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Wingman Wednesday

Tammy Gillis

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Photo By: Kyrani Kanavanos

As a star of the popular Freeform series “Siren,” Tammy Gillis was ecstatic to discover that the fantastical mermaid drama was greenlit for a second season. Not only was she eager to explore where the narrative would take her character Deputy Marissa Staub, but she was also excited to return to her on-set family, which includes Eline Powell, Alex Roe, Ian Verdun and many others. With Season 2 currently airing every Thursday, we recently sat down with Gillis to discuss finding her footing heading into the latest story arc, engaging with fans on a weekly basis, and embracing the creativity of the show.

TrunkSpace: Like many series today, “Siren” was shrouded in secrecy heading into Season 2 and an alert would be sounded should any accidental spoilers take place. Does that make this part of your job difficult… promoting a show where the who, what, where and whys need to stay a bit vague? Because honestly, if it was us, we’d be living in fear of saying the wrong thing!
Gillis: It definitely makes it challenging. I always stop and think about it for a second. I don’t want to give any spoilers!

TrunkSpace: With all that said… what can you tell us about what excited YOU the most when you learned “Siren” would be getting a second season and you’d be returning to set?
Gillis: So many things! To see where the story goes. To see where Marissa’s story goes. Does Marissa get a love interest? (Laughter) And most definitely, to work with everyone again! I keep saying it but we are really lucky to have such an amazing cast and crew that have become like family.

TrunkSpace: We read that you went back and watched Season 1 before diving back into your character Marissa. From a character’s arc standpoint, how important was that to you in order to find your Marissa sea legs and where she begins her Season 2 journey?
Gillis: It was so important because I needed to be very clear on what I knew and what Marissa knew. I also created more of a backstory for her so I could add in a bit more of a personal story with her and the other characters.

TrunkSpace: What have you enjoyed the most about getting to explore a character like Marissa over an extended period of time? Does it keep things interesting to learn new things about her as the writer’s explore her relationship within the universe more?
Gillis: I love when the writers add in more information for Marissa. It lets me explore more of my creativity and see how I can weave the new information in with the choices I’ve made.

TrunkSpace: We’re curious, from the first moment you read for Marissa to where we see her today on screen in Season 2, did she change within that span, either because of creative choices behind the scenes or as a character who is simply growing within the story itself?
Gillis: I definitely think she is changing based on the story itself as well as some choices I’ve made. This season she is being forced to step up to a new responsibility – a new authority so that changes my interactions with the other characters. By creating more of a backstory to each of the relationships with them, it gives some conflict with having to carry that new authority.

TrunkSpace: “Siren” is becoming a rarity in that, it’s a series that airs a new episode every week. As a performer, does that prolong the experience for you on the back end of shooting something, as opposed to having it all released at once for the binge-hungry masses?
Gillis: It makes it more fun to engage with the fans. Being able to Live Tweet with them when the episodes are airing is so fun. We love seeing/hearing their reactions. If it was released all at once, we would miss out on that. I’ve been on other series where it was released all at once and you really had no idea if people were watching it or not.

TrunkSpace: Is there something kind of empowering… even subconsciously so… about getting to don a deputy uniform? We’d imagine it’s pretty difficult not to walk the walk or talk the talk from time to time, especially when you catch a glimpse of yourself in all of your authority-figure glory!
Gillis: There absolutely is. Even though it’s just a costume, it feels different and people do treat you differently. When I have the gun belt on, it forces me to carry myself in a different way. I love that costumes can do that for you.

Gillis in “Siren”

TrunkSpace: For the audience, the end product is always what’s memorable, but for you, we would think the experience of shooting “Siren” would be more important than the final cut. With that being said, what’s been the most memorable aspect of your journey on the series thus far?
Gillis: I love working on set. It is such a collaborative, creative experience and I find that I learn so much from show to show, episode to episode. “Siren” is such a creative show and every episode I love seeing how they are going to tell the story and what the other actors are going to do. There are so many memorable moments but one thing I am very grateful for is Gil Birmingham, who plays Sheriff Dale. He is such a powerhouse of an actor and such a generous, kind man.

TrunkSpace: You grew up in a town of 800 people. When you dreamed of a career in the arts, did it seem attainable in those early days, especially coming from such a small town?
Gillis: Definitely not. I’d never met an actor or even dreamt of the possibility of becoming one because I just hadn’t experienced it.

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?
Gillis: No. I like not knowing where the road will lead. There is more possibility in it.

Siren” airs Thursdays on Freeform.

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Wingman Wednesday

Sark Asadourian

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Taking on the leading role in a film at 10 years old is no big deal for newcomer Sark Asadourian. Sure, his new film “Cecil,” available now on DVD and VOD, was his first major acting project, but having previously worked with director Spenser Fritz – whose childhood the coming-of-age-comedy is based – helped to lesson any nerves that he when he arrived on set.

We recently sat down with Asadourian to discuss sharpening his basketball skills, binging a beloved ‘90s sitcom, and why he hopes to one day fly on screen.

TrunkSpace: Your new film Cecilis based on the real-life experiences of writer/director Spenser Fritz. As a performer in the piece playing the title character did you feel a responsibility to deliver on Spensers personal expectations of the project when hes seeing pieces of himself and his upbringing in the narrative youre helping to give life to on screen?
Asadourian: I was 10 when I filmed Cecil, so I don’t think I was thinking about that at the time. I was thinking more about how my own experiences related to Cecil’s experiences.

TrunkSpace: “Cecilis one of your first projects, and not only was it a lead role, but it was a lead TITLE role! Did you feel pressure going into production, and if so, how did you manage your nerves and focus on performance?
Asadourian: I don’t think I did have much nerves. I had acted in a bunch of smaller projects previously, so I knew how set would work. I also worked with Spenser to film the trailer for the Kickstarter campaign, so I was already comfortable with Spenser and some of the crew. From that experience I knew working with Spenser would be fun – I felt like I would be in good hands. So I was really just looking forward to the experience and I couldn’t wait to meet Abby (Christa Beth Campbell) and Martha (Sophie Harris).

TrunkSpace: What was the biggest challenge in slipping into Cecils skin and bringing him to life?
Asadourian: The lisp and the basketball playing. I had to put a lot of time into both. I had never really played basketball before the shoot, so we hung a net at home and I practiced every day. I also went to a speech therapist to learn to lisp realistically.

TrunkSpace: Was it helpful to have Spenser available to you at all times, especially with so much of himself in the character and story? Was he able to give you insight into Cecils journey that perhaps you wouldnt have been able to receive if he wasnt directing the film as well?
Asadourian: It was helpful. Spenser is really good at communicating what he wants in the scene, what Cecil would be feeling. We would rehearse each scene while the crew was setting up, so I was ready once it was time to shoot.

TrunkSpace: The story of Ceciltakes place before you were born in the mid 1990s. Was it fun getting to play in a period piece and what did you enjoy most about trying to recreate that on film?
Asadourian: I thought it was fun because the costumes were clothes I wouldn’t normally wear. I grew out my hair into a bowl cut. Putting on the clothes, the different haircut, all helped me feel like Cecil. Since Jenna von Oÿ was playing my mom, I binge watched “Blossom” before the shoot. It was fun to learn about the trends of the ‘90s. Most of the crew grew up in the ‘90s, so I think that did create a feeling of nostalgia and fun on the set.

TrunkSpace: For the audience, the most enjoyable part of a movie or series is the end product, but for those involved in the project, we would imagine it is the experience. For you, what will you take away from the production of Cecilthat will stay with you going forward?
Asadourian: The friendships. It was quite a small crew most days, so we all got really close. It’s harder to keep in touch with Christa, who played Abby, since she’s in Atlanta, but we still stay in touch. The relationships on screen are genuine except for with Zach (Hudson Pregont) and Chelsea (Avary Anderson). They weren’t really bullies. Sophie, who played Martha, is one of my sister’s best friends and her brother, Isaiah, who was in a bunch of the basketball scenes, is still one of my close friends.

TrunkSpace: In terms of performance, what are you most proud of with the film? Is there a particular scene or moment that you thought, Thats going in my reel!
Asadourian: One scene I’m proud of was where I was crying and upset in my bedroom because it was a hard scene for me emotionally. The other scene would be the spitball scene because it felt like an epic action scene and it was really fun to shoot.

TrunkSpace: We read that youre also into science. Is science fiction something about space exploration the kind of project that would interest you moving forward? What kind of project is the dream role for you?
Asadourian: I do like science fiction. I think it would be really fun to do a film like “Ender’s Game,” something where I would get to fly. I think it would be really cool to see the finished film because it would probably be somewhat of a surprise since so much would be CGI. A dream role for me would be a role that is challenging emotionally but still has good humor. I would love to be in a film that had a chance to go to Sundance.

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?
Asadourian: I wouldn’t want to go in the time machine. I want to figure out my life as it goes because that is the fun of life.

Cecil” is available now on DVD and VOD.

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Wingman Wednesday

Mark Hildreth

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Photo By: Jenna Berman

With his new project “Escaping the Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story” recently released and a second season of “The Hollow” just announced for Netflix, we’re reconnecting with Mark Hildreth to talk the weirdness of The Weird Guy, getting to perform a famous song from your favorite band, and and why everybody should learn the incredible story of Nellie Bly.

(To check out our first chat with Hildreth, click here.)

TrunkSpace: Last we spoke, our kids had yet to discover “The Hollow.” Now that they’re super fans, we’re getting some serious street cred at home for sitting down to have another chat with “The Weird Guy.” As an actor, what are some of the creative benefits of getting to play in the animated sandbox? Can you tap into a different aspect of acting that is more heightened when you’re working in a medium where literally anything can happen and the rules of “grounding” a story don’t necessarily apply?
Hildreth: Well I’m honored to be able to help you get some “kid cred” – I know parents are sometimes in short supply of that! I’ve been lucky to get to work in voice-over since I myself was a kid. I got my first job at the age of 10 playing the role of Beany in a remake of the famous 1960’s cartoon “Beany and Cecil.” It’s been a big part of my career and has taught me a lot! Bringing a character to life using only your voice and the collaboration with so many other amazing artists who then bring your voice to life make voice-over acting a truly unique part of being an actor.

TrunkSpace: We hear that there is a new season of “The Hollow” in the works. What kind of weirdness can we expect for The Weird Guy heading into Season 2?
Hildreth: Netflix just made the official announcement last week – “The Hollow” Season 2 will premiere in 2020. It’s going to be even crazier than the first season! Everyone’s favorite characters are back, along with a slew of others who are truly hilarious! The Weird Guy will still be there, throwing monkey wrenches into all the plans and being truly crazy!

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, you’ve also recorded some music for the latest season of “The Hollow.” Music has been a passion of yours for a long time now, so we’re curious what is it like getting to combine acting and music on a single project? Is it a bit like having your cake and getting to eat it too – a best case scenario?
Hildreth: Wait until you see what The Weird Guy gets to sing in Season 2 of “The Hollow!” It’s a heck of a number. And let’s just say it’s a famous song from one of your favorite bands in the world! I’ve also been playing music and singing since around age 10 and I’m always looking, hoping and waiting for a project to come along where I can both sing and act. And then along comes “The Hollow” and boom! It’s been so much fun and I’m so blessed to get to do it.

TrunkSpace: Do you approach the discovery process of a character in the same way in the animation space as you would an on-camera role?
Hildreth: It really depends on the role and the show. In voice-over, there sometimes isn’t much research you can do because it’s a brand new concept and brand new characters. Some of my voice-over roles (such as X-Men, GI Joe, Action Man, Dragonball Z or Gundam Wing) I can do some background work on. But the discovery process is very similar once you actually go to act it. Once you’re in the room with a bunch of other talented, hard working actors and doing the work together you get to go on the best part of the journey – listening and reacting to the wonderful ideas they come up with and, when it’s your turn, throwing in your own!

TrunkSpace: “The Hollow” is a Netflix series. “The Looming Tower” has a home at Hulu. As someone who has been working in the industry since well before the current “Golden Age” of television, do you see this massive influx of quality content continuing forward, especially as more and more companies branch off and create their own streaming platforms? Do you believe there is a content bubble happening and eventually we are going to see it burst?
Hildreth: When I started working on TV we were still shooting on actual film! So much has changed, and the advent of cable TV and now online content has given people opportunities we used to only dream about. But I don’t think there can be a bubble. We are in a wonderful time for television because you no longer have to make content simply to attract the largest possible audience. These days you can make a great show, find your audience and have a hit show that is tailored just for them! “The Hollow” found a super committed following. So did “The Looming Tower,” as well another cable series I’ve done – “The Tudors.” Content providers are actually starved for content right now as more and more distribution platforms become available.

TrunkSpace: Do you think the current content renaissance has inspired actors to control their own destinies more so than in the past and directly involve themselves in developing projects? Is this something that you have interest in pursuing as you go forward in your career?
Hildreth: I’m sure that it has inspired more actors to develop projects. I am in the midst of developing a satirical sketch comedy series as well as two features and several stage productions. As a writer/producer I can shepherd along projects that tell stories that I feel need to be told. I’ve been a songwriter for years – I’ve released two full-length original albums and toured in the US and Canada. Getting to bring that creative process to film and TV has been a blast.

Hildreth as The Weird Guy in “The Hollow”

TrunkSpace: Your latest project is “Escaping the Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story” for Lifetime, which is based on a true story that we actually got caught up in learning about long before this project was first reported. As you learned more and more about the real life story, did the film itself become more interesting for you to be involved with?
Hildreth: Nellie Bly is based on the important true story of one of the first exposes of it’s kind in US journalism. It is based on the story of reporter Nellie Bly who, near the turn of the 20th century, infiltrated and exposed abuses at the Blackwell Island Mental Asylum for Women in New York City. It has been very educational to learn about this ahead-of-her-time woman, the people in her life and the impact her dedication to telling the truth had on American journalism.

TrunkSpace: Something we found interesting about your character Bartholomew “Bats” Driscoll is that he would have been a bit out of place in his time… someone who not only supported his spouse to have a career, but supported her even when she went to such great lengths. How did you approach trying to understand him, especially against the backdrop of his time period?
Hildreth: Nellie Bly, played by Christina Ricci, is portrayed as a woman who is determined, ambitious and principled. We talked a lot about what kind of man a woman like that would choose as her partner and fiancé. We placed him a little bit “out of his time” like Nellie, since it would take a strong, forward-thinking man to be able to keep up with her intelligence and drive. So we brought to Bartholomew a sense of grandeur and weight (so that we can believe he could match wits with people like William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer) but also a deep sense of compassion and emotion that he isn’t afraid to show.

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the final product is always what’s memorable when it comes to a film or series, but for those working on the project, we have to imagine that it is the experience that stays with you. For you, what was the most memorable aspect of getting to work on “Escaping the Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story?”
Hildreth: Believe it or not, getting to work in the sub-zero temperatures and biting-cold winds of Winnipeg, Canada is a great memory because I always love working in the wonderful country I grew up in. Canada really does have some of the best people in the world. It is a vibrant, multicultural and loving country. I love being there – even if it’s so cold outside I can’t actually feel my ears!

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?
Hildreth: No way! I come from the theater! The best part of theater is you never know what’s going to happen. One day you are finally up on the stage and the lights come up and you’re live. If I knew it was going to be a good night or a bad night, or that something was going to happen that I never could have prepared for, it would take all the fun out of it! But where I hope to be is working with great people, telling important stories that give a little glimpse into the most important parts of what it means to be human! Because that’s what acting is really all about.

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Wingman Wednesday

Robert Maillet

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Being a professional wrestler – performing live in front of thousands of people at a time – prepared Robert Maillet for his career as a film and television actor. Even on his first project, the big screen, big-budget adaptation of the graphic novel “300,” the man once called Kurrgan in the squared circle was now perfectly comfortable taking direction from Zack Snyder and having all eyes on set fixated on him. Compared to the audience at an event like WrestleMania, the cast and crew of a film, even one as ambitious as “300,” couldn’t match the headcount of what he was used to working in front of while at the WWE.

We recently sat down with Maillet to discuss his latest project “Polar,” fighting an invisible enemy at his audition, and how his successful Oddities run at the WWE stemmed from dancing at an after-party.

TrunkSpace: Looking back over your career thus far, would 12-year-old Robert be surprised by how it has played out?
Maillet: Yeah, I think my 12-year-old self would be surprised because at the time, to be an actor, work as an actor – and also work as a professional wrestler – it was far away from my mind at 12 years old. And though I used a lot of my imagination at the time – I was a daydreamer and I loved movies and stuff – never would I imagine I would be in films.

It’s also not surprising, though. What I was doing at the time, when I was 12, I used to draw a lot… tell stories. Caricatures and stuff. I was into Conan, all the animated stuff – cartoons. Anything that inspired me, I would draw and tell stories, so I was kind of a storyteller, much like being a wrestler and an actor kind of have similarities.

TrunkSpace: And with your new movie “Polar,” which is based on a graphic novel, it has sort of come full comic-book-circle.
Maillet: That’s true. Funny though, a lot of the stuff I worked on, most of it is always based on comic books… graphic novels and comic books. “300,” my first big feature film I did is a true story, based on the true event of Frank Miller’s graphic novel. So, that’s fascinating when you think about it. That’s true.

TrunkSpace: A movie like “300,” or “Pacific Rim,” which you also starred in, and now “Polar” as well… they all have a visual element to them that make them feel like a live action comic book.
Maillet: That’s right, and it’s great to see that medium, that form of storytelling – comic book form – that’s so popular to translate into TV or films. Imagination can go anywhere – there’s no boundaries – so you can get some really great original stuff out of it. It’s really cool to see.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned being a storyteller even at an early age. Do you view the path of your career as one career, or was professional wrestling something separate than your on-screen acting? Because from an outside perspective it seems that professional wrestling could be a really great boot camp for on-camera acting because there is so much character work involved.
Maillet: For sure. And you’re right, I see my career as kind of the same path – the similarities between acting and wrestling. And wrestling has prepared me for being an actor, because when I was with the WWE for a couple years – my big break, of course – it’s very much is like show biz. The way the whole machine was run, the marketing machine and especially for TV stuff – when they were doing the live events and Pay-per-views and WrestleMania – it was very much show biz. You’re in character, you gotta somewhat have a script as well, you gotta know the finish and all that stuff. A lot of it is rehearsals and it’s all about storytelling – making sure the audience gets sucked into your story, gets connected with your character and what’s going on in the ring. That’s the basis for acting. It wasn’t a shock for me the first time I went on a TV set or a movie set. It was very familiar. And to me, because I was in front of a live crowd, in front of thousands of people every night, I was very comfortable being on set… being in front of the lights and in front of 50 people behind the camera.

I remember my first day on “300.” I was in makeup – five hours of makeup – and we did rehearsals for like a month prior to it. And then finally the day comes to shoot my first day… a big Hollywood feature film. It was a big deal so there’s, like I said, 50 people behind the camera just looking at you. Lights and camera are on you and you think, “I should be nervous.” It’s the one time I would have been I guess, but wrestling prepared me.

TrunkSpace: Was the success and interest of “Polar” a surprise at all? Even on IMDb it peaked at the top MOVIEmeter spot, which is not an easy feat with everything else out these days.
Maillet: It was. I remember reading the script and I remember doing the audition – it was over a year ago now, just before Christmas of 2017 – and I had no lines. I had no lines for the sides. And they wanted me to reenact a big fight with Duncan (played by Mads Mikkelsen) that would never happen in the film. They wanted me to reenact it, basically by myself, so I had to pretend I was fighting somebody else who was invisible. (Laughter) The whole scene was described basically as I stab him or shoot him and then I punch him and I fall into a barn and eventually he gets swept into the barn and kills me. So I had to reenact the whole thing.

Maillet with Heather Doerksen in “Pacific Rim”

So I used my wrestling background, my acting background, to use my imagination and I hadn’t heard from them for over a month. And then a month later, January of last year, they offered me a role because they loved my performance. And when I read the script, it was in your face, I mean, they weren’t pulling punches in that film. And I knew it was gonna work because I loved those kind of films. That’s my genre, as a fan. It’s so different and unique and I like it when they’re not afraid to show the audience. It’s a great way to shock. I love that stuff.

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the end result is always the most memorable part of a film or TV show, but for you, we would imagine it’s the process. What will you take with you through the rest of your life – the thing that will stay with you – from shooting the film?
Maillet: Well, I think it’s the friends… the people you work with. I got close to the group, to the A-team. We got really close in filming. I had a great time with the people. We really got along very well, and I think it shows on film. It was so fun to work with all of the actors and the crew, especially with Jonas Åkerlund, the director, he was so nice and so open to our ideas. He’s easy to work with.

It’s funny with Mads – great guy, he’s a cool guy – I met him prior to that, maybe four years ago now, for a HorrorHound convention in Indianapolis four years ago. We were represented by the same convention agent, so after the event we would all go out, a group of us, to eat supper, including Mads, and so we got along very well that weekend. We started taking selfies together. (Laughter) Unbeknownst to me, four years later, I’m chasing him around the woods. It was kind of cool.

TrunkSpace: We talked earlier about how you were always a storyteller. You’ve been involved in some pretty wild storytelling in film, but are those the wildest storylines you’ve been involved with, or did your days in professional wrestling lead to more crazy things happening with you from a narrative standpoint?
Maillet: I think professional wrestling. At the time when I was there, it called the Attitude Era. They were pretty risky with the stuff they were trying to do. They had a wrestler who had a porn actor gimmick.

Maillet as Kurrgan in the WWE

TrunkSpace: Val Venis, right?
Maillet: Val Venis! But see, he worked that gimmick so well and he was this natural, great talent and he made it work. Not a lot of guys would have made it work.

At the time, it was very risky and I was afraid they were going to do something with me… something that wouldn’t be comfortable, which, in a way, they did. They put me in as this drooling monster, the evil Kurrgan who destroys everything, and then they pitched me the idea to do this fun-loving… The Oddities. I remember I was at home and I got a call from Vince Russo… not Vince McMahon… the head writer. And he never called. He never called my home before and I was like, “What the hell is going on?” (Laughter) I was kind of in limbo at the time. They weren’t sure what they were doing with me, with the whole Kurrgan thing, and then he pitched me the idea of this fun loving group, dancing and having fun while dressed up in tie-dyed goofy clothes. The whole thing was to introduce ourselves singing Miss America dressed up in tuxedos.

So, he didn’t see my face – my initial reaction while he was pitching me that – but I was basically saying no to myself. But I said yes of course. It was probably the only opportunity I would have to be with them. They would have let me go, probably, if I said no. So yes, it was very uncomfortable at first, doing that thing, because it was out of my norm, but it worked because it got over. The guys got into it. They got some great music from ICP and it got over. We got busy… really busy for a year. We did Pay-Per-Views, magazine covers and video games. So it worked, but it was not my thing to do, dancing in front of a crowd.

TrunkSpace: Unexpected lightning in a bottle.
Maillet: What happened was – this is a true story – there was a WrestleMania after-party in Boston back in ‘98. We could bring our wives with us, so I brought my wife. My wife, she loves to dance, so of course she wanted me to dance with her on the dance floor at the party. I should have known because there’s a lot of male wrestlers not dancing and they’re looking at me, staring at me. They couldn’t believe this dancing giant. So then Vince McMahon was there and saw me dancing and he couldn’t get the idea of me dancing out of his mind, so the whole Oddities thing came about.

Polar” is available now on Netflix.

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Wingman Wednesday

Lovina Yavari

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Photo by: Angelo Manalac/Shirt by: Jon Lam/Location: E Blue E-Sport Stadium

As a lifelong comic book fan, model-turned-actress Lovina Yavari is having to pinch herself with her recent track record of on-camera roles. Not only is she starring as Junkie Jane in “Polar” for Netflix, but she will also be appearing in the upcoming film “Shazam!” based on the DC Comics character of the same name and in Amazon Prime’s “The Boys,” adapted from the comic book series by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. It’s a pop culture-palooza of celluloid sequential success and it’s exactly what she always wanted.

We recently sat down with Yavari to discuss how her look is suited for the modern on-screen landscape, Instagram blow-ups, and what her career best-case-scenario would look like.

TrunkSpace: From an outside perspective, it seems like you are single-handedly taking over comic book adaptations in 2019. Not only are you currently starring as Junkie Jane in “Polar” on Netflix, but you’ll also be appearing in “Shazam!” and “The Boys.” Was this part of a masterful adaptation domination plan or a comic book coincidence? Does appearing in projects based on comic books and graphic novels appeal to your own personal interests?
Yavari: This was actually EXACTLY what I wanted so it’s surreal as hell. I grew up reading comic books – I loved anything by Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Brian K. Vaughan, Joss Whedon, and Warren Ellis. It’s the best feeling in the world to be immortalized in these fictional universes. I never stop fangirling about it.

TrunkSpace: If we can spend some time talking about Junkie Jane… first, “Polar” is visually such an interesting film and sort of speaks to the future of mass market distribution. To us, this is a movie (along with “Bird Box”) that will make studios wake up and go, “Okay, maybe we don’t have to be in theaters anymore.” As an actress, do you feel like you’re working at a historically significant period within the industry where the new guard is replacing the old in terms of how things were once done? Can you see the change happening from your perspective?
Yavari: Oh yeah, I definitely see it. I feel like I joined the industry at the perfect time – there’s more diversity, better roles for women, more opportunities for actors and social media. I can create my own content and build my brand instead of waiting around to be discovered. Ten years ago someone that looked like me wouldn’t have had a chance in hell to be seen for auditions. It’s only been the last couple years that the industry has been stepping away from casting the classic Hollywood beauty types and actually taking more risks.

TrunkSpace: Once “Polar” hit Netflix, how soon after did you feel its impact? How long did it take for fans of the film to track you down on social media or for your rise on the IMDb STARmeter to take you by surprise? (Currently sitting at 191!)
Yavari: The “Shazam!” teaser trailer was released the same week “Polar” dropped, so my Instagram blew up immediately. I felt like I logged into some alt universe.

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the final product is always what’s memorable when it comes to a film or series, but for those working on the project, we have to imagine that it is the experience that stays with you. For you, what was the most memorable aspect of getting to work on “Polar” and slip into the Junkie Jane persona?
Yavari: Working with my SPFX makeup artist Traci Loader. She applied all the tattoos and track marks on my character. Funny fact, I started out in film as a makeup artist, and was once her assistant years ago. So it was crazy as hell to bump into her on set and find out she was my makeup artist. Since she knew I had a makeup background, she let me help apply my character’s tattoos. I even chose all the placements for them. All the tattoos I picked out told a story on my body, giving them meaning helped bring Jane more to life. That process helped the most.

TrunkSpace: We recently chatted with a number of your “Polar” costars, including Fei Ren and Josh Cruddas. One of the things that was a constant between every conversation we had was just how welcoming and creatively-inspiring being on this particular set was. Did you have the same experience? Was the “Polar” set one that you hated having to walk away from?
Yavari: Hands down, both the cast and crew were such a pleasure to collaborate with. Jonas was such a cool director – I had no idea I was already a massive fan of his work until I met him. He directed so many of my favorite music videos. He has such a laid-back and welcoming attitude. He trusted me to portray Jane how I wanted. I was given a couple guidelines, but had free reign to do whatever. I know experiences like that are rare in this industry, so I’m insanely grateful for it.

TrunkSpace: You’re also a model. Are there challenges to trying to cross over into the world of acting in that, do you find that casting directors view you as a model who wants to act, as opposed to an actress who happens to model?
Yavari: I feel like modeling helped me secure a lot of gigs, especially since I first started out doing commercials and print ads. I also try to maintain a diverse portfolio so I could be seen for other roles that someone wouldn’t normally cast me as.

Yavari as Junkie Jane in “Polar”

TrunkSpace: In a lot of your modeling shots, we see characters. We see you inhabiting a persona in the same way you would do an on-camera role. Do you approach modeling in the same way as acting in that, are you playing someone else when you’re taking part in a shoot?
Yavari: That’s exactly what I’m doing. I art direct and style all my photo shoots and one of the things I strive for is having my images look like stills from a movie or anime.

TrunkSpace: You’re still very early in your career but what has been a highlight thus far that you’ll carry with you moving forward?
Yavari: Oh man, being flown out to Cuba to work on a film. That was amazing. But honestly, every project I’ve had the opportunity to work on has been a highlight. It’s a constant reminder that working your ass off pays off. I’m eternally grateful for where I’m at and where I’ll be heading. I also have to give my agency, Hero Artists, massive props, too. They’ve been amazing with representing me and letting me be who I am, as opposed to trying to rebrand me into an existing artist. I get to be myself and work on projects I’m already a fan of. It’s unreal.

TrunkSpace: Give us the best of your best case scenarios. If you could pave your own career path, what would that route look like? What would be the ultimate dream?
Yavari: Work on “Star Trek,” have an action figure of my character and a comic book series (6-issue run with cover art by Junji Ito), voice for 30 video games and two abridged Shonen Jump anime series with 300 filler eps so I’ll never be out of an acting job, go to comic cons and do signings. Own a clothing, robotics, makeup and motorcycle company. Travel the world. Get my pilot license. Win an Oscar.

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?
Yavari: Nah, I already know where I want to be in life. Anything that happens on the journey there is a bonus.

Polar” is available now on Netflix.

Shazam!” is in theaters April 5.

Featured image by: Angelo Manalac/Shirt by: Jon Lam/Location: E Blue E-Sport Stadium

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Wingman Wednesday

Fei Ren

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Photo By: PHILIP JARMAIN

With the new Netflix movie “Polar” being so stylized and visually enticing, actress Fei Ren had the freedom in making her character Hilde her own. Adopting a soft look with her makeup over one eye and a harder look with the other, the asymmetric approach not only fit into the aesthetic of the film, but allowed her to tap into her character’s backstory and discover the A-team assassin’s duality.

“It’s a great creative playground because I had the option to make the character larger than life and explore it artistically.”

We recently sat down with Ren to discuss Hilde’s spirit animal, the film’s on-set atmosphere, and how acting was never part of her original game plan.

TrunkSpace: “Polar” is based on the webcomic/graphic novel of the same name. Comics continue to be a well that Hollywood taps, both for film and television adaptation. As an actor, what is it like having that source material (and existing audience!) available to you, but at the same time, not having the pressure of stepping into a brand that the masses have been exposed to yet, like a Spider-Man or Batman?
Ren: Finding Hilde and her layers was almost no different to working on any other characters. I think that with “Polar” being such a stylized graphic novel without words, I had lots of room to fill in the blanks of her backstory. It’s rather freeing. In acting, there is a saying that the more specific you get, the more universal and relatable your character becomes. I imagine that no matter how large a fan base a character has, our job is still connected to the human core and to make it our own. Pressure from the public will always be there, but when you are creating art, you can’t do it to please everybody’s idea of the character. You have to make it your own and step into that skin and become it.

TrunkSpace: The original comic was very stylized as you mentioned, and what’s great about the film adaptation is that a lot of that is carried over in terms of how it’s shot and the use of color. Visually, what makes the work you did on this project unique in comparison to previous roles?
Ren: It’s highly stylized and very edgy. It’s a great creative playground because I had the option to make the character larger than life and explore it artistically. The makeup, hair and costume department did such an amazing job creating my look. And working together as a team, I ended up discovering some of the character’s history. For example, the different makeup on each eye. It started as we were doing testing makeup on different eyes, and the whole team ended up loving the asymmetric look. So, Hilde had one soft look on one eye, and a harder look on the other, which worked with the hair too! The look inspired me to discover Hilde’s duality. Hilde’s past being soft and feminine didn’t serve her well in that world. Hence, she becomes the hardcore, sleek, efficient killer you see now. She only lets down her guard in front of Blut. So, every day, her soft eye is a reminder to her to stay focused and her hard eye shows her determination. Overall, it was plenty of fun because we were given room to create and explore!

TrunkSpace: From the outside looking in, this was a physically demanding project to be a part of. How did you prepare to slip into the butt-kicking shoes of assassin Hilde?
Ren: I had a personal trainer for kickboxing and did yoga daily. The production also gave me thorough gun and safety training for an entire week, so the weapons became part of my body. Listening to hardcore heavy metal music also helped me slip into Hilde’s mental space!

TrunkSpace: When you learned that you had been cast as Hilde, what aspects of her were you most excited to bring to life and did that change the further into production that you got? Did you discover new things about her that you ended up enjoying more than you would have expected?
Ren: When I first got the role of Hilde, I loved the idea that she is cocky, masculine and savage. I imagined her spirit animal as an ape. Then the chemistry of the “A-team” being so playful and family-like, Hilde becomes a black panther. She is sleek and economical with movements when she is hunting. She is protective of the A-team, playful at times and holds them together when necessary. So, she is still intense, but has more colors and shape, which is more fun to play!

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the most memorable part of a film or television series is the end product, but for those involved in it, we would imagine it’s the experience. For you, what aspects of working on “Polar” will you carry with you through the rest of your career and life?
Ren: The grounded passionate energy of the people in the film’s crew. Rumor has it that some Hollywood stars and directors are tricky to work with. I had an excellent first-hand experience! On the set of “Polar,” there were no egos and no games. Everyone is passionate about the work, and not taking themselves too seriously. During lunchtime, we all got together and joked around, ate, talked about the scenes, and we all come from different parts of the world, so we shared stories. The production was in the winter, and sometimes the days got long and freezing cold. Shooting a movie is not easy, so having a great ensemble makes a huge difference!

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, your career in the arts began after you started modeling. Did pursuing modeling ultimately inspire you to change direction with your life and take a path that you may not have walked otherwise?
Ren: Oh, totally! I was so nerdy before I started modeling. My world view was my parents’ vision: get a degree in accounting or finance, get married at 25 and have babies. I didn’t know what I wanted, let along dare to dream of pursuing arts. Growing up trained in dancing and painting, I always liked arts and performing, but to think this passion could turn into a career path was seemingly impossible. My family is made of scientists, engineers and professors. They appreciate art as leisure, but never considered it as a job. Getting into modeling, traveling and starting to discover different artistic expressions freed and empowered me in so many ways. It awakened parts of me that had been suppressed. In modeling, I learned to take control of my own destiny, follow my passion, persevere in learning, which becomes essential for building my acting career.

Photo By: PHILIP JARMAIN

TrunkSpace: You’ve been acting for about five years now. In that time, what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned either on set or in the midst of a job that you find yourself applying to all of your work moving forward now?
Ren: There is a balance in owning your character work and allowing it room to grow by collaborating with your team. You have to trust your instinct and allow yourself to play. I think filmmaking is such a collaborative art form. There is the initial audition, but once you’re on set, your role usually evolves and deepens or deviates quite a bit from your original idea. It’s important not to hold on to the idea of what you think your character should be, but get into the whole skin of it, get into the body, allow your body and instinct to play, allow yourself to be in the moment. It’s where the best work lives. On the other hand, though, you have to take ownership of your work. Sometimes people have inputs and ideas on what they think your character could be. It can be confusing if you take all the suggestions. So, you need to find a balance, trust what you’re bringing as long as you serve the true intention behind the story you are telling.

TrunkSpace: You’re also a director. Do you think having that perspective makes you a better actor and does knowing what an actor needs from a director make you a better director?
Ren: I believe they complement each other. When I am directing theater, I often use my own acting tools to help actors find the emotional truth of the characters and get very specific with relationships and intention in the story. Directing and coaching other actors can help me understand my own acting better. That said, I find it’s often still easier to bring other actors to do their best job than it is to direct yourself.

TrunkSpace: You have a passion for the theater. In terms of acting, does the stage give you a different experience personally than when you’re performing in front of the camera?
Ren: Very different in many ways. In theater, the effect of your work is immediate, there is an energy feeding back and forth from the audience. It’s electrifying. Especially in comedy, the laughter and energy of the audience become part of the play. Also, in theater, you live the character’s whole arc at once, without cut and reset. It feels more complete during performing. With film acting, lots of times there are hundreds of people around the set and when the director says action, it’s on. You’ll record a scene multiple times, from different angles. You experience the character in chunks and the challenge lies in staying focused, ready and keep discovering it moment to moment, takes after takes, with all that’s happening around you. Both are exciting and require you to show up and be present, put ego aside and serve the character and the story. And both are satisfying when you feel or see the impact and joy you brought to your audience at the end of the day.

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?
Ren: (Laughter) Maybe not! Life is magical, and I don’t want to know how the magic worked, and then watch the magic show. It would ruin the fun. I want to experience it moment to moment!

Polar” is available now on Netflix.

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Wingman Wednesday

Taylor Hickson

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Photography: Ron Mey/Photo Assist: Julian Morales/Makeup: Brandy Allen/Hair: Mika Fowler/Styling: Cassy Meier

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

This time out we’re chatting with Taylor Hickson, who plays Petra, to discuss looking to cartoon character Daria for inspiration, embracing the cliché of happy on-set families, and her future with music.

TrunkSpace: If “Deadly Class” becomes a smash hit, are you prepared for what that could mean just in terms of your personal life and how it could change overnight?
Hickson: I don’t think anyone can prepare for something like that. I think it’s impossible to prepare for something like that. You can’t prepare. You can think you’re prepared, but I don’t think you’re ever prepared to see that immense take off, should it happen.

TrunkSpace: Your character Petra is so far removed from anything we have ever seen you tackle on-screen before. For you personally, was part of the appeal in playing her the chance to show a side of your talents that nobody has seen yet?
Hickson: It was very challenging, but also very playful. The pilot especially was challenging, trying to establish who she was, her interests, how she interacted with people. Bringing ink to life is always a tricky thing. You want to make the comic book fans who where there first happy, as well as the creator of the show, which he’s conveying pieces of his life, so you really want to make sure you get that right.

We actually ended up putting in some pieces from the ‘90s cartoon character Daria, that sort of flat thing that Petra carries. Lee (Toland Krieger), the director of the pilot, we sort of worked together and after about a week of trying different things, he’s like, “I want you to go home and watch this and I want to see you bring this back to me tomorrow.” As soon as I watched it, I was just, “This is it! There’s no other way to do this!” But from my tape… because they booked me on just one tape… it was just myself, and I’m much more bubbly and animated than Petra is, so that’s what I brought because that’s what I was hired off of. And I wasn’t wearing extremely goth makeup. I didn’t have dark hair or anything in the tape, too. It was really interesting to see them base this character around me.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned that you want to make the original comic fans happy, but what’s nice here is that a character like Petra, she’s not Mary Jane from “Spider-Man” where there’s been so many different versions of her on-screen. You get to bring a piece of yourself to this character.
Hickson: Yeah, she’s not what I was expecting to bring to the show at all. I think we’re very pleased with where we took it.

TrunkSpace: If all goes well, a series like “Deadly Class” can go on for years and you will get the opportunity to see the multi-year growth and continuous arc of the character. Is that something that, as an actress, you’re excited to see play out?
Hickson: Oh absolutely. You know, in the comic, Petra completely… she moves over to the Preps at one point. She has so much going on for her over her entire story arc. I think that’ll be incredible to play with because it will be like moving – shifting – into separate characters.

TrunkSpace: That must be a really interesting thing when doing an adaptation like this, because most actors don’t know the future of their character, but with so much of her journey already written in the books, you kind of know where she could end up.
Hickson: Yes. Absolutely. To know what’s coming and then to see it translated onto page always differs though. It’s always different from what you think it’s gonna be. We’ve added in a lot of that surprise element that wasn’t originally in the comics. We adapted… the pilot is completely from the page… but coming up, even going into the second episode, there’s a lot of things that differ. I’m super excited and little bit nervous to see how the audience takes it.

TrunkSpace: For the audience, the end product is always what’s memorable, but for you, it must be the experience. What has been the most memorably aspect of your “Deadly Class” journey thus far?
Hickson: Just the people… working with people. I know a lot of people say that when they’re on set it’s like a family – it’s like a very cliché thing to say – but it couldn’t be truer. We are all in an Airbnb and everyone’s sleeping in the same bed. I was just watching them and they’re all smiling, laughing and there’s dresses and suits, and we have candles and they’re dancing to ‘70s music. We had these two huge pizzas that we ordered… Mama Siobhan ordered it. (Laughter) It was just beautiful to watch. I would watch all these people from all different walks of life, from all over the place, come be in one spot just to celebrate something we created. It was beautiful.

TrunkSpace: And in a way, that’s a little like high school, which brings it full circle back to “Deadly Class.” Here you are, all of these people from different walks of life all co-inhabiting, just like high school.
Hickson: Totally! We have people from different countries… from all over the place. All over the world. It’s really cool to see all of these personalities mesh together. It is a lot like high school. It’s as playful as high school. We’ve pulled some pranks on each other. The one thing that’s missing though is the cliqueyness. There isn’t cliqueyness, which I admire. There’s no judgment. It’s missing all the shitty parts of high school that we convey onscreen.

TrunkSpace: Yeah, keep that onscreen, right?
Hickson: Yeah, exactly! (Laughter)

© 2018 SYFY Media, LLC

TrunkSpace: You mentioned the cast, but there’s so many great people behind the scenes as well. Did you view your time on the series thus far just as much of an education as you did a job?
Hickson: Yeah. I think with every project you grow as an artist and grow as a person. Everyone embraces you. They don’t try to change you. I think I learned a lot about myself being in a high school setting, about things that I did that I’m not proud of in high school and things that were wrong and I didn’t speak up about and damage that I carried with me for a long time. Being around good people and feeling like you can talk to them free of judgment, I think a lot of people will let go of stuff that they were carrying around.

And there’s a heavily recurring theme of mental health. With Marcus being very open and transparent about his mental health and his depression… whereas Maria is bipolar and medicates secretly to disguise her illness from the other students… you see all of this is a massive conversation as the show went on.

TrunkSpace: It takes place in the ‘80s, but really not much has changed in terms of the things people are dealing with in 2019. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Hickson: No, if anything it’s so overly sensitized. We’re bringing such heavy content and we thought there’s no way we’re gonna put this kind of stuff on television. We were like, “How is this ever gonna air? There’s no way they’re gonna air this on television.”

It happens with every project. Every project has some moment. It’s just how you tackle love and revenge and betrayal and all those things, amplified by adding raging hormones, but the certain messages we’re gonna convey are about the repercussions and effects of violence rather than the act of it. With people accusing us of being stereotypical in our roles… we’re actually fighting to break those roles, assigned by the old patriarch. The kids are rebelling against traditions and the vision that the patriarchy has. We’re not victimizing. We’re not promoting or glorifying drugs or violence. These are things that do happen and they need to be talked about. It’s about the effects of these things on young kids and how to remain good and moral in such a fundamentally awful place.

TrunkSpace: Beyond acting, we know that you’re also a singer/songwriter. Is music still a part of your life?
Hickson: Absolutely. I’ve been working on an album for what seems like forever. Work has sort of taken off. I’m trying to keep up but yeah, working on two television series doesn’t leave time for much music. (Laughter) I do have an album written and I self-produced, so I created all of it with synth and drum pads… just super fun to design and make. It’s still in the works. It still needs to be mastered and I’m learning how to track vocals and playing around with different equipment to find my sound.

TrunkSpace: What’s great about your current on-screen success as an actress is that you could then carry that success into your music career as well.
Hickson: Yeah. I think music was my original thing. I sort of got into acting accidentally, which is a whole other story. Music went on the back burner for a while. Just a big piece of me felt like it was missing and I felt for a while that I had to choose, which was impossible for me just because I have such a deep love for both. I think the music industry, had I kept that going, it would’ve been much harder for me to find some success or a team… you know, those steps on a ladder.

Music, for me, I can procrastinate for years… weeks, weeks, months on end. Whereas I have a deadline with acting. I can’t procrastinate and say, “Well, I don’t how I felt.” It’ll come out whether you like it or not, and that’s what I love about film is that it’s not my decision. It’s gonna come out and someone else will see it. That’s been the trickier side of my music is that I can’t always get to it but it’s also the beautiful thing because it always waits for me.

Deadly Class” airs Wednesdays on Syfy.

Featured image:
Photography – Ron Mey
Photo Assist – Julian Morales
Makeup – Brandy Allen
Hair – Mika Fowler
Styling – Cassy Meier

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Wingman Wednesday

Jill Morrison

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Photo By: Liz Rosa

Jill Morrison is kicking off 2019 right. With two projects reaching the masses in January – the UFO-themed series “Project Blue Book” at A&E and the recently-released sequel “Benchwarmers 2: Breaking Balls” – the British Columbia native is enjoying the contrast in tone of the two converging projects. And while delving into the real-life intrigue of the alien mystery was an enjoyable journey, “Benchwarmers” allowed her to do the thing she enjoys most… a trait she inherited from her dad… making people laugh.

We recently sat down with Morrison to discuss how being responsible with the truth feeds a performance, her opinion on life beyond the stars, and the importance of our funny bones.

TrunkSpace: You have kicked off 2019 in style with two big projects, the film “Benchwarmers 2: Breaking Balls” and “Project Blue Book” for A&E. Is seeing a series or film released just as exciting as doing the physical work or have you already emotionally moved on by the time they see the light of day?
Morrison: Filming and being on set is the best thing ever. But when the project comes out, it’s really fun. It can depend on the project and how excited I might be for that particular show. But it’s pretty wonderful to see your work come to light, and to be appreciated. Starting the year off with these two amazing contrasting projects feels pretty great. “Project Blue Book” is so complex and interesting. And “Benchwarmers” allowed me to do my favorite thing, making people laugh. So it’s really fulfilling to see that happen.

TrunkSpace: “Project Blue Book” is based on the true story of U.S. Air Force-sponsored investigations into UFO sightings that spanned decades. As an actress, does working on a project that is steeped in reality bring a different set of responsibilities in terms of performance?
Morrison: What a fantastic question. Yes it does. I think one of the most important aspects of being in a period piece is to pay attention to society at the time. A woman like Faye must have had to work very hard in the U.S. Air Force to have this position. Understanding the real Dr. Quinn helped me form the strength and intelligence his assistant would have. Being responsible with the truthful story feeds your acting. It’s fascinating. I want to be as loyal to that as possible, because I want the audience to believe I am that woman. The production is so incredible and thorough with being as truthful to reality as possible, down to the tiniest detail, that it’s impossible not to learn from that and to feel like you are in another world. On set I would feel like I was sitting in a museum sometimes. It’s beautiful the art behind this project.

TrunkSpace: What can you tell us about your character Faye and where she fits into the ongoing storyline of “Project Blue Book?”
Morrison: Faye plays the assistant to Michael Malarkey’s character Dr. Quinn at the U.S. Air Force base. One of the cool things that I loved about filming was the secrecy of it. I didn’t always know what Faye knew. I got to find out as filming went along. Which was such a cool process for me as an actor. She protected secrets and was very selective with the information she released. She is allowed to be a part of a small circle of people in this, and her part is to stand guard to her boss and her country.

TrunkSpace: We’re sure this is part of the playbook when you star in a project that revolves around aliens and it would be a real swing and a miss for us not to ask, SO, do you believe in life beyond the stars? Is the truth out there?
Morrison: I absolutely believe in UFOs! I can’t imagine that in this vast, incredible universe that we would be alone. I also think there is just too much proof, especially after being so educated from working on the show. I don’t want to meet one… but I believe yes, we are not alone….

TrunkSpace: Speaking of swings and misses, “Benchwarmers 2: Breaking Balls” is a baseball comedy. Looking back on your work in the film, what moment – in terms of laughs – are you most looking forward to an audience seeing?
Morrison: I’m really excited for the montages!! (Laughter) So fun to film. Shots of us being just terrible at baseball, and then when we improve! We had a blast filming this and watching each other get up there and be fun and silly. Some of us were nervous when we had to actually be good at ball, but we had practiced so much in between takes, that we nailed it!

TrunkSpace: Do you feel more pressure when performing in a comedy given that comedy, especially nowadays, feels very viewer-specific? Is it hard to find the beats and deliver on a joke that a broad audience will be able to laugh along with?
Morrison: I guess I just figure if the kind of comedy I’m doing isn’t up one person’s alley, I know there are a lot of people who will enjoy it. I myself love broad comedy, watching it and acting in it. I really crack myself up a lot, and am mostly just having a great time being silly. Feeling very grateful that I get to do this for a living, and mostly worry about all the people who will laugh!

Photo By: Liz Rosa

TrunkSpace: We’re suckers for “Supernatural” here, which is a series that you appeared in and has employed actors in and around the Vancouver area for well over a decade now. How important are shows like “Supernatural” and others that call Canada their home to the development of the talent pool in and around the city?
Morrison: I think the talent in Vancouver is pretty insanely versatile! So many talented people! The community here is very grateful for shows like “Supernatural.” We have all gotten to play so many unique kinds of roles on sci-fi shows like this. It’s our bread and butter. But, I also think they are lucky to have us! Dedicated, hard working, true actors in this town. As well as our crews. They are the bees knees!

TrunkSpace: Lots of characters have met their demise in “Supernatural” and often in memorable ways. Yours was no different. Have you had any other unfortunate on-camera endings that beat out death by photocopier?
Morrison: (Laughter) Death by copier was pretty fun! I have died in a number of ways. It’s for sure one of my favorite ways I have died! I have been shot, electrocuted, drowned, stabbed, neck broken… you name it! Though, I think I really enjoyed “Van Helsing” most. It was challenging to be shot in the head from behind and to have my body slump down. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. It was cooool! I also enjoyed being electrocuted because I got to fall down some stairs and shake about!

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Morrison: The highlight of my career? Wow! Well, I’m gonna have to say working on the sitcom “Package Deal.” It was the most wonderful time of my life working with Andrew Ornstein’s creative mind. Being in a sitcom has always been my dream. I was part of such a fun one, with the most amazing funny family. I miss them all the time. It was the best – I would drive to work with the biggest grin on my face. I loved my character, Nikki. I loved the format of the four camera, the excitement of the ever-changing script and the live audience. It was a special time, and I truly hope to be able to do something like that again.

TrunkSpace: Jim Morrison. Van Morrison. Matthew Morrison. Grant Morrison. And the list goes on. What is with all of the super talented/creative Morrisons?!?!
Morrison: Ah! That’s so nice! It’s a pretty cool last name isn’t it. Well, my favorite Morrison was my dad. That dude made me laugh, and taught me all about comedy by just being him – his silly self. Where would we be without our funny bones?

Project Blue Book” airs Tuesdays on A&E.

Benchwarmers 2: Breaking Balls” is available now on DVD and VOD.

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Wingman Wednesday

Josh Cruddas

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Photo By: Tina Picard

After reading the script, Josh Cruddas fought hard to be a part of “Polar” – the new Netflix film based on the graphic novel by Victor Santos –  so hard in fact that he worried that he may have come on too strong when he first met with director Jonas Åkerlund and producer Jeremy Bolt. Calling the screenplay the most “exciting, badass, funny and promising” he had ever read, the Nova Scotia native’s tenacity paid off and he was cast as the assassin Alexei, proving that talent, when mixed with passion, is a powerful combination.

We recently sat down with Cruddas to discuss the universe he’d sell his car to be a part of, the terror of being trained in terrifying weaponry, and the unexpected benefits of his career as an actor.

TrunkSpace: “Polar” is based on the web-comic/graphic novel of the same name. Comics continue to be a well that Hollywood taps, both for film and television adaptation. As an actor, what is it like having that source material (and existing audience!) available to you, but at the same time, not having the pressure of stepping into a brand that the masses have been exposed to yet, like a Spider-Man or Batman?
Cruddas: To me, it’s incredibly exciting. New, quality IP in film is hard to find these days, with the traditional studio model less likely to take big-budget risks on content without a big built-in fanbase. I think Jeremy (Bolt), Keith (Goldberg) and the other brilliant minds at Dark Horse and Netflix have really stumbled upon a gold mine in Victor Santos’ graphic novels; here’s a fantastic comic world begging for a film adaptation, compete with some die-hard fans, but underground enough that the rest of us can still be surprised by everything when we see the movie version. And for me, as the actor, I can rest a little easier knowing that nobody’s comparing my version of the character to, let’s say, Daniel Day-Lewis’ 1994 Oscar-winning version, you know? That all being said, I’d sell my car for a chance to be in a Marvel movie.

TrunkSpace: The original comic was very stylized, and what’s great about the film adaptation is that a lot of that is carried over in terms of how it’s shot and the use of color. Visually, what makes the work you did on this project unique in comparison to previous roles?
Cruddas: I got VERY lucky in this film to work with Jonas (
Åkerlund), who’s a visual maestro, as well has his team of PäEkberg, Susie Coulthard, Lea Carlson and Emma Fairley. These people have created this brilliantly vibrant world that myself and the other actors get to live in. I think it’s a welcome rebuke of a lot of the grey, so-dark-and-shaky-you-can’t-even-see-the-fight-scenes cinematography style we see in certain big action movies and TV these days. The TV show I’m shooting right now is also very colorful too, but I’ve never done anything as stylized and sleek as “Polar” before. Usually the most colorful thing onscreen with me is the four strands of ginger hair I have left on my head!

TrunkSpace: The trailer definitely has that bad-ass, pump-you-up feel to it. Upon first glance, it’s sort of “Taken” meets “A History of Violence.” When you first read for the project, what excited you most about it and did it meet those first impression expectations when you called wrap?
Cruddas: I thought I had made a mistake, reading the screenplay before meeting Jonas and Jeremy last winter – it was one of the most exciting, badass, funny and promising scripts I’d ever read. So when I went to meet with them, I loved the role so much and was so desperate for the part that I thought I went completely over the top in my excitement for the job. Thankfully they gave it to me anyway, and I think the whole team (including our huge, incredible crew who worked longer hours and longer nights than I ever had to) really captured the magic I found in the script as we shot the film.

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the most memorable part of a film or television series is the end product, but for those involved in it, we would imagine it’s the experience. For you, what aspects of working on “Polar” will you carry with you through the rest of your career and life?
Cruddas: Good point! There were a lot of memories I’ll take with me from shooting “Polar.” The A-Team (assassin squad) really bonded over the months, so we would go sing karaoke till the wee hours and post the results to our group chat… Johnny Knoxville once sank me in a game of pool by looking me dead in the eyes while he pocketed the 8-ball, and that kind of humiliation is something I’ll never forget. Also, being trained on the weapons was a terrifying and humbling experience – regular people like myself should have no access to those things! But more than anything, it gave me the confidence to play more action-oriented, stunt-heavy roles like this one in the future.

TrunkSpace: The film is a Netflix original. You also worked on “Cardinal” for CTV/Hulu, and will be appearing in “Wayne” for YouTube Premium. With so many platforms producing such incredible, character-driven content these days, how has that landscape opened things up for actors? Are there more opportunities today than there were even a few years ago?
Cruddas: Definitely. I was lucky to pop by on “Wayne” last summer and being in North Bay during the autumn for “Cardinal” was one of the coolest experiences of my career so far. It reunited me with my buddy Billy Campbell who was my first on-screen “dad” in “Copperhead” for Warner Bros back in 2012. So I don’t know if it’s just that I’ve finally figured out how to not be the world’s worst actor, or if there’s just more opportunity with Netflix’s incredible investment in Canadian productions and all these new streaming services (my next show is for another new streaming service) – but I’m just grateful to be working!

TrunkSpace: You’re also an award-winning music composer whose work has appeared in numerous projects. How do you balance your creative interests and do you view them as separate paths or one continuous path with different stops along the way?
Cruddas: I was super lucky that my parents decided to enroll me in piano lessons when I was six. I had an incredible teacher named Diane Krochko who didn’t punish me for not wanting to just play Mozart all the time. She actively encouraged creativity, along with a lot of other mentors in my early life, including my parents who home-educated me and my sisters who appeared in short films myself and my friends used to make. I think all of those experiences and people guided me to where I am hopefully going now, by giving me the chance to play – both musically and onscreen.

TrunkSpace: Creative people are always their own worst critic. Are you harder on yourself as an actor or as a musician?
Cruddas: Probably as an actor. But it’s fairly equal. I often think while I’m working on something that I’m the worst actor who ever lived and I’d be better off switching careers as soon as the cameras stop rolling. It’s only when I get up the courage to watch my work after it comes out that I realize it’s not abhorrently bad and I convince myself to keep at it. Musically, sometimes I’ll spend hours on four bars of a theme because it’s just not feeling right, but then I’ll often get carried away by the emotion when I’m writing – if I can make myself cry with a few notes, then I hope it can do the same for the audience.

Photo By: Tina Picard

TrunkSpace: What has been one of the most unexpected benefits of a career in the arts that you’ve experienced, but could have never anticipated when you first set out to pursue your dreams?
Cruddas: Cool question. Probably passing along the few things I’ve learned along the way. One of the greatest privileges of my life is my role volunteering at SickKids hospital in Toronto, reading stories and singing songs in the library there. I’m also very lucky to teach at a children’s performing arts/triple threat school called Stagecoach in Canada, and I never thought I’d enjoy that job as much as I do. I had turned down numerous teaching gigs in the past because I thought I’d be rubbish at it, but my talented friend Emma Smit convinced me to take over her class one day five years ago, and I’ve never looked back. I’m quite sure teaching acting has made me a better actor, and the kids keep me grounded – anytime I have to cut my already-receding hair for a role, I step into the classroom and get roasted more thoroughly than a Thanksgiving turkey.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Cruddas: That’s a difficult one! “Polar,” “Cardinal” and “Copperhead” are up there, as well as a film called “Duet” that I made a couple years ago with my best friend since age six, Andrew Coll. When I heard a violin section play music that originated in my head for the first time on a film called “10000 Miles,” that was insanely special too. And the project I’m shooting right now is extremely close to my heart but I’m not allowed to breathe a word about it or I’ll be dragged through the streets by my hair.

Hmm. I think more than anything, just being able to do what I love for a living is one of the greatest feelings in the world, and it’s not lost on me how lucky I am to be able to do that.

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?
Cruddas: Great question. I think I’d want to keep my career a surprise for future Josh (hopefully I still have one), but I would love to see the state of the world in 10 years. We’re in a scary, pivotal spot right now, with social media, fear-mongering and gerrymandering the enemies of truth, democracy and our planet at large. I hope more than anything that in 10 years, we’ve invited empathy and facts back to the table, and we’ve started letting smart and compassionate people make the decisions again.

Polar” premieres Friday on Netflix.

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Wingman Wednesday

Chantal Thuy

ChantalThuyFeatured
Photo By: Storm Santos

Scene stealer Chantal Thuy has left a lasting impression on fans of the CW series “Black Lightning” since joining the ensemble cast in its first season. Not only is her character Grace Choi inspiring young girls to embrace who they are, but in return, those viewers are educating the Montreal native on proper comic book care.

They are not only super encouraging but also teach me things like not to fold a comic book in my back pocket, ever.”

We recently sat down with Thuy to discuss Grace’s influence on the LGBTQ community, watching her develop season to season, and why the joy of the journey may lie in the mystery of what comes next.

TrunkSpace: What would 10-year-old Chantal think about her future self getting to play in the DC metahuman universe? Would she be surprised?
Thuy: Ten-year-old Chantal could not have dreamed that she’d be in this fortune position – it’s a dream come true! And maybe also 10-year-old Chantal was too busy playing on monkey bars and building snow forts.

TrunkSpace: Your character Grace Choi is a comic book fangirl. What has the experience been like of getting to interact with the real world fangirls and fanboys who follow the series?
Thuy: I’ve been incredibly lucky to have the most supportive and loving “Black Lightning” fans that I’ve grown incredibly fond of. I talk to everyone on social media but look forward to meeting them in person. They are not only super encouraging but also teach me things like not to fold a comic book in my back pocket, ever. The girls also make really great fan art, and write lovely letters.

TrunkSpace: Grace seems like such an important character in that she represents the LGBTQ community and is not bogged down by cliches that other series tend to fall back on. Does it feel like your portrayal of Grace is giving young people who identify as part of the LGBTQ community a cinematic role model that they can relate to?
Thuy: Yes, a million times yes. One thing I hear a lot is how much it means to the girls to have Grace take ownership of the word “bi”, and having it specified and spoken in a throw away, non-apologetic way. And I love that I can make them feel seen and acknowledged, because that has always been a primary motivator for me as an actress, was to help further representation across the board.

TrunkSpace: As far as your own personal journey with the character, what have you enjoyed most about getting to inhabit Grace and see her develop further over time?
Thuy: I love that week by week, I get to discover more about Grace through the eyes of the writers and showrunners; they don’t tell me much in advance, so I am always wowing and awing at the character development. It’s all very, very exciting.

TrunkSpace: Has Grace taken on a life of her own in a way that wasn’t originally intended? Are there aspects of the character’s personality that exist now that weren’t there when you first signed on to play her?
Thuy: Yes, there’s definitely really interesting developments happening for Grace in Season 2 that I didn’t know were coming last year. And as the story develops, I am digging deeper into Grace’s own life story, which is very full, dark and complex.

TrunkSpace: You’re playing the lead role in the theatrical production “Linda Vista,” which premiered recently at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. Does performing on stage give you a different creative thrill than working in front of the camera?
Thuy: This is actually a Steppenwolf ensemble play with all the original cast members, lead by the fantastic Ian Barford. Performing on stage is a whole difference experience because you get the audience as a thrilling component in the storytelling process. It’s been incredible to work with such an amazing cast, Dexter Bullard (director), Tracy Letts (playwright) and the Center Theatre Group.

TrunkSpace: What is the most challenging aspect of taking on “Linda Vista” for you as a performer? Where do you feel you will be stretching yourself the most?
Thuy: It’s stretched me in some aspects of my physical comfort zones, as I have never done an intimacy scene like the one in the play. And I’ve also never worked a space like the Mark Taper Forum (which, I think, is 739 seats), so there’s a fun challenge.

Photo: Carin Baer/The CW — © 2018 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

TrunkSpace: Speaking of challenges, what are the biggest challenges of pursuing a career in the creative arts in 2019 and do you think those who were working 30 years ago faced the same set of challenges?
Thuy: There’s still a limited number of roles for Asian American actresses, and the depth and complexity of the roles available are varied. So I feel very lucky to be exploring the characters I am currently portraying, and I hope that the richness and amount of roles available for women of color will continue to rise as we continue to more accurately represent our current society. But we are still fortunate in our present day circumstances because I know it was even tougher for Asian actresses 30 years ago.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Thuy: I think this past year has truly been a blessing. I’ve been praying to be able to make an impact as far as representation, and also hoping to work in theater more. Being able to do both these things this year feels surreal.

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?
Thuy: I think I’d always like to know, out of curiosity. But I most likely would say no, because I’ve learned that part of the process of life is having to surrender to the good and the bad. I think not knowing makes you have to develop more faith, more strength. And maybe not knowing makes the journey that much more fun and rewarding.

Black Lightening” airs Mondays on The CW.

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