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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]

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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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ON THE RISE: Saxon Sharbino Discusses Her Breakout Role in ‘Trust Me’

ON THE RISE: Saxon Sharbino Discusses Her Breakout Role in ‘Trust Me’

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Known for her solid work in a bevy of high profile supporting roles from ‘I Spit On Your Grave’ to Fox’s Series ‘Touch’ to a role in the upcoming ‘Poltergiest’ reboot, Saxon Sharbino has established herself as a young actress on the rise in Hollywood and leaves her poised become a breakout star in 2014. Sharbino is an incredibly expressive young actress who pours her heart and soul into each and every role. Continuing her showcase her talents with captivating and highly emotional performances, her latest role teams her 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 Paul Sparks (HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” MUD, Edge of Darkness), 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 Saxon Sharbino to discuss her journey as an actress, bringing her characters to life, the challenges involved and what the future might hold for this star on the rise.

Saxon Sharbino

Saxon Sharbino

I wanted to give our readers a little background on you. How did you get started on your journey in the entertainment industry?

I didn’t really know acting was a thing until I was about 9 years old! [laughs] Then I figured out that you couldn’t follow people around all the time and have exciting things happen. [laughs] I found out about acting when I was 9 or 10 and, as soon as I discovered it, I wanted to do it! I started taking acting classes and got an agent in Dallas, which is where I am originally from, and they helped me get an agent in Los Angeles. Everything took off from there!

Your latest film is Clark Gregg’s “Trust Me.” You turn in a terrific performance in this film. How did you get involved with the project?

I first auditioned and then they brought me back to meet the director, Clark Gregg. It was a 13-page audition! We went over that and then they brought me back again and we basically went through the whole script a couple of times. We had a couple of meetings about it and then he finally offered it to me! I was really nervous when I first auditioned because there were so many pages and I wasn’t exactly sure how I was supposed to go through all of it because it’s a very unique character. Clark really invested a lot of time in me before I booked it and I spent a lot of time with the script before filming, so we worked everything out before I got the part.

What was it like meeting with Clark for the first time? I imagine it could be pretty imposing with him being both the writer and director on the project, controlling your fate in a way! [laughs]

Yeah! It was kind of nerve-racking. I actually didn’t know he was the writer when I was meeting with him. I just thought he was directing the film. As we were going through the scenes, he would say, “Do you like that line? I think we should change that line.” I was like, “Can you just do that? What about the writing credit or the writers?” He said, “Oh no, no, no. I am the writer too.” [laughs] He did such an amazing job balancing all of the elements of the film. It was amazing.

Clark Gregg's 'Trust Me'

Clark Gregg’s ‘Trust Me’

What was it about the character or the role that made you so passionate about pursuing it?

I wanted to play Lydia because she was such a deep character and had so many layers. In the beginning, you think she is so sweet and her character has some really nice development. That is why I was so intrigued because I like doing the deeper stuff and I like being able to show years. There aren’t many characters in my age range that really allow you to do that so I was very thankful that I got to play Lydia.

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

I think I brought some of my own personal experiences to the character. I am still new to acting and I am still trying to figure out who to trust in the acting world in Los Angeles, so I feel I brought some of me in that way.

What was the process of preparing to play this character?

When I first auditioned, I memorized the lines and figured out how I related to the character. You have to figure out your choices in the scenes and figure out how you can show as much of the character in each scene. I really prepare as much as I can to play the character before the audition.

In addition to Clark Gregg, this film has a wonderful cast. What did you learn from your time on this project?

I learned something from everyone on set. It was an amazing experience. It was awesome to watch all of these great actors do their thing. Clark taught me a lot. In between takes he would take me back behind the camera and show me things from the director’s point of view. It was really interesting to learn about the technical stuff. Allison Janney was so funny and we got to laugh so much in between takes, so it never got old! Sam Rockwell was great too! He would never say the same line twice! All of the actors were so fresh and incredibly talented in every scene. That made every scene important and brought life to every moment.

What do you consider the biggest challenge of this role?

I think the biggest challenge was trying to show how deep Lydia was and to be able to put all of that into one moment. Clark really helped me with that, along with everyone else in the scenes. We all worked together to show each moment clearly.

Saxon Sharbino and Clark Gregg in 'Trust Me'

Saxon Sharbino and Clark Gregg in ‘Trust Me’

You have been able to play some diverse roles in your career and you have a bright future ahead of you. Are there any particular types of roles you are anxious to tackle?

I would continue to show the depth of characters and be able to make people think after they have seen the movie. I like the deeper stuff, the crying and the stuff you have to rewatch and things like that but I would be blessed to do anything!

You mentioned some of those amazingly emotional scenes. As an actor, is it difficult to put yourself out there and bare your soul, so to speak?

In certain situations it could be tough but we had an amazing cast and everyone made me feel very comfortable. It was very easy to cry and feel emotionally vulnerable because they all were too.

Saxon Sharbino

Saxon Sharbino

You have some very talented siblings. Has sibling rivalry ever reared its head in any way?

My sister, my brother and I are all very supportive of each other. My sister, Brighton Sharbino, is on “The Walking Dead” right now. I think we really support each other in our careers more than if we weren’t in acting. For example, I think if my sister wasn’t into acting, I don’t think she would be able to understand what I have to go through and vice versa. We really work together and support each other in everything we do, which I think is really cool.

You are obviously very focused on your career as an actress but do you have any interest in exploring the world behind the camera in terms or writing or directing?

Yeah! In the future I would love to pursue writing and directing. I think there is definitely a lot of stuff I need to work on in the meantime and I have to learn. I think my experiences as an actor can help me with what I might eventually do behind the camera. Right now, I definitely want to focus on the craft of acting and learn everything I can about that before I try to pursue another part of my career.

What other projects should we be on the lookout from you in the near future?

My movie “Poltergeist” is coming out next July. In addition to that, I am auditioning for new parts!

I know, we are really excited about “Poltergeist.” Were you familiar with the original film before you took on the project?

I had never seen “Poltergeist” before filming. Actually, I still haven’t! [laughs] Scary movies terrify me! I love acting in them and I love bringing them to life but when I actually watch them, it is so scary! [laughs]

Saxon Sharbino

Saxon Sharbino

How does working on a larger film like “Poltergeist” compare to “Trust Me” or smaller projects?

The scale of a film like “Poltergeist” is much bigger. There are more camera and lighting people. With “Trust Me,” many people were working together and pouring their heart into it by doing multiple jobs. Both casts and crews were working really hard, don’t get me wrong, but there are obviously a lot more people on a larger film. Both of the films were terrific experiences but “Trust Me” was definitely a more intimate experience when it comes to acting.

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

That is the cool thing about “Trust Me.” I think it shows a lot of how I have grown as an actor. I learned so much on set. It was one of my first real jobs. I had “Touch” before that but “Trust Me” was really hands on for me. It really taught me a lot of the technical stuff in regard to what the camera can and cannot see. It also taught me how actors work with each other. Like I said, on set everyone was really friendly and helped each other while on set. I took a lot away from that and it really has inspired me to grow as an actor.

What is the best advice you would pass along to aspiring actors looking to pursue a path in the entertainment industry?

The best advice I have gotten is to trust your instincts and follow your dreams. When you are in a scene, do it like you would do it in real life. Follow your instincts! It is also important to keep pursuing it. If you love it, do what you love!

Thanks for your time today, Saxon! You were terrific in the film and we look forward to seeing what you have in store for us in the future! All the best to you!

Thank you so much, Jason! Take care!

For more information, visit TRUST ME on Facebook and Twitter. Connect via social media with Saxon Sharbino on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. ‘Trust Me’ is available on August 26, 2014.

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