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Musical Mondaze

Here Come the Mummies

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*Feature originally ran 4/03/17

You don’t have to be in a funk just because it’s Monday. Instead, get funky!

TrunkSpace brings you another edition of Musical Mondaze. This time out we’re sitting down with Here Come the Mummies, an eight-piece funk-rock band from Nashville who mash it up on stage in full body bandages. Though their true identities are under wraps (pun intend), leading to rumors that the mummies are in fact well known Grammy-winning musicians, it doesn’t take birth certificates and proper names to bring you to your feet and rock your souls for all of eternity.

We sat down with Mummy Cass(anova) and Midnight Mummy to discuss the mummy versus zombie debate, their historical musical history and, of course, Quentin Nigel Fontanelle Dumblucke IV.

TrunkSpace: Thanks for sitting down with us. I guess the first thing we wanted to throw out there was a sort of logistics question. Typically, the mummification process involves the removal of organs, and specific to our question, the brain is pulled out through the nose. Doesn’t one need a brain to know how to write and read music and play the instruments themselves?
Mummy Cass: You’re absolutely right about that, and they scraped and yanked and pulled and did every other thing they could to get it all out… wait, was was I talking about?
Midnight: But in the end…
Mummy Cass: Right! But in the end, they missed a few spots. Thanks.
Midnight: Sure, man.

TrunkSpace: Thanks for clearing that up. Perhaps you could help us with this as well. What is the difference between a mummy and a zombie? Aren’t they more or less the same thing?
Mummy Cass: Well, it’s true we have a taste for flesh, but more in an erotic sense, and not so much in a munching down on your brain sort of sense.
Midnight: True. Dig. Ick.

TrunkSpace: How did the band first come together? Were you all from the same tomb?
Mummy Cass: We played together in ancient Egypt at weddings and feasts and such, back when we were mere mortals. But shenanigans with the Pharaoh’s daughters got us cursed. So we’ve been wandering the Earth together through some dark ages, and some comparatively fun times, like now.

TrunkSpace: When did you guys come to the “New World” and what ultimately made you decide to settle in Nashville?
Mummy Cass: Our latest discoverer, Quentin Nigel Fontanelle Dumblucke IV, had us transported to one of his facilities outside of Boston from Tunisia, where we had taken a few centuries off from being unstoppable. There some frightful experiments took place, but I don’t want to talk about…
Midnight: …As for the Nashville part, in a word, studios. Of course now we have our own. It is way underground, and secret.

TrunkSpace: Nashville is obviously known for being a music town. But, is it competitive? Are there other mummies you guys knock heads with in town?
Mummy Cass: We pretty much have our run of the place.

TrunkSpace: The band plays a sort of hybrid (diebrid?) funk. Now, that’s not exactly a genre of music that was kicking around when you guys were alive. How did you discover the sound and what was it that drew you to it?
Mummy Cass: Well, funk has a faint whiff of rot to it, just like a perfectly ripe strawberry. So, it was a natural selection.
Midnight: Ha, Natural Selection.

TrunkSpace: Tombs are known for their ancient, yet sophisticated booby traps. Did any of you have any cool booby traps you can share with us?
Mummy Cass: Well, let’s just say that all that stuff from “Raiders of the Lost Ark”… pretty accurate.
Grates with spikes that swing down out of nowhere when you so much as brush up against a sarcophagus, stuff like that.
Midnight: Not pretty, not pretty.

TrunkSpace: There was a time when a group of undead performing on stage would have caused a bit of a stir and driven the general public into a terrified tizzy. What changed? Has the popularity of shows like “The Walking Dead” forced people to look at the actual walking dead differently?
Mummy Cass: True, and we have caused just such a stir many times in many places in our wanderings. Nowadays people act as though they’ve seen it all. That’s why we like making ‘em jump around and dance and stuff.

TrunkSpace: The band can clearly maintain a beat, BUT, how do you maintain a pleasant smell for those in the audience? Is there a trick to quelling the stank?
Mummy Cass: We do NOT maintain a pleasant smell.
Midnight: Nope. Not even worth tryin’.

TrunkSpace: Do members of the band ever change bandages or are those you don as antique as you are?
Mummy Cass: They never come off. Think of them like onions in a casserole… baked in, no getting them out. If you tried, our decrepit flesh would tear off along with. It’s a sort of human jerky we have on our withered bones.
Midnight: You said bones.

TrunkSpace: If we were to peel back those bandage layers, who would we find to be the most handsome?
Mummy Cass: What did I just say? You can’t peel the damn things o…
Midnight: I’d have to say… probably Midnight.
Mummy Cass: Ha.

TrunkSpace: Speaking of looks… how does a mummy living in the modern world find love? Does decomposition come into play?
Mummy Cass: Well, ladies dig us cause we know how to have a good time, and we don’t have to put on some kinda ridiculous dog and pony show with fancy cars, hats, rings and whatnot.
Midnight: Hey, I like a good pony show.

Oh, you meant like tiny horses. Ah.

TrunkSpace: Here Come the Mummies write songs that have a tendency to stick in your head. Will they stand the test of time just as you have?
Mummy Cass: That’s not the only place they stick. Seriously, only time will tell, and…
Midnight: Unless somethin’ changes, we’re gonna be around to find out.

TrunkSpace: What are your thoughts on somebody like Rob Zombie who is only undead in name?
Mummy Cass: Still pretty cool.
Midnight: He’s got his own thing.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from Here Come the Mummies in 2017?
Mummy Cass: We are always working on new music. Who knows when we’ll put it out? Maybe this year, maybe next. We are playing some brand new stuff right now from the two new records we have out, “Underground” and “A Blessing and a Curse.” Check us out at www.herecomethemummies.com.

Here Come the Mummies tour dates here.

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Wingman Wednesday

Keith Allan

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Z NATION — Season:4 — Pictured: Keith Allan as Murphy — (Photo by: Daniel Sawyer Schaefer/Go2 Z 4/Syfy)

* Feature originally ran 9/29/17

It is no easy feat for a television series to maintain a fandom (and time slot) for four seasons, especially when you’re a show that takes such creative risks as rolling a giant cheese wheel over a group of bloodthirsty zombies. And yet therein lies the genius behind Syfy’s genre mashup “Z Nation,” a post-apocalyptic episodic adventure that is often compared to “The Walking Dead” but is more closely related to “Gremlins” or “Young Frankenstein.” Yes, there is a group of humanity’s leftovers, wily in their ways, attempting to survive a never-ending army of the undead, but they’re doing it with punchlines and visual gags, making the journey more about escapism than realism.

With season 4 set to drag more rotting corpses into your homes starting tonight, we sat down with series star Keith Allan to discuss his surprising journey as Murphy, why “Z Nation” is not your average zombie apocalypse show, and what his first experience directing an episode was like.

TrunkSpace: As a series, “Z Nation” takes a lot of twists and turns. How much of Murphy’s overall journey was present creatively in those early days when you were just diving in?
Allan: Well, I knew the overall idea for the character. The basic idea was that Murphy carried the cure and there was a road trip involved. That was pretty much all I knew – and that he had a chip on his shoulder, but that was the extent of it. It’s just been a thrilling surprise. You’re kind of like, “Oh, now I get to put on a pimp outfit and mind control zombie strippers?” How fun is that? And unexpected.

So, yeah, it’s great but it’s certainly been a surprise to me, every few weeks, about what’s coming up next for the old Murph.

TrunkSpace: Were there any performances choices that you made in those early days of the character that have sort of paid off in ways that you never expected they would given the surprises you’ve come upon with Murphy over the years?
Allan: Yeah, for sure. The great gift I was given with this character was that he’s truly evolving. Not only as a human being, but as a half-zombie. He’s a character or a species that we’ve never seen before. So, luckily it’s given me a lot of leeway, I feel, in what I can do with him. We’re sort of in uncharted territory because he’s not really a human. He’s part animal. I take a lot of liberty that I wouldn’t with a regular human being.

At the very beginning of the show, I approached him as a very sort of damaged, timid animal who’s been through a lot, and certainly was not considered a force to be dealt with. But as Murphy changed and as his circumstances changed, and as he grew stronger, it was really easy for me to move into that without having to really justify a lot of it because it’s sort of built into his DNA. It’s just who he’s becoming. So that’s been a great gift because I’ve been able to morph from one version of Murphy to another fairly fluidly.

TrunkSpace: And what’s great about that is that the viewer is in on the physical change just as much as they are the emotional one.
Allan: Oh yeah. And it’s not only the color of my skin, but it’s also the texture of my skin and what my scars are doing because I have this whole series of scars on my chest from the zombie bites. So yeah, he’s morphing and changing and I, quite frankly, think that’s one of the reasons the audience has gravitated towards him, because you don’t know what’s next for him. And luckily, it’s been written in, and I’ll take some credit for it, that the audience has some partial empathy for this guy. I mean, in spite of everything, the bad decisions that he’s made in his life, he’s truly a victim of his circumstance. I think people, in a sense, see that he’s justified in being a dick. He’s kind of got the right, you know? He didn’t ask for any of this.

TrunkSpace: You talked a bit about the surprises you discover week to week, from the pimp outfit to being able to control the minds of zombie strippers, but has there been anything that has surprised you from a performance standpoint? Something where you went, “Whoa, I never thought I’d be going here with old Murph?”
Allan: Well, I have to say, without giving too much away, I get to go some places in this upcoming season that I really wasn’t expecting to go. And so that’s been exciting for me to explore a whole other side of this character that I didn’t really see as part of the overall story when I initially got on board.

The season has been interesting. There’s a couple of really powerful things for my character, and really dark things, too. And one of the things that I can talk about that was a little unexpected was Murphy’s empathy for the zombies. We hit on that early in season 1, that Murphy was the only one who’s saying, “Wait a minute, maybe they’re not as bad as you guys think they are. Maybe you’re taking everything at face value. Maybe there’s someone still in there. Maybe there’s still a consciousness. Maybe, you know, there’s some humanity left inside of these people.” He’s able to connect with them in a way that no one else was. And so, I think that was a really interesting take on my character, who is very selfish when we first come across him, and then all of a sudden, he’s the only one who’s saying, “Wait a minute, maybe you guys are the assholes!” He’s really sort of throwing up a mirror to these people who think they’re doing good just by slaughtering these people and he’s the one who’s saying, “Maybe you guys are the monsters.”

I think it’s a great social commentary in the bigger sense of in that we look at the disenfranchised and the way that they are judged solely based on what people’s perception of them is. And it’s a limited perception of them, I should say.

Z NATION — Season:4 — Pictured: Keith Allan as Murphy — (Photo by: Daniel Sawyer Schaefer/Go2 Z 4/Syfy)

TrunkSpace: It’s also a classic theme, going all the way back to original Frankenstein.
Allan: Exactly!

TrunkSpace: The show is tonally so different than anything else you’ll find on television. Do you think that’s part of what’s drawn such a loyal fan base, the fact that it feels unique compared to anything else they can find on other channels?
Allan: For sure. We’re definitely bringing much more of a graphic novel feel to this show. And I hear it constantly from fans that they were prepared to hate our show, simply because they thought we were doing another “The Walking Dead” knock-off. I think they clued in early on that we were, sort of, playing in a whole different world. I mean, you couldn’t miss it. Once a giant wheel of cheese rolls over a bunch of zombies, we ain’t the same show. (Laughter) And so it certainly became part of what people were drawn to because they didn’t know what to expect from us next.

We really struck a nice balance between the humor and the horror and the drama. We get to play in all of those worlds, which is great as an actor. I’m not on a straight show – it’s got all kinds of wacky twists and turns and different styles within it. Even within some of our seasons, there’s one episode that will just be a goofball episode – the whole thing is goofy – and then there are some that are more heavily dramatic. And for the fans that I talk to often, it’s the humor. “The humor just keeps bringing us back. You guys crack us up and then you break our hearts.”

TrunkSpace: In a lot of ways “Z Nation” is the indie band that they discovered and sort of view as “their” band.
Allan: Right! For sure. I love that.

TrunkSpace: We know that you’re also a writer and a director. Is there an interest or opportunity for you to step behind the camera and helm an episode of the show?
Allan: Brother, I’m glad you asked that, because actually, I got the opportunity to direct an episode this season.

TrunkSpace: Congtrats. That’s awesome.
Allan: Yeah. I got to be in the writers’ room for the creation of the episode, and the writer who actually penned the script, her name is Delondra Williams, is someone whom I have collaborated with on a couple of zombie movies for Syfy. I got to really help shape and mold the episode, which was great for me because I really know the characters. And she’s very talented, so it was great to get to collaborate with her because I love working with her. And then to get to direct something that I had an integral part in creating – I love that. I’m already envisioning it in my head when we’re chatting about it and when we’re writing a scene, so I think it’s super helpful to have the chance to play in both of those worlds.

So, yeah, I got to direct episode 4.4 this season, and in fact, I was just looking over some of it now for the color correction and looking at the finishing touches on this thing. And of course, you’re never quite done with it.

Z NATION — Season:4 — Pictured: (l-r) Keith Allan as Murphy, Russell Hodgkinson as Doc — (Photo by: Daniel Sawyer Schaefer/Go2 Z 4/Syfy)

TrunkSpace: It’s a big undertaking, especially when you’re also starring in the show.
Allan: I have to say, it’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. This season, especially, we are shooting super fast. Because of budget constraints, we’re now shooting five-day episodes, which is insane for a show that has special effects, special effects makeup, fights, a substantial cast, and you know, these goofy gags that we pull off. And initially when I had been given the opportunity to direct, it was decided amongst the producers and myself that it would be an episode that I would not be heavily featured in. Well, I don’t know where that idea went out the window, because I’m in about 75 to 80 percent of this episode. (Laughter) So I’m not only acting in it, but I’m directing. I was running around behind the camera and in front of the camera and behind the camera and… it was very, very challenging.

TrunkSpace: And yet at the same time, it was probably super addicting and you want to jump right in and do it again, right?
Allan: Yeah! I totally want to do it again because now I learned so much from doing it. I’m like, “Let’s just do it one more time, because now I know what the hell I’m doing!”

Season 4 of “Z Nation” kicks of tonight on Syfy.

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Wingman Wednesday

Karl Schaefer

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Z NATION — Season:4 — Pictured: DJ Qualls as Citizen Z — (Photo by: Daniel Sawyer Schaefer/Go2 Z 4/Syfy)

It is no easy feat for a television series to maintain a fandom (and time slot) for four seasons, especially when you’re a show that takes such creative risks as rolling a giant cheese wheel over a group of bloodthirsty zombies. And yet therein lies the genius behind Syfy’s genre mashup “Z Nation,” a post-apocalyptic episodic adventure that is often compared to “The Walking Dead” but is more closely related to “Gremlins” or “Young Frankenstein.” Yes, there is a group of humanity’s leftovers, wily in their ways, attempting to survive a never-ending army of the undead, but they’re doing it with punchlines and visual gags, making the journey more about escapism than realism.

With season 4 set to drag more rotting corpses into your homes starting on Friday, we sat down with series co-creator and showrunner Karl Schaefer to discuss how we’re all in on the “Z Nation” joke, the Spokane experience, and why he considers the show do-it-yourself filmmaking.

TrunkSpace: The humor and tone of “Z Nation” is not only so different than what other zombie shows present to viewers, but it’s so different than other shows in general. How much of that do you think plays into not only its initial success, but ongoing success as well?
Schaefer: Well, I think the humor and quirkiness of the show certainly is part of the secret sauce that makes it work. It’s kind of an organic thing that comes from me and my writing. If you look at my other shows, they all kind of have this tone to them. At the same time, the goal of this show, from the very beginning, was to make it the people’s zombie show and give everybody just what they wanted and cut out all of the rest of the stuff. We wanted to make it feel like when you watch the show, you get the feeling the people making the show are laughing their asses off, just off-camera. You’re kind of in on the joke with them. If the viewer at home had the tools to make their own zombie show, this is the kind of stuff they would be doing. We wanted it to have that feel to it.

TrunkSpace: At the same time, there’s also a specific mission that the characters are on, which gives the show some parameters within that wacky tone that we all love. With lot of post-apocalyptic shows, there’s always that vibe in the first season, but then it sort of disappears after awhile.
Schaefer: Right. I think that’s one of the things that was baked into the idea from the beginning, was that there was a sense of hope to the show, that there’s some actual thing the characters can do that might result in their well being at some point. So that gave it some sense of hope, and a reason to travel, and to keep pulling yourself from place to place. Most zombie shows, they kind of hunker down somewhere.

TrunkSpace: And that traveling aspect of the show allows for some great visual differences week-to-week.
Schaefer: Yeah, and that’s why we shoot in Spokane. There’s so many different looks within the 30 mile zone that we have to shoot. That’s what made it seem like we’re traveling across the country and is a big part of the fun of the show too.

TrunkSpace: We read in a previous interview that you did where you said you wanted the show to be the anti “The Walking Dead,” which makes complete sense from a creative standpoint. That being said, do you think “Z Nation” would have made it on the air had it not been for that show and the success it had?
Schaefer: That’s hard to say. Certainly before “The Walking Dead,” the idea of a zombie TV series seemed dumb. (Laughter) I mean, they did elevate the genre with it. That was sort of the genius of “The Walking Dead,” was it took the genre seriously to start with. Then it was sort of like, after a couple of seasons, it seemed like they took it too seriously. So my joke is, “The Walking Dead” is kind of like zombie church, and we’re sort of like zombie bowling.

TrunkSpace: Neon bowling!
Schaefer: Right. Do you want to go out to church or do you want to go bowling on a Friday night?

So that’s sort of where “Z Nation” lives because our driving question we ask about everything we do is, “Is this fun?” Our show is just purely about giving people an hour to forget and just distract them from whatever is bothering them.

TrunkSpace: Which is pretty timely with all of the chaos going on every time you put on the news. Distractions seem very welcome.
Schaefer: There’s a lot of TV you watch and you go, “What? How is this entertaining again? Why am I watching people in prison? Or sick in a hospital?” (Laughter) So we’re just trying to make it fun, and because we’re kind of so low budget, and we’re way up in the heart of darkness here in Spokane where nobody pays that much attention to us, we get away with a ton of stuff that you could never do on a regular show. We get network notes and it’s like, “Sorry, I don’t have the money to do that. That’s shot, there’s nothing I can do. Sorry.” And because it keeps working, they leave us alone.

Z NATION — Season:4 — Pictured: (l-r) Tara Holt as Lucy, Anastasia Baranova as Addy — (Photo by: Daniel Sawyer Schaefer/Go2 Z 4/Syfy)

I just walked out of a mix to do this, and the director and I are sitting there watching the mix going, “We could have never done this show anyplace where executives were paying tons of attention.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: And that’s not a bad place to be!
Schaefer: I think they sort of just let us go at this point. There’s been so many things where we’ve had a meeting going, “Is this really gonna work?” and then we kind of pull it off and they go, “All right, I guess they can throw 10,000 zombies into the Grand Canyon!” or, “I guess a cheese wheel is funny running over zombies, and you can actually make it look good!”

Syfy has been super supportive. I do have to say that. They’ve been great.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned budget, which got us to thinking… so often in the horror genre, great things come out of when creative people have to think outside the box because of budget constraints. Has that been the case with “Z Nation” through the first four seasons?
Schaefer: Oh, absolutely! This show is kind of like one of those cooking shows where they give you 10 ingredients at the beginning of the episode that don’t go together, and you gotta make a meal by the end of it. That’s sort of my challenge every week with this. We write all the scripts ahead of time down in LA, kind of knowing what we have up here, but then you get up here and see what we really have in locations, because we don’t have the money like on most TV shows to make the environment fit the script, we have to make the script fit the environment. So every script is rewritten to fit what we find so that we maximize what we find.

You don’t know that we were planning to do something else entirely. The audience just knows, “Oh, this seems really good what they did.” It’s because we changed something to fit something really cool that we found. There’s so many interesting, weird locations up here where we shoot, so it’s a very dynamic process that goes on, finding the locations and making it all fit. Having to be clever about the filmmaking of it – that’s what makes a show really fun to work on.

We have a great group of young filmmakers here in Spokane, and a great visual effects department that are just local guys that started out on the show, and then after working on the effects, started their own company and now they’re doing all of it. We do everything. We do models. We do forced perspective. We do lots of camera tricks, as well as good digital effects. It just makes it fun.

TrunkSpace: Like a giant cheese wheel for example!
Schaefer: With a gag like that, we actually built a giant cheese wheel. There’s a 35 foot cheese wheel that’s now in a museum in Spokane where we have a “Z Nation” exhibition here in town. We’re actually shooting a lot of the show at the museum as well, so people could come and watch us film.

We use every trick in the book to make this look as good as possible each week. There’s so many good people that just won’t let it be bad. If you saw our first cuts you’d be like, “Yeah, that looks like a cheesy, cheap, Asylum movie!” But by the time we’re done with it, there’s just so many good people adding little bits and pieces, and fixing things, that it looks like a real show by the time we’re done with it.

Z NATION — Season:4 — Pictured: (l-r) Russell Hodgkinson as Doc, Tara Holt as Lucy — (Photo by: Daniel Sawyer Schaefer/Go2 Z 4/Syfy)

TrunkSpace: Just by the excitement in your voice, it sounds like a heightened version of when you’re a kid and you grab the video recorder and then go out with your friends and try to shoot something cool.
Schaefer: That’s actually part of the appeal. One thing about the zombie genre is, it’s a do-it-yourself genre. People like to be zombies. They make zombie films. The original concept for the show, which we had to sort of drop because I think we just wound up with more story than we thought we were going to originally have, was going to be people sending in their own zombie videos that they made, which the Citizen Z character was gonna be receiving and playing as part of the interstitial stuff. It was because of that feeling of, “Let’s just go out and shoot this and do it with a couple of pie tins and homemade blood!” It’s part of the fun of the show, I think – the fact that it has a little bit of that handmade, do-it-yourself quality to it.

TrunkSpace: Prior to “Z Nation” you had a hand in the creation and development of a number of cable shows that sort of got the entire cable world rolling – “Eerie, Indiana,” “The Dead Zone,” and “Eureka,” to name a few. Now that everyone wants to be in cable, does it kind of feel like, “Hey, this is my turf!”
Schaefer: (Laughter) I wish it was my turf. My turf is pretty big at the moment. What is there, 400 something scripted TV shows now?

I’m glad to be working. We’re having a lot of fun up here. We’ve kind of hit that sweet spot where we’re pretty much left alone. We’re just getting to make a crazy zombie show. They give us money to make a crazy zombie show, nobody bothers us, and people like it. I’m gonna hang in here as long as I can. It seems like a pretty sweet place to be.

Season 4 of “Z Nation” kicks off Friday on Syfy.

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Zombees

Zombees #1

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In any given hive, 20,000 to 60,000 bees swarm, going about their daily lives. In this particular hive, there are just as many bees, but the difference is, none of them are alive! ZOMBEES follows the daily antics of a group of undead bees and the hilarious (and gory) comedy that ensues.

RETURN TO THE HIVE NEXT WEEK FOR MORE FROM ZOMBEES!

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Wingman Wednesday

Kelsey Scott

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Many young people with aspirations of becoming a professional actor dream of one day having their talents recognized with an Emmy nomination. Not many of those future award ceremony scenarios involve zombies.

The “Fear the Walking Dead” companion web series “Passage” was recently nominated for an Emmy in the new Outstanding Short Form Comedy or Drama Series category. Even more amazing than a genre show being recognized is that series star Kelsey Scott was also nominated in the Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series category, a well-deserved nod for a performance that will hopefully create a change in the way horror and science fiction performances are viewed on a critical level.

 


We recently sat down with Scott to discuss her “Passage” experience, her writer grandmother, and what she’d develop in Hollywood if presented with a blank check.

TrunkSpace: Did you ever think you’d receive an Emmy nod for working alongside of zombies?
Scott: (Laughter) I think you just take the ride. I can’t imagine that anyone would ever anticipate that, so you just go with it.

TrunkSpace: In all seriousness though, it must be nice to have your work and the format recognized. It’s great to see these short form projects getting critical attention, especially at this stage when they play like mini-movies.
Scott: Oh, absolutely. I said to someone at some point that short form has been like a pioneer of different stories of different narratives of different perspectives. It is now much simpler to produce in terms of content, so you get a lot of voices that maybe would not have been heard before because now they can actually get recognition. Now they can actually get their content distributed in some way. I think short form has become particularly important to an overall narrative for the industry.

TrunkSpace: And for a series like “Fear the Walking Dead,” these companion pieces are also a great way to build out the universe even further.
Scott: Exactly. Any number of people have seen a character on a show or even in film and wondered about their backstory or wished there was more to view with that particular character. This gives a chance to explore that type of stuff. It’s kind of a litmus test, I think, also for the larger brand in that they get to see what the fan reaction is to a certain type of character and then they can make some decisions about how much more to show in the actual long form.

TrunkSpace: What does the production schedule on something like “Passage” look like?
Scott: We spent three days in Santa Clarita and shot the entire 16 episodes in three days.

TrunkSpace: Wow.
Scott: Oh yeah! And we got bumped and bruised and scarred. It was so much fun.

TrunkSpace: Is it a situation where you get to spend three days with a character and then head home and wish you had more time with her?
Scott: Yeah, but it was great. I think the kind of compressed shooting schedule also just allows you to completely immerse yourself because it’s like, “All right, we’re just going to go hard for three days. Just get in there and do it.” It was great. One of the stories that Mishel and I talk about a lot is that on the third day, they brought in stunt doubles. We were like, “We’ve been doing all the stunts. Why do we have stunt doubles at the end?” (Laughter) We were like, “No, we’re good. We’ve already bled for this, so we’re okay.”

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) They bring them in right at the end to do a wide on the characters looking off into the sunset.
Scott: (Laughter) Right! “We’ve got this from here.”

Kelsey Scott as Sierra, Mishel Prada as Gabi – Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 2, Passage – Photo Credit: Ron Jaffe/AMC

That was a lot of fun though because you don’t often get to do that kind of thing, especially as a woman. The opportunities to do action and to get all dirty and wield weapons and kick butt doesn’t come along as often as we would like. It’s nice to not worry about whether or not your mascara is running or just to get in there and really, truly, literally and figuratively, get your hands dirty.

TrunkSpace: After getting in there and getting your hands dirty, was it a pleasant surprise when you learned about the Emmy nominations?
Scott: It was. It was a very pleasant surprise. You know that you’re on the ballot, so you know there’s a possibility, but there are a lot of people on the ballot. (Laughter) You hope that you are one of the people that gets chosen for that select spot. Yeah, it was really, really nice.

TrunkSpace: And you don’t often see genre pieces getting recognized in that way, so it speaks to how views are changing.
Scott: Yeah, I think they’re getting much more character-based than anyone anticipated. They can no longer be dismissed in terms of their story, so I think people are latching on to that.

TrunkSpace: You are a director and writer as well. When you’re focusing on a project strictly from an acting standpoint, is it hard for you to take off those other hats and not think like a director or think like a writer?
Scott: Not really. I think that it’s most difficult to separate those individual specialties when I’m writing, because when I’m writing, I’m writing as a writer, as an actor and a director. When you’re in front of the camera, then I think it’s really about delving into the character. I always think so highly of actor/directors who can direct themselves. How do you step outside of yourself when you’re on camera? I have the utmost respect for people who can do that. No, when I’m acting, I’m all in it.

TrunkSpace: Where did the bug bite you first?
Scott: It was definitely in the acting. From my first step on stage, though it was to sing not to act when I was three years old, so I’ve been doing the performing thing for awhile. My mother was very happy to refocus my energy out of her hair. (Laughter) She was just like, “Could you please do something with all of this energy that’s productive?”

I started on stage in Atlanta when I was just a child and then it grew from there. It was definitely acting, but my grandmother was a writer. That’s actually where I got the writing bug to begin with, when I was six years old.

TrunkSpace: That’s really cool.
Scott: She wasn’t a writer by profession, it’s something she loved to do. After she would write something, she’d let me read it, and sometimes I would actually go and perform her pieces around the community. She really sparked that in me, and then I kept going with it professionally.

TrunkSpace: It was great to have that focus so early in your upbringing because nowadays it seems more important than ever for actors to diversify and be able to create, write, and direct.
Scott: I could never have imagined the gift she gave me in sparking that interest in me because, absolutely, like I said, there are so many more opportunities to tell so many stories now, so you also need to be able to tell those stories. You can’t just depend on being in front of the camera, you have to be able to wield the pen. And that’s obviously a metaphor because nobody really writes out longhand anymore. (Laughter) You have to be able to figuratively wield the pen.

Then, if you’ve got even more skill sets in terms of the directing or the editing then that puts you in an even better position. The more you can do in-house, then I think the better the advantage you have.

TrunkSpace: Does being a writer/director also help you be a better actor and vice versa?
Scott: I think they all complement each other. Everybody talks about how theater is collaborative. That’s on somebody’s bumper sticker. I don’t know that people emphasize that as much in film and television, but it’s the exact same thing. None of this can be done on an island, so the more you know about the different aspects of the process, I think it just strengthens you in another area.

TrunkSpace: So if a studio came to you tomorrow and handed you a blank check to develop any kind of project that you wanted, what would it be?
Scott: Wow! A blank check? I’ve only ever seen those in movies!

Well, interestingly enough, because I am also a writer, I do have projects that are in different stages of development. You give me a blank check, and all of a sudden I’m financing a whole bunch of stuff. Oh yeah, I’d have so much fun with a blank check. Now you’ve got me dreaming!

TrunkSpace: So instead of putting it all into one project, you’d spread the wealth across multiple projects?
Scott: You did say blank check! (Laughter)

Watch “Passage” here.

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Wingman Wednesday

Mishel Prada

MishelPrada_Wingwoman_wednesday
Photo By: Louis Oberlander

In a post-apocalyptic world, being a survivor is not always a good thing, particularly for those attempting to outlast a zombie-geddon. Mishel Prada knows all too well about weathering that flesh-eating storm after being cast as a lead in the “Fear the Walking Dead” companion web series “Passage” where she portrays Gabi, one of the last hopes for humanity.

We recently sat down with Prada to discuss Emmy praise, her surprise casting, and immersing herself into the physicality of the role.

TrunkSpace: First we just have to say that it is extremely cool to see a genre series like “Passage” get recognized by the Emmy folks.
Prada: I know. It is really cool. I think the coolest part about it is that it’s part of this new media that’s coming out. I feel like new media is like this new generation’s rap music. People are like, “What is that rap music?” and then it ends up actually changing the game. I think new media and the online market, online web series and magazines, is the future. There’s an interesting change that is happening. It’s really cool to be a part of that.

TrunkSpace: Did you put more pressure on yourself as an actor stepping into something like “Passage” where you’re basically being folded into this massive universe/franchise that already has a huge fanbase?
Prada: I didn’t even know what I was getting into. (Laughter) I auditioned for it not knowing what it was at all and then didn’t realize what it was until the fitting. And then I didn’t realize that I was meant to be one of the leads of it until I got the script. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Wow. That’s a pleasant surprise!
Prada: I was like, “Oh, me and Kelsey are carrying this whole thing? Awesome!”

TrunkSpace: Discovering unexpectedly that you’re a lead in a high profile gig related to “The Walking Dead” seems like it might bring on a sudden panic attack. (Laughter)
Prada: (Laughter) Yeah, but it’s also exciting because as an actor, it’s fun to get to just dig into these stories. In addition to obviously being part of this big franchise, Lauren Signorino and Mike Zunic did an incredible job of writing a story that I felt really connected to. On set Kelsey and I really felt strongly about that, which was women coming together, doing their damn thing, and just surviving. In addition to being part of the franchise, it was this beautiful icing on the cake to get to also be part of telling stories that I think are very poignant for this time.

TrunkSpace: And from what we learned in talking with Kelsey, you guys got to do your own stunts as well, which must have made for some post-apocalyptic fun?
Prada: 100 percent. We had stunt people, but you kind of just get so deep into the characters that it almost doesn’t make sense to let somebody else take the fall or to feel the pain or whatever it is. In the moment, it was really just all-immersive. And then afterward, Kelsey and I went and had a margarita and we were sitting there just going, “Well, what was that?” (Laughter) We were all bruised and we went and had a spa day.

TrunkSpace: Much of the series looks claustrophobic. Did the shoot itself have that feel?
Prada: It wasn’t claustrophobic in the sense that you feel trapped, but it was definitely close quarters. The smoke and the dust and everything was very real. In between takes, we were having to wear these breathing masks. Just trying to also stay in it, which is the biggest thing because a lot of times an actor, you can kind of step away from the environment, but there’s also a beauty to sitting in the uncomfortableness of it because that is reality for the character. So there was a sense of making sure that you’re still honoring that.

TrunkSpace: Humans are always scarier than the zombies in “The Walking Dead” universe, but was it kind of weird to see the zombies standing near the crafty table in-between takes sipping a latte or whatever? (Laughter)
Prada: (Laughter) The makeup is amazing. The effects department does a really great job. They cast these characters with these really beautiful, interesting faces so that they kind of accentuate the angles. Yeah, it is a really cool thing to be a part of and see.

TrunkSpace: What’s amazing is that a lot of times these companion shorts/web series can sometimes feel like they’re shot on the cheap and not fully immersed in the umbrella of the universe, but with “Passage,” it seemed like they pulled no punches to make it look and feel just like what fans of “The Walking Dead” or “Fear the Walking Dead” have grown accustom to.
Prada: Yeah, the cinematography was incredible. They did a really great job. I remember seeing a lot of the stills and just thinking how beautiful it looked. We weren’t really wearing a lot of makeup and it wasn’t really about the women looking beautiful or looking poised. A lot of it was just about whatever the action was that was going on and the beauty of the sets, which was really cool.

TrunkSpace: When you learned that you would be one of the leads in “Passage,” did it feel like it could open more doors in your career?
Prada: As with anything in life, it’s always good to just experience what you’re experiencing right at the moment. I suppose that is the luxury of not knowing what the future is with the project. All that you know is just that moment and all of us could kind of take a lesson in that… just to really focus on what’s in front of you and whatever you’re feeling and tend to that.

Mishel Prada as Gabi – Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 2, Passage – Photo Credit: Ron Jaffe/AMC

TrunkSpace: Since it aired, have you felt the reach of “The Walking Dead” fanbase?
Prada: Yeah, the fanbase has been really cool. I have a friend that’s on “The Walking Dead,” Alanna Masterson. I’ve seen what has happened with her being on the show. It never really occurred to me when we were shooting it that it would be something that would carry over in that way.

I think what’s cool about “Fear the Walking Dead” is that it really embraces a lot of diversity with the way the Latin community looks at death in a different way. Whereas, in Mexico and most of Latin American, death is celebrated. It is feared to some extent, but it’s just a transition. There’s a compassion in a way.

TrunkSpace: It’s almost more of an acceptance of death and not fighting against it.
Prada: Exactly, and having to live with that death as opposed to being able to bury it away and forget about it.

TrunkSpace: Earlier in our conversation you mentioned that it is cool to be a part of this new media generation. Do you think the various platforms that are now available to viewers has enabled content creators to take a more creative approach to storytelling and tell the story they want to tell?
Prada: Oh yeah, 100 percent. That’s why it’s so incredible that there is this place that just eliminates the excuses of, “Oh well, a studio’s not giving me money so…” Even if you only have an iPhone, you can tell a story and put it up, and people might resonate with it.

Watch “Passage” here.

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