The Listener’s Ennis Esmer: “Busy is victory”

Ennis Esmer is perhaps best known as Oz on The Listener, which recently finished shooting a third season for CTV, but he also popped up on MuchMusic’s The LA Complex (premiering April 24 on The CW), co-hosted Wipeout Canada, has a recurring role on Covert Affairs, and is part of the Sex After Kids ensemble, a film in development aiming to raise funding via Indigogo. In his spare time he volunteers for charities and gives funny answers to email interviews.

I have this perception of you being everywhere, juggling multiple projects seemingly at the same time – The Listener, The LA Complex, Wipeout Canada, Covert Affairs. How insanely busy are you? Is there a common thread in your career choices?

I’m not THAT busy. I’m an absolutely manageably amount of busy. All these things are (for the most part) a blast to work on, and I try to never lose sight of the fact that busy is the thing I want to be more than anything. Busy is victory. I try to look at busy as a challenge and never as a struggle, because there’s nothing else I’d rather be busy doing.

As for a common thread, I usually like to go into a situation where I’ve auditioned for a given part, the people in charge have watched said audition, and based on that, have decided to offer me the part, and I’ve said yes. I find that works best. Working for people who want to hire me to work for them. That’s the common thread.

I also think of you as part of the Young People Fucking repertory especially after seeing you in The LA Complex with Aaron Abrams and Martin Gero. How did that movie help shape your career?

Listen, it was the culmination of a life long effort to keep myself in miserable shape long enough that one day a movie might come along that required that particular look, and booya, validation.

YPF has done a lot. It’s a movie I would love even if I wasn’t in it. It’s earned both respect and love from people who’ve seen it, and I’m proud to have been a part of it. As well, it seems to have been a game-shifter in terms of the kinds of movies that Canadian filmmakers and groups like Telefilm are looking to make now, and may have done a lot to shake up perceptions about what constitutes A Canadian Film. Plus it represented my second on-screen orgasm. So far I have not been asked to film a third.

Who do you see as influences, or people whose careers you admire?

If you asked me 15-20 years ago, I’d say I wanted to be like Tom Hanks. He was the biggest star, and I’ve seen all his movies since I was a kid. But now, if you told me I could have the career of someone like Luis Guzman, I’d be ecstatic. There are so many incredible actors who have careers, working in supporting roles, working on sharp projects, occasionally creating their own work, that fame or any of the things that might have dazzled me as a kid don’t matter at all. I just want to work on things that are fun to work on. And it doesn’t have to be comedy. Like, Drive wasn’t funny, and that shit looked like the most fun on the planet.

What drew you to acting?

I’d have to attribute much of the crystallization of my interest in pursuing this career (as more than just a way to goof off between boring classes) to the period in which I watched both Swingers and Bottle Rocket. I was 16? 17? and those two movies were the perfect gateway into whatever sensibility I might have been forming on my own anyways, and seeing the back and forth, the throw away gags, the ad libbing, the joy on screen, I knew I wanted to work on bottling that, having access to that sort of spark, that magic. Those movies delight me to no end.

What would your ideal role be?

I got a bunch of things in mind. Little things I’d like to do. A really good spit take, I got to do one in the webisodes for The Listener coming up soon. I was able to do a triple take in a scene from Billable Hours a few years back. And I love typing fast while someone’s on the lookout for the boss. We did that in Listener season 1. I just really wanted to say “I’m in” and then go back to typing furiously. Like the cast of Sneakers.

For real though, if I got cast in a movie as a baseball player — I don’t care if my character sucks, I just get to be in some scenes on a baseball field — I could probably quit the business and focus on whatever my parents wanted me to do in the first place when we immigrated from Turkey. Systems Analyst, probably.

Tell me a bit about Sex After Kids, the movie that’s being funded through Indiegogo. How are you involved?

Jeremy and I know each other from Wipeout Canada. He was an editor on the show. We cracked each other up a few times during the job, and he reached out and said he had a part for me in this movie and could he say I wanted to be in it to try to raise some money. I told him fine as long as I get to simulate an orgasm. He said he’d think about it. And here we are.

The script is hilarious, and it really does seem to read like an unofficial sequel to YPF. It’s like YPF but with frustrated, older people with babies,not fucking, and they all know each other. So it’s FOPWBNF… ATAKEO. You’re welcome.

You seem not unbusy with your many jobs yet you’ve recently helped raise funds for testicular cancer, homelessness and MS among others. Why is it important to you to get involved with these causes?

It’s a selfish instinct. Mostly I try to get out of my own head. Acting is all about the individual. Your job is you. You’re constantly trying to commodify yourself or sell yourself or train yourself or study yourself. I think if I didn’t try to focus on some people other than myself during my free time I’d probably explode from navel-gazing. Ultimately I’m just trying to do something nice. If I can help people like Scott Parish and everyone at Tokens 4 Change, or Jon Brandt at Yonge Street Mission, people whose lives are based on helping people, if I can contribute a little bit, I’m happy to do it. I feel like when people like that get in touch, when they reach out for your help, it’s a really simple way in to do something nice. It’s not so complicated. I got the time. I’m not THAT busy.

See what I did there? That’s called a callback.

Buffoonery aside, I would like to give public thanks to all the good people on The Listener and at Shaftesbury Films (which produces The Listener) and friends and family, who have also donated time and money to the charities we’re talking about here, as well as Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Toronto. They’ve been so gracious in helping support these causes. Also, Shaftesbury told me that for every shout out, I get a free grilled cheese sandwich on set. So they owe like, four now, from my count.

What’s next for you?

Well I’m probably gonna be basking in the glow of that sweet callback I just came up with, and after that, probably go to bed. Hopefully The LA Complex and The Listener will come back for more, and Sex After Kids gets its budget, and I’ll be busy this summer.

Also I might buy a foosball table.