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November 2018

Wingman Wednesday

A.J. Buckley

AJBuckleyFeatured
Photo By: James Dimmock

Being a child of the 1980s, A.J. Buckley grew up playing with G.I. Joe action figures, so it comes as no surprise that his inner child is gung-ho about getting to portray a gun-toting soldier with swagger on the hit CBS series “SEAL Team.” As the cowboy Sonny Quinn, Buckley has ventured far away – in a Black Hawk helicopter no less – from those previous characters who thrust him into the spotlight, including Ghostfacer Ed Zeddmore from the long-running genre series “Supernatural,” which he hopes to one day find some narrative closure with.

We recently sat down with Buckley to discuss dreams come true, beard functionality, and why the SPN Family needs to Tweet out #bringthefacersback.

TrunkSpace: You’re in your early 40s, which means you were a kid when “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” took off in the ‘80s. What would eight-year-old A.J. think if he was told his future self would get to play an on-camera G.I. Joe one day?
Buckley: I would play for hours and hours with G.I. Joe. Me and my cousin, Alex, had pretty much every one of them. All the tanks, every character – I was obsessed with it. And as a boy running around the neighborhood playing guns, doing all that sort of stuff was really part of my childhood, so this in a sense is every little boy’s dream. I get to show up to work and fly around in Black Hawk helicopters and shoot big guns and blow things up. It’s a dream job, it really is.

TrunkSpace: Is it one of those things where you show up on set and there’s a new set piece or prop and you get just as excited as you did on your first day?
Buckley: Oh, without a doubt, and we haven’t even touched half of it. I got to drive on top of a Hummer firing a 50-cal and blowing things up. I got to shoot live rounds out of it. Not during the filming, but just to understand what it felt like to shoot a live round. My character carries all the big guns, so it’s really fun to show up and they hand me the gun and a big pack of ammo and I just unload on something. I don’t know how I ended up so lucky but there’s not a day that I don’t drive to set thinking, “Holy shit, this is the greatest job in the world!”

TrunkSpace: And you get to have a beard, which is pretty awesome for an on-camera gig!
Buckley: Yeah, it’s true. Last season it was a little more crazy because when Navy Seals deploy – our tech advisor for the Seals said that you don’t shave at all. You don’t cut your hair and you don’t shave. One, to blend in, but two, it’s sort of like a badge of honor to how long you’ve been there. So depending on how long your hair is and how long your beard is, it shows the length of time that you’ve been over there.

We went, I think, seven months without shaving once… any sort of trim or haircut. And my hair and my beard were so long that my daughter… one night she had put a LEGO person in my beard and I totally forgot about it. I got to set the next day and the lady’s combing my beard and she was like, “What is that?” And I reached into my beard and it was a little LEGO person.

TrunkSpace: It’s like a wallet!
Buckley: It was a long beard. I found toothpicks in there too. We’d be on the Black Hawk and my character would have a toothpick. Because you’re all geared up; it’s hard to reach into your pocket, so I would just put them inside my beard and then if I lost one I would just pull one out of my beard. It was very useful.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned having the Navy Seals as advisors. How important was it having access to them to sort of not only secure the realism of the series, but to understand who Sonny was?
Buckley: We would 100 percent not be the show that we are if it wasn’t for the men and women that are veterans on our show, who have now become producers or veteran writers, or are behind the camera or in various different departments on the show. Sixty percent of our crew are veterans and they’ve gone out of their way to do that, so there’s a real sense of pride in the show that we’re making. And I feel that with our executive producer, Chris Chulack, he sort of set the tone that said we want to have the authenticity of what these guys do. Although we’re making a TV show, we want to be as authentic as possible. And our veterans on the show, our tech advisor producers, they have the ability – which never happens – that if a guest director is shooting something or any director is shooting something and if it’s not the way that we would move or it’s not the way that we would do it, the veteran has the ability to step in and say, “Cut.”

Buckley in “SEAL Team”

TrunkSpace: You mentioned the love of coming to set, but what is it about Sonny himself that you’ve enjoyed throughout these first two seasons?
Buckley: He’s a real cowboy. It’s such a fun character. I’ve never played a role like this before. There’s a guy that my character’s loosely based on, and I got to spend some time with him and he’s got this kind of swagger to him, this cowboy, and he’s got the one liners and sort of that dry sense of humor. He’s a fun, whiskey-drinking, beer-drinking, red meat-eating cowboy that kicks some ass. It’s kind of a dream role for any guy.

TrunkSpace: Did it come with a bit of pressure when you first signed on, knowing that he was specifically written for you?
Buckley: Yeah. Ben Cavell, the writer of the first season, when I spoke to him he had said, “I wrote this with you in mind for the character.” And knowing that this is based on a real group of guys and that they’re with you every day on set, yeah, there is a certain amount of pressure. But I like the pressure because it keeps everybody on their toes and it’s our responsibility to portray this group of men and women in a certain light… and portray them right by giving them the respect that we should and honoring them in that way, so it’s a good thing.

TrunkSpace: You’ve played a lot of diverse characters over the course of your career… guys with different internal ways of thinking. Was that a conscious decision… trying to keep each new role different from the previous one you portrayed?
Buckley: I think so. I would say more in the second part of my career. I always like to find each character I get to kind of push the envelope or create something that’s really different from who I am. Coming off of “CSI: New York” and “Supernatural” – I was a regular on “CSI: New York” and a recurring on “Supernatural” – I was fearful when the show ended that I was going to be typecast. And for me, my favorite character growing up was John McClane, that sort of every man that can do the impossible. And that’s where I wanted my career to go, so I really had to put the time in and shift gears in the sense of being laser focused on the roles that I choose, and physically how I looked. It became really a nine to five job where I had to hire a nutritionist, Kevin Libby, to really dial in sort of who I was and the characters I wanted to start portraying.

TrunkSpace: Was part of that physical transformation an extension of getting executives and casting people to see you in a different light?
Buckley: Yeah, it was. And I think it was for me, too. I needed to feel that way, to kind of get there. In a sense you kind of become the character a little bit or whoever this idea you have… it’s obvious if you’re a superhero or an action hero, you’ve got a good chance of working, and pudgy little dad bod wasn’t going to cut it. So I said, “Fuck it!” and I just decided that I was going to put everything I had into it, and in a sense, manifesting this next chapter.

Supernatural — “#THINMAN” — Image SN916b_0278 — Pictured: AJ Buckley as Ed — Credit: Diyah Pera/The CW — © 2014 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

 

TrunkSpace: We had read that your “Supernatural” character, Ed Zeddmore, was one of your favorite characters that you’ve ever played. What would Dean Winchester think of Ed if he showed up all jacked? Dean’s such an alpha male, how would that play out?
Buckley: He’d be terrified. (Laughter)

I always thought it’d be really funny because the Ghostfacers are the longest living characters. And Travis Wester, my partner on that, on Ghostfacers, who plays Harry, he also started doing a lot of crossfit and he got pretty jacked. I always thought it would be funny if they brought us back, and through the years that they hadn’t seen us, we come back and we are who we are now and sort of give the boys a run for their money. I think it’d be fun. Those guys, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, are two of the nicest human beings you could possibly meet. For our characters, when we came on the show, we kind of took over it. It became the Ghostfacers show, and some actors wouldn’t be cool with that, and they were just… they’re as successful as they are for a reason, because of just the types of guys that they are and how open minded and cool they are. They’re just a good group of guys and I would love for our characters to go back and at least… like kill us or do something, because it ended just so oddly. We separated and we never came back.

The Ghostfacers were Eric Kripke, who was the original show writer, they were kind of like his babies. Him and Tre Callaway were the writers who gave birth to them, so to speak. Eric Kripke really got behind us and kind of gave us our spinoff. We got to write it and direct it, and it was a whole thing, but once Kripke left, we both felt that the new showrunner wanted to take the show in a different direction, which happens and that’s totally cool, but Ghostfacers just wasn’t on that direction train.

TrunkSpace: You’ve been on a bunch of high profile projects over the years. Do any current fandoms compare, at least passion-wise, to the SPN Family?
Buckley: There’s no other fans like “Supernatural” fans. “Supernatural” fans are the most loyal fans that are out there. They’re diehard. Our characters, the Ghostfacers, became who they were and we got that spinoff and that incredible run because the fandom really got behind us and talked about it.

The fans, if they’re reading this, they should do this thing and hashtag #bringthefacersback.

SEAL Team” airs Wednesdays on CBS.

 

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Musical Mondaze

New Politics

NewPoliticsFeatured

With four studio albums under their belts, including last year’s “Lost In Translation,” New Politics has amassed a passionate international fanbase through extensive touring and by dropping catchy singles like “Tonight You’re Perfect” and “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.” Currently the chart-topping trio is in the final stretch of a US tour, partnering with Music Saves Lives to bring awareness to the ongoing need for bone marrow donors.

We recently sat down with drummer Louis Vecchio to discuss revisiting the band’s sweaty basement roots, being a collective voice for positivity, and why he’d have a difficult time imagining his musical career without his fellow New Politics bandmates.

TrunkSpace: You guys are currently on a tour that has (and will) take you to about two dozen cities. Do you enjoy hitting the highways and byways as much today as you did when you first started out? Is there still some magic to be found beneath the wheels of that bus?
Vecchio: The magic of touring and performing for our fans is something that the three of us enjoy tremendously and never gets old. The ultra magical thing about this current tour is we are going to parts of the country we haven’t played in years. We decided to book exclusively clubs and small theaters in these markets, to re-create the sweaty basement show vibe our fans enjoyed when we first started.

TrunkSpace: As part of the tour, the band has partnered with Music Saves Lives to bring awareness to the ongoing need for bone marrow donors. Why was it important for you guys to make the tour about more than just the music?
Vecchio: Yeah, we’re super excited to be working with them again! They are a wonderful organization and have helped so many people in need – it’s incredible, really. Honestly, the music is a vessel and we consider ourselves three lucky passengers. If nothing else, it gives us the opportunity to do good and bring awareness to a great cause.

TrunkSpace: Do you feel it is important for artists to use their platforms as a way to connect fans to causes and ways of thinking that are perhaps outside of their social/community circles? As a band with a large following, do you have a megaphone that plays more than just New Politics music?
Vecchio: Yes, we think it’s very important – any positive and informative voice is great. Having that platform comes with a huge responsibility and we are always up for it, and we are grateful to be in a position to do so.

TrunkSpace: You guys have experienced a lot together as New Politics. After everything you’ve been through… and the point of view changes that come with age… do you see the band differently now than you did when it first came together? Does it serve a differently purpose in 2018 than it did in 2009?
Vecchio: That’s a great question, and the resounding answer is YES. Ultimately, as a band, as artists, and an entity, New Politics to us will always serve the same purpose – to make great music, connect with people and hopefully pay off our mortgages. Of course, as we’ve gotten older, life becomes more complicated, more challenging, but ultimately, exponentially more rewarding, in so many ways… but the core of New Politics, the music and the fans, will never change.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your musical career thus far – the moment that you will carry with you through the rest of your life?
Vecchio: Every single day we get to do this for a living is a highlight. Certainly there have been select moments in our career where we all had to pinch ourselves. Our performance on Jimmy Fallon was a huge milestone. Touring Japan and Russia where big moments too. Again, being able to do what we truly love for a living is something I still think we haven’t gotten over and probably never will.

TrunkSpace: What do you get writing and performing within a band, and this band in particular, that you can’t access from a solo mindset? What are the benefits for you personally in having a group of people fighting the fight alongside of you?
Vecchio: David, Søren and I are basically a family, complete with its share of peaks and valleys. That familial vibe plays heavily in the writing, recording and touring process equally – maybe even a bit more when it comes to touring since we have to share what is really a two bedroom apartment on wheels. But it would be hard to imagine most aspects of our career without one another, and that makes it all that much more inspiring.

TrunkSpace: As the band has become more popular and the music has continued to spread to new ears, has that impacted the songwriting process at all? Does it become more difficult writing and tracking new material when you know there are people who will gobble it up instantly? As humans, we’re all capable of second-guessing ourselves, and does that ever creep into the creative?
Vecchio: Not so much in terms of songwriting, since as individuals with our own experiences and perspectives, we will always continue to write what is meaningful to us based on our place in the world in which we live. However, there will always be that element second guessing ourselves. That’s just part of the process, the challenge of writing and knowing people are going to grab onto what we do, so we try and harness that emotional juxtaposition and change it into inspiration.

TrunkSpace: Can you envision a day when music is not a part of your life? If the band and the fans all went away tomorrow, would you still be working on new material for yourself alone?
Vecchio: Unimaginable. Music is the universal language that binds all of our greatest gifts as humans together. We’ll ride until we die.

TrunkSpace: Outside of another artist, was there someone in your life who inspired or supported your creative endeavors that you feel was important to you getting where you are today with your music?
Vecchio: I speak for all of us when I say our families and everyone who has every supported us as people and as a band.

TrunkSpace: The band released “Lost In Translation” about a year ago. Do New Politics albums become a bit like chapters of your life? Does it become, “These were my ‘Lost In Translation’ years and those were my ‘A Bad Girl in Harlem’ years”?
Vecchio: Definitely, our influences change as our lives change. Harlem was written when all we had was a dream and each other. David and Søren being from Denmark, lots of the early records were significantly influenced by the “cultural shock” the two of them experienced by moving not only to the United States, but to New York City. Thousands of miles, shows, fans and hours and four albums into it, we are fond of where we came from but also very excited about where we are going.

The remaining New Politics tour dates can be found here.

Their latest album, “Lost in Translation” is available now.

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Wingman Wednesday

Troy James

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When you get to terrorize both the Flash and the pop culture-loving audience, you know you’re doing something right. Troy James, the actor with the self-described “freakishly bendy body,” is having himself quite the year, from giving Simon Cowell the heebie-jeebies on “America’s Got Talent” to playing the nightmare-inducing Pretzel Jack in the latest season of “Channel Zero” for Syfy. Most recently, the flexible thespian made his debut as the villainous Rag Doll on “The Flash,” a new favorite of ours in the hero’s small screen (and always expanding) rogues’ gallery.

We recently sat down with James to discuss the best type of typecasting, going full sociopath, and why his real-life superpower is jumping to the worst possible conclusion in a single bound.

TrunkSpace: You have a self-described “freakishly bendy body.” With that said, has there ever been a role more suited for you than that of the villainous Rag Doll?
James: Usually actors loathe being typecast, but honestly, I don’t mind getting to play fantastical creatures that flip and twist about. That I get to be a supervillain with awesome red hair, a terrifying mask, and get a one-up on Barry? Well, that is just icing on the cake.

TrunkSpace: Rag Doll has been a fan-favorite villain for DC Comics readers for a long time, but he is not one of those iconic characters that comes with a lot of on-screen baggage. In many ways, he’s a clean slate for TV viewers. Did that allow you to take some ownership in him and make him your own?
James: Bittersweet. On one hand, I didn’t have to match anyone else’s portrayal of Rag Doll, so I didn’t have to worry about being endlessly judged against them. However, he still is an established villain. It meant I had some serious shoes to fill if I wanted to do him justice.
When I was doing my research, I came across Peter Merkel Sr. and his son, Peter Merkel Jr., who also donned the Rag Doll mantle. I took pieces of both when playing the character. Sr was born naturally flexible without augmentation like me, but Jr is an utter psychopath with family issues. Looking back, I wish I played up Rag Doll’s degenerate nature a bit more, but it was my first time on a show as big as “The Flash;” I was on my best behavior! (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: You’ve played a lot of creepy, scuttling characters over the course of your career. From a performance standpoint, what did Rag Doll allow you to do on-camera that you have yet to tackle before?
James: Talk! Rag Doll speaks. I’m used to playing silent, creepy-crawlies that let their bodies do the talking. This time I get to taunt our heroes while I do it, and you really get a sense of how little empathy Rag Doll possesses. What a sociopath! I relished every minute of it. (Should I be troubled that I slipped into character so easily?)

TrunkSpace: “The Flash” has a huge, loyal following. What does it feel like to join that world and get to interact with the fandom firsthand?
James: Holy cow. When it was revealed that I was to play a role on “The Flash,” I think my social media following increased by 33 percent overnight. People really like this show! I love how excited everyone is, and I am too, but I’m also super anxious about it. I think I’ll calm down after the episode airs.

TrunkSpace: Were you a comic book fan growing up? What would 10-year-old Troy think of his future self getting to play in the superhero sandbox?
James: 10-year old Troy? Try Troy, circa-2017! I still can’t believe this is real. I loved video games growing up, and I have a few comic book collectors in my family. (Great for research and character notes!) This is pretty much a dream come true. If I could go back in time and tell myself this would be happening now, I wouldn’t believe myself.

TrunkSpace: We recently read an interview with “Channel Zero” creator Nick Antosca where he said he specifically created the part of Pretzel Jack in the latest season, “The Dream Door,” for you. As an actor, what does that mean to you and your career when people are creating characters specifically for you?
James: It’s a good thing! It means I’m doing something right… right? What an honor. (Thanks Nick for taking a chance on me!) Then again, my real-life superpower is being able to leap to the worst conclusion in a single bound. I used to worry about my non-traditional acting background. Now I’m hearing people say, “Pretzel Jack” and “iconic horror monster” in the same sentence. What a thrill!

James as Rag Doll in “The Flash”

TrunkSpace: Pretzel Jack is straight up nightmare material. There’s got to be something kind of cool about being able to bring out these visceral reactions from people as a performer – the kind that stay with you long after you turn off the television?
James: Guilty pleasure meets natural instinct. I love making people nervous and squirmy. Perhaps I honed the skill when I used to work at a theme park during the Halloween season; it was literally my job to scare people. Grant Gustin teased me about how fiendish I was when the cameras were rolling, only to revert to happy, non-scary Troy immediately after cutting.

TrunkSpace: This seems like a very exciting run for you, with both “The Flash” and “Channel Zero” hitting at the same time. This truly is a business where work seems to beget work. With that being said, is the hope that high profile projects like these two will open more doors as larger audiences see what you’re capable of?
James: And that’s just the stuff I’m allowed to talk about! Next year the real action happens when a few of the feature films we just wrapped hit the big screen. It’s funny. I’ve been catapulted into this life of an actor/performer, and I’ve spent more time than I’d care to admit wondering how this all happened. The dust is settling though, and no one is telling me to go back to Human Resources. I’m doing alright!

TrunkSpace: You appeared on “America’s Got Talent” earlier this year and made Simon Cowell very uncomfortable, which is not something many people can stake claim to. For you personally, what was the best thing that came of your “America’s Got Talent” experience?
James: People know my name! I travel. I go out to eat. I walk around… and people recognize me! I get stopped on the street. I didn’t make it to the finals of AGT, but I guess I made an impression. When I got to set on “The Flash,” everyone in production had already seen my audition and they were very excited to see what I would do. Just this past week, for Halloween, I got to perform in Orlando, New York City and New Jersey. Can you imagine that I almost didn’t audition for AGT because I was so nervous?

TrunkSpace: What’s next for you beyond “The Flash?” Where should we keep our eyes peeled for future Troy James sightings?
James: I wish I could give you the good stuff. A horror film is coming out next year where I really push my movement to the limits. The downside to playing scary creatures in movies is that you can never tell anyone without ruining the reveal. But you haven’t seen the last of me yet. I promise.

The Flash” airs Tuesdays on The CW.

Channel Zero: The Dream Door” is available on Syfy.

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Chef Life

Chef Jessica Scott

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Jessica Scott
Executive Pastry Chef for Barton G Restaurants
Instagram

TrunkSpace: When and why did you start cooking or baking and who has been the biggest influence in your life with regard to your culinary journey?
Chef Scott: I had always loved sugar when I was a kid, so I was always trying to convince my mom that we needed to bake for the holidays or celebrations, just so that I could eat raw cookie dough all day and baked cookies later! I didn’t even consider baking as a career until I graduated high school and realized the only thing that would make me happier for a job would be being surrounded by sugar. My culinary journey has always been surrounded by different people that have influenced me, whether it be my grandmother who always showed her love through her food, or my friends that would continually support me when I didn’t feel strong enough to handle the industry, or even the people I have worked with (the good and the bad) that through experiences have lead me to find myself in the culinary world.

TrunkSpace: A lot of times in a chef’s career or education, they must choose between the savory cooking field or the sweeter pastry side. Was this the case for you? Did you have to choose between one or the other to pursue, and if so, what was it that drove you to pursue the pastry side of the cooking force?
Chef Scott: I think it is different for a lot of people, but for me I love pastry because desserts are a choice. You don’t order dessert because you have to, it’s because you want to! I love being a part of someone’s choice to treat themselves or to celebrate something between friends and family. It makes me feel fulfilled knowing that I have a part to play in other people’s happiness.

TrunkSpace: As a pastry chef, your work has to not only be delicious but colorful and beautiful as well. Can you tell us a bit about your creative process and how you go about creating your edible works of art? Do you start with flavor ideas or more of a visual of what you want it to look like?
Chef Scott: It is always different! I have books, documents, post-its and even napkins filled with flavor combinations, theme ideas, dessert inventions, or even just things I think are cool. Usually it is the need for a certain dessert that drives me and I take a long look at all of the notes I have produced and try to make something no one has had before. Whether it be a crazy flavor combination, a new type of dessert, or an exciting presentation – something always has to pop and stand out.

TrunkSpace: What has been the most rewarding part of your culinary adventure so far?
Chef Scott: The most rewarding part of my culinary journey isn’t exactly being on Food Network, it’s been after. To have people reach out to me (total strangers!) and tell me that they love my food, and that I inspire them?! That is amazing. I have always wanted to connect to people with my food, and the fact that I am doing that in a bigger way, is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had.

TrunkSpace: On the flip side of that, what has been your most difficult challenge to over come and how did you go about doing it?
Chef Scott: The industry is not kind, in fact, it’s straight-up mean. After a lot of bad experiences with Executive Chefs and Owners, I was about to quit the industry completely. I had to reach out to my support system, admit that I was struggling, and ask for help. What I got back was a resurgence of support that landed me the courage to try one more restaurant – Puesto. Finally, I was surrounded with good people who pushed me to think outside of the box, appreciated the work I put in, and even now that I work at Barton G (another awesome environment), those guys are still good to me. I needed that.

TrunkSpace: Working in the food biz can be very rewarding but it can also very stressful and demanding. How do you handle that stress?
Chef Scott: I try to plan for the stress before it gets me. Plan for when a cook doesn’t show up for work, plan for last minute requests, and even plan on rewards I give myself when stress is just inevitable. You’re going to have hard days, but when that happens you need to learn from those experiences and reward yourself for getting through it. On days that I know are going to be INSANE, I always buy myself a nice coffee and chocolate croissant, save a Red Bull for the middle of the day, and plan something fun with my friends for my next day off.

TrunkSpace: You have been very busy as not only an executive pastry chef but as a fierce competitor on Food Network’s “Dessert Games” and “The Halloween Baking Championship.” What do you enjoy most about competing in these amazing culinary battles? And what is the most difficult aspect to competing on national television in an unfamiliar kitchen?
Chef Scott: I am incredibly competitive, so being in these culinary battles is exciting! You’ll see me RUN everywhere on TV because there is no way I am going to waste a second when there is a win on the line. I love that excitement of just knowing that you killed it, like, “Damn, you tried to trick me, and I took your challenge and gave a slam dunk!” The most difficult part about being on the show is just being in a new kitchen. You don’t know how the ovens work, you don’t know how fast the pans will get hot, and you don’t know where the heck the damn brown sugar is and you only have five more minutes!

TrunkSpace: Speaking of Halloween, we are huge fans of the holiday here at TrunkSpace, so we have to ask…what does an executive pastry chef hand out on Halloween for trick or treaters?
Chef Scott: Well, the trick or treaters get my favorite candy – sour punch straws! I love `em! But for my Halloween parties, I always like to put a little more effort in since Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. My favorite Halloween dessert has to be my devil’s food cake cupcakes with raspberry red wine “blood” filling topped with a cinnamon cream cheese frosting.

TrunkSpace: Similarly, we have to have to ask with the holidays coming up, what does a holiday spread look like at an executive pastry chef’s house? Do you have any energy left in the tank for that after the holiday rush? Or is it Chinese take out all the way?
Chef Scott: If I get the holiday off, then I love to cook during the holidays – as long as I have company. Food should be shared from beginning to end, so I make sure that whoever plans on eating is also a part of the process. That means singing songs over the sound of the blender, shaking your hips while you chop, and laughing throughout it all! I usually keep it pretty traditional when it comes to the spread, but for some reason my favorite thing to do during the holidays is play bartender and make boozy drinks that remind me of dessert. Mezcal Eggnog is the shit!

TrunkSpace: With the advancement of technology in the past years, food has also advanced in many ways, especially on the pastry/dessert side. Has it changed the way you approach your food creations? And if so, in what way?
Chef Scott: I think it hasn’t exactly changed the way I approach food, but has actually fueled myself finding my own style of food. You can see through social media what trends people are looking for, and if you see past the unicorn latte bazooka pie – people love things that are eye-catching, exciting, and bring the fun back into food. That’s what I strive for, and that’s what I crave for even myself.

TrunkSpace: You have already accomplished so much in your career at an early age. What is next for you? Any other competitions, books or pop-ups fans can watch for on the culinary scene?
Chef Scott: There is so much I want to do! I take every opportunity that comes my way, so whether that be creating, writing, or being on TV more – I’m down for wherever life takes me. I currently work for Barton G, a crazy over-the-top restaurant that strives to give people a dining experience they’ve never had. I am working on some insane desserts that I am really excited to show the public, and been having the time of my life working with such creative minds that push me to make things I have only dreamed of.

TrunkSpace: If the Monopoly guy showed up one day with a blank check for you 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 Scott: If I am going to open my own place, and pour my heart and soul into it – everything about that place has to revolve around my passions. I am a simple person at heart, and I need the beach, peace and good food in my life. I recently fell in love with San Sebastian in Spain, so I would absolutely need to open a place there right next to the water so that I could see that type of beauty every day. Two things on the menu – sandwiches and ice cream! I can never eat enough of both, and they are the only two things I could ever imagine obsessing over day in and day out to make sure that my guests felt the love of my passion through my food and the environment I had them in.

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Musical Mondaze

We Were Sharks

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Like certain shark breeds and their inability to remain still even while sleeping, Canadian pop/punk rockers We Were Sharks are constantly swimming, touring relentlessly in support of their infectious music. Their latest album, “Lost Touch,” was released earlier this year on Victory Records to both critical and fan praise.

We recently sat down with guitarist Jason Mooney to discuss the comfort of life on the road, how “Lost Touch” is directly influencing what they write next, and why they always try to make themselves as accessible to fans as possible.

TrunkSpace: Some bands hit the road out of necessity, but we get the sense that you guys still love it as much today as you did when you first got together. Do you find you’re still experiencing “firsts” out there on the highways and byways as you tour? Does it still feel fresh?
Mooney: That’s a really great question! Touring is definitely a necessity, but we definitely still love it. We still have firsts! Even if that means stopping into a different WaWa/Sheetz for the first time. For me, personally, I actually love coming back to the towns and venues that we’ve played before. There is this strange feeling of comfort and appreciation for this lifestyle that I get when I can navigate my way around a place that is so far from home.

TrunkSpace: A lot of people use writing music as a form of personal therapy – a way to work out whatever demons they have. Does performing have therapeutic benefits as well? Can you get in front of a crowd and come off the stage a different person than as you went on?
Mooney: I find performing to be absolutely therapeutic. I hit the strings a little harder, shout into the crowd a little louder, but that just describes aggression. There’s also the moments while performing when I look across the stage and share a laugh with one of the guys in the band. I can definitely say that there have been times where it feels like a “bad day,” then I look forward to the show because chances are I’ll get it all out within 30 minutes and come off feeling a little lighter and in a better headspace.

TrunkSpace: Is there a song that you dig playing live that maybe you weren’t as happy with on the record? Can a tune have a different personality on the stage than it does in the studio?
Mooney: I love all of the songs but there definitely are songs that take on a different personality when played live. For me, one song in particular is “Never Looked Better.” It’s a track that I love listening to, but I didn’t think it was going to make it into the live catalog. We began playing it live and it has had an awesome reaction. We’ve had show-goers tell us that it’s their favorite song, or they come up before the set and tell us that they hope we play it.

Instead of writing set lists, maybe we should just take requests live.

TrunkSpace: Your latest album, “Lost Touch” was released earlier this year, your first on Victory Records. Did having a label change give the experience, both in the studio and post release, that fresh car scent?
Mooney: It was definitely a different experience. What made it all the more different was having a team working on making sure that we have a successful release, as well as a team making sure the songs were the best they can be.

TrunkSpace: Do albums become a bit like chapters of your life? Does it become, “These were my ‘Lost Touch’ years and those were my ‘Not a Chance’ years”?
Mooney: I think that they show chapters of our experience of being songwriters. The experience we had writing and recording “Lost Touch” and seeing what works live has definitely influenced us in what we need to do next.

TrunkSpace: What do you get writing and performing within a band, and this band in particular, that you can’t access from a solo mindset? What are the benefits for you personally in having a group of people fighting the fight alongside of you?
Mooney: From a solo mindset, my voice sounds like nails on a chalkboard. So, solo for me is impossible. (Laughter)

But it’s the feeling of sharing your passion and drive with like-minded individuals. Nothing comes easy and being able to work together with a group to overcome challenges and then share those wins together — that’s what I have always loved about being in a band.

TrunkSpace: You guys have no doubt experienced a lot together over the years. After everything you’ve been through… and the point of view changes that come with age… do you see the band differently now than you did when it first came together? Does it serve a different purpose in 2018 than it did at the outset?
Mooney: I don’t think the point of view has ever changed. We accomplish goals and set new ones. Being in a band is a lot like pushing a boulder up a hill. When it comes down to the fundamentals, I think from the beginning it’s always been about writing music that we enjoy that can create a great live experience for those who come and see us.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your musical career thus far – the moment that you will carry with you through the rest of your life?
Mooney: There are dozens of highlights and we are always creating amazing new memories. I think the release day of “Lost Touch” is something that my memory always returns to. We worked so unbelievably hard to create a full album that we are so proud of, and on that day, it was made available for everyone to hear.

TrunkSpace: What are your thoughts on the status of the music industry as a whole in 2018? Are you optimistic for the future in terms of the torch being carried by the next generation of kids coming up in the musical ranks?
Mooney: I do feel optimistic. Popular music genres, styles and musical tastes will always change. Technology will always evolve. Music is the one thing that will always bring people together and no matter where a person is, or the state of the world, music will continue to be made, and someone will always want to share it. I never think that a torch is passed down, or passed along. I think we all carry the torch together, and every year, there’s new determined artists who want to join in carrying that torch.

TrunkSpace: Fan feedback can often be the fuel that powers the creative brain because its evidence that the art is hitting its mark. What’s the most powerful fan feedback or interaction you have received that has made it all worth the journey?
Mooney: Someone at a show in Long Island, NY once told me how much they appreciated how we interact with everyone when we’re off stage.

As an artist, we try to meet and thank as many show-goers as possible. We do our best to take time and speak to as many people as we can at shows. When someone comes to the merch table, we focus on the experience. Even for the band member who grabs a beer at the bar, you may have an opportunity to talk to someone hanging out nearby. We’re all human, I believe we all try to be good people. Meeting someone and taking the time to talk to them can do wonders. You never know what life experiences a person has gone through or the steps they took prior to getting to your show. We always have the opportunity to be the shining light in somebody’s day.

Lost Touch” is available now on Victory Records.

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Wingman Wednesday

Sydney Viengluang

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PHOTOGRAPHY: JSquared/HAIR: Jaycee Mnirajd/MAKE-UP: Aly Barr/STYLING: Sky JT Naval

As part of the ensemble cast of “Z Nation,” Sydney Viengluang has helped to bring life to some unbelievable storytelling, but it’s her own family’s journey from refugee camps in Thailand and the Philippines that is even more incredible than those on-screen zombies that she faces. While the actress is enjoying her science fiction ride in a post-apocalyptic world, she looks forward to telling more of her own story and has been thinking of ways to build a cinematic narrative around the displacement of Loatians following the Vietnam War.

We recently sat down with Viengluang to discuss her most surreal “Z Nation” moment, getting to interact with the fandom, and why she hopes to show that “other” is not something that should be feared.

TrunkSpace: “Z Nation” seems like the kind of show where you’re not only working hard, but you’re having a good time while doing it. What has your personal experience been like getting to work on the series for the past three years? How has it changed your life?
Viengluang: Definitely. It’s such a fun show to be on. I look forward to flying up to beautiful eastern Washington to shoot for the summer every year. It’s just been a great experience to work with an easy-going cast and crew that don’t take themselves too seriously. My life hasn’t really changed much from day to day, but it’s really nice to have a growing fan base. Getting to interact with fans on social media is always exciting, especially knowing that I’m inspiring some of them.

TrunkSpace: There is always some crazy, over-the-top (generally zombie-related) moment that occurs in our favorite episodes of “Z Nation.” What has been one of your more surreal, “pinch me, I’m dreaming” experiences while playing Dr. Sun Mei?
Viengluang: I think my very first episode in Season 3 was my “pinch me” moment. I distinctly remember waiting on set to be called in for the big scene where my whole crew dies, and I had a moment where I said to myself, “It’s happening. I’m here getting paid to be an actor. I can’t believe it.” I had done other TV roles, but it was a major recurring guest character and on an already established popular show. It was surreal.

TrunkSpace: When zombies are involved, there’s got to always be that little voice in your head second-guessing if you’ll be on the receiving end of a bite each week. Do you breathe a sigh of relief after you receive each script, happy to see that the Doctor survived another episode?
Viengluang: (Laughter) Yes, exactly. I think the fans out there have a saying, “Never trust the Z Nation writers” or something to that effect. Nobody is immune to getting killed off. I guess that makes it a bit exciting and nerve wracking for the viewers.

TrunkSpace: As we mentioned, you’re now in your third season of “Z Nation.” What has the experience been like for you to get to play a character over an extended period of time?
Viengluang: It’s been great to evolve with Sun Mei and see how she’s evolved herself over the years. The great thing about Sun Mei this year is she gets to do more of the scientific stuff with the Talkers and I think I get to show her softer side. It’s been quite a journey for her and I’m glad I don’t get to just play a normal doctor in a hospital or lab all the time throughout all three seasons.

TrunkSpace: “Z Nation” has some very passionate fans. Were you surprised by how supportive people were of the show after you started working on it? How soon was it after your character premiered that you could feel the reach of the fandom?
Viengluang: Oh yes! The fans are what make the show. I didn’t realize how passionate and hardcore zombie/horror fans were until I was starting to get fans reaching out on social media from the very beginning of the promos being released for Season 3. They were already making memes and videos after my first episode. They’re some of the most loyal and nice fans out there.

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, you first got involved in the film industry on the business/finance side. Do you think having that knowledge of how things work behind the scenes has helped you better navigate your career in front of the camera?
Viengluang: Definitely. As an actor, you have to be the CEO of your own “company,” so business acumen has helped me throughout my career.

TrunkSpace: You work in an industry where incredible stories are told day after day, but you have an incredible story of your own. Just reading about what your family had to overcome, and how they did it, it’s really amazing. Have you thought about turning your own journey into a film or series?
Viengluang: Yes, very much. I have a few ideas that have been brewing in my head for a while now. I definitely want to shine a light on the Secret War and the displacement of Laotians after the Vietnam War era. There are so many stories to tell that have yet to be told from our perspective.

PHOTOGRAPHY: JSquared/HAIR: Jaycee Mnirajd/MAKE-UP: Aly Barr/STYLING: Sky JT Naval

TrunkSpace: You spent the first two years of your life in refugee camps in Thailand and the Philippines before your family relocated to Kansas. When you see what’s happening now – the political and social divide that is continuing to form over how people are coming to this country – how does that make you feel given your own family’s experiences?
Viengluang: It hurts my heart, honestly. It’s hard not to turn on the news and read about these horrific things done to refugee families, all because they wanted a better life for themselves. It hits close to home and I try my best to do some good by giving a face and name to the term “refugee” and “immigrant.” I hope that just by living by example I can show people out there that being “other” is not something to fear. I think the world would be a much better place if we all try to show a bit more compassion to those that don’t look like us.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far and why?
Viengluang: I think playing Sun Mei for three seasons and to grow and evolve with her has been a highlight. To be able to reach fans and people across the nation and world is one of the reasons I do what I do. Playing Sun Mei has given me the privilege to use my platform for topics outside of industry related issues that I’m passionate about.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question! If you could jump ahead a decade and get a glimpse of what your career looks like 10 years from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Viengluang: I don’t think so. I think the exciting part about life is creating goals and getting to experience them manifest and unfold. It would take the fun out of it if I knew exactly how everything would turn out.

Z Nation” airs Fridays on Syfy.

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Wingman Wednesday

Lindsey Gort

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Television can be a cruel place these days. While shows like “The Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones” have prepared audiences for the “no one is safe!” approach to character consumption, we still can’t help but be disappointed when our favorite performers meet their fictional demise. That was very much the case when Lindsey Gort’s Amy Rohrbach took a surprise exit from “Titans,” leaving many fans of the DC Universe series to speculate if it was all just some twisting ruse.

Unfortunately, it looks like Amy, a character with such great potential, is permanently on the slab.

We recently sat down with Gort to discuss why she doesn’t take no for an answer, how the worst day on set beats the best day in the hospitality industry, and the artist whose lyrics she once considered tattooing on her body.

TrunkSpace: You and your husband recently opened a restaurant in Los Angeles. Between that and “Titans” debuting all at the same time, it must be a bit of a “when it rains, it pours” situation?
Gort: Yes. There’s never been a dull moment in our house. (Laughter) We’ve been working on this restaurant for a couple years and we’ve opened up two other ones before that. We still haven’t taken a honeymoon because of this. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: There must be parallels between filmmaking and opening a restaurant because as much as you can plan for things, something always happens that sends you for a loop.
Gort: Yeah. For our restaurant, for instance, it was scheduled to open in July and then it got pushed and it got pushed and it got pushed. It’s sort of the same thing with television pilots. You just can’t ever put all of your eggs in one basket. You never know what’s going to happen, what the schedule will dictate. You kind of just keep moving forward.

TrunkSpace: As an actress, is part of protecting yourself in that process not getting too attached to a character or project in the early going, just in case it doesn’t move forward?
Gort: Yeah. It’s definitely a learning experience because I was lucky that my first real job on a television show was on “The Carrie Diaries” and it was my first time testing and I sort of was naïve at thinking, “Well, everything works out.” (Laughter) It’s sort of a joke that when something doesn’t move forward, I still don’t take that as a no. I think it’s just a maybe. “You just never know!”

But I’ve worked now enough on pilots that were 100 percent going forward and then suddenly, they don’t go forward. And you never know how things will come out in editing or for shows that are on the air. I always find that the best part is just showing up to set. I’ve worked in every department of hospitality before this, so I’ve been a bartender and a waitress and a hostess and a reservation agent, and my worst day on set is better than my best day working in hospitality. If I look at it like that, there’s no loss, no matter what.

TrunkSpace: For the audience, the end product is always what we remember, but for those involved, it’s like you said… it’s the experience and the time on set that you take with you for the rest of your life.
Gort: Yeah, and there’s so much for “Titans.” For instance, I don’t even know how much I’m supposed to say, but my character had a different storyline when we first started and then certain things happened with the way they decided to move forward with the series. I don’t want to give anything away, but my character had to sort of be chopped down into something else, which I think is why people still don’t believe that she’s dead because it just seems so sudden. For me, watching it was much different than what I experienced shooting it.

Pilots are always so fun because, like with “Titans,” even though it was a go, it’s still the first time people are seeing characters and seeing this vision come to life. To be a part of that is fun and everyone’s excited. It’s like Christmas morning everyday because everyone’s just like, “Oh my god, it’s so cool! Look at this! Look at this new set!” It’s like summer camp. It’s like hanging out with friends and creating something, but you really do have to just let it go after that because you just never know what happens once you leave.

From Gort’s Instagram: @lindseygort

TrunkSpace: Is there a different kind of energy in the early going when you’re working on something that you know has an established audience?
Gort: I think so. I think that there is such a fantastical element to it that isn’t necessarily found in a multi-cam or a procedural. There’s something very childlike about doing a superhero show because it’s what little kids dream they are. You have a lot more make believe and fun, and the drama’s heightened. For that, it’s really fun, but it is also a responsibility to the people who loved the comic books and have very strong feelings about these characters and who they are and what they represent to them in their own life.

At least for my character, I knew that they were creating her much different than what the comic books were. My Amy was going to be a former Marine and she had tattoos and piercings. I was excited for that because I don’t normally get to play that kind of character, which is more of who I am as a person, so I was excited about that. But yeah, I do think there was a heightened element of excitement for doing a superhero show.

TrunkSpace: What must have been a bit freeing for you is, while Amy is an established character in the DC Universe, she isn’t as iconic as those some of your co-stars were portraying, so there’s a bit less pressure involved in having to deliver on fan expectations.
Gort: Yeah, my first experience was playing an iconic character, Samantha Jones. There’s not more pressure on anybody than to be that person. (Laughter) I really do enjoy playing, recreating, famous characters. I don’t know why, but I do like doing that.

I wanted to sort of do some kind of homage to the comic books in some way if I was able to, but at the same time, I was excited to create a totally different backstory – they felt the freedom to do that, to give her a military background and make her a little bit tougher than just a “girl detective.” She was going to be a very strong female in the police force, and that isn’t necessarily always seen.

Gort with Tom Ellis in “Lucifer”

TrunkSpace: You mentioned that Amy got to rock some tattoos. What was that experience like, getting to look down and see a big forearm tat that wasn’t there before? Did it take some getting used to?
Gort: When I was 18, I moved to New York to be in a punk rock band. I had a bunch of tattoos. My ears are actually still gauged. I had always wanted tattoos and I would draw them on myself. I look back now and if I had gotten the tattoos I wanted, I would never have found a husband. (Laughter) They were horrible tattoos, like so emo. The band AFI? I wanted quotes from them.

And I’m sorry if you have quotes from that band. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Scribbling them off right now!
Gort: (Laughter) “I’m making an appointment at LaserAway.”

But that is sort of more true to who I am. When I moved to LA, I thought I wanted to be an actor, but I wasn’t really sure what I was doing. I’m primarily a singer and I went to an acting class and I had long, black hair and I wore all black. The teacher was like, “You’ll never be the most alternative person in a room, so if you want a shot at acting, you’re going to have to be blonde and try to be a leading lady. Take out your piercings.”

At first I was like, “Fuck her, she doesn’t know anything!” Then, I tried it and it worked and now it’s sort of a running joke that I mostly play strippers and prostitutes, or highly-sexualized women, which is not who I wear on my sleeve. And Geoff Johns actually… when they offered me the role of Amy, he had seen my work from playing a stripper on “Lucifer,” so to see me playing that and think, “Oh yeah, she could play this other character,” was awesome. I was really excited.

New episodes of “Titans” debut every Friday on the DC Universe streaming service.

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Deep Focus

Jenna Laurenzo

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Photo By: Mitch Tobias

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 Jenna Laurenzo, writer, director and star of the new comedy “Lez Bomb,” about the catch-22 of getting a movie made, why the film was so personal, and the reason declaring yourself a vegetarian at a family gathering can be so stressful.

TrunkSpace: You first started writing the film eight years ago. That’s a long journey to see your vision become a reality. Was there ever a point where you thought it wasn’t going to happen?
Laurenzo: Well, yeah. I had about six years trying to attach a star and a director. And you don’t have money and then it’s like, well what comes first –  the cast or the director or the money? Or the money bringing the cast and the director? It’s this catch-22 to fill this kind of puzzle, and I just figured I had to do both if it was ever going to happen. But see, that whole time everybody kept telling me how it was going to happen and sometimes it’s hard to not see those pieces of advice as if they are facts. I think only after a while do you realize that nobody has the answer. You have to figure it out. There’s no set path.

TrunkSpace: No two films are made the same exact way.
Laurenzo: Yeah. And you’re a novice or looking for advice every which way, and then you just have to learn which advice to take and which advice to let go. You just have to do it, there’s really no other way to figure it out except to figure it out.

TrunkSpace: In writing the script, you drew heavily on your own coming out experience. This being your first feature, and because your own story is woven into the narrative, do you feel exposed in that you’re putting yourself out there in multiple ways?
Laurenzo: Oh my gosh, absolutely! (Laughter) I had this moment where I was like, “What have I done?” I really just thought it was important for me to make this. It was so important – I had to do it. I felt like I needed the story and I felt there’s somebody out there that also needed it. That kept my passion very much alive throughout the process.

But then the moment, the day, we released the trailer… that day I texted my friend who has made a bunch of projects and has been in the public eye, and I was like, “What have I done? Is this how you feel?” It just dawned on me that all of a sudden that I don’t… I can’t articulate it. I felt very exposed and vulnerable.

TrunkSpace: It makes total sense. You wore so many hats in bringing the film to life. As far as judgment goes, the audience will be looking at all of these different elements of your creative self. Once the opening is over though, you’ll probably be able to enjoy it all more.
Laurenzo: Yeah. I was having this talk with my friend last week. And we were just talking about life lessons and putting everything in perspective. I was talking about how I was on this ship once and almost died. And she was like, “Look, nothing will be as bad as that.” I was like, “That’s a good way to think about it.”

TrunkSpace: Sometimes success is scary, especially for artists.
Laurenzo: Yeah. And I think that in general, my strength as a writer comes from the fact that I’m a very sensitive and vulnerable person. So yes, that’s my strength as a writer, but that’s also what makes me a sensitive soul in life. (Laughter) I think sometimes our greatest strengths are also our greatest weaknesses. It just sort of depends on which side of the pendulum we’re on.

TrunkSpace: Because so much of Lauren’s story is your own, was it important for you to portray her on camera?
Laurenzo: I ultimately was planning on finding an actress to play that role. It just never happened without the financing or a director attachment. And that’s how I ultimately made the decision to play that role. Now, in looking back, I’m glad that decision was made. I felt like it was invaluable. It was an invaluable lesson on a lot of different fronts, but I had thought very longingly about playing the role, or the girlfriend.

TrunkSpace: Knowing what you know now, would it have been odd to see somebody else take on Lauren?
Laurenzo: Yeah. I think in looking back I’m glad I ultimately played that role because the story journey and the arc of that character’s emotions is very much grounded in my personal journey. I am glad that I was able to bring that to the role.

It was definitely an interesting process, falling back into those emotions that I had gone through years earlier. I even felt my body taking on these habitual tensions that I had gotten over. And all of a sudden I was like, “Oh yeah, I remember when my shoulders used to be tense this way. Oh, isn’t that interesting?” I thought it was an interesting journey as an actor, and spiritually, as I felt like I learned a lot about myself as a person and storyteller.

TrunkSpace: Do you think part of that return to old habits like the tension was because you shot the film at your childhood home?
Laurenzo: I think there is something wonderful about the fact that we shot in the house because it was just so colored with nuance in a way that I think is sometimes challenging to fake, particularly since the actors were playing a lot of real people from my real life. And I wrote this script around the locations I had access to, which made the execution a lot easier.

TrunkSpace: Which is a smart way to do it because then you make your job easier when you get further into the process.
Laurenzo: Yeah. When grandma rounds the corner, I knew what corner I was talking about. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: As far as your director’s vision, did you achieve your creative goals with the film?
Laurenzo: I kept thinking about who the audience was that I was trying to communicate with and make the film for them. I had a mentor of mine who kept asking me how I wanted to push the LGBTQ narrative forward. The tradition of those films… how did I want to push them forward? And it was important for me that the film was funny, that this film had a happy ending and that the aspect of coming out that was being explored was felt in acceptance versus the external pressures. I felt oftentimes the assumption is the external pressures is what make that journey ultimately the most challenging, and it’s self-acceptance that is sometimes overlooked. But the self-acceptance is ultimately what’s relatable to those who have not had to come out.

I really wanted to tell this story in a way that people who have not necessarily had to go through this journey can relate to while also serving as a dysfunctional family comedy that would expand beyond the built-in audience that I had in mind. And that families could potentially enjoy it together and maybe it would spark a dialogue if there was one that was needed. If not, just a lot of laughter. And in looking back and looking at the dreams we had, and the conversations, and Q and A’s, I feel happy because I think that I executed that.

TrunkSpace: Well, placing the story at Thanksgiving was a perfect way to make it relatable because everyone can connect to coming home to a big family function and the stresses that go along with that.
Laurenzo: Absolutely. And there’s just something so relatable, in my opinion, about coming home with any news to the family because you always wonder how the family is going to receive the news. I remember thinking about that when I wanted to switch my major. Or when I wanted to talk about my major or – and I joke about this in the movies – when I came home and was like, “I’m a vegetarian.” That was this whole thing. So sexuality… just coming home with any news is always eventful!

Lez Bomb” opens in select theaters and on digital HD tomorrow.

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Wingman Wednesday

Adam Carbone

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This week we’re taking an extended look at the inspirational indie “Randy’s Canvas,” a moving tale about a young man with autism who is on a journey of love and self-acceptance. Starring Adam Carbone, Kevin G. Schmidt, Scout Taylor-Compton, Massi Furlan, Michael Emery, Richard Riehle and Marycarmen Lopez, the film is available now on digital HD.

Next up we’re chatting with star Adam Carbone to discuss fighting for the role, proving through his performance that he was the right choice, and why he’s hoping “Randy’s Canvas” will serve as a multi-layered calling card.

TrunkSpace: You began working on “Randy’s Canvas years ago.” Why was it important for you to be a part of this film and get the story out into the world?
Carbone: I think it is very important because, at least to me, it gives more of a mass understanding of autism in general. Even myself, before I started the movie, I didn’t really know too much about it. I knew friends who had it, but I just never understood it. Once I started researching for the film and studying with kids from the Autism Project, I really started to grasp what it was and really understood what it’s like to have autism, or to be anywhere on the spectrum. It’s very different. It’s not just a broad stroke, which is what I thought before. It’s individuality with autism sprinkled on top, and at all different levels and with all different capabilities. I think it’s important for the world to know that these kids, or anybody with autism, can still function and have a normal life. I think that’s the main point of the movie for me, to educate people.

TrunkSpace: Did you gain a better understanding of how Randy saw the world by sitting down with the kids from the Autism Project?
Carbone: Yeah, I did. Actually, a lot of them are still my friends and I do other films with them and stuff now, too. It was really cool, because they all have their own quirky personalities, and they’re all good at something. It’s just really cool to see the differences in them, and really realize that they’re just people who just happen to have autism at different levels of it. That was the eye opener for me, because I just didn’t know too much.

TrunkSpace: Randy is a big character to tackle because of the size and scope of the role. Did you feel pressure carrying the title character of the film?
Carbone: Yeah, definitely, because to me, when I first read the script, it was a lot of dialogue and I always consider myself to have a bad memory. I was like, “Oh, this is gonna be so hard!” (Laughter) But, it actually wasn’t. I kind of got right into it and I just became Randy. I literally just blocked everything outside of my mind, and I just got into it. One of the things that Sean (Michael Beyer), the director, taught me was just to listen to the other people’s lines. “Just listen to them and you’ll react accordingly.”

But still, it was little bit overwhelming because it’s the anchor of this film, and it’s all about Randy. It was very important to me to be accurate with the autism, and not to let the people at the Autism Project down, or anybody with autism, or anybody that wants to learn about autism. But, something deep down inside me knew I had it, and it was almost to prove people wrong, because I’m kind of a newcomer when it comes to drama acting. A lot of people didn’t believe in me. They were like, “Oh…” They were kind of questioning the director. To me, it was like, “Oh, that’s a challenge!”

TrunkSpace: You had a relationship with Sean prior to working on the film together. Did that make it easier for you… more comfortable… to just jump in and hit the ground running?
Carbone: I think that was the key to it. Sean just knew that I was right for the role. I think we both knew that, because I’m kind of quirky and strange like Randy is, in person, as well. Yeah, it definitely helped knowing Sean before. We had a working relationship for years.

Carbone with Richard Riehle in “Randy’s Canvas”

TrunkSpace: You mentioned that a lot of people didn’t believe in your ability to carry the role of Randy, but Sean did and he really fought for you. Was that a confidence boost?
Carbone: Yes, it was, because I felt like the whole world was against me being Randy, and then Sean was like, “Just trust me on this one. He’s got it.” That definitely helped. So that’s deep down when I knew that everything was fine, especially after we did my first scenes. I think the first scene we shot was when I freaked out at the gallery. Just in that scene alone, that was when I even felt it, because I was like, “Wow. Okay, I get who Randy is now. I get how he ticks and how he works.” It was another person and I was almost like a vessel for him – it wasn’t even me. It was like autopilot.

TrunkSpace: You served as producer on the film as well. Is it your hope that “Randy’s Canvas” will serve as a calling card of what you’re capable of, not only as an actor, but behind the scenes as well?
Carbone: Yes, absolutely. I think that would definitely help me in my career, because I definitely want to do more. I come from a comedy world – I do a lot of standup comedy and comedy sketches – so to me, just to prove even to myself, “Look what you did. Look what you can do.” It kind of gives me hope for the future stuff, especially producing. I wear many hats. I produce, I direct, I act, I write, I edit – all that stuff. So it’s exciting just to show the world, “Look, hire me.” (Laughter)

Randy’s Canvas” is available now on digital HD.

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Wingman Wednesday

Robert Longstreet

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There is a lot to get lost in when sitting down to binge the Netflix series “The Haunting of Hill House,” a family drama/horror hybrid based on the 1959 Shirley Jackson novel and reimagined by filmmaker Mike Flanagan. The element of the nail-biter that most enamored us didn’t come from the scares or the story itself, but instead, the performance of actor Robert Longstreet, who took a supporting character in handyman Mr. Dudley and turned him into a memorable piece of an already-stellar ensemble. His mesmerizing monologue in the episode “Eulogy” was not only a highlight of the series, but one of the finest pieces of dramatic acting that we have seen in quite some time.

We recently sat down with Longstreet to discuss how he nailed the monologue in only four takes, why he’s happy to be peaking in his 50s, and the reason he can no longer leave the house without showering.

TrunkSpace: This must be a bit of a wild ride for you, from when you booked the gig as Mr. Dudley to now. What has the experience as a whole been like?
Longstreet: It started out so crazy. I got this audition and had that monologue for two days and memorized it for the audition, and then I got a call in the car driving home that they had booked me a plane ticket. I was on a flight at 5:30 the next morning and then standing in front of the mansion with Henry (Thomas) the day after that, so it was just a whirlwind.

TrunkSpace: So the monologue was what landed you the part?
Longstreet: Yeah, it was between me and a couple of people, and Anne McCarthy (the casting director) sent the takes to Mike (Flanagan), and he chose me, which was incredible.

TrunkSpace: There’s been so much love on social media for that monologue. For us, it was easily one of the most moving aspects of the season…
Longstreet: Oh, thank you so much. Yeah, I’m so proud of it. It’s overwhelming because I’ve heard from people that I haven’t heard from in years who have seen it, and I’ve definitely gotten some offers, but I’m being picky and chasing good writing. It’s just been unreal. And I’m not on any social media at all. In fact, Mike was so generous – he read me some Tweets on set last week. He said, “Do a Twitter search. There’s love for you all over the place.” And I said, I don’t even know what a Twitter search is, Mike.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Well, that’s probably not a terrible thing because whenever there’s love on socials, there’s always a corner of the Web filled with negativity just for the sake of negativity.
Longstreet: I’m sure, and that’s the Devil’s bargain of that – if you believe the good stuff, you have to believe the bad, too. If I agree with a bad review or someone says something shitty about me, it crushes me.

TrunkSpace: With this project and your work in it, we have seen nothing but good things being said.
Longstreet: Oh, I’m so glad. Thank God. Yeah, I would just dissolve. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: You mentioned that you’re chasing good writing. With this project in particular, beyond your monologue alone, it seemed like a real actor’s project. Every actor had their moment, their own monologue, and it just felt like this was a piece that was written for actors as opposed to – and especially in the horror genre – the acting being an afterthought.
Longstreet: Right. Exactly, and those are the things that you just don’t care about. If you go to a movie and you watch 50 million people get shot and you’re not invested in any one of them, it just becomes a bore. But Mike is a real actor’s director and in a way that is kind of shocking. He’s trying to build an ensemble and a family, and he brings people back, and he says, “I’m going to give you something completely and utterly different the next time.” And you can trust him because he really does it!

And the way that he directs actors is with such gentle care. He sets it up so easy and talks to you so calmly and sweetly and is usually joking most of the time with you to try to relax you. He’s really cognizant of what actors need, and he just gives you only active direction. He doesn’t confuse you. It’s very brief, but really succinct. He just knows exactly what he wants and exactly how to make an actor comfortable to get it.

TrunkSpace: With that in mind, and going back to your monologue, was that always intended to be shot without cutaways? Was it always supposed to be JUST you?
Longstreet: Yes! I think there was a safety built into it in case it didn’t work, but that was four pages long, and we did four takes, and the fourth take is the one that’s in the show. He (Mike) came up to me after I had botched three of them… every time I got to the daughter, it was so painful, my mind would just blank out… and so he came up to me, and he said, “We’ve got it. We have got this thing, and I can cut to Henry and cut to his reactions and do it, but if you get through it once all the way, it’ll be art.” And I was like, “Well, hell, yes, let’s do that immediately.” Then we did it! He completely took the pressure off of me and said, “Let’s just do it again for shits and giggles.”

TrunkSpace: Another powerful moment that you delivered on was in the very last episode when you’re carrying your daughter out of the house. There’s just something about your body language that is… it’s such a gut punch.
Longstreet: Oh, it’s just brutal. It’s the weight of the world, and her dead weight is just sinking me down beneath the floor boards. That’s someone who’s lost everything. I feel so bad for the Dudleys. I really do. They’re just in hell.

TrunkSpace: For the viewer there was this sense of there being something ominous about the Dudleys right up to that point where you delivered the monologue in the basement. Was that always the intention?
Longstreet: That’d be a really great question for Mike. I think so. I think it was, to have them be a mystery. They’re kind of caught up in this whole thing, too, and they don’t have a lot of options. I mean, they live right there on the property! They’re old enough where I don’t see them being able to change careers or do anything different. They’re not nefarious, but they have to be very careful to dole out their information as well as they think that the current occupants of the house can handle it, or we’d be out.

Longstreet in “The Haunting of Hill House.”

TrunkSpace: Right. If you came on too strong, you’d be out on your butts and then you would lose that connection to your first born.
Longstreet: Definitely, and I actually think there’s a loving part of them that they’re the caretakers of the house and also trying to be the caretakers of the occupants of the house because they know how bad it is. They’re playing tricks with the magic of it. They know if they get out before dark, they’re away from all the evil. We try to encourage people to pray. We try to encourage people to do little, subtle things to try to get a little more light into that house. We just have to be very careful, or we’d be out, and we’re the police of that place.

TrunkSpace: What’s so interesting is that while most of the characters had their story arcs wrap up, in a lot of ways, the Dudleys ending was really just the beginning.
Longstreet: Well, I’d better get my old ass there just in time, too. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Don’t drive any vehicles too fast!
Longstreet: No! God, I’m being very careful until I can make it up there myself.

TrunkSpace: Has this series been a game changer for you? Has it altered the way you’re viewing your career moving forward?
Longstreet: Oh, it definitely has. It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done, and I’ve made like 70-something movies. Probably in the first three days, as many people saw this show as had ever seen my entire career of movies. (Laughter) So it’s a game changer that way… and becoming friends with Mike. He’s someone that I genuinely love and trust now, so that’s actually the biggest game changer. And he put me in “Doctor Sleep” immediately. He said, “We’re going to work on a million things together,” and everybody says that, and I was like, “Yeah, right, right.” And then in four months, I was working with him again, so I will never doubt that man again.

TrunkSpace: We’ve seen people call you an overnight success, but with more than 70 movies under your belt, there’s nothing overnight about that. Is that a little strange to hear, knowing how hard and how long you’ve been working?
Longstreet: Yes, but I think it’s always that way for people. I’m starting to take off in my 50s, which is so… I guess that’s better than peaking in high school, but it feels so strange. It definitely feels like it’s kicked into gear.

I would say like it’s a Sisyphean journey, but I’m Sisyphus who finally learned how to keep the rock at the top of the hill.

TrunkSpace: Peaking in your 50s has its benefits. So much of the early, adolescent self-consciousness is gone, which probably helps in this business.
Longstreet: Yes, and thank God. I didn’t start working until I had bags under my eyes. I had no character before. I looked like a doll, I think, and nobody knew what to do with me.

TrunkSpace: So was acting always the plan? Was there a plan B?
Longstreet: No. I mean, I loved music, and I wrote a lot of songs, and I did that, but if I ever got discouraged with acting, I would go back to working with the mentally handicapped. I was a medical counselor, and I loved that because it was nothing about me. The emphasis was all off me, and I could get refreshed that way through other people and then get back at it. I’ve stopped for periods of time and I tried to live in Wilmington, North Carolina, and be a normal guy for five years, but I’ve never been more depressed in my life.

TrunkSpace: Creatives tend to have a gypsy soul.
Longstreet: Yes, and you can put as many blankets as you want over it, but that gypsy soul will burrow right out again.

It was something that… I dared to dream, and the negative critic that we all have in our heads told me it would probably never happen, but I couldn’t stop. I was just too in love with it.

TrunkSpace: And thank God you didn’t stop. Your story is very inspirational. It’s a powerful message for people not to give up on their dreams.
Longstreet: I hope so. I would love it if someone could look at it and feel the same way, because I literally… 10 years ago, I felt as lost as ever probably. But I started doing it myself. I started finding scripts and executive producing things and giving myself really good roles in independent film, and that’s really hard. I don’t think I ever want to produce again, but if I hadn’t have done that, if I hadn’t made my own venue, I never would have even gotten to now.

TrunkSpace: Is success scary? Can it all become overwhelming at times?
Longstreet: Yeah, it is. That’s why I stay out of it so much. I try not to read anything and just live my own small life and hopefully am not cognizant of all that, because I think anyone can get sucked up and wrapped up in that.

I had a couple people point at me in the Atlanta airport, and I was like, “Ooh, that’s going to be a new thing.” (Laughter) I feel like a paranoid person anyway, so maybe it’s probably equal. Maybe it’s just sort of like leveled out now. (Laughter) But yeah, it’s a little shocking. Now you can’t walk out of your house after not showering for two days and go anywhere. You’ve got to be a little more careful.

Season 1 of “The Haunting of Hill House” is available now on Netflix.

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