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Wingman Wednesday

Sam Medina

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Medina as Axel on the set of “Mile 22”

As sinister as he can be on film, which is on display in his latest project “Mile 22” opposite Mark Wahlberg, Sam Medina is nothing like his on-screen persona in the reality that we all call home. Affable and eager to discuss the filmmaking process, the Vietnam-born actor is reveling in his current run of projects, which also includes the upcoming “Venom,” “Alita: Battle Angel,” and his directorial debut, “Code Name The Dragon.”

We recently sat down with Medina to discuss the pinch of strangers, why his journey to Hollywood was part of a matrix-like design, and the reason his character’s hands only get dirty when they need to in “Mile 22,” which opens in theaters on August 17.

TrunkSpace: You have a whole lot cooking between now and the end of the year. It must be a crazy, exiting time for you?
Medina: It is an amazingly exciting, crazy, chaotic time, and I love every single minute of it because you can’t just have the good. You also have to have the bad, whatever that might come with it. You have to accept it all. The schedule is crazy. Work is crazy. The road is crazy. But I mean, you live for this. I live for this. I dreamed of this before, so believe me, brother, I’m probably going to talk to strangers today and ask them to pinch me. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: You spent the first 12 years of your life in Vietnam before coming to the States. When did the dream start? What was it that sparked performing and everything else you’re currently working on?
Medina: Well, I was a musician. I was a producer for a lot of rap artists and R&B singers down south. I was always conducting, producing, and kind of directing rappers on how and what kind of songs we should do with the beats that we were making. But the passion for filmmaking and becoming an actor happened after Katrina. It was by design. I can’t really tell you it was a choice at first. It was by design – like if we were living in the matrix, because after Katrina there were no jobs in New Orleans, Louisiana. I was just one of those guys outside of Home Depot and Lowe’s, doing construction work. I was getting sick, and I was just speaking into the universe that I needed to do something else before I died from smelling all of the mold. That was 12 years ago.

The number 12 kind of is lucky for me, I guess, because I moved here when I was 12 and it’s been 12 years ago since I started this film career. And now we’re having a conversation about it. So I think the number 12 might be a lucky number for me.

TrunkSpace: Someone might see your work in “Mile 22” and say, “Sam Medina is an overnight success,” but like you said, you’ve been at this 12 years now.
Medina: Yes, and I also studied many, many great ones that came before me. Most of the “overnight” to people, it’s usually a 20-year career span, so I still have another eight years to really make a mark. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: “Mile 22” is an action film, which are always a fun ride for viewers, but in terms of production, they’re the most technical to shoot, correct?
Medina: Yes, it’s the hardest. The action has to be shot with a preface, which is a set of videos by the team – the stunt coordinator, fight choreographer – they put this stuff together. They hire stunt performers. They do the action. They shoot clips of it. They send it to the director. The directors and studios approve it before we even get to set to shoot. If they don’t, we change it. So technically action, for the audience to continually be engaged, is the hardest thing to do. You can see a scene that lasts 30 seconds on screen, but it probably took over two weeks to film and maybe two weeks to prep.

TrunkSpace: In the trailer your character Axel, the big bad of the film, comes and goes in a very ominous way. We don’t get to see him get into any of that nitty gritty action fighting in the trailer, but is it safe to assume that we will see some of that?
Medina: You will see some of it, but with Peter Berg, the director, the way that he wanted to design the film, it was slightly different. I’m the head honcho, so my hands only get dirty when they need to get dirty. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: The film has a thriller element too, which in this day and age, audiences really seem to expect that multi-layered entertainment. There aren’t a lot of films that are just one thing anymore.
Medina: Right. There’s so many underlying tones, and so many layers to the film. That way you keep the audience engaged. Once you watch it, you will go back through it you and will say to yourself, “Oh, okay now I understand why they did it with that, why they did this, why this was this and why that was that in the story.” Yes, audiences are smarter now and in order for you to keep the audience engaged, you have to service the audience. They deserve more.

TrunkSpace: With so much really great television nowadays as well, audiences seem to be looking for more character-driven material that plays out in a longer way. And we know you have your directorial debut coming up later this year, so we’re curious if that is something that you think about from both sides of the camera now?
Medina: Of course. I’ve been blessed in my life. I’ve been lucky and blessed. I work extremely hard, but once again, I have to say that it’s the way how it was designed. It was destined. My resume includes so many legendary directors and I watch every single one because that helps me with my first feature that I’m debuting this year. I’ve taken everything I’ve learned from them to make it my own style.

You do have to serve the audience in a story. A punch is a punch. A kick is a kick. A shoot is a shoot. A gun is a gun. But if the story doesn’t deserve the action, the audience will fast forward everything and just look at the action, whether it’s a shoot-em up or a fight movie. So for me as an actor, if I’m looking at a part – or as a director – I want to look at the story first. You have to have a story to earn the right to the action, to earn the right to a shootout. Then the audience will understand. “Now I understand why this is happening!” So yes, storytelling is really key.

TrunkSpace: Well, and there’s an element too of being invested in the character so when there is that shootout, there are real stakes for the viewer as well. You don’t want to see your favorite character hit by a bullet.
Medina: Of course. You are 1,000 percent correct, my friend. Everything is about the story, because just like you say, if the audience is not vested into your characters that you lay out at the beginning of the movie, then they don’t care. They won’t go on that journey that you’re trying to take them on as an actor, as a filmmaker, or whatever it is you’re trying to do. They won’t go on that ride with you, so you have to create characters where they want to take that ride with you, and they sit in the theater for two hours to watch.

TrunkSpace: In terms of your performance as Axel in “Mile 22,” so often we hear actors say that in order to play a big bad or just a bad guy in general, you don’t view them as bad. It’s that you have to try to find their particular motivation for the actions that they’re taking. Is that how you approached Axel?
Medina: Of course, because I believe, and I’m sure you do and many other people also do as well, the villain wasn’t always the villain at one point. At some point, something or someone happened, and then he had a change of heart. But he has a purpose to it. He has a point of view to it. Just like the hero has his or her point of view, the villain also has his or her point of view as well. And because they have different point of views, when you put them in the room together, you want to see who is going to win. There it goes back to your statement, the stakes are high as hell, because now they’re trying to impose their point of view on each other, and so you have a great story.

You have to have a great villain, but I also wanted to play the villain to where you actually believe why I do what I do, just like you believe the hero has the right to do what he does too, in this case it’s Mark Wahlberg and his whole team.

Medina in “Venom”

TrunkSpace: You recently appeared in a great segment of the latest “Venom” trailer. As an actor, you can probably never anticipate what will happen day to day, even down to the point of whether your performance will wind up in a particular scene or trailer. Do you find yourself getting emotionally invested in everything that you do, or do you have to keep each job at arm’s length to, in a way, sort of protect yourself?
Medina: Well it’s hard, because I think that it’s in individual cases, but for me my heart is always in it. I was in the first “Ant Man” and when me and the Colonel in the Hispanic army got edited out of the film, I was devastated. That was my first Marvel movie. For me, I’m invested in every project that I do. I can’t step away from it, because I love every aspect of the filmmaking process, from the beginning to the end and during. I do invest a lot. I do go up and down with myself, because sometimes you don’t make edits in a movie. Sometimes you make the trailer, sometimes you don’t. But for me, if I don’t care, then why would I do it?

Yes, it can be a letdown, but it can also be a letup. As actors, as filmmakers, we live on the creed of hope. We hope for the next job. We hope that the film we make is well received by the audience, so I have to live by the creed of hope. For me, I definitely get invested, and I definitely get my heart broken many times. But if you think about it, we audition for a thousand roles before we book one.

Mile 22” opens August 17.

Venom” opens October 5.

Alita: Battle Angel” opens December 21.

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Wingman Wednesday

Jocelyn Hudon

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With the talent to sear a celluloid pop culture pathway into your brain and a classic, ageless beauty reminiscent of Kate Beckinsale, Jocelyn Hudon is our favorite actress on the rise. With roles in AT&T Audience Network’s “Ice” and the upcoming Netflix series “The Order,” the Canadian born thespian is on her way to being a force to be reckoned with inside Hollywood.

We recently sat down with Hudon to discuss the current television content climate, the reason she’d be acting no matter what generation she was working in, and why pretending to be someone else can be extremely cathartic.

TrunkSpace: We were doing a little research on your Instagram and we saw that you were in South Africa recently?
Hudon: Yeah, that was amazing.

TrunkSpace: Was that a perk of a particular job?
Hudon: Yeah, it was. It was the best. I don’t know how I can beat that but I’m going to try.

TrunkSpace: Not too shabby for a place on location!
Hudon: South Africa was amazing. Surfing and nature and hikes. It was awesome.

TrunkSpace: Do you have to be extra careful surfing over there? Isn’t that where a lot of the great white sharks are?
Hudon: Yeah, there are, but they have shark spotters. On the highway there’s a bunch of little huts and they’ll have drones flying over. I had to get out of the water once because there were two great whites, but it was fun.

TrunkSpace: Well, let’s transition into something a little less terrifying! You appeared earlier this year on the second season of “Ice,” which airs on the AT&T Audience Network. You also recently shot “The Order” for Netflix. As an actress, is it an exciting time right now to be working, not only due to the quality of the content, but because of the quantity as well?
Hudon: Yeah. There’s a lot of good stuff out right now. Every other audition I get I’m like, “This is the one!” Then two hours later I get another audition and I’m like, “This is the one!”

TrunkSpace: Does it make things less competitive than it once was because there are more jobs available?
Hudon: I think so. I still have to work my ass off. Sometimes you go to an audition – this happened to me twice this year – but I go to an audition and I see someone I watch on TV and we’re going for the same role and I’m like, “Oh my god, I love you.”

TrunkSpace: Do you think you’d enjoy acting in the 1980s and 1990s, particularly in television, when the shows being produced weren’t as sophisticated or character-driven?
Hudon: Yeah. I just love performing no matter what it is. I think maybe it would have been easier because there was less people. I feel like social media and stuff, everyone is in the spotlight now so I feel like there’s a lot more people going for a lot more jobs, so I guess networks can be a little bit more specific as to what they choose now acting-wise.

I would have fun no matter what. I love it. I don’t think I could do anything else.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned social media. That seems to be a component that is involved in acting careers now as well. We have heard stories about people not getting jobs because someone else had a larger social media following than they had, which seems like it adds a whole new stress to the process.
Hudon: I hope that’s not true. I had a girlfriend say the same thing last night, that she didn’t get a job because she was going against this Disney star who had millions of followers. I really hope that’s not the case. I hope whatever projects I go for don’t do that. I’d rather get the job because of my talent than what I take pictures of, you know?

TrunkSpace: Absolutely. Social media should be a tool in the toolbox, not the toolbox itself.
Hudon: Yeah. I don’t know. I’m not huge on social media. I just have this thing that… I was on a train once going from Montreal to Toronto and I ran into this girl. She went and sat behind me and we were both going from Montreal to Toronto – we both worked that day. I’m like, “I wonder what she was working on.” I expected her to post on her Instagram so I go on her Instagram and she posted a picture from an airplane, of the wing of the airplane, being like, “Going back to Toronto!” I was like, “I can see you! You’re on a train.”

TrunkSpace: Has acting opened up your life in a way that you couldn’t have anticipated when you started to dream about it as a career?
Hudon: Yeah. I got to go to South Africa, which was amazing, and the first movie I shot was in Paris, which was awesome. I remember driving and my agent was like, “Can you pull over to the side of the road?” On the phone, I’m like, “Yeah.” He’s like, “You’re going to Paris tomorrow to film a movie.” I was like, “Oh.”

Travel is amazing. Meeting people is amazing. Getting put in crazy scenarios with method actors and you’re just like, okay, go learn how to adapt and become a more well-rounded human being. For acting, I feel like it’s made me more sensitive because I wasn’t the most sensitive person growing up. I’m the oldest child so I’m tough and hard. It’s made me become more vulnerable and sensitive and empathetic when you’re in scenes where you have to listen and care. It really pushed me that way.

TrunkSpace: So in the process of discovering who a character is and what they’re all about, you end up learning more about yourself as well?
Hudon: Yeah. It’s also, you can show parts of yourself that… in real life I try not to be angry or I try to be as calm and as nice as possible, but then there’s some roles where you get to scream and yell and be crazy. It’s very cathartic. You get to show that side of you that you try to repress from the world.

TrunkSpace: It also has to be one of the only jobs that changes daily, which must be a nice perk as well.
Hudon: Yep. I need change all the time. My worst nightmare is working, getting to work at 9:00, leaving at 5:00 – just being trapped in an office. I did it for an internship for my post-grad degree. I had to work in an office and this woman would come yell at me all day and I wasn’t allowed to leave and I wasn’t allowed to do anything and I just had to sit at this computer and work for this giant corporation. I was like, “Fuck no!”

I really value freedom. I think you’re alive once and if you’re not doing exactly what you want to do with the time you have on the earth, then you’re just wasting your time.

TrunkSpace: If you were to sit down with the young girl – the younger version of yourself who first dreamed of becoming an actress – do you think she would be surprised by how your path has gone thus far?
Hudon: Yep. I was thinking about that today. I always wanted to be an actress but I didn’t vocalize it. My parents are very academic so it was like, “Go to university. Do a master’s. Become a lawyer.” The whole time I was like, “I think there’s something else. This doesn’t really feel right.” The fact that I’m Canadian and I live in LA – I have my apartment in LA, I have a manager and an agent and have been on TV – that sometimes blows my mind. If I didn’t stick up for myself or claim what I really wanted to do and become, I could have easily not. I could have just let this pass by. I’m really glad I had the balls to come out and say what I wanted to do and actually pursue it, so I think I would be really shocked.

Season 2 of “Ice” is now available on AT&T Audience Network.

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Wingman Wednesday

Madison Smith

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Photo By: Courtney Paige

Had Madison Smith stayed the course he set for himself early in life, we would have needed a different list of questions  for this interview. In an alternative universe, he’d be playing baseball for the Toronto Blue Jays after working his way up through the minor leagues – a dream he had since he was a kid – but after purposefully setting himself on a more creative career path in college, he’s now staring down the end of planet Earth as we know it.

Well, sort of.

As the star of the CBS series “Salvation,” the Canadian-born actor is not only wrestling with the fate of humanity, but also enjoying his biggest television role to date.

We recently sat down with Smith to discuss his recent roller coaster ride, discovering patience, and his new web series “NarcoLeap.”

TrunkSpace: This is shaping up to be a pretty exciting summer for you. Not only are you recurring on CBS’ “Salvation,” but you have a new web series from KGP Films that launched on July 15th called “NarcoLeap.” Do you feel like the road that you’ve traveled is leading its way to you seeing your dreams fulfilled? Is this the path you were meant to travel?
Smith: Oh wow. So far 2018 has been a fantastic year and it’s only halfway gone. It’s been a long, hard road so far, but I always stayed positive and hoped that things would someday look up. I definitely think my journey has still just begun, but like a roller coaster getting to the top of an apex, I’m picking up momentum!

TrunkSpace: You attended college on a baseball scholarship. Was a career in the MLB, working your way up through the minors, one that you actually saw yourself pursuing as well?
Smith: Absolutely. I had my early 20s all mapped out. I would play two years of college baseball at Okanagan College, which I found out would only count as one year at an NCAA school in the U.S. Then after I got my degree in business and had played five years of college ball, I would start to make my way through the minors with a hope to get to the MLB. After my first year of college ball though something made me feel that I wasn’t on the right path. I discussed this with my parents, who have always been supportive of my life goals, and they were the ones who suggested that maybe I give acting a try. Immediately, I felt that was what I should be doing with my life and within six months I had uprooted my life to Vancouver, B.C. to pursue acting.

TrunkSpace: In the world of acting, is there an equivalent to the minors of baseball? Is there a place where you felt like you had to pay your dues until you got the call to the big show?
Smith: The first five to maybe 10 years in the acting business is all about paying your dues, very much like a minor league baseball player. Every audition you go to isn’t about booking that job, because there are tons of factors outside your control that go into that, but booking your next audition. Hopefully that casting director sees something in you and wants to bring you in again. And at the start, those auditions may be very small. I remember an early audition of mine was for “flower delivery guy.” I had one line and still didn’t book the role. But I got my next audition. Cut to six years later, I booked “Salvation” with that exact casting director. So patience and hard work is key.

TrunkSpace: As far as opportunities go, does it feel like “Salvation” is your biggest foot in the door yet? What did you take from the experience that you’ll carry with you through the rest of your career?
Smith: “Salvation” is definitely my biggest foot in the door and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity. Through “Salvation” I’ve learned the joy and camaraderie that comes from being a part of a TV show. It’s my first experience with something like that and I always hoped it would be this great. They say the grass is always greener on the other side. Well, the grass is pretty damn green over here.

TrunkSpace: In the series you play Nate Ryland, a guy who is trying to get a handle on not only his own fate, but the rest of the planet’s as well. When you’re playing a character who has no future, at least not in his own point of view, is it even more important to play him in the moment?
Smith: Nate is a pretty interesting guy. He is fully aware of his circumstances but he is, for some reason, keeping a very level head about everything. He still lives life to the fullest knowing that there are things outside his control. He doesn’t let that get him down. So in terms of playing a character like that, it’s been a blast. I wish I was as positive as Nate is. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: People tend to take more risks – find new versions of themselves – when they’re living like they’re dying. Does Nate have that quality? Do you think he has changed dramatically from who he was before discovering that an asteroid was headed for the planet?
Smith: I think Nate had a bit of a spiral downwards when he learned the news of the impending doom. But he looked for outside help to change his perspective. We may learn more about this in upcoming episodes…

Photo By: Courtney Paige

TrunkSpace: If you woke up tomorrow to discover an asteroid was headed for earth, do you think you’d approach your last days differently? Would the world see a different side of Madison Smith than you share with people now?
Smith: Actually I think the world might not see much of me because I’d grab my girlfriend and head up to my parents’ cabin. I’d enjoy my last bit of time in this world surrounded by the people I love in one of my favorite places. Oh, I’d also try and go see one last MLB game, but it would all depend on how much time I had.

TrunkSpace: “NarcoLeap” sounds really interesting. From a concept standpoint, there’s nothing else like it out there. How exciting is it right now to be an actor, not only due to how innovative the content is that’s being created, but because of the quality as well?
Smith: It’s such a great place to be in as an actor when the content is, for lack of a better word, cool! We are in a platinum age of television where shows are being made that pull you into a world almost like our own, but way more fantastical. To be a storyteller in one of those worlds is a dream come true.

TrunkSpace: Do you think you would have enjoyed being a professional actor as much as you do now if you were coming up in the 70’s and 80’s when everything in television was episodic and wasn’t necessarily character-driven? Storytelling is so different now, do you think it has altered the experience for actors?
Smith: No, I don’t think I would have. I think this day and age is the greatest to be an actor. The stories we get to tell now are so dynamic and have so many levels it makes reading a script or watching a show such a pleasure. Those in the ‘70s and ‘80s were pioneers for us now, but I’m much happier enjoying the fruits of their labor.

TrunkSpace: Finally, Madison, we know you ultimately chose a different path, but if you did continue to play baseball, what team would have been your dream team to play for? (Full disclosure, we’re Red Sox fans!)
Smith: Ah, part of the Red Sox Nation I see. Well, there’s a lot to love with a team like the Red Sox but my heart will always stay north of the boarder with the Toronto Blue Jays. In fact, I drive down to Seattle every year to watch them play the Mariners. So if I could choose a team to play for it would be my Jays!

Salvation” airs Mondays on CBS.

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Wingman Wednesday

Evan Daigle

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Photo By: Akeem Biggs

The hit TNT series “Claws” took audiences by surprise when it first aired in the summer of 2017, but those tuning in weren’t the only ones to have the Rashida Jones-produced dramedy exceed their expectations. Evan Daigle, then a college student in New Orleans, was cast in the pilot as Toby, only to discover months later that the character would become a recurring role, kick-starting his professional career in a most unexpected way.

We recently sat down with Daigle to discuss the slow burn of Toby’s birth as an ongoing character, the inspiring words that will stay with him throughout the course of his career, and why he has been spoiled with “Claws” being his first job.

TrunkSpace: Your “Claws” journey and how your professional career kicked off was sort of unorthodox and not how a lot of actors find their path. How has your life changed the most since it all began?
Daigle: I think that the biggest difference in my life was just having to leave school – being in school since the time that I was five years old and then leaving, not when I planned to leave, but when I was 23 and about to graduate. It was an opportunity that I couldn’t refuse. And I was going to school to be able to work professionally as an actor. So I think that that was probably the biggest difference in lifestyle. But now that I’ve settled in, after doing two seasons of the show, I feel really comfortable with all of the crew and all of the other actors and everything. I think that the biggest new thing that I am dealing with now is how to settle myself in Los Angeles and figure out how this city works ‘cause I come from a really small town in Louisiana.

TrunkSpace: You had no idea where things would end up when you first read for the part because the character wasn’t even considered to reoccur at that time, so in terms of your personal journey, it must have been interesting to see it all take these turns, turns that you never expected?
Daigle: It was a slow burn for sure. I got the pilot in October of 2016. The character was only going to be in one episode, and the series hadn’t been green lit yet. I was only going to be in that one scene. I auditioned for another co-star part, not recurring, nothing to do with that, but then whenever the series got green lit in January of the following year, my agent called me and said that they had me penned for the first three episodes of the season. So at that point we kind of had a feeling for sure that it was going to be a recurring part and after that it was just every week I would get a call from my agent, “They want you back. They want you back.” And I ended up doing nine episodes the first season and six episodes in this new season. So it’s been moving pretty fast. I can’t believe that it’s already been two years and two seasons since I started with the show.

TrunkSpace: Did you already move on emotionally from the job between that period of getting the pilot and when you ultimately heard back?
Daigle: Oh definitely. You sort of have to ‘cause if you really stress out or think about options or projects that you don’t really know they’re gonna go or not you’ll just live miserably as an actor, so you have to try to just let it go as much as possible. Obviously I was checking Variety every day, and when I saw the Variety article that the series got green lit, those two days between then and then whenever my agent called me were some of the most stressful days that I’ve had in my young career. But whenever I got the call to tell me that they had booked me for more episodes, we were both so excited.

TrunkSpace: As far as jobs go, because there were so few expectations out of the gates, it must be the gift that keeps on giving.
Daigle: Oh and this project has… that’s the perfect way to put it. It’s been the gift that keeps on giving. Not only has this project really given me the beginnings of a real career, it’s also just been such a blessing for this job to be what it is. I feel so incredibly, incredibly inspired by the themes of the show. I love how diverse and inclusive it is. It’s just been great that this show is my first job. I feel really spoiled for the set that I work on, ‘cause I hear it’s not necessarily the norm.

TrunkSpace: It feels like a lot about this job, at least how it relates to you, has not been the norm. You didn’t go to Los Angeles to start your career. In a way, the show kind of found you in New Orleans, right?
Daigle: Yes. There’s a small film industry in New Orleans ’cause a lot of films and TV shows will film down there and they’ll hire the co-stars and the one-liners out of New Orleans. And so I had a small agent there and that’s why I was able to even get in the room with the part because it started off so small. I had always saw myself moving to LA or New York to start my career, but I was going to try to stay in New Orleans and build up my resume with a couple of co-star roles to have a little something-something whenever I got out here. What has happened to me now is more than I ever could have asked for or even envisioned for myself, so it’s been amazing.

Photo By: Akeem Biggs

TrunkSpace: And it must be such a confidence boost to your abilities as an actor to know that they brought this character back after you gave him life?
Daigle: Yeah, and honestly, that’s been the most gratifying and most validating thing for me, is that it’s true what you say – if you’re not a regular, you’re not contracted into absolutely anything. And so they can kill you off or they can simply write you out. And so Jenn Lyon, who plays Jen in the show… and I will never forget, I think in the fifth or sixth episode of the first season, her and I were working together and she sat me down and told me that she was really proud of me and to recognize that I’m here and continuing to be here because I’ve impressed the producers at the network and studio level continuously. And she was like, “You’re a young actor, I know that you probably don’t understand the gravity of that, but I want you to know that I’m proud of you.” It’s just that kind of validation, from these seasoned actors that have been just working for years and years and years, it’s given me the confidence that I think I need to start really competing in LA.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned leaving college sooner than you expected, but in many ways, your education is continuing through your work on the series… just not in a classroom.
Daigle: Oh 100 percent. The first season for me was a complete, complete immersion into film acting. I was studying theater in school and I had a really good film acting teacher but there’s nothing like actually being on set and getting to work with people like Carrie Preston and Harold Perrineau who are these insanely talented, seasoned theater, film and TV actors. It’s what I was telling you, I feel so spoiled by this being my first job.

Claws” airs Sundays on TNT.

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Wingman Wednesday

Makenna James

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Photo By: Jeff Forney

Big breaks in Hollywood are no easy thing to come by, even in this Golden Age of television where the quantity of the content being produced is matched only by the quality. Actress Makenna James, still in the early stages of her career, knows that big breaks are only what you make of them, and with her new series “American Woman,” she’s embracing the mantra that even those jobs that appear like game changers on the surface, they don’t actually change the game itself.

We recently sat down with James to discuss the “American Woman” learning curve, why the storytelling is so relevant even though it’s a period piece, and how acting is not the only path she plans on walking in life.

TrunkSpace: “American Woman” is your biggest role to date, in a series that has received a lot of attention. Do you view it as a career game changer? At the same time, is it important to also manage expectations because it seems like this is an industry where things always zig when you expect them to zag?
James: I wouldn’t say a game changer. A stepping stone, maybe. I try to never have lofty expectations. If this is a game changer, that’s fantastic. If not, I’ve dealt with that before and I’ll move on.

TrunkSpace: The talent involved in the series is phenomenal, as is the creative team behind it. Are you viewing your time on the series as just as much of an education as you are a job? We would imagine there’s a wealth of knowledge to absorb on a set like that.
James: Definitely. The learning curve was insane for me. I got to become less socially awkward, more acclimated to working in front of a camera, and exposed to the writing process over the course of numerous episodes. John Wells is a legend, but – more than that – such a kind person. It was incredible to be able to work with him so early in my career.

TrunkSpace: The series takes place in the 1970s, but the experiences that the characters are going through could just as easily be applied to what people are dealing with today. Do you think that is part of what makes the series work, that it’s relatable on a human, grounded level?
James: I do. Although the era impacts the storylines, a lot of what our characters are going through – self-doubt, discrimination, sexism, racism – continue to have a place in today’s society. I don’t think that the show could have arrived at a more relevant time.

TrunkSpace: In terms of your own personal experience, is it a gift to be able to play a character like Becca who has layers, but at the same time, is dropped into a world that is foreign to you (the ‘70s) and have an opportunity to play in a space that feels new?
James: Such a gift. A lot of Becca’s opinions are normalized in modern society, but – for the ‘70s – are radical. Everything about the era – from sexist teachers to passive racism – amplifies the passion that Becca feels. In the face of dismissiveness, Becca’s beliefs are fortified.

TrunkSpace: Is there a particular set piece/design or wardrobe selection that impacted you and helped to transport you back to the 1970s? Do those real time visuals help get you into character when you arrive on set?
James: There were so many brilliant pieces on our set – our crew was phenomenal. But, if I had to pick one, it would be Becca’s Angela Davis t-shirt. That particular shirt really helped me understand Becca as she related to the time – her activism, the unabashed nature of her personality, her understanding that she is privileged. A great debt is owed to Judy Gellman, our head costume designer, as she brings each character to life with their style, and each actor back to the era that we are living in.

TrunkSpace: What do you enjoy most about getting to slip into Becca’s skin and where has she allowed you to go with your performance that previous roles didn’t?
James: Her dynamism. Playing the rebellious character is always fun, but Becca poses a unique opportunity. Not only is she defiant and difficult, but she is also vulnerable and confused. A lot of her pessimism stems from the sense that she lacks control and the notion that her mother doesn’t make her a priority. Becca feels left behind and, for whatever reason, that manifests in anger. That complexity is rare to come by for a teenage character.

TrunkSpace: This is the longest time you’ve ever spent with one character. What has that extended character journey been like for you, and do you think you would be creatively fulfilled playing the same character – not necessarily Becca, but any character – for six or seven seasons?
James: I loved staying in character for an extended amount of time. But, when we talk about six or seven seasons, I think it depends on the character and the show. Like real people, characters evolve. The challenges they face, the developments in their lives – all of it changes who they are. In that sense, I don’t feel that it would be a hindrance, as long as the creative team behind the show is dedicated to authenticity. With Becca specifically, I feel that there is a lot we haven’t yet explored in her personality. She has a lot of pent-up, complicated emotions.

TrunkSpace: You’re headed off to Harvard University in the fall. First, as Boston peeps, welcome to the city! Secondly, have you given thought to how your two workloads – career and school – will intermingle and how they will impact each other? Will you be stepping back a bit from acting while attending classes?
James: Thank you for the welcome! I am still figuring out that balance if I’m being honest. For now, and this is subject to change, I am planning on taking my first year to get settled and clarify my field of study. After that, I might re-enter acting, but exclusively during breaks.

TrunkSpace: You’ve been acting since you were 12. Is Harvard the start of what you hope is a different long-term career path? Do you have your sights set on goals beyond the entertainment industry?
James: Yes. I am not going to college for the novelty. There are many fields I am interested in – criminal justice, environmental science – that I am equally passionate about. Even within the industry itself, I would want to direct or write, rather than just act. Acting alone has never been the plan.

TrunkSpace: If “American Woman” becomes the smash hit of the year and it ends up being the show that everyone is talking about, would that alter your long-term point of view at all? Would you have to reassess the various paths you’re walking?
James: For the most part, no. Multitasking might slow down the process, but other than perhaps delaying Harvard for a year to do a second season, the show’s success will not impact my other goals. I don’t want to dedicate my life to one profession.

American Woman” airs Thursdays on Paramount Network.

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Wingman Wednesday

Jake Stormoen

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© NBCUniversal International Networks

Jake Stormoen grew up nose-deep in fantasy novels, daydreaming that he was a knight, sword in hand and impenetrable armor encasing his body. Now as an adult, that inner childhood narrative has become a fictional reality as he stars as the straight-laced Captain Garret Spears on the fantastical summer series “The Outpost,” airing Tuesdays on The CW.

We recently sat down with Stormoen to discuss vanquishing monsters, his D&D past, and how he learned to embrace the hustle of Hollywood, thanks in large part to the words of Dwayne Johnson.

TrunkSpace: When you’re playing in the fantasy sandbox like with “The Outpost,” does your inner child do a couple of fist pumps every time you get to put on your armor and take up a sword? It seems that a show like this would open up the door for living out some childhood dreams.
Stormoen: Either you’ve done your research, or you and I are very much alike. Maybe both? I definitely did a couple fist pumps every time I got to put the armor on and buckle up the sword belt… and then I did a couple more. My oldest childhood fantasy was to be a knight. I’d go out into the woods behind my house and vanquish monsters until the sun went down… so the role of Garret was quite literally a dream come true.

TrunkSpace: Fantasy is also a genre where anything is really possible in terms of the plot and character arcs. Does that help to keep things fresh from a performance standpoint where you never know what a day on set is going to become?
Stormoen: I would say yes and no. Once we got to set, we knew what had to be shot and how much time we had to do it, so it was fairly precise by necessity. But before the scripts for the new episodes would arrive, I think this was far more true. Though I certainly wasn’t in the writing room, I think that there were small changes made here and there when the producers and writers would come across something during filming that worked especially well, or would spark a new idea. You’re absolutely right though – fantasy is a genre where anything is, to an extent, possible so long as it abides by the rules you’ve created for your world. I’d love to think “The Outpost” does that well, and you’ll see many answers surface as to why things are the way they are in this universe.

TrunkSpace: Have you felt any pressure throughout the process, not only anchoring a new series, but doing so in one that is built to have international appeal?
Stormoen: Honestly? Yes. For sure. The audition process for me was… an adventure to say the least, and I ended up being the only American actor in the primary cast, so I felt a lot of pressure there. Garret is someone who’s very straight-laced. Someone whose word is his bond… but also someone who struggles with that sometimes. It meant that the writing would often be very straightforward for him, and it would be up to me to try and make sure the audience knows that just because he’s not necessarily saying something, that doesn’t mean his mind isn’t racing with questions, answers, emotion and struggle. These are things that we as humans battle in ourselves universally, and I do hope that our international audience can all find something to relate to in Garret. That was the goal, at least!

TrunkSpace: Not only does the show have that international appeal, but it also has Comic Con appeal, which as we understand it, you attended this year. What were you most looking forward to as you surrounded yourself with cosplayers and the biggest pop culture fans the world has to offer?
Stormoen: I’ve been a geek my entire life. My nose was always in a fantasy novel, my friends and I would always sword fight with sticks, or play D&D, or Magic: the Gathering, or one of any number of fantasy-themed board games. So I adore this stuff. I’ve attended cons my entire adult life, and have attended SDCC in the past… but this is the first time I got to go and sit on a panel there, sign character posters for (the absolute loveliest) fans, attend events, etc. It was a whirlwind, but so much fun. I absolutely love seeing the creativity that goes into people’s cosplays, their art, their passion. Attending more cons in the future is something I’ve wanted as a career milestone for years now, and I’m finally able to start making that happen. I can’t wait!

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with your work thus far in “The Outpost” and your character Garret?
Stormoen: Garret is a bit of a Boy Scout, which is something I relate to a little more than I care to admit (Eagle Scout, here)! I think I understand his headspace pretty well, and he has some inner struggles that I think many of us have encountered in some form or another. My number one goal with Garret was to be just that: the guy who many of us can relate to as someone who tries to do the right thing, even when he doesn’t always have the answers in the moment. Talon is such a powerful force physically, Gwynn is such an intellectual aristocrat, and Janzo is, I think, so smart and clever he doesn’t always even realize it. That’s a lot for someone like Garret – someone who’s been on their own their entire life and has tried to completely re-write their stars – to be caught in the middle of. I’d like to think I did an alright job at portraying his character arc into the leader he’s needed as… so fingers crossed!

TrunkSpace: As far as performance is concerned, did Garret offer you something in playing him that you have yet to tackle in the past? Was there something about Garret that was fresh to you on a level that stretched beyond it being simply a new job?
Stormoen: That’s a tricky one. Garret is the necessary protagonist at the start. He doesn’t get to be as colorful or interesting as some of the other characters because he’s often an expositional driving force. This was something that presented its own unique challenges. (Which I think I alluded to above, but I have a tendency to ramble when we’re talking about Fantasy because I get so excited, so bear with me!) Sometimes I had to fight to allow him to stretch a little bit, and I think there’s definitely more of that during the second half of the season. The biggest thing about Garret to me was that the role was so personal. I really, really get this guy. I’ve been this guy. I’ve aspired to be this guy, and still do really. So he – as his own fictional character with his own history – really means a lot to me as a person. And that can be a scary thing to share with the world.

Photo By: Chad Keyes

TrunkSpace: For you personally, what was the most daunting aspect of beginning your professional career as an actor? Was there anything you had to overcome before you could focus 100 percent on pursuing your dreams?
Stormoen: Oh, absolutely. I finished University at USQ in Australia (life is funny) and waited tables for about six months before getting in my car with a couple suitcases and moving to LA. I worked two jobs, took acting class, and had about $20 to $40 in my bank account at the end of each month. This is a familiar tune for most actors, I think, but still carries its own valid set of challenges. There’s a need to be able to roll with the punches, and that’s hard to do when you’re barely getting by. I think the hardest thing for me was finding that day to day rhythm and not thinking with every audition, “I need this job. I have to book this or I can’t pay the bills.” It’s just not true. You find a way. It feels true, but it isn’t. Once I allowed myself to have fun and enjoy the journey, enjoy the hustle and enjoy the effort, there was a shift. I can remember feeling so overwhelmed, and I’d just started following Dwayne Johnson on social media. He’d posted something with his infamous slogan “Hardest Worker in the Room,” and something clicked for me. I know it sounds silly to bring up a story like this, but it was a huge turning point for me mentally. All of a sudden it was possible to see results: I didn’t have to go on more auditions than everyone else. I didn’t have to earn more money than them. I didn’t have to tackle all of LA, or California, or the world. All I had to do was be willing to put in more effort than whoever was in the room with me, and that’s something I try to do, to this day. (Sorry for the long answer!)

TrunkSpace: There are more networks and streaming platforms available to viewers now than there was when you started your career, which means, there’s more content. Is it an exciting time for an actor, knowing that there are more opportunities for you out there in this vast television landscape?
Stormoen: Ohhh, that’s a tough one. Its a double-edged sword, I think. There are many more outlets for content, and much more being made… but this can also often translate to people having to cut their costs of production because platforms don’t have to pay as much for the end result – there’s a million other options happy to take that slot. It’s a weird, counter-intuitive thing that I think the industry as a whole is still adjusting to, and I consider myself extremely fortunate for somehow making this all work. I definitely don’t take it for granted.

TrunkSpace: You’ve also written and produced projects in the past. Is that something that you see yourself continuing to pursue, especially in this day and age where it seems the ability to control your own destiny has gotten easier and more affordable… thanks in large part to what we discussed previously about there being more options for distribution and content consumption?
Stormoen: I would love to produce more. I grew up and was raised with an extremely strong work ethic and the notion that when the work is put in, the results show themselves. While this still holds water, it’s not as true in my industry because as an actor, someone has to take a chance on you at the end of the day. I think producing allows just a little more control at times, which is a nice and often rare commodity in this business. Acting will forever be my first passion – I just love the idea of being able to play out the stories I escaped into while growing up. But there’s definitely an interest in being able to produce more in the future.

The Outpost” airs Tuesdays on The CW.

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Wingman Wednesday

Chad Connell

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Photo By: Lane Dorsey

While starring as Bryce opposite Jill Hennessy on “Crawford,” Chad Connell has turned his previous dramatic roles into comedic gold by tapping into the hilarity of his character’s circumstances. There are seldom jokes specifically written into the CBC series, but that hasn’t stopped the Canadian-born actor (or the rest of the cast) from discovering the funny in the absurdity of everyday life.

We recently sat down with Connell to discuss social media shout outs, laminated lyric sheets, and why he doesn’t want you to settle for a cold beer.

TrunkSpace: You received a pretty awesome social media shout out from Jill Hennessy for your work on Crawford.Commercial success aside, wed imagine theres no better feeling than earning the respect of your peers in a business that is known for having an ‘every person for himself/herself’ mentality?
Connell: Things always come together better when people get rid of that ‘everyone for themselves’ attitude. The support from everyone, both in the cast and from the crew, was palpable and it just makes for a better working environment and everyone ups their game. Jill is pretty legendary but so down-to-earth. It felt like we were just coming onto set to hang out and have a good time and make a killer show while we were at it.

TrunkSpace: In the series you play Bryce, boyfriend to Hennessys Cynthia. The only problem is, Cynthia is married. In a way, because hes the other man in the equation, does that in and of itself make Bryce the ‘villain’ of the story?
Connell: The only person Bryce’s relationship is complicated for is Bryce. He knew the ground rules from the beginning, but it just feels so hard. There are a couple villains on the show, but it’s definitely not Bryce. He’s too sweet and pure, and I think is pretty well liked, even by Cynthia’s kids. Bryce develops genuine feelings for Cynthia, so he thinks it’s only appropriate that he become bros with her husband – that’s what a man would do.

TrunkSpace: “Crawfordis a comedy, which seems to be a genre that you havent had a lot of opportunity to play with throughout your professional career. Do you hope your performance as Bryce opens up more doors in that area so that you can continue to tap into the funny?
Connell: I took what I learned playing dramatic roles and brought that to my work in “Crawford.” We are never playing for the laughs (but man, when they come it’s rewarding) and there aren’t very many written jokes. What makes this show funny is how wrapped up in their own personal drama the characters are. It just so happens that their drama is ludicrous.

TrunkSpace: What is it about Bryce that you enjoyed inhabiting the most? Is there an aspect of his personality that made it exciting to come to set each day?
Connell: Comedy can seem pretty jaded and to get a laugh people often resort to sarcasm. Even in everyday life it can be easy to fall into the trap of being a little too cool or disconnected. What makes Bryce stand out is that he is so earnest. He loves Cynthia, his dogs, and U2 so much and he is not ashamed of that. He will proudly give you a laminated printout of song lyrics to show you how enthusiastic he is. Getting to play Bryce is like having a good friend who leads by example and reminds you to get over yourself and just get excited about things, no matter how small.

TrunkSpace: Regarding your experience as a whole, what will you take from your time on Crawfordthat youll carry with you through the rest of your life and career?
Connell: How important it is to have the confidence of the creative team. Mike Clattenburg and Mike O’Neill are such a dynamic pair and initially their CVs were a little intimidating. You don’t want to let them down. But they made sure each and every one of us was aware of our talent and that we were hired to bring these characters to life because they trusted us.

It’s not often on set that you feel that kind of support, so it’s essential you learn to trust yourself. You’ve got to be your own cheer squad in an environment where you don’t feel you have a director or writer on your side.

TrunkSpace: You started acting as a kid, but took time off to focus on your education. When you returned to acting in 2006, did you feel like you had to completely hit the restart button or did your past experience come into play?
Connell: I think I had an easier time than some of my classmates because I was able to draw on my past experience and I had a resume that helped get me in the door. But I remember my first audition right out of theatre school and I was nervous as shit. The director had to get someone to go get me a glass of water because my mouth was too dry to even get the lines out. I was out of the game for four years when I was 19 to 23 spending 80 hours a week with the same 17 people. It was a really sheltered environment where there was a part in our plays for everyone. The real world ain’t like that.

TrunkSpace: For you personally, what was the most daunting aspect of beginning your professional career as an actor? Was there anything you had to overcome before you could focus 100 percent on pursuing your dreams?
Connell: I never had a doubt about what I wanted to do. I used to beg my parents to get me an agent as a little kid. However, now that I’m well into my career, what can be daunting is feeling like you don’t have roots planted down. Auditions and work can take you from one city to the next with little notice and that makes it hard to plan for the future and have a stable personal life. It’s a career that demands a lot of sacrifice.

TrunkSpace: Youve appeared in a number of television series and films over the years. Is there a particular role or character that you wish you had more time to spend with?
Connell: The show is over now but I would love to revisit the character I played on “Warehouse 13” called Jack. He was a paranormal investigator in the 1960s. I remember that experience really fondly.

TrunkSpace: Finally, Chad, we know you are a wine enthusiast. We go into the stores nowadays and stare blankly at a wall of wine with no real idea on where to start. What should we be drinking? What are some wines that we should be focusing in on instead of staring blankly at?
Connell: Focus on the winemaker. I am a big fan of independent wine growers, particularly from France. If the wine has a lot of marketing or some gimmick, stay away. That means their resources are going into their advertisements and branding instead of what’s in the bottle. Making wine choices is getting a lot easier these days with social media as well. Follow someone you trust (i.e. me) and see what they’re drinking. Wine is meant to be fun and interesting, not intimidating. I don’t want you to just give up and settle for beer.

Crawford” airs on CBC.

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Wingman Wednesday

Ed Asner

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Photo by Alan Markfield – © 2003 Alan Markfield, New Line Productions. All rights reserved.

While our interview with Ed Asner may not be as iconic as the actor’s 70-year-long career in the entertainment industry, it’s pretty high up there. Constantly keeping us both on our toes and on the edge of our seats, the star of such classics as “Up,” “Elf,” and “Mary Tyler Moore” took an honest and straight forward approach to our conversation, never once mincing words. It was refreshing, and to be completely honest, exhilarating – like a carnival ride you don’t want to get off of after whirling to a stop.

We recently sat down with Asner to discuss perfected grouch-ism, how voiceover work has brought him pleasure late in his career, and why an actor can’t wallow in ego and still be a judge of good work.

TrunkSpace: We were trying to find a starting point for this conversation. You have so much going on from new television and film projects, to ongoing stage productions, to your upcoming poker tournament, we figured it may be best to put it in your hands in terms of where you’d like to begin. What are you the most excited to talk about?
Asner: Oh, I always get excited when I’m out to do “A Man And His Prostate.” I love the show.

TrunkSpace: You’re on the road a lot with that show. Do you enjoy the traveling aspect?
Asner: I hate the travel. My bones don’t work that well, so travel exacts comfort. I’d like to disappear and then reappear at the point and place.

TrunkSpace: Do you see yourself doing “A Man And His Prostate” long term or is there an end date in sight for you?
Asner: As long as my daughter can book it, I’ll do it. It’s very simple to do, so…

TrunkSpace: Yes, you don’t need a lot to set up the stage, right?
Asner: Yeah. It fits like a glove, it’s not a tax on memory, and it’s built to make people laugh.

TrunkSpace: Which we all need these days.
Asner: Oh god. Where are you?

TrunkSpace: Massachusetts.
Asner: So you’re highly keyed into… attuned to what’s going on.

TrunkSpace: Keeping the ear to the ground, for sure. We read that you’re a self-described grouch. Does it take a grouch to survive six decades in the business, or does six decades in the business make a grouch?
Asner: Where do you get six decades?

TrunkSpace: We were going by…
Asner: I started acting when I was 19.

TrunkSpace: We’re terrible at math.
Asner: Yeah. Let’s see. I’m ending my ninth decade. I’ll be 89 in November, so 19 from 89, I believe is 70.

TrunkSpace: So does seven decades in the industry make you a grouch or does it take a grouch to survive in the industry for seven decades?
Asner: It teaches me how to perfect grouch-ism. I have made wonderfully-defined moves and not many people can lay claim to the kind of moves I make.

But fuck you!

TrunkSpace: What’s that?
Asner: Fuck you!

TrunkSpace: Why’s that, Ed?
Asner: I’m being a grouch. What do you want?

TrunkSpace: Oh okay. Thought we said something wrong!
Asner: Oh god no. I’m kidding.

TrunkSpace: We were just reading that you’re involved in what could be a possible strike within the voice acting industry. The various streaming platforms definitely seem to be changing the way people have to look at the business model of things.
Asner: Yeah. I have not kept up to pace in terms of negotiations or anything like that. I don’t have a hand, so I’m really unaware of where the problems lie, or who’s proposing a fix. But God knows, voice work has given me unbelievable pleasure in my latter years.

© Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

TrunkSpace: It does seem like there’s more animation happening now that there has ever been.
Asner: Yeah, there certainly is. And it’s amazing to me how it just happened. Used to be you started out in this business, you go in and you audition, you appear at lineups and all that crap, and there’s an order to it. I never found the order on voiceover. It just happened.

TrunkSpace: And what’s really fascinating now is that it’s almost just as sophisticated as regular television – as live action.
Asner: Oh yeah.

TrunkSpace: It doesn’t speak down to kids anymore.
Asner: Well, it’s intriguing to me that… when did I make “Up”? ‘09 was it? I did that for Pixar/Disney. I don’t think I’ve had another inquiry to do a voiceover at Disney/Pixar since then. What does that mean?

TrunkSpace: As a company, maybe they see voice actors only inhabiting one character within their various worlds?
Asner: Or they somehow blank out when the thought of me in a particular piece or play occurs. I mean, if I was a hot property in one movie, I would just automatically think I’d be a hot property for a forthcoming movie. They evidently don’t think I have more than one voice.

TrunkSpace: And that was not only a hot property but “Up” has since become a modern classic for people.
Asner: Yeah, yeah. And I’m very proud of it.

TrunkSpace: In fact, you can look at a number of your projects like “Elf,” which has become an annual tradition for people, or “Mary Tyler Moore,” which helped to define an era of television, and see how they’ve impacted pop culture. Does it feel like you’ve caught lightning in the bottle numerous times in your career?
Asner: Oh of course, of course. I get it with the fan mail. I understand it with the fan mail. But I like to keep working and I want it to propagate and it doesn’t seem to do that much propagating.

TrunkSpace: Do you enjoy the process of acting as much today as you did when you first stepped foot on a set?
Asner: Oh absolutely. It’s masturbatory.

TrunkSpace: A lot of people act as a hobby. Do you feel lucky to have been able to do it as a career for as long as you have?
Asner: Well, I don’t know who does it as a hobby.

TrunkSpace: Well, we’re in the Boston area and there’s a lot of local community theater where people are performing for the passion of the craft itself.
Asner: Yeah, but not when you’re involved in a film, I don’t think. And I’m saddled with the problem now with this God play I’m doing. (“God Help Us”) It should be off book, and I don’t know if I have the energy or desire to try to get off book. I discovered this with “A Man And His Prostate.” Where “Love Letters” achieved quick fame with two actors reading, I use a book on “A Man And His Prostate” and the laughs just keep pouring in. So you can captivate with a book in your hand and I resent it if I have to get off book with the God play.

TrunkSpace: If everybody is laughing at “A Man And His Prostate,” why fix what’s not broken?
Asner: That’s right. That’s right. It wasn’t even my thought. I whined to the producer, and other fellows in the vicinity, at the time I started with that and they said, “Read it!” And it worked.

TrunkSpace: It must make the experience sort of intimate for the audience when they’re reading it with you. They don’t feel necessarily like a spectator.
Asner: Well, I also know how to play the book. I’m looking away a lot of the time, but then when they see me go to the book they… I’m sure they’re wondering what surprise or what fish I’ll pull out of the book.

TrunkSpace: In talking to a few people about our chat today, everyone we spoke to about it referred to you as an icon. When you think about your career, do you view it that way? Is it iconic?
Asner: I hear it a lot. I’m selfexamining right now in terms of ego… conflicts with people close to me and I had to keep whittling out where does ego fit, and where does justice take over? And it’s not an easy battle. Not when you’re starting your eighth decade.

TrunkSpace: At some point, isn’t ego deserved? Haven’t you worked enough to afford an ego at this point?
Asner: I know, but you can’t wallow in your ego and still be a good judge of where to work.

TrunkSpace: You recently appeared in the series “Cobra Kai.” We haven’t heard a single negative thing spoken about that series.
Asner: No, I haven’t either.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned how you can’t wallow in your ego and still be a judge of good work. Was that a project that you recognized on the page as being good work?
Asner: No. I did it and I enjoyed it and I was amazed at the universality of the praise. Very surprising.

TrunkSpace: Have you learned anything about life through acting – through playing all of these characters over the years – that you think you might not have discovered had this not been your path?
Asner: Well, acting tends to make you think you’re an Adonis, and then as you live your life, you find out people haven’t read the reviews. So you must have conflicts going on… the glow of great achievement as an actor, or what you think is great achievement, and its affect on your own personal psyche. It’s very puzzling.

TrunkSpace: Well Ed, thank you so much for making the time to chat. We know you have an event you have to get to.
Asner: I’m running late, but I so enjoyed our conversation. I didn’t give a shit.

TrunkSpace: Well thank you Ed, we appreciate that.
Asner: Well, it’s fun. I like you.

TrunkSpace: We like you too, Ed!

For more information on The Ed Asner & Friends Poker Tournament, visit here.
For more information on “A Man And His Prostate,” including dates, visit here.
For more information “God Help Us,” visit here.

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Wingman Wednesday

Jessica Green

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It’s always exciting to see new faces catch big breaks in Hollywood, and when those faces are as uniquely captivating as Jessica Green’s, you’re reminded that the “it” factor really does exist. As the lead of the new fantasy series “The Outpost,” the Australian native plays Talon, the last woman standing of a race known as the Blackbloods. She sets out on a mission to avenge her family using her newly-discovered supernatural powers, and in the process, audiences around the globe will be entertained.

We recently sat down with Green to discuss how her past MMA training helped her in the role of Talon, whether or not she has experienced butterflies in spearheading the show, and what the future could have held had “As vs Evil Dead” not been canceled.

TrunkSpace: Your new series “The Outpost” premiered lat night. As you were gearing up for its release, what emotions were you juggling with? Were you nervous? Excited? A combo of both?
Green: A combo of both. After five months of filming, I’m excited to see the final product.

TrunkSpace: The series is intense and very physical. How much preparation did you go through before you were ready to take on Talon and her many butt-kicking talents?
Green: It all happened very fast. I only had about three weeks intense training for the role in Utah, but having my previous training with MMA was an advantage.

TrunkSpace: In the series Talon is on a very personal mission to avenge her family. Throughout the course of the first season, how much of that mission does she ultimately accomplish? Will she find any peace throughout the initial arc of the character that we see in these upcoming 10 episodes?
Green: You will have to watch to find out but she definitely does kick some ass!!

TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, what have you enjoyed most about getting to inhabit Talon? What aspects of her personality excite you every time you slip into the character?
Green: I love that she is a such a strong female role model.

TrunkSpace: Do you feel pressure spearheading a major network series, and if you do, how do you tamper those butterflies to make sure you’re also enjoying the moment and everything that comes along with it?
Green: I am so blessed and honored to lead the show, and yes, I do get butterflies but I’m super proud of what I have accomplished.

TrunkSpace: They say that work begets work in this business. Outside of enjoying what you’re doing in the present, is there a part of you that wonders where being the lead of a series like “The Outpost” could take you in your career moving forward? Do you look to the future at all?
Green: Of course. “The Outpost” has already opened many doors and I hope for it to open many more. I will be in the USA for the premiere and I’m very excited for the future.

TrunkSpace: Moving away from the future and instead, looking back into the past… if you could sit down with 12-year-old Jessica, what would she have to say about your career as it stands today? Would she be surprised by your work as Talon in “The Outpost?”
Green: I think she would be excited and proud to see that the years of hard, dedicated work have finally paid off and that dreams do come true.

TrunkSpace: You’re from Australia but moved to the States a few years ago to pursue your dreams. How big of an adjustment was it for you and how long did it take for your new home to feel like home?
Green: I’m actually based in Australia and only head over to the States a few times a year for a few weeks at a time. I filmed “The Outpost” in Utah, which was freezing – -6 compared to the 30°C sunny beaches of the Gold Coast, Australia where I’m from! The Utah climate did take some adjusting too.

© NBCUniversal International Networks

TrunkSpace: You’re starring in a big series that will be seen all over the world, but it has no doubt been a long journey for you to get to this point in your career. Was there ever moment where you questioned your choices in pursuing acting and did you ever consider giving up? It must be kind of crazy to think about now, given where your path has ultimately lead you?
Green: I feel you need to have a very thick skin as an actor. There are lots of ups and downs and of course there are the days where you feel like giving up, but in this industry, to succeed, you just keep focusing on the dream.
 

TrunkSpace: Finally, Jessica, we loved you in “Ash vs Evil Dead” and thought there was so much potential in the character Lexx. Were you as sad as us to hear that the show was canceled? As a performer, how do you handle that kind of disappointment… managing the aspects of your career that are out of your control?
Green: Yes, it’s disappointing. I would have loved to see where Lexx’s character would have gone, but that’s part of the film industry – out of your control. You just pick yourself up again and keep following that dream.

The Outpost” airs Tuesdays on The CW.

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Wingman Wednesday

Antonique Smith

AntoniqueSmithFeatured

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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