March 2018

The Featured Presentation

Dr. Michelle Oakley

Photo By: Marty Fowler

If you’re like our staff here at TrunkSpace, you have the squishiest of soft spots in your heart for any non-human species, especially those in need of a helping human hand. Many of us have fur families that include pooch pals and cat companions adopted from shelters around the country, and we have wept as our BAFFs (Best Animal Friends Forever) have grown old and left their bodies while simultaneously leaving their marks. Some of us have nursed feathered friends with injured wings back to health, while others have made it a habit to stop traffic for cold-blooded street crossers. We do all of this to assist the animals, even in our own small way, but we’re continuously inspired to do so by those individuals who make it their full-time mission to rescue and defend the mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and yes, even insects, of our interwoven world.

We encourage anyone to adopt not shop because there are so many pets out there that need your help. Just the other day, one of our staff adopted a new dog, making it the second pooch he owns. He was worried that the kennel dog wouldn’t be good with his first dog but he looked up some tips on handling two dogs in the home and they’re getting along like a house on fire! If you’ve got room in your house and heart, we encourage anyone to adopt a pet and fill their life with character!

One of those inspirations is Dr. Michelle Oakley. As star of Nat Geo WILDs “Dr. Oakley, Yukon Vet” and the NBC Saturday morning series “Wilderness Vet,” the all-species veterinarian has seen it all, from a rampaging muskox to a grizzly bear unhappy with receiving a dental examination. Through her work, which she has shared alongside of her three daughters, she is encouraging a new generation of conservationists and empathetic animal lovers.

We recently sat down with Dr. Oakley to discuss hedgehog protocol, the bittersweet aspects of her work, and how a single offer of motivation from Jane Goodall at age 11 made her believe in herself enough to pursue her dreams.

TrunkSpace: For those of us who love animals and think we’re doing good by stepping in to help them, are we sometimes part of the problem as opposed to the solution? Is it best that we animal loving outsiders leave the saving to the professionals? (That being said, we can still keep stopping to help turtles to the other side of the road, right, because that’s kind of our thing?)
Dr. Oakley: Animals need our help. Period. Wild animals near urban or suburban areas with few places left to hide, marine animals swimming through garbage, even some remote ‘pristine’ wild species are in crisis – they are short on space, chronically on the run, and just trying to eek out a living in a place that is changing way too fast for them to adapt. But luckily so many people want to help. It’s just connecting all the helpers with the best facilities and professionals who can ensure we are putting our resources into what’s needed most.

Really that applies to everything from an abandoned pet in a shelter to an owl with the broken wing on the side of the road – so many ways we can support these places with our time, of course money for food or supplies, and getting at the root causes.

But hell yeah, stop to help turtles across the road, be a volunteer dog walker at the shelter, and maybe most important, think about the choices you make every day in terms of products – and what they mean to our environment or do they support these bigger wildlife centers or shelters? You can’t always do the best thing, but even setting examples of doing the little things… I’m always trying to bank spider-karma, scoop them out of harms way, and back outside – not easy for an arachnophobe, but just trying to do my part.

TrunkSpace: You are an all-species veterinarian. Does that mean your education never really stops? Are you constantly having to bring yourself up to speed on species you encounter, but have yet to treat in the past?
Dr. Oakley: YES, that is exactly what that means. Lifelong learning…which sounds exhausting and it can be, but is also actually really fun and rewarding. It can also be kind of terrifying and the source of guilt. What I mean is, I don’t do a dozen canine C-sections a month like most clinics… I do one a year, so I never get really good at it. But I’m the only vet around and there often isn’t time for the animal to get to a more experienced vet. And the next patient is a hedgehog with an abscess and although I know a lot about hedgehogs, I only have two clients in my area that have them, so every time I have to read up on it and remind myself the best protocol for the animal, sometimes contacting colleagues who are more experienced. It’s the whole jack of all trades, master of none problem. I love the variety and I will do my best to help whatever comes my way, but it’s a lot of triage and cracking the books or researching the best thing to do. That makes it hard to run an efficient business as well, but that’s a whole other problem. I am really lucky to have a solid training in zoo and wildlife medicine, because so much of that is adapting what we know about domestic species – dogs, cats cows, pet birds – to the hundreds of species you can see in a zoo. Even most of the instruments and medical supplies and splints and equipment I use was never designed for use on a muskox or a wolverine or a bear, but a lot of zoo medicine is learning to adapt what you have to help the animal even if it’s not designed for them. For example, because I have a good knowledge of Dog UTI Treatment, I can apply this understanding to other four-legged animals experiencing urinary issues. It’s so challenging, but so rewarding when you come up with some cool fix and it works and you are like. “Oh yeah, uh-huh, McGuyver’d the H-E-double toothpicks out of that!”

TrunkSpace: Many of the animals that we have seen you give assistance to are predators, and often, the kind that the rest of us run away from. Has there ever been an instance where you felt your own life was in danger while trying to save the life of another?
Dr. Oakley: Yes, several times. In fact, probably more than just several. And it’s not just the predators, it’s the big prey species that are most dangerous – probably on account of the everything-wants-to-eat-me mentality. I had to claw my way up a birch tree to get away from a charging (and thankless) bison I had just treated. I had to hang on in a car that was being rammed by an angry (and also thankless) muskox. I had a mountain goat corner me in a pen and try to gore me. I had to run from a 1200 lb grizzly bear that stood up as I was doing a dental exam. (Wasn’t as anesthetized as I thought!) And I didn’t really think a lot about these, until my daughters started working with me more in the field. In the case of the bear, one of my assistants was my oldest daughter Sierra, who is 20 (and an extremely accomplished and experienced vet assistant for 20!) and for the first time in one of these situations, I felt fear like I had never felt it. I am definitely more careful as I get older and see all the things that can go wrong. And I am very picky about how and when the girls help me in the field. It can really be distracting if I am trying to mom them and do my job.

Really, I have had more close calls with horses than with any wild species. I love horses, but they have a way of getting your guard down, and then they explode.

TrunkSpace: What motivates you to do the job and has that motivation changed from when you first began your career?
Dr. Oakley: YES, great question! I started out really wanting to do wildlife work – I was a bit snobby about how great or important the conservation applications of vet med are, and what they can do for wildlife. I still believe that, but I find more and more I have come to appreciate the importance of the human animal bond – it took getting to really know some of my clients, and their stories, and to know how badly they needed that pet to love and support. I have a therapy dog that goes with his boy to four or five surgeries a year, and alerts when that boy is in pain, and most importantly that dog is ALWAYS there for that kid to depend on and focus on and take care of. Yes, it really helps for that little boy to care for something else and not always be the one looked after.

Putting old or injured pets to sleep is so hard, and I never wanted to do it obviously, but it has also become a bittersweet part of what I do. Ending suffering is such a relief and the last kindness we do for animals that are so loyal to us, and just want love, and to be let go painlessly when it’s the end. I always knew I loved animals, but I am more and more surprised as I get older at how much I love their people, and how much of my job I know is to help those people, as well.

TrunkSpace: In terms of the work you have done, what is a memory, captured on film or not, that will stay with you for the rest of your life?
Dr. Oakley: Well, the one of the bear standing up and having my daughter in close proximity is unfortunately one I will never get out of my head. But I have a few good ones, too. An eagle flying away after months of healing, and looking so strong. I swear I could feel it’s excitement as it left. A one-eyed seal pup grubbing his chubby body toward the surf to freedom. Pretty much every time I see an animal going back to the wild, I choke up and feel this amazement that it all worked out. They are finally going back to the wilderness; their home. It’s hard to find something that can beat this feeling. I just hope that they are able to stay safe. I know that during hunting season, many animals such as deers are targeted in these activities, and if people don’t use the equipment that is recommended to them, like the best bow sight for the money, these animals could become even more seriously injured. And as someone who helps these animals, it is simply heartbreaking to see. But when you have healed them, it makes all these difficult times worth it.

Another one, when I was giving really difficult news to an older friend (recently widowed) about his dog, that it had cancer we couldn’t stop. I know of some people who would want to try different dog CBD products to see if this could help to slow down its growth, but unfortunately for this dog, it was just too advanced. I was crying, he was crying and when I looked up I could see tears running down the face of our main cameraman Dallas Childers while he filmed, and many of the crew nearby were so choked up. I am so lucky to have got into this TV thing with Nat Geo WILD and Lucky Dog Films – our core crew are so professional and kind and such major animal lovers, and many of them have become like family. They have watched me at my best and worst, and watched our kids grow up the last six years. It’s really been cool sharing so much of our life and favorite places and people with them. (And with so many people because of them!)

OH! And meeting Jane Goodall, for the second time (first time I was 11), with my daughter at my side a few months ago. It was amazing. Jane is a pioneer in so many ways, an absolute tireless conservationist, and like, exudes this aura of calm-inspiration.

TrunkSpace: You don’t have to tell us that saving animals, particularly in the wilderness as you do, is compelling television, but does it surprise you that people tune in to watch you do what you love? Do you still experience those “pinch me” moments?
Dr. Oakley: Yes, the things people love about what I share sometimes totally shocks me. You expect the wild things and places are going to be cool, but I love that it’s often the little pet that a kid loves so much that people really love. It kind of follows my own life, love the wildlife, love that work, but that human animal connection is real and so resonant across cultures and ages. I have been pleasantly surprised to hear so many families watch our show together, and feel it’s one of the few shows everyone wants to watch together. That really means a lot. And as much as I love where I live, you still get used to certain things that are extreme elsewhere but your norm… like I Tweeted a vid the other day of Willow walking to the bus stop, cause I thought it was so cool that her dog Bindi runs and herds her to the bus stop 50 yards from the house, waits for her to get on and then rips home all excited like she did her job. I kinda didn’t even clue in that it was the middle of a blizzard and snow blowing sideways, and as usual, Willow was only in a sweatshirt and no hat. People were losing it about her going to school in that weather, and wondered why school wasn’t canceled! (Laughter) I had to laugh. If we canceled over little squalls like that, the kids would never go to school. Really cracked me up. And yeah, Willow is a typical teenager, and we tell her, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing choices.” But she continues to choose to dress for school as if looks and appearances matter more.

OK, I guess I remember those days. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: We read that you watched Nat Geo programs throughout your formative years. What is it like for you personally to now be inspiring future Dr. Oakleys?
Dr. Oakley: YES, see Jane Goodall above. I grew up watching her and Dian Fossey on these Nat Geo specials and I was like, “I am going to do THAT!” So I totally identify with all the kids who write and tell me that, and it feels SO GOOD to be giving that back, to maybe be inspiring others to do this kind of work. Wow, cant even describe how that feels. We are all becoming so much more aware of the importance of having so many kinds of role models that all different kinds of kids, boys AND girls can identify with and emulate. I watched “Wonder Woman” a few months ago on an airplane, and I had no interest in most of those comics when I was a kid, or superheroes… and I couldn’t look away, and I felt inspired to help people more and do my thing more. It’s funny how important that is for all of us, at any age.

When I met Jane when I was 11, I got to talk to her for a few minutes at a book signing at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. I told her I was going to work like her in the wilderness, helping wildlife, and she said, without batting an eye, “I believe you will.” And that was it. Jane said it and I knew it to be true. Others teased me or thought it was weird, but that didn’t matter anymore.

TrunkSpace: As you mentioned, your three daughters often work alongside of you. Does that make the job even more special, being able to share it with family?
Dr. Oakley: Yes, it has. It was initially out of necessity. My husband is a firefighter (wildfire), so he can be gone weeks at a time on a big fire. And I still had a practice to run, and I wanted to be with my kids as much as possible. So they had things to do in the car, and they loved to help on the farm and run around and see the animals, and they often felt great about the small ways they could help when they were little… a lot of our memories are helping animals together, which is kinda cool. I remember Maya helping me pull out porcupine quills form the face of a big rottweiler when she was just tiny, and she flinched with every last pull – and there were hundreds. She has such empathy for animals and their pain. And Willow has mothered and raised so many little creatures. Sierra, I have a memory of her shivering at -40 holding a horse for an owner who had to wait inside because she just had surgery. I was trying to suture up a large laceration on the horse’s leg and the instruments were freezing to my gloves, and Sierra was absolutely frozen herself but never complained.

Willow has mothered and helped raise every little creature you can think of – the kid is always out in the bush and mountains, and is completely feral, our little WillowWild. But it has been hard too in terms of making sure their little hearts can take it. It’s a very emotional job and a lot of the wildlife work is difficult and heartbreaking, and a few times, I wished I had not had the girls there. One in particular was the golden eagle found in tar and brought to us. The girls were so excited to help, and we all got so hopeful as we got the tar off and then suddenly I could see there was no hope, flesh missing from bone and no skin left over 2/3 of the poor creature’s body. I can still see Sierra carrying Willow away as she sobbed into her shoulder, and I stayed behind to put the eagle out of its misery. I noticed since then her being more reluctant to help for awhile, and it’s so understandable, but made me so sad that I hadn’t protected her little heart.

TrunkSpace: We’re watching habitats disappear around the world at an alarming rate. Is the Yukon Territory and Alaska headed in that direction as well or will they remain relatively safe from human destruction due to their location and climate?
Dr. Oakley: Unfortunately huge parts of the Yukon and Alaska are more affected by climate change than most other parts of the world – there is a lot of information out there about the degree in temperature change is twice as high here than elsewhere, and the weather patterns are so different now. The problem with this is all the animals and their habitats are SO cold adapted and actually need cold to survive. As much I love a good day or two above freezing mid January, I know that will likely lead to the deaths of a number of hibernating animals – bears, marmots and other species need that insulating snow cover to stay warm underneath it. When high temps in winter and rain take away the snow, and we get cold temps the next week, the animals can freeze to death in their den. We hear a lot about polar bears and lack of ice to hunt on, but there are so many other ways that a rapidly changing climate is leading to loss of plants and animals, even in remote, seemingly untouched ecosystems of the north.

TrunkSpace: For those reading this interview who don’t want to see any of that happen, what can people do to help those species and habitats in danger of disappearing? If we all put in a spoonful of water, we’d have an ocean, and yet, many species are still endangered and may never be seen again. Where is the disconnect?
Dr. Oakley: The disconnect is, it’s a huge, complex problem and if it was as easy as do this one thing, we could do it. But we are still learning what we can do, and the bigger solutions are tied up in big business or in the hands of many people of different cultures and motivations. It’s not as easy as a spoonful of water each, but it’s not impossible either. I have a lot of hope actually – it seems like the alternate sources of energy and technology was slow to get started, but it feels like it’s gaining momentum and becoming more accessible, maybe in a less organized way that we expected, but that was the only way around the big blockers. People are becoming more connected to animals, not less, and we are able to share more about the risks and plights to wildlife, and people genuinely care.

Help the turtle across the road… then go home and Google how you can help endangered sea turtles. Gotta start somewhere.

TrunkSpace: We’re about a quarter of the way into 2018. Did you make any New Year’s resolutions for yourself and if so, how are you doing sticking with them thus far?
Dr. Oakley: Yes, to floss and I did that – blood everywhere, mission accomplished. Just kidding. I’m a huge fan of “The Office” and spent the holiday binge watching it.

I had two resolutions… one I have every year, and it’s find ways to get more family time. That gets harder every year as Sierra and Maya are away at school, and Willow is less (never) interested in hanging out with us, but it’s finding even small ways to connect and stay current in each others lives. We FaceTime several times a week. We also have a group chat, Fam Jam 3.0, that we check in and tease each other and stay in touch.

My second resolution is to make better use of the notoriety I have from the show, to do something really useful and good to help animals and inspire/train/involve people who really want to help. It’s early yet, but I am working with an amazing environmentalist (Lisa Bicker) and some cutting edge biologists and projects and facilities to see how we can make this work. I get so many messages from people who love the show, especially young students who want to do more and learn how and work with me. My daughters have written those same letters to people they were inspired by and I want them to hear back and be encouraged. And I want to find a way to do that too! Part of that is through our show, and getting more cool science in the episodes and more learning right there each case, but part of it is pulling in students and mentors and getting everyone out on projects doing some real good together. It might take more than 2018 to get that one done, but I’m excited to just get it started. I really loved the hashtag #inspire for 2017… it was about being inspired myself and sharing that with others. I think for 2018, I need something more like #LiveUp. (Laughter) Inspire, but follow through and make a difference. Find a way to pull people together. Don’t just share your story, pull in others to help you make more chapters. (Laughter) That sounds super corny, but that’s OK, as long as it keeps me moving in the right direction.

Catch up on “Dr. Oakley, Yukon Vet” at Nat Geo WILD.

“Wilderness Vet” airs Saturday mornings on NBC.

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Sit and Spin

Bonny Doon’s Longwave


Artist: Bonny Doon

Album: “Longwave”

Label: Woodsist

Reason We’re Cranking It: There’s a lot of music out there. If you dig too deep, you can get lost in the weeds and spun around. However, if you hunt with a predatory ear, you can find some fresh musical meat worth sinking your teeth into. Barely a year ago Bonny Doon popped up on our radar with the release of their self-titled debut, and now with their follow-up “Longwave” continuing their impressive momentum, we’re locked in as full-fledged fans. Sign us up for what comes next.

What The Album Tells Us About Them: Sometimes prolific bands unwittingly find themselves in a quantity over quality situation, but this quartet from Michigan remains focused on putting out the best version of themselves, which with “Longwave,” improves upon their last studio offering. They’re good, but in time, they could very easily be great.

Track Stuck On Repeat: With a bit of a Carly Simon vibe tucked into the melody, “I Am Here (I Am Alive)” is a midday chill pill for the mind and body. Bill Lennox sings, “I’m a track without a train,” which is a metaphor we can all relate to as we chug chug chug our way through this odd journey called life.

Coming To A City Near You: Bonny Doon tour dates can be found here.

And that means…

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The Featured Presentation

Brian Guest


It’s hard to fathom that it’s been over 20 years since the untimely deaths of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. Their artistic contributions, now considered “classic” by the young whipper snappers who consume pop culture today, changed the musical landscape back when the East Coast/West Coast rap rivalries dominated a forgotten version of MTV that still focused on videos. Now, two decades after they met their fate, the hip hop icons are having the last chapter of their stories told in “Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac & The Notorious B.I.G.,” a dramatized crime series airing Tuesdays on USA Network.

Brian Guest will join the “Unsolved” cast as U.S. Attorney Tim Searight starting on April 10. We recently sat down with Guest to discuss door-to-door Spielberg’ing, how he approached getting Searight right, and why he may (but probably not) have been attacked by a great white shark.

TrunkSpace: You’re currently starring in “Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac & The Notorious B.I.G.,” which is the largest title ever to fit on a resume. As far as your career is concerned, is taking on the role of U.S. Attorney Tim Searight as big as the name of the series itself?
Guest: Bigger. Much Bigger. I expect Steven Spielberg to come knocking on my door any day now. That’s actually a little known fact about Spielberg… he refuses to use email and cell phones. He always knocks on doors. Always.

TrunkSpace: Joking aside, do you see this project as a possible game changer for you, particularly as it relates to dramatic acting?
Guest: Are ya sure you want to stop the jokes after that Spielberg one? That one was solid!

Acting for me is a process. I don’t think I will ever feel like I “made it.” I’m not even sure what that means, to “make it.” I’m always humbled and surprised when people want to see me for an audition, call me back, or offer me a job. I just like doing good work with good people, and it’s just nice to have others appreciate having me around to play some fun pretend for a little while.

TrunkSpace: One has to really watch the series to see how your character ties back into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Tupac and Biggie, but unlike many of the names involved in those two cases, Searight’s wasn’t someone many people knew about. When you’re stepping in to play a character in a series that is based on actual people/events, do you think it makes your job easier or more difficult when there isn’t as much information available on the person you’re set to inhabit?
Guest: There wasn’t a ton of info on Tim Searight available. There was some stuff in the media about the cases he worked, but not enough to develop an understanding of the relationship he had with the detectives on the Biggie/Tupac cases. That’s where Greg Kading (producer) was so helpful. Greg was the lead on the Biggie task force, so he was invaluable to talk to regarding their relationship.

TrunkSpace: As far as performance is concerned, what was a highlight for you in terms of getting to play this particular character? Was there a scene or moment where, even in the act of doing it, you said to yourself, “Oh yeah, this is going on the reel!”?
Guest: Um, the highlight? I get to work on a show about Biggie and Tupac! That’s insane. I was big fans of both of their music. I remember when all this East Coast/West Coast stuff was going on. It was crazy! When I first moved to LA, I lived very close to the Petersen Automotive Museum. I don’t think of cars when I think of that place, I think of Biggie. And I think it’s like that for a lot of people. Also, the people that worked on “Unsolved” are the best. I’ve known Anthony Hemingway (director/producer) for a long time. I will literally act in anything that he does. Every production he is a part of is special, mostly because of his talent and kindness. The cast and crew that worked on “Unsolved” were a dream – it all was pretty much a highlight! Nothing will go on my reel, because Josh Duhamel is embarrassingly handsome and will make me look like a garbage person.

TrunkSpace: As you mentioned, you were a big fan of Tupac and Biggie. Life has a strange way of bringing things full circle. Is it odd going from listening to an artist in your bedroom as a kid, to then winding up in the dramatic retelling of the circumstances surrounding their deaths many years later?
Guest: It’s surreal. The thing that really hits home though is the fact that these are real people. So many people’s lives have been affected by their tragic deaths. It’s strange to play a role on TV about something that affected so many people in a real way. I think when the stakes are that high, everyone involved raises their game to give it some sort of justice. Bokeem Woodbine, who plays Detective Daryn Dupree, actually knew Tupac! Everyone that worked on “Unsolved” was extremely invested in telling this story.

TrunkSpace: You also guested in “Narcos” as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in 2017. That’s an awesomely strange coincidence. It’s almost like you got promoted to full U.S. Attorney for this latest project!
Guest: I’m climbing that ladder! The criminal justice ladder, baby!

TrunkSpace: Sticking on the guesting topic for a moment, was there a character that you guested as over the course of your career that you really dug and wished you had more time to explore and see expanded upon, and if so, why?
Guest: I played Gym Dude on “Workaholics.” I mean, what was going on with that guy? What made him tick? What kept him up at night? Also, the “Workaholics” guys could have really used another guy in their group – they missed out on having Gym Dude a part of their tight knit unit.

In all seriousness, that was a super fun role that I got to play, and being on a set that fun is what I gravitate towards. I love comedy, and their humor is sort of in my sweet spot. I did get to play a role on the American version of “Torchwood” which was an amazing acting experience that I wish I had more time with. I played a character opposite Bill Pullman, who played an intense murderer who possessed supernatural powers.

TrunkSpace: You have the movie “The Oath” due up later this year, which is probably about as timely of a topic as you could get right now. Is the film heavy on the current real-life political climate that we’re all experiencing or is it handled in more of a fictional way?
Guest: All I can say is that it is definitely a satirical film with heavy political overtones. It’s dark. It’s funny. It’s from Ike Barinholtz’s mind, so ya know it’s gonna be a wild trip.

TrunkSpace: Where does your character Avery fall into things and what was fun about inhabiting him?
Guest: I play Ike’s neighbor friend. My character got to wear pajamas. If I had my way, all of my characters would always wear pajamas.

TrunkSpace: You have developed and set up projects of your own. Is that an area where you hope to expand upon your career even further? Is the “Created By” path just as exciting to you as acting?
Guest: One of the things I love about being an actor is the creative process with other people. It is such a collaboration. Creating my own projects is just another way to be able to do that. When I write, it’s just another opportunity for me to get my creative voice out into the world. I’m constantly working on a few different projects at the same time. I like that, because I can get a weird flow of ideas cooking that help elevate each individual project.

TrunkSpace: In doing research for this interview we came across an article about a man named Brian Guest who was attacked by a great white shark back in 2008. In the internet age, it seems really easy for people to be mistaken for others who share the same namesake, particularly in circumstances where employers are searching up would-be hires. Have you ever had a doppelgänger experience where you were mistaken for someone else or, had another Brian Guest infiltrate your life?
Guest: How do you know I wasn’t attacked by a shark? Maybe I was. Or maybe I was attacked by a fresh water rainbow trout. I guess you’ll never know.

I don’t think I’ve had a doppelgänger scenario. But my two-year-old daughter’s name is Ryan. So anytime I am at Starbucks now and they inevitably call out “Ryan” for my triple espresso, I don’t throw the napkin dispenser anymore. I just graciously take my drink with a smile.

“Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac & The Notorious B.I.G.” airs Tuesdays on USA.

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Sit and Spin

Current Joys’ A Different Age


Artist: Current Joys

Album: “A Different Age”

Label: Danger Collective Records

Reason We’re Cranking It: As content control continues to drive the way we consume media, it’s no surprise that many musicians are taking a multi-platform approach with their own creative offspring. Marrying a cinematic narrative to music is not a new concept by any means, but Current Joys’ visual album “A Different Age” is an innovative way to get an artistic point across. It’s like when Nerds candy decided to offer split packaging featuring two of your favorite flavors side by side… delicious.

What The Album Tells Us About Them: The solo project of songwriter Nicholas Rattigan (Surf Curse), Current Joys is clearly a labor of love for the LA-based multi-hyphenate who also directed the videos that correspond with the nine tracks. While everyone is out there trying to outdo each other, Rattigan is doing, creating multiple stages for himself to stand on, even within a single project. It’s ambitious and telling of the drive he has, and it doesn’t hurt that the music is pretty damn compelling as well.

Track Stuck On Repeat: With the song “Alabama,” Rattigan delivers us into a state of mind as opposed to an actual state. Mellow and moody, it’s the most memorable snippet from the album, and although there is a video already queued up, this is one offering from “A Different Age” that we suggest closing your eyes to and finding your own visual way with. Rattigan’s vocals will take you somewhere. Let them.

Coming To A City Near You: Current Joys tour dates can be found here.

And that means…

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Chef Life

Chef Robert Irvine


Robert Irvine
Chef, Fitness Authority, Philanthropist, Author
• F: /ChefIrvine • T: @robertirvine
• I: @chefirvine

Humans may not have super powers in real life, but Chef Robert Irvine might be as close to super-human as you can possibly get. With restaurants in Las Vegas and the Pentagon… that’s right, THE Pentagon, a regular human would be content with those monumental achievements, but a super-human would do more. The only things bigger than Chef Irvine’s biceps are the size of his heart and the drive he has to not only give back to our military, but to educate people on eating and living healthy lives. You’ve seen him smashing walls with a sledge hammer on Food Network and preparing huge meals against even bigger odds in “Dinner: Impossible,” now the super chef is sitting down with TrunkSpace to chat about cooking in an ice hotel, potstickers, and exercising the culinary muscle.

TrunkSpace: When and why did you start cooking and who has been the biggest influence in your life with regards to your culinary journey?
Chef Irvine: I have always loved cooking. When I was younger, I helped my mom prepare Sunday roasts, but my first real interest in cooking came when I took a home economics class. It was the first time I was really educated about food, nutrition, and the balance of healthy and delicious meals. I continued cooking when I joined the British Royal Navy.

TrunkSpace: What style of cuisine do you enjoy creating the most and why? And what would you consider your signature dish?
Chef Irvine: It would be difficult to pinpoint any one cuisine as my favorite. I enjoy creating meals that are both healthy and delicious. One of my favorite meals is a perfectly roasted chicken with mashed potatoes – it is a simple and comfortable meal, but much harder to perfect than many realize. When I cook for my family, we do a lot of fish, particularly salmon. My wife also loves potstickers, so we eat a lot of vegetarian potstickers.

TrunkSpace: It’s been said that food is the gateway into a culture, that it identifies a history, family and a region. What do you feel your food says about your culture and history?
Chef Irvine: Again, one of my favorite meals to cook is a Sunday roast, a tradition in England. My food speaks to my childhood growing up in England and also incorporates healthy takes, which is inspired by my military experience. It’s important to eat well and stay healthy.

TrunkSpace: Every cook and/or chef has a really bad service, and it haunts them, but they grow and learn from it. Do you have a worst service memory that keeps you up at night? And how did it change you as a chef?
Chef Irvine: There was a dinner I prepared for the entire staff at the Quebec Ice Hotel in subfreezing temperatures during “Dinner: Impossible,” which was the closest to actually being impossible that I can recall. As chefs, we learn and grow from every experience. Repetition is the only way to exercise any muscle – including the culinary muscle – the more we practice, the better chefs we will be.

TrunkSpace: On the flipside of that, do you have a particular memory of your best service or a moment in your career that really stood out and has stuck with you?
Chef Irvine: I do a lot of work in support of our military personnel and their families and every moment I have to commit to these folks is beyond satisfying. It’s hard to put my finger on any one thing, but traveling with the USO and spending the past two Christmases with the troops in the Middle East would certainly be up there.

TrunkSpace: Do you have a set path in mind for your career and where it’s going? Where do you see yourself 10 years down the road?
Chef Irvine: While anything can happen, I see myself continuing to focus on pushing out good and healthy food, raising military awareness through my foundation, The Robert Irvine Foundation, and developing my monthly digital magazine, Whatever specific shape my endeavors take in the future matters less to me than the fact that I stay involved with what I’m passionate about. If you stick to what you’re passionate about, you can never go wrong.

TrunkSpace: With the advancement of technology in the past years, food has also advanced in many ways. Has it changed the way you cook at all?
Chef Irvine: I’m a big fan of a restaurant management software called CTUIT. It makes it easy to manage inventory and pinpoint what you’re losing to spoilage, allowing you to revamp or scrap specific menu items that are too costly or dragging down sales. It also allows you to evaluate employee performance in a really innovative way so you can reward high performance and counsel anyone who’s not up to par. It helps with everything, really, including scheduling. At the end of the day, it allows the staff to focus on turning out great food and providing a good experience to the customers. Any technology that can do that without getting in the way is a huge plus.

TrunkSpace: Molecular gastronomy… is it mad science or mad tasty? Do you feel it has a place in the culinary scene as entire dinner courses, or should it be used more in balance to further enhance traditional dishes?
Chef Irvine: I think if that’s your area of focus, then go for it. People are always looking for new experiences, so it has tremendous potential. At the end of the day, though, it’s all about the taste of the food. My food, of course, is more simple and traditional in preparation.

TrunkSpace: Chef life and tattoos seem to go together like sweet and savory. Do you have any food inspired ink? And if so, what does it mean to you?
Chef Irvine: No tattoos for me!

TrunkSpace: If someone offered you a blank check to open your own restaurant, whether that would be a brick and mortar, food truck or gastropub, what would your vision be? Where would it be located and what type of food would you focus on?
Chef Irvine: I’ve been lucky enough to have already opened my dream projects including Fresh Kitchen at the Pentagon and Public House at the Tropicana in Las Vegas. Both locations are incredible – seriously, who gets to open a restaurant in the Pentagon? – and they have tremendous energy. Both restaurants feature fresh, simple dishes and offer something for everyone, including a roasted chicken, of course. Opening your dream restaurant is something that not all people can experience. There’s a lot of responsibility involved. For example, finding something similar to those trucking company Red Deer services to source food for the restaurant and deliver it. The chef might be able to handle matters like the inventory and the menu but that doesn’t mean they can run the restaurant single-handed. However, there does seem to be more people following their dreams and taking the risk. Opening a restaurant can seem difficult, but with one of the best restaurant point of sale systems, it can be a lot easier. Having software like that can make a business much easier to run. It helps take mobile orders and offers delivery options, making the restaurant more efficient. If anyone is starting their own restaurant, it’s a good idea to look into a POS system. It might just save you a lot of time, and help you to make more money and business.

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Trunk Bubbles

Ian McGinty


Name: Ian McGinty

Twitter: @ianmcginty
Instagram: @ianmcginty

Favorite Comic Book Character Growing Up: For superheroes? Swamp Thing, hands down. Especially the Alan Moore run. However, I can’t rule out Calvin from “Calvin and Hobbes,” a character I wished I could become and still do.

Favorite Comic Book Character Now: It’s still Calvin, but I did recently go back and re-read “We3,” and my new favorite could be that grenade rabbit.

Latest Work: (Title/Publisher/Release Date) “Rocko’s Modern Life” Issues 1-4/kaBoom!/2018. I’ve been working at Nickelodeon on the upcoming “Invader Zim” movie as well, plus “GLINT” with Lion Forge out next year, and tons of “Adventure Time” books.

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your art style?
McGinty: Hm, that’s tough. I guess I’d have to say my art style combines cutesy cartoony with dark and goth layers when needed. I tend to go between soft circles and big eyes, to a ton of lines and shadows. So like, H.R. Giger meets Sonic the Hedgehog.

TrunkSpace: How important were comic books in your life growing up and is that where you discovered your love and inspiration for drawing?
McGinty: Comic books weren’t huge early in my life simply because we didn’t have one close in town, and the ones I did run into weren’t the well-lit, well-stocked and diverse places they are now. They could be pretty scary and almost none of them stocked “all-ages” comics or manga or whatever, so I turned to newspaper comics and later on got into zines and stuff like that. I’ve been collecting “Swamp Thing” issues for a long time now and I always snag cool graphic novels and collections.

TrunkSpace: Was there a particular artist or title from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
McGinty: He won’t see this I think, but my current boss, Jhonen Vasquez was a big one later on, but for me, it will always be Bill Watterson. Watterson’s art and humor was extremely influential to me as a kid and still is.

TrunkSpace: How did you decide to approach your career in comics? Did you formulate a plan of how you wanted to attack what is known for being a hard industry to crack?
McGinty: I didn’t really know that comics were a viable career for a long time, to be honest. I’ve been drawing them since I was a kid, but didn’t really get you could actually do it for a living until after high school when I was designing merchandise for my terrible, terrible band. I started researching colleges once I realized I wasn’t going to be a rock star, and I found a school in Savannah, Georgia that specialized in sequential art (comics, animation, etc), and I pretty much started getting gigs from there. It was all very natural and I was very lucky.

TrunkSpace: What was your biggest break in terms of a job that opened more doors for you?
McGinty: Oh, definitely from Whitney Leopard, Associate Editor over at Boom! Studios. She got me some cover work that eventually led to my first lead artist job on “Adventure Time.” She is cool as heck, and still regularly hires me (which makes her even cooler).

TrunkSpace: A lot of people say that breaking into comics is the hardest part of working in comics.
How long did it take you before you started to see your comic book dreams become a reality?
McGinty: I actually started getting work pretty early on in my career, I think partly because of luck and my own comics, but also because I got known for being able to match style guides for licensed properties, like “Bravest Warriors,” “Hello Kitty” and “Rocko’s Modern Life.” I also work very, very hard, probably too hard, but it’s all really worth it.

TrunkSpace: Is there a particular character or universe you always find yourself returning to when you’re sketching or doing warm-ups?
McGinty: Totally. My character Kit from “Welcome to Showside,” I’m just very used to drawing him, and I enjoy practicing with Catbug from “Bravest Warriors” just cause he’s so darn cute!

TrunkSpace: Is there a specific title or character that you’d like to work on in the future and why?
McGinty: I’ve been trying to get a “Clone High” (from the MTV show) comic off the ground for a while, so that’s one for sure. And we’re working hard to develop “Welcome to Showside” into an animated series. But I’d really love to do a run on “Swamp Thing,” hell, any kind of cartoony take on Spider-Man would be rad. Love that guy.

TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your career in comics? Where would you like your path to lead?
McGinty: For me it’s simply having my own series that people enjoy, and my path is leading me into more animation stuff. A big goal for me is to create my own television show that intertwines with a comic series, sort of how you’ve got these great animated programs now that get awesome comic spinoffs, like “Rick and Morty,” “Bob’s Burgers,” Sonic, “Adventure Time.” You get the idea.

TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength as an artist?
McGinty: Versatility and speed. I like being able to jump back and forth between styles, and being fast has helped in a lot of ways. I’ve found that it makes your relationship with editors and producers much more pleasant, to say the least.

TrunkSpace: How has technology changed your process of putting ideas/script to page? Do you use the classic paper/pencil approach at all anymore?
McGinty: I work completely digitally now, but it’s pretty recent. It makes things a lot easier when sending pages to print, and it’s fast. Not to mention, you can get digital brushes that are indistinguishable from natural ones (at least to me), and just basic clean-up is so simple. I mean, I can’t knock over a bottle of ink when I’m using a Cintiq and Photoshop.

TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring artist who is considering a career in the comic industry?
McGinty: Don’t focus so much on you individual “style,” don’t obsess about drawing the “perfect page.” It isn’t going to happen. Just create content and people will find you. I’ve seen it time and time again, an artist has a million excuses why they haven’t started their dream book yet. (“I’m not quite there with my artistic abilities.” “I haven’t figured out what this character looks like yet.”) Just get on it, man! Also, drink water.

TrunkSpace: Making appearances at conventions: Love it, leave it, or a combination of both?
McGinty: Love it. I really enjoy interacting with people at conventions because I’m free to nerd out over things and I’m obsessed with artists who do amazing cosplay (I can’t), and I get to meet new people and see old friends.

TrunkSpace: What is the craziest/oddest thing you’ve ever been asked to draw as a commission?
McGinty: I’m not going to get into the bizarre sexual shit I’ve been asked to draw, because I always say no, but I did have a guy at a con in Calgary, Canada ask me to draw Finn from “Adventure Time”… coming out of a TARDIS from “Doctor Who”… on top of the mountain Smaug lives in from “The Hobbit”…wielding a lightsaber from “Star Wars”… and next to that tree that punches things from “Harry Potter.” Like… my dude. The kicker here is I spent hours drawing it and he hated it and demanded his money back. Oh, well.

TrunkSpace: What else can fans of your work look forward to in 2018?
McGinty: Well, the “Invader Zim” movie will be coming out so that’s awesome. We’ve got more “Adventure Time” books on the way, my own book, “GLINT,” will be out very soon, and I’m working on some secret projects I can’t talk about (yet). I’m looking forward to 2018.

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Listen Up

Nap Eyes

Photo By: Matthew Parri Thomas

After having a conversation with Nigel Chapman, singer/songwriter of the Nova Scotia-based Nap Eyes, it’s easy to see how such thought-provoking lyrics pour from such a philosophical mind. A fierce proponent of self-discovery, his journey is vast in its scope as he seeks to understand the world that we’re all cohabitants of. Much of this is conveyed through the band’s most recent offering, “I’m Bad Now,” though he’s quick to note that the underlining understanding of those songs is open to individual interpretation.

We recently sat down with Chapman to discuss why “I’m Bad Now” is a bit like a software patch, how his own mood cycle lends to the current connection he has with the music, and the reason creative encouragement is good for all of us.

TrunkSpace: We read that writing music is sort of a quest of self understanding for you. Has your creative POV changed at all throughout the years as you’ve grown and discovered more about the world?
Chapman: Oh, that’s a really great question. That subject area is such an encouraging and true one – that you would constantly be evolving and learning, and actually you would be becoming wiser. You can’t forget your older experiences. You can’t ignore what you’ve learned from your past experiences and relationships – the important events in your life. You actually have to, in some degree, probably integrate those. There may be unexplored aspects of those past experiences that you can learn even more from, but in a general way of speaking, definitely one is always learning. And I love learning, and I think it is like one of the most fulfilling things. So, yeah, in that way, I guess that realization has just clarified more for me in recent years, where when I was younger, school was more of an obligation.

TrunkSpace: Beyond life learning, we would also imagine just having two previous albums under your belt translates to how you approach album number three?
Chapman: Definitely. I’m giving this caveat all the time. It’s been almost two years since we recorded it, but that being said, I feel very happy. I’ve been using the analogy that it’s like a software patch. I mean, it’s not that it matters what people think is your current state, like artistically. It doesn’t really affect you, you know? But there is something a little bit more relaxing about feeling like people have an idea where you’re coming from, like at the present time, rather than the version of you from like four years ago or whatever.

TrunkSpace: If this album was recorded two years ago, some of those songs were probably written even before that. Are you personally able to still relate and connect to the things you were saying in the songs?
Chapman: Definitely. I have been in more positive and more negative moods about that particular question over the years, depending on the time of my life and my annual mood cycle, but at the moment anyway, especially spring time, I feel pretty positive about that and feel able to kind of relate to the things that… well, one thing that’s helped with that was while we were waiting on these this time, I was able to not focus on it as much. So, I could kind of conserve some of my mental interests in it without burning it out right after we recorded it. So, there is a really positive side to this sort of delay.

TrunkSpace: There’s something to be said about sort of stepping away from something and then seeing things from a different perspective. For example, some authors will write a draft and then step away from it for awhile to come at it with a fresh set of eyes.
Chapman: Yeah. That’s right. So, we’re learning. I feel not skilled at these sort of things yet, but it’s cool to see the process you’re working on unfolding.

TrunkSpace: What’s cool is that, even just hearing you talk about it, the joy of getting music out there is just as profound as creating it?
Chapman: That’s for sure. Yeah. That’s another great aspect to highlight because there’s something so gratifying and reassuring, to use the language of like weakness or sickness into health, and get reassured – to have all ducks in a row. There’s a real effect, I think, of when people are kind to you and say validating things, like, “Good job,” or, “I like this,” or, “This song meant a lot to me.” These are really gratifying and kind things to hear, you know? It makes you feel, unless you take it for granted, it makes you feel really warm and appreciated and, thereby, appreciative. You find a sense of gratitude. If you don’t find the gratitude, then you’re in trouble, or you’re being, at that time, you’re being somewhat egocentric, you know?

TrunkSpace: The great thing about music is that positive feedback may come from a place that you never even intended. Listeners may find something in the songs that you didn’t even see when you wrote it.
Chapman: That’s true as well. This is perhaps the most mysterious and enigmatic aspect of creating music and having it mirrored back to you by others in a social way. It’s a profoundly mysterious phenomenon to the creator, I must imagine, in almost every case. Unless you assume you know how they are experiencing it, which I suppose I’ve been guilty of various times – assuming that I know how people are interpreting my ways and songs and things and just social actions, but people are totally mysterious when it comes down to it. They’re their own entity, and that sort of gives me a sense of wonder, I guess, about the whole experience of relationship to other people or to an audience.

TrunkSpace: Is having a creative outlet, for you, a necessity? Do you think if you weren’t writing music, would you be expressing yourself in another way?
Chapman: I suppose so. Yeah. That’s another great question and topic of conversation to highlight. It’s such a beneficial, positive thing. The reason why I think that it’s encouraging is that it’s just good to make this statement or encouragement or just a mood of encouragement that we would want to foster universally among the people, feeling encouraged to be creative. And creativity is not a narrowly defined thing. Like, 100 percent every human is being creative in the sense of creating their world, and so the ways that people are creative have a huge influence on the experience they have in their lives. And it’s possible, I suppose, to be malignantly creative, you know, but when we speak of creativity in general, as a trade, it has a strong cognitive connotation. So many artists would say, and if they don’t say I think they haven’t realized or they probably haven’t affirmed this with their lives, is just that it’s good to create. It makes you feel better. If you have any mental health issues, it makes you feel better. It’s the same thing in a different spectrum with physical exercise and also emotional and social relationships. All of these things… just absolutely are necessary.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with “I’m Bad Now,” and not necessarily with the music itself, but in the process of putting it together?
Chapman: Yeah. That’s a nice question, and the wide scope is appreciated. I think answering from that angle, the sense of the width of an endeavor, like the scope of an endeavor has increased for me through this work especially because of collaborating with Chris and Brendan at Paradise of Bachelors and collaborating with Howard at Hotel2Tango and also, of course, with Nap Eyes and with Mike. We had a familiar collaboration. But basically, widening the collaboration in a way that, as a shy person, sometimes you might want to keep things nuclear, as to sharing meaningful, emotional signifiers and symbols like you do in creating music, and you don’t really want to hear any critical feedback from the outside. Kind of like a fear of that, which because I didn’t go to art school, I lack the experience with being criticized, so I take it personally in a fearful way sometimes. But I’m getting better at that, and some of the things that helped with that are just dedicating your time in a deliberate way to the things you want to do, so studying or whatever things you value.

I’m Bad Now” is available now from Paradise of Bachelors.

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Between The Sheets

Yoav Blum


In our ongoing 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 author Yoav Blum about the recent English translation of his debut novel The Coincidence Makers,” how it all began with a daydream, and why he hopes his best work is still to come.

TrunkSpace: “The Coincidence Makers” was recently released in English. With it being your debut novel, what emotions were you juggling with leading up to that moment? Is it difficult putting so much of yourself into something and then releasing it into the world?
Blum: It is always surprising to find how exciting and frightening it is to know someone is letting fragments of you inside their head. “The Coincidence Makers” was originally published in Hebrew in 2011, and I have published two more books since then. The publication of the English version is also a throwback to the self I was seven years ago, and it causes me to re-examine the book, and wonder if I would have written it the same way today, being who I am now.

TrunkSpace: Prior to “The Coincidence Makers” you were working in short stories. When you first decided to move to long-form storytelling, did you have to adjust your process? What changed between the writer you were then to the writer you are since completing the book?
Blum: I found out that when I’m writing a book, I’m diving much deeper into myself. A short story will almost always be the way I planned it, but I only know what a book is about after finishing it, observing it “from the outside,” finding out its true personality. I still like to write in “small bits” of time, but the fact that the writing process takes months (and even more) allows another layer of self to emerge.

TrunkSpace: The story focuses on three people who work for a secret organization that manufactures what appears to be random coincidences. It’s a great concept and one that many writers will be cursing themselves over for not having come up with it themselves. How long has it been gestating in your mind and what was the real world coincidence that sparked the idea?
Blum: It started from daydreaming, as always. I read a book about the mind-body problem, and it started a series of thoughts. How do decisions created in an entirely spiritual world (by God) create a new thing in the physical world? I wrote a short story about some “middle-men” as a way to contemplate that. Then, after some time, I decided to develop this short story into a book, and this time it became more extensive and dealt with free will vs. destiny, the way we make decisions, and, of course, love…

TrunkSpace: As you look back at the work, what are you most proud of when it comes to “The Coincidence Makers?”
Blum: It was a work of passion, from a clueless mind that had no idea if someone will ever read it, and he wrote it anyway. I like that in my past self. It was also a very private text, sometimes, and the fact that other people found themselves in it keeps bringing me joy.

TrunkSpace: There’s a great genre swirl going on in your book. Readers really do get a little bit of everything by the time they finish the last page. Was that a conscious creative game plan on your part when you first started putting it together?
Blum: In a nutshell, I wanted to write a book I would love to read, and I wanted to put in it what I liked in books – whatever genre they are. So I wrote to myself, not trying to aim to a particular genre, as long as the small reader in my head was satisfied, that was enough.

TrunkSpace: You wrote your first book when you were six years old, which based on the description, sounded a bit like a comic book given the art element. Any desire to take your skill set to the sequential pages of the comic book medium?
Blum: I think about that sometimes. That would be cool. One of my short stories in the past was written initially to be turned into a comic, but it didn’t happen. I can’t really draw, so if there is someone out there that would like to cooperate in creating a graphic novel – even based on TCM itself – that can be very interesting.

TrunkSpace: How long did it take for you to discover your voice as a writer?
Blum: I’m not sure I fully discovered it yet. The writer that wrote TCM almost a decade ago is different from who I am today. I hope my best and sharpest book is somewhere in the future, and not in the past. Also, I want my voice to be fluid, and to change with time, the same way I change.

TrunkSpace: Regarding the process, is writing a labor of love for you or does it feel more like labor? Do you enjoy the process?
Blum: When I’m inside it, it is a labor of love but for some reason it is still always hard to start. After I convince myself to start, I can be “in the zone” many times, but the convincing part is the hard part… there is always something else to do, isn’t it?

TrunkSpace: And what does that process look like? What are the ideal conditions for putting in a good day of writing?
Blum: Each book was a different process. But if I try to generalize it – I gather notes and ideas for an extended period, months or more, and try to see if some broader idea comes out. I try to define what is my starting point – my “what if,” and to see how I can dive into this “what if.” The actual writing is most of the time defined in advance – I sit down intending to write a particular chapter or scene. I sometimes listen to music I choose that can help for that specific scene. From time to time I stop and look at what I have and make sure the way I walk leads to where I want to get.

TrunkSpace: Do you self-edit as you write?
Blum: Yes, but I try to do it without hurting the flow. There will be a few rounds of self-editing after finishing the first draft anyway before I would dare show it to anyone.

TrunkSpace: Where are you the hardest on yourself as a writer?
Blum: I never feel that the manuscript is “finished.” There is always more editing to be done, and you just have to stop somewhere, or you will edit yourself to oblivion. I try not to read my books after publishing them, as I know that most of the time I would ask myself – “who the hell wrote that?”

TrunkSpace: What are you working on now and what will people be able to read next?
Blum: As I said, I don’t like to discuss things I work on before I feel they are ready to be exposed. I try to experiment with different kinds of writing at the moment, and there is work with the publications of TCM in many languages. But hopefully, TCM will not be the last of my books to be published in English.

“The Coincidence Makers” is available now from St. Martin’s Press.


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The Featured Presentation

Julie Gonzalo


If you have an insatiable entertainment sweet tooth that craves sustenance, we have just the movie for you!

Starring Julie Gonzalo and Chris McNally, “The Sweetest Heart” premieres this Saturday on Hallmark Channel, serving as the delicious kick off to the network’s annual Spring Fever programming event. The story focuses on Maddie (Gonzalo), a cupcake shop owner who reconnects with her first love, Nate (McNally), and discovers that there is a future to be had in the past.

We recently sat down with Gonzalo to discuss seasonal displacement, what she found refreshing about the storytelling in “The Sweetest Heart,” and why having an endless supply of cupcakes on set isn’t necessarily a good thing.

TrunkSpace: “The Sweetest Heart” is kicking off Hallmark Channel’s Spring Fever programming event. That has to be a cool feeling when your movie is basically serving as the springboard for a big event like that.
Gonzalo: Yeah, it makes me feel so great. I tend to do a Hallmark movie yearly, ‘cause they’re so much fun to work with, you meet such great people and it’s so quick. These projects are always just so happy and fulfilling that you’re like, “Why wouldn’t I want to be laughing all day?” The last one I did, it opened the fall, so it’s kind of awesome that I did one last fall, opened the fall premiere, and then it’s the spring premiere. I’m all, “That’s pretty cool!” I kind of like that.

TrunkSpace: Is it fun getting to play in those seasonal sandboxes, especially when you’re shooting them out of season?
Gonzalo: Yes and no. Last summer I did a film that was the fall, but we were shooting in the summer, so we were literally dying of heat. “Okay, now comes the sweater and the jackets.” (Laughter) So you’re literally shooting a film in pretty hot weather and yet you’re still wearing all these different layers because it’s the fall. And the same thing happened in this one. It’s kind of like, now it’s springtime, but it was freezing. (Laughter) And for me, having grown up in Miami, the cold weather is nice to see from a window while you’re sitting next to a fireplace. (Laughter) But it was interesting to hear, “Okay, now you gotta take this coat off…” and I was like, “No, I don’t want to!” And also, I didn’t realize how much it rained in Vancouver. At first, I’m like, “This is beautiful. We don’t get rain in LA all the time, it’s pretty great.” And then by like day 10, they’re like, “Do you still like it?” And I’m like, “I’m over it. I can’t. I’m just over everything right now.” (Laughter) Once we wrapped, I started seeing sunshine. I’m like, “Great, now you’re coming!”

TrunkSpace: You mentioned your past experience with Hallmark Channel. How did your experience on “The Sweetest Heart” differ from the other movies you worked on?
Gonzalo: The director, I had worked with before – we had done a film before – so I already kind of got excited to work with Steven (Monroe), because I really love how he works. We really work well together. He knows his stuff, he knows what he wants, and I’m such a perfectionist when it comes to my work that I don’t ever… like, I have nightmares about showing up to work not prepared, and I literally panic and I wake up. So I knew how it was going to go, because of my relationship with him.

I’ve only done two other Hallmark films before, but they’re such the love story, and the romance, and you know, obviously the empowerment of a woman, which I love playing. I love that Hallmark does that. I love that Hallmark has women protagonists. They’re following her. You’re really caring for this woman, and that to me is so empowering, especially in these times, right? And what I really liked was the fact that there are three different love stories in this film. You had the main love story, which is my character and Chris McNally’s character. Then you have the Clayton (Chitty) and Tammy (Gillis) love story, and then you have the Andrea (Brooks) and Jordan (Burtchett) love story. So, it was really nice and I like how they all kind of intertwined with each other. I found that to be very refreshingly new.

TrunkSpace: A lot of Hallmark Channel movies focus on would-be couples who are just meeting for the first time and discovering each other, but in this one, your character Nate and Julie’s character Maddie had a past. Did that lend for a different layer of backstory to what you two did from a performance standpoint?
Gonzalo: Yeah. There was a lot of pain there that came from them not being able to work it out when they were 18 and 19. And then in a way it’s like, when you’re 18 and 19, what do you know? It was really nice to have that backstory, but it also made it a little hard because you don’t really have a lot of time to spend with your co-star to kind of create that chemistry, and create that history. But I was very lucky with Chris, ’cause we met before we started shooting and we kind of talked about things, and it’s mostly just getting to know each other, because it’s like testing the reality of it all. How do you convince people that these two characters have known each other and have loved each other for so long? It was very easy with him. He’s such a wonderful human being that it was very comfortable to get to that place, sooner rather than later in a sense. It’s always such a weird thing that that’s what you do for work. “I have to go fall in love with you, cool? I have to find chemistry with a really good looking guy. Oh good.” (Sarcastically) “Work sucks.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Did having an existing relationship with the director enable you to arrive on set and just hit the ground running, because from what we understand, these shoots move very quickly?
Gonzalo: Yes, cause we literally shot in 14 days. You’re shooting essentially a feature film. 110 to 120 pages in 14 days is pretty ambitious and we were shooting six day weeks, so we only had one day off, so I already knew coming in that I was like, “Oh man, I’m gonna be so tired.” But, knowing how Steven operates and knowing how he knows his stuff, and knowing that he prepares himself so well the day before… you’re not overly creating things, you already know what you want, you already know how you’re going to edit it… and that’s always the key to me, cause there’s no reason to waste time. Everybody is here for a job, let’s get it done.

TrunkSpace: By the time that you arrive on set, is your dialogue pretty much locked in or is that still getting massaged on the fly as well?
Gonzalo: Oh God, I wish! (Laughter) No, it’s always like you’re a work in progress in a sense. If you’re lucky, you have a week to prepare. Some of these films come on so quickly, so it’s very much, “Just hang on!” You’re going for ride in a sense.

I don’t ever want to lock myself into dialogue because when you get to set, you play. I don’t know what the other actor is going to do. I don’t know what the room is going to look like. I don’t know what the energy in the environment is going to be like. So I prepare my stuff – I prepare my character, my dialogue, or my intentions rather, of what the scene entails, and then show up to work and just kind of be in the moment and be organic. Everybody has their own process, but to me, it’s like I know what my character wants, where she’s starting, where she’s going, what the intentions are, and then just show up and play. When you show up you just kind of want to keep loose. You want to keep fresh. I feel like sometimes when I lock myself into a way of doing, or saying, or preparing, then I get myself in trouble.

Photo: Chris McNally, Julie Gonzalo Credit: Copyright 2018 Crown Media United States LLC

TrunkSpace: That makes complete sense. Just like in life, when you put expectations on things, it’s easy to get let down.
Gonzalo: Oh yeah. Expectations are the worst thing that ever happened to us. I mean, I’m sure there’s worse things, but it’s true – you’re right. When you expect something, it never turns out that way, ever, so you’re literally just setting yourself up for disappointment each time.

TrunkSpace: We talked about how quickly a shoot like this can happen, and how much work you do within that time frame, so is it a bit of a culture shock when you call wrap and suddenly it’s all gone?
Gonzalo: Oh yeah, big time. I’ve had this conversation with so many actors before, where you’re like, you fall into this weird depression thing. I shouldn’t use that word loosely because it’s a very serious thing, but you kind of have that feeling of like, “Wait, what happened to my life?” You kind of just turn the world off. Your world, your friends, your family – you’re kind of like, “Okay, I’ll come back in two or three weeks,” cause you submerge yourself into that world and that’s who you are. Your crew members become your family, your co-stars become your best friends and your director becomes your leader. Once you kind of get out of that head space, you’re kind of like, “Wait, who was I? What was I doing? What was I doing in life before this?” But that’s the thrill of it, I think. I love doing that. I love packing my bags and being like, “Where are we going and what are we doing and who am I meeting?” And I’ll talk to anyone who wants to talk to me. I just enjoy meeting people and knowing their stories and kind of learning, “What brought you here? How did we get to meet?” I take everything in and I make the most of every day.

TrunkSpace: One of the things that must also be interesting is that not only are you inhabiting this person, but you’re also inhabiting their career. In this case, Maddie is a cupcake maker. As an actress, you’re sort of taking in these other vocations, too.
Gonzalo: Yeah, totally. You definitely realize, “How do I know this? Oh, cause I learned it at work.” Granted, I never really learned how to make cupcakes this time around, but you kind of just… you do in a way, like the concept of it. We pick things up through the process.

TrunkSpace: Hopefully you picked up a few cupcakes because there must have been plenty around the set.
Gonzalo: (Laughter) At first I was like, “Oh my God, this is going to be amazing! I’m going to eat all of them!” And then you’re like, “Wait, this doesn’t fit. Shit. Nope, no more. No more sugar.” And then you do, and then you have that sugar rush, and you’re like, “Okay, now I’m just annoying myself.” (Laughter)

The Sweetest Heart” airs this Saturday (9 p.m. ET/PT) on Hallmark Channel.

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The Featured Presentation

Chris McNally


If you have an insatiable entertainment sweet tooth that craves sustenance, we have just the movie for you!

Starring Julie Gonzalo and Chris McNally, “The Sweetest Heart” premieres this Saturday on Hallmark Channel, serving as the delicious kick off to the network’s annual Spring Fever programming event. The story focuses on Maddie (Gonzalo), a cupcake shop owner who reconnects with her first love, Nate (McNally), and discovers that there is a future to be had in the past.

We recently sat down with McNally to discuss hair commitments, why he loves working for Hallmark Channel, and the fun in getting to play a cardiologist knowing that the doctor ship has already sailed in real life.

TrunkSpace: Something we couldn’t help but notice with “The Sweetest Heart” is… you cut your hair!
McNally: (Laughter) Yeah, I did. I had to cut it for a movie of the week about three years ago, and I was really sad about it actually.

TrunkSpace: It’s tough. It’s like you’re losing a piece of yourself.
McNally: I know, right? It takes so long to get there, and you have to go through such an awkward stage.

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) Yeah, the awkward stage is the worst. It’s like growing out a beard. It’s a commitment. When you shave it off, you’re shaving away that commitment.
McNally: I was really happy that they let me keep my beard for “The Sweetest Heart” because, originally, they were going to shave it, and I really don’t like being clean shaven. It was a big relief.

TrunkSpace: This isn’t your first time working with Hallmark Channel. What is it about the company that keeps you coming back?
McNally: It’s a great company to work for. I’ve always had a very pleasant experience every time I’ve worked on one. I did one in Victoria that was really, really enjoyable. It was a great cast and crew, and I really liked going away to Victoria. It’s not far from Vancouver, but it was a little getaway. That excursion to Victoria was my first time having a more substantial character with them, and everybody was really nice and it was just an awesome time. And then I did “Rocky Mountain Christmas” just before the holiday season. They’re just a pleasure to work for really.

TrunkSpace: It must be an interesting experience because you’re whisked away to these places, and then once you get there, it’s all work, right? There’s not a lot of time to take it all in.
McNally: Yeah. They have to shoot so much in so little time, so it is very crammed. For “The Sweetest Heart” though, I started off the shoot commuting from Vancouver. We were shooting mostly in Langley, which is about 45 minutes to an hour drive away, and then for the second week, I decided to stay in Langley, and that made the days a lot easier because I didn’t have a chance to really rehearse anything with Julie (Gonzalo) after the days were shot because she was staying in Langley throughout the whole shoot. I cleared a little bit more time for myself by staying near set for weeks two and three of “The Sweetest Heart.”

TrunkSpace: Obviously every project is different, but how did this particular experience working with Hallmark Channel differ from those previous movies you worked on?
McNally: I find the more material you have, the easier it is actually. Because you have structure, there’s more of an arc and your character has a journey. When you get to evolve and develop like that, it’s a more natural progression. I find it hard to come in and just hop into a scene. You kind of move the story forward with a little bit of expedition, and I struggle with that, so I was grateful to have more material to work with on this one.

TrunkSpace: A lot of Hallmark Channel movies focus on would-be couples who are just meeting for the first time and discovering each other, but in this one, your character Nate and Julie’s character Maddie had a past. Did that lend to a different layer of backstory in what you two did from a performance standpoint?
McNally: Yeah, definitely. Julie and I met up prior to shooting to spend some time together and get to know one another, just to try and get a little bit of history and backstory between ourselves as people that we could relay into the story with our characters. But, yeah, I like that extra layer of complexity.

TrunkSpace: It’s also something that everyone can relate to… running into an old flame.
McNally: Yeah, there’s that nostalgia, and I think there’s also, when you run into a past love, it’s like, “Oh, did I make the best decision, or did I not?” In this case, it was not a great decision to break up, but, then again, if they hadn’t gone through that, they might not have ended up together where they were at the end of the story.

Photo: Chris McNally, Julie Gonzalo Credit: Copyright 2018 Crown Media United States LLC

TrunkSpace: In the social media age, it’s probably more difficult to lose complete touch with past loves because if you want to, you can always lurk and check in.
McNally: I know, it’s so hard. I’m really terrible at social media, and I try and stay off of it as much as a can. I don’t have Twitter. I’ve got Instagram, but I try to avoid swiping through the stories to see what people are doing.

TrunkSpace: Yeah, seeing what people are doing in that capacity removes the human element of learning about what they’ve been up to in person.
McNally: Yeah, absolutely. And I also feel like there’s always a filter put through on social media. You’re not getting the full story. It’s an idea that people are trying to project.

TrunkSpace: Yeah, it’s the best case scenario. So, in terms of the performance, Nate himself, what was it about him that you dug and you were interested in exploring?
McNally: I like playing characters who are smart and more intelligent than I am. (Laughter) Nate’s a cardiologist, and it’s great when somebody has written dialogue that is more than anything I could come up with in my own life. So, it was the fact that he’s a doctor, which is appealing to me, because I’ll never be a doctor. I don’t think that’s a possibility for me at this point. (Laughter) And he also likes to help people. He’s a cardiologist, but more focused on the research aspect, and he’s looking for ways to help the masses, as opposed to one surgery at a time. I also love the fact that he’s got this playfulness to him. It’s actually when he is around Maddie, I think that brings it out. They regress to their younger selves, and that is something that I register with, because I’m kind of a goofball myself. I feel like I’m 22 and always going to be 22, so playing into that playfulness was awesome.

TrunkSpace: You were based in Vancouver for many years. We’re big “Supernatural” fans here, and we know you’ve appeared on the show. For actors based in Vancouver, is guesting on that series a bit of a rite of passage?
McNally: Yeah. I love that you said that. It absolutely is a rite of passage. Buddies and I joke about that. “You have to work on ‘Supernatural’ before you can graduate from Vancouver.”

TrunkSpace: And in its 13th season, there’s been ample opportunity!
McNally: Yeah, they keep reusing us. It’s awesome. We grow a little older, we look a little different, and then we come back and play someone else.

The Sweetest Heart” airs this Saturday (9 p.m. ET/PT) on Hallmark Channel.

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