CM Punk has always set his own destiny and that won’t be changing any time soon, thank you very much.
After stints as an analyst on FS1 and working as a commentator for Cage Fury Fighting Championships, the former WWE star and UFC hopeful has shifted his focus to the world of acting, co-starring in the new horror film Jakob’s Wife.
The film is directed by Travis Stevens, whom Punk (Phil Brooks) previously worked with on 2019’s Girl On The Third Floor, and also stars genre legends Barbara Crampton and Larry Fessenden. For Punk, it’s just the next step in a career that’s becoming as diverse as it is unpredictable.
In addition, he recently wrapped production on the upcoming Starz series Heels, starring Stephen Amell, about an independent wrestling promotion in Georgia. Earlier this month, Punk tweeted that he worked in-ring with two-time Super Bowl champion James Harrison on the show. A premiere date has yet to be announced, but the show is expected to launch later this year.
While wrestling fans feverishly and somewhat exhaustingly debate about whether or not Punk will ever return to a WWE ring, he’s out making Hollywood power moves on his own. He’ll have to get back to you on the other stuff.
Daniel Trainor spoke with CM Punk about working on the movie, his love of horror, life with wife AJ Lee during quarantine and why James Harrison is better than some full-time wrestlers.
Jakob’s Wife is available in theaters, On Demand and digital on April 16th.
Daniel Trainor: Congratulations on the movie. I know you’ve worked with Travis Stevens before. Is that how this all came together?
CM Punk: Yeah, absolutely. If I’m Kurt Russell, he’s my John Carpenter, you know what I mean? I’m fortunate enough to think that I’ll be attached to most of Travis’s movies. Until he tells me I’m garbage and that I’m not allowed to work on his sets anymore. So far, I’m lucky.
Trainor: What is it, specifically, about the horror genre that appeals to you?
Punk: I grew up on it, you know? I grew up on it because it was taboo. When things are taboo and you’re told you’re not allowed to watch it, what do you do? You watch it! You watch a lot of it. As you grow older, smarter and get some wisdom about the world, you realize that horror is the genre that tackles, before any other movie genre, the hard-hitting issues. Dating all the way back to George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead tackling racism. I love a great slasher movie, right? Jason Voorhees and some camp counselors. Just let them loose.
Trainor: Well, it feels like Jakob’s Wife really leans into camp and B-movie charm. It’s sort of unapologetic about having fun.
Punk: Yeah, I agree with you. It was super exciting for me when I watched it for the first time because I wasn’t there for a lot of it. You’re not really paying attention to much that’s happening on the days you’re not there shooting. I almost forgot I was in the movie, you know? To me, it’s such a brilliant film because of the writing and who’s in it. Barbara Crampton and Larry Fessenden just make the material so much better.
Trainor: Do you want to continue carving out a niche for yourself in horror, or are you interested in branching out and diversifying your career as you move forward?
Punk: I don’t want to pigeonhole myself. I’m fortunate enough to be able to work with great people. I’m less concerned about what genre anything is in, and more concerned with quality. I really just want to do fun stuff with fun people.
Trainor: I’m fascinated with various viewing habits during quarantine. Are you a TV binge watcher, have you been watching movies? What’s been the routine?
Punk: Well, I think everything that Marvel does is a home run. Most shows that I watch currently are with my wife. We’re watching The Falcon and The Winter Soldier right now. She definitely has her stuff that she watches alone and I definitely have my stuff that I watch alone.
Trainor: Like what?
Punk: So, she will watch a lot of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Trainor: You’re not watching Drag Race?
Punk: I’m not watching Drag Race, no.
Trainor: Fair enough.
Punk: I’m the guy that watches documentaries about serial killers and the horror stuff. If I see a horror movie that I think she would be able to tolerate, I’ll be like “babe, you really gotta watch this.”
Trainor: For people in relationships, I feel like this year has gone one of two ways. Either you’ve completely driven each other crazy, or you realize you really made the right decision. How has the pandemic been for you guys?
Punk: I definitely think this has made us closer. Even though, more often than not, when we have dinner or breakfast together, it looks like the scene from Tim Burton’s Batman where they’re sitting at the long table. She’s on one end of it, I’m on the other end of it, because I just got back from traveling. I’m sleeping in a different bed for a certain amount of days so I can get a negative COVID test. That’s the biggest hardship, relationship-wise, that we’ve had to deal with. Luckily, I live in a big enough house where I can manage. My biggest fear is getting my wife sick. I haven’t gotten sick, I haven’t gotten COVID. Famously, I don’t really care about my well-being. But I’ll protect her with everything I have. I will not get my wife sick. I will not put my wife in any kind of jeopardy.
Trainor: I really enjoyed your foray into MMA commentary with Cage Fury Fighting Championships. Have you given any thought to transitioning into pro wrestling commentary, or working for other MMA organizations?
Punk: I love who I work with at CFFC. It’s much more about the relationships that I have with those people. I enjoy working with them. I’m fortunate that I get paid to do stuff that I love to do. I love fighting. I feel like I should be paying them. I’d be watching these fights anyway. I watch everything. I watch Bellator, I watch ONE, I watch UFC. It seems to be something I have a knack for. But I think that’s because I’m such a fan of the sport. It’s the entire reason why I fought. I didn’t want to be the guy 120-years-old on his deathbed saying “I wish I would have done that.” Every project I do, whether it’s television or broadcasting, it just gets back to the quality of the people that I’m working with. When I did WWE’s Backstage show on Fox, I did that because I was working with Renee [Paquette]. I don’t know if there’s anybody else in the world that could have gotten me to do that show. It was Renee. It wasn’t about money. It wasn’t about the content. It’s easy for me to say “no” to a lot of things. When I have a friendly face and somebody that I enjoy working with, the sky’s the limit. Bring me your scripts and your opportunities and I’m all about working with great people.
Trainor: What can you tell me about your involvement in Heels with Stephen Amell?
Punk: I will tell you that everybody involved with the show has the utmost respect for professional wrestlers and fans of professional wrestling. They really wanted this to be authentic. They really wanted to tread lightly and respect the world of independent professional wrestling. This isn’t about Ted Turner, Vince McMahon and billion-dollar corporations. It’s about Duffy Wrestling League, which was owned and operated by a father with two kids. The two kids, Jack and Ace, have a relationship that’s fireworks all the time. I can tell you that I play a wrestler. I don’t want to tell you much more because they haven’t really released anything about what I was doing. I don’t want to get producers mad at me. But, Stephen Amell is an unapologetic fan of professional wrestling. He’s wrestled himself. When I heard that he was playing the lead role in this thing, I knew it was in good hands. The scripts, the dialogue and the characters are right on the money. I think a lot of people are going to enjoy the show.
Trainor: I know you tweeted about working with James Harrison [editor’s note: for our non-football fans, Harrison’s a two-time Super Bowl champion linebacker whose nickname is “Deebo”. You get the picture]. What was that experience like? I can only imagine getting in the ring with him was a little terrifying.
Punk: That’s the thing, it wasn’t terrifying at all! Back when I was wrestling, I would always have to wrestle these giant, juiced-up goofs. It would be easy to look at James and be like “oh god, this guy is going to murder me.” But he has such an awareness, physically, about who he is, his capabilities and what he’s doing. Everybody who is an actor on the show was in the ring training everyday. Hats off to all these actors, because they’re not just going through the motions. They wanted to be as authentic as they could. The reason I got mad after taking those gigantic spinebusters from James Harrison is because they were light as a feather. Whereas, I’ve worked with guys who had been in the wrestling business for 10 or 20 years who would dump me on my hip and drop me on my head. He’s a better pro wrestler than like five guys I can name off the top of my head, but I’m not going to because I like to keep it positive.
Trainor: We won’t get you in trouble. Thanks for taking the time. Congrats on everything.
Punk: Thank you very much. I appreciate you. Thanks for talking with me.