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 Europa Report’s Karolina Wydra, Director Sebastian Cordero, and Producer Ben Browning

 

Karolina Wydra (photo Magnet Releasing)
Karolina Wydra (photo Magnet Releasing)

Employing the suspenseful found-footage format used in horror films, Europa Report details—in the most scientifically accurate sequences ever filmed—a manned mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa.

Suspecting life under Europa’s ice-covered oceans, scientists played by Michael Nyqvist, Sharlto Copley, Daniel Wu, Karolina Wydra, Christian Camargo and Anamaria Marinca face the boredom of prolonged space flight as well as the unforgiving lethality of space exploration. In this roundtable interview, actress Karolina Wydra, director Sebastian Cordero, and producer Ben Browning reveal their passion for this film and the many challenges they faced in bringing it to life.

What was it like working in such a claustrophobic set with eight cameras running simultaneously? Had you ever done anything like that before?

Karolina Wydra (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)
Karolina Wydra (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

Karolina Wydra: I’ve never done anything like that and I don’t think I ever will. Although, that’s another thing that drew me to the project–wondering how they were going to do it. I said, wow, I’ve never heard of that being done. I think being in the ship, closed off and in that claustrophobic environment added to the authenticity of our performance.  You knew where the cameras were but there was no one else around except for the actors inside the ship doing the scene.

Were you interested in this type of material before you accepted the role?  

Karolina: I like science and the biggest thing that drew me to this project was the character. It was Katya’s strength, her courage, and her passion for research and love of discovery. She’d never been to space and when she got the opportunity to go, she jumped on it. Going on that journey, I knew would be challenging because it’s so far removed from who Karolina is—I’m not a scientist, I’m not a marine biologist. Doing the research and finding the character was something I was super excited about.

Karolina Wydra (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)
Karolina Wydra
(photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

How did you prepare for the role?

Karolina: We had two weeks of rehearsal before we started shooting and I talked to marine biologists. I also read a lot of books on oceanography to try to understand the basics of this science. There were many discussions with the cast in breaking things down, and how people behave in space and how they behave when something terrible happens. Another thing I love about this film is how these scientists react to peril or the unknown. When I watch sci-fi films, people react in such a dramatic way when something unexpected happens, but that’s not how scientists react. They’ve been trained to specifically go through these moments of stress and not have these dramatic reactions.

 

What was it like making this film?

Director Sebastian Cordero (photo Magnet Releasing)
Director Sebastian Cordero (photo Magnet Releasing)

Sebastian Cordero: It was a big challenge, but extremely exciting. There is a childhood dream in all of us to play astronaut and to design a mission. I didn’t think it would happen in my career as a filmmaker, but the opportunity came and the script was good and the project was good, and things were coming together nicely. It was a short shoot and a very ambitious film with a modest budget for a lot of visual effects and everything looking good. You’re also dealing with a real subject—to go to Europa. So you don’t want to betray that ambition by portraying it in a way that wouldn’t do it justice.

Ben Browning:  I’ll try to describe what the blueprint was: Based in real time, alternative history, all documentary, found footage, shoot in 18 days, in a spaceship we were going to build, eight cameras running at the same time, in New York. It blew people’s minds when we were trying to put it together. There were easier things to try but the objective was to take a crystal clear notion of what it would be like if we found life and extrapolate it. We’d talk to the JPL guys. And while we had some popular science working knowledge, it was a long way from, “give us a working scenario of how this could really happen.”

Producer Ben Browning (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)
Producer Ben Browning
(photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

What was the coolest thing you did on set?

Sebastian: When we got to the last act, after the ship is distressed, it was interesting to see to what extremes we could take the ship and to reflect that via the cameras. From the very beginning, we talked about giving each camera a personality. How will this camera fall? How will that one break down? How will the focus stop working on another camera, and how much tension will that create? It’s a tool that in any other film, I would not use. Here, the deteriorating cameras worked great in the found-footage format.

What is it about the subject matter that attracted all three of you?

Sebastian: On my end, it wasn’t so much about space exploration, but simply about exploration. The fact that as human beings, we have that dream to explore more, to see what’s on the “other side.” There’s always that instinct to go further, and space exploration is really the epitome of that. It’s a situation where you’re really going into unknown territory. And Europa’s very seductive as a moon, a celestial body. It’s significant in our history in that for Galileo, it was the first moving body that wasn’t rotating around us but around another planet. Knowing that we’re not the center of the universe drives you forward.

There’s an image we see at the end of the film. How much more do you know about it than what the audience sees? Do you have a visualization of what else that image is?

Ben: I think it’s reasonable to say that they find a creature. Yes, extensive drawings were researched. And we talked to biologists to determine what it could be, where would it live, what would it do, the bioluminescence, the radiation. So, yeah, we have a pretty good idea of what we think it is.

Europa Report (Magnet Releasing)
Europa Report (Magnet Releasing)

Sebastian: There was quite a bit of research that led to that fictional probability. At the same time, from the very beginning, we said, it was going to be clear that we see something, but there was also a real value in not seeing more of it and in keeping that mystery, even to the point of not showing how large it is. You know it’s big, but is it way bigger? I thought, from the very beginning that it would be nice to have an H.P. Lovecraft kind of creature, but at the same time, there’s so many types of creatures here on earth, which gave us so much to play with. We felt that leaving some ambiguity was important for the film to work.

Karolina: That’s what I love about the ending. People sacrifice their lives for research and that the end was so much in your face. It leaves you with that mystery. They found something but it’s about the lives of these astronauts.

Ben: That was a big part of the creature, too. We knew that when they found something, they couldn’t be terrified of it. They wouldn’t hunt it down. Or shoot it.

 

An Interview with Andrea Riseborough

Most recently cast opposite Tom Cruise in the futuristic sci-fi thriller Oblivion, the talented Andrea Riseborough has appeared in such diverse films as Happy Go Lucky, Made in Dagenham and W.E.

In Shadow Dancer, Riseborough joins Clive Owen in a dramatic thriller set in 1990s Belfast. As an active member of the IRA, Riseborough’s Collette McVeigh becomes an informant for MI5 after being arrested for an aborted IRA bomb plot in London. The single mother is offered two choices: lose her son and face a 25-year prison sentence or return to Belfast to spy on her own family. Read more

An Interview with Carrie Preston

 

Carrie Preston-Russell Baer
Carrie Preston-Russell Baer

A gifted actress, director and producer, Carrie Preston has made a name for herself by playing pivotal roles in some of television and film’s most memorable projects. Most recently known for her roles as Arlene, the sassy redhead waitress in HBO’s True Blood, and quirky lawyer, Elsbeth Tascioni in the Emmy Winning The Good Wife, Preston has appeared in several episodes of CBS’ Person of Interest. Playing alongside real-life husband Michael Emerson, Preston reprised her role as Grace Hendricks, the former fiancée of Harold Finch. In this one-on-one interview, Preston shares some insights into what it’s like playing a courtship role with her husband.

Besides working with your husband, what do you like about playing Grace in Person of Interest?

Carrie Preston: It’s fun to play a character that is closer to me than some of the other characters I’ve been playing recently. So that’s been a real treat. Obviously, working with Michael comes quite naturally. There’s no pretending to be in love with him. So that’s been exciting. And the show’s just been really fun. I would definitely be watching the show even if I weren’t doing these guest appearances with Michael.

Do you and Michael sometimes ad-lib lines or do you always follow the script?

CP: We follow the script in this show. The writers are really good, so there’s no need to do any improv work.

imageIs it difficult to play characters that are just getting to know each other when you’ve known each other for so long?

CP: It’s interesting because when you’re doing something like that, you do forget you know the other person, and you really do get into the mind and the rhythms of the character that you’re playing. What’s nice is obviously having a comfort level with the other actor. But once the camera starts rolling and you’re saying these words that aren’t really your words and you’re playing a scene that is not from your own real life, you just forget all those things.  You get caught up in the moment and in the story, and your responsibilities in pushing that story forward.

The proposal scene in last week’s episode was very romantic. Was Michael’s real proposal even more so?

CP: It was fun to shoot that proposal and to remember when we got engaged. It was a Sunday, and we were out having brunch at our favorite place in the East Village. It was a total surprise. I had no idea it was coming, and the next thing I know, Michael is talking about taking our relationship to the next level and he brings out this family ring and suddenly I was sobbing and laughing. We were thrilled and it was a beautiful day in June in New York City. In Person of Interest, the day we shot that scene, it was very cold, so we were basically freezing and trying to not to think about how cold we were. I was very happy to see how they edited that together. The whole thing was pretty much the POV of the machine, which I thought was very clever and cool. They shot it in several different ways, and I didn’t know how they were going to piece it together. Finch’s whole life is the machine so it also witnessed it. The machine had been responsible for us getting together, so the machine is really the matchmaker.

Carrie Preston-Russell Baer
Carrie Preston-Russell Baer

Was your real first date as charming as the coffee shop scene in Person of Interest?

CP: It was. We were both doing a production of Hamlet at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. We had met during rehearsals and some of the social get-togethers with the cast. Then he asked me to join him for a Christmas party, which was basically for the company of Alabama Shakespeare Festival. When you’re in a small company like that, it sends ripples through the room with people wondering, “…did they come together?” From that moment on, we were smitten, in love and not looking back.

Is Michael really a computer wiz? Or are you?

CP (laughs): Michael can barely turn a computer on. He’d be the first to admit it. I’m definitely the tech person in the family. It is kind of ironic that he’s playing this computer expert.

Do you think the show says something about where we’re headed in terms of personal privacy?

CP: I do. I think the show is right on target there. There are machines already in place. They’re not as sophisticated, but look how quickly they caught the Boston bombers with everyone recording in the area. Big Brother is definitely watching and we are participating. All of us have our phones and we’re documenting things. In a way, it provides a safety net but it could also be a little intrusive. It makes you wonder.

Carrie Preston-IMDB
Carrie Preston-IMDB

What’s the real Carrie Preston like–Grace, Arlene, or Elsbeth? Are you none of the above or leaning towards one?

CP: You have to find the character within yourself, so I draw on my own personal life and experiences. I would say, I’m very far from Arlene and Elsbeth. Grace, I guess, would be a little close to who I am, but even she is probably a little more shy and intellectual than I am as a person. I’m a Gemini. I have a lot of characters inside me.

Your mother was an artist and you studied fine arts in college. Did you paint those renderings we see on the show?

CP: No. The things I’m painting are created by the prop department. Then I go in and do my sad little squiggles of paint over the painting. They have to restore it so it can be used at the beginning of each take.

Will we be seeing more of you in the Season 3? If so, will Grace and Harold get back together? Will Grace be in danger?

CP: I don’t know. I haven’t seen the scripts. I’m sure if they can work it out, they would want to continue on that story because it shows such a great side of Finch that we don’t get to see anywhere else. In this past episode, Finch saw that Root (Amy Acker) knows who Grace is and might in some way try to harm her, so he’s willing to do whatever he can to prevent that from happening, which is very romantic and sweet.

Carrie Preston - Josh Williams
Carrie Preston – Josh Williams

What else are you doing in terms of film and TV?

CP: I recently finished Beneath the Harvest Sky, a wonderful indie film that I had a supporting role in. It was shot in the very northern part of Maine, near Van Buren on the Canadian border. The place where we were shooting was very remote with no hotels. It’s a part of the country that I don’t think has ever been depicted in film. The filmmakers are documentarians and even though it had a very well written script, they wanted the film to feel like a documentary, so we were encouraged to do a great deal of improv work.

You also just finished Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf. What can you tell us about that one?

CP: It’s about a woman filmmaker who’s creating a version of Virginia Wolf. It’s kind of a movie within a movie. I play Honey in the film. I got to play two different characters in that. The film is just now starting the festival circuit.

What about Vino Veritas?

CP: That’s a great script. It’s about two couples on Halloween night, and one of the women has this special wine that has a truth telling property. Ironically, it also has a Virginia Wolf kind of feel to it. There’s sadness and madness and hilarity.

 

An Interview with Hemlock Grove’s Emilia McCarthy

Emilia McCarthy (photo by S.Markus-Mathurin)
Emilia McCarthy
(photo by S.Markus-Mathurin)

Among the more normal inhabitants of Netflick’s Hemlock Grove is Alyssa Sworn (Emilia McCarthy), the daughter of the town sheriff, Tom (Aaron Douglas). While she appears to be just another teenager, Alyssa had a big secret that dramatically altered the dynamic of many inhabitants of the fictional Pennsylvania town.

The recurring role of Alyssa presents a great opportunity for 15-year old Emilia to introduce herself to a global audience. Emilia began her career playing Laura in two TV movies–Booky and the Secret Santa and Booky’s Crush. She also appeared in the feature film, Babel in 2006. Although still waiting for her breakout role, Emilia knows she made the right career choice in Hemlock Grove.

Emilia is not your average young actress. Coming from a multicultural family, she’s fluent in three languages—English, Spanish and French.  She’s also an accomplished dancer, having performed in productions of Hairspray and Aida.  In this one-on-one interview, Emilia reveals what it’s like playing a teen in Netflick’s gripping horror/thriller.

What attracted you to the role of Alyssa Sworn?

Emilia McCarthy: She’s more of a relatable character for me. She’s a teenage girl in high school. She worrying about boys while everyone else is worrying about werewolves killing people. I think she’s definitely lighter and upbeat compared to all the gloomy characters.

Did you audition for the role? And what was that like?

EM: I did audition in Toronto where I live. I auditioned for Eli Roth, the director. I got the role, and then I had a chemistry test to find my fraternal twin, played by Eliana Jones.

You’re in eight episodes of Hemlock Grove. What’s the most challenging part of playing Alyssa?

EM: Honestly, the only challenging part is that she’s so mean to her friend, Christina, at the beginning. She’s sometimes so inhumane, the things she says. But after awhile, she does become less shallow and grow as a character.

So you’re not a mean girl and you had to draw that out from deep within?

EM: (laughs) I hope I’m not mean. It’s fun to play characters that aren’t like you.

What’s the most enjoyable part?

EM: Probably that’s she’s comic relief. A lot of it (dialog) on the show is ad-libbed. My twin and I did a lot of ad-libbing. I was surprised that they kept a lot of things that we were just saying. Like goofing off.  A lot of things at the end of scenes weren’t in the script, stuff we just ad-libbed. I thought that was really funny.  

Do you work all day and night on location?

EM: Usually, it was nine hours, but sometimes, it was all night and I’d get home at four in the morning. I think it’s exciting to film during the night.

Emilia McCarthy (photo by S.Markus-Mathurin)
Emilia McCarthy
(photo by S.Markus-Mathurin)

So how do you make time for homework?

EM: I kind of juggle school and life and acting. It’s helpful that they have a tutor on set, because we’re under 18. Legally, we do have to have a certain amount of school hours.

(spoiler alert)

So what can you reveal about Alyssa’s big secret?

EM: My final death scene is definitely a surprise. And what happens to the twins is also a surprise and kind of a bummer. But when you think about it, it kind of makes sense because of what’s happened to many of the teenage girls in the series. It’s sad and I’m so upset about that. But I did have fun getting all bloody. But even after what happens to me, you’ve got to keep watching because in episodes 12 and 13, you understand why the teen girls were targeted by this werewolf.

What’s it like being in a series with so much gore, werewolves and violence?

EM: Hemlock Grove was the first show where I performed in the horror genre, so it was new for me, but also fun at the same time. I really enjoyed it. I think there’s a big difference in watching the gore and violence and being behind the camera and seeing how it’s all made. It really puts things in perspective. You don’t expect to see a guy with a bucket of red syrup splashing you with a brush. Once you see that, you’re not so affected by it because you know that it’s not real.

A far cry from Booky and the Secret Santa.

EM: It’s definitely a step up and different.

What do your parents think of you being in a show with so much blood, gore and violence?

EM: They’re cool with it. My character isn’t part of the adult content. I still get bloody because it is a horror show, but my character is light and upbeat, adding comic relief to the show.

Emilia McCarthy (photo by Megan Vincent)
Emilia McCarthy (photo by Megan Vincent)

So is your death scene violent and bloody or is it implied?

EM: It’s violent and bloody and definitely the horror scene you’d expect in Hemlock Grove. There’s a lot of blood, but it’s not too graphic.

 What types of feature films would you like to work in?

EM: If I had a choice, I’d love to portray a strong female lead. I would like to continue in this genre. I did enjoy it a lot. It was a great experience. It’s so out there and so different.

 Would you like a role that has lots of action with you doing martial arts?

EM: That would be so much fun. Kind of like Katniss in Hunger Games.

I read you’re an accomplished dancer.

EM: Yes. That another thing I love to do. It’s kind of my hobby. I’m a part of my local theater here in Castor, Ontario and I’ve been in productions a few years. And that’s cool because I get to combine acting and dancing.

Any chance we’ll see you on Dancing with the Stars?

EM: Oooh. That would be great. That would be so much fun.

What’s your next project?

EM: I have two other series. I just finished filming one called Unlikely Heroes. It’s definitely more light, upbeat and family oriented than Hemlock Grove. And I just started filming another series called Kids Town, and that’s also light and more of a family show.

 All 13 episodes of Hemlock Grove are on Netflix

You can follow Emilia on her twitter @EmiliaaMcCarthy 

 

 

Search for Identity Comes Full Circle in Arthur Newman

Firth & Blunt

A search for identity in two unlikely characters punctuates Arthur Newman, a quirky road film that moves obliquely in directions both predictable and unpredictable. Director Dante Ariola’s feature debut skillfully braids two veteran performers–Colin Firth and Emily Blunt—in a dramedy that’s happier than The Notebook but not as tragic as Blue Valentine.

When Firth’s Wallace Avery seeks to reinvent himself as Arthur Newman, it’s not hard to guess why: he just lost his Fed-Ex job, his ex-wife pities him, and his thirteen-year-old son despises him. After staging his own death, and securing new ID papers, he takes to the road in a new Mercedes convertible. Who is Arthur Newman? A comeback-kid golf pro on his way to Terre Haute to play with the big boys? That’s the plan.

The fly in the ointment is Charlotte Fitzgerald aka Mike (Blunt), a lost soul equally eager to shed her past by using her twin sister’s ID, Michaela. After OD’ing on cough syrup and mixing in a little grand theft auto, she latches onto Arthur like a homeless puppy. To distance herself from her life, Charlotte convinces Arthur to break into empty homes to play dress up and assume the identities of those who live there.

While Arthur finally agrees to the charade, we see in Charlotte the dire need to disconnect from who she is so afraid of becoming. The suggestion is that Arthur may be falling for Charlotte, but we know how these stories inevitably end. The hint comes when Charlotte is arrested for petty theft and absconds with Arthur’s new-identity stash of $24,000. Yet there are enough surprises to keep us engaged—including Charlotte’s sister and Arthur’s arrival at the Terre Haute Country Club.

Their relationship would go nowhere as Wallace and Charlotte, but Norman and Mike dovetail as caricatures in a “this is your fantasy sideshow.” Blunt is exceptionally skilled in this respect, for we’ve seen her turn roles inside out in everything from The Five Year Engagement to Wild Target. Firth plays the manipulated, self-doubting guy who’s lost everything, yet retains that scintilla of hope that drives the film to its conclusion.

Interview With Beauty and the Beast’s Kristin Kreuk

Kristin Kreuk & Jay Ryan (photo by Nino Munoz/The CW)
Kristin Kreuk & Jay Ryan (photo by Nino Munoz/The CW)

A modern day Beauty and Beast fairytale, CW’s update has Catherine (Kristin Kreuk) inexorably connected to Vincent (Jay Ryan) through her scientist mother, who conducted the military medical experiments that changed Vincent into a beast. Catherine first encountered Vincent years earlier, when he saved her from the killers that took her mother’s life. Although the show began primarily as a procedural drama, Beauty and the Beast has morphed into a mythology love story.

In this roundtable interview, Kristin Kreuk talks about the show, her character and what viewers can expect in episodes to come.

Catherine (Kristin Kreuk) Photo by Alex A. Kecskes
Catherine (Kristin Kreuk) Photo by Alex A. Kecskes

How excited were when you found out that Catherine and Vincent were finally getting together?

Kristin Kreuk: I’m happy about that. I think there’s a certain energy to the “will they or won’t they” in any TV relationship, but that goes away. There’s a certain energy to the beginnings of something. But I’m really interested in how two people actually relate, because that’s what love is. Over time, through difficulty, how do you survive this, and they do have a lot of difficulties. But I love them. They can be really funny and honest with each other. They can both screw up and discuss it. And I like that. They’re really a team.

How awkward is it to do those steamy scenes?

KK: I’ve always found it very awkward, but I tell myself, I’m gonna get over this. Like, who cares? It’s a weird environment. And it’s not what people think it is. What I wanted to portray was a loving interaction between two people. Because I see things on TV sometimes, especially for shows with young people, and they’re going, “I’m sexy, you’re so sexy, we’re sexy, let’s make out.” I talked about this with everyone, and I said, I just want this to be as loving as possible. And that’s what we tried to do. That makes it less awkward, because I’m really bad at being sexy.

Now that Tess knows the secret, will she be getting into mischief?

KK: Well, now there are four of us, so there’s more hands on deck. Tess obviously doesn’t know as much about the situation, but I’ve always wanted to see Tess and JT engage with each other, even before we started the show. Those two will be so funny together, since they’re kind of similar and they’re both so biting in their humor. So there’s some good scenes with them. And it becomes Catherine and Tess as a team again, and JT and Vincent as a team. I like that about our show—that kind of Friends team dynamic.

B&B KristinWhat’s the one thing that attracted you to the role?

KK: In part, it was our executive producers, Sherri Cooper-Landsman and Jennifer Levin. That and the role itself: I thought there was a potential for an incredibly strong woman. And I think Catherine is becoming that more and more. I really like her. I think she’s fascinating and I love working on her story lines and developing her.

When you landed the role, did you study the 1987 Linda Hamilton-based series?

KK: I didn’t study it, but I did look at it. I try to understand the underlying metaphors in light of the material we have. It’s very different, I think, although we have a lot of little tributes and homages. There’s so many of them up until the end of our season.

How has the show changed since it began, not so much your character but the show in general?

KK: I think it’s a first season thing; trying to find what the show is. We started as a procedural in many ways and now we’re not. Now it’s a full mythology show. So that’s been really interesting to watch. The writers have had quite the task to build that mythology quickly. You try something and you go, wait a minute. The best thing about this show is the love story and the mythology. So it’s been a real dynamic to see that change.

How much of a problem is Evan going to be in the coming episodes?

KK: It’s going to be a really big issue for them, and Catherine is going to feel a lot of guilt and responsibility for it. Because she didn’t tell him and she handled the situation poorly.

Will he go to the dark side?

KK: That’ll be the struggle you’ll see in the next episode—Evan’s struggle with that, and if he chooses love in Beauty and the Beast themes or not.

Another big conflict throughout the season is Heather, she being Catherine’s roommate and also finding out about Vincent. Will that come up later this season or will she learn more about Vincent?

KK: I think with Heather, and with Darius dying, they’ve kind of put that whole thing out of her mind. So you’ll see Heather again but it’s going to be more about their family. So it will be Heather and dad. Especially when we get into he episode called “anniversary,” which is about the anniversary of Catherine’s mom dying.

B&B Kristin 2Did Catherine handle the things with Vincent and Heather poorly or is it more important that Heather remains in the dark?

KK: I think it’s better that Heather remains in the dark. Does Catherine want her sister to remain in the dark? Obviously, ultimately, no. But for everyone’s safety, which is Catherine’s primary concern, it’s better if Heather remains in the dark. It’s going to get harder for her to do that in her life.

Any thoughts of co-habitation at this early stage?

KK: No thoughts of co-habitation yet. It would be too difficult, too. How’s she going to explain that one? Let’s give that a couple of seasons.

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