Elvis Stojko will always be thought of as a world and Olympic champion figure skater. But Stojko is an actor too and relishes tackling new roles when he has time off from the rink.
That’s what brought him to Murdoch Mysteries. On Monday night he portrayed Sam, a former convict who tangled up in the case of a scientist found murdered in his lab. The script meant Sam went mano-a-mano with Det. Murdoch in the interrogation room and Stojko appreciated the opportunity to spar with Yannick Bisson in those scenes. We spoke to him about the experience and what he’s got scheduled for 2019. [Check out his website too.]
Have you been a fan of Murdoch Mysteries?
Elvis Stojko: I was living in Mexico when Murdoch came out. I don’t think we had access to it there, and when we got back to Canada I got more into hearing more about Murdoch Mysteries, Murdoch Mysteries. I come from the time of The Beachcombers. So now it’s Murdoch Mysteries, I’m like, ‘This is cool.’
My wife and I started watching, we started from the beginning so we’ll binge for a little bit. I think we’re up to Season 3 now. We want to watch it from the beginning and get all of the characters sorted out. We both love period pieces. I love that stuff.
Then [in this episode you have] Nikola Tesla, and I was like, ‘Aw, this is awesome.’ And then they slipped in Albert Einstein. That cracks me up. It’s really great. Those are the things I love about the show, and we were just getting to know characters and how the romance between Murdoch and Julia, how that whole thing is building. So, we were getting into it and we became fans and then, later on, doing the acting thing and I had a connection to [executive producer] Christina [Jennings] and being able to audition for the show and get on was pretty exciting.
So, you auditioned?
ES: I was meeting with some producers and I had some projects that I wanted to bring through a friend of mine as well, that I had episodics and stuff. And I was able to connect with Christina to take a look at some projects. They said, ‘You know, I think we should get you in an episode of Murdoch. That would be fantastic.’ I didn’t hear for a while from them, because they were busy and everything. And my agent kept checking up with Christina, and they said, ‘Yeah, I think we got something for Elvis that would be really great.’ Obviously, they wanted to see how I would do, so it was sort of an informal audition. It was nice because the director was in the audition room, which doesn’t typically happen during casting. It was great because we played around with some stuff and wanted to kind of get an idea of what I could do and what I was playing with. I was working with my acting coach on it, and then it went from there. It was so great to work with Yannick because I’m actually with Murdoch, which is awesome.
Nikola Tesla is a big fan favourite. I loved him since the very first episode of Murdoch Mysteries back when it debuted in 2008. He’s only been back a couple of times since then, and one of them is in Monday’s episode. So yeah, you were in a landmark and exciting episode.
ES: Yeah, I was really excited to see that. I read the script, and I was prepping for the character and everything, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, Nikola Tesla’s in this episode. This is great.’
I’m glad that they didn’t say, ‘OK, we’re getting Elvis Stojko, so let’s come up with a reason to put some skates on him.’ I like the fact that they didn’t do that.
ES: The thing is I want to separate myself from that, I don’t want people saying, ‘Well, he got the part cause he’s a skater.’ Because I’m studying acting. I’m an actor. I can hold my own, I’ve been in Chicago. So, it’s one of those things where separating myself from that and having people see me as an actor, not as a skater that’s acting. It’s important to kind of change that branding.
Obviously, seeing your name in the credits will cause people to look for you, but you’re not totally recognizable. Maybe I wouldn’t have recognized you if your name wasn’t in the credits. I mean that’s part and parcel of being a good actor, is that you’re immersed in the character, and the wardrobe and makeup helped as well.
ES: Yeah, it was one of those things where when I was playing the character and I was working with my acting coach on it; it happened where even my agent said it, I was working on some parts and I would send her some video and she’s like, ‘I didn’t even see you in there. You’re there but it’s not you.’ And I’m like, ‘OK, that’s good. Excellent.’ There are all these different levels that I’ve been working on it, diligently, every week going to class, working with three different acting coaches, trying to find out what would be the best vehicle for me. Over the years of training skating, the best thing is finding the right coach and finding the right technique that fits me. Zoning in on that was really important. All those years of expertise and knowing myself, I was trying to figure out, ‘You know what? I need to expose myself to different methodologies, understand this … I gotta figure out what I’m gonna gravitate to.’
And it took time, of course. It’s taken a number of years to get to that point. And with this, it was great because I’ve worked with Brad Milne at Milne Studio, and Lewis Baumander was the one that really helped me on this project. And as soon as they put me in the costume and I did the piece, it was kinda like I was absorbed in the character. It’s not like, ‘There’s Elvis, he sticks out like a skater.’ I’m glad that you saw that because it wasn’t a lot of makeup.
A lot of people that I speak to talk about how important it is, particularly in a period piece like Murdoch, that how much the wardrobe and the makeup really help them get into character. So by the time you get to set, you’re already there. Was it the same for you? It sounds like it.
ES: Yeah, when we went for the fitting, with the bowler hat and everything … I kinda settled in and they talked about the sideburns, which we did later. The hat, I was like, ‘Oh great, I got a bowler hat. This is kinda cool.’ And then, I didn’t realize I would have one until I got on set, and then I just grabbed a hat and just kinda used it as that’s his thing.
On a cellular level, you just become that time and space. And of course, Yannick is just so awesome. It’s what he does. He’s a master at it. As soon as I was with him in the room, there were no cameras. It was just me and him. I didn’t see anything else, it was just the character. I really worked on getting good at doing that. It’s very different obviously in theatre, where you have an audience, but it’s a little bit different where you can be intimate but then you have a bunch of cameras around and guys just hanging out, the sound guy.
Working with Yannick was wonderful because it was just that moment where I could immerse myself fully into it, and it made playing it much more at ease so I could just relax with the character and not be too tense, which was nice.
How many days were you on set, Elvis? A couple of days, just one?
ES: It was just one. We banged it out. I was there early in the morning. I got there early in the morning. I think call time was like 9:30, and then they put me in makeup and then we waited and we shot in the afternoon. It was wonderful. To be able to be taken around the set, and Gladys [Orozco], my wife, loved it because she loves antiques … so looking on set, it was like, ‘Holy cow, this stuff’s real!’
So, we met this character of Sam, and the thing about Murdoch Mysteries is that there’s always a mysteries that someone’s getting killed off. Sam didn’t get killed, so you could come back!
ES: Well, that would be great. The way I portrayed Sam is that he’s an ex-con, not very smart. He’s a dumb hitman that just wants the money. That was the play on it and I played it a little bit more and that’s what the director liked because I kind of had a little bit of … instead of playing it seriously, played it a little funny. At the beginning, he thinks he’s the smartest guy and then all of a sudden, ‘I think I said too much.’ As he tries to get himself out of the hole, he keeps digging himself deeper. And that was the whole gist of the character. It’d be great to have him come back and kind of muddle up something. I mean, it’s one of those characters that he could be one of Murdoch’s guys on the street that kind of give him some info on what’s happening, right?
What have you got coming up either acting or otherwise in 2019? I think, is it the Thank You Canada special? You were part of that, that’s coming up, right?
ES: Yeah, that’s coming out on the 10th of February. We finished that up. My wife and I did a show down in Virginia. We had a four-year contract with Busch Gardens Virginia, so we did, like, 65 shows there. This is our fourth year doing it. And that was a lot of fun. That was butted up against the Thank You Canada tour. Came back, because I shot Murdoch, then went on tour, then did Virginia, then came home. And now I’m just gearing up for a bunch of skating shows in March and then of course Stars on Ice, which I’m doing in the spring. But in the meantime, I’ve got a movie I’m filming next week, an action film.
I’ve got another, just a small part in it, due to the fact that they wanted me in some other stuff but I had a previous engagement last week to go to the National Championships and be an ambassador, so the shooting date didn’t coincide. But I play a military guy in that.
In the fall they’re going to do the Thank You Canada tour but they’ll call it something different. It’ll be different again, it’ll have other skaters as well; the same group but some more skaters. They may dip down into the U.S. as well. So we’ll see where that heads, it’ll probably be a little bit bigger. It’s definitely building for the year, but I leave the summer open for all my acting and auditions and especially for stuff I know that they shoot during that time, so we’ll see what comes of it and, you know, that keeps me busy.
What did you think of Elvis’ guest-starring role on Murdoch Mysteries? And what did you think of this episode overall? Let me know in the comments below!
Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC and streams on CBC Gem.
Images courtesy of CBC.