An Interview With Caleb Ross

THETRIBE.CO.UK is very excited to welcome Caleb Ross to our tribe cast interview! The bad boy rogue with a heart, Lex was both antagonizing and hard to get along with, but underneath his tough exterior, there was a young man who simply wanted allies and respect.

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There is always something about a ‘rebel with a heart’ character that is endearing, that makes viewers want to delve deeper into their psyche and grow excited when more and more layers are revealed. The Tribe gave us such a character in Lex, and we witnessed him go through a personal journey of highs and lows.

From your perspective, just what is it about the character that has made him so well loved? Why do you think that so many people seem to connect with him on many different levels?

CALEB ROSS

He went through quite the arc, from being a real bad boy to finding his softer side and making the right decisions, even when a part of him may not have wanted to. He wasn’t a hero, he gave in to his desires more often than he should have, but slowly learned from them. He always felt a little vulnerable to me. He’s the John Murphy of The Tribe, or perhaps John Murphy is the Lex of The 100.

He has a deep survival instinct that sometimes gets in the way of his decision making, but when push comes to shove he will, for the most part, do the right thing. Those moments are very rewarding as a viewer, and once you’ve had one you want more. Having hope for a character to “do the right thing in the end” is pretty powerful. That’s why I loved Snape so much.

I think as a general rule we like to believe that people will do the right thing when given that big choice, so this character who so often portrays himself as a bad boy and makes the wrong decisions is even more lovable when he decides to make the right ones.

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One of the initial layers to Lex was introduced in the very first episode, and raised several times later during series one, which was the character’s inability to read. Yet this inability was not very clearly explained on the show. Some have mused that he had dyslexia, which just made the act of reading difficult, but others believe that he was simply kicked out of school far too many times that he never properly learnt the craft.

Throwing wood onto the fire of speculation was Harry Duffin’s novelisation of series one Birth of the Mall Rats which revealed that Lex saying ‘scandalous’ to Zoot was because he remembered what that letters represented from school and he just repeated it without knowing the meaning.

Was the cause or issue of Lex not being able to read ever discussed during production? And what is your take on it?

CALEB ROSS

Lex’s inability to read stemmed from not having appropriate schooling, likely due to being kicked out and even when in school just not paying attention to the academia side of it.

In fact, it was explained to me prior to shooting that because of this lack of schooling, I should use my New Zealand accent when talking as it would help me sound as such. Because you know.. we are uncultured in New Zealand haha.

THE SOURCE OF MANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING LEX'S EDUCATION

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As we’ve mentioned about the different layers of Lex – there were some beautiful highs … as well as some depressing lows.

What were the best and worst parts about playing the character? Was there a particular storyline that you found the most difficult to do?

And on those lines, what is your most memorable moment from filming the show?

CALEB ROSS

The almost rape scene of Zandra in Season 1 of The Tribe was difficult. We were kids acting out extremely adult situations that we weren’t really ready for. We had discussions with Cloud 9 team members about it and it was handled very well on set, but it was still a difficult scenario to be put into. It was made even harder by the ages, and age difference, of Amy and I.

Lexs’ drunk timeline was interesting for me. At the time I had never been drunk, or even really had a drink. I basically winged it from things I’d seen in other movies, shows and real life.

As for best … that’s a hard question because overall every day was amazing. The paint fight has always been a great memory, and we have some pretty cool behind the scenes photos of us all afterwards. I always enjoyed fight scenes, the gladiator fight in particular. Sam, the stunt coordinator (and gladiator), was a great guy to work with and that day was a lot of fun.

I also really enjoyed all the outdoors shooting of everything leading up to the end of Season 1. 

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Speaking of filming, many of your fellow Tribe actors took time off during the course of the show, yet Lex was a constant presence.

Did you never feel like taking some time off to recuperate? And was there ever a moment when you felt like stepping away from the character?

CALEB ROSS

Actually I’m a little annoyed that, to my knowledge, theres one single episode that Lex wasn’t featured in. Being in 259 out of 260 episodes has always been a sore point haha.

We had plenty of time between shooting seasons to get a break from our characters and the environment we were all living and breathing every day. I was one of the older cast members, so school was pretty much out of the way. Some of the other cast wanted (and needed) to focus on schooling during shooting as well as working, and that must have been hard.

Even after shooting we often went on promotional tours, but even though they were work they were a lot of fun as well so felt like a mini holiday.

THE BAD BOY HAD MANY LAYERS ... AS WELL AS LOVERS

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Is there anything of Lex reflected within yourself?

CALEB ROSS

I think there always has to be with any character that you play for so long.

And if there wasn’t before, I think there’s probably a little left behind afterwards.

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Honing your craft and experience within film and production eventually led you to Canada and Churchill where you have created Nanuk Operations, a guiding expedition company.

Firstly, what was it like making such a monumental move to Canada? What is it about the beauty of the wilderness and wildlife that calls to you as a profession and as a home? And what was it liking starting your own expedition and filming company?

Have any of your clients ever recognised you from your time on The Tribe?

CALEB ROSS

The move to Canada was for many reasons. I did intend to end up in Toronto or Vancouver and carry on acting, but life doesn’t always go the way you expect.

Churchill was only meant to be a short stop, a month in fact. It has now been 12 years. I fell in love with the area, the wild north, the community. It’s a special place.

Creating a guiding/tour company organically happened over time. Having a background in film and then working on the ground with polar bears and other wildlife gave me a unique set of skills that could cater to film crews and photographers who needed access to this area and these magnificent animals. Bear in mind I’m not the only guide here that deals with film crews and photographers, I’m more the new kid on the block still, but that background is a big bonus when it comes to understanding what crews might need when filming up here.

It’s not an easy place to film either.. polar bear season can get into the -30’s or even -40’s Celsius with wind chill, so camera gear can take a beating and not everyone is up to working in these environments, then add in the animals themselves.. The challenge of working here is one of the things I love however. Problem solving how to deal with environmental variables and wildlife while filming is an interesting challenge.

Last year I was a part of a 4 month dog sled expedition across the north of Canada that started in the dead of winter and went from Churchill Manitoba to Saint John New Brunswick, and filmed the entire expedition. Keeping cameras working, batteries charged, dumping footage onto drives all while skidooing, on the dog sled, sometimes the back of a truck, spending evenings sleeping in -40 with just a candle and a sleeping bag, and living in a tent for days and days on end is an exhausting, but rewarding experience. Those are the moments I love.

The unfortunate downside of that particular trip was my son had just been born and I had to leave for 4 months instead of what was only meant to be 8ish weeks originally. That was hard for me, and even harder on my partner.

As to getting recognized.. Honestly I’m unsure if I’ve been recognized by guests or clients, but I think so. People get shy sometimes and don’t speak out!

CALEB DURING FILMING OF THE LAST DOGS OF WINTER

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You worked with Brian Ladoon for several years creating the documentary The Last Dogs Of Winter. What was that entire experience like? You seem quite passionate about animal welfare and maintaining the balance between nature and man. Was this always a trait of yours, or did it become more apparent after your move to Canada?

CALEB ROSS

That time period was a huge part of me becoming who I am now. It was such an alien thing for me to be doing, so far removed from my life in New Zealand. It was an incredible time of learning both about a different world (and in doing so my own world) and myself.

I’ve always loved animals, but had never been in a position like that before. In the age we are moving into now, it is paramount we take notice of the world around us so as to not let it slip away. Everyone knows we are on the brink of absolute disaster, but most people find it too easy to look the other way.

75% insect population decline, rising water levels, heat waves spreading like wildfire across Europe, shrinking ice.. It’s becoming harder to look the other way, I just hope it’s not already too late.

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Brian Ladoon of course famously hit the news with that viral video which raced through the internet concerning a polar bear and the dog. It sparked a fresh debate about the chaining of dogs, and you even went on to make a video response going to Brian’s defence.

Have you spoken to Brian since this occurred? And has there been any changes or alterations to your process or filming because of this?

CALEB ROSS

There was never a need for a discussion about it. It’s too much for me to get into in this interview, but suffice to say that without doing the research for yourself (not specifically you, but anyone reading this) on the dogs, their history, the reason Brians dogs are kept where and how they are and much more, it’s impossible to form a true opinion on the topic. It’s such a huge conversation that spans sled dogs in general and the opinions people have about the sport.

Part of the reason The Run Home (the dog sled trip) was filmed was to show that dog mushers can, and mostly do, care extremely deeply about their dogs and take good care of them. Even during that trip Justin Allen was receiving hate mail about his dogs treatment, how it was abuse to be running them across the country like that, but at the end of the day those dogs loved every moment of it and were better cared for than any average household dog ever would be.

They saw and experienced the things that dogs are supposed to experience. Nature, other animals, weather, snow grass and dirt under their feet, the outdoors. They aren’t cooped up in a house for 18+ hours a day and only taken for walks on a leash around the block. Those dogs have experienced and seen more of this country than 99% of Canadians ever will. That’s a real life for a dog, not 4 walls and a roof. I’m not saying that dogs can’t be happy in home environments either, but I do believe it’s unfair to say running with dogs like that is abuse.

The news, and people in general, love to see and talk about the negative, often overlooking the fact that one person doing something wrong doesn’t mean everyone in that field is.

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You have recently set off on a two-month long trek with Boss Dog Expeditions where you won’t just be a guide but will also be filming their entire experience. Tell us about how this came about?

How do you prepare for such a long dog sled trek? And is there anything special or unique that you like to take along with you?

CALEB ROSS

I think I’ve gone over most of this already. There was a fair amount of prep for this trip, both for the expedition side of it and then the filming side of it. On my Instagram there’s actually a photo of most of the gear I put together for it. I have my kit that comes with me everywhere I go when it’s an outdoors thing, whether for work or recreation. I’ve put that together over the last 12 years, replaced things that I found didn’t work how I wanted with things that did, kept the best of the best. That’s a base kit, fire, first aid, water, cooking, equipment repair, light, blade etc.

For something like this it was expanded upon. Then I had to add a bunch of special equipment just for the camera side of it. Keeping gear running for that trip was a job just in itself. The Lumix GH5 was a beast for it though, frozen everyday, sometimes frosted white front to back and still working in -40. I had a small softshell cooler setup with handwarmers to keep the batteries charging with an after market USB battery charger and external battery packs.

Sometimes, at the end of a week moving through the middle of nowhere, I’d be down to the last charge I had left, the last SD card for my camera and a dead laptop. A lot of it was about planning, and changing those plans on the go, to make sure I had space and charge to capture those moments you can’t plan for.

Outside of equipment side of it, I’ve been slowly learning as many skills as I could over many years to be able to do jobs like this if they ever came up. Outdoors skills and survival, wilderness first responder, rescue diver etc. Arming yourself with knowledge is integral to success.

CALEB ROSS DURING ONE OF HIS EXPEDITIONS

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What are your plans for the future?

CALEB ROSS

I’ve expanded the business in Churchill to Northern Lights as well as wildlife with Nights Under Lights. I’m moving from a one season business to a multi season one, and then I’d love to fill in the gaps with family time and adventure and wildlife filming.

These kind of trips like The Run Home are a niche market for a film maker, but they are a great mix of work and adventure for me.

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And finally (because we have to ask!) out of all of Lex’s girlfriends, who do you believe was the best pairing and he was most suited to?

Who was his soulmate?

CALEB ROSS

Haha.. ahh, too many to choose from, and they all offered up something different that Lex needed.

I think Tai-San at the end of the day though. There was a balance to be had there.

But Lex and Amber… now who knows where that would have gone.

We can’t thank Caleb enough for taking time out of his busy schedule – including being completely out of contact in the wilderness – to participate within our interview. Really appreciate it!

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