INTERVIEW: Eric Hicks, Star of LOVE IN HARMONY VALLEY, Talks About His Journey As An Actor and Spiritual Practitioner
Eric, a Saskatchewan native, moved to Toronto to pursue his dream to become an actor– and you might have seen him in popular shows such as The Strain, Reign and Schitt’s Creek. His new movie, Love in Harmony Valley, premiered on the Superchannel this Fall. Learn more about his journey and projects below!
Hi Eric, thank you so much for answering our questions today! Tell us about yourself and what influenced you to pursue acting. When did you want to know you wanted to become an actor and what was that journey like for you to get you to where you are today?
You know what, there was this one moment as a kid that I decisively remember saying to myself, “I want to do that when I’m older.” I was featured background on a Jamie Foxx movie when I was around nine years old I think, and it was the one day we finished getting these baseball game scenes shot and as I was walking across the dirt roads to go back to holding, Jamie and his team were shooting a basic car stunt. The car is ripping away in the gravel and Jamie was hanging out of the window, and I guess maybe what I really wanted to do was stunts, haha, but yeah, I just loved that whole experience so much and knew it was something I really wanted to do one day. But it really wasn’t until I was 21 [years old] that I truly entertained the idea of the arts as a career choice.
Coming from a small town of 1,500 people, being in the movies always seemed like a giant leap of imagination. But as I got older I realized that it’s just everyday normal people like me making films. When I realized that, all of a sudden an opportunity found me and the real beginning of the journey happened with a runway modeling show in the north gate mall of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. Not even a special mall. It seemed so insignificant at the time, and even a little embarrassing if any of my friends were to see me but for some reason I said yes to doing it. And that insignificant runway show, turned into getting invited to the Canadian model and talent convention (CMTC) in Mississauga, Canada. I was only supposed to be there for modeling but I’m a short guy and knew that wasn’t gonna be my path, so I entered the acting competitions instead, held a fundraiser back home at the local university bar and used those funds to pay for my entry fees and flights. And that seemingly random CMTC turned into me being scouted by 11 agencies from around the world. And at that point I had to make a serious choice, do I pursue this for real or go on living my safe and secure career in prosthetics and orthotics. And it took only a second for me to make up my mind, of course I have to pursue this dream. One life. One shot. It’s now or never baby!
What part of acting and creating is the most important to you personally? What motivates you everyday as an artist?
Acting is an art form where you get out what you put in. The more time and effort I put into the work, the more it shows on screen. So that being said, I want to be a team player and continually be training and when it comes to filming I have to do my homework so that when I show up on set I’m bringing more than just myself, I’m bringing my imagination full of ideas. And then I get to play with the rest of the cast and crew and the sets and the director. It’s all so magical because it’s essentially group problem solving on the spot. There’s a certain pressure to it all. Time is money so you have to be ready to sprint. I never want to be that person who shows up unprepared. I’m always wanting to give more than is ever expected of me. And so in my off time I’m always learning new skills and trying to push my own boundaries so that when I book that next gig I’m coming into it with a little something extra. Now maybe I’m just being extra but that’s the way I like to roll, always learning, always growing!
What is your latest movie, Love in Harmony Valley, about and who is your character, Will? What drew you to this love story and what sets it apart from other romantic films?
Love in Harmony Valley is about forgiveness and community. These are two of the most essential pillars to living a healthy life. And in this film this is what we are dealing with, learning to look within. There’s a great quote I use that sums it up pretty nicely, “those who have failed to learn need teaching not attack. To attack those who have a need of teaching is to fail to learn from them.” And so my character Will goes through this exact thing. He is casting blame through his own ignorance, only to later discover that he himself has failed to learn from Emma (Amber Marshall). What really sets this romantic film apart from the rest is when the director Justin Dyck said, we can go darker with this one. Meaning don’t be afraid to dive into the emotions. And so we don’t. There is genuine hurt and healing in this film. It’s not that classic campy two-dimensional “everybody’s perfect” kind of film, these characters are going through something real and there are valuable lessons to take from it.
What was it like working with your co-stars, Amber Marshall (who plays your love interest, Emma) and Nina Kiri? What was it like finding that chemistry with Amber on-screen, did it come naturally for both of you?
Well, Amber shocked me at how talented she is. She’s been working on sets for so long now it’s just second nature for her. Really talented girl. First off, her and I are both Geminis. Meaning, I understood her instantly right out of the gate, so I knew we were gonna have fun. But one day on set we had our first kiss scene and she was walking through it like a paint by numbers sequence, “okay, now you turn your head this way and then we press lips and then….” So, I had to remind her, if you’re not feeling it for real, the audience won’t buy it for real, I’m gonna need you to kiss me like you mean it. And instantly without hesitation she’s like, “oh yeahhh, you’re right.” And that just shows you how professional she really is. She cares about the art, and that makes her an absolute joy to work with. It was truly my pleasure to get to share the screen with her.
Nina Kiri on the other hand, her and I were actually friends before this film. When we were on set she felt like my real sister already. She’s probably the most positive-smiley person I’ve ever met in my life, so it made it a little hard to do the dramatic scenes with her. It’s always super cool getting to work with friends, that familiarity breeds comfort and that allows us as artists to take risks and explore a little more with that trust at hand. I felt very grateful to have two ladies at my side.
Will in the movie is a protective older brother and appears to be determined and ambitious. Do you relate to Will in any way? What kind of advice would you have given him if he was your friend?
Will is way too wound up around achieving success and at the cost of relationships. I would just tell him, “Hey, buddy, you need to take a chill pill. Just relax, everything’s gonna be alright.” But in his mind, he has this insane responsibility to take care of everyone around him, his sister, his community, his career. That type of pressure weighs heavily on him and so he’s developed a really short temper about him. I think there’s a lot of people in the world like Will, where they find the game of life a constant struggle. Nothing ever seems enough for these types of people and so they go on in dissatisfaction never being at where they want to be. Always wanting more. I think it has something to do with control, or the fear of letting go more so. It can be a scary thing but as the film goes on this is what Will is just beginning to understand about himself. And that’s all he needs, is just to be aware of his self destructive behavior in order to change it. I’m really not like Will at all myself. I’m a super laid back and go with the flow kind of guy, it takes a lot to get me upset because I try to understand everyone’s POV in a situation and if you can understand then you know it’s never an attack against you, it’s just someone else dealing with their own inner demons. It’s never personal, so you can’t take things that way. Just do you and learn to love it all.
Outside of acting, you are a spiritual practitioner– can you tell us what that entails for you and how did you become one?
Well, this type of spiritual journey for most begins with the acquiring of knowledge as in reading spiritual books or listening to teachers speak on the subject and eventually curiosity gets the best of us and it turns to practical application which I refer to as experiential knowledge aka wisdom. I have always been an avid reader and so I had read every spiritual boon I could get my hands on but it all seemed so elusive still. It wasn’t until my 25th birthday that I had a magic mushroom ceremony that I first caught a glimpse of another side to “reality.” That was the beginning.
Years of exploration in this area taught me many lessons but it was still limited in its teachings. Within one week I had heard two different friends talk about “a vipassana 10 day silent meditation retreat.” I started doing my research and it seemed legit. It took two years for me to finally commit to going because my ego would always jump in and say, “this is crazy, why are going to sit for 10 days, that’s so stupid, don’t go.” And I would listen to my ego not being aware of its influence. That is until I read Eckhart Tolle’s books “the power of now” and “a new earth” which were profound for me because I was ready to receive his teachings. And so I came instantly aware of what I was and what I wasn’t. I’m not my mind. I am everything. The egos sole purpose is to deceive you into thinking you’re separate from everything else in life. Remove the mind/ego, and all you’re left with is what you’ve always been… everything. Truly everything. So I went into the 10 day silent retreat with this awareness of the delusional powers of the egoic mind. And through those 10 days I was able to observe my mind and all it’s funny little patterns and something very interesting happened in the process. Eventually my mind completely shut off and what happened is my entire body exploded into pure golden light and I was beyond myself, and I was everything. I experienced this twice in the 10 days. Both times it was a glimpse into the source of everything. Pure joy.
Later I then worked with ayahuasca and had what’s referred to as a peak experience on my first go around because I was able to let go of my egoic mind and accept the death of it. And on the other side Mother Nature revealed to me her truths and wisdom and it was so beautiful and supportive and had such a great sense of humor. The biggest take away was, “everything is perfect exactly as it is, and you just need to learn to live it all.” She taught me all about vibrations. Everything is vibration, so beware your thoughts because they direct and instantly impact everything around you. And so with these insights into the universe and “reality” you go back to living life in this form in this body with this egoic mind, but now you don’t get attached to anything. You know that it’s all an illusion. And death no longer becomes something to be afraid of. Instead it’s a liberation of your egoic mind and return to what you’ve always been… EVERYTHING.
You are also a big animal rights advocate. Can you tell us about any charities or programs that you support that you would like to share with our readers?
First things first, I don’t like to tell people how to live their lives, I just live this life as an example of what I believe to be compassionate and kind and so I accept things for the way they are and change the things in myself I know I can change. If others are curious as to what I’ve learned and want to make changes within themselves of their own accord then I’m always willing to share some insights. And so I just tell them, educate yourself. Nothings going to change if you don’t seek out the truth. But once you learn the truth, you can’t unlearn it, and so if you then don’t change your behavior then you have weight and low vibrational guilt about yourself because now you KNOW you’re doing something that goes against your new truth. And so inevitable you will change to align with this new truth because it feels right. To begin the journey of education, these are some of the most informative resources:
2. Documentaries: Forks over Knives, What the Health, The Game Changers, Cowspiracy, etc., so many.
3. Books: The China Study Now, the biggest change you’ll ever make for the environment, for your health, and for the well being of other sentient beings is to go vegan. I’ve been vegan now for five and a half years. And I switched from a paleo diet to this one. And it wasn’t easy. I tried going vegan once and lasted six-weeks before eating meat again. But I then educated myself even more and slowly started taking one dish out of my life and bringing in a new vegan dish. It took eight months. So all I can say is be patient with yourself. It’s a huge change. But I got my blood work done the other month and everything is absolutely dead perfect. No supplements, just lots of fruits and vegetables, and nuts and beans and rice and nutritional yeast with b12… and dark chocolate, always always chocolate!
On that note, if you had one super power, which would it be and why?
The ability to shut off my mind at any time. Sounds crazy, but when you’ve experienced the joy of shutting off your ego, there’s no greater feeling I’ve ever experienced in my life. It’s so beautiful and perfect, and completely connected to everything. Oh what a super power haha!!