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February 2020

Listen Up

Kevin Krauter

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With his second solo album, Full Hand, out today on Bayonet, Kevin Krauter is not the type of artist who consciously calculates where his creative endeavors take him.

I don’t really try to plan out big themes or sounds before I make an album, I just try my best to write and record music that makes me happy and I think what makes this release different is that I’m better at it now,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Krauter to discuss why he isn’t a “cool musician,” the four-letter word he’s as chill as, and the reason you may want to reconsider emailing him.

TrunkSpace: Your new album, Full Hand, drops February 28. What kind of emotions do you juggle with as you gear up to release new music to the masses?
Krauter: I don’t know, it’s hard to say ‘cause nothing really sticks out among the myriad of emotions that accumulate anytime you work on a huge project. But mostly at this point I’m just excited for people to finally hear all of it ‘cause there’s definitely a lot of it that I’m stoked on outside of the singles.

TrunkSpace: Are you someone who has a hard time letting go of what you create? Can it be difficult putting so much of yourself into something and then leaving it up to the universe to decide how it is perceived and accepted?
Krauter: Not really. I mean, I’ve heard it so much at this point that I feel a bit numb to it. But I pay very close attention to what people say about every release. I know it sounds weird – and cool musicians are supposed to say they don’t care and don’t pay attention – but I’m way too curious about what people say about me. (Laughter) I don’t really get too offended when people shit on my music honestly, but I simply have to know – like, I really can’t help it.

TrunkSpace: Full Hand is your second solo album. No one is closer to the music than you, so we wonder what you view as the biggest differences – both thematically and sonically – when lined up against your 2018 debut, Toss Up?
Krauter: That’s kind of hard to answer ‘cause I just see it all as a progression of what I’ve done before. I don’t really try to plan out big themes or sounds before I make an album, I just try my best to write and record music that makes me happy and I think what makes this release different is that I’m better at it now.

TrunkSpace: If someone sat down to listen to Full Hand front to back, what would they learn about you both as an artist and as a person?
Krauter: They would learn that I’m chill as fuck.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the new album?
Krauter: The lyrics.

TrunkSpace: What do you get out of creating music that you can’t achieve as a listener alone? Is it therapeutic to feed your emotions through songs?
Krauter: Yeah, for sure. I mean, if that element of catharsis wasn’t present I wouldn’t be doing it at all. It’s hard to say what I get out of it really – it’s more that I need to make it. Like someone who draws or paints is compelled to do both. I’m lucky I’ve had the privilege in my life to have those impulses encouraged and supported. Many people do not.

TrunkSpace: Would you rather create one album that sells millions of copies worldwide, or a lifetime of music that a small audience connects with?
Krauter: I don’t know. I haven’t had either happen to me yet so it’s hard to say.

TrunkSpace: In terms of the business side of music, what is the most difficult aspect of being an artist in 2020?
Krauter: Responding to emails.

Photo By: Rachel Cabitt

TrunkSpace: If you sat down with your 10-year-old self and gave him a glimpse of his future, would he be surprised by where his musical journey has taken him thus far?
Krauter: Yeah. Honestly, I think he’d be stoked as fuck. (Laughter) I wanted to be in a band for as long as I can remember and now I’m doing it. I would say maybe I’d be bummed about how broke I am, but I probably wouldn’t care.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Krauter: No way, man. I think seeing my future would either make me really depressed or just straight up go insane. Time travel is very freaky to me.

Full Hand is available now on Bayonet.

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Acid Tongue

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Photo By: Stephanie-Severance

Artist: Acid Tongue

Latest Release: Bullies (Freakout Records)

Hometown: Seattle, WA

Members: Guy Keltner/Ian Cunningham

TrunkSpace: The band is set to drop its latest album, Bullies, on March 13. What emotions do you juggle with as you prepare to release new music to the masses, particularly with something like this album, which is said to be the start of a new “polished” direction for the band?
Keltner: There’s a lot of relief associated with releasing this album. We started recording it before we had even finished our debut LP, Babies. It took about 18 months to finally pin down the last of the sessions, since they were all broken up between tours. We cut different pieces of it in Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles. Then we sat on it for a while so we could figure out the best way to release it. It’s a step up from anything we’ve done before, sonically, so we didn’t want to rush this one out like we have done with past releases.

TrunkSpace: You guys have been at it – writing, recording and touring – together since 2015. We mentioned the new direction for the band, but for you guys, what has the creative journey been like? What did your creative POV look like back in 2015 when it all began to where you are today on the eve of releasing Bullies? Do you see the music you’re creating differently now than you did then?
Keltner: We’re in a completely different headspace these days. Back in 2015 I was leaving my job working for a pretty large night club & festival in Seattle. My life here was in a tailspin so a lot of those early songs are really dark, the sessions were chaotic, and our live shows were all over the map. Since then, I spent a few years in Brooklyn, lived in Paris for a year, and did a ton of touring all over the world with Ian (Cunningham) and various other band members we picked up along the way. We’ve polished our writing process, we work better in the studio together, and we learned how to function like a well-oiled machine on the road. We’ve done a lot of growing up the past five years.

TrunkSpace: No one knows your music better than you. With that said, where do you hear the biggest differences between your first EP and what makes up Bullies today?
Keltner: The message in my lyrics has changed substantially over time. Back when we started out, especially on our first two EPs, a lot of the content was inspired by my dreams, weird lucid nightmares I’d have, and some very autobiographical moments from my personal life. Since then we’ve tackled adolescence (on Babies) and the arc of a short-lived romance (The Night We Broke Our Lease). This new record, Bullies, is all about that period in your late 20s and early 30s where you figure out who you are, what you want, what you’re willing to put up with in life, and maybe try and figure out what it all means and where things are going.

TrunkSpace: If someone sat down and listened to Bullies front to back, what would they learn about you guys upon that first dive into the music?
Keltner: We know how to write a decent riff. And hopefully they find the lyrics interesting.

TrunkSpace: Outside of the music itself, what did you want to accomplish with the production on Bullies that perhaps you were unable to achieve on earlier releases? Did you achieve your vision for the album as a whole when you called wrap on the process?
Keltner: I’m honestly really bored with a lot of contemporary rock records, so our main goal was to do something unique and interesting. We’ve totally been the type of band to go lo-fi, bedroom, fuzzy pop record. But we’re kind of growing out of that and wanted to take a stab at really banging out a neat little opus. Adding some serious synth lines and string arrangements was the cherry on top – these are things we don’t have a ton of experience with but we knew we wanted to explore during production. I think Bullies went way beyond what we originally envisioned, in the best possible way. Things grew and matured through a really natural and organic process.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Keltner: The title track started out so completely different from what you end up hearing. We had no clue where that song was headed, and one day it just clicked and became what it is now. We’re really proud of that one.

TrunkSpace: What do you get being in a band that you can’t achieve in a solo capacity? Does having another brain in the mix fuel your own creativity?
Keltner: Well, for one thing I think having Ian in the mix sets me up to focus on songwriting and my performance. I still stay deeply involved in our business, especially as it relates to my label, Freakout Records. However, Ian is really focused on our image, the graphics, the photos, the general branding of the band, and he’s a huge asset when we step into the production side of recording and start polishing up our songs. We have a nice relationship dividing up all the things a band needs to do to stay relevant, working and busy.

TrunkSpace: Are you more at home in the studio or on the stage, and if one feels more comfortable to you, why do you think that is?
Keltner: I go back and forth on this. I am always very comfortable on stage and in the studio, however there are drawbacks with both. I personally hate long drives and crappy food on the road. I used to love all the craziness, but after 30 you start to hate sleeping on couches and watching people party all night when you’re completely drained and exhausted. The studio can be a relaxing environment, but it can also be tedious and start to feel claustrophobic.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Keltner: We toured with the King Khan & BBQ Show last month. It was short, just three dates, but it was a ton of fun. My wife was their go-go dancer during their sets, and flew a friend up from LA to dance as well. They dressed up as sexy skunks and sprayed the crowd with water between their legs. Ian and I brought our buddy Ryan from Smokey Brights (a great act on Freakout), and had a killer time essentially partying every night with our friends. Literally nothing super special about this run of dates other than the fact that we’re really tight on stage right now, King Khan rules live, and I love traveling with my family and friends.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Keltner: Hell no. I love the surprises.

Bullies is due March 13 on Freakout Records. Their latest single, “Follow The Witch,” is available now.

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The Featured Presentation

Tyler Cotton

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Photo By: Noah Asanias

For Tyler Cotton, there has been nothing chilling about his adventure in acting since joining the cast of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Although he had originally auditioned for the part of Harvey, it was Melvin who he was hired to inhabit on screen – and for much longer than he ever anticipated at the time.

Melvin was only meant to be in one episode originally, so every day that I’m back on set I am so blessed and grateful,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Cotton to discuss the impact of the series on his personal life, forever friendships, and how he’d like to see the Boy Wonder factor into his career.

TrunkSpace: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has a huge following and a rabid fan base. Where has your life been impacted the most since joining the series as Melvin?
Cotton: One of the biggest impacts has been my day to day. Because of this amazing show I got to quit my day job and put all my energy and focus into this role/show and into my acting career.

TrunkSpace: Although grounded in reality, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is the kind of series where anything can happen. What was the craziest on-set moment that you experienced where you looked around and said to yourself, “Is this my life right now?”
Cotton: Every day is like that for me! Melvin was only meant to be in one episode originally, so every day that I’m back on set I am so blessed and grateful. I genuinely think that every day I’m on set I have a moment where I look around and think about how lucky I am to be where I am.

TrunkSpace: You’ve spent more than 10 episodes playing Melvin. At what point in the process do you start to feel like you know him as well as yourself?
Cotton: Every time I think I know Melvin I get a script that really makes me think about the character more and more. I feel like I know Melvin really well but then I get an opportunity to explore deeper into the character and that’s something that always excites me!

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, you originally auditioned for Harvey. In an alternate reality where you’re playing that character – do you think your journey since joining the series would have been dramatically different had you played a different character?
Cotton: Oh my god, my journey would have been extremely different but I’m also really happy with how things turned out! Ross (Lynch) is the perfect Harvey and does an amazing job and I really love Melvin.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on Chilling Adventures of Sabrina thus far that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Cotton: I mean I genuinely hope that the friendships I’ve made continue on. I’m so blessed to be on a show with such an amazing cast and crew and I feel like I’ve built some really strong connections with a bunch of people and those are relationships I’d like to keep!

TrunkSpace: What is the biggest lesson you’ve ever learned on set – any set – that you still apply to your work with every job you book?
Cotton: Respect. It sounds silly but respect is the biggest thing you can apply to your work on set. Respect the crew because they are there before you get there and long after. Respect your fellow actors, respect the work they have put in and respect their process on set.

TrunkSpace: Who has had the biggest impact on your career – whether through physical assistance or as a support system? Is there someone you feel has had a lasting impact on your path thus far?
Cotton: The answer to this will always be my parents. I’m so lucky to have the parents that I have – they have supported me through this extremely difficult career and continue to push me and help me grow as an actor and as a person.

TrunkSpace: Blank check question. If someone came to you tomorrow and said, “Tyler, here is an unlimited amount of money, I want you to go and make whatever project you want for yourself,” what kind would you put into develop and greenlight?
Cotton: Good question! My dream role is to play Robin (like Batman and Robin). Robin had his own comic book series that ran for 183 issues. I’d love to do a Robin series following those comics.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career as a whole thus far?
Cotton: Without a doubt this show has been the highlight of my career so far. Not only because it is an incredible show to be a part of but also because of the amazing cast and crew who put so much love into the show.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Cotton: I don’t think I would take that journey because then no matter the outcome I’ll always be thinking about that future instead of focusing on myself and my career right now. It would be tempting though!

Season 3 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is available now on Netflix.

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The Featured Presentation

Adam Faison

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Photo By: Brett Erickson

While the Freeform series Everything’s Gonna Be Okay is impacting viewers on a weekly basis, it has also left its mark on star Adam Faison, who, because of his time playing Alex, has been able to put a lot of his own life in perspective.

I think this show opened my eyes a lot to accepting the place that you are at in life and loving who you are in this moment,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Faison to discuss his connection to the series, ghost hunting with costar Kayla Cromer, and why poetry helps him find calm in the chaos.

TrunkSpace: You had a lot of heavy emotional experiences going on in your life when you started your journey with Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, some of which paralleled the narrative of the show. In a way, did the work – being on set – serve as a welcome distraction, and through that, do you feel like you have an even more personal connection to the series/work?
Faison: Yes, so I’ve been pretty open with sharing that before filming, my mom was diagnosed with cancer much like Nicholas’ dad is in the show. So, there was that personal connection. But I also felt a huge connection with the autism storylines in the series. Pretty much all throughout my mom’s adult life, she has been working with kids with special needs, so as a result I was exposed to kids with different abilities from a young age. Her department was called the “Inclusion Department” because it created an equal environment where kids with special needs were included in camp activities with neurnerotypical kids. It was an environment that was really combating ableism. And growing up seeing that, really had an impact on me and was something that made this project particularly so resonant for me. If we get another season, I’m going to try to get one of my childhood friends from camp, Matthew, onto the show as a background actor because all of characters on the show with autism are authentically cast, which is really special.

TrunkSpace: With those parallels present, do you feel like it helped you connect and understand Alex in a way that would have taken you more time with another character or another storyline?
Faison: I think that having a lot of friends on the spectrum growing up led to me having a really instant connection with Kayla (Cromer). We would FaceTime every Sunday and rehearse lines together and we would connect on our love of true crime (Mindhunter in particular), SVU, the paranormal and our crushes (Matthew Gray Gubler will always be her number one).

I remember there was one time we were hanging on set and I told her I might have spotted “an entity” in the rafters of our sound stage and she planned to bust out the ghost hunting equipment the next day. (Laughter) We just had some really fun times together and a really strong bond – I mean like, we call each other brother and sister – and I can’t help but think that made for an ever richer relationship on screen.

TrunkSpace: As a whole, where has Everything’s Gonna Be Okay impacted your life the most? How has it altered your path?
Faison: I think this show opened my eyes a lot to accepting the place that you are at in life and loving who you are in this moment. I think Alex is such a free and unabashedly happy person and me, as Adam, can struggle with that at times just because I have grown up so much of my life being told by people that who I am was too much. So, in a way, Alex feels a bit like the free, uninhibited version of myself when I was younger. Before all of that codeswitching.

TrunkSpace: The best art is always the kind that is saying something – doing more that just entertaining. The kind that leaves the audience, perhaps, thinking about something in a different way than when they began their journey. Do you feel like Everything’s Gonna Be Okay is that show, and what do you hope fans get out of it other than a momentary escape?
Faison: I think it’s really combating stereotypes in that it’s just depicting humans who are living their lives like everyone else. And I think anyone can relate to that. For example, take my dad: he’s a reserved military guy in his 60s and doesn’t exactly fit the demographic of this show. So, when he came to an early screening of the show, I’ll admit I was little nervous to hear what he might think. But after the screening ended, he actually stood up during the Q&A and he said, “At first, I didn’t really know why I enjoyed this show, but I think it’s about human connection. It’s got a lot of heart.” And I hope that’s what a lot of others see as well. This idea that although we may be different in our presenting identities, in the end, we are all just humans with the same basic needs.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on Everything’s Gonna Be Okay thus far that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Faison: I guess, that sometimes life throws you curve balls but nothing is insurmountable. This message rings true in many facets of the show, but in particular I felt this in the relationship between Alex and Nicholas (played by Josh Thomas). Like, going into the season (and kind of throughout, actually), Nicholas has some real baggage he is dealing with, and many potential suitors might have shied away from him. And yet, the character of Alex really meets Nicholas halfway with where he’s at in his life. I think this was particularly inspiring to me personally, in this age of these never-ending dating apps, where it feels like there is no accountability in relationships because everybody is making these fleeting, transactional connections. So conversely, it felt very refreshing to see this couple make a deeply meaningful connection, and it encouraged me to look for something like that in my own life.

TrunkSpace: You write poetry. Is that creative outlet a way for you to work through and understand thoughts and emotions that, perhaps, you wouldn’t be able to gain personal insight on if you didn’t take pen in hand?
Faison: Definitely. What’s amazing about poetry is that I feel I can express what I want to say with no end result. It’s just for me (and for any others whom may connect with it). When I write, it feels like a real catharsis to work through all the levels of emotion that I’m feeling.

For example, sometimes at night, I’m flooded with all of these thoughts gnawing at my brain and it really helps that I can concretize them and expound them into this new form, because it makes them not feel so overwhelming. Poetry helps me find calm in the chaos.

Photo By: Brett Erickson

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an actor and how do you overcome those self-critical insecurities?
Faison: So I’m getting better at dealing with this, but I tend to be a perfectionist when it comes to getting the lines right. In the past, I’ve been a pretty horrible memorizer, and if I know some words are off, I feel like I tend to hyper focus on them. However, I’ve gotten better about first seeing the bigger picture of what’s happening in the scene/ monologue so that it doesn’t feel so daunting.

TrunkSpace: If you could sit down and have a conversation with your 16-year-old self, would he be surprised by the trajectory of your career, and if so, why?
Faison: I think so. My 16-year-old self was just trying to survive and figure out who he was going to sit next to at school the next day so no one would think that he was a loner. He stopped acting for a while because people were giving him so much crap for it. He wanted to go into language studies, go into the CIA, and head abroad where no one would know him. So, I think the fact that he would’ve returned to acting and made it this far – while also being true to himself – would really surprise him.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career as a whole thus far?
Faison: Honestly, doing this press tour for the series. I remember interning for a few years at NBCUniversal and I would make talent itineraries: booking cars, hotels, etc, and I can’t believe that I’m technically the talent now. There was a point during TCAs when we were rounding the home stretch of interviews and we were at this Hulu video promo shoot, and I looked over at Kayla and started tearing up just thinking about how far I’d come in this journey. I know it sounds super sentimental/cheesy but in that moment, it really felt like I was the squeaky wheel that got the grease.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Faison: I try to be as present as I can and take in what’s happening around me but I definitely do like to look ahead and see what I would like to accomplish. I think it’s important for me to do so from time to time because these career decisions that I make today will ultimately affect the decisions I get to make in the future.

In the next 10 years, I would love to help other marginalized voices find a platform through producing, acting and political change, so most of the projects that I choose tend to be through a lens that will align with that.

Everything’s Gonna Be Okay airs Thursdays on Freeform.

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The Featured Presentation

Mickeey Nguyen

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Photo By: Denise Grant

Thanks in large part to streaming platforms like Hulu and Netflix, television has become a much more diverse landscape in recent years. Not only are there more options for audiences in terms of the types of content available, but the characters being featured in those shows are more representative of our society as a whole.

For actor Mickeey Nguyen, star of the new science fiction hip hop series Utopia Falls, having a hand in the continued momentum of diversifying film and television is something he is very proud of.

Growing up, I never saw anyone in any of the shows I used to watch that I could relate to,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Nguyen to discuss playing the light in the darkness, wedging Utopia Falls into your Valentine’s Day plans, and why teaching is such a large part of who he is as an artist.

TrunkSpace: Utopia Falls looks wild, and, the kind of series that would have been inconceivable in the world of television 10 or 20 years ago. How exciting is it to be an actor in 2020 with not only the amount of projects circulating at any given time, but the quality of the narrative and character development as well?
Nguyen: First off, it’s such an incredible honor to answer all these questions so THANK YOU for allowing me on here to answer these questions.

Right off the bat, I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to be part of such an amazing project. It’s one of a kind and R.T. Thorne, our director, is such a humble envisionist that bringing his craft to life was a true honor. He wanted to achieve the first performance-based science fiction show that would appeal to a modern audience of diverse, multicultural and socially-minded young adults, and I’m proud to say that we’ve done just that. Not only that, but what really took my heart was now being able to be part of the momentum of diversifying film and television. Growing up, I never saw anyone in any of the shows I used to watch that I could relate to. I had ONE favorite of mine, and it was the Yellow Ranger. I’d always get made fun of because, at the time, it wasn’t normal for a boy to like girl characters. But it was so much deeper than that, and looking back at it now, I was truly inspired by her because she was someone who looked like me and, at the time, barely anyone else on my screen did. Oh yeah, and also because she was badass. Fast forward to NOW, there have been some magical movements in this industry. We’re progressing, and I’m happy that there are such a variety of diverse casts on multiple shows today. Utopia Falls now being of them!

TrunkSpace: Utopia Falls is a new series without a pre-existing brand backing it up. As an actor on the project, do you carry any stress with you wondering – hoping – that it will find an audience or do you try not to focus on those things that are out of your control?
Nguyen: I think as an actor, or as any creative artist, you have to train yourself to not put that kind of burden on your shoulders. Everyone has their own personalized taste and some people will like certain things that others don’t, and that’s okay! Utopia Falls is SO unique and one of the most engaging projects I’ve ever worked on in my career. That is more than enough for me, and the rest of the Utopia Falls family, to put our utmost passion and integrity into this.

TrunkSpace: For those who are excited about diving into Utopia Falls when it premieres on Hulu February 14, can you walk us through your character Mags and what you love most about getting to play him?
Nguyen: Mags. Is. Everything. He is such a light, and with a series like Utopia Falls, you need someone like Mags to uplift the story because trust me, you’re already in for a wild ride. He’s bright, colorful and such a caring person to those around him. He’s made to be a comedic person, but he digs so much deeper than that and I feel like you’ll really see him blossom into a lot more. I loved playing him because he ended up being VERY similar to me, despite his ambition and hunger for fame. His traits and humor are really dead-on to mine and sometimes it’s quite scary how much I might actually be Mags in real life. He also loves eating excessively and yes… it’s another trait we share.

TrunkSpace: As we said, the series premieres on February 14 – Valentine’s Day! That’s a lot of pressure for those with significant others who also want to get our binge on! Can you give us some advice on how to best make our loved ones happy AND watch the show the night it premieres?
Nguyen: I mean, have a cute candle-lit dinner at 6:00 PM sharp. Leave the dishes, and proceed directly to the couch and get comfortable. The first episode is where you’re going to be introduced to a brand-new world and a new society, so you need to be fully ready – mentally, physically and emotionally. After the first episode, you’re going to want to watch the second – and then the third, and so forth. Then you’ll have finished the entire series and look! You’ve just spent all this quality time together! You now love the show and you now love each other for a night well spent in each other’s arms.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on Utopia Falls thus far that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Nguyen: I think I’ll carry the everlasting inspiration I got from everyone on the show. They’re ALL so talented and driven that it gives me this constant breath of appreciation for this career. The long-lasting relationships and memories that we’ve all made together and the challenges that we all faced are really what created this family bond with one another. I remember at the last week of wrap, I gave everyone a parting gift and I think I cried for each and every one of them when I gave it to them because really, they became such incredible people in my life and I’m happy to carry this bond with me through the course of my career.

TrunkSpace: Beyond acting, you’re also a dancer. Chicken or the egg question… what came first, dancing or acting? Which love served as the seed that would eventually germinate into a career?
Nguyen: I actually started off dancing first. In my high school years, I always had a love for dancing and it later became the original career that I was pursuing. Acting was never really in the picture until I was on a World Tour with Lilly Singh as one of her dancers, and someone reached out to me about an audition for this untitled show that was casting an Asian male lead who had a singing/dancing background. I didn’t think too much of it, and felt like I didn’t really have a good chance because I was traveling overseas. But the universe worked its magic and I somehow ended up landing it on what soon became Nickelodeon’s Make it Pop. That was the birth of my acting career where I fell in love with this world of artistry. I’m grateful that even when I jumped the gun and pursued acting full-force, I was able to still keep my love for dance in my life, which would later help me on my other projects like Disney’s Zombies and now Utopia Falls!

TrunkSpace: You teach dance as well. Is there pressure in helping to shape the next generation of performers that come through your studio doors? What kind of teacher do you see yourself as?
Nguyen: I love teaching. It’s one of my passions that I will always have an everlasting love for. I don’t feel that there’s this pressure to shape the next generation of performers because I’m always feeling so rewarded with the amount of love from hard-working students that come and learn from me. My goal is to thank them with everything that I know about this industry because, ultimately, they are the ones that have given me the opportunity to teach them. I see myself being the kind of teacher that is more inspired by the students than they know. I learn as much from them as they learn from me. They are the ones I admire, and will always consistently be proud of them no matter what.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an entertainer and how do you overcome those self-critical insecurities?
Nguyen: We’re always our own worst critique. Always aiming to be perfect. I think prior to achieving thick-skin in this craftsmanship, I was very hard on myself about what I couldn’t do that I never really gave myself the appreciation for the things I COULD do. In the end, this is a form of art. You have to be patient and allow yourself to make mistakes and experience them so you learn not to make them again. Allow yourself to do the best you can do and appreciate what you give as the outcome. No one is here to judge your process, so why should you?

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career as a whole thus far?
Nguyen: As cliché as it sounds, it has been my family. They have honestly been the backbone of my entire career, and I’m happy that I can provide for them, especially for my mother. She is such a strong human being and the most caring person in my life. To take care of two kids after my father passed away must have been the biggest challenge of her life, and she did it so flawlessly. The true highlight of my career is being able to give back to her for all that she’s done for my sister and me. Even through the toughest times, she was able to raise us to become who we are today.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Nguyen: I wouldn’t. I feel like I need to experience my career as a whole with no shortcuts. I’m sure, and I have faith, that my career will have sprouted into a successful one in the next decade, but in order for it to be one, I would have had to experience the journey there. The ups and downs, the good and bad – that’s what will take us all there. Be ready! We’re all set out to do some incredible things.

Utopia Falls premieres February 14 on Hulu.

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Listen Up

Brother Moses

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New York, the city so nice they named it twice, has inspired many artists over the years, but for indie rockers and recent Arkansas transplants Brother Moses, the Big Apple served as the culture shocked-springboard for their latest album, the beautifully-crafted masterpiece of chill, Destination Pop.

You can hear the struggle but you can hear also the excitement and the persistence of it,” said guitarist John-Lewis Anderson in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

The band’s latest single, “What Does It Take?”, is available now.

We recently sat down with Anderson and guitarist Moses Gomez to discuss the pop of pop culture, getting Goldblum, and why the album is a perfect combination of their past and present.

TrunkSpace: The new album, Desperation Pop, drops on March 6. What is the period leading up to a release like for the band? Are you in a bit of a creative lull?
Anderson: We have definitely not been in a lull. It’s been a very crazy period. We are just getting everything ready for the rollout and we’ll have one more single coming out before the album drops. So yeah, we’re keeping pretty busy.
Gomez: I would say that, as far as music-wise, each one of us has things cooking. But creatively though, we’re taking up a lot of space with different ideas for ways that we can present the album.

TrunkSpace: What could someone learn about the band as a whole in sitting down to listen to Desperation Pop front to back?
Anderson: Well, I think it’s a very New York-centric album. We moved up here about two years ago now and I think you hear a lot of that in the music. You have a song like “What Does It Take” that just focuses a lot on the things that you have to do to not just survive but to try to do something special out here. There are a lot of little things like that, which I think you hear. You can hear the struggle but you can hear also the excitement and the persistence of it.

TrunkSpace: So would you say that the city itself, New York City, was one of the biggest influences on the album?
Anderson: Yeah, I think that’d be accurate.

TrunkSpace: One of the other things we noticed was the connection to pop culture that was present. Is that a conscious decision when it comes to writing or is it more of an influence by osmosis thing?
Gomez: I mean, I think it’s definitely a little bit of both. I think it just happens to go with what is happening at that time in our lives – where and what we’re into at that time. The lead singer, James, just for an example, in Sam & Diane, he wrote about that show because there was a time where we stayed up and we’d just sit there on the couch watching Cheers over and over again. And so it definitely has to do with a little bit about what’s going on in our lives and then we’re pulling from other places just to fit the specific tone of the song.

TrunkSpace: But… even Jeff Goldblum appears?
Anderson: (Laughter) Yeah, that’s something that we’ve been sitting on for a while. When we recorded our EP, Legends, we are out in Los Angeles, and he had a residency at this jazz club. And so we went to see him one night and it was a really cool experience. Afterwards he was just kinda walking around, talking to some of the audience, and we went up to him and we just kind of told him what we were doing there and asked him if he would be interested in saying a few words for the EP. Well, we happened to be on a small label at the time and they kind of got freaked out by that and didn’t want us to put it on there. So, we were just kind of waiting for the right time. We knew that was something fun and special and we felt like it really went hand in hand with what we were trying to do here.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned your EP, which leads us to our next question. No one knows your music better than you, so where do you hear the biggest differences between Legends and where you are now creatively with Desperation Pop?
Gomez: Creatively, I think we’re at our highest point yet. I think we’ve just gone so far into not limiting ourselves on what we can do. I think what we’ve tried on Desperation Pop, we would have never thought to do any of that stuff on Legends. I feel like Legends lives in a box while Desperation Pop is more worldly overall.
Anderson: And I think thematically, on Legends, you would hear a lot of us striving for kind of the more pop influence – bright sound. And then, with Magnolia, we kind of dove into the more desperate side of things and a kind of raw energy. I feel like we’ve really been able to meld them and bring them together with this new record.

TrunkSpace: There’s also a great production quality to Desperation Pop. How does that carry over into a live setting in terms of what you’re able to do with those songs on stage?
Anderson: That’s a good question.
Gomez: Yeah, and that is a good question.
Anderson: It’s a constantly evolving process, but I think the main difference you’d hear is there is so much energy when you come to a Brother Moses show and each one is a little bit different. We like to feed off of the crowd and try to make it a special experience. But I think the main thing you’re going to see is so much energy and excitement. We also try push ourselves to have all these interesting sounds and create just a sonically rich atmosphere for that energy to live in.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Anderson: Ooh, that’s a tough one. Oh man. Moses, do you have anything that pops out immediately?
Gomez: I think the sound, specifically, I think the record sounds better than anything that we’ve ever done before. What helps that is the specific composition or the specific arrangement that we landed on with these songs. I think that’s what I’m most proud of, is just how they specifically sound whenever it’s coming out of your car speakers or wherever.
Anderson: I already kind of touched on it before, but I think we were able to get a balance of emotional impact with a polished product that we’ve been trying to make for a while. A lot of these songs we ended up reworking several times and even rerecording, and when I listen to it I’m just really, really proud that we were able to do that and have that patience for it because I think it really, really paid off.

Desperation Pop is available March 6. Their latest single, “What Does It Take?”, is available now.

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The Featured Presentation

Jessica DiCicco

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Photo By: Storm Santos

Jessica DiCicco never envisioned that she would be entertaining preschoolers for a living, especially so prolifically. While the busy voice over actress seems to be bringing characters to life all over the world of pop culture – from television hits like The Loud House and Muppet Babies, to high profile films like Secret Life of Pets 2 – she still remembers the day she was able to quit her Production Assistant job and focus on the world of animation full time.

I haven’t had to go on a coffee run since,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace! “I still pinch myself that this is my job.”

We recently sat down with DiCicco to discuss embracing her voice, predicting the hits, and why she wouldn’t mind her… beeper back?

TrunkSpace: We have young kids, which is why we have seen every episode of The Loud House at least a half dozen times each. As a voice over actress, is there something kind of nice about having your work be so appreciated – often times viewed over and over again – and yet, still having a level of anonymity?
DiCicco: Your kids have great taste! Hopefully watching The Loud House brings you a Quiet House for at least a little bit.

I loved watching cartoons as a kid, and I specifically remember how comforting I found it. This may sound cheesy, but it feels like an honor to be a part of a kid’s experience. It makes me so incredibly happy to know kids love watching my shows. And now that I have a kid of my own (a busy toddler), it sometimes makes me tear up when I watch him enjoying Sesame Street and laughing. I get to have the experience all over again… and start from the very beginning, with Sesame Street.

I started acting professionally as a kid (I fell into it accidentally!), this one time I starred in this big deal TV Christmas special, and on my walk to school the day after it aired (I grew up in NYC so there was always a ton of people walking around), I noticed people were staring at me! It kind of freaked me out. I’m so happy I had that experience because it helps me to truly appreciate the anonymity that comes with being a voice actress. Between Muppet Babies and Puppy Dog Pals, I’d be swarmed by toddlers if my shows were live action. I would definitely get recognized. Although toddlers are super cute, I’m sure it would get tiresome pretty fast.

TrunkSpace: You’ve worked on so many incredible brands and characters who have left lasting impressions on the world of pop culture. When you first ventured on your path to a career in entertainment, was this the plan? Was voice over work always in the cards?
DiCicco: Thank you! So I’ve always had this raspy voice, and I used to be so embarrassed by it. I mentioned that I began acting as a kid, and I remember after an audition the producer ran out and asked if my voice always “sounded like this”. I got so embarrassed and told him that I had a cold. Slowly I started to embrace my voice as I started to book voice over auditions for commercials and narration. Eventually I realized that animation would be the absolute perfect fit for me, but it wasn’t until I moved to LA that animation became my full time gig. Animation lives in LA, I’m so thankful I moved here!

TrunkSpace: Obviously a lot of your work is geared towards younger viewers, but at the same time, a lot of it crosses over as well. For example, Adventure Time and Gravity Falls have become cult hits for many adults. What have been some of the biggest surprises of your career thus far?
DiCicco: The first HUGE show I was on was Adventure Time, and the experience completely blew me away. I started going to conventions and met tons of AT fans in person, of all different ages. I got to feel the excitement first hand – it was palpable, truly like lightning in a bottle. When I was a kid I was completely obsessed with The Simpsons, everyone was, that time was coined Simpsonmania. The success of Adventure Time absolutely reminded me of that, and it was so wild to be on the other side of it this time. I know what it’s like to be a huge fan of a show. I definitely kept that in mind as I went to conventions and met AT fans. I think that whole experience has so far been one of the biggest surprises of my career. Gravity Falls was also a huge success with palpable excitement surrounding it. I feel lucky I was able to experience that. The characters you play become part of your identity; it’s a crazy thing that happens. The other huge surprise was finding out I was nominated for an Emmy! I was so early on in my animation career, I hadn’t even imagined something like that would happen.

TrunkSpace: You’ve worked on some incredibly memorable television series over the years, but film has always been a part of the recipe as well. Is the process at all different, voicing a character on a television series than it is for a big budget film?
DiCicco: It’s always so much fun to do a film. Animated films have left the biggest impact on me as a viewer, so I take working on them very seriously. I mean, how many times have you watched your favorite movie? Especially as a kid! I always try to be as heartfelt and natural in my performance as possible. With TV, the performance can a little broader and “cartoonier”. My most recent film was Secret Life of Pets 2. I played a few characters in it actually, but my favorite was the puppy “Princess” with the pink bow.

It definitely feels different working on a film because you don’t go in to record as much. On a show like The Loud House, we’ve been working on it for like seven years so it becomes a family!

TrunkSpace: Oftentimes we’ll hear people say that a film or television series felt “special” while they were shooting, serving as a premonition of the success to come. Does animation have that same feel as well? Did you have any indication before its premiere that you’d be working on nearly 100 episodes of The Loud House or still talking about Adventure Time?
DiCicco: This has seriously been the bane of my existence. Shows that were super special and that I found so funny have only gone one season, and shows that I didn’t think were special ended up going for three or four seasons. I remember John DiMaggio (voice of Jake on Adventure Time) saying he didn’t understand Adventure Time for the first couple seasons! So, you truly never know. With that said, The Loud House was definitely special from the get go.

TrunkSpace: What is your process of finding the voice – both literal and in terms of character POV – when you take on a new character? Is it something you do in the room with the creative teams or do you have to step away and be by yourself?
DiCicco: Every project is totally different. Sometimes I see the character design and I read the description and it comes to me right away. Other times I work with the creator or the producers to figure it out so it seamlessly fits in with the vocal range of all the characters collectively. But either way I always spend time with the character in my own mind and figure out his or her nuances. There’s a lot of talking to myself that happens in my house, luckily the ones closest to me are used to it. I just started to incorporate it into talking with my toddler. I just got a couple puppets and I love watching him interact with them as I practice developing my characters. He’s so fixated on the puppet – it’s like there’s no one else in the room.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as a creative person and how do you overcome those self-critical insecurities?
DiCicco: Ugh, I hate watching my own work. I’m so self-critical, I always feel like I could’ve read something differently. The only way to rationalize this is to tell myself I can learn from it and do it differently next time. I’ve learned to be more forgiving and kinder to myself, I don’t beat myself up anymore. But I think it’s a good thing to be hard on myself, it ultimately pushes me to do better, to always grow and stretch creatively. Always focus on the details; they are of the utmost importance.

TrunkSpace: If you could sit down and have a conversation with your 16-year-old self, would she be surprised by the trajectory of your career, and if so, why?
DiCicco: I would have to break it to her very gently. Sixteen-year-old Jessica was very busy listening to Biggie, Lil Kim, and WuTang, very into street art, and returning beeps on payphones, she wouldn’t believe she was destined to entertain preschoolers for a living, complete with squeaky clean social media. (I’d also have to explain the concept of social media.) Oh boy, the teenage years. I’m kind of dreading going through that with my baby… it’s such a different world now. I have no clue how to navigate. Take me back to the ‘90s. Give me back my beeper.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career as a whole thus far? Also, can you tell us a little about your new show It’s Pony on Nick and your upcoming HBO Max show Close Enough? Any other upcoming projects you’d like people to know about?
DiCicco: The highlight was when I realized I could quit my job as a Production Assistant and do animation full time! I haven’t had to go on a coffee run since! I still pinch myself that this is my job.

The new Nickelodeon show, It’s Pony, is such a great show. It reminds me of the solid, engaging, funny show that you couldn’t wait to watch when you got home from school. The creator, Ant Blades, is British so I feel like it has a different sensibility than any show I’ve worked on. It’s grounded, and based in reality, which is my favorite kind of humor for a cartoon. And parents will absolutely laugh as well.

I’m so excited for Close Enough to come out! The show is deeply funny, and I have such a feeling this show is going to be a huge hit. I really don’t want to jinx it… but this one is different, it really is. It’s created by JG Quintel who created Regular Show, this is his first prime time show, so he has way more freedom. It’s about a couple with a kid who can’t afford rent because it’s so outrageously expensive so they live with some “colorful” roommates. This one is not meant for kids, so I’m excited to see what happens and who responds to it.

I’m going to be on a ride at Universal Studios! My character Princess, one of the puppies from Secret Life of Pets 2, is a character on the ride! Total bucket list career item I never even knew I had. It opens in April, so I’ll definitely be heading to Universal Studios to see it myself.

Other upcoming shows are Season 2 of Ballmasterz on Adult Swim (I play Ace and DeeDee), Season 3 of Muppet Babies (I play Summer Penguin), Season 4 of Puppy Dog Pals (I play Hissy), and Season 5 of The Loud House (I play Lynn and Lucy). And working on The Loud House movie!

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
DiCicco: This gives me anxiety just thinking about it. What if I’m not where I want to be? I think I’ll just wait till I get there to find out. I’m sure it’s just a blink away anyway.

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Trunk Stubs

Fastball

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Artist: Fastball

City Attended: Uncasville, CT

Venue: Wolf Den (Mohegan Sun: Casino & Resort)

Concert Date: 02-10-20

The Reason We Went: One of the most underrated bands of the late ‘90’s alternative scene, the Austin, Texas natives’ album All the Pain Money Can Buy was a gem in the rock radio rough, which at the time, was mostly dominated by deep-throated “modern rockers” like Creed and Days of the New. Consisting of duel frontmen Tony Scalzo and Miles Zuniga, they were clearly a band of songwriters first and foremost, who, as proven with All the Pain Money Can Buy, knew how to write full, front-to-back albums that you consumed without ever hitting the shuffle button.

What We Thought: Although it’s going on 22 years since the band hit it big with the mega-single “The Way,” they have not skipped a single beat, sounding as tight and as sharp as they did when MTV played actual music videos. And while many of those in attendance were understandably on hand to hear songs like “Fire Escape” and “Out of My Head” meant to tickle the nostalgic parts of the brain, it was Fastball’s most recent material from their 2019 release The Help Machine that proved their lasting appeal. Tracks like “White Collar,” the hands-down highlight of the night, reminded everyone why they left their mark on pop culture in the first place.

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The Featured Presentation

Adam Huber

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Photo By: Rhett Wellington

For Pennsylvania-born actor Adam Huber, star of The CW’s Dynasty, going from recurring character to series regular on the rebooted primetime drama has been a real game changer for both his past and future in the business.

Dynasty has given me my first real shot at this career,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “Everything I did beforehand was leading up to this moment.”

We recently sat down with Huber to discuss being where he needs to be, the long road ahead for his beloved Steelers, and why his younger self would be surprised to hear that he wasn’t playing professional golf.

TrunkSpace: Dynasty recently returned after its mid-season hiatus. As an actor on a weekly series, how does your life change when the show is physically airing? Are you recognized more and is the work more of a focus when it’s under the fan microscope?
Huber: It honestly doesn’t change too much. We film about nine months out of the year. Twenty two episodes is a lot for one season. So, while it is airing, we are still shooting. I think we are on Episode 18 right now, and 12 is just about to air. It’s pretty crazy how fast the turn around can be from the moment we get done filming an episode to how quickly that episode airs. I definitely get recognized more. That’s a new thing for me. I think the first time it actually happened I just kinda looked at the girl, because I didn’t know what she wanted. Then it hit me, and I was like, “Oh shit, that’s right. I’m on a TV show.” When people do recognize me, it’s almost as if they don’t remember where they have seen me, and then it’s, “Are you on a TV show?” or “Are you that guy from Dynasty?” It makes me happy when people do say something because I like interacting with the fans of the show, see how they like it and their thoughts on where the storylines are going. And without the fans watching it, we wouldn’t still be on the air.

TrunkSpace: As a whole, where has Dynasty impacted your life the most? How has it altered your path?
Huber: Dynasty has given me my first real shot at this career. Everything I did beforehand was leading up to this moment. It hasn’t changed my overall life too much. I’m still just a normal guy from a small town in Pennsylvania. But as far as a career… it’s going to help a lot. I mean, I went from a guest star/possible recurring character to a major recurring character and now to a series regular. I think that shows my dedication and work ethic. It’s going to be interesting to see where my career goes after Dynasty because now I have proven to myself and other people in the industry that I can do this, and I am exactly where I need to be.

TrunkSpace: You’ve spent over 30 episodes playing Liam thus far. What is it like spending that much time with one character? At what point in the process do you start to feel like you know him as well as yourself?
Huber: This is the longest time I’ve gotten to play one character. It’s been fun. It gives you time to really get to know someone. As weird as it sounds, it’s like you kind of become friends with your character. We are very different, but then in some ways very similar. And with every character you play, I feel like you put a little bit of yourself into them. It’s kinda hard not to. It’s been a lot of fun. And just like the fans, I also can’t wait to find out more about Liam and his backstory and his life. With almost every new episode, the writers bring something more to the table with him that I didn’t previously know.

TrunkSpace: What is the most exciting aspect of getting a new script and seeing where your character is going week after week? Is the sort of macro arc more interesting than the smaller details that round out the character over time?
Huber: I love getting new scripts. The moment we get it, I immediately start reading it. It’s hard sometimes to see the macro arc because while we are filming, say Episode 18, the writers are still perfecting Episode 19. So, you kind of live in those one to two episode arcs sometimes. But with having a pretty firm hand on who Liam is based on his actions and motives from script to script, I get to see what he wants in his life as a whole. What he wants his life to be like in the end. And like I said, with every new script we get, the writers add something else about Liam that I did not previously know. So, that’s always fun finding more info out about your character.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on Dynasty thus far that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Huber: Oh wow. I mean every day on set for me is a huge learning experience. This is the most time I have had to be on set, so I am like a sponge just absorbing everything I can. But I proved something to myself with Dynasty. We all have those voices in the back of our mind sometimes saying that we can’t do something, we should give up, we’re not supposed to be here. I was able to silence some of those thoughts that got in my way. Which has allowed me to really come into my own while filming this show. And that is going to help with everything and every show I do moving forward. But then also hearing people, whether they be other actors or crew say kind things about you and that they like working with you or that you’re such a joy to work with, it definitely helps. I don’t want to be that selfish asshole actor that people go, “Oh no, it’s going to be that kind of day,” when you show up on set. Knowing that people enjoy working with me and that I help make their job easier… that’s definitely something I will be able to take with me anywhere I go. Being a good person isn’t hard.

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, your passion for acting began on the stage. Is the stage still a calling and what does performing in front of a crowd do for you that no amount of on-camera work could achieve?
Huber: Yeah, I found acting in college. The stage doesn’t lie. You don’t get to go back to one and start the scene all over again because you forgot the line. I would love to do some plays in the near future. There is something about living and breathing on stage from start to finish during a play that is so moving. Telling and seeing the whole story in two hours versus two whole weeks of filming is just so different. You can’t just show up to work not knowing your lines and not doing your homework. You have to take it very seriously, prepare, prepare and prepare more. You mess up on the stage… everyone sees it. And it’s not a good feeling. Breaking character on the stage can be such a disaster.

Photo By: Rhett Wellington

TrunkSpace: You’re a Steelers fan. What are your feelings on the future of the team, at least in the short term?
Huber: Oh boy. (Laughter) Who knows. I just hope we can get back to the Steel Curtain days. I think we need a new quarterback. Ben has to retire. I think the next few years are going to be very fun for them. We have a lot of young talent there, so it is going to be very interesting to see what they evolve into.

TrunkSpace: If you could sit down and have a conversation with your 16-year-old self, would he be surprised by the trajectory of your career, and if so, why?
Huber: A little yes and a little no. I always was one of those kids who wouldn’t try something if I didn’t think I could do it really well. I hate being bad at stuff. And I don’t like trying things just for fun. I could full steam ahead and sink my teeth into it. I think he may be a little surprised I chose to be an actor as a career path instead of trying to be a professional golfer. But I don’t think my 16-year-old self would be too surprised where I got. He knew it was in me the whole time.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career as a whole thus far?
Huber: Dynasty has been a major highlight and being nominated for a Teen Choice Award when I wasn’t even a regular character on the show. Getting to this point has been a highlight. Working my way from guest star to series regular. Having a team behind me that believes in me. There have been highlights every step of the way. And like I said… just getting to this point, I have proved a lot to myself. And I now know that I have business in this business. I can’t see myself doing anything else.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Huber: Oof. Good question. I mean, everyone wants to look into the future. But I think, if I did, I would freak myself out. I would like to go ahead 10 years to see where we are at with other things like space travel, technology and politics. But I wouldn’t want to know what I am doing, because then I would be questioning every move I made. Is that the right move or the wrong one. You alter one thing from the past, it can change the future just like that. So no, I wouldn’t want to look to see where my career was at. I’m enjoying the ride and the journey so far. That’s half of the fun.

Dynasty airs Friday nights on The CW.

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The Featured Presentation

Nelson Leis

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Photo By: Kristine Cofsky

When Nelson Leis first joined the cast of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, he never expected to be donning those character-amplifying Beelzebub prosthetics for long. And even as Season 2 bled into Season 3 – which is available now on Netflix – he was never quite sure if fate would see him through to the end.

I don’t know if I could assign it a percentage but it always felt quite likely that I’d get killed off,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “Low and behold I made it out of the season alive.”

We recently sat down with Leis to discuss instantaneous viewer reaction, tarantula discoveries, and why you have to swing a lot to swing for the fences.

TrunkSpace: Fans have fallen in love with Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. As an actor, what does it mean to work on a series that connects with people on this level?
Leis: It’s a thrill to be on a series that has a global audience. And it’s been fascinating to find out where there are massive fan bases – South America, for instance. At the end of the day, as an actor you hope that your work will find an audience, and that the project will strike a chord with those people, and that’s overwhelmingly been the case with Sabrina.

TrunkSpace: Is it a bit surreal to have that instantaneous reaction from fans after a new season drops, because with so many people obsessed with the series as a whole, the bingeing must be pretty intense? Can you get a good sense of its impact the day of its release?
Leis: It’s definitely surreal. I think that young Nelson, who was dreaming of one day stepping onto a film set, would be blown away that there were strangers reaching out to say they enjoyed the show. Honestly, present day Nelson is kinda blown away. The day the show launched, those Instagram followers and comments started rolling in, and honestly, I’ve enjoyed connecting with the fans. This is the first time I’ve been in a position to do so, in that it’s my first multi-season recurring role. So the experience is fresh for me. The fan base has been vocally appreciative on Instagram – I’m sure they’re vocal all-over the place, but that’s the only social media I meaningfully engage with.

TrunkSpace: Your character Beelzebub has more skin in the game with Season 3. Is the path you are on with the character the one you knew you’d follow when you first landed the role or have there been creative surprises along the way for you?
Leis: The entire process has been one surprise after another. In the first episode of Season 2 my character was banished to hell, and I thought, ‘well that was fun – on to the next job.’ Then last April I found out I’d be in the first episode of Season 3. Within a few days they told me it was the first three episodes, which eventually led to six. Beelzebub’s evolution and the season storyline was revealed to me as I received each subsequent script. That story arc is kept pretty close to the vest of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and the writer’s room. I was like Pavlov’s Dog every time that script slid into my inbox, and I’d dive right into it. I don’t know if I could assign it a percentage but it always felt quite likely that I’d get killed off. Low and behold I made it out of the season alive.

TrunkSpace: There’s a big makeup/prosthetic component to your character. When you’re reading new scripts where Beelzebub appears, do you envision the scene with yourself looking as you would on shooting days? Does the visual aspect of the character play into how you present him on camera?
Leis: I don’t think on the initial read of the script I necessarily envision myself as I appear on the shooting day. I’m reading it more for story. In terms of the prosthetics, they definitely have an effect on how I work in the scene. There are just certain things I can do with Beelzebub because of the prosthetics, that I wouldn’t be able to do if I just looked like me. They work as an amplification tool. This latest season as I got to be in the prosthetics regularly, new aspects of Beelzebub’s physical and emotional life materialized for me. The wardrobe also lent to the discovery. For instance this season’s Infernal Palace storyline had Beelzebub in his royal vestments – and in putting those on, there’s immediately a sense of power and wealth, and that informs the stature. It’s a constant process of discovery.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on Chilling Adventures of Sabrina that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Leis: I think what’s become apparent only in retrospect, is how my instincts and ownership in playing Beelzebub have evolved. And I’ve been able to experience that because I’ve played him in two seasons now. The trajectory is interesting – from jumping in on that first episode, having some ideas in mind, but not sure if they’d work with the tone of the show, to now, where playing Beelzebub is like putting on a familiar jacket.

TrunkSpace: You train in Brazilian JiuJitsu. Are there parallels between training in martial arts and training as an actor, especially in terms of commitment and personal investment?
Leis: One hundred percent. You just said it – it’s commitment to the process, and the long game. I don’t think you can become great at either without putting in the work year after year. It’s the 10,000 hours rule. I think you don’t start finding that flow and nuance and state of grace until you’ve been swinging the bat for a while.

TrunkSpace: Fascinating fact about you that we had to ask about… you spent (high school) summers in Nevada working in geological exploration. Which leads us to our next question, what is the most interesting thing you’ve ever stumbled on out in the desert?
Leis: Probably a tarantula. This was actually in Arizona – we were walking down this dirt path and came around a bend and there it was – a big ol’ fuzzy thing. I had never seen one in the flesh and it definitely gave me the heebie jeebies. We had shovels with us and wanted to gently nudge it to the side, so we didn’t have to step over it, but when we did that it jumped like I’d never seen a spider jump – which was a number of feet. That was one of those moments where every hair on your body stands up.

Photo By: Kristine Cofsky

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an actor and how do you overcome those self-critical insecurities?
Leis: I’m glad you asked. I’m interested in this conversation – I think it’s important to shine a light on our struggles so we can humanize them, take the shame and heaviness out of them. I think the idea of perfection has to be eliminated from any person’s mind, and certainly from any artist or performer’s mind. There has never been a time where I’ve walked away from a performance, whether it’s on stage or in front of the camera and thought, ‘well I nailed that’. Even when the scene has felt good and there’s been electricity with my scene partners, afterwards there’s always a feeling of unrest in the back of my mind. I’m more comfortable with that mental irritation now. When I was younger I used to think that it meant something was wrong, that I had screwed up, that I wasn’t enough, wasn’t talented enough. It was actually very recently when I realized, ‘oh that feeling is never going away. It’s part of the process’. I’m still as excited as ever about the work – I put in the effort, commit to the emotional and physical, and enjoy it, that hasn’t changed – but I guess what saves me is, I’m better at just letting things go… and at the same time, I’m more comfortable with being uncomfortable. I think meditation has been instrumental in all that.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career as a whole thus far?
Leis: As far as getting to explore a character over a longer story arc, Sabrina has been a highlight. And that the role happens to be this iconic demon from the Bible and medieval literature… and Bohemian Rhapsody, I mean, it’s so wild! I could never have predicted that a role like this would come around.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Leis: Sometimes I think, if 20-year-old Nelson could see what I’m doing now, maybe he would be kinder to himself and more confident in his path, but I’m here now, having taken a long winding road and I don’t regret it. Some actors jumped on the career Autobahn right out of the gate, but that wasn’t my path. I dig my story. But to jump forward 10 years, no, that’s not appealing. I know the quality of life, of relationships and work that I’m interested in. I don’t know exactly what the results will look like, but that’s fine, I trust the process.

Season 3 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is available now on Netflix.

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