What happens after the apocalypse? Actor Colin Ford can tell you about it. Netflix’s new teen drama series, Daybreak, follows Ford’s character, Josh Wheeler, and his friends as they embark on a mission to find his missing girlfriend in a post-apocalyptic world. Set in Glendale, California, Daybreak, which will be released on October 24, is as light and funny as moving and gloomy as you’d expect.
But it is also not Ford’s first rodeo on TV. He’s also had roles in beloved shows such as Under The Dome or Supernatural. Having started his career at a young age, his talent and determination have led him to get a leading role at only 23. The series might not be out yet, but it’s already a must-watch. Ahead of its premiere this week, Schön! sits down with the actor to discuss his inspirations, his relationship with his character and what it was like to be a part of such an amazing project.
You’ve been acting since you were only five. What motivated such an early start? Have you always known, even at that age, you wanted to become an actor?
I always knew that I wanted to be an actor from a very young age. As a child, I would watch a lot of Power Rangers, and one day I pointed at the screen and said, “I want to be the red ranger” — not thinking anything of it. My mother went about her business thinking I meant for Halloween, but I persisted and told her I wanted to be the red ranger but on television! Finally, after much persuading, my mom took me to the local agent’s office in Atlanta where she made me go in all by myself for the interview. They signed me at the agency and I began doing modelling and commercials until one day at the age of five I went to an open casting call for Sweet Home Alabama. I was lucky to get the role of Clinton Jr., and the rest is history. I can’t imagine ever doing anything else.
How do you usually prepare for your roles?
I take copious notes while reading the script. From the notes, I try to find common ground with experiences in my own life, which often-times helps me to develop the choices that I can bring to the role as an actor. If the character requires a certain dialect or if the role is physically demanding, I will enlist a dialect coach or personal trainer/dietician. Depending on the complexity of the role, I won’t hesitate to contact my long-time friend and acting coach to fine-tune the nuances of my character.
You landed a main role on Netflix’s Daybreak, based on Brian Ralph’s graphic novel of the same name. Were you familiar with the story and the novel before signing up for the role?
I was not familiar with the graphic novel beforehand, however, after landing the role I purchased a copy!
Your character, Josh, is in search of his missing girlfriend in a post-apocalyptic Glendale, CA. What were the main challenges you found trying to step into his shoes? How did you get into his mindset?
I fought hard to play this character! I love the fact that Josh has two contrasting personalities. In the pre-apocalypse world Josh is an average kid struggling with his own insecurities. As a new student to Glendale High, he doesn’t particularly fit in or has any friends. But then in the post-apocalypse world, things change. He is confident, strong, and even athletic. It was such a fun challenge getting to represent both “versions” of Josh. That was the challenge that made me excited about this role. It is very cool, as an actor, to have the opportunity to play two opposite personalities within the same project.
I went to a regular high school up until sophomore year, however as I got busier filming it became necessary for me to transfer to a rigorous online program. There were times, during and after this transition, that I felt alone, or that I didn’t have as many friends as other kids my age. After graduation, I began to build self-confidence and I feel as if I’m the best version of myself now, just like Josh is in the apocalypse.
You are starring alongside Matthew Broderick. How was it working with him?
Matthew is awesome. When I found out he was a part of the series I was so stoked! Some of my favourite movies growing up were Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Election, and War Games. Getting to work with him was a dream come true.
Daybreak is your first streaming-only production. What were the main differences between acting in Daybreak and, say, previous series of yours such as Under the Dome or Supernatural?
Working on all three of these series was actually pretty similar from a technical aspect. I worked with an ensemble cast, worked both on location and in film studios, and worked for several months on location in another state. However, the biggest difference with Daybreak is that the character I play is more prominent in this storyline than any other character I have ever played. My work schedule and work ethic elevated with the responsibility of bringing Josh to life. I take my work very seriously and I worked very long hours on Daybreak. When I worked on Supernatural, and to some extent Under the Dome, I was younger and therefore certain laws limited my working hours.
What are you most excited for people to see in this series?
There is so much to be excited about; it is hard to explain, as this show is unlike anything out there now or done before in my opinion. The show we have created is very cool and original. Aside from total chaos and the apocalypse, everyone in Daybreak is decked out in the clothes that best describe how they feel on the inside. The apocalypse allows everyone to be the version of themselves they always wanted to be. I’m sure you remember what it was like to be a student in high school, navigating the white waters of “friends,” “bullies,” and “popularity” —or a lack thereof — until you finally find your “tribe.” That is what Daybreak is all about, and I hope everyone is inspired to find their tribe.
Who would you say is your biggest inspiration?
My great grandfather, who recently just passed away and the age of 100, was a great source of inspiration to me. I lived by his example and learned to be a better person because of his kindness to others, his moral beliefs, his integrity as a human being, and his positivity about life in general.
Professionally, I would have to say that Matt Damon has always been a real inspiration to me. After working with him on We Bought a Zoo, it confirmed everything I had always thought about him. He has an amazing work ethic, he’s extremely kind to everyone around him, and I admire his family values. I’ve looked up to him ever since and would love to work with him again, given the opportunity.
Are there any actors you really want to work with?
Yes, but I couldn’t possibly list them all. As I previously mentioned, I have wanted to be an actor since a very young age and there have been so many people that have influenced me along the way. When I was 14, I had the privilege of getting to work with Matt Damon. He is a terrific actor and person. Some of my favourite female actors who I would like to work with are Reese Witherspoon (again) and Sandra Bullock. It would be a privilege to work with Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller — whom I met a few years ago on a Teen Vogue shoot— Tom Holland, Leonardo DiCaprio, Anne Hathaway, Ryan Gosling, Dakota Fanning, and Kathryn Newton.
Do you have any other hobbies or passions outside acting?
Yes! Similar to Josh in Daybreak, I have a big love for sneakers! My favourite part of Josh’s wardrobe are his Nike Off-White Jordan 1 Chicago’s. I’ve been buying and selling shoes for several years now. Josh skateboards in the series, and I, too, as a young kid loved skateboarding; the role has got me following the sport more closely. I also listen to a lot of music; all different genres and I love discovering new artists and bands. Recently, I’ve taken up golfing again. I played a little bit in high school and was on the golf team but wasn’t very good, so I’m working on my game a bit now.
Does the hectic schedule of being an actor allow you to maintain a balanced lifestyle?
I think I have maintained a balanced life. I have been blessed with a fantastic series with Daybreak that took about six months of the year to film. The remaining months I was fortunate to travel to some nice vacation spots, work on my golf game, enjoy some fantastic music festivals and spend some quality time at home with my family. I hope in the years to come, in between shooting the series, I can pick up some feature film work. I really love working and travelling to new places.
What’s a question you wish people would ask you more?
I really love talking about films that inspire me — films that, if they were made now, I’d love to be a part of. Saving Private Ryan, A River Runs Through It, Stand By Me… and who wouldn’t want to be a superhero of some kind? So, I guess I wouldn’t mind people asking me what types of projects I’d like to work on in the future. My answer would be stories like those.
What are you now looking forward to, artistically and personally?
Right now, at this point in my life, I just look forward to acting in more and more challenging roles. At some point, a career goal of mine is to eventually direct or produce a project myself. Personally, I would like to have some time to learn a musical instrument, possibly the guitar or keyboard.
“Daybreak” premieres October 24 on Netflix and will be available worldwide.
This Schön! online exclusive has been produced by
photography. Jonny Marlow @ Early Morning Riot
fashion. Kelley Ash + Laura Duncan
talent. Colin Ford + Jessica Wall
hair. Candice Birns @ Nest Artists using Oribe Haircare + R+Co
make up. Melissa Rogers @ The Only.Agency using Sunday Riley
photography assistant. Matthew Calvis
props. Desi Stewart
words. Hugo Scheubel