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Wingman Wednesday

Siobhán Williams

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Based on the graphic novel by Rick Remender, “Deadly Class” is one the most anticipated series of the new year for comic book-loving television viewers. With an incredible ensemble cast that represents the future of Hollywood, the Syfy action-fest takes place at a high school for assassins during the 1980s and is filled to the brim with counterculture references, many of which are still relevant today.

This time out we’re chatting with Siobhán Williams, who plays Brandy Lynn, to discuss the fears of taking on such a controversial character, why she ultimately decided to tackle Brandy, and the reason she’d rather be playing Red Dead Redemption 2 than chasing fame.

TrunkSpace: Between the release of “Welcome to Marwen” and the first season of “Deadly Class” kicking off, we would imagine this is a very exciting time for you. Is it necessary to strike a balance between enjoying the moment and suppressing expectations, because this does seem like a business where so much is out of your control once a project calls wrap.
Williams: Thank you! It’s definitely been exciting. For sure, there is so much that can go wrong within a project. It’s a miracle to even get a script green-lit, and once that happens there are about seven million different roadblocks that can set it back or stop it from ever seeing the light of day. Even if it does come out, your scenes could be cut or role diminished, any number of things. You can never have expectations in this industry – you have to remain present and enjoy the process. Art is never finished, only abandoned, so I think every artist needs to learn to enjoy the process. I don’t think any decent artist can look back at their completed work and say “it’s perfect, I wouldn’t change a thing.” But truly I think this is something that can be applied to the human condition as a whole – so much is out of our control in life, we just have to do our best and do what fulfills us and hope for the best.

TrunkSpace: Beyond the great cast, “Deadly Class” also has a number of people behind the camera with a track record for bringing compelling storytelling to the masses, including the Russo Brothers. Did you view your time on “Deadly Class” as just as much of an education as you did a job? What did you absorb from the people around you that you’ll apply to your career moving forward?
Williams: I view every job I have as an education. I learned most of what I know about acting and film/TV on set – asking questions within each department and observing the people around me. “Deadly Class” was a particularly inspiring environment because everyone on set seemed to be striving to learn. I think the most admirable people are those who are open-minded, egoless, and always endeavoring to learn and ask questions. Those are the people who are the most intelligent and successful, because they just suck up information like a sponge. People who are cocky and close-minded never grow or evolve. I have a real love for cameras and photography, so I’d say what I learned most on “Deadly Class” was regarding technical directing. I watched all of our episodic directors closely and took note of their processes.

TrunkSpace: Your character Brandy Lynn may prove to be a bit controversial. She says and does things that will make many people do spit takes while watching. Was there a part of you that was hesitant to take on a character that people will love to hate?
Williams: Absolutely, I was hesitant. I’m still pretty scared of Brandy. I remember having a lot of conversations with my boyfriend about how it would affect my career if the show blew up and I became known for portraying a racist. Would the world hate me? But then I read the comics and discovered how intelligent and highly political they were. I realized that “Deadly Class” is (among other things) a commentary on how flawed the system is – how the wealth gap is fucking up America, how corporate greed is fucking up America. And I realized that I owe it to 2019 to portray a character that is a real-world villain. People like Brandy exist. They are everywhere, coming out of the woodwork especially now that they’ve been enabled and endorsed by the political climate in this country. People are mad that Brandy doesn’t look like J.K. Simmons in “Oz.” She doesn’t instantly look terrifying. She doesn’t look like a monster, but she is one. She’s the kind of person that we should be terrified of in real life. A seemingly innocuous, harmless individual with hatred boiling under the surface waiting for the first opportunity to strike. And if we are upset to see a fictional teenage girl spewing her parent’s indoctrinated fascist hatred on a television show but are fine electing representatives who do the same, well – that just goes to show how badly this story needs to be told.

TrunkSpace: On the opposite side of that coin, from a performance standpoint, is bad sometimes good? And by that we mean, when you’re able to inhabit a character with traits so far removed from societal norm, does it make your time on set more fantastical?
Williams: I wouldn’t say that playing a fascist is fantastical. But from an acting standpoint, the further a character is from myself the more challenging and therefore more interesting it is to play. I never wanted to be an actor who just played myself – but on television. I never wanted to be in shows where I could “just look hot” and read the lines in a minimalist and soapy teen way. I’ve always wanted to be a character actor, and travel as far from myself in as many ways as possible – and playing Brandy definitely does that. Roles that require research, a different era, a different accent, a new skill – those are things that draw me to projects. And somehow, amazingly, “Deadly Class” provided me with all of the above.

In terms of playing a villain – I do have to say that villains are often my favorite characters in shows. Christopher Heyerdahl (who plays The Swede in “Hell on Wheels”) is one of my favorite villains of all time. Watching him was so maddening it was almost cathartic. I don’t know if people will love to hate Brandy – or if they’ll just hate to hate her. But I guess we will see.

DEADLY CLASS — “Noise, Noise, Noise” Episode 101 — Pictured: (l-r) Siobhan Williams as Brandy, Jack Gillett as Lex — (Photo by: Katie Yu/SYFY)

TrunkSpace: Beyond the character work, there’s also a lot of stunt work involved in your portrayal of Brandy Lynn. How does the physical aspect of the job enhance your on-set experience? When you know you’re walking into a stunt-heavy day, is it exciting, daunting or a mixture of both?
Williams: It’s so exciting! I love it. The only time it’s daunting is when I’m still in pain from stunt rehearsals like two days before. I love the challenge that choreography provides, and I love feeling strong, and one thing I love about Brandy is her fighting style. She isn’t technical like Saya or balletic like Maria, she’s just fucking savage. She does whatever it takes to win, and it’s not finessed, it’s just scrappy.

TrunkSpace: You have a dance background. Does that skill set work to your advantage when learning and perfecting a particular fight sequence or on-camera stunt?
Williams: I think so – my memory for choreography helps, and having a lot of flexibility and core strength that I’ve retained from ballet.

TrunkSpace: “Deadly Class” is based on a graphic novel. Comics continue to be a well that Hollywood taps into, both for film and television adaptation. As an actress, what is it like having that source material (and existing audience!) available to you, but at the same time, not having the pressure of stepping into a brand that the masses have been exposed to yet, like the Spider-Man or Batman universes?
Williams: Oh, it’s awesome. It’s great having the creator of this entire world (Rick Remender) to guide us. The comics are amazing to be consistently referring back to for information and backstory, and for tone. And the fact that Brandy hasn’t been as elaborated on gives me creative freedom to enhance and add to her.

TrunkSpace: If “Deadly Class” becomes a smash hit and it catapults you to a new level of fame and recognition, is that something that you would welcome? Is fame a part of the equation, or is it a necessary evil to pursue your dreams in this industry?
Williams: Umm. That’s a tough question, and something I try not to think about. Fame isn’t something I’ve ever wanted – acknowledgment of work, that’s something that would be nice I guess. But fame? I dunno. I’m a pretty insular person and the concept of fame is uncomfortable to me. I think that some celebrities invite fame, and in order to be on the front of the tabloids and be really famous you have be working damn hard for it – paying a publicist and doing tons of interviews and photoshoots and going to the clubs where celebs go to be “seen” – I mean, I think it takes conscious effort, and there’s just so many things I’d rather be doing. Like volunteering with animals or hanging with my cats or playing Red Dead Redemption 2. But maybe I’m wrong. I dunno. Maybe fame shows up uninvited sometimes.

Williams with Steve Carell in “Welcome To Marwen”

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Williams: Working with Steve Carell and Bob Zemeckis was definitely one of them. Realizing that maybe I can use this career for good and help raise awareness/money for causes that are important to me is the biggest one. That’s ongoing though.

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?
Williams: Dude, no. Messing with the time/space continuum never goes over well. Have you watched “Back to the Future”?!

Deadly Class” premieres January 16 on Syfy.

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Wingman Wednesday

Stella Maeve

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With its third season winding down and a fourth recently announced, “The Magicians” continues to be a surprise hit for both SyFy and its stars. Stella Maeve, who portrays Julia in the pull-few-punches fantasy, admits she never goes into a project expecting it to be a success, and while she read the Lev Grossman books that the series is based on and found them entertaining, her motivation comes from the work and not the end result. If there is an experience to be had – a place to grow from personally and/or professionally – then that is where you will find her. Thankfully for fans, she saw that in “The Magicians.”

We recently sat down with Maeve to discuss life imitating art, applying character arcs to reality, and gaining knowledge while applying it.

TrunkSpace: How has being involved in “The Magicians” impacted your life the most?
Maeve: It’s funny how art can imitate life and life imitates art, and it’s interesting in retrospect to sort of see where you’re at, as in the individuals themselves, and how you can learn from whatever it is you’re going through or take from your experiences within your life and bring the attributes to the work to make it more realistic. It’s funny how I’ll look back and be like, “Wow, that’s wild that that happened at that time when I was portraying Julia as a character.” A lot of it is just mirror images, which is cool. I think you learn a lot about yourself. As a human being, I always wanna grow and I’m constantly changing. I just wanna get better, so it’s nice to sort of get to learn through your character’s mistakes. And then also, to me, Stella as a human, learn through my mistakes and then try to do it differently either within the show or within my personal life, which is great.

TrunkSpace: That must really come into play when you’re able to spend so much time with a single character. Getting to see your character grow while you yourself are growing must be a trippy experience at times.
Maeve: It is trippy. It is bizarre. But I think the goal is to evolve, right? In life and on the screen. What else is the point to sort of watch these characters’ journeys? In the book, it’s almost like they’re stunted and you sort of see periods of sporadic growth but no significant changes. Quentin throughout may remain on the same note, or Julia may come back to the same note, but when you format this stuff to television, you want to take people along for this ride, and you want to show them that they’re invested in something that is going to grow and change. Just like us as people, we want to grow and change. I mean I would hope, for the better of mankind that we all want to be better and grow and change.

So, I think the goal is to constantly have these characters evolving, and constantly strive to be better and change. And we’ll watch them mess up just like we do in life, and then we’ll watch them pick themselves back up. But, hopefully, in the end, it’s worth it, and we make it worth it for the viewers and I guess for ourselves, as well, to sort of have that impact, and show that people can evolve and people can change, and really, as humans, can constantly grow.

TrunkSpace: Do you ever look at your own life and think in terms of a character arc? “What was my arc during this period of my life?”
Maeve: Oh yeah, totally. Gosh, I’m trying to think of a specific example, but I can’t. There’s so many times that it’s happened that it’s on a parallel or it’s simultaneous, or it’s just kismet and wild and you’re like, “What!” I can’t just pick one, but absolutely. And it’s also hard too because sometimes the way that they write for these characters, they haven’t learned the lesson that I myself, Stella, have learned. So it’s sort of like, “Oh no, I wished that she had gotten past it.” I mean, it gets frustrating, right? You’re like, “Well, I, Stella, know that this isn’t right,” or, “I know this can be done differently, but Julia doesn’t know it yet,” and then vice versa as well. But I think it’s all sort of subconscious and it all comes in retrospect because in the moment you’re so in it that it’s hard to unveil it. With Julia the character, I just try to have patience, like I do with myself. Sometimes it gets frustrating, and sometimes you have to run into the brick wall a million times before you sort of see why you’re doing it or are able to correct the changes. But that’s what life is. Nobody gets it on the first try. Nobody’s perfect all the time. And I think that’s why people can relate to this show so much, and to Julia, because bad things happen to good people, and life isn’t fair, and we are faced with traumas and issues constantly. To have the belief that everything is great all the time is not reality. Things are gonna get ugly, things are gonna get uncomfortable, and it’s just about how we navigate our way through it, to get to the other side.

TrunkSpace: Do you think that characters come into your life for a reason, much like the way people do? Did Julia come along at a certain time where it felt like she was there for a reason?
Maeve: Gosh, I wish I had the answer to that. I ask my mom that. (Laughter) I constantly ask myself the question, “Is it all random and chaotic, or is there the divine? Does everything happen for a reason?” I believe personally it’s a little bit of both. I believe that a lot of it is random and chaotic and coincidental, but not for no reason, because then what would be the fun of life? You’ve got to believe that there is some sort of divine intervention, that there’s some sort of kismet and magic, for lack of a better term, to our existence and why things happen when they do.

THE MAGICIANS — Pictured: Stella Maeve as Julia — (Photo by: Eike Schroter/Syfy)

TrunkSpace: Julia has had some really rough, dramatic moments throughout the series. From a performance standpoint, creatively does that have you longing for the lighter moments within the series, or even lighter work outside of the series itself?
Maeve: It’s always nice to have your hands in a few different pockets. I just want to have as many experiences in this life and maximize as much as I can out of it before it’s gone. So, I love getting to play all types of characters. And I’ve totally loved and enjoyed getting to play Julia as well. It’s nice to get to be somebody else and try on another skin. And Julia has been that and there are going to be other roles that would be totally different archetypes, and I love that. I love the variety. I think it’s great to try everything. When are you ever gonna get to be like, I don’t know, a Texas hooker? When are you ever going to get to see these different walks of life and sort of apply your knowledge to it, and then also gain tons of knowledge from it? You’re getting to totally get involved and invested in a part or a walk of life that you would never normally and while also educating yourself and trying to understand. Acting is essentially the study of people, so in the grand scheme of things, it’s the way to connect us. It’s a way to have empathy and understanding and a way for us as people to unite and be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Because, you know, people can relate through work. People come together through it, people watch it, people see it. I like it as a metaphor in that sense.

TrunkSpace: Well, people see it as entertainment, but there really is a psychological aspect to being able to plug into a show or movie and unplug from your own life.
Maeve: Totally, and it’s therapeutic as well, because people can put on your show or your movie, or whatever it is you’re doing, and they might use it as a form of escapism in their daily life, because they don’t want to deal with what they’re going through. Or it could be used for the total opposite, to be able to relate to something, to be able to say, “Oh my gosh, I went through that. I totally understand that. Wow, that’s my story.” So, in its own way, I think a form of therapy.

TrunkSpace: In terms of the popularity of “The Magicians,” did that take some getting used to for you? Did it take you by surprise?
Maeve: I think it was definitely shocking at first, because I didn’t know that it was going to be such a success. You never know with this stuff, what’s going to take and what’s not going to take. And yeah, I was definitely shocked at the fact that people loved it so much because you just never know. But I read the books, and I thought they were great, and the response has been… it’s been crazy, and in a great, beautiful way. People really love it.

TrunkSpace: Not banking on the success of a project before it’s a success is probably a good defense mechanism as well?
Maeve: Yeah, I never take on something because of how I think it’s going to do. As an artist, I pick out a role that speaks to me – or a script, or a director, or anything in particular. And if it’s something that I think is interesting and a great piece of art that I want to be involved with, that’s what I go with. There’s a little bit of selfishness in that, but it’s awesome because you get to create with others and make something that is bigger than yourself, so then therein lies the non selfish aspect of it, but also you’re getting a high out of it as well.

I’ve never done it for money. I’ve never done it for the success. I never even worried about if anyone else was gonna like it. I just always was like, “Does this speak to me? Is this something that I find fascinating? Who are the people that are involved? How is this carved out? What are the archetypes? What is this that we’re getting involved with?” Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, and it’s sort of irrelevant how it comes out. It’s more of just walking away and saying that you got to be a part of something that was fantastic. I’ve had films that never even got shown, but it didn’t matter because it’s the experience of getting to make them that really counts.

The Magicians” airs Wednesdays on SyFy.

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Wingman Wednesday

Summer Bishil

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Photographer: Diana Ragland/Makeup: Helen Robertson/Hair: Harper/Wardrobe: Matthew Peridis

One of our favorite shows these days is “The Magicians.” There are a great many reasons why the series has cast a spell over us during its first three seasons, but the most prominent of these entertaining factors is actress Summer Bishil. The California native shines as bright as the tip of a wand in her portrayal of Margo Hanson, a character we love to hate and hate to love, but even she admits that the ringer of zingers may have had difficulty achieving fan favorite status had they not highlighted the Filory ruler’s vulnerable side.

We recently sat down with Bishil to discuss how “The Magicians” has impacted her life, the Buffy parallels, and why she is most comfortable on a series that is willing to take risks.

TrunkSpace: You’re currently in year three of “The Magicians.” Aside from the work itself, where has the series impacted your life the most?
Bishil: It’s kind of transformed my life in all aspects. It’s really informed who I’m able to even spend time with because I’m living out of the country for five months out of the year. I didn’t know anybody in Vancouver when I first got there. I didn’t have time to go out and meet people outside of my cast so that’s really my world for five months – the crew and the cast and the people that I work with. Then I come home to LA and have this other second life. Just on a practical, geographical level, it’s affected my life.

This is the first time I’ve ever really had a steady, steady gig this long so it allows me to sort of relax a little for the first time. I’m not constantly hustling to that next job. You can sort of take a step back and be a little pickier because you’re making your income. You don’t have to run around like a crazy person.

TrunkSpace: That must allow you to live in the moment more.
Bishil: It really does. This is the first year where I was able to step back because the first year I was so worried about doing a good job and then the second year, pretty much that as well. But, by the third year, you know who your character is so you can relax and enjoy a lot of the blessings that come along with being on a show for this long. Your life is just more comfortable because you’re happier… you have a job.

TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, what has the experience been like for you to spend that much time – over 30 episodes now – with one character and see her grow in ways that perhaps weren’t who she was when you first read for the part?
Bishil: Well, part of the reason I’ve always wanted to expand on Margo and expand on who she is is because I watch a lot of episodic television and I watch for existing formula and the thing that sticks out the most with a great performance is when they evolve, when they change, and I haven’t gotten bored after watching for four seasons, two weeks in a row. When you watch a show like that, you really see how crucial it is to continue to add dimension and change your character because people will get tired. They’re looking at you, a lot of times now with binging, every day for a month. And if you’re tired, if you’re bored of something on set, then they’re probably gonna be bored of it, watching back to back.

TrunkSpace: That’s a really excellent point. Because of how people consume television now, it is probably much easier for an audience to see when and where a character is sort of idle because they’re sitting down with the episodes all at once.
Bishil: Exactly. And you have missed those characters more too, like in the old days. I’ve always liked television, even when I was a kid. My parents would let me watch and it wasn’t a thing in my house. I liked “Will & Grace.” I thought it was hilarious and I liked it. I liked the comedy. Now that I’m an actor, I know what I like and it’s the performances. I would rush home every week and wait to see it, and so when you have that much faith in something you really love and you have a chance to miss it, you’re not gonna be as critical as you would if you were binging. I’ve watched “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” a couple times now, all the way through, to study it actually, and what I think made it so successful is that Sarah Michelle Gellar really switched it up.

TrunkSpace: As did the supporting cast around her. Everyone grew, which made the grounded aspects more believable.
Bishil: Yeah, exactly. That cast always expanded as well, kinda like ours. I think that’s one of the reasons why “The Magicians” works because we really have a huge cast of regulars and then, in addition to that, we have so many recurring characters, so many great actors, that come in and out of our show.

TrunkSpace: Another thing you get with the “The Magicians” that also relates to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is the really rich dialogue that manages to walk the line so perfectly between drama and comedy.
Bishil: Yes, you do. On “The Magicians,” especially the Eliot/Margo/Filory storyline, we deal with a lot of fantastical situations and high stakes scenarios that are really drawn out with comedy. There’s constant humor running through it so it can be challenging to figure out the tone that you should deliver your lines in. Honestly, a lot of the times it’s a game of experimentation for me. I don’t like to go to set with one idea in my mind of, “This is how the scene’s gonna play.” Every time I’ve done that, I’ve been unhappy with the edit. I like to just give as many options as possible because, a lot of times, my instincts I do trust and 99 percent of the time they’re right, but sometimes you’re not seeing something. If you’re not taking direction, the performance is gonna suffer if you don’t have other insights.

TrunkSpace: We would imagine that it all changes depending on who you’re in a scene with as well. The energy changes.
Bishil: Exactly. On our set, given the world that we’re playing in, a lot of times, the variables are changing a lot. Drastically. Constantly. You can’t be set in your ways.

TrunkSpace: You talked about finding the tone of a specific line, but just finding Margo’s tone in general seemed like it might have been something that was a malleable process at the start because she’s somebody that, in a lot of ways, we should hate, but we can’t help but love.
Bishil: Well, thank you for saying that. I think what I read when I read Margo in Season 1 was the potential for how much vulnerability was there, but also the potential for how much she could be hated, like you said. I kinda knew that and I wanted to really play against that in fact. I was a little scared sometimes because some of the stuff that was coming out of her mouth, stuff that my character was engaging in, wasn’t always emotionally sympathetic. I definitely wanted to and tried to figure out a way to make her appealing and sympathetic and not grating on the audience because, you play it a certain way, it could have gone the other way.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned how you were a fan of “Will & Grace” when you were younger. That’s a show that, even during its heyday, was very safe for the network, but now you have places like SYFY taking these huge leaps in terms of how they present their content and they’re really raising the bar and pushing the boundaries in terms of what we’re seeing and hearing. Is it freeing as an actress to be on the forefront of this less censored wave of storytelling?
Bishil: For me, my background and what I’ve done in the industry, my career background, it’s definitely more comfortable to be on a show that’s taking more risks because I’ve done kind of controversial stuff. I’ve not been in very PC stories, so I think I would feel probably very stifled if I was on a show that had to mind its Ps and Qs for the sake of some arbitrary rule which applies to them. That would just get so boring because it is boring storytelling, I’m sure, for who gets written for and how they get written for, obviously.

I’m glad I’m on a show that does that, for sure. Sera Gamble and John McNamara , they’re pretty fearless and they’re gonna take the risks that they want to take and that’s why the show’s good.

Photographer: Diana Ragland/Makeup: Helen Robertson/Hair: Harper/Wardrobe: Matthew Peridis

TrunkSpace: Which is great, because in its current form, “The Magicians” is probably a show that wouldn’t have made it on the air even a decade ago.
Bishil: Probably not. It probably wouldn’t have. I think it would had been cast very different. I don’t think both me and Arjun (Gupta) would be in the cast. This experience of just being cast and auditioning for so much, I don’t think that would have happened 10 years ago. Even if it did get made, I think it would have been a vastly different show and it would’ve just clipped the wings that makes it good.

TrunkSpace: One of the things about the show as a whole is that it sort of has this underlining message of diversity and acceptance. Was that something that you could feel in the early going, even before you first stepped on set?
Bishil: You know, my casting alongside Arjun, I thought was more progressive than I had seen in other castings and in other ensembles that I auditioned for. I thought that was a great step. The material that I got was not weighed down with any stereotypes. There were no limitations put on Margo because they had now hired a woman of ethnicity, which sometimes happens. Some shows are like, “Well, we got to spend an hour talking about where she comes from.” (Laughter) They’ve never done that, which I appreciate.

TrunkSpace: Fans are still eating up everything that Season 3 has to offer. What were you most excited about headed into this season?
Bishil: I think this season what I was most excited about was that I had the eye patch to work with. It just gave me something else to do in my third year, which was really great. It wasn’t always easy and it definitely presented some challenges, but I was glad to have something challenge me a third year into a show because, it’s like you said, other shows, procedurals, I would be doing the same thing, probably wearing the same outfit, for literally this long. I can’t imagine. I think I would go crazy.

TrunkSpace: Imagine a doctor show, wearing the same set of scrubs for 13 seasons.
Bishil: At least you’d be comfortable when you do it. (Laughter)

The Magicians” airs Wednesdays on SYFY.

Featured image credits
Photographer: Diana Ragland/Makeup: Helen Robertson/Hair: Harper/Wardrobe: Matthew Peridis

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Wingman Wednesday

Troy James

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When you get to terrorize both the Flash and the pop culture-loving audience, you know you’re doing something right. Troy James, the actor with the self-described “freakishly bendy body,” is having himself quite the year, from giving Simon Cowell the heebie-jeebies on “America’s Got Talent” to playing the nightmare-inducing Pretzel Jack in the latest season of “Channel Zero” for Syfy. Most recently, the flexible thespian made his debut as the villainous Rag Doll on “The Flash,” a new favorite of ours in the hero’s small screen (and always expanding) rogues’ gallery.

We recently sat down with James to discuss the best type of typecasting, going full sociopath, and why his real-life superpower is jumping to the worst possible conclusion in a single bound.

TrunkSpace: You have a self-described “freakishly bendy body.” With that said, has there ever been a role more suited for you than that of the villainous Rag Doll?
James: Usually actors loathe being typecast, but honestly, I don’t mind getting to play fantastical creatures that flip and twist about. That I get to be a supervillain with awesome red hair, a terrifying mask, and get a one-up on Barry? Well, that is just icing on the cake.

TrunkSpace: Rag Doll has been a fan-favorite villain for DC Comics readers for a long time, but he is not one of those iconic characters that comes with a lot of on-screen baggage. In many ways, he’s a clean slate for TV viewers. Did that allow you to take some ownership in him and make him your own?
James: Bittersweet. On one hand, I didn’t have to match anyone else’s portrayal of Rag Doll, so I didn’t have to worry about being endlessly judged against them. However, he still is an established villain. It meant I had some serious shoes to fill if I wanted to do him justice.
When I was doing my research, I came across Peter Merkel Sr. and his son, Peter Merkel Jr., who also donned the Rag Doll mantle. I took pieces of both when playing the character. Sr was born naturally flexible without augmentation like me, but Jr is an utter psychopath with family issues. Looking back, I wish I played up Rag Doll’s degenerate nature a bit more, but it was my first time on a show as big as “The Flash;” I was on my best behavior! (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: You’ve played a lot of creepy, scuttling characters over the course of your career. From a performance standpoint, what did Rag Doll allow you to do on-camera that you have yet to tackle before?
James: Talk! Rag Doll speaks. I’m used to playing silent, creepy-crawlies that let their bodies do the talking. This time I get to taunt our heroes while I do it, and you really get a sense of how little empathy Rag Doll possesses. What a sociopath! I relished every minute of it. (Should I be troubled that I slipped into character so easily?)

TrunkSpace: “The Flash” has a huge, loyal following. What does it feel like to join that world and get to interact with the fandom firsthand?
James: Holy cow. When it was revealed that I was to play a role on “The Flash,” I think my social media following increased by 33 percent overnight. People really like this show! I love how excited everyone is, and I am too, but I’m also super anxious about it. I think I’ll calm down after the episode airs.

TrunkSpace: Were you a comic book fan growing up? What would 10-year-old Troy think of his future self getting to play in the superhero sandbox?
James: 10-year old Troy? Try Troy, circa-2017! I still can’t believe this is real. I loved video games growing up, and I have a few comic book collectors in my family. (Great for research and character notes!) This is pretty much a dream come true. If I could go back in time and tell myself this would be happening now, I wouldn’t believe myself.

TrunkSpace: We recently read an interview with “Channel Zero” creator Nick Antosca where he said he specifically created the part of Pretzel Jack in the latest season, “The Dream Door,” for you. As an actor, what does that mean to you and your career when people are creating characters specifically for you?
James: It’s a good thing! It means I’m doing something right… right? What an honor. (Thanks Nick for taking a chance on me!) Then again, my real-life superpower is being able to leap to the worst conclusion in a single bound. I used to worry about my non-traditional acting background. Now I’m hearing people say, “Pretzel Jack” and “iconic horror monster” in the same sentence. What a thrill!

James as Rag Doll in “The Flash”

TrunkSpace: Pretzel Jack is straight up nightmare material. There’s got to be something kind of cool about being able to bring out these visceral reactions from people as a performer – the kind that stay with you long after you turn off the television?
James: Guilty pleasure meets natural instinct. I love making people nervous and squirmy. Perhaps I honed the skill when I used to work at a theme park during the Halloween season; it was literally my job to scare people. Grant Gustin teased me about how fiendish I was when the cameras were rolling, only to revert to happy, non-scary Troy immediately after cutting.

TrunkSpace: This seems like a very exciting run for you, with both “The Flash” and “Channel Zero” hitting at the same time. This truly is a business where work seems to beget work. With that being said, is the hope that high profile projects like these two will open more doors as larger audiences see what you’re capable of?
James: And that’s just the stuff I’m allowed to talk about! Next year the real action happens when a few of the feature films we just wrapped hit the big screen. It’s funny. I’ve been catapulted into this life of an actor/performer, and I’ve spent more time than I’d care to admit wondering how this all happened. The dust is settling though, and no one is telling me to go back to Human Resources. I’m doing alright!

TrunkSpace: You appeared on “America’s Got Talent” earlier this year and made Simon Cowell very uncomfortable, which is not something many people can stake claim to. For you personally, what was the best thing that came of your “America’s Got Talent” experience?
James: People know my name! I travel. I go out to eat. I walk around… and people recognize me! I get stopped on the street. I didn’t make it to the finals of AGT, but I guess I made an impression. When I got to set on “The Flash,” everyone in production had already seen my audition and they were very excited to see what I would do. Just this past week, for Halloween, I got to perform in Orlando, New York City and New Jersey. Can you imagine that I almost didn’t audition for AGT because I was so nervous?

TrunkSpace: What’s next for you beyond “The Flash?” Where should we keep our eyes peeled for future Troy James sightings?
James: I wish I could give you the good stuff. A horror film is coming out next year where I really push my movement to the limits. The downside to playing scary creatures in movies is that you can never tell anyone without ruining the reveal. But you haven’t seen the last of me yet. I promise.

The Flash” airs Tuesdays on The CW.

Channel Zero: The Dream Door” is available on Syfy.

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Wingman Wednesday

Sydney Viengluang

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PHOTOGRAPHY: JSquared/HAIR: Jaycee Mnirajd/MAKE-UP: Aly Barr/STYLING: Sky JT Naval

As part of the ensemble cast of “Z Nation,” Sydney Viengluang has helped to bring life to some unbelievable storytelling, but it’s her own family’s journey from refugee camps in Thailand and the Philippines that is even more incredible than those on-screen zombies that she faces. While the actress is enjoying her science fiction ride in a post-apocalyptic world, she looks forward to telling more of her own story and has been thinking of ways to build a cinematic narrative around the displacement of Loatians following the Vietnam War.

We recently sat down with Viengluang to discuss her most surreal “Z Nation” moment, getting to interact with the fandom, and why she hopes to show that “other” is not something that should be feared.

TrunkSpace: “Z Nation” seems like the kind of show where you’re not only working hard, but you’re having a good time while doing it. What has your personal experience been like getting to work on the series for the past three years? How has it changed your life?
Viengluang: Definitely. It’s such a fun show to be on. I look forward to flying up to beautiful eastern Washington to shoot for the summer every year. It’s just been a great experience to work with an easy-going cast and crew that don’t take themselves too seriously. My life hasn’t really changed much from day to day, but it’s really nice to have a growing fan base. Getting to interact with fans on social media is always exciting, especially knowing that I’m inspiring some of them.

TrunkSpace: There is always some crazy, over-the-top (generally zombie-related) moment that occurs in our favorite episodes of “Z Nation.” What has been one of your more surreal, “pinch me, I’m dreaming” experiences while playing Dr. Sun Mei?
Viengluang: I think my very first episode in Season 3 was my “pinch me” moment. I distinctly remember waiting on set to be called in for the big scene where my whole crew dies, and I had a moment where I said to myself, “It’s happening. I’m here getting paid to be an actor. I can’t believe it.” I had done other TV roles, but it was a major recurring guest character and on an already established popular show. It was surreal.

TrunkSpace: When zombies are involved, there’s got to always be that little voice in your head second-guessing if you’ll be on the receiving end of a bite each week. Do you breathe a sigh of relief after you receive each script, happy to see that the Doctor survived another episode?
Viengluang: (Laughter) Yes, exactly. I think the fans out there have a saying, “Never trust the Z Nation writers” or something to that effect. Nobody is immune to getting killed off. I guess that makes it a bit exciting and nerve wracking for the viewers.

TrunkSpace: As we mentioned, you’re now in your third season of “Z Nation.” What has the experience been like for you to get to play a character over an extended period of time?
Viengluang: It’s been great to evolve with Sun Mei and see how she’s evolved herself over the years. The great thing about Sun Mei this year is she gets to do more of the scientific stuff with the Talkers and I think I get to show her softer side. It’s been quite a journey for her and I’m glad I don’t get to just play a normal doctor in a hospital or lab all the time throughout all three seasons.

TrunkSpace: “Z Nation” has some very passionate fans. Were you surprised by how supportive people were of the show after you started working on it? How soon was it after your character premiered that you could feel the reach of the fandom?
Viengluang: Oh yes! The fans are what make the show. I didn’t realize how passionate and hardcore zombie/horror fans were until I was starting to get fans reaching out on social media from the very beginning of the promos being released for Season 3. They were already making memes and videos after my first episode. They’re some of the most loyal and nice fans out there.

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, you first got involved in the film industry on the business/finance side. Do you think having that knowledge of how things work behind the scenes has helped you better navigate your career in front of the camera?
Viengluang: Definitely. As an actor, you have to be the CEO of your own “company,” so business acumen has helped me throughout my career.

TrunkSpace: You work in an industry where incredible stories are told day after day, but you have an incredible story of your own. Just reading about what your family had to overcome, and how they did it, it’s really amazing. Have you thought about turning your own journey into a film or series?
Viengluang: Yes, very much. I have a few ideas that have been brewing in my head for a while now. I definitely want to shine a light on the Secret War and the displacement of Laotians after the Vietnam War era. There are so many stories to tell that have yet to be told from our perspective.

PHOTOGRAPHY: JSquared/HAIR: Jaycee Mnirajd/MAKE-UP: Aly Barr/STYLING: Sky JT Naval

TrunkSpace: You spent the first two years of your life in refugee camps in Thailand and the Philippines before your family relocated to Kansas. When you see what’s happening now – the political and social divide that is continuing to form over how people are coming to this country – how does that make you feel given your own family’s experiences?
Viengluang: It hurts my heart, honestly. It’s hard not to turn on the news and read about these horrific things done to refugee families, all because they wanted a better life for themselves. It hits close to home and I try my best to do some good by giving a face and name to the term “refugee” and “immigrant.” I hope that just by living by example I can show people out there that being “other” is not something to fear. I think the world would be a much better place if we all try to show a bit more compassion to those that don’t look like us.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far and why?
Viengluang: I think playing Sun Mei for three seasons and to grow and evolve with her has been a highlight. To be able to reach fans and people across the nation and world is one of the reasons I do what I do. Playing Sun Mei has given me the privilege to use my platform for topics outside of industry related issues that I’m passionate about.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question! If you could jump ahead a decade and get a glimpse of what your career looks like 10 years from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Viengluang: I don’t think so. I think the exciting part about life is creating goals and getting to experience them manifest and unfold. It would take the fun out of it if I knew exactly how everything would turn out.

Z Nation” airs Fridays on Syfy.

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Wingman Wednesday

Jennifer Cheon

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Photography: Jeffery Fountain/Makeup: Caitlin Krenz with Opus Beauty/Hair: Felicia Rials/Stylist: Lauren Taylor

With her character Ivory set to see more action in “Van Helsing” when Season 3 premieres October 5 on Syfy, Jennifer Cheon is living out her Linda Hamilton dream. As a child, “Terminator 2” kick-started her desire to go full on-screen badass, and now thanks to the fan-favorite fantasy series starring Kelly Overton as Vanessa Van Helsing, that dream has become a reality.

We recently sat down with Cheon to discuss how viewers will get to see more of Ivory in Season 3, the reason actors are being drawn back to the city of Vancouver, and why shows like “Supernatural” and “The Flash” have been so important to her career.

TrunkSpace: What is it like being part of a series like “Van Helsing” where the fan base is so supportive? Is it almost more rewarding on a personal level than appearing in a show that pulls triple the audience but isn’t necessarily as invested in the story and cast?
Cheon: “Van Helsing” has the best fans ever! I am happy to be a part of a show that is diverse and full of good ol’ Vampire fun! It is super rewarding when people reach out and tell you they love and support, or relate to your work!

TrunkSpace: The series returns on October 5. What are you most excited about as you build up for the third season?
Cheon: I’m the most excited that people are getting what they ask for in terms of seeing more of Ivory.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from Ivory this season, and on a personal level, what were you looking forward to play with on-camera as it relates to the character?
Cheon: Well, this season you see her around more characters that you may love or hate… you get to see her coming into her position more. Very exciting!

TrunkSpace: Is there a secondary level of excitement involved in being a part of a series like this when it drops in its entirety on Netflix? Is it nice to know that new people can continuously discover your work?
Cheon: YES! Yes! I am a binge watcher myself so I love that Netflix delivers it all so you can cozy up to your human or animal and enjoy the whole series.

TrunkSpace: You’re no stranger to fan-favorite series. You’ve appeared in “Arrow,” “The Flash,” and “Supernatural,” all shows that are important to viewers. But those shows are also important to your native Vancouver and the actors who call the city their home. What have those series meant to your career and how it has progressed throughout the years?
Cheon: Oh man, I had some of my first real lines on camera on those shows. I got the privilege to work with industry vets; some of the best, from actors to the crew. It’s funny how much of the industry is in Vancouver now. I lived in LA for a few years and ended up moving back home because the industry was booming (still is). Every experience on set has lead me to this moment. You never know as an actor what role will stick or which role will end up being more than a one liner… you have to really choose this career for the love because you never know.

TrunkSpace: “Supernatural” in particular, which is going into Season 14, seems like a staple for performers in and around the Vancouver area. Is it a bit of a rite of passage for actors to step onto that set and become a part of the “Supernatural” universe?
Cheon: It truly is. I remember I was fresh out of high school and modeling at the time. I needed a summer job, and my modeling agent suggested Background work… I had never heard of that being a way to earn money, but I’m so glad I tried it! It taught me set etiquette, and also gave me an inside scoop to what it was I really wanted to pursue. One of the first sets I ever walked on to was “Supernatural.” I remember saying to myself, “I am going to do that – I want to work with those actors, and be on this set with an actual role.” When it finally happened it really felt like a milestone for me, and what a great group of people to work with!

TrunkSpace: What is it that you enjoy most about performing? What is the internal drive?
Cheon: I LOVE it all. I love that I get to embody different people. I get a chance to understand how they think, whether they are fiction or real. I find it helps me put things into perspective. I love giving people a sense of comfort in the characters I play… comfort in the way they relate or comfort in the escape from whatever might be happening in their own worlds. I also love how the environment on set is so collaborative creatively. In “Van Helsing,” we get to fight with swords and be complete badasses… so much fun!

Photography: Jeffery Fountain/Makeup: Caitlin Krenz with Opus Beauty/Hair: Felicia Rials/Stylist: Lauren Taylor

TrunkSpace: We read that part of what sparked your interest in pursuing a career in film and television was “Terminator 2.” What was it about that movie in particular (and for us, we have to add that the soundtrack was pretty great as well!) that ultimately set you on this path?
Cheon: I’m humming the score right now. (Laughter) Everything about that movie and the making of that movie drew me into this industry. I love action films, and I love seeing humans do these crazy things with our bodies. I love how indestructible we become on film. With “Terminator 2,” not only was Linda Hamilton the first woman I ever saw on TV that was tougher than most men, but she was the real deal. I was such a tomboy growing up, and when I saw her it made me proud of it instead of always trying to conform to the way men tell us we should be. Also, can we talk about the costumes, and styling of that film? Ummm, epic! I think my entire wardrobe is a mix of all the characters.

TrunkSpace: In a perfect world – the BEST best case scenario – how do you see your career playing out? What bucket list items do you want to achieve?
Cheon: I want to be a Bond Girl. I have always been such a fan of those films. I would also die a very happy woman if I were to play Catwoman. I think it’s time for a mixed race female super hero. Also I would love to have more opportunities to direct.

TrunkSpace: What job have you learned the most from, the one where the things you absorbed on that particular set you still find yourself applying to your career today?
Cheon: I think I have learned these general rules from being on a set for so many years in many different departments: Stay in your lane, be respectful, say please and thank you, remember at the end of the day everyone wants to get the job done so don’t think you are the only one who matters. Just remember how lucky you are to be there, and most importantly have fun! This is entertainment!

Season 3 of “Van Helsing” premieres October 5 on Syfy.

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Wingman Wednesday

Diana Bentley

DianaBentleyFeatured
Photo By: Shaun Benson

The latest season of the horror anthology series “Channel Zero” has been injecting our Wednesday nights with a dose of the creepy crawlies. Filled with morbidly captivating visuals and paced to unsettling perfection, “Butcher’s Block” is a gem of a genre offering from series creator Nick Antosca and the folks at SYFY, but it’s the ensemble cast that has us transfixed.

Diana Bentley portrays Edie Peach in the mystery-filled season, and much like the character’s surname would suggest, she is surface sweet, but there’s also something completely and utterly menacing about her that indicates this Peach is rotten to the core.

We recently sat down with Bentley to discuss her “Channel Zero” trip, why she was instantly at home in Edie, and the reason she feels so lucky to be a character actor in the current content climate.

TrunkSpace: “Channel Zero” is part visual feast and part mind trip. “Butcher’s Block” in particular looks like it would have been quite the experience for all involved just because of the nature of the story and the world in which you’re working. When you’re performing in a project that has a heightened reality, does it make the process a bit more surreal?
Bentley: This process was unique because, although the world around Edie Peach in “Channel Zero” is surreal, Edie is quite a grounded and clear mother bear to me. She sees the world only from her own perspective and experience, and isn’t concerned with seeing anything other than that. So, for me as the actor I felt like I was wandering around set in rose colored glasses having the time of my life! I’m sure it was a very different trip for the rest of the cast. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: We know you have a theater background. In watching “Butcher’s Block,” we couldn’t help but notice that there’s something very theatrical about it at times, even right down to the framing. The dinner scene in particular comes to mind. In those shots where the entire table is visible, it’s almost like you’re looking up at it on a stage. As you were working on the project, did you get that theatrical vibe at any point during production?
Bentley: I don’t know whether I would say I felt the show was ‘theatrical’ but I would say it feels heightened to be inside. There’s a tension and a need and a ‘keeping up appearances’ that kept me feeling like I couldn’t let the ball drop. I think that’s the magic of the Peach clan and the show’s storytelling.

TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, what was the most exciting aspect of Edie Peach that you were looking forward to tackling? Was there something in her personality that was an entirely new take on a character for you?
Bentley: From the moment I read the audition I fell in love with Edie and needed to play her because I understood her so deeply. I’ve never felt so at home in a character or loved them so much. There is a quality to Edie that wants to love and be loved so badly, that it obliterates everything else. I found this an intoxicating aspect of her personality.

TrunkSpace: We always hear about character complexity and how that can make working on a project more interesting for a performer, but does that also apply to story complexity? Does a yarn spun with lots of twists and turns keep things more interesting for you?
Bentley: Yes. The story is everything. Arkasha Stevenson and Nick Antosca had such an incredible grasp on the story and who these characters were, and that made it a delight to work on. Arkasha let me improvise as Edie and pushed me to explore Edie’s humor and also her darkness. She trusted that I knew the character inside out and let me play – it was just the best experience. When you can really follow a director and where they take you it makes for an awesome ride.

TrunkSpace: “Channel Zero” plays in various genre sandboxes, but the one that is most apparent (and the big draw for viewers) is horror. One of the things the show does so well is setting a really uncomfortable, creepy tone for the audience, and based on early feedback, this season is firing on all creepy cylinders. What are you most excited for viewers to see and experience as the season rolls on?
Bentley: I just think as the show delves deeper and deeper into the world and psyches of the characters, viewers will be more and more entranced and horrified. Olivia (Luccardi) and Holland (Roden) have such wild journeys – I can’t wait for the audiences to see where these two sisters end up!

TrunkSpace: Horror fans are pretty welcoming when it comes to new projects, especially when those projects are done right. When you’re coming into a series like “Channel Zero,” do you go in thinking about the end product and how it will be perceived? When all is said and done, the genre has a bit of a built-in audience so there’s automatically going to be a set of viewers who will tune in to see if it’s their cup of tea, which must be nice to know as you’re working on something… that the work you’re doing will be discovered regardless?
Bentley: I didn’t think about the end result – but I was really excited to share this show with viewers. I just think it’s such a wacky, dark, terrifying and often funny ride. As a cast we really bonded making it, and when that happens it’s usually a sign that it’s going to be good!

Photo By: Allen Fraser/Syfy

TrunkSpace: You’re also returning to “Frontier” for Season 3 later this year. We hear so much about how exciting of a time it is for actors in this “golden age of television” because of the rich, character-driven stories, but is the quantity just as exciting as the quality? Is there more work now than when you started your career?
Bentley: I feel pretty lucky to be a character actor right now because I think more than ever dynamic and meaty characters are being written for women. Edie is the perfect example – she is all of the traditional conventions of femininity but turned upside down. And Imogen on “Frontier” is not dissimilar! What you see isn’t always what you get and that’s what I’m drawn to.

TrunkSpace: Is theater still a big part of your life? Does acting on stage give you a different thrill than tackling a role on-camera?
Bentley: Theater is a huge part of my life. I run my own theater in Toronto called the Coal Mine Theatre! It’s a 90 seat theater in a storefront and we have an awesome audience. There’s nothing like performing on stage – it’s a different thrill performing live and a different beast in many ways. I like flexing those muscles once in a while.

TrunkSpace: What is the best house you’ve ever performed in? Not the best play or experience, but the most beautifully-moving theater itself – the kind of place that inspired you night after night – and why?
Bentley: I did a show at my own theater a few years ago called “Bull” by English playwright Mike Bartlett. It’s a play about bullying and we did the entire show inside a cage with the audience right on the other side of the cage, up against it. It was the most insane experience because the audience felt free to speak and comment and voice what they were feeling throughout the show. It was intense but awesome.

TrunkSpace: Anything is possible in “Channel Zero,” so we figured we’d take a page from that fantastical handbook for our last question. If we had at time machine and it could send you ahead 10 years to see what your career would look like in 2028, would you take that opportunity for a futuristic sneak peek?
Bentley: No! I love living in the moment. One of things I try to embrace about being an actor is not knowing what’s coming next or what’s happening. It’s one of the unique things about the profession that I’m learning to love. Your life could completely change overnight and that’s intoxicating if you let it be.

“Channel Zero” airs Wednesdays on SYFY.

For more information on the Coal Mine Theatre, visit here.

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Wingman Wednesday

Holland Roden

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After spending six seasons on the hit MTV series “Teen Wolf,” actress Holland Roden is used to dipping her toes into the supernatural water, but like the nightly news so often teaches us, human nature is far more disturbing than those things that go bump on a full moon night. In Season 3 of the horror anthology series “Channel Zero” (subtitled “Butcher’s Block”), Roden’s character Zoe is battling demons of the personal variety while being dropped in the middle of an unsettling mystery that would make anyone question the sordid capabilities of humanity. The troubling journey offers sights, sounds and an atmosphere that blurs the line between reality and fantasy. It is the worst case scenario for a character grappling with her own soundness of judgment.

We recently sat down with Roden to discuss tackling mental illness onscreen, why she was excited to dive into the “stripped down” nature of Zoe, and the reason acting satisfies her gypsy soul.

TrunkSpace: You portrayed Lydia Martin in 100 episodes of “Teen Wolf.” Does stepping into a series like “Channel Zero” have a different vibe as an actress, knowing that it has a single season ceiling? Does it feel more like you’re working in film rather than in television?
Roden: It feels just like a different story. Playing Lydia I had a certain feeling and Zoe a certain feeling. She’s an adult, she… well, I think of her as living in the real world. Lydia lived in a supernatural one, for all intents and purposes. Zoe has a much more realistic approach despite what she deals with mentally.

TrunkSpace: From a character’s journey standpoint, did you have a clear take on what Zoe’s beginning, middle and end would be when you signed on to play her, and if so, does knowing that journey beforehand make it easier to make choices for a character in the early stages of finding who she is beneath the surface?
Roden: I don’t know how much of the plot I can give away. There was one aspect I found out only when I read Episode 2. I had recently seen a movie called “Raw” and loved it, so let’s just say I was excited to be able to play some of the same urges that were for the characters in “Raw.”

TrunkSpace: When we first meet Zoe we learn that she is suffering from a genetically-inherited psychotic break. What kind of research did you do beforehand to get a sense of what that would look like for Zoe and how you would portray it onscreen?
Roden: Lots of YouTube, articles and books. One book that Nick (Antosca) and Arkasha (Stevenson) recommended and I read was “No One Cares About Crazy People.”

TrunkSpace: Zoe seems very different than any of the previous characters we have seen you take on in the past. Creatively, was that part of the appeal for you in “Channel Zero,” getting to tackle a character and territory that you have yet to in your career?
Roden: Exactly that – I play an adult. I play a character with a lot of responsibility and hopelessness at the same time. I was enthralled to tackle Zoe. There is a stripped down aspect to her – no makeup, baggy clothes – the opposite of Lydia.

TrunkSpace: “Channel Zero” plays in various genre sandboxes, but the one that is most apparent (and the big draw for viewers) is horror. One of the things the show does so well is setting a really uncomfortable, creepy tone for the audience, and based on early feedback, this season is firing on all creepy cylinders. What are you most excited for viewers to see and experience as the season rolls on?
Roden: The dinner scenes for sure.

TrunkSpace: One of the things that we are always fascinated with is how actors can tap into fear, which we would imagine, is one of the more difficult emotions to find on set just because it is so specific and needs to read so honestly in order to be believable for viewers. From a performance standpoint, how do you go about that? What are your tricks to finding fear within a scene?
Roden: I just pile myself to the best of my ability in the situation – sense memory to a certain extent. I write backstories on characters I play. Some days are better than others. We all have bad days at the office, but ultimately, once you are there, it is real to me.

TrunkSpace: Again sticking with the idea of performance, what was the most difficult part of shooting “Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block” for you? Where did you feel the most out of your comfort zone?
Roden: Hmm. I don’t know. Well, smoking for me was a big one. I am allergic to nicotine. Of course, these don’t have that but getting the smoking thing down was tough for me. Now I don’t think twice when I have to smoke a rose cigarette, but for a long time I dreaded it.

Roden in “Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block.”

TrunkSpace: Do you still love acting as much today as you did the first time you stepped foot on a set and began your career?
Roden: I don’t act at any cost anymore. If it makes sense then great, if not – from either end – there are so many amazing professions and lives to live out there. Too much to see and do to fret if this life doesn’t work.

TrunkSpace: We read that you were originally on a path towards a career in molecular biology. Had you not left your studies to pursue acting, do you think you would be a different person today? Would you have a different view and outlook on life?
Roden: I would probably be the same person but with a sharper mind at this point, yet with more curiosity. The amazing opportunity with this profession is it really feeds the gypsy, curiosity path. Nothing shocks me anymore. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: You’re still so young with so much career in front of you. If someone came to you tomorrow with a blank check and said, “Holland, go develop any project you want for yourself,” what type of project would you greenlight and why?
Roden: Wow, great question. I would explore different types of mental illnesses. One hundred percent, I would strive to only make stories we haven’t seen before.

Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block” airs Wednesday on SYFY.

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Wingman Wednesday

Arjun Gupta

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There’s magic to be found all over the tube these days. Words like whimsical, bewitching and spellbinding could easily be used to describe the rich storytelling available to binge-hungry viewers, but for fans of the SYFY series “The Magicians,” that magic is far more literal. (At least in an imaginary sense.)

Currently in its third season, the must watch show is a combination of great writing and a compelling ensemble group of actors. In fact, in a fictional series about magic, the real magic lies in the cast. Arjun Gupta, who portrays Penny, is a stealer of scenes, a Harry Houdini of performance. In watching his sleight of character, you see that his talents are no illusion. Much like TV as a whole, words like whimsical, bewitching and spellbinding could easily be used to describe what he brings to “The Magicians.”

We recently sat down with Gupta to discuss how the series has changed his life, why he’s feeling good about becoming an astrological adult, and the reason he never thinks about the end result of a performance.

TrunkSpace: You have a pinned tweet on your Twitter page that talks about how everybody should travel because it allows you to expand your horizons and to stretch and grow as a person. We’re curious, how has “The Magicians” expanded your horizons and allowed you to grow in ways that you didn’t think possible?
Gupta: Yeah, that’s actually a really a great question. First of all, there’s two ways – personally and artistically. As an artist and as an actor, I’ve been fortunate to work for the last, professionally, for the last 12 years. I was on a show before, but this was the first series where I was an integral part, where I was working every day. Just working every day has been a huge opportunity to grow. It used to be that I would learn something on set, and I would have to wait a month or two months until the next job and then put it into practice. Starting from the first season, I would learn something on a Tuesday; put it in on a Wednesday, the next day, and that has been a huge opportunity for growth and it has continued through the years.

My acting teacher, who I’m very comfortable with and I coach with often now, he often says, “This is your rep experience.” In theater, you would go into a repertory theater where you would be doing four different plays, and you would do it in a day. This was kind of that experience for me. And so, just the growth I’ve been able to go through as an actor from that standpoint, it’s such a big blessing. And on top of that, on our show, we get to stretch a lot. I mean, Penny is a very different character than who I am, and is different than characters I’ve gotten to play in the past. Our writers, God bless them, are a little bit crazy and take us to these crazy places that we as actors then want to make real and have to make real because that’s what makes our show good. So that’s another beautiful challenge that’s an opportunity to really grow.

Personally, I don’t know if it’s the show as much as it’s just life. I’m now 31. The last three years have been the last few years of my 20s and then into my 30s, starting that journey. TV is such a collaborative experience and I’ve learned so much on how to let go of my own ego; how to not let that get into practice and how to be even more of a team player.

It’s just been an incredible opportunity and experience these last few years for growth.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned the life aspect, which is a big transition going from your 20s into your 30s. Sometimes you don’t even realize how big of a transition it is until you’re looking back on it years later.
Gupta: Yeah, I 100 percent agree with you. It’s interesting. I’ll be curious to be 40 and look back on it because it has been a whirlwind at times, for sure. I was really fortunate for the teachers that I’ve had around me that I continue to be in practice with. My support system and my family that help me… I’ve actually been talking about this in interviews that we’ve been doing. People who call the 20s the best times of their lives are either looking at it through rose-colored glasses or just have forgotten how stressful that time is.

TrunkSpace: It’s true. And you really don’t know who you are yet in your 20s.
Gupta: No, you really don’t. I’m not a strong practitioner of astrology, or, I’m not sure exactly how I feel about it… that’s a whole other conversation, but I did learn through a reading with someone that, astrologically speaking, you’re not an adult until you’re 30. And when that person said that to me I was like, “Yeah, that makes sense.” (Laughter) So I guess it’s feeling good to finally be close to, if not officially, an adult. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Artistically is it exciting to be a part of a show where literally anything can happen? You can show up to work one day and learn that you’re not just Penny, but literally a penny.
Gupta: Yeah, that is the huge blessing of being a part of this show. Look, we’re all so grateful to work, every actor… well, should be. Actually, I find that not everyone is, but I’m so grateful to have a job and work. So many of my friends, so many people that I know, don’t even have the opportunity to do what they love to do, let alone get paid to do what they love to do. It’s crazy. It’s just a crazy blessing. But on top of that, to then be on a show where we do what’s not a procedural where it’s formulaic or it’s the same thing day in and day out, we’re constantly surprised. It’s a dream. Sometimes I’m just like, “I get to do this, and then I get paid, and then I get be with some amazing people?” Everything that I’ve gotten from this, it’s just incredible.

It’s just really fun. It’s just fun. It’s hard to say that in any better term other than that it’s real fucking fun to come to work. (Laughter)

Gupta with Dustin Ingram in “The Magicians”

TrunkSpace: And the amazing part of that is, now that the show is in Season 3 and creatively hitting its stride, you no longer have a fan base. You have a fandom.
Gupta: Yeah, it’s interesting that we’re talking about 30, and also talking about this show, which I think has turned 30 in its third year, and what I mean by that is the writers… I noticed it from the first script that I read of Season 3. I was like, “Oh shit!” They just felt so much more comfortable. They know the voice. With the second season I felt like there was still a little bit of hesitation or a little bit of, like, “This is who we are, but can we do this?” And now it’s like, “This is who we are. Period!”

The amount of risks we’ve taken already in five episodes are risks that I would see a show take in two seasons. It’s really great to be a part of it.

Look, man, in the first season, I’ll be honest… it was my first series regular job because on “Nurse Jackie” it was just recurring. I was there all of the time, but I was just a kid. I was 22. I didn’t know what the fuck was going on to be completely honest with you. (Laughter) In that first season (of “The Magicians”) I was just like, “Oh my God! I want to do my job well and how do I do my job well?” It was just like a whole experience. But then in Season 2, and now in Season 3, it’s cool, I’m good, I know what it is and it’s just been an increased level of comfort and safety. I feel safe with myself, within the process, within my own process, within the amazing people that I can’t speak enough about that we get to work with in Vancouver. I feel freer to play. I can make more bold choices as an actor, and I’m supported. It’s just exciting.

TrunkSpace: One of the things we love so much about what you do with Penny is, you’re so expressive. Your face is doing so much in any given scene. Is that something you have tried to always bring to your work, or is it something you felt worked specifically with Penny?
Gupta: I appreciate that. That’s very kind of you to say. Look, I think performance is everything. It’s all of it; the way you deliver the line, how you look, how you… because you’re a human and you’re living in that moment and experiencing, it should be believable even without sound. The next time you’re watching something, close your eyes and just listen to the acting. Do you believe it? If you block your ears and watch the acting, do you believe it? It’s a fun exercise, for me at least.

Yeah, Penny is a different character for me. I don’t think about specifics – the results of what’s gonna show up. I surprise myself. That’s the goal. The goal is to surprise myself because I’m not thinking about the results of what this is gonna look like to the audience. I’m focusing on the process of what the character’s going through. What is this moment? What is this scene? And then in the process of being present with that, and listening and being dialed into the circumstances. What you’re referring to are byproducts of that process. So, for me, as soon as I get result oriented and start thinking about, for example, that… I’m just going to be very reductive… that I need to be upset in a scene. If I start focusing on it like, “Okay, by the middle of this scene I need to be upset,” for lack of more eloquent terms, I’m fucked.

The Magicians” airs Wednesdays on SYFY.

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Trunk Stubs

Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block

ChannelZero_TrunkStubs

Series: Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block

Where To Watch: SYFY

Rated: TV-14

Genre: Horror, Drama, Mystery

Release Date: February 7th, 2018

Episodes: Season 3/Six Episodes

Starring: Olivia Luccardi, Holland Roden, Krisha Fairchild, Rutger Hauer

Creator: Nick Antosca

Reason We’re Watching It: Nick Antosca has taken the source material provided by Creepypasta, a group of digital urban horror stories, and given visual life to these tales and legends that will haunt your thoughts and dreams. The last two seasons of “Channel Zero” kept us up at night, wondering what the next episode will hold. “Butcher’s Block” has proven to have the same hook and is indeed the most harrowing and chilling installment of “Channel Zero” thus far.

What It’s About: “Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block” is inspired by Kerry Hammond’s Creepypasta “Search and Rescue Woods” Reddit series. The story follows Alice (Olivia Luccardi) and her sister Zoe (Holland Roden) as they move to a new town in an attempt to escape the families’ dark history with mental illness. We find out their mother is in a mental facility and that Zoe is also suffering from the same mental health issues, as well as battling with addiction. Alice is working as a social worker, hoping to help children in need. Meanwhile, there have been multiple disappearances occurring in the small town, and there are more questions than answers as to the cause. As Alice ventures further down the rabbit hole that is “Butcher’s Block,” you find out the town is much darker and sinister than you could ever imagine.

Whoah! Rewind That!: In the first episode there are a lot of moments that will have you hitting the rewind button and getting a second look at what just transpired on your screen. For us, one moment that evoked a verbal reaction from the room of viewers was the…well, we’re not sure what it was yet, but we’ll call it the “thing” in the wall. Alice makes a social worker call to check in on a mother and child. You start to hear and see this “thing” in the wall. Then, when they show the child’s room, you see a hole in the wall that would perfectly fit its face, implying that it could easily peer in on the child. The thought of this “thing” looking through the face-sized hole at the sleeping child is just horrifying to contemplate.

Watercooler-Worthy Tidbit: Season 3 of “Channel Zero” was originally going to be called “Staircases.” You’ll see why when you watch it. The creators changed the name to “Butcher’s Block,” which we have to admit, immediately sets the tone for this story.

And that’s why we’re giving it…

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