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March 2018

Wingman Wednesday

Steven R. McQueen

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In this high speed information age, things are getting thrown at us fast and furiously every minute of every hour of every day. To calibrate, TrunkSpace is introducing a subsection of our popular Wingman/Wingwoman Wednesday column where instead of taking our usual in-depth approach, we’re sitting down for a speed round with the individuals who pleasantly pop our pop culture bubbles.

This time out we’re going chatting with Steven R. McQueen who has dipped his toe in the Hallmark Channel water, starring in the latest original movie from the network, “Home by Spring,” which premieres Saturday at 9 pm ET/PT.

TrunkSpace: This is a Wingman Wednesday: Lightning Round, so let’s dive right in. “Home by Spring” is your first time working with Hallmark Channel. What did you take from the experience?
McQueen: Hallmark Channel makes great movies about romance, and then it just seemed like a great opportunity. It was fun.

TrunkSpace: You’ve done lots of television, including almost a decade on “The Vampire Diaries.” TV works quickly, but these movies move even quicker. Did that force you to change up your own approach at all?
McQueen: No. I’m pretty used to a TV schedule so everything is fast paced and a quick turnaround, which is nice ’cause you can see it a little quicker. Yeah, it was all in all a lot of fun.

TrunkSpace: In the movie there is a lot of history between your character Wayne, and Poppy Drayton’s character Loretta. Did you guys have time to prepare and work out what that relationship looked like before stepping on set?
McQueen: Yeah, we had rehearsals. We rehearsed a little bit together and then with location and this and that, little things changed on the day, but we definitely had a rehearsal process.

TrunkSpace: With the characters having that history together, do you think that sort of enabled you and Poppy to play up different elements of the relationship that perhaps people aren’t used to seeing in a movie like this?
McQueen: I mean, the story is about love lost and love found again. We definitely have our moments going at each other.

TrunkSpace: Was there something kind of cool or different with Wayne as a character that you were excited to play and get to inhabit that perhaps you haven’t had an opportunity to tackle in the past?
McQueen: Just kind of location and circumstance but other than that, not really.

TrunkSpace: We know you come from a family who has a rich history of working in the industry, including your grandfather Steve McQueen. Was a career as an actor kind of ingrained in you? Did it almost feel like it was a choice driven by genetics?
McQueen: I’ve been lucky enough to work for the last 12 years and the nice thing about having my grandfather is it’s been cool in the sense that I kind of have a blueprint of roles that I would at least aspire to try to do. At some point I have to play a police officer, a bank robber, and at some point, do a Western. Will that come to fruition? I guess we’ll see.

TrunkSpace: Do you think sort of having the family history, having an insider’s look at how things operate, better prepared you for just how the industry works?
McQueen: I don’t know if anything can prepare you for how the industry works. (Laughter) But yeah, it definitely opened a couple doors. I can’t complain about that.

TrunkSpace: Why do you think Hallmark Channel movies continue to bring in audiences and that the network as a whole has seen growth while others have seen their viewership decline?
McQueen: You know, I think it’s always nice to have stories about love with resolution at the end. Hallmark seems to corner that pretty well.

Photo: Poppy Drayton, Steven R. McQueen Credit: Copyright 2018 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Bonnie Marquette

TrunkSpace: And there tends to be a theme involved that everyone can relate to, whether its love, or loss, or both.
McQueen: Yeah, I agree. Things seem to work out the way they’re supposed to.

TrunkSpace: And honestly, there’s something nice about a happy ending, because nowadays, so many shows and movies take a different approach.
McQueen: Yeah, exactly. I think we all hope for happy endings, right?

TrunkSpace: In terms of things moving forward, are there a particular set of goals that you have for yourself, not only short term, but long term as well?
McQueen: It’s just, I like to work. As long as I get to keep working, then I’m happy.

TrunkSpace: Do you see yourself venturing behind the camera at all?
McQueen: Yeah. The chance to direct would be incredible for sure. I guess that’s one of those things you gotta wait and see what opportunities present themselves.

The latest opportunity presenting itself, “Home by Spring,” premieres Saturday at 9 pm ET/PT.

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Trunk Gaming

Good Pizza, Great Pizza

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Game: Good Pizza, Great Pizza

Initial Release Date: December 2014 (Newly refurbished with updates in 2018)

Publisher: Tapblaze

Genre: Pizza Business Simulator

Platforms: Mobile Devices

Why We’re Playing It: While “Good Pizza, Great Pizza” has been out since 2014, it has recently undergone some massive updates that have breathed fresh life into this game. In fact, they even have a “NEW” banner slapped across the app button to let you know this is not last week’s leftover pizza.

What’s It’s All About?: You’re an ambitious culinary entrepreneur who decided to open their very own pizza shop directly across from another pizza place with a pun-dropping jerk for an owner. Each day is a new day, and he stops by to challenge you to up your pizza game. You see a variety of customers, and they aren’t all clear on exactly what they want, so you have to decide if you want to inquire further or just start slinging dough and hope it’s right. At the end of the day, you tally up your profits and decide how to reinvest in your pizza shop.

That’s Worth A Power-Up!: As pop culture art connoisseurs, we found the artistic style behind this game really gorgeous with a brilliant color scheme and uniquely drawn characters.

Bonus Level: This game is rated 4+ and has “family sharing” enabled. “Good Pizza, Great Pizza” is truly a game that all ages can enjoy, and the little ones stand to learn a lot about running a business and customer service while also having fun.

And that’s why this game is a certified quarter muncher!

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Chef Life

Chef Jason Barr

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Jason Barr
Sous Chef, Hard Rock Casino Tulsa
T: @ChefJasonBarr

Food and rock go hand in hand. You would be hard-pressed to find a kitchen that did not have music blasting in order to help the staff power through a dinner service. For this edition of “Chef Life” we were able to track down Chef Jason Barr, who just so happens to work at a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, which is known for not only its live concerts, but fine dining as well. So grab a knife and fork and dig into this hearty feature about what it’s like cooking for Michael Rooker (aka Yondu and Merle Dixon), how to roll with the gastronomical punches, and why you should strive to always cook like a grandma.

 

TrunkSpace: When and why did you start cooking and who has been the biggest influence in your life with regards to your culinary journey?
Chef Barr: Three years old! True story. My grandma found me one morning standing on a bar stool getting ready to fix eggs and bacon for breakfast. I had a lot of heroes growing up watching Food Network. Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali, the Two Fat Ladies. I used to watch shows about cooking food and then try to mimic it when I was young. My mother was a good inspiration to get me to cook professionally. She got me my first Betty Crocker cook book when I graduated high school and she said, “Learn to cook and you’ll never eat alone.” I still have that book in my office.

TrunkSpace: What style of cuisine do you enjoy creating the most and why? And what would you consider your signature dish?
Chef Barr: I always aspire to be a great saucier. I have an infatuation with sauces. When it comes to preparing full meals, I’d have to say Latin or Italian cuisine. We eat a lot of tacos at my house. Working in a busy kitchen, I learned that you can put almost anything on a tortilla. My signature dish would have to be chicken alfredo. I make an alfredo sauce that is so velvety smooth it will make your heart flutter.

TrunkSpace: It’s been said that food is the gateway into a culture, that it identifies a history, family and a region. What do you feel your food says about your culture and history?
Chef Barr: Coming from Oklahoma, it’s important to learn how to “cook like grandma.” The easiest way to make someone happy is through their stomach. That’s why I do what I do, I like making people happy. When I was a kid we used to have family cookouts every Sunday, then we would gather around the table and play cards. Everyone loves to eat good food. I have a saying in my home that goes like this…

“The three requirements for the best meals are – good food, good drink, good company.”

TrunkSpace: Every cook and/or chef has a really bad service, and it haunts them, but they grow and learn from it. Do you have a worst service memory that keeps you up at night? And how did it change you as a chef?
Chef Barr: Oh man, Tuesdays… Each week the Hard Rock Buffet has a promo that is called “Two for Tuesdays” – it’s a buy one/get one deal we do every week. We have perfected it after many failures, but imagine the most brutally busy flow of business for five hours straight, every week. That’s my Tuesdays. I have a motto I tell my guys. “We know it’s going to suck, but it’s our job to make it suck less.”

Teaching people how to work smarter, not harder is what I’m good at.

TrunkSpace: On the flipside of that, do you have a particular memory of your best service or a moment in your career that really stood out and has stuck with you?
Chef Barr: 2016, the week before Valentine’s Day, the steakhouse chef had to go out on surgery, so it was MY show. I literally had less than a week to finish writing the Valentine’s Day menu, get the food ordered, prepped and executed flawlessly. Not to mention training everyone how to do it. This same week we also had a special wine dinner for a VIP event. So, I had to do a menu of amuse-bouche style items to pair with four different types of wines we were featuring to a large group of people. Luckily, I kept a level head and did not panic. I had been working in fine dining for three years at this point so I at least kind of knew what I was doing. I do remember at the end of that week I felt a HUGE sense of pride. Valentine’s, flawless. Wine dinner and tasting, flawless. AND we (me and my team) received a huge applause from the people that attended the event. That was the first time as a chef I had that happen.

TrunkSpace: Do you have a set path in mind for your career and where it’s going? Where do you see yourself 10 years down the road?
Chef Barr: Honestly? Not really. I went to business school, got an IT degree and I’ve always thought of myself as a teacher or scientist. I became a chef because I have always been drawn to the kitchen, sort of a “I was made for this” calling. I’d really love to just teach people how to cook and educate about “edible alchemy.” Ten years down the road I can see myself as a research chef. I love how “Culinology” blends science and art together, that is so me.

TrunkSpace: With the advancement of technology in the past years, food has also advanced in many ways. Has it changed the way you cook at all?
Chef Barr: Most of the chefs I have worked for exercised classic ways of cooking. One chef in particular said his style of cooking was based on simplicity. He learned from traveling around the world, so I trusted him. He wanted to be able to cook a dish using nothing but ingredients that the “man that lived in a hut in the middle of nowhere” would have access to. A ton of dishes we cooked together started with four simple ingredients; onion, garlic, salt and pepper. I love new technology and innovation, but old habits are so hard to break.

TrunkSpace: Molecular gastronomy… is it mad science or mad tasty? Do you feel it has a place in the culinary scene as entire dinner courses, or should it be used more in balance to further enhance traditional dishes?
Chef Barr: I love molecular gastronomy! I’ve always thought of kitchens as my laboratories and love how this “mad science” has taken off. Consumers are always looking for the newest, coolest, most exciting experience and some of the innovation I have seen is amazing. Messing with people’s senses is one thing I love to do. One time we messed up making some chocolate mousse, and it looked a lot like ice cream. So, to joke around with the servers, we scooped it up like ice cream and put it in a serving dish and let it sit under the heat lamp. We called it “never melting ice cream.” Each time some of the servers would walk by the pass and look up at it they would have kind of a WTF look on their faces after a few trips.

TrunkSpace: Working at the Hard Rock, you must have had the chance to cook for some of the celebrities that have come through on tour. Is that nerve racking or intimidating? And do you have a favorite experience cooking for any of those celebs?
Chef Barr: It can be intimidating when you first start out – a lot of celebs want VERY specific food to eat. Most of them are easy going though. My favorite celeb would have to be Michael Rooker. He and his entourage came in for Wizard World Comic Con one year and came up to the steakhouse to eat a few times. They were some of the nicest people I had ever talked to and were very happy with each meal, and they let me know it! I must admit the first few times it made me nervous, but you just have to keep in mind that this is what you do every day.

TrunkSpace: If someone offered you a blank check to open your own restaurant, whether that would be a brick and mortar, food truck or gastropub, what would your vision be? Where would it be located and what type of food would you focus on?
Chef Barr: None of the above. (Well, maybe a food truck.) I would like to do a cooking show. Online like a YouTube channel, or maybe network eventually. I love to cook, but I’d really like to have more time for my daughters. I’m thinking along the lines of cooking/comedy show with dance breaks in between waiting periods.

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Trunk Stubs

Santa Clarita Diet

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Series: Santa Clarita Diet

Where To Watch: Netflix

Starring: Drew Barrymore, Timothy Olyphant, Liv Hewson and Skyler Gisondo

Creators: Victor Fresco

Reason We’re Watching It: Any series that can successfully take a horror story and put a comedic spin on it is always worth checking out in our books. “Santa Clarita Diet” is not just a zombie comedy. It’s really, at its core, a story about family and neighbors… and how to literally survive your relationship with the undead.

What It’s About: Sheila (Barrymore) and Joel (Olyphant) are two real estate agents living that perfect suburban life where the biggest worry is trying to come up with an excuse to NOT have dinner with the annoying neighbors. They soon gain a new perspective on things, though, when Sheila takes a turn for the undead. Now the couple and their daughter have to figure out how to keep the family together and keep Sheila fed so that she doesn’t eat those same pesky neighbors.

Whoah! Rewind That!: **SPOILERS IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN SEASON 2** This series is so great that each episode really has its own moment that you’re going to want to play over and over again. For us, a memorable one that had us both cringing and laughing hysterically is when Joel and Sheila invite Nazis to their storage locker in order to kill them for Sheila’s next meal. They reason that Nazis are bad people, and they shouldn’t feel bad for killing bad people, so…

Looks like they are still a loving family after all!

Watercooler-Worthy Tidbit: Drew Barrymore was about to leave acting to focus solely on business and spending more time with her family, but when she got the script for “Santa Clarita Diet” she could not pass it up.

And that’s why we’re giving it…

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Trunk Bubbles

Thomas Nachlik

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Name: Thomas Nachlik

Website: For my portfolio, here. For (almost) daily art snippets, here.

Favorite Comic Book Character Growing Up: All DC characters, but mostly Batman.

Favorite Comic Book Character Now: None. I rarely read comic books because of the main character, now almost exclusively because of the artist.

Latest Work: (Title/Publisher/Release Date) “The Beauty”/Image Comics/Ongoing.

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your art style?
Nachlik: Highly ADHD influenced digital, constantly flowing post realism.

TrunkSpace: How important were comic books in your life growing up and is that where you discovered your love and inspiration for drawing?
Nachlik: Extremely important. From the moment I got my hands on my first comic book I started drawing like a maniac. Luckily in Poland, where I spent the first 13 years of my life, comic books were extremely popular, and stylistically the local comic book scene wasn’t too far away from American mainstream. So after a friend gave me my first Batman book to read, I already felt at home.

TrunkSpace: Was there a particular artist or title from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
Nachlik: In the beginning, Polish titles and artists were my main inspiration, “Thorgal”/Rosińki to name one title/artist combo. Later, Jim Aparo and “Batman and the Outsiders.”

TrunkSpace: How did you decide to approach your career in comics? Did you formulate a plan of how you wanted to attack what is known for being a hard industry to crack?
Nachlik: Building up a strong portfolio and putting all my money and hopes into connecting with American comic book publishers and illustrators (I live in Germany now, btw) was my only one, and I think IS the most effective plan.

TrunkSpace: What was your biggest break in terms of a job that opened more doors for you?
Nachlik: Definitely visiting my first American con, Wizard World Chicago 2007. I met Filip Sablik, at this time the Top Cow marketing guy who is now publisher at BOOM! Studios. He liked my portfolio, and we both found out that we were born only a few miles away in the south of Poland. A few months later I got my first gig at Top Cow.

TrunkSpace: A lot of people say that breaking into comics is the hardest part of working in comics. How long did it take you before you started to see your comic book dreams become a reality?
Nachlik: Purely mathematically speaking, I started working on my first comic portfolio back in 1991 and got published for the first time in 2006/07, so roughly 15 years from the moment I started to actively pursue a career in comics, to a toe (definitely not foot) in the door. On the other hand, I don’t think I’m nearly at the point where all my comic book dreams have become reality, but drawing a series at Image is a gigantic step in the right direction.

TrunkSpace: Is there a particular character or universe you always find yourself returning to when you’re sketching or doing warm-ups?
Nachlik: It’s not a character or universe, it’s always “ink heavy” artists like John Paul Leon, Jae Lee or Tomm Cocker, to name a few, who I draw inspiration from when sketching. I’m rarely a fan of stories and characters – always a fan of art, style and storytelling.

TrunkSpace: Is there a specific title or character that you’d like to work on in the future and why?
Nachlik: I’d do whatever the opportunity throws at me. I consider myself a classic comic book illustrator, there’s nothing I wouldn’t like to draw or any particular genre/character I’d like to work on.

TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your career in comics? Where would you like your path to lead?
Nachlik: Spending my days drawing comic books is my ultimate dream, so I’m living my dream already.

TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength as an artist?
Nachlik: Handling criticism is number one, followed by improving constantly.

TrunkSpace: How has technology changed your process of putting ideas/script to page? Do you use the classic paper/pencil approach at all anymore?
Nachlik: 99.9 percent of my work is digital – the only pages I draw on paper are covers, maybe splash pages and nudity, because sex sells. (Laughter) For my backgrounds, I use high quality 3D models I mostly buy, but also build or rearrange from my extensive 3D model library. Producing fast while maintaining quality is the most important aspect of comic book illustration. Technology made my work faster and more accurate, allowing me to work 8 to 10 hours a day, instead of 12 to 14 hours. This being said, I still love sketching on paper, trying out new techniques, pens, brushes and markers.

TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring artist who is considering a career in the comic industry?
Nachlik: Draw from reality and develop your own style. Don’t become an artist, become an illustrator. Remember that speed is an important part of comic book illustration, which also is a business. In order to sell you have to please a crowd. Educate yourself constantly. Never give up.

TrunkSpace: Making appearances at conventions: Love it, leave it, or a combination of both?
Nachlik: 70 percent leave it, 30 percent a little bit of both. I don’t do well in crowds and I’m not a fan of live drawing. I’m practicing at my local Starbucks to draw in front of people without freaking out, but I’m not there yet. Connecting with fans and signing books, mostly at my home, is not a problem. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: What is the craziest/oddest thing you’ve ever been asked to draw as a commission?
Nachlik: No commission is crazy or odd.

TrunkSpace: What else can fans of your work look forward to in 2018?
Nachlik: More work on “The Beauty.” I’m finishing the fourth arc as we speak.

 

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Sit and Spin

Erika Wennerstrom

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Artist: Erika Wennerstrom

Album: “Sweet Unknown”

Label: Partisan Records

Reason We’re Cranking It: With thought-provoking lyrics that resonate with both past and present versions of ourselves, Wennerstrom ventures away from the band atmosphere of Heartless Bastards and spreads her creative wings, only to wrap them around the listener in an embrace of mutual understanding.

What The Album Tells Us About Her: With a captivating voice that is classically modern, Wennerstrom has created one of the most noteworthy going solo ventures in recent memory. While “Sweet Unknown” is clearly a collection of songs, they could just as easily be viewed as an assemblage of mantras. Mental health through music is a concept that has helped many of us over the years and Wennerstrom has written a prescription to weather future storms.

Track Stuck On Repeat: By title alone, “Be Good To Yourself” is a reminder to all of us that sometimes we need to step back from the chaos of life and, at least reasonably so, be selfish. Comforting in both message and mechanism, it’s a cradle for the adult mind that longs to be held like a baby and reminded that, just this once, everything’s going to be okay.

Coming To A City Near You: Erika Wennerstrom tour dates can be found here.

And that means…

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Wingman Wednesday

Lily Ji

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Photo By: Luky Chen

A talented newcomer who could also whoop your butt, Lily Ji is about to make her presence known as she is set to go toe-to-talon with building-sized monsters in “Pacific Rim: Uprising.” As one of the newly-minted cadets tasked with saving humanity by way of giant robots called Jaegers, the Beijing-based actress hopes that the size and scope of the movie (never mind the CGI creatures) will lead to more on-screen opportunities both here in the States and abroad.

We recently sat down with Ji to discuss her excitement for the film, the need to tap into her imagination while shooting against green screens, and how her background in various forms of martial arts helps her career in multiple ways.

TrunkSpace: “Pacific Rum: Uprising” is a big movie with mass international appeal. Is it difficult to not feel overwhelmed as you gear up towards the release?
Ji: I’ve been just feeling so excited since day one until now. So very excited, that’s for sure.

TrunkSpace: Does the idea that the film is expected to do so well in so many different markets increase that excitement?
Ji: Yeah, absolutely. I remember the first one did really well in China and then I was like, “Wow!” And I got to work on the second one and it’s like, “Great!” It’s so funny, I remember a few months ago I actually ran into the triplets from the first one in Beijing. They were the cadets and now I’m the new generation. It’s like, “Wow, what a connection.”

TrunkSpace: Nowadays it seems that everything getting made is based on something else, but it’s kind of nice that “Pacific Rim” is marching to the beat of its own world/universe.
Ji: Oh yeah, absolutely. Which is really fun and exciting to work on, because as Marvel and all that, it’s already existing and been made so many times, but this one is a brand new world and it’s so much to explore. And then especially when we’re creating our own characters and we get to really put in a lot of personal stuff and personal understanding, which is really cool to do, on the creative side.

TrunkSpace: Obviously there’s a lot of green screen work in a film like this. As an actor does that require you to put more faith in your director because they’re not only taking you through the scene but, again, they’re helping to paint a picture of that world for you, right?
Ji: Yeah, absolutely. It’s just really practicing your concentration and definitely imagination, for sure. And luckily Steven (DeKnight) was always like, “Okay, just imagine over there, a Kaiju, and here’s how tall it would be, roughly,” and then you just have to use your imagination the whole time. There’s this one scene, four cadets – four of us – and half of the set actually was green screen and I was like, “Oh my God, it’s so hard to imagine.” But then, the other half was ready, so you kind of just copy that set into the other one and it’s like, “Okay, the whole thing is the same,” which is really fun to do. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Does that concentration also come into play when you’re trying to remain in the scene and work with those green scenes, because it must be difficult to not fall out of the moment at times?
Ji: Absolutely, especially when we’re adding action and stuff. That’s actually extra little work, and you have to remember your lines of course, and then the movements, and then when to do this and then when to punch that, and then also remember, don’t block your light and the position, this spot and that spot. It’s like, “Oh my god, what’s going on?” (Laughter)

Lily Ji as Cadet Meilin in “Pacific Rim: Uprising”

TrunkSpace: A film like “Pacific Rim: Uprising” takes so long to make, especially in post-production when all of the effects are added. Is it odd for you to sort of be back into it now and talking about the film again after being away from it for so long?
Ji: No, actually, I think all the memories and experiences still feel like… they’re recently new for me. I guess just because it’s such a great project and it’s probably the first very big project for me, personally, I feel like, wow, it’s just so amazing. And we took like half a year to shoot, and we basically spent that half year, every day together. We train together – the cadets – we eat together, we do whatever, all together, kind of like we were doing military life together for half a year. And then the past year for post-production we still chat occasionally. We still follow each other’s stories and everything. I just feel like we never really have been apart, so part of that big family and the memory is still there.

TrunkSpace: Because it’s such a big movie, do you feel like it’s a career game changer?
Ji: Yeah, for sure, because my profile was generally in China before. Even though I was in some Hollywood productions before, the characters… the size of it… it’s just not very helpful, of course, until this one. And finally, with all the publicity… there’s only two Chinese cadets in the whole group and it’s really good for us to get seen and also to showcase our talent, our skills – like bilingual skills – and for me, an action side as well. I’ve been training for martial arts, MMA, all those, and definitely, action is one of the jobs I’ll keep doing.

It’s definitely a great opportunity to be seen by the industry here and internationally too. It will be a big step.

TrunkSpace: Having a background in martial arts must be a great asset to have as an actor because it opens doors for you that wouldn’t be available otherwise. You get to step into the action roles that just might not work for people who don’t have that skill set.
Ji: Yeah, for sure. I think age-wise, this age group, we’re already like new blood. MMA, boxing, martial arts, tai chi – all those kinds of stuff will definitely help me for sure. And I think, even if it’s sci-fi, where there are big productions – the superhero stuff – they also require action stuff. And actors or actresses still need to train. No matter what genre, definitely, something always will help. And also, it helps me to stay in shape. (Laughter)

Pacific Rim: Uprising” opens today.

Featured image by: Luky Chen

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Sit and Spin

The Goddamn Gallows’ The Trial

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Artist: The Goddamn Gallows

Album: “The Trial”

Label: Sailor’s Grave Records

Reason We’re Cranking It: A good album is able to transport you to an entirely different realm or place in your mind, and “The Trial” does exactly that. Combining bluegrass, heavy metal guitar riffs, gruff-voiced vocals and a haunting (yet catchy!) organ sound, The Goddamn Gallows ships you off to somewhere unforgettable and otherworldly.

What The Album Tells Us About Them: “The Trial” is a wild and imaginative ride that displays The Goddamn Gallows’ ability to not only rock a banjo but put together a sound that is something entirely its own. If this album were a soundtrack to a movie, it would probably be an R-rated version of “Pirates of the Caribbean” directed by Rob Zombie!

Track Stuck On Repeat: “Shitwish”… now, hold on. Don’t judge a track by its title, though you have to admit, it’s original! This song has such a great hook in the melody that it’s impossible to not get this one stuck in your melon. We’ve never headbanged to organ music before, so to that we say, thank you “Shitwish” for showing us a good time first time!

Coming To A City Near You: The Goddamn Gallows tour dates can be found here.

And that means…

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Wingman Wednesday

Nick E. Tarabay

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Photo By: Amanda Ramón/ Grooming By: Crystal Tran/ Styling By: Brandon Nicholas

From ancient Rome to the far reaches of space, Nick E. Tarabay has built a career on visiting fictional worlds that would make imaginative 10-year olds salivate. Hell, our inner kid is jumping up and down in excitement over his latest project, “Pacific Rim: Uprising,” because that’s what happens when you tell grown men that they get to watch giant monsters fight giant robots. Add the actor who plays Captain Boomerang into the mix and you pretty much just ransacked our childhood and brought one of our action packed action figure play sessions to life. Bravo to you!

We recently sat down with Tarabay to discuss how “Pacific Rim: Uprising” exceeded his own expectations, the feeling you’ll get when you leave the theater, and what fans of “The Expanse” can expect headed into Season 3.

 

TrunkSpace: This has got to be an exciting week for you. You just had the “Pacific Rim: Uprising” premiere the other night. How did that go?
Tarabay: Dude, it was fucking awesome is what it was.

TrunkSpace: When you’re shooting a movie like that, you must have your own idea of how the visuals will look in your mind. Did they live up to what you were expecting?
Tarabay: To be honest with you, and then some. Look, I’m old-school. I grew up watching movies before all the special effects and all the stuff, so when I see it now, it’s mind-blowing. It’s like, “How did they do that?” You see these robots, all CGI, but they’re characters. It’s amazing. I can’t even describe it. It’s amazing. So good. I was blown away.

TrunkSpace: And with this franchise in particular, what they did with the effects… the colors just pop right off of the screen.
Tarabay: Yeah, they were crazy. I was looking like, “Holy shit!”

TrunkSpace: “Pacific Rim” has such wide-reaching, international appeal. Does promoting it feel different because of that worldwide reach?
Tarabay: Absolutely, man. It’s great, because you don’t even have to speak English to like it. It’s such a beautiful, entertaining movie, and it’s got a lot of punchlines, and it’s got a lot of comedy as well in it. The action is just badass. You’re gonna love it. I mean, anybody will see it and be like, “Wow, that was fun.” As much as I love Oscar-winning movies and drama and all this stuff, I also love a good, entertaining movie. There’s nothing wrong with that. You go there and you just have fun, and your imagination gets to play, and you feel like a kid again. It’s beautiful. Just beautiful.

TrunkSpace: And in a day and age where, as a society, we’re so divided, it’s kind of nice to go see a movie where humanity is having to come together for the better good.
Tarabay: Absolutely! And also, it’s a diverse cast as well, which I’m for, through and through. I’m loving that Hollywood is on board with it now. It just shows you that, why not? What was the fear before from having a diverse cast? Me especially, coming from a different background, I appreciate it even more, because I think there’s a lot of talent out there, and a lot of gems out there, that just need an opportunity, just like me. Just give me the opportunity, and I will raise up to it and then some.

TrunkSpace: And the beauty in that is, a kid somewhere who doesn’t feel represented will see something of himself in the diverse cast and maybe feel inspired to chase his own dreams.
Tarabay: Absolutely. You hit it on the nail. I mean, look, I grew up in a culture, unfortunately, especially in my time, where nobody takes it seriously. It’s like, “Alright, get a real job, and then do the acting on the side as a hobby.” But who’s anybody to tell anyone else that this is not good enough? And to me, that hits on an artistic and a personal level. We were created in a way that we’re all artistic in one way or another, so for us not to fully realize that or acknowledge it, and by God have the support, it’s such a sad thing. And when I see that, when I see that onscreen, I’ll tell you, I’m lucky and I’m very old-school, because to me, that’s what I love about art. When it’s good, you don’t see diversity, you don’t see color, you don’t see culture. You just see something that brings everybody together.

TrunkSpace: And everyone might see or find something different in it, and yet they’re still bonded together collectively by that piece of art.
Tarabay: 100 percent! It has all these elements and then some, and it’s just… it’s good old fun. Just good old fun.

TrunkSpace: As an actor, do you have a different relationship with the work when there’s a very good chance that the audience is coming out to see the monsters and robots? Does your perspective of what goes into it, and what you take from it, from your side of things change?
Tarabay: Oh, not at all, dude. I loved it. I saw the first movie, and I was a fan. I think it’s just fun. I loved it. Doesn’t bother me at all. It’s not like I was, “Oh, I wish there was more of me or more of him or more of her than there is,” because let’s face it, I think the number one actor, the number one cast in this are the jaegers and the monsters. That’s the number one actor in the show, and then we come afterward. (Laughter) That’s my opinion. Some people might disagree with me, but I think that’s what it is. People wanna see those big monsters fight, and obviously the drama is gonna feed into it and that makes it even more delicious, but let’s face it, I wanna see those monsters kick ass and see what they do, so it’s all good, man.

TrunkSpace: In terms of your character Sonny, can you give us a sense of what his journey is without giving too much away?
Tarabay: Sonny is an edgy guy who wants what he wants. He’s a rough dude, and he tussles a little bit with John Boyega. It’s just fun, dude. I watched myself onscreen and, you know, in acting we tend to always look when we see ourselves on the screen like, “Oh, I could have done this better, could have done this better,” or whatever. I looked at it and I was like, “That was perfect.” I loved it. I loved me in it. (Laughter) And I think the audience will, too.

And hopefully in the third movie, you’ll see more of him.

Photo By: Amanda Ramón/ Grooming By: Crystal Tran/ Styling By: Brandon Nicholas

TrunkSpace: Is it difficult promoting a project in this spoiler alert age and worrying about what you can and cannot say leading up to a launch date?
Tarabay: Yes and no, I guess. It all depends. I have a couple of other projects that I’m working on that I cannot say anything about, and I’m dying to tell. When people ask, I’m like, “Yeah, I’m working on something, I just can’t tell you what it is!” And I mean, I get it. Look, as artistic as it is, it’s also a business, and I can see why the studios and the production houses are saying, “Let’s keep it so the audience will be enticed more and they wanna see it more and spend more money,” and all this stuff. It’s also advertisements. We love what we can’t have. We want it all, what we cannot and what we don’t know. So it’s all part of the advertising. If I tell you, “Hey, there’s a big movie coming up, it’s gonna be spectacular, and I’m in it,” now you’re really curious. If I tell you what the movie’s all about, now you might be like, “Yeah, I’m not sure if this is my genre,” or, “I’m not sure if this is it,” or, “I’m not sure if I like this,” and right away you’re out. But if I leave you in the dark a little bit, now you wanna know, and now you wanna go see it, and now you investigate more. So it makes sense.

TrunkSpace: The breadcrumbs that lead us into the theater!
Tarabay: Absolutely, man! But in this case, you’re not gonna regret it. You’re gonna go there, you’re gonna watch a movie, you’re gonna leave feeling good.

TrunkSpace: You’re no stranger to characters and worlds that have big, passionate fan bases, from “The Expanse” to Captain Boomerang in “Arrow,” and even “Longmire.” Was that by design or has it been luck that you’ve landed in these projects that have such passionate fandoms?
Tarabay: You know, it’s a little bit of both. I think luck has a lot to do with it, obviously, but also hard work and having the right people around. Look, if you work, if you keep that dream of yours alive every day… which is probably one of the hardest things to do – just keeping it alive through the ups and the downs that we go through, especially as an actor  ’cause most actors, we have more down than up, and more down time than the times that we’re working. For example, for me I always go back and do theater, just to keep that instrument sharp, to keep that dream alive, to have that faith going to stay positive. I think that plays a big part into bringing these elements into your path. And also, obviously having the right people around you – from agent, manager, publicist – that help you realize that dream, also plays a part of it. But I think luck has something to do with it as well. And then obviously you have to deliver once you get it, so I’ve been lucky enough that a lot of the jobs that I’ve been getting have been through relationships that I’ve made, like Captain Boomerang was a straight offer because the showrunner, Marc Guggenheim, such a wonderful man, I’ve auditioned for him a couple times a year, and he liked my work, so he gave me the role. And there’s a show that I’m doing, “Taken,” now, which came out of nowhere, and it was the showrunner from “Person of Interest” that offered me the role, just straightaway. So, good people like that are all around, and good work, I think, it is appreciated. I’ve been lucky. Even “Spartacus,” I did with Steven DeKnight, and now Steven DeKnight is directing this, so if you’re having these kinds of relationships, delivering, and having the right people, it all plays a big part of it.

I think the hardest part is this: trying to stay positive throughout the whole journey. That’s the hardest part of it all, trying to stay positive, trying to stay sharp, trying to stay focused.

TrunkSpace: We know that the latest season of “The Expanse” kicks off in a few weeks. What are you most excited for in terms of your character’s journey in Season 3?
Tarabay: Oh, dude! I don’t know what happened in Season 3, they just… it’s way bigger! It’s just way bigger! The first episode is so grand, it’s gonna feel like a finale. It’s so big, and there’s so many things going on, and you’re like, “Wow, what just happened?”

Pacific Rim: Uprising” opens today.

Season 3 of “The Expanse” kicks off April 11 on SyFy.

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Wingman Wednesday

Joshua Leonard

JoshuaLeonardFeautured

Joshua Leonard is no stranger to innovative films. As one of the stars of the original “The Blair Witch Project,” the Texas native had a hand in revolutionizing not only how people make movies, but how they market them. Now, nearly 20 years later, he’s at it again, portraying a can’t-take-no-for-an-answer stalker in Steven Soderbergh’s new thriller “Unsane,” which was shot almost entirely on the iPhone 7 Plus.

Although the process of how the movie was made is an interesting story, it’s not nearly as compelling as the movie itself, which follows a preyed upon woman named Sawyer (Claire Foy) who is involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital and soon discovers that she is now locked inside with the man who has been tormenting her. Leonard shines as the obsessed suitor David Strine, straddling the line between sympathetic shut-in and frightening madman. It’s the kind of performance that stays with you well after you leave the theater, which is unsettling given the character’s motivation. (Is he following us?)

We recently sat down with Leonard to discuss how little the iPhone aspect plays into the experience of watching the film, why he needed to step away from the character when not in scene, and how inhabiting a successful “bad guy” means not portraying him as one.

(And just in case we spoiled any alerts in our chat… SPOILER ALERT WARNING!)

TrunkSpace: We caught the movie earlier this week and really enjoyed it. Our hope now is that how the film was made does not overshadow the film itself.
Leonard: I hope not as well. It seems to me that the only reason that we’re discussing it is because it’s still a bit of a novelty that a big director made a film on an iPhone. I think aesthetically, if nobody told you, you’d see it in the theater and you’d go, “This is weird… this is interesting,” but it wouldn’t call that much attention to itself after a couple of minutes.

TrunkSpace: The real novelty is that it was an hour and a half, which nowadays, is a throwback!
Leonard: I’m a big believer in the 75 to 95 minute movie unless you’ve got big historical things to say. I think we’ve got enough unconscious knowledge as a filmmaking audience that we can make quicker movies and get more out of them. I was watching that Netflix series, “The End of the F***ing World,” and just thinking how much story they’re telling in these 17 to 18 minute episodes, and wondering to myself if that was because they were just really good at telling a story in an efficient manner, or whether they’re just playing on our collective knowledge of storytelling and that there’s no need to add some of the shoe leather that there probably was 20 years ago – because we know what that shoe leather is without even thinking about it.

TrunkSpace: And a movie like “Unsane” takes a similar approach where, in many ways, the performers are telling the story through their performance. There’s no need for anything else.
Leonard: The one thing I will say about the iPhone is, as a performer, it’s such a fun way to make a movie because you really do feel like the scene work itself is the focus. Real estate-wise the camera takes up so much less space in the room that the self-consciousness drops away and you feel like you have the space to play with your scene partner because it’s smaller and it’s really just about the moment. There’s very little time between setups so you spend more time making the movie than waiting to make the movie, which is often the case.

TrunkSpace: How did you handle the off-screen relationship between yourself and costar Claire Foy because, with so much tension between the two of you in the movie itself, did you have to maintain your distance when you weren’t rolling in order to stay in that David Strine mindset?
Leonard: God, no. I would never want to stay in the David mindset apart from what I’m professionally obliged to. (Laughter) Look, method actors throughout history would disagree with me, but to me what’s so important in a film like this where there is real threat, and real danger, and real animosity and stunt work between us – between the characters – that there’s also a sense of safety between the actors to know that everybody knows that you’re still doing a job, and if things get uncomfortable or dangerous that we’ve got safe words so we can pop out at any time. And Claire, I mean you saw her performance. Her performance is extraordinary, and she’s somebody who’s showing pictures of her kids and making jokes up until 20 seconds before the camera rolls, and then Steven calls, “Action!” she is completely present, and completely in the moment and utterly transformed into that character.

TrunkSpace: While at the screening, we didn’t only watch the movie, but the audience as well. One of the things that seemed pretty consistent is that, at times, people felt sympathetic for David, which is a big testament to you as an actor given all of the horrible things he’s capable of (and does) in the film.
Leonard: Yeah, David does some horrible, horrible things in this film, but hopefully what I tried to get across was his firm and steadfast belief that he is trying to give Sawyer this gift of their love. When I was prepping the role I did a lot of thinking about young, teenage obsessive love – when you’ve just got your blinders on and you can’t see anything past this person who is everything to you, and is going to complete you and fix you in all ways. And what would you ever do without them? And I think if you’ve got somebody who has that version of love, who hasn’t necessarily been socialized, who doesn’t have a real emotional maturity, and then you add 20 years and 100 pounds – that character becomes really dangerous. It’s not because there’s any mustache twirling going on. Think about Lenny in “Of Mice and Men,” like this kind of lumbering person who’s inadvertently hurting people and really doesn’t mean to be doing it. He’s just in love with Sawyer and doesn’t understand the rules of society…. that just being in love with somebody doesn’t mean that they have to love you back, or that they have to be with you.

TrunkSpace: He does have those teenage blinders on, and in many ways, has that teenage manipulation aspect of his personality as well.
Leonard: Yeah, I think he’s a crafty motherfucker. He’s not a dumb guy, but he is a guy who probably hasn’t availed himself of much talk therapy, and probably spent way too much time, well into his 30s, in his parent’s basement.

TrunkSpace: Is he a character where, as you were preparing to become him, you felt people might see the performance and say, “Wow, I didn’t expect and to see him go there?”
Leonard: It’s definitely something that’s different from a character that I’ve ever played before. In fact, the first time that I talked to Steven about it I was so over the moon to get offered a role in a Steven Soderbergh movie, who’s been a filmmaking hero of mine my entire career, that I didn’t want to scare him off, but I said as much. I said, “You know, I don’t want to convince you otherwise, but what is it that makes you think that I can do this role?” And it was Steven who originally said, “You know, I think you have a real earnestness onscreen, and I think that’s actually kind of the primary component that we need in David is this sense of earnestness towards his mission in the film.”

Leonard and Foy in Unsane”

TrunkSpace: Well that definitely plays off in the film. Had the character been handled differently, even slightly in one direction, he could have come off as that mustache twirling type of “bad guy” that you mentioned.
Leonard: Yeah, which I think every actor who’s ever played a bad guy in a movie will say the same thing, that it’s a futile journey to try to play somebody as a bad guy because you just can’t find any truth or dimension when you’re doing that because nobody sits around thinking about how to be evil. Or at least, I tend to believe most people don’t. It makes the world a safer place for me to live in.

I think that was in the script. I think the mere fact that the writers set up a situation where David’s father has just died and he met Sawyer in the context of being the caretaker for his dying father, I think you can see how there might be some emotional transference there.

TrunkSpace: And he wouldn’t (or couldn’t) speak to his father, but he can talk with Sawyer. There’s something telling about that with him, personality-wise.
Leonard: Yeah, I think that’s very true. Part of what I find interesting about the film is that David is not all bad and Sawyer is not all good. She’s a complicated character as well, and not always the nicest person and has her own damage, a lot of which I think has been inflicted by this situation with David, but I think also probably has some stuff that was a preexisting condition before she even met David.

TrunkSpace: And then on top of all of that, the hospital itself is also a “bad guy” in the film.
Leonard: Absolutely. Those are always my favorite thrillers, the ones that play as a thriller on the surface without ever getting too heavy handed, but can also avail themselves of the opportunity to Trojan Horse their way into some larger issue, the American healthcare system being one of them.

TrunkSpace: We know that you’re a filmmaker as well. Knowing that you were a fan of Steven’s work, did you try to learn from him as a filmmaker as well as an actor?
Leonard: I tried to be behind the monitor and watching the action whether I was in the scene or not, just because it was such a rare and exciting opportunity to watch him work. He is as much of a savant on set as you would assume that he would be, just in the sense of the clarity of his vision for what he’s making. This was obviously an experiment for all of us, and it’s one of the things that is so inspirational to me about his career is that I feel like he’s a guy who’s never stopped experimenting, whether it be with genre or technique, or the jobs that he’s serving on set. He’s really somebody who continues to push his own boundaries and it was really an honor to play a small part in the latest Steven Soderbergh experiment.

Unsane” arrives in theaters today.

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