Last Saturday, I went to my friend Cody Deal's viewing party to watch his debut as the title character in The Asylum's "Almighty Thor" on the SyFy Channel. I met Cody through LA Fitness when he was working as a Fitness Pro specialist at the company. I'd asked to speak to someone regarding the personal training, and the receptionist called for "Cody," over the loudspeaker. A couple minutes later, Thor approached me and shook my hand. Tall, blonde, handsome with a physique ready for a Men's Health cover shoot, Cody instantly brought to mind the Norse god. I smiled as I thought, "Thor is signing me up for personal training. Welcome back to LA." As we talked, I learned he was from Kansas, and that there was more to him than his resemblance to the God of Thunder. Little did I know, that Cody had actually scored an audition for the role of Thor in the Paramount Pictures release and had been given a serious look from the director.
Since that meeting, I watched him literally, give up everything...and I mean everything, to pursue his craft, which included walking away from his job and immersing himself in acting classes, getting a team behind him and marketing the hell out of himself. If you've got your wits about you, Los Angeles offers a lot of opportunities to make a living...even a good one. For those of us pursuing a craft, this can be one of those "good" problems. You can support yourself, but the comforts of a steady paycheck can lure you off the path to achieving your goals. This was Cody's case--he was making good money, but it was not what he'd come here to do. So, he took that blind step off the cliff and hoped there would be water at the bottom. Watching him in Almighty Thor, it was great to see this first inception of his dream realized. Yes, the reference was intentional.
For those of you that aren't familiar with The Asylum films, they produce "mockbusters" that you see on the SyFy Channel. You know, the shows that have you asking aloud, "What is this?" Your answer comes in the form of The Terminators, Mega Piranha, Snakes on a Train, and so on. An Asylum film is also the only incarnation where you'll see Thor chasing his nemesis Loki down a graffiti-marked street in battered downtown Los Angeles, firing an uzi. Being a Norse god used to more primitive fighting, I give him props for adjusting to the culture in LA so quickly.
It's always a little nerve wracking to see someone you know perform. What if they are just awful and you're stuck fumbling for compliments? Thankfully, I didn't have to face that predicament. Cody hit his marks not only physically as Thor, but brought heart, sincerity and a vulnerability to the role, standing toe to toe with veteran actors like Richard Greico ('memba him from 21 Jump Street?) and Patricia Valasquez. He'd clearly researched and approached the character as complex and not just a two-dimensional muscled Visigoth wielding the Hammer of Invincibility. Many times as we watched, I'd forgotten he was right in the room with us, watching along, which is a real credit to an actor. It means that he became the character, who was different from the guy sitting on the couch across the room. A few times, we applauded a particularly emotional quality he brought to a scene that someone who had just been hired for their muscles would have stumbled through or glossed over. Simply put, he was believable, and rocked the role as Thor.
If you want to know the lengths to which Cody went to pursue his craft, read his blog, Hollywood and Beyond. Much of it he kept secret until he wrote about it there. I was pretty blown away, as I'd run into him a few times during the worst and had no idea of his circumstances. However, like all of us who have been through the worst, and those of you who have read my blog through the years know you can count me among the "been through a rough patch or two" crowd, it's how you face it, fight it, and though it may open a can of whoop ass and leave you battered, never let it get the better of you. Especially when all seems lost.
Keep an eye on this one as he's going places. Here are some TV screen shots I took of Cody in Almighty Thor while watching.