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Deep Focus

Lauren LeFranc

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In our ongoing column Deep Focus, TrunkSpace is going behind the camera to talk with the directors, writers and producers who infuse our world with that perennial pop culture goodness that we can’t get enough of.

This time out we’re chatting with Lauren LeFranc, showrunner of the science fiction series “Impulse,” about job descriptions, creating television in a short attention span society, and finding inspiration in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

TrunkSpace: Formal definitions aside, what does the job of a showrunner entail for those who are not familiar with the term?
LeFranc: Well, I guess, you’re first a writer and then second to that, you’re the CEO of your television show, essentially. You’re in charge of running the writers’ room. You are technically in charge of everything to do with set and production and post production. You touch everything. There are certain department heads who are specialized in those particulars, but you have your hands in everything.

TrunkSpace: And does that change series to series or platform to platform?
LeFranc: No, it’s pretty much that. That’s the general job description. Everybody does it a little differently, but that’s the job.

TrunkSpace: Would 12-year-old Lauren be surprised that she would one day be serving in that role?
LeFranc: I think she’d be pretty stoked. I grew up on TV. I was, really, partially raised by books and movies. And so 12-year-old me would probably freak out a little bit if she knew that she could go to set and write stories – like a heightened level of playing make believe. And honestly, part of why I write and what I think about a lot is my younger self and just trying to think about what impact TV had on me and really wanting to put that forward for other people.

TrunkSpace: You grew up on television, but “Impulse” is on YouTube Premium, so you’re paying it forward, but in an entirely new way, which is pretty wild.
LeFranc: Yeah. I mean, my God, TV has changed so much. Our industry has changed within the last couple of years – even the last couple of months – so dramatically. I never would have anticipated watching the Internet or walking around with an iPad and watching all these different streaming platforms. And that’s how people often view content now. So, yeah, it’s really crazy.

TrunkSpace: So as a showrunner, do you think about that – the way people are watching – and does it ever impact the creative?
LeFranc: Our goal is always to visually make it look as beautiful and amazing as possible, assuming and hoping that people are watching it on a bigger screen, truthfully. Because, I think, we try to be a very cinematic show. That doesn’t mean that I’m not aware that some people are going to watch it on their iPads or their phones, but the goal is not to cater to that particularly, but to maybe inspire people to want to see it on a bigger screen and to try to get more out of it. Especially, because we have a lot of visual effects, and our directors are so excellent. You really want to offer that on a bigger screen if you can. I’m aware of the different options people have – the lack of attention span sometimes people have. I don’t creatively think on that level in terms of how we break story and the stories that we come up with, but I’m very aware of it.

TrunkSpace: That lack of attention span that you speak of can also be seen as a blessing for your series because, if people are watching and are invested in this day and age, you know you’re doing something right.
LeFranc: Absolutely. Everyone has a lot of options. I think the thing that I really love about being on YouTube Premium is that we can be any length. So, we don’t have to hit a certain length for every episode. I try to keep it in a certain window that I think is reasonable, perhaps because of the lack of attention span that I personally have. So, if it’s something 60 minutes, to me, it better be really fantastic and worth those 60 minutes. It’s a matter of minutes and it matters a lot, but we also can create whatever kind of content we want. We don’t have similar restrictions to broadcast networks or even some pay cable. So in that regard, it’s really freeing creatively.

TrunkSpace: With that said, could “Impulse” exist on another network in its current form or is it unique to YouTube Premium?
LeFranc: No, I definitely think it could. Because streaming platforms… if they’re willing to take risks and play in different genres, absolutely. The comparable networks to YouTube, I think, like Netflix and Amazon quickly come to mind. YouTube has given us such creative freedom. That’s been really a lovely experience, but that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t play elsewhere. I mean, we do curse a lot. (Laughter) We probably would need to censor ourselves a little bit.

I think a lot of TV and streaming cable services right now want to offer creativity to showrunners and to writers. And that’s really amazing to be a part of right now.

Missi Pyle and Sarah Desjardins in Season 2 of “Impulse”

TrunkSpace: On the opposite side of that coin, is there a feeling inside the TV community that it won’t always be this good and that perhaps this level of content creation won’t be able to sustain itself?
LeFranc: Yeah. I mean, I don’t know if people could have predicted where we’d be exactly right now. And again, it’s ever-changing. I think there’s a huge potential that this is a bubble that’s going to burst at some point, but from my perspective, it’s like, let’s play in that bubble for as long as they let us. Because I think the thing that I love about it is that now, you can tell unique stories. We’re dealing with trauma, but there’s genre elements. We’re focusing on a complicated young woman and we’re not trying to cater to a particular broad audience in such a way to make that character super likable instead of just about making her more real and honest. And I don’t know if I could have told a story like this even five years ago, honestly. And that’s just a product of having so many different opportunities.

TrunkSpace: Five years ago, “Impulse” would have been a story about teleportation first, and the character stuff would have all played in the background.
LeFranc: Exactly. And that has been the greatest gift is that I get to tell a story that is not leading with some sort of snazzy element like teleportation. It’s leading with character and it’s leading with trying to create a grounded character drama and focus on a young woman, but focus on the people around her and equally focused on the people in this town who are struggling financially. No one is super pretty. No one is glamorized. No one is overly sexualized. That has been YA badly up until this point for whatever reason in TV, I think, with a couple exceptions. But really, it’s been, for me as a young woman growing up, a little disheartening and confusing because I’m like, “I’ve never experienced high school like this.” “My So Called Life” I think was a show for a time that really revolutionized how you think about young people. And that’s something that I hold onto a lot. And I was a big fan of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” I really wanted to write TV largely because of Buffy, because she was this complicated woman with burden, and she was strong, and powerful. And I hadn’t really seen a lot of those depictions before. So, I’m trying to lead in my generation with “Impulse” in that regard.

Season 2 of “Impulse” is available today on YouTube Premium.

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The Featured Presentation

Jacob Bertrand

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With the release of the highly anticipated Season 2 of “Cobra Kai” now upon us, we’re taking an extended look at the fan-favorite series by sitting down with the phenomenal cast of young actors. This time out we’re chatting with Jacob Bertrand, who plays Hawk, to discuss the John Kreese influence, the mohawk affect on the masses, and which episode will have us on the edge of our collective seats.

TrunkSpace: “Cobra Kai” was so well received by fans and critics alike and in a way it seemed to catch everyone by surprise. Was there a different feeling on set heading into Season 2 given that there was more anticipation surrounding it?
Bertrand: Yeah. I mean, there is a ton of pressure. I know the writers definitely feel it. The whole cast feels it. Getting 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, you physically can’t do better than that, you know? We definitely poured a lot into this next season. It’s definitely bigger. We poured 110 percent into it. We did a ton of double-up days and long hours to make it work and I’m so stoked for the fans to see it.

TrunkSpace: What was your first impression of the direction Season 2 was headed in when you started receiving the scripts?
Bertrand: I loved it. At the end of Season 1 they talked to me about getting a different mohawk color, and I was so excited for it. And this season, with the mohawk color change, his demeanor changes a little bit. Kreese (played by Martin Kove) is in the dojo, so he has a big influence right there because he’s there all the time. Kreese is constantly with the Cobra Kai now.

TrunkSpace: Kreese hasn’t exactly been a great influence on people in the past.
Bertrand: (Laughter) Well, no yeah he definitely hasn’t, which we get to see a little bit of how he is with Hawk, so I’m excited to be able to do that.

TrunkSpace: What’s interesting about Hawk’s story arc is that he’s sort of a bit like a soda bottle that has been shaken up. Eventually when that cap comes off, it’s going to get messy. Is that fun to play because he’s the type of character who you can literally see the arc taking shape?
Bertrand: Oh it’s a rush. I am so grateful that this role was even written, and that I was able to audition for it. I had so much fun playing this character. It’s cool to be a little bit of a badass, villainous-type of guy. But Season 2 was definitely fun. Season 2 had a lot of fight scenes. There was a lot of cool Hawk material that was created for Season 2 and I can’t wait for everybody to see it and it’s just a total blast to get to play that character.

TrunkSpace: We know that you’ve done some extended work with characters before in television, but we’re curious what the journey is like for you, as an actor, getting to come back for another season and seeing how someone like Hawk develops out over time?
Bertrand: It was definitely weird going from my regular hair to that hawk cut, but once I got it, it was like, “Oh wow!” All these emotions and feelings started coming back like, “I’m this dude now!” It’s super fun. I honestly really love it. I couldn’t ask for a more fulfilling role. It’s just so much fun to play, and it’s really, really cool to be able to do that – to turn from Eli to Hawk – and I’m so grateful for everything that the writers give me. It’s awesome.

TrunkSpace: Have you had any fan interactions with people who let you know that they got a mohawk after being inspired by your character?
Bertrand: You know what’s funny is that I get tagged in pictures from a lot of kids that give themselves blue mohawks. For Halloween especially, I got a bunch of people sending me pictures of their kids with mohawks and stuff. I think that’s so awesome. I love that. I think that’s great. More power to them, because a mohawk, that’s a commitment. I mean, hey, it looks super badass so you might as well do it.

TrunkSpace: And what’s cool about that is that it shows that the series isn’t just being enjoyed, but that it’s having an impact on a pop culture level as well.
Bertrand: Yeah, I love that. That’s so cool. I’ve been in some Nickelodeon and Disney stuff, but I think it’s cool to see “The Karate Kid” die hard fans. I guess I didn’t really realize… I mean, I had seen the movies as a kid; I saw the first two when I was 8 with my little brother, but I hadn’t realized how religious the following was. I think it’s so cool to now be a part of that Karate Kid universe.

TrunkSpace: We’re all in our early 40s here, so we were kids when the first movie came out and it had a strong impact on us all. When we heard “Cobra Kai” was first being made, we didn’t really get too excited because remakes and continuations have let us down in the past, but this not only appealed to us, but younger generations as well, which is extremely rare.
Bertrand: Yeah, I definitely agree with you. I think that this series is for kids of my generation and kids below who are younger than me. It’s very easy to get into, just because it’s so realistic and natural of the times right now. I think it’s great having a very accurate glimpse of kids in high school. It’s all in how they act and then they just threw the ‘80’s-style Cobra Kai on them. I think that’s so great how natural and rounded everything plays out.

TrunkSpace: As someone who has been on the inside of seeing it all come together, why do you think the series has worked for both original fans and for new audiences?
Bertrand: That’s a great question. That’s one the writers should probably rattle off for you right away. You know, I think that it just has something for everybody. I think that’s what the main thing is. Ralph (Macchio) and Billy (Zabka) create some amazing leads, and then it also has the kids that come in. And it’s also just a badass, funny, dramatic show that hooks you in.

TrunkSpace: For the viewers the most memorable aspect of a film or series is the end product, but for you we’d imagine it goes much further than that. What’s been the most memorable aspect of your “Cobra Kai” journey thus far?
Bertrand: Honestly, something that I was really impressed with was how well everyone did. When we started stunt-wise and fighting-wise – because we do a lot of our own stunts – where we all started in our ability to do stunts and where we ended, there’s a huge difference. I’m honestly really proud of everybody who put in all the work and all the time and effort to make Season 2. So I think it’s the whole thing. There’s not a moment that I love. It was honestly every day that something awesome happened.

TrunkSpace: Finally, without dropping any spoilers on us, what are you most excited for people to see this season?
Bertrand: Just wait for episode 10! That is my favorite episode. Episode 10 is amazing! Just wait, it’s all worth it.

TrunkSpace: So there’s going to be a lot of binging going on?
Bertrand: Yes. When you get to episode 10, call me. (Laughter)

Season 2 of Cobra Kai” is available now on YouTube Premium. Episode 1 is available to free for everyone here.

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The Featured Presentation

Tanner Buchanan

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With the release of the highly anticipated Season 2 of “Cobra Kai” now upon us, we’re taking an extended look at the fan-favorite series by sitting down with the phenomenal cast of young actors. First up we’re chatting with Tanner Buchanan, who plays Robby Keene, to discuss exploring his character’s story arc, why “Cobra Kai” has wowed fans of all generations, and what he’s most excited for people to see heading into the second season.

TrunkSpace: Your character Robby seems to be heading down a different path than we saw in Season 1. Are you excited for people to see where the journey takes him?
Buchanan: Yeah, I’m really excited for people to see Season 2. I keep telling people that it’s a lot more intense than the first season. There’s a lot more fighting going on. And where we left off with Robby in the first season… he’s kind of moved to the path of making a better person of himself. I like to keep saying to other people, Josh (Heald), Jon (Hurwitz) and Hayden (Schlossberg) do a really good job of making every character a human being, so with every character there’s going to be some things that you may not necessarily like that they do, and there’s going to be things that you like that they do.

TrunkSpace: And it’s always fun for a viewer to watch a redemption arc, but we would imagine for an actor it must be a blast, too, because you’re really getting to play both sides of a character?
Buchanan: Absolutely. It’s fun when your character actually has an arc and you’re not, you know, just the “rebellious teen.” (Laughter) You’re not just a rebellious teen for however many seasons and there’s an arc to the character. They live life – they go through hardships and they go through stuff that’s going to be great in their life. There’s an actual arc and it’s very satisfying to go in and actually start somewhere and end somewhere else.

TrunkSpace: The first season was really well received by both fans and critics alike. Was there a different feeling on set for you guys while filming Season 2 given the anticipation surrounding the continuation of the story?
Buchanan: No one expected the first season to be as big as it was. None of us did. We just weren’t expecting the reaction that we got, but extremely grateful with the reaction that we got. I think coming into Season 2, we knew we had to come in and do it bigger and better and that’s the main goal that we came in with. We wanted to make sure that the story was right. We wanted to make sure that the fighting was going to be even better than the first season. So, I would say, knowing that it needed to be bigger and better, there was a little bit of pressure, but we didn’t really come in with that pressure. We came in saying, “Hey, it was well received, let’s go in and do the same thing we did but let’s just make it a little bit bigger and make all the fans happy.”

TrunkSpace: We’re in our early 40s, so the first film in the franchise came out at a time that was very significant to our pop culture upbringing. When it was first announced that “Cobra Kai” was happening, we admittedly didn’t have very high expectations because we had been burnt on remakes or continuations of our favorite projects before. However, “Cobra Kai” somehow managed to not only appeal to our generation, but younger generations as well, which is pretty amazing.
Buchanan: Absolutely. And that, I give credit to Josh, Jon and Hayden because like all the fans, they’re super fans of “The Karate Kid” movies. So I think having writers come in and be super fans and knowing what other fans would want – just like them if someone else was doing it – they knew what other fans would want and what they would want themselves and they came in with a good mindset of how they were going to accomplish it.

TrunkSpace: Not only did we enjoy watching Ralph (Macchio), William (Zabka) and Martin (Kove) reunite, but yourself and your younger castmates have incredible on-screen chemistry that drew us in. When you all assembled for the first time, did you feel like you had something special with the cast as a whole?
Buchanan: I keep saying it but this is probably the best set I’ve ever been on. Everyone gets along. Everyone is extremely nice. There’s no drama on set. Everyone comes in, does their job and it’s such a pleasure to go to work because everyone does get along so well. So, there’s no beef between anybody. There’s no drama between anybody. So, yeah, I think for sure it correlates to on screen because everyone gets along so well. I mean, everyone will go out. We have game nights. We’ll go see movies. We’ll go out to dinner. Even though we’ve spent hours on set with each other. (Laughter) We get along so well that I think it just shows up on the screen and it’s incredible that we have that connection between everybody.

TrunkSpace: Well, hopefully that doesn’t ruin you for future sets. (Laughter)
Buchanan: (Laughter) No, it won’t. You know, sometimes on sets there can be stuff that’s not so good, but that’s okay. You just work through it and you figure it out.

TrunkSpace: While you said the success of Season 1 came as a bit of a surprise, at any point during filming did you think to yourself that the series and the role of Robby could be a career game changer?
Buchanan: No, I think we just came in as if it was like any other job. You go in and do your work and if you’re happy with what you do, then I think you’ve accomplished something amazing. Whether people like it or not or if it’s seen all over the place, as long as you’re happy, honestly, that’s all that matters to me. So, I think that’s all we’re really focused on is making sure that we go in, do our best work and at the end of the day that we’re happy with it.

TrunkSpace: You’re two seasons in. What’s been the highlight for you thus far that you’ll carry with you through the rest of your life and career?
Buchanan: Like I said before, I think the fact that everyone gets along so well and that there’s such amazing chemistry between everybody on set and there’s no drama. I think that entire experience of actually wanting to go to work and be excited – and even on our off time hanging out with each other – that’s what is going to stick in my mind. It’s just how amazing the people are on set.

TrunkSpace: Finally Tanner, without giving too much away, what are you most excited about for people to see as they sit down to binge Season 2?
Buchanan: We saw last year where everyone kind of left off. It’s 34 years after that karate tournament, and this year, there’s just more insight into what the world actually is. The world is expanding and this is stuff that people have never, ever seen before. So I think people are going to be really excited to see that world expand and what they’ve been waiting 35 years for.

Season 2 of Cobra Kai” is available now on YouTube Premium. Episode 1 is available to free for everyone here.

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