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Musical Mondaze

Reverend Horton Heat

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Photo By: Gene Ambo

Not many bands have the creative stamina and indie credibility of Reverend Horton Heat, but then again, not every band has Jim Heath at the helm. With over three decades of writing, recording and touring under their belts, the psychobilly pioneers are showing no signs of slowing down, releasing their 12th studio album, “Whole New Life,” just a week ago on Victory Records.

We recently sat down with Heath to discuss the importance of persistence, inflatable reindeer, and why he’s looking forward to taking guitar lessons before hitting the studio for the next record.

TrunkSpace: “Whole New Life” is the 12th studio release for Reverend Horton Heat. How do you feel this album sets itself apart from your previous albums?
Heath: It’s the most positive album I’ve ever done. Some of my stuff in the past was dark, maybe too dark. I guess I’m not the awful vindictive jerk I thought I was!

TrunkSpace: A dozen albums is no easy feat. What has been the Reverend Horton Heat key to musical longevity? Is there a secret sauce?
Heath: Well, I’m not sure. Luck is part of the equation, but not as important as persistence. I’m not giving up – ever.

TrunkSpace: Speaking of longevity, you’ve stated that you’re on the Willie Nelson retirement program, meaning, you’ll never retire. As fans, we couldn’t be happier to hear that. Is it just as exciting for you to step onto the stage or slip into the studio as it was when you first started your musical journey? What keeps you going?
Heath: I actually enjoy playing music now more than when I was younger. Back then, there was always the pressure to perform well. Getting asked back for a return gig, agents, label reps and all that made every gig pretty important. Now, none of that stuff matters much at all. I get up there, let it rip and have fun, even if it’s 20,000 people. That being said, I don’t enjoy the travel as much, but that’s what has to be done. I do still love hanging out with the guys in my band and crew. We have a lot of fun joking around and stuff.

TrunkSpace: It’s difficult to say what the future holds though change is always a part of the equation. How do you feel your music – both lyrically and sonically – has changed over the course of your current 12-album journey?
Heath: Well, I think I’ve gotten better as a singer and storyteller. Certain aspects of my guitar playing have improved as well. But in general, there’s a lot of my style that is there and will always be there as long as I’m breathing. I’m still trying to improve though. I got a vocal coach before I started writing this new album. I’m going to keep going to him when I can, but I’m going to focus on guitar playing before the next one. I’m going to take guitar lessons.

TrunkSpace: Do albums become a bit like chapters of your life? Does it become, “Those were my ‘It’s Martini Time’ years and those were my ‘Revival’ years?” Are they musical yearbooks?
Heath: Maybe in a way that is subconscious. But in all honesty, I’m a fifties singles kind of guy more than a seventies concept album kind of guy. So, I’m more song by song. If I feel I’ve got a good song that doesn’t necessarily fit into the scheme of the album I’m still going to put it on there if it’s better than the ones that I think are weaker. In all honesty, sometimes the songs I think are not that strong are the ones people like.

TrunkSpace: The band tours relentlessly. With all of that time out on the road, do you create while traveling or is your writing reserved for specific spaces when you’re tour dormant?
Heath: I’m always thinking of concepts for songs. Either lyrics, a little melody, a chord sequence or a drum beat can hit at any time. Then, I have a little studio in Dallas where I go in and really work the concept into a completed song. I’ll crank my amp up and start caterwauling. I’m sure it sounds terrible, but something good always comes out when I least expect it.

TrunkSpace: With 200 shows annually, do you still experience firsts when you’re touring? Is there still some magic to be found beneath the wheels of that bus?
Heath: Yes. There’s always something new. Actually, we only play about 150 shows a year. Yesterday the new thing was that we have a giant inflatable Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer that’s 10 feet tall. It’s huge. We got a lot of laughs yesterday setting that thing up.

TrunkSpace: Your music is so infectious it could make Bernie from “Weekend at Bernie’s” get up and dance! When you set out to establish your sound all those years ago, was there a plan of attack or did the band’s sonic identity come together organically?
Heath: I wanted to have a fun band and play fast rock and roll songs and fast rockabilly and country type stuff too. So, I had this in my head before I even started the band. My albums have slow songs that I think are some of the best songs I’ve ever written, but live we don’t play very many slow songs. We keep the energy as high as possible.

TrunkSpace: Every time we fire up our phone, television or computer, it seems we are bombarded with terrible news that gives us yet another reason to escape through music. Having a band like Reverend Horton Heat around during those moments is a breath of positive, foot-tapping, fresh air. Is playing music as much of an escape for you as it is for the audience to listen?
Heath: Yes. After I read the news in the morning, I escape by reading about recording techniques, and recording equipment. I’ve built some microphones and microphone amplifiers. Then I go to my studio and listen to music, practice and record. The worst thing I can do is go on Facebook. That ruins my day. I feel sorry for people who are trying to learn to play a musical instrument nowadays. The smart phones are such a distraction. When I was a kid learning to play music, all we had was a television with only five channels, a radio and a record player. So music was kind of all we had.

TrunkSpace: What do Reverend Horton Heat fans have to look forward to in 2019? What’s next on the Willie Nelson retirement program?
Heath: This year is going to be deep into promoting the new album “Whole New Life.” We’re playing Viva Las Vegas Festival this year. Also, Summerfest in Milwaukee. We’re going to Canada. Probably doing videos and such…and a lot of joking around.

Whole New Life” is available now on Victory Records.

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Deep Focus

Kevin G. Schmidt

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In our ongoing column Deep Focus, TrunkSpace is going behind the camera to talk with the directors, writers and producers who infuse our world with that perennial pop culture goodness that we can’t get enough of.

This time out we’re chatting with Kevin G. Schmidt, writer, producer and star of the new inspirational indie “Randy’s Canvas” about revisiting a 12-year-old screenplay, gaining valuable real-world insight into his characters, and why the art community is so important.

TrunkSpace: You wrote, produced and starred in “Randy’s Canvas.” Why was this a story you needed to be involved with in such an in-depth way?
Schmidt: That’s a good question. This story came to me in the way that a lot of things I get involved in my life comes to me – through writing. The director and I worked together for the first time when I was 18, so 12 years ago. The original idea for this story was actually crafted into a first draft 13 years ago. Two Aprils ago, Sean (Michael Beyer) hit me up and said, “Hey, we have the resources needed to finance this film, would you act in it? And would you call some friends to see if they would be in the film as well?” I was like, “Yeah, let me read it, it’s been 12 years since I’ve seen the first story.” And as it usually happens with a 12-year-old script, it needs some love and attention. And once you’re writing a project to shoot it, things have to be adapted to budgets and locations. So, we all agreed on packing a new draft together and working on what we would call our “finished” screenplay. Fortunately that attracted some really incredible artists and actors in our network and we all got together and made a film that really exposed us not only to the spectrum, but really a chance for all of us to work together on a cause during a film, which was even more beautiful.

TrunkSpace: Had you already moved on from your original script, thinking that it would never come into fruition and be produced?
Schmidt: No, not necessarily. I think you write stories that are meaningful or, and I’ll speak from my perspective, I write things that are meaningful… messages and themes I think are relevant and timeless. I wrote my first script when I was 15 years old and it still hasn’t been produced to this day. It’s not for any lack of effort, it is that stories and messaging come in waves. Things I’ve written 10 years ago get attention now. Writing is about storytelling and as long as your story is timeless and it focuses on themes that people can relate to as globally and universally as possible, then I believe that there’s always a chance for it to come back around. So, you never give up on a story, but you follow the momentum of your stories.

TrunkSpace: What were the biggest changes that you had to make in terms of updating the script and getting it shoot ready?
Schmidt: The main thing was tightening it all up. I think one of the main things that I went through and really focused on was crafting this film totally from a coming-of-age-story versus these larger than life fictional characters, and one of them happens to have autism. So, an example would be, in the old draft Henry and Randy have this card hustle kind of thing they were doing. They were like small time thieves and the whole opening bit is this five minutes of them hustling people on the boardwalk to earn some cash, and then they get caught and they run from the cops. It’s like this totally different thing. And when I reread that draft, I was like, “First of all, we’re selling a character-driven story that’s going to seem more drama than comedy. We don’t necessarily need this action bit. We don’t have time to shoot this action bit. It’s not really relevant to the core of all these characters and getting people invested into them. So let’s just remove that bit totally.” Then as we started looking at certain cast members to play certain roles, we were able to highlight a lot of their own experiences with the spectrum in their own lives and the things they’ve gone through. I’ve been friends with Scout (Taylor-Compton) since I was like 12 years old. I’ve had the fortune of growing up with her and learning about her. We’ve been friends for a long time, and she’s one of the most incredible actors I know. And when she decided to sign on for Cassie it was like, “Oh, I have this wealth of personal experiences that I have with Scout and with my friendship, and throughout collaborating, and throughout the years that we can put into this character Cassie. And she can have all these different layers to it just by what she’s thinking.” And that’s really what we did is we went through and we fleshed out all the characters and made them as relatable as possible.

A huge part of that as well was when we went into rewriting the screenplay, we worked with the Autism Project in Rhode Island and we called them our panel of experts. There were about 10 kids between the ages of 10 to 25, so some young adults as well – boys and girls – and we had this interview back and forth with them as we crafted the screenplay. The primary conversation was, “How do you feel autism is portrayed in the media?” And almost the 100 percent consensus was you’re either a massive savant, like in “The Good Doctor,” or if we go back a few years, “Rain Man,” or you’re super low functioning on the spectrum and it’s almost like everything is a burden. And I’m looking at these 10 kids who are more savant than they are non-functioning, and everything else in between, and you go, “Wow, we can’t tell a story about autism, we have to tell a coming-of-age story that all of these kids, us, and the broader audience, can experience that happens to be seen through the lens of the character with autism.” So, it reframed how we approached the story instead of telling a story about autism we were telling a coming of age story through a young man experiencing autism.

TrunkSpace: Just from that experience of sitting down with that group of 10 kids and young adults, that must have given you such a different perspective on how to approach some of those coming-of-age scenes.
Schmidt: Totally. I think something that was unexpected for me that came out of it was, we’re in such a PC culture right now, right? Everything is politically correct and people feel like they’re walking on eggshells, but when you’re dealing with an experience that somebody has had their entire life, there’s no alternate reality that they experience. It’s just like, “Hey, I am on the spectrum and this is my life. I’m still a person and that’s not who I am. It’s just a part of who I am. I don’t need to talk about it too much. I just do things a bit differently than you. Life is good.” It kind of made me go, “Whoa.” We spend so much time focusing on these minute differences within each other instead of these almost massive similarities that we have with each other. It allowed us to speak more freely and discover the intricacies of the spectrum through our panel of experts than we would have if we were so nervous every step of the way about doing something wrong. We were able to take risks.

Schmidt in “Randy’s Canvas.”

The boys and girls and young adults were all involved in making this film as well, so they were on set with us and we were always connected to the message behind the story. And that was unexpected to me, to be able to not only dive into something where from the outside if you’re not familiar with people with the spectrum, or close to somebody on the spectrum, you kind of feel like, “Oh, I’ve got to be careful what I say.” Well no, we’re really trying to highlight the individuality and the uniqueness of all these wonderful individuals who we were able to share time with and create art with along this journey.

TrunkSpace: You just mentioned how we as people need to look at the massive similarities we all have as opposed to the small differences, and in that, isn’t that the beauty of art and film? Regardless of where you come from, what your beliefs are or what side of the aisle you’re sitting on… art can bring us all together and we can find common ground within it, even when we don’t realize it.
Schmidt: I agree with that. That’s the whole reason I got into the arts. That’s the whole reason I started writing. It’s not necessarily the majority of the current environment. I also think that also means there’s more of an opportunity to tell stories that bring people together, versus polarization. So I hear you, man. Art, dance and singing… the arts are some of the most important tools to bring people together and create a sense of community. I’m always skeptical and a bit turned off when art is used as a weapon to marginalize one group or another.

TrunkSpace: There’s that same sense of community when you go and see a live concert. You’re all standing in this room together focused on the same thing… enjoying the same thing. That’s powerful.
Schmidt: Truly. And hopefully as this becomes the topic of conversation, so much about the important things about us like our experiences, our upbringing, sex, religion, politics… all the stuff we’re not supposed to talk about are actually the small minute differences that we can learn a lot from, as long as we’re not always trying to change people’s minds or be right. And I enjoy that. I’m the middle brother of three. I’ve kind of always been in the middle of things and listening to different perspectives. I’ve got a background in the arts. I love writing. Business is interesting to me too. So, I hope that as time goes on and as these years kind of play out, we get more community and conversation versus the current climate, which isn’t so conducive to that.

Randy’s Canvas” is available on on digital HD.

Check out our interviews with director Sean Michael Beyer and star Adam Carbone as well.

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Wingman Wednesday

Kirby Johnson

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Photo By: TJ Manou

Many aspiring performers dream of the glitz and glam that can come out of a career in front of the camera, but for Kirby Johnson, playing “the dead girl” in a series like “Dexter” was more on her to-do list, and thankfully for horror lovers, the Universe was listening. As the mostly-deceased star of the new film “The Possession of Hannah Grace,” the Florida native is bringing the jump scares to audiences everywhere this weekend, portraying the terrifying title character with the bendable body.

We recently sat down with Johnson to discuss the difficulty of playing dead, turning party tricks into a career, and why she’s a bit like Harry Potter to her family.

TrunkSpace: “The Possession of Hannah Grace” seems like it could be one of those defining moments for your acting career. How have you been handling the wait because it must be one of those things where you’re eager to see it released?
Johnson: Yeah, definitely. It’s been a really long process. We filmed about two years ago in Boston, so it’s been such a waiting game for me. I’m like, “Let’s put it out! Let’s put it out! Let’s put it out!” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Did it start to feel real when the trailer and poster were released?
Johnson: Absolutely. It didn’t even feel real until I woke up one morning and they released the poster. Then they released the trailer, and I’m a huge moviegoer – I go to the movies about once a week, I’m nuts – I went to the movie theater, and I’m walking down the hall, and my poster was hanging in my movie theater. I just lost it. I was like, “Oh, this is so for real!”

TrunkSpace: That poster is fantastic. It should be your holiday card. (Laughter)
Johnson: Well, thank you. Yeah, Halloween is my favorite holiday. This is very fitting for me.

TrunkSpace: It seems like you had to do some real heavy dramatic stuff, particularly in the exorcism scenes. Was it easy keeping that heaviness assigned to the set, or did the weight of it sometimes come home with you just because of the nature of the material?
Johnson: You know, you would think it would be some dark, and dramatic, and heavy to process for me, but it really wasn’t at all. I just approached it the way I would approach any sort of character – just the same as I would approach a young teenage romance. You just take the character in, and you just let it come to life, and then once the cameras stop rolling, you just have to let it go.

TrunkSpace: You’re playing dead – literally – for much of the movie. Was that difficult, just having to stay still and motionless for so long?
Johnson: Oh me, oh my! The hardest was keeping my damn eyes open for so long!

TrunkSpace: That has to be brutal because even if you’re not front and center in frame, you’re still in the scene, which means, no blinking!
Johnson: Absolutely. Just to hold it, and hold it, and hold it… and being in the scene, you know when the last words are. So I’m like, “I know we have a few more sentences until I can break and the scene is done.”

I could beat anybody in a staring contest at this point. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) Whenever you tell yourself to not do something, like blink, your mind starts to fight you and you end up blinking. It’s a viscous cycle.
Johnson: It’s so bad. Or even… I’m sure you’ve seen the trailer. My positions are not the comfiest, and I’m a contortionist, but to hold those for a long period of time, you get a muscle cramp. The other actors will be doing so well, and I’m like, “Damn it, don’t move! Just stay!”

TrunkSpace: You mentioned being a contortionist, and like you just pointed out, you got to show off those skills in this. How important were those serpentine bends and moves in terms of laying the foundation of Hannah’s creepiness, because it definitely plays off in the trailer?
Johnson: It’s so funny because everyone keeps saying, “You’re a contortionist! You’re a contortionist!” Yes, I am, but I’m not trained or anything. It was really, honestly, just some party tricks where I would be like, “Hey, I can pop my shoulders out of their sockets. Everybody check it out.” It wasn’t anything I ever studied or practiced, but I am the biggest horror movie fan. That is a huge part, to be able to do that creepy, weird, slow bending of the body. It brings the scare factor to life to be able to do that and not have it CGI. It’s so gross. It’s disgusting, in the best way.

TrunkSpace: To be able to turn party tricks into a job, that’s a pretty awesome thing!
Johnson: Yeah. The audition process was funny. They just wanted me to cry and do some weird arm movements, but I knew what they were looking for. I knew I was auditioning for a horror movie. I have seen them all, so I was like, “Oh, wait, let me show you what else I can do.” So, I got down on the floor and I was just crawling around in this very important casting office, crawling around the floor like a creep. It got me the job.

TrunkSpace: Sounds like you used your knowledge of horror as a tool in your toolbox.
Johnson: Of course. Do you know the show “Dexter?”

TrunkSpace: Sure.
Johnson: Okay. When I was living in Florida, before I had moved out here, I was watching “Dexter” and I was saying to my family, “I’ll play the dead girl. I’ll play the dead, naked girl on the floor. Oh my God, I would do that,” Then, BOOM, I manifested it, and then I got this job, which is hilarious.

TrunkSpace: Did you go back to any of the classic movies like “The Exorcist” for inspiration?
Johnson: Oh, of course. I mean, for me “The Exorcist” is such a classic. I obviously had to re-watch that one. That’s the start of it all, so I definitely pulled inspiration from that.

That’s kind of what you have to do. You have to take inspiration, and then try to make it your own – give it your own twist.

TrunkSpace: If we looked ahead 20 years down the road, maybe there’s someone watching “The Possession of Hannah Grace” and finding inspiration through your performance!
Johnson: That is so surreal. I mean, that’s mind-boggling to think that somebody could possibly be taking inspiration from me. That’s just heartwarming.

TrunkSpace: Between the color of your skin and the veins, it looks like you had to spend some time in the makeup chair. What was that process like for you?
Johnson: A huge process, but let me tell you… I had the most fun in the makeup chair. I spent four hours every day in that makeup chair, and my two makeup artists were absolutely incredible. They made me so comfortable and they made it so much fun that the time just flew by.

TrunkSpace: And as a fan of horror, the end results when you step out of the makeup chair must make it all worth it?
Johnson: It was incredible. I mean, just to see yourself, it’s disturbing, but it’s beautiful because it’s so… the attention to detail of the makeup that they did was incredible. Watching this, I’m like, “Wow! That blood looks so great! Wow! I look disgusting!”

TrunkSpace: We talked about what you thought of it all when the trailer and the poster dropped, but what has your family thought of it all?
Johnson: Oh my gosh, my family is so supportive of this. Okay… my dad, he cried when he saw it. He’s like, “Oh my God! This is so exciting!” My mom is just jumping for joy, and my sister just thinks it’s the coolest thing ever to have me playing a dead girl. My whole family is so supportive of me being the dead girl of the movie. It’s almost like Harry Potter when they’re like, “We have a wizard in the family.” They’re like, “We have an actor in the family.”

TrunkSpace: Do you plan on sneaking into any public screenings when the movie opens and watching the reaction of an audience in real time?
Johnson: Of course. Are you kidding me? That’s going to be so exciting. I mean, I have to go on Friday night. That’s when most people go. I’ll sit in the back and watch all these people scream and jump in fear over myself.

The Possession of Hannah Grace” opens tomorrow.

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Wingman Wednesday

Miranda Edwards & Michael Jonsson

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Photo By: Erich Saide

We’re sitting down with Michael Jonsson and Miranda Edwards of “Arrow” to chat all things Longbow Hunters after joining up with the series in Season 7. Buckle up villain fans!

TrunkSpace: “Arrow” has a very passionate fandom and is based on characters and a world with a very rich history. When you’re working on a project that means so much to so many people, does it carry a little bit more weight? Does it start to feel like more than just your average job?
Jonsson: “Arrow” is WAAAAAAY more than just an average job. These fans are awesome and they observe and cherish every part of the show. Trying to live up to those types of expectations is daunting but I am going to try as hard as I can to do just that.
Edwards: I really do walk into every project with nerves. None of it is average to me. I want what I do to be as authentic as possible so I have a high standard for myself. But I found entering into this world to be quite freeing. Because I know that so many people watch and love the show. I’m really just thrilled to show up and have fun with this character. Of course, I hope the fans like what I have to bring but I’m pretty excited to bring it!

TrunkSpace: What would 10-year-old Michael and 10-year-old Miranda think if we were to zip back in time and tell them that someday they’d be playing supervillains in the DC Universe? Would they be surprised?
Edwards: Umm. 10-year-old Miranda thought she was already a superhero but she was actually exploring her wicked side. So she might be surprised to be a villain but my family would say, “No, that’s about right.”
Jonsson: Yeah! 10-year-old Michael always played the good guys. He was Luke, Indiana or a Goonie, which is funny, ‘cause my son is seven years old and he likes being Kylo Ren, Thanos or Darth Vader. The kid has the biggest heart and sweetest smile but wants the power to choke you to death.

TrunkSpace: You both joined the series for the first time in the episode “The Longbow Hunters.” What can you tell us about Kodiak and Silencer and how the two get caught up in the super shenanigans to take out Oliver Queen?
Jonsson: We do whatever Diaz tells us to do. He is the boss and it makes for some awesome fight scenes. *Spoiler* – The fight in our first episode in the train car was so much fun! Taking out a whole crew of A.R.G.U.S. was very satisfying from a supervillain perspective. BUUUT, it was that day I realized I need to start training those front kicks a little higher.
Edwards: Silencer loves any scenario where she can dispose of the annoying little obstacles in her path with a quiet quickness. The opportunity to assist Diaz in doing that suits her perfectly. Never hurts to have some partners in crime when you’re doing dirt. So we compliment each other well as the Longbow Hunters.

TrunkSpace: How closely do your characters resemble your comic book counterparts in terms of powers and abilities and did you visit the source material at all in your search for discovering who they are?
Jonsson: Kodiak, in the comics, is the leader of The Shield Clan and is part of the Outsiders War. He IS huge, is a meta with super strength and carries a badass shield. He is also sarcastic and pokes fun at Oliver. I hope we see a lot more of that. The big difference – he’s shirtless and wears an antler skull headpiece. It’d be cool to see an arc transforming him into that.
Edwards: Well, the Silencer has to be able to create silence – that is her thing so that’s an unwavering commonality. She is also adept at taking down her foes skillfully and efficiently both in the comic and on the show. I began reading the Silencer series right away! I was excited to see the backstory that was there for me to draw from.

TrunkSpace: What did you enjoy about getting to bring a comic book character to life? What was it about your character specifically that you liked getting to inhabit?
Edwards: I like the hero vs. villain relationship. It’s always high stakes. As Silencer everything I’m doing from moment to moment is life or death. What a great place to play in. Since she is the one who is deciding who dies and when – by the very nature of her job – she always feels powerful. And of course, in her eyes, she’s always right. Unless she’s being challenged, then she’s fighting for her life. Still life or death. Always interesting to play.
Jonsson: Being tough enough to punch people across rooms and through train doors is spectacular. I get to chuck a lot of people. That’s my thing… I chuck people. I have a cool sounding shield and I chuck people. That and the sarcasm. My humor is dark and sarcastic and is probably why I identified so well with him.

TrunkSpace: Both Silencer and Kodiak were created in what is considered the “New Age” of the DC Universe so there isn’t as much of them in print as there would be for some of the more iconic characters who have been around for decades. Does that take a bit of the pressure off, especially when you consider how the comic fandom has been known to dissect the portrayals of iconic characters over the years?
Jonsson: No way! These fans want and deserve the best and I’m going to work my tail off to make sure this is what they get from Kodiak.
Edwards: I love that she is a new character. I enjoy having the freedom to decide where to go with her. I think there is still mystery around what drives her to do the things she does. That leaves something for me to explore. I like that the fans care about these characters and I look at their attention as a positive. It’s what keeps the DC Universe alive.

TrunkSpace: What has been the most enjoyable part of your “Arrow” journey thus far?
Jonsson: Hanging with one of the best cast and crews around. Everyone on the show is so fun, especially my fellow Longbow Hunters. Miranda and Holly (Elissa) crack me up the whole time. They are not only talented and fierce actors, but they also have incredible personalities making them easy to get along with.
Edwards: Lot’s of action, fun cast, great crew and getting to watch the show and see how it’s received is fun too. Putting on a costume and becoming this other woman is THE most fun!

Photo By: Ellyse Anderson

TrunkSpace: We’re suckers for “Supernatural” here, a show that you have both appeared on throughout the course of its run. (Michael, you actually played two characters if we’re not mistaken?) Is it a bit of a rite of passage for Vancouver-based actors to make a stop in that world, especially given how long “Supernatural” has been on the air?
Edwards: I think so. When I was on and since, I’ve met so many actors who’ve appeared on “Supernatural” once or twice in their careers. It’s such a tightly run ship and everyone is so on top of their jobs that you just dive right in and go for the ride. It’s amazing what can be accomplished in just two short days. I was an angel, I killed, I fought, I died. I had a blast!
Jonsson: (Laughter) Yeah, sooner or later, if you are working in Vancouver, you will be on “Supernatural.” Playing the two characters, I guess I was on it sooner and later. Playing Gog was hilarious though… here are these two giant warriors from 2000 years ago, bickering in Canaanite while wearing diaper-looking loincloths.

TrunkSpace: What is your favorite thing about acting beyond the work itself? What keeps you excited to wake up every morning and pursue this as your career?
Jonsson: Getting to do something different and nuanced every time. I feel like I am always being challenged which is a necessity in everything I do. When challenged, you are forced to become better, find another part of yourself and expand. Isn’t that what life is about?
Edwards: The variety and the challenge. I love doing something different every day, it keeps things fresh and interesting, and there are plenty of challenges. I have to push myself to explore something I didn’t realize I was capable of doing. So I’m growing and learning as I pursue this career. I appreciate all of that.

TrunkSpace: You’re both no strangers to shows with passionate fandoms. Miranda, you’ve worked on “The Magicians” and “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.” Michael, you’ll be reprising your role as The Burier in the third season of “Van Helsing.” With so much great television being made these days, especially those shows that are geared towards an existing audience, is it just as interesting of a time in television for you, the performer, as it is for us, the audience?
Edwards: Yes! And, I am a member of the audience too. I love TV and you’re right, there is soooo much good stuff out there. So, when I have the opportunity to take a great a role on a compelling show, I’m doubly pleased. I’m taking part in the creation of something I’d want to watch and then I get to share it.
Jonsson: Following up on the last answer, it’s fantastic to have a lot to audition for. This means being able to play a bunch of different characters and testing your limits. I love it!

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?
Jonsson: No! I am a big believer in life being the journey, not the end goal. Every day we are presented with opportunities to better our lives. Sometimes we are aware of those little gifts and sometimes we aren’t, or we are aware but stop ourselves from accepting them. Or we don’t want to accept them cause we see the “gifts” as bad. If I know what is coming in ten years, I might not challenge myself to accept all the gifts. Being brave enough to accept more of life’s gifts, good and bad, is what it’s all about. That’s how we feel alive.
Edwards: Nooooo, I wouldn’t want to get in my own way. Knowing me I’d try everything I could to try to shape my own future and then ultimately mess it up. I know that there are great things in store and that there are challenges ahead. I’ll just wait to find out what exactly they are at the moment they happen. And I’ll still try to stay out of my own way.

Arrow” airs Mondays on The CW.

Featured images: © 2018 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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Wingman Wednesday

Annette Reilly

AnnetteReillyFeatured
Photo By: Ian Redd

Annette Reilly is seizing the day. The talented actress and director has overcome daunting obstacles on her quest for creative fulfillment, including a life-changing battle with colon cancer where she discovered silver linings in even the darkest of clouds.

The Alberta native can currently be seen starring as Sabrina’s mom, Diana Spellman, in the hit Netflix series, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.”

We recently sat down with Reilly to discuss raising a teenage witch, instantaneous celebrity, and why her biggest hurdle in life was also her biggest blessing.

TrunkSpace: Raising teenagers isn’t easy. Raising a teenage witch… well, that’s well beyond our pay grade! For those who have yet to binge their way through “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” what kind of mother is Diana, and how has she influenced her daughter? Where do we see Diana’s impact the most?
Reilly: Diana, to me, is a strong willed yet gentle mother. She’s a bit of a mama bear. She’s protective of her daughter and will do anything to keep her safe. I think Diana, being mortal, is a huge influence on Sabrina. I mean, Sabrina was raised by witches. Her struggle is largely to reconcile the two sides of herself, mortal and witch, the mortal side being represented by Diana.

TrunkSpace: The series has been receiving an incredible response from fans. What has the experience been like for you, seeing it released into the world and watching the Season 1 reactions occur in real time?
Reilly: Oh my gosh. It’s been unreal. I wasn’t sure how the show would be received, and to be totally honest, didn’t really even know what I was getting into when I was cast. There was a fair bit of secrecy surrounding it at that point. The reception has been beyond anything I was expecting.

TrunkSpace: Being involved in a series like “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” does it have an instantaneous impact on your career as a whole? Does the buzz of one project lead to more doors opening on other projects?
Reilly: I would say, in general, yes. There comes an instantaneous “celebrity” status of sorts. I think, as a whole, the more you can get your name out there as an actor, the more rooms you can get into and, as a result, the more roles you end up getting cast in.

TrunkSpace: The series intro is fantastic. It’s nostalgic, and yet modern at the same time, while instantly setting the tone for what the viewer is about to watch. When you first read for the series, did that tone come through? Could you get a sense of what the series was going to look and feel like?
Reilly: Oh! Isn’t it wonderful?!?! I absolutely adore the opening. I saw it for the first time at the premiere and looked over to my partner and mouthed, “OMG.” It satisfies all my comic book fandom needs.

As far as the tone of the show goes… as I mentioned, there was some secrecy surrounding the project when I first read for the role of Diana. Looking back to the audition, I would say yes. The tone was definitely there when I first read. I really had no idea what they would do with it all though. For instance, the lenses they use to shoot this series are insane and give the show such a unique look. I could never have imagined what those would bring to the overall tone.

TrunkSpace: Your character’s future is a bit in limbo – literally. Do you yourself know where her future story is heading, or at this stage, is it just as much a mystery to you as it is to the fans of the series?
Reilly: This is TV! No one ever knows where the story is heading! (Laughter) Ok, I’m sure Roberto (Aguirre-Sacasa) has a pretty good idea… but it’s a mystery to me!

TrunkSpace: For the audience, the most memorable aspect of a series is the finished project, but we would imagine for you, it’s the process of seeing it all come together. What was the biggest highlight of being involved in the series thus far – the moment that you’ll carry with you through the rest of your life/career?
Reilly: Oh gosh. There’s so many highlights. I’m really not sure I can pick just one! Doing the floss with Bronson Pinchot, Miranda Otto and Lucy Davis, all in a line, was a good one. I never in a million years thought that would happen. I’ve also developed a wonderful relationship with Georgie Daburas, who plays Edward, Sabrina’s dad. I’m always grateful when a friendship comes out a gig. But, the biggest highlight for me is actually something I can’t talk about yet. Stay tuned!

TrunkSpace: Chicken or the egg question. We know that you’re also a director and producer, so which love came first… was it working in front of the camera or behind it?
Reilly: My first love has always been acting. I started when I was a kid and knew instantly that it would be a part of my life forever. I started directing after I finished my acting degree and it was then that I realized I could use both my acting and artistic skills as well as my more logical, administrative side, all at the same time. They both fulfill me in very different ways. I’ve often thought that I should focus on one or the other, but I don’t have it in me to give up either. And then I do projects like my most recent short film, “A Typical Fairytale,” where I directed and starred (and also produced) and I realize that I CAN do both! Why not! Although, not sure if I would wear all three hats at the same time ever again. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: What has been the biggest hurdle you’ve had to leap in order to get to this point in your career and what did you take from that experience that you apply to your career moving forward?
Reilly: My biggest hurdle was also my biggest blessing. I was diagnosed with Stage IIIb colon cancer back in 2011. I had surgeries, did chemo, the full meal deal. I’m not going to lie, it was tough. My daughter was a toddler at the time. There’s nothing like trying to potty train while you’re doing rounds of chemo. (Laughter) I learned a lot about myself from that experience. I truly believe that there is a silver lining to every dark cloud, if you choose to see it. My silver lining was that I discovered what I needed to do to live my truest life. I discovered my self worth. I discovered how fleeting this life can be and that I should seize every opportunity. That’s basically how I’ve been living ever since and it seems to be working for me!

TrunkSpace: We read that you love high level math, which is a skill set that probably helps in the role of producer, particularly when it comes to staying on budget. What are some other skills that people need – beyond the creative – to work in this industry?
Reilly: A tough skin. This is show BUSINESS. A strategic mind and tough skin will help more than you can ever know. You can’t take things personally, or you’re done. Especially as an actor.

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?
Reilly: Heck no! I’ve seen enough “Star Trek” episodes to know better than to mess with the space-time continuum. Also, I enjoy the adventure of life. Knowing an outcome before it happens takes the fun out of the journey. And why are we all here if not to enjoy the journey? I’ve been face to face with the end game. I’m good just riding this out as long as possible and enjoying every minute of it.

Season 1 of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is available on Netflix now.

 

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Deep Focus

Chris Mul

AstralFeatured
Photo By: Gulben Gurler

In our ongoing column Deep Focus, TrunkSpace is going behind the camera to talk with the directors, writers and producers who infuse our world with that perennial pop culture goodness that we can’t get enough of.

This time out we’re chatting with Chris Mul, writer, director and producer of the new horror film “Astral” to discuss on-set happy accidents, the reason he can no longer watch the film himself, and why his dream project requires a much larger budget.

TrunkSpace: As you gear up to the official release of the film, what emotions are you juggling with?
Mul: It’s exciting to finally see audience reactions to the film, although undoubtedly there is some apprehension regarding what people feel about the project. As a creative and storyteller, you are constantly battling those emotions. Regardless, it is nice to be at the final hurdle, as we have been eager to share this with everyone.

TrunkSpace: “Astral” is your directorial debut. You also also co-wrote the script with your brother, Michael. As you two developed the script and began to write, did you try and adapt it in such a way that enabled you to more easily shoot it? Was that always in the back of your mind?
Mul: I think budget is something in everyone’s mind when you are first starting out. Whilst it’s definitely true that restrictions breed creatively, I think it’s wiser to find the story first and shape that around the budget you have. The producer in me is always telling myself and Michael, “Write to a small budget,” although thankfully he talked me round and we simply adjusted to meet what we had.

TrunkSpace: As far as Director Chris is concerned, did you accomplish everything you set out to do with the film when you were prepping for production? Were there any creative compromises that you had to make because of budget or time?
Mul: With careful planning, you can allow for those “happy accidents,” as you have usually prepared for the worst. With that being said, the final clairvoyant scene was perhaps my greatest compromise. We had about twice the material written down, from what we shot, and had to creatively find a way to maintain the intensity without the added substance. Despite the compromise, it’s definitely the scene I am most proud of.

TrunkSpace: Is it difficult to step away from a project, embrace the fact that it can’t be improved upon any further and then release it into the world? Creatively, can it be difficult to let go?
Mul: Every single day. I’m now at the stage where I can no longer sit in on screenings or re-watch the film, unless totally necessary. To me, on a personal and creative level, there’s a list of things I wish we could redo or change. Above everything else, it is nice to finally see the film into completion and be able to share it with an audience – to allow it to be judged on its own merits, and just learn creatively from the process.

TrunkSpace: How long was the journey for this particular film from inception to completion? Was there ever a point where you thought it might not happen?
Mul: We were actually far more fortunate than most on that front. We ended up having a bulk of the finance before even finishing the script – as our contacts and opportunities stemmed from our work in corporate filmmaking. I feel very lucky to have been so fortunate, and once the ball started rolling, everything just seemed to go from strength to strength. In all, we began in January with the script and structure, and were shooting in August – so a pretty quick one by feature film standards.

TrunkSpace: What is the biggest lesson that you learned in bringing “Astral” to life that you will apply to every project you work on in the future?
Mul: I think that would have to be the importance of forging strong collaborative relationships. When you’re shooting on smaller budgets, you have to have a complete faith in those you choose to surround yourself with. We were moving so quickly across the 12 days we had, that you have to believe in the people helping you to achieve the goal. That, and casting! We were very lucky to have Alice (our Casting Director), who helped us secure the plethora of talent we were fortunate enough to have worked with.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with your work on the film?
Mul: I would have to say the tone and pacing of the film. We set about with a view in mind, and purposely chose to steer away from the generic genre clichés. That allowed us to create a slower burning psychological thriller, which is grounded in reality and emotional beats. Although there are a number of things I wish we could redo, that pace and tonal aspect is definitely something I am proud of as a storyteller.

TrunkSpace: You always hear these amazing stories about how a scene had to be adapted on the fly because of budget or time, and in the process, a cinematic gem was then born. Did you have any moments like that where having to think on your toes brought about unexpected results?
Mul: Definitely! The first example I always think of is our clairvoyant scene. We had two days to shoot that scene and realized something wasn’t working after a few hours. Thankfully my producer, Christos, took everyone who wasn’t necessary out of the room and allowed us to work it through with the DP and actors. It made the world of difference and although we lost half a day, the footage we ended up with far surpassed what we would have had if we’d continued.

TrunkSpace: If someone came to you tomorrow and said, “Chris, here’s a blank check. Go out and develop whatever project you want for yourself.” What would you greenlight and why?
Mul: I love that question. There’s actually a project Michael and I have been talking about for years. As he’s been writing his novel about the history of mankind, the notion of an epic tale in a similar vein to “Prometheus” came about. We’ve benched it for now, but without a doubt, that is the passion project that we are always working to. As time has gone by, we get more excited about it, but realize that the scale of that will definitely require a great deal of finance and creative progression. I look forward to sharing that with everyone one day.

Astral” is available today on VOD/Digital HD.

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Laugh It Up

Lisa Curry

LisaCurryFeatured

Name: Lisa Curry

Socials: Twitter/Instagram

TrunkSpace: Was comedy always in the cards? Were you a “funny” kid?
Curry: As a career, no, it definitely wasn’t “always in the cards.” I come from a very funny, but extraordinarily blue-collar family. The idea of comedy being a career option was about as realistic as waking up one morning with a tail. While my family watched a ton of comedy, we weren’t one of those households who knew writers’ and actors’ names. That’s a thing I envy about a lot of comedy writers’ upbringings – it has to give you a bit of a head start to come into this business with some real knowledge of it.

To answer the second question, yes, I was a funny kid. I was always a weirdo doing silly shit, right up until I learned to be uncomfortable in my own skin – thanks, puberty!

TrunkSpace: When did you decide to pursue stand-up comedy as a career and did you make a plan for how you would attack things?
Curry: I still don’t have a plan! I only started taking stand-up seriously after I was about three years in, so seven years ago. I had every intention of pursuing acting until I started doing stand-up. I resisted it for a long time. It was just too daunting to think of all of the work that was ahead of me if I wanted to make a career out of it. To be totally frank, what pushed me to really get after it was seeing all these people I knew who were 10 years older than me, who had been half-assing things for 20 years and were still scraping together bits and pieces of a career while waiting tables. It was like being visited by a twisted version of the Ghost of Christmas Future.

TrunkSpace: How long did it take for you to discover your voice as a comic?
Curry: That’s something that always feels like a work in progress. I’d say I mostly have my voice, but I’m still a baby in stand-up years and I’m still figuring out how I feel about a lot of things and I’m getting more comfortable with myself and my thoughts every year, which changes everything from my material to the way I move on stage.

TrunkSpace: Is the approach you take now on stage different from the approach you took when you first started out? Is it one act that grew into itself or would you consider them two completely different acts?
Curry: Absolutely. Thankfully, beginner me is unrecognizable to current me. And I hope I feel the same way in another 10 years from now. When I started out, all I wanted was to be Chris Rock. Then, maybe a couple years in, I read or heard in an interview that you don’t get to choose your voice. Your voice chooses you. And that made so much sense to me. I still love Chris Rock but now all I want to be is Lisa Curry, not the next “so-and-so,” unless someone out there is crazy enough to think I’m the next Pryor. That, I’ll take, but I’ll pretend to be embarrassed by it.

TrunkSpace: Is the neon “Open” sign in your brain always turned on, and by that we mean, are you always writing and on alert for new material?
Curry: Yes. I’m not a comic who’s “always on,” but my brain certainly is. Sometimes, I’ll almost be asleep and have to get out of bed to write something down. Or I’ll be in the middle of a conversation and think of a joke and I don’t want to be rude and stop to write it down, so I just repeat it in my head again and again, while totally checking out of the conversation. It can be a nuisance for me and everyone around me. By the end of this questionnaire, we’ll have the answer to, “Why am I single?”

TrunkSpace: How much work goes into a joke before it’s ready to be tested out in front of a live audience?
Curry: Zero. I’ve straight up read out of my notebook on stage before. I mostly write on stage, so a lot of my bits start out as terrible, rambling nonsense at mics or bar shows. If I’m showcasing or featuring or headlining, I have a set list, but it’s never totally firm. If something pops into my head suddenly while I’m on stage, I have to say it, even if everything inside of me is telling me it’s going to fail.

TrunkSpace: If a joke doesn’t seem to be working, how many chances do you give it in a live setting before you decide to rework it or move on from it altogether?
Curry: Oof. Too many, probably. I don’t have a hard and fast rule on this, but if I’m really excited about something, I may keep doing it for a year and trying to rework it. Other bits are more of a compulsion, where I just have to say the dumb thing once to get it out of my brain and then I can move on. That’s a weird thing, by the way. Sometimes a stupid thought will eat at me until I say it out loud and then it’ll disappear and I can move on. It’s like being possessed.

Please send me your recommendations for a reputable exorcist.

TrunkSpace: Is it possible to kill one night and bomb the next with essentially the same set, and if so, what do you chalk that up as?
Curry: Yes. Absolutely. I’ve had nights where I did the same set at different places on the same night and had it go wildly different. I still haven’t decided if it’s better to bomb first and then crush or the other way around. You either start the second set in an insecure funk or you go to bed wanting to die. Tough call.

TrunkSpace: Does a receptive and willing audience fuel your fire of funny and help to put you on your game for the rest of your set?
Curry: Definitely. I come right up to the edge of the stage and perform from there, making eye contact with everyone that I can. It’s very aggressive, but in a friendly way, if that makes sense? I truly just love connecting with people. The more they’re into it, the more loose and physical I’ll get and I think they can pick up on that heightened vulnerability.

TrunkSpace: What is your most memorable performance experience (good or bad!) that will stick with you for the rest of your career and why?
Curry: Oh damn, so many! It feels gross to mention the best, but I sold out my solo debut at the Mach Comedy Fest in Machynlleth, Wales this year. That was an indescribable feeling. On the other hand, I bombed for 45 minutes in Louisville a couple years ago and it still upsets me to think about. So much so that I’d vote to remove Kentucky from the United States if it were ever on the ballot.

TrunkSpace: How do you handle hecklers? What approach do you take?
Curry: It really varies from show to show. I’ve never had a really bad one and I’ve never “destroyed” a heckler, nor do I care to. Almost 100 percent of the time, they’re just drunks who want attention. My family has owned a biker bar since before I was born and I grew up in that environment, so I’m exceptionally adept at de-escalating situations, especially with drunks. I don’t ever want to deal with a heckler, but unless I’m recording or it’s an important showcase, it doesn’t bother me much.

TrunkSpace: What are your thoughts on the stand-up landscape in 2018? Are you optimistic for the future of live comedy?
Curry: I don’t know what the future of live comedy is. Technology is changing the infrastructure of the entertainment industry so quickly, it’s impossible to tell where it’s going to land. I’m always optimistic, mostly out of necessity. I have to believe things are going to be good for a long time, otherwise, why am I even doing this?

TrunkSpace: Finally, who do YOU find funny?
Curry: I’m all over the place. Chris Rock has always been my favorite. And of course there’s Pryor. Dave Attell is a master. If there was a joke writing Olympics, he’d be buried under a mountain of gold medals. Adam Sandler’s Netflix special is pure magic – not that he needs my help promoting it. Leslie Jones blew my mind when I was coming up. I had never seen a woman perform like she does before her. I’m also a huge fan of Monty Python. My favorite comedy is either smart or vulnerable or both.

Now that I’ve covered famous people, there’s an unbelievable number of incredibly talented comedians right now. I work between LA and NY a lot and I’m constantly meeting and seeing new people I hadn’t known of who are absolutely killing it. Then, this May, I toured the UK and met a whole new crop of incredible comedians. I’m constantly blown away by people’s creativity. I have so many insanely funny friends and I don’t have space to list them all so check my Twitter to see who I’m following and retweeting. And for fuck sake, support live comedy. There’s so many free shows out there! Fuck “The Wire.” You can watch TV when you’re old and in hospice.

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Deep Focus

Sam Upton

SamUptonFeatured

In our ongoing column Deep Focus, TrunkSpace is going behind the camera to talk with the directors, writers and producers who infuse our world with that perennial pop culture goodness that we can’t get enough of.

This time out we’re chatting with Sam Upton, writer, director, producer and star of the new hard-hitting boxing drama “12 Round Gun” about going all-in to bring his creative vision to life, the timelessness of film, and why he hopes audiences will be able to feel his soul when watching the movie.

TrunkSpace: As you were gearing up to the official release of the film, what emotions were you juggling with?
Upton: Really, I’m just thrilled that the lion is finally being let out of his cage. I’ve been working on this project for nine years, so the fact that it is now available in theaters and On Demand for audiences is quite special.

TrunkSpace: The film is your directorial debut. You also wrote, produced and starred in the film. Throughout the process, how have you compartmentalized your various duties? On set, did you focus exclusively on creative?
Upton: Yes. It was actually the most creatively fulfilling thing I have ever done. Ideas are inside all of us. They are our own potential floating in the air. Some of us galvanize these ideas into reality, and some of us don’t. For me, “12 Round Gun” is this exact thing. It is the actualization of all of my ideas. All the pieces, uncombined, are mere potentiality – so through arduous years of effort, the precise combination that you see in this film – the images, dialogue, music, sound and light – is essentially me. The making of this film is a synthesis of all of the art I’ve ever created.

TrunkSpace: Do you think you feel extra pressure for the film to find an audience and be accepted by moviegoers because you had your creative hands in so many facets of the production?
Upton: Yes. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t want everyone to love the film. I killed for it. I bled for it. I died for it. I bet the house on it. This film represents the truest form of independent filmmaking. This was an all-hands-on-deck venture. There are so many people, whom without their hard work and dedication, we wouldn’t be talking today. Needless to say, I’m beyond proud of the film, and I hope it will affect people somehow.

TrunkSpace: You called wrap on the film last year. Have you had to resist the urge to tinker with it further or have you continued to play with the final cut of film over the course of this last year?
Upton: There comes a time when you have to say “this is the movie” and you have to live with it. There is no digging the body back up out of the grave and trying to resurrect him from the dead. Movies last forever, so actually, in essence they never die. They live on – and the great movies are actually timeless. They hold up. No matter how much time has passed. You can watch Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” tonight, and you will be completely floored by it. You won’t care that it’s in black and white. It’s forever.

TrunkSpace: We noticed that you have a number of projects in development where you are wearing both the director and writer hats, though producing is not a listed credit. Did your experience on “12 Round Gun” make you want to trim down on the responsibilities during production so that you could focus on creative?
Upton: My passion lies in the creative. I have these three parts of myself, and each one of them requires attention. I write, I direct and I act. I love ALL THREE equally. They actually all fuel and support one another. Each one helps the other, and yet each one possesses a monumental amount of time, energy and focus. I look up to the great multi-hyphenate filmmakers like Orson Welles, Jerry Lewis, Clint Eastwood, Sly Stallone – the list goes on.

TrunkSpace: What is the biggest lesson that you learned in bringing this film to life that you will apply to every project you work on in the future?
Upton: NEVER GIVE UP.

Sam Upton as Joe in the sports, thriller film “12 ROUND GUN” a Gravitas Ventures release. Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with your work on the film?
Upton: I once heard a great director say this about making a film…

The stories you have in the very core of your heart are actually the only stories you can make. And when you have cultivated one of these stories in a film, both you and the audience will be able to feel your soul in it.”

So I am most proud of the fact that whoever watches this movie, they will be able to feel my soul in it.

TrunkSpace: Chicken or the egg question. Which love came first… was it working in front of the camera or behind it?
Upton: My first love was acting. I’ve been an actor since I was in middle school. I live to perform. There is nothing like it. It’s almost like having a very severe disorder. You can’t get rid of it. I’m on a life sentence with no parole. However, my undying love for acting is really just one way I express my unquenchable passion for movies. So really, acting was merely the diving board into the magical waters of filmmaking.

TrunkSpace: Can you see a day where you’re writing projects for other directors, or stepping behind the camera to shoot a script written by another writer?
Upton: Sure. I’m open to anything as long as it wakes me up in the middle of the night with excitement.

TrunkSpace: If someone came to you tomorrow and said, “Sam, here’s a blank check. Go out and develop whatever project you want for yourself.” What would you greenlight and why?
Upton: My current script. Without hesitation. Why? Again, as we’ve discussed, if you are not willing do die for something, than you have nothing to live for… and this current thing I’m writing is just that.

12 Round Gun” is available now in select theaters and on Digital HD!

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Wingman Wednesday

A.J. Buckley

AJBuckleyFeatured
Photo By: James Dimmock

Being a child of the 1980s, A.J. Buckley grew up playing with G.I. Joe action figures, so it comes as no surprise that his inner child is gung-ho about getting to portray a gun-toting soldier with swagger on the hit CBS series “SEAL Team.” As the cowboy Sonny Quinn, Buckley has ventured far away – in a Black Hawk helicopter no less – from those previous characters who thrust him into the spotlight, including Ghostfacer Ed Zeddmore from the long-running genre series “Supernatural,” which he hopes to one day find some narrative closure with.

We recently sat down with Buckley to discuss dreams come true, beard functionality, and why the SPN Family needs to Tweet out #bringthefacersback.

TrunkSpace: You’re in your early 40s, which means you were a kid when “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” took off in the ‘80s. What would eight-year-old A.J. think if he was told his future self would get to play an on-camera G.I. Joe one day?
Buckley: I would play for hours and hours with G.I. Joe. Me and my cousin, Alex, had pretty much every one of them. All the tanks, every character – I was obsessed with it. And as a boy running around the neighborhood playing guns, doing all that sort of stuff was really part of my childhood, so this in a sense is every little boy’s dream. I get to show up to work and fly around in Black Hawk helicopters and shoot big guns and blow things up. It’s a dream job, it really is.

TrunkSpace: Is it one of those things where you show up on set and there’s a new set piece or prop and you get just as excited as you did on your first day?
Buckley: Oh, without a doubt, and we haven’t even touched half of it. I got to drive on top of a Hummer firing a 50-cal and blowing things up. I got to shoot live rounds out of it. Not during the filming, but just to understand what it felt like to shoot a live round. My character carries all the big guns, so it’s really fun to show up and they hand me the gun and a big pack of ammo and I just unload on something. I don’t know how I ended up so lucky but there’s not a day that I don’t drive to set thinking, “Holy shit, this is the greatest job in the world!”

TrunkSpace: And you get to have a beard, which is pretty awesome for an on-camera gig!
Buckley: Yeah, it’s true. Last season it was a little more crazy because when Navy Seals deploy – our tech advisor for the Seals said that you don’t shave at all. You don’t cut your hair and you don’t shave. One, to blend in, but two, it’s sort of like a badge of honor to how long you’ve been there. So depending on how long your hair is and how long your beard is, it shows the length of time that you’ve been over there.

We went, I think, seven months without shaving once… any sort of trim or haircut. And my hair and my beard were so long that my daughter… one night she had put a LEGO person in my beard and I totally forgot about it. I got to set the next day and the lady’s combing my beard and she was like, “What is that?” And I reached into my beard and it was a little LEGO person.

TrunkSpace: It’s like a wallet!
Buckley: It was a long beard. I found toothpicks in there too. We’d be on the Black Hawk and my character would have a toothpick. Because you’re all geared up; it’s hard to reach into your pocket, so I would just put them inside my beard and then if I lost one I would just pull one out of my beard. It was very useful.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned having the Navy Seals as advisors. How important was it having access to them to sort of not only secure the realism of the series, but to understand who Sonny was?
Buckley: We would 100 percent not be the show that we are if it wasn’t for the men and women that are veterans on our show, who have now become producers or veteran writers, or are behind the camera or in various different departments on the show. Sixty percent of our crew are veterans and they’ve gone out of their way to do that, so there’s a real sense of pride in the show that we’re making. And I feel that with our executive producer, Chris Chulack, he sort of set the tone that said we want to have the authenticity of what these guys do. Although we’re making a TV show, we want to be as authentic as possible. And our veterans on the show, our tech advisor producers, they have the ability – which never happens – that if a guest director is shooting something or any director is shooting something and if it’s not the way that we would move or it’s not the way that we would do it, the veteran has the ability to step in and say, “Cut.”

Buckley in “SEAL Team”

TrunkSpace: You mentioned the love of coming to set, but what is it about Sonny himself that you’ve enjoyed throughout these first two seasons?
Buckley: He’s a real cowboy. It’s such a fun character. I’ve never played a role like this before. There’s a guy that my character’s loosely based on, and I got to spend some time with him and he’s got this kind of swagger to him, this cowboy, and he’s got the one liners and sort of that dry sense of humor. He’s a fun, whiskey-drinking, beer-drinking, red meat-eating cowboy that kicks some ass. It’s kind of a dream role for any guy.

TrunkSpace: Did it come with a bit of pressure when you first signed on, knowing that he was specifically written for you?
Buckley: Yeah. Ben Cavell, the writer of the first season, when I spoke to him he had said, “I wrote this with you in mind for the character.” And knowing that this is based on a real group of guys and that they’re with you every day on set, yeah, there is a certain amount of pressure. But I like the pressure because it keeps everybody on their toes and it’s our responsibility to portray this group of men and women in a certain light… and portray them right by giving them the respect that we should and honoring them in that way, so it’s a good thing.

TrunkSpace: You’ve played a lot of diverse characters over the course of your career… guys with different internal ways of thinking. Was that a conscious decision… trying to keep each new role different from the previous one you portrayed?
Buckley: I think so. I would say more in the second part of my career. I always like to find each character I get to kind of push the envelope or create something that’s really different from who I am. Coming off of “CSI: New York” and “Supernatural” – I was a regular on “CSI: New York” and a recurring on “Supernatural” – I was fearful when the show ended that I was going to be typecast. And for me, my favorite character growing up was John McClane, that sort of every man that can do the impossible. And that’s where I wanted my career to go, so I really had to put the time in and shift gears in the sense of being laser focused on the roles that I choose, and physically how I looked. It became really a nine to five job where I had to hire a nutritionist, Kevin Libby, to really dial in sort of who I was and the characters I wanted to start portraying.

TrunkSpace: Was part of that physical transformation an extension of getting executives and casting people to see you in a different light?
Buckley: Yeah, it was. And I think it was for me, too. I needed to feel that way, to kind of get there. In a sense you kind of become the character a little bit or whoever this idea you have… it’s obvious if you’re a superhero or an action hero, you’ve got a good chance of working, and pudgy little dad bod wasn’t going to cut it. So I said, “Fuck it!” and I just decided that I was going to put everything I had into it, and in a sense, manifesting this next chapter.

Supernatural — “#THINMAN” — Image SN916b_0278 — Pictured: AJ Buckley as Ed — Credit: Diyah Pera/The CW — © 2014 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

 

TrunkSpace: We had read that your “Supernatural” character, Ed Zeddmore, was one of your favorite characters that you’ve ever played. What would Dean Winchester think of Ed if he showed up all jacked? Dean’s such an alpha male, how would that play out?
Buckley: He’d be terrified. (Laughter)

I always thought it’d be really funny because the Ghostfacers are the longest living characters. And Travis Wester, my partner on that, on Ghostfacers, who plays Harry, he also started doing a lot of crossfit and he got pretty jacked. I always thought it would be funny if they brought us back, and through the years that they hadn’t seen us, we come back and we are who we are now and sort of give the boys a run for their money. I think it’d be fun. Those guys, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, are two of the nicest human beings you could possibly meet. For our characters, when we came on the show, we kind of took over it. It became the Ghostfacers show, and some actors wouldn’t be cool with that, and they were just… they’re as successful as they are for a reason, because of just the types of guys that they are and how open minded and cool they are. They’re just a good group of guys and I would love for our characters to go back and at least… like kill us or do something, because it ended just so oddly. We separated and we never came back.

The Ghostfacers were Eric Kripke, who was the original show writer, they were kind of like his babies. Him and Tre Callaway were the writers who gave birth to them, so to speak. Eric Kripke really got behind us and kind of gave us our spinoff. We got to write it and direct it, and it was a whole thing, but once Kripke left, we both felt that the new showrunner wanted to take the show in a different direction, which happens and that’s totally cool, but Ghostfacers just wasn’t on that direction train.

TrunkSpace: You’ve been on a bunch of high profile projects over the years. Do any current fandoms compare, at least passion-wise, to the SPN Family?
Buckley: There’s no other fans like “Supernatural” fans. “Supernatural” fans are the most loyal fans that are out there. They’re diehard. Our characters, the Ghostfacers, became who they were and we got that spinoff and that incredible run because the fandom really got behind us and talked about it.

The fans, if they’re reading this, they should do this thing and hashtag #bringthefacersback.

SEAL Team” airs Wednesdays on CBS.

 

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Musical Mondaze

New Politics

NewPoliticsFeatured

With four studio albums under their belts, including last year’s “Lost In Translation,” New Politics has amassed a passionate international fanbase through extensive touring and by dropping catchy singles like “Tonight You’re Perfect” and “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.” Currently the chart-topping trio is in the final stretch of a US tour, partnering with Music Saves Lives to bring awareness to the ongoing need for bone marrow donors.

We recently sat down with drummer Louis Vecchio to discuss revisiting the band’s sweaty basement roots, being a collective voice for positivity, and why he’d have a difficult time imagining his musical career without his fellow New Politics bandmates.

TrunkSpace: You guys are currently on a tour that has (and will) take you to about two dozen cities. Do you enjoy hitting the highways and byways as much today as you did when you first started out? Is there still some magic to be found beneath the wheels of that bus?
Vecchio: The magic of touring and performing for our fans is something that the three of us enjoy tremendously and never gets old. The ultra magical thing about this current tour is we are going to parts of the country we haven’t played in years. We decided to book exclusively clubs and small theaters in these markets, to re-create the sweaty basement show vibe our fans enjoyed when we first started.

TrunkSpace: As part of the tour, the band has partnered with Music Saves Lives to bring awareness to the ongoing need for bone marrow donors. Why was it important for you guys to make the tour about more than just the music?
Vecchio: Yeah, we’re super excited to be working with them again! They are a wonderful organization and have helped so many people in need – it’s incredible, really. Honestly, the music is a vessel and we consider ourselves three lucky passengers. If nothing else, it gives us the opportunity to do good and bring awareness to a great cause.

TrunkSpace: Do you feel it is important for artists to use their platforms as a way to connect fans to causes and ways of thinking that are perhaps outside of their social/community circles? As a band with a large following, do you have a megaphone that plays more than just New Politics music?
Vecchio: Yes, we think it’s very important – any positive and informative voice is great. Having that platform comes with a huge responsibility and we are always up for it, and we are grateful to be in a position to do so.

TrunkSpace: You guys have experienced a lot together as New Politics. After everything you’ve been through… and the point of view changes that come with age… do you see the band differently now than you did when it first came together? Does it serve a differently purpose in 2018 than it did in 2009?
Vecchio: That’s a great question, and the resounding answer is YES. Ultimately, as a band, as artists, and an entity, New Politics to us will always serve the same purpose – to make great music, connect with people and hopefully pay off our mortgages. Of course, as we’ve gotten older, life becomes more complicated, more challenging, but ultimately, exponentially more rewarding, in so many ways… but the core of New Politics, the music and the fans, will never change.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your musical career thus far – the moment that you will carry with you through the rest of your life?
Vecchio: Every single day we get to do this for a living is a highlight. Certainly there have been select moments in our career where we all had to pinch ourselves. Our performance on Jimmy Fallon was a huge milestone. Touring Japan and Russia where big moments too. Again, being able to do what we truly love for a living is something I still think we haven’t gotten over and probably never will.

TrunkSpace: What do you get writing and performing within a band, and this band in particular, that you can’t access from a solo mindset? What are the benefits for you personally in having a group of people fighting the fight alongside of you?
Vecchio: David, Søren and I are basically a family, complete with its share of peaks and valleys. That familial vibe plays heavily in the writing, recording and touring process equally – maybe even a bit more when it comes to touring since we have to share what is really a two bedroom apartment on wheels. But it would be hard to imagine most aspects of our career without one another, and that makes it all that much more inspiring.

TrunkSpace: As the band has become more popular and the music has continued to spread to new ears, has that impacted the songwriting process at all? Does it become more difficult writing and tracking new material when you know there are people who will gobble it up instantly? As humans, we’re all capable of second-guessing ourselves, and does that ever creep into the creative?
Vecchio: Not so much in terms of songwriting, since as individuals with our own experiences and perspectives, we will always continue to write what is meaningful to us based on our place in the world in which we live. However, there will always be that element second guessing ourselves. That’s just part of the process, the challenge of writing and knowing people are going to grab onto what we do, so we try and harness that emotional juxtaposition and change it into inspiration.

TrunkSpace: Can you envision a day when music is not a part of your life? If the band and the fans all went away tomorrow, would you still be working on new material for yourself alone?
Vecchio: Unimaginable. Music is the universal language that binds all of our greatest gifts as humans together. We’ll ride until we die.

TrunkSpace: Outside of another artist, was there someone in your life who inspired or supported your creative endeavors that you feel was important to you getting where you are today with your music?
Vecchio: I speak for all of us when I say our families and everyone who has every supported us as people and as a band.

TrunkSpace: The band released “Lost In Translation” about a year ago. Do New Politics albums become a bit like chapters of your life? Does it become, “These were my ‘Lost In Translation’ years and those were my ‘A Bad Girl in Harlem’ years”?
Vecchio: Definitely, our influences change as our lives change. Harlem was written when all we had was a dream and each other. David and Søren being from Denmark, lots of the early records were significantly influenced by the “cultural shock” the two of them experienced by moving not only to the United States, but to New York City. Thousands of miles, shows, fans and hours and four albums into it, we are fond of where we came from but also very excited about where we are going.

The remaining New Politics tour dates can be found here.

Their latest album, “Lost in Translation” is available now.

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