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Wingman Wednesday

Rudy Martinez

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Photo By: Ryan West

Beneath his love for acting and a talent for puppeteering, Rudy Martinez is a storyteller at his core. Whether he is giving life to characters on screen or creating them from scratch with the written word, the California native is most at home when he’s entertaining. The “Jane the Virgin” alumni can currently be seen in Season 2 of “Dear White People,” available now on Netflix.

We recently sat down with Martinez to discuss the ways his “Dear White People” experience differed from previous jobs, how he was able to play up his character’s social awkwardness, and why he’d have no problem expressing love for a kitchen glass.

TrunkSpace: You’ve worked on a lot of television in the past. Has “Dear White People” been a different experience for you when you compare it to past roles and projects?
Martinez: Yeah, definitely. This was, I want to say, the biggest project I’ve done because my character had a whole story arc and I was featured in several episodes. I really feel like I played a big part on the show. It did change some things for me. I’ve been getting a lot of messages from fans who’ve reached out, especially since the show, because it deals with a lot of various issues – I would say first and foremost race and race tensions in America and also LGBT issues. I’ve been getting a lot of people who’ve been just letting me know what the character and what the show has meant to them and that’s meant a lot to me.

TrunkSpace: The show feels very timely in that messaging as well.
Martinez: Right. I totally agree and I think that Season 2 particularly, a large chunk of the show deals with the sort of… that because of the prevalence of social media these days, there’s these sort of anonymous racist Twitter trolls and Facebook trolls who are being given a bigger platform. Season 2 takes a critical look at that.

TrunkSpace: And what’s nice about Season 2 is that it steps out from the shadow of the film that it is based on and becomes its own entity.
Martinez: That’s right, and I really love seeing the backstory of a lot of the characters and getting more in depth with that. I really love that aspect of the show.

TrunkSpace: Now, your character, Wesley, he’s a bit socially awkward. Were you able to tap into that side of him and use it to make him as likable as he ultimately became?
Martinez: You know, I definitely think that I can be socially awkward sometimes, so I was definitely able to play myself in some instances. I really feel there was a lot of the part that was just so well written and the comedy was well written also, so it was an exercise for me and a little bit of a challenge to really nail that. I put a lot of work into it and ultimately, I was unsure how it would come off on screen. Then, when I watched it I was like, “Oh, thank God that played!” (Laughter) Yeah, the sort of awkwardness helped pump up the comedy a lot.

TrunkSpace: A personality trait like that must help you find the laughs within the performance and not just the dialogue, correct?
Martinez: Yeah, exactly, which is something that I love doing. I’m a theater guy, so I do a lot of physical theater and stuff. I studied clowning in college and things like that and so I was able to make the physical stuff work, too.

TrunkSpace: Your character is also dealing with a new love and discovering another human being, which everyone can relate to. When you’re in a story arc like that, where it’s so reliant on chemistry, how do you personally go about trying to establish that on screen? Is it all about homework beforehand with your co-star?
Martinez: There’s not a lot of interaction, actually, with my co-star before we start rehearsing and shooting. The rehearsals happen on this minutes before the actual shoot, so you don’t really get a lot of time. We did do a chemistry read together and I think that the director, Justin Simien, and the producers wanted to see who had natural chemistry together and I think that’s important, too.

In terms of portraying that sort of attraction, I was joking with friends and I was telling them that I love playing smitten and in love. It’s just my favorite emotion to play. I could pretend to be in love with anything. I could grab a glass from the kitchen and just pretend I’m doing a monologue and improvise a monologue and be in love with anything. It’s just, there’s something about it. I love using that emotion in my arsenal, so I was really just glad to be able to do that.

TrunkSpace: You’ve appeared on a number of great shows over the years, some of which ended their runs prematurely. Is there something nice about being able to be on a show where the entire season is both produced and seen without having to worry about it finding its audience so you can close out your arc?
Martinez: Yeah. That was actually really nice, and not only that, I think that the show has a lot of fans that have come from the original movie and from Season 1. It’s definitely something, doing a show that, first of all, you don’t know if it’s going to get picked up. There’s that whole thing. The nerves are in high during pilot season. And then it gets picked up, and then, ultimately if you’re on a show and it gets canceled, there’s that big letdown. For this, coming off of my experience with other shows, I kind of compartmentalized what my experience would be like on “Dear White People” and thought, this could be it, it could be just this chunk of episodes. Then, it comes out and the fans come with it and there’s a lot of support. It’s definitely a great feeling.

Photo By: Ryan West

TrunkSpace: Is that part of a defense mechanism as an actor, having to not look too far into the future with a particular character or project?
Martinez: Definitely. Definitely. I think actors face that every day, whether it’s in an audition where you feel like you really nailed it and then you don’t hear back… it’s always the ones where you think you didn’t really get it or you weren’t that enthusiastic about it and then you hear that you have a call back or you book it and it’s like, “Oh wow!” You, as an actor, you do have to do that a lot. Just going from past experiences, you have to let some things go.

TrunkSpace: How do you personally handle the heartbreak of a show not being picked up or learning that a series has been canceled?
Martinez: Friends, you know? There’s always something to celebrate or commiserate and I think that you give in to it. You let yourself do what you need to do and then you pick up and move on. Then, over time, that process becomes a lot quicker. I think that your first letdown in Hollywood, it can last months, but as it goes along, you grow a thick skin and you learn to move on.

TrunkSpace: You’re also a puppeteer. Which love came first, acting or puppeteering?
Martinez: They’re a little one and the same. Maybe my first performances were when I was a child acting out puppet shows for my family. I was obsessed with “The Muppets” so I would take socks and stuff and make fake Muppets and do little performances for my family, so I think that maybe that was my first love. Underneath that is my love for telling stories and improvising and pretending and just giving voices to characters that aren’t me. In that respect, they are one and the same.

Dear White People” is available now on Netflix.

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Wingman Wednesday

Megan Park

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Photo: Megan Park Credit: Copyright 2018 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Kailey Schwerman

Fresh starts and new beginnings. That’s what spring is all about. For Megan Park and Jonathan Keltz, stars of the new Hallmark Channel movie “Once Upon a Prince,” which caps off the network’s Spring Fever programming event this Saturday, that meant portraying characters in search of their own individual do-overs. Landscape architect Susanna (Park) has recently discovered she’s not in her boyfriend’s long term life plans while heir to the Cambria throne Nate (Keltz) must appease his mother and find a Cambrian bride. Serendipity brings their two lives together, but it’s love that will place them on the same path.

We recently sat down with Park to discuss seasonal pitfalls, why she enjoys being a part of the Hallmark family, and what her pillars of happiness are.

TrunkSpace: Your new Hallmark Channel movie “Once Upon a Prince” is set to serve as the icing on the Spring Fever programming event cake. We’re located in the Boston area where spring hasn’t exactly decided to show up yet. What are some seasonal elements of this movie that will help us feel that we’re putting winter (and snow!) behind us?
Park: Brrr, I’m sorry it’s still cold in Boston! I’m in California where it feels like summer all the time so I especially appreciate the seasons and the fresh start they give people. I think springtime is super romantic and this movie perfectly captures that. The energy of new beginnings is such an exciting feeling and I think because it’s all about two people deciding to start anew, there’s so much gardening and beautiful florals in this movie, viewers will hopefully be inspired by that and forget about winter!

TrunkSpace: Hallmark Channel productions are great at putting the viewer in the spirit of a particular season, but as is the case with this movie, you shoot during a very different position on the calendar. Were there any logistical issues that the production had to overcome to help put the audience in that April showers/May flowers mindset?
Park: SO MANY! It was totally worth it but we shot the movie in Canada in the middle of the winter and this was supposed to be spring. We were dealing with rain, freezing temperatures, gale force winds all while wearing spring clothing and trying to look like we weren’t freezing. Production was great and they had heaters for us and I literally was wearing an electric heated vest with a battery pack underneath my wardrobe in half of this movie and they did wonders hiding it all!

TrunkSpace: You’ve worked on numerous Hallmark Channel productions over the course of your career. What is it that keeps you coming back and working for this particular company on these particular types of productions?
Park: I always come back and work with Hallmark because it’s always such a wonderful experience. The scripts are feel-good, the stories are feel-good and that makes the viewers feel good, which I think it’s much needed in this world. Plus, the network and the executives are really amazing, smart, genuine people and I love being a part of the Hallmark family.

TrunkSpace: How did this experience differ from your previous Hallmark Channel experiences? Did the character/story put you in a position to take a different approach?
Park: I’m always playing someone different and the story is different so each experience feels totally different in a good way. This movie was really FUN. The story is such a common fantasy – you meet someone and you fall in love with who they are, their heart, and THEN you find out they are royalty. I got to just have a good time with this one and lean into the fantasy.

TrunkSpace: We recently chatted with your costar (and onscreen prince) Jonathan Keltz. He had mentioned that the two of you had known each other for years prior to reconnecting on the project. Did having that familiarity with your costar allow you to hit the ground running and find that in-story chemistry?
Park: YES! When I signed on to the movie, Jonathan was attached already and I was thrilled. It’s always fun to meet someone new but there’s something special about already having a history and built-in chemistry with someone. Jonathan and I have known each other since we were both teenagers in Canada but we hadn’t hung out in a few years so it was extra special to reconnect and there was a sense of familiarity that was really nice. He’s a wonderful person.

TrunkSpace: In the movie you play a landscape architect, which is not a profession you often see represented in film/TV. From an outside perspective, one of the things that would be fun as an actor is getting the opportunity to inhabit not only different characters but different professions as well. Did you pick up on any interesting landscape architect tidbits by playing Susanna and what are some other memorable on-screen trades that you’ve had a chance to temporarily take on?
Park: It IS fun to get to play so many “different” jobs as an actor. My mom is an amazing gardener and has a green thumb – my sister too actually! I did NOT get that gene. I have a hard time keeping a cactus alive and since we were filming in the winter in Canada all those flowers you see are FAKE everywhere (shhhhh), even tied into the trees, so I can’t say that I learned a LOT about gardening but I do appreciate it even more now.

Photo: Jonathan Keltz, Megan Park Credit: Copyright 2018 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Patrick Shaw

TrunkSpace: As far as your actual career is concerned, was acting a choice or the only choice? Was this the path you always anticipated taking?
Park: Acting chose me. I have NO idea why at six years old I was soooo determined to get the role of Gretl (von Trapp) in a local production of “Sound of Music,” but something about it all just made sense to me. I still remember that audition and then getting the role. I was totally hooked and honestly never looked back. It’s a really demanding and unique job. Lots of high highs and low lows, but it’s all I know and I really love it. I recently started writing and directing as well and it’s given me a whole new appreciation for the business and a fun different side of my brain to explore. I can see myself doing a lot more behind the scenes stuff in the future as well.

TrunkSpace: As mentioned, you’re also a writer and director, with a number of projects in the can and a number of others in development. Are you finding it increasingly more difficult to focus on your acting career as you expand upon your behind-the-scenes experience?
Park: I’m not finding it more difficult to focus on acting. I think it’s added to my knowledge and understanding as an actor. Since I started directing and writing, it’s given me a new skill set to approach a script, a scene, the way I communicate with other actors and directors. It’s more of a 360-degree understanding of the business and I think it’s helped me in front of the camera as well.

TrunkSpace: What is the ultimate dream for you, and, are you currently living it?
Park: Wow, what a question! I feel incredibly lucky to be healthy, have a partner who is my best friend and endlessly supportive family and friends I adore. I think those are the pillars of happiness for me so yes, I am living my dream. I have a LOT to be grateful for.

TrunkSpace: If someone came to you with a time machine and offered you a chance to have a glimpse at what your career will look like 10 years from now, would you take the futuristic peek?
Park: No, part of the fun is not knowing. Life unfolds as it’s supposed to and I think it’s most magical to live in the moment and not know what the future holds just yet.

Once Upon a Prince” premieres April 7 (9 pm ET/PT) on Hallmark Channel.

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Wingman Wednesday

Keller Wortham

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Keller Wortham is not only a recognizable actor with a reoccurring role on the hit series “Jane the Virgin,” he’s also a working doctor who has mastered the art of juggling auditions and on-set commitments while seeing patients as a general practitioner from his office in Glendale, California. He’s also a dreamy telenovela star, has one of the best outlooks in the business, and rocks a refreshing sense of humor as seamlessly as he does a stethoscope.

He’s basically the guy at the party you’d feel insecure introducing your significant other to.

We recently sat down with Wortham to discuss how he makes two full-time careers work, finding value in early role choices, and discovering the proper wiggle techniques of a giant sperm. (Yes, you read that right!)

TrunkSpace: We’re probably starting off with the same question people always ask you, but we feel it would be a mistake not to. You’re managing two successful careers, both of which are full time jobs for most people. How do you pull it off?
Wortham: Yes, sometimes it’s difficult. I have to say, I was really lucky to find a practice out here that was willing to work with my schedule and work with me on a part-time basis. I moved here from residency in Pittsburgh about 13 or 14 years ago and I have been working at this practice for really about 12 of them consistently, so it feels very much like my practice, although the fact that I’m not the owner gives me a lot of flexibility. Often times I’m at the practice, and I’ll have to take a little bit of a longer lunch. I’ll run down and change in my car, drive to an audition, put on my acting hat, come back, have relaxed from the anxiety that always happens during auditions, and then walk right into a room with a patient and act like everything’s normal. “I’ve been here all day.”

TrunkSpace: For somebody who is an entertainer and comfortable in front of people, does it make you a better doctor in terms of how you interact with patients?
Wortham: Yeah, and even beyond that, there’s a lot of intimacy in acting because you’re dealing with strangers, and you’re dealing with intimate scenarios, and you have to jump right into it and be very present. They’re skills that you learn acting or just inherent qualities of someone who goes into that. And then when you go into a room with a patient, you’re also very present. You often are in an intimate situation. I cry with patients all of the time. I know a lot of doctors don’t do that, either because they’re protecting themselves or they’re not as emotional of a person, but I think that humanity creates a really strong bond in that relationship, and I think it’s one of the aspects I bring to medicine – that availability and personability.

TrunkSpace: You work as general practitioner. From what we read, not a lot of doctors are focusing on that these days, which puts the future of family medicine in kind of a tight spot. Being on the inside and seeing it firsthand, is that something that you see as a problem?
Wortham: I do. You know, it doesn’t pay very well and it’s paying less and less the way things with insurance evolve. You’re coming out of med school with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. Luckily, interests rates have been low, but you know, it doesn’t incentivize people to go into family practice. It’s a lot of work and you have to know a lot – you have to have a broad base of knowledge and you don’t really get paid so well for it. You become the public defender version of your career and not the private lawyer, and there’s a big discrepancy in what those people get paid.

TrunkSpace: So the chicken or the egg question: What came first for you, was it a desire to be a doctor or a desire to be an actor?
Wortham: No, it was an actor for sure. I was an actor. I was that four-year-old who was putting on shows in the living room and singing and getting my friends to dress up in crazy costumes and making our parents watch it. If there was a fault it was them – it was my parents humoring that kind of behavior. (Laughter) It eventually led me into this, but I’ll tell you what, I acted growing up, not professionally in a sense, but I was doing school plays and summer camps and some community theater. But, I never viewed it as a career option, I think, just because my example was my father who is a physician and I knew I wanted something stable and something that people admired and I’m kind of risk averse, really.

So, it took me getting an MD and getting a residency to then be talking with my parents, my mother, one day and her asking me, “Well, what are you gonna do next year once residency’s over?” And me saying, “Well, I think I’m actually gonna move to LA and be an actor!” Then there was just this silence on the other side of the phone for a second and then, I swear to God, the next words out of her mouth were, “I think that’s a wonderful idea!” I don’t know if she was suppressing some other comments or just trying to be supportive, but they knew I was an entertainer and an artist all along who had just chosen a route of more stability. And I gotta say, were it not for that, I wouldn’t be acting today.

TrunkSpace: So having stability placed you in a position to put yourself out there as an actor?
Wortham: Absolutely. It’s allowed me financially to provide for myself. No knock on people who need to be bartenders and waiters and other things that often actors do – those are very viable options, but I couldn’t have done it. There were plenty of years where I would not have been able to provide for myself as an actor, so I would’ve undoubtedly ended up in one of those jobs that allows you the flexibility but is not really mentally stimulating. So, not only financially having bought myself the time that you need to do the training and do the auditions and slowly, slowly climb out of the marsh that is the millions of people in LA trying to act, but also the confidence to walk into a room and say, “I don’t need this, I’m doing this because I want to and I enjoy it. I have something else that I can do that brings me personal value and fulfillment so I’m going to play and I’m going to do it because it’s really something I love and not something I need.”

TrunkSpace: Does that allow you to go out for roles that you have genuine interest in, as opposed to the idea of following the work?
Wortham: Yes, absolutely. I have rarely turned down opportunities. I have, but I’ve rarely turned down opportunities because I think there’s something to learn in many, many different opportunities that at first don’t seem to be your top choice. I’ll tell you something mildly salacious… my first film ever, and I was a horrible actor back then and it’s embarrassing more for that than the fact that I’m naked in it for 80 percent of it, but I did a film when I’d been here a year. A French director who really wanted to talk about sexuality and violence in American society was basically like, “Are you okay with being nude and being erect in this movie?” And I think a combo of the naiveté of being fresh off the boat in LA and having a science background, thinking, “Aw geez, I see naked bodies all the time it’s not the biggest deal to me” propelled me into that scenario, which, in retrospect, might not have been the most advisable choice. (Laughter) It was one of those films that fell short of achieving what it wanted to achieve so then you just look like a guy who’s naked on camera a lot.

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) But even in that you must have been able to pull something from the experience that you could then apply to your career moving forward?
Wortham: Yes, yes. You know, it’s funny – I had mentioned just moments ago that I’m rather risk averse, but I have taken some big risks – calculated risks. Within my acting career, that certainly was a risk. Going into it, I knew I was gonna be naked all over the place and it was really gonna be the first images anyone would ever see of my career.

Jane The Virgin — “Chapter Nine” — Image JAV109B_216 — Pictured (L-R): Jaime Camil as Rogelio and Keller Wortham as Esteban — Photo: Danny Feld/The CW — © 2014 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

TrunkSpace: So when you’re working on something like “Jane the Virgin,” which is such a buzzy, acclaimed series, does it feel like, as far as your acting career is concerned, that it’s a turning point in terms of the types of roles that will open up to you moving forward?
Wortham: I hope so. I can say it that way. I’ve been with them for the first three seasons and I have quite a bit more material in this fourth season, which is great. This character was just a one-episode guest star when I came in. It was like a nothing thing and I guess it resonated with them, and they liked me, and I was brash enough to pitch them ideas. (Laughter) I was sitting there at lunch with one of the writers going like, “Oo! Oo! What if you brought him back and blah blah blah?” And he was like, “Oh! That’s kind of fun idea, sure!”

So, I hope that I continue to get to work more in the, let’s call it the English market, because I have quite a strong footing in the Hispanic market. I’ve just come off filming another show with Telemundo and got an offer to do a Christmas special with them, so I’m going back next week to film that, and I had an offer to be a character in a new series, but it conflicted with the dates. They love “Jane the Virgin” and there’s a lot of crossover audiences, obviously, so that’s worked quite well in my favor to work more in Spanish and as the Spanish market matures in the US, you get more and more interesting content, which is great.

But obviously, yes, I would love to have this catapult me into a pilot season where there’s some good opportunities for great American, English speaking characters in the mainstream market.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned that Esteban was supposed to be a one-off. From a performance standpoint, when you found out he was coming back, did it make you look back at those early choices you made for the character and dissect them?
Wortham: Yes, and I think more than anything, when we filmed my first episode, the show hadn’t started airing yet, so you had no idea what they were doing with it. You just had to read the script and trust the director. In TV the director changes every time, so you’re working with a director who’s coming in for her first episode as well and you’re all trying to find the tone in this show that’s not quite defined yet. By the time I had gotten the offer for the next episode, because they’d offer me a couple episodes in a row, I had been able to see the show and saw that really, we had more fun with it. It was a little bit goofier. As a one hour drama, you’re not quite sure what tone they’re gonna strike. So, it was looking at my performance, but I say even more-so, looking at the show as a whole and being like, “Oh! We can push this more! We can have more fun!”

And the writing lends itself to that. I think in season 2 and 3, I got to be bolder and a little bit more obnoxious and a little bit more arrogant. And, now, in season 4, thanks to the storyline, there’s the ability for this character to be more human now that he’s falling in love and wants to be a father. So, he’s still the arrogant telenovela star that he was, but the situation allows to see a little more human side of him, which is fun as an actor.

TrunkSpace: We have to ask… what goes through your mind when you emerge from wardrobe dressed like a sperm, because, frankly, that’s not something we get to ask very often?
Wortham: (Laughter) Yeah, I’m sure this is the third time you’ve asked it today, right? (Laughter)

The crafting of the sperm costume took many days, so there was a wardrobe fitting and a subsequent fitting and then another one, and then the design people coming in because we had to figure out not only how to make it look like a sperm, but how to be able to lie on the ground in it and wiggle in it with my head and face still viewable. And then, be able to unzip it enough to walk in it. So, they had their work cut out for them, but the funniest parts were literally going in and, first, I’m in this totally white spandex onesie, which was just funny in itself so that was bizarre, but then, we would just do these “auditions,” if you will, of the costume by having me lie down on the dressing room floor and wiggle. (Laughter) “How’s the tail wiggling? Is the tail long enough? Does it need to be shorter? Is the head too big and you can’t lift your face up so that the camera can see you? Or turn to the side?” So it was really funny just to be wiggling on the floor of the dressing room in what felt kind of like a mermaid of some sort.

The writers are so brilliant. They really are fun. The director within the show would say, “Less like Superman! More like sperm!” It would go from the Superman-esque style to like just gyrating side-to-side, which was really fun.

Jane the Virgin” airs Fridays on The CW.

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