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Wingman Wednesday

Antonique Smith

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Antonique Smith joined the cast of “Luke Cage” in Season 2 as Nandi Tyler, a detective who has a complicated past with fellow officer Misty Knight, played by Simone Missick. As the layers of their relationship are peeled away, more and more of Nandi’s true intentions are revealed, creating a fascinating dynamic in an already fascinating series.

A Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter and accomplished actress who kicked off her career on Broadway as Mimi Marquez in “Rent,” the New Jersey native is ecstatic to have joined the Marvel Universe, and although Nandi isn’t part of the original comic book world, there is an interesting future for the character should viewers get to see more of her in Season 3 and beyond.

We recently sat down with Smith to discuss prophetic journal entries, the joys of playing a real badass, and why her career took various left turns instead of a single predetermined right.

TrunkSpace: All of the “Luke Cage” Season 2 episodes are now out there and being absorbed by fans all over the world. What has the experience been like for you thus far?
Smith: It’s been amazing. Back to back, within like 10 days, the show is up and everybody is going crazy over that, and then the next thing, the “Strong Black Lead” campaign dropped Sunday and it’s just been a beautiful week. Lots of love. It’s been really wonderful.

TrunkSpace: What’s the overall Marvel ride been like for you, from finding out you’re becoming a part of the universe to where you are today?
Smith: I’m a big Marvel fan. I think Marvel does it the best. I didn’t grow up really knowing most of their superheroes. I knew Spider-Man, but a lot of the other ones I didn’t know growing up, so for them to be able to come in the last 10 years, and not only introduce new superheroes, but billion dollar franchises… the quality of how they consistently make everything, from the movies to also the TV shows, is incredible. And so, I have just had goosebumps this whole time since I found out. It’s incredible. And then for us to come right on the heels of “Black Panther” is… it’s just had such meaning and is just beautiful.

I honestly wrote in my journal early last year, like in January. You know how you do kind of your New Year’s resolutions and you go through the year, and two of the things that I wrote down were, “I want to join the Marvel family” and “I want to join the Netflix family.” And I wrote it on two separate lines. So months later, I guess about six months later, I had joined the Marvel and the Netflix family at the same time, which is crazy.

TrunkSpace: They merged into one line!
Smith: Yeah. So people. write it down! Write it down, ’cause stuff comes true.

TrunkSpace: What’s is so interesting about Marvel as a company and why they have such success across the board is because they treat each project as its own thing. Each one has a unique feel and tone, and certainly “Luke Cage” falls into that game plan because it doesn’t feel like any of the other shows.
Smith: It does not. It has its own unique feel and I love it. I was a fan of the first season. I honestly think as amazing as the first season was, I think this season is even better. I think the characters and the storyline… everybody just brought their A-games and it was just so amazing.

TrunkSpace: And your character Nandi didn’t exist in the comic books. Did that give you freedom to make her your own?
Smith: It did actually. It did. It gave me freedom to play around and decide more how I wanted her to be and less necessarily having to stick to what the fans were gonna already expect based on her having been in the comic books already. So, it was fun. I got to kind of be creative with it.

TrunkSpace: There’s always that intense pressure when someone is cast as a well-known character, where immediately people are second-guessing the decision. “Is she right? Can she pull it off?”
Smith: Right. Well, I had to deal with that when I played Faith Evans in “Notorious.” The whole world knew who she was. So, there was definitely that pressure of nailing it and trying to be as authentic as possible so that the fans would be happy, because as you can see, when people don’t like what you did or they don’t feel you nailed it, they will go at you so hard and it’s like, “Oh my God!” (Laughter) So, I actually have already experienced that and, thankfully, that went well too. Everybody loved it. But, yeah, I’m glad I didn’t have to deal with that this time, although I look forward to that challenge in the future. If playing somebody or something comes up… I don’t mind that challenge. But it was cool not to have to do it.

TrunkSpace: And on the opposite side of that coin, what must be interesting is because fans don’t know who Nandi is or where her future ends up, they’re probably more curious of where her storyline is going to take her.
Smith: Right. That is very true. Everybody who has seen this season and seen what happens with my character, they’re still like, “If there’s a Season 3, I wonder what’s gonna happen with you in Season 3.” They’re already speculating about my future.

TrunkSpace: Well, if you do come back, things have been set up in a way that you’re going to return making a serious statement!
Smith: (Laughter) Yes! Yes! I look forward to that, coming back strong.

Smith with Justin Swain in “Luke Cage”

TrunkSpace: We know that you also come from the world of music, and with “Luke Cage” dropping all at once, is it a bit like putting an album out?
Smith: Yeah. It’s all there. Everybody can consume it at their leisure and enjoy it in whatever way. Some people want to stick to that watch-an-episode-a-week type thing, and then other people watch the whole thing in one day. So, it’s kind of like you put it out there, you give it your all, and then people just discover it and love it. And that’s been what’s happening the last few days. It’s crazy how many people have seen the whole thing already.

TrunkSpace: It’s always a surprise when you’re sitting down to get started watching something brand new, and tons of people have already finished the entire thing.
Smith: Right! It came out, like, Friday night… well, Friday morning in the middle of the night, and by Friday evening, a lot of people had already seen it.

TrunkSpace: Which is a testament to the show and the cast. “Luke Cage” is engaging people and capturing their attention.
Smith: Very true. Very true.

TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, what was it about inhabiting Nandi that you enjoyed most?
Smith: Well, let me just say, she’s badass, but there’s a lot about Nandi that is not like me. Honestly, based on everything I’ve done, you get to see a whole different side of me. The interactions and some of the stuff that I get into is stuff that none of my fans have ever seen me do before. And my family. Everybody was like, “Oh my God!” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: And Nandi comes in strong, too. Who she is and what she is all about is sort of established almost immediately.
Smith: Very, very strong. That’s one of the things that was really fun about playing her. She’s such a badass. She’s very confident and she clearly holds a grudge. Misty has been riding high on Season 1, with her “Misty Vision,” and then she’s weak and vulnerable and so Nandi takes that moment to come on in and move her right out of the way.

Netflix/Strong Black Lead Campaign

TrunkSpace: You’ve had so many great moments over the course of your career. Are they moments that you can rank and compare, or, because you’ve come from so many different aspects of the industry, is it more like apples and oranges?
Smith: Yeah, it is a little bit like apples and oranges… kinda, sorta. The thread that kind of combines all of the stuff that I do is my passion and using my emotions. With this I, obviously acting is all about using your emotions, but so is singing. Maybe not for all singers, ’cause not all singers are singing about stuff that requires… it depends on the genre, depends on the kind of singing. But I come from that kind of big voice, diva, rooted in church place. And that’s all about passion and emotion and when I sing, I’m looking in people’s eyes and I’m trying to really touch them.

And that’s what we’re doing with TV and film. We’re really trying to touch you in some way, whether it’s making you laugh or making you cry or making you think. My music is the same. That’s the goal of both is to make you feel things.

I really just am spending my life trying to make people feel and hoping that maybe it heals them, or it gives them an escape from the, “Oh my God!” craziness we’re all living in. It’s so crazy. I think what we’re doing, with things like “Luke Cage” and the arts in general, is so necessary, because people need a way out of their current reality for at least a few minutes.

TrunkSpace: Finally, Antonique, if you could sit down with your younger self, the girl who was dreaming of the industry from afar, would she be surprised by how your career has played out?
Smith: Yeah, she would be surprised, because she would have had her own plan of how it was supposed to go – how little Antonique thought it was supposed to go. I was supposed to be a big singer first, and then acting would come second, so the fact that the pathway kind of made its own deviations from little Antonique’s plans, that would have been the surprise. I wouldn’t have been surprised at just being successful, in general, because I always believed that this was what I was supposed to do and that I was supposed to really touch the world with the different gifts that I felt I had been blessed with. So, that part wouldn’t have been a surprise to little Antonique, but definitely how it’s all happening.

TrunkSpace: So, it’s not the fact that you’ve gotten here, it’s that you took a left instead of a right?
Smith: Exactly. A lot of lefts. A lot of lefts instead of rights, for sure.

Season 2 of “Luke Cage” is available now on Netflix.

 

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Wingman Wednesday

Justin Swain

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Photo By: Jason Setiawan

As the title character from the Netflix series “Luke Cage,” Mike Colter brings a charismatic swagger to every scene he inhabits, but it is the supporting cast of characters who surround the hero with the unbreakable skin that helps to create such a unique and engaging world. With Season 2 recently dropping, fans of the Marvel Universe are getting an extended look at many of those characters, including Detective Bailey, played to likable perfection by Justin Swain.

We recently sat down with Swain to discuss finding his place in the Marvel Universe, understanding the complexity of its continuity, and why as an actor he’s always trying to be the best blue possible.

TrunkSpace: When a full season of a series that you’re starring in drops all on one day, is that a different experience than being a part of a show that releases a new episode week after week?
Swain: Yeah, it’s like having a gigantic movie explode over a weekend… all at once. It’s pretty crazy. It’s quite an event.

TrunkSpace: Because it’s within the Marvel Universe and part of a world where fans are so involved in every aspect of the storytelling, they must also always be looking for small details that even you might not expect them to be looking for?
Swain: Yeah. The response so far has been just incredible. People have been reaching out, on Instagram and everything, just picking up, like you said, on the little details along the way, showing how much they like it, and also at the same time, asking questions about the plot. I’m like, “You’ve got to keep watching. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen at the end. I’m not going to tell you what’s going on with Nandi, or what’s going to happen over the year with Misty. You’ve got to keep watching.” (Laughter) But it’s cool, the interaction on social media as people get into it over the weekend, has been really neat to watch.

TrunkSpace: When you step back and let it sink in, is it still sort of a pinch me moment to be able to say that you’re a part of the Marvel Universe?
Swain: Yeah. The whole thing, the whole ride of this, it has been extraordinary. Becoming a part of it, not knowing in the beginning what I was auditioning for, not knowing what I was getting into, seeing it grow, and then being able to work with such incredible people, it’s a real special experience. The way the people receive “Luke Cage” particularly, is flattering, and you also feel like you’re part of something really unique. That’s kind of what this whole weekend was about. We did the big launch premiere party on Thursday night. We got to watch an episode, and all the artists who performed at Harlem’s Paradise were performing at the premiere party, and there was the red carpet and everything… it was just overwhelming, and a pretty unique and fascinating experience.

TrunkSpace: What’s really cool, especially on the TV side of what Marvel’s doing, is that each project has its own feel and tone. Although they all go together, they all feel separate. Not to take anything away from the other shows, but “Luke Cage” really has a unique vibe to it, something that is entirely its own.
Swain: Yeah, not taking anything away from the other shows, but you’re right, I think they each have their own personality, and “Luke Cage” has a swagger, man. I think they use that word a few times when you’re watching it, and I think you can feel that swagger watching the show in the way that it’s put together, and the way you watch it. It almost has this kind of really cool retro feel to it – a little bit of a ‘70s vibe. If you watch closely, through the whole season, there’s a few different homages to a lot of those great ‘70s films and other filmmakers. If you really pay attention you can see specific shots. There’s something that happens at the end of the season that’s a direct homage to a great, great film, and a very specific moment. I think they use it so well. Props to the director, and to Cheo (Hodari Coker), and everybody putting that together.

TrunkSpace: You’re a writer as well. Can you appreciate just how much continuity the Marvel creators have to juggle, not only with the “Luke Cage” world, but for the overall Marvel Universe?
Swain: Yeah, as a writer, like you said, you look at everything you have to balance out, and so many different elements that you have to look at, make sure are represented, and maintain. You’re also balancing against a larger Marvel Universe. The amount of work and effort and planning that goes into that, and then to have it all coordinated from the top down by Jeph Loeb – he is the top of the pyramid – in the television world, to be able to do what they do, at the level they do it, it’s not easy. They make it look easy, and that’s what’s really cool about what they’re able to do.

TrunkSpace: And so when you first signed on, you didn’t know that Detective Bailey would be involved in the larger, longer overall story?
Swain: That’s right, it was like “The Princess Bride.” You’d go and you’d shoot an episode and, “Good night, Westley, sleep well. I may have to kill you in the morning.” (Laughter) That’s what it was like going to work, and luckily they kept bringing Bailey back. They were digging what I was putting on screen I guess, and also just the interaction with the rest of the cast. Every time they brought me back, I was like, “This is a privilege to be here.” And then to be able to take it into the second season, and to have Bailey change as much as he did, that was just the coolest gift, as well. I loved how they changed him, I loved what they did with him.

Photo By: Jason Setiawan

TrunkSpace: So knowing then what you know now, would you still have approached your performance of Bailey in the early going the same way?
Swain: I think that with more and more information, it’s good to be able to put that together, but Bailey himself as a character is learning about the world of this superhero almost in real time. It’s the same thing. That was an origin story, so Bailey was learning about it as it went. Again, it’s a testament to the writers, the natural evolution is for him to do what he does in the second season. You always want those little details that change up your performance. You can always look back, “Oh, if I only knew then what I know now,” but I think that’s in life, also. I like where they took it. What’s cool is, I think it’s a back and forth. I think it’s a dialog, whether you know you’re having it or not, with the writers’ room in some way, where I’m doing something one day on set, and maybe they see something they can build on or maybe they don’t, but hopefully they do and then they build on it and it comes out of the kernel of the character that you brought anyway. I think it’s a testament to them that they picked up on that, and they built it, and I followed their lead.

TrunkSpace: Does acting on a successful show like “Luke Cage” equate to more opportunities in your career as a writer and producer? Do the two help each other out?
Swain: I think that those worlds are quite separate in the entertainment industry. I think the biggest success that comes out of that is, each art form informs each art form. It’s like you’re looking at things as an actor and you say, “Okay, I know I’m playing my role here, and I know this is the approach to the character.” Well that informs how you’re writing multiple characters if you do get the opportunity to write something for a different program or a different show. The way you interact as an actor, you can transfer that when you’re writing characters. You’re playing those characters as you write them, and then vice versa, where it’s like you know when you’re writing something how everything fits, and it plays its own part in that gigantic puzzle piece. That helps me think as an actor, look at it and say, “Okay, what’s my puzzle piece in this particular project?”

It’s like painting, right? You mix together all these colors, you make something beautiful. When you’re an actor it’s like you’re going to be the best color blue you possibly can be, because that’s the part you play in the gigantic portrait. In that case you’re like, “Okay, I’m going to be the best color blue in this particular painting.” So I think the art forms inform and help each other, and helps you learn and grow as an overall artist.

Season 2 of “Luke Cage” is available now on Netflix.

Follow and interact with Swain on Instagram here.

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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

Lillian Lim

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Photo By: Shimon

Human beings are creatures of comfort and habit. When we fall into a rhythm, we tend to keep the beat until forced from our self-induced song, which is why it is so impressive that Lillian Lim decided to pursue her dream of becoming an actor decades after most individuals make that commitment to themselves.

At age 61, following a successful career as a dentist and another dream-worthy pursuit as a fashion designer, the Vancouver native decided to refocus on the creative arts nearly a lifetime after the acting bug first bit her while visiting the theater as a little girl with her mother. Now almost 66, she is experiencing a career-defining moment starring in the drama “Meditation Park,” which is currently available on Netflix.

We recently sat down with Lim to discuss the shelf life of a movie in the streaming age, the shelf life of an actor of a certain age, and how her faith and family has guided her on her path to pursuing her dreams.

TrunkSpace: Your new film “Meditation Park” was released on Netflix back in March. As a performer, do you feel that streaming platforms like Netflix extend the shelf life of projects? Will a film like “Meditation Park” have a better chance at finding an audience in a place where viewers have full control over what they consume?
Lim: Streaming platforms like Netflix absolutely extend the shelf life of projects. It makes it easier for audiences to access films in the comfort of their own homes at a time convenient to them and allows them to watch it multiple times with family and friends in a relatively inexpensive way.

TrunkSpace: As far as experiences go, what will you take from your time working on the film?
Lim: Mina Shum is a genius of a director. I have learned so much from her about how to use my voice, gestures and facial expressions to convey subtle emotions to the audience. An actor often interprets the scene a certain way that may not necessarily be the same as the director. Mina has a very specific vision of how each scene should be played. Understanding exactly what she wanted the audience to feel helped me to adjust my interpretation and play the scene accordingly.

TrunkSpace: You play Anita in “Meditation Park.” What did you enjoy most about inhabiting this particular character and was finding who she was an easy journey?
Lim: I loved the role of Anita because she is so much like me – loud, boisterous, bossy and fearlessly protective of those whom she cares about. She is quick to anger but also compassionate and willing to admit it (albeit reluctantly) when she has made a mistake. It’s funny because when I went for a costume fitting, almost 90 percent of what they asked me to try on was hanging in my own closet at home. We have the same outrageous taste in clothes and we are always out for bargains in Chinatown and at Value Village (the American equivalent of the SallyAnn or the Salvation Army for used clothing).

TrunkSpace: How do you generally go about discovering new characters? Is there a routine that you go through… a process… when you’re cast in any given project?
Lim: I am almost 66 years old. I think I have gone through as many experiences as one could in a lifetime. When I began I thought that acting would be easy, that the ability to act was innate in everyone, like breathing or walking. I didn’t realize how bad an actor I was until I took Crystal Lowe’s acting classes. She taught me how to truly be “in the moment” – how to reach deeply into my own experiences in life to dig out what the character was feeling in that moment – not how to play the character, but how to be the character.

TrunkSpace: We read that your mother was an avid movie fan. Do you think that being exposed to the arts at a young age is a part of what put you on a path to becoming an actress?
Lim: I was thrilled whenever my mother took me to watch the Chinese movies in Chinatown, especially if Fung Bo Bo (the Chinese equivalent of Shirley Temple) was starring in it. She was my age so I often replayed her character in scenes with friends on the block. Most of the Chinese movies were tragedies and I thought the actors must have some kind of superpower to be able to make the audience weep so uncontrollably – that’s when the acting bug bit me. I believe many people have an inkling of what their passion is from a very young age.

TrunkSpace: Ultimately you didn’t pursue acting until much later in life. Why did you wait to go after your dreams and do you regret not having reached for those personal stars earlier in life?
Lim: Although I never voiced my desire to become an actor to my parents I knew they disapproved of acting as a profession because they didn’t believe it was very financially stable and that it involved a lifestyle mired in infidelity and alcoholism. So they advised me to become a pharmacist. After three years I found that pharmacy was not my calling so I considered returning to university to study medicine but my brother, an anesthetist, said that if one of my patients died, I would become devastated and blame myself. He advised me to become a dentist because it was much more difficult to kill a patient as a dentist. I think that whatever you do in life is never a waste of time because you always learn from it. I think it is more of a waste of time to regret what you’ve done because you can’t change the past. You can only change the future. You should use what you’ve learned from your past to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. I believe that having not been an actor most of my life has allowed me to be a better actor today.

TrunkSpace: You were a dentist for 27 years before pursuing fashion design and acting. For all of those adults reading this who are wondering how they can hit the restart buttons on their careers, what advice would you give to them in taking that first leap and seeing their dreams become a reality?
Lim: I have been extremely fortunate in my life that the good Lord has always provided me with supportive people. My mother supported me in becoming a dentist. Then my husband and three daughters supported me in becoming a fashion designer and an actor. Because I am a retired dentist I do not have to pursue acting for financial gain. I do it purely for the passion. I don’t envy those young actors who have to worry about paying for rent, food, clothing, acting classes, transportation, and finding jobs which have the flexibility of allowing for time to go to auditions. But no matter how difficult it may seem to you in the moment, you should never give up your dreams. Take acting classes from reputable teachers, volunteer to do student films so you can showcase your acting ability in your demo reel, apply to reputable casting agencies, have consideration for your fellow actors and help each other out. If you believe in yourself, if you have faith and pray for guidance, it will happen.

TrunkSpace: It’s a difficult career to break into for anybody, but when attempting to do so later in life, there must be plenty of naysayers who are there tell you that it’s not possible. Did you experience others trying to stand in the way of your dreams and if so, how did you block out all of that noise to remain focused on your goals?
Lim: Many of my friends said I was crazy to pursue a career in fashion design at the age of 58. The same ones said I was crazy to become an actor at 61. They all laughed. But I followed my heart because I felt the Lord gives each of us a gift to serve the world and this was His gift to me. And He gave me a husband and three daughters who believed in me. And that gave me the strength to believe in myself.

TrunkSpace: What is it that you love about acting? What makes this profession the one that excites you most of all?
Lim: What I love about acting is the challenge of becoming so many different personalities and making these characters real to the audience. Acting allows me to morph into someone else.

TrunkSpace: What are your long-term goals when it comes to acting? Is there a best case scenario in your mind or are you riding the wave that life brings forth and landing at whatever shore it crashes into?
Lim: My long-term goal is to be recognized for my craft as a good actor. I am not after fame or fortune. I hope to put whatever monetary success I may achieve to good use – give back to the world for the many blessings that the Lord has given me. One of my favorite sayings is from the Dalai Lama – “Service to others is the rent you pay for the room you have here on earth.” I believe that we are put here on this earth to serve those in need. That is why I volunteer to serve dinner and bring homemade desserts to Gospel Mission in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, B.C.

Meditation Park” is available now on Netflix.

Featured image by: Shimon

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The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale

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Series: The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale

Where To Watch: Netflix

Starring: Joel McHale, Paul Feig, Brad Stevens

Reason We’re Watching It: If you’re like us, you were sad to see the day when E! drained the broth on “The Soup.” Joel McHale’s weekly look at pop culture in all of its hilarity was a bright beacon of laughter at the end of a long work week. Well, our entertainment prayers have finally been answered thanks to Netflix! McHale is back with a weekly show on the streaming service that is pretty much just like “The Soup” but perhaps with a wider spectrum of material to mine for comedy gold.

What It’s About: McHale takes a look at the week in pop culture and delivers a comedic take on reality shows, news programs, scripted TV series and more. You can pretty much guarantee there will be a celebrity guest or two on each show, especially if they’re also involved with a Netflix show they are looking to plug.

Whoah! Rewind That!: In Episode 6 of the first season, McHale had Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant on the show for a guest spot that had us cracking up. There was a great play on words using the movies that Olyphant and Barrymore had been in that you just have to watch to appreciate. It might make you… “Scream 2.” (See, scream as well.)

Watercooler-Worthy Tidbit: An interesting side note, McHale is also on the Netflix series “Santa Clarita Diet” playing a rival real estate agent opposite Olyphant, whose character’s name just so happens to be Joel.

And that’s why we’re giving it…

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Everything Sucks!

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Series: Everything Sucks!

Where To Watch: Netflix

Starring: Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Peyton Kennedy, Patch Darragh, Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako, Quinn Liebling, Elijah Stevenson, Rio Mangini, Sydney Sweeney

Creators: Ben York, Michael Mohan

Reason We’re Watching It: Not to pop culturally carbon date some of our staff, but some (if not all) may have worn Dr. Martens and flannel while listening to Oasis and Pearl Jam during art class in high school. “Everything Sucks!” takes a retrospective look at what it’s like to be an awkward, creative teen while attending high school circa 1990-something. It’s a comedy full of heart, not only from the perspective of the students, but the parents as well. You’ll be laughing one minute and fighting back tears of happiness the next.

What It’s About: The show is a teenage dramady set in the ‘90s. It’s a tale of not fitting in, first loves, new loves, creativity and trying to find your place in life during those awkward high school years. The series focuses much of its attention on Luke (Winston) as he tries to woo Kate (Kennedy), the principal’s daughter. Meanwhile their parents find a mutual affection for one another and bond over past experiences and life as single parents.

Whoah! Rewind That!: There is a scene where Luke recreates all of the iconic ‘90s music videos and syncs it to “Wonder Wall” by Oasis. This is all done in a creative, heartfelt attempt at asking Kate to be his girlfriend.

Watercooler-Worthy Tidbit: The scene that takes place at a Blockbuster video store was shot at only one of 10 remaining brick and mortar stores still in operation. Unfortunately, it closed at the end of 2017. R.I.P. Blockbsuter. We will always be kind and rewind!

And that’s why we’re giving it…

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Ash vs Evil Dead

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Series: Ash vs Evil Dead

Where To Watch: Season 3 is currently airing on Starz. New episodes premiere every Sunday. Seasons 1 and 2 can also be streamed on Netflix.

Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ray Santiago, Dana DeLorenzo, Lucy Lawless, Lee Majors

Creators: Ivan Raimi, Sam Raimi, Tom Spezialy

Reason We’re Watching It: We are not only fans of the “Evil Dead” franchise as a whole, but we’re also fans of Bruce Campbell, Lucy Lawless, and now, Dana DeLorenzo and Ray Santiago. The cast of this show is reason enough to tune in, so it’s a boomstick bonus that every episode is packed with laugh-out-loud moments and gruesome gore that would make Greg Nicotero cringe. There is not a show out there right now that delivers on the consistent humor, action and horror in the way that this instant cable classic does.

What It’s About: The TV series jumps ahead 30 years from when we last saw Ash Williams (Campbell) in the film trilogy. Stuck living in the past, regaling his co-workers Pablo (Santiago) and Kelly (DeLorenzo) with tales of his Deadite-filled backstory, Ash’s serenity is soon dashed as evil once again rears its ugly head and forces him to oil up the ol’ chainsaw for some slashing and thrashing.

Whoah! Rewind that!: Much like how that chip jingle goes, Once you pop, you can’t stop; once you start watching “Ash vs Evil Dead,” you won’t be able to stop reliving the many horrific, eye-popping moments. To pick a memorable one in the first episode of Season 3, we had to go with Ash stomping harpsichord strings through a Deadite’s face, splitting it into several slices. This scene gave a whole new meaning to the phrase… slice of life.

Watercooler-Worthy Tidbit: Bruce Campbell and Lucy Lawless have acted together before on the fan-favorite fantasy shows “Hercules” and “Xena.” Campbell played a charming, wise-cracking thief known as Autolycus while Lawless, very obviously, portrayed Xena.

And that’s why we’re giving it…

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Wingman Wednesday

Byron Mann

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Photo By: Diana Ragland

Byron Mann is on one heck of a project run, but he’s the first to admit that it wasn’t planned. In fact, he couldn’t have planned it this way if he tried.

Not only can the Hong Kong native be seen starring in the new Netflix series “Altered Carbon,” but you’ll soon be able to catch him opposite Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in the upcoming action film “Skyscraper.” Both projects’ trailers were part of the highly-anticipated Super Bowl roster of commercials, proving once again that you just can’t plan for this kind of thing.

We recently sat down with Mann to discuss the reason “Altered Carbon” feels more like a film than a television series, why it won’t be easy for other networks to duplicate, and the place he often finds himself engaged in character work.

TrunkSpace: “Altered Carbon” seems like such an ambitious show, especially by television/streaming standards. Just the visuals… the sets… they’ve really built an atmosphere and then dropped the characters in to inhabit it.
Mann: I didn’t realize how ambitious they were until I started training for the show, both individually and they had me work with a trainer every morning. It was pretty hard, rigorous training. Then, in the afternoon, we would train for the fight sequence in the pilot episode. We did that for like two months. Training for one fight sequence for two months – it’s pretty steep, yeah.

TrunkSpace: That’s amazing. It definitely had the feel of watching a feature film.
Mann: There’s no question that they were making a feature film. The director, Miguel Sapochnik, who won an Emmy for “Game of Thrones” last year… there was no question that his ambition was to make it that. I mean, listen, the camera that they used was the ALEXA 65. That’s the same camera used for “The Revenant,” the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio. That camera is only used for widescreen display of the image, like in a movie theater. It’s never ever been used for a TV show. He chose to use this camera for this television show, this streaming show, I should call it. The ambition was clearly there from the get-go to make it feature film quality. When you see the first episode, you’ll see very clearly that it is a feature film presentation.

TrunkSpace: Maybe that’s why the sets and world stood out so much to us, because of the widescreen display.
Mann: Yeah. Of course, when we’re filming, you don’t really feel it. I can tell, not only from filming, but actually from the preparation, the training and rehearsals going into it, that obviously the sets were… they built a new world basically. They built a studio for the series. They converted a printing mill into a studio in Vancouver. It’s called the Skydance Studios, and Skydance owns it. I don’t know how to describe it. They weren’t making another “CSI.” They were making a groundbreaking show, from the ground up.

TrunkSpace: Which sort of calls out other networks. Executives at all of these other networks are going to be saying, “We need our own ‘Altered Carbon’.”
Mann: Oh man, that’s easier said than done. You can’t just duplicate that overnight. You can’t. It’s so hard making anything these days. It’s hard making a television show. It’s hard making a feature film. Not only do you have to make a show like that, then you have to make it a super duper outside-the-box, groundbreaking show. Forget about it. You can’t even plan it. A lot of things that came into being. There’s Laeta Kalogridis. She wrote “Terminator Genisys,” “Shutter Island.” She’s the leading science fiction writer in Hollywood. “Alita: Battle Angel,” the movie that is coming out from Robert Rodriguez… I mean, she’s it. She’s the Steven Spielberg of writers. Then Miguel Sapochnik, who was the executive producer and also directed the first big episode, which took 30 days to shoot. So you have a lot of these things coming together to make this kind of a show.

It’s like the Patriots – it’s a lot of things coming into one. Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and Gronk. The reality is, in football terms, you can’t even duplicate that. Where are you going to get another dynasty? If one of them leaves? If Brady leaves?

I’m very honored, very humbled to happen to be a part of this. It’s awesome.

TrunkSpace: When you signed on, did you dive into the source material, Richard K. Morgan’s 2002 book, to see what came before?
Mann: No. When I first started, I talked to Laeta Kalogridis, the showrunner. She said, “Don’t read the book.” So I didn’t. I just read the script, and I had many, many hours of sitting down with her alone, and just asking her questions like, “What’s going on? What happened?” It’s a new world with new terminology, a new technique of how things work. It’s like “Blade Runner.” It’s a brand new world. Believe it or not, I think 50 years from now, I think our lives will be very close to what we see in “Altered Carbon.” It’s predicated on this premise, that everyone has a “stack,” like a gift in their vertebrae. All humans have this gift. Even if your outer body dies, you can go resave yourself again. As I understand, they’re heavily invested in this technology right now, as we speak.

TrunkSpace: So when you’re playing in the sandbox of a whole new world with new terminology and techniques on how things work, does it allow you to take a different approach to performance than you would with something set in modern day New York, for example?
Mann: Not really. As an actor, when you’re doing a scene, you just want to find out the questions. “Who are you? What do you want? What’s happening in the scene?” It’s still human emotions. No matter how sci-fi everything gets, the baseline is still dealing with very basic human emotions – love, jealousy, desire, power – all that.

Mann in “Altered Carbon”

TrunkSpace: Between “Altered Carbon” and the projects you have due up, you’re getting to work in a lot of different genres. As an actor, is it a treat to get to play in so many different types of projects?
Mann: Yeah, I guess it’s fun. It doesn’t really faze me too much. After playing so many different characters, I think it’s all… the stuff I said earlier, it applies to every single project. Basically, you find out who you are, what you’re doing here, and what are you trying to do? That hasn’t changed from the ’70s and the ’60s, when you had movies like “The Graduate,” or “Serpico,” or “The French Connection.” And now with “Altered Carbon,” it’s still the same thing. Especially for an actor, it’s just you playing in an emotion.

TrunkSpace: Is that the personal draw for you as an actor, the discovery of finding out who a character is?
Mann: Yeah. Sometimes you find it on the tape, when you’re filming. That’s gold, if you actually discover that.

TrunkSpace: Are you someone who looks at someone sitting in a coffee shop or in line at the grocery store and breaks down who they are? Do you have those storyteller moments where you’re trying to discover “characters” even in real life?
Mann: Well, it can hit you anytime – character thoughts can hit you anytime. Once you’re thinking about it, it’s in your subconscious. For me, I’ll tell you when it hits me, it hits me when I’m taking a shower. Sometimes I’m in the shower a long time, and you think about these things.

TrunkSpace: We can totally see that. No distractions. No cell phones. Just you and your thoughts.
Mann: Yeah, and the water is warm, hopefully. When you’re under warm water, your body relaxes. When you’re relaxed, a lot of good things happen to you. I’ve thought about that. I said, “Why do I have these great thoughts when I think in the shower?” It’s usually because your body is really relaxed.

TrunkSpace: You had two trailers for projects you’re in run during the Super Bowl. One was for “Altered Carbon,” and the other was for “Skyscraper,” starring Dwayne Johnson. Not too shabby for the most watched television event of the year!
Mann: Yeah, no kidding. Like I said, you can’t plan for this stuff. You just can’t. You just have to go along life’s journey, do the best you can, and then life will kind of find your way towards these things.

Altered Carbon” is available now on Netflix.

Skyscraper” arrives in theaters July 13.

Mann can also be seen returning to SyFy’s “The Expanse” later this year and the upcoming Blumhouse thriller “Only You.”

Featured image by: Diana Ragland

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Wingman Wednesday

Hiro Kanagawa

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Photo By: Kristine Cofsky

While we used to look forward to “tentpole” films rolling into our local cineplexes every summer, now we can see the same production quality, marque names, and multi-layered world building appearing on our televisions every night, holding up the pop culture tent with poles steeped in rich, complex storytelling. In fact, it’s starting to feel like a new, highly-anticipated series premieres every week, and for those of us addicted to the binge, it’s a great time to consume.

The new Netflix sci-fi thrillfest “Altered Carbon” is the kind of show that not only has us excited, but it could very well usher in a new dawn of big-budgeted event series. Adapting a project like this, based on the 2002 novel by Richard Morgan, for anywhere other than a movie theater would have been completely unheard of even a decade ago. The cost alone to bring the futuristic, effects-filled story to life would have scared off every executive from network to cable, but now it seems, much like the technology that makes a show like this possible, the sky is the limit.

We recently sat down with “Altered Carbon” star and one of our favorite character actors Hiro Kanagawa to discuss how he brings his memorable characters to life, why the series could be a game changer for the industry, and the rock ‘n’ roll dream that still pecks away at him.

TrunkSpace: First thing’s first…we love us some you! Your work is always so rich in character and the choices you make with those characters are extremely memorable. What is your approach to tapping into a new character and making him your own?
Kanagawa: Thanks for the kind words. Acting is an ephemeral activity, even when captured on film, so it’s great to know that some of what I do is memorable. Creating these characters really depends on the circumstance, the style and content of the script, the people around you, the specifics of the character. When I was starting out I was coming from a bit of an arty physical theater background, so I tended to work outside-in: find the voice, find the walk, find the way this guy carries himself. But in film and TV, less is more – you really have to internalize things and work inside-out because something as small as a sideways glance or an arched eyebrow can be a big, big move. Also, everybody you’re working with is coming at things from different methods and training techniques and traditions, so I’ve found the most reliable thing to do as an actor is BE IN RELATIONSHIP with your other actors and your environment. I hope audiences appreciate my work as Captain Tanaka on “Altered Carbon.” I’m proud of it, and a lot of it comes out of being in relationship with Martha Higareda’s character, Ortega.

TrunkSpace: As you mentioned, you’re set to star as Captain Tanaka in the new Netflix series “Altered Carbon.” By any standards it seems like an extremely ambitious project, but by television/streaming standards, it feels like it could be the kind of project that forces others to rethink the way that they’re doing things. As you were working on the series, did it have the feel of something that could be groundbreaking within the industry itself?
Kanagawa: Absolutely. And it’s more than blind ambition, there’s a desire, an aspiration to make something really good. I could tell everybody on this project from the top down were dedicated to getting things right. I go into my first wardrobe fitting and a few days later I have another one because they’ve re-thought things. And then another one. I walk on set on my first day and my first reaction is, “Wow.” Same thing the next day when I see another set. And so on. I get called in to rehearse on a Saturday and with input from all of us actors, the scene gets rewritten. There’s creative energy. Everybody’s involved and engaged. Nobody was mailing it in on this one.

TrunkSpace: At this point, millions of people have already viewed the trailer online and the buzz continues to build around the series. As an actor performing within a show that is generating that kind of pop culture interest, does it place you in a position to put expectations on how it will be received and accepted, and in a way, alter your life/career in the process?
Kanagawa: I do have expectations that it will be well-received. I’ve seen bits and pieces and everything I’ve seen excites me. I’ve read the scripts, of course, and being a writer myself, I have nothing but admiration for the writing. I am aware that my work here as Captain Tanaka will probably get a lot of eyeballs and I’m happy about that because I feel good about it. If this creates more opportunities for me in the future, I’m ready. Bring it on.

TrunkSpace: For those who have never read the Richard Morgan novel, can you tell us a bit about Captain Tanaka and what his journey is throughout the course of the series? What did he offer you from a performance standpoint that you have yet to tackle in a project before?
Kanagawa: The series is in the same universe and follows the same general trajectory as the first book, but it’s a major expansion of that universe. Captain Tanaka, in fact, does not appear in the novel. What I can tell you is that Tanaka is a deeply-conflicted and compromised police captain tasked with keeping law and order in a world run by an ultra-powerful elite. He’s a good man in a bad world and he can either keep his head down and do as he’s told, or he can do the right thing. As an actor, you live for characters who are conflicted in this way.

TrunkSpace: From one talked about project to the next, you’re also working on “Snowpiercer” for TNT, a series based on Bong Joon Ho’s popular 2013 film. Both “Altered Carbon” and “Snowpiercer” come with a bit of their own built-in audiences seeing that they had established fan bases in other mediums already. Is that a gift for an actor, working on something that you know people will already be lining up to see, or does it also come with its own set of pitfalls knowing that some viewers might go in with expectations already in place?
Kanagawa: I think there are instances where the fans of a known, iconic story do not want what they know and love to be messed with. I don’t think “Altered Carbon” or “Snowpiercer” will suffer from that given both projects are re-interpreting the original for a different medium. If anything, I feel an audience expectation and excitement to see what new directions both series will go in.

TrunkSpace: You’ve performed in dozens of series and films over the course of your career. Looking back, are there any characters that you wished you had more time to spend with and explore further, and if so, why?
Kanagawa: Lt. Suzuki on “iZombie”, and the Yakuza boss Okamura on “The Man in the High Castle” both met untimely ends. There was a lot more to explore with those characters.

TrunkSpace: You’ve had some great runs on fan favorite shows adored by the Comic Con crowds like those two you just mentioned, and most recently, “Legends of Tomorrow.” But one thing a lot of people might not know about you is that you also played father of the first family of comics, Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. What was that experience like, giving voice to such an iconic character?
Kanagawa: I don’t do a lot of animation, so it was a tremendous pleasure being in the room with artists who are the creme de la creme of that industry. And as an Asian actor, I thought it was fantastic that I had the opportunity to voice such an iconic non-Asian character. Reed, of course, is kind of the “straight man” in the family, so I didn’t have to move far from my natural speaking voice, but I had a great time with a couple of episodes where Reed switched bodies with Ben/The Thing as well as with Dr. Doom.

Kanagawa with Joel de la Fuente “The Man in the High Castle”

TrunkSpace: You also did an episode of “Supernatural,” which many in the fandom consider to be one of the most memorable in the series’ 13 year run. (“Changing Channels”) That got us to thinking… can you imagine yourself working on one character for such an extended period of time, in this case, 13 seasons, and is that something you would welcome?
Kanagawa: It really depends on the character I guess. I’ve been lucky to have a sustained career without being attached to a single character or show for longer than two seasons. But this is the golden age of the serial narrative and there is so much good writing out there in this medium that I would welcome the opportunity to explore a character over multiple seasons.

TrunkSpace: We read that you started your creative journey as a musician, composer, and writer. Are those areas that are still a big part of your life even as your acting career has continued to propel you forward in ways that you probably never thought possible?
Kanagawa: I am a playwright as well as an actor and I am very proud of the fact that I recently received the Governor-General’s Literary Award for Drama, one of Canada’s most prestigious literary awards. As for music, as anyone who ever played in a high school rock band will attest, I still dream of getting the band back together, taking my shirt off, and kicking some ass!

TrunkSpace: A lot of times our loves and creative outlets can end up feeling like “work” when those outlets become careers. Do you still love acting as much today as you did the first time you stepped foot on a set and began your career?
Kanagawa: I actually love it more now than ever. I feel I’m just starting to get really interesting opportunities, and that’s coming at a time when I’m starting to do my best work. All of that is extremely exciting. I’m chomping at the bit here.

TrunkSpace: Do you view the craft differently now than you did when you first began your pursuit of it?
Kanagawa: Completely. I’m always learning about myself as I journey through life. And acting is a craft you can learn so much about from watching people you’ve never met. You can watch actors who died decades ago and learn from them. You can learn from watching people at the food court at the mall. It’s endlessly, endlessly fascinating.

TrunkSpace: If someone came to you tomorrow with a blank check and said, “Hiro, go make the kind of projects that you want to make,” what would that look like? What kind of project would you develop for yourself knowing that money was not an option?
Kanagawa: Being a writer and having a couple of screenplays and series concepts, I’d use the money to get those things made. I don’t really write roles for myself, but if I had a blank check maybe I’d be tempted to write myself something. Might be tempted to write myself a part where I cross the desert, climb the mountain, and make it to the promised land.

Altered Carbon” premieres Friday on Netflix.

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Somebody Feed Phil

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Series: Somebody Feed Phil

Where To Watch: Netflix

Episodes: Season 1/Six Episodes

Starring: Phil Rosenthal (And occasionally his parents and brother.)

How Do I Know That Guy?: If Rosenthal is both unfamiliar to you and yet strikingly recognizable at the same time, it’s probably because you were a fan of the long-running sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Rosenthal created the series and it’s clear to see that star Ray Romano was channeling the mind behind it, and in the process, doing a bang up job!

Reason We’re Watching It: Yes, the dishes looks delicious, but there are a million food-meets-travel shows out there. What makes “Somebody Feed Phil” different is the heart of the host being fed. Rosenthal doesn’t only just connect with the food he’s sampling but with the people behind each meal. In a show marketed to be about food, what it ultimately becomes is a show about being human, and for us, that’s a winning recipe.

Our Favorite Episode: Like Rosenthal points out in the episode, the country of Vietnam gets a bad wrap, but between the ear to ear smiles of its people and the delectable food coming out of Saigon, this episode was both eye opening and eye edible.

We’re Inspired!: Thanks in large part to our favorite episode about Vietnam, we hunkered down in the kitchen and attempted to make our own batch of Pho, a popular Vietnamese soup. It’s now even more popular with us. Somebody thank Phil!

And that’s why we’re giving it…

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