Tag Archive | "television"

Yippee Ki-Roast, Motherf@$%ers! Bruce Willis Named Next Comedy Central Roastee

Yippee Ki-Roast, Motherf@$%ers! Bruce Willis Named Next Comedy Central Roastee

Comedy Central is ready to trade barbs with the ultimate wisecracking action hero. The #1 brand in comedy announced today that international film superstar Bruce Willis will be this year’s Roastee. The Comedy Central Roast of Bruce Willis (#BruceWillisRoast) will take place in Los Angeles with the tape and airdate to be announced at a later date.

“This ain’t the first time I’ll be tied to a chair and held hostage by a group of humorless assholes for a couple hours,” said Willis. “Bruce has survived terrorists, Armageddon, romance and death itself. Yet, nothing has prepared him for this Roast,” said Kent Alterman, President, Comedy Central.

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GARGOYLES: Director Carlos Ferrer Unleashes Impressive Fan Film Based On The Classic Disney Series!

GARGOYLES: Director Carlos Ferrer Unleashes Impressive Fan Film Based On The Classic Disney Series!

In the hope to entice Disney to approve his proposal to make a feature-length live-action take on their property Gargoyles, award-winning filmmaker Carlos Ferrer has shot a – very impressive – short fan film featuring the characters from the Greg Weisman created series (1994 to 1997).

Ferrer directed, edited, animated and scored the fan film, which features characters from the Walt Disney Television Animation and Buena Vista Television series. Like the original animated series – hailed as one Disney’s most ambitious animated series, targeting an older demographic – it tells of a clan of heroic night creatures who pledge to protect modern New York City as they did in Scotland long ago.

Director’s statement: “I need as many views as possible to convince producers and execs that my vision of a live action Gargoyles film will work for audiences and fans. It’s a rich story with a great message – a fantasy set in the real world and with today’s technology it could be fantastic. I grew up with this so I feel like I really know what has to be done. So it’s really about getting as much exposure as possible with the fans and others who may not know about the show.”

Ferrer is an award-winning American filmmaker with over fifteen years experience in production and storytelling.

At the age of sixteen, he directed over one hundred cast and crew members on a feature-length film that later won “Best Student Feature” at the Long Island Film Festival. Ferrer studied Film at SUNY Purchase College, graduating in 2008 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Arts & Film. His credits include the 2016 film Retina and short film The Popcorn Man.

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GAME CHANGER: Navid Negahban On His Artistic Evolution & Role On FX’s ‘Legion’

GAME CHANGER: Navid Negahban On His Artistic Evolution & Role On FX’s ‘Legion’

Navid Negahban is one of the most dynamic actors in Hollywood. Photo by Michael Kraus

Through the years, Navid Negahban has established himself as one of the most dynamic actors in Hollywood. While he may not (yet) be a household name, chances are you have seen him lighting up the screen in some of Hollywood’s most intriguing projects. The versatile scene-stealer has drawn critical praise for his work on the final season of Fox’s hit series, “24.” In addition, he has a diverse TV portfolio that includes guest work on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Scorpion,” “Law and Order: SVU,” “VEEP,” “The Closer,” “The West Wing,” “Without a Trace” and “The Shield.” Negehban is best known for his critically acclaimed and SAG nominated performance as Osama Bin Laden archetype Abu Nazir opposite Damian Lewis on the hit series “Homeland.” 

Wrapping up a few of his busiest years in the business, he’s been in a multitude of recent projects including the hit film “American Assassin” opposite Michael Keaton, the Netflix film “Sand Castle” alongside Henry Cavill and Nicholas Hoult, as well as staring in the independent film “Baba Joon,” which won five Ophir Awards, the equivalent of the Israeli Oscar. Negahban also just wrapped filming on Disney’s Guy Ritchie live-action remake of “Aladdin,” where he stars as the Sultan opposite Will Smith, Naomi Scott and Mena Massoud in this live-action re-telling of the classic 1992 animated Disney film. No matter the medium, Negehban’s passion for his craft keeps him driven and able to raise the bar with every new project he takes on.

In April, fans can catch Navid Negahban starring in the highly anticipated second season of the hit FX comic book drama series “Legion.” One of the best new series on television, “Legion” is based on characters from Marvels’ X-Men universe and created by “Fargo” producer, Noah Hawley. The series boasts an all-star cast featuring the talents of stars Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller, Jean Smart, Aubrey Plaza, Jeremie Harris, Amber Midthunder, Bill Irwin, Katie Aselton, Jemaine Clement and more. As Ahmal Farouk, aka the Shadow King, Negahban joins the cast for the new season as the mysterious villain with a thousand faces and who is hellbent on destruction.

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Navid Negahban to discuss his unique career path as an actor, the challenges he has faced along the way, and where the journey may take lead in the future.

How did you get involved with the arts early on in life and when did you know you wanted to pursue your passion professionally?

Oh my gosh, I have been interested in entertaining people from the time I was a kid. I loved drawing and being the clown in the family. Every time I was at a family gathering, if I felt that the energy was a little bit down, I would jump in and try to entertain them. When I was 8 years old, I did a play at my school and that play really introduced me to the world of theater. I have the picture on my Instagram, I was 8 years old and you see me with a beard; I’m playing an older man. It was fun! It was great! Acting is something I have wanted to do since I was a kid. I think that was the life-changing moment; when I was on stage and saw all of these stiff parents, sitting down very proper. It was a private school so nobody would move. They were all dressed up and sitting down to watch the play. When I was up there, nobody could stop laughing and everyone was loose and comfortable! To me, it was a joy. It was a power and joy seeing them laughing! It was very interesting.

My career really started in Germany. I was a refugee in there. There was a camp process where they would process you and then send you to different cities. I was lucky because I was sent into Kaiserslautern in Germany. When I was in high school, I had a friend who was deaf. He introduced me to his theater company, where everyone was doing mime and pantomime, so I was introduced to the craft there. When I was in Kaiserslautern, they were doing “Sunday in the Park with George.” If you are familiar with the play, George travels through the park and talks about what he remembers. The director wanted someone who could portray George’s emotions while he is taking and moving from one corner to another corner. I got the job and that was kind of the beginning of my career!

You have come a long way from those early years. What are your creative milestones along the way?

It’s crazy because I’m still learning and every step I take is a milestone for me! Every project I work on gives me something. Even when I’m walking down the street and I see a guy sitting on the street and performing, it reminds me of when I was doing that! I stand back and I start watching him. I say, “Oh my god, see what he’s doing? Beautiful! Amazing!” I’m so taken by people and what I learn from them. When you ask me that question, I think my biggest milestone might have been the 20-minute short film that took me two years to finish. When I moved from Germany to the U.S., which was in 1993 and until 2003 my career wasn’t moving. I was doing small plays here and there and I was doing live western shows and stunt work. I did a short film called “Boundaries” and I played a mute trombonist. That film went to different festivals, won numerous awards and went to Slamdance and won the grand jury prize there. It also came to Los Angeles and was screened at the Egyptian Theater. I think that was my introduction to Hollywood!

Navid Negahban in the wild. – Photo by Michael Kraus

It takes a lot to make it in the entertainment industry. To what do you attribute your longevity?

I knew this is what I wanted to do and I trusted the universe, let’s put it that way! I didn’t let people put doubt in my mind. I knew that I was different and I wasn’t like the guy next door. I knew there are certainly parts that I would not be cast in. I wasn’t greedy, jealous or envious. I just thought, “It is what it is. This is what I want to do. I like what I do and I like being different.” I never tried to change my name or become mainstream. I like to play my characters. I love some of these characters and they were big lessons in my life because they introduced me to a part of the world or something I didn’t know. I would say to trust yourself, don’t listen to the no’s or cant’s because the person who is saying it to you is a person who wasn’t able to do it. When the person says, “Oh no, it can’t work. It’s doesn’t work.” When they say that, what the person is telling you is from their own experience but that person is not you. You might be able to do it but you have to trust yourself and trust your instincts to move forward. Look at my career! My gosh, I washed cars, I cleaned up rooms, I drove cabs! Everybody who was around me in the family had their own titles or degrees hanging on the walls. I was the loser of the family because everyone thought that I was just a dreamer and a crazy guy who doesn’t want to work. What they didn’t realize was that I was the one who was working harder than anybody else!

Absolutely! All that hard work paid off!

I’m grateful! I’m grateful and very thankful!

You have a big project on the way with a role on one of television’s most exciting series, “Legion.” I’m a huge fan of the series. What spoke to you about this project and made you want to be a part of it?

I was in London. I had just finished “Aladdin” when I got a call from Noel [Hawley] and he was telling me about the project and the character. The way that he described the show and what he is trying to achieve and say got me hooked! I wasn’t that familiar with the Marvel world or the character, so I had to jump in, go and try to educate myself. The best teachers I had were on the set! Aubrey [Plaza] was very helpful, along with Dan Stevens. Bill Irwin came and said, “Can I help you with the scripts?” The whole team was very supportive in helping me understand the concept and learning the language because it was a completely different language to me! It was interesting, I came in and I had to backtrack because they were on episode seven, so I had to shoot seven episodes just to catch up with them. I was kind of thrown into it. I hope that you aren’t going to call me and say, “Damn you, man! I’m disappointed! You destroyed ‘Legion’ for me!” [laughs]

I’m familiar with your work, so I highly doubt that is a call I’ll have to make! [laughs]

[laughs] Thank you, Jason!

“Legion” is a well-written series. What did you bring to the character of The Shadow King that wasn’t on the original written page?

The character has been around forever; he’s as old as the universe. I think maybe the ups and downs in my life, my journey and my being a citizen of the world added something. I was able to bring everything in. It was a platform for me to bring in those experiences and say “Oh, I’ve done that. I’ve done his. I’ve been there, I know how it feels.” Noah and Nathaniel, both of them, were so amazing in helping me, massaging the character and getting the right tone of the character. The character speaks four different languages and he is man of the world with incredible power. I don’t know, let’s see what comes out of it! [laughs] What I loved about this journey and the character is that I was able to challenge myself. I needed to challenge myself to reach a depth that the character has and, for me, it took the guidance of the whole team. They helped me to go there. It’s a fascinating character. It’s very interesting and, this season, you will learn more and more about the character. There are so many one-liners that might seem insignificant to the audience but, if they follow and connect all of those dots, then they will discover more from the journey. That’s what I like about the character. The character doesn’t reveal itself, the character needs to be discovered! For me, when it comes to the roles I take on, what is very important is the depth of the character and that the character is not just a caricature. It is important for the character to have a journey and depth that you discover. That’s what’s important to me. This particular character was very interesting to me because it brings all of the of these characters and their relationships together. I feel it shows the nuances of humanity and how we are dealing with each other.

We are living in a great time because easy for people to seek out and find your past work. Of your past projects, which had the biggest impact on you and your craft?

My gosh, the most challenging work that I have done is “The Stoning of Soraya.” That character was a very, very harsh character. I had to completely separate the character and the actor. I had to let the character take over and that was very tough. The characters that I really enjoyed? It’s like you are asking which one of my babies is my favorite! [laughs] Each character that I played has given me something and taught me a lesson about myself, which encourages me to discover more. I think Abu Nazir [on “Homeland”] was a huge surprise because that was one of the characters that, even at the time I was doing it, in the pilot, he had only two lines. The team I had at that time were telling me, “You just came off of ’24.’ Why do you want to play this role? There is nothing here.” I said, “No, no. I have a feeling. There is something here that I have to discover. There is something here!” Before that, I had almost 170 projects on my resume but that character was the one that really introduced me to the world! It doesn’t matter where I go … my gosh, I was in one of the villages in Denmark. I was shooting a project there and I was walking. A young couple approached me and said, “We just started watching ‘Homeland.’ Oh my gosh, this is amazing!” [laughs] The show was great but that character was something that led to so many things. My gosh, I visited The White House and it got me invited to Shimon Peres’ house in Israel! It was something where I was just going for a ride! I was just taking the character and allowing the character to be. I wasn’t judging the character. It was a great journey!

Navid Negahban continues to raise the bar with every role he takes on. – Photo by Alexander Pernhorst

Where are you headed in the future?

I don’t plan the future and I go for the ride! There are certainly things that I want to do. I have a couple of projects that I would love to direct. They are sitting on the side and I say, “OK, I will do them. I will put it out there.” The thing is that, sometimes, what I’ve learned in my life is that it is good for you to have ambitions and desires of what you want to do but, at the same time, you have to read the road signs on the map so you don’t get lost. So, let’s see what’s going to happen! I have a couple of stories that I want to tell and those are my babies! [laughs] Let’s see!

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

Every door that closes and every barrier that gets put in front of your way is not there to stop you, those are the road signs. Just believe in yourself. The most important thing is knowing that you are the individual. No one else is like you and you are like nobody else. Believe in that and know that this is your journey! Don’t try to copy someone else’s journey because it’s not going to work. You have to find your own path. Trust yourself, trust your instincts and move forward. The worst thing that can happen is that you don’t try it. If you are sitting back, afraid and being scared by other people’s fears, whoever tells you it’s not working, that is simply their point of view and what they know. What does that have to do with you? You go find your own path!

Thank you so much for your time today, Navid. I appreciate it and wish you continued success! With all the great work you’re doing, I’m sure we will cross paths again in the future!

Thank you, Jason! I’m looking forward to it!

‘Legion’ Season 2 premieres on Tuesday, April 3, at 10 PM on FX. Follow the continuing adventures of Navid Negahban via social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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ON THE RISE: Bart Edwards On His Blossoming Career, Latest Projects and More!

ON THE RISE: Bart Edwards On His Blossoming Career, Latest Projects and More!

Bart Edwards – Photo by Miles Twist

Over the past several years, Bart Edwards has been turning the heads of UK audiences with a plethora of high profile roles. Known throughout Europe for his indisputable talent, charming disposition, and the dynamic characters he brought to life, Edwards is now making the jump to screens in the States. Fans can catch his U.S. debut in season three of Lifetime’s critically-acclaimed, award-nominated drama series, “UnREAL” alongside Constance Zimmer and Shiri Appleby. The series gives a fictitious behind-the-scenes glimpse into the chaos surrounding the production of a dating competition show called “Everlasting.” Edwards is a scene stealer as Jasper, a successful, handsome, Wall Street investment banker who is vying for the heart of Serena, the first ever female suitress on the show. Season three of “UnREAL” will premiere February 26, 2018.

While “UnREAL” marks Edwards first foray in American television, he’s not a stranger to life on the set. Over the past few years, he’s begun carving out a unique resume featuring lead roles in some truly noteworthy projects. Best known in the U.K. for starring as Joe on “Peep Show” and as Olly Greenwood on “EastEnders,” his additional television credits include: “Stan Lee’s Lucky Man,” “Fresh Meat,” “Leaving” and “Call the Midwife.” This year he will light up the screen in the Norwegian series “Lykkeland,” which follows four young people in the midst of an oil rush in Norway that began Christmas Eve in 1969. It’s also important to note, that Bart Edward’s work isn’t limited to television. He will soon star in Millennium Films’ highly anticipated horror flick “The Dare.” The spine-tingling thriller follows Jay (Edwards), a young, workaholic father whose quiet evening takes a brutal twist when he wakes shackled in a basement with three other prisoners (release date TBA). Additional film credits include appearances in “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them,” “The Man with the Iron Heart,” and two indie short films directed by Mark Lobatto: “Silent Treatment” starring opposite Lily James and “Blue Borsalino” appearing alongside David Warner.

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Bart Edwards to discuss his journey as an actor, the projects that have helped to shape the dynamic actor we see today, his current projects, and what the future may hold for him in the years to come!

Tell us about how you got involved with the creative arts.

It all started with me taking karate lessons in my local village in Norwich, England. It got canceled one day and my sister used to take acting and singing lessons next door in the town hall. I ended up going in and watching. It was then that the teacher said, “Do you want to join in?” I said, “Ah, screw it! I’m OK.” But, by the end, I was hooked! That’s literally how I started getting into acting. I was also a huge, huge comedy fan so I started to watch a lot of Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Eddie Izzard, Monty Python and all that kind of stuff! I guess that kind of seeped its way into my psyche!

When did you decide to pursue your passion for acting professionally?

I think my first paid gig was for a school program, like when a teacher puts a video on for a class. I was doing a theatre group in England. They chose a few of us, put us in those weird little boiler suits and we got to run around on morning TV. I think that was the first thing I did, ages and ages ago! I think I was around 12 years old at the time.

What went into finding your creative voice as an actor?

I did a lot of theatre. I used to do quite a lot of musical theatre as a kid. I did Internationals Music Theatre in the UK. I went some incredible places with that. I even went to Japan on tour with some shows. Theatre is where it all started. It didn’t kick in properly until I did a small part on “Eastenders” in England. That’s really when I started getting the real buzz of like, “Yes! This is what I want to be doing!” Both of my parents were incredibly supportive of me wanting to act. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a musician, standup comedian and private detective. I had been slowly trying to form those three into some kind of career since I was a kid! [laughs] The people I used to watch a lot, Eddie Izzard and Peter Kirkland, anything I could get my hands on I would watch. I would repeat, repeat and repeat. I would put little performances on with friends just to see if we could make other people laugh. That had a huge, huge influence on me growing up.

You have a big year ahead in 2018. The first thing I want to focus on is your role on “UnREAL.” How did you get involved?

“UnREAL” is a banger! I, as most English peeps and actors over there do, get a tape over. It just all rolled off quite nicely! I was a massive fan of the show prior; I think I had seen Season One at that point. It all kicked off about a year ago, which is when we started filming. That process was a few taped auditions and testing for that. “UnReal” was a joy and we can’t wait for you guys to see.

The show is well written. What did you bring to the character that wasn’t on the original written page?

I play a guy called Jasper Hunt, who is a too big for his boots entrepreneur, finger in too many pies, Wall Street type banker. What I wanted to bring, because I knew in Season One they already had the Hugh Grant-esque English dude, which I loved. I loved Freddie [Stroma] in that but I wanted to do something other than the Brit-take on being stuck in a house with a load of contestants. Originally, the character was going to be American. I auditioned American and it was all U.S. and I think on the day they realized that since we have guys from all over the world, they kind of liked the United Nations take a bit more.

Bart Edwards – Photo by Miles Twist

What was the biggest challenge for you with this project?

It’s strange how you slightly feel you are actually in the reality show. It’s such an intense period because you are getting episodes done in a week and a bit. It’s almost a free-for-all of who is going to go and who’s going to stay. It took me a good couple of weeks after finishing to “Everlasting” and “UnREAL,” for that matter, from my brain! [laughs] It just took a few weeks to shake the feeling I was being filmed from every angle! [laughs]

You also have a horror flick headed out way later this year with “The Dare.” What can you tell us about the project? From the description I read, it sounds intense!

Oh, yeah! This is an insane horror movie! I spent about two months in Bulgaria with a great group of people — director Giles Anderson, Richard Short, Alexandra Evans and a few other people! “The Dare” is a full-on, in-your-face, popcorn horror/psychological thriller! It’s a genre that seems to continue growing, growing and growing in popularity with things like the “Saw” franchise, “Hostel” and that kind of stuff. I think what “The Dare” does a bit differently is that it has the psychological part as well and it’s not all about whose hand is going to be cut off! [laughs]

What’s your process for bringing a character to life?

“UnREAL” was me binge-watching a hell of a lot of reality TV! I found it fascinating people’s demeanors and the things they choose to show when they think they are on or off camera. I watched a lot of, just for my own satisfaction, “Judge Judy,” “Jeremy Kyle” and “Big Brother.” I actually watched the first season of the UK “Big Brother” on YouTube. This was back when they truly believed that this was just a social experiment and not ever-so-slightly trashy TV! [laughs] It was fascinating how much reality TV has changed since then. The reality TV genre has almost become a parody of itself. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed that just as much but they are definitely not what they started out to be. With something like “The Dare,” the preparation for that was a bit different. I remember writing out a list of pain. I don’t want to give anything away but in this film there are a number of things these guys have to do and be part of that are really pretty gruesome.

Tell us more about getting in the mindset for some of these gruesome scenes.

Do I do any emotional recalls? [laughs] Certainly, I would dread to think what the emotional recall would be for some of the things that go on in this movie. [laughs] We spent a lot of time in one room. There are only four or five of us in the movie and we are quite confined in a certain space. I went back and watched a lot of the genre making versions of these films like “Saw” and that kind of stuff. I wanted to see what I believed or I would buy if someone had a hammer to the hand and how much they would use that hand for the rest of the movie, if you know what I mean. I wanted to know how much suspension of disbelief were we allowing in this world. I found it fun to have my brain tickled during the film process?

Bart Edwards – Photo by Miles Twist

Were you are fan of the genre before taking on the project and doing the research?

I drop in and out. I’ve definitely watched quite a few. I think there is a very fine line between something that is just gore for gore’s sake and something that’s quite thrilling. There is one that really stands out to me and you may have seen it. It’s about a guy in a house … that doesn’t help! [laughs] He’s also blind.

Oh yeah, “Don’t Breathe” with Stephen Lang and Jane Levy.

Yes, that’s it. She is absolutely spot on! It’s like I was saying, a film like that really shows you the different levels of fear, so you have somewhere to go by the end. I think that film absolutely smacks it! It’s a great film!

When you look back on your projects, which had the biggest impact on you and what are you most excited for in the future?

I’m excited for “Lykkeland” to hit next year! That’s been a fun project in Norway. It’s a story about how they find oil there in 1969 and how they changed the world with the largest find of oil in history. I’m really looking forward to that because I haven’t even seen ADR shots of that yet. In regard to past projects, I was really proud of doing “Peep Show” because I was a huge fan of the show and then to go on with the guys on that was a complete joy. I was a huge fan of the writers, Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong, with their work on “Peep Show” and “Fresh Meat.”

How have you evolved as an actor through the years?

I think by doing more and more TV, you realize how much of a different beast it is. In essence, it’s the same thing you are doing onstage but there are nuances with how you conduct yourself on the shot from floor, depending on if it’s a stage or someone else’s shot and you need to be there for them. It’s that kind of stuff that I’ve always found fascinating and learning day by day. Doing more and more TV over the years, you also see how different people conduct themselves. Coming from theatre, there’s such a huge family that is created from beginning to end through the rehearsal process and that’s what I miss most about doing theatre or musical theater. When it comes to TV, it’s notoriously fast paced and things that understandably won’t be able to happen because there’s just not the time in the day. I’ve been pretty lucky actually. “UnREAL,” “Lykkeland” and “Peep Show” were all joys to work on with people giving you the time of day to play and make some entertaining stuff! I am also starting another film with a good friend of mine, Mark Lobatto. We had done a couple shorts a few years ago and we’ve been looking to turn this into a trilogy. We did a thing called “Silent Treatment” about two years ago, so I’m looking forward to kicking that off! Bucket list-wise, I’ve always wanted to play Philip Marlowe from the Raymond Chandler books. I don’t know if that is from being a kid and loving that type of Noir-esque thing. He was pretty much the pioneer of that! I would absolutely love to play Philip Marlowe! I know, I know! Another Englishman playing an American icon! [laughs] I don’t know if it would go down too well but I would absolutely love to play that role!

Bart Edwards – Photo by Miles Twist

You’re building a tremendous body of work. It’s not an easy road to go down. What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey so far?

That’s a big question, man. A big question! It’s a bit early in the morning! [laughs] It’s not an easy road to go down! I think what I’ve learned on my very short journey to where I am is the respect for the other people and looking after yourself while working. I was unemployed for a good amount of time after I graduated and you always want to fight for what you want to do. So, once you are there, really savor it and respect the people you are working with and go into every day with your A-game. I’m sure in another 20 years I will have other pearls of wisdom! Even tomorrow maybe! When I get to work I might give you a call and say, “This is a great one!” [laughs] But for now, I think that’s the strongest piece of advice I’d be able to bestow on somebody who is choosing to go into this industry!

I look forward to checking in with you again, sooner than 20 years of course, to see where this road takes you!

Absolutely, mate!

Before I let you go, are there any causes close to your heart we can help shine a light on?

Yeah, at the moment, a beautiful one is Era 50:50. Check them out! It starts out with equal representation between people in the performing arts but it’s so much more than that. It’s a message that speaks to things that are happening right now that are wonderfully in the forefront of everybody’s minds. Definitely check them out, donate and spread the word!

We definitely will! Thanks so much for your time today, Bart! I wish you continued success!

Thank you, Jason! It’s been a pleasure! You have a lovely day!

Catch Bart Edwards on ‘UnREAL,’ which returns February 26 at 10/9c on Lifetime! Follow the continuing adventures of Bart Edwards through social media via Twitter and Instagram!

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IT’S MORPHIN’ TIME! – Walter E. Jones Looks Back On 25 Years of ‘Power Rangers’

IT’S MORPHIN’ TIME! – Walter E. Jones Looks Back On 25 Years of ‘Power Rangers’

From acting to voiceover work, Walter E. Jones is a Swiss Army Knife In The Game!

It’s hard to believe the “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2018. Walter E. Jones, who played the Black Ranger (aka Zack Taylor) from 1993-1994, was there from the beginning. Along with his castmates, the original squad of rangers lit the fuse on an unstoppable global phenomenon. Those early years began an iconic legacy that continues to inspire and unite fans of all ages while allowing them to embrace the values of community, teamwork and adventure. A quarter of a century later, the original cast remain cultural icons and continue to thrill fans around the globe. Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Walter E. Jones to discuss his time on the series, the impact it had on him and his career, the enduring popularity of the series, his most recent project and more!

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

I guess I started with the arts through church. Easter plays and kids choir.

What went into finding your creative voice as a young man?

Competition I guess. My cousins were very talented. I wanted to be as good at anything they were good at! I had to see where I could shine.

Who were your biggest influences as an artist?

Michael Jackson was a huge influence. I believed I could be like him. My dad was also a big inspiration. He was a preacher. He was passionate when he spoke, and we were always singing gospel tunes in the car. He would ask me to do impressions of different celebs. I would do my best and he would laugh so hard we would all laugh with him. Then he would say “Do it again, Walt.”

What made you know acting was a career you wanted to pursue professionally?

I didn’t know it was going to be my career till I went to college. I had a partial scholarship. I saw how much money I would owe when I graduated and thought this is no joke. I’d better take this really seriously.

Pursuing your passion is a big step. Did you have reservations about taking the plunge?

I was working right out of college. Singing, dancing and acting. I worked for Princess cruise lines for three years. I liked it so much I considered becoming a cruise director. I thought before I committed my life to that I had to give Hollywood a shot. So, I did, and I stayed.

How did you break into the industry?

I broke into the industry through dance. I got a dance agent at Bobby Ball Talent Agency that took me across the board, meaning theatrically and commercially. They got me into the room to audition for Power Rangers.

What can you tell us about your earliest roles in those formative years?

I always looked so young. Funny enough; I did several stage roles where I played an old man.

You are recognizable to fans around the globe from your iconic role on the original “Power Rangers” series. How did you get involved with the project?

It was an audition. I had the right skills in the right place at the right time!

At what point was it clear to you and your castmates this show was a phenomenon?

The show aired at number one and stayed there so we knew we had something good! We didn’t realize the global impact till much later.

The series is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. What is it about the “Power Rangers” that continues to resonate with fans old and new?

I think it has a cliffhanger effect. The characters are likable and relatable, and you just have to see how they are going to handle the next situation with teenage style.

I imagine being a part of a cultural phenomenon can be a blessing and a curse for an actor. What were some of the pros and cons or ups and downs you experienced?

The pros are the fans! We have amazing fans and we wouldn’t still be here without them. The cons are … this show has dwarfed other achievements that I am also proud of.

Will we see the proper return of Zach and the other original rangers to the Power Rangers universe?

No. I would love to come back but I don’t know that they will make it happen. The union aspect seems to be a problem — Screen Actors Guild. Who knows, maybe the next movie.

While “Power Rangers” was a huge milestone for your career, you continue to stay busy through the years and have been part of a lot of awesome projects. Which of them had the biggest impact on you and your craft?

I loved working on “The Shield.” It’s been the shows that let me explore my talent for darker characters that have stood out as defining for me.

Tell us about your process for preparing for a new role and bringing each new character to life.

Each character starts with a breakdown of who, what, when, where and why. Then I discover how they resonate to my life and experiences.

Walter E. Jones

What else is on the horizon for you in 2018? Any exciting projects?

There are a few things that I’m excited about but I’m keeping it quiet for now!

Fair enough! I like that you’re keeping us guessing! How have you evolved as an actor over the course of your career?

I feel that I have become quieter in motion. My energy has settled and become more commanding as I continue to grow.

The entertainment industry is a tough business. Where do you look for inspiration to keep the creative fire burning?

My peers! I am amazed by some of the people I know and their tenacity for growth. They are inspired to create.

You have many productive years ahead. Is there a role, genre or project you’re eager to take on?

I want to do romantic comedy. I’d love to play an undercover cop. There’s so much but these come to mind first.

It’s inspiring to see you build a unique career from the ground up. What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey?

Do it because you love it!! It’s not an easy road. Wealth and fame come and go but if you love the art you create, happiness will be yours!

Follow the continuing adventures of Walter E. Jones on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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‘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.

“GOOD OLE BOYS” PRODUCTION CREDITS:

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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