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Deadly Class

Wingman Wednesday

Taylor Hickson

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Photography: Ron Mey/Photo Assist: Julian Morales/Makeup: Brandy Allen/Hair: Mika Fowler/Styling: Cassy Meier

Based on the graphic novel by Rick Remender, “Deadly Class” has been one of the most anticipated series of the new year for comic book-loving television viewers. With an incredible ensemble cast that represents the future of Hollywood, the Syfy action-fest takes place at a high school for assassins during the 1980s and is filled to the brim with counterculture references, many of which are still relevant today.

This time out we’re chatting with Taylor Hickson, who plays Petra, to discuss looking to cartoon character Daria for inspiration, embracing the cliché of happy on-set families, and her future with music.

TrunkSpace: If “Deadly Class” becomes a smash hit, are you prepared for what that could mean just in terms of your personal life and how it could change overnight?
Hickson: I don’t think anyone can prepare for something like that. I think it’s impossible to prepare for something like that. You can’t prepare. You can think you’re prepared, but I don’t think you’re ever prepared to see that immense take off, should it happen.

TrunkSpace: Your character Petra is so far removed from anything we have ever seen you tackle on-screen before. For you personally, was part of the appeal in playing her the chance to show a side of your talents that nobody has seen yet?
Hickson: It was very challenging, but also very playful. The pilot especially was challenging, trying to establish who she was, her interests, how she interacted with people. Bringing ink to life is always a tricky thing. You want to make the comic book fans who where there first happy, as well as the creator of the show, which he’s conveying pieces of his life, so you really want to make sure you get that right.

We actually ended up putting in some pieces from the ‘90s cartoon character Daria, that sort of flat thing that Petra carries. Lee (Toland Krieger), the director of the pilot, we sort of worked together and after about a week of trying different things, he’s like, “I want you to go home and watch this and I want to see you bring this back to me tomorrow.” As soon as I watched it, I was just, “This is it! There’s no other way to do this!” But from my tape… because they booked me on just one tape… it was just myself, and I’m much more bubbly and animated than Petra is, so that’s what I brought because that’s what I was hired off of. And I wasn’t wearing extremely goth makeup. I didn’t have dark hair or anything in the tape, too. It was really interesting to see them base this character around me.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned that you want to make the original comic fans happy, but what’s nice here is that a character like Petra, she’s not Mary Jane from “Spider-Man” where there’s been so many different versions of her on-screen. You get to bring a piece of yourself to this character.
Hickson: Yeah, she’s not what I was expecting to bring to the show at all. I think we’re very pleased with where we took it.

TrunkSpace: If all goes well, a series like “Deadly Class” can go on for years and you will get the opportunity to see the multi-year growth and continuous arc of the character. Is that something that, as an actress, you’re excited to see play out?
Hickson: Oh absolutely. You know, in the comic, Petra completely… she moves over to the Preps at one point. She has so much going on for her over her entire story arc. I think that’ll be incredible to play with because it will be like moving – shifting – into separate characters.

TrunkSpace: That must be a really interesting thing when doing an adaptation like this, because most actors don’t know the future of their character, but with so much of her journey already written in the books, you kind of know where she could end up.
Hickson: Yes. Absolutely. To know what’s coming and then to see it translated onto page always differs though. It’s always different from what you think it’s gonna be. We’ve added in a lot of that surprise element that wasn’t originally in the comics. We adapted… the pilot is completely from the page… but coming up, even going into the second episode, there’s a lot of things that differ. I’m super excited and little bit nervous to see how the audience takes it.

TrunkSpace: For the audience, the end product is always what’s memorable, but for you, it must be the experience. What has been the most memorably aspect of your “Deadly Class” journey thus far?
Hickson: Just the people… working with people. I know a lot of people say that when they’re on set it’s like a family – it’s like a very cliché thing to say – but it couldn’t be truer. We are all in an Airbnb and everyone’s sleeping in the same bed. I was just watching them and they’re all smiling, laughing and there’s dresses and suits, and we have candles and they’re dancing to ‘70s music. We had these two huge pizzas that we ordered… Mama Siobhan ordered it. (Laughter) It was just beautiful to watch. I would watch all these people from all different walks of life, from all over the place, come be in one spot just to celebrate something we created. It was beautiful.

TrunkSpace: And in a way, that’s a little like high school, which brings it full circle back to “Deadly Class.” Here you are, all of these people from different walks of life all co-inhabiting, just like high school.
Hickson: Totally! We have people from different countries… from all over the place. All over the world. It’s really cool to see all of these personalities mesh together. It is a lot like high school. It’s as playful as high school. We’ve pulled some pranks on each other. The one thing that’s missing though is the cliqueyness. There isn’t cliqueyness, which I admire. There’s no judgment. It’s missing all the shitty parts of high school that we convey onscreen.

TrunkSpace: Yeah, keep that onscreen, right?
Hickson: Yeah, exactly! (Laughter)

© 2018 SYFY Media, LLC

TrunkSpace: You mentioned the cast, but there’s so many great people behind the scenes as well. Did you view your time on the series thus far just as much of an education as you did a job?
Hickson: Yeah. I think with every project you grow as an artist and grow as a person. Everyone embraces you. They don’t try to change you. I think I learned a lot about myself being in a high school setting, about things that I did that I’m not proud of in high school and things that were wrong and I didn’t speak up about and damage that I carried with me for a long time. Being around good people and feeling like you can talk to them free of judgment, I think a lot of people will let go of stuff that they were carrying around.

And there’s a heavily recurring theme of mental health. With Marcus being very open and transparent about his mental health and his depression… whereas Maria is bipolar and medicates secretly to disguise her illness from the other students… you see all of this is a massive conversation as the show went on.

TrunkSpace: It takes place in the ‘80s, but really not much has changed in terms of the things people are dealing with in 2019. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Hickson: No, if anything it’s so overly sensitized. We’re bringing such heavy content and we thought there’s no way we’re gonna put this kind of stuff on television. We were like, “How is this ever gonna air? There’s no way they’re gonna air this on television.”

It happens with every project. Every project has some moment. It’s just how you tackle love and revenge and betrayal and all those things, amplified by adding raging hormones, but the certain messages we’re gonna convey are about the repercussions and effects of violence rather than the act of it. With people accusing us of being stereotypical in our roles… we’re actually fighting to break those roles, assigned by the old patriarch. The kids are rebelling against traditions and the vision that the patriarchy has. We’re not victimizing. We’re not promoting or glorifying drugs or violence. These are things that do happen and they need to be talked about. It’s about the effects of these things on young kids and how to remain good and moral in such a fundamentally awful place.

TrunkSpace: Beyond acting, we know that you’re also a singer/songwriter. Is music still a part of your life?
Hickson: Absolutely. I’ve been working on an album for what seems like forever. Work has sort of taken off. I’m trying to keep up but yeah, working on two television series doesn’t leave time for much music. (Laughter) I do have an album written and I self-produced, so I created all of it with synth and drum pads… just super fun to design and make. It’s still in the works. It still needs to be mastered and I’m learning how to track vocals and playing around with different equipment to find my sound.

TrunkSpace: What’s great about your current on-screen success as an actress is that you could then carry that success into your music career as well.
Hickson: Yeah. I think music was my original thing. I sort of got into acting accidentally, which is a whole other story. Music went on the back burner for a while. Just a big piece of me felt like it was missing and I felt for a while that I had to choose, which was impossible for me just because I have such a deep love for both. I think the music industry, had I kept that going, it would’ve been much harder for me to find some success or a team… you know, those steps on a ladder.

Music, for me, I can procrastinate for years… weeks, weeks, months on end. Whereas I have a deadline with acting. I can’t procrastinate and say, “Well, I don’t how I felt.” It’ll come out whether you like it or not, and that’s what I love about film is that it’s not my decision. It’s gonna come out and someone else will see it. That’s been the trickier side of my music is that I can’t always get to it but it’s also the beautiful thing because it always waits for me.

Deadly Class” airs Wednesdays on Syfy.

Featured image:
Photography – Ron Mey
Photo Assist – Julian Morales
Makeup – Brandy Allen
Hair – Mika Fowler
Styling – Cassy Meier

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Wingman Wednesday

Siobhán Williams

SiobhanWilliamsFeatured

Based on the graphic novel by Rick Remender, “Deadly Class” is one the most anticipated series of the new year for comic book-loving television viewers. With an incredible ensemble cast that represents the future of Hollywood, the Syfy action-fest takes place at a high school for assassins during the 1980s and is filled to the brim with counterculture references, many of which are still relevant today.

This time out we’re chatting with Siobhán Williams, who plays Brandy Lynn, to discuss the fears of taking on such a controversial character, why she ultimately decided to tackle Brandy, and the reason she’d rather be playing Red Dead Redemption 2 than chasing fame.

TrunkSpace: Between the release of “Welcome to Marwen” and the first season of “Deadly Class” kicking off, we would imagine this is a very exciting time for you. Is it necessary to strike a balance between enjoying the moment and suppressing expectations, because this does seem like a business where so much is out of your control once a project calls wrap.
Williams: Thank you! It’s definitely been exciting. For sure, there is so much that can go wrong within a project. It’s a miracle to even get a script green-lit, and once that happens there are about seven million different roadblocks that can set it back or stop it from ever seeing the light of day. Even if it does come out, your scenes could be cut or role diminished, any number of things. You can never have expectations in this industry – you have to remain present and enjoy the process. Art is never finished, only abandoned, so I think every artist needs to learn to enjoy the process. I don’t think any decent artist can look back at their completed work and say “it’s perfect, I wouldn’t change a thing.” But truly I think this is something that can be applied to the human condition as a whole – so much is out of our control in life, we just have to do our best and do what fulfills us and hope for the best.

TrunkSpace: Beyond the great cast, “Deadly Class” also has a number of people behind the camera with a track record for bringing compelling storytelling to the masses, including the Russo Brothers. Did you view your time on “Deadly Class” as just as much of an education as you did a job? What did you absorb from the people around you that you’ll apply to your career moving forward?
Williams: I view every job I have as an education. I learned most of what I know about acting and film/TV on set – asking questions within each department and observing the people around me. “Deadly Class” was a particularly inspiring environment because everyone on set seemed to be striving to learn. I think the most admirable people are those who are open-minded, egoless, and always endeavoring to learn and ask questions. Those are the people who are the most intelligent and successful, because they just suck up information like a sponge. People who are cocky and close-minded never grow or evolve. I have a real love for cameras and photography, so I’d say what I learned most on “Deadly Class” was regarding technical directing. I watched all of our episodic directors closely and took note of their processes.

TrunkSpace: Your character Brandy Lynn may prove to be a bit controversial. She says and does things that will make many people do spit takes while watching. Was there a part of you that was hesitant to take on a character that people will love to hate?
Williams: Absolutely, I was hesitant. I’m still pretty scared of Brandy. I remember having a lot of conversations with my boyfriend about how it would affect my career if the show blew up and I became known for portraying a racist. Would the world hate me? But then I read the comics and discovered how intelligent and highly political they were. I realized that “Deadly Class” is (among other things) a commentary on how flawed the system is – how the wealth gap is fucking up America, how corporate greed is fucking up America. And I realized that I owe it to 2019 to portray a character that is a real-world villain. People like Brandy exist. They are everywhere, coming out of the woodwork especially now that they’ve been enabled and endorsed by the political climate in this country. People are mad that Brandy doesn’t look like J.K. Simmons in “Oz.” She doesn’t instantly look terrifying. She doesn’t look like a monster, but she is one. She’s the kind of person that we should be terrified of in real life. A seemingly innocuous, harmless individual with hatred boiling under the surface waiting for the first opportunity to strike. And if we are upset to see a fictional teenage girl spewing her parent’s indoctrinated fascist hatred on a television show but are fine electing representatives who do the same, well – that just goes to show how badly this story needs to be told.

TrunkSpace: On the opposite side of that coin, from a performance standpoint, is bad sometimes good? And by that we mean, when you’re able to inhabit a character with traits so far removed from societal norm, does it make your time on set more fantastical?
Williams: I wouldn’t say that playing a fascist is fantastical. But from an acting standpoint, the further a character is from myself the more challenging and therefore more interesting it is to play. I never wanted to be an actor who just played myself – but on television. I never wanted to be in shows where I could “just look hot” and read the lines in a minimalist and soapy teen way. I’ve always wanted to be a character actor, and travel as far from myself in as many ways as possible – and playing Brandy definitely does that. Roles that require research, a different era, a different accent, a new skill – those are things that draw me to projects. And somehow, amazingly, “Deadly Class” provided me with all of the above.

In terms of playing a villain – I do have to say that villains are often my favorite characters in shows. Christopher Heyerdahl (who plays The Swede in “Hell on Wheels”) is one of my favorite villains of all time. Watching him was so maddening it was almost cathartic. I don’t know if people will love to hate Brandy – or if they’ll just hate to hate her. But I guess we will see.

DEADLY CLASS — “Noise, Noise, Noise” Episode 101 — Pictured: (l-r) Siobhan Williams as Brandy, Jack Gillett as Lex — (Photo by: Katie Yu/SYFY)

TrunkSpace: Beyond the character work, there’s also a lot of stunt work involved in your portrayal of Brandy Lynn. How does the physical aspect of the job enhance your on-set experience? When you know you’re walking into a stunt-heavy day, is it exciting, daunting or a mixture of both?
Williams: It’s so exciting! I love it. The only time it’s daunting is when I’m still in pain from stunt rehearsals like two days before. I love the challenge that choreography provides, and I love feeling strong, and one thing I love about Brandy is her fighting style. She isn’t technical like Saya or balletic like Maria, she’s just fucking savage. She does whatever it takes to win, and it’s not finessed, it’s just scrappy.

TrunkSpace: You have a dance background. Does that skill set work to your advantage when learning and perfecting a particular fight sequence or on-camera stunt?
Williams: I think so – my memory for choreography helps, and having a lot of flexibility and core strength that I’ve retained from ballet.

TrunkSpace: “Deadly Class” is based on a graphic novel. Comics continue to be a well that Hollywood taps into, both for film and television adaptation. As an actress, what is it like having that source material (and existing audience!) available to you, but at the same time, not having the pressure of stepping into a brand that the masses have been exposed to yet, like the Spider-Man or Batman universes?
Williams: Oh, it’s awesome. It’s great having the creator of this entire world (Rick Remender) to guide us. The comics are amazing to be consistently referring back to for information and backstory, and for tone. And the fact that Brandy hasn’t been as elaborated on gives me creative freedom to enhance and add to her.

TrunkSpace: If “Deadly Class” becomes a smash hit and it catapults you to a new level of fame and recognition, is that something that you would welcome? Is fame a part of the equation, or is it a necessary evil to pursue your dreams in this industry?
Williams: Umm. That’s a tough question, and something I try not to think about. Fame isn’t something I’ve ever wanted – acknowledgment of work, that’s something that would be nice I guess. But fame? I dunno. I’m a pretty insular person and the concept of fame is uncomfortable to me. I think that some celebrities invite fame, and in order to be on the front of the tabloids and be really famous you have be working damn hard for it – paying a publicist and doing tons of interviews and photoshoots and going to the clubs where celebs go to be “seen” – I mean, I think it takes conscious effort, and there’s just so many things I’d rather be doing. Like volunteering with animals or hanging with my cats or playing Red Dead Redemption 2. But maybe I’m wrong. I dunno. Maybe fame shows up uninvited sometimes.

Williams with Steve Carell in “Welcome To Marwen”

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Williams: Working with Steve Carell and Bob Zemeckis was definitely one of them. Realizing that maybe I can use this career for good and help raise awareness/money for causes that are important to me is the biggest one. That’s ongoing though.

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?
Williams: Dude, no. Messing with the time/space continuum never goes over well. Have you watched “Back to the Future”?!

Deadly Class” premieres January 16 on Syfy.

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Trunk Bubbles

Ed Luce

EdLuce_TrunkBubbles

Name: Ed Luce

Website: www.wuvableoaf.com

Favorite Comic Book Character Growing Up: Wow…this is a hard one! Difficult to narrow it down. I think I’ll go with Wolverine, as drawn by John Byrne in Uncanny X-Men. He was very… textural… in his rendering. Lots of hair, which was very influential on my own drawing.

Favorite Comic Book Character NowAgh! How do I pick one?! At the moment, I’ll say Jim Rugg’s Street Angel. It’s a series of mini comics about a 12 year old girl who is “a dangerous martial artist… and the world’s greatest homeless skateboarder.” Image Comics has been releasing deluxe hardcover editions of her recent adventures and they are beautiful.

Latest Work: Wuvable Oaf: Blood & Metal from Fantagraphics, released just this past winter. And I just self-published Wuvable Oaf #5, which continues the story from the first Oaf Fantagraphics collection.

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your art style?
Luce: I’ve been very influenced by 19th century illustrator Aubrey Beardsley, the Hernandez Brothers and Erik Larsen…so I’d say a combination of all those guys!

TrunkSpace: How important were comic books in your life growing up and is that where you discovered your love and inspiration for drawing?
Luce: My folks were largely responsible for my love of drawing. They put a pencil in my hand as soon as I could hold it and kept it there throughout my formative years. Comics entered the picture in a more serious way around puberty. At that age it wasn’t cool to buy toys anymore, so I switched to comics rather than becoming interested in girls. They were there to entertain me as I was figuring out my sexuality.

TrunkSpace: Was there a particular artist or title from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
Luce: Certainly the Chris Claremont/John Byrne Uncanny X-men years. There was so much character diversity in that title and the art was some of Byrne’s best. Those stories got me to love and appreciate continuity, long form storytelling and character arcs.

TrunkSpace: How did you decide to approach your career in comics? Did you formulate a plan of how you wanted to attack what is known for being a hard industry to crack?
Luce: I really fell ass backwards into comics. I’d moved to San Francisco and suddenly didn’t have a lot of space to make art (I was a fine arts painter at the time). After a few months of living there, I’d met several cartoonists and decided to pursue that medium because I could work small, on a desk top. My paintings had become increasingly cartoony anyway, so making a comic based on one of my art pieces made sense to me.

Beyond that, I always had a multimedia approach to crafting an expanded comics world. Early on, I released shirts, records, scratch & sniff cards… even figures (with the help of Phoenix-based sculptor Erik Erspamer), all spinning out of the main Wuvable Oaf book. This helped demonstrate I had a vision and brand, which definitely attracted the attention of publishers. To this day I think that approach led me to working with Fantagraphics.

TrunkSpace: What was your biggest break in terms of a job that opened more doors for you?
Luce: Releasing the first Oaf collection with Fantagraphics opened the most doors. That book got me illustrating for VICE, Slate, Grant Morrison’s Heavy Metal, a slew of variant covers for Image and Oni Press. Currently I’m in talks to sell the TV rights for Wuvable Oaf. I can directly trace all that back to the Fantagraphics debut.

TrunkSpace: A lot of people say that breaking into comics is the hardest part of working in comics. How long did it take you before you started to see your comic book dreams become a reality?
Luce: I’d been releasing comics for about six years before signing the first book contract with Fantagraphics. Touring hard and publishing several books a year, along with producing the aforementioned merch, was a big part of my business plan during that period. I feel like I paid my dues, even though I was a latecomer to the genre.

TrunkSpace: Is there a particular character or universe you always find yourself returning to when you’re sketching or doing warm-ups?
Luce: I rarely sketch or warm up. It takes me a long time to draw, so I usually jump right into work!

TrunkSpace: Is there a specific title or character that you’d like to work on in the future and why?
Luce: I’m very committed to working exclusively on Wuvable Oaf for the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love to do some variant covers or short stories. I tend to have very weird tastes in mainstream comics. Puck (from Marvel’s Alpha Flight) and Flex Mentallo (from DC’s Doom Patrol) are my two favorite superheroes, but I doubt either will be getting their own series any time soon. Maybe that would be the main reason to work on them?!

Image’s new series Shirtless Bear-Fighter would certainly be fun to take on, too.

TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your career in comics? Where would you like your path to lead?
Luce: Nothing has been finalized on the development side, but if it does and Wuvable Oaf is brought to animated series, that would be the ultimate path. If it’s successful, I could keep releasing comics well into old age, which would be a charmed existence, for sure.

TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength as an artist?
Luce: I feel like I have a good character design sensibility. It’s always my goal to make memorable, diverse-looking characters. It’s my favorite phase of creation, even if it can be the most challenging.

TrunkSpace: How has technology changed your process of putting ideas/script to page? Do you use the classic paper/pencil approach at all anymore?
Luce: I shifted to a Cintq screen a few years back, to get faster with color. But in the last year, I’ve gone back to paper, coloring it in Photoshop after scanning. I can’t say I have a preference for either process, usually it has more to do with my deadlines than anything.

TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring artist who is considering a career in the comic industry?
Luce: Remember that the world owes you absolutely nothing. You have to work hard, even if you think you’re the most amazing artist around. Don’t fall into a trap of entitlement or narcissism. Be nice to everyone around you, because it’s a very small comics world out there. Getting a publisher won’t solve all your problems… it’ll just create new ones (but definitely still get a publisher, with a good PR person). Don’t read the comments section.

TrunkSpace: Making appearances at conventions: Love it, leave it, or a combination of both?
Luce: I do enjoy conventions quite a bit! I spend so much time alone in a room drawing, it’s often the only interaction I get with the audience and other creators. Internet interaction isn’t particularly satisfying for me, I prefer to see and actually talk with people. Some shows are definitely easier than others (San Diego Comic-Con is the highest level of difficulty) but ultimately all the stress and exhaustion gets washed away after you hit the floor and chatting. Conventions recharge my creative batteries and remind me why I do what I do.

TrunkSpace: What is the craziest/oddest thing you’ve ever been asked to draw as a commission?
Luce: I’m not a big commissions guy, mostly because mainstream characters and portraits are outside my wheelhouse. I did draw Yoda once, in bikini underwear, for Mike Baehr. That might be the oddest…

TrunkSpace: What else can fans of your work look forward to for the rest of 2017 and into the new year?
Luce: My next show is the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, MD, September16-17. All the stuff I’ve been working on for that last few months will be available there, including my variant covers for GI Joe, Redneck and Deadly Class, a story I did for the Judas Priest tribute comic Metal Gods, as well as an uncensored, self-published version of the comic I did for Heavy Metal. Most of that will be available on my site too, wuvableoaf.com.

My new Fantagraphics book, which will focus on the pro wrestling aspects of the Wuvable Oaf comic, will be coming out in summer of 2018. So I’ll be laying pretty low for the rest of the year, trying to get that done!

Feature Image By: Christopher Ferreria

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