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The Featured Presentation

The Featured Presentation

Jaime Ray Newman

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Photo By: Theo & Juliet Photography

Pop culture junkies will recognize actress Jaime Ray Newman from her incredible catalog of on-screen performances that span both film and television, and while she considers herself an actress first, it is her work as a producer that is enabling her to now control her own creative destiny.

If you want to be a storyteller, you have to take responsibility to tell stories that you feel passionate about also,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

After taking home the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film in 2019 for Skin, she and her producing partner Guy Nattiv, who is also her husband, have a packed slate of projects in development – 14 by the current count. On camera, Newman can be seen in the recently-released Hulu series Little Fires Everywhere opposite Reese Witherspoon and in the film Valley of the Gods, arriving on VOD August 11.

We recently sat down with Newman to discuss chasing down the producing bug, creating in the time of Covid, and why she loves playing baddies.

TrunkSpace: As a producer, you won the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film alongside of your producing partner and husband Guy Nattiv. Is that where your journey beyond acting began?
Newman: Well, I’m an actress first, but in a way, especially now, I feel like you can’t just do one thing. You just can’t. It’s too competitive. But even beyond that, you have to take some responsibility. If you want to be a storyteller, you have to take responsibility to tell stories that you feel passionate about also.

TrunkSpace: So it helps you control your own creative destiny?
Newman: Of course. As an actor, you are sitting around, you are auditioning 95 percent of the time. You look at these success stories, they’re like one out of a billion. Careers ebb and flow, and if you want to be busy in the artistic process, you have to be creating your own content. I was lucky that I met Guy 10 years ago. I had always wanted to produce – the first thing I produced was when I was in high school. They let me graduate high school a half a year early, a semester early, because I was producing plays. I used my bat mitzvah money. There was a play that I wanted to do called Keely and Du. Every year they would pick a production to produce and they wouldn’t produce the script because it had to do with abortion, and they thought it was too controversial. So I was like, “Okay…” and I literally took this $3,000 from my bat mitzvah account and rented a theater, turned it Equity and hired adult actors in the adult roles. And my dad actually directed it. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Wow. What a commitment, especially at that age.
Newman: It was a life changing experience for me. I loved it. So when I came to LA, I got really swept up. I got on a soap opera right away. I started acting pretty consistently straight out of the gate, but I always had the producing bug. I just didn’t know the material. I had trouble finding the material. So when I met Guy, I loved his work in Israel. And before we even fell in love as two humans, we started working on an American-Israeli collaboration together. And it was through that. The project never happened, but we fell in love. I mean, he’s my muse, and I’m his muse. We’re like mutual muses.

TrunkSpace: So in order to stay in the creative process, how important has it been to have these projects to work on during the pandemic? Has it been more apparent this year just how critical it is to control your own artistic destiny?
Newman: Yes. I wake up every morning thanking the stars, Guy, whoever you want to say. When you’re just an actor, you are completely at the mercy of someone else. And I couldn’t bear that. Guy and I are so fucking busy. I mean, I could show you in our office, we have a board with all of our projects. We have 14 projects. We are in development nonstop. We are the busiest we’ve ever been right now. Would I love to be on set, acting? Would I love to be auditioning for things? Yes, but I do feel creatively satisfied because our projects are heavily in development right now.

TrunkSpace: Would those projects not be as far along in development if you did not have this time of extended lockdown to focus on them?
Newman: That’s a great question. There’s two projects, one that came to us through our agents, and one that Guy and I – it’s a true story – that we were actually going to do as our next short. And because of lockdown, a production company said, “Listen, we will give you the development resources to write this. Just forget the short and go straight into the feature. Guy, write the feature.” And that would not have happened. We wouldn’t have had time. It’s an amazing story. And I think that it’s happening – Guy writing it – because of lockdown.

From Left To Right: Nattiv, Bryon Widner, Newman, Jaime Bell

TrunkSpace: In looking at the projects you have in development, many of them are based on real people and real circumstances. For a producer, is there such a thing as a “producer’s voice” like there is for a writer?
Newman: One hundred percent. These are great questions. Hello, Terry Gross. (Laughter)

I think that our slate is pretty eclectic, but every piece of content that we are developing has some sort of social message – social or political. Just entertainment or escapism, I think is very important, it’s just not the stuff that we’re interested in producing. It takes years – decades – to make a project, and for us to spend that much time, literally for free, working on something, it has to have a deeper, more significant meaning.

We have a project about the first stunt woman in Hollywood called A Stunt Woman. It’s about Julie Ann Johnson. It took us almost two years to get her life rights. She wanted nothing to do with Hollywood anymore because she had been blacklisted for outing all of the bad behavior. And the thing that we love about this project is that it’s fun, wild and it’s set in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. It’s a period piece, crazy stunt work, all women, bad-ass, like Tarantino-esque, but it has the social underpinnings. The underlying foundation of it is a Norma Rae kind of woman, who couldn’t take it anymore and took the system by storm, and was punished for it, but changed our business forever because of it, for the better.

TrunkSpace: And it’s a story that, in many ways, has kind of been lost to history.
Newman: One hundred percent. She was the first Me Too movement. She was on the cover of TV Guide in 1978, and everyone gave her kudos for two weeks, and then everyone went back to business as usual.

TrunkSpace: One thing that is great about all of the projects that you and Guy are working on, and this includes Skin, is that they feel like the kind of movies we USED to be able to see before everything was a franchise or based on an existing brand. How important are things like VOD and streaming platforms to projects like those that you two have in development?
Newman: I am so grateful for the streamers. I think that independent cinema is going to survive because of the streamers. I really hope that there is still a world for not just Marvel movies in the theaters after we survive this pandemic. There’s an amazing article that our producer wrote – he produced Skin with us, and our next project, Harmonia, is also with him – a guy named Oren Moverman. He just was interviewed by the Hollywood Reporter on the state of independent cinema right now and the streamers. And you should just read it because he’s so intelligent and has such a pulse on what’s happening.

But, Harmonia is our next film. I really want to see it on a big screen. It hasn’t been made yet, but it’s something that I really want to witness on a big screen, just like Roma. We sought out Roma in the theater and went to see it. And I have friends who are like, “I fell asleep watching Roma.” And I’m like, “Did you watch it on your couch at home?”

TrunkSpace: Yeah, that’s true. It’s easy to not be as invested in a film when you are in the comfort of your own home.
Newman: You didn’t have the experience of it. It’s the Ikea theory, that if you build it… if you buy it and put your time and effort into it – tears into it – you’ll appreciate it more. It’s psychological in a way.

But these streamers… I was in Little Fires Everywhere, and it is very cinematic, but at the same time, Hulu paid for a 10-hour movie. No one’s going to go to a movie theater to see a 10-hour movie, but Lynn Shelton was able to make a 10-hour movie. So the streamers are allowing us to do that. Would I love to see A Stunt Woman on a big screen? Yeah, but am I so grateful that we potentially get to make this big, epic saga, but in a televised way, where you have to see it at home? I’ll take that trade off.

TrunkSpace: There are just so many ways for people to find a project today, which of course can be a double-edged sword. Really, all you can do is make the film or project that you want to make and then hope it finds its audience and connects with people.
Newman: That’s it. Because, like I said, you have to do so much work for free, and it takes decades and years, and you dedicate your life to something that you want to go see. And the truth is, the short was only made because we found Byron Widner, who Skin, the feature, is based on, 10 years ago. It was based on a documentary on MSNBC about the tattoo removal process, and it took us years. Guy wrote the script and every producer in town passed on it. We started shopping it in the summer of 2016 and everyone was like, “Hillary Clinton is about to become president. Racism died with Obama. This stuff doesn’t exist anymore.” Guy and I were like, “What are you talking about? We just spent years of research. Of course this shit exists.” And that’s why we made the short as a proof of concept to get the feature made.

TrunkSpace: When you’re acting in a project that you’re also producing, does actress Jaime ever butt heads with producer Jaime in terms of what they both want to achieve?
Newman: I will get back to you in about a year. (Laughter)

With Skin, the short, we paid for it with our retirement funds. I was such a basket case on that set because every one minute of overtime was coming out of our retirement money. I was such a mess on that set for the five-day shoot. There’s no way I could have acted in it. There’s no way. In the feature, there was a moment in time when I was going to play Julie, the female role, but we met Danielle Macdonald on the short and she was so perfect. She was so authentic. She’s so good. Both Guy and I were just like, “This is Julie.” There’s this quality to her that really is the real woman. And I think that it was such a learning experience for me shooting the feature that I’m glad I was just a producer on it.

When I did Little Fires Everywhere, Reese Witherspoon and I spoke mostly about producing, and I watched her juggling – on the phone producing and then she had her quiet space for the work. What I’ve learned is that producing is extremely chaotic. It is just wrangling in the chaos. Acting is very still. It is very focused. Even when you have a chaotic scene… they call it relax-itration, a relaxed concentrated nature, because then creativity can flow. So I have amazing examples of badass producers who’ve done it in the past, and I’ll just figure it out.

TrunkSpace: What is one lesson that you learned in making Skin that you’re going to apply to the next project?
Newman: Don’t invest your own money. (Laughter) I can’t even say that, because we changed our lives. I tell the story all the time. Guy was having so much trouble launching his career in the US. It had been five or six years. He hadn’t made a movie, nothing we were working on was being made, and we went to our financial advisor, sent him the short and we said to him, “We have a short, and we don’t know how to raise money for a short. Do you think that we should put our own money into it?” He was like, “No.” And then we said, “Can you read the script? I know you don’t normally read movie scripts, but it’s 20 pages. Can you read it?” And he called us Monday morning, and he was like, “You have to make this.”

TrunkSpace: You have been in so many great television series over the course of your career. What is one character you wished you had more time to spend with and explore further?
Newman: I played this crazy, werewolf basically, in Grimm. She was like this motorcycle-riding, leather-clad Blutbad. I did a couple episodes of that. I was supposed to do more, but then I think a show that I was on got picked up, and so they had to kill me off. I love playing the bad-asses. I don’t get cast in them that often, but I really like them. Even in Midnight, Texas, I started off as this sort of like Southern genteel, and then you find out that she’s just evil incarnate – this old thousand-year-old she-devil. I like playing the baddies.

Skin, the short, is available now on Amazon Prime Video. Little Fires Everywhere is available on Hulu. Valley of the Gods arrives August 11 on VOD.

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The Featured Presentation

John-Paul Howard

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The Wretched, a horror film with a throwback vibe, far exceeded expectations when it was released to select theaters and drive-ins during the midst of a global pandemic, even going so far to surpass the $1M mark in a run at a limited box office. Now available on Hulu, the film continues to entertain new audiences in new ways, much to the delight of star John-Paul Howard.

It’s always nice to be thought of as a silver lining in an otherwise dreary time,” said Howard in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “However, it will remain, to me, an amazing feat to be able to entertain the populous during a time where escapism is absolutely necessary.”

We recently sat down with Howard to discuss the film’s success, the scene that will stick with him throughout his life, and why the notion of the ideal male body is ridiculous.

TrunkSpace: Your latest project The Wretched was released in the middle of a pretty tumultuous time for not only the country but the world as a whole. In a way, is it nice to be a part of people’s escape during all of this – to be their outlet to what was “normal” once?
Howard: It’s always nice to be thought of as a silver lining in an otherwise dreary time. However, it will remain, to me, an amazing feat to be able to entertain the populous during a time where escapism is absolutely necessary. Some people have referred to The Wretched as, riding the wave of the unfortunate, to put it as politely as I can, but it is important to understand that no one can predict these things that occur even in a day-to-day life. So, to be an escape for those less fortunate is a welcome feeling.

TrunkSpace: When it first went out to audiences, it hit in one of our favorite places even pre-pandemic – drive-in movie theaters. Have you had the chance to experience the film in that format, and if so, what was that like for you, again, given the state of things today?
Howard: I must admit I never got the opportunity to view the film in that format and am incredibly jealous of those who got to go see it this way. The film was absolutely perfect for drive-in theaters, maybe it was the ‘80s vibes it gave off or maybe it was just fitting for the events in the country, but I regret not finding a way to go see it there. Although seeing cast and crew go to the drive-ins was relieving, knowing they could go back into the world and socialize in a safe environment achieved through distancing, masks and the security of one’s own vehicle, all in a nostalgia-fueled lot watching a good movie, I sincerely recommend heading to the drive-ins this summer just to get that feeling.

TrunkSpace: Would you say that the film exceeded your expectations in terms of how it has reached audiences, particularly in light of the uphill battle it was facing being released at a time when people were tucking themselves away?
Howard: It was really hard to have any expectations at all, especially when news of lockdown was surfacing, but truthfully after the smoke cleared it exceeded all of our expectations. Ultimately, I think we’re just ecstatic knowing our film was perceived positively by audiences.

TrunkSpace: The film hit Hulu last Friday. As an actor, what is it like working in this day and age where a film like The Wretched can have multiple lives – from theaters to streaming platforms – and find new audiences along the way?
Howard: It’s difficult to keep up with how the film is doing and where it’s located, but simply hearing that people are loving it and finding a way to watch it is good enough for me. I’m not a tech-savvy guy but can receive messages from fans and try to respond to them as best I can, so meeting all these new people is shocking but invigorating.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on The Wretched thus far that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Howard: To put this rather bluntly, my pool scene is probably something I don’t think I will ever forget ‘til the day I die. And unfortunately for the audience, I don’t think they will either.

TrunkSpace: As an actor – a profession where you generally are required to work directly with other people in a scene – how have you kept the tools in your toolbox sharp during this extended period of isolation?
Howard: Honestly, even watching a show or movie can help improve your craft or keep yourself sharp. Any sort of social interaction will do the same thing for me, so I might hop on the phone with a friend for a short bit or do a Zoom call with friends where we play games. Of course, reading has a similar effect but certainly not the same. You always want to improve your language skills as an actor.

TrunkSpace: You’re also a guitarist. As music lovers ourselves, how has that instrument kept you company during this time? Did you become dependent on it as a creative outlet?
Howard: Oh absolutely, I play it for a few hours every day, but I have to admit there are some days where I might just get slammed with errands to where I will forget, and at the end of the day my guitar sits in the corner and sends guilt trips every way it can.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an actor/artist and how do you overcome those insecurities when they make an appearance?
Howard: Actors are hard on themselves in a lot of ways, whether it has to deal with performance or appearance, but to me those are the main two. I’ve never really been fit and have been turned down before because of it. The “ideal male body” is rather absurd and not focused on as having a negative effect on people, but really, I am going to the gym. Not for the “Hollywood Body” but mostly for my own health.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career as a whole thus far?
Howard: The Wretched has been the biggest highlight, honestly. I could mention Hell or High Water or Midnight, Texas as being fantastic highlights, but the friends and family I’ve made on this production, along with the memories, make this my favorite. The unexpected turnout makes it the biggest.

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?
Howard: I don’t think I could, because truthfully, any possible outcome, whether it is good or bad, could cause me to just give up entirely or focus on the wrong part of it. The passion and drive of the moment is what pushes me to continue every day. Let’s be real, this crap is HARD!

The Wretched is available now on Hulu.

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The Featured Presentation

Scott Alda Coffey

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Photo By: The Riker Brothers

As movie lovers who have been stuck at home this summer and looking for new content to consume, many of us have turned to the On Demand options available because, well, we demand it. One of the biggest films to cure our instant cinephile gratification has been The Outpost, the true story about a team of U.S. solders during the Afghanistan War who faced insurmountable odds at The Battle of Kamdesh. Originally slated to premiere at SXSW, the film found new life in all of our homes after the arrival of Covid-19.

It’s disappointing that it didn’t fully get those opportunities, but with that being said, I’m really glad that the movie was able to be released,” says film star Scott Alda Coffey. “Truthfully, more people were probably able to see it because it was right there in their living rooms.”

We recently sat down with Alda Coffey to discuss entertaining in uncertain times, discovering new levels of respect for the men and women of the military, and learning patience from a famous family member.

TrunkSpace: Your latest project, The Outpost, was released in the middle of a pretty tumultuous time for not only the country but the world as a whole. In a way, is it nice to be a part of people’s escape during all of this – to be their outlet to what was “normal” once?
Scott Alda Coffey: It’s really amazing to see the response it has been getting, especially from veterans. I feel so honored that we were able to bring this movie to people’s screens during this uncertain time.

TrunkSpace: Without a lot of new projects being released right now, The Outpost is one of the last big films audiences may see for awhile. Has the current state of the world changed this particular experience for you – waiting for and promoting a new project – while in the middle of all of this uncertainty?
Scott Alda Coffey: Initially the film was supposed to premiere at SXSW before the film festival was canceled, and the movie was definitely shot to be seen on the big screen. It’s disappointing that it didn’t fully get those opportunities, but with that being said, I’m really glad that the movie was able to be released. Truthfully, more people were probably able to see it because it was right there in their living rooms. It was tricky to navigate during COVID-19, but I’m glad it’s out in the world and being seen.

TrunkSpace: The film is based on a true story. When you’re working on a project that involves real people – is there a different vibe on set? Is there more of a focus on getting it “right” for the sake of those who lived the experience?
Scott Alda Coffey: One hundred percent that was the main focus of every single person on set. We wanted to honor all the men who fought in the Battle of Kamdesh, as well as all the troops who fought for our country. That was our number one goal. It felt like a big responsibility, but we were all committed to getting it right.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on The Outpost thus far that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Scott Alda Coffey: After having worked on The Outpost, I have a much greater respect for the military and our troops than I did before. I always supported our troops, but now I have more knowledge about them. I was lucky enough to work with a number of vets on the film, and that was so incredibly rewarding.

TrunkSpace: We saw that your grandfather Alan Alda gave you a Twitter shout out a few weeks back for your work in the film. For many young people, having their grandparents call them out on socials can be a horrifying experience, but yours happens to be a legend in the business. How has his guidance helped you traverse what is a pretty difficult industry to navigate?
Scott Alda Coffey: He’s been a huge influence for me my entire life. One of the things that he really helped instill in me is that this career path requires patience. It takes time to build up a career; it’s not going to happen overnight. I really took that to heart.

TrunkSpace: As an actor – a profession where you generally are required to work directly with other people in a scene – how have you kept the tools in your toolbox sharp during this extended period of isolation?
Scott Alda Coffey: It has been a tough time to work those tools during COVID-19, but my girlfriend and I work on scenes together, just trying to keep that muscle going. It’s definitely hard right now, but I’m doing what I can to stay active, acting-wise.

Photo By: The Riker Brothers

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist and how do you overcome those self-critical insecurities?
Scott Alda Coffey: I think it’s so easy to be self-critical as an artist, and we all do it. Every time I watch myself act, all I can see are the flaws. I think that’s common, and I just keep telling myself that my work is done and wondering how I can be better for my next job.

TrunkSpace: If you could sit down and have a conversation with your 16-year-old self, would he be surprised by the trajectory of your career, and if so, why?
Scott Alda Coffey: I think so. In this business you never really know where your career is going to lead. I never would have thought that my first major film would be a war movie, but I am so glad it was. It’s an experience I never thought I’d get to have.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career as a whole thus far?
Scott Alda Coffey: Definitely The Outpost. It’s such a powerful story, and one that I am beyond honored to be a part of telling. Opportunities like this don’t come around often.

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?
Scott Alda Coffey: I think so. I’ve been very happy with the path I’m currently on, and I look forward to what the future holds.

The Outpost is available now on VOD.

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The Featured Presentation

Daya Vaidya

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Photo By: Morgan Pansing

Playing a conniving and dangerous “bad ass” did not come naturally for Daya Vaidya. In order to understand the character Jen Kowski from the series Bosch, the Oakland-raised actress spent a week preparing for the audition that ultimately led to her being cast, proving once again that preparation pays off.

So by the time I finally got the role, I feel like I already had her in my body… then it was just about putting myself into the circumstances of what was happening in the story,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

Season 6 of Bosch is currently available on Amazon Prime Video.

We recently sat down with Vaidya* to discuss the diverse Bosch fandom, the bittersweet goodbye on the horizon, and the Lance Reddick effect.

*Due to our own complications during the pandemic, this interview was originally conducted in May and is just now being posted as we return from hiatus.

TrunkSpace: Season 6 of Bosch recently premiered. From our count, that brings you to about 20 episodes of playing Jen Kowski. What is it like getting to spend that much time with a singular character? At what point do you start to know her in a way that makes understanding her motives and actions as seamless as you do your own?
Vaidya: I needed to know what motivated Jen before I even auditioned for the part. When I first read the script I didn’t understand her – she was conniving, manipulative, dangerous and an overall bad ass! The character really intrigued me, but I didn’t know how to play that. I didn’t want to play a stereotype or play her one note. I spent about a week preparing for the audition, trying to get into the headspace of that kind of woman. So by the time I finally got the role, I feel like I already had her in my body… then it was just about putting myself into the circumstances of what was happening in the story. It’s only grown since then.

TrunkSpace: With Bosch, the entire season is dropped on a single day. How soon after that do you start to feel the ripple effect of the latest arc within the fandom? Is it almost instantaneous?
Vaidya: Totally! About a week before Bosch drops, I start hearing from the fans almost every hour on Twitter and Instagram. Everyone is getting excited, they want to know or hear some hints on what’s going to happen in the upcoming season. The thing I love the most about Bosch fans is that they represent a huge cross section of our country and world. I’ve noticed that Bosch fans come from many different demographics, varying wildly politically and socially, but they share one thing in common: they love the authenticity and mood of the show. I also would say, most fans tell me they binge the show in a few days!

TrunkSpace: Without new projects actively in production right now, the latest season of Bosch may be one of the last new offerings people see for awhile. Has the current state of the world changed this experience for you – waiting for and promoting the latest installment of the series – while in the middle of all of this uncertainty?
Vaidya: It’s been crazy! Trying to publicize a show while stuck in the house, unable to go out, do in-person press, or just talk to people has been challenging. Yet on the other hand it’s forced me to spend more time connecting with people online and in different spaces, getting creative with how to engage with fans. I’ve had more time to answer questions and interact one-on-one with people I may have never previously connected with. I’ve also enjoyed spending time with my family. I am enjoying what’s happening, versus being on this crazy whirlwind, which is how it usually is. This whole pandemic has forced me to slow down and take stuff in and just appreciate the ride.

TrunkSpace: The series has already been renewed for a seventh and final season. What emotions do you juggle with knowing that this project – something you were actively involved in since Season 2 – will be coming to an end?
Vaidya: I am honestly pretty sad, I feel like Bosch has been a part of my life for so long and I don’t want to let it go. It has been one of the best acting and set experiences of my entire career. But at the same time I’m excited about what’s on the horizon and what other projects I get to be a part of and discover; as well as, which new characters I get to play. So it’s a bittersweet moment. I’m also going to miss playing Jen! She’s my alter ego and helps me be more savvy in business. I learn from her.

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the end product is always the most memorable, but for those involved in the project it must go much further than that. What’s the most memorable aspect of getting to work on Bosch that you’ll carry with you through the rest of your life and career?
Vaidya: I would say working with Lance Reddick, definitely! He’s a rare gem of an actor and most of my scenes are with him. He’s one of the most gracious, professional, and talented actors I’ve ever worked with. He’s a great partner on set because everything he does is about the story and not ego. He acts from a similar place as me and we had so much fun playing and discovering how these two connected, past what was written on the page. He’s also hilarious and tells the best Hollywood stories! He’ll have me cracking up many days, telling me stories about the crazy films he’s done. He sure has a resume and so much wisdom!

TrunkSpace: What has been an unexpected bonus or reward – something you could have never anticipated when you first started your journey as an actress – to a career in the arts? What is an aspect of your life that you wouldn’t have now had you not taken this path, but at the same time, one that you can’t imagine your life without now?
Vaidya: Freedom. When you first start out as a young actor it’s such a deep grind that you don’t have a lot of time to enjoy the moment. But after putting in years and years of work, one of the best things that happens is that your career starts to go and you get a certain level of freedom in your life. Freedom to discover how I want my day to go, how I want my life to be and what I want to say as an artist. I didn’t realize I would love and need that so much. You need a steel stomach for this business. Usually money is tight and sometimes things aren’t happening, but I learned not to equate my self worth with my booking ratio. It’s gotten sweet in the last 10 years because I’m not trying to ‘get a job.’ I’m just trying to express and deepen my experience in whatever character I’m playing. I have a framed quote from Philip Seymour Hoffman that I read every day:

If you get a chance to act in a room that someone else has paid rent for, then you’re given a free chance to practice your craft. And in that moment, you should act as well as you can, because if you leave the room and you’ve acted as well as you can, there’s no way that people who have watched you will forget it.”

TrunkSpace: There are ups and downs in any career, but certainly the entertainment industry is known for delivering peaks and valleys. Was there ever a moment where you considered walking away from acting, and if so, what kept you on your path and looking forward?
Vaidya: I knew I never wanted to do anything else in my life. There were times I got frustrated and wanted to give up; and of course questioned my path. But I never had a Plan B and I never looked elsewhere for another career. What I did instead, was work on strengthening my center so that I wouldn’t be as affected by the ups and downs of the business. I stopped getting hurt by the rejection and took it more as a lesson in growth. That allowed me to work from a place of truth and joy, not just getting a job. That’s what’s allowed me to survive in this business and most importantly, love it.

TrunkSpace: You’ve appeared in a number of memorable series and projects over the years. We’re curious… what is a character that you wished you had more time to spend with and why?
Vaidya: Sophia Del Cordova. (Laughter) This was a Colombian telenovela star I played in one episode of the show Castle. She was one of the most fun and hilarious characters I’ve ever played. And I had to learn two pages of Spanish in four days! I would’ve loved to bring her back and keep tightening up my Spanish. I want to be fluent!

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Vaidya: Tough question, I have so many! But I would say the moment I found out I’d booked the series Unforgettable on CBS. I’ll never forget because my husband and I were bathing our infant daughter. I hadn’t worked in a while and after having a baby, an agent told me my momentum was gone and I thought my career was over. It was a Friday night, late and I didn’t expect a call. My agent called me out the blue and said I got the job and would be moving to New York. I cried happy tears with my husband, as my daughter laughed and splashed us with bubbles. We all hugged. My whole life changed in that moment.

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?
Vaidya: I take that journey a lot in my mind. I think of it more like a visualization or something that I’m creating. I don’t know the details or the specifics, but what I do see is happiness, freedom and the ability to create art. I see myself traveling with my family and working on films and TV shows all over the world. I want to continue to produce projects that push boundaries and break stereotypes of what it means to be urban, a woman of color and intellectual. Those aren’t mutually exclusive things and those are the stories my husband (producing partner) and I like to tell. Most of all I’m excited to see my kids grow and I’m curious for what the future will reveal!

Season 6 of Bosch is available on Amazon Prime Video.

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The Featured Presentation

Fiona Vroom

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Photographer: Charles Zuckerman/Hair and Makeup: Leah Roberts/Digitech: Zenna Wong/Stylist: Janet Adrienne

With a global pandemic raging, almost all of us were forced into quarantine at some point in 2020. Being self-contained – isolated – would have seemed like science fiction just a year ago, but reality is not that far removed from make believe these days. Sure, the characters in TNT’s Snowpiercer are technically locked down on a train, but they’re still locked down. We can all relate to that.

I think that, when working in the world of science fiction, the line between fiction and reality gets blurred quite easily,” says series star Fiona Vroom, who plays Ms. Gillies. “That’s why it’s so much fun. Because we, as an audience can really imagine it happening.”

We recently sat down with Vroom* to discuss Julie Andrews inspiration, Jennifer Connelly admiration, and why a career in acting is both a blessing and a curse.

*Due to our own complications during the pandemic, this interview was originally conducted in May and is just now being posted as we return from hiatus.

TrunkSpace: Snowpiercer is based on a popular graphic novel/film that has became a cult classic over the last few years. Is there a different vibe signing on to a project like this knowing that there will be eyeballs on it when it eventually airs? Does it take some of the uncertainty out of it?
Vroom: Snowpiercer, being a popular franchise already, comes with expectations. The fans and audiences were waiting for this show to launch, and there will be people who are disappointed, and people who are crazy about it. As a performer signing on to the project, I feel a certain amount of responsibility to deliver for the fans, so there is an added amount of pressure. But it’s such a fun and thrilling ride being on this train. Everyone will enjoy it in some way.

TrunkSpace: There’s something kind of timely to the project in that – here is humanity inhabiting a singular location all while we, as a society, are on lockdown. Have the parallels between fiction and reality blurred even more so now given where we are currently?
Vroom: I think that, when working in the world of science fiction, the line between fiction and reality gets blurred quite easily. That’s why it’s so much fun. Because we, as an audience can really imagine it happening. And I feel that the way society is at the moment, at least I’m hoping that people will be able to slow down, pay attention to what we are doing to the planet so that we don’t end up freezing the earth by accident and have to live on a train. Global warming is real, and it’s not going away unless we change.

TrunkSpace: Without new projects actively in production right now, Snowpiercer is one of the last big new series audiences may see for awhile. Has the current state of the world changed this experience for you – waiting for and promoting a new project – while in the middle of all of this uncertainty?
Vroom: The experience is different because we can’t all be together to celebrate the launch of this show that has been in the works for three years now. So it’s disappointing in that way. We did hold a Virtual Premiere, and it was actually really fun. Things will be different, but they will only feel different for a little while. Soon enough it will be what we are used to.

TrunkSpace: In the series you’re playing Miss Gillies. Without giving too much away, can you tell us what’s in store for her and what you enjoyed most about getting to bring her to life?
Vroom: Miss Gillies is a little ray of sunshine onboard the train. It was so much fun bringing her to life. I drew from one of my favorite movies, The Sound Of Music, and took a page from Julie Andrews in the way she interacts with children on screen. Miss Gillies runs a tight classroom, but she has a secret, as do many of the characters on board, so who can you really trust? It was a pleasure playing that fine line.

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the end product is always the most memorable, but for those involved in the project it must go much further than that. What’s the most memorable aspect of getting to work on Snowpiercer that you’ll carry with you through the rest of your life and career?
Vroom: Watching Jennifer Connelly work. She is so precise. She cares about every detail, she asks questions that are important to the world we are playing in. She is an extremely careful and detailed worker and I learned a lot from watching her.

TrunkSpace: What has been an unexpected bonus or reward – something you could have never anticipated when you first started your journey as an actress – to a career in the arts? What is an aspect of your life that you wouldn’t have now had you not taken this path, but at the same time, one that you can’t imagine your life without now?
Vroom: I like this question, thank you for asking it because it’s important to remember why I chose to be an actor. I always say, it’s a blessing and a curse. To have a career in the arts isn’t always easy. It takes a long time to be a trusted professional. It’s a hustle and sometimes you feel like you’re on a hamster wheel. Some days are long and hard and you’re outside on location and it’s freezing and the conditions are really rough and you have to act like nothing’s bothering you. Other days can be easier. Now I’m at a place in my career where I feel very comfortable. I’ve been very lucky to work as much as I do. And now I am learning to enjoy the down times. To enjoy having a day or a week off and slowing down. So the freedom I’m feeling at the moment is new to me, and a surprise, but I’m really grateful for it.

TrunkSpace: There are ups and downs in any career, but certainly the entertainment industry is known for delivering peaks and valleys. Was there ever a moment where you considered walking away from acting, and if so, what kept you on your path and looking forward?
Vroom: I often think about leaving the business because it is filled with so many highs and lows and that really takes a toll on your soul after a while. Sometimes six months can go by without a booking and you start to think it’s over, I’m washed up, I’m never going to book again… and then you book a job and all those feelings of insecurity melt away and you are once again filled with hope and encouragement. So I often feel like I’m in a relationship where my partner (in this case, the industry) gaslights you enough to string you along a little while longer. You get stronger and it gets easier to deal with, but it doesn’t ever go away, at least not for me.

Photo Credit: Justina Mintz / TNT

TrunkSpace: You’ve appeared in a number of memorable series and projects over the years. We’re curious… what is a character that you wished you had more time to spend with and why?
Vroom: I wish I could have spent more time being Barbara Beaumont in Season 11 of The X-Files. She was fun, and really layered. First of all it was fun to be a cult leader and to play a character who was actually 90 years of age. I wished I could have stayed in the world of being the villain. It was sooooo fun playing a scary powerful woman who on the flip side was actually very insecure herself.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Vroom: Working with Tim Burton. He’s a genius and I love his films and his way of telling stories. I was so honored to be in Big Eyes.

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?
Vroom: Wow, that’s wild to think about. I often dream of what my career will look like. I think dreaming is such an important part of being in a creative industry. I dream all the time that I’m working on a film with Susan Sarandon and Meryl Streep and we are all great friends. And sure, I’ll take a peek of what’s in store for me in the next decade… why the hell not!

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The Featured Presentation

Sam Valentine

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Photo By: Amanda Peixoto-Elkins

There was a great shift in the world of entertainment when Covid-19 hit. Movies were bumped from the release schedule, productions delayed, and theaters left empty. For those films still brave enough to venture into the socially-distanced fold of the cinematic experience, audiences – albeit smaller than the norm – were waiting to participate in the best form of escapism. For the independent horror hit Followed, that meant being #1 at the box office when it finally opened in June, which was a pleasant surprise for star Sam Valentine, who like everyone else, was navigating the highs and lows of 2020.

I do think that being one of the only new films dropped during this time has really helped us find a much bigger audience than we could have imagined with an indie horror feature, so you have to count those small victories,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Valentine to discuss giving people an escape, how she has kept her career in focus during quarantine, and why she chose to start the podcast One Broke Actress.

TrunkSpace: Your latest project Followed was released in the middle of a pretty tumultuous time for not only the country but the world as a whole. In a way, is it nice to be a part of people’s escape during all of this – to be their outlet to what was “normal” once?
Valentine: Absolutely. The film focuses so hard on social media and how we consume it, which I think is especially relevant in a time when that is one of our only connections. And being able to give people a fun and new (albeit kind of terrifying) piece of content to enjoy right now feels like a relevant contribution. On a personal note, this movie has been such a long time coming for all of us involved (we shot it back in 2016!) so it was such a great personal high note.

TrunkSpace: As you mentioned, social media is given a horrific spin in Followed. For many people, social media can be a love/hate relationship with its own share of real-life scares. What’s your relationship with social media today in 2020?
Valentine: Much like all of our emotions over the last few months, I have highs and lows. Sometimes I cannot imagine my life without the learning opportunities and incredible relationships I have made online. And then some days I leave my phone on airplane mode until the last possible moment. I will say diversifying my follows (specifically Instagram, the platform I use the most) has helped me come to a better place. During the height of the protests for Black Lives Matter, I made it a huge point to follow more BIPOC accounts, more body positive influencers, and just generally “clean house” on the content I was consuming.

TrunkSpace: Walk us through what the experience was like to see Followed brought to fruition, because like you said, you originally worked on it back in 2016. Was it a surprise to then see it released four years later and to ultimately find an audience?
Valentine: It has been a journey! This was the first film I was cast in after I joined the actors union SAG-AFTRA, so it felt like a big step in my career. But one of the hardest lessons actors have to learn is that nothing is on your planned schedule… ever. Our director, Antoine Le, has done an amazing job of keeping us all informed and up to date over the years. We even had a private friends and family screening with an early cut of the movie because they knew with the festival circuit planned before distribution, it would be a while before Followed got out into the world. And then we finally had a big theatrical release planned for April… but we all know what happened there! I do think that being one of the only new films dropped during this time has really helped us find a much bigger audience than we could have imagined with an indie horror feature, so you have to count those small victories!

TrunkSpace: A person can change a ton in a four year span. What would the Sam Valentine of 2020 have done differently with her performance in Followed? What choices did 2016 Sam make that you wouldn’t make today?
Valentine: That is such a hard question. I have definitely grown up quite a bit and found a lot more of my personal confidence, not only in my work but in my life as a woman in Hollywood. Of course you can always critique yourself the more time you have to reflect, but to me, the character of Danni will forever belong to 2016 Sam.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on Followed thus far that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Valentine: Honestly, it would be the relationships established from that set. Our cast and crew had to fall in love in a two week span to make what we did, and I think those kinds of connections last a lifetime. Matthew Solomon (Drop the Mic) and I still have a close relationship and are always semi-joking about constantly looking for our next project together.

TrunkSpace: As an actress – a profession where you generally are required to work directly with other people in a scene – how have you kept the tools in your toolbox sharp during this extended period of isolation?
Valentine: I am still in my acting class every week at John Rosenfeld Studios – having a deadline to hit with a script and scene assignment has been vital for the days that everything feels messy and far away. I also have a self tape partner Jenna Michno who I have done some socially distant self tapes with during this time – we help keep each other in check and motivated. And lastly I have made a big point to continue to study film/TV and read a ton of books. Listening, being emotionally invested, and responding honestly are all skills we can practice… even at home!

Matthew Solomon and Sam Valentine courtesy Followed

TrunkSpace: You also run the blog/podcast called One Broke Actress. Creatively, what does this outlet do for you that you personally that you haven’t been able to achieve in you career? What does it accomplish beyond listeners?
Valentine: It gives me a job I can’t get fired from! (Laughter) Just kidding.

I have always felt there was a massive hole in terms of honest information about the day-to-day life of working actors. You can find thousands of articles and videos now from women being “real” and “authentic” and showing their scars and stretch marks and just being human. And I thought, “Where is this for actors? Why do we feel we are the ones who have to maintain a perfect image for casting/producers/etc?” So I decided to be the face of that movement and share as much as I can about this world I function in while inviting others to do the same. Too many success stories are written after they happen, so I get to write mine while it’s in progress.

TrunkSpace: What is the biggest misconception people have about a career in acting? What do those in your life – family and friends – who are not in the industry get wrong about your journey?
Valentine: I think the worst conception anyone has about this business (including people in it) is trying to map it out on any kind of time table. We can control who we are and what we choose to focus on, but the bookings, the “timing” of successes, that is all out of our control.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career as a whole thus far?
Valentine: It’s funny because you would think this answer would be some big premier or my biggest paycheck, but it’s actually when I was on set for a non-union allergy medicine commercial my second year in LA. We filmed the whole thing outdoors and I was on a zip line all day. I probably did 30 to 40 runs on that thing. I remember driving home and thinking, “Wow… I just got paid for something I would have paid to do… now this is the life!” I think finding the joys in the moments that don’t involve an audience is really the place success grows from.

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?
Valentine: Nope. Firstly if you have seen any movies, very little good comes from time travel! (Laughter) But no, I have such deep faith in my long term career and life that seeing it in a moment wouldn’t do justice to the journey to get to that point. And I really love that I have today and tomorrow.

Listen to the One Broke Actress Podcast here.

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