chris Massoglia has plenty to be smiling about. After all, he plays the title role in the twisted vampire film “Cirque de Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant”, opposite the likes of Salma Hayek and John C. Reilly. Massoglia was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His father is a chiropractor and his mother a homemaker, and he grew up a fan of Christian pop music (as well as unable to listen to rap music).

He began attending acting workshops at a dancing academy in his home town of Minneapolis while in middle school, and auditioning for television commercials by creating home-made audition tapes. His first jobs included commercials for Target, Marshall Field’s, PepsiCo, and Best Buy

He began acting in 2003 under the name “Chris Kelly” (sometimes appearing as “Chris J. Kelly”) in an episode of the television program Law & Order: Criminal Intent. The same year, he was considered for the part of 10-year-old Sean in the Nicole Kidman film Birth, but the family refused to allow him to appear naked on screen with a nude, grown woman.

He spent the summer of 2004 away from auditions to play Little League Baseball; his team (the Robbinsdale All-Stars) won the Minnesota state title that year but did not go to the Little League World Series after losing in the Indianapolis regionals. He appeared in two episodes of Medical Investigation in 2004, and four episodes of the TNT cable television police drama Wanted in 2005. He began using his family name of Massoglia in 2008.

He made his feature film acting debut in 2007 in A Plumm Summer, but his most prominent role is as “Darren Shan” in Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant. Based on the popular series of books by Darren Shan called The Saga of Darren Shan, the film is a fantasy-adventure about a teenager who unknowingly breaks a 200-year-old truce between two warring factions of vampires. Pulled into a fantastic life of misunderstood sideshow freaks and grotesque creatures of the night, one teen will vanish from the safety of a boring existence and fulfill his destiny in a place drawn from nightmares.

Massoglia’s follow-up project will be the 3-D horror film The Hole, directed by Joe Dante. The young actor talked to PAUL FISCHER in this exclusive interview.

Question: First of all, tell me about the process of getting this role. And, are you good at – I guess, auditioning for things that have just come to you? How did it get to you?

Massoglia: Yeah. Well, I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. And usually what I do is, I’ll get an audition from my agent in LA, and then me and my Mom’ll just set up, like, a bed sheet in the living room, and tape – tape the audition. And then we’ll e-mail it to the producers. And if they like it, then I’ll fly out and I’ll audition for it. And I was actually one of, like, the last people to audition for the role of Darren. I went out to LA and I met with the casting director, and then the same day, the director came in. And I sat down with him, and we talked for, like, four hours. [LAUGHTER] And then I ended up getting it the next day. So, it was a very quick process, just because I was one of the last people to audition for it. And me and Paul really kind of hit it off.

Question: What did you think of this script when you read it? I mean, how do you think it set itself apart from many of the vampire genre movies that we’ve seen of late.

Massoglia: Yeah. Well, it’s interesting, because we were actually filming The Vampire’s Assistant at the exact same time as the first Twilight film.

Question: Oh, really?

Massoglia: Yeah. So, we were filming before all this recent vampire stuff hit it big. So, when I read the Cirque du Freak script for the first time, it was the first vampire script I had ever read. And I thought it was very interesting. I really liked the story, and just kind of the concept of being an assistant to a vampire, and leaving your family, and going into a different world. I thought it was a really unique story.

Question: Do you see your character as kind of the most grounded and most kind of quote-unquote ” human” character of this group?

Massoglia: Not really. I mean, I think one of the – the film’s themes is kind of – you know, we’re all – we’re all the same, you know? We’re not – you know, we might be different on the outside, but – you know, it’s all about what we make of our lives, and what we make of our choices. So, you know, definitely at first – you know, Darren’s just this kind of normal human kid. And then he kind of resists being a vampire throughout the film, because he doesn’t want to – he doesn’t want to be different. He doesn’t want to be a freak. But he realizes that – you know, we’re all the same. And being a freak doesn’t really matter.

Question: Now, the relationship between you and Josh, I guess, is one of the most interesting facets of this – of this piece. Did you two kind of do a lot of pre-rehearsing? Did you hang out together to try and get a feel of your relationship?

Massoglia: Yeah, definitely. Well, we – like, overall as a film, we took 2 1/2 weeks to rehearse in New Orleans. We just spent two weeks going over the material, and all the other different actors came in. And Paul was there every day, and we just kind of went over all the scenes in the movie. All the big scenes. And we just kind of came up with ideas, and shared ideas, and – and kind of had fun with the material. And then, yeah. Me and Josh hung out a lot. He was kind of – you know, he would be there for a couple months, and then he’d be gone for two months, and then he was there for another couple months. So, he wasn’t there the whole time, but we – he had this membership to this club in downtown New Orleans, and we went and played basketball there every Saturday when he was there. We had a lot of fun. And kind of purposely trying to hang out together to – to build that relationship, of Darren and Steve, which I think plays really well in the movie.

Question: How does working in a city like New Orleans help to create atmosphere for this particular genre?

Massoglia: I mean, first of all, it’s a very historic town, and it’s a very historic city. And obviously there’s a lot that’s happened there. And there’s a lot overall history that’s gone on in that – in that city. So I think that helped, too, because it kind of gives it not such a modern feel, you know? It feels like you’re kind of walking in something different than New York City or Chicago, or something like that. And then we filmed the cemetery scene in Baton Rouge. and we did all night shoots for a week. We – are filming at six in the afternoon and went ’til four in the morning. So, that – that really felt like kind of – we were in a cemetery, and it definitely had the whole cemetery vibe going on.

Question: Why do you think vampires have become so popular in film and television of late? What is it about them?

Massoglia: I think one of the reasons is that they’re so interesting, and they have all these different things going on with them. You know, they have superpowers, and they’re kind of mysterious, and there’s something that’s kind of forbidden about them, and – you know, there’s horror elements. So, you know, there’s a lotta things that appeal to audiences with vampires. And the other reason, I think, that vampire stories and movies and shows are doing so well right now is because the material is actually really good. Like, the story in itself plays really well. It’s not just about the vampire aspect. Like, if you took out the vampire aspect, then the story would still be very good. And there’s – you know, really well-done books and movies and TV shows right now that have vampire characters in them.

Question: Now, you, as you mentioned, grew up in Minnesota. You’re a Midwestern kid, I guess. Where did the acting bug come from?

Massoglia: I don’t know if I’d call it an acting bug. I just kind of fell into it, really. And then as soon as I kind of realized that, ” Hey, this could be fun,” you know, I really decided to go for it. And it’s been working out so far.

Question: I mean, you won a Little League World Series Championship.

Massoglia: Yeah.

Question: Were you ever contemplating a career in sports?

Massoglia: No. I wasn’t, really. I actually – I actually turned down my first movie role ever to do – to play in the Little League World Series, because I really wanted to play there. But Little League, for me, was just about fun, and just about hanging out with your friends and just playing baseball every single day. And – I mean, you know, every kid dreams of being a professional baseball player, or something like that. And – you know, who knows? I – you never really know what could have been. Especially, you know, if you work hard and practice. Maybe something in sports coulda came up. But no, I never really went for that.

Question: Why have you resisted the move from Minnesota to southern California?

Massoglia: Well, I really like Minnesota. I really like it as a state. I like the city of Minneapolis, where I’m at. I think it’s really, really pretty. It’s got a lot of really nice people, and it’s really down to earth. It’s not always – you know, hustle, bustle, go go go. And I’ve – I’ve been to LA a lot. And – I’m here right now. And I like it, and it’s nice. You know, the weather’s nice. But it’s just so different. It’s like two completely different cultures, you know? I’ve been to high schools here and I’ve been to high schools in Minnesota, and just – the way the kids interact, the way – the way everything happens, is just so – so much different. And right now, I’m just used to Minnesota. And I got a lot of friends there, and I’m playing baseball and soccer for my high school. And my life is there. So, as of right now, I really like Minnesota.

Question: How old are you now?

Massoglia: I’m seventeen.

Question: And are you concerned at all about the transitional period between adolescence and adult as an actor? Do you think about that at all?

Massoglia: I think I’m kind of going through that right now. Even as far as, like, movie projects that have come up. I’m starting to get a lot more roles for – you know, 18 and 19, 20. And of course, that brings a lot more competition, because there’s a lot more actors who can play that age range. So – I mean, I’m not really worried about it, especially because I think I’m going through it at a good time. And – you know, I’ve got this movie coming out, and I did another movie called The Hole.

Question: Who do you play in that?

Massoglia: In The Hole, my character is named Dane. It’s the story about two brothers. I’m the older brother. And we live with our single Mom, and we move to this small town, and we find this hole in our basement. And it’s – whatever your worst fear is comes out of the hole. So, we kind of have to try to face our fears, and shut down the hole, and make sure everybody stays safe.

Question: And what is your worst fear?

Massoglia: Oh, you’re gonna have to see the movie.

Question: What about in real life?

Massoglia: Oh. I mean, it was kind of funny, because while we were filming, I was kind of like, ” Oh, what is my worst fear?” You know, like, I have to think of something, because I know a lot of people will ask me that. But I kind of – right now, my worst fear is probably getting caught by the police speeding.

Question: Really?

Massoglia: Yeah. I don’t know why, but it’s like – I had a dream a while ago about, like, the red and blue lights flashing in my – you know, rear-view mirror. And – you know, your heart just goes, ” Duh-duh.” And [LAUGHTER] – so, I don’t know. I – yeah. I just got my own car. And – you know, I don’t want my insurance to go up, because I pay for my own insurance and everything like that. So.

Question: What was it like working with Joe Dante?

Massoglia: It was really awesome working with Joe. He’s very, very experienced, obviously. And he’s very, very good at what he does. He kind of has this – this ability to make whatever he does scary. You know? It’s like, some – some things you’ll be sitting there, like, ” How is that scary? How does this work?” And then you’ll see it, and it’s really, really scary. So, I – I think that’s a really cool ability. And he’s very – he’s very good at all the technical stuff. Like, he’s very good at knowing what he wants in a scene, and like, how scenes will cut together. And we’ll be rehearsing a scene and he’ll say, ” Yeah, this is gonna cut here, this is gonna cut here, this is gonna cut here.” And he’s just very – he knows that really, really well. And he’s very confident in his technical abilities. And I thought that was really cool, especially since – you know, the film’s in 3D, and there’s actually – I think it’s actually only the second film ever to be made with actual 3D cameras. Like, we used real – a new version of the 3D cameras.

Question: How was that experience for you as an actor, to be working with that technology?

Massoglia: It was really cool. It wasn’t that much different, as far as acting goes. There’s a couple of different stage things that we had to work out. Like, if they were doing, like, an over-the-shoulder shot, you know, I couldn’t move my shoulder very much, because if I moved it, then my shoulder would look like it was moving towards the audience. Or – you know, that’s just one example. But there was a couple different staging things that was – that was a little different. But as far as acting goes, you don’t really have to change anything in your performance, or anything like that.

Question: Now, how important is it for you to balance acting with education, both secondary and college education?

Massoglia: Yeah, it’s very important. Not just for me, but for my parents also. I’m actually right now – there’s this really cool program in Minnesota called Post-Secondary Education. And if you’re a junior or senior in high school and you have a 3.0 GPA, the state of Minnesota will pay for your college classes. So right now, I’m actually going to an on-line college, trying to get all my generals done. So, that’s what I’m doing at the moment, actually. And going on-line obviously helps a lot with traveling.

Question: What are your college ambitions? And what are you working on next professionally, do you know yet?

Massoglia: I do not know what I’m working on next professionally. There’s a couple things that are up in the air. But there’s nothing for sure yet. And as far as college goes, I also haven’t really decided yet. I think I’m kind of waiting to see this year what happens with these two films, and how they do, and what comes of that. Because obviously if I’m working, then I’m not gonna have time to go physically to a college, so I might continue to go on-line. So, I’m not – I’m not 100 percent sure yet.