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October 2017

Wingman Wednesday

Jaden Michael

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Photo By: Clara Perez

Some teens are wise beyond their years. Talented young actor Jaden Michael, a fan of David Lynch projects, is a shining example of that. His new film “Wonderstruck,” which received an extended standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival in May, perfectly highlights his natural onscreen charisma and ability to tap into a character. Costarring Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams, “Wonderstruck” arrives in theaters this Friday.

We recently sat down with Michael to discuss his process of connecting with a character, why he doesn’t view acting as work, and what he’d binge watch if he had an entire day to himself.

TrunkSpace: You started your career very young. As you’ve grown up, have you found yourself enjoying different aspects of acting and the process than you did when you first started out?
Michael: As a child, I really enjoyed going to the auditions and memorizing. As far as I remember, I had a lot of fun working on “Sesame Street” and things like that, but now it’s more serious. For me it’s not just about being myself anymore – now it’s about creating the characters and becoming the character, so it’s more serious.

TrunkSpace: When you’re going through the process of finding a character, what approach do you take?
Michael: I like reading between the lines and imagining, what does the character like to eat, or, how does he walk? If it’s a period film or TV show, I like to research a lot about that time period and that era, and just what the character is. Every character is different. You have to be prepared and research the characters, and really know about the person and the time period.

TrunkSpace: Which was the case with your new film “Wonderstruck” because your character’s story is based in 1977. What was that experience like?
Michael: It was wonderful. Right before shooting “Wonderstruck,” I worked on something called “The Get Down” with Baz Luhrmann, which was also based in 1977. It was nice to see the big differences between the two sets. In “The Get Down” they really wanted to show the bad and the rough side of New York City, but for “Wonderstruck,” I really loved how it showed the people. The costume designer, Sandy Powell, was just excellent. She put these masterpieces together. You had the people walking around in polyester. Everyone was without underclothes, which was funny, because apparently that’s what they used to do back then. (Laughter)

And not only the 1970s, but also 1927, because there were a couple of times that we were on set and I got to see 1927. The transformations of the crew from this 1977 style to this 1927 style was… we’re taking out all the Chevrolet’s and we’re putting in Ford Model T’s, things like that, and everyone is dressed up. It really helped me as a character really feel like if I was in that time period, because I’m looking at what’s going on.

TrunkSpace: What was the most challenging aspect of playing Jamie in the film?
Michael: It was a lot of fun, but something that was challenging to play with the character was the fact that he happened to interact and talk with a deaf person. Oakes Fegley is not deaf, but he had to play one, and he did such a great job. When we’re trying to communicate, he’s a late-deafened, so he can speak but he can’t hear, so I would have to write something down to ask him a question. He would speak and then I would have to reply in writing. That was kind of difficult, but a lot of fun as well. It was just interesting to create, basically, a new language with someone. It was a lot of fun to work on it. It helped that we were really close and we were good friends.

TrunkSpace: With a project like “Wonderstruck” or any project that you’re working on, do you view them as an education as well, especially when you’re working with people like Julianne Moore who has been acting at such a high level for so long?
Michael: It was a great honor to work with Julianne, and with Todd (Haynes). Just being around her made you feel like, “Wow, it’s really important to stay humble.” This is someone who is an award-winning actress, and she’s so very humble and down to earth, and I really love that about her. And Todd, he was always telling us to stay focused, and giving us advice for the characters and things like that.

I don’t really see acting as a job, I see it more as a… it’s fun, you know? And very educational. For instance, on this set I learned sign language. I didn’t know much about deaf culture or deaf history. Learning about their culture, and now learning sign language, it’s a lot of fun and very educational to know this language, that way I’m able to have conversations with people I probably wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

Photo By: Clara Perez

TrunkSpace: “Wonderstruck” is generating some real buzz as it gears up for release. How do you stay grounded and focused on your work and the fun of the job as the buzz builds?
Michael: It’s not something I really focus on. For instance, a good friend of mine, director Jim Jarmusch, when the film went to Cannes Film Festival I was telling him, “Oh, I hope the film wins.” Jim was kind of like, “You know, if it doesn’t win, it’s fine. You guys got the buzz. You went to Cannes. Enjoy it. It’s not about winning or losing. It’s about enjoying the journey.” That’s something that I really took with me and I’m keeping the same kind of mindset. If we get nominated or not, it’s cool, but I worked hard, and I know that I did my best, and I’m having fun along the way.

TrunkSpace: So are you somebody who focuses on the present – the projects you’re working on now – as opposed to what those projects will lead to in the future?
Michael: A little bit of both. I like to think about, “Oh, maybe this will happen, or maybe this will happen.” And then at the same time, I also like to think, “Okay let’s stay present. Let’s stay grounded. Let’s stay on the ground.” But then at the same time I wanna get into my little rocket ship and go “Yay!” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: You’ve done some work in voice acting as well. Is that something that you’re going to continue to pursue?
Michael: Yeah, I love doing voice acting. It’s a lot of fun, because even though your face is not being seen, you still have to deliver it that way. You still have to make the voice sound that way. I recently did something with Lesean Thomas called “Children Of Ether.” That was a voiceover, an anime, actually. That was a lot of fun.

TrunkSpace: Finally, Jaden, if you had a free day to lounge around and do whatever you wanted in terms of catching up on TV or movies, what type of stuff would you binge?
Michael: If I had a whole day to relax, I would probably go skating with a couple of my buddies and then probably fly my drone around, but I would love to catch up on some movies. I would wanna watch “Blade Runner 2049.” I love the original “Blade Runner” movie. I would watch some stuff from David Lynch. I like a lot of his original works. I would watch the new “Twin Peaks” series, just to catch up on that. And when “Stranger Things” comes out, I can’t wait, because my friend Caleb McLaughlin is on there, and I’m really proud of him, so I can’t wait to watch it.

TrunkSpace: Yeah, when that new season comes out, it will be impossible to get a hold of anybody for the entire weekend.
Michael: (Laughter) Right. Everybody’s gonna be doing the five-day trial of Netflix.

Wonderstruck” arrives in theaters on Friday.

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Trunk Gaming

Game Review: Stranger Things

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Game Title: Stranger Things: The Game

Platforms: IOS, Android

Price: FREE

App Version: 1.0.223

The worst thing about falling in love with a TV show like “Stranger Things” is having to wait for the show to come back for the next season. So, what do we do in the meantime to help sooth our need for media consumption with our favorite shows? We gobble up any new trailers, footage, interviews, etc., related to our beloved show. “Stranger Things” has given its fans a real gift with this FREE app. Sure, we know they’re trying to promote “Stranger Things” season 2, which drops October 27 on Netflix, but they put a lot of work into this game. It doesn’t feel like it should be a free app. In fact, we would pay to play this. Grab your Eggos and multi-sided dice and follow us into the Upside Down of the gaming app world with this Trunk Gaming review! (Don’t worry, no plot line spoilers ahead, but read on to see how to get an exclusive trailer from the game!)

“Stranger Things” is masterful at capturing the time and era they are in, and they carried that over into this game. With the SNES Classic recently launching, we can’t help but notice the great stylization they packed into this app to make it look like a classic Nintendo-esque game. The kids from the show would have definitely played this game. It has an RPG element to it, very similar to “The Legend of Zelda,” but with a little “Final Fantasy III” mixed in. You start off playing as Jim Hopper. Those rag-tag kids we love from the show have gone missing, and it’s up to Jim to find them. As Jim tracks the kids down, they join your party, and you can switch back and forth between playing as each character. Each character has a different skill. For example, Hopper has a mean right hook to pummel enemies, but Lucas has a slingshot you can use to shoot switches out of reach.

The game has very simple and easy-to-use controls. You just tap where you want your character to go on the screen. If you want to punch a bad guy or smash something, just tap the item or bad guy and your character gets to work. At first this seems super easy, but rest assured, once you get a page of opponents mixed with some lasers and other obstacles, the difficulty increases. Some enemies cannot be dispatched by simply clicking them. You may have to trick them into walking through a laser or trap. There are also definite RPG elements to the game. You can investigate everything in the room from books to phones. Problem solving and puzzles are a big part of the game as well. The diversity of game play helps keep things fresh as you explore the digital world. We also love the soundtrack, which plays into the “Stranger Things” universe nicely. When you unlock a door or find a new key/item, you get a familiar “Stranger Things” tune that has been filtered through the 8-bit sound machine for something that fills your heart with gaming joy.

There is a side quest that involves tracking down video tapes. If you manage to get all of the video tapes collected, you’re treated to an exclusive trailer with never-before-seen footage of “Stranger Things” season 2. We found this to be a really innovative way to promote fandom and the show itself. The app is totally FREE, so no reason to not download it. For a free app, we were pleasantly surprised to not be bombarded with ads while you play. It’s just you, your IOS or Android, and the “Stranger Things” world. We had a blast with this app and recommend it to keep your brain occupied until the show returns on Netflix. Go forth, download, enjoy!

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Wingman Wednesday

Sarah Jones

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Set in the American heartland during the 1930s, USA Network’s new drama series “Damnation” is prepared to show just how many shades of gray a person can represent at any given moment. Times may change, but human nature does not, which means questionable decision making and life-altering conflict stretches all the way back to the presidential tenure of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. “Damnation” is looking to shine a spotlight on that complicated period in American history, all while taking viewers on a wildly entertaining ride.

Series star Sarah Jones is no stranger to entertaining television. The North Carolina-born actress has worked on countless long-running pop culture mainstays, from “Big Love” to “Sons of Anarchy,” and recently appeared as Alison Kemp in the Hulu series “The Path.”

We sat down with Jones to discuss the dissection of a period piece performance, her incredible costars, and why she’s thrilled about the current creative state of television.

TrunkSpace: Your new series “Damnation” premieres in just a few short weeks. The trailer paints an intense, dramatic journey for your character. What was the personal journey like for you in terms of finding who she was and then bringing her to life?
Jones: (Laughing) It was an intense and dramatic journey. The research and inspiration of who I drew from to relate to Amelia was the easiest and most enjoyable part. To come to terms with what Amelia and I have in common, how women have historically been viewed and treated by society, and the amount of work that still has to be done to maintain a fair balance in how women are viewed and treated by society—to acknowledge all of that, and to use that in a productive way without allowing a cloud of resentment hanging over my head was a little trickier. Of course the current political and social climate seems to intensify the experience, but I couldn’t be more grateful to have this kind of outlet in working on this show and playing Amelia to work through it all.

TrunkSpace: “Damnation” is a period piece. Does that add a different layer to a character when you have to not only find who she is inside, but also what that particular period meant to people in terms of how they presented themselves in public and in private – basically, how society influenced who they were?
Jones: Yeah, of course there are added layers when you’re looking at common mannerisms and societal pressures of a specific era and how that would relate to a particular social class, but I think in terms of how we present ourselves in private and public really hasn’t changed. I mean, isn’t that what social media branding is all about? And it doesn’t matter whether someone is trying to create a personal brand or not, they present themselves in a way that they feel will garner the attention they want. Societal influence may have evolved and given us more ‘options,’ but the pressure to fit into a mold that is deemed worthy of a person’s perceived character or values is still very much alive and well.

TrunkSpace: What is an aspect of the series that you feel will surprise viewers? Is there something tonally about it or story-wise that isn’t reflected in the trailer that is a big part of the “Damnation” experience?
Jones: I don’t know if this will surprise anyone because I think it just makes for great television, but the characters’ decisions and conflicts are full of grays. It’s messy, and complicated, and raw, which represents a very real human experience.

TrunkSpace: The series is stacked with this great cast of character actors who always seem to steal a scene regardless of the project that they’re in. In your opinion, how does this cast compare to other shows you’ve worked on in terms of pure talent on-screen?
Jones: I have to agree with you 100 percent on how talented this cast is. Wow, what a cast, right?! And I love that you brought this up, there are no ‘stars’ or ‘names’ in this show. We’re working class actors—we have to hustle for our jobs that we actually get (no one sees all the jobs we don’t get), stretch and save what we earn because we don’t know when our next job will be, and prove our worth every time we show up on set. There isn’t a single actor on this show that doesn’t arrive fully prepared and invested. We’re grateful to be here and tell this story, and that makes for an inspiring group of actors to be around and a highly creative and engaging environment to work in. That doesn’t take away from some beautiful experiences with other cast members on other shows, most everyone starts at the bottom, but from day one there’s been a sense of solidarity between us that’s felt really special and exciting.

DAMNATION — “Sam Riley’s Body” Episode 101 — Pictured: Sarah Jones as Amelia Davenport — (Photo by: Chris Large/USA Network)

TrunkSpace: Television is stacked with incredible, character-driven content these days. How exciting is it for you to see such a shift in the medium over the years, and at the same time, is it also a little intimidating knowing just how much competition is out there, all of which is vying for the same set of viewer eyeballs?
Jones: I saw this coming years ago when I worked on “Big Love,” and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I love the intimacy that storytelling through television brings. It’s like you’re inviting these characters into your home every week or hanging with them for a full day or two depending how you watch a series. And I can imagine that contributed to the shift in the way that shows are made now. You’re not gonna invite someone over to your house every week if you don’t want to spend time with them. In terms of all of these fantastic series coming out, I’m not intimidated by the notion of ‘competition’—there’s not another show like “Damnation” currently on the air, and if this show is considered to join the ranks of shows with ‘incredible, character-driven content,’ it’s because everyone involved in creating it worked hard for it and the viewers connected to it. I also think network executives, as far as cable is concerned, pick up a show with the intention to let it breathe and give viewers a chance to invest in it. Some shows are overnight successes, others are a slow burn with a major pay off of a dedicated following and a loyal fan base. (Laughing) I have zero control over any of it so I just try to focus on the work and hope for the best! But I really dig the viewer/content relationship, feedback, and conversation that television has created when it comes to its series.

TrunkSpace: Another big change in the way that television is being rolled out is in the number of episodes being produced each season. And while that means there’s less story to tell, more often than not, those series with fewer episodes feel richer and more character-driven than their 22-episode counterparts. What are your thoughts on shortened seasons from a storytelling/character point of view?
Jones: I support it completely! And I agree with your sentiment—it does feel like a quality over quantity situation. On top of that, writing, shooting, and editing a series is done so quickly that too many episodes will not only burn out everyone involved in making the show, but I think it’ll eventually burn out the audience too. Especially with all of the other shows out there.

TrunkSpace: Is there a part of your job or of the experience of what you do that still feels new each time you set out to do it? What still excites you as much as it did the first time you set foot onto a set?
Jones: I’m always excited at the prospect of who I’ll connect to and collaborate with, and when it comes to working on a TV series, I’m always excited when a new episode’s script comes out.

TrunkSpace: Going back to that first time you set foot onto a set, we’re curious, how much of your personal journey – the jobs and experiences you’ve had within the industry – have directly impacted your acting? Is the performer we see now completely different from the performer you were then due to the projects that came between?
Jones: God I hope so! If my work hasn’t improved and my life hasn’t evolved over the years, I need to take a hard look at what I’m doing with them. I’d like to think that my performances and my personal life have a symbiotic relationship of being fed by the experiences of living.

Jones with Thomas Jane in “Texas Rising”

TrunkSpace: We all change as people as we get older as well. How much of that personal growth impacts what you do? Does it alter your point of view regarding your take on a character or specific choices you’d make for a character?
Jones: I don’t see how it couldn’t. I find the advice, ‘don’t take it personally,’ ironic when it comes to working as an actor. That’s the only way I feel I can take on a character or job—whether I get the opportunity to play it or not, which of course leaves me vulnerable to disappointment. But I’ve figured out how to move through it instead of around it, and I hope that raw and exposed space translates to something deeply personal and honest on screen. That’s a skill that’s taken years to build and I have yet to master it. And that example is just scratching the surface in regards to how personal growth impacts what I do with the work I get.

TrunkSpace: You’ve appeared in some very memorable series over the years that have left a lasting impact on the world of pop culture. Are there any characters, even short-lived guest spots, where you wished you had more time to explore and see where that particular person’s journey was going?
Jones: Yes and no. I’d hate to think I might’ve missed out on playing certain characters because I wasn’t available for them. Walking away from a character feels a bit like a break up—sometimes you’re relieved, sometimes your heart aches, or maybe there’s a combination of both, but ultimately it all works out the way it’s supposed to. And, of course, sometimes embracing that mentality is easier said than done! (Laughing)

“Damnation” premieres November 7 on USA Network.

Featured Image By:
Photographer: Logan Cole 
Hair/Makeup: Travisean Haynes 

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Wingman Wednesday

Woody McClain

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Photo By: Photographer Shaun Michael

In the new digital series “Stories with Kev,” Woody McClain portrays Kevin Hart as he reenacts memorable stand up bits from the entertainer’s career, adding a new dimension of funny to Hart’s already-hilarious act. McClain self-produced a version of the show on his own in 2015, going viral with his take on Hart’s “Permission to Cuss,” which ultimately lead to a collaboration with HartBeat Digital, the comedian’s production company.

Stories with Kev” airs on the Laugh Out Loud Network and can be viewed here or through the Laugh Out Loud app.

We recently sat down with McClain to discuss how he turned his hobby into a career, why he doesn’t feel any pressure playing Hart even with Hart involved, and where he’d like to be in 10 years.

TrunkSpace: This adventure that you’re currently on with “Stories with Kev” came from you sort of taking the bull by the horns and putting it all together, and the universe just running with it, right?
McClain: Yeah, that’s exactly what’s going on.

TrunkSpace: Was this ever part of the plan when you started putting together content and posting it online?
McClain: I mean, it all started with me just wanting to show my funny side. I’ve always been the quiet one. I came from a dancer’s background, so I just wanted to show my funny side. When Vine started, it was a perfect platform for me to do that, and it just got bigger and bigger after that.

TrunkSpace: At what point did it get so big that you realized it was going to be a game changer?
McClain: Man, I was just always doing it. I don’t think I ever thought it was gonna be a game changer. It was just more so of a hobby because dance was my number one thing. This was just, literally, a hobby for me. I like to bowl, so me going to the bowling alley is just an everyday thing I like to do. I don’t think nothing of it, but if I become the number one bowler in the state, it’s like, “Dang, I didn’t know that was gonna happen.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: So when you’re working on “Stories with Kev” now and Kevin’s actually involved, does that put any pressure on you in terms of your performance seeing you’re working with the person you’re portraying?
McClain: Oh, no. No pressure at all. Kevin made sure to let us know to keep doing what we’ve been doing. “Don’t change the formula. Just keep doing it how you’ve always been doing it.” That’s the same approach we brought to it. It’s real simple. I just take what’s in my head and we just put it on video. I don’t want to get dinosaurs if we don’t need dinosaurs. Just keep it simple.

TrunkSpace: You started this journey to show your funny side, but from a performance standpoint, you’re getting to show a lot of different sides in terms of what you’re capable of.
McClain: Yes, for sure. Social media has definitely helped mold the actor that I am becoming. I can always just record myself and then I can post it immediately and I can get a response immediately. People that don’t even know you across the world are going to tell you, “Yo, this is whack.” They’ll tell you that because they don’t have a personal connection to you. Or they’ll say, “Yo, this is really good.” So I just make sure I always apply that. I like to see what other people think and how they feel because the more I started learning how to act, I realized I really like to make people feel, more than anything. It’s never about money. It’s never about popularity. I just really love to make people feel. Whether they feel laughter, whether they feel sadness, I just really love to make people feel.

TrunkSpace: Can you talk a little bit about how the door opened for you to start working with Kevin?
McClain: I remember when I first saw the edit for the video. The director was like, “Man, I don’t know. How do you feel about it?” I was like, “Yo, this is golden.” I instantly knew this was the one. As soon as it posted, the next day I woke up and it had over 10 million views, and then I received a message from Wayne, Kevin Hart’s right-hand guy, saying that they wanted to meet and figure what we can do to work together. I went in and met with Kevin, this was 2015, and they said how much they loved the work and to keep doing it and we’ll eventually be able to link up and do something bigger on a bigger platform. That’s how that all happened.

TrunkSpace: Isn’t that crazy though? You wake up, you have 10 million hits, and that’s more than networks are pulling on shows with massive budgets.
McClain: Crazy. Crazy. Everything is going digital now.

TrunkSpace: Now that you’re working in that more traditional media market as well, is it a thin line to walk… moving your career forward but not alienating the fan base you built in the digital space?
McClain: Yes, for sure. My first thing was, “I’m going to just do traditional and I’m never going to do social media again.” But I felt like I was robbing my fans that were there with me from the beginning. I was robbing them by not creating content that I was doing before, so I don’t do it as much now, but I still do it.

TrunkSpace: Is dancing still a part of the game plan?
McClain: Oh, that’s out of the game plan. Listen, my knees right now, they can’t even… no, my knees are done.

TrunkSpace: So what’s the ultimate goal? If we flashed forward 10 years, what kind of entertainer do you want to be?
McClain: I just really love to tell people a story. Even when I got a chance to do “The New Edition Story” as Bobby Brown, it wasn’t just a role. For me, it was telling that person’s truth. I want people to see how other people live, and my thing is, as an actor, I want to be able to tell more true stories. I just want to help push my culture forward.

In 10 years I want to be… producing is what I really love. I love creating. I love producing. That’s my number one thing. I have ideas for days, and right now it’s just that I need to get it out. For me, it’s linking with not only people that are popping, who are super popular now, but I want to link with people that are up and coming – people that are super dope that don’t get that opportunity. There are a lot of people out there like that. I come from that background, so I already know how it feels. I’m looking to network across the board, not just network up.

Feature Image By: Photographer Shaun Michael

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Wingman Wednesday

Nicole Alyse Nelson

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Photo By: JSquared Photography

Nickelodeon has an incredible track record for recognizing young talent and serving as a springboard to the pop culture mainstays of tomorrow. The recent generation of megastars spawned at the channel have included Selema Gomez and Ariana Grande, and if history continues to repeat itself at the home that tweener’s built, Nicole Alyse Nelson of the series “I Am Frankie” will be another future success story who got her start at the network.

We recently sat down with Nelson to discuss how she grew up idolizing Nickelodeon, what she loves about her character Dayton, and why juggling a career at her age feels perfectly normal.

TrunkSpace: “I Am Frankie” has been airing for about a month now. Where has it impacted your life most?
Nelson: It’s been a fast and furious month. I’ve really only seen an increase in social media. I still haven’t been stopped in public or anything, but my family and my friends have been extremely supportive. All I’m hearing is really good responses about how the show is impacting kids in positive ways. It’s just a lot of really, really nice feedback.

TrunkSpace: Were you somebody who grew up watching Nickelodeon shows?
Nelson: Oh my gosh, yes! That is one of the main reasons I was so thrilled about even going in for this project. Growing up, I was actually always more like a Nickelodeon kid. Of course, I watched Disney Channel, but my heart really lied with “Drake & Josh,” “Zoey 101,” and “Ned’s Declassified.” To be on a network that I truly idolized as a kid is absolutely insane.

TrunkSpace: It’s kind of like paying it forward. They entertained you, and now you’re entertaining a new generation.
Nelson: Exactly. And another thing that I’m trying to do with that is, when I was really big into it, social media wasn’t really a thing like it is today. If I was in love with Ashley Tisdale or something, there was no way I could see what she was doing unless I bought a magazine. So now social media being the way that it is, I’m really trying to have a relationship with my fans and like all of their content, and be able to send out autographs and do stuff that I always wished I could have done when I was that age.

TrunkSpace: You mention Ashley Tisdale, and you look at the people who have come out of Nickelodeon shows, from Ariana Grande and Selena Gomez and all of these big, huge stars. Do you ever think about what you’re doing now in terms of what it could become for your future career down the road?
Nelson: Oh, absolutely. That’s the goal. I truly love what I do, and I hope that it continues for years to come. A lot of these stars as well are very talented singers. My goal isn’t so much to be a pop star, but continue along like the Emily Osment path, or Jenette McCurdy. Really just focus on acting, that’s the goal.

TrunkSpace: What was it that first drew you to Dayton as a character?
Nelson: The second I saw the breakdown for Dayton, I was in love. The breakdown had three females. It had Frankie, Dayton, and Tammy. Tammy’s kind of a mean girl, Frankie of course is a robot, and Dayton is just unapologetically herself. She is confident, she is intelligent. She is the expressive, charismatic best friend. She’s just a fun role. She’s the kind of character that I knew, upon reading four pages of the script, that if I book this I would never know what they would give me the next day. She’s the character that does crazy stunts and spits out food. She’s just insane, so she’s a lot of fun to play.

TrunkSpace: Does the comedy aspect of performance come natural to you in terms of timing and delivery?
Nelson: Comedy has always come pretty natural to me. I’m not going to say that I haven’t had to train and study, because comedy is all about timing and the way you say things. I did have to learn that, but it’s really been a natural instinct. I naturally have a really sharp tongue, meaning I’m really kind of quirky in the way that I use my hands a lot, and I naturally make reversals in my voice. I was always told growing up, even my theater teacher was like, “I’ve never seen a style as sharp as yours.” It’s kind of perfect that I got into kids multi-cam, because that’s really where the style is able to shine.

TrunkSpace: The concept of the show is a fun take on a classic idea. Does that fun translate to the work itself to where you have to pinch yourself to be reminded that you’re doing work?
Nelson: Oh, yeah. It’s so much fun, especially because a lot of the time things are just funny, lighthearted, and there’s a bunch of jokes on set. Working with Alex (Hook), who has to play a robot, is something really interesting. As an actor I forget just how much what the other person gives you matters, in terms of your performance. She gradually gets more human, but towards the beginning she was so robotic, it was just a weird thing to experience, because I was pushing so hard to make all of the energy happen. Then towards the end of it, it became so natural. You never knew what they were gonna write for you, or what was gonna happen. The whole process was just a blast, to watch it all unfold and experience it.

Photo By: JSquared Photography

TrunkSpace: And this is the longest period of time – 20 episodes so far – that you have ever spent with one character. What is that experience like?
Nelson: I loved it. That’s the only thing a performer can really ask for, something they can really sink their teeth into. When I first got the role and I went to Miami and we started shooting, they pretty much handed us 750 pages and were like, “Okay, have fun.” At that moment I realized everybody trains you for how to get the role, but nobody tells you what to do when you get the role. It was this moment of being like, “You know what? I have so much to work with, I don’t even know where to start, in terms of breaking this down.” Of course, I figured it out, but at the very get-go, it was very overwhelming. It’s a lot of material.

A person changes a lot over the course of 20 episodes, in terms of what they learn and how they view the world. It was also confusing. We didn’t really shoot in order, so I would have to train myself to remember, “Okay, what we’re shooting right now is episode 7, but right after this, we’re doing episode 15. This is where I’m at mentally by 15, and then we’re going back to episode 2.” It was completely all over the place, and that was one of the hardest parts.

TrunkSpace: Other girls your age are focused on school and life, and here you are throwing career into the mix as well. Does it ever feel overwhelming or are you used to having a career and making it all balance out?
Nelson: I’ve made it feel pretty normal. When I first moved out here and I was like, “This is what I’m gonna do, this is what’s gonna happen…” I fully jumped in and committed to it. It was overwhelming at first, but it’s something that I’m so passionate about and I truly love it. There isn’t ever a moment that I’m like, “Oh, I’m not sure if I can handle this,” or “I just wish I was back in Texas,” because I’m from Texas. I’m really, really happy with what I’ve decided to do and with where my life is going, so, no regrets.

TrunkSpace: Has word come down yet if “I Am Frankie” will get a season 2?
Nelson: Nothing has been confirmed, but we’ve only heard really, really great things from the network. So that’s exciting!

Catch the first season of “I Am Frankie” on Nickelodeon or watch full episodes here.

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Opening Act

Novel Nature

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Artist/Band: Novel Nature

Members: Shane Lance, Emerson Shotwell

Website:
http://twitter.com/novelnature
http://soundcloud.com/novelnature

Hometown: Seattle, WA

 


Latest Album/Release
: Gunfight – Single

Influences: The Strokes, U2, Phoenix, Radiohead, Tame Impala

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your music?
Shotwell: Rhythmic and ethereal. Dark and sexy. Fat and pretty. Lyrics that make you feel.

TrunkSpace: Your new track “Gunfight” recently dropped. What does the song say musically about where Novel Nature is today? Did it feel like a departure in any way from what you were used to creating, even down to the process itself?
Lance: Creatively, “Gunfight” feels in line with the natural progression of Novel Nature’s “sound”. Dark and moody with a little fun mixed in. It sounds like a rock band playing a funky pop song.

TrunkSpace: Many artists are releasing more singles than full albums these days, which in a lot of ways, harkens back to the dawn of commercial music. What are the benefits of releasing singles as opposed to EPs/LPs?
Shotwell: Although we definitely long to be an album band, singles definitely help new listeners find new music. Instead of sifting through albums, here’s one song that gives you an idea of what the band is like. It’s better suited for the attention span of new listeners.

TrunkSpace: You guys have a wide range of influences, which you can hear by way of your own creative diversity that is present in your songs. Has it always been important to you that, while Novel Nature has a distinct sound all its own, that it also cannot be pigeonholed into any one sub-genre?
Lance: We never give our “sound” much thought as we’re writing. We embrace a mood and press into it until a song feels done. That said, we do love that, even though it’s not intentional, each of our songs share a vibe and sonic feel.

TrunkSpace: Do you think being a duo makes the songwriting process easier than it would if the band had two or three more members? Does it help streamline the process?
Shotwell: We’ve been in bands before of four or more people and we wrote songs just fine. But in every band, there’s always the primary songwriters and Shane and I were always that. So when it came time to start a new project, we wanted to simplify and have it be just us two. We loved the new headspace it put us in as writers, forcing us to experiment with new instruments, sounds and levels of production.

TrunkSpace: Many songwriters say that the process doubles as a form of personal therapy. Is it that for you? Does songwriting help you guys get stuff out that you’d otherwise keep inside?
Lance: I think so… writing is always two sided. First, we write to put what we’re feeling into a song, and we hope that feeling resonates in our listeners. Second, we write because we like rock music, and it’s fun to rock. It is both very deep and very shallow. If it’s too much of either, it gets weird.

TrunkSpace: On the opposite side of things, often times songs will help others – the listeners – get over their own emotional hurdles and cope with difficult life experiences. Have you heard firsthand stories about how Novel Nature songs have helped people and what is that experience like when you hear about something you created impacting someone so profoundly?
Shotwell: Our songwriting is all about making people feel all ranges of emotions, both simple and deep. We’ve had instances where fans have told us that certain songs of ours will remind them of loved ones, previous life experiences, etc., and that is just awesome. We want our fans to form a personal connection to our music in any way. It doesn’t always have to be on a deep level, either. If a fan tells me that one of our songs is sexy, I’ll take that just as much.

TrunkSpace: Novel Nature has received a lot of critical praise over the years. Do you guys put any stock into that kind of attention and does it have a quantifiable impact on growing a fan base?
Lance: We’ve learned to take attention from critics very carefully: we revel in high praise, and ignore everything else! That’s the only way to stay sane, and true to your craft. Luckily most of that attention has been positive. For that reason I’d say yes, we do feel that attention has helped our fan base grow.

TrunkSpace: When it comes to building a fan base, what has worked best for you guys? How do you break through all of the noise and get people to pay attention in 2017?
Shotwell: Our first way of promoting our music was very simple, we connected with as many people on Twitter as possible and shared our Soundcloud links. We’re lucky that we built a fan base pretty quickly that way. Lately we’ve been working with Black Panda PR out of New York and have really enjoyed seeing all the PR we’ve been getting. As long as your music speaks for itself and you aren’t lazy with self-promoting, people will eventually take notice.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as a band?
Lance: Timeline. Creativity is a tough thing to keep “on schedule”. The process is completely arbitrary. Writing is fairly simple. Knowing when something is DONE is the hard part.

TrunkSpace: You guys are from Seattle, which obviously has had its day in the music scene sun, most notably during the 90s. What is it like getting your start there and how has the scene changed since you guys first formed Novel Nature?
Shotwell: I think the rainy weather here in Seattle really influences creativity. The city is really full of big-thinking creatives. It’s been great being constantly surrounded by all types of art. The music scene is definitely constantly changing, and I will note that I think it’s at its weakest right now than it has been in awhile. Another reason why we’re trying to stand up tall in the midst.

TrunkSpace: In your opinion, does a city/scene have a direct influence on a band/artist? If so, how have your roots found their way into Novel Nature?
Lance: Absolutely. Seattle, Tacoma, and really all of the Northwest are known as moody, rainy, vibey places. It’s not ironic that our sound could be described with those exact words. And the rock history here is deeply woven into culture, and our DNA as artists. Classics like Soundgarden, Nirvana, and even Sir Mix-A-Lot have had a direct influence on us. This is a special place. We’re honored to be from here, and we believe this corner of the country is purposed to release SOUND for the world to hear.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from Novel Nature for the rest of 2017 and beyond?
Shotwell: We’re always writing and backlogging songs/ideas. We can’t wait to release all of our music we’ve been writing the past couple years and visit all of you and perform. Expect touring, and as much as possible.

The Blue EP is due for release soon.

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Wingman Wednesday

Andrew W. Walker

AndrewWalker_Halloween_Wingman_wednesday

Fall is in the air, leaves are on the ground, and pumpkin-flavored everything is lining the shelves of grocery stores across the nation. With the changing of the seasons upon us and the turning back of the clocks just around the corner, Hallmark Channel has kicked off its Fall Harvest programming event, featuring a number of movies meant to up our autumn intake.

Premiering this Saturday at 9 pm ET/PT is the romantic comedy “Love Struck Café” starring Sarah Jane Morris and Andrew W. Walker. We recently sat down with Walker to discuss the importance of on-screen chemistry, how the fall season plays into the film’s storyline, and why watching Hallmark Channel reminds him of gathering around the television with his family when he was younger.

TrunkSpace: You’ve worked on a number of Hallmark Channel films over the years. How does “Love Struck Café” differ from the others you’ve starred in as far as performance and where you were able to go with your character?
Walker: Well, these things always rely on the chemistry between myself and the lead female. Sometimes these things take a little longer to develop over the course of the 15 days, because these are such quick shoots that you really need to kind of hit the ground running.

TrunkSpace: Hammering something like this out in 15 days is really impressive.
Walker: It’s crazy. Usually you get the job maybe a week before you go to shoot it, so you have about a week by yourself and then you meet your leading lady and then you have two days with that person before you actually start shooting, so it really is no time at all. I think something that really helped on “Love Struck Café” was, Sarah and I had been introduced through a friend. She was working on a show called “Brothers & Sisters” and a girlfriend of my wife and mine worked on that show as well. So we had met her a long time ago and she’s just a great person. We had a rapport.

By day three we really started to get in the groove, and then once that happens we’re able to play and have a lot more fun, and just really challenge each other as well. I like it when I’m questioned on my decisions and where I’m bringing my character and where we came from and where we’re going. Sarah’s like, “Hey, let’s talk about where we came from today. Let’s go back in the script.” So we were working in the makeup trailer. We were working on our lunch breaks. Even when our day ended, we would meet up for maybe an hour-and-a-half or so and just talk through the next day and just make sense of what’s happening.

And with this, it’s a lot more playful, I think. It’s more broad of a range than the other Hallmark’s that I’ve done. I just had the ability to play around a lot more.

TrunkSpace: When you arrive on set and hit the ground running, is the script itself still being massaged throughout the production process?
Walker: Being massaged throughout the process, every day. The framework is there, but the meat of it all, we could change it up, almost as much as we’d like. Obviously that could be a slippery slope. You start changing things here and there in the plot, and then you get stuck in the editing room at the end. So we’ve got to keep it within the confines of everything, obviously. But yeah, we had the ability to change it up and add things that we felt necessary, where we felt necessary.

TrunkSpace: Hallmark Channel is one of the few networks that is continuing to grow its viewer base and their original programming continues to grow in popularity. Why do you think that is?
Walker: I think it’s a real positive spin. We deal with so many issues nowadays, between religion, politics, and environment, I think that it’s a great way for people to escape. And it’s a classic story. Hallmark has their formula. They are telling classic, Humphrey Bogart-like stories – different versions of classics that we all have grown up to love.

I remember sitting down every Sunday back in the day with my parents to watch the Disney movies that would be airing on Sunday night. We’d go to church in the morning, we’d go for lunch with the whole family, and then I would go play soccer or football or whatever, and then at night we’d all sit down with our TV dinners and sit there and watch these Disney movies. That’s what the allure is, just bringing people back to what we had back in the day, and I think that’s super important. I think that it’s nice to see that families want to sit down and watch these movies together, because they’re also movies that the whole family can watch together.

Photo: Sarah Jane Morris, Andrew W. Walker, Cassidy Nugent Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Bettina Strauss

TrunkSpace: Hallmark Channel is also really great about connecting audiences to the feel and emotions of the seasons that they’re in through the seasonal content that they produce. “Love Struck Café” is part of the Fall Harvest programming event. How does that play into the story?
Walker: I would say everything you’d imagine fall would embody is basically in the film. We go to a pumpkin patch. We go on a wagon ride through an apple orchard. We enter a pie baking contest. It’s actually not a pie, but it’s basically an apple baking contest where the town gets together and bakes the pie. So, leaves are falling on the ground. It’s cooler weather outside. It’s all of the above.

TrunkSpace: When you’re shooting these movies out of season, does it throw you out of whack personally? Are you thinking about celebrating Christmas in the summer?
Walker: I just came back from shooting one for Lifetime right now. I was in Winnipeg, and it was torture. (Laughter) We had these big winter jackets on and stuff.

Psychologically it doesn’t throw me necessarily, because I just jump into it. And the set decorators – they always do such a great job at really doing it up and making sure that everybody feels like the holiday that they’re going to portray. Maybe physically it throws me a little bit off whack because I’m wearing three layers and I’m sweating, supposedly in the winter. (Laughter) But no, you can get into it really easily. It’s just all imagination. It’s fun. I get imaginative.

TrunkSpace: Outside of acting, you’re also producing, recently having finished up a science fiction film called “Oxalis,” right?
Walker: Yeah, we actually just submitted to Sundance and we submitted it to Tribeca, so we’re just crossing our fingers and hopefully it gets picked up somewhere.

TrunkSpace: Was this your first time producing a feature?
Walker: Producing a feature, yes. I produced a documentary about seven years ago called “Stolen Seas” and it was based on pirates in Somalia, but this is my first feature that I’ve ever produced.

TrunkSpace: One of the things that people always seem to be drawn to, at least for those of a particular personality type, is the problem solving aspect of producing. Is that something that you found yourself being drawn to?
Walker: Yeah. I own a business with my wife in Los Angeles. We have a cold-pressed juice business and we’ve had it for about five years now, so I’ve always enjoyed bringing people together in collaboration. With my business, I’ve definitely had to resolve many, many conflicts, but I do love that aspect of it. I just like bringing people together. Like with movies, if you cast it right, you don’t have to do that much. You just have to sit back and let people do what they do.

See Walker do what he does this Saturday when “Love Struck Café” premieres on Hallmark Channel.

When an aspiring architect returns to her small town to complete a land deal for her developer boss, she reconnects with her former sweetheart, a widowed single dad now, and discovers the surprising reason he broke things off with her all those years ago.
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Wingman Wednesday

Sarah Jane Morris

SarahJaneMorris_Halloween_Wingwoman_wednesday (1)

Fall is in the air, leaves are on the ground, and pumpkin-flavored everything is lining the shelves of grocery stores across the nation. With the changing of the seasons upon us and the turning back of the clocks just around the corner, Hallmark Channel has kicked off its Fall Harvest programming event, featuring a number of movies meant to up our autumn intake.

Premiering this Saturday at 9 pm ET/PT is the romantic comedy “Love Struck Café” starring Sarah Jane Morris and Andrew W. Walker. We recently sat down with Morris to discuss what drew her to the character, why she enjoys the breakneck pace of television production, and how oftentimes rekindling an old romance means having to accept a lost love for who they are now as opposed to who they were in the past.

TrunkSpace: “Love Struck Café” premieres this Saturday on Hallmark Channel. Do you have any rituals for screening your projects when they first debut?
Sarah Jane Morris: No, not really. I’m trying to just get the word out as best as I can so that people see it. This is actually my first Hallmark movie. It’s one of the first things that I’ve done that I feel like my kids can watch. (Laughter) Although, they don’t want to see me kissing anyone. They’ll have to duck out for at least one part of it.

I’m going to do some live tweeting, and I actually have a couple of friends that might come over and watch it. Every once in a while I’ll do that. I’m excited.

TrunkSpace: One of the things that Hallmark is so good at is painting the picture of a particular season…
Sarah Jane Morris: Which is always fun when you’re shooting winter in the middle of summer. (Laughter) This was actually not too bad. We were doing fall. We were late summer shooting for fall, so it was light jackets and sweaters and stuff, but I wanted to burn my coat by the end. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: You mentioned how “Love Struck Café” was your first Hallmark project, which are known for having fast-paced production schedules. Did that force to alter your approach as far as performance was concerned?
Sarah Jane Morris: Oh yeah. It’s funny, I was thinking about that a lot when we were shooting this movie, which was 15 days. There were some big, huge budget features like “Deadpool” that were shooting in Vancouver at the same time as us. We had one day where it was kind of a big scene, so it took most of the day to shoot. I was like, “Man, I don’t know if I would be super excited to be spending a week on one chase scene in a movie.” (Laughter)

I think I kind of love the breakneck pace of television. You have to come in really prepared, which isn’t always easy because sometimes you’re not getting the material until right before you start shooting, or it changes right before. But you’ve got to kind of come in and be prepared and ready to have curveballs thrown at you, and be able to change it up on the fly. It’s challenging in a different way.

TrunkSpace: Being able to wrap a project in 15 days as opposed to three months also gives you time to pursue other projects and characters, which must be nice?
Sarah Jane Morris: Oh yeah, definitely. For me, it also gives me a lot of time to spend with my family. I’m a nearly full-time mom when I’m not working. I feel really lucky that I can go and work, fast and furious to get it done, and then come home and be with my family. I can be the mom that I want to be for them, and that they want for me to be, but they still get to see me as a working mom.

TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, what was it that drew you to the character Megan Quinn in this particular movie?
Sarah Jane Morris: Most of the stuff that I’ve done, I feel like in the past leans towards the pretty heavily dramatic. With some of “The Night Shift” I definitely got to play up a little bit of quirkiness with that character, but this was just fun to be kind of a goofball a little bit. I don’t know if it will come across that way in the end, with the final product, but it was a fun opportunity for me to bring my kind of goofy, weird side to a character, and not just have to play the straight romantic, dramatic actress that I often have to. Nobody was dying, so it’s kind of a nice emotional break. (Laughter) The last episode of “The Night Shift” that I shot in the summer, it was kind of an unpleasant head space to be in for that period of time, because it was a downer. This was just fun. It was nice and light. I like getting to play with my comedic side a little bit. I don’t get to do that very often.

Photo: Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer:

TrunkSpace: So much of the success of these films comes down to the chemistry between the people at the core of the story. Was on-screen chemistry something that you and your costar Andrew W. Walker discussed prior to shooting?
Sarah Jane Morris: Well, it was funny, because after I was hired they told me who the male lead was going to be. I looked him up and I was like, “Gosh, I don’t know if I know this person.” Then on the first day I got there, I was waiting in the lobby with the director – we were going to walk to dinner, the three of us – and Andrew comes walking up. He walks right over to me and gives me a big hug. I was like, “Oh, okay. I don’t usually hug people I don’t know yet, but okay.” (Laughter) He was like, “No, we’ve met.” I was like, “Wait, we have?” And he starts reminding me that we actually met a couple of times, but it was 10 years ago. He and his wife are best friends with Emily VanCamp, who I was on “Brothers & Sisters” with for three years. As soon as he reminded me of that I was like, “Oh my gosh, yeah!” Then it was just like, “Okay, good people. We’re off from here!” It was great.

He’s done a lot of these Hallmark movies. I think the very first scene that we shot was a scene in the movie where he and I kind of run into each other again. I was like, “Oh, he knows how to really connect in that romantic chemistry type of way.” He goes for it and I was like, “Okay, this is gonna be easy.” I just had to let my guard down and go for it as well.

We had a great rapport. It was easy to play up the chemistry between the two characters. It was never awkward or anything like that, which was nice. We got along really well, so it wasn’t having to cycle feelings of frustration, or annoyance with my costar ever. (Laughter)

We actually did have a conversation pretty early on about how there wasn’t a ton of conflict in the writing between the two characters. We wanted to play up the conflict a little bit.

TrunkSpace: In terms of their backstory?
Sarah Jane Morris: The backstory, and just that they’ve changed – they’ve grown up and changed who they are as people. They always had a relationship where they sort of pushed each other’s buttons, even as kids. But now as adults, it’s different. He’s kind of needling me about the guy I’m dating, and the career path I’ve chosen. It’s not exactly what he let me go to pursue. I’m not really fulfilling that dream.

You want to kind of think that he’s sort of bugging her and that this may not work out. They may have changed too much for this to work out.

Find out if it ultimately works out this Saturday when “Love Struck Café” airs on Hallmark Channel!

When an aspiring architect returns to her small town to complete a land deal for her developer boss, she reconnects with her former sweetheart, a widowed single dad now, and discovers the surprising reason he broke things off with her all those years ago.
read more
Wingman Wednesday

Chi McBride

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There are very few actors who can command a scene and own a character like Chi McBride. While he admits that he never sets out to elicit a particular reaction from an audience and that the response to the work itself is organic, there is an undeniable, often undefinable, special “something” that certain entertainers have that makes that organic response possible. Whatever that special something is, McBride has it.

His voice booms like the bass drum in a marching band, banging out dialogue in a way that makes even throwaway lines seem like the best writing in any given script. His presence on screen is at times both formidable and approachable, making him capable of slipping into a wide array of fictional mindsets, which he has done seamlessly throughout the course of his career. And even when the projects themselves aren’t necessarily memorable, McBride’s work is.

With a career that has spanned numerous decades and countless character turns, he has been a part of some of our favorite entries into the Pop Culture Hall of Fame of the last 20 years, including the incredibly inventive but short-lived series “Pushing Daisies” and the before-its-time horror hybrid “The Frighteners.” Currently he can be seen returning to the role of Lou Grover in the long-running CBS series “Hawaii Five-0.”

We recently sat down with McBride to discuss why he doesn’t spend much time reflecting on past work, how he’s exactly as famous as he wants to be, and why “The Frighteners” may have fared better had it been released at a different time.

TrunkSpace: You have played a number of characters in various series that stretched for well over 80 episodes, Lou Grover of “Hawaii Five-0” the most recent one. Are there any characters that you wish you got to go on that long-term journey with, that ultimately didn’t have that opportunity?
McBride: Yes and no. I really loved the role I had on “Pushing Daisies” and it was a lot of fun to do. I loved the four years I spent on “Boston Public” because all we did on the set was laugh.

I’m not really attached to things in that way. My philosophy is only, we’re here until we’re not here. I don’t really spend a lot of time with any sense of longing or loss that I couldn’t continue to do something. Above all things this is business and I got that early on. I’m not really an artist. I’m pretty pragmatic about what I do for a living. We’re here until we’re not here. While I enjoyed those two roles particularly very much, I don’t spend much time reflecting on that kind of stuff.

TrunkSpace: So do you view your career as a whole journey as opposed to individual jobs?
McBride: Yeah, pretty much, because I’m not in control of the longevity of any particular project. Like I said, I’m not really an artist because I have a much more pragmatic view. An artist to me is a guy who draws with charcoal on a paper tablecloth for a bowl of soup in a restaurant. All these guys who are real artists, whose work lives forever and in perpetuity, is regarded in the same way by historians as well as people who consume that art now. Those guys are artists. I’m just a guy trying to make a living.

I take my work seriously and I do everything in my power to be good at it because it’s my job. You’re a journalist, I’m sure you try to do the best that you can in your field so that you can continue to work and support your family. That’s where it’s at for me. Every job, it’s no different to me to go from “Pushing Daisies” to “Hawaii Five-0,” or whatever I’ve done in between those two things, as it is you working for this paper or that paper or a guy going from IBM to Xerox. That’s just the way I’ve always looked at it.

TrunkSpace: In taking that pragmatic view and focusing on the business side of show business, are you someone who is interested in development and producing as part of what you do?
McBride: To a point. It’s never been my desire to be the King of Hollywood. To tell you the truth, I’m exactly as famous as I want to be, which is not very famous at all. I’ve gotten to the point where television networks will let me know that they’re seeking out my services and I’m happy to give them to them. We negotiate and do our business and I really enjoy what I do and I make a good living. But I’m not looking to be the King of Hollywood, because to do that, first of all, that’s a young man’s game and second of all, it is all-consuming if you’re trying to do that.

There’s an old saying, “The people in Los Angeles talk about two things, themselves and show biz.” I just don’t want to have show biz, I never have, consume my life to the point where you have a child and then the next thing you know, when you finally notice it, is that the kid is now using your razor and you don’t know where all the time went. It takes a level of dedication that I’m not prepared to give.

The Cast of Pushing Daisies. Photo by Justin Stephens – © 2007 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc

TrunkSpace: So you enjoy the work and work hard to be good at it, but you don’t need everyone to know that you’re good at it?
McBride: Exactly right.

My job is to do my job. Your job is to love or to hate it. That’s how our mediums serve each other. To think too deeply about it on that level, it’s really not that hard. It’s just a TV show. It’s just a movie. It may be around forever, but there’s some guy, and I’ve used this reference before, there’s some surgeon and he has to take a tumor the size of a lemon out of some kid’s head today. That’s important. That is not what this is.

So, yeah, I do look at it more of “business” than “show,” because that’s how everybody in the business part of it looks at it.

I don’t care how good a show is, if nobody watches it, they’re peeling it off the air. That’s just how it is. There are many shows that you start following and they yank it, but they yanked it for a reason. People aren’t putting on TV shows because they’re swell. They’re putting them on because we’re conducting business and there’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is that a lot of people think that there is something wrong with that. I’m not one of those.

TrunkSpace: There are a lot of fans who take it very personally when a show is yanked off the air, “Pushing Daisies” being a good example of one.
McBride: Yeah, and you know what, I understand that because there’s somebody working a grill, making a Big Mac, and they see it as manual labor. But there’s somebody who’s got 99 cents in their pocket and this is going to be what sustains them for the rest of the evening and into the morning. Two people that are connected, but one with a significantly higher level of involvement and that have a significantly different relationship to the job that the guy behind the grill is doing than he does. That’s the same, so I understand the investment because people have their own lives and their own jobs and they look for places to escape from the mundane activities of the day and a show does that for a lot of people.

I was having a conversation with someone who is a really big star. I said, “Do you realize how many people have been sitting in the hospital feeling like they have nothing to live for and one of your movies will come on and it will lighten their burden, even if it’s just temporary? That’s a big deal to them.”

But if we focus on that part of it, now you think that you’re really doing something that you’re not. That’s the kind of thing that happens organically, it doesn’t happen by design.

I’m a big sneaker collector and there’s been a lot of stuff on the internet about me and sneakers. There was a phase that the sneaker industry was going through where you’d look at these stores that would resell old stock shoes and there’s some sneakers that sell for $3,000, $4,000, $5,000, that are brand new but they were made 15 years ago. That’s something that happens organically.

What happened during that period when there was a boom was that the shoe companies, like Nike and Adidas, would try to create a shoe that they could sell for that kind of money off the bat. I remember talking to an executive and I said, “You know, a $3,000 sneaker is for resale, not retail. You create a shoe and charge three grand for it, everybody who buys sneakers is laughing at you. You can just make the coolest shit that you can make and then that’s the secondary market that puts that kind of thousands on it.” If you sold a ’68 Mustang in 1968 for $250,000 or you tried to sell a ’69 Shelby for $250,000 in 1969, you’d have been stuck with a lot of them.

So, it’s a different relationship depending on who the consumer is.

McBride in Hawaii Five-0

TrunkSpace: It’s like the music industry. Those who set out to be revolutionary never are. Those who do it organically and write from that creative spark inside them, that’s when the magic happens.
McBride: Yeah, you ain’t making “The White Album” because that’s what you’re trying to do. You ain’t making “Songs in the Key of Life” because that’s what you’re trying to do. You’re not making the response to a record, you’re only making the record. It’s much the same way in what I do. I don’t make people laugh or cry, I just do what I do. The response is organic and that’s it.

TrunkSpace: So does it still surprise you when something does or does not resonate with an audience?
McBride: I’m still surprised that people actually know what my name is. Every time somebody recognizes me on the street I’m completely surprised about it – when anybody knows my name or has seen what I do because I just don’t think about those things. I only respond to how I respond to a series.

I’m going to tell you a story. I’m not going to tell you what the project was, but I did a project once and when we did the pilot and we came to the table read, one of the executive producers is sitting there. We’re all at the table and I’m sitting next to another guy who’s been in the business as long as I had. The showrunner says, “Folks, I just want to prepare you for something. This thing is going to change your life. Enjoy your anonymity now because this is going to change your life to a degree where it’s going to be difficult for you to just walk through a mall or something, so just enjoy your privacy. Let me tell you something about this show, not only is this show going to be great, we are going to reinvent the medium.”

I looked at the guy sitting next to me and I said to him, “Listen, I don’t know about you, but I’m calling my wife right now and telling her not to buy nothing.” In less than the initial ordered run of 13, the show was canceled and the rest of the episodes burned off over some obscure hour of the morning on a weekend.

You have no fucking idea how you’re going to respond. The level of hubris at that statement, I literally was rolling on the floor laughing on the inside when I heard this guy say, “We are going to reinvent the medium.” I was like, you ass, that’s never going to happen.

It’s amazing how deeply some people think in terms of their sphere of influence and their ability to control how people feel about things. I think that if those things that do happen, “Friends,” “Seinfeld,” “Lost,” “Big Bang Theory,” “Happy Days.” it’s lightning in a bottle, man.

TrunkSpace: At the same time, projects don’t always have to be the biggest commercial successes to impact an audience or change the industry. We mentioned “Pushing Daisies” already, but another project of yours that was well ahead of its time was “The Frighteners.” Both of those projects are two that, if released today where there is a different approach taken with the consumption of content, could have found a different level of commercial success.
McBride: It (“The Frighteners”) is kind of a cult status kind of thing from what I’ve heard. Look, the movie was released on the same weekend as “The Nutty Professor” and the same day that Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic torch. Nobody’s going to see the movie. Why that movie wasn’t released in October, I’ll never know. If that movie was released closer to Halloween or in the same slot as something like “It” was released, I have no doubt that we would have fared a lot better. I don’t know if it’d be blockbuster or anything like that, but if this movie had been released closer to Halloween, there would have been a different take on it, I really believe, because people have discovered it over the course of the last – what, hell, it’s been more than 20 years since I did that picture. I think that people would have responded quite differently to it in terms of its first viewing and first box office. It would have been much different.

TrunkSpace: Tonally it seems to fit more with today’s tastes than what people were consuming in the mid 90s.
McBride: It’s so funny that you say that because I kind of think the same way. I just actually saw it recently because my kid wanted to watch it and I wouldn’t let him watch it because he’s nine. But I watched it so I could see whether or not he could watch it and I was like, “Wow, this movie really holds up and this movie still is entertaining and it’s even more engaging than it was when we first made it.”

I think it just was a great film. Everything happens the way it’s meant to happen. It has achieved the status it was meant to achieve.

Hawaii Five-0” airs Fridays on CBS.

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Deep Focus

Ron Carlson

RonCarlson_DeepFocus

Take one part hair metal, one part giant ant, and mix in a music festival that nobody is clamoring to attend (NOchella) and you have yourself the new comedy/horror hybrid “Dead Ant,” which is set to hold its World Premiere tonight as part of Screamfest at the Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California.

We recently sat down with the film’s writer/director Ron Carlson to discuss the year-long journey of bringing the monstrous insects to the big screen, why you should go see “Star Wars” if you want the bugs to look more realistic, and how “Dead Ant” is less about bringing a B-movie to life and more about a band having to navigate the rules of that particular world.

TrunkSpace: What has the “Dead Ant” journey been like for you in terms of seeing your vision become a reality? Has it been a long journey?
Carlson: It has. The script I wrote relatively quick. I really knocked out the first draft of this in five weeks. 
My first draft was just a band, a little more nondescript band, and then I decided I know and I understand hair metal, and those are great guys to be underdogs. Their music is pretty “out” today. They’re playing some state fairs, and they’re not getting invited to Coachella. They’re not in the Sundance Film Festival. So these guys were perfect for that – meaning the characters.

The laborious journey for me was I had the CG done – 700 CG shots in the movie, roughly – in Russia. That took a year, and during that year, you’re lost in the 700 shots. That was really painful, to be truthful.

TrunkSpace: How do you manage that when you’re working with a team who is physically so far removed from where you are?
Carlson: It’s through Skype and it’s me making videos of myself, pretending to be the ant, and what I want it to do and sending a storyboard shot and getting it back. It was really complicated, but in our budget range, it was the best work that I had seen. I don’t think the effects looked Syfy channel, but they’re not Pixar. They’re not Harry Potter. I made the movie for 99 million dollars less than a Harry Potter. I don’t have access to all that. Ultimately, if you’re going to see this movie because you want the best special effects, go fucking see “Star Wars.” Go see something else. I’m not giving you that. If you want to say, “Oh, I just want to go and have a good time,” that’s what I’m delivering. I feel like I can sufficiently do that.

TrunkSpace: And therein lies the other great connection to the hair metal genre, which was an era where everyone wanted to (and was) just having fun. It is a genre of music known for having a good time.
Carlson: That’s it. That’s the thing. There’s not a person out there that can’t turn on Hair Nation on Sirius Radio and sing along with a couple of the songs. Everybody knows a few. Two beers in a bar, a hair metal song comes on, and you’re alright. “I’m going to sing out with the crowd right now.” And that was my goal with this movie. I really wanted to make a good comedy that was within the rules of a B-horror movie.

TrunkSpace: Casting Jake Busey as Merrick was a great move because he seems all-in and really built for the role.
Carlson: Yes, Jake was built for this role, but no one would see Jake as this, you know what I mean? You wouldn’t initially say, “Okay yeah, Jake Busey is this guy!” I loved Jake.

I had a job at one point where I interviewed different bands. I interviewed a couple of these hair metal bands, and it’s funny because they all kind of become famous and big bands when they’re 18 and in high school. Then they move on and they start to burn out or whatever. But it’s funny, once you become that famous guy, at that age, and especially it seemed like with the guys that I interviewed, they kind of stay that same age. It’s still like high school for them where it’s like, “Oh yeah, you just gotta get down! It’s about playing the song and getting beers and hooking up with these chicks!”

I remember, there was this very famous band that I was in awe of and going to get to interview and then I interviewed them and I was like, “They’re these high school dudes! Holy shit!” It was that particular interview that really stuck with me, and I utilized a piece of the truth from that, that I wanted to sprinkle into this, to keep these guys real. That was the biggest thing, really keeping these guys truthful so you buy into them because then you’ve just got this cartoon movie and you have no heart. I feel like the movie has heart.

TrunkSpace: More often than not, the hair metal genre, when handled in media, is approached like a caricature.
Carlson: Yes, it is done as a caricature, and you’re not getting to see the real side. I kind of wanted to stick this band in within the rules of a B-horror movie. What I told Tom (Arnold) when I’d meet with him, I’d say, “Look, man, this is going to go great, or I’m really going to drive this thing into the ground on every level.” He looked at me and he goes, “I like that. That is an honest answer.” We hit it off. It was a good working relationship – and with all the guys. I’ve become good friends with everybody in this movie. It’s really one that I love the cast and they love the movie. They don’t just go, “Eh.” They like it. Even Jake, he’s like, “I’ve done a hundred movies and this one’s in my top three.” And truthfully, I actually think he likes himself in this role so much. I’ve become friends with him, and he wears his fucking Sonic Grave T-shirt all the time. Everybody’s got a Sonic Grave T-shirt, but I haven’t seen anybody wear it as much as he did. He loves it.

TrunkSpace: Tonally it felt like the film had the same vibe as some of the great “Tales from the Crypt” episodes of the 80s and early 90s, and in doing research, we discovered that you were actually IN an episode of that show way back when.
Carlson: It’s so funny, yeah, I did. I did an episode with Kimberly Williams from “Father of the Bride,” and I was so taken by her, like, “Oh my God!” I think it was one of the first things I ever did.

It (“Dead Ant”) didn’t really come from that specifically. I’m friends with a good circle of horror friends, and I would say I’m more of a comedic director within that group. But I love horror. I love the whole vibe. There’s a piece of me that really wants to kind of sink my teeth into a real, in-depth horror film – straight horror, but not any time soon. I think I’ve got a sequel for “Dead Ant” and I’d really like to do that one.

TrunkSpace: Life is a little bit of everything. Even a single day is never just one genre of living. As an audiences, experiencing a genre mashup always makes sense. Did you worry about combining comedy and horror on this particular film?
Carlson: I wondered how it would resonate with the horror audience, because again, it follows the rule of a horror movie, but it’s not like at the end we’re starting to pick people off and then we’ve got our survivor and they live. The third act does something a little different than the normal horror movie. I wonder how people would react to that. Ultimately I feel like it’s kind of a crossover movie.

I hope it appeals a lot to the horror audience and they love and respect it for what it is, but I also think it’s really hard to make a broad comedy. Adam Sandler, Judd Apatow, whoever… whatever their formula is, their main character and the journey that they go through, it’s hard to get laughs. Especially in this day and age, in a film, and to keep them going, because we have YouTube and we have all these things. So that’s why in some of these broad comedies that studios do, shit gets really cartooned. They try to go too big, and they lose the truth.

If you’re in the Hollywood area, you can purchase tickets for tonight’s World Premiere of “Dead Ant” here.

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