The Featured Presentation

Luke Baines


Even with his successful run as Jonathan Morgenstern on the fan-favorite fantasy series “Shadowhunters,” Luke Baines continues to want to push himself artistically, working to strike a balance between large-scale commercial projects and the kind of smaller independent films that feature characters not typically seen in mainstream productions. His latest project is just that, the dramatic “A Dark Place,” which the English-born actor admits to having reservations about prior to accepting the role of Alex.

I was really kind of scared because the material was so intense at times,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “I just didn’t want to do it and not be able to pull it off.”

We recently sat down with Baines to discuss the indie leap of faith, growing comfortable in his own skin, and why he’s looking forward to laughing a little on-camera.

TrunkSpace: You’re enjoying success on “Shadowhunters,” but we’re curious how important it is for you as an artist to continue to pursue projects like “A Dark Place” to appease your own creative hunger?
Baines: It’s really interesting because going into this I was really scared to do this film because it’s such an ambitious project in terms of the writing, and how much time we had to actually shoot it…

TrunkSpace: Twelve days, right?
Baines: Yeah.

TrunkSpace: Crazy.
Baines: Yeah, it really was. So, there were days, just because of the way that filmmaking works, that I was jumping between suicide and the happiest moments of my life, and they were scenes that were scheduled back-to-back. So I’d be crying and then they’re like, “Okay. Great. We’re going to rush you over to the next set, and you’re on your first date with Jas.” I’m like, “Okay. Yeah. Uh-huh. Give me one second?” So, that was really difficult. But it’s obviously  a lot different when you’re doing an independent film like this, and all of the decision makers, essentially, are in the room and they’re on set with you. So, there’s so much more freedom to be creative, and to make different choices, and to throw out ideas and to collaborate. That’s not something you always get an opportunity to do, obviously, on a large scale Disney production. So, that was really nice.

And moving forward, it’s totally something that I would love, to be able to create a balance between doing the larger commercial projects that definitely are important, because a lot of people get to see them and you, and they’re good from that perspective, while also doing this kind of indie smaller budget creative stuff.

TrunkSpace: With that said, there must also be a bit of a leap of faith for you as a performer, because in those early stages of a project like this, you don’t really know what kind of distribution you’ll have when all is said and done?
Baines: Yeah. 100 percent. It is something that is really scary as an actor. These projects come up, you read them, and then you have to try and make a decision with your team whether or not this is going to be something that is good. With this, with Chris (Piñero), this is his first film, and the fear part of it is that it’s my face at the end of the day. So, if the film is crap then I’m the one that looks bad. I was really kind of scared because the material was so intense at times. I just didn’t want to do it and not be able to pull it off. But I met with him and we had a coffee, and I just remember he’s just so full of passion, and he’s so enthusiastic, and there was just something about it where I was like, “You know what? Yeah. I want to do this.” And then going into it I said to him, “Look, it’s not my job to decide whether or not what I’m doing is good. I’m putting all my faith and trust in you. I’m going to go all out, you tell me if it works, and you tell me if doesn’t, and I hope that whatever we get on camera is something interesting.”

TrunkSpace: Well, and there’s certainly plenty of examples of performers doing 100 million dollar movies that don’t work out, so in a way, as intense as those 12 days probably were, you can also justify a leap of faith like that by saying, “Well, it is 12 days and I’m going to take a gamble on the material and hope that it pays off?”
Baines: Yes. And that was kind of my thought process was, “It’s 12 days, and it may never come out…” But I’m proud of Chris and what he’s accomplished. He wrote, directed, edited and produced this film, and it’s good. I’m really proud of it.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned that the role and the writing in general were ambitious and that you wanted to make sure that you could do it right, but was part of the desire to embrace the character of Alex the fact that a role like this would not be available in terms of the types of projects that are being made in the mainstream?
Baines: Totally. And that was something that was 100 percent another draw to doing something like this. I also really loved the fact that it was so grounded in reality. A lot of the stuff that I’ve done in the past is in the sci-fi/horror space. So, to be able to play real human relationships – real human situations – obviously, they’re a little bit heightened because it is a film and not a documentary, but it was nice to actually not have to visualize the demon coming for my head, and just actually play an emotion that I understand.

Baines in “Shadowhunters”

TrunkSpace: For the audience the end product is always the most memorable, but we would imagine it goes a lot deeper for those involved in a project. For you, what is something from your time making “A Dark Place” that you’ll carry with you through the rest of your career?
Baines: Good question. I think the thing that I’m proudest of with this film was not self-moderating. A lot of the times, as an actor, you come up with the character, or the situation, and you have an understanding of what it is, and then you put out there what you want to put out there. With this it was the first project where I really said to myself, “Listen, the director’s job is to paint this picture, your job is just to bring some color, and he gets to decide what he wants to use.” And so, I really did put a lot of faith in Chris to be able to make sure that it did look good, and it was really, really scary. And so, for me, it was like a personal challenge that I overcame, and I’m happy about that.

TrunkSpace: In terms of your craft as a whole, do you enjoy acting as much today as when you first stepped foot onto a set?
Baines: Yeah, I really do. I actually think that I love it more, to be honest. Earlier in my career I was more focused on doing good work and pleasing people, I guess, and now I feel like I have a little bit more freedom where I can just go and live in the character’s moment, and explore that. And so, I feel like there’s more of a sense of freedom that comes with that, and I think it’s just from having done different projects, and knowing that sometimes they turn out great and sometimes they don’t turn out great. And a lot of that is out of my control. So, I’m better off just focusing on the character and enjoying it more, and I think that I’m doing that now.

TrunkSpace: Is part of that too, just as we age – as humans – we get more comfortable in our own skin?
Baines: Yes. 100 percent. It’s funny, I remember having an agent, God, like six years ago now, say to me that after every major life event you become a different actor. Whether you get in and out of a relationship, have a child, or buy a house, or whatever it is… and it’s so true. I think that, as actors, we can play all emotions, but the ones that come better to us are the ones that we’ve experienced ourselves. And so, the older I get, and the more that I grow, and the more life experience I have, and the more comfortable I am in my own skin, and the more confidence I have, the better I am as an actor.

TrunkSpace: If somebody came to you tomorrow and said, “Luke, here is a blank check. Go and green light any kind of project you want for yourself.” What would you throw into development?
Baines: It would be a comedy, because no one is going to cast me in that. Yeah. If someone’s giving me a blank check I’m going to do some kind of extremely elevated comedy so that I get a chance to actually have some fun and not cover myself in fake blood for one project.

A Dark Place” is now available on iTunes, Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand.

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The Featured Presentation

Chad Connell

Photo By: Lane Dorsey

While starring as Bryce opposite Jill Hennessy on “Crawford,” Chad Connell has turned his previous dramatic roles into comedic gold by tapping into the hilarity of his character’s circumstances. There are seldom jokes specifically written into the CBC series, but that hasn’t stopped the Canadian-born actor (or the rest of the cast) from discovering the funny in the absurdity of everyday life.

We recently sat down with Connell to discuss social media shout outs, laminated lyric sheets, and why he doesn’t want you to settle for a cold beer.

TrunkSpace: You received a pretty awesome social media shout out from Jill Hennessy for your work on Crawford.Commercial success aside, wed imagine theres no better feeling than earning the respect of your peers in a business that is known for having an ‘every person for himself/herself’ mentality?
Connell: Things always come together better when people get rid of that ‘everyone for themselves’ attitude. The support from everyone, both in the cast and from the crew, was palpable and it just makes for a better working environment and everyone ups their game. Jill is pretty legendary but so down-to-earth. It felt like we were just coming onto set to hang out and have a good time and make a killer show while we were at it.

TrunkSpace: In the series you play Bryce, boyfriend to Hennessys Cynthia. The only problem is, Cynthia is married. In a way, because hes the other man in the equation, does that in and of itself make Bryce the ‘villain’ of the story?
Connell: The only person Bryce’s relationship is complicated for is Bryce. He knew the ground rules from the beginning, but it just feels so hard. There are a couple villains on the show, but it’s definitely not Bryce. He’s too sweet and pure, and I think is pretty well liked, even by Cynthia’s kids. Bryce develops genuine feelings for Cynthia, so he thinks it’s only appropriate that he become bros with her husband – that’s what a man would do.

TrunkSpace: “Crawfordis a comedy, which seems to be a genre that you havent had a lot of opportunity to play with throughout your professional career. Do you hope your performance as Bryce opens up more doors in that area so that you can continue to tap into the funny?
Connell: I took what I learned playing dramatic roles and brought that to my work in “Crawford.” We are never playing for the laughs (but man, when they come it’s rewarding) and there aren’t very many written jokes. What makes this show funny is how wrapped up in their own personal drama the characters are. It just so happens that their drama is ludicrous.

TrunkSpace: What is it about Bryce that you enjoyed inhabiting the most? Is there an aspect of his personality that made it exciting to come to set each day?
Connell: Comedy can seem pretty jaded and to get a laugh people often resort to sarcasm. Even in everyday life it can be easy to fall into the trap of being a little too cool or disconnected. What makes Bryce stand out is that he is so earnest. He loves Cynthia, his dogs, and U2 so much and he is not ashamed of that. He will proudly give you a laminated printout of song lyrics to show you how enthusiastic he is. Getting to play Bryce is like having a good friend who leads by example and reminds you to get over yourself and just get excited about things, no matter how small.

TrunkSpace: Regarding your experience as a whole, what will you take from your time on Crawfordthat youll carry with you through the rest of your life and career?
Connell: How important it is to have the confidence of the creative team. Mike Clattenburg and Mike O’Neill are such a dynamic pair and initially their CVs were a little intimidating. You don’t want to let them down. But they made sure each and every one of us was aware of our talent and that we were hired to bring these characters to life because they trusted us.

It’s not often on set that you feel that kind of support, so it’s essential you learn to trust yourself. You’ve got to be your own cheer squad in an environment where you don’t feel you have a director or writer on your side.

TrunkSpace: You started acting as a kid, but took time off to focus on your education. When you returned to acting in 2006, did you feel like you had to completely hit the restart button or did your past experience come into play?
Connell: I think I had an easier time than some of my classmates because I was able to draw on my past experience and I had a resume that helped get me in the door. But I remember my first audition right out of theatre school and I was nervous as shit. The director had to get someone to go get me a glass of water because my mouth was too dry to even get the lines out. I was out of the game for four years when I was 19 to 23 spending 80 hours a week with the same 17 people. It was a really sheltered environment where there was a part in our plays for everyone. The real world ain’t like that.

TrunkSpace: For you personally, what was the most daunting aspect of beginning your professional career as an actor? Was there anything you had to overcome before you could focus 100 percent on pursuing your dreams?
Connell: I never had a doubt about what I wanted to do. I used to beg my parents to get me an agent as a little kid. However, now that I’m well into my career, what can be daunting is feeling like you don’t have roots planted down. Auditions and work can take you from one city to the next with little notice and that makes it hard to plan for the future and have a stable personal life. It’s a career that demands a lot of sacrifice.

TrunkSpace: Youve appeared in a number of television series and films over the years. Is there a particular role or character that you wish you had more time to spend with?
Connell: The show is over now but I would love to revisit the character I played on “Warehouse 13” called Jack. He was a paranormal investigator in the 1960s. I remember that experience really fondly.

TrunkSpace: Finally, Chad, we know you are a wine enthusiast. We go into the stores nowadays and stare blankly at a wall of wine with no real idea on where to start. What should we be drinking? What are some wines that we should be focusing in on instead of staring blankly at?
Connell: Focus on the winemaker. I am a big fan of independent wine growers, particularly from France. If the wine has a lot of marketing or some gimmick, stay away. That means their resources are going into their advertisements and branding instead of what’s in the bottle. Making wine choices is getting a lot easier these days with social media as well. Follow someone you trust (i.e. me) and see what they’re drinking. Wine is meant to be fun and interesting, not intimidating. I don’t want you to just give up and settle for beer.

Crawford” airs on CBC.

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