JOHN KARNA on "Living Your Character's Dream."
"Oh, crap. I'm gonna die."
Noah Foster utters this often on MTV's television reincarnation of Scream. He exists in an unlucky world where the people around him drop faster than characters on Game of Thrones. Of course, John Karna, the actor pupetteering Noah, is much more fortunate. After being a part of several impressive projects (like Modern Family and Law & Order), John is finally gaining the attention his talents deserve. His portrayal of Noah Foster is a redeeming delight for viewers following a show that otherwise screams (pun intended) horror and devastation.
Actors everywhere can learn from the bright young performer who speaks with an open heart and mind. So as we eagerly watch the months drag by before Scream's return, let's catch up with John to hear about his experience on the show and some of his best acting tips.
RP: What is it that you love most about acting?
JK: What’s always drawn me to acting is the idea that it’s one of the deepest studies of human emotion and connection. As a kid, I wanted to learn as much as I could about how passion and the vast spectrum of emotion could shape the world, and I truly feel that acting is the microscope into those beautiful little explosions that happen between all of us daily. The best part is that there will always be more to learn because there will always be more plays and movies that will speak to our culture with immediacy and insight, and I just can’t wait to see it all unfold!!
RP: Have you received any training?
JK: I went to the University of Oklahoma and majored in their musical theatre program for two years. It was such a good time, one that taught me the value of work ethic and helped me build a strong foundation of a craft that I can still draw on now. I think college is an amazing place to find your artistic self, everyone should go if they can! I do still take classes here in Los Angeles, because there’s always more to learn and master in yourself, and I think that’s pretty awesome!
RP: Congratulations on Scream! I know that you went to an open audition and then it was a while before you heard that they wanted you to do a screen test. What did you do to prepare for that? Were you nervous?
JK: Thank you!! Yeah it was definitely an interesting audition experience haha! If I’m remembering correctly, that first audition didn’t come with a script, so I spent a lot of time before the audition creating some sort of story in my head, trying to break each scene down into its essence and then building it back up into something cohesive and personal. I always get pretty nervous before any audition, but I try and funnel that kind of spontaneous energy into my scenes. I feel insanely lucky to be able to work with all these awesome actors and on such a brilliantly fun show!
RP: We haven't gotten too much information about his backstory, so how did you go about initially creating Noah?
JK: When thinking about Noah’s past, I started with his friendship with Audrey — how they met, why they’re such good friends, their ups and downs; I tried to create very specific memories of a time I might have come to her rescue, or when she came to mine. I love making up these beautiful bonding moments with as much specificity as possible, in the hopes that I can fill our banter with weight and history. I also loved to delve into when and why his love of horror movies started forming, and why it is that he maybe doesn’t talk about his parents as much as the other kids at school. I definitely also drew on my own life and experiences whenever I could!
RP: Is it hard for you to justify and show his vindictive side a bit? After all - who knows - he could end up having some type of involvement in the killer situation.
JK: That’s very interesting you say that, because it’s something all of us in the cast think about, and also what, I think, makes the show exciting to watch. We all have to consider our characters’ darker sides, and what was funny was that Noah’s wasn’t as buried as it would seem. He’s sort of been thrust into this bloody play where he now has to mingle and work with people that most likely made fun of him all through middle school and before. It’s fun to play around with that, and find the moments where being with these people can grate on him. I know from experience it’s really tough to let go of some of those feelings you start forming in high school, it’s a really emotionally charged time.
RP: What can we expect for Noah next season?
JK: Man I’m just as excited to know what happens next as everyone else!! In the beginning of this season, Noah seemed to me to be someone fairly removed from all the dramatic minutiae of the popular kids. But with Riley’s and his relationship, (and all the crazy murders) I feel like Noah has grown into more of a man of action, and someone who is now inextricably linked to this “breakfast club” of survivors. I’m hoping this next season will see Noah becoming even more capable, which I’m sure he’ll need to do in order to face whatever’s coming…
RP: Has anything particularly spooky happened on set while you guys were filming?
JK: I have a very vivid memory of us shooting in an abandoned hospital in Baton Rouge, and I got lost one time trying to find the bathroom. It was a big hospital, and the set dressers had put fake blood all over the hallways we were shooting in. It wasn’t hard to be scared in our scenes that day haha!!
RP: Ha! Besides being a huge Scream fan, I also love Modern Family (I mean who doesn't). You had a guest starring role - How was it being on that set?
JK: Oh man I’m such a big fan of Modern Family too, so being on that set was so surreal — I still sometimes think I dreamt it, it went by so fast! It was so cool to see a cast and crew so close with each other, since they’ve all worked together for so long. I think I blacked out shaking Ty Burrell’s hand, I’m such a huge fan!!
RP: No worries, I'm sure I'd black out too. Any other projects you'd like to share with us?
JK: I had the honor of being cast in a small role in a movie called Sugar Mountain that filmed in Seward, Alaska. It was honestly one of the most amazing experiences I had ever been a part of, and the film has some brilliantly creative actors at the forefront. Richie Gray, the director, is someone I will always think of when I think about why we watch movies. I believe we’re screening at the Alaska Film Festival towards the end of this year!
RP: To end our conversation on an inspiring note, what is your best piece of advice for aspiring actors?
JK: I think one of the coolest pieces of advice I’ve received was that most people in this world are driven by what they love and dream about, and that some of the best work you can do as an actor is to meet as many people as you can with an open heart, and find out what they love. It’s especially beautiful if their dreams are lightyears away from your own. People’s dreams are the forerunners to their actions, and the best actors live their character’s dreams so completely that every action feels like a natural extension of their inner life.
RP: Any specific advice for those specifically hoping to work in television?
JK: Television is such an interesting medium because of the vast spectrum of programming that’s out there now. I would say my best advice would be to pay close attention to the world the writers create, and to live and react in that world. I feel like there are equally astounding performances in Game of Thrones, the U.S. version of The Office, and Fargo — even though they’re vastly different shows on extremely different networks — because the acting and the writing merge on such an intrinsic level.
RP: That's wonderful advice. Thank you for your time, John!
JK: Thank you so much, my friend!!
Follow John's adventures on Twitter - @johnny_k and be sure to check out @honeyourcraft as well!