Dustin Milligan’s Shark Weeks

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Published August 9, 2011

Chatting with Dustin Milligan, former cast member of 90210 and star of the upcoming Shark Night, we couldn’t help but be shocked and appalled by his total bad-boy attitude. Actually, we’re kidding—he’s just about as far from that Hollywood stereotype as one could possibly imagine. He’s charming, goofy, and completely adorable. Originally hooked on the acting bug when performing in school plays in Yellowknife, Canada, he eventually made his way to Vancouver, where he caught the notice of the CW and landed a breakout role on the network’s remake of 90210. Recently, he dove into murky waters to star in Shark Night 3D, a horror movie about a group of friends who very unfortunately happen to take a vacation at a lake infested with sharks. With a crowd-pleaser like Shark Night and the upcoming indie comedy Sisters and Brothers, Milligan has been building a well-balanced résumé, not to mention a steady following—and thanks to a newly minted green card, he isn’t planning to head back to Canada anytime soon. Interview recently got a chance to sit down with the actor to discuss sharks, immigration issues, and musicals.

KATIE MENDELSON: Did I hear that you just got your green card?

DUSTIN MILLIGAN: I just got my green card today! Yes! I’m so excited!

MENDELSON: Congratulations!

MILLIGAN: Thank you very much! I can now give up this acting scam and just go work at McDonald’s.

MENDELSON: What was Plan B in case you didn’t get it?

MILLIGAN: Just return to Canada and cry. No, I knew we had a fairly good package, but you never really know what’s going to happen. There wasn’t much of a Plan B, so we were just hoping for the best, only thinking about it working out, and only sending out positive thoughts that way. And it worked, so I guess I’m lucky.

MENDELSON: Are you going to celebrate tonight?

MILLIGAN: I think I might celebrate by getting some room service and passing out early. I was up pretty early for the appointment, so I might take it easy and treat myself to a little bit of indulgence. And then get ready to hop on the plane from Montreal to LA tomorrow.

MENDELSON: Nice. So you grew up in a really small town in Canada, right?

MILLIGAN: Yes. I grew up in Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories.

MENDELSON: What was that like?

MILLIGAN: Yellowknife is almost in the Arctic. The Northwest Territories are essentially parallel to Alaska. So as you can imagine, it’s very cold. We have about 8 months of darkness in the winter, where the sun doesn’t rise very high or for very long. Alternatively, though, we have 24 hours of sunlight in the summer—but that’s only about two months. I realize now being that being as protected as we were, literally being as isolated from the rest of Canada, let alone the rest of the world, was such a benefit.

MENDELSON: How did you wind up on 90210?

MILLIGAN: I had done a show for the CW when it had first become the CW, I believe in 2006, so they were sort of aware of me in that sense. And then when 90210 came around, I read online that they were doing a new version of it and I called my agents and said, “Hey, I think this might be something that I’m interested in, I think this might be a good fit.” And I put myself on tape, I was actually shooting another CW show—an episode of Supernatural—while I put this on tape, and a few weeks later I got the job.

MENDELSON: Have you watched the original show?

MILLIGAN: I did a little bit.

MENDELSON: Was doing the show a positive experience for you?

MILLIGAN: Oh, absolutely! Every work experience is a positive work experience, and if you’re looking at it any other way I can’t help you. It was amazing to be a part of something that was as hyped as that and as publicized as that and certainly to be a part of a new young ensemble cast like that, it was really a lot of fun. I’m certainly very grateful for that opportunity and grateful for all the other jobs like Shark Night that have undoubtedly come up at least in part due to 90210.

MENDELSON: I haven’t even looked at the trailer for Shark Night, because I’m so scared of sharks I don’t even want to think about it.

MILLIGAN: [laughs] It’s a really good trailer. I have to say it’s an excellent trailer!

MENDELSON: I watched Jaws when I was in fourth grade, and I didn’t go in my pool for a whole summer because I thought a shark was in there.

MILLIGAN: I think that’s the thing that our movie really preys on, because our sharks are in a lake. It’s that irrational fear that even though you know that there’s no way that there could be a shark or a monster wherever you are, in the tub even, no matter where you are still afraid that there could be something in the water, and I think everybody feels that fear now and again.

MENDELSON: Can you tell me a little more about Shark Night?

MILLIGAN: It’s an ensemble movie about a group of college kids who get stranded on an island that’s surrounded by shark-infested waters, and it’s about their struggle against some other sinister locals of the lake to make it out alive. It’s myself and Sarah Paxton, Joel David Moore, Katharine McPhee, Sinqua Walls, a lot of great young actors, and we all got together and had a real blast in Louisiana for two months shooting a bunch of sharks, punching sharks in the face and stuff.

MENDELSON: Are you scared of sharks?

MILLIGAN: I’ve recently been watching a lot about sharks, because Shark Week has been on, and apparently there have been uncharacteristically high numbers of shark attacks, in the last year or so. It’s starting to freak me out a little bit more. I can tell you certainly in the water when we had to fight these sharks, they put real shark teeth in some of the animatronic mechanical sharks, and those things were swimming around on their own sometimes, and that was terrifying. I mean, I thought these robot sharks were going to attack me, for God’s sake.

MENDELSON: What was being in Louisiana like? Do you have any fun stories from your time there?

MILLIGAN: It’s funny, because of course in the movie all of us are in our bathing suits so most of the adventures involved us trying to eat remotely healthy in a place that really didn’t care about a bunch of Hollywood actors and their low-carb diets. It was a lot of fun. Especially me and my co-star Sinqua, we had a lot of fun together. Every morning we’d eat breakfast in my trailer and begin every single day with two or three episodes of my favorite show, Psych. It’s on USA, not a lot of people have heard of it, but it’s hilarious. I wish I was the main—well, Sinqua and I both sort of feel that we are the main characters on that show.

MENDELSON: Do you have any favorite horror films?

MILLIGAN: Well, The Shining I think is a shining example.

MENDELSON: Very good.

MILLIGAN: Yeah, that’s right, I said that, intentional. Yeah, The Shining is great. I recently saw Let The Right One In

MENDELSON: Oh yes! I’ve been meaning to see that.

MILLIGAN: It’s interesting, a lot of people are very adamant that the original is the best and I don’t want to taint the original from the Americanized version, but I thought both were amazing. That’s kind of the horror movie that I’m really into, a little bit of story, a little bit of sensitivity, you have that gore in there, you have those startling moments, but you’re building them with so much tension that you can barely sit still in your seat.

MENDELSON: Is it going to be weird to see yourself in 3D?

MILLIGAN: You know, it’s interesting, because any time I’ve seen myself to date has been in 2D, so I wonder, can I handle that much extra D? Seriously, I know there’s some people that aren’t huge fans of 3D; our movie is also in 2D for those fans of sharks that don’t necessarily want them to jump out at them.

MENDELSON: Can you tell me about Sarila, the animated movie you just finished?

MILLIGAN: This is the first time I’ve ever done voiceover animation work, and it was a really great experience. I got to work with fellow Canadian Rachelle Lefevre, from the first couple Twilight movies. That was a real blast. It’s such an intense, over-the-top performance that you have to deliver for that kind of medium, so I’m really looking forward to when it comes out. I also have an independent film called Sisters and Brothers. I’m not sure if it’s going to be doing any festivals just yet. I play opposite my friend Cory Monteith, so I’m really looking forward to that as well.

MENDELSON: What do you do when you’re not acting?

MILLIGAN: I write a lot, I make a lot of music.

MENDELSON: What kind of writing do you do?

MILLIGAN: Sketch comedy with my friends, feature films as well, but usually comedy. I actually just finished writing a musical, a hip-hop musical, so I’m very excited about that. We’re going to try to eventually shoot the thing.

MENDELSON: Are you a fan of musicals?

MILLIGAN: Actually, no. This is sort of not your traditional musical. All the songs are hip-hop or spacey techno, it’s very much the anti-musical musical. It’s more of an excuse for me and my cousin, who I grew up with in Yellowknife and we used to do raps and hip-hop tracks together. This is actually just an excuse to continue that and shoot music videos that we’re actually the stars of, because no one else is going to pay us to be in their music videos, so we have to make our own.

MENDELSON: That sounds awesome. So you make your own music and what else do you do? Are you a hockey fan?

MILLIGAN: You know what? Thank you for reminding Canada that I’m a disappointment to them. I like hockey, I love it, but I’m not an avid hockey—let’s face it, true Canadian—fan. I’ve always been more into snowboarding and skateboarding and sort of the alternative sports, I’m not crazy about hockey—but love it! Always support it!

SHARK NIGHT 3D COMES OUT SEPTEMBER 2.

Photo creditsPhotographer: Mitchell Nguyen McCormackFashion Stylist: Ashley Phan-WestonGrooming: Barbara Guillaume/Exclusive Artists/Lancôme MenFashion Assistant: Tyler BrownFirst image: Sweater by Marc Jacobs.Second image: Sweater by Burberry Brit. Pant by Marc Jacobs.