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September 2018

Trunk Stubs

Butch Walker

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Artist: Butch Walker

Tour: The Last Days Of Summer Tour

City Attended: Boston, MA

Venue: Royale

Concert Date: 09-22-18

Opening Act: Greg Holden

The Reason We Went: A phoenix within the music industry, Walker has risen from the ashes numerous times, allowing the machine to chew him up but never spit him out. He has reinvented himself and his sound over the course of his career while never losing the connection to his fans or what has made him such a compelling songwriter and producer.

What We Thought: An early show due to the venue transforming into a dance club at 10:00 PM, the headliner took the stage while many in the city were still sitting down for dinner. The Georgia native poked fun at the ungodly anti-rock hour, routinely making tongue-in-cheek suggestions that midnight was soon upon us and that we should buckle in for a long set because he and his band were playing until they kicked us all out.

Walker delivered on his promise, churning out and energetic set that was breakneck at times, visiting the charismatic singer’s back catalog that included songs from his most recent album “Stay Gold,” as well as fan favorite past recordings like “The Spade” and “Sycamore Meadows.”

Show Highlight: With the clock ticking down and the dancers banging on the doors, Walker surprised the crowd with his second encore by appearing in the audience with his acoustic guitar in hand. He climbed onto a table in the sea of people and began an intimate set that included personal stories, which culminated in a singalong that the entire venue contributed to.

Closing With The Opening: Holden’s voice, which could carry across the city even without the microphone supporting it, captivated the crowd, especially when he gave a stripped down and memorable performance of his song “Boys In The Streets.”

And that’s why we’re giving it…

 

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Wingman Wednesday

Karen Strassman

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Photo By: Paul Smith

There was a time when Karen Strassman didn’t think she was good enough to be an actress. Thankfully she found her on-screen confidence and we, the audience, are better for it. The versatile performer and voice talent has enhanced the viewing experience of shows like “Silicon Valley,” “Weeds,” and most recently, “Preacher,” bringing dimension to her characters and helping to flesh out the fictional worlds they inhabit.

We recently sat down with Strassman to discuss the wild reality of “Preacher,” blending into a sea of over-the-top characters, and how her career in voice work started as a happy accident.

TrunkSpace: You recently appeared on AMC’s “explosive” new season of “Preacher.” It’s not every show that you can watch an undead cowboy, Hitler and the Devil all in the same episode. What was it like stepping on set with such a unique cast of characters?
Strassman: Working on “Preacher” was delightful and exhilarating. No matter how crazy and “out there” the world of this show might be, and how “charactery” most characters are, it’s done so well that it still feels so deeply real, human, and actually strangely grounded within its own wild reality. As I watched the series, I just completely bought the whole world and everyone’s humanity within it. I got truly involved in the lives of all the characters, finding myself really caring about almost all of them. As I was preparing for my episodes, it was exciting to create a character that was really fun, quirky, and out there, but also wanted her to feel as real and believable as all the other characters on the show. That’s such fun stuff for an actor.

TrunkSpace: Were you a fan of the show and/or comic book before becoming a part of what many consider, one of the riskiest and original shows in the television realm?
Strassman: I had never watched the show before, and when I got the audition, I started binge-watching it and just couldn’t stop. I was momentarily shocked, offended, and confused during the first episode, and then by the end of it, I was like – this is brilliant! The story, it’s implications, the gorgeous artistic photography, the acting, the wardrobe, the lighting, the music… everything! I don’t know how this show wasn’t up for a ton of Emmys. It should have been.

TrunkSpace: You play Dr. Lois Slotnick on the series. Though she is highly intelligent, we wouldn’t exactly want her as our primary care physician! How did you prepare for your role of the Doctor? Was it daunting to create such a character among the other over-the-top characters?
Strassman: Yes, it was daunting! Like I mentioned, I think the most challenging part was to walk the line of letting her be very out there while keeping her as real and grounded as possible, so she would come off like a real person, and not a caricature or too broad to be compelling or interesting. It really helped me to imagine the backstory of such a character and how she became who she is. I was very drawn to the evil German scientist in “Wonder Woman,” and wished I could have played that role. I still think about her and what her backstory must have been, how she got to be wounded and vengeful. Interestingly, when I auditioned for Dr. Slotnick, she wasn’t actually written the way I play her at all. She was supposed to be kind of a passionate, geeky, excitable scientist with no particular accent. I did one take kind of like that, but then, just for fun, I went ahead and did another take with a German accent, making her darker than she was originally written. I’m grateful that the show’s creatives took a chance on what I did and hired me for the role!

TrunkSpace: Many of your scenes are with Tyson Ritter who plays Humperdoo. What was it like performing with Ritter?
Strassman: It’s so funny that you are asking about Tyson. I just saw the new movie, “Peppermint” this weekend, and I sent Tyson a tweet to tell him how wonderful he was. He played a very interesting homeless man in the film. And in “Lodge 49,” which I sometimes do ADR on, he plays another really interesting character. He’s really brilliant. He’s a no holds barred kind of actor, and just dives into the character like a kid. Here he is this incredibly handsome rock star, and once he’s all decked out as the Humperdoo, with his fake nose, fake teeth and disturbing contact lens in one eye, he is unrecognizable. He will totally go there, wherever his character needs to go. The sounds and stuff he was doing on set when I was there – it was so disturbing and funny I had to work really hard not to laugh. Brilliant!

TrunkSpace: Beyond “Preacher,” are there any additional comic book worlds and/or characters you would like to take on?
Strassman: Well, as I mentioned, I would love to play the evil scientist in “Wonder Woman,” if they were to ever re-cast the part, or do a new “Wonder Woman” television series. I really find the disturbed villains so fascinating. I think there are such moving backstories that go into making them who they are. Like The Joker, for instance, and I thought Betty Buckley was beyond superb in the role of Grandma in “Preacher.” I learned so much from watching her. Her work was so multi-dimensional. Another animated project I would love to be a part of one day is an anime series I actually starred in a few years ago. It’s called “Monster,” and it’s my favorite anime I’ve ever done or even seen. It’s quite disturbing and real, but absolutely brilliant. Guillermo Del Toro was said to have bought the movie rights for this project, and was talking about directing it. I’m too old to play the character I voiced in the series (Anna/Nina), but I would love to be a part of this project in any way I could if Del Toro or anyone else ever made it happen.

TrunkSpace: You have done a ton of voice acting throughout the course of your career. Was that always part of your personal plan or did that portion of your career happen as a happy accident?
Strassman: It happened as a happy accident when I was living in Paris when I was 20 years old. Someone offered me a job doing voices for a cassette tape that went with a magazine to help teach French kids English. I had never done it before, so I just jumped in blindly like a kid, and it turned out I was pretty good at it. That little job led to some jobs dubbing big French films into English, which led to a whole world of animation that opened up to me, and then video games, and anime commercials. I was the English voice for Air France for a while and things like voice-guided tours of The Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay. I was the English voice for French actresses like Juliet Binoche, Emmanuelle Béart, and Vanessa Paradis. I lived in France for 16 years doing TV, Film, Theatre and Voiceover work. I was just really, really lucky. To be honest, I was very self-conscious about what I looked like when I was younger, and felt I wasn’t pretty enough to be an actress. So, voiceover was really freeing for me because I got to play so many different roles, regardless of what I looked like. It was indeed an amazing happy accident and a gift.

Photo By: Paul Smith

TrunkSpace: Air France and The Louvre! Is it surreal to think that more people have probably heard your voice than some of the biggest “stars” of today?
Strassman: (Laughter) Yes it is.

TrunkSpace: Obviously it seems like anything can happen in “Preacher,” but when it comes to animation, that truly is the case. There are no budgetary limitations when storytelling for animation, which must put you in some very unique circumstances by way of the characters you inhabit. With that being said, what is one of the more unusual scenes you’ve ever found yourself performing in?
Strassman: Well, one of my favorite characters is in a series called “Persona.” I play a robot named Aigis who is an amazing fighter and machine, but all she wants is to become human and experience what it is to love. She ends up giving up a lot of her powers so she can experience what it is to have emotions and feel love. I play an endearing gnome-like character named Chromie in “World of Warcraft” who can travel in time and turn into a badass dragon. That’s pretty cool!

TrunkSpace: Do you approach inhabiting a character in animation the same way that you do with on-screen work? Where are the similarities and where are the differences?
Strassman: Yes, in many ways the process is very similar. It’s sometimes tempting to cut corners in voiceover and just “do a voice,” but in the long run, just doing a voice comes out as two-dimensional, and never ends up being that compelling to an audience. It’s not until you really have a feel for your character – where they came from, what they want, some intimate details about their life – that they really come to life. It’s much more fun and fulfilling to work that way.

TrunkSpace: Your resume is vast and very diverse. That being said, what is something you still hope to accomplish that you have yet to tackle? What is on your creative bucket list?
Strassman: Ahhh, there are so many characters I’d love to explore. I played Helen Keller when I was a younger girl, and I’d love to play her as an older woman. I love playing characters who have handicaps or challenges to overcome, whether it’s physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. I’d also love to settle in to a juicy regular role on a compelling TV series with a wonderful cast and crew for a while. There is something so magical about being able to stay with a show over a certain period of time and evolve with the everyone in it, like being part of a moving circus or being on a tour with an ensemble. You become a family and can really dive into your characters and the storyline together. That’s definitely high on my creative bucket list.

Preacher” is available for streaming at AMC.com.

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Wingman Wednesday

Irene Choi

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Photographer: Leslie Alejandro/Hair: Sara Tintari/Makeup: Aaron Paul/Styling: Cassy Dittmer

With her new series keeping stream-hungry audiences entertained on Netflix, Irene Choi is holding tight as the roller coaster ride that is her “Insatiable” journey prepares to leave the station for a second season. Playing the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Dixie Sinclair in the quirky revenge dramedy, the scene stealer is enjoying the path her on-screen alter ego is traveling, which is not exactly new territory for the Harvard graduate who also played Annie Kim on the fan-favorite series “Community.”

We recently sat down with Choi to discuss why Dixie is more than your average mean girl, how the naysayers learned to love the show once they gave it a chance, and the reason she would have liked to see where Annie Kim’s fictional future led.

TrunkSpace: “Insatiable” is inspired by a true story. Does that mean that there is a real Dixie in the world? Because for those of us here with daughters who may meet a Dixie in their life one day, that’s kind of terrifying.
Choi: There absolutely is not. She is 100 percent made up, which is a relief. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: When the material you’re working on is based on something that actually came from someone’s own experiences, does it have a different feel on set? Do people approach the material in a different way?
Choi: I would say in this case, no, just because it was really just sort of the premise, which was inspired by Bill Alverson, who is the real guy. But otherwise, the storylines were just completely in a very heightened fantasy world where people kind of go relatively unpunished for a lot of bad deeds that they do. We’re just these made-up characters in this universe, so at least for me, there was no obligation to mirror true life.

TrunkSpace: There’s been so many “mean girls” portrayed in film and TV over the years. Did you want to bring something different to the portrayal of Dixie and did the tone of the show allow for that?
Choi: Yeah, absolutely. It was also sort of written into the script as well. Even though the character of Dixie doesn’t really seem that complicated – she’s a villain, she’s a mean girl – it’s a pretty traditional trope in high school stories, but I think that’s one thing that’s a little bit different about her, is her background gives her a lot of layers. I think one thing, for example, is she is an Asian adoptee who’s living in Georgia. She has a single parent who happens to not really be a great parental figure. She has a line in the show, which is supposed to be funny, where she says, “I’m not Asian, I’m adopted.” It’s supposed to be funny because she’s stupid, but also it’s a little true, because she hasn’t really been exposed to her sort of ethnic and cultural identity. She doesn’t identify with it at all. So I think she has a sense of identity that she hasn’t quite formed yet, and as a result, she is also sort of misunderstood a lot by her peers. She actually doesn’t really have a lot of friends, which – and usually I feel like the mean girl in these stories usually happens to also be the popular girl – that’s not what she is.

TrunkSpace: There was a part, in the way you portrayed Dixie, that suggested her behavior was a bit of a defense mechanism.
Choi: Exactly, yeah. And I think in real life, as much as this show is such a caricature of reality and is kind of in this sort of revenge fantasy world, it does sort of relate to real life. Because I think in real life the bullies in high school, but also just in general, they’re not usually the people that are sort of at the top of the social totem pole. A lot of times, they are people who are misunderstood, and don’t really quite have friends, and are really sort of trying to figure themselves out as well.

TrunkSpace: Was there something kind of freeing about getting to play her and how nasty she is?
Choi: Yeah, absolutely. And I got a lot of freedom with playing Dixie as well. The directors were always very much like, “Just go balls to the wall with her.” There were absolutely some times where they would say, “Let’s try to keep this one a little bit more grounded or sincere,” but they were all incredibly generous with just sort of letting me play, and really explore that character as well.

TrunkSpace: We already mentioned the tone of the show, which feels fresh and unique, but at the same time, it’s that specific type of comedy that probably allows for a character like Dixie to work.
Choi: Yeah. Yes, as an actor, I think that’s definitely kind of a dream come true. It’s been really, really, really fun. And also, for me personally, it’s my first time as a series regular on a show, being able to play this character for a whole season, as opposed to doing these sort of one-off guest star episodes or just recurring. You don’t really get the time, nor do you get the material, to sort of really explore a character to its full extent, so that’s also been very exciting for me.

TrunkSpace: What’s sort of been the most surreal moment for you thus far since you wrapped Season 1 and it started streaming?
Choi: Oh, I guess there’s a lot of things. Basically for a really long time, almost about a year, I would tell people that I’m on this show, and no one had heard of it. “It’s a new show, it’s called ‘Insatiable.’” And they’d be like, “Uh, okay.” And then our trailer dropped, which got really sort of scathing reviews from a lot of people, and then it was kind of crazy. No one had heard of our show, no one had any opinions tied to it, and then all of a sudden everyone had heard of it and hated it. And I think that was sort of really alarming. And then when the show came out, the fans and the audience actually really, really loved it after actually having seen the whole thing, and then it was just… it was really sort of a roller coaster of emotions, honestly. It’s like one minute no one knows who you are, the second minute everyone knows who you are, and not in a good way, and then another minute it’s like everyone totally likes you. So that’s just just been a little bit… it’s definitely been kind of overwhelming. Not overwhelming, but it’s just been so unpredictable. But, that’s pretty much how this industry is. As much as I sort of have been trained to be always be prepared for the unexpected, it’s always just going to be surprising.

Photographer: Leslie Alejandro/Hair: Sara Tintari/Makeup: Aaron Paul/Styling: Cassy Dittmer

TrunkSpace: Whatever you plan for, it goes in the opposite direction.
Choi: Exactly. Just when you think you’ve planned for every sort of potential scenario in your head… like, no.

TrunkSpace: What’s really great is that you already have a Season 2, which in the world of television, is a rarity to have so early.
Choi: Yeah, which again, sort of ties into that sort of roller coaster of emotions because it was like, “Oh my gosh, everyone hates us, we’re definitely not getting a Season 2.” But then we did. So, yeah, it’s crazy.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned how much you have enjoyed getting to know Dixie over the course of an entire season. You’ve appeared on a bunch of great shows over the years. Is there a character that you wished you had been given more time with?
Choi: I got three episodes to explore this character on “Community,” which was great. I definitely would have loved an opportunity to explore that character further. That was also a villain. I guess I am personally drawn to villain roles. (Laughter) It’s kind of funny that people see me that way too.

But that was definitely a really fun one. She basically played the evil version of an existing character, who was Alison Brie’s character on the show. And because she was obviously a series regular and had a very deep woven story, I would have loved an opportunity to explore this other character that sort of played her evil version/nemesis kind of thing. I think she could have also, over time, developed almost an equally complicated story as well. So, that one was definitely really a fun one. I’m really thankful that I got to do the three episodes that I did, but it definitely would have been a lot of fun to do more.

Season 1 of “Insatiable” is available now on Netflix.

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Deep Focus

Kate Green

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

This time out we’re chatting with Kate Green, Director and Executive Producer of the exciting new web series “NarcoLeap,” starring Chelsey Reist, Madison Smith and Aleks Paunovic.

TrunkSpace: “NarcoLeap” has such a great, high concept premise. Was there a part of you that worried how you would pull it off as a web series, particularly when it came to budget and time constraints?
Green: I wouldn’t say just a part, I’d say my whole being. (Laughter)

No, we’re really lucky in Canada. We have some amazing funding programs. STORYHIVE from TELUS, they had this amazing 100K edition competition, so we got that. We also have the Independent Production Fund (IPF). They came on board first actually, with just over half of the budget. Once I got that one I thought, “Okay, I’ve got a pretty good chance of kind of closing the financing with the other programs.” We’re very lucky here. And also, the project went through rigorous development when I was in the Women in the Director’s Chair program as well. So it’s not only financial support that we have here, we also have a lot of educational components and mentorship programs and things like that now.

Everyday was like, “How are we going to do this?” It was still very ambitious – lots of locations, lots of actors. It was pretty crazy, but we got it done.

TrunkSpace: Here in the States, a lot of creators use web productions as a way to establish a property and then work to get them set up as a full series. Was that the plan with “NarcoLeap” as well?
Green: My background is in documentaries. I started directing and producing in that for many years. I wanted to make the leap, pun absolutely intended, into scripted work. I’ve always loved science fiction, so for me I was looking for a project where I could do something in directing, and with the web series, it seemed like there were opportunities there to make the story happen. Yes, of course, we’d love to have a TV series, eventually that’s the big dream, but I’ve always wanted it to be able to stand on its own as almost like a prequel to the television series. The storyline that’s happening within the web series, it’s all prior to the TV. Once we get to network TV the show will have evolved and grown and be a bit more of a different standalone.

TrunkSpace: As a creator, is it daunting bringing something like “NarcoLeap” into the world knowing that there is so much content available to viewers these days?
Green: Absolutely, yeah. There’s so much great content out there on the web and TV. It’s so hard to have yours rise to the top. You really rely on your fans and for us we have a digital strategy and we’ve been working. The fans are the ones that lift it up. Before we’d even gone into production we had people making fan art and posters, and mainly they loved Chelsey (Reist) and they were followers of Chelsey. They were excited to see her in something different, but they’re the ones that really lift up your project, and we’ve just been overwhelmed and so grateful for their support. It seems to be getting attraction and attention so we’re really happy for that, and grateful.

TrunkSpace: It always seems that there is great support for great ideas, and something we noticed is, there’s a lot of really great original content coming out of the Vancouver production scene these days.
Green: Yeah, absolutely. We have an amazing service industry here. A lot of people work on the big Netflix shows and so that part of our industry is really thriving, but I think in Canada we recognize that can also go away in a heartbeat. The exchange rate could go up and all of that work could disappear. Then what are we left with? We have to create ourselves. We have to have that foundation of home grown talent and that’s, again, why we’re so lucky with things like STORYHIVE and the IPF, but they help support that and they help grow that home talent.

TrunkSpace: Does one sort of feed the other then? Do networks like Hallmark and the CW bringing their productions there feed into creators being able to create on the side when they’re not working on these other productions?
Green: Absolutely. I have a day job as a producer. I work on an HGTV show. In between shows or seasons I have the opportunity to grow my own company, KGP Films, and create content, but it’s a little different. Science fiction is very different than lifestyle television. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: You were both Director and Executive Producer on “NarcoLeap.” Did Producer Kate and Director Kate ever butt heads? Is there something that you wanted as a director that you had to talk yourself out of as a producer?
Green: I was very fortunate that I had two really great producers, Emily Keller and Ross Vivian, and my Co-Executive Producer, Trevor Hudson, and I had a couple of other mentors as well. I surrounded myself with a really great team. There were some decisions that as a producer I just delegated to Emily and Ross and it was great. I didn’t have to butt heads too much with myself. You always want the crane shot and you always want explosions and you’d love to have the fight scene go on for longer. Things like that you have to compromise on, but when you can’t get what you want, the wonderful thing about that is that you have to be creative. You have to find a solution. You have to make a mark. I love that part of filmmaking, when if you don’t have the time or the money, then you have to have a great idea and a great solution. Finding that, that gets my juices flowing.

TrunkSpace: There’s been some talk of a content bubble burst looming. As a creator are you optimistic that your job as a creator is safe long term?
Green: Yeah. I see an opportunity in terms of short form digital content. When I first started my company I was looking at new features and documentary series and all of that, and of course, that would be wonderful to have projects like that, but I feel as a producer when I put the producer cap on, I see way more of an opportunity to be creating dynamic, fun digital content. It’s just getting eaten up right now.

TrunkSpace: In terms of a possible “NarcoLeap” Season 2, is that on the horizon?
Green: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been noodling away on the storylines and possibly putting in characters and what I’d like to see. Again, it’s like that dichotomy of trying to do the day job and do the producing job and the directing job and all of that. But yeah, we’re getting geared up for sure.

Season 1 of “NarcoLeap” is available now on YouTube.

Read our interview with series star Madison Smith here.

Read our interview with Aleks Paunovic here.

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Wingman Wednesday

James Chen

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Photo By: David Zheng

This is shaping up to be a defining year for James Chen’s career. Outside of his ongoing work on “The Walking Dead,” where he plays Hilltop resident Kal, the Yale School of Drama graduate also joined the Marvel Universe as Sam Chung in Season 2 of “Iron Fist” for Netflix and will be recurring as Ian Lentz in the new Dick Wolf-produced drama series “FBI,” which premieres September 25 on CBS.

And somehow that’s still just the tip of the iceberg.

We recently sat down with Chen to discuss how “The Walking Dead” prepared him for his super future, why the introduction of Blindspot is so topical, and the reason on-screen Asian stereotypes may finally be a thing of the past.

TrunkSpace: As far as Septembers go, yours looks like it will be one for the history books!
Chen: (Laughter) My man, it’s been an amazing year, I’m not gonna lie. You’re correct, September has been very busy and productive, and we just recently added another gig… I’ll be playing a billionaire race car driver on “Madam Secretary.” So yeah, I’m very grateful. It’s been very awesome. It’s the product of a lot of hard work and not giving up.

TrunkSpace: With so much of that hard work being released into the world this month, is there a different type of personal excitement at this stage of a project as opposed to your first day on a set?
Chen: Oh, it is, it is. Yeah, that’s a good distinction. I think like any first day – of school, first day at work, first day at a TV show – there’s excitement. I guess you could say it’s nerves, but I just like to call it excitement, because you’re meeting a lot of new people and going into a new space. Invariably it’s always wonderful, because everyone’s extremely collaborative, and at the end of the day we’re just playing. So that kind of thing facilitates just sinking into a good ease. There’s also a lot of technical things you’re doing in addition to meeting a bunch of people. You’re kind of just getting the lay of the land, and having conversations with the director about the scene structure, and stuff like that. But, something like the past couple weeks, “Iron Fist” being released last Friday, “FBI” coming out next week… yeah, you’re still working hard, having conversations with great people like you, just to basically tell your stories about what it was like on set.

TrunkSpace: When you joined the Marvel Universe for “Iron Fist,” obviously it must have been an exciting thing, but at the same time you kind of have to keep that excitement in check . Marvel projects are so shrouded in plot point secrecy that you’re really in a conversational holding pattern about it until it’s released.
Chen
: That’s right. I got to be honest though, I’ve been on “The Walking Dead” for four years, and they’ve got the best secret police game going on. They put the fear in you with those NDAs and stuff. (Laughter) So I was kind of trained and had some experience with that. But, it was tough, because you’d be gone for a while, and  I would run into my co-workers from set outside of work with other people, and it was like we’d be catching up and we’d have to kind of shield the conversation from people who are not in the know. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: With a show like “Iron Fist,” which releases all at once, that must help ease that loose lips sink ships vibe, because once it’s out, everything is fair game. If the audience is willing to put in the work, they could view the entire season in one sitting.
Chen: That’s right, yeah. I like that idea though, that the viewer has to put in the work too, but it’s true. That wasn’t around four years ago… five years ago. I like it, personally, I guess from a sharing point of view, because we can talk about bigger picture stuff, like arcs, or how different parts from different episodes connected or didn’t connect, or what it means. I like that part of the conversation as opposed to it being drawn out over several months from installation broadcast. I like people having the full context of Sam Chung, talking about “Iron Fist,” to see how he and Colleen work in a bunch of different scenarios.

TrunkSpace: While the viewers understand the full context of Sam Chung, those who read the comic know that there’s so much story to tell there, should Netflix choose to go down that road.
Chen: Right. We know for sure that there’s just tremendous, exciting, tremendous, one more tremendous, potential in the development of Blindspot and his back story. And it’s so topical these days, illegal immigrant, right? Also, it’s extremely topical with him being an Asian male character, an Asian male superhero. I mean, after Asian August, with “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Searching,” “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” Awkwafina is getting her show green lit – it’s time!

TrunkSpace: And to be a part of this moment in pop culture, influencing the next generation, it has to be an amazing feeling.
Chen: It is, yeah. It’s so true. It’s interesting also, because growing up and initially my first phase in the biz, that wasn’t around, so it’s almost like… it’s hard to describe what it’s like. A part of me almost can’t believe it’s happening, because the stereotypes have been and are really awful, and degrading, and they’ve been so solid for such a long time, so it’s so refreshing. It’s so invigorating. And, kind of like what you said about as far as the next generation, I mean, you really feel like you’re making a meaningful contribution to the image of your people, which is so satisfying. It’s not like I’m selling soap for a commercial.

Photo By: David Zheng

TrunkSpace: The path of actors as a whole seems to has changed as well. If we went back 10 years, it would be a rarity for an actor to be talking about so many different television projects at once. It just seems like there’s more freedom to spread your wings and be involved in more projects than there used to be.
Chen: Right. I think with so much programming out there, there’s a lot of opportunity. I’ve seen an increase in both the quality and quantity of auditions in my particular demographic, for Asian men, which is kind of what I see as far as the auditions that come down the pike. But, it’s been encouraging and exciting too to see that they’re opening up casting and auditions for roles that aren’t specifically written to be Asian. There were a few of those back in the day, like a couple a year, but now it’s like we’re getting closer to that place where ethnicity doesn’t have to define who you are. You’re a person and you happen to be of a certain ethnicity.

TrunkSpace: Jumping back to Sam as a character, what was it about him in the early stages, the audition days, that you liked on the page?
Chen: Well, I loved kind of how Sam’s dialogue was very… this is going to sound weird, but it’s very casual and conversational. It was very everyday. He’s just simply having a conversation with someone, as opposed to… he’s not talking about something super Asian or stereotypically something or other, if that makes any sense. He’s just having a conversation with another person who happens to be Asian as well. There’s no commentary on the fact that we’re both Asian. Colleen is Asian and I’m Asian and we’re just talking about helping her solve a problem. So I love that aspect of the fact that we don’t need to comment on it, it just is.

I love how there is history in that opening scene in Season 2/Episode 2 of “Iron Fist,” when we first meet Sam. There’s just some great history, and backstory, and rapport between Sam and Colleen. It’s not heavy, but you can tell that they’ve worked together for a while. They’ve got great rapport. They tease each other. I’m fishing a little bit, and they share a little bit about their private lives and what they’re doing, just some teasing. So that’s exciting, and I think you can see that in the series. Obviously certain plot emergencies come through that maybe don’t make it a priority, but it’s one of the layers of their relationship, which I think is great.

TrunkSpace: And that is one of the things that Marvel Studios is so great at, which is building out the world so that the viewer feels like they’re a part it as opposed to being on the outside looking in.
Chen: Right. And I like that idea, because Sam has more of a management, supervisory responsibility for the community center and it shows, because I know where everything is and what’s going on. I feel like I have an ear to the ground and a hand on the pulse of what’s happening in the community, because the community center is like a hub, more or less. So I thought that was pretty exciting to kind of be right at the brain of the nervous system of what’s happening in Chinatown, or in our community. I thought it was great how the community center became a hub for us to meet a whole bunch of other characters who also happen to be Asian, like Mrs. Yang, or Danny’s boss at the moving company, played by my buddy James Lai.

So I thought that was great, the inclusion of more Asian faces, and culture, and depth in the series.

Chen in “The Walking Dead.”

TrunkSpace: From TV superheros to superheroes of TV, your next project is Dick Wolf’s “FBI.” Obviously Marvel is a big brand, but in the world of television, Dick Wolf is a brand unto his own.
Chen: Sure, it is. That man is a genius. He’s kind of like the Stan Lee of procedurals. (Laughter)

This is not a joke. I grew up and “Law & Order: SVU” was my favorite show on TV. God, man, everything about that, from just the “dun dun,” it was so just clicked for me. I loved it. I loved Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni. Then I actually got a chance to play a recurring character on SVU for Dick’s show a few years ago, CSU Adrian “Andy” Sung, and I got to meet and work with Mariska, and Chris, and Ice, and it was just fantastic. A lot of the directors on that show are repeat directors, so it was just awesome to build the rapport, to be on that set, to work on a show that I loved so much for so long. That said, I kind of feel like I’m returning home in a way. Maybe like the same family/different house, kind of feeling. You’ve got the feel of all the same things, and obviously, Dick’s running the ship, it’s just with a twist… an FBI twist.

Iron Fist” is available now on Netflix.

FBI” premieres Tuesday on CBS.

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Wingman Wednesday

John Hoogenakker

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Photo By: Bjoern Kommerell

As Matice on the Amazon Prime Video series “Jack Ryan,” John Hoogenakker is the kind affable bad ass that you want to battle alongside of and then have a beer with, and that’s not because he’s the costumed king responsible for making “Dilly Dilly” a part of the pop culture lexicon. A versatile performer with a seemingly limitless character reach, the actor is an on-screen chameleon poised to pop the top on his already fizzing career.

We recently sat down with Hoogenakker to discuss the chance to dig deep in television, reveling in the way Matice fills his space, and why some people who wear his likeness on a T-shirt don’t necessarily recognize him in real life.

TrunkSpace: You always bring memorable characters to the screen, John. Do you approach finding each character – uncovering who they are – in the same manner each time or does each character require a different path?
Hoogenakker: That’s very kind, thank you! Getting to play roles that are different from one another has been one of the great blessings of my career. With each role, you get to explore a different facet of your own humanity, which hopefully makes you a more fully rounded human being. I do try to look at them as completely different people, though, and I do my best not to ‘fix’ the character, which is to say I don’t want to necessarily wrap them up in a neat little bundle to make them more palatable to the audience.

TrunkSpace: Your new project “Jack Ryan” feels more like a film than a television series. As someone who has worked in the industry for over 10 years, is it exciting to have seen television storytelling mature and become so much more character-driven?
Hoogenakker: Oh man, without a doubt! The opportunity to see an arc expand and grow and mature over many episodes and seasons is the ultimate gift for an actor. So much of that, though, is up to the writers and creators. As actors I think we’re always waiting for another opportunity to go as deep as we can.

TrunkSpace: “Jack Ryan” has a real buzz surrounding it since it was first announced. As an actor, is it difficult to not get swept up in that excitement and place your own individual expectations on a project prior to its release? How do you manage that “will it” or “won’t it” when it comes to a series or film finding an audience?
Hoogenakker: That’s a great question. There have been some wonderful projects that I’ve gotten to be a part of in the past, and I’ve learned over time that I do my best work when my primary focus is on connecting with the other people that I’m working with. Essentially, I try to do the best I can to be connected and to behave like a real human, and leave it all on the field. It is certainly gratifying, though, when people respond favorably to something that you’ve put so much time and effort into.

TrunkSpace: In the series you play Matice. What was it about this guy, a block ops CIA bad ass, that intrigued you when you first read him on the page, and how did he develop into what we ultimately see today in Season 1?
Hoogenakker: I really enjoyed the way the guy filled his space, and his comfort level with his work. One of the first scenes I read of his was when he was giving Jack a primer on how to load his weapon and chamber a round, and it just felt so casual. Which is of course how it would be for a person who lives and breathes the realities of armed conflict on a daily basis. When John (Krasinkski) and Wendell (Pierce) and I met each other, we kind of hit it off right from the start and had a lot of fun working together, which I think translated into them allowing me more wiggle room to find as much humor as I could.

TrunkSpace: It seems like everything about the character needed to be researched, from the way he moves into a room or the way he holds his weapon. What is that detailed research like and does it help you better understand who he is, not just how he exists within a particular circumstance?
Hoogenakker: The research began the very first day I arrived on set in Montréal and met our technical advisor, Kevin Kent. We started by working on drills with the M4 and practicing how to clear a room and move with the weapon. Beyond that, I feel that some of the most important research I got to do was more passive, and came with the time I spent hanging out with Kevin and the rest of the advisors on the project, all of whom had been career Navy SEALs. Just the way that people who have been in dangerous situations, and had one another’s backs for years, interact in regular social settings. The way that they joke with one another was probably my favorite aspect of my time with them.

TrunkSpace: As stated, Matice is pretty bad ass. What have family and friends thought of your portrayal? Would they say that playing a bad ass is in line with who you are in real life or a far cry from the John they know?
Hoogenakker: It’s funny, though I am definitely not a Special Ops bad ass in real life (and only play one on TV), I’ve had lots of friends and family reach out and talk about how close they feel Matice is to me, which has been a first among the roles that I’ve played.

Amazon Studios

TrunkSpace: You also have some great lines/quips within the series. As an actor, can you get a sense of a line when you read it in a new script from the perspective of it being dialogue that will stand out with the audience? Is it a gift getting those memorable snippets?
Hoogenakker: I think there are absolutely times when you read the script and things stand out to you as funny, for whatever reason. We all have to be kept in check when it comes to keeping the joke simple, though. You don’t want to put a hat on a hat, as they say. As an actor working in the medium of film and television you really have to take the temperature in the room when you’re filming a scene; for instance, if it makes the crew laugh you’re probably onto something. I think John is hilarious, too, and when I can see that I’m cracking him up, that’s also a good barometer.

Photo By: Bjoern Kommerell

TrunkSpace: Speaking of memorable lines… “Dilly Dilly” kind of became a cultural phenomenon. Was there any part of you who saw that coming? Could you have prepared for the type of response that advertising campaign received?
Hoogenakker: No, if you had told me that once “Jack Ryan,” starring John Krasinski and Wendell Pierce, premiered I would also be answering questions about my work in an iconic Bud Light campaign I probably wouldn’t have believed you. The director (Jim Jenkins) and I have worked together a bunch in the past, and I have a lot of faith in his ability to make things funny, but beyond that, we were all blown away by the response to the first spot. I’m starting to see my face on T-shirts, which there is really no way to prepare for.

TrunkSpace: The beauty of that part is that you’re in wardrobe that kind of disguises who you are in real life. Has it been a situation of having your cake and eating it too – you get to be a part of this massive campaign, and yet still walk down the street and have a level of anonymity?
Hoogenakker: It’s so funny you should ask that question. A couple days ago I was walking down the street in Chicago and a guy passed me wearing a Dilly Dilly T-shirt. I thought, you know what, I’m gonna speak to this guy, and see what happens! So as he walks by, I say to him, “I really like your shirt, man!” And he looks right back at me and says, “Thanks!” And just kept walking… at home and in the business it’s different. Family, friends and co-workers love bringing it up, whenever. In fact, when I was introduced at the “Jack Ryan” premiere, Carlton Cuse, an icon, and one of the creators of the show, leaned into the microphone and said “Dilly dilly!”

TrunkSpace: “Jack Ryan” is hitting right now, with a Season 2 already on the way. What else do you want to accomplish in the year ahead? What are some of your goals that you hope you can check off and achieve?
Hoogenakker: I’d love for the notoriety and the visibility of the project to draw attention to the different roles I’ve gotten to play, which people might not even realize were played by the same actor, and to keep challenging myself by playing new and different roles in the future.

Season 1 of “Jack Ryan” is available now on Amazon Prime Video.

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Trunk Gaming

Marvel’s Spider-Man

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Marvel’s Spider-Man

Initial Release Date: September 7, 2018

Developer: Insomniac Games

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Genre: Action-Adventure

Platforms: Playstation 4

Why We’re Playing It: Aside from the fact that we’re all big web slinger fans here at TrunkSpace, we also have a lot of faith that Insomniac Games, known for titles like “Rachet & Clank,” always puts out not just a quality game but one that swings a story or two above the others in terms of quality. It was clear early on, from the first footage of gameplay, that this installment of Spider-Man would be the closest you’ll ever get to putting on the webbed suit and zipping across the New York skyline.

What It’s All About?: When you’re not swinging around town as Spider-Man, stopping crime with the help of Detective Yuri and the NYPD, you’re working alongside Dr. Otto Octavius in his lab to create upgrades for your suit. Without giving away too many plot spoilers we’ll just say your first boss battle is with Wilson Fisk as you learn the mechanics of the game play. From there you get mixed up with Mayor Osborn, Mary Jane, Electro, Rhino, Scorpion, Vulture and Mister Negative… and do you really think Dr. Octavius is just going to stay good ole’ doc? We’ll see after Osborn seizes all of his research!

That’s Worth A Power-Up!: It’s hard to pick just one thing that stands out in this game – there are many! – but the web slinging and fight mechanics are truly innovative. You can glide and parkour through the city so seamlessly you won’t want to stop. If you were Forrest Gump, you would just swing across the entire country. Oh, and we can’t forget to mention, when you start swooping through the city on a web, an epic soundtrack starts to play, making you feel like you’re actually playing within a Spider-Man movie.

Bonus Level: We found the open world gaming really refreshing. A lot of games are jumping on this bandwagon, and it is very freeing to be able to choose your path through the storyline and environment. The way that Insomniac Games pulls this off and sets itself apart is all in the details, literally. Pick a building to climb on and you’ll notice your reflection. You’ll also be able to see that they not only designed the interiors of these buildings, but they have people that are moving and interacting with one another inside the skyscraper you’re perched on. This attention to detail blew our minds and it will you as well!

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

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Wingman Wednesday

Salvador Chacon

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Salvador Chacon is prepared for whatever comes his way now that he’s starring as Pablo on the new FX series “Mayans M.C.” And while he tries not to attach expectations to individual jobs, if fame should come knocking, he is willing and able to open that door. He knows it comes with the territory, especially when you’re an actor appearing on a show as hyped as the gritty gang drama.

We recently sat down with Chacon to discuss the mindset of his character, how his path lead him to Los Angeles, and why in the world of entertainment, it’s important that you absolutely love what you’re doing.

TrunkSpace: When you’re working on a series like “Mayans M.C.,” which has so much buzz around it, is it hard to see it as not just a life-changing experience, but also as a game changer for your career? How do you personally approach expectations when it comes to particular jobs?
Chacon: Working on Mayans has already been a truly amazing life and career experience. Everyone involved in the show are people that have worked extremely hard to get there and that have stuck to their ground to be able to make a show like Mayans become a reality. Learning from these very talented men and women in such close proximity has been a real treat. I definitely see Mayans as a platform to open more doors and, hopefully, bigger opportunities in my career.

I try to not have expectations when it comes to what ‘a job can do or not do’ for you. I feel that’s something I’ve learned in this career; I’ve had expectations only to realize it’s just not what I thought it would be or it pans out the other way… I think for me, it’s about doing the job right and becoming better at what I do. This is what will guarantee me other opportunities. You have to go in the room and do your thing, the rest is history. There are so many other factors around it that are out of my control.

TrunkSpace: Your character first appeared in the second episode of the series. Did the excitement of the premiere, which was a few weeks ago, and your debut in Episode 2, help to carry that “Mayan M.C.” buzz an extra week?
Chacon: For sure! It’s been amazing to be a part of a show that is breaking barriers and that has so much “buzz” already. So the waiting time for my character to finally appear has seemed eternal at times… the anticipation has allowed me to get other people excited to watch the show.

TrunkSpace: Can you walk us through who your character is, how he falls into the story, and what people can expect to see when he makes his mark?
Chacon: Well, I can’t say much. But I can tell you that he is loyal, he is protective and caring, and he believes very strongly in their “mission,” which can also make him very dangerous. He is a right-hand man to one of the lead characters on the show, so it’s a character that is constantly observing his surroundings and making sure “all is good.” On this episode, people can see where he belongs and what side of the court he’ll play.

TrunkSpace: What did you like about the character in reading about him on the page, and did that ultimately transfer over to what we’ll see in the final product?
Chacon: I think on the page, his goal and his duties were very clear, as well as the fact that he is someone that gets things done – especially because most of his interactions are with the eyes and with body language, as opposed to deep prose. So for me it was all about infusing a background, a life path, motivations, humanity, and ultimately a strong purpose to help define who the character is now.

TrunkSpace: For those who are just discovering your talents for the first time, can you give us the summary of how you got to where you are today? When did your love for acting first nest itself in your brain and when did you ultimately decide to make it a career?
Chacon: Ever since I was kid I always felt drawn to create performances for my family and their friends. I was always wrangling all the other kids around to do a show (or something) for the grown-ups to see. Since elementary school we had a strong theatre program. We would have to do two plays per year all the way to the 9th grade. These plays weren’t your typical kids plays. We would do Shakespeare, Moliere, Lope de Vega and Zorrilla.

So… by the time I was in the 6th grade I knew that acting was my passion. My parents did, however, want me to attend high school and college. I put my acting dreams on hold to do that but that is ultimately what brought me to the United States. I went to the University of Texas-Pan American, where I got a BA from the Drama program, and I also got exposed to how films are done and what the process is to go from ‘paper’ to ‘screen’. My first job after college was as a Second Assistant Camera, and just-like-that I worked Camera department, Sound department, Art department, until I eventually started producing, which became my bread and butter. This is now my side gig with my company Wild Goats Creative. So after living intermittently in Texas, Mexico City and New York, I finally moved to Los Angeles in 2010 and made a commitment to myself to fully dedicate my energy to my real goal, my dream.

TrunkSpace: What kind of career do you want to have? Is the hope to achieve a particular level or status within the acting world alone, or do you hope to move beyond just performance and work behind the camera or as a content creator?
Chacon: I am multidisciplinary person; I like to do more than one thing. Acting is my passion and I dream of being able to take part in as many projects as I can. And of course I’d like a ‘swing’ in the Big Leagues, which is why I’ve dedicate most of my focus to it. But apart from acting, I truly enjoy the process of creating and developing ideas into tangible reality. I feel that is one of the reasons I began producing. It’s great to see, or even, hear an idea and then put together all the elements and watch it become a reality.

TrunkSpace: There is so much happening in the world of television, and much of what is being produced is quality, character-driven content. As an actor, does it continue to get more and more exciting to be working at this particular era in storytelling when you see not only the quality of projects finding a home, but the quantity as well?
Chacon: Absolutely. We are living in a very cool moment where there are so many platforms pushing forward great stories that are driven by amazing characters. We are also seeing a lot of shows with minority characters – for me being a Latino actor from Mexico City, that is just great. I feel today I have more opportunities to play roles that are not only the stereotypes (don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of that going on) but I feel, now, we are digging deeper into the stories of these characters, no matter where they come from or the color of their skin. Very exciting.

TrunkSpace: Obviously there’s more work available to actors today than there was say 20 years ago, but is it still just as competitive? Are there more people going out for more roles?
Chacon: Very much so. In the same way there are tons of shows and films being produced, there are thousands of actors or people that want to become actors. Los Angeles is a city that keeps growing, and that growth brings lots of more people with the same dream. I’ve been in Los Angeles for almost nine years and I constantly meet very talented people. It’s definitely a game where you have to be prepared, you have to take sacrifices and work hard, but most importantly you have to really, really love it.

TrunkSpace: In your opinion, what is the hardest thing about being a working actor in 2018, not only from a logistical standpoint, but from a personal standpoint. What do you struggle with the most in terms of finding a balance between the work and the kind of life you want to have off screen?
Chacon: For me it’s mostly about scheduling. It’s hard and stressful when you have to be in two places at the same time of day! But that is part of the sacrifice and the willingness to be flexible with the rest of your time. It might be your anniversary or your kids’ birthday but you might find yourself in a position where you have to go to work. So within these constraints you have to find a balance. I love spending time at home, cooking and hanging out with my girlfriend, or being with my family and my friends. I feel that making time for these things allows me to have a better and more focused mind when it’s showtime.

TrunkSpace: If “Mayans M.C.” becomes a huge hit and it catapults you to a level of stardom that makes it impossible for you to venture into a coffee shop for a cup of coffee, is that something you’re prepared for? Is fame something you look forward to, or is it a necessary evil in your journey to pursue your passion?
Chacon: Well, I think “Mayans M.C.” for me is another step on the ladder, and like I’ve mentioned before, this is another door on my path that could lead to bigger opportunities… therefore, a coffee shop packed with fans dying to buy me an 8oz Americano might happen. I think fame is part of the package and (maybe even) part of the sacrifice to do the thing you love the most. At the same time, I do believe that it could be manageable to a certain point where you are comfortable with it.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. Here goes. If you had a chance to jump ahead 20 years and see exactly how your career played out, would you take that opportunity, and if not, why?
Chacon: I don’t think I would. Sometimes I wonder those things and how life could play out in many different ways. However, as I do think of the future, I love to live one day at the time, and truly enjoy the present moment and I feel that; in our present day-in-age with the infinite access to information can be hard sometimes… we humans have so many complex emotions as it is… I am not sure I would want to add that level of anxiety into my life.

Mayans M.C.” airs Tuesdays on FX.

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Wingman Wednesday

Jason Altman

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Photo By: Charley Miller

A bad guy in a good guy’s clothing. That sums up Jason Altman’s character Herrmann in the latest season of the popular Netflix series “Orange Is The New Black.” But even the actor, who is just as comfortable on stage as he is behind the camera, didn’t expect to have the officer with the shady past stick around beyond the initial Season 5 finale that he was hired on for. Thankfully, the producers saw potential in Herrmann’s prolonged narrative and that means Altman is back in Season 6 to cause even more trouble.

We recently sat down with Altman to discuss how the opportunity to appear in the series came about, why he wouldn’t have played Herrmann any differently if he knew then what he knows now, and exactly what makes his bad cop so bad.

TrunkSpace: Any new job is exciting, but there must be an extra rush involved when you learn you’re becoming a part of something that is as acclaimed as “Orange Is The New Black.”
Altman: Yes. I was a huge fan of the show. I never missed an episode ever, prior to even getting the audition. Plus at the same time, it was the largest TV role that I had ever gotten, so it was just overwhelming at first. I also got it without having an agent or a manager, so I really was just floored. I wouldn’t say it changed as far as the way I go about life and money, and all that, but what happened is just the momentum in my career just kind of took a whole turn for the better. So yes, it was definitely a seminal moment in my life.

TrunkSpace: Is it one of those situations you hear all the time about, especially in this industry, where work begets work? Does just being associated with a show like “Orange Is The New Black” open up new doors?
Altman: Well, I’m still hoping that is the case. I’m not sure just yet. I have to be pretty patient. But as far as work begets work, I think to speak for that… the only episode I really was hired for originally was the Season 5 finale. It was not supposed to be a recurring role. Jenji Kohan, and the rest of the producers of the show, I think that they liked my work enough in the finale to spark some ideas to bring me back for this season, and turned it into a more integral role as far as the plot line of the series.

TrunkSpace: With something like that, where you’re not expected to come back, you must have already moved on emotionally from that job?
Altman: I did. It took over six months after I shot it for it to actually begin streaming, so I didn’t know what to expect as far as what it would look like or if they would cut anything out. But I did know for that particular solo episode, it was a big role in that episode. But I wasn’t expecting when I was going into it, it being expanded into sort of this antagonistic role for Season 6, and possibly Season 7 as well, hopefully.

TrunkSpace: Had you known that the character would’ve been reoccurring at the time, do you think you would’ve made any sort of initial choices with how you played him differently, again, knowing what you know now?
Altman: Looking back on it, I don’t think so. I think that I would’ve prepared the same way as an actor, because the character probably doesn’t know his future either. He didn’t know the circumstances that would arise after the fallout of the riot, which actually – spoiler alert ahead – you’ll find out if you haven’t watched Season 6 yet, the repercussions and the consequences of what happened during that episode. So it really wasn’t written yet and I wouldn’t have been able to know that in the back of my mind.

TrunkSpace: It must be such a great confidence boost, especially in a creative field, to get that call saying they want to work with you again. It speaks to everything you did on that set the first time around.
Altman: Yeah, it definitely boosted my confidence a lot, because Jenji Kohan, the creator of the show, wrote the Season 6 premiere episode. She wrote a big scene for me in it where I have a really long monologue. It was one of the longest monologues I’ve ever done – theater, film, or television – so it boosted my confidence, because I saw that she had the confidence in me to handle that type of dialogue.

TrunkSpace: What did you like about the character in that initial performance, and have you discovered anything new and exciting about who he is and how you get to play him after that?
Altman: I think that the way it was written in this current season’s premiere, you could tell that this guy has been in these type of situations before. I think that in his younger years as a cop, he developed into sort of this dirty cop, diehard blue blood, vindictive type of person. I think that you could tell – and I added this into his backstory – you could tell he’s been through these types of situations before, as far as covering up crimes, looking out for himself, and making sure that someone else takes the blame, so that he doesn’t go down.

TrunkSpace: Yeah, he’s not learning as he goes. This is old news to him.
Altman: Right. I’m almost at that 40 year mark. I’m not there quite yet, but I think that somewhere along the line in this guy’s career, whether it was when he was a rookie cop or somewhere early on in his 20s, he has learned that lesson from another superior of his, he’s taken that experience, and passing it onto these guys that he’s with, going through this riot, and leading them to the best of his ability.

Orange Is The New Black” is available to stream on Netflix.

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Musical Mondaze

Ellisa Sun

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With a new EP due next week, our favorite soulful, soul-baring singer/songwriter Ellisa Sun is sharing her latest single, “Just A Little More,” with TrunkSpace. Come for the song, stay for the chat below!

TrunkSpace: We spoke earlier this year. Are you in a different mindset – creatively, emotionally – than you were when we chatted back in May?
Sun: Absolutely. I’m still the same person, of course, but I feel like I’ve learned a lot over the past year and a half. I’ve grown not just as an artist, but as a businesswoman. And I’ve built a band I’m insanely proud to have. I’ve learned to collaborate and create this EP with my band from the ground up. With my first album “Moon & Sun” (released in April of last year), the songs were pretty much written and arranged ahead of time. With this EP, I worked with my band to create five pieces of intricate music, inspired by my personal experiences with love and loss. Emotionally speaking, I haven’t changed much – I’m still the crazy person I was back in May! But I have been lucky enough to find a partner since May, Ken Michienzi, who serves as my rock through the insanity of navigating the music industry and touring the USA in a 30-ft RV.

TrunkSpace: How do those creative and emotional changes directly relate to your new single “Just A Little More,” which we are premiering here today?
Sun: I’ll just go ahead and be super open with you: I wrote “Just A Little More” when I was first dating Ken, my current partner. When I first started dating Ken, I wasn’t totally sure what I wanted. I knew I liked him, but I also wanted my freedom. I was conflicted, and I talked to a lot of my friends about it. Nowadays, with all the dating apps and the ability to pick up a person with a single tap of your finger on a screen, it’s easy to throw people away. I was afraid of getting hurt. I was afraid to take the leap and admit I liked him. Suffice it to say, it worked out and we’re together still! But, this song is about that chaos of being afraid to admit your true feelings for someone.

I wrote the song and brought it to my band while we were on a band retreat in Watsonville, CA. We had the weekend to hang out by the beach and it was a beautiful and peaceful place. The song came together over the course of a day, as my band members added their parts organically. Over the next few months, the song grew even more into what it is today! This is a testament to the creative changes I’ve made over the past year and a half. We worked together as a group, and this is something I’ve always wanted: a harmonious band that communicates effectively, works hard, and creates fearlessly.

TrunkSpace: The single is from your upcoming EP of the same name, due September 21. Would you say this is a new chapter in your creative life, and if so, what does the EP say about who you are as an artist in 2018?
Sun: Well, here’s the sad part of all this “harmonious band” talk: my band broke up after we created this EP. Nothing bad though! One member needed a break to focus on his family, one moved to New York, and as for me: I was ready to leave the Bay Area. It’s all good – I’m so grateful we ended things peacefully, there was no drama and we still keep in touch (we’re even doing a full-band reunion tour in Boston, NYC, Philly, and DC at the end of September!)

I left 1 month ago to embark on a year-long tour in my 30-ft RV with Ken. This is DEFINITELY a new chapter in my creative life, because I no longer have my band. I am being forced to focus on my craft alone, with Ken to play the Cajon for me, which is really nice. But I’m being challenged to improve my guitar skills and songwriting.

The EP is both a showcase of me and my band’s hard work, and a sort of “time capsule” of my life in the Bay Area since this was our last project together before taking a break. I’m using this solo tour as a time of reflection, to figure out what I want next: where I want to live, what types of sounds I want to create, and how to make a full-time living off my music – cause I am hellbent on making that happen!

TrunkSpace: You and your band self-produced the EP this time around. How did that change the process of recording for you? Did having more creative control mean having more of your vision take shape?
Sun: Absolutely. We wrote, arranged, rehearsed, produced and recorded these songs over the course of a year. This is VERY different from “Moon & Sun,” which was recorded at a studio over the course of four days. I wrote three of the five songs, but the other two were started by Niko, my bassist, and Chuck, my guitarist. The songs would start out as one idea and end as another. We had the time to play around with ideas, throw out new ideas, throw away ones we didn’t like, and start over if we had to. We kept shared Google Docs with notes and ideas, rehearsed at least twice a week, and made sure we were all on the same page. It was truly a collaborative labor of love.

TrunkSpace: Last we spoke we referred to your music as “sexy.” Will that sexy vibe carry forward into the new EP?
Sun: (Laughter) Me calling my music “sexy” was a joke at first – I use that adjective too much and my bandmate Niko made fun of me, so I (of course) kept doing it. To me, “sexy” doesn’t necessarily mean the cliché, slow jam, baby-making music you hear on your local late night radio. Rather, it’s a word to describe music that makes you feel something. Sometimes that feeling is emotional – it brings you back to a certain place or time. Sometimes it’s physical – it makes you want to move your body or it gives you the chills. Other times it’s mental – it sparks questions you’d never had before.

But I do want one of my songs to result in a baby being conceived. Just saying. That’s a real goal of mine.

Photo By: Ken Michienzi

TrunkSpace: We also spoke about the various styles and influences we heard in your music. Did you try to bring anything uniquely new to this project, sonically or lyrically, that you never tackled before?
Sun: Yes! A lot of this is EP is new sonically and lyrically. Compared to “Moon & Sun,” this EP is a lot more upbeat. The songs make you want to move and sway a bit more. Sonically speaking, we experimented with tons of sounds. Quincy, my drummer, tried a bunch of different percussion instruments. David, my keyboard player, tried out piano, synth, and organ sounds with the songs. All of the guys were fabulous singers and came up with their own backup vocal lines.

We created A LOT of demos, test mixes, and versions of the songs before we settled on the final arrangements. I also had the pleasure of working with two horn players, Dan and Ethan, who work really well together and created some truly delicious horn lines in all of the songs. I even sing in Spanish in one of the songs, “Chaos”, with my guitarist Chuck! I speak Spanish and I generally want to sing more in Spanish, but haven’t had the chance until now.

TrunkSpace: When you’re choosing the first single, do you pick the track that you personally enjoy most? The track you think will be the most accessible to a mass audience? What is the formula you use when making that decision?
Sun: I chose the track that is the most representative of the band. “Just a Little More” shows off our band’s many talents and it’s my personal favorite. I have a deep emotional connection to this song because of where it came from and how it grew with the band. It’s easy to sing along to, and hopefully my audience will enjoy singing along to it! Since I’ve been on the road, I’ve played a lot of house shows where the crowd is intimately listening to every word. So I’ve incorporated a lot of sing-alongs with the song, where the crowd sings some “ooos” and the chorus line “break your little heart”. It’s been so much fun!

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the new EP?
Sun: I’m definitely proud of how collaborative it was. We created the songs together and we did the legwork to finish them. It feels so good to know your music came from a place of peace, a place of true love. It wasn’t just some guys I hired to play the chords I wrote, and there was no drama about who gets to play what. We made it together.

TrunkSpace: Do you place expectations on yourself and your music when you release something into the world? Does the “Just A Little More” EP or the single of the same name have personal goals attached to them that you hope to achieve?
Sun: I absolutely place expectations on myself. Ken can attest to that – he has to deal with my constant self-deprecation. I’m incredibly proud of this EP, and therefore terrified to release it into the world. I’m scared of people saying negative things about it, or telling me what I should or shouldn’t be doing in the music business as a result of this EP. But I always try to remember that I’m following my heart and my dream for MYSELF, not for anybody else. I am doing this because I love it and it makes me feel alive.

As a personal goal for the EP, I want people to feel connected to the songs and relate to the lyrics. This EP is all about love: the chaos of love and the payoff of all the ups and downs. All I want is for people to feel something from my music and share it with people they love.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead into the future 20 years to get a glimpse at how your career played out over the next two decades, would you take that trip? Would you want to know how things ultimately work out, and if not, why?
Sun: This is a very difficult question! I would say, yes. If someone offered me the chance to travel through time, why the hell wouldn’t I?! If I wind up under a bridge homeless and living off dead rats because my music failed, I’d rather know now. And if I wind up living in an enormous mansion surrounded by servants and statues of pure gold, then I’ll know to keep on truckin’.

Photo By: Ken Michienzi
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