Tag Archive | "television"

‘Voltron Legendary Defender’ Season 5 To Debut March 2nd on Netflix, New Trailer Unleashed!

‘Voltron Legendary Defender’ Season 5 To Debut March 2nd on Netflix, New Trailer Unleashed!

DreamWorks Voltron Legendary Defender Season 5 will debut on Netflix Friday March 2nd with six all-new episodes. Shocked by Prince Lotor coming to their rescue in the fight against the evil witch Haggar, the Paladins struggle with whether or not they can really trust him. Though suspicious, Team Voltron is able to liberate more rebels with the aid of Lotor’s intel. Just as things start to look hopeful, Zarkon strikes, resulting in a shocking chain of events. Check out the brand-new trailer from the fifth season below!

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ON THE RISE: Nadia Gray On Her Blossoming Career and Role In Netflix’s ‘Bright’

ON THE RISE: Nadia Gray On Her Blossoming Career and Role In Netflix’s ‘Bright’

Nadia Gray – Photo by Julio Duffoo

It takes drive, determination and top-notch acting chops to make in Hollywood. Top that recipe off with a vivacious personality and an infectious smile and you have the unstoppable force that is Nadia Gray. Born in Clearwater, Florida, Gray began her journey through the world of modeling at 17 years old. An avid fan of television and film, it wasn’t long before she threw caution to the wind and made the trek to Los Angeles to pursue her passion for acting. She soon began to amass credits with roles on projects ranging from “Days Of Our Lives” to “Anger Management” to “2 Broke Girls” and “Sandy Wexler.”

2018 is shaping up to be a breakout year for this multi-faceted actress. With her latest project, director David Ayer’s ambitious sci-fi flick, Gray has been paired with some of the most talented creatives in Hollywood, both in front of and behind the camera. Set in a world populated with human and alien races, ‘Bright’ follows LAPD officer Daryl Ward (Will Smith) who is forced to work with an Orc (Joel Edgerton). Battling their differences and an onslaught of enemies, they must work together to protect a deadly, thought-to-be-forgotten relic that, in the wrong hands, could destroy everything. Nadia Gray stars as Larika, an elf and member of “The Inferni” who plays a pivotal role in film.

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Nadia Gray to discuss her journey as an artist, the influences that have shaped her creatively and what the future may hold for this star on the rise!

You have been busy building a resume with impressive projects. Let’s go back to the beginning — how did you get involved with the creative arts early in life?

Acting is something I dabbed in at a very early age. Eventually, I was steered toward having a more practical life. I really stumbled into modeling in my later teens. I felt that was something which could get me to Los Angeles, where I could pursue acting. That was a really great stepping stone for me. The acting bug bit me very early. I’ve always been into movies and television because my mom was so into it. That was our bond thing; watching TV or going to movies together. I’ve always wanted to be a part of it in some way!

What type of movies impacted you as a kid?

I loved every horror movie! I was also into whatever my older brother was into at the time, so I saw a lot of stuff like “Clerks,” “Mallrats” and other stuff like that. My mom was really heavy into “The X-Files,” so the sci-fi genre is something else I have always been into!

Let’s talk influences. Who are some of the actors you looked to for inspiration?

I’ve always loved Natalie Portman. Seeing “The Professional” when I was so young had a big impact on me. It’s one of my favorites! I’m still a fan of hers to this day and I think she’s incredible. Frances McDormand is amazing and “Fargo” was another one of my favorites. Today, I just love Zoe Saldana. She’s just so cool and badass. She keeps a low-profile and brings these incredibly strong female characters to the screen. I’m so attracted to that!

Nadia Gray – Photo by Julio Duffoo

You grew up in Florida but eventually made the jump to Los Angeles. Was there a culture shock when you made the move? It’s a big step to take for anyone at that age.

For sure! It was a shock but it was a good one! I was so freakin’ excited to be here! I found myself just walking around and fangirling over every corner! Living in West Hollywood, you see all the billboards and there are movie studios around every corner. I fell in love with it right way! I started doing background work as soon as I could just to be on a set and get to witness the magic. I was definitely obsessed with it immediately!

As a young actor, you start small and work to bigger and better roles. Which of your early roles did you learn from the most?

I think it was “Days of Our Lives.” Getting booked on that soap, it was my first recurring character. It really allowed me to see the hustle. Those people work so hard and the turnaround time that they have to accomplish within a week is so impressive. I learned to be really quick on my feet, always be on book and always be ready. That was such an important experience.

Being on set, you cross paths with interesting and seasoned actors. Who gave you much needed advice or a creative push at any point?

I worked on a show with Raymond Cruz, who played Tuco on “Breaking Bad.” I had a really nice chat with him, during my first year in LA. He was like, “Listen, it’s going to take at least 10 years. Anyone who tells you that you’re going to walk into a Starbucks tomorrow and be discovered is so full of shit! Keep your head down, work hard and don’t become impatient.” I thought that was such a great thing to tell someone new in town, who’s hungry and want to be working as of yesterday, ya know? He’s so right! That’s a conversation that I look back on very fondly. It was such a great piece of advice to give me.

A career in the entertainment industry isn’t an easy path to follow. What keeps you driven?

That’s a really good question. I think it’s just a part of my makeup. Not moving forward or trying to hustle each day is something I don’t know how to do. I say that because I just feel bad when I’m not doing something! When it comes to inspiration, just watching the work that’s being done with all the great new films and TV series that are coming out and the roles that are being cast is really inspiring. I think the quality of content we are getting these days is so good that it makes me really excited for the future of the industry.

Speaking of quality content, your latest project falls into that category! What can you tell us about your role in Netflix’s “Bright,” which stars Will Smith and Joel Edgerton?

I got the initial audience and then my callbacks were with David [Ayer] himself. Initially, they don’t actually give you anything that is real. They don’t give you the real script or sides, so I really had no idea what I was getting into other than know it was David Ayer and Netflix. So, I was like, “Holy shit! I have to book this!” [laughs] My character, Larika, is an elf. She is a member of The Inferni and she’s an assassin. It was just the coolest project to be involved with! I’m obsessed with the movie and I still have it on in the background every day! [laughs] It’s just so much fun!

Whether it’s this role or any other, what’s your process for fleshing a character out before stepping on set?

I don’t think there is anything I could say to you that wouldn’t make me sound like a complete psychopath! [laughs] I have my own weird thing that I do every time but, the one thing that I will say, is that it comes down to over-learning my lines and the script. I like to expose myself to it as much as I can because it gives me freedom in the moment to not be so stuck in my head, stuck on what I’m saying or what the other person is saying in the scene that cues me to make a certain action. I think knowing the material forward and back makes me more present in the moment.

Lucy Fry (left) and Nadia Gray (right) in Netflix’s ‘Bright.’

It has to be an amazing experience to step on set with seasoned actors. What did you take away from watching them work?

Yeah, it was crazy! It was a huge set with these amazing stars. Everyone around me was bigger, better and badder than me times 10! [laughs] It was such a trip to be in the same room as these people. I was all eyes; watching and observing. I have to say, they were all so nice. It’s a miracle that doesn’t always happen — the most talented people in the room aren’t always the most personable or generous actors. That wasn’t the case on the set of “Bright.” Everyone was so kind and giving, especially David Ayer. He was an amazing director to work for and I’m still so grateful that I get to talk about this experience!

Did you encounter challenges with this role?

I can honestly say that there wasn’t a challenge; not to sound like a complete Pollyanna but there wasn’t really any downside to anything. Okay, so maybe there were a few days where I was in a harness in the wall! [laughs] The logistics of that and trying not to stay too hydrated all day as not to bug the stunt team to take me in and out of that rig! [laughs] Even that was fun, so there weren’t really any challenges and that is another reason it was all so cool. Even sitting in the makeup trailer for two hours getting the ears, colored contacts, sharp teeth and wig applied — it was all so badass! [laughs] We even had the lighter, reflective skin tone that was really cool. The makeup artists were geniuses. The wardrobe was just as crazy but it was all so much fun! It was way more fun than just showing up and having to be the pretty girl in the corner somewhere, if ya know what I mean. Way cooler!

Definitely! I have to give a SPOILER ALERT for this next question. Your character doesn’t meet a happy ending. I assume this is the first time you died on film. What was the experience like?

Oh, man! It was so cool! I’m a big fan of dying on film and I’d do it again 100 times if I could! [laughs] They put a little prosthetic under my neck so, if you are familiar with the scene, she is cutting my neck with something that looks like a knife. In reality, she’s cutting open the little blood prosthetic under my neck which was rigged to a blood bag! Oh my god! It was so cool! [laughs]

Although you are relatively new to the industry, I’m sure you have a few milestones. Tell us about those and how you view your evolution as an actor.

Yeah! I definitely think “Bright” is my biggest milestone. I think the perception that has changed for me along the way is that I always envisioned having a career in television. I crave schedule and I’m a creature of habit, so I always hoped that I would end up on a series and have something to count on; something that’s not as mercurial as doing features. But then I find myself on the set of “Bright,” which is a huge, $100+ million-dollar budget movie and it was one of the coolest experiences of my life with getting to do stunts and working with someone like David Ayer. I joke that he’s completely ruined my life because now that is what I want! [laughs] The bar is impossibly high and I just want more of it!

Looking to the future, what types of genres do you hope to tackle?

When it comes to my bucket list, I would love to do a horror movie. I also love comedy and I’ll always want to do comedy. I’m definitely interested in continuing to do stunt work. I mentioned Zoe Saldana before. If I had anything Zoe Saldana adjacent, if that ever happens in my life, I will have scored big time! [laughs] I would love to pursue that kind of work; something physical and even something charactery, like Larika, is so interesting to me.

Nadia Gray – Photo by Julio Duffoo

We can look at the hard work you are putting into your career as an inspiration. What is the best lesson we can take from your journey?

First of all, that’s really nice of you to say. Thank you. I think it’s important that it’s hard, just like anything else. For anyone, being in LA can be hard, especially as a woman. I feel that if you love it, it makes everything else so much easier. You deal with a lot of bullshit from day to day and it makes it so much more palette-able when you get to do it. Even just having a taste of it goes a long way. For example, what I have with “Bright.” In the big picture, it was something small and it was a small period of time, but it makes me so happy, fulfilled and hopeful for what is coming next. Long story short, if you love it, don’t give up. Put your time in. It’s almost like a number game, right? If you keep at it and keep moving forward, it will happen eventually.

That’s a great outlook, Nadia. Before I let you go, can we shine a light on causes you support?

I’m a fan of Joyful Heart and everything they are doing for women. It’s so relevant right now and I think they’ve created a really great platform for people who have been abused to share their story in a safe place. I think that’s so wonderful and so important for everyone to have an opportunity to hear it. [For more information on Joyful Heart, visit www.joyfulheartfoundation.org]

Thanks for taking time to talk with me today, Nadia. I can’t wait to see what is next for you and I know it’s only a matter of time until we chat again about the next big milestone in your career!

Thank you! I really appreciate it! Thanks so much for your time, Jason!

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WARRIOR’S SPIRIT: Rich Ting On Breaking Into Hollywood and Making An Impact!

WARRIOR’S SPIRIT: Rich Ting On Breaking Into Hollywood and Making An Impact!

Rich Ting – Photo by Ryan West

Hollywood is filled to the brim talented people. However, you’d be hard pressed to find a more diverse resume in the entertainment industry than the one belonging to  Rich Ting. His journey to stardom began a few decades back, as an Asian-American kid growing up in Los Angeles, California. He spent his formative years as a five-sport athlete (including football, basketball, baseball, track and field, and martial arts). His competitive spirit allowed him to fulfill his childhood dream of playing collegiate football at Yale University, winning an Ivy-League Championship and graduating with a B.A. It was at Yale that Ting began to explore and develop himself creatively as an artist in the theatrical world. Following graduation, Ting decided to continue his pursuit of academics and attend law school and business school graduating with a dual J.D./M.B.A. degree. It was after graduate school that he decided to switch career paths and venture into the entertainment world. Ting returned to Los Angeles to pursue his career as an actor, being cast for the role of “Lenny” in the television series, “Beyond the Break” (2007-2009) as well as “Heatblast” in the Cartoon Network movie, “Ben 10: Race Against Time” (2007). With a strong foundation and background in a variety of martial arts, Ting began to learn the art of movie-making from the ground up as a stunt performer. This work in the trade includes stunt work in “Stand Up Guys”, “The Green Hornet”, “Salt”, “Ben 10: Race Against Time”, “Gamer”, “G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra”, “Deadly Impact”, “Crank 2: High Voltage”, and “Mask of the Ninja”.

His hard work and dedication to his craft didn’t go unnoticed. Ting then went on to film in Asia when cast for the lead role of “Xon Sa Ma” in the historic film, “Huyen Su Thien Do”, commemorating one thousand years of Thang Long – Hanoi. He also starred as “Michael” in a Korean-based drama television series, “Two Families”. In 2013, Ting made his Korean debut in the KBS (Korean Broadcasting System) espionage TV drama series entitled, “Iris 2: New Generation”. It wasn’t long before Ting was cast for the role of Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class, James Suh, in “Lone Survivor” (2014). Directed by Peter Berg and starring Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, and Eric Bana, “Lone Survivor” is based on the true story and events of SEAL Team 10 and their mission, “Operation Red Wings,” targeting the capture and/or kill of Taliban leader, Ahmad Shah. This film commemorates the heroes of “Operation Red Wings,” a military operation on June 28, 2005 that cost of lives of numerous Navy Seals and other U.S. Servicemen in the remote Hindu Kush Mountains of Northeastern Afghanistan.

2018 is already shaping up to be a breakout year for this multi-faceted actor. He is currently lighting up the screen with his intense presence in the Paramount Network’s limited series, “Waco.” Created by John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle, the critically-acclaimed series chronicles the 1993 standoff between the FBI and ATF and the Branch Davidians, a spiritual sect led by David Koresh, told from several perspectives of those most intimately involved in both sides of the conflict. Ting will recur in the series as Lon Horiuchi, who was an FBI sniper during Waco. The series co-stars Taylor Kitsch, Michael Shannon, Melissa Benoist, Paul Sparks, Rory Culkin and Julia Garner. This Fall, fans of his work can catch Rich Ting in his most ambitious and personal project to date with Cinemax’s highly-anticipated drama series, “Warrior”. The 10-episode series is inspired by the writings and work of martial arts icon Bruce Lee. A period crime drama set against the backdrop of the brutal Tong Wars in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the late 1800’s. Ting will play the universally feared fighter and top lieutenant of the Hop Wei Tong, “Bolo”. The series from “Fast & Furious” Justin Lin and “Banshee” co-creator Jonathan Tropper, is being filmed in Cape Town, South Africa.

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Rich Ting to discuss his unique career path, the challenges he has faced along the way and his passion for inspiring the next generation of Asian-Americans. Along the way, he offers an inside look at his creative process and bringing his latest roles in Paramount Network’s “Waco” and Cinemax’s “Warrior” from script to screen.

You’ve been hard at work amassing quite an impressive resume over the years. Let’s go back to where it all began. How did you get involved with the arts early on?

I come from an Asian-American background. I’m a 4th generation Asian-American. My grandparents were born in Los Angeles and Oakland, California. My parents only spoke English growing up and continue to only speak English! [laughs] The only culture we had at the house was basically a rice cooker and taking off your shoes. For me, I grew up not really influenced by Asian culture, so to speak. My only real influence came from watching Bruce Lee. He was the first iconic figure that I was glued to as a 3-year-old. I say 3-year-old because I began my martial arts career at the age of 4, so I was inspired by him at the age of 3 and got involved with it shortly thereafter. I remember learning how to work my parents Beta machine and pushing play, stop, rewind, pause and forward. I self-taught myself a lot of the weapons he used in all of his films. I was so fascinated by him that it motivated me to pursue martial arts. Coming from a very athletic family, my parents were both athletes, and I was encouraged to participate in football, basketball, baseball and track. I was able to Varsity letter in all of those sports, all the way through high school. I was then able to play Division One Football at Yale University. The first dream of mine was to play collegiate football on scholarship and that was my goal from the time I was a little kid. Fortunately, that happened for me.

My second goal came from my love of Bruce Lee. Growing up watching him in these action films, I began to notice a lack of Asian-American leading men on the big and small screens. I began to fabricate this notion that maybe I could be the first Asian-American leading man. I remember growing up being the only Asian kid on a predominately African-American athletic team. All of my friends had idols. They had Hollywood stars or heroes that they could relate to or look up to. I think a lot of that had to do with race, ethnicity and culture. For me, because Bruce Lee wasn’t Asian-American, I couldn’t relate to him, but I was inspired and intrigued by him. I asked myself, “Where is the Asian-American leading man who is a firefighter, a police officer, the husband or the boyfriend? Where are they on television?” I could never find them. This secondary dream of mine became “Maybe I could do this. Maybe I could be that guy. Maybe I could inspire other people who were in my situation and who were looking for someone they could relate to on TV or the big screen.” It’s very weird how the universe works and is working currently with me. Pursuing my athletic career got me to Yale and then, my dad, who is a doctor, wanted me to go that route. I didn’t want to, but I did end up doing all of my pre-med requirements at Yale and majoring in humanities and history. I was pursuing a career in law school at the same time because I had to do the joint program and I did my MBA as well. In my mid-20s, here I am, graduated with a Bachelor’s with a JD and an MBA and I still do know what I want to do yet. The whole time, throughout undergrad and graduate school, I was being approached a lot through the modeling world. I would take gigs here and there on the side because I would do a 3 to 5-hour photoshoot, get paid and I’d be done. It was fantastic! I also took acting classes in grad school as a hobby. I called it my “yoga” of the time because I wanted to pursue it and do it as a hobby. I didn’t realize that all of this work was training for me — academically, athletically and artistically.

Long story short, I came back to downtown Los Angeles in the summer of 2007 to take a job at a firm. Simultaneously, I was approached by family and friends that work in the stunt business in Hollywood. They had updated me that Warner Bros. was doing a feature film called “Ben 10” and they were looking for one of the characters. My family had kept up with my career and they knew that I was still physically active, I was in shape, and I had kept up my martial arts. They encouraged me to audition for it and the next thing I knew I was on the set of Warner Bros. I had declined the offer at the law firm and I had promised myself that I was going to enter the business via stunts to educate myself on how the whole industry works. By doing that I learned on-set etiquette, I saw directors and cast interact, I saw stunt performers interact with the cast and everything in between. I threw myself into the fire, so to speak, and used it as an educational experience while getting paid to be in the film! I let everyone know that stunts weren’t my goal and that the first time I had the opportunity to cross over into acting, I would take the opportunity. Luckily, I got that opportunity very soon after getting my SAG card in 2007!

How did you break into the entertainment business?

The way I entered the business, through stunts, is the most humbling way you can enter the film industry. You’re the first one on set and the last one to leave. You are basically a laborer/soldier on set. You’re building pits, helping other people wreck safely, taking hits yourself, getting dirty, building catchers and cleaning up stuff. The significance of that is that the action is what makes the film. It makes the shot, so the action has to be top-notch. I was very fortunate to get grandfathered into the stunt world through my cousin and uncle. You don’t talk. You keep your head down and work your ass off! No one is offering you water or asking if you are okay. You go there because you love what you do, and you are on set. That was humbling because it is definitely the opposite perception of “what Hollywood is all about.” There is no glitz and glamor when it comes to being a stuntman. You go to work, get dirty, you get banged up and you have to be back first thing in the morning with a positive attitude. What results from that is some of the best human beings I’ve been around in the business. The stunt guys are a rare breed. I had the opportunity to work with some legends and you understand quickly why they are legends. They are some of the nicest, most humble and talented people in the world. You will meet people who are world-class motocross guys who’ve retired and now gone into the stunt world. You will also meet some of the most talented aerialists and martial artists. You will even meet people who have served in the military. These unique people come from all walks of life. It’s such a cool thing because you could never pick this group of guys out but somehow, they’ve all come together in this crazy industry to provide us with the action in “Fast & Furious,” “Transformers” and so on. I recently saw a movie called “12 Strong” and all those guys take hits. “Lone Survivor” has a guy falling down a mountain. That’s what makes the movie and these are the guys who make it happen! Like I said, it’s the most humbling way to enter the business. It’s funny, I still get weirded out when someone asks me if I need anything on set! [laughs] I honestly do! I have actor friends who know my background. They go,”Hey man, it’s okay to ask for some water. It’s ok to ask for coffee.” They always give me crap about it, but I can get it myself, ya know!

Rich Ting – Photo by Ryan West

Tell us a little about the early project that had a big impact on you and your craft.

What’s great about coming in through the stunt world, it allowed me to learn how you wreck, how you fall, how you fight and crash on set in front of the camera. You could be the best martial artist in the world but if that doesn’t translate to camera, then it doesn’t mean anything. There is a way to fight in real life, a way to fight on stage and a way to fight on camera. Being introduced to that very early in my career has allowed me to combine my foundational martial arts skills with the art of fighting on camera. That allows me to do what I do on my upcoming show called “Warrior.” Obviously, I’m allowed to focus on the acting through my lines and my character because the fighting and techniques are almost automatic because I’ve been around it so much now. I know where camera A, camera B and camera C are, and I know how to throw this punch or this kick so it reads on camera as a hit so we get it in the first take. We don’t need 100 takes to get the shot. A lot of the early, early stages of me entering through the stunt world has allowed me to perfect that craft and continue to perfect it so that it’s believable on camera. More importantly, it allows me to work with the various other actors that I’ve been able to work with throughout my career. I by no means consider myself a coordinator or anything like that, but it takes a team to get that final project and final shot done. Having had the training through my cousins, uncles and a ton of other stunt coordinators, I’m able to give that knowledge to other people I work with, so the overall shot is perfect!

You have some pretty impressive projects on the horizon. Let’s start with your role on “Waco.” How did you get involved and what can you tell us about the character you play?

I play an FBI HRT (Hostage Rescue Team) sniper, Lon Horiuchi. He was a Japanese-American, former U.S. Army, individual that later joined the FBI and became one of top sharpshooters in the FBI. I remember when my agent reached out to me, they told me they were doing a series on Waco and Taylor Kitsch, Michael Shannon and John Leguizamo were all attached. They were looking for a Japanese-American FBI sniper and they were very interested in me. When I heard that, I was super flattered to even be considered, totally jumped at the opportunity and luckily, I was cast by John Dowdle and Drew Dowdle. It was a fantastic shot to say the very least! It’s the second time I’ve played a real character; the first time was in the feature film, “Lone Survivor,” ironically with Taylor Kitsch and Mark Wahlberg under the direction of Peter Berg. I think the ultimate honor as an actor is to play a true-life character, especially one who has served in our Armed Forces. We give praise to our military and Armed Forces all the time but to be able to honor them through playing them, as an actor, I think is the ultimate reward. Like I said, Lon Horiuchi was a FBI HRT sniper. He was involved as one of the critical shooters at the incident at Ruby Ridge in 1982. He got into a little bit of controversy during that event because he was ordered to fire upon two of the individuals, who were Randy Weaver and one of his friends. They were basically stockpiling arms in the high mountains of Ruby Ridge. In the process of following orders to take these two men out, he inadvertently shot and killed Vicki Weaver, who was Randy Weaver’s wife. That got him into a little bit of controversy with the courts, however, the charges were later dropped because it was deemed that there was no negligence and he was acting within the scope of his duties. Ironically, not only were these events at Ruby Ridge being watched by David Koresh in Waco at the time but they also motivated him to take measures against the Federal Government. So, come full circle, once that 51-day siege of the Waco Compound took place, the FBI who’d been under scrutiny because of Lon’s shooting of Vicki Weaver at Ruby Ridge, was called into participate in the Waco siege. There was more controversy there because it was reported that Lon had an early discharge and fired again but it was never proven. You have the same guy at two huge events in our country’s history with significant impact in both cases. Even though he’s a controversial character, like I said earlier, it’s always an honor to represent these true-life heroes in any way that I can.

Rich Ting as Lon Horiuchi in Paramount Network’s “Waco.”

Obviously, you’ve done your research on this character. What do you feel you might have brought to this character that wasn’t on the written page?

In the first episode of “Waco,” I have a scene. It opens with the Ruby Ridge scene and I’m set up on a mountain and firing at these two guys and inadvertently shoot and kill the wife. I remember John, our director, and Drew, our producer, telling me after we wrapped episode one, “Your intensity is crazy! Your part of this episode is the most intense part of this episode and we love it!” They went on to give me a lot of positive feedback on what I brought. So, when you ask me that question, I do the research I can as an actor outside of the production. That can be solo research on the character, trying to reach out to family and friends, going to places this person lived or used to go to and trying to really get a sense of who this character was and currently is. When I get to the live set on the day, we have these technicians, military advisors and ex-FBI guys there to show me how you hold the gun, what rifle he used, the breathing techniques and mannerisms. I like to load myself up so much that all the research that is loaded in me can leak out through my acting and impulses in that moment. I get on the gear, I have the real gun, I’m in the dirt and looking through the scope. At that point, there is a part of me that takes over. The more I can prep, the more I don’t have to think about it on the day and the more everything just comes together for me. Fortunately, the director and the producers were happy with what I did!

It’s really awesome to hear about your attention to detail and that it doesn’t go unnoticed!

Thank you. Yeah, it’s a very cool process!

Jumping forward to the other huge project you have on tape for 2018 — What can you tell us about “Warrior”?

It’s a period piece written and created by Bruce Lee himself before he passed away. It takes place in the late 19th century, the 1880s, in San Francisco’s Chinatown. It focuses on the Chinatown Tong Wars. Tong means gang and there were a few tongs that were operating in San Francisco territorially and focusing on prostitution, the drug trade, gambling, money laundering and extortion. They had a huge influence on San Francisco at the time. The thing about our show is that it’s just not a “Kung Fu show.” There are so many stories within the overall story, which is about these Chinatown tongs. The script discusses the political, economic, cultural and racial tensions that were all current during the late-19th century in San Francisco. The cool thing about this project aside from the fact that it’s created by Bruce Lee, aside from the fact that his daughter Shannon Lee is the executive producer, aside from the fact our director and executive producer Justin Lin of “Fast & Furious” and his partner Danielle Woodrow, aside from the fact it’s written out by “Banshee” writer Jonathan Tropper… [laughs] Aside from all of that, I got cast to play the part of “Bolo.” The thing with Bolo is that people around the globe know who Bolo [Yeung] is. Bolo is the big, buff, Chinese warrior fighter from “Enter The Dragon” and the character of Chong Li in “Bloodsport” with Jean-Claude Van Damme. Growing up, like everyone else, I was like “Wow! This dude is huge!” Bruce Lee was small and ripped but Bolo was massive and totally jacked! It’s cool because when Bruce was writing this he included Bolo, like he included a lot of his friends and other actors that he had previously worked with into his work. They kept Bolo’s name as Bolo in “Warrior.” The reasons this is ironic to me is because my entire martial arts career was inspired by Bruce Lee and a lot of his philosophies have influenced me throughout my life. When I was younger, because of my athletic background, I was always physically bigger than the other Asian kids I grew up with. Early in my life, my family and friends used to make fun of me and call me Bolo because of my size! [laughs] I used to hate it because I wanted to be Bruce Lee! [laughs] As I got older and got into college and my sports popularity skyrocketed, all my teammates would call me Chong Li. I was like, “This Bolo image is following me throughout my life!” Come full circle, not only am I playing Bolo in “Warrior”, but it’s written and inspired by Bruce Lee himself. Like I tell my family and friends, “who would have known at the age of 4 years old when I was watching ‘Enter The Dragon’ with Bruce Lee and Bolo Yeung that I would be playing Bolo in a TV series created by Bruce Lee in 2018!” It weirds me out to this day to be totally honest! [laughs] I try not to think too much about and say, “Okay, it’s not a big deal! Let’s just go to work!” But it is a big deal! It’s a huge milestone in my career and I couldn’t be more humbled and flattered to be a part of this production.

Rich Ting – Photo by Ryan West

What are some of the other creative milestones throughout your life?

Honestly, I remember having this conversation at HBO with Dustin Lin, Shannon Lee and Jonathan Tropper. I told a joke and said, “Ya know what? I think I’ve been training my whole life for your show!” I said that because I began martial arts at the age of 4 because of Bruce Lee’s inspiration on me. That was a huge milestone. The second thing was going to Yale University to play football, graduate and have my undergrad and bachelor’s degree from there was another huge milestone. Academically, you just cannot get a better experience than that. My law school MBA background and making the career choice to not go into medicine as my father would have liked me to, but instead go into law and business. I say all of this because Bruce Lee, my athletics, my Yale education, graduate school education and even working at ESPN for a year following my undergraduate at Yale, which was an extension of my athletic career via mass media; all of these things, as well as my family’s connections to the stunt world had me come to a realization. I realized that all of this time I had been training. Not for anything I knew I was going to end up doing, to be honest with you. I just kept on working and going through the doors that were opening for me at different points in my life. Come 2017, I got the call from my agent and my manager that they are finally going to do this “Warrior” thing, they are casting and they want to bring me in. All of these roles that I end up booking — it didn’t start last week, last year or even 10 years ago. I’ve been fortunate to have lived this crazy life where I’ve done all these different things and have been faced with so many different adversities and obstacles along the way, not only as an Asian-American, but as a kid from Los Angeles going to the East Coast even. I think Jamie Foxx said it in one of his interviews a long time ago and I recall it because I totally related to it — He said he had been given all these different tools and he had created a toolbox containing the tools he had acquired throughout the course of his life. I remember thinking, “Ya know what? That’s the truth!” Life has given me all of these opportunities that I’m fortunate to have received and I’ve been loading this toolbox throughout my entire life. Now, I feel like I can pull out certain things and apply them. I guess the way I’m applying them in a way people like! [laughs] It’s so cliché but when you’re a kid and you say, “I want to do that!” Everyone says, “If you work hard, you can!” Here’s the thing, I said it and I didn’t think I was going to do it but here I am talking to you about “Warrior, “Waco” and all of this other stuff! I think it goes back to what my parents would always preach to me when I was a little kid — “Just don’t stop working. Whatever you do, just keep doing it.” As long as you keep working and keep the momentum going, another door is going to open, and you will get to go through that door!

That’s definitely a great way to look at it and solid advice for anyone, no matter where they are in life. With that said, where do you see yourself headed in the future?

With shows like “Waco” and “Warrior” or “NCIS: Los Angeles,” which I’m working on this week, my schedule is fantastic. My ultimate goal in the industry has been to have a schedule, which is so hard, to say the very least. I think what keeps me motivated is the unknown. Everyone in this business, we don’t know about tomorrow, next week, next month or next year. That’s what keeps me hungry. In saying that, my goal has always been to land a blockbuster feature film or a lead character in a series like those in the “Fast & Furious” or “Borne” movies, where there is such a great following and a great production. At the same time, I love television, both network and cable. To have a show and be a lead on a show like “NCIS,” “Homeland” or “Law & Order” has also been a goal. That’s the personal goal – to have that schedule in Hollywood. Having that I know for 6 months out of the year I know I will be doing this and the other 6 months I will be doing something completely different. Overall, what I like to do is be the guy I was looking for when I was a kid to somebody else. If another young Asian-American kid from the ages of 4 to 24 years old could go to the theater and happen to see me on the screen and he relates to me and I’m able to effect that kid in any way, that’s what I want to do! Like I said, I kept looking for that person and I could never find them. Everyone around me had someone. Everyone had their heroes. I’m by no means saying I’m a hero but if I could be a person who motivates someone else like Bruce Lee motivated me, along with so many others now in the current industry, that’s what I want to do! Whether that is through a TV series or a huge motion picture, that’s the goal of mine!

Well, I have to be honest, I think you are well on your way, Rich!

I hope so, man! Like I said, I have to wake up every day and keep doing it!

Thanks so much for you time today. I wish you continued success and we will definitely continue following your journey! You’re a true inspiration!

Thanks, Jason! Take care!

Follow the continuing adventures of Ring Ting via his official website, www.richtingworld.com. Connect with him on social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Check him in the Paramount Network’s limited series, ‘Waco,’ starting January 24, 2018 at 10/9c.

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John Schneider Covers ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ Theme Song In Support of The Waylon Fund

John Schneider Covers ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ Theme Song In Support of The Waylon Fund

John Schneider is a modern American storyteller whose career spans four (4)-decades as, actor, singer, songwriter, producer, director and screenwriter, beginning with his television debut in 1978 as the iconic Bo Duke, on CBS’ The Dukes of Hazzard. Proud of his roots and the time spent playing Bo Duke, John entered the studio in November after a good friend Scott Innis (also songwriter on his latest album Ruffled Skirts), invited him to re-record the revolutionary theme song, “Good Ole Boys” originally performed by Waylon Jennings. John along with famed producer/drummer Paul Leim and producing partner, Alicia Allain entered Backstage Studios with Bob Bullock to re-record the track with guest vocals by Tanya Tucker, John Conlee, Matthew Nelson, Gunnar Nelson, Doug Supernaw, Mark Wills, Heidi Newfield, Bobby Bare, Dave Gibson, Ray Scott, T. Graham Brown, T.G. Sheppard, Jo-el Sonnier, Kelly Lang, Jim Brown, Allie Coleen, Steve Wariner, Colin Raye, Max T. Barnes, Jamie O’Neal, Kalie Rose, Danny Shirley, and Marty Raybonwith. The track, which is available for purchase now, is to raise funds for Jennings’ Diabetes research foundation called, The Waylon Fund and kicks off his Odyssey project/collection where John will release one new track a week for the entire year of 2018. To commemorate the occasion, John pieced together this music video for “Good Ole Boys” which takes fans behind the scenes to the recording session.

The Odyssey is a 52-song collection that melds traditional country music with Americana, Southern Rock, Blues, and a hint of R&B to showcase “the best songs never recorded” by some of Nashville’s most acclaimed and renowned songwriters (Paul Overstreet, Chuck Cannon, Keith Stegall, Jenee Fleenor, Mac Davis, Bill Anderson, to name a few) and musicians (Steve Gibson, Matt Rollings, Glenn Worf, to name a few). The project includes Artist Studio Access, a 30-minute TV show via CineFlix Digital on Demand, and is a behind-the-scenes access of the writing, recording and inspiration of each song. John, producing partner Alicia Allain, and famed drummer/producer Paul Leim recorded the project with Bob Bullock at Backstage Studios.


Produced by Paul Leim, John Schneider and Alicia Allain

Recorded by Bob Bullock at Backstage Studios (Nashville, TN)

Assisted by Justin Francis and Kam Luchterhand

Additional engineering by Kevin Sokolnicki

Mixed by Bob Bullock at Cool Springs Mix (Franklin, TN)

Mastered by

Production Coordinator: Jason Campbell

Paul Leim – Drums

James Mitchell – Electric Guitar

Joe Hudson – Electric Guitar

Glenn Worf – Bass

Steve Gibson – Acoustic Guitar

Matt Rollings – Piano

Tim Akers – B3 Organ

Heidi Newfield – Harmonica

Bergen White – Background Vocals

Cindy Walker – Background Vocals

Tania Hancheroff – Backgrounds

Guest Vocals – Tanya Tucker, John Conlee, Matthew Nelson, Gunnar Nelson, Doug Supernaw, Mark Wills, Heidi Newfield, Bobby Bare, Dave Gibson, Ray Scott, T. Graham Brown, T.G. Sheppard, Jo-el Sonnier, Kelly Lang, Jim Brown, Allie Coleen, Steve Wariner, Colin Raye, Max T. Barnes, Jamie O’Neal, Kalie Rose, Danny Shirley, Marty Raybon.

With this new invigorating spirit, John is proud to be back at the Opry at The Ryman on January 6, 2018 to debut a collection of new songs. Tickets for John’s Opry at The Ryman performance on January 6, 2018 can be purchased here!

Keep up with Schneider at JohnSchneiderStudios.com!

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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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