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Fear the Walking Dead: Passage

Wingman Wednesday

Kelsey Scott

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Many young people with aspirations of becoming a professional actor dream of one day having their talents recognized with an Emmy nomination. Not many of those future award ceremony scenarios involve zombies.

The “Fear the Walking Dead” companion web series “Passage” was recently nominated for an Emmy in the new Outstanding Short Form Comedy or Drama Series category. Even more amazing than a genre show being recognized is that series star Kelsey Scott was also nominated in the Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series category, a well-deserved nod for a performance that will hopefully create a change in the way horror and science fiction performances are viewed on a critical level.

 


We recently sat down with Scott to discuss her “Passage” experience, her writer grandmother, and what she’d develop in Hollywood if presented with a blank check.

TrunkSpace: Did you ever think you’d receive an Emmy nod for working alongside of zombies?
Scott: (Laughter) I think you just take the ride. I can’t imagine that anyone would ever anticipate that, so you just go with it.

TrunkSpace: In all seriousness though, it must be nice to have your work and the format recognized. It’s great to see these short form projects getting critical attention, especially at this stage when they play like mini-movies.
Scott: Oh, absolutely. I said to someone at some point that short form has been like a pioneer of different stories of different narratives of different perspectives. It is now much simpler to produce in terms of content, so you get a lot of voices that maybe would not have been heard before because now they can actually get recognition. Now they can actually get their content distributed in some way. I think short form has become particularly important to an overall narrative for the industry.

TrunkSpace: And for a series like “Fear the Walking Dead,” these companion pieces are also a great way to build out the universe even further.
Scott: Exactly. Any number of people have seen a character on a show or even in film and wondered about their backstory or wished there was more to view with that particular character. This gives a chance to explore that type of stuff. It’s kind of a litmus test, I think, also for the larger brand in that they get to see what the fan reaction is to a certain type of character and then they can make some decisions about how much more to show in the actual long form.

TrunkSpace: What does the production schedule on something like “Passage” look like?
Scott: We spent three days in Santa Clarita and shot the entire 16 episodes in three days.

TrunkSpace: Wow.
Scott: Oh yeah! And we got bumped and bruised and scarred. It was so much fun.

TrunkSpace: Is it a situation where you get to spend three days with a character and then head home and wish you had more time with her?
Scott: Yeah, but it was great. I think the kind of compressed shooting schedule also just allows you to completely immerse yourself because it’s like, “All right, we’re just going to go hard for three days. Just get in there and do it.” It was great. One of the stories that Mishel and I talk about a lot is that on the third day, they brought in stunt doubles. We were like, “We’ve been doing all the stunts. Why do we have stunt doubles at the end?” (Laughter) We were like, “No, we’re good. We’ve already bled for this, so we’re okay.”

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) They bring them in right at the end to do a wide on the characters looking off into the sunset.
Scott: (Laughter) Right! “We’ve got this from here.”

Kelsey Scott as Sierra, Mishel Prada as Gabi – Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 2, Passage – Photo Credit: Ron Jaffe/AMC

That was a lot of fun though because you don’t often get to do that kind of thing, especially as a woman. The opportunities to do action and to get all dirty and wield weapons and kick butt doesn’t come along as often as we would like. It’s nice to not worry about whether or not your mascara is running or just to get in there and really, truly, literally and figuratively, get your hands dirty.

TrunkSpace: After getting in there and getting your hands dirty, was it a pleasant surprise when you learned about the Emmy nominations?
Scott: It was. It was a very pleasant surprise. You know that you’re on the ballot, so you know there’s a possibility, but there are a lot of people on the ballot. (Laughter) You hope that you are one of the people that gets chosen for that select spot. Yeah, it was really, really nice.

TrunkSpace: And you don’t often see genre pieces getting recognized in that way, so it speaks to how views are changing.
Scott: Yeah, I think they’re getting much more character-based than anyone anticipated. They can no longer be dismissed in terms of their story, so I think people are latching on to that.

TrunkSpace: You are a director and writer as well. When you’re focusing on a project strictly from an acting standpoint, is it hard for you to take off those other hats and not think like a director or think like a writer?
Scott: Not really. I think that it’s most difficult to separate those individual specialties when I’m writing, because when I’m writing, I’m writing as a writer, as an actor and a director. When you’re in front of the camera, then I think it’s really about delving into the character. I always think so highly of actor/directors who can direct themselves. How do you step outside of yourself when you’re on camera? I have the utmost respect for people who can do that. No, when I’m acting, I’m all in it.

TrunkSpace: Where did the bug bite you first?
Scott: It was definitely in the acting. From my first step on stage, though it was to sing not to act when I was three years old, so I’ve been doing the performing thing for awhile. My mother was very happy to refocus my energy out of her hair. (Laughter) She was just like, “Could you please do something with all of this energy that’s productive?”

I started on stage in Atlanta when I was just a child and then it grew from there. It was definitely acting, but my grandmother was a writer. That’s actually where I got the writing bug to begin with, when I was six years old.

TrunkSpace: That’s really cool.
Scott: She wasn’t a writer by profession, it’s something she loved to do. After she would write something, she’d let me read it, and sometimes I would actually go and perform her pieces around the community. She really sparked that in me, and then I kept going with it professionally.

TrunkSpace: It was great to have that focus so early in your upbringing because nowadays it seems more important than ever for actors to diversify and be able to create, write, and direct.
Scott: I could never have imagined the gift she gave me in sparking that interest in me because, absolutely, like I said, there are so many more opportunities to tell so many stories now, so you also need to be able to tell those stories. You can’t just depend on being in front of the camera, you have to be able to wield the pen. And that’s obviously a metaphor because nobody really writes out longhand anymore. (Laughter) You have to be able to figuratively wield the pen.

Then, if you’ve got even more skill sets in terms of the directing or the editing then that puts you in an even better position. The more you can do in-house, then I think the better the advantage you have.

TrunkSpace: Does being a writer/director also help you be a better actor and vice versa?
Scott: I think they all complement each other. Everybody talks about how theater is collaborative. That’s on somebody’s bumper sticker. I don’t know that people emphasize that as much in film and television, but it’s the exact same thing. None of this can be done on an island, so the more you know about the different aspects of the process, I think it just strengthens you in another area.

TrunkSpace: So if a studio came to you tomorrow and handed you a blank check to develop any kind of project that you wanted, what would it be?
Scott: Wow! A blank check? I’ve only ever seen those in movies!

Well, interestingly enough, because I am also a writer, I do have projects that are in different stages of development. You give me a blank check, and all of a sudden I’m financing a whole bunch of stuff. Oh yeah, I’d have so much fun with a blank check. Now you’ve got me dreaming!

TrunkSpace: So instead of putting it all into one project, you’d spread the wealth across multiple projects?
Scott: You did say blank check! (Laughter)

Watch “Passage” here.

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Wingman Wednesday

Mishel Prada

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Photo By: Louis Oberlander

In a post-apocalyptic world, being a survivor is not always a good thing, particularly for those attempting to outlast a zombie-geddon. Mishel Prada knows all too well about weathering that flesh-eating storm after being cast as a lead in the “Fear the Walking Dead” companion web series “Passage” where she portrays Gabi, one of the last hopes for humanity.

We recently sat down with Prada to discuss Emmy praise, her surprise casting, and immersing herself into the physicality of the role.

TrunkSpace: First we just have to say that it is extremely cool to see a genre series like “Passage” get recognized by the Emmy folks.
Prada: I know. It is really cool. I think the coolest part about it is that it’s part of this new media that’s coming out. I feel like new media is like this new generation’s rap music. People are like, “What is that rap music?” and then it ends up actually changing the game. I think new media and the online market, online web series and magazines, is the future. There’s an interesting change that is happening. It’s really cool to be a part of that.

TrunkSpace: Did you put more pressure on yourself as an actor stepping into something like “Passage” where you’re basically being folded into this massive universe/franchise that already has a huge fanbase?
Prada: I didn’t even know what I was getting into. (Laughter) I auditioned for it not knowing what it was at all and then didn’t realize what it was until the fitting. And then I didn’t realize that I was meant to be one of the leads of it until I got the script. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Wow. That’s a pleasant surprise!
Prada: I was like, “Oh, me and Kelsey are carrying this whole thing? Awesome!”

TrunkSpace: Discovering unexpectedly that you’re a lead in a high profile gig related to “The Walking Dead” seems like it might bring on a sudden panic attack. (Laughter)
Prada: (Laughter) Yeah, but it’s also exciting because as an actor, it’s fun to get to just dig into these stories. In addition to obviously being part of this big franchise, Lauren Signorino and Mike Zunic did an incredible job of writing a story that I felt really connected to. On set Kelsey and I really felt strongly about that, which was women coming together, doing their damn thing, and just surviving. In addition to being part of the franchise, it was this beautiful icing on the cake to get to also be part of telling stories that I think are very poignant for this time.

TrunkSpace: And from what we learned in talking with Kelsey, you guys got to do your own stunts as well, which must have made for some post-apocalyptic fun?
Prada: 100 percent. We had stunt people, but you kind of just get so deep into the characters that it almost doesn’t make sense to let somebody else take the fall or to feel the pain or whatever it is. In the moment, it was really just all-immersive. And then afterward, Kelsey and I went and had a margarita and we were sitting there just going, “Well, what was that?” (Laughter) We were all bruised and we went and had a spa day.

TrunkSpace: Much of the series looks claustrophobic. Did the shoot itself have that feel?
Prada: It wasn’t claustrophobic in the sense that you feel trapped, but it was definitely close quarters. The smoke and the dust and everything was very real. In between takes, we were having to wear these breathing masks. Just trying to also stay in it, which is the biggest thing because a lot of times an actor, you can kind of step away from the environment, but there’s also a beauty to sitting in the uncomfortableness of it because that is reality for the character. So there was a sense of making sure that you’re still honoring that.

TrunkSpace: Humans are always scarier than the zombies in “The Walking Dead” universe, but was it kind of weird to see the zombies standing near the crafty table in-between takes sipping a latte or whatever? (Laughter)
Prada: (Laughter) The makeup is amazing. The effects department does a really great job. They cast these characters with these really beautiful, interesting faces so that they kind of accentuate the angles. Yeah, it is a really cool thing to be a part of and see.

TrunkSpace: What’s amazing is that a lot of times these companion shorts/web series can sometimes feel like they’re shot on the cheap and not fully immersed in the umbrella of the universe, but with “Passage,” it seemed like they pulled no punches to make it look and feel just like what fans of “The Walking Dead” or “Fear the Walking Dead” have grown accustom to.
Prada: Yeah, the cinematography was incredible. They did a really great job. I remember seeing a lot of the stills and just thinking how beautiful it looked. We weren’t really wearing a lot of makeup and it wasn’t really about the women looking beautiful or looking poised. A lot of it was just about whatever the action was that was going on and the beauty of the sets, which was really cool.

TrunkSpace: When you learned that you would be one of the leads in “Passage,” did it feel like it could open more doors in your career?
Prada: As with anything in life, it’s always good to just experience what you’re experiencing right at the moment. I suppose that is the luxury of not knowing what the future is with the project. All that you know is just that moment and all of us could kind of take a lesson in that… just to really focus on what’s in front of you and whatever you’re feeling and tend to that.

Mishel Prada as Gabi – Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 2, Passage – Photo Credit: Ron Jaffe/AMC

TrunkSpace: Since it aired, have you felt the reach of “The Walking Dead” fanbase?
Prada: Yeah, the fanbase has been really cool. I have a friend that’s on “The Walking Dead,” Alanna Masterson. I’ve seen what has happened with her being on the show. It never really occurred to me when we were shooting it that it would be something that would carry over in that way.

I think what’s cool about “Fear the Walking Dead” is that it really embraces a lot of diversity with the way the Latin community looks at death in a different way. Whereas, in Mexico and most of Latin American, death is celebrated. It is feared to some extent, but it’s just a transition. There’s a compassion in a way.

TrunkSpace: It’s almost more of an acceptance of death and not fighting against it.
Prada: Exactly, and having to live with that death as opposed to being able to bury it away and forget about it.

TrunkSpace: Earlier in our conversation you mentioned that it is cool to be a part of this new media generation. Do you think the various platforms that are now available to viewers has enabled content creators to take a more creative approach to storytelling and tell the story they want to tell?
Prada: Oh yeah, 100 percent. That’s why it’s so incredible that there is this place that just eliminates the excuses of, “Oh well, a studio’s not giving me money so…” Even if you only have an iPhone, you can tell a story and put it up, and people might resonate with it.

Watch “Passage” here.

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