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Wingman Wednesday

Evan Roderick

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Photo By: Carly Dame

While his first dream was to play professional hockey, Evan Roderick, who portrays Nick Anastas on the superhero series “Arrow,” found himself being drawn to a more creative career. As an actor, the Vancouver native relished the expressiveness that the medium offered, and while he ultimately hung up the skates, he credits hockey for preparing him mentally for a life of performing.

We recently sat down with Roderick to discuss where “Arrow” has impacted his life the most, front flips off two-story buildings, and what he thinks about sandals with jeans.

TrunkSpace: “Arrow” is a fan favorite show with a loyal following. How much has the series changed your life since you stepped into the role of Nick Anastas?
Roderick: Well, I think more than anything this role has given me an eye into the industry. I finally feel like I’m inside this machine that IS “Arrow.” And to have people reach out through social media and tell me how much the show means to them has been incredibly meaningful.

TrunkSpace: Beyond the work itself, what has been the most rewarding part of this journey for you thus far?
Roderick: Other than the work, I’ve really treasured the lessons I have learned from the other actors on the show. I’m so lucky to be surrounded by a cast that has so much experience, and they have shared a lot of stories and advice about the industry. They have taught me so much.

TrunkSpace: Right and wrong is pretty black and white to Officer Anastas, at least when we first meet him. As his own views and positioning on things like vigilantism changed, what was that character adjustment like for you? It definitely feels like he’s in a place now that is much different from when you started your journey with him.
Roderick: For sure. I think a lot of the progression you see is a combination of me (the actor) growing more comfortable on the show, as well as the writers giving me more responsibility and featuring my character more.

TrunkSpace: Being on a series with cowls and capes must offer some surreal run-ins behind the scenes. What has been the most “pinch me” moment for you throughout your time on “Arrow” thus far?
Roderick: The stunt guys. They are incredible. I’ve watched them do full front flips off two-story buildings, get hit by cars… it’s hard to believe they are all trained to do this stuff!

TrunkSpace: What would 10-year-old Evan think about his future self getting to step into the DC universe and play alongside of super heroes in Star City?
Roderick: He’d be proud. I always really wanted to play a cop, plus the opportunity to play one in the DC Universe is a huge bonus.

TrunkSpace: Prior to acting you were pursuing hockey. Was that your first dream and what lead you away from the sport and into acting?
Roderick: It was my first dream. But the truth is, in the end I just wasn’t satisfied with playing hockey. At one point I was scheduled to play in the NCAA for UMASS-LOWELL, but the feeling wasn’t going away. I knew for a long time deep down that I was going to pursue acting instead. There is just something creative and expressive about acting that hockey doesn’t offer. Ultimately, that’s why I made the decision.

TrunkSpace: Are there any parallels between hockey and acting? Is the focus and training similar? The pursuit of an end goal? Where do the two intersect?
Roderick: Totally. Funnily enough, I approach acting in a very similar way as I did hockey. For example, when I am preparing for an audition or a scene, I have to psyche myself up and talk myself through my preparation. I envy actors that can just dive into their character with the snap of a finger – I’m just not like that. I’m grateful I had a sport like hockey to help me find a process to perform.

Photo By: Carly Dame

TrunkSpace: You’re also a songwriter. Do you hope to expand your love for music into a separate career avenue or is writing and recording more of a hobby?
Roderick: I absolutely want to have some kind of a career in music as well. I think I work and stress too much over my music to call it a hobby! To play a musician in a film and/or write songs for a project would be an ideal situation in my mind.

TrunkSpace: We read that you have no problem wearing boots with shorts, BUT, what about sandals with jeans?
Roderick: You’ve just described by quintessential summer wardrobe. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Finally, Evan, you’re still at such an early point in your career with so many future roles still ahead of you. Are you someone who wonders what lies ahead or is important for you stay focused on the present. When it comes to your career, do you plan for the future or is it too difficult in an industry where so much is out of your control?
Roderick: I do think about the future, a lot. Hopefully not to the extent that it pulls me out of the present, but I think it’s important to work towards something. It’s true, sometimes the future of an actor is unpredictable, but you can still control how you want to brand yourself and what parts you decide to go out for.

Arrow” returns October 15 on The CW.

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Wingman Wednesday

Jennifer Cheon

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Photography: Jeffery Fountain/Makeup: Caitlin Krenz with Opus Beauty/Hair: Felicia Rials/Stylist: Lauren Taylor

With her character Ivory set to see more action in “Van Helsing” when Season 3 premieres October 5 on Syfy, Jennifer Cheon is living out her Linda Hamilton dream. As a child, “Terminator 2” kick-started her desire to go full on-screen badass, and now thanks to the fan-favorite fantasy series starring Kelly Overton as Vanessa Van Helsing, that dream has become a reality.

We recently sat down with Cheon to discuss how viewers will get to see more of Ivory in Season 3, the reason actors are being drawn back to the city of Vancouver, and why shows like “Supernatural” and “The Flash” have been so important to her career.

TrunkSpace: What is it like being part of a series like “Van Helsing” where the fan base is so supportive? Is it almost more rewarding on a personal level than appearing in a show that pulls triple the audience but isn’t necessarily as invested in the story and cast?
Cheon: “Van Helsing” has the best fans ever! I am happy to be a part of a show that is diverse and full of good ol’ Vampire fun! It is super rewarding when people reach out and tell you they love and support, or relate to your work!

TrunkSpace: The series returns on October 5. What are you most excited about as you build up for the third season?
Cheon: I’m the most excited that people are getting what they ask for in terms of seeing more of Ivory.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from Ivory this season, and on a personal level, what were you looking forward to play with on-camera as it relates to the character?
Cheon: Well, this season you see her around more characters that you may love or hate… you get to see her coming into her position more. Very exciting!

TrunkSpace: Is there a secondary level of excitement involved in being a part of a series like this when it drops in its entirety on Netflix? Is it nice to know that new people can continuously discover your work?
Cheon: YES! Yes! I am a binge watcher myself so I love that Netflix delivers it all so you can cozy up to your human or animal and enjoy the whole series.

TrunkSpace: You’re no stranger to fan-favorite series. You’ve appeared in “Arrow,” “The Flash,” and “Supernatural,” all shows that are important to viewers. But those shows are also important to your native Vancouver and the actors who call the city their home. What have those series meant to your career and how it has progressed throughout the years?
Cheon: Oh man, I had some of my first real lines on camera on those shows. I got the privilege to work with industry vets; some of the best, from actors to the crew. It’s funny how much of the industry is in Vancouver now. I lived in LA for a few years and ended up moving back home because the industry was booming (still is). Every experience on set has lead me to this moment. You never know as an actor what role will stick or which role will end up being more than a one liner… you have to really choose this career for the love because you never know.

TrunkSpace: “Supernatural” in particular, which is going into Season 14, seems like a staple for performers in and around the Vancouver area. Is it a bit of a rite of passage for actors to step onto that set and become a part of the “Supernatural” universe?
Cheon: It truly is. I remember I was fresh out of high school and modeling at the time. I needed a summer job, and my modeling agent suggested Background work… I had never heard of that being a way to earn money, but I’m so glad I tried it! It taught me set etiquette, and also gave me an inside scoop to what it was I really wanted to pursue. One of the first sets I ever walked on to was “Supernatural.” I remember saying to myself, “I am going to do that – I want to work with those actors, and be on this set with an actual role.” When it finally happened it really felt like a milestone for me, and what a great group of people to work with!

TrunkSpace: What is it that you enjoy most about performing? What is the internal drive?
Cheon: I LOVE it all. I love that I get to embody different people. I get a chance to understand how they think, whether they are fiction or real. I find it helps me put things into perspective. I love giving people a sense of comfort in the characters I play… comfort in the way they relate or comfort in the escape from whatever might be happening in their own worlds. I also love how the environment on set is so collaborative creatively. In “Van Helsing,” we get to fight with swords and be complete badasses… so much fun!

Photography: Jeffery Fountain/Makeup: Caitlin Krenz with Opus Beauty/Hair: Felicia Rials/Stylist: Lauren Taylor

TrunkSpace: We read that part of what sparked your interest in pursuing a career in film and television was “Terminator 2.” What was it about that movie in particular (and for us, we have to add that the soundtrack was pretty great as well!) that ultimately set you on this path?
Cheon: I’m humming the score right now. (Laughter) Everything about that movie and the making of that movie drew me into this industry. I love action films, and I love seeing humans do these crazy things with our bodies. I love how indestructible we become on film. With “Terminator 2,” not only was Linda Hamilton the first woman I ever saw on TV that was tougher than most men, but she was the real deal. I was such a tomboy growing up, and when I saw her it made me proud of it instead of always trying to conform to the way men tell us we should be. Also, can we talk about the costumes, and styling of that film? Ummm, epic! I think my entire wardrobe is a mix of all the characters.

TrunkSpace: In a perfect world – the BEST best case scenario – how do you see your career playing out? What bucket list items do you want to achieve?
Cheon: I want to be a Bond Girl. I have always been such a fan of those films. I would also die a very happy woman if I were to play Catwoman. I think it’s time for a mixed race female super hero. Also I would love to have more opportunities to direct.

TrunkSpace: What job have you learned the most from, the one where the things you absorbed on that particular set you still find yourself applying to your career today?
Cheon: I think I have learned these general rules from being on a set for so many years in many different departments: Stay in your lane, be respectful, say please and thank you, remember at the end of the day everyone wants to get the job done so don’t think you are the only one who matters. Just remember how lucky you are to be there, and most importantly have fun! This is entertainment!

Season 3 of “Van Helsing” premieres October 5 on Syfy.

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Chilling Out

Elysia Rotaru and Stephen Sawchuk

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Mackenzie Mowat and Jenna Romanin in “FWD”

Chilling Out is where TrunkSpace talks all things horror and genre with those who work in the projects that give us the thrills and chills to keep coming back for more. This time out we’re chatting with Elysia Rotaru and Stephen Sawchuk, the brains behind “FWD,” the new horror/comedy hybrid that is giving us a serious hankering for ’90s nostalgia.

We recently sat down with the creative duo to discuss embracing the camp, being scared to scare, and why they owe a lot of favors to a lot of people.

TrunkSpace: First and foremost, how did the creative partnership between the two of you come about?
Sawchuk: Elysia and I have known each other for nearly a decade now so it’s been a long time in the making. People always warn you not to get into business with your friends but I think what clicked for us is that we share a lot of the same creative instincts and work ethic. When we decided to pair up, Elysia was acting at the time and I was producing reality television, and we were both eager to sink our teeth into something new and different where we could flex our creative muscles a bit more.

TrunkSpace: Many of us believe in love at first sight, but does the same apply to creativity? Can two people share a like-minded creative POV right out of the gates, and if so, did you both find that in each other?
Sawchuk: We’re both creative people but that’s not to say we agree all of the time, which is a healthy part of the process. What works well for us is that Elysia brings her extensive acting and coaching background to the table, and as a producer I’m heavily involved in the day to day of both the creative and logistics, so we clicked and our skill sets complement each other and we push each other into new territory.

TrunkSpace: We love that “FWD” is ‘90s based. (Big ups to the chokers and the Skeet Ulrich reference!) Was the setting itself sort of necessary given the premise, which is based around a chain email that brings about unspeakable… wait for it… HORROR?
Sawchuk: Totally! We’re both huge fans of the 90’s slasher genre, and wanted to embrace the camp and ridiculousness of that era… Y2K fear and killer emails!
Rotaru: You remember those, don’t you?!

TrunkSpace: Speaking of horror, as filmmakers, do you feel like you kind of come into “FWD” having a built-in audience knowing how passionate the horror audience is for all things within the genre… even if there are different subsets within the larger horror umbrella?
Rotaru: The horror audience is very savvy, so it was actually a little scary (no pun intended) creating a film in the genre. It’s one thing to have a built-in audience, but another to have them actually enjoy your film!
Sawchuk: As newcomer filmmakers to the genre we wanted to make sure our first project had the elements of a horror film, but that it didn’t take itself too seriously.

TrunkSpace: On the opposite side of that coin, is the horror audience difficult to please, because in a lot of ways, it feels like a genre where each project has to keep upping itself in terms of gore and twisting plot points?
Sawchuk: Absolutely! There’s a lot to live up to in the genre, and during the brainstorming process for “FWD” I kept asking myself “what can we do differently?” And that’s a super tough question to answer because I think people kind of feel like “it’s all been done before” in terms of the slasher genre. So my challenge was to tell a contained story in less than 10 minutes that wasn’t just a guy with a knife stalking two young girls. We hope we accomplished that with a unique setting and era and a twist ending in the final scene.

Elysia Rotaru

TrunkSpace: In creating the short, do you see this as your complete vision, or is the hope to take the concept and turn it into a full-length feature?
Sawchuk: There were a ton of things we wish we could have done differently with the short, but we did our best with the time, money and resources we had available.
Rotaru: And we knew we just needed to make the film! It sounds cliché but it’s true – if you wait around for the perfect moment to start, you’ll never start. So there were a lot of things we wish we could’ve done differently with the short, but we’ve been developing a feature-length film based on the short that we’re really excited about!

TrunkSpace: Was there anything that you had hoped to accomplish with “FWD” that you had to revisit during production because of budget or time constraints?
Sawchuk: We made the movie on a buck and a half (kidding not kidding) so we really had to stretch every dollar and beg, borrow and steal. Any filmmaker in the genre will tell you that funding resources are super limited… a lot of the organizations ignore or disqualify horror altogether which is disappointing, so you have to get creative with how you’re going to make it happen. We self funded and set up an Indiegogo page and the film wouldn’t have been made if it weren’t for the support of friends, family and fans of the genre. We also had a crazy talented crew who worked on the project simply because they liked the script and the people on the team. So basically we owe a lot of favors back! Looking back, I wish we could have used some different camera gear and upped our special effects/gore game a bit, but we did what we could with the resources we had available. I think every filmmaker gets that “woulda shoulda coulda” feeling.

Stephen Sawchuk

TrunkSpace: As we said, the film is based in the ‘90s, but there’s also a great ‘90s horror vibe to it as well. Were the return of slasher films like “Scream” and “Urban Legend” an influence in “FWD” coming into fruition, particularly given the comedic tone that it strikes at times?
Sawchuk: Totally! The opening scenes of the “Scream” movies really inspired us. Those scenes are usually five to 10 minutes long but they immediately rope you in and keep you engaged until the title card comes up. Our challenge was to try to have a similar impact on an audience, but tell a contained story that had a pay off by minute seven. I could watch the openers to the original “Scream” and “Scream 4” on loop! The way the “Scream” movies infused comedy into the genre was game changing. Nobody did the horror-comedy spin better than Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson.

TrunkSpace: What did the two of you take from the experience of bringing “FWD” to life that you’ll apply to your next project and each one after that?
Rotaru: Follow your instincts, honor your vision and have fun throughout the process. Filmmaking is so collaborative, which can sometimes mean there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen, so it’s important to stick to your gut.
Sawchuk: We were lucky to work with a really great, supportive and talented cast and crew and honestly we wouldn’t have been able to make the film without them. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people who share your passion is really important. Another key takeaway from working on our first project together is to not take yourself too seriously!

TrunkSpace: What’s next for you two as far as your creative partnership goes?
Sawchuk: Our second screenplay is ready to roll!
Rotaru: It’s another horror-comedy called ‘Daddy Issues’ that we’re both really excited about, and it was written with feature film potential in mind. We’re still in development but hope to take it to camera before the end of 2018.
Sawchuk: We’re still working on the treatment for the feature-length ‘FWD’ as well!

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Wingman Wednesday

Marcus Rosner

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Photo By: Lane Dorsey

As one of the male suitors of the fictional dating series “Everlasting,” Marcus Rosner is tapping into parts of his Northern Alberta upbringing to bring good ol’ boy Warren to life in Season 3 of “UnREAL.” While the jury is still out as to whether or not the fan base will be rooting for Warren to come out the romantic victor of the show within a show, each of the beaus-to-be will have their closet skeletons revealed in good time, proving that maybe it’s not such a bad thing that love, as they say, is blind.

We recently sat down with Rosner to discuss what it’s like joining a successful series three seasons in, how Alan Jackson helped him tap into his country-bred character, and why “Supernatural” has one of the best set atmospheres in the biz.

TrunkSpace: You’ve joined the cast of the Lifetime series “UnREAL” in its third season, which kicked off this week. When you’re joining an existing show with an established on-set atmosphere, do you feel a bit like the new kid going to a school where everybody already knows everybody else? How long did it take you to feel at ease in the job?
Rosner: Yeah, you kind of do honestly, but with this show, you get a whole freshman class you’re a part of because while the main cast is always there, each new season requires a whole cast of suitors and in this case, one suitress. And we actually outnumber them as well, so you have the comfort of not being alone in that situation. Besides that, you end up spending so much time around everyone, main cast and new, given the ensemble format of the show, that you figure out who you vibe with pretty quickly and it’s easy to relax within the first few days. I imagine in the case of this show, with all the turnover, each new season establishes its own on-set atmosphere.

TrunkSpace: In terms of the work itself, it must be very exciting to join a show with an existing fan base. So many of the “Will they be watching?” questions are removed from the experience, which must be nice knowing that your performance will be seen?
Rosner: That’s not really something I put a whole lot of thought into personally. I’ve always just enjoyed the work and some of my favorite experiences and performances have come in projects that very few people have ever seen. But, if I’m being honest, there has definitely been more excitement about this project than I have experienced before – you can feel the growing anticipation for the show to return after so long. Not to mention it’s kind of a cult hit within the entertainment industry itself from what I’m told. So that doesn’t hurt.

TrunkSpace: Now, whether the character himself will be embraced by the fan base remains to be seen, but from what you know of Warren, is he someone who the viewers will accept?
Rosner: Warren may slide under the radar a little at first until he makes his presence known in a big way. He’s certainly a very principled man but some of his beliefs that come out down the line may rub certain people the wrong way. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of response he gets. This show has a way of bringing the demons out of all its characters and there are very few exceptions.

TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, did Warren offer something new in terms of a type of character you have yet to play? What was it about him that you were most eager to dive into?
Rosner: I grew up in Alberta, Canada around farms and country music and never really involved myself in either, so in a way, this was a nice opportunity to get in touch with those things. I drove to set every day listening to Alan Jackson to get my accent dialed in and I loved wearing a cowboy hat all the time. It was really easy to find the identity of Warren, how he walks, how he sees things. I don’t know, maybe it’s in my blood. I’ve played a few cowboys in the past but never with a full-fledged accent like Warren. One of the things that I was always interested to figure out was how someone like him, being from a much more conservative area of the country and holding really traditional beliefs, would perceive all the sex, lies, and videotape going around on “Everlasting.” That was a lot of fun.

TrunkSpace: When you’re presented with a new character, what is your method of personal discovery? How do you go about finding who that person is and how to portray him moving forward?
Rosner: Well, in life everybody wants something. I think (and I’ve been taught) that whether it’s conscious or sub-conscious you can boil down everyone’s driving force to one clear objective. In Warren’s case, his mom is dying and he wants to make her happy. He wouldn’t normally ever be the type to do something like go on a reality dating show, but momma wants him to settle down and he’s desperate to put her mind at ease before she goes and there aren’t exactly a whole lot of female suitors on his ranch. So given that circumstance, plus his upbringing as a conservative, he wants to find love but also maintain his principled beliefs, which on the “Everlasting” set is a near impossible task. So I really just keep those circumstances in mind and that overall objective when going into any scene, and from there it’s pretty easy to figure out how my character would maneuver any situation to eventually achieve that greater goal. I’ve been working with the Chubbuck technique a lot recently and a lot of this comes from that.

TrunkSpace: You’re doing a number of episodes of “UnREAL.” Is it fun to learn new things about a character as scripts come to you, or do you prefer to have as much of the picture painted before you shoot a particular project?
Rosner: Just about every actor, if given the choice, would have the entire story given to them up front. That’s one of the reasons films are such sought-after projects. When you have the whole story, you can develop a much more defined arc for your character and make more detailed choices along the way, but it’s definitely exciting to sit down with a new episode script for the first time and see what new information you will be given about a character you feel such ownership over. The fun really comes from justifying whatever insane behavior happens to take place in the script. Like, why would my character do this? How do I learn that? Once you find that you know how to play it.

TrunkSpace: You’ve starred in a number of Hallmark Channel movies over the course of your career. One of the fascinating things about the Hallmark Channel brand is that it has a very loyal following, and in fact, a fandom known as the Hallmarkies. Would you say that the Hallmarkies rival some of the more well-known fandoms from the science fiction and fantasy genres? Have you felt the Hallmarkies presence either in person or on social media?
Rosner: The Hallmark Channel has been very good to me over the years. In Vancouver where I started acting, they shoot dozens and dozens of films each year, so there is a lot of opportunity to work on their projects. My first major role on their network came as the “other man” in a love triangle on the second season of their hit show “When Calls the Heart.” I fully expected the audience to hate me for coming in between their two leads but the response I got on social media and in person from fans was about as kind as you could ask for. I mean, they hated my character but they couldn’t have been sweeter to me outside of the show. They are passionate fans but they take care of their own.

They’ve gone on to support me in any other projects I’ve been a part of across many different networks and shows. One thing that I think differentiates that fan base from others is that they feel a genuine friendship with many of the actors who appear regularly on their network, I have a few that I message with every once in a while just to keep in touch and see how they’re doing because they’ve been so supportive and I know other actors that have the same connection with them as well.

TrunkSpace: Hallmark Channel productions are known for being very efficient. Has working within that fast-paced scheduling allowed you to sort of be prepared for anything that comes at you, particularly in the world of television?
Rosner: (Laughter) Absolutely. The pace these films shoot at can rival just about anything. You need to show up with all your lines locked in because things can get moved around on any given day, you can shoot parts of different scenes altogether and can receive rewrites at the last second, so you need to be a quick study. It certainly helps build that muscle that you use in auditioning where you need to pick up words quickly and be ready to put them on film the next day.

TrunkSpace: Speaking of fandoms, you also guested on an episode of “Supernatural,” a series that is currently in its 13th season. Is it kind of a right of passage for actors based in Canada to pass through the “Supernatural” universe?
Rosner: (Laughter) Yep. Especially if you’re living in Vancouver where it shoots. They’ve been on for so long and have cast so many roles over the years that most actors I know have had the opportunity to work on their show. One thing I will say about that show and specifically that set is it’s one of the nicest atmospheres and most well run shows in the business. And Jared (Padalecki) and Jensen (Ackles) seem to have mastered this ability to lead by example. You can see them making the effort to make guest actors comfortable and at home so they can do good work. Can’t say enough good things about my experience on that show.

TrunkSpace: Aside from “Supernatural,” you’ve also guested in series like “Once Upon a Time” and “Arrow.” Is there a character, even someone you only tackled for a single episode, that you wished you had more time to explore, and if so, why?
Rosner: I wish I had more time playing Max Fuller on “Arrow.” It was the second professional gig I ever had, only their third episode, and the show hadn’t even premiered yet. I knew from reading the pilot script the show would become a hit. I look back at my short performance on the show and wish I had more opportunity to see what kind of rivalry existed between him and Oliver Queen.

TrunkSpace: We read that it was a trip to Broadway that cemented your desire to be an actor. What was it about that first experience sitting in the audience that made you say to yourself, “I want to do that!”?
Rosner: I had always wanted to visit NYC and so when I graduated my Mom took me on a trip there as a sort of graduation gift. We saw a few shows and something about just sitting within reach of these performers made it tangible to me. Coming from Northern Alberta, the entire entertainment industry was a foreign concept to me. Seeing these actors and being in the same room as them made it seem a little more real – like I could reach out and grab it if I could just learn the craft. And that’s what I’ve been pursuing ever since.

Season 3 of “UnREAL” airs Mondays on Lifetime.

Featured image by: Lane Dorsey

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Wingman Wednesday

Byron Mann

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Photo By: Diana Ragland

Byron Mann is on one heck of a project run, but he’s the first to admit that it wasn’t planned. In fact, he couldn’t have planned it this way if he tried.

Not only can the Hong Kong native be seen starring in the new Netflix series “Altered Carbon,” but you’ll soon be able to catch him opposite Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in the upcoming action film “Skyscraper.” Both projects’ trailers were part of the highly-anticipated Super Bowl roster of commercials, proving once again that you just can’t plan for this kind of thing.

We recently sat down with Mann to discuss the reason “Altered Carbon” feels more like a film than a television series, why it won’t be easy for other networks to duplicate, and the place he often finds himself engaged in character work.

TrunkSpace: “Altered Carbon” seems like such an ambitious show, especially by television/streaming standards. Just the visuals… the sets… they’ve really built an atmosphere and then dropped the characters in to inhabit it.
Mann: I didn’t realize how ambitious they were until I started training for the show, both individually and they had me work with a trainer every morning. It was pretty hard, rigorous training. Then, in the afternoon, we would train for the fight sequence in the pilot episode. We did that for like two months. Training for one fight sequence for two months – it’s pretty steep, yeah.

TrunkSpace: That’s amazing. It definitely had the feel of watching a feature film.
Mann: There’s no question that they were making a feature film. The director, Miguel Sapochnik, who won an Emmy for “Game of Thrones” last year… there was no question that his ambition was to make it that. I mean, listen, the camera that they used was the ALEXA 65. That’s the same camera used for “The Revenant,” the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio. That camera is only used for widescreen display of the image, like in a movie theater. It’s never ever been used for a TV show. He chose to use this camera for this television show, this streaming show, I should call it. The ambition was clearly there from the get-go to make it feature film quality. When you see the first episode, you’ll see very clearly that it is a feature film presentation.

TrunkSpace: Maybe that’s why the sets and world stood out so much to us, because of the widescreen display.
Mann: Yeah. Of course, when we’re filming, you don’t really feel it. I can tell, not only from filming, but actually from the preparation, the training and rehearsals going into it, that obviously the sets were… they built a new world basically. They built a studio for the series. They converted a printing mill into a studio in Vancouver. It’s called the Skydance Studios, and Skydance owns it. I don’t know how to describe it. They weren’t making another “CSI.” They were making a groundbreaking show, from the ground up.

TrunkSpace: Which sort of calls out other networks. Executives at all of these other networks are going to be saying, “We need our own ‘Altered Carbon’.”
Mann: Oh man, that’s easier said than done. You can’t just duplicate that overnight. You can’t. It’s so hard making anything these days. It’s hard making a television show. It’s hard making a feature film. Not only do you have to make a show like that, then you have to make it a super duper outside-the-box, groundbreaking show. Forget about it. You can’t even plan it. A lot of things that came into being. There’s Laeta Kalogridis. She wrote “Terminator Genisys,” “Shutter Island.” She’s the leading science fiction writer in Hollywood. “Alita: Battle Angel,” the movie that is coming out from Robert Rodriguez… I mean, she’s it. She’s the Steven Spielberg of writers. Then Miguel Sapochnik, who was the executive producer and also directed the first big episode, which took 30 days to shoot. So you have a lot of these things coming together to make this kind of a show.

It’s like the Patriots – it’s a lot of things coming into one. Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and Gronk. The reality is, in football terms, you can’t even duplicate that. Where are you going to get another dynasty? If one of them leaves? If Brady leaves?

I’m very honored, very humbled to happen to be a part of this. It’s awesome.

TrunkSpace: When you signed on, did you dive into the source material, Richard K. Morgan’s 2002 book, to see what came before?
Mann: No. When I first started, I talked to Laeta Kalogridis, the showrunner. She said, “Don’t read the book.” So I didn’t. I just read the script, and I had many, many hours of sitting down with her alone, and just asking her questions like, “What’s going on? What happened?” It’s a new world with new terminology, a new technique of how things work. It’s like “Blade Runner.” It’s a brand new world. Believe it or not, I think 50 years from now, I think our lives will be very close to what we see in “Altered Carbon.” It’s predicated on this premise, that everyone has a “stack,” like a gift in their vertebrae. All humans have this gift. Even if your outer body dies, you can go resave yourself again. As I understand, they’re heavily invested in this technology right now, as we speak.

TrunkSpace: So when you’re playing in the sandbox of a whole new world with new terminology and techniques on how things work, does it allow you to take a different approach to performance than you would with something set in modern day New York, for example?
Mann: Not really. As an actor, when you’re doing a scene, you just want to find out the questions. “Who are you? What do you want? What’s happening in the scene?” It’s still human emotions. No matter how sci-fi everything gets, the baseline is still dealing with very basic human emotions – love, jealousy, desire, power – all that.

Mann in “Altered Carbon”

TrunkSpace: Between “Altered Carbon” and the projects you have due up, you’re getting to work in a lot of different genres. As an actor, is it a treat to get to play in so many different types of projects?
Mann: Yeah, I guess it’s fun. It doesn’t really faze me too much. After playing so many different characters, I think it’s all… the stuff I said earlier, it applies to every single project. Basically, you find out who you are, what you’re doing here, and what are you trying to do? That hasn’t changed from the ’70s and the ’60s, when you had movies like “The Graduate,” or “Serpico,” or “The French Connection.” And now with “Altered Carbon,” it’s still the same thing. Especially for an actor, it’s just you playing in an emotion.

TrunkSpace: Is that the personal draw for you as an actor, the discovery of finding out who a character is?
Mann: Yeah. Sometimes you find it on the tape, when you’re filming. That’s gold, if you actually discover that.

TrunkSpace: Are you someone who looks at someone sitting in a coffee shop or in line at the grocery store and breaks down who they are? Do you have those storyteller moments where you’re trying to discover “characters” even in real life?
Mann: Well, it can hit you anytime – character thoughts can hit you anytime. Once you’re thinking about it, it’s in your subconscious. For me, I’ll tell you when it hits me, it hits me when I’m taking a shower. Sometimes I’m in the shower a long time, and you think about these things.

TrunkSpace: We can totally see that. No distractions. No cell phones. Just you and your thoughts.
Mann: Yeah, and the water is warm, hopefully. When you’re under warm water, your body relaxes. When you’re relaxed, a lot of good things happen to you. I’ve thought about that. I said, “Why do I have these great thoughts when I think in the shower?” It’s usually because your body is really relaxed.

TrunkSpace: You had two trailers for projects you’re in run during the Super Bowl. One was for “Altered Carbon,” and the other was for “Skyscraper,” starring Dwayne Johnson. Not too shabby for the most watched television event of the year!
Mann: Yeah, no kidding. Like I said, you can’t plan for this stuff. You just can’t. You just have to go along life’s journey, do the best you can, and then life will kind of find your way towards these things.

Altered Carbon” is available now on Netflix.

Skyscraper” arrives in theaters July 13.

Mann can also be seen returning to SyFy’s “The Expanse” later this year and the upcoming Blumhouse thriller “Only You.”

Featured image by: Diana Ragland

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Wingman Wednesday

Echo Kellum

EchoKellum_best17of17
Photo Credit: Lesley Bryce

* Feature originally ran on 04/28/17

It’s a super terrific day and here’s why. Echo Kellum who plays superhero Mr. Terrific on The CW’s “Arrow” stopped by TrunkSpace to let us pick his brain about his skyrocketing career, including his laugh-inducing work on standup stages across the country where many first fell in love with the Chicago native.

With “Arrow” set to return for a sixth season in the fall, Kellum will be continuing his crime fighting ways, but in the meantime we sat down with the “Girlfriend’s Day” star to discuss the first time he suited up, navigating the passions of the fanboy landscape, and… Mr. McGibblets!

TrunkSpace: What was going through your head the first time you saw yourself in the full Mr. Terrific persona?
Kellum: For me, I grew up loving comic books and knowing that I wanted to be an actor, it’s always been a huge goal of mine to be any type of superhero. (Laughter) So, to do it with a character like Mr. Terrific… going through the audition process and then seeing him become a character to finally putting on the suit to getting his suit upgraded and to finally getting his feel out in the field… it’s been such an amazing world-changing experience for me. Like, I’m actually on a show that my friends actually like for the first time ever. (Laughter) It’s such a cool, wonderful thing to be a part of and every day I count my blessings and I’m just so grateful that I’m getting to bring this character to life.

TrunkSpace: It definitely seems like that in this day and age, the holy grail for an actor is getting to play a superhero character because not only does it look like a hell of a lot of fun to play, but it usually means a recurring role, right?
Kellum: Yeah, for sure. Absolutely. And that was another thing… the fact that they wanted me to come on as a series regular was huge. I was so thankful for that.

TrunkSpace: And congratulations are in order because you’ve been picked up for next season as well.
Kellum: Yeah. Season 6!

TrunkSpace: We know you probably can’t give away too much with how the current season winds down, but is it safe to say that you’ll be back next year as a part of season 6?
Kellum: You know, they keep telling me I will, but you never know. (Laughter) It’s like, “I’m back!” and then dead on episode 2. You’re like, “Nooooooo! Why?!?!” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: We’d imagine it can be pretty intimidating stepping into a show that already has an established on-set atmosphere and tone. How long did it take for you to feel at home and a part of the “Arrow” family?
Kellum: If I’m being honest, like the first day I walked on the set, I felt so at home and at ease and that was mainly because of Emily Bett Rickards. And then meeting all of the other actors and everybody involved with the show… they really did make it so easy and seamless and just a wonderful experience to be a part of. They treat you like one of their own and when I became one of their own, it felt so right. They treat every guest star, every recurring character… they treat with such respect and class and humility. It really just makes you feel welcome.

And in the other aspect of that, as far as the character… I think he’s still trying to find his way. He’s still trying to get to that place where he feels like he’s a working cog in the team and somebody who they can really count on. I think the fans are still trying to figure that out too and connect with him more. It’s been a really cool journey.

TrunkSpace: Do you have him figured out as a character? Do you feel like you’re in the headspace of Curtis Holt?
Kellum: Yeah. I really do. And thankfully we have some amazing writers who really come up with so much great material work-wise. But yeah, I really do feel like I’m in the headspace of how they want Curtis and where they’re going with him. Obviously he’s definitely a different iteration of the comic book persona, but I kind of like to think of him as early stage Mr. Terrific… Michael Holt kind of until he gets himself together. Because on this show, obviously he’s a little more awkward and quirky. It’s really about finding that balance where he can still be this awkward, silly guy, but then still kind of be badass in other aspects too.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned that fans were still trying to figure Curtis out and connect with him. Were you comfortable stepping into this world where people are already so attached to these characters as lifelong fans and as such… particularly in the social media age… aren’t afraid to speak their minds?
Kellum: Oh yeah. They’re my people. (Laughter) I know how they can be. I think when it all boils down to it, mostly everything you see is positivity. When you’re fortunate enough to be in a position that any of us are in while in this industry to work on a hit show or a show that people are passionate about, you’re going to get both ends of the spectrum from everyone. It’s just how it works. And if we weren’t in that position we’d be getting zero ends of the spectrum from no one. You just have to be thankful that you’re working out there and living your dream, doing the best you can, and getting paid pretty good to do it. So for me, it’s definitely a thing where you’ve got to take it all in and be thankful for the good love that’s coming in and learn from the negativity that’s coming in and just keep pushing forward.

TrunkSpace: Is there anything in your life, either growing up or now, where you could relate to that passionate comic book fanbase? Is there something that you were drawn to in that same passionate way?
Kellum: For me, definitely anything in the X-Men realm as far as comics go, but really it was video games. For me, video games were my life saver. Video games were the things that I geeked out the most about as a fanboy. I was definitely tough when they would make different adaptations of video games to movies. I’d be like, “What the heck… why isn’t this great?” (Laughter) So I can definitely understand some of the hate. If I would have had Twitter then, I might have let a couple of actors know it. (Laughter)

So I can definitely understand the passion, but the thing is, if you don’t have passionate people about it, it’s not a popular project and you’re probably going to be canceled.

TrunkSpace: What’s so cool about video games today is that it’s now an accepted medium for established actors to voice characters in that world. Is that something you’ve dipped your professional fanboy toy in the water of yet?
Kellum: I have not had the opportunity to perform in a video game, but that’s definitely an aspiration. I would love to voice some video game characters. I definitely want to get into that.

TrunkSpace: You established yourself first in the industry as a comedian. That’s a medium where you write and perform your own material. Was it an adjustment delivering lines from other writers when you made the transition into acting?
Kellum: You know, honestly for me it wasn’t an adjustment because I’ve always considered myself an actor first and a comedian second. Acting was kind of something I just started doing when I was 5 years old in church plays, so I’ve always been saying people’s words. (Laughter) But when I got into comedy, it was like, “Oh, I can say my own stuff.” But it feels very normal and natural to be getting scripts and just going for it, but I also just love ripping and improvising and creating new stuff on it too. But I think I definitely kind of look at myself as an actor first.

TrunkSpace: So how much time do you still save for yourself on the writing/standup side? Are you still currently writing?
Kellum: I always write. I’ve never stopped writing standup material, even when I’ve taken a year or two off. I need to get back into it more… definitely something in the next year. I definitely want to be doing more shows, especially when I’m shooting in Vancouver. I want to be out there pushing the pavement and hitting up a lot of shows. But I never stop writing. I’m always writing. I’ve just got to perform more.

TrunkSpace: Do you think you’ll transition that writing skill set into television and film where you can develop projects for yourself?
Kellum: Oh yeah. Absolutely. I’m writing a feature right now that I hope to shoot next spring when we wrap season 6.

TrunkSpace: It definitely seems more accepted within the business for actors to diversify and be a little bit of everything these days. You’re not as specifically labeled as you would have been two decades ago, for example.
Kellum: It’s true. And what’s funny about that is that it’s not even about being allowed but it’s how you survive now. You can’t depend on just the one thing. Back in the day you’d book one commercial and you’re good for the year. You have to be out there completely diversifying yourself. You have to be into acting and into writing and into director. You have to do it all. You have to be a multihyphenate nowadays.

Photo Credit: Lesley Bryce

TrunkSpace: Well, and they always say content is king, but when you’re an actor and developing your own content, you also then control your own destiny.
Kellum: Very true. 100 percent true. You get to really say “yes” or “no” and determine the flow of how you want things to go.

TrunkSpace: It does seem like standup is one of the few mediums were you literally control every aspect of things. Even in music, you’re still having to give some control away, even if that control is not ownership based.
Kellum: Yeah. That’s why I think standup is the toughest form of entertainment to tackle. Because it is just you. In music, like you say, even if you don’t have someone else, you have an instrument to help you. You have your singing voice to help you. You have all of these other tools. In standup, it’s just you and your words and are you funny. Period. Also, a very solitary experience, but it’s so worthwhile.

TrunkSpace: It must have prepared you for the social media age a little bit because standup audiences seem like the first iteration of the internet troll.
Kellum: (Laughter) Oh yeah. Standup audiences were definitely the first trolls. 100 percent.

TrunkSpace: Finally, you’ve got to tell us how Mr. McGibblets came to be?!?!
Kellum: Mr. McGibblets! (Laughter) “The League!” I auditioned for it and it’s just a fun little role. I was a big fan of the show. Love Nick Kroll. Yeah, they just had me come in and do a little one-off. It was great.

TrunkSpace: See, it wasn’t Mr. Terrific who was your first superhero role. It was Mr. McGibblets!
Kellum: (Laughter) Truth right there!

“Arrow” airs Wednesdays on The CW.

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