Interview with Once Upon A Time Star, Kristin Bauer Van Straten, on Illicit Ivory Trade

Kristin Bauer Van Straten (Once Upon A Time’s Maleficent and True Blood’s Pam De Beaufort) will introduce viewers to a special installment of American television’s environmental investigative series, EARTH FOCUS: Illicit Ivory. An animal rights advocate, Van Straten hopes this documentary will help viewers understand the dire situation that elephants face—that poachers kill an elephant every 20 minutes to feed an insatiable demand for ivory. As a result, African elephants may be gone in as little as ten years. In this one-on-one interview, Van Straten reveals her commitment to saving these regal animals and her passionate pursuit of animal rights.

You’re a long time animal rights advocate. What prompted you to become involved with this particular documentary?

Kristin Bauer Van Straten: I had no idea this was going on. I met with James Isiche from IFAW (international Fund for Animal Welfare). They do great work in Kenya and he told me this was happening. I was so stunned. I’d heard about the ivory crisis in the 80s, but I didn’t realize that ivory was such a widely traded commodity. The cruelty of it is astounding. Elephants are massive and majestic creatures. The slaughtering of these 15,000 pound animals for four percent of their body for a trinket is appalling. I spent a month with elephants in Kenya where we met Cynthia Moss, who had conducted the longest running study of elephants in the wild. She’s observed their family structure, bathing rituals, their birthing and mourning process. I read her book, and there’s just no disputing that they are as sentient as we are.

African elephants are intelligent creatures
African elephants are intelligent creatures

What were the major challenges in filming this documentary?

Van Straten: Kenya is the only country that has chosen to destroy their seized ivory—as opposed to selling it to China. The biggest problem we’ve seen since the total ban on ivory in the 80s is that other African countries are choosing to enter the black market, become traders and profit from the sale of illegal ivory. Most people in China don’t realize that an elephant had to be killed for their ivory trinket. The word ivory in China translates into “teeth.” Ivory has become a status symbol there; it’s how the Chinese middle class show “they have arrived. And that has fueled this drive to move ivory overseas again. We’re trying to get an all-out ban on ivory, but we’re getting all kinds of blowback from the people who would profit form its sale.

An elephant dies for these trinkets
An elephant dies for these trinkets

How long have you been involved in animal rights? And in the protection of elephants?

Van Straten: Throughout my life on some level. My dad was such a nature lover. While my siblings aren’t into animals like I am, they are into the environment. I became actively involved, and as my career rose, so did my opportunities to give back. There are so many amazing causes. And since I can’t clone myself, I try to get involved with the most voiceless—and that’s animals. I wasn’t involved in the protection of elephants until about three years ago. I didn’t go to the circus. I don’t believe in slavery. I’m not fond of using animals for entertainment. I’m an entertainer and it’s rough. I think it should be your choice. So I wasn’t aware of the elephant genocide until a few years ago. Lions, zebra, giraffe—all being slaughtered. Many animals in Africa are under siege, mainly from Asia.

Elephants are loving animals
Elephants are loving animals

What are the short and long-term goals you hope this documentary will achieve?

Van Straten: From what I saw in Kenya, the people there are astoundingly optimistic. I think it’s just their nature, but I also think that when you’re on the ground, literally saving lives, even if you save less than you’d like, there’s a certain can-do attitude that comes from having your hands in the dirt. And that optimism became infectious. The more who get involved, the greater chance we have of keeping elephants on Earth. I watched two animal species go extinct in the last two years, which is very sad. I asked a ranger in northern Kenya what will happen if more people don’t get involved in saving animals and he said it’s uncertain. The only thing we can do is try to support what these heroes in Kenya are doing.

How can people help this noble cause?

Van Straten: Depending on the person’s resources, if all they have is a voice, that’s huge. We need the world to declare an all-out ban on ivory. We need to spread the word as fast as we can. Many people hear about this and make the choice—to write a letter, foster a baby elephant in Kenya, send $50 to one of the organizations that I know will make a difference (they’re on my website).

Switching gears, what are some of your favorite moments in Once Upon a Time?

Van Straten: I usually watch the show, but I don’t like to watch myself. I really had a ball with Lana Parrilla and the rest of the cast. Lana is the first person I got to work and she has this amazing big laugh. The hours are really long, but we just dove in and had so much fun playing with these roles. I just came off seven years playing evil characters, and she has been killing it, playing evil. But now both of our characters have found a softer side.

EARTH FOCUS: Illicit Ivory airs on KCET. The program will also be available on http://www.kcet.org/ivory and KCET.org/ivory. The trailer can be seen on http://bcove.me/slkmg39e (warning: contains shocking footage of killed elephants).

 

Shawn Carter Peterson Improvises His Role in Pitch Perfect 2

Shawn Carter, Image by Ben Miller

Shawn Carter Peterson portrays Dax in the upcoming musical dance flick Pitch Perfect 2. This movie is more than just a sweet tune with a toe tap and a shake of the hip. Viewers can learn a few things after they’ve watched this production.

Peterson says Pitch Perfect 2 teaches audience goers that, “even when all seems lost, [you can] find the silver lining and go with it — It will take you through to the winner’s circle!” Read more

The Affair Cast Talks Sex at Showtime Celebration

The cast from Showtime’s The Affair attended a screening of the show and a panel discussion at the historic Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, hosted by Hollywood Reporter’s Stacey Wilson. Joshua Jackson (Cole Lockhart), Ruth Wilson (Alison Bailey), Maura Tierney (Helen Solloway) and Julia Goldani Telles (Whitney Solloway) joined the audience in conversation about the show along with the show’s producers Sarah Treem and Jeffrey Reiner. Read more

Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara are in Hot Pursuit of the Spanish Language and Fake Cocaine

It won’t be long before a new comedy hits the big screen on May 8. Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara star in Hot Pursuit. It’s a quirky little flick about a cop (Witherspoon) whose uptight, by-the-book antics do not serve her well when she is assigned to protect a too-cool-for-school widow of a drug boss who likes to live life by anything but the “book”. Read more

Torri Higginson and Darren Jacobs Talk “Nobility”

The spaceship Nobility
The spaceship Nobility

A cross between Firefly and The Office, the new a space adventure TV series Nobility combines a sleek spaceship in a deep-space adventure with a hearty dose of comedy. The polite, albeit dysfunctional crew aboard the C.A.S. Nobility—the most powerful ship in the Confederate Alliance—are the subjects of a documentary about how this mightiest of all ships is run.  Each episode explores the actions of the ship’s wacky crew as they overcome their personal trials and challenges in a broken world that surrounds them.

In these one-on-one interviews, Torri Higginson (Stargate SG1, Stargate: Atlantis) talks about her role as Cdr. Eugenia Pikeman. Also weighing in on his role as the heavily disciplined Eujin Liaison, Lt. Sirius Halud is Darren Jacobs (Elevator Gods, Death Machine, and the two-part sci-fi Starship).

Torri Higginson
Torri Higginson

What attracted you to the role of Cdr. Eugenia Pikeman?

Torri Higginson: I find that I always get cast in these big-hearted, nurturing characters, but I love Commander Pikeman because she’s not that. She’s very smart. She has an eye and a wing over everyone, but she would rather not talk to you or you to her. She would rather smack you if you misbehave. I find her energy quite wonderful. She reminds me a little bit of a German dominatrix.

How is this different and how is it similar to the sci-fi work you’ve done in the past?

Higginson: I’d never been part of a project on this grass roots level. Adrienne Wilkinson (who plays Lt. Ara Eris) got in touch with me, so I first heard about it through the actors who told me there’s this world that E.J. De La Pena created that’s really exciting and filled with lots of possibilities. So let’s all dive in and play and see what happens with it. It was a little bit scary but it seemed like a nice environment to play. The cast had already been compiled at that point and it sounded fabulous. E.J.’s energy is very lovely and innocent and he has this big heart for sci-fi. You never know how it’s going to pan out. There’s a bit of irreverence, which you find in the original Stargate and the original Star Trek.

Adrienne-Wilkinson is Lt. Ara Eris
Adrienne-Wilkinson is Lt. Ara Eris

Did you audition for the role?

Higginson: No. Adrienne got in touch with me and I met with E.J. who said we’d love you to come on board. Usually when you audition, even though, as an actor, you don’t feel it’s a mutual audition, you walk into the room and you hope you get the gig. But there is this other thing that happens when you get a job and you have an audition, it’s nerve wracking because you realize you haven’t had a chance to see what the person on the other side of the table is all about. There is a kind of mutual audition that goes on. So that was interesting to walk in, even though I had a meeting with E.J., I didn’t know how it would work or how his energy was going to be. Actors are all little kids that refuse to grow up.

How did you prepare for this particular role, a commander in humanity’s most powerful starship?

Higginson: Well (laughs), I just drew on my life’s experience. I find that in a lot of science fiction, the world is so out there, you really just take what you get from the script. And it seems sort of non-pressured for the whole environment. To be honest, I didn’t do a lot of prep. I read the script and looked at the other characters to see what they were doing. I met with the other actors and with the series creator, and then I just shut up and decided to play.

Torri Higginson as Cdr.-Eugenia-Pikeman
Torri Higginson as Cdr.-Eugenia-Pikeman

What was the most challenging part of this role? What scenes or parts do you enjoy the most?

Higginson: It was inspiring to see what they did on such a budget challenged series. But you get used to certain things like their wardrobe—like really? I can fit three people in this thing. Just having to feel powerful and strong in an outfit that doesn’t make you feel that way was a challenge. But I’m still blown away by what they did—creating an entire set in basically one room—wardrobe, hair and makeup, shooting, the green room.

As a ship’s commander, do you get involved in any shooting and fighting? And do you do your own stunts?

Higginson: I had a hard time working on my right hook. We had this amazing stunt guy, Mario, who came in and organized these fabulous fights between Adrienne and Darren Jacobs. And they just rocked it out of the park. I just get to punch people occasionally. I don’t break a sweat, I punch and walk away.

How much can you tell us about your character arc? Will Cdr. Pikeman change? Or will she be immune to the zany antics aboard the Nobility?

Higginson: She has a dry outlook that I really like. She has one eyebrow cocked most of the time and a little bit of an eye roll. What I love about E.J. and what brought me on to the role was that E.J. had such a strong sense of where it’s going. Everyone has a very specific arc. He came at me with “this is the history of this character.” As an actor, E.J. created this world with an actor’s mind. So he has a very strong sense of who these people are. As for my character, she is strong and emotionally reserved, but I think she’s going to open up a bit.

Captain Eric Cern (Cas Anvar)
Captain Eric Cern (Cas Anvar)

Will there be any romantic entanglements for Cdr. Pikeman? Can you say with whom?

Higginson: I hope so. I not looking forward to another four years of celibacy in space. I think Eugenia and Captain Eric Cern (Cas Anvar) have an interesting history. I think they were best friends during their training days, but I don’t think they had a romantic history. And I don’t think they ever will because he’s got his eyes on the mission—like a modern day Captain Kirk. I think she will have a romantic relationship with someone—perhaps with a Eujin because they are a very reserved and deeply honest race of humans.

 

The series is ostensibly an incongruous coupling. How is Nobility like Firefly and how is it like The Office?

Lt.-Sirius-Halud (Darren Jacobs )
Lt.-Sirius-Halud (Darren Jacobs )

Darren Jacobs: It’s like the Office because we have these cutaways or confessionals where we talk directly to the camera. Nobility has these little robots that fly around and film things that are happening on the ship. They think it’s good for the general population to see what’s happening on board, but it’s not really a great idea because the people running the ship are not the best people. In terms of Firefly, it’s got the sci-fi humor, the science stuff and on-the-nose throw away comedy—like Red Dwarf. All the characters are flawed in some way. My character is differed because I come onto the ship as an innocent optimist who wants to do good. But being immersed with these people changes me. I become tarnished.

You have such a broad acting background. What drew you to the role of Lt. Sirius Halud?

Jacobs: I was in a film with E.J. at the time and he was telling me about this thing that he’d been thinking about—combining sci-fi and comedy. I read the script and I thought it was fantastic. Then he got Claudia Christian from Babylon 5 involved. He asked if I knew anyone could do the serious stuff and the comedy and I got the role straight away. The real test for me was when we did some confessionals with costume and make up. We had a couple of script pages and I did a little improv with the comedy and E.J. and the crew were laughing their heads off.

How did you prepare for the role?

Jacobs: I did lots of research because it’s set 700 years into the future. So I had to learn about the Eujin race of people. We went back and forth about how we (Eujins) would speak. In 400 years, humanity becomes isolated, and in 700 years, they come back. I liked the idea they’re kind of outdated, so we agreed on a 50’s UK accent. In the fight scenes, I’m like a snake.

Nobility spaceship
Nobility spaceship

What was the most challenging part of this role? What scenes or parts do you enjoy the most?

Jacobs: I really enjoyed the fighting, but I also hated it because it was in the middle of summer, we were in this hot warehouse and I had this plastic costume that had half an inch of foam in the front, which when it bunched up, looked like I had these rolls on me. The sweat poured out me. I loved the pilot because the camera follows me through the ship as I meet all the characters. So every day, I’d come to the set and I’d meet a new person.

How is this different and how is it similar to the work you’ve done in the past?

Jacobs: It’s similar in that you come on set and you work with great people. It’s different because I’d come on set and realize that every day, I was working on something that I’d dreamed of working on as a kid.

Will Lt. Halud have romantic liaisons with any of the crew? Can you say with

whom?

Jacobs: I don’t know. I do know that he is definitely attracted to Eugenia Pikeman. He likes the idea that she has some respect for him. Eugenia is a strong woman who is really the muscle behind the ship.

Nobility ship
Nobility ship

How much can you tell us about your character arc? Will Lt. Halud change? Or will he continue to evangelize the Eujin culture with its focus on genetic purity and directed evolution?

Jacobs: My character is from a Eujin family who has had some problems in the past but now my sister and I are doing very well. She is in politics and I’m growing fast in the army. Joining the crew of Nobility is a huge slap in the face for my family because it’s a human ship. I’ve literally thrown away my high rank. Lt. Halud has this hope that the humans and the Eujins can work together, to expand humanity and reach the next stage. But the things that happen in the pilot change everything. Initially both the humans and the Eujins don’t accept me.

 

 

 

At the roundtable with “Messengers” stars Shantel VanSanten and Craig Frank

Messengers' stars Shantel VanSanten and Craig Frank
Messengers’ stars Shantel VanSanten and Craig Frank

Messengers’ stars Shantel VanSanten and Craig Frank talk about the compelling  new series, which begins when a mysterious object crashes on earth and a group of unconnected strangers die from an energy pulse it emits.  The selected Messengers re-awaken to find out that they must work together and unite their various new powers to prevent the impending Apocalypse. Messengers premieres on Friday, April 17 at 9pm on the CW channel. Click Messengers for brief video.

 

Interview with STARRY EYES’ Alex Essoe

Alex Essoe
Alex Essoe

Born in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, actress/writer Alex Essoe’s diverse body of work includes such films and TV series as Free to Go, Passion Play, House of Lies and Reaper. In Starry Eyes, Esso plays Sarah Walker, a young woman determined to make it as an actress in Hollywood. Stuck in a dead-end day job as a waitress, enduring petty friendships, and going on endless casting calls, Sarah submits to a series of strange auditions. When she finally lands the role in a new film from a mysterious production company, she undergoes a bizarre transformation that changes her into something beautiful…and altogether terrifying. In this one-on-one interview, Esso talks about her role and the challenges she faced in bringing Sarah’s character to life.

What attracted you to the role of Sarah?

Alex Essoe: I totally fell in love with Sarah’s vulnerability and fragility. And how pure her intentions are. She’s so unbelievably hard on herself, which comes from a place of truly loving what she does. The tragic flaw of Sarah is that looks for a sense of identity outside of herself, which ultimately leads to her downfall. It broke my heart when I read the script.

Alex Essoe
Alex Essoe

Did you audition for the role? What was that like?

AE: It was me and about 30 other girls. After an audition, I try to forget about it or you can drive yourself crazy. I didn’t hear anything for nearly four months, then I got a callback. They sent me the script, and after I read it, I told myself, I need to do everything I can do get this part. I totally fell in love with the story. So I did the callback, and after another four months, I got a call to have coffee with director Dennis (Widmyer) and we talked for about an hour about film trivia and Zulawski’s Possession, which is one of my favorite all-time horror movies. And lucky for me, my reference to Possession prompted Dennis to exclaim, “that’s actually what this film is influenced by.”

Alex Essoe
Alex Essoe

You’ve been on a few casting calls. Were there things you drew from them for this role?

AE: One thing I loved about Sarah’s experience early on in the film is how universal it is. Every actor has to deal with rejection and self-doubts. I don’t know a single actor, who after an audition, hasn’t said, “I didn’t do that right. I should have done this and made that choice.” You drive yourself crazy doing that. So, yeah, the years of casting calls, rejections and picking yourself back up—they reflect Sarah’s inner monologue, as she lives and dies by whether she’s accepted by the industry.

What was the most challenging part of bringing Sarah’s complex character to life?

AE: I would say finding what her boundaries were. Like most people, I have very definite boundaries. There are certain lines that I’m simply not interested in crossing. Sarah had to find a way to justify certain choices she made. Were I this person and had I lived this kind of life, I’d have to find all the things that surmount my personal boundaries. You have to find a way to justify everything and not judge. You can’t ever judge any character you play, otherwise, you really can’t honor them.

Poster--Starry Eyes
Poster–Starry Eyes

Do you have a favorite scene?

AE: The ending was a delight to shoot. The climax at the house was really fun. And the actors I worked with were great. Fabianne (Therese) especially, because I kill her like three times. And the kitchen was just a massacre.

How did you prepare for the physical brutality of the role? Your killing scenes were pretty intense.

AE: When you’re the antagonist and doling out punishment, you can’t really think of it as punishment or something that would horrify you. You have to regard it as work. A great example is Marathon Man where Laurence Olivier is torturing Dustin Hoffman. Olivier said that during that scene, he imagined himself pruning his roses at home. So that’s what I used during some of those violent scenes. Obviously the choices for Sarah were different, since she’s in a different headspace and completely broken down at that point.

What went through your mind when you read the script—with Sarah covered in mud and blood, and her face all bruised.

AE: Oh, bring it on. I couldn’t wait to get started. And the more crazy stuff they added, I said, “yes, more.” The priority is honoring the story.

Starry Eyes
Starry Eyes

Did you really shave your head for the final scene?

AE: No, no, no. I don’t know if I’m at that point in my career where I can pull a Natalie Portman and get away with it. We had the best effects team headed by this talented man named Hugo. He was a genius. There was nothing he couldn’t do. Once he put that bald cap on, it was the creepiest thing ever. Maybe in the future, I’ll shave my head. It’s not such a bad look for me.

What message do you think the film sends to aspiring young actresses?

AE: I hope that it sends the message that there are no real rules when it comes to making your way in this industry. Don’t ever let anyone else try and tell you who you really are. You have to know who you are or other people are going to tell you who you are.

 

 

Alex Russell Is a Believer, an Interview

believemeposterAlex Russell (Chronicle) recently wrapped up five weeks chilling with his friends and family in Australia, and then he went on to hang out in New York promoting his new film Believe Me. Russell plays the character Sam, one of four broke college friends who come up with a cheeky, inventive way to raise a little cash.

Probably one of the most fun roles Russell has portrayed thus far, he tells us a little bit about his character as he sees him. “Sam is a person who seems to be a really good guy. He spreads a lot of joy and lives by a set of principles. One of my favorite major takeaways for me from the film is ‘are you practicing what you preach or are you just going along with the crowd‘. I think Sam says he lives one way, but he actually lives another.” Read more

Interview with LEPRECHAUN: ORIGINS Director Zach Lipovsky

Zach Lipovsky
Director Zach Lipovsky
Director Zach Lipovsky

The film franchise that’s delighted a growing fan base over the years—Leprechaun—was rebooted to Leprechaun: Origins. Backpacking through the lush Irish countryside, two unsuspecting young couples discover a town’s chilling secret. Ben (Andrew Dunbar), Sophie (Stephanie Bennett), David (Brendan Fletcher) and Jeni (Melissa Roxburgh) quickly discover the idyllic land is not what it appears to be when the town’s residents offer the hikers an old cabin at the edge of the woods. Soon, the friends find that one of Ireland’s most famous legends is a terrifying reality. In this roundtable interview, director Zach Lipovsky reveals how he approached this rendition of the classic horror tale to make it fresh, current and unique. Read more

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