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December 2017

Musical Mondaze

Andrew W.K.

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Photo By: Nina Ottolino

*Feature originally ran on 9/13/17.

When he’s not focusing on his music, Andrew W.K. works with the spoken word as a motivational speaker. This may be a bit of a surprise to people who only know him as the metal madman synonymous with partying hard, but the Michigan-raised musician is a living example of a book not to be judged by its cover.

The TrunkSpace chat with Andrew W.K. is a perfect example of this. We could have talked the entire time about his new tour and forthcoming album, but instead we pressed forward, beyond the surface subjects to delve deeper – so deep that we were no longer conducting an interview, but having a conversation. Two people existing in the same space, embracing the time of our individual overlap.

We spoke about life. We spoke of humanity’s collective journey. We spoke about the “joy zone,” a place we could all serve to visit more often. And through it all, Andrew’s vivacity and passion for the topics discussed became as breathable as the air itself, entering our lungs and exhaling back into the universe as positive energy hell bent on partying.

Consider us motivated!

TrunkSpace: Over the years, your promo images project you to be an intense, intimidating guy, and yet every interview we’ve read or watched with you, you are the absolute opposite of that. Do you feel like people perceive you in a way that you are not?
Andrew W.K.: I don’t know. You’d have to as them, I guess. Sometimes I meet people who say I’m taller than they thought I was or that they thought I would be more rough. I like contrast. That’s probably the main aesthetic that surrounds my personal approach to this. Contrast.

TrunkSpace: You have always seemed to have a strong awareness of personal brand and how you present yourself to the masses. How important has that been to your music and your career in general?
Andrew W.K.: Well, I feel like I’m a representative. I feel like I’m on a mission. I have a quest. I’ve been fortunate enough to be entrusted, in a very small but nonetheless significant or meaningful way, with the opportunity that I’ve been given. That opportunity is meant to achieve joy for myself, but more importantly, others as well. My joy is in creating their joy. If no one else was there, I would still enjoy it, but it’s more rewarding and the end goal is to try to conjure up, amplify, and hit this joy zone point. I have a set of tools and resources to work with to get to that place and since I’m a representative of that joy feeling, ultimately I feel like it’s important that if someone is out there looking for that joy feeling, that they are as aware as possible that they could potentially find access to that joy zone through me, through my humble offerings.

I’ve thought of it a lot of different ways, but it seems like the best way to describe it is like a casino in Las Vegas. Each casino is trying to draw people in and one of them uses really, really extravagant neon lights and another one uses a giant, waving cowboy, and another one uses an Egyptian theme with a giant black glass pyramid and a recreation of the Sphinx. They all have something to offer but at the end of the day, it’s a similar experience, which I guess is to win money. That’s not how it goes most of the time as we are well aware. Talk about contrast and ups and downs! That’s why I like Las Vegas so much, it’s really a land of contrast. This complete void, abyss, desert, then all of a sudden this oasis of extremely dense intensity. Extreme darkness and then extreme light all concentrated in this one electrical blowout. This idea of winning money or severe loss. It’s pain and joy, up and down.

Anyway, each one is saying, “Hey, come in here, you can get what you’re looking for in here!” Again, there’s a subversive, slightly sinister quality when it involves that kind of money but they still have something to offer and they’re trying to get you there. Well, I have something to offer, which actually does still involve some of the same things. There’s commerce involved in what I’m doing. I’m trying to make a living and all that, but really, I’m trying to say, “Hey, I’m working on an access point to that joy zone too.” Some people might get it through pizza, some people might get it through going to the movies, so there’s all these ways to try to get to that joy zone to try to validate the human experience as being a worthwhile experience, that being alive is a good thing. “Here is what I have to offer that’s meant to confirm that.” As a representative of that, I am trying to be, not necessarily the loudest or most extravagant or flamboyant or even ostentatious, but I am trying to be able to be located.

TrunkSpace: If the joy zone was a television, Andrew W.K. would be one channel on that television?
Andrew W.K.: Yes. Definitely. Channel 13.

TrunkSpace: It seems like as a country, as a world, we are in a very weird place politically and socially. Do you think people are looking for escapism, looking for that joy zone, more now than even 10 years ago?
Andrew W.K.: I could see why someone might think that. Perhaps it would be correct. But I imagine that 10 years earlier and 10 years from now, the same thing would still apply. We’re always looking for the joy zone. This is the human experience. There’s always going to be strife and struggle. There will always be what seemed like better times in the past and a better time in the future just out of reach. The point is to let the challenges that face us not pull us down, but bring the best out of us and sometimes, yeah, like you’re saying, tapping into that joy zone isn’t the escape, it’s the fuel that helps us rise to a higher level and not succumb to our worst potentials. We always need that. Humanity is always on the precipice, it’s part of its defining characteristic. I don’t know why. It seems inescapable. Maybe it’s our cross to bear, our punishment. Maybe it’s the test we have to pass, or maybe that’s just the nature of reality is that it’s always going to take everything we have, it’s always going to be extraordinarily intense, and just accepting that is the only way to temper that intensity. But, wishing or pining or lamenting the challenges is certainly not going to solve them, it’s only going to make it seem more overwhelming. We are worthy of rising to face these problems on a global scale, on a national scale, on a communal scale, or a community scale, and most of all, on a personal scale. If all of us, and myself first and foremost as I’m speaking for myself, if we did the best we could about us, about your own self, turn inward and not in a head-in-the-sand way. It’s very overwhelming to try to imagine saving the world. “What’s the one thing that I could do better about me? Could I be more patient? Could I be more thoughtful? Could I be quicker to correct my own shortcomings than to point my finger at someone else’s shortcomings? What am I messing up?”

If we did that, that would go a long way to addressing a lot of these very vast and overwhelming expansive global problems, I think.

Photo By: Nina Ottolino

TrunkSpace: We spoke to Henry Rollins some years ago and we were discussing a similar subject and he said, “If everybody just put in a thimble of water, eventually we’d get an ocean.”
Andrew W.K.: There you go.

TrunkSpace: Sometimes people take on too much responsibility as opposed to just taking on what they’re capable of.
Andrew W.K.: Yeah, and that’s why it can feel so overwhelming and maybe it’s meant to. It is crushing, but when it gets so crushing, then you have no choice but just focus on, “Okay, I’m going to take a breath. Now I’m going to let that breath out. Now I’m going to put one foot forward. Now I’m going to put the other foot forward.”

You can break life down into a very manageable sense of being and realize that’s all you can do anyway.

TrunkSpace: What’s so fascinating about music, particularly in a live setting, is that you get all of these people under one roof who perhaps in any other circumstance wouldn’t find common ground, but here they all are entering the joy zone with Andrew W.K. together. That’s powerful.
Andrew W.K.: Yeah, it’s beautiful, it really is. I know exactly what you’re talking about and that’s probably one of the absolute greatest things about getting to do this. And it’s not just to be part of creating that, but just to be in the presence of it. It’s where all the other stuff is just let go. It’s like when all the other stuff is just stripped away or dropped for a moment, all that’s left is the truth, which is that we’re all human beings and we’re here.

TrunkSpace: And in this day and age, we’re losing our sense of community, but in a club or venue, all seeing the same band or artist, that really is a community, even if it is for a short period of time.
Andrew W.K.: Yeah, sure. I agree. It’s very uplifting, it’s very fulfilling, and as a younger person, I was really excited for my own concert experiences or seeing shows specifically by the fact that I was seeing people around me, kids in school, that I knew didn’t like me, that were kind of mean to me for very, in my opinion, very superficial reasons. It was about how my hair was or what clothes I wore or what music I listened to or didn’t listen to… sorta that I wasn’t doing things right. But that moment, none of that existed and when I realized that there were moments when all that fell away and that whatever was left, that’s who those people really were and that’s who I really was. It wasn’t all this decoration on top of this true self, it was what was there when all the decoration, when all that was stripped away, that there was something that couldn’t even really be defined, it could only be experienced and that that was in every person. Even the people who weren’t in that venue at that time. I got so excited about that idea of specifically being able to have a good experience even with your enemy and that they counted too, they were a human too whether they liked it or not.

TrunkSpace: In terms of just the music side of what you do, there’s so much passion in your voice talking about it both from the live performance perspective and in the creation of it. What kept you away from the full band experience for so long and what brought you back?
Andrew W.K.: Well, partying. Partying took me away and partying brought me back. I guess that’s sort of like what Homer Simpson said about beer, but it also works for just partying in general. I mean, life in general. Life took me away, life brought me back. It wasn’t a lot of decision making formally, for better or worse. There wasn’t a choice. Also, it should be said out of respect for my band members that we never stopped playing. We were playing festivals, we were playing one offs, we were very active. I was touring in all different kinds of capacities as well, so there was no shortage of activity. But I guess for me or for this operation, there does have to be at some point, some kind of formal declarative effort that we’re going to do this or we’ll just continue on doing whatever. I’m very fortunate and very lucky, and don’t take it for granted at all, there were so many opportunities that I didn’t need to plan out anything, something would just happen. Oftentimes, the things that would happen or the opportunities that would be offered to me, were more exciting or interesting than an opportunity I would even dream up to pursue.

The last time I tried, for example, to record a new album, which I’ve been trying to do, really. It wasn’t for lack of trying, I’ve been trying to record a new album for the last, well, for this whole time, the last 10 years. It takes a very long time for me to record primarily just because I record alone and it’s more of assembling… building a house by yourself or something. It takes months versus a couple weeks or so. This last one actually took a year and the last time we tried to plan it out, it was in 2013 and that had been after many other attempts at clearing out the time and each time, something really exciting came up that I didn’t feel like I could miss. In 2013, I remember being on tour, specifically, I was on a solo tour, and I said, “Okay, when this tour is done, that’s it, I’m going to carve out the next three months. Even if we can’t get the whole album done, at least it’ll be underway, it’ll officially be happening.”

I have had these songs and parts floating around and in various stages of completion for years, since 2005 or 2006. I remember this moment, it was in San Antonio, Texas I believe, and I got a call from my manager. He said, “Well, I guess we won’t be able to record the album for those three months.” I said, “Why? What are you talking about? We made an agreement, a promise to ourselves that we were going to turn down any offer.” He said, “Well, you just got offered an opening heavy metal DJ slot for the Black Sabbath North American tour.”

There would never have been a part of my mind that would dare to dream up that kind of opportunity and say, “Hey, go tell Black Sabbath that I want to be their DJ.” When something like that came up, I couldn’t resist. I felt like I had to do that kind of thing. Anyway but there’s always been a destiny feeling to this work that I’ve tried to embrace where you just follow the omens or you follow that deepest instinct and it would be nice to say we planned it all out this way but it sort of feels like it’s planning us. That’s how I feel.

TrunkSpace: A lot of times people want to define a musician’s legacy by his or her songs, their hits, their mainstream success. What do you want your legacy to be when all is said and done?
Andrew W.K.: Just party. My main goal beyond the feeling I’m trying to give someone, if there’s a way that I’m going to be marked down in the index of life or music, I just want my name and partying to be synonymous. That’s my goal. Party hard, whatever, the bloody nosed guy. To exist at all is almost impossible. If I can pull that off in some kind of a blurry outline of a filthy guy in white clothes with stringy hair and a bloody nose singing about partying, that’s more than enough. That would be a tremendous achievement, if I could actually bring that into a long lasting standing. That’s the goal.

Andrew W.K.’s “The Party Never Dies” tour kicks off tomorrow in Atlanta, GA.

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Wingman Wednesday

Christina Ochoa

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* Feature originally ran 06/21/17

Christina Ochoa’s character Grace from the SyFy grindhouse series “Blood Drive” would be a page-turner if she were a book. Captivating in her silence and hypnotizing with her methodical delivery, the Barcelona-born actress is a revelation on screen, even when streaked with the blood of her victims within the eclectic gorefest. The fact that she feeds humans into the engine of her car can’t damper the warm and fuzzies you feel when watching her tough-as-nails performance.

We recently sat down with Ochoa to discuss the campy craziness of the series, how there’s nothing like it on television, and why she loved coming home bruised after a long day on set.

TrunkSpace: The response to the show thus far has been really positive, but we have to ask… how the hell did you guys get away with half the stuff that you did?
Ochoa: (Laughter) You know, we did not expect such a unanimous response from the audience, especially in the States. Maybe on an international level we were hoping for something fun and exciting, but we did not expect the warm response. We didn’t know if we were going to get hate mail and bashed at every corner. (Laughter) We’re just happy that the audience has tapped into the fun, campy aspect of it and is enjoying it as much as we did making it.

I think that being far away and shooting in South Africa kind of gave us license to get away with a lot and it worked. Kudos to James Roland for getting away with it!

TrunkSpace: You hear people say all of the time when talking about shows that “There’s nothing else like it on TV!” But that really is the case when it comes to “Blood Drive.”
Ochoa: We didn’t know if that was for a reason… that there is nothing like it. (Laughter) But we were very excited about taking a risk. There’s definitely nothing like it and I think that SyFy and UCP have been very brave in tackling something so different and standing behind it so much. I think it’s very brave.

TrunkSpace: From an acting standpoint, does the campy nature of the storytelling allow you to let loose and go to places that you wouldn’t normally go as far as performance is concerned?
Ochoa: Absolutely. I think Colin Cunningham epitomizes that a little bit with his role as Slink. He is masterful in the portrayal of that character. But I think in general we all went into this saying, “We have no idea what the end result is going to be.” We loved the material and thought it was outlandish and crazy and we dove in just wanting to have a blast. How could you not have fun? Combustion engines that run on blood!

TrunkSpace: It really is the greatest logline of all time.
Ochoa: (Laughter) Exactly!

But we had a blast. And we did have a lot of fun on set. Every episode kind of tackles a new sub genre, so every week it was something different and exciting.

TrunkSpace: Did some of the early performance choices you made for your character Grace pay off for you as you continued to play in the sandbox of those other sub genres?
Ochoa: Absolutely. I think one of the craziest things for me is that when I was reading the script, there’s a very big part of me that was like, pardon my French, “We’re never going to get the fuck away with this. They’re never going to air this. Ever!” (Laughter) So there was a freedom to making outlandish choices because we did not think that they would end up in the cut and… they did! (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: When the trailers and marketing clips first hit, the show looked crazy and cool, but they still didn’t prepare you for what you ultimately see in the final product. (Laughter) It surprises people.
Ochoa: I love hearing that. We were surprised with the characters and the stories and the layers that we get to unravel as the season goes along. For us it was a constant surprise and a shock to see the scripts, and in the best possible way, I think everybody just dove headfirst into it. Everybody! Every head of department was so enthusiastic about being able to do something so different that we just kind of reveled in that space… in that little bubble that was “Blood Drive.”

TrunkSpace: It must have been interesting even just from a visual standpoint when you started tackling those various sub genres because the look of the show changes as the season goes on.
Ochoa: Credit to our fearless leaders, in this case our director/producer David Straiton and our DP Yaron Levy, who is just unbelievable. We had amazing guest directors fly in. We had James Roday and we had Lin Oeding and wonderful people. Everyone gave their episode a flavor and they are all fans of this genre and the sub genres so they got to live out their dream by making every episode look the way they wanted to, whether that’s an 80s feel or going back to the old exploitation films of the 70s or a vampire kind of thing with 80s synths and the music being eclectic. Whatever it is that you are a fan of, you got to tap into it.

TrunkSpace: Is it a sign of the times… the Golden Age of television, as a lot of people refer to it… that “Blood Drive” can even exist right now?
Ochoa: 100 percent. I think that now, especially with the new distribution models and the caliber of TV that we are getting as an audience, because I am a consumer as much as a producer, we are able to find our material and the things we like. It’s a very open platform to any kind of product being out there because it seems to find its niche audience regardless now. It’s not as hard to find it and obviously that has a lot to do with online platforms and the internet and spreading the word and marketing it virally. I think that we seem to be tapping into a time where artists really can create their vision and count on the fact that it will reach the intended audience somehow.

TrunkSpace: Certainly in the time of there being only three networks, you were force fed what you consumed on television. You liked what you got. Now you find what you like.
Ochoa: Yes! Exactly. And SyFy is the perfect fit in this case for something like “Blood Drive” because I think that audience was hungry to see something this different and this outside of the box, within the realm of what SyFy masters best.

TrunkSpace: So much of your performance takes place in the car and you hear actors say all of the time that they need to DO something within a scene. How did you handle that?
Ochoa: Are you implying that we didn’t do enough in the car because I would disagree with you! (Laughter) At the end of episode 1 we do enough! (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) Agreed, but we were thinking more along the lines of the smaller performance things. For instance, an actor in an office scene may want to be twirling a pencil or stacking file folders.
Ochoa: You know, I think it might have been harder for Alan (Ritchson). As an actor, but maybe more so as a character, because he wants to actively be doing something as a hero. Arthur is itching to get out there and do something. I think for my character Grace, a lot of her power comes in observing and in stillness. She’s a very economical fighter. She’s very good, but she doesn’t come at things just swinging wildly. She’s calculated in her movement as well as in her actions and in her words. In their conversations, she doesn’t say a lot. She’s not verbose, but she definitely economizes and picks her words wisely. I think that was part of the character, so it wasn’t as hard for me as maybe Alan’s character Arthur to be in that enclosed space.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned that you shot in South Africa. Between the heat, the fighting, and the stickiness of the blood, it looked like a pretty physical shoot.
Ochoa: I have pictures that can show you bruises everywhere from practicing fight stunts and choreography. It was gruesome when it came to the physicality of the show and I also think that is one of our favorite parts. And I think I can speak for Alan on this as well… I loved every second of that. Our stunt coordinator Kerry Gregg has an amazing stunt team that has worked on “Mad Max” and “The Dark Tower” and huge, HUGE productions. They are very good at what they do, so learning how to stunt drive or fight… it was one of the best parts and one of the main reasons why this job was so appealing to begin with.

TrunkSpace: What’s great is that you genuinely sound like “Blood Drive” was a bit of a dream job. The excitement is in your voice even long after you wrapped.
Ochoa: (Laughter) We would come to set the next day and compare bruises and wounds and be so excited about it. My favorite part was coming home exhausted after a really, really long day of stunts and, not complaining but going, “I just had such a long day doing all of these fights!” It was my favorite part. You get to kind of feel very much like a warrior.

TrunkSpace: You have your own production company with a number of projects in the works. Do you hope that the buzz of “Blood Drive” is able to rub off on those future productions and bring them a built-in audience?
Ochoa: Yeah. I also think that tapping into “Blood Drive” and Grace as a character has opened up a lot of things for me, almost politically as well in terms of being involved in a project where representing a woman who is so in charge and in control of herself and unapologetic about her dark side. I think that those were things that were so much fun to tap into that the kind of roles and female empowerment roles that now my production company is developing are a direct correlation of my experiences in “Blood Drive” as well as “Animal Kingdom” and “Valor.”

TrunkSpace: So is that what drew you towards the producing and the development side of things, creating projects for women?
Ochoa: Absolutely. I’m very much a feminist. I think we all have to do our part to create the reality that we want and it was one of those things where I started to want to have an input and a say in the material that is out there. I have wonderful creative people around me where we like coming up with different ideas and stories and we are all entertainers to a certain degree. I think it’s also a part of the times. Not to get incredibly political, but it was something that now more than ever, in this climate, I believe is important as an industry and as a community of artists to tap into and take a stand in whatever way we can, storytelling being one of the main ones. So, after the election especially there’s been a big push on my end to put out content that I think has a point of view.

“Blood Drive” airs Wednesdays on SyFy.

Featured Photo By: Cedric Terrell
Featured Photo Make-Up By: Steven Aturo
Featured Photo Hair: Arbana Dollani
Featured Photo Stylist: Matt Peridis

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Wingman Wednesday

Adam Bartley

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* This feature originally ran 04/19/17

There are some actors who just steal the scene and captivate viewers regardless of who else is in the scene with them. The on-camera dazzling is never done intentionally. It is the actor’s commitment to the part and pledge to the craft that shines a spotlight on the performance, forcing those at home to pay attention. They exist in a fictional world, but play their character as an authentic resident of the imaginary zip code that we, the viewers, visit as voyeuristic tourists.

One of those actors… one of our favorite actors… is Adam Bartley. As The Ferg on the long-running series “Longmire,” Bartley has been playing the deputy everyman with understated precision for five (soon to be six) seasons. The series is currently in production in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which is where we caught up with the Minnesota native.

We recently sat down with Bartley to discuss how the show has changed his life, its pop culture legacy, and his favorite episode thus far.

TrunkSpace: When did you realize that The Ferg went from character to fan favorite character?
Bartley: I don’t know. I think the fans love every character. They’re just so loyal and incredible. But, as far as Ferg is concerned, I think in the first season… I think it was around the third episode when Ferg turned his badge in. When Ferg turned his badge in and said “I’m just not made for this… I can’t do this” and the Sheriff said, “Listen, Ferg, I hired you for two reasons. The first one was because of your father.” And I say, “What’s the other one?” And the Sheriff says, “Well, I’m still waiting to find out.” I think that moment helped people to really connect with Ferg in the sense of how similar he is to so many people and so many people’s paths. You’re not always going to show up and be the best at what you do all of the time. It’s a kind of an everyman availability for audiences and I think that’s what latched people on… they saw a lot of themselves in the character and started to root for Ferg immediately from them on. And then of course, there’s the moment when I think the audience found out Ferg is in love with Cady Longmire.

TrunkSpace: That episode definitely felt like Ferg’s coming out party in terms of revealing him to have various layers, especially when we see him react so emotionally to Cady’s accident.
Bartley: Yeah. That’s great. That was a really incredible episode. That’s absolutely right. That piece… you’re seeing something beyond a sort of loyal, hardworking, trying-to-please-the-Sheriff kind of deputy. You’re seeing a person who has feelings and who you can relate to.

TrunkSpace: From an acting standpoint, what for you has been the most exciting thing about the character’s growth over the life of the series? What were you most excited to work on?
Bartley: Well, any time I’m working in a scene where it’s just Walt and I, that’s always… I love that relationship. Rob Taylor is a very good friend and we have a really good sort of chemistry as friends on and off camera. I really love watching the evolution of that relationship because for Ferg, the Sheriff is sort of the father figure he, I think, always wanted. He just tries to please him and make him proud every day. And so to be able to play in that space is really challenging and exciting.

I would say my favorite episode that I’ve worked on in the first five seasons has been when I get physically apprehended and beat up by the mob and I have to walk to some diner and call Walt. He comes and we sit down and just playing in that scene was really, really powerful acting and he really helped bring that out. I’ve lost my badge. I’ve lost my gun. I’ve been had and I’ve failed again. It’s hard to fess up when you fail and it’s hard to acknowledge that you fail, especially to the Sheriff.

TrunkSpace: Coming from a theater background, when you first started working in those scenes with Robert… he’s so understated and quiet in his delivery whereas in theater you’re taught to project… did that take some getting used to?
Bartley: It’s funny that you say that. I actually talk about this a lot, including last night and a couple of days before. Yeah, that’s one of the great things about this show for me is that it has been an on-camera education in ways that you could never get in school or anywhere else. A lot of that has to do with that when I showed up, coming from the theater, I had been rehearsing my first scene for the pilot and was just so excited and I was all ready to go. I was speaking somewhat loudly and theatrically and told the Sheriff, “Hey, listen I’m so sorry I’m late… it will never happen again!” (Laughter) In the first rehearsal, Rob… barely audible. He just sort of mutters his line to me and walks away. It was really powerful. It was a huge “wow” moment for me because the challenge, I think, on camera for any actor coming from the theater is believing that your most simple, your most honest, open, simple true reaction to any situation is enough. That people are going to find that interesting, without you doing anything more than you saying the line. Obviously Rob Taylor has been in the business for a very long time and figured that out 30 years ago, but I was figuring it out on the fly. It’s been an incredible sort of Petri dish this show, playing around with that sort of trust in myself and in terms of getting it down to the most simple truth in every scene.

TrunkSpace: It’s funny that you said Robert was barely audible because he’s so patient and soft in scenes sometimes that it’s easy to imagine him being difficult to mic.
Bartley: (Laughter) You get used to it. It’s true. We’ve always had good sound mixers. Always. Yeah, it’s so nice to not have to get every word out to the world. It’s nice for you to be discovered… that what you’re saying is being discovered and heard for the first time.

TrunkSpace: When you landed the part, how much of your character did you base on the source material from the books?
Bartley: None, actually. No. I read “The Cold Dish,” Craig Johnson’s book, and kind of soaked in the world, but the character The Ferg in that book is very different from the character that I play. I was really interested in sort of creating my own character because the writers for the TV show had really created a new character for The Ferg. But, I wanted to make sure that I was in the world.

TrunkSpace: We discovered the show late in its run thanks to the wonders of binge watching. It takes hold of you and you get sucked in very easily. That being said, how can so much terrible stuff happen in one small Wyoming county!?!?
Bartley: (Laughter) I know. Luckily Wyoming itself is not that crime-ridden, but in our Wyoming, things have not been very good. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Other than relocating during production, how has the series impacted your life and career the most?
Bartley: Wow. Well… this series has allowed me to realize a dream of mine. To be on camera. And it’s a dream that didn’t really come to me until I was 30 and then it really hit me there with what I wanted to do. I had been doing theater all over the country for 10 years and this not only has changed my life forever in regards to having a seat at the table to be able to do other things… and hopefully having an opportunity to do more things after this… but the singular experience of working on “Longmire” is unlike any show I’ve ever worked on or any play I’ve ever worked on. We are an incredibly close family of people that really love being together and really love working together. I’ll take that with me and I’ll take what I’ve learned from these people, from this incredible group of artists, and how people treat each other and how artists should have space and room to create the greatest version of the stories they’re telling and how establishing great working relationships up front on new projects… how that pays dividends and how it shows up on camera. It’s starkly different from other shows that don’t have those elements. We’re lucky to have an incredible group of producers that from the very first moment on the pilot set the tone for how this was going to go. It’s just not always that way. There’s a lot of other ways people go about doing this business, but as I go forward, that’s the best gift… taking what I’ve learned from this show and these people and applying it to everything I do going forward.

And the other thing is the fans. All of these incredible, loyal people who just love the stories so much and reach out and come to Longmire Days. They’re so kind. This show has really touched a lot of people. It has really changed lives and that’s so humbling… to know that I’m sitting in a coffee shop and somebody comes up and seeing them with almost tears in their eyes to meet me… it’s like, “Wow!” It’s powerful. Storytelling can be so powerful and I just feel so blessed to be a part of it and to have this be my job.

Bartley as The Ferg in “Longmire”

TrunkSpace: And it’s something from a pop culture legacy standpoint that will stand the test of time. The show isn’t going anywhere. New generations will find it.
Bartley: Yeah. No doubt. It’s just a special show for a special time. And the cool part about that is that, even in years from now when I’m missing being down here in Santa Fe and being with this incredible group of people, the wonderful thing is that “Longmire” is still going to be sitting there on Netflix. It’s still going to be sitting there and people can watch it whenever they want. They’ll have new viewers every day. In that way, it’s being sort of aired for the first time every single day.

TrunkSpace: It is crazy to think about now because there was a time when a show would air and you might catch it in a rerun or in syndication, but most shows just sort of disappeared. That’s not how it works nowadays, especially for shows as popular as “Longmire.”
Bartley: They live on. It’s so unique to this time and to this Golden age of television. There’s so much content and people will keep discovering it. That’s wonderful.

TrunkSpace: The show has such a rich history of really great guest stars. Was there anyone in particular that came into the show and gave you butterflies or made you feel a bit intimidated to be in a scene with based on their body of work?
Bartley: Well, the thing about our show is that it is a big open-hearted family and everyone that works on the show gets to be a part of it right away and is welcome. So there’s not a lot of intimidation going on around the set. But that being said, when Gerald McRaney and I had a scene together, that was a really interesting day. He’s a powerhouse. He was playing quite the powerhouse on the show as well and he basically gave it to me, in the rehearsal and in the scene, in a classic McRaney kind of way.

We’ve had so many great guest stars. I’ll just say that. Heather Kafka, who played the woman who had all of the deer carcasses… she’s just an incredible actress. One of my favorite people too. There have been so many like her who have come and just lifted the show up. And Mary Wiseman who played my love interest on the show is just a phenomenal actress. She inspires me and we have such a great time working together and such a great connection on camera. She’s quite special to watch.

It’s one after another. I could name 40 names and keep going.

It’s a special place. It’s a special group. We have an incredible crew. Just the best people. When I come to set, it’s saying hi, every day, to 75 people on my way to rehearsal. And then saying goodbye when I leave. That’s every day. There’s a lot of laughter and a lot of closeness, but also a lot of focus as well. A shared focus. It’s a time I’ll never forget.

TrunkSpace: Walt is a classic Hollywood badass. You also appeared in “Justified,” which featured a more modern badass in the form of Timothy Olyphant’s character Raylan. Having been around so many on-screen badasses, what makes a successful one?
Bartley: (Laughter) A good on-screen badass? That’s a good question. I would say keeping things close to the chest. Characters that say as little as necessary and sort of lead with their actions instead of their words. And having physical stature…

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) That helps!
Bartley: Yeah. Physical stature helps.

Bartley is currently filming season 6 of Longmire.

Bartley also recently guested as Duke in “This Is Us” on NBC and can be seen on the big screen in the upcoming films “Annabelle: Creation” and “Under the Sliver Lake.”

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Wingman Wednesday

Khary Payton

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*This feature originally ran 11/17/17.

So often we hear about “the look” of those who work in film and television, but it’s their impact – an ability to draw the viewer in and take them on a journey – that should receive the “the” attention. One of those individuals with an exceptional impact is Khary Payton.

It came as a great surprise to us that the Georgia native has starred in, thus far, only nine episodes of “The Walking Dead.” As King Ezekiel, the spirited leader of The Kingdom, his character’s reach seems to have extended well beyond that which he has physically appeared, moving the fandom in ways that make a single digit episode count seem improbable. Yes, the character is noteworthy to “The Walking Dead” universe, but Payton’s performance is what makes the royal thespian memorable. It’s his “the impact” that makes an impact.

We recently sat down with Payton to discuss how he approached the character’s public persona, how voice acting played a pivotal role in establishing Ezekiel’s private persona, and why he feels like a proud papa when it comes to Cyborg, a character he has been voicing for nearly two decades.

TrunkSpace: One of the things that shocked us as we prepared for this interview is that you have only physically appeared in nine episodes of “The Walking Dead” thus far, but what you bring to the series seems to have existed for 90 episodes. That says something about your impact on not only the series but the fandom because you have really left your mark on “The Walking Dead” world in a very short period of time.
Payton: You know, I feel really a part of the production as well, and I feel invested with the cast and the crew. I think it’s just a testament to the way that this show is run and the people around it. It also helps that they give you a kingdom and a tiger. (Laughter) I’ve been lucky enough that they’ve taken a couple of episodes out to really focus on our community, so I think that helps to kind of cement ourselves into the fabric of the show. But yeah, people ask, “How do I feel about 100 episodes?” but I’m like, “I’m barely reaching double digits at this point.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: As King Ezekiel, you’re playing a character who himself is playing a character. Do you view both King Ezekiel, who the people of The Kingdom know, and Ezekiel, the more vulnerable man he shared with Carol, as the same character? Are you playing two different people?
Payton: No. I was viewing it as a guy who has a job to do and you don’t act the same way in your living room as you do in your work a lot of times. It just so happens that this guy has to bring his work home a lot more than most. (Laughter) It’s kind of two sides of the same person. I think of it like… a public figure has a certain way of dealing with the public versus how they are when they’re more relaxed. With Ezekiel, it just so happens to be that his work persona has started to infiltrate to his more relaxed state because he really doesn’t have much time to relax. And I took a little bit of a cue from Lennie James and Andy Lincoln on the show. They’re British, but they kind of stay in their accent the entire time that they’re on set, and sometimes it takes them awhile to turn it off. I feel like I’m using the same kind of device with Ezekiel, that he’s talking that way so often and so much, that to turn it off, he needs kind of a conscious switch to tell himself to turn it back on or off. So it’s not something that he falls out of so easily.

People say, “I can’t believe he stayed in character through all of that.” The thing is, once you’re in character, it’s kind of hard to fall out of it.

TrunkSpace: So much of King Ezekiel’s persona is about theatrics and appearing larger than life. When it came to those tender moments where he discussed his past with Carol, what is a more subtle choice you made with the character that you’re particularly proud of?
Payton: Oh gosh. What I’m most proud of I think, especially in that first moment with Carol in the garden, was that there was no mention in the script or even in the comic about his voice changing. It was just that his physicality changed, that he was holding himself like a regular guy instead of a king or like royalty. When I first read it, the first thing I thought was that his voice had to change. I had done all of this voiceover and all of this Shakespeare over the last 20 years and I just think that’s where my mind and my heart went, in that where you really feel the difference is vocally with him. I felt really good about that.

TrunkSpace: It’s so interesting to hear your perspective on that because when you listen to that change happen in the character, it really brings the walls down, and as a viewer, you’re instantly drawn to him, much in the same way that Carol is.
Payton: Yeah. There was this slight thing I did in that talk with Carol. I said, “People see a guy with a tiger…” and I meant to say “shit,” but I just said “shoot.” I added that because I felt the vocal quality changed kind of subtly at that point, because he’s kind of quiet about it, and so I think that “shoot” was the moment that people really heard that his voice had changed.

Photo by Gene Page/AMC – © 2016 AMC Film Holdings LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TrunkSpace: So often you hear actors talk about how they apply their on-screen experience to voice acting, but here you took what you learned at a microphone in a booth and applied it to your live action performance.
Payton: I think with all of it, one hand washes the other. The beauty of the job is that it’s always new and it’s always different. You can constantly explore. I’ve been able to play so many different characters and in so many different genres of acting, that I think it helps lend itself to making each part that I deal with a little more unique.

TrunkSpace: The introduction of Ezekiel came at a very important time within the ongoing story of “The Walking Dead” universe. With so much despair surrounding all things Negan, in a lot of ways he became humanity’s light at the end of the tunnel. For every ounce of bad in the world, there’s an ounce of good to balance it out. With that being said, is there more to Ezekiel than just a character? Does he represent something else – a sort of universal idea that there can’t be darkness without light?
Payton: Yeah. I think a lot of our job in The Kingdom was to bring some light and some hope back into a hopeless situation. But I also think that there are a lot of similarities as far as Negan and Ezekiel are concerned. They’re both very theatrical guys who are kind of about “the show.” Negan doesn’t just want to kill somebody, he wants to make a production out of it. And in that way, I think he feels he’s protecting himself. They both use theatrics to very different ends.

TrunkSpace: “The Walking Dead” fandom is far-reaching. Most of the actors aren’t too far removed physically from their on-screen persona, but there’s a bit of distance between real-world Khary and undead world Ezekiel thanks in large part to hair, makeup, and wardrobe. Does that physical separation allow you to have a bit more anonymity than perhaps some of the other actors?
Payton: Yeah, I would say I’m not as recognizable as Norman or Josh McDermitt, who plays Eugene. I mean, that mullet is hard to miss. (Laughter)

It’s getting a little harder to walk around without being noticed. The first nine months of this whole thing, I could walk down the street and not worry about it too much, but once the show’s back on, and especially after I do “The Talking Dead,” I start to realize people say hello just about everywhere I go. But it’s usually not a mob. It’s one or two people here or there and everybody’s really polite. I have to say, my life, although it has changed drastically, at the end of the day, it hasn’t changed that much. I go to work, when I get back home I take my girls to school and take out the trash – I guess it’s all a matter of perspective. But the work is really gratifying and it’s really cool to be able to go to these conventions and meet people who are really affected by the show.

TrunkSpace: And as we touched on at the start of conversation, to have been in nine episodes of a series thus far and have affected so many people in such a profound way, there’s something really special about that. That’s the reason you get into acting, right?
Payton: Absolutely! It’s the absolute reason why you get into it, or at least, it’s why I think you get into it for the right reasons. I always say, “We’re in the hope business.” People turn on their televisions or they go into a dark theater to find some entertainment, but beyond that, I think hope and inspiration. If you’re doing it right then some incredible things can happen.

© 2014 WB Animation/DC

TrunkSpace: You have voiced nearly 200 episodes of Teen Titans Go!,” which is a mind boggling number of episodes in television, but especially animation. Do you think you’ll ever be as close to another character as you are Cyborg, if for no other reason, just because of the volume?
Payton: (Laughter) Well, volume-wise, maybe not, but you never know. If I play my cards right, maybe I’ll somehow dodge the walkers and the bullets. (Laughter) But that’s going to be a more difficult proposition.

Cyborg was my first voiceover job and my first voiceover audition. I feel like that character is probably closer to me just because there have been so many iterations of Cyborg since then, but the first one, they kind of tailored him to me. I know there were Cyborgs before, but he really kind of blew up in that first “Teen Titans” show in the early 2000s, and so I feel kind of like a proud papa when it comes to that character in that we were able to kind of launch him into the larger fandom of comic book characters.

TrunkSpace: Your version of Cyborg has kind of become the character for so many people, so when they read comics with the character now, they’re probably reading him in their heads as you. That’s pretty cool.
Payton: Yeah, it’s kind of cool, man! (Laughter) I kind of liken it to Scooby-Doo. When I was a kid, I felt like Scooby-Doo was always around, even though it hadn’t been around, probably even when I was born. There are kids growing up now and Cyborg has been around as long as they have been alive, which is kind of crazy. As far as they know, Cyborg has always been around. Except for a few instances, I’m pretty much the voice. Of course there’s a new Cyborg now in the “Justice League” movie, but still, I feel like we gave birth to that being a thing.

TrunkSpace: You’re also voicing the new “Big Hero 6” series, bringing life to fan-favorite character Wasabi-no-Ginger. Is it a different experience for you finding a character who existed fairly recently through another actor?
Payton: They really were open to me just kind of giving my own take and not trying to do an impression, so it felt very organic, finding Wasabi’s character. I didn’t feel like I was having to put on too much. I was just able to bring myself to it, and so that made it easier. Plus, Wasabi being such a, literally animated character, he reminds me a lot of Cyborg, so I kind of just brought a little bit of that to it.

The Walking Dead” airs Sundays on AMC.

Big Hero 6: The Series” premieres November 20 on Disney XD.

The 200th episode of “Teen Titans Go!” airs November 24 on Cartoon Network.

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Wingman Wednesday

Marama Corlett

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* This feature originally ran on 7/12/17

SyFy’s “Blood Drive” has introduced us to a great many things. Cars that run on human blood. F bombs on basic cable. And the fact that Heart Industries is up to some seriously dark sh… poop. But we’re most grateful to the grindhouse gorefest for introducing us to Marama Corlett, the scene-stealing Malta-born actress who takes dark business to a whole new level as AKI, the robotic interrogator with a closet full of dominatrix clothing. Everything about her performance is frighteningly exquisite, from her detached dialogue delivery to her mechanized movements. She is uniquely original in a series brimming with originality. She is mesmerizing and scary all at the same time.

We recently sat down with Corlett to discuss adjusting to AKI’s vision-altering contacts, how she’d like to start an 80s style signal hijacking, and why her parents think she’s currently starring on “Black Sails.”

TrunkSpace: We have been asking this of every “Blood Drive” cast member we speak with because, well, it just seems like an obvious first question. (Laughter) Did you ever wonder if the material you were working on in “Blood Drive” would make it to air?
Corlett: NO WAY.

TrunkSpace: It is amazing what a pair of contacts can do to change someone’s appearance as a whole. What were your initial thoughts when you first saw yourself through AKI’s eyes?
Corlett: My initial thoughts… I couldn’t see a bloody thing.

Those contacts got me where I needed to be mentally and emotionally. First day on set I couldn’t even hit my mark. Not the best first impression. It took a while getting used to looking through tunnel vision, but looking back, I couldn’t have been AKI without them.

TrunSpace: Your movements and physical personification of AKI are fantastic. It almost feels like she’s the female version of Max Headroom come to life! (We’re dating ourselves with that reference!) Where did you look to for inspiration in terms of how to physically bring AKI to life?
Corlett: Let’s start an AKI broadcast signal hijacking!

I love that. (Laughter) Thank you, TrunkSpace.

Essentially it’s Christopher that brings AKI to life, so a huge part of the process was working closely as a team with my leading man and I couldn’t have asked for a more humble and generous actor than Thomas Dominique. Our first director and executive producer, David Straiton, was a huge part of the casting process so he was there from the start. He cared and believed in the project and encouraged me to find a certain confidence needed for the role. David had a clear vision but was also very open for all of us to experiment, which made it all the more fun. He gave me a long list of films and characters to watch for inspiration, which also included Hal 9000 from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” I had long chats with David and our creator James Roland about costume and hair/makeup even down to her specific walk and eye blinks. I found my ballet training gave me so much to work with on the physicality. What was most important for me was to have a clear arc. Starting off as an emotionless, calculated machine gave me places to go later on.

Corlett and Colin Cunningham in “Blood Drive”

TrunkSpace: Another aspect of the character that sort of brings her to her own little slice of unique life is wardrobe. Was there a moment where a particular piece of clothing was presented to you and you thought to yourself, “OH, HELL NO!” because frankly, they don’t look exceptionally comfortable? (Laughter)
Corlett: Nothing about this show was “comfortable”. (Laughter) Our costume designer Danielle Knox did a remarkable job with all of us… pretty much all of AKI’s outfits were designed and made from scratch so they fit like a glove. The tighter the corset and the more ridged and uncomfortable the outfit, it made it easier for me to play the part somehow.

TrunkSpace: “Blood Drive” is so very unlike anything else on television. That statement is said a lot about a great number of shows, but usually it’s just said for the sake of saying it. It truly is the case with your show. Does that make being involved with it feel all the more special?
Corlett: It’s been a crazy, cool ride for me and whatever the outcome, I’m proud to be a part of it. As mad as it is, it’s really not far off from what our world seems to be heading towards and what us humans are truly capable of doing to each other. James Roland is a genius and knew exactly what he was doing creating this. There is a brain and a beating heart. It’s not all just bloody cars.

TrunkSpace: Given the crazy, bloody, “anything is possible” vibe of the show, did you second guess sharing it with any family members or loved ones?
Corlett: The parents think I was working on “Black Sails” and I said I was the one with the mask and wig on. Its gonna take them a while to get through all the seasons.

TrunkSpace: Now that the show has been out for a few weeks and a buzz has been building around it, how has it changed your life/career the most?
Corlett: Apart from some weird inbox messages on Twitter after episode 4, it’s all the same. It was a wonderful experience and I met some very special people.

TrunkSpace: A short film you starred in called “A Girl goes for Dinner” is currently touring the festival circuit. Whereas “Blood Drive” is full of dark humor, this particular piece is just straight up dark, right?
Corlett: It’s written and directed by Jack Ethan Perry, an exciting young British director. It’s definitely a dark piece but I’m somehow attracted to that genre. It’s like watching a fawn floating about through a rifle scope, then you hear the gun shot but the fawn isn’t the one shot. Lots of hidden messages in the dialogue and in the silences between the two characters. I had already worked with actor Adrian Schiller on “The Crucible” at London’s The Old Vic theatre beforehand, another dark one, but so the chemistry was already there.

TrunkSpace: And from what we read, you’ll also be returning to “Sick Note” for season 2. That seems like a hell of a cast to be sharing scenes with.
Corlett: Yes, our first season hasn’t aired yet so It’s exciting for all of us to be going again so soon and also to work with the same crew again who have become like a little family. Watching actors such as Nick Frost, Rupert Grint, Karl Theobald, Dustin Demri-Burns and Daniel Rigby work… these guys hone their craft and it’s fascinating watching them play. I’ve never laughed so much on a job. Credit to our fantastic writers Nat Saunders and James Serafinowicz who have created this hilarious show and our director Matt Lipsey who has worked on some of Britain’s most cherished comedy. He has this wonderful ability to allow actors to have fun and be brave.

TrunkSpace: What can we expect from your “Sick Note” character Linda?
Corlett: Well, I haven’t been killed off yet. Let’s just say that.

TrunkSpace: When you look at your career moving forward, what would you like to accomplish? Do you have bucket list items that you want to check off in your career?
Corlett: I just want to do good work with good people.

“Blood Drive” airs Wednesdays on SyFy.

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Wingman Wednesday

Laura Vandervoort

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Photo By: John Bregar

*This feature originally ran on 10/27/17

Horror fans are committed to their genre. Some love the suspense. Some love the gore. Others fall skull over calcaneus (heel bone) for a franchise that puts the terrifying fate of both elements in the hands of a charismatic celluloid psycho. There were plenty of those rising up from their own credits-rolling ashes throughout the 70s and 80s, from Freddy Krueger to Jason Voorhees, but recent years have only given viewers a small handful of newly-minted madmen to keep them up at night.

John Kramer, aka Jigsaw, is one such character.

No stranger to rabid fandoms thanks to memorable turns in “V” and “Smallville,” Laura Vandervoort is set to get her feet wet within the horror genre with a starring role in the latest installment of the Saw franchise, “Jigsaw.” As captivating in conversation as she is on screen, the Toronto native recently wrote a letter to her younger self in Backstage, sharing her discovery of confidence and self-acceptance in a career where so much of a person’s individual success can be decided upon by both fate and other people.

We recently sat down with Vandervoort to discuss that perfectly-penned letter, how the person she was writing to would have handled her current experience with “Jigsaw,” and why she had a difficult time finding an understanding in her character’s horrifying actions.

TrunkSpace: We read your recent letter to yourself that was published in Backstage. It was very personal. In the process of writing it, did it all just pour out of you or did it involve some self-discovery as well?
Vandervoort: I would say it was a bit of both. When I started writing, it just poured out, but as I went, I realized a lot about myself that I guess I really hadn’t given myself an opportunity to think about, or things that I knew I should have been doing more of that I hadn’t been. As I was writing, it was sort of cathartic for me and it was important because, only in the past five years have I found a new way to approach this business.

I started when I was a kid. I’m sure there are books out there, but there’s no real manual on how to get through the process as a child growing up and becoming an adult actor and being a female in this business and the rejection and the pressures and all of that.

TrunkSpace: And now with social media being such a big factor, it must add an entirely new dimension to it all.
Vandervoort: Oh, 100 percent! I mean, first of all, social media has become a separate job, I think, for a lot of people in this industry. It is a way to promote things you believe in, your work, organizations, but also, it can be evil. You can go down that rabbit hole of negativity so quickly. If you’re in the business or not in the business, it’s not the healthiest thing, but it’s sort of a necessary evil in a way. On the positive side, it’s a way to connect with fans, talk to people, and put out a message that you believe in.

And I think for young women, too, it’s dangerous for them to compare themselves to things online, in general. We can say it a million times, but you just learn as you grow up. You discover who you want to be, not who people want you to be.

TrunkSpace: That’s what drew us to your Backstage piece. You don’t have to be an actor to relate to it. There was a section in there where you talked about not always having to be perfect in what you were doing, and for many people, that resonates regardless of the industry.
Vandervoort: Yes, and that can be on many different levels. I was specifically writing it about the auditioning process. You don’t have to go in and have a polished performance. Again, this is my opinion and experience, but I used to just kill myself over trying to get everything word perfect and exactly what I thought that they wanted to see. That’s not the case. You can go in and you can discover while you’re in the room, and you can hold the lines in your hand. I just think, in a way, there’s something more interesting in that because they’re seeing an unpolished human, which is more interesting to watch than someone who’s got their shit together. It just makes you relatable.

But, it could also be seen in that, as a woman in the business, you don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be exactly like everyone else. Everyone has their own look. Everyone has their own style and that’s what makes you interesting as an actor. That’s what you put into the character – you. Because, like I said in the article, that’s something that you have that no one else has. You.

TrunkSpace: Perfection is an illusion that everyone is chasing.
Vandervoort: Yeah, you’re constantly going to be chasing that unachievable goal and you’re going to either exhaust yourself, just give up, or you’re going to have a frustrating journey.

Just accept that you are you, and you are the way that you’re supposed to be, and you find your own path and you perform the way you want to perform. But again, it takes time, too. You can’t just read something that someone wrote and go, “Okay. I get it.” You have to go through the process.

Vandervoort in Jigsaw. Photo by Brooke Palmer – © 2017 – Liongate

TrunkSpace: So would the Laura you are speaking to in that letter, would her experience on “Jigsaw” have been different for her than it was for you today?
Vandervoort: Yeah, but really, only in what I’ve learned over the years. I didn’t know that I could relax and have fun on set. I didn’t know that it was okay to laugh. You don’t have to be serious all the time. You can find your own moments in those scenes. You can disagree with someone.

As a kid, everyone always said, “You’re so mature. You’re like a grownup.” And I always thought that was a great thing until I realized I didn’t have any fun. All those years went by and I didn’t joke around. And now, I do. I take time out of the day to just be where I am, not to be so tunnel-focused and just enjoy the experience and the process, the ups and the downs.

I really wish I hadn’t been like that. I think I could have had so much more fun.

TrunkSpace: Because for us, the viewers, we remember the end product. But for you, the memories are going to come from the experience, right?
Vandervoort: Exactly. And I couldn’t tell you a lot of the experiences growing up as a kid on set, because I only thought about my scenes, and the directors, and what the director said. I remember bits and pieces of things, like moments with actors. Caroline Rhea, when I was on a Disney movie with her, she had a heart to heart with me, but that rarely happened as a kid. And now, I’m making long, lifetime friendships with actors and producers and directors, and being my true self.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned having fun on set now and taking the time to enjoy the process, but looking at the trailer for “Jigsaw,” your character seems like she’s in some really serious situations and sort of, more or less, focused on survival. From a performance standpoint, does that force you to remain in a heightened fight-or-flight mode?
Vandervoort: Yeah, the majority of the scenes in “Jigsaw” were high stakes. I definitely still had to be in a somewhat focused head space for some of the particular scenes that you’ll see in the movie, that I as a human being couldn’t quite wrap my head around. I mean, some of the things that my character has done, they were hard to shoot those scenes. And, when I was in the traps, obviously it’s very physically and emotionally draining. But that’s what it needed to be, and all the other actors all just went for it. And then, in between takes, we joke around and get back to it.

I used to think that that would hinder a performance if I relaxed, especially with a movie like this, but I actually think it helped because it would refresh your mindset and you go back to the scene and something different would come forward. You’re not just in this robotic state, doing the same thing.

TrunkSpace: Is it hard not to bring that heightened level of performance – the racing heart experience – home with you at the end of the day?
Vandervoort: I tend to not take that stuff home. With this character, with any other intense characters, I do mentally prepare and prepare with my script weeks in advance and however much time I have, and sometimes will come up with a playlist that I think that the character would relate to, or that helps me get into that mindset. But the minute that you’re done, you’re done. That’s the end of the day. You go home and that’s you. That’s your life and then you get back into it the next day.

TrunkSpace: One of the things that the Saw franchise has always been good at is being inventive within the genre itself. In a place where fans have sort of seen everything, what does “Jigsaw” have that people may feel like they haven’t seen before?
Vandervoort: Well, one of the things I was excited about, aside from being a part of the Saw franchise, which is one of the biggest franchises out there and I’m a huge fan of, was Michael and Peter Spierig, the directors. I was already a fan of their work. I watched “Predestination” recently and thought it was just brilliant, and visually they’re so talented. They’re just incredible directors to work with, and I knew that before even meeting with them. And so, I think that the fans of the franchise will get everything that they’ve always loved about the movie – Kramer and the traps, and people making amends and apologizing for their behavior and whatever they’ve done in society, but with Peter and Michael, I think just visually, this is going to be a different film. They delve deeper into characters and their pasts. You really get to see more of a glimpse into why they did what they did, why they deserve to be there, and they have more, I think, of a note on humanity than the other ones might have. To me, it’s just a different style of the feature. They have their own take on it, but it still has all of the things that people will expect as well, it’s just a heightened version of it.

TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, did you have to go anywhere with the character that you didn’t anticipate when you first signed onto the project?
Vandervoort: They were a little secretive about the character when I first signed on. I had a rough idea of who she was, what she might have done, but the big reveal of what she truly did didn’t come until I got the script. And they actually only released pages that were necessary for the actors to see. So, because I had a rough idea, I knew what I was in for. But when I read it, it was sort of horrifying. It’s something that I had to think about once I read it. “Do I really want an audience to see me do this?” And then I thought, you know what, I’m telling a story. For what she’s done, she had a reason. I just tried to understand her reasoning because I was going to be playing her.

It was real f’d up trying to get on her side to play her, to understand why she felt she had to do this, so that was an adjustment, for sure. And once people see what it is, they’ll be like, “Okay, I can see how that was a little odd.”

Jigsaw” opens October 27.

Featured image by: John Bregar

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Wingman Wednesday

Jason Butler Harner

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*This feature originally ran on 7/17/2017

Great performances happen all of the time, especially in this day and age when so much quality content is just a click away. What’s more difficult to achieve is a great career with a body of work that not only improves upon itself with each new role, but that collectively elevates the projects contained within it. Jason Butler Harner has managed to achieve this career potency, seemingly without trying. His natural on-screen magnetism draws you in and never lets go. He is an actor who can say more with a look than a full page of a dialogue, a skill he has put to use in “Ray Donovan,” “Homeland,” and most recently, Netflix’s “Ozark” opposite Jason Bateman and Laura Linney.

We recently sat down with Harner to discuss the complexities of his “Ozark” character, the comfort (and discomfort) of lying in a pool of blood, and the best stages he has ever performed on.

TrunkSpace: In “Ozark” you’re playing rogue FBI agent Roy Petty. What did Roy offer in terms of interesting character elements that felt different from what we’ve seen before from other representations of FBI agents on screen?
Harner: That’s such a good question actually because I’ve seen and certainly played a lot of Feds. Every character in the series is human and conflicted in surprising ways. That’s a testament to what Bill Dubuque created and certainly what Chris Mundy and our staff of writers kept alive throughout the 10 episodes.

With Roy… his name is Roy Petty, which that tells you something… but with Roy, he has a very hard edge. Within Petty’s drive and his expertise as this focused, seasoned FBI agent (albeit complete with some dangerous, unpredictable blinders) is the fact that he has no shame. And I mean that in a good way. He doesn’t give a fuck. Okay, he may have a dash of it, but it doesn’t control him. He is unapologetic about his laser sharp intent to bring down the cartel, no matter how. He’s not interested in the protocol within an agency that is mired in bureaucracy. And, perhaps most importantly, he has ZERO shame about being a gay man, and particularly a gay man in this typically homogeneous, predominantly straight male profession. That was a revelation to me. Huge. It gets no airtime. It’s a non-entity and that is incredible. It surprised me how it exactly evolved as I got more information about him, and of course how I got to reveal more of him. Listen, I’m not an idiot, he’s definitely shutdown, particularly emotionally, in certain areas rooted in guilt and pain. And he may ultimately unlock some levels of regret that could lead to capital letter shame after this first season is over. (You’ll see why in Episodes 9 and 10.) But, for now, his primary motivation comes from so many other places, and shame is just not one of them. That was profound to witness and then make manifest.

They gave me the benefit of a backstory that would unfold much later in the series, and they told me what that story was early on.

TrunkSpace: So as a viewer we’re presented with him, but we don’t yet learn what makes him tick?
Harner: We don’t know what’s going on yet, and listen, a lot of times, and I’ve played some of them, you’re given characters that are very two-dimensional. They’re a mood. They’re very by the book, they’re very eager for a fight. They’re angry, they’re dangerous, psychotic, crazy, for example, and we don’t really explore why, so fortunately for me and for the viewers of “Ozark,” Roy is humanized. That’s my job as an actor, to create my own backstory, find reasons why, try to fill something out, flesh something out so that the producers and editors can decide whether or not they’re interested in that. Fortunately in this case, especially Chris Mundy was like, “Listen here’s what’s going on…” and it gave me something to go from.

I basically have one of those sleeper characters where he’s in it a little bit, a little bit, a little bit, and understandably anybody could think that this character is just going to be in this episode, and then he just keeps coming around and you’re like, “Oh shit, what’s going on?”

TrunkSpace: The series as a whole seems different tonally from a lot of what’s on the air today where, even in the darkest of stories, there’s some sort of comedy woven throughout. But with “Ozark” it strikes that serious tone throughout, and in the process, feels a bit like a throwback in that regard.
Harner: Yeah, especially in that first episode, it’s maintained throughout the whole thing. The color palette of the series is very specific and that was exciting. It definitely was Pepe (Avila del Pino) and Ben (Kutchins), the DPs, and Jason (Bateman) establishing the world of that tone. It was really very clear about what it was.

TrunkSpace: It felt very reminiscent of early Coen Brothers, like “Miller’s Crossing.”
Harner: I love that movie so much. Marcia Gay Harden before anybody knew Marcia Gay Harden.

TrunkSpace: One of the other cool things about the show that is sort of reminiscent of TV in general these days is that creators are showing interesting segments of the country that haven’t been spotlighted before. “Justified” in Appalachia, “True Blood” in the bayou, “Longmire” in Wyoming, and then the Ozarks here, which as far as we could recall, is a picture we’ve never seen painted in television.
Harner: It’s so true. I’m from a small town in America, raised in the suburbs of DC, and then lived in New York City for 23 years and now I live in LA, so I have a great affinity and appreciation for small town America and the fullness of America. I was just at dinner last night with some friends and they introduced us to this friend from Norway, and of course they had no idea what the Ozarks were. I was like, “Well…”

I didn’t know this when the series started and I could be getting this wrong, but the waterfront, the shoreline… there’s more shoreline of the Ozarks than in the state of California. The lakes are so big and what’s around them is so amazing. We have this last shot in the first episode, which is unbelievably beautiful and is not CGI’d at all. That’s shot from a helicopter that’s pulling away and is 100 percent the Ozarks and for real. I think it’s so amazing. (Laughter)

Jason Bateman is just the most amazing person in the world. He is the kindest and the smartest. About halfway through production he rented out a movie theater and shared with the cast and crew the first episode just to sort of be like, “Hey, just so you know this is what we’re making here in case you had any doubt. And thank you.” Which nobody else does on any other show I’ve worked on. Nobody else does that. When that last shot came on, and only a skeleton crew had been there in the Ozarks when they filmed that so only the skeleton crew knew about it, everybody just started hooting and hollering and cheering. It was really great.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned how the first season is 10 episodes in length. From a performance standpoint, does that shorter episode order benefit you as an actor because you know that the story is not going to be stretched out and that each episode will have as much character bang for the buck as possible?
Harner: Yeah, I mean, no offense to procedurals, but you’re not stuck in that format. When they say it’s going to be character-driven, in this case, they really mean it. Obviously there’s a lot of plot that happens in each episode. I remember sitting in the editing room after the second episode and I looked at Jason and said, “I cannot believe how much content we have in one hour!”

The benefit of being on a platform like Netflix and in a series like this is that you also have scenes where you can uncharacteristically sit down with a character or a couple of characters and have what would seem like a long amount of time. I have a monologue coming up, I don’t think they kept all of it, but I have this scene coming up where I’m fly fishing with a character that you’re going to meet and we were really shooting at 5 a.m. on a river in Atlanta with the fog coming up. It was so beautiful, and when you get those opportunities in your life as an actor, you think, “This is why I’m doing this. I’m in waders in the middle of a fucking river fly fishing, which I have been studying for over a month to look like I know what I’m doing, and I’m just going to tell this story and we’re going to sit here for a period of time.” Magical. For everyone too, including the viewer.

TrunkSpace: And what’s beautiful about things right now is that audiences not only expect that, they crave it. They want to see their storytelling play out in that way.
Harner: One of the things I really appreciated was that they really were not interested in the more sensationalist aspects, although there are some colorful characters and situations that happen in the series. It was, “How do we get into the nitty gritty of this family having to survive and adapt to living and completely changing their lives.” But also, be as interested in the nuance of that translation as in the larger concept of everything else happening. I always appreciate that. Jason Bateman’s attention to detail on seemingly mundane things is so good. Just silly things like, if you pick up a phone that’s not yours but you have to access it, Jason makes sure that those details are built in in some way. Those small little details, they credit the whole thing. It makes you go along with the story a little bit more and not have to add your own sort of magical realism that can happen a lot in the things that we see.

TrunkSpace: Could those little details exist in another platform? Could Jason have been able to do that on a major network?
Harner: I don’t know actually. The highest compliment that I can say in terms of my experience, and I’ve been really lucky because I’ve had some wonderful experiences on a variety of platforms, but I have never had the kind of leadership and involvement the way that I have witnessed on this production. Patrick Markey is a great creative producer. Mundy is a diplomatic showrunner. Laura is a Godsend. And Jason is a confident leader. He’s been doing this since he was 10 years old. He understands not only how every department works and how the camera works, but how the productions works. I’m sure there were tons of conversations and meetings with Netflix and MRC as it was going, everything from budget and tone and all that, but it didn’t have the micromanagement feel that a lot of other things that I’ve worked on have had, which is a road to hell paved with good intentions. A road to mediocrity. It takes the vitality out of it.

SCANDAL – “Run” – (ABC/Nicole Wilder) JASON BUTLER HARNER

TrunkSpace: We know you have a theater background and it sounds like as far as that community experience of theater goes, “Ozark” seems to have had that vibe based on the way you speak of it.
Harner: Yeah. I also recognize I’m a series regular so I have a lot more agency. When you’re a guest star, there is a certain amount where, more often than not, you sort of get in and get out, do your thing and hopefully don’t offend anyone. Our set was very inviting to everyone.

I have a joke with a couple of friends of mine who are far more successful than I am. We always talk about the “first day of school” regardless of the project. It’s always slightly nerve-wracking. I’m confident in my abilities and I’m also self-effacing, but when you have the ability to not be intimidated and to ask a question that you know you’re going to get an answer to or, even better than an answer, you might get an, “I don’t know,” that’s assuring. When you’re a guest star and you’re just there for a little bit, it’s very rare that you have the luxury of being able to ask that question.

TrunkSpace: From a performance side, is there any character from a previous series or film that you wish you had more time to spend with just because of the interesting nature of the character itself?
Harner: Yeah, there’s a number of them. Whenever my character is not killed off, I’m really excited. (Laughter) I’m personally excited from a logistics standpoint that I’m not going to be lying in a pool of blood for a period of hours, and I’m also excited for the possibility of returning to that work, of course. (Laughter)

The character on “Homeland” was such an anomaly. All of a sudden he does this violent act and then disappears, so you think, “Well, that person is still around somewhere. Could he come back?”

On “Scandal” it was a wonderful Shonda Rhimes sort of teaser where it was an episode where Kerry got kidnapped and we were in a jail and you didn’t know where we were, but you thought we were in another country. It was great. Kerry was so generous. I got killed, but I thought he was really interesting. I thought that his duplicity was particularly interesting, but then he got shot in the back of the head two episodes later and that was it. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: And there’s that pool of blood again!
Harner: There’s that pool of blood. (Laughter) It’s funny, there’s such respect in terms of the different ways that different sets deal with that… the way they shoot it. Some are very kind so you’re not actually physically in that pool of blood for a long period of time, and some don’t care. “Scandal” was very kind. “Ray Donovan” was very kind. I won’t mention the ones that maybe weren’t so kind. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: We were looking over your theater credits and saw that you have stood on so many great stages. It had us thinking, what is the best stage you’ve ever performed on?
Harner: Wow, that’s a great question. I need to really think about that. So many come to mind for different reasons so I’ll try to compartmentalize them.

I’ll tell you a personal story, and then I’ll tell you some stages that really moved me.

Jason Butler Harner as Varick in Ray Donovan (Season 3, Episode 3). – Photo: Michael Desmond/SHOWTIME – Photo ID: RayDonovan_303_821.R

When I got out of grad school and I started really performing, I went to A.C.T. in San Francisco. I did a play up in Seattle called “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” by Martin McDonagh. Great play. While I was up there, I got hired to do “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” because Garret Dillahunt pulled out, I think to do “Deadwood.” He’s a good friend of mine now, but Garret pulled out and I got short notice to go do “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” at A.C.T. in San Francisco. The Geary Theater. So “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” is obviously a classic, iconic, huge American play to have to climb. It was everything that I had been trained to do, that kind of big play, so I walked into the theater because I wanted to see The Geary. I was curious about this intimate play in a big space. I don’t know what the seat number is, but it’s got to be like 1000, and it’s three tiers and I walked in and I looked up and I just started crying because I thought, “Whoa. How am I going to do this?” And then, “I’m ready to do this.”

The other two theaters that come to mind… I did a play in the West End by Lanford Wilson, which I think is a beautiful play called “Serenading Louis.” Lanford Wilson wrote “Burn This,” which is the major play of his that people remember, but “Serenading Louis” is a tremendous play that gets shortchanged. People call it sentimental in that modern, misappropriated redefinition of melodramatic. And that’s not true. Anyway, the Donmar Warehouse is an incredibly intimate space, audience on three sides and a balcony, but the balcony is maybe at 12 feet so it’s very… it’s like an old-fashioned observing laboratory.

The last theater that I’m going to mention is one that was built and it was incredible. I did this Mike Bartlett play. I do a lot of American premieres of English and Irish plays for some reason, which I love. So it was this Mike Bartlett play called “Cock” after a cock fight, and interestingly enough, in America, the New York Times wouldn’t even print the title “Cock.” We had to call it “The Cock Fight Play.” But anyway, the set designer built a raw plywood stage in the round… a fully immersive experience for the audience. It was incredible.

What I love the most about live theater is every night is its own organism and dialogue, so you have to be incredibly alive and you are hopefully fed by the audience’s reaction, and if not, you’re working towards making them conscious and communal.

TrunkSpace: And it’s something that is only shared with those in attendance. It can’t be tweeted or forwarded or passed on.
Harner: Yeah, not to get too arty-farty about it, but I do think on some cellular level as human beings, we crave a communal experience. I love all of my devices and I love watching various storytelling through various mediums, but sometimes now you have to get tricked into having that communal experience because it’s not a part of our routine. Then when you get there, you appreciate it. Sometimes it’s like going to a wedding, a family commitment, or a church service or whatever where you think, “Oh God, I have to go…” and some of it is just about navigating how to deal with it and lots of people you don’t know. And then inevitably when you get there you have some type of experience with people around you where you are collectively witnessing or processing something. I don’t know what happens, I just know that something happens, and I appreciate that. Somehow it’s reassuring. There’s a sense of humanity, which right now, just as a side note, I am so interested in any storytelling that we can offer or create that’s encouraging humanity and compassion. It can be messy, it can be bloody, it can be a lot of things, but ultimately I feel like we have a slight responsibility in storytelling towards flexing those muscles, reminding those muscles that humanity and compassion exist right now because I feel things are getting a little disparate, you know?

“Ozark” premieres July 21 on Netflix.

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Chilling Out

Mickey Keating

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Chilling Out is where TrunkSpace talks all things horror and genre with those who work in the projects that give us the thrills and chills to keep coming back for more. This time out we’re chatting with Mickey Keating, writer and director of the new film “Psychopaths,” which is set to arrive on digital home entertainment January 2.

We recently sat down with Keating to discuss the “Psychopaths” gestation period, how his experience shooting it differed from his previous films, and why he hopes his work sits in your head longer than you sit in the theater.

TrunkSpace: What has the “Psychopaths” journey been like for you? Was the film gestating in your mind for a long time prior to being put on paper and ultimately into production?
Keating: Oh yeah. I wrote the first draft of the script a long time ago. It was totally different. And then the script came together right after we wrapped my third film. I was down in Florida, and I just had this idea, and so I started writing. So it’s been in my life for about, probably, three or so years now. We shot the movie really quickly, but then we edited for almost a year, which was really an exciting exercise and a totally different experience. And now, it’s kind of like shoving the baby bird out of the nest. As soon as it comes out into the world officially, I’ll have empty nest syndrome and start panicking.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned that the original draft of the script was totally different than what it is now. Are you happy that original version didn’t become your shooting script and that you had time to let the story breathe and develop further?
Keating: Absolutely. That’s always the process with all of my films, in some way. From an outside perspective it makes it seem like I make films really quickly, but the reality of it is that typically these movies are kind of… I’m hoping and praying to get them out into the world and to be able to make them. They’re really all slow builds. And so, yes, I’m very, very thankful that there’s always a barrier because first drafts of scripts are typically never great.

TrunkSpace: In a lot of ways they’re kind of mind dumps, right? It takes time and sometimes separation from the material to see where it needs to be improved upon.
Keating: Totally. I think there needs to be a long time to develop. And now, with my new films that I’m working on, I’ve taken it even further in terms of preparation. I’ve started cutting full-on animatics so now we can actually watch the entire films before they’re even made, which is a very new, exciting thing.

TrunkSpace: From a directing standpoint, did you approach your job differently in any way with this particular film?
Keating: I think with every film, you’re pleasantly surprised when you go from storyboarding to seeing the camera rolling. And for this one, I think it was very thrilling just to be able to see these characters come to life. And that’s what I really wanted to do first and foremost with this film, was just make a movie about the characters, and the experience that they kind of go on, before anything else. And so what was so great was just being able to go to an actor, like Ashley Bell, like James Hébert, like Jeremy Gardner, and just say, “Here’s who was in my mind for a little while, now they’re yours and you can do whatever you want.” So we really built the characters together. That was really exciting and different, because with all of my other films, they’ve been kind of less like that. This was the first kind of really freeing moment.

TrunkSpace: And so often in horror films, the “bad guy” is not necessarily a character, but a boogeyman like device.
Keating: Totally. And we really wanted to do something a little bit different than that. My rationale was, it’s a movie called “Psychopaths,” it’s got mass killers, so we’d better do something different than what people are expecting, or else we’re screwed.

TrunkSpace: Where do you see “Psychopaths” falling into the current horror climate?
Keating: It’s funny because for me, I love horror movies, but I don’t really keep my finger on the pulse of what’s new coming out, to an extent. I always feel like there’s a five to 10 year barrier of whether a movie will last or not. And so really, the effort that’s the most important to me was just to make something where if it comes out, God willing we finish the movie, hopefully it’ll last and people will be able to talk about it for longer than its theatrical runtime – to make something that sits in people’s minds. So it’s not necessarily the instantaneous reaction that I’m looking for. I want to make a movie that hopefully lasts, and sits in your head longer than you’re in the theater. That’s the effort that I put into it.

TrunkSpace: It does seem like that when horror is done right, it has a longer shelf life than a lot of other genres.
Keating: Absolutely. And so that’s what I really kind of tried to do – that process of looking at these movies that really inspire me. It’s like, “Why are we still talking about Dario Argento, or Mario Bava, or Takashi Miike?” Obviously Takashi Miike to a lesser extent because the guy makes 100 movies, but why are these movies from the ’60s, like Roger Corman’s “The Trip,” still important to me? That’s what I really wanted to try to step up and do.

TrunkSpace: When you go back and screen your films after completion, do you see different aspects that you didn’t pick up on the first or second or third time around? Does your own POV change?
Keating: Well, truthfully, I think, it’s hard for me to ever go back and watch my films. What I do, they’re very personal and they’re very kind of emotional in the sense where when we make a movie, we pour literally everything that I love about movies or that I want to say at that time, into the film. And so, it’s really kind of hard for me to go back and watch them, because I’m like, “Oh, well this is what I was feeling at this point in my life, when I got to make these films.” So, do I find new things? Maybe I do, but there’s a little bit longer of a barrier that I…

I’ll answer that question in five years, I think. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, a film is the memorable part, but for a filmmaker, because it’s such a long process that you put all of yourself into, the experience must be such a meaningful part of the equation?
Keating: Absolutely. And you know, it’s kind of hard to not be able to see your fingerprints on the statue or the sculpture. My sensibility, too, is like, once the movie is done, it belongs to the world. And so, I’m always interested in hearing what people’s perception of my movies are, because that might not have been a way that I think about it. But an answer is always right and an individual interpretation of a piece of art is right. And that’s very exciting, even if that’s not the initial intention.

TrunkSpace: At this point in your career, you’ve yet to direct anything that you haven’t also written. Do you see a time for yourself where you’ll step behind the camera and direct a project that you didn’t pen?
Keating: I think never say never. There are a lot of films and filmmakers that I love that don’t write their own movies, but right now, I really just do love being able to have that freedom that I’m not going to infuriate the writer if we decide to improvise on the set, because I know him pretty well. (Laughter) That’s the process that I always want to be able to have. A film is a very organic process, and to shape it from day to day, you should have a plan, but always be willing to embrace the improvisation and the spontaneity, to an extent. And so, I don’t want to infuriate a writer who is very close to their script.

Psychopaths” is available on digital home entertainment January 2.

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Chilling Out

Larry Fessenden

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Chilling Out is where TrunkSpace talks all things horror and genre with those who work in the projects that give us the thrills and chills to keep coming back for more. This time out we’re chatting with horror icon Larry Fessenden, actor and CEO of Glass Eye Pix, whose latest film, “Psychopaths,” arrives on digital home entertainment January 2.

We recently sat down with Fessenden to discuss his creative simpatico with director Mickey Keating, why he loves working in genre films, and how he became an unexpected legend to fans of horror filmmaking.

TrunkSpace: In addition to acting in “Psychopaths,” you also served as executive producer. Could you see director Mickey Keating’s vision for the film when you first read it?
Fessenden: Well, I’ve known Mickey for some years now. He was an intern at my company, Glass Eye Pix. He was always just a real film enthusiast. I liked his early films, so we’ve been talking about movies for a long time together. Then he made a film specifically for us, called “Darling,” which I produced also with Jenn Wexler, who was on “Psychopaths.” He’s a real cinephile, so it’s fun. We talk about movies, in terms of old ’70s artists like Altman. So I could see “Psychopaths” pretty much in my mind once I was reading the script. It clearly is a mosaic of images, and appalling situations. It’s still impressive what Mickey and his crew can do for very little money. It looks like a really classy, beautifully lit film, with a lot of cool long takes, and other things that you associate with bigger budgets. So it’s always exciting to see what he’s up to. He’s always going to try to get a little bit of a different vibe. Mickey is a visualist, so you’re going to get something cinematic out of him.

TrunkSpace: Because you guys have worked together numerous times over the years, does that mean you sync up creatively?
Fessenden: It’s a friendship. We still argue about things, and that’s fun too. He’s truly an insatiable filmmaker. There’s always going to be something there that is compelling, visually or aesthetically. In that regard, we’re aligned in that I really look forward to his creative choices. As I’ve often said, his editor, Val (Krulfeifer), is very important to his process. Even after the film is shot, and you get a version of it, the work hasn’t been finished. There’s going to be a lot of jostling about the edit. Then comes sounds. Any filmmaker knows that sound is as vital as the picture, in a weird way.

TrunkSpace: Especially in the horror and thriller genres. It sets the table and heightens the emotional experience.
Fessenden: Absolutely, and this is something he is really, really masterful at. It’s fun to see his choices. He uses a lot of music. He uses really interesting music, and that’s one approach. Then there’s sound effect choices. As I’m talking about the movie, I’m always sort of picturing different scenes, like I’m running it fast on the screen of my mind. Once again, that’s really where my affection for the movie lies, is in the visuals.

TrunkSpace: Does both producing and acting in one of Mickey’s films go hand in hand?
Fessenden: Well, I’ve actually acted in every one of Mickey’s movies. Even when I didn’t show up on set, I did a voice in “Ritual.” I did the phone call. It’s just sort of a tradition. We’ll see how long we keep it up. But more importantly, he came to me as a producing arm. We had other producers, and guys who put the money in, but he likes to work with Glass Eye, because Jenn Wexler, who works with me, is really great – boots on the ground. She came out to LA and got things cooking. Then I think Mickey is loyal to Glass Eye, and likes to be under our banner, because we try to make cool, unexpected, indie horror movies. So we’ve had a nice association. We did a movie called “Darling,” which was quite different, just a single character, black and white, but also, another stylish, bold move in his little canon of films.

TrunkSpace: Is it important to you for Glass Eye to remain producing stuff within the genre brand, but at the same time, being diverse in the storytelling aspect, because your company seems to take chances that others would not?
Fessenden: I appreciate that. One of my talking points is that horror is an amazing, big tent. My least favorite is horror comedy, but we’ve done one that’s very charming called “I Sell the Dead” that’s about grave robbers in the 18th century. We’ve done robot movies. We’ve done movies like “The House of the Devil.” So I do love the diversity of tones, and styles, and even sort of degrees of pulpiness that horror can afford. We don’t only make horror movies, but when we do, we like to push the envelope. I sort of contrast it to everybody’s favorite producer, Jason Blum, who has always kept this single house routine going. We prefer to do different things. Even at a low budget, you can be very creative, and that’s the idea.

TrunkSpace: And there’s so many sub-genres within the horror genre. As far as a creative palette, there’s so much to paint with.
Fessenden: Yeah, it’s fantastic. My own films are not very violent, but Mickey gets pretty nasty in his stuff, and both of those exist. Horror is also about dread, and some of the deeper horror of self betrayal, and all of that. Horror is also about being arbitrarily chosen to be serial killed. Both are the dark parts of the human condition, so it’s fun to explore them all. Also, the horror comedy that interests me is the one that’s really just about the absurdity of life, and kind of almost a satire aspect. So yeah, it’s a big tent.

TrunkSpace: You’ve become a horror icon to genre fans. Do you view yourself that way and was it an active role that you sought out, or did fate step in and put you on that path?
Fessenden: Well, it’s funny. Fate had a huge amount to do with it. I have mentored filmmakers, and I think that’s where it all came from. But I remember when this icon status started… I felt I was very young. I’d only made three or four horror movies, and they weren’t big successes. They were sort of singular. I will take that credit – they’re specific to me, and no one else would make a movie like “Wendigo.” (Laughter) But then as I started supporting Ti West, and Graham Reznick, and Jim Mickle, and a lot of strange films like “Automatons” by James McKenney… I don’t know how it happened. I don’t mind playing that role, but it is funny how you get these buzzwords associated with you.

TrunkSpace: Do you think part of it is having an eye and taste for the types of films that genre fans enjoy?
Fessenden: I think so. Although, I would argue that all of us in the Glass Eye orbit are a little bit pegged as a slow burn, which is sort of a way of saying, not entirely commercial. It’s not the actual jugular of horror. It’s that, maybe, we have consistently found good directors. I do think that’s the case. As I say, Ti, Mickle, and some of these guys have made many classics, and that cements the reputation. Also, we’ve been at it a long time. We consistently have something every couple of years, something that really does elevate the genre. We just put out a movie called “Most Beautiful Island” and that’s an unexpected horror. You won’t assume there would be horror in it, mind you, because it’s actually subtle. But it’s cool to assert that the genre can have artistry, and control over tone, and seriousness.

And then what’s funnest to do is a Mickey movie, because that speaks maybe more directly to certain genre fans, but not everybody. I don’t know. Look, I believe in making stuff that is unique to the directors. Mickey is making films that are very much personal to him.

Fessenden and Dominic Monaghan in “I Sell the Dead”

TrunkSpace: Has the various streaming platforms extended the shelf life of the films that you’re making and have they positively impacted the business side of what you do?
Fessenden: No. In fact, it’s frustrating, because you don’t actually see those numbers. In the old days, you’d sell your movie to a humble DVD company, and they’d give you some money for it. I made movies for 30 grand, and sold them for 60 grand. I think we have the illusion that streaming is sort of making movies accessible, but most movies can fall off the radar pretty fast and then they’re gone forever. There’s not even a video box lying in someone’s garage. So I don’t romanticize the streaming, quite honestly. Of course, it’s lovely to tell your kid, “Oh hey, let’s watch a movie tonight, and you just find one.” I don’t know, I don’t find the streaming particularly charming, to be honest.

TrunkSpace: With all of these various hats you wear on film sets, do you view them all as separate careers, or do they all fall under one bigger umbrella?
Fessenden: I appreciate the question. I mean, I have an approach to the arts… I play the saxophone pretty badly, but I always laugh that those solos have a certain vibe, not unlike my acting. Or the way I like to approach storytelling, and how I like to encourage other artists. I feel like it’s all coming from one voice. I really am master of none, no particular trade, but have my hands in all of them a little bit. So that’s all I can offer, is something unique to myself, and hope it sort of makes sense.

Psychopaths” is available on digital home entertainment January 2.

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