As a child, it is your family as well as environment that have the most influence on the person you will eventually grow up to be. With Defiance’s Quentin McCawley, some aspects of his upbringing are not unlike those of many young men, while one or two elements are decidedly different. The son of Rafe McCawley, a wealthy and powerful mine owner, Quentin and his family live in Defiance, a settlement (once the city of St. Louis, Missouri) occupied by humans and aliens on Earth in the year 2046.
Compared to many in Defiance, Quentin enjoys a comfortable lifestyle, but it is not without its hardships, especially emotional as well as relationship issues involving his family. There is also his mother’s supposed “death,” along with the recent discovery of a mysterious Artifact that has placed added responsibility and worry onto Quentin’s shoulders. Helping him carry this burden is actor Justin Rain, who delivers a very grounded and believable performance as Quentin.
“I think a lot of people can identify with the McCawley family in terms of it’s not the perfect family,” says Rain. “There’s the absence of a parent and also the death of Quentin’s brother Luke [Wesley French], who he really looked up to. At the same time, Quentin is also strangely trying to step out of Luke’s shadow because of the amount of praise that his father put on that son. Quentin is trying to prove himself to his father as far as him being worthy enough to hold the McCawley name along with his father’s incredible reputation in Defiance.
“Because I never had a father in my house growing up, I can relate personally to a great deal of what Quentin has experienced and what he is still going through. As an actor, I’m enjoying the challenge of trying to show his vulnerability and being as honest as possible in my performance. There has been some major growth with Quentin in the recent episodes of Defiance when it comes to his relationship with his father and involving his dead brother as well as the Artifact.
“There are also the last words that Nicky [Fionnula Flanagan] said to Rafe McCawley before he nearly strangled her and kicked her out of his house. It looks like Quentin was ‘inspired’ by those words, and I guess we’ll have to wait and see where that takes him,” teases the actor.
Prior to Defiance, Rain guest-starred on the Canadian TV series The Guard and The Killing as well as played a regular role on Blackstone. The actor also appeared as a Quileute Warrior in the feature film The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. Booking his job on Defiance took plenty of hard work, but the eventual outcome was its own reward.
“My agent sent me the breakdown for the Quentin McCawley character, and I worked on the [audition] sides with a couple of acting coaches,” he recalls. “I then put my audition on tape, sent it to Toronto, and waited. About four weeks later I began getting phone calls about my availability. No one was confirming anything, only asking if I had any other work commitments that might conflict with the Defiance filming schedule.
“Just when I was about to write the whole thing off, I received a call from my agent Sara telling me I had some mail, which was a lie,” says the actor with a chuckle. “So I dropped by the office and she and two of the other agents were sitting in the common waiting area, which was very strange because usually they’re at their desks.
“There was a FedEx envelope addressed to me and laying on the coffee table. I sat down and began talking to everyone as I opened the envelope. Inside were all these blank pieces of paper except for one that read, ‘You booked Defiance, congrats, buddy.’ Everyone then started to dance around me and, of course, I was pretty excited. Later on I found out that Nicole Munoz, who’s with the same agency, had booked the role of Quentin’s younger sister Christie, so it was like a little mini-party for us.
“Before long, I was on the Defiance set. My first day of work was inside the green screen studio and shooting the scenes where the citizens of Defiance are defending themselves and the town against an attack by the [alien] Volge. Now, I had never handled any live weapon before for a film production. I hunted with rifles while growing up in Saskatchewan, but that was nothing compared to the magnitude of firing a fully-automatic machine gun.
“So I was given a little crash course on the weapon I would be handling, the M16. One of the guys in charge took me outside and said, ‘Just fire a few rounds at the wall.’ So I did, and I got a bit of a rush from doing that. We then went in front of the cameras, and there we were, 16 of us standing up on the ridge and shooting live weapons. Being inside a contained studio and having all these weapons going off at the same time was, again, quite an adrenalin rush. You could literally feel the pulsing of the rifles bouncing off you. All of that made for a very cool start to my Defiance experience.”
In the Defiance pilot, Luke McCawley is killed by someone plotting to destroy the town’s defense shield, leaving the settlement vulnerable to the aforementioned Volge attack. While Luke’s family mourn his loss, they must also come to terms with Christie McCawley’s burgeoning relationship with Alak Tarr (Jesse Rath), a Castithan and son of Datak Tarr (Tony Curran), who is Rafe McCawley’s business rival. During all this, Quentin and Rafe argue over how to deal with the Artifact.
“Well, like I said, with Quentin and his father, there are things that have recently brought them together, more specifically the Artifact and whether or not my character listened to Rafe as far as what to do with it,” notes Rain.
“As far as Christie, from the start, Quentin never really resisted the fact that she was falling in love with Alak. It was more his older brother and father who were/are the ‘alien haters.’ I don’t believe that Quentin necessarily likes to judge a book by its cover, and I see him as someone who reads a lot of books. A good example of that is all the research and hard work he put into trying to figure out not only what the Artifact is, but also what it does and the significance of it being found underneath Defiance. Getting back to Christie, though, Quentin supports her fully in terms of everything she does, as long as it’s within reason.”
Regarding the Artifact, Quentin and his father strongly disagree on what to do with it. Nicky believes that is connected to an ancient race of underground dwellers, and therefore desperately wants to have it. In the season one Defiance episode Brothers in Arms, she sends her henchman, Mr. Birch (Steven McCarthy), to the McCawley house to search for it. Before he can find it, however, Quentin surprises him and they have a brutal fight that ends in Birch’s death. Rain speaks with great enthusiasm about filming the fight.
“That was one of the most fun days I had during the entire season one shoot,” he says. “It was a really physically exhausting day, but being able to take the subtext as well as the struggles that I’ve gone through in my own life and use all that in order to reach the correct emotional place for this scene was a lot of fun.
“In between takes I was doing pushups along with all the emotional prep and just exhausting myself to the point that in a few of the final takes, I was seeing stars. The actor I worked with in that scene helped me out quite a bit in terms of how far he dove into it and the physical struggle we had. At one point, [supervising producer/director] Michael Nankin came on the set to watch, and once we finished shooting the scene, he patted me on the back, which felt very good. I think Quentin’s father is a little proud of him for what he did. I’m not sure things would have played out the same if the entire family had been at home, but you have to do what you have to do, and as Rafe said, a man protects his home and family.
“Another scene I especially enjoyed shooting was in Down in the Ground Where the Dead Men Go where everyone is at the entrance to the McCawley mine that was blown up by Ben [Douglas Nyback]. It was my first time working with all the show’s lead cast, aside from Jaime Murray [Stahma Tarr] and Mia Kirshner [Kenya Rosewater]. That was a bit of a nerve-wracking day for me. With the first few rehearsal takes and then the first actual take, I was so nervous that I sort of went blank. It was like the first preview nights of a stage performance where you’re trying to work out the kinks. So I had to step aside, compose myself and tell myself, ‘Yes, you belong here, Justin. Go out and have some fun.’
“I’ve been so fortunate since coming to work on Defiance that Graham Greene has really taken me under his wing and showed me a lot. It’s such an honor to work with an Oscar-nominated performer, and just by watching him I learn so much. I’m a big Dexter fan, too, and working with Julie Benz [Mayor Amanda Rosewater] is such a learning experience in and of itself. Grant Bowler has taken me under his wing as well; we’ll go for coffee and talk about work and his experience as an actor. I’ve also enjoyed my scenes with Fionnula Flanagan. It’s almost surreal working with all these incredibly talented individuals. I’m a strong believer that we are and we become who we surround ourselves with, and I hope that’s happening with me.”
After much contemplation, Quentin decided in the most recent Defiance episode, If Ever I Leave This World Alive, to hand over the Artifact to Nicky. In exchange, she told him about the affair she had long ago with Rafe. Nicky also revealed that during their affair, Rafe allowed her to send Quentin’s mother Pilar, who suffered from manic-depression, away. At the end of the episode, Quentin packs a bag and leaves home. It is a mystery where he is headed, but his journey will likely be a life-changing one.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Quentin evolve further and further into the man his father is, or someone else,” muses Rain. “I really wish I could share what’s to come, but I can’t. As timid as my character appears to be, though, there has been a significant change in him right up to this past week’s episode. I’m getting messages via Facebook and Twitter about how much Quentin has changed since the pilot, and I just hope that growth continues. I look forward to seeing an even more in-depth character as our story progresses. I’m also very curious about the Artifact and what it represents.”
Born in Vancouver, British Columbia and raised in the small town of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Rain moved back west about eight years ago after graduating high school where he planned to pursue a career in architecture. He ended up, however, taking a slight detour and things did not work out quite as he planned.
“I was always a big moviegoer and I also loved TV,” says the actor, “and when I got back to Vancouver, I found myself surrounded by people in the industry, just by making new friends and going to various events. Over time, I became more and more curious about what this [acting] was all about. I got involved with a small theatre company and fell in love with the craft. More than that, though, I fell in love with the fact that I was getting to express myself. I could release my anger, frustration, happiness, etc., through other peoples’ stories and with no one being the wiser. I was training myself to be vulnerable and again, I guess, to release emotion.
“So that’s what hooked me. I spent three years with the Urban Native Theatre Company, and then I finally built up the confidence and thought, ‘Hey, maybe I can make a living at this professionally.’ I wound up pursuing formal training at the Vancouver Academy of Dramatic Arts, The William B. Davis Center and Second Avenue Studios. Currently, I’m training part-time with Matthew Harrison at the Actor’s Foundry here in Vancouver. He’s good friends with Michael Nankin, which is how I met him, and Matthew has taught me a great deal.
“One thing eventually led to another and in 2008 I booked my first union gig. Five or six years later, here I am. I just finished season three of a well-known Canadian TV drama series called Blackstone, and now I’m on Defiance, a big Sci-Fi show. I love Sci-Fi, so that’s perfect. I’m really grateful and my mom is proud. Whenever I talk to her on the phone, it usually ends with sobbing on her end. She’s happy and my older brother is happy, too, so things are good. My interest in architecture is still there and, who knows, I might still pursue it one day, but right now I’m having so much fun doing what I’m doing and I’m not about to stop.”
Just as he draws inspiration from those around him, the actor does what he can to inspire other to pursue their dreams, personally and professionally. “I speak at youth conferences quite a bit when I’m not working, and share my story of how I got to where I am, because back in high school I was a very lost person,” says Rain. “Unfortunately, I experienced three overdoses in my high school years. I really became hooked on the drug/party life and it got out of hand.
“One of the things I’m grateful for is that the last time it happened, I realized that I wasn’t expressing my life through anything creative. Once I began doing that, though, my life changed. I’m a strong believer that if we’re not expressing our lives, our insecurities, our frustrations and our pains through something creative, you can kind of get lost and messed up. So I’m glad I’m not there anymore. Like most people, I have my days, but I feel good about where I’m at now. It puts a tingle in my chest when I’m walking down the street and someone says, ‘Hey, you’re Quentin from Defiance.’ It’s kind of neat how it’s all happened in such a short period of time, and I hope it keeps happening.”
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