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Wingman Wednesday

Danny Nucci

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Freeform/Craig Sjodin

After five seasons of heartwarming storytelling, the beloved family drama series “The Fosters” is saying good-bye to fans with a three-day season finale event, which concludes tonight on Freeform. Star Danny Nucci, who plays Mike Foster, feels strongly that the viewers have come along with the cast throughout the storytelling process, growing as their characters have, and he relishes in the symbiotic relationship that has made his time on the show the most fan-centric project of his career thus far.

We recently sat down with Nucci to discuss the possibility of returning as Mike Foster in the future, why his time on the series was an eye opener, and where he is expanding on his career within the industry.

TrunkSpace: With the “The Fosters” coming to an end, you’ve had to say good-bye to your on-set family, but in a way, does it also feel like you’re saying good-bye to the fans? They have come with you on this journey since 2013 – are they part of the equation with it now signing off?
Nucci: Not at all. It’s more of a resounding “Thank you!” for your support through the years. Many of them are now interested in what’s next and seem to feel like part of an “ongoing” family. It’s almost as if we’ve all gone through these stories together and come out on the other side closer and more connected.

TrunkSpace: You spent over 90 episodes playing Mike Foster, which as we discussed last time you stopped by TrunkSpace, is the longest you have spent with a single character. Now that the job is officially done, is it easy to walk away from Mike knowing that you probably won’t be slipping into his skin ever again?
Nucci: There is a spinoff, so I can’t say that’s true as of yet. But it’s a feeling of gratitude that I’m left with – that I got to explore a character for that long.

TrunkSpace: Have you been surprised at how passionate and loyal the fans have been with “The Fosters” and have you ever directly experienced a group of viewers who were so invested in a project?
Nucci: I’ve never been part of any project with such a social media tie in and “exchange” so it’s all been a revelation of the affect being part of a show that people respond to can be.

TrunkSpace: Outside of starring on the show, you also had the opportunity to direct an episode of “The Fosters.” Was getting to step behind the camera an unintended side effect of your time on the series or was it always your hope to call “Action!”?
Nucci: The first time we all got together for a hang with the producers I made my pitch and they were very clear that it would be a few seasons in before I’d get the opportunity, but they made good on their promise and now I’ve got a new addiction.

TrunkSpace: Obviously you have such familiarity with the cast and crew. Does that make your job as director easier or more difficult? Do you think you would have had a different experience if you came to set not knowing anybody?
Nucci: Oh, I’m sure it would be completely different. The cast knows I’m one of them so there was an inherent trust. And the crew was rooting for me to do well and went the extra mile for me to make our day. And the execs felt like I had a great understanding of the time, story and characters, so there was an automatic trust factor.

TrunkSpace: Did the process of directing an episode of “The Fosters” give you a different perspective on your own character at all? Did it alter your own POV in terms of performance?
Nucci: No. Different mind set completely. Perhaps it would’ve been different if I had to direct myself.

TrunkSpace: We know you can’t really go into details, but you’ve been spending time developing a new series that you have been involved with on the writing side of things. Is that an area that you hope to spend more time focusing on in your career? Are the behind-the-scenes aspects becoming more interesting to you as you get older?
Nucci: As an actor, by the time I add my input most of the work has been done or prepped by the writers, producers or directors. The opportunity to be at the beginning of the storytelling process and make choices that impact the entire project is something I am really enjoying. I love exploring choices that are more “actable” and are “easier to accept” for an audience. Frankly, it’s thrilling. When we come up with a great line of dialogue or particular setting or motivation for a given character it’s as exciting as finding a great moment as an actor.

Nucci directing an episode of “The Fosters.” Freeform/Ron Tom

TrunkSpace: Have you ever been at a crossroads where you considered walking away from acting? Do you still get the same thrill walking on a set for the first time as you did when you started out in the industry?
Nucci: I always get a thrill from walking on a set I’m working on. It’s always that feeling of, “I snuck in – no one noticed and I’m in!” I love the challenge of acting. It’s always a risk/reward thing. I look forward to more experiences where I’m asked to have a creative voice. Sometimes, “Stand there, say these lines, thank you…” feels like a profession I have a modicum of skill to complete. It’s still a great job though.

TrunkSpace: If you could sit down and have a conversation with your 15-year-old self, what would he have to say about how your career has played out? What aspect of your life would surprise him the most?
Nucci: “Duuuuuuude,why aren’t you super famous??? C’mon!!”

I guess he’d be surprised that I’m not driven by a need to be adored or approved of, but a desire to feel all the things my characters have to feel so that the audience can just observe and relate or be entertained or in an ideal moment have their perspective altered in a positive way. And being the best I can be to suspend belief for the time I’m on screen or on stage.

TrunkSpace: Finally, as fans gear up to say good-bye to “The Fosters” for the last time, what do you want to say to them about the journey and how their loyalty to the show has impacted you over the course of its run? How have they made this a fulfilling chapter in your own life?
Nucci: I would just like to say that I appreciate the interaction, the kind words and encouragement that I’ve received. I have felt an added sense of responsibility to make Mike Foster a real person who suffers, struggles and celebrates life and love like the rest of us humans.

“The Fosters” series finale three-night event concludes tonight on Freeform.

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Wingman Wednesday

Jason William Day

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Photo By: David Ford

Professional fighter. Professional actor. Neither are easy careers to navigate, never mind break into, but Jason William Day has never been one to back down in the face of an uphill climb. Formerly competing in the UFC octagon under the name Jason “Dooms” Day, the Alberta native made the leap into acting by way of stunt work, combining his physical talents with his passion for performance. Having worked on dozens of popular television series, including “Van Helsing,” “Supergirl,” and “Arrow,” he hit social media pay dirt when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson shared an image of Day choking him out on the set of the upcoming film “Skyscraper.”

We recently sat down with Day to discuss his approach to changing career gears, how wrestling with The Rock lead to his phone blowing up, and why comic fans may want to keep hope alive regarding B’Wana Beast.

TrunkSpace: You’re a professional actor now. You were a professional fighter earlier in your life. As far as careers go, which one is easier to navigate?
Day: It’s kind of tricky. I think definitely my film career is just more certain in the sense that, it’s more consistent. In the fight game, you don’t know. If you went into a fight and you lose it, your career goes one direction. You win, it goes another direction. I’d say there’s a lot more unknown in the fight gig, so, this is more stable, I’d say.

TrunkSpace: That’s really interesting to hear because so often it seems that there’s a lot of factors that fall out of your control in acting and into the hands of others, such as casting directors and producers.
Day: Yeah, I guess that’s true. I think I’ve just been very fortunate and lucky so far within my career. I haven’t had an issue where I’ve gone a long time without having any work.

TrunkSpace: When you decided to pursue acting and change your focus, did you know that you wanted to utilize your physical skill sets right out of the gates?
Day: Yeah. I think the transition from the fight game into the stunt world was easier for me since I spent the better part of a decade as a professional fighter. A lot of those skills transferred over to screen, which made it a fairly seamless transition. I had been training in acting long before I got into the stunt game. I was training back when I was fighting because I always had this vision that once I was done fighting, I would like to make that transition into the on-screen world. At the time, the focus was acting. It just happened that I broke into stunts first, and now the acting is starting to creep its way in there as well.

TrunkSpace: Getting started in stunts must have been a great way to get comfortable being on sets and also building those long term relationships within the industry?
Day: Yeah, 100 percent correct. It is not only time to get in front of the camera, as a stunt guy you get to learn about who’s who on set and how everything works. You get to meet producers and directors, and you make those connections. That definitely helps you out as far as getting cast in roles down the road.

TrunkSpace: We would imagine that being a stunt performer means you need to be pretty comfortable getting your butt whopped on camera or seeing your characters die over and over again?
Day: (Laughter) It’s kind of an ongoing joke among all the stunt guys. If you see one of us on screen, you know that somebody’s about to die.

But, yeah, you definitely have to swallow your pride. You don’t get to win too many fights as a stunt guy.

TrunkSpace: Does having that real world knowledge of fighting help you on set in terms of choreography as well? Are there times when something is mapped out, a fight, and you have an opportunity to step in and say, “Well, this is great, but maybe this would be more effective?”
Day: It’s funny how different the two worlds are. When you’re training for the fight game, everything’s nice and tight. You want to make your movements small and quick. When you’re on screen, you have to make everything big.

Most of the fights are pretty locked down beforehand. The amount of work that goes into building a fight before we actually step in front of the camera is extraordinary. Usually we get a couple of rehearsal days. It’s rare that you change things on the fly, but it happens. The actors always seem to want it as realistic as possible, so I’ve got to step in a few times to offer suggestions about what makes it more believable. As the case with Dwayne when we were doing the last movie, he wanted that choke to look as realistic as possible. I got to actually help him out with that. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: “Skyscraper” is obviously a huge, big budget film. Because of that, there’s probably plenty of days on set to get things right. But you have also done a ton of stunt performing in television as well where the schedules are more breakneck. Does that force you to change up your approach at all when there is more of a ticking clock?
Day: It doesn’t really change how we operate. It is true, in TV, usually they get the stunt guys up at the end of the day, and it’s like you have to get this huge fight sequence done in a much shorter period of time than the four hours you need to shoot it. Whereas in film, yeah, we’ve got plenty of time, so it kind of takes a little bit of the stress off.

TrunkSpace: When Dwayne posted that picture of you choking him out on the set of “Skyscraper,” did you have any idea it was going out to the world beforehand?
Day: You know, when we were doing the scene, I could tell it was an important moment for him, because he wanted it as realistic as possible. He did have Hiram (Garcia), the president of Seven Bucks Productions, snapping a few photos. I was thinking, “Wow, it would be kind of cool if he posted one of these on his Instagram,” but he didn’t really give me any heads-up or anything like that. I woke up one morning and I think I had 1,500 followers and my phone blowin’ up telling me to check Instagram. It’s just crazy the power that guy carries through to social media. It’s mind boggling.

TrunkSpace: It must have been one of those situations where you can see firsthand the power of something going viral on social media?
Day: 100 percent. That’s where society is moving, I think, especially film and television. They’re starting to cast on who’s popular on social media for some roles. It’s starting to play a huge part in the whole business.

TrunkSpace: When you look at someone like Dwayne, who got his start in the world of professional wrestling, a medium that combines acting and the physicality of fighting… was that ever an avenue you considered pursuing?
Day: No. I never really got into wrestling. I never followed it too much. I had friends that were hardcore fans, and they dressed up like Ultimate Warrior back in the day. (Laughter) And I’ve worked with a few guys – Big Show and then The Miz. The schedule and the pace they have to operate on… they’ll work for 300+ days. When they come here to shoot a movie, they’re happy that they have to be in one place for more than a week. That lifestyle never really called out to me. I like to be settled. And if I’m going to go somewhere, then I like to go for a long period of time.

If you look at Big Show, he’s got hip problems. He just got a new hip put in. Dwayne, his body’s taken some beatings over the years. So those guys put themselves through hell. It pays off for a lot of them, but, to me, it was just never appealing. I like the real fight game, and that kind of appealed to me as far as the adrenaline.

TrunkSpace: A lot of our readers are also big comic book fans. Many of those comic fans were pumped up to see B’wana Beast make an appearance in a recent episode of “Legends of Tomorrow.” You got to bring him to life, but the more important question is, will we get to see him again?
Day: That was such a crazy experience, prancing around set in a loin cloth. It was a different feeling for me. (Laughter)

I talked to the writer of that episode, and she’s producer now. I said, “Do you think you guys are gonna bring this guy back?” Anything’s possible, right?

I put the bug in her ear that I think he should come back. (Laughter)

Day and Billy Zane in “Legends of Tomorrow.”

Skyscraper is scheduled for release next summer.

Feature image by: Natalia Anja

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