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Wingman Wednesday

Will Brittain

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Photo by: William Sanford Photography

With the release of the new film “Desolate” now upon us, we’re taking an extended look at the post-apocalyptic drama by sitting down with those who gave it life. First up we’re chatting with star Will Brittain, who plays Billy Stone, to discuss playing cops and robbers as an adult, revisiting a project months after calling wrap, and what kind of story he’d like to tell if given the keys to the Hollywood investment castle.

TrunkSpace: When youre starring in a post-apocalyptic action movie like Desolate,is there a fantasy fulfillment aspect to it that calls back to your younger self? What would 12-year-old Will think about his future self starring in a film like this?
Brittain: Absolutely. It’s Cops and Robbers on a much larger scale. He’d think it was awesome.

TrunkSpace: The great thing about independent film is that it seems like one of the last places to find a steady flow of original content. As an actor, is that part of the draw in working on a film like Desolateand independent cinema in general?
Brittain: Totally. It’s an opportunity to collaborate on some really amazing new stuff.

TrunkSpace: On the production side of things, getting an independent film made can be an adventure in and of itself. When youre making a film like Desolatein this setting, can those schedule and budgetary restraints impact performance, and if so, how do you keep the stuff happening behind the scenes trickle into what youre doing on-camera?
Brittain: It hasn’t really impacted performance, in my experience. It’s more just a group of people trying to build this puzzle together with limited resources – it makes the going a bit tougher but that’s part of the fun, I think.

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the most memorable aspect of a project is the end result, but wed imagine that for those involved it goes much deeper than that. What is something from your time working on Desolatethat youll carry with you through the rest of your life and career?
Brittain: Just getting to film the movie with such a great group of people. We were brothers.

TrunkSpace: Youve done a number of projects since calling wrap on Desolate.Is it odd going back and revisiting a character in a promotional aspect when the film is being released, and does it require having to plug back into the experience internally?
Brittain: Yeah, it’s pretty weird. It’s like looking at an old photo album. There’s some things that strike you with more fondness than you might have anticipated. It’s an emotional experience.

TrunkSpace: If someone came to you tomorrow and said, Will, here is a blank checkgo out and greenlight any project for yourself to star in,what kind of project would you put into production and why?
Brittain: I’d aim to put one of the films I’ve written into production. I’d love to be able to tell some of the stories I’d like to tell. That’s the dream.

TrunkSpace: Creative people, particularly those who seek perfection from themselves, can be very hard on their own work. Where are you hardest on yourself?
Brittain: I’m pretty hard on myself physically. I like to push my limits.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Brittain: Forming friendships that last a lifetime.

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?
Brittain: Sure. That would be fun.

Desolate” arrives in select theaters and on VOD today.

 

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Wingman Wednesday

John Hoogenakker

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Photo By: Bjoern Kommerell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon Studios

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

Photo By: Bjoern Kommerell

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

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

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

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

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Wingman Wednesday

Amanda Righetti

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As we melt into the dog days of summer and the dread of a winter to come chills us to our sun-loving core, the Hallmark Channel is here to help us embrace what we all wish could be an evergreen season filled with the accumulation of beachfront memories. “Love at the Shore” is the network’s latest foray into seasonal programming and stars Amanda Righetti, an actress who has impressed in everything she has appeared in, including memorable roles in “Colony” and “The Mentalist.”

In slipping into the shoes of her character Jenna, Righetti was excited to step away from the heaviness of her previous roles and spend time with the lighthearted, emotionally-driven storytelling of “Love at the Shore.” Working in television over the years prepared her for the ambitious 15-day shoot, much of which became reliant on the cooperation of Mother Nature. (Thankfully the weather was mostly agreeable!)

We recently sat down with Righetti to discuss cinematic escapism, transitioning from modeling to acting, and if Jason Voorhees is as scary as a broken heart.

TrunkSpace: Hallmark is probably best known for their holiday movies, but they’re actually really great at painting the feelings and emotions of all seasons. With that in mind, what makes “Love at the Shore” a summer movie in terms of painting those feelings and those emotions?
Righetti: Well, Jenna is a novelist. She rents this summer home for her kids to go to. She’s still licking her wounds from a divorce and hasn’t really figured out quite how to move on. It hits her in a very unexpected way. There’s something very juvenile about the way she falls for Lucas (Peter Porte). It’s met with a very adamant, “No, I don’t like him. I don’t have time for relationships.” Sometimes, love doesn’t have bounds. It finds us sometimes in really unexpected places. That’s kind of part of her journey, just relaxing and letting go of control. She trying not to be as neurotic about things and allowing somebody to care for her. Especially considering the tumultuous relationship she has come from.

Nobody expects any marriage to end when they go into it, so there was a certain aspect of sheltering herself and trying to protect herself. That all gets kind of cracked open. It opens her eyes to a new avenue. There’s something really lovely about that journey, and I think everybody can kind of relate to it.

TrunkSpace: Most Hallmark movies end on a happily ever after note, a theme that is actually not common in a lot of other film and television projects these days. Is part of the allure of Hallmark films a sort of a welcomed escapism for people who feel like they’re tapping into a simpler, less chaotic time?
Righetti: Yeah, absolutely. I think there’s so much heaviness on TV that just the idea of escapism, that you don’t have to worry about death and upheaval at the end, there’s something kind of refreshing about it. I think sometimes we need that. We need to be able to tune everything out and not fret about what’s going to happen tomorrow or what’s even happening today.

I think there’s some merit to that. I think we need that sometimes as an audience. Hallmark seems to have that genre pegged.

TrunkSpace: You started your career as a model. Was acting always a part of the plan?
Righetti: Yeah, it’s funny because I actually fell into modeling by way of trying to get into acting, and I guess in some ways I got derailed for a few years by doing the modeling thing, but eventually came back to it. At the age that I started, there was a lot of legal things that would have had to happen, emancipation and things like that. Modeling bought me time until I was 18 and I just could start pursuing it full time.

I wasn’t quite sure even when I did start getting into acting if that was the avenue I was going to go and then I saw myself really falling in love with it. I started to not see myself doing anything else. It clicked for me in a way that I went, “This is it. There’s nothing else I want to do.”

TrunkSpace: Once you had established yourself as a model, did you have to work your way out of the perception of being a model who wanted to act?
Righetti: Yeah, I think that’s what even happens now. I think sometimes it can be tricky. It sounds so cliché, but it’s the “pretty girl syndrome.” You feel like you have to prove that you’re not just a pretty face. That there’s more behind it. I was lucky in the sense that the modeling stuff for me happened all overseas. I haven’t done any domestic modeling, so I wasn’t really fighting against being in some Tommy Hilfiger campaign or something like that, going in, and they’d be like, “Oh wait, aren’t you the face of…?”

Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Marc Lemoine

It wasn’t like that for me. It was a little bit different. I was doing the Japanese markets and things like that. They were sort of once removed. They kind of never coincided and crossed over with each other in that way. It wasn’t so much about fighting against the modeling as much as it was just fighting against, “Look, I’m more than a pretty face.” I never really brought the modeling into the acting that way, in terms of trying to sell myself.

TrunkSpace: You mention fighting against the pretty face syndrome. Does that also apply to the types of roles you would get offered and read for?
Righetti: Yes, absolutely.

TrunkSpace: Has that changed at all in recent years? Are there more interesting roles for women now than there were when you started your career?
Righetti: Yeah. I think even as I’ve sort of grown up in the business a little bit and because I’ve been doing it for more than a decade, the rules change, too. As you get older, you enter your mid-20s, roles are different than they are when you’re in your late teens. And even into your late 20s or early 30s the roles are a lot different. It seems like things are sort of shifting in the direction of more female-driven characters and female-driven shows. That’s exciting, and really, it’s an exciting time to be part of the business in that way. To be able to explore stuff that usually, many years ago, would have been a male playing certain roles… they’ve started to see things differently and I think audiences want to see something different too. It really lends itself to great opportunity.

TrunkSpace: It feels like the time of “desired demographics” is going to fall to the wayside and good content will just be good content.
Righetti: Well, I think people are open to that. It doesn’t matter what the role is, as long as it’s interesting and you can get behind it and you can find an audience for it. Sometimes people don’t know what they want, they just know what they don’t want. If we can present interesting characters, even if they’re female, it still is worth watching. It’s all opportunity. I think it’s exciting. It’s a great shift and I’m really pleased to see that it’s finally starting to swing in that direction.

TrunkSpace: Looking back, is there any advice you would give to your teenaged self in terms of lessons you’ve learned and wish you could have avoided?
Righetti: (Laughter) That’s a loaded question.

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) It’s a heavy question.
Righetti: Wow, you know… the list could go on and on, or it couldn’t, because I don’t know that I would change anything.

I would say to my younger self to believe and don’t doubt. “Just go for it.” I struggled with a lot of self doubt as a teenager and trying to figure out what I was going to do with my career. I think that would have been a good piece of advice to have known in my heart at that time.

TrunkSpace: Is there a particular project that you learned the most from, not only in terms of the industry but in terms of yourself and your abilities as an actress?
Righetti: Each one I’ve learned something from that unexpectedly, I didn’t really know I would have learned. But, I think that the one I take the most pride in is “Colony.” It was really wonderful to be part of such a collaborative, creative team. And to also be surrounded with such generous and talented actors. The character that they wrote gave me an ability to see so many different colors in a character. I really appreciated that. It exceeded my expectations.

Every project sort of exceeded my expectations in some regard. We didn’t think “The Mentalist” was ever going to do seven seasons. That really exceeded expectations. I never thought that I would learn how to fire a gun or do tactical takedowns and things like that, but there I was and I did. Even going back, “The O.C.” was a huge learning experience for me. I got to work with people that I grew up watching. It was a wonderful experience and those actors were all very generous as well, and very warm and loving. I was a kid. I didn’t know what I was doing and they were all just really lovely to me.

Every project has had its moments of unexpected pleasant surprises. I think most recently “Colony” was really the one that I learned the most from and I think I grew the most through. It could be just the time of my life too, I don’t know.

Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Marc Lemoine

TrunkSpace: You mentioned “The Mentalist.” You did seven seasons and 132 episodes of that show. It must be interesting to watch a character grow and learn over a long period of time as you yourself are also growing and learning?
Righetti: Yes, absolutely. That’s a really neat thing, looking back. I think I was 24 or 25 when I started that show. I really came into my own as a woman in that show. I had a child when I was doing that show. My life changed a lot. The character was so naive and she kind of came into her own. She went through a lot of things. It’s neat just to see. It’s like the old adage, does art imitate life or life imitate art? “The Mentalist” definitely had certain aspects of that.

TrunkSpace: Finally, we have to ask… who is a better on-screen antagonist. A broken heart, which you deal with in “Love at the Shore,” or Jason Voorhees, who you dealt with in the “Friday the 13th remake? It seems like both can be pretty hard on a person.
Righetti: (Laughter) Yeah, both can be hard on a person. I think you can be chased by Jason Voorhees and have a broken heart at the same time. (Laughter)

“Love at the Shore” premieres Saturday on the Hallmark Channel.

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