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Mickeey Nguyen

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Photo By: Denise Grant

Thanks in large part to streaming platforms like Hulu and Netflix, television has become a much more diverse landscape in recent years. Not only are there more options for audiences in terms of the types of content available, but the characters being featured in those shows are more representative of our society as a whole.

For actor Mickeey Nguyen, star of the new science fiction hip hop series Utopia Falls, having a hand in the continued momentum of diversifying film and television is something he is very proud of.

Growing up, I never saw anyone in any of the shows I used to watch that I could relate to,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Nguyen to discuss playing the light in the darkness, wedging Utopia Falls into your Valentine’s Day plans, and why teaching is such a large part of who he is as an artist.

TrunkSpace: Utopia Falls looks wild, and, the kind of series that would have been inconceivable in the world of television 10 or 20 years ago. How exciting is it to be an actor in 2020 with not only the amount of projects circulating at any given time, but the quality of the narrative and character development as well?
Nguyen: First off, it’s such an incredible honor to answer all these questions so THANK YOU for allowing me on here to answer these questions.

Right off the bat, I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to be part of such an amazing project. It’s one of a kind and R.T. Thorne, our director, is such a humble envisionist that bringing his craft to life was a true honor. He wanted to achieve the first performance-based science fiction show that would appeal to a modern audience of diverse, multicultural and socially-minded young adults, and I’m proud to say that we’ve done just that. Not only that, but what really took my heart was now being able to be part of the momentum of diversifying film and television. Growing up, I never saw anyone in any of the shows I used to watch that I could relate to. I had ONE favorite of mine, and it was the Yellow Ranger. I’d always get made fun of because, at the time, it wasn’t normal for a boy to like girl characters. But it was so much deeper than that, and looking back at it now, I was truly inspired by her because she was someone who looked like me and, at the time, barely anyone else on my screen did. Oh yeah, and also because she was badass. Fast forward to NOW, there have been some magical movements in this industry. We’re progressing, and I’m happy that there are such a variety of diverse casts on multiple shows today. Utopia Falls now being of them!

TrunkSpace: Utopia Falls is a new series without a pre-existing brand backing it up. As an actor on the project, do you carry any stress with you wondering – hoping – that it will find an audience or do you try not to focus on those things that are out of your control?
Nguyen: I think as an actor, or as any creative artist, you have to train yourself to not put that kind of burden on your shoulders. Everyone has their own personalized taste and some people will like certain things that others don’t, and that’s okay! Utopia Falls is SO unique and one of the most engaging projects I’ve ever worked on in my career. That is more than enough for me, and the rest of the Utopia Falls family, to put our utmost passion and integrity into this.

TrunkSpace: For those who are excited about diving into Utopia Falls when it premieres on Hulu February 14, can you walk us through your character Mags and what you love most about getting to play him?
Nguyen: Mags. Is. Everything. He is such a light, and with a series like Utopia Falls, you need someone like Mags to uplift the story because trust me, you’re already in for a wild ride. He’s bright, colorful and such a caring person to those around him. He’s made to be a comedic person, but he digs so much deeper than that and I feel like you’ll really see him blossom into a lot more. I loved playing him because he ended up being VERY similar to me, despite his ambition and hunger for fame. His traits and humor are really dead-on to mine and sometimes it’s quite scary how much I might actually be Mags in real life. He also loves eating excessively and yes… it’s another trait we share.

TrunkSpace: As we said, the series premieres on February 14 – Valentine’s Day! That’s a lot of pressure for those with significant others who also want to get our binge on! Can you give us some advice on how to best make our loved ones happy AND watch the show the night it premieres?
Nguyen: I mean, have a cute candle-lit dinner at 6:00 PM sharp. Leave the dishes, and proceed directly to the couch and get comfortable. The first episode is where you’re going to be introduced to a brand-new world and a new society, so you need to be fully ready – mentally, physically and emotionally. After the first episode, you’re going to want to watch the second – and then the third, and so forth. Then you’ll have finished the entire series and look! You’ve just spent all this quality time together! You now love the show and you now love each other for a night well spent in each other’s arms.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on Utopia Falls thus far that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Nguyen: I think I’ll carry the everlasting inspiration I got from everyone on the show. They’re ALL so talented and driven that it gives me this constant breath of appreciation for this career. The long-lasting relationships and memories that we’ve all made together and the challenges that we all faced are really what created this family bond with one another. I remember at the last week of wrap, I gave everyone a parting gift and I think I cried for each and every one of them when I gave it to them because really, they became such incredible people in my life and I’m happy to carry this bond with me through the course of my career.

TrunkSpace: Beyond acting, you’re also a dancer. Chicken or the egg question… what came first, dancing or acting? Which love served as the seed that would eventually germinate into a career?
Nguyen: I actually started off dancing first. In my high school years, I always had a love for dancing and it later became the original career that I was pursuing. Acting was never really in the picture until I was on a World Tour with Lilly Singh as one of her dancers, and someone reached out to me about an audition for this untitled show that was casting an Asian male lead who had a singing/dancing background. I didn’t think too much of it, and felt like I didn’t really have a good chance because I was traveling overseas. But the universe worked its magic and I somehow ended up landing it on what soon became Nickelodeon’s Make it Pop. That was the birth of my acting career where I fell in love with this world of artistry. I’m grateful that even when I jumped the gun and pursued acting full-force, I was able to still keep my love for dance in my life, which would later help me on my other projects like Disney’s Zombies and now Utopia Falls!

TrunkSpace: You teach dance as well. Is there pressure in helping to shape the next generation of performers that come through your studio doors? What kind of teacher do you see yourself as?
Nguyen: I love teaching. It’s one of my passions that I will always have an everlasting love for. I don’t feel that there’s this pressure to shape the next generation of performers because I’m always feeling so rewarded with the amount of love from hard-working students that come and learn from me. My goal is to thank them with everything that I know about this industry because, ultimately, they are the ones that have given me the opportunity to teach them. I see myself being the kind of teacher that is more inspired by the students than they know. I learn as much from them as they learn from me. They are the ones I admire, and will always consistently be proud of them no matter what.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an entertainer and how do you overcome those self-critical insecurities?
Nguyen: We’re always our own worst critique. Always aiming to be perfect. I think prior to achieving thick-skin in this craftsmanship, I was very hard on myself about what I couldn’t do that I never really gave myself the appreciation for the things I COULD do. In the end, this is a form of art. You have to be patient and allow yourself to make mistakes and experience them so you learn not to make them again. Allow yourself to do the best you can do and appreciate what you give as the outcome. No one is here to judge your process, so why should you?

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career as a whole thus far?
Nguyen: As cliché as it sounds, it has been my family. They have honestly been the backbone of my entire career, and I’m happy that I can provide for them, especially for my mother. She is such a strong human being and the most caring person in my life. To take care of two kids after my father passed away must have been the biggest challenge of her life, and she did it so flawlessly. The true highlight of my career is being able to give back to her for all that she’s done for my sister and me. Even through the toughest times, she was able to raise us to become who we are today.

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?
Nguyen: I wouldn’t. I feel like I need to experience my career as a whole with no shortcuts. I’m sure, and I have faith, that my career will have sprouted into a successful one in the next decade, but in order for it to be one, I would have had to experience the journey there. The ups and downs, the good and bad – that’s what will take us all there. Be ready! We’re all set out to do some incredible things.

Utopia Falls premieres February 14 on Hulu.

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The Featured Presentation

Clarissa Thibeaux

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Photo By: Storm Santos

For Runaways star Clarissa Thibeaux, tapping into the personality of an existing character, in this case Xavin from the Marvel comic book universe, meant having to cull what she could from past sequential pages while simultaneously tapping into the vision of the series’ writers. The result is a memorable on-screen role, and although she had plenty of inspiration to pick from, there are still aspects of her own personality that make their way to the viewers.

I think the reality is no matter what I do a little bit of Clarissa will always shine through the characters I play,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Thibeaux to discuss personal awareness, finding her place in Los Angeles, and remaining blissfully unaware of what the future holds.

TrunkSpace: You discovered you first landed the part of Xavin in Runaways the week of your birthday. How has your journey on the series impacted your life and career? What has been the greatest gift of your Runaways ride?
Thibeaux: Yes, it was an amazing birthday week! It has been an eye opening ride so far. Being part of the series has given me the opportunity to audition and test for some amazing projects. I think the greatest gift has been getting to interact with the fans of the show and really hear about their connections to both the characters in the TV show and in the comics.

TrunkSpace: Xavin will have been the longest run you’ve had with a character in episodic television. What is that experience like for you… discovering new things that you can use day-to-day in your performance with a character? Does it make you ever second-guess the earliest choices you made with her?
Thibeaux: Having the opportunity to play such a muted yet layered character has been a great challenge. A lot of what I discovered acting-wise, with Xavin, is what is truly needed to communicate an idea of feeling. Since Xavin doesn’t have the same emotional range as some of the other characters on the show, it was a lot of fun to work with the directors to give just enough information visually to communicate Xavin’s myriad of feelings. I think my earliest choices of Xavin’s characteristics were close to what I brought to Xavin this season… Xavin has a huge shift during their arc but I think with all of the information from the new season maybe I would have done a few things differently. I’m not sure. I’m happy with my performance. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: When you’re shaping someone who is based on an existing character, in this case a character who had a history in print, how do you approach staying true to what is already there, but at the same time, bringing yourself into the character? Is it a thin line to walk?
Thibeaux: I did my best to see where Xavin’s personality came out in the comics and did my best to layer those brash or comedic moments in with the writer’s vision(s). I think the reality is no matter what I do a little bit of Clarissa will always shine through the characters I play. Xavin, however, is such a calculated being, and that gave me a lot more to use when playing them.

TrunkSpace: As you were moving into production for Season 3, did you feel more comfortable in Xavin’s shoes, even with a new and unfamiliar story arc in front of you? Does tapping into a character and her motivation get easier the more time you spend with her?
Thibeaux: Definitely! It was also easier to fall into this season because I had already built budding relationships with my castmates and had a better understanding of what each day would be like. I also knew more about Xavin after Season 2 came out. So many wonderful fans gave me a lot of insight into how they felt when they read the comics and what Xavin meant to them. For me, playing Xavin had a lot to do with awareness. Awareness of my body, my breathing, and how each word left my mouth. I did my best to make everything (at least for me) feel a little foreign and intentional.

TrunkSpace: Runaways is grounded in reality to an extent, but at the same time, is very much a part of the fantastical as well. When you’re going to work every day where literally anything can happen on camera, does it keep things interesting for you as an actor? Does 10-year-old Clarissa give you high fives with the stuff you get to do as a part of the series?
Thibeaux: (Laughter) Ten-year-old Clarissa would be AMAZED. Since a lot of fantastic things happen on the show, it makes each day really feel like a dream. Some of the most interesting parts for me were all the camera set ups. There were rigs I had never seen before – those were pretty magical.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on Runaways that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life career?
Thibeaux: I think one part of Runways that will stay with me is how supportive the whole cast and crew were. Since Xavin is a shapeshifter, it was a trip to have so many actors that I admire asking for my advice on how to play Xavin. Lots of very fun conversations!

Photo By: Storm Santos

TrunkSpace: You’re starring on a show that is a part of the Marvel brand. Given how big all things Marvel has become, do you feel lucky to be a part of this very unique period in pop culture history, particularly on a show that is helping to define the future of television by offering such quality content on a streaming platform?
Thibeaux: I feel extremely lucky. I could never have guessed that my career would take me on the path I’m on but holy moly am I grateful. It is such an amazing time in TV and to be on a show of this caliber… I still pinch myself.

TrunkSpace: You moved to Los Angeles after graduating college. As look back on your experience, locating to a city where so many people are dreaming the same dream, was it a difficult transition or did you feel right at home right away?
Thibeaux: I stumbled a bit when I got to LA – it’s not the easiest city to live in or navigate. I don’t know if I feel at home now. (Laughter) This is an interesting city. It’s a love/hate relationship. Some days I feel on top of the world and other days I feel like I have no idea why I’m here. In LA there’s a little bit of everything.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Thibeaux: I have to say Runaways! It has changed so much for me and opened so many doors.

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?
Thibeaux: Hmmm… I don’t know! What if it’s really bad? That would be depressing. I think I wouldn’t do it, just in case. I rather live blissfully unaware. I’m happy now – it’s better to live in the present.

Season 3 of Runaways is available now on Hulu.

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The Featured Presentation

Dallas Liu

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Photo By: The Riker Brothers

An accomplished martial arts competitor in the discipline of Japanese Shotokan, Dallas Liu is an athlete-turned-actor who is familiar with having all eyes on him. Born and raised in Los Angeles, a city steeped in the entertainment business, the teenager hopes that his recurring role in the new Hulu series “PEN15,” which is executive produced by Andy Samberg, is just the beginning in a long and illustrious career. Given his memorable turn as protective older brother Shuji Ishii-Peters in the comedy, we’re not betting against the thespian who is used to outperforming the competition.

We recently sat down with Liu to discuss identifying with his role as an older brother, basking in the on-set creativity of the series,  and what he sometimes finds himself doing at all hours of the night.

TrunkSpace: Your new series “PEN15” is executive produced by Andy Samberg, who seems to strike comedy gold with every project that he has a creative hand in these days. Do you feel like your involvement in this new series is a bit of a career game changer given how high profile it is?
Liu: Absolutely. I hope that this project will open up many more opportunities for myself because I really do enjoy acting and I would like to continue working on amazing projects like “PEN15.”

TrunkSpace: If “PEN15” became a smash hit – the show that everyone was talking about – and suddenly you were thrust into the public spotlight, would you be comfortable with that sort of overnight change of pace? Is that something you can even prepare for as a human being, never mind as an actor?
Liu: I actually think I would be comfortable in a situation like that. My family and friends have always been my support system, so as long as I have them, I think I’ll be okay. Preparing for that wouldn’t be too much of a struggle for me personally because I’ve had experience before where all eyes are on you, but as far as preparing for it as an actor, I think it would be a lot tougher to handle because the pressure would be so intense. I want to be a very successful actor, so the fact that everyone is watching your every move, whether be in a film or in your personal life and how it could affect your career immensely, is what would make me nervous.

TrunkSpace: As someone who has been directly involved in series, what do you think are its strengths – those things that will engage an audience and keep them bingeing through the first season?
Liu: I think a strength would be how well the series can execute the relationships between the characters. Anna and Maya’s friendship is a great thing to watch because the audience sees the ups and downs of their relationship. This can also be seen with Shuji and Maya when he is constantly teasing her but also shows his support for her when she needs it.

TrunkSpace: What kept you personally engaged in the character Shuji? What was it about him that sparked you creatively and made you excited to go to work every day?
Liu: I was engaged with playing Shuji because I could relate to the character so well. My personal experiences being an older brother and protecting my younger brother were very similar to Shuji’s. Shuji’s overall mindset of being a tough guy while being a protective sibling was the main part that made me enjoy playing this role.

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the final product is always what’s memorable when it comes to a film or series, but for those working on the project, we have to imagine that it is the experience that stays with you. For you, what was the most memorable aspect of getting to work on “PEN15” thus far?
Liu: The most memorable part of working on this show for me was seeing how creative the directors, writers and actors were on set. They did so many different takes of the ideas they had and added multiple improv takes just for one scene. It was amazing to see them in person come up with all these ideas on the spot that it definitely makes me want to work on the comedy aspect of my acting.

TrunkSpace: The entire first season dropped on Hulu all at once. As an actor, is that exciting to have all of your work in any given season available to an audience at one time? Does the binge model appeal to you as someone who is directly involved in a bingeing project?
Liu: Yes, as an actor I think it’s awesome that Hulu dropped the whole season. The binge model does appeal to me because I am someone that stays up all night binge watching TV shows.

Photo By: The Riker Brothers

TrunkSpace: With so many networks and streaming platforms, has more work become available to actors within the last few years? Are you finding yourself going out on more auditions than ever before due to the amount of content being created across all distribution outlets?
Liu: There have been a lot more opportunities for actors now because of the streaming platforms and I have been finding myself going on auditions for many more different networks and platforms than before.

TrunkSpace: You’re still very early in your career but what has been a highlight thus far that you’ll carry with you moving forward?
Liu: A highlight that I’ll be carrying with me moving forward is just getting to film with Maya (Erskine) and Anna (Konkle) for “PEN15.” They’re such amazing actors and watching them in person and seeing their creativity was truly an experience that I won’t forget.

TrunkSpace: You recently wrote a “Career Dispatch” column for Backstage. In it you said that one piece of advice you would give to your younger self would be to not get wrapped up in what other actors are doing. With that said, is it difficult to not compare your career to others given that so much self-promoting goes on in the social media age? Is it easy to get hung up on the successes of your peers, and in doing so, maybe not give as much credit to your own successes?
Liu: I think that social media has a huge part in why actors get hung up on the successes of their peers. I feel like in this day and age, it’s easy to ignore what you’ve accomplished because everyone else is boasting about their successes online.

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?
Liu: I would definitely take that road because I really do enjoy acting. This is something that I want to continue doing for as long as possible.

The first season of “PEN15” is available now on Hulu.

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Trunk Stubs

Trunktober: Community

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Pictured: Donald Glover as Troy — Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC

This October we’re focused on one thing and one thing only… watching as much horror-related programming as possible to prime the pop culture pump in celebration of Halloween. Our consuming will be taking place nightly, and while there’s no rhyme or reason to how we’re going about choosing our scary screenings, we’ll do our best to tell you how we did it so that you can watch them as well.

Title: Community

Episode: “Epidemiology”

Directed By: Anthony Hemingway

Starring: Joel McHale, Alison Brie, Donald Glover, Yvette Nicole Brown, Danny Pudi, Gillian Jacobs, Chevy Chase, Ken Jeong, Jim Rash

We Watched On: Hulu

Trunktober Approved Because: One of the best ensemble casts in television history, “Community” started off as a much different show than how it ended. Originally more of a “traditional” sitcom, the writers began to hit their irreverent stride by Season 2, which is where this Halloween-themed episode first appeared. The premise: tainted food at the community college leads to a zombie-like outbreak, complete with all of the genre cliches that we horror fans are all-too familiar with.

Biggest Scare Laugh: A giant flesh-eating banana. Can you peel that!

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The Featured Presentation

Harley Graham

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The eerie new series “Light as a Feather,” which premieres Friday on Hulu, has more going for it than your average, run-of-the-mill episodic horror story. According to star Harley Graham, who plays little sister Lena, the 10-episode first season has struck the perfect balance between jump scares and that squirm-in-your-seat uneasiness that makes a thriller so thrilling.

It is refreshing to see a production that falls into the thriller genre not fall into the trap of relying totally on jump scares because there can be so much more to a show/movie,” she says, eager for audiences of all ages to discover the series.

We recently sat down with Graham to discuss her own love for the genre, why her character is going to put viewers on edge, and the reason she is living the spookiest of all seasons right now.

TrunkSpace: Your new project “Light as a Feather” centers on some mysterious happenings that occur after a group of teenagers play a seemingly innocent game of Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board. That’s a great concept because it’s a game kids have been playing for generations at parties and sleepovers, so it’s relatable to multiple audiences. Based on what you know of the project having been involved in it, is the series one that teens and older generations will both enjoy, and if so, why?
Graham: Obviously, the show is centered more towards a younger audience, but I think it is something that adults can enjoy as well. There are so many factors that go into making a show great. Teens and young adults are going to gravitate towards the characters and the plot more so than their parents while adults are going to be able to appreciate the cinematography and the natural, professional acting that is a center-point in the creation of this production.

TrunkSpace: People will turn out for horror because they’re fans of the genre itself, and because of that, it seems like audiences are more willing to try something new from that world than say comedy or drama. Do you feel a series like “Light as a Feather” has a bit of a built-in audience, especially in the month of October where people are looking for seasonal scares?
Graham: I think that this is going to be a great show all year round, but I think that premiering around this spooky season does add to the experience of watching. People are just naturally more inclined to seek out a good scare this time of year. There is so much more to the horror genre than the scares. Our show in particular has so many other elements and we cover so many topics in this show that anyone can find something that they like.

TrunkSpace: Are you personally a fan of the horror genre, and if so, what are some of your favorites?
Graham: Oh I am the absolute BIGGEST fan of thriller/horror movies. My mom and I love watching the newest spooky shows and movies really late at night so it’s extra scary. My personal favorites are old, cheesy horror films like “The Blob,” “Mars Attacks!,” and “The Birds.” When it comes to shows, there are so many great ones out right now like “American Horror Story” and “Castle Rock,” which was also created by Hulu, but I tend to gravitate towards the old ’90s shows. “The X-files” is one of my all-time favorites. Spooky Mulder and Agent Scully are I C O N I C. I could go on forever.

TrunkSpace: Circling back to “Light as a Feather,” what can you tell us about your character Lena and where she falls into the overall story?
Graham: Lena is a character much younger than her counterparts. She is the typical, eavesdropping little sister, which I have totally mastered being a younger sister myself. She joins the series fairly late and is the sort of “messenger” that brings information that is helpful to the protagonists. The creep factor that comes with her really adds something to the character that isn’t seen with the others. The way that she presents herself gives the viewer an uneasy feeling, maybe that she knows something we do not.

TrunkSpace: Having shot the series and been involved in the process of seeing it all come into fruition, what are you most looking forward to for audiences to see and experience when they sit down and watch it October 12? Is it filled with jump scares or more uneasy scares?
Graham: I think that “Light as a Feather” has struck a perfect balance between your basic jump scares and the creep factor of the whole show. It is refreshing to see a production that falls into the thriller genre not fall into the trap of relying totally on jump scares because there can be so much more to a show/movie. The editors really utilized all that they had to create an environment in the show where you are immersed in the experience of it all so the spook is really genuine. (Personally, I jumped a few times during the premiere and I am not one who is easily scared.) What I am most excited for people to find watching this show is the relationship between the viewer and the characters. We have such diversity among the characters it is easy to fall in love with one, if not all of them.

TrunkSpace: The series will stream on Hulu. As an actress, how exciting of a time is it given the current television landscape and not only the quality of content being produced, but the quantity as well? Are there more jobs available now than when you started your career?
Graham: The “new media” world has really expanded what an actor can do as well as the experience of shows to viewers. I often fall victim to the “binge watch and eat everything in my house” shenanigans when a new show drops. I think that this new form of enjoying television allows viewers to connect with characters and form relationships with the shows that they may not have been able to watching a show from week to week, maybe missing some episodes here and there. I think that this change makes an actor’s job a little more important because now their purpose is not just to be a character, but be a character that other people find themselves in.

TrunkSpace: We know you spent some time working on soap operas in the early days of your career, including “Days of Our Lives” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.” Given the breakneck pace at which those series shoot, did those early jobs serve as a boot camp for what to expect on set?
Graham: Being on a large, multifaceted, professional set for the first years of my career really gave me the experience that I am able to take onto any set I go on. Being a part of such a large production while I was just starting out as a young child gave me professional tools that it takes other actors years to develop. Learning how filming works at such a young age gives me an advantage because I now have a better understanding of how to be a fundamental part of a set dynamic.

TrunkSpace: What job have you learned the most from, the one that you find yourself still applying the lessons from, even with the jobs you tackle today?
Graham: Working with amazing directors is one of the best learning experiences an actor can have. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with not one, but two directors whose reputations precede them. On the set of “Chasing Mavericks” I worked with both Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted. Working with Curtis was so wonderful because he is a director that works very closely with the actors and knows what he wants. Working with him specifically taught me about how creating relationships between a director and actor can bring a film to the next level. After Curtis suffered from medical issues during filming, Michael had to take over. What I remember most about him is that he had a strong presence on set and knew what he wanted which made for a seamless transition from director to director. It is so easy for things to get hung up when there is a big change like that, but he was very professional coming into the middle of all the madness.

TrunkSpace: You also do voice over work, giving life to Princess Clio on the series “Sofia the First.” Was voice work always in the plan or did it come about more as a happy accident?
Graham: Voice over was not something I anticipated of my career, but I was never opposed. Voice over is really an awesome job to have because what you look like does not limit your opportunities, it is just how you sound and, how you guys so wonderfully put, “give life” to a character. Sometimes, voice over can be even more challenging than on-screen acting because you cannot rely on your facial expressions to help convey emotion, all the nuance and feeling must come from your voice. “Sofia the First” has become an especially meaningful project recently as we were just awarded a Sentinel Award for diversity in our cast. I was asked to present the award to our writer and story editor Matt Hoverman and Michael Stern. They made an amazing speech about how our work can have an impact on our viewers and the world around us. I hope that I will continue working with people who understand the importance of our work. “Sofia the First” was not my first job with voice over work and definitely will not be my last.

TrunkSpace: You’re still at such an early stage in your career and have already accomplished so much. Where do you hope to see your career go in the next five years? What would you like to accomplish next?
Graham: Currently, we are in the spookiest season of all… college app season. The goal I am focusing on most is getting into a college with a good drama program. I would love to utilize the experience of a college campus to further my education in my profession. Of course, I would love to work through my semesters and I am applying to colleges that will work with me so that I can continue my career while I am studying. When it comes to professional goals, I just want to continue to work with casts and crews that love what they do, because one of the best parts of the business is the people you connect with on set and off.

Light as a Feather” premieres Friday on Hulu.

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Trunk Stubs

Trunktober: The Monster Squad

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This October we’re focused on one thing and one thing only… watching as much horror-related programming as possible to prime the pop culture pump in celebration of Halloween. Our consuming will be taking place nightly, and while there’s no rhyme or reason to how we’re going about choosing our scary screenings, we’ll do our best to tell you how we did it so that you can watch them as well.

Title: The Monster Squad

Directed By: Fred Dekker

Starring: Andre Gower, Ryan Lambert, Stephen Macht, Duncan Regehr, Tom Noonan, Ashley Bank

We Watched On: Hulu

Trunktober Approved Because: In our neighborhood, you were either a “The Goonies” fan or a “The Monster Squad” fan. You couldn’t be both. (Technically you could, but that would ruin the point we’re trying to make!) Obviously, “The Goonies” is a classic, but for us horror-loving, Universal monster-adoring weirdos who spent the better part of our summer vacations searching local lakes for Loch Ness-like serpents, this coming-of-age story with a creature feature twist was everything we ever wanted and more. Thank goodness that we had HBO and it played in regular rotation for nearly all of our adolescence!

Biggest Scare: Not so much a scare as it is a scar. (Emotional scar!) There’s all this talk in the film about wolfman nards, but in the end, it’s Dracula’s “dork” that is revealed in half man/half bat form. Blink and you’ll miss it. Seriously… blink!

Bonus: Check out our interview with Ryan Lambert, aka Rudy, here!

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The Featured Presentation

Mark Hildreth

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Photo By: Style Militia

The scope of television has changed dramatically in recent years. Nowadays every new series is more ambitious than the last. Hulu’s latest offering “The Looming Tower” is no exception.

Based on the book by Lawrence Wright, the 10-part miniseries spotlights the events that may have inadvertently lead to one of the most tragic days in the history of the United States, 9/11. Starring Jeff Daniels, Peter Sarsgaard, and Alec Baldwin, the drama zooms in on the counter-terrorism divisions of the FBI and CIA and puts a human face on those who were unable to steer the country away from disaster and how that failure directly impacted them.

We recently sat down with Mark Hildreth who plays FBI counter-terrorism agent Gordon Wright in “The Looming Tower” to discuss the flawed heroes found in the series, why there always needs to be some creative license taken when dramatizing a real life event, and how he had a hand (or voice) in one of the most underrated Saturday morning cartoons of all time.

TrunkSpace: Before we get into the meat and potatoes of why we’re chatting today, we have to mention… we were pretty excited to see that you were a part of “Camp Candy” back in the day.
Hildreth: (Laughter) You know that show? That’s so funny.

TrunkSpace: Not only do we know that show, but we’d go so far as to say it had one of the greatest opening theme songs of any cartoon of the 80s.
Hildreth: And one of the greatest actors! I never met John (Candy) when we were doing that because we weren’t recording in the same place. He was somewhere else or he was working on something.

That’s funny. Thanks for saying that. I did a lot of that stuff – a lot of cartoons, especially when I was a little bit younger. We’re going back to the 80s now. Holy shit.

TrunkSpace: We’ll flash forward to the present and your current project “The Looming Tower.” With everything that’s happening in the world of politics here in the States, it seems like a very timely project.
Hildreth: Yeah. It definitely takes a very sober look at what was going on around 9/11, and how we in the U.S. were involved and were part of that whole scenario. I think what people are going to find probably the most moving about it is that it takes a look at it in a really human way. It really centers around Jeff Daniels’ character, who is the head of the comparatively small FBI counter-terrorism unit, back where it starts around 1998. Small compared to now because now it’s massive. And Jeff played it beautifully. We worked together a bunch, and it really gets into his character. He’s a flawed hero.

It’s not like “The Looming Tower” is going to paint the Americans as some kind of, speaking of the 80s, 80s superhero who has no warts at all. It also really gets into the humanity of those guys, and what it is they were up against, what they were dealing with, which they obviously didn’t even realize in some ways.

TrunkSpace: In many ways, it’s a road map of how we got to where we are today.
Hildreth: That’s right. It gets into the history of the whole situation, which goes back obviously decades before 9/11 actually happened. It doesn’t pull punches. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a dark project because it actually has a lot of humor, and like I said, a lot of humanity, but it doesn’t pull punches about how we got ourselves there.

TrunkSpace: Is there a certain level of delicate handling with material like this even when it’s being dramatized, not only because of the nature of the story but because the people you’re spotlighting were in fact real people?
Hildreth: Of course. We had some of the guys who were there on set with us. In fact, some of the guys who were actually there worked on O’Neill’s team, Jeff’s character’s team. They were actually in some of the scenes with us. Obviously it’s a dramatization, and I think there’s always that when you’re making the “based on a true story” movie. It’s still a movie. There are certain liberties taken for the sake of telling the story.

There was a lot of reverence on that set. And I gotta say, Jeff Daniels is as much of a pro as anybody I’ve ever worked with. It’s always the guy who’s number one on the call sheet, the guy who’s the star of the show, who always sets the tone, whether they know it or not. Jeff is such a laid back guy. He’s a good ol’ boy. He’s a Michigander, he’s a blues musician, he’s just got such a deep soul that guy, and that’s the tone that was on set. It was set all the way down from the producers to the directors. And we have some of the best producers and directors working in the business making the show. These are people who are very thoughtful. This is not tabloid television. We took the subject very seriously, and I hope with a lot of compassion for all the people who were involved on every side.

TrunkSpace: Having those guys in the scenes with you must be such a great tool for ensuring that, even though dramatized, you’re getting the tone and energy of the room right?
Hildreth: I had a moment where we were working on one scene and we were all sitting around a boardroom with Jeff’s FBI team. It was my first day on set and Jeff has a team of six or seven FBI counter-terrorism officers, which I’m one. We’re shooting this scene and we go to lunch. We’re sitting around a table in there with a couple other actors, and we’re talking with this one guy who is sitting with us, and he’s like, “Oh yeah, this was like this, that was like that, can you believe this is now this way.” He was kind of, you know, shooting the breeze about the content of the scene. The guy starts talking like, “Oh yeah, of course, this was like this, that was like that…” and I was like, “Wow, he knows a lot about this.” So then he’s like, “Yeah, when John O’Neill said that to me…” and I was like, “Uh, what? What did he just say?” I didn’t even realize he was actually one of the guys who was there in that room that we were dramatizing. You stop and you go, “Wow, this is a person that actually lived through it.” It brings a level of authority and honesty to the series.

TrunkSpace: And is your character Gordon based on a real person?
Hildreth: My understanding is that my character was sort of an amalgamation. His story is basically that he is a former Top Gun pilot who has graduated into this role in the FBI, and there are a few characters like that where we created an amalgamation of different people who might have been there to be able to show the different sides – the different ways that people were dealing with this. That is the human side of how this all went down. It’s easy to see when you think of the FBI, the CIA, as like a bunch of guys – men in black who are not real people. These are people. These are people with lives, with families, with emotions, with their own personal biases. That’s what “The Looming Tower” gets into, I think, in a really moving way, is how the human beings who were doing their best to deal with the reality of the situation back then failed, and how that turned into 9/11.

TrunkSpace: We started this conversation talking about “Camp Candy.” When you first started your career, especially in television, could you have ever imagined a show like “The Looming Tower,” with a cast and creative team involved like it has, existing as a series?
Hildreth: I guess there was a Golden Age of Television, so I’m not sure what this is. The Platinum Age? I’m not sure. It’s a real good time for TV. I’m not that old, so I sound a little bit out of place putting it this way, but we used to talk back in the old days, like in the 80s, about how it was like a pipe dream. Like, “Imagine if we didn’t have to wrap everything up in a half hour or an hour? Imagine if we could have a show that went on and on, and instead of making a two-hour movie, you could make a 10-hour movie, or a 22-hour movie?” That seemed like a far-off possibility, and now not only are we making serialized dramas and series like “The Looming Tower” where you get to really delve into it, into a story, and really get into the nitty-gritty of what goes on with the characters in a way you never did before, we have some of the best actors in the world working on television.

Getting to work with Jeff Daniels, Alec Baldwin, and Peter Sarsgaard… and we have producers Danny Futterman and Lawrence Wright who wrote the book that “The Looming Tower” is based on, a wonderful writer… it’s such a privilege as an actor. It’s the type of project you were sort of dreaming about, that you were hoping one day in the distant past that you’d get to do, something not only with such good people but with something that explores something important. It’s great.

The Looming Tower” premieres February 28 on Hulu.

Hildreth can next be seen opposite Christina Ricci in the Lifetime movie “Nellie Bly,” set to premiere later this year.

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The Featured Presentation

Kevin Caliber

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Photo By: Status PR

It was recently announced that, in the near future, the world will be getting more “Future Man.” With a second season of the whacky time traveling series now on the horizon, we decided to revisit the Hulu comedy, and in doing so, make the show’s card carrying bro our very own wingman.

Kevin Caliber, a United States Marine Corps veteran who is also a fitness model and stuntman, stars in the series as Blaze, the 80s BFF of Derek Wilson’s Wolf. (Check out our interview with Wilson here.)

We recently sat down with Caliber to discuss his unexpected journey with the character, menacing neon outfits, and why fans would be lining up for an 80s style Wolf and Blaze sitcom.

 

TrunkSpace: “Future Man” is an extremely unique show that strikes a unique tone. Was it also unique for you in terms of the experience?
Caliber: Yeah. It’s one of those projects that as you read the script, you had no idea where it was going. Not to say that with every show you could tell that, but a lot of the times, whenever you read scripts, you kind of have an idea of where it’s going. You have an idea of the character developments. “Future Man” was one of those that, as you read it and as it goes along, they take it to places that you didn’t expect because they’re going to the far reaches of their imagination to get there.

TrunkSpace: And comedy must be so hard to read on the page, too, because unless you’re in the room with the creative team, it’s difficult to fully absorb tone, right?
Caliber: Absolutely. It was not until the first day on set because for me, I did episode 9 without doing a table read. They brought me right onto the set and I had no idea exactly what they were going for. In the script it says something like, “Oh, a couple of menacing guys come up,” and then we see the outfits that we’re wearing. It’s hard to be intimidating wearing shorty short hot pink shorts. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Well, menacing in the 80s, right? (Laughter)
Caliber: (Laughter) Right. 80s tough guys.

Whenever I came back for the next episode, I went in for the table read, and that was the first time that we really get the chemistry of everybody saying it aloud, and you get the tone of the story as a whole, and now you’re kind of seeing where it’s going. So you see where the comedy is, and then even between the table read and whenever it does come to shooting it a couple weeks later, the script has changed because, obviously, they make changes all the way up until being on set. And they were such a funny comedy team to work with, that they would come to me between takes and give me different things to say. You would hear a laugh come from off-camera and I’d go, “Okay, I guess that was a good one.”

You’re always curious to see what they’re going to use because I’ve improvised before on sets, but that one, it wasn’t so much me improv’ing but them kind of improv’ing what I was doing and then making it up on the spot. I’ve never had a chance to work with a group like that.

TrunkSpace: In comedy, sometimes working on the fly is where the best material comes from because it’s a springboard for instantaneous laughter, which signals if something is working or not.
Caliber: Absolutely, and as long as you don’t fall victim to strictly trying to make the people in the room laugh… that’s when you kind of can get meta, and now you’re just trying to make each other laugh as opposed to what will translate.

I hear about some of these methods of the editing process that they go through with these tests (screenings) and then they show you the same movie or the same scene eight different ways because they filmed it every which way, just to see how crowds react to it. Well, what’s making the people in LA laugh doesn’t necessarily make…

I’m from Missouri so I go back to Missouri and I’m cracking jokes and people have no idea what I’m talking about because I’m speaking in LA language.

TrunkSpace: You have to go back to Missouri in your menacing “Future Man” outfit. (Laughter)
Caliber: (Laughter) Yeah, that will really throw everybody off.

I was an athlete and a little bit of tough guy growing up – just a good ol’ boy from Missouri, and then I joined the Marine Corps. I was just a down and dirty type of guy. Now some of the stuff that people see me in, and how I end up getting dressed, they’re like, “Whoa, when did you become such a little pretty boy?” And I’m like, “No, I’m still the same guy!” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: So when Blaze first came into your life, did you know he would be a recurring character or did that sort of grow as the episodes went on?
Caliber: I did not know. Originally I thought it was a standalone from just that one episode. Even going into the audition, it was strictly as a day player, and then getting on set and working and then getting to know the writers… Kyle (Hunter) and Ariel (Shaffir) were there every day… I got the call again and then again. They were like, “I want to add you to this, can you do that?” I was on set, sitting behind the producers’ row, and one of the producers turns around and gives me a look. He says, “Hey, you got one more episode?” I was like, “Of course! I’m here for you! Add me to every one. I love this!”

Photo By: Status PR

TrunkSpace: What’s cool about that is that Blaze probably wasn’t defined as a character when you first read for him, but he grew into his own as you were working on him.
Caliber: Absolutely, and it wasn’t until I got the script for the “Beyond the TruffleDome” episode that you actually really get to know Blaze. And as I’m reading it – I was sitting on my couch with my girlfriend reading it – and I’m really excited. And then, spoiler alert here, as I’m reading it, I’m like “Oh my God, I’m a prostitute!” (Laughter) “Oh my God, I’m a drug addict!” (Laughter) “Oh my God, I can’t read!” (Laughter) “Oh my God, I’m homeless!” (Laughter)

It was just taking it to the next level, and that’s what made me laugh so much. Whenever I told anybody about it I was like, “It’s the 80s and we end up becoming coke heads because that’s what the 80s were,” and people would be like, “Aw, man, so they must have made you up to really look bad and really strung out?” And I’m like, “Oh no, they made me look gorgeous!” (Laughter) I’m like this prostitute druggie, but I’m still rocking supermodel status.

TrunkSpace: You kept it together. That’s what they did in the 80s!
Caliber: (Laughter) Yeah, exactly. I was Wall Street!

TrunkSpace: The 1980s was the era of the sitcom, and after watching Blaze and Wolf together, all we could think of was that a spinoff sitcom needs to happen!
Caliber: Oh my God! I can’t help but go down that rabbit hole every now and again. Whenever I get tagged in something on social media, on Reddit, on Twitter and Instagram, anytime that something is posted, that seems to be a recurring thing that sticks out to me. Every time I get the, “We need more of this! You glazed over it too quick! What happened in those years?”

I love all of the characters. Josh (Hutcherson) did an amazing job carrying the show. He was so fun and he was one of those guys that just laughed about everything along the way. He still couldn’t believe what they were having him do, and he was one of the producers on it, but you can tell he was all-in. And then of course, with Tiger and Wolf just killing it. But the consensus seems to be that everybody really loves Wolf, and I’m so happy for Derek. He was such a good sport. Such a cool guy. He brought it. He really brought that character to life in a way that was so unique and fun while still being… his innocence. He played it so well. I’m really happy that Wolf was the one that really kind of stood out to so many people.

TrunkSpace: Well, and Wolf couldn’t be Wolf without having a bro in his life like Blaze. Safe to say that everybody needs a bro like Blaze in their lives?
Caliber: Oh, absolutely!

Catch up on season 1 of “Future Man” on Hulu and look for season 2 later this year.

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The Featured Presentation

Robert Craighead

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We’re living in the present while embracing the future… “Future Man” that is.

Our favorite new janitor-turned-action-hero sci-fi laugh fest is continuing to draw viewers in with its unique POV since first premiering on Hulu in November. Robert Craighead plays Detective Vincent Skarsgaard in the streamable series, and in doing so, delivers a charismatic performance that helps to round out the distinctive comedic world that “Future Man” resides in.

We recently sat down with Craighead to discuss the most exciting aspect of the character, how he felt he was the perfect fit to play Skarsgaard, and the reason why he tends to be cast in authoritative roles.

TrunkSpace:Future Man” is a unique cup of content tea. There’s certainly nothing else like it out there right now. When you’re starring in something that has such a specific tone, does it allow you to take a different approach towards your performance, either in finding the character at the outset or through the work itself?
Craighead: Fist of all I am a huge fan of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg as well as the writing team of Ariel Shaffir and Kyle Hunter. I loved “Sausage Party” and “This Is The End” I have seen a hundred times, not to mention all their other films! So, I already had a feel for the style of humor that was called for in this production. When I read the first script for my character it seemed like it was such a perfect fit for me that I fell in love with Skarsgaard immediately and relished bringing him to life.

TrunkSpace: How did the project first come into your life and could you see the vision for what it would end up becoming it those early days? Was that reflective in the scripts and rehearsals?
Craighead: When I first met with the team of Dorian Frankel and Sibby Kirhgessner Casting, we had so much fun playing with the character and putting it on tape for the producers and the network that I felt I had pretty much captured the essence they wanted for Skarsgaard. I was originally slated for two episodes but as we were filming and having fun developing him, Ariel and Kyle just kept coming up with more and more ideas and storylines for Skarsgaard. I was thrilled to be extended to six episodes and they were open to my suggestions as well as my off-the-wall humor. (I guess we were just in sync.)

TrunkSpace: For those who have yet to binge their way through Season 1, can you tell us about Detective Skarsgaard and what his journey is? In addition to that, what was it about the character that you were most excited to sink your teeth into?
Craighead: The way I see it, Detective Skarsgaard is a cross between Nick Nolte’s Detective Cates in “48 Hrs.” and Stacy Keach’s Sergeant Stedenko in “Up In Smoke.” A hard nose cop who is like a dog with a bone, he is set on getting his man and will go through hell or high water to get him. I think for me the most exciting aspect of the character’s journey was his loyalty to his partner and the guilt he carried over his death. Finding the humor in that and consistently driving that point and keeping it funny was a challenge in itself, but I was given such great catchphrases by the writers it helped in keeping Skarsgaard fresh and original, albeit somewhat clichè.

TrunkSpace: You started acting professionally long before streaming platforms became a viable distribution option. Has the way in which people consume content via these options, such as the case with “Future Man,” changed the experience for you as an actor? Does acting feel different in 2017 than it did in 1997?
Craighead: Yes, I have been around awhile, I guess. (Laughter) When I first started, there were only three networks and movies were only shot on film. However, I love all of the opportunities that are available for everyone in the film and television business today. There are so many more platforms for young actors and filmmakers to be able to hone their craft and develop an audience without relying on the big studio projects to get them there. As far as this changing my experience as an actor, does it feel different? No, not at all. The process is still the same and I am grateful there are so many more options available today for me as an actor.

TrunkSpace: In “New Girl” you played Sergeant Clarke. In “Too Close to Home” it was Sheriff Mobley. And now in “Future Man” it’s Detective Vincent Skarsgaard. Why do you think you have been cast as so many authoritative figures? Do you think it is at all reflective of who you are or how people view you?
Craighead: Well, I guess I have to attribute that to the way people view me on first impression. I have a very distinguishable voice and my body language seems to exude confidence and authority. However, I also play a lot of abusive assholes and despicable characters as well – for example, in the soon to be released western feature film “Painted Woman” I play kind of a Harvey Weinstein of the 1890’s.

Craighead with Derek Wilson on the set of “Future Man”

TrunkSpace: Another throughline we noticed in looking at your overall body of work is that you have appeared in a number of horror films, dating all the way back to the early days of your career with “Cujo” and “Return of the Living Dead.” Is horror a genre that you feel comfortable performing in and do you feel like it is a genre that comes with a built-in audience? From an outside perspective it feels like horror fans are willing to try out new material more willingly than general movie-going audiences.
Craighead: Yes, I have done a few films of the horror genre, but usually ones with a comedic tone or tongue in cheek. Horror fans are amazing – they are extremely loyal and remember every detail of every character including dialogue if they really like a movie. Also, even if you haven’t done a horror film for years, they will still be thrilled to see you again and welcome you with open arms.

TrunkSpace: You’ve played dozens upon dozens of characters over the years, both on camera and on the stage. Is there a particular character who has stuck with you throughout your career that you wish you had more time to explore?
Craighead: Recently I completed two seasons as a series regular on Tyler Perry’s “Too Close To Home” as Sheriff Mobley, kind of an incompetent law enforcement of a small town in Alabama. We were just starting to get into some different levels of the character that made me excited to imagine where we might go with him. He was kind of a know-it-all but also a town flirt with the ladies and brought in some comic relief for the show, but I could also see the possibilities of some dirty dealings going on for him with some bad guys coming up. So I was very disappointed when the show was not picked up for a third season. It left some stories untold.

TrunkSpace: You’ve also been pursuing country music, recording and releasing a number of songs and recently performing live to a sold out crowd. Is your singer/songwriter focus one that you see as a second career path or is music a hobby that you just can’t stay away from?
Craighead: I started performing country music about four years ago because I was doing a world premiere musical on stage with a live band and people encouraged me to give it a shot. It’s always been a love of mine and I have always sang for fun with family and friends, but this show really hooked me. It was about country music and songwriters and featured 17 of country music legend Paul Overstreet’s hit songs. Paul and I became good friends and one day he said, “Let’s record some songs.” So I went to Nashville, we went into a recording studio, and we did! Although, acting is and always will be my greatest passion, I gotta admit, I sure do enjoy playing “country star” every now and then. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Has the love for music always been a part of who you are? When did you pick up your first instrument and did someone in your life serve as a catalyst for inspiring that level of interest in you?
Craighead: I have always been a fan of music in any form , rock ‘n’ roll, classical, jazz, but country music, possibly because of my Texas upbringing, has always held my heart.

TrunkSpace: In addition to acting and music, you have also written a feature film called “Catch a Fallen Star,” which is currently in pre-production. Can you tell us about the project and what the journey has been like to bring it to life?
Craighead: This is a story I have had running through my head for about 15 to 20 years and finally sat down and put it to paper last year. I was inspired to get it done while working with Paul Overstreet, because it is about a country music singer songwriter. It’s a story about a man who has the world by the tail and then loses everything including his family, and after 25 years in prison, struggles to rebuild a relationship with a son whom he has never known. Paul has agreed to write the songs for the movie and we’ve already laid the tracks for a couple of them.

TrunkSpace: You seem to continue to pump diversity into your career, both in the characters you take on and in the overall work you do. How important to you is it to continue to diversify your creative output moving forward?
Craighead: I think that may just happen naturally – it’s not something I deliberately set out to do but subconsciously I think we all look to find diversity in our lives. I would like to continue to find interesting characters to play and also move more into producing and writing my own projects as well. So in that aspect, yes, I guess it is important to me.

TrunkSpace: You’ve accomplished and taken on so much in your career so far, but is there anything that you’d still like to tackle? What are some of your bucket list items that you’d like to check off?
Craighead: Ooooh, my bucket list is long! A few of the things I would like to accomplish though are at some point soon being able to have my production company move into producing and creating our own movies and television shows as well as writing and recording more country music.

Season 1 of “Future Man” is available now on Hulu.

Check our our exclusive interview with Derek Wilson of “Future Man” here.

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The Featured Presentation

Angel Parker

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Photo By: Riker Brothers Photography

There is an entire generation of pop culture fans who have grown up on Marvel characters being mainstream relevant. Big brand anchors like Spider-Man, Captain America, and Thor have dominated theaters, owned the toy shelves, and conquered the world of licensed apparel, but a fascinating shift is occurring. Many of the lesser known characters and titles within the Marvel Universe are receiving their own time in the spotlight, from upcoming films based on Black Panther and Captain Marvel, to a television series based on the New Warriors set for a 2018 release. One of the more highly anticipated live action takes on a lesser known group of characters was “Runaways,” which made its debut on the streaming platform Hulu just days before Thanksgiving.

 

 

We recently sat down with series star Angel Parker, who plays Wilder family matriarch Catherine, to discuss the multigenerational appeal of “Runaways,” the big themes tackled throughout Season 1, and how a non-mutant can compete in a mutant-filled world.

TrunkSpace: Your new series “Runaways” made its debut a little over a week ago. As an actor, is there any better universe or ongoing franchise to be involved with right now than with what Marvel is doing on both the big and small screens?
Parker: Yeah, it’s definitely where you want to be right now. Now they have something on almost every platform – film, TV, streaming – it’s incredible the amount of work that’s available that’s challenging and fun and cool and badass.

TrunkSpace: And for the most part, their characters and stories are emotionally grounded in reality, but still have a sense of that heightened reality that allows viewers to escape as well. That must allow you to be able to do things performance-wise that you can’t do in other projects?
Parker: Exactly. You don’t get to deal with a dinosaur in your day to day life or in most shows. (Laughter)

You also don’t get to work with such a huge cast and have so many storylines and to be able to connect to other worlds and other characters. It really is kind of cool that we get to tell this story. I love the fact that it’s on Hulu, basically television, because you get to tell the story and you get to really dive into it. It doesn’t have to fit into a two and a half hour movie. We’ve got 10 hours to play with this first season, so it really is an opportunity for you to learn about all of these families and dive into their world.

There’s six runaways and five families in the pride, plus the leaders of it, so it really is a lot of story that can be told. There are so many different ways that we can go about it. We really dive into it and the history of it in Season 1.

TrunkSpace: Hulu released three episodes out of the gates and then took a more traditional roll out approach with the remaining episodes, debuting one every week thereafter. That seems like a smart plant to hook people and build anticipation for what’s to come.
Parker: It’s very exciting. By Episode 5 (debuting December 5), which is one of our hugest episodes besides the season finale, people are going to be hooked. I think you’ve just got to find the show. If the show is good enough, you’ll find it. That’s kind of the new world of television is, it’s not what network and what time, it’s what show. I’ll find that show wherever it’s at.

TrunkSpace: And with something like “Runaways,” it comes with a built in audience with eyeballs that would find it no matter where it was.
Parker: Yeah, there’s the die hard fans of “Runaways” that are going to be so excited for all the things that we made sure are in our show. There’s going to be a lot of new things that just fans of Marvel in general are going to be excited about, with the special effects and with the action elements and with the diving into the stories and the villains and the good guys versus bad guys. “Are they really good? Are they really bad?” All those elements that are in every Marvel production are in our show. Then there’s just the young audience that is going to dive into young teenage drama and the fighting against their parents that everyone can relate to.

I have an 11-year-old boy and he’s read the comic. He can’t be more excited. All of his friends are excited. He’s in the 7th grade. It’s hard to find a show to watch with your teenagers that you don’t want to shoot your brains out. (Laughter) There’s going to be a lot of parents that are sitting watching this show and going, “This is good.” You see the story of the parents and the Pride and the sacrifices or the compromises that they’ve made that got them into this situation where they are sacrificing humans and are pitted against their own children and having to make decisions on who lives and who dies. Those are big, big themes. Then, just because Marvel’s got its paintbrush on it, we’re going to look cool the whole time and say cool things at the right time. (Laughter)

They’ve got some fantastic actors. The adults, the parents, we’ve all been doing this for almost 20 years. We’re all ready for this moment. Really, every actor, you look across the room, especially in big circle scenes of the sacrifice, every character is fully, fully realized and has all their thoughts and their opinions about why they’re here in this moment. It’s very fun to play.

The teenagers are just as great. These are not kid actors, these are actors – young actors. They really bring it. It’s not only well acted and well produced, but it’s a show that people are going to want to watch just because you’re going to want to understand the twists and turns and dive into the universe. “Where does it connect? How does it connect?”

Then there’s tons of little Easter eggs for the die hard fans just to make you jump up and squeal.

Photo By: Riker Brothers Photography

TrunkSpace: So much of what we see from Marvel in film and TV in terms of their characters have been around for decades, but what’s nice about “Runaways” is that many of the characters are relatively new in the grand scheme of the universe itself. That in and of itself should make the show more accessible to viewers who may find the history of Marvel kind of creatively daunting?
Parker: I think one of the reasons that the “Runaways” comic was written was for that age gap of a younger audience that was looking for something, but didn’t want it to be over their head or want it to be about things, issues, that relate to their life. You want to see yourself as a protagonist in a lot of things that you read. Kids are going to find that fascinating.

And when I say kids… there are some big themes. There’s a gay character. There’s death. There’s possible suicide. There’s all of these different big themes that are in our show that teenagers are dealing with. It doesn’t talk down to them. That’s the one things that I know about having an almost teenager is, talking down to them is the first way for them to shut down. Kids are smart. Kids figure things out.

To dive into that world and have a hero or maybe not a hero that you’re rooting for, it’s the best part of television. The best part of going into a fantasy world is a world that you could possibly see yourself in or hope to be in or dream and imagine to be in. It’s very cool.

TrunkSpace: In the original comic series, the kids were all offspring of villains. Is your version of Catherine Wilder on a similar villainous path?
Parker: Season 1 is all very much connected to the original source material of “Runaways.” Yes, a lot of them are descendents, but they don’t know. The kids don’t know in the beginning what powers they have or what control they have over outside elements. As an audience, we get to see them discover these elements.

Now, the Wilders don’t have powers. That will have stayed the same. The Wilders lead the group and Alex, who is our lead played by Rhenzy Feliz, he does not have any powers. I think that that makes a great protagonist because you’re like, “What are you going to do in this world when someone next to you is glowing? And another person next to you has a dinosaur. And another person next to you has this special weapon that they can do all these things with.” It’s like, “Okay, what can I do? What do I have?” What they have is their brain and their leadership skills and the qualities of survival. That is also very cool.

To be a non-mutant, if you want to use that word, in a world where people do have powers or special abilities or special strengths, you have to find your own strength and your way to navigate through that world. That’s the exciting thing about following Alex Wilder in this story is, how is he going to fight back? Even when we get to our season finale, it’s like, “What do you bring to the table?” He goes, “I bring this…” Those skills are just what an average human being has, which is their power of negotiation and their power of street smarts, if you could call it that. The Wilders, Geoffrey and Catherine, we have to navigate that world as well and lead it and lead it with other people following us or not following us and being able to come out on top, which is what the Wilders do best.

TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, what was your favorite thing about Catherine and getting to bring her to life?
Parker: She’s very savvy. She’s very sexy. She’s smart. She is a lawyer, which I have played before, but she gets to do it in such a big way. She makes some major decisions that affects people’s lives and has to reconcile that and still go through with it. That was the element of playing a “villain” that was really, really exciting to me. But then down to small elements like the length of her ponytail, which was something that was in the comics and was drawn so beautifully. The tiniest details are added into Catherine Wilder. And then something as large as, she’s leading the Pride and the sacrifices she’s making for her son and risking her life in many ways, those are the dark elements that are directly in line with the comic as well.

It’s also a multifaceted character I get to play. I get to play mom, wife, lawyer, villain, and doing those at the highest level because she’s an excellent wife. She’s an excellent lawyer. She excels at everything that she does. When things start to go wrong in our world, that’s something that Catherine does not do well with. Everything that Catherine touches succeeds. When things start to rapidly go wrong and her son’s life is in danger, you get to see this woman who’s always had her life put together and has been able to handle anything that’s thrown at her all of the sudden is at a loss.

It’s very exciting, the journey that Catherine gets to take from beginning to end.

Parker and Ryan Sands in Runaways. Photo by Paul Sarkis – © 2017 Hulu

TrunkSpace: You starred in “American Crime Story” The People v. O.J. Simpson” last year. When you were shooting that, did you have any idea that it would become the water cooler show that it ultimately became?
Parker: We knew we were making something great. We took a lot of time and care with each of those things. Everyone was very well researched. We’d all watched the trial. We would watch the scene before we shot it. We had read every book written about our character, every book written about the show, and then had experts there at all times. We knew we were making something special. We did not know that the audience would love it so much. We did not know that it would be that water cooler, “I can’t wait for Tuesday night” kind of show or that we would win the Emmy for Outstanding Limited Series or that all of those actors would be able to take home the Emmys as well. We did know it was good. We did know we were honoring the story, but we didn’t know the success that it would have.

Also, we didn’t know if people were ready to hear this story again. A lot of people said, “I lived through it. I don’t want to watch it again. Why would I want to watch that story? How are you going to tell that? What’s the truth? Is it just going to be some popcorn story about ultimately these two people losing their lives?” It was about the trial. It was about that shift in culture in Los Angeles and America. Our show started with scenes from the Rodney King beating. I’m glad that that set the tone for where we were as a society for this trial to even take place and for the outcome to be what it was. That surprised us that people were ready for it.

New episodes of “Runaways” arrive each Tuesday at Hulu.

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