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IN FOCUS: Joey Luthman Talks Career, Creative Evolution & ‘The Long Road Home’

IN FOCUS: Joey Luthman Talks Career, Creative Evolution & ‘The Long Road Home’

Joey Luthman – Photo by The Artists Project: Michael Bezjian

Joey Luthman has spent most of his life in front of the camera. Voted one of Hollywood’s Top 25 young actors to watch according to IMDB, Luthman has already had a storied career at the young age of 20, with guest starring roles on TV’s biggest dramas include “Hawaii Five-O,” “Chicago Med,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Criminal Minds,” “Ghost Whisperer” and “October Road.” Over the years, as his skillset has grown, so have the amount of challenging new endeavors he has taken on. His latest project, Nat Geo’s ‘The Long Road Home,’ is no exception to the rule. Based on ABC News journalist Martha Raddatz’s New York Times best-selling book, the mini-series re-examines a dismal day during the Iraq War when the First Cavalry Division of Fort Hood, Texas, was ambushed on April 4, 2004, in Sadr City, Baghdad, on what would become known as “Black Sunday.” Premiering on Tuesday, November 7th at 9:00PM ET/PT, the adrenaline-fueled and emotional journey follows the action of that day on two simultaneous fronts – the chaotic, terror-filled streets of Sadr City, where a group of inexperienced young soldiers faces an unexpected and unimaginable attack with bravery they never knew they had, and the home front at Fort Hood, where family members, desperate for news of their loved ones and fearing the worst, discover their own courage and determination as well. Luthman stars as ‘SPC Jonathan Riddell,’ opposite Michael Kelly (“House of Cards”), Jason Ritter (“Parenthood”), Jeremy Sisto (“Six Feet Under”) and Noel Fisher (“Shameless”) in the spine-tingling true life saga detailing the despair, sorrow and loss that comes with war. Filmed at Fort Hood at one of the largest sets ever created on film, Luthman and his co-stars went through weeks of military boot camp training by real U.S. soldiers to prepare for their roles and bring the level of realism to the highest level. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Joey Luthman to discuss his journey as an actor, the challenges he has faced along the way, the making of Nat Geo’s ambitious new mini-series, ‘The Long Road Home,’ and much more!

How did you get involved with the arts early on in life?

I have all of my brothers and sisters to thank for that! I’m the second youngest in a family of seven. We all did community theater for many years, both together and separately. Over the years, as a family, we were all doing things in theater in Dayton, Ohio. Eventually, as my brothers and sisters grew older, they grew out of it. With that said, many of them are still very much involved with the arts! My sisters are musicians and one of them is an art teacher in UAE. My little sister and I are still here, I mean, my YOUNGER sister! [laughs] She’s 18, so she wouldn’t like me calling her my little sister! My younger sister is an actress, my brother is a musician, and my other brother is an electrical engineer, so we are kind of all over the place from Texas to Ohio to California but that’s how it all started. I got my start by following in their footsteps. I do vaguely remember, but my parents tell me all the time that when I was really little, my older brother Jonathan, who is the electrical engineer, was in “The Music Man” as Winthrop. I would follow him around when I was really little, singing all the songs and doing all of the choreography with him. I looked up to him a lot back then and I still do. That really inspired me, as I got older, to do it on my own. When they got older and were going off to college and other places, I was doing the community theater on my own. From there, I think a friend of ours told us about a talent competition called Talent Rock in 2005 in Florida. It was comprised of a lot of elements from doing a skit on stage, you have a monologue to prepare, people sing, people dance, there are routines, comedy and modeling. I think I did modeling and singing. I went to Vegas a year later, 2006 I believe, for the same competition but this time I did acting and singing. From there, someone said, “You should try going out to Los Angeles and try that. There is film, TV and everything else. You’ve done a lot of theater, so maybe that’s something you could get into.” As a family, we came out here on a whim. We just visited every couple of months because I was still in school in Ohio. We went back and forth for the first year but in 2007 we made the decision to take the plunge. We had a lot of good experience with auditions and student films throughout the first year, so we pursued it and got an apartment out here. We still had an apartment in Ohio in 2007 but that was the start of us being here. We’ve been here ever since! That’s how it all got started and I have my brothers and sisters to thank for all of my success!

What were some of the early projects that had a big impact on you as an actor?

There was an ABC show called “October Road” and it absolutely had a big impact on me. My episode aired in 2008, I think. It was the first really big guest starring role I had done. I played the younger version of a character on the show called Physical Phil, who was pretty much a recluse. He was very awkward but also very funny. I was playing that character and it was set in the 80s. There was such an interesting vibe and I had never really done a role of that size. It was a full episode guest star and it took up the whole story of the episode. It was basically the older characters on the show reminiscing about their past years and it was a big deal at the time. That was actually the job where I got my SAG card that is where my career really started to gain momentum. From there, I worked on “Weeds” and then I went to “iCarly” and “Ghost Whisperer” but it all started with that great role on “October Road.”

Let’s talk about your influences. Who have you looked to for inspiration throughout the years?

I’ve always looked to big actors. That’s the big dream — winning an Oscar, standing on that stage and giving an acceptance speech just like my idols I have seen in my favorite movies. I have always looked to Tom Hanks for inspiration and he’s been one of my favorites. I love all his movies and he’s one on the iconic voice from “Toy Story,” along with Tim Allen. Tom Hanks is the actor I always strive to be. He’s natural, very intense but also loving and funny. He’s brings such a variety in such a simplistic manner. That is something I was subconsciously thinking about every time I went into an audition, no matter what it was for. I thought, “How would Tom Hanks do this part?” It formed my way of thinking in a way and how I did things. I have my own choices as well but that voice was in the back of my head. He’s such a talented guy, so I would think, “What is he doing that I could learn from.” I have always looked up to him and the other greats as well. It was a such a devastating loss but I loved Robin Williams and his work, as well as Jim Carrey. I don’t remember the exact moment but I had loved Jim Carrey for years and then I discovered his really great dramatic work and I was like “Woah!” I lost it! So, I really love looking up to those guys as well!

Starting out as an actor at such a young age certainly has its advantages. Did you ever have an issue when it came to breaking out of the “child star” stereotype?

Not at all! It’s funny, I never considered myself a child actor. I didn’t know that was a thing people said until much later. I think I was about 14 years old when I first heard the term and thought, “What does that even mean?” I guess, technically, I was acting and I was a child but I never considered myself anything but an actor. The term “child actor” has such negative connotations attached to it. I never felt there was a lot of pressure. It’s certainly a job and a responsibility but it never really felt like a job or work to me because I just loved doing it! As I went on, I said, “Okay, this is my career and I’m shaping my career but I’m still having fun with it!” As I got older, I naturally formed a style for myself. I’m really good at both comedy and dramatic and I’ve always had great opportunities for both. I’ve done a lot of Nickelodeon and Disney work, which were great opportunities for comedic work and “The Long Road Home,” which is coming up in November is a fantastic opportunity to do some drama work. To answer your question, growing out of that stereotype just happened over time, so I didn’t have to break out of it, at least I didn’t feel I had to in that way. It was a natural progression of going from child actor who did both comedy and the dramatic, to growing into a teen and then an adult doing all of that as well. I’ve been lucky to have some great opportunities through the years but, overall, it’s been a very natural transition.

Let’s talk about your role on Nat Geo’s “The Long Road Home.” This series looks intense. What attracted you to the project and led to you taking the role?

It’s funny, the audition was quite a while ago. It was a long time before I even heard I was pinned for the role. There were about 6 months in between the time I did the taping for it with Joe Kell. He always puts me on tape and is the best quality when it comes to self-tape, as far as I’m concerned. He put me on tape and I didn’t hear anything. I thought the audition was great but, to be honest, I wasn’t sure if I had the right look for it. However, for my character of Jonathan Riddell, the role did say he was 19 years old and had a baby face. That pretty much described me at the time, as I was 19 years old with a baby face. Six months later, I thought this was gone and done with. My manager had been pushing me for the role over the course of those six months and then I found out I had been pinned for it. That was in March and we started filming in April! I thought I had lost out on the role and they were off filming it somewhere! [laughs] That was an incredible moment! They ended up casting me straight from that one tape and I ended up going through and filming in the weeks to follow. It was a very fast and slow process! [laughs] Very long and drawn out at first but then fast when we got started, which was a lot of fun! That was my intro into it!

From what I have read about this project, the actors were put through a very intense training process to capture the military feel of their roles. What can you tell us about the experience?

We went to what we call “boot camp” in acting terms. We learned a lot of basic techniques, gun safety and gun handling, along with learning how to maneuver and the movements that would make us look like we know what we are doing. We did that for a couple of weeks. In my 20 years, I had never fired a gun or held a rifle like that before, so it was a very interesting experience. My first time firing a blank, I had some idea of what to expect but it was still shocking! We were all under the wing of the military advisor who was there, Mike Baumgarten, who served in Iraq and in Special Ops in Afghanistan. If you want a guy who knows what he’s talking about, look no further! We trained with him and as far as our characters are concerned we have gone through 6 months of military training. Training with him and learning all of this stuff was like learning by drinking from a fire hose because it’s very fast-paced and right the point! The following week we were on set shooting! I mean that literally, as well as film shooting. It was very interesting. The very first part of the boot camp was learning how to patrol a city. We shot at Fort Hood and they actually have structures set up for this type of training that they let us use. The set where the film takes place was built right next to those pre-built buildings. We were going through the town and using the techniques we had learned. It was stuff like covering down the street, covering long while your buddies cross the street and then you bounce over to them. It was different maneuvers and little things like those that, if done precisely, smoothly and correctly, look great on camera. We were very well-trained. That was one of the biggest challenges of the project. You have to keep your gun at the ready at all times. When the sun is beating down on you and you have a heavy helmet, a gun that weighs 40 pounds and heavy boots, it gets to be a lot! I visited to my sister, who lives in Texas, in between filming. Her fiancé served in Iraq. For our training, we spent 3 or 4 hours walking around patrolling the city and trying to get a feel of what our soldiers experience. That’s a long amount of time to be walking and at the ready in the sun and everything. I told him about it and he said, “that’s nothing!” [laughs] He said when they are actually doing it is more like 12 or 13 hours at a time! Mike Baumgarten also pointed out that they weren’t putting the plates in the pockets of our Kevlar vests, which are what stop the bullets. Those plates add an extra 50 pounds to the gear! It was a very humbling experience as an actor to know what our soldiers go through. It was an intense process but also very educational experience which I was looking to have!

Joey Luthman in NatGeo’s ‘The Long Road Home.’

What do you feel you brought to this role that might not have been one the original written page?

The script was very well written and my character was described as a farm boy from Oregon who has been through the training but, like most of the other 19 men who were in this platoon, hasn’t seen war or even been this close to the warzone. It’s about the instant these guys man-up, so to speak, and loss of innocence. I think that is what I brought to the role that wasn’t necessarily in the script. Our director, Phil Abraham, described it as us growing with the characters from episode to episode. It was very interesting to watch as we filmed there 8 episodes. I think I brought the innocence that was written in the script but also brought that growth where my character is an experienced soldier now. I believe it’s episode 2 or 3 where it’s my character’s first time killing anyone. It was a truly sobering moment. It was like, “Wow. This is war.” I felt like I portrayed that experience pretty well.

That’s interesting and leads me to my next question. As you described this role allowed you to grow as an actor. What did you take away from this role in a creative sense?

In 2013, I did a short film where the director said, “Less. Just do less because it reads. You don’t have to force it because it will play. If you are feeling it in your eyes, in your heart and you’ve got this scene in your mind, you can just do it and it will come through.” I realized what he was saying at the time but it wasn’t until recently, especially while I was filming “The Long Road Home,” when I realized it comes down to being very natural. I find that very easy to do but it was definitely something I have had to develop over time. When I was doing theater, I was playing for 600 people. So, when I was younger doing film and TV, it was always a struggle to reign it in and play for the camera and the audience that is watching on the other side of the screen, as opposed to a room full of people. It was a transition over time that I naturally adapted. While I was filming “The Long Road Home,” I discovered so much about myself as both an actor and as a person. As an actor, we try to be humble and acknowledge both our strengths and weaknesses. With that said, I admire myself as being a very natural actor. I don’t always watch myself but when I do I like to critique myself when it comes to the subtle things that I could do better. Again, I’m thinking back to Tom Hanks and how he would play it. I think, “Why does his work feel so natural.” It’s because he’s just having a conversation and talking to you. That is something I developed when doing this, as well as it developing over time naturally. It’s about being conversational and being so in the moment and in the character that you don’t have to try. You just start saying the lines and it will naturally happen. That is something that has really shown itself in my work in the past 3 years and will continue to develop moving forward.

Joey Luthman and Jason Ritter on the set of NatGeo’s ‘The Long Road Home.’

You are definitely multifaceted and that is evident from a quick look at your resume. You seem to have a passion for the world behind the camera as well. What might the future hold for you in that respect?

I’ve always loved writing stories and scripts, when I have the time. I also love editing. My friend and I are always asking each other if we’ve filmed anything recently because we like to edit the work the other has done! [laughs] For me, I love every aspect of filmmaking. I love how sound is captured, how lighting affects a scene or how one angle might tell a dramatically different story than another angle might. I also love the acting side of it, as well as the editing side of things. I love all those elements, so much so, that I can almost guarantee that if I’m not acting in the future, which is hard to fathom, that I would still working in the entertainment industry. I would most likely focus in on being a director because that is the best of every world! It’s funny because I would always make my own little homemade films with a camcorder and a laptop and upload the movies to YouTube. I was goofy and I didn’t think anyone would watch it but it was kind of fun to be creative in that way. I would spend hours editing at night and making everything perfect. When I look back, those skills came so naturally to me! It was never something I thought I would be great at but it was something I loved to do! I love creating content and creating stories. When it comes to what I might do in the future, I could see myself wanting to direct and star in my own film. It would definitely be a challenge to balance all of those elements out!

When you’re not on set, I know you do a lot of great work for charity. What can you tell us about the organizations you are involved with?

I have been a big supporter of the Starlight Children’s Foundation. Their entire mission is to put smiles on the face of kids that are hospitalized with different illnesses and who are often secluded from certain events because they are in the hospital so often. They put on events where we get to see these kids, interact with them and let them have fun! The organization recently had their “Dream Halloween” event, which they put on every year. It’s a great event and we all love it because we love seeing these kids have fun! There were arts and crafts and a virtual reality Star Wars experience! They had a replica R2-D2 that was remote controlled with all the sounds and lights! There was even a person in a C-3PO costume that looked like they just walked in from the set! It was perfect! [laughs] The kids absolutely light up when they see this stuff! It’s something I’ve been a part of for the past 8 or 9 years and I been doing the “Dream Halloween” event for at least 6 years. I’m also a big supporter of The Ronald McDonald House and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. There as so many great charities out there which help some truly amazing causes, so I’m happy to help out wherever I can!

Joey Luthman – Photo by The Artists Project: Michael Bezjian

You can definitely serve as a true inspiration to so many young actors with the work you’ve accomplished. What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey as an artist?

It’s going to sound ridiculous, cliché and so overdone but it all comes down to perseverance and not giving up. There were times where I was so close to getting the next big break in a giant movie franchise or a series regular on a show where I would be set for life but I missed it by that much. Times like that, when you are that close and miss out of something, you start to think, “Man, how can I do anything else. What else could compare to that opportunity?” In those moments, and I do this all the time after an audition, I just let it go. I think, “Okay, I did the best that I could do. I’m on to the next onto the next one!” Even if I don’t get a big role, I know I’m not going to give up and that I will persevere because I know there is another one out there and it’s not the end of the world! I say to myself, “This is what I love to do, so why not just keep doing it!” That’s my words of advice to anyone out there. It’s like I said about “The Long Road Home,” I had completely forgotten about it. After I did that initial taping and didn’t hear anything, I thought, “Well, I did the best that I could do. We’ll wait and see but I won’t be waiting by the phone every waking hour because I have to get out there and pushing forward!” Sitting by the phone, waiting and being stressed is definitely not one of the things I love to do. It’s a matter of staying true to yourself, knowing what your goals are and what you’re going to do to achieve them. Never give up!

Great advice! Thanks so much for your time today. I can’t wait to see where the journey takes you!

Thank you so much, Jason! I’m sure we’ll talk again soon. Take care!

NatGeo’s ‘The Long Road Home’ relives a heroic fight for survival. Be sure to tune-in on November 7th at 9/8c. Follow Joey Luthman’s adventures through social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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Classic Horror Series ‘Dark Shadows’ Gets A Subscription Streaming Service

Classic Horror Series ‘Dark Shadows’ Gets A Subscription Streaming Service

MPI Media Group, premier independent producer and distributor of films, TV series and specialized programming, today announced a major new avenue for the company: a subscription streaming service of one of its crown jewels – DARK SHADOWS. The gothic TV series, which MPI has distributed for decades on VHS and DVD, will be available for the first time in its entirety for unlimited streaming, beginning October 31, 2017.

The new streaming service will give fans access to the entire original series at www.darkshadows.tv, as well as exclusive bonus content and behind-the-scenes archival footage. Subscribers also will get a first look at the DARK SHADOWS feature-length documentary due out in 2018.

Fans can have streaming access to the series at a subscription price of $7.99 a month, or $79.99 a year. The company is offering a free 14-day trial. Customers signing on before November 22, 2017, will be entered in a contest to win a free lifetime subscription to the complete series at www.darkshadows.tv.

The remarkable DARK SHADOWS has rarely been out of the public consciousness over the last 50 years. Creator Dan Curtis’ one-of-a-kind series was a first for daytime television when it debuted on ABC in 1966. What began as a soap opera with an eerie edge grew into a gothic horror and supernatural drama. In the years before VCRs, DVDs and DVRs, fans in growing numbers tuned in every afternoon to catch the ongoing saga at Collinwood, an immense, gloomy mansion situated high above the rocky Maine shore. With the introduction of Barnabas Collins (played by Jonathan Frid), a vampire released after more than a century chained inside a coffin, the series had a bona fide hero who would remain its tormented heart and soul until the show’s end in 1971.

MPI is home to the largest Dark Shadows library in the world. The company has been catering to fans for years, releasing various collections of episodes on VHS and DVD, supplemented by new interviews and bonus material, as well as the deluxe “coffin box” containing all 1,225 episodes on 131 discs. MPI has also been instrumental in organizing conventions where fans can meet the stars.

The streaming service, available through the Vimeo subsidiary VHX, will also will offer curated playlists of select episodes grouped by theme – e.g., episodes set in 1897 or 1795, the “parallel time” arc, werewolves! – to give viewers a different way to experience the series. Additional bonus content will be added regularly.

MPI Media Group President and Co-founder Malik Ali said, “Like vampire Barnabas Collins himself, DARK SHADOWS can never die, and this exciting new digital service puts the entire series at the fingertips of fans old and new.”

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Shout! Factory To Release ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000: Vol. XXXIX’ On November 21st!

Shout! Factory To Release ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000: Vol. XXXIX’ On November 21st!

And in the end, the laughs you take are equal to the jokes they make. On November 21st, 2017, Shout! Factory will release the almost certainly, probably definitely, maybe unquestionably final collection of never-before-released classic episodes of our favorite cowtown puppet show, Mystery Science Theater 3000.

The slings and arrows of outrageous licenses have resulted in only three episodes, so Vol. XXXIX also includes Satellite Dishes, a disc featuring the host segments of all the remaining unreleased episodes. The collection also includes a bevy of bonus features, including Chuck Love and the Anatomy of a Theme, Beyond Transparency, a new featurette about The Amazing Transparent Man, Showdown In Eden Prairie: Their Final Experiment, The Last Dance, a documentary special that  chronicles the final days shooting the last episode of the original run ofMST3KDiabolik, Behind the Scream: Daniel Griffith on Ballyhoo, mini posters from artist Steve Vance, andtheatrical trailers. But final has a way of not being final, and one need only turn to Netflix to appreciate that. So take one plausibly last ride of the classic series with our heroes on the Satellite of Love, and keep circulating the tapes!

Fans can pre-order their copies now by visiting ShoutFactory.com. The first 1,500 fans who order directly from Shout! Factory will also receive the exclusive bonus disc The Complete Poopie, a collection of MST3K bloopers and outtakes.

MGM’s 1959 film Girls Town is not a feminist follow up to MGM’s 1938 Boys Town, though to be fair, both are set in towns.  B-movie siren Mamie Van Doren stars as a juvenile delinquent trying to survive in the eponymous nun-run reform school after she is wrongly accused of murder. It’s a feast of drag races, catfights, sexy dresses and Mel Tormé, who turns in a Blue Velvet Fog performance as the blackmailing troublemaker. The oddly child-of-star studded cast includes the offspring of Charlie Chaplin, Robert Mitchum and Harold Lloyd. Paul Anka makes his feature debut, and this may be one of his regrets that does bear mentioning. Fortunately for us, those very juvenile delinquents aboard the SoL upgrade a B movie into A+ television and reform us all.

In The Amazing Transparent Man, an ex-military sociopath plans to raise an army of invisible soldiers, but first he needs to perfect his captive scientist’s invisibilizing device by stealing necessary nuclear materials from a government vault. He engineers the prison break of a notorious thief, leveraging his wanted status to force him to do the heist. This amazing transparent tax shelter provides no dearth of fodder for Mike, Tom and Crow, who see right through the film to the riffs that ultimately make it a joy to behold.

The celebrated Italian filmmaker Mario Bava must have needed his bathroom redone. In the 1968 spy spoof Diabolik, he takes John Philip Law into his own hands and delivers an exploitation schlock-fest replete with super-criminals, underground lairs, and gadgets that would have Q scratching his head. It’s supposed to be a comedy, but it only turns into one after Mike and the bots riff it good. This film was, of course, the last one Mike and the bots were forced to endure. We thank them for their service!

Satellite Dishes
The best laid plans of mice and licensees often go astray. Despite best efforts to include the remaining unreleased episodes, the hard truth is that they may never see the legitimate light of day. So here is the next best thing: all their host segments. What these delectable dishes from the Satellite of Love lack in riffs, they make up for in irreverent, silly and delightfully nerdy sketch comedy. It’s the best we can do, so we are doing it!

Ep #201 Rocketship X-M
Ep #213 Godzilla Vs. The Sea Monster
Ep #309 The Amazing Colossal Man
Ep #311 It Conquered the World
Ep #416 Fire Maidens from Outer Space
Ep #418 The Eye Creatures
Ep #807 Terror from the Year 5000
Ep #809 I Was A Teenage Werewolf
Ep #905 The Deadly Bees
Ep #906 The Space Children
Ep #913 Quest of the Delta Knights

MST3K: Volume XXXIX Bonus Features

  • Chuck Love and the Anatomy of a Theme
  • Beyond Transparency–new featurette about The Amazing Transparent Man
  • Showdown In Eden Prairie: Their Final Experiment
  • The Last Dance— a documentary special that  chronicles the final days shooting the last episode of the original run of MST3KDiabolik.
  • Behind the Scream: Daniel Griffith on Ballyhoo
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • Four Exclusive Mini-Posters by artist Steve Vance

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IN FOCUS: Julie Ann Emery On AMC’s ‘Preacher,’ Her Creative Process and More!

IN FOCUS: Julie Ann Emery On AMC’s ‘Preacher,’ Her Creative Process and More!

Julie Ann Emery – Photo by Ryan West

A dynamic and laser-focused actress, Julie Ann Emery has spent the past few years creating a truly unique resume for herself with a plethora of wonderfully diverse roles. No stranger to the small screen, many fans will recognize her as Ida Thurman from the Emmy and Golden Globe winning mini-series “Fargo,” where she starred alongside Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Oliver Platt and Bob Odenkirk. Her other notable small screen roles include recurring on TNT’s ‘Major Crimes,’ USA’s ‘Suits,’ DirecTV’s ‘Damages,’ FX’s ‘The Riches,’ Showtime’s Emmy®-nominated drama ‘Dexter’ and Rod Lurie’s critically acclaimed ‘Line of Fire’ and ‘Commander in Chief.’ However, Emery certainly made her biggest splash within the “Breaking Bad” universe with her role as Betsy Kettleman on AMC’s “Better Call Saul.” As one of the most mysterious and haunting characters on the critically acclaimed series, Julie Ann Emery shined in every scene and proved to be a formidable match for Bob Odenkirk’s iconic Saul Goodman. In 2017, fans will be blown away by Emery’s most powerful and complex character to date! On AMC’s hit series, ‘Preacher,’ she plays the cunning Lara Featherstone, who is one of the Grail’s best operatives. She’s smart, calculating and isn’t afraid to use any means, including her sexuality, to complete her assigned mission. Featherstone has committed her life to the Grail and will stop at nothing to protect their objectives. For Emery, it’s a character rich with possibility and the true culmination of her hard work both on and off screen. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Julie Ann Emery to discuss her journey as an actress, the challenges she has faced along the way, her breakout role as Mrs.Kettleman on ‘Better Call Saul’ and the process of bringing Lara Featherstone to from script to screen!

You are becoming a familiar face on some of the most exciting shows on television. How did you get involved with the arts early on?

I grew up in a small town in Tennessee. It was mostly farms and factories. When I was 16 years old, the local theater, there is only one theater for 100 miles, got an educational grant to provide a part-time drama teacher for the high school. That drama teacher heard me sing in the choir and recruited me to try out for her play. Her name is Mel Michel and she teaches at Clarion College in Pennsylvania. She absolutely changed my life! The musical that spring was “Grease” and she cast me as Rizzo instead of Sandy, who was so unlike me! I was such a good girl and not in anyway like Rizzio, so I didn’t understand her or know what to do with the role. I didn’t even know how to smoke cigarettes and, of course, she smokes cigarettes and drinks wine the whole show! [laughs] It really forced me to try and understand someone who was very different from myself. There was a moment when I was standing on stage in front of our first audience where I was singing Rizzo’s big song; I was playing a character completely different from myself but I knew the audience was with me on that journey. It was a singular moment and that was the moment I was hooked.

It’s no small step to go from a small town to Los Angeles. What can you tell us about the moments in between?

It didn’t happen overnight. From my experience early on, I knew I really loved to sing and creating characters, so I knew I wanted to do theater. I got a scholarship and got into the Webster Conservatory for The Arts in St. Louis. It was a four-year college and I got my BA there. After that, I went to Chicago to do theater and I did a lot of it there. My then boyfriend wound up in New York and from there we came to LA. I married my college boyfriend and my husband has now been on Broadway several times. It was a very gradual process. Even in theater school I never thought, “Oh, I could be on Broadway!” I just thought, “I wonder if I could make a living as a theater actor? Is that something that could happen?” It all just kind of laid out from there. I was always better on camera than I was on stage; my instincts are smaller and more internal. It wasn’t like I thought, “Oh, I want to be a movie star.” It didn’t happen for me that way. It happened for me more gradually. The odds of me ending up where I am right now are so minuscule that I laugh about it a lot! I am still surprised to be where I am!

Julie Ann Emery – Photo by Ryan West

You’ve been involved with amazing projects through the years. Which of them had the biggest impact on you and your craft?

I don’t think it has been one particular project, although I have been so lucky to have wound up in such quality television. I feel so very fortunate about that and I have just sort of found my way there. I think the biggest impact on me has been that I have somehow been able to move through the business without being pigeon-holed in one kind of role. I have been able to play a wide range of things and that doesn’t happen all that often for actors. I think I have always been very lucky to find representatives along the way that would push me in that way. I feel like Featherstone on AMC’s “Preacher” is all of that converging into one role. Everything I have done in my career has been to prepare for this role. There is transformational aspect to the character. I did some singing very early in my career and this character incorporates some of that as well. It’s as if all of my skill set is utilized and pushed to the limits as an actor in this role. It’s very challenging and very exciting for me to play!

How did “Preacher” come onto your radar and how did you get involved with the series?

I did a couple of readings with Anatol Yusef, who plays one of the angels in Season 1. I watched Season 1 of “Preacher” and I was a big fan of the series. It was a very natural fit for me because I am a sci-fi/fantasy fan and I watch almost everything on AMC. As a fan, I really loved the genre mashup on “Preacher.” It encompasses all of these different elements that shouldn’t actually work together in one show, particularly on TV, but it does somehow work really beautifully. When the audition came across my desk, frankly I would have auditioned for anything in “Preacher” because I think it is so well done, the role was so delicious, I went after it very hard.

As you said, “Preacher” features great writing and is one of the most exciting shows on television. When it comes to this character, what did you bring to the character that wasn’t on the original written page?

I think I brought the full transformational aspect of her to the role. I thought what they needed to see in the audition room was someone transform before their eyes without the aid of costumes, hair or makeup. I thought if I could pull that off, I might have a shot at booking this thing! The two scenes from the audition were from episode three, which was already aired, and one was the first scene in the nightclub and starts right after the song. The other was an extended version of the scene in the van when I take off the wig and I’m talking to Hoover. This is heavy with spoilers but the episode has already aired! [laughs] I think I pushed the edges of that. Instead of bringing them both together, I really pushed the edges of how badass Featherstone could be and how opposite of that could Lara the jazz singer could be.

Julie Ann Emery as Lara Featherstone on AMC’s ‘Preacher.’

How do you prepare for a role and flesh out the characters in your mind before you hit the set?

This role was a little different for me and yet the same, all at once. I like to build out my character’s history as far back as I can go. Some of that is made up and some of it comes from source material. By building her history, I mean everything that has happened that has an impact on the person they have become since childhood. There is a psychological bit in how I go about it. By the time I get on set, I like to be thinking the thoughts of the character instead of my own. I’m very, very character based and it’s very important for me to go to the character instead of bringing the character to me. Obviously, it has to work on me and specific things resonate with every actor but I like to go to the character. With Featherstone, we decided to make her a really brilliant actress and really brilliant in these personas when she is laying traps for people like Jesse. I built out those characters completely, just as I would any character. I built a full character for Featherstone and, in episode three, I built a full character for Lara the jazz singer, with Featherstone’s motivation underneath it. It was an odd process. Building the character of Lara the jazz singer is all about Jesse. It’s about appealing to his hero complex, appealing to him as a man and finding out what he likes. It’s almost as if Featherstone was building that character out for herself, if that makes sense. It sounds weird but that is sort of what wound up happening! It’s not like the persona is built totally from Julie’s point of view, it has to be Featherstone’s point of view building out this character with the proper motivation. It all sounds very strange! [laughs]

“Preacher” has a great cast and tremendous people working behind the scenes. What’s the biggest challenge you faced with this role and what have you taken away from working with this unique group of people?

The biggest challenge has been the tone mashup on the show. It has come down to knowing and trusting when to go for that really dark humor and when to really ground something. One of the things that really works for the show is that there are these crazy characters and circumstances but the acting is always very grounded, motivated and real. Sometimes it’s difficult to find exactly where it should fit because there is such a wide tone on the show. With that said, there is guidance all around you! Sam Catlin is from the “Breaking Bad” world and you also have Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg on the creative end. The editors do such amazing work for “Preacher” and, I think, the tone of the show is really set in post production. Michael Slovis directed my first episode and he comes from the “Breaking Bad” world, as well. There is such a high level of work going on across the board! The cast is very high level as is everyone behind the scenes. It’s a pleasure to be there! There is also pressure! You want to show up to “Preacher” with your homework done and having ideas on how to make the scenes work!

Speaking of “Breaking Bad,” people may recognize you as Mrs. Kettleman on the spinoff series, “Better Call Saul.” I loved your work with that character and you held your own alongside a seasoned veteran like Bob Odenkirk. What was it like playing opposite him?

Thank you so much for that! I love Betsy Kettleman and she holds a very special place in my heart! She is one of those characters that I didn’t understand when I read her on the page and those are my favorite characters to play. I had worked with Bob on season one of “Fargo” and we became friendly there. That helped a lot that I knew him. My first day on set, I was sitting across from this man who played an iconic character on “Breaking Bad” but Bob is such a nice person and the fact that I knew him really helped me jump off that Kettleman cliff! That character was definitely the equivalent of jumping off a cliff for me! Vince Gilligan directed our first episode and he spent a lot of time that they could have spent on other things developing character with us on the day of the shoot. That never happens on television and I am so grateful to have had that opportunity. Jeremy Shamos, who plays Mr. Kettleman, is a famous theater actor in New York. I don’t think I have ever created a character so closely with another person. In theater, you can create relationships together as the rehearsal process goes along but on TV and film, you do most of your work on your own and then show up on the day and hope that it somehow works off of what everyone else is doing. Jeremy and I really got the opportunity to explore our characters together. I don’t think I would have landed where I did with Betsy had I not had that influence of Jeremy’s side of it during development.

Julie Ann Emery – Photo by Ryan West

In talking with you today, I can tell you are focused on your craft and bringing these elements together to make the best project. What will you gravitate towards in the near future? Is there ground you are anxious to tackle as an actor?

You’re right, I’m very much a nerdy actor! [laughs] I am very focused in that direction. I guess I just hope for interesting female roles to play. That’s a pretty tall order and we don’t necessarily have an abundance of that all the time. I feel like it’s getting better, I hope it continues to go that way and I hope that some of those continue to fall in my lap! I never thought I would book Betsy Kettleman on “Better Call Saul.” I didn’t think I was right for it. I didn’t think they would buy it on me. I just thought, “Oh, I’m just going to try and do a really good job and hopefully they’ll see me for something else down the line!” I guess I just hope for the challenging work to continue!

That’s a great outlook to have. Building on that, what is the best lesson we can take from your journey as an artist?

That anything is possible! [laughs] I was born on a dairy farm! [laughs] My dad was a dairy farmer and no one else in my family is in the business. I got lucky and got a scholarship to theater school. I got lucky that somehow there was a drama teacher at my school for the very first time when I was a sophomore. I was lucky that she came and found me and saw something valuable in me and pushed me! So, I guess you can take away that anything is possible and the importance of being a mentor. You can truly change someone’s life as a mentor, so always reach back. A lot of times, you can be on set for 14 hours and everything can be stressful but sometimes I still just smile and think, “I’m not even supposed to be here! This is great! The likelihood of me being here right here, right now seems impossible, yet here I am!” Anything is possible so you might as well go for your dreams!

Are there causes you support we can help shine a light on?

I was involved with Habitat For Humanity when I was a teenager in Tennessee. I have recently got involved with them again. I think they do great work and if you can give someone a home, suddenly it opens a world of possibilities for them. There is also a lot of diabetes in my family, so I support the American Diabetes Association. In addition, my husband’s family is very involved with the American Cancer Society. They are all great causes and worth supporting!

That’s terrific! Is there anything else we should be on the lookout for in the near future?

I’m pretty Preacher-centric at the moment. However, if people don’t know, there is a new Kettleman short on the AMC website. It’s additional content; a little update on where the Kettleman’s are right now! It’s called “No Picnic.” [View the shore – click here] If folks haven’t seen that, it’s directed by Jenn Carroll, who started out as Vince Gilligan’s assistant, and Ariel Levine is the writer. They both have come up through the “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” world. I’m really proud of it and it was truly a pleasure to jump back into it!

Awesome! Thank you for your time today, Julie! I wish you continued success! Your work has been inspiring!

Thank you so much! I’m a lucky girl!

Catch Julie Ann Emery on AMC’s ‘Preacher’ on Mondays at 9/8c. Follow her continuing adventures through social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Unsung Heroes of Hollywood: The Comedy of Owen Benjamin

Unsung Heroes of Hollywood: The Comedy of Owen Benjamin

Each month I’ve been focusing in on an actor, actress, or filmmaker that I grew up loving and has informed my own career (if calling what I do in the industry qualifies as such) in writing or performing. Films are supposed to be fun, entertaining ventures that allow an escape from the day-to-day happenings of our lives. Why not celebrate the uncelebrated, folks. Join me on my quest as I gush over those who have inspired me to put words on a website that will ultimately never equate what it means to be honored by their peers at an official award show or film festival.

This next entry in the Unsung Heroes of Hollywood series is going to be all over the place, but I promise that if you stick with me until the end, it’ll all tie together and make perfect sense to you. Which is sort of fitting seeing as how the subject of this piece will take you on a helluva wordy journey to make his point. It is my personal opinion that Owen Benjamin is the smartest comedian to take a stage since George Carlin. Many will disagree with my bold statement, but like film and television, comedy is subjective. You assign your own baggage to any comedian just like you would your favorite actor or director. Owen’s Stand-Up, along with his podcasts, Facebook live sessions, instagram posts, tweets and periscopes never cease to amaze me. He is seriously the hardest working thinker in the game and doesn’t shy away from topics that force his audience to think outside of the box.

I think it is important to state that I do not know Owen personally. Though that’s not entirely true. With the hours upon hours of content he creates, it’s not hard to feel like us fans are invited into his life on a regular basis for a beer and hearty meal. Hell, he periscopes a lot and engages with us die-hards so often that I think I sorta spent Christmas and Easter with him. But in reality, aside from an email exchange and engaging on his social media, we’ve never so much as high-fived or hydrated together (that one was for the fans).

I first fell for Owen’s charms while working post production on Adam Rifkin’s segment “Wadzilla” featured in the anthology flick “Chillerama.” After two weeks on the segment during pre-production, a family emergency topped off with a failing gallbladder and a tumultuous break-up, kept me from participating in principle photography. But before I knew it I was back in LA to assist Rif during post-production. I’ll never forget sitting on Ed Marx’s couch watching the assembly cut of the train sequence of Wadzilla and laughing hysterically at the rough cut of Owen and Rif’s exchange regarding the discomfort in Rif’s character Miles’ balls. The scene hits all the comedic beats for my liking. Rif and Owen play off one another with complete sincerity, never winking to the camera. The absurdness of the material is elevated by their willingness to play the scene out as if this was a normal, everyday problem Miles is experiencing.

A few years later I would find myself driving around listening to Comedy Central Radio with my now wife. Much of the time I would have the radio on just to act as white noise to drowned out the insanity that is Chicagoland traffic, but a few tracks seemed to always jump out at me by three separate comedians. First was a story about Goodyear clothes, by Tommy Johnagin. The second was a great movie pitch about Law and Order and Jerry Orbach, by John Mulaney. The third track that would jump out of the speakers and kick my ass was a story about getting sprayed with bear mace, by Owen.

“Sprayed with Bear Mace” is just one of many hysterical tracks on Owen’s 2013 album “High Five Til It Hurts!” The album is a clinic on how to crush at comedy for 60 minutes straight. From “Dog Lover” to “Feel My Heat,” every single track is a comedian firing at all cylinders. The last six tracks of the album feature Owen accompanying his wit with stellar piano play. Owen is simply a legend, but based on material he shares with fans now, the genius of “High Five Til It Hurts!” isn’t even scratching the surface of his best material. Enter politi

Owen isn’t a political comedian. He certainly doesn’t have a narrative he’s pushing down your throat. But the son of two college professors, Owen is what you would call an intelligent thinker. On a recent appearance on Louder with Crowder, Owen joked with host Steven Crowder that, “when I moved to Hollywood I was a liberal. When I left I was a conservative, only none of my views changed.” Owen has a gift of pointing out the obvious going on in society and dissect it to the truth. He uses logic like a grizzled world war 2 veteran that has “seen some shit.” He’s stated on many occasions that he doesn’t affiliate with any political party, but rather simply believes in Freedom of Speech. As a comedian it is obvious to see why. Owen, like many of the greats to come before him, believes that no subject is off limits in comedy. That laughing is imperative to healing. It’s not like Owen is running out on stage burning midgets (Owen is 6’7″, so literally anyone under 6 foot is a midget to this man) with cigarettes and laughing while the audience is gang raped by rodeo clowns.

Enter “Why Didn’t They Laugh,” Owen’s podcast where he breaks down audience reactions to his jokes. Owen’s ability to dissect his own material is ballsy to say the least. As a headliner he crushes, but every audience is different depending on an impossible amount of variables. Crowd size, alcohol intake, region, etc., is key. A joke that crushes in blue collar Cleveland might not land at a corporate gig in New York. Owen records all of his sets and plays clips of the audience reactions to the setup and punchline like a coach would play tape to his players following a game. One of the great things about WDTL is that fans have seen such a growth in Owen’s joke writing that nowadays he doesn’t have as much material of a joke not landing as in the beginning of the show. He’s been able to dissect his material so well that no matter the circumstance, the jokes are crushing without issue.

You might think that with less material to dissect his show episodes would be few and far between, but luckily for us that isn’t the case. WDTL has evolved into a show about human nature. Owen takes the same approach, but now is pulling the curtain back behind tweets, instagram posts, headlines, you name it, Owen is talking about it. Again, he’s not a political comedian. He is a critical thinker that stands up for free speech. I seriously can’t recommend WDTL enough to anyone that enjoys laughing a lot. Also, his social media is on fire. His periscopes are an unfiltered glimpse into pure joke writing. Watching him ask the room what song he should play while sitting at the piano and then writing a parody of that song on the fly with input from the comment section is magical.

So how does Owen Benjamin tie into a person that influenced my own craft, as each of these Unsung Heroes have. Well, Let me explain. Owen’s ability to write on the fly is truly inspiring and though I didn’t grow up with Owen, I do continue to grow with Owen. His podcast has influenced me on countless episodes and honestly has helped me grow as a public speaker. I’m no longer as quick to silence myself on a thought because I might not be as informed on a topic. Owen has shown me that dialogue is good. Expressing ideas are good. I’m 31. I don’t know everything. Why wouldn’t I want to continue to learn and evolve as a human. Owen is quick to acknowledge when he was wrong. But at least the subject was open in the first place and he was able to grow from the experience. In today’s society of what’s trending, many are quick to argue, but not willing to admit defeat.

Los Angeles lost a legend when Owen left to raise his family near his hometown. Owen currently resides in upstate New York with his wife Amy and son Walter. Many of his adventures can be seen on his periscope and instagram pages, as well as heard on Why Didn’t They Laugh and Case Closed Beers Open, a podcast with his brother Jason were they solve cases in exchange for beer. Be sure to check out Owen’s website HugePianist.com for info on upcoming stand-up dates and also pick up a sweet beer coaster. They’re hand made from trees Owen and Jason have cut down. Owen will be recording his next special this fall on his UK tour in Glasgow Scotland. You can support Owen’s podcasts on Patreon, as well.

Follow Owen Benjamin on social media via Twitter at @OwenBenjamin and on Instagram at @OwenBenjam. For all his upcoming tour dates, visit www.hugepianist.com.

Jeremy Morrison – Staff Writer
Co-creator/host of the Acid Pop Cult Podcast, film reviewer, screenwriter, Jeremy has more than eight years experience in television and film production. His childhood fascination with the naked breasts featured in the “Friday the 13th” franchise prepared him for absolutely nothing in life. J-Mo lives by one motto: #wecantallbezacksnyder
Twitter: @acidpopcult
IG: @almostgothim


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ON THE RISE: Filipe Valle Costa Talks FX’s ‘Snowfall’ And The Saudade Theatre

ON THE RISE: Filipe Valle Costa Talks FX’s ‘Snowfall’ And The Saudade Theatre

Filipe Valle Costa – Photo by JSquared Photography

Filipe Valle Costa was never afraid to dream big! Born and raised in Lisbon, Portugal, he discovering he discovered his passion for the arts at an early age. At 17 years old, he told his parents he wanted to come to the United States and further his chances of becoming an actor. They encouraged him to apply for a tennis scholarship so he could study acting with a student visa. It wasn’t long before Filipe landed a scholarship with Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts in theatre. He then attended the University of Florida, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts in acting. During his first year of school he applied for the Diversity Visa Lottery, which is made available to 50,000 permanent resident visas annually and aims to diversify the immigrant population in the United States. He didn’t hear back the first year, so he applied again in his second year of school and was selected. After months of working alongside an immigration attorney, he was granted a green card and moved to New York City to pursue a career in acting full time. Through it all, he remained laser-focused, continued to hone his craft and, most importantly, never lost sight of the dream we was pursuing. 

In 2017, Filipe Valle Costa can be seen starring in John Singleton’s FX drama series “Snowfall.” Set to premiere in July, “Snowfall” is set against the infancy of the L.A. crack cocaine epidemic in 1983. Filipe shines as Pedro Nava, the heir apparent of one of the Mexican crime families dealing drugs in Los Angeles. Living under his father’s shadow, Pedro desperately moves through life longing for his dad’s attention and approval, and will stop at nothing to to achieve the American dream. In addition to “Snowfall” recent credits for Filipe include: “Blue Bloods,” “Gotham,” and “Unicornland.”

Some of Filipe’s most impressive work is taking place behind the camera. In 2015, he launched The Saudade Theatre, which celebrates and supports the Portuguese voice in the arts throughout NYC. The company’s mission is to develop original work grounded in the Portuguese experience, as well as translating Portuguese playwrights. When Filipe arrived in NYC he quickly became aware of the lack of information and knowledge regarding Portuguese theatre in the US, and decided to lead the charge in making a new reality for his fellow artists.

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Filipe Valle Costa to discuss his inspiring journey as an actor, his highly anticipated role on FX’s ‘Snowfall,’ the formation of The Saudade Theatre in New York City, diversity in Hollywood and much more!

How did you get involved in the arts early on in life?

Oh my gosh! That is a big question! It was always there. I grew up in a village about 20 minutes away from Lisbon in Portugal. It’s not the sort of place that necessarily futures whatever impulses that are out there which could lead to you becoming an artist. It wasn’t until I was 17 years old and I got into my first year of college in Portugal when I decided to audition for a theatre group in Lisbon. I had done all of the school plays and stuff like that but it wasn’t until that moment that I realized that this truly was what I needed to be doing. I told my parents and they said, “Okay! But you better go to the United States.” I used to play competitive tennis for a really long time, so I got a tennis scholarship to come to the United States and I came here to study acting!

Tell us about the people who influenced you both on camera and in real life.

For me, the biggest influence in my life, as far as the arts go, is my cousin in Portugal. He started a theatre company a little bit before 1974, when the dictatorship was over. He started a theatre company then and it has been going ever since! My dad used to take me to his plays. I would watch them but not necessarily understand them. I remember being hypnotized by whatever energy I was receiving in that moment. That was definitely my conscious trigger to it. It wasn’t until later when I started watching Hollywood movies from Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and John Singleton. I specifically remember the moment when I was staying with my grandparents and I was very young. I was maybe around 14 or 15 years old. My uncle arrived from a party and woke me up at 1 or 2 in the morning. He said, “We are going to watch this movie together.” That movie was “Boyz In The Hood.” I remember dreaming of this far away land called Hollywood where these movies were being made. From there, I became very, very interested in the work of Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, as I told you. From that point, the move to America felt very serendipitous in a way!

What early roles had a big impact on you as a young actor?

I did “Romeo & Juliet” when I was in grad school. We got to take it to Greece and perform in these huge, beautiful amphitheaters on top of mountains and Greek Islands. It was such an experience to do Shakespeare in places as exquisite as these. I remember the moment when I was standing on the top of this mountain while doing “Romeo & Juliet. You look behind and see the ocean and the entire island. You can’t help but feel the presence of all the years of history of Greek theater. I remember that moment very, very vividly. It’s one of those things no one will ever be able to take away from me. That was an experience that really marked me. There are others as well. Once I arrived in New York City, I was so blessed to be part of the workshop phase of a production called “Good Grief.” It is a beautiful play about grief and I got to play one of the main characters. It was one of those experiences where the playwright wrote the character because of something that had happened with her — the loss of one of her very, very dear friends. I got to play that best friend. The responsibility and weight that comes with that can be intense and is something you take on with some sort of pride. It’s not taken in a negative way. It was a beautiful weight to take and I will take that experience with me forever. There are many others but those are just two that come to mind.

You played a variety of different characters in your career. What is your process for bringing them to life?

It is different every time. With my latest project, FX’s “Snowfall,” I have to shift in many ways because my brain has been theater trained. I kept referring to my brain as a theater brain, in its experience. I had to keep shifting and adjusting, which was a pleasure and a joy. For me, the process is always different. It all depends on the project and where inside it moves me. There are projects that are easier for you to access right away and projects that you have to do much more work and research in order to get there. Of course, I have all the techniques that I’ve had the pleasure of learning with my education — four years in undergrad, my three years at grad school in acting and other programs I took in New York City. At the end of the day, I think the beauty of what we do is that we have the ability to take each project for what it is and approach it depending on what it demands and asks of you. That is the most beautiful part of this job; it’s always new. That novelty is something you have to embrace. I love researching. Particularly with “Snowfall,” I would spend hours on YouTube watching videos of Los Angeles in the ‘80s. I would get lost in that dark hole of research. I think being surprised by the novelty of the project, responding with your instincts and bringing the best or worst parts of yourself that fit into the project is the true joy. It’s almost like a puzzle!

FX’s ‘Snowfall’ premieres on July 5th, 2017.

Speaking of FX’s “Snowfall,” tell us about the character you play and what drew you to the material.

I play Pedro Nava. He is the cocky, heir-apparent son of the head of the cartel. There is a lot that comes with that character. When I first auditioned for it, I just had my two scenes, I didn’t know much about the full episode or character. The journey for me and what was so amazing was to go audition for it with a perception on what the character may be but then embracing how it evolves through the season. Pedro, because of the fact that he grew up in this very wealthy family in Los Angeles and his father is the head of the cartel, experiences all the pressure that comes with that. He ends up compensating in all the wrong ways by trying to impress his father at any cost. That was definitely dangerous and unpredictable. Not knowing what is going to come next is thrilling! Like I told you, I have my theater brain and when you do a play, you know the beginning, middle and end. With Pedro, what was so exciting was from episode one to six, the stakes are very, very high. I was feeling the stakes were high for me as well, so I was able to be in a place of fear, which I think is exactly where Pedro is as well. I think that is the joy of television. You don’t get the episodes ahead or at least we didn’t this time around. I would be done shooting episode one and get the script for episode two. I would finish episode two and get episode three. That allowed me to be in a place of constant unpredictability and it was very, very exciting!

Were you presented with unforeseen challenges with this role?

The biggest challenge for me was not having the ability to go back the day after and do it again. As I said, in theater, if things don’t go well one day, you can go back the day after and try it again. In television and film, you do your two or three takes and the day after it’s gone and out in the universe forever for people to see it. For me, as an actor, I had to learn to embrace the immediacy of shooting an episode and letting it go right away. It’s sort of beautiful! However, you can imagine, for me as a theater artist, coming in and having the opportunity to come in every day and try to make it better but, in this circumstance, not having that was quite an adjustment. For the first four episodes, I couldn’t get over the fact that I was not going to go back and try to make it better! [laughs] That was beautiful because, as an artist, you don’t want to achieve perfection because if you achieve perfection, then you are missing out on life. Life is not perfect. I told myself, “Those things you are feeling like are not working, that is probably because the character is feeling that as well. They know what they are doing!” You have to have a lot of trust. It is impossible not to trust when everyone around you is an artist and is so involved. They really forced me to step up my own game. In that respect, it helped me to have the ability to keep moving on, keep growing and embrace the humanity that comes with making mistakes and not being perfect. For someone like me, it was a struggle at first but then it became what is at the core of the joy of doing — embracing life for all that it has to offer!

Is there a role you are eager to tackle in the near future?

That’s a great question! So many things come to mind. One of my fantasies is to be a part of some sort of project that it similar to “Game of Thrones” or “Harry Potter.” I think what attracted me to this work in the first place is the magic and fantasy. I remember growing up watching “Jurassic Park” and “Star Wars.” Being in Portugal, those things seemed so far away and so magical. I feel “Snowfall” is already a step towards that. I mean, I’m holding a gun in the trailer and saying, “Where is my money” in a John Singleton project. [laughs] As far as dreams go, it doesn’t get much better than that! That silly dream does exist and it does have value in my life, especially because I had to leave my country to come do it. No one forced me to but it was a big decision to make at the age of 17. I would love to be part of a project like “Game of Thrones.” There is something so epic about kings, queens and history, so I would love to embrace a project like one of those.

Filipe Valle Costa – Photo by JSquared Photography

You launched The Saudade Theatre in 2015. Tell us about the company and bringing it to life.

Thank you for asking! When I arrived in New York City after grad school, I very soon realized that there was no Portuguese representation. I started to think, “In 10 years, when another Portuguese actor arrives here at the age of 18 and they want to find a home right away in New York City, they should have a Portuguese theater company to go to!” That was one of the first things that seemed so simple to me. I thought, “Why don’t I start it? I could do that!” Of course, all of the other things had to happen! There was a lot of work to be done. At first, starting a theater company seems easy but you soon realize there is a lot of work to be done. Basically, the work we are trying to do is trying to put Portuguese writers on the map. We are fully aware that there is a lot of work being done in Portugal and it is very good but does not get translated. It is high quality work but it’s not reaching the rest of the world because there is no work being done on the translation. I wanted to do that. I wanted to start translating plays, bringing them to New York and American theater to make it part of this conversation. I think we are in a time where people do a lot of talking about building walls. I see my theater company as an opportunity to build a bridge for people. Ever since I arrived here, people have asked me, “Where is Portugal? What is that?” I don’t want to call it ignorance but we are a very small country and there is a lack of knowledge as to the Portuguese consciousness and Portuguese way of living, which is very beautiful and I miss it very much. I started this theatre company to honor that and have other Portuguese artists arriving in New York City and America to have a home and the ability to tell their own stories. I wanted to make a bridge in that way, so that in the future more people will know more about Portugal and what it’s all about. I remember my first year in America, people would ask me if we had cars in Portugal. I was like, “What do you mean? Of course we have cars!” [laughs] “Where do you think we are? We’re on the corner of Europe and are a European country!” We talk a lot about France, Spain, England and Italy and Portugal sort of gets lost. I noticed that as well in my history classes, where all of a sudden, we wouldn’t be discussing what was happening in Portugal. This theatre company has been a part of my journey as a Portuguese immigrant in this country. Because of the way I look, I have played a lot of Latino characters, which I love doing, but I also want to have the ability to tell my own stories with my own perspective and offer up my own way of seeing the world. I hope to bring other Portuguese artists, as well as artists from other places in the world, who want to celebrate and learn more about that!

What do you have in store for us with The Saudade Theatre this year?

We are doing our first full production this year and we are now fundraising. We’re fundraising for our show coming up in August. It’s a really important play and as soon as we read it, we knew we had to do it. It’s a play called “The Constitution.” It is set during very troubled political times in Portugal. Four actors are invited by the government to write a new constitution. They are put in the gym for six days to write the constitution. You can imagine what happens from there! [laughs] There is so much universality in the themes in the play and so much that mirrors the Portuguese experience to what is happening right now with the current political situation here in America. As soon as we read it, we knew we had to do it because it has such a positive message. It doesn’t have an answer to what is happening right now but at least it gives you some hope and some reason to believe that there is a way we can all work together and not be divided. I think that is the number one thing right now in this country, so I am very excited to put this play on. To learn more, you can visit www.saudadetheatre.org. All the information will be there!

We are constantly hearing about the push for diversity in Hollywood. You are on the front lines. Do you see real change within the industry?

I am. I am seeing a difference and I am seeing a shift happening. I want it to go further. I think the conversation about diversity is very much a mirror to what is happening politically and socially right now. I love the word diversity, however, I love the word inclusion even more. Diversity for diversity’s sake can engage another sort of division. For me, being Portuguese, has been an experience of ambiguities and I struggle with the fact that I am Portuguese but I’m perceived as Latino in this country. For us, as Portuguese people, we consider ourselves Latin, so it’s a strange place to be. As I told you, that is why I started my theatre company because I felt like that conversation was happening and I wanted to contribute to it in the only way that I could. I understood it but I didn’t hear anyone talking about, “What about Portuguese people?” Rightfully so because the Portuguese consciousness is not in any a part of the American narrative at this point. However, there are a lot of stories that need to be told and included what will honor the American consciousness. The thing that I always say is, “It starts with us.” I see it but I also want to contribute to it, so I don’t want to keep observing it, point fingers or say, “Well, this is not being done … ,” because even if it isn’t, it should be up to me to get it going!

Filipe Valle Costa – Photo by JSquared Photography

We can take a lot away from your story. What is the best lesson we can take from your journey?

It’s such a cliché but it’s important to never give up. I think my parents instilled that in me. No matter how dark things get, you can’t give up because you never know when that moment may be there. I certainly did not know that “Snowfall” was going to be the project to take me a step further in this life. Had I given up the day before, I wouldn’t have achieved it. In today’s world, the amount of information being thrown at us can make us feel so overwhelmed and it can be very easy just to turn off, give up and stop yourself on the tracks. You just have to keep moving and move through those dark times because they are just as important as the good times and will contribute just as much, if not more, to what you ultimately want to achieve in life. I think that has been instilled in me from the very moment I decided to leave my country. From that very moment, I knew I couldn’t give up because it was too much to leave my country, my people and everything I had ever know from my friends to my culture, to go get this. I told myself, “There is no other way!” That is what I would tell everyone and what I take from it. I hope that others can see that in my journey and have it inspire them to keep moving!

I can’t thank you enough for your time today, Filipe! I wish you continued success and thank you very much for all the hard work you are putting in!

Thanks so much, Jason! I really appreciate your time!

Catch Felipe Valle Costa in FX’s ‘Snowfall’ when it premieres on July 5th, 2017. Follow Felipe’s continuing adventures via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Visit his official website at www.filipevallecosta.com.

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NO LIMITS: Ted Raimi On The Past, Present and Future of His One-of-a-kind Career!

NO LIMITS: Ted Raimi On The Past, Present and Future of His One-of-a-kind Career!

As one of the greatest character actors of his generation, Ted Raimi has truly done it all. From his early days in his brother’s Super 8 movies, to shemping in “Evil Dead 1,” to co-starring (and nearly destroying himself) as Henrietta in “Evil Dead 2,” to playing multiple parts in “Army of Darkness” and triumphantly returning to the ‘Evil Dead’ cinematic universe in “Ash Vs Evil Dead” playing Chet Kaminski, Ash’s childhood friend, Ted Raimi’s real-life story arc is as diverse as the characters he has played. Even fans dwelling outside the realm of the horror genre will instantly recognize his famous face from his roles in “Xena: Warrior Princess,” “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys,” “seaQuest DSV,” Wes Craven’s “Shocker,” “Darkman” and the wildly successful Tobey Maguire versions of “Spider-Man” films. His talent, drive and robust body of work in both film and television is truly undeniable. Along the way,  Raimi has also dazzled us from behind the camera as a writer and producer. In 2017, he will begin a new chapter of his career as he helms his first feature film — “The Seventh Floor.” Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up Ted Raimi to discuss unique journey as an actor, the key to longevity in the entertainment business, his role in Austin Reading’s ‘Darkness Rising’ and what the future holds for him in the years to come.

You are a familiar face in television and film. Let’s go back to the beginning. How did you get involved with the arts early on in life?

I came into this business unconventionally. Most actors, I think, come to it by seeing a movie, like “Fight Club” or “Goodfellas,” and saying, “Wow! That’s so amazing! I have to do that with my life. It’s something I have to do. I need to get out to Hollywood!” I did it in a very oblique way. I had a series of really crappy jobs when I was a kid. I was a dishwasher, a busboy and a golf caddy! It was all the worst jobs you could have and was only slightly better than digging ditches. [laughs] One of the jobs I had was as a production assistant working for this commercial company in Detroit. A friend of mine said, “You should try to do industrial films.” I said, “What is an industrial film?” I really had no idea what it was. In short, they are movies made for in-house businesses. They are not going to be seen by the public and are made by companies like General Motors, Ford and Westinghouse for their employees. I said, “Well, OK!” Detroit is a big industrial town, so they were making a lot of these movies and I started doing them. The first time I read for one, I got it! It was a half a day of work and they let me go at noon. I never forgot it! This particular one was for Ford. I went home and thought, “My God! That’s the shortest work day I’ve ever had in my life!” A week later, I got the check and that check was worth three weeks worth of washing dishes! I thought, “Oh my God! I’m never going to wash another dish as long as I live!” That’s how I started! It was less that I felt the love of acting and more that it was something I could make a living at and sort of had an ability for but loving it came later. I’m much more of a practical guy! I’m a Detroiter and a practical guy. I thought to myself, “I can make this work! This is something I can do.” I wound up really digging it in my early 20s but as a teenager it was just for the money.

Obviously, you carved out quite a career for yourself in the years to follow and are one of the best character actors out there.

Thank you!

What are the keys to longevity in the entertainment business?

I would say it comes down to having your own life outside of Hollywood. It’s really just that simple. If you only live in the Hollywood world, you will be consumed by it. It will eat you alive. When you are finally spat out you will be someone who is wrecked emotionally, personally and financially. You have to have your own life outside this business. You have to have your own things that you dig, so that when you are told, “No,” and you will be told, “No” a million times, you will be OK and come out on your feet.

As a character actor, you get offered a lot of unique roles. What do you look for when it comes to the projects?

I want something that is unique. That’s number one. Nearly as important, is that it’s fully funded. I get scripts all the time from people and usually they don’t have a dime. I understand that and it’s hard to get money in this business but I don’t even bother looking at those scripts. You have to be fully funded and when you are, I will start looking at it. However, the things that have always tickled me are thrillers and horror pictures. I loved them as a kid and I still love them as an adult! Those stories stay with you and is the stuff of your late night thinking. When I was very young, the very, very last of the radio dramas were in its final death throws. It was on CBS and it was called the CBS Radio Mystery Theater and it was hosted by E.G. Marshall. I think it was on two or three nights a week at 10 o’clock. I’ve never forgotten E.G. Marshall saying in his gravely, creaky voice, “Come in!” It’s something I have never forgotten and something I still think about this very day. I thought, “Man, if I could thrill people like he did, that would be something to look forward to and work towards.” I keep that in my head all the time, no matter where I am in this business. When I pick a project, I think about that!

You take on roles big and small. Tell us about your process to bring the character to life.

I never think about what another actor would do with the part. I only think about what I would like to do. In other words, I start very unconventionally. The actors that I typically don’t care for are the ones who are trying to be like other actors. I just try to be like myself. I start big and I let the director bring me down from there. I start with way too much usually. That way, the director can pair it down to the size he wants. Some actors prefer to start very, very small and let the director sort of mold them but, for me, it’s the other way around.

Ted Raimi in Austin Reading’s ‘Darkness Rising’

One of your latest roles is a cameo in ‘Darkness Rising’ how did you get involved there?

The director, Austin Reading, is a very good friend of mine and we’ve worked together in the past on a few things. ‘Darkness Rising’ was a very good script and he asked me to do a cameo in it. Normally, I don’t do those, but I really enjoyed the script and Austin’s directorial style, I said yes. Ya know, it’s basically an old fashioned, spooky haunted house movie. With that said, there a lot of those, but I think this one’s unique. The cameo that I do is a period piece, so that made it doubly interesting.

You have a big body of work. How have you evolved as an actor since those early years?

I think I’m more confident as an adult, so I’m much weirder than I was when I was younger. I was called quirky when I was younger. As you get older, you are still quirky but people just call you weird! [laughs] That’s really about it! [laughs]

What’s the most challenging role you took on?

That’s a good question. The first picture I got my Screen Actor’s Guild card for was “Evil Dead 2.” In that movie, I was covered in prosthetics for 13 full days in 100°+ weather. That was a huge challenge physically and it was rough! I also feel all the TV series I have done get very rough because you get very complacent. After a few years of doing a TV show, you get very comfortable and being too comfortable is dangerous because you get boring. You start doing the same things over, over and over again. That’s really bad and it’s death for an artist. You never want to do that!

Your work continues to be discovered by new generations of fans. For those who may be new to your work, where should they dive in? What are some of your favorite projects?

For those who are just seeing me for the first time, it just depends on what you dig. For the most part, sci-fi, fantasy, horror films and television shows are about 95% of my body of work. There is plenty of it! They can check out the “Spider-Man” pictures or “SeaQuest DSV,” an old NBC show I’ve done, I think they will like that. It all depends on how old they are too. I have voiced a lot of cartoon characters that I think younger fans might dig! So, if you are young, you don’t want to be starting off with movies like “Midnight Meat Train” or “Evil Dead.” That might damage your mind a little bit! [laughs]

Where are you headed in the future? Are there projects you are anxious to tackle?

Mostly I have put acting aside and this year I’m directing my first feature. It’s call “The Seventh Floor” and I’m doing it with a company called Veva Entertainment. I’m very excited about it. It’s in pre-production right now and it’s a thriller. It’s right up my alley! I can’t wait! We start shooting in September. I never thought my first feature would be something I didn’t write but the script was so enticing and the writer was so good that I had to say yes! That’s what I’m doing now! This last year, I also created an ad campaign for the Starz Network for their show “Ash Vs. Evil Dead.” I shot that and it’s now running simultaneously on all their websites and might even be running on the cable channel as well. There are three or four more ads that should appear later this year for season three of the series. I’m looking forward to those too! To answer your question, I’m mostly just directing now.

No offense, Ted, but what took you so long to make the jump to directing a feature?

No offense taken! [laughs] You’re absolutely right! It took too long and I should have done this 10 years ago to tell you the truth but I just wasn’t ready to do it. However, I’ve always been late with everything in my life. Everything! For heaven’s sakes, I didn’t kiss a girl until I was 22 years old! I didn’t even have a date until I was 21! Everything has been later for me. That’s what I can really give to you and the only one I can give to myself.

Who are you biggest influences when it comes to directing?

I would say my biggest influences are the classic guys. Jacques Tourner is one and I know that seems like a weird one but he is basically the guy who invented the horror genre, if you look back at his pictures. “Cat People” is pretty amazing. He’s a guy who really created the movies that we see today, so I find his work very impressive. There are also guys like John Huston. I love his work and I’m very inspired by him. I’m also inspired by modern guys to some degree — Tony Scott and David Fincher. I love all of those guys and I take a lot of influence and visual styles from them.

We can look to the career as an inspiration. What is the best lesson we can take from your journey?

I would say, “Be yourself above all else.” Don’t try to be what Hollywood, your managers, your agents, friends, photographers or teachers want you to be. Be who you are. With that in mind, you will find that you will have a lot of hits and misses but you can always go home knowing who you are at the end of the day. That’s a rare thing in Hollywood. This town, though it appears it’s a dream factory and to some extent it is, produces a lot more bruised bananas than peaches, if you get my meaning.

Catch Ted Raimi in ‘Darkness Rising’ when it hits select theaters and VOD on June 30th! Follow his continuing adventures via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and www.tedraimi.com.

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UNSTOPPABLE: Kelly Karbacz On Her Career, Evolution & ‘Orange Is The New Black’

UNSTOPPABLE: Kelly Karbacz On Her Career, Evolution & ‘Orange Is The New Black’

For Kelly Karbacz, her passion for the arts took hold early on in life. A graduate of the prestigious Stuyvesant High School, she would go on to study drama at The Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, part of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Over the past decade, she has carved out a truly unique body of work both on screen and on the stage. Never afraid to pour her heart and soul into her work, she is one of the rare actors who truly elevates the quality of each project of which she is a part. In fact, her undeniable presence and razor-sharp skills are what landed her biggest role to date as part of Netflix’s award-winning series, “Orange is the New Black.” On the show, Karbacz plays the role of inmate, Kasey Sankey, who was introduced in season four. Sankey is a primary member of the White Power Group, inadvertently created by fellow inmate, Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling). Sankey quickly finds herself in multiple altercations with the other inmates and pursues Piper to be an active member of her “movement.” Throughout her time on the series, Kelly Karbacz has continued to intrigue viewers as a true scene-stealer in the ensemble cast.

Her work within the world of theater is equally impressive. Karbacz made her Broadway debut in the leading role of Maureen Johnson, in “Rent” at the Nederlander Theatre, directed by Michael Greif. She also earned a Helen Hayes nomination for ‘Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical’ for her performance as Emily Andrews, in the world premiere of “Liberty Smith” at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. Her other theatre credits include Alfred Uhry’s “Without Walls” at The Williamstown Theatre Festival, “Nighthawks” at Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, “First Date” at the ACT/5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, and “The Sound of Music” at Lincoln Center’s New York City Opera, where she starred as Louisa.

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Kelly Karbacz to discuss her amazing body of work. In the interview, she offers an inside look at her early years as an actress, her process for bringing characters from script to screen, her creative evolution and her breakout role on Netflix’s ‘Orange Is The New Black.’ 

Let’s go back to the very beginning. How did you get involved with the creative arts early on in life?

I started in this business when I was a kid! I was singing and taking dance lessons from a very early age. I fell in love with theater and the business after seeing my first Broadway show. I watched what was happening on the stage and I thought, “I want to do that! I have to do that!” One year my dance school put on this variety show competition. While everyone else decided to dance, I decided to sing! I ended up winning first place in the competition and there happened to be an agent in the audience that night! I was invited to come down and audition for the agency, so I went down and did monologues and sang. I auditioned with hundreds of kids and I was fortunate enough to be offered a contract with them. After that, the rest is history! I started auditioning and I never looked back!

Wow! That’s awesome and leads to my next question. This is a tough business. Did you ever have any reservations about pursuing your passion professionally?

No, it’s crazy, there was just this dream in my heart and this passion that I had from the time I was very young and it’s never wavered. It has always sort of burned there inside of me. I’ve never regretted it and I just knew then, as I know now, that nothing else would make me as happy or bring me as much joy as being a performer!

Well, that certainly makes going to work every day a whole lot easier doesn’t it!

Absolutely! [laughs] I think that’s one of the greatest blessings in the world; being able to do what you love and having the privilege and good fortune to do what you love for living! There’s nothing better!

Let’s talk about some of the influences who had a big impact on you and your work? Who were some of the people behind the scenes who gave you a push and some of the actors whose work you gravitate toward?

To start, there were many significant drama teachers throughout my education who had a huge impact on me. Kim Bruno, Julie Sheinman, Vincent Grasso, Debra Wiley and, honestly, the man I feel really changed my life as far as acting goes was Geoffrey Horne. He was a teacher I had at NYU while I studied at the Tisch School of the Arts. He taught me acting at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute. We studied at studios as part of our training and he gave me what seems like the simplest lesson but for some reason it really clicked in for me when he gave me these pearls of wisdom. He taught us that when you are acting, you didn’t have to do all this stuff or try to be cute or put all this stuff on top of everything. If you just started from the most simple, honest place in the moment, you would get where you needed to be. If you were just to talk as a normal person, you would get to where you needed to be in the scene emotionally. For some reason, that really clicked in for me and I was able to get to the core of my characters and find honesty and truth, as well as being much more effective at bringing these roles to life! He was a huge influence on me and I will be grateful to him for the rest of my life for how he changed my acting. As far as other artists and actors, I have to say there are a few actors who have recently blown me away and are doing what I aspire to do going forward — Viola Davis in “Fences,” Robin Wright in “House of Cards” and Jessica Lange in “Feud.” Watching them is like watching a master class! There are so many more! Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, Sarah Paulson and I could go on and on! Watching them is like a master class and the emotional depth and the way they bring these rich, complex characters to life to tell these compelling stories is simply amazing. These are the type of strong powerful female roles that I want to play! They have really inspired me and make me want to raise my game in the best way!

What is your process for bringing the characters you play to life?

When I am cast in a role, the first thing I do is go to the creative team of the project and request as much information as possible. I like to get as much information from them as possible so that I can really start investing in the world of this person and embody them to the best of my ability. Then I re-read the full script to get any details that I may have missed and I begin to focus more intensely on my own personal scene work. Not only do I try to find the objectives in each scene but, as part of my method acting training, there is a specific technique called substitution which has been very effective for me. Substitution is when you compare the elements of the life and scenes of your character to your own life. Doing so allows you to find more ways to deeply connect and bring the truth of this character to life. That has been incredibly effective for me in my work. Music is key for me as well, so I try to find music that connects me emotionally to where I need to be in the scenes. That helps me on set to focus and get in the moment before I start shooting or get on stage. In the end, the wardrobe, hair and makeup are the final elements that help everything come together, even when they are very stripped down like in “’Orange Is The New Black”. Then I just try to give the most honest and truthful performance possible!

Kelly Karbacz – Photo by Nicolas Wagner

Let’s talk about ‘Orange Is The New Black.’ Obviously, this is a big milestone for you. Tell us about how you got involved with the project and what drew you to the material?

I was a huge fan of “Orange” before I was cast, so I was very invested in this world already! I love the characters and the writing. I really felt that was in my wheelhouse and that would be a really great fit for me as an actress. Of course, I knew I would jump at the chance to be a part of it if I could! Jennifer Euston, our incredible casting director, has been so good to me throughout the years and brought me in for any projects that she felt I was right for. She actually had me in for several other characters throughout the first three seasons of the show but my character, Kasey Sankey, was the first inmate that I have ever auditioned for. I knew that she would be a challenge! The breakdown of the character said that she was proud to be white, this wasn’t her first time in prison and that she was tough with a very short fuse. I knew that was going to be very different from who I am in life but I was certainly up for the challenge!

As you said, this character is associated with the white power movement which is pretty polarizing. Was this a scary world to step into with things being so PC these days?

Absolutely! I think that because it is so challenging, I remind myself of a few things. One is that it is not my job to judge her because it would be too difficult to play her if I had to do that. I try not to judge her and instead try to remember that it is my job to bring her to life and tell the story that our genius creator Jenji Kohan and our incredible writers want to tell! I also remember that she behaves in this way and as a supporter of this ideology because that’s what has been ingrained in her. That’s what she has known all her life and she’s a product of her environment. This is what she knows. I really try to find ways to connect with her to bring her to life. I’ve been loving that the one thing they do so brilliantly on this show is to find the humanity of all these people, especially the inmates on our show. They’ve given me these beautiful moments to play of possible redemption for her where she pulls back from confrontation at times or rallies the other inmates for the greater good of the prison or where she tries to acknowledge that maybe the other women aren’t as she expected them to be. I love that they’ve given her these moments of struggle where she thinks, “Is it possible that my belief system doesn’t always have to dictate my behavior?”

Kelly Karbacz as Kasey-Sankey on Netflix’s ‘Orange Is The New Black.’

The material for this series is undeniably good but I definitely feel you have continued to elevate it. What do you feel you might have brought to this character that wasn’t on the original written page?

When I went in for the audition, I immediately after reading the scenes had sort of an idea of how she would speak, how she would move and what her behavior would be. I brought that into the audition room with me. I don’t know if I was exactly what they had in mind when they wrote it but I’m certainly so fortunate and grateful that when they saw it they said, “That works! We want that!” With each script that I get for every episode and with each scene that I’m in, I just try to deepen her, explore other facets of her and explore different sides and colors of her to really create this fully fleshed out person. I’m really excited about where she will go going forward from here. Is there a redemption for her? Or does she stay more of a villain and we show the consequences of it? Ultimately, I’d really love to be able to tell the story of why she has been incarcerated, what makes her tick and how she got to be the way she is!

You mentioned using music to get in the right headspace for character. What can you tell us about the soundtrack of Kasey Sankey?

It’s funny, hip-hop, R&B and rap have always been my go to music choices. There is a lot of Jay-Z and Kanye on my playlist for sure when I’m trying to get in her headspace. She is so extreme at times, well, most of the time I should say! That music really amps me up and gets me energized. Every scene and every episode calls for different things emotionally so I try to skew whatever I’m listening to in a way that I know it will get me where I need to be for that scene. It’s definitely what I’m drawn to in life because I know it will really give me that personal connection and hip hop, R&B and rap is what I’ve always loved. I love all music in general but those types of music have always been my go to.

Talking to you today, I can already tell you are a bit of a sponge when it comes to soaking things in on the set. What are the biggest things you’ve learned from your time on ‘Orange Is The New Black’?

As an actor, I have to say that it’s been such an incredible privilege to work alongside what is undeniably one of the most gifted ensembles in television. To be on set with these other actors and pass the ball back-and-forth with them has been amazing. They’re such generous scene partners and so professional. They truly up my game with every moment I spend on that set. That is such a blessing and it is never lost on me. As far as the show itself, to be a part of something that has been so critically acclaimed and groundbreaking in so many ways is an unbelievable experience. This series is telling stories that need to be told and that are reflective of our society. It truly tries to shed light on the most important issues in our current culture and hopefully is influencing change for the better. It gives me such great pride to be a part of something like that. I think it’s a rare thing and I think the way “Orange” does that puts it in a class by itself.

As you mentioned, this show has had an incredible impact on you creatively. What are some of the other creative milestones you hold close to your heart?

I’ve had some wonderful successes throughout my career in both theater and film and television. As far as the milestones go that have impacted me and help me evolve, for theater it would certainly be ‘Rent.’ I played Maureen Johnson in ‘Rent’ on Broadway. I was a “Renthead” and I was in love with that show! When I saw Idina Menzel play that role, I walked away from the theater thinking, “I have to play that role!” it was an absolute dream of mine! Many auditions and many years later, I was able to do it. To be able to play her, sing that score and play with the ‘Rent’ family 8 times a week was incredible. It really changed my life! That role gave me such confidence. It tapped me into my sexuality. It helped me to lose inhibitions and go to places that I’ve never gone before as a performer. I think it’s an experience  that changed my life and will stay with me for the rest of my life, especially the message of the show, which is “No day but today.” It’s really about love, inclusivity, living in the moment and cherishing every moment as if it were your last. When it comes to theater, that was huge for me. In television, I had the good fortune to be part of a multi-camera sitcom called “Regular Joe” where I got to star alongside Judd Hirsch, Daniel Stern and John Francis Daley and a beautiful cast! Being able to do a multi-camera sitcom, to me, was the best of both worlds because we got to perform in front of a live audience, which felt like theater, but it also has the capacity to be seen all over the world. It was able to reach a broader audience. I thought, “This is it right here!” [laughs] Those are two major ones. There are a lot of other milestones but I think those stick out in my mind as the ones that had the biggest impact on me!

Kelly Karbacz – Photo by Nicolas Wagner

You are making it look easy and knocking it out of the park with each new project. What other roles or projects do you look forward to tackling in the future?

You know, what’s amazing is when you are able to straddle both worlds! So, I certainly want to continue in the world of film and television. I want to tackle not only more television drama but comedy as well and create these rich, complex roles wherever I can. I would also like to dive deeper into the film world, whether it’s a really cool indie or a huge feature, that would be fantastic as well! In theatre, I would love to be back on Broadway or off Broadway. There are so many amazing projects happening right now. I’m actually working on two pieces that I can’t share details about yet because they are in the early stages but one is a musical and one is a straight play. They are both meaty, wonderful roles and I’m loving being able to help develop them and get back to my theater roots. I’m excited to see what comes next for me!

You can definitely serve as a huge inspiration for young actors. What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey so far?

I would say the thing that has really helped me was that I learned that it is very helpful to run your own race. You have to learn to not worry about where everyone else in the industry is or what they may be doing. Everyone is on their own path and there is no timeline for your dream. Like I said, I’ve had some incredible successes but there has been a lot of heartbreak along the way in this business. There’s always ups and downs. In those tougher times, you have to hold onto the hope, positivity and passion that got you into the business in the first place. Instead of getting negative, bitter or frustrated, which is only going to bring more of the bad energy to you, you have to focus on consistently doing your best work and trust that people will notice. When you do that, the roles that are best for you will find you. I think that has served me well. When I’ve looked back on my career, when things haven’t come to fruition, it was always because something better was waiting for me down the line. I always experienced the most struggle right before my biggest breakthroughs! I think if young people coming up can keep that in mind, it can take a lot of the pressure off and it will help you stay focused and centered on what’s important!

That’s great advice! Thanks so much for your time today, Kelly! You truly are an inspiration and I know there are big things in store for you in the future. When you are a big star, count on me circling back around to chat some more!

Oh, Jason! Thank you so much for taking time to chat with me. I do hope we get to meet each other in person sometime soon! Take care!

Catch Kelly Karbacz in Netflix’s ‘Orange is the New Black’ — Season 5 is now streaming! Follow her continuing adventures via social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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LIVING THE DREAM: Jasmin Savoy Brown On Her Artistic Journey and Latest Roles!

LIVING THE DREAM: Jasmin Savoy Brown On Her Artistic Journey and Latest Roles!

Jasmin Savoy Brown – Photo by Matt Darlington

Jasmin Savoy Brown has spent the past few years making a new for herself in Hollywood. Armed with a multi-faceted skill set, unrelenting drive and a killer smile, she has continued to turn the heads of casting agents and fans alike. One of the brightest young talents on the scene, she is best known for her role as Evie Murphy on HBO’s critically acclaimed series,“The Leftovers.” For those unfamiliar with the project, the series takes place three years after a global event called the Sudden Departure, which caused the inexplicable disappearance of 140 million people (2% of the world’s population). Following that event, mainstream religions declined and a number of cults emerged with the Guilty Remnant being the most important. The story focuses primarily on the Garvey family (Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman). Jasmin’s Evie Murphy, a pivotal character in the series, is the teenage daughter of Erika (Regina King) and John’s (Kevin Carroll), who are the Garveys’ neighbors in Jarden, Texas.

In the summer of 2017, Jasmin hit the screen as a lead in TNT’s new drama “Will,” which tells the wild story of young Shakespeare’s arrival onto the punk-rock theater scene in 16th century London. It is described as a contemporary version of Shakespeare’s life, played to a modern soundtrack exposing his recklessness, lustful temptations and brilliance. Jasmin plays Emilia Bassano, the “Dark Lady” of Will’s sonnets. A musician, poet, writer and proto-feminist, Emilia is an exotic and strikingly beautiful young woman who becomes the first female professional English poet. The highly anticipated series is set to premiere July 10, 2017 on TNT.

Jasmin’s additional credits include Freeform’s “Stitchers,” ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” FOX’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and NBC’s “Grimm.” She recently appeared in the film “Lane 1974,” which premiered at SXSW March 11, 2017. She also played a supporting role in the Sundance hit film “Laggies.”

A true star on the rise, Jasmin Savoy Brown elevates the quality of every project in which she becomes involved. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up her discuss early years as an actor, the challenges she has faced along the way, her process for bringing her characters from script to screen and what we can expect from her latest projects.

How did you get involved with the arts early on in life?

I came out singing! [laughs] Ever since I was a little kind, I always knew I wanted to perform. My mom took me to a lot of musicals and always had music on in the house and my father is a musician. It’s in my blood for sure! I have always known I wanted to perform, so I started doing summer camps, theater camps and choirs from a very early age.

How about influences? Who had a big impact on you as an artist?

Growing up, my mom had us listening to a lot of gospel music and Christian rock, so that is what I first listened to as a kid. There is a group called the Katinas that I still love to this day for their music. I also loved Broadway. As a kid, I didn’t have much access to an education about that but I saw whatever musical came to town and I would be so inspired! I would fall in love with all of the actors who came and performed. So, that’s where it started with gospel and musical theater soundtracks.

Did anyone behind the scenes serve as a mentor?

At my church, our choir director was Mrs. Phelps. Since the time I was 4 years old, which is when I started doing musicals with the church, she saw something in me. She gave me big speaking parts and big solos when I was a little kid. She gave me the extra attention needed to really harness that energy, made sure I had opportunities and was validated. Even though I was so young, it’s something I remember to this day. My family, my Aunt Toni and Uncle Jim, were always super supportive! They made sure I had tickets to shows whenever they were in town. I had a lot of support emotionally from the people around me and I’m very grateful for that!

That is cool to see everyone rally around you and point you in the right direction.

Yeah! Especially in a town like Eugene or Springfield. It’s an artsy town but it’s not like New York City were all these kids want to be a star and have all this money. It’s more of a small town dreamer situation where people really supported that.

What was the first role you took on as an actress?

When I was around 8 years old, I did this educational video where I played a girl with a broken arm in a garage. [laughs] I just laid on a garage floor for probably three or four hours pretending to be passed out. I took it so seriously! [laughs] I thought, “Oh my gosh, I’m a working professional actress now!” I think I made 50 bucks and my mom probably kept it! [laughs] That was a big moment because I loved it! Even though I was doing nothing, I really loved being on the set. It’s kind of a silly answer but it’s totally true! [laughs]

A career in the entertainment industry can be challenging. Where do you look for inspiration?

I study with a studio in Los Angeles and it really fuels my creative fire because it is a bunch of brilliant artists collaborating and challenging themselves to be better. That definitely helps when the industry is challenging or something feels unfair; it’s a safe haven. I also do a lot of reading, whether it is reading plays or different people’s success stories. Reading is so much different than watching. Watching a film lays everything out for you, which I love, but what I love about reading is that I get to interpret things the way I want to. That is really good for me as well.

“The Leftovers” is a big hit but many people are still discovering the series. For those who aren’t familiar with the show, tell us about your character and how you got involved with the project.

I play the character of Evie. Her and her family are introduced in the second season when the main family moves from their original hometown to a new town in Texas and we are their neighbors. I am Regina King’s daughter. When we first meet Evie and the Murphys it seems as if their family has it all together, loves each other and is respected in the community. Evie especially seems to have it together; she seems popular, happy and bright. At the end of the first episode, she goes missing and it rattles the entire town. That really sets the tone for the entire second season where they are looking for Evie and her friends who went missing. I won’t share too much more because there would be too many spoilers for people who haven’t seen it! Getting involved with the project was awesome. I was at the peak of my strugglefest in LA. I had just gotten an apartment with my best friend but I had lied to her about having money so that she would move here and move in with me. I had been couch surfing for a year! We moved in together and I was working graveyard shift at a diner, studying, doing a play and I was broke and tired. I really had no money left at all and wasn’t getting any sleep when “The Leftovers” came along. I read the audition sides and immediately fell in love! I never had such a strong reaction to a piece of text. I thought that even if I didn’t get it, the fact that I would be able to read for it was amazing in itself. There was a callback and then two weeks later a chemistry read where Jovan [Adepo] and I read together for the first time. Two or three weeks later, it took forever, we both booked it! I was on a plane the day after I booked it. Everything changed after that!

As you mentioned, the writing for “The Leftovers” is exceptional. What did you bring to the character that wasn’t on the original written page?

That’s an interesting question. I would say that I brought a bit of deviance to the character. I feel that the way Evie was written was as genuinely happy, healthy and a lot of positive things but maybe it was because of where I was in my life but I felt a deviance there. I even had a bit of a disagreement with one of the directors on that. In the end, I will always stand up for my character and it serves the story well.

Jasmin Savoy Brown – Photo by Matt Darlington

What did the other cast members bring out of you creatively?

I think they really brought out a creative freedom in me, specifically with Kevin Carroll. He became a mentor and coach, not only on set but in my life. We are still very close. He would be on set often and if he wasn’t shooting and if I felt stuck or something I would ask for his opinion. He really helped me to ground myself and to be in the moment, which allows me to be more creatively free. That is so much fun and really the only way I want to work now! It’s certainly harder but so much more rewarding!

You have another big project on the horizon with “Will.” How did you get involved there and what drew you to this unique series?

There are a couple of things that drew me to the project. First of all, I love Shakespeare! I was a fan and had done a few Shakespeare pieces in high school but I hadn’t really been able to dive in since then. Last year, I said, “You know what? I want to book all the jobs that travel!” I was in Australia for the summer shooting “The Leftovers” and then I saw this shoots in the UK! Entice me! [laughs] I love traveling; especially when it’s on someone else’s dime! [laughs] There was also the fact that Emilia Bassano, the character I’m playing, was a real person. She was amazing! Her text and her poems are available online. It was incredible to be able to draw from that and also walk where she walked and live where she lived! It gave me goosebumps! I also felt it would be a very challenging role, which it was! There were a lot of things that enticed me. Getting involved with the series was interesting. It all moved very fast last November. I think I had my first audition and left for the UK within 10 days!

What were the biggest challenges with this role?

The accent! The accent is so hard! I have had to do other accents in the past but I think doing any sort of English accent for Americans is very hard because we grew up doing it in a funny way and it is all wrong! [laughs] It came down to relearning the mouth sounds and positions, which was quite a challenge but also a lot of fun.

What can you tell us about your process for bringing this character to life?

I read her poems, several biographies and I did a lot of research online about her family and what life was like in London and Venice during that time. I also went to a few museums where some of her family have paintings. Her uncle, I believe, was a painter and had some paintings in a museum in London. Any sort of research like that, which could visually or emotionally stimulate me, provided a direct connection to her. I tried to saturate myself with everything I could, including music from that time period. I also do a lot of coaching with my coach here in LA. For Emilia, specifically, it took a lot of body work. I met with choreographers and we explored my body to help unlock her from within me. I like to spend a lot of time creating memories through memory work. Anything my character references in the text about their past, I will spend a lot of time creating those memories so that when I am on set, between the lines, I’m thinking not as myself but as that person. I also spend a lot of time exploring my voice and changing my register. She took a lot more back work than any other character I have played.

Your resume is diverse. What other roles do you have interest in exploring in the near future?

I am very, very lucky because as soon as I came off of “Will,” I said I wanted to do improv comedy and I’m on the Paramount lot right now shooting “Love,” so that was a goal that came true. I want to do more improv and I would like to do some sort of dark, indie drama. I want to do anything I haven’t done to stretch myself as an actress. My ultimate goal is to do Broadway! As I said, I grew up on Broadway musicals! In the short term, I definitely want to do more comedies for sure!

You’ve come a long way from playing the girl with the broken arm in the garage! When you look back, how have you evolved as an actor?

I would say that I have chilled out! I am mostly a chill person but when it comes to my work, I tend to be very high strung and stressed about getting it right. I think I have chilled out. That is something I learned from Kevin Carroll; to have fun and not worry so much! I still will catch myself, from time to time, freaking out and doing that but for the most part I have learned to relax and have more fun!

Jasmin Savoy Brown – Photo by Matt Darlington

What are your biggest creative milestones as an artist?

One would come from high school. I played the role of Sylvia in the play “The Women.” I had been booking all of the ingenue roles and the girl in love roles. I wanted something that would challenge me and I asked for her. In a way, she is the antagonist. I was around 16 or 17 at the time. At that point in my life, it was the toughest role I had played and I got to delve into body work and voice work and change it all up completely. That really shaped and changed me, knowing that I had the ability to do that. I knew that I did in my mind but I had never been able to put it to practice, so that was a really big moment for me. In years past, I think a lot has come to me through study where failure is very much encouraged and it’s safe. We are practicing as actors and practicing to feel safe to fail anywhere on any set or any lot. That takes time and, right now, the place I feel most safe to do that is in study. The biggest milestones always happen there!

What is the best lesson we can take from your journey so far?

I know it’s going to sound so cheesy but I think it all comes down to not giving up. I can’t tell you how many people laughed me off when I was younger and coming to LA. It was stupid stuff like not having straight hair so I can’t be beautiful. It was little things like that but I have always known what I wanted to do, so I would say, “Fine! Screw you! I don’t need to be around that negative energy.” I kept on going for it because I believe in myself. I think part of that comes from who is in your inner circle. I have great friends and we all keep each other humble and influence each other. My friends make me better and I think that is something that is really important!

Do you lend your voice to charitable organizations?

Yeah! There are a few actually. I really love the charity in Los Angeles called Peace Over Violence. They provide free support for victims of abuse and their goal is to create an abuse free community. They have hotlines, provide free counseling and services for survivors of abuse. For people who have been raped or battered, they provide free services to walk the person through the legal process of taking someone to court. The work being done at Peace Over Violence is really quite incredible! I have also just started contributing to Thorn (www.wearethorn.org) which fights against sex trafficking. That is something I have been passionate about since I was a kid because Interstate 5, which runs from the southern border to the northern border, is known for sex trafficking. As a kid growing up in Oregon, I remember hearing stories about different girls going missing or being found on I-5. That is something I want to get even more involved with in the next few years!

Thanks for your time today and I can’t wait to spread the word on all you have going on!

Thanks so much for talking to me! I appreciate it! Take care.

Follow the continuing adventures of Jasmin Savoy Brown on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Catch Jasmin on HBO’s ‘The Leftovers’ when it airs Sundays at 9 PM.  Check out the trailer for TNT’s ‘Will’ below and mark your calendar for it’s July 10th debut!

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GAME CHANGER: Lexa Doig Talks Career, Her Latest Roles and Creative Evolution!

GAME CHANGER: Lexa Doig Talks Career, Her Latest Roles and Creative Evolution!

Lexa Doig – Photo by J Squared Photography

For two decades, Lexa Doig has been bringing memorable characters to life in the realms of drama, sci-fi, horror and everything in between. Along the way, she has continued to hone her skill set and evolve as an actor, elevating each project to a higher level. In 2017, Lexa is continuing her winning ways! Currently, she is appearing on two of the most buzzed about shows on television. First, she stars in the E! Channel original series “The Arrangement” opposite Josh Henderson, Christine Evangelista and Michael Vartan. The series follows the lives of struggling actress, Megan Morrison (Evangelista), Hollywood action star Kyle West (Henderson), his producing partner Terrence Anderson (Vartan) and his wife, Deann Anderson (Doig). As Deann, Lexa is a true scene stealer, as she is a passionate storyteller who is forging her own path in an industry that is not known for being supportive of women. In addition, she also graces the screen in a recurring role on the hit CW series, “Arrow,” as one of the DC Universe’s most iconic and beloved characters — Talia al Ghul. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Lexa Doig to discuss her journey as an actress, the challenges she has faced along the way, her roles on “The Arrangement” and “Arrow”, and much more.

Let’s start by going all the way back to the beginning. How did you get involved with the arts at an early age?

I always wanted to be an actress but I grew up in Dawn Mills, which is a suburb of Toronto, and I think the closest I ever came was doing school plays, church plays, and that type of stuff. My parents were subscribers to the local theater company in Toronto. I remember seeing “Porgy & Bess” when I was six years old and I wanted to be Porgy! [laughs] My dad had to explain, on multiple levels, why I couldn’t be Porgy. As far as I was concerned, he was the shortest guy on the stage and I could identify with him! [laughs] I would go with my parents to all the plays. I remember I wanted to be ‘Evita’ as well! I really thought I could be Eva Peron. Given that I can’t sing, some of these aspirations were a little bit ambitious, I guess! So, I just sort of settled for acting in TV and film! [laughs]

Tell us about your early years as an actress. Who are some of the people who had an influence on you along the way?

It’s funny, when I started as an actor, I was about 18 years old when I started auditioning for things. At the time, it was a challenge because I am of mixed race, so nobody knew where to put me. I was told many times that I should probably consider a different profession because I was not likely to make a living at this, and if I did move forward I should definitely leave Canada because Canada would be too restrictive for me and I wouldn’t get the opportunity to play different roles. There was a casting director in Toronto, named Liz Ramos, who was really sweet and really supportive. She was also mixed, so she totally got it! [laughs] One of my favorite directors who I’ve worked with in Canada, who I think is an actor now, Jorge Montesi. He is a Chilean fellow who was amazing. I’ve worked with him many times and he was always very supportive. For the most part, it was almost like I had to stick to it myself. In terms of acting touch, come on, Meryl Streep! Just look at her and her body of work! She’s amazing! It’s hard to think of others off the top of my head because, honestly, I very rarely see a performance in film that I hate and there is something to learn from all of it. Even with the performances that maybe don’t work, there is still something there to learn from all of it and I have such an enormous amount of respect for actors who do that!

What can you tell us about the first role you played and, looking back, how fondly is it remembered?

It was very funny! William Shatner had written a series of books called ‘Tekwar’ and they were being made into a series. As I said, I was very new to the audition process, so I really didn’t even know the process. I got the audition and I didn’t realize at the time that there was supposed to be a reader in the room reading the other person’s lines that you are in the scene with. My agent called and said, “You have an audition. It’s for William Shatner’s ‘TekWar’ and he is going to be directing. He’s not going to be in the room. It’s just going to be the casting director in the room, so don’t worry about it.” I grew up watching ‘Star Trek,’ so I was a huge fan of William Shatner. I show up to the audition and not only is William Shatner in the room directing me, there is no camera and there is no reader. I literally just did my line, waited, did my next line and waited because I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to do that! They were fine with it and no one directed me otherwise! I left there not knowing if I had done a good or a bad job. I just had no idea and that was it! A day or two later I got the call from my agent saying that I got the part. I was kind of screaming around my parent’s house, “I GOT THE PART! I’M WORKING WITH WILLIAM SHATNER! OH MY GOD! I GOT TEKWAR!” Yeah, I kind of lost my mind! [laughs]

Lexa Doig – Photo by J Squared Photography

You have gone on to build a great body of work through the years. Going back to what you had mentioned about being an actress of mixed-race, how have things changed for you over the years? Has it gotten an easier or more inclusive?

I absolutely think things have gotten better. When I started in the early 90s, it was a real challenge actually. People have certain perceptions in their head. I’m literally a kid who was from Toronto, kind of boring and there’s nothing exotic about me and yet that “exotic” label was kind of placed on me. I was told flat out, “You will never play a girlfriend and you will never play the daughter because white people don’t have children that look like you.” That’s interesting because my Dad is white! [laughs] I heard, “You’ll never play the sister or the girlfriend. You won’t get any of those roles.” I was reading for these jaded sex workers when I was 18 years old, when I couldn’t have looked more young and innocent at 18 years old. It was so bizarre! Now, you do see more faces like mine but at that time I didn’t see any faces that look like mine on television. It was actually a big impediment and that’s why representation to me it is so important in front of and behind the camera. Behind the camera, you don’t deal with questions of, and this is something, God’s honest truth, I have actually heard, “Yeah, we would love to hire you but we are just trying to figure out how would be your dad.” I’m like, “Umm, you do know my dad is white, right?” [laughs] Apparently, in TV Land, white mean only choose women of color when they are soldiers at war and have no other choice when they are stuck in another country and have no other choice! [laughs] It’s quite insulting when you see the back stories sometimes, but now it is less and less of an issue. When I started out, they felt they needed to explain why I was beige. Now, it’s like, “No. She’s beige.” That’s what I like to see more of! There still needs to be a lot more, absolutely, but I have seen a progression. One of those things that’s doing that is all the people who are complaining, which is great! [laughs] Keep complaining! Keep pointing it out because your voice truly does matter. When I was younger, in the 70s and 80s, there is an internalized kind of racism that happens where you begin to think, “No, the girl next door has blonde hair and blue eyes.” You just accept it. Today, people aren’t accepting that and it’s a great thing!

You have some great projects going on at the moment and are playing some truly unique characters. What can you tell us about “The Arrangement”? How did you get involved and what intrigued you about the role?

How did I get involved with it? I auditioned! [laughs] The manner in which I got the part kind of shocked me. Usually with TV series, there is at least a screen test, callbacks and all this other kind of stuff. I put myself down on tape in Vancouver and was told, “They might need you for a screen test.” I said, “Okay.” Then I was told they would just use my audition tape as my screen test. I thought, “Ok, well I’m probably not going to get the part then.” Then I got the part! It was a shockingly easy job to get! I love, love, love the show! I like the peek behind the curtain of Hollywood; the idea of seeing how the sausage gets made. We all see the finished product when it is all shiny, glossy and pretty but how does it get made? Who has to die? Figuratively speaking, not literally speaking! What mess has to be made in order to get it made in the first place? Deann, the character I’m playing, is a lot of fun and is very different from a lot of characters I’ve played in the past. I think she works a lot harder than I do, to be honest! [laughs] She has been, I think, for a large chunk of her adult life, largely defined by the men in her life. She is often described as Terrence Anderson’s wife, who is Michael Vartan’s character, or Kyle West’s producing partner, which is Josh Henderson’s character. I think she’s more concerned with how she would describe herself outside of that context, as opposed to being just an appendage to the men in her life. What is interesting to me is discovering with Jonathan Abrahams, the show’s writer, how she pisses in her own corner, so to speak.

What do you consider the biggest challenge you have faced with this role?

You know what? The biggest challenges were all logistical! [laughs] Quite literally, they were logistical and there were a few wrinkles that needed to be ironed out during production. It was a lot of fun to do and a joy to do. I work mostly with Michael Vartan. He and I got a house on fire and I think he should be Canadian! I’m pretty sure he should be Canadian because he speaks French and he loves hockey, so we get on fine! [laughs] not because I speak French but because I love hockey as well. He’s actually not that dissimilar to my real-life husband who is, coincidentally, also named Michael. I enjoyed exploring this character alongside like Michael and the rest of the cast. I’m really looking forward to next season where, hopefully, I will get to work with Christine Evangelista because her and I didn’t work together a ton. I’m definitely looking forward to doing more with her next year and I think she’s amazing! I have seen all 10 episodes and I think she’s absolutely fantastic!

Lexa Doig – Photo by J Squared Photography

Be it this character or any other project to take on, what is your typical process for flushing out a character before you ever step on set?

It’s a bit all over the map actually. I start with reading the script as many times as I can to understand the character and the context of her life within the script. The basic way to breakdown a script is by what you say, what other people say about you, and what you do. These are the things that indicate character. I just like to feel each character out. The process can also start in wardrobe sometimes to see what she might wear, how she would walk, how she would talk, her interactions with people and the thoughts that are going through her head. It’s a discovery process for me which is my base point. Because I never trained properly, I never went to theater school or spent a long time on the stage, my starting point, strangely enough, is myself and then moving away from that. I have to find a way to be grounded in truth for me. My starting point is “What would I do?” Then I go, “Ok, that’s not going to work for the situation. What would the character do?” then I find a way for that to make sense to me. For example, I had to play a terrorist. I don’t think I would ever do something a terrorist would do and I like to believe that’s something that I would not choose to do, but I had to find a way for this to make sense to me when I played her. That involves creating extreme scenarios in my mind that would push me to do that, so that is often where the starting point is.

You’re also a part of another huge series with CW’s “Arrow”. You’ve been part of a lot of big sci-fi series in the past. How does a production like this differ from the ones you’ve experienced in the past?

“Arrow” has a nice, healthy budget! [laughs] Some of the ones that I’ve done in the past I have not had nearly the budget that “Arrow” has! [laughs] It’s funny, I walked up on the set for one of the episodes that I was doing and saw the director of photography I had worked with for 5 years on “Andromeda.” I see a lot of the same faces I have worked with in the past and that is partially because we shoot in Vancouver and partially because of the genre. These shows are very comparable and are almost the same kind of thing but this one as a bigger budget. Everyone involved is so incredibly talented and it is so slick, especially the fight work on the show! It’s mind-boggling, especially when you consider the amount of time they have to do it in! With fight scenes, you have to understand, writers will write “And then they fight…” on the script page. That is literally half of a sentence and it takes a day to film. When a fight is described in half a page, it takes a day and a half to film that! They do it like it was a regular scene and that’s amazing to me how tight their stunt crew is at what they do. Stephen Amell is amazing at getting shit done when it comes to the fight scenes!

This is an iconic character to many comic book fans. What type of research went into the part and what do you feel you might have brought to her that wasn’t on the written page?

I did some of my research after I played her because I didn’t know I was going to be playing her when I got cast in the part. It was funny, my agent called me on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening and said, “Do you want to do a few episodes of “Arrow”?” I said, “Yeah, absolutely! Can I see a script or character breakdown or something before I agree to do this?” She said, “Yeah, sure.” The next day I got a character breakdown and a couple of pages for an audition for a character named Lindsay. I read them and said, “I would love to play this.” My agent said, “Great! I will work out the deal.” She went and worked out the deal and said, “Done!” So, Wednesday night, because the character was playing on Friday, I got a call from the costume designer asking me to come in the next day. I’ve worked with her before so know her quite well. Then I get the memo explaining where I am to park and at the top of the memo it says, “Wardrobe fitting for Talia al Ghul.” [laughs] I went, “Whaaaaaat?!!!” [laughs] I went running downstairs to my husband, who is equally as much a comic book geek as I am, which is not a huge comic book geek but enough to know who all the different characters are. He was in the basement and I went running down and said, “Dude! Duuuuude! I think I’m playing Talia al Ghul!” He said, “That’s so cool!” [laughs] So, I did know she was Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter and I knew that her sister Nyssa had already appeared on the show but the context of their relationship, as well as Nyssa’s backstory on “Arrow” and Nyssa Raatko’s backstory in the comics. I was trying to figure that out and I read up on Talia, her relationships, alliances, etcetera, etcetera. She honestly exists more in the Batman’s world then in Arrow’s world. In terms of what I brought to the character and what I saw in her, is that in the comics, she has the patience to play the long-game always! In fact, I think that is the preferred game that she likes to play! She is definitely someone with the attitude of “Why do for myself what I can get someone else to do for me? But, if you want it done right you have to do it for yourself!” [laughs]

Lexa Doig – Photo by J Squared Photography

As we said, you have been a part of a lot of great projects in the past. Of those projects, which has had the biggest impact on you and your craft?

Wow! That’s a tough one! I can’t say that anyone project had the biggest impact on me because they have all been kind of incremental. Even the ones that I didn’t like, in terms of the the roles you do for a paycheck. You hear that said a lot and unless you are Angelina Jolie or Meryl Streep, you do have to take jobs to pay the bills! I have definitely had jobs like that! I have had jobs that I hated doing while I was doing them and jobs that I loved doing while I was doing them that nobody has seen! You learn something from all of it, even if it’s what not you want to do. Getting back to what I was told before about all the roles I would never play; I’ve played them all! The upside of doing that is that is that I live and work in Canada. The benefit is that the casting directors and producers don’t have the luxury here to typecast actors. Although we have a very talented pool of actors, it’s not as big as it is in the United States. With that said, I get the opportunity to play all these different roles that I may never have had the chance to do had I gone down to Los Angeles, hit it big and been typecast, on and on. The upside to all of that is that Canadian actors are like this great big group of repertory players. You do end up seeing a lot of the same s faces and it can be difficult to break into. I know that because I was on the side of having to break into it. At the same time, you get an opportunity to play all different kinds of characters. For example, in the past 7 months, I was on “The Arrangement,” “Arrow” and a series of Hallmark movies I do with Candace Cameron Bure. These three characters could not be more different and I’m literally set-hopping, playing all three! It was a little mind-fucking for awhile! [laughs] At the same time, I get to do that and it’s this wonderful thing I get do! Playing different, wonderful characters in short proximity to each other, which is a fun challenge. You learn a lot from that!

A lot of us can look to you as an inspiration with everything you have accomplished! What is the best lesson we can take from your journey?

Keep on truckin’! [laughs] You know, no matter what people tell you, there is a fine line between determination and delusion. I’ve met those actors who are like, “I’m gonna hit it big!” and I’ve seen their work and I’m like, “I don’t think you are!” [laughs] It’s awful! [laughs] I hate poo-pooing someone’s dreams and I would never say to them, “No, you won’t.” Something might change! I’m sure people looked at me and thought the same thing at some point and I’m sure people look at me right now and think, “Why is this bitch working?” [laughs] The point is, you have to stay true to your own vision of yourself but make sure it’s not a deluded vision of yourself. Make sure it’s very realistic and don’t lie to yourself. That’s what I would say to any young actor out there who wants to get into it. In addition, you have to be willing to work hard but also pay attention to what you are working on. I have seen actors, especially young actors, who are great on things like social media and getting their name out there but when they come to set, they aren’t that good. I feel like, if they put half the effort into your craft that they put into curating their Instagram account, they would be amazing! So, you just have to work hard, be focused and work hard on the right things!

Are there any causes you lend your voice to that we could help shine a light on?

I like to take every opportunity to raise awareness and money for the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society of Canada or the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in the United States. I do because both my father and first cousin, along with my husband’s first cousin, all suffer from MS. It’s a cause that is very near and dear to my heart. It’s amazing, some of the strides the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society of Canada has made. MS researchers from Canada have discovered some pretty extraordinary things about treating the disease and halting the progress of it. The money raised is going to a good place and it works! With Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society of Canada, a lot of the money raised goes toward supporting families and people who live with MS, so it isn’t just research but helping with the practical, day-to-day needs. Sometimes people might need extra caregivers or the caregivers might need some respite and someone might come in when they need to take a break. It can be quite brutal on the caregivers for people with MS. That is definitely a cause I support fully. Every opportunity I get to raise money for them, I try to!

Awesome, Lexa! Thank you so much for your time today. We really appreciate it and can’t wait to see where your journey leads you next!

Thank you, Jason! Talk to you soon!

Follow the continuing adventures of Lexa Doig through social media via Twitter and Instagram! Catch her in the CW’s ‘Arrow’ Wednesday’s at 8/7 C and on ‘The Arrangement’ Sunday’s at 10/9 C on E!.

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