The Featured Presentation

Geovanni Gopradi

Photo By: Michael Roud

Geovanni Gopradi is used to coming to set prepared, but since joining the Tyler Perry series “The Haves and the Have Nots,” the Miami native has had to up his readiness game. Shooting 80 pages of dialogue a day – an incredible workload even by the most productive of standards – the part calls for a combination of memorization and improvisation, a pairing the actor finds liberating.

We recently sat down with Gopradi to discuss discovering his character over an extended period of time, justifying the choices Broderick makes within his fictional life, and why being a cast member on “The Haves and the Have Nots” is such an adrenaline rush.

TrunkSpace: From what we could tell, Broderick is the longest time you have ever spent with one character. What has that long-term discovery process been like for you?
Gopradi: I don’t get all of the episodes ahead of time, and so, I found ways to justify a lot of what the character does and says, continuously. Since we only shoot per season, I create an arc and I create a character, and I justify what he does and he says, and then once I come to the next season, he is doing other stuff, and so I continuously need to be justifying, pushing that arc and discovering more about the character – creating more history on the character as a way that I can connect what he’s saying through other things so that it can all make sense. It’s a continuous creative process that, as an actor, I have to go through in order to make everything cohesive and make sense, and move forward.

TrunkSpace: It almost sounds like you’re creating a painting, only, you’re working on a section of it little by little over the course of a few years.
Gopradi: Well, you have other people also having their input in the same painting, so you have to kind of find your place, and you gotta wait and see and then figure out where your best brushstroke is going to be in this beautiful painting we’re doing together.

TrunkSpace: So, with that being said, do you ever look back at some of your earlier episodes and think, “Maybe I would have done that differently, had I known he was going in this direction?”
Gopradi: I find myself, whenever I come to a fork in the road with a character, as to why he’s doing something – could go this way or that way – I do two things. One, I’ll leave it open so that I can discover later on, and so I can go either way with a choice. Or two, I pick the stronger choice and I pray that that’s the direction we’re going. (Laughter) So those are the two things that I would do. I would either leave it open, show that it could be interpreted either way, or choose the stronger choice. But looking back at it and saying, “I wish I would have done this, had I known that,” kind of puts me in a downfall. What I do instead is, I look back and say, “Okay, he did this, and now he’s doing this. Now I have to figure out a way to justify it.”

TrunkSpace: That’s true, because in a lot of ways, you have to maintain the focus of moving forward, the same way that your character is in life.
Gopradi: Correct. I can’t be looking back and saying, “Oh, well if I would have known…” It’s just, “Well, this is what I have now. Justify it.”

TrunkSpace: So within those choices that you made, either keeping them open or going with the stronger, bolder choice, has this show allowed you to showcase yourself – your skill set – in a way that previous jobs haven’t?
Gopradi: Yes and no. It’s allowed me to showcase a certain type of skill set, because of the speed in which Tyler Perry shoots, which is very, very fast. He shoots an episode a day – about 80 pages of dialogue a day – when usually it takes about three or four days to shoot an episode. Because of that, because of the certain restrictions like we were just talking about having to justify character choices, I get to showcase those type of skills – not having the luxury of having many takes. He shoots so fast, I often only have one take. We’re only going with one option, one take, you’re just continuously living the life of the character almost as if you were on stage. And there’s very, very, very, very little of taking it back and to retake that sentence, or retake that word, unless you really mess up or you fumble or something. But other than that, whatever choice and whatever you do in that moment is going to stick, unless you’re far off in left field and he wants you to do something different and tries to bring you back. It’s really up to the actors to do. And if we fall into a blank from the lines, we improvise. And as long as we’re within the realm of what we’re saying and what we’re doing, he’ll let it go, as long as we keep moving. The trick is to keep moving. So I’m showcasing my ability to stay focused, to stay in character, to my memorization, my improv skills. I’m able to maintain those relationships, know where I’m coming from, where I’m going, create those moments, and those skills I can showcase. But some of the other skills and the other benefits that you get from having multiple takes, from having multiple angles and being able to redo the scene differently every time, and to discover within that scene bolder choices or better choices or different choices, and then having the ability to then, in the editing room, have them choose which one of the choices they want to go with, we don’t have those options here. What we give is what they take. So make it good, make it fast, make it work.

Photo By: Michael Roud

TrunkSpace: So within that speedy process, have you learned anything about yourself and your abilities that you didn’t think you were capable of before?
Gopradi: Oh, definitely! From the first episode, from the very first scene I recorded, it was apparent to me that my experience is what’s really come into play into honing my instincts, because when you’re filming at that speed, and you have that little bit of time, it really comes down to your instincts. It’s what you intuitively do. After having done all the work and the character research and the arc, and having all that pre-work as we do as actors, it really comes down to just trusting your instincts and allowing your intuition to take lead. And trusting it. It’s just like jumping off a plane with a parachute. You’re gonna trust the parachute is gonna open and hope you land safe. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: And certainly that allows you not to second guess yourself, too, which for a lot of people, sometimes means getting int your own head.
Gopradi: Definitely. It’s liberating, in a way that improv is liberating, where you’re not thinking, you’re just reacting. It’s definitely an adrenaline rush. It’s definitely a high, especially when you are completely and fully connected to your scene partners, and you are focused – you’re in scene. It really is an adrenaline that once the scene is done, you don’t want to come out of it. You just want to keep going. Keep working.

TrunkSpace: Which is great for getting 80 pages done!
Gopradi: (Laughter) Exactly, exactly. A whole episode.

The Haves and the Have Nots” airs Tuesdays on OWN.

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The Featured Presentation

JD McCrary

Photo By: Birdie Thompson

If JD McCrary has his way, his trajectory in the business will look a lot like that of Denzel Washington’s one day. That’s a lofty goal for anyone to set for themselves as an actor, but McCrary has a good chance to pull it off. With three high profile projects currently set to catapult him into the pop culture stratosphere, the young multi-hyphanate is putting himself in a position to achieve the goals he has set for himself and then some.

McCrary can soon be seen starring in the new Tyler Perry series “The Paynes,” as a young Dr. Dre in Apple Music’s autobiographical “Vital Signs,” and in the highly anticipated live action adaptation of “The Lion King,” where he’ll voice young Simba. If the present is any indication of what’s to come for the 10-year-old in the future, Denzel Washington better watch out!

We recently sat down with McCrary to discuss his career, the road ahead, and his taste in video games.

TrunkSpace: You act. You sing. You dance. What it is that you enjoy most about entertaining people?
McCrary: What I enjoy most about entertaining people is just making people’s day, and making them laugh – making them happy with all of my music, and my performance, and all of the above.

TrunkSpace: Do you think having all of those various outlets allows not only viewers and fans to see you in different ways, but also people within the industry like casting directors and producers?
McCray: Yes. It’s very important because that just means that you can switch up things, and show people different sides of your career, maybe, or even your character and your voice.

TrunkSpace: How do you personally connect with a character when you sit down with a new script?
McCrary: Well, it’s all really about knowing what you’re supposed to be doing. Let’s say I’m a character named Jimmy, and there’s another guy, over there, named Nathan, and we’re just talking. I just have to get really into it, and you have to sync your mind to be the character that you’re playing.

TrunkSpace: So if you were signed on to play this character named Jimmy, would you spend a lot of time trying to sync your mind to him before you actually stepped on set?
McCrary: Yes. Practice and preparation is the key.

TrunkSpace: You’re set to star in Apple Music’s “Vital Signs,” which is an autobiographical telling of Dr. Dre’s own life story. Where does your character fall into things on that particular project?
McCrary: My character plays out as young Dr. Dre, his beforehand story, like when he was a kid, and all of the tough times that he had to go through to make him the man that he is.

TrunkSpace: Did you feel any pressure playing Dr. Dre because he was directly involved in the project?
McCrary: It was an honor to actually do that, and I think there’s no pressure because we’re all human, and he just has a great talent and a lot of people know that he does. That’s why he’s so famous, and that’s why he does a lot of great things. So no, I don’t think that it puts any anxiety on me.

TrunkSpace: Were you able to sit down with him and say, “What were you like at this age? What can I bring to the performance that will be you?”
McCrary: Yes, I was able to do that.

TrunkSpace: And did that help you in terms of finding who he was as a character within the story?
McCrary: Yes, it helped me to understand the things that I was going to do.

TrunkSpace: And for you, what was the most interesting part of getting to play Dr. Dre?
McCrary: The most interesting part of playing young Dre was just getting into everything that he used to do. It’s set back a couple of years before I was born, and a lot of things were very different. I learned a lot just from playing young Dre.

TrunkSpace: It must have been interesting for you just from a wardrobe perspective, getting to wear and see how people dressed during that period?
McCrary: It was very funny, and it was really fun, also.

TrunkSpace: “Vital Signs” is Apple Music’s first original scripted series. What does it feel like being involved in a show that is basically serving to launch this new original content network?
McCrary: It feels like a big honor, and it feels really nice to know that I got to be on a show with Dr. Dre, who has accomplished so many things, and showed the world who he is.

TrunkSpace: And in addition to that, you’re also going to be starring in “The Paynes,” correct?
McCrary: Yes, a Tyler Perry show.

TrunkSpace: Those are two very big, high profile projects for any actor, especially for one so early in his career. Does it feel special knowing that you’re on this great run right now of being cast in such high profile projects?
McCrary: Yes, and I’m very thankful for it, because it’s just God’s blessing helping me out with a lot of things that have gone my way.

Photos By: Birdie Thompson

TrunkSpace: As you look forward in your career, is there another actor’s path that you’d like to see yours resemble?
McCrary: I look up to Denzel Washington, and a lot of people compare me to him in my facial recognition.

TrunkSpace: He’s somebody who really embodies the idea of having a long career and doing lots of different types of projects and characters. Having your career resemble his seems like a really focused and mature goal to have?
McCrary: Yes, it really is. It’s really inspiring because he’s done a lot of things that have helped me to get through all of the acting things that I’ve done, even some singing things. He helps me out a lot because he’s accomplished many, many blessings.

TrunkSpace: You’re so busy working, but when you’re not on set or on stage, what do you like to do?
McCrary: Well, sometimes I go on the keyboard that my dad bought. I hang out with my brother, he’s really cool, and I play a lot of video games.

TrunkSpace: Nice. What type of video games are you into?
McCrary: I’m into some old school stuff because I have a Nintendo. Also, I’m into a lot of PS4 games.

TrunkSpace: What about stuff that you like to watch that you’re not directly involved with? Any shows?
McCrary: I love to watch “Stranger Things.” Recently they just came out with Season 2, and I can’t wait to watch it with my family.

The Paynes” premieres January 16 on OWN.

The Lion King” roars into theaters summer 2019.

A release date has not yet been set for “Vital Signs.”

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The Featured Presentation

Lovie Simone

LovieSimone_WingWomen_wednesday (1)
Photo By: Hallie Liang

Lovie Simone is mature beyond her 18 years. As the star of the family drama “Greenleaf,” which returned to OWN this week with a string of new episodes, the New York City native knows that her experience on the series is just as much an education as it is a job. She is learning and absorbing from her costars, including Lynn Whitfield and Keith David, and applying that acquired knowledge to what she hopes is a long and fruitful future in the industry as both an actress and content creator.

We recently sat down with Simone to discuss the emotional journey her character is set to go through, why it will be so relateable to viewers, and how her on-set life has changed since turning 18.

TrunkSpace: For you as a young actress, what’s it like returning to a series after a hiatus in production?
Simone: It feels different only because now that I know how things work, I’m going in with some knowledge of how things work and what I’m looking forward to doing. It’s fun, though. It’s like I’m working with my family. When I go back it’s like, “I missed all of you so much!”

TrunkSpace: “Greenleaf” was your first big acting job, but outside of the work itself, has it also felt like a classroom where you have been able to learn about the industry and the craft?
Simone: Yes, definitely. Every day there’s something new that I learned and it’s like I’m getting a firsthand tutoring.

TrunkSpace: Have you found yourself getting more and more comfortable in yourself as an actress and in the role of Zora throughout the process?
Simone: 100 percent, because now it’s like I’m growing with this character and I’m getting to know her more. I’m being taught by these great actors and actresses, like Lynn Whitfield and Keith David, who constantly show me with their acting how to do things and how to turn into this other character. It’s fun.

TrunkSpace: Being in film is great, but being on a series and being able to watch and experience your character grow as you do, that has to be an interesting dynamic?
Simone: It is. It’s amazing because you learn to love this character and you learn to love all the gray areas of your character. Right now in the show I’m not really a fan favorite. (Laughter) Nobody is a fan of me right now, but I love my character and I love her flaws and I love how she’s going through things. She’s me now.

TrunkSpace: Without giving away too much, can you tell us where we are going to see Zora go within the overall story this season?
Simone: You’re going to see her go through a lot of obstacles and you’ll see who she is based off of how she reacts to this because it’s going to be an eye opener. You would think something is one way and then when things get tough, she turns into this person that you’ll never even imagine. You gotta kind of see her go through these life events that are going to change everything.

TrunkSpace: But that’s totally a relatable life experience. We all go through rough patches and come out the other side a different person. At least, that’s the hope if you’re willing to grow as a person.
Simone: Yes, I feel like it is very relatable. That’s why I like that the show touches on certain things. We’re touching on homophobia. We’re touching on a lot of scandal. With my character, you’re seeing this strong, feisty teenager that everyone thinks she is, and then you’re going to see her weaknesses and you’re going to see how she’s used to being in a position of power. You’re going to see how everyone can have breakdowns and how she needs her parents and that she can’t be on her own.

TrunkSpace: As you build up for the release of the new season, is there still that same level of excitement for people to see it as there was when you were new to the industry and it was your first working experience?
Simone: Yes, it is, because I’m still relatively new to this business, so I’m still learning and I’m still wide-eyed and my mouth is open, like, “Oh my gosh! What is this? What is that?” I still have questions. I’m still going through that honeymoon phase.

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) That’s a great way to put it.
Simone: (Laughter) Yes. It’s a new love. We’re still going.

TrunkSpace: And what’s cool about your job is that each new project you start working on, there’s an additional honeymoon period because of new characters, new costars, and new experiences.
Simone: Exactly! You keep starting over and over again. It’s like you get a new-found love every time. Never fails.

TrunkSpace: Looking forward, you also have the film “Monster” due out soon, which stars some amazing, accomplished actors, including Jeffrey Wright and Jennifer Hudson. That sounds like another project where you could just sit back and absorb so much knowledge and skill from the people involved?
Simone: Exactly. It was a whole different kind of character so I like being able to go into people’s lives and create them. I’m blessed to work with these great people. I never get tired of it. It’s a blessing to work with such strong actors and such accomplished directors and writers. It’s really interesting and it’s really fun. I’m happy that I’m having fun and also being able to be in that creative space.

TrunkSpace: Does being around creative people inspire your own creativity?
Simone: Yes, because now that I know there are more people out there like me and that there are people who are willing to do everything and risk every single thing, it motivates me. Also seeing it every single day, it triggers this, “I will never settle.”

Photo By: Eli Joshua Adé

I’m constantly challenging myself when I have scenes that I’ve never done, especially now that I’m 18 and working the amount of hours that I’m working. It’s bringing out a whole bunch of new emotions that I’ve never seen before. I’m learning from people who are inspired and creative. It’s pushing my creativity. It’s amazing.

TrunkSpace: That’s an aspect that a lot of people don’t think about. Once you turn 18, it completely opens up how much you can work, right?
Simone: Yes. Now I can work longer hours and I have been working longer hours. (Laughter) I’m like, “Oh gosh, the 17 hour work days are crazy!” But it’s helping me with my work ethic. Now 17 hours is like nothing to me. Also no school on set, which is even more amazing. (Laughter)

It’s a big change. A lot of things are happening. Now I have more responsibility as an actress. I like that.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned how your character in “Greenleaf” was going to be going through some obstacles. What obstacles did you have to go through, especially being so young, when you were trying to break into the industry as an actress?
Simone: I doubted myself a lot because after a while it’s like, “How many no’s am I going to take?” Then it’s not about the no’s. It’s about the resilience. I gotta be like, “Okay, brush off the no’s, learn from them.” It’s kind of hard learning from stuff at such a young age when you’re just so closed-minded and you have this perception of how the world is and then for that to be shattered and for you to try and create that mirror again to see something.

It’s very humbling also. I feel like my mom keeps me grounded. I have a good support system with my family. I don’t have a lot of friends, so the friends that I do have, I’m very close to.

TrunkSpace: It seems like nowadays in the industry, more than ever, actors are diversifying to become content creators and control their own destiny in a way. Is that something that you hope to do in the future?
Simone: I definitely want to start creating my own films because I feel like there’s a lot of stories that need to be told that still aren’t being told. I do want to direct and I do want to cast the people that I want in my movies and my shows because I feel like there’s a problem in Hollywood. That problem is a lack of representation. When there’s a lack of representation, that leaves room for a whole lot of gray areas that people don’t know. I want younger girls that look like me to see themselves in the people that I cast. That’s when you get your sense of identity, from what you see. That’s what i want to do with acting. I want to be in the position to create.

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