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One Dollar

The Featured Presentation

Ashlie Atkinson

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Photographer: Emily Assiran/Makeup: Tommy Napoli/Hair: Ben Martin/Stylist: Lisa Tinglum

Even with her recent roles as Janice on the immensely-popular series Mr. Robot and as Peggy in the upcoming season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Ashlie Atkinson is not willing to jump into the future to see where it all leads, but she’s certainly looking forward to living it it. The Arkansas native hopes to direct episodes of a series she is a regular on while also lending her creative insight to a writer’s room on a project she created, but until then, she’s going to enjoy the ride her career has taken her on thus far.

It’s been straight highlights for years now,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “I hope it lasts.”

We recently sat down with Atkinson to discuss being the “new roommate” on Mr. Robot, internal poodle discovery, and the project with a stacked cast that we would have all sat down to watch.

TrunkSpace: Is there a level of nervousness involved for you when joining a series that already has an established on-set tone? Do you feel a bit like the new kid at school who has joined the graduating class in its final year?
Atkinson: That’s a really good analogy! The one I’ve been using is, “the new roommate” because it’s not about a fear of being bullied, like at school or anything, but definitely is a big decisive movement into an atmosphere that the other people have come to think of as a second home, right? And you’re, like, all up in their scenes and their work friendships and asking where the toilet paper gets kept and what day the trash goes out. And, of course, I can’t ignore that I’m moving into Bobby Cannavale’s old room, and he’s genuinely one of the best actors of my generation and yes, now that I think of it I probably should have been more nervous!!!!

TrunkSpace: Mr. Robot is such a critically-acclaimed series. When appearing in a project like this, with so many eyes on it, does it feel like a “game changer” moment? If work begets work in this industry, does the bigger the project lead to even bigger projects?
Atkinson: I meeeeean, we’ll see? Of course, yeah in some ways I’m doing things I’ve always wanted to do in Mr. Robot, and it is a big splashy exciting series, and I would *love* for it to lead to other opportunities to work with more folks I admire on impactful, cool work. But as far as any concept of “making it”, I’ve never really felt like that was a real journey I would take as a character actor, y’know? I’ve been acting for 15 years, and I have had peaks and valleys and right now is definitely one of the most exciting times of my career, and it’d be great if it could stay busy and exciting, I’d love that! But I can’t get too spun out about “staying relevant” or anything buzzy like that.

TrunkSpace: Walk us through what your first day on set was like for Mr. Robot. Was it a whirlwind, or did you take time to savor the moment?
Atkinson: Well, I had costume fittings and table reads and camera tests to see how Janice’s look worked, so I got to meet folks beforehand and have some casual contact without the pressure of shooting. But my first day of shooting was for the dinner scene with Dom and her mom, and then the crazy reveal outside the house, and it was SO. COLD. It was 2 o’clock in the morning and we’re outside, and there’s a huge crane, and my nose is running like I’m a third-grader, and Grace Gummer is making me laugh, and there’s just no time to overthink it. It was heavenly.

TrunkSpace: Your character is described as a “chatty taxidermist.” When we hear “chatty,” we think, “That probably means a lot of dialogue to remember!” What did your pages look like and how did you prepare to bring Janice to life?
Atkinson: What was new for me was how many scenes were me on a phone, talking to Dom as I did taxidermy. In the table reads, there were stage directions in those scenes that were literally “Janice up to her elbows in a poodle.” And I got super excited about the idea of learning that stuff, so my manager arranged for me to meet a taxidermist and work through the steps of the process. It feels so good to do scenes as a character and be able to perform the specific action the character is doing with even a small amount of ability.

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 Mr. Robot that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Atkinson: I’m gonna play pretty close to the vest here and just say that the conversations I had with Grace, with Rami, with Sam, with John Lenic, with Jeff Muhlstock… I learned a lot about what goes into making a show this rare, this special. Sam was kind enough to let me shadow him on some days where I didn’t have to act, and I got to really focus on his process and the collaboration between him and Tod and the crew and the actors. It was priceless.

TrunkSpace: You have appeared in so many memorable series over the years. Which for you was the most special in terms of an experience that you’ll never forget?
Atkinson: God, okay, a series. I mean, can I narrow it down to three? Rescue Me was special because it was my first recurring, and I made my first “camp friends” there – meaning the folks you meet on a job who you may or may not keep up with after it’s all over, but who you will always love. Then there’s Us & Them, my greatest heartbreak: the US remake of Gavin & Stacey, which Fox ordered 13 episodes of and then buried before we could ever air in this country. The cast was comprised of the nicest, funniest people to populate a prime time cast: Jason Ritter, Alexis Bledel, Dustin Ybarra, Jane Kaczmarek, Kerri Kenney, Michael Ian Black, and Kurt Fuller! It was RIDICULOUS, the talent. I’m still mad about that one. And finally, One Dollar on CBS All-Access, where I got to reunite with one of my favorite directors (and really good friends) Craig Zobel and go to Pittsburgh for five months in the summer with a rambunctious cast of collaborative character actor types and make a drama about the death of the American Dream. We shot it in 2018, and I’m still talking with most of those folks at least once a week!

Photographer: Emily Assiran/Makeup: Tommy Napoli/Hair: Ben Martin/Stylist: Lisa Tinglum

TrunkSpace: Is there a character you had previously spent time with – even in a guest role capacity – that you wished you had more time to explore, and if so, why that person?
Atkinson: There’s that old saying: “Give an actor a week, they’ll take a week; give them a year, they’ll take a year.” I don’t think there has been a single role that I have ever been like “Okay, nailed it, moving on.” If I had to pick one to go back to, it would be a stage role — IMOGEN in IMOGEN SAYS NOTHING, a play I did at Yale Rep. She’s a bear masquerading as a human prostitute in Shakespearean England, and I would kill to get to inhabit her for a little while longer.

TrunkSpace: Beyond acting, you’re also a writer and producer. In the BEST best case scenario, what would your career look like moving forward? If you could greenlight your own future in the way you wanted it to play out, how would you split your time between acting, writing and producing?
Atkinson: I’d love to direct episodes of a show for which I am a series regular. I’d love to be in a writer’s room for a show I created. I have three films I’m working on developing, a jukebox musical concept based on an ‘80s movie that I am obSESSed with writing, and I want to keep directing plays. I’m writing a web series with my friend – I think having any super-detailed idea of how things are going to progress will only keep me from enjoying how things are actually progressing.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Atkinson: Oh man. That’s too hard. I have been given a ridiculous number of high points in this life. BlacKkKlansman was one, getting to work on Mr. Robot with Sam was another, working on One Dollar with my friends was another. I made a bunch of rap videos for MTV as “Chunky Pam,” that’s another. I went back to my alma mater to direct a verse play about lesbian pirates, for God’s sake. I’ve been the lead, I’ve been the love interest, I’ve been the villain, I’ve been the comic relief. It’s been straight highlights for years now. I hope it lasts.

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?
Atkinson: No way. I think I’ll just let the mystery be. Also, how self-absorbed would I have to be to be like, “I have access to an honest to god time machine, so obviously my first priority is going into the future to see if I ever get to direct for TV” or whatever?

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The Featured Presentation

Joshua Bitton

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PHOTOGRAPHY: Joe DeAngelis/STYLING: Nic Adedokun/GROOMING: Andrea DiSabatino

Long before the acting bug sunk its fangs into him, baseball was Joshua Bitton’s first love. A lifelong New York Yankees fan, he’s seen plenty of championships for his hometown team in his lifetime, but inhabiting a ballplayer on-screen – the perfect combination of his two favorite pasttimes – has eluded him. Currently the Queens, NY native can be seen hitting weekly homeruns as police officer Chewy on the compelling CBS All Access thriller “One Dollar.”

We recently sat down with Bitton to discuss friendly rivalries, the authenticity of “One Dollar,” and why Jon Bernthal should be cautiously looking over his shoulder.

TrunkSpace: First off, we’re Red Sox fans, so we just thought we’d lay it all on the table and clear the air. Love the game, not the team! That being said, have any early post season predictions?
Bitton: Wow! You guys took it right there! Yeah, I’m a big Yankee fan, so we’re instantly in a fight. (Laughter) This is VERY DIFFICULT for me to say, but that Sox team you guys have is stacked. You have the two most dangerous hitters in the league, a remarkable starting rotation, and a really good closer. Middle relief might be an issue, but I think, as a baseball fan, I’d have to say the Red Sox are the clear favorite. Don’t sleep on the Astro’s pitching. That team can shut anyone down.

I think my Yanks are a year away. We need another top-notch starter. As we saw last year, these guys can surprise you, but the way the Yanks played last year is how I see your boys playing this year. With that fun, free, reckless abandon.

So… my head says Red Sox, my heart dreams Yanks.

TrunkSpace: As far as concepts go, “One Dollar” is a great one. What we also love is that it is an original idea in a world that is getting increasingly more and more “Based On.” What did you love about the project when you first read for it, and more specifically, what drew you to Chewy?
Bitton: “One Dollar” has a lot of things going for it. I’d have to start with Craig Zobel, our director. Craig is so collaborative and playful on set. He really allows us to have input, discover and create. On top of that, he’s just a remarkable filmmaker.

Another element that drew me to the story is what feels like a real look at the working man and woman in this country. The show looks at, under, and through this town that was once a thriving steel mill town, but now is just holding on. We have a central plot point of a possible seven-person murder, but Craig and the writers don’t simply stick to that. They allow us to see the world through the eyes of the various “dollar holders.” Some are connected to the crime, some give us a different perspective of the town we’re in, and some do both. All add to what we hope is a deeper understanding of the plight of people in these types of life situations.

Chewy is a ball-buster. He’s a guy who sees the world simply, and straight forward. At times, it’s so straight forward, he may have blinders on. I think representing guys like Chewy is important. At heart, he’s a good guy, but his perspective is so limited. I love that. I love that he’s challenged by this rookie cop, who takes his shit, but is smarter, and eventually unafraid to challenge him. Chewy is a guy who just might learn something.

TrunkSpace: The series runs on CBS All Access. With an increasing number of interesting projects appearing on platforms every day, how does a show like “One Dollar” rise to the top? What is the key to finding a dedicated audience when audiences in general seem to be getting more and more segmented?
Bitton: I think “One Dollar” speaks to a lot of the issues that are happening in our country. The slow erosion of the middle class, the change from industry to technology… it’s what drew me to it, and what I think will eventually bring audiences in. All of that is encompassed around the murder of seven people. The cast is remarkable, which always helps. And it’s funny – it’s quirky. It’s told with a real point of view, which I think is what is its biggest draw.

CBS All Access is a remarkable place to work. CBS has some of the most successful procedural shows, and sitcoms, but this platform is more akin to the kind of shows Netflix is putting up. CBS All Access has been putting together quite a collection of shows that are different than what they carry on the network platform. As people discover that, I think they’ll get hooked by the wide array of shows the platform hosts.

TrunkSpace: Unlike a lot of streaming shows these days, “One Dollar” is being released weekly like most network shows. Given the genre it plays in, giving the audiences small pieces of information at a time, do you think the old roll out method works for the way the story is unfolding? Does it suit the show?
Bitton: That’s a great question. I think the weekly element really works. It builds tension and it leaves time for the viewer to process the details and nuances of the show. And if you’re a binger, you can wait a few weeks and let them pile up, then have at it!

TrunkSpace: Chewy is a Pittsburgh police officer. What did you want to bring to the character that was wholly and uniquely Pittsburgh, because it is a city that has its own vibe and persona?
Bitton: The blue-collar, hard hat and lunch pail mentality that really permeates this city, and… the dialect! I’ve done a lot of accent and dialect work in my career, but da ‘Burgh has one unlike any I’d ever heard. Speaking Yinzer, as it’s called, has been such a challenge and so fun. Words like “yinz” which is the Pittsburgh version of you, or as New Yorkers say, “youse.” They say words like down and south as “dahn” and “sahth.” It’s unique to this region. Most people have never heard it. Some will probably think it’s just bad accent work – (laughter) – but to create a world around here and not do it would be a disservice to what being here and living here has been like.

TrunkSpace: The series speaks to the various divides that we’re facing as a country, both political and cultural. Was it meant to hold up a mirror and say something beyond the narrative, or was part of that just world-building that seems more magnified given the period we’re all living in?
Bitton: I think it’s really been a focus of our director, writers and production team, and one that we as a cast have wholeheartedly embraced. To do a show about a town outside of Pittsburgh in these times without those issues being present would just be false. I’m sure the times have magnified it, but there has been awareness, and care, I think, to be as honest as possible about it.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Joe DeAngelis/STYLING: Nic Adedokun/GROOMING: Andrea DiSabatino

TrunkSpace: You have appeared in so many great shows over the years, from “Justified, to “The Night Of” to “Castle.” Is there a character that you enjoyed so much that you wished you had more time to explore?
Bitton: Yeah, absolutely. Rory from “Daredevil.” Since you never saw him die, technically, I always thought it would be fun to come back a cyborg and kick The Punisher’s ass. (It doesn’t hurt that Jon Bernthal is one of my best friends, so I owe him one.)

Sully from “Castle” would’ve been fun to live in for a little while longer. He was funny, and sweet, and a slob… and those people were very fun to be on set with.

Last would be what happened to the actual Sgt. J.P. Morgan from “The Pacific.” They couldn’t corroborate it, but rumor was he won thousands of dollars while in the Corp and sent it all home to his wife. When he got back from the war, supposedly his wife had left him for another man, and stole all the money he had sent home. He set out to find them and kill them but died in a motorcycle accident while hunting them down. I always wanted to live that out!

TrunkSpace: Is it ever difficult to say goodbye to a character, not because the project itself was so rewarding, but because the person you were inhabiting was so interesting?
Bitton: Oh God, yeah. They become part of you. Parts of you get highlighted through characters, and when you live in them for a while, they feel like home. The process is so rewarding, but it is also painful… at least for me. It’s the guys I’ve lived in the longest that hurt the most to leave. When I came back from Australia, after shooting “The Pacific,” I was sitting with my great friend, Tom Budge, and we were just so depressed. We couldn’t put our finger on why, and it hit me – “I have to say goodbye to J.P.” Then Tom said, “Ah, fuck… yeah, I have to say goodbye to Gibson,” and we just sat there silently as that realization landed.

TrunkSpace: Jumping back to baseball, you played in both high school and college. Was there a time when professional ball was your path? Was that your earliest dream?
Bitton: Hell yes! My first dream. My first love. I love the game. I’m DYING to do a baseball movie. Dying! When I played in college, I dreamed about driving my car down south and just going from small minor league team to small minor league team and finagling a tryout. Then I found acting, and got so bit by the bug, that it felt just as right as playing ball. And, to be honest, I didn’t really have the stick to go to the next level. I could field, turn two like nobody’s business, but I was an okay hitter at best. I realized I didn’t really have it. Here’s to hoping both of my life dreams come together, and I get to play a ball player. (By the way, you guys will get particular joy out of a Chewy line I have in Episode 4, I promise!)

TrunkSpace: You’re also extremely active in theater. Is there something uniquely rewarding to performing on stage that you can’t achieve on-camera? Is it a different kind of love?
Bitton: Yeah. Theatre is so immediate. The reciprocal relationship you have with the audience as well as the actors on stage. It’s all happening right in that moment. On stage, I’ve been able to play roles that are sometimes not how the film and TV world has seen me, so that is another bonus. I also think it’s the best place to learn and grow as an actor.

New episodes of “One Dollar” air Wednesdays on CBS All Access.

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