Film Courage: Who is your character Butter?
Alex Kersting, Actor: Butter is a very overweight kid. He’s not really comfortable in his own skin. He doesn’t really fit in. He’s the outcast, the misfit. Nobody even knows what his real name is even though he’s never moved around much. But don’t even call him by his real name, they call him “Butter,” a much, much loathed nickname. Which the movie very well establishes why it is loathed.
Film Courage: Well we often see people like that or we’ve been them ourselves in school for whatever reason. And sometimes you see that people like this actually have an amazing talent or that there is something very special about them. Is there something special about Butter?
Alex: Yes, I think his musical talent is really where it shines. He is a…I wouldn’t say prodigy but basically that level of saxophonist. Butter is one of those kids who could walk into Juilliard, pick up a saxophone, not even have a reed on it and still make it sound beautiful.
Film Courage: But his classmates don’t see that in him?
Alex: His classmates only see him as that kid who has to have a specially made chair, who has to have a specially made desk, who sits by himself, who drinks two cans of Coke and eats these buffet-style lunches that he packs for himself. It’s almost ridiculous the food they’ve had me eat for the shoot but it fits the character.
Film Courage: If there was a teenager right now that was in Butter shoes whether it was just a group of kids that don’t like the person (it doesn’t even have to be where they are totally different) it’s just that they got pegged as the outcast which I know happens, what would your advice be to this person (male or female)?
Alex: You have to know that you are no alone, whether it’s at your school, your church, whatever organization you might be a part of, it doesn’t matter. Someone also feels the same way you do, whether you don’t feel tall enough or pretty enough, buff enough or fast enough, you’re not alone, everyone feels that way. Everyone wants to be the best in high school. The fact is, it doesn’t really matter in high school. As soon as you graduate, it gets so much better. All the drama you think you’re dealing with, it goes away pretty quick as soon as the caps are on your head. But be prepared of the boredom of graduation.
Film Courage: So when you graduated…you went to high school in Nevada?
Alex: I went to high school in Henderson, Nevada (Las Vegas basically).
Film Courage: Okay. Now do you still go to…is it UNLV?
Alex: I went there for a little bit and then I dropped out to pursue acting a little more seriously. School had become a bit more of a distraction for me so this way I had more time for auditions and make a little more money with side jobs and focus on training, characters and stories that other people react to positive or negative, something to challenge myself.
Film Courage: Did your parents…were they okay with that (you leaving college)?
Alex: My dad’s attitude was always you should at least attend at some point but he knows college isn’t for everybody. It took him several, several tries and years to graduate. My joke is if he went to college the entire length he went, he would be a doctor and he only got a bachelor’s. College isn’t for everybody. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it really just is that time where you discover yourself. But it costs a lot of money to go to college and if you don’t have the money (like I don’t), you’ve got to make a living some how, some other way. And college is going to be there forever so you can always take an online class pretty quick and easy, fairly inexpensively too. So that’s my recommendation. Do what is going to save you money, do what it’s going to take to accomplish your goals.
Film Courage: How did you hear about this character and film?
Alex: Well my agent submitted me through one of the many, many acting websites Actor’s Access I think it is who he submitted me through but there are like three or four but I’m not entirely sure which? I drove in from Vegas not having read the script, not having read the scene, not really knowing what’s going on. The casting director Tannis, she’s amazing, she was absolutely incredible. She called me down and said this is what’s going to happen, here’s the little secret so it helps your character, make sure it improves your performance.
You’re going to read this scene, we’re going to do it a couple times, make sure you get the best take to the director, and we’re also going to do a short scene of you improvising a saxophone solo because that is very important for the movie. There wasn’t even a saxophone to play. “Here’s a ladle. Play it to the most complicated Charlie Parker saxophone solo ever made.” “You ready?” “No?” “Okay, ready? Go.”
And then somehow several months later I got the official casting.
Film Courage: So for several months you did not know? You went back to college?
Alex: No. I’ve been out of college for about a year and a half now. But came down for the audition, several months later they’re like “Hey, can you do several additional scenes? I know you’re in Vegas, can you just do a little video and send it to me?” So I’ve got my acting coach out there in Vegas Paul X. Campanella, who is amazing by the way if you ever need a demo reel he’ll hook you up, he’s amazing.
Shot the two additional scenes, send them the same day and then a few months later “Okay, the director still likes you, you’re still in the mix, we want you to come in for a screen test and we also want the director to meet you. You can do Skype or you can do it in person.” Skype was probably better for everyone’s schedule, you can do the Skype interview. You can discuss what Paul wants to do with the character, how I connect to the character, where our similarities lie, and then we try to build the character around some of the similarities to me, around Butter in the book and what Paul’s [Paul A. Kaufman, director] goals for the character were, which kind of did a little trifecta making it something a little more three dimensional.
Film Courage: Did you read the book [YA genre written by author Erin Jade Lange]?
Alex: I did. I’ve actually read it about three times. It’s a really good book. I actually have a copy of it on set with me every day.
Film Courage: So you went back to Vegas and you’re working these jobs and you’re waiting by the phone or the computer?
Alex: I’m waiting just going “Anything, anything?” August was the screen-test with the director and I’m like “Okay, I’m feeling pretty good. I’m feeling really good.” September comes around “I’m not feeling too good. Nothing is happening.” I lost a little hope. I thought “They went with somebody else. I would have heard by now.” Then the week after my birthday in October they were like “Oh, yeah…you got the part.” So I run out of the bedroom in my underwear cheering to my parents I DID IT! I’M BUTTER! I’M BUTTER!”
That call woke me up because I work graveyard security. 11 in the morning my agent called “Yeah, you got the part.” “Okay….Oh Gosh!”
Film Courage: How was it going to work that day or that night?
Alex: I was excited. I was like “Can’t say anything, can’t say anything, can’t say anything.” It eventually came out several hours later. “I don’t need this job. I got a movie. I got the lead role in a movie. I’m feeling pretty good.”
Advertisement – contains affiliate links:
¡CALAMBRE! is a 53 minute episodic black and white film about a poet who returns to his hometown of New York City to rekindle an old flame, only to complicate his return with new women in his life. A film by Carlos Renaso.
LA-based filmmakers! Join us Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019 from 7-9 p.m in North Hollywood for this 2-hour Q&A style event with horror filmmaker James Cullen Bressack. James will help you navigate the ins-and-outs of being a horror filmmaker (whether it’s your own production or as a director-for-hire). His 61 producer, 38 writer and 34 directors credits show his intense commitment to his work. He’s grown up around the business and he’s still several years shy of turning 30. More info via Eventbrite page here.