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September 2018

Wingman Wednesday

Rebecca Knox

RebeccaKnoxFeatured

A modern day Marilyn Monroe with a gritty edge, Rebecca Knox is an actress who demands your attention by the way she commands her space in any given scene. Memorable by making the most of every moment on-camera, her gaze itself could one day win an Emmy thanks to the way her eyes reveal so much about those she is inhabiting. Currently the New York native can be seen as inmate Tina Swope in Season 6 of “Orange Is the New Black,” available now on Netflix.

We recently sat down with Knox to uncover her kinship with Tina, what she’d miss the most if she were behind bars, and why personal branding is so important.

TrunkSpace: Do you view your role on “Orange Is the New Black” as a career game changer? Has Tina Swope opened up more doors for you within the industry?
Knox: Being on such a monumental award-winning show is definitely a game changer! I have made some great friends and contacts through this experience for sure.

TrunkSpace: When you first read for Tina, you instantly had a kinship with her. What was it about the character that you felt connected you to her?
Knox: Her attitude!

TrunkSpace: Tina is tough, but is any of that exterior a facade? Is there a part of Tina who is tough because she has to be due to her surroundings and those she associates with?
Knox: Definitely. She has to be that way to survive – although I think a part of her loves the fight.

TrunkSpace: We’ve seen how Tina deals with life in prison, but how do you think you, Rebecca, would deal with it? How would you handle the experience emotionally?
Knox: I’d like to say I would find a way to survive. Maybe not as violently as Tina does, but I would make the “right” friends, I guess. It’s hard to answer this question – I am so far from that place and I hope to always be. I can’t really fathom it.

TrunkSpace: Life behind bars means a life without a lot of things we probably take for granted. What would you miss most if you were in Tina’s prison-issued jumpsuit?
Knox: Spending any amount of time with my family. Open grassy fields and the beach where my parents live. My freedom.

TrunkSpace: We read that you were a fan of the show before you booked the role. Having been a fan, what was that first day on set like? Was it all one big “pinch me” moment?
Knox: It took a few episodes where I had that “pinch me” moment. I was definitely nervous at first but work is work so I pushed through.

TrunkSpace: There are so many great actors involved in “Orange Is the New Black.” Did you view your time on the series as just as much an education as you did a job? Who did you study and try to absorb from most?
Knox: Well, I am still on the series and we are currently filming, so I am still drinking it all in. I love being on set. I always learn so much.

TrunkSpace: The great thing about a career in the arts is that each day can be completely different and in many ways it’s impossible to plan for tomorrow. Is there something exciting about that whole “anything is possible” outcome? On the opposite side of that coin, can that same excitement give way to uncertainty?
Knox: Yes! If you are lucky, you can audition for so many different types of roles, try on their shoes and play. I think people get caught up in the nervous jitters and pressure of booking an audition that they forget it’s still an opportunity to act. There are always opportunities to act. I would be lying if I said it’s easy. Sometimes I am down on myself, and can be my own worst enemy – thinking things like, “I’m not good enough,” but a way I combat those feelings is with compassion for myself, and connecting with other actors around me. It helps a lot to have a community of people who understand those feelings.

TrunkSpace: You have such a memorable look. As soon as we caught sight of you on camera you were etched into our brains and we thought, “I WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT HER!” That is not something you can quantify. Do you think that personal branding is important for actors to consider and is it something that you have worked to achieve within your own career?
Knox: Wow! Well I’m blushing, thank you! In terms of personal branding, I only became more aware of it when I had to. Personal branding is definitely important. I found what worked for me and it has helped me. The more specifically you can present yourself, the more memorable you become.

TrunkSpace: Like we said, we want to know more about you. You have a very mysterious, edgy vibe that has us intrigued. So give us some good insight into who that mysterious, edgy person is. What are some fun facts about Rebecca Knox?
Knox: Thank you! I love being called mysterious. Hmm, well let’s see. I am a New York City native. I ran my very own record label, Jet Boy Records, when I was 18. I managed a punk band whose members were around 8 to 10 years my seniors. I was a really shy kid, and dealt with a lot of bullying growing up. I sort of came into my own when I was in high school, first to fit in, and through that process found myself… my edgy self. (Laughter)

Orange Is the New Black” is available now on Netflix.

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Musical Mondaze

Exploded View

ExplodedViewFeatured

Music doesn’t have boundaries. It doesn’t require a passport. It exists in every nook and cranny of the world, swirling and twirling into creation. This can be seen firsthand in the work of Exploded View, a trio of international artists with different points of view all uniting on a singular path of conception. Even they will admit that the process isn’t always pretty, but finding common ground, that point of convergence where they mingle musically, is truly magical.

Exploded View’s latest album “Obey” is available tomorrow on Sacred Bones Records.

We recently sat down with Berlin-based Annika Henderson, vocalist for Exploded View, to discuss how the first album came about almost by accident, why “Obey” was more focused in its execution, and the reason she sees comparisons between the band and “The Wizard of Oz.”

TrunkSpace: “Obey” is your second album and it really seems like there was a different approach to recording it than your debut. As a trio, what did you want to do differently in the studio at the outset and do you feel like you accomplished all of your goals in bringing the album together?
Henderson: We learned a lot from the first record and knew what we wanted to do differently or at least try, given a second chance. The first album was a total jam and came about almost by accident. So to go in for a second round, things are obviously less accidental. It’s never possible or even desirable to re-create, so it’s a good opportunity to try new things, develop and learn from challenges. The first was roaming freely, the second seems to have a clearer sight. For some of the songs, we started with a really stripped down approach, with Hugo (Quezada) on acoustic guitar or with drum machines, and Martin (Thulin) on bass or keyboards. Taking the drums out of the room, allowed us to physically get closer together and respond to each other in a very different way. It changes the dynamics entirely.

TrunkSpace: Each track has a distinct feel, setting the table for a specific emotion or mood to be tapped into via the listener’s subconscious. Was that a goal in bringing these tracks together? Were you looking to connect with your audience on an emotional level?
Henderson: From my point, I never really know where things will end up ‘til they’ve ended there. You lay out all the stuff and just keep playing ‘til suddenly, without even realizing, you’re on the same tracks and holding this thing up together. That’s a very special feeling. I feel like with many of these songs, they are still in progress. They are snapshots of a time. This project is very free. The emotions normally reflect where we are, at that exact moment of recording and considering they took place over three sessions, months apart, the emotions vary significantly. Songs for me are like a mirror to the soul. I can’t hide anything. We are a very emotional bunch and the songs reflect that I think.

TrunkSpace: You all have different musical influences and backgrounds. How does that directly impact your sound and what Exploded View ultimately creates? Does it make for a sonic melting pot?
Henderson: That’s one of the things I find so special about this project. We all are REALLY coming from a different standpoint and also often looking in different directions, so to find that place where we come together, it’s really magic. Sometimes it feels like the “Wizard of Oz.” Surely Hugo is the lion. I think we’re all a bit lion in the band – that can lead to heavy clashes sometimes, but with it comes a lot of love. It’s positive to learn how to compromise and therewith learn from others and also teach others. Exchange is a special thing.

TrunkSpace: On the opposite side of that creative coin, your diverse influences and backgrounds also shows just how powerful music is and how it can connect people in ways that other things in life can’t. Where do you feel Exploded View is most on the same page creatively? Where do you all intersect?
Henderson: 80’s Postpunk, Alice Coltrane, Lee Hazlewood – actually our musical taste is quite similar but we each have a different collection. That’s why I love to DJ together because each song is like a golden nugget and the other says, “Oh great, I love this!” or, “What’s this?!! I want it!” or, sometimes, “Whaaaaaat were you thinking…”, but I don’t remember ever saying that. Maybe only when we get drunk and the guilty pleasures come out… even when I start playing drum and bass or jungle, Hugo’s into it. Maybe Martin not so much. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with “Obey?”
Henderson: That we had the guts to try again and reconcile, despite our differences. We almost all walked away but then realized what binds us is stronger than that which divides us.

Photo By: Exploded View

TrunkSpace: After you put so much of yourselves into creating something, is it easy to let it go out into the world where you relinquish control over it? Will letting “Obey” go on September 28 be a difficult experience in the sense that one step in the album’s journey is over?
Henderson: No, it’s positive to look forward, always. Plus the thing with releasing art or projects, is that through this giving up of control, it begins to develop further, in ways you could never foresee. The way people interpret it, adapt it for their own need or sometimes things become clear, that you put into it that you hadn’t even realized you did. It’s like reading the psychiatrist’s case notes.

TrunkSpace: This album feels like it could be very therapeutic for a listener. Many artists/songwriters say that music is a form of therapy in the creation process itself. Is it that way for you?
Henderson: Yes, certainly. It’s good to find a positive outlet for your emotions. Music is great for this and also a great way to share things with others – for every emotion, whether it be joy, love, understanding, empathy or so forth. Music has always been therapy and can bust bad moods better than anything! It’s also a great tool to bring people together.

TrunkSpace: Are albums a bit like chapters in your life? Does it become, “Those were my ‘Summer Came Early’ years, and this is my ‘Obey’ period?” And if so, what does that say about this particular period of your life as it relates to “Obey?”
Henderson: Yes, for me “Obey” was about a very specific period. I’m happy to have lived it but I’m also happy it’s over. And now it can be a light thing, shared in the form of music.

TrunkSpace: There’s so much music out there – most of which is accessible in just a few clicks. Can that be an overwhelming thought when you consider your music is being released into a crowded landscape?
Henderson: I think it’s useless to think like this. That’s always been the case. You could ask that about everything in the universe. What’s the point of trying because there are so many others out their doing the same. In the end, you just have to do your thing, for your reasons and be happy doing it and hope to share that happiness.

TrunkSpace: What do you consider success to be in the world of music, and based off of that definition, do you feel as though you have achieved it?
Henderson: Everyone has their own goals. Success is achieving those personal goals. Each time I achieve one, I set another. It started with standing on a stage and singing. I had never wanted to be a lead singer of a band, I was far too shy. Even at school I only ever got the silent parts in the play because I froze in the auditions. I remember the first time I was on stage was a cameo with Beak> in London in front of loads of people. I just sang and ran off stage and it did cause a lot of pain because of the complete angst, but I realized I had overcome a life-long fear. Taking on fears and overcoming them is a great feeling. You realize the world is a lot bigger.

TrunkSpace: Finally, we’re on the back nine of 2018 now, but what’s on tap for the rest of year and what should fans be on the lookout for heading into 2019?
Henderson: Exploded View have a US tour in the fall, which will be our first time visiting the States. The album is out 28th Sept.

Obey” is available Friday on Sacred Bones.

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Wingman Wednesday

Joshua Bitton

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PHOTOGRAPHY: Joe DeAngelis/STYLING: Nic Adedokun/GROOMING: Andrea DiSabatino

Long before the acting bug sunk its fangs into him, baseball was Joshua Bitton’s first love. A lifelong New York Yankees fan, he’s seen plenty of championships for his hometown team in his lifetime, but inhabiting a ballplayer on-screen – the perfect combination of his two favorite pasttimes – has eluded him. Currently the Queens, NY native can be seen hitting weekly homeruns as police officer Chewy on the compelling CBS All Access thriller “One Dollar.”

We recently sat down with Bitton to discuss friendly rivalries, the authenticity of “One Dollar,” and why Jon Bernthal should be cautiously looking over his shoulder.

TrunkSpace: First off, we’re Red Sox fans, so we just thought we’d lay it all on the table and clear the air. Love the game, not the team! That being said, have any early post season predictions?
Bitton: Wow! You guys took it right there! Yeah, I’m a big Yankee fan, so we’re instantly in a fight. (Laughter) This is VERY DIFFICULT for me to say, but that Sox team you guys have is stacked. You have the two most dangerous hitters in the league, a remarkable starting rotation, and a really good closer. Middle relief might be an issue, but I think, as a baseball fan, I’d have to say the Red Sox are the clear favorite. Don’t sleep on the Astro’s pitching. That team can shut anyone down.

I think my Yanks are a year away. We need another top-notch starter. As we saw last year, these guys can surprise you, but the way the Yanks played last year is how I see your boys playing this year. With that fun, free, reckless abandon.

So… my head says Red Sox, my heart dreams Yanks.

TrunkSpace: As far as concepts go, “One Dollar” is a great one. What we also love is that it is an original idea in a world that is getting increasingly more and more “Based On.” What did you love about the project when you first read for it, and more specifically, what drew you to Chewy?
Bitton: “One Dollar” has a lot of things going for it. I’d have to start with Craig Zobel, our director. Craig is so collaborative and playful on set. He really allows us to have input, discover and create. On top of that, he’s just a remarkable filmmaker.

Another element that drew me to the story is what feels like a real look at the working man and woman in this country. The show looks at, under, and through this town that was once a thriving steel mill town, but now is just holding on. We have a central plot point of a possible seven-person murder, but Craig and the writers don’t simply stick to that. They allow us to see the world through the eyes of the various “dollar holders.” Some are connected to the crime, some give us a different perspective of the town we’re in, and some do both. All add to what we hope is a deeper understanding of the plight of people in these types of life situations.

Chewy is a ball-buster. He’s a guy who sees the world simply, and straight forward. At times, it’s so straight forward, he may have blinders on. I think representing guys like Chewy is important. At heart, he’s a good guy, but his perspective is so limited. I love that. I love that he’s challenged by this rookie cop, who takes his shit, but is smarter, and eventually unafraid to challenge him. Chewy is a guy who just might learn something.

TrunkSpace: The series runs on CBS All Access. With an increasing number of interesting projects appearing on platforms every day, how does a show like “One Dollar” rise to the top? What is the key to finding a dedicated audience when audiences in general seem to be getting more and more segmented?
Bitton: I think “One Dollar” speaks to a lot of the issues that are happening in our country. The slow erosion of the middle class, the change from industry to technology… it’s what drew me to it, and what I think will eventually bring audiences in. All of that is encompassed around the murder of seven people. The cast is remarkable, which always helps. And it’s funny – it’s quirky. It’s told with a real point of view, which I think is what is its biggest draw.

CBS All Access is a remarkable place to work. CBS has some of the most successful procedural shows, and sitcoms, but this platform is more akin to the kind of shows Netflix is putting up. CBS All Access has been putting together quite a collection of shows that are different than what they carry on the network platform. As people discover that, I think they’ll get hooked by the wide array of shows the platform hosts.

TrunkSpace: Unlike a lot of streaming shows these days, “One Dollar” is being released weekly like most network shows. Given the genre it plays in, giving the audiences small pieces of information at a time, do you think the old roll out method works for the way the story is unfolding? Does it suit the show?
Bitton: That’s a great question. I think the weekly element really works. It builds tension and it leaves time for the viewer to process the details and nuances of the show. And if you’re a binger, you can wait a few weeks and let them pile up, then have at it!

TrunkSpace: Chewy is a Pittsburgh police officer. What did you want to bring to the character that was wholly and uniquely Pittsburgh, because it is a city that has its own vibe and persona?
Bitton: The blue-collar, hard hat and lunch pail mentality that really permeates this city, and… the dialect! I’ve done a lot of accent and dialect work in my career, but da ‘Burgh has one unlike any I’d ever heard. Speaking Yinzer, as it’s called, has been such a challenge and so fun. Words like “yinz” which is the Pittsburgh version of you, or as New Yorkers say, “youse.” They say words like down and south as “dahn” and “sahth.” It’s unique to this region. Most people have never heard it. Some will probably think it’s just bad accent work – (laughter) – but to create a world around here and not do it would be a disservice to what being here and living here has been like.

TrunkSpace: The series speaks to the various divides that we’re facing as a country, both political and cultural. Was it meant to hold up a mirror and say something beyond the narrative, or was part of that just world-building that seems more magnified given the period we’re all living in?
Bitton: I think it’s really been a focus of our director, writers and production team, and one that we as a cast have wholeheartedly embraced. To do a show about a town outside of Pittsburgh in these times without those issues being present would just be false. I’m sure the times have magnified it, but there has been awareness, and care, I think, to be as honest as possible about it.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Joe DeAngelis/STYLING: Nic Adedokun/GROOMING: Andrea DiSabatino

TrunkSpace: You have appeared in so many great shows over the years, from “Justified, to “The Night Of” to “Castle.” Is there a character that you enjoyed so much that you wished you had more time to explore?
Bitton: Yeah, absolutely. Rory from “Daredevil.” Since you never saw him die, technically, I always thought it would be fun to come back a cyborg and kick The Punisher’s ass. (It doesn’t hurt that Jon Bernthal is one of my best friends, so I owe him one.)

Sully from “Castle” would’ve been fun to live in for a little while longer. He was funny, and sweet, and a slob… and those people were very fun to be on set with.

Last would be what happened to the actual Sgt. J.P. Morgan from “The Pacific.” They couldn’t corroborate it, but rumor was he won thousands of dollars while in the Corp and sent it all home to his wife. When he got back from the war, supposedly his wife had left him for another man, and stole all the money he had sent home. He set out to find them and kill them but died in a motorcycle accident while hunting them down. I always wanted to live that out!

TrunkSpace: Is it ever difficult to say goodbye to a character, not because the project itself was so rewarding, but because the person you were inhabiting was so interesting?
Bitton: Oh God, yeah. They become part of you. Parts of you get highlighted through characters, and when you live in them for a while, they feel like home. The process is so rewarding, but it is also painful… at least for me. It’s the guys I’ve lived in the longest that hurt the most to leave. When I came back from Australia, after shooting “The Pacific,” I was sitting with my great friend, Tom Budge, and we were just so depressed. We couldn’t put our finger on why, and it hit me – “I have to say goodbye to J.P.” Then Tom said, “Ah, fuck… yeah, I have to say goodbye to Gibson,” and we just sat there silently as that realization landed.

TrunkSpace: Jumping back to baseball, you played in both high school and college. Was there a time when professional ball was your path? Was that your earliest dream?
Bitton: Hell yes! My first dream. My first love. I love the game. I’m DYING to do a baseball movie. Dying! When I played in college, I dreamed about driving my car down south and just going from small minor league team to small minor league team and finagling a tryout. Then I found acting, and got so bit by the bug, that it felt just as right as playing ball. And, to be honest, I didn’t really have the stick to go to the next level. I could field, turn two like nobody’s business, but I was an okay hitter at best. I realized I didn’t really have it. Here’s to hoping both of my life dreams come together, and I get to play a ball player. (By the way, you guys will get particular joy out of a Chewy line I have in Episode 4, I promise!)

TrunkSpace: You’re also extremely active in theater. Is there something uniquely rewarding to performing on stage that you can’t achieve on-camera? Is it a different kind of love?
Bitton: Yeah. Theatre is so immediate. The reciprocal relationship you have with the audience as well as the actors on stage. It’s all happening right in that moment. On stage, I’ve been able to play roles that are sometimes not how the film and TV world has seen me, so that is another bonus. I also think it’s the best place to learn and grow as an actor.

New episodes of “One Dollar” air Wednesdays on CBS All Access.

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Wingman Wednesday

Jennifer Cheon

JenniferCheonFeatured
Photography: Jeffery Fountain/Makeup: Caitlin Krenz with Opus Beauty/Hair: Felicia Rials/Stylist: Lauren Taylor

With her character Ivory set to see more action in “Van Helsing” when Season 3 premieres October 5 on Syfy, Jennifer Cheon is living out her Linda Hamilton dream. As a child, “Terminator 2” kick-started her desire to go full on-screen badass, and now thanks to the fan-favorite fantasy series starring Kelly Overton as Vanessa Van Helsing, that dream has become a reality.

We recently sat down with Cheon to discuss how viewers will get to see more of Ivory in Season 3, the reason actors are being drawn back to the city of Vancouver, and why shows like “Supernatural” and “The Flash” have been so important to her career.

TrunkSpace: What is it like being part of a series like “Van Helsing” where the fan base is so supportive? Is it almost more rewarding on a personal level than appearing in a show that pulls triple the audience but isn’t necessarily as invested in the story and cast?
Cheon: “Van Helsing” has the best fans ever! I am happy to be a part of a show that is diverse and full of good ol’ Vampire fun! It is super rewarding when people reach out and tell you they love and support, or relate to your work!

TrunkSpace: The series returns on October 5. What are you most excited about as you build up for the third season?
Cheon: I’m the most excited that people are getting what they ask for in terms of seeing more of Ivory.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from Ivory this season, and on a personal level, what were you looking forward to play with on-camera as it relates to the character?
Cheon: Well, this season you see her around more characters that you may love or hate… you get to see her coming into her position more. Very exciting!

TrunkSpace: Is there a secondary level of excitement involved in being a part of a series like this when it drops in its entirety on Netflix? Is it nice to know that new people can continuously discover your work?
Cheon: YES! Yes! I am a binge watcher myself so I love that Netflix delivers it all so you can cozy up to your human or animal and enjoy the whole series.

TrunkSpace: You’re no stranger to fan-favorite series. You’ve appeared in “Arrow,” “The Flash,” and “Supernatural,” all shows that are important to viewers. But those shows are also important to your native Vancouver and the actors who call the city their home. What have those series meant to your career and how it has progressed throughout the years?
Cheon: Oh man, I had some of my first real lines on camera on those shows. I got the privilege to work with industry vets; some of the best, from actors to the crew. It’s funny how much of the industry is in Vancouver now. I lived in LA for a few years and ended up moving back home because the industry was booming (still is). Every experience on set has lead me to this moment. You never know as an actor what role will stick or which role will end up being more than a one liner… you have to really choose this career for the love because you never know.

TrunkSpace: “Supernatural” in particular, which is going into Season 14, seems like a staple for performers in and around the Vancouver area. Is it a bit of a rite of passage for actors to step onto that set and become a part of the “Supernatural” universe?
Cheon: It truly is. I remember I was fresh out of high school and modeling at the time. I needed a summer job, and my modeling agent suggested Background work… I had never heard of that being a way to earn money, but I’m so glad I tried it! It taught me set etiquette, and also gave me an inside scoop to what it was I really wanted to pursue. One of the first sets I ever walked on to was “Supernatural.” I remember saying to myself, “I am going to do that – I want to work with those actors, and be on this set with an actual role.” When it finally happened it really felt like a milestone for me, and what a great group of people to work with!

TrunkSpace: What is it that you enjoy most about performing? What is the internal drive?
Cheon: I LOVE it all. I love that I get to embody different people. I get a chance to understand how they think, whether they are fiction or real. I find it helps me put things into perspective. I love giving people a sense of comfort in the characters I play… comfort in the way they relate or comfort in the escape from whatever might be happening in their own worlds. I also love how the environment on set is so collaborative creatively. In “Van Helsing,” we get to fight with swords and be complete badasses… so much fun!

Photography: Jeffery Fountain/Makeup: Caitlin Krenz with Opus Beauty/Hair: Felicia Rials/Stylist: Lauren Taylor

TrunkSpace: We read that part of what sparked your interest in pursuing a career in film and television was “Terminator 2.” What was it about that movie in particular (and for us, we have to add that the soundtrack was pretty great as well!) that ultimately set you on this path?
Cheon: I’m humming the score right now. (Laughter) Everything about that movie and the making of that movie drew me into this industry. I love action films, and I love seeing humans do these crazy things with our bodies. I love how indestructible we become on film. With “Terminator 2,” not only was Linda Hamilton the first woman I ever saw on TV that was tougher than most men, but she was the real deal. I was such a tomboy growing up, and when I saw her it made me proud of it instead of always trying to conform to the way men tell us we should be. Also, can we talk about the costumes, and styling of that film? Ummm, epic! I think my entire wardrobe is a mix of all the characters.

TrunkSpace: In a perfect world – the BEST best case scenario – how do you see your career playing out? What bucket list items do you want to achieve?
Cheon: I want to be a Bond Girl. I have always been such a fan of those films. I would also die a very happy woman if I were to play Catwoman. I think it’s time for a mixed race female super hero. Also I would love to have more opportunities to direct.

TrunkSpace: What job have you learned the most from, the one where the things you absorbed on that particular set you still find yourself applying to your career today?
Cheon: I think I have learned these general rules from being on a set for so many years in many different departments: Stay in your lane, be respectful, say please and thank you, remember at the end of the day everyone wants to get the job done so don’t think you are the only one who matters. Just remember how lucky you are to be there, and most importantly have fun! This is entertainment!

Season 3 of “Van Helsing” premieres October 5 on Syfy.

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Trunk Stubs

Butch Walker

ButchWalkerLastDaysOfSummerTour3

Artist: Butch Walker

Tour: The Last Days Of Summer Tour

City Attended: Boston, MA

Venue: Royale

Concert Date: 09-22-18

Opening Act: Greg Holden

The Reason We Went: A phoenix within the music industry, Walker has risen from the ashes numerous times, allowing the machine to chew him up but never spit him out. He has reinvented himself and his sound over the course of his career while never losing the connection to his fans or what has made him such a compelling songwriter and producer.

What We Thought: An early show due to the venue transforming into a dance club at 10:00 PM, the headliner took the stage while many in the city were still sitting down for dinner. The Georgia native poked fun at the ungodly anti-rock hour, routinely making tongue-in-cheek suggestions that midnight was soon upon us and that we should buckle in for a long set because he and his band were playing until they kicked us all out.

Walker delivered on his promise, churning out and energetic set that was breakneck at times, visiting the charismatic singer’s back catalog that included songs from his most recent album “Stay Gold,” as well as fan favorite past recordings like “The Spade” and “Sycamore Meadows.”

Show Highlight: With the clock ticking down and the dancers banging on the doors, Walker surprised the crowd with his second encore by appearing in the audience with his acoustic guitar in hand. He climbed onto a table in the sea of people and began an intimate set that included personal stories, which culminated in a singalong that the entire venue contributed to.

Closing With The Opening: Holden’s voice, which could carry across the city even without the microphone supporting it, captivated the crowd, especially when he gave a stripped down and memorable performance of his song “Boys In The Streets.”

And that’s why we’re giving it…

 

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Wingman Wednesday

Karen Strassman

KarenStrassmanFeatured
Photo By: Paul Smith

There was a time when Karen Strassman didn’t think she was good enough to be an actress. Thankfully she found her on-screen confidence and we, the audience, are better for it. The versatile performer and voice talent has enhanced the viewing experience of shows like “Silicon Valley,” “Weeds,” and most recently, “Preacher,” bringing dimension to her characters and helping to flesh out the fictional worlds they inhabit.

We recently sat down with Strassman to discuss the wild reality of “Preacher,” blending into a sea of over-the-top characters, and how her career in voice work started as a happy accident.

TrunkSpace: You recently appeared on AMC’s “explosive” new season of “Preacher.” It’s not every show that you can watch an undead cowboy, Hitler and the Devil all in the same episode. What was it like stepping on set with such a unique cast of characters?
Strassman: Working on “Preacher” was delightful and exhilarating. No matter how crazy and “out there” the world of this show might be, and how “charactery” most characters are, it’s done so well that it still feels so deeply real, human, and actually strangely grounded within its own wild reality. As I watched the series, I just completely bought the whole world and everyone’s humanity within it. I got truly involved in the lives of all the characters, finding myself really caring about almost all of them. As I was preparing for my episodes, it was exciting to create a character that was really fun, quirky, and out there, but also wanted her to feel as real and believable as all the other characters on the show. That’s such fun stuff for an actor.

TrunkSpace: Were you a fan of the show and/or comic book before becoming a part of what many consider, one of the riskiest and original shows in the television realm?
Strassman: I had never watched the show before, and when I got the audition, I started binge-watching it and just couldn’t stop. I was momentarily shocked, offended, and confused during the first episode, and then by the end of it, I was like – this is brilliant! The story, it’s implications, the gorgeous artistic photography, the acting, the wardrobe, the lighting, the music… everything! I don’t know how this show wasn’t up for a ton of Emmys. It should have been.

TrunkSpace: You play Dr. Lois Slotnick on the series. Though she is highly intelligent, we wouldn’t exactly want her as our primary care physician! How did you prepare for your role of the Doctor? Was it daunting to create such a character among the other over-the-top characters?
Strassman: Yes, it was daunting! Like I mentioned, I think the most challenging part was to walk the line of letting her be very out there while keeping her as real and grounded as possible, so she would come off like a real person, and not a caricature or too broad to be compelling or interesting. It really helped me to imagine the backstory of such a character and how she became who she is. I was very drawn to the evil German scientist in “Wonder Woman,” and wished I could have played that role. I still think about her and what her backstory must have been, how she got to be wounded and vengeful. Interestingly, when I auditioned for Dr. Slotnick, she wasn’t actually written the way I play her at all. She was supposed to be kind of a passionate, geeky, excitable scientist with no particular accent. I did one take kind of like that, but then, just for fun, I went ahead and did another take with a German accent, making her darker than she was originally written. I’m grateful that the show’s creatives took a chance on what I did and hired me for the role!

TrunkSpace: Many of your scenes are with Tyson Ritter who plays Humperdoo. What was it like performing with Ritter?
Strassman: It’s so funny that you are asking about Tyson. I just saw the new movie, “Peppermint” this weekend, and I sent Tyson a tweet to tell him how wonderful he was. He played a very interesting homeless man in the film. And in “Lodge 49,” which I sometimes do ADR on, he plays another really interesting character. He’s really brilliant. He’s a no holds barred kind of actor, and just dives into the character like a kid. Here he is this incredibly handsome rock star, and once he’s all decked out as the Humperdoo, with his fake nose, fake teeth and disturbing contact lens in one eye, he is unrecognizable. He will totally go there, wherever his character needs to go. The sounds and stuff he was doing on set when I was there – it was so disturbing and funny I had to work really hard not to laugh. Brilliant!

TrunkSpace: Beyond “Preacher,” are there any additional comic book worlds and/or characters you would like to take on?
Strassman: Well, as I mentioned, I would love to play the evil scientist in “Wonder Woman,” if they were to ever re-cast the part, or do a new “Wonder Woman” television series. I really find the disturbed villains so fascinating. I think there are such moving backstories that go into making them who they are. Like The Joker, for instance, and I thought Betty Buckley was beyond superb in the role of Grandma in “Preacher.” I learned so much from watching her. Her work was so multi-dimensional. Another animated project I would love to be a part of one day is an anime series I actually starred in a few years ago. It’s called “Monster,” and it’s my favorite anime I’ve ever done or even seen. It’s quite disturbing and real, but absolutely brilliant. Guillermo Del Toro was said to have bought the movie rights for this project, and was talking about directing it. I’m too old to play the character I voiced in the series (Anna/Nina), but I would love to be a part of this project in any way I could if Del Toro or anyone else ever made it happen.

TrunkSpace: You have done a ton of voice acting throughout the course of your career. Was that always part of your personal plan or did that portion of your career happen as a happy accident?
Strassman: It happened as a happy accident when I was living in Paris when I was 20 years old. Someone offered me a job doing voices for a cassette tape that went with a magazine to help teach French kids English. I had never done it before, so I just jumped in blindly like a kid, and it turned out I was pretty good at it. That little job led to some jobs dubbing big French films into English, which led to a whole world of animation that opened up to me, and then video games, and anime commercials. I was the English voice for Air France for a while and things like voice-guided tours of The Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay. I was the English voice for French actresses like Juliet Binoche, Emmanuelle Béart, and Vanessa Paradis. I lived in France for 16 years doing TV, Film, Theatre and Voiceover work. I was just really, really lucky. To be honest, I was very self-conscious about what I looked like when I was younger, and felt I wasn’t pretty enough to be an actress. So, voiceover was really freeing for me because I got to play so many different roles, regardless of what I looked like. It was indeed an amazing happy accident and a gift.

Photo By: Paul Smith

TrunkSpace: Air France and The Louvre! Is it surreal to think that more people have probably heard your voice than some of the biggest “stars” of today?
Strassman: (Laughter) Yes it is.

TrunkSpace: Obviously it seems like anything can happen in “Preacher,” but when it comes to animation, that truly is the case. There are no budgetary limitations when storytelling for animation, which must put you in some very unique circumstances by way of the characters you inhabit. With that being said, what is one of the more unusual scenes you’ve ever found yourself performing in?
Strassman: Well, one of my favorite characters is in a series called “Persona.” I play a robot named Aigis who is an amazing fighter and machine, but all she wants is to become human and experience what it is to love. She ends up giving up a lot of her powers so she can experience what it is to have emotions and feel love. I play an endearing gnome-like character named Chromie in “World of Warcraft” who can travel in time and turn into a badass dragon. That’s pretty cool!

TrunkSpace: Do you approach inhabiting a character in animation the same way that you do with on-screen work? Where are the similarities and where are the differences?
Strassman: Yes, in many ways the process is very similar. It’s sometimes tempting to cut corners in voiceover and just “do a voice,” but in the long run, just doing a voice comes out as two-dimensional, and never ends up being that compelling to an audience. It’s not until you really have a feel for your character – where they came from, what they want, some intimate details about their life – that they really come to life. It’s much more fun and fulfilling to work that way.

TrunkSpace: Your resume is vast and very diverse. That being said, what is something you still hope to accomplish that you have yet to tackle? What is on your creative bucket list?
Strassman: Ahhh, there are so many characters I’d love to explore. I played Helen Keller when I was a younger girl, and I’d love to play her as an older woman. I love playing characters who have handicaps or challenges to overcome, whether it’s physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. I’d also love to settle in to a juicy regular role on a compelling TV series with a wonderful cast and crew for a while. There is something so magical about being able to stay with a show over a certain period of time and evolve with the everyone in it, like being part of a moving circus or being on a tour with an ensemble. You become a family and can really dive into your characters and the storyline together. That’s definitely high on my creative bucket list.

Preacher” is available for streaming at AMC.com.

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Wingman Wednesday

Irene Choi

IreneChoiFeatured
Photographer: Leslie Alejandro/Hair: Sara Tintari/Makeup: Aaron Paul/Styling: Cassy Dittmer

With her new series keeping stream-hungry audiences entertained on Netflix, Irene Choi is holding tight as the roller coaster ride that is her “Insatiable” journey prepares to leave the station for a second season. Playing the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Dixie Sinclair in the quirky revenge dramedy, the scene stealer is enjoying the path her on-screen alter ego is traveling, which is not exactly new territory for the Harvard graduate who also played Annie Kim on the fan-favorite series “Community.”

We recently sat down with Choi to discuss why Dixie is more than your average mean girl, how the naysayers learned to love the show once they gave it a chance, and the reason she would have liked to see where Annie Kim’s fictional future led.

TrunkSpace: “Insatiable” is inspired by a true story. Does that mean that there is a real Dixie in the world? Because for those of us here with daughters who may meet a Dixie in their life one day, that’s kind of terrifying.
Choi: There absolutely is not. She is 100 percent made up, which is a relief. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: When the material you’re working on is based on something that actually came from someone’s own experiences, does it have a different feel on set? Do people approach the material in a different way?
Choi: I would say in this case, no, just because it was really just sort of the premise, which was inspired by Bill Alverson, who is the real guy. But otherwise, the storylines were just completely in a very heightened fantasy world where people kind of go relatively unpunished for a lot of bad deeds that they do. We’re just these made-up characters in this universe, so at least for me, there was no obligation to mirror true life.

TrunkSpace: There’s been so many “mean girls” portrayed in film and TV over the years. Did you want to bring something different to the portrayal of Dixie and did the tone of the show allow for that?
Choi: Yeah, absolutely. It was also sort of written into the script as well. Even though the character of Dixie doesn’t really seem that complicated – she’s a villain, she’s a mean girl – it’s a pretty traditional trope in high school stories, but I think that’s one thing that’s a little bit different about her, is her background gives her a lot of layers. I think one thing, for example, is she is an Asian adoptee who’s living in Georgia. She has a single parent who happens to not really be a great parental figure. She has a line in the show, which is supposed to be funny, where she says, “I’m not Asian, I’m adopted.” It’s supposed to be funny because she’s stupid, but also it’s a little true, because she hasn’t really been exposed to her sort of ethnic and cultural identity. She doesn’t identify with it at all. So I think she has a sense of identity that she hasn’t quite formed yet, and as a result, she is also sort of misunderstood a lot by her peers. She actually doesn’t really have a lot of friends, which – and usually I feel like the mean girl in these stories usually happens to also be the popular girl – that’s not what she is.

TrunkSpace: There was a part, in the way you portrayed Dixie, that suggested her behavior was a bit of a defense mechanism.
Choi: Exactly, yeah. And I think in real life, as much as this show is such a caricature of reality and is kind of in this sort of revenge fantasy world, it does sort of relate to real life. Because I think in real life the bullies in high school, but also just in general, they’re not usually the people that are sort of at the top of the social totem pole. A lot of times, they are people who are misunderstood, and don’t really quite have friends, and are really sort of trying to figure themselves out as well.

TrunkSpace: Was there something kind of freeing about getting to play her and how nasty she is?
Choi: Yeah, absolutely. And I got a lot of freedom with playing Dixie as well. The directors were always very much like, “Just go balls to the wall with her.” There were absolutely some times where they would say, “Let’s try to keep this one a little bit more grounded or sincere,” but they were all incredibly generous with just sort of letting me play, and really explore that character as well.

TrunkSpace: We already mentioned the tone of the show, which feels fresh and unique, but at the same time, it’s that specific type of comedy that probably allows for a character like Dixie to work.
Choi: Yeah. Yes, as an actor, I think that’s definitely kind of a dream come true. It’s been really, really, really fun. And also, for me personally, it’s my first time as a series regular on a show, being able to play this character for a whole season, as opposed to doing these sort of one-off guest star episodes or just recurring. You don’t really get the time, nor do you get the material, to sort of really explore a character to its full extent, so that’s also been very exciting for me.

TrunkSpace: What’s sort of been the most surreal moment for you thus far since you wrapped Season 1 and it started streaming?
Choi: Oh, I guess there’s a lot of things. Basically for a really long time, almost about a year, I would tell people that I’m on this show, and no one had heard of it. “It’s a new show, it’s called ‘Insatiable.’” And they’d be like, “Uh, okay.” And then our trailer dropped, which got really sort of scathing reviews from a lot of people, and then it was kind of crazy. No one had heard of our show, no one had any opinions tied to it, and then all of a sudden everyone had heard of it and hated it. And I think that was sort of really alarming. And then when the show came out, the fans and the audience actually really, really loved it after actually having seen the whole thing, and then it was just… it was really sort of a roller coaster of emotions, honestly. It’s like one minute no one knows who you are, the second minute everyone knows who you are, and not in a good way, and then another minute it’s like everyone totally likes you. So that’s just just been a little bit… it’s definitely been kind of overwhelming. Not overwhelming, but it’s just been so unpredictable. But, that’s pretty much how this industry is. As much as I sort of have been trained to be always be prepared for the unexpected, it’s always just going to be surprising.

Photographer: Leslie Alejandro/Hair: Sara Tintari/Makeup: Aaron Paul/Styling: Cassy Dittmer

TrunkSpace: Whatever you plan for, it goes in the opposite direction.
Choi: Exactly. Just when you think you’ve planned for every sort of potential scenario in your head… like, no.

TrunkSpace: What’s really great is that you already have a Season 2, which in the world of television, is a rarity to have so early.
Choi: Yeah, which again, sort of ties into that sort of roller coaster of emotions because it was like, “Oh my gosh, everyone hates us, we’re definitely not getting a Season 2.” But then we did. So, yeah, it’s crazy.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned how much you have enjoyed getting to know Dixie over the course of an entire season. You’ve appeared on a bunch of great shows over the years. Is there a character that you wished you had been given more time with?
Choi: I got three episodes to explore this character on “Community,” which was great. I definitely would have loved an opportunity to explore that character further. That was also a villain. I guess I am personally drawn to villain roles. (Laughter) It’s kind of funny that people see me that way too.

But that was definitely a really fun one. She basically played the evil version of an existing character, who was Alison Brie’s character on the show. And because she was obviously a series regular and had a very deep woven story, I would have loved an opportunity to explore this other character that sort of played her evil version/nemesis kind of thing. I think she could have also, over time, developed almost an equally complicated story as well. So, that one was definitely really a fun one. I’m really thankful that I got to do the three episodes that I did, but it definitely would have been a lot of fun to do more.

Season 1 of “Insatiable” is available now on Netflix.

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Deep Focus

Kate Green

KateGreenFeatured

In our ongoing column Deep Focus, TrunkSpace is going behind the camera to talk with the directors, writers and producers who infuse our world with that perennial pop culture goodness that we can’t get enough of.

This time out we’re chatting with Kate Green, Director and Executive Producer of the exciting new web series “NarcoLeap,” starring Chelsey Reist, Madison Smith and Aleks Paunovic.

TrunkSpace: “NarcoLeap” has such a great, high concept premise. Was there a part of you that worried how you would pull it off as a web series, particularly when it came to budget and time constraints?
Green: I wouldn’t say just a part, I’d say my whole being. (Laughter)

No, we’re really lucky in Canada. We have some amazing funding programs. STORYHIVE from TELUS, they had this amazing 100K edition competition, so we got that. We also have the Independent Production Fund (IPF). They came on board first actually, with just over half of the budget. Once I got that one I thought, “Okay, I’ve got a pretty good chance of kind of closing the financing with the other programs.” We’re very lucky here. And also, the project went through rigorous development when I was in the Women in the Director’s Chair program as well. So it’s not only financial support that we have here, we also have a lot of educational components and mentorship programs and things like that now.

Everyday was like, “How are we going to do this?” It was still very ambitious – lots of locations, lots of actors. It was pretty crazy, but we got it done.

TrunkSpace: Here in the States, a lot of creators use web productions as a way to establish a property and then work to get them set up as a full series. Was that the plan with “NarcoLeap” as well?
Green: My background is in documentaries. I started directing and producing in that for many years. I wanted to make the leap, pun absolutely intended, into scripted work. I’ve always loved science fiction, so for me I was looking for a project where I could do something in directing, and with the web series, it seemed like there were opportunities there to make the story happen. Yes, of course, we’d love to have a TV series, eventually that’s the big dream, but I’ve always wanted it to be able to stand on its own as almost like a prequel to the television series. The storyline that’s happening within the web series, it’s all prior to the TV. Once we get to network TV the show will have evolved and grown and be a bit more of a different standalone.

TrunkSpace: As a creator, is it daunting bringing something like “NarcoLeap” into the world knowing that there is so much content available to viewers these days?
Green: Absolutely, yeah. There’s so much great content out there on the web and TV. It’s so hard to have yours rise to the top. You really rely on your fans and for us we have a digital strategy and we’ve been working. The fans are the ones that lift it up. Before we’d even gone into production we had people making fan art and posters, and mainly they loved Chelsey (Reist) and they were followers of Chelsey. They were excited to see her in something different, but they’re the ones that really lift up your project, and we’ve just been overwhelmed and so grateful for their support. It seems to be getting attraction and attention so we’re really happy for that, and grateful.

TrunkSpace: It always seems that there is great support for great ideas, and something we noticed is, there’s a lot of really great original content coming out of the Vancouver production scene these days.
Green: Yeah, absolutely. We have an amazing service industry here. A lot of people work on the big Netflix shows and so that part of our industry is really thriving, but I think in Canada we recognize that can also go away in a heartbeat. The exchange rate could go up and all of that work could disappear. Then what are we left with? We have to create ourselves. We have to have that foundation of home grown talent and that’s, again, why we’re so lucky with things like STORYHIVE and the IPF, but they help support that and they help grow that home talent.

TrunkSpace: Does one sort of feed the other then? Do networks like Hallmark and the CW bringing their productions there feed into creators being able to create on the side when they’re not working on these other productions?
Green: Absolutely. I have a day job as a producer. I work on an HGTV show. In between shows or seasons I have the opportunity to grow my own company, KGP Films, and create content, but it’s a little different. Science fiction is very different than lifestyle television. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: You were both Director and Executive Producer on “NarcoLeap.” Did Producer Kate and Director Kate ever butt heads? Is there something that you wanted as a director that you had to talk yourself out of as a producer?
Green: I was very fortunate that I had two really great producers, Emily Keller and Ross Vivian, and my Co-Executive Producer, Trevor Hudson, and I had a couple of other mentors as well. I surrounded myself with a really great team. There were some decisions that as a producer I just delegated to Emily and Ross and it was great. I didn’t have to butt heads too much with myself. You always want the crane shot and you always want explosions and you’d love to have the fight scene go on for longer. Things like that you have to compromise on, but when you can’t get what you want, the wonderful thing about that is that you have to be creative. You have to find a solution. You have to make a mark. I love that part of filmmaking, when if you don’t have the time or the money, then you have to have a great idea and a great solution. Finding that, that gets my juices flowing.

TrunkSpace: There’s been some talk of a content bubble burst looming. As a creator are you optimistic that your job as a creator is safe long term?
Green: Yeah. I see an opportunity in terms of short form digital content. When I first started my company I was looking at new features and documentary series and all of that, and of course, that would be wonderful to have projects like that, but I feel as a producer when I put the producer cap on, I see way more of an opportunity to be creating dynamic, fun digital content. It’s just getting eaten up right now.

TrunkSpace: In terms of a possible “NarcoLeap” Season 2, is that on the horizon?
Green: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been noodling away on the storylines and possibly putting in characters and what I’d like to see. Again, it’s like that dichotomy of trying to do the day job and do the producing job and the directing job and all of that. But yeah, we’re getting geared up for sure.

Season 1 of “NarcoLeap” is available now on YouTube.

Read our interview with series star Madison Smith here.

Read our interview with Aleks Paunovic here.

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Wingman Wednesday

James Chen

JamesChenFeatured
Photo By: David Zheng

This is shaping up to be a defining year for James Chen’s career. Outside of his ongoing work on “The Walking Dead,” where he plays Hilltop resident Kal, the Yale School of Drama graduate also joined the Marvel Universe as Sam Chung in Season 2 of “Iron Fist” for Netflix and will be recurring as Ian Lentz in the new Dick Wolf-produced drama series “FBI,” which premieres September 25 on CBS.

And somehow that’s still just the tip of the iceberg.

We recently sat down with Chen to discuss how “The Walking Dead” prepared him for his super future, why the introduction of Blindspot is so topical, and the reason on-screen Asian stereotypes may finally be a thing of the past.

TrunkSpace: As far as Septembers go, yours looks like it will be one for the history books!
Chen: (Laughter) My man, it’s been an amazing year, I’m not gonna lie. You’re correct, September has been very busy and productive, and we just recently added another gig… I’ll be playing a billionaire race car driver on “Madam Secretary.” So yeah, I’m very grateful. It’s been very awesome. It’s the product of a lot of hard work and not giving up.

TrunkSpace: With so much of that hard work being released into the world this month, is there a different type of personal excitement at this stage of a project as opposed to your first day on a set?
Chen: Oh, it is, it is. Yeah, that’s a good distinction. I think like any first day – of school, first day at work, first day at a TV show – there’s excitement. I guess you could say it’s nerves, but I just like to call it excitement, because you’re meeting a lot of new people and going into a new space. Invariably it’s always wonderful, because everyone’s extremely collaborative, and at the end of the day we’re just playing. So that kind of thing facilitates just sinking into a good ease. There’s also a lot of technical things you’re doing in addition to meeting a bunch of people. You’re kind of just getting the lay of the land, and having conversations with the director about the scene structure, and stuff like that. But, something like the past couple weeks, “Iron Fist” being released last Friday, “FBI” coming out next week… yeah, you’re still working hard, having conversations with great people like you, just to basically tell your stories about what it was like on set.

TrunkSpace: When you joined the Marvel Universe for “Iron Fist,” obviously it must have been an exciting thing, but at the same time you kind of have to keep that excitement in check . Marvel projects are so shrouded in plot point secrecy that you’re really in a conversational holding pattern about it until it’s released.
Chen
: That’s right. I got to be honest though, I’ve been on “The Walking Dead” for four years, and they’ve got the best secret police game going on. They put the fear in you with those NDAs and stuff. (Laughter) So I was kind of trained and had some experience with that. But, it was tough, because you’d be gone for a while, and  I would run into my co-workers from set outside of work with other people, and it was like we’d be catching up and we’d have to kind of shield the conversation from people who are not in the know. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: With a show like “Iron Fist,” which releases all at once, that must help ease that loose lips sink ships vibe, because once it’s out, everything is fair game. If the audience is willing to put in the work, they could view the entire season in one sitting.
Chen: That’s right, yeah. I like that idea though, that the viewer has to put in the work too, but it’s true. That wasn’t around four years ago… five years ago. I like it, personally, I guess from a sharing point of view, because we can talk about bigger picture stuff, like arcs, or how different parts from different episodes connected or didn’t connect, or what it means. I like that part of the conversation as opposed to it being drawn out over several months from installation broadcast. I like people having the full context of Sam Chung, talking about “Iron Fist,” to see how he and Colleen work in a bunch of different scenarios.

TrunkSpace: While the viewers understand the full context of Sam Chung, those who read the comic know that there’s so much story to tell there, should Netflix choose to go down that road.
Chen: Right. We know for sure that there’s just tremendous, exciting, tremendous, one more tremendous, potential in the development of Blindspot and his back story. And it’s so topical these days, illegal immigrant, right? Also, it’s extremely topical with him being an Asian male character, an Asian male superhero. I mean, after Asian August, with “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Searching,” “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” Awkwafina is getting her show green lit – it’s time!

TrunkSpace: And to be a part of this moment in pop culture, influencing the next generation, it has to be an amazing feeling.
Chen: It is, yeah. It’s so true. It’s interesting also, because growing up and initially my first phase in the biz, that wasn’t around, so it’s almost like… it’s hard to describe what it’s like. A part of me almost can’t believe it’s happening, because the stereotypes have been and are really awful, and degrading, and they’ve been so solid for such a long time, so it’s so refreshing. It’s so invigorating. And, kind of like what you said about as far as the next generation, I mean, you really feel like you’re making a meaningful contribution to the image of your people, which is so satisfying. It’s not like I’m selling soap for a commercial.

Photo By: David Zheng

TrunkSpace: The path of actors as a whole seems to has changed as well. If we went back 10 years, it would be a rarity for an actor to be talking about so many different television projects at once. It just seems like there’s more freedom to spread your wings and be involved in more projects than there used to be.
Chen: Right. I think with so much programming out there, there’s a lot of opportunity. I’ve seen an increase in both the quality and quantity of auditions in my particular demographic, for Asian men, which is kind of what I see as far as the auditions that come down the pike. But, it’s been encouraging and exciting too to see that they’re opening up casting and auditions for roles that aren’t specifically written to be Asian. There were a few of those back in the day, like a couple a year, but now it’s like we’re getting closer to that place where ethnicity doesn’t have to define who you are. You’re a person and you happen to be of a certain ethnicity.

TrunkSpace: Jumping back to Sam as a character, what was it about him in the early stages, the audition days, that you liked on the page?
Chen: Well, I loved kind of how Sam’s dialogue was very… this is going to sound weird, but it’s very casual and conversational. It was very everyday. He’s just simply having a conversation with someone, as opposed to… he’s not talking about something super Asian or stereotypically something or other, if that makes any sense. He’s just having a conversation with another person who happens to be Asian as well. There’s no commentary on the fact that we’re both Asian. Colleen is Asian and I’m Asian and we’re just talking about helping her solve a problem. So I love that aspect of the fact that we don’t need to comment on it, it just is.

I love how there is history in that opening scene in Season 2/Episode 2 of “Iron Fist,” when we first meet Sam. There’s just some great history, and backstory, and rapport between Sam and Colleen. It’s not heavy, but you can tell that they’ve worked together for a while. They’ve got great rapport. They tease each other. I’m fishing a little bit, and they share a little bit about their private lives and what they’re doing, just some teasing. So that’s exciting, and I think you can see that in the series. Obviously certain plot emergencies come through that maybe don’t make it a priority, but it’s one of the layers of their relationship, which I think is great.

TrunkSpace: And that is one of the things that Marvel Studios is so great at, which is building out the world so that the viewer feels like they’re a part it as opposed to being on the outside looking in.
Chen: Right. And I like that idea, because Sam has more of a management, supervisory responsibility for the community center and it shows, because I know where everything is and what’s going on. I feel like I have an ear to the ground and a hand on the pulse of what’s happening in the community, because the community center is like a hub, more or less. So I thought that was pretty exciting to kind of be right at the brain of the nervous system of what’s happening in Chinatown, or in our community. I thought it was great how the community center became a hub for us to meet a whole bunch of other characters who also happen to be Asian, like Mrs. Yang, or Danny’s boss at the moving company, played by my buddy James Lai.

So I thought that was great, the inclusion of more Asian faces, and culture, and depth in the series.

Chen in “The Walking Dead.”

TrunkSpace: From TV superheros to superheroes of TV, your next project is Dick Wolf’s “FBI.” Obviously Marvel is a big brand, but in the world of television, Dick Wolf is a brand unto his own.
Chen: Sure, it is. That man is a genius. He’s kind of like the Stan Lee of procedurals. (Laughter)

This is not a joke. I grew up and “Law & Order: SVU” was my favorite show on TV. God, man, everything about that, from just the “dun dun,” it was so just clicked for me. I loved it. I loved Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni. Then I actually got a chance to play a recurring character on SVU for Dick’s show a few years ago, CSU Adrian “Andy” Sung, and I got to meet and work with Mariska, and Chris, and Ice, and it was just fantastic. A lot of the directors on that show are repeat directors, so it was just awesome to build the rapport, to be on that set, to work on a show that I loved so much for so long. That said, I kind of feel like I’m returning home in a way. Maybe like the same family/different house, kind of feeling. You’ve got the feel of all the same things, and obviously, Dick’s running the ship, it’s just with a twist… an FBI twist.

Iron Fist” is available now on Netflix.

FBI” premieres Tuesday on CBS.

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Wingman Wednesday

John Hoogenakker

JohnHoogenakkerFeatured
Photo By: Bjoern Kommerell

As Matice on the Amazon Prime Video series “Jack Ryan,” John Hoogenakker is the kind affable bad ass that you want to battle alongside of and then have a beer with, and that’s not because he’s the costumed king responsible for making “Dilly Dilly” a part of the pop culture lexicon. A versatile performer with a seemingly limitless character reach, the actor is an on-screen chameleon poised to pop the top on his already fizzing career.

We recently sat down with Hoogenakker to discuss the chance to dig deep in television, reveling in the way Matice fills his space, and why some people who wear his likeness on a T-shirt don’t necessarily recognize him in real life.

TrunkSpace: You always bring memorable characters to the screen, John. Do you approach finding each character – uncovering who they are – in the same manner each time or does each character require a different path?
Hoogenakker: That’s very kind, thank you! Getting to play roles that are different from one another has been one of the great blessings of my career. With each role, you get to explore a different facet of your own humanity, which hopefully makes you a more fully rounded human being. I do try to look at them as completely different people, though, and I do my best not to ‘fix’ the character, which is to say I don’t want to necessarily wrap them up in a neat little bundle to make them more palatable to the audience.

TrunkSpace: Your new project “Jack Ryan” feels more like a film than a television series. As someone who has worked in the industry for over 10 years, is it exciting to have seen television storytelling mature and become so much more character-driven?
Hoogenakker: Oh man, without a doubt! The opportunity to see an arc expand and grow and mature over many episodes and seasons is the ultimate gift for an actor. So much of that, though, is up to the writers and creators. As actors I think we’re always waiting for another opportunity to go as deep as we can.

TrunkSpace: “Jack Ryan” has a real buzz surrounding it since it was first announced. As an actor, is it difficult to not get swept up in that excitement and place your own individual expectations on a project prior to its release? How do you manage that “will it” or “won’t it” when it comes to a series or film finding an audience?
Hoogenakker: That’s a great question. There have been some wonderful projects that I’ve gotten to be a part of in the past, and I’ve learned over time that I do my best work when my primary focus is on connecting with the other people that I’m working with. Essentially, I try to do the best I can to be connected and to behave like a real human, and leave it all on the field. It is certainly gratifying, though, when people respond favorably to something that you’ve put so much time and effort into.

TrunkSpace: In the series you play Matice. What was it about this guy, a block ops CIA bad ass, that intrigued you when you first read him on the page, and how did he develop into what we ultimately see today in Season 1?
Hoogenakker: I really enjoyed the way the guy filled his space, and his comfort level with his work. One of the first scenes I read of his was when he was giving Jack a primer on how to load his weapon and chamber a round, and it just felt so casual. Which is of course how it would be for a person who lives and breathes the realities of armed conflict on a daily basis. When John (Krasinkski) and Wendell (Pierce) and I met each other, we kind of hit it off right from the start and had a lot of fun working together, which I think translated into them allowing me more wiggle room to find as much humor as I could.

TrunkSpace: It seems like everything about the character needed to be researched, from the way he moves into a room or the way he holds his weapon. What is that detailed research like and does it help you better understand who he is, not just how he exists within a particular circumstance?
Hoogenakker: The research began the very first day I arrived on set in Montréal and met our technical advisor, Kevin Kent. We started by working on drills with the M4 and practicing how to clear a room and move with the weapon. Beyond that, I feel that some of the most important research I got to do was more passive, and came with the time I spent hanging out with Kevin and the rest of the advisors on the project, all of whom had been career Navy SEALs. Just the way that people who have been in dangerous situations, and had one another’s backs for years, interact in regular social settings. The way that they joke with one another was probably my favorite aspect of my time with them.

TrunkSpace: As stated, Matice is pretty bad ass. What have family and friends thought of your portrayal? Would they say that playing a bad ass is in line with who you are in real life or a far cry from the John they know?
Hoogenakker: It’s funny, though I am definitely not a Special Ops bad ass in real life (and only play one on TV), I’ve had lots of friends and family reach out and talk about how close they feel Matice is to me, which has been a first among the roles that I’ve played.

Amazon Studios

TrunkSpace: You also have some great lines/quips within the series. As an actor, can you get a sense of a line when you read it in a new script from the perspective of it being dialogue that will stand out with the audience? Is it a gift getting those memorable snippets?
Hoogenakker: I think there are absolutely times when you read the script and things stand out to you as funny, for whatever reason. We all have to be kept in check when it comes to keeping the joke simple, though. You don’t want to put a hat on a hat, as they say. As an actor working in the medium of film and television you really have to take the temperature in the room when you’re filming a scene; for instance, if it makes the crew laugh you’re probably onto something. I think John is hilarious, too, and when I can see that I’m cracking him up, that’s also a good barometer.

Photo By: Bjoern Kommerell

TrunkSpace: Speaking of memorable lines… “Dilly Dilly” kind of became a cultural phenomenon. Was there any part of you who saw that coming? Could you have prepared for the type of response that advertising campaign received?
Hoogenakker: No, if you had told me that once “Jack Ryan,” starring John Krasinski and Wendell Pierce, premiered I would also be answering questions about my work in an iconic Bud Light campaign I probably wouldn’t have believed you. The director (Jim Jenkins) and I have worked together a bunch in the past, and I have a lot of faith in his ability to make things funny, but beyond that, we were all blown away by the response to the first spot. I’m starting to see my face on T-shirts, which there is really no way to prepare for.

TrunkSpace: The beauty of that part is that you’re in wardrobe that kind of disguises who you are in real life. Has it been a situation of having your cake and eating it too – you get to be a part of this massive campaign, and yet still walk down the street and have a level of anonymity?
Hoogenakker: It’s so funny you should ask that question. A couple days ago I was walking down the street in Chicago and a guy passed me wearing a Dilly Dilly T-shirt. I thought, you know what, I’m gonna speak to this guy, and see what happens! So as he walks by, I say to him, “I really like your shirt, man!” And he looks right back at me and says, “Thanks!” And just kept walking… at home and in the business it’s different. Family, friends and co-workers love bringing it up, whenever. In fact, when I was introduced at the “Jack Ryan” premiere, Carlton Cuse, an icon, and one of the creators of the show, leaned into the microphone and said “Dilly dilly!”

TrunkSpace: “Jack Ryan” is hitting right now, with a Season 2 already on the way. What else do you want to accomplish in the year ahead? What are some of your goals that you hope you can check off and achieve?
Hoogenakker: I’d love for the notoriety and the visibility of the project to draw attention to the different roles I’ve gotten to play, which people might not even realize were played by the same actor, and to keep challenging myself by playing new and different roles in the future.

Season 1 of “Jack Ryan” is available now on Amazon Prime Video.

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