Clayne Crawford On The Integrity Of Joseph Chambers And Producing - Exclusive Interview

Clayne Crawford has been a regular on our screens for over 20 years, thanks to roles in TV shows like "Lethal Weapon" and "Rectify," and in movies such as "Convergence," "The Killing of Two Lovers," and the adaptation of the classic Nicholas Sparks story, "A Walk to Remember." In his role as a producer, Crawford is now focused on finding new talent in the industry, and developing the kinds of stories he's always wanted to see onscreen. 

"The Integrity of Joseph Chambers" marks the actor's second collaboration with director Robert Machoian, following their work on 2020's "The Killing of Two Lovers." While the latter was shot on location in Utah, "The Integrity of Joseph Chambers" was filmed entirely in Crawford's hometown in Alabama, and he quickly enlisted the help of his family and the local community to make the movie.

While promoting "The Integrity of Joseph Chambers" at Tribeca Film Festival, Crawford sat down with The List to talk about everything from acting alongside Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Jordana Brewster to filming "A Walk to Remember" 20 years ago and his desire to give back to his fans with an exciting new venture.

Clayne Crawford brings Hollywood to his small town

"The Integrity of Joseph Chambers" is shot in your hometown. What was it like getting to film something there?

I bought a farm in my small little town in 2010, and then when COVID hit, we moved back and we've been there ever since. I've been going back quite a bit. To answer your question, to bring a film there to my little town, everyone was super excited. They've been wanting me to do something like this for quite some time, just because they're all so wonderful and supportive. I've said this before — it was all hands on deck. Anyone that could help was there to help and did help, and I'm super appreciative of that.

So it's a really nice community then?

We're in a little small town in Alabama. There's bad people everywhere, but my experience has been the salt of the earth and everyone's there to help out the community and each other. That's the true definition of community, isn't it?

The Integrity of Joseph Chambers is a family affair

Your family is heavily involved in "The Integrity of Joseph Chambers." You produced the film with your wife, and your sons appear in it. What was it like working so closely with them?

I work with them on everything. They just finally got credit for it. These guys, they're so supportive of everything that I do, and they're always such a positive influence on the choices I make, not only as a professional, but as an actor, as the character. They help bring so much insight to what it is I'm doing and perspective, and they help humble me in so many ways. Because I was shooting in my small town, because it was the middle of COVID, we had to pivot. We were scheduled to shoot in Utah, the same place that we had shot "The Killing of Two Lovers," but Robert [Machoian] was sending footage back. I was scared the movie was going to look just like "The Killing of Two Lovers," and I wanted it to be quite distinctively different.

As a producer, as I'm building Back 40 Pictures, I want to make sure that we have a slate of unique, different films and that I'm not falling into the same category each time. We pivoted two weeks before we were supposed to start shooting, maybe three. It was terrifying. I try to operate from my gut. When I have a gut feeling, I can't really use analytics or algorithms to help determine a direction in my profession. I have to use my gut and it told me we had to pivot. 

We pivoted quite quickly, which meant my wife and I were buying wardrobe. My wife and I were location scouting, my sons and I were building sets and getting the cars and the vehicles and everything ready, collecting all the props. It was awesome because it was COVID, so none us were doing anything anyway. To get to go be creative and make a movie was quite exciting.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Jordana Brewster were the perfect collaborators

What was it like also working with Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Jordana Brewster on this movie?

Jordana and I, we had such a lovely time on "Lethal Weapon" and we became so close through that process. We love what we do, and we're so grateful for what we do. That was our bond, and she has such a respect for everyone around her. We leaned on one another during that process, which at times was extremely challenging and difficult. Our bond, I love her dearly and her family, so that was an absolute treat to have her come in.

Jeff's wife, Hilarie [Burton Morgan from "One Tree Hill"], she was there on that ["Lethal Weapon"] set with me. [That is] another incredible bond. I love her dearly and I was able to meet Jeff a few years ago and understood why she fell in love with him. He's got such a big, beautiful heart, and he loves to play. He loves creating and being an actor, which is exciting.

I'm grateful that they both said yes and came out during the middle of a dadgum pandemic in the middle of Alabama. It was lovely, and I'm glad Jeff and I got to play together, because we've been talking about doing it for some time. Now, I'm trying to find something where we can have a little bit more time together on screen. I had Jeff in Birmingham for 24 hours. I flew him in, I shot him, and then we flew his butt back home ... I was like, "We've got to be bank robbers or do something, man, [where] we're in the whole movie together." We're discussing that and figuring out what that path looks like.

Learning from Lethal Weapon

You mentioned "Lethal Weapon." You must get recognized a lot for that role. What's it like having played such an iconic character?

It was a gift. I was very hesitant at first because of what Mel [Gibson] had created, and I'm such a fan of what he created. He's part of the reason why I wanted to be an actor. I was quite nervous to go into that shadow, and you talk about being in someone else's shoes. I was lost in those shoes. I was so small in what he had created again.

With all of the negative that came at the end of ["Lethal Weapon"], it was truly a blessing. I met my makeup artist, who's worked with me on "The Killing of Two Lovers" and "Joseph Chambers," crew, Jordana [Brewster, and] Chris Coy. All these people that I met doing "Lethal," it's really helped me facilitate what I believe has been my dream to make my own, tell my own stories. It was special.

Wven with all the nastiness, it ended exactly how I wanted it to end. I was able to play this guy with a perfect arc. Where we found Riggs and where we left Riggs, it doesn't happen on network TV. I know that it was unintentional, the way that it ended, but as an artist, as an actor, that was a dream come true.

To be able to take away those relationships with other people and still work with them, that's invaluable.

It was the first time I'd ever been on set every single day, all day. I was on that set 75 hours a week. It was the greatest lesson in filmmaking I could have ever been given. It was such an intimate education.

A lot of times as an actor, you get pulled in, then you get pulled out. I lived on the Warner Bros. lot, and the knowledge I gained is the only reason I'm sitting in Tribeca today, because of what I learned on that [TV show].

They didn't give me ... any other choices, really. I was backed into a corner and it happened when I was 40. I was like, "Man, if I'm going to keep acting, I better go do this s*** on my own and take this opportunity to tell the stories I've always wanted to tell and do what I've always wanted to do," because I realize it can go away just like that. Something I've been working [on] for over 20 years, [I] can lose it so quickly, and that could have been through a car accident or through anything. It's all so fragile. I gained a great appreciation.

Fond memories of A Walk to Remember

You've been in this business a really long time. One of the movies you're in that I love is "A Walk to Remember." Do you have any memories from that set? I know it was 20 years ago. I'm embarrassing myself.

You're not embarrassing yourself. That was my [one of my] very first [jobs] ... I had done "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and I did this other little movie called "Gas Station Jesus," and I forget what they changed the title to, but every memory I have of that experience is fun. Talk about making friends — Al Thompson, who's in that movie with me, we met in the bar of the hotel in Wilmington, North Carolina, and I'm going to meet him tonight and I haven't hugged his neck in over two years because of COVID. These relationships — Seth Howard, who I met on that film, is still one of my dearest friends in the whole world.

I remember when I walked into the room and it was the first time someone had paid for me to go and perform, and I remember literally jumping on the bed. I felt like, "Oh my God, this is actually obtainable." It was really special, and we were all a bunch of kids figuring it out. It was like high school. We had an absolute blast.

Clayne Crawford on discovering talented filmmakers

You're a producer now. Who do you want to work with? Actors? Directors? Writers?

Oh, so many. I just finished a couple of films [with] two other directors, Summer Shelton, who's a Spirit Award winner, and this is her directorial debut that we did, "You & I." [There's also] Ashley Shelton, her directorial debut, where she acts, writes and stars in this film that I produced called "Best Clowns," with Thomas Lennon and Robyn Lively.

As an actor, people are like, "Man, what do you want to play next?" I can say a doctor, a cowboy, a lawyer, whatever I can say, but I don't really know until I read something if I want to be a part of it. Sometimes, you'll read something and you can't read it sitting down. You get up on your feet and either want to say these words or want to make sure that [you] can watch this movie. To give you a list would be challenging, but I am mostly interested in a singular voice. I love a writer-director combo, and I'm looking for people, first time directors, who have not had an opportunity to have their voice heard. That's been my main focus of Back40 Pictures: "How do I get first time directors an opportunity?"

It's exciting because there's so much talent out there. I knew of Robert [Machoian]. He was making these little short films with his kids since 2009, and his focus was on being a father and a professor of photography at BYU [Brigham Young University]. I knew there was something in there with this guy and I see this with so many other people. What I'm looking for is the opportunity to give all of these voices a platform.

Giving back to the fans

Is there anything else you want people to know about "The Integrity of Joseph Chambers"?

I don't know if I have a message when I make these films. I want people to escape their own lives. I do want people to know that I'm creating the Bloody Seahorse Film Experience ... The fans were so supportive of me when I went through that situation at "Lethal," and they had been so supportive of these little movies I've been making. I want to truly find an opportunity to be able to give back to them. The Bloody Seahorse Film Experience is an opportunity where you can come to set. You can have lunch and dinner with the cast and crew. You can go to premieres, screenings, after parties. We've been giving away seats to the screenings here at Tribeca, so that the fans who have been so supportive on social media can come out and be a part of this.

In a month or so, we're going to launch our NFT collection, which is going to be actual frames from "Joseph Chambers." When you buy that frame, that puts you in the running to get to come to set, get to come to these screenings, for memorabilia, signed posters, merch, hats, T-shirts, all of our stuff from the film. That's my goal with telling these stories — making it as immersive as possible for everyone involved.

"The Integrity of Joseph Chambers" premiered on June 9, 2022 at the Tribeca Film Festival, will screen to the public on Friday, June 17 ⁠— tickets are still available ⁠— and on Tribeca At Home.