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Wingman Wednesday

Johnathan Fernandez

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Photo By: Rowan Daly

If comic delivery became weaponized, Johnathan Fernandez would be a lethal weapon. And if that’s a long way to go in order to make a connection between the series “Lethal Weapon” and the spot on timing of the former comedian-turned-actor, so be it. This writing thing is hard! (And we’re not the only ones who think so, as you’ll see below.)

Silliness aside, the Poconos-raised Fernandez has and continues to be a breath of fresh air every time he appears on the hit FOX series, currently in its second season. Aside from being the best dressed medical examiner ever to tag a toe, his character Scorsese is also an aspiring screenwriter who tries to strike an internal balance between the reality of his day job and the fiction he longs to tell through his scripts.

We recently sat down with Fernandez to discuss the episodic journey of a character, the first time he improvised with Damon Wayans, and why the series continues to work so well while other reboots fail.

TrunkSpace: You’ve portrayed Scorsese in about two dozen episodes of “Lethal Weapon” so far. From an acting standpoint, is this the longest you have ever spent with one character, and if so, how do you view that experience in terms of seeing a character grow over an extended period of time?
Fernandez: Yeah, it is the longest I’ve played a character for sure. It’s really interesting to see how it has evolved, because I think when you go into the first episode of doing any kind of character, you kind of feel like you have it all figured out, because you work hard to make sure that you’re ready for the first time the camera is on you for that character. It’s fascinating to then look at my work in the first season and think about all the things I would change, or, just how much more in tune I am with the character now.

I think most actors figure that out, or have that experience, when they move on to a second season of a show or a third season. You always feel like you’re doing great work, but then you’re also, obviously, trying to get better and better all the time. When you get to a second season, you’re like, “Oh man, okay, now I’ve figured this out, and I didn’t realize that I didn’t know this part about the character, and now it’s way more fluid.” You learn. Every episode you learn new stuff, because you’re always filling in the blanks and coloring in the lines, so it’s absolutely super intriguing to find yourself in that position of always evolving, regardless of how many times you’ve done the character or not.

TrunkSpace: And we would have to imagine that just seeing your character put in different circumstances, and how he reacts to those situations, helps fill in those blanks even further? For example, we could go to one party and feel completely comfortable, and then go to a different party with a different vibe and feel completely out of place.
Fernandez: Yeah, it’s almost hilarious how not different it is from that. It really is that situation, because it’s like, “Yeah, I know what his deal is…” but now that he’s actually on a ride along, or now that he’s been in a different part of the office for the first time, it gives you a lot of room to improvise and try out new stuff, because it is a completely different environment. How will he, Scorsese for instance, react in this scenario?

TrunkSpace: From that first moment you read the sides and learned who Scorsese was going to become, did he go through a lot of changes from then to when you ultimately took ownership of him on the first day of shooting?
Fernandez: Shockingly, not really. I remember almost being taken aback when I had the first table read, the very, very first one, which was also the first time I was meeting Matthew Miller, McG, and Damon (Wayans), and literally everybody else, I was meeting for the very first time that day. I remember when we sat down and read it, and once I stopped thinking about the fact that I was sitting between Kevin Rahm and Jordana Brewster, once I got over that, I was just performing and stuff. Then afterwards, I felt pretty good about it. I asked McG, and I asked Matt Miller, I was like, “What do you think? Where are you at?” I didn’t even know what questions to ask because I was just so overwhelmed with the whole situation. Miller was calm and was just like, “Yeah, do your thing. We hired you because we really like the things that you’re doing already, so just lean into that. Feel free to improvise.” And that was literally it.

When we went to the next table read, which was with all the bigwigs at Warner Bros. and FOX, I just did pretty much the same thing, but did improvise more. That got received really well, and it gave me an opportunity to play with Damon and Clayne (Crawford) a little bit at the table. That was honestly it. That cemented the whole thing.

We do have talks, Miller and I, about the character, and the future, and how the character will feel in certain situations – just to really fill in a lot of the areas that we haven’t really approached yet. Those are very helpful. But in terms of the baseline, we pretty much figured it out the first day, and that was it.

Photo By: Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC

TrunkSpace: We know that you have a sketch/improv background. Getting to riff with Damon, someone who really turned an entirely new generation onto the medium with his work on “In Living Color,” that had to be exciting?
Fernandez: Yeah. Actually there’s a scene in the morgue, in the pilot, and that scene was the first scene that was shot of the whole pilot. I didn’t have a chance to get to Los Angeles, do the first couple table reads, and just kind of sit around for a while and get myself hyped up for my scenes. I didn’t have that opportunity, because the day that we were starting, which was the day after the major table reads, was my first day, everybody’s first day – the first scene up. It was really crazy when we were trying to figure out the beats, how the lines in the dialogue were going to work out. There was some dead space, no pun intended, in the morgue, where I was pulling the body out, and there was just a lot of filler that we needed to figure out, because there were a lot of mechanics that we had to work around for the dialogue to work. McG had said, “Fill in the time with whatever. Feel free to improvise.”

The scene was where I got a call from Murtaugh and Riggs to say to be at the morgue. It’s undisclosed, but it’s either after hours, or my day off. So I’m coming in, and I don’t really want to be there. They make a joke saying, “Thanks for coming in on your off day,” or whatever, and I respond saying, “Oh, well anything to get out of writing, because writing is really hard.” That’s what the end of the dialogue was, until the body was pulled out, and then Damon improvises, “What’s your script about? Are you writing about your Afro?” I said, “Well, I’m not writing about yours.”

I remember thinking instantly, and just looking at his face, being like, “Oh crap, could I say that? Is this real life? I don’t know what’s happening right now.” Literally, UCB’s (Upright Citizens Brigade) whole mantra is just, don’t think. That’s the whole thing, don’t think. You already know your character. What would the person do next, and just improvise from a very real place. Obviously, immediately I was like, “Oh shit,” and then Damon’s face, I will never ever forget it in my entire life, because it was like, “Okay, we’re going to do this,” kind of thing.

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) The green light!
Fernandez: Exactly! We ended up improvising a ton that first morning, and it really kind of set the tone for our relationship, and the relationship with Scorsese, Murtaugh, and Riggs.

Just having that levity, which is the entire show – that’s why the show is liked by so many people, because there’s a lot of different situations that you also have that banter, and have that fun, so it’s not always doom and gloom. Since then, we try to improvise as much as possible. It doesn’t always make the cut, because it doesn’t always make sense to make the cut, but it definitely was just like… man, being able to make a guy like Damon laugh, and standing toe to toe, it means everything.

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, “Lethal Weapon” was one of your favorite films growing up. As a fan of the original, did you second guess if a series based on the movie would even work?
Fernandez: 100 percent. I’m a huge nerd and I consume a lot of different types of media. I know that if I was on the sidelines for this thing, seeing it get announced, I’d have been like, “There’s no way it’s going to be good. It’s impossible. It’s going to be the worst show of all time.” Especially just because reboots in general… most of them haven’t really worked.

TrunkSpace: And of course, there’s expectations to live up to when something is based on something else.
Fernandez: Totally. And if anybody was about to reboot something, the immediate advice I would give them is, you have to do your own thing. You have to. I talked about this with Clayne too, just to re-imagine his character, he likens it to theater. How many actors have played Hamlet? Just because you’re going to be Hamlet doesn’t mean that you’re going to do the same thing as the other guy. In fact, you’re going to try your hardest to not do the same thing that the previous guy did. But for some reason, when it gets to television, and things are being re-imagined, they try to do the same thing, and then obviously, it doesn’t work.

It was cool to read the script, and be like, “Oh wow, this is actually going to be pretty legit.” Then when I watched it, I was very, very pleasantly surprised at just how good it is. All of the actors in it are so great. The vision behind it, the groundwork laid by McG and the work that Matt Miller had done going into the pilot, was just so excellent – to make it really stand out, and not be just a regurgitation of the previous movies, even though we all love them, obviously.

We get it all the time now in social media and in reviews, just people saying, “I don’t think about the previous ‘Lethal Weapon’ movies at all when I watch the show,” which is probably the highest compliment that we could ever get.

TrunkSpace: What the show has done so well and so successfully is opening up and expanding the world. It feels like that is what makes you not focus on the films.
Fernandez: Right, and that’s what’s cool about television, is that in a film, you have a finite amount of time, even if you have several sequels, to tell one story. Television is literally the same characters in as many different situations as possible. If you have a baseline where the story is two cops in Los Angeles, working for the LAPD, solving crimes, you just have to show them dealing with different crimes. Crime, that’s not going anywhere. There’s going to be new kinds of crimes happening all the time, unfortunately. To just see how these detectives and the people around them would react in different situations is television, so it’s nice to completely bet everything on that and just say, “Hey, remember when you watched Riggs and Murtaugh explode a bunch of stuff, and say a bunch of funny things in the movies? Well, now you’re going to have an opportunity to see them do that every week.” If you are doing the job well, then it’s like, “Yeah, I want to keep on coming back and seeing what these guys are up to.”

Lethal Weapon” airs Tuesdays on FOX.

Feature image by: Rowan Daly

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Wingman Wednesday

Scott Grimes

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

*Feature originally ran 11/08/17

Beepers. Enron. Blockbuster Video.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Orville” airs Thursdays on FOX.

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Wingman Wednesday

Peter Macon

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Photo By: Diana Ragland

Classically-trained actor Peter Macon is experiencing multi-layered career fulfillment as a pretend crew member aboard the imaginary spaceship the Orville.

On one hand, his current adult self is venturing on a journey of discovery with a character who is not only complex in personality, but is an entirely new species never-before-seen on film. It’s rife with opportunity.

On the other hand, his inner child, the one who grew up loving science fiction, is pumping his fist in excitement because his future self is spending every day on a spaceship venturing into galaxies far, far away. It’s a little boy’s dream come true.

As Lt. Cmdr. Bortus on the FOX comedy/drama hybrid “The Orville,” Macon is reveling in every on-screen opportunity, playing a prosthetic-wrapped straight man in a world crafted from the mind of Seth MacFarlane – which means even a straight line is given its own quirky curves.

We recently sat down Macon to discuss the anonymity of the role, playing Macbeth 150 times in one year, and what aspects of his craft help to shed a little light on the folly of humanity.

TrunkSpace: Is there something kind of nice about taking on a major role in a big network show and still being able to retain your privacy due to the nature of the role with the makeup and prosthetics?
Macon: I love it. I love it because it’s what it is. I don’t pine to be, “Oh, I wish my face was on the billboard so that people would recognize me.”

I worked at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for like five years, and it’s a really small town, but it’s a huge Shakespeare festival. You have like zero anonymity. You walk down the street and people are like, “Hey, I saw you in that show!” “I hated it,” or “I loved it,” or whatever.

But with this, it’s cool, because Los Angeles is already kind of an anonymous city – you can just disappear. It’s fun being Bortus with his voice and mask work, and people don’t recognize my face. I don’t care one way or the other, but it’s certainly fun to be standing at a bus stop and people are like, “Oh, look at this poster, look at this guy,” and it’s me, but I’m not saying anything. So that’s fun.

TrunkSpace: Did the makeup and wardrobe force you to change the way you would approach the performance at all, due to any sort of limitations?
Macon: I mean, not going into it, no. You can’t really plan for that, you kind of just have to get up there and do it, but once I got the prosthetics on, and saw what the limitations were – I lose about 30 percent of my hearing, I have kind of limited range, like periphery and turning my neck, and stuff like that. But then you just use that for the character, because he’s kind of stiff and he’s kind of a rigid, no nonsense, very serious cat. So, you know, it just kind of works itself in. You just take what you get, and you make it into what you’re supposed to make it.

Until I got into the suit, and into the prosthetics and stuff, it was mostly his demeanor, and the tone of his cadence… stuff that I had access and control over before I got into the makeup. And then once the makeup was on it was a whole different ballgame, because it does it by itself. I don’t really have to do anything.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned how Bortus is a very serious cat, but in a cast of zany characters, is it fun playing the straight one?
Macon: Well, as you’ll see, that is a loosely defined term, the “straight one.” (Laughter) There are things that come up that, for instance, there’s a conversation where Bortus at one point says, “I can sing, I can sing,” and he says it so matter of factly. And then people were like, “Wait, what?” And so Seth was like, “Well, we should probably either prove or disprove that.”

I mean, he’s stiff in the sense that that’s his species – they’re very cut and dry, black and white – but being that he’s interacting with all these other lifeforms, and we’re stuck on the ship, you get affected by that. And the greatness of the writing is that there’s an arc, and there’s a lot of contradiction.

He’s a dark horse. He’s stiff, but he thinks a lot of things deeply… still waters run deep kind of thing. And you’ll see that it’s nuanced, and varied, and it’s not just like one note. It’s very complex.

TrunkSpace: From what we could tell, this is the longest you’ve ever played one character. Is that an enjoyable process for you, getting to spend an extended period of time inside one mind?
Macon: The only other thing I can compare it to is playing Macbeth 150 times up at the Shakespeare Festival. We started in February and we ended in November. It’s a heavy, crazy play, to be in that skin for that long. I think sometime in July I was like, “Man, we’re only halfway here!” But what started to happen was, there was this depth, like a whole other layer, that really reveals itself. And I mean, that’s theater, but you’re doing it every night.

This, I guess it’s comparable because we’re working 16-hour to 17-hour days on average, but then it’s like every day, Monday through Friday, sometimes Saturday, and so it’s equivalent. And there’s so much going on. That’s what’s great about doing series regular work because you really do get to take your time and figure it out. I don’t have to blow everything in one episode, I can kind of calibrate it for the length of, say an arc of four episodes, or over two episodes.

So it really is a joy. And plus, sometimes I have no idea, unlike a play where you know the beginning and the end over and over again, what’s going to happen to this guy until we get the script, and I love that because I’m like, “So you have to now fold this in.”

Photo By: Diana Ragland

TrunkSpace: Choices you made early in the process can come into play in an entirely different way than you originally expected.
Macon: Yeah. It’s good to make strong choices, but also you have to be malleable because you don’t know everything about this person. But at the same time, you have to build as much backstory as you can, and then it all just works in concert with what you’ve come up with. And then if it doesn’t work, you kind of keep reinventing it to keep it fresh, because what you may have discovered or figured out early on may not even be relevant down the road.

You have to be flexible – as strong as water but as flexible as it. And that’s just so exciting, because that’s what we do. That’s the greatest thing. I was doing this interview yesterday on the radio and I was like, “That’s the greatest part of being an actor, I get to have this experience of the human condition that is so varied, because you get inside of these people and you don’t judge them, and you just become them.” You live, you walk through their shoes, and it’s pretty amazing. It builds for great empathy, and you just have an understanding for people, to a certain extent. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s still make believe, and I’m being paid to do it.

TrunkSpace: Absolutely, but to be able to take on characters, particularly those who may make some questionable choices, and have to understand why they’ re making those choices, it’s fascinating because everybody does what they do for a reason.
Macon: Jean Genet, the playwright, said that the greatest tragedy in life is that every man has his reasons. Everybody thinks they’re right. No one really thinks they’re bad. Some people are born without a gene for empathy, they can’t feel, like serial killers can’t feel what their victims feel, so therefore they’re disconnected to it, and it’s a completely cerebral experience.

Just to get in the mind of someone like that, and just to see what that’s about, and just investigate it… it helps to shed some light on the folly of humanity. It’s a really cool job, at the end of the day.

TrunkSpace: And on the opposite side of that coin, 10-year-old you must be psyched because you’re on a spaceship getting to bring this really fun, alien character to life?
Macon: Dude, all the models that I’ve built… I cannot wait for the model for the Orville. I’m going to build it and hang it in my son’s room. I’m just totally nerding out. I mean, I’m on a space ship dude! Crazy! The kid in me, and I love science fiction – I’m watching “The Force Awakens” for the 90th time again, with the sound off, just because I like the visuals. There’s always something new to see. I love it.

TrunkSpace: Science fiction and fantasy projects, when done right, can amass very passionate fandoms. We know you did it some time ago, but you guested on a show with an extremely passionate fandom, “Supernatural.” When you were doing that in season 3, did it have the feel of a show that would be around for 13 seasons?
Macon: I didn’t know what to think. I kind of came late into the game. I had never even seen the show before, so when I got the show I just went back and I watched everything that was up to that point. I click on the TV now, and I’m like, “This show is still going, what the hell?”

I remember season 3, and this is before shows were… there were not very many shows that were going 10 seasons, and certainly not science fiction shows. But this show, man, I mean, I get it because the formula is great. It’s like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” meets the “Dukes of Hazzard.” (Laughter) It’s kind of like a cool concept, and again, limitless material, because you’re redefining a genre, and so good on them for having just a wellspring of stuff. And I’m not surprised that it’s going this long, but I had no idea.

I don’t know if it would have made a difference, but maybe I would have thought to like, not die. (Laughter)

The Orville” airs Thursdays on FOX.

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Wingman Wednesday

Alex Barima

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Photo By: Malcom Tweedy

As the demon Drexel, Alex Barima has brought a uniquely expressive comedic delivery to Hell in the long-running series “Supernatural.” When not serving as the lapdog to Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino), the Montreal native is facing off with a different kind of demonic evil in FOX’s “The Exorcist,” playing the in-story role of the canary in a coal mine who senses that something very wrong is happening beneath the surface.

We recently sat down with Barima to discuss how “The Exorcist” has already become a game changer for his career, why he had a hard time sleeping for a week, and where he’s most comfortable when it comes to performance.

TrunkSpace: There was such great buzz and word-of-mouth surrounding season 1 of “The Exorcist.” Was it exciting coming into a series that had that energy already swirling around it?
Barima: 100 percent. When I got the part, I then went and watched the whole first season, and that really solidified my excitement for the show. I was like, “I get to be a part of something pretty cool.” We’re definitely really happy with the way everything’s gone so far, and we’re excited to show everybody.

TrunkSpace: For a long time, horror never really seemed to work in television. It was always better suited for film, but tonally, “The Exorcist” is bringing that cinematic feel to the TV side of genre with its telling of the story.
Barima: Yeah. The stories really unfold kind of like a film in a way where off the top, there’s not so much action going on. It’s more of a lot of leading up, a lot of introducing characters, and then slowly but surely things go south. By the end, when you’re in the heart of the plot, stuff hits the fan pretty hard.

TrunkSpace: As they should always do in horror!
Barima: (Laughter) Exactly.

TrunkSpace: Can you set the stage in terms of where your character Shelby falls into things?
Barima: So the leads from the first season had to leave Chicago, which was the setting of the first season. Now they join us, and we’re in Seattle. My character Shelby, he lives with his foster family on this island that’s just off the coast. There’s just a few kids in the house, and we’re all from these pretty rough backgrounds. Shelby himself, he’s from a broken family – a family broken up by drugs and crime and things like that. Growing up he had a very hard time, so he found religion. That’s what saved his life. Getting into the foster system is probably the best thing that ever happened. He found a family; he found a purpose. Now with all this stuff going on, he has very good perception. He’s a pretty smart kid, so he sees a lot of stuff. When something’s out of place, he notices almost immediately. He starts to kind of freak out before anyone else in the show.

I kind of like that. It’s always the character that I look to when I’m watching horror and stuff like that – the first character to really feel that something’s not right. I’m like, “Listen to that guy! Listen to him!”

TrunkSpace: It’s a rough turn for your character. Here he is, finding this silver lining, and then it all gets taken away.
Barima: Absolutely. It’s a living hell.

TrunkSpace: Does the creepy factor of the show ever spill out of the work? Do you have to remind yourself that none of it is real every now and then?
Barima: I definitely have had to shoot a few things where I’m freaking out. Shelby, he takes a few risks during the show because obviously he’s the red herring and trying to let everybody know that something’s not right. But of course, it’s hard to believe. He’ll take a few chances himself. I haven’t been too frightened shooting the actual show, but sometimes when we’re on location, and you’ve got a moment to yourself and you’re upstairs in the greenroom by yourself or anything like that, things kind of quiet down a little bit and then you maybe have a little too much time to think about things.

TrunkSpace: The imagination is a powerful force. It’s like when you’re driving at night and you know there is nobody in your backseat, but you convince yourself that if you look in the rear-view mirror you’ll see somebody there.
Barima: Yeah, exactly. After watching the first season, I had a very hard time sleeping for at least a week. This time around, I think watching it will be a bit easier because I was a part of it.

TrunkSpace: As an actor, how do you tap into fear within a scene?
Barima: It’s not easy because I’m quite technical when it comes to performance. I can’t count on my emotions because they’re not reliable. Typically, I’ll just try to understand what’s written on the page and then do my best to emulate that.

With this type of stuff, with fear, you need to realize that when you’re afraid, you don’t care about how you look. You’re just scared. Whatever happens to your body and your face and all that, it all comes immediately and you don’t have much control. I think a lot of it is about letting go. It’s not worrying about how you’re gonna look and just really, really, trying to convince yourself that you’re scared – channel that energy into your body and then your body will kind of drive itself. Hopefully people will believe that you’re terrified.

The music and the lighting helps, as well. I think in the end, it’s a little tricky, but it’s fun. I’ve never gotten to play scared before, like truly scared for my life. I’m excited to see how that turns out.

THE EXORCIST: L-R: Brianna Hildebrand, guest star Hunter Dillon, guest star Cyrus Arnold and guest star Alex Barima in the “Janus” season premiere episode of THE EXORCIST. ©Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Sergei Bachlakov/FOX

TrunkSpace: Was there a particular moment where you felt you got to really stretch yourself as an actor?
Barima: We’re only halfway through shooting the season, so I’m sure all of the toughest stuff is yet to come. But so far, I think the fear stuff has been very new for me. It’s been very new for me to be out there and act like my life is in danger and stuff like that.

In Vancouver, we do a lot of science fiction, so it’s usually either very action-oriented or very light. But with this stuff it’s like, “Okay, damn, you gotta dig deep, and really gotta be on point!” I think that’s been the newest thing for me. It’s the constant tension that’s in almost every moment.

TrunkSpace: Do you feel like your role in “The Exorcist” has the potential to be a game changer in your career?
Barima: It already has been a game changer, to be honest. Yeah, I think that me and my team, we kind of knew that once we got this, we were like, “Okay, this is a big deal.”

It’s been a pretty good year so far, but I’ve never really worked on anything of this scale. I’ve never had so many days on a project. We definitely know that this is gonna be something pretty big for me. I’m from a comedy background myself. That’s more my focus, but in this town we don’t have a lot of comedy. So, I haven’t gotten to do very much until, actually, this year. I did one film last December that just premiered in Toronto at the International Film Fest called “Public School” with Judy Greer.

After that I got on “Supernatural” where I got to do a little comedy, as well. So I was like, “Okay, I’m finally falling into my element here.” And then with “The Exorcist” it was like this super dramatic audition. I was like, “Okay, well I don’t know how this is gonna go” and they were like, “Oh, you got it. You’re in.” I was like, “Really?” (Laughter)

So this is amazing because I get to do this super heavy stuff on Fox with this project, and then I’ve got these other comedy things going at the same time. Whichever picks up is fine with me, but ultimately, I always feel more comfortable doing comedy.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned a magic word around here, “Supernatural.” We’re big fans of the show. You have had some great scenes opposite Mark Pellegrino, who has some amazingly unique delivery in everything that he does with the character of Lucifer. What has that experience been like?
Barima: Mark has been my favorite person to work with in a long time. I obviously joined the show very late, season 12. Mark is just so fun. We talked a lot between scenes, and we get along quite well. And then whenever it came to shooting, it was just so fun. It was just so fun to see him drop into this character so quickly – this character he knows so well, and he’s just doing this dialogue, and I’m trying to keep a straight face. It was quite hilarious.

But I’ve gotta say that “Supernatural,” that crew, it’s probably one of the best sets in the whole city. The way they run the show, the way everyone is so comfortable at work, you can really tell that they’ve been doing it for a long time, and you can tell why they’ve been so successful. It’s such a well-oiled machine, that show. Really fun to work on.

“Supernatural” airs Thursdays on The CW.

“The Exorcist” airs Fridays on FOX.

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Wingman Wednesday

Steffan Argus

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Photo By: Logan Cole

As far as we’re concerned, you’re a gifted person when you can not only play multiple musical instruments, including the ukulele, but also write, perform, and act. For Steffan Argus, the proof is right there in the title of his latest project, “The Gifted,” where he’s playing Jack, the boyfriend of new mutant Lauren Strucker (portrayed by Natalie Alyn Lind). Sure, the gifts referenced in the show are abilities that make those who posses them the target of a frightened human population, but the name couldn’t be better suited for the Chicago native.

Along with “The Gifted,” which is set to debut tonight on FOX, Argus also released his debut EP, “Lost at Sea,” earlier this year. When not writing music and acting in high profile projects, including the popular Web series “The Commute” for AwesomenessTV, he is also modeling, and somehow doing it all with a laid back cool that defies his 18 years.

We recently sat down with Argus to discuss the gift that “The Gifted” has become, why his acting works in tandem with his music, and how releasing his creativity into the universe helps him find his balance.

TrunkSpace: We’d have to imagine that as an actor there’s probably not a more exciting brand to be aligned with right now than Marvel?
Argus: Of course. I love the concepts. That’s something that I’ve always been drawn to, and I love superheroes, especially X-Men in particular. Me and my little sister would always see the movies the day they came out in theaters. All of those X-Men movies were directed by Bryan Singer who ended up directing this show. It was out of this world. It was an incredible opportunity to be able to not only meet him, but be directed by him. It was so much fun.

TrunkSpace: And what a gift, no pun intended, to just sit back and absorb his process.
Argus: Absolutely. This is one of the first projects I’ve done that involved fantasy and action. That was a dynamic that I’ve never experienced before. It was something that never needed to be directed for any of the other projects that I’ve done, so it was really interesting to see how that was done and everything that goes into it. It’s such a big process and it’s something that you don’t really register when you see it on screen. There’s so much that goes into it that you don’t even know.

TrunkSpace: And that must really change your performance process because it’s more segmented, correct?
Argus: Yeah, but luckily, that whole crew and cast was so welcoming and super talented. It wasn’t hard to cut that up just because the emotion was always there.

TrunkSpace: Even if you’re someone who lives in the present, is it hard not to look at a project like “The Gifted” as a career game-changer?
Argus: I have never been on cable television before. I’ve done a lot of new media projects and so this is incredibly exciting because I remember when I was little just watching TV and watching movies. That’s what made me want to get into acting and play these characters. Now, actually being able to see posters for a show when I’m in driving down the street, it’s unfamiliar and exciting. And yeah, it is a game changer for me, and that’s not just necessarily in talking about a career sense, which of course it is, but also just as far as real life experience goes. I feel like I’ve learned a lot and I feel very lucky to be able to have been given this opportunity.

It has definitely helped me understand I’m on the right path of playing these characters in these awesome pretend universes.

TrunkSpace: Speaking of pretend universes, this is one that the fandom takes very seriously. Have you put any thought into that – the fact that you’re now a part of this universe that comes with a built-in group of fans?
Argus: I was one of those fans. (Laughter) I was and am a huge X-Men fan and I have been since I was little. Like I said, I would always go and see the movies with my little sister. When I told her that I was going to be a part of “The Gifted” she was freaking out. She watches all of the Marvel shows – all the Netflix ones like “The Defenders” and “Luke Cage” and all that awesome stuff. When I told her I was going to be a part of this she was just flipping out, so excited, and my character doesn’t have any super powers or anything! (Laughter) Just the fact that I’m able to exist in this Marvel universe is a huge gift and also responsibility. I’ve got to make sure I respect its power and its legacy.

TrunkSpace: Never ever say never ever get powers in a superhero world!
Argus: Yeah, exactly! It could happen at any moment! (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: So for those who are yet to be familiar with the story of “The Gifted,” can you tell us where your character falls into things?
Argus: His name is Jack and he is the boyfriend of Lauren Strucker, who is the daughter in this family. The children are mutants and their father works for Sentinel Services whose job is to put mutants in jail. When everything goes down and they find out that their children are mutants, they run away and that just causes relationship dynamics, an unfortunate relationship dynamic, between me and Lauren in the show.

TrunkSpace: We could sense your hesitation about sharing too much. It’s so hard to say anything about these types of shows without giving away spoilers. (Laughter)
Argus: Yeah. Just watch the episode and you’ll see. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: You’re also a musician as well and have an EP, “Lost At Sea,” out now. Do you view your acting career and your songwriting as two entirely separate entities?
Argus: No. I don’t think that they’re entirely separate. They kind of work in favor of each other simultaneously. And anytime something good happens acting-wise, that usually helps music-wise. It allows me to be able to do more of what I want to accomplish and they all kind of work in tandem.

And as far as music goes, I’ve spent a lot of time perfecting and fine tuning exactly what I want to be releasing. I’ve been focusing on acting in the background, fine-tuning all this music. Just this past year I started putting that music out and focusing on that as a career path. Having them both going on at once is so much fun and they help each other out. When I’m a part of projects like this, it helps me promote the music, which is great. It’s great to have an audience for this passion of mine.

TrunkSpace: What’s great about music is that it can mean different things to different people. It transcends so much of the noise that surrounds us on a daily basis.
Argus: Absolutely. I was just saying this yesterday – music is it’s own language and that’s the language I feel like I’m most fluent in. That’s how I best connect with people on a deeper level.

TrunkSpace: So in terms of your writing process, do you work from experience or do you write from a storyteller’s perspective?
Argus: Well, it’s kind of a pretty healthy marriage between the two. I find inspiration in almost everything. Like for example, I’ve written songs based on a T-shirt that I bought at a thrift shop or just a random wooden sign that I found. Those songs are usually pretty abstract storytelling kinds of things. They’re rooted in real life experiences, like emotions and situations that have happened to me, but I like to attach these ideas to the abstract concepts and tell the story through these fantasy stories instead of directly from a real-life experience. That’s what I like to write for the most part, but then there’s also the exception. Sometimes I like to write specifically about situations that are happening to me or people that are affecting me in a certain way. And for the most part I do usually still attach them to wild metaphors. It’s all rooted in reality, but told through the lens of fantasy.

TrunkSpace: In addition to the music and the acting, you’re also modeling. How do you strike a balance between everything that you’re doing, especially at such an early stage in your career?
Argus: It may sound a little lofty, but I really focus on my spirituality and finding my inner peace and when I focus on that, and just focus on spreading love and releasing my creativity into the universe, everything else just sort of falls into place. And so I don’t find myself worrying about it or figuring out how to balance it. It just sort of does and it all seems to work out in the best way possible.

Listen to Argus’ EP “Lost At Sea” here.

Featured image by: Logan Cole

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Wingman Wednesday

Michael Maize

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With a new season underway and Dr. Jonathan Crane bringing terror to all of those he faces, the inhabitants of “Gotham’s” fantastical world are finding themselves once again wondering why they have yet to relocate to a less chaotic city. Smack dab in the middle of the mayhem is new cast member Michael Maize, whose interaction with Crane’s Scarecrow in the first episode of the season helped set the stage for the frights and fights to come.

We recently sat down with Maize to discuss how much he enjoys playing in the comic book sandbox, the fun of exaggerated performance, and why he still talks about his demon-horned past.

TrunkSpace: Generally anything comic book related comes with a rabid fandom. Are you prepared for whatever the “Gotham” fandom will throw at you now that you’re a part of the universe?
Maize: Yes, I love it. I’m ready for that. I wasn’t into comic books per se growing up, but I was a huge comic book film fan growing up. I loved the whole Superman series, and then I loved the original Batman trilogy from “Batman,” “Batman Returns,” and “Batman Forever.” I was a huge fan of that, and I always had a great love for the high concept that went into those films, which then started to get carried over into the television stratosphere within the last decade. So, it’s really exciting, and after doing “Iron Fist” last year, I was always hoping I would somehow get involved in “Gotham.”

TrunkSpace: You mentioned some of the earlier films from the super hero genre and what’s so great about “Gotham” is that it is a bit of a throwback and feels more like those than the grittier, hyper-realistic adaptations of today.
Maize: Yes, I completely agree, and I actually feel that, in general, that has been the atmosphere of where the films have been going with the last Batman movies and some of the newer Marvel movies. And, in my heart, I really love the high concept comic book entertainment that really pushes the edge of reality, and pushes the edge visually and takes you to a whole other realm. Like, for instance, “Iron Fist” was very grounded, cool, real, and it was great to jump into that realm, but from the first second that I stepped onto the “Gotham” set, there was an immediate difference with, just, the colors and the energy. You’ll see where my first scene is and where that takes place, and you just feel all of a sudden that you’re inside of this crazy universe. And it was really easy as an actor to tap into that energy and then use it for my performance.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned the colors and energy you felt stepping onto the “Gotham” set, but we have to imagine that Scarecrow costume helped set the stage as well. We’ve seen lots of iterations of the character on screen over the years, but this one in particular seems to hit the terrifying mark.
Maize: It does. The first second that he walked on set, I was definitely terrified. That’s a super-cool scene. I was so happy they used that in the trailer because you’ll see in the episode that everything goes off into very exaggerated realities, as we’ve been talking about, and then when you finally get to that scene, it’s just really grounded in the truth of, “Oh my God, what is really happening here? This villain is greater than I thought he was!”

Maize in Gotham with Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned the exaggerated reality of “Gotham.” Does that allow you as an actor to take a different approach to performance than you would in something like “Iron Fist” or “Mr. Robot,” which are both more grounded in reality?
Maize: For sure, and I would say the extreme of that would be “Mr. Robot” where I walked onto that set and there was a very obvious mood and energy going on, which was extremely understated and, yes, based in reality. I had watched season 1, and I was in love with season 1. I thought that it was one of the best pilots I had ever seen, and I loved that mood. I loved the tone. It was almost flaccid, then there was this energetic heartbeat under it all that kept it going. So, I really tried, with that role, to stay completely understated, but always have this drive underneath me that was bigger than what was on the surface.

With “Gotham,” I’m a fan of the show, so I know the contents of the show and I know that it is more outside-the-box. Like I said, when I walked on the set there was that energy and you could immediately see the conceptual style in front of you, and it did really drive me. It was so much fun because, although I love playing many different characters, and I love diving into the skin of very reality-based characters and how they think and feel and not having to show too much but just be in that moment, I very rarely get to push the realms toward big, or bigger than life. With “Gotham” I really felt like it was no-holds-barred and I could just go and be a little more exaggerated and play with the tone, and play with the beat, and play with the people in my scene. I really enjoyed it.

TrunkSpace: Without giving too much away, can you tell people about where your character Grady falls into things?
Maize: He is part of Merton’s gang. Merton is the leader of the gang and I’m his right-hand man. Grady has a past connection to Jonathan Crane, a.k.a. the Scarecrow, and that connection is what propels us forward into the next episode. It’s the encounter with the Scarecrow that moves me forward as a character more than anything else.

TrunkSpace: You have appeared on many shows that have pretty incredible fandoms, but what people may not know is that you were a part of one of the original modern day television fandoms, the Buffyverse.
Maize: I was. I was in “Angel,” which I still talk about today because I wore this crazy prosthetic piece that covered from my forehead up, and I had two horns. That character was named Artode and he was a crazy lizard man of sorts. That was a super-fun and exciting show to do.

And I was in “True Blood” for a bit and that also had a wonderful, big fan base. And actually, “Power Rangers in Space.” We’re going way back in my resume now.

Maize can be seen next in Syfy’s “Happy” with Christopher Meloni.

Gotham” airs Thursdays on FOX.

Featured image by: Michael Becker

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