It’s no surprise that Mark Arnold has found himself living in London the past two years. The veteran actor has always had an affinity for British culture – specifically its accomplished actors. “My early influences were Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir John Gielgud,” he said. “The headmaster of my private Quaker high school had gotten his Doctorate in Shakespearean literature in Stratford, England. Most kids did musicals in high school and I got exposed to the classics. I did ‘Othello’ my senior year.”
Another factor that separated Arnold from his peers was his limited exposure to television as a kid – something that kept him from conversing with his friends, but blossomed his love for film. “I watched a ton of movies when I was a kid,” he explained. “I actually preferred to go alone, I didn’t like taking dates because I didn’t want to make out, I wanted to watch the movie. There are two movies that are very seminal for me – ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. ‘Clockwork’ really peaked my interest – it had this really cool factor to it between the production value, the writing and the storytelling – and it’s a tough subject matter.”
While attending Boston University, Arnold landed his first role – a part that would fan the flames of his career aspirations. “I got my first gig two days before I graduated,” he explained. “It was ‘My Old Man’ with Kristy McNichol, Warren Oates and Eileen Brennan. Within a month I was on location in Saratoga Springs, NY – it was very exciting; I was there for the entire shoot and working with some big people.”
Arnold’s next experience was not as memorable, but not for the reasons many would think. “I auditioned for the lead in Franco Zeffirelli’s ‘Endless Love’ and didn’t get it,” he said. “The audition process was daunting for me – it was in front of Zeffirelli and ‘60 Minutes’ was there filming because they were doing a story on him. To have Zeffirelli there was intimidating enough – but having ‘60 Minutes’ there just made it too much for me.”
Following that experience, Arnold would work steady in daytime television, including taking on the role of Joe Perkins on “Santa Barbara” – which he points to as one of the more awkward experiences of his career. “At the time, the guy who was playing Joe Perkins was living with Robin (Wright),” he explained. He got fired on a Wednesday and I was there working on a Thursday. It was a very uncomfortable situation for me. I didn’t necessarily want to be doing soaps either – I had just finished shooting ‘Teen Wolf’ and had my sights set on a film career. They asked me if I wanted to stay and I said no, because I wanted to be free for ‘Teen Wolf’s’ release. I was blessed with having steady employment but the difficulty for me was that it wasn’t the kind of work I wanted to be doing. I have always been restless that way.”
“Teen Wolf” may be Arnold’s best-known work – playing the part of Mick the bully – which is just fine with Arnold. “I was submitted by my agent for the part and it was the usual audition process,” he said. “Michael (J. Fox) was at the call backs and he read with us and I think he was the one that eventually just said yes – I think he had approval. When I first got the script and saw the title I thought, ‘Oh, Christ!’ But, I read the script and it was better than the title and when I did the film I thought we made a better film that the script. I expected ‘Teen Wolf’ to come and go and that would be the end of it. Nobody could anticipate what it has become – I thought eventually it would be part of a double feature with ‘I Was a Teenage Werewolf’,” he joked.
Arnold credits the producers’ timely moves with making the movie wildly successful. “They wisely held off on releasing the movie until after ‘Back to the Future’ had come out,” he explained. “I think it’s astonishing that anything gets through to the zeitgeist on any level. It was kept alive by the grace and love of TBS and I have a lot of young filmmakers who know me for the film. For a long time, however, I had a lot of difficulty coping with it – but now I appreciate it for all that it is.”
He is also appreciative that he was not brought in for the sequel. “They didn’t ask me to be in the animated series or ‘Teen Wolf Too’ – which is fine with me, if you’ve ever tried sitting through that,” he laughed.
For six and a half years in the late ‘90s until 2003, Arnold didn’t work, but has been very busy since, “I really have enjoyed the time from 2003 on – it’s only stopped because I moved to London,” he explained.
He has also formed a friendship with writer-director Andrew Robinson, with whom he worked with on two films, most notably the underappreciated “April Showers” in 2009 – based on Robinson’s story and experiences as a survivor of the Columbine Tragedy. “I felt blessed to work with him and would work with him again in a heartbeat,” Arnold said. “Doing that story with him was very personal. I have a great respect for him. I love writer-directors because they have the balls to get up and do their own thing – I love that passion in filmmaking. I’m sorry ‘April Showers’ – because of some legal issues – didn’t get as much distribution as it warranted.”
Arnold is also the Director of the Mentoring Program with the Young Playwrights Festival put on by The Blank Theatre Company, a job he thinks is important as young writers develop their craft. “I started as an actor there and quickly moved into a bigger role,” he said. “We choose 12 short plays – three plays are performed each weekend throughout the month of June. We then offer the playwrights a one-on-one mentorship with professional writers. The young writer gets to learn how to rewrite which is incredibly important and I get to oversee all the rewrites.”
While mentoring, Arnold has found some work he wants to help turn into more. “I found a one-act play last year and asked the writer if she would make it a full-length play,” Arnold described. “We’ve been developing that for London that I would like to direct. I like the development process a lot. Anyone who does these things knows you have to love the stories to be with it from start to finish.”
Arnold is also trying to find a venue for his latest play, Companion Piece ; a story “similar to ‘Lars and the Real Girl’, but not.” Arnold has found the move to England has been more difficult than anticipated when it comes to work. “I don’t find as much work here because I’m American,” he stated. “I like the city a lot. It’s more of an adjustment than people think it is – far different culture than one anticipates. The art is fabulous and I am just trying to get more of a life here. American work casts a long shadow in all of Europe. You go to Romania and see the Kardashians on TV. So everyone is inundated with American product and they want to tell their own stories. For example, my wife and I were watching a new French series the other night and it was just awesome television.”
Mark Arnold is determined to make the most of his opportunities whether they present themselves in London or Los Angeles – with the intelligence and wherewithal of a man who has seen it all in his career. “I am still trying to find my way,” he said. “You just try to stay creatively viable. You can’t control stardom; you can only control what you do. ‘Teen Wolf’ taught me that.”