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Wingman Wednesday

Jill Morrison

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Photo By: Liz Rosa

Jill Morrison is kicking off 2019 right. With two projects reaching the masses in January – the UFO-themed series “Project Blue Book” at A&E and the recently-released sequel “Benchwarmers 2: Breaking Balls” – the British Columbia native is enjoying the contrast in tone of the two converging projects. And while delving into the real-life intrigue of the alien mystery was an enjoyable journey, “Benchwarmers” allowed her to do the thing she enjoys most… a trait she inherited from her dad… making people laugh.

We recently sat down with Morrison to discuss how being responsible with the truth feeds a performance, her opinion on life beyond the stars, and the importance of our funny bones.

TrunkSpace: You have kicked off 2019 in style with two big projects, the film “Benchwarmers 2: Breaking Balls” and “Project Blue Book” for A&E. Is seeing a series or film released just as exciting as doing the physical work or have you already emotionally moved on by the time they see the light of day?
Morrison: Filming and being on set is the best thing ever. But when the project comes out, it’s really fun. It can depend on the project and how excited I might be for that particular show. But it’s pretty wonderful to see your work come to light, and to be appreciated. Starting the year off with these two amazing contrasting projects feels pretty great. “Project Blue Book” is so complex and interesting. And “Benchwarmers” allowed me to do my favorite thing, making people laugh. So it’s really fulfilling to see that happen.

TrunkSpace: “Project Blue Book” is based on the true story of U.S. Air Force-sponsored investigations into UFO sightings that spanned decades. As an actress, does working on a project that is steeped in reality bring a different set of responsibilities in terms of performance?
Morrison: What a fantastic question. Yes it does. I think one of the most important aspects of being in a period piece is to pay attention to society at the time. A woman like Faye must have had to work very hard in the U.S. Air Force to have this position. Understanding the real Dr. Quinn helped me form the strength and intelligence his assistant would have. Being responsible with the truthful story feeds your acting. It’s fascinating. I want to be as loyal to that as possible, because I want the audience to believe I am that woman. The production is so incredible and thorough with being as truthful to reality as possible, down to the tiniest detail, that it’s impossible not to learn from that and to feel like you are in another world. On set I would feel like I was sitting in a museum sometimes. It’s beautiful the art behind this project.

TrunkSpace: What can you tell us about your character Faye and where she fits into the ongoing storyline of “Project Blue Book?”
Morrison: Faye plays the assistant to Michael Malarkey’s character Dr. Quinn at the U.S. Air Force base. One of the cool things that I loved about filming was the secrecy of it. I didn’t always know what Faye knew. I got to find out as filming went along. Which was such a cool process for me as an actor. She protected secrets and was very selective with the information she released. She is allowed to be a part of a small circle of people in this, and her part is to stand guard to her boss and her country.

TrunkSpace: We’re sure this is part of the playbook when you star in a project that revolves around aliens and it would be a real swing and a miss for us not to ask, SO, do you believe in life beyond the stars? Is the truth out there?
Morrison: I absolutely believe in UFOs! I can’t imagine that in this vast, incredible universe that we would be alone. I also think there is just too much proof, especially after being so educated from working on the show. I don’t want to meet one… but I believe yes, we are not alone….

TrunkSpace: Speaking of swings and misses, “Benchwarmers 2: Breaking Balls” is a baseball comedy. Looking back on your work in the film, what moment – in terms of laughs – are you most looking forward to an audience seeing?
Morrison: I’m really excited for the montages!! (Laughter) So fun to film. Shots of us being just terrible at baseball, and then when we improve! We had a blast filming this and watching each other get up there and be fun and silly. Some of us were nervous when we had to actually be good at ball, but we had practiced so much in between takes, that we nailed it!

TrunkSpace: Do you feel more pressure when performing in a comedy given that comedy, especially nowadays, feels very viewer-specific? Is it hard to find the beats and deliver on a joke that a broad audience will be able to laugh along with?
Morrison: I guess I just figure if the kind of comedy I’m doing isn’t up one person’s alley, I know there are a lot of people who will enjoy it. I myself love broad comedy, watching it and acting in it. I really crack myself up a lot, and am mostly just having a great time being silly. Feeling very grateful that I get to do this for a living, and mostly worry about all the people who will laugh!

Photo By: Liz Rosa

TrunkSpace: We’re suckers for “Supernatural” here, which is a series that you appeared in and has employed actors in and around the Vancouver area for well over a decade now. How important are shows like “Supernatural” and others that call Canada their home to the development of the talent pool in and around the city?
Morrison: I think the talent in Vancouver is pretty insanely versatile! So many talented people! The community here is very grateful for shows like “Supernatural.” We have all gotten to play so many unique kinds of roles on sci-fi shows like this. It’s our bread and butter. But, I also think they are lucky to have us! Dedicated, hard working, true actors in this town. As well as our crews. They are the bees knees!

TrunkSpace: Lots of characters have met their demise in “Supernatural” and often in memorable ways. Yours was no different. Have you had any other unfortunate on-camera endings that beat out death by photocopier?
Morrison: (Laughter) Death by copier was pretty fun! I have died in a number of ways. It’s for sure one of my favorite ways I have died! I have been shot, electrocuted, drowned, stabbed, neck broken… you name it! Though, I think I really enjoyed “Van Helsing” most. It was challenging to be shot in the head from behind and to have my body slump down. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. It was cooool! I also enjoyed being electrocuted because I got to fall down some stairs and shake about!

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Morrison: The highlight of my career? Wow! Well, I’m gonna have to say working on the sitcom “Package Deal.” It was the most wonderful time of my life working with Andrew Ornstein’s creative mind. Being in a sitcom has always been my dream. I was part of such a fun one, with the most amazing funny family. I miss them all the time. It was the best – I would drive to work with the biggest grin on my face. I loved my character, Nikki. I loved the format of the four camera, the excitement of the ever-changing script and the live audience. It was a special time, and I truly hope to be able to do something like that again.

TrunkSpace: Jim Morrison. Van Morrison. Matthew Morrison. Grant Morrison. And the list goes on. What is with all of the super talented/creative Morrisons?!?!
Morrison: Ah! That’s so nice! It’s a pretty cool last name isn’t it. Well, my favorite Morrison was my dad. That dude made me laugh, and taught me all about comedy by just being him – his silly self. Where would we be without our funny bones?

Project Blue Book” airs Tuesdays on A&E.

Benchwarmers 2: Breaking Balls” is available now on DVD and VOD.

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Wingman Wednesday

Leanne Lapp

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Lapp in “Supernatural”

Leanne Lapp first caught our “iZombie” eye as Gilda in the undead CW dramedy and now she’s returning to the network, guesting on tonight’s noir-inspired episode of “Supernatural.” Portraying a procurer of rare items who appears to know the whereabouts of one that is of particular value to the Winchester brothers, the Vancouver native is set to further complicate the already-complicated lives of everyone’s favorite demon-hunter siblings, sending them on a wild goose chase that is sure to get wilder than most.

We recently sat down with Lapp to discuss why she was excited about working on the series, getting to go full femme fatal, and the reason “Supernatural” has been so successful at capturing lightning in a bottle for 13 seasons.

TrunkSpace: You’re guesting on this week’s episode of “Supernatural,” a series we have covered in great length here. One of the things that we have heard over and over again from everybody who has appeared on the show is that it’s one of the most welcoming sets that they’ve ever stepped foot on. Was that your experience as well?
Lapp: Yeah, it was an amazing set to work on. They’ve been running for 13 years now, so the entire cast and crew know each other so well and are so comfortable with one another, they almost know what the other is thinking. So it’s such a smooth set to work on and that really makes things great when you’re just coming on as a guest star and you’re kind of the new kid in school. It makes things really easy and enjoyable.

TrunkSpace: And as you mentioned, 13 seasons, that’s such a rarity in this day and age where everything is getting more streamlined in terms of not only seasons, but episode counts as well.
Lapp: Yeah, that seems to be the trend. I feel like people are really enjoying television in the sort of mini series format these days, which I love as well, but I think the fans of the show just kind of pulled it through. The “Supernatural” fans are so, so supportive and that is the reason the show has aired for so long and has kept everybody employed.

TrunkSpace: It certainly seems, as far as the fandom is concerned, that for somebody guesting on the series, this is a universe where every character matters.
Lapp: I don’t know that I’ve worked on a show yet with such an amazing group of fans. It’s been amazing.

TrunkSpace: The fandom hasn’t seen your episode yet, but when the ending credits roll later tonight, will they accept Margaret or are they going to lash out against her?
Lapp: Well, she’s a really interesting character. The episode is a really interesting episode. When I first got the audition sides, I had so many questions, which of course, nobody would answer for me because it’s all kept under wraps. (Laughter) But the scene just seemed so different from anything that I had seen on the show or knew the show to be centered around and so, I was like, “Oh my gosh, what’s going on here?” The episode really is a very, very fun episode. It’s kind of, a little bit, stylistically different. You can see in the promo just with my character and a couple of other characters, it’s almost kind of like a film noir-esque episode, so I think that will be a fun one for people to watch.

TrunkSpace: That’s a dynamic that the show has always done well, sort of combining the elements of drama and comedy and mashing them together.
Lapp: Definitely. I don’t know if my character was necessarily the funny one, but there were definitely moments that were meant to be quite serious where I had a hard time keeping a straight face while we were filming because the other actors were just cracking up. But I got through it. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: We’re sure you can’t say too much for fear of stepping into spoiler alert zone, but what can you tell us about Margaret and how she makes her presence known in this universe?
Lapp: Well, what I can say, I guess what’s already been released to some extent, is Sam and Dean are looking for a specific item the entire episode, and it’s something that they wouldn’t be able to find in a store. They’re not able to obtain it traditionally. They kind of have to seek out some pretty dark characters to get a hold of it and Margaret is somebody that they meet in this sort of black market community and she sends them on a bit of a wild goose chase for it.

TrunkSpace: Characters on the show tend to return, either to become allies of the Winchester brothers or to make their lives more difficult. That seems to be another element that the fandom really enjoys because it helps build out the world and add layers. Perhaps we could see Margaret again?
Lapp: You never know. That’s definitely kind of the vibe that the cast and the crew certainly have, and I’m not even necessarily speaking about my own character. I have so many friends and colleagues in Vancouver who have worked on the show over the past 13 years and the vibe of every crew member is like, “Well, we’ll just see you back here in a couple months or a couple years or a decade.” They just all sort of assume that you’ll be coming back because now, especially with that show, they’ve been running for so long, that I have friends that have played two different roles on the show. The vibe is definitely we’ll see you again soon.

Photo By: Kyla Hemmelgarn

TrunkSpace: So for you personally, what did you enjoy most about Margaret and getting to play her?
Lapp: So many things. I guess I can narrow it down to three things. One, I wanted to work on the show. It’s been running in Vancouver for so long and filmed a lot in the neighborhood that I grew up in as a child, so I grew up seeing their trailers and such, dispersed around my neighborhood. Two, as you can tell probably from watching the trailer for the episode, Margaret is sort of this femme fatal character who’s kind of trapped, maybe not literally, but her style and her vibe is very much of the ‘40s. I did that for so long on “iZombie” playing Gilda and I was excited to revisit that because I collect a lot of vintage clothing and stuff just in my own life. And probably the biggest thing is I really, really, really wanted to work with Amanda Tapping, who directed this episode. I had heard so many amazing things about her and I had met her in a couple audition rooms and she comes from a world of… she’s an actor as well who is now directing and she was just the most lovely person to work with, even in the confines of an audition room where you work with each other for five minutes and then you may never see them again. She was so wonderful and I just knew shooting an episode with her would be a great experience so, I really wanted to work with Amanda as well.

TrunkSpace: Is an actor’s relationship with a director on a series different than with film? Do the dynamics change from medium to medium?
Lapp: In some cases. When you’re working on film, generally – hopefully – you have a little bit more time. Everything in television, the pace, everything goes so quickly. When I first started acting, I was working on some independent films and just small things and stuff like that where they had the location for as long as they needed it, or it was really about the director feeling happy about what they had gotten. And of course that’s the case working on television as well, but everything works on a much, much faster pace. The great thing about working with Amanda was, because working in television has to happen really quickly, and television is predominately what I work on these days, I’m used to maybe getting two takes. Maybe only one, maybe two, maybe three if I’m really lucky, and Amanda was the first director that looked at me and was like, “Do you just want to do that again?” And I was like, “Yes, I would love that!” She worked on “Stargate” for 10 years. She just knows that feeling of, “Gosh, I really wish I had another chance at that.” So that was really great. She really is an actor’s director.

TrunkSpace: You mention the speed of shooting a television series, but we know that you’ve also done a number of Hallmark Channel films, which as we understand it, can move even quicker, right?
Lapp: Yes, they shoot I think 10 of those at a time in Vancouver and they shoot on a three week schedule, sometimes less, and a lot of times you’re working with a skeleton crew, so half the crew is shooting one thing and half the crew is shooting another. But those sets, those movies, that’s another thing that has a really, really huge, supportive fan base that love Hallmark movies.

TrunkSpace: Absolutely. The Hallmarkies rival the fandoms of a number of genre shows, which tend to draw a more passionate viewership.
Lapp: Yeah, I was so surprised when I first started working on them. I guess I was just kind of ignorant to it because I hadn’t seen many of them until I actually started auditioning and working in Vancouver but, Hallmark fans are extremely supportive. I think the nature of a Hallmark film is, with some exceptions, as long as you’re having a good time shooting it, as long as it’s an enjoyable schedule to work on, it’s going to show and the audience is going to enjoy it. All of those films are just really feel-good movies that you come out of with a warm feeling in your heart, so I think as long as the set and the work experience reflects that, it shows.

TrunkSpace: And that kind of goes full circle back to “Supernatural,” because that is also what has made that series work so well for so long. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and fans can sit and chuckle their way through an episode, even when the stakes are high.
Lapp: Yeah, that’s so true. And, you know, that reflects as well on to Jared (Padalecki) and Jensen (Ackles). The show is huge and they’ve had such successful careers. You meet all types of people working as an actor when you come on different shows. Jared and Jensen are super humble, so relaxed and casual, and not stressed out about anything. There’s really this vibe on the show of which, doesn’t exist on every set. A lot of sets this isn’t the case, but there really is a vibe on the show of, “We’re not doing open heart surgery, we’re not saving lives, we’re making a TV show and it should be fun and enjoyable.” From other shows that I’ve worked on, I think when your lead, or in this case your two leads, project that attitude, it really stems from them and then it trickles down to all of the crew and the entire rest of the cast as this is the appropriate way to behave and act on a set. I think obviously the show has a lot of amazing things going for it, but I think those two guys really had a hand to play in making it the enjoyable experience that it is for every actor that guests on the show.

Supernatural” airs Thursdays on The CW.

Featured image by: Kyla Hemmelgarn

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Wingman Wednesday

Hiro Kanagawa

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Photo By: Kristine Cofsky

While we used to look forward to “tentpole” films rolling into our local cineplexes every summer, now we can see the same production quality, marque names, and multi-layered world building appearing on our televisions every night, holding up the pop culture tent with poles steeped in rich, complex storytelling. In fact, it’s starting to feel like a new, highly-anticipated series premieres every week, and for those of us addicted to the binge, it’s a great time to consume.

The new Netflix sci-fi thrillfest “Altered Carbon” is the kind of show that not only has us excited, but it could very well usher in a new dawn of big-budgeted event series. Adapting a project like this, based on the 2002 novel by Richard Morgan, for anywhere other than a movie theater would have been completely unheard of even a decade ago. The cost alone to bring the futuristic, effects-filled story to life would have scared off every executive from network to cable, but now it seems, much like the technology that makes a show like this possible, the sky is the limit.

We recently sat down with “Altered Carbon” star and one of our favorite character actors Hiro Kanagawa to discuss how he brings his memorable characters to life, why the series could be a game changer for the industry, and the rock ‘n’ roll dream that still pecks away at him.

TrunkSpace: First thing’s first…we love us some you! Your work is always so rich in character and the choices you make with those characters are extremely memorable. What is your approach to tapping into a new character and making him your own?
Kanagawa: Thanks for the kind words. Acting is an ephemeral activity, even when captured on film, so it’s great to know that some of what I do is memorable. Creating these characters really depends on the circumstance, the style and content of the script, the people around you, the specifics of the character. When I was starting out I was coming from a bit of an arty physical theater background, so I tended to work outside-in: find the voice, find the walk, find the way this guy carries himself. But in film and TV, less is more – you really have to internalize things and work inside-out because something as small as a sideways glance or an arched eyebrow can be a big, big move. Also, everybody you’re working with is coming at things from different methods and training techniques and traditions, so I’ve found the most reliable thing to do as an actor is BE IN RELATIONSHIP with your other actors and your environment. I hope audiences appreciate my work as Captain Tanaka on “Altered Carbon.” I’m proud of it, and a lot of it comes out of being in relationship with Martha Higareda’s character, Ortega.

TrunkSpace: As you mentioned, you’re set to star as Captain Tanaka in the new Netflix series “Altered Carbon.” By any standards it seems like an extremely ambitious project, but by television/streaming standards, it feels like it could be the kind of project that forces others to rethink the way that they’re doing things. As you were working on the series, did it have the feel of something that could be groundbreaking within the industry itself?
Kanagawa: Absolutely. And it’s more than blind ambition, there’s a desire, an aspiration to make something really good. I could tell everybody on this project from the top down were dedicated to getting things right. I go into my first wardrobe fitting and a few days later I have another one because they’ve re-thought things. And then another one. I walk on set on my first day and my first reaction is, “Wow.” Same thing the next day when I see another set. And so on. I get called in to rehearse on a Saturday and with input from all of us actors, the scene gets rewritten. There’s creative energy. Everybody’s involved and engaged. Nobody was mailing it in on this one.

TrunkSpace: At this point, millions of people have already viewed the trailer online and the buzz continues to build around the series. As an actor performing within a show that is generating that kind of pop culture interest, does it place you in a position to put expectations on how it will be received and accepted, and in a way, alter your life/career in the process?
Kanagawa: I do have expectations that it will be well-received. I’ve seen bits and pieces and everything I’ve seen excites me. I’ve read the scripts, of course, and being a writer myself, I have nothing but admiration for the writing. I am aware that my work here as Captain Tanaka will probably get a lot of eyeballs and I’m happy about that because I feel good about it. If this creates more opportunities for me in the future, I’m ready. Bring it on.

TrunkSpace: For those who have never read the Richard Morgan novel, can you tell us a bit about Captain Tanaka and what his journey is throughout the course of the series? What did he offer you from a performance standpoint that you have yet to tackle in a project before?
Kanagawa: The series is in the same universe and follows the same general trajectory as the first book, but it’s a major expansion of that universe. Captain Tanaka, in fact, does not appear in the novel. What I can tell you is that Tanaka is a deeply-conflicted and compromised police captain tasked with keeping law and order in a world run by an ultra-powerful elite. He’s a good man in a bad world and he can either keep his head down and do as he’s told, or he can do the right thing. As an actor, you live for characters who are conflicted in this way.

TrunkSpace: From one talked about project to the next, you’re also working on “Snowpiercer” for TNT, a series based on Bong Joon Ho’s popular 2013 film. Both “Altered Carbon” and “Snowpiercer” come with a bit of their own built-in audiences seeing that they had established fan bases in other mediums already. Is that a gift for an actor, working on something that you know people will already be lining up to see, or does it also come with its own set of pitfalls knowing that some viewers might go in with expectations already in place?
Kanagawa: I think there are instances where the fans of a known, iconic story do not want what they know and love to be messed with. I don’t think “Altered Carbon” or “Snowpiercer” will suffer from that given both projects are re-interpreting the original for a different medium. If anything, I feel an audience expectation and excitement to see what new directions both series will go in.

TrunkSpace: You’ve performed in dozens of series and films over the course of your career. Looking back, are there any characters that you wished you had more time to spend with and explore further, and if so, why?
Kanagawa: Lt. Suzuki on “iZombie”, and the Yakuza boss Okamura on “The Man in the High Castle” both met untimely ends. There was a lot more to explore with those characters.

TrunkSpace: You’ve had some great runs on fan favorite shows adored by the Comic Con crowds like those two you just mentioned, and most recently, “Legends of Tomorrow.” But one thing a lot of people might not know about you is that you also played father of the first family of comics, Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. What was that experience like, giving voice to such an iconic character?
Kanagawa: I don’t do a lot of animation, so it was a tremendous pleasure being in the room with artists who are the creme de la creme of that industry. And as an Asian actor, I thought it was fantastic that I had the opportunity to voice such an iconic non-Asian character. Reed, of course, is kind of the “straight man” in the family, so I didn’t have to move far from my natural speaking voice, but I had a great time with a couple of episodes where Reed switched bodies with Ben/The Thing as well as with Dr. Doom.

Kanagawa with Joel de la Fuente “The Man in the High Castle”

TrunkSpace: You also did an episode of “Supernatural,” which many in the fandom consider to be one of the most memorable in the series’ 13 year run. (“Changing Channels”) That got us to thinking… can you imagine yourself working on one character for such an extended period of time, in this case, 13 seasons, and is that something you would welcome?
Kanagawa: It really depends on the character I guess. I’ve been lucky to have a sustained career without being attached to a single character or show for longer than two seasons. But this is the golden age of the serial narrative and there is so much good writing out there in this medium that I would welcome the opportunity to explore a character over multiple seasons.

TrunkSpace: We read that you started your creative journey as a musician, composer, and writer. Are those areas that are still a big part of your life even as your acting career has continued to propel you forward in ways that you probably never thought possible?
Kanagawa: I am a playwright as well as an actor and I am very proud of the fact that I recently received the Governor-General’s Literary Award for Drama, one of Canada’s most prestigious literary awards. As for music, as anyone who ever played in a high school rock band will attest, I still dream of getting the band back together, taking my shirt off, and kicking some ass!

TrunkSpace: A lot of times our loves and creative outlets can end up feeling like “work” when those outlets become careers. Do you still love acting as much today as you did the first time you stepped foot on a set and began your career?
Kanagawa: I actually love it more now than ever. I feel I’m just starting to get really interesting opportunities, and that’s coming at a time when I’m starting to do my best work. All of that is extremely exciting. I’m chomping at the bit here.

TrunkSpace: Do you view the craft differently now than you did when you first began your pursuit of it?
Kanagawa: Completely. I’m always learning about myself as I journey through life. And acting is a craft you can learn so much about from watching people you’ve never met. You can watch actors who died decades ago and learn from them. You can learn from watching people at the food court at the mall. It’s endlessly, endlessly fascinating.

TrunkSpace: If someone came to you tomorrow with a blank check and said, “Hiro, go make the kind of projects that you want to make,” what would that look like? What kind of project would you develop for yourself knowing that money was not an option?
Kanagawa: Being a writer and having a couple of screenplays and series concepts, I’d use the money to get those things made. I don’t really write roles for myself, but if I had a blank check maybe I’d be tempted to write myself something. Might be tempted to write myself a part where I cross the desert, climb the mountain, and make it to the promised land.

Altered Carbon” premieres Friday on Netflix.

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Wingman Wednesday

Elise Gatien

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Photo By: Michael Mazur

When a fun, entertaining show has a difficult time finding an audience, it can be depressing for viewers who are anticipating the continuation of the series for many seasons to come. An underrated episodic gem also limits the widespread appreciation of an actor or actress who left a mark on the series by delivering a memorable performance worthy of a pop culture gold star.

For all of us here at TrunkSpace, “Ghost Wars” is currently that show in need of more eyeballs and Canadian-born Elise Gatien is the actress worthy of more praise. As Maggie Rennie in the dramatic Syfy series, Gatien captures an emotionally-tortured character in such a beautiful and powerful way, adding her own individual layer to the already-multilayered horror fest.

We recently sat down with Gatien to discuss how she almost didn’t accept the role of Maggie, why she considered walking away from acting altogether, and what advice from the set of her first project helped her to realize her calling in life.

TrunkSpace: The end product of a series or film tends to be what’s memorable for a viewer, but for those who work on them, the experience probably ends up being more profound. What was your experience on “Ghost Wars” like?
Gatien: “Ghost Wars” was really fun. I was at kind of a strange point in my career. I lost my dad a while ago and was just kind of at a crossroads in my life. I almost didn’t take the show, but I ended up taking it. It was the first time in a long time that I had a character that I felt challenged me. I felt like everyone on set challenged me, and it kind of reminded me why I’m an actor, and why I love it so much. It was exactly what I needed at that point in my life. It was an amazing experience. It changed my life for the better, for sure.

TrunkSpace: Was that crossroads one that had you looking at the possibly of walking away from acting as a career?
Gatien: Yeah. I think I was just looking at family, and friends, and just trying to put what was important in my life into perspective. A few of the roles that I had most recently done with acting were on shows that I wasn’t really passionate about, and didn’t feel like they challenged me. I was kind of falling out of love with acting. “Ghost Wars” has been a really nice stepping stone. All of the roles that I’ve had since then are all things that I’m extremely proud of, and shows the kind of characters that I wanted to play. I just feel like it was definitely a crossroads for me. It took me in the direction that I wanted.

TrunkSpace: It sounds like in a lot of ways, “Ghost Wars” was sort of a catalyst for you rediscovering that spark?
Gatien: Yeah, for sure. Every actor, every writer, the creator, Simon Barry, all the directors… everyone was just passionate about what they were doing, and had a vision. It was really a collaborative effort to tell this story. It was refreshing to have a group of people that passionate, and not just throwing something together to make a buck. Everyone was doing it because they were passionate about it, and they wanted to make something cool and interesting. They wanted to tell the story to the best of their ability. That’s why I want to be an actor.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned how Maggie was the first character who you felt has challenged you as an actor for some time. What excited you most about her when you first discovered her on the page?
Gatien: She kind of seems like this tough, sarcastic, nothing-really-bothers-her kind of girl, but she’s also in this heartbreaking, fragile position, where, I don’t know if I’m really supposed to say this but this episode has come on in the States, so I guess I’m allowed to say it, but my character, Maggie, is a ghost. She is trying so desperately to connect. The only person that she can get through to is Roman. That’s her only friend. To be in a relationship as a young, 20-something girl, and you can’t touch this person, and this person has the whole world, but they’re your only contact, it’s such a fragile position to be in. To bring that vulnerability, and that delicateness to her, but also still have this strong, tough side, that Maggie has been through a lot… for me, it was finding that balance. It was a challenge, but it was fun to be able to bring out her strong side, and her vulnerable side.

TrunkSpace: Is there something particularly rewarding about getting the chance to spend an extended period of time with a single character as opposed to something like a film where you know exactly what your character’s beginning, middle, and end is?
Gatien: Yeah, it is, because so often as an actor, you get attached to these characters that you get to play, and there’s so many different places that you want to take them and then it’s just over. It’s a couple of weeks, and then it’s over, and you feel like… I don’t know, that you might have a revelation a couple of weeks later like, “I feel like this should have been brought into my character.” It’s like making soup, you just keep adding more, and more, and more ingredients, and it just gets better, and better.

We shot “Ghost Wars” out of order. There were a couple of later episodes that we shot earlier on. To look at what was happening in those episodes, and then be able to bring that into the previous episodes that we shot afterwards, that was kind of fun because so often, you get a script a week before you’re going to start shooting it. We had a few more scripts so we were able to bring more to those earlier scripts, I think.

Gatien with Avan Jogia in “Ghost Wars”

TrunkSpace: When you’re shooting out of order like that, does it force you to look at early choices that you might make for the character and realize that, continuity-wise, some things have not been set up in the story yet?
Gatien: There’s pros and cons to shooting out of order, I think. I think sometimes it can be a little bit overwhelming, because you’re looking at this bigger picture, where usually, you’re kind of taking it day by day. But the pro is, like I was saying, you know where you’re going to end up. With that knowledge, it’s kind of cool to find different ways to get there. You make choices that you might not have been able to make, if you hadn’t had that information.

TrunkSpace: “Ghost Wars” is a show that we all feel here at TrunkSpace is vastly underrated. Not only is there so much content available for viewers now, but there’s so much great content. Do you feel like there’s a downside to this Golden Age of Television in that, it is more difficult for great shows to be found?
Gatien: Yeah, I think there’s so many great things out there, that a lot of great shows kind of get lost in the mix. It’s heartbreaking to see that happen. But it’s also so exciting that there is all of that great material out there. Sometimes things might not get found in their first, second, or third episodes, but it might by the end of the first season, or the second season, and all of the sudden, people start catching on… people start talking about it and they do get found. But there are some shows that, unfortunately, I feel don’t get the praise that they deserve until afterwards. Like “Freaks and Greeks.” One season? Come on!

Photo By: Alan Chan

Hopefully we’ll get a second season, and by the second season, more and more people will be talking about it. I’m excited for when it hits Netflix. I think that will be really huge. I think there are a lot of people nowadays that don’t have television, and they just watch Netflix. I think Netflix is such a great platform. People are always on there, looking for the next thing, so I think we’ll find our following.

TrunkSpace: We read that you first began performing as a four-year-old. When did you decide to take that passion and make a career out of it?
Gatien: I was a dancer when I was young. I wasn’t an actor. I didn’t get into acting until, I think I was around 16. It kind of happened accidentally. I started out just doing commercials and used to be deathly shy. I couldn’t even look someone in the eye when I was having a conversation. My agent kind of kept pushing me to go to some acting classes, and maybe start going for some TV and film. So I went to an acting class and I did a scene from “Girl, Interrupted.” I’ll never forget it. There was just this addicting feeling that I got, and I haven’t looked back since. I was like, “Send me to more! Send me to more! Send me to more!”

From the second I did that, I didn’t necessarily think that I could make a career out of it, but I knew that that’s what I wanted to make a career out of. I knew that that was going to make me happy. I did a film called “The Obsession.” It was terrible and cheesy, but it was my first role. Daphne Zuniga, she said to me on set, she was like, “Acting is a tough business. If there’s anything that you can think of that will make you happy, do that. But if there isn’t, then be an actor.”

I’ve sat so many times and have been like, “Okay, what logically could I do with my life, because this is kind of crazy?” There’s just nothing that gets me excited like acting. It is something where I’m excited to go to work, and I’m happy when I’m there. Yeah, there are exhausting days, and hard days – every day isn’t puppies and cupcakes – but I love it. It’s really satisfying to me and I feel good at the end of the day.

Ghost Wars” airs Thursdays on Syfy.

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Wingman Wednesday

Aleks Paunovic

AleksPaunovic_Wingman_wednesday

Just so we’re clear, TrunkSpace is not monkeying around with this interview.

And yes, while that was a terrible pun to lead into our chat with Aleks Paunovic of the upcoming “War for the Planet of the Apes,” we’re not going to apologize, and here’s why. As unfunny as it was, it actually applies. Paunovic is deadly serious about his craft, and even more so, he’s passionate about the work, right down to his memorable guest spot on the series “Supernatural.” The excitement he absorbs from playing his various roles, including that of Julius the vampire in Syfy’s “Van Helsing,” is apparent in every aspect of his delivery. This is a man who genuinely loves his job and is grateful for every opportunity he receives, which is a breath of fresh air in a world where it seems so many take so much for granted.

We recently sat down with Paunovic to discuss season 2 of “Van Helsing,” how he’d like to share even more, and how playing a primate means playing human.

TrunkSpace: We have to start with something that is a big guilty pleasure of ours here, which is “Supernatural.”
Paunovic: That’s awesome!

TrunkSpace: You guested as Gunner Lawless in “Beyond the Mat,” one of the more memorable episodes from last season and we’re curious if getting a small taste of that universe has opened you up to the very passionate fanbase?
Paunovic: Well, I was in two more episodes before that as two completely different characters.

TrunkSpace: That’s right. You actually played one of the skinwalkers in one episode, right?
Paunovic: Yeah! And it opened me up in that realm because the fans are so on point that it was surprising to me because I started getting people noticing me or contacting me and doing that whole thing because I was a part of the show. But then, Gunner Lawless and that wrestling episode, to me, was just a gift for a role. And everybody that’s a part of that show just embraced me with taking on such a great role. I got to learn the wrestling aspect of it and it was just a blast, man.

TrunkSpace: What’s so great about that series is that it’s sort of a hybrid of comedy and drama. When they do the comedy it’s gold and when they do the drama it’s heartfelt and that “Beyond the Mat” episode is a perfect example of that.
Paunovic: Yeah. I totally agree. I just love what they do with that show. There’s a reason why it’s going 12 years. I just love how they mix the drama and the emotionality with the humor of it. I just love how they make that work and not a lot of shows do that. So again, I was really blessed to be a part of that.

TrunkSpace: Going from a series that is often about vampires in “Supernatural” to a series where you play one in “Van Helsing,” from an actors perspective, we have to imagine that playing in that science fiction/genre sandbox must be a load of fun because you really get to step out of reality for a little bit.
Paunovic: That’s right on point. That’s exactly it. You nailed it. For me, it’s such a blast because you literally get to… when you’re a kid you play Cowboys and Indians or you play whatever your imagination can take you to. I’m kind of still doing it, so it’s kind of fun that I can jump into a show like “Van Helsing” and really kind of explore the “what ifs” and really drop it down into a reality based type of thing, even though it’s fantastical.

TrunkSpace: You’ll be returning as Julius in season 2 of “Van Helsing,” but do you have any idea where his arc will take you?
Paunovic: We’re in the middle of shooting it right now and all I can say is that I’m over the moon with the arc that has happened with my character. And even the show… the first year you kind of hope that fans connect to it, but as a well oiled machine, especially with Neil LaBute at the helm, we’re really gearing into season 2 and it’s feeling amazing. I cannot wait for people to see where Julius has gone.

TrunkSpace: In a time of leaks and spoilers, we understand why NDAs exist, but at the same time, it must be difficult to not be able to discuss something like that when you’re so excited about the work.
Paunovic: Dude, I’m busting at the seams. I’m rocking my mind about how much I want to talk about it or Tweet about it or Instagram about it because, no joke, when you see this season and what my character is going through, you’ll go, “How did he keep that in?” But for me, I get the surprise aspect of it and I’m really looking forward to the surprise and for people to kind of get blown away with a lot of the things that are happening with Julius. Yeah… I’m busting at the seams, man. I cannot wait for people to see this season.

TrunkSpace: Something else we’d imagine you’re pretty excited for people to see is “War for the Planet of the Apes.” When you landed that role, what was your initial thought with getting a part in such a storied franchise?
Paunovic: Well, it was a little trippy because, like you said, it’s such a storied franchise. I saved my audition side because I thought that was it. I was just celebrating the fact that I got an audition for it. I never thought that it would go anywhere further. To me, it was just like, “I got an audition for ‘Planet of the Apes.’ That’s awesome!” And end of story. That was it for me. And then it grew into about five auditions until I finally got the role and I was still shaking my head at it. And then going to work and… it’s next level.

Matt Reeves who directed it and Andy Serkis, who was phenomenal… Andy was an extension of Matt Reeves and them working on this project together was just a joy to be around. Being a part of it, again, is next level.

TrunkSpace: The last film in the franchise is, although fantastical, so grounded in reality. And the trailer for “War for the Planet of the Apes” seems to carry that torch forward while also playing off as very intense. It seems like a crazy ride.
Paunovic: It is. Honestly, the mood on set was never like the fantastical aspect of playing primates and playing apes. It was literally like, we’re telling a story and this is the story we’re telling in the most real sense. So there was no feeling of it being not in reality. That was the cool thing, especially with Andy. Andy took it all very seriously and helped everyone along with it. So, the new characters that were introduced… we got to basically be guided by Andy/Caesar, but the last thing we ever thought was that it wasn’t reality. That was the cool thing.

TrunkSpace: So in playing Winter, did a lot of it rely on the physicality aspect of playing a gorilla?
Paunovic: It’s interesting. You would think, and even when I was going to the auditions you would think, but the bottom line was the acting. It was the emotionality of the character and the story that these characters were telling. Each character has their own story and you cannot get away with… like, for instance… it’s emotionality and telling the story first, primate second. That’s just how it came down. When we first started, it was all about sitting and being vulnerable and open with the story that we were going to tell before we actually got up and did any physicality as a primate. Matt Reeves and Terry Notary were big believers in that it’s about story first and then everything else falls into it afterward.

TrunkSpace: Well, the key is that as an audience you stop seeing them as primates and start seeing them as characters, which was more than successful with “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”
Paunovic: Yeah. And that’s all Matt Reeves. Matt, Terry, and Andy… those three really helped everyone dive in. The last thing that we did was wanted to be apes. Everything first was story, so we got really lucky.

TrunkSpace: So it sounds like it’s more of a drama than an action tentpole?
Paunovic: Totally. Absolutely. Absolutely!

TrunkSpace: So with a movie of this size there’s obviously a lot of marketing materials and merchandising. Are we going to see Winter represented in any sort of cool merchandise and does it kind of blow your mind to see that kind of stuff?
Paunovic: You know what? You’re the first person to actually mention it to me and I just went, “Oh my God that’s right. I could actually be an action figure.” That just kind of blows me away. That would be cool.

TrunkSpace: I addition to your acting career, you have also been producing, particularly with one film that caught our attention called “Puppet Killer.” What is it that drew you to the producing side of the business?
Paunovic: One of the reasons why I love the producing aspect of the business, and I really got serious about it with a film called “Numb” that I was a part of, it’s the connection and relationships and troubleshooting on set that I really took pride in. Taking charge and jamming with the other producers and director and figuring out ways that we can make this work and make that work and help the story. I absolutely loved it. So when I had the opportunity to do that with “Puppet Killer,” which is a film coming out that happened to just be super fun… and Richard Harmon who is in “The 100” is a part of it also. We just had a blast shooting it and the producer role was basically one of those things where I just wanted to take on a little bit more responsibility and help the film along. I can’t wait for it to come out.

TrunkSpace: So is producing something you want to continue to pursue in your career?
Paunovic: Absolutely. I do love being a part of something more than just getting hired as an actor, do my thing, say bye to everyone, and then I’m out. I love the aspect of the long haul and being a part of it and building those relationships. Going through those trials and tribulations of making a film or a series and kind of everyone standing tall and believing what they put down. For the film “Numb” that I did, that was like four years before we actually went to camera. Almost five years before we went to camera. So that journey when we actually did go to camera and then we wrapped the last day… that was just way more emotional and rewarding than anything else where I just jumped in as an actor, so yeah, I’d like to do more.

War for the Planet of the Apes” arrives in theaters July 14, 2017.

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