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The Flash

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

Hartley Sawyer

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Photo By: Storm Santos

It’s been one year since Hartley Sawyer joined the cast of “The Flash,” and what a year it’s been.

Taking on the over-the-top personality of Ralph Dibny, aka Elongated Man, would stretch any performer, but for this lifelong comic book reader, settling into the part meant showing the iconic DC character’s heart, and judging by the fandom’s response, he’s bending him in the right direction.

We recently sat down with Sawyer to discuss humanizing Ralph, the joy he gets in interacting with the fans, and why a Gingold on the rocks is in order this Halloween.

TrunkSpace: “The Flash” has a passionate and very loyal fandom. How soon after signing on to play Ralph Dibny did you feel the reach of that fandom and in what ways has it touched your life?
Sawyer: It was almost immediately. In the weeks leading up to the airing of Ralph’s debut episode, I remember the shoots around the city of Vancouver. These were often at night, many times into the wee hours of the morning. Will never forget the first time I saw the crowd of fans behind police barricades, cheering and calling out whenever they got a glimpse of one of the cast. The fandom is a wonderful group of people, and my interaction with them has been an honor and a joy.

TrunkSpace: Ralph is a very popular character in the DC Universe. Did you feel any pressure stepping into his stretchy shoes and how long was it before you felt ownership in him, at least as far as the series is concerned?
Sawyer: I felt the pressure to do Ralph justice, and to bring him to life in live action. I’m a lifelong comic book fan. I know what it’s like to have extremely strong opinions on an actor being cast as a particular character. I was aware of that pressure, but it didn’t overtake me in any way. The writers, as usual, did a brilliant job with Ralph’s first episode. And with Tom Cavanagh at the helm, by the end of Day 1 I felt like I had an understanding of Ralph that was deeper than I expected. This only progressed as we worked our way through Ralph’s arc in season four.

TrunkSpace: Throughout your journey in discovering who Ralph is, did you tap into any of the vast source material that exists in the comic books?
Sawyer: I didn’t get into it too much. I didn’t want to fixate on anything and feel like I had to play something a certain way, or avoid something because it had been on the comic book pages. I was aware of “Identity Crisis” and had read that some time ago. That was helpful to me in the sense that from the first moment I knew the depth of caring and emotion that Ralph as a character is capable of. It’s shrouded in his sarcasm and his sense of humor, but that is always there.

TrunkSpace: What has the long-term character journey been like for you, getting to see him grow and develop between Season 4 and Season 5?
Sawyer: It’s been great. One of my goals was always to humanize him whenever possible. He’s always going to be a bit of a walking Tex Avery cartoon, but when that “mask” is taken away, we get the Ralph he really is – the one that Sue comes to know and love in the comics. Barry Allen was Ralph’s mirror in Season 4, reminding him of who he really is. He’s all heart.

TrunkSpace: We get to see a lot more of the detective side of Ralph this season, which is a part of his persona that the readers of the comic always enjoyed. How has it been exploring that side of things and having a different focus this year?
Sawyer: We’ve done some of it, and there is a lot more to come. Tom’s new Wells, Sherloque, plays into that quite a bit. The detective side of Ralph is easily one of the parts of him I enjoy the most.

TrunkSpace: How has appearing on the show impacted your career the most? Has getting the opportunity to play Elongated Man opened up new doors that weren’t available prior to slipping into his elongated skin?
Sawyer: It’s a great role on a great show. It’s sheer joy for me and I’m very lucky. It’s rare in acting to get a great role on a show that has fans this passionate and this wonderful. I’m loving the ride.

Danielle Panabaker as Caitlin Snow, Hartley Sawyer as Dibney and Carlos Valdes as Cisco Ramon — Photo: Katie Yu/The CW — © 2018 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved

TrunkSpace: Your first episode premiered on Halloween night of last year. Any plans to celebrate your first Flasherversary this October 31?
Sawyer: I haven’t thought about it much. But now that you mention it, a Gingold on the rocks might be in order…

TrunkSpace: What would 10-year-old Hartley say if he was told he’d be playing a superhero some day?
Sawyer: “Is it Batman?”

TrunkSpace: We’re Boston based, and we know you spent some time in Beantown while at Emerson College. How did the city help shape your artistic focus and game plan? Did it influence you at all?
Sawyer: In hindsight, Boston was really my warm up for Los Angeles. It was the first time I was away from home and “on my own.” I found many things in that city. I met some of my closest friends during my time in Boston.

TrunkSpace: You’re also a writer. With your current focus on “The Flash,” are you able to pursue that side of yourself right now, and ultimately, do you hope that the two avenues converge more in the future so that you’re balancing both sides of your industry interests?
Sawyer: I’m working on some things I’m really excited about. It is a goal of mine to have those two avenues converge more in the future. But I’m in no rush.

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? (And a bonus question, how would Ralph Dibny answer that?)
Sawyer: I would not take that journey. I don’t even watch movie trailers anymore – too much is given away. Ralph wouldn’t take that journey either. Time travel is a very delicate and dangerous thing. Just ask Barry Allen.

The Flash” airs Tuesdays on The CW.

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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

Violett Beane

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Photo By: Storm Santos

Here in the Boston area where winter seems unwilling to relinquish its grasp on the thermometer, spring is the forgotten season, which is why we were so eager to speak with Violett Beane, whose very name sparks thoughts of April showers and May flowers. As speedster Jesse Quick on The CW series “The Flash,” the Texas-raised actress sprinted into the hearts of fanboys/fangirls everywhere. Earlier this year, Beane took a dramatic turn, appearing as cancer patient Lily Kendall on the medical drama “The Resident.” And now, proving that variety is indeed the spice of life, she’s set to star in the horror film “Truth or Dare,” which opens today in theaters everywhere.

We recently sat down with Beane to discuss going all-in on acting at 18, bonding with her “Truth or Dare” costars on a road trip, and why she’s so grateful for the jobs she has landed thus far in her career.

TrunkSpace: It’s impossible to plan in this business or any business for that matter because life always zigs when you want it to zag, but has your career these last few years met or exceeded your expectations when you thought of this career as a path for yourself?
Beane: Oh, absolutely. I really started focusing on acting as a “career” when I was 18. When I was applying for colleges and stuff, I just kind of sat down with myself and really figured out, “Do I need college to pursue this creative acting career?” And for some people that answer is yes, but for me I kind of decided that I would take acting classes outside of college, but that I didn’t need the normal route, and I think personally that was the best decision I ever made because it made me go out and find work. I didn’t have the excuse of, “Oh, I have so much work from school. I don’t have any time.” Because all I had was time so it really made me go out there. And I found an agent in my hometown and I started auditioning for things and sending in tapes and then that’s how I booked “The Flash.”

TrunkSpace: To have so many projects all being released at or around the same time as you do right now, is that exciting when all of the work comes to fruition?
Beane: Totally. You have some idea of how things are going when you’re filming and you’re enjoying yourself and living in the moment, but the reality is that it comes out and that’s kind of an amazing moment to see all that hard work. My favorite thing is watching – if I do watch it, I don’t always watch every episode – but if I do watch my work, I’m remembering the times that I had during that scene or how difficult it was to get that or whatever, and I find that kind of fun. It’s like reliving that moment over.

TrunkSpace: Your new movie “Truth or Dare” hits theaters today. Horror tends to have a built-in audience as fans of the genre will give new projects and characters a chance. Do you think the movie is the kind of horror that will appeal to both die-hard fans of the genre and general moviegoers as well?
Beane: I think it actually will because I have a lot friends who are very into horror films and they consider horror to be the gore, the gore of it, and not necessarily the storyline. And so I think there’s a lot of gore. You see some pretty gnarly deaths in this movie, but at the same time it’s great for people who just like suspenseful movies and that’s kind of where I am on the spectrum. I love being on the edge of my seat and not knowing what’s going to happen and who’s going to live and that’s what I like in a horror movie. So I think it has equal parts of both and people are really going to enjoy it.

TrunkSpace: It also has that creepy factor too because of those sinister smiles that pop up in the movie… they’re very unsettling.
Beane: Oh yeah!

TrunkSpace: What will you carry with you for the rest of your life and career from your time working on “Truth or Dare?”
Beane: From “Truth or Dare,” definitely the first day we all met. We actually met for the first time and then drove out to Mexico for one night to shoot the beginning opening credits. There’s a montage of all of the characters on spring break in Mexico, and so what we did was we all got in a van, we drove out to Mexico and we all had our cast phones and we were just videoing and photoing for 24 hours while we did random things in Mexico. And that was just such a great bonding experience. I think a lot of TV shows and movies don’t realize that people have to have immediate chemistry in these roles so when you meet someone five seconds before you start your first scene, it’s really hard to have that natural chemistry. But doing that with the cast was the perfect thing.

Photo: Katie Yu/The CW – © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

TrunkSpace: Your character has blonde hair in the movie and her physical appearance overall differs from your other recent characters in “The Flash” and “The Resident.” Is that something that’s fun for you as an actor, to be able to make those physical transformations?
Beane: It’s absolutely one of my favorite things. I feel like hair, makeup and wardrobe is a huge turn for me when I’m working as a character because, especially with wardrobe – also in hair and makeup – you’re making decisions that your character would make and all of a sudden it doesn’t matter like, “Oh, do I think that’s cute or would I wear that?” It’s, “Would my character wear that?” And I think once you’re in that headspace it’s easier to tap into the other intricacies of the character. So for me it’s an amazing, amazing time to work on the character. And what I also think is kind of cool is, I know a lot of people have messaged me or commented like, “Oh, I didn’t even know you were in ‘Truth or Dare’,” because I was blonde. I find that kind of interesting. I’ve had a couple of other people mention that about “The Resident” because I wear a very short wig and I wear a scarf on my head. And so I think it’s kind of cool that maybe people are seeing this character and liking it or not, but not knowing it’s me and then finding that out. I think that’s kind of fun.

Photo By: Storm Santos

TrunkSpace: Your character in “The Resident” has a pretty emotionally-heavy storyline and backstory. Again, speaking from a performance standpoint, do you think that character allowed you the opportunity to show a side of your work that some of these other projects haven’t been able to just because of the nature of the role?
Beane: Oh, definitely. “The Resident” was a very dramatic television series, so a lot of the issues that you’re dealing with are real issues and you dive deeper into them. And playing Lily, I was able to reach a different side of myself that’s a lot more calm. In my life I tend to be frantic and loud and Lily is very demure and she is very kind and soft spoken and that’s something that I’ve never played in a character either, so it was really interesting to try that.

TrunkSpace: And what’s so interesting is that all of the characters you’ve been playing recently from “Truth or Dare” to “The Resident” and “The Flash,” they’re all so different. Is that a bit of living out the dream, getting to play so many different types of characters and not being pigeonholed into any one type of role?
Beane: Yeah. It’s been pretty amazing. And I only started when I was 18, so to have these kind of opportunities right now is something I’m forever grateful for and I’m just trying to enjoy the moment.

TrunkSpace: Is it hard to do that, to enjoy the moment when you’re probably moving at a million miles a minute? Do you still sit back and go, “Wow, this is it. I’m living it.”?
Beane: Oh, absolutely. I sit there and I’m doing something crazy or silly or weird and I’m just like, “I get to do this for a living?” (Laughter) When you’re able to do what you love and live your lifestyle based off of that, that’s the dream. Money is a non-factor as long as you’re able to enjoy your life to the extent you want to enjoy it while doing what you love. That’s amazing.

TrunkSpace: Add in the fact that you’re getting to play a superhero and that’s a pretty nice addition to getting to do what you love.
Beane: Yeah. (Laughter) That doesn’t hurt.

Catch Truth or Dare” is in theaters today.

Featured image by: Storm Santos

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