interview by JANA LETONJA

Actor Mika Amonsen most recently starred in the acclaimed horror film ‘Thanksgiving’, alongside Patrick Dempsey and Rick Hoffman. Before venturing into acting, Mika honed his artistic skills as a member of a rock band for five years.

Mika, you just starred in the horror film ‘Thanksgiving’, which features a menacing Thanksgiving killer, masquerading as John Carver, who brings terror to Plymouth, Massachusetts following a chaotic Black Friday riot. What was the most exciting part of starring in this horror film?
It’s been a dream come true for so many reasons. As a young actor, I’d fantasize about playing a character from Boston, especially a character reminiscent of my heroes like Matt Damon. To make it better, I also had the opportunity to work with Eli Roth, another actor I looked up to as a young boy. Eli is the most freeing director I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. I’ll never forget my first day on set when we filmed the gym scene. He told me to scrap the entire script and improvise. As an actor, that’s like being a kid in a candy store. It was so exciting. The cherry on top was our loaded cast that were nothing but kind and collaborative. It felt like a family reunion every day. It was like summer camp. 

In the film, you portray Lonnie, an obnoxious kid from Hanover, Massachusetts, who rivals one of the members of the main friend group. Did you find it challenging to portray Lonnie? Do you usually easily transform into each character you play?
This sounds bad, but the short answer is no. I really enjoy playing eccentric characters who fit into the ‘bad guy’ category because they’re so far from the norm. I’m naturally more introverted, so the more outrageous and unhinged the character is, the more excited I get to step out of me. It’s such a great opportunity to play as an actor. Not to mention Gabe and Tomaso were such fantastic scene partners that it made the process that much easier. 

Funny enough, after the Toronto screening, Jeff Teravainen and I caught up for the first time. And he said “I’m shocked. You play this unhinged, angry mad man, yet you’re this calm, easy going guy”. We had a good laugh about that. 

What or who inspired you to become an actor?
I became inspired at a very young age from the films my parents would watch most evenings. From Anthony Hopkins in ‘Silence of the Lambs’ to Matt Damon as ‘Jason Bourne’. However, at that time music took over as my main focus until I attended university, where my interest was piqued again by Christopher Nolan and Tom Hardy. I remember watching Tom Hardy in ‘Legend’ and having this feeling in my gut. I knew I had to leave school. My friends eventually noticed that I was watching more movies than studying and encouraged me to take a year off to pursue it. Now here I am. 

What kind of characters and stories usually attract you to a project? 
Tragic heroes for sure. This may sound nerdy, but Anikin Skywalker was my first true inspiration. I’m attracted to flawed people. There’s something beautiful about a character that means well, loses their way and may or may not find redemption. Perfection is overrated I think in any medium. Those are the stories that pique my interest and I feel fortunate that at this point in my career I’m beginning to be offered those types of roles. 

As an actor, what are your goals for the future of your career?
To establish myself as a dramatic actor. I want to move people with grounded stories the same way I was moved as a kid. To me, the most magical thing about film is having someone walk into a theatre and come out a different person. That, simply, a movie could change their perspective, could inspire or make them have a profound emotional response.

Before venturing into acting, you were a member of a rock band for five years. What excited you the most about being in a rock band?
Definitely the excitement of making a song people actually enjoy. It’s a rush and you feel heard. Also, the idea of escape. I was home schooled in a town with five hundred permanent residents. The idea of breaking free, making music, socializing and hitting the road was a fantasy. Even though we had some success, it quickly became clear to me that music as a full-time pursuit is by far one of the hardest. I sympathize with musicians deeply. 

Your band enjoyed local success, producing a 10-track album, performing at various venues and even opening for notable Canadian artists like Kim Mitchell. How would you describe the thrill of performing on stage in front of a live audience?
You get this incredible rush. When your vocals are on point, when you’re moving your body and bringing a true performance to an audience it feels like you’re on fire. It’s an incredible feeling and I miss it. 

How did you transform from music to acting?
When I began to notice that the rock world was battling a major R’n’B and pop wave, I decided to shift gears. At the time, I wasn’t confident as a solo artist so being stuck with unmotivated and discouraged band members led me to quit for several years. I decided to focus on school and attended university where I rediscovered my passion for film. It’s also where I began to write an acoustic album that I just recently finished. 

Tell us more about your other passions, besides music and acting.
I’m extremely passionate about fitness. It’s always played a huge role in my mental health and overall well-being. I’m always trying to improve and fitness is a fun way of seeing tangible results. I also allocate a lot of time to family. Family is extremely important to me, especially my grandparents. I love nature and living in small towns. Long hikes, waterfalls and open fields are where I feel at home. It’s a great way to exercise my passion for wildlife photography. Lastly, my music is still my most active hobby. I’m always writing or singing in the car. The one thing I enjoy about commuting to the city is the time I get to constantly practice in the car. I’m never bored. 

What can you share with us about your upcoming projects?
I’m thrilled to be working on ‘Whistle’, directed by Corin Hardy and starring Dafne Keen, Sophie Nélisse, Sky Yang and so many more. It’s a loaded cast with such a great script and production team. I’m really excited for people to see it.

photography FABIAN DI CORCIA