Since the day the Hell On Wheels first came out, I have been wishing, hoping and praying that I would get on the show. I even grew my beard and hair, in hopes of one day getting into the audition room.
A few weeks ago I got a call to audition for Hell On Wheels. The next day I was in the audition room with Casting Director Jackie Lind and acclaimed Director Seith Mann. One of the producers was there too, but honestly, it was all so fast that I can’t recall which one (sorry Mr. Producer).
The next day, I got a call saying that I booked the role! How awesome is that?!
Last week, we shot episode 4.11 and introduced my character. I can’t talk about it, but I was told it might be recurring. Being on the set was AMAZING. Everyone so so damn nice – cast and crew. It’s also a beautiful set in beautiful surroundings. And can you guess what my favorite genre is? WESTERNS! I come from Manitoba, Canada and lived on a small ranch just outside the city of Winnipeg for years. I grew up around horses and had horses at my place. I even trained them to shoot off their backs with bows and guns. The idea of being on a show or film that involved cowboys, horses and gunfights has burned in my heart and brain since I was a boy. Clint Eastwood? OMG (sorry Lord).
Funny thing is, it was at a workshop with Jackie Lind in Winnipeg in 2009 that I first decided to sell everything and move west to chase acting full time. I’ve never been cast by her before, or even auditioned for her outside of that workshop, but four years later, she brings me in for a role on my favorite show and for the role that I will always remember as being my most cherished – the turning point in my career. Thank you Jackie!
What’s more, I come from a railroad family. My dad’s dad was orphaned while him and his family crossed from France to Massachusetts. They gave him American citizenship and then put him in an orphanage. Shortly after, he became a child slave laborer for the railroad. Search Orphan Train to see the kind of thing I’m talking about. Now before you say, “Oh no! Poor John Charron.” I’m not so sure that it was a bad thing. Only my grandfather would know. He could have rotted away in an orphanage instead of learning the value of hard work and how to survive on his own. He wouldn’t have met my grandmother and I wouldn’t be alive!
He escaped once and the railroad people caught him and brought him back. He escaped again, and finally made it to Canada. He later became a station agent for the railway in Manitoba, where he met my grandmother.
My grandmother was from a wealthy French family, and was disinherited for marrying my grandfather. They married for love.
My uncle Ray Charron, was one of the top brass for Canadian Pacific Railway before retiring some years ago. He lived in Calgary for a number of years, but recently moved to Ottawa. When he was younger, he spent five years in Indonesia, living there with his family and overseeing the building of their railroad throughout the country. He had servants and fleets of cars and such. Lots of great stories.
So when I was waiting to hear back on the audition, and then again about the second episode, I prayed hard to God, my dad and my grandfather. I believe they listened to my prayers and that my dad and grandfather are proudly waiting to watch the show in heaven. You KNOW they have AMC up there. For sure!
Back in May of this year, I had the privilege to work with the nicest director I have ever met, Greg Francis.
I booked a lead role for an episode of the hit TLC show, Outrageous 911 Calls through one of my agents, Ann Crawford from The Robb Company. The filming was in Santa Clarita, CA – about 40 minutes Northwest of Hollywood with NO TRAFFIC.
It was a fun day of filming. Greg Francis and his crew were all super nice. We were getting near the end of filming when I got a call from my manager, Victor Kruglov. I had to be in Hollywood that afternoon to audition for a huge role in a short movie called Story of the Gun that was part of a trilogy being released to promote the upcoming release of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The auditions would be done at 6pm. It was now 3:00pm! Ack! Not only that, the sides were a 1.5 page long MONOLOGUE! It was filled with crazy medical and scientific terminology and rants. Are you kidding me?
I had no time to even look at them, because we had to keep shooting for the episode. It was between takes, so I went up to Greg and told him the situation. I explained that obviously I was booked for this gig, and that was the most important, but asked him if it was even possible to finish in time for me to be there.
Greg just said, “What?? You HAVE to go to that audition!” He sprang into action and informed the crew of the situation, telling them all that we had to speed things up so we could finish up and get me out of there. I couldn’t believe it.
Funny thing was, the crew wasn’t annoyed. No one complained. Everyone really did ramp things up to help me get done. As did my fellow cast mates.
The moment we wrapped, I realized I also had no printer for the sides. Greg came to my rescue again, giving me an email address to forward the sides to so they could be printed off on the set printer.
Sides in hand I jumped into my truck, programmed the GPS and took off. That was 5:15pm. I must have driven 90mph all the way to Hollywood, practicing the monologue along the way. I walked into the audition at 5:45. How I did it in rush hour traffic I’m not sure. Luckily, they were a bit behind, and I got about 30 minutes to run through the sides in the casting lobby.
When I finally got into the room, the Casting Director, Michael Beaudry from Blok M Casting recorded the scene. Somehow, someway, I nailed that sucker. I KNOW it was good. When it was done, he was quiet for a second before saying, “Wow….that was amazing. You’ve obviously been doing this a long time.”
I didn’t get the part, but there are many reasons why that could be. I was happy with the choices I made, how I pulled it off, just being able to get there, being lucky enough to get it in the room in the first place (thank you Victor and Myron) and most of all, for having such a great director and crew support me enough to let me go as early as possible.
You can see the short movie here. My character would have started at 6:05 and was the guy in the back of the truck raving about the conspiracy:
Fast Forward now a month or so. I ask Greg for a reference letter for another production. He happily offered to prepare one. This is an excerpt of what he wrote:
Like all production – the smallest thing can throw your day off and there is nothing you can do to fix it. The saving grace on all of these shows is when someone walks through the door and makes your life easier.
Enter Sheldon Charron.
This guy. The script for the episode we were working on was my weakest one of the show. I didn’t want to shoot it – wanted to be on to the next one – and was prepared to put on my big boy pants and get through it quickly.
Little did I know, Sheldon had come in ready to play. He took what little was there and made the dialog sing. He brought a character in that made the whole thing work. He took ideas and suggestions and made them better.
He was a really great actor. Way better than what our show deserved. His level of craft made my job easier.
I just got to sit back and watch.
I tried pretty hard to get Sheldon back on our show the rest of the season – but he just kept booking better paying gigs. He hasn’t been in LA long – but seems he’s blowing up. Too bad for me.
Sheldon’s a good egg. He’s professional – knows his stuff – and goes out of his way to show up ready. He rolls with the punches and takes what he’s given and makes it better. He’s a great collaborator and a great actor.
He’s worth the wait. Trust me. You want this guy on your show.
That’s a pretty big compliment. I’m so thankful for having the chance to work with Greg, meeting his entire team, for his understanding and help getting to my audition, and for his kind words.
Thank you Greg Francis. I hope we get to work together again on something soon.
Got a invite from Peter Cornwell to go for drinks in Hollywood not long ago to catch up. I met Peter back at The American Film Market in 2012.
If you don’t know who Peter is, you should. He’s a very talented director who is making big waves and will very soon be a household name. Originally from Australia, Peter worked for the Australia Broadcast Commission before leaving to start his own company, Trephine Production Studios. Soon after, he produced and directed a stop motion animation film called Ward 13, which won numerous awards through the world and was short listed for an Oscar nomination.
Shortly afterward, he partnered with Lionsgate and Gold Circle Films to direct The Haunting In Connecticut, which was filmed in my native Winnipeg.
Peter’s next project was the feature film Mercy, an adaptation of the Stephen King short story Gramma. The story centers around a single mom and her two boys who help take care of their grandmother with mystical powers. It finished filming in March of this year and is currently in post production. It’s a collaboration between Blumhouse Productions and Universal Pictures. Mercy stars The Walking Dead’s Chandler Riggs, Super 8’s Joel Courtney, and Frances O’Connor.
Shortly after finishing Mercy, Peter produced and directed a Batman fan film called Batman Evolution just for fun. He gathered up a few friends and made this:
The short film has had over half a million views so far.
Most recently, he directed two episodes for season two, of the Netflix Original series Hemlock Grove.
Peter has moved on to his next project, Minion, which is currently in Development and will film in Australia.
Including our dinner and champagne for us and our 12 guests at one of our favorite Valley Pizza joints, Lido’s Pizza on Victory and Sepulveda, our total cost to get married was only about $400. Hopefully one of these day I can afford to get her a real wedding, but for now this works and we couldn’t hold off any longer. I never thought I’d get married again, but I love her dearly, she makes me very VERY happy and I am a VERY lucky man. The future is bright.
My son Dakotah missed the wedding by only one day, but he’ll be there for the do over if things go well and I find some work soon.