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Marlon Correa

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Name: Marlon Correa

Hometown: Caguas, Puerto Rico

Current Location: Los Angeles, CA

TrunkSpace: When did you know that you wanted to act for a living?
Correa: Yeah, I remember a few instances but one that sticks out was a talent show for a class project I had in middle school in Garland, TX. My group choose to lip sync to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” and I remember wanting to be really good, not only for a grade but to step out of my shell a bit and try something I had never done before. And sure enough it was a hit and the class loved it and I remember this awesome feeling, I had just performed in front of people and it felt amazing and real! It was a great experience and I believe the bug bit me because after that day that’s all I could think about, well when I wasn’t playing baseball. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Was there a particular performance or actor/actress from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
Correa: Hmm. There weren’t specific actors or performances but I think it was after watching films like “The Outsiders,” “The Goonies” and “Top Gun” that I started dreaming about the adventures you can take with a character as an actor. Though Matt Dillon’s performance in “The Outsiders” was very inspiring.

TrunkSpace: How did you decide to approach your career as an actor? Did you formulate a plan of how you wanted to attack what is known for being a hard industry to crack?
Correa: I knew I wanted to go to a conservatory type setting and get my education that way. After college I stayed in New York City and it was basically a simple plan – to work as hard as I could to build a team and audition, audition, audition for Off and Off-Off Broadway productions. I knew it was a numbers game and exposure was the only way to get noticed. The plan was just to get out there and be seen. As they say, “…to build my resume.” But definitely, theater was the plan – theater led to film and television in New York.

TrunkSpace: When did you decide to move away from your home and pursue acting as a career? How old were you at the time?
Correa: Well, I left home at the age of 19 to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in NYC so that was leaving home, but I guess when I moved to Los Angeles it felt more like “leaving home” to pursue the career, and that was at age 25.

TrunkSpace: Was that move an easy transition for you initially? How long did it take you to feel at home and find a good support group of friends and peers?
Correa: I was lucky in the sense that I moved out to Los Angeles with a girlfriend and coincidentally my roommate from college in NYC had a spare room in his North Hollywood apartment with other people that I knew so I had the support group immediately. It was nice. But the transition wasn’t always smooth. Los Angeles is very different than New York city. Very different! I hated it. I started to miss NY and home, I ended up leaving town and headed back east. After a couple of years I returned, but I was better prepared and ready for the grind of the town.

TrunkSpace: What has been been your biggest break in terms of a particular role or project thus far?
Correa: I’m still working for that break but I guess booking my first network costars on “NCIS: Los Angeles” and “Ray Donovan” opened up more opportunities with casting directors. I was recently on the new CBS show “S.W.A.T” and it was the first time in a while that I did not play a uniformed cop or a firefighter, so that was awesome. I love playing different characters.

TrunkSpace: Is there a specific type of role you’d like to take on or a specific genre that you feel more at home in?
Correa: I love drama. That’s the one genre I have always felt the most comfortable with, but just recently comedy has been popping up at auditions and I really like that. It’s a bit more challenging when it comes to comedy, the rhythm has to be right, so when you’re on, it’s great!

TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength an actor/actress can have outside of acting ability itself?
Correa: I think the actor should be life experienced, as much as they can be. It will make your work that much more interesting. The better we are prepared, the easier that particular journey will be. Also, having an open mind. Flexibility.

TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your acting career? Where would you like your path to lead?
Correa: I would love to work on films during the spring and fall and then Broadway stages summer and winter. That would be the ultimate dream acting career for me. Ahhh… that would be amazing.

TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring actor/actress who is considering moving away from home to pursue their dream?
Correa: Get your education and finances in order, live life, get hurt, and get happy. Then take the plunge. Figure out what you have and what you need, then go get it. Spend time with family and friends, you will miss them. But most important of all focus, focus, focus and never, ever take yourself too serious.

TrunkSpace: Where can people (and casting directors) learn more about you?
Correa: IMDb has the most up to date info on projects as well as contact information.

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Wingman Wednesday

Jason Butler Harner

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*This feature originally ran on 7/17/2017

Great performances happen all of the time, especially in this day and age when so much quality content is just a click away. What’s more difficult to achieve is a great career with a body of work that not only improves upon itself with each new role, but that collectively elevates the projects contained within it. Jason Butler Harner has managed to achieve this career potency, seemingly without trying. His natural on-screen magnetism draws you in and never lets go. He is an actor who can say more with a look than a full page of a dialogue, a skill he has put to use in “Ray Donovan,” “Homeland,” and most recently, Netflix’s “Ozark” opposite Jason Bateman and Laura Linney.

We recently sat down with Harner to discuss the complexities of his “Ozark” character, the comfort (and discomfort) of lying in a pool of blood, and the best stages he has ever performed on.

TrunkSpace: In “Ozark” you’re playing rogue FBI agent Roy Petty. What did Roy offer in terms of interesting character elements that felt different from what we’ve seen before from other representations of FBI agents on screen?
Harner: That’s such a good question actually because I’ve seen and certainly played a lot of Feds. Every character in the series is human and conflicted in surprising ways. That’s a testament to what Bill Dubuque created and certainly what Chris Mundy and our staff of writers kept alive throughout the 10 episodes.

With Roy… his name is Roy Petty, which that tells you something… but with Roy, he has a very hard edge. Within Petty’s drive and his expertise as this focused, seasoned FBI agent (albeit complete with some dangerous, unpredictable blinders) is the fact that he has no shame. And I mean that in a good way. He doesn’t give a fuck. Okay, he may have a dash of it, but it doesn’t control him. He is unapologetic about his laser sharp intent to bring down the cartel, no matter how. He’s not interested in the protocol within an agency that is mired in bureaucracy. And, perhaps most importantly, he has ZERO shame about being a gay man, and particularly a gay man in this typically homogeneous, predominantly straight male profession. That was a revelation to me. Huge. It gets no airtime. It’s a non-entity and that is incredible. It surprised me how it exactly evolved as I got more information about him, and of course how I got to reveal more of him. Listen, I’m not an idiot, he’s definitely shutdown, particularly emotionally, in certain areas rooted in guilt and pain. And he may ultimately unlock some levels of regret that could lead to capital letter shame after this first season is over. (You’ll see why in Episodes 9 and 10.) But, for now, his primary motivation comes from so many other places, and shame is just not one of them. That was profound to witness and then make manifest.

They gave me the benefit of a backstory that would unfold much later in the series, and they told me what that story was early on.

TrunkSpace: So as a viewer we’re presented with him, but we don’t yet learn what makes him tick?
Harner: We don’t know what’s going on yet, and listen, a lot of times, and I’ve played some of them, you’re given characters that are very two-dimensional. They’re a mood. They’re very by the book, they’re very eager for a fight. They’re angry, they’re dangerous, psychotic, crazy, for example, and we don’t really explore why, so fortunately for me and for the viewers of “Ozark,” Roy is humanized. That’s my job as an actor, to create my own backstory, find reasons why, try to fill something out, flesh something out so that the producers and editors can decide whether or not they’re interested in that. Fortunately in this case, especially Chris Mundy was like, “Listen here’s what’s going on…” and it gave me something to go from.

I basically have one of those sleeper characters where he’s in it a little bit, a little bit, a little bit, and understandably anybody could think that this character is just going to be in this episode, and then he just keeps coming around and you’re like, “Oh shit, what’s going on?”

TrunkSpace: The series as a whole seems different tonally from a lot of what’s on the air today where, even in the darkest of stories, there’s some sort of comedy woven throughout. But with “Ozark” it strikes that serious tone throughout, and in the process, feels a bit like a throwback in that regard.
Harner: Yeah, especially in that first episode, it’s maintained throughout the whole thing. The color palette of the series is very specific and that was exciting. It definitely was Pepe (Avila del Pino) and Ben (Kutchins), the DPs, and Jason (Bateman) establishing the world of that tone. It was really very clear about what it was.

TrunkSpace: It felt very reminiscent of early Coen Brothers, like “Miller’s Crossing.”
Harner: I love that movie so much. Marcia Gay Harden before anybody knew Marcia Gay Harden.

TrunkSpace: One of the other cool things about the show that is sort of reminiscent of TV in general these days is that creators are showing interesting segments of the country that haven’t been spotlighted before. “Justified” in Appalachia, “True Blood” in the bayou, “Longmire” in Wyoming, and then the Ozarks here, which as far as we could recall, is a picture we’ve never seen painted in television.
Harner: It’s so true. I’m from a small town in America, raised in the suburbs of DC, and then lived in New York City for 23 years and now I live in LA, so I have a great affinity and appreciation for small town America and the fullness of America. I was just at dinner last night with some friends and they introduced us to this friend from Norway, and of course they had no idea what the Ozarks were. I was like, “Well…”

I didn’t know this when the series started and I could be getting this wrong, but the waterfront, the shoreline… there’s more shoreline of the Ozarks than in the state of California. The lakes are so big and what’s around them is so amazing. We have this last shot in the first episode, which is unbelievably beautiful and is not CGI’d at all. That’s shot from a helicopter that’s pulling away and is 100 percent the Ozarks and for real. I think it’s so amazing. (Laughter)

Jason Bateman is just the most amazing person in the world. He is the kindest and the smartest. About halfway through production he rented out a movie theater and shared with the cast and crew the first episode just to sort of be like, “Hey, just so you know this is what we’re making here in case you had any doubt. And thank you.” Which nobody else does on any other show I’ve worked on. Nobody else does that. When that last shot came on, and only a skeleton crew had been there in the Ozarks when they filmed that so only the skeleton crew knew about it, everybody just started hooting and hollering and cheering. It was really great.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned how the first season is 10 episodes in length. From a performance standpoint, does that shorter episode order benefit you as an actor because you know that the story is not going to be stretched out and that each episode will have as much character bang for the buck as possible?
Harner: Yeah, I mean, no offense to procedurals, but you’re not stuck in that format. When they say it’s going to be character-driven, in this case, they really mean it. Obviously there’s a lot of plot that happens in each episode. I remember sitting in the editing room after the second episode and I looked at Jason and said, “I cannot believe how much content we have in one hour!”

The benefit of being on a platform like Netflix and in a series like this is that you also have scenes where you can uncharacteristically sit down with a character or a couple of characters and have what would seem like a long amount of time. I have a monologue coming up, I don’t think they kept all of it, but I have this scene coming up where I’m fly fishing with a character that you’re going to meet and we were really shooting at 5 a.m. on a river in Atlanta with the fog coming up. It was so beautiful, and when you get those opportunities in your life as an actor, you think, “This is why I’m doing this. I’m in waders in the middle of a fucking river fly fishing, which I have been studying for over a month to look like I know what I’m doing, and I’m just going to tell this story and we’re going to sit here for a period of time.” Magical. For everyone too, including the viewer.

TrunkSpace: And what’s beautiful about things right now is that audiences not only expect that, they crave it. They want to see their storytelling play out in that way.
Harner: One of the things I really appreciated was that they really were not interested in the more sensationalist aspects, although there are some colorful characters and situations that happen in the series. It was, “How do we get into the nitty gritty of this family having to survive and adapt to living and completely changing their lives.” But also, be as interested in the nuance of that translation as in the larger concept of everything else happening. I always appreciate that. Jason Bateman’s attention to detail on seemingly mundane things is so good. Just silly things like, if you pick up a phone that’s not yours but you have to access it, Jason makes sure that those details are built in in some way. Those small little details, they credit the whole thing. It makes you go along with the story a little bit more and not have to add your own sort of magical realism that can happen a lot in the things that we see.

TrunkSpace: Could those little details exist in another platform? Could Jason have been able to do that on a major network?
Harner: I don’t know actually. The highest compliment that I can say in terms of my experience, and I’ve been really lucky because I’ve had some wonderful experiences on a variety of platforms, but I have never had the kind of leadership and involvement the way that I have witnessed on this production. Patrick Markey is a great creative producer. Mundy is a diplomatic showrunner. Laura is a Godsend. And Jason is a confident leader. He’s been doing this since he was 10 years old. He understands not only how every department works and how the camera works, but how the productions works. I’m sure there were tons of conversations and meetings with Netflix and MRC as it was going, everything from budget and tone and all that, but it didn’t have the micromanagement feel that a lot of other things that I’ve worked on have had, which is a road to hell paved with good intentions. A road to mediocrity. It takes the vitality out of it.

SCANDAL – “Run” – (ABC/Nicole Wilder) JASON BUTLER HARNER

TrunkSpace: We know you have a theater background and it sounds like as far as that community experience of theater goes, “Ozark” seems to have had that vibe based on the way you speak of it.
Harner: Yeah. I also recognize I’m a series regular so I have a lot more agency. When you’re a guest star, there is a certain amount where, more often than not, you sort of get in and get out, do your thing and hopefully don’t offend anyone. Our set was very inviting to everyone.

I have a joke with a couple of friends of mine who are far more successful than I am. We always talk about the “first day of school” regardless of the project. It’s always slightly nerve-wracking. I’m confident in my abilities and I’m also self-effacing, but when you have the ability to not be intimidated and to ask a question that you know you’re going to get an answer to or, even better than an answer, you might get an, “I don’t know,” that’s assuring. When you’re a guest star and you’re just there for a little bit, it’s very rare that you have the luxury of being able to ask that question.

TrunkSpace: From a performance side, is there any character from a previous series or film that you wish you had more time to spend with just because of the interesting nature of the character itself?
Harner: Yeah, there’s a number of them. Whenever my character is not killed off, I’m really excited. (Laughter) I’m personally excited from a logistics standpoint that I’m not going to be lying in a pool of blood for a period of hours, and I’m also excited for the possibility of returning to that work, of course. (Laughter)

The character on “Homeland” was such an anomaly. All of a sudden he does this violent act and then disappears, so you think, “Well, that person is still around somewhere. Could he come back?”

On “Scandal” it was a wonderful Shonda Rhimes sort of teaser where it was an episode where Kerry got kidnapped and we were in a jail and you didn’t know where we were, but you thought we were in another country. It was great. Kerry was so generous. I got killed, but I thought he was really interesting. I thought that his duplicity was particularly interesting, but then he got shot in the back of the head two episodes later and that was it. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: And there’s that pool of blood again!
Harner: There’s that pool of blood. (Laughter) It’s funny, there’s such respect in terms of the different ways that different sets deal with that… the way they shoot it. Some are very kind so you’re not actually physically in that pool of blood for a long period of time, and some don’t care. “Scandal” was very kind. “Ray Donovan” was very kind. I won’t mention the ones that maybe weren’t so kind. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: We were looking over your theater credits and saw that you have stood on so many great stages. It had us thinking, what is the best stage you’ve ever performed on?
Harner: Wow, that’s a great question. I need to really think about that. So many come to mind for different reasons so I’ll try to compartmentalize them.

I’ll tell you a personal story, and then I’ll tell you some stages that really moved me.

Jason Butler Harner as Varick in Ray Donovan (Season 3, Episode 3). – Photo: Michael Desmond/SHOWTIME – Photo ID: RayDonovan_303_821.R

When I got out of grad school and I started really performing, I went to A.C.T. in San Francisco. I did a play up in Seattle called “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” by Martin McDonagh. Great play. While I was up there, I got hired to do “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” because Garret Dillahunt pulled out, I think to do “Deadwood.” He’s a good friend of mine now, but Garret pulled out and I got short notice to go do “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” at A.C.T. in San Francisco. The Geary Theater. So “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” is obviously a classic, iconic, huge American play to have to climb. It was everything that I had been trained to do, that kind of big play, so I walked into the theater because I wanted to see The Geary. I was curious about this intimate play in a big space. I don’t know what the seat number is, but it’s got to be like 1000, and it’s three tiers and I walked in and I looked up and I just started crying because I thought, “Whoa. How am I going to do this?” And then, “I’m ready to do this.”

The other two theaters that come to mind… I did a play in the West End by Lanford Wilson, which I think is a beautiful play called “Serenading Louis.” Lanford Wilson wrote “Burn This,” which is the major play of his that people remember, but “Serenading Louis” is a tremendous play that gets shortchanged. People call it sentimental in that modern, misappropriated redefinition of melodramatic. And that’s not true. Anyway, the Donmar Warehouse is an incredibly intimate space, audience on three sides and a balcony, but the balcony is maybe at 12 feet so it’s very… it’s like an old-fashioned observing laboratory.

The last theater that I’m going to mention is one that was built and it was incredible. I did this Mike Bartlett play. I do a lot of American premieres of English and Irish plays for some reason, which I love. So it was this Mike Bartlett play called “Cock” after a cock fight, and interestingly enough, in America, the New York Times wouldn’t even print the title “Cock.” We had to call it “The Cock Fight Play.” But anyway, the set designer built a raw plywood stage in the round… a fully immersive experience for the audience. It was incredible.

What I love the most about live theater is every night is its own organism and dialogue, so you have to be incredibly alive and you are hopefully fed by the audience’s reaction, and if not, you’re working towards making them conscious and communal.

TrunkSpace: And it’s something that is only shared with those in attendance. It can’t be tweeted or forwarded or passed on.
Harner: Yeah, not to get too arty-farty about it, but I do think on some cellular level as human beings, we crave a communal experience. I love all of my devices and I love watching various storytelling through various mediums, but sometimes now you have to get tricked into having that communal experience because it’s not a part of our routine. Then when you get there, you appreciate it. Sometimes it’s like going to a wedding, a family commitment, or a church service or whatever where you think, “Oh God, I have to go…” and some of it is just about navigating how to deal with it and lots of people you don’t know. And then inevitably when you get there you have some type of experience with people around you where you are collectively witnessing or processing something. I don’t know what happens, I just know that something happens, and I appreciate that. Somehow it’s reassuring. There’s a sense of humanity, which right now, just as a side note, I am so interested in any storytelling that we can offer or create that’s encouraging humanity and compassion. It can be messy, it can be bloody, it can be a lot of things, but ultimately I feel like we have a slight responsibility in storytelling towards flexing those muscles, reminding those muscles that humanity and compassion exist right now because I feel things are getting a little disparate, you know?

“Ozark” premieres July 21 on Netflix.

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Wingman Wednesday

Jake Busey

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Photo By: Dana Patrick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Busey in The Frighteners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Freakish” season 2 is available now on Hulu.

“Ray Donovan” airs Sundays on Showtime.

Featured image by: Dana Patrick

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Wingman Wednesday

Michael McGrady

MichaelMcGrady_Wingman_wednesday
Photo By: Shimon Karmel

Michael McGrady of “Ray Donovan” and “Beyond” has seen the entertainment industry go through numerous changes throughout his storied career. Many of those changes have been improvements based on innovation, ultimately leading to what is currently being called the Golden Age of Television. Technology has advanced, making it possible to translate any concept imaginable to the screen. Storytelling itself has changed, not only becoming more realistic and gritty, but profoundly more character-driven. And with so many different platforms presenting original content to the public, the number of jobs for actors has greatly increased. But even as the positives of this prolonged revolution continue to outweigh the negatives, there is always a voice softly speaking inside the head of the nostalgic mind.

Are we moving too quickly for our own good?

We recently sat down with McGrady to discuss the continuously-evolving entertainment industry, how he would have never gotten away with so many F bombs 20 years ago, and why now, at 57, he finds himself being drawn to the past.

TrunkSpace: One of the things we love about the current TV landscape is that an actor can do a show like “Ray Donovan” and a show like “Beyond,” both at the same time and reach different audiences. It wasn’t always that way, right?
McGrady: No. Absolutely not. That’s why it’s such a fun time right now for actors. There’s so much airtime out there… so much product. My gosh, back when I started back in the 80s, I think FOX was new, believe it or not. There weren’t 500 channels. You had maybe a handful of dramas that you could do on three or four different networks and that was it. You could maybe do a film here or there… indie films weren’t even big yet during the early 80s. They were just kind of coming on the scene then. So for me now, after three decades of doing this, I had no idea the landscape would be so wide and so deep.

TrunkSpace: Back in the 80s it must have been difficult to land consistent guest spots because once you were on a show, they weren’t going to have you back to play someone else… and with so few shows on the air, the ceiling must have been low?
McGrady: Yeah. That’s absolutely true. You would do a handful of guest stars that year and unless you were a series regular on the show, that would be pretty much it. They wouldn’t ask you back. Every once in awhile there were a few shows back then like “Murder, She Wrote” and a handful of others that would ask you back if they liked you… even as different characters, believe it or not. I believe it was that as long as you allowed one or two years between the last time you did a guest spot, they would allow you to come back and do another one. Bread and butter for me was guest starring roles and I was very fortunate because I would pick up two or three decent film roles along the way during the off-season, so I was always busy. I was very lucky in that respect. But the opportunities were not nearly as vast as they are now.

TrunkSpace: Strictly from an acting perspective, the content itself must be so much more interesting now due to so much of the content on television being character-driven.
McGrady. Oh yeah. It’s funny because my wife and I were just having this conversation not too long ago and I was telling her that after being in this business for as long as I have, I have really seen some very serious, tangible changes in terms of the product. Again, going back to the 80s and earlier on in my career, television was pretty clean. It was pretty traditional, conventional, and I’d say pretty far right. I’d go so far to say even sanitized, to a certain extent. And then we started breaking some ground with “NYPD Blue” and some other shows that kind of opened the way for darker characters, darker subject matter, and stuff that had some gravitas to it. Then of course cable blew it all wide open with all of the stuff they started coming out with. “The Sopranos” of course came along and then “Six Feet Under” and then “Nip/Tuck.” We really ventured off into some different adventurous lands. Everybody had to kind of bring a different game. Writers, actors, producers… everyone who is involved in filmmaking had to up their game in order for this transformation to take place, at least on a global level like it did. It was slow, but when it happened, boy did it happen! It just snowballed pretty quickly and now you have these amazing shows like “Ray Donovan” and another show I was on called “Southland.” That was a really great show. To this day I have law enforcement personnel and firemen who come up to me and say, “That show was probably one of the most accurate depictions of law enforcement that we’ve ever seen.” They were huge fans of it and they still are because we were able to explore things in a way that dealt with real life.

I also think that reality TV had a lot to do with that too. As much as it became a bane of our existence in the beginning, it also helped to open the doors to a little more of the reality of what we’re doing and what we’re seeing. If you watched “Cops” or all of these other shows we had on TV, you can’t have anything less exciting than that when you’re doing a cop show. People won’t watch it. It has to have those realistic elements and the drama behind it, the good storytelling, and the interesting characters. We kind of cross-pollinated.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned how cable stepped in and helped to change the TV landscape, but you actually appeared on one of the first scripted cable shows, “1st & Ten.” It has to be pretty cool to think that you were a part of that seed that ultimately grew into what TV is today?
McGrady: You know, that’s interesting. I’ve never really thought about it like that. I haven’t thought about that credit in… probably since I ended it 30 years ago. (Laughter)

We kind of thought of it as soft porn at the time. (Laughter) There was a lot of T&A on that show. O.J. Simpson was one of the stars of the show. They had all of these NFL players who came on board. Yeah, they were exploring some pretty trippy subject matter, no doubt.

TrunkSpace: And yet still there’s a big difference between how they were handling storytelling then to how it is being handled now.
McGrady: Just the technology allows us to do things that we weren’t able to do back then. Cable can take you places now without all of the restrictions of the FCC and what not. It is much more exciting and much more adventurous… taking you to deep and dark places, both metaphorically and physically as well. There’s nowhere a camera can’t go now with CGI and all of those different elements. I guess every product is ripened at its own time. I look back at the stuff I did in the 80s, like “1st and Ten” and a lot of the Aaron Spelling shows and stuff, and they were kind of rather pedestrian in terms of the subjects. I look at “Ray Donovan” and my character uses F bombs every third word. (Laughter) I’m like, “Wow, I could never have gotten away with this 20 years ago.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: What’s great about a show like “Ray Donovan” is that not only is it entertaining people in the present, but it will no doubt inspire people in the future much like some of these earlier shows have done.
McGrady: Absolutely. That’s what’s exciting about it. It almost seems like every year and certainly every half decade or so that I’ve been in this business… and I can only speak from my experience… but you can watch how the technology is changing with our understanding of human nature and understanding of what a story is and what is truly interesting to us and what isn’t. Also what we are allowing ourselves to have the courage to explore about relationships, gender, sex, race, nationality… all of those things. We’ve come to a place where there really is no limit to any of it. I always think, “Gosh, I’m pretty excited about what’s going on now, but what about five years from now?” I keep telling my kids, “When Dad’s dead and gone, mark my words, you’ll have holograms and you guys won’t be going to movie theaters.” My kids are laughing at me and I’m going, “You watch!” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Well, a dad decades ago probably said something similar to his kids. “When Dad’s dead and gone, mark my words, you’ll be watching movies with sound!”
McGrady: Yeah, that guy came from my camp! (Laughter) I’m right there with him.

TrunkSpace: Things always improve when it comes to technology, but at the same time, there always seems to be a place for what came before. Vinyl is a perfect example of that.
McGrady: That’s absolutely right. I have that same philosophy. I think in many ways technology is sort of overwhelming. Let’s face it, there is a dark side or different side to every coin. Technology has been a bit of a set back for us in many ways. Look how people are texting and how nobody talks anymore. Kids don’t talk to their parents and they bring their phones to the dinner table. That technology is also separating us as well.

I love film. In fact, I have an old AV-1 Canon that I’ve been thinking about taking out. I have a really nice digital, but I’m thinking about going back to my Canon just because I actually took better pictures with it than any that I’m taking now with a high end digital. And I don’t think it’s just the technology. I think back then you had to be a lot more thoughtful about composing a photograph and getting the light and shot just right. Because it was expensive to develop, a couple of bucks a shot, it’s not like you had 900 tries at it. So I think it forced you to put a little more thoughtfulness into it. The emotion of film has that quality.

Photo By: Shimon Karmel

TrunkSpace: That’s really interesting and very true. When you can take as many tries as you want and see the results immediately, it sort of becomes manufactured at that point and less about the art itself.
McGrady: You know what’s funny about it… I almost think of it this way. For me, it’s almost like we have found ways to make things accessible to anybody… a cross section of people. You don’t necessarily have to have the technical knowledge because you have automatic settings on your expensive digital camera. You don’t have to be a great skier anymore… just good enough with 190 cm skis. Back in my day, if I wore the skis you wear today, they would have laughed at me. “Dude, you’re wearing children skis.” (Laughter) But they figured it out. They went, “If we shorten the skis, we can increase the volume of people who can do this sport.” If they make it easier for people, more people will do the sport, the activity, the project, or whatever it is. It’s even with surfing. For a long time, up until about 10 years ago when longboarding came back in, very few people surfed unless you were a young kid who had the power to swim out into the bigger waves and get up to pop up quickly… all on a little wafer thin potato chip. But when the longboard retro movement hit, it made surfing accessible to anyone even over 50 or 60 because now you’ve got a bigger board, it’s accepted on the beach and nobody is laughing at you. And then the kids started getting into it and they got extremely proficient at it to the point that they started having competitions and going back to the old 1960s style of smooth groove riding and walking the board and hanging ten and all of that. That created a whole entirely new surf category… old new.

And so, we’ve done that across the board with so many things. That’s been great on one level, but now when you go to a mountain… it’s crowded. When you go to a beach… it’s crowded. We went kiteboarding the other day and it was crowded. There must have been 100 kites out in this one bay and I was thinking, “My God, we look like a bunch of ants running around out here.”

But, this whole thing about moving forward and pushing that bar forward… whether it be in film, TV, music or whatever… yeah, I’ve got kind of a love/hate relationship with it. I love it because of all of the cool stuff that we get out of it, but I hate it because in many ways there is a lot of negative energy to it as well.

I just turned 57 in March. I don’t feel it. I don’t live it. I’m pretty active for a guy my age, but I have to say, the older I’m getting, the more nostalgic I’m getting. I’m in Vancouver right now and I’m from Seattle originally. I’ve only spent very short, brief spurts of time up here growing up because it wasn’t the burgeoning city that it is now, but being up here now for this length of time… four months for this season… I really have evolved this strong connection to my past and the Pacific Northwest. I find myself sitting on the deck of the house that we’re renting… and we have this beautiful view through the woods to the ocean… and my wife must have heard me say this a thousand times, “My God, it’s beautiful.” I could stare at this all night long. If this was 20 years ago, I would have been bored out of my mind, but now I look at it and go, “A lot of this is going away.” A lot of the green is going away. A lot of the trees. We’re losing a lot of this. There’s a lot of buildings going up in Vancouver right now. Everywhere you look there’s a crane or there’s a house being built or torn down.

I can’t seem to, within my soul, move forward into the future. Part of me wants to hang onto the past and not leave it behind because I have such great affinity with where I grew up and how I grew up.

Beyond” airs on Freeform. Season 2 is currently filming. A premiere date has not yet been announced.

Season 5 of “Ray Donovan” premieres on Showtime August 6.

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Wingman Wednesday

Keir O’Donnell

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O’Donnell as Dewey Phillips/CMT

Keir O’Donnell is the kind of actor we love to watch. Never afraid to fully absorb a character into himself, he is a chameleon on screen, embracing the art of becoming someone else entirely with each and every role he takes on. Currently he can be seen as legendary rock ‘n’ roll disc jockey Dewey “Daddy-O” Phillips in the CMT series “Sun Records” as well as in the Chris Evans film “Gifted,” which hits theaters this Friday. For fans of “Ray Donovan,” you can also catch O’Donnell in the upcoming season of the compelling Showtime drama where he’ll be playing none other than Susan Sarandon’s son.

We recently sat down with O’Donnell to discuss portraying real life people, his desire to play a badass and how his turn as the tortured Todd in “Wedding Crashers” was both a blessing and a curse.

TrunkSpace: You’re playing Dewey Phillips in “Sun Records.” You’ve also played John Wilkes Booth in “The Crossroads of History” and Jeff Kyle in “American Sniper.” As an actor, is there more pressure portraying someone who actually walked this earth as opposed to a fictional character?
O’Donnell: No question. Absolutely it is. There’s a lot more, sort of, guidelines to stick by, for better or worse. You have to not only do your job, but you have to do justice to either someone living or dead out there, that probably has some sort of a legacy if you’re portraying them in a film or TV show. It’s quite often big shoes to fill, as with all of the historical figures that I’ve played.

I think within that, obviously you are trying to capture an essence of these people. You’re sort of dead in the water if you’re doing a bad mimic or if you’re trying too hard to sort of encapsulate that person for exactly what they are because you have to work within the parameters of the script and the story, which is often times not exactly how it went down. So, if you can just find the essence of that person and then you sort of make it your own and hope that you land somewhere in the middle there.

TrunkSpace: A guy like Dewey Phillips made a living off of his voice, so did having that recorded history make it easier to help find his voice in your own?
O’Donnell: I mean, yes and no. I remember when I first got the material… I had sort of like heard the name Dewey Phillips, but I wasn’t totally aware of how prolific he was, nor did I know what he sounded like. There is quite a lot of audio of him out there, which is mainly what I went off of. When I first heard it, I thought, “There’s absolutely no way that I can do this.” Somebody categorized him as hillbilly rap or something. I mean, he’s really…

TrunkSpace: He definitely had his own thing going.
O’Donnell: He really did and I think that’s why he was so groundbreaking with that and obviously his music tastes and breaking color lines and everything else. But, originally hearing that, I thought it was sort of an impossibility, but the more that you listen to him, you can start to break through and find your own rhythm within it too.

TrunkSpace: What we love about your career is that you always seem to physically change in any given role and you’re never afraid to take risks and look the part, whatever that part may be. In the case of Dewey, that wardrobe just seems like it would help you get right into character.
O’Donnell: It’s incredible. Yeah. Well, thanks. That’s a huge compliment. The biggest compliment that I can ever get from people is that I’m a chameleon. I guess that’s what I always strive for, from one character to the next. I like to approach characters from the outside in, meaning, from wardrobe to hair and makeup to the physicality of the character and then once you sort of find that, the inner workings seem to go along with it.

TrunkSpace: And that’s what’s so great about your work is that your body always seems to be acting as well.
O’Donnell: Thank you. I think I started to pick that up in drama school in college. I love actors who do a lot of physicality work and I started in theater as well, so that is, just as a whole, more physical. So, to try to find ways to bring that to TV and film… to put that on screen… it’s always something I’m striving for.

TrunkSpace: The series runs on CMT. From a viewers perspective, it’s both awesome and overwhelming how much original content is available everywhere nowadays. Is it sort of the same point of view from an actor’s perspective in that, there’s more roles available but also more noise to cut through in order to have those performances be seen?
O’Donnell: It is. I think that, on a whole, it’s a good problem if it is indeed a problem. When I started out, films were the way to go and everyone wanted films. That was just because that mainly the material was there, but nowadays, I think it has shifted… night and day. The level of content on TV is just so elevated now. And I think what helps immensely is the series orders are smaller, so you’re doing eight or 10 episodes and it’s feeling like it is just a longer film, essentially.

TrunkSpace: You’ve worked on some of the most iconic, pop culturally-accepted television shows of the last decade from “Fargo” to “Sons of Anarchy” and all points between. Do you ever think of your acting career as something that has directly impacted pop culture by having been on these shows that have left such a mark?
O’Donnell: Gosh, that’s such a tough question to answer. From time to time, I do get people who are like, “Wow, you’ve made such great choices.” I would love to say that all of them have been choices of, like, “I will get on this prolific show.” I obviously go where the work speaks to me and stuff that really floats my boat, but, yeah, I’ve sort of stopped through some really, really great ones in the past. And it’s cool to see how… even if I just do a guest star or just a reoccurring arc, it’s cool to see how you can pop in and out of that world and sort of see it from afar. Or, see it as a fan perspective as well. A lot of these shows I’m fans of and you go, “Oh my God! I can’t believe I got to enter that world.”

O’Donnell as Ben Schmidt in “Fargo”/FX

TrunkSpace: And now you get to be Susan Sarandon’s son in the next season of “Ray Donovan!”
O’Donnell: Yeah! What a trip, huh? My God!

TrunkSpace: We know it’s probably too early to say much, but what can you tell us about your character George?
O’Donnell: I mean, to be totally honest with you, it still remains to be seen a little bit. I do know a little bit of the back story, which I can’t go into too much, but it’s… yeah, it’s going to be a wild ride. As always.

TrunkSpace: That show has some of the best badasses in TV. Will you be carrying the badass torch forward?
O’Donnell: (Laughter) I don’t know if badass is the right… God, I would love that. I always strive to play a badass, but I tend to always get the sort of damaged, awkward darker guys, which is obviously fun in its own right. So, it’s more along those lines. Susan Sarandon plays this sort of head of a studio in Los Angeles and I play her damaged son.

TrunkSpace: As an actor it must be fun to be able to slip in and out of all of these shows and play with such a diverse cast of fellow actors.
O’Donnell: It’s incredible. And, for me personally as well, to be able to play this sort of wide range of characters and to not get totally stuck into one thing. I think, still to this day, if I had to pick one thing that I get recognized for the most or that people know me from, it’s “Wedding Crashers.” That was my first film ever, so it’s pretty wild that still 10 plus years later that that’s a mold that I’m extremely proud of, but still trying to break in a lot of ways. It can be a blessing and a curse in many ways.

TrunkSpace: You mention trying to break that mold from your “Wedding Crashers” character, but at the same time, your career path seems to have gone more towards the dramatic side than the comedic side of things.
O’Donnell: Sure. I’d fight to say that, even if you go back and watch “Wedding Crashers,” the character of Todd was a pretty dark, tortured guy. And I like looking at all things that way. It’s not black and white or is it drama or is it comedy, but it’s if you play that character’s reality as real as possible, then the comedy can come from the situations. But it’s also that the comedy can come from the darkness of it all or the drama is suited because that’s the reality of that character.

TrunkSpace: Because like life, things aren’t just funny or just dramatic.
O’Donnell: That’s right. So, I don’t know if I’m a dramatic actor or a comedic actor. I’m just a… I play it situationally, I guess.

TrunkSpace: From your perspective, what’s more difficult… finding that first big break or maintaining career longevity?
O’Donnell: I’d say big break. Big break. I have a ton of actor friends who have worked forever, but they’ve yet to still find that sort of iconic thing that puts them on the map. Like I said, that can be a blessing and a curse, but you’ll find that some doors start to open a little bit more if you can break through with a sort of stamp of approval from the masses.

TrunkSpace: So was “Wedding Crashers” the project that changed things for you?
O’Donnell: Big time. I mean, in three days it changed my life. I went in and I pre-read with a casting director, the next day I got a director callback and then that following day I got the film. So, yeah… I was delivering pizzas at the time and that was it. I had no real concept… I had been just really hustling and trying to figure out LA and figure out film, as opposed to theater. And trying to get myself on tape as much as possible just to see what worked and didn’t work. That came along unexpectedly fast, but I had no real concept of the film industry, I suppose, so when the film was such a huge success, I guess I had no grounds for comparison. There was one part of myself that was like, “Oh, this is great… every film is like a huge success. A comedy classic!” Obviously in time you realize, “Oh wow… that was incredibly special and unreal that it was my first foray into it.”

TrunkSpace: And from an industry projections standpoint, that was a film that a lot of people didn’t see coming in terms of its level of success. When you do a film like “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” which you also starred in, you can kind of expect that it’s going to have a big weekend, but nobody saw “Wedding Crashers” coming.
O’Donnell: That’s right. And I’ve seen that happen in my career since and I’ve also had other things that I’m like, “This is going to be huge,” and it’s not. There’s no real rhyme or reason for these things. To sort of get that out of the way so quickly, it was a giant learning curve right out of the gates.

O’Donnell as Dewey Phillips/CMT

TrunkSpace: Your next film “Gifted” is due out in limited release this Friday. Can you tell us how your character plays into things?
O’Donnell: Chris Evans adopts his sister’s kid and then it becomes a custody battle because the little girl turns out to be gifted, hence the title. So, it has this sort of “Good Will Hunting” vibe because she’s extremely gifted at math. Once this is found out, his mother then tries to gain custody of the kid, so it becomes this sort of… what’s best for her and the societal impact of young geniuses. I play the little girl’s biological father. Some might say deadbeat dad.

TrunkSpace: Not deadbeat. Dark and tortured!
O’Donnell: (Laughter) Exactly. Right in my wheelhouse!

But yeah, I pop up in the courtroom scenes trying to get back into her life all of a sudden. How convenient!

TrunkSpace: It seems like the kind of film that isn’t so easily greenlit these days, but at the same time, is needed in theaters. It’s nice to see something original, particularly in the drama space, getting made.
O’Donnell: Yeah. Absolutely. There’s no question. My part is small but very pivotal to the story, but what drew me towards it was that it’s a great script and the cast, obviously, was phenomenal. But also… Marc Webb directed it, who did “500 Days of Summer.” It is… it’s like you said… it’s a rare thing. It’s becoming more and more rare for a studio to back a film like this, so this is really nice.

“Sun Records” airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on CMT.

“Gifted” hits theaters this Friday.

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