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Sarah Rafferty On Her Career, The Evolution of Her Role On ‘Suits’ And More!

Sarah Rafferty On Her Career, The Evolution of Her Role On ‘Suits’ And More!

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Sarah Rafferty has spent the past several years playing one of the most interesting characters on USA’s ‘Suits.’ As Donna Paulsen, she plays Harvey Specter’s executive assistant; one of the most formidable minds at Pearson Hardman.  Her razor sharp wit, comedic timing and incredible sense of style have established her as a fan favorite on the series. Each week, Rafferty makes her character jump from the screen and continues to captivate audiences with each passing season. 

Although she is a familiar face to us now, Rafferty is no overnight sensation but rather a seasoned veteran of stage and screen. Her journey began in high school at Philips Academy, her drama teacher caught her running across his lawn trying to get to field hockey practice on time. He told her to skip practice and join the cast of Richard III, and thus began her love of theatre. Rafferty went on to double major in English and Theatre at Hamilton College, and after graduating magna cum laude, went on to receive her MFA from The Yale School of Drama.

Rafferty has numerous theatre credits in New York, including appearances at Second Stage, The Roundabout Theatre Company and The Lucille Lortel. While starring opposite Kathleen Turner and Charles Busch in his play, “The Third Story”, The New York Times’ Ben Brantley called Rafferty “a screwball charmer.” Rafferty has appeared at many regional theatres across the country including productions and workshops of several new plays at South Coast Rep. and Shakespeare & Company where she played Rosalind in “As You Like It.” She also voiced several radio plays for “The Plays the Thing” on NPR.

On television, Rafferty has showcased her amazing talents by guest starring on several comedies and dramas including “Brothers and Sisters,” “Law and Order: Criminal Intent,” “Six Feet Under,” “Without a Trace,” “Bones,” “Samantha Who?” and “8 Simple Rules.” She starred opposite Gena Rowlands in the television movie, “What if God were the Sun.” She was also seen in independent features “Falling for Grace” and “Small Beautifully Moving Parts,” which debuted at The Tribeca Film Festival and South by Southwest, respectively.

There is no question that the future is very bright for Sarah Rafferty, as ‘Suits’ returns on January 28th for it’s mid-season premiere and was recently renewed for it’s fifth season. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with this star on the rise to discuss her early years, her influences, bringing her beloved character from script to screen, her  work with Plan Canada’s “Because I am a Girl” movement and much more!

Sarah Rafferty

Sarah Rafferty

It is never easy to take on a career in the entertainment industry. When did you fall in love with acting and decide to pursue it as a career?

I was always that kid who was in the school play, starting in sixth grade. As I grew through high school and college, I was definitely trying to hang with the jocks! [laughs] I played lacrosse and was on the ski team but I always felt most at home in my theatre extracurriculars. I would say I fell in love with acting in my sophomore and junior year in college. During the summer of my sophomore year, I went away to the Williamstown Theatre Festival and was surrounded by the theatre and really inspired by having all of these amazing actors to look up to and learn from. My junior year, I went away to London to study acting. That is where I met the dean of the Yale School of Drama. After I graduated, I went to Yale to study acting. my route was definitely through school.

Who would you cite as your biggest influence or inspiration?

I would say that acting, especially in theatre, is such an intimate process that I would say every single actor you come across influences you. I remember my junior year abroad in London when Juliet Stevenson came and spoke to our class. We had the opportunity to see her in a play on the West End and I got to work with her where she coached me in a scene. I was just so amazed by her! Meryl Streep also came to visit our class at Yale. There were definitely amazing people who had these full careers but were taking time out to encourage students to work hard and go for it! Those were two really amazing women I got to meet early on. At Williamstown, I got to apprentice Blythe Danner one summer. That was pretty amazing too because I got to be backstage with her at all times. It was pretty great!

Sarah Rafferty

Sarah Rafferty

Did you ever have the often talked about Ah-Ha moment were you really felt you had made it as an actress or are you still kind of waiting for that moment in a way?

[laughs] Oh, secretly doesn’t everyone think they are some sort of fraud and wonder if they are ever going to make it! [laughs] I think you are always striving to do better, to go further and to deepen everything. I would say maybe that Ah-Ha moment is going to be a series of moments along the way. It was really interesting when watching this year’s Golden Globes that Kevin Spacey said, “I’m just trying to do better.” He admits that he is continuing to strive to be better. You think, “What?! You have arrived!” [laughs] I thought that was a really cool moment and something I could really relate to.

You became a familiar face to audiences with your work on USA’s “Suits.” What attracted you to the project early on?

The writing. When I read the pilot script, a number of things stood out. What struck me the most was that I could absolutely hear the voices of these characters right off the bat. You got such a great sense of who they were and a great sense of how there was so much further for the characters to go and you could go on a journey with them for a number of years. I was also amazed at how much happens in our pilot. It had a pace that was really kind of electric. On a personal note, Gabriel Macht was an old friend who I met back at the Williamstown Theatre Festival when we were kids. He was the one who gave me the script. He had been cast as Harvey. Knowing that I would have the chance to work with him was a huge incentive. He is such a wonderful actor and someone I trust so much, so that was another aspect that was really great.

What did you bring to your character that wasn’t on the written page initially?

I think that has been fun for all of us on the show. As the show grows, the writers write more towards what we bring to the characters and the characters grow in a certain direction based on that. One of the particularly fun moments that happens very early on is a scene between Donna and Lewis where Lewis has asked Harvey if he can borrow Donna. Harvey says, “Donna is the one thing I can’t give you but feel free to ask her yourself.” Donna pulls this whole crying jag on Lewis and totally freaks him out and he ends up running away! Then she just stops crying on a dime. She looks at Harvey and says, “That was really fun!” That playfulness and kind of actory-ness has been fun. I say that because moving forward from that point, Donna does do a lot of acting and pulling one over on Lewis and crying on a dime. We have now discovered, in the recent season, she once had aspirations to be an actor and that she is playing Portia this year in a community theatre gig. I think that the writers kind of took my passion for the theatre and acting and brought a little bit of that to Donna.

Sarah Rafferty

Sarah Rafferty

This character has gone on quite a journey over the course of the series. What have some of the highlights been for you and where do you hope to see it lead in the future?

I think you are right. Donna has gone on a journey. Every time a major plot point comes up in the Donna storyline, I am always surprised and delighted by what the writers have come up with. That probably first happened in Season 2 when Donna was fired. That just opened up so much with the opportunity to do flashbacks and the complicated moment Donna was in. There were opportunities for amazing scenes with all of my castmates. That was a great moment for me to discover how the audience was responding to my character. People took to Twitter and really engaged with that plot point, so that was a lot of fun for me. In terms of where I hope to see it go, we are going into the last six episodes of Season 4 and something comes up for Donna that I was surprised and delighted by. They just keep pushing further and further with these amazing plot points. I just sit back and trust the writers and I am really excited to see what they come up with for Season 5. I have always been delighted with every season, so it has really been great!

Looking back on your time with the series and all the people involved, what is the biggest thing you will take away from the experience?

I am sure I have taken a lot away from it but it is difficult to focus in on it because I am so in it. I am not out of it enough to have the opportunity for reflection. For me, it has been really gratifying and interesting in creating a lot of backstory for the character. In watching, as I have, I have notions in my head of the backstory and it’s funny how some of it comes through in the writing by the writers. For example, the part of her being an actor and deciding she wasn’t going in that direction and why she chose to carry on working with Harvey. I have found you can keep digging deeper and deeper into the character and make it more and more alive for yourself and the audience. I can tell you I have been away from shooting since November and we all certainly needed a rest before going into Season 5. Although I am enjoying my hiatus, there is a little part of me that misses playing her! There is a little part of me that misses running around in the shoes of someone with that kind of sense of self, self-love and witty banter. She is a really fun character to play. Ultimately, I think when the series is done, I will miss her.

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What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a part of this unique series?

Ok, Season 2, I had a newborn! [laughs]

I imagine that is quite the challenge! [laughs]

Yeah! When we went back to shoot Season 2, my second child was 6 weeks old! Dealing with the breast feeding, the breast pumping and the timing of all that while shooting and wearing Dior was one of the more hilarious challenges! [laughs] It was to the point on set where the assistant directors on set were watching their clocks hoping to get to a turn around so I could run off and pump and not have a wardrobe malfunction! [laughs]

Sarah Rafferty

Sarah Rafferty

Your character is known for her fashion sense. Is that something that comes naturally to you or do you have a team of pros giving you a fashion education?

All of the credit has to go to Jolie [Andreatta], our designer. She is the one who had the vision for the show and had the real understanding of fashion. She has introduced us to all of these designers. There is no going back once you have been trotting around in Valentino and Dior all day. It is kind of a personal disaster to know that kind of fashion is out there. That has been a really fun byproduct of the show. I have really had a masterclass in fashion. Even being around our seamstress, who is a couturier, I get the understanding of how the clothes are built and what is so special about the different aspects of fashion as an artform. It has been a fascinating thing to learn about and a major plus!

Looking to the future, is there any type of project you always had on your bucket list?

I want to be like Maggie Smith and be working for a long time! That is my dream. Right now, the series takes up so much of my time and my kids are little, so my plate is definitely full. Before my second child was born, I did a play in our hiatus. I was actually five months pregnant with Iris while we were on hiatus and I did a play because I knew it might be a little while before I made it back to the theatre, which is my love. I look forward to going back to doing plays at a more convenient time in my life! [laughs] My husband and I are New Yorkers originally, so I do think about someday moving back there and getting involved with the theatre again, living in New York and soaking it all in. It is really inspiring to be able to go to a play every night of the week and watch people on the stage digging in.

Any young actor can look to you and your work as an inspiration. What is best piece of advice you can pass along to those looking to make their career in the entertainment industry?

Just thinking about how our conversation started, for me, my path was through studying. I continued to study acting and even when I was out of drama school I always said yes when someone wanted me to do a play reading, a workshop of a new play or be a reader for auditions. I just kept showing up to keep working on acting because you never know what will come of it. Like Kevin Spacey said, “You are really never done. The process is never done and you are always seeking to grow more as an actor.” My advice would be to continue to look for the opportunities for growth. Whatever it takes to continue to grow as an actor is what you have to do. There is so much downtime between jobs, so continuing to exercise the acting muscles is something you have to do when you’re young and starting out.

Sarah Rafferty

Sarah Rafferty

Are you involved with any charity work we can help shine a light on?

Absolutely! There is an amazing organization called Plan Canada. They have an initiative called Because I Am A Girl Initiative. I am proud to say I am one of their ambassadors. It shines a light on girl’s rights as human rights. You can check it out at www.becauseiamagirl.ca. I got involved with them after seeing a documentary called “Girl Rising,” a few years ago. At the end of it, they showed the different charities that were involved with the making of the film. I was just struck by Because I Am A Girl. I looked into it and I was thrilled to find out it was Canadian because I spend seven months out of the year in Canada. Our show is based in Toronto. I reached out to them and have met with them at their offices. I am looking forward to traveling with them in the future. I will probably go to Africa to visit some schools they have set up there and will get a chance to see first hand what they have been doing. I am really looking forward to spreading the word because they are doing such amazing work!

Thank you so much for your time today, Sarah! Keep up the great work and we look forward to seeing what you bring our way in the future!

Thank you so much, Jason! Take care!

Be sure to connect with Sarah Rafferty on Twitter and Instagram! Catch Sarah Rafferty on ‘Suits’ on the USA Network, airing Wednesdays at 10/9 c.

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Tim Matheson On His Longevity, Exciting New Projects, Philanthropy And More!

Tim Matheson On His Longevity, Exciting New Projects, Philanthropy And More!

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Tim Matheson has spent the better part of his life in front of the camera. Beginning his career at the age of 13, Matheson appeared in Robert Young?s CBS nostalgia comedy series “Window on Main Street” during the 1961-1962 television season. His hard work and dedication to his craft would lead him to a gig providing the voice of the lead character in the cartoon program “Jonny Quest” as well as the voice of “Jace? in the original animated series “Space Ghost.”

He furthered his impact on the pop culture landscape when he landed the role of Eric “Otter” Stratton? in the 1978 comedy “Animal House,” a film destined to become one of the most beloved comedy’s of all-time. but has had a variety of other well-known roles both before and since. Those roles include critical accolades for his playing “Vice President John Hoynes? on the television series, “The West Wing,” which garnered him two Primetime Emmy award nominations for Best Guest Star in a Drama Series. Having now entertained audiences over the last 50 years, Matheson is a luminary in the business. 

Matheson currently stars as “Dr. Brick Breeland? in The CW series, “Hart of Dixie,” opposite Rachel Bilson. He has and continues to direct several episodes each season throughout the series. Not limited to “Hart of Dixie,” Matheson has made a career of directing an array of episodic projects on some of television?s most prominent shows, including “The Last Ship,” “Burn Notice,” “Criminal Minds,” “Without a Trace,” “Cold Case,” “Numbers,” “Drop Dead Diva,” “Suits,” “Eureka” and “White Collar,” as well as pilots for Fox?s “The Good Guys” and the USA Network successful original series “Covert Affairs.” 

One of the most fascinating parts of Tim Matheson’s ever-evolving career is work as a producer. One of his latest endeavors finds him option a script for an award winning foreign film called “I Hate The Dawn.” His interest in bringing this material to American audiences sparked an amazing relationship with the National Down Syndrome Society. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Tim Matheson to get a look inside his amazing career, his creative process, current and upcoming projects, work with the National Down Syndrome Society and much more.

They say a career in the entertainment industry isn’t for the faint of heart. How did you get started on your journey?

Tim Matheson

Tim Matheson

Very slowly! I always wanted to be an actor as a kid in the 1950s. I was in sixth grade and I used to spend all weekend at the theater watching movies over and over. My parents went through a divorce when I was 6 or 7, so I would sit and watch movies. In those days, you could just stay in the theater and watch them over and over and over again. I found a sort of solace in that. It just made me feel better. Every time you looked at a movie, it was exactly the same as it was the previous time or you might see different things in it. When I got back to LA, I had lived in San Bernardino for a year in the sixth grade, I said, “I want to be an actor.” One thing led to another and my mother’s boss had a son who had an agent. Through them, I got some auditions and finally got a part! I got a day here or a day there. I was the third kid through the door but not an important part. For me, it was exciting because I got to learn on the job and it led to bigger parts. I worked irregularly throughout my teens. Then I started doing cartoons and “Jonny Quest” when I was 15 and 16. It was a slow and steady thing. It was a lot of on the job training and I would take classes as well but I always knew I wanted to be an actor.

What really kickstarted your professional drive at an early age?

I was always studying but I did look at other actors as mentors. I found something early on that really helped me. I used to listen to music as I studied a script. It was a funny thing. The emotions in the music would sort of match the emotion in the script and, by listening to the music, it would put me in the mood and get my emotions going. I arbitrarily found that as a young actor. I found it really released my emotions and helped me get into the mood for the scenes. That is a technique that a lot of actors use. There was a point, though, when I was in my early 20s, that all of the technique and stuff I had developed as a young actor came together. I was doing an episode of a TV show, I think it was “Owen Marshall,” and it was a really emotional scene. For whatever reason, I hadn’t prepared properly and what I had done in the past didn’t work. The emotion wasn’t there, which I was very used to. It was always there for me. I went home feeling like I was stealing money. I had sort of faked it but I didn’t really give them what I consider my best work. Then I doubled my efforts and started studying again by taking Shakespeare courses, performing in Shakespeare, learning the classics and studying Stanislavski. I tried to spend the three or four years I was under contract with Universal as my college education or Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts study time. It was very instrumental for me to do that at that time because you really need technique. Technique is there to help you through the moments that emotion fails you. If you are doing a play every night, every night isn’t going to be 100% emotional. There will be some nights where you just don’t want to be doing the play, ya know? How do you do it when you don’t feel like doing it? What can lure you into it? Those are the things you learn when you study technique.

You have been working steadily since your youth. To what do you attribute your longevity?

Some of it is luck or as Kevin Ventura, the golfer, used to say, “The more I practice, the luckier I get.” I think it is that. I think one needs to create good and healthy work habits and focus on how to prepare for jobs and auditions. There are two sides to it. There is the business aspect of it and a creative aspect of it. You need to have a good agent, a good manager and good business people helping to provide you with the opportunity to apply your creative inspiration to the work. It is a combination of those two worlds. I also learned from other actors. I remember saying to someone, “Every five to seven years you need to reinvent yourself.” The audience sort of gets comfortable with you doing a certain thing in a certain type of movie and, after five to seven years, they want the next thing! I went through various stages in my career. I was a kid actor and then I was in westerns like “The Virginian” and “Bonanza” or “The Quest.” That sort of ran its string and I was kind of tired of the parts I was getting in my early 20s, so I studied improv. Out of that came “Animal House,” “Fletch,” “1941” and “To Be Or Not To Be.” It really opened a whole comedic world that I hadn’t been used to doing. “Animal House” was my first comedy really. After that, there was a whole world of dramatic television movies I got into and then I transitioned to “The West Wing,” where I was sort of the villain of the piece. There were different kinds of things that jumped and re-jumped my career at those different junctures. Then I started directing and producing more, while now I have gone to “Hart of Dixie” with my rural comedic roots. I’m always looking for a new door to open and a new direction to take my career in. Change is good! I think that is what keeps it fresh and vibrant, as opposed to doing the same thing over and over again.

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You mentioned “Animal House.” Obviously, I can’t talk to you and not ask if you had any idea it would become the classic it has and what type of impact did it have on you personally?

It really opened tremendous doors for me in Hollywood in terms of movies and recognition within the industry on a certain level. On the set, every day that went by it got a little more clear that this script was really good, these actors are really good, this director is really good and everything seems to be working very well. You would watch John Belushi at the food fight, where he is in the cafeteria eating all of that food, and all it took was one take. He was so remarkably funny, fresh and free as an improv actor. I think that inspired us all to go out on a limb a little bit more and take chances. It also showed us not to overact. It was all very realistically based and somewhat underplayed if you will. There was a realistic context to it all, so we didn’t mug and do a lot of broad schtick and stuff like that. It made me very nervous because I had never done it before but Belushi was very supportive, positive and helpful in helping me believe I could do it.

You mentioned making your transition from acting into directing. Was there a point where you knew directing was something you wanted to pursue and was it a difficult transition to make?

Tim Matheson

Tim Matheson

Every transition in show business is difficult. First off, there are always 900 people trying to get your job and get you out of the business every minute of every day. Then, if you want to do another job too, it’s like, “Who the hell are you? Every actor wants to direct.” It is always very difficult to get the first person to let you do that thing. Then the second person is even harder than the first! I bought the rights to a script, which was a thriller. I took it to Universal and they wanted to do it. I said, “I will let you do it but I want to direct. I’ll produce it and direct.” They said, “Oh no. How about you do the next one?” It is always the next one! [laughs] I said, “No. We aren’t going to do this unless I direct it.” Candidly, I sorta knew what I was doing but the first time you direct you don’t have a clue. There are certain areas of the show that are more challenging than others and we got into trouble a couple of times. However, you really learn to direct in the editing room. When I got into the editing room with a now Oscar winning editor, Chris Rouse, I learned so much, and another editor, Bob Ferretti. The more you do it, the more you learn. You say, “Oh. Next time I am in this situation I will just grab that shot. Then I will have it and that shot will bail me out of a bad situation if I don’t have the coverage.” You really sort of gain your chops in the editing room. Fortunately, as an actor, I am on a lot of different sets with a lot of different directors, so I have experienced a lot of sets. Where as, most directors don’t go on other director’s sets. That is the good fortune of being an actor.

Has the way you prepare for both acting and directing changed through the years? Is it always a learning process for you?

It is always new because you have never done the same scene before. Every character is a little different, so it doesn’t really get stale. It is always challenging and you always have the what-if factor. It’s similar to sports in a way. Take Peyton Manning for example, he has a couple of bad games and it’s, “Oh. It’s all over for Peyton.” Jeez! What have you done for me lately?! That is sort of my business and the sports world and show business. What happened yesterday in the old reviews, that isn’t going to help!

You have been a big part of “Hart of Dixie.” What was it about the project that attracted you and what has the experience been like as a whole?

It started out where they wanted me to be a recurring guest actor and I did. I did the pilot and I wasn’t a regular. Then things sort of clicked with me and the character. I was working with Jason Ensler, a director I had worked with on the Martha Stewart movie and a couple of other things. He and I sort of spoke the same language and I really liked the way he thinks and directs. As the character evolved and developed, they got more interested in me being a regular, so they added me as a regular. It was a fun character and a challenge! Then they asked me to start directing and it was like, “Wow! And it’s close to my home in Hollywood and I get to do all of these things that I love! What’s wrong with this picture?!” I have been doing it for four years and it has been very rewarding and fun. The show is a throwback to an old kind of TV series like “Mayberry” with Andy, Opie and Aunt Bea. It’s Mayberry with sex. It’s just a fun, fun show. It is great to go to work every day and laugh and find the jokes.

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You certainly have a lot of irons in the fire at the moment. You are also serving as producer for the film you recently optioned, “I Hate The Dawn.” What can you tell us about the project?

It is a funny title. It is an Iranian film that was originally called “I Love The Dawn” but the Iranian government made them change the title because they thought it might be reflective of call to prayer in the morning, meaning, “I hate prayers in the morning.” Anyway, we are calling it “Weather Permitting.” It is about a young man that is an assistant to a famous director on a movie set. He is going through a terrible day in his life. He has broken up with his girlfriend and his life is in chaos. It is the events on the set during about a half a day with this amazing director and all of the characters, different personalities and eccentrics that are on a movie set. It speaks to my life because I have lived on a movie set for most of my life! It is how these people help this young man get through this day and help him realize that whatever he thought his problems were, they aren’t as bad as he thought. The other thing that is really fascinating is that two of the actors in the film, within the film, are actors who have Down Syndrome. That is another aspect of it that I found very interesting, charming, sweet and loving. It has also helped me learn more about people who suffer from Down Syndrome, what their life experience is like and how they can expand and enhance their life experience in spite of having this affliction. I am emceeing the fundraiser for the National Down Syndrome Society in New York at the end of this month. It has really helped me learn about that but, more than anything, it is a movie I fell in love with because it is sort of the story of my life. I could relate because whenever I had a hard time or when there were moments in my life that were challenging or emotionally devastating, I was going to work and into a situation that I knew and where people cared about me, took care of me, helped me and provided me a safe place to do the work that I did. That allowed me to work through my feelings. This movie is a story like that. It is a glimpse behind the scenes of making a movie and the people that are involved. It is a very sweet, lovely little movie.

How did you get involved with the National Down Syndrome Society?

Basically, when I got the movie I realized I didn’t know very much about Down Syndrome and I had never worked with anyone who had it. I called the experts who are the most knowledgeable about the situation. I reached out to them and they looked at the movie. We talked, talked and talked! If we are fortunate to get it into production, they’ll be even more instrumental in helping me find the right actors and make sure we deal with the subject in a sensitive and appropriate way, so that we are laughing with the actors with Down Syndrome and the situation rather than laughing at them. That is one of the things that is so wonderful about the movie. Of all the actors on the set, perhaps the most responsible and least trouble are the two actors who have Down Syndrome. The other actors are even more eccentric! It keeps it all in context! The film itself, “I Hate The Dawn,” has just gained entrance to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in the International Competition, so it will be entered into the festival this January.

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You have been in the industry since your youth and built a tremendous resume along the way. What is the best piece of advice you can pass along to young creatives who look to follow a similar path?

Gosh, ya know, I just keep going. Some days are better than others. That is the crazy, wonderful thing about this business. You can be in the worst of a situation but then the phone rings or all of a sudden you have an audition and it works out. It helps to be very sort of spiritual in a way because you really never know what is going to happen. It is literally one of those worlds where the phone can ring and someone can say, “Hey, I want you to do this … ” or “Come in and audition for this … ” or “See if you like that.” It can be something you don’t even think will work out or is any good that can lead to something that is very rewarding. It is a crazy, crazy world and you just have to trust your talent and skill. I’m also a hard worker, so I am always looking for whatever else I can do to help provide me with other opportunities to go on. I always just keep looking ahead and that would be my advice to anyone.

I want to thank you so much for your time today, Tim! It has been a pleasure and I wish you continued success!

Dynamite! Jason, thank you very much! See ya!

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Cheryl Ladd Discusses Her Career, Role In ‘The Perfect Wave’ and Much More!

Cheryl Ladd Discusses Her Career, Role In ‘The Perfect Wave’ and Much More!

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Beauty, grace, class and an effervescent personality, is it any wonder why Cheryl Ladd remains one of Hollywood’s favorites. Cheryl has come a long way from her days as one of Charlie’s Angels. Her life is a shining example of what can be achieved with hard work and dedication to one’s craft. Whether it is exploring the world’s of television, movies, Broadway and writing,  for Cheryl Ladd, the best is yet to come. A shining example of her continued growth and success as an actor is her standout performance in the powerful new film, ‘The Perfect Wave.’ 

Based on true events, ‘The Perfect Wave’ is an inspiring story about surfing and second chances, which follows avid surfer, and future ordained minister, Ian McCormack, on his travels to find the perfect wave. Scott Eastwood, son of screen legend Clint Eastwood, delivers a breakthrough performance as Ian McCormack. The film focuses on this rebellious young surfer who impulsively decides to leave home and travel the world’s most exotic surf spots. But living in the moment can have its thrills – including a romance with beautiful kindred soul Annabel (Rachel Hendrix of ‘October Baby’) – as well as its sacrifices. And following a horrific accident and near-death experience on the Island of Mauritius, Ian receives a glimpse into eternity that will change his life forever. Patrick Lyster (“Black Sails”) and Cheryl Ladd (“Charlie’s Angels”) co-star in this inspirational true story about the power of faith, the love of family, and one man’s search for The Perfect Wave.

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Cheryl Ladd to discuss her career, standout performance in ‘The Perfect Wave,’ the lessons to learned from her life and the film, as well as what the future may hold for her.

Cheryl Ladd

Cheryl Ladd

Going back to your early years, how did you get involved with the entertainment industry and what made you pursue acting as a career?

This is going to sound really strange but I knew it was where I was headed from the time I was probably around 3, 4 or 5 years old. I loved music. I loved dance. I pursued both of those things and it was where my joy button was as a child. Any movies, plays or dancing, I lived in it! That is who I wanted to be from the time I was very small!

Who influenced you as an artist, either other actors, artists or people who served as mentors or inspiration?

My father played the guitar, so I loved music. We had music in our home and I think that had a big impact on me. It was a bonding thing, father and daughter. I was really drawn to my dad through the music. He loves playing the guitar, so I could see his joy in it and, as a child, that was so appealing to me. Then I took dancing lessons and I loved my dancing teacher and loved to dance. As I grew up, there were various artists who inspired me. Connie Francis was an artist who I loved. I loved the way she sang and I could imitate her really, really well when I was young. In film, I supposed “Doctor Zhivago” is one of the first movies that made me think, “I would love to be an actress!” I loved Katherine Hepburn! I really loved all the old movies and anything musical! I found myself drawn to music and it was just what I wanted to do. I started singing with a band in high school. I traveled with a band after I graduated high school, which led me to California, which is where I stayed. It was really music that brought me to California.

You have become such a fixture in pop culture. Did you ever have some type of “Ah Ha!” moment where you felt like you really made it?

It was a big “Ah Ha!” moment when “Charlie’s Angels” was on the air. We were the number one television show when I came on. The “Ah Ha” was, “Oh No! I am going to have to go through the kitchen of this restaurant to get in here!” [laughs] That was sort of a weird “Ah Ha!” [laughs] It was really strange actually! No one teaches you how to be famous, so it is obviously a double edged sword. Part of it is fabulous and wonderful because it is such an affirmation of your success but at the same time it is like, “OK, last week before I did the show, no one cared what I ate, what I wore or washed my face with!” [laughs] Suddenly, all of that stuff becomes interesting to people! It is an odd thing! Fame is an odd thing! [laughs]

Cheryl Ladd

Cheryl Ladd

What kept you inspired through the years and moving forward in your career?

I think it is the joy of my craft. I think, in the end, the fame, success, failures, good ones and bad ones, just my innate love of my craft has kept me inspired. Being able to go off and make a movie and have everybody on that movie set focused on making that movie the best they can make it, forging really close relationships and having the experience of it is an inspiring thing. As an actor, especially in film, you have so little control over the end product because everybody has a hand in it from wardrobe to makeup to editing to music but you join the circus together and it is all for one and one for all! It is a really fun experience. When I did Broadway, it was a different experience in the sense you begin the play and get to be your character the whole time. Nobody is yelling “Cut!” at you! It is really nice because you get to be your character for two-and-a-half hours. It is a whole other experience! That is why I like to do stage because, as an actor, you have some control. It is all fun! I love my craft and I still love doing it! I hope I get to do it until I am an old lady!

Your latest project is a film titled “The Perfect Wave.” How did you get involved with this project?

It came through prayer actually! When I was in California, I would walk every morning. My walk time every morning is when I talk to God, pray and sing praises. I walk with my dog, look at the beauty and get myself centered for the day. I had gotten several scripts that were just really dark and not really what I wanted to do. It is not that I don’t like edgy material or don’t want to play someone who isn’t a perfect person but this material was beyond. I was praying and I said, “God, I would love to do something that uplifts you. I would like to do a movie that you would have me do.” He has given me this amazing career and I am very grateful for all my blessings. I thank God a lot for all of my blessings and I really wanted to do something that he would have me do. A month later, this script arrived and I knew it was the one he wanted me to do!

'The Perfect Wave'

‘The Perfect Wave’

“The Perfect Wave” is based on the experiences of Ian McCormack. Were you aware of his story beforehand?

I found out about him through the script. I realized it was a true story and then I did more research about it. Meeting Ian was mind-boggling and life-changing. He sat with me, just the two of us, and told me his story from beginning to end and it was life-changing. I was so pleased to be part of this project!

You bring a little piece of yourself to every project. What did you bring to this character that wasn’t in the original script?

I really could relate to this mother, the power of prayer and her desperate sense of trying to save her son. She had such a close and personal relationship with The Lord that the fact he didn’t have that relationship was really hard for her. She prayed and prayed for him and eventually prayed for his life. They were so closely connected that even though they were a thousand miles away, she knew something was wrong. That is a pretty powerful connection between mother and child. There was something about that which appealed to me and that I could relate to. My mom was very, very ill a couple of years ago. I was in a hotel and on my knees praying. I could really relate to looking to the power of God to help and save someone you care about so much. I felt I understood what the movie was and certainly what this woman was going through.

The cast on this project was terrific and I think added quite a bit to the material. What was it like working with these people? It seemed as if you were really a family in many ways!

We were all very close! I loved working with Patrick [Lyster]. We got into our groove together right away as the parents. He is an old pro and a wonderful actor. People have been telling me that the parents we play are really believable, they like the relationship, how they tease each other and how they get impatient with each other but they really love each other and it is very apparent. Both of the sons did a great job as well, Scott Eastwood and Nikolai Mynhardt. We really felt like a family! We were all really close and hung out a lot together!

Scott Eastwood, Patrick Lyster and Cheryl Ladd

Scott Eastwood, Patrick Lyster and Cheryl Ladd

You take a little something away from any project. What did you take away from being part of this film?

I am closer to God!

As you indicated, you can pull a lot from your life when it comes to this character. Is there a particular way you prepare when you take on a new role?

You always bring who you are and your truth. Whatever your truth for that character is, you find a way to embrace that truth. Each character has their own truth, you just have to find what that is.

Cheryl Ladd

Cheryl Ladd

That leads me to my next question. When looking back on your career, what do you feel is your biggest evolution, both personally and in your craft?

Strangely, if you look at my work in “Charlie’s Angels” and then my work in “Las Vegas” there is still a little Kris Munroe in the “Las Vegas” character and some maturity of the “Las Vegas” character in Kris Munroe. She had some common sense, old Kris! [laughs] Each of those characteristics is in me, they were just shaded in different ways in each character.

What is the biggest lesson we could learn from the life and times of Cheryl Ladd?

For me, my craft is what appeals to me. I love the doing of it. Success or failure is going to be what it is going to be but it is about embracing everyday of life. We have our struggles because they are our lessons and if everything went perfectly well, what would we learn? If everything was handed to us on a silver platter, what would we appreciate? I think being in your life and being grateful for every moment of it, the light and the dark, is a lesson I have learned over the course of my life and continue to learn on a daily basis!

You have been fortunate to have a lot of diversity when it comes to the roles you played. Is there something you are still interested in tackling?

I love comedy and I would like to embrace more of my comedic side in the future. I hope I have an opportunity to do that! We’ll see!

That would be terrific! You definitely see a bit of your comic sense come through in “The Perfect Wave.”

Thank you! That is great!

I know you have explored the world of writing in the past, as well. Is that something we may see more of in the future? An autobiography perhaps?

It is has been on my radar! As a matter of fact, just recently there have been some discussions about that! So, possibly!

Cheryl Ladd

Cheryl Ladd

What is the best piece of advice you can pass on to young actors looking to pursue a career in the entertainment industry?

Oh, golly! The only advice I would give them is to love and respect the craft!

What other projects are you involved with that we can help shine a light on?

My husband, Brian Russell, is out promoting his new book, “Scribe.” It is an amazing novel and I would love everyone to read this remarkable book! In the book, it is not that he and I are the characters in the book, but he has used a lot of our experiences, shall I say! Not all of them because they are fictitious characters! The main character is a Hollywood director married to a famous actress and they go off to Scotland. My husband was born in Scotland, so you write what you know! [laughs] We aren’t really the characters but there are definitely some things from our lives that are used in the book for sure! You can find out more about the book at www.scribewriter.com.

We will definitely have to give it a read! What can you tell us about the charity work you are involved in?

Since “Charlie’s Angels” in 1978, I have been working with an organization called Childhelp. It is the biggest non-profit organization fighting child abuse in our country. Sarah O’Meara and Yvonne Fedderson are the founders. I have worked with these wonderful ladies and they actually do have wings, you just can’t see them! [laughs] They are true angels and I have been working with them, like I said, since 1978. You can learn all about the work they are doing at www.childhelp.org.

Thank you so much for your time today, Cheryl. It has been a pleasure!

Thank you so much, Jason!

Check out the trailer for ‘The Perfect Wave’ below and mark your calendar for it’s September 14th release on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD!

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MAN OF THE HOUR: Spencer Garrett On His Career, New Projects And Much More!

MAN OF THE HOUR: Spencer Garrett On His Career, New Projects And Much More!

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Over the past three decades, Spencer Garrett has become a familiar face to fans of television and film, all while establishing himself as perennial favorite among industry execs. His hard work and determination as living proof that setting your sights on a dream and diligently working toward your goals pays off in the long run. A third-generation actor, Garrett was born to actress Kathleen Nolan and Richard Heckenkamp, former head of Film Artists Associates. Raised as a bicoastal resident of both New York and Los Angeles, Garrett grew up in an artist’s environment opportune for cultivating his passion for acting. Armed with a degree in Theatrical Studies from both Duke and Fordham, along with his lifelong admiration of arts and entertainment, Garrett immerged as an urbane-artist on the Hollywood scene.

He stepped into the spotlight as a guest star in such television classics as ‘Dallas,’ ‘Columbo’  and ’21 Jumpstreet,’ before being cast in lead-roles on countless television shows including: ‘The X-Files,’ CSI,’ ‘The West Wing’ and ‘The Practice.’ Most recently, Garrett has procured guest starring roles on the hugest and most critically acclaime shows as Netflix hit series ‘House of Cards,’ Showtime’s ‘Masters of Sex’ and AMC’s critically acclaimed series, ‘Mad Men.’  His most recent current recurring role on USA’s newest drama series, ‘Satisfaction’ has garnered him much attention and he looks to kick off the coming year with the a role on NBC’s highly anticipated new series ‘Aquarias.’

His film resume is no less impressive with appearances in Michael Mann’s ‘Public Enemies,’ Shane Black’s ‘Iron Man 3,’ ‘Thank You For Smoking’ and the classic ‘Air Force One.’ Garrett is having an exciting return to the big screen in January 2015 with the scheduled release of Michael Mann’s feature for Warner Bros. ‘Blackhat’ and will also appear in John Erick Dowdle’s newest thriller, ‘The Coup’ expected to open March 6, 2015. The future looks very bright for Spencer Garrett as his star continues to rise!

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Spencer Garrett to discuss his roots in the entertainment industry, his process for bringing characters from script to screen, his evolution as an actor, upcoming film and television projects and what the future might hold for in the world behind the camera!

Spencer Garrett

Spencer Garrett

What got you started on your journey in the entertainment industry and made you want to pursue acting as a career?

It is kind of the family business! My grandparents were actors and my mom and my aunt were actors, along with my uncle. I always like to say, “If I had the sense God gave a donut, I probably would have thought twice before I got on this rollercoaster!” [laughs] I just wanted to carry on the family legacy. I wanted to give it a try. So, when I got out of college, I spent about four years in Washington, DC working for NPR. I started doing theater in Washington, DC and that is where I got the bug. That is when I thought, “Alright, I am going to give this a shot! I will give it a couple of years. If it works, great! If not, I have a good degree and I will move on to something else.” It kind of took hold and I haven’t stopped working since! [laughs] I am waiting for the other shoe to drop but, in the meantime, it’s working out pretty well!

Who had a big impact on you as an artist in your early years?

Certainly my grandparents had a big impact on me. My grandfather was a character actor. They started out on a showboat on the Mississippi River called The Goldenrod, which was docked in St. Louis. They used to go up and down the Mississippi River and stop in little towns. The people from the towns would get on the showboat and there was a theater on the boat. I was inspired by my grandparents’ journey of doing that. They both had successful careers in the business. My grandma went on to become an agent. My mother is probably my biggest influence. Her name is Kathleen Nolan. She was on an old series called “The Real McCoys” in the early ‘60s and went on to become the first woman president of the Screen Actors Guild. I have a lot of strong people and influences in my background. The bar was set pretty high when I was a kid of big things to aspire to! In terms of actors, I grew up admiring Robert Duvall, Gene Hackman, Al Pacino and Dustin Hoffman. It was always the character guys, the guys with long careers and often the guys whose careers didn’t really start until their mid to late 30s. That really inspired me because I got a late start. I didn’t really get started until I was 25 years old, in the film and TV world. I always looked to the guys who started late themselves, the late bloomers who caught fire in their later years. I am inspired everyday by the people that I work with like Kevin Spacey and Laurence Fishburne. I have had the opportunity to work with some wonderful people, so I feel very blessed.

You are a familiar face when it comes to television and film. Have you ever had that “Ah Ha!” moment where you felt you truly made it as an actor or is it something you are always working toward?

I think working towards that next big thing is probably dangerous. I don’t want to work towards my “Ah Ha” moment. I think if there was a point that changed my trajectory of my career or my life it was probably working with Michael Mann on “Public Enemies.” I had had a good, long and steady stream of work playing lots of guys in suits, lawyers, congressmen and politicians. Michael Mann cast me in “Public Enemies” as something that was completely different from that. It gave me a chance to stretch a little bit and give people in the business an opportunity to see me do something other than the roles I was relegated to playing. That was an “Ah Ha” moment for me because I was very content at playing those guys and the casting people on that film kind of looked outside the box and said, “We know you are capable of doing something better and different.” They really gave me a chance and I will always be grateful for that! As far as the “Ah Ha” moment, you go from one job to the next and are just happy to be in the ballgame. I don’t want to strive for that moment but every time I get the chance to work and work with wonderful people, I sit in my trailer and say, “Ah ha! I am living to work another day! It’s another day where I get to do something different and express myself.” It is the best job in the world.

USA's 'Satisfaction'

USA’s ‘Satisfaction’

You have a ton of irons in the fire. One project is USA’s “Satisfaction.” How did you get involved with the project and what intrigued you about the character?

“Satisfaction” was just a great gift that came out of the blue. I got a call from my agent who said I had been offered this thing. I read it and I instantly liked it. Obviously, when you don’t have to jump through all of the requisite hoops that we have to go through all of the time to get the job, it is always a gift. The producers, I guess, had liked my work and said, “You’re the right guy for the gig!” I got the offer and in two days I was in Atlanta. I was really given the opportunity to create this guy from the ground up. It is a wonderful ensemble, a truly wonderful group of actors. I love the writing and it was a joy to go to work on that show every day. I did the first five episodes, I was off for a couple and then I was in the finale. I am really glad to see how people have caught on to the show and are really digging it. That is a cool thing! For me, it was a total gift. I didn’t have to audition. Whenever you get those gifts, you run with it!

What did you bring to the character that wasn’t on the written page?

I think giving the guy a sense of humor was something I brought. I think, on paper, he could have been a stock, gruff, jerky, yuppie type. I think I gave him a little humanity and a little humor. As you see, he kind of softens up throughout the series. He starts out as a rigid, angry guy and, the more Neil goes on his journey, you see Victor’s character soften up and loosen up a little bit, as Neil does as well. I don’t want to give it away but when you see the finale, you will see that Victor has turned a corner himself. You see a different side of him that you didn’t see in the pilot. He has had a nice little arc from the beginning to end of these 10 episodes. I credit Sean Jablonski, the writer, with giving Victor a place to go because it could have been very one dimensional. He gave me the opportunity to make him funny, warm and a little bit more human than he would have been on the page.

Another ensemble cast you are a part of is the new series, “Aquarius.” How did you get involved and what can we expect to see when it premieres next year?

I can’t say too much about it but it is about Charles Manson and the hunt for him in Los Angeles in 1967. David Duchovny plays a very different character than you have seen him play before. He plays a tough, sort of brutish LA cop and he is wonderful in the role. It was another gift from the casting people who put me on “Mad Men.” I tend to fit nicely into period things, so they brought me on board for this where I play a slick, smarmy Beverly Hills lawyer who may or may not be involved with Manson in some shady way. I am doing several episodes of that and I am having a blast because it is a really nice 360 degrees turn from the Victor character I have been doing in Atlanta all summer. This guy is very, very dark and he goes to some dark places and that is always fun to play.

Whether it is this one or any other project, what is your process for putting a character together?

It really starts with the richness of the writing. I have always been one of these actors who likes to go from the outside in. I like to play with props and different looks. Whether it is glasses, the clothes he wears, the color of his tie or tie clip, I like to play around with the look of the guy. I kind of find him from the outside in. That is always fun, whether it is the guy in “Public Enemies” or the Victor character in “Satisfaction” or this guy in “Aquarius.” On “Aquarius,” I get to work with a wonderful costume designer by the name of Amy Stofsky, who I have worked with since “Air Force One” back in 1996. Usually, when actors come on to a project, you don’t have much say in what you get to wear and how you get to wear it. In this case, I am getting to collaborate with the costume designer and she is giving me the opportunity to wear things and style myself in a way that I think this guy would be. That is really a nice thing to be able to do. That is usually what I do with these guys, start from the outside in and then you find them as you go along.

Dustin Hoffman, Spencer Garrett and director Michael Mann

Dustin Hoffman, Spencer Garrett and director Michael Mann

You mentioned working with Michael Mann and you will team up with him once again for a project called “Blackhat.” What can you tell us about it?

Yeah! It was called “Cyber” initially. It stars the great Viola Davis, Chris Hemsworth and a wonderful actor named Christian Borle, who is now on “Masters of Sex.” We spent a couple of months in Asia last year in Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Hong Kong. I think it is going to be Michael’s best film yet or at least his best film since “The Insider,” which is a magnificent film. I have been a fan of Michael’s since “Manhunter” at the very beginning of his career. We have had a nice association since “Public Enemies” and I got to work on the unfortunately ill-fated series “Luck” about horse racing with Dustin Hoffman, so this is our third project together. I love working with him.

You had the opportunity to work with so many terrific people along the way, both in front of and behind the camera. What are some of the biggest things you have learned along the way?

Spencer Garrett and Kevin Spacey

Spencer Garrett and Kevin Spacey

You definitely learn something different from everyone. In a span of about two or three years, I have worked with Mike Nichols, Michael Bay and Michael Mann, my trio of Michaels! [laughs] Each one could not be more different from the other. Obviously, Mike Nichols is a legend from “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and “The Graduate.” Michael Bay has his own brand of filmmaking and his own style. Michael Mann is one of the great visual stylists in film history. Every opportunity to work with people like that is like going to school for me. You get to see how these masters work. They all have different styles in the way that they work with actors but I take away something from each project. I had great reverence for Mike Nichols when I worked with him. He is very much an actor’s director as opposed to Michael Mann or Michael Bay, who work in a different way. Mike Nichols is very much about the actor and the performance, where as Michael Mann would basically say, “I hired you to be the guy … show me what you’ve got!” He relies on you to bring to the table what he hired you to do. It is a different way of working. With Michael Mann, it was about trust. He trusted me to bring to the table something good and hopefully you deliver and he brings you back to the party another time!

Looking back on your career, what was your biggest evolution as an actor?

Not to sound cliché but I like to think I am still evolving. I have been doing this for 25 years. My old acting teacher, Sanford Meisner, used to say to his students, “It takes 20 years to become an actor.” I remember the first time I heard that and we all collectively sighed in the classroom! [laughs] We were all thinking, “Well, I don’t want to wait that long.” Today, I feel like I am just hitting my stride and just getting good at it. Even though I have been working as long as I have, I just feel like I am kind of hitting my groove. I’m evolving with each new project and like to think I am getting better and better. I am in this for the long haul and I like the way things are going! I am a student of life and a student of film, so with each job I get to learn something different, grow and hopefully bring it to the next project with me.

Spencer Garrett

Spencer Garrett

Is there a type of project or genre you are eager to tackle as an actor?

You know, I have never done any sci-fi. I have done a couple of what I guess you could call horror films but I have never done any science fiction. I am a huge fan of the “Alien” films and things like that, so I think it would be fun to be a part of something weird and wonderful like that! That is a genre I haven’t been invited to play in yet but I am hoping that I do! It is definitely on my bucket list!

Do you aspire to explore the world behind the camera in the future?

I produced a film three years ago. It was a film that sort of fell into my lap as a producer accidently. I was asked to play a role in a movie called “Below The Beltway,” It was going to be a funky little indie film that was going to be shot in about 20 days in Washington, DC. I fell in love with the script. I turned to the writer/director, Dave Fraunces, who was a guy I knew from working on “Bobby” with Emilio Estevez, who had been shepherding this project for many years and said, “Let me call some of my fancy friends and see if they love the script as much as I do and want to come and play with us.” Within about a month, I had Tate Donovan, Noah Wyle, Xander Berkeley, Kip Pardue, Grant Shaud. It was a group of amazing actors! They all came and worked for nothing and we made a wonderful little film which did very well on the festival circuit. We shot it in 21 days for $250,000. It was my first experience producing and it was very gratifying. I have a couple more films in the pipeline that I am hoping to get into production in the spring.

What is the best piece of advice you can pass along to aspiring actors looking to make their career in the entertainment industry?

The business has changed and evolved so much over the 20 years that I have been in it. Obviously, now you have Netflix, Amazon and so many different platforms that there is greater opportunity for work but it is still very hard to get work. What I say to the young drama students that I speak to at Duke University when I go back a couple times a year and at the class I teach here in Los Angeles, which is something Mr. Meisner said to me when I was starting out, “Don’t do this unless you are 1,000% certain it is in your blood and your bones and you want to do it for the rest of your life.” I heard that said to me in 1984. Those are very strong words and words to hold onto. I think they hold true now more than ever because the business is so difficult. I would say, as a piece of advice to anyone thinking about getting involved in show business now, don’t do it unless you absolutely have to live for it. It can be very tough out there. Study, study, study, study! See as much theater and watch as much film as you can. Read plays and go to see small theater and immerse yourself in the culture of theater and film because being an artist is not something that is really smiled upon. I think being an artist kind of gets a bum rap. Acting is an art and a very proud tradition that I want to carry on. If you are serious about it make sure you do your homework!

Are you involved with any charity work we can help shine a light on?

I have been involved with The National Breast Cancer Coalition for the last 15 years. I perform at a benefit for them every year. The NBCC has done some extraordinary work over the years. My mother is a breast cancer survivor and I got involved with them several years before she was diagnosed, so it is even more important to me now! I have also been involved with Project ALS over the years. They are both amazing organizations that I am happy to lend my support.

Thanks so much for your time today, Spencer. We will spread the word on these terrific projects and wish you continued success!

Thank you, Jason! It was my pleasure! Take care!

Connect with Spencer Garrett on Twitter at twitter.com/1SpencerGarrett. To learn more about the charites Spencer Garrett supports, visit the official sites for The National Breast Cancer Coalition and Project ALS

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ON THE RISE: Paul Sparks On His Career, Role In Clark Gregg’s ‘Trust Me’ & More!

ON THE RISE: Paul Sparks On His Career, Role In Clark Gregg’s ‘Trust Me’ & More!

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Best known for his Mickey Doyle on HBO’s critically acclaimed series, ‘Boadwalk Empire,’ Paul Sparks  spent the past decade carving out a unique career for himself in Hollywood. An incredibly expressive actor with a strong work ethic, Sparks pours every ounce of his soul into every role. Continuing her showcase his talents with captivating and highly emotional performances, her latest role teams him with writer/director/star Clark Gregg (ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D”, The Avengers, Iron Man 1 & 2) on his outstanding new film, ‘Trust Me.’ 

In the film, Gregg leads an all-star ensemble cast in this smart, sardonic and unpredictablefilm as Howard Holloway, a former child-actor turned floundering child-actor agent. But when Howard gets his new client (Saxon Sharbino) a shot at the lead in a huge movie franchise, he’ll also have to deal with a slick rival agent (Sam Rockwell; The Way Way Back, Iron Man 2, Moon), an icy casting director (Allison Janney; CBS’s “Mom,” Juno, NBC’s “The West Wing,” American Beauty), a cutthroat mega-producer (Felicity Huffman; ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” Transamerica, Magnolia), his single-mom neighbor (Amanda Peet;2012, Identity Thief, A Lot Like Love, Something’s Gotta Give), and a secret that could destroy more than just the deal of a lifetime.

The stellar cast is rounded out by Niecy Nash (HBO’s “Getting On,” “Reno 911,” “The Soul Man”), Molly Shannon (NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Never Been Kissed), and William H. Macy (Fargo, Dirty Girl, The Lincoln Lawyer, Showtime’s “Shameless”). ‘Trust Me’ is a true gem filled with amazing performances and has been heralded as “a dark comedy with a touching and dramatic flair.” Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Paul Sparks to discuss his roots in the entertainment industry, his journey as an actor, bringing his characters to life, the challenges involved and what the future might hold for this star on the rise.

Paul Sparks

Paul Sparks

How did you get started on your journey in the entertainment industry and what made you want to pursue it as a career?

I grew up in Oklahoma. My father was a high school football coach and my mother was an elementary school teacher. I didn’t know anyone in the acting business and wasn’t actually that interested in it until later. I had done some plays and things in high school. I went to Oklahoma State and started studying chemistry. I discovered I wasn’t a very good chemist! I got mixed up in the theatre department and enjoyed those people immensely. One thing leads to another and eventually I thought, “Well, what should I do?” [laughs] Coming from New York, my father talked me into going to school at NYU. I transferred there and studied theatre. When I graduated with my undergrad there, I really didn’t have a degree that would get me any work unless I was an actor, so I pursued it. I just stuck with it for a long time! I always loved it and the absurdity of people taking seriously these fictional stories. I love that as a lifestyle. I continue to work and I have been very fortunate!

Who would you cite as your biggest influences or maybe a mentor who gave you a push along the way?

When I was in high school back in Oklahoma, I lived in a small town of about 5,000 people. There was a woman named Paula McConnell who was my high school drama teacher. She was always nudging me and trying to say, “Maybe this is something you might want to do.” That got kind of got me mixed up with the Oklahoma State people. At Oklahoma State, there was a woman named Tracey Callahan, who also encouraged me to pursue acting. I look at those two teachers, even when I wasn’t thinking that it was something possible, they were thinking acting was something that could be a career for me. I think they had a lot to do with me eventually taking it on as a career.

Obviously, you are a working actor and have been very successful in your career. Did you ever have an “Ah ha!” moment when you felt like you have made it?

I don’t know! Maybe I haven’t had it yet! [laughs] I guess, in a way, I feel I don’t have to do anything else. I was a carpenter when I started in the business. I don’t have to do that anymore! I have come to terms with this being my career! That is really what I aspire to do: work, pay my rent, support my family and not have to do anything else! That is what I am doing, so in that way I feel I totally made it! [laughs] In a way, I don’t know if you are ever totally satisfied or you hope you have more access. I think we are hard-wired to be satisfied, so we constantly look for work. I still feel like I have yet to have that moment.

Clark Gregg's 'Trust Me'

Clark Gregg’s ‘Trust Me’

Your latest project is Clark Gregg’s “Trust Me.” How did you get involved with this project initially and what made you know it was something you wanted to pursue?

I didn’t know Clark Gregg but I knew Mary Vernieu, who is one of the producers. She is a casting director. I have been auditioning for her for a long time and I think she put Clark on to me with some of my tapes. I have known Sam Rockwell for a really long time. I know him from New York. I think there was some sort of connection that way. Clark got on Skype with me to discuss what he was trying to do. I read the script and thought it was such an interesting script because it was challenging and was dealing tonally with some very interesting ideas. It was a really funny script but it was also a really dark script. I love that complexity it had. I was very excited to work on the project and I was a big fan of his work. I knew he was assembling a really good cast. I love Amanda Peete, Allison Janney, Bill Macy and all of the people he had in the cast. It was a great group of people, so it was a pretty easy yes.

What did you bring to this role that might not have been on the written page?

I guess all you can bring is the parts of yourself that are spoken to by what is on the page. I am kind of a script purist in that I love well written stuff. Saxon Sharbino, who plays Lydia, is from Texas and I am from Oklahoma. I think we have a similarity in background that I think puts us in the same orbit. We could have grown up in the same place, if you know what I mean. I think that was very helpful. We had an understanding, she and I, right off the bat. That is important, especially since she plays my daughter in the film. That was really nice. Also, I grew a pretty good mustache for the film! [laughs]

I’m sure it varies from project to project but do you have a process you go through when preparing for each new role?

Yeah, I do. It would probably be pretty boring to hear about my process. Like you said, it depends on what it is. Sometimes, I will do a little more research for historical work. With this one, I just thought about the given circumstances of this guy and tried to fill out some story behind it where it all makes sense. It is a bunch of boring, tedious stuff. [laughs]

Except for the mustache growing. There is nothing boring about that!

Yeah! The mustache growing is exciting! [laughs]

paul-sparks-2014-4

What did you learn from your time working with Clark Gregg and the rest of this terrific cast on the film?

I have never worked with someone who was writing, producing, directing and starring in a project. I am still not convinced after seeing it happen that it is possible! It is crazy that he did all of the things he did and was able to fully wear all of those hats. It was amazing to watch him juggle all of those things. The thing I had worried the most about was that a lot of my scenes were with him and I worried that would be what suffered. That is not what suffered. He is so focused and such a good actor who is generous and giving. To do that, direct and make sure the children are done on time and we don’t keep them out too late is a huge undertaking. All of those things were on his shoulders and it was amazing to watch. Then, of course, it is easy to watch Sam Rockwell, Allison Janney and Felicity Huffman. I love to watch and listen to them riff. Molly Shannon was so funny on this project. I really enjoyed my time with them because they were all so creative.

Paul Sparks in 'Trust Me'

Paul Sparks in ‘Trust Me’

Looking back on the project, is there anything that stands out as a challenge that you faced?

I think it is always challenging. When you get a script, you look at it and see how much there is to do, you think, “How are we going to film all of this?” I am always amazed when a film is over and we shot everything. I think it is a remarkable thing to accomplish with so many balls up in the air. As far as what I overcame, I don’t know. This is terrible to say but this was not a hard job to do. The script was great and the cast was amazing. Clark was very clear. Saxon was great. The part was a good part. Every part is difficult to do, as it is difficult to be in front of the camera sometimes with the pressure. However, this project was pretty easy and I am grateful for that! It was a pleasure to be a part of!

Saxon Sharbino was terrific in the film. When you are working a young actor such as her, do you approach it any differently since they aren’t as experienced?

I think you do. I am usually surprised at how savvy they all are and how they take notes and work just like everybody else. However, I am aware they are kids. I have kids and you want your kids to be taken care of and you fear for them sometimes on a movie set with a bunch of adults. Saxon has been doing this a while and she is very, very good at it. She is a very good actor. Occasionally, you see young people who need to be tricked into a performance and she is not one of those people. She is pretty fantastic. In the end, I usually learn that they don’t need too much special treatment but maybe they need a little more sleep! [laughs]

Your career continues to be very diverse when it comes to the roles you take on. Is there a particular genre or role that really intrigues you that you want to tackle in the future?

I have never been in a western. I would love that! It is funny that I am from what is basically The Old West and you can’t get cast in that kind of stuff! [laughs] That is really funny to me! I play a lot of Boston guys but I am from Oklahoma. I would love to do that but, as far as roles go, if they are good I want to do them! If they are complex and interesting, I want to play them. I don’t have a role I am dying to do. I love doing new stuff but I am not holding out for any one particular thing.

Do you have any desire to explore the world behind the camera in terms of writing or directing?

I do not! [laughs] I am probably the only one! I have no interest! I love being an actor and I like that side of it. I have been making movies a long time and I still have no idea how they do it! [laughs] That stuff doesn’t mean anything to me. The way they shoot things is always kind of a mystery. I love that there are other people who do that stuff but I just love the acting part.

Paul Sparks on 'Boardwalk Empire'

Paul Sparks on ‘Boardwalk Empire’

Looking back on your career so far, what do you consider your biggest evolution as an actor? Is there anything that stands out to you?

Ten years ago I was almost predominantly doing theatre. I think in the past 10 years it has become a lot more television, film and working on camera. I have been really fortunate. I have played a lot of kinds of different characters and I am hoping that is the way it stays. I enjoy the diversity of playing a really normal person to more of a period type of thing like Mickey Doyle on “Boardwalk Empire” or like Ray in “Trust Me,” where he is more of a drunk southern guy. I like changing and being a different person. I don’t know that my style has really changed that much from when I started but I certainly have had opportunities to do a lot of different things and for that I feel very fortunate.

What is the best piece of advice you can pass along to aspiring actors looking to make acting a career?

If their career is anything like mine, you just have to stay at it. In opposition to what a lot of people say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff … ,” always sweat the small stuff. That is where the detail adds up to really good character work. When people have really spent the time to be complex and focused on the choices they make.

Are you involved with any charity work we can help shine a light on?

Absolutely! I am a Type 1 diabetic and I work with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (http://www.jdrf.org). I have run marathons with them and they are a great group. They are raising money and awareness on diabetes. They have scientists that are constantly at work. Type 1 diabetes affects a lot of children. It is not just about finding a cure but about learning to live with it, which is what I do every day. That is pretty close to my heart.

Thanks so much for your time today, Paul! You have been terrific and we wish you continued success!

Thank you, Jason! Take care!

For more information, visit ‘Trust Me’ on Facebook and Twitter. ‘Trust Me’ is available on August 26, 2014.

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