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Wingman Wednesday

Marama Corlett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corlett and Colin Cunningham in “Blood Drive”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Blood Drive” airs Wednesdays on SyFy.

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Wingman Wednesday

Colin Cunningham

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In this the Golden Age of Television, we challenge anybody to find a more interesting and dynamic performance than the one being delivered week after week by Colin Cunningham in SyFy’s grindhouse series “Blood Drive.” As the eccentric ringleader of the high stakes race, Julian Slink feeds on the spotlight just as the gore-guzzling cars feed on the innocent. In a show that is unlike anything you have ever seen before, the former “Falling Skies” standout is pressing his foot to the floor of the performance pedal, stealing scenes and setting the bar high for all actors-to-be in future roles.

We recently sat down with Cunningham to discuss how Julian Slink couldn’t exist in any other show, hitting impossible performance beats, and why he prefers to go unrecognized in real life.

TrunkSpace: Did you ever question if the material you were working on in “Blood Drive” would ever make it to air? It certainly has surprised viewers so we’re curious if it surprised you at any point?
Cunningham: Ha! Yes, we questioned it. We questioned, “How the hell did this scene even make it into the script?” Then, we waited for revisions that never came. Then after the, “There’s no way we’re actually going to shoot this?” it became, “There’s no way they’re going to leave that in.” to “There’s no way they are going to put that on the air!” I don’t know whether SYFY deserves the credit, or the curse. (Laughter)

We all knew we were doing something special. And that the circumstances we found ourselves in would probably never happen again. It was a once in a lifetime thing. “Blood Drive” wasn’t a gig, it was a whispered invitation to meet at the top of Devils Tower, Wyoming.

TrunkSpace: How much of who Julian Slink is existed on the page and how much of him became performance choices?
Cunningham: The character of Julian Slink would simply not be possible with a larger, more insane show to hold it. The show is so incredibly bat shit crazy that Slink has the kind of latitude simply not possible on any other show.

Without a doubt, he is the single most insane and complex character I’ve ever read. James Roland created an absolute giant and the credit is entirely his. If he tells you anything different, he’s nuts. Strike that… James is nuts. But it really was all right there on the page. All of it.

My job on “Blood Drive” really wasn’t to create anything “off” of the page. Instead, it was the weight of the world to see if I could bring life to even half of what these wonderful writers had given me.

TrunkSpace: Your performance as Slink is downright masterful and the beats you take as the character are just as powerful as your delivery. Did the outrageous nature of the content itself allow you to go to places that you wouldn’t normally attempt under different circumstance?
Cunningham: The challenge for me was to see if I could actually hit some of these almost impossible beats. To get into the most intense, emotional spaces, then pull full-throttle 180s. A world within a world within a world within a world. And all a hair’s breadth from each other. To attempt Slink in any format would have been a massive challenge, but to do it in a “crank ’em out,” “one/two take” TV schedule? I didn’t know if it was possible.

So, for inspiration, I went back. Not to grindhouse, but to kinescope, absorbing every live teleplay from the early 50s I could get my eyes on. All the Playhouse 90s. All the Studio One stuff. Back when the actors had to do it all live, in one take. “Requiem For a Heavyweight,” “The Comedian,” “A Town Has Turned To Dust.” Everything Rod Serling, pre “Twilight Zone.” Mind blowing performances. And all done live, in one take. Slink was going to shoot for the heavens, but he was to be grounded firmly in the discipline of the theater.

The work completely absorbed me. Here we were in one of the most exquisite locations on the face of the earth, Cape Town, South Africa, and I spent most of the time in my apartment or in cafes. Breaking the scenes down. Breaking them down again. No discos, no safaris.

And all for a show about cars that eat people. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: It sounds like the entire cast was given complete creative freedom on the performance side?
Cunningham: The creativity in “Blood Drive” wasn’t suppressed, it was celebrated. Never in my career have I seen so many given such complete and total freedom to do what they do. (Greg Beeman on “Falling Skies” would be a close second.)

TrunkSpace: In the early going of the series, Slink is presented as this really interesting carnival barker meets haunted house cast member, but by episode 2 we really start to see some previously unseen aspects of his personality, including insecurity, which we found very interesting. In a lot of ways it feels like Colin Cunningham is playing a man playing Julian Slink.
Cunningham: There is a different side of Slink for every context. It’s what makes him so complex. On stage, backstage, with Grace, with Rasher, as an “employee” of Heart. There are so many layers, and a specific history with each. That’s what made it so damned hard. Also, in that first episode we were still working it all out. The relationship with Rasher wasn’t discovered until I met the exceptional Carel Nel (who’d practically come in as a day player, but stayed for 13 episodes). Basically, nothing like “Blood Drive” had ever been made before. Also, in that first episode, I had both food poisoning and the Cape Town flu and was sick as a dog!

TrunkSpace: Is Julian Slink the kind of character you seek out and because he’s so interesting, does it also mean that every actor is seeking the same thing?
Cunningham: I’m not really a character actor, I am an actor that plays characters. I’m honestly not very good at doing the boilerplate TV Cop/Dad/Lawyer stuff. Well, its not that I’m not any good at it, its just that so many other actors can play those roles. And so, when I go out for those auditions, there are a thousand guys to compete against. But when it comes to a character like Julian Slink, that room gets much, much smaller. My odds then become 1 in 5. And I swear it’s not a “talent” thing. There are some tremendously talented actors out there. It’s an “understanding” thing. And I don’t think there are anymore than maybe 5 actors on the planet that would have known what to do with James Roland’s little monster. (Also, note: I was the network’s “3rd” choice. The first two actors they offered it to “passed.”)

But again, none of it would be possible without having David Straiton and James Roland right there. Not to keep me “on track,” but to remind me that there were no rails. I was absolutely free to work, explore, create. But it really was a team effort and I could call or knock on their doors anytime, day or night.

TrunkSpace: There is a LOT of blood in “Blood Drive.” Is it the stickiest job you’ve ever had?
Cunningham: The amount of blood on the show? With the exception of Slink murdering Skuttle in the lobby of Heart Enterprises, I was pretty lucky. Whereas, Alan and Christina were covered in quite a variety of fluids.

TrunkSpace: You’re never afraid to alter your appearance when taking on a new role. How important is that physical transformation of a character for you personally?
Cunningham: It may sound nuts, but I’m not a big fan of being recognized. It’s certainly nice to be acknowledged for the work you do, but I really don’t want the special table at the restaurant. So, I tend to gravitate to roles where I can disappear. All that said, there would be no Slink without the unbelievably gifted Danielle Knox (Wardrobe) and Kerry Skelton (Makeup). These two women and their teams were the best I’ve ever worked with. The entire wardrobe and makeup departments were beyond belief. The garments Danielle created were absolutely astonishing. And Kerry is one of the best because she works with the actor to help create the character. So many TV makeup artists are often little more than overpaid sponge jockeys. Not Kerry Skelton. She and her team were exceptional.

TrunkSpace: When you look at your career moving forward, what would you like to accomplish? Do you have bucket list items that you want to check off in your career?
Cunningham: Bucket list? Hell, that’s easy. What any big star wants… to buy his mother a shiny, pink Cadillac.

“Blood Drive” airs Wednesdays on SyFy.

Featured Images By: Arthur Albert

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Wingman Wednesday

Christina Ochoa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Blood Drive” airs Wednesdays on SyFy.

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

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Wingman Wednesday

Jenny Stead

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One of the more murderous characters in the grindhouse series “Blood Drive” goes against everything procedural cop shows have taught television viewers regarding serial killer profiles. As the overbearing and emotionally abusive Domi, Jenny Stead brings a dynamite dynamic to the raucous show. Whether she’s figuratively smothering her onscreen husband Cliff or literally smothering yet another victim of her cruel cravings, she is a powder keg who is one short fuse away from going off… and she is glorious!

We recently sat down with Stead to discuss flying freak flags, judging Domi’s book by its cover, and why “Blood Drive” is so special.

TrunkSpace: We have been asking this of every “Blood Drive” cast member we speak with because, well, it just seems like an obvious first question. (Laughter) Did you ever wonder if the material you were working on in “Blood Drive” would ever make it to air?
Stead: Listen, when you read David Straiton’s IMDb credits you kind of figure that he knows what he’s doing.

But, um, okay, in the spirit of full disclosure (and at the risk of sounding like a complete doofus), I didn’t actually read the pilot until I was called back! I was contracted to do a play over most of the shooting of “Blood Drive,” so I didn’t think I had a chance to be anything more than (hopefully) a day player. When they called me back for Domi, I finally read episode 1 and all I remembered was Grace’s line offering a little extra adrenaline-inducing action, “Back door, Barbie. One time offer!” and I thought, “Woah! What!?! Oh, it’s some sort of soft core porn! Why am I reading for this?!”

I didn’t get the extent of James Roland’s genius and truly wonderful humor until the first table read. The entire cast was incredible, but Alan Ritchson and Christina Ochoa blew me away. Straight off the bat they had this great chemistry, but more than that they had already found the romance and the comedy so beautifully written into each show. It was really only after that read that I had a clear understanding of what we were doing and I was amped.

TrunkSpace: On the surface, your character is a fish out of water in the “Blood Drive” world, but in reality, she probably fits in better than most. Is she camouflaged on purpose or is Domi just who she is?
Stead: No one fits in in the Blood Drive, they are all misfits and weirdos and that’s one of the relatable aspects, right? Because we all have a freak flag, we just fly it at different heights.

I could write a solid thesis on my take on Domi’s backstory, but at the end of the day, it’s all just my own trajectory and I’m sure people like to imagine her beginnings for themselves.

I do, however, think it’s a lot of camouflage. I think Domi is trying very hard to pass for the average, suburban housewife. I think that dictates everything from the color of her lipstick to the shirts she, obviously, forces Cliff to wear. I think she probably grew up in a trailer and has worked very hard to become what she imagines society deems appropriate.

TrunkSpace: There’s that old saying, “It’s always the quiet ones…” Does that apply to Domi?
Stead: Sure, Domi can be an observer, but I wouldn’t describe her as quiet. Cliff can’t get a word in, poor guy! I do think the old saying about judging a book by its cover is pretty apt though.

TrunkSpace: Throughout the series your scene partner is your onscreen husband Cliff, played by Craig Jackson. Did having a static scene partner help you find a comfort zone, not only as Domi but in her role as not-so-loving wife?
Stead: I struck gold with Craig Jackson, he and I were like two kids in a candy store. We did not stop laughing and appreciating every minute on set.

Domi and Cliff have a particularly unique physical relationship. I don’t think Domi is fond of being touched at all. It takes a certain element of macabre to turn her on and Cliff is the only person who gets that. The fact that they’re often static physically and occupying separate spaces certainly played into the strained aspects of their marriage. It also meant that when they do become physically close it’s with a very deliberate intention, which makes it kind of sweet, and hopefully, even a little hot.

TrunkSpace: When did Domi and Cliff’s relationship go sour? As they reminisce, they sure seem to paint a pretty picture of the past, but was it ever pretty or are their nostalgic brains skewing what actually was?
Stead: Unless you think a honeymoon shag requiring a bellhop bleeding out all over you is pretty, I don’t think that’s the most accurate word! (But hey, each to their own!)

I think they were probably really lucky to find each other. In my head, they met as children and started killing early on. Craig and I like to imagine that Cliff helped Domi kill her foster parents. That’s why Domi has no surname because she got rid of her slave name and likes to be known by one name, like all the greats… Stalin, Hitler, and, you know, Cher.

TrunkSpace: Domi clearly has a murderous blood drive of her own. What do you think Domi’s weapon of choice is?
Stead: Anything sharp. A scalpel, scissors, small blade… her teeth! She definitely prefers to take her time and is fascinated with the human body, but she can also be like a shark near blood and go into a complete feeding frenzy. But for her, murder is definitely art.

TrunkSpace: Your onscreen husband Cliff has weaknesses that are clearly visible. Domi, not so much. Does she have any weaknesses?
Stead: I think her weakness lies in her deep desire to fit in. I think she tries so hard to be normal but has zero aptitude for normality. Luckily she has no emotions, so she doesn’t feel too bad about it all.

TrunkSpace: Eyeball make out session! How does one prepare for something like that?
Stead: We were so lucky to have James Roday directing that block. He had this ridiculous stroke of genius that he wanted the eyeball scene to be an homage to John Hughes’ “Some Kind of Wonderful.” He wanted Cliff and Domi to be like teenagers who were making out for the first time. It was so clever because we played it with absolute sweetness and sincerity and then there was just this incredibly life-like, bloodied eyeball in the mix. The props department gave me one of the standby eyeballs as a keepsake. It sits proudly on a bookshelf in my lounge over a copy of “The 5 Love Languages.” It’s especially great for when my kids have friends over and their parents pick them up after a play date!

TrunkSpace: How do you share your new gig with family when said gig is a show with cars that eat people and a character who is mouth-swapping eyeballs? What is that conversation like?
Stead: I have the world’s greatest husband. He’s incredibly supportive and although he’s not a massive grindhouse fan, he’s really enjoying “Blood Drive.” My kids think it’s the best thing ever, especially when I had to do stunt training and they hear about me having to massacre an entire village. My mom’s just happy when I work and I haven’t told my dad that much about it. Hopefully I’ll never have to!

TrunkSpace: “Blood Drive” is so very unlike anything else on television. That statement is said a lot about a great number of shows, but usually it’s just said for the sake of saying it. It truly is the case with your show. Does that make being involved with it feel all the more special?
Stead: There is so much great television being made at the moment. Although on the periphery it might seem that “Blood Drive” would only appeal to a very niche market, I think they’ve managed to create something with a really broad appeal and given the genre that’s no mean feat. “Blood Drive” is special for so many reasons. The show is cool. It’s dark and gory and it’s funny and it feels particularly poignant in this day and age. I’m a genuine fan. I’m really proud of this show and it introduced me to some of the most incredible people. For such a gruesome show it was really filled with a lot of love.

TrunkSpace: Strictly from a career standpoint, is “Blood Drive” a game changer?
Stead: It certainly is a nice addition to my show reel. As far as game changing? I’m not sure I can expect a call from David Lynch, but if you’d care to put in a good word…

TrunkSpace: When you look at your career moving forward, what would you like to accomplish? Do you have bucket list items that you want to check off in your career?
Stead: It sounds corny but I just want to do good work that I’m proud of. I love what I do and I never take for granted how lucky I am to do it.

 

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Deep Focus

James Roland

JamesRoland_DeepFocus_part2

In our new 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.

In the second part of our interview with James Roland, creator, writer, and producer of the SyFy series “Blood Drive,” we’re discussing budgets, crews, and season twos!

(Read the first part of our James Roland interview here.)

TrunkSpace: Another one of the great things about “Blood Drive” is the direction. A great example of this is when Fat Elvis is being butchered in the episode “Welcome to Pixie Swallow.”
Roland: Yeah. That was the brain child of writer, Marc Halsey. He wrote that episode and came up with that. That was very specifically scripted and then David Straiton, our executive producer who directed some of the episodes, just nailed it. That was the goal. We didn’t want to just shoot a standard show that happened to have grosser moments in it and then slap a fake 15mm filter over the top. Because if you notice, we don’t do that. The trailer and the promos did that, but we were more interested in being true to the spirit than just the aesthetics.

What we challenged our directors to do, what David supervised all of the directors and challenged all the other directors to do, was to dig into the specific genres for each episode. Rather than just choosing color, really get into having a frame, why they were edited that way, and why they were effective. I think a lot of shows say, “Hey, we gave our directors creative freedom.” We give our directors A LOT of fucking freedom. That whole episode 6 where Christopher goes into the secret room?

TrunkSpace: Where he meets Julian in the hallway?
Roland: Yeah. And the room is spinning. Not scripted. That was the director and the production designer going, “This is a cool room. How can we make this even more interesting? How do we get it to the next level?” Somebody came up with idea of, “What if there’s throw-up on the floor, the cement, and all over because it makes it all look cooler?”

Then we had an amazing camera operator and he had this rig where you could rotate the camera completely around. We didn’t have enough money to get a gimbal, and for people who don’t know what that is, it’s where the whole room rotates upside down. It’s how they did the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” stuff where she’s on the ceiling. We didn’t have that, so that was our cheap, Grindhousey way of doing it and it turned into a really cool, sci-fi driven moment.

It was difficult to trust because with a basic, normal scene I can walk on set and say, “I can see what you’re doing. I see how that will come together. Make sure you get the close-up. Make sure you run that character moment.” But for a scene like that it’s like, “Is this going to make any fucking sense?” (Laughter) We took that risk. Every time we had that question, we took that risk and I felt like it paid off and made the show so much more interesting than it would have been, which is saying something given the scripts are so crazy.

TrunkSpace: It’s interesting hearing you mention the budgetary issues because it doesn’t look like a show that was hampered by budgetary constraints.
Roland: We’re in the SyFy channel low-budget model. The show runner is John Hlavin is a mad genius. He also runs “Shooter” for USA. We were going in, before we had officially sold the series, and he cracked a joke. He said, “When we’re up there in the office…” we call it the dark tower on the Universal lot. It’s this big, giant black tower that is very ominous. Anyway, he was like, “When we’re up in that dark tower, what do you do if we’ve got to make this show below our number? Who’s gonna be the first one to jump out the window?”

So we sit down and they hand us a sheet of paper and we see the number that they’re pitching for the budget and it’s barely above the joke number. I mean, barely. I’m the least experienced in the room. I was there with John Hlavin who is a pro. He wrote for “The Shield” and he’s got a long career. And David Straiton who’s this long term producer/director on shows like “Hemlock Grove” and all the Marvel shows. Experienced guys. They just go pale. I’m like, “Uh oh, this is bad.” (Laughter)

Normally shows will have a larger budget pilot and then the rest of the episodes are less, but this is per episode. The pilot was no more expensive than any other episode. The number that I’m quoting is about half of “The Magicians.” This is a lower budget number. What do you do? Do you say, “No, no thank you. I don’t want to make 13 episodes of my own show.” You just say yes and then you figure out how the hell you’re gonna do it.

We’re building this bigger world that we have in our head in a way that we can’t afford. Obviously on a script level, we reduce the amount of racing scenes to every other episode in these concentrated, little moments so that over the course of four to six episodes, people feel like they’re getting a lot of racing. But if you actually go back and look at the show, you don’t get racing every episode. We just couldn’t afford it. You have to get pit stops, which is fine as long as it has that adrenaline feel and we keep the energy up in the pacing of the plotting. It’s still going to feel like we have the momentum so that’s how we get away with that.

And then it’s, “Okay, we cannot afford all of these actors every episode.” If you listen to Slink, he talks about how the race goes on different paths every day, so that explains why you can’t have The Gentleman and The Scholar in every episode. They go out and they come back in and out of the story, so you can go a couple of episodes without seeing them and then seeing them again. It’s like revisiting old friends. Otherwise the only other answer was to cut out Domi and Cliff and just have The Gentleman and The Scholar or something like that. Even though you’re gonna get more of The Gentleman and The Scholar, you’re also gonna shrink the scope of your world.

I think it’s weirdly both a blessing and a curse because from the very first daily of the show, I don’t think the network had any idea how good it was going to look. We were all kind of really blown away, but the curse of that is that they forget that it’s a low budget show.

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) And when you get a second season, you get the same budgets!
Roland: Exactly!

I’m glad that you saw that that. I have worked with a lot of crews. My first career was as an assistant director. I did that for seven years. I worked with damn good crews and non-union crews. As an executive assistant, I worked with some of the best television crews. The South African team rivaled all of them. We would walk onto the sets and my jaw would drop at how intricate the set was.

When I saw what the costume department was doing with Slink and Aki… all of those costumes are handmade, handcrafted, and fitted. The rule was that they never dress the same way twice. Slink never dresses the same way twice, within reason. I think after six or seven episodes, you might see a recycle here or there, but it needs to feel different every time and they pulled that off. If you watch, his top hat is always changing. Those are all made by hand.

TrunkSpace: You hear this a lot in the horror/indie worlds, but sometimes when you’re forced to rethink your budgets and think outside-the-box, that’s when the magic happens.
Roland: Yeah, it’s true. Please don’t let the people with the paycheck hear that, but it’s true. (Laughter)

We talked a lot about that. I love the “Grindhouse” double feature. I love it, but their budget was 40 million dollars. That means that one of those movies, either “Planet Terror” or “Death Proof,” has the budget of our entire season. It kind of forced us to be little bit more grindhouse, for real. There are times when it shows, but those are the moments where we distract you with something shiny, so you’re not looking at the part that didn’t work. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: How have you guys avoided more conservative groups protesting the show, because it seems like “Blood Drive” would be right up their alley as far as saving us from moral brainwashing?
Roland: Yeah, you know, there’s one, but I expected more. There was one website that said advertisers need to pull their ads from the show. I was like, “Yeah, let’s get it started.” I was excited for it.

TrunkSpace: Usually those kinds of protests just bring in more viewers.
Roland: It always helps it. Maybe if we’d gotten more of that, it would’ve been even better for us. My gut tells me it’s because most people get it because we have a sense of humor about it. We don’t consider ourselves a spoof. We never wanted to do spoof. We technically get meta because of the show within a show aspect with Slink. All of it, even with the meta, we always make sure that what Slink says could be true for both the show you’re watching and the show he’s creating within the show.

TrunkSpace: Any word on a season 2 yet?
Roland: We haven’t heard yet. We’re waiting on pins and needles. We’ll see. We’re waiting for the official word, but I hope so. I’m dying, man. We have game plans for season 2 that kind of ups the anti to a new level. It would be amazing to get to do it.

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Wingman Wednesday

Craig Jackson

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There have been plenty of talented people with the name Jackson who have left their mark on pop culture. Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, is an obvious one. Randy Jackson, the “American Idol” judge and record producer who made “dawg” a household phrase. Shoeless Joe Jackson, the famed and shamed professional baseball player who later became fictionalized in “Field of Dreams.” And Samuel L. Jackson, the iconic “Pulp Fiction” actor who once had to fight motherfucking snakes on a motherfucking plane.

The list could go on and on, but only ONE Jackson has shared a passionate screen kiss with his scene partner while having a human eyeball pass back and forth between their lips. (At least we think he’s the only Jackson to do that. Truth be told, we haven’t actually fact checked that because it just felt like a safe assumption.)

South African-based actor Craig Jackson plays slacks-wearing, serial killing, lap-dogging Cliff in our favorite man-eating car drama “Blood Drive.” And the fact that we can even say that sentence out loud proves just how cool this interview is going to be, so put on a bib because you’re in for a treat!

We recently sat down with Jackson to discuss bloodthirsty love, putting the pedal to the hybrid metal, and why he’s so proud of having worked on the series.

TrunkSpace: We have been asking this of every Blood Drivecast member we speak with because, well, it just seems like an obvious first question. (Laughter) Did you ever wonder if the material you were working on in Blood Drivewould ever make it to air?
Jackson: All the time! When I read the line, “Back door entrance, Barbie,” my eyes nearly popped out of my head. I thought they might censor some of the material. I’m just so glad it all stayed in. It was just so out there and crazy and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard!

TrunkSpace: What is interesting about the show is, due to the premise, many of the actors had on-screen partners, in your case Jenny Stead. Do you think that helped the actors find their sea legs in a series that is so over-the-topbeing able to instantly rely on a scene partner who is also your character’s partner?
Jackson: Definitely! When Jenny and I first met at the studio, we hit it off immediately! I remember the crew asking me if we had known each other for years! It was nerve-racking coming into this series, because it was so off-the-wall and we were worried where to pitch our performances, being comfortable with each other made everything so much easier. Jenny is a really funny and talented actress, working with her was such a pleasure.

TrunkSpace: Your character Cliff is going through what a lot of long-married people go through. He is wondering what happened to the excitement and spark that he and his wife had in the early years of their relationship. However, Cliffs excitement and spark involves the longing to return to a life as a serial killer. Was it fun tapping into that totally relatable concept, and yet, sooooo not relatable at the same time?
Jackson: Such fun! I think Cliff is “comfortable” with their marriage and doesn’t like change too much, but adores Domi and would do anything for her even though she’s a ball busting narcissist who drives him crazy. Domi is on a mission to find that spark again and Cliff follows like the lap dog he is.

TrunkSpace: A bit of Cliffs backstory is discussed through some reminiscing with Jennys character Domi. Did you two explore that even further, either together or with creator James Roland? Perhaps, how the two ultimately met and fell in bloodthirsty love together?
Jackson: Jenny and I came up with a backstory, which was very dark. Cliff and Domi knew each other at a young age and fell in love when he helped her kill her parents. They realized then that they were soulmates. Years before entering the “Blood Drive” race, Domi had a miscarriage and Cliff saw the dead fetus, which put him off killing. This event has affected their relationship and their marriage had stagnated as they didn’t kill together anymore.

Before we shot our very first scene (the eyeball kiss), I spoke to James about my character. He said what he loved about my audition was that I reminded him of Winnie The Pooh! I loved that!

TrunkSpace: The amazing thing about Cliff is that although he looks like a suburban super dad on the surface, he is probably one of the more better equipped characters for this world, at least mentally. Hell, even Rib Bone had a weakness in the dog! Do you feel like Cliff is sort of the big psycho fish in the small Blood Drive” pond?
Jackson: For sure. That’s what I love about the characters that James has written. They look so normal. Your typical harmless, middle American couple, who are repulsed by the other drivers. They see them as lower class. Even though Cliff is a ballbusted whipping boy to Domi, his inner rage is unrivaled. When he loses it, he is a bad ass! And coupled with Domi,… well, lets just say… Arthur and Grace wouldn’t get out of their starting blocks!

TrunkSpace: We just spoke of weakness. Would Cliffs weakness be Domi?
Jackson: 100 percent. Even though she drives him crazy, he would be nothing without her. Oh, and the Prius! I mean, how emasculating can you get? Cliff would have loved a cool mustang, but NO! Domi insisted on a slow HYBRID!!!!

Domi: (staring at Cliff) Tone.
Cliff: Yes, Dear…

TrunkSpace: Eyeball make out session! How does one prepare for something like that?
Jackson: Hubba Bubba chewing gum.

I was really excited! Before shooting the scene, I thought to myself, “Never in a million years would I have imagined that I would be shooting a kissing scene with an eyeball! How great is my life right now!” The environment was so relaxed. We had such a great team around us and it was such a pleasure being directed by James Roday.

TrunkSpace: Just out of curiEYEsitywhat was the actual prop eye made of?
Jackson: Plastic dipped in some sweet blood syrup. Yummy!

TrunkSpace: How do you share your new gig with family when said gig is a show with cars that eat people and a character who is mouth-swapping eyeballs? What is that conversation like?
Jackson: Well, my family find it hilarious but can’t quite get their heads around the concept, but they are all very supportive and eager to see the show. I love watching my wife’s face when she watches the eyeball scene. It’s a look of pride with moments of disgust.

TrunkSpace: “Blood Driveis so very unlike anything else on television. That statement is said a lot about a great number of shows, but usually its just said for the sake of saying it. It truly is the case with your show. Does that make being involved with it feel all the more special?
Jackson: Absolutely. I don’t think I’ve ever had this much fun. Not being 100 percent sure how this show would turn out was both frightening and exciting and I’m so proud of the finished product. This show isn’t just about blood and gore, there are amazing, clever themes running through each episode and James Roland has done a sterling job. It was an awesome team to work with! I have also made lifelong friends. I’ve just got back from the United Kingdom where I met up with Marama, Thomas and Andrew. What a lovely, talented team! South Africa misses you guys! COME BACK SOON!

TrunkSpace: You spent multiple seasons starring in Black Sailsas Featherstone. What did your time on that series teach you about working with the same character over a prolonged period of time
Jackson: I find the longer you play a character the easier it becomes. You’re more at ease when delivering dialogue and can play more and try different things. We also had amazing script writers in Jon Steinberg/Robert Levine and Dan Shotz, which makes an actors work a whole lot easier.

TrunkSpace: When you look at your career moving forward, what would you like to accomplish? Do you have bucket list items that you want to check off in your career?
Jackson: I love what I do and want to keep doing challenging roles, whether it be for film, television or stage. An award or two would also be nice!

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Deep Focus

James Roland

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In our new 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 James Roland, creator, writer, and producer of the SyFy series “Blood Drive.” We recently sat down with Roland to discuss the psychology of the series, how he was able to shoot the show as a hard R, and why Arthur Bailey is a Frank Capra character stuck in a Roger Corman world.

TrunkSpace: The characters you have created for “Blood Drive” really help build out the world. Each one is a layer to a very tasty cake.
Roland: We got lucky with that, man. It wasn’t lucky, I should say. We had casting directors working their asses off. We had a hell of a cast. It was impressive.

TrunkSpace: And that cast is so diverse in terms of backgrounds.
Roland: Yeah. Marama is from Malta. I have never met another human being from Malta.

TrunkSpace: She has a very unique accent.
Roland: It’s amazing. We met Marama over tape because we were already in South Africa prepping by the time she was cast. So we were looking at these video submissions online and her video submission popped up with, “Hi, I’m Marama Corlett, and I’m over 18 years old.” We were like, “Whoa! What is that about?” We were a little weirded out. (Laughter) She gave a great audition and she ended up getting the part. I learned through this experience that actors are supposed to give their measurements, like their height, their weight, and all that comes with it. She shows up on set and she doesn’t even come to my shoulder. She’s so tiny and she has kind of a baby face, so she looks like she’s 10 years old. I’m like, “Oh, that’s why! We just thought you were kooky!” (Laughter) Of course, she’s all paranoid because she’s like, “I’m so much shorter than Thomas.” And I was like, “This is the one show where that doesn’t matter, and actually helps.”

TrunkSpace: There’s that one scene where she’s kneeling down near his foot and it’s as big as her head.
Roland: Yes! I know. It allowed for these amazing shot dynamics and forced directors into more interesting framing, actually. The code is that you’re supposed to get them within a reasonable distance of height of each other so that you can do over-the-shoulders very easily and move quickly. We just didn’t have that. It was pretty cool.

I can’t remember what episode it is where he picks her up, but it was amazing to watch on set because it was like she might as well not have been there. He’s so ripped. It was like, TINK… like putting a little teacup on the counter.

TrunkSpace: The size difference really works because she is the one in control, which gives it this crazy, “Blood Drive” dynamic.
Roland: Yeah, it actually is pretty cool. It brought a lot of psychology, I think, to the forefront of that dynamic because you start to go, “Why isn’t he…? Why can’t he…?” I’m sure she’s got all these super powers and stuff like that, but you start to really go, “Oh, this guy wants this on a certain level.”

I had a scene written that we never got to shoot that really hit that kind of on the head. We ran out of time, but it would have been amazing because it really was something that we saw on the page. We talked a lot about the psychology, about why he lets these things happen, and, of course, at a certain point he can’t get out. It’s because he’s physically trapped.

They brought it out in their performance, in their dynamic, and using their body types as part of that too. It was really amazing. It’s been cool to see people dig into that storyline like I kind of knew they would. At first they’re like, “What the hell is this about?” And then you start to see it unfold over time. It’s one of my favorite parts of the show.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned stuff that was on the page that didn’t make it in. That being said, how the hell did you get the stuff in that was on the page?!?!
Roland: (Laughter) SyFy held true to their word. They said, “We want you to push it.” But I don’t think when they said that they knew what they were getting into. (Laughter) Obviously stuff is censored with the censor bars and stuff, but we went into it saying, “I don’t want to shoot the PG-13 version and we don’t have time to because that doubles your amount of shooting time on certain things and it’s confusing, it’s a pain in the ass, and we don’t have time to edit two different versions.” Time is money and we were so low-budget and so fast-paced there was just no way.

So it was like, “We’re going to shoot the hard R version,” and even though technically we put the black bars on ourselves, because that was the cheaper option than farming it out to some company that is on the network side, we would just literally say, “You tell us what we absolutely have to have black bars over.” We’d get into a little debate with them, back and forth versions, and stuff like that, because that way it wasn’t self-censorship, right? It was the network telling us. I feel like if we self-censor, if we do a PG-13 cut, I think the fans and the audience just smell bullshit. I know I would. I’d be like, “Well, you’re saying this is Grindhouse…”

TrunkSpace: There’s also the shock value of it that makes viewers want to come back in order to see what you will attempt next.
Roland: Yeah, exactly. We treated the shock value and the craziness as… in the writers’ room we always called it a safety net, but not a crutch. And what we meant by that is that if we fuck up and don’t do our jobs to make the scenes interesting, to make the characters interesting, or we just fuck up and it just doesn’t quite meet expectations, we’ve got that craziness there as something that is interesting. But never, never did we just write a scene just to be crazy.

TrunkSpace: And we touched on this earlier, but the characters have so many layers. They’re not two-dimensional, which is another pleasant surprise for viewers who came in expecting one thing and got something else.
Roland: That was by design because when I pitched it, I pitched it on a whim as a joke. It was meant to be a silly, fake Grindhouse trailer back in 2011. I almost did it for a contest, but I couldn’t figure out how to do the blood engines, so I did something else instead, which obviously did not win. But this idea of the “Blood Drive” concept, cars that run on blood and a cross country race, all of my friends kept asking me about it. I could tell it sparked interest in people. And then when I pitched it, my manager said, “Yeah, write that, write that!” He got really excited. And then it was like, “Okay, but how do you turn it into a story?” Because it’s a “Saturday Night Live” skit. It doesn’t have legs. It doesn’t have, terrible pun intended, an engine that really keeps it going in a television format. And then I hit upon the idea of Arthur Bailey.

We named him Bailey because of George Bailey… because I wanted it to be like what happens when a Frank Capra character gets thrown into a Roger Corman movie. And then that cracked open the world, because then that set the bar. He’s a good guy, so what happens when you’re in a bad race? What does it do to you? What does it reveal about you, because everybody has dark secrets. We’re about to go on a three or four episode arc that really digs into Arthur and gets into a lot of that.

Keep in mind, Grindhouse isn’t actually a genre. If you’re going to be specific, Grindhouse is just a theater that played exploitation movies. When the movie “Grindhouse” came out, the Tarantino/Rodriguez double feature, it kind of shifted into a genre, or at least an aesthetic. So within that there are some great frickin’ movies! “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” gets thrown into that category. It’s a masterpiece. The Blood Trilogy by Herschell Gordon Lewis is not a masterpiece. (Laughter) It couldn’t be any further from it, although I love those movies for what they are. Roger Corman is considered a shock-meister and yet his pro movies are really heartfelt. “The Intruder” is just a bold, at the time, counter cultural kind of soapbox movie. In a good way! It deals with race relations, but he doesn’t get remembered for that. He gets remembered for “Death Race 2000,” which as cheesy as it is, it’s a brilliant social commentary. So yeah, that was always the goal. Just because it’s crazy doesn’t mean it can’t have dramatic value or even meaning. I don’t think that we’re a profound show. Of course not. But every episode we did say, “What is the episode about?” If we are going to be so brash and ridiculous and kind of have this ability to say things when people are not even going to realize we are saying them because they are too busy laughing or puking or whatever it is they’re doing, then let’s do it. Let’s say something.

The second part of our James Roland can be read here.

 

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Blood Drive

Blood Drive

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TrunkSpace is looking to rev the engines of “Blood Drive” fans. We’ve made it our mission to feature every actor and actress who has appeared on the series, and in doing so, has left a mark on the grindhouse gorefest.

Let the race begin…

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Wingman Wednesday

Carel Nel

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One of the great things about “Blood Drive” is that it is a visual feast for the eyes. From the blood-chugging cars to the incredible set designs and the beautiful cinematography that seems to change seamlessly from episode to episode, the series paints the picture of a world like no other. One of the big parts of that equation is the characters that inhabit the world. A potpourri of post-apocalyptic personalities, the fictional call sheet reads like an old Loony Tunes cartoon where Bugs Bunny takes a wrong turn at Albuquerque and winds up in a weird saloon.

We recently sat down with one of the more visually memorable “Blood Drive” cast members, Carel Nel, to discuss his heavily-tattooed character Rasher, performing opposite Colin Cunningham, and why his involvement in the series was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

TrunkSpace: We have been asking this of every “Blood Drive” cast member we speak with because, well, it just seems like an obvious first question. (Laughter) Did you ever wonder if the material you were working on in “Blood Drive” would ever make it to air?
Nel: I remember reading the pilot episode, which is called, “That Fucking Cop,” and thinking, “Who is going to air this?” After getting the part and reading the rest of the show I thought, “This is genius!” It was so tongue-in-cheek and funny. If we get 70 percent of what was on the page, it would be a monumental effort. Credit to James Roland whose crazy vision has given us such a unique and entertaining television show.

TrunkSpace: Just to be clear, you’re not all-over tattooed in real life, correct? That many additions to your skin before each day of shooting must complicate things from a continuity standpoint, no?
Nel: I have zero tattoos. They are all fake. It didn’t really complicate things as Kerry Skelton and her team of makeup artists did a phenomenal job. They had about 300 different photos of my face, so there was never a problem. The only complication was that I had three hours of makeup to do every day, but it was worth every minute.

TrunkSpace: And you did some shooting of the series out in the hot sun of South Africa. We’d assume that body sweat and temporary tattoos are probably not the best onscreen partners? Did it take a lot of touching up to maintain the look?
Nel: Not really. I’m South African so I’m very used to the weather, and fortunately, we shot most of my scenes at night or indoors.

TrunkSpace: How did you become involved in the series and was Rasher always meant to reoccur?
Nel: I was actually having dinner with friends at our local hang out and bumped into Luke Mason who I’d worked with on a different project. He told me he was working on “Blood Drive” and asked why I haven’t auditioned. That Monday he mailed me sides and the rest is, as they say, history. So, thanks Luke… I appreciate it.

As far as I know they were struggling to cast Rasher and they almost cut the character from the show. Initially they said I would do two episodes, but I ended up doing five.

TrunkSpace: You shared an… interesting scene with Colin Cunningham’s Slink in a dentist’s chair. Were we accurate in the assumption that you were administering an enema to your scene partner, and if so, how do you explain that gig to your family and friends? (Laughter)
Nel: (Laughter) I think you’re referring to episode 4. I don’t remember the enema, but I do remember the dental work on Slink. Rasher is truly a jack of all trades.

Well, I told my mom it’s a show about cars that run on human blood and she couldn’t get past that part, so I kind of gave up. My friends on the other hand were easy. I just said “grindhouse” and “the cars run on blood” and they were all like, “That sounds crazy, when can we see it?!” It hasn’t aired in South Africa yet so we are all waiting in anticipation.

TrunkSpace: How do you view Rasher’s role in not only the race itself, but in the world that “Blood Drive” takes place in?
Nel: I think it all boils down to Rasher’s relationship with Slink. When I met Colin the first day on set we immediately hit it off and started figuring out Rasher and Slink’s relationship, which I think, really helped in creating a world for us to exist in. Rasher isn’t Slink’s underling or minion; there is a true friendship and mutual respect there. They are in this world together. I would view Slink as a mentor and a father figure to Rasher. Then everything else makes sense. Rasher is with Slink for better or worse. He is in on the plan and wants the race to succeed.

I would sometimes joke with Colin that Slink had saved Rasher from a torturous childhood and adopted him as his son. You always need a bit of a backstory.

TrunkSpace: Visually the character fits in perfectly with the chaotic craziness of the “Blood Drive” world. How much of who Rasher became existed in the original script and how much of him was about discovery in wardrobe and makeup?
Nel: There wasn’t much reference in the script except that he had tattoos over his face. I had a makeup test the day before I had to start filming and we weren’t sure exactly what to do with Rasher, so Kerry and I just started putting tattoos on my face. We had this idea that he did the tattoos himself, so we went for a prison tattoo look. There are gangs in South Africa with a similar look, so that was what we were going for.

As for wardrobe, the incredible Danielle Knox had the costume all figured out. She had me in a kinky BDSM bodystocking and a corset, which was extremely uncomfortable but looked amazing. A lot of credit must go to Danielle and Kerry for creating an incredible look for Rasher.

TrunkSpace: The sets in “Blood Drive” are just as unique and off the wall as the characters appear. Did the environments play a role in your character development?
Nel: Yes! Andrew Orlando outdid himself. It was an actor’s dream to walk onto set. I would just look around and there would be hundreds of cool things lying around. I would just say, “Hey guys, do you mind if I use this in the scene?” and they would be like, “Yeah man, go for it… please just don’t break it.” So yes, it helped me to be much more creative.

The Mayhem parties were insane! It made it so easy to be in the world of “Blood Drive.” There would be fire coming out of the stage and hundreds of extras just going crazy. The extras were amazing. They bought into “Blood Drive” just as much as the actors.

TrunkSpace: We previously mentioned Colin Cunningham. He seems like an incredibly talented actor, not only in performance but in character discovery. What was it like working with Colin, who you spent most of your scenes with?
Nel: Colin is amazing. We had a blast. I learned a lot about acting from Colin. I think he created something like 20 different Slinks and each of those 20 Slinks would interact differently with the other characters. It was great to watch. He was so easy to work with and always keen to discover something new. He would say, “We’re missing something in the scene…” and we would work out something new. Everything he did was to try and make every scene better. His performance is at the same time frightening, weird, funny, crazy, and extremely truthful. What an actor!

TrunkSpace: Beyond the performance and the work itself, what was the highlight for you personally in working on the series?
Nel: Being South African and working on local stuff, we don’t nearly have the budgets you guys have. So to be able to work at this pace and on this scale was a highlight.

TrunkSpace: “Blood Drive” is so very unlike anything else on television. That statement is said a lot about a great number of shows, but usually it’s just said for the sake of saying it. It truly is the case with your show. Does that make being involved with it feel all the more special?
Nel: This was a once in a lifetime experience. The amount of creative freedom we were given, the incredible cast, the insane scripts, and the amazing vision that each of the directors had just came together beautifully to create this crazy show.

TrunkSpace: Do you anticipate that working on the series will open up more doors for you as an actor, and if so, does it concern you that visually Rasher looks so different than what casting directors will discover in Carel Nel?
Nel: I hope it does and I think Rasher’s look will be a great addition to my show reel. Just imagine… you see a normal character and then BAM, Rasher pops up on your screen. I think it might even help.

TrunkSpace: When you look at your career moving forward, what would you like to accomplish? Do you have bucket list items that you want to check off in your career?
Nel: I just want to work and do work that I’m proud of. And maybe play Hamlet on Broadway.

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Wingman Wednesday

Adam Pelkowitz

AdamPelkowitz_Wingman_wednesday

When it comes to capturing the hearts and minds (and appetites) of audiences, the size of the part isn’t what matters, it’s the meatiness of the role itself. For Adam Pelkowitz, the South African actor who portrayed Fat E on the SyFy series “Blood Drive,” meat is exactly what his onscreen contribution lead to. After stopping off for a bite, the jumpsuit-wearing racer was turned into diner “beef” and became the bite. And given their smiles, one could assume that the patrons loved him tender. (Bonus points go to TrunkSpace for flagrant Elvis joke!)

We recently sat down with Pelkowitz to discuss his artistic onscreen death, what flavor he’d be, and why the experience of “Blood Drive” will stay with him forever.

TrunkSpace: We have been asking this of every “Blood Drive” cast member we speak with because, well, it just seems like an obvious first question. (Laughter) Did you ever wonder if the material you were working on in “Blood Drive” would ever make it to air?
Pelkowitz: (Laughter) I never doubted that everything that we shot for “Blood Drive” wouldn’t make it to the air! I KNEW it would all be there. This is because of the genre that the production is based upon. Grindhouse is a very specific genre and due to its nature, it needs to have all of the elements that were shot and then ultimately shown.

TrunkSpace: Your character’s name (past tense spoiler alert) was Fat E, or Fat Elvis for those in the know. There’s been a lot of Elvi (plural Elvis) portrayed on screen over the years. What did you hope to bring to your maniacal version that audiences haven’t seen before?
Pelkowitz: Well, interesting question… I chose to make Elvis truly “Fat” (in the seven deadly sins sort of way), in essence, sluggish, ugly, morbid and totally egotistical in his own manner. I want audiences to look at Fat E and think, “Wow, this man has really been living the good life more than he actually should have.” I wanted to create a kind of “air” about him that was totally different from any of the other characters that were involved in the production.

TrunkSpace: In terms of character background, was he an actual Elvis impersonator or did he just share a similar love for sequined jumpsuits and colorful leis?
Pelkowitz: Well, when I auditioned for the role, I was asked to give a lot of the usual and generic Elvis hip swings and lip movements, etc. I chose ultimately to go the opposite route in my performance. I chose to create a different kind of Elvis impersonator who, as you say, looks and dresses like Elvis and sounds like Elvis, just with a really irritable bowel (pun intended) who is totally put off by others and is really only interested in causing trouble, smoking cigarettes, and eating burgers. (Spoiler alert!)

TrunkSpace: Shooting under that hot South African sun, were you a hunka hunka burnin’ Pelkowitz in that jumpsuit? (Yes, bad pun intended.)
Pelkowitz: I was born and bred in Johannesburg, South Africa. I am used to the weather here. Cape Town is a different story when it comes to weather. It’s humid and in the parts of Cape Town where we shot “Blood Drive,” it certainly was boiling. Lots of sunscreen and water… all in the name of good fun!

TrunkSpace: This is going to sound really weird coming out of our lips but… your death was beautiful. Legitimately, the way that your character died was shot in such an interesting way. As far as onscreen deaths go, that one has to be a bit of a badge of honor?
Pelkowitz: I totally agree with you… without sounding egotistical. I am honored to be able to say that I “died like that.” It was definitely an interesting journey. Firstly, I had to go for prosthetics, which took about two hours. I had to wax my (unfortunately, extremely Jewish hairy) chest, sit with prosthetics and weird slime being smeared all over my face and upper body, pictures were taken, etc., etc., etc. It was a whole process. Thereafter I had to have special training where I was strapped into a harness and suspended from the ceiling for no longer than three minutes at a time because being upside down for longer than that can be quite dangerous to one’s health. Aneurysms are definitely not wanted or needed. When it came to shooting the scene, it was all planned out before so that I would only have to spend a minimal amount of time upside down. The door opening and closing was an amazing touch to a very interesting day. It was really totally amazing and I am grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to “die” like that. (Laughter)

Fat E hung up to dr… fry!

TrunkSpace: You’re also an editor and videographer in real life. Could you appreciate that entire scene, and really, most of that episode, in a whole different way knowing what went into it? There were some really innovative shots that you’d never expect to see in a grindhouse gorefest.
Pelkowitz: Absolutely! I am totally aware of what goes into these things being a videographer and an editor, but I was totally amazed at the incredible shots, the seamless editing, and the way in which everything was put together in the end. I thought to myself, “Fuck, that’s awesome!” Everything worked! I mean, it’s really difficult putting all of that stuff together. One doesn’t notice that, which is definitely a good thing because it comes across as that is how it was supposed to be, instead of one of those, “Oh, look at that animation there” moments.

TrunkSpace: Ultimately Fat E was being processed for others to get fat on. What do you think your character tasted like?
Pelkowitz: I believe Fat E tasted like beef that had been hung for at least 28 days.

TrunkSpace: Had Fat E survived beyond episode 2, how do you think he would have done in the race overall?
Pelkowitz: I don’t think that Fat E would have done very well in the race had he survived. I think that he probably would have made one more episode before dying in some grand manner. (As Elvis’ always do!)

TrunkSpace: The sets in “Blood Drive” are just as unique and off the wall as the characters appear. Did the environments play a role in your character development?
Pelkowitz: They always do. Obviously if you are in a beautiful restaurant with silver service, Fat E would most probably not have been as forward as to snatch the burger out of Arthur’s hand. He probably would have gotten the waiter to bring him Arthur’s plate. (Laughter) For me, the sets completely help with my Fat E character. He is as dirty and as dodgy as that diner in Pixie Swallows.

TrunkSpace: What was your most memorable moment working on the series?
Pelkowitz: Obviously working with the incredible cast that is featured on “Blood Drive.” Making friends with these incredible people. The crew and producers were amazing to work with. In essence, the entire experience will stay with me for the rest of my life!

TrunkSpace: From what we could tell, “Blood Drive” was your first big television project. How do you hope to position your involvement in what is quickly becoming a cult classic to further your own acting and professional career?
Pelkowitz: Yes, “Blood Drive” was my first major television project. Well, this is an interesting question. I live in South Africa. I have been in the performing arts industry for 12 years now having performed in many major musical theater productions as well as having been fortunate enough to be nominated for awards for some of them too. I have already sent my CV out to some international casting agents, who hopefully will see my career and become interested in what I have to offer to the world of television and the performing arts. I am definitely not leaving this here. I am constantly auditioning for new roles and new productions. So only time will tell. Luck is when preparedness meets opportunity.

TrunkSpace: When you look at your career moving forward, what would you like to accomplish? Do you have bucket list items that you want to check off in your career?
Pelkowitz: I would love to be able to perform on Broadway. I would love to be involved in an international feature film. And I would love to become more recognized for the character work that I do. These are most certainly bucket list items. WATCH THIS SPACE, WORLD!

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