Perhaps the only thing more impressive than 17-year-old Nathaniel Potvin’s fearless jump from being a working dancer to professional actor, starring as technopath, Ryan Walker in Disney XD’s “Mech – X4,” is his passion and drive.
When Potvin speaks there is a mixture of child-like enthusiasm and a maturity that is almost startling from a person at such a ripe age. He is definitely someone to look out for on both the small and silver screen. Read more to learn about his new hit show, career shift, and dreams for the future:
How did you break into acting?
I was 11 years old. I just started out as a working dancer before I was an actor. At the studio I was going to there was an acting class, and that’s where I first met my manager. I started taking class with her and she signed me to be her talent. Then she put me out in front of agencies, and I got agents. It just progressed from there.
Was acting something you always wanted to do?
It’s something that I kind of fell into because I loved to dance. I still do, but acting wasn’t my main priority until I actually started investing in it. Now it’s a passion of mine.
Is there anyone that you look up to?
I definitely look up to Denzel Washington because he’s amazing. I definitely look up to Ben Affleck and Matt Damon as well because I’m a huge fan of their movie, ‘Good Will Hunting.’ I love the story that they portrayed, how they wrote it themselves, and how it’s so passionate. They acted in it and they produced it. It’s just—that’s an inspiration for me.
You are clearly not afraid to stretch yourself as an artist. Do you think that you will ever get into writing, producing, or directing?
I would absolutely love to be a producer/director because I have passion for photography and filming. I write a little bit too. I’ve always wanted to get into the technical aspect of the industry because, as an actor, there are a lot of directors out there who don’t know how to work with actors. I feel like, being an actor and transitioning over to directing or producing, I can give other actors the direction they need and better communication. Also, I want to tell stories through screenwriting. It’s just so amazing.
How has your life changed since becoming an actor?
I feel like it hasn’t changed that much. I have two older brothers that constantly keep me humble, 100 percent. I still hang out with the same friends. I don’t go to the same school, but acting has been amazing for me because it’s allowed me to break out of my comfort zone sometimes. It’s also a way to express what I’m feeling through my characters. I wouldn’t say I personally have changed. I still live in the same house. I have the same dog. I just think everything is pretty normal and how it’s meant to be.
So you wouldn’t say it was hard for you growing up and acting? Was it a smooth transition?
Oh, it was so smooth. It was so great. Everyone was so supportive. Honestly, my brothers don’t even see me as an actor. They see me as a little brother, which is awesome.
Do you feel like your dance background helped you to channel the different emotions that you have to use in acting?
Oh yeah, of course. Dancing has definitely taught me how to express myself through movement, and acting has taught me to express myself through embodying another person, or a character. When you’re dancing you express emotions on your face through what the song is trying to convey, or what the dance is trying to convey, and it has definitely helped me in my acting. Also, the physicality of dancing has helped me in a lot of stunts that I do on the show.
And what about the CGI in the show? You have to use your imagination a lot, right?
Oh yeah! 100 percent. We’ll be on set and we’ll have to work with a green screen, and they tell you what’s going to be on the screen, but you kind of have to make it up yourself. They say, “There is a big ol’ monster in front of you, so act scared.” So, you have to imagine something that is super scary like a big ol’ monster and you’re like, oh no I have to fight this thing [laughs]. It’s sometimes hard because you think of something, but sometimes your imagination gets the better of you and you get distracted. It’s so great to finally see the final product because you’ll imagine something when you are acting and they’ll put it all together. When you see the actual monster you’re like, oh that’s so cool! It’s exactly the way I envisioned it. Sometimes its like, oh that’s not how I thought it was going to look at all.
Let’s talk about your show, “Mech – X4.” What is this show about?
It’s about this one kid who figures out he has a super power. His power is that he can control any technology with his mind. He uses his power and the power awakens a 150-foot giant monster-fighting robot, but he doesn’t know that it fights monsters yet. When he finds this robot, monsters start popping up. He then recruits his two best friends and his older brother to help fight monsters with him. So, it’s about these four kids trying to get through high school, but also fighting monsters in this robot. They’re trying to be heroes, and they all have their own special quality that they bring to the robot. There is Ryan, my character, being the leader; Kamran Lucas, who plays Harris, who is the brains; Spyder, who is played by Pearce Joza, who is wild card that mans the weapons; then we have my older brother, Mark, played by Raymond Cham, and he is the mechanic who fixes the robot when it’s down. We all come together to fight all these monsters and defend our city, but we’re just normal kids.
What is your character like?
I would describe my character’s personality as just a complete leader. Sometimes he’ll have a storyline where he doesn’t want to be the leader because he doesn’t think he can do it. Eventually he always finds a reason why he’s meant to fight these monsters and be a superhero. He’s got that leadership quality in him and he’s the only one who can do it.
Would you say that you and your character have things in common?
Yeah, I would say we have things in common. We are both younger brothers. Ryan likes to skateboard and I like to skateboard. I feel like Ryan also has a great color-sense. He wears a lot of red and maroon, and I really like those colors as well. I feel like Ryan is also really grounded, and I completely relate to that. He doesn’t really think of himself as the most amazing person in the world. He just sees himself as a regular kid.
When you get a script or step onto set what are some of the things you do to get into character?
Usually I just memorize my script. I also read the stage directions, which the writers have amazingly put together for us, and it helps develop our characters. When I first got this character I didn’t know who he was, and the best thing about acting is that you can develop your character and make them more like you, or you can make yourself more like the character. I put some aspects of me into my own character and he’s just evolved from there. He’s gotten better and better. He’s learned more. He’s become more mature. Usually when I get into character I just think about what makes Ryan tick. If I could just figure those things out for each episode, then that’s what Ryan is going to be like.
If you could pick any power what would it be?
I wouldn’t pick to be a technopath, but I would love to have the power of teleportation so I can travel the world. I just think that’s so amazing. I would love to do that.
You are also going to be in a movie, ‘A World Away.’
Yes. I am featured in that movie. It’s a great movie. It’s about six kids who go to the Grand Canyon, and instead of ending up at their destination they find themselves in a world away. It’s really cool. It’s got SciFi. There is some comedy. It’s got a lot of drama. I thought it was really well done.
What was it like working with Rowan Blanchard again?
Filming with Rowan is a dream, you know? She’s so humble and she’s so nice. It’s just fun to have that atmosphere on set because sometimes sets don’t have that. Rowan definitely brings that kind-hearted spirit to set. I just remember talking to Rowan about music, because we love music, and we talked about which songs the other one should hear. It’s just super fun to work with her.
Oh nice! What kind of music are you into right now?
I’ve definitely been listening to Kendrick Lamar’s new album. His album is amazing. It’s fire. Frank Ocean, of course. I’ve just been vibing to those things.
How is shooting a movie different than shooting a series?
I feel like they are really similar. I think it’s because of the way our series is shot. It’s shot single-cam so it looks like a movie, and we have the movie atmosphere. Stuff gets done quickly. The only difference I would say is that on TV shows everything is shot a lot faster, while in a movie everything is shot a little more leisurely. But you’re still on a time schedule. I still think they’re really similar, especially to my show and that movie.
How are you able to transition through this industry and make the right choices?
Honestly, the way I’ve gotten this far is because of my team; my amazing team that I’ve been working with. I’ve been working with my manager for six years. I’ve been working with my agents for almost that long. My mom has been super supportive, and helped me along to learn more about the business. Then working with my PR team, who are amazing too. I love them completely. I don’t think I could navigate it by myself. I will always need help and I’m not afraid to say that. I’m completely dependent on everyone else, and together we make this great team. I can go out on auditions and do what I love to do.
What kind of roles are you looking forward to getting in the future?
I’m definitely looking forward to some action hero roles. Those are awesome. I love those, but I’m also looking for some serious drama roles as well. I would not mind some of those because I feel like that’s where a lot of the art form comes from. I feel like that’s a good way to express myself through a character, through the hardships and drama of another character.
Is there any advice that you can give to our readers that may be thinking about changing a direction in their life, or who may even be thinking about breaking into show business?
The only thing I would love to say to your readers is that when you get into this business it is super discouraging, but you can’t let it discourage you. It’s all about looks and honestly if someone is going to pick you for a role, they are going to pick you for a role that is perfect for you. You can’t let these other auditions get you down and let them get in your head. If it is actually what you love to do then these people can’t stop you. You’re just going to find a new way to express yourself, and a new way to do what you love. And that works for everything.