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November 2017

Wingman Wednesday

JD McCrary

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Photo By: Birdie Thompson

If JD McCrary has his way, his trajectory in the business will look a lot like that of Denzel Washington’s one day. That’s a lofty goal for anyone to set for themselves as an actor, but McCrary has a good chance to pull it off. With three high profile projects currently set to catapult him into the pop culture stratosphere, the young multi-hyphanate is putting himself in a position to achieve the goals he has set for himself and then some.

McCrary can soon be seen starring in the new Tyler Perry series “The Paynes,” as a young Dr. Dre in Apple Music’s autobiographical “Vital Signs,” and in the highly anticipated live action adaptation of “The Lion King,” where he’ll voice young Simba. If the present is any indication of what’s to come for the 10-year-old in the future, Denzel Washington better watch out!


We recently sat down with McCrary to discuss his career, the road ahead, and his taste in video games.

TrunkSpace: You act. You sing. You dance. What it is that you enjoy most about entertaining people?
McCrary: What I enjoy most about entertaining people is just making people’s day, and making them laugh – making them happy with all of my music, and my performance, and all of the above.

TrunkSpace: Do you think having all of those various outlets allows not only viewers and fans to see you in different ways, but also people within the industry like casting directors and producers?
McCray: Yes. It’s very important because that just means that you can switch up things, and show people different sides of your career, maybe, or even your character and your voice.

TrunkSpace: How do you personally connect with a character when you sit down with a new script?
McCrary: Well, it’s all really about knowing what you’re supposed to be doing. Let’s say I’m a character named Jimmy, and there’s another guy, over there, named Nathan, and we’re just talking. I just have to get really into it, and you have to sync your mind to be the character that you’re playing.

TrunkSpace: So if you were signed on to play this character named Jimmy, would you spend a lot of time trying to sync your mind to him before you actually stepped on set?
McCrary: Yes. Practice and preparation is the key.

TrunkSpace: You’re set to star in Apple Music’s “Vital Signs,” which is an autobiographical telling of Dr. Dre’s own life story. Where does your character fall into things on that particular project?
McCrary: My character plays out as young Dr. Dre, his beforehand story, like when he was a kid, and all of the tough times that he had to go through to make him the man that he is.

TrunkSpace: Did you feel any pressure playing Dr. Dre because he was directly involved in the project?
McCrary: It was an honor to actually do that, and I think there’s no pressure because we’re all human, and he just has a great talent and a lot of people know that he does. That’s why he’s so famous, and that’s why he does a lot of great things. So no, I don’t think that it puts any anxiety on me.

TrunkSpace: Were you able to sit down with him and say, “What were you like at this age? What can I bring to the performance that will be you?”
McCrary: Yes, I was able to do that.

TrunkSpace: And did that help you in terms of finding who he was as a character within the story?
McCrary: Yes, it helped me to understand the things that I was going to do.

TrunkSpace: And for you, what was the most interesting part of getting to play Dr. Dre?
McCrary: The most interesting part of playing young Dre was just getting into everything that he used to do. It’s set back a couple of years before I was born, and a lot of things were very different. I learned a lot just from playing young Dre.

TrunkSpace: It must have been interesting for you just from a wardrobe perspective, getting to wear and see how people dressed during that period?
McCrary: It was very funny, and it was really fun, also.

TrunkSpace: “Vital Signs” is Apple Music’s first original scripted series. What does it feel like being involved in a show that is basically serving to launch this new original content network?
McCrary: It feels like a big honor, and it feels really nice to know that I got to be on a show with Dr. Dre, who has accomplished so many things, and showed the world who he is.

TrunkSpace: And in addition to that, you’re also going to be starring in “The Paynes,” correct?
McCrary: Yes, a Tyler Perry show.

TrunkSpace: Those are two very big, high profile projects for any actor, especially for one so early in his career. Does it feel special knowing that you’re on this great run right now of being cast in such high profile projects?
McCrary: Yes, and I’m very thankful for it, because it’s just God’s blessing helping me out with a lot of things that have gone my way.

Photos By: Birdie Thompson

TrunkSpace: As you look forward in your career, is there another actor’s path that you’d like to see yours resemble?
McCrary: I look up to Denzel Washington, and a lot of people compare me to him in my facial recognition.

TrunkSpace: He’s somebody who really embodies the idea of having a long career and doing lots of different types of projects and characters. Having your career resemble his seems like a really focused and mature goal to have?
McCrary: Yes, it really is. It’s really inspiring because he’s done a lot of things that have helped me to get through all of the acting things that I’ve done, even some singing things. He helps me out a lot because he’s accomplished many, many blessings.

TrunkSpace: You’re so busy working, but when you’re not on set or on stage, what do you like to do?
McCrary: Well, sometimes I go on the keyboard that my dad bought. I hang out with my brother, he’s really cool, and I play a lot of video games.

TrunkSpace: Nice. What type of video games are you into?
McCrary: I’m into some old school stuff because I have a Nintendo. Also, I’m into a lot of PS4 games.

TrunkSpace: What about stuff that you like to watch that you’re not directly involved with? Any shows?
McCrary: I love to watch “Stranger Things.” Recently they just came out with Season 2, and I can’t wait to watch it with my family.

The Paynes” premieres January 16 on OWN.

The Lion King” roars into theaters summer 2019.

A release date has not yet been set for “Vital Signs.”

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Next Up

Bárbara Eliodorio

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Name: Bárbara Eliodorio

Hometown: São Paulo, Brazil

Current Location: New York City

TrunkSpace: When did you know that you wanted to act for a living?
Eliodorio: Around seven or eight years old when I learned that my favorite game, playing pretend, was a profession. I used to talk by myself and create my own stories, then one day watching TV, I saw a very famous Brazilian actress saying that that’s what she used to do when she was a child, and I made the click that maybe I was an actress too.

TrunkSpace: Was there a particular performance or actor/actress from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
Eliodorio: Yes. Television is huge in Brazil, especially soap operas, and that’s mostly what I watched growing up. I remember being very moved by Claudia Abreu performance in a telenovela called “Celebridade.”

TrunkSpace: How did you decide to approach your career as an actor? Did you formulate a plan of how you wanted to attack what is known for being a hard industry to crack?
Eliodorio: Good question. I had several plans and had to redo them multiple times – they say if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. (Laughter)

I always thought a solid base was necessary, which is why I made sure to study a lot. I studied for three years in Brazil then another three here, and of course, the learning process will never cease, but I wanted to get very familiar with the craft. I think my approach is to be really, really sharp with my work, and then just put it out there. Knowing what kind of art you want to do and who you want to work with… it’s very important to aim in a direction and shoot for it. Take all of the opportunities you can and be in constant risk. Don’t get stuck in comfort zones because that’s where art dies.

You need to be constantly sharing your work and making sure your artistry is being seen and heard. No one can see your work if you are home watching “Stranger Things.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: When did you decide to move away from your home and pursue acting as a career? How old were you at the time?
Eliodorio: I always wanted to study outside of Brazil. I felt the need for more technique and that’s what brought me New York. I was 19.

TrunkSpace: Was that move an easy transition for you initially? How long did it take you to feel at home and find a good support group of friends and peers?
Eliodorio: Not very long. I adapt really quickly as I have studied abroad a few times before, so I’m kind of used to the awkwardness and the “getting used to” a place. I kind of like that discomfort! I was also very lucky and made friends really quick, which made everything easier.

TrunkSpace: What has been been your biggest break in terms of a particular role or project thus far?
Eliodorio: I think my latest project was a big break for me. It was called “Female Voices From Brazil” and done at the Martin E. Segal Theatre, where so many artists whom I admire have performed. I got to be lead in a beautiful play called “The Body’s Night.” It was a very demanding role, and it really made me see acting through a different prism. It was a lovely experience.

TrunkSpace: Is there a specific type of role you’d like to take on or a specific genre that you feel more at home in?
Eliodorio: I love everything, from Greek tragedies to melodramas!

I love very sensitive, damaged characters who are in the edge of madness like Ofelia from “Hamlet” and Nina from “The Seagull,” but I’m learning to like characters who have nothing to do with me, and are so interesting to play, like Cleopatra from “Antony & Cleopatra.”

TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength an actor/actress can have outside of acting ability itself?
Eliodorio: To be a nice person and be bold. Be kind to people always – that will bring you far. But also take risks, everyday! When you live in possibility you never have anything to lose, ever. So just do it and don’t look back.

TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your acting career? Where would you like your path to lead?
Eliodorio: I have a lot of dreams and lots of artists I’d like to collaborate with. Mostly, I want to make art that has social impact – make voices that are constantly being silenced heard. I think that’s the dream.

I also want my theatre collective, Evoé, to keep growing and bringing Brazilian culture to more and more people.

TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring actor/actress who is considering moving away from home to pursue their dream?
Eliodorio: Is a lot easier than it seems. When you are home thinking, planning, you can see so many obstacles and things that can go wrong, so just DO IT. Just come and things will sort itself out.

The other thing is time. You have to trust divine timing and sometimes it’s just not the time to make the move yet. The universe may have other plans for you, and that is okay too.

TrunkSpace: Where can people (and casting directors) learn more about you?
Eliodorio: My Instagram: @barbaraeliodorio

And at my theatre collective website: www.evoecollective.com

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Wingman Wednesday

Jason William Day

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Photo By: David Ford

Professional fighter. Professional actor. Neither are easy careers to navigate, never mind break into, but Jason William Day has never been one to back down in the face of an uphill climb. Formerly competing in the UFC octagon under the name Jason “Dooms” Day, the Alberta native made the leap into acting by way of stunt work, combining his physical talents with his passion for performance. Having worked on dozens of popular television series, including “Van Helsing,” “Supergirl,” and “Arrow,” he hit social media pay dirt when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson shared an image of Day choking him out on the set of the upcoming film “Skyscraper.”

We recently sat down with Day to discuss his approach to changing career gears, how wrestling with The Rock lead to his phone blowing up, and why comic fans may want to keep hope alive regarding B’Wana Beast.

TrunkSpace: You’re a professional actor now. You were a professional fighter earlier in your life. As far as careers go, which one is easier to navigate?
Day: It’s kind of tricky. I think definitely my film career is just more certain in the sense that, it’s more consistent. In the fight game, you don’t know. If you went into a fight and you lose it, your career goes one direction. You win, it goes another direction. I’d say there’s a lot more unknown in the fight gig, so, this is more stable, I’d say.

TrunkSpace: That’s really interesting to hear because so often it seems that there’s a lot of factors that fall out of your control in acting and into the hands of others, such as casting directors and producers.
Day: Yeah, I guess that’s true. I think I’ve just been very fortunate and lucky so far within my career. I haven’t had an issue where I’ve gone a long time without having any work.

TrunkSpace: When you decided to pursue acting and change your focus, did you know that you wanted to utilize your physical skill sets right out of the gates?
Day: Yeah. I think the transition from the fight game into the stunt world was easier for me since I spent the better part of a decade as a professional fighter. A lot of those skills transferred over to screen, which made it a fairly seamless transition. I had been training in acting long before I got into the stunt game. I was training back when I was fighting because I always had this vision that once I was done fighting, I would like to make that transition into the on-screen world. At the time, the focus was acting. It just happened that I broke into stunts first, and now the acting is starting to creep its way in there as well.

TrunkSpace: Getting started in stunts must have been a great way to get comfortable being on sets and also building those long term relationships within the industry?
Day: Yeah, 100 percent correct. It is not only time to get in front of the camera, as a stunt guy you get to learn about who’s who on set and how everything works. You get to meet producers and directors, and you make those connections. That definitely helps you out as far as getting cast in roles down the road.

TrunkSpace: We would imagine that being a stunt performer means you need to be pretty comfortable getting your butt whopped on camera or seeing your characters die over and over again?
Day: (Laughter) It’s kind of an ongoing joke among all the stunt guys. If you see one of us on screen, you know that somebody’s about to die.

But, yeah, you definitely have to swallow your pride. You don’t get to win too many fights as a stunt guy.

TrunkSpace: Does having that real world knowledge of fighting help you on set in terms of choreography as well? Are there times when something is mapped out, a fight, and you have an opportunity to step in and say, “Well, this is great, but maybe this would be more effective?”
Day: It’s funny how different the two worlds are. When you’re training for the fight game, everything’s nice and tight. You want to make your movements small and quick. When you’re on screen, you have to make everything big.

Most of the fights are pretty locked down beforehand. The amount of work that goes into building a fight before we actually step in front of the camera is extraordinary. Usually we get a couple of rehearsal days. It’s rare that you change things on the fly, but it happens. The actors always seem to want it as realistic as possible, so I’ve got to step in a few times to offer suggestions about what makes it more believable. As the case with Dwayne when we were doing the last movie, he wanted that choke to look as realistic as possible. I got to actually help him out with that. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: “Skyscraper” is obviously a huge, big budget film. Because of that, there’s probably plenty of days on set to get things right. But you have also done a ton of stunt performing in television as well where the schedules are more breakneck. Does that force you to change up your approach at all when there is more of a ticking clock?
Day: It doesn’t really change how we operate. It is true, in TV, usually they get the stunt guys up at the end of the day, and it’s like you have to get this huge fight sequence done in a much shorter period of time than the four hours you need to shoot it. Whereas in film, yeah, we’ve got plenty of time, so it kind of takes a little bit of the stress off.

TrunkSpace: When Dwayne posted that picture of you choking him out on the set of “Skyscraper,” did you have any idea it was going out to the world beforehand?
Day: You know, when we were doing the scene, I could tell it was an important moment for him, because he wanted it as realistic as possible. He did have Hiram (Garcia), the president of Seven Bucks Productions, snapping a few photos. I was thinking, “Wow, it would be kind of cool if he posted one of these on his Instagram,” but he didn’t really give me any heads-up or anything like that. I woke up one morning and I think I had 1,500 followers and my phone blowin’ up telling me to check Instagram. It’s just crazy the power that guy carries through to social media. It’s mind boggling.

TrunkSpace: It must have been one of those situations where you can see firsthand the power of something going viral on social media?
Day: 100 percent. That’s where society is moving, I think, especially film and television. They’re starting to cast on who’s popular on social media for some roles. It’s starting to play a huge part in the whole business.

TrunkSpace: When you look at someone like Dwayne, who got his start in the world of professional wrestling, a medium that combines acting and the physicality of fighting… was that ever an avenue you considered pursuing?
Day: No. I never really got into wrestling. I never followed it too much. I had friends that were hardcore fans, and they dressed up like Ultimate Warrior back in the day. (Laughter) And I’ve worked with a few guys – Big Show and then The Miz. The schedule and the pace they have to operate on… they’ll work for 300+ days. When they come here to shoot a movie, they’re happy that they have to be in one place for more than a week. That lifestyle never really called out to me. I like to be settled. And if I’m going to go somewhere, then I like to go for a long period of time.

If you look at Big Show, he’s got hip problems. He just got a new hip put in. Dwayne, his body’s taken some beatings over the years. So those guys put themselves through hell. It pays off for a lot of them, but, to me, it was just never appealing. I like the real fight game, and that kind of appealed to me as far as the adrenaline.

TrunkSpace: A lot of our readers are also big comic book fans. Many of those comic fans were pumped up to see B’wana Beast make an appearance in a recent episode of “Legends of Tomorrow.” You got to bring him to life, but the more important question is, will we get to see him again?
Day: That was such a crazy experience, prancing around set in a loin cloth. It was a different feeling for me. (Laughter)

I talked to the writer of that episode, and she’s producer now. I said, “Do you think you guys are gonna bring this guy back?” Anything’s possible, right?

I put the bug in her ear that I think he should come back. (Laughter)

Day and Billy Zane in “Legends of Tomorrow.”

Skyscraper is scheduled for release next summer.

Feature image by: Natalia Anja

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Trunk Gaming

Game Review: Runbow

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Initial Release Date: August 27, 2015

Developer: 13AM Games

Publisher: 13AM Games, Headup Games

Designer: Thomas McCall

Engine: Unity

Platform: Wii U, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo 3DS, New Nintendo 3DS

You’re dangerously stuffed with stuffing and the tryptophan has begun coursing through your veins. You and your closest friends and family are all gathered in the living room, regretting that last piece of pumpkin pie. Your uncle is about to start asking people to look at his moles to see if they look irregular. Your father-in-law has just brought up his very onesided political views and the holiday poop emoji is about to hit the fan… what do you do?

WHAT DO YOU DO?!

If you answered shoot the hostage, you’ve seen “Speed” too many times, like us. Don’t worry about the hostages. Just grab your gaming system and plug in RUNBOW! It’s a platform game that is all-ages friendly and will bring your family closer together this holiday season… or drive a competitive wedge between you. We can say, though, that you will have a blast either way.

Runbow was released back in 2015, but it has recently had a resurgence in popularity with it being featured as a free download for the Xbox One. We recently sat down with our TrunkSpace family to take another look at this game. It’s a very basic concept, but it works so well. You race your opponents to the end of the level, or you work together to collect coins, defeat enemies, etc., traveling through a board game style set up after each level to choose your next step. What we found to be so fun and perfect for a crowd of diverse ages and gaming skills, is that you have this very basic skill set of running, jumping, and punching that you put to use to achieve your goal. At first you start off racing against the other players, and you can’t help but try and punch each other or butt-stomp them to keep them from getting ahead of you. We’re not going to lie, we didn’t make it through several levels many times, because we couldn’t quit laughing and punching one another to keep from getting ahead.

Something funny begins to happen after the first few levels. The goals switch from a race to other objectives that force you to work together to get through the level. This was really fun to watch. When you see a 10-year-old trying to get their grandparent to jump over the spike pit or dodge rolling spike balls, you can’t help but get into that holiday spirit. What says holiday togetherness more than helping grandma keep from getting crushed by a giant spike ball? Don’t worry, though. The objectives switch back and forth, and you’ll have plenty of chances to virtually punch your cousin Eddie repeatedly.

Visually, the graphics are colorful and resemble paper cutouts that harken back to a “Samurai Jack” feel, which we really dig. The color schemes play an important part of the strategy of the game as well. A color will wash over the screen at random and if the platform your standing on or jumping to is that color, it’s suddenly gone, and you’re probably going to fall to your doom. At times the game can be as frustrating as it is challenging, but in a good way. You want to keep going back and trying to achieve your goal and beat the other players to it to get that virtual trophy.

We’re going to wrap things up a little differently with this Trunk Gaming review. We know it can be difficult to entertain a large group of family and friends during the holidays, so here are a few of our other crowd friendly games that we suggest plugging in after your plug your mouth full of those delicious holiday carbs. “Mario Kart” for the Nintendo Switch is an absolute laugh riot to play with others. Even if you have some younger or older gamers, they can still enjoy just driving around. There is so much going on, they won’t know if they’re winning or losing, but they’ll have a blast doing it! “Overcooked” is another game we recommend to play with groups of people. You have to work together to create amazing and delicious meals while on a moving space station, in the middle of the arctic or in the midst of an earthquake that rips the ground apart. This game is a laugh riot and makes “Cutthroat Kitchen” look like a cake walk. If you have just one of these three games in your library, you’ve got holiday entertainment for hours on end. Let us know what some of your favorite multi-player games are in the comments below!

PUT THE FUN BACK IN FAMILY FUNCTIONS WITH…

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Wingman Wednesday

Tom Keifer

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Tom Keifer has been bringing the rock ‘n’ roll thunder to music lovers for over three decades. As the frontman for the bluesy metal band Cinderella, the Pennsylvania native has sold more than 15 million records worldwide and has amassed a loyal fandom that has followed him throughout the ever-changing music industry landscape, from vinyl consumption to cassette tapes, CDs to digital, and back to the nostalgic allure of vinyl once again. As he sang with Cinderella, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Currently Keifer is out on the road in support of his recently re-released debut solo album, “The Way Life Goes – Deluxe Edition,” which includes bonus tracks and an exclusive DVD featuring music videos, tour clips, and a 30-minute documentary called “The Way Life’s Goin.”

We recently sat down with Keifer to discuss the album’s journey, traversing the music industry landscape, and how experiencing music has changed from when he started writing and recording to where things are today.

TrunkSpace: Crowds at your shows participate in a continuous singalong. They know your material inside and out. The level of passion for the music is very unique, especially considering how long you have been doing it and how many of them have been on that journey with you the entire time.
Keifer: Playing live has always been my favorite part of what I do. I love writing the songs and creating in the studio, but there’s nothing really like that moment where you set foot on stage and it’s live. It’s no do-overs and you’re in the moment, and it’s just rock ‘n’ roll. What you mentioned about as long as I’ve been doing this, I just feel really fortunate every night when I walk up there to look out and see all those people still singing the songs, not only the Cinderella stuff but the stuff on “The Way Life Goes” too now, which is… I feel like a lucky dude.

TrunkSpace: Is it particularly gratifying that fans have been connecting with the solo stuff?
Keifer: Yeah, that’s amazing. When the record was first released and we started touring with the new band, it was a little bit of an eye opener because you’re really starting over, and I think anyone who leaves a very successful band and goes out on their own probably doesn’t realize that until they step foot into that territory. And then you go, “Oh wow. This is starting over.” (Laughter) But the record did so well on radio, the first single, and the reviews on it were really great, and the fans just really received it well. So that was a great feeling. The touring took a little bit of time to build. We started with very, very small clubs the first year, and we were lucky if we were filling them halfway. But that grew the more we were out there because the band has an amazing chemistry and energy live, so word started to spread. My social media started to grow, which I didn’t have before the record was released. I didn’t even know what social media was. The label set me up with it and said, “Here’s the keys. Go have a good time.” (Laughter)

So you know, a lot of word of mouth happened, and the band really became popular and still is growing on the tour circuit to the point where we went from those small, half-full clubs to now we’re headlining or direct support on all the major festivals. We’re still playing the smaller rooms but selling them out now – we’re filling them up. Like you said, it’s gratifying to be able to watch that grow with something new and particularly with a band where I really, really love, everyone in the band, and our chemistry’s great on and off stage. They’ve been incredibly dedicated to this journey, and it’s been really cool.

TrunkSpace: It seems a lot of fans are sharing your music with their kids as well, which in turn, is making an entirely new generation of rock lovers discover your sound and what you’re all about.
Keifer: I think that the ’80s bands really started to transcend into the next generation even before I released the solo record. We started seeing that on the last handful of tours I did with Cinderella, where there were younger people showing up, and they weren’t necessarily with their parents. Some were, but the older teenagers were just coming on their own. I think YouTube was a huge discovery mechanism. YouTube, and now probably with streaming and all too, it really got people going back and they’re seeing the Moscow Music Peace Festival, or they’re seeing this or that. I think a lot of people got turned on to it through that way and seeing current live performances on there. Also, people put up the music too, just links of the music, so I think the internet has helped spread that, and you see that now with the solo band and the new record too. Same thing.

Photo By: Tammy Vega

TrunkSpace: When you first decided to put “The Way Life Goes” together, what made it the right time for you in terms of pursuing solo material and why do you think it took you that long to get there creatively?
Keifer: I started writing stuff for a solo record really in the mid-’90s. I moved to Nashville because I was writing with people here, like in ’97, with the idea of recording a solo record because the whole music scene had changed with the grunge movement coming in and all. I was working on my own stuff, and when I got to Nashville, Cinderella was offered a record deal on Portrait. So the solo project went on the back burner, and we started touring again and writing for a record, and that went on for a couple years and A&R people wearing us out saying, “More songs, do this, stay on the road, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” And then eventually, the record never got made and the label went out of business. It was not pretty.

I was on the heels of a bad record deal, one that had gone south, and I was kind of fed up with the industry. At the same time, my wife, Savannah, who’s a singer-songwriter and was actually in Nashville a few years before me even, she had been through some similar stuff with her deals here on Music Row, and we were both in the same place and fed up with dealing with record companies and business stuff. We just started making music just for the fun of it, writing songs and recording songs with musician friends of ours here and session players that Savannah had done a lot of work with. So, we started this journey of work in progress, labor of love, over a course of about nine or 10 years off and on, recording songs and taking long breaks from them and coming back to it. I was still touring with Cinderella at the time and woke up one day and realized that we had a record and very quickly found a label that was over the moon to release it. So that’s the journey of it and how it came about and maybe why it took so long, because I did get sidetracked with that Cinderella deal in ’98, which turned out to be a big bunch of heartache more than anything.

TrunkSpace: Those kinds of heartaches must take their toll on the creative mindset, especially when you put so much into something?
Keifer: The story of that doesn’t end there because the record (“The Way Life Goes”) was released in 2013 and was received really well. The first single did killer, “Solid Ground,” at rock radio, and “The Flower Song” was getting played on Triple A and some alternative stations, and even got a little top 40 action on satellite. And it’s like, “Wow, this thing has taken off and is getting great reviews.” I don’t think I’ve seen a bad review on the record. And the fans loved it. We’re out playing the songs alongside the Cinderella classics live, and they’re going down just as big. But then we had a bit of another business or legal issue after the record was released, where for lack of a better word, we’ll just call it a corporate shake-up or some business dealings that the record got caught in the middle of, and eventually ended up getting pulled from the shelves. It hasn’t been available for the last two years.

TrunkSpace: Right, which is crazy considering how much time and energy you spent on it.
Keifer: We’re out touring with the band, and we’re seeing comments on social media like, “Love the new stuff, but where do you get the record? I can’t find it.” Or even worse, “I bought this record in 2013, and it just disappeared from my iTunes.” So imagine reading that after you spend nine or 10 years on a record. It gets released, it’s starting to blow up, and then boom, this happens. To put it gently, we lawyered up and we got our masters back. We got them back last year, and we decided to do a deluxe or an extended edition of the record before we put it back up on the shelves, which is something that we talked about before this legal mess happened. So that’s what we did. We went in last year and we recorded the bonus tracks that are on the deluxe. While we were in there, Tammy Vega filmed the documentary that’s on the bonus DVD. We had David Calcano redo all the artwork and the art package is amazing. We spent the better part of last year editing and mixing and all that stuff to make it really special. We finally got it released just about a month ago.

Keifer in 1989.

TrunkSpace: After going through those business headaches with both your solo project and with Cinderella, do you approach things differently now? Are you looking to steer clear of partnering with labels in the future?
Keifer: It’s just life, and it’s business. It happens. I like having a distributor and a label involved because you can get much more of a reach than just putting it up on your website. I still think it’s an asset if you can get one who believes in it. Honestly, the label who released it the first time, I don’t have any complaints. They did a great job marketing it right out of the box. Business happens, and sometimes the music gets caught in the middle of it. They were big believers and really inspired us and did a great job on the record until that happened. Same thing with Mercury Records with Cinderella. They were responsible for really pushing the band out there and selling millions of records, and then when they were done, they wash their hands of you, and it’s usually not pretty. It’s business, right? What are you going to do? Are you going to cry or bum out? You just move on. That’s what I’ve done every time. I’ve been through it.

We just did a deal with Cleopatra Records for the deluxe. They’re a great label. I’ve actually done some things with them in the past. You go into any business dealing hoping for the best.

TrunkSpace: It just seems like the nature of the music business nowadays is so volatile that the labels don’t necessarily know what the future holds, so they’re hedging their bets as much as possible.
Keifer: That’s true. The kind of things that I’ve been through, it’s not unique to me. I don’t know if you’ve seen the Tom Petty documentary “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” but he talks about going through the same thing. That part where he’s telling the stories about them hiding the masters every night when they were done because of the label… it’s just business. (Laughter) You try not to let it interfere with your creative process. You use the business to get your music heard and out there any way you can, but just know eventually that probably something is going to come down on you. It’s just part of it, man. What you’ve got to do is not give up. We had put so much into “The Way Life Goes” in the initial release. We got a taste of how people reacted to it, so when it did go away, and we did have that problem, we had a choice. We could have just said, “Okay, let it slip between the cracks” or “Let’s fight for it and get the masters back and get it back up there.” We believe in the record, so that’s what we did.

TrunkSpace: There was a time when a tour was meant to support an album, but nowadays, it seems like things have flipped a bit and an album supports a tour. As far as the business side of music is concerned, are tours more important today than they were 20 or 30 years ago?
Keifer: Touring has always been important, number one, because it’s just fun. Playing live is my favorite part of what I do. I think one has always fed the other. It feeds it a little bit differently today than it did back then, but touring was very important to promoting the record back in the ’80s. But the record also promoted the tour back then too. It’s a circle. It’s the same thing now. It’s harder to actually sell records now, so the amount of money that can be generated by a label on album sales, that kind of doesn’t happen the way it used to. If you blow something up the top 40, you still can sell millions of records, but that’s a long shot there, especially these days. I think they both feed each other and they have in both time frames or time periods that you mentioned, just in different ways.

TrunkSpace: Does the return of vinyl, at least for enthusiasts and collectors, help generate more interest in back catalog material? Is that a viable revenue stream?
Keifer: Yeah. People who like physical products still buy physical product. And there’s people who are very dedicated to that, and they want to hold that in their hand, which is one of the reasons we went to great lengths on the deluxe edition to make it really special so when you pick it up and hold it, it has new artwork and a booklet and two discs and the whole nine yards. I think that there are people who, definitely, that’s what they want. Particularly lately, it seems to be vinyl is really making a comeback. So yeah, I think that there’s people who still really like that. I do. It’s cool. I miss the days of when I got the “Physical Graffiti” album and it was the gatefold and all the artwork.

TrunkSpace: There’s something nice about being invested in an album as well and having to physically be a part of it by getting up and flipping the record. You become a part of the experience.
Keifer: And having to get up and go out and get it, like leave your house to get it!

The digital thing, it’s so easy and it’s so convenient to get music now that, and I’m guilty of it, I’m sure you are and I’m sure everyone on the planet is now, but you hear a song or two and it takes a lot longer now to get you to buy the record. You’ve got to hear the record. You keep hearing the same song. I know I keep hearing the same song, and I say, “Oh, I’ve got to get that record.” It might be a year and then I finally get the record. It’s so easy to buy and it just goes into your phone. You almost forget that you have it. It just seems more disposable now. There’s records that I’ve downloaded, and I’m sure you’ve done this too, and then you haven’t even listened to them yet.

TrunkSpace: Guilty as charged.
Keifer: It’s because it’s so easy. It used to be if you wanted the Rolling Stones “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll” when it came out, you had to wait until the release date and you had to get up, you had to go to the store, and you had to buy it. It was this big physical thing that you brought home. You couldn’t listen to it anywhere you wanted to. You had to listen, had to make the time to put it on your turntable. It’s just a different experience, you know? There’s no right or wrong. Every generation and every time period has its way of taking in music. It’s just different. I think there’s advantages and pitfalls to both, the old way or the new. I really do.

The Way Life Goes – Deluxe Edition” is available now via Cleopatra Records.

The remaining Tom Keifer tour dates can be viewed here.

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Wingman Wednesday

Havana Guppy

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Photo By: James Branaman

With Season 2 of the Hulu dramedy “Shut Eye” set to premiere on December 6, we are once again reminded of just how lucky we are to be living in a time with so much fantastic storytelling available for download into our content-hungry brains. Starring Jeffrey Donovan and Isabella Rossellini, the dark crime caper is an underrated streaming option that plays out for viewers like a caffeinated “Ray Donovan” in the seedy world of storefront psychics.

We recently sat down with new series regular Havana Guppy to discuss if she shares the same rebellious streak as her character Drina, what she has learned about herself in working on the show, and how her ideal career would play out.

TrunkSpace: The latest season of Hulu’s ‘Shut Eye” premieres in just a few short weeks. In terms of your character Drina, what are you most excited for viewers to see in terms of her journey this time around?
Guppy: I’m really excited for the audience to see a different side of Drina, and really see her grow into herself.

TrunkSpace: Did the material you were provided for Drina this season allow you to stretch yourself in a way that you have yet to do in the past with previous projects? Was there a particular moment or scene where you felt you had to step out of your comfort zone and by doing so, it paid off?
Guppy: A lot about Drina is very similar to myself. Sometimes I’d read a scene and I just knew exactly how she might feel. There are moments where I had to be very vulnerable, which can be scary. But once the scene was over, I felt very relaxed and at ease.

TrunkSpace: What was it like to learn that you would be a series regular heading into the latest season?
Guppy: It was so exciting. After I heard the news, I frantically called my mom, my dad, my grandma, and my sisters. It felt like a dream come true.

TrunkSpace: What do you personally love the most about the series? Is it the premise, the tone, or something else entirely?
Guppy: I really love the tone of the show. I’m a huge fan of dark comedies, so “Shut Eye” really hits the mark for me. I’ve loved being a part of it.

TrunkSpace: Drina is a bit of a rebellious soul. Was that a personality trait that was easy for you to tap into? Did you have a rebellious period in your own life that allowed you to relate to that aspect of your character?
Guppy: Drina is definitely rebellious. I wouldn’t say I’ve ever gone through a rebellious phase, but I am a teenager, so I found it pretty easy to tap into that edgy teen mindset.

TrunkSpace: There’s an incredible list of talent involved in “Shut Eye,” most notably, Isabella Rossellini, who plays your grandmother. Are you viewing your experience on “Shut Eye” just as much an education as you are a job?
Guppy: Working with Isabella has been a dream. Just working with her alone taught me so much. And yes, working on the show really felt like an amazing learning experience. I’d forget it was my job sometimes. I had so much fun, and met some amazing people.

TrunkSpace: Sticking with the idea of absorbing knowledge on set, what have you picked up from other people, either firsthand or through osmosis, in these early stages of your career that you think you’ll carry with you moving forward? What have you discovered that you couldn’t have learned in a classroom?
Guppy: I’ve learnt a lot about using my voice. I’m pretty shy, so when I have an idea about my character or a scene, I often would just keep it to myself in fear of being “wrong.” While working on the show, I’d watch the cast work through the scene, put their ideas in, and ask questions. I realized I have the power to do the exact same thing. I felt my confidence grow immensely.

TrunkSpace: As you look forward, what kind of career do you want to have? If the path was yours to pave, how would you shape your journey as an actress?
Guppy: In a perfect world, I’d have a busy acting career, working in the best projects, all without fame. That’s my dream.

Photo By: James Branaman

TrunkSpace: We read that you were first drawn to performance at a very early age. Do you think being an actress was part of your destiny or was there something or someone in your life that helped to steer you in that direction?
Guppy: My parents are a big reason I started acting so young. Even if they hadn’t been so supportive, I know I still would have ended up acting. It’s always been something that I was drawn to.

TrunkSpace: Speaking of those early days, we also read that you were convinced that you were Boo from “Monsters Inc.” when you were three years old. If Pixar came to you tomorrow and said, “We’re doing a sequel that focuses on a grown-up Boo, would you like to voice the character,” would that be the ultimate, dream-come-true gig for you?
Guppy: Oh my gosh that would be crazy! I’d definitely do it. Three-year-old me would be so proud.

TrunkSpace: In all seriousness, so much of the industry, at least on the film side, is overwhelmed with big brand characters and existing content, either reimagined or via sequels. If you could choose any character from any universe to play on-screen, who would it be and why?
Guppy: It would be exciting to one day play a princess in a fairytale, such as Snow White. It would be a lot of fun, and very different from what I usually play.

Season 2 of “Shut Eye” premieres December 6 on Hulu.

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Uncategorized

Tasos Hernandez

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Fans of “The Bachelorette” will recognize Tasos Hernandez as one of the romantic hopefuls competing for Andi Dorfman’s heart in season 10 of the popular unscripted series, but since leaving the rose ceremonies behind him, the Denver native has been focusing his creative energy on acting. He can soon be seen opposite Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones in the feature film “Just Getting Started,” due in theaters December 8.

We recently sat down with Hernandez to discuss on-set chair positioning, how appearing on “The Bachelorette” prepared him for a career as an actor, and why it forced him to take stock in his life and put himself on an exciting new professional path.

TrunkSpace: Being in a film with Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones is nothing to sneeze at. What did the experience shooting that film mean to you and your career as a whole?
Hernandez: Man, it was just overall an amazing experience. I look up to Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones. Just having the ability to be on set and working side by side with them was something that I’m going to take with me for the rest of my life. It was just an amazing opportunity. We had a lot of fun. It was very creative on set. We got a lot of opportunities to improvise. It was one of the best moments of my life.

TrunkSpace: When you’re working on a film of that size and scope, do you show up to set on the first day with a bit more nerves than you normally would?
Hernandez: So my experience, they took me to set and they were getting me ready. They had my actor’s chair ready and as they’re talking to me, breaking things down, I see them bringing a couple more actor’s chairs next to me and one has the name “Freeman” on it and the other one has “Jones” on it. As soon as I saw that, I was just freaking out. It was only our three chairs there. It wasn’t a group of chairs.

TrunkSpace: And it turned out to be Bob Freeman and Gary Jones. (Laughter)
Hernandez: (Laughter) Yeah, like a backup just hanging out. I’m like, “Oh, not the Freeman and Jones I was thinking about. Okay.”

TrunkSpace: What a surreal experience though, finding yourself book-ended by two legends of the business.
Hernandez: Yeah, it was fun, especially, like I said, since it wasn’t a group of chairs, it was just an isolated room and there was just my chair and their two chairs and my mind just started racing that I was going to be alone in a room with Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones and we were just talking about the set.

TrunkSpace: Did you get to keep that chair?
Hernandez: No, I wish. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: So in terms of your character, where does he fall into things and what’s his journey?
Hernandez: Salvador has a close relationship with Freeman’s character. Basically Morgan Freeman is the head honcho at this, I guess we’ll call it a golf club for lack of a better word, but he is an ex mob boss so he has that personalized relationship with everybody who works at the actual golf course. I’m his point of contact every time he goes in and out of the golf course. He has his own nice little golf cart that he drives around. We were doing some things back and forth in Spanish. He was asking me about my family, so that was the relationship.

TrunkSpace: We know that you established yourself with television viewers by appearing on “The Bachelorette,” but did that experience in the unscripted world force you to work twice as hard establishing yourself as an actor in the scripted space?
Hernandez: Basically, when I came back from “The Bachelorette,” my thought process was, I wanted to be taken seriously as an actor, so I didn’t just go out there and start promoting myself as a reality TV star trying to be an actor. I took it seriously. When I came back, I started taking courses at AEC, which is a local studio here in Denver, and I started doing workshops and connecting with the acting community here because I really wanted to work on the craft rather than say, “Hey, I was on a reality TV show, now I feel like I have the liberty to go ahead and be an actor.”

I wanted to make sure I knew everything behind the scenes and worked on making sure that I came off as a professional and as a confident actor. That’s how I started approaching acting when I came back.

TrunkSpace: Do you think that being in the unscripted world prepared you at all for how the industry works when you started your journey as a professional actor?
Hernandez: Yeah, 100 percent. Something that I wasn’t aware of when I started doing “The Bachelorette” was set etiquette. I did notice that a lot of the other gentlemen on the show maybe were disrespectful to the crew or were not aware of the time frame that they work on, so I was very aware of that going onto a television set where you have to make sure that you’re coordinating with everybody and being respectful to everybody because they each have a job that they’re responsible for. That definitely helped me as far as set etiquette.

Then, as far as unscripted things, a lot of things on set are improvised. There are certain situations where you can’t foresee, so, “Hey, we’re going to try it different this way,” or, “We’re going to try it different this way.” To be valuable and flexible in that environment is crucial.

TrunkSpace: Being on “The Bachelorette” helped you amass a very impressive social media following. Do you think having that kind of influence in the social media space helps an actor career-wise?
Hernandez: You know, that’s a tough question to answer because unfortunately, in current times, that does make a difference. A lot of television shows are coming out and you see all the new platforms that are able to create new television shows and they need viewers. If you already have an established following, that can help increase their odds of continuing with their television show or their program, so I hate to say that it defaults to that, but sometimes. I have heard situations where that will help enhance your career, so when I speak with other fellow actors here in Denver, that’s always something I encourage, is to really pick that up and create a following because that will not hurt your chances. It’s only going to help better your chances.

As far as relying on your acting abilities solely based on your social media, I don’t think that should be something people fall back on as well. Work on both. Work on your social media, work on your craft, and build them together.

Photo By: Sara Harris Photography

TrunkSpace: It becomes another tool in your toolbox?
Hernandez: Absolutely.

TrunkSpace: We read that you have a BA in psychology. Does that help you in an industry where you have to deal with so many different personality types?
Hernandez: Oh, man, 100 percent. It’s funny because when I graduated, it was a conversation I had with my family where if I want to be taken seriously as a therapist or as a psychologist, I had to continue on with my education and I had to go to additional schooling, so I was nervous when I didn’t continue with schooling afterward and how I would apply my degree. They call it show business for a reason. This is a business. You have to know how to communicate effectively with a variety of people and not only do you apply it when you use it in business, but as far as acting, you have to be aware of your body language. You have to be in touch with who your character is and what kind of mannerisms they might use or what kind of defense mechanisms they may use, so it’s very applicable through a wide range of what I do as an actor.

TrunkSpace: You’re a musician as well. Which love came first, acting or music?
Hernandez: It is acting. I did get some negative feedback from my peers when I was acting in high school and middle school. Actors weren’t terribly popular back in the day, so I decided to become a rock star instead because that seemed like the path of least resistance. (Laughter) I really fell in love with the music component. I’ve always been a big fan of music, but more so with the performance component. Every time I was on stage, I let loose. I felt more in touch with myself and I did not feel judged. I felt welcomed.

So it was acting, and then that passion floated into music and live performance and now, it’s back into acting and it’s been very successful.

TrunkSpace: What helped you find the confidence in yourself and your abilities as an actor again?
Hernandez: Honestly, it was my time on “The Bachelorette.” Before that, I was very focused on work and making sure that I was accomplishing my goals, but less on my creative side. When I was on “The Bachelorette,” they seclude you from the rest of the world, so you have no phone, no computer, no television, no newspaper. They basically make you interact with the gentlemen in the house and they make you face yourself and who you are and what you really believe in, so during that downtime, I brought my guitar with me and I was writing lyrics. I was writing poetry and I was writing short stories. I was finding things around the house to write about and be engaged with. I really enjoyed the aspect of telling the story in front of the camera, so when I came back, I didn’t want to lose touch with that.

To me, it made sense that I had that experience on set and I still have a passion for acting and that I wanted to still tell a story in front of the camera, so I just meshed all three. I had saved up some money before I went on “The Bachelorette” because they basically take you away from your personal life, so you have to have a savings. I took that savings and I just reinvested that back into myself and really pursued that career actively.

TrunkSpace: Life is crazy like that. Had you not done “The Bachelorette” and opted not to go on that journey, you may not be pursing your acting today.
Hernandez: Yeah. I might have still been working a nine to five job and wondering and wishing on what my life could have been if I could just set some time aside and do this. That was basically my excuse beforehand is, “I don’t have time for it and I got to make sure I pay the bills and I got to make sure I pay the rent.” Once you have that goal in mind of where you need to save money and you need to take a risk on yourself, that’s where you’re forced to go outside of your comfort zone and really be creative with how you’re going to spend the next few months of your life, and the rest of your life, for that matter.

Just Getting Started” arrives in theaters December 8.

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Wingman Wednesday

Derek Wilson

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Photo by Brandon Hickman/Hulu – © 2017 Hulu

Weird gets a bum rap.

In high school, individuals labeled weird are often cast out, but years later, go on to do great things with their lives.

A lot of food that kids call weird when they’re just beginning to discover their taste buds end up becoming the sweet and savory staples of their adulthood diet.

And television shows far left of the procedural center may not be embraced by the “mainstream,” but it’s those series that go on to become the groundbreaking trendsetters of tomorrow.

One of those weird but wonderful programs is Hulu’s “Future Man,” a sci-fi/comedy mashup that follows a janitor’s journey to save the world. Executive produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the series strikes a very unique tone, but it’s star Derek Wilson, who plays Wolf, that makes us howl in delight.

Weird has never been so entertaining.

We recently sat down with Wilson to discuss portraying the most “badass warrior in the history of the planet,” why it took some time to get comfortable in Wolf’s boots, and how airing on a streaming platform meant getting away with far more than they ever thought possible.

TrunkSpace: Here’s what we love about “Future Man.” A promo exists where it says, and I quote, “It’s never too early to talk to your janitor about herpes.” That’s not a promo you’d see a lot of series rolling out.
Wilson: (Laughter) Right. Yeah, it’s pretty specific I guess, and random at the same time.

TrunkSpace: What first drew you to the series? Was it the tone? The premise? Something else entirely?
Wilson: It was, I think, the character, even though I didn’t really fully know what we were going to do with it. Evan Goldberg called me when I was shooting “Preacher” for them and said, “We’re about to shoot a pilot. You’ve got a couple weeks off from ‘Preacher.’ The character is the most badass warrior in the history of the planet. He lives in a sewer, and he eats garbage and rats, and oh, he’s from a video game.” I was like, “Yeah, that’s cool. Let’s do that.”

I didn’t know the tone. I didn’t know really what it was. I got the script, and I thought it was funny, but didn’t really put it all together. Even the first night of shooting, Seth (Rogen) came up to me and was like, “It’s a crazy character. Let’s just kind of rehearse in front of the camera and figure this out. We don’t really know either, so let’s just figure it out.” There’s a couple scenes in the pilot where it’s just trying to figure out something, the tone of it, and who this character is, and how far we can go.

Then when we went to series, it continued to develop. Even the first few episodes of the series, we’re still trying to figure out the tone. We had great moments in those first few episodes, and they’re good episodes, but we really started to find the tone and find our groove, as a whole – the writers’ room, the cast, everybody – in about the fourth episode, I think, which is pretty normal for a show. But this one especially, it’s just so… I mean, it’s a big swing.

TrunkSpace: Like you said, finding the point of view of a series can take some time, especially when you’re trying to have as unique a POV as “Future Man.”
Wilson: Yeah, you just have to dive in. I would come home from work shooting those first few episodes and talk to my girlfriend like, “Man, I don’t know what I’m doing here.” The character, it’s all fish out of water, so it always feels awkward. You don’t know if you’re nailing it or what. But it ends up, it just kind of works, especially for where the character starts to go about halfway through the season, and through the end. You kind of have to have that setup to go there.

TrunkSpace: Is there pressure involved playing, as you put it, the “most badass warrior in the history of the planet?”
Wilson: The three months before we started shooting, I definitely was in the gym as much as possible. (Laughter) During the pilot, my body was wrecked from doing all the fight training, because I just wasn’t used to that. I would go home and take Epsom salt baths every night. I was wrecked. I knew I had to be in good shape for this, because we have a great stunt team, but we do learn it all. We do as much as we can. I was in better shape by the time we got to Episode 2, which was shot a year after the pilot, because I had to be.

TrunkSpace: Was it one of those moments where you start to realize that your body has muscles in places that you didn’t know it had muscles, simply because new areas are sore? (Laughter)
Wilson: That’s right. I remember during the pilot, my hip flexors were so sore, because I was doing so many kicks, which I don’t do any sort of martial arts or anything. So yeah, little muscles that I never really thought about that much, but it was good. It was good prep.

TrunkSpace: For an actor, was it a bit of a best case scenario to be working on “Preacher” and then have the creative team from that instantly think of you for this? That speaks volumes for that work you were doing.
Wilson: Yeah, it was amazing. I was in my house in Albuquerque shooting “Preacher.” It was a crazy day, because I still needed to make a little self tape to show to the people at Hulu, who didn’t know who I was. I was having technical difficulties. It was a really stressful day. Evan was like, “You gotta get me this tape in 45 minutes.” Three hours later, my internet is down, and I’m scrambling. He was calling me like, “Dude, you gotta get it to me. You gotta get it to me.” But it worked out, and I got it to him. (Laughter)

Two days later I was on set shooting this thing. It was crazy. Then I went back and finished “Preacher” that season, so it was nuts.

TrunkSpace: Is shooting a series for Hulu similar to shooting a series for a network? Is it paced the same?
Wilson: The pace of it was crazy, just because the production is huge. We shoot two episodes in 10 days. I know it’s only half hour episodes, but if you’ve seen the show, it’s a large production. People have said, “It’s got this cool low budget look.” Well, it takes a big budget to achieve that, and a lot of time. We were shooting really long days. But also, the big difference I noticed was the presence of the Standards & Practices was not as present on this, because it’s a streaming platform. We got away with a lot. They just kept saying nothing as we did the most outrageous things. Our scripts were turned in and the writers were like, “Oh, there’s no way they’re going to let us do that.” Then they’d just never say anything.

I know there were some nerves about the James Cameron episode. Even though I just watched it, and it… it’s not a send up of James Cameron. I really think it’s a tribute. It’s funny, but I think it’s very honorable. But maybe I’m just trying to be nice. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: So is it safe to say that “Future Man” couldn’t exist in its current form on a network, even cable?
Wilson: I can’t imagine. I really can’t imagine it. Yeah, I can’t imagine it anywhere else to be honest.

It’s just the right time for something like this. The right time and the right place.

Season 1 of “Future Man” is available now on Hulu.

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Wingman Wednesday

Alicia Witt

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Photo: Alicia Witt Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Kailey Schwerman

Once you’ve trimmed the turkey, got stuffed on stuffing, and crammed yourself with cranberry, take some time to relax with “The Mistletoe Inn,” the latest offering from Hallmark Channel’s Countdown to Christmas programming event. Starring one of our favorite multi-hyphenates, Alicia Witt, the movie debuts Thanksgiving night, making it the perfect final course for those looking to kick off the holiday season with a full heart… and stomach.

We recently sat down with Witt to discuss the strength of the Hallmark fandom, why she could relate to her character’s quest for creative confidence, and how she makes her music accessible for all listeners.

TrunkSpace: You’ve had a really diverse year, from “The Mistletoe Inn,” to “The Exorcist,” to “Twin Peaks,” and “Supernatural.” Has that always been the dream, to be able to do as many different types of roles and genres as possible?
Witt: Yes, that was always my reason for wanting to be an actor, is to play characters that are different from me, and play as many different kinds of roles as possible. I feel like I really get to do that at this point. I think it keeps me busy, and it keeps me on my toes. I get bored if I play the same role over and over again. I think about the last couple of years in particular, but really the entire time I’ve been doing this, there have been so many different kinds of roles that I think I’ve kept it challenging for myself.

TrunkSpace: Many of those television shows mentioned have massive fandoms, but truth be told, Hallmark’s fandom easily rivals them.
Witt: Most definitely. The interesting thing is that, for example, when I was on “The Walking Dead,” I did a lot of the conventions around that show, and I was so pleasantly surprised and thrilled to find that almost every other person that would come up to me, they were happy to have seen me on “The Walking Dead,” but they were most excited to talk to me because of the Hallmark movies. So, there’s actually a really big crossover audience as well, particularly for the Christmas films, because people who might watch something different during the rest of the year, pretty much everyone tunes in to Hallmark at Christmas because it’s such great family programming, and such great holiday programming.

TrunkSpace: You can’t have darkness without light, so for fans of “The Walking Dead,” tuning in to Hallmark Channel is a nice balance.
Witt: That’s exactly the thing. They’re both equally valid sides, and I try to live my day-to-day life more like the characters that I play in the Hallmark movies – more positive and more light. But I love exploring the darker side of things, too, because that is a very real element of the world in which we’re living. Yeah, you can’t have the darkness without the light, that’s so true. The job I’m working on right now, “The Exorcist,” which I actually just wrapped, is also a great example of that. It explores that side of us that we don’t talk about all that often, but it’s in there. I feel like these Hallmark Christmas movies celebrate all that’s special about the holiday season, and the coming together of families, and sometimes what’s challenging about that, but also what’s so important, and why it is the warmest time of the year.

TrunkSpace: It must feel extra special to have “The Mistletoe Inn” premiering on Thanksgiving, a night when so many families are already together?
Witt: I was so excited when I found out that was the night we’d be premiering. My movie last year, “The Christmas List,” also premiered on Thanksgiving and this makes me very happy and proud, and I know families are already together on that night. My family and friends in Nashville will all be together. We’re having a big joint dinner that we’re making together, and we’ll all be watching the movie for the first time together when it airs, and then I’ll be live tweeting and sharing that with the viewers for the very first time. I’m seriously so excited to see it. I’m not very big on watching my own work for the sake of watching my own work, but I love sharing these movies with people because they are so much fun, and I’m gonna be laughing as hard as anyone when we watch it.

TrunkSpace: Television moves at a breakneck pace as far as production is concerned. Because things happen so quickly on a movie like this, does that force you to come to set even more prepared in terms of knowing and connecting with your character, in this case, aspiring romance writer Kim?
Witt: This applies to everything that I do, but I tend to just absorb the script and think about the character while I’m working out or listening to music. The character just starts to find me and I figure out who she is and how she’d react to things. But it’s not so much a logical process as more of an intuitive one. When it comes to the lines, I actually learn those on the day. I happen to be really fast at learning lines, and I find that they’re a lot fresher if I don’t think about them too much. So, I let the character sink in for a few weeks beforehand, and then the lines themselves I don’t think too much about.

TrunkSpace: Was there something about Kim from a performance standpoint that you have yet to do with a character in the past? What was it that drew you to her?
Witt: She reminded me a lot of myself when I was starting out as a singer/songwriter. Because I could relate to her sense that she had this talent that, on one level she knows that she’s good at writing, and she knows that she could do it seriously and have a book deal and all of that, but because she’s a grown up living in the real world, with a real job and all of that, she needs that extra boost to get the confidence to start doing it in earnest. And at the beginning of the movie she doesn’t quite have that yet, and it’s not being helped at all by the fact that she’s been dating this real piece of work, known as Garth, who I just love that character so much in the movie. He takes himself way too seriously and believes that his work is more important than Kim’s and actually dumps her within the first five minutes because he’s decided he needs to date a more serious writer, and his career’s moving up and hers isn’t. I actually dated a singer/songwriter very similar to Garth when I was just starting out as a singer/songwriter. I had wrote a song called “About Me,” that I’ve released, that I actually wrote after that guy broke up with me.

TrunkSpace: So there was a real connection to the character as far as her journey was concerned.
Witt: Oh, I totally related. For me, it was quite a few years ago, but it kept bringing me back. I kept having flashbacks of this guy that I had dated. There was a lot that… like when Zeke (played by David Alpay) is giving Kim feedback on her writing, I could relate to that vulnerability of receiving feedback for the first time on my songwriting, or my performances. When you’re first starting out it feels like such a rejection that, if every song you write isn’t a potential hit, then you should just quit and not write songs anymore. And that’s not the way it works, you have to write hundreds of songs before you start becoming a good songwriter. Many of those songs nobody will ever hear, and it’s the same way with writing. You have to be willing to make mistakes, and write something that isn’t perfect to get to the point where you are good. So I felt like that was a real parallel and something that I could relate to in Kim.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned having a similar experience hearing feedback on your songwriting for the first time. Do you write primarily from a personal space, or do you take a more storyteller’s approach?
Witt: I have done that, the latter, but most of the time it is personal experiences and things that I am feeling. And it can be just a moment, it could be a passing feeling that I have for someone or for a situation, and you turn it into a song. If you were to tell that person, “This song’s about you,” they might be confused, and they might not get it. But, people can inspire a song without the entire story of the song being 100 percent accurate to what the real scenario is. It’s all over the place, and some of the songs I’ve written are about some of the things that have happened to people I know, and sometimes just things that I’m imagining.

TrunkSpace: So can criticism and feedback be more difficult to hear because you tend to write from such a personal space?
Witt: I think it was in the beginning. Now, I don’t take it personally because it really isn’t. I mean, to make a song something that other people, who haven’t had your specific experience, can relate to and apply to their own lives, you do need to adjust them sometimes. Sometimes it’s not good to have them be too specific. Other times you need the opposite – you need to make it more specific. 
There are moments when you put something into a song that didn’t happen at all, that’s got nothing to do with what your true experience was with it, but sometimes that’s gonna make for a better song that more people can access.

TrunkSpace: And that’s the beauty of music, an entire group of people can each find something different in a single song and relate to it in a different way.
Witt: Yes, completely. That’s what I love most about music.

TrunkSpace: And you have a new EP in the works, correct?
Witt: It’s due out soon. I did this Kickstarter campaign, which just was such an honor, and the album is done and it’s ready, and I’m just trying to figure out how best to release it because it’s produced by Jacquire King, who has an extraordinary track record. And it’s safe to say they’re the best recordings I’ve ever been part of, and I just want to do the best that I can by them and figure out if they’re going to be distributed by a label, or if I self-release again, or what. So far, my music career has pretty much been self-generated, though I’m trying to explore the possibility of finding the right person to help me with it, but if that doesn’t happen I will just self-release it again, and book a tour, and get going with it. I can’t wait to share it with everyone, though.

TrunkSpace: Finally, Alicia, as people plan to gather around with family and watch the premiere of “The Mistletoe Inn” tomorrow night, what do you believe it is that continues to draw people to Christmas movies like this one?
Witt: I think that at this point, when you tune into Hallmark Channel, especially at Christmas time, you know that you’re going to see programming that will make you smile, make you feel good no matter what’s going on in the wold, or in the news, or in your own family. And at this time of year, even though it is the time for families to get together, and in theory it’s all warm and fuzzy, there’s sometimes a lot of tension. You have family members who don’t see each other all year long and then they get together and they may not get along the way that we would like, but Hallmark can actually help make that better. I hear this a lot from people who come up to me all year long and tell me that my movies have helped their families to grow closer at the holidays. And it’s just a great channel to leave on and help you get in the mood. At least the ones that I’m a part of, I try to find some kind of offbeat humor in every one of them. And there’s a few moments that I’ve seen in this one that especially make me smile. They let me be a little bit goofy and silly, and I have as much fun making them as I do watching them. I’m really proud to be on yet another one this year.

The Mistletoe Inn” premieres Thanksgiving night on Hallmark Channel.

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