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September 2017

Wingman Wednesday

Keith Allan

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Z NATION — Season:4 — Pictured: Keith Allan as Murphy — (Photo by: Daniel Sawyer Schaefer/Go2 Z 4/Syfy)

It is no easy feat for a television series to maintain a fandom (and time slot) for four seasons, especially when you’re a show that takes such creative risks as rolling a giant cheese wheel over a group of bloodthirsty zombies. And yet therein lies the genius behind Syfy’s genre mashup “Z Nation,” a post-apocalyptic episodic adventure that is often compared to “The Walking Dead” but is more closely related to “Gremlins” or “Young Frankenstein.” Yes, there is a group of humanity’s leftovers, wily in their ways, attempting to survive a never-ending army of the undead, but they’re doing it with punchlines and visual gags, making the journey more about escapism than realism.

With season 4 set to drag more rotting corpses into your homes starting tonight, we sat down with series star Keith Allan to discuss his surprising journey as Murphy, why “Z Nation” is not your average zombie apocalypse show, and what his first experience directing an episode was like.

TrunkSpace: As a series, “Z Nation” takes a lot of twists and turns. How much of Murphy’s overall journey was present creatively in those early days when you were just diving in?
Allan: Well, I knew the overall idea for the character. The basic idea was that Murphy carried the cure and there was a road trip involved. That was pretty much all I knew – and that he had a chip on his shoulder, but that was the extent of it. It’s just been a thrilling surprise. You’re kind of like, “Oh, now I get to put on a pimp outfit and mind control zombie strippers?” How fun is that? And unexpected.

So, yeah, it’s great but it’s certainly been a surprise to me, every few weeks, about what’s coming up next for the old Murph.

TrunkSpace: Were there any performances choices that you made in those early days of the character that have sort of paid off in ways that you never expected they would given the surprises you’ve come upon with Murphy over the years?
Allan: Yeah, for sure. The great gift I was given with this character was that he’s truly evolving. Not only as a human being, but as a half-zombie. He’s a character or a species that we’ve never seen before. So, luckily it’s given me a lot of leeway, I feel, in what I can do with him. We’re sort of in uncharted territory because he’s not really a human. He’s part animal. I take a lot of liberty that I wouldn’t with a regular human being.

At the very beginning of the show, I approached him as a very sort of damaged, timid animal who’s been through a lot, and certainly was not considered a force to be dealt with. But as Murphy changed and as his circumstances changed, and as he grew stronger, it was really easy for me to move into that without having to really justify a lot of it because it’s sort of built into his DNA. It’s just who he’s becoming. So that’s been a great gift because I’ve been able to morph from one version of Murphy to another fairly fluidly.

TrunkSpace: And what’s great about that is that the viewer is in on the physical change just as much as they are the emotional one.
Allan: Oh yeah. And it’s not only the color of my skin, but it’s also the texture of my skin and what my scars are doing because I have this whole series of scars on my chest from the zombie bites. So yeah, he’s morphing and changing and I, quite frankly, think that’s one of the reasons the audience has gravitated towards him, because you don’t know what’s next for him. And luckily, it’s been written in, and I’ll take some credit for it, that the audience has some partial empathy for this guy. I mean, in spite of everything, the bad decisions that he’s made in his life, he’s truly a victim of his circumstance. I think people, in a sense, see that he’s justified in being a dick. He’s kind of got the right, you know? He didn’t ask for any of this.

TrunkSpace: You talked a bit about the surprises you discover week to week, from the pimp outfit to being able to control the minds of zombie strippers, but has there been anything that has surprised you from a performance standpoint? Something where you went, “Whoa, I never thought I’d be going here with old Murph?”
Allan: Well, I have to say, without giving too much away, I get to go some places in this upcoming season that I really wasn’t expecting to go. And so that’s been exciting for me to explore a whole other side of this character that I didn’t really see as part of the overall story when I initially got on board.

The season has been interesting. There’s a couple of really powerful things for my character, and really dark things, too. And one of the things that I can talk about that was a little unexpected was Murphy’s empathy for the zombies. We hit on that early in season 1, that Murphy was the only one who’s saying, “Wait a minute, maybe they’re not as bad as you guys think they are. Maybe you’re taking everything at face value. Maybe there’s someone still in there. Maybe there’s still a consciousness. Maybe, you know, there’s some humanity left inside of these people.” He’s able to connect with them in a way that no one else was. And so, I think that was a really interesting take on my character, who is very selfish when we first come across him, and then all of a sudden, he’s the only one who’s saying, “Wait a minute, maybe you guys are the assholes!” He’s really sort of throwing up a mirror to these people who think they’re doing good just by slaughtering these people and he’s the one who’s saying, “Maybe you guys are the monsters.”

I think it’s a great social commentary in the bigger sense of in that we look at the disenfranchised and the way that they are judged solely based on what people’s perception of them is. And it’s a limited perception of them, I should say.

Z NATION — Season:4 — Pictured: Keith Allan as Murphy — (Photo by: Daniel Sawyer Schaefer/Go2 Z 4/Syfy)

TrunkSpace: It’s also a classic theme, going all the way back to original Frankenstein.
Allan: Exactly!

TrunkSpace: The show is tonally so different than anything else you’ll find on television. Do you think that’s part of what’s drawn such a loyal fan base, the fact that it feels unique compared to anything else they can find on other channels?
Allan: For sure. We’re definitely bringing much more of a graphic novel feel to this show. And I hear it constantly from fans that they were prepared to hate our show, simply because they thought we were doing another “The Walking Dead” knock-off. I think they clued in early on that we were, sort of, playing in a whole different world. I mean, you couldn’t miss it. Once a giant wheel of cheese rolls over a bunch of zombies, we ain’t the same show. (Laughter) And so it certainly became part of what people were drawn to because they didn’t know what to expect from us next.

We really struck a nice balance between the humor and the horror and the drama. We get to play in all of those worlds, which is great as an actor. I’m not on a straight show – it’s got all kinds of wacky twists and turns and different styles within it. Even within some of our seasons, there’s one episode that will just be a goofball episode – the whole thing is goofy – and then there are some that are more heavily dramatic. And for the fans that I talk to often, it’s the humor. “The humor just keeps bringing us back. You guys crack us up and then you break our hearts.”

TrunkSpace: In a lot of ways “Z Nation” is the indie band that they discovered and sort of view as “their” band.
Allan: Right! For sure. I love that.

TrunkSpace: We know that you’re also a writer and a director. Is there an interest or opportunity for you to step behind the camera and helm an episode of the show?
Allan: Brother, I’m glad you asked that, because actually, I got the opportunity to direct an episode this season.

TrunkSpace: Congtrats. That’s awesome.
Allan: Yeah. I got to be in the writers’ room for the creation of the episode, and the writer who actually penned the script, her name is Delondra Williams, is someone whom I have collaborated with on a couple of zombie movies for Syfy. I got to really help shape and mold the episode, which was great for me because I really know the characters. And she’s very talented, so it was great to get to collaborate with her because I love working with her. And then to get to direct something that I had an integral part in creating – I love that. I’m already envisioning it in my head when we’re chatting about it and when we’re writing a scene, so I think it’s super helpful to have the chance to play in both of those worlds.

So, yeah, I got to direct episode 4.4 this season, and in fact, I was just looking over some of it now for the color correction and looking at the finishing touches on this thing. And of course, you’re never quite done with it.

Z NATION — Season:4 — Pictured: (l-r) Keith Allan as Murphy, Russell Hodgkinson as Doc — (Photo by: Daniel Sawyer Schaefer/Go2 Z 4/Syfy)

TrunkSpace: It’s a big undertaking, especially when you’re also starring in the show.
Allan: I have to say, it’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. This season, especially, we are shooting super fast. Because of budget constraints, we’re now shooting five-day episodes, which is insane for a show that has special effects, special effects makeup, fights, a substantial cast, and you know, these goofy gags that we pull off. And initially when I had been given the opportunity to direct, it was decided amongst the producers and myself that it would be an episode that I would not be heavily featured in. Well, I don’t know where that idea went out the window, because I’m in about 75 to 80 percent of this episode. (Laughter) So I’m not only acting in it, but I’m directing. I was running around behind the camera and in front of the camera and behind the camera and… it was very, very challenging.

TrunkSpace: And yet at the same time, it was probably super addicting and you want to jump right in and do it again, right?
Allan: Yeah! I totally want to do it again because now I learned so much from doing it. I’m like, “Let’s just do it one more time, because now I know what the hell I’m doing!”

Season 4 of “Z Nation” kicks of tonight on Syfy.

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Wingman Wednesday

Michael Maize

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With a new season underway and Dr. Jonathan Crane bringing terror to all of those he faces, the inhabitants of “Gotham’s” fantastical world are finding themselves once again wondering why they have yet to relocate to a less chaotic city. Smack dab in the middle of the mayhem is new cast member Michael Maize, whose interaction with Crane’s Scarecrow in the first episode of the season helped set the stage for the frights and fights to come.

We recently sat down with Maize to discuss how much he enjoys playing in the comic book sandbox, the fun of exaggerated performance, and why he still talks about his demon-horned past.

TrunkSpace: Generally anything comic book related comes with a rabid fandom. Are you prepared for whatever the “Gotham” fandom will throw at you now that you’re a part of the universe?
Maize: Yes, I love it. I’m ready for that. I wasn’t into comic books per se growing up, but I was a huge comic book film fan growing up. I loved the whole Superman series, and then I loved the original Batman trilogy from “Batman,” “Batman Returns,” and “Batman Forever.” I was a huge fan of that, and I always had a great love for the high concept that went into those films, which then started to get carried over into the television stratosphere within the last decade. So, it’s really exciting, and after doing “Iron Fist” last year, I was always hoping I would somehow get involved in “Gotham.”

TrunkSpace: You mentioned some of the earlier films from the super hero genre and what’s so great about “Gotham” is that it is a bit of a throwback and feels more like those than the grittier, hyper-realistic adaptations of today.
Maize: Yes, I completely agree, and I actually feel that, in general, that has been the atmosphere of where the films have been going with the last Batman movies and some of the newer Marvel movies. And, in my heart, I really love the high concept comic book entertainment that really pushes the edge of reality, and pushes the edge visually and takes you to a whole other realm. Like, for instance, “Iron Fist” was very grounded, cool, real, and it was great to jump into that realm, but from the first second that I stepped onto the “Gotham” set, there was an immediate difference with, just, the colors and the energy. You’ll see where my first scene is and where that takes place, and you just feel all of a sudden that you’re inside of this crazy universe. And it was really easy as an actor to tap into that energy and then use it for my performance.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned the colors and energy you felt stepping onto the “Gotham” set, but we have to imagine that Scarecrow costume helped set the stage as well. We’ve seen lots of iterations of the character on screen over the years, but this one in particular seems to hit the terrifying mark.
Maize: It does. The first second that he walked on set, I was definitely terrified. That’s a super-cool scene. I was so happy they used that in the trailer because you’ll see in the episode that everything goes off into very exaggerated realities, as we’ve been talking about, and then when you finally get to that scene, it’s just really grounded in the truth of, “Oh my God, what is really happening here? This villain is greater than I thought he was!”

Maize in Gotham with Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned the exaggerated reality of “Gotham.” Does that allow you as an actor to take a different approach to performance than you would in something like “Iron Fist” or “Mr. Robot,” which are both more grounded in reality?
Maize: For sure, and I would say the extreme of that would be “Mr. Robot” where I walked onto that set and there was a very obvious mood and energy going on, which was extremely understated and, yes, based in reality. I had watched season 1, and I was in love with season 1. I thought that it was one of the best pilots I had ever seen, and I loved that mood. I loved the tone. It was almost flaccid, then there was this energetic heartbeat under it all that kept it going. So, I really tried, with that role, to stay completely understated, but always have this drive underneath me that was bigger than what was on the surface.

With “Gotham,” I’m a fan of the show, so I know the contents of the show and I know that it is more outside-the-box. Like I said, when I walked on the set there was that energy and you could immediately see the conceptual style in front of you, and it did really drive me. It was so much fun because, although I love playing many different characters, and I love diving into the skin of very reality-based characters and how they think and feel and not having to show too much but just be in that moment, I very rarely get to push the realms toward big, or bigger than life. With “Gotham” I really felt like it was no-holds-barred and I could just go and be a little more exaggerated and play with the tone, and play with the beat, and play with the people in my scene. I really enjoyed it.

TrunkSpace: Without giving too much away, can you tell people about where your character Grady falls into things?
Maize: He is part of Merton’s gang. Merton is the leader of the gang and I’m his right-hand man. Grady has a past connection to Jonathan Crane, a.k.a. the Scarecrow, and that connection is what propels us forward into the next episode. It’s the encounter with the Scarecrow that moves me forward as a character more than anything else.

TrunkSpace: You have appeared on many shows that have pretty incredible fandoms, but what people may not know is that you were a part of one of the original modern day television fandoms, the Buffyverse.
Maize: I was. I was in “Angel,” which I still talk about today because I wore this crazy prosthetic piece that covered from my forehead up, and I had two horns. That character was named Artode and he was a crazy lizard man of sorts. That was a super-fun and exciting show to do.

And I was in “True Blood” for a bit and that also had a wonderful, big fan base. And actually, “Power Rangers in Space.” We’re going way back in my resume now.

Maize can be seen next in Syfy’s “Happy” with Christopher Meloni.

Gotham” airs Thursdays on FOX.

Featured image by: Michael Becker

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Wingman Wednesday

Russell Hodgkinson

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It is no easy feat for a television series to maintain a fandom (and time slot) for four seasons, especially when you’re a show that takes such creative risks as rolling a giant cheese wheel over a group of bloodthirsty zombies. And yet therein lies the genius behind Syfy’s genre mashup “Z Nation,” a post-apocalyptic episodic adventure that is often compared to “The Walking Dead” but is more closely related to “Gremlins” or “Young Frankenstein.” Yes, there is a group of humanity’s leftovers, wily in their ways, attempting to survive a never-ending army of the undead, but they’re doing it with punchlines and visual gags, making the journey more about escapism than realism.

With season 4 set to drag more rotting corpses into your homes starting on Friday, we sat down with series star Russell Hodgkinson to discuss his own unique journey, how acting became a therapeutic escape, and why he never expected to have a fan following.

TrunkSpace: Doc’s fictional story aside, you have a fascinating story of your own. The first thing that came to my mind in reading about your journey was just how different your path has been from other actors. What has that path, especially having enlisted in both the Army and the Coast Guard, done to help you not only as a person but in your career as well?
Hodgkinson: I can tell you that I’m probably one of the only actors who ever earned their Actors’ Equity card while still being in the military. I was fortunate enough to perform regularly at the Fort Bragg Playhouse while I was a soldier at Bragg. Luckily for me it was peacetime, so it was a safe place to be. After my divorce, I lost custody of my daughters and I was kind of lost – kind of heartbroken. One day I saw an audition announcement and went in. That led to about three years of solid on-stage acting experience at this really wonderful, semi-professional theater that unfortunately no longer exists.

I tell you, I learned more about acting during that period working with seasoned performers than I probably would have learned anywhere else. I did have a scholarship in high school to go to a theater, but I turned it down after my girlfriend got pregnant. The military was an obvious choice for me since I came from a military family. All three of my brothers have served. It was a safe place to be. It kept me independent and taught me discipline and responsibility, which I think every actor needs.

TrunkSpace: Did you carry the training mindset into your acting – the idea of always being prepared for whatever comes your way?
Hodgkinson: No, I never was that guy. I definitely didn’t focus on training. And I’m sure it’s super useful to study the craft and all that, but I just like on-the-job training. I would just do shitloads of community theater and whatever I could get cast in, and then that’s when I would dig in. I had child support payments and I didn’t have any extra money to take acting classes. What money I did have I soon realized would be better spent in therapy – learning about myself, processing my pain, and confronting my demons. I think that prepared me as much as any acting experience did.

TrunkSpace: So in a way the acting itself became the therapy?
Hodgkinson: Well honestly, I think for me, especially my 20s, it was an escape. I was really kind of a mess and acting was a way to mood alter. I could be somebody else. I didn’t have to be me, you know? And it was also where I found my tribe – my people. Artists, and not just actors, but technicians and set designers and just all the people involved in theater and film. I just found those to be the people that I gravitated towards. I did it for social reasons, and I did it to mood alter, and then it just kind of morphed into being something that I continued to do throughout my life.

TrunkSpace: Is it a surprise then to be sitting here, all these years later, talking about it from the perspective of heading into the fourth season of a television series?
Hodgkinson: Oh completely! I mean, seriously, if I wanted to be in television I would’ve moved to LA years ago. I just have always possessed this kind of culty ambivalence about acting. I guess my life experiences have really kind of prepared me for this moment on the show, but because being an actor has never really been the most important thing in my life, it doesn’t drive me in the way that it may drive other actors. That doesn’t mean that I’m not fiercely loyal to my character. I feel like I really know who Doc is and it’s super important that I stay true to him.

Z NATION — Season:4 — Pictured: Russell Hodgkinson as Doc — (Photo by: Daniel Sawyer Schaefer/Go2 Z 4/Syfy)

TrunkSpace: In many ways, “Z Nation” has had its own unique story, much like yourself. It hasn’t exactly existed in the same way that other shows have, and tonally, it’s very different than anything else on the air. Do you think that has helped shape the audience and fan base?
Hodgkinson: Well no, I think the fans are really responding to our dynamic as a group. Compared to other zombie shows out there, we have a clear cut mission. We try to put the fun back in the apocalypse. I think you can genuinely see that we have a real fondness for each other. I think that may be what they’re responding to – not having to take the apocalypse so seriously.

I also love the fact that we are introducing different kinds of zombies that they’re not used to seeing. If we had better merchandising, we could sell a zombie 12-pack, because we’ve got the Blasters, and the fidos, and the one’s with the bling that had the jewels all over them.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned that TV wasn’t necessarily on your radar. Has being on “Z Nation” changed your perspective of the medium as a whole?
Hodgkinson: Well, it’s really clear to me that it’s definitely not the actor’s medium. I mean, coming from theater, theater is the actor’s medium, and television is the editor’s medium. It’s wonderful to see what they make out of our stuff. We’ll shoot for five days and they just get in there and make us look great. It’s all just cutting this and cutting that, and then of course the FX, adding the splatter and the gunshots, and just bringing it all to life. That’s really where the magic happens, I think, behind the scenes really.

TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, has the tone of “Z Nation” allowed you to take an approach to the character that perhaps you would not be able to take while on another show? Are you able to take things a little further with Doc than you would with a more straightforward network series?
Hodgkinson: I typically play a lot of cowboys, drunks, and rednecks. For me, the opportunity to be comedic has been really fun. I mean, film-wise and television-wise, I’ve only really done serious roles, nothing very comedic. And you know, as a guest on a TV show, you’re going to come in, you’re going to do your thing, and then you’re done. But as a series regular, there’s so much more opportunity to explore as you get to help develop this role over a period of time. That adds a whole other element to it really.

Z NATION — Season:4 — Pictured: Russell Hodgkinson as Doc — (Photo by: Daniel Sawyer Schaefer/Go2 Z 4/Syfy)

TrunkSpace: This may seem like a loaded question based on how season 3 ended, but can you sort of give us an idea on where things are going this season and how Doc’s story is going to play out? What are we going to see that’s different and exciting, two things that “Z Nation” is always known for?
Hodgkinson: Well, I think you’re going to really like the new cast. Everybody died but Doc, so…

No. I’m just kidding. We actually pick up the show two years later. You’re going to see who survived and who didn’t. We all kind of separate, and we have a moment where we come together, and then the team’s back together on a new mission. What’s left of the team, I should say.

We got some wonderful new guest stars as well, Henry Rollins being one of them. I think it’s going to be a really fun season for everybody.

TrunkSpace: As someone who never expected to be here talking about starring in a television series, what has been the best experience for you thus far throughout your “Z Nation” journey?
Hodgkinson: Well, I think the best part of the “Z Nation” experience for me has been the opportunity to connect with people all over the world. The fans have really made the experience worthwhile. And the ability to bring laughter and entertainment to people has been super rewarding. In fact, I could travel to 10 different countries and I would definitely know somebody who would let me sleep on their couch. (Laughter)

I had no idea I was going to have a fan base. That doesn’t happen in theater, you don’t get a fan base. You also don’t get any respect from your family either. I’ve been a theater actor for 30 years. “Oh yeah, he’s doing that acting thing, you know.” But the minute you get a role on a TV show, suddenly it’s, “Oh my God, you’re an actor!” Then they care.

TrunkSpace: And isn’t that funny considering we just talked about how television isn’t the actor’s medium.
Hodgkinson: Oh yeah. It’s very ironic. I’ve had amazing roles on stage – big leading, fantastic roles and it was, “Eh, whatever. He’s doing his acting thing.” The first time I was ever on a TV show, I think I maybe had two lines and it was, “Oh my God!” Everybody’s calling everybody. “He’s going to be on TV! His dreams have been realized! He’s now an actor officially!”

TrunkSpace: Finally, we read that you once worked at Carvel Ice Cream as a professional soda jerk. With “Z Nation” being such a mix of genres, what kind of flavors do you think would make up a drink in its namesake?
Hodgkinson: If I had to pick an ice cream that would encompass “Z Nation,” it would definitely be Rocky Road.

Season 4 of “Z Nation” kicks off Friday on Syfy.

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Wingman Wednesday

Karl Schaefer

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Z NATION — Season:4 — Pictured: DJ Qualls as Citizen Z — (Photo by: Daniel Sawyer Schaefer/Go2 Z 4/Syfy)

It is no easy feat for a television series to maintain a fandom (and time slot) for four seasons, especially when you’re a show that takes such creative risks as rolling a giant cheese wheel over a group of bloodthirsty zombies. And yet therein lies the genius behind Syfy’s genre mashup “Z Nation,” a post-apocalyptic episodic adventure that is often compared to “The Walking Dead” but is more closely related to “Gremlins” or “Young Frankenstein.” Yes, there is a group of humanity’s leftovers, wily in their ways, attempting to survive a never-ending army of the undead, but they’re doing it with punchlines and visual gags, making the journey more about escapism than realism.

With season 4 set to drag more rotting corpses into your homes starting on Friday, we sat down with series co-creator and showrunner Karl Schaefer to discuss how we’re all in on the “Z Nation” joke, the Spokane experience, and why he considers the show do-it-yourself filmmaking.

TrunkSpace: The humor and tone of “Z Nation” is not only so different than what other zombie shows present to viewers, but it’s so different than other shows in general. How much of that do you think plays into not only its initial success, but ongoing success as well?
Schaefer: Well, I think the humor and quirkiness of the show certainly is part of the secret sauce that makes it work. It’s kind of an organic thing that comes from me and my writing. If you look at my other shows, they all kind of have this tone to them. At the same time, the goal of this show, from the very beginning, was to make it the people’s zombie show and give everybody just what they wanted and cut out all of the rest of the stuff. We wanted to make it feel like when you watch the show, you get the feeling the people making the show are laughing their asses off, just off-camera. You’re kind of in on the joke with them. If the viewer at home had the tools to make their own zombie show, this is the kind of stuff they would be doing. We wanted it to have that feel to it.

TrunkSpace: At the same time, there’s also a specific mission that the characters are on, which gives the show some parameters within that wacky tone that we all love. With lot of post-apocalyptic shows, there’s always that vibe in the first season, but then it sort of disappears after awhile.
Schaefer: Right. I think that’s one of the things that was baked into the idea from the beginning, was that there was a sense of hope to the show, that there’s some actual thing the characters can do that might result in their well being at some point. So that gave it some sense of hope, and a reason to travel, and to keep pulling yourself from place to place. Most zombie shows, they kind of hunker down somewhere.

TrunkSpace: And that traveling aspect of the show allows for some great visual differences week-to-week.
Schaefer: Yeah, and that’s why we shoot in Spokane. There’s so many different looks within the 30 mile zone that we have to shoot. That’s what made it seem like we’re traveling across the country and is a big part of the fun of the show too.

TrunkSpace: We read in a previous interview that you did where you said you wanted the show to be the anti “The Walking Dead,” which makes complete sense from a creative standpoint. That being said, do you think “Z Nation” would have made it on the air had it not been for that show and the success it had?
Schaefer: That’s hard to say. Certainly before “The Walking Dead,” the idea of a zombie TV series seemed dumb. (Laughter) I mean, they did elevate the genre with it. That was sort of the genius of “The Walking Dead,” was it took the genre seriously to start with. Then it was sort of like, after a couple of seasons, it seemed like they took it too seriously. So my joke is, “The Walking Dead” is kind of like zombie church, and we’re sort of like zombie bowling.

TrunkSpace: Neon bowling!
Schaefer: Right. Do you want to go out to church or do you want to go bowling on a Friday night?

So that’s sort of where “Z Nation” lives because our driving question we ask about everything we do is, “Is this fun?” Our show is just purely about giving people an hour to forget and just distract them from whatever is bothering them.

TrunkSpace: Which is pretty timely with all of the chaos going on every time you put on the news. Distractions seem very welcome.
Schaefer: There’s a lot of TV you watch and you go, “What? How is this entertaining again? Why am I watching people in prison? Or sick in a hospital?” (Laughter) So we’re just trying to make it fun, and because we’re kind of so low budget, and we’re way up in the heart of darkness here in Spokane where nobody pays that much attention to us, we get away with a ton of stuff that you could never do on a regular show. We get network notes and it’s like, “Sorry, I don’t have the money to do that. That’s shot, there’s nothing I can do. Sorry.” And because it keeps working, they leave us alone.

Z NATION — Season:4 — Pictured: (l-r) Tara Holt as Lucy, Anastasia Baranova as Addy — (Photo by: Daniel Sawyer Schaefer/Go2 Z 4/Syfy)

I just walked out of a mix to do this, and the director and I are sitting there watching the mix going, “We could have never done this show anyplace where executives were paying tons of attention.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: And that’s not a bad place to be!
Schaefer: I think they sort of just let us go at this point. There’s been so many things where we’ve had a meeting going, “Is this really gonna work?” and then we kind of pull it off and they go, “All right, I guess they can throw 10,000 zombies into the Grand Canyon!” or, “I guess a cheese wheel is funny running over zombies, and you can actually make it look good!”

Syfy has been super supportive. I do have to say that. They’ve been great.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned budget, which got us to thinking… so often in the horror genre, great things come out of when creative people have to think outside the box because of budget constraints. Has that been the case with “Z Nation” through the first four seasons?
Schaefer: Oh, absolutely! This show is kind of like one of those cooking shows where they give you 10 ingredients at the beginning of the episode that don’t go together, and you gotta make a meal by the end of it. That’s sort of my challenge every week with this. We write all the scripts ahead of time down in LA, kind of knowing what we have up here, but then you get up here and see what we really have in locations, because we don’t have the money like on most TV shows to make the environment fit the script, we have to make the script fit the environment. So every script is rewritten to fit what we find so that we maximize what we find.

You don’t know that we were planning to do something else entirely. The audience just knows, “Oh, this seems really good what they did.” It’s because we changed something to fit something really cool that we found. There’s so many interesting, weird locations up here where we shoot, so it’s a very dynamic process that goes on, finding the locations and making it all fit. Having to be clever about the filmmaking of it – that’s what makes a show really fun to work on.

We have a great group of young filmmakers here in Spokane, and a great visual effects department that are just local guys that started out on the show, and then after working on the effects, started their own company and now they’re doing all of it. We do everything. We do models. We do forced perspective. We do lots of camera tricks, as well as good digital effects. It just makes it fun.

TrunkSpace: Like a giant cheese wheel for example!
Schaefer: With a gag like that, we actually built a giant cheese wheel. There’s a 35 foot cheese wheel that’s now in a museum in Spokane where we have a “Z Nation” exhibition here in town. We’re actually shooting a lot of the show at the museum as well, so people could come and watch us film.

We use every trick in the book to make this look as good as possible each week. There’s so many good people that just won’t let it be bad. If you saw our first cuts you’d be like, “Yeah, that looks like a cheesy, cheap, Asylum movie!” But by the time we’re done with it, there’s just so many good people adding little bits and pieces, and fixing things, that it looks like a real show by the time we’re done with it.

Z NATION — Season:4 — Pictured: (l-r) Russell Hodgkinson as Doc, Tara Holt as Lucy — (Photo by: Daniel Sawyer Schaefer/Go2 Z 4/Syfy)

TrunkSpace: Just by the excitement in your voice, it sounds like a heightened version of when you’re a kid and you grab the video recorder and then go out with your friends and try to shoot something cool.
Schaefer: That’s actually part of the appeal. One thing about the zombie genre is, it’s a do-it-yourself genre. People like to be zombies. They make zombie films. The original concept for the show, which we had to sort of drop because I think we just wound up with more story than we thought we were going to originally have, was going to be people sending in their own zombie videos that they made, which the Citizen Z character was gonna be receiving and playing as part of the interstitial stuff. It was because of that feeling of, “Let’s just go out and shoot this and do it with a couple of pie tins and homemade blood!” It’s part of the fun of the show, I think – the fact that it has a little bit of that handmade, do-it-yourself quality to it.

TrunkSpace: Prior to “Z Nation” you had a hand in the creation and development of a number of cable shows that sort of got the entire cable world rolling – “Eerie, Indiana,” “The Dead Zone,” and “Eureka,” to name a few. Now that everyone wants to be in cable, does it kind of feel like, “Hey, this is my turf!”
Schaefer: (Laughter) I wish it was my turf. My turf is pretty big at the moment. What is there, 400 something scripted TV shows now?

I’m glad to be working. We’re having a lot of fun up here. We’ve kind of hit that sweet spot where we’re pretty much left alone. We’re just getting to make a crazy zombie show. They give us money to make a crazy zombie show, nobody bothers us, and people like it. I’m gonna hang in here as long as I can. It seems like a pretty sweet place to be.

Season 4 of “Z Nation” kicks off Friday on Syfy.

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Opening Act

Wand

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Artist/Band: Wand

Members: Sofia Arreguin, Evan Burrows, Robbie Cody, Cory Hanson, Lee Landey

Website: http://wandband.info

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Latest Album/Release: Plum (Drag City Records)

Influences: Brian Eno, This Heat, Television, Grateful Dead, David Bowie, Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, Crazy Horse, Sonic Youth, Guided by Voices, Alice Coltrane, The Beatles, etc.

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your music?
Burrows: Two guitars, two voices, keys, bass, drums. It’s a rock band. The music is simple, but the process is obsessive. It’s beginning to feel cold, but the sun is plainspoken and bright. You look down on the churning city from the hill.

TrunkSpace: Your new album “Plum” arrived on September 22. Do you place expectations, deliberately or otherwise, on how the album will be received?
Burrows: Of course, it’s hard not to anticipate some response, and it’s hard not to feel what you feel when you get it all kinds of ways. We are a sensitive bunch, and the project is pretty modest. We want the album to have a life by way of an audience that feels genuinely excited by it. All the additional anxiety we can spend is definitely wasted. We try as much as possible to follow the music itself and not think too far in advance.

TrunkSpace: It is your fourth album together, though you added two new members to the band since your previous recording. How has that inner-band dynamic affected the music itself the most? Where is it most recognizable on the new album?
Burrows: When Robbie and Sofia joined the band, we had already talked a lot about how we might more radically change our process. The personalities of each record have, among other differences, reflected shifts in process. We try not to work the same way twice, and we aren’t interested in the same outcome twice. Expanding to a five piece has opened up a lot of new possibilities, and it enabled us to compose most of this newest record by way of improvisation. Most of the major musical ideas on the record emerged from jams. We practiced like crazy, and earned a lot more hours playing together this time around. I think you can hear it in how detailed and sculptural all of the parts are, how intentionally they are performed, how much respect each performance maintains for everything it is simultaneous with even when they may not be in agreement. It feels to me like these songs are in excess of any one of us, or even all five of us.

TrunkSpace: A lot of critical praise followed the release of your previous album “1000 Days” and positioned the band as “one to watch” by a number of music press influencers. As a band do you put any stock into that kind of attention and does it have a quantifiable impact on growing a fanbase?
Burrows: I think we are easy to flatter, but we don’t put much stock in “music press influencers.” I know a lot of music fans who have a genuine interest in music, but I don’t know many music fans who take a genuine interest in the discourse – it seems pretty lackluster at this point, with some rare exceptions. I don’t think it has a lasting effect in growing a sustainable fanbase for your music, though I do think it can put your music in front of people who might otherwise never find it. That is helpful, but at the end of all the taxonomic mania is a band that mostly earns something like an extremely meager living playing live in small clubs. We try to stay focused on that aspect of things, and so far we play for some more people each time we go out on the road.

TrunkSpace: In terms of songwriting, what is the lyrical approach taken with Wand songs? Are they written from specific life experiences or do you take more of a storyteller’s approach?
Burrows: As far as I know, I think the lyrics have always been drawn from life experiences, though on the early records especially I think they tended more toward allegory and the images were more fantastic. I think Cory is a really strong lyricist – lucid, playful, vulnerable.

I believe his process usually starts with a vocal melody – then words are allowed to take shape in the singing, which leads to a more developed concept or story or feeling, which by way of sculpting and editing leads to a song.

Photo By: Kyle Thomas

TrunkSpace: In your opinion, how important are lyrics to songs?
Burrows: I think lyrics are fabulously important to pop songs. To me, they usually feel indivisible from the tunes with which they belong.

TrunkSpace: What do you hope listeners take from the new album? In many ways it feels like it takes you on a track-by-track journey and we are curious if that was by design?
Burrows: Yeah, that was by design. We usually write with the question of an album form in play the whole way. We talk a lot about what effects we hope the record will produce. We take sequencing pretty seriously, and we will agonize and labor over it. I think the sequence of “Plum” went through more than a dozen iterations before it clicked into its final shape. Robbie was that sequence’s ultimate advocate, and he had the arc of Neil Young’s “On the Beach” in mind.

I hope listeners take solace in the new album. I hope it gives people energy. I hope it feels confusing and merciful and leads back to life.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as a band?
Burrows: We are perfectionists when it comes to performance, and we are very hard on ourselves. It’s a shame, because we are definitely at our best when we’re at our most exuberant. We’re working on easing up, though. Trying to lead with our goodwill and love what happens.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from Wand for the rest of 2017 and beyond?
Burrows: We’ve already started work on what will likely be the next LP. More music should be forthcoming. Meanwhile, let’s expect to see each other at the gig!

Featured image by: Abby Banks

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Bottled Up Emotions

Downeast Cider (Pumpkin Blend)

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Brewer: Downeast Cider House

Beer: Cider (Pumpkin Blend)

Alcohol Content by Volume: 5.1%

Here’s the story. I went out last weekend. Nothing major, just a couple of drinks with a friend. The bartender says, “Hey, Emotiguys! Have you ever tried this Downeast pumpkin cider?” I respond, “No, but the leaves are changing color and pumpkin is the hottest ingredient since guacamole, so serve us up two, my good man!” He does. I sip. Emotimind blown!

Seriously. This is a delicious drink. Buzz aside, the taste is just so… tasty! In fact, it’s probably dangerous just how smoothly this cider goes down because you’ll forget that there’s alcohol in it, and then, WHAM, you’re unexpectedly calling Uber to give you a ride home from the Fridays up the road. (Embarrassing!)

In fact, the night after I had a few of these on draft, I went out and got me a… four pack? (yes, that’s how they come in the can)… and served them up with my favorite meal, crab legs!

I LOVE FALL!

DRUNKEN EMOJI RATING

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Wingman Wednesday

Hannah Zeile

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Photo By: Bobby Quillard

In a time when everyone is talking about the exceptional storytelling found on cable and streaming platforms, NBC did something relatively unusual for networks this past television season – they produced a new, non-reality hit. Stacked with an impressive cast and developed to be relatable on multiple levels, “This Is Us” exploded onto the scene with a pilot that genuinely took people by surprise, which is an accomplishment in and of itself in this spoiler-filled age.

The story follows the Pearson family as they navigate the ups and downs of life, both in the present and by way of the past through a series of flashbacks that peer in on the complicated upbringing of the three siblings at the core of the series. Hannah Zeile plays the adolescent version of Kate (also played by Chrissy Metz), a reserved young girl who is dealing with a lack of self-confidence, an overbearing mom, and finding her place amongst the rest of the family.

Season 2 of “This Is Us” kicks off tonight on NBC.

We recently sat down with Zeile to discuss how she handles the emotional workload of her character, her favorite scene, and whether or not she feels pressure heading into the second season.

TrunkSpace: What were your initial thoughts when you learned that you would become a series regular in season 2?
Zeile: I felt like someone needed to wake me up because my absolute biggest dream since I remember dreaming became a reality. I was already so excited to be a recurring guest star in season 1, but it was not a guaranteed job. Becoming a series regular has been the biggest blessing and honor, especially on a show with so many talented people.

TrunkSpace: Does that mean we’ll be flashing back even more to the origin stories of how each of these characters became who they are?
Zeile: We will definitely be seeing more of the teenage Big 3. The teenage years are a pivotal time in a person’s life, full of change and growth and lots of life lessons, so I’m excited for everyone to see Kevin, Kate, and Randall start discovering themselves. The writers do an incredible job of showing how the storylines of the teenage Big 3 have an effect on their present lives.

TrunkSpace: The storytelling in “This is Us” is always very powerful and relatable. What will Kate be dealing with throughout the course of the season that you can shed a little light on (without giving too much away) and do you find it difficult to go to such emotional places with the character as you grow alongside of her?
Zeile: I really cannot reveal much, but as you saw in season 1, Kate has a very close bond with her dad and we will get to see that relationship explored, as well as her complicated relationship with her mother. There is such a difference between reading an emotional scene, and actually performing it. The writing is phenomenal and my castmates are as well, so all the “emotional places” become so real and organic.

TrunkSpace: Is there a particular moment performance-wise from your work in season 1 that you are most proud of and why?
Zeile: I’m most proud of my scene in the car with Milo Ventimiglia in episode 17 because that scene was really important for the development of Jack and Kate’s relationship. It was essential to use those few minutes to portray how close of a father/daughter duo they are, and I thought it turned out really beautiful.

TrunkSpace: One of the amazing things about the show from your character’s perspective in particular is that it is a period piece. You’re getting to perform on these wonderfully authentic sets and wear incredible wardrobe pieces that really help establish the tone for that period of time. What do you enjoy most about being able to tap into that throwback feel with the work you’re doing on “This is Us?”
Zeile: It is so fun working in different time periods! I admire the wardrobe and prop departments for all their amazing work. The prop department is very attentive to detail, like making sure the date is within the period on the newspaper that is sitting on the breakfast table. The wardrobe department dresses me in such amazing stuff that I always tell them I’d love to take stuff home and wear some of the pieces around.

TrunkSpace: When the show premiered last year, it really took a lot of people by surprise in terms of how quickly it became a success for NBC. Do you feel like there is any extra pressure on the series (and yourself as a series star) going into the second season?
Zeile: I don’t really feel pressure about it. The writers, my castmates, and the crew are brilliant so I have confidence in all those people. We all come to set and have so much fun because we love what we do and we love what we are creating, so the fact that other people love it too is incredible.

TrunkSpace: In terms of performance and finding Kate, did you and Chrissy ever sit down together and discuss certain aspects of the character that perhaps was expected to carry over into adulthood? Because you’re both playing the same person, is it important to stay in sync?
Zeile: When Chrissy and I get together, we laugh a lot and grow closer on a more personal basis. I’ve picked up her mannerisms and things by watching the show and watching her performances, but I’m thankful that Chrissy trusts me enough to make teenage Kate my own character with her own identity.

TrunkSpace: You’re still so young, and yet now starting to be accomplished in the industry. Does that put pressure on you in your personal life amongst friends and peers? Have people’s expectations changed in regards to who they think Hannah Zeile is?
Zeile: I’ve always been someone who keeps her circle tight. I’m really close with my family; my mom is literally my best friend and my biggest supporter. All the people in my life are people who have been by my side on this journey and they don’t expect me to be anything but myself.

THIS IS US — “A Father’s Advice” Episode 201 — Pictured: (l-r) Hannah Zeile as Kate age 15, Logan Shroyer as Kevin age 15, Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Niles Fitch as Randall age 15 — (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

TrunkSpace: What first drew you to acting? What made this particular journey of such interest to you?
Zeile: Growing up, I would come home from a movie and pretend I was my favorite character for the rest of the week. I always loved stepping into someone else’s shoes and pretending to live in their reality. As I’ve gotten older, I can appreciate how a performance can affect you in ways that words can’t describe, but you feel it. I hope that in my career I can move people the way other actors have moved me.

TrunkSpace: You’re playing a teen on television who is going through a lot of difficult, emotional moments in a world where social media didn’t exist. This is a bit of a mind melt, we know, but given what you know about being a teenager in 2017, do you think Kate’s experience would be easier, similar, or more difficult if she was growing up in the present?
Zeile: It is hard to say for sure, but I would think it would be more difficult. Social media can put a lot of pressure on young girls, especially like Kate who struggles with low self-esteem mostly due to her weight. Unfortunately, people can also be negative and hide behind a keyboard on social media and I think mean comments are hard for anyone to read, including Kate.

Season 2 of “This Is Us” premieres tonight on NBC.

Featured image by: Bobby Quillard

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Opening Act

Fay Gauthier

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Artist/Band: Fay Gauthier

Website: www.faygauthier.com

Hometown: Millville, Massachusetts (LA since 2003)

Latest Album/Release: Firehead (Released 9/5/17)

Influences: Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone

TrunkSpace: How do you describe your music?
Gauthier: I recently started calling it “Genre-fluid.” In the most general terms it’s pop, but depending on the song it can swing towards jazz, blues, country, or other genres.

TrunkSpace: We also read that you’re continuously influenced by what you’re currently listening to, but we wonder, where else do you find inspiration? Do you look beyond music itself to feel drawn to create in a particular way or style?
Gauthier: Absolutely. I’ll find inspiration in a news story. I’ll find inspiration in random conversation with a friend, or even a stranger. I’m an equal opportunity inspiration junkie. I think being an actor helps with this as well, since we’re trained observers.

TrunkSpace: Many singer/songwriters use writing and creating as a form of therapy. Does creating serve that purpose for you? Do your songs say things about you that you yourself are unable to say?
Gauthier: Yes. Sometimes, even if I don’t realize it at the moment inspiration strikes, I’ll look back at something I’ve written and realize it mirrored some aspect of my life, or shed light on a previously unexplored emotion or experience.

TrunkSpace: What does your songwriting process look like? Do your songs tend to come into this world via the same method?
Gauthier: Usually melody comes first, or the melody and lyrics come at the same time. Very rarely I will start with a lyric and write a melody around it.

TrunkSpace: What is it that you hope draws people to what you create? What do you want them to discover within the songs?
Gauthier: Connection, and enjoyment too. I love it when someone tells me they were moved by a lyrical line or a particular song. And I’m honored when something I’ve created resonates at an emotional level.

TrunkSpace: Your new album “Firehead” was recently released. Now that it is complete and able to reach the ears of listeners, how do you view it? Has your opinion on it and the experience changed since you first wrapped in the studio?
Gauthier: I am as excited now about this album as I was when we wrapped in the studio. It’s a blessing to have worked and to continue to work with the amazing team of producers and musicians whose talent went into making “Firehead.” And the feedback has been wonderful. What’s been especially fun for me is the wide variety of opinions I’m getting from listeners on which song is their “favorite”. It makes me feel like our decision to include a range of genres gives the album a broader appeal.

TrunkSpace: What were you hoping to accomplish with the album and did you achieve it?
Gauthier: Most importantly we wanted to put out music that we and other people would enjoy. At the same time, we wanted it to show my versatility. And I do feel this album achieved that.

TrunkSpace: What was the biggest thing you learned about yourself during the writing and recording of “Firehead” and was that discovery a surprise?
Gauthier: The biggest discovery was realizing just how much joy I missed out on when I took a break from music. It wasn’t a surprise so much as a potent reminder of how important it is to do what you love.

TrunkSpace: Outside of your career in music, you’re also an actress and writer. Have you always had a creative focus? What is the longest time you’ve ever spent NOT creating?
Gauthier: I can’t ever remember not creating. I haven’t always given myself the time I’d like to nurture it, but the creating is always there.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself creatively?
Gauthier: Definitely my writing. Whether it’s a character’s dialogue or the lyrics to my songs.

Photo By: Mikel Healey

TrunkSpace: If you were starting your career over, what difficult lesson learned do you wish you could have avoided?
Gauthier: Being too intent on pleasing others. Everyone has an opinion on how an artist should approach their craft, or how she should niche herself. I’ve learned to be open to opinions, but also to accept that I can’t possibly please everyone, so ultimately I need to trust my own instincts.

TrunkSpace: What else can fans of Fay Gauthier look forward to for the rest of 2017 and into the new year?
Gauthier: I’ve written a couple new songs and I’m looking forward to sharing them soon. I’ve got a great band together for live performances in and around LA. And I’m looking at putting out a couple more music videos for songs from the album.

Featured image by: Mikel Healey

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Musical Mondaze

Local H

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What goes around comes around in the world of music. What’s old is new. What’s dated is retro chic. What’s gone is back.

For the rock duo Local H, none of that means squat. They’re not interested in drawing attention to themselves for anything other than the music they create and they aren’t big on nostalgia. Instead, the Illinois natives who hit it big in 1996 with the “alternative” single “Bound for the Floor” have been facing forward for the last two decades, cranking out new material and looking to improve upon each album they record.

The one constant in the band’s ongoing story since it first formed in 1997? Guitarist, bassist, and lead vocalist Scott Lucas.

 

We recently sat down with Lucas to discuss being the loudest band on a bill, preaching to different choirs, and why he doesn’t worry that another album is coming.

TrunkSpace: You guys seem to have an obscene amount of tour dates in front of you.
Lucas: Yeah, it’s been a pretty busy year.

TrunkSpace: We’re dating ourselves, but a couple of us here at TrunkSpace saw Local H at a radio show in Providence, RI back in 1998. You were easily the loudest band on the bill, which is something that people always associate with you, right?
Lucas: Yeah. I’m sure there’s some sort of inferiority complex involved there with that.

TrunkSpace: That show was a WBRU radio show, a very well-known modern rock radio station that unfortunately, just stop transmitting a few weeks ago.
Lucas: Oh, no. That sucks.

TrunkSpace: Has the disappearance of rock radio stations affected the band at all?
Lucas: No, I don’t think so. I mean, we still have a pretty good relationship with stations that we’ve always had, but I think a lot of that stuff is basically classic rock at this point, and so that kind of music has always been pretty conservative in the first place. The kinds of things that they would play have always been… there’s not a whole fuck of a lot that you could say was alternative, even though they used those words. You can’t look at a lot of the bands that they would play and think that those were crazy alternative bands. I wouldn’t expect them to change, and the kind of stuff that does get played now, it’s not music that’s made for me, so I don’t really feel that I have a place to comment on it. It’s purely music for teenagers, and that’s the way it should be. The way people listen to music has changed, and I don’t think it really has hurt us, and I don’t think it’s hurt a lot of bands out there.

TrunkSpace: What has been more difficult for the band, finding your fanbase when you first started or has it been maintaining a fanbase over the years?
Lucas: I wouldn’t say it’s that difficult. I mean, we just kind of haven’t really changed our plan of attack for quite some time now, and I think we’ve figured out what we feel comfortable doing. The main thing that we’ve been looking for over the years, and it is kind of working out for us now, is just finding like-minded bands to go out with. It kind of changes things up for us, and that’s something that’s good to do – it just changes the people that you play in front of sometimes, and you’re not always preaching to the choir.

TrunkSpace: Does that help to keep the experience fresh for you?
Lucas: Yeah. It’s nice to get the chance to, for lack of a better term, turn on new people.

TrunkSpace: As you sort of look over your career as a whole, and you look at the library of music that you created, is there one period or era of the band that holds the most charm? Is there any nostalgia value with any of it?
Lucas: No. I’m not too big on nostalgia, and I kinda think it’s a waste of time. The thing you should always be doing is trying to get better, and keep trying to maintain a standard by which you think you should be working from, and just falling back on old bullshit is not really that interesting to me.

TrunkSpace: Where do you feel like you’ve improved the most as a musician – as a lyricist, as a songwriter, etc. – over the course of your career?
Lucas: Sometimes I like the sound of my voice better, maybe, and sometimes I listen to those old records and I’m like, “That sounds like a child.” I don’t know. That’s another thing that I’m not too interested in analyzing. I can’t really work that way. It’s not my job to say. I just have to try to do good work without thinking, without overthinking it, as well. Sometimes people make moves that call attention to themselves, and that doesn’t always work. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it’s just not a good move.

TrunkSpace: Does that put you in position, as a creative person, to always be moving forward? Are you of the mindset that when something’s done, a new album, you’re already moving onto the next one?
Lucas: Well, not really. I feel like what I have to do is, once you make a record, I need time to charge my batteries. I need time to just go out and do things, and just consume, take things in, and then hopefully something comes out. We don’t really leave a lot when we makes records. We don’t leave a lot for next time, so there’s always that feeling of, “Well, that’s it. I don’t know where the next record’s gonna come from,” so I think that’s a good way to be. But then you do have to give yourself time to come up with something that you feel interested in, and you want to chase.

TrunkSpace: You say you might not know where the next album is going to come from. If we were to read into that, would that mean that maybe there’s a chance that there is a last album? Is there a time where you could see yourself walking away from music?
Lucas: I don’t know about that. I don’t know if anybody knows of that. You’ve got people saying it’s going to be the last record, and then within two years they’re back with a new record, and that kind of LCD Soundsystem, crying wolf type of thing seems to be happening a lot more lately, and I certainly don’t want to add to that. Even after the first or second record I was kind of like, “I don’t know where the next one’s going to come from,” so having that feeling over and over, I’m pretty comfortable with knowing that there will be another one, and something will come. It doesn’t really worry me.

TrunkSpace: Not knowing where it’s going to come from sort of means that it’s probably going to come from a different place, which means creatively you’re moving on, you’re moving forward, and in the end, isn’t that always the idea?
Lucas: Sure, and when you look back you hope that you can see some progress, but I don’t really go looking for it. At this point, I just want to make records that don’t suck.

TrunkSpace: As you continue to make records, and continue to put out more songs, is it interesting to look at the body of work as a whole and go, “That library, that’s me, I created that?” Is there ever a legacy look at what you’ve done?
Lucas: I mean, it’s nice to know that if anybody wanted to know what I thought, and what was on my mind, and how I looked at the world, they could look at those songs. It’s pretty much there. My whole worldview is pretty much laid out in those songs, and that’s kind of nice. Not saying anybody would want to know, but if they did want to know, there’s certainly a blueprint there.

TrunkSpace: It’s almost like an unintended journal.
Lucas: Yes, it is, and like all journals, they can be pretty fucking painful to read through. Embarrassing.

Local H is currently on tour with The Toadies. Dates are available here.

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Deep Focus

Justin Sayre

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Photo By: Matthew Dean Stewart

In our new column Deep Focus, TrunkSpace is going behind the camera to talk with the directors, writers, and producers who infuse our world with that perennial pop culture goodness that we can’t get enough of.

This time out we’re chatting with Justin Sayre, creator and star of the new stage show, “I’m Gorgeous Inside,” which premieres tonight at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater in New York. We recently sat down with Sayre to discuss how lonely real estate served as the catalyst for the show, how much he likes to put out fires on stage, and why he’s ready to tell any bad girl’s story.

TrunkSpace: Your show “The Meeting” ran for eight seasons. With bands and songwriters, you hear a lot of them talk about how they keep songs “fresh” while they’re touring with the same material for extend periods of time. How does that work for you on a show?
Sayre: It was a different show every month, so it was always new material. It was always a different icon, and it was always different guests. There was always a lot of room for experimentation, and a lot of, “How do we want to do this this month? Here are our parameters, and how do we play within that?”

Getting to meet these great downtown artists, and people from Broadway, and other people making interesting work in New York, inspired me certainly to push myself further, and to push the show in different directions. Being a show that was inherently political, there was always new fodder to make it work. But it always came back to this idea about community, and bringing people together, and really creating space for a community to form. Not just around the show, but in the world.

That became just an overwhelming part of the show. I built a different kind of repartee with an audience, then I would have otherwise. It didn’t ever feel stale, it just felt like we’ve done this now. It was time to start a new adventure. I also really wanted to step out on my own a little bit, and create something that wasn’t so driven by politics. Even though I think a lot of my work is political, I wanted to make something that was more… just about my ideas and things like that, rather than constantly in response to what was happening.

TrunkSpace: So what was the origin story of “I’m Gorgeous Inside?” Where did it all begin?
Sayre: I worked on “2 Broke Girls” in LA. When I would drive to work, there was this real estate sign on a house that said, “I’m gorgeous inside,” and I thought, you’ve got to be at a pretty low point when you have to tell people, “No, wait a minute. I may look like hell outside, but inside, oh my God, I got all my original floors. I got everything!” (Laughter) I always thought it was a really funny title, so when we came up with the show, I was like, “I want to do that as the show, ‘I’m Gorgeous Inside’.”

When I was talking about things that I was really interested in, it was the tough girl archetype, this bad girl archetype that so many gay men are interested in, and think about, and emulate in their ways. But really, getting past that and talking about what that meant to them in a concrete way, rather than just an abstraction or some kind of hyperbole that makes fun of those women. I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in what was the core, igniting spark that made you look at Rizzo in “Grease” or some Bette Davis movie, and you’re like, “I gotta go with her!” I think it’s because they’re characters who are generally not given enough, but demand more. They are shortchanged, but they don’t take it. I think for a lot of queer people, that means something. Seeing somebody who is told by the world “no” and continues to demand a “yes” is really empowering. Once that kind of percolated in my head, the idea of “I’m Gorgeous Inside” kind of happened. Then it really just kind of flew from there.

TrunkSpace: And what’s great about the title is that it really does have multiple meanings. It’s that funny origin story, but also, it’s about self-acceptance.
Sayre: Oh absolutely. Absolutely. It sounds very highfalutin, and it sounds like it’s gonna be some therapy session, but it’s really just a bunch of jokes. It’s gonna be fine. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: What emotions are you going through as you build up towards opening night?
Sayre: I think I’ve been told I have a lot of unnecessary fear. I think that’s fair to say, because I know myself well enough at this point that once I get out there, I’m going to be fine. I’m going to know how to put out the fires, even if I start them. (Laughter) I think right now it’s just like, “Oh wow, we’re really going to do this thing. We’re going to take it to this place. My work is going to go now in yet another direction.”

There’s trepidation about it, but there’s also an excitement, because one of the things that I’ve learned, after having done “The Meeting” for so long, is that I love kind of creating problems on stage, and solving them – this mentality of you know you can do it. You know you can be with an audience, and you can take them places. I feel very lucky that such a large group of people trust me, and have continued to do that. Once I concentrate on that, the other stuff really goes away.

TrunkSpace: And in a way, you kind of open the door for putting out fires because there’s audience interaction, right?
Sayre: Oh, always. Always, and one thing that were doing in this show, which I’m so excited about, is when I used to drink, I never had any money. I would have little contests with my friends, and see if they would buy me a drink. One of the contests was, they would give me a girl’s name, I would tell their whole life story in 10 minutes. It would have a beginning, middle, and end. It would be really specific, and if I could do it, and do it well, they would buy me a drink. In this show, I’m having Jenn Harris, who is a wonderful actress, come dressed as a different bad girl of her choosing each night, without me having seen her. She comes out on stage, and I, in front of an audience, will tell her life story for 10 minutes. We’re gonna play this game. We’re gonna see how it works. Jenn is super excited, because she gets to be crazy, and do whatever she wants. I’m really excited because not only is it working with Jenn, but it’s kind of keeping that spirit alive of, “All right, go! Make up a story! Do it!”

TrunkSpace: You’ve written for television. You’ve written for stage. You’re a published author. What would you like to tackle with the written word next?
Sayre: I just finished a new play, so I’d really like that to have a premiere in New York. I’m very excited about that. I’ve written a film over the summer. We’re shopping that around this fall. I’m working on two pilots right now. There’s lots of work, but I think really in the future, it’s figuring out how to integrate it all together in some weird amalgam. So it is film, and it is television, but I came up in the theater, and I came up in the downtown scene, so it’s making art that still reflects that worldview. I don’t want to give that up, because I think now more so than ever it’s necessary. I came up with people who told me, “Don’t ever worry about being mainstream. Just make the shit you want to make.” Now everyone is pushing to say, “How do we go mainstream? How do we go viral? How do we get everybody involved?” What ends up happening is, a lot of things get homogenized because of that. I think there has gotta be a place for the outliers. There is still gotta be a place for the renegades.

For more information on “I’m Gorgeous Inside” or to purchase tickets, click here.

Featured image by: Matthew Dean Stewart

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