Levi Meaden as Matt Copeland in Aftermath. Photo copyright of Syfy.
It was not that long ago that Matt Copeland was at a crossroads in life. Having left one of his dreams behind, the twentysomething-year-old considered two other options, and finally decided to pursue the one in which he believed in the most. Then, however, things suddenly one day came crashing down around Matt, his family and the rest of humankind as the world they all knew became a very hostile, dangerous and even more unpredictable place. Regular viewers of Syfy’s Aftermath are well aware of the adversity that the Copelands have faced since the show premiered, and actor Levi Meaden, who plays Matt, has thoroughly relished being part of this fictional game of survival. Funnily enough, his involvement in the series came about in a rather circuitous way.
“A casting agent for Aftermath initially reached out to my agent about another one of her clients, who is actually also a friend of mine, but he wasn’t available, “recalls Meaden. “However, my agent felt I’d be great for the Matt role, so I put together an audition tape up in Vancouver, which is where I live, and sent it off. A couple of months later I happened to be in Los Angeles, and apparently they [the show’s producers] had been talking back and forth with my manager and agent. Sure enough, I was invited to meet with Jason Stone, who directed our first two episodes, Noreen Halpern from Helfire Entertainment [one of Aftermath’s production companies] and a few of the show’s producers as well as writers. We workshopped a couple of scenes from episode two, and they seemed to like what I’d done quite a bit. After the meeting, I flew back to Vancouver, and by the time I got home I got a call telling me that the part was mine if I wanted it, which I did,” he enthuses.
In Aftermath’s opening episode, RVL 6768, Earth begins to experience a series of natural disasters including earthquakes, drastic tidal shifts and tsunamis. These events coincide with the appearance of supernatural creatures, among them skinwalkers – demons capable of possessing human bodies – and the outbreak of a plague that turns people into irrational, psychotic “feverheads.” When one of their twin daughters Brianna (Taylor Hickson) is literally whisked into the air and taken by a skinwalker, Joshua Copeland (James Tupper), a university professor, and his wife Karen (Anne Heche), a U.S. Air Force pilot, take their other two children, Matt and Dana (Julia Sarah Stone) and go in search of Brianna. Throughout their journey, they encounter a host of other people trying to survive, and some willing to do anything in order to do so. Creating such an apocalyptic environment was quite the undertaking for the show’s cast and crew.
“We definitely hit the ground running when filming began on Aftermath,” notes Meaden. “Taylor was actually alone on the first day of shooting because her character is separated from the rest of the Copelands for the first few episodes. As for the rest of us, the first scene we filmed involved explosions, meteorites and a standoff with a shotgun. They handed me a gun, told me where to stand, and the director yelled, ‘Action.’ Right before he did, I thought, ‘OK, I guess we’re jumping right into this.’ That kind of speed and energy never really dipped throughout our four months of filming, and I think, or at least hope, that that translated to the screen.
“For me, personally, the end of the second episode [In Rats Alley] where Matt is part of this standoff and has to shoot someone was probably what I was most nervous about going into this project, just because I really liked that scene,” continues the actor. “It was so well-written and I really wanted to bring it to life and nail it. One of the neat things about acting, is when you do it right, you kind of ‘lose control’ and just go with the flow, which happened here. So I was happy to be able to do justice to that scene. As far as overall challenges with a show like this, it’s a huge stunt-heavy show, and a lot of time and effort goes into planning these stunts. For example, the snatching of Brianna by a skinwalker was a very big deal. They used a giant crane and launched the stunt woman, I think, 120 feet into the air. That was a major challenge for everyone involved, and was pretty damn exciting to watch being shot, too.
“When it comes to my character of Matt, he loses his identify at the start of the season. He’s a football player, and when he can’t play anymore, he’s at a loss as to what to do with the rest of his life. I don’t think Matt wants to follow in his mom’s footsteps, although she would love him to, and enlist in the military, so he decides to try taking the route that his dad would probably appreciate and go into The Peace Corps. He’s like most twenty-year-olds who are struggling to figure out what they want to do and the sort of person they want to be. That’s where we initially find Matt, and as the season goes, on, he discovers he can’t leave behind a lot of the things he had hoped to leave behind by joining The Peace Corps.
“Matt finds a great deal of anger and violence in himself that he starts to embrace, and in the process becomes a warrior. However, he must also learn how to walk a fine line between embracing the evil you face in yourself and fighting it. That was one of the toughest things for me with playing Matt; I had to find all the ways of expressing his anger in response to the chaos constantly unfolding around him. In every episode of Aftermath there are four or five different twists and turns, and you have to vary your reaction to each situation in order not to make your character blasé or one-dimensional, do you know what I mean?”
With the cast of any new TV show, feature film or even stage play, it takes time to get to know each other and become comfortable working together. For Meaden and his fellow Aftermath actors, that process was effortless as well as enjoyable and contributed to the onscreen rapport between their characters.
“We were fortunate to be able to create a family dynamic behind-the scenes, and as the season unfolds, you get to see the results of that onscreen,” says the actor. “I really loved watching Taylor and Julia, who play Matt’s sisters, settle into their roles and, in turn, watching their characters grow and develop. Brianna and Dana both fall in love and then have all these things ripped away from them, which results in brand new identities for the two of them that they would have never imagined having before.
“As for Anne and James, watching them work together was wonderful. They’re married in real life, so every day they’d come to set with that energy of wanting to work with one another, and it was cool seeing their characters grow and develop as well. Anne’s character finds peace, while James’ character constantly and consistently becomes more excited about the situations they’re facing because it’s what his whole life’s work has been about.”
Obviously steering clear of spoilers, is there anything that the actor can reveal about Aftermath’s season one finale and what viewers can look forward to with Matt? “I can tell you that I’m very pleased with where Matt winds up at the end of the season,” says Meaden. “He’s given one final arc in the last three episodes that I think ties up many of the things he has fought for throughout the season. As far as the actual filming of the season finale, we were all pretty tired from the long hours and hectic schedule, so by the end of the shoot, it was one of those mixed emotion experiences. Everyone was happy to take a break, but we had all lived in this Aftermath world for four months, so we knew we were going to miss it. We found ourselves cherishing the final storyline that the Copelands go through. It not only brings the family back together, but also brings them closer together, and, hopefully, it won’t be the last time we as actors will be working together on the show.”
Born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Meaden was eight or nine years old when he first considered the idea of one day working in the entertainment industry. He did a bit of acting back then, but then drifted away from that for a time, and as Meaden got older, he began focusing more on writing, directing and other behind-the-scenes opportunities. “I studied filmmaking while also doing a variety of other jobs, including cook and warehouse worker, in order to make ends meet,” says the actor.
“It was after finishing film school that I stumbled into acting. I was working at a production company, when its owner [writer/director/producer] Roger Larry, came to me after seeing a couple of short films I’d made as well as acted in. Roger felt I had something to offer as an actor, so he put me in touch with my Vancouver agent, Carrie Wheeler. We met, and she basically gave me a shot. I kept taking classes and continued to be diligent about my work ethic until things began to happen. The TV series The Killing was my first big break. I’d been a fan of the first season, and when I knew it was renewed for one more season, which was filming in Vancouver, I wanted to be a part of it. I was given the chance to choose which role I wanted to audition for, but then they ended up asking me to read for another role, which was that of A.J. I was ecstatic when I got the job, and, again, it was a huge boost for me as well as my career.”
The 100, Olympus, iZombie and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow are among the actor’s other TV credits. On the big screen he can be seen in Incontrol, currently making the film festival rounds, and the upcoming Pacific Rim 2: Maelstrom. Although he has only worked in the business for a relatively short period of time, the actor has already portrayed a wide range of roles and is looking forward to further challenging himself in his chosen craft. “Acting is, at its core, storytelling, so I think you just have to take what a writer has given you and deliver it an honest way that will benefit the story,” says Meaden. “If you can do that and be proud of your work, then what else is there?”
Aftermath airs Tuesdays @ 10:00 p.m. EST/9:00 p.m. CT on Syfy (US). As noted above, photo copyright of Syfy, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!