September 2017

The Featured Presentation

Jocko Sims

Photographed by Steven Gerlich at Aesthesia Studios

As Lieutenant Carlton Burk on the TNT drama series “The Last Ship,” Jocko Sims not only survived the Apocalypse, but the casting sheet as well. Originally slated to guest star in five episodes, the Texas native was told at the end of the first season that he shouldn’t go out for any new pilots because they wanted him to come back as a series regular. He has been fighting the good fight ever since.

We recently sat down with Sims to discuss how being on set taps into his childhood imagination, the places he never thought he’d get to explore with Burk, and the greatest movie Michael Bay has yet to make but should, “Transformers Chainsaw Massacre.”

TrunkSpace: The fourth season of “The Last Ship” is airing now, but you actually just wrapped up the fifth as well. Was that an unusual experience in relation to previous seasons, shooting them back-to-back like that?
Sims: Yes, it definitely was. Usually we film somewhere between five and six months out of the year for one season. And then when we got the two-season pick up and we were told we were gonna film the entire thing back-to-back, we were taken aback a little bit. We were like “Wow,” because we realized we were gonna film for an entire year straight. And we did just that, and you know, it actually was a blur. It went by quicker than any of us anticipated.

TrunkSpace: One of the amazing things about the show is the realistic quality of the sets. When you first stepped foot on the bridge of the ship, with all of the buttons and knobs and crazy lighting, was your inner 13-year-old super excited?
Sims: To be honest, 30-something-year-old me is still excited. (Laughter) And five seasons in, every time I step into the CIC (Combat Information Center), where all the action goes down, even though it’s just a set, it’s really remarkable. I’m always in there pressing buttons and trying not to break them, because they’re not real. And I’ll get in trouble sometimes, but you can’t help but sit there and call out a command and press something and just imagine a Tomahawk missile or something being launched from this multi-billion dollar equipment of a naval ship. I mean, it’s just incredible. You’re right, it does tap into your sort of childhood imagination and dreams.

TrunkSpace: And they’re just so authentic, so it only helps spark the imagination even more.
Sims: That’s a testament to the support of the United States Navy. Even the Secretary of the Navy himself, who made a cameo in season 2, Ray Mabus, came by and he stepped foot on our sets and he said he literally couldn’t tell the difference between the p-ways, which are the hallways of the ship, and the actual ship. Of course, CIC is not exactly precise and accurate, because there are some limitations there as far as what we’re able to emulate for security reasons, but other than that, there are lots of parts of the ship that are exactly carbon copies, so it’s pretty remarkable what they’ve done.

TrunkSpace: When you started out on the show, you came in as a guest star. Did you have any idea you’d still be talking about your character Carlton Burk all these years later?
Sims: Not at all. Five episodes turned into five seasons and that’s how I like to tell it. And it was exactly that. I didn’t know about “The Last Ship” when I got on for the second episode. The pilot they had shot in 2012, I think, and it took them a while before they picked it up. And then in 2013, I came and I was at the table read and was instantly a part of the family. I couldn’t predict that I was going to be there for the long-haul, but I just felt very much at home. I was treated much the same by all the regulars there, who were the original people – Eric Dane, Adam Baldwin, Christina Elmore, Charles Parnell, and Mr. Travis Van Winkle. And before I knew it, the season was up and Hank Steinberg (series creator) came to me and pulled me aside. He said, “Hey, pilot season is coming up, but don’t go out for any pilots, I’m gonna lock you in.”

TrunkSpace: That’s awesome. Not only to see the role turn into a series regular, but on top of that, not to have to deal with the heartbreak of pilot season!
Sims: Listen, not just that, but for the last five pilot seasons. (Laughter) It’s been amazing. That’s always a blessing, as an actor. And you know, I even talk to our sound guy, Steve Nelson, and he’s been in the business for 30 years. And he’s done a lot of films. As we were wrapping up he said, “This is my first time ever wrapping a fifth season of a show.” That touched me and helped me to really appreciate more of the experience that we’re currently having.

TrunkSpace: As far as other series go, “The Last Ship” really seems to have had a different kind of journey than a lot of others that have made it on the air. It has sort of marched to the beat of its own drum.
Sims: Absolutely, well, or at least marched to the beat of the audience. They’ve been mad supportive of the entire run. And we had a little bit of a delay to get on the air for season 4 as they pushed the schedule back, and the fans were going a bit stir-crazy. And I don’t blame them. I mean, as it stands now, for the first three seasons, we would have to wait nearly a year for the show to air. This one went a little bit beyond a year, but the payoff thus far has been so great for the fans. They’re really enjoying this season.

“THE LAST SHIP S3 UNIT” “Don’t Look Back” / Ep 313 TNT Ph: Doug Hyun

TrunkSpace: Throughout those seasons, what is something that the writers handed you story-wise that you were excited to throw yourself into and stretch yourself as an actor?
Sims: Well, there’s a couple of things, and it started in season 2 for me. That’s when I feel that Burk really began to come alive as a character. Well, actually I can go back to season 1. When I first got the role, there I was signed on to play this tough-as-nails guy, who is going to be, essentially yelling at his men and getting them prepared for what’s to come, and I’ve never played a character like that before. So it was great to dive into that. But what I loved about what the writers had written from the very beginning, was that Burk had this interesting parallel where he was going to be loyal to the Navy, loyal to the ship, and loyal to the mission, but at the same time, he has a big heart. And so there’s scenes in season 1 where I would be going hard on Kevin Michael Martin’s character, Miller, and ask him if he’s bucking for a silver star. After he hears a noise and fires his rifle off, it turns out to be a crow that he was firing at. And I take his gun away and he moves on. And then Captain Chandler comes up to me and I ask him, “Is that a little too much?” And he goes, “Nope, that was just right.”

So the fact that they had that duality going on in the character from the beginning I thought was really cool. And then in season 2, you see an even softer side of Burk as you got a love interest in Ravit Bivas, who was played by, Inbar Lavi. She is a fantastic actress and we hit it off pretty well. And also that was an interesting journey because she came in for seven episodes and then, of course, her character dies at the end of that, so Burk has definitely gone through a lot of emotion and that has definitely been the case for this season as well.

TrunkSpace: You mention this season specifically there, and we saw on your Twitter page that you felt the recent episode was the strongest so far. Now in season 4, that’s where a lot of shows start to lose their storytelling juice. What do you think keeps things going so strong for “The Last Ship?”
Sims: Well, the writers have always wanted to make sure that each season was going to be a stand-alone season. Season 1 was about finding out what this virus was, who weaponized it, why it’s killed billions of people, and coming up with the vaccine. Season 2 was about going back to America. Going home, and seeing what was left of home. And that was also the season where you saw the rise of the Immunes. Season 3 was about distributing the virus all around the world, and then we find out in Asia that we’re having some trouble curing some people. We didn’t know if the virus had mutated at that point or if we found out that some people, perhaps the president of China, was sort of wrangling that vaccine and using it for his own purposes. And then season 4, now you see that the virus have shifted and it’s jumped into the crops and it’s affected the world’s crops, so now we’re dealing with world hunger, potentially, and famine. And so I think what makes the show so strong is that each season has its own obstacles and its own new enemy, and that’s what keeps it interesting and keeps it fun.

Photographed by Steven Gerlich at Aesthesia Studios

TrunkSpace: You’ve been hosting, producing, and directing “Apollo Night LA” since before your “The Last Ship” journey began. Is it important for you to maintain other creative endeavors outside of acting and diversify your own brand as much as possible?
Sims: Yeah, definitely. And it’s not so much just attempting to do so, but it’s more about the natural inclination to do it, just as an artist. When you’re an artist, you’re an artist. And that’s why you find a lot of people who are actors who also happen to be musicians, and vice versa. And you know, the older I get, the more I want to branch out and start exploring other things that I might be interested in.

Recently I started toying with the idea of painting a little bit. I’m not sure I have the patience exactly for that yet, but I’m definitely in touch with my artistic side. I definitely want to direct a lot more and write, and I’m interested in maybe doing a horror film or something in the horror genre. When I was growing up, I wasn’t inspired so much by actors as I was by directors. Wes Craven was one of my favorites, because he created the best boogie man of all time in Freddy Krueger.

I want to reinvent the wheel, in that regard – try and to capture that. And I know people have tried time and again, with different genres, but that would be my ultimate goal as a creative person at this point.

TrunkSpace: “A Nightmare on Elm Street” was such an ingenious idea because everyone can relate to sleeping and dreaming, so to weaponize that, it’s terrifying. It was lighting in a bottle, and, even when they tried to remake it, the concept didn’t work as well.
Sims: Yeah, it’s very difficult to recreate some of the classics. Very few people have been able to do it successfully. God Bless him, Michael Bay, who’s my boss’ boss’ boss, he’s the one. He’ll remake anything. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Transformers,” “Chainsaw Massacre,” “Amityville Horror,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” It doesn’t matter. If you can think of it, he’s gonna do it.

TrunkSpace: For a second there it sounded like you said “Transformers Chainsaw Massacre,” which, by the way, would be incredible!
Sims: (Laughter) Hey, listen, with Michael Bay, I wouldn’t put it past him.

“The Last Ship” airs Sundays on TNT.

Watch “Apollo Night LA” every Monday at 7 pm PST here

Featured Image: Photographed by Steven Gerlich at Aesthesia Studios

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Next Up

Canaan John


Name: Canaan John

Hometown: East Orange, NJ

Current Location: Los Angeles, CA

TrunkSpace: When did you know that you wanted to act for a living?
John: Before fully realizing my ambitions, it was my mother’s idea for me to pursue acting. One summer morning a friend called our house and asked for me, I had been up for a while but when I answered the phone I acted as if I was just waking up and used that as an excuse to not hang out. My mother overheard this and, immediately after I hung up the phone, she came into my bedroom and jokingly said, “Quit school and go to Hollywood.” I didn’t quit school, but I did excel in the arts while attending Whitney E. Houston Academy of Performing Arts in my hometown. I’ve always dreamed of being an actor and never thought it was possible until I got cast in my first Off-Off Broadway show in New York City. After that I was hooked.

TrunkSpace: Was there a particular performance or actor/actress from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
John: I’ve always admired the careers of Will Smith and Leonardo DiCaprio. Watching Will Smith break barriers as a top film star has been inspiring especially since we share the same ethnicity. My favorite movie is “The Pursuit of Happyness.” When I watch this movie, I always get emotional. Not only was the acting superb, but the story was a story anyone could relate to that has ambition. As far as DiCaprio, I’ve always admired the range of characters he portrays. There are many other actors I admire like Julianne Moore, Jeffrey Wright, Idris Elba, Mahershala Ali and Meryl Streep, to name a few. I like to pull inspiration from many, many actors of today and yesterday, but these are actors I find myself drawn to most.

TrunkSpace: How did you decide to approach your career as an actor? Did you formulate a plan of how you wanted to attack what is known for being a hard industry to crack?
John: My main plan is to work as much as possible when I’m offered work; with discretion of course. I have a commercial agent, but I self-submit everyday. I’m on all of the major casting notice services with most accounts having an annual subscription to keep monthly expenses down. I try to be strategic with the roles I submit for. I mostly submit myself to roles that would play up my strengths but are also kind of challenging. I’ve been cast in a variety of characters using my ‘formula’. I just stick to the mindset of, ‘just keep moving forward’.

TrunkSpace: When did you decide to move away from your home and pursue acting as a career? How old were you at the time?
John: I started acting in New York City at around 22 years old. My first acting experience was in the 5th grade for a school play, and numerous church plays while growing up. I took a break from acting from age 25 to 32 while I focused on my personal life and life after college. Acting in Los Angeles actually happened by haphazard. I was on a Warner Bros. Studio Tour with my partner and the guide mentioned how actors get onto the studio lot by doing background work and instantly all the years of acting on stage and in film flooded back to my mind.

I had forgotten about my love for acting because I was so wrapped up in Life. At age 32, I signed up with Central Casting in Burbank and did a few months of background work and even got featured on two episodes of a show in a scene with an Emmy winner. After that experience, doing background work wasn’t satisfying anymore. I wanted to act. I stopped doing background work as often and focused on auditioning for speaking roles. Within one year I have filmed speaking roles in four short films, a commercial, a Web skit with a big following, and a few other confidential projects coming soon.

TrunkSpace: Was that move an easy transition for you initially? How long did it take you to feel at home and find a good support group of friends and peers?
John: The move was a very easy transition for me since I’m lucky enough to have an amazing and supportive partner. It is a challenge finding work out here while maintaining a flexible schedule to audition, but I try to take it one day at a time and enjoy the journey of becoming a full-time actor. I was able to make great friends out here as well. I honestly feel that I took a big risk in moving from the East Coast to the West Coast, but with proper planning, things have happened in my favor. There are trying days that test my desire for this career, but I work to maintain a positive outlook by surrounding myself with happy & motivated friends. I still have to pinch myself daily that I live in Los Angeles. The opportunity to live here and pursue my dreams has exceeded all possibilities I thought for myself just five years ago.

TrunkSpace: What has been been your biggest break in terms of a particular role or project thus far?
John: I would say my biggest break was landing a spot in a commercial for a casting company out here in Los Angeles. It has been such a confidence boost that’s providing me great momentum. Another big break is my first speaking role in a film called, “Chirp, Buzz & Other Sensations,” directed by Miley Durbin. So much went into the production and marketing of the film that I felt as if I was a part of a major studio production. Every part I land is a big break because I get to act.

TrunkSpace: Is there a specific type of role you’d like to take on or a specific genre that you feel more at home in?
John: I have this fantasy of playing character on a great journey. Another favorite movie of mine is “Diarios de Motocicleta” (“The Motorcycle Diaries”). This movie is great because it follows the journey of a man who has a goal, but finds himself on the way through trials and tribulations. I feel everyone is on a journey and it’s epic adventures like “The Motorcycle Diaries” that remind me that no matter what, I have to stay focused on my goals and dreams. I’ve been most attracted to epic films, whether drama, sci-fi, dark comedy or action. I love films that are of another place and time that allows the audience to escape with high quality cinematography, art direction, costumes, direction and acting. I love all the work that goes into creating these worlds for us actors to act in. Truthfully though, I’d feel most at home in epic dramas.

TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength an actor/actress can have outside of acting ability itself?
John: The greatest strength in knowing yourself. It’s easy to get lost in trying to figure out why I didn’t get cast in something or why agents and managers aren’t banging down my door. That coupled with the endless flow of rejection could make me go crazy, but I decided to enjoy the process. My first acting coach John Pallotta told me to enjoy the journey of acting and not the destination and that has totally changed how I view my pursuit of acting. I love what I do, so no matter what happens, I’m moving forward.

The desire to act coupled with my hobbies and a support system keep me going. I enjoy travel photography, creating apps, weekend getaways as well as working out. I try to immerse myself in culture by attending various events, museums, etc. Trying new things and experiences will strengthen a character and it’s helped me a lot with expanding my world. Being open to new experiences has shaped me as a man and as an actor.

TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your acting career? Where would you like your path to lead?
John: My ultimate dream is to be a full-time actor acting in independent, major studio films and prestige television shows. I’d love to be that actor who travels to far off places to create characters and has a filmography of great movies. My ultimate dream role would be to portray 1970s disco star Sylvester in a gritty independent feature length biopic, or Oprah Winfrey plays my mother.

TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring actor/actress who is considering moving away from home to pursue their dream?
John: Plan. Having a plan is better than no plan. There are performers who come here with $200 and a dream and that’s great, but I could also imagine very stressful. Doing research on areas, possible ‘pay-the-bills’ jobs, it helps make the transition a little smoother. A car (even if cheap) will make it so much easier to hop from auditions, to sets, to work, to home. And if you can, have some money stashed away. Lastly, dream big and build momentum; no one has overnight success.

TrunkSpace: Where can people (and casting directors) learn more about you?
John: The easiest way for people and casting directors to reach me is via and/or!

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The Featured Presentation

Geoff Gustafson

GeoffGustafson_Wingman_wednesday (1)

Even though digital correspondence is the preferred method of communication these days, we all still love to open the mailbox and find a handwritten letter waiting for us. There’s something nostalgic about peeling back the seal of a freshly delivered envelope and discovering what is waiting for us inside. That’s why the concept of the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ ongoing franchise, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” is so ingenious, because it strikes a chord before you ever get past the opening credits.

A group of postal detectives work to solve the mysteries behind undeliverable letters and packages from the past, delivering them when they are needed most.”

As far as pitches go, it doesn’t get much better than that, and for the countless fans of the series who have followed along with it since it first began airing in 2014, the individual stories that make up each standalone movie back up the overall premise.

The latest installment, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Home Again,” premieres Sunday, September 24 at 9 pm ET/PT on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. We recently sat down with series star Geoff Gustafson to discuss the passionate fanbase, why the series has continued to find success, and the experience of having a television icon play his grandmother.

TrunkSpace: We were amazed by how passionate the “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” fanbase is. In many ways, it almost seems like the kind of fandom associated with science fiction shows. Have you been surprised by the level of interest and amount of passion coming from the fanbase?
Gustafson: Oh yeah, absolutely. The POstables, as they are called, are rabid. They are really into it and have created a really solid foundation with some core members that promote the show and promote different viewing nights during the course of the year to watch previously aired episodes and the movies.

TrunkSpace: What do you think the key has been to building that audience? What has pulled the POstables in?
Gustafson: Well, I think it starts with Martha Williamson, the show’s creator. She had a memorable stint with “Touched by an Angel,” so she is familiar with that demographic. And I think people are looking for less violent, more family-oriented shows that they don’t have to worry about. They can relax and watch a family show. I think that’s really what they’re attracted to, that no-fear TV feeling.

TrunkSpace: It does feel like perhaps people are looking for a balance. They can have their dark and gritty programming, but at the same time, they still want to feel good sometimes.
Gustafson: Absolutely. And it is… feel-good show sounds a bit cliché, but I think at its core, it is essentially that, it’s a feel-good show. You don’t worry about betrayal amongst the core four, the POstables themselves. You know they’re going to do their best and come from the most positive place that they can muster. There’s no real fear of them traveling down a dark path, it’s just, how are they going to manage the obstacles that they face?

TrunkSpace: What has been the biggest surprise for you in your “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” journey so far?
Gustafson: You know, the show continuing to tell an ongoing story has been a bit of a surprise. I thought it would be easier to do it week to week with an hour-long episode, but the truth is that I think with the new format, the two hour MOW (movie of the week) format, we’re still telling an ongoing story. In fact, I think that the two hour format gives us a bit more time to expand on every letter mystery. We have a bit more time to flesh that out and find it’s relevance to the POstables and their immediate families in some cases, or just their immediate surroundings.

TrunkSpace: And in terms of a personal character journey, is it enjoyable to see Norman’s arc play out in a single movie as opposed to over the course of a handful of episodes?
Gustafson: Yeah, I think so. I think sometimes in the hour-long episodes, there’s the tendency to rush some development. And I think you are able to expand on the same growth over a two hour period and then oftentimes between the MOWs, a significant period of time has passed, so it can be a couple of months or three weeks, or six months even. The growth feels more organic I think, oftentimes in the trials and tribulations of the POstables. It doesn’t feel as rushed.

TrunkSpace: We talked about surprises, but when it comes to joys, we would imagine learning that Carol Burnett would be playing your grandmother in the series was right up there?
Gustafson: Yeah, it honestly doesn’t get better than that. I wouldn’t say it was on my bucket list, because that would never even occur to me that it could happen, but yeah, growing up, my dad was a huge “Carol Burnett Show” fan. I remember sitting and watching it with him and laughing hysterically at her, Harvey Korman, and the guy who plays Dorf. So when they told me that she was going to play my grandmother, I was over the moon. It was awesome. And sure enough, even just working with her was beyond what I could have hoped for. She was hilarious and gracious, and professional, and sharp as a tack, and just so kind and reassuring. If I could choose a grandmother, I would pick Carol Burnett. (Laughter)

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Home Again Photo: Crystal Lowe, Geoff Gustafson Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: David Owen Strongman

TrunkSpace: You’ve been playing Norman now since 2014. Were there any performance choices that you made in the early days of discovering who Norman was that you feel paid off later in ways that you never intended?
Gustafson: Yeah, I think so. The truth is, Martha Williamson is really open to hashing out our ideas with her, and managing to incorporate them into the story. So the idea of Norman being a foster child that gets adopted, and his struggles to feel like a part of a family – that was all set up from the beginning. Probably where it pays off the most is in my relationship with Rita, Crystal Lowe’s character. Crystal and I have known each other for years. We grew up in the same town, we were on another show together, we lived across the street from each other, so we’re pretty close outside of work.

But it’s been fun watching Rita and Norman grow into this really, really innocent partnership. And that probably is the biggest surprise. Not because I don’t get along with Crystal, I get along with her great, but rather, to somehow manage to have maintained this innocence throughout all of these years to a place where now they’re engaged, and they’re gonna get married, and the idea, I imagine, would be that they would continue and have a family, etc.

I think it’s maybe my choice to develop an aspect of Norman where he loves so freely, and sees the value in loving an infinite number of people, and yet really struggles with what there is to love in himself, and then having Rita play what she loves about him so sincerely and directly. I think that would probably be the biggest surprise, and how that’s managed to help formulate their partnership.

TrunkSpace: What do you think the fanbase is going to love most about the latest installment, “Home Again?”
Gustafson: We get to see more of the personal lives of the POstables in this one, particularly on Rita’s side, which I think is really exciting. In a lot of ways, Rita’s character is a bit of a mystery. We don’t really know that much about who she is and where she’s from. We’ve explored Shane, we’ve explored Norman, we’ve explored Oliver, and I think Rita’s character is the character that benefits the most from the exploration in this. I think it’s hilarious, and it’s so lovely, and it makes so much sense as to why Rita is the way she is, so that will be something that the POstables and the other fans will be excited by.

TrunkSpace: We’re all nutty for the show “Supernatural” here, and you actually appeared in an episode during its infancy. When you worked on the show, did it have the feeling of a series that would be around for 13 years?
Gustafson: Holy smokes. Yeah, I was in an episode in the very first season. You know what, thinking back, at the time I was pretty green, and I remember feeling very comfortable on set. The two lead gentlemen, Jensen and Jared, they were both so welcoming and professional. They’d put together a real A Team for “Supernatural,” so I’m not surprised. I just remember at the time being like, “Whoa, this feels like a real TV show,” as opposed to something that was maybe a bit soft and thrown together.

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The Featured Presentation

Kristin Booth

KristinBooth_Wingwoman_wednesday (1)

Even though digital correspondence is the preferred method of communication these days, we all still love to open the mailbox and find a handwritten letter waiting for us. There’s something nostalgic about peeling back the seal of a freshly delivered envelope and discovering what is waiting for us inside. That’s why the concept of the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ ongoing franchise, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” is so ingenious, because it strikes a chord before you ever get past the opening credits.

A group of postal detectives work to solve the mysteries behind undeliverable letters and packages from the past, delivering them when they are needed most.”

As far as pitches go, it doesn’t get much better than that, and for the countless fans of the series who have followed along with it since it first began airing in 2014, the individual stories that make up each standalone movie back up the overall premise.

The latest installment, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Home Again,” premieres Sunday, September 24 at 9 pm ET/PT on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. We recently sat down with series star Kristin Booth to discuss how the franchise has affected her life, how she is continuously surprised by the fan reaction, and what those fans will enjoy most about the latest installment.

TrunkSpace: We spoke with Crystal Lowe recently and one of the things that we discussed is how important you have become in her life. In terms of the journey, getting to work on a project that you not only connect with creatively, but to then also forge these types of lasting relationships, we would imagine that has to be the best care scenario?
Booth: You know, it really is. I have to say, despite loving the content and the writing of what we’re doing on “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” it’s the relationships that have really made it a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Crystal and I are basically like sisters now. Martha Williamson and I are very close. It’s just really nice to be able to be a part of something where you actually love the people that you’re doing it with.

TrunkSpace: Does that off-camera chemistry translate to on-screen chemistry?
Booth: I think it definitely does. We really work as a team. We’re very collaborative. Martha’s words are very rarely changed because she’s so brilliant. If there was something that didn’t make sense for one of us or if we had an idea, what’s so great about working on “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” is everyone’s really open to other people’s visions and their ideas. If it’s not what they wanted, we’re all cool and we just say, “Okay, it’s not gonna work.” It’s a nice working environment where you can express yourself artistically and feel safe to do so. That’s a really nice feeling. I think that only comes with the trust and the love that we all share with one another.

TrunkSpace: When the franchise originally transitioned from the episodic format to the film format, was that a concern or was it something you welcomed?
Booth: Well, it definitely concerned me at first because we didn’t know we were picked up as a movie series when we were told that the series wasn’t going to continue. There was a lot of unknowns at the time. Although the idea of the movie series was presented, it wasn’t set in stone. It wasn’t solid yet. That part of it made me very nervous, so I was obviously concerned.

However, the idea of going back to the two hour format excited me because I think the type of topics and the type of themes that Martha tackles in these movies or in the series as well, they deserve that two hour time rather than the one hour episode. I believe we’re able to do so much more and make the stories more rich with the time we have.

TrunkSpace: From a fan interaction standpoint, it seems like doing them as movies also makes them events when they do air.
Booth: 100 percent it does. Often Crystal and I will live tweet and Eric (Mabius) has live tweeted with our fans. The anticipation for each movie – it’s amazing to me. I love communicating back and forth via social media with the fans, the POstables, because I get super excited for them to see it because I know they’ve been waiting for so long. I’ll often get little message here and there saying, “We haven’t heard when the next one’s coming out. When is it coming out because I need my fix of SSD?” It’s just really rewarding for a performer to know that people enjoy it as much as they do.

TrunkSpace: What’s fascinating about the fanbase is that the level of interest and passion in the franchise is the kind you usually see associated with genre shows.
Booth: Right. I think you’re correct completely. “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” delivers… pardon the pun… it delivers a message, a feeling of hope and of faith in a time in our lives, in society and the world, where things are very uncertain and a little bit scary. What “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” provides for our audience is a safe place to come for two hours. People that they trust, the characters, they know that they are going to be inspired or they’re going to be touched or moved in some way.

What’s incredible to me is how many people, how many of the fans, have reached out and said just how much the show has affected their lives. They’re able to draw comparisons to either what our four POstables are going through or perhaps the B storyline of each movie. I think that’s what keeps bringing people back and drawing new fans each time we have another movie.

TrunkSpace: “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” first aired in 2014. A lot can change in four years, both over the course of a franchise and in the lives of those who inhabit the world. Do you feel like you’ve grown and changed along with your character Shane in that timeframe?
Booth: Oh, tremendously! 100 percent! I think you can’t avoid that if you’re a committed actor and you’re really giving your all to what’s happening in the character’s life. It’s bound to influence you personally. It’s bound to affect you emotionally. Hopefully, you grow as a person as your character grows thro
ughout the series.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Home Again Photo: Kristin Booth, Eric Mabius Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: David Owen Strongman

TrunkSpace: Is there a moment over the course of your time with your character where you felt like you really got to stretch as an actor and said to yourself, “Wow, I never thought I’d get to go here with Shane. I never thought we’d travel this path together.”
Booth: Well actually, there’s been several, to be honest. (Laughter) Martha is genius at always surprising me at what she brings to the table with her scripts. It’s so interesting too, because often upon the first read, I’ll get an impression, but it isn’t until I’m actually on set and I’m in the scene where I will have these amazing epiphany moments. She’ll often write something in it, descriptive-wise, like “Shane cries at this moment,” or whatever. As an actor, I’m like, “Oh, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to cry at that moment. Maybe it’ll come at another point or maybe it won’t come at all.” But with Martha’s writing, I’ve never experienced anything quite like what her writing does for me as an actor because she’s so in tune with the characters and it’s so right, that whenever I get into the scene, I start discovering all of this incredible stuff that I may have not thought about when I was reading it or working on the lines because I’m reacting to what Oliver’s giving me or what Rita or Norman’s giving me, or whoever I’m working with.

I’m always shocked and amazed and thrilled because there just have been so many times where I’ve thought in my head beforehand, “Oh, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to make this work or connect to it emotionally.” Then I’m in the scene, I’m saying the words, and tears are just flowing. (Laughter) It’s so interesting. I feel extremely blessed that I get to work with that type of material that is able to do that for me as an actor.

TrunkSpace: What do you think the fans are going to be most drawn to with the latest installment, “Home Again?”
Booth: Well, I think the POstables are going to be really excited. “Home Again” is the first time that we see Norman and Rita as a couple and Shane and Oliver as a couple. It’s been a long journey for both of them. It’s exciting to have those characters in a position now where they’re trying to navigate actually being together as a couple and admitting it to each other. (Laughter) I think the audience is going to love seeing that dynamic. Norman and Rita are at a certain stage in their relationship, but especially Oliver and Shane. This is the first time we actually see them as a couple. They’re still trying to figure it out. They have no idea what they’re doing. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: You guested in a memorable episode of a show that we all love here, “Supernatural.” That series is going into its 13th season, which is an incredible feat. If “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” was to go on a similar journey, would you welcome playing Shane for such an extended period of time?
Booth: Definitely. It comes with a whole set of challenges that you don’t encounter when you’re doing something as a one-off or for a year or something like that. I mean, to be about to sustain the freshness, the lure as an actor of a character you’ve been playing that long, is a challenge in and of itself. It’d be very different if I wasn’t continually blown away and challenged by Martha’s words and scripts and stories and themes. But I am, and so I would welcome that for sure because I’m constantly surprised and wowed by the things that go on and the things that I discover about Shane even still.

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The Featured Presentation

Crystal Lowe

© Crown Media United States, LLC

Even though digital correspondence is the preferred method of communication these days, we all still love to open the mailbox and find a handwritten letter waiting for us. There’s something nostalgic about peeling back the seal of a freshly delivered envelope and discovering what is waiting for us inside. That’s why the concept of the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ ongoing franchise, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” is so ingenious, because it strikes a chord before you ever get past the opening credits.

A group of postal detectives work to solve the mysteries behind undeliverable letters and packages from the past, delivering them when they are needed most.”

As far as pitches go, it doesn’t get much better than that, and for the countless fans of the series who have followed along with it since it first began airing in 2014, the individual stories that make up each standalone movie back up the overall premise.

The latest installment, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Home Again,” premieres Sunday, September 24 at 9 pm ET/PT on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. We recently sat down with series star Crystal Lowe to discuss how her character Rita was a welcome departure from previous roles, why she feels the franchise is resonating with audiences, and how she had to restrain herself from fangirling on Mandy Patinkin.

TrunkSpace: Early in your career you appeared in a number of horror films, including “Black Christmas” and “Final Destination 3.” Did you make a conscious effort to step away from that genre and focus on other things so as not to be pigeonholed?
Lowe: I actually did. It’s not that I don’t enjoy doing the horror genre, but no painter wants to paint the same painting over and over again. That’s what appealed to me as well. I think I’ve always said it would be a dream of mine that when somebody sees my demo reel, for them to not recognize me from role to role. I did appreciate the fans and the love that I got from that community because they’re a very tight community, but it was an ongoing joke that I wanted to live in a movie. Just one. “I just need to not die in things, that would be amazing.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: What is the key to successfully breaking out of a particular way of being viewed within this industry?
Lowe: I think for me it was that I hunkered down a lot and I studied and I studied and I studied. I was taking classes. I still take classes. I always will. I begged casting directors and people to just give me a shot. “Just give me a shot. Just see me in a different light. Just let me in the room and I’ll do something.” They were kind enough to do that. I did also have really good relationships with a lot of casting directors, so they gave me the opportunity to come in and just try new things.

TrunkSpace: “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” must have been a welcome change when it came along in 2014?
Lowe: Huge change for me. When I auditioned for that, they sent me the sides and I called my agent and said, “You sent me the wrong sides.” He said, “No, no, they’re going to see you for this.” I was like, “No, they’re not. What? I’m not going to book this. This is not right for me.” (Laughter) And then they asked me to come back and I started laughing. I remember being in the room looking around at all of these girls, really nervous, and trying to get the part and I was like, “I don’t care. I’m not getting this.”

I had no idea who Martha (Williamson) was. I had no idea what kind of resume she had. I had no idea about any of it, so it was good because I went in there with no… I remember performing the character of Rita for my girlfriend, who was also auditioning for it as well, and she said to me, “Are you going to do it like that?” (Laughter) I was like, “I don’t know, but this is just how I see that character.” She was like, “Oh, okay. That’s not a choice that I would’ve made.” (Laughter) I had the offer that night.

TrunkSpace: We recently read how Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is one of the few networks that is actually growing its audience, which is really fascinating. As television continues to go down a gritty, dark path, the growth is evidence that many people want to feel good when the credits roll.
Lowe: Yes. I’m a strong believer in that light always overcomes the dark, but you need the dark in order to have light, right? Sometimes the pendulum swings and then we need a wake-up call and a reminder that in order to keep that light going we got to keep fighting for it. You can’t just be complacent and you can’t just hope somebody else is going to take care of it. I think our show offers that to people. I’ve never been on a show like this where the fans are genuinely thanking me for getting them through chemo treatments or losses of family members. There’s not a lot I can do, but if I can inspire, then that makes me so happy.

I always used to joke when we first started the show, because I was a huge “Dexter” fan. “You watch an episode of ‘Dexter’ and then you watch our show before you go to bed.” You’re like, “Oh my god!” and then you’re like, “Okay, everything’s going to be fine.” (Laughter)

You need to remind yourself that, yes, the world is chaotic at the moment, but there’s so much good. The average person, your next door neighbor and the people around you, the majority are good and want the best for people, so I like that our show is a reminder of that.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Home Again Photo: Kristin Booth, Eric Mabius, Crystal Lowe, Geoff Gustafson Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: David Owen Strongman

TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, what has the journey been like for you in terms of exploring the character, because the project started as a series and then transitioned into an ongoing film franchise? Does the journey change at all in that regard, seeing your character’s arc from the perspective of a series to a two hour film?
Lowe: Yeah, it does because when you’re doing a show like ours, because there’s an A storyline, which of course is the POstables, and there’s a B storyline, which is the letter, you don’t have a lot of time to tell an entire letter story and propel the POstables. You can push them forward, but you don’t have a lot of time to push them forward. At first I was like, “What? The two hour format? No, I love the series!” And then we did the two hour format and I was like, “Oh, actually Rita and Norman get to really grow. We actually get journeys through this.” That would’ve maybe taken five episodes, which I now get to do in one movie. As an actor I get to make bigger leaps and bounds, which is awesome for me. I love that.

TrunkSpace: Even though it’s a film, does the process still feel like you’re shooting individual episodes just because of the episodic nature of it?
Lowe: Yeah, it does – like a two hour episode. They’re movies and they’re standalone and you can tune in and pretty much understand what’s going on, but to me it’s almost like the British version of television. It’s like a miniseries. You just get more time with it, which I think works for our show and Martha’s writing because her writing is so full. It’s so nuanced. It’s hard for me now when I get auditions or scripts because I’ve been working with good writing for a really long time, so if it’s not good writing, I know. (Laughter) There are lots of layers in there all of the time and the two hour format gives her the opportunity to really put those layers in and allow people to watch them over and over again and find them, like reading a book.

TrunkSpace: You’re shooting these as movies, but you’re still working in television. Does that mean you’re still working with the breakneck television scheduling?
Lowe: Yeah, absolutely. Sometimes eight to 10 pages a day.

TrunkSpace: Wow!
Lowe: It’s insane, but we do it. It’s dialogue heavy and we do it. Our crews are amazing, especially on these last two. Our crews were just an awesome bunch of people that are young and hungry in the industry and I love watching that too because people really love their jobs and care about them. We pound pavement. We make it happen. During it you’re always like, “This is never going to work,” and then after you’re like, “Of course it worked. Why wouldn’t it work?” (Laughter)

I worked on a movie this year called “Wonder,” which I’m really excited about. It’s coming out in November and it’s based on a book. It was so weird because when I shot that, the director was like, “What do you want to do? What do you want to try?” I was like, “I’m sorry, what? We have time to just try stuff?” (Laughter) In TV world, you’re like, “We got to go. We’re done.”

TrunkSpace: “Wonder” looks like very powerful storytelling, and again, is that feel-good story that it seems like we need as a society right now.
Lowe: That film is…

I got to work with Mandy Patinkin. For me that was a bucket list thing. It took every bone in my body not to be like, “Mandy, I love you! I’ve watched ‘The Princess Bride’ a thousand times and I love it!” I didn’t though because I was like, “Do not fangirl on him, he’s going to think you’re a weirdo!”

But the story was just so good. The writing was so good and it’s really, really necessary all over the world. I just recently moved to the United States and I think it’s really important in the United States, for many people, even in the highest positions, to learn about bullying. This is a good film and it’s necessary.

TrunkSpace: In our pre-interview quest for research we learned via your Instagram page that you were a big “Perfect Strangers” fan growing up, which got us to thinking… what makes Crystal want to do the dance of joy?
Lowe: (Laughter) This sounds ridiculous, but to those who know me, they’d be like, “Uh-huh!” Brandi Harkonen, who’s one of the producers for my show, she laughed and gave me a song, which is “The Lego Movie” song. She’s like, “That’s you! That song, ‘Everything Is Awesome’ encompasses you as a person!”

The happy dance comes really easily for me. I happy dance over the smallest of things and I happy dance over big things. I think what I would have to say is, seeing the people that I love smile makes me so happy. If I can do something that makes them laugh or if I can get them something that I know they really wanted or if I can take pressure off of them, it just makes me happy dance everywhere.

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Between The Sheets

Chandler Baker


In our new feature, Between the Sheets, TrunkSpace picks the imaginative brains of authors to break down what it takes to create the various worlds and characters they breathe life into via the tools of their trade… sheets of paper. While technology continues to advance and change the pop culture landscape, the written word has remained one of the most consistent and imaginative art forms.

This time out we’re chatting with Chandler Baker to discuss her new novel “This is Not the End,” the process of writing with a new baby by her side, and how starting her career as a ghostwriter helped to shape her own creative journey.

TrunkSpace: We read that you wrote the entire first draft for “This is Not the End” over the course of your 12-week maternity leave. Were you writing in quick spurts or was it something that you committed to doing during every waking hour? (With a newborn at home, there tends to be many of them!)
Baker: I was really lucky in that I had a very easy, sleepy baby! I told myself I wouldn’t do any writing for the first four weeks after my daughter was born and I didn’t, but after that, I was itching to get to work. I committed to writing during at least a couple of her naps each day, which still allowed me a little time to rest as well. Other times she’d be happy to watch me work while she hung out beside me on the couch. It was a very fruitful time creatively, but I fear if I tried to recreate it with a second baby I might not get the same results!

TrunkSpace: Keeping with that process, did you write it all on a computer or did you give yourself some freedom from the physical restraints of a device and write long-form through any of it?
Baker: For “This Is Not The End” I brainstormed, drafted and revised entirely on my laptop. At the time, it was the easiest way to ensure that all of my thoughts stayed organized and readily available. But with each book my process evolves and I now write quite a lot long-form during the early stages of a project. I try to fill half a composition book with handwritten notes before I begin to draft.

TrunkSpace: There are so many life changes that a person goes through when they’re becoming a parent. Do you see those themes, personal transitions, reflected in the writing of “This is Not the End?”
Baker: Absolutely. Being a new parent is such a raw, vulnerable time. I found that particular emotional state useful while trying to get into the headspace of my main character, Lake, who has suffered the devastating losses of those closest to her. But even more apparent of a change for me was the way I began to look at the parents in the book. I paid much closer attention to them than I had in previous novels I’ve written. I thought a lot about parents experiencing the loss of a child and how parents are just people and aren’t going to act perfectly or even admirably in the face of excruciating pain. During the writing of this book I was, no doubt, hyper emotional and I think it’s no coincidence that so far readers seem to be finding this novel to be the most emotionally wrenching thing that I’ve written.

TrunkSpace: What do you hope readers most connect to when sitting down to read “This is Not the End?”
Baker: My hope is that the experience of reading this book is an exercise in empathy. I would like readers to do the same thing I did, which is to ask themselves: What would I do if I were in Lake’s shoes? Who would I choose to bring back to life? Asking this alone is practicing empathy, albeit with fictional characters, and I want the story, as it unfolds, to draw readers into an understanding and appreciation of why each character is the way he or she is and doing the things he or she is doing, whether or not that character is “right” in doing so. I know the world needs as many empathetic people as it can get right now. Readers are already ahead of the game in this regard, but I would love for my book to help stretch that muscle a bit.

TrunkSpace: Do you put expectations on your books? It seems like it’s becoming more and more difficult to gauge how a book will be received in the current content consumption landscape, so in a way, it almost feels like expectations are forced to change as the industry does?
Baker: I try not to set expectations, but for anyone trying to make a career out of writing, it’s impossible not to keep tabs. My goal is for each book to “do better” than the last and there are lots of ways to measure that both in terms of critical and commercial success. The biggest thing a book can have going for it is the support of its publisher. I generally have a pretty realistic internal gauge of how a book will land I think. When I finished writing and revising “This Is Not The End,” I really felt there was something special there. Thankfully, my agent did, too, and then my editor and so on. It’s been really exciting to see how this book is spreading organically. My publisher, Disney’s, support has made all the difference and this book has far exceeded my expectations based on when I first got the kernel of an idea for the story.

TrunkSpace: You started your career as a ghostwriter. What was the process like for you in terms of stepping out from behind that anonymity and then being the name and mind associated with a particular piece? Did it change the process for you, good or bad?
Baker: It’s changed the process significantly. As a ghostwriter I had very little creative control. I churned out books quickly based on a map set out for me. Now, all the decisions are my own, with guidance from a very smart editor, of course. The difficulty is that there’s no one drawing up a synopsis, creating the map. That’s me! But it’s also very freeing. Plus, the training of ghostwriting has come in handy. I’m not precious about my creative work and am quick to say ‘yes’ to editorial changes. On the flip side, I have to keep reminding myself that it’s my name on the cover and if there is something I feel strongly about creatively, then I need to speak up.

TrunkSpace: YA is a term that is thrown around quite a bit these days and it seems the actual definition of it blurs based on who you ask. In your opinion, what does YA mean and who is the audience? (Not necessarily age demographic, but the profile of the reader.)
Baker: The YA readers I interact with are sophisticated and passionate. They love interacting with their favorite books by creating fan art, post-worthy pictures, and thoughtful reviews, complete with well-timed GIFs. There’s almost a collector’s mentality for a lot of YA readers. They curate beautiful collections of books they love. It seems to be, in some ways, an expression of self, much like fashion or tattoos or art. It’s been really cool to watch the book community develop online and to see my work become a part of what readers love. Then there are the “older” YA readers that really “get” that young adult books aren’t just for young adults. There’s great literature coming out of the YA community right now and I absolutely adore the mature-in-age readers that recognize that.

TrunkSpace: Regarding the process, is writing a labor of love for you or does it feel more like labor? Do you enjoy the process?
Baker: Depends on the day! My husband often wonders aloud why I want to do what I do. It’s such mentally-taxing and tedious work, after all. But there’s something about holding a completed book in my hands and knowing I wrote every word in it that I can’t get over! It’s so cool. When the writing isn’t going well, when a problem seems unsolvable, it’s just labor. But inevitably, the book opens up and something clicks into place and there is no better feeling in the world. I’m also a nightmare to be around when I’m not engaged in a creative project, so I know it’s a part of my identity that needs feeding.

TrunkSpace: And what does that process look like? Post-maternity leave, what are the ideal conditions for putting in a good day of writing?
Baker: A great day of writing involves my husband taking our toddler somewhere for four to five hours and me getting uninterrupted, no internet writing time. I’ll usually turn on Mac Freedom so that I don’t have access to the internet for long stretches of time. If I’m trying to make serious progress, I’ll go to a coffee shop or work in my home office. Otherwise, I’ll plop down at the kitchen table or on the sofa. But a good writing day just means that it’s a normal day and I don’t have any unexpected errands or life-tasks popping up that require my immediate attention. On those days, I’m happy to get four dedicated 15-minute segments of time in, with a goal of writing a solid 1,000 words for the day.

TrunkSpace: Do you self-edit as you write?
Baker: Yes, especially for the first third of the book. I almost never move on from the first line of a book until I know I’ve gotten it right and that line rarely changes. I self-edit a lot at the beginning because I want to make sure I’m hitting the right voice and tone. I know a lot of authors are content to let voice and tone come in later drafts, but the characters and what they do are all too tied up in what I want the book to feel like overall for me to work that way!

TrunkSpace: Where are you the hardest on yourself as a writer?
Baker: It changes from book to book because I’ll be become fixated on an aspect of my writing that I think needs work. I’ll focus relentlessly on that part of my writing and make progress, but then on the next project, I’ll find another aspect of my writing that now needs improvement. For “This Is Not The End,” I was very hard on myself about fleshing out characters, and not just the main character. Currently, I’m obsessed with pushing myself into more creative world building.

TrunkSpace: What are you working on now and what will people be able to read next?
Baker: My next book will come out in January and it is the last book in my “High School Horror” trilogy. That book is more or less finished, though, so I’m currently in the throes of drafting a new project that I can’t say much about, but it’s a big departure for me—historical timelines, a dash of fantasy—it’s been a lot of fun!

“This is Not the End” is available now from Disney-Hyperion.

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The Featured Presentation

Luke Guldan


Starting tomorrow, Luke Guldan can be seen reprising his role as the soulmate to Kristen Bell’s Eleanor in the second season of the NBC comedy “The Good Place,” but the Brooklyn-raised actor’s own place in the industry is just coming into focus. A physical equivalent to Captain America who is fully capable of delivering dark, push-the-envelope performances that stretch beyond cinematic tentpole universes, Guldan’s future is bound for a place not of good, but of greatness.

We recently sat down with Guldan to discuss how he stays fit while surrounded by craft services, why the continuation of his “The Good Place” role was such a surprise, and how watching Ted Danson work is like watching a magician perform.

TrunkSpace: We know that fitness is a big part of your life, which makes us wonder, how does one stay away from the crafty table when you’re on set all day?
Guldan: (Laughter) It’s just about navigating it. I’ve been listening to a couple of different podcasts lately about people who do extreme races, and if they’re cold, they’ll just continue to grow cold, or if they’re hungry, they’ll just push and fast the rest of the day. Sometimes on a long day, it’s a testament to just push yourself, but usually crafty has some great stuff. You get fed when you get there. You get fed at lunch. I’ll usually bring stuff with me too. Everything’s always changing on a set, so I can minimize certain variables by eating and getting a meal, one for aesthetic and health, but also just so I’m not starving so I can do the job at hand. There’s certain things, like PB or apples and granola, or I’ll just bring a bunch of plant protein shake and just crush those in between.

TrunkSpace: Television is known for its crazy, breakneck schedules. Has working on the show forced you to change your workout regime just by the nature of the job itself?
Guldan: Yeah, I think just with the working out and then also with meals. I know a lot of guys and girls who train pretty religiously who are aware of cheat days or skip days. In general day-to-day life, I try to make those my good days and if something’s crazy, like if it’s a long day on set or just a busy day of auditions, back to back meetings or bookings and you just physically can’t because the gym closes, I’ll take that as my rest day or my cheat day. I just keep them in the bank so when chaos happens, you can cash those in.

TrunkSpace: You’ve spoken before about how in recent years, there are more informational resources like BonyMuscle available online and better quality standards in supplements. What other positive changes have you seen in bodybuilding? And the chicken or the egg question: What came first, an interest in acting or was it an interest in bodybuilding and where did the two coincide?
Guldan: I’ve noticed that the community has become a lot more accepting. Smaller guys are now being encouraged and trained by the pros rather than being laughed at. More women are taking up the sport than ever before. There’s a lot of good going on. And I guess everything evolves. I was thinking about that recently, just the other day. I started out with a background in athletics, so I just was always interested in competition and physical-type endeavors. I also played a lot of tennis and used to take a tennis skills quiz quite regularly to show I was improving. I was actually pretty good at one point, but eventually, I started getting a little away from that and I saw a lot of things about TV, film, and some theater, and it was just something I was really interested in. As I got into high school, I was really driven by that, but I didn’t really know how to get involved because I didn’t have any friends or family who were directly involved with the industry, so my high school had a bodybuilding show and I knew a lot about Arnold Schwarzenegger and Steve Reeves and Sylvester Stallone and Van Damme and Sean Connery and a couple of these people who did competitions or just used their physiques to break in. So that seemed like the best trajectory as far as myself getting in because I knew that stuff. I was at least pretty decent and thought my body and genetics were good to use as a kickstart to get things going and so I went that way. I started building muscle very slowly to begin with but I heard about SARMs, mk677 is a good option for anybody wondering, and they helped me increase size and strength even quicker. It helped me build not only my career but also my confidence.

Later on, both influenced the other as far as process – not just going through the motions and really having a goal. With the acting or with the bodybuilding or fitness or any other kind of art or objective, they do have an overlap. I think it was good for me to use that and keep that with me as I go.

TrunkSpace: Correct us if we’re wrong, but when you first landed “The Good Place,” you actually had no idea you’d be back for the second season, right?
Guldan: No, everything was up in the air. It is super exciting because it’s like a gift that keeps on giving. I was so blind going in. I went out there and, just as I was in hair and makeup, they were taking a couple of continuity pictures because they were all saying, “Oh, you know, if there’s a second season there’s a chance you might come back,” and I had no idea at that point. Realistically, I keep the expectations low so that you never get caught with a left hook or something. I hadn’t seen a script or anything. I thought I was just a featured background at that point, so every little bit of news along the way that was more than that was just awesome. I was, by the end of the day, pretty excited.

TrunkSpace: Keeping expectations low always helps take the pressure off. You go in less likely to overthink things.
Guldan: Those circumstances are always the best. Sometimes you’re just like, “Eh, if it all goes south, I only got it today.” It allows you to feel like, “Let’s see where it goes” as opposed to you working something so much and everyone has all of this expectation on you. If you can at least trick yourself into that mentality, it always is better, at least for me.

TrunkSpace: Now that you do know that you’re back and you’ve been working on the season 2, can you give us a little sense of, without giving away too much, where your character Chris is going to be involved moving forward?
Guldan: I’m still a little bit in the dark as far as everything because I have only really read a little bit of what my stuff is, so I do not even know what to tell you. Based on the little I’ve read, I think it looks pretty funny and I hope everyone likes it.

TrunkSpace: Looking at your previous work, “The Good Place” seems tonally very different than a lot of the projects that you’ve worked on. Are you enjoying getting to play in this particular type of comedic sandbox?
Guldan: Oh yeah, it’s a ton of fun. It’s just been great because you’re working with some of the greats – the masters of comedy. Ted Danson and Kristen Bell. The writers are just brilliant. Just being around them and collaborating and working on it, it’s just fun. I just never really know how the comedy is going to play until everything’s edited together, but it’s definitely a lot of fun to be able to have the opportunity to do something that’s a little lighthearted.

TrunkSpace: Does comedy come natural to you?
Guldan: At least with some of the comedy that I’ve done, most of the time I’m not really thinking of comedy and then it just comes out. I just try to play it straight I guess, for lack of a better word, and just rely on the editing and the writing and everybody else. After working on some of the new scenes, and watching what other people are doing, there’s definitely a technique and a skill, and knowing the timing is definitely more beneficial than not knowing the timing. It’s something you can work on I think, or at least be aware of, but not get in your head about.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned costars Ted Danson and Kristen Bell. Have you viewed your experience on “The Good Place” as sort of an education, even beyond comedy itself, knowing how much industry experience both of them have?
Guldan: Oh yeah. It’s always just great to be around people who are at the top of their game and know what they’re doing and that are generous to give you a little bit of a crumb as to what they know and they’ve been working on for years. Working with Ted Danson is great – to be opposite of him, but also to be in the wings and see a little bit into what he was doing and working on.

TrunkSpace: And again, their track record of success is so great, particularly in television, you have to hope that some of that rubs off on you.
Guldan: I was thinking about that too and it’s crazy. They’re so good. It’s like a magician doing a trick. If you watch a great magician do something – just by watching you’re going to see the trick. You’re not going to necessarily learn what it is or how to do it by just looking at it, but you can hope that if you’re around it enough it might wear off on you, so that’s where I was at being around all those guys.

Guldan and Gil Bellows in ADDicted

TrunkSpace: On the opposite side of the genre spectrum, you’ve also had some pretty heavy dramas release this year, including “ADDicted” and “The Broken Ones.” From a performance standpoint, are you drawn to those darker roles?
Guldan: I think everything about me as a person is continually changing or evolving in a sense. It’s just meaningful to entertain people, to give somebody a laugh or some joy or to shed some light on a story that might not otherwise have gotten attention. For me as a person and an actor lately, I’ve been thinking about things that just push you as a person, or something you might not usually do in day to day life. That’s been interesting to me at my point in the journey right now – things that I might be hesitant or scared or feel like I might be judged about, to use a role or a story to explore that further.

Season 2 of “The Good Place” premieres tomorrow on NBC.

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Carmen Villain

Photo By: Signe Luksengard

Artist/Band: Carmen Villain


Hometown: Oslo, Norway

Latest Album/Release: Infinite Avenue (Smalltown Supersound)

Influences: Gena Rowlands, Cassavetes’ “A Woman Under The Influence” and “Love Streams,” Richard Brautigan, Elena Ferrante, Joan Didion, Antonioni’s “Il Deserto Rosso”



: How do you describe your music?
Villain: Hmmm. A mix of ambient/electronic/folk/experimental/psychedelic?

TrunkSpace: You have lived in many different countries and experienced firsthand the people and cultures of those locations. Has that helped to shape your artistic point of view?
Villain: Yes, I believe all life experiences affect our creative output.

TrunkSpace: You wrote, recorded, and produced your new album “Infinite Avenue” on your own. Does that mean the process was entirely solitary or did you still involve others along the way, even as a possible springboard for ideas while you were creating?
Villain: It was mostly done alone, but I hired in a cello player for the string arrangements on “She’s Gone To California,” and recorded those and the pianos for that track in another studio with help from Knut Sœvik. I also had my live band mate and friend, Mona, come into the studio and recorded her making drones on a vibraphone for “Connected.” And at the end of “Quietly” there’s a very beautiful guitar melody built into the landscape that was done by my friend Pål Espen. Also, of course, Jenny Hval contributed with vocals on “Borders,” which was very inspiring.

TrunkSpace: Creating alone is a natural process, particularly when you’re writing from such a personal place. Does it feel natural to then share that personal experience with people in a live setting or does it take some getting used to with certain tracks and/or specific lyrics?
Villain: Yes, it’s a very personal album, and sometimes it can feel a little embarrassing or kind of scary, but I have more trouble singing something live that isn’t true. When I play live there’s a lot of work to do other than sing, and so I try not to think about the content of the words TOO much and concentrate more on the performance and not messing up too much.

TrunkSpace: In working primarily on your own, did it open the door for self-discovery throughout the process, and if so, what did you learn about yourself that caught you by surprise?
Villain: Mainly, working alone is a practice in patience. So, I guess the main thing I have learned about myself is that I can be very patient when needed. I have also learned, that despite doubting myself and getting frustrated from time to time, that I can do it – that I can make an album. There’s of course a whole bunch of soul-searching for the lyrics, and trying to find ways to formulate feelings and experiences that can be a complete mess inside my head, so there’s that. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: What is it that you hope draws people to what you create? What do you want them to discover within the songs themselves?
Villain: I make music for the love of music and sound, so I hope it will draw people towards it by just being what it is. It is not made with a particular goal or ambition in mind (although, I am ambitious, but it doesn’t affect the way I make the music), so it might not be the immediate and easiest music to discover. If the listeners can project their own experiences into the songs, that would be amazing. I think there’s quite a few layers in there for people to discover, depending on how and why they listen. But music is so subjective and a personal experience, so I can’t really expect anything!

Photo By: Signe Luksengard

TrunkSpace: What were you hoping to accomplish with “Infinite Avenue” that perhaps you didn’t achieve with your debut album? Did you approach it from a different mindset?
Villain: Yes, I started this album with a different approach. I wanted it to be less “rock” and real drums-based, to be easier to tour, and also to have plenty of time and room for me to get to the soundscapes that I didn’t feel I got to do as much on the previous album. I wanted this album to be a lot more personal. Other that that, most of it happened via intuition and lots and lots of experimenting and trying and failing.

TrunkSpace: You started your career as a fashion model. When you decided to pursue music as a career, did you have to kind of hit the reset button due to outside perceptions? Was it important for you to be seen as a singer/songwriter and not a model who was now singing and writing songs?
Villain: I knew that there would probably be a lot of prejudice, and that it would taint the way people saw me, but I could only let the music speak for itself, I guess. It’s a long, long time since my previous job, which was my way of making a living, (and it also funded the entire first album), so now it feels like another life entirely. I left that job when I felt like I couldn’t get any more out of it, when there wasn’t much left in terms of experience, mainly to focus on the music.

TrunkSpace: Why was it important for you to take up the name Carmen Villain? Was part of it reinvention of self as we discussed above? And just out of curiosity, why “Villain” in particular? It has a dubious definition, even though, when a villain is done right, they’re not inherently evil… they’re just seeing things differently than most.
Villain: It seemed like a good idea at the time. There is no real reason for the word, other than that I liked it at the time. I also did feel the need for me to not use my real name because of earlier associations.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself creatively?
Villain: I’m hard on myself all the time, too hard, and I’m a perfectionist and a control freak. (Laughter) But I think I’m hardest on myself for not making the progress I expect or hope for.

TrunkSpace: If music ceased to exist within your life, what would be your creative and emotional outlet? Is there anything that exists within your world that lives on the same level as songwriting
Villain: I honestly don’t know. Other than of course my daughter and family, which IS life, but in terms of creative outlets, which to me is vital… I couldn’t tell you.

TrunkSpace: What else can fans of Carmen Villain look forward to for the rest of 2017 and into the new year?
Villain: I’m constantly working on new music, and want to try to release new music more often. I also want to do more collaborations. And I’m always trying to find ways in which to travel and play live, so I will hopefully make it over to North America soon! Heading to Tokyo in October, after a few Norway dates, to play my first Japanese show, so I’m very excited about that.


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Listen Up

Lydia Loveless

LydiaLoveless_MusicalMondaze (1)
Photo By: Cowtown Chad

Most songwriters hope to take you on a journey through their music. Some want to tell an observational story, one that isn’t personal, yet remains relatable. Others look within, melding experiences and life lessons into lyrics that allow a glimpse through the windows of their minds.

When it comes to alternative country starlet Lydia Loveless, she closes the drapes but unlocks the door, allowing you full access to what’s inside. Some fans may feel like they’re sitting on the stoop, listening to a tale from the perspective of an outsider, while others may open the door and pass through the threshold, living the moment with Loveless firsthand. And that’s the power that the Ohio native wields – an uncanny ability to be in two creative places at once, converging into a single songwriting experience that feels unique in the way of modern music.

We recently sat down with Loveless to discuss how a love for reading helped shape her storytelling, an artist’s personal evolution, and why she’s never been afraid to put all of herself into a song.

TrunkSpace: You have described yourself as a bookworm. Does life on the road, touring from city to city, allow for some quality book time?
Loveless: Yeah, if I’m not being totally lazy. I’ve had a pretty easy go of it. I actually got Audible recently, the audiobook thing, which is harder for me to do than just read. I thought it would be helpful, but it’s just weird.

TrunkSpace: It’s got to be tough to be a touring musician who is susceptible to car sickness. At that point, Audible is your only choice.
Loveless: Yeah, some of us are. I guess audiobooks would definitely be helpful for that.

TrunkSpace: Do you think being drawn to the written word and reading as much as you have helped shape your own storytelling through your music?
Loveless: Yeah, definitely. I was always obsessed with the work ethic of writers and how they had a routine. I just don’t follow a strict routine very easily. It’s something that I’ve been working on my entire life – the differences between songwriting and flying by the seat of my pants, and actually getting up every day and trying to build an actual strict routine for myself and noticing the differences between the two and how much I get done.

TrunkSpace: Putting the creative brain into a box with rules sometimes doesn’t always work in its favor though.
Loveless: Yeah, and that’s hard for me. A lot of people find comfort in that, but I’ve always been like, “No. I don’t want to be the man. Just take away all my passion and creativity.” (Laughter) I just have to occasionally tell my inner hippie to shut up.

TrunkSpace: And with so many distractions at the palm of our hands nowadays, creative time is getting even more difficult to carve out.
Loveless: It’s really important to be bored and not have a lot going on in order to be creative. At least I think so.

TrunkSpace: There are so many sub-genres that people assign to music now. It’s hard to even keep track of what is what anymore. Have you found that people assign labels to you that you feel don’t necessarily represent you or your music?
Loveless: Yeah. There’s how would you describe your music to the lady at the hotel desk, and then to someone who actually plays music and knows all the stupid genres. It’s always difficult. I was listening to music with my friend recently. I was listening to a band that, I don’t know what I would call them – Americana, but rock. I don’t know. You start getting lost. Then she was like, “This is just country.” She doesn’t play music so I was like, “Oh.” I guess that’s why people are always hammering that realm about my music. I don’t know. It’s hard to describe.

TrunkSpace: One of the toughest things for an artist is that once you have established yourself, people want you to maintain your sound, but at the same time, if you venture too closely to what you have already done or said, they say, “Well, she hasn’t moved forward.”
Loveless: That I never really did anything, yeah.

TrunkSpace: It must be difficult to want to continue to grow and evolve with your art, applying new influences and points of view, but knowing that expectations always are in place waiting for you on the other side.
Loveless: Right. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, because for so long the focus was about how much I’ve changed in interviews. I guess that’s working with my band on some new material for a few days. I have these musicians that have this really broad musical taste and ability. I’m certainly getting older and changing. It’s not really like I went totally off the rails and got plastic surgery to change my face and now I’m a totally different person. It’s just a little more evolved I guess.

TrunkSpace: So what you’re saying is, there’s not a ska album in your future? (Laughter)
Loveless: Oh, god. No.

TrunkSpace: What about expectations on the social media side of things? Everyone has an opinion these days that is amplified by a digital megaphone. Is it difficult having to hear all of that praise and criticism sort of instantaneously, especially as a songwriter where so much of you is represented through your music?
Loveless: It can be weird I guess. I’ve been trying to shy away from social media. I certainly go through my phases where it’s like, “Oh, this is such a great way to communicate with fans.” But it’s like, “What am I really doing here? Was this necessary for all of life before? Am I just wasting my time and justifying it with what a great way it is to connect with fans?” Because it ends up being a really shitty way to connect with people. It brings this sense of entitlement that you can’t really fight against. Then you’re Ryan Adams screaming at everyone. It just doesn’t really end well for anyone.

TrunkSpace: The honesty in your music is something you have become known for. When you’re writing about such personal subjects, do you ever stop yourself and say, “Okay, if I move forward with what I’m saying in this particular song and it takes off, I could revisiting it nightly for the next 20 years?”
Loveless: It’s never really occurred to me. I know a lot of people talk about that, but I just let songs develop over time anyway. Their meaning can change a lot to me over the years. It’s not exhausting to me. I come from a really emotionally-exhausting, dramatic family anyway. (Laughter) I’m used to focusing on my raw emotions. I guess music is a lot more enjoyable way to deal with them than yelling.

TrunkSpace: Are you hard on yourself as a writer? Is there an area where you feel like you’re constantly riding yourself to improve and be better?
Loveless: Yeah, I’m definitely a perfectionist. I’m a pretty slow writer. I would just prefer things to be exactly the way I want them before they’re out there. Instead of, “Well, that was a boring song, but I needed four more songs for the record.” That doesn’t help.

TrunkSpace: You also described yourself in a previous interview as a “super nerd.” What do you geek out about? What is your thing?
Loveless: I geek out about books a lot. I get pretty obsessed with them. I’m a Jane Eyre nerd, though I’m not sure if that’s a thing. I’m not cosplaying it or anything, but I’m definitely a big fan of that.

TrunkSpace: Does the future hold a Lydia Loveless book? Is writing a novel in your cards?
Loveless: Yeah, I would definitely have to be a lot more motivated as a person, which I’ve been working on. I know I sound like an idiot, but I focused on just the band for so long and also, just having occasional bouts of depression and not really looking at the world in a good way.

TrunkSpace: And being a perfectionist, a novel can be a daunting task.
Loveless: I fear it might give me the most massive panic attack of my life. I don’t know, maybe not.

TrunkSpace: What do you want your legacy to be when all is said and done?
Loveless: I guess I just want to be able to keep doing it and not really burn out, which is something I’ve seen a lot because it doesn’t always last forever for everybody. I’ve never really thought about anything else, or made any other career decisions. I’m slowly trying to figure out what else I would even want to do anyway. I guess it’s just the whole getting older thing, and not feeling like a super well-rounded person, which makes me work even slower.

I guess we’ll see what happens there.

“Boy Crazy and Single(s)” is available October 13 on Bloodshot Records.

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Next Up

Dayna Lee Brand


Name: Dayna Lee Brand

Hometown: Detroit, MI

Current Location: Los Angeles, CA

TrunkSpace: When did you know that you wanted to act for a living?
Brand: I would say I always knew I wanted to, but believing I could came much later. It wasn’t just one moment in time, it was many moments strung together that, looking back, were pivotal for me to start believing I could make acting a career. One of those moments was reading an interview from Laverne Cox. She said something along the lines of, “You’ve got to want it more than anything else, you’ve got to want even if it means being broke and living in Kansas.” That statement resonated with me. I began asking myself what was really worth giving up every other luxury for. At one point, I made a list of everything I wanted in life. I then asked myself one by one if I wanted each thing on that list more than I wanted to be an actress. The answer was no every single time. That was when I knew I was going to begin pursuing this career.

TrunkSpace: Was there a particular performance or actor/actress from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
Brand: My family used to see a lot of musicals when we were younger, Cinderella was my favorite. There’s something special about being in the theater. And of course, this was before cell phones, so the audience was fully immersed in the play. In films, I remember being mezmorized by Angelina Jolie in “Girl, Interrupted” and Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman.” They were real, tortured, and yet, playful. I admired their dynamic performances.

TrunkSpace: How did you decide to approach your career as an actor? Did you formulate a plan of how you wanted to attack what is known for being a hard industry to crack?
Brand: Plan…? I had a very specific plan before I got to LA, how things would happen and in what order. Needless to say, that plan changed a million and one times. My biggest piece of advice is to do your research and then do some more research. There is so much information out there and thousands of people willing to take advantage of those with this dream. It will never hurt in your acting or your life to be well-informed.

TrunkSpace: When did you decide to move away from your home and pursue acting as a career? How old were you at the time?
Brand: Actually, I was 23, living in Connecticut/NYC at the time, and working at a hedge fund. I know, BIG change. Right after college I told my mom I was moving to NYC with no job, no place to live, and going to find a job at a hedge fund. She told me that I was crazy and I shouldn’t do it. She laughed at the thought of me working at a hedge fund. A little over a year later I told my mom I was moving to LA with no job, no place to live, and to pursue acting. I had expected the same speech as before moving to NYC, but instead she just said, “Okay, honey.”

TrunkSpace: Was that move an easy transition for you initially? How long did it take you to feel at home and find a good support group of friends and peers?
Brand: I was a bit of a gypsy the last few years of my life, so the transition was very easy. My sister lives in LA also, so I felt right at home almost immediately. I had this overwhelming sense that I was finally on the right path from the moment I packed up my car in Westport, CT and started the drive to LA. I think if something is right, you’ll sense instantly and that’s how it was for me as soon as I got here.

TrunkSpace: What has been been your biggest break in terms of a particular role or project thus far?
Brand: I just got my first role on an independent film called, “Time to Turn the Paige.” Hopefully, I am not speaking too soon because we haven’t started filming yet and people in LA tend to be on the flakier side, but to me it’s my first break because I finally get to be a part of something, doing what I love.

TrunkSpace: Is there a specific type of role you’d like to take on or a specific genre that you feel more at home in?
Brand: I would love to play someone completely opposite of me or someone really evil or tortured. I think that’s the fun in acting, that you get to be all of these different kinds of people.

TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength an actor/actress can have outside of acting ability itself?
Brand: Sacrifice. Be honest with yourself, would you want this if it meant sacrificing time with friends because you need to study lines, or even a bed because between acting classes and rent, not one dollar can go to anything else? You need to be not only comfortable, but infatuated, with the uncomfortable.

TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your acting career? Where would you like your path to lead?
Brand: To be a part of a great project. It sounds cheesy, but to be a part of a film or TV show that can make an audience laugh, cry, fall in love, feel something, anything, is the ultimate goal. To share raw, human emotion with them.

An Oscar wouldn’t hurt either, though. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring actor/actress who is considering moving away from home to pursue their dream?
Brand: If you know this is what you want, not because of fame or money or attention, because it’s what you truly love, then do it and do it now. Be kind to everyone. Never complain and be grateful for every opportunity no matter how small. Let life happen to you. Every experience, every pain, every happiness will fuel you.

TrunkSpace: Where can people (and casting directors) learn more about you?
IMDb here.
Instagram here.

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