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Wingman Wednesday

Celia Au

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PHOTOGRAPHY: Nick Onken/HAIR: Corey Tuttle/MAKE-UP: Romana Makeup New York/STYLING: Carolyn Son

With “Wu Assassins” set to premiere August 8 on Netflix, series star Celia Au is prepared for the world to see her in a completely different light, though what the show’s possible success would mean for the future is not something any performer can ever truly prepare for.

“I mean beyond the work itself, I have no idea,” she says when asked about the impact of “Wu Assassins” in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “I know that I’ll always be Celia Au and maybe I can pay off my mortgage earlier than expected. (Laughter)”

We recently sat down with Au to discuss unwrapping the excitement surrounding the series, having two shows on the air at the same time, and why she has Photoshopped herself into some of her favorite films.

TrunkSpace: From an outside perspective, “Wu Assassins” doesn’t only look like a ride as a viewer, but to be involved in a series like this – with such big set pieces and complicated choreography – it must have been a ride to be a part of as well. As you gear up to its premiere and the idea of people sinking their teeth into the first season as a whole, what kind of emotions are you juggling with?
Au: Wow! That’s a good question! I am still trying to figure out what my emotions are right now. I am definitely excited! Every time when I receive an email notification about the show, I am like a kid on Christmas morning. I am so proud of what we accomplished together as the Wu fam and I just can’t wait for you guys to check it out.

TrunkSpace: From what we’ve seen, this feels like the kind of show that could become a big hit for a platform like Netflix. That being said, is it important for you to try and not assign expectations to projects that you work on knowing that so much is out of your control? Does that help to not be let down when a project doesn’t find an audience?
Au: I definitely hope that people are going to enjoy and have fun watching it. I know for sure we had a lot of fun shooting the show. I do believe in sending good positive energy into the universe and not worry too much about things that are out of my control.

TrunkSpace: With Netflix rolling out all of the episodes at once on August 8, do you feel like you’ll have a pretty good idea right away if “Wu Assassins” will have an impact on your life beyond the work itself? If it’s a smash hit like “Stranger Things,” it could literally change things overnight.
Au: Oh my! It would be amazing if our show is a smash hit like “Stranger Things!” I mean beyond the work itself, I have no idea. I know that I’ll always be Celia Au and maybe I can pay off my mortgage earlier than expected. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Huge show. Huge platform in Netflix. Does it feel like, regardless of it becomes a smash hit with audiences, that “Wu Assassins” will be a career game changer for you that could open up other doors within the industry?
Au: Being on “Wu Assassins” has already been a game changer for me because I’ve met some awesome people just working on this show. I definitely hope that the show will open doors not just for me and our cast but for Asian Americans in the industry.

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the end product is always the most memorable because that is what we see, but for those involved in the project we imagine it goes much deeper than that. What is something about your work on Season 1 of “Wu Assassins” that you’ll carry with you through the rest of your life and career?
Au: For sure the friends I’ve made on the show. I know that we are going to be friends for life. Career wise, my character Ying Ying is something completely different than any characters I’ve played before so the world can see a new side of Celia and what I can do.

TrunkSpace: Not only do you have “Wu Assassins” premiering on August 8, but you also have Season 2 of “Lodge 49” debuting on August 12. In this industry, does it feel like “when it rains it pours” in terms of the work not only coming in, but also with it finding its way into the world at the same time?
Au: Yes! I totally agree with that. It’s funny because I shot Season 2 of “Lodge 49” months after we wrapped “Wu Assassins” and now they are coming out four days apart. I feel like this happens a lot to people in our industry. We can be unemployed for a long time and suddenly when you book one job, there will be another job that wants you and they almost always have an overlapping schedule.

TrunkSpace: You grew up hanging out in your parent’s video store. As you look back at where you’ve come from to where you are now, would that little girl be surprised by the path you’re on or was this always in the back of her mind? What would excite young Celia most about where you are now?
Au: This was most definitely not on young Celia’s mind. I remember watching movies and being like, “Oh! That’s cool but how do these people make a living by playing pretend?” I think what will excite young Celia the most about present-day Celia is that she gets to see Asians on screen as heroes and kicking butt! When I was a kid, we used to be obsessed with the Power Rangers because that’s the only show where we could see Asian American superheroes.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Nick Onken/HAIR: Corey Tuttle/MAKE-UP: Romana Makeup New York/STYLING: Carolyn Son

TrunkSpace: You have a background in graphic design. If you could Photoshop yourself into any movie poster past or present – and in doing so be magically a part of that film as a performer – what would you choose and why?
Au: Of course, I did! I mean it is so much fun and I do the same to my friends’ faces as well. I’ve Photoshopped my face onto Hiro from “Big Hero 6,” Satsuki from “My Neighbor Totoro” and most recently, Peni Parker from “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse!” I’ve turned them all into either birthday invites or holiday cards.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Au: I think the highlight of my career thus far has been the opportunity to meet/work with all the creative minds in the industry and getting to be on a show playing a character that young Celia would pretend to be.

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?
Au: Yes, I would 100 percent take that journey. YOLO!

Wu Assassins” premieres August 8 on Netflix.

Season 2 of “Lodge 49” debuts August 12 on AMC.

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Wingman Wednesday

Todd Stashwick

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*Feature originally ran 5/22/17

Todd Stashwick has made a career out of playing interesting characters. Or, perhaps it’s that he has made characters more interesting by the choices he has made in playing them throughout his career. Either way, the Chicago native has been entertaining us for decades, perfectly walking the line between drama and comedy and turning out memorable roles in series like “The Riches,” “Heroes,” and “Gotham.” For the last three years, Stashwick has been playing Deacon, AKA “The Scav King,” on the post-apocalyptic time travel drama “12 Monkeys.” The series returned to Syfy this past weekend with the network opting to take a more binge-centric approach in releasing all 10 episodes of the season between Friday and Sunday.

We recently sat down with Stashwick to discuss making choices in a world ruled by time travel, getting to play a sociopathic Hans Solo, and what goes through the mind of a shapeshifter pretending to be Bela Legosi pretending to be Dracula.

TrunkSpace: Something needs to be said before we jump into the interview. You would have made a damn fine Negan on “The Walking Dead!”
Stashwick: You’re very kind to say. I think Jeffrey Dean Morgan is crushing it. By the time that they were casting the show, I was already The Scav King, so I already kind of had a post-apocalyptic badass role. And I’m thrilled with the arc that Deacon gets to follow over the seasons of the show. It’s been fascinating. Look, I’m a huge “The Walking Dead” fan and I’m flattered that people see me in that world because it’s certainly a great, ripe world to play in, but I’m very, very happy with my Scav King.

TrunkSpace: You mention Deacon’s arc. Time travel can be a tricky thing in storytelling, but at the same time, it sort of allows for an “anything is possible” approach. Has the direction that the writers have taken Deacon in surprised even you over the course of your time on the series?
Stashwick: They never cease to surprise and amaze me with how they spin these plates and it’s no less surprising with what they do with Deacon. They know what to do with this guy, we have amazing conversations about it, and I’m always thrilled and excited with every script they send me.

TrunkSpace: When you were starting out and discovering Deacon, did you have to be careful about the choices you were making knowing things could go anywhere?
Stashwick: You know, careful is never the way to approach an acting role, especially a role like Deacon. It’s actually the opposite. It’s about taking risks. It’s about being bold and surprising yourself. When I came on in season 1, he was very much an antagonist. I won’t say that he was a villain because obviously there were bigger fish to fry with The Messengers and The Witness and everything in season 1, but he was certainly an antagonist. But the way that Terry (Matalas) and the writers saw an energy with this guy and what I was bringing to the role, they wanted to explore deeper within the mythology of the show and with the dynamic of the team. In the shooting of the last episode of season 1 when I was up there, Terry said that he had a lot of ideas for Deacon in season 2 and that’s when they made me a series regular and started transitioning him out of straight up antagonist to sociopathic ally.

And then, once you have this character who is opportunistic and who is hard on the outside but soft on the inside, it gives a lot of opportunity mixing and matching his energy and his point of view with the different characters on the show. When he’s with Jones, because we are older characters, we have a different understanding of the apocalypse than when he is with Railly. When he’s with Cole, he certainly kind of sees his brother in him. And with Jennifer I think he sees a kindred. They both are outsiders and they both have survived in this harsh environment in unique and creative ways. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: That’s a great way of describing him… sociopathic ally, but at the same time, like you said, soft on the inside.
Stashwick: Well, he is a human being and that’s what I think is interesting about the character. Often when you get these antagonist roles, it’s easy to head right towards kind of smirking and villainous, but it’s more interesting to reveal his motivation… to reveal the pain that pushes these people. In many ways, Deacon saw himself as a hero and a leader because he kept 200 people alive in this wasteland.

TrunkSpace: Well, because at the end of the day, often times people who are acting in a certain way are still doing so because THEY think it’s the right approach to take.
Stashwick: Absolutely. And he also has the ability to say and see things that other people might not. He can be the canary in the coal mine. I love at the end of season 2 when we’re stuck on Titan and he’s talking to Jennifer and he’s like, “There’s a reason that they wanted us here. Let’s not stick around and find out!” He’s not blinded by the mission. He’s just trying to keep himself alive and the people… I don’t think he has this huge altruistic “let’s save the world” view. I think he has the “let’s all not die” view, and if he can save the world, well, if it stops the virus from happening in the past, then maybe all of the people that he loves won’t die. He sees the big picture but he lives very much within the confines of his own needs and reality and it’s the people that he cares about and what’s important to them. And what becomes important to him. I don’t think initially he has this “we need to stop the plague” thing. I think he grows to care for Railly and he obviously has a kindred with Cole and Jennifer. And so he’s like, “Let’s us not die!”

TrunkSpace: So in terms of how this season feels for you as far as the roll out is concerned… how different is it knowing that it will all be released over the course of the weekend? Does it shorten the high for you?
Stashwick: You know, it’s a different kind of high. It’s a little bit more like your birthday as opposed to Christmas. (Laughter) Because Christmas kind of lasts all month long and people are talking about it and gathering about it, singing about it and having parties throughout the month of December all leading up to the big climax. This is like, you might have a crazy birthday weekend. So it’s a lot more intense and it’s a lot all at once and you just sort of surround yourself with people that mean the most to you and everybody raises their glass. I think this roll out is… I’ve seen it. And I’ve seen it in two binge worthy chunks. I saw the first half of season 3, all five episodes, in one sitting. And then last weekend we watched the last five episodes. I’ve got to tell you, it plays like a roller coaster feature film. It really moves and moves and moves. It has movement and energy and it propels itself. I think the ability to binge it… and you don’t have to binge it. People can just DVR it and nibble on it a little bit at a time if they want. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: What’s really cool as well is that the way that Syfy is rolling this season out, it could change the way that other networks approach releasing their shows. It could be a game changer.
Stashwick: Yeah. And it’s interesting because something has to be on the air. Rather than us being every Monday night at 9:00 or every Friday night at 9:00, the fact that we’re giving it to you through a weekend is a little more Netflixy. I think the fan engagement is going to be different because they’re not going to be speculating between episodes. There will be a lot more frenzy, as if it’s like a bender. (Laughter) I think the hardcore fans are going to actually lock in and go on the ride for the three days. And… Terry and the writers have outdone themselves. We are so lucky to get to say these words and play these parts. And the team… from the crew to the special effects to the score… everybody is bringing their A game and I am so fortunate to work with this cast of people. I said to Terry, “I will feel bad for the show that I have to do after ‘12 Monkeys’ because it’s been such an amazing experience.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: We also read that you’re a lifelong fanboy, so just being able to play in this science fiction/genre sandbox must be an exciting thing for you?
Stashwick: Oh you have no idea! Growing up, wanting to be Hans Solo and then Terry pitching Deacon in season 2 as a sociopathic Hans Solo… I’m like, “It’s like you read my dream journal!” The thing about Deacon is that they really gave me all of the notes to play. They gave me the vulnerability. They gave me the badass-ness. They gave me the heroic. They gave me the sarcastic. They gave me the laconic. The wounded. I get to do it all and that’s a rare and wonderful thing… in a genre that I consume veraciously. And I get to work with people that I’ve admired through the years from Battlestar and Christopher Lloyd is on our show. It’s just been such a bucket list of joy for me on so many levels. Like I said, it will be a hard thing to finish, but I’m glad that we get to finish it on our terms.

TrunkSpace: If you were given a blank check to develop any property what would fanboy Todd put on the slate?
Stashwick: Wow. Interesting. You know, I have ideas, pilots and things, that I have written that I would love to see developed, but if I was going to adapt I would love to adapt two different projects. I would love to adapt Shane Black’s “The Nice Guys” into a TV series. I would love to play the Russell Crow role in that. I would like to do an adaptation of “The Cell” and play the Vince Vaughan role. I think there’s something really interesting about the mythology of “The Cell.” And, I would love to… I have a really cool…

You know, I’m not going to tell you that idea. (Laughter) I’m going to keep this last one for myself because I think there’s something interesting and fun about it.

I also have original ideas for series. I wrote a web-comic called “Devil Inside” about the devil quitting hell and going on the run in the Nevada desert. And so I would love to adapt that into a series.

TrunkSpace: There’s one show that has an amazing fandom and you touched down on it in a major way years ago, playing the ultimate fan character. That show is “Supernatural.” That character is Dracula. Well, sort of.
Stashwick: Super rewarding and fascinating to have to deconstruct something another actor did and one that is so beloved and intimidated trying to get to the heart of Legosi’s theatricality meeting with his pathos. And then to have that character flip and see the scared man/shapeshifter that was choosing this image… there was a lot of meat on that bone. There was a lot of blood in that neck.

Stashwick as Dracula in SUPERNATURAL on The CW.
Photo: Sergei Bachlakov/The CW
©2008 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TrunkSpace: There were just so many layers to him that it feels like there was so much more to learn when all was said and done.
Stashwick: Well, where’s the fun in playing something one-dimensional? And that’s also a testament to the writers. They wrote those speeches where he was talking about his abusive father or talking about just wanting to feel important and majestic. Elegant.

As an actor, you get a few of these really good ones. I came from a comedy background but then I also had a theater background, so when I was in college I was doing some Molière and Shakespeare and all of that. And then I was a Second City sketch comedy guy. And then the fact that I’m six foot two with dark circles around my eyes and this weird voice that comes out of my head… it gave me access to really left-of-center roles that I could, no pun intended, sink my teeth into.

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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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