Alex Shaffer (Kyle) made his feature acting debut in Win Win. Although he did have a small part in a school performance of The Pirates of Penzance. Born and raised in New Jersey’s Hunterdon County, Alex attends Hunterdon Central Regional High School. He has been wrestling since kindergarten, and eventually became a two-time regional champion. When he was declared 119-lb New Jersey state wrestling champion just before filming of Win Win, he had the distinction of being the first state champ from Hunterdon in 10 years. The previous one had been his coach. Alex is now nationally ranked.
Q: What made you audition for this role?
AS: At first I didn’t want to. Then my friend texted me and said to so I checked out the local paper and told him, no. Because it was wrestling season, and I was really focused on wrestling and didn’t want to do this acting thing. Then he said it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and you should think about it. That got me thinking that I would not get the opportunity to be in a movie again so I went for seven or eight auditions and got the part.
Q: What was the audition process like?
AS: The first audition I really wasn’t into it. I showed up and there were kids with shaved heads and varsity jackets, and I’m sitting there with bleach blond hair, a purple flannel top and pajama pants. So I thought I’m not going to get this part; but it worked out.
Q. Did you have any idea what’s involved with making a movie?
AS: I had no idea how hard it was going to be, how long the hours are, and no idea it was filmed out of order and not in chronological order.
Q: Had you seen any of Tom McCarthy’s movies before you auditioned?
AS: Not before, but after I knew I was going to be in his movie, I watched some. He’s a great director. From watching them I never realized acting was such an art like how Tom does make’s movies. They are so different than the movies I used to watch.
Q: You had an amazing cast. How did that help you with your role?
AS: I was very blessed with the people I worked with and the director. I could never image Paul (Giammati) setting me down and saying this is the way you do it kid. But just from watching him acting was enough for me. I just tried to soak in his mannerisms and expressions. He’s such an amazing actor.
Q: This is a lot about sports in this film, but it’s different than the way you usually wrestle, right? Was that difficult?
AS: A lot different than Kyle’s style in the film; he’s more aggressive than I am. Which I guess helps with acting. And I like to put on a show. I like people to watch me, and say, ‘wow, I can’t believe he did that,’ or ‘how did he get that move.’ I like having a style that interests people and I guess that goes along with acting.
Q: Could you relate to the family dynamics and problems in this film?
AS: Tom set me up with an acting coach, and she wanted me to understand the character and what he’s dealing with not at the time of the story we see, but years ago. Like how many times he got home and saw him mom with a needle stuck in her arm or how many times there’s a bunch of guys over there, or her passed out and him coming home thinking she’s dead. That’s what I had to think about. What I took away from the film is everyone makes mistakes, and Kyle has to accept Paul’s apology that he messed up and did something terrible. And even good people make mistakes.
Alex Shaffer, Director Tom McCarthy and Paul Giamatti on the set of Win Win.
Shaffer said he’s ready to take some acting classes and pursue a career as an actor. Shaffer’s gritty enthusiasm and lack of preconceptions already inspired his first cast and crew. “Alex was so excited just to be part of this that it reminded me of how thrilling and fun movie-making can be,” said fellow actor Paul Giamatti.
“He just felt so real to me,” Director McCarthy said. “We really put him through the ringer on this movie and he just kept getting better and better. It was tremendous fun to watch him take on new challenges and keep growing.”
Win Win is now in theatres.
Photo Credits: Kimberly Wright/ Twentieth Century Fox