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Wingman Wednesday

Dan Payne

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Photo By: Charles Zuckermann

Although he is no stranger to Disney Channel audiences thanks to roles in shows like “Mech-X4,” Dan Payne continues to be in awe of his “Descendants” experience, one he sees as exposing him to an entirely new generation of pop culture fans… even those found closer to home.

I think one of my favorite things, though, is that this movie makes my kids think I’m cool… for now,” he joked in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Payne to discuss shaping the Beast, becoming a set dad, and how being a professional volleyball player prepared him for a career as an actor.

TrunkSpace: The “Descendants” franchise has tapped into a younger generation in a way that is difficult for new properties to do in this current day and age. What do you think has enabled the ongoing narrative to hold audiences through three movies to date, especially at a time when so much other content is available?
Payne: I believe the success of the “Descendants” franchise has a great deal to do with the underlying messages and concepts within the movies. The most important idea being, quite simply, love. These movies deal with the idea of love by addressing the concepts of inclusion, standing up for one another, not judging a book by its cover and acceptance, to mention a few. The story is told by an unbelievably talented cast of young artists who can dance, sing, and act brilliantly with Kenny Ortega masterfully at the helm of it all. I just feel like it came together in a way that connected with people of all ages and I am truly grateful to have been part of it.

TrunkSpace: You have returned to the role of Beast in “Descendants 3.” Is there a different vibe – or even a different approach – to reprising a character in a film franchise as opposed to a television series that checks in with audiences more frequently?
Payne: I think each character could ‘grow’ with the story and express how their character had been affected by what happened previously. Each movie afforded a new challenge, which could hopefully inspire more growth. Some characters’ ‘growth’ might seem more drastic than others since the audience does not get to check in as frequently with movies as they do a television series. And, for me, Beast is a father. He has to learn to grow as a father and help his son as he matures in to a fine young king.

TrunkSpace: Obviously the films, though enjoyed by people of all ages, are geared towards a younger demographic. Do you think the “Descendants” franchise has opened you up to an audience that has yet to see your work, and if so, how do you use that in your career as an actor to carry momentum forward?
Payne: “Descendants” has been an amazing opportunity for so many reasons. I think it has opened me up to a new audience. I have been fortunate to be a part of the Disney world prior to “Descendants,” having played Traeger, the main villain on “Mech X-4” for a season as well as Gabby Duran’s father, Bruce on “Gabby Duran and the Unsittables.” I hope the exposure the “Descendants” movies has brought opens up more opportunities and audiences because it would mean more chances to do this job that I absolutely love. I have an amazing team around me, and I think we will work together to make the most of this shift. Disney has been very good to me, and I hope our relationship continues and that audience continues to grow too! I think one of my favorite things, though, is that this movie makes my kids think I’m cool… for now.

TrunkSpace: Your character is based on a very famous fictional beast, who to date, has been enjoyed by various generations over many years. However, this still feels new enough in the narrative and tone that it wouldn’t feel like history has had too much say in how you approached him on-screen. While the past is there, did you feel like you were taking on a character that audiences have never seen before?
Payne: I was very fortune to have Kenny Ortega help me shape our version of the Beast. Kenny let me know that we would collaborate to create a King Beast very specific to our world of “Descendants” while honoring the famous classic character as much as possible. In essence, the most important trait of the Beast I got to play is that of a loving father.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on the “Descendants” franchise that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Payne: I will always cherish the relationships that began with the cast and crew. We came together as strangers on the first film and now continue as friends. It’s not often for me that I get to revisit film relationships for the course of three films and six years. I got to see some of the young actors grow up and got to become, in a way, a set dad to some of them. They are truly brilliant young stars.

TrunkSpace: You have been involved in many facets of artistic exploration, from acting to photography to stand-up comedy. As a person, are you someone who needs a creative outlet to feel your whole self? Is artistic expression a must have for you?
Payne: I think artistic expression and having a creative outlet are an extremely important to part of me. I would almost say essential as if part of my DNA. I don’t believe I need it to feel my whole self because there are other equally, possibly more important parts, like that of being a husband and a father. Those parts give me tremendous joy and fulfillment. I’m very fortunate that I have an amazing support group around me so that I can pursue those creative outlets that fulfill that part of my being and also be a father, husband and the other parts of me that all add up to the whole.

TrunkSpace: Prior to pursuing acting as a career, you were a professional volleyball player. Are there parallels between pursuing sports and pursing acting, particularly when it comes to training?
Payne: I believe that my experience in professional volleyball taught me to bring an excellent work ethic and sense of professionalism to everything I do. I also think it has paid major dividends in the less structured career path of acting. Auditions are like tryouts. Do the homework, put in the work, and give it everything I have to succeed. I learned to work in a team environment. I also learned the life lesson to get up one more time than I get knocked down to find success – big or small, whatever it means to you – on the journey of trying to be the best version of me I can be. I’ve said it before, I think you have to be a warrior for your own cause and battle for the right reasons!

Photo By: Charles Zuckermann

TrunkSpace: We’re suckers for “Supernatural” here, a series that you appeared on back in 2014. It is about to begin its final season, so we’re curious how important that show has been to performers and crew in the Vancouver area and how much of a void it will leave behind?
Payne: Jared and Jensen are ambassadors of awesome! They have relentlessly been a brilliant part of the Vancouver film community. I think it will leave a fairly substantial void. But I have to say, Vancouver is an amazing and resilient community of tremendously talented actors, directors, crew – you name it – and I’m excited to see what fills those big shoes!

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Payne: That is an extremely tough question to answer. There have been so many milestones along the way that I could say are a highlight. I mean, I have met and worked with people that have inspired me beyond belief, been part of projects that altered the course of my career and traveled to foreign countries to do a job I love! I truly hope the highlights are still coming and THE highlight is yet to come! If you are asking me to pick one as I sit here, filming a movie in Thailand was surreal. It was the first time I left the continent on an acting gig. What a gift!

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?
Payne: No… yes… no.

Okay, admittedly, there was a moment of curiosity that arose as I thought about being able to know. But it faded quickly, and I can now confidently say, “No, I would not take that journey.” I guess the lesson of Faust in a way? I would rather continue this crazy journey as an actor and be excited by what may be just around the corner. I have loved the wild ride it has been so far and look forward to the next adventure… whatever it may be!

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Wingman Wednesday

Michael Roark

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Photo By: Dante Swain

For actor Michael Roark, connecting with a character is a visceral experience, but when it happens, the Illinois native dives headfirst into bringing that person to life on screen, even when the project’s future is not clearly defined.

I’ve worked in front of and behind the camera and also had a spell working in distribution (on the legal side)… and the truth is, no one ever really knows how a film may end up from concept to final cut or which way the wind may be blowing when it’s finally released,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

Fortunately for his latest project, the drama “Bennett’s War,” the wind has blown in a direction that has enabled the film to find an audience eager to escape the big budget/big brand onslaught of the summer movie season.

We recently sat down with Roark to discuss peeling away the layers of a character, how law has impacted his acting career, and why there’s always a sadness when embodying someone for the last time.

TrunkSpace: “Bennett’s War” feels like the kind of film that isn’t greenlit a lot these days. Almost a throwback. In terms of the big picture, was that part of the appeal in tackling a project like this in that it isn’t the kind of film we see arriving in theaters each week?
Roark: No matter how appealing a project may be, I need to connect to the character and to the story and I did with Marshall Bennett in “Bennett’s War.” It’s something that is visceral and tends to happen on the first read and I was sold. Yeah, it does have throwback vibes and I also love that about it, who doesn’t love a good throwback? I have never had a problem going the other way from the crowd and I didn’t here.

TrunkSpace: On the opposite side of things, is it a bit of a leap of faith signing on to a project like “Bennett’s War” not knowing what the future journey of the film will look like as far as distribution is concerned?
Roark: In that sense, the entire business is one big leap of faith. I’ve worked in front of and behind the camera and also had a spell working in distribution (on the legal side)… and the truth is, no one ever really knows how a film may end up from concept to final cut or which way the wind may be blowing when it’s finally released. I think that’s part of the charm in this business. You can sign onto play the lead role in an indie film and it may never see the light of day or it may end up playing in 1000 theaters across the country before a long life on streaming, which is what we have with “Bennett’s War.”

TrunkSpace: Again, this is a character-driven film, and your character Marshall has a lot of layers to peel back and explore. How much deeper did you go in terms of who he was beyond what we see in sitting down to watch the film? How deep of a dive did you have to take to understand and take on Marshall?
Roark: One thing I love about acting is the sky is really the limit. The work is never done in getting deeper and deeper in a character. There is always another layer to explore, always another color that may be found. With Marshall, there were several specific demands such as injured vet, former motocross champion, new daddy, financial struggles, life on a farm, etc. That’s just the beginning. Then I need to sit in the story and do my work to find what hooks me. It’s really a thrilling process, if not a bit nerve-racking.

TrunkSpace: Did you feel pressure in taking on a lead in a film like this, not only in terms of performance but also because, in a way, you become the face of the project?
Roark: Any leading man or leading lady will tell you that pressure is just part of the gig. I would always rather be in the ring facing that pressure than ducking an opportunity. That’s why instinct and trust is so important. If I feel I have something to offer to the role, to the story and it’s a story I believe it, then I’m all in. I think it’s a bit like being an NFL quarterback. Win or lose, the lead tends to get too much credit or too much blame.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on “Bennett’s War” that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Roark: It’s always the journey, the making of the thing that stays with me more than the final product. Some of the people on this project became extended family to me, we shot in such beautiful locations and between the motocross, farm and military aspects… it felt like three movies in one. I typically have a soundtrack for every character I play and, usually, one song that always takes me right back to him. Moving forward in my life, whenever I play that song I think I will remember the sound and the feel of the KTM bike as I look out at the desert or the countryside.

TrunkSpace: You had previously worked on “The Young and the Restless.” Soap operas are known for their breakneck shooting schedules, so we’re curious, are their similarities between that day-to-day need to get a set amount of pages done and working on an independent film where resources and time is limited?
Roark: With big budget films, you can take a bit more time. With indie films like this one, we need to keep it moving. That said, there is nothing that quite compares to acting in daytime. The speed that it moves and the amount of pages covered in a day… it’s a machine.

Roark in Bennett’s War. Photo courtesy ESX Entertainment.

TrunkSpace: You went to law school and passed the bar before fully committing yourself to acting. Do you think your journey with law has had any direct impact over your journey as an actor? Has it helped you in places that you would have never expected?
Roark: I think everything we do in life leads to the next thing. Law revealed to me a whole other level of preparation needed for trial team, finals, the bar exam… it supercharged my analytical ability and my brain and I’m sure feeds many, if not all aspects of what I do as an actor.

TrunkSpace: Is there a character – even someone you inhabited for a guest spot – that you wished you had more time to explore, and if so, why?
Roark: Oh yes, there are too many to count. A sadness sets in when suiting up as a character for the last time… but with experience it has become easier. For the ones that seemed to come and go too soon, I think there is a sense that there may never have been enough time with them.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Roark: I have had such beautiful moments in this career. Walking Mom down the red carpet at the “Dolphin Tale” premiere, seeing my name in the lights for the first time, being whisked away to beautiful cities and locations…

But it’s always the behind the scenes moments that stay with me most. If I had to pick one… it’s facing my fears and stumbling onto the stage for the first time to struggle through a monologue I picked off the library shelf at Fall general theater auditions at Illinois State.

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?
Roark: Nope. It’s all about the ride. I don’t want to know everything the roller coaster does before taking it for a ride.

Bennett’s War” is in theaters now.

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Wingman Wednesday

Elizabeth Roberts

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For actress Elizabeth Roberts, tapping into a character – understanding that person inside and out – goes beyond the page. In fact, a portion of that journey of discovery comes from playlists that she creates with a character’s particular musical tastes in mind.

“Next to the words on the page, nothing allows me to connect with a character like music,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

The Virginia native’s latest project, the creature feature/family drama hybrid “Itsy Bitsy,” is available now on VOD.

We recently sat down with Roberts to discuss sharing the screen with a giant spider, discovering the hunger for horror, and why she considers herself a flower nerd.

TrunkSpace: Spider fears aside, did you have any fears – or self-doubt – about taking on the role of Kara in “Itsy Bitsy,” because there is a lot more going on with the film and the character than you’d generally find in your standard movie monster scarefest?
Roberts: I knew there would be challenges. I had never worked on a project that combined family drama and horror like “Itsy Bitsy” does. It was important to me to keep Kara grounded inside of a creature feature. And because Micah (Gallo) wanted to use practical effects, that added a choreography element to the performance. I have a background in movement and dance, but sharing the set with a giant spider was whole different ballgame.

TrunkSpace: There is also a lot of backstory going on with Kara, but not a lot that the audience sees. How much of that pre-journey did you build out to get an understanding of her and to be able to present it all on screen?
Roberts: Kara is a single parent trying to make ends meet. She also struggles with addiction, born out of loss, exhaustion and insecurity. I needed to approach her without judgment. I wanted to tap into that past, but never downplay her strength or her love for her children. I drew from friends and family through much conversation and observation. I was (am) in awe of what the mothers in my life are capable of on a daily basis. In awe of the sacrifices they have made and continue to make for their children to not just survive, but thrive.

Next to the words on the page, nothing allows me to connect with a character like music. I make playlists to help flesh out roles. Music is incredibly visceral for me. I chose music that reflected Kara’s core. I would often listen before shoots and in between scenes to help me focus.

TrunkSpace: As a performer, is there a bit of a leap of faith involved in taking on a project like “Itsy Bitsy” when you don’t necessarily know what the future will look like for it in terms of distribution?
Roberts: Kara resonated with me immediately. I wanted to do the work, because I wanted to learn from her, and from the process. So much of what happens after you wrap is out of your control. You have to trust the director and production team. It was clear from the beginning that Micah cared deeply about this film, so seeing it being released across so many platforms is exciting but not surprising.

TrunkSpace: The early reviews of the film have been really great, talking about the psychological creep factor that floats above the spider scares. As buzz continues to build for the film, what are your hopes for it and what it could ultimately mean for your career moving forward?
Roberts: I hope that people enjoy the creep factor while resonating with the family drama.

This versatility means there is hopefully something for everyone. Micah and the writers were passionate about developing a strong female voice. My hope is that I continue to play women who are complex, vulnerable and fierce.

TrunkSpace: Horror always seems to have a bit of a built in audience in that fans of the genre are always willing to try out something new and more independently-focused. Is there appeal in working on a project like “Itsy Bitsy” knowing that there will be eyeballs waiting for it when all is said and done due to the appetite for horror as a whole?
Roberts: The built in audience is certainly a bonus, but honestly I wasn’t thinking about that element when I took the part. I’m learning more now about the genre and the hunger for these types of films. I’m grateful fans are excited to see “Itsy Bitsy.” It’s innovative and I’m proud of what we’ve done.

TrunkSpace: For the audience, the end result of a film or television series is always the most memorable, but for those working on the project it must go must deeper than that. What is something from your time on “Itsy Bitsy” that you’ll carry with you throughout your life/career?
Roberts: Working with Bruce (Davison) and Denise (Crosby) was a gift. They each have had such strong careers, not just because they are immensely talented, but because they continue to explore and show up to learn. I loved sharing scenes with each of them. They both give so much. A reminder that we are all perpetual students and that each project gives us an opportunity to grow our craft.

TrunkSpace: Obviously the film highlights a common fear people have, and that is, spiders. Break it down for us reality-wise. You’re in your house, you spot a spider, how do YOU deal with that 8-legged intruder?
Roberts: Well obviously, I panic immediately. But then I remember that we keep a “spider jar” in the house to rescue spiders and release them back outside. In fact, I just used the jar today! Although if it was something a bit more of the “Itsy Bitsy” variety, the “spider flamethrower” is in the closet.

TrunkSpace: What does your absolute BEST best case scenario look like for your career? If you could line up all of the pieces perfectly, what would the future hold for you in terms of acting?
Roberts: Film has always had my heart, so it’s something I hope to be doing for many years to come. I adore seeing new parts of the country, meeting new communities and being able to really invest in a character for weeks at a time. If that trend continues, I will be thrilled. I feel like I’ve won the lottery every time I step on set.

At some point I would like to produce. Projects that promote positive social change really appeal to me. I feel it is important to look for ways to give back. Especially since I have been given so much.

TrunkSpace: On Twitter you refer to yourself as a flower nerd. We’ve got green thumbs here and burn off our stress in the garden all season long. What are some of your favorites to grow and why?
Roberts: Gardening creates a space for calm in my life. Succulents yield the most reward for me here in Los Angeles. I thought for so long that relegated me to cacti only, but holy kalanchoe there are so many succulents! I’m also a sucker for a colorful coleus! I have never had an orchid reblossom before last week, so things are looking up on that front. I took Latin in high school so I love to learn their Latin as well as colloquial names. Some day that is going to make me a trivia hero.

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?
Roberts: I don’t think I would. I don’t think I could live life organically knowing the exact future. And honestly, I believe in infinite possibilities. That gives me hope. It’s a lot more fun to be surprised along the way. So far so good!

Itsy Bitsy” is available now on VOD.

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Wingman Wednesday

Matty Cardarople

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Photo By: Birdie Thompson

A certified scene stealer, Matty Cardarople’s star continues to rise after memorable roles in Netflix shows “A Series of Unfortunate Events” and a little something called “Stranger Things.” And while he’s enjoying his Hollywood run, more than anything, the New Hampshire-born entertainer is just happy to be here entertaining.

I had a close call with death back in 2010 when I had to have emergency heart surgery,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “It’s all fixed now and I’m super healthy. It just makes me feel even more grateful that I’m here doing what I love.”

His latest film, “Itsy Bitsy,” crawls onto VOD this Friday.

 

We recently sat down with Cardarople to discuss adopting pizza mottoes, spider scares, and why he enjoys living his life in the moment.

TrunkSpace: We’re New Englanders. We know that you’re a New Hampshire guy. What is something about you that is so utterly Granite State that you can’t shake it no matter how long you’re away from the Old Man of the Mountain?
Cardarople: Our state motto is “Live Free or Die.” That’s a lot of pressure to put on people, so maybe it should be “Live Free and Don’t Die” or “Live Free and Eat Pizza Every Chance You Get.” Also, I can’t shake saying, “wicked cool,” a common catchphrase of us NH folk.

TrunkSpace: Your new film “Itsy Bitsy” highlights a common fear people have, and that is, spiders. Break it down for us reality-wise. You’re in your house, you spot a spider, how do YOU deal with that 8-legged intruder?
Cardarople: Spiders? I’m not scared. I swear. It’s the truth. (Nervous laughter)

Not really. I’m terrified of spiders. I run from them.

TrunkSpace: When you’re starring in a film about killer spiders, there must be some odd moments on set where you have to pinch yourself and say, “Is this really my life?” What was the most surreal moment for you in bringing “Itsy Bitsy” to life?
Cardarople: Working with Denise Crosby was really surreal for me. She has such an amazing body of work and I’m a big fan. It was a dream come true to work alongside her.

TrunkSpace: As a performer, is there a bit of a leap of faith involved in taking on a project like “Itsy Bitsy” when you don’t necessarily know what the future will look like for it in terms of distribution? How do you navigate that aspect of your career – not only picking quality projects, but finding those that will break through all of the noise when there is so much content now at our disposal?
Cardarople: You got to put your trust in the director. I could tell Micah (Gallo) had a clear vision of what he wanted and that’s really important in selling a film. It can make or break you. In this case, Micah and his team hit a home run. So, the rest come easy.

TrunkSpace: For the audience, the end result of a film or television series is always the most memorable, but for those working on the project it must go must deeper than that. What is something from your time on “Itsy Bitsy” that you’ll carry with you?
Cardarople: The people and the laughs that you share.

TrunkSpace: You’ve had a big year. The third season of “Stranger Things” was released to rave reviews and some much deserved fanfare. Have you had a chance to digest just how much of an impact that series has had on pop culture, and in turn, how it has impacted your own life and career?
Cardarople: It’s had a huge impact on me. I had a close call with death back in 2010 when I had to have emergency heart surgery. It’s all fixed now and I’m super healthy. It just makes me feel even more grateful that I’m here doing what I love – uplifting people and bringing them joy. It’s the best gift you can give to people.

TrunkSpace: Prior to your on-camera career taking off, you were Luke Wilson’s personal assistant. How invaluable was that job for you in terms of understanding how the industry works and then being able to apply those lessons to your own career?
Cardarople: (Laughter) Yes, I was. It was very helpful with my journey to becoming an actor. I learned a lot from him. Learning his day-to-day, and seeing all the work he put into his craft. Luke actually got me my very first speaking role in a film, “Blonde Ambition.” I played a mailroom clerk.

I have definitely used the skills I learned from working for him – staying on task, achieving goals, and communication. It was a really rewarding experience.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Cardarople: Not to sound cheesy – but I can because I’m the king of pizza – honestly, it’s being here and being able to give people the gift of laughter every 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?
Cardarople: No, I wouldn’t because that’s too much pressure to put on myself. I want to live my life more in the moment. Take it day by day. Enjoy the ride….

Itsy Bitsy” is available August 30 on VOD.

Featured image by: Birdie Thompson

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Wingman Wednesday

Griffin Matthews

GriffinMatthews

Although hard work pays off, there isn’t necessarily a rhyme or reason to how or when, at least according to Griffin Matthews, currently riding a wave a success with roles in the latest seasons of “Dear White People” and “Ballers.”

It’s just about doing the daily grind and trusting that your time is not only coming, but your time is NOW,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Matthews to discuss righting past wrongs through performance, embracing opportunities to grow, and why training has prepared him for the highs and lows of the industry.

TrunkSpace: You’ve joined two successful series mid run, “Dear White People” and “Ballers,” after they’ve already been airing for a few years and building an audience. Are there nerves in taking on a new job like that where the tone of the set and what the audience expects is already established? Does it feel a bit like a new kid coming into a school where everyone has grown up together?
Matthews: There are “nerves” no matter what job I get! Whether you’re on the first season or the last season, you always come onto a set questioning, “Why did I get the job and can I deliver?” And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s humbling. The job of an actor is to investigate the character and dig through yourself to see where you share similarities and differences and what the character can teach you. Thankfully, both “Ballers” and “Dear White People” had THE MOST welcoming cast and crew, which allowed me to settle my nerves and do my job.

TrunkSpace: What’s really amazing is that both shows are hitting in the same month. In this business more than any other it seems that when it rains it pours in terms of seeing hard work pay off. Is it your experience that while there is a lot of stop and go, the go seems to come in packed-together waves?
Matthews: In my experience, in this business, there is absolutely, unequivocally no rhyme or reason to any raining and any pouring! It is simply about getting up every day, going to auditions, praying that you land a job so you can keep your lights on, and then if you’re lucky… something will hit! And if two projects hit at once, it’s a lightning strike! It’s just about doing the daily grind and trusting that your time is not only coming, but your time is NOW.

TrunkSpace: “Dear White People” is your longest time – seven episodes – spent with one character in television. What was that prolonged journey like with a character and did you know going in what his journey would look like throughout that first season or were you still discovering as you went along?
Matthews: When I got offered the role, I was offered one episode… maybe two? I had no idea that he would become a part of the fabric of Season 3. All I knew was that I loved him. He was teaching me about my own journey as a queer man of color. And I wanted him to live. The actual D’Unte who my character is based on was a high school friend of our creator Justin Simien. He passed away way too young. I specifically said to Justin after he told me that story, “Can we right whatever wrongs happened to D’Unte that led to his untimely passing?” And Justin was like, “YES!” That’s the beauty of storytelling, you can change the narrative. You can let people not only live, but soar!

TrunkSpace: Because this is such a big project that has a home on a platform like Netflix, did it feel like it could be a game changer for you in terms of opening up more doors in the industry, and if so, have you already felt its impact on your career?
Matthews: I never like to think of jobs as “game changers” because that would mean that other jobs with less eyes on them (indie films, student projects, black box theater) seem to matter less. Jobs are all opportunities to grow. And you never know who’s watching. So I only saw “Dear White People” and “Ballers” as opportunities to grow as an actor, work with incredible people… and to keep my health insurance (which is the real game changer)!

TrunkSpace: “Dear White People” feels very important in terms of what its saying and how that narrative reflects upon what is going on in this country as a whole right now. As an artist and performer, is the work more meaningful when it’s saying something and entertaining as opposed to just the latter?
Matthews: The most impactful thing about shooting DWP, was less about what was going on in front of the camera and more about what was going on behind the scenes. I’ve never in my entire career worked with so many actors of color, directors of color, women of color, writers of color, LGBTQ actors of color… I could go on and on. It was so damn beautiful to see so many people who have been marginalized stepping up into major power-playing positions. THAT is why the storylines seem so relevant and real. Because everyone behind the camera has lived it.

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, while you’re pursuing a career in television and film your heart is in the theater. As your career continues to grow and build upon itself, how important is it that you maintain your connection to the stage?
Matthews: Theater is my home base. It’s blood, sweat and tears over there. Blue collar work. I like to return to the stage because there is nothing like live performance. You don’t get a second take. You can’t rely on editing. It’s right here and right now. And it’s also one of the very last places in our culture where a group of strangers convene to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience together. It’s unpredictable. And magical. And I’ll never stop attending shows and making them.

Matthews in “Dear White People”

TrunkSpace: As you began to transition from working on the stage to working in front of the camera, did it require you to approach your craft differently?
Matthews: It required me to respect the craft. Our culture has become all about chasing fame and followers with less of an emphasis on chasing artistry. I went to four years of drama school at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. I studied Shakespeare and August Wilson and all the greats! It certainly doesn’t make me any more qualified to be an actor, but it gave me a lot of discipline. This business requires a lot of physical discipline, but more importantly mental discipline to navigate all of the highs and lows. Four years of intense training truly prepared me for what was awaiting me in the real world.

TrunkSpace: You work alongside your husband Matt Gould in a creative capacity. How do you balance the dynamic of life partner with that of a creative partner so that you don’t carry life stuff into the creative space and vice versa?
Matthews: Who said we don’t carry “life stuff” into the creative space?!?! It’s impossible not to. Of course we carry all of our life into every one of our creations. It’s the best and the worst, but it brings out the truth! And the truth is what everyone is chasing after. Also worth noting that I really respect his drive and his talent. Talent is sexy AF… and the ginger hair. That helps, too.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Matthews: Easy! The highlight of my life and career is navigating work and family. We have a foster baby (who we are obsessed with). Two men. Trying to raise a kid. Trying to keep our careers afloat. And we still like each other. And we love our baby. Everything else is just cherries on top. Lots of cherries and lots of diapers.

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?
Matthews: Hell no! I never want to eliminate the element of surprise. It’s what keeps me ticking. It’s what all great adventure stories do: they keep you guessing until the very end. And, every once in a while, with a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck, the good guy wins.

Season 3 of “Dear White People” is available now on Netflix.

Season 5 of “Ballers” premieres Sunday on HBO.

Featured image by: Diana King

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Wingman Wednesday

Jonathan Lloyd Walker

JonathanWalkerFeatured
Photo By: Kevin Clark Studios

Jonathan Lloyd Walker has had a remarkable career trajectory, from actor to writer to current showrunner of the fan-favorite series “Van Helsing.” Although he has been performing since he was a kid, its his current gig as the man behind the series curtain that he is most excited about.

Interestingly, I get more personal enjoyment now out of showrunning,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “It’s the pinnacle for any TV writer as you get to influence and shape a project in the most significant way.”

Season 4 of “Van Helsing” kicks off on September 27 on Syfy.

We recently sat down with Walker to discuss showrunner duties, not messing up a good thing, and the emergence of Dracula.

TrunkSpace: Actor. Producer. Writer. Showrunner. That’s a lot of hats, but which one would you say you feel the most comfortable wearing? Which one do you get the most personal enjoyment from?
Walker: I’ve been a performer since I was a kid so there’s a certain degree of comfort and satisfaction doing that work. Interestingly, I get more personal enjoyment now out of showrunning. It’s the pinnacle for any TV writer as you get to influence and shape a project in the most significant way. I thrive on the pressure of it and, while taxing, the fulfillment of delivering something you’re proud of is second to none.

TrunkSpace: You’re currently serving as showrunner on the series “Van Helsing.” For those who aren’t familiar with the term, walk us through what your day-to-day duties are in bringing the fan-favorite series to the masses?
Walker: Showrunning doesn’t really have a conventional day-to-day schedule. For the early phase of the job you spend your time breaking and writing story in the writer’s room. That’s the really fun part, bankers’ hours knocking around ideas with a room full of passionate, funny, smart creatives. Then, as you get closer to shooting (prep) you spend a lot of time doing fairly bureaucratic, but vital things. Mostly meetings to orchestrate and plan how to get the scripts shot in the best possible way. The hours start to ramp up during this phase because there’s still writing to be done along with all the meetings. Then filming starts and things get even busier. Casting, shooting, post production, more meetings for the next episodes, network calls and on… and on. For those who really want to take a deep dive into the world of the showrunner there’s an excellent documentary about it. Here’s a link.

TrunkSpace: Because you are also an actor and have spent years working in front of the camera, do you think that gives you a unique perspective in the position that perhaps other showrunners don’t have? Where does that knowledge benefit you most?
Walker: I think showrunners in general have to have some understanding of what actors do and how they do it. It’s not really enough to just decide what you like and what you don’t like in terms of an actor’s craft. So, for me especially, I have a pretty well-tuned ability to communicate with my cast because I really intimately understand their craft. It’s always my hope to not just give the cast notes or explanations for why a line of dialogue is there or what the context of a scene is but also give them useable input, in their own language, that allows them to fold my thoughts into their performance. Beyond that, I’ve got an obvious soft spot for actors, especially the challenges of that profession both on and off camera, and I hope they know and feel the respect and love I have for them and their work.

TrunkSpace: You took over as showrunner on “Van Helsing” in its fourth season, which will premiere September 27. Is there less pressure taking on such a demanding position when a series is already established as it was with “Van Helsing,” or does a part of you feel pressure to not only carry forward with what has already been put into motion, but also to leave your own mark on the series?
Walker: I guess I’ll only know the answer to that once I’ve had my own show greenlit. From working alongside showrunners, I certainly understand the pressure they face starting a brand-new show. It’s often a process of trying to figure out what makes a series tick, what style and tone work best, what roles and performers jump out or fade away… and whether the network are happy and then whether the show finds an audience. Those are much bigger hurdles than simply taking over the showrunner seat. Meanwhile, I have a fairly large degree of pressure being a new showrunner on an established show… mission number one is to not mess up a good thing. Put your own stamp on the series (which I think I have) but don’t break what makes the show work. Ultimately you have to prove that you can execute the series at least as well as the previous showrunner. Nobody wants to take over running a show that’s had several seasons and then get it canceled.

TrunkSpace: “Van Helsing” has a very loyal following. What can you give them – tasty morsels of what’s to come – to get them excited for the upcoming season?
Walker: In Season 4 darkness dawns. It’s no secret that, after several seasons or hinting at it, Dracula returns (played by the remarkable Tricia Helfer). Now Vanessa Van Helsing and her allies have to fight not just vampires but the mother of all vampires. Some new allies will be joining the fight and some much-loved characters will say goodbye. We’re also going to take the storytelling in new directions by shooting in some remarkable new locations, episodes shot in ways we’ve never attempted before and an overall feel that the show is taking some risks and pushing the boundaries. I’m excited to hear what the fans think and I’m thankful for their support.

TrunkSpace: You’re no doubt in the thick of it with seeing Season 4 of “Van Helsing” finalized, but on top of that, you’re also set to star in the television adaptation of “Snowpiercer,” which will air in 2020. When you’re working on a project strictly as an actor, is it difficult to shut off your producer brain and focus on your own character and his journey?
Walker: Good question. It’s a challenge but because it’s where I started, I can totally just focus on the acting and stay out of the other work. “Snowpiercer” is a huge show, very complex both in storytelling and in terms of the big machine required to execute the series. Graeme Manson (“Orphan Black”) is a remarkably-talented writer and showrunner so it was very easy to just follow his lead and trust that everything was being dealt with.

TrunkSpace: I feel like we’re throwing a lot of “alsos” at you, but also kind of seems like your specialty. In 2019 alone you have “Van Helsing,” “The Murders,” and “Wu Assassins,” for Netflix. We hear people say all of the time in this industry that “when it rains it pours.” Would you say that is your experience as well, in terms of projects always sort of accumulating and being released around the same time?
Walker: I’ve had the busiest year I’ve ever had. I’m very fortunate to have been offered all this work and that the people involved were willing to share me and my time. But like anyone in this business you’re never that far away from unemployment. And when it comes you never know how long it lasts. So, I count my blessings regularly. In terms of all the work releasing around the same time… a bit of a fluke really. Having four shows all airing within six months of each other is an anomaly but… I’m glad to have a lot to talk about!

Photo By: Kevin Clark Studios

TrunkSpace: You have been acting since the early ‘90s. Do you still love it as much today as you did the first time you stepped onto a set?
Walker: I still love the craft and the excitement of being on camera. But nothing will ever come close to those early days of being on set. It was all new, exciting and the beginning of a journey. Now I’m a long way down the road but the journey is still an enjoyable one. I guess if anything has really changed it’s the degree to which I feel comfortable as an actor being on set.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Walker: I’d like to say they keep on coming! But if I had to pick I would say working as an actor on the feature film “Shooter.” It was my first really big role on a huge Hollywood movie. The director, Antoine Fuqua, was so supportive of me and gave me a confidence in my craft that I didn’t know I could have. The cast were incredible too. It was also shot over a summer during which I had a week off and got engaged to my wife in Florence, Italy so… many reasons why that project will live in my memory forever.

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?
Walker: I wouldn’t. Simple reason; it would cause issues either way. If I found out my career just kept on climbing and I was ever higher up the food chain making incredible work, I think it could make me complacent. There’s a certain spark that comes from not knowing what the next job will be, or if you’ll ever work again, so to lose that by knowing you have a bright future would perhaps jeopardize it all. If I got to the future and I was an abject failure or worse, deeply unhappy, then I think it would freeze me now in a state of total panic. So not knowing is likely better in both scenarios.

Season 4 of “Van Helsing” premieres September 27 on Syfy.

Snowpiercer” will debut in 2020 on TNT.

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Wingman Wednesday

David Lewis

DavidLewisFeatured
Photo By: Kristine Cofsky

For David Lewis, being methodically-hunted down by a bloodthirsty doll while crawling his way through rocks and mud is worth every creeping inch when the knife-wielding plaything in question is the iconic Chucky, and, even more so, when said wielder of knife is given life by the even more iconic Mark Hamill.

My head almost exploded seeing the Six Million Dollar Man fight Bigfoot, so watching a movie like ‘Star Wars’ was almost beyond comprehension and the thought of one day working with Mark Hamill would have seemed beyond any sort of plausibility for my tiny Canadian brain,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Lewis to discuss expendable boyfriends, Grumpy grand slams, and why this is one of our favorite interviews of all time. (Okay, we didn’t discuss that, but it is, so you should read it all!)

TrunkSpace: First things first! What would 10-year-old David have to say about his future self starring in a project alongside Mark “Skywalker” Hamill?
Lewis: Holy Sh*t!! Honestly. My mother is Irish and my father was a bartender in a bar that catered to longshoremen. I grew up in a house with very colorful language. Ten-year-old David would never have thought this would ever be a possibility. My head almost exploded seeing the Six Million Dollar Man fight Bigfoot, so watching a movie like “Star Wars” was almost beyond comprehension and the thought of one day working with Mark Hamill would have seemed beyond any sort of plausibility for my tiny Canadian brain.

TrunkSpace: “Childs Playis a reboot of the 1988 movie of the same name. Was this a film made with the fans of the original in mind, for those generation of movie lovers that came after, or for a combination of the two?
Lewis: I think this a combination of the two. I understand as a fan of certain franchises myself that there are times when I want everything to stay the same or exactly the way I remembered it. But thats not the way life works. Things are constantly growing and changing and thats what happens in film as well. Although our film isnt being made by the original creators we were all fans of the original franchise and I know this film was made with love and respect for this fantastic character. These filmmakers have put their guts into this film and think that it will show. I am honestly excited for old and new fans to see what this devious little ginger has in store for them. (And by ginger I mean Chucky. Not me.)

TrunkSpace: In the film you play Shane, boyfriend of Aubrey Plaza’s Karen Barclay. We know you cant give anything away, but boyfriends very rarely make it out alive in a film like this! How scared should we be for Shane?
Lewis: Ha!! When did film boyfriends become so expendable?? Im like a “Star Trek” redshirt! I think we should all be less scared for Shane and more scared of a two-foot-tall red-headed doll that has a penchant for kitchen knives and getting his way… so very scared.

TrunkSpace: Speaking of scares, horror seems to have a built-in fan base in that fans of the genre are always there to support new projects. Thats going to be magnified even more so in the case of Childs Playbecause of the franchise familiarity. Is it fun working on a project knowing that eyeballs are going to be there front and center on opening night?
Lewis: Absolutely! As actors we dont work in a vacuum. We want what we do to be seen by as many people as possible and I think fans are going to turn out for this project. Ive worked on a few horror films over the years and have attended quite a few horror film festivals and I believe horror fans to be some of the most loyal filmgoers out there. There are so many genres within horror that these fans seem happy to vacillate between. Whether its slasher films or monster or whatever, horror fans seem to wear their horror badge with honor. Its really quite impressive. I dont really know of any other genre that can say that to that extent.

Of course, I drink a lot of gin so honestly what do I know?

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the end product is the most memorable, but for the actors it must go much further than that. Whats the most memorable aspect of getting to work on Childs Playthat youll carry with you through the rest of your life and career?
Lewis: Thats a great question. And at the risk of tearing my rotator cuff patting myself on the back, Ill pass along this story.

Near the end of my shooting schedule there was a huge sequence in the movie that takes place between my character Shane and Chucky. To set things up it was over two nights. In Vancouver. In November. And not giving anything away but I spent most of those two nights crawling through rocks and mud and dirt. Scene after scene. Shot after shot. We started shooting around 6 PM and ended at around 5 AM. Both nights. In my career two of my tougher days on set.

Again, Im probably going to need a chiropractor from all the back patting Im administering myself, but on the second night around 2 AM as I was lying in a patch of cold, wet mud waiting for them to call action, a crew member leaned down to me and whispered, The crew thinks yer killing it and we really appreciate your hustle.

That filled me with so much pride in that moment it was like someone had hit me with a shot adrenaline. I was taught to work hard and never think you were better than anyone else. And my job over those two nights was to bring a performance, but also to show up and just do the work. Yes the conditions were crappy but no one wanted to hear me whine. Just do the work so we can all get to bed before the sun comes up.

Seriously with the back patting, David!

Photo By: Kristine Cofsky

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, youre a big comic book fan. If you were suddenly granted the keys to the Marvel or DC kingdoms, what character super powered or otherwise would you cast yourself as and why?
Lewis: Wow. Right up my alley with the questions TrunkSpace! Are you single, because you get me?

Well, off the top of my head, I think Id be a perfect, gently-aging Jimmy Olsen. Intrepid. Quirky. And secretly crushing on Lois. But if I was going to rock the superhero I think Id go with Plastic Man. I always found him to be just crazy enough to be likeable and his abilities seemed to me to be almost unstoppable. I really found him to be an under-utilized character. And just so off the rails!

TrunkSpace: You appeared in one of our favorite series, Supernatural.As an actor based in Vancouver, how important has that series been to the film and television industry up there and was there a sense of sadness among the acting and crew communities when it was announced that it would be ending next season?
Lewis: I loved my time on “Supernatural.” I think I came on around Season 7 and those two gentlemen couldnt have been nicer. There was definitely some sadness and maybe even some shock surrounding it ending. It kind of felt like it was a Vancouver mainstay but as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end and “Supernatural” was definitely a good thing for our city. I know it was a goal of so many actors in Vancouver to get onto that show. It was scary, funny and irreverent. Sometimes at the same time. A great show with great people. You cant ask for much more than that.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Lewis: Hmmm. For a while it was working on the cult classic “Lake Placid.” Mainly because I had to do some reshoots so they flew me down to LA then whisked me off to Universal Studios where I filmed my scenes in the pool THAT THEY SHOT “JAWS” IN! Yeah thats right. “Jaws.”

But as crazy as this is going to sound, I think it was working on “Grumpy Cats Worst Christmas Ever.” Not only was Grumpy Cat voiced by none other than my co-star, the ridiculously talented Aubrey Plaza, but my children at the time were quite young and could literally not care at all about my work… until they knew they could actually meet Grumpy Cat in person. They begged me for three days to skip school and come to set to meet this internet juggernaut, and once I cleared it with production and they had their pictures taken with Grumpy I was probably the fourth most popular parent on the planet. There was definitely some parenting fuel for a few months after that. And being huge “Parks and Recreation” fans, I thought they were going to have mini strokes knowing Aubrey was attached as well.

But also “JAWS!”

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?
Lewis: I dont think I would. Im not big on surprises in my life so I dont think Id want to know. I mean, then Id probably end up building a special case for all the Academy Awards Im probably going to win. And what kind of wood should I get for the case? Teak? Mahogany? A sturdy oak? Seems complicated. Now taking that time machine back to grade 7 grad and working up the courage to ask Sandra V. to slow dance to “Every Breath You Take”

Child’s Play” arrives on DVD and Blu-ray September 24 and will be available on Digital HD September 10.

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Wingman Wednesday

Luke Baines

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Even with his successful run as Jonathan Morgenstern on the fan-favorite fantasy series “Shadowhunters,” Luke Baines continues to want to push himself artistically, working to strike a balance between large-scale commercial projects and the kind of smaller independent films that feature characters not typically seen in mainstream productions. His latest project is just that, the dramatic “A Dark Place,” which the English-born actor admits to having reservations about prior to accepting the role of Alex.

I was really kind of scared because the material was so intense at times,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “I just didn’t want to do it and not be able to pull it off.”

We recently sat down with Baines to discuss the indie leap of faith, growing comfortable in his own skin, and why he’s looking forward to laughing a little on-camera.

TrunkSpace: You’re enjoying success on “Shadowhunters,” but we’re curious how important it is for you as an artist to continue to pursue projects like “A Dark Place” to appease your own creative hunger?
Baines: It’s really interesting because going into this I was really scared to do this film because it’s such an ambitious project in terms of the writing, and how much time we had to actually shoot it…

TrunkSpace: Twelve days, right?
Baines: Yeah.

TrunkSpace: Crazy.
Baines: Yeah, it really was. So, there were days, just because of the way that filmmaking works, that I was jumping between suicide and the happiest moments of my life, and they were scenes that were scheduled back-to-back. So I’d be crying and then they’re like, “Okay. Great. We’re going to rush you over to the next set, and you’re on your first date with Jas.” I’m like, “Okay. Yeah. Uh-huh. Give me one second?” So, that was really difficult. But it’s obviously  a lot different when you’re doing an independent film like this, and all of the decision makers, essentially, are in the room and they’re on set with you. So, there’s so much more freedom to be creative, and to make different choices, and to throw out ideas and to collaborate. That’s not something you always get an opportunity to do, obviously, on a large scale Disney production. So, that was really nice.

And moving forward, it’s totally something that I would love, to be able to create a balance between doing the larger commercial projects that definitely are important, because a lot of people get to see them and you, and they’re good from that perspective, while also doing this kind of indie smaller budget creative stuff.

TrunkSpace: With that said, there must also be a bit of a leap of faith for you as a performer, because in those early stages of a project like this, you don’t really know what kind of distribution you’ll have when all is said and done?
Baines: Yeah. 100 percent. It is something that is really scary as an actor. These projects come up, you read them, and then you have to try and make a decision with your team whether or not this is going to be something that is good. With this, with Chris (Piñero), this is his first film, and the fear part of it is that it’s my face at the end of the day. So, if the film is crap then I’m the one that looks bad. I was really kind of scared because the material was so intense at times. I just didn’t want to do it and not be able to pull it off. But I met with him and we had a coffee, and I just remember he’s just so full of passion, and he’s so enthusiastic, and there was just something about it where I was like, “You know what? Yeah. I want to do this.” And then going into it I said to him, “Look, it’s not my job to decide whether or not what I’m doing is good. I’m putting all my faith and trust in you. I’m going to go all out, you tell me if it works, and you tell me if doesn’t, and I hope that whatever we get on camera is something interesting.”

TrunkSpace: Well, and there’s certainly plenty of examples of performers doing 100 million dollar movies that don’t work out, so in a way, as intense as those 12 days probably were, you can also justify a leap of faith like that by saying, “Well, it is 12 days and I’m going to take a gamble on the material and hope that it pays off?”
Baines: Yes. And that was kind of my thought process was, “It’s 12 days, and it may never come out…” But I’m proud of Chris and what he’s accomplished. He wrote, directed, edited and produced this film, and it’s good. I’m really proud of it.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned that the role and the writing in general were ambitious and that you wanted to make sure that you could do it right, but was part of the desire to embrace the character of Alex the fact that a role like this would not be available in terms of the types of projects that are being made in the mainstream?
Baines: Totally. And that was something that was 100 percent another draw to doing something like this. I also really loved the fact that it was so grounded in reality. A lot of the stuff that I’ve done in the past is in the sci-fi/horror space. So, to be able to play real human relationships – real human situations – obviously, they’re a little bit heightened because it is a film and not a documentary, but it was nice to actually not have to visualize the demon coming for my head, and just actually play an emotion that I understand.

Baines in “Shadowhunters”

TrunkSpace: For the audience the end product is always the most memorable, but we would imagine it goes a lot deeper for those involved in a project. For you, what is something from your time making “A Dark Place” that you’ll carry with you through the rest of your career?
Baines: Good question. I think the thing that I’m proudest of with this film was not self-moderating. A lot of the times, as an actor, you come up with the character, or the situation, and you have an understanding of what it is, and then you put out there what you want to put out there. With this it was the first project where I really said to myself, “Listen, the director’s job is to paint this picture, your job is just to bring some color, and he gets to decide what he wants to use.” And so, I really did put a lot of faith in Chris to be able to make sure that it did look good, and it was really, really scary. And so, for me, it was like a personal challenge that I overcame, and I’m happy about that.

TrunkSpace: In terms of your craft as a whole, do you enjoy acting as much today as when you first stepped foot onto a set?
Baines: Yeah, I really do. I actually think that I love it more, to be honest. Earlier in my career I was more focused on doing good work and pleasing people, I guess, and now I feel like I have a little bit more freedom where I can just go and live in the character’s moment, and explore that. And so, I feel like there’s more of a sense of freedom that comes with that, and I think it’s just from having done different projects, and knowing that sometimes they turn out great and sometimes they don’t turn out great. And a lot of that is out of my control. So, I’m better off just focusing on the character and enjoying it more, and I think that I’m doing that now.

TrunkSpace: Is part of that too, just as we age – as humans – we get more comfortable in our own skin?
Baines: Yes. 100 percent. It’s funny, I remember having an agent, God, like six years ago now, say to me that after every major life event you become a different actor. Whether you get in and out of a relationship, have a child, or buy a house, or whatever it is… and it’s so true. I think that, as actors, we can play all emotions, but the ones that come better to us are the ones that we’ve experienced ourselves. And so, the older I get, and the more that I grow, and the more life experience I have, and the more comfortable I am in my own skin, and the more confidence I have, the better I am as an actor.

TrunkSpace: If somebody came to you tomorrow and said, “Luke, here is a blank check. Go and green light any kind of project you want for yourself.” What would you throw into development?
Baines: It would be a comedy, because no one is going to cast me in that. Yeah. If someone’s giving me a blank check I’m going to do some kind of extremely elevated comedy so that I get a chance to actually have some fun and not cover myself in fake blood for one project.

A Dark Place” is now available on iTunes, Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand.

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Wingman Wednesday

Anthony Alabi

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Photo By: DIANA RAGLAND

As a former professional football player who spent years inside the NFL, “Family Reunion” star Anthony Alabi embraces the parallels between his old career as an athlete and his new career as an actor. Like a well-managed locker room, a set can take on a family-driven atmosphere where impenetrable bonds lead to memorable results on the field, or in this case, the screen.

It’s beyond the words on the page,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “There’s got to be that stuff in between that can really show the audience, ‘Oh, there’s a real relationship here.’”

We recently sat down with Alabi to discuss tackling impossible careers, going against type, and why, like football, acting goes beyond the Xs and Os.

TrunkSpace: Professional actor. Professional football player. Both are careers that very few people ever get to enjoy. Do you feel like you’ve captured lightning in a bottle twice in terms of the opportunities that you’ve had in your career?
Alabi: That’s so funny you say that, because that’s always the kind of thing that I say. I tell people, “Don’t ask me to do it twice because I don’t think it’ll happen.” I feel very fortunate to have done what I did with football – to reach that level and to be able to play there and to leave under my own choice – and then be able to come and do this. And once again, it sounds good. It sounds like, “Oh you just went and did it,” but there was a lot of pain and suffering and tears. A lot of psychological heartache in between that. But in the end it all seemed to pay off.

My dad… I remember when I told him when I was leaving the NFL to retire and that I wanted to be an actor, and he was like, “What is it with you and impossible careers?” (Laughter)

My best friend kind of put it the best. I’m just kind of annoyingly ambitious. I have this thing, and I think it should be with anybody, if you feel that you can do something and you feel that you have the ability to do it, then I don’t see why you wouldn’t go do it.

TrunkSpace: There are 32 professional football teams, which means there aren’t a lot of spots available for people inside the NFL. With so much content being produced these days due to all of the various streaming platforms and cable networks, do you think it is easier to break into acting than it is football?
Alabi: You would think that, but once again… there’s more volume of shows – more stuff – but there’s more actors. There’s more people to compete against.

I really wanted to set a couple of things in my head when I first started. The biggest thing was, 1.), don’t tell anybody you played football. And I think the big thing about that for me was making sure that people didn’t just immediately assume that, just because you were a professional athlete, that now you want to be an actor because you just miss the attention and you’re in it for the wrong reasons.

The second thing is I wanted to go against type. I knew that immediately when they saw me walk through the door, they were like, “Oh cool, you’re going to be the bouncer or the thug or the cop or the detective or just the big guy that doesn’t really say anything. You’ll kind of just always be intimidating and always just have a scowl on your face.” And that‘s not what I wanted to do.

TrunkSpace: Which is great because now you’re on a show with Richard Roundtree who has had to deal with that himself.
Alabi: Right, and we talked about that. It’s a big thing. They’re going to see how they see you until you change the perception, because we all know in this town it’s “perception is reality.”

I was fortunate enough to get with reps that really believed that and we were kind of parallel in the thought that we needed to go against type. We needed to put me somewhere different. And I think that did a lot.

TrunkSpace: As the performer, you also have to be willing to go that route and not just work to work, which is a difficult thing to maintain when you’re already pursuing a career where so much is out of your control.
Alabi: Right. And I think it’s a process. I think patience is something that’s underrated and I’m still learning. Immediately you want to come in and be like, “No, I just want to work. I want to get the work done.” That’s great, and you may start working a ton, and you’re a bouncer and your this and that, but then all of a sudden you’re capped as a costar or all you do are these small parts constantly where you’re always a mean guy in the prison. Or you’re the mean guy security guard or the mean guy corrections officer. You never kind of break out of that, that’s how they see you. It’s why I never shied away from the parts I get in like “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday” where I was a transgender hairstylist. I’m like, “I don’t care, I’ll play any of it,” because once they can see that, “Oh, he doesn’t care, he’s willing to kind of go there and do anything,” that’s when it frees you up to kind of be anything you want.

TrunkSpace: You’re playing against type in “Family Reunion” as well. Has the role of Moz helped to change perception?
Alabi: Yeah, it has, and I think more so than them seeing it, it was more of just having more screen time for them to see it. With a guest star, you don’t really get a chance to show all of it. It’s just kind of a snippet here or a snippet there. At most, if you get a top show, you may get a little more in the episode, but I think being able to have an entire series in a body of work with episode in and episode out, they can see it. “Oh wait, he can pull that off, or, “He is different.” And that’s what I loved about the show. It’s one of the things that I really, really hold onto with “Family Reunion,” is that Moz is not a traditional football player type.

When you look at Moz, and when you look at the way he interacts with his family – the way he interacts with his parents and in his relationship with Cocoa – it’s different. It’s different than the stereotype that we’ve all had where it’s like this big, black football player, kind of silent type, who doesn’t really interact much and where the kids are more of my wife’s problem and not mine. That’s just the stereotype, and like I said, perception is reality. But with all that being said, Moz is different. He’s funny and he’s strict when he has to be. He’s loyal and loving and caring about his parents and his wife and his family, and I think he’s whatever he needs to be in the moment. That’s what producers and casting can see is that there’s a dynamic there where it’s not just a single line throughout the series where Anthony/Moz is just funny. It’s not that. There’s dramatic moments. There are moments of anger, there are moments of comedy, there are moments of vulnerability. And I think all of those things, when they see that and they see that body of work, it suddenly now changes the perception and opens me up to do other things, which has happened.

Photo By: DIANA RAGLAND

TrunkSpace: So as a performer, when you’re spending a prolonged period of time with a character like you have with Moz, does it enhance your performance because you’re seeing so many sides to this person?
Alabi: It does. And I think, you have to understand too, day one, I can do all the research that I want… I can sit there and think of moments and background and really dive into the character of Moz, but I’m not going to know anything until the interactions really start. That’s the biggest thing. Once we started kind of getting into it… and then we got the 20 episode order, which is beautiful… but once that started happening, around Episode 5 or Episode 6 of filming, I started to realize, “Oh, I can speak this and I can speak that and this is my point of view of that and point of view of this.” When you start really getting to flesh out the corners, the deep corners of that character, things change. They’re characters, but in that world of “Family Reunion,” it’s a human being and just like any other human being, they have to evolve. And I think that’s the biggest thing. I think that over time, no matter what, you’ll see Moz evolve. Where it goes, I don’t know, because a lot of that has to do with writing, but a lot of it has to do with the interactions with the other characters on the show.

TrunkSpace: So then are there parallels to football in that regard where, say, your first day in a game you may have some nerves – same as being on set – but once you get beyond that and get more comfortable on the field, it becomes less about the experience and more about focusing on your job and what you’re there to do?
Alabi: There are a ton of parallels between football and acting and I would say one of them is that. I always learned, in football, when you’re prepared you move and when you move fast, you move competent. And with competence comes an ease. I think that’s the same thing in acting. I think if you show up on set, you’ve done the work, you broke down the episode or the scene and the moments that are in it – you’ve broken down what you’re going to do and you’ve made choices – I think when you prepare then you’re kind of quick on your feet. So if something happens in a scene, you don’t lose that moment because you weren’t prepared… you play off of it. And I think that’s where all the juicy bits and all the best stuff comes from, the stuff that just comes off of an interaction where you’re like, “I just think this is appropriate right here.” And for me, acting and football are very similar in that way, where there is an ease. I think once you’ve gotten that first line out, once you’ve gotten that first scene out, suddenly you’re comfortable and you get into a rhythm and you start to feel the music of it and you can just buy it. When you go on set you feel it and you know exactly how Moz would respond. You know how he would feel. You get the interaction. I think that is what helps as time goes on.

TrunkSpace: We’ve been in locker rooms. We’ve been on sets. When either is firing on all cylinders, there really is a family atmosphere present. That must be another welcome parallel between your two careers?
Alabi: Absolutely. I was telling my wife the other day because we were talking about it… it’s like I’m never not around family. And it’s great because I look at somebody like Loretta (Devine), and I feel like have a special relationship because she plays my mom on the show, but since day one, it’s always been this kind of loving, caring kind of relationship where I tease her and look after her and she is always there to give me some advice and always there to make sure that I’m okay. And she’s constantly just around and loving. If you look on set where Tia (Mowry-Hardrict) is, that’s where I am, and where I am, that’s where she is. We’re always together. I think those are the things that really build that relationship. That’s the stuff that people will see on screen where it’s like, “Oh, that’s not scripted. They just have that chemistry. They’re just close.”

And you’re right, it’s the same thing in football. There’s a reason why Peyton Manning and any good receiver he’s ever had were in sync. It’s because it’s beyond the Xs and Os. It’s beyond the words on the page. There’s got to be that stuff in between that can really show the audience, “Oh, there’s a real relationship here.” And that could be small things like a touch here on the shoulder or it could be a look when the camera’s not focused on you. It could be a little thing that you say under your breath that doesn’t have anything to do with the scene, but you say to each other. Those little interactions are what make people go, “Oh my God, I love them. They’re great.”

Family Reunion” is available now on Netflix.

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Wingman Wednesday

Christine Lee

ChristineLeeFeatured
Photo By: Laura Baldwinson

When Stephen King tweeted out props for the new zombie apocalypse series “Black Summer,” it didn’t only pique the interest of horror fans, it also sent a jolt of excitement throughout the cast. Series star Christine Lee, who plays Korean-speaking survivor Sun, reveled in the shout-out from the King of Horror, but more than anything, she enjoyed bringing a hero to the small screen that audiences are not used to seeing.

There was so much satisfaction in playing an immigrant woman who turned everyone’s expectation upside down,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Lee to discuss taking stylistic risks, her real-world zombie survival plan, and why she always ends up doing what her heart tells her to.

TrunkSpace: Starring in a Netflix series is an exciting journey in and of itself, but then Stephen King went ahead and gave it a thumbs up. What would 12-year-old you think about this chapter in your life if she had a glimpse of what was to come?
Lee: My 12-year-old self would have freaked out but told no one about it? I always wanted to be an actor but to imagine that I’d be in a show that Stephen King gave a shout out for, would have felt like a far-fetched dream to me.

TrunkSpace: “Black Summeris a prequel to the hit Syfy series “Z Nation.” Is there a change in the on-set energy going into a job knowing that there will already be an audience waiting for you on the other side?
Lee: I think the creative team had a lot of confidence going into “Black Summer.” They’ve already made a show that ran for five seasons. They knew how to work together. Of course, we were taking a risk in stylistic choice. But John Hyams really trusted his team to bring their A game. And we did.

TrunkSpace: What were you most excited about exploring with your character Sun when you first read for her and what did you grow to love about her as time went on and more of her personality and journey were revealed to you?
Lee: All I knew about my character for certain was that she was only going to speak Korean – I was very excited for that. But what was even better was that Sun turned out to be a total badass. There was so much satisfaction in playing an immigrant woman who turned everyone’s expectation upside down.

TrunkSpace: We touched on it earlier in our conversation, but Stephen King the KING of horror gave Black Summersome serious love on social media. Do you think that opened up the series to horror fans even more so than it already was, and from your interactions thus far, how are lovers of the genre embracing what youre bringing to the small screen?
Lee: Oh yeah, his tweet was totally unexpected and it attracted more attention from the audience. I think the viewers find our show refreshing. Some of them are shocked by the fact there’s no build up and we just push them into this crazy experience. But honestly, that’s the best way to keep people on the edge of their seat.

TrunkSpace: When youre working on a show that involves zombies, there must be some surreal moments on set from time to time. Did you have any pinch memoments where you looked around zombies at the crafty table and said, WhoaI did not see this coming in my career?
Lee: My favorite moments on set are the times when I hang out with actors in zombie make up, just sipping coffee and talking about random things in life – like paying bills, or finding a babysitter. We could have the most intense moment on camera and then just ask, “When’s lunch?” It’s honestly the best. We all gel together because we love creating that fantasy and illusion for the audience. And to see what goes on behind the scenes is just a cherry on top.

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the end result of a film or series is always the most memorable, but for those involved in a project wed imagine it is the experience. What will you take from your time on Season 1 of Black Summerthat youll carry with you for the rest of your life and career?
Lee: I came out as a different actor after “Black Summer.” I’m so lucky to have worked with so many creative and talented artists from that show. Thanks to “Black Summer,” I’ll always be hungry to create an innovative show for the audience.

Lee in “Black Summer.”

TrunkSpace: Weve all been there. Its late at night, were tossing and turning because were unable to sleep, and we start thinking, How would I do in a world where a real zombie outbreak occurred?Now that you have some hands-on zombie survival experience, how would you fare if the world went the way of the undead? What would be your approach to seeing tomorrow’s sunrise?
Lee: I’ve thought about this a lot – and I’ve decided that I’ll put my cat as a priority. I don’t care if that will get me killed. So I’ll pack water, knives, cat food, and my cat. And run to an isolated place. Maybe I’ll use my old boss as a bait for zombies to buy some time. Just kidding (..or am I?)

TrunkSpace: Outside of acting, you also sing in a cover band. What is your absolute, hands down favorite song to cover and why?
Lee: “Kiss” by Prince. I love the quiet sexual confidence in his delivery until things blow up in his guitar solo. It always gives me so much joy to belt out that last verse, too.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Lee:Black Summer.”

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?
Lee: Hmmm… I definitely know I want to direct and produce. If the glimpse of the future says I’ll be successful, awesome. If it shows me that I’ll fail, I’ll still go all out. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of person. And I end up doing what my heart tells me to do even when people say it’s a stupid decision.

Season 1 of “Black Summer” is available now on Netflix.

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