I spoke with TYLER BLACKBURN about his role as Caleb in PRETTY LITTLE LIARS on ABC Family. What a polite and charming gentleman and I really enjoyed chatting with him. He is so genuine and definitely one of the sweetest people that I have ever had the pleasure of speaking with. Yes, my job has its perks and getting to speak with the people behind some of the hottest shows on television is certainly one of them. I was happy I was able to relay all of your messages to him and if you didn’t think he was fascinating already; read on and you will fall head over heels in admiration of this beautiful person. Tyler’s career is taking off in the right direction and it is only a matter of time before we see him in all his top billing glory. Watch Tyler Blackburn every week in PRETTY LITTLE LIARS on ABC Family.
Lena: Can you give me a brief history of how you got started in the business? What was your first audition like?
Tyler Blackburn: I don’t really remember my first audition but I started taking an acting class when I was a junior in high school and I realized that is what I wanted to do with my life. I have always had an interest in it but when all my friends were applying for college, I decided I knew what I would like to do. I drove to Hollywood once a week for this acting class and I met some managers through that got an agent and starting auditioning and the rest is kind of history.
Lena: It must have been nerve-racking to audition at first?
Tyler Blackburn: Yeah, it definitely was. Honestly, in the very beginning it was less nerve-racking because I was still naive to it all. I was like, oh of course I’m going to succeed in this (laughing) but then as time went on, I faced rejection and all those types of things. You do feel a little more self-conscious and stuff but it’s part of the job description. I’m just happy to do it. It was a new experience and it was exciting you know, to actually be pursuing what I had dreamt of.
Lena: What was it like working on “Days of Our Lives”? I would imagine soap opera roles to be one of the more difficult roles to tackle.
Tyler Blackburn: Yeah (laughing), it was a really great experience, actually. It was difficult in some ways. We only got one take per scene and that was probably the hardest part. You had to make sure you knew your lines and hit your marks and did a good job (laughing). At the same time because of that it was really good training. It made me focus really hard and do the best I could do in a small amount of time. They film an entire episode in one day so they move so quickly. But yeah, it was really great and really fun.
Lena: Wow, it’s almost like live TV. You really only got one take? That is crazy and I don’t know how you did it.
Tyler Blackburn: Yeah, one take unless you really messed up or something, then they would be like okay, just take it from this line but it was a little bit frowned upon (laughing).
Lena: So, after doing that you are a pro.
Tyler Blackburn: It definitely helped me with memorization and going into a show like “Pretty Little Liars” where we can do a scene six times. It has just made it so much easier. Yeah, it was great training.
Lena: There have been a lot of remakes in Hollywood, so if you could take over anyone’s role, who would it be and from what film?
Tyler Blackburn: Oh, this is kind of a funny one but I think “Edward Scissorhands”. Yeah, I love that movie so much. I guess that one although I do really like Leonardo DiCaprio’s earlier work as well as his recent work. “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” and even “The Basketball Diaries” that would be awesome. Yeah, I think “Edward Scissorhands”. I think that would be fun. That would be really creative.
Lena: It’s funny you say that because I have a question asking you if you have ever been compared you to Johnny Depp.
Tyler Blackburn: Yeah, I actually have and that is such a compliment but I mean those are some big shoes to fill there. People definitely say that I resemble him. I think that is what it is, just the look. I have been compared to Johnny Depp, definitely. Then I get some other ones like River Phoenix and when I was younger people said I looked like Leonardo DiCaprio and I was l like, yes.
Lena: No, you are way better looking.
Tyler Blackburn: Oh, thank you.
Lena: You have a quality about you that even though you are dressed down in the show, you are always the most beautiful man on the set.
Tyler Blackburn: (Laughing) Oh, thank you.
Lena: You are. I’ve only actually watched the episodes that you’ve been in.
Tyler Blackburn: Well, that’s probably because I have lots of makeup on and they straighten my hair, so (laughing) but I appreciate that, so thank you very much.
Lena: You are welcome. In the most recent episode of “Pretty Little Liars” we get to find out a bit about Caleb’s history regarding his family, as least we know as much as he has shared with Hanna. What are your thoughts on his history?
Tyler Blackburn: Right, I feel for him. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a pretty loving environment and obviously it had its ups and downs but nothing compared to what Caleb has gone through. I just can’t imagine that. I think that when somebody deals with that at such a young age they kind of have this hardened exterior out of necessity and it’s also a survival tactic. Just not to be too vulnerable and not express too much emotion but I think that deep down he is a really good guy. He wants to do the right thing and I think that Hanna just brings it out in him. I think that was why he was actually comfortable enough to tell her that. Hanna told him the tale of her and fat camp and that was her being vulnerable and it kind of gave Caleb permission to share as well.
Lena: Right. When you take on a role do you generally make up your own back story for the character to help you bring them to life?
Tyler Blackburn: Yeah, it does really depend on the project but definitely with Caleb. I knew, before I even shot the first episode, a little bit of his history just from the producers, creators and writers. That helped, definitely with small things and like sleeping in the school, that is pretty intense and it helped me create in my mind what it would be like to be in a school alone at night, you know what I mean? Things like that. It definitely helped, for sure and I do try to do that.
Lena: In the past couple of episodes you have had a shower scene and a tent scene. What goes through your mind when you film those kinds of scenes? Are you very uncomfortable or are you glad that you are not on FX Network, where you would have to show more?
Tyler Blackburn: (Laughing) I mean, honestly, I don’t know why but it does put you in a vulnerable state and if you saw a butt check or something that might not be much worse. Well yeah, it wasn’t the most comfortable thing and I did the shower scene first and I was more comfortable in the tent except the fact that it was so cold. We were filming outside and they asked me if I wanted a jacket but I said no, I don’t need a jacket, but really I was freezing (laughing). It’s awkward but it’s a professional environment and Ashley just helped me stay cool about it and just made it fun. It definitely put me a little bit at ease. It’s not the most comfortable thing especially I don’t work out. I eat whatever I want, so (laughing) I definitely felt a little exposed.
Lena: Oh, you are one of the lucky ones (laughing).
Tyler Blackburn: I guess, although, I do have to point out that Keegan was recently in (I could not understand exactly what Tyler said but I know it was referring to Keegan working out) and I thought oh, we have to hit the gym together (laughing).
Lena: (Laughing) Oh no, what were you wearing in the shower scene? Did you have jeans on as a joke?
Tyler Blackburn: No, I had a little bathing suit on, not a Speedo but a little bathing suit.
Tyler Blackburn: Yes.
Lena: Would you ever want to do a show like “Spartacus” where it is all gore and sex? I don’t know if you have ever watched it.
Tyler Blackburn: It’s really just circumstantial for me. It just depends. I don’t want it to be that kind of thing where I’m just some guy who takes his shirt off. I don’t want to be pigeonholed in that area but I’m not going to shun it. It just depends and I think that for me, I’m just starting to really work and the more comfortable that I get just working and being on sets and stuff I think that thing would become easier but at the same time, I am a human (laughing) and it’s still pretty weird to be doing those things with fifty people watching you and then eventually millions when it hits the screen, so…yeah (laughing).
Lena: I do love the way that “Spartacus” is filmed. I could do without all the soft core porn but the fight scenes are beautifully shot.
Tyler Blackburn: Yeah, I definitely agree.
Lena: I know that Caleb is labeled as a bad boy but other than the spying, he really hasn’t done anything bad. Caleb seems like a really sweet guy. How would you describe him?
Tyler Blackburn: I think being labeled a bad boy, there are so many different actions that can lead to that title and I think more than anything it’s about his attitude towards life. He kind of laughs at the prissy girls of Rosewood. He thinks it’s all kind of silly, really. That’s his attitude and how he responds to people and all his little quips. At the same time, he does do things for money and things that are probably illegal. I think that is kind of bad but he doesn’t ride a Harley or anything like that. I mean he’s an ABC Family bad boy (laughing).
Lena: (Laughing) That is so true, I usually only cover adult shows. What is it like working with the cast?
Tyler Blackburn: So fun, they are really fun. We spend a lot of time together and I’m not even there as long as the girls are. They film long, long hours and it’s cool that they keep really grounded during that and have fun with it still. That is just a really cool thing to walk into. They are all very welcoming and it’s definitely a great environment.
Lena: What is it like to work with Chad Lowe?
Tyler Blackburn: I’ve never worked with him but I see him at the table reads. He’s a really nice guy and he came up and introduced himself. Yeah, he’s very nice.
Lena: Yeah, I’m a fan of his. Did you see his “Law & Order: SVU” episode?
Tyler Blackburn: No, I didn’t.
Lena: That guy is amazing.
Tyler Blackburn: Yeah, he’s good, definitely.
Lena: So he is nice in person, too. That is always so good to hear.
Tyler Blackburn: Oh absolutely. Everybody is so nice. I know that sounds outlandish but everybody is so nice like Holly Marie Combs. We joke around when we see each other. She’s a sweetheart and everybody is just really cool. I definitely enjoy going there, even if my call time is at 5:30 a.m. I’m just like, let’s get to it.
Lena: So you can be a morning person when you have to be?
Tyler Blackburn: Yeah, only when I have to be.
Lena: (Laughing) Yeah, I’m not a morning person at all, either. How is it that Caleb, even while homeless or living in Hanna’s basement has the best hair on the show?
Tyler Blackburn: I think that is so funny, too. When I watch it, I thought the same thing at one point. Wow, my hair just looks really done up, you know. I don’t really know. I guess that is hair and makeup’s department. Actually, throughout the episodes I would get little haircuts and stuff like that. They would tweak things a little bit and try different things and by the end of it they would straighten it and that type of thing. It does evolve, definitely.
Lena: (Laughing) It’s always so perfect. You do have really nice hair and obviously you have it in real life, so…
Tyler Blackburn: (Laughing) It’s a wig, actually.
Lena: Is it really?
Tyler Blackburn: (Laughing) No, I’m just kidding.
Lena: Yeah, I know. You can’t fake hair that beautiful.
Tyler Blackburn: (Laughing) That’s funny.
Lena: Another thing that bothers me, probably because Caleb does “things” for money, but he’s homeless and all that stuff but who pays his cell phone bill?
Tyler Blackburn: (Laughing) I know, right. I don’t know. I don’t have that knowledge.
Lena: It’s one of those mysterious things.
Tyler Blackburn: Yeah.
Lena: What are you watching on TV? What are your favorite shows?
Tyler Blackburn: Gosh, you know, one of my favorite shows was “Lost” and that’s over. I don’t watch a whole lot of TV. I’m not one of those people that watch it ritualistically but I really like “Top Chef” a lot. I catch bits and pieces of things. I’ll watch a few episodes of some shows but I’m not really entertained by them, like I have to watch this show, except, “Pretty Little Liars”. I literally watch that every single Monday.
Lena: Is it weird watching yourself?
Tyler Blackburn: Oh, absolutely. The only reason I do it is because you film something and you do all these different takes and you wonder what they going to end up choosing. I also think it is important because the fan base of the show is so awesome and people are so supportive of it and I joined Twitter for the show semi-reluctantly but it’s been so cool to hear what the fans say. I want to know what they have seen and what they are talking about, too. It’s definitely really awkward to watch myself. I don’t enjoy it, that’s for sure. I watch the episodes alone because I kind of don’t want to be in the presence of people while I am watching it (laughing).
Lena: (Laughing) Ah, will they make fun of you?
Tyler Blackburn: Yeah, it’s a weird thing, it really is.
Lena: You have ravenous fans. I told them I would be speaking with you and asked them to send me questions for you and all they did was send me messages telling me to tell you how hot you are (laughing).
Tyler Blackburn: (Laughing) I know the fans are so great. They post those things on my Facebook page and it’s just funny. I don’t know, they see a character on the show and I’m not exactly like that, I’m worlds different but I don’t feel like I’m hot. It’s just funny, It’s great to have supporters and for the character of Caleb.
Lena: That’s always good. It’s just funny how much of a response I got from everyone just to tell you that you are hot.
Tyler Blackburn: Well, I really appreciate that. I will tweet them all and tell them that you told me that.
Lena: So, I can technically be your pimp now right (laughing)?
Tyler Blackburn: Oh, nice, right. We could be like “Hung”.
Lena: (Laughing) Yes, that would be fun. I’m sure you have a million stories but what are some of the worst pick up lines that you have heard and I’m sure they didn’t come from you.
Tyler Blackburn: (Laughing) From girls?
Tyler Blackburn: Well, it’s not really a pick up line but I was at a club one time and I was talking to this girl and it was just really friendly and she got my attention and she goes, “So you are going to buy me a drink, right”. I was just so turned off by that. I just said, no, I’m not actually, this conversation is over. It’s not really a pick up line but I don’t really like that kind of, it’s not that it was forward, just a little too, I don’t know what the right word would be. It was just a little too aggressive. I don’t like that. I just like to talk to people and if we hit it off, awesome. That is ideal for me. I like someone that I can just be comfortable with and be able to talk to and it’s not forced. I don’t want anything shady. So, that one was pretty funny.
Lena: Well let me ask you this, were you in a strip club because that would make sense (laughing)?
Tyler Blackburn: (Laughing) No, that would make sense but definitely not.
Lena: Yeah, just asking (laughing). What is it like being twenty four and playing a high school student?
Tyler Blackburn: Oh, I think it’s rad. My high school experience wasn’t the best so I think it’s great to have a redo.
Lena: You must be happy that you definitely look young enough to still do it.
Tyler Blackburn: Yeah, definitely and it’s good to be able to play younger. Yeah, it’s cool, definitely cool.
Lena: If you could go back to the age that you play in the show what advice would you give yourself?
Tyler Blackburn: Wow, gosh, there are so many things that I have learned. I guess just basically, just be yourself. I think during high school people are just consumed with trying to be something that they think they should be and depend on other people’s opinions. It just ends up really hurting people in the end. It might suck if you get teased for just being yourself in high school but that is only four years of your life. Life goes on after that and I don’t really know anybody from high school anymore. It’s just a microcosm in life. High school is but isn’t that serious so don’t forget to take a deep breath.
Lena: Yes, you are so right. It doesn’t feel like it though, when you are there.
Tyler Blackburn: Yeah, when you are in it that is your world. You are there five days a week and you don’t really know who you are. You are trying to figure it out. There are so many opinions coming your way. Just find what it is that makes you, you and what makes you happy and just do that. Just be true to yourself and be happy.
Lena: Right. One of the actual fan questions that I did get in from one of my readers is: What is your idea of a perfect date and what it means to really be in love? I’m assuming this is from a teenager.
Tyler Blackburn: Well, part one, I just really like relaxed comfortable nice dinners during the day or a picnic at the beach, something like that. Somewhere you can talk, laugh and have fun. I don’t like anything that is too forced or formulated, like we are going to do this and that. You kind of set yourself up for disappointment in some ways. I just like to keep it casual and fun. The whole point of a first date is to get to know the person and determine whether or not you want to continue something with them. I don’t really think that going to a movie is a good date because you can’t talk for a few hours. I just like a really good dinner date. That is my favorite, I really love going out to eat and talking.
Lena: That is always good. What does it mean to really be in love?
Tyler Blackburn: I need someone to tell me that, I really don’t know. I don’t really know to be honest, I definitely know that I have loved but I don’t think that I have ever been in love, ever. I don’t really know but if the person asking finds out, have them let me know (laughing).
Lena: (Laughing) Okay. Do you have any projects coming up that you can talk about?
Tyler Blackburn: I did an independent film called “Peach Plum Pear” and that is making the rounds at the film festivals and that type of thing and we won Best Picture at The Hollywood Reel Festival. I am going to go to Toronto next month because it’s going to be in a film festival there. From there hopefully we will get distribution and it can be viewed by the public. Right now, I don’t really know what is going to happen with that. I have had a lot of people ask me where they can see, “Peach Plum Pear” and I don’t have a real answer for that but I definitely have that in the works. I’m actually auditioning a lot right now for films and other TV shows and stuff so maybe in the near future I’ll have more information.
Lena: That would be great. Are you going to do some guest spots on things like “Law & Order: SVU”, everyone has to get on that show.
Tyler Blackburn: Yeah, you love that one.
Lena: (Laughing) Yeah, everyone goes on it and “Supernatural”. Oh, we really need to get you on “Supernatural”.
Tyler Blackburn: I did an episode of “Cold Case” which is similar in genre.
Lena: Yes, they repeat that during the day (on TNT). You need to do “Supernatural”.
Tyler Blackburn: Oh, yeah “Supernatural” that would be hot.
Lena: Yeah, you would be great with Jared (Padalecki) and Jensen (Ackles).
Tyler Blackburn: Yeah, that would be cool. Maybe I could play a brother of one of them or something.
Lena: Yes, you would be perfect for their other brother, much more so than the guy that they cast. You would be a better fit because you are really good looking and you would fit with (Sam and Dean) perfectly. I would love to see you in it. I’m not sure who the actor is so I am really being mean. (No offense Jake Abel, I just have a sweet spot for Caleb and would love to see him interact with Sam and Dean.)
Tyler Blackburn: Don’t worry, I won’t tell anybody.
Lena: Yes, but I will write it out so I had better make sure I’m nice. Would you like me to add a message to your fans?
Tyler Blackburn: This is very new to me, all this notoriety and I just really appreciate the fans and their support of the show as a whole and also of me on the show. It just really makes the show what it is and to have such a solid fan base; I’m just so appreciative of it. Just keep watching it. It gets really, really good. It’s really good right now but it gets even better.
Lena: It looks like it is going to start picking up with you more next week?
Tyler Blackburn: Yeah, and the show itself, through the finale, it’s so heart-pounding, literally. We would be reading the scripts at the table read and we would say, “Oh my gosh, this is intense.” It definitely will not disappoint, that is for sure.
Lena: That is always good to hear. They really need to put you in it more, though.
Tyler Blackburn: Yeah, we’ll see. That would be great. It’s a great show and I love playing Caleb. I think it is so fun and I would love that.
Lena: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
Tyler Blackburn: Thank you for taking the time with me.
Lena: You are very welcome. It was a pleasure.