To a growing list of athletes successfully turned actors, Michigan may shortly be able to point to one more. A Michigan resident since 1994, Harley Swede Wallen is quickly establishing himself as an actor that many want to see; not only on the mat, but on the silver screen as well.
Born Ulf Peter Mikael Wallen in Sweden (thus the middle name Swede of his adopted stage name ), Wallen was exposed to the entertainment business at an early age. By the time he was eight years old, he started martial arts training, something he would become proficient enough in within three years that contests of skill whet his young appetite for something he would pursue later. But it was his introduction to break dancing which lead to his appearing before cameras and ultimately lead to his leaving home to pursue a career in acting in the United States.
Arriving in Detroit in 1994, where he had the most connections, after visiting Miami and Toronto, Harley set to work to establish his cred as an actor; but would soon he would take a break. It was then that he would pursued his career in the ring. His acting chops would wait. He got back into judo competitions and Mixed Martial Arts and ended up hosting both live shows and taped shows along with doing the fight commentary and found himself on Fox Sports Detroit, Fox 17, MyTV20. It was then that the acting bug bit him again.
Today Harley Swede Wallen soon appear in the web-series “I Declare War” which will hit Netflix in either late November or early December.. Filmed entirely in metro Detroit, it wasstarted November 2014 and wrapped production in August 2015 (8 episodes, last one a double episode!) and “Psychology of Murder” a Darryl Terrell/YBI Worldwide Films production which 1 hour pilot should be on the shopping block. He will also appear in “The Girl on the Mat” which is one day away from wrapping production actually as they film November 15th This film comes very close for him as it plays out in a wrestling environment.
Next year watch for him to appear in the much anticipated, filmed in Detroit Batman V Superman: the Dawn of Justice.
Let’s get this big question out of the way: In light of the struggles people here in this country (the US) are experiencing, particularly the people of the middle class some people see Sweden as an attractive alternative to living in the US. How do these countries compare? How and why did you leave Sweden?
Great first question. As far as the differences between Sweden and the US I’d say yes there are differences and similarities.. I’ll get a little political but Sweden in my eyes governs for the people and truly looks out for them and it’s people before corporations.. Healthcare is a right, infrastructure is amazing, environment is clean, school is a right as well so most people are college educated, informed and politically active to the extent that voter turnout is very high and a lot of things that are good for you are subsidized in order to be affordable so it’s accessible.. On the other end the income, gasoline and sales taxes are much higher so there are far less people broke/poor but also far less super rich and a healthy middle and working class but a smaller country with less opportunities as you can see with many actors/directors coming here to cut their big breaks
Your back-story: Your family was your first introduction to the entertainment business. Talk briefly of this introduction.
My mother was my first look at show business as she was an up and coming singer before I rudely interrupted her in her belly haha and you guess her legacy is carried on by my sister who is a singer tThree kids later she’s still performing all over and has the most amazing voice. My brother played only odd instruments such as accordion and harmonica and my dad is a natural at instruments in general and plays some amazing guitar (funny that my oldest son plays guitar, second oldest plays drums and oldest daughter sings) I tried going that route and released a few songs as a singer and rapper but it never took off and though I liked it I never loved it.
How and when did you get into the martial arts? In what forms of the martial arts have you trained? Is there a lot of emphasis placed on sports in Sweden?
I started in judo just before my 8th birthday and I was not very good for the first few years.. I competed regularly but I don’t believe I won a single gold medal the first 3-4 years and then it was as if I grew into myself and all of a sudden I found myself winning a lot and climbed the ranks with huge wins on the European judo circuit. I also got involved training Tae Kwon Do along with at the very least testing the waters in as many other Martial arts I could.
Sweden actually subsidizes health related programs such as wellness and sports so it’s very affordable to play in amateur leagues on any and every level in most sports and I really believe that helps kids get and stay active and we see way less obesity and of course obesity related diseases along with much less fast food and more home cooking and a generally very active lifestyle.
Arguably, being a martial artist and a dancer is not too far a stretch. Both were pursuits of yours, I imagine, in becoming the “main attraction.” Apparently you started break dancing at 13. You have been in a couple of music videos as a dancer. In fact you were a regular on a TV show. Speak of this.
Many don’t know that I originally left Sweden to pursue my acting dreams!! I got into acting primarily from being a break dancer actually.. I used to break dance as a teen, I got really good at it and I started dancing on stage and in music videos and that landed me a steady on a cult TV show in Sweden called “Solstollarna” and I think spending all that time on set I think got me! I LOVED being on the cult show “Solstollarna” I learned so much and it was a great experience also because of the stars Per and Ola on the show were great people and I learned early on that stars were just as human and real as me as we rehearsed and filmed a week and always had a guest star on the show. I did a few more things before I left Sweden and then moved here in 1994 signed with agencies in NY, Detroit, Toronto and Miami.. I did alright for a while but I had great success climbing the corporate ladder so I put my focus there instead and it ended up with me taking a long hiatus from acting. I get back into my judo competitions and Mixed Martial Arts and I ended up hosting both Live shows and taped shows along with doing the fight commentary and the show I worked for became big time and I found myself on Fox Sports Detroit, Fox 17, MyTV20 and the bug got me again. So, I decided I’d get back into acting to satisfy this deep urge I had that wouldn’t just go away.. My first role coming back was a less than micro-budget film “Love Interest” and an indigogo for “the Big Shot” a hockey film (that unfortunately never got made but I think would have been great)! And by now I was more than bitten, I was infected and I pretty much knew this is what I want to do.. It helped me not to be star struck and that’s helping me still today. That made me want to guest host SNL so very bad, I still want that experience by the way!
You moved to Michigan in 1994. Why Michigan?
Why Michigan? I had the most connections here and in Miami so it would end up one or the other, at the end I had a job guaranteed here so I played it safe. I did a couple of commercials in Toronto, some industrial videos and I got an audition to film in Plymouth with Charles Inoumo who I did two short films with. After auditioning for the first role, I got the second. After that my long hiatus began.. It was interesting doing very artsy black and white films with deep dark story lines with Charles..
How and when did you decide to get into motion pictures? What was your first starring role? Did you audition, or did you land this role because the director/producer knew you?
I’ve probably auditioned for about 25% of my roles and been offered the rest by word of mouth I guess or sometimes picked from prior work. I think it helps that I am easy to work with, timely and not afraid to put in work and I care about what I do as an actor and I think it shows.
In any of your roles, have you been called on to draw from your fight background and do your own stunts?
As far as called on for my fight skills – yes and I’m excited when I get to!
Presently, you have a few big film projects in which you appear. You starred in the made for TV series “I Declare War” and the YBI Worldwide Films production of the made-for-TV series “Psychology of Murder.” Are these two series still filming? And can we get you to talk briefly about each. Start with “I Declare War.”
My first opportunity was in the sizzler for “The Big Play” where I got to portray a hockey fight and fight on ice skates and that was a blast! I also have a fight scene in the feature film “Random” by Indira Killen and that is doing pretty well right now especially on the European festival circuit. But my big tests are ahead especially with the feature “Deceitful” an action/suspense film I’m filming and co-directing right now with Walbert Beltran of Caribbean Fury Productions and I’ll be put to the test for sure!
Sure it’s a very exciting time for me right now with so much in the works! “I Declare War” is wrapped and I believe will hit Netflix in either late November or early December.. It was filmed in metro Detroit and started November 2014 we wrapped production in August 2015 (8 episodes, last one a double episode!). I play Nick a detective that is not completely clean and he always finds himself in sticky situations and end up dragging other people into deep waters too. It was so much fun to be on set with that bunch of cast and crew for so long they become close and behind the scenes was a strong team not just Dennis Reed but his co-director Jezar Riches and the Coattail team of Roe and Jasper I have high expectations! We are tentatively scheduled to start on season 2 in April.
Next “Psychology of Murder.”
The pilot for “Psychology of Murder” has been the talk of the town that last few months and after seeing a few leaked clips I certainly understand why.. Darryl Terrell of YBI Worldwide Films has taken his work to a whole new level and with a really strong story/script and cast I think the sky is truly the limit for this one! We have a few scenes left and then the approximately 1 hour pilot should be on the shopping block and can’t wait to dig into this complex character of Detective Aiden Quinn.. My favorite character yet!
Although it is still in pre-production (as we understand it), you will soon appear in the feature “The Girl on the Mat.” Tell us about this.
“The Girl on the Mat” is one day away from wrapping production actually as we film November 15th and this film comes very close for me as it plays out in a wrestling environment. I really love watching Robert Butler work and he’s great at transferring his vision to his team and I know he’s had great success on the festival circuit, but I’ll bet you this film will reach new heights for him and I also have to say how impressed Julie has been and when you see the film you’ll know what I mean!
Next year (supposedly) a film will release to which we are all looking forward. It was filmed in part in Michigan. In it, you appear as a fight trainer. We are talking about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice What was it like being part of this production?
Batman V Superman was a blast and I really enjoyed being on set 17 hours haha I really did! I can’t wait to see how it turns out I really think it’ll be great and put DC back on the map that’s pretty much owned by Marvel right now. I’m a nerd so although the comic book era is getting a little much, I’m loving it! And it was cool to spend a long day on set with Ben Affleck and Callan Mulvey. Ben came across like a really awesome laid back guy!
As well as being an actor, you have also several other credits to your resume. You are also a writer/producer/and director. Tell us about these.
I think my producers credits generally come from my willingness to help casting, locations or whatever it takes to help the project.. I also found out I really enjoy writing and it comes fairly easy to me so I teamed up with Walbert Beltran for the ‘Click on Detroit’ competition with the 15 minute inspirational short film ‘”Broken” that I co-directed with Walbert. We almost made the top 10 but we took our lessons and decided to make another short so we entered the Horror Film Roulette and I wrote ‘Set Me Free’ a 9 minute psychological thriller that is also going to other festivals along with ‘Broken’. We then decided to make the jump and try to make a feature film so I wrote the action suspense ‘Deceitful’ I get to star across my beautiful wife Kaiti! We just started production and so far I’m really happy with the footage, the amazing support we’ve had from cast to product placement and locations.. Stunt rehearsals start next week and I cannot wait!!!
Is there a character in a movie which you would like to portray?
My dream role… I have many, James Bond, Austin Powers.. Lol in all honesty I love films that make you think and feel and characters that push buttons.. I don’t intend on playing safe as you’ll see in some of my future films I’ve agreed terms with such as Coattails first feature film “Halt” and Dennis Reed’s next feature as well as the completion of “Number one Contender”, I have an incredibly powerful scene November 22nd in the feature drama “Stay”.. I am very comfortable and even prefer playing characters that push the envelope and makes the audience a little uncomfortable..
As you go home to Sweden, what do your friends and family back home think of what you have accomplished?
My family is amazing with love and support and I think they’d like to see me come back “home” for a film or two..