Alex Kecskes

Alex A. Kecskes has written hundreds of film reviews and celebrity interviews for a wide variety of online and print outlets. He has covered red carpet premieres and Comic-Con events for major films and independent releases.

Interview with the cast of “Hemlock Grove”

 

High HeelsNetflix’s new horror/thriller Hemlock Grove will soon make its debut. Based on Brian McGreevy’s novel, the supernatural murder mystery stars Famke Janssen, Dougray Scott, Lili Taylor, Bill Skarsgard, Landon Liboiron, Penelope Mitchell, Freya Tingley, Kandyse McClure, and Aaron Douglas. The story begins with the brutal murder of a young girl. The two likely suspects, Peter Rumancek (Liboiron), a Gypsy trailer trash teen rumored to be a werewolf, and Roman (Skarsgård), the heir to the Godfrey estate, decide to hunt down the killer. In this roundtable interview, the cast talk about their characters and how they prepared for the riveting new series.

Dougray Scott & Famke Janssen (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)
Dougray Scott & Famke Janssen (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

What attracted you to your roles?

Famke: There is a scene in the pilot episode, where Olivia asks her son if he wants to go shopping, and she gets her way by putting her cigarette out on his jeans. So I thought, “well, that’s kind of an interesting character to play.” I wonder what else they have up their sleeve. And I wanted to work with Dougray Scott my whole life.

Dougray: I really wanted to work with Famke. To be honest with you, that was a big attraction for me. I also read the novel before agreeing to the series, and I found the character of Norman to be fascinating and interesting, I liked who he was–very intelligent. And I liked the euphoric and tumultuous relationship with Olivia.

Bill Skarsgard & Penelope Mitchell (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)
Bill Skarsgard & Penelope Mitchell (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

Did you both read the book once you knew you had the role?

Penelope: Yes. It’s amazing. The book is a total blessing for us because with a project like this, you have a trajectory. So if you know where your character is headed, you have to pace yourself and find variation in your performance. The book is like a blueprint. When we collaborated with the writers, we were allowed to develop our characters and take them on different journeys.

Bill: I’d read the book before. I did an audition and took a meeting with the writer. When I read the pilot, I completely fell in love with it. Brian (McGreevy) gave me a copy of the book before I knew I’d gotten the part. And when I read the book, I thought, I need to do this. It’s also good to have a book to know where the season and characters are going. I’d never done TV before and I thought that a book was reassuring to have. If we do season two, we won’t have a book, so every new script will be, “well, I hope I don’t die.” We have 13 hours to tell the story, so the series goes deeper and explores each character more than what’s in the book.

Bill Skarsgard (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)
Bill Skarsgard (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

Do you see the developing relationship between Peter and Roman as positive or potentially dangerous?

Bill: I don’t want to reveal that, but it’s kind of critical to their relationship. You don’t know where it’s going to end up. When Roman and Peter meet, they both instantly know that this relationship is really important for some reason. But they don’t know if it’s for something great or terrible to happen.

Are you allowed to do some improv work as far as dialog goes?

Bill: We were allowed to but the scripts were so well written.

Penelope Mitchell (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)
Penelope Mitchell (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

Penelope: The characters were so well developed and innate within the writers. I know it sounds peculiar, but the writers really had our voices down. It was really quite remarkable. There were very few occasions where I kind of not felt comfortable about what I was saying.

Bill: I’m Swedish, so I had to work on the accent a bit and I wouldn’t feel comfortable improv’ing—not with this character. We didn’t need to. This show is so well crafted, I wouldn’t want to go in and touch it too much.

Do you like the way your characters are arcing?

Bill: It’s good to have the book to know where we’re going. Because you can plant seeds in episode two that you know will have significant meaning in episode six. TV shows are definitely a writer’s medium. And you’ll ask a writer, “Why am I saying this?” and they go, “You’ll find out.” All our characters go through so many tense changes. It’s super intense. It’s such a cool project to be part of.

Landon Liboiron (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)
Landon Liboiron (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

Did you watch Twin Peaks for inspiration?

Landon: It was really cool watching Twin Peaks to help get inspired by all the similarities: the small town, the idiosyncrasies, the strangeness. Ours is a lot darker and more vicious. There’s still a lot of humor in our show and there’s a lot of room for it.

What attracted you to your roles?

Freya: It was my first pilot season from Australia. It was something that I auditioned for and I wanted every role that was going for. This project was different from all the age stereotypes. It was real three-dimensional characters going through what real people go through. And I think that’s what most actors are drawn to.

Landon: When I first read the book, I thought, I don’t know. When you’re reading it, you don’t really know what these creatures are, what these people are or their past. It’s all kind of mysterious and dark and twisted. And the writing is such a page-turner. I remember when I read the first script; I wanted to know what was going to happen. But when I finished it, I was still saying, what’s going to happen? And that’s the most interesting thing about it. Each episode ends with you wanting to know what’s going to happen—pretty much like a punch in the face. It’s an investigation—the entire season—with all the characters, their past and their secrets.

Have you watched the sequence of your transformation, yet?

Landon: Yeah. I was terrified even before watching it. I didn’t know what something like that was going to look like. But I was happy with it. It’s something very different.

Freya Tingley (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)
Freya Tingley (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

In preparing for the role, did you immerse yourself more in the book or the script?

Freya: When I landed the role, I read the book several times and didn’t really understand it, but the show’s writers did a great job turning this great piece of literature into a classically gothic work for television.

Landon: I read the book as soon as it came out and I had the same thing happen to me. I had to stop and re-read sections. Brain uses such specific language, but in translating it to the show, the language is pretty much there. What’s unique about Brian’s writing is that he has such a unique way of conveying emotion, or someone’s torment or happiness.

Will viewers be confused in going from the book to the series?

Landon: What’s great about the series is that it leaves room to explore the characters in a more in-depth way than the book does. There’s still a lot of backstory in the season that isn’t necessarily explained in the book. I used the book as a backbone to work off, then I interpreted things for myself while staying pretty close to the book.

Freya Tingley3Freya: The TV series expands on the book. In your typical movie, things are left out that are in the book. Here, it’s just the opposite, there’s humor and character development that you may not find in the book.

In researching for the role, did you watch other werewolf movies?

Landon: No, I didn’t want to watch other werewolf films. What’s special about Peter’s werewolf, it’s not a curse and it’s not a manwolf. You turn into a wolf. I also think that’s what’s so ingenious about using the gypsy culture. Some people actually believed them to be like cannibals and monsters. But to Peter and to actual gypsies, their culture is a beautiful, poetic thing. Peter’s grandfather was a werewolf who taught Peter how to hunt and be content as a werewolf. So I researched how wolves hunt and behave in packs.

Hemlock Grove premieres April 19, 2013.

Interview with the Cast of “Falling Skies”

fallingskiesFans of Falling Skies were delighted to learn that the intense alien-fighting drama would return for 10 more episodes this summer. Season 2 did leave viewers with some eye-opening cliffhangers: Maggie attacked by a mysterious creature, Hal’s parasite, and of course, the arrival of a new alien (played by Hellboy‘s Doug Jones). All will make for a nail-biting third season. As die-hard fans will agree, the new alien has completely reshaped the mythology and sci-fi aspects of the show. Yet the show’s core remains unchanged—family, survival, and growing relationships.

In this roundtable interview, Drew Roy (Hal Mason), Sarah Carter (Margaret) and Seychelle Gabriel (Lourdes) offer their takes on the many questions left unanswered by season 2’s cliffhangers.

So what’s going on with Hal and Maggie?

Sarah Carter & Drew Roy (photos by Alex A. Kecskes)
Sarah Carter & Drew Roy (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

Drew Roy: Their relationship continues but in a whole new way. We saw the ins and outs of their relationship, or Hal’s pursuit of the relationship, last season. So we start the new season where we’re more like a married couple. We live with each other and have our own room. And then there’s the thing going in his ear. He needs some help, but he’s not the kind of guy to ask for it. Because of what these two have and their relationship, she’s really the only one who has seen his inner pain. Because on the outside, he’s put up this front of having everything in control.

Does everyone know at this point that he’s been infected?

Drew: Nobody knows. Maggie’s privy to it because of her intuition.

Do we see that Maggie figures it out?

Sarah Carter (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)
Sarah Carter (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

Sarah Carter: Off the top, there’s curiosity as to why Hal’s having these extreme mood swings. He’s treating Maggie differently. She actually finds it sexy at times. And it was really fun to play with that. It wasn’t so much a marriage for me. It’s interesting, how Drew playing Hal would interpret it and how Maggie would interpret it. There’s friction, but there’s deep loyalty and ultimately that prevails.

Does she question his ability?

Sarah: She likes to empower her men. She knows that his spirit will die if he isn’t out in the field. So he’s never emasculated by Maggie in any way.

Does Hal have any misgivings about doing his job competently?

Drew: Yeah, in the same way we saw Tom in the second season. Knowing something’s off, he’s questioning how much he can trust himself. Hal’s going through the same thing. But Tom was infected by Red-Eye, so he’s got the eye bug in him for good. But this time, it’s looking like Hal might have this coming from not such a good place. So he’s having more extreme feelings. And it’s showing itself in a more physical way.

Can Hal get his brother to help him out with that?

Sarah & Drew3Drew: The interesting thing about this season was, they we were all so caught up in our own stories that there wasn’t a whole lot of interaction between us, which is how a lot of us end up going down darker paths and sliding off the deep end. Hal’s already proven that he can take care of himself, so doesn’t need to waste time with Hal. He sort of drifts off into this darker place. Maggie gets to see that. With Ben, you’d think that would’ve been somewhere he could have gone. But at the same time, those two characters have become a lot closer to each other. Still, Hal had a pride thing going on, as well, being uncomfortable about asking his little brother for help. And there’s the fact that he knows something’s wrong.

What about Ben and Matt’s relationship this season?

Sarah Carter 3Sarah: Ben takes on the role of the older brother. Hal’s so wrapped up in his won conflict. Ben steps up and takes Matt under his wing. Actually, Maggie does that too. There’s a lot of coming together for the sake of Matt, which is what brings the family aspect of the show together.

How will Matt and Hal’s relationship evolve?

Drew: Hal’s still caught up in his own problems. Later, we’ll see a little something. But for the bulk of the season, he’s so focused on just keeping everything contained and not letting anything slip because he knows for the benefit of the entire Charleston area that he’s essentially dangerous to people. Does he want to come clean? What does that mean? There’s a lot of people that aren’t happy with that kind of stuff: We got Ben who’s had spikes and Tom’s had the eye bug. We’re like this whole family of half aliens, so do I really want to come out and say, “You know what, I’m feeling a little freaky too.”

Can you comment about interacting with the unknown species?

Drew: With this unknown species coming in, one has to ask, what are their motives? They seem good—they’re definitely helping us. In the very beginning, we see some of their technology at work. But are they really that transparent with us? Having a new alien creates the potential for more drama.

With Jamil dying, will your character take on a more serious role?

Seychelle Gabriel (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)
Seychelle Gabriel (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

Seychelle Gabriel: I think, serious but in a different sense of the word. Serious more in the direction of her life. We come in 7 months after we left off. She’s in a really dark place, and I think that she’s dealt with it, coming to her own peace with it. When we come back, Lourdes is rock solid in the medical arena in Charleston. She’s become a doctor and very helpful, more so than Anne, because Anne’s become a mother, so Lourdes has grown into herself and channeled her hardships into her work.

How will Lourdes’ personality change now that she’s a doctor? 

Seychelle: I don’t get to go on all the missions, but everyone comes to the hospital as some point, so I get to work with almost every character. Hal and Lourdes haven’t really connected because of everything’s that’s going on with him and things that are going on with Lourdes.

How do other characters react to Lourdes being such a young doctor?

Seychelle Gabriel3Seychelle: I think in an apocalyptic world, with kids carrying guns, age is not a big issue. They know that we’ve been on the road for nearly a year and a half, so you’ve got the experience and the degree. There’s also a lot of trust within the group. Charleston has embraced the fact that Lourdes is now a doctor.

What was the most exciting thing you got to do?

Seychelle: I got to say cool things like, “you can’t put weight on that ankle for a couple of weeks.” (laughs) I got to work on some aliens and alien experiments that haven’t been introduced until this season. It’s like a whole new frontier.

Are they tapping into her ability to create biological weapons?

Seychelle: Not so much weapons but definitely to enhance people.

Interview with the Cast of “Vikings”

Lagertha, Ragnar, Rollo and the Viking raiders (Photo credit: Jonathan Hession)
Lagertha, Ragnar, Rollo and the Viking raiders (Photo credit: Jonathan Hession)

Created and written by Michael Hirst (Elizabeth, The Tudors), History Channel’s Vikings is packed with conflict, warfare and bloodshed. The family saga follows the adventures and conquests of Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) and brother Rollo (Clive Standen). Deeply frustrated by the unadventurous policies of local chieftain Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne) and his wife Siggy (Jessalyn Gilsig), Ragnar and Rollo set out to invade the British Isles. Ragnar’s wife, Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) keeps the home fires burning, fending off foes with admirable skill. Representing the conquered is Athelstan (George Blagden), a young, innocent Christian monk captured by Ragnar during his first raid on England.

In this roundtable interview, Katheryn Winnick, Travis Fimmel and George Blagden talk about their roles, adding their unique insights into what makes Vikings such a success. Read more

Dirk Hoogstra, History Channel’s EVP of Programming/Development Talks About “Vikings”

Dirk Hoogstra
Dirk Hoogstra

HISTORY Channel’s first scripted series—Vikings—conquered the cable channels, capturing 4.6 million total viewers, making it the most-watched cable series in the hour. Created and written by Michael Hirst (Elizabeth, The Tudors), Vikings is packed with conflict, warfare and bloodshed.

The family saga follows the adventures and conquests of Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) and brother Rollo (Clive Standen). Deeply frustrated by the unadventurous policies of local chieftain Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne) and his wife Siggy (Jessalyn Gilsig), Ragnar and Rollo set out to invade the British Isles. Ragnar’s wife, Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) keeps the home fires burning, fending off foes with admirable skill. Representing the conquered is Athelstan (George Blagden), a young, innocent Christian monk captured by Ragnar on his first raid on England.

In this one-on-one interview, Dirk Hoogstra, History Channel’s EVP of Programming and Development provides some key insights into the genesis of this groundbreaking new series.

Vikings has some similarities to Spartacus—the violence, the epic nature and historical drama of a period series—yet, in many ways, Vikings stands apart. How was the concept of Vikings created?

Dirk Hoogstra: It was borne out of the creative mind of Michael Hurst. He is a lover of history. He literally devoured every book he could find on the Vikings. He tried to bring their world to live, a world not many people know much about. The Vikings didn’t have their own written language or ways to document their won history. A lot of their history comes from what the monks wrote about them. Of course, they had an agenda that kind of demonized them. So Michael thought that no one had ever done this from the Vikings’ perspective—seeing them not just as raiders and pilagers, but what they were like as human beings. And that’s what we got really excited about as a completely unique offering.

Hoogstra, Fimmel, Winnick & Blagden
Hoogstra, Fimmel, Winnick & Blagden

It appears you have a delicate balance between making the characters sympathetic and not. They strike against the monks, who are basically innocent people, then they go into a church and they kill those people.

DH: Absolutely. We had to be true to who they were and what they did. At the same time, we show their family life, and you get into that grey area, rooting for someone who’s about to kill innocent people and take their stuff. It’s definitely a delicate balance and we knew that we wanted the viewers to be rooting for the Vikings, for Ragnar and Lagertha. So you can’t look at them and say, these were pure, heroic, always morally correct people. There’s ambiguity there, but I think that’s what feels authentic about it.

Ragnar has this conflict with his brother. Why was that created?

DH: There were rivalries and a concern that your sons would be more famous than you. Michael just wanted to incorporate the things that we know about these people. The family rivalries were part of their culture. Being the most famous, having the biggest adventures, and being recognized by the gods was important to them. You have to build conflict otherwise you won’t have a great story. That rivalry with Rollo was something that Michael could really exploit in the series.

Will Ragnar become more sympathetic as the series moves on? Will he do some good deeds?

DH: His ambition sometimes clouds his judgment. Because he believes he’s descended directly from Odin, he thinks he’s destined for great things, that he’s owed some sons. He’s also a curious guy. He wants to know about these other places and other gods, so he’s really driven by that quest for knowledge and adventure.

Will Ragnar settle down in a British Isle or always return to his homeland?

DH: That hasn’t been written yet. Michael has already started working on future scripts, even though we haven’t officially green-lit a subsequent season. That said, we wanted to know, where would your take the story. He’s already started working on that part of it. But it’s still a little early to know where Michael’s head is when it comes to the destiny of Ragnar.

What about Ragnar’s wife? What’s her storyline going to be?

DH: Hard to talk about it without revealing too much. But there will be some conflict ahead for them.

Will Ragnar have an ongoing conflict with his brother, or will they learn to get along?

DH: That also proves out toward the end of this season. If we get into the next season, that conflict will be at the forefront of what I’ve seen so far.

An Interview with Beata Dalton in “Dead Man Down”

Beata Dalton
Beata Dalton

When beautiful and talented Beata Dalton landed her breakout role in the upcoming action thriller Dead Man Down, she was elated. The highly anticipated neo-noir film presented an opportunity to work with Niels Arden Oplev, the acclaimed director of the Swedish International hit The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. As Anka, the wife of a New York City enforcer, played by Colin Farrell, Dalton joins a stellar cast that also includes Terrence Howard, Noomi Rapace and Dominic Cooper. In this one-on-one interview, Dalton reveals how she landed the role, what it was like working with Colin Farrell and Niels Oplev and the many passions that drive her to grow as a versatile actress. Read more

Director Cate Shortland on Her Post-WW II film, “LORE”

Director Cate Shortland
Director Cate Shortland

After her successful feature debut with Somersault, Australian director Cate Shortland focused her talents on adapting Rachel Seiffert’s “The Dark Room”—a novel set in post WW II Germany—to the film Lore.

Lore follows the lives of five German siblings at the onset of the Third Reich’s collapse. The film stars Saskia Rosendahl, Hans-Jochen Wagner, Ursina Lardi, Nele Trebs, Mika Seidel, Andre Frid and Kai Malina. Lore forces its key characters to address the physical and emotional challenges imposed by a defeated nation and the lingering prejudice instilled by parents, neighbors and Hitler’s media and schooling. Read more

“Lore” Delivers Eye-Opening Look at WW II’s Aftermath

Lore (Saskia Rosendahl)
Lore (Saskia Rosendahl)

After her successful feature debut with Somersault, Australian director Cate Shortland  has focused her talents on adapting Rachel Seiffert’s “The Dark Room,” an introspective novel set in post WW II Germany.

Sensual, layered in its complexity and often bleak, Lore follows the lives of five German siblings at the onset of the Third Reich’s collapse. Lore (Saskia Rosendahl) watches as her S.S. Nazi father (Hans-Jochen Wagner) and Hitler idolizing mother (Ursina Lardi) are taken into custody by Allied forces. After begging  neighbors for scraps of food, 14-year old Lore decides to take her younger charges through Germany’s war-torn countryside to seek out their grandmother in Hamburg.

Lore (Saskia Rosendahl),  Liesel (Nele Trebs), Jurgen (Mika Seidel),  Gunther (Andre Frid), and Thomas (Kai Malina)
Lore (Saskia Rosendahl), Liesel (Nele Trebs), Jurgen (Mika Seidel), Gunther (Andre Frid), and Thomas (Kai Malina)

The 500-mile journey is both grueling and eye-opening as Lore trudges from abandoned home to empty bomb factory in search of shelter and food. Keeping track of young sister Liesel (Nele Trebs), twin boys Jurgen (Mika Seidel) and Gunther (Andre Frid), and caring for baby Peter makes her trek increasingly arduous.

When she encounters a young Jewish refugee  Thomas (Kai Malina), Lore comes to grips with the prejudice instilled by her parents and upbringing.  She initially rejects him, but discovers that she needs him to survive. In a stark scene of guilt and awakening, she approaches a wall covered with graphic Holocaust photographs. A growing maturity forces her to place in balance what is plainly before her eyes and a lifetime of propaganda ingrained by parents, neighbors and Hitler’s media and schooling.

Lore_4fullShot in tactile and lingering close-ups, Lore takes its time to convey subtle messages of where we are at any given moment.  Whether it’s a German in a chair with a self-inflicted gunshot through the eye or Lore’s sexual experimentation at the hands of Thomas, the film’s direction is richly nuanced. To its credit, Lore never goes too far in either direction, letting the audience interpret and judge.

 

SPARTACUS: WAR OF THE DAMNED…The Grand Finale Begins

Spartacus (Liam McIntyre)

The blood and sex continue in this final third season of Spartacus War of the Demned. On the heels of Gaius Claudius Glaber’s inglorious defeat, Spartacus (Liam McIntyre) continues to amass a growing army to outwit and outfight Rome’s best commanders.

Having swelled his to ranks to more than 30,000 slaves, Spartacus and his loyal band of brothers–Manu Bennett (Crixus), Dustin Clare (Gannicus), and Dan Feuerriegel (Agron) have indeed given Rome reason to tremble. No less capable with blade and skill are Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Naevia) and Ellen Hollman (Saxa) who finally “connects” with Gannicus.

A frustrated Rome finally turns to ambitious Marcus Crassus (Simon Merrells) to build an army powerful enough to crush the slave rebellion. Crassus is unlike any Roman commander thus far, enlisting a lanista-trained gladiator to sharpen his personal fighting skills in anticipation of a sine missione confrontation with Spartacus. Crassus is portrayed with unusual complexity, a sympathetic, noble character with a wife and two sons–his oldest being Tiberius (Christian Antidormi), who struggles to prove himself. Read more

Cosmopolis…Tedious Portrayal of Today’s Young Uber Rich

Based on a novel by Don DeLillo, Cosmopolis is morosely immersive in its condemnation of the Wall Street uber rich. Personified by Eric Michael Packer (Robert Pattinson), the film explores the growing disconnect the 28-year-old asset manager encounters with his surroundings, his wife, sex and his fortune.

While the direction is admirable and classic Cronenberg, what’s missing is the empathy of Eastern Promises and psychological fascination of Crash—two landmark Cronenberg successes. In the wake of our recent financial collapse, Cosmopolis presents us with nothing new: yes, Wall Street can be evil; yes, the rich are self-absorbed, disconnected and cold; yes, if we continue down this path, there will be riots in the streets. The freshness here is only in the direction, not in the narrative or dialog.

The film is shot almost entirely in a corporate stretch limo, fully equipped with financial readout screens showing Packer’s second-by-zeptosecond financial demise. His two consultants–Jay Baruchel and Philip Nozuka–mouth phrases intended to be deeply incisive, but are instead, vacuous and often childish. His chief theoretician, Vija (Samantha Morton) prattles on about capitalism while his doctor administers a prostate exam to a nude Packer, a scene that verges on the ludicrous. Read more

Compliance Pits Obedience to Authority Against Conscience

Written and directed by Craig Zobel, Compliance challenges viewers with just how far they would go to follow authority. Set in a fast-food chicken franchise, 60-ish manager Sandra (Ann Dowd) is faced with a heavy Friday-night crowd, a bacon shortage, and young employees who would rather be partying.

When a man who identifies himself as police officer Daniels (Pat Healy) calls that evening and informs Sandra that Becky (Dreama Walker), one of her teen counter girls has taken money out of a customer’s purse, the film kicks into emotional high gear.

Daniels claims he is working with Sandra’s regional manager and has some surveillance footage to back up his claim. Sandra, follows Daniel’s instructions and confronts Becky in a back room, where she searches her belongings and reluctantly agrees to strip-search the teen. Daniels knows how to press all the right buttons with his callers and he does so with veiled delight, even to the point of insisting they call him “sir”. Read more

An Interview with Anne Heche

photo courtesy of Brian Bowen Smith

A versatile and highly talented actress, writer and director, Anne Heche made her big-screen debut with a brief appearance in The Adventures of Huck Finn.

Her first leading role in the big-budget romantic adventure Six Days Seven Nights with Harrison Ford catapulted her to prominence. She landed her second leading role in the exceptional drama Return to Paradise.

TV fans applaud her exemplary performances in Gracie’s Choice, The Dead Will Tell, and recurring guest roles on “Everwood,” “Nip/Tuck” and her own primetime series, “Men in Trees.” She later landed a featured role in the independent film Spread with Ashton Kutcher and the indie comedy Cedar Rapids.

In That’s What She Said, Dee Dee (Anne Heche), Bebe (Marcia DeBonis) and their new acquaintance, Clementine (Alia Shawkat) embark on a series of misadventures in New York City. Based on writer/actress Kellie Overbey’s play Girl Talk, the delightful, low budget indie has some laugh out loud moments that bring out the pain and often crushing disappointments endured by women seeking love and acceptance. In this interview, Anne Heche talks about the film, its humor and pathos, and the talented ensemble cast that brought it to life.

The scene where you’re brushing your teeth while smoking a cigarette was a riot.

Anne Heche: When I read that in the script, I thought, if I can pull this one scene off, this is going to be a funny movie. I would practice it because it’s such an odd choice to make as a human being–to do both of those things at the same time. I thought, this is only going to get worse–she is a mess, she is one hot mess. My whole preparation for that character was making her even more disastrous than a girl who was smoking while brushing her teeth.

What attracted you to the role of Dee Dee?

AH: That one scene. What I’m always wondering about any character I play is, can I make it truthful?  If I can make her truthful then I’m hoping I can pull it off. Dee Dee is such a self-destructive personality, which is heartbreaking. The best of these characters are the ones that can be redeemed. So it’s my great hope that that was going to happen in the movie and that the lower she began, the bigger and taller the mountain she needed to climb.  So I think we started pretty low, for sure. It was just fun to figure out how to really make her resist any hope of growing up.  And I love that about this movie. I also love that the people helping her climb were also disasters.  Nobody in this movie is a hero. There’s no nice, sweet character.  They’re all have zero self esteem. They don’t like themselves or each other. That’s an equation for comedy. I wanted to do that in this movie.

It’s basically a study of flawed characters. What do you think people will take away from the film?

AH: I think, people would say, “Thank God there’s a movie where I can actually see myself.” Nobody has a great day every day. These girls never have a great day. I think it’s really a surprise to see the worst possible image of yourself and what we laugh at. So I think anyone watching this movie will find their worst possible self in one of these moments in the film.

Were changes made to the script to include how well the three of you played off each other? It was a delight to watch you and the cast bring this film to life.

AH: Thank you. One of the things we really needed to do was unheard of–and that was to rehearse. Because, we were filming in so many spots in New York, we didn’t know if we’d be getting kicked off and get another take, let alone the fact that our film budget was very low. We didn’t want to waste any time on film not getting it right. So in our rehearsals, we definitely found some fun rhythms using Alia’s and Marcia’s personality to see how we contrast each other. We found some really funny nuances, but I will say this script was so tight and so funny with the characters. Our writer, Kellie Overbey worked so hard for years to make this film work. So the words sang from the very beginning. We added a couple of jokes but it was really there.

Did you like the physicality of the script—fighting on the floor with Marcia?

AH: Like I said, if you brush your teeth and smoke at the same time, you can’t start there and not do anything crazier than that. So I couldn’t wait to go through the script to see what else was going to happen. And when I read that we were going to get into a fistfight, I was like, get outta here! That was really raw. To have girls really take each other down. You want to own that and earn that. I was so proud that someone had written that kind of balsy physicality for women and so thrilled to be asked to play it. We were bruised, I’m not kidding you, honestly, from head to toe. We didn’t have enough budget, so we didn’t have a blanket to rehearse on. We were throwing each other down, morning, noon and night. We could hardly walk when we were done.

So no stunt doubles?

AH: We hardly got catering.  The food we ate was mostly leftovers. We always shot at weird times because we had to be working in places that we didn’t really have to rent.  So the bar where we ended up shooting that fight scene, we had to start shooting at four o’clock in the morning when the bar closed, and stop at four o’clock in the afternoon when the bar opened. We were all just struggling to have a cup of coffee. I came in one morning for breakfast, and on the craft service table where you’d hope to get a cup of coffee we found leftover snack Dorito bags from a previous lunch.  So I said, “I know you asked me to do this movie for you, but Doritos for breakfast?”

The ensemble cast really clicks, how did you react when you discovered who would be in the film?

AH: When I met with Carrie and Kellie, they told me that Marcia was someone they believed in from doing the play and they wanted to hire her. So I loved that they were giving their friends that much commitment and belief. I always thought there was one girl that could play Clementine, so I asked them if they would reach out to Alia and that was that.  The other characters are friends of Carrie’s and Kellie’s from New York, and Kellie is one of the girls in it.  Kellie and I did a play called 20th Century together with Alec Baldwin, and Alec gave me the script and told me that you’re the only girl fucked up enough to pull this off. I really loved that he said that and believed in me enough to give me this role. I think it’s a killer role and it was an amazing experience.

Do you prefer doing these dialog heavy comedies?

AH: It’s like bringing the theater to film. You don’t get to do that very often. This is a dialog driven piece. I thought it was a riot. You don’t usually get to talk that much on screen, and you definitely don’t get to talk that much if you’re a girl. It was fun to be in a film with this many chicks all talking at the same time.

 

Summer Qing Talks About “Looper”

A native of Beijing, Summer Qing made her film debut as the female lead in Chen Kaige’s 1990 Cannes Film Festival entry, Life on a String. Soon after, she played the lead in Lin Zifeng’s Kuang Crazy, and was nominated for Best Actress in China’s Hundred Flowers awards.

Her work in the TV series, “Close to Forbidden City” catapulted her national prominence as a sweet-natured ingenue. Qing has since appeared in the Chinese historical epic, The Emperor’s Shadow. She was also the voice of Mulan, in the Disney animated film of the same name. In 2007, she was featured in the Hong Kong action hit, Flash Point. She is perhaps best known in Asia for her pivotal role of Soong Ching-ling in the hugely successful 2009 film The Founding of a Republic for which Qing won a Hundred Flowers Award for Best Supporting Actress.

In 2011, Qing joined the cast of Looper, her first Hollywood production. A time-travel action film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt, Looper depicts a future where crime syndicates can send their enemies back in time to be “wacked” by killers known as ‘loopers.’ When hit man, Joe (Gordon-Levitt) learns that the mob wants to close the loop by sending back Joe’s future self (Willis), Old Joe is reluctant to give up his “looped life” with his wife (Qing). The film includes some head-spinning intersecting storylines that weave telekinesis with intricate time-paradox plotting. In this one-on-one interview, Qing reveals how she landed the role, her views about Looper and the challenges she faced in working with her first major Hollywood production.

What attracted you to the role of playing Joe’s wife?

Summer Qing: It was a great script and when I read it, I was impressed by the amazing story-telling talents of writer/director Rian Johnson. I liked the fact that my character was a believable Chinese character in this futuristic story. I also enjoyed the opportunity to work with Bruce Willis.

Did you audition for the role of Joe’s wife in Looper? If so, what was that like?

SQ: I didn’t audition for the role. Rian had seen some of my previous work and said I had the ideal figure for this woman. He set up a video conference call with me, then made the decision right there to cast me in the role of Joe’s wife.

How did you prepare for the role of Joe’s wife?

SQ: The character didn’t present that great a challenge. I had already played similar characters in some of my other films. The challenge was dealing with the language barrier, since everyone on the crew and cast spoke English. I anticipated having to deal with some cultural differences, but once I arrived on set, I realized that I was able to connect with the cast and crew.

Looper was your first Hollywood production, what are some of major differences when working in Hollywood as opposed to Asia?

SQ: I really feel lucky to be part of Looper because it was my first Hollywood film. I always felt cared for the whole time I was on set by the cast and crew. You can’t really see a difference in production between Hollywood and Asian films. There are good and bad films in both venues. Luckily, I’ve had the good fortune of being part of well-produced films in China and now Hollywood.

You appeared in the Hong Kong action movie Flash Point. How would you compare the two action-packed movies?

SQ: I prefer Looper and like the fact that my character has such a strong presence in the story. I had so much fun working with Bruce Willis. In comparing the two films, I would say that they are very different in how the story unfolds.

When you read the script—a film about people being sent back in time to be killed by their younger self–what did you think about this compelling time-travel concept?

SQ: I was very impressed with the script and applaud Rian for bringing this interesting story to life.

What was it like working with Rian Johnson?

SQ: He’s a great director and I had a wonderful experience working with him. He was very quiet when I first met him, but once I was on set, he was very complimentary of my work. He provided excellent direction and was very helpful. I look forward to working with him again.

What was it like working with Bruce Willis?

SQ: I loved working with him. He’s a loving, caring person. He’s was such a gentleman. I’ll never forget the day I arrived on the set. I was about to shoot a very emotional scene with Bruce, but we didn’t really know each other at that point. To break the ice, he came over to me, pulled me into his arms and held me for an entire minute without saying a word. This set the tone for our two characters, that we were a real couple. I was ready to play the role of Joe’s wife.

Do you prefer dramatic films that have some action or action films that have a bit of drama?

SQ: I prefer action films with a lot of drama. I’ve made many action films in China.

When did you realize you wanted to become an actress?

SQ: Not until my sophomore year in film school. At the Beijing Film Academy.

What’s your favorite Hollywood movie?

SQ: I have so many. But one would be The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Another is the latest Batman. I also like the TV series “Homeland.” I like Claire Danes’ character–Carrie Mathison.

Who is your favorite Hollywood actress?

SQ: I’ve always admired Meryl Streep when I was in school. I also like Kate Blanchett, Claire Danes and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

What are you working on now—anything new?

SQ: I’ll be working with the renowned writer/theater director Stan Lai on an 8-hour play to be produced in China. We’re hoping to show it in the US.

Bait 3D…Teeth but not Enough Bite

Australian director Kimble Rendall’s shark action thriller, Bait 3D has all the right ingredients: sincere love story, goofball love story, cute yappy little dog, good bad guy and bad bad guy. All unite in a meat grinder plot when two great whites are washed ashore in an earthquake produced title wave. A wave that half submerges a supermarket. Unbelievable? Face it, we’ve seen worse.

The 3D effects seem perfunctory, but watchable, as is the film, which relies a bit too heavily on stories we’ve seen before. The drama is skeletal and fleeting, combining some novel, albeit predictable, dramatic twists. While Bait doesn’t rise to the level of full blown drama, we’re left hoping it delivers some truly unique “shark bites man” stuff (as in the gory but more suspense-filled Piranha). But here. too we’re left wanting.

When lifeguard Josh (who is too hungover from a binge) lets best friend Rory paddle out to check on a buoy, we just know something bad will happen: Rory gets swallowed by a great white. Too grief stricken, Josh lets his relationship with Tina end with a whimper of guilt.

One year later, Josh, working at the Oceania supermarket, runs into Tina with her new boyfriend Steven (Qi Yuwu). At this point, were introduced to a grab-bag mix of characters who we guess will soon become chum for two great whites eager to snack on some “long pig” at the good old Oceania.

As Bait unfolds, we meet supermarket manager (Adrian Pang) who fires store clerk Ryan (Alex Russell) when his girlfriend Jaime (Phoebe Tonkin) is caught shoplifting. The cop who arrives on the scene is none other Jaime’s fed up dad (Martin Sacks). There’s also Doyle (Julian McMahon) who holds up the supermarket with selfish thug Kirby (Dan Wyllie).

The ensemble characters of chum bait continues in the subterranean parking lot. Here, were introduced to the vacuous duo played by Lincoln Lewis and Cariba Heine, who are trapped in their car.

Things unwind rather predictably at this point as the good guys team up with one of the bad guys (they came to rob Oceania, but that pesky title wave and sharks got in the way) to outsmart the great whites and head for the exit without being eaten.

And therein lies the fun or lack of it. In a laughable tribute to Jaws, Steven is suited up in wire shelving and shopping baskets, which brings to mind Quint’s unforgettable warning, “Cage goes in the water, you go in the water. Shark’s in the water. Our shark. (sings) Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies. Farewell and adieu, you ladies of Spain…”

Interview with Spartacus’ Cynthia Addai-Robinson

photos by Alex A. Kecskes
photos by Alex A. Kecskes

Beautiful and stylish Cynthia Addai-Robinson was born in London to a mother from Ghana and a father from America. She was raised in the US by her mom in a suburb of Washington, DC.

A graduate of NYU’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts, her growing TV credits include guest starring roles on “CSI: NY,” “CSI: Miami,” and “Numbers.” Her recent recurring roles include F/X’s “Dirt” and ABC’s “Flash Forward.” On the big screen, she most recently appeared opposite Zoe Saldana in Columbiana.

As the battle-hardened slave girl in “Spartacus: War of the Damned,” Robinson continues her role as Crixus’ love interest, Naevia. In this roundtable interview, she reveals how she landed and developed the role, and what fans can expect in the series climactic final season.

Is Naevia the head female of the camp now?

Cynthia Addai-Robinson: I’m one of the few ladies. They’re important to the story. Of course, we lost a lot of good ones—Lucretia, Illythia, Mira. But fans love the new and returning female characters. Now we have myself, Ellen Hollman (Saxa), Anna Hutchison (Laeta), Jenna Lind (Kore) and Gwendoline Taylor (Sibyl).

Did you have to “boot camp” with the boys?

CAR: I had to boot camp with the boys. We had about a month of training—including lifting weights. I’d never done anything like that before in my life. The first week, it was like trying to get myself out of the bathtub, flipping around because my muscles were limp. I was really proud of myself because it was not only a physical challenge but a harder mental one. It really served to bond the group. We stuck together. We’d sweat and cheer each other on. You will definitely see the results of all our training.

What about your relationship with Crixus? How will that continue or change?

CAR: It will definitely continue. I can’t give too much away, but in response to the storyline, at the end of the day, Manu and I were really passionate about honoring the love story, the fact that we’ve gone to hell and back. Who wouldn’t want that level of love? So you’ll difintely see those two characters move forward.

At the beginning of the season, Manu was saying that Crixus and Naevia were in a good place for a short time. Was it nice for you to play a happy character, at least for a little bit?

CAR: My God, she’s been through so much. This is such a heightened environment that if you can find those small moments of levity and just being able to crack a smile. They’re few and far between, but when they do happen, it’s interesting to see those small moments, the conversations behind closed doors. I think those are the things that people feel connected to. So yeah, you’ll still see a few laughs in there.

Did you audition for the role? If so, what was that like?

CAR: When I auditioned for the role, I was in Los Angeles. And when I didn’t hear anything, I thought, okay, that went away. Then I got a call telling me that Steven DeKnight wanted to meet me. So I met with him and he said, “How’d you like to go to New Zealand and swing around a sword?” So I said, “okay.”  Then I had a week to pack up my life and go to New Zealand. It was a dream come true, going to this exotic location, meeting all these amazing people, and playing a role that’s unlike anything on television right now. It’s a female role that gets to kick ass, so I feel pretty lucky.

Will the character of Naevia continue to evolve?

CAR: When the character of Naevia was first established, she was pretty naive. Basically, just a young slave girl. Life was pretty much laid out for her: She was living in the house of Batiatus and serving Lucretia. All the things that Naevia experienced forced her to become a woman. She’s a survivor. There’s a reason why she’s still alive after everything that’s happened.

What would you like to see happen to Naevia at the end of this final season?

CAR: That’s a tough one. We’re halfway through filming, so we haven’t actually done the things that are down the road. There’s sort of an inevitability to some of these story lines. I’m just happy to be in the story. And the response so far has been great. We’ll see how it all ends. There’s still some stuff that I don’t know. Who knows, if I’m killed, maybe I’ll come back as a zombie (laughs).

The climactic final season of “Spartacus: War of the Damned” will begin airing in January 2013. Globally, the series will air in 150 countries in more than 15 languages. The Emmy® nominated series, with its groundbreaking production and visual style, will also feature new sets, including a full city, a Roman Villa, and the scene of the epic battle along the Appian Way.

 

Manu Bennett talks about “Spartacus: War of the Damned”

photos by Alex A. Kecskes

Best known to worldwide audiences as Crixus, the honor-bound gladiator from Gaul, New Zealand born Manu Bennett has appeared in various films and TV dramas.

His film credits include Lantana opposite Anthony La Paglia and Tomoko opposite Japanese actress Rumiko Koyangi. He also co-stared with Robert Patrick in The Marine and Vinnie Jones and Steve Austin in The Condemned.

His TV credits include, ‘Shortland Steet” ‘Street Legal,” “Mataku,” and “Bike Wars: Brothers in Arms.”

In this roundtable interview, Bennett talks about his changing role in “Spartacus: War of the Damned” and what viewers can expect in the series’ action-packed final season. Read more