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Wingman Wednesday

Benjamin Charles Watson

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PHOTOGRAPHY: Noah Asanias/GROOMING: Frida Norrman/STYLING: Derek Perret

For an actor, joining an existing series can be a daunting task, but any nerves Benjamin Charles Watson had upon signing up for Season 3 of “Designated Survivor” quickly vanished after the first day of filming. As confident digital officer Dontae Evans, the Jamaican-born actor’s emergence into the political thriller came at a time when the series was transitioning from ABC to its new home, Netflix. While many of the original cast members remain (Kiefer Sutherland, for example, still plays President Thomas Kirkman), many new faces have been hired on at the fictional White House, making Watson’s arrival a welcome addition to the ever-growing on-set family.

I was basically joining a family that had already established its relationship for two years,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “But I was accepted with open arms and quickly became one of the team.”

We recently sat down with Watson to discuss how the current political climate impacts the show, its newfound realism, and his “Snowpiercer” future.

TrunkSpace: You joined the latest season of “Designated Survivor” as digital officer Dontae Evans. Were there nerves joining the cast of an established series with the on-set tone already in place, even with the show making the leap to its new home Netflix?
Watson: I was absolutely scared to join a team that had already established itself with its audience. Being the new guy, I had to carefully study the first two seasons in order to match the tone. After the first day of filming, my nerves disappeared because I had the opportunity to work with actors I’ve always wanted to work with. I was basically joining a family that had already established its relationship for two years. But I was accepted with open arms and quickly became one of the team.

TrunkSpace: On the opposite side of that, is there also something exciting about joining a series that already has an established audience, knowing that there will be eyeballs waiting for it when the episodes eventually air?
Watson: It was very exciting joining a show that has such a fan base, but at the same time it made me nervous. This show is filled with characters that are dearly loved by its audiences and some characters didn’t return for Season 3. As a new member of the team, I had to make sure my character would be loved and accepted as a new member of the West Wing. And I think it was accomplished. Also, Dontae on the team will bring a fresh audience that has never experienced the show.

TrunkSpace: While you’re new to the series, tonally, has anything changed given that there are no longer the same restrictions with the content given its new home? Is it grittier than what people will recall from its time on ABC?
Watson: I think after leaving ABC and finding its new home on Netflix, the show has gotten better. We’re able to push boundaries a bit further and also explore real topics that affect the American people. I find that the show is a lot more realistic and engaging. We parallel some real-world events and it keeps you on the edge of your seat.

TrunkSpace: There are some heavy hitters in the cast. As an actor, do you view an experience like this – and any experience really – just as much of a learning experience as you do a job? Can you take a role like Dontae Evans and apply the time on set to future roles/jobs?
Watson: This show was a huge learning experience as an actor. Getting the opportunity to watch Kiefer Sutherland work, was absolutely phenomenal. He’s such a master craftsman and sharing screen time with him on a one-on-one basis was exhilarating. I understand what it takes to be an actor at his caliber, and it was fascinating to watch him work. He was an incredible scene partner and absolutely a dream to work opposite.

Dontae is a lot stronger than I am in real life. He fully knows who he is as a person and is unapologetic about it. I’ve taken Dontae and applied him to my real-life, including auditions. He is strong, confident, fearless and wears his heart on his sleeve. He taught me a lot about life and how to become the person I truly desire to become.

TrunkSpace: We’re living in a very politically-focused time right now, particularly here in the United States. Does a show like “Designated Survivor” benefit creatively during a period of such uncertainty and unrest because so many people are attuned to what is going on around them? Does the attention on real-life politics spill over into the fictional world?
Watson: With the political uncertainty happening in the USA right now, I think it works amazingly for the show. This show gets the audience to look at the inside of The White House from a point of view they’ve never seen. This season, we’ve touched on so many real-world events that many individuals don’t necessarily know about stateside and abroad.

TrunkSpace: For the audience the final product is always the most memorable, but for those involved in a project we’d imagine that it goes much further than that. What is something from your time working on “Designated Survivor” that you’ll take with you through the rest of your life and career?
Watson: The thing I will take away from working on “Designated Survivor” is knowing that I’ve done the work and trusting that life I’ve prepared for my character will show up once the director calls “Action!” Also, just knowing and trusting myself and being confident in my abilities. I remember having a rough time on a scene and Julie White, who plays Lorraine Zimmer, saw how badly I was beating myself up and she told me that it’s okay and I know what I’m doing so just be easy on myself. After this pep talk, I attacked this scene in a completely different way and I’m happy I had her to calm me down.

TrunkSpace: When you receive a new script on a project that you’re working on – in this case “Designated Survivor” – what are you most excited to discover when reading about your character’s latest narrative progression? Is it his overall arc? Is it a great piece of dialogue? What are the most intriguing aspects for you personally about reading a new script for the first time?
Watson: Whenever we got a new script I’m so intrigued to discover more about Dontae’s arc throughout the episode and how it affects his overall objective goal. Dontae’s biggest reveal is that he’s HIV positive and I had no idea until I received and read the script! It blew my mind because I was so excited to research and explore the aspects of living with a disease that affect a lot of individuals, including African American men, and has been stigmatized for a long time. As an actor, I love researching every aspect of my character and knowing him fully from early childhood to his current life.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Noah Asanias/GROOMING: Frida Norrman/STYLING: Derek Perret

TrunkSpace: You’re also set to star in the small screen adaptation of “Snowpiercer” for TNT. This is a show that people are very excited about. For those fans of the film, what can they expect when they see the series air later this year, and how your character Brakeman Fuller falls into things?
Watson: I’ve been a huge fan of “Snowpiercer” for such a long time! The fans can expect something out of this world. You’re going to be drawn into a world that is chaotic and extreme, but full of heart and hope.

Brakeman Fuller is obedient, but he’s a bit weak and a follower. He’s primarily seen with John Osweiler (played by Sam Otto). The thing about Brakeman Fuller is that when the going gets tough, he’s not down to fight.

TrunkSpace: What is a character that you portrayed – even as a guest spot – that you wished you had more time to spend with and explore further?
Watson: I had a guest spot on “Travelers” and I wish I had more time to explore my character Lars. The episode was entitled “17 Minutes” and we see my character basically crying because one of his best friends dies. I just wish I had more time to explore the dynamic and greater inner work of Lars, especially his relationship with his best friends.

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?
Watson: Time machine! I’m not sure if I’d jump into the future 10 years. I’d be worried that by entering the future, I’d change the trajectory of my path by viewing it. What if by looking into the future, that the specific timeline would be changed? What if I saw myself and then I’d have to explain to myself who I was? Too many possibilities. But if I do go into the future and don’t like what I see, I would probably come back to the past and work diligently to change my future. SOOOOO, MAYBE I WOULD…

Season 3 of “Designated Survivor” is available now on Netflix.

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Wingman Wednesday

Emily Haine

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Photo By: Farrah Aviva

With great writing and a chance to be seen by a loyal and loving fanbase, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is the kind of modern day television that actors are clamoring to be involved in. For Emily Haine, who made her debut as Elspeth in Season 2, that excitement began to build very early on in the auditioning process. Still ecstatic to have been cast in the bingeable Netflix behemoth, the Vancouver native says there’s something special not only about the series but the production itself.

Theres something in the air on set,” she shared in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “Sometimes fans stand outside the studio gates to catch a feel for it.”

We recently sat down with Haine to discuss the need for a wild streak, eating pistachios with the shell on, and why she’s advocating for more human honesty in midst of the social media age.

TrunkSpace: Season 1 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrinawas a huge success, both with fans and critics. Is there an extra surge of personal excitement when you are joining a series with so much buzz behind it?
Haine: (Laughter) Yes! The buzz for me started with casting. ‘Brina auditions bring out the best talent. Seeing my friends turn up, knowing theyre out there when I go into the room, electrifies me. At the end of the day we all want to be part of a show like this with great writing and the potential for being seen. You gotta be a little wild to do this job. I can put all I’ve got into auditions and hear nothing back. But the nos only make the yess that much sweeter. By Satans divine intervention this is one of the times they were into it! Im still freaking out!

TrunkSpace: Although still grounded in reality, the series is one where anything is possible. From an acting standpoint, is it fun getting to arrive on a set where you can do the kinds of things on screen that are inconceivable in real life?
Haine: Theres something in the air on set. Sometimes fans stand outside the studio gates to catch a feel for it. Its the palpable tension between exhilaration and working long hours. Somehow the mythical, magical and the mystical come to life when were filming. I really cant explain it.

TrunkSpace: Elspeth is a confident, cool as a cucumber character. In terms of her personality, how has she differed from past roles? What has she allowed you to do on camera that you have yet to be able to tackle?
Haine: I see Elspeths confidence as her shield. High school can be like a poker game. Dont show your hand too soon, especially when the dark arts are afoot. Theres so much of Elspeths inner life to explore. Ive never played a witch before – what up witches! What has she allowed me to do? Maybe reanimation… but Im pretty sure I do that every morning if you know what I mean.

TrunkSpace: Elspeth ages slower than normal people. Is that the kind of power you would ever want to have in real life, because in some ways, it feels like it could eventuallyas others around you become oldfeel more like a curse?
Haine: In the industry, and societally, we put a ton of unhealthy emphasis on looking young – Ive been told by previous agents to lie about my age. There are a lot more roles for younger females. For that reason its tempting… but Ive seen enough movies to know that we shouldnt mess with the natural order of things, so no.

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the end product is always the most memorable, but for those involved in the project it must go much further than that. Whats the most memorable aspect of getting to work on Chilling Adventures of Sabrinathat youll carry with you through the rest of your life and career?
Haine: My biggest take away is the crystallization of certain beliefs Ive been harboring. That we do create the foundation of our reality with building blocks in our heads. Think it, be it. Be really super clear on what you want and then work hard for it. Take classes, read books, watch Ted talks, do whatever you can to clear the way for your dream to unfold. Believe in yourself more than anything else and you will shine! Fall down, get back up. Keep trying. It wasnt that long ago that I was a kid dreaming about being an actor. Now Im an actor dreaming about acting, playing piano, a claymation horror short I want to make…

TrunkSpace: You used to be in a punk band. Whats the most punk thing about you, now, at this stage in your life?
Haine: Well, as an artist you kind of abandon security and normalcy – this job looks bougie but most of us are living paycheck to paycheck for five minutes of screen time. Is that punk? I eat pistachios with the shell.

Photo By: Farrah Aviva

TrunkSpace: You recently made an announcement on Instagram that you want to be more transparent about your own mental health so as to create a safe sharing space and to help others not feel alone. People are always there to point out the faults of social media, which we totally understand, but its benefits do stretch beyond self-promotion. Could you feel how your declaration helped others, and in return, did their reaching out then help you?
Haine: Thanks for progressing the conversation. I wanted to create a moment that shattered whatever public perception people may have of me and challenge how I see myself. Its easy to post flattering pictures and I am proud to share my accomplishments with friends, but whats beyond that? To pretend that we dont face hard times is delusional. I feen for that type of honesty online, like Jameela Jamil, shes one of my heroes! Sometimes the best way out of a dark hole is a big jump. Im so glad I did it. Your stories, messages, DMs, calls and texts revive me. It turned whatever uncomfortable feelings I had about sharing into easily the best thing Ive done on social. Because of that Im currently penning a presentation on my personal experience with mental health for a volunteer advocacy speakers position with Mood Disorders Association of BC.

TrunkSpace: Were suckers for a good banana bread here, and from what we hear, you have the skills to turn those old bananas into a loaf lovers dream! Just how beyond ripe does the fruit have to be to make the bread the best bread it can be?
Haine: Ripe enough that you wouldnt eat ‘em.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Haine: This moment right now.

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?
Haine: What if Im not happy? Can I change the outcome? If yes, then fire it up! If not, then hellll nah. Ill come with you to look at your life though if you want! Ill bring my laser gun. Pew. Pew. Cause its the future.

Season 2 of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is available now on Netflix.

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Wingman Wednesday

Adam Tsekhman

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Photo By: Shanna Fisher

Having never expected to spend quite so much time shirtless when he first signed on to play Gary Green of The Time Bureau in “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,”Adam Tsekhman is ecstatic to have been given the opportunity. Originally intended as a three-episode guest star, the Winnipeg native with a love for comedy has reveled in the expanded role, even when things got full on nipple crazy in Season 4. (No nipple spoilers for those who have not yet binged their way through it!)

We recently sat down with Tsekhman to discuss luring unicorns, Biff buzz, and peering into the future of “The Gary Green Chronicles.”

TrunkSpace: What would 10-year-old Adam think about his future self getting to play in the DC universe? Were you a comic fan and has your fanboy self come full circle?
Tsekhman: 10-year-old Adam would LOVE the fact that he gets to play in the DC Universe, however he would probably be a bit sad that he wouldn’t have any superhero powers. But adult Adam loves that he doesn’t have super powers (easier on the knees and hips). I wasn’t really a comic fanboy growing up. I wasn’t into comics growing up, but I was definitely into the comic book movies that sort of started for me with the Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson “Batman.” I loved that movie and I was hooked!

TrunkSpace: As we understand it, your character Gary Green was originally only supposed to appear in a handful of episodes. When did you get a sense that it would become more than that and did that open up the character for you in terms of getting to explore areas of him that you never thought you’d have a chance to when you first signed on?
Tsekhman: I only knew for sure that I would be on the show for three episodes so when they wanted me to be involved in more than that, my excitement levels shot up immeasurably. I was never really certain how often Gary would appear so I was both eager and hopeful to get more chances to play this fabulous character. This season has been particularly fun and challenging in terms of the areas we get to explore. For example, I didn’t expect to be shirtless so often. It’s very freeing! (Laughter) But I do think we will get to see more emotional depth with Gary – while still maintaining his gloriously sunny outlook on life.

TrunkSpace: As far as your own personal journey with the character, what have you enjoyed most about getting to inhabit Gary and see him developed out more and more over time?
Tsekhman: I am naturally drawn to comedy and I get such a joy out of all of the hilarious situations that the writers have created for Gary. The beautiful thing about Legends is that not even the sky is the limit in terms of where this show can go and it’s so much fun getting to read the scripts that our brilliant writers churn out every week. They are the real superheroes of this show!

TrunkSpace: Anything can happen in a world where time travel and super heroes exist. What’s been your biggest “pinch me” moment on set thus far where you had to stop and go, “Wow, this is really my life now”?
Tsekhman: Yeah, I think being topless, holding a pomegranate and luring a unicorn out of the forest would have to be a “pinch me” moment. Also, getting to work this season with Tom Wilson who is immortalized as Biff Tannen has been incredible. He’s a hilarious and amazing guy full of great stories!

TrunkSpace: Do you find that this business subscribes to the old adage of work begets work, and if so, do you see your portrayal of Gary on “Legends of Tomorrow” opening up more doors for you in the future?
Tsekhman: I absolutely agree with that old adage! I certainly hope that Gary does open more doors. Perhaps a spin-off? “The Gary Green Chronicles” or “The Legends of the Time Bureau.” Wouldn’t that be fun? But, seriously, the attention that the show has garnered will hopefully open more doors. I suppose only time will tell.

TrunkSpace: You have a degree in finance from the Wharton School of Business. Was pursuing acting a serious change of gears for you, and if so, did you have to convince yourself that you were making the right choice? How hard was it for you to take the first step on the path you’re currently traveling?
Tsekhman: Yes, I do have a degree in Finance from Wharton and taking that first step was challenging. I had an investment banking job offer from Lehman Brothers that I chose to forgo in order to pursue more creative endeavors. Luckily for me, my parents were very supportive of my decision, which I recognize is very rare and I’m extremely grateful to them. I was so in love with performing at that time that I may have been slightly delusional to think that I could succeed as an actor. Perhaps you have to have these delusions to choose to go into this industry. Who knows? The numbers are certainly scary, many more actors than jobs. You don’t need a finance degree to recognize that.

TrunkSpace: There’s a lot of rejection and self-doubt that comes along with a career in the arts. That said, does the creative space fulfill you personally more than a career in finance could have ever achieved – even if you had reached the pinnacle of success in that industry?
Tsekhman: I certainly think so. That being said, I did enjoy finance, but the fulfillment I get from acting and writing is immense. However, I am sure that reaching the pinnacle of the financial world would be quite fulfilling as well. I am biased because I chose this path and I am ecstatic with my choice. But maybe I would have been happy to stay in finance as well. Perhaps my positive outlook on life would have brought fulfillment regardless of career choice. At least if I stayed in finance, I would have kept my nipple intact! (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Tsekhman: “LEGENDS OF TOMORROW,” BABY!

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?
Tsekhman: No, I wouldn’t take that jump because it’s the 10-year journey that is the fun part. Knowing the destination would make the journey less fun and it would take away the mystery and hope that comes from this business. You never know what opportunities might come your way tomorrow and seeing what things look like in 10 years might negatively influence your decision making today. Although, jumping 10 years into the future and right onto the set of Season 7 of “The Gary Green Chronicles” would be pretty cool!

Season 4 of “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” is available now on Netflix. Season 5 will return to The CW later this year.

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Trunk Stubs

The Dirt

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Title: The Dirt

Rated: R

Genre: Biopic/Drama

Release Date: March 22, 2019

Directed By: Jeff Tremaine

Starring: Machine Gun Kelly, Douglas Booth, Daniel Webber, Iwan Rheon, Levan Rambin, Pete Davidson, Tony Cavalero, David Costabile, Rebekah Graf

Reason We’re Watching It: This one’s easy. We grew up in the ‘80s. Mötley Crüe is part of the soundtrack to our impressionable pop culture-inspired lives, so naturally we’d be interested in learning more about how that soundtrack came to fruition.

What It’s All About: From humble (and dysfunctional) beginnings to superstardom, this Netflix biopic is the feature film adaptation of the best-selling Mötley Crüe biography of the same name. While it shows the ups of rock ‘n’ roll fame, mostly it focuses on the downs, which plagued the band member’s personal lives. From addiction to loss, no one inside the band was immune, and while they have since retired from the stage, the four musical misfits found a family among themselves and will forever be a part of the mainstream musical tapestry.

One big area where the filmmakers missed an opportunity was including more of the band’s iconic songs throughout the course of the film. Unlike “Bohemian Rhapsody” which made the tunes a marquee-sharing costar, many of the Crüe’s hits were left on the editing room floor. You can’t get pumped when there’s no track to pump your first to.

Whoah! Rewind That!: The urban legends surrounding Ozzy Osbourne seem limitless, but seeing him onscreen – or at least Tony Cavelero portraying him – sniffing live ants off of concrete is worth a second “Oh no he didn’t” viewing.

Watercooler-Worthy Tidbit: “Game of Thrones” fans will recognize the actor who plays Mick Mars as Iwan Rheon, otherwise known as the most evil onscreen SOB ever to be eaten by a pack of hungry dogs, Ramsay Bolton.

And that’s why we’re giving it…

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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

Robert Maillet

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Being a professional wrestler – performing live in front of thousands of people at a time – prepared Robert Maillet for his career as a film and television actor. Even on his first project, the big screen, big-budget adaptation of the graphic novel “300,” the man once called Kurrgan in the squared circle was now perfectly comfortable taking direction from Zack Snyder and having all eyes on set fixated on him. Compared to the audience at an event like WrestleMania, the cast and crew of a film, even one as ambitious as “300,” couldn’t match the headcount of what he was used to working in front of while at the WWE.

We recently sat down with Maillet to discuss his latest project “Polar,” fighting an invisible enemy at his audition, and how his successful Oddities run at the WWE stemmed from dancing at an after-party.

TrunkSpace: Looking back over your career thus far, would 12-year-old Robert be surprised by how it has played out?
Maillet: Yeah, I think my 12-year-old self would be surprised because at the time, to be an actor, work as an actor – and also work as a professional wrestler – it was far away from my mind at 12 years old. And though I used a lot of my imagination at the time – I was a daydreamer and I loved movies and stuff – never would I imagine I would be in films.

It’s also not surprising, though. What I was doing at the time, when I was 12, I used to draw a lot… tell stories. Caricatures and stuff. I was into Conan, all the animated stuff – cartoons. Anything that inspired me, I would draw and tell stories, so I was kind of a storyteller, much like being a wrestler and an actor kind of have similarities.

TrunkSpace: And with your new movie “Polar,” which is based on a graphic novel, it has sort of come full comic-book-circle.
Maillet: That’s true. Funny though, a lot of the stuff I worked on, most of it is always based on comic books… graphic novels and comic books. “300,” my first big feature film I did is a true story, based on the true event of Frank Miller’s graphic novel. So, that’s fascinating when you think about it. That’s true.

TrunkSpace: A movie like “300,” or “Pacific Rim,” which you also starred in, and now “Polar” as well… they all have a visual element to them that make them feel like a live action comic book.
Maillet: That’s right, and it’s great to see that medium, that form of storytelling – comic book form – that’s so popular to translate into TV or films. Imagination can go anywhere – there’s no boundaries – so you can get some really great original stuff out of it. It’s really cool to see.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned being a storyteller even at an early age. Do you view the path of your career as one career, or was professional wrestling something separate than your on-screen acting? Because from an outside perspective it seems that professional wrestling could be a really great boot camp for on-camera acting because there is so much character work involved.
Maillet: For sure. And you’re right, I see my career as kind of the same path – the similarities between acting and wrestling. And wrestling has prepared me for being an actor, because when I was with the WWE for a couple years – my big break, of course – it’s very much is like show biz. The way the whole machine was run, the marketing machine and especially for TV stuff – when they were doing the live events and Pay-per-views and WrestleMania – it was very much show biz. You’re in character, you gotta somewhat have a script as well, you gotta know the finish and all that stuff. A lot of it is rehearsals and it’s all about storytelling – making sure the audience gets sucked into your story, gets connected with your character and what’s going on in the ring. That’s the basis for acting. It wasn’t a shock for me the first time I went on a TV set or a movie set. It was very familiar. And to me, because I was in front of a live crowd, in front of thousands of people every night, I was very comfortable being on set… being in front of the lights and in front of 50 people behind the camera.

I remember my first day on “300.” I was in makeup – five hours of makeup – and we did rehearsals for like a month prior to it. And then finally the day comes to shoot my first day… a big Hollywood feature film. It was a big deal so there’s, like I said, 50 people behind the camera just looking at you. Lights and camera are on you and you think, “I should be nervous.” It’s the one time I would have been I guess, but wrestling prepared me.

TrunkSpace: Was the success and interest of “Polar” a surprise at all? Even on IMDb it peaked at the top MOVIEmeter spot, which is not an easy feat with everything else out these days.
Maillet: It was. I remember reading the script and I remember doing the audition – it was over a year ago now, just before Christmas of 2017 – and I had no lines. I had no lines for the sides. And they wanted me to reenact a big fight with Duncan (played by Mads Mikkelsen) that would never happen in the film. They wanted me to reenact it, basically by myself, so I had to pretend I was fighting somebody else who was invisible. (Laughter) The whole scene was described basically as I stab him or shoot him and then I punch him and I fall into a barn and eventually he gets swept into the barn and kills me. So I had to reenact the whole thing.

Maillet with Heather Doerksen in “Pacific Rim”

So I used my wrestling background, my acting background, to use my imagination and I hadn’t heard from them for over a month. And then a month later, January of last year, they offered me a role because they loved my performance. And when I read the script, it was in your face, I mean, they weren’t pulling punches in that film. And I knew it was gonna work because I loved those kind of films. That’s my genre, as a fan. It’s so different and unique and I like it when they’re not afraid to show the audience. It’s a great way to shock. I love that stuff.

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the end result is always the most memorable part of a film or TV show, but for you, we would imagine it’s the process. What will you take with you through the rest of your life – the thing that will stay with you – from shooting the film?
Maillet: Well, I think it’s the friends… the people you work with. I got close to the group, to the A-team. We got really close in filming. I had a great time with the people. We really got along very well, and I think it shows on film. It was so fun to work with all of the actors and the crew, especially with Jonas Åkerlund, the director, he was so nice and so open to our ideas. He’s easy to work with.

It’s funny with Mads – great guy, he’s a cool guy – I met him prior to that, maybe four years ago now, for a HorrorHound convention in Indianapolis four years ago. We were represented by the same convention agent, so after the event we would all go out, a group of us, to eat supper, including Mads, and so we got along very well that weekend. We started taking selfies together. (Laughter) Unbeknownst to me, four years later, I’m chasing him around the woods. It was kind of cool.

TrunkSpace: We talked earlier about how you were always a storyteller. You’ve been involved in some pretty wild storytelling in film, but are those the wildest storylines you’ve been involved with, or did your days in professional wrestling lead to more crazy things happening with you from a narrative standpoint?
Maillet: I think professional wrestling. At the time when I was there, it called the Attitude Era. They were pretty risky with the stuff they were trying to do. They had a wrestler who had a porn actor gimmick, behaving like one of those you see on www.hdpornvideo.xxx.

Maillet as Kurrgan in the WWE

TrunkSpace: Val Venis, right?
Maillet: Val Venis! But see, he worked that gimmick so well and he was this natural, great talent and he made it work. Not a lot of guys would have made it work.

At the time, it was very risky and I was afraid they were going to do something with me… something that wouldn’t be comfortable, which, in a way, they did. They put me in as this drooling monster, the evil Kurrgan who destroys everything, and then they pitched me the idea to do this fun-loving… The Oddities. I remember I was at home and I got a call from Vince Russo… not Vince McMahon… the head writer. And he never called. He never called my home before and I was like, “What the hell is going on?” (Laughter) I was kind of in limbo at the time. They weren’t sure what they were doing with me, with the whole Kurrgan thing, and then he pitched me the idea of this fun loving group, dancing and having fun while dressed up in tie-dyed goofy clothes. The whole thing was to introduce ourselves singing Miss America dressed up in tuxedos.

So, he didn’t see my face – my initial reaction while he was pitching me that – but I was basically saying no to myself. But I said yes of course. It was probably the only opportunity I would have to be with them. They would have let me go, probably, if I said no. So yes, it was very uncomfortable at first, doing that thing, because it was out of my norm, but it worked because it got over. The guys got into it. They got some great music from ICP and it got over. We got busy… really busy for a year. We did Pay-Per-Views, magazine covers and video games. So it worked, but it was not my thing to do, dancing in front of a crowd.

TrunkSpace: Unexpected lightning in a bottle.
Maillet: What happened was – this is a true story – there was a WrestleMania after-party in Boston back in ‘98. We could bring our wives with us, so I brought my wife. My wife, she loves to dance, so of course she wanted me to dance with her on the dance floor at the party. I should have known because there’s a lot of male wrestlers not dancing and they’re looking at me, staring at me. They couldn’t believe this dancing giant. So then Vince McMahon was there and saw me dancing and he couldn’t get the idea of me dancing out of his mind, so the whole Oddities thing came about.

Polar” is available now on Netflix.

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Wingman Wednesday

Lovina Yavari

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Photo by: Angelo Manalac/Shirt by: Jon Lam/Location: E Blue E-Sport Stadium

As a lifelong comic book fan, model-turned-actress Lovina Yavari is having to pinch herself with her recent track record of on-camera roles. Not only is she starring as Junkie Jane in “Polar” for Netflix, but she will also be appearing in the upcoming film “Shazam!” based on the DC Comics character of the same name and in Amazon Prime’s “The Boys,” adapted from the comic book series by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. It’s a pop culture-palooza of celluloid sequential success and it’s exactly what she always wanted.

We recently sat down with Yavari to discuss how her look is suited for the modern on-screen landscape, Instagram blow-ups, and what her career best-case-scenario would look like.

TrunkSpace: From an outside perspective, it seems like you are single-handedly taking over comic book adaptations in 2019. Not only are you currently starring as Junkie Jane in “Polar” on Netflix, but you’ll also be appearing in “Shazam!” and “The Boys.” Was this part of a masterful adaptation domination plan or a comic book coincidence? Does appearing in projects based on comic books and graphic novels appeal to your own personal interests?
Yavari: This was actually EXACTLY what I wanted so it’s surreal as hell. I grew up reading comic books – I loved anything by Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Brian K. Vaughan, Joss Whedon, and Warren Ellis. It’s the best feeling in the world to be immortalized in these fictional universes. I never stop fangirling about it.

TrunkSpace: If we can spend some time talking about Junkie Jane… first, “Polar” is visually such an interesting film and sort of speaks to the future of mass market distribution. To us, this is a movie (along with “Bird Box”) that will make studios wake up and go, “Okay, maybe we don’t have to be in theaters anymore.” As an actress, do you feel like you’re working at a historically significant period within the industry where the new guard is replacing the old in terms of how things were once done? Can you see the change happening from your perspective?
Yavari: Oh yeah, I definitely see it. I feel like I joined the industry at the perfect time – there’s more diversity, better roles for women, more opportunities for actors and social media. I can create my own content and build my brand instead of waiting around to be discovered. Ten years ago someone that looked like me wouldn’t have had a chance in hell to be seen for auditions. It’s only been the last couple years that the industry has been stepping away from casting the classic Hollywood beauty types and actually taking more risks.

TrunkSpace: Once “Polar” hit Netflix, how soon after did you feel its impact? How long did it take for fans of the film to track you down on social media or for your rise on the IMDb STARmeter to take you by surprise? (Currently sitting at 191!)
Yavari: The “Shazam!” teaser trailer was released the same week “Polar” dropped, so my Instagram blew up immediately. I felt like I logged into some alt universe.

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 “Polar” and slip into the Junkie Jane persona?
Yavari: Working with my SPFX makeup artist Traci Loader. She applied all the tattoos and track marks on my character. Funny fact, I started out in film as a makeup artist, and was once her assistant years ago. So it was crazy as hell to bump into her on set and find out she was my makeup artist. Since she knew I had a makeup background, she let me help apply my character’s tattoos. I even chose all the placements for them. All the tattoos I picked out told a story on my body, giving them meaning helped bring Jane more to life. That process helped the most.

TrunkSpace: We recently chatted with a number of your “Polar” costars, including Fei Ren and Josh Cruddas. One of the things that was a constant between every conversation we had was just how welcoming and creatively-inspiring being on this particular set was. Did you have the same experience? Was the “Polar” set one that you hated having to walk away from?
Yavari: Hands down, both the cast and crew were such a pleasure to collaborate with. Jonas was such a cool director – I had no idea I was already a massive fan of his work until I met him. He directed so many of my favorite music videos. He has such a laid-back and welcoming attitude. He trusted me to portray Jane how I wanted. I was given a couple guidelines, but had free reign to do whatever. I know experiences like that are rare in this industry, so I’m insanely grateful for it.

TrunkSpace: You’re also a model. Are there challenges to trying to cross over into the world of acting in that, do you find that casting directors view you as a model who wants to act, as opposed to an actress who happens to model?
Yavari: I feel like modeling helped me secure a lot of gigs, especially since I first started out doing commercials and print ads. I also try to maintain a diverse portfolio so I could be seen for other roles that someone wouldn’t normally cast me as.

Yavari as Junkie Jane in “Polar”

TrunkSpace: In a lot of your modeling shots, we see characters. We see you inhabiting a persona in the same way you would do an on-camera role. Do you approach modeling in the same way as acting in that, are you playing someone else when you’re taking part in a shoot?
Yavari: That’s exactly what I’m doing. I art direct and style all my photo shoots and one of the things I strive for is having my images look like stills from a movie or anime.

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?
Yavari: Oh man, being flown out to Cuba to work on a film. That was amazing. But honestly, every project I’ve had the opportunity to work on has been a highlight. It’s a constant reminder that working your ass off pays off. I’m eternally grateful for where I’m at and where I’ll be heading. I also have to give my agency, Hero Artists, massive props, too. They’ve been amazing with representing me and letting me be who I am, as opposed to trying to rebrand me into an existing artist. I get to be myself and work on projects I’m already a fan of. It’s unreal.

TrunkSpace: Give us the best of your best case scenarios. If you could pave your own career path, what would that route look like? What would be the ultimate dream?
Yavari: Work on “Star Trek,” have an action figure of my character and a comic book series (6-issue run with cover art by Junji Ito), voice for 30 video games and two abridged Shonen Jump anime series with 300 filler eps so I’ll never be out of an acting job, go to comic cons and do signings. Own a clothing, robotics, makeup and motorcycle company. Travel the world. Get my pilot license. Win an Oscar.

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?
Yavari: Nah, I already know where I want to be in life. Anything that happens on the journey there is a bonus.

Polar” is available now on Netflix.

Shazam!” is in theaters April 5.

Featured image by: Angelo Manalac/Shirt by: Jon Lam/Location: E Blue E-Sport Stadium

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Wingman Wednesday

Fei Ren

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Photo By: PHILIP JARMAIN

With the new Netflix movie “Polar” being so stylized and visually enticing, actress Fei Ren had the freedom in making her character Hilde her own. Adopting a soft look with her makeup over one eye and a harder look with the other, the asymmetric approach not only fit into the aesthetic of the film, but allowed her to tap into her character’s backstory and discover the A-team assassin’s duality.

“It’s a great creative playground because I had the option to make the character larger than life and explore it artistically.”

We recently sat down with Ren to discuss Hilde’s spirit animal, the film’s on-set atmosphere, and how acting was never part of her original game plan.

TrunkSpace: “Polar” is based on the webcomic/graphic novel of the same name. Comics continue to be a well that Hollywood taps, both for film and television adaptation. As an actor, what is it like having that source material (and existing audience!) available to you, but at the same time, not having the pressure of stepping into a brand that the masses have been exposed to yet, like a Spider-Man or Batman?
Ren: Finding Hilde and her layers was almost no different to working on any other characters. I think that with “Polar” being such a stylized graphic novel without words, I had lots of room to fill in the blanks of her backstory. It’s rather freeing. In acting, there is a saying that the more specific you get, the more universal and relatable your character becomes. I imagine that no matter how large a fan base a character has, our job is still connected to the human core and to make it our own. Pressure from the public will always be there, but when you are creating art, you can’t do it to please everybody’s idea of the character. You have to make it your own and step into that skin and become it.

TrunkSpace: The original comic was very stylized as you mentioned, and what’s great about the film adaptation is that a lot of that is carried over in terms of how it’s shot and the use of color. Visually, what makes the work you did on this project unique in comparison to previous roles?
Ren: It’s highly stylized and very edgy. It’s a great creative playground because I had the option to make the character larger than life and explore it artistically. The makeup, hair and costume department did such an amazing job creating my look. And working together as a team, I ended up discovering some of the character’s history. For example, the different makeup on each eye. It started as we were doing testing makeup on different eyes, and the whole team ended up loving the asymmetric look. So, Hilde had one soft look on one eye, and a harder look on the other, which worked with the hair too! The look inspired me to discover Hilde’s duality. Hilde’s past being soft and feminine didn’t serve her well in that world. Hence, she becomes the hardcore, sleek, efficient killer you see now. She only lets down her guard in front of Blut. So, every day, her soft eye is a reminder to her to stay focused and her hard eye shows her determination. Overall, it was plenty of fun because we were given room to create and explore!

TrunkSpace: From the outside looking in, this was a physically demanding project to be a part of. How did you prepare to slip into the butt-kicking shoes of assassin Hilde?
Ren: I had a personal trainer for kickboxing and did yoga daily. The production also gave me thorough gun and safety training for an entire week, so the weapons became part of my body. Listening to hardcore heavy metal music also helped me slip into Hilde’s mental space!

TrunkSpace: When you learned that you had been cast as Hilde, what aspects of her were you most excited to bring to life and did that change the further into production that you got? Did you discover new things about her that you ended up enjoying more than you would have expected?
Ren: When I first got the role of Hilde, I loved the idea that she is cocky, masculine and savage. I imagined her spirit animal as an ape. Then the chemistry of the “A-team” being so playful and family-like, Hilde becomes a black panther. She is sleek and economical with movements when she is hunting. She is protective of the A-team, playful at times and holds them together when necessary. So, she is still intense, but has more colors and shape, which is more fun to play!

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the most memorable part of a film or television series is the end product, but for those involved in it, we would imagine it’s the experience. For you, what aspects of working on “Polar” will you carry with you through the rest of your career and life?
Ren: The grounded passionate energy of the people in the film’s crew. Rumor has it that some Hollywood stars and directors are tricky to work with. I had an excellent first-hand experience! On the set of “Polar,” there were no egos and no games. Everyone is passionate about the work, and not taking themselves too seriously. During lunchtime, we all got together and joked around, ate, talked about the scenes, and we all come from different parts of the world, so we shared stories. The production was in the winter, and sometimes the days got long and freezing cold. Shooting a movie is not easy, so having a great ensemble makes a huge difference!

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, your career in the arts began after you started modeling. Did pursuing modeling ultimately inspire you to change direction with your life and take a path that you may not have walked otherwise?
Ren: Oh, totally! I was so nerdy before I started modeling. My world view was my parents’ vision: get a degree in accounting or finance, get married at 25 and have babies. I didn’t know what I wanted, let along dare to dream of pursuing arts. Growing up trained in dancing and painting, I always liked arts and performing, but to think this passion could turn into a career path was seemingly impossible. My family is made of scientists, engineers and professors. They appreciate art as leisure, but never considered it as a job. Getting into modeling, traveling and starting to discover different artistic expressions freed and empowered me in so many ways. It awakened parts of me that had been suppressed. In modeling, I learned to take control of my own destiny, follow my passion, persevere in learning, which becomes essential for building my acting career.

Photo By: PHILIP JARMAIN

TrunkSpace: You’ve been acting for about five years now. In that time, what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned either on set or in the midst of a job that you find yourself applying to all of your work moving forward now?
Ren: There is a balance in owning your character work and allowing it room to grow by collaborating with your team. You have to trust your instinct and allow yourself to play. I think filmmaking is such a collaborative art form. There is the initial audition, but once you’re on set, your role usually evolves and deepens or deviates quite a bit from your original idea. It’s important not to hold on to the idea of what you think your character should be, but get into the whole skin of it, get into the body, allow your body and instinct to play, allow yourself to be in the moment. It’s where the best work lives. On the other hand, though, you have to take ownership of your work. Sometimes people have inputs and ideas on what they think your character could be. It can be confusing if you take all the suggestions. So, you need to find a balance, trust what you’re bringing as long as you serve the true intention behind the story you are telling.

TrunkSpace: You’re also a director. Do you think having that perspective makes you a better actor and does knowing what an actor needs from a director make you a better director?
Ren: I believe they complement each other. When I am directing theater, I often use my own acting tools to help actors find the emotional truth of the characters and get very specific with relationships and intention in the story. Directing and coaching other actors can help me understand my own acting better. That said, I find it’s often still easier to bring other actors to do their best job than it is to direct yourself.

TrunkSpace: You have a passion for the theater. In terms of acting, does the stage give you a different experience personally than when you’re performing in front of the camera?
Ren: Very different in many ways. In theater, the effect of your work is immediate, there is an energy feeding back and forth from the audience. It’s electrifying. Especially in comedy, the laughter and energy of the audience become part of the play. Also, in theater, you live the character’s whole arc at once, without cut and reset. It feels more complete during performing. With film acting, lots of times there are hundreds of people around the set and when the director says action, it’s on. You’ll record a scene multiple times, from different angles. You experience the character in chunks and the challenge lies in staying focused, ready and keep discovering it moment to moment, takes after takes, with all that’s happening around you. Both are exciting and require you to show up and be present, put ego aside and serve the character and the story. And both are satisfying when you feel or see the impact and joy you brought to your audience at the end of the day.

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?
Ren: (Laughter) Maybe not! Life is magical, and I don’t want to know how the magic worked, and then watch the magic show. It would ruin the fun. I want to experience it moment to moment!

Polar” is available now on Netflix.

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Chilling Out

Chris Conner

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Chilling Out is where TrunkSpace talks all things horror and genre with those who work in the projects that give us the thrills and chills to keep coming back for more. This time out we’re chatting with Chris Conner, star of the new film “The Harvesting,” which is available now on DVD and Digital HD.

We recently sat down with Conner to discuss the horror of isolation, playing in the fantastical worlds he loved as a child, and inventing Edgar Allan Poe.

TrunkSpace: The isolation of farmlands has been terrifying us since we first saw “Children of the Corn” way back in 1984. When you initially read the script for “The Harvesting,” what was the potential that you saw in it? Was it psychological? Was it jump scare-based? Something else entirely?
Conner: Yes, psychological. I think it was the feeling of isolation. It seemed that this family was at a breaking point and instead of communicating and working together, Jake retreats to the country. The farmland should be a place of quiet solace…

TrunkSpace: In the film you play that man, Jake, a husband and father who is enthusiastic about the idea of getting “away from it all” as he heads out to the country with his family. Is part of the terror in a film like “The Harvesting” the idea of helplessness as a parent to protect the family, because as parents ourselves, that’s certainly the vibe we felt in watching the trailer?
Conner: Sure. And the need to reconnect with our own childhoods through our children. If they can see where Dad grew up maybe they will understand him better. If everyone could just slow down and listen, the family could be saved.

TrunkSpace: Isolation certainly increases the creep factor in a horror film, but how does it impact production? In shooting the film, were you just as “away from it all” as the fictional characters themselves?
Conner: We weren’t too isolated as a production or as actors. It was made on a shoestring so we all were a big messy family shooting it. Dan (Shultz), our producer, was a little like Jake in the film, just keeping the family together.

TrunkSpace: What was it about Jake that you wanted to help bring to life? What aspects of him did you have the most fun inhabiting for the duration of the production?
Conner: It’s fun to play in the horror genre in general. Playing into certain tropes or against them is always a good challenge. And young dad roles are a new thing for me, so it was fun with the kids as well.

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 “The Harvesting?”
Conner: Lancaster, Pennsylvania is a beautiful part of the country. I’ll always remember the rolling hills and the kind folk there.

TrunkSpace: Horror as a genre seems to have a built-in audience. Is it appealing working on a project knowing that, in a way, you’re going to have eyes on it based on the interest in the genre as a whole?
Conner: Totally. I recently wrote a western and that is exactly why I did it. You watch things growing up and you want to play in those worlds. Sci-fi, horror, westerns – all those genres are places I want to play. They have an audience AND I’m a big fan.

TrunkSpace: We loved your character Poe in “Altered Carbon” and we were sorry to see him – spoiler alert – go. Is that one of those roles that comes along and you instantly know it has the chance to be special from a performance standpoint?
Conner: Yes and no. Poe wasn’t in the books and we had to “invent” him as we went along. Really great writing helped with that. And it seemed to click for me.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Conner: Poe in “Altered Carbon.” It’s a really special character. And my first time getting to contribute more of myself in something that ends up on screen. You mostly get that in the theater, but I got a chance to do it on a really big Netflix show and that is just awesome.

Conner as Poe in “Altered Carbon”

TrunkSpace: Is there a character that you portrayed – perhaps even in a guesting capacity – that you wished you had more time to spend with and explore further?
Conner: Most everything I have ever done! A lot of TV and film gets rushed and I always think about how I would have done it differently. But then you gotta move on and be in the moment for the next story to tell.

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?
Conner: Naw… I think being surprised along the journey is so cool. I turn to my wife all the time and say, “How did we get here?!” It’s been a helluva ride so far and in 10 years I’m sure I’ll be shocked at where I am.

Hopefully, in a good way.

The Harvesting” is available now on DVD and Digital HD.

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Wingman Wednesday

Josh Cruddas

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Photo By: Tina Picard

After reading the script, Josh Cruddas fought hard to be a part of “Polar” – the new Netflix film based on the graphic novel by Victor Santos –  so hard in fact that he worried that he may have come on too strong when he first met with director Jonas Åkerlund and producer Jeremy Bolt. Calling the screenplay the most “exciting, badass, funny and promising” he had ever read, the Nova Scotia native’s tenacity paid off and he was cast as the assassin Alexei, proving that talent, when mixed with passion, is a powerful combination.

We recently sat down with Cruddas to discuss the universe he’d sell his car to be a part of, the terror of being trained in terrifying weaponry, and the unexpected benefits of his career as an actor.

TrunkSpace: “Polar” is based on the web-comic/graphic novel of the same name. Comics continue to be a well that Hollywood taps, both for film and television adaptation. As an actor, what is it like having that source material (and existing audience!) available to you, but at the same time, not having the pressure of stepping into a brand that the masses have been exposed to yet, like a Spider-Man or Batman?
Cruddas: To me, it’s incredibly exciting. New, quality IP in film is hard to find these days, with the traditional studio model less likely to take big-budget risks on content without a big built-in fanbase. I think Jeremy (Bolt), Keith (Goldberg) and the other brilliant minds at Dark Horse and Netflix have really stumbled upon a gold mine in Victor Santos’ graphic novels; here’s a fantastic comic world begging for a film adaptation, compete with some die-hard fans, but underground enough that the rest of us can still be surprised by everything when we see the movie version. And for me, as the actor, I can rest a little easier knowing that nobody’s comparing my version of the character to, let’s say, Daniel Day-Lewis’ 1994 Oscar-winning version, you know? That all being said, I’d sell my car for a chance to be in a Marvel movie.

TrunkSpace: The original comic was very stylized, and what’s great about the film adaptation is that a lot of that is carried over in terms of how it’s shot and the use of color. Visually, what makes the work you did on this project unique in comparison to previous roles?
Cruddas: I got VERY lucky in this film to work with Jonas (
Åkerlund), who’s a visual maestro, as well has his team of PäEkberg, Susie Coulthard, Lea Carlson and Emma Fairley. These people have created this brilliantly vibrant world that myself and the other actors get to live in. I think it’s a welcome rebuke of a lot of the grey, so-dark-and-shaky-you-can’t-even-see-the-fight-scenes cinematography style we see in certain big action movies and TV these days. The TV show I’m shooting right now is also very colorful too, but I’ve never done anything as stylized and sleek as “Polar” before. Usually the most colorful thing onscreen with me is the four strands of ginger hair I have left on my head!

TrunkSpace: The trailer definitely has that bad-ass, pump-you-up feel to it. Upon first glance, it’s sort of “Taken” meets “A History of Violence.” When you first read for the project, what excited you most about it and did it meet those first impression expectations when you called wrap?
Cruddas: I thought I had made a mistake, reading the screenplay before meeting Jonas and Jeremy last winter – it was one of the most exciting, badass, funny and promising scripts I’d ever read. So when I went to meet with them, I loved the role so much and was so desperate for the part that I thought I went completely over the top in my excitement for the job. Thankfully they gave it to me anyway, and I think the whole team (including our huge, incredible crew who worked longer hours and longer nights than I ever had to) really captured the magic I found in the script as we shot the film.

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the most memorable part of a film or television series is the end product, but for those involved in it, we would imagine it’s the experience. For you, what aspects of working on “Polar” will you carry with you through the rest of your career and life?
Cruddas: Good point! There were a lot of memories I’ll take with me from shooting “Polar.” The A-Team (assassin squad) really bonded over the months, so we would go sing karaoke till the wee hours and post the results to our group chat… Johnny Knoxville once sank me in a game of pool by looking me dead in the eyes while he pocketed the 8-ball, and that kind of humiliation is something I’ll never forget. Also, being trained on the weapons was a terrifying and humbling experience – regular people like myself should have no access to those things! But more than anything, it gave me the confidence to play more action-oriented, stunt-heavy roles like this one in the future.

TrunkSpace: The film is a Netflix original. You also worked on “Cardinal” for CTV/Hulu, and will be appearing in “Wayne” for YouTube Premium. With so many platforms producing such incredible, character-driven content these days, how has that landscape opened things up for actors? Are there more opportunities today than there were even a few years ago?
Cruddas: Definitely. I was lucky to pop by on “Wayne” last summer and being in North Bay during the autumn for “Cardinal” was one of the coolest experiences of my career so far. It reunited me with my buddy Billy Campbell who was my first on-screen “dad” in “Copperhead” for Warner Bros back in 2012. So I don’t know if it’s just that I’ve finally figured out how to not be the world’s worst actor, or if there’s just more opportunity with Netflix’s incredible investment in Canadian productions and all these new streaming services (my next show is for another new streaming service) – but I’m just grateful to be working!

TrunkSpace: You’re also an award-winning music composer whose work has appeared in numerous projects. How do you balance your creative interests and do you view them as separate paths or one continuous path with different stops along the way?
Cruddas: I was super lucky that my parents decided to enroll me in piano lessons when I was six. I had an incredible teacher named Diane Krochko who didn’t punish me for not wanting to just play Mozart all the time. She actively encouraged creativity, along with a lot of other mentors in my early life, including my parents who home-educated me and my sisters who appeared in short films myself and my friends used to make. I think all of those experiences and people guided me to where I am hopefully going now, by giving me the chance to play – both musically and onscreen.

TrunkSpace: Creative people are always their own worst critic. Are you harder on yourself as an actor or as a musician?
Cruddas: Probably as an actor. But it’s fairly equal. I often think while I’m working on something that I’m the worst actor who ever lived and I’d be better off switching careers as soon as the cameras stop rolling. It’s only when I get up the courage to watch my work after it comes out that I realize it’s not abhorrently bad and I convince myself to keep at it. Musically, sometimes I’ll spend hours on four bars of a theme because it’s just not feeling right, but then I’ll often get carried away by the emotion when I’m writing – if I can make myself cry with a few notes, then I hope it can do the same for the audience.

Photo By: Tina Picard

TrunkSpace: What has been one of the most unexpected benefits of a career in the arts that you’ve experienced, but could have never anticipated when you first set out to pursue your dreams?
Cruddas: Cool question. Probably passing along the few things I’ve learned along the way. One of the greatest privileges of my life is my role volunteering at SickKids hospital in Toronto, reading stories and singing songs in the library there. I’m also very lucky to teach at a children’s performing arts/triple threat school called Stagecoach in Canada, and I never thought I’d enjoy that job as much as I do. I had turned down numerous teaching gigs in the past because I thought I’d be rubbish at it, but my talented friend Emma Smit convinced me to take over her class one day five years ago, and I’ve never looked back. I’m quite sure teaching acting has made me a better actor, and the kids keep me grounded – anytime I have to cut my already-receding hair for a role, I step into the classroom and get roasted more thoroughly than a Thanksgiving turkey.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Cruddas: That’s a difficult one! “Polar,” “Cardinal” and “Copperhead” are up there, as well as a film called “Duet” that I made a couple years ago with my best friend since age six, Andrew Coll. When I heard a violin section play music that originated in my head for the first time on a film called “10000 Miles,” that was insanely special too. And the project I’m shooting right now is extremely close to my heart but I’m not allowed to breathe a word about it or I’ll be dragged through the streets by my hair.

Hmm. I think more than anything, just being able to do what I love for a living is one of the greatest feelings in the world, and it’s not lost on me how lucky I am to be able to do that.

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?
Cruddas: Great question. I think I’d want to keep my career a surprise for future Josh (hopefully I still have one), but I would love to see the state of the world in 10 years. We’re in a scary, pivotal spot right now, with social media, fear-mongering and gerrymandering the enemies of truth, democracy and our planet at large. I hope more than anything that in 10 years, we’ve invited empathy and facts back to the table, and we’ve started letting smart and compassionate people make the decisions again.

Polar” premieres Friday on Netflix.

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