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Daphne & Velma

Wingman Wednesday

Sarah Gilman

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Photo By: Richard Lewis

Fans of “Scooby-Doo” can attest that amateur detective Velma is one of those characters who, although iconic in look and sound, had the potential to be developed out much further than her animated arcs allowed. Thanks to the new movie “Daphne & Velma,” a live action origin story, we’re learning more about what makes Miss Dinkley tick other than hidden clues and oversized turtlenecks.

Sarah Gilman plays the jinkies-delivering, orange-clad super sleuth in training, and while she gives us some of Velma’s greatest hits via her performance, the LA native has also created a fresh take on the character that feels accessible for first-time Scooby viewers, but also familiar enough to appease the parents watching alongside of their kids.

We recently sat down with Gilman to discuss dog sweaters, making Velma sassy, and why she was scared to screen the film for longtime fans of the franchise.

TrunkSpace: Before we jump into the meat and the potatoes of the questions, we have to point out your incredible wardrobe on “Daphne & Velma,” especially that amazing dog sweater! (Laughter)
Gilman: Yeah. Kara Saun, the wardrobe designer, worked on “The Descendants.” Some of my friends were on that actually, and I knew of her before she came on the project, so I was really excited. A lot of the pieces were handmade – hand-designed – like the dog sweater. The sleeves were cut off and the dog was colored in by hand. So a lot of it was just her own creation instead of store bought items, which was really cool.

TrunkSpace: The plot of “Daphne & Velma” takes place during a time in the characters’ lives that fans haven’t really seen yet. Did that you give the freedom to bring your own spin on the character?
Gilman: Oh definitely. I actually worked a lot with director Suzi Yoonessi and even the producers, especially Jen Tisdale, to kind of brainstorm exactly what kind of Velma this would be because we do know very little about Velma from “Scooby-Doo.” We know that she’s smart, she’s pretty sassy, she’s… not to stereotype her, but the brains of the operation for the most part. But we really don’t know much about her. She’s a pretty flat character, as are most cartoons, I think. So we really took the time to kind of decide what we were gonna make her into and she’s a lot edgier and more independent and a little more vulnerable than I think anyone was really expecting her to become. It was really fun working with them. And also, they gave me a lot of creative freedom to kind of put my own personality into her as well, so I made her really sarcastic and kind of sassy. I really, really liked that, because I got to use some of my own improv into kind of creating her edge a little bit.

TrunkSpace: On the opposite side of that coin, is there still pressure to deliver on the character in terms of what fans will expect when they sit down to watch?
Gilman: Yeah, it was kind of a scary line to tow, trying to make her into this new 2018 Velma, but at the same time keeping her as the original Velma that premiered in 1969. It’s always kind of scary a little bit impersonating a character that’s so iconic. She does have a lot of fans, and there is the risk of alienating some of them when you try to change her or make her into something that they didn’t expect. But there were a lot of areas – tropes, I guessfrom the original cartoons that we adopted into this movie, like the glasses and she says, “Jinkies.” And the editors did a really good job of using some of the iconic “Scooby-Doo” flairs, like the eyes following us in a painting and adopting them into 2018 and making them a little more modern. I think the movie does a really good job of blending the old and the new. There are new aspects of Velma and Daphne that haven’t really been seen before but there’s also pretty recognizable aspects that you kind of need in any “Scooby-Doo” film.

TrunkSpace: Probably like the jinkies line, for example. If you didn’t have that, fans would have called the movie out.
Gilman: Yeah, and it was funny because – and this is by no fault of anyone, it’s not even a bad thing – but I think there was a little bit of a fear of making it too tropey, if that makes sense? So in the original script there were no jinkies, there was no, “Where are my glasses?”, there wasn’t any of that. I was able to work on set with our director and the producers to kind of add those things in, so they were actually added in on set and not in the original script.

TrunkSpace: You recently got to screen the film alongside a group ofScooby-Doo” fans. What was that experience like?
Gilman: It was the first time I had screened it with anyone other than my parents and a couple producers. Technically it was the world premiere at C2E2 in Chicago. It was in a really large room with a lot of people and some people were dressed as Velma and Daphne – cosplayers that looked amazing. It was really nerve-racking because at the same time they were all adults, and while I hope adults like this movie, the demographic that it’s kind of aimed towards is a younger audience. So it was really scary because we had a panel afterwords and I was acutely aware of the fact that if they didn’t like it, then I’d probably get that feedback when we did the panel. Luckily it seemed that it had a really good reception. There was a lot of laughs when there was supposed to be laughs and multiple people came up afterwards and expressed how much they liked the new Velma and the character and how they felt the movie did it great justice, which was really nice because I was very scared the whole time watching it. (Laughter)

Gilman with Sarah Jeffery in “Daphne & Velma”

TrunkSpace: You grew up in Los Angeles. Do you think being that close to the industry had a hand in you wanting to be a part of it?
Gilman: Definitely. My parents are not connected to the industry in anyway. Neither is my sister. My dad was a police officer and my mom is an accountant. We had no connection whatsoever. It kind of happened by chance and I think if we hadn’t been in LA, we wouldn’t have moved from, let’s say Texas, or Arizona, or even Seattle, where some of my friends are from. I think it was only because we were in such close proximity to the auditions and the work that it was able to work out. It was luck, I guess.

TrunkSpace: On Twitter you list yourself as an aspiring filmmaker. Is that a direction that you’re hoping to steer your career in moving forward?
Gilman: Yeah. I graduated high school and went to USC as a theater major, thinking I would pursue acting, and of course I have, especially out of school. Half way through school I actually applied internally to transfer into film and TV production at the film school at USC and I was accepted, so now I am currently studying film and TV production with an emphasis in directing and producing. I’d still say acting is my first priority, but director/producer is definitely something I’d like to have knowledge about as I continue and hopefully can one day make my own projects and explore other roles. I think also just knowing the other side of the camera makes you a more empathetic actor.

Daphne & Velma” is available today on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD.

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Wingman Wednesday

Sarah Jeffery

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She is a charismatic young actress with an effortless ability to steal a scene, but Sarah Jeffery has her work cut out for her this year, tackling two iconic characters from our pop culture past that promise to force fans to sit and watch with a fresh set of eyes. First she’ll slip into the purple-loving skin of “Scooby-Doo” character Daphne for the live action origin story of how she and Velma first met and began their sleuthing ways. Then in the fall, things will get downright magical for the Vancouver native when she joins the cast of The CW’s reimagining of “Charmed.”

Thankfully, not only is Jeffery up for the task of pumping new blood into old characters, but she also has the acting chops to make it work. We recently sat down with her to discuss the wiggle room in bringing teenage Daphne to the screen, why there are always two sides to the reboot coin, and what advice she gives to actors breaking into the industry.

TrunkSpace: As far as the “Scooby-Doo” gang is concerned, the majority of them have their established catchphrases and mannerisms, but Daphne seems to have more room for growth because while who she is has been established throughout the life of the franchise, she hasn’t been tied to defining lines likes “Ruh-roh” and “Jinkies.” As a performer, do you feel like you had an opportunity to bring something unique and new to the character that hasn’t been seen before, and if so, what approach did you take to making such an iconic character your own?
Jeffery: First off, I’m extremely grateful and honored to be portraying such an iconic character. I’ve always loved Daphne so much, so this has been wild. But like you said, there was a bit of room to create a more versatile Daphne and I think you’ll see just that. She’s well rounded, not just the stereotypical fashionista or girly girl. She’s multi-faceted and maintains her love for fashion and all that the original Daphne had, while also using her brain and wits. She’s clever and she’s funny.

TrunkSpace: The story that “Daphne & Velma” lays out takes place within a portion of the characters’ timelines that fans haven’t really seen yet. Did the fact that it predates most of what people know of Daphne and the rest of the gang allow you more freedom to make her your own as well?
Jeffery: We definitely did have some freedom to play with our versions of these characters being that it’s pre “Scooby Gang” days. They’re still in high school and still discovering themselves, feeling the highs and the lows, and it was a lot of fun playing a youthful version of Daphne.

TrunkSpace: While having some freedom to play with Daphne, is there still an element of nervousness going into portraying someone who has been seared on the minds of fans of the franchise for so long, even if that memory that people have is in the animated space?
Jeffery: Oh definitely. I’m still nervous to see how the film is received, and I most certainly hope people embrace my portrayal of Daphne. But at the end of the day, this is my take on her and I hope people see that we have honored the original series while bringing in some great new elements and layers.

TrunkSpace: Kids are the target audience for “Daphne & Velma,” but there’s no doubt that long-term fans of “Scooby-Doo” are going to check in on the movie as well to see what some of their favorite characters are up to. The film recently screened alongside some of those fans. Did you attend, and if so, was it nerve-racking seeing it in real time with a group of people so passionate about the history of the franchise?
Jeffery: I actually wasn’t able to attend the most recent screening, but I definitely imagine that I would’ve had some nervous butterflies watching alongside Scooby fans, old or new. I just want to make them happy!

TrunkSpace: As far as performance is concerned, is there something extra fun about bringing an animated character to life? While grounded in a reality, it’s still a heightened reality. Does that allow you to approach things differently than you would on another project or piece of work?
Jeffery: I think what’s great about our team on this film, particularly our wonderful director Suzi Yoonessi, is that we all had a similar vision. A fun, exaggerated reality but still as grounded as possible with our subject matter. That being said, we definitely have some larger than life moments that directly reflect the animated series, and that was a blast.

Jeffery with Sarah Gilman in “Daphne & Velma”

TrunkSpace: Outside of your work on “Daphne & Velma,” it was also recently announced that you’ll be bringing another well-known property back to life on the small screen, this time the long-running dramaedy “Charmed.” As a performer, is there something kind of freeing working on a project that you know will automatically have a built-in audience? Does it make the hard work prior to a project’s release mentally easier knowing that, at the end of the day, people are going to tune in?
Jeffery: In all honesty, sometimes having that builtin audience is a little more nerve-racking. I definitely appreciate the fact that these are characters that are near and dear to the fans’ hearts, and I want to do right by them. But also, it is comforting knowing that people will tune in, and hopefully connect with the project.

TrunkSpace: On the opposite side of that coin, reboots are always faced with comparisons to what came before. Is it important for a show like “Charmed,” or even a movie like “Daphne & Velma,” to establish themselves as their own thing (with their own tone and vibe) as quickly as possible so as to tell the audience, “This is what WE are, that is what THAT was?”
Jeffery: I think with working pretty heavily around reboots/revivals, I’ve come to realize that there are indeed two sides to the coin. You’re going to have people who are against it, and you’re going to have people who are there for it. I try to gently remind viewers and followers that yes, while we are being respectful and mindful of the original project, this is our take on it and there will be elements that are different, and there will be elements that stay very similar.

TrunkSpace: You’ve been playing Jennifer Lopez’s daughter on “Shades of Blue.” First and foremost, with Mother’s Day recently being celebrated, that’s a heck of a screen mother to have, but secondly, what did you take from her – someone who has accomplished so much in so many different mediums – that will stay with you for the rest of your career?
Jeffery: Getting to work with Jennifer intimately on “Shades Of Blue” was such a wonderful opportunity, and a huge lesson on professionalism. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from her about what it means to be dedicated to your craft, and what it means to be a hard worker. She shows up to work so prepared and so on her game, which is even more impressive because of how insane her schedule is. I give her mad props and I have loads of respect for her.

TrunkSpace: You have spoken out against the mistreatment of animals and you are an advocate for adopting a vegan diet. What inspired you down this path and for those with similar views but feel they don’t have the platform, how can they also help spread the word?
Jeffery: I was inspired to adopt a vegan diet for quite a few reasons, but primarily for ethical reasons. I just couldn’t get behind the cruelty involved in the meat and dairy industry, and I wanted my actions to reflect that. Even if you don’t have a platform or a large audience to share your views with, you can still make sure those around you are educated and are aware of the effects a meat-based diet has on our environment, our bodies and the animals which it comes from.

Jeffery with Melonie Diaz and Madeleine Mantock in “Charmed”

TrunkSpace: Finally, Sarah, we just spoke about some things that you took away from your time working with Jennifer Lopez. For those with less experience working alongside of you now, what advice would you give them from lessons that you yourself have learned through your own experiences, things that you feel would be of value to carry with them through the rest of their own careers?
Jeffery: Over the years of working in this business, one of the most important lessons I’ve taken away is to always be curious. Asking questions about my craft has been probably the most important tool I’ve discovered. I’ve learned so much just by observing people I look up to, and not being too proud to ask about things I may not know. Be bold and curious enough to take risks. Another big thing to keep in mind is how you present yourself and how you take command of your work space. Be respectful, be professional, and be kind. No one wants to work with negative people. It sucks. So that being said, particularly as a lead, I always want to set a tone that is comfortable and cultivates success for all departments. It changes the whole experience.

Daphne & Velma” is available tomorrow on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD.

Charmed” premieres this fall on The CW.

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Wingman Wednesday

Brian Stepanek

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The Nickelodeon animated series “The Loud House” was not created for adults, but those with children will understand just how rare it is when shows for kids can also be enjoyed by the parents seated alongside of them. Often we, the grey-haired and crow’s feeted, are the unintended eyes on a program, forced to not only watch something, but watch it over and over and over again. Thankfully, “The Loud House” plays like a sitcom from the 1980s, complete with a catchy opening theme song, making us quiet fans of the Loud family.

We recently sat down with cartoon patriarch and actor Brian Stepanek to discuss his character Lynn Loud Sr., why he loves being a voice actor, and the reason his 16-year-old self needs to chill out.

TrunkSpace: Those of us here with kids can attest to watching far more of “The Loud House” than was probably ever intended for adults, but that being said, it’s actually a show that we can enjoy with our children. There’s something nostalgic about it… almost like an ’80s sitcom. Have you found more adults taking to it, finding something in it themselves, than you would have ever expected to happen when you first signed on to be a voice of the series?
Stepanek: I haven’t spoken to many parents about the show but I completely see the nostalgia for adults. The show reminds me of Charlie Brown at times. These characters really like and support each other. I come from a large family and so the Loud family is very familiar to me in that regard.

TrunkSpace: Oftentimes we’ll hear actors say that a film or television series felt “special” while they were shooting, serving as a premonition of the success to come. Does animation have that same feel as well? Did you have any indication before its premiere that “The Loud House” would find an audience?
Stepanek: Sometimes. With animation, the actors are such a small part of the production process, it’s difficult to get a read on how the show will do. There are just too many decisions about the look and feel of the show that we aren’t privy to. But I will say the scripts are always fantastic. Lots of laughs and plenty of heart.

TrunkSpace: For the entire first season, your character’s face (as well as that of the mother’s) were concealed in creative and silly ways. What was the idea behind making the adults faceless (was it an homage to the classic “Peanuts” cartoon, which you mentioned above?) and why was it ultimately decided to reveal them later in the life of the series?
Stepanek: That is a question for the creators. I loved the reveal though.

TrunkSpace: Lynn Loud Sr. is the kind of father who thinks he’s the coolest dad in the world, but his kids may not necessarily agree. (Our kids can relate to that!) How did you go about finding him from a performance standpoint – both his voice and his personality?
Stepanek: I looked in the mirror. I have three kids that are pretty awesome. Lynn just loves his kids. That’s it. Every episode that is “Dad-centric” is always about Lynn loving his family. It all starts with that.

TrunkSpace: There’s a movie in the works. Can you give us any insight on what fans can expect from the Louds going cinematic in structure? Will it have a different feel than the series itself?
Stepanek: No idea. But I can’t wait.

TrunkSpace: Do you take a different approach to performance with voice acting than you do with on-camera work? Does it allow for a more heightened sense of reality when you’re working in animation?
Stepanek: I find it a lot more fun than on-camera. The writers let me have fun and improvise. The environment at Nickelodeon is fantastic. But as far as technique, I prepare the script exactly as I would an on-camera role.

TrunkSpace: You also star in the Nickelodeon series “Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn,” and have spent a large portion of your career appearing in projects created for kid and teen audiences. Was that by design or did life put you on this path unexpectedly?
Stepanek: When I first got to LA I was doing a lot of dramatic guest star roles and then I booked a recurring character on “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” and my career shifted. The high stakes performance style in kids programming comes pretty naturally to me (I came from musical theater), so I’ve always had work in that genre. It wasn’t by design but it’s been fun.

TrunkSpace: If you could sit down and have a conversation with your 16-year-old self, would he be surprised by the trajectory of your career, and if so, why?
Stepanek: That kid didn’t know squat. The 16-year-old me would say, “Why don’t we have an Oscar yet?!” And I’d tell him, “I own a house in LA. I made it. Chill out and enjoy the ride. Life is short.”

Stepanek with the cast of “Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn.”

TrunkSpace: You’re also writing and producing your own projects, including one that is currently in development called “My Substitute is an Alien.” Does writing scratch a separate aspect of your creative brain that acting can’t reach?
Stepanek: Yes. I have always wanted to have a larger role in the storytelling process. I have so much respect for writers. Writing does not come naturally to me but it is extremely satisfying when you finish a script. I’ve started directing television as well and love being involved in the big picture.

TrunkSpace: What is something within the industry that you have yet to accomplish in your career that you have your sights set on? If you could write your own future, what would it look like?
Stepanek: I just shot a movie called “Green Book” with Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. If I could do projects like that for the rest of my career I’d be fine. And I’d like to be directing on a regular basis.

Did you hear that, 16-year-old me? Keep it simple!

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