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Wingman Wednesday

Ally Maki

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Photo By: Rick Bhatia

*Feature originally ran 9/20/17

There are many things to like about the TBS comedy “Wrecked” – the humor, the life-or-death stakes, the irresistible accent of series star Rhys Darby – but there’s one piece to the stranded on a desert island puzzle that we can’t help but love – Ally Maki.

The Washington native shines on the series, consistently delivering laughs in the midst of her character Jess’ attempts to strike a balance between enduring the tortures of a survivalist lifestyle and her own personal problems, most of which involve her on-again/off-again significant other, Todd, played to great douchery by Will Greenberg.

We recently sat down with Maki to discuss mosquito scars, why she loves that Jess is such a hot mess, and how she once played a keytar without ever having actually played a keytar.

TrunkSpace: Congrats on season 3 pick up!
Maki: Thank you so much.

TrunkSpace: I hope you’re a beach person because we assume that means more sand in your future!
Maki: It does. I have so many stories about our filming on our tropical set, but overall it’s pretty wonderful to film on a beach.

TrunkSpace: The universe is going to punish you at some point. Your next job is going to be like six months in Antarctica.
Maki: You know what, I have already been punished enough by the mosquitoes, so I feel like I’ve paid my dues.

TrunkSpace: Even though you were on the same island in the show, you actually filmed the first and second season in different locations, right?
Maki: Yes. The first one was in Puerto Rico. I love Puerto Rico, but the bugs there were such an issue. I left and I had, no joke, like 250 scars on my legs. We had to do like a workers comp file because I did seven months of laser scar removal because my legs looked like insanity. I couldn’t even show them at all because you would think something was wrong with me.

TrunkSpace: Yikes. That sounds rough. And then, we’d have to imagine that the sun itself is a bit of a liability.
Maki: Oh yeah and I’m very sensitive to any sort of heat. I’m the girl that, if I take half an Advil, I’ll pass out. I’m always stressed out by the heat and I’m constantly getting dehydrated, but then you don’t want to drink too much water because then you have to go to the bathroom a lot. It’s a whole thing. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: We know a lot of people instantly connect the show to “Lost” in terms of the premise, but it’s really more of like an “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” but with life-or-death stakes.
Maki: Yeah. Absolutely. I was the only person who had never seen “Lost” when I booked the show, so I really only knew the show as its own thing, and I definitely saw it as something completely different. It’s just so wacky and zany, and fun, and weird. I appreciate that people who loved “Lost” love the show as well, but it’s definitely its own thing.

TrunkSpace: And that thing is represented in the humor. Sometimes the funniest things in life come out of those moments where the stakes are high.
Maki: Oh yeah. I mean, you’re just elevating the stakes by 1000 percent. My character, Jess, is just, she’s an all-American, modern girl. She’s going through all the things that every woman goes through – dealing with a douchey boyfriend, or relationship, sex, this and that. She’s trying to find her inner strength, but it’s hilarious when you kind of put that in a life-or-death situation because it means so much to her. It’s very fun.

TrunkSpace: We hope every woman doesn’t have to deal with a douchey boyfriend at some point in their lives. There’s got to be some who get a Get Out Of Douchey Jail Free card.
Maki: I would love to meet and talk to a woman that has not had to deal with one because I have had far too many in my life. (Laughter) I would love to give those away to other people if they would like those.

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) From a performance standpoint, what is your favorite thing about Jess that you like diving into? What about her is worth dealing with heat and the mosquitoes for?
Maki: I honestly love that she’s somewhat of a hot mess because I kind of am in my own life too. It’s fun to see her go through all of these things and she’s really just trying to find her own independence and her own voice, but she has kind of a rough time getting there. She wears her heart on her sleeve so much, and she’s constantly making mistakes, but I love that she just kind of always gets right back in the game and goes completely head strong and nose first into all of these issues. It’s so much fun to play her. She’s a total mess, but I love her.

Maki and Greenberg in season 2 of Wrecked. Photo By: Vince Valitutti

TrunkSpace: From what we read, you almost didn’t even read for Jess in the first place, right?
Maki: Yeah. I was kind of in this weird head space because I had just done this show with Nick Frost and Justin Long, and it was literally my dream project and we were on a hold for about a year. I just found out randomly that the show was not going and it was absolutely devastating for me. The audition for “Wrecked” came very soon after, so it was one of those things that I was like, “Screw it! I’m not even sure if I’m ready to get back in the game again because I’m so depressed about it.” And I also just thought, at that time in the industry, we’re in this place where I didn’t really believe that it was possible for an Asian American woman to be playing this part just based upon years and years of the roles that people would see me for and not see me for, or pity see me for. So I was kind of like, “Is this going to be a waste of my time?”

It wasn’t. It was because of our amazing casting director Julie Ashton, who’s a friend and she’s honestly the only reason why I ever worked in this business, but she was like, “Honestly, we’re going so out of the box so come in and see what happens.” It’s one of those things where I kind of just let it go, and I was just the right girl for the role. Thank God for TBS and the Shipleys and everyone because, yeah, I almost did not go in.

TrunkSpace: Life always zigs when you plan for it to zag.
Maki: Absolutely. It’s kind of funny, I always look back to the moment of my rock bottom when I was told that the Fox show wasn’t going through, and I was like, “Is it even going to happen?” I was really kind of just doubting myself in the industry and everything. I look back now and I think about all of the adventures that I’ve had and how incredibly amazing the show is. It’s just awesome. I feel so lucky.

TrunkSpace: Beyond the job and your career itself, what is one of the coolest things to come out of the opportunity “Wrecked” has provided? We know you did Conan’s show, for example, which to us, would have been an amazing chapter in our life book.
Maki: Well, Conan is like a number one bucket list thing for me, so that was another moment I was like, “I can’t even believe that this is possible!” If I had gone back to my 14-year-old self and would’ve been like, “Hey, one day you’re going to do a late night talk show,” I would have honestly just pissed my pants. It was so meaningful because I was getting so many messages from people in the Asian American community, or just young girls of color. I had this one girl who literally said she watched it and she cried because she’d never really seen someone that looked like her on a late night talk show before. It makes you feel like, “I do exist in this world, and people like me exist. Our stories matter.” It’s really a cool thing.

TrunkSpace: Here’s the thing, Ally. You’re beautiful. You’re talented. You’re funny. But quite possibly the best thing we discovered about you is that, yes, you played the keytar!
Maki: Oh my gosh!

Photo By: Francisco Roman

TrunkSpace: As far as visuals go, it really is the greatest instrument ever invented.
Maki: (Laughter) I know. One of my friends calls me Robin Sparkles. She’s like, “You’re like my own Robin Sparkles in real life.”

TrunkSpace: If you discover that there has been a big jump in viewers on the “It’s a Hair Thing” video, that’s because of us. We’ve watched it over and over and over again.
Maki: (Laughter) Oh my gosh. So hilarious. When people find out about it, I’m like, “Please don’t Google it. Please don’t Google it!” It’s so embarrassing, but you know, we all have our embarrassing stories.

TrunkSpace: Did you have to kind of rebrand yourself after that period?
Maki: Here’s the thing, that was not where I started. I actually started out always in acting. I did theater all growing up. I was scouted when I was 14. I moved out here as an actress. I started doing stuff for the Disney Channel and stuff, but the only reason why I did the girl band was, honestly, because there was such a lack of things for me to do as an Asian girl. There was just nothing. There were only things here and there, little things, so my agent was like, “I think you should go out for this girl band. They’re really interested in you and they’re looking for an Asian girl.” I was like, “Please no! I don’t want to do it!” I was classically trained as a pianist, not like the keytar or whatever. They were like, “Please just go in.” I had to learn Avril Lavigne’s “Skater Boy” and I went in and they were like, “Well, you got it!”

It’s really just this blip, and it was never what I wanted to do and never what I was supposed to do. And then one day they were like, “Hey, so we want to change it up and we want you to play the keytar.” I was like, “What?!?!” I never even learned how to play it. It was never even plugged in.

TrunkSpace: Life is all about the journey, and as far as journeys go, that’s a hell of a story to share!
Maki: I always think when I have embarrassing things, I’m like, “This will be a great story on a talk show or in an interview one day.” That helps me get through it. (Laughter)

Featured Photo By: Rick Bhatia

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Wingman Wednesday

Olan Rogers

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Lion’s Blaze

If you are a connoisseur of animation, you have not only heard about the upcoming TBS series “Final Space,” but you’re T-minus counting down for its launch. With a cast of voices that includes Conan O’Brien, Ron Perlman, and David Tennant, the sci-fi fun fest is one of the most anticipated series of the new year.

Another animated series turning heads is “Lion’s Blaze,” a cartoon/video game mashup that recently premiered on YouTube. The story centers on a group of friends trapped in an arcade game for 15 years who are then tasked with completing an epic quest after one of their own dies within the game.

What do both series have in common? Producer, actor, and content creator Olan Rogers.

We recently sat down with Rogers to discuss why he’d like to branch out beyond animation, how he manages to juggle so many balls simultaneously, and why he always writes what makes him laugh.

TrunkSpace: It feels like the pop culture world is on the cusp of an Olan Rogers takeover. With a number of high profile animated projects set to debut soon, have you given any thought to entering the same (seemingly exclusive) club of names like Seth MacFarlane and Matt Groening?
Rogers: (Laughter) That would be cool, but I don’t know… that’s a hard world to crack. I’m having a blast with animation right now but the goal is to get back to live action eventually, specifically features. I have a long way to go before I even get close to where they are.

TrunkSpace: Are there less creative restrictions when you’re working in animation than if you’re working in the live action space, if for no other reason than because if you can think it, it can be drawn without adding an additional million dollars to your budget?
Rogers: Actually, it has its own restrictions like the number of backgrounds you can have and how many characters you can have in a shot. And animation is SO expensive, so in one way it’s freeing, but in another you’re limited.

TrunkSpace: “Lion’s Blaze” has been receiving incredible praise since it made its debut a few weeks back. What does that acceptance mean to you after all the years of hard work to get where you are?
Rogers: Man, it’s killer. I have been doing the YouTube grind for 12 years and never broke out really, it’s always been by word of mouth. It’s definitely huge for me.

TrunkSpace: The series follows the adventures of a group of friends who have been trapped in an arcade game for 15 years. If we were interviewing 8 year old Olan and asked him, “What arcade game would you like to be trapped in and why?” what would his response be?
Rogers: Mario most likely. I mean, gold coins and traveling through tubes? I’m down.

Lion’s Blaze

TrunkSpace: You’re wearing multiple hats on “Lion’s Blaze.” What is your favorite hat to wear and what is it that excites you about that side of the process?
Rogers: Directing. That’s the end goal. I would love not to do all the voices, but it’s a budget thing. Because I cannot pay myself.

TrunkSpace: When working on something like “Lion’s Blaze,” do you write what makes you laugh or do you write from the perspective of what you think the audience will find funny? Is there a difference?
Rogers: I write what makes me laugh, always. It’s more enjoyable. And yes, there is most definitely a difference. Usually, people tend not to enjoy what they’re making if it’s designed for someone else.

TrunkSpace: In addition to “Lion’s Blaze,” you also have the highly-anticipated, Conan O’Brien-produced “Final Space” due out on TBS next year. The series features high profile voice talent, including Conan and Ron Perlman. Is there a level of butterfly belly involved in gearing up to release a project of that magnitude?
Rogers: Like you wouldn’t believe. I hope people like it. All I can really do is work hard and hope it’s as special as I think it is. And I mean, voice acting with these guys has been a dream come true. Ron Perlman fist bumped me twice in the recording booth. I’ll always remember that.

TrunkSpace: One of the great things about your work is that you can have a laugh and escape the craziness of the current social and political climate. It feels like a really healthy breather from reality. Is that one of the powers of comedy and pop culture related content in general… escapism?
Rogers: I think you hit the nail on the head. Comedy and laughter melt everything away for a brief moment. We need comedy, and even if it’s just a single laugh, it’s refreshing to escape for a few moments.

TrunkSpace: You’re a Nashville guy. We love Nashville. We have fond memories of nights of remembering barely nothing while visiting Nashville. On our next trip… where do we need to visit? Give us the inside scoop!
Rogers: Pepperfire has some awesome hot chicken and then, of course, my soda shop, The Soda Parlor.

Final Space

TrunkSpace: As evidenced by your last answer, you also run various businesses outside of your work as a content creator, including an apparel company. Seriously, how the HELL do you find time for everything? (We feel bad even having you answer these questions!)
Rogers: I’ve surrounded myself with great people and they make it way easier to manage multiple things. (No worries, it’s a pleasure!)

TrunkSpace: With everything that you have going on, where are you hardest on yourself… as a creative person or businessman?
Rogers: Businessman because sometimes you have to make some really tough decisions and they are not fun all the time.

TrunkSpace: When you look at your career moving forward, what else would you like to accomplish? Do you have bucket list items that you want to check off in your career?
Rogers: Yes! Directing features and telling stories with a budget that can match my imagination.

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Wingman Wednesday

Brian Sacca

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He’s often the straight-faced everyman of the island in the TBS series “Wrecked” but Brian Sacca is so much more. With a warm comedic delivery that rivals that of John C. Reilly, he has the kind of impeccable timing that can elevate a joke and an entire scene. As a writer/producer who broke into the industry as part of the comedy duo Pete and Brian, the dual-threat of creativity has seen all sides of a joke, building the fundamentals (funnymentals?) for a long career of making audiences laugh.

We recently sat down with Sacca to discuss the current TV landscape, what makes a show funny, and… vampires?

TrunkSpace: TV is an amazingly abundant place right now for quality content. What side of you is more exited about its potential, actor Brian or writer/producer Brian?
Sacca: That’s a great question. I put it this way, writing and producing is incredibly satisfactory. The ability to create an idea and cultivate it and see it come to screen is unmatched. That said, acting is so much easier. You get to go and say your lines and be funny and eat a lot of food. It’s fantastic. (Laughter)

So I have two answers to that question. I love where TV is at right now because there are so many great shows out there and I’m very proud and happy to be a part of “Wrecked.” I love to be able to shoot with my friends for two and a half months every year and I want to continue to do that and work on other shows as well. But, I’m very excited about the writing aspect. In fact, I just finished developing a new idea that I’m going to take out very soon. A lot of the work I do in writing is also in features and I have a feature that is right now going into production in the fall, so I’m very excited about that too.

As a guy who moved to Los Angeles November 1, 2007, the day of the writer’s strike…

TrunkSpace: Perfect timing!
Sacca: (Laughter) Exactly. I am just excited that there’s just a lot of content being made right now. There are so many of my friends making great stuff and it just makes me happy.

TrunkSpace: And what’s great is that it’s not really restricted anymore by any sort of time frames. Yes, there’s still a TV buying season, but really, you can a new series out whenever now.
Sacca: Exactly. If you have an idea that works, just go take it out and see if people like it. And if people don’t like it, you can create another one. I feel lucky that this is happening and that I’m working right now.

TrunkSpace: It’s funny how it has played out because there was a time when it was sort of looked down upon for actors to work in TV and now everybody wants to act in television.
Sacca: You know, there’s an interesting other side to that too, which I hear a lot of actors in LA talk about. Now that everybody wants to work in TV, including big stars, it’s a lot harder for an up and comer to get work or a seasoned character actor to get work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a breakdown for a role and I’m like, “I know that some big movie star is going to come in and want to play this role.” It happens every time. Because it’s like, why not do TV? There’s so much amazing drama out there that everybody wants to be a part of and experience. I get it.

TrunkSpace: So on the comedy side of things, being a comedy writer yourself, did it take some getting used to on “Wrecked” to work within that medium from somebody else’s script? Did it take some discipline to not dive in and rework things?
Sacca: Well, I think I’m lucky in the fact that on “Wrecked” the Shipley brothers, who are the showrunners and creators, welcome that kind of feedback. I would say almost all of the actors on the show are also writers or perform in some other comedic aspect and so in a weird way, it’s almost expected that we’re going to come there with ideas of our own and jokes of our own. There are so many moments where we come into a scene and it’s one thing and then all of the actors start doing some stuff and it totally shifts into another thing. Luckily the Shipley brothers are super supportive of that and encourage it. But also, they know that if we’re taking the scene into a crazy ass different direction, they’re going to pull it back and be like, “Hey, we need THESE lines here.” And we’ll be like, “Okay, we’ll say those lines, but then we’re going in this crazy direction.” (Laughter) So it’s fun.

And TBS is supportive of that too. In the first season, there was a bit that I did in one of the later episodes where I twirled a fake gun like a gunslinger… an invisible gun. It wasn’t in the script and I was like, “This will be a fun thing to do.” I did it, a small version of it, and Zach Cregger was like, “You have to do more of that. Do this!” And then the Shipleys came over after another take and they were like, “You should do this and this and this.” And it just kept going on and on. And to be honest, when we were doing it I was like, “Is this even going to make the cut?” It was so long. We were doing takes where I’d be doing that for a minute and a half. And then TBS saw it and loved it and they were like, “We’re going to give you guys an extra minute just so we can have all of that bizarre gunslinging.” (Laughter) So, everybody is pretty supportive of the collaboration.

TrunkSpace: Do you think a show like “Wrecked” could have existed on television when you moved out to LA in 2007?
Sacca: No. And I think it’s because, especially in 2007, it was the height of unscripted. It was when unscripted was blowing up and every network was like, “Why are we going to spend money on scripted shows when we can make something for a quarter of the cost that gets big numbers.” And I think “Wrecked” was a risk for TBS to greenlight. It can be seen, especially in the first season, as being heavily connected to “Lost.” People even said it was a parody. It shifted away from that and just became a survival comedy. Obviously there’s still connections to “Lost” or “Lost Boys” or “Gilligan’s Island.”

Sorry. Not “Lost Boys.” “Lord of the Flies!”

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) You had us wondering there for a second. There’s vampires?!?!
Sacca: (Laughter) No vampires! No vampires!

TrunkSpace: Season 2 has taken a dramatic turn!
Sacca: (Laughter) Exactly. They were like, “We got the survivalist demo. Now let’s get the vampire demo and then maybe we’ll go zombies!”

But, I remember the TV that was getting greenlight at that time and it was also the recession so networks didn’t have the money that they have now. I would have been surprised if something like this got greenlit back then. Looking at the comedies that were on then, they were the safest comedies.

TrunkSpace: What’s nice now is that it seems like networks give their shows a bit more time to grow and develop an audience. And maybe that’s also a sign of the times with there being so much content on the air.
Sacca: Right, which is exciting too. That’s another thing that I feel very grateful for with TBS. For basic cable we had really great numbers last year. Maybe we didn’t have that kind of social media, crazy engagement stuff, but we still had a lot of viewers and I hope that we can retain a lot of those viewers. TBS is like that with all of their shows. They’re behind them and they’re building a brand of different comedy.

TrunkSpace: So again, going back to the idea of comedy, what is it that resonates with an audience… is it finding the funny in a situation or finding a funny situation?
Sacca: Oh man. That’s the age old question… what makes a joke funny?

I hate to not give you a straight answer, but I think it’s a little bit of both. What I like about the show and I think where comedy works really well most of the time is when the stakes are high. And that doesn’t necessarily mean life or death. It does in “Wrecked” a lot of the times, but when the character’s objective is the most important thing in the world, I feel like a lot of great comedy comes out of that. And I think you see that a lot in “Wrecked.” It’s a life or death show because it’s a survival show and I think that heightens the stakes for every character involved, which then just amplifies the jokes. And even if those jokes aren’t the most aggressive jokes… like going back to my gun twirling thing. That’s just a funny aside, but what makes it funny is that we were in this crazy life or death situation. The scene that we’re playing it in is that we’re hunting for food because we’re starving to death, so the fact that I’m doing this silly little thing within the context of this life or death situation… these high stakes… I think makes it funny.

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TrunkSpace: Well, and that relates to the real world as well because when you’re dealing with something heavy, people always say, “You’ll look back on this and laugh.”
Sacca: (Laughter) Exactly.

TrunkSpace: And of course, it’s easier to laugh at other people who are going through heavy shit. (Laughter)
Sacca: (Laughter) That’s true. You can kind of say that about the state of our country right now. Hopefully we’ll look back on this and laugh. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Assuming we will physically be able to. (Laughter)
Sacca: Thank you. Well played.

Hopefully we will still exist in the future and can look back on this and laugh.

TrunkSpace: OR, artificial intelligence can laugh at our expense.
Sacca: (Laughter) When singularity happens, the computers will look back and have a computerized chuckle.

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) So with season 2 of “Wrecked” kicking off, what can viewers expect from the castaways?
Sacca: So we start season 2 at the exact same moment that we ended season 1. And not to spoil, but we end season 1 with some pirates coming to the island to try to find me, my character, because it turns out that I’m absurdly wealthy. So the pirates try to ransom me and it doesn’t necessarily go as planned and they… I’m not going to give away too much… but I’ll say that they decide to stay for a little bit.

TrunkSpace: Being pirates, hopefully they brought rum.
Sacca: Well, that kind of comes into play. (Laughter)

I will say that this season has a really big turn in the middle of it where things change pretty dramatically.

TrunkSpace: And that’s when the vampires come, right? (Laughter)
Sacca: Of course! That’s when the vampires come. (Laughter)

Season 2 of “Wrecked” premieres tonight on TBS.

And to our knowledge, there are no vampires.

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