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Wingman Wednesday

Nelson Leis

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Photo By: Kristine Cofsky

When Nelson Leis first joined the cast of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, he never expected to be donning those character-amplifying Beelzebub prosthetics for long. And even as Season 2 bled into Season 3 – which is available now on Netflix – he was never quite sure if fate would see him through to the end.

I don’t know if I could assign it a percentage but it always felt quite likely that I’d get killed off,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “Low and behold I made it out of the season alive.”

We recently sat down with Leis to discuss instantaneous viewer reaction, tarantula discoveries, and why you have to swing a lot to swing for the fences.

TrunkSpace: Fans have fallen in love with Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. As an actor, what does it mean to work on a series that connects with people on this level?
Leis: It’s a thrill to be on a series that has a global audience. And it’s been fascinating to find out where there are massive fan bases – South America, for instance. At the end of the day, as an actor you hope that your work will find an audience, and that the project will strike a chord with those people, and that’s overwhelmingly been the case with Sabrina.

TrunkSpace: Is it a bit surreal to have that instantaneous reaction from fans after a new season drops, because with so many people obsessed with the series as a whole, the bingeing must be pretty intense? Can you get a good sense of its impact the day of its release?
Leis: It’s definitely surreal. I think that young Nelson, who was dreaming of one day stepping onto a film set, would be blown away that there were strangers reaching out to say they enjoyed the show. Honestly, present day Nelson is kinda blown away. The day the show launched, those Instagram followers and comments started rolling in, and honestly, I’ve enjoyed connecting with the fans. This is the first time I’ve been in a position to do so, in that it’s my first multi-season recurring role. So the experience is fresh for me. The fan base has been vocally appreciative on Instagram – I’m sure they’re vocal all-over the place, but that’s the only social media I meaningfully engage with.

TrunkSpace: Your character Beelzebub has more skin in the game with Season 3. Is the path you are on with the character the one you knew you’d follow when you first landed the role or have there been creative surprises along the way for you?
Leis: The entire process has been one surprise after another. In the first episode of Season 2 my character was banished to hell, and I thought, ‘well that was fun – on to the next job.’ Then last April I found out I’d be in the first episode of Season 3. Within a few days they told me it was the first three episodes, which eventually led to six. Beelzebub’s evolution and the season storyline was revealed to me as I received each subsequent script. That story arc is kept pretty close to the vest of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and the writer’s room. I was like Pavlov’s Dog every time that script slid into my inbox, and I’d dive right into it. I don’t know if I could assign it a percentage but it always felt quite likely that I’d get killed off. Low and behold I made it out of the season alive.

TrunkSpace: There’s a big makeup/prosthetic component to your character. When you’re reading new scripts where Beelzebub appears, do you envision the scene with yourself looking as you would on shooting days? Does the visual aspect of the character play into how you present him on camera?
Leis: I don’t think on the initial read of the script I necessarily envision myself as I appear on the shooting day. I’m reading it more for story. In terms of the prosthetics, they definitely have an effect on how I work in the scene. There are just certain things I can do with Beelzebub because of the prosthetics, that I wouldn’t be able to do if I just looked like me. They work as an amplification tool. This latest season as I got to be in the prosthetics regularly, new aspects of Beelzebub’s physical and emotional life materialized for me. The wardrobe also lent to the discovery. For instance this season’s Infernal Palace storyline had Beelzebub in his royal vestments – and in putting those on, there’s immediately a sense of power and wealth, and that informs the stature. It’s a constant process of discovery.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on Chilling Adventures of Sabrina that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Leis: I think what’s become apparent only in retrospect, is how my instincts and ownership in playing Beelzebub have evolved. And I’ve been able to experience that because I’ve played him in two seasons now. The trajectory is interesting – from jumping in on that first episode, having some ideas in mind, but not sure if they’d work with the tone of the show, to now, where playing Beelzebub is like putting on a familiar jacket.

TrunkSpace: You train in Brazilian JiuJitsu. Are there parallels between training in martial arts and training as an actor, especially in terms of commitment and personal investment?
Leis: One hundred percent. You just said it – it’s commitment to the process, and the long game. I don’t think you can become great at either without putting in the work year after year. It’s the 10,000 hours rule. I think you don’t start finding that flow and nuance and state of grace until you’ve been swinging the bat for a while.

TrunkSpace: Fascinating fact about you that we had to ask about… you spent (high school) summers in Nevada working in geological exploration. Which leads us to our next question, what is the most interesting thing you’ve ever stumbled on out in the desert?
Leis: Probably a tarantula. This was actually in Arizona – we were walking down this dirt path and came around a bend and there it was – a big ol’ fuzzy thing. I had never seen one in the flesh and it definitely gave me the heebie jeebies. We had shovels with us and wanted to gently nudge it to the side, so we didn’t have to step over it, but when we did that it jumped like I’d never seen a spider jump – which was a number of feet. That was one of those moments where every hair on your body stands up.

Photo By: Kristine Cofsky

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an actor and how do you overcome those self-critical insecurities?
Leis: I’m glad you asked. I’m interested in this conversation – I think it’s important to shine a light on our struggles so we can humanize them, take the shame and heaviness out of them. I think the idea of perfection has to be eliminated from any person’s mind, and certainly from any artist or performer’s mind. There has never been a time where I’ve walked away from a performance, whether it’s on stage or in front of the camera and thought, ‘well I nailed that’. Even when the scene has felt good and there’s been electricity with my scene partners, afterwards there’s always a feeling of unrest in the back of my mind. I’m more comfortable with that mental irritation now. When I was younger I used to think that it meant something was wrong, that I had screwed up, that I wasn’t enough, wasn’t talented enough. It was actually very recently when I realized, ‘oh that feeling is never going away. It’s part of the process’. I’m still as excited as ever about the work – I put in the effort, commit to the emotional and physical, and enjoy it, that hasn’t changed – but I guess what saves me is, I’m better at just letting things go… and at the same time, I’m more comfortable with being uncomfortable. I think meditation has been instrumental in all that.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career as a whole thus far?
Leis: As far as getting to explore a character over a longer story arc, Sabrina has been a highlight. And that the role happens to be this iconic demon from the Bible and medieval literature… and Bohemian Rhapsody, I mean, it’s so wild! I could never have predicted that a role like this would come around.

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?
Leis: Sometimes I think, if 20-year-old Nelson could see what I’m doing now, maybe he would be kinder to himself and more confident in his path, but I’m here now, having taken a long winding road and I don’t regret it. Some actors jumped on the career Autobahn right out of the gate, but that wasn’t my path. I dig my story. But to jump forward 10 years, no, that’s not appealing. I know the quality of life, of relationships and work that I’m interested in. I don’t know exactly what the results will look like, but that’s fine, I trust the process.

Season 3 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is available now on Netflix.

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Between The Sheets

Max Brallier

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In our ongoing feature Between the Sheets, TrunkSpace picks the imaginative brains of authors to break down what it takes to create the various worlds and characters they breathe life into via the tools of their trade… sheets of paper. While technology continues to advance and change the pop culture landscape, the written word has remained one of the most consistent and imaginative art forms.

This time out we’re chatting with author and newly-minted executive producer Max Brallier about his series The Last Kids On Earth, helping young readers cope with life through his writing, and why he’ll always have a “wicked” Massachusetts connection.

TrunkSpace: How do you think you will look back on 2019 as it relates to your career? Where did this year impact you most as a writer?
Brallier: Oh boy – I mean, it was a nearly unbelievable year for so many reasons. New Last Kids book out, Last Kids Netflix series launches, my longest run on the bestseller lists, my co-scripted non-kids VFW movie releases, and my new kids book series – Mr. Shivers – publishes. All that is big dream-come-true stuff.

But more importantly – for real – I spent a lot of time on the road with kids, teachers and librarians. And my job is really about them. Seeing the quiet kid in the classroom, talking with the shy kid at an event – that was me! And then having teachers and librarians share how they use my books. All of that is sort of the turbo-charged adrenaline shot that will make sense of my writing over the next year, that will allow – I hope! – a continued career.

TrunkSpace: Is it still a bit surreal to think that a universe and characters that you have created are now living on in a capacity that involves so many other people? Do you have to stop and pinch yourself?
Brallier: So much pinching! 2019 left me covered in bruises.

In regard to the Netflix show – taking my creation (with Doug’s art!) and handing it off to others is a weird thing – both exhaustingly frightening and tremendously rewarding. There’s the fear around loss of full control, but also the thrill of what can happen with the skill and energy and passion of others. And yes, still surreal – always will be, I think!

TrunkSpace: You’re serving as Executive Producer on the Netflix series. For those not familiar with the industry terms and what goes into them behind the scenes, what does that mean for you in terms of your day to day. What are your duties as far as the television series is concerned?
Brallier: A whole range of fun stuff! I’m involved in all aspects of the story and the scripts – and I review art, animations, character designs, storyboards – and, when lucky, get to work with our wonderful cast of voice actors. Basically – our showrunner, Scott D. Peterson, steers the ship and I chime in now and then.

TrunkSpace: Why an animated series? What was it about that medium that made more sense for you as a creator than a live action series or as a theatrical release?
Brallier: I had thought about expressing Last Kids in many ways – live action, feature film, video game, animation, all that. But animation became obvious when Atomic Cartoons – the development and animation studio – approached me about adapting the book series. With Atomic’s incredible team of artists and animators, it was just so clear.

The best thing with animation is that it’s so flexible and non-confining. Monsters? Sure, no problem. The best voices in the industry? Let’s do it! 3D or 2D? Let’s mix it up! An end-of-world apocalypse with bright green grass and vivid blue skies that’s full of fun? We can do that! Animation is such a blast.

TrunkSpace: What has been the biggest and most unexpected pleasant surprise in your journey of bringing The Last Kids on Earth to television?
Brallier: I had forgotten how much I love working with a large team of people – the Netflix series was a wonderfully-unexpected reminder. Handing off my characters – some of who are very personal – and stories to others was a nerve-wracking leap of faith. But it was immediately clear that working with a team just made it all that much more fun. Writing can be a lonely gig – working with talented and caring writers, artists, animators, producers is never lonely – just fun!

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on the series that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Brallier: When I chose the lonely profession of writing, I so missed the social, creative and collaborative rewards of being part of a team. Then with the Netflix series, all that wonderful team stuff came roaring back. It was like I was coming back to life. It’s clear now that I’ll always be searching for that in my career – and in other aspects my life.

TrunkSpace: Has working on the television series inspired you in ways with your literary writing that you didn’t intend? Has it opened up new ideas or opportunities?
Brallier: I’ve always tried to write books that feel like movies or like television. It’s very visual in my head when typing words. Movies were my first love. So, working on the television series has reaffirmed that love – and given me the confidence to write in that format. Certainly, new ideas – and hopefully new opportunities!

TrunkSpace: You’re a Massachusetts boy! (Bay State representing!) What is something that is undeniably New England about you that you can’t shake no matter how long you’re away from it?
Brallier: (Laughter) Yes, Massachusetts boy for sure – I spent most of my childhood in Reading, Massachusetts. It’s really the setting for Last Kids – but I named the town in Last Kids Wakefield, a town next door to Reading. And the school in my Eerie Elementary series is very much inspired by my own elementary school, Joshua Eaton – right down to the names of the characters.

Things I can’t shake…

  • A craving for a real Roast Beef sandwich – I like Harrison’s in North Andover and Jimbo’s in Reading
  • “Wicked.” I still say it now and then.
  • A habit of running errands in shorts, no matter the temperature
  • An undying loyalty to the Celtics (though, for baseball and football, I stick with the Pirates and Steelers).

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Brallier: Not sure if there’s just one. Hitting the New York Times bestseller list will always be up there – that was a concrete goal I had set for myself, and achieving it with Viking Children’s felt so monumental. Meeting Mark Hamill and having him read words that I wrote. Standing in an animation studio and looking out at 100+ people, all animating something that came from my brain. Opening the Netflix app and seeing Last Kids on there for the first time. Sitting in a writers’ room and giggling and smiling and realizing oh this is the best job that exists. Those are all highlights.

Biggest, though, is having a writing career at all, I guess. There’s so much luck involved. And now, to not just have a career – but for it to allow certain things: I’m able to live near family, I can afford health insurance, we’re zoned so that my daughter will go to a good school, my wife has the freedom to pursue the things she loves. That’s good stuff.

But really – again – the best thing is having a parent say, “My child reads because of you.” Or a kid say, “I had a bad day but I forgot about it for a bit because I was reading your book.”

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?
Brallier: Oh boy. No, I don’t think I’d take that journey. Back to the Future, man! Like Doc Brown says, “No one should know too much about their destiny.”

Brallier’s latest book, The Last Kids On Earth and the Midnight Blade is available now from Viking Books for Young Readers.

Season 1 of The Last Kids On Earth television series is available now on Netflix.

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Wingman Wednesday

Adwin Brown

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Photo By: Shanna Fisher

Adwin Brown has a really great outlook on fame, which a good thing considering how his career continues to build upon itself, recently joining the cast of the Netflix hit “You” in its second season. While fans have sunken their teeth into the psychological thriller, the Florida native is just as excited to be a part of it as the audience is to take it all in.

I can’t even begin to describe how thrilling it is to be on a show that has such a strong and dedicated fan base,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “It’s so fun to go on social media and see how passionate fans are about the show’s characters and the choices they make.”

We recently sat down with Brown to discuss joining a successful show mid run, not having to worry about character variables, and his views on fame in a fame-hungry society.

TrunkSpace: First, congratulations on joining the cast of “You” in Season 2! Not only is it a feat to get a show on the air, but it seems like, more than ever, it’s difficult to keep one on the air. That being said, what is it like joining a series that already has an established on-set tone? Is it a bit like being the new kid at school?
Brown
: It is definitely like being the new kid in school! You’re coming into a situation where a lot of the cast/crew from Season 1 already have established relationships with each other, so the idea of trying to enter their space, personally and artistically, can be intimidating! But from the first table read, everyone was so warm and welcoming that I knew I had nothing to worry about.

The majority of my scenes are with Penn Badgley, who is truly the most genuine and humble guy; his energy alone made my whole set experience pretty dope. Thankfully, we also had a handful of actors who were in the same position as me, so we were all able to bond over similar feelings. I’m grateful I didn’t have to go through this experience as the only newbie!

TrunkSpace: There must be something nice about booking a job that already has a fan base. Is that something you think about going into a project like “You” where you know at the end of the day, people are going to be watching when it premieres?
Brown: I mean, if I said no, I’d be lying! I can’t even begin to describe how thrilling it is to be on a show that has such a strong and dedicated fan base. It’s so fun to go on social media and see how passionate fans are about the show’s characters and the choices they make. People all over the world loved following Joe’s journey in Season 1, so I have to admit there is a part of me that feels a responsibility to make sure the fans enjoy Season 2 just as much, if not more!

TrunkSpace: From an acting perspective, did you know your character Calvin’s full season arc when you joined the cast, or did elements of his journey become revealed to you throughout production? Does that impact how you make choices for a character in the early going – if in fact you don’t have the full picture?
Brown: I didn’t know Calvin’s full season arc at all! Which as an actor, not only made things pretty exciting but it also allowed me to really live in the moment and focus on the situation at hand in that precise moment. I think when you know the outcome of your character’s arc, it can sometimes give you too many variables to worry about at once, so I’m glad the writers let me learn about Calvin on a week to week basis. When we would have our table reads, it was always really exciting for me to learn new details about Calvin and try and figure out how I could use those new discoveries on set.

TrunkSpace: “You” is the kind of series where there is no guarantee that everyone we’re following along with is going to make it to the end. Does that give the work a sort of creative high stakes in that, in a way, you’re kind of acting on a tightrope not necessarily knowing (at least for the audience) who is going to fall and who isn’t?
Brown: Yes, absolutely! The stakes for this show are unbelievably high and I honestly think that’s what makes it so addicting! You get attached to these characters and you want what’s best for them, but in the back of your mind… you know exactly what Joe is capable of, so you’re on the edge of your seat the entire season. I mean, I distinctly remember certain table reads where the entire cast/crew in the room audibly gasped about certain outcomes in the script. So if we were shocked about what happens in Season 2, I know our audience will be too!

TrunkSpace: Without giving away any spoilers, what are you most excited about for people to see heading into Season 2?
Brown: I’m really excited to see how fans react to the new setting of Season 2. Joe leaves New York City, and ends up living in Los Angeles… and that idea alone is so intriguing to me. He’s on the run trying to escape his past and lay low, so he decides to move to a city where everyone is literally desperate for attention? That juxtaposition is iconic.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on “You” thus far that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Brown: When I look back on my experience working on “You,” one of the first things that comes to mind is how much I respect Penn. “You” isn’t really an ensemble kind of show, right? Yes, there are other lead characters, but the show is told from Joe’s perspective… Penn Badgley is THE lead. Meaning he’s usually the first actor called to set that morning, and usually the last actor to leave at night. He’s pretty much in every scene, and he has to do all that voice over work – which I think we can all agree is a huge part of the show’s identity. Mind you, Penn is originally from NYC where they shot Season 1, but Season 2 takes place in LA, so he had to relocate away from his family for almost five months! And not once, not once, did I ever hear him complain about anything. He showed up to work every day with a smile on his face and was nothing short of professional and pleasant. The way he treated the cast/crew is a real testament to the kind of guy he is, and I hope I can bring half that much energy to every future set I’m on!

Photo By: Shanna Fisher

TrunkSpace: What are your views on fame as it relates to your acting career? Is it part of the package that you have come to terms with it, or, would you be comfortable focusing on your craft and never having to be recognized outside of the work itself?
Brown: This is a good question! I do believe that when you get to a certain level in your acting career, fame does seem to become a part of the package. And to be truthful, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that necessarily, it all just depends on what your motives are.

For example, if I shoot a feature film that I’m extremely passionate about, of course I want to do my best and make sure that people are aware of said film. So, maybe I would be a guest on “The Ellen Show” or get a spread in a popular magazine… those things could potentially make me “famous” but my motive for doing them is to further share my art with a larger audience. The issue that I think a lot of people face is they get a taste of fame, they become addicted, and they want more… and in order to get more, they change their motives. When it comes to fame, I think the real important question to ask yourself is “Why are you famous?” and if you’re satisfied with the answer, that’s all that really matters.

TrunkSpace: If someone came to you tomorrow and said, “Adwin, here’s a blank check. Go and greenlight any kind of project that you want for yourself,” what kind of project would you put into development?
Brown: Hmm… I’m not good at answering questions like this because I’m too Type A to let my imagination run this freely, but I can give you some cute highlights. It’s definitely a comedy. Will Smith and Queen Latifah play my parents. Maya Rudolph plays my bougie Aunt. Keke Palmer plays my sister. Hilarity ensues. Oh, and at some point, there is a dance number and I slay it.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Brown: I feel like I shouldn’t say “You” because I’ve already been talking about it so much! But honestly, I’ve always wanted to be a part of the Netflix family, so it really has been a highlight for me. Another great highlight was doing “Will & Grace,” that’s something I’ll never forget. It’s an iconic show with a hilarious stellar cast and I can’t believe I got the chance to watch them work for a week – a definite crash course in doing a live comedy television show! I soaked it all in like a sponge.

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?
Brown: Wow, we love a time machine question! My answer would have to be a solid NO, simply because I’m enjoying the present too much. Life is meant to be full of surprises, right? Why would I skip all those chapters in my book of life when the one I’m on now is so damn good?! I’d rather just keep going page by page.

Season 2 of “You” streams on Netflix December 26.

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Wingman Wednesday

Natalie Malaika

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Photo By: Rashelle Campbell

In an industry where so much is out of your control, you can easily be let down when things don’t go according to plan. Thankfully for actress Natalie Malaika, who can be seen appearing in the new Netflix thriller “Fractured,” planning has never been a part of her plan, which keeps her future flexible.

I find extreme bliss in doing what I love as a career because it doesn’t feel like work,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “And as time goes by, if that continues to be true, I would absolutely continue on this journey.”

We recently sat down with Malaika to discuss working on a Netflix project, learning on set, and what kind of on-screen badass she wants to play.

TrunkSpace: Your journey in the arts began as a dancer and musician. What made you transition from those first loves into acting, and ultimately, was it a leap that you were hesitant to make because of how difficult it can be to break in?
Malaika: When my interest in the performing arts as a whole first began, my mom enrolled me in all sorts of classes, including acting. She wanted me to find what I loved most, and somewhere along the way dance and music became the forefront of my focus and acting got placed on the back burner. I think that happened for a few different reasons. The precarity of the industry definitely created some hesitation, but more than that, my lack of knowledge on what to look for when navigating through the sea of contacts and representatives. It wasn’t until I attended an arts high school, as a dance major, that I started to dabble in acting again — we were encouraged to explore art forms outside of our major. I now had access to the guidance I needed earlier on to navigate the acting industry. So with that, I found an amazing talent agent by my senior year and began to take acting seriously.

TrunkSpace: When you decided to pursue acting professionally, did you put a plan in place – short or long term? What kind of path were you hoping to pave for yourself and do you feel like you’re on it now?
Malaika: Not right at the onset. I more so started to plan while I was in my final year of university. To be honest, I’m not much of a planner, though I do understand the importance of setting some semblance of a layout in order to establish direction. My path is still a work in progress – I’m still a work in progress – but when I took a leap of faith and moved to Vancouver from Toronto that was the first part of the plan. Now I’m slowly seeing the pieces fall into place.

TrunkSpace: Netflix is the pinnacle of original programming these days. What is it like being a part of a project for a platform that seems to literally be in every home and on every device? Is it exciting beyond the work itself given the size and scope of where “Fractured” will live?
Malaika: It’s so crazy. There are other productions I’ve been in that are also on Netflix and I’ll randomly have people who I haven’t spoken to in years messaging me on Instagram with a screenshot of me! It’s so weird but awesome all at once. I can’t tell you one person I know who doesn’t have Netflix, so the exposure is great for sure.

TrunkSpace: Did you view your time on “Fractured” as just as much of an education as you did a job, because there are some heavy hitters involved in the project both on screen and behind the camera that we would imagine you could absorb a great amount of knowledge from?
Malaika: Totally! Any set that I step on I consider it an educational experience. I’m always striving to be better at my craft everyday; whether I’m reading scripts, attending classes, watching films and television shows with a critical eye, it’s important to me. I learned so much from observing Sam Worthington and his work ethic and his engagement on set. Brad Anderson, the director, was also such a joy to work with, and was a great source of knowledge. His vision and the way he invites you into his vision is wonderful.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on “Fractured” that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Malaika: How important it is that everyone has the same vision in order to successfully execute the mission, which is to create great content. Brad and the producers did exactly that.

TrunkSpace: We started our chat talking about your earliest entertainment industry roots. Is dance and music still a part of your life, and if so, how much creative energy do you put into them these days?
Malaika: I consider myself an actor who also dances and plays piano. A few years ago I would’ve said the opposite. Although dance and music are still very big passions of mine, my focus is primarily on acting right now and working on that craft. So, for now, I’ve placed dance and music on the back burner this time.

TrunkSpace: If someone came to you tomorrow and said, “Natalie, here is a blank check, go greenlight whatever you want for yourself to star in.” What kind of project would you put into development?
Malaika: If you know the movie “Colombiana” with Zoe Saldana, it would be that! That was a great movie! I want to play a badass assassin role. Use my dance background and perform my own stunts.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Malaika: That feeling of being a working actor. Does that count? I think every actor can relate to going through a lull in their career, especially in the beginning stages. Since graduating from university, I’ve been able to zero my focus in on acting and developing my craft. As a result I notice a positive response to that. You really do get out what you put in.

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?
Malaika: That’s a tough question! As I mentioned before I’m not really much of a long term planner. What I know right now is that I love acting and the performing arts. I find extreme bliss in doing what I love as a career because it doesn’t feel like work. And as time goes by, if that continues to be true, I would absolutely continue on this journey.

Fractured” is available now on Netflix.

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Wingman Wednesday

Matty Cardarople

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Photo By: Birdie Thompson

A certified scene stealer, Matty Cardarople’s star continues to rise after memorable roles in Netflix shows “A Series of Unfortunate Events” and a little something called “Stranger Things.” And while he’s enjoying his Hollywood run, more than anything, the New Hampshire-born entertainer is just happy to be here entertaining.

I had a close call with death back in 2010 when I had to have emergency heart surgery,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “It’s all fixed now and I’m super healthy. It just makes me feel even more grateful that I’m here doing what I love.”

His latest film, “Itsy Bitsy,” crawls onto VOD this Friday.

 

We recently sat down with Cardarople to discuss adopting pizza mottoes, spider scares, and why he enjoys living his life in the moment.

TrunkSpace: We’re New Englanders. We know that you’re a New Hampshire guy. What is something about you that is so utterly Granite State that you can’t shake it no matter how long you’re away from the Old Man of the Mountain?
Cardarople: Our state motto is “Live Free or Die.” That’s a lot of pressure to put on people, so maybe it should be “Live Free and Don’t Die” or “Live Free and Eat Pizza Every Chance You Get.” Also, I can’t shake saying, “wicked cool,” a common catchphrase of us NH folk.

TrunkSpace: Your new film “Itsy Bitsy” highlights a common fear people have, and that is, spiders. Break it down for us reality-wise. You’re in your house, you spot a spider, how do YOU deal with that 8-legged intruder?
Cardarople: Spiders? I’m not scared. I swear. It’s the truth. (Nervous laughter)

Not really. I’m terrified of spiders. I run from them.

TrunkSpace: When you’re starring in a film about killer spiders, there must be some odd moments on set where you have to pinch yourself and say, “Is this really my life?” What was the most surreal moment for you in bringing “Itsy Bitsy” to life?
Cardarople: Working with Denise Crosby was really surreal for me. She has such an amazing body of work and I’m a big fan. It was a dream come true to work alongside her.

TrunkSpace: As a performer, is there a bit of a leap of faith involved in taking on a project like “Itsy Bitsy” when you don’t necessarily know what the future will look like for it in terms of distribution? How do you navigate that aspect of your career – not only picking quality projects, but finding those that will break through all of the noise when there is so much content now at our disposal?
Cardarople: You got to put your trust in the director. I could tell Micah (Gallo) had a clear vision of what he wanted and that’s really important in selling a film. It can make or break you. In this case, Micah and his team hit a home run. So, the rest come easy.

TrunkSpace: For the audience, the end result of a film or television series is always the most memorable, but for those working on the project it must go must deeper than that. What is something from your time on “Itsy Bitsy” that you’ll carry with you?
Cardarople: The people and the laughs that you share.

TrunkSpace: You’ve had a big year. The third season of “Stranger Things” was released to rave reviews and some much deserved fanfare. Have you had a chance to digest just how much of an impact that series has had on pop culture, and in turn, how it has impacted your own life and career?
Cardarople: It’s had a huge impact on me. I had a close call with death back in 2010 when I had to have emergency heart surgery. It’s all fixed now and I’m super healthy. It just makes me feel even more grateful that I’m here doing what I love – uplifting people and bringing them joy. It’s the best gift you can give to people.

TrunkSpace: Prior to your on-camera career taking off, you were Luke Wilson’s personal assistant. How invaluable was that job for you in terms of understanding how the industry works and then being able to apply those lessons to your own career?
Cardarople: (Laughter) Yes, I was. It was very helpful with my journey to becoming an actor. I learned a lot from him. Learning his day-to-day, and seeing all the work he put into his craft. Luke actually got me my very first speaking role in a film, “Blonde Ambition.” I played a mailroom clerk.

I have definitely used the skills I learned from working for him – staying on task, achieving goals, and communication. It was a really rewarding experience.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Cardarople: Not to sound cheesy – but I can because I’m the king of pizza – honestly, it’s being here and being able to give people the gift of laughter every 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?
Cardarople: No, I wouldn’t because that’s too much pressure to put on myself. I want to live my life more in the moment. Take it day by day. Enjoy the ride….

Itsy Bitsy” is available August 30 on VOD.

Featured image by: Birdie Thompson

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Wingman Wednesday

Anthony Alabi

AnthonyAlabiFeatured
Photo By: DIANA RAGLAND

As a former professional football player who spent years inside the NFL, “Family Reunion” star Anthony Alabi embraces the parallels between his old career as an athlete and his new career as an actor. Like a well-managed locker room, a set can take on a family-driven atmosphere where impenetrable bonds lead to memorable results on the field, or in this case, the screen.

It’s beyond the words on the page,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “There’s got to be that stuff in between that can really show the audience, ‘Oh, there’s a real relationship here.’”

We recently sat down with Alabi to discuss tackling impossible careers, going against type, and why, like football, acting goes beyond the Xs and Os.

TrunkSpace: Professional actor. Professional football player. Both are careers that very few people ever get to enjoy. Do you feel like you’ve captured lightning in a bottle twice in terms of the opportunities that you’ve had in your career?
Alabi: That’s so funny you say that, because that’s always the kind of thing that I say. I tell people, “Don’t ask me to do it twice because I don’t think it’ll happen.” I feel very fortunate to have done what I did with football – to reach that level and to be able to play there and to leave under my own choice – and then be able to come and do this. And once again, it sounds good. It sounds like, “Oh you just went and did it,” but there was a lot of pain and suffering and tears. A lot of psychological heartache in between that. But in the end it all seemed to pay off.

My dad… I remember when I told him when I was leaving the NFL to retire and that I wanted to be an actor, and he was like, “What is it with you and impossible careers?” (Laughter)

My best friend kind of put it the best. I’m just kind of annoyingly ambitious. I have this thing, and I think it should be with anybody, if you feel that you can do something and you feel that you have the ability to do it, then I don’t see why you wouldn’t go do it.

TrunkSpace: There are 32 professional football teams, which means there aren’t a lot of spots available for people inside the NFL. With so much content being produced these days due to all of the various streaming platforms and cable networks, do you think it is easier to break into acting than it is football?
Alabi: You would think that, but once again… there’s more volume of shows – more stuff – but there’s more actors. There’s more people to compete against.

I really wanted to set a couple of things in my head when I first started. The biggest thing was, 1.), don’t tell anybody you played football. And I think the big thing about that for me was making sure that people didn’t just immediately assume that, just because you were a professional athlete, that now you want to be an actor because you just miss the attention and you’re in it for the wrong reasons.

The second thing is I wanted to go against type. I knew that immediately when they saw me walk through the door, they were like, “Oh cool, you’re going to be the bouncer or the thug or the cop or the detective or just the big guy that doesn’t really say anything. You’ll kind of just always be intimidating and always just have a scowl on your face.” And that‘s not what I wanted to do.

TrunkSpace: Which is great because now you’re on a show with Richard Roundtree who has had to deal with that himself.
Alabi: Right, and we talked about that. It’s a big thing. They’re going to see how they see you until you change the perception, because we all know in this town it’s “perception is reality.”

I was fortunate enough to get with reps that really believed that and we were kind of parallel in the thought that we needed to go against type. We needed to put me somewhere different. And I think that did a lot.

TrunkSpace: As the performer, you also have to be willing to go that route and not just work to work, which is a difficult thing to maintain when you’re already pursuing a career where so much is out of your control.
Alabi: Right. And I think it’s a process. I think patience is something that’s underrated and I’m still learning. Immediately you want to come in and be like, “No, I just want to work. I want to get the work done.” That’s great, and you may start working a ton, and you’re a bouncer and your this and that, but then all of a sudden you’re capped as a costar or all you do are these small parts constantly where you’re always a mean guy in the prison. Or you’re the mean guy security guard or the mean guy corrections officer. You never kind of break out of that, that’s how they see you. It’s why I never shied away from the parts I get in like “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday” where I was a transgender hairstylist. I’m like, “I don’t care, I’ll play any of it,” because once they can see that, “Oh, he doesn’t care, he’s willing to kind of go there and do anything,” that’s when it frees you up to kind of be anything you want.

TrunkSpace: You’re playing against type in “Family Reunion” as well. Has the role of Moz helped to change perception?
Alabi: Yeah, it has, and I think more so than them seeing it, it was more of just having more screen time for them to see it. With a guest star, you don’t really get a chance to show all of it. It’s just kind of a snippet here or a snippet there. At most, if you get a top show, you may get a little more in the episode, but I think being able to have an entire series in a body of work with episode in and episode out, they can see it. “Oh wait, he can pull that off, or, “He is different.” And that’s what I loved about the show. It’s one of the things that I really, really hold onto with “Family Reunion,” is that Moz is not a traditional football player type.

When you look at Moz, and when you look at the way he interacts with his family – the way he interacts with his parents and in his relationship with Cocoa – it’s different. It’s different than the stereotype that we’ve all had where it’s like this big, black football player, kind of silent type, who doesn’t really interact much and where the kids are more of my wife’s problem and not mine. That’s just the stereotype, and like I said, perception is reality. But with all that being said, Moz is different. He’s funny and he’s strict when he has to be. He’s loyal and loving and caring about his parents and his wife and his family, and I think he’s whatever he needs to be in the moment. That’s what producers and casting can see is that there’s a dynamic there where it’s not just a single line throughout the series where Anthony/Moz is just funny. It’s not that. There’s dramatic moments. There are moments of anger, there are moments of comedy, there are moments of vulnerability. And I think all of those things, when they see that and they see that body of work, it suddenly now changes the perception and opens me up to do other things, which has happened.

Photo By: DIANA RAGLAND

TrunkSpace: So as a performer, when you’re spending a prolonged period of time with a character like you have with Moz, does it enhance your performance because you’re seeing so many sides to this person?
Alabi: It does. And I think, you have to understand too, day one, I can do all the research that I want… I can sit there and think of moments and background and really dive into the character of Moz, but I’m not going to know anything until the interactions really start. That’s the biggest thing. Once we started kind of getting into it… and then we got the 20 episode order, which is beautiful… but once that started happening, around Episode 5 or Episode 6 of filming, I started to realize, “Oh, I can speak this and I can speak that and this is my point of view of that and point of view of this.” When you start really getting to flesh out the corners, the deep corners of that character, things change. They’re characters, but in that world of “Family Reunion,” it’s a human being and just like any other human being, they have to evolve. And I think that’s the biggest thing. I think that over time, no matter what, you’ll see Moz evolve. Where it goes, I don’t know, because a lot of that has to do with writing, but a lot of it has to do with the interactions with the other characters on the show.

TrunkSpace: So then are there parallels to football in that regard where, say, your first day in a game you may have some nerves – same as being on set – but once you get beyond that and get more comfortable on the field, it becomes less about the experience and more about focusing on your job and what you’re there to do?
Alabi: There are a ton of parallels between football and acting and I would say one of them is that. I always learned, in football, when you’re prepared you move and when you move fast, you move competent. And with competence comes an ease. I think that’s the same thing in acting. I think if you show up on set, you’ve done the work, you broke down the episode or the scene and the moments that are in it – you’ve broken down what you’re going to do and you’ve made choices – I think when you prepare then you’re kind of quick on your feet. So if something happens in a scene, you don’t lose that moment because you weren’t prepared… you play off of it. And I think that’s where all the juicy bits and all the best stuff comes from, the stuff that just comes off of an interaction where you’re like, “I just think this is appropriate right here.” And for me, acting and football are very similar in that way, where there is an ease. I think once you’ve gotten that first line out, once you’ve gotten that first scene out, suddenly you’re comfortable and you get into a rhythm and you start to feel the music of it and you can just buy it. When you go on set you feel it and you know exactly how Moz would respond. You know how he would feel. You get the interaction. I think that is what helps as time goes on.

TrunkSpace: We’ve been in locker rooms. We’ve been on sets. When either is firing on all cylinders, there really is a family atmosphere present. That must be another welcome parallel between your two careers?
Alabi: Absolutely. I was telling my wife the other day because we were talking about it… it’s like I’m never not around family. And it’s great because I look at somebody like Loretta (Devine), and I feel like have a special relationship because she plays my mom on the show, but since day one, it’s always been this kind of loving, caring kind of relationship where I tease her and look after her and she is always there to give me some advice and always there to make sure that I’m okay. And she’s constantly just around and loving. If you look on set where Tia (Mowry-Hardrict) is, that’s where I am, and where I am, that’s where she is. We’re always together. I think those are the things that really build that relationship. That’s the stuff that people will see on screen where it’s like, “Oh, that’s not scripted. They just have that chemistry. They’re just close.”

And you’re right, it’s the same thing in football. There’s a reason why Peyton Manning and any good receiver he’s ever had were in sync. It’s because it’s beyond the Xs and Os. It’s beyond the words on the page. There’s got to be that stuff in between that can really show the audience, “Oh, there’s a real relationship here.” And that could be small things like a touch here on the shoulder or it could be a look when the camera’s not focused on you. It could be a little thing that you say under your breath that doesn’t have anything to do with the scene, but you say to each other. Those little interactions are what make people go, “Oh my God, I love them. They’re great.”

Family Reunion” is available now on Netflix.

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Wingman Wednesday

Christine Lee

ChristineLeeFeatured
Photo By: Laura Baldwinson

When Stephen King tweeted out props for the new zombie apocalypse series “Black Summer,” it didn’t only pique the interest of horror fans, it also sent a jolt of excitement throughout the cast. Series star Christine Lee, who plays Korean-speaking survivor Sun, reveled in the shout-out from the King of Horror, but more than anything, she enjoyed bringing a hero to the small screen that audiences are not used to seeing.

There was so much satisfaction in playing an immigrant woman who turned everyone’s expectation upside down,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Lee to discuss taking stylistic risks, her real-world zombie survival plan, and why she always ends up doing what her heart tells her to.

TrunkSpace: Starring in a Netflix series is an exciting journey in and of itself, but then Stephen King went ahead and gave it a thumbs up. What would 12-year-old you think about this chapter in your life if she had a glimpse of what was to come?
Lee: My 12-year-old self would have freaked out but told no one about it? I always wanted to be an actor but to imagine that I’d be in a show that Stephen King gave a shout out for, would have felt like a far-fetched dream to me.

TrunkSpace: “Black Summeris a prequel to the hit Syfy series “Z Nation.” Is there a change in the on-set energy going into a job knowing that there will already be an audience waiting for you on the other side?
Lee: I think the creative team had a lot of confidence going into “Black Summer.” They’ve already made a show that ran for five seasons. They knew how to work together. Of course, we were taking a risk in stylistic choice. But John Hyams really trusted his team to bring their A game. And we did.

TrunkSpace: What were you most excited about exploring with your character Sun when you first read for her and what did you grow to love about her as time went on and more of her personality and journey were revealed to you?
Lee: All I knew about my character for certain was that she was only going to speak Korean – I was very excited for that. But what was even better was that Sun turned out to be a total badass. There was so much satisfaction in playing an immigrant woman who turned everyone’s expectation upside down.

TrunkSpace: We touched on it earlier in our conversation, but Stephen King the KING of horror gave Black Summersome serious love on social media. Do you think that opened up the series to horror fans even more so than it already was, and from your interactions thus far, how are lovers of the genre embracing what youre bringing to the small screen?
Lee: Oh yeah, his tweet was totally unexpected and it attracted more attention from the audience. I think the viewers find our show refreshing. Some of them are shocked by the fact there’s no build up and we just push them into this crazy experience. But honestly, that’s the best way to keep people on the edge of their seat.

TrunkSpace: When youre working on a show that involves zombies, there must be some surreal moments on set from time to time. Did you have any pinch memoments where you looked around zombies at the crafty table and said, WhoaI did not see this coming in my career?
Lee: My favorite moments on set are the times when I hang out with actors in zombie make up, just sipping coffee and talking about random things in life – like paying bills, or finding a babysitter. We could have the most intense moment on camera and then just ask, “When’s lunch?” It’s honestly the best. We all gel together because we love creating that fantasy and illusion for the audience. And to see what goes on behind the scenes is just a cherry on top.

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the end result of a film or series is always the most memorable, but for those involved in a project wed imagine it is the experience. What will you take from your time on Season 1 of Black Summerthat youll carry with you for the rest of your life and career?
Lee: I came out as a different actor after “Black Summer.” I’m so lucky to have worked with so many creative and talented artists from that show. Thanks to “Black Summer,” I’ll always be hungry to create an innovative show for the audience.

Lee in “Black Summer.”

TrunkSpace: Weve all been there. Its late at night, were tossing and turning because were unable to sleep, and we start thinking, How would I do in a world where a real zombie outbreak occurred?Now that you have some hands-on zombie survival experience, how would you fare if the world went the way of the undead? What would be your approach to seeing tomorrow’s sunrise?
Lee: I’ve thought about this a lot – and I’ve decided that I’ll put my cat as a priority. I don’t care if that will get me killed. So I’ll pack water, knives, cat food, and my cat. And run to an isolated place. Maybe I’ll use my old boss as a bait for zombies to buy some time. Just kidding (..or am I?)

TrunkSpace: Outside of acting, you also sing in a cover band. What is your absolute, hands down favorite song to cover and why?
Lee: “Kiss” by Prince. I love the quiet sexual confidence in his delivery until things blow up in his guitar solo. It always gives me so much joy to belt out that last verse, too.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Lee:Black Summer.”

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?
Lee: Hmmm… I definitely know I want to direct and produce. If the glimpse of the future says I’ll be successful, awesome. If it shows me that I’ll fail, I’ll still go all out. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of person. And I end up doing what my heart tells me to do even when people say it’s a stupid decision.

Season 1 of “Black Summer” is available now on Netflix.

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Wingman Wednesday

Celia Au

CeliaAuFeatured
PHOTOGRAPHY: Nick Onken/HAIR: Corey Tuttle/MAKE-UP: Romana Makeup New York/STYLING: Carolyn Son

With “Wu Assassins” set to premiere August 8 on Netflix, series star Celia Au is prepared for the world to see her in a completely different light, though what the show’s possible success would mean for the future is not something any performer can ever truly prepare for.

“I mean beyond the work itself, I have no idea,” she says when asked about the impact of “Wu Assassins” in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “I know that I’ll always be Celia Au and maybe I can pay off my mortgage earlier than expected. (Laughter)”

We recently sat down with Au to discuss unwrapping the excitement surrounding the series, having two shows on the air at the same time, and why she has Photoshopped herself into some of her favorite films.

TrunkSpace: From an outside perspective, “Wu Assassins” doesn’t only look like a ride as a viewer, but to be involved in a series like this – with such big set pieces and complicated choreography – it must have been a ride to be a part of as well. As you gear up to its premiere and the idea of people sinking their teeth into the first season as a whole, what kind of emotions are you juggling with?
Au: Wow! That’s a good question! I am still trying to figure out what my emotions are right now. I am definitely excited! Every time when I receive an email notification about the show, I am like a kid on Christmas morning. I am so proud of what we accomplished together as the Wu fam and I just can’t wait for you guys to check it out.

TrunkSpace: From what we’ve seen, this feels like the kind of show that could become a big hit for a platform like Netflix. That being said, is it important for you to try and not assign expectations to projects that you work on knowing that so much is out of your control? Does that help to not be let down when a project doesn’t find an audience?
Au: I definitely hope that people are going to enjoy and have fun watching it. I know for sure we had a lot of fun shooting the show. I do believe in sending good positive energy into the universe and not worry too much about things that are out of my control.

TrunkSpace: With Netflix rolling out all of the episodes at once on August 8, do you feel like you’ll have a pretty good idea right away if “Wu Assassins” will have an impact on your life beyond the work itself? If it’s a smash hit like “Stranger Things,” it could literally change things overnight.
Au: Oh my! It would be amazing if our show is a smash hit like “Stranger Things!” I mean beyond the work itself, I have no idea. I know that I’ll always be Celia Au and maybe I can pay off my mortgage earlier than expected. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Huge show. Huge platform in Netflix. Does it feel like, regardless of it becomes a smash hit with audiences, that “Wu Assassins” will be a career game changer for you that could open up other doors within the industry?
Au: Being on “Wu Assassins” has already been a game changer for me because I’ve met some awesome people just working on this show. I definitely hope that the show will open doors not just for me and our cast but for Asian Americans in the industry.

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the end product is always the most memorable because that is what we see, but for those involved in the project we imagine it goes much deeper than that. What is something about your work on Season 1 of “Wu Assassins” that you’ll carry with you through the rest of your life and career?
Au: For sure the friends I’ve made on the show. I know that we are going to be friends for life. Career wise, my character Ying Ying is something completely different than any characters I’ve played before so the world can see a new side of Celia and what I can do.

TrunkSpace: Not only do you have “Wu Assassins” premiering on August 8, but you also have Season 2 of “Lodge 49” debuting on August 12. In this industry, does it feel like “when it rains it pours” in terms of the work not only coming in, but also with it finding its way into the world at the same time?
Au: Yes! I totally agree with that. It’s funny because I shot Season 2 of “Lodge 49” months after we wrapped “Wu Assassins” and now they are coming out four days apart. I feel like this happens a lot to people in our industry. We can be unemployed for a long time and suddenly when you book one job, there will be another job that wants you and they almost always have an overlapping schedule.

TrunkSpace: You grew up hanging out in your parent’s video store. As you look back at where you’ve come from to where you are now, would that little girl be surprised by the path you’re on or was this always in the back of her mind? What would excite young Celia most about where you are now?
Au: This was most definitely not on young Celia’s mind. I remember watching movies and being like, “Oh! That’s cool but how do these people make a living by playing pretend?” I think what will excite young Celia the most about present-day Celia is that she gets to see Asians on screen as heroes and kicking butt! When I was a kid, we used to be obsessed with the Power Rangers because that’s the only show where we could see Asian American superheroes.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Nick Onken/HAIR: Corey Tuttle/MAKE-UP: Romana Makeup New York/STYLING: Carolyn Son

TrunkSpace: You have a background in graphic design. If you could Photoshop yourself into any movie poster past or present – and in doing so be magically a part of that film as a performer – what would you choose and why?
Au: Of course, I did! I mean it is so much fun and I do the same to my friends’ faces as well. I’ve Photoshopped my face onto Hiro from “Big Hero 6,” Satsuki from “My Neighbor Totoro” and most recently, Peni Parker from “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse!” I’ve turned them all into either birthday invites or holiday cards.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Au: I think the highlight of my career thus far has been the opportunity to meet/work with all the creative minds in the industry and getting to be on a show playing a character that young Celia would pretend to be.

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?
Au: Yes, I would 100 percent take that journey. YOLO!

Wu Assassins” premieres August 8 on Netflix.

Season 2 of “Lodge 49” debuts August 12 on AMC.

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Wingman Wednesday

Kelsey Flower

KelseyFlowerFeatured

Feeling as if he had been transported into a post-apocalyptic video game, Kelsey Flower relished in getting to step onto the “Black Summer” set after the designers had their way with it. Between the abandoned cars, shattered windows and gory blood smears, he was sent packing mentally into another world, making it easy for him to tap into his character Lance. Constantly on the move, Lance has an uncanny ability to land on his feet through the course of Season 1 (now available on Netflix), even in the worst of circumstances, leaving his real-world alter ego to deliver more emotion – fear, sadness, despair, etc. – than dialogue.

We recently sat down with Flower to discuss Stephen King’s stamp of approval, shooting in his hometown, and why being cast in “Black Summer” is a reminder to add more cardio to his daily routine.

TrunkSpace: Having a show on Netflix is exciting enough, but what was it like getting a plug from Stephen King – an icon in the world of horror?
Flower: It was definitely surreal. It was crazy. I had to double check and make sure it was actually him. (Laughter) It was just such a nice vote of confidence, particularly in a genre that’s been very saturated. There’s tons of zombie things, so it was very nice to have one of the masters of horror say that it stood out for him as something new and great.

TrunkSpace: It no doubt opened the door for some people who may not have thought to check out “Black Summer” to then sit back and give it a stream.
Flower: Exactly. I saw so many comments under that Tweet that were like, “Oh, I wasn’t really going to watch it, but maybe I’ll give it a shot.” That kind of thing. So yeah, for sure. It was great.

TrunkSpace: What we thought that was great about “Black Summer” was its nonlinear storytelling approach, especially with that first episode. It really hooks you.
Flower: Yeah, I think the creators did a really good job of making sure that we knew that this was something different right away. You’re like, “Oh wait, that just happened…” and so you’re kind of invested right off the bat.

TrunkSpace: You shot a portion of the series not far from where your parents live. Do you feel a sort of special connection to the series, not only because of the work, but because of how it ties into your own hometown?
Flower: Absolutely. It was such a special, special project, not only because it was the biggest project I’ve done thus far, but because I got to shoot it in my hometown in a bunch of locations that I’ve had memories from growing up. I shot at a school where I had one of my first dances. And just the fact that I got to bring my parents to set – and my brothers to set – and show them what I do and what I’m pursuing, it was very special and it was nice to share that with family, for sure.

TrunkSpace: Is it a little weird that actors spend so much time telling themselves that they have to go to other places – Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver, etc. – and then here you are filming this big show in your hometown?
Flower: (Laughter) Yeah. It always seems like that’s the way. They say if you want to work in Calgary, you’ve got to move to Toronto. If you want to work in Toronto, you’ve got to move to LA. That kind of thing. It was very funny, but it made it all the more special, and I’ll do it anytime. It’s a good excuse to see family.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned that this is the biggest show you’ve ever done. Do you view “Black Summer” as a game changer for your career, and if so, have you felt its impact already?
Flower: Yeah, absolutely. I found myself kind of graduate, like get a promotion, in this industry. I was able to get better representation here in Toronto because of it with one of the top agencies. I’ve been able to put myself on tape for LA projects, and just bigger projects and bigger roles, too. Usually I just go out for a small principal, or like a one-liner with 30 people auditioning to say, “Hey, he went that way.” Now I’m getting the chance to audition for meatier, larger roles, which is amazing.

TrunkSpace: Your character, Lance, doesn’t exactly have an easy apocalypse, which from an outside perspective, made it look like a very physical shoot. Was there ever a point where you were running, fleeing or leaping off the top of a bus where you felt like, maybe, you bit off a bit more than you could chew given the physicality of it?
Flower: I definitely remember thinking, “Ooh, I should have done some more cardio for this.” (Laughter)

It was very physical, obviously. I spent more time running than speaking, for sure. And as it is with film, every scene you see me running, I probably had to do that five to 10 times just for continuity and getting it all right. And because they wanted that look of the jean jacket and the hoodie, I had to have that in the middle of the summer. There was definitely not a lot of prop sweat on that shoot. (Laughter)

But I was a kid a candy store and I was having the greatest time, for sure. It was a positive experience the whole time, and just a good reminder to me to do some more jogging. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Yes, you did more running than speaking on the show, but you also had some very dramatic, moving moments, particularly in the bunker where you spoke up for Jaime King’s character. That was a scene where, less (dialogue) was absolutely more.
Flower: Yeah, that was actually a really, really great challenge, and it was very validating because up until this point, I had been cast as like the funny stoner – the Seth Rogan kind of character. The guy who’s the awkward best friend. So it was definitely great to have the directors come in like, “No, we cast you because we think you’re a great actor and we think you can tell things, because we know that we’ve written a script that has minimal dialogue, and we cast you because we think you can tell the story without words.” So, that was very validating… and very, very nerve wracking. But also, I was incredibly grateful to have directors that trusted me with what I could do and what I could bring to it. It was incredibly rewarding.

Flower in “Black Summer”

TrunkSpace: There wasn’t a lot of Lance’s backstory presented to the audience. Was that backstory presented to you, or did you have to kind of figure out who he was pre-apocalypse on your own?
Flower: We had a little bit of backstory. There’s a monologue that I auditioned with for the initial audition that gave me a little insight into who Lance was. But for the most part, they really let me leave it up to my imagination, and bring certain things and backstory that I had come up with. So, talking to John (Hyams) and Abram (Cox), we were able to collaborate a little bit on who Lance was, and he’s surprisingly close to me.

TrunkSpace: And that’s interesting because, here he is, a guy who can’t necessarily get out of his own way, and yet he’s one of the last few survivors of the apocalypse.
Flower: Yeah. The whole thing with Lance that was described to me was that he is the guy that should have died first, and for whatever reason, he didn’t. We all have that friend that for some reason, they just keep getting lucky and they just keep going, and they don’t even know why or how. They’re not even aware of it, but things just work out somehow. He (Lance) just has this crazy will to survive. And it’s kind of this idea of in this world, the heroes die quicker and the good people who stick their necks out, they die faster.

TrunkSpace: A series like this – where you’re surrounded by zombies and the apocalypse – it must present some pretty surreal moments on set, like standing at the crafty table with a member of the undead. What was the most surreal moment for you that you’ll carry with you through the rest of your life?
Flower: Oh, man. There was this awesome scene I got to do where it was just me. I get to walk out into the street where the great set decorators have made it this… there’s abandoned cars, and a car on fire, and windows smashed in, and all this stuff, and I just got to walk into this world. It was like I stepped out of the alley and there’s just this world of apocalyptic chaos. It was just this crazy moment that was so wild, and I get to play pretend like this. It was so much fun because they did such a good job in this tiny Alberta town. It’s quiet, and there’s chaos and bloodstains. It was just this crazy, surreal moment of like, “Oh, I just stepped into a video game and now I get to explore this new world.”

Season 1 of “Black Summer” is available now on Netflix.

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Wingman Wednesday

Parveen Dosanjh

ParveenDosanjhFeatured
Photo By: Mandisa Photo

Actress Parveen Dosanjh is thrilled to be working at a time when television storytelling has become so sophisticated and character-driven, but a career in front of the camera was not always in focus. While being drawn to performance and storytelling from an early age, it wasn’t until she attended a motivational seminar that she chose to step away from her career and pursue acting full time. The gamble paid off, and after landing guest spots on series like “Supergirl” and “Arrow,” she was cast as Dr. Nani Singh in Season 1 of the science fiction series “Another Life,” currently streaming now on Netflix.

We recently sat down with Dosanjh to discuss feeling an instant connection to her “Another Life” character, working on a platform like Netflix, and what helps her feel stable in a career known for its instability.

TrunkSpace: Your new project “Another Life” is the kind of series that would not have been considered 20 years ago, but because of how sophisticated television has gotten, these types of science fiction epics are now possible on the small screen. Do you feel like you’re working at a particularly rich time, not only due to the quality of the content being produced, but also due to how much focus is given to character development these days?
Dosanjh: Absolutely. Having this quality of content makes it more enjoyable for the viewers. There is much more creativity involved as sci-fi is evolving and it will only continue to grow, as the possibilities with the genre are endless. The focus given to character development is a blessing to all actors and viewers, because of the connections and relatability that can be formed.

TrunkSpace: Looking at your particular character – Nani – what was is about her that jumped off of the page at the outset and made you say, “Yes, this is the kind of part I can really sink my teeth into?”
Dosanjh: That is actually how I felt! I loved that she was extremely intelligent, and also strong. She can really hold her own and knows the value she brings to the research. Her relationship with Eric (Justin Chatwin) also interested me, as they tend to banter and compete but also have each other’s best interest at heart. Very relatable to many work partners in real life.

TrunkSpace: This is your longest time – seven episodes – spent with one character. What was that prolonged journey like with a character and did you know going in what her journey would look like throughout that first season or were you still discovering as you went along?
Dosanjh: Good question. I definitely had an idea about this character, but I discovered so much more as I went along through the season. Because it was Season 1, everyone discovers more as they go because there isn’t a set expectation of what the show should look like. It made it quite interesting and definitely more fun to add some more layers as the episodes progressed.

TrunkSpace: Because this is such a big project that has a home on a platform like Netflix, does it feel like it could be a career game changer for you in terms of opening up more doors in the industry?
Dosanjh: Yes, and I’m very grateful for that. Netflix is obviously one of the biggest platforms in the world right now, and I feel very blessed to be able to work for them. I’ve always been a huge fan of their original content and love the quality of it. Being part of this great quality show with the exposure and accessibility for viewers that Netflix provides will definitely open up more doors for me.

TrunkSpace: Science fiction, like horror, seems to have a bit of a built-in audience. Fans of the genre seem more willing to try out something new because they’re interested in the worlds that these types of projects play in. With that said, is it nice to know that a project you’ve worked on will have eyeballs on it when it eventually airs, because it seems like in this industry more than any other, so much of it is out of your control once your contribution is over?
Dosanjh: Yes, it’s great to know that people are drawn to this particular genre and there is a great fan base. So much is out of our control, and all we can contribute is solid work, but yes I think having the certainty that it will be viewed by this ‘built in audience’ really helps, and inspires me to work even harder and be more creative with my choices.

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the end product is always the most memorable because that is what we see, but for those involved in the project we imagine it goes much deeper than that. What is something about your work on Season 1 of “Another Life” that you’ll carry with you through the rest of your life and career?
Dosanjh: Wow, there is so much that I learned and will carry forward, but I’ll touch on a bit. I think not being afraid to make bold choices is one of them. I learned that from Justin Chatwin, as he makes such interesting choices that add so much depth to his character. He was really not afraid to do that, and that inspired me and pushed me to think even more outside the box, as all of my scenes were with him. I also learned a lot from working with such experienced and present actors (Justin Chatwin, Selma Blair and Barbara Williams). I was soaking in so much throughout the season and learned more on that show than any other definitely.

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, acting wasn’t always part of your long-term plan. What drew you to this industry as a career, and at what point did you decide to take the leap and put 100 percent of yourself into it?
Dosanjh: Yes, it wasn’t a part of my long-term plan, but there was always something that drew me to it. I was an athlete through University, and I loved the performance aspect of it. I also loved storytelling and the study of human behavior (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually). I eventually discovered that my passion was acting and performance, and I knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy road, but I believe that our instincts are always right, and we should follow them. I attended a motivational seminar, and within that four days, I decided I would give up my business, and focus on acting full time – and of course put all of my effort into it. We are truly born with a parachute on our backs, and we should always take the leap. Life is too short not to do what we love!

TrunkSpace: There’s a lot of uncertainty that comes along with a career in the arts. What have you found to be your rock in terms of staying focused and on your path throughout the course of your career?
Dosanjh: Yes, it is not a ‘normal’ life. Meditation, physical activity and surrendering are what help keep me balanced. Of course, we must train efficiently and stay prepared as actors as well, but the toughest moments mentally are when you’re auditioning and putting effective effort in and not booking. I think those are the moments that matter in our development and focusing on doing things that you love will really get you through. Daily meditation has helped me with focusing on my highest self. Working out (MMA especially) helps release/venting for me and helps me connect to myself physically. Having a great support group or friends that understand you and your life really helps as well.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Dosanjh: “Another Life” is the highlight thus far! I also just shot a passion project that has been in the works for the past eight months, and is currently in editing, I am super excited about that one. It’s a short film that will display the power of the female and connecting to our inner warrior. I think it will be very impactful.

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?
Dosanjh: Ahh, what an interesting question! And a tough one. No, I don’t think I would jump ahead to see what it looks like. I think that would create feelings/expectations that are unnecessary at this time in my life and would cause me to not stay present. Staying curious, open and trusting that everything will work out how it is meant to be, and is what would serve me best!

Season 1 of “Another Life” is available now on Netflix.

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