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Wingman Wednesday

Paxton Booth

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Disney Channel star Paxton Booth didn’t get into acting for the recognition, he got into it because it’s fun. As part of the ensemble of the new hit series “Coop & Cami Ask The World,” the fun is emphasized thanks in part to seeing his character Ollie Wrather grow on-screen, while also having the opportunity to do his own stunts, including taking flight in a wing suit.

We recently sat down with Booth to discuss the popularity of the series, which Tim Burton film he’d have liked to star in, and the most cherished item in his Hot Wheels collection.

TrunkSpace: Congrats on the success of your new series “Coop & Cami Ask The World.” Are you surprised by how well it has been received or did you anticipate that people would tune in and enjoy it?
Booth: Thank you! After reading the first few scripts and seeing how the characters are developing, I knew it would be a good family show. It is definitely something my family would sit down to watch together.

TrunkSpace: In the series you play Ollie Wrather, the youngest of the Wrather family. He is a character who speaks his mind. What do you enjoy most about getting to play Ollie, especially over a long period of time? (We believe you’ve shot 20 episodes already, correct?)
Booth: We just finished shooting Season 1, which was twenty-one episodes! Ollie is such a fun character to play because he has no filter. It was fun to say things I wouldn’t normally say. Playing Ollie gave me the chance to do a bunch of stunts, which is something I’ve never done before.

TrunkSpace: Is it fun getting to stay with a character for that long – seeing him grow and develop over time?
Booth: Yes, it is great to play a character that actually grows up on screen! I’ve been on projects where you don’t get to play with the character much, so this has been awesome to be able to put my own spin on him. You can see his character develop so much from the pilot. The first few episodes didn’t have much of a storyline for Ollie, but he slowly grows and gets more involved in each episode. I really like how Ollie and Fred start to bicker as the season goes on.

TrunkSpace: What was the most exciting thing you got to do while shooting the first season of “Coop & Cami Ask The World?”
Booth: All the stunts were a lot of fun and exciting. One of my favorite was getting to fly in the air in a wing suit. We were lucky to have such an awesome stunt coordinator, Danny Wayne, to teach me how to be safe and always made sure I had fun.

TrunkSpace: Disney Channel is known for turning young actors into big stars. Are you prepared for the attention that could come with the success of a big Disney Channel show?
Booth: I haven’t really thought about it too much. I was so young when I started acting – I did it because it was fun, not to get attention. I don’t mind when people recognize me and say hi, it’s pretty cool.

TrunkSpace: We read that you are a big Tim Burton fan. If you could have starred in any Tim Burton movie, which one would you have liked to have been involved with and why?
Booth: I would have loved to been in “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.” Being the character of Barron, played by Samuel L. Jackson, would have been awesome. Playing the bad guy would be a big change and challenge. His character eats eyeballs in the movie and makes it look delicious.

TrunkSpace: You have been acting since you were 2 ½. What do you enjoy most about getting to perform and work in film/television?
Booth: I really like meeting new people. It’s cool to see your hard work on the screen and see people’s reactions to it. Plus, I get to play pretend every day!

TrunkSpace: You’re a Hot Wheels collector. What’s the prize car in your collection, the one you were most excited to get your hands on?
Booth: On the last shooting day of Season 1, one of the camera operators gave me a Hot Wheels from his personal collection he’s had since he was my age. It’s a fire engine from 1969 that has a really cool fire ladder and it’s in awesome condition. I really like collecting the classics, but when they have a personal story that’s even better.

TrunkSpace: Finally, Paxton, we know you’re still so young, but have you thought about what kind of career you want to have in the future? Have you set goals for yourself in terms of your acting and other creative endeavors?
Booth: I’d love to continue acting and eventually get into doing films. I’ve really started to become more interested in learning what’s going on behind the camera, too. I’d love to shoot some high fashion editorials and start my own fashion line someday, too. But like you said, I’m still young, so my future is wide open!

Coop & Cami Ask The World” airs on Disney Channel.

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Musical Mondaze

Eric Schenkman

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Photo By: Karen Kuehn

Eric Schenkman didn’t set out to make a new solo album in 2018, but when the opportunity – and creative inspiration – presented itself, “Who Shot John?” was born. A diverse and sprawling collection of genre-bending tracks that range from blues to classic guitar rock, the Spin Doctors’ founding member is continuing his mission of creating music, four and a half decades after playing his first gig.

We recently sat down with Schenkman to discuss the business of streaming, the art of writing, and… curly cords.

TrunkSpace: “Who Shot John?” was originally slated for an October release but is now due January 11 after you partnered with VizzTone Records. Has that stop and go made this a unique roll out experience for you? Was it difficult having to pump the brakes on the release?
Schenkman: It was okay with me. I didn’t mind. The way I figure it is, the whole thing about records now is the roll out, pretty much, and then the first little bit and then it’s hard to hang on after that. It becomes repertoire rather quickly. Originally I was completely super-indie and I was just getting ready to put it out, and then one thing led to another and I started talking to people and I was playing stuff for people and I went and saw this friend of mine in Boston. I wasn’t even thinking about it, and then next thing I know the label, VizzTone, is going, “Well hey, we’d like to put it out, but we’ll have to make it a little bit later because of the distributor.”

It’s nice when something starts to snowball like that. You kind of feel like, “Oh, this is cool.” You know it’s working. It was sort of a pleasant experience, actually, to have that happen. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Anything to get ears on the music is a good thing because nowadays it seems like having as many different avenues for an album as possible is important.
Schenkman: Yeah, it’s all guesswork, but I would agree with you – the more avenues, the better, which is nice, actually. As an improvising musician, I can say that I like a lot of different avenues because you can go from the same place to the same other place in a lot of different ways.

TrunkSpace: You’ve been a professional musician for decades now. Are there still firsts for you? Do still get that sort of “fresh car” scent with any aspect of what you do, creative or otherwise?
Schenkman: Yeah. I love being a musician because that never changes. It’s always getting to know the thing a little better, or from a different angle, or always relearning or reimagining some aspect of something. Anything that’s worth your time in music, and I suppose you could extend that to business, too… I mean, I’m the type of musician that believes that… I kind of see my job as that I make music. And maybe I like to make ensembles, too. I enjoy doing that. But I make music. I think money and business – that kind of is the secondary thing to that. Sometimes it’ll make some money, sometimes it’ll make some business, but I want to make sure that it makes music every time.

TrunkSpace: The way that money is made off of music changes so quickly it seems. It used to be that tours supported albums, but now it seems like albums support tours.
Schenkman: Oh absolutely. The only hope that we have really as musicians, particularly young musicians, is pretty much to be on the road playing and hawking your wares night after night.

TrunkSpace: Are there more opportunities in the licensing world with there being so much more content – film and TV – in need of song placement?
Schenkman: I don’t know that there is, really. I think there’s still opportunity. I think there’s more home for content. As far as speaking to how that interfaces with business, I’m more the mind of putting a fish in the water – a horse in the race – and then scratching my head and watching it, because I really don’t know. All I can say for sure is the business has changed a great deal since I’ve been in it. I’ve been playing the guitar in a band since I was just a teenager, so that’s a few decades right there, and the music business has changed so much from the time the Doctors were making music. The records we made in the early ‘90s, that was a whole different business, you know? You used to make records to get on the radio. Now you make records, you go tour them, they end up on streaming services, and then you have to play gigs in order to support them. It’s literally like you almost have to support your tunes on the streaming networks by playing live because it’s almost like… I mean .0001 is very, very little.

TrunkSpace: It’s so interesting because 20 years ago there would be headlines about, XX Band Goes Platinum. Now it’s, XX Band Has 1 Million Streams.
Schenkman: Yeah, and on the one hand, streaming is very exciting from the point of view of the currency of it, and the fact that it’s there and it’s available. There’s so much different diversity and amazing talent. The trouble is, in terms of it paying, definitely as time wears on, it becomes quite clear that the musician is definitely the last in line for the buck as far as the streaming services are concerned. So you got to wonder if people are putting music out that’s “free” on the one side, on the other side, somebody’s making money somewhere.

It’s very interesting to me, but I don’t really know the business so well. Like I say, I make music and I love making music, but it’s definitely way easier to get an idea of what’s going on now if you can produce the music and try to set it out there and see how it floats.

TrunkSpace: “Who Shot John?” is very diverse, which is also reflective of your career as a whole. Has that always been your mission, to be able to be the type of artist that you wanted to be in any given moment and not back yourself into a corner creatively?
Schenkman: Yeah, I’m more happy for sure feeling free to be creative. I don’t like being in a corner. I feel very uncomfortable if I’m expected to do a bunch of stuff. So this record, for me, was really kind of a perfect storm for the year, because I didn’t expect to be making it. It really was borne out of playing with friends, playing this gig that I play regularly, really expanding my repertoire – new songs and some old songs, and songs that hadn’t been written yet sort of all bouncing around in my head. And then I realized that I was starting to record a bunch of stuff that I liked and so it was hanging together, and so I just kept following that, very comfortable creatively in that context. Live as well.

I do a gig weekly where I play three sets a night, and the Spin Doctors used to do that same kind of gig. And if you can stretch out, your playing can get to some real, real fantastic depths, and you need diversity to be able to do that. You need to be a student of music to be able to try to get better at dynamics and all these sorts of things. So, yeah, I started realizing that I had a record. I was like, “Oh, I got to put this out. I haven’t done one of these in a long time.”

I’ve kind of been waiting to do the next Spin Doctors’ record, actually, for the last two years, and one thing led to another and we just didn’t get started. We had some hang-ups and, I think this is another thing, some of the creative energy probably would have put into the band had we started working last year.

TrunkSpace: Would the Eric Schenkman who first picked up a guitar be surprised by this album or would it seem like a natural progression from where you started?
Schenkman: Yeah, I’d be quite happy. I would not be unhappy with where I’m at now. There’s one picture I have from the very first gig I ever played with an electric guitar, which would have been… I was 10, I guess… so I think 1973. I’m wearing a tennis sweatband around my head and a cowboy shirt with a Kent guitar. I’m sitting on the stage and… remember curly cords? I had a curly cord coming out of my guitar.

Anyways, yeah, I think for me, it’s the combination of trying to beat the fear of standing up on the stage and trying to sort of play your heart out… or sing your heart out… in other words, feeling like you really do have something to say or sing, but king of being just almost just too tepid to really take the first step. But you know, I have never been able to help myself. (Laughter) And so there you are, right? And that’s really a great place to be in the music because you’re really having to grab what works and stay afloat. And I think this record… it shows that throughout, and that’s all my former self would be looking for, would be validity in that. Truth in that.

Who Shot John?” is due January 11 on VizzTone Records.

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Wingman Wednesday

Falk Hentschel

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Photo By: MAARTEN DEBOER

Welcome to Marwen” may be one of the more visually unique projects to come out of Hollywood in some time, but the voice of the film – the story and how that story unfolds – is nearly just as rare. Harkening back to the movie-making days of the late 1980s and 1990s, the film is a feel-good, character-driven escape from superheroes and end of days disasters. For star Falk Hentschel, who plays “villain” Hauptsturmführer Ludwig Topf, that is the exact kind of project that inspired him to pursue a career in the creative arts in the first place.

We recently sat down with Hentschel to discuss hanging up his dance shoes, taking direction from Robert Zemeckis, and how “Welcome to Marwen” saved him.

TrunkSpace: Your professional career began in dance, but from what we understand, your dream was always to act. Was there ever a moment where you felt that acting was taking a backseat and is that what prompted you to pursue your dream with a new focus?
Hentschel: Yes, absolutely. From when I was 14 years old ‘til about 21 there wasn’t too much acting opportunity in my life. I had shifted my focus onto dance in the hopes that the journey would lead me back to acting. I always spent time on filmmaking somehow, whether it was practicing monologues, getting more familiar with different American accents, or studying my favorite movies over and over again, but dance was the bigger focus in those years. But there came a point, once I had been in LA for a little while, where I realized that I needed to shift my focus 100 percent to filmmaking. It came to me when I auditioned for Justin Timberlake’s “FutureSex/LoveShow” tour. That would have been the pinnacle for my dance career and it was pretty much the only thing left that I wanted to do as a dancer. When I didn’t get the gig, I decided it was time to go back to my childhood dreams and passions – filmmaking.

From one day to the next, I canceled all my classes at Debbie Reynolds (Dance Studio), let my agent know that I would no longer pursue a career as a dancer/choreographer and pretty much hung up my dance shoes.

TrunkSpace: Your new film “Welcome to Marwen” entertains, but it also is saying something, which to us, is always the most powerful form of art – one that can leave an impact in multiple ways. As a performer, what does it mean to be involved in a project that is accomplishing more than just ticket sales?
Hentschel: For me that’s the ultimate goal. It’s honestly the only type of project I want to be doing. Unfortunately it has become very rare to have a project like that come your way. Growing up, I have always been inspired to think, feel and act differently after coming out of a movie theater. Sometimes very significantly so, sometimes more subtly, but no matter what, most movies back then inspired me.

So to now be a part of a film that has the potential to really move people and make them think about things in a different way is something I’m very grateful for. It’s a dream come true and has set a new standard for me as far as what I’m looking to do in the future. I truly hope people are as inspired and affected by the film as I was making it.

TrunkSpace: The subject matter is heavy at times. Other than pronouncing your character’s name – Hauptsturmführer Ludwig Topf – what was the most difficult aspect of discovering and slipping into the skin of this particular guy? What did you struggle with throughout the process of becoming the “villain” of the film?
Hentschel: (Laughter) Yeah, the character’s name is a mouthful, isn’t it?

Quite honestly, Hauptsturmführer Topf was not the biggest challenge. Topf is an old-school villain and on top of that, a doll. That allows an actor to really play around and be larger than life. Also playing in the MoCap world brought a certain freedom to acting that I had not experienced before. Everything other than your fellow actors had to be created in your mind.

It was “the thug” that beats Mark into a coma that was the real challenge to connect to although he has less scenes and less “to do.” He was the one that occupied my mind most. I can not play a character without understanding and relating to them, especially in this case since it is a true story. I truly believe that all humans come from a source of love and that all of us are spending our lives seeking love. The “villains” not only in our stories but also in our lives are usually just very, very hurt people that are longing for love. It’s a sad thing if you remember that those villains were beautiful babies once and someone’s child and had all the potential for greatness. Long story short, I decided that my “thug” character maybe related much more to Mark than we think and that the reason he almost killed Mark was jealousy and longing. Mark had a courage to truly be himself, even in front of these dangerous men. The “thug” probably wished he could have been this courageous and honest himself. He felt threatened by Mark and therefor lashed out. It took a long time for me to find this angle. I’m chuckling now, ‘cause on screen it probably doesn’t matter but it mattered to me.

TrunkSpace: Helping to shape your performance throughout the course of the film was none other than director Robert Zemeckis, an icon of the industry. What did he help to teach you about yourself as a performer on this film that perhaps you didn’t know you were capable of before your first day on set?
Hentschel: Bob is an incredible communicator. He knows his story down to the smallest details. He gently guides you when needed but also lets you do your thing.

The best gift that Bob gave me ultimately though was trust. In both directions. It was so easy to trust Bob every step of the way. I mean, come on, he is my childhood hero, and yet at the same time, I felt that he trusted me to take care of my job, which is a big deal for someone who grew up on “Back to the Future,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and “Forrest Gump.” It makes you feel like you belong. He trusted his entire team every step of the way. It made everyone give their all every single moment of the shoot. You don’t wanna let someone down that believes in you. Often times people in Hollywood use fear to get people to follow them. It’s refreshing when it’s encouragement and trust instead. It was everything and more than I had imagined it being.

TrunkSpace: Visually the film is so unique. What was your reaction when you saw yourself brought to life as a doll?
Hentschel: I haven’t seen the film yet but from what I saw in my ADR sessions it was awesome. Very trippy. There are some sequences I have not seen yet that I can’t wait to see come to life.

TrunkSpace: For the audience, the most memorable aspect of a film 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 film thus far – the moment that you’ll carry with you through the rest of your life/career?
Hentschel: In the second trailer for “Welcome to Marwen,” there is a moment where the song goes, “I got dreams in my head and they won’t go.” That sums up the whole experience to me. A little before “Welcome To Marwen,” I was pretty down about my career and about Hollywood in general. The type of movies that got me to dream of being an actor were no longer made and the experience to be a professional in Hollywood came with many aspects that are soul crushing. The flame of my dreams was dimming and I was very depressed. “Welcome To Marwen,” thanks to Bob, the producers, the cast and crew, delivered exactly what I had always thought Hollywood to be – creative playground for dreamers. Everyone playing together trying to create something beautiful. I walked away from this film having renewed belief in myself and the industry, singing, “I got dreams in my head and they won’t go” again.

TrunkSpace: You’re giving life to a bad dude in “Welcome To Marwen,” but you’re also familiar with playing heroes having portrayed “Hawkman” in The CW’s DC Universe. Is character diversity one of the draws of getting to be an actor? Does the variety keep it interesting, and is that why actors are so concerned about being typecast?
Hentschel: That’s a great question. Personally for me the answer is YES and YES. The whole point for me of being an actor is to be able to experience more than one life, even if it’s just for a brief moment in time. To get a little insight into someone other than you. To do things you would never get to do in real life.

The typecast thing is something I’ve always dreaded and have tried to avoid. Sometimes it’s nice to come back to a “type” because you feel like there is more to explore there than you were able to do before. But I don’t wanna get stuck playing the same thing over and over again. I long for new discoveries and new challenges, so I try to keep it fresh as much as I can.

TrunkSpace: Does “Welcome To Marwen” present you in a way that you think an audience – or those in a position to cast roles – have yet to see you in? Is Hauptsturmführer Ludwig Topf unlike anyone we have seen you inhabit thus far in your career?
Hentschel: I started my career playing villains, so it’s not a brand new thing to see me do. But I wonder how “Topf” will come across. After all, I’m playing a doll brought to life by Mark’s imagination, so of course I’m hoping that there will be little surprises here and there. Maybe I even get a few chuckles out of people at times. That would be lovely.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Hentschel: “Welcome to Marwen.” I’ve grown a ton through having had the privilege to work with such incredible talent, I’ve made wonderful life long friends and the experience revived my love for filmmaking. In a sense, it saved me.

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?
Hentschel: I don’t think I would. It’s like opening presents under the Xmas tree before Xmas. I would rob myself of the discovery process and then when Xmas comes it wouldn’t be as delicious anymore. I believe that we’re always right where we’re meant to be, ready for what’s coming to us, for better or worse. I want to trust life to deliver its goods to me at its own pace.

Welcome To Marwen” opens December 21.

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Trunk Stubs

98º

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Artist: 98º

Tour: 98º at Christmas 2018

City Attended: Medford, MA

Venue: Chevalier Theater

Concert Date: 12-08-18

The Reason We Went: Discovering fun holiday-related things to do throughout the month of December always gives a shot to the arm of the ye olde spirit meter. The childhood-like nostalgia of hearing harmonized vocal renditions of Christmas classics is about as good as it gets in that regard, an audible tree topper on the entire season.

What We Thought: At their peak in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, 98º was a chart-topping, platinum-producing, hit-making machine. Lumped into the boy band craze of that particular time period, they were often compared to the Backstreet Boys, yet always considered themselves more Boyz II Men. Like its four members, the fans who adored 98º two decades ago have since grown up, but apparently absence has made their harmony-loving hearts grow fonder. Screams permeated the theater as the quartet delivered a two hour set of both holiday favorites and some of the biggest hits from their own catalog of music, which the mostly middle-aged crowd of women excitedly unwrapped like presents on Christmas morning.

Show Highlight: We’re suckers for the classics, especially the off-beat ones. The group’s rendition of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” was extremely entertaining, highlighting the fun that they themselves are having reconnecting with old favorites, both songs and fans alike.

For upcoming dates, click here.
To read our interview with 98º member Jeff Timmons, click here.

And that’s why we’re giving it…

 

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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

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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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