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Wingman Wednesday

Mark Hildreth

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Photo By: Jenna Berman

With his new project “Escaping the Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story” recently released and a second season of “The Hollow” just announced for Netflix, we’re reconnecting with Mark Hildreth to talk the weirdness of The Weird Guy, getting to perform a famous song from your favorite band, and and why everybody should learn the incredible story of Nellie Bly.

(To check out our first chat with Hildreth, click here.)

TrunkSpace: Last we spoke, our kids had yet to discover “The Hollow.” Now that they’re super fans, we’re getting some serious street cred at home for sitting down to have another chat with “The Weird Guy.” As an actor, what are some of the creative benefits of getting to play in the animated sandbox? Can you tap into a different aspect of acting that is more heightened when you’re working in a medium where literally anything can happen and the rules of “grounding” a story don’t necessarily apply?
Hildreth: Well I’m honored to be able to help you get some “kid cred” – I know parents are sometimes in short supply of that! I’ve been lucky to get to work in voice-over since I myself was a kid. I got my first job at the age of 10 playing the role of Beany in a remake of the famous 1960’s cartoon “Beany and Cecil.” It’s been a big part of my career and has taught me a lot! Bringing a character to life using only your voice and the collaboration with so many other amazing artists who then bring your voice to life make voice-over acting a truly unique part of being an actor.

TrunkSpace: We hear that there is a new season of “The Hollow” in the works. What kind of weirdness can we expect for The Weird Guy heading into Season 2?
Hildreth: Netflix just made the official announcement last week – “The Hollow” Season 2 will premiere in 2020. It’s going to be even crazier than the first season! Everyone’s favorite characters are back, along with a slew of others who are truly hilarious! The Weird Guy will still be there, throwing monkey wrenches into all the plans and being truly crazy!

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, you’ve also recorded some music for the latest season of “The Hollow.” Music has been a passion of yours for a long time now, so we’re curious what is it like getting to combine acting and music on a single project? Is it a bit like having your cake and getting to eat it too – a best case scenario?
Hildreth: Wait until you see what The Weird Guy gets to sing in Season 2 of “The Hollow!” It’s a heck of a number. And let’s just say it’s a famous song from one of your favorite bands in the world! I’ve also been playing music and singing since around age 10 and I’m always looking, hoping and waiting for a project to come along where I can both sing and act. And then along comes “The Hollow” and boom! It’s been so much fun and I’m so blessed to get to do it.

TrunkSpace: Do you approach the discovery process of a character in the same way in the animation space as you would an on-camera role?
Hildreth: It really depends on the role and the show. In voice-over, there sometimes isn’t much research you can do because it’s a brand new concept and brand new characters. Some of my voice-over roles (such as X-Men, GI Joe, Action Man, Dragonball Z or Gundam Wing) I can do some background work on. But the discovery process is very similar once you actually go to act it. Once you’re in the room with a bunch of other talented, hard working actors and doing the work together you get to go on the best part of the journey – listening and reacting to the wonderful ideas they come up with and, when it’s your turn, throwing in your own!

TrunkSpace: “The Hollow” is a Netflix series. “The Looming Tower” has a home at Hulu. As someone who has been working in the industry since well before the current “Golden Age” of television, do you see this massive influx of quality content continuing forward, especially as more and more companies branch off and create their own streaming platforms? Do you believe there is a content bubble happening and eventually we are going to see it burst?
Hildreth: When I started working on TV we were still shooting on actual film! So much has changed, and the advent of cable TV and now online content has given people opportunities we used to only dream about. But I don’t think there can be a bubble. We are in a wonderful time for television because you no longer have to make content simply to attract the largest possible audience. These days you can make a great show, find your audience and have a hit show that is tailored just for them! “The Hollow” found a super committed following. So did “The Looming Tower,” as well another cable series I’ve done – “The Tudors.” Content providers are actually starved for content right now as more and more distribution platforms become available.

TrunkSpace: Do you think the current content renaissance has inspired actors to control their own destinies more so than in the past and directly involve themselves in developing projects? Is this something that you have interest in pursuing as you go forward in your career?
Hildreth: I’m sure that it has inspired more actors to develop projects. I am in the midst of developing a satirical sketch comedy series as well as two features and several stage productions. As a writer/producer I can shepherd along projects that tell stories that I feel need to be told. I’ve been a songwriter for years – I’ve released two full-length original albums and toured in the US and Canada. Getting to bring that creative process to film and TV has been a blast.

Hildreth as The Weird Guy in “The Hollow”

TrunkSpace: Your latest project is “Escaping the Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story” for Lifetime, which is based on a true story that we actually got caught up in learning about long before this project was first reported. As you learned more and more about the real life story, did the film itself become more interesting for you to be involved with?
Hildreth: Nellie Bly is based on the important true story of one of the first exposes of it’s kind in US journalism. It is based on the story of reporter Nellie Bly who, near the turn of the 20th century, infiltrated and exposed abuses at the Blackwell Island Mental Asylum for Women in New York City. It has been very educational to learn about this ahead-of-her-time woman, the people in her life and the impact her dedication to telling the truth had on American journalism.

TrunkSpace: Something we found interesting about your character Bartholomew “Bats” Driscoll is that he would have been a bit out of place in his time… someone who not only supported his spouse to have a career, but supported her even when she went to such great lengths. How did you approach trying to understand him, especially against the backdrop of his time period?
Hildreth: Nellie Bly, played by Christina Ricci, is portrayed as a woman who is determined, ambitious and principled. We talked a lot about what kind of man a woman like that would choose as her partner and fiancé. We placed him a little bit “out of his time” like Nellie, since it would take a strong, forward-thinking man to be able to keep up with her intelligence and drive. So we brought to Bartholomew a sense of grandeur and weight (so that we can believe he could match wits with people like William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer) but also a deep sense of compassion and emotion that he isn’t afraid to show.

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 “Escaping the Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story?”
Hildreth: Believe it or not, getting to work in the sub-zero temperatures and biting-cold winds of Winnipeg, Canada is a great memory because I always love working in the wonderful country I grew up in. Canada really does have some of the best people in the world. It is a vibrant, multicultural and loving country. I love being there – even if it’s so cold outside I can’t actually feel my ears!

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?
Hildreth: No way! I come from the theater! The best part of theater is you never know what’s going to happen. One day you are finally up on the stage and the lights come up and you’re live. If I knew it was going to be a good night or a bad night, or that something was going to happen that I never could have prepared for, it would take all the fun out of it! But where I hope to be is working with great people, telling important stories that give a little glimpse into the most important parts of what it means to be human! Because that’s what acting is really all about.

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Wingman Wednesday

Marcus Rosner

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Photo By: Lane Dorsey

As one of the male suitors of the fictional dating series “Everlasting,” Marcus Rosner is tapping into parts of his Northern Alberta upbringing to bring good ol’ boy Warren to life in Season 3 of “UnREAL.” While the jury is still out as to whether or not the fan base will be rooting for Warren to come out the romantic victor of the show within a show, each of the beaus-to-be will have their closet skeletons revealed in good time, proving that maybe it’s not such a bad thing that love, as they say, is blind.

We recently sat down with Rosner to discuss what it’s like joining a successful series three seasons in, how Alan Jackson helped him tap into his country-bred character, and why “Supernatural” has one of the best set atmospheres in the biz.

TrunkSpace: You’ve joined the cast of the Lifetime series “UnREAL” in its third season, which kicked off this week. When you’re joining an existing show with an established on-set atmosphere, do you feel a bit like the new kid going to a school where everybody already knows everybody else? How long did it take you to feel at ease in the job?
Rosner: Yeah, you kind of do honestly, but with this show, you get a whole freshman class you’re a part of because while the main cast is always there, each new season requires a whole cast of suitors and in this case, one suitress. And we actually outnumber them as well, so you have the comfort of not being alone in that situation. Besides that, you end up spending so much time around everyone, main cast and new, given the ensemble format of the show, that you figure out who you vibe with pretty quickly and it’s easy to relax within the first few days. I imagine in the case of this show, with all the turnover, each new season establishes its own on-set atmosphere.

TrunkSpace: In terms of the work itself, it must be very exciting to join a show with an existing fan base. So many of the “Will they be watching?” questions are removed from the experience, which must be nice knowing that your performance will be seen?
Rosner: That’s not really something I put a whole lot of thought into personally. I’ve always just enjoyed the work and some of my favorite experiences and performances have come in projects that very few people have ever seen. But, if I’m being honest, there has definitely been more excitement about this project than I have experienced before – you can feel the growing anticipation for the show to return after so long. Not to mention it’s kind of a cult hit within the entertainment industry itself from what I’m told. So that doesn’t hurt.

TrunkSpace: Now, whether the character himself will be embraced by the fan base remains to be seen, but from what you know of Warren, is he someone who the viewers will accept?
Rosner: Warren may slide under the radar a little at first until he makes his presence known in a big way. He’s certainly a very principled man but some of his beliefs that come out down the line may rub certain people the wrong way. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of response he gets. This show has a way of bringing the demons out of all its characters and there are very few exceptions.

TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, did Warren offer something new in terms of a type of character you have yet to play? What was it about him that you were most eager to dive into?
Rosner: I grew up in Alberta, Canada around farms and country music and never really involved myself in either, so in a way, this was a nice opportunity to get in touch with those things. I drove to set every day listening to Alan Jackson to get my accent dialed in and I loved wearing a cowboy hat all the time. It was really easy to find the identity of Warren, how he walks, how he sees things. I don’t know, maybe it’s in my blood. I’ve played a few cowboys in the past but never with a full-fledged accent like Warren. One of the things that I was always interested to figure out was how someone like him, being from a much more conservative area of the country and holding really traditional beliefs, would perceive all the sex, lies, and videotape going around on “Everlasting.” That was a lot of fun.

TrunkSpace: When you’re presented with a new character, what is your method of personal discovery? How do you go about finding who that person is and how to portray him moving forward?
Rosner: Well, in life everybody wants something. I think (and I’ve been taught) that whether it’s conscious or sub-conscious you can boil down everyone’s driving force to one clear objective. In Warren’s case, his mom is dying and he wants to make her happy. He wouldn’t normally ever be the type to do something like go on a reality dating show, but momma wants him to settle down and he’s desperate to put her mind at ease before she goes and there aren’t exactly a whole lot of female suitors on his ranch. So given that circumstance, plus his upbringing as a conservative, he wants to find love but also maintain his principled beliefs, which on the “Everlasting” set is a near impossible task. So I really just keep those circumstances in mind and that overall objective when going into any scene, and from there it’s pretty easy to figure out how my character would maneuver any situation to eventually achieve that greater goal. I’ve been working with the Chubbuck technique a lot recently and a lot of this comes from that.

TrunkSpace: You’re doing a number of episodes of “UnREAL.” Is it fun to learn new things about a character as scripts come to you, or do you prefer to have as much of the picture painted before you shoot a particular project?
Rosner: Just about every actor, if given the choice, would have the entire story given to them up front. That’s one of the reasons films are such sought-after projects. When you have the whole story, you can develop a much more defined arc for your character and make more detailed choices along the way, but it’s definitely exciting to sit down with a new episode script for the first time and see what new information you will be given about a character you feel such ownership over. The fun really comes from justifying whatever insane behavior happens to take place in the script. Like, why would my character do this? How do I learn that? Once you find that you know how to play it.

TrunkSpace: You’ve starred in a number of Hallmark Channel movies over the course of your career. One of the fascinating things about the Hallmark Channel brand is that it has a very loyal following, and in fact, a fandom known as the Hallmarkies. Would you say that the Hallmarkies rival some of the more well-known fandoms from the science fiction and fantasy genres? Have you felt the Hallmarkies presence either in person or on social media?
Rosner: The Hallmark Channel has been very good to me over the years. In Vancouver where I started acting, they shoot dozens and dozens of films each year, so there is a lot of opportunity to work on their projects. My first major role on their network came as the “other man” in a love triangle on the second season of their hit show “When Calls the Heart.” I fully expected the audience to hate me for coming in between their two leads but the response I got on social media and in person from fans was about as kind as you could ask for. I mean, they hated my character but they couldn’t have been sweeter to me outside of the show. They are passionate fans but they take care of their own.

They’ve gone on to support me in any other projects I’ve been a part of across many different networks and shows. One thing that I think differentiates that fan base from others is that they feel a genuine friendship with many of the actors who appear regularly on their network, I have a few that I message with every once in a while just to keep in touch and see how they’re doing because they’ve been so supportive and I know other actors that have the same connection with them as well.

TrunkSpace: Hallmark Channel productions are known for being very efficient. Has working within that fast-paced scheduling allowed you to sort of be prepared for anything that comes at you, particularly in the world of television?
Rosner: (Laughter) Absolutely. The pace these films shoot at can rival just about anything. You need to show up with all your lines locked in because things can get moved around on any given day, you can shoot parts of different scenes altogether and can receive rewrites at the last second, so you need to be a quick study. It certainly helps build that muscle that you use in auditioning where you need to pick up words quickly and be ready to put them on film the next day.

TrunkSpace: Speaking of fandoms, you also guested on an episode of “Supernatural,” a series that is currently in its 13th season. Is it kind of a right of passage for actors based in Canada to pass through the “Supernatural” universe?
Rosner: (Laughter) Yep. Especially if you’re living in Vancouver where it shoots. They’ve been on for so long and have cast so many roles over the years that most actors I know have had the opportunity to work on their show. One thing I will say about that show and specifically that set is it’s one of the nicest atmospheres and most well run shows in the business. And Jared (Padalecki) and Jensen (Ackles) seem to have mastered this ability to lead by example. You can see them making the effort to make guest actors comfortable and at home so they can do good work. Can’t say enough good things about my experience on that show.

TrunkSpace: Aside from “Supernatural,” you’ve also guested in series like “Once Upon a Time” and “Arrow.” Is there a character, even someone you only tackled for a single episode, that you wished you had more time to explore, and if so, why?
Rosner: I wish I had more time playing Max Fuller on “Arrow.” It was the second professional gig I ever had, only their third episode, and the show hadn’t even premiered yet. I knew from reading the pilot script the show would become a hit. I look back at my short performance on the show and wish I had more opportunity to see what kind of rivalry existed between him and Oliver Queen.

TrunkSpace: We read that it was a trip to Broadway that cemented your desire to be an actor. What was it about that first experience sitting in the audience that made you say to yourself, “I want to do that!”?
Rosner: I had always wanted to visit NYC and so when I graduated my Mom took me on a trip there as a sort of graduation gift. We saw a few shows and something about just sitting within reach of these performers made it tangible to me. Coming from Northern Alberta, the entire entertainment industry was a foreign concept to me. Seeing these actors and being in the same room as them made it seem a little more real – like I could reach out and grab it if I could just learn the craft. And that’s what I’ve been pursuing ever since.

Season 3 of “UnREAL” airs Mondays on Lifetime.

Featured image by: Lane Dorsey

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