AUSXIP Interviews Campbell Cooley
Actor, Voice Over Artist and Director; Multi-Talented Man With An
Incredible Dedication To His Craft.
Interviewed by MaryD
19 February 2012
For many a Xena fan, Campbell Cooley was a very familiar face and he
will always be known as the poor soul (or not so poor) who got drooled
upon by Renee O'Connor (Gabrielle). There is more to Campbell Cooley
than that drool scene and many other scenes on Xena, Spartacus and
numerous other shows.
Interviewed Campbell back in 1998 so it's been a long time (and
quite neglectful) since we had a chat on AUSXIP to this very talented
man and dear friend to myself and AUSXIP. Campbell recently got one of
his acting wishes fulfilled by starring opposite Peter Mensah in
Spartacus Vengeance. Sit back and enjoy this fascinating interview and
learn more about Campbell, actor, voice Over Artist and director; a
multi-talented man with an incredible dedication to his craft.
What turned you on to acting?
When I was young my mother encouraged me to be involved in theatre. The
first play I remember acting in was an all-child production of The
Wizard of Oz. I was probably six years old and I was cast as the Tin Man
but I didnít like the role. So, I asked the director if I could be the
Wizard. Amazingly, she agreed. The wizard costume was incredible and I
suspect being seduced by such an awesome outfit and quirky role sealed
my destiny as an actor.
Who is your acting role model and why?
Possibly Michael Caine. In addition to being an amazing actor, I like
how he doesnít seem bothered by some of the crap heís acted in.
Unfortunately actors are often judged by certain films theyíve worked
on. Ideally, weíd like to only be seen in blockbusters but sometimes we
just need to pay our bills, so we take the work available to us. Iíd
like to think Sir Michael had some debts to pay when he did Jaws 4.
What genres do you enjoy more...Drama, Comedy, Sci-Fi, Period Pieces,
Modern Day, Fantasy?
Tough choice. I enjoy all of them. Probably Period.
You're an actor, a director and a voice over artist. Is there one that you
enjoy more than another, or do you just enjoy the variety?
Ideally, I just want to be an actor. I hate multi-tasking and unlike
directing (where you sometimes have to juggle numerous responsibilities)
an actor just needs to focus on one thing, their performance.
Most actors are multi-talented...singers, musicians, performers...Do
you have any hidden talents?
We all have hidden talents. I suppose Iím no exception. Iíve been told
that Iím a good singer but Iím not entirely convinced. I can do some
mean cartoon character impersonations, though.
When you first started to pursue acting full time you must have had
career expectations (dreams) ... how have those expectations lived up to
the reality so far? And how have those expectations changed as your
career has grown, then and now?
Non actors cannot truly appreciate how tough this industry really is.
You canít do this as a profession part time. You have to give 150% every
day. Despite my current credentials, I feel that I could be further
along in my career; but part of that is my own fault. Iím a very private
person. I donít want fame. I just want the work. When I started acting
in film, I tried to advance my career despite keeping a low profile.
Over the last few years Iíve slowly had to accept that in order to get
more work Iíll need to raise my profile, which means sacrificing quite a
bit of that personal privacy. Seriously, no one will ever appreciate how
hard it was for me to even start a Twitter account!
Are there any actors dead or alive that you would love to work with
and, If so, why?
Steven Berkoff. His intensity is incredible and I strongly suspect he
and I have the same dark sense of humour. And we both seem to have a
penchant for playing bad guys.
If you were given a dream project to work on what would it be?
To play a Vulcan in a Star Trek film or television series.
What's your favourite TV show that you would love to have a part on?
Too much good television to choose fromÖ Hmmm. Possibly The Walking
Dead. Iíd love to have acted on Firefly when it was on. Iíd also love to
do some voice work for The Life & Times of Tim.
What was the audition process like for Spartacus?
(SPOILERS: Donít read this answer unless youíve
seen Ep. 1 of Spartacus: Vengeance)
Unlike some auditions Iíve had for other shows, this one was pretty
simple. I got called in, I auditioned and a few days later I was offered
the part. However, there was one aspect that was difficult. Auditions
are always a gamble. Actors are always asking themselves, ďShould I take
this role or say ĎNoí and wait for something bigger?Ē Instinctively, I
wanted to hold out for a larger role; but when they offered me an
opportunity to act with Peter Mensah I suddenly didnít care that I was
only in two scenes and that I would be killed off. Sometimes Iíll accept
a role not because it can advance my career but simply because something
about the job excites me.
What was your characters name?
Dirty Bastard. Unbeknownst to me, the title had an unexpected double
meaning. I assumed it was solely a testimony to his character. The day
we filmed, I was taken into a special room (after my primary makeup was
applied) where three people spent 15 minutes covering me from head to
toe in dirt and dust. My personal hygiene standards took a real beating
What was the greatest joy for you in working on Spartacus?
Getting to work with Peter Mensah. He was absolutely lovely. Extremely
friendly and approachable. Believe the all the hype about him. Heís
(MaryD: the photo above of Peter with Campbell was a very special
gift from Campbell to me...two of my favourite men...rendered me
speechless when he gave to me. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I
Have you done any other roles on Spartacus as you did with Xena?
Apart from the aforementioned bounty hunter, Iíve only given life to
various characters on Spartacus by providing a voice for them. The show
has an amazing sound department, which creates the rich audio tapestry
necessary for the Spartacus universe. I get called in frequently to
provide voices for gladiators, Roman nobility, coliseum spectators,
barbarians and on occasion, the sex scenes.
How was it like working with some of the same crew from previous
As always, a pure joy. The crews in NZ are always a pleasure to work
with. Extremely professional and very hard workers. They make the
actorís job so much easier. I really canít praise them enough.
You have been working with some very talented actors, producers and
directors on Spartacus, what have you learned from them?
Because I only had two days on set, thatís tough to answer. Personally,
I think an actor really needs to work long term on a project before they
can make that kind of assessment. I suppose if I learned anything, I was
reminded to trust my instincts when it comes to making acting choices.
Based on the feedback Iíve gotten from a few of the producersÖ I feel I
did a really good job. On a completely unspoken level, I learned that I
need to get back to the gym.
You've worked on Xena, Legend of the Seeker and now Spartacus which
have been produced by Rob Tapert. What do you like about working on his
Rob Tapert is amazing! Iíve only had the opportunity to chat briefly
with him a few times but every time he was extremely generous in his
conversation. Heís such a gifted producer. I think he works very hard to
create an environment where actors can do their best work. I think
thatís one of the signs of a great filmmaker.
What was it like working on Xena?
In a word, Exhilarating. Iíd never worked in TV before when all of a
sudden I got cast in three Xena episodes (playing three different
characters) filming over the space of four months. To suddenly be acting
on one of the worldís most popular shows was a huge privilege and
learning curve. The shoots were fun but then the day came (while working
on In Sickness and in Hell) when I suddenly realized that Iíd be
spending one day shooting with only Lucy and Renee. I donít mind saying
that I felt a little anxious at first but because everyone was so
relaxed (and the episode so ridiculously funny) that it felt effortless
to film. And, of course, I was thrilled to be invited back three years
later to participate in one of the final episodes, Soul Possession. I
didnít even have to audition for it. Thank you Josh Becker!
In Sickness And Hell (Season 4) can you tell us the process that went
into that whole drool scene? Were you prepared for Renee O'Connor to
actually drool or did you think it was someone just pouring something
from a container?
I had no idea what was about to happen. I assumed they would be pouring
something from a container. I was lying there on my back waiting (while
everyone was setting up) when I saw a crewmember give Renee the syrup,
which she put into her mouth! What most fans donít know is that I wasnít
acting in that scene. I was actually gagging. I was so horrified the
drool was going to go into my mouth that Iím amazed I got through the
shot. But I suppose the realness of my reaction only made the scene
funnier. After the first take, the director yelled ďCutĒ and the crew
burst out into laughter. They quickly tried to clean off the goo for the
second take and (much to my relief), during the next shot Renee dribbled
the syrup from a spoon. Despite the initial unpleasantness, I donít
regret doing the scene. How many men can say theyíve been paid to have
Renee OíConner drool over them?
We all have a favourite quote that inspires us, what is your
ďIt takes a rare kind of wisdom to accept change and redemption in
another. Many would refuse, seeing only what was; not what is.Ē Ė(GíKar
from the Sci-Fi series, Babylon Five.)
I'm going to "borrow" from The Actor's Studio and ask you the top 10
What is your favorite word?
What is your least favorite word?
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Listening to classical music.
What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
High maintenance people.
What sound or noise do you love?
What sound or noise do you hate?
Someone throwing a tantrum.
What is your favorite curse word?
Iím a good boyÖ I donít use swear words. <insert cough>
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
What profession would you not like to do?
An accountant. Number crunching would drive me bonkers.
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at
the Pearly Gates?