The Featured Presentation

Jocelyn Panton

Photo By: Carly Dame

Not everyone can say that they’ve stood face to faces with a boulder made of hungry aliens, but then again not everyone is Jocelyn Panton, the talented actress who can currently be seen dishing out an intergalactic smack down in Season 1 of “Critters: A New Binge,” currently available on Shudder.

We recently sat down with Panton to discuss camping out in the campy, joining the “Critters” club, and the key to not getting lost in the chaos of a career in the entertainment industry.

TrunkSpace: We’re pop culture fanatics who grew up in the ‘80s so we have to start with the obvious. As far as life moments go, where does standing next to a giant boulder of Critters rank, because if it was us, it would be pretty high?
Panton: Ohh it’s pretty high up there. Standing right next to that furry ball of death goes down in the books for me as one of life’s epic moments.

TrunkSpace: The “Critters” franchise has always been campy on purpose, and “Critters: A New Binge” certainly plays up that fun for the audience. That had us thinking… does that heightened sense of reality make it fun for the performers as well? Are you able to arrive to work each day and say, “Well, today’s the scene with the boulder made of monsters… AWESOME!”?
Panton: For sure! It made every day all about having as much fun as possible. If you’re being campy, you get to be silly and just play around. It also makes for some great bonding experiences and on-set camaraderie. Watching that boulder be rolled out and the crazy makeup and guts, we were all like, “Woah, that’s so cool.” And it was super fun to be able to sneak a photo with it on my last day because I knew I would be holding onto that photo forever. We were also constantly getting surprised by the fun and crazy ideas being presented by the different departments on each day.

TrunkSpace: What was the biggest highlight for you in shooting “Critters: A New Binge?” What will you take with you through the rest of your career/life?
Panton: My biggest highlight was probably the scene where I got to (spoiler alert!) shoot a whole lot of them and kind of help save the day, but I felt it was still pretty badass in Ellen’s sort of innocent, kind of adorable way. That and the hairy balls scene. Getting to have lines like that was hilarious and fun. What I’ll take with me for the rest of my life, for sure the memories and the awesome reminder that I got to be involved in something so awesome.

TrunkSpace: As a genre, horror always has a bit of a built-in audience. Fans of the genre will tune in to see a film or series even if they don’t know that much about it, but with a project like Critters: A New Binge” there’s also an established brand attached to it. As a performer, is that exciting knowing that you’re going to have an audience – regardless of how big – when it is eventually released?
Panton: Yes, I feel lucky to be a part of it. In a way, I feel like I’m being welcomed into a club of sorts that has existed for a long time, which adds to the excitement and wow factor for me where I’m like, “I get to be on this awesome franchise called ‘Critters?!’” There have been so many moments along the way where I’ve stepped back with excitement and had those kinds of thoughts. I still do.

TrunkSpace: You’ve also worked on Hallmark Channel projects, which in a way, has a similar fan base to the horror genre in that people will tune in because they know they’re going to see the kind of storytelling that they enjoy. As an actress, are you finding that more and more projects you’re auditioning for are focusing on a particular audience as opposed to trying to appeal to everybody? Is there a change happening even at the network level?
Panton: I would say yes for the most part and especially here in Vancouver where I am based. We have “Supernatural,” which has the exact kind of audience you describe and then we have lots of the superhero shows like “The Flash” and “Supergirl.” And then every now and then there are shows/movies that you really don’t know what to expect, that does something new and doesn’t really fit into a particular mold per se. But then again, I guess that is kind of a genre in and of itself that appeals to a certain audience. I think networks are realizing there’s a market for everything and to be more specific makes things even more interesting. It’s kind of like staying true to who you are and with that brings more passion to the work and people can feel it. That’s why I think there are so many amazing TV shows getting released these days.

TrunkSpace: As you mentioned, you’re based in Vancouver. How important are networks like The CW and Hallmark Channel, both of which do a lot of filming there, to the talent who call the city home? Could it still thrive if those productions moved elsewhere?
Panton: Oh, sooo important. There are so many of my friends who rely on those shows for their bread and butter – and even me! In the last year, most of my gigs have been for The CW, Lifetime and Hallmark, so it would definitely be different and a lot harder if they weren’t here. They allow us all to pursue our passion. I have no idea what would happen if those productions moved elsewhere. I cross my fingers that it would never happen, but it’s always important to be working so hard, always improving your craft no matter how successful you get, so you can eventually get work outside of this city and are never dependent on things staying the way they are because we all know that things change and all things come to an end at some point or another.

TrunkSpace: At what point did you realize that acting wasn’t just a passion but a career path, and did you have to convince yourself to take the leap to commit to it 100 percent?
Panton: All my life I loved acting, from the moment I realized it was a passion of mine when I saw a musical as a kid – I just felt like something reached inside me. My dad was an entrepreneur growing up and told us to pursue our passions in life, but I think because we lived an hour outside of the city it still seemed a bit far-fetched to pursue it. After high school, I did broadcasting school which moved me to the big city and because I was doing that, which is still a bit more ‘out there’ than a lot of paths many people pursue, it made me feel one step closer to acting and that’s when I realized I can make it work and figured out how to get my foot into the industry. It didn’t take a lot of convincing, more just for a brief time when I worked at a bank I realized I wasn’t happy and I knew I couldn’t carry on doing something I wasn’t happy doing for the rest of my life.

TrunkSpace: There’s a lot of uncertainty that comes along with a career in the arts. What have you found to be your rock in terms of staying focused and on your path throughout the course of your career?
Panton: So many things. Having a support system is huge and I’m so lucky to have that with family. Not everyone gets that, but it helps even just being involved in the community – even if it’s taking acting classes and getting tight with everyone there. Also having other things that I love to pursue on the side, like planning trips or taking up another hobby. It forms you as an actor but is sometimes a distraction because it can get hard. Another thing that can help to stay really grounded is to be constantly reminding myself that, like anything, it takes a lot of hard work and to be really strongly skilled and to constantly be asking myself what is the next thing I need to do to improve myself.

Photo By: Carly Dame

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Panton: I would say playing Marilyn Monroe on “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.”

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?
Panton: No, I don’t think I’d want to take a glimpse of it. In this day and age when it’s so hard to be present with what we’re doing, I think it would make it even harder to focus on what’s in front of me without thinking about the successes or worries that await me in my future. I also think there are so many life lessons along the way that lead us to where we end up. It makes the reward in the end so much more valuable and cherished. I think I would value where my life is much more if I really understood the hard work it took for me to get there. If I knew where I was going to be, I think it would be much harder to absorb everything from each moment that I have to learn.

Critters: A New Binge” is currently available on Shudder.

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The Featured Presentation

Scott Grimes

FOX 2017 PROGRAMMING PRESENTATION: THE ORVILLE cast member Scott Grimes arrives at the FOX ALL-STAR PARTY on Monday, May 15 at Wollman Rink in Central Park, NY. ©2017 FOX BROADCASTING CR: Anthony Behar/FOX.

*Feature originally ran 11/08/17

Beepers. Enron. Blockbuster Video.

Scott Grimes’ career has outlasted them all. In an industry where an actor’s longevity seems not too far removed from the on-field expectancy of NFL defensive linemen, that is an impressive feat. Even more extraordinary is that the roles Grimes tackles in front of the camera continue to inhabit worlds that exist within multilayered, high profile projects.

As a boy he starred in the horror classic “Critters.” As a young man he appeared in “Crimson Tide.” As he matured, so too did the characters he portrayed on-screen, from Donald G. Malarkey in the HBO classic “Band of Brothers” to Archie Morris in the long-running medical drama “ER.” For the last 13 years the Massachusetts native has voiced Steve Smith in “American Dad!” and most recently he joined the crew of an interplanetary exploratory space vessel, serving as ace pilot Lt. Gordon Malloy in the new science fiction series “The Orville.”

We recently sat down with Grimes to discuss finding the comedy in “The Orville,” why it’s show-up-television, and how a chance conversation with a friend led to 13 years of animated greatness.

TrunkSpace: When young Scott Grimes was dreaming of a career as an actor, did any of it involve spaceships, aliens, and sci-fi storytelling?
Grimes: Everything you just said. I always loved medieval and stuff like Middle-earth. I was a big Hobbit fan, of the books, and “Lord of the Rings” and all that. I was also a big sci-fi fan. There’s so many levels to this on a childhood dream level, which is pretending to be in space. Now we’re also just throwing a little comedy in on top of that. And then, working with someone for so many years… I was never the kind of person that wanted to, or thought I would, just jump from director to director. I always knew that I’d continue to work for the same people because you don’t really wake up in the morning and say, “I want a redhead in this role!” So, when you get someone that wants to work with you, like me, you usually want to stick with it, because they like you.

All those things, and to get to work with Seth MacFarlane on a daily basis, is just a gift. So yes, it was a childhood dream of mine to pretend to be in space.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned the comedy dropped in on top of things with “The Orville.” Does having it be a sort of genre hybrid allow you to do things from a performance standpoint that you can’t in something that is strictly drama or strictly comedy?
Grimes: Actually, you know, it’s more difficult than I imagined. I did “ER” for seven years. My job on “ER” was to be the kind of comic relief of a drama show and I found that a little easier within the realm of the medical genre, because the comedy could come from fucking up, from being not a good doctor, and just the banter when things aren’t in an emergency. But now, with “The Orville,” Seth and I spoke, and Jon Favreau and I when we did the pilot, on end about where this comedy is gonna come in, in the midst of a dire battle situation. When we film it, I always give a couple versions, because the comedian in me, and the comedian in Seth, want to give the funniest version of the line that was written. But you can’t do that. You can’t do that. Then it becomes the movie “Airplane.” Then you’re saying a joke in the middle of something crashing.

I think we figured out a way for it to work, and it’s right on that line. And that’s been the most difficult thing for me on “The Orville,” throwing in my job, which is to be a little bit of the comic relief during something that people are taking pretty seriously. You don’t want someone at home to go, “Dude, why did you have to say that stupid thing when we’re in the middle of this great explosion?”

TrunkSpace: You don’t want to pull the viewer out of the moment?
Grimes: No. That was a big thing for us, so I choose to say these funny things within the moment of – maybe say it because you’re scared. Maybe it’s coming from an uncomfortable place in you that you can’t handle. So that’s been the biggest challenge of this for me.

TrunkSpace: So was a big part of the process for everyone as a whole on “The Orville” just finding the right tone with the show?
Grimes: Of course. Seth knows what the show was. And when I watch it, I see it now, but you can’t crawl into somebody’s mind. You can try to explain it. He’s a bit of an introvert, so he can try to explain everything to everybody, but it’s our job to kind of figure it out. But, yeah, that was the whole thing. Favreau, I remember in the pilot, he sat us down and said, “We’re either gonna knock this one out of the park, or we’re gonna fail miserably.” And I actually think that is such a great equation for success – for great success in any athlete or anybody trying an invention or anything like that, because you’re swinging for the backseats. If you hit it, it’s gone, and people are talking about it. If you miss, you miss flailing. So that’s what we did on this one, which not a lot of people do. A lot of people play it safe, and this show didn’t play it safe.

TrunkSpace: It’s hard to be inventive and recreate the wheel playing it safe.
Grimes: Exactly. And I think just because we’re not getting “Seinfeld” numbers, what we are getting is, people love the show. And they love it because they’ve never seen it before.

TrunkSpace: With that being said, nobody is getting “Seinfeld” numbers anymore, but with “The Orville,” you’re getting today’s equivalent, right?
Grimes: I think so. Especially for a new show. But you know, for many years people loved procedurals, because what procedurals were, and I’m not knocking any procedural – they’re all great and I’ve done a bunch of them – but they’re kind of cheap little movies. Well, what Seth did is, he realized that he has to do these mini movies, because people don’t really want, or I don’t anyway, to watch a soap opera. I don’t want to watch something that I have to see every episode in order to understand the last one. And with this, we’re doing kind of hour long movies every week.

And I think people are getting that, and they’re enjoying it. It’s very popcorn. They can just sit down with the popcorn, and go, “Let’s watch Orville, man!” And that’s what I’m hearing a lot of is, people just really love the experience. They’re like, “Okay, I’ve got my this, I’ve got my that, it starts in four minutes. God, am I ready? Cool, I can’t wait!” And they sit down for that show-up-television kind of feel, like when you knew something was coming on, you know?

THE ORVILLE: L-R: Scott Grimes and Seth MacFarlane in the “Pria” episode of THE ORVILLE airing Thursday, Oct. 5 (9:01-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2017 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Michael Becker/FOX

TrunkSpace: Absolutely. It becomes event TV. And when you don’t have that connective tissue holding every single episode together, you can watch it without having to amass every episode on your DVR.
Grimes: Yeah, and if you get like I’ve gotten… like with “Stranger Things”… I’m kind of starting “Stranger Things” right now because what happened was, I got so behind that I was like, “Fuck it. I can’t. It’s too much work for me right now to start. I’m gonna start another show.” I had to go back and watch the first three that I watched, because I don’t remember what happened. You don’t have to do that with “The Orville.” I love “Stranger Things,” don’t get me wrong – I think it’s an amazing show – but, “The Orville” is a little easier.

TrunkSpace: It seems like science fiction is a bit like a brand more so than a genre. People who love science fiction tend to tune in regardless of if it is based on something existing or not. Did you find that was the case with “The Orville?” Did it already have a built-in audience when you guys kicked off?
Grimes: Well, I’m gonna, in a weird sort of way, argue a little of that, because our built-in audience was “Star Trek.” Again, there’s never been a show like “The Orville” that is kind of a modern look at the future. Instead of, the kind of dark look, which I love. I love “Blade Runner” and all of those shows that show this dark kind of, “we messed up as people” kind of look. This is more, “we figured it out and we’re in a positive, Seth MacFarlane’s version” of a positive future.

But, I think that the audience that we had of “Star Trek” fans were also sitting back in their chairs with their arms crossed going, “Why are you messing with what I love? Why are you taking something I love and not just redoing it. This is exactly how I love it.” So, we actually had to start from beneath, to win these people with this new idea. I think we had to really, really show these people that we cared and that we were doing an homage to “Star Trek” and adding to it.

TrunkSpace: It’s the Trojan horse of science fiction shows.
Grimes: (Laughter) Absolutely. That’s exactly right.

TrunkSpace: So when it comes to the character, what did Lt. Gordon Malloy offer you in terms of performance that you have yet to be able to tackle in your career?
Grimes: I’m a little bit more intelligent, I hope, than Gordon, but it’s been a great opportunity for me to be comfortable in playing closer to myself. How many times have I pretended to drive a spaceship? (Laughter) I’m very good at pretending to drive a spaceship in real life. On “ER,” pretending to be a doctor is a little bit more difficult. That wasn’t what Scott Grimes would do. So this guy was really close to me.

And also, being comfortable working with, as an actor, a man, all you really need, all you want, is to be comfortable with failing. I remember doing the movie “Robin Hood” and I was so nervous working with Ridley Scott that I was so nervous to mess up. There’s helicopters everywhere and horses, and if you messed up, it cost a lot of money. So I didn’t do my best work, because I wasn’t as comfortable as I could have been. On “The Orville,” this character, it’s the first time I’ve been just crazy comfortable on a set to be stupid, to fail, because when you’re comfortable with doing that, you’re also comfortable with getting it right, and when you hit it, you hit it big.

TrunkSpace: Is a part of that also being so comfortable with the creative team already?
Grimes: God, yes. The producers and the writers… this is the first time I’ve felt a part of a production, instead of just feeling a part of the acting. And not that I’m writing anything, but David A. Goodman, one of our writers, will come up to me and say, “Hey, should we say this line instead of this line?” And I’ll go, “Oh, God, that’s funny. Let’s show Seth.” Not that I wrote it, but he’s coming to me and asking me my opinion, and that’s never happened to me, so you just feel like you’re a part of something a bit bigger, when you actually watch it and it’s doing well.

TrunkSpace: You’ve done over 230 episodes of “American Dad!” now. Is there any better job in the industry than a prime time animated series?
Grimes: It’s unbelievable. It’s a gift. Again, to bring up “ER,” I had a lunch break on “ER” and I walked up to a friend of mine named Mark, and I said, “You know, Seth wants me to go over and audition for this thing called ‘American Dad!,’” and this friend of mine, Mark, he said, “You should go.” I’m like, “Well, I don’t really know how to do voices well…” And my friend talked me into it. I owe that friend some money, because it’s been 13 years now of a steady, beautiful paycheck and great friends, and great work. And I owe it all to that decision that I made, because it is an absolute gift.

TrunkSpace: When people stop you on the streets or reach out to you via social media, what’s the one project that they most want to ask you about?
Grimes: “The Orville” would be the one now, because for some reason people love to shout that one out, but it would be “Band of Brothers,” just because of how long it’s been, and how much it keeps growing. When I walk down the street, I feel like “Band of Brothers” just started two days ago.

“The Orville” airs Thursdays on FOX.

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