Star Wars

The Featured Presentation

Dan Donohue

Donohue in “The Last Tycoon”

With the first season of “Damnation” officially in the books, it is time for any and all of you who have yet to watch the crime drama to set your binging sites on this gritty yet refined gem from USA Network. With a stellar cast and pacing that leaves you instantly wanting more, the series is a stream dream, so fire up that DVR, get yourself comfortable, and saddle up for one hell of a storytelling ride. This is definitely one of those shows that you can easily binge-watch, so don’t be afraid to record a whole season’s worth of episodes on your DVR. If you don’t have a DVR, you may feel as though you have no other choice than to watch episodes weekly. However, you can find out more information here about how you can get your hands on a DVR of your own so you can record all of your favorite shows and watch them whenever you want.

We recently sat down with “Damnation” star Dan Donohue to discuss the recipe for its success, what a new show needs to do in order to rise above the competition, and how Batman blew his mind.

TrunkSpace: “Damnation” has received great reviews, but more importantly to the long-term success of the series, fan buzz. What do you think the series offers viewers that has not only baited them, but has sunk the hook as well? What are its biggest strengths?
Donohue: The show has, indeed, received a terrific response – which is gratifying. Fans have jumped on board and are, clearly, holding on tight. “Damnation” is quite a ride. The heart of what makes this show so special is the brilliant story. It unfolds in a masterful way as each character reveals their history, their motivations, and their most guarded secrets. The writing is the thoroughbred on who’s back rides the incredible directors, production team, casting directors, designers, and actors. Each day, on set, you could feel how proud folks were to be a part of it. That pride is reflected in every shot of “Damnation.”

TrunkSpace: What was it about your character Calvin Rumple that first drew you in? Does he offer you something from a performance standpoint that you have yet to tackle in your career?
Donohue: When I was cast, I had only read the first episode. That was all that was available to read at the time. I knew the role would recur, but I wasn’t told what Calvin’s trajectory might be. What was clear, though, from that first script – and what made me particularly excited to play him – was the built-in conflict, the inherent danger, and the potentially bumpy, and perhaps sobering, ride ahead for Calvin Rumple. I thought, I want to be in the driver’s seat while Calvin navigates through this minefield in front of him.

TrunkSpace: For those who have yet catch up with the series on their DVR, where does Calvin fall into things within the “Damnation” universe and what is his journey?
Donohue: Calvin Rumple runs Holden Savings and Loan. At first glance, he seems to be on top. He’s got his shiny shoes on the necks of the local farmers. Of course, the farmers aren’t happy about that. They have been pushed into a corner and are about to come out swinging. So Calvin is in a precarious position. He wields a fair amount of freshly-inherited power. That power feels good to him – he wears it like an expensive new suit. But underneath that fine tailored wool is a sheep. Calvin has lost his moral compass – or, conveniently, set it aside – and he has wandered off the path into dangerous territory.

TrunkSpace: We recently spoke with your costar Sarah Jones and one of the things we pointed out was, whereas many series get attention for the names involved in a cast, “Damnation” delivers with sheer talent. So many of those involved in the show are just wonderful character actors who always bring their A game when they’re on screen. How does this cast compare to the casts of other productions you have been involved with?
Donohue: This is one of the strongest and most unique group of actors I’ve had the great good fortune to work with. I feel extremely lucky to be in the mix. I’ve learned so much on set watching each one of them raise the bar.

TrunkSpace: “Damnation” premiered at a very busy time in the TV landscape. Not only are there a countless number of new series debuting on cable and streaming platforms, but dozens upon dozens of returning series have been airing as well. In your opinion, how does a new, original series make its mark and find an audience in this very crowded golden age of television?
Donohue: A good question. It’s a brave new world, to be sure – a particularly fertile era for cinematic storytelling. There are so many good shows being produced – all competing for an audience. I think that trying to be all things to all people is wasted energy. A new series needs to have a distinctive fingerprint. What you hope, I suppose, is that the singularity – and the quality – of a great show wins out.

TrunkSpace: You’ve guested on some incredibly popular series over the years, from “Longmire” to “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Is there a character you played briefly over the course of your career that you would have liked to explore further, and if so, why?
Donohue: The world has been rough on the on-screen characters I’ve played lately. In the past two years, I’ve played several guest star roles who’s lives have ended horribly. One character was burned to death. One was fatally shot in the head. Another was fatally shot in the head. One was drowned, turned into a zombie, and then fatally stabbed in the eye. Oh, and one was shot in the ass. Fatally.

At a glance, revisiting any of those particular characters doesn’t seem likely. (Though, I was incinerated in “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” – quite literally turned to dust – and my character still made it back for another episode.) The truth is, I’m available. Even for the dead ones. Happy to do flashbacks, plot twists, zombies, ghosts, and apparitions.

But seriously, last year I played a small but wonderful recurring role, Caldecott Riddle, in the first season of Billy Ray’s, “The Last Tycoon.” Tycoon is based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald and set in 1930’s Hollywood. The first season was exquisitely done – so rich and heartbreaking. Sadly, Amazon didn’t pick up Tycoon for a second season. That’s one I would love to come back to were it picked up by another studio. Such a terrific story. And so much more story there to be told.

TrunkSpace: Beyond your on-screen work, you are also a voice actor, recently giving live to Shriv in “Star Wars: Battlefront II.” What did it mean for you to become a part of the ever-growing “Star Wars” universe? Did it fulfill any childhood dreams?
Donohue: Working on this role in Battlefront II was like being transported back to 1977 to play “Star Wars” in my backyard. I absolutely loved playing Shriv. I did both voice and motion capture for him. Shriv is a lovable curmudgeon. He’s someone who’s been through it all – twice – and he’d rather not go back for thirds. Shriv a big-hearted, large-craniumed, hugely loyal, malcontent. A bit of an Eeyore. I’ve been an enthusiastic “Star Wars” fan from the beginning. To say I never dreamed I’d play a new character in a “Star Wars” story one day would be a complete lie. As a kid, I dreamed that dream all the time. I spent countless hours imagining it. I’ve never read the book, “The Secret.” It wasn’t even written back then. But I secreted the shit out of that “Star Wars” dream back in the day. I very much hope Shriv has a long life in the “Star Wars” galaxy. And in our own.

Donohue in “Damnation”

TrunkSpace: Your voiceover work also lead to you becoming Brother Night in the animated series “Justice League Action.” Does playing a DC Comics villain give you some instant comics fandom cred?
Donohue: Heck, I have no cred at all. Also, no game. But that’s not DC’s fault. “Justice League Action” was a blast. I worked with some amazing folks on it. I remember, my first day recording Brother Night, I arrived at the studio early and with no clue who I might be acting with that day. I had only been there a minute or two when in walks Kevin Conroy, himself – the voice of Batman.

Voice of Batman: “Hello.”

Voice of Dan: “Hello.”

(Mind of Dan: Blown.)

And then, before I’d even processed my excitement about working with Kevin Conroy, in walks Mark Hamill. I thought, Holly crap! This is for real!

TrunkSpace: Comic content continues to rule the big and small screens. Is there a particularly character from any comic universe that you’d like to slip into the tights of?
Donohue: I don’t have sights on any particular comic characters at the moment – other than ones I’m currently working on. I have roles in two upcoming comic book-based video games. And I play a recurring character in an upcoming animated series. I’m extremely happy the genre is thriving. So many imaginative and exciting stories and such fantastic characters – old and new. It’s an actor’s playground.

TrunkSpace: As you look forward, what kind of career do you want to have? If it was in your control to pave your own path, what would that path look like?
Donohue: I think my path would look much like it does now – at least in shape and direction. I’ve been a working actor for 30 years now. I hope to act for 30 more. I love telling stories through the characters I play. I love bringing a character’s story to life. But when it comes to measuring success, I tend to gauge mine by whether or not I feel my work is improving – whether or not I’m growing as an actor. To me, it’s disheartening and distracting to think of it any other way.

read more
Deep Focus

Jennifer Muro

Photo By: Ricky Middlesworth

Spanning the different eras of the beloved franchise, the new animated miniseries “Star Wars: Forces of Destiny” features a number of the iconic female characters familiar to fans and spotlights the previously unseen moments that made them the heroes that they ultimately become. Many of the big screen talent involved in the franchise will be reprising their roles, including Daisy Ridley, Lupita Nyong’o, John Boyega, and Felicity Jones. The 16 episode run kicks off July 3 on Disney’s YouTube channel and then premieres on Disney Channel July 9.

We recently sat down with the series’ sole writer Jennifer Muro to discuss what it was like to get to play in the “Star Wars” sandbox, how far animation has come over the years, and why a series like “Forces of Destiny” is made with both children and adults in mind.

TrunkSpace: We’ve been talking quite a bit lately with people about diversity in writers’ rooms, particularly on scripted live action series. One area we have yet to touch on with people is how diversity is represented in the animated series landscape. Can you shed some light on that area of things?
Muro: Well, I do tend to do a lot more action shows and there are less women in that. It’s changing. It’s getting more and more these days. I think in the younger space there’s a lot more female writers. It’s slowly shifting, which is great. Writers’ rooms are fun. I love writers’ rooms. I think they’re great. I do a lot of freelance and when I get a chance to do a writers’ room I love it because I thrive in that kind of environment and bouncing ideas off of people. I write so many scripts all year long, having to do it solo… writers’ rooms are just so much easier for me. I hope I get to work with more women in the writers’ rooms at some point. That would be great.

TrunkSpace: Are writers’ rooms more common in the animated space with a series based on a franchise because there’s already an established universe and you’re working within parameters, either story-based or because of particular character restrictions or goals?
Muro: Yeah. Definitely having well known characters makes a huge difference in the creation. And, what version. Each show is a little different or each time the characters’ incarnation is a little different. There’s that too that you have to think about.

TrunkSpace: You’re working on “Star Wars” and that’s a property that has long had a diverse cast of characters… real and fictional in terms of their race/species. As a writer, how do you find the voices of those characters who not only have a different background than you, but actually have a different background than anybody?
Muro: (Laughter) I think there’s universal feelings no matter what and I think that’s really where you’re going to pull from. Motivation, human or humanoid or whatever that may be, I think there’s some universal things. And as long as you tap into those core universal themes, you’re going to be fine.

TrunkSpace: When you look at the worlds that most writers would love to play in the sandbox of, “Star Wars” is probably at the top of that list. What was the experience like for you in learning that you’d get to do that?
Muro: It was exciting. It was surreal. It was a dream come true. It was mind blowing and big. I wouldn’t say overwhelming… I would say exciting. It always feels like forever before you can talk about it or before it comes out and it’s finally here and it’s thrilling that it is. I can actually see toys and images and it’s a nice thing to happen.

TrunkSpace: Animation has changed so much over the years. When we were kids, animation wasn’t nearly as sophisticated as it is today. It wasn’t character-driven.
Muro: Right.

TrunkSpace: Today they feel like they’re made for kids, but at the same time, for adults as well.
Muro: I absolutely think so and I’m glad they’re doing that because the younger audience will gain a sophistication in what they expect in their storytelling. They’re not being talked down to. I’m glad they’re doing it that way because it just benefits everybody.

TrunkSpace: Even the production quality back when we were kids was shady at best. Something like the old “G.I. Joe” cartoon would suddenly have characters appear in a scene without pieces of clothing colored. (Laughter)
Muro: (Laughter) Yeah. Hanna-Barbera was notorious for that kind of thing where eyeballs would be colored in by mistake rather than being white. (Laughter) That happened all of the time.

We were fine with it as kids, I think. Sort of. You just kind of got through it, I guess. (Laughter) But yeah, it really matters these days. The quality is just phenomenal. I think we’re super lucky now. And for kids at heart, we’re still watching a lot of this stuff and we can go, “Oh wow, this is so much better!” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: And what’s so great about “Star Wars” is that it’s the kind of property that parents WANT to pass down to their children. It’s something that many of them share together and animation is a great way to sort of get the ball rolling.
Muro: Absolutely and I think that’s what we’re hoping to do, to start showing them this world in a truly accessible way.

TrunkSpace: With animation being so sophisticated these days, does it feel like you’re actually not working in the animation space at times?
Muro: Yeah, especially with this kind of project.

There is budgetary stuff. There are certain assets that you can’t use and that you can use so you have to limit certain things, but especially because you’re working with an “Empire Strikes Back” or a “Return of the Jedi”, so of course you’re thinking of the movies. I was thinking live action in that way and I think that’s probably a good thing.

TrunkSpace: Thinking in that real world way gives the characters themselves a more real world POV and kids certainly can pick up on that. They know when they’re being fed something that isn’t of the reality that they know, even when it takes place in fantastical worlds.
Muro: Yes, they do. You don’t want a false construct. Lucasfilm definitely did not want to do that. We wanted to make authentic “Star Wars” stories. I’m hoping they (kids) will see that, they should feel that, and that’s what we were going for.

TrunkSpace: With an established universe and characters, in a time when so much of it is being shared across multiple platforms and planned out for longterm roll out, how much of that did you have to take into consideration so as not to step on the creative toes of what’s being done elsewhere?
Muro: Well, the Lucasfilm’s Story Group makes a huge difference when working with them. They know their world so well and they’re not going to let anything not be true to the world and the characters. It was definitely a big job to tell all of the different stories, but it was an exciting one to go through all of time and space, literally, to tell these individual stories. But having them do it with me makes all of the difference.

TrunkSpace: Did you give any thought to the fact that the super die-hard “Star Wars” fans will be watching it and dissecting it based on their own knowledge of the universe?
Muro: Yeah. And I am one of those fans. (Laughter) I always worry. “Are we doing this right? Is this the right thing? Is this continuity okay?” But like I said, I had the Story Group with me, so that helps.

Photo By: Ricky Middlesworth

You want to write it for character. You want to write it for good story. But you also want to make sure you’re consistent. You always try to make everyone happy, but there’s always going to be someone who’s not going to be happy with stuff.

TrunkSpace: Especially in the social media age! (Laughter)
Muro: Exactly. And I have no doubt they’ll let me know! (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: You mentioned that you are a longtime “Star Wars” fan yourself. With that being said, it must be kind of cool to know that at some point down the road, writers will be mining your own work within the franchise for future stories and continuity?
Muro: You know, that’s interesting. That’s one of those surreal moments that hits you that it could possibly happen. I think once they’re out and I can see them, I think it will become more real to me. But, yeah, obviously that would be a dream come true.

TrunkSpace: If we were to go back and sit down with 15-year-old Jennifer Muro and we asked her what type of writer she wanted to be, would she have the same answers as you have now in terms of where you are in your career?
Muro: It’s really hard to get bigger than “Star Wars.” I think there’s some live action stories that I want to start telling and going more in that direction… but always keeping the door open in animation for amazing properties like this. There’s so many more stories to tell in animation, for live action properties.

I’m thrilled where I am, of course, but I just want to keep going and tell bigger stories.

read more
CBD Products