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Wingman Wednesday

Jonathan Keltz

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Photo By: Brent Weber

Fresh starts and new beginnings. That’s what spring is all about. For Megan Park and Jonathan Keltz, stars of the new Hallmark Channel movie “Once Upon a Prince,” which caps off the network’s Spring Fever programming event this Saturday, that meant portraying characters in search of their own individual do-overs. Landscape architect Susanna (Park) has recently discovered she’s not in her boyfriend’s long term life plans while heir to the Cambria throne Nate (Keltz) must appease his mother and find a Cambrian bride. Serendipity brings their two lives together, but it’s love that will place them on the same path.

We recently sat down with Keltz to discuss the Hallmark Channel community, why his friends razzed his royal credit, and how producing changed his perspective.

TrunkSpace: This is your first time working with Hallmark Channel. What did you take away from the experience as a whole?
Keltz: I had a blast working on this. I was just so lucky we had such a great group that we were collaborating with. Megan Park, my co-star, is an old, old friend of mine, but we never had a chance to work together. Alex Wright, our director, and Maura (Dunbar), our producer, are really great as well. It’s just a really great energy on set. It’s such a fun little family community that they’ve got making these things, so I hope I get a chance to do more in the future.

TrunkSpace: The success of these movies hinges on the chemistry of the two leads. Do you think the fact that you and Megan knew each other allowed both of you to hit the ground running in that regard?
Keltz: Absolutely. I mean, I hope it all translates, but for us it was so nice getting to have a partner in crime that you can know and trust, and can dive in with, because these shoots are pretty quick, and pretty intense. So it’s nice to have somebody that you know you can trust, and sort of go with you through it all. It was great.

TrunkSpace: Aside from being a prince, your character is moonlighting as a public relations professional. Your mother worked in public relations, which is a kind of cool full circle scenario.
Keltz: Yeah, she did. So the character actually uses PR as a ruse. That’s sort of his cover job identity. Before she knows who he is, he says he works in PR, but then she finds out that he’s a prince, and his working title is a little bit different than the rest of us common folk. But yeah, my mom, her background, is in PR as well. She did all the publicity and PR and sort of helped in the early days of Ms. magazine, back in the day. Then she had her own PR company called Karin Lippert PR – KLPR – in New York. She did all the publicity for the “Donahue” show in its later years in New York. She’s done a lot of stuff. She’s always been involved in activism, and civil rights, and human rights as well. She works with the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in Toronto, and Democrats Abroad. She and my dad were just in Washington, marching for the March For Our Lives this past weekend.

TrunkSpace: Did you get razzed by any of your friends outside of the industry for playing a prince in “Once Upon a Prince?”
Keltz: Oh, definitely! Yeah, there was definitely a good bit of razzing and joking about it. Of course, I let them know that, “Well, maybe at some point in the movie, I become king, so they better watch what they say.” (Laughter) But no, it’s great. I’m lucky I got a nice support group both here in LA and Toronto, and some friends all over the place, that they keep you humble. They do a good job of letting you know what’s really up.

TrunkSpace: What’s great about “Once Upon a Prince” is that it’s a classic tale of love not meant to be. It’s got elements of that “Romeo and Juliet” perspective.
Keltz: Yeah, just two people who the world is trying to keep apart. The question is, whether or not they can overcome those odds. I think that since this is a Hallmark movie, the odds are in our favor, but I guess we’ll just have to see.

TrunkSpace: Why do you think Hallmark Channel continues to build its audience with movies like “Once Upon a Prince?”
Keltz: Well, I think something that is the trademark of who they are, sort of the energy with which they do all their films, and TV shows, and everything… that although there can be some dark times and dark things happening around us, people turn to entertainment to be lifted up in some way, and to escape a little bit. I think that Hallmark does a good job of bringing that warmth, and that love, and that light into people’s homes.

TrunkSpace: There’s something kind of nice about ending a story on a happy note and carrying that positive vibe with you.
Keltz: Totally. I mean, we’re all looking for our own happy ending, so I think it’s nice to get to see a few on TV.

Photo: Jonathan Keltz, Megan Park Credit: Copyright 2018 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Kailey Schwerman

TrunkSpace: You mentioned having known Megan previously. Did you two know that each other were going out for the movie or did it all just sort of happen by chance?
Keltz: No, it happened through serendipity. We hadn’t seen each other in probably seven years or so before we started shooting, so it was so nice to be able to reconnect through the film, and get a chance to catch up, and spend some time together, and reconnect.

TrunkSpace: We know that you’re also producing. When you’re working on something like “Once Upon a Prince,” which moves so quickly on the production side, do you sit back and view things with your producer’s hat on as well and apply things to your own productions and how to make them all run smoothly?
Keltz: Yeah, definitely. I think that since I’ve been doing a lot behind the camera, I can’t really not do that now. It’s something that I realized I was sort of more unconsciously doing before. Now it brings an all hands on deck mentality to the way I like to work. So if there’s anything I can help, or pitch in and do… I say the main goal whenever you’re on a production is, “How can we be the most efficient?” Because the most finite resource you’re ever dealing with is time, so how do we make use of the time and get as much as we possibly can, so that we can make this the most creative, and the most efficient project. Being able to produce and act simultaneously, I think it’s helped. They sort of helped each other out. I hope I was more help than in the way on this one. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: You just wrapped your first feature film as producer, “Acquainted.” As far as experiences go, is that one that is a mix of both excitement and stress?
Keltz: Oh absolutely, yeah. I jovially say it was the single hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It was a labor of love, and I’m so fortunate just because making a movie is quite a feat, and I’m just so glad we were able to do it. We’re almost done with post-production now. It’s a group of us that are very close. It’s something that the director and I have been championing for the last three years, so I can’t wait to have it finally be done and to share it with the world.

TrunkSpace: Is it one of those things where it is both the single hardest thing you ever do, but at the same time, as soon as you’re wrapped you want to do it again?
Keltz: Absolutely. I think it’s very much the epitome of this industry, and so many of those that are in the creative arts. People ask me what I want to do with my time off, and basically by the Monday after I wrap shooting something, I’m already restless, so it doesn’t really stop. It feels like it’s a part of me.

Once Upon a Prince” airs tonight on Hallmark Channel.

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Wingman Wednesday

Bruno Verdoni

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Photo By: Dennys Ilic

Bruno Verdoni has been working as a professional actor for nearly three decades, first falling in love with the craft after watching westerns and mob movies with his father. Throughout the course of his career he has appeared in a number of iconic television series, including “The X Files,” “Millennium,” and “Covert Affairs.” Starting on Christmas Day Verdoni can be seen in the highly-anticipated film “Molly’s Game,” starring Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, and Kevin Costner.

We recently sat down with Verdoni to discuss improvising for Aaron Sorkin, why he manages expectations, and what it was like working on his first project, “Eddie and the Cruisers II.”

TrunkSpace: “Molly’s Game” opens on Christmas Day. That’s not a bad present to wake up to.
Verdoni: Exactly. I don’t know if I’ll be able to be there on the 25th, but the thing is, it’s either going to be that or Florida for me this year, so I’m not complaining.

TrunkSpace: How did the experience of shooting “Molly’s Game” compare to your experience on previous projects?
Verdoni: Everybody was just very focused. It was really just all about the script and the acting, which is where I feel comfortable because it’s an actor’s environment. You have someone like Aaron Sorkin whose supervising everything so you know you’re in good hands. It was work, but in a good way – not just, “Oh my God, I’m going to work.”

TrunkSpace: When you’re working on a film based on living characters and events, does the production itself take on a more serious tone? Does the fact that you’re portraying actual people sort of force you to focus in a different way?
Verdoni: It would be more of a question to ask Jessica (Chastain). My character and other characters, they’re real people, but the focus is really not on those people as much as Jessica. I’m assuming that she probably had a bunch of meetings with Molly Bloom to talk that over but I just felt like it was more like an actor’s environment on set – people just doing the best job they can to basically honor the script.

TrunkSpace: Aaron Sorkin is someone well-known for writing rich, complex dialogue. Was that reflected in your scenes for “Molly’s Game?”
Verdoni: No, not quite for my scenes because my scenes, funny enough, have way less dialogue than other scenes. At some point Aaron came up to me and he said, “Okay, we’re gonna improv the next one.” And in my mind I went, “What?” (Laughter) I was like, “From what I read, that’s not like you.” I wasn’t given a script because it’s very secretive, so he said, “I’ll set you up,” but I didn’t think it was needed because I read the book. The book and the story ends about three or four years ago and the movie has pretty much been updated to show what happened to Molly between now and between the release of the book and the release of the movie. So I said, “I think I know where I’m going so I’ll just give you something and then we’ll take it from there.” And so I improvised a whole bunch of things with Jessica. At one point Aaron wanted that to be just like a long shot where you don’t really hear people talk and then after I was done with my scene he said, “Okay, we’re gonna come in way closer and we’re gonna mic you.” So I guess he liked what I did, which for me, was a nice compliment coming from someone like Aaron Sorkin.

TrunkSpace: For those who haven’t read the book and have yet to see the movie, can you tell us about your character and where he falls into things?
Verdoni: The character Molly Bloom was on the verge of being an athlete and then at some point that didn’t happen and her dreams got crushed. She ended up in Los Angeles hosting poker games and she basically ended up hosting those super high stake games with rich people, celebrities and all of that. Eventually she was basically doing that herself – running her own show – and so she’s carrying a lot of money. My character is the bodyguard/driver Pat, who basically does that so much for her we become friends. And then, there’s a little sleazy side to Pat. He wants in on some of the money or, not so much the money as much as the reputation. Basically he wants his friends to sort of associate themselves with Molly Bloom and she allows it because we’re friends. And it doesn’t really go down well because these guys are not real poker players, they’re more like criminals.

That’s why when I showed up in the makeup trailer the first time, Jessica had a big smile on her face and she said, “Oh, here comes my Judas.” (Laughter)

Verdoni on the set of “Covert Affairs”

TrunkSpace: So given the size of the film and the buzz surrounding it, is it difficult to not view your involvement as a career game changer?
Verdoni: No, because… I’ve been in the industry for a while and there’s a lot of things that you would expect to happen and they don’t. And sometimes you don’t expect things to happen and they do. So at some point you don’t want to live with any expectations. I was really looking forward to working with an actor of this caliber and I realized that… I felt like it was just a natural environment for me. It just felt very comfortable.

My thing is, or most people’s thing is, you want to do the best work you can to give yourself some great visibility and so that you can access other scripts that are of quality. So for me it’s more that I pour my all into it, whether it’s one scene or 20 scenes. I’m going to speak like a hockey player for second… I’m gonna give it my 110 percent.

TrunkSpace: Does that mean that in an industry where so much is out of an actor’s control, it’s important for you to live in the moment and not focus on the future?
Verdoni: Exactly. You never know where things are going to go. You do this, you can enjoy yourself in the process, and then everything else will fall wherever it may.

TrunkSpace: We’re children of the 80s. We were raised by HBO. We got pretty excited when we saw that you were in “Eddie and the Cruisers II.” Was that your first gig?
Verdoni: (Laughter) Yeah, it was. You know, it was supposed to be a much bigger gig and at the last minute they gave my part to one of the Platinum Blonde musicians. I also play music, so for me to play in that, I actually play the piano for real. Not on the recording, but when I play the piano, I learn the part. That’s the kind of an actor I am – I want to get as close as possible to the real thing. But it was great and every time I run into Michael Paré, we always talk about that. I can’t say I’ve met him many times, maybe two or three times since, but I loved the music. I still listen to the music once in a while.

TrunkSpace: We’re out in New England where John Cafferty still plays regularly, performing the classic Cruisers songs.
Verdoni: Lucky you! It’s such great music. It’s so driven. As soon as it starts you want to get up and play music or clap your hands and sing. It’s really, really well-crafted music.

Molly’s Game” premieres in limited release on Christmas Day before opening wide January 5.

Featured image by: Dennys Ilic

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Wingman Wednesday

Adam Croasdell

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Photo By: Elisabeth Granli

There is a lot of drama swirling about in the historically-inspired “Reign” and Adam Croasdell has been in the thick of it since joining the show as Bothwell in its fourth and final season. Prior to becoming a suitor to Mary, Queen of Scots, the Zimbabwe native appeared in fan-favorite series like “NCIS,” “Once Upon a Time,” and “Supernatural.” Studying and performing throughout the world enabled Croasdell to embrace all cultures and points of view, an exercise in acceptance that he has applied to his acting, particularly in the process of discovering new characters.

We recently sat down with Croasdell to discuss how there is no such thing as a bad guy, managing the time crunch of television, and how he was instantaneously accepted into the “Supernatural” fandom after appearing as Norse god Baldur.

TrunkSpace: From what we read, you’ve lived all over the world. From an acting perspective, has that exposure to different people and cultures enabled you to better find who characters are?
Croasdell: Yeah. I’ve lived all over the world. I was born and raised in Africa to English parents and then lived in various countries across there and then in the UK before coming across to the United States. I think it’s a good question because what I often say to people is that if one has the ability or means to travel than it should be mandatory for the very reason that it really gives you an insight into what makes other people tick. It makes you much more tolerant of differences and much more celebratory of different ideas. I think when a person unfortunately is lost very much into their own culture, whatever that is, it can lead to problems because they believe that their way is the right way or the only way of doing things. I think it’s kind of a myopic view. So I feel very lucky to have been able to travel so much and to have lived in so many places. I think it certainly has informed the way that I approach a role and a character.

I said at a convention recently during a question and answer session that I play a lot of quirky characters… eccentric characters. A lot of “bad guys.” And to me that’s an unsatisfactory idea… the idea of a bad guy. Because to me a bad guy is somebody who has followed a perfectly natural chain of thought processes to arrive at the action that he’s doing, which appear bad, but actually it’s completely normal and attributable to his worldview and life experience. So I try very hard not to judge any character that I’m playing because it’s perfectly natural and normal for them to be doing the thing that they’re doing and I find that fascinating. I think I probably wouldn’t have arrived at that had I not done so much traveling and lived in so many places.

TrunkSpace: Because at the end of the day, the “bad guy” himself doesn’t view his actions as bad.
Croasdell: Quite right. It’s completely normal what they’re doing. It’s completely rational and I find that fascinating. The stereotypical views that we have of other people and even people in our own lives… it’s just a shorthand and lazy thinking. I find it quite fascinating to be able to delve into the mindset beyond that.

TrunkSpace: So in terms of those various places that you have lived, did you also train in those different locations and did the education itself differ from place to place?
Croasdell: Yes. I trained in South Africa and it was a very interesting time. The ANC had just come into power after years of apartheid. It was a very fascinating time in history. I was very proud to had been there for that. I hail from Zimbabwe so the whole time I was growing up, I had a racially-integrated school system and social structure. South Africa at that time was a little bit more closed off to that type of thinking, but by the time that I had arrived, Nelson Mandela had just come to power and was the new president. It was a very exciting time. So it was interesting watching all that in flux around me and the new order coming in. It was a privilege to watch it happen. And certainly training in South Africa you are given a very broad training but also specifically in the classics with English playwrights and American playwrights. Of course, we had the African playwrights as well, which we studied, and modes of African performance, which are quite different and really fascinating. I was very happy to have received from both the western world and from Africa as well and everything Africa has to give. It’s a culture filled with great storytellers and musicians and poets. It’s incredibly rich and diverse, so I think I received a very good training indeed. I was very lucky.

TrunkSpace: You’ve been working steadily in film and television since the late 90s. How have you seen the way the industry approaches storytelling change over the years?
Croasdell: When I think about the late 80s and early 90s, it was a sort of a lighter age of performance, especially on TV. The characters were very likable, but they had A thing and they did THAT thing that they did and we loved watching the show for that. Now we have this Golden Age of television, which is truly incredible. The quality that is coming out of TV these days is astonishing and it has become an entirely different beast. The characters have much more depth. The heroes are anti-heroes. The female-driven stories are incredible… stories for women by women. It is an amazing smorgasbord of phenomenal writing and phenomenal characters right now. It’s a great time to be an actor.

I was saying this the other day, that there is a fair amount of 80s nostalgia that has come about because of it, I think. In the 80s and early 90s there was a sort of innocence about television, and maybe even films, where things were pretty straightforward and the hero was pretty straightforward and the bad guy was pretty straightforward. We had a lot of fun watching what the hero did to the bad guy and what the bad guy did to the hero. That was the mode. Now it’s hyper-realistic and much grittier. There’s a lot more sex and ultra-violence, often that speaks of the realities of this planet. But it’s interesting that it has lead to a sort of 80s nostalgia and you can see it in “Guardians of the Galaxy” and where they’re rebooting all of these 80s TV shows all of the time. And they often fail, generally, because people have moved on. You sometimes get it in the movies where they hit massively like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but in TV, I think it has moved on. I’m watching “Breaking Bad” at the moment, binge watching it, and really, what Bryan Cranston manages to do with his character is astonishing. I remember watching him on “Malcolm in the Middle” and sort of going, “Okay, cool…” and now you watch him in “Breaking Bad” and the depth of characterization that you can go to in today’s TV world… it would be a dream to get a reoccurring on something like that. The writing is so good these days. It’s an utter gift and to be able to go into the headspace of the characters in a way that you never have the time to do in a film and just develop it and develop it out… Bryan Cranston does it magnificently and deserves all of the accolades for it. It seems to be an example of the way TV has gone and binge watching on Netflix is just so new too and we want to see it ALL immediately. You can get a really good feel for the same character and their arc.

TrunkSpace: So does it feel like things have flipped a bit and working in TV has sort of become the new version of film… especially from a production aspect as the medium continues to grow?
Croasdell: Yeah, I think there’s a lot to that. Although, in my experience with TV acting, you still are so on the clock. They want you to bang out the performance quickly. I did a movie back in South Africa a couple of years ago called “Hatchet Hour” and we had the amazing luck to be able to rehearse for 10 days ahead of shooting. That’s sort of almost unheard of even in movies these days, but you certainly don’t get that in TV. You get nowhere near that. You might have a rehearsal or two rehearsals and then you’re up and running and you’ve got to bang out the scene. Although it’s nice to think of it being more like movies, in terms of the process for the actor, it’s not necessarily because time is money and you’ve got to get on it.

But that’s an interesting challenge for the actor because you have to come to work, as I hope one always would, very prepared. You have to be ready to deliver the goods almost instantaneously. And if you get a second take or a third take or a fourth take, if you’re lucky, you have a few ideas in mind to try things. You have to almost train like an athlete to do that type of acting.

TrunkSpace: So when you’re in that mindset and working within that focus, does it change things up when you’re working on a series and a new director is suddenly involved in the process and by doing so, alters the tone and dynamic?
Croasdell: Absolutely. It’s always very interesting when you do ongoing drama and the director changes. Obviously it should be a wonderful dance where they come in with their ideas, which are often brilliant, and then mix with your ideas. What I realized for myself is that, a lot of the directors, some of who may be great fans of the show and know exactly what’s going on, often they’re directors-for-hire, so they’re out and about in the world doing other projects as well. What I finally realized was that nobody knows the character or your character’s arc better than you and the writers, so often times you have to approach the director and go, “That’s a great idea, but my character wouldn’t really do that.” And you can tell them the reasons why because no one is thinking about it more than you. It’s always about being open to them and their vision, but you help each other.

TrunkSpace: So as you look over your body of work, what project had the greatest impact on your career?
Croasdell: Well, the one that immediately comes to mind… and it’s probably not for the reasons that you’re thinking of… I was on a soap in England called “EastEnders,” which is a very well known soap over there. It’s watched by the majority of the country. I had the good fortune of landing the role of the doctor on the show and that was for a year ahead of me coming to the US. I always wanted to come out to the States and getting that job, which was a high profile job in the UK, provided me with the money and some of the profile needed to create a case for my green card to get me to the United States. I always wanted to come to the United States because over the course of living in the UK for many years, I was flown out to the States about four or five times to test for various pilots and I came down to the wire for some, probably the biggest one of which was “Prison Break.” After that, I thought that I had to be present in the United States, and so I went about wanting to get here and did all of my application stuff. But really it was “EastEnders” that allowed me to come here.

TrunkSpace: You appeared on “Supernatural” many years ago. It was one episode, but an episode that many in the fandom love and in a time period where viewers consider the show at its peak as far as storytelling goes. Has that fandom stuck with you?
Croasdell: Yeah. It really has. And that’s the thing that’s been surprising and delightful about the American TV shows. I have found fanbases on “Reign,” “Once Upon a Time,” and also “Supernatural” to be just phenomenal. Phenomenal fanbases filled with really phenomenal people. You get welcomed instantaneously as part of the gang, certainly on “Supernatural.” I was playing the Norse god Baldur and I had some great scenes with the Winchester lads. It was my first job after having arrived in the States. Literally, I arrived in the States and 10 days later I was in Canada shooting.

Croasdell in “Supernatural”

TrunkSpace: You come to the States to shoot and you’re sent to Canada!
Croasdell: (Laughter) Yeah. Actually, a lot of my jobs have been up in Canada. A lot of my work. “Reign,” “Supernatural,” “Once Upon a Time”… and another as well. I love going up to Canada. I love it.

But yeah, the fans are phenomenal. Just the other night there was a book launch for a “Supernatural” book that a lot of the actors had contributed to. I was there and people were coming up to me like, “Hey, you’re Baldur!” I was like, “How can you even remember that? That was like seven years ago!” (Laughter)

It’s a phenomenon that I was totally unused to, being an English actor. There’s not a fanbase in the same way over there. People play it a bit cool in the UK sometimes. Here, if people like a show, they really like a show and they’re not afraid to say it, which is wonderful for the actors.

The series finale of “Reign” airs tonight on The CW.

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