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Wingman Wednesday

Victor Webster

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There’s no better seasonal experience for the senses than autumn, and with the Fall Harvest programming event currently underway at Hallmark Channel, the network is making sure we all get to participate in the sights and sounds of the season.

Starring Victor Webster and Jill Wagner, “A Harvest Wedding” tells the tale of a lost love only to be found again, set against the backdrop of a New England town ankle-deep in fallen leaves and swirling with crisp air that tickles the lungs. The movie premieres Saturday at 9 pm ET/PT.

We recently sat down with Webster to discuss why he loves the Hallmark experience for both he and the audience, what drew him to the character David Nichols, and why he always arrives on set fully prepared.

TrunkSpace: You’ve trained in martial arts for years. Do you look at acting in a similar way in that, you’re training and working hard to always get better?
Webster: Yeah, I look at acting like I looked at playing sports. For me, you’ve got to work really hard and you’ve got to put in the effort. You can’t just walk on the court and expect to be able to shoot three-pointers and free throws. I take it very, very, very seriously. I wouldn’t say that I’m a naturally gifted actor. I’m not, by any means. I’ve got to work hard at it and I take it very seriously.

TrunkSpace: You’re currently starring in the new Hallmark Channel original film “A Harvest Wedding.” Television is known for its fast-paced production schedules. Does that work and preparation come into play even more so on something like that where you’re wrapping a project in such a short period of time?
Webster: We work 12 hours a day on camera, plus we show up an hour early, and we’ve got an hour for lunch. We’re there 14 hours a day. Sometimes, depending on the movie, you’re working six days a week, so the schedule’s pretty crazy. You’ve got like 10 pages of dialog a day you have to memorize on top of it, so you’ve got a lot of homework to do. You have to be focused and you have to come prepared. The Hallmark movies are such a well-oiled machine, that if you’re the cog that’s slowing up the whole machine, that’s never a good feeling.

TrunkSpace: You’ve worked in the science fiction world, which is known for having loyal fandoms, but there is a fandom of loyal Hallmark Channel viewers that rivals the passion of science fiction fans. Has that been your experience?
Webster: I was walking through Central Park the other day, and I had a woman come up to me and she was freaking out because she watches every single Hallmark movie there is. I love doing these movies because everybody can watch them. If you’re a child, or a grandma, or a mom, or like one of my buddies that watches Hallmark movies, it’s like it doesn’t matter, there’s something for everybody. We have so much negativity going on in the world right now, it’s nice to sit down and have two hours of something beautiful and positive where there’s always a happy ending.

TrunkSpace: One of the things the network is always great at is painting a picture of the season that the viewer is currently in and making the movies feel like a part of what they’re experiencing seasonally at that exact moment.
Webster: Yeah, the world that you’re in at the moment is a part of the Hallmark world. You’re right. It’s like you’ve been immersed into a virtual reality. Even if not, if you’re in California and you know that it’s not fall out, you watch one of those movies and for those two hours that you’re watching a movie, you feel like you’re in that world with the trees changing color and the leaves falling. They always shoot them so beautifully, even from the aspect of the cinematography, it’s just a beautiful addition.

TrunkSpace: You’ve starred in a number of Hallmark Channel movies. What was it about this particular character that drew you in? Was there something that he offered you from a performance standpoint that you haven’t had a chance to experience yet?
Webster: The last one that I did for them, I played a guy in a suit, and he was an MBA. This one was a guy that worked on a farm, that worked with his hands, who had dirt under his fingernails and drove a tractor. Playing those kind of characters that like to get their hands dirty, there’s always something that is fun to play because that’s more closer to who I am. Being able to wear dirty jeans and a T-shirt, versus a suit and tie, which I’ve also done because I was a stockbroker – going back and forth between those roles and doing something different each time is one of the things I love about acting.

Photo: Jill Wagner, Victor Webster Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Brendan Meadows

TrunkSpace: We talked about the production schedules a bit, but does that expedited process force you to look at your own performance differently as well?
Webster: Yeah. You don’t have the luxury of not being prepared. I’ve worked on some bigger movies, where people come and it feels like they’re literally learning their lines while they’re on set. When you’re shooting 10 pages a day and you’ve only got three weeks to shoot it, you better come prepared. Otherwise, you’re never gonna get a good take, you’re never gonna get a good performance because you’re just gonna be trying to memorize your lines. That’s such a disservice to the people that want to go home – the crew that wants to go home and see their families at the end of the night, or to your co-star that did three hours of homework after a 14-hour day to go home and memorize for three hours. You need to come prepared. I take this very seriously. No matter what I’m working on, I always do, but yeah, for sure, it requires everybody to be on their game.

TrunkSpace: You said it yourself, these productions are like a well-oiled machine. In your experience, have you seen any companies or networks that are able to pull off what Hallmark Channel does?
Webster: Never. It’s an anomaly. The only other way to compare it is to compare it to a TV show that’s been on the air for 10 years because they’re doing the same show. The thing that’s completely different about this is you’re doing a different movie with different actors, different writers, different directors, different locations. Honestly, my mind is blown on how they keep it all together and they do such a good job and they do over 100 movies a year.

TrunkSpace: As you look over your career as a whole, are there any characters that you wished you had a chance to spend more time with?
Webster: The character that I played on the TV show “The Lot” for AMC, which was about what went on behind the scenes at 1940’s film studio. I really, really wish that I, more than anything, had been able to delve into that. I wish I could go back with what I know now and replay that character because I was so green and fresh, and there was such an opportunity to just do so much more with that character than what I did. I felt like I did a good job, but with what I know about acting and life in general right now, I feel like I did a disservice to that. I could go back now and really bring that character to life, and he’s a very, very messed up character with lots of colors and facets.

A Harvest Wedding” premieres Saturday at 9 pm ET/PT on Hallmark Channel.

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Wingman Wednesday

Jake Busey

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Photo By: Dana Patrick

Jake Busey works a lot, and when he’s not working, he’s thinking about work. That tireless desire to hear the words “ACTION” may stem from the fact that, as the son of legendary actor Gary Busey, he has seen the inner workings of the entertainment industry since he was a kid. In fact, he admits that being on a movie set is the one place he feels the most comfortable, and it’s a comfort that has lead to countless memorable performances, from the murderous Johnny Bartlett in the extremely-underrated “The Frighteners” to bug-hunting soldier Ace Levy in the cult classic “Starship Troopers.”

Busey can currently be seen in Showtime’s “Ray Donovan” and in the new horror/comedy hybrid “Dead Ant.” Season 2 of his Hulu series “Freakish” kicked off this week as well, and for those who love a vintage franchise reborn, he will be starring in Shane Black’s “The Predator,” due next summer.

We recently sat down with Busey to discuss his definition of “favorite movie,” how he refuels the mental tank, and why he’s had to be a salmon who swims extremely hard upstream.

TrunkSpace: We spoke with your “Dead Ant” director Ron Carlson recently. We have to say, that sure looked like a fun character to play.
Busey: “Dead Ant” was a hoot. We really had a good time. We really enjoyed filming that. It was quite the bonding experience for the whole gang.

TrunkSpace: An end user, the viewer, sees a film and that’s what they remember, but for actors, the experience is probably where you draw your memories from, right?
Busey: That’s very true. In fact, I wrestled with that for many years. I would have fans ask me what my favorite movie that I did was, and so I would think about trips that my wife and I took in New Zealand – my girlfriend at the time. We spent two weeks traveling in New Zealand while I was doing “The Frighteners,” then we went to Fiji for another 10 days about a month later. And then of course, the culture and the people – and so I think about “The Frighteners” in a very good way.

Then I think about “Twister,” when she got in her Jeep and drove all the way from LA because we didn’t have money for a plane ticket, or a rental car in Oklahoma, so she drove her Jeep out during “Twister.” Then when I booked “Starship Troopers” and bought a brand new Dodge truck, she drove that out from LA to Wyoming for the whole filming. And then I put her in the film – she was a stand-in for Denise Richards. That was a real bonding experience for all the people there, and to have my girl with me was fantastic.

And for about 15 years, I was always answering people in regards to my experience of making the film. Then one day it hit me, “Oh no, they’re wanting to know what my favorite film that I did was on the screen, because that’s what they’re awareness is.” It was a big moment of revelation for me.

TrunkSpace: When looking over your filmography, which is filled with project after project, we’re struck with just how consistent it is. Are you someone who loves the work, loves to work, or a combination of both?
Busey: I think you have me at a loss there, because I don’t know the difference between loving the work and loving to work. I mean, I don’t know the difference in distinction.

For me, I love being on a film set, that’s my favorite thing. That’s where I feel most comfortable and if there was ever a place where I didn’t feel like I needed to be somewhere else, it was a film set. Sometimes you’ll be somewhere and you’ll get that feeling of some sort of sixth sense where something kicks into your brain and you go, “I feel like there’s something else I should be doing,” and then you wind up calling your loved ones or whatever, and as it turns out a friend of yours was in a car crash. Nine times out of ten, it’s just you sort of having a nagging feeling like, “I’d rather be somewhere else.” Besides from my kids, when I’m on a film set, the point is, I never have the thought, “Oh, I should be somewhere else.” I just feel completely at home.

TrunkSpace: With that said, do you feel like it’s important to refuel the mental tank between characters?
Busey: Absolutely. One of my very favorite quotes in the world was by a guy that you would never guess, from the 1960s, and he had a quote that was basically, “It’s an actor’s duty to seek out more of life than life puts at his feet.” And you have to experience a lot of things in your life, because in order to portray different characters, you need to have a wealth of experiences to draw from. Somebody who is a sheltered homebody would not make a good actor because they don’t have anything to draw from except for their own small little world.

My mind just never stops, and I never stop moving. I’ve been told it’s because I’m a Gemini, I’ve been told a variety of things, but I’m always creating something. I’m always thinking about something. I started a motorized bicycle building company. I am a pilot. I’ve now dove head first back into something I was very involved in when I was in my late teens and early 20s, which is desert racing. In fact, I’ll be racing the Baja 1000 this year, which is November 19.

So I’m always busy, I’m always thinking, and I’m always auditioning for more films. And by virtue of that, I’m always acting.

Busey in The Frighteners

TrunkSpace: Outside of film, you’ve also been working in quite a bit of great television, from “Ray Donovan” to “Freakish,” which just kicked off season 2 on Hulu. From a character driven content standpoint, how much has TV changed from when you started your career, and is it creatively more appealing to you now than it was then?
Busey: You know, there’s a lot more available now than when I started. Interestingly enough, when I was beginning, when I was coming up, and also when I was a child – I spent the 70s and the 80s on film sets with my dad. As a film actor, that was De Niro, that was Jon Voight, that was Al Pacino, that was… I don’t know, I could go on. Clint Eastwood. The list goes on and on. But TV, you didn’t want to be Ted Danson, and quite frankly at the time, neither did he. And you didn’t want to be Tom Selleck. He was so pissed off that CBS wouldn’t let him out of his contract to go do Indiana Jones, and Harrison Ford got the role, and he couldn’t do it.

Back then TV was subpar – the craft of it. Film was considered artistic and television was considered second rate. If you did TV it was just a career suicide. You wouldn’t get let back into the world of great filmmaking, with Scorsese or something. And now, everybody has a home theater system, and the internet has turned streaming into a possibility, and everything is all based on home viewing, and laptops, and we’ve got a lot of content now – you don’t even say film anymore, because it’s just considered content. It’s all shot for a tiny screen, for being on the telephone.

Nowadays, there’s only two kinds of films. There’s 100 million dollar spandex movies, and then there’s the tiny, tiny low budget independent films that may or may not get distribution. Film has kind of become a little bit of a wasteland for actors.

TrunkSpace: In a way, the two mediums have kind of flip-flopped.
Busey: Yeah. If you’re doing movies now, unless you’re one of those top 20 people that are in those spandex movies, you’re like slumming it really. No one will outwardly admit it, but if you take a meeting with somebody – a new agent, or a new manager or PR person – and you’re like, “Yeah, I’m doing a lot of independent films,” one might assume that means you’re working and that’s a good thing, but really what the other people are hearing is, “Oh, he’s slumming it in independent film land.” So yeah, you’re exactly right. You said it the best. It really has flip-flopped. Look you’ve got Meryl Streep doing television.

TrunkSpace: Anthony Hopkins!
Busey: I mean, it’s crazy. The world has really changed.

I’ll tell you what, I’ve got a lot of friends who are actors that are my age and we share in a unique thing about being Generation X-ers. There wasn’t as many of us, so we were never the popular majority. So I’ve got a lot friends, including myself, that never quite made it over the top of that multiple million dollar spandex movie for their characters, and you’re kind of caught in this lurch, by virtue.

When I was starting out in my early 20s, I couldn’t get hired. Everybody that was being hired was in the previous generation. They were all like 30 years old. It was Charlie Sheen, and Kiefer Sutherland, and Christian Slater, and those guys who were working. I was a youngster and couldn’t get hired, and then when I was in my mid 20s I really started working a lot. But then, by the time I hit my late 20s and early 30s, then all the young 20-somethings, and I guess the early Millennials – the earliest of the Millennials – took over. Ryan Phillippe, and Timberlake, and all these guys came up.

So, caught in a generational sort of wasteland has been an interesting way to forge a career. And plus, I’m a unique looking guy, so I’ve really had to be the salmon that has to swim extremely hard upstream to even keep working in this industry. And I love it, I love working, but I will not tell you that it’s easy, that’s for damn sure.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned “The Frighteners” earlier. We were all chatting about that film internally here, it being October and all, and the consensus was that it is an extremely underrated film. Had that been released today, particularly with the way that tastes have changed and the horror/comedy hybrid film genre is more accepted, it might have had a completely different lease on pop culture life.
Busey: Oh true, yeah. This movie “Dead Ant” that I did, it is wholeheartedly what “The Frighteners” was going for back in the day. It is comedy and horror combined, but I remember at the time, I got a lot of criticism because critics didn’t know how to interpret watching a film that had comedy and horror. It was like, taboo.

TrunkSpace: And when it opened, it was up against “The Nutty Professor,” so you’re automatically losing half of your comedy-loving audience to that film.
Busey: Yeah, exactly. And how do you market that? But I think today’s audiences, I think with the internet and everyone being so involved and connected on the World Wide Web that we’ve got going, I really do think that people are certainly not as close-minded and a lot more accepting of multiple genres mixed together. Because quite frankly, when you sit down and you get on YouTube, and start bouncing around, there’s a million different things going on within five minutes.

TrunkSpace: And at the end of the day, life is all things. Life is not one genre.
Busey: Certainly true. And that was one of the things that I was bummed out about when “The Frighteners” didn’t do so well. It was panned by the critics for being funny in the beginning, and scary at the end. It’s like, this is a good film – its own unique entity.

“Freakish” season 2 is available now on Hulu.

“Ray Donovan” airs Sundays on Showtime.

Featured image by: Dana Patrick

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Wingman Wednesday

Mark Pellegrino

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Supernatural — “The Rising Son” — Image Number: SN1302a_0086.jpg — Pictured: Mark Pellegrino as Lucifer — Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC All Rights Reserved.

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

According to the current “Supernatural” universe, that’s technically true, at least as it concerns this particular plane of fictional reality. And although it wasn’t a trick that he himself pulled, trickery was involved.

Playing out in the finale of season 12, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles), along with the help of angel Castiel (Misha Collins), demon-turned-devil Crowley (Mark Sheppard), and their mother Mary (Samantha Smith), trapped Lucifer, played brilliantly by Mark Pellegrino, in an alternative universe where Hell on earth is an actual thing. Never one to go down without a fight, the fallen archangel did some serious damage to the Winchester crew before popping out of existence, serving as the catalyst for Crowley’s sacrifice (permanent), murdering Castiel (semi-permanent), and pulling Mary into the alt-dimension with him.

Lucifer is the bastard of big bads, that much has been made clear since he first appeared on the series back in season 5, but we just may be seeing a different side of him moving forward, one that replaces his devil may care attitude with an all new Prince of Not-So-Darkness. Stuck in the alternative universe with Mary and no longer the most powerful being within finger snapping distance, a vulnerable and reliant Lucifer is emerging and it’s a character journey that Pellegrino is excited to see play out.

We recently sat down with the Los Angeles native to discuss how his relationship with Mary will be forced to change in the alternative universe, why he feels fans may start rooting for Lucifer to do the right thing each week, and what makes the SPN Family the best fandom in the business.

TrunkSpace: Heading into season 13, Lucifer is stuck in a strange land with a sworn enemy, but from what we’ve seen teased out, it looks like you may have to rely a bit on each other. Is that accurate?
Pellegrino: Yeah. And I think that makes for good drama and good comedy, because we are the odd couple, for sure, and sort of chained together at the hip, and definitely need each other to either escape this place called the “alternate universe,” or get out of it.

Yeah, and I feel like in doing the scenes, we were sort of like an old married couple, to be honest with you.

TrunkSpace: Because of that, are viewers going to see a side of Lucifer that they haven’t seen before?
Pellegrino: I think so. I think we haven’t seen Lucifer really vulnerable. And I think in this new universe, even though he tries not to show it, there’s quite a bit of vulnerability revealed because he, as powerful as he is, and he proves it while he’s there a couple of times, he’s also out of his depths in a lot of ways. And so I think it’s going to be kind of a cool thing for the fans to see someone so powerful struggling with realities.

TrunkSpace: With the death of Crowley last season, fans are without a lovable bad guy to root for. Is Lucifer going to step up and be that guy that fans hope will do the right thing week to week?
Pellegrino: I hope so. I mean, that’s what I like to think. I like to think Lucifer has some redeeming qualities to him, and they’ve so far written a Lucifer that really goes against the archetype that we’re used to. And I like that. I like that a lot.

You know, they say parenthood changes you. And I’m hoping that there’s something to that with Lucifer. He seems to be yearning to have a connection, and I think that is sort of the opening, the door opening, to spaces that he’s had to keep closed since being alienated from the universe. So yeah, I’d like to think there’s doors opening in Lucifer’s character, and that it’s going to bring out that latent good thing that I sort of hope everyone has.

TrunkSpace: Lucifer is yearning for a connection, but at the same time, the writers did such a great job setting up that same yearning in Samantha Smith’s character Mary last season. Are the two characters, stuck as they are, going to find a kinship in each other?
Pellegrino: I hope so. I mean, I really see… it’s just good writing. I see those dynamics playing all the way through with all of the characters. They’ve got very similar issues to resolve, just on sort of different levels. And I think that’s great. I think that’s what makes them, even as enemies, familiar.

TrunkSpace: Lucifer wants out of the “alternative universe,” but at the same time, isn’t this exactly what he wanted? Wasn’t he looking for a world with this kind of end result, especially one that is free of Winchester brothers? What’s keeping him from wanting to stay there?
Pellegrino: I think I sort of played that when he originally came into the world. He was like, “Whoa. Cool. This is interesting…” But I think Lucifer reveals a respect for creation. I think he reveals a sense that, “Hey, we could do this better than has been done.” He actually has an ideal that isn’t about destruction, and pain, and death, but something else, something noble, believe it or not. And so at first, he might have enjoyed the chaos, but I think he has something that stretches further than just that. I think that’s sort of superficial.

Supernatural — “The Rising Son” — Image Number: SN1302a_0507.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Samantha Smith as Mary Winchester and Mark Pellegrino as Lucifer — Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC All Rights Reserved.

TrunkSpace: It also kind of feels a bit like Lucifer, as powerful as he is, needs the Winchesters in his life because, if for no other reason, they’re the only ones who aren’t afraid to stand up to him and that seems to excite him a little.
Pellegrino: Oh, I think Lucifer loves people who are smart, loves people who are courageous, who have the chutzpah to go against, I mean, even God. The Winchesters are ballsy, and he can respect that. If you remember when Crowley shows up in the alternate universe, Lucifer sort of hops around on the ground like he loves that Crowley had the chutzpah and the intelligence to beat the odds.

And there is that element to Lucifer’s character, that respect for defiance, and that respect for courage, that he has in spades. He’s always sort of pushing the limit as far as he can go. And he’s that guy that likes no-limit men and no-limit women. And when he sees it in them, he can’t help but smile at that quality. So I think there’s a lot of layers that are going to come out with Lucifer, and you’ll see that perhaps he’s not as desirous of chaos and destruction as one would think. He just has a better idea.

And the revolutionary is one that thinks that it has to be burned down before you rebuild it again. I want to rebuild it, and make it better than it was before. That’s kind of noble.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned that Lucifer respects ballsy people. How would Lucifer get along with himself if he came across a version in an alternative world like the one he’s stuck in now?
Pellegrino: (Laughter) Well, in this world, luckily or unluckily for him, Lucifer doesn’t exist. Lucifer lost the battle in a big way. So he’s going to be that guy in that world. And the question is, will he measure up to the alternative universe Michael, who’s a very, very different cat than the one in the world that we knew?

TrunkSpace: Who we’re actually going to meet in tonight’s episode, correct?
Pellegrino: Yes.

TrunkSpace: Sounds like complicated roads are ahead! Finally, Mark, in terms of your ride on this journey so far… in your experience, is there anything that compares, fandom-wise, to the SPN Family and their commitment and loyalty they have to the show?
Pellegrino: Oh, no. Not at all. And I think that’s in part due to the unique relationship we have with them. It’s reciprocal. We help each other out. And unlike most fandoms, they don’t see that barrier between us and them. And it’s kind of cool, you know? And it’s great being part of that sort of passionate group of people.

Watch Lucifer come face-to-face with alt-Michael tonight when “Supernatural” airs on the CW.

Featured Image By: Manfred Baumann

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Wingman Wednesday

Jaden Michael

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Photo By: Clara Perez

Some teens are wise beyond their years. Talented young actor Jaden Michael, a fan of David Lynch projects, is a shining example of that. His new film “Wonderstruck,” which received an extended standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival in May, perfectly highlights his natural onscreen charisma and ability to tap into a character. Costarring Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams, “Wonderstruck” arrives in theaters this Friday.

We recently sat down with Michael to discuss his process of connecting with a character, why he doesn’t view acting as work, and what he’d binge watch if he had an entire day to himself.

TrunkSpace: You started your career very young. As you’ve grown up, have you found yourself enjoying different aspects of acting and the process than you did when you first started out?
Michael: As a child, I really enjoyed going to the auditions and memorizing. As far as I remember, I had a lot of fun working on “Sesame Street” and things like that, but now it’s more serious. For me it’s not just about being myself anymore – now it’s about creating the characters and becoming the character, so it’s more serious.

TrunkSpace: When you’re going through the process of finding a character, what approach do you take?
Michael: I like reading between the lines and imagining, what does the character like to eat, or, how does he walk? If it’s a period film or TV show, I like to research a lot about that time period and that era, and just what the character is. Every character is different. You have to be prepared and research the characters, and really know about the person and the time period.

TrunkSpace: Which was the case with your new film “Wonderstruck” because your character’s story is based in 1977. What was that experience like?
Michael: It was wonderful. Right before shooting “Wonderstruck,” I worked on something called “The Get Down” with Baz Luhrmann, which was also based in 1977. It was nice to see the big differences between the two sets. In “The Get Down” they really wanted to show the bad and the rough side of New York City, but for “Wonderstruck,” I really loved how it showed the people. The costume designer, Sandy Powell, was just excellent. She put these masterpieces together. You had the people walking around in polyester. Everyone was without underclothes, which was funny, because apparently that’s what they used to do back then. (Laughter)

And not only the 1970s, but also 1927, because there were a couple of times that we were on set and I got to see 1927. The transformations of the crew from this 1977 style to this 1927 style was… we’re taking out all the Chevrolet’s and we’re putting in Ford Model T’s, things like that, and everyone is dressed up. It really helped me as a character really feel like if I was in that time period, because I’m looking at what’s going on.

TrunkSpace: What was the most challenging aspect of playing Jamie in the film?
Michael: It was a lot of fun, but something that was challenging to play with the character was the fact that he happened to interact and talk with a deaf person. Oakes Fegley is not deaf, but he had to play one, and he did such a great job. When we’re trying to communicate, he’s a late-deafened, so he can speak but he can’t hear, so I would have to write something down to ask him a question. He would speak and then I would have to reply in writing. That was kind of difficult, but a lot of fun as well. It was just interesting to create, basically, a new language with someone. It was a lot of fun to work on it. It helped that we were really close and we were good friends.

TrunkSpace: With a project like “Wonderstruck” or any project that you’re working on, do you view them as an education as well, especially when you’re working with people like Julianne Moore who has been acting at such a high level for so long?
Michael: It was a great honor to work with Julianne, and with Todd (Haynes). Just being around her made you feel like, “Wow, it’s really important to stay humble.” This is someone who is an award-winning actress, and she’s so very humble and down to earth, and I really love that about her. And Todd, he was always telling us to stay focused, and giving us advice for the characters and things like that.

I don’t really see acting as a job, I see it more as a… it’s fun, you know? And very educational. For instance, on this set I learned sign language. I didn’t know much about deaf culture or deaf history. Learning about their culture, and now learning sign language, it’s a lot of fun and very educational to know this language, that way I’m able to have conversations with people I probably wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

Photo By: Clara Perez

TrunkSpace: “Wonderstruck” is generating some real buzz as it gears up for release. How do you stay grounded and focused on your work and the fun of the job as the buzz builds?
Michael: It’s not something I really focus on. For instance, a good friend of mine, director Jim Jarmusch, when the film went to Cannes Film Festival I was telling him, “Oh, I hope the film wins.” Jim was kind of like, “You know, if it doesn’t win, it’s fine. You guys got the buzz. You went to Cannes. Enjoy it. It’s not about winning or losing. It’s about enjoying the journey.” That’s something that I really took with me and I’m keeping the same kind of mindset. If we get nominated or not, it’s cool, but I worked hard, and I know that I did my best, and I’m having fun along the way.

TrunkSpace: So are you somebody who focuses on the present – the projects you’re working on now – as opposed to what those projects will lead to in the future?
Michael: A little bit of both. I like to think about, “Oh, maybe this will happen, or maybe this will happen.” And then at the same time, I also like to think, “Okay let’s stay present. Let’s stay grounded. Let’s stay on the ground.” But then at the same time I wanna get into my little rocket ship and go “Yay!” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: You’ve done some work in voice acting as well. Is that something that you’re going to continue to pursue?
Michael: Yeah, I love doing voice acting. It’s a lot of fun, because even though your face is not being seen, you still have to deliver it that way. You still have to make the voice sound that way. I recently did something with Lesean Thomas called “Children Of Ether.” That was a voiceover, an anime, actually. That was a lot of fun.

TrunkSpace: Finally, Jaden, if you had a free day to lounge around and do whatever you wanted in terms of catching up on TV or movies, what type of stuff would you binge?
Michael: If I had a whole day to relax, I would probably go skating with a couple of my buddies and then probably fly my drone around, but I would love to catch up on some movies. I would wanna watch “Blade Runner 2049.” I love the original “Blade Runner” movie. I would watch some stuff from David Lynch. I like a lot of his original works. I would watch the new “Twin Peaks” series, just to catch up on that. And when “Stranger Things” comes out, I can’t wait, because my friend Caleb McLaughlin is on there, and I’m really proud of him, so I can’t wait to watch it.

TrunkSpace: Yeah, when that new season comes out, it will be impossible to get a hold of anybody for the entire weekend.
Michael: (Laughter) Right. Everybody’s gonna be doing the five-day trial of Netflix.

Wonderstruck” arrives in theaters on Friday.

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Trunk Gaming

Game Review: Stranger Things

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Game Title: Stranger Things: The Game

Platforms: IOS, Android

Price: FREE

App Version: 1.0.223

The worst thing about falling in love with a TV show like “Stranger Things” is having to wait for the show to come back for the next season. So, what do we do in the meantime to help sooth our need for media consumption with our favorite shows? We gobble up any new trailers, footage, interviews, etc., related to our beloved show. “Stranger Things” has given its fans a real gift with this FREE app. Sure, we know they’re trying to promote “Stranger Things” season 2, which drops October 27 on Netflix, but they put a lot of work into this game. It doesn’t feel like it should be a free app. In fact, we would pay to play this. Grab your Eggos and multi-sided dice and follow us into the Upside Down of the gaming app world with this Trunk Gaming review! (Don’t worry, no plot line spoilers ahead, but read on to see how to get an exclusive trailer from the game!)

“Stranger Things” is masterful at capturing the time and era they are in, and they carried that over into this game. With the SNES Classic recently launching, we can’t help but notice the great stylization they packed into this app to make it look like a classic Nintendo-esque game. The kids from the show would have definitely played this game. It has an RPG element to it, very similar to “The Legend of Zelda,” but with a little “Final Fantasy III” mixed in. You start off playing as Jim Hopper. Those rag-tag kids we love from the show have gone missing, and it’s up to Jim to find them. As Jim tracks the kids down, they join your party, and you can switch back and forth between playing as each character. Each character has a different skill. For example, Hopper has a mean right hook to pummel enemies, but Lucas has a slingshot you can use to shoot switches out of reach.

The game has very simple and easy-to-use controls. You just tap where you want your character to go on the screen. If you want to punch a bad guy or smash something, just tap the item or bad guy and your character gets to work. At first this seems super easy, but rest assured, once you get a page of opponents mixed with some lasers and other obstacles, the difficulty increases. Some enemies cannot be dispatched by simply clicking them. You may have to trick them into walking through a laser or trap. There are also definite RPG elements to the game. You can investigate everything in the room from books to phones. Problem solving and puzzles are a big part of the game as well. The diversity of game play helps keep things fresh as you explore the digital world. We also love the soundtrack, which plays into the “Stranger Things” universe nicely. When you unlock a door or find a new key/item, you get a familiar “Stranger Things” tune that has been filtered through the 8-bit sound machine for something that fills your heart with gaming joy.

There is a side quest that involves tracking down video tapes. If you manage to get all of the video tapes collected, you’re treated to an exclusive trailer with never-before-seen footage of “Stranger Things” season 2. We found this to be a really innovative way to promote fandom and the show itself. The app is totally FREE, so no reason to not download it. For a free app, we were pleasantly surprised to not be bombarded with ads while you play. It’s just you, your IOS or Android, and the “Stranger Things” world. We had a blast with this app and recommend it to keep your brain occupied until the show returns on Netflix. Go forth, download, enjoy!

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Wingman Wednesday

Sarah Jones

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Set in the American heartland during the 1930s, USA Network’s new drama series “Damnation” is prepared to show just how many shades of gray a person can represent at any given moment. Times may change, but human nature does not, which means questionable decision making and life-altering conflict stretches all the way back to the presidential tenure of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. “Damnation” is looking to shine a spotlight on that complicated period in American history, all while taking viewers on a wildly entertaining ride.

Series star Sarah Jones is no stranger to entertaining television. The North Carolina-born actress has worked on countless long-running pop culture mainstays, from “Big Love” to “Sons of Anarchy,” and recently appeared as Alison Kemp in the Hulu series “The Path.”

We sat down with Jones to discuss the dissection of a period piece performance, her incredible costars, and why she’s thrilled about the current creative state of television.

TrunkSpace: Your new series “Damnation” premieres in just a few short weeks. The trailer paints an intense, dramatic journey for your character. What was the personal journey like for you in terms of finding who she was and then bringing her to life?
Jones: (Laughing) It was an intense and dramatic journey. The research and inspiration of who I drew from to relate to Amelia was the easiest and most enjoyable part. To come to terms with what Amelia and I have in common, how women have historically been viewed and treated by society, and the amount of work that still has to be done to maintain a fair balance in how women are viewed and treated by society—to acknowledge all of that, and to use that in a productive way without allowing a cloud of resentment hanging over my head was a little trickier. Of course the current political and social climate seems to intensify the experience, but I couldn’t be more grateful to have this kind of outlet in working on this show and playing Amelia to work through it all.

TrunkSpace: “Damnation” is a period piece. Does that add a different layer to a character when you have to not only find who she is inside, but also what that particular period meant to people in terms of how they presented themselves in public and in private – basically, how society influenced who they were?
Jones: Yeah, of course there are added layers when you’re looking at common mannerisms and societal pressures of a specific era and how that would relate to a particular social class, but I think in terms of how we present ourselves in private and public really hasn’t changed. I mean, isn’t that what social media branding is all about? And it doesn’t matter whether someone is trying to create a personal brand or not, they present themselves in a way that they feel will garner the attention they want. Societal influence may have evolved and given us more ‘options,’ but the pressure to fit into a mold that is deemed worthy of a person’s perceived character or values is still very much alive and well.

TrunkSpace: What is an aspect of the series that you feel will surprise viewers? Is there something tonally about it or story-wise that isn’t reflected in the trailer that is a big part of the “Damnation” experience?
Jones: I don’t know if this will surprise anyone because I think it just makes for great television, but the characters’ decisions and conflicts are full of grays. It’s messy, and complicated, and raw, which represents a very real human experience.

TrunkSpace: The series is stacked with this great cast of character actors who always seem to steal a scene regardless of the project that they’re in. In your opinion, how does this cast compare to other shows you’ve worked on in terms of pure talent on-screen?
Jones: I have to agree with you 100 percent on how talented this cast is. Wow, what a cast, right?! And I love that you brought this up, there are no ‘stars’ or ‘names’ in this show. We’re working class actors—we have to hustle for our jobs that we actually get (no one sees all the jobs we don’t get), stretch and save what we earn because we don’t know when our next job will be, and prove our worth every time we show up on set. There isn’t a single actor on this show that doesn’t arrive fully prepared and invested. We’re grateful to be here and tell this story, and that makes for an inspiring group of actors to be around and a highly creative and engaging environment to work in. That doesn’t take away from some beautiful experiences with other cast members on other shows, most everyone starts at the bottom, but from day one there’s been a sense of solidarity between us that’s felt really special and exciting.

DAMNATION — “Sam Riley’s Body” Episode 101 — Pictured: Sarah Jones as Amelia Davenport — (Photo by: Chris Large/USA Network)

TrunkSpace: Television is stacked with incredible, character-driven content these days. How exciting is it for you to see such a shift in the medium over the years, and at the same time, is it also a little intimidating knowing just how much competition is out there, all of which is vying for the same set of viewer eyeballs?
Jones: I saw this coming years ago when I worked on “Big Love,” and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I love the intimacy that storytelling through television brings. It’s like you’re inviting these characters into your home every week or hanging with them for a full day or two depending how you watch a series. And I can imagine that contributed to the shift in the way that shows are made now. You’re not gonna invite someone over to your house every week if you don’t want to spend time with them. In terms of all of these fantastic series coming out, I’m not intimidated by the notion of ‘competition’—there’s not another show like “Damnation” currently on the air, and if this show is considered to join the ranks of shows with ‘incredible, character-driven content,’ it’s because everyone involved in creating it worked hard for it and the viewers connected to it. I also think network executives, as far as cable is concerned, pick up a show with the intention to let it breathe and give viewers a chance to invest in it. Some shows are overnight successes, others are a slow burn with a major pay off of a dedicated following and a loyal fan base. (Laughing) I have zero control over any of it so I just try to focus on the work and hope for the best! But I really dig the viewer/content relationship, feedback, and conversation that television has created when it comes to its series.

TrunkSpace: Another big change in the way that television is being rolled out is in the number of episodes being produced each season. And while that means there’s less story to tell, more often than not, those series with fewer episodes feel richer and more character-driven than their 22-episode counterparts. What are your thoughts on shortened seasons from a storytelling/character point of view?
Jones: I support it completely! And I agree with your sentiment—it does feel like a quality over quantity situation. On top of that, writing, shooting, and editing a series is done so quickly that too many episodes will not only burn out everyone involved in making the show, but I think it’ll eventually burn out the audience too. Especially with all of the other shows out there.

TrunkSpace: Is there a part of your job or of the experience of what you do that still feels new each time you set out to do it? What still excites you as much as it did the first time you set foot onto a set?
Jones: I’m always excited at the prospect of who I’ll connect to and collaborate with, and when it comes to working on a TV series, I’m always excited when a new episode’s script comes out.

TrunkSpace: Going back to that first time you set foot onto a set, we’re curious, how much of your personal journey – the jobs and experiences you’ve had within the industry – have directly impacted your acting? Is the performer we see now completely different from the performer you were then due to the projects that came between?
Jones: God I hope so! If my work hasn’t improved and my life hasn’t evolved over the years, I need to take a hard look at what I’m doing with them. I’d like to think that my performances and my personal life have a symbiotic relationship of being fed by the experiences of living.

Jones with Thomas Jane in “Texas Rising”

TrunkSpace: We all change as people as we get older as well. How much of that personal growth impacts what you do? Does it alter your point of view regarding your take on a character or specific choices you’d make for a character?
Jones: I don’t see how it couldn’t. I find the advice, ‘don’t take it personally,’ ironic when it comes to working as an actor. That’s the only way I feel I can take on a character or job—whether I get the opportunity to play it or not, which of course leaves me vulnerable to disappointment. But I’ve figured out how to move through it instead of around it, and I hope that raw and exposed space translates to something deeply personal and honest on screen. That’s a skill that’s taken years to build and I have yet to master it. And that example is just scratching the surface in regards to how personal growth impacts what I do with the work I get.

TrunkSpace: You’ve appeared in some very memorable series over the years that have left a lasting impact on the world of pop culture. Are there any characters, even short-lived guest spots, where you wished you had more time to explore and see where that particular person’s journey was going?
Jones: Yes and no. I’d hate to think I might’ve missed out on playing certain characters because I wasn’t available for them. Walking away from a character feels a bit like a break up—sometimes you’re relieved, sometimes your heart aches, or maybe there’s a combination of both, but ultimately it all works out the way it’s supposed to. And, of course, sometimes embracing that mentality is easier said than done! (Laughing)

“Damnation” premieres November 7 on USA Network.

Featured Image By:
Photographer: Logan Cole 
Hair/Makeup: Travisean Haynes 

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Wingman Wednesday

Woody McClain

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Photo By: Photographer Shaun Michael

In the new digital series “Stories with Kev,” Woody McClain portrays Kevin Hart as he reenacts memorable stand up bits from the entertainer’s career, adding a new dimension of funny to Hart’s already-hilarious act. McClain self-produced a version of the show on his own in 2015, going viral with his take on Hart’s “Permission to Cuss,” which ultimately lead to a collaboration with HartBeat Digital, the comedian’s production company.

Stories with Kev” airs on the Laugh Out Loud Network and can be viewed here or through the Laugh Out Loud app.

We recently sat down with McClain to discuss how he turned his hobby into a career, why he doesn’t feel any pressure playing Hart even with Hart involved, and where he’d like to be in 10 years.

TrunkSpace: This adventure that you’re currently on with “Stories with Kev” came from you sort of taking the bull by the horns and putting it all together, and the universe just running with it, right?
McClain: Yeah, that’s exactly what’s going on.

TrunkSpace: Was this ever part of the plan when you started putting together content and posting it online?
McClain: I mean, it all started with me just wanting to show my funny side. I’ve always been the quiet one. I came from a dancer’s background, so I just wanted to show my funny side. When Vine started, it was a perfect platform for me to do that, and it just got bigger and bigger after that.

TrunkSpace: At what point did it get so big that you realized it was going to be a game changer?
McClain: Man, I was just always doing it. I don’t think I ever thought it was gonna be a game changer. It was just more so of a hobby because dance was my number one thing. This was just, literally, a hobby for me. I like to bowl, so me going to the bowling alley is just an everyday thing I like to do. I don’t think nothing of it, but if I become the number one bowler in the state, it’s like, “Dang, I didn’t know that was gonna happen.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: So when you’re working on “Stories with Kev” now and Kevin’s actually involved, does that put any pressure on you in terms of your performance seeing you’re working with the person you’re portraying?
McClain: Oh, no. No pressure at all. Kevin made sure to let us know to keep doing what we’ve been doing. “Don’t change the formula. Just keep doing it how you’ve always been doing it.” That’s the same approach we brought to it. It’s real simple. I just take what’s in my head and we just put it on video. I don’t want to get dinosaurs if we don’t need dinosaurs. Just keep it simple.

TrunkSpace: You started this journey to show your funny side, but from a performance standpoint, you’re getting to show a lot of different sides in terms of what you’re capable of.
McClain: Yes, for sure. Social media has definitely helped mold the actor that I am becoming. I can always just record myself and then I can post it immediately and I can get a response immediately. People that don’t even know you across the world are going to tell you, “Yo, this is whack.” They’ll tell you that because they don’t have a personal connection to you. Or they’ll say, “Yo, this is really good.” So I just make sure I always apply that. I like to see what other people think and how they feel because the more I started learning how to act, I realized I really like to make people feel, more than anything. It’s never about money. It’s never about popularity. I just really love to make people feel. Whether they feel laughter, whether they feel sadness, I just really love to make people feel.

TrunkSpace: Can you talk a little bit about how the door opened for you to start working with Kevin?
McClain: I remember when I first saw the edit for the video. The director was like, “Man, I don’t know. How do you feel about it?” I was like, “Yo, this is golden.” I instantly knew this was the one. As soon as it posted, the next day I woke up and it had over 10 million views, and then I received a message from Wayne, Kevin Hart’s right-hand guy, saying that they wanted to meet and figure what we can do to work together. I went in and met with Kevin, this was 2015, and they said how much they loved the work and to keep doing it and we’ll eventually be able to link up and do something bigger on a bigger platform. That’s how that all happened.

TrunkSpace: Isn’t that crazy though? You wake up, you have 10 million hits, and that’s more than networks are pulling on shows with massive budgets.
McClain: Crazy. Crazy. Everything is going digital now.

TrunkSpace: Now that you’re working in that more traditional media market as well, is it a thin line to walk… moving your career forward but not alienating the fan base you built in the digital space?
McClain: Yes, for sure. My first thing was, “I’m going to just do traditional and I’m never going to do social media again.” But I felt like I was robbing my fans that were there with me from the beginning. I was robbing them by not creating content that I was doing before, so I don’t do it as much now, but I still do it.

TrunkSpace: Is dancing still a part of the game plan?
McClain: Oh, that’s out of the game plan. Listen, my knees right now, they can’t even… no, my knees are done.

TrunkSpace: So what’s the ultimate goal? If we flashed forward 10 years, what kind of entertainer do you want to be?
McClain: I just really love to tell people a story. Even when I got a chance to do “The New Edition Story” as Bobby Brown, it wasn’t just a role. For me, it was telling that person’s truth. I want people to see how other people live, and my thing is, as an actor, I want to be able to tell more true stories. I just want to help push my culture forward.

In 10 years I want to be… producing is what I really love. I love creating. I love producing. That’s my number one thing. I have ideas for days, and right now it’s just that I need to get it out. For me, it’s linking with not only people that are popping, who are super popular now, but I want to link with people that are up and coming – people that are super dope that don’t get that opportunity. There are a lot of people out there like that. I come from that background, so I already know how it feels. I’m looking to network across the board, not just network up.

Feature Image By: Photographer Shaun Michael

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Wingman Wednesday

Nicole Alyse Nelson

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Photo By: JSquared Photography

Nickelodeon has an incredible track record for recognizing young talent and serving as a springboard to the pop culture mainstays of tomorrow. The recent generation of megastars spawned at the channel have included Selema Gomez and Ariana Grande, and if history continues to repeat itself at the home that tweener’s built, Nicole Alyse Nelson of the series “I Am Frankie” will be another future success story who got her start at the network.

We recently sat down with Nelson to discuss how she grew up idolizing Nickelodeon, what she loves about her character Dayton, and why juggling a career at her age feels perfectly normal.

TrunkSpace: “I Am Frankie” has been airing for about a month now. Where has it impacted your life most?
Nelson: It’s been a fast and furious month. I’ve really only seen an increase in social media. I still haven’t been stopped in public or anything, but my family and my friends have been extremely supportive. All I’m hearing is really good responses about how the show is impacting kids in positive ways. It’s just a lot of really, really nice feedback.

TrunkSpace: Were you somebody who grew up watching Nickelodeon shows?
Nelson: Oh my gosh, yes! That is one of the main reasons I was so thrilled about even going in for this project. Growing up, I was actually always more like a Nickelodeon kid. Of course, I watched Disney Channel, but my heart really lied with “Drake & Josh,” “Zoey 101,” and “Ned’s Declassified.” To be on a network that I truly idolized as a kid is absolutely insane.

TrunkSpace: It’s kind of like paying it forward. They entertained you, and now you’re entertaining a new generation.
Nelson: Exactly. And another thing that I’m trying to do with that is, when I was really big into it, social media wasn’t really a thing like it is today. If I was in love with Ashley Tisdale or something, there was no way I could see what she was doing unless I bought a magazine. So now social media being the way that it is, I’m really trying to have a relationship with my fans and like all of their content, and be able to send out autographs and do stuff that I always wished I could have done when I was that age.

TrunkSpace: You mention Ashley Tisdale, and you look at the people who have come out of Nickelodeon shows, from Ariana Grande and Selena Gomez and all of these big, huge stars. Do you ever think about what you’re doing now in terms of what it could become for your future career down the road?
Nelson: Oh, absolutely. That’s the goal. I truly love what I do, and I hope that it continues for years to come. A lot of these stars as well are very talented singers. My goal isn’t so much to be a pop star, but continue along like the Emily Osment path, or Jenette McCurdy. Really just focus on acting, that’s the goal.

TrunkSpace: What was it that first drew you to Dayton as a character?
Nelson: The second I saw the breakdown for Dayton, I was in love. The breakdown had three females. It had Frankie, Dayton, and Tammy. Tammy’s kind of a mean girl, Frankie of course is a robot, and Dayton is just unapologetically herself. She is confident, she is intelligent. She is the expressive, charismatic best friend. She’s just a fun role. She’s the kind of character that I knew, upon reading four pages of the script, that if I book this I would never know what they would give me the next day. She’s the character that does crazy stunts and spits out food. She’s just insane, so she’s a lot of fun to play.

TrunkSpace: Does the comedy aspect of performance come natural to you in terms of timing and delivery?
Nelson: Comedy has always come pretty natural to me. I’m not going to say that I haven’t had to train and study, because comedy is all about timing and the way you say things. I did have to learn that, but it’s really been a natural instinct. I naturally have a really sharp tongue, meaning I’m really kind of quirky in the way that I use my hands a lot, and I naturally make reversals in my voice. I was always told growing up, even my theater teacher was like, “I’ve never seen a style as sharp as yours.” It’s kind of perfect that I got into kids multi-cam, because that’s really where the style is able to shine.

TrunkSpace: The concept of the show is a fun take on a classic idea. Does that fun translate to the work itself to where you have to pinch yourself to be reminded that you’re doing work?
Nelson: Oh, yeah. It’s so much fun, especially because a lot of the time things are just funny, lighthearted, and there’s a bunch of jokes on set. Working with Alex (Hook), who has to play a robot, is something really interesting. As an actor I forget just how much what the other person gives you matters, in terms of your performance. She gradually gets more human, but towards the beginning she was so robotic, it was just a weird thing to experience, because I was pushing so hard to make all of the energy happen. Then towards the end of it, it became so natural. You never knew what they were gonna write for you, or what was gonna happen. The whole process was just a blast, to watch it all unfold and experience it.

Photo By: JSquared Photography

TrunkSpace: And this is the longest period of time – 20 episodes so far – that you have ever spent with one character. What is that experience like?
Nelson: I loved it. That’s the only thing a performer can really ask for, something they can really sink their teeth into. When I first got the role and I went to Miami and we started shooting, they pretty much handed us 750 pages and were like, “Okay, have fun.” At that moment I realized everybody trains you for how to get the role, but nobody tells you what to do when you get the role. It was this moment of being like, “You know what? I have so much to work with, I don’t even know where to start, in terms of breaking this down.” Of course, I figured it out, but at the very get-go, it was very overwhelming. It’s a lot of material.

A person changes a lot over the course of 20 episodes, in terms of what they learn and how they view the world. It was also confusing. We didn’t really shoot in order, so I would have to train myself to remember, “Okay, what we’re shooting right now is episode 7, but right after this, we’re doing episode 15. This is where I’m at mentally by 15, and then we’re going back to episode 2.” It was completely all over the place, and that was one of the hardest parts.

TrunkSpace: Other girls your age are focused on school and life, and here you are throwing career into the mix as well. Does it ever feel overwhelming or are you used to having a career and making it all balance out?
Nelson: I’ve made it feel pretty normal. When I first moved out here and I was like, “This is what I’m gonna do, this is what’s gonna happen…” I fully jumped in and committed to it. It was overwhelming at first, but it’s something that I’m so passionate about and I truly love it. There isn’t ever a moment that I’m like, “Oh, I’m not sure if I can handle this,” or “I just wish I was back in Texas,” because I’m from Texas. I’m really, really happy with what I’ve decided to do and with where my life is going, so, no regrets.

TrunkSpace: Has word come down yet if “I Am Frankie” will get a season 2?
Nelson: Nothing has been confirmed, but we’ve only heard really, really great things from the network. So that’s exciting!

Catch the first season of “I Am Frankie” on Nickelodeon or watch full episodes here.

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Wingman Wednesday

Andrew W. Walker

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Fall is in the air, leaves are on the ground, and pumpkin-flavored everything is lining the shelves of grocery stores across the nation. With the changing of the seasons upon us and the turning back of the clocks just around the corner, Hallmark Channel has kicked off its Fall Harvest programming event, featuring a number of movies meant to up our autumn intake.

Premiering this Saturday at 9 pm ET/PT is the romantic comedy “Love Struck Café” starring Sarah Jane Morris and Andrew W. Walker. We recently sat down with Walker to discuss the importance of on-screen chemistry, how the fall season plays into the film’s storyline, and why watching Hallmark Channel reminds him of gathering around the television with his family when he was younger.

TrunkSpace: You’ve worked on a number of Hallmark Channel films over the years. How does “Love Struck Café” differ from the others you’ve starred in as far as performance and where you were able to go with your character?
Walker: Well, these things always rely on the chemistry between myself and the lead female. Sometimes these things take a little longer to develop over the course of the 15 days, because these are such quick shoots that you really need to kind of hit the ground running.

TrunkSpace: Hammering something like this out in 15 days is really impressive.
Walker: It’s crazy. Usually you get the job maybe a week before you go to shoot it, so you have about a week by yourself and then you meet your leading lady and then you have two days with that person before you actually start shooting, so it really is no time at all. I think something that really helped on “Love Struck Café” was, Sarah and I had been introduced through a friend. She was working on a show called “Brothers & Sisters” and a girlfriend of my wife and mine worked on that show as well. So we had met her a long time ago and she’s just a great person. We had a rapport.

By day three we really started to get in the groove, and then once that happens we’re able to play and have a lot more fun, and just really challenge each other as well. I like it when I’m questioned on my decisions and where I’m bringing my character and where we came from and where we’re going. Sarah’s like, “Hey, let’s talk about where we came from today. Let’s go back in the script.” So we were working in the makeup trailer. We were working on our lunch breaks. Even when our day ended, we would meet up for maybe an hour-and-a-half or so and just talk through the next day and just make sense of what’s happening.

And with this, it’s a lot more playful, I think. It’s more broad of a range than the other Hallmark’s that I’ve done. I just had the ability to play around a lot more.

TrunkSpace: When you arrive on set and hit the ground running, is the script itself still being massaged throughout the production process?
Walker: Being massaged throughout the process, every day. The framework is there, but the meat of it all, we could change it up, almost as much as we’d like. Obviously that could be a slippery slope. You start changing things here and there in the plot, and then you get stuck in the editing room at the end. So we’ve got to keep it within the confines of everything, obviously. But yeah, we had the ability to change it up and add things that we felt necessary, where we felt necessary.

TrunkSpace: Hallmark Channel is one of the few networks that is continuing to grow its viewer base and their original programming continues to grow in popularity. Why do you think that is?
Walker: I think it’s a real positive spin. We deal with so many issues nowadays, between religion, politics, and environment, I think that it’s a great way for people to escape. And it’s a classic story. Hallmark has their formula. They are telling classic, Humphrey Bogart-like stories – different versions of classics that we all have grown up to love.

I remember sitting down every Sunday back in the day with my parents to watch the Disney movies that would be airing on Sunday night. We’d go to church in the morning, we’d go for lunch with the whole family, and then I would go play soccer or football or whatever, and then at night we’d all sit down with our TV dinners and sit there and watch these Disney movies. That’s what the allure is, just bringing people back to what we had back in the day, and I think that’s super important. I think that it’s nice to see that families want to sit down and watch these movies together, because they’re also movies that the whole family can watch together.

Photo: Sarah Jane Morris, Andrew W. Walker, Cassidy Nugent Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Bettina Strauss

TrunkSpace: Hallmark Channel is also really great about connecting audiences to the feel and emotions of the seasons that they’re in through the seasonal content that they produce. “Love Struck Café” is part of the Fall Harvest programming event. How does that play into the story?
Walker: I would say everything you’d imagine fall would embody is basically in the film. We go to a pumpkin patch. We go on a wagon ride through an apple orchard. We enter a pie baking contest. It’s actually not a pie, but it’s basically an apple baking contest where the town gets together and bakes the pie. So, leaves are falling on the ground. It’s cooler weather outside. It’s all of the above.

TrunkSpace: When you’re shooting these movies out of season, does it throw you out of whack personally? Are you thinking about celebrating Christmas in the summer?
Walker: I just came back from shooting one for Lifetime right now. I was in Winnipeg, and it was torture. (Laughter) We had these big winter jackets on and stuff.

Psychologically it doesn’t throw me necessarily, because I just jump into it. And the set decorators – they always do such a great job at really doing it up and making sure that everybody feels like the holiday that they’re going to portray. Maybe physically it throws me a little bit off whack because I’m wearing three layers and I’m sweating, supposedly in the winter. (Laughter) But no, you can get into it really easily. It’s just all imagination. It’s fun. I get imaginative.

TrunkSpace: Outside of acting, you’re also producing, recently having finished up a science fiction film called “Oxalis,” right?
Walker: Yeah, we actually just submitted to Sundance and we submitted it to Tribeca, so we’re just crossing our fingers and hopefully it gets picked up somewhere.

TrunkSpace: Was this your first time producing a feature?
Walker: Producing a feature, yes. I produced a documentary about seven years ago called “Stolen Seas” and it was based on pirates in Somalia, but this is my first feature that I’ve ever produced.

TrunkSpace: One of the things that people always seem to be drawn to, at least for those of a particular personality type, is the problem solving aspect of producing. Is that something that you found yourself being drawn to?
Walker: Yeah. I own a business with my wife in Los Angeles. We have a cold-pressed juice business and we’ve had it for about five years now, so I’ve always enjoyed bringing people together in collaboration. With my business, I’ve definitely had to resolve many, many conflicts, but I do love that aspect of it. I just like bringing people together. Like with movies, if you cast it right, you don’t have to do that much. You just have to sit back and let people do what they do.

See Walker do what he does this Saturday when “Love Struck Café” premieres on Hallmark Channel.

When an aspiring architect returns to her small town to complete a land deal for her developer boss, she reconnects with her former sweetheart, a widowed single dad now, and discovers the surprising reason he broke things off with her all those years ago.
read more
Wingman Wednesday

Sarah Jane Morris

SarahJaneMorris_Halloween_Wingwoman_wednesday (1)

Fall is in the air, leaves are on the ground, and pumpkin-flavored everything is lining the shelves of grocery stores across the nation. With the changing of the seasons upon us and the turning back of the clocks just around the corner, Hallmark Channel has kicked off its Fall Harvest programming event, featuring a number of movies meant to up our autumn intake.

Premiering this Saturday at 9 pm ET/PT is the romantic comedy “Love Struck Café” starring Sarah Jane Morris and Andrew W. Walker. We recently sat down with Morris to discuss what drew her to the character, why she enjoys the breakneck pace of television production, and how oftentimes rekindling an old romance means having to accept a lost love for who they are now as opposed to who they were in the past.

TrunkSpace: “Love Struck Café” premieres this Saturday on Hallmark Channel. Do you have any rituals for screening your projects when they first debut?
Sarah Jane Morris: No, not really. I’m trying to just get the word out as best as I can so that people see it. This is actually my first Hallmark movie. It’s one of the first things that I’ve done that I feel like my kids can watch. (Laughter) Although, they don’t want to see me kissing anyone. They’ll have to duck out for at least one part of it.

I’m going to do some live tweeting, and I actually have a couple of friends that might come over and watch it. Every once in a while I’ll do that. I’m excited.

TrunkSpace: One of the things that Hallmark is so good at is painting the picture of a particular season…
Sarah Jane Morris: Which is always fun when you’re shooting winter in the middle of summer. (Laughter) This was actually not too bad. We were doing fall. We were late summer shooting for fall, so it was light jackets and sweaters and stuff, but I wanted to burn my coat by the end. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: You mentioned how “Love Struck Café” was your first Hallmark project, which are known for having fast-paced production schedules. Did that force to alter your approach as far as performance was concerned?
Sarah Jane Morris: Oh yeah. It’s funny, I was thinking about that a lot when we were shooting this movie, which was 15 days. There were some big, huge budget features like “Deadpool” that were shooting in Vancouver at the same time as us. We had one day where it was kind of a big scene, so it took most of the day to shoot. I was like, “Man, I don’t know if I would be super excited to be spending a week on one chase scene in a movie.” (Laughter)

I think I kind of love the breakneck pace of television. You have to come in really prepared, which isn’t always easy because sometimes you’re not getting the material until right before you start shooting, or it changes right before. But you’ve got to kind of come in and be prepared and ready to have curveballs thrown at you, and be able to change it up on the fly. It’s challenging in a different way.

TrunkSpace: Being able to wrap a project in 15 days as opposed to three months also gives you time to pursue other projects and characters, which must be nice?
Sarah Jane Morris: Oh yeah, definitely. For me, it also gives me a lot of time to spend with my family. I’m a nearly full-time mom when I’m not working. I feel really lucky that I can go and work, fast and furious to get it done, and then come home and be with my family. I can be the mom that I want to be for them, and that they want for me to be, but they still get to see me as a working mom.

TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, what was it that drew you to the character Megan Quinn in this particular movie?
Sarah Jane Morris: Most of the stuff that I’ve done, I feel like in the past leans towards the pretty heavily dramatic. With some of “The Night Shift” I definitely got to play up a little bit of quirkiness with that character, but this was just fun to be kind of a goofball a little bit. I don’t know if it will come across that way in the end, with the final product, but it was a fun opportunity for me to bring my kind of goofy, weird side to a character, and not just have to play the straight romantic, dramatic actress that I often have to. Nobody was dying, so it’s kind of a nice emotional break. (Laughter) The last episode of “The Night Shift” that I shot in the summer, it was kind of an unpleasant head space to be in for that period of time, because it was a downer. This was just fun. It was nice and light. I like getting to play with my comedic side a little bit. I don’t get to do that very often.

Photo: Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer:

TrunkSpace: So much of the success of these films comes down to the chemistry between the people at the core of the story. Was on-screen chemistry something that you and your costar Andrew W. Walker discussed prior to shooting?
Sarah Jane Morris: Well, it was funny, because after I was hired they told me who the male lead was going to be. I looked him up and I was like, “Gosh, I don’t know if I know this person.” Then on the first day I got there, I was waiting in the lobby with the director – we were going to walk to dinner, the three of us – and Andrew comes walking up. He walks right over to me and gives me a big hug. I was like, “Oh, okay. I don’t usually hug people I don’t know yet, but okay.” (Laughter) He was like, “No, we’ve met.” I was like, “Wait, we have?” And he starts reminding me that we actually met a couple of times, but it was 10 years ago. He and his wife are best friends with Emily VanCamp, who I was on “Brothers & Sisters” with for three years. As soon as he reminded me of that I was like, “Oh my gosh, yeah!” Then it was just like, “Okay, good people. We’re off from here!” It was great.

He’s done a lot of these Hallmark movies. I think the very first scene that we shot was a scene in the movie where he and I kind of run into each other again. I was like, “Oh, he knows how to really connect in that romantic chemistry type of way.” He goes for it and I was like, “Okay, this is gonna be easy.” I just had to let my guard down and go for it as well.

We had a great rapport. It was easy to play up the chemistry between the two characters. It was never awkward or anything like that, which was nice. We got along really well, so it wasn’t having to cycle feelings of frustration, or annoyance with my costar ever. (Laughter)

We actually did have a conversation pretty early on about how there wasn’t a ton of conflict in the writing between the two characters. We wanted to play up the conflict a little bit.

TrunkSpace: In terms of their backstory?
Sarah Jane Morris: The backstory, and just that they’ve changed – they’ve grown up and changed who they are as people. They always had a relationship where they sort of pushed each other’s buttons, even as kids. But now as adults, it’s different. He’s kind of needling me about the guy I’m dating, and the career path I’ve chosen. It’s not exactly what he let me go to pursue. I’m not really fulfilling that dream.

You want to kind of think that he’s sort of bugging her and that this may not work out. They may have changed too much for this to work out.

Find out if it ultimately works out this Saturday when “Love Struck Café” airs on Hallmark Channel!

When an aspiring architect returns to her small town to complete a land deal for her developer boss, she reconnects with her former sweetheart, a widowed single dad now, and discovers the surprising reason he broke things off with her all those years ago.
read more