Wingman Wednesday

Dan Donohue

Donohue in “The Last Tycoon”

With the first season of “Damnation” officially in the books, it is time for any and all of you who have yet to watch the crime drama to set your binging sites on this gritty yet refined gem from USA Network. With a stellar cast and pacing that leaves you instantly wanting more, the series is a stream dream, so fire up that DVR, get yourself comfortable, and saddle up for one hell of a storytelling ride.

We recently sat down with “Damnation” star Dan Donohue to discuss the recipe for its success, what a new show needs to do in order to rise above the competition, and how Batman blew his mind.

TrunkSpace: “Damnation” has received great reviews, but more importantly to the long-term success of the series, fan buzz. What do you think the series offers viewers that has not only baited them, but has sunk the hook as well? What are its biggest strengths?
Donohue: The show has, indeed, received a terrific response – which is gratifying. Fans have jumped on board and are, clearly, holding on tight. “Damnation” is quite a ride. The heart of what makes this show so special is the brilliant story. It unfolds in a masterful way as each character reveals their history, their motivations, and their most guarded secrets. The writing is the thoroughbred on who’s back rides the incredible directors, production team, casting directors, designers, and actors. Each day, on set, you could feel how proud folks were to be a part of it. That pride is reflected in every shot of “Damnation.”

TrunkSpace: What was it about your character Calvin Rumple that first drew you in? Does he offer you something from a performance standpoint that you have yet to tackle in your career?
Donohue: When I was cast, I had only read the first episode. That was all that was available to read at the time. I knew the role would recur, but I wasn’t told what Calvin’s trajectory might be. What was clear, though, from that first script – and what made me particularly excited to play him – was the built-in conflict, the inherent danger, and the potentially bumpy, and perhaps sobering, ride ahead for Calvin Rumple. I thought, I want to be in the driver’s seat while Calvin navigates through this minefield in front of him.

TrunkSpace: For those who have yet catch up with the series on their DVR, where does Calvin fall into things within the “Damnation” universe and what is his journey?
Donohue: Calvin Rumple runs Holden Savings and Loan. At first glance, he seems to be on top. He’s got his shiny shoes on the necks of the local farmers. Of course, the farmers aren’t happy about that. They have been pushed into a corner and are about to come out swinging. So Calvin is in a precarious position. He wields a fair amount of freshly-inherited power. That power feels good to him – he wears it like an expensive new suit. But underneath that fine tailored wool is a sheep. Calvin has lost his moral compass – or, conveniently, set it aside – and he has wandered off the path into dangerous territory.

TrunkSpace: We recently spoke with your costar Sarah Jones and one of the things we pointed out was, whereas many series get attention for the names involved in a cast, “Damnation” delivers with sheer talent. So many of those involved in the show are just wonderful character actors who always bring their A game when they’re on screen. How does this cast compare to the casts of other productions you have been involved with?
Donohue: This is one of the strongest and most unique group of actors I’ve had the great good fortune to work with. I feel extremely lucky to be in the mix. I’ve learned so much on set watching each one of them raise the bar.

TrunkSpace: “Damnation” premiered at a very busy time in the TV landscape. Not only are there a countless number of new series debuting on cable and streaming platforms, but dozens upon dozens of returning series have been airing as well. In your opinion, how does a new, original series make its mark and find an audience in this very crowded golden age of television?
Donohue: A good question. It’s a brave new world, to be sure – a particularly fertile era for cinematic storytelling. There are so many good shows being produced – all competing for an audience. I think that trying to be all things to all people is wasted energy. A new series needs to have a distinctive fingerprint. What you hope, I suppose, is that the singularity – and the quality – of a great show wins out.

TrunkSpace: You’ve guested on some incredibly popular series over the years, from “Longmire” to “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Is there a character you played briefly over the course of your career that you would have liked to explore further, and if so, why?
Donohue: The world has been rough on the on-screen characters I’ve played lately. In the past two years, I’ve played several guest star roles who’s lives have ended horribly. One character was burned to death. One was fatally shot in the head. Another was fatally shot in the head. One was drowned, turned into a zombie, and then fatally stabbed in the eye. Oh, and one was shot in the ass. Fatally.

At a glance, revisiting any of those particular characters doesn’t seem likely. (Though, I was incinerated in “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” – quite literally turned to dust – and my character still made it back for another episode.) The truth is, I’m available. Even for the dead ones. Happy to do flashbacks, plot twists, zombies, ghosts, and apparitions.

But seriously, last year I played a small but wonderful recurring role, Caldecott Riddle, in the first season of Billy Ray’s, “The Last Tycoon.” Tycoon is based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald and set in 1930’s Hollywood. The first season was exquisitely done – so rich and heartbreaking. Sadly, Amazon didn’t pick up Tycoon for a second season. That’s one I would love to come back to were it picked up by another studio. Such a terrific story. And so much more story there to be told.

TrunkSpace: Beyond your on-screen work, you are also a voice actor, recently giving live to Shriv in “Star Wars: Battlefront II.” What did it mean for you to become a part of the ever-growing “Star Wars” universe? Did it fulfill any childhood dreams?
Donohue: Working on this role in Battlefront II was like being transported back to 1977 to play “Star Wars” in my backyard. I absolutely loved playing Shriv. I did both voice and motion capture for him. Shriv is a lovable curmudgeon. He’s someone who’s been through it all – twice – and he’d rather not go back for thirds. Shriv a big-hearted, large-craniumed, hugely loyal, malcontent. A bit of an Eeyore. I’ve been an enthusiastic “Star Wars” fan from the beginning. To say I never dreamed I’d play a new character in a “Star Wars” story one day would be a complete lie. As a kid, I dreamed that dream all the time. I spent countless hours imagining it. I’ve never read the book, “The Secret.” It wasn’t even written back then. But I secreted the shit out of that “Star Wars” dream back in the day. I very much hope Shriv has a long life in the “Star Wars” galaxy. And in our own.

Donohue in “Damnation”

TrunkSpace: Your voiceover work also lead to you becoming Brother Night in the animated series “Justice League Action.” Does playing a DC Comics villain give you some instant comics fandom cred?
Donohue: Heck, I have no cred at all. Also, no game. But that’s not DC’s fault. “Justice League Action” was a blast. I worked with some amazing folks on it. I remember, my first day recording Brother Night, I arrived at the studio early and with no clue who I might be acting with that day. I had only been there a minute or two when in walks Kevin Conroy, himself – the voice of Batman.

Voice of Batman: “Hello.”

Voice of Dan: “Hello.”

(Mind of Dan: Blown.)

And then, before I’d even processed my excitement about working with Kevin Conroy, in walks Mark Hamill. I thought, Holly crap! This is for real!

TrunkSpace: Comic content continues to rule the big and small screens. Is there a particularly character from any comic universe that you’d like to slip into the tights of?
Donohue: I don’t have sights on any particular comic characters at the moment – other than ones I’m currently working on. I have roles in two upcoming comic book-based video games. And I play a recurring character in an upcoming animated series. I’m extremely happy the genre is thriving. So many imaginative and exciting stories and such fantastic characters – old and new. It’s an actor’s playground.

TrunkSpace: As you look forward, what kind of career do you want to have? If it was in your control to pave your own path, what would that path look like?
Donohue: I think my path would look much like it does now – at least in shape and direction. I’ve been a working actor for 30 years now. I hope to act for 30 more. I love telling stories through the characters I play. I love bringing a character’s story to life. But when it comes to measuring success, I tend to gauge mine by whether or not I feel my work is improving – whether or not I’m growing as an actor. To me, it’s disheartening and distracting to think of it any other way.

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Wingman Wednesday

Adam Bartley


* This feature originally ran 04/19/17

There are some actors who just steal the scene and captivate viewers regardless of who else is in the scene with them. The on-camera dazzling is never done intentionally. It is the actor’s commitment to the part and pledge to the craft that shines a spotlight on the performance, forcing those at home to pay attention. They exist in a fictional world, but play their character as an authentic resident of the imaginary zip code that we, the viewers, visit as voyeuristic tourists.

One of those actors… one of our favorite actors… is Adam Bartley. As The Ferg on the long-running series “Longmire,” Bartley has been playing the deputy everyman with understated precision for five (soon to be six) seasons. The series is currently in production in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which is where we caught up with the Minnesota native.

We recently sat down with Bartley to discuss how the show has changed his life, its pop culture legacy, and his favorite episode thus far.

TrunkSpace: When did you realize that The Ferg went from character to fan favorite character?
Bartley: I don’t know. I think the fans love every character. They’re just so loyal and incredible. But, as far as Ferg is concerned, I think in the first season… I think it was around the third episode when Ferg turned his badge in. When Ferg turned his badge in and said “I’m just not made for this… I can’t do this” and the Sheriff said, “Listen, Ferg, I hired you for two reasons. The first one was because of your father.” And I say, “What’s the other one?” And the Sheriff says, “Well, I’m still waiting to find out.” I think that moment helped people to really connect with Ferg in the sense of how similar he is to so many people and so many people’s paths. You’re not always going to show up and be the best at what you do all of the time. It’s a kind of an everyman availability for audiences and I think that’s what latched people on… they saw a lot of themselves in the character and started to root for Ferg immediately from them on. And then of course, there’s the moment when I think the audience found out Ferg is in love with Cady Longmire.

TrunkSpace: That episode definitely felt like Ferg’s coming out party in terms of revealing him to have various layers, especially when we see him react so emotionally to Cady’s accident.
Bartley: Yeah. That’s great. That was a really incredible episode. That’s absolutely right. That piece… you’re seeing something beyond a sort of loyal, hardworking, trying-to-please-the-Sheriff kind of deputy. You’re seeing a person who has feelings and who you can relate to.

TrunkSpace: From an acting standpoint, what for you has been the most exciting thing about the character’s growth over the life of the series? What were you most excited to work on?
Bartley: Well, any time I’m working in a scene where it’s just Walt and I, that’s always… I love that relationship. Rob Taylor is a very good friend and we have a really good sort of chemistry as friends on and off camera. I really love watching the evolution of that relationship because for Ferg, the Sheriff is sort of the father figure he, I think, always wanted. He just tries to please him and make him proud every day. And so to be able to play in that space is really challenging and exciting.

I would say my favorite episode that I’ve worked on in the first five seasons has been when I get physically apprehended and beat up by the mob and I have to walk to some diner and call Walt. He comes and we sit down and just playing in that scene was really, really powerful acting and he really helped bring that out. I’ve lost my badge. I’ve lost my gun. I’ve been had and I’ve failed again. It’s hard to fess up when you fail and it’s hard to acknowledge that you fail, especially to the Sheriff.

TrunkSpace: Coming from a theater background, when you first started working in those scenes with Robert… he’s so understated and quiet in his delivery whereas in theater you’re taught to project… did that take some getting used to?
Bartley: It’s funny that you say that. I actually talk about this a lot, including last night and a couple of days before. Yeah, that’s one of the great things about this show for me is that it has been an on-camera education in ways that you could never get in school or anywhere else. A lot of that has to do with that when I showed up, coming from the theater, I had been rehearsing my first scene for the pilot and was just so excited and I was all ready to go. I was speaking somewhat loudly and theatrically and told the Sheriff, “Hey, listen I’m so sorry I’m late… it will never happen again!” (Laughter) In the first rehearsal, Rob… barely audible. He just sort of mutters his line to me and walks away. It was really powerful. It was a huge “wow” moment for me because the challenge, I think, on camera for any actor coming from the theater is believing that your most simple, your most honest, open, simple true reaction to any situation is enough. That people are going to find that interesting, without you doing anything more than you saying the line. Obviously Rob Taylor has been in the business for a very long time and figured that out 30 years ago, but I was figuring it out on the fly. It’s been an incredible sort of Petri dish this show, playing around with that sort of trust in myself and in terms of getting it down to the most simple truth in every scene.

TrunkSpace: It’s funny that you said Robert was barely audible because he’s so patient and soft in scenes sometimes that it’s easy to imagine him being difficult to mic.
Bartley: (Laughter) You get used to it. It’s true. We’ve always had good sound mixers. Always. Yeah, it’s so nice to not have to get every word out to the world. It’s nice for you to be discovered… that what you’re saying is being discovered and heard for the first time.

TrunkSpace: When you landed the part, how much of your character did you base on the source material from the books?
Bartley: None, actually. No. I read “The Cold Dish,” Craig Johnson’s book, and kind of soaked in the world, but the character The Ferg in that book is very different from the character that I play. I was really interested in sort of creating my own character because the writers for the TV show had really created a new character for The Ferg. But, I wanted to make sure that I was in the world.

TrunkSpace: We discovered the show late in its run thanks to the wonders of binge watching. It takes hold of you and you get sucked in very easily. That being said, how can so much terrible stuff happen in one small Wyoming county!?!?
Bartley: (Laughter) I know. Luckily Wyoming itself is not that crime-ridden, but in our Wyoming, things have not been very good. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Other than relocating during production, how has the series impacted your life and career the most?
Bartley: Wow. Well… this series has allowed me to realize a dream of mine. To be on camera. And it’s a dream that didn’t really come to me until I was 30 and then it really hit me there with what I wanted to do. I had been doing theater all over the country for 10 years and this not only has changed my life forever in regards to having a seat at the table to be able to do other things… and hopefully having an opportunity to do more things after this… but the singular experience of working on “Longmire” is unlike any show I’ve ever worked on or any play I’ve ever worked on. We are an incredibly close family of people that really love being together and really love working together. I’ll take that with me and I’ll take what I’ve learned from these people, from this incredible group of artists, and how people treat each other and how artists should have space and room to create the greatest version of the stories they’re telling and how establishing great working relationships up front on new projects… how that pays dividends and how it shows up on camera. It’s starkly different from other shows that don’t have those elements. We’re lucky to have an incredible group of producers that from the very first moment on the pilot set the tone for how this was going to go. It’s just not always that way. There’s a lot of other ways people go about doing this business, but as I go forward, that’s the best gift… taking what I’ve learned from this show and these people and applying it to everything I do going forward.

And the other thing is the fans. All of these incredible, loyal people who just love the stories so much and reach out and come to Longmire Days. They’re so kind. This show has really touched a lot of people. It has really changed lives and that’s so humbling… to know that I’m sitting in a coffee shop and somebody comes up and seeing them with almost tears in their eyes to meet me… it’s like, “Wow!” It’s powerful. Storytelling can be so powerful and I just feel so blessed to be a part of it and to have this be my job.

Bartley as The Ferg in “Longmire”

TrunkSpace: And it’s something from a pop culture legacy standpoint that will stand the test of time. The show isn’t going anywhere. New generations will find it.
Bartley: Yeah. No doubt. It’s just a special show for a special time. And the cool part about that is that, even in years from now when I’m missing being down here in Santa Fe and being with this incredible group of people, the wonderful thing is that “Longmire” is still going to be sitting there on Netflix. It’s still going to be sitting there and people can watch it whenever they want. They’ll have new viewers every day. In that way, it’s being sort of aired for the first time every single day.

TrunkSpace: It is crazy to think about now because there was a time when a show would air and you might catch it in a rerun or in syndication, but most shows just sort of disappeared. That’s not how it works nowadays, especially for shows as popular as “Longmire.”
Bartley: They live on. It’s so unique to this time and to this Golden age of television. There’s so much content and people will keep discovering it. That’s wonderful.

TrunkSpace: The show has such a rich history of really great guest stars. Was there anyone in particular that came into the show and gave you butterflies or made you feel a bit intimidated to be in a scene with based on their body of work?
Bartley: Well, the thing about our show is that it is a big open-hearted family and everyone that works on the show gets to be a part of it right away and is welcome. So there’s not a lot of intimidation going on around the set. But that being said, when Gerald McRaney and I had a scene together, that was a really interesting day. He’s a powerhouse. He was playing quite the powerhouse on the show as well and he basically gave it to me, in the rehearsal and in the scene, in a classic McRaney kind of way.

We’ve had so many great guest stars. I’ll just say that. Heather Kafka, who played the woman who had all of the deer carcasses… she’s just an incredible actress. One of my favorite people too. There have been so many like her who have come and just lifted the show up. And Mary Wiseman who played my love interest on the show is just a phenomenal actress. She inspires me and we have such a great time working together and such a great connection on camera. She’s quite special to watch.

It’s one after another. I could name 40 names and keep going.

It’s a special place. It’s a special group. We have an incredible crew. Just the best people. When I come to set, it’s saying hi, every day, to 75 people on my way to rehearsal. And then saying goodbye when I leave. That’s every day. There’s a lot of laughter and a lot of closeness, but also a lot of focus as well. A shared focus. It’s a time I’ll never forget.

TrunkSpace: Walt is a classic Hollywood badass. You also appeared in “Justified,” which featured a more modern badass in the form of Timothy Olyphant’s character Raylan. Having been around so many on-screen badasses, what makes a successful one?
Bartley: (Laughter) A good on-screen badass? That’s a good question. I would say keeping things close to the chest. Characters that say as little as necessary and sort of lead with their actions instead of their words. And having physical stature…

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) That helps!
Bartley: Yeah. Physical stature helps.

Bartley is currently filming season 6 of Longmire.

Bartley also recently guested as Duke in “This Is Us” on NBC and can be seen on the big screen in the upcoming films “Annabelle: Creation” and “Under the Sliver Lake.”

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Wingman Wednesday

Heather Kafka

Heather Kafka_Wingwoman_wednesday

Heather Kafka is the kind of actress who fully and fearlessly immerses herself into a character. She not only becomes the woman inhabiting the fictional world she was cast to portray, but does so with a physicality that is just as much camouflage as it is performance. She doesn’t just star in a project, she lives within it, becoming a part of the narrative in the most organic of ways. It’s a skill set that most actors spend their entire careers striving to obtain and one that seems to come so naturally to Kafka.

We recently sat down with the Texas native to discuss her memorable turn in “Longmire,” why there may never be a set like it again, and how many of the characters she has portrayed have been through hell and back.

TrunkSpace: When we spoke with Adam Bartley a few months back and asked him who the most memorable guest stars were to have appeared on “Longmire,” he instantly mentioned your name.
Kafka: Aww. Adam is the best. Huge compliment and I would return the compliment. He is really an awesomely genuine, full of life, warm-hearted, easy to access… just a wonderful, loveable person. And so, so talented. Even more talented than I realized just from “Longmire.” I saw his reel recently and the range of characters he’s able to do is really awesome. He’s amazing. I have a big soft spot in my heart for him.

TrunkSpace: It seems that everyone we have spoken to who has appeared on “Longmire” has had the same experience in working on the show and that is that it was one of the most welcoming sets of all time. Did you have that same experience?
Kafka: Listen, and I’ve said this before and I’m happy to say it again for all of eternity… I’ve worked a long time in this business and I’ve been on many, many television sets and I have never been on a set like “Longmire” ever before and maybe won’t ever again. There’s just something really special with that group of people. I don’t know where it begins and ends. I don’t know who’s responsible, but everyone is in the same place in their heart and it’s very much like a family. From the day that I arrived, I felt like I was part of that family and that is super rare.

The guest star circuit is really hard. I’m not going to lie. You show up on a TV show, surrounded by people who have been working together constantly for however long, and you’re the new kid at school. The way that we do a lot of TV shows these days is that one episode is beginning and concluding within that episode and so there’s a huge arc that you have to cover. It’s usually very dramatic and intense and there’s a lot of heavy lifting for you to do right out of the gates. It’s difficult to feel comfortable doing that anyway, let alone when you show up to, in this case Santa Fe, New Mexico, a place where I don’t live and I don’t know and I’m in a hotel that I don’t recognize and I’m not transporting myself to and from set. You really relinquish a lot of your control and it’s very easy, I think, for people who are already in that established situation to sort of just dismiss you, and not necessarily in a cruel way, but you’re just passing through.

TrunkSpace: And they know that you’re only there temporarily, so there’s probably a bit of a defense mechanism involved as well. Why make friends when you know that person will not be sticking around?
Kafka: Exactly. And to do it well it’s probably going to take more time than you’re probably going to have with them. And so, it makes sense why it is the way it is normally, but for “Longmire,” it kind of doesn’t make sense why it’s so amazing. Literally the day that I showed up on set, people were just so welcoming to me. They treated me as if I had been there the whole time. Lou immediately came up to me as if he had known me his whole life and invited me to the cast and crew dinner that he was going to have at his place that night. Apparently it’s something that he does at the beginning of every episode. And so immediately I’m at Lou’s condo in New Mexico where he has made a full spread of food. Not catered. Not hired. Not brought in. He made every single dish from scratch in his kitchen, cooking while we are all there… producers and actors and crew. Everyone was welcome. It was like Thanksgiving. It was just so warm and welcoming and everybody was just so lovely. And that right off of the bat, eases so much of your fears.

TrunkSpace: It must immediately set the tone.
Kafka: Yeah. And it helps you to do your work quickly and better because you feel supported.

And what I will say about “Longmire” is that even to this day, I still feel a part of that family. It’s been a couple of years now and I went to Santa Fe last year as I was traveling and I called up one of the producers and she was like, “You’re coming by set, right?” So we went by the set and we all had a meal. It was like I had never left. It is a very unique family that they have over there and it’s obviously an incredible show that has moved a lot of people and for good reasons.

TrunkSpace: Do you think part of that family atmosphere is nurtured by the fact that the show doesn’t film in LA or Vancouver and instead is sort of set off and isolated from the rest of Hollywood?
Kafka: Absolutely. And it’s one of the great things about when you go on location for a film. You know you’re going to be there for like three months, you hunker down, and you just live in that experience for that time. This is similar to that because nobody really lives there. They live there while they’re shooting and they’re also the kind of people who will thrive in that environment. When they have a few days off, they’ll go camping or they’ll really take in the goodness that New Mexico and the surrounding areas have to offer, as far as quality of life. It definitely helps make you a tighter knit family when you’re all there and that’s all that you’re there for… doing it every day and you don’t have to be like, “Oh, I’ve got to get to the post office today.” All of that is stripped away and you can just focus. So it’s a beautiful environment with these lovely people.

But it could also go the completely opposite direction. You could be stuck in that place where people are miserable and everyone is screaming at each other and being a dictator or being a diva or whatever. There’s just none of that. It’s pretty amazing with “Longmire.”

TrunkSpace: We would imagine in a lot of ways it’s sort of like doing a play where you’re spending so much of your time at the theater that you get to the point where you almost don’t want to go home?
Kafka: Absolutely. To be honest, when I was there and the day that I was supposed to wrap and fly back, the airline’s whole system went down and the planes couldn’t fly. So all of a sudden I was sort of “stuck there” over the weekend and couldn’t go back until a couple of days later. I was A-okay with that. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: At the time that you shot your episode, the full embrace of the “Longmire” fandom hadn’t really taken hold yet, right?
Kafka: No. It was definitely on the rise though. I got the feeling that the fanbase had just started to get rowdy at that point. There was the Longmire Posse on Instagram and not long after my season wrapped, I remember there being a big fear that they weren’t going to bring the show back and there was a big campaign. They were already having Longmire Days. But I know it has just exploded even more since then. I mean, they’ve managed to keep the show on… whatever it’s going to take. They’ve managed to keep it going.

TrunkSpace: What we find so interesting about your work is that you always go all-in on the physicality of the characters that you’re playing and at times you’re not even recognizable.
Kafka: I like that. That’s the part of it that I like to do. There is so much product these days, I think you can get lazy and you can get away with not going any extra mile in that regard, but I’ve always really liked that element of it. And a lot of times with characters, I’ve found over the years, I start from the outside in. It helps me immensely when I have different shoes on and different clothes and my hair is different. Just those starting points often help me get out of my own habits that I’m not even aware of and discover new ones that I can make habits for my characters and how they hold their pencil or whatever.

TrunkSpace: Where does that embracing of the physicality come from? Is it rooted in theater?
Kafka: You know, I’m willing to bet that it is theatrical. I started in theater when I was about six years old and did theater up until…

I went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts right after high school and that was the last bit of theater that I did. Those elements are really more emphasized in theater because they’re part of your medium. There isn’t going to be any real background music or editing or whatever, so those physical elements are an aspect that is more at the forefront. I think I have just carried it over into the fact that I’ve always felt most comfortable as a “character” actress, as opposed to any sort of ingènue or leading lady type. I’ve just always been more comfortable molding myself into something that I’m not usually in real life. Even if that means I look like shit! (Laughter) 90 percent of the times my characters have been through shit… hell and back… and they look like it. (Laughter) They look rough.

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) But if a character has been through hell and back, then they should look rough!
Kafka: Exactly! I would feel weird if I was doing all of that and someone was still trying to make me look pretty. (Laughter)

I clean up alright in real life though. I feel okay about it. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Are there more of those interesting characters to play now because the content in television has matured and become more character-driven?
Kafka: It is absolutely more character-driven and that’s exciting. The trick now is, as a woman, to be able to get as many interesting characters written for you as there are for men. And also ones that don’t always hold dramatic interest because of some sort of atrocity that has been put upon them. A lot of the times I’ve found that when I’m doing television work, the female characters have had horrible things happen to them that day or that year or whatever and I don’t think it always has to be that way. There’s plenty of fascinating male characters that I can think of… from “Die Hard” to whatever… but with females there’s still an awful lot of, “She’s so and so’s husband.” Or, “She’s so and so’s wife.”

TrunkSpace: It does seem like a lot of strong female characters are strong because something terrible happened to them and that made them who they are, as opposed to just being born and raised to be strong.
Kafka: Right. Exactly. Or, you could just be an interesting person as opposed to having to be a plot device for the interesting person or for someone else. Just to have a life of your own… one that doesn’t necessarily revolve or depend on a male lead or whoever the main protagonist is that we’re supposed to be interested in. And they’re definitely out there. They’re just being played by Glenn Close. (Laughter) So you’ve got to get in there because all of the great actresses are getting them and going for it, as they should.


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Wingman Wednesday

Bailey Chase


Pop culture fans have binged Bailey Chase in “Longmire,” followed along with him in “Saving Grace” and most recently watched the clock tick down on him in “24: Legacy.” Now he’s hoping to turn all of those viewers into readers with his book “Spiritual Gangsta,” a memoir-meets-self-help journey that looks behind the curtain of his acting career as he searches for (and shares) spiritual truth.

We sat down with Chase to discuss the book and the lessons we all can take from it.

TrunkSpace: We read that you wrote “Spiritual Gangsta” as a way to help people get through similar emotional battles that you yourself had gone through. In taking the journey to write the book, did you learn anything about yourself that you hadn’t anticipated putting in there at the outset?
Chase: Yeah. Great question. There are some very personal details that I didn’t quite know if they would stay in the book and pretty much all of them did. Basically at the end of the day I decided, “Hey, if you’re going to do this, then put it all out there and don’t pull any punches.” And to be honest, the initial feedback anyway… those are the moments that people have sort of had the most response to and will share with me their personal stories that they were going through and about how my obstacles… how it’s really helped them transcend their own. At it’s core, that’s what the book is really about. When do we grow the most? When do we learn the most? In the times of struggle. When everything’s going great, life is pretty easy. When you get blindsided by some stuff and things don’t necessarily go your way, that’s when we’ve got to dig deep and channel our inner spiritual gangsta, if we’re going to use that terminology, and find the truth. What I discovered was that the biggest thing in the way a lot of the times was myself and my ego. I’m fortunate to now have the perspective and the tools to find a way to get around those self-defeating emotions and see situations for how they truly are.

TrunkSpace: In putting all of yourself into the book and not pulling any punches, did you feel exposed when you released it to the world? But at the same time, in the book you talk about human connection. Humans connect with other humans when they’re relating to their experiences, so by exposing yourself, you’ve probably opened the door to those connections.
Chase: There’s a huge audience for a show like “NCIS” and if that’s how you want to spend your hour on your couch watching TV… that show is great for what it is. At the end of the hour you’re going to feel good and they’re going to catch the bad guy. But, if you want to dig a little deeper and feel a little more, you might put on a show like “Breaking Bad” where Walter White is very flawed and you probably see things in him that you might see in yourself. And then the reward or the gratification just might be that much more. So, two very different examples. Both are good in their own way, it’s just a matter of what a reader wants in a book or what a viewer wants in a TV show. For me, as you can probably imagine, I’m a “Breaking Bad” fan. I want to find the truth. I want to feel more.

You did ask me something before that I didn’t quite answer. Yes. You put yourself out there when you write a book like that and yeah, not only was it very cathartic, but now I have to walk the walk. I have caught myself at times to be like, wow, you just went through some whatever… rejection in what we call pilot season out here… and I’m trying to get my own show and as you can imagine it’s a very competitive market with a lot of different things in play. It’s not just about your talent. It can be about how you look… if you’re White, Black, Latino. It could be your age. So a lot of things go into it and when we don’t get something we want, it hurts. In the past, I was definitely guilty of blaming it on something other than what it was and now, I have to check myself. I use what I call “witness consciousness” and I’m like, “Bailey, why are you so frustrated by this?” And then I bring it back to myself and I just have to trust that mine is coming. I just need to be patient and dig a little bit deeper.

TrunkSpace: The industry as a whole seems like a pretty difficult place in terms of nurturing personal growth because in a lot of ways, it’s all about putting you in boxes, living up to expectations and for a lot of people, maintaining a certain perception. So how does one rise above all of that inner noise to balance their inner acceptance with achieving their dream?
Chase: That’s the million dollar question. (Laughter) If it were easy, we’d all be doing it and we’d all be blissful and we wouldn’t get angry and upset and get into fights and yell at people. That’s not realistic and that’s not life and we do get upset. Deepak Chopra, somebody that I read when I was younger and I went to hear him recently, I quote him in the book. “In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.” He also said, “There’s no deeper love than the love of truth.” And I agree with both of those things. They’re incredibly invaluable. When do we learn most about ourselves? When we are in the midst of chaos. And the good news is, and it’s what I try to convey in the book, is that we are equipped and we can rise above it and we can figure this out. I’ve been doing this acting thing for 20 years and people assume stuff. They’re like, “Oh, he’s so successful and he’s famous and he’s rich.” I am successful and I am blessed and I need to be appreciative of all of that, but I still I want more. I want to tell the stories that I want to tell that can then impact people the way that I want to be impacted and then we can have that human connection. And that’s how you make a difference and have a fulfilling life. That’s my path and my journey.

There’s not a short, easy answer to what you’re saying. But, yeah, it would be a lot easier to do if I were, let’s say, a lawyer or a banker or something like that.

TrunkSpace: You sort of touched on it, but people often times assume stuff about other people. We’d imagine that’s even more difficult for someone in the public spotlight because it’s almost as if you’re not allowed to have rough patches. “You’re on TV shows… you should be completely happy!” It seems like people don’t allow those who have found success in a public setting to also just be human.
Chase: Yes. And so I did a couple of Facebook Lives and things like that to try to engage and interact with fans and talk with them because some people didn’t understand what I was trying to do. And I’m like, “Okay… I’m just going to talk to them directly and they can send me their questions and I’ll answer them.” Initially a lot of people were like, “Wow, you look really tired” or whatever. It was kind of right after when I came off “Longmire.” Well, we had just had twins… they’re ten months now and they’re sleeping better… but when you’re up all night and you’re not sleeping, yeah, you might get some bags under your eyes. That’s real life. That’s the difference between what I do and if I had a normal day job. But I know my fans don’t mean anything by it. I’m happy to sacrifice my sleep if it helps my wife and whatever I need to do for my kids I’m gonna do. Life is messy. It doesn’t mean it’s bad. If life were really easy, at the end of it I’d probably be like, “Well, okay.”

TrunkSpace: Life also has a way of changing your initial point of view on things. In the moment of those early sleepless nights with your twins, it’s no doubt hard. But, when they’re teenagers and getting ready to leave the nest, those are the moments you’ll look back fondly on.
Chase: Yeah. Right. You’re absolutely right. I took six months off to be home for their birth and to be around in the beginning and create that time and bond with them. We’ll always have that connection and I’m never going to regret… “Oh, maybe I would have gotten this job or that job or made a little more money.” I’m never going to regret spending this time with my children because it’s just a time you can’t get back.

TrunkSpace: We touched on the human connection aspect of the book, but we’re curious, is finding a human connection with yourself just as important as finding those connections with other people?
Chase: Absolutely. I think you need to find a connection with yourself first because if you don’t know who you are and you’re not connected then nobody else is going to be able to connect with you. And so, job one, figure yourself out and then you can be open and therefore walk the walk. And then people will gravitate to that and you’ll resonate with them as well if they are open and honest. Some people are and some people aren’t. Maybe they’re not there yet. There’s that quote of, “By letting your own light shine, you’ll allow others to do the same.”

TrunkSpace: Your job is to inhabit another individual and the space and mindset that they’re in. If you’re portraying somebody who is emotionally on the opposite end of the spiritual spectrum that you are on… does that rub off on you? Do you carry any of that into your real life?
Chase: You know, I think maybe earlier in my career and life where I took things probably a little too seriously, but at this point, no. When I get into creating a character it’s all play pretend and it’s my imagination. The more time I have to do it the more real it becomes. For example, like season 3 of “Longmire” where Branch literally loses his mind, it was fun to play but I certainly didn’t take it home with me. I didn’t act crazy to my wife. It was just a really deep, fun storyline to roll up my sleeves and get in there with and I had a blast doing it. So, to answer your question… it doesn’t stay with me. It feels good. It feels good to go to those places. That’s the part of why I have the job that I do, because I enjoy it.

TrunkSpace: Does the idea of letting your light shine and you’ll allow others to shine as well… does that work with helping to discover and find characters? If you know who you are, are you better able to find who your character is?
Chase: Yeah. I do talk about that a little bit in the book. When I was writing it I happened to catch this interview with Michael Fassbender and he had just played Steve Jobs. That’s the thing, as an actor, we’re not here to make judgments. You can’t go judging a character and then go play him because you’re not going to be open and honest and true to that character. So we need to be open first and find the positive in Steve Jobs or Branch or whoever it is that you’re playing. My guy on “24,” he happens to be gay. So I need to be open and honest and explore that in terms of the character. I don’t make any judgments on the fact that he’s gay.

TrunkSpace: The book also honors your dog Gauge and you discuss the loss of his passing in extremely honest detail that any animal lover will recognize. Animals, especially dogs, seem to have their spiritual groove down. In your opinion, are they spiritually enlightened or are they just not bogged down with all of the human BS that we carry around?
Chase: Yeah. I think they’re definitely not bogged down with all of the BS that we carry. For sure. It’s true unconditional love. Obviously Gauge had a huge impact on my life and I was crushed when he moved on. He continues to be a part of our lives. I named my son after him and it’s how my wife and I met and so Gauge lives on through us. We now have a Golden named Blue who is just terrific. Blue used to not leave my side and now he follows the babies crawling around the house. He just wants to watch over his little pack. So, to answer your question… I do believe it’s true love and that they’re just not bogged down with the things that we are.

TrunkSpace: Do you have another book in you?
Chase: Yes! Not right away, but as we stay on this path, it’s gotten really interesting the last couple of years with the babies. I think it will just continue to get better and I’ll have more to say. I had a great time writing the book and I’m really enjoying the interaction with the fans. Now we get to connect on a level that was unheard of ten years ago with all of the social media outlets and interaction. It’s been really rewarding for me to be able to engage with them on that level.

TrunkSpace: Can you tell us a little bit about “24: Legacy” and what we can expect moving forward?
Chase: Yeah. The last couple of weeks have been awesome because we’re in the thick of it and out in the field. The clock’s ticking and there’s bombs. There were missiles last night! (Laughter) An explosion on the bridge. We only got four to go, so here we are kind of on the tail end of the season a little bit. Hats off to the producers because I think they just kind of keep upping the bar every week and the show is actually getting better. I’m excited to see the last few. I haven’t seen them yet. And knock on wood for a season 2!

Purchase “Spiritual Gangsta” here.

“24” airs Mondays at 8 PM.

Bailey Chase in “24: Legacy”
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