The Featured Presentation

McKenna Roberts

Photography: Storm Santos/Styling: Lauren Taylor/Hair: Sienree for Celestine Agency/Makeup: Renee Loiz

Coming from the daily grind of network soap operas, McKenna Roberts learned what it takes to be a working actress at a very early age. Still only 11, she has since graduated from her “The Young and the Restless” roots to become Dwayne Johnson’s daughter in “Skyscraper” and the 10-year-old version of Zendaya’s character Rue from the new HBO series “Euphoria.” Those are both big roles to fill, and she has gone on to do so with a level of confidence that reaches well beyond her physical age.

We recently sat down with Roberts to discuss on-set lessons, the challenges of taking on characters, and the type of reality show she would one day like to appear on.

TrunkSpace: From Dwayne Johnson’s daughter in “Skyscraper” to the younger version of Zendaya’s Rue in the new HBO series “Euphoria,” you are certainly surrounding yourself with successful talent early in your career. Are you looking at each project you work on as just as much of an education as you are a job?
Roberts: Absolutely! It’s been a tremendous learning experience. Every job I’ve worked on, I’ve taken something from it and put it into other roles and auditions.

TrunkSpace: You spent a number of years working on “The Young and the Restless.” Soap operas are known for their breakneck production schedules, and in a way, that must be a great boot camp to learn from. What is a lesson that you took from your time on the series that you’ve carried with you through the rest of your career thus far?
Roberts: I learned that you need to be on your game – meaning, making sure you know your lines, paying attention to what camera is taping, and at the same time, you want your performance to be on point because they move very fast.

TrunkSpace: As mentioned, “Euphoria” will air on HBO, which is a network that actors of all ages are vying to do work with. When you step away and look at your career from an outside perspective, do you feel like each opportunity has led to the next opportunity, and if so, where do you hope to go from here?
Roberts: Yes, I do think that each opportunity in my career has and probably will continue to lead me to something even greater! I loved that I can add HBO to my resume.

TrunkSpace: In “Euphoria” you play a young Rue. Did you work with Zendaya to pick up the little details of the character – the physical stuff – so that when the audience sees her at 10-years-old, the who of Rue lines up with the where she came from?
Roberts: No we didn’t do that, and I think it was because the beginning experiences Young Rue went through were on a much different level than the Older Rue. And as she got older, her life went into a much darker place.

TrunkSpace: As a performer, is there more pressure involved bringing a character to life when, within the same series, someone else is also breathing life into the same character? Does it become a bit of a collaboration in that regard?
Roberts: I really didn’t feel any pressure because that’s what I’m used to doing with every character I have played in my career. It was just more of a challenge if anything, but I was happy with my work and I wanted to make sure the director was too.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of about your time spent on the series?
Roberts: I felt like my role was challenging and I thought I did a good job with my character, and I was just super happy I got to play a younger character that Zendaya was playing.

TrunkSpace: Aside from your acting work, you’re also a model. Do you view both as two separate careers, or extensions of the same career?
Roberts: I do see them both as separate careers for me. But a lot has changed since I started modeling and there are a lot of opportunities that can be tied into what’s going on in my acting career if the timing is right.

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, you like to bake/cook in your spare time. What is a food-related show that you wouldn’t mind being a contestant on and why?
Roberts: Well, the funny thing is that a few years back, I actually auditioned to be on a food-related show called “Master Chef Junior.” I auditioned for it twice and got really close one of the times. So, being on a show like that, or maybe a celebrity baking challenge show, would be really cool.

Photography: Storm Santos/Styling: Lauren Taylor/Hair: Sienree for Celestine Agency/Makeup: Renee Loiz

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Roberts: The highlight of my career has definitely been working on “Skyscraper” with some incredible people in the industry like director Rawson Marshall Thurber, Neve Campbell, Dwayne Johnson and many others.

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?
Roberts: Even though that sounds super cool, I wouldn’t want to time travel to see what my career looks like because I think it would ruin the fun and excitement of what’s to come for me – and I’m happy with how things are going for me now!

Euphoria” airs Sundays on HBO.

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The Featured Presentation

Byron Mann

Photo By: Diana Ragland

Byron Mann is on one heck of a project run, but he’s the first to admit that it wasn’t planned. In fact, he couldn’t have planned it this way if he tried.

Not only can the Hong Kong native be seen starring in the new Netflix series “Altered Carbon,” but you’ll soon be able to catch him opposite Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in the upcoming action film “Skyscraper.” Both projects’ trailers were part of the highly-anticipated Super Bowl roster of commercials, proving once again that you just can’t plan for this kind of thing.

We recently sat down with Mann to discuss the reason “Altered Carbon” feels more like a film than a television series, why it won’t be easy for other networks to duplicate, and the place he often finds himself engaged in character work.

TrunkSpace: “Altered Carbon” seems like such an ambitious show, especially by television/streaming standards. Just the visuals… the sets… they’ve really built an atmosphere and then dropped the characters in to inhabit it.
Mann: I didn’t realize how ambitious they were until I started training for the show, both individually and they had me work with a trainer every morning. It was pretty hard, rigorous training. Then, in the afternoon, we would train for the fight sequence in the pilot episode. We did that for like two months. Training for one fight sequence for two months – it’s pretty steep, yeah.

TrunkSpace: That’s amazing. It definitely had the feel of watching a feature film.
Mann: There’s no question that they were making a feature film. The director, Miguel Sapochnik, who won an Emmy for “Game of Thrones” last year… there was no question that his ambition was to make it that. I mean, listen, the camera that they used was the ALEXA 65. That’s the same camera used for “The Revenant,” the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio. That camera is only used for widescreen display of the image, like in a movie theater. It’s never ever been used for a TV show. He chose to use this camera for this television show, this streaming show, I should call it. The ambition was clearly there from the get-go to make it feature film quality. When you see the first episode, you’ll see very clearly that it is a feature film presentation.

TrunkSpace: Maybe that’s why the sets and world stood out so much to us, because of the widescreen display.
Mann: Yeah. Of course, when we’re filming, you don’t really feel it. I can tell, not only from filming, but actually from the preparation, the training and rehearsals going into it, that obviously the sets were… they built a new world basically. They built a studio for the series. They converted a printing mill into a studio in Vancouver. It’s called the Skydance Studios, and Skydance owns it. I don’t know how to describe it. They weren’t making another “CSI.” They were making a groundbreaking show, from the ground up.

TrunkSpace: Which sort of calls out other networks. Executives at all of these other networks are going to be saying, “We need our own ‘Altered Carbon’.”
Mann: Oh man, that’s easier said than done. You can’t just duplicate that overnight. You can’t. It’s so hard making anything these days. It’s hard making a television show. It’s hard making a feature film. Not only do you have to make a show like that, then you have to make it a super duper outside-the-box, groundbreaking show. Forget about it. You can’t even plan it. A lot of things that came into being. There’s Laeta Kalogridis. She wrote “Terminator Genisys,” “Shutter Island.” She’s the leading science fiction writer in Hollywood. “Alita: Battle Angel,” the movie that is coming out from Robert Rodriguez… I mean, she’s it. She’s the Steven Spielberg of writers. Then Miguel Sapochnik, who was the executive producer and also directed the first big episode, which took 30 days to shoot. So you have a lot of these things coming together to make this kind of a show.

It’s like the Patriots – it’s a lot of things coming into one. Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and Gronk. The reality is, in football terms, you can’t even duplicate that. Where are you going to get another dynasty? If one of them leaves? If Brady leaves?

I’m very honored, very humbled to happen to be a part of this. It’s awesome.

TrunkSpace: When you signed on, did you dive into the source material, Richard K. Morgan’s 2002 book, to see what came before?
Mann: No. When I first started, I talked to Laeta Kalogridis, the showrunner. She said, “Don’t read the book.” So I didn’t. I just read the script, and I had many, many hours of sitting down with her alone, and just asking her questions like, “What’s going on? What happened?” It’s a new world with new terminology, a new technique of how things work. It’s like “Blade Runner.” It’s a brand new world. Believe it or not, I think 50 years from now, I think our lives will be very close to what we see in “Altered Carbon.” It’s predicated on this premise, that everyone has a “stack,” like a gift in their vertebrae. All humans have this gift. Even if your outer body dies, you can go resave yourself again. As I understand, they’re heavily invested in this technology right now, as we speak.

TrunkSpace: So when you’re playing in the sandbox of a whole new world with new terminology and techniques on how things work, does it allow you to take a different approach to performance than you would with something set in modern day New York, for example?
Mann: Not really. As an actor, when you’re doing a scene, you just want to find out the questions. “Who are you? What do you want? What’s happening in the scene?” It’s still human emotions. No matter how sci-fi everything gets, the baseline is still dealing with very basic human emotions – love, jealousy, desire, power – all that.

Mann in “Altered Carbon”

TrunkSpace: Between “Altered Carbon” and the projects you have due up, you’re getting to work in a lot of different genres. As an actor, is it a treat to get to play in so many different types of projects?
Mann: Yeah, I guess it’s fun. It doesn’t really faze me too much. After playing so many different characters, I think it’s all… the stuff I said earlier, it applies to every single project. Basically, you find out who you are, what you’re doing here, and what are you trying to do? That hasn’t changed from the ’70s and the ’60s, when you had movies like “The Graduate,” or “Serpico,” or “The French Connection.” And now with “Altered Carbon,” it’s still the same thing. Especially for an actor, it’s just you playing in an emotion.

TrunkSpace: Is that the personal draw for you as an actor, the discovery of finding out who a character is?
Mann: Yeah. Sometimes you find it on the tape, when you’re filming. That’s gold, if you actually discover that.

TrunkSpace: Are you someone who looks at someone sitting in a coffee shop or in line at the grocery store and breaks down who they are? Do you have those storyteller moments where you’re trying to discover “characters” even in real life?
Mann: Well, it can hit you anytime – character thoughts can hit you anytime. Once you’re thinking about it, it’s in your subconscious. For me, I’ll tell you when it hits me, it hits me when I’m taking a shower. Sometimes I’m in the shower a long time, and you think about these things.

TrunkSpace: We can totally see that. No distractions. No cell phones. Just you and your thoughts.
Mann: Yeah, and the water is warm, hopefully. When you’re under warm water, your body relaxes. When you’re relaxed, a lot of good things happen to you. I’ve thought about that. I said, “Why do I have these great thoughts when I think in the shower?” It’s usually because your body is really relaxed.

TrunkSpace: You had two trailers for projects you’re in run during the Super Bowl. One was for “Altered Carbon,” and the other was for “Skyscraper,” starring Dwayne Johnson. Not too shabby for the most watched television event of the year!
Mann: Yeah, no kidding. Like I said, you can’t plan for this stuff. You just can’t. You just have to go along life’s journey, do the best you can, and then life will kind of find your way towards these things.

Altered Carbon” is available now on Netflix.

Skyscraper” arrives in theaters July 13.

Mann can also be seen returning to SyFy’s “The Expanse” later this year and the upcoming Blumhouse thriller “Only You.”

Featured image by: Diana Ragland

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The Featured Presentation

Jason William Day

Photo By: David Ford

Professional fighter. Professional actor. Neither are easy careers to navigate, never mind break into, but Jason William Day has never been one to back down in the face of an uphill climb. Formerly competing in the UFC octagon under the name Jason “Dooms” Day, the Alberta native made the leap into acting by way of stunt work, combining his physical talents with his passion for performance. Having worked on dozens of popular television series, including “Van Helsing,” “Supergirl,” and “Arrow,” he hit social media pay dirt when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson shared an image of Day choking him out on the set of the upcoming film “Skyscraper.”

We recently sat down with Day to discuss his approach to changing career gears, how wrestling with The Rock lead to his phone blowing up, and why comic fans may want to keep hope alive regarding B’Wana Beast.

TrunkSpace: You’re a professional actor now. You were a professional fighter earlier in your life. As far as careers go, which one is easier to navigate?
Day: It’s kind of tricky. I think definitely my film career is just more certain in the sense that, it’s more consistent. In the fight game, you don’t know. If you went into a fight and you lose it, your career goes one direction. You win, it goes another direction. I’d say there’s a lot more unknown in the fight gig, so, this is more stable, I’d say.

TrunkSpace: That’s really interesting to hear because so often it seems that there’s a lot of factors that fall out of your control in acting and into the hands of others, such as casting directors and producers.
Day: Yeah, I guess that’s true. I think I’ve just been very fortunate and lucky so far within my career. I haven’t had an issue where I’ve gone a long time without having any work.

TrunkSpace: When you decided to pursue acting and change your focus, did you know that you wanted to utilize your physical skill sets right out of the gates?
Day: Yeah. I think the transition from the fight game into the stunt world was easier for me since I spent the better part of a decade as a professional fighter. A lot of those skills transferred over to screen, which made it a fairly seamless transition. I had been training in acting long before I got into the stunt game. I was training back when I was fighting because I always had this vision that once I was done fighting, I would like to make that transition into the on-screen world. At the time, the focus was acting. It just happened that I broke into stunts first, and now the acting is starting to creep its way in there as well.

TrunkSpace: Getting started in stunts must have been a great way to get comfortable being on sets and also building those long term relationships within the industry?
Day: Yeah, 100 percent correct. It is not only time to get in front of the camera, as a stunt guy you get to learn about who’s who on set and how everything works. You get to meet producers and directors, and you make those connections. That definitely helps you out as far as getting cast in roles down the road.

TrunkSpace: We would imagine that being a stunt performer means you need to be pretty comfortable getting your butt whopped on camera or seeing your characters die over and over again?
Day: (Laughter) It’s kind of an ongoing joke among all the stunt guys. If you see one of us on screen, you know that somebody’s about to die.

But, yeah, you definitely have to swallow your pride. You don’t get to win too many fights as a stunt guy.

TrunkSpace: Does having that real world knowledge of fighting help you on set in terms of choreography as well? Are there times when something is mapped out, a fight, and you have an opportunity to step in and say, “Well, this is great, but maybe this would be more effective?”
Day: It’s funny how different the two worlds are. When you’re training for the fight game, everything’s nice and tight. You want to make your movements small and quick. When you’re on screen, you have to make everything big.

Most of the fights are pretty locked down beforehand. The amount of work that goes into building a fight before we actually step in front of the camera is extraordinary. Usually we get a couple of rehearsal days. It’s rare that you change things on the fly, but it happens. The actors always seem to want it as realistic as possible, so I’ve got to step in a few times to offer suggestions about what makes it more believable. As the case with Dwayne when we were doing the last movie, he wanted that choke to look as realistic as possible. I got to actually help him out with that. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: “Skyscraper” is obviously a huge, big budget film. Because of that, there’s probably plenty of days on set to get things right. But you have also done a ton of stunt performing in television as well where the schedules are more breakneck. Does that force you to change up your approach at all when there is more of a ticking clock?
Day: It doesn’t really change how we operate. It is true, in TV, usually they get the stunt guys up at the end of the day, and it’s like you have to get this huge fight sequence done in a much shorter period of time than the four hours you need to shoot it. Whereas in film, yeah, we’ve got plenty of time, so it kind of takes a little bit of the stress off.

TrunkSpace: When Dwayne posted that picture of you choking him out on the set of “Skyscraper,” did you have any idea it was going out to the world beforehand?
Day: You know, when we were doing the scene, I could tell it was an important moment for him, because he wanted it as realistic as possible. He did have Hiram (Garcia), the president of Seven Bucks Productions, snapping a few photos. I was thinking, “Wow, it would be kind of cool if he posted one of these on his Instagram,” but he didn’t really give me any heads-up or anything like that. I woke up one morning and I think I had 1,500 followers and my phone blowin’ up telling me to check Instagram. It’s just crazy the power that guy carries through to social media. It’s mind boggling.

TrunkSpace: It must have been one of those situations where you can see firsthand the power of something going viral on social media?
Day: 100 percent. That’s where society is moving, I think, especially film and television. They’re starting to cast on who’s popular on social media for some roles. It’s starting to play a huge part in the whole business.

TrunkSpace: When you look at someone like Dwayne, who got his start in the world of professional wrestling, a medium that combines acting and the physicality of fighting… was that ever an avenue you considered pursuing?
Day: No. I never really got into wrestling. I never followed it too much. I had friends that were hardcore fans, and they dressed up like Ultimate Warrior back in the day. (Laughter) And I’ve worked with a few guys – Big Show and then The Miz. The schedule and the pace they have to operate on… they’ll work for 300+ days. When they come here to shoot a movie, they’re happy that they have to be in one place for more than a week. That lifestyle never really called out to me. I like to be settled. And if I’m going to go somewhere, then I like to go for a long period of time.

If you look at Big Show, he’s got hip problems. He just got a new hip put in. Dwayne, his body’s taken some beatings over the years. So those guys put themselves through hell. It pays off for a lot of them, but, to me, it was just never appealing. I like the real fight game, and that kind of appealed to me as far as the adrenaline.

TrunkSpace: A lot of our readers are also big comic book fans. Many of those comic fans were pumped up to see B’wana Beast make an appearance in a recent episode of “Legends of Tomorrow.” You got to bring him to life, but the more important question is, will we get to see him again?
Day: That was such a crazy experience, prancing around set in a loin cloth. It was a different feeling for me. (Laughter)

I talked to the writer of that episode, and she’s producer now. I said, “Do you think you guys are gonna bring this guy back?” Anything’s possible, right?

I put the bug in her ear that I think he should come back. (Laughter)

Day and Billy Zane in “Legends of Tomorrow.”

Skyscraper is scheduled for release next summer.

Feature image by: Natalia Anja

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