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Wingman Wednesday

Aliyah O’Brien

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Photo By: Shimon

There was a time when there were only a small handful of new shows that viewers had to track, mostly in the fall, but thanks to an endless number of cable networks and streaming platforms producing scripted programming, it seems there is a never-ending supply of series premieres to plan for. With life taking a large portion of our time (family, work, sleep, etc.) how do we divvy up the scattered free hours that we have for the most recent pop culture players and newbie debuts.

Well for starters, you could tune-in to anything Aliyah O’Brien is starring in. Guaranteed to capture your attention, the Toronto-based actress is a charismatic  scene stealer, recreating on-screen likability in almost every character she inhabits. But don’t take our word for it. Her new series “Take Two” premieres June 21 on ABC, opening the door for her most recent character, Detective Christine Rollins, to win you over.

We recently sat down with O’Brien to discuss the balance that the show strikes, why she has been cast in a lot of authoritative roles, and how she reacts when she gets on a roller coaster.

TrunkSpace: In an industry where it seems everything is hurry up and wait, how exciting was it to receive a straight to series order for “Take Two?”
O’Brien: Oh my gosh – it’s a gift from the universe, my friend. Yeah, it’s a real treat. I didn’t realize how many pilots get made and then don’t go to series. I had a conversation with a friend about this, and it’s something like 15 percent. I mean, “Huh?” It’s so odd to book a pilot, and then let alone have it get made.

TrunkSpace: The premiere is set for June 21 on ABC. In a day and age where there’s so much content available to people, why is “Take Two” one that they should make time for?
O’Brien: I think people are really going to like it. It’s really fun, and for me anyways, it has that nice balance of the mystery of solving the crime, which is engaging, but also it’s grounded and real. I think you care about the characters enough that you will also want to see their lives unfold as they solve the mysteries. I’m really partial to dramadies that are grounded and real and relatable, but that also have some fun and uplifting elements. I think people will really like it, and I think we got a good cast that’s doing a great job. and our writers are fantastic. I’m hopeful that it does well and we do this for many years.

TrunkSpace: And it seems to have its own distinct voice, which should help it stand out.
O’Brien: Exactly. Our creator/showrunners, Andrew (Marlowe) and Terri (Edda Miller), are veterans in this genre, and I think that what we have is unique, but it’s also backed by tons of experience. What I really like about them is, though we are doing a formulaic procedural type show, they play a lot against stereotypes, and they come up with some interesting concepts and twists where you’re always surprised, which is super fun. I know for myself, with my character, which I can’t really reveal a ton of, but they did some stuff that surprised me even, and played against stereotypes, and I always really appreciate that.

TrunkSpace: Like you said, you can’t give too much away about your character, but what’s interesting about her that you wouldn’t mind exploring for 100 episodes or more?
O’Brien
: I think that what’s cool is that she is… I always like playing a boss, someone that’s bad-ass and tough, and but that also has depth and care and sass and humor. I think that Detective Christine Rollins is not only really good at her job, but she also has a little fun. Hopefully down the road you’ll also discover that she’s also a very caring human being, so she’s not just a surfacy sort of emotionally-suppressed woman, which I’ve played a lot of those. (Laughter) That’s not… that is boring.

TrunkSpace: We’ve also noticed that you’ve played a lot of authoritative figures.
O’Brien: Isn’t it interesting? It’s true, I usually play these sort of strong, tough women, and I guess there’s an element of me that is that obviously or I probably wouldn’t get cast as those roles. Then there’s the side of me that’s like this crazy hippy chick who’s really soulful and has a house full of crystals and is kind of a nerd and is freaked out a lot of the time and is constantly working on that. (Laughter) It’s really funny how people perceive you, and how you perceive yourself and how you feel.

TrunkSpace: In the case of auditions, so much of how you’re perceived takes place within the matter of seconds, correct?
O’Brien: Yes, and I think a huge part of it is that I’m a tall brunette woman that has a lower registered voice, and I guess maybe by comparison to a lot of the women I know, I do have some confidence and some gravitas, or at least I can fake it. I’m working on it. I’m working really hard at building that side of myself and really owning it. I guess that maybe it’s showing up.

TrunkSpace: Does acting help with that? Does portraying other people force you to take an outside perspective of yourself at times?
O’Brien: Yeah, totally. It’s sort of like there’s a feedback loop that happens where you get these jobs that freak the shit out of you, and therefore you need to work on yourself so that you can show up and be a great actor and be open and available. Then by proxy you grow, and you grow as a person, and then you get even bigger roles and better roles, and it just kind of constantly gives you more opportunity to work on yourself. I never feel like I’ve arrived and I’m now super confident and “I got this!” There’s always challenge. It’s a great opportunity for me to work on my inner life.

TrunkSpace: Going back to “Take Two,” one of the things that the showrunners are well-known for is creating characters who are great at bantering back and forth. Will that be an element of this series as well, and does that make tackling a character more interesting when you get to own strong dialogue?
O’Brien: Hell yes! Tons of great banter, and very clever, witty scripts. Definitely.

It definitely makes it more fun to do and I think it feels quite natural for me because I am a bit sassy in real life. This character just sort of feels like I stepped into it and it felt like a glove – it wasn’t like I had to do any work. It was like, “This is pretty much me.” I enjoy it very much. 

TrunkSpace: So now that the premiere date is only a few weeks away, is it a nerve-racking wait to see how it will be perceived?
O’Brien: You know what, no. Maybe when we get closer to it it will be nerve-racking, but in my life right now, I’m pretty surrendered to whatever is meant to happen will happen. Obviously I’d love for it to go a lot of years. I have a plan where I’m going to live in Bali part-time and do the show and do some other stuff. I’m going to spend at least a couple of months a year in Bali. That would really help out my plan. (Laughter)  

I go with the flow, and if it didn’t work out, then I would come up with a new plan. I’m sort of one of those people though that does tend to, if I’m going to be nervous, it’s like right before. When we’re down to the wire, then I might be nervous. Otherwise, I don’t get excited about a trip usually until I’m on the plane.

TrunkSpace: So you’re the person who is game to get on the roller coaster, but then when it’s ticking up and ready to go, you start to panic?
O’Brien: Kind of, although usually, because I love crazy shit like that, I’m like, “Oh yeahhhhhhhhhhh!” I scream, but I secretly just love it. (Laughter) I am that person that leaps and then is like, “What the fuck have I done?” But it’s too late, which is good. (Laughter)

Featured image by: Shimon.

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Wingman Wednesday

Dylan Everett

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As “Supernatural” prepares to enter its 13th season, it makes sense that a number of actors have been relied upon to play young Dean Winchester. Whether due to flashbacks or evil, age-altering spells, the writers of the long-running series have never been afraid to delve deeper into the “road so far” in order to give fans a glimpse at how the Winchester boys came to be. And while many have played the pie-loving eldest brother over the years, there has been only one actor capable of completely capturing what Jensen Ackles created in Dean Winchester and that actor is Dylan Everett.

We recently sat down with Everett to discuss how he became a lean, mean, Dean machine, why he enjoyed playing in both the comedy and drama worlds that the show is known for, and what we can expect from his new Starz series “Insomnia.”

TrunkSpace: You’ve done a ton of film and television roles over the course of your career, but to “Supernatural” fans, you’re the quintessential young Dean Winchester because you play the character so well. Did you have a chance to sit down with Jensen and pick his brain to get a handle on the Dean delivery and mindset?
Everett: Actually, believe it or not, I didn’t get to meet Jensen until, I think, it was the last day of the first episode that we shot. Basically everything I went off of was what I could find online or from the several seasons of the show that I watched before. Even after that, I don’t think I ever actually got to sit down with him and discuss the character, which was unfortunate, because given the nature of the role, we weren’t exactly in the same place at the same time.

TrunkSpace: And yet you absolutely nailed what Jensen had created in Dean.
Everett: Jared helped me out big time. I’ve mentioned before, in previous interviews, but he totally had my back on set, which was big for me. Knowing that someone’s been doing that role for so long, you want to make sure you do it as well as you can and that everyone’s happy with it, including and especially Jensen and the fans.

TrunkSpace: The fans are so rabid for the show. The people who watch it adore it and yet the people who don’t watch the show aren’t even sure if it’s on the air anymore, which is kind of cool. It’s become a bit like a secret club.
Everett: Yep. It totally is. It’s a really well-kept secret. But, it’s been on for almost 15 years, so they’re doing something right. And again, the fans, they keep coming back for more.

TrunkSpace: You did three episodes as young Dean Winchester. Have you felt the reach of the fanbase since doing them and have you seen your own fanbase grow because of it?
Everett: Oh, big time. Yeah. It’s a really high-profile show, and again, the fan base is so committed and devoted to the show that any time a new actor steps into the show, they just go nuts for them. I got lucky. I get to be a younger version of one of the lead characters, so, it was amplified even more for that reason.

TrunkSpace: You grew up in Canada. It seems like a bit of a rite of passage for Canadian actors to appear on the show seeing it has been on for so long and because it shoots up in Vancouver.
Everett: Absolutely. I’ve experienced it. I experienced that similarly with “Degrassi,” where it was, as you said, sort of a rite of passage where everybody and their dog has been on the show. But it’s so great because it’s such a fantastic show. It’s so much fun to do and it was a really exciting experience to get to do that.

Supernatural — “About a Boy” — Image SN1012B_0161 — Pictured (L-R): Jared Padalecki as Sam, Mark Acheson as Hansel, and Dylan Everett as Young Dean — Credit: Diyah Pera/The CW — © 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

TrunkSpace: “Supernatural” writers have always been masterful about blending comedy and drama together and one of the episodes you did in particular, “About a Boy,” did just that. From a performance standpoint, what was it like to get to play in both of those worlds within the same show?
Everett: As you just pointed out, they do it so well, between comedy and drama, they balance it quite perfectly. There was a bit of everything to be had there in the episodes that I got to do. It was really juicy and it was a challenge, as an actor, to sort of push me in a different direction that I hadn’t really explored before. It’s one thing to come up with a character on your own as an actor, but to kind of break habits and really shed your own personality to adopt another one… it was a really cool experience.

TrunkSpace: You also played Mark-Paul Gosselaar playing Zack Morris in the “Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story.” What a crazy role to take on because you’re actually playing the actor playing the character. So many layers!
Everett: That was exactly it. It was a paradigm on its own. I guess the only difference really was I think I had more parallels with young Mark-Paul Gosselaar than I did with Dean Winchester. It came a little bit more naturally, whereas with the Dean Winchester performance, it had to be a little bit more deliberate on my end. But again, I still had so much fun on both sides.

Dylan Everett as Mark-Paul Gosselaar in “The Unauthorized Save By The Bell Story”

TrunkSpace: And jumping back to “Supernatural,” in the episode previous to “About a Boy” you were actually playing young Dean Winchester, but in “About a Boy” you were playing old Dean Winchester made young. Mind blown! (Laughter)
Everett: (Laughter) I know. There’s so many angles to it. It’s hard to keep up. I got to experience it on both sides. I had so much fun doing both. It’s challenging because I get to take on Jensen’s character. It’s hard to break your own habits as an actor and adopt somebody else’s.

TrunkSpace: So is it more difficult when you’re playing a character who previously exists or a person who exists in the real world, as opposed to seeing something on the page and creating the character yourself?
Everett: It’s just different. I guess even with the Dean Winchester performances, as with your own characters, there’s a part of yourself that always bleeds through no matter what. But when playing somebody else, especially, like I said, the way that Jensen has played Dean so iconically over the years, you’ve really got to step up and not let it bleed through so much. And that’s tricky.

TrunkSpace: Did you have to play Dean with three different directors giving you feedback as well?
Everett: Yeah. You get direction from the director. You’re getting direction from Jared, who made a very good point to me on set. He said, “I’m going to give you a lot of feedback. I’m going to give you a lot of advice. And it’s not because I’m trying to tell you what to do as an actor, but it’s only because I know Dean. The only person who knows Dean better than me is Jensen. And Jensen’s not here.”

And he’s absolutely right. I took every bit of advice he threw my way and tried to incorporate it as best I could.

TrunkSpace: We watched the trailer for your new Starz series “Insomnia,” which looks not too far from where we’re headed in society right now. (Laughter) Where does your character fall into things?
Everett: I’m not too sure what I’m allowed to talk about. (Laughter) Big ensemble cast. It’s really dark. Really gritty. Really hard hitting show. My character was a total kind of left turn from what I’m used to doing, which was good. You kind of take steps as an actor, and that was the next step for me.

But it’s a really dark, really conflicted character who has a lot of edge to him. Hopefully, when it drops, people get excited and they respond to it.

TrunkSpace: In a lot of ways you grew up in the industry. Is it important for you, as you get older, to sort of look toward those darker roles and to break the habits of casting directors in terms of how they view you and your capabilities as an actor?
Everett: Yeah. That’s always the trick for the actor, right? To not fall into that typecast role. I’ve been very lucky as a young actor. I’ve kind of progressed slowly but surely, and I’ve got to experience everything from the kids roles, like “Wingin’ It,” to more adolescent roles like “Degrassi” and “Supernatural,” and then something like this, which is pretty dark.

At the end of the day, as an actor, you’re just happy that you get work. Of course, you’re always looking for certain roles and for different avenues to explore, character-wise, but at the end of the day, work is work. And I’ll always take the jobs.

Insomnia” is set to premiere later this year on Starz.

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