Interview with TV writer/producer Jane Espenson

Jane Espenson
Jane Espenson
Jane Espenson (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

A prolific and highly creative writer, Jane Espenson has worked on both situation comedies and serial dramas. She was writer/producer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and shared a Hugo Award for penning the episode “Conversations with Dead People.” She served as co-executive/executive producer for the series Caprica, wrote an unforgettable episode of Game of Thrones, and joined the writing staff of Torchwood. She is currently consulting producer and writer on Once Upon a Time, and has co-written and produced her first independent original web series with co-creator Brad Bell, entitled Husbands. I recently sat down with Jane to discuss her past and present involvement in the shows we love to watch.

You are an absolute wizard with words. How do you develop a scene or sequence?

Jane Espenson: First off, you want a really detailed outline. When Brad and I write together, we both have very similar instincts, but Brad really forces me to think about what each character wants in a scene. It’s weird because while I have more writing experience, I’ll sometimes fall in love with a funny line and Brad will say, “no this has to be on scene and on point.” I think the trick is to know that there’s always another joke. You almost have to write the line not funny first, and make sure it’s saying exactly what you want it to say. You can always find a funny way to say that thing. It’s so easy to fall in love with the funny, but you can be subtle and still have it be a joke. So don’t write the joke first, write the scene first.

When you were writing for Buffy, there was teen angst, humor, and horror—how did you balance all those things and still make it work?

JE: I didn’t always do that balancing act so perfectly. My second script was called Gingerbread, which had a lot of horror elements in it. I wrote it as if it were a flat-out comedy and Joss (Whedon) pointed out that you have to balance them. So I learned how to do that. To a certain extent, the director does a lot of that work for you. You can write a scene with a lot of funny lines and have it be terrifying. As long as it’s directed with a certain look, feel and pace, the horror will come through. The comedy will do the job of making you realize these characters are joking, that they’re not really scared. Like, when do you make a joke like that to raise your spirits? When you’re really scared. So there are many different ways to use humor. You can find a good balance without having to throw any jokes out the window.

One of my favorite Buffy episodes was Hush. Were you involved in that episode?

JE: I was there when it was written, and I remember Joss saying, I’ve always wanted to do this gag where someone’s looking out the window at something really far away, and you’re leaning in trying to see what they’re seeing and IT’S RIGHT HERE! He had so much fun writing that episode. It was the same thing with the musical, Once More, with Feeling.

Ok, so you’re now involved with Game of Thrones. What can you tell us about that?

JE: I just wrote one episode of Game of Thrones in season 1. It was an amazing experience. They needed a freelancer. They hadn’t hired a staff yet—now they have a staff of writers. So I came in to write one. It was a great scene where Daenerys eats the horse’s heart and her brother is killed by molten gold. They gave me the best chapters of the book. I was thrilled.

Were you always a fan of shows like Game of Thrones?

JE: Absolutely. I really like sci-fi and historical dramas. I’ve never been a huge fan of things like Lord of the Rings’ sword and sorcery. To me, Game of Thrones feels more like historical fiction, like reading about ancient England—and I love that.

So you’re permanently on staff for Once Upon a Time. Can you talk about that a little bit?

JE: I can’t talk about what’s going to happen, but I can tell you that it’s a great job. We’re doing Frozen this season. Everyone at every level wants to do Frozen right, including the people at the very top. There will be no effort spared to make sure that we’re doing justice to Frozen.

The Miller’s Daughter episode, where Rumple teaches young Cora to spin straw into gold was sensual and mesmerizing. How did you approach that?

JE: I loved writing that episode! It was a little bit of a wink at the movie, Ghost.

When a director says, I want you to write this scene or this sequence, how do you approach that?

JE: InTV, we have a different director every week so we’re sort of their bosses. We write the episode, then we’re introduced to the director and we tell the director how we see the scene playing out. The director may or may not employ storyboards— often they’re just used for action sequences. In TV, you have to do everything very quickly. The person who first gives me instructions is the head writer—usually the person that created the show. On Husbands, it’s Brad. He’ll say, “I want this scene to have a certain feeling.” So I’ll write it, tailor made to have that feeling. Then we’ll meet with the director and tell him to shoot it to incorporate that feeling. So it all comes down to the writer.

So what’s going on with Husbands?

JE: My friend, Brad approached me with this idea to do an online sitcom. We started playing around with the concept and we ended up with the idea of same sex newlyweds. They don’t want to get a divorce, since it’s bad for the cause. They got married too soon and it’s about how they’re going to make it work. It’s so clearly a throwback to shows like I Love Lucy and Ned and Stacey—that sort of accidental marriage—which is a staple of romantic comedies. To employ that into an entirely new world of gay marriage seemed natural and a no-brainer. So we made it. And by making it, we were able to demonstrate that there was an audience for it.

Are you a dialog writer or an action writer?

JE: I can do both. What I don’t do great is structure. Dialog is probably where Brad and I both do best. Our strengths and weaknesses are about the same. I don’t like thinking about, should we play this reveal so the audience is ahead of us? Or is this a better act break than that one?” I don’t care; I just want the lines to be good.

 

Interview with the Cast of The Last Ship

Last Ship cast
The Last Ship Cast
The Last Ship Cast

Based on the novel of the same name by William Brinkley, TNT’s The Last Ship stars Eric Dane (Tom Chandler) as commander of the USS Nathan James, a guided missile destroyer forced to deal with a pandemic virus that has killed most of the earth’s population. Other cast members include Rhona Mitra (Dr. Rachel Scott), a paleomicrobiologist frantically searching for a cure; Adam Baldwin (CDR Mike Slattery, the ship’s confrontational XO); Charles Parnell (as CMC Hugh Jeter); Travis Van Winkle (as Lt. Danny Green) and Marissa Neitling (Lt. Kara Foster, Lt. Green’s love interest). In this roundtable interview, I posed the following questions to cast members who revealed their likes and challenges in working on this exciting new series.

What’s it like being the commander of a guided missile destroyer?

Eric Dane: I love being saluted. You haven’t lived till you’ve been saluted, man. Long hours, heavy workload, but I enjoy it.

Eric Dane
Eric Dane

How did you prepare for the role?

Dane: I put the uniform on—very literally. You put that uniform on and 90 percent of the work is done. You walk a little taller, you stand a little straighter. We have great writers. I found that if I just keep in mind the things that I have to keep in mind, follow the process that I have as an actor and say the lines, things work out. I haven’t modeled this character after anybody. I haven’t found any inspiration from any other characters; I just try to play the moment and keep it as truthful as possible.

Will the show go into more of Tom Chandler’s backstory?

Dane: My family’s in the woods with my father in his cabin, isolated from the virus, or so I think. We come in contact with them later on in the season. Chandler has to make sure that the choices he makes are not colored by the fact that all he wants to do is get back to his family. He has to make decisions based on the greater good of the mission.

Rhona Mitra
Rhona Mitra

You have this long title—paleomicrobiologist—did you research the technical aspects of this role? Doctor Scott certainly sounds like she knows what she’s talking about.

Rhona Mitra: For my own personal reasons, I’ve been involved in the study of the world’s neurotoxins. For the past two years, I’ve been learning how the human race has been impacted by the pandemics that seem to be appearing everywhere. Everything from the problems with water and fracking to GMOs. I’m interested in the remediation to these problems. When this project came along, I had been doing a lot of physical action roles, so it was a lovely opportunity to explore a more cerebral character. It allowed me to talk to virologists and paleomicrobiologists.

 Adam-Baldwin

Adam-Baldwin

Your ship is involved in some highly technical stuff. Did you have to bring yourself up to speed on Navy jargon and tech details?
Adam Baldwin:
Yes, to a certain degree, but we have to speed it up a bit. We have to rely on our writers and technical advisors to give us things that are technically accurate and not too much of a mouthful to recite for the storyline. We’ve taken some tours of the ship, but these guys train for years on these things. It’s very humbling to be among these professionals.

Charles-Parnell
Charles-Parnell

You’re the perfect CMC. How did you prepare for the role?

Charles Parnell: We got prepped by going into the Navy dining hall on the first day. As we were seated, in walked all of our real life counterparts. We talked for a while over lunch and they then took us aboard and walked us through the ship with “their eyes,” so I know what I’m looking at, what I’m concerned with and where things are.

Travis-Van-Winkle
Travis-Van-Winkle

In portraying the leader of a Naval Mountain Warfare Unit, did you undergo any special training in weapons and tactics?

Travis Van Winkle: We did have a couple of days of weapons training. I have Navy Seals watching everything I do. They help align me with what I’m doing mentally. It’s beautiful to have. They tell me how to hold my gun, how to navigate with my gun, how to load it, shoot it, even how to look through the scope. And then they’ll watch the takes and go, “okay, I loved it, but don’t do that, do this.” As much as it’s uncomfortable sometimes and I mess up, they steer me on the right path. As we got into the season, I’d get it right more often and they’d say, alright! These guys have such mental, emotional and physical endurance through training; they can handle anything and kill you 15 different ways, yet they’re the gentlest human beings.

So what’s going to happen with your character?

Van Winkle: My leadership ability is really challenged. And I let things get in the way of my service and my responsibility. What happens the rest of the season, as much as I’ve lost touch with what my duty is, I also feel I’ve lost the respect of some of my crew members who don’t know what I’ve done. Inside, I know I’ve been jeopardizing their lives. I regain my trust, and it’s that climb throughout the season to once again become the leader I know that I am, and that I’ve lost touch with. So you’ll see that slowly develop. You’ll also see the push-pull of trying to have a relationship that’s forbidden on the ship.

 

An Interview with Falling Skies’ Scarlett Byrne (Lexi)

Interview with Falling Skies’ Scarlett Byrne
Interview with Falling Skies’ Scarlett Byrne
Interview with Falling Skies’ Scarlett Byrne

Best known as Pansy Parkinson in the final three Harry Potter films, Scarlett Byrne joins TNT’s increasingly popular sci-fi series Falling Skies. In season 4, Byrne plays an older Alexis Glass-Mason (Lexi), a mysterious young woman with special powers and an unusual connection to the alien invaders. As a new series regular, Byrne’s Lexi is a pivotal role that underscores the entirely different look and feel of the show’s fourth season. In this one-on-one interview, Byrne provides some interesting clues as to what Falling Skies fans can expect in season 4.

So you went from a witch in Harry Potter to a half alien in Falling Skies. What attracted you to the role of the older Lexi?

Scarlett Byrne: It’s been quite a mix of characters for me. First off, Lexi is very cool. There’s really so much to her. She’s definitely not one-dimensional. She has a lot of layers. At the very beginning, she’s very complex. There’s a lot to know and understand about her. As an actress, it was fun and interesting getting to know more about her. Her character has developed so much. She’s supposed to be this child, but she’s grown very rapidly and she has these powers. All this really attracted me to the role, far more so than just playing an average, normal character.

 

Falling Skies Team
Falling Skies Team

Were you a follower of Falling Skies?

Scarlett: It’s interesting because when the show was first being advertised in London, I remember recording the first couple of episodes. I watched them but then I stopped. It wasn’t until this all came about that I remembered watching the show. Then I totally binged watched season one through three in the first two weeks before we started shooting, and I was totally hooked.

The whole white hair blowing in the wind and Lexi’s mysterious demeanor suggests she’s got some terrible alien secret. Can you give us a clue as to what that might be?

Scarlett Byrne--Lexi
Scarlett Byrne–Lexi

Scarlett: That verges on spoiler territory, sorry.

So how much of Lexi is human and how much is alien?

Scarlett: I can’t really break it down into what percentage Lexi is human and alien. Throughout the season, she really struggles to become more human. I think it’s not until she hangs out and spends time with the 2nd mass and her friends and family that she becomes more in touch with her human side. The alien side does take over at times. Throughout the season, she’ll have this message of peace and unity, and she really wants everyone to believe and understand her message. But at the same time, she’s just as confused as everyone else in terms of trying to get people to understand where she’s coming from. There’s this two-sided thing where she has her dad, her mom and her brother saying, “what’s going on, what are you all about?” All she wants to do is impart this message that if you follow her, everything will be okay.

Scarlett Byrne --Lexi
Scarlett Byrne–Lexi

Does Lexi know what’s going on with her?

Scarlett: She does. But it’s definitely a learning curve. She’s really innocent and naïve about what she has. She’s like a child. She has this ethereal feel to her. She doesn’t speak like everyone else. At the same time, she’s trying to fully understand what she’s capable of and what she’s meant to do.

Do you get to read the scripts two or three episodes out?

Scarlett: We get the script for the upcoming episode a couple of days before the read through. When I flew to Vancouver, we talked about my character and where she was going. I found out where she would end up, but I had no idea what was going to happen to her in the middle of the season. There are some big surprises and I hope the fans enjoy her character because it will definitely be fun.

Does Lexi have any connection to the Volm? To the Espheni?

Scarlett: She does have a relationship with the Espheni, but not too long. In the second episode, we see her meeting with an Overlord. If you watch the second episode, I’m sure you’ll be thoroughly surprised and pleased, I hope.

Seychelle Gabriel (Lourdes) Falling Skies
Seychelle Gabriel (Lourdes) Falling Skies

Can you give us a hint about what happens between Lexi and Lourdes?

Scarlett: I can tell you about the relationship, but not what happens between them. Lexi and Lourdes have a very special relationship. More than any other character, Lourdes has definitely changed the most. She’s now back in touch with her more spiritual side, but not how she was in the previous season. A lot of this has to do with Lexi, her cause and her message. Lourdes is definitely her number one follower, her right-hand woman, and she feels she has to protect Lexi. She birthed her and was there for Lexi from the very beginning. And, of course, Lexi saved Lourdes from those alien eye worms. So they have this special connection and they love each other. Lourdes is the only character throughout last season who never questioned Lexi about who she is and what she was doing.

Will Lexi have a love interest?

Scarlett: No. The way I see Lexi is that she’s like this child and there’s nothing sexual about her. That’s not what she’s about. She’s more about the message and where she’s coming from.

Season 4 of FallingSkies premieres Sunday, June 22 at 10/9c

 

An Interview with Stage Fright’s Allie MacDonald

Allie MacDonald in Stage Fright
Allie MacDonald in Stage Fright
Allie MacDonald in Stage Fright

Written and directed by Jerome Sable, Stage Fright features an ensemble cast led by Allie MacDonald (as Camilla Swanson), a teen eager to follow in her mother’s (Minnie Driver) footsteps and become a Broadway star. Stuck working in the kitchen of a “Glee-like” performing arts camp, Camilla manages an audition for the summer musical showcase and lands the lead role. The dead bodies begin to pile up in rehearsals—and during Camilla’s climactic scene—as a masked killer exacts revenge for the murder of Camilla’s mother. Known for House at the End of the StreetandThe Barrens, MacDonald displays exceptional range and talent in Stage Fright. In this one-on-one interview, she reveals the challenges she faced in playing the lead role in this surprisingly unconventional musical.

What drew you to the role of Camilla?

Allie MacDonald:  I did a lot of musicals. I liked the director and I thought the script was hilarious, so I auditioned for the role.

What was your audition like?

AM: I did a few scenes and performed a couple of songs. I met with the director and got the part.

Some have called Stage Fright, Glee with knives. How would you characterize this mixed genre film?

AM: Yeah, I would say that it’s like Glee meets Scream. I think it’s kind of hard to define this film because it is so different—and strange. There haven’t been a lot of movies that have combined so many different genres.

Allie MacDonald and Douglas Smith in Stage Fright
Allie MacDonald and Douglas Smith in Stage Fright

You have a nice singing voice. I understand you grew up around musicals. How did that help you in Stage Fright?

AM: Just being able to sing and being familiar with musical theater. I did a little bit of dance training when I was younger, so that helped with some of the choreography. My dancing would have been a lot worse if it weren’t for that choreography training.

How would you contrast your performance in Score: A Hockey Musical with Stage Fright?

AM: Score was different because it was my first movie and I had no idea what I was doing. And because Noah (Reid) was the lead in Score and I was a supporting actor, so I approached it in a different way. When I did Stage Fright, I had a better idea of what I wanted to do to prepare for the role. It was my first leading role, so there was a lot of pressure, but then I realized that as long as I showed up, prepared and read the lines, I’d be okay.

What drives Camilla to take the lead in the “The Haunting of the Opera,” the same play her mother would have starred in?

AM: I think it was Camilla’s fate. She’s lived this very sheltered life. I think she believes it’s her destiny to take over and become this musical star—like her mother. But she has no idea how, because she’s stuck working in this kitchen. So when they announced she got the lead in the play, it’s fate.

What was it like playing with a huge ensemble cast of singers?

AM: It was fun because all of the other cast members are so talented.Jerome (Sable) is really good at spotting new talent.He picked a bunch of kids—musical theater people—who didn’t have a lot of film experience but totally nailed it.John (Buchan) and Jason (Knight) did a great job in casting the film. I always felt like a bit of an outsider because my character is not part of the camp’s initial show ensemble. I liked it that way because it fit my character.

 

Allie & Meat Loaf
Allie & Meat Loaf

The film walks a fine line between musical, horror and comedy. How did you approach your character?

AM: It’s not hard because my character is who she is and the movie spans all these different genres. For Camilla, it’s the world she’s living in. It wasn’t hard to portray Camilla because I like all these genres. I prefer genre films to mainstream films. I’ve done indies, comedies, horror and musicals. That’s kind of where I’m getting my work and it’s what I enjoy doing. So it just comes naturally to me.

What’s your favorite genre?

AM: I really like comedies. And films from the Cohen Brothers. Have you ever seen Raising Arizona? I really love that movie. I also like shooting horror, which is strange because you have to do a lot of screaming and it’s kind of traumatic, but I like it. It’s kind of a release.

What did you think when you saw all the slasher parts in the script?

AM: I thought it was great. And when I saw it filmed, I thought they did a great job– like when a main character gets his foot cut in half.

What’s next for you?

AM: I’m doing some auditions in LA. But as far as upcoming films, I can’t really talk about that at this point. In my downtime, I write and record my own music. I play the guitar and sing.

 

Interview with Bob Morley & Devon Bostick of “The 100”

Bob Morley, Marie Avgeropoulos & Devon Bostick (Katie Yu/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. © 2014 WBEI. All rights reserved.)
Bob Morley, Marie Avgeropoulos & Devon Bostick (Katie Yu/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
© 2014 WBEI. All rights reserved.)

Based on Kass Morgan’s novel and developed by Jason Rothenberg, The 100 chronicles survivors of a devastating nuclear war who have taken refuge aboard the “Ark,” a space station orbiting the Earth. Forced to reduce their population due to ever dwindling resources, Ark leaders eventually resort to “floating” (killing) anyone committing a crime. Juvenile offenders (those under 18) are imprisoned, even for minor infractions. The series begins when 100 juveniles deemed “expendable” are sent to Earth to test its habitability. The first half of the series is essentially Lord of the Flies meets Lost. The second half will unify the 100s as they confront the Grounders (survivors of the initial nuclear holocaust).

The 100 stars Eliza Taylor (Clarke) and Bob Morley (Bellamy) as the series’ earthbound de facto leaders; Thomas McDonell (Finn) as Clarke’s initial crush; Devon Bostick (Jasper) as the hapless tech nerd who bravely rescues the reckless Marie Avgeropoulos (Octavia); the tough, tech savvy Lindsey Morgan (Raven); Paige Turco (Abby), the Ark’s chief scientist; and Isaiah Washington (Jaha) the Ark’s chancellor. In this roundtable interview, stars Bob Morley and Devon Bostick reveal the challenges and rewards that come with bringing The 100 to eager fans.

So, Bellamy is a bad ass and gets into a lot of trouble.

Bob Morely: He’s a great character to play and to play around with.

Bob Morley
Bob Morley (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

Is that what drew you to the script?

BM: When I read the pilot, which I thought was great, I really wanted to play Bellamy. He was cool and I like playing the bad guy. Bellamy has an edge and that’s what drew me to the script. As the series progressed, they’ve allowed me to explore his psyche. I can get really involved in the character, which is exactly what you want in a job, a character that’s stimulating, and Bellamy definitely does that for me.

Bellamy is also defined by three primary female relationships—Clark, Octavia and now Raven. He’s being pulled in all different directions.

BM: True. In episode 6, we were introduced to another strong female character that defined who he is as a person. Having to look after his sister for his entire life is a responsibility no other kid on the Ark had to deal with. It’s the only way he’s learned to look after and protect someone. So that relationship is very different from the one he has with Clarke. And Raven is just so sassy. He can’t really do anything with her. She does whatever she wants. I think she’s a really cool character and Bellamy thinks so too. Let’s not forget that Bellamy is maybe six years older than the other kids. So his perception may be a bit different when it comes to romance. He’s a bit older, but it doesn’t mean he’s above it.

They all challenge you, yet they follow you because you’re the tough guy.

BM: I found it so funny when I read the scripts, that all these minions can’t have an opinion that this guy’s an idiot. Can’t anyone see that? I always feel bad about that, and about Bellamy’s little henchmen, because it never ends well for them. He really doesn’t have many guy friends.

Where do you see your character going? How will he change?

BM: The show just becomes so expansive. The world really opens up. There’s the external battle with the elements and his internal battles. But I think Bellamy really matures internally. He has to look within himself because he’s always seen himself as a monster. Those kind of demons come back to haunt him, and he has to face them at some point. Once that comes out, he’ll have a different perspective of the world, and his role as one of the leaders in the group. The world gets bigger in every episode and sometimes I wonder, how the hell are they going to do this?

(Devon Bostick joins us)

We hated to see you being dragged through that jungle.

Devon Bostick: Yeah, it was a lot of head bumping, rocks and mud. But it was fun. You gotta get down and dirty on this show.

Devon Bostick
Devon Bostick (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

Have you and Richard been comparing notes on who suffers the most?

DB: I saw Richard go through some serious stuff—like when he was being hung, the mud was actually manure. So he was literally being dragged through shit. It was disgusting. I had to go home, take a shower and watch a light-hearted comedy. You see stuff on the show that’s just ridiculous. I got speared in the chest, punched in the face, big bruise on my eye. I’m just trying to stay alive. But I’m happy to have a bruise. As long as it’s not another spear, I’m good.

So what’s happing next with Jasper?

DB: Jasper’s going on another wild excursion with Bellamy—to find Octavia. He overcomes his fear, because he has to, since he loves her so much. He doesn’t really care about death anymore, because she’s out there and she means so much to him. He’s got to have her back. For him, there’s no point in living if she’s gone. So we see him face the fear he’s been bottling up since he got speared and releasing it into the forest. He has this sort of mental breakdown due to post-traumatic stress and a lot of anger in being stressed. He’s tired of being afraid and living in fear. He lets that out, saying, if you’re going to spear me, do it—I’m tired of being terrified. So he goes through that. And later, he’ll have to step up and fight the good fight to protect what’s his, and to defend the base from dangers both inside and out.

How do you get into the emotional aspects of the role?

DB: It’s interesting. I love where we work in the rainforest of Vancouver. It’s so beautiful but you’re really in it—the environment you’d be in as a survivor. And that really helps you kind of ease into that world. I like to do things on the fly. I’m like Jasper. I like to try something different.

Is Jasper “team Bellamy” now that he’s hooking up with Octavia?

DB: We’ll see a bond between Bellamy and Jasper. They both have this drive to protect Octavia and that will bring them together a little bit. And since Bellamy is such a commanding guy, Jasper and the others will realize they need him when times get really dark. But Japer’s definitely “team Clarke” for moral reasons. She obviously has the human race’s best interest at heart.

Jasper’s a likeable guy. We’re always rooting for him.

DB: He likes everyone. Just don’t spear him again.

Do you think you’d take the risks your character takes in the same situation?  

DB: I think so. I love Jasper because he uses logic. He’s afraid, as he should be. But when he does take action, it’s for the right reason, and I think that’s something I’d do too. He’s always got someone’s interest at heart, which makes him kind of stupidly courageous, in that he goes into a Grounder-filled jungle. I think I’d follow his footsteps. They‘re logical and based on emotion and caring for people.

Will we get a backstory that reveals why Jasper is the way he is?

DB: I don’t think we’ll see his full backstory yet. His drive is for Octavia and she represents kind of what he wants to be. She’s wild and does whatever she wants, and that impresses and excites Jasper. He wants to be part of her world. Most motivations are for the girl and that’s all he really has. He grew up in a prison cell, and we’ll see their first interaction on the Ark later on in the show.

What do you think about Raven? She’s not part of the original group sent down for “criminal reasons.”

DB: I don’t know if Jasper has anything against Raven or feelings about her. The fact that Raven’s down now turns Jasper’s attention to how Finn is doing, more so that Raven’s presence. Jasper’s thinking, so, dude, you got two girls now—what do you do? Jasper regards Finn as this sort of rock star, since Finn was a space walker and you use a lot of oxygen to do that. Anytime Finn’s around, he’s kind of star struck but keeping it cool.

Do you see the scripts ahead of time? Are you allowed some leeway?

DB: It depends. Sometimes we get them a week before, other times, two days before. If the scripts don’t feel comfortable, the writers are accommodating. If it just sounds stupid, we’ll say, Jason, can we cut this line?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Lindsey Morgan & Eliza Taylor of The 100

Eliza Taylor  & Lindsey Morgan (Diyah Pera/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. © 2014 WBEI. All rights reserved).
Eliza Taylor & Lindsey Morgan (Diyah Pera/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
© 2014 WBEI. All rights reserved)

Based on Kass Morgan’s novel and developed by Jason Rothenberg, The 100 chronicles survivors of a devastating nuclear war who have taken refuge aboard the “Ark,” a space station orbiting the Earth. Forced to reduce their population due to ever dwindling resources, Ark leaders eventually resort to “floating” (killing) anyone committing a crime. Juvenile offenders (those under 18) are imprisoned, even for minor infractions. The series begins when 100 juveniles deemed “expendable” are sent to Earth to test its habitability. The first half of the series is essentially Lord of the Flies meets Lost. The second half will unify the 100s as they confront the Grounders (survivors of the initial nuclear holocaust).

The 100 stars Eliza Taylor (Clarke) and Bob Morley (Bellamy) as the series’ earthbound de facto leaders; Thomas McDonell (Finn) as Clarke’s initial crush; Devon Bostick (Jasper) as the hapless tech nerd who bravely rescues the reckless Marie Avgeropoulos (Octavia); the tough, tech savvy Lindsey Morgan (Raven); Paige Turco (Abby), the Ark’s chief scientist; and Isaiah Washington (Jaha) the Ark’s chancellor. In this roundtable interview, stars Lindsey Morgan and Eliza Taylor reveal the challenges and rewards that come with bringing The 100 to eager fans.

Lindsey Morgan (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)
Lindsey Morgan (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

Will Raven realize that she’s now part of a “triangle” with Clarke and Finn?

Lindsey Morgan: Raven is not stupid. One thing I love about her is that she is so smart and quick. But right now, she’s blissfully ignorant and just loving being back with her man. The way this unfolds will be interesting because Raven’s not a girl that will immediately fly off the handle. She’s intense and will fight, but she also mulls stuff over. This love triangle won’t end the way most do.

As a take-charge kind of girl, how will Raven now try to communicate with the Ark?

LM: We’ve seen how they tried the flares, but that didn’t work. So they’ve come to the heartbreaking realization that they’ll have to find another way. So they’ll go back to the radio and try to work with that. The pod is helpful, too, because it’s another new ship they can use. So they’ll go back to the drawing board with Raven spearheading these new efforts.

Lindsey Morgan (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)
Lindsey Morgan (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

What do you like about playing Raven?

LM: I love how low maintenance she is (laughs), maybe because I’m lazy. Prior to this, my biggest job was being on a soap opera. I’d be in hair and makeup for two hours a day, every day. But playing Raven, I get to come in 30 minutes before a call, my hair’s a mess, I’m still asleep, and they just throw dirt on me and make my hair even messier, then they shoot the scene. But I also love how smart, independent and fierce she is. She’s always thinking, always building, always taking charge and being a leader.

There’s all this equipment and gear you seem to be so familiar with. Did you have to bring yourself up to speed on space technology?

LM: We do try our best to stay as true as possible to the current technology. When I was doing the pod scene, I was in this suit and I couldn’t hear anything the director was saying. They couldn’t tell me what to do once my helmet was on, so I had to do some research on what it’s like for an astronaut returning to earth. It gets so hot, and the pressure on you is enough to kill you. Many people died in re-entering the earth’s atmosphere—it’s so brutal. I’m always working with the prop master so I know what I’m doing.

Lindsey Morgan (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)
Lindsey Morgan (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

Did you have to go through a space camp?

LM: I wish they would send me to the adult space camp. What we learn just depends on the day and what’s been written for us. In college, I took five astronomy courses, which I found very interesting.

How will Raven deal with Bellamy, since they’re both such strong personalities?

LM: Raven and Bellamy will have a very interesting relationship. They’ll butt heads but not at the same level as Clarke does. Raven never really had a family life, she was always on her own, looking out for herself. She cares and looks out for Finn. With Bellamy, it’s an interesting dynamic because he’s leading the whole pack. But Raven is such an asset to him in terms of leadership skills and tech knowledge, that they have to work together. While they initially start off on the wrong foot, there is this mutual respect. Just like Raven respects Clarke for her leadership skills. They have quite an evolution in their relationship.

What about Raven’s relationships with some of the other female characters?

LM: Right now, she has no clue about Octavia. They do have their first encounter. I don’t want to spoil it—but it will be interesting. They also have an intriguing evolution in their relationship.

What about the Grounders? Raven hasn’t encountered them yet, either.

LM: I think the Grounders will be something she’s least likely to interact with.

Will the quasi friendship Raven has with Dr. Griffin lead to something later in the season?

LM: It will continue the entire season because Raven never had a mother figure. Raven didn’t really care about anyone else except Finn, but now she has Abby and cares about Clarke.

(Eliza Taylor joins us)

Eliza Taylor (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)
Eliza Taylor (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

Clarke may not have been born a leader but she appears to have risen to the challenge. 

Eliza Taylor: I don’t think she really had a choice. We’ve seen how her dad was, and her mum’s always getting into trouble—she’s in jail every other day. I think there are a few quiet moments where you see it’s getting to be a bit much for her. There’s a scene in episode two where she decides to find Jasper. She’s by herself and she has a panic attack. She’s over her head much of the time. What I like about her character arc is that she does eventually own it. She evolves in a really cool way—she gets stronger—and darker.

Eliza Taylor (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)
Eliza Taylor (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

What do you find most challenging about your role?

ET: Clarke’s such a strong female kick ass lead. I’ve never had the pleasure of playing that before. I’ve played the dumb blonde too many times. So this is really different for me. I think a lot of the physical stuff can be really challenging. There are many physically challenging stunts. And doing an American accent for the first time is interesting.

How will Clarke build the trust she needs from these characters, who now must become so dependent on each other for survival?

ET: I think that’s where the Lord of the Flies aspect comes in. They’ve all got their own agenda. Some do unite and trust each other; others just want to rebel, do their own thing, and not give a crap about anyone else. It makes for an interesting dynamic, since there are so many characters introduced throughout the series with different ideas on how things should be run.

Eliza Taylor (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)
Eliza Taylor (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

Why do you think so many of the 100 are willing to trust Bellamy over Clarke?

ET: There are just so many who think they can do this all by themselves—typical teenagers, really. It’s something most teens can relate to. If you tell them not to do something, they’ll do it. But the good thing about the Grounders appearing is that it does turn their attention away from each other, which makes them come together as a group.

Why do you think Clarke is drawn to the show’s male characters, rather than bonding to its female characters?

ET: She’s no nonsense. She wants to get things done, so she assumes a kind of bloke mentality. The women in the show never really come together. They have their own missions. It’s kind of a male dominated show. The women are strong headed and maybe they’re just too similar. But the Raven and Clarke relationship is really cool. Obviously they’re both in love with the same person, but they like and respect each other. That makes for an interesting dynamic, and you’ll see that in the coming episodes. Clarke realizes that there are more important things to do right now. She’s very good at compartmentalizing.

The stars of Legends press conference

Legends cast

 

Legends cast
Legends stars Tina Majorino, Sean Bean, Ali Larter and Morris Chestnut (photos by Alex A. Kecskes)

Based on Robert Littell’s award-wining spy novel, TNT’s new suspense-filled drama, Legends follows undercover agent Martin Odum (Sean Bean) working for FBI’s Deep Cover Operations (DCO) division. Able to transform himself into a completely different person for each job, he begins to question his identity when a mysterious stranger suggests that Martin isn’t the man he believes himself to be. Legends also stars Ali Larter as special agent Crystal McGuire, who has a history with Martin; Morris Chestnut as Tony Cimarro, a smart, quick-witted and charming DCO agent; and Tina Majorino as Maggie Harris, the DCO team’s computer expert. In this press conference, executive producer/showrunner David Wilcox and key cast members reveal insights about the compelling new series.

David Wilcox, Sean Bean, Ali Larter and Morris Chestnut  (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)
David Wilcox, Sean Bean, Ali Larter and Morris Chestnut (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

David Wilcox

Legends is about a special group of FBI agents who handle covert investigations. A “Legend” is an identity that is created by an undercover agent to help him infiltrate and go undercover. It’s a fully, deeply imagined life. In this role, Martin Odum is the best of the best. The DCO division is the tip of the spear in doing this deep cover investigative work. The questions about Martin’s real identity drive the mythology of the series. In the pilot, someone tells Martin that Martin Odum is a legend, that it’s not his real life. This launches Martin on a deep quest to discover what may actually be happening in his life, and if there is a grand conspiracy he needs to uncover. Ali’s character, Crystal, runs the DCO team. Tina’s character, Maggie is trained on every database you can imagine—NSA, DOD, FBI. She’s instrumental in creating the deep backstory of these legends, which become instrumental in saving Martin’s life. Morris’ character, special agent Tony Rice begins investigating a murder that he believes Martin may have committed. When you’re in these deep cover situations, you sometimes have to cross moral lines, so we’re not sure if Martin did commit the murder. When Rice investigates further, he realizes there may be a systemic corruption in DCO and eventually uncovers this large conspiracy.

Ali Larter
Ali Larter (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

Were you able to adapt the fight training and choreography from previous roles, or did you have to learn a whole new skill set?

Ali Larter: I’ve been doing a lot of action and fieldwork. And I’ve had experience with guns in Resident Evil, Heroes and other projects, so I’m pretty comfortable with a Glock. It was interesting to work with these guys and learn to be smooth without tensing up. Everything is second nature. You have to be in your body, and really flow and focused. This week, I went from wearing an Herve Leger dress to a Haz-Mat suit with a gas mask. It’s all in a week’s work on Legends.

What people—real or make believe—did you draw from for your characters in Legends?

Wilcox: The characters were borne out of Robert Littell’s spy novel. Each of these deep cover identities are pre-existing legends—they have their own apartments, cars, wardrobe, contacts and friends. As a case comes into the FBI and is turned over to DCO, Martin can pick one of his pre-existing legends to organically infiltrate the group.

Sean Bean
Sean Bean (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

 

Sean Bean: I read the book before we started the pilot. The characters are very interesting and fascinating. It helped me develop Martin, Lincoln Dittmann and Dante, the third character I play. Rather than just invent a character, there was at least someone I could refer to. It was a basis, an anchor, but the character eventually takes on a life of its own. It’s Martin’s total belief in each character that makes for a very interesting psychological drama. When his various characters collide, he thinks he can carry on and still retain himself, but sooner or later, it all comes down on him. And it filters though the department. He’s a good guy, but the people he’s working for are not dissimilar to other government organizations like the DCO.

Are you playing Martin as Martin playing someone else, or two characters at the same time?

Bean: I was playing three characters last week, which is fantastic for an actor. But sometimes, it gets a bit confusing for me too. Because it’s not really me that commits an act.

Wilcox: Martin doesn’t know where the bottom of this rabbit hole is, which makes him such an interesting hero. His greatest asset or the thing that makes him such an effective operative also tends to jeopardize his psyche and soul. If he commits a crime in Legends, does Martin Odum have to answer for it? What does the soul of a guy look like who steps into all these different shoes and identities? He can’t be responsible for what these other identities necessarily do.

Why do you always die in everything you’re in?

Sean (laughs): Yeah, I die a lot. But I think I have a rather long run in this one.

Wilcox: We don’t have any plans for his character’s death.

Where is the story based?

Wilcox: DCO is based in Los Angeles. But they’ll go where the stories take them—including overseas.

How closely does Legends follow the novel?

Wilcox: It’s rooted in the novel, but the stories and characters do deviate quite a bit.

Tina Majorino
Tina Majorino (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

How much of Cindy ‘Mac’ Mackenzie shows up in Maggie?

Tina Majorino: Mac is all computers. It started out as a hobby or a way for her to exact revenge on people and right certain wrongs. But for Maggie, there’s a conviction, a patriotism, a real need to participate in a solution. She’s highly trained and she’s chosen this as a life path. They’re two totally different mindsets and people. Mac has a sarcasm, a levity that Maggie doesn’t have. We’re still discovering who Maggie is at this point, but I don’t feel that she would go in the direction of Mac.

Morris Chestnut
Morris Chestnut (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

What will Tony play in this unfolding mystery?

Morris Chestnut: Right now, he’s having a good time in pursuing Martin Odum, trying to figure out the truth–is Martin really involved with this murder or is it part of a larger cover up within the DCO?

Legends Premieres Wednesday, Aug. 13, at 9 p.m. (ET/PT)

 

An Interview with John Turturro

John Turturro
 John Turturro--writer, director, actor
John Turturro–writer, director, actor

With an impressive body of work that spans everything from cult/arthouse indies to major studio releases, John Turturro has become a regular in the thought provoking films of Spike Lee and the offbeat comedies of Joel and Ethan Coen. Among his many landmark roles are the highly agitated “Pino” in Do the Right Thing, an intellectual playwright in Barton Fink, the quirky G-Man in Transformers, and a hapless runaway convict in O Brother, Where Art Thou? His recently completed works include Hands of Stone, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Rio, I Love You and God’s Pocket.

In Fading Gigalo, which Turturro wrote and directed, the man of many parts plays Fioravante, a florist and reluctant Don Juan. To help his cash-strapped friend, Murray (Woody Allen) make some extra money, Fioravante agrees to “entertain” women for a fee. Fioravante’s clients include Murray’s dermatologist (Sharon Stone) and the seductive Selima (Sofia Vergara). Fading Gigalo takes an unexpected turn when Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), a Hasidic widow seeks Fioravante’s help to come out of mourning and re-awaken her on a deeper, romantic level. In this one-on-one interview, Turturro reveals how he created and developed this film, and the challenges he faced in writing and directing it.

Woody Allen and John Turturro
Woody Allen and John Turturro

Where did this story idea come from?

John Turturro: I thought Woody and I would make in interesting team, an unlikely duo in the sex trade. I discussed it with Woody, who loved the idea. The challenge was to make it entertaining and give it a “bottom.” Many people start out with crazy ideas but then something happens—a human cost that goes with it, or human ramifications that happen. Woody encouraged me to develop the film and make it deeper along those lines. It was a comedy, but a human comedy about the unceasing need for human contact. And that’s something that’s part of all of us. Sometimes you can wrap something in a comedy and have a surprise inside. That’s what we were after.

John Turturro as Fioravante
John Turturro as Fioravante

What were you going for in creating Fioravante? He seemed a curious mix of personalities.

JT: Woody would be the salesman doing more of the dialog and Fioravante was the quiet man, sort of like an old Samurai in a modern day world who was very competent physically. A guy who works in a flower shop and can fix and make things, do plumbing and electrical work. A guy who is very competent but not ambitious. A man who’s comfortable with women and likes women, but has never committed to anyone. There are people like that. I kind of drew on a few friends of mine and aspects of myself. Many times, people can be the perfect partner, but they never find the right person. In the course of this film, maybe Fioravante does but it’s not possible.

Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara
Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara

You chose an interesting cross section of women in Fioravante’s clients. What was the thought process behind that?

JT: I think the world is a complicated place, full of variety.  Beauty comes in all sizes, shapes and levels of sexuality. If you’re dealing with any multicultural city, you’ll have that.

Vanessa Paradis
Vanessa Paradis

The introduction of Avigal threw the film into an unexpected direction. It altered the texture of the film. What were you going for with Avigal?

JT: That’s the heart of the movie. Here’s a woman who’s in an orthodox community, but she could be a metaphor for a woman in any number of religions, even just a woman who’s kind of oppressed and alone. Avigal had all these kids, but she’s a woman who’s never been really courted. In some ways, she has the experience of an 18-year old—even though she’s a mom—because she’s never had those experiences. So I thought she could represent a lot of different people as long as I could be very specific with it. And finding Vanessa to play that character was really a perfect meeting between actress and character. It’s what the movie is about. All the other stuff is the journey towards that.

Some say they wanted to see the relationship between Avigal and Fioravante move in a different direction.

JT: Everybody wanted it. So did I.  But I think that when she speaks on her own behalf in front of all these men in this kind of courtroom or tribunal, she’s part of that community. If she didn’t have kids, maybe she would have gone a different way. But I thought it was very true to the story that there was this other guy who always loved her. She had feelings for him but he didn’t really know how to talk to a woman. She makes the decision to follow the direction she felt was right for her. What goes on between Avigal and Fioravante is something that’s really powerful. I did think about ending it differently; and when we tested it, people were split on the ending. But the best love stories are the ones that are impossible. The ending is satisfying, but in a truthful way. I tried to do it the other way, but it just didn’t feel right. It wasn’t honest. This ending is funny and life goes on.

You wrote, directed and starred in this film. What challenges did you face in making it?

JT: We did lots of different drafts, but once Woody approved the script and we raised the money, we didn’t have a huge amount of time. So you have to be very prepared—visually, with your shots, your design and the actors. I would like to have had another week. So some days, that was the challenge. But we had a great group of people, especially Woody and Vanessa who were so fast, which really helped me. I also wanted to make a film that was pleasing visually, like walking into a beautiful painting.

What was it like working with Woody Allen? What was the level of collaboration?

JT: Once I got over his merciless criticism of my early drafts and he saw that I was going in a different direction, he was really a prince. We were also working together in the theater, where I directed a couple of one-act plays, one that he wrote, another written by Ethan Cohen. So I got to know Woody quite well.  By the time we shot the movie, he was very easy to work with and direct. He knew the material quite well. What you see in the movie is a little bit of our relationship. He’s someone I’d live to work with again.

 

An Interview with Jonas Armstrong in Walking with the Enemy

Jonas Armstrong in Walking with the Enemy
Jonas Armstrong in Walking with the Enemy

A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Irish born Jonas Armstrong has amassed an impressive body of work, highlighted by leading roles in such diverse TV series as Robin Hood, Hit & Miss, and Prisoners Wives. He has also appeared in such highly acclaimed films as The Whale and Twenty8k. In Walking with the Enemy, Armstrong plays Elek Cohen, a heroic Hungarian Jew caught in the maelstrom of Nazi cruelty during the final months of World War II. Inspired by a true story, Walking with the Enemy underscores the courage and sacrifice made by brave Hungarians who donned stolen pro-Nazi uniforms to reroute Jews to safety. In this one-on-one interview, Armstrong reveals his passion for the film and the challenges he faced in portraying such a heroic figure.

Walking-with-the-Enemy-Elek-in-disguise
Walking-with-the-Enemy-Elek-in-disguise

What attracted you to Walking with the Enemy?

Jonas Armstrong: It was a brilliant script with a brilliant character, based on real events, which I learned when I met with the director (Mark Schmidt). Just the extraordinary lengths Elek went to in putting his life on the line, day in and day out. He and his friends risked their lives on a daily basis. They were the “small people” in this situation, and they took it upon themselves to do what they could do.

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

JA: I read two scenes with Hannah Tointon. Then I did the scene with Mark Wells where I said that I had nothing left—they’ve taken everything from me, everything I’d loved and known was all gone. Mark and I then discussed the history of the story, and the plight of these Hungarian Jews at the end of the Second World War.

 Walking-with-the-Enemy-Russians-March-In

Walking-with-the-Enemy-Russians-March-In

How much research did you do on Tibor Rosenbaum, the Hungarian Jew who inspired the film? Did you talk to any Hungarian Jews before or during filming?

JA: I did as much as I could in the three weeks before primary shooting began.  But I was very fortunate in that I had spent the better part of three years living in Budapest filming Robin Hood for the BBC. I had walked past the Glass House, probably a hundred times. I’ve always been interested in the World Wars.  When I took my first long weekend, I returned to Budapest to visit the Glass House.  And that was a completely different experience for me. I realized that the holes in the wall of the Glass House were created by bullets fired by Soviet and Nazi soldiers. On Andrassy Street, there was the House of Terror, which serves as a constant reminder of the Nazi occupation and the Soviet’s arrival.

Walking-with-the-Enemy-Russians-fall
Walking-with-the-Enemy-Russians-fall

What part of the role did you find most challenging?

JA: I felt it was very important to have the right energy level going into every scene. I had to be very buoyant and focused. I had to keep the part very alive and very alert because that’s one thing I wanted Elek to be. He didn’t plan this. It just happed to him. These things were borne to him by chance and I wanted to make that very evident in the character. The fact that he had to be a quick thinker and always alert was a key element of the character. Even though I may only have had a few lines in a scene, I wanted to keep the tension as high as possible.

The scene where you were ordered to shoot Jewish Hungarians—even some women and children—was particularly powerful. How did you prepare yourself emotionally for that?

JA: It was demanding and tiring. Before those scenes, I had to take some time and just sit in my room. I tried to keep myself very focused. You have to be ready for these emotional scenes. You can’t just pop on a façade or mask and try to pull it off. 

Walking-with-the-Enemy-Hannah-chased-by-Nazis
Walking-with-the-Enemy-Hannah-chased-by-Nazis

 

The film obliquely parallels Schindler’s List in depicting the saving of Jews by deception. How do you see these parallels?

JA: Of course, there will be parallels to that film. But this film is not set in Poland; it’s set in Hungary. It’s a similar story but in some respects, it’s the same story with different people in a different place. It’s treacherous territory when you try to portray what happened during the Holocaust. You have to treat the subject with great delicacy, so I hope it comes across with the right intentions.

Walking-with-the-Enemy-SS-Colonel-Skorzeny
Walking-with-the-Enemy-SS-Colonel-Skorzeny

The difference between the two films is that Elek was always in imminent danger, which is something we see in his face and demeanor.  

JA:  That’s what I was constantly trying to portray. People don’t look cool when they’re in danger or scared. They look stupid, which is what I wanted to convey. I wanted to make it as real and as visceral as possible. These were young men thrown into this plight. They weren’t warriors or soldiers. Their main priority was getting through school, getting women, drinking and enjoying life. The war was chucked on them, so they had to summon the courage to do what they did against a really ferocious machine that had descended upon them.

Where did most of the filming occur?

JA: It was primarily in Romania.

Walking-with-the-Enemy-Elek-Hannah-Dance
Walking-with-the-Enemy-Elek-Hannah-Dance

The chemistry between you and Hannah Tointon was evident throughout the film. Had you worked with her before?

JA: No, I hadn’t. It was great to work with her. It was pretty obvious when Hannah came in and I read with her that she was the one for the part. She’s a lovely girl and a great actress.

What should viewers take away from the film?

JA: That it was only recently that these atrocities took place. It was real and relevant and will always be relevant.

Fans will be asking about your next film, Edge of Tomorrow. What can you tell us about it?

JA: People have compared it to a war-science fiction version of Ground Hog Day. Only because the day keeps repeating itself. It’s a roller-coaster ride. It’s going to be a blast and I’m really excited about it.

 

Interview with “Frozen Ground” writer/director Scott Walker

Frozen Ground posterInspired by the incredible true story of Robert Hansen, the serial killer who terrorized Anchorage, Alaska, The Frozen Ground follows Alaskan State Trooper Jack Halcombe (Nicolas Cage) as he sets out to end Hansen’s 13-year murderous rampage of street girls. Risking his life, Halcombe goes on a personal manhunt to find Hansen (John Cusack), before the next body surfaces. When Hansen’s next victim, 17-year old Cindy Paulson (Vanessa Hudgens) manages to escape, she agrees to help Halcombe catch her tormentor. In this one-on-one interview, writer/director Scott Walker reveals the challenges he faced in bringing his first feature film to life.

What attracted you to this story?

Scott Walker: I was attracted to the relationships and less in doing a story about a serial killer. I was much more interested in doing a story through the eyes of the victims and their families. There were so many ways you could tell it, but what appealed to me was to view this case as though you were one of the real people dropped in the middle of it, with more questions and no answers. We’re taken through that through this fragile relationship between a young girl who has learned never to trust anyone, let alone any officers, and a cop who doesn’t work in a city, but a trooper who works in the vast wilderness. He’s brought into the city and tries to gain her trust. 

Scott Walker and team on location
Scott Walker and team on location

Did you draw from police files for the factual elements of the story? Or from previous documentaries?

Scott: I had a court researcher get me all the court and police files on the cases, as well as the major cases they used to convict Hansen. Then I had a journalist researcher in Alaska find every piece of media that ever covered any of these cases. That gave me enough background to bring in some of the people involved. Then over the course of a year, through interviews with DAs and state troopers, I got many of my questions answered. I also interviewed Cindy Paulson for about 50 hours about everything to do with her life. I felt that once I started on this research, I had this responsibility because these were such horrific events that affected so many people and left a mark on Anchorage and its families, leaving questions that will probably never be answered.

Dean Norris & Nicolas Cage (Lionsgate)
Dean Norris & Nicolas Cage (Lionsgate)

Did you add or embellish the story with any fictional elements?

Scott: To be honest, from Cindy’s perspective, I toned that down massively because I don’t think you could film everything that happened to her. I toned down a lot of what Hansen actually did because he did such horrific things. The biggest challenge was narrowing down the investigative team. There were so many cases over the 13 years that involved so many different officers from so many divisions—troopers and Anchorage police, literally hundreds of officers—so somehow I needed to bring that down. There would’ve been too many potential characters that would’ve left the audience completely lost. No one would have a relationship with anybody. For the most part, I wanted everything to be true of their lives, the experiences they had, and to follow as closely as possible, the police procedural the troopers were picking up, and to use as many of the victim’s real names, their events and circumstances as possible.

Vanessa Hudgens (Lionsgate)
Vanessa Hudgens (Lionsgate)

What did you see in Vanessa Hudgens that convinced you she’d be great as Cindy Paulson?

Scott: She came in when we were two-thirds through the casting process. By this time, I’d seen probably 80 actresses and we were down to 20 or 30 who were looking terrific. I was working with them, one-on-one to get down to the top three. I hadn’t spoken to Vanessa and hadn’t seen what she’d done. We had literally every agent in town wanting their 17- to 23-year old actress to come in and get the part. Vanessa came in and did three scenes, one of which was the Skateland scene. She came in and gave this phenomenal performance without me uttering one word before hand. She hit every emotional beat of the scene in which there were many. We were sitting there going, wow. We weren’t expecting that. She’s a phenomenal talent, so bright and bubbly. But she really wanted something that was heavy and gritty. I told her that we needed to send her far into the deep end to work with vice cops and to understand Cindy’s life. She didn’t back away from anything. She spent a lot of time with Cindy. 

Nicolas Cage (Lionsgate)
Nicolas Cage (Lionsgate)

Why did you choose Nicolas Cage as Detective Halcombe and John Cusack as Hansen?

Scott: I’d watched Matchstick Men, Knowing and Kick Ass and in each of them, Nick had a young child actor. He has this phenomenal honesty and very paternal quality about his interactions with kids, and that was really important for me. Because the relationship between the cop and Cindy needed to be very honest, caring and paternal and not sleazy. That could’ve been another angle in the story–that something was going on between these two. The real cop that worked with Cindy genuinely cared for her and was really struck by how he could really help this girl. The cop didn’t want his name used. He just wanted to help tell the story. He asked that any monies owed him for his helping tell the story be donated to a children’s charity. So I wanted Nick to bring that character to life and he was terrific. As far as Hansen, I wanted someone who would be believable as a normal guy, who could get away with living in society, being a prominent businessman, having two kids, married for 18 years, yet for 13 of those years, committing these horrific things. My reservation was that whoever took on this role might really play it up, create a real villain. We both had a like-minded vision of exactly how we wanted this character to be portrayed—very understated, very normal.

John Cusack (Lionsgate)
John Cusack (Lionsgate)

What were some of the major challenges in making the film?

Scott: Like most films, you’re up against time. We shot the film in 26 days. This being my first film, I wasn’t really aware of the time constraints. I would have loved to have had 35 days. Having to cut 50 scenes before we started shooting just to fit the schedule and still having to shoot 225 scenes in 26 days was pretty full on. And that’s where having the right cast and crew, all aligned and clear about what we’re going, meant that we could hit the ground running.

How difficult was it shooting in Anchorage?

Scott: We had to deal with well-below-zero temperatures, 50-mile-per-hour winds and bear invested woods. Everyone thought I was crazy going there when it was snowing and sleeting, but it was an amazing adventure, so I think it paid off. The biggest challenge was a lack of equipment up there. We had four huge trucks, which were loaded in LA, driven to Seattle and put on barges for a full day, then set up in Anchorage. The other challenge was working within a certain window for snow. I wanted that feeling of no-snow to snow in the film. The day I needed snow, we got two feet. We were down to 6-7 hours of daylight per day.

What did you learn from Ordan’s Forest that you incorporated in The Frozen Ground?

Scott:  Write a much better script. Ordan’s Forest was not meant to be a short film for anyone but me. It was my first experience with making a film–from writing the script all the way through editing and mixing. It was basically my film school. It taught me to have patience and to re-write and re-write. And if you keep doing that, the script will get better and other people will come on board and be able to help you.

 The Frozen Ground will be available on demand August 23rd.

Interview with Europa Report’s JPL science advisors Kevin Hand and Steve Vance

Kevin Hand and Steve Vance (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)
Kevin Hand and Steve Vance (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

Easily one of the most realistic and believable films depicting space travel, Europa Report takes viewers on a “found footage” journey to Europa, one of Jupiter’s many moons.  Giving the film a definite air of authenticity are NASA JPL scientists Steve Vance and Kevin Hand, who served as science advisors for the film. In this roundtable interview, Vance and Hand discuss their roles on the film and the intriguing possibility of life on this distant celestial body. Read more

Interview with William Shatner

William Shatner (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)
William Shatner (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

Actor, musician, singer, author, film director, spokesman, comedian, he’s done it all–from Captain Kirk to T. J. Hooker, from Denny Crane in The Practice to the spin-off Boston Legal, the indefatigable, irrepressible and one and only William Shatner just keeps re-inventing himself, winning Emmys and Golden Globes along the way. He also starred in the CBS sitcom $#*! My Dad Says and The Captains, a feature length documentary, which he also wrote and directed. Later, he starred in Get a Life! a documentary on Star Trek fandom. Read more

Interview with Teen Wolf’s Crystal Reed, Tyler Posey, Holland Roden and Tyler Hoechlin

Crystal Reed (photo by ALex A. Kecskes)
Crystal Reed (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

Renewed for a full 24 episodes, the third season of Teen Wolf premiered on June 3, 2013. The fanged and furry teens and those that hunt and “crush” on them return from their summer break.  Star-crossed Scott McCall (Tyler Posey) and Allison Argent (Crystal Reed) still need to work things out, and Scott’s wise-cracking buddy, Stiles Stilinski (Dylan O’Brien) and Lydia Martin (Holland Roden) continue sleuthing. Stirring things up is the arrival of a supernatural serial killer with a motive, while Scott and Derek Hale (Tyler Hoechlin) face off against the powerful new Alpha pack, led by Deucalion (Gideon Emery), the mastermind behind a deadly plan. In this roundtable interview Crystal Reed, Tyler Posey, Holland Roden and Tyler Hoechlin talk about their characters and what’s in store for fans in Season 3.

Why do you think Teen Wolf is so popular?  What’s the magic ingredient?

Crystal Reed: I think, honestly, it’s keeping it real. It’s about teenage girls, but I think it’s rooted in something much deeper. I think that their relationship at their core is something viewers can relate to on a deeper level. I’ve had so many fans come up to me and tell me how it’s impacted their lives. And I know this sounds really superficial to talk about but I think that’s why people love it. Our core demographic is real young and they (characters) have these questionable moments. So it just keeps going and going–hopefully for eight seasons.

Crystal Reed (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)
Crystal Reed (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

So what’s coming up for Allison?

Crystal: Allison is going to start up an interesting relationship with Isaac. We’ve already seen the beginnings of it. There will be some great comedic elements.

What about her relationship with her father?

Crystal: At the end of the first couple of episodes, they come to an agreement and Allison kind of takes the reins. I think her dad really wants her to be a strong female.

We see Allison becoming a hunter. Do you want more physical scenes?

Crystal: I do. I do a lot of my own stunts. I come from theater, so being physical is a really big part of my acting. I’m always up for stunts.

Any new weapons that Allison will be wielding?

Crystal: Actually, yes. She has this new gun. And she’s shooting at something really interesting–that I can’t tell you  about (laughs).

How do feel about what’s happening to your character?

Holland Roden (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)
Holland Roden (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

Holland Roden:  I love that I’m not the changeling any more. She’s really come along way.  I’m a huge fan of Carmen Sandiego and I begged for a yellow trench coat—it’s probably red, but I’m saying it’s yellow. I love that’s she’s sort of a detective and she gets to be part of the pack. But you’ll soon find out what’s happening with my character.

 

Will there be a musical version of Teen Wolf?

Holland: (laughs) My Broadway resume goes way back. I’ve never done a play. Actually, I’ve done plays—in third grade.  They cut down my solo because I was Peter Pan and I couldn’t sing. I can carry a tune–with voice lessons.

Tyler Posey (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)
Tyler Posey (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

When do we see the telekinetics that we saw in the opening of the show?

Tyler Posey: That was cool. I absolutely loved shooting that opening sequence. It’s brand new. The reason we had to reshoot it is because my other opening sequence was at home and Jackson was involved. That was really fun. It’s something that we haven’t really dealt with in the show yet. I don’t know if it’s ever going to happen. It would be awesome to see stuff fly. The true Alpha is very powerful and someone I really love playing. It’s the coolest mythology we’ve ever had to deal with. You basically understand the world of werewolves, you’ve seen them before. There’s Alphas, they’re angry and so far, there’s only one way you can become an Alpha. But now Scott’s turning into a true Alpha due to his own good merit and force of will. It’s so much fun to play. I can’t thank Jeff Davis enough for writing that.  I can’t tell you whether Scott will become a true Alpha or not. Scott’s a great guy. He just wants everyone to survive and to do things without fighting or confrontation. If he does have to defend himself, he will. That’s what really makes him a true Alpha.

Tyler Posey (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)
Tyler Posey (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

So what’s coming up for Scott?

Tyler: In Season 3A, he has to prove himself to himself. He has to be the man that he wants to be. And risk his life and his friends’ life for what he really wants. He’s not really trying to become an Alpha, but in the back of his head, he’s admitting this is what he has to do. Hopefully it happens because it would be really fun to play. If he does become a true Alpha, I’m sure the makeup will have to change a little bit. There’s also the possibility of a new love interest for Scott. That can be really cool. There’s such good stuff coming up. I can’t tell you but I can’t wait for you to see it, especially in the last two episodes. It will blow your mind. Scott’s going to have to make a lot of choices that will risk his life.

 

What’s it like wearing wolf make up and seeing yourself in the mirror?

Tyler Hoechlin (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)
Tyler Hoechlin (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

Tyler Hoechlin: It’s the most amazing journey in the world. I’ve said from the beginning that playing a wolf is a really bizarre experience. You look in the mirror and you don’t see your own face—it’s kind of cool. But then you go on set and you growl and snarl and do these crazy things; it’s ridiculous, really. You kind of lose that sense of self and judgment that comes along with it, so you’re not worried about looking like an idiot or about looking dumb. You can’t even recognize yourself in the mirror, but that’s the process.  The makeup is its own monster. They’ve got it down to a science but it still takes two and half hours to put on the makeup.

Tyler Hoechlin (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)
Tyler Hoechlin (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

Derek is having a real bad season so far. Will things improve for him?

Tyler H: I think at this point Derek is at his absolute bottom. Seeing someone he was responsible for literally die in his hands, it’s just such a wake-up call. Erica’s death was its own thing, in that it happened far removed from him, and how it happened or when it happened was never really answered. But with Boyd’s death being so “in his face,” the weight of what he’s responsible for now, it’s really starting to tear him apart and he’s beginning to see what a mess he’s gotten himself into. I’m hoping in the next few episodes, we can find a way to turn it around and have him leave some kind of good impact on someone’s life. The flashback episode answers a lot of questions and provides insights into Eric’s past and why he is the way he is.

 

 

 

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.