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Wingman Wednesday

Annette Reilly

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Photo By: Ian Redd

Annette Reilly is seizing the day. The talented actress and director has overcome daunting obstacles on her quest for creative fulfillment, including a life-changing battle with colon cancer where she discovered silver linings in even the darkest of clouds.

The Alberta native can currently be seen starring as Sabrina’s mom, Diana Spellman, in the hit Netflix series, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.”

We recently sat down with Reilly to discuss raising a teenage witch, instantaneous celebrity, and why her biggest hurdle in life was also her biggest blessing.

TrunkSpace: Raising teenagers isn’t easy. Raising a teenage witch… well, that’s well beyond our pay grade! For those who have yet to binge their way through “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” what kind of mother is Diana, and how has she influenced her daughter? Where do we see Diana’s impact the most?
Reilly: Diana, to me, is a strong willed yet gentle mother. She’s a bit of a mama bear. She’s protective of her daughter and will do anything to keep her safe. I think Diana, being mortal, is a huge influence on Sabrina. I mean, Sabrina was raised by witches. Her struggle is largely to reconcile the two sides of herself, mortal and witch, the mortal side being represented by Diana.

TrunkSpace: The series has been receiving an incredible response from fans. What has the experience been like for you, seeing it released into the world and watching the Season 1 reactions occur in real time?
Reilly: Oh my gosh. It’s been unreal. I wasn’t sure how the show would be received, and to be totally honest, didn’t really even know what I was getting into when I was cast. There was a fair bit of secrecy surrounding it at that point. The reception has been beyond anything I was expecting.

TrunkSpace: Being involved in a series like “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” does it have an instantaneous impact on your career as a whole? Does the buzz of one project lead to more doors opening on other projects?
Reilly: I would say, in general, yes. There comes an instantaneous “celebrity” status of sorts. I think, as a whole, the more you can get your name out there as an actor, the more rooms you can get into and, as a result, the more roles you end up getting cast in.

TrunkSpace: The series intro is fantastic. It’s nostalgic, and yet modern at the same time, while instantly setting the tone for what the viewer is about to watch. When you first read for the series, did that tone come through? Could you get a sense of what the series was going to look and feel like?
Reilly: Oh! Isn’t it wonderful?!?! I absolutely adore the opening. I saw it for the first time at the premiere and looked over to my partner and mouthed, “OMG.” It satisfies all my comic book fandom needs.

As far as the tone of the show goes… as I mentioned, there was some secrecy surrounding the project when I first read for the role of Diana. Looking back to the audition, I would say yes. The tone was definitely there when I first read. I really had no idea what they would do with it all though. For instance, the lenses they use to shoot this series are insane and give the show such a unique look. I could never have imagined what those would bring to the overall tone.

TrunkSpace: Your character’s future is a bit in limbo – literally. Do you yourself know where her future story is heading, or at this stage, is it just as much a mystery to you as it is to the fans of the series?
Reilly: This is TV! No one ever knows where the story is heading! (Laughter) Ok, I’m sure Roberto (Aguirre-Sacasa) has a pretty good idea… but it’s a mystery to me!

TrunkSpace: For the audience, the most memorable aspect of a series is the finished project, but we would imagine for you, it’s the process of seeing it all come together. What was the biggest highlight of being involved in the series thus far – the moment that you’ll carry with you through the rest of your life/career?
Reilly: Oh gosh. There’s so many highlights. I’m really not sure I can pick just one! Doing the floss with Bronson Pinchot, Miranda Otto and Lucy Davis, all in a line, was a good one. I never in a million years thought that would happen. I’ve also developed a wonderful relationship with Georgie Daburas, who plays Edward, Sabrina’s dad. I’m always grateful when a friendship comes out a gig. But, the biggest highlight for me is actually something I can’t talk about yet. Stay tuned!

TrunkSpace: Chicken or the egg question. We know that you’re also a director and producer, so which love came first… was it working in front of the camera or behind it?
Reilly: My first love has always been acting. I started when I was a kid and knew instantly that it would be a part of my life forever. I started directing after I finished my acting degree and it was then that I realized I could use both my acting and artistic skills as well as my more logical, administrative side, all at the same time. They both fulfill me in very different ways. I’ve often thought that I should focus on one or the other, but I don’t have it in me to give up either. And then I do projects like my most recent short film, “A Typical Fairytale,” where I directed and starred (and also produced) and I realize that I CAN do both! Why not! Although, not sure if I would wear all three hats at the same time ever again. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: What has been the biggest hurdle you’ve had to leap in order to get to this point in your career and what did you take from that experience that you apply to your career moving forward?
Reilly: My biggest hurdle was also my biggest blessing. I was diagnosed with Stage IIIb colon cancer back in 2011. I had surgeries, did chemo, the full meal deal. I’m not going to lie, it was tough. My daughter was a toddler at the time. There’s nothing like trying to potty train while you’re doing rounds of chemo. (Laughter) I learned a lot about myself from that experience. I truly believe that there is a silver lining to every dark cloud, if you choose to see it. My silver lining was that I discovered what I needed to do to live my truest life. I discovered my self worth. I discovered how fleeting this life can be and that I should seize every opportunity. That’s basically how I’ve been living ever since and it seems to be working for me!

TrunkSpace: We read that you love high level math, which is a skill set that probably helps in the role of producer, particularly when it comes to staying on budget. What are some other skills that people need – beyond the creative – to work in this industry?
Reilly: A tough skin. This is show BUSINESS. A strategic mind and tough skin will help more than you can ever know. You can’t take things personally, or you’re done. Especially as an actor.

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?
Reilly: Heck no! I’ve seen enough “Star Trek” episodes to know better than to mess with the space-time continuum. Also, I enjoy the adventure of life. Knowing an outcome before it happens takes the fun out of the journey. And why are we all here if not to enjoy the journey? I’ve been face to face with the end game. I’m good just riding this out as long as possible and enjoying every minute of it.

Season 1 of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is available on Netflix now.

 

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Wingman Wednesday

Robert Longstreet

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There is a lot to get lost in when sitting down to binge the Netflix series “The Haunting of Hill House,” a family drama/horror hybrid based on the 1959 Shirley Jackson novel and reimagined by filmmaker Mike Flanagan. The element of the nail-biter that most enamored us didn’t come from the scares or the story itself, but instead, the performance of actor Robert Longstreet, who took a supporting character in handyman Mr. Dudley and turned him into a memorable piece of an already-stellar ensemble. His mesmerizing monologue in the episode “Eulogy” was not only a highlight of the series, but one of the finest pieces of dramatic acting that we have seen in quite some time.

We recently sat down with Longstreet to discuss how he nailed the monologue in only four takes, why he’s happy to be peaking in his 50s, and the reason he can no longer leave the house without showering.

TrunkSpace: This must be a bit of a wild ride for you, from when you booked the gig as Mr. Dudley to now. What has the experience as a whole been like?
Longstreet: It started out so crazy. I got this audition and had that monologue for two days and memorized it for the audition, and then I got a call in the car driving home that they had booked me a plane ticket. I was on a flight at 5:30 the next morning and then standing in front of the mansion with Henry (Thomas) the day after that, so it was just a whirlwind.

TrunkSpace: So the monologue was what landed you the part?
Longstreet: Yeah, it was between me and a couple of people, and Anne McCarthy (the casting director) sent the takes to Mike (Flanagan), and he chose me, which was incredible.

TrunkSpace: There’s been so much love on social media for that monologue. For us, it was easily one of the most moving aspects of the season…
Longstreet: Oh, thank you so much. Yeah, I’m so proud of it. It’s overwhelming because I’ve heard from people that I haven’t heard from in years who have seen it, and I’ve definitely gotten some offers, but I’m being picky and chasing good writing. It’s just been unreal. And I’m not on any social media at all. In fact, Mike was so generous – he read me some Tweets on set last week. He said, “Do a Twitter search. There’s love for you all over the place.” And I said, I don’t even know what a Twitter search is, Mike.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Well, that’s probably not a terrible thing because whenever there’s love on socials, there’s always a corner of the Web filled with negativity just for the sake of negativity.
Longstreet: I’m sure, and that’s the Devil’s bargain of that – if you believe the good stuff, you have to believe the bad, too. If I agree with a bad review or someone says something shitty about me, it crushes me.

TrunkSpace: With this project and your work in it, we have seen nothing but good things being said.
Longstreet: Oh, I’m so glad. Thank God. Yeah, I would just dissolve. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: You mentioned that you’re chasing good writing. With this project in particular, beyond your monologue alone, it seemed like a real actor’s project. Every actor had their moment, their own monologue, and it just felt like this was a piece that was written for actors as opposed to – and especially in the horror genre – the acting being an afterthought.
Longstreet: Right. Exactly, and those are the things that you just don’t care about. If you go to a movie and you watch 50 million people get shot and you’re not invested in any one of them, it just becomes a bore. But Mike is a real actor’s director and in a way that is kind of shocking. He’s trying to build an ensemble and a family, and he brings people back, and he says, “I’m going to give you something completely and utterly different the next time.” And you can trust him because he really does it!

And the way that he directs actors is with such gentle care. He sets it up so easy and talks to you so calmly and sweetly and is usually joking most of the time with you to try to relax you. He’s really cognizant of what actors need, and he just gives you only active direction. He doesn’t confuse you. It’s very brief, but really succinct. He just knows exactly what he wants and exactly how to make an actor comfortable to get it.

TrunkSpace: With that in mind, and going back to your monologue, was that always intended to be shot without cutaways? Was it always supposed to be JUST you?
Longstreet: Yes! I think there was a safety built into it in case it didn’t work, but that was four pages long, and we did four takes, and the fourth take is the one that’s in the show. He (Mike) came up to me after I had botched three of them… every time I got to the daughter, it was so painful, my mind would just blank out… and so he came up to me, and he said, “We’ve got it. We have got this thing, and I can cut to Henry and cut to his reactions and do it, but if you get through it once all the way, it’ll be art.” And I was like, “Well, hell, yes, let’s do that immediately.” Then we did it! He completely took the pressure off of me and said, “Let’s just do it again for shits and giggles.”

TrunkSpace: Another powerful moment that you delivered on was in the very last episode when you’re carrying your daughter out of the house. There’s just something about your body language that is… it’s such a gut punch.
Longstreet: Oh, it’s just brutal. It’s the weight of the world, and her dead weight is just sinking me down beneath the floor boards. That’s someone who’s lost everything. I feel so bad for the Dudleys. I really do. They’re just in hell.

TrunkSpace: For the viewer there was this sense of there being something ominous about the Dudleys right up to that point where you delivered the monologue in the basement. Was that always the intention?
Longstreet: That’d be a really great question for Mike. I think so. I think it was, to have them be a mystery. They’re kind of caught up in this whole thing, too, and they don’t have a lot of options. I mean, they live right there on the property! They’re old enough where I don’t see them being able to change careers or do anything different. They’re not nefarious, but they have to be very careful to dole out their information as well as they think that the current occupants of the house can handle it, or we’d be out.

Longstreet in “The Haunting of Hill House.”

TrunkSpace: Right. If you came on too strong, you’d be out on your butts and then you would lose that connection to your first born.
Longstreet: Definitely, and I actually think there’s a loving part of them that they’re the caretakers of the house and also trying to be the caretakers of the occupants of the house because they know how bad it is. They’re playing tricks with the magic of it. They know if they get out before dark, they’re away from all the evil. We try to encourage people to pray. We try to encourage people to do little, subtle things to try to get a little more light into that house. We just have to be very careful, or we’d be out, and we’re the police of that place.

TrunkSpace: What’s so interesting is that while most of the characters had their story arcs wrap up, in a lot of ways, the Dudleys ending was really just the beginning.
Longstreet: Well, I’d better get my old ass there just in time, too. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Don’t drive any vehicles too fast!
Longstreet: No! God, I’m being very careful until I can make it up there myself.

TrunkSpace: Has this series been a game changer for you? Has it altered the way you’re viewing your career moving forward?
Longstreet: Oh, it definitely has. It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done, and I’ve made like 70-something movies. Probably in the first three days, as many people saw this show as had ever seen my entire career of movies. (Laughter) So it’s a game changer that way… and becoming friends with Mike. He’s someone that I genuinely love and trust now, so that’s actually the biggest game changer. And he put me in “Doctor Sleep” immediately. He said, “We’re going to work on a million things together,” and everybody says that, and I was like, “Yeah, right, right.” And then in four months, I was working with him again, so I will never doubt that man again.

TrunkSpace: We’ve seen people call you an overnight success, but with more than 70 movies under your belt, there’s nothing overnight about that. Is that a little strange to hear, knowing how hard and how long you’ve been working?
Longstreet: Yes, but I think it’s always that way for people. I’m starting to take off in my 50s, which is so… I guess that’s better than peaking in high school, but it feels so strange. It definitely feels like it’s kicked into gear.

I would say like it’s a Sisyphean journey, but I’m Sisyphus who finally learned how to keep the rock at the top of the hill.

TrunkSpace: Peaking in your 50s has its benefits. So much of the early, adolescent self-consciousness is gone, which probably helps in this business.
Longstreet: Yes, and thank God. I didn’t start working until I had bags under my eyes. I had no character before. I looked like a doll, I think, and nobody knew what to do with me.

TrunkSpace: So was acting always the plan? Was there a plan B?
Longstreet: No. I mean, I loved music, and I wrote a lot of songs, and I did that, but if I ever got discouraged with acting, I would go back to working with the mentally handicapped. I was a medical counselor, and I loved that because it was nothing about me. The emphasis was all off me, and I could get refreshed that way through other people and then get back at it. I’ve stopped for periods of time and I tried to live in Wilmington, North Carolina, and be a normal guy for five years, but I’ve never been more depressed in my life.

TrunkSpace: Creatives tend to have a gypsy soul.
Longstreet: Yes, and you can put as many blankets as you want over it, but that gypsy soul will burrow right out again.

It was something that… I dared to dream, and the negative critic that we all have in our heads told me it would probably never happen, but I couldn’t stop. I was just too in love with it.

TrunkSpace: And thank God you didn’t stop. Your story is very inspirational. It’s a powerful message for people not to give up on their dreams.
Longstreet: I hope so. I would love it if someone could look at it and feel the same way, because I literally… 10 years ago, I felt as lost as ever probably. But I started doing it myself. I started finding scripts and executive producing things and giving myself really good roles in independent film, and that’s really hard. I don’t think I ever want to produce again, but if I hadn’t have done that, if I hadn’t made my own venue, I never would have even gotten to now.

TrunkSpace: Is success scary? Can it all become overwhelming at times?
Longstreet: Yeah, it is. That’s why I stay out of it so much. I try not to read anything and just live my own small life and hopefully am not cognizant of all that, because I think anyone can get sucked up and wrapped up in that.

I had a couple people point at me in the Atlanta airport, and I was like, “Ooh, that’s going to be a new thing.” (Laughter) I feel like a paranoid person anyway, so maybe it’s probably equal. Maybe it’s just sort of like leveled out now. (Laughter) But yeah, it’s a little shocking. Now you can’t walk out of your house after not showering for two days and go anywhere. You’ve got to be a little more careful.

Season 1 of “The Haunting of Hill House” is available now on Netflix.

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Trunktober

Trunktober: The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell

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This October we’re focused on one thing and one thing only… watching as much horror-related programming as possible to prime the pop culture pump in celebration of Halloween. Our consuming will be taking place nightly, and while there’s no rhyme or reason to how we’re going about choosing our scary screenings, we’ll do our best to tell you how we did it so that you can watch them as well.

Title: The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell

Directed By: Not Listed

Starring: Christine McConnell, Colleen Smith, Michael Oosterom, Mick Ignis, Drew Massey, Adam Mayfield, Dita Von Teese

We Watched On: Netflix

Trunktober Approved Because: Part Food Network and part twisted “Fraggle Rock,” this is a series so quirky and unusual, it’s hard to imagine such a thing could even get greenlit, but we’re thankful it did. Imagine it this way… If Lydia Deetz from “Beetlejuice” created a show based on the writings of “The Handbook for the Recently Deceased,” and in doing so, became the Martha Stewart of the afterlife, this is what the show would look like.

Biggest Scare: This isn’t a scary show, but the elaborate curious creations that Christine cooks up in the kitchen are terrifying, mostly because we know our versions could never come close to looking as amazing.

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Trunk Stubs

Trunktober: Cargo

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This October we’re focused on one thing and one thing only… watching as much horror-related programming as possible to prime the pop culture pump in celebration of Halloween. Our consuming will be taking place nightly, and while there’s no rhyme or reason to how we’re going about choosing our scary screenings, we’ll do our best to tell you how we did it so that you can watch them as well.

Title: Cargo

Directed By: Ben Howling/Yolanda Ramke

Starring: Martin Freeman, Simone Landers, Anthony Hayes, Susie Porter, Caren Pistorius

We Watched On: Netflix

Trunktober Approved Because: We were leery of this film at first. We didn’t want to dig it, even though we love Martin Freeman in almost everything he’s in. Like bread left in the toaster too long, we are thoroughly burnt… when it comes to anything zombie-related. But then something incredible happened. Howling and Ramke make a zombie movie that isn’t about zombies. Sure, they’re there, heads in the sand, but really this is a film about family, desperation, and the most nerve-racking ticking clock we’ve experienced for some time.

Biggest Scare: For parents, especially those with little ones, the biggest scare is the premise itself because it makes you wonder what you would do if placed in the same exact situation. If you were in a zombie apocalypse, and you had been bitten, how far would you go to make sure your child was safe before you turned into the living dead and tried to eat them? Seriously, it’s scarring!

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Wingman Wednesday

Trevor Long

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PHOTOGRAPHY: James Lee Wall/GROOMING: Faye Lauren

There’s so much to love about the Netflix series “Ozark,” and like a gift that just keeps on giving, Season 2 saw Trevor Long’s role in the captivating storyline expanded. That was great news for the Rhode Island native who plays Langmore crime family patriarch Cade, but it was even better news for the viewers because everything he brought to the screen was 100 percent binge-worthy gold.

We recently sat down with Long to discuss the many “Ozark” surprises, how he breathed life into Cade, and why you won’t find him sitting down with a psychic for career advice.

TrunkSpace: “Ozark” took a lot of people by surprise and had them binging like they’ve never binged before. Was the success of the series a surprise for you or did you know that you were involved in something special even in the early going?
Long: It was definitely a surprise. That said, in the back of my mind there was this feeling that this could be great. Just knowing how good the writing was and, of course, the talent they had lined up, but I was pleasantly surprised how it took off.

TrunkSpace: What about in terms of your character Cade – did you know his role within the story would be expanded heading into Season 2 or did that come as a pleasant surprise?
Long: I really didn’t know too much. However, Jason Bateman graciously hinted at it when I saw him at the premiere after Season 1. He basically said, “Get ready to work, you’re getting out of prison.” So, from that I knew I would be at least in it a bit more than Season 1, but I had no idea that I would be in it to the extent I was until about a month out from shooting.

TrunkSpace: As Cade’s story has expanded, what have you been enjoying most about his path and how that has impacted your day to day on set?
Long: I really enjoyed the colors they brought in his story out of prison. It was a lot of fun to explore this sort of wildness and unpredictability that Cade expressed. The writers gave me a lot to play with for sure. Being on set was like being with family. It was always a lot of fun, even if the material was really dark. We just had to have that lightness when sitting around and waiting. It was a lot of heavy material to live out.

TrunkSpace: We read that you did a lot of research to bring Cade that “Ozark” authenticity that seeps throughout the entirety of the series. What was it about him that you felt needed the research to get right, and what was the most difficult aspect of that journey?
Long: I knew Cade was so different than who I am on so many levels – someone who was so destructive and abusive to his daughter was something I certainly had to face inwardly in my imagination and interior emotions. But the outward physical aspects of Cade were what really propelled me to research. His accent, for instance, and even how he moved physically. I knew I had to have his rhythms right, so I tackled this by watching a lot of documentaries and even movies such as “Winter’s Bone.” I also read a lot of books by southern writers that depicted low lives in order to catch their essence and to color my imagination. I love doing this kind of stuff as long as I don’t become too lost in it. I take what’s essential. I guess the difficult part was to truly embody Cade in a very truthful and honest way that brought me alive.

TrunkSpace: Many of the scenes in “Ozark” are very heavy, and we would assume, could be emotionally draining for the performers involved. Did you have days where you felt like you needed to do an emotional download after a particularly rough day of shooting?
Long: Oh, of course. I did that by hanging out with the Langmore’s off set. We were like a very happy, funny, and dysfunctional family. We became very close. Laughter was essential to keep from burning out.

TrunkSpace: What’s great about the series – and Cade in particular – is that there is a lot of gray area with the character for the audience to fill the gaps on backstory and internal motivations. Was that a conscious decision, to leave bread crumbs for the viewers to follow on their own?
Long: To be honest, yes, but that credit really goes toward the writers. They beautifully kept the audience guessing, and myself as well. It’s such a privilege when the writing is that good to just let it take you where it wants to. I just got to keep it as simple as possible and stay out of the way.

PHOTOGRAPHY: James Lee Wall/GROOMING: Faye Lauren

TrunkSpace: What can you tell us about your new film “Seeds,” which if we understand it, you also produced? There’s some freaky imagery in the trailer!
Long: I can say it seems to be a pretty uncomfortable film to watch, and that is something we tried to achieve. I did help produce, but that really entailed bringing together a lot of elements that I had access to from many years in the business, such as people I could call on and bring in to help the process.

TrunkSpace: Seeing you in “Seeds” reminded us of our own high school wrestling days. Did you have to suck some weight to play Marcus in the film? Was that something that the script called for or was it a physical trait that you brought to the character through your own journey of discovery?
Long: (Laughter) That’s funny. Yeah, I felt I had to lose some weight. It was not indicated in the script, but I instinctively came to know that Marcus should not look like this healthy, fairly strong guy. So, I dropped down to about 155 pounds. Normally, I am about 185 pounds, so the weight loss was pretty significant for me. I felt that this guy had to look and feel weak from his emotional decay and the actual physical anguish he inhabited. All of these things affect me as an actor in how I express another’s life. It can be as subtle as just a very different pair of shoes. I live for that kind of stuff.

TrunkSpace: The film takes place on the New England coast. We know you’re a New England boy. What is it about New England that makes such a great setting for horror films/thrillers? It just seems like a regional staple for genre projects.
Long: That’s an interesting question. I’ve never really thought about that, but now that you mention it I will start to. Maybe it’s that it has all those puritan roots, and there are certainly a lot of woods, and New England, as you know, in the winter can look and feel pretty downright depressing… spooky even.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years to see what your future/career held, would you take the trip, and if not, why?
Long: Really? That’s tough. I would have to say no. I’m very impressionable. If a psychic tells me I won’t work as an actor for the next three years, I would spiral into depression. I’m also a firm believer that everything unfolds in the only way it can at that particular moment, no matter how much we think we are steering the ship. It will be whatever so-called destiny has mapped out for my career 10 years down the road. I’m always in favor of being surprised.

Seasons 1 and 2 of “Ozark” are available for streaming on Netflix.

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Trunk Stubs

Trunktober: The Babadook

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This October we’re focused on one thing and one thing only… watching as much horror-related programming as possible to prime the pop culture pump in celebration of Halloween. Our consuming will be taking place nightly, and while there’s no rhyme or reason to how we’re going about choosing our scary screenings, we’ll do our best to tell you how we did it so that you can watch them as well.

Title: The Babadook

Directed By: Jennifer Kent

Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman

We Watched On: Netflix

Trunktober Approved Because: Will Smith once sang, “Parents just don’t understand…” At the time, that may have been true, but now that the freshest of all Princes is himself a parent, he may understand all too well… at least in terms of that which makes “The Babadook” a terrifying concept. Parents have bad days, but what if those bad days had nothing to do with us? What if they had everything to do with a sinister storybook creature lurking in the shadows of your home?

Biggest Scare: The biggest scares exist off-screen. The thing that makes the monster so menacing is that you only see just enough of it to send your imagination off in directions you never wanted it going in the first place. Masterful and budget-friendly!

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Trunk Stubs

Trunktober: Train To Busan

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This October we’re focused on one thing and one thing only… watching as much horror-related programming as possible to prime the pop culture pump in celebration of Halloween. Our consuming will be taking place nightly, and while there’s no rhyme or reason to how we’re going about choosing our scary screenings, we’ll do our best to tell you how we did it so that you can watch them as well.

Title: Train To Busan

Directed By: Sang-ho Yeon

Starring: Yoo Gong, Yu-mi Jung, Dong-seok Ma, Su-an Kim

We Watched On: Netflix

Trunktober Approved Because: For those who don’t mind subtitles, this zombie flick from South Korea is a wild ride, though admittedly not quite as wild as those the fictional characters from the film are forced to take as passengers on a besieged train from Seoul to Busan. We don’t blame you if you feel burned out on anything related to the undead, but this movie has something that so many others in the genre do not… heart. (Probably because zombies are more focused on brains.)

Biggest Scare: There aren’t a lot of jump scares to lift you out of your seat, but the sense of impending doom is enough to make you uneasy for the duration of the film, particularly for those watching who are parents and would have to traverse the undead landscape with kids in tow.

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Wingman Wednesday

Rebecca Knox

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A modern day Marilyn Monroe with a gritty edge, Rebecca Knox is an actress who demands your attention by the way she commands her space in any given scene. Memorable by making the most of every moment on-camera, her gaze itself could one day win an Emmy thanks to the way her eyes reveal so much about those she is inhabiting. Currently the New York native can be seen as inmate Tina Swope in Season 6 of “Orange Is the New Black,” available now on Netflix.

We recently sat down with Knox to uncover her kinship with Tina, what she’d miss the most if she were behind bars, and why personal branding is so important.

TrunkSpace: Do you view your role on “Orange Is the New Black” as a career game changer? Has Tina Swope opened up more doors for you within the industry?
Knox: Being on such a monumental award-winning show is definitely a game changer! I have made some great friends and contacts through this experience for sure.

TrunkSpace: When you first read for Tina, you instantly had a kinship with her. What was it about the character that you felt connected you to her?
Knox: Her attitude!

TrunkSpace: Tina is tough, but is any of that exterior a facade? Is there a part of Tina who is tough because she has to be due to her surroundings and those she associates with?
Knox: Definitely. She has to be that way to survive – although I think a part of her loves the fight.

TrunkSpace: We’ve seen how Tina deals with life in prison, but how do you think you, Rebecca, would deal with it? How would you handle the experience emotionally?
Knox: I’d like to say I would find a way to survive. Maybe not as violently as Tina does, but I would make the “right” friends, I guess. It’s hard to answer this question – I am so far from that place and I hope to always be. I can’t really fathom it.

TrunkSpace: Life behind bars means a life without a lot of things we probably take for granted. What would you miss most if you were in Tina’s prison-issued jumpsuit?
Knox: Spending any amount of time with my family. Open grassy fields and the beach where my parents live. My freedom.

TrunkSpace: We read that you were a fan of the show before you booked the role. Having been a fan, what was that first day on set like? Was it all one big “pinch me” moment?
Knox: It took a few episodes where I had that “pinch me” moment. I was definitely nervous at first but work is work so I pushed through.

TrunkSpace: There are so many great actors involved in “Orange Is the New Black.” Did you view your time on the series as just as much an education as you did a job? Who did you study and try to absorb from most?
Knox: Well, I am still on the series and we are currently filming, so I am still drinking it all in. I love being on set. I always learn so much.

TrunkSpace: The great thing about a career in the arts is that each day can be completely different and in many ways it’s impossible to plan for tomorrow. Is there something exciting about that whole “anything is possible” outcome? On the opposite side of that coin, can that same excitement give way to uncertainty?
Knox: Yes! If you are lucky, you can audition for so many different types of roles, try on their shoes and play. I think people get caught up in the nervous jitters and pressure of booking an audition that they forget it’s still an opportunity to act. There are always opportunities to act. I would be lying if I said it’s easy. Sometimes I am down on myself, and can be my own worst enemy – thinking things like, “I’m not good enough,” but a way I combat those feelings is with compassion for myself, and connecting with other actors around me. It helps a lot to have a community of people who understand those feelings.

TrunkSpace: You have such a memorable look. As soon as we caught sight of you on camera you were etched into our brains and we thought, “I WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT HER!” That is not something you can quantify. Do you think that personal branding is important for actors to consider and is it something that you have worked to achieve within your own career?
Knox: Wow! Well I’m blushing, thank you! In terms of personal branding, I only became more aware of it when I had to. Personal branding is definitely important. I found what worked for me and it has helped me. The more specifically you can present yourself, the more memorable you become.

TrunkSpace: Like we said, we want to know more about you. You have a very mysterious, edgy vibe that has us intrigued. So give us some good insight into who that mysterious, edgy person is. What are some fun facts about Rebecca Knox?
Knox: Thank you! I love being called mysterious. Hmm, well let’s see. I am a New York City native. I ran my very own record label, Jet Boy Records, when I was 18. I managed a punk band whose members were around 8 to 10 years my seniors. I was a really shy kid, and dealt with a lot of bullying growing up. I sort of came into my own when I was in high school, first to fit in, and through that process found myself… my edgy self. (Laughter)

Orange Is the New Black” is available now on Netflix.

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Wingman Wednesday

Irene Choi

IreneChoiFeatured
Photographer: Leslie Alejandro/Hair: Sara Tintari/Makeup: Aaron Paul/Styling: Cassy Dittmer

With her new series keeping stream-hungry audiences entertained on Netflix, Irene Choi is holding tight as the roller coaster ride that is her “Insatiable” journey prepares to leave the station for a second season. Playing the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Dixie Sinclair in the quirky revenge dramedy, the scene stealer is enjoying the path her on-screen alter ego is traveling, which is not exactly new territory for the Harvard graduate who also played Annie Kim on the fan-favorite series “Community.”

We recently sat down with Choi to discuss why Dixie is more than your average mean girl, how the naysayers learned to love the show once they gave it a chance, and the reason she would have liked to see where Annie Kim’s fictional future led.

TrunkSpace: “Insatiable” is inspired by a true story. Does that mean that there is a real Dixie in the world? Because for those of us here with daughters who may meet a Dixie in their life one day, that’s kind of terrifying.
Choi: There absolutely is not. She is 100 percent made up, which is a relief. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: When the material you’re working on is based on something that actually came from someone’s own experiences, does it have a different feel on set? Do people approach the material in a different way?
Choi: I would say in this case, no, just because it was really just sort of the premise, which was inspired by Bill Alverson, who is the real guy. But otherwise, the storylines were just completely in a very heightened fantasy world where people kind of go relatively unpunished for a lot of bad deeds that they do. We’re just these made-up characters in this universe, so at least for me, there was no obligation to mirror true life.

TrunkSpace: There’s been so many “mean girls” portrayed in film and TV over the years. Did you want to bring something different to the portrayal of Dixie and did the tone of the show allow for that?
Choi: Yeah, absolutely. It was also sort of written into the script as well. Even though the character of Dixie doesn’t really seem that complicated – she’s a villain, she’s a mean girl – it’s a pretty traditional trope in high school stories, but I think that’s one thing that’s a little bit different about her, is her background gives her a lot of layers. I think one thing, for example, is she is an Asian adoptee who’s living in Georgia. She has a single parent who happens to not really be a great parental figure. She has a line in the show, which is supposed to be funny, where she says, “I’m not Asian, I’m adopted.” It’s supposed to be funny because she’s stupid, but also it’s a little true, because she hasn’t really been exposed to her sort of ethnic and cultural identity. She doesn’t identify with it at all. So I think she has a sense of identity that she hasn’t quite formed yet, and as a result, she is also sort of misunderstood a lot by her peers. She actually doesn’t really have a lot of friends, which – and usually I feel like the mean girl in these stories usually happens to also be the popular girl – that’s not what she is.

TrunkSpace: There was a part, in the way you portrayed Dixie, that suggested her behavior was a bit of a defense mechanism.
Choi: Exactly, yeah. And I think in real life, as much as this show is such a caricature of reality and is kind of in this sort of revenge fantasy world, it does sort of relate to real life. Because I think in real life the bullies in high school, but also just in general, they’re not usually the people that are sort of at the top of the social totem pole. A lot of times, they are people who are misunderstood, and don’t really quite have friends, and are really sort of trying to figure themselves out as well.

TrunkSpace: Was there something kind of freeing about getting to play her and how nasty she is?
Choi: Yeah, absolutely. And I got a lot of freedom with playing Dixie as well. The directors were always very much like, “Just go balls to the wall with her.” There were absolutely some times where they would say, “Let’s try to keep this one a little bit more grounded or sincere,” but they were all incredibly generous with just sort of letting me play, and really explore that character as well.

TrunkSpace: We already mentioned the tone of the show, which feels fresh and unique, but at the same time, it’s that specific type of comedy that probably allows for a character like Dixie to work.
Choi: Yeah. Yes, as an actor, I think that’s definitely kind of a dream come true. It’s been really, really, really fun. And also, for me personally, it’s my first time as a series regular on a show, being able to play this character for a whole season, as opposed to doing these sort of one-off guest star episodes or just recurring. You don’t really get the time, nor do you get the material, to sort of really explore a character to its full extent, so that’s also been very exciting for me.

TrunkSpace: What’s sort of been the most surreal moment for you thus far since you wrapped Season 1 and it started streaming?
Choi: Oh, I guess there’s a lot of things. Basically for a really long time, almost about a year, I would tell people that I’m on this show, and no one had heard of it. “It’s a new show, it’s called ‘Insatiable.’” And they’d be like, “Uh, okay.” And then our trailer dropped, which got really sort of scathing reviews from a lot of people, and then it was kind of crazy. No one had heard of our show, no one had any opinions tied to it, and then all of a sudden everyone had heard of it and hated it. And I think that was sort of really alarming. And then when the show came out, the fans and the audience actually really, really loved it after actually having seen the whole thing, and then it was just… it was really sort of a roller coaster of emotions, honestly. It’s like one minute no one knows who you are, the second minute everyone knows who you are, and not in a good way, and then another minute it’s like everyone totally likes you. So that’s just just been a little bit… it’s definitely been kind of overwhelming. Not overwhelming, but it’s just been so unpredictable. But, that’s pretty much how this industry is. As much as I sort of have been trained to be always be prepared for the unexpected, it’s always just going to be surprising.

Photographer: Leslie Alejandro/Hair: Sara Tintari/Makeup: Aaron Paul/Styling: Cassy Dittmer

TrunkSpace: Whatever you plan for, it goes in the opposite direction.
Choi: Exactly. Just when you think you’ve planned for every sort of potential scenario in your head… like, no.

TrunkSpace: What’s really great is that you already have a Season 2, which in the world of television, is a rarity to have so early.
Choi: Yeah, which again, sort of ties into that sort of roller coaster of emotions because it was like, “Oh my gosh, everyone hates us, we’re definitely not getting a Season 2.” But then we did. So, yeah, it’s crazy.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned how much you have enjoyed getting to know Dixie over the course of an entire season. You’ve appeared on a bunch of great shows over the years. Is there a character that you wished you had been given more time with?
Choi: I got three episodes to explore this character on “Community,” which was great. I definitely would have loved an opportunity to explore that character further. That was also a villain. I guess I am personally drawn to villain roles. (Laughter) It’s kind of funny that people see me that way too.

But that was definitely a really fun one. She basically played the evil version of an existing character, who was Alison Brie’s character on the show. And because she was obviously a series regular and had a very deep woven story, I would have loved an opportunity to explore this other character that sort of played her evil version/nemesis kind of thing. I think she could have also, over time, developed almost an equally complicated story as well. So, that one was definitely really a fun one. I’m really thankful that I got to do the three episodes that I did, but it definitely would have been a lot of fun to do more.

Season 1 of “Insatiable” is available now on Netflix.

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Wingman Wednesday

James Chen

JamesChenFeatured
Photo By: David Zheng

This is shaping up to be a defining year for James Chen’s career. Outside of his ongoing work on “The Walking Dead,” where he plays Hilltop resident Kal, the Yale School of Drama graduate also joined the Marvel Universe as Sam Chung in Season 2 of “Iron Fist” for Netflix and will be recurring as Ian Lentz in the new Dick Wolf-produced drama series “FBI,” which premieres September 25 on CBS.

And somehow that’s still just the tip of the iceberg.

We recently sat down with Chen to discuss how “The Walking Dead” prepared him for his super future, why the introduction of Blindspot is so topical, and the reason on-screen Asian stereotypes may finally be a thing of the past.

TrunkSpace: As far as Septembers go, yours looks like it will be one for the history books!
Chen: (Laughter) My man, it’s been an amazing year, I’m not gonna lie. You’re correct, September has been very busy and productive, and we just recently added another gig… I’ll be playing a billionaire race car driver on “Madam Secretary.” So yeah, I’m very grateful. It’s been very awesome. It’s the product of a lot of hard work and not giving up.

TrunkSpace: With so much of that hard work being released into the world this month, is there a different type of personal excitement at this stage of a project as opposed to your first day on a set?
Chen: Oh, it is, it is. Yeah, that’s a good distinction. I think like any first day – of school, first day at work, first day at a TV show – there’s excitement. I guess you could say it’s nerves, but I just like to call it excitement, because you’re meeting a lot of new people and going into a new space. Invariably it’s always wonderful, because everyone’s extremely collaborative, and at the end of the day we’re just playing. So that kind of thing facilitates just sinking into a good ease. There’s also a lot of technical things you’re doing in addition to meeting a bunch of people. You’re kind of just getting the lay of the land, and having conversations with the director about the scene structure, and stuff like that. But, something like the past couple weeks, “Iron Fist” being released last Friday, “FBI” coming out next week… yeah, you’re still working hard, having conversations with great people like you, just to basically tell your stories about what it was like on set.

TrunkSpace: When you joined the Marvel Universe for “Iron Fist,” obviously it must have been an exciting thing, but at the same time you kind of have to keep that excitement in check . Marvel projects are so shrouded in plot point secrecy that you’re really in a conversational holding pattern about it until it’s released.
Chen
: That’s right. I got to be honest though, I’ve been on “The Walking Dead” for four years, and they’ve got the best secret police game going on. They put the fear in you with those NDAs and stuff. (Laughter) So I was kind of trained and had some experience with that. But, it was tough, because you’d be gone for a while, and  I would run into my co-workers from set outside of work with other people, and it was like we’d be catching up and we’d have to kind of shield the conversation from people who are not in the know. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: With a show like “Iron Fist,” which releases all at once, that must help ease that loose lips sink ships vibe, because once it’s out, everything is fair game. If the audience is willing to put in the work, they could view the entire season in one sitting.
Chen: That’s right, yeah. I like that idea though, that the viewer has to put in the work too, but it’s true. That wasn’t around four years ago… five years ago. I like it, personally, I guess from a sharing point of view, because we can talk about bigger picture stuff, like arcs, or how different parts from different episodes connected or didn’t connect, or what it means. I like that part of the conversation as opposed to it being drawn out over several months from installation broadcast. I like people having the full context of Sam Chung, talking about “Iron Fist,” to see how he and Colleen work in a bunch of different scenarios.

TrunkSpace: While the viewers understand the full context of Sam Chung, those who read the comic know that there’s so much story to tell there, should Netflix choose to go down that road.
Chen: Right. We know for sure that there’s just tremendous, exciting, tremendous, one more tremendous, potential in the development of Blindspot and his back story. And it’s so topical these days, illegal immigrant, right? Also, it’s extremely topical with him being an Asian male character, an Asian male superhero. I mean, after Asian August, with “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Searching,” “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” Awkwafina is getting her show green lit – it’s time!

TrunkSpace: And to be a part of this moment in pop culture, influencing the next generation, it has to be an amazing feeling.
Chen: It is, yeah. It’s so true. It’s interesting also, because growing up and initially my first phase in the biz, that wasn’t around, so it’s almost like… it’s hard to describe what it’s like. A part of me almost can’t believe it’s happening, because the stereotypes have been and are really awful, and degrading, and they’ve been so solid for such a long time, so it’s so refreshing. It’s so invigorating. And, kind of like what you said about as far as the next generation, I mean, you really feel like you’re making a meaningful contribution to the image of your people, which is so satisfying. It’s not like I’m selling soap for a commercial.

Photo By: David Zheng

TrunkSpace: The path of actors as a whole seems to has changed as well. If we went back 10 years, it would be a rarity for an actor to be talking about so many different television projects at once. It just seems like there’s more freedom to spread your wings and be involved in more projects than there used to be.
Chen: Right. I think with so much programming out there, there’s a lot of opportunity. I’ve seen an increase in both the quality and quantity of auditions in my particular demographic, for Asian men, which is kind of what I see as far as the auditions that come down the pike. But, it’s been encouraging and exciting too to see that they’re opening up casting and auditions for roles that aren’t specifically written to be Asian. There were a few of those back in the day, like a couple a year, but now it’s like we’re getting closer to that place where ethnicity doesn’t have to define who you are. You’re a person and you happen to be of a certain ethnicity.

TrunkSpace: Jumping back to Sam as a character, what was it about him in the early stages, the audition days, that you liked on the page?
Chen: Well, I loved kind of how Sam’s dialogue was very… this is going to sound weird, but it’s very casual and conversational. It was very everyday. He’s just simply having a conversation with someone, as opposed to… he’s not talking about something super Asian or stereotypically something or other, if that makes any sense. He’s just having a conversation with another person who happens to be Asian as well. There’s no commentary on the fact that we’re both Asian. Colleen is Asian and I’m Asian and we’re just talking about helping her solve a problem. So I love that aspect of the fact that we don’t need to comment on it, it just is.

I love how there is history in that opening scene in Season 2/Episode 2 of “Iron Fist,” when we first meet Sam. There’s just some great history, and backstory, and rapport between Sam and Colleen. It’s not heavy, but you can tell that they’ve worked together for a while. They’ve got great rapport. They tease each other. I’m fishing a little bit, and they share a little bit about their private lives and what they’re doing, just some teasing. So that’s exciting, and I think you can see that in the series. Obviously certain plot emergencies come through that maybe don’t make it a priority, but it’s one of the layers of their relationship, which I think is great.

TrunkSpace: And that is one of the things that Marvel Studios is so great at, which is building out the world so that the viewer feels like they’re a part it as opposed to being on the outside looking in.
Chen: Right. And I like that idea, because Sam has more of a management, supervisory responsibility for the community center and it shows, because I know where everything is and what’s going on. I feel like I have an ear to the ground and a hand on the pulse of what’s happening in the community, because the community center is like a hub, more or less. So I thought that was pretty exciting to kind of be right at the brain of the nervous system of what’s happening in Chinatown, or in our community. I thought it was great how the community center became a hub for us to meet a whole bunch of other characters who also happen to be Asian, like Mrs. Yang, or Danny’s boss at the moving company, played by my buddy James Lai.

So I thought that was great, the inclusion of more Asian faces, and culture, and depth in the series.

Chen in “The Walking Dead.”

TrunkSpace: From TV superheros to superheroes of TV, your next project is Dick Wolf’s “FBI.” Obviously Marvel is a big brand, but in the world of television, Dick Wolf is a brand unto his own.
Chen: Sure, it is. That man is a genius. He’s kind of like the Stan Lee of procedurals. (Laughter)

This is not a joke. I grew up and “Law & Order: SVU” was my favorite show on TV. God, man, everything about that, from just the “dun dun,” it was so just clicked for me. I loved it. I loved Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni. Then I actually got a chance to play a recurring character on SVU for Dick’s show a few years ago, CSU Adrian “Andy” Sung, and I got to meet and work with Mariska, and Chris, and Ice, and it was just fantastic. A lot of the directors on that show are repeat directors, so it was just awesome to build the rapport, to be on that set, to work on a show that I loved so much for so long. That said, I kind of feel like I’m returning home in a way. Maybe like the same family/different house, kind of feeling. You’ve got the feel of all the same things, and obviously, Dick’s running the ship, it’s just with a twist… an FBI twist.

Iron Fist” is available now on Netflix.

FBI” premieres Tuesday on CBS.

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