Sean Keenan is an old soul. Hailing from Albany, Western Australia, Sean brings a humble eye to life’s chaotic ebb and flow. The star of Puberty Blues is the kind of guy who sees New York as lively rather than crowded, and work as a privilege rather than a burden.
While he was in New York for an acting intensive, Sean took a break from his six-day-a-week schedule to to hit the beach with CONVICTS. In between swells, we got Sean’s Zen take on surfing, his non-methodic acting method, and a refusal to be “that guy.”
Hey Sean. How’s it going, mate?
Let’s start with the boring stuff. Where are you from?
Alright. I’m from Western Australia and I live in Sydney now.
Did you grow up surfing?
I started surfing when I was thirteen. My dad always was a keen surfer and tried to make me surf. I hated it at first when he pushed me into waves and I’d get dumped. At about thirteen I started to realize that it was actually a bit of fun and that was it. We moved down to Albany, close to the beach. That was when I started.
And you got bitten by the surf bug?
Yea. I got a yellow surfboard for Christmas. Some big, old, chunky piece of shit, but it was my board. From the moment we moved to Albany, I surfed everyday ‘cause I was working. I have a twin sister who was going to school and I had everyday off. So she was going to school and I was like pretty much not doing anything. I was going to the beach everyday and just surfed. That was when I broke through the boundary of being really shit, to getting mediocre. I mean I’m still mediocre.
You’re no kook, though. What is it about surfing-or the ocean-that you love?
It’s definitely being able to go and not think of anything else. Just quiet the mind. I think everyone would agree with that. It’s like any sport in a way, but there’s definitely the thing of just sitting out there and not having to think of anything. Being actually relaxed, which is nice.
What’s escape for you in life? You’re busy, you’ve been shooting films and tv shows, what for you is escape? Is it surfing? Is it a mental thing?
I guess you’d have to talk about what stresses me in life.
So what stresses you?
All the existential questions. I think I’m not too stressful. I don’t find work stressful. So surfing would be…yeah, I think that’s a big one. And spending time with friends. Having a laugh de-stresses me.
One of Australia’s good traits is that, when things get too serious, Australians are the first to start laughing. Did you grow up with that kind of humor?
Yea, I think so. We definitely have a very sarcastic home. I guess that’s an Australian thing. Not too cynical, but a healthy amount of cynicism is good.
Tell us how you first get into acting?
We moved to Albany for my first acting job and I did it through school. I did an audition and thought the audition went badly. So I was like yea that’s not going to happen.
But it did. Do you have a specific approach or, process, to acting?
There’s no process because I haven’t trained. You read the script and it will bring up something. The more time you read it the more you discover, then you think of who you know who’s like that character. Or if you don’t you know anybody like that character, you read more and the idea will come to you. It’s just analyzing and discovering. It’s not research in a boring way, but if it’s a historical character you’ll go back and you’ll look up what you can and go to the library and read. If you can get text that really helps.
The method you’re describing sounds very organic. Interesting how often we hear that from artists.
It’s important to make choices that interest you. Then things will naturally flow into something that’s going to be interesting for people to watch. Otherwise, it’s going to be boring for you and for them and that’s not good. Not good at all.
What are you hopping for? Is the US on the horizon?
Yea, I’ve been to the US-I’m in the US-but I’ve only been for short stints. I’m probably going to go for longer. There’s just so much going on with the diversity of parts. Australia is great and there are some great roles, but this country just lives on entertainment. So I love both.
What are the differences between working in Australia and working in the States?
You just go across (to America) and go into the grind and it’s more intense than Australia. You’ve got auditions everyday and you don’t know these casting directors. It’s not like you’ve got two or three a week. It keeps you on your toes. It’s good.
The hustle of it. How’s New York been? What’ve been your favorite things about the city?
Well, the first thing I noticed is the food. I’m a big foodie and the food is so good here. You can go at any time and get whatever cuisine you want. It never closes. If you’re hungry at two AM you can go out your door and go for a walk at and it feels like there’s actually people living here. That’s another thing-just the amount of people actually doing stuff all the time, so you never feel lonely.
What’s been your best meal?
I hate to say it, but probably a three dollar bacon and egg bagel from the bodega. It’s just so cheap and easy and fucking delicious.
Tell us about coming out to Montauk today?
I’ve been doing this acting intensive for the past five weeks, six days a week. I haven’t found any time to get out of New York and the city, so I fell asleep in the car for the three hour drive and just woke up and was like “I can’t even believe I’m still in America like this is incredible.” So we went for a surf.
How was surfing?
It was my first surf in like five weeks and I feel pretty much like a completely new human being. So it was a really great day. I can’t believe this is so close to New York. I thought the beach would be like a dirty, greasy pool, but it’s actually beautiful. That and spending time with good people, is really nice. It’s a good break from what I’ve been doing. Trust me.
Tell us where your mind goes when you’re entering the water with a board under your arm?
Shit, I don’t know.
Fair enough. What about when you’re paddling onto a big wave that you can’t handle?
You are actually thinking about exactly what you’re doing to the point you can’t really recall what you’re thinking about. It’s the fact that you are actually experiencing exactly what’s going on right then and there, it doesn’t really store in your memory. Afterwards you’re like “That was good, but I don’t know what happened.”
So you have this guitar here. Can you play anything?
I’m not going to be that Aussie guy that’s playing guitar. I’m actually not that good at guitar. When I get good enough to feel like I owe you guys a gig. I’ll invite you guys over. I’m just not going to be that guy. I’m sorry. We all know that guy. That guy at the party with the dreadlocks.
Respect. Thanks for the chat, Sean, and best of luck with everything.