NBC’s “Blindspot” Goes Global at NYCC

NBC’s hit show Blindspot returned this week for its third season. The second season finale certainly raised the stakes for this year by launching the story a full two years ahead, scattering the show’s main characters across the globe, and increasing the mysteries of the missing timeline. Not to mention a whole new set of glowing tattoos for main character Jane Doe (Jaimie Alexander) to unlock. In case you missed it, the premiere certainly rose to the challenge set down by that cliffhanger. Friday night’s “Back to the Grind” featured no less than a wedding, a knife fight and a boat chase through Venice while reintroducing Jane’s nemesis brother, Roman (Luke Mitchell).

I spoke to the show’s cast and creator recently at New York Comic Con about what to expect for this new season. If you head on over to the Media Mikes Facebook page you can check out the full video interviews (don’t forget to give us a “Like” while you’re there!)

For Jaimie Alexander, Jane Doe’s new set of tattoos were a complete surprise. “I get to the end of the script,” said Alexander, who hadn’t read ahead, “and I was like ‘What!? More? I have more?!'” As seen on “Back to the Grind” one new tattoo already had Tasha Zapata (Audrey Esparza) on edge, which is right in line with Roman’s schemes. “These tattoos are not only about Roman’s end goal…” said creator and executive producer, Martin Gero “but also exposing truths within the team.” Luke Mitchell was excited to take on the role of The Big Bad saying “it’s nerve-wracking and feels like a lot of responsibility.”

It’s not all about the big bad though, as Gero and crew emphasized the James Bond-like nature this new year is bringing. “The world is kind of a scary place right now and we could all use a little escape,” Gero said, “And the show–the show can be scary and serious at times, but it was really important for us this year to have a lot more fun. To bend towards more of a kind of Bond model. The show is very international this year. We shot a big part of the premiere in Italy and we’re shooting in Australia, in Barcelona, all over Africa. So like the show’s going to have a scope the likes of which you’ve never seen, I think, on a network television show before. But then on top of that it’s also just more fun. the show is a lot of fun this year. And we hope it’ll be kind of addictive and great.”

Adding to the fun is the return of fan favorite character Rich Dotcom (Ennis Esmer), who is now working on the good side, though annoying the team all the while. Esmer, who’d appeared twice last season says his return was “a complete surprise.” He joked “It still feels like someone made a mistake at some point.”

Blindspot airs Friday nights at 8pm on NBC

Full interviews are viewable on our Facebook page:
Jaimie Alexander & Luke Mitchell
Audrey Esparza & Ashley Johnson
Sullivan Stapleton & Rob Brown
Ennis Esmer & Martin Gero

Chris Gethard: Career Suicide

Chris Gethard is a multi-talented comedian and actor (Don’t Think Twice, “Broad City”) who’s worked extensively in NYC’s improv scene at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater as well as having his own successful public access show, aptly titled “The Chris Gethard Show”. This weekend Gethard premiered a much more personal type of special on HBO with Chris Gethard: Career Suicide. In this touching, and darkly hilarious special, Chris uses comedy to detail his lifelong struggles with depression and anxiety including his brushes with suicide. The show held a special screening and talk-back at New York’s Tribeca Film Fest, featuring Chris, fellow comedian Pete Holmes (HBO’s “Crashing”), and moderator Ira Glass (NPR’s “This American Life”). I spoke with them on the red carpet about the development of the show and using comedy to cope with more difficult issues.

Besides hosting NPR’s “This American Life” podcast (which Gethard has appeared on), Ira Glass produced Don’t Think Twice.

Lauren Damon: Working with Chris on Don’t Think Twice, did you see the development of his show at all?

Ira Glass

Ira Glass: I mean, it’s funny, Don’t Think Twice…Chris is such an amazing actor. He’s so for-real in Don’t Think Twice, and that character does have a lot of overlap with who he is in real life. And who he is in this special. My main thing with the special is I’ve seen him develop it. I saw like a super early version in the basement in Union Hall, and then saw when it was up on stage. So I’m really curious how it translates to video.

LD: With the heavier themes, I feel like we have a need for that in comedy because things seem sort of dire in general…

Glass: It’s true…But I feel like the whole trend in comedy has been comedians getting super real about stuff that’s going on, you know. And I feel like when you look at the people…who are doing the most work right now, it’s like Louis CK and Tig Notaro and Mike Birbiglia, Aziz [Ansari]…You know that’s people talking about stuff that’s pretty real. Which I like because I like a real story. I think when somebody can tell a story that’s super funny but also is really a real thing, and emotional, it’s just like what could be more entertaining? That’s everything a person could want.

LD: That’s basically the best episodes of “This American Life”…

Glass: On a good day, yeah. On a good day. The formula on “This American Life” is we want it to be really funny, with a lot of plot at the beginning, then it will get kind of sad and sort of wistful at the end, then like throw a little music under it, you’re done!

In Don’t Think Twice, Gethard played Bill, a comedian coping with a hospitalized father on top of dealing with general anxieties of where he fits into his shifting improv group.

LD: In Don’t Think Twice, your character did a lot of the heavy emotional lifting, was your show already developing kind of around that time?

Chris Gethard: It’s funny because [Don’t Think Twice director] Mike Birbiglia was the one who kind of threw down the gauntlet and said ‘You should do a show about this side of yourself.’ I would talk about it to a degree in my work, but he was the one who was like ‘You got something here, go for it.’ So the experience of Don’t Think Twice and this show kind of went hand in hand. I was opening for Mike on the road, he developed the film on the road [and] during that process is when he really said ‘You should really go for it, I promise you, give it a shot.’ Really the first time I attempted the show was in an effort to sort of prove Birbiglia wrong and say like I don’t know if people are going to laugh at this. But I have learned never to doubt Mike. And those things really did dovetail nicely and springboard off of each other.

Chris Gethard

LD: How did Mike respond to it?

Gethard: Oh he’s been so supportive and I think he was–he also, as far as these off Broadway shows that are kind of comedy but that go serious, I think he really has helped pioneer that in the past few years. So I think he was very proud and flattered. I always give him a lot of credit as far as walking in his footsteps. So I think he was very psyched that I went for it. i think he also had a little bit of glee that his instincts were correct and mine were not. So thank god for that.

Pete Holmes had his own hilarious HBO comedy special (Faces and Sounds) as well as starring in their series, “Crashing”

LD: How do you know Chris?

Pete Holmes: It’s funny, I thought more people would ask, but here we are at the end of the line and you’re only the second person to ask, so it’s still fresh! It’s still a fresh answer. I was a fan of Chris, I would see him at UCB –actually not far from here, right around the corner. And then I took improv classes at UCB and Chris was actually my level 3 teacher because I had heard that he was so wonderful. And he was. I actually think Chris likes to downplay what a wonderful improv teacher he is because obviously he loves to perform more. But it’s almost a shame that we can’t clone him, because he’s such a great improv teacher.

LD: Your stand-up is a lot more silly and irreverent in contrast to the work Chris is doing in this special and I love that there’s space for both

Holmes: That’s nice, there is space for both! And I really love this show. It’s not the sort of stand-up I do but I also on my podcast [“You Made it Weird”] love to get very deep and weird and uncomfortable so I love seeing it in the live version with the laughs.

Pete Holmes

LD: On “You Made it Weird”, have you had any especially surprising guests?

Holmes: That happens all the time actually. For example The Lucas Brothers, the twin guys from 21 Jump Street movie…I [didn’t] know them that well either and they’re kind of low energy [in the film] and then they came on and were like the most high-energy, introspective, eloquent amazing guests. And you know, I didn’t really know them that well. So one of the things that I love about the podcast is that happens over and over. Your expectations just get completely blown out of the water.

The better answer would be Aaron Rogers, the quarterback for the Greenbay Packers…I didn’t know him either, but here comes a quarterback. And J.J. Redick who’s a basketball player just did it. And whenever these athletes come on and just kill it just as hard as the comedians, it makes me happy.

LD: With Chris being your teacher and then you had an HBO special and series first, is that kind of funny to you?

Pete Holmes: [laughs] I beat my teacher! It’s so funny, Chris and I had another thing where I did a talk show for Conan–he talked to me about this on his episode of my podcast. [Chris] was like when they gave you the talk show after Conan–which lasted about a year–he was like they were talking to me about [doing it] Like we’ve been competing in ways we didn’t even know! So I’m happy that now we’ve both landed at HBO, it’s not one or the other, but we can both be here. [laughs]

Chris Gethard: Career Suicide is now available on HBO, HBO Now & HBOGo

TFF 2017: Executive Producers of “The Handmaid’s Tale”

“The Handmaid’s Tale”, Hulu’s stunning adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel held its premiere screening at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival as part of their Tribeca TV series. The series follows Elisabeth Moss’s “Offred,” one of many handmaids forced to serve a man in a dystopic American society where a wave of infertility has caused women to be stripped of their rights and utilized strictly for reproduction. The series debuted its first three episodes on Hulu on April 26th, with new episodes available every Wednesday. I spoke with the executive producer and showrunner of this brutal and hopefully not too prescient series.

What kind of freedom did you find adapting this novel into a streaming series rather than a regular tv or film?

Executive Producer Warren Littlefield

Executive Producer, Warren Littlefield: Well look, it’s not network television. Margaret Atwood’s vision, that she created in her book 32 years ago, was a dark dystopian world. And Bruce Miller adapted that and it’s a powerful, dark and very disturbing world and our partners at Hulu did not limit us in what we were able to do. In language, in action and physicality, in sexuality, in brutality. We were able to deliver the message that we wanted to deliver. I think it’s a thriller, I think it’s entertaining but it’s pretty damn powerful, so fasten your seatbelt.

Showrunner and writer, Bruce Miller: I haven’t worked in film very much at all. Almost all my work has been in tv which is much more fun because you could have stories that go on forever. But working in a streaming service, you get the great benefit of not having to have a show that’s forty-two minutes and twenty-two seconds long, but it can be longer or shorter. Which, more than you know, throws the audience off. They don’t know what’s gonna happen when you don’t know how much is left! It could end five minutes from now or fifteen minutes from now and that makes all the difference.

Were you very familiar with the novel before you worked on it?

Miller: There’s a novel?! [Laughs] Yeah I read the book when I was in college, in a ‘New Fiction’ class–which shows you how long ago I was in college. I loved it and I read it a whole bunch of times, completely on my own just as–I was interested in it. So I wasn’t thinking about it in terms of turning it into a television show. And then when I started to get more into writing tv and my career took off, I probably looked at it more in that way. But when I heard they were making a tv show, I was excited because I would get to watch it! Not because I was going to be making it. And then over the years, the show didn’t come out and there were reasons and this and that and you know, I ended up, despite my gender, getting the job. And it was wonderful after having been so familiar with the book but also having been familiar with it in a lot of different time periods. Because it kind of was perennially relevant. Every time I read it seemed like ‘wow this is just the time!’ to read it.

Especially this election year, where it seemed like assailing women’s rights was just a common trend…

Miller: It’s a hobby!

At which point when you were filming, did you realize what a hot topic you were handling?

Showrunner Bruce Miller

Miller: I wrote the first few episodes before the election season started and then we were writing all the way through the debates and the election. And then we were shooting you know, in the middle…when Trump was elected president, we were shooting then. It was interesting, we were in Canada, so we had a little bit of a different perspective…But that was all very interesting. I don’t know–I’m sure subconsciously or unconsciously it changes the way you shoot things. But we were just trying to be gutsy. You know when you’re working from a book that showed so much bravery to write in the first place, you don’t want to be the wimp that turns it into a safe tv show. You want to be as bold as Margaret Atwood was. And so it just reinforced that idea that we should continue to be bold because its an important story we’re telling. But really, in a lot of ways like I said, I’m a writer, I’m in the question business, not the answer business. I’m just trying to put interesting questions out there, that doesn’t really change. I mean I certainly saw the relevance and certainly we went from saying ‘oh my gosh’ to ‘we better not screw this up!’ But I don’t know that anybody changed their story tact. I think we just became a lot more comfortable with what we had decided to do.

Littlefield: I think like the character of Offred, who is a fighter, that was our intention. We always felt a lot of pressure to live up to Margaret’s vision because it’s such a strong vision. And I think when we woke up in November in the middle of production, we were like ‘we better not screw this up!’ like…oh my god. But I think we were kind of fueled by [saying] ‘Alright, this is what we need to do.’ And I think the audience will be as well.

Streaming shows often come with binge-viewing, how do you feel about that approach?

Littlefield: Well, I kind of love what we’re doing. Hulu is presenting on the 26th of April, the first three hours, so you engage in a big way. And then each week, they’ll roll out an additional one. And so, I think that that also is really good because you want time. You may want to watch it again and it’s best I think in smaller doses, because it’s complex. I mean the world of television allows you to do complex characters and a complex narrative and we embrace it.

Can you discuss casting Elisabeth Moss in the main role?

Miller: Elisabeth Moss is astonishing in this. I’ve been a fan of hers forever. She has just such a range of skills and I can’t imagine anybody else in this role. She was who I wanted to be in this role from the beginning. She has main circuit cable connecting her heart to her face that doesn’t have an off switch. So whatever she feels bubbles up. But it’s a really interesting role to play because she’s got all this stuff showing on her face that she doesn’t want anybody else in the room to see, but she wants you to see. The best thing about Liz is she likes to be challenged so I got to write stuff that I never would have written for anybody else because everything I wrote that was harder and harder and harder, she loved it! So we got to really push the boundaries of the skills of an actor.

Series star Elisabeth Moss was understandably pressed for time on the carpet, but offered this comment on acting out the defiance displayed by her character Offred:

Elisabeth Moss

“It was important to me, I mean that’s her whole story you know? That she’s so beaten down and torn apart, and has everything taken from her and just will not give up. And she’s so stubborn. And I think it goes up and down throughout the season, to me that defiance that I think we would all find in ourselves if we had to.”

The Handmaid’s Tale continues to add new episodes to Hulu every Wednesday and was already renewed for a second season in 2018.

“Genius” Red Carpet at Tribeca Film Festival

Tonight marks the premiere of the National Geographic Channel’s first ever scripted series, Genius. From director Ron Howard, Genius follows the life of Albert Einstein as portrayed in his youth by English actor Johnny Flynn and later in life by Geoffrey Rush. The first episode screened this week at the Tribeca Film Festival as part of their Tribeca TV series. The pilot seamlessly time jumped between Flynn energetically fighting to become a physicist in his own right without the rigidity of his early school and the elder Einstein beginning to encounter the rise of Nazis later in life.

I got the chance to speak with some of the actors from the series at this red carpet New York screening about their characters and how working on the series changed how they see Albert Einstein.


English actress Samantha Colley portrays Mileva Maric, a physicist and Einstein’s first wife.

Lauren Damon: How much research did you put into playing Mileva?

Samantha Colley: Quite a lot. What I focused on was their personal letters–so the personal letters between Mileva Maric and Albert Einstein but also Mileva Maric and her best friend Helene Savic. When you google Mileva Maric you see these kind of black and white pictures of someone very [Colley stiffens her back] sitting erect on a chair. It’s kind of impenetrable and she seems very severe and harsh. But actually her letters reveal her to be very vulnerable, and loving and soft and riddled with self-doubt but deeply loyal. But it was the letters I focused on.

LD: How important do you think it is that you portray a female scientist, considering the general need for more women in STEM fields?

Colley: It’s enormously important! I mean Mileva Maric is an example of one of many many many women who have been snubbed by the scientific world and their works not being properly credited. There’s a school of thought that Mileva Maric was instrumental in some of Albert Einstein’s fundamental works and never cited. So using her as an example and shedding light on her is enormously important. And I hope it does inspire girls today to go ‘yeah that’s not going to happen to me, I’m not going to let that happen.’

LD: You share your scenes primarily with Johnny Flynn, how was he to work with?

Colley: Amazing. He was one of the most generous actors I’ve ever worked with and we had a real sense of play and trust early on and it was wonderful.

Richard Topol plays fellow scientist Fritz Haber, a man instrumental in the weaponization of poisonous gas in World War I.

LD: So you play Fritz Haber–dubbed the “Father of Chemical warfare”, a pretty daunting title, how much research did you do?

Richard Topol: I did as much as I could about what we know about him and I mean I had a lot of conversations with the writers and the directors and the producers about why would somebody do that? Right? …Like if you imagined living in a country that was at war with the countries all around it and you’re running out of ammunition. And if you ran out of ammunition, your country would be taken over, what would you do?

So to me, it was like he came up with an idea and his pitch was the same pitch that Einstein, you know that the Manhattan project and everybody who invented the atomic bomb came up with which is like ‘Look, we invent this thing, we show people how scary it is, use it once, it’ll never have to be used again.’ So that’s the way I thought about it that made it less daunting to me.

LD: Did you have any misconceptions about Einstein that working on this dispelled?

Topol: I didn’t really have any strong conceptions about him so they weren’t really dispelled. But I was like oh, I was excited to know that this guy was like a kid who never wanted to grow up. So I learned some fun things about him…Also I learned he had a really complicated personal life that I had no idea. And I think that’s one of the interesting things about the show: We know about his genius, we don’t know a lot about the personal and political problems that he had to face.


Mad Men’s Vincent Kartheiser appears in the premiere as an officious member of the US State Department 

LD: How much more did you learn about Einstein in working on this series?

Vincent Kartheiser: I mean I think you’ll hear from a lot of these people, he was a lot more of a scoundrel than anyone ever really–at least that I know–knew. And he was just kind of…he had this ability to lock out all things around him and just focus on the work. So you know, his kid could be slapping him on the leg and his wife could be hollering at him, and the dinner could be burning and he would just focus on the equation. And I think that’s really interesting in today’s world where there’s millions of distractions for all of us and we’re all constantly trying to figure out how to deal with it. He never had to battle with that. He was just always able to focus.

LD: How was working opposite Geoffrey Rush?

Kartheiser: It was wonderful. He’s such a giving actor, and he’s phenomenal. I mean, you’d be having a conversation and he’d be like [calmly] talking about the role, talking about the scene and then they’d go ACTION! And he’d just snap right into it. Just always exploring, always finding new things during the scene, and lots of fun.

LD: Were you also playing a scientist?

Kartheiser: No no, I was playing a person who works for the state department trying to clear his Visa so he could get into the United States…His visa wasn’t something that was just rushed through. I mean relative to today. These special visas…that have been in the news, you know that is these kind of people. Albert Einstein was someone who came in on a visa because of his talent, and his ability to teach, and his ability to give back to our community here in the states. So it’s a good example of how these kind of programs and the visa system works.

Genius begins tonight at 9 on the National Geographic Channel

A Conversation with “Life Interrupted” creator Steven Wishnoff

If you are a fan of 70s television, and the stars that made it so memorable, get ready for a new program, available on YouTube, called “Life Interrupted.” Created by Nick at Nite/TV Land veteran Steven Wishnoff, the show tells the story of former child actor Mason Bell, (Mason Reese) whose career peaked at the age of 10. Mason is turning 50 and nothing has turned out quite the way he expected. He lives in New York’s East Village in a rundown studio apartment over the equally run down bar he co-owns with his ex-wife, Ally (Alison Arngrim). Ally left Mason years ago to marry gallery owner Nina Woodworth (Erin Murphy). Adding to the fun is Mason’s former mother-in-law, and landlady, Annie Hughes (Dawn Wells), Nina’s mother Marnie (Michael Learned), Mason’s best friend Oliver the globe trotting rocker (Robbie Rist), a wise-cracking bar maid (Lindsay Heston), a studly dishwasher (Luis Lopez), Mason and Ally’s son, Junior (Robbie Allen) and a bar full of colorful friends. The show debuts February 14th, on YouTube.

Mike Smith: Give our readers a brief introduction to “Life Interrupted.”

Steven Wishnoff: Hmmm. ‘Life Interrupted” was created as a half hour comedy pilot that was shot in late 2015. We began with a Kickstarter campaign and shot it on a small budget. As frequently happens when you’re working with a limited budget, and (when you have) lots of friends doing lots of favors, it took us about a year to finish the show – and actually show it to the cast/crew privately. Soon after that, the decision was made to re-cut the show into a web series. The way the show was written and shot, that was a fairly easy (though time consuming) adjustment to make. And so, about two and a half years after I began writing it, the show that launches on Valentines Day 2017 came to be.

MS: What inspired you to create the show?

SW: I grew up an actor (in NY) doing musical theatre and, like most actors, I had a number of “survival jobs.’ So, while I was working on HBO’s first scripted drama’, “OZ,” I was also working for Nick at Nite and TV Land, writing and producing content in the early days of TV Networks embracing the internet. You see, as much as I loved musical theatre, I also loved television and was a bit of a walking encyclopedia of TV trivia. That kind of memory was really useful at Nick at Nite/TVLand. You have to remember, this was before Google. (laughs) Yes, I’m that old. Anyway, I was one of the online producers for the TV Land Awards. At that show we had former child-commercial actors Rodney Allen Rippey (Jack in the Box) and Mason Reese (Underwood Deviled Ham) making appearances. So I created a bit where we interviewed them together where they supposedly had an East-Coast/West Coast rivalry a la Biggie and Tupac. We had a lot of fun with it and as a result Mason and I became friends and stayed in touch over the years. It’s worth noting here that the TV Land Awards also featured Erin Murphy who played Tabitha Stephens on “Bewitched.” She and I had actually met a few years earlier in the 90’s along with her TV brother, David Mandel, who played Adam along with his twin Greg. Fast forward more than a decade … Mason and I were talking on the phone and he told me that he really wanted to “get back in front of the cameras”. He asked me, “what kind of show would I even do?” and my reply was, “I don’t know I haven’t written it yet.” At that point, a friend and I had recently finished a pilot called “The Legend & Me” which was intended for Marilu Henner and Charlene Tilton. So I got to work on a show with Mason in mind.

The goals for the show were:
-It needed to be something within Mason’s comfort zone. After all, it had been many years since he’d done anything scripted. In real life, Mason had either owned or invested in several bars over the years – and in fact he still was a partner in an East Village, NY bar when I started writing. So I made an East Village Bar a primary location. But then where to go? Well, Mason had been famous as a child actor. So his character was going to have been a formerly famous actor too. And then… Well
-It needed to be a story/plot that would ring true in the real world. Something contemporary, but still familiar enough to be comfortable for an audience. I didn’t want it be a series of one liners or just set-up/joke, set-up/joke. I wanted the humor and interest to come from who the characters are in the world they live in. And so I came up with something relatable – “What if you woke up at 50 and your life wasn’t anything like what you thought it would it be? How would you feel about it?”

And so I wrote the story of a man who had been a famous child actor, but whose life now leaves a little to be desired.

MS: I pretty much grew up with your cast. Just reading that Mason Reese, Robbie Rist, Erin Murphy, Dawn Wells and so many other people that I remember from my youth are involved in this project makes it pretty much, to paraphrase a common expression, “must watch TV” for me. How easy was it for you to get these actors to participate?

SW: Putting this cast together was actually easy… all I had to do was ask. You see, most of us know each other and are friends. Mason and I are friends. Alison Arngrim (who plays Mason’s ex-wife) and I are friends, Erin Murphy, who plays Alison’s wife, and I have known each other since the 90’s, and she, Alison, and others grew up in LA and have been acting their whole lives – and know each other/are friends. Mason and Robbie Rist are good friends and both are very into music (Robbie Rist and I wrote our theme song). I’d known Dawn Wells for a long time and actually produced her interview for The Archive of American Television. Her role (while loosely based and named for a real-life friend of mine) was written for Dawn – from the very beginning – and it is SO NOT Mary Ann! Michael Learned came to us through her publicist, B. Harlan Boll (who also represents Dawn, Alison and Erin – and is a dear friend of mine). I wrote Michael a letter asking her to read the script – and she called me within 48 hours to tell me she was in. Robbie Allen, who plays Mason and Alison’s son and I were in a short film together (as actors). He is a brilliant talent to watch – and if you look, he bears a striking resemblance to Alison. So for Mason (who is vertically challenged) to have a son who is 6’4″ is very funny. Brandon Cruz and Mason have been friends for years, and Brandon and I had worked together on TV Land Awards one year. The actors who play Julio (Luis Lopez) and Merri (Lindsay Heston) were people I knew and brought in. In fact if you look closely at the party scene, one of Alison and Erin’s friends in the bar is none other than Jeannie Russell (who was played Margaret in the original Dennis the Menace). And behind the scenes were even more friends.

MS: You’re a year older than I am so I’m pretty sure we watched a lot of the same television growing up. Do you have a particular favorite show from your youth?

SW: I had many favorite shows growing up. “Bewitched,” “The Donna Reed Show” (the inspiration for the opening sequence of “Life Interrupted”), “The Patty Duke Show,” “I Love Lucy,” and then later the entire block of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “The Bob Newhart Show,” “The Carol Burnett Show (in fact, all muscial variety shows). I am fortunate to have grown up watching all of Garry Marshalls shows, and then the Norman Lear Shows (I LOVED “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” and then “Fernwood 2Nite”). I love good TV.

MS: How long is “Life Interrupted” scheduled to run?

SW: We are rolling out with seven “webisodes” that make up the full pilot of the show.

Q: Are you working on anything else?

SW: I’m always working on several things at once. While I’m still acting, and singing (as often as I’m able) – I have another pilot finished, a one hour series that I’m in rewrites with and am almost done with a feature (a romantic comedy) that I’m particularly proud of. I’ve created a series of “Funny or Die” sketch style shorts for Jeremy Miller (another friend). And there is a stage play that I was originally writing for Patty Duke. Her passing hit pretty hard. I will come back to it at some point, just not right away.

For more information:
On Youtube 

Grace Kaufman talks about her role on the CBS series “Man with a Plan”

Teen actress Grace Kaufman has appeared in a variety of television shows including “The Closer” “2 Broke Girls” and the “The Last Ship”. Graces newest role has her playing opposite Matt LeBlanc in the CBS hit comedy “Man with a Plan”. Media Mikes has the chance to speak with Grace recently about her role on the show and also about her new film “Brave New Jersey”.

Adam Lawton: Tell us about your role on “Man with a Plan” and how the role came about?

Grace Kaufman: I play Kate Burns on the show. She is a very fun role to play because not only does she have a little bit of sass along with some rebellious qualities but she also really loves her family. That’s where I feel I connect with the role. Kate can be disobedient but loving at the same time. I had heard about the role by going through the normal auditioning process. I got the script and immediately fell in the love with my character Kate. I knew she was definitely a role I wanted to play. After my first audition I received a call back and that’s when I met Matt LeBlanc for the first time. That was very exciting for me as I have always loved his work. I found out shortly after reading with him that I had gotten the role and I was just over the moon about it.

AL: Was the role fairly laid out when it was presented to you or were you allowed to develop certain traits
of the character on your own?

GK: There were definitely some parts of the character that were already set ahead of time but, I also brought in my own set of traits and personality to the character. I think that’s what makes things more natural. I was very grateful for the opportunity to do that I was able to explore the character of Kate and really get to know her as well.

AL: What has it been like working alongside Matt LeBlanc?

GK: When I first met Matt at the initial call back it was like meeting one of your idols. I loved him on “Friends” and I have enjoyed his other work as well. Matt is very talented and a brilliant actor. To be in the same room and read with him was such a cool experience. Just being there was very exciting. We did our read through and there was some notes they gave me for the next read and everything just went from there.

AL: The show recently got picked up for a full run. What do you feel makes “Man with a Plan” stand out from other family based comedies?

GK: I feel like the show is not only one that’s fun for the whole family to watch but one that every member can relate to. I feel like a lot of the situations that happen on the show are things that happen to real families. That’s what I think makes the show so special and enjoyable for families to sit down and watch together.

AL: Was this your first experience filming in-front of a live studio audience?

GK: I have done some guest starring roles on shows which film in front of live audiences so I had some experience with that going in to this show. This was my first show that I was a series regular on where there would be a live audience. Even though I had done guests spots before in similar settings it was still very exciting and a bit nerve racking. The more we work in-front of the audience the more I have been able to see that they are not there to judge us. They are there to support us and laugh with us. Knowing that has made me start to feel very comfortable in-front of them now.

AL: You also recently had a film premier at the Austin Film Festival. Can you tell us about that?

GK: The film is called “Brave New Jersey”. I filmed that about a year ago in Tennessee. It was a lot of fun as I had never been to that state before nor had I ever done a period piece. The film takes place in the late 1930’s on the night of Orson Wells “War of the Worlds” broadcast. It’s set in a small town in Lullaby, NJ which overhears the broadcast and assumes real aliens are in-fact invading. The premise is based around if you know you only have one night to live what would you do? Having never done something like this before it was a lot of fun and I got to work with some really great people that I learned a lot from.

AL: What are your plans for the coming year?

GK: We start filming “Man with a Plan” again in January so I have that to look forward to. I also have a role on the show “The Last Ship” which is on TNT that just got picked up for a fifth season. I start working on that in April. I have been working on that show for about four years now so I am very excited that we are coming back for another season. The cast and crew have become like a family to me there. It’s quite different than “Man with a Plan” but they are both special to me in different ways. Shooting this fifth season is going to be really great.

For more info on Grace and her projects you can check out her various social media accounts at @ImGraceKaufman

NYCC 2016: Adult Swim’s DREAM CORP LLC

Have you made your appointment with Dream Corp LLC yet? The mind-bending new series from creator Daniel Stessen is currently admitting new patients every Sunday night at 11:45pm on Adult Swim. Starring Jon Gries (Napoleon Dynamite), Stephen Merchant (“The Office”, “Hello Ladies”), Nick Rutherford (Balls Out, “Drunk History”) and a host of guest stars, the series follows a strip mall clinic that uses advanced technology to invade its patients dreams in order to solve their real life problems. At New York Comic Con this year, the Adult Swim panel was treated to the first two episodes of Dream Corp which blend live action sci-fi and trippy rotoscope animation.

Accompanying the new series to NYCC was creator Stessen with stars Gries, Rutherford and Merchant (who also serves as an executive producer on the show). I sat down with them to talk about this new addition to the Adult Swim lineup.

How did you develop Dream Corp?

Daniel Stessen: I had the concept, been developing it for a while, and created this world and kind of came over to Steve for a little guidance as to how to make it more palatable to a larger audience. Being that he has some–

Stephen Merchant and Daniel Stessen

Stephen Merchant: I think he’s being immodest–or he’s being too modest, I should say, that’s not right. Too modest. I was there as just a friend of Danny’s…to do a voice for this robot [T.E.R.R.Y] that’s in the show and inevitably whenever there’s anything creative going on, I like to start meddling, and just offering thoughts. And we started talking more and more. And it was just for me, it was something I would have done as a friend anyway…but I just thought, you know, let’s try to screw these guys for some money. (Both laugh)

Stessen: And the robot, we love the robot, he was built by Jim Henson Studios…That was one of the more validating moments of my last ten years on Earth, just getting that call that they were on board to build Terry the robot.

Merchant: There’s a really strong visual sense to the whole thing, again largely down to Danny. He’s just got an incredible visual imagination. And so you see that both in the real world–where you see this kind of twisted, eccentric sort of laboratory– and then also when you enter that dream world. And that’s done with the rotoscope animation. When you go on the set, it’s you know, it’s bits of cardboard and people with fake cardboard wings and cardboard jaws and things. All of which is going to eventually going to be animated but which only [Danny] can really see. So a lot of people I think are just stood there and like ‘you want me to what? I’m drowning in spaghetti now?’ And he’s like ‘Trust me.’ So it’s sort of extraordinary, an extraordinary kind of vibe there. Wouldn’t you say people were confused [on set]?

Stessen: It’s just, when people would walk on when we were shooting the dream world stuff, people would walk into an empty room and I would just be like ‘this is going to feel super weird, just trust me, it going to look real cool.’

Can you speak about your characters?

Nick Rutherford and Jon Gries

Nick Rutherford: I play patient 88–
Jon Gries: Nick!
Rutherford: Yeah, Nick as well, who comes to the office to work on erectile dysfunction and pretty quickly realizes that the office itself is kind of dysfunctional.
Gries: What happens is that he has to work for us because he can’t pay for his procedure
Rutherford: Yeah I can’t pay for the procedure and you think that it’s a confidence issue and I don’t have a job so you say–
Gries: A job?
Rutherford: Why don’t you work here? And I’m like this is a terrible place, but I kind of go along with the flow.
Gries: So he’s really the eyes of the audience. Because obviously he’s come into this place that is so–well from some perspectives, would be ridiculous and crazy. It’s not from my perspective.
Rutherford: It’s your life’s work.
Gries: It’s my life’s work. Dr. Roberts has this vision that this is the most transforming and necessary procedure but he’s lost his funding. So now he’s working out of a strip mall because he believes and he knows that it’s working. He knows that he’s changing people’s lives. There’s a little problem here and there but–
(Both laugh)
Rutherford: There’s a lot of problems.
Gries: There’s a couple of bugs that get worked out of the system. But it could be because the system’s really old and we haven’t had the money to update it.
Rutherford: And I think Nick, Patient 88, comes into it and kind of sees a family forming. Because everybody trusts and loves each other. Like there’s, Stephanie Allen plays Joey, his protégé–
Gries: My intern for nine years. No pay!
Rutherford: (laughs) Yeah, Nine year intern. Who loves him and obviously thinks he’s the most brilliant guy ever and he just does not give her the time of day. And Mark Proksch plays kind of the navigator of sorts, I don’t know if you know his work–
Gries: He’s amazing. And he doesn’t ever leave the building. For fifteen years he doesn’t leave the building.
Rutherford: So he’s incredible. And then [Ahmed Bharoocha] plays kind of the nurse and he’s just this big stoner who doesn’t even really care. So Everybody relies on each other in a nice way. So the meat of the story is us working together and growing together and me being thrown into this world. And it being very dangerous, but also fun. And then bringing in these amazing guest stars and throwing them into that.
Gries: He gets attacked by June Squibb at one point. She stabs him.
Rutherford: Yeah she stabs me in the neck with a a screw driver. I’m kind of like the Kenny, I get hurt a lot. (both laugh)

Have you ever had a weird celebrity dream like with [episode one guest star] Dave Coulier?

Rutherford: Yeah that was really surreal.
Gries: I did, I had a weird celebrity dream. I was very nervous, I was about to do a movie years ago and I dreamt that I was in a barbershop. And I was sitting and the man sitting in the next chair was Fred Astaire.
Rutherford: Really?
Gries: True story. And he looks at me and he goes, “Are you worried about something?” And I said “I’m just a little uncomfortable” And he said “Have fun. Just have fun.” I swear to god! And that was like two days before I started shooting Fright Night Part 2.
Rutherford: Have fun out there.

What was it like working with the rotoscope animation?

Dream Corp LLC/Adult Swim

Rutherford: It’s really fun because everything is so grand. You know it’s like now you’re falling off of a hot air balloon, or now you’re running away from your bullies in high school. So you’re playing these large characters, so you just kind of jump into it. Like, I remember thinking when I was very young and being an actor, how it must be really hard to shoot like Jurassic Park when you’re in front of a green screen and then they’re like “and THAT’S a velociraptor” and you’re like “ahhh!” I didn’t feel that at all during the production that that those scenes were difficult thing to do. Because they’re just so silly and fun and you’re wearing kind of a half costume so they can animate it later. Like I’m dressed up like Legolas–
Gries: And literally it was sometimes it was pieces of cardboard, you have cardboard on you almost like a really bad–
Rutherford: Like a play
Gries: Like a kid’s play. But you know it’s all for reference and they’re gonna draw on top of it. And the thing is, knowing how beautiful the animation is also gives you the impetus that when you’re in it, you understand what it’s going to look like, so it helps, it augments. Whatever decision or choice you’re going to make, you can go further with it because you just have that confidence behind that animation. It’s almost like ‘pay no attention to me, it wont be the real me, it will be a better me.’

Stessen: The inspiration came from working with his name’s Michael Garza [of Artbelly Productions] out of Austin, Texas. He worked on A Scanner Darkly, and then a couple other guys on the crew are Scanner Darkly. And one of the woman who was an animator on Waking Life. Which I’m a huge fan of. I saw Waking Life a while back and watched it over and over and over again. Huge inspiration. And we made a short film together that did well in festivals and kind of, we started developing that style in trying to evolve it and I think we’re pushing it forward a little bit and figuring out that we can build things out of cardboard. And make a dragon face. Because all he has to do is draw what’s there. Not that’s all he has to do–his job is to draw what’s there. So we could draw you [all] here and now you’re on a volcano, you know what I mean? So it gives us a lot of flexibility and the fact that with where we are, with little funds, we could do a ton.

What can viewers expect for the rest of the series?

Gries: Surprise after surprise after surprise. I’m not kidding you, it’s different every time!
Rutherford: Yeah it really is. I mean there’s this kind of thread of these different guest stars coming in and getting their therapy as our relationship progresses and as the interrelationships between Joey and Ahmed and…Randy–Randy’s arm gets cut off (laughs)–
Gries: There are things that happen, there’s a continuity within the core group and yet at the same time it’s absolutely ridiculous what happens–but it still stays, it still answers that continuity. And yet the people that come, the patients that come, their stories individually are so different from week to week that it just gives us a whole other area to run through.
Rutherford: yeah There’s like a couples therapy–a gay couple comes in to get like couples therapy. June squibb comes in to quit smoking but then finds out that really just she just wants to have sex.
Gries: And have a baby–and she’s never had sex in her life.
Rutherford: So Roberts appeases that in the dream world–
Gries: You know he says, it’s been a while!

Dream Corp LLC is on tonight and every Sunday on Adult Swim at 11:45pm, with the premiere episode currently streaming at AdultSwim.com

For photos from Adult Swim and many more NYCC panels, make sure to check out our Facebook page!

 

Ballers set to return this summer

Dwayne Johnson is back as the ex-NFL star striving to find success off the pitch as a financial manager for the biggest “Ballers” in Miami. The hit HBO show will return this summer and promises to be bigger and better than before. The first season of the show received widespread critical acclaim, with a rather impressive 80% score on Rotten Tomatoes, and the premier for the new season is due to be screened on July 17.

To those unfamiliar with the show, you don’t need to be a football fan to be able to get into it. In fact, it is only loosely based on the actual sport, and instead has greater focus on the lives and conflicts surrounding players, agents and managers. As it is set in Miami, the Miami Dolphins are a primary focus in the series. The Dolphins are well known globally, and have appeared on screen before in “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective”. However, their fortunes on the field have not been so impressive of late and, at the time of writing, in the Bet365 NFL odds they are 50/1 to win the Super Bowl.

The finale of season one of “Ballers” brought closure to a number of conflicts, but also planted seeds for new potential storylines. Wide receiver Ricky Jerret (John David Washington) called out his absentee father in a news broadcast. However, his father insisted he had done the right thing in deserting him at an early age, as it stirred up anger and emotions in his son that ended up making him a ferocious force on the field of play.

We also witnessed the return of Vernon’s cousin, Reggie (London Brown). As a massive troublemaker, Reggie is one of the most hated characters on the show. Some Reddit users on a “I Hate Reggie” thread have even suggested that Johnson should use his famous wrestling move, “the Rock Bottom”, on Reggie in the show. In the season finale though, Reggie was seemingly able to put his ego aside when he admitted that Johnson’s character, Spencer Strasmore, knew best. However, we will have to wait and see if this is just part of a play.

The tagline for the new season is “You’re no one until you have enemies”, with Andy Garcia playing the enemy in question. Bringing in a powerhouse actor that has taken on major roles in “The Untouchables” and “The Godfather Part III”, among other massive hits, could boost ratings significantly. Garcia’s character is the biggest powerhouse in the game, and Strasmore is warned not to cross him. However, it seems unlikely that Strasmore will heed this advice, and it could come down to an epic showdown between the two.  Judging from the trailer for the new season (see above), there should be plenty of humor, action and fast cars. All of this, along with another set of compelling storylines, means the second installment should be as well-received as the debut season.

Owain Yeoman on the New Season of “Turn: Washington’s Spies”

4/20/2016 The cast and creators of “Turn” at the New York Historical Society

Haven’t you heard? American history is so hot right now, you guys. Between Hamilton dominating Broadway and our electoral cycle being, for better or worse, completely unprecedented, now’s as good a time as any to look back to where it all began. “Turn: Washington’s Spies” returns Mondays on AMC for its third season so you may do exactly that. “Turn,” based on a book by Alexander Rose, follows the Culper Ring, an unlikely batch of spies from Long Island who helped George Washington turn the tide of the American Revolution. After two strong seasons—which, for you binge-watchers out there, are both currently streaming on Netflix!—the third looks to be the most exciting yet. There will be the addition of their own Hamilton and more importantly, the infamous defection of Benedict Arnold.

Owain Yeoman

Originally an American war hero for his decisive actions at the Battle of Saratoga, an injured Arnold was passed over for promotions he believed were his due and eventually his bitterness swayed him into the service of the British. On the show, Arnold is played with humanity by Welsh actor Owain Yeoman as part of a love triangle that involves romantic rival, and British spymaster, John Andre (JJ Feild) and beautiful loyalist Peggy Shippen (Ksenia Solo). Yeoman was part of a premiere screening panel last week at the New York Historical Society where I talked to him about today’s politics and the exciting times to come for his role on the show.

Lauren Damon: When you’re working on a show like this and at the same time watching this year’s election, does it have a greater impact on you?

Owain Yeoman: It’s very interesting I think, the parallels between—and I think it’s something that the show is consciously trying to market this year, is the, you know the parallels between the Red states and the Blue states and how things, depressingly, probably haven’t changed for a few hundred years. You know, we’ve still got the same old gripes and the same old battles. I think it’s very smart of AMC also to kind of market a you know, “WWGWD?”—What Would George Washington Do?—type campaign… And it’s true, he’s the father of our nation, of this nation, not necessarily my nation! [laughs] But you know the nation that I’ve come to call home. And I think it’s incredible how the show really does speak to the current political climate. And we couldn’t be more in the sort of fervor of it all with [the New York primary vote] going on here last night. So I think that’s our hope, that people really see that though hundreds of years have gone by, the themes and relationships and political climate is definitely still the same.

LD: This season is really your season, getting into Benedict’s treachery, is that exciting for you?

OY: Very exciting! Yeah, I mean like I’m finally becoming the traitor I always hoped I’d be! [laughs] It’s kind of a dubious prospect. He’s one of the those characters who when you tell people who you’re playing, they’re like ‘Oh you’re playing That Guy, I’m sorry’ but it’s a great challenge. I love discovering a more human side to him because I think you know he’s known very one-sidedly as America’s biggest traitor and there’s so much more to him. He was a great hero, the hero of Saratoga, and he was a real person. And I think if you approach something in that black and white area and don’t have the gray area that is real life, it doesn’t do someone justice. So that’s what we’re concerned about, showing the journey that gets him to be that guy.

LD: Yes in grade school history he was definitely The Bad Guy.

Peggy Shippen and Benedict Arnold on “Turn: Washington’s Spies”

OY: Yeah, it’s like ‘Ooooh it’s Benedict Arnold!’ Yeah and I think you know that it’s important to understand that he was one of America’s greatest generals before he became the famous traitor. And I think you only get a sense of the drama and the tragedy of that turn if you establish him as the general that he was before that fall. So you know hopefully people can get invested in that, and people can be you know, sort of see a different side to the character than maybe grade school taught us about, you know?

LD: As on the show, is there on-set any rivalry between you and JJ Feild?

OY: Oh always! [laughs] Yeah, I mean we’ve got a fierce love triangle that really comes to a head—no pun intended you know ’cause someone loses theirs at some point [laughs], history’s the ultimate spoiler for this show so I don’t feel bad about saying that. But yeah, it’s one of those things where you know, the stakes are high. In love, in the political climate, international climate. And this show—this season is the season [creator Craig Silverstein] said he always wanted to make. So all the big stuff’s happening this year, it is the Don’t-Miss Season.

Ian Kahn (“George Washington”) and Owain Yeoman (“Benedict Arnold”) at the New York Historical Society

This Don’t-miss season of Turn: Washington’s Spies starts Monday April 25th at 10pm on AMC.

Tom Hiddleston and Susanne Bier Premiere AMC’S The Night Manager

Tom Hiddleston and Olivia Colman in “The Night Manager”

“The Night Manager” recently completed its first series run in the UK to much critical acclaim and strong ratings throughout. Fortunately for American viewers, the series gets its stateside premiere tonight on AMC. Based on John Le Carré’s 1993 novel of the same name, “The Night Manager” follows Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) an ex-soldier-turned-titular-customer-serviceman in a posh Egyptian hotel. He’s presented with the opportunity to help British Intelligence agent Angela Burr (Broadchurch’s Olivia Colman) take down jet-setty guest and illegal arms dealer Richard Roper (a superbly sinister Hugh Laurie) from the inside of his operation out. Outraged by Roper’s behavior, and with some very personal motivations as well, Pine swiftly accepts. What follows is a taut spy thriller that features an amazing cast that also includes Elizabeth Debicki and Tom Hollander.

The series premiere screened this weekend as part of the Tribeca Tune In series celebrating television. I caught up with Hiddleston and director of the series, Susanne Bier, for a quick chat on their red carpet.

Susanne Bier is an Oscar winning director (2011’s Best Foreign Language film, In a Better World) who was eager to take on this project in any capacity. “Well I mean, this project I would have done had it been a puppet show!” Bier enthused, “Because I love John Le Carre and I love the novel. But I was also very tempted to do TV. I mean the format of doing six hours as opposed to two hours was just really tempting and really interesting and compelling.”

With the show having already gone over so well in England, Bier was looking forward to opening it up to a new audience and maybe a new perspective on it:  “I think there’s always different perspectives. I mean American audiences are responding just as [excitedly] about it up til now, so I hope so!”

One of the chief changes made from the novel to the series was the switching of British Intelligence agent Burr from a male to a female character. For Bier “Part of it was updating it. Part of it was the fact that by updating it we could take it out of the sort of public school white heterosexual world and maybe actually have a bit of the diversity which is where the world is actually at.” And of the brilliant Olivia Colman, the director added: “And she was absolutely the right choice for it!”

Tom Hiddleston

With Tom Hiddleston‘s Pine reporting to Olivia Colman’s Burr, I wondered if the actor saw a pattern of his recent projects whereby his characters’ fate was in the hands of his strong female leads (Such as Jessica Chastain in Crimson Peak or Tilda Swinton in Only Lovers Left Alive) . Hiddleston—who, it must be said gave thoughtful answers to the entirety of this NYC press line— took some time to reflect on those roles before answering  “I haven’t thought about it consciously in the work. I mean…it seems very true to life, doesn’t it? For men to be in relationship to women? [laughs]” He paused again, “I don’t know that they are, how was it you phrased it? Their ‘fates were in the hands of women’–it’s an interesting interpretation!…It rings true to me that each character would have specific relationships to women, but I would never—I would have to think about it longer to think of it whether his fate were in their hands…It is a new interpretation and I’m not disagreeing with you. My point is I think everyone is responsible for their own actions and that responsibility in each of those characters is shared out. I think Pine’s responsible for what he does and he would never discredit Burr by saying that [the mission] was her idea. He does things on his own volition that he’s responsible for and Pine’s fate is in Pine’s hands.”

As for looking back on his recent characters, he did stipulate: “The only instance who I would say that you brought up is [Crimson Peak’s] Thomas Sharpe who is governed by a very toxic relationship with his sister and out of the sense of duty and codependency he feels trapped. But again, his fates not in her hands, I just would question…I suppose I’m being pedantic about phrasing. But I think everyone’s fate is in their own hands.”

Hiddleston not only stars in “The Night Manager” but he took on the more demanding role of executive producing as well which he “loved,” adding “It recomitted my engagement with the material in a very serious way. I loved the extra responsibility. Responsible for the story, for the script, for the thing running on time and it just gives you greater–to me–the extra responsibility made me give even more commitment. So yeah, hoping there will be more of that.”

The Night Manager premieres tonight at 10pm on AMC.

Black Sails’s Ray Stevenson on Playing Blackbeard

When Starz’s Emmy-winning series “Black Sails” returns for its third season, the usual inhabitants of Nassau are set to be joined by the iconic pirate Black Beard. Black Beard (real name Edward Teach) cut an striking figure on the seas of the 17th and 18th century, often relying on theatrically in his attacks to further intimidate his enemies. Many of his flourishes were the basis for the way piracy was portrayed in pop culture thereafter. At 6’4″, Irish actor Ray Stevenson (HBO’s “Rome”, Punisher: War Zone, the Thor films) can certainly fill the shoes of that scary scallywag on screen while being completely affable and a joy to chat with when he sat down with me at this year’s New York Comic Con.

Lauren Damon: I’m a huge Marvel nerd, so of course I’ve seen you as Volstagg [In the Thor movies]–
Ray Stevenson:You saw a lot of me! [laughs]
So I was wondering going from that to Black Beard, have you nailed down the ‘beard acting’ between these characters?

Stevenson: Well you know it’s more about beard preparation. That you just sort of you know like abandon hope as you go into the makeup room. Just like say ‘alright…‘ Yeah ’cause it was about the same time. Cause again, that magnificent Volstagg beard was like this one, was individual pieces. And it’s almost like strand by strand it’s laid on. But the horrible thing is that you’re up at four in the morning, and you get in there about half past four or something and it’s still dark. And it’s just your body’s screaming that nobody should be up at this time. You should be going home. And you lie down and the first thing they do–you’re obviously clean-shaved–so you’re shaved. And then they slap glue on your face. They basically paint your whole face with tacky tacky glue and it just…never feels good. You never get used to that. And then it’s this sticky sticky stabby process.

But I am–I wasn’t freaked out by it. I was kind of used to it. Yeah so as far as ‘beard acting’ is concerned, yeah. The only thing I did this time was that it was my mustache. Which was fine when you’re shooting and then when you’re not shooting, walking around with this massive sort of handlebar mustache which I’ll never do again [laughs] because it was neither one nor the other. It wasn’t me, it wasn’t the character. So it was fine when we were shooting. So this time they’ll have to provide that as well. I tried it.

Playing one of the most notorious pirates of all time, what steps did you take to make it unique and what steps did you take to research so you’re true to the character?

Stevenson: There’s a lot of research available, a lot of material on the character itself. Which is a double-edged sword as well because like all these things, history is a thing that is written by the victors…It’s like the American cowboys, that whole civilization of ‘the Wild West’ and all this that was sent back east to titillate over and get excited about and stuff like this. So there’s a lot of that going on at that period. They were writing about you know, “Ye Olde Pirates” and cutthroats and all this. So in amongst that, there’s a thread that you can glean.

And obviously there was some serious historians trying to put this stuff together. There comes a point where, with everything, you have to push all that sort of general knowledge aside sort of thing and concentrate on the script. Because ultimately you’re playing the script. And what you could bring to it was there was–and what’s beautifully portrayed I think in the series–is it’s much more about the man. The myth and the legend has already been established. So he’s coming in as ‘Blackbeard’…This is not about him establishing his legend.

He’s…it’s like if you have Keith Richards walk in a bar, and there’s guys there and they go like ‘He used to play the guitar…’ You know what I mean? It’s like he walks in and there’s guy in the tavern going [hushed voice] ‘He used to be a pirate, you know what I mean?‘ It’s just, he has that effect. He has that charisma. You wouldn’t actually lock eyes with him. He just carries that with him. And carries from, not out of bluster I think, because that’s it. He’s earned it.

And so you’ve got a guy who’s–you’re trying to play somebody who has got that presence and that charisma. It’s like unleashing a kraken, he just turns up. If he looks at you, you sort of…it puts you straight on edge. You go ‘well, why is he lookin’ at me? Am I glad he’s looking at me? Or am I not?’ I mean…so a lot of it is done in subtleties and in the writing. And then when he engages with the likes of Rackham and Vane and what have you, he knows what he’s bringing with him as well. And also he’s got quite a bit to say.

So the research and all this is great to a point, but obviously you have to avoid the fact that he was from Bristol. And so that heavy Bristolian accent unfortunately is the big cod accent that most people they think about when they think ‘pirates’. That sort of you know ‘ARRR‘ and all this sort of stuff. Whereas the Bristolian accent is wonderful and rich, BUT it would lend itself towards you know perhaps that sort of assumption of you know, getting a little too cod piratey. But that’s not what it was about. But it was the essence of the man from Bristol, who was actually a tremendous strategist and seaman and captain. And knew all about the power of display. And that’s why he would dress the way he did. He was 6’3″-6’4″. In the 1720s, that man was a colossus, he was a giant. So he basically knew about the theatre of putting that effect on so that the other ships they were after would just hopefully capitulate. Because there was no loss of life and they’d get all the booty and everybody’s happy, there’s no bloodshed, he didn’t lose any crew members living off the legend. And maintaining his prowess. It’s a strange thing to try to make that balance but ultimately you’re playing you know, you’re serving the piece. You’re playing the drama itself.

Between this and “Rome”, Thor and other roles, you have all this weapons training. At this point do you have a preference? Do you feel more comfortable with one or…

Stevenson: [Laughs] The one’s that win! No, because they all–it’s amazing working with the weapons guys. Like on Punisher[:War zone] we worked with the Marines and also with some Force Recon guys and they were just…I mean I wanted to make sure we didn’t have those, you know the old Hollywood guns that never ran out of bullets. So I mean–and GI Joe as well–there were mag reloads and all sorts of stuff. You want to do it enough times so that it becomes automatic. Because sometimes, like with Punisher especially, a lot of the people that watch it, maybe they’re going to be the army guys. Who are training and training and training and they’re going to see something like, even your hand position on your weapon, the use of the weapons, the reload, and they’re gonna say ‘Do you know what, that’s we’ve been doing…‘…So they’re not thinking like ‘Ehh he knows nothing.‘ That sort of authenticity.

The weapons training obviously with things like [The Three] Musketeers, thigh-killing training. Because it’s a certain type of sword fighting. Which anybody who goes to the gym I think they dread, ‘And now, lunges!’ Well that’s what it all is. But it’s lunges with intent. I think when you’re working with weaponry, I work harder than when I ever work at a gym. Because it’s fun. And you’re basically working on a choreographed dance as well. So you’re doing all this extra work. At the end of the day, you’re just shaking like jelly. I never– I’m never at the gym like that. But because you’re rendering your hand and you’re learning these set pieces and moves…I mean ultimately the person is the weapon. That’s what you learn throughout all the weapons training, no matter what period it is, the real weapon is the person behind it. And you know, if you get that right, then how you handle the weapons is just second-nature.

How is the dynamic between Blackbeard and the other alpha male characters–Vane and Flint–but also if you go deeper than that with some of the other characters?

Stevenson: Well he does because coming back to Nassau, after such a protracted period away, he’s got his own reasons for coming back in. I think it’s a lot to do with the lack of a son and an heir apparent. Even after eight marriages, eight wives, there’s no son. And the closest thing he has to any of that would be this pirate captain who he mentored, which is Charles Vane. And to see if there is–is there anything left? Is there any relationship? Because in this period in history–because there were nothing like the numbers of people we have on the planet now and a man’s standing and his status and his legend that he leaves behind was the most important thing. If you lost status in life, pffft! That was it. You may as well throw yourself off the top of your rock. So to see if there was any spark of something that you know, could be reignited.

But what happens when he arrives back in Nassau, he sees that–and this is what he says to Rackham and Vane–he looks around and he says ‘I see what you’ve done, you’ve basically done the worst thing ever, you’ve made it prosperous You’ve turned them soft, there’s no pirates around’ Because they’ve all got their money…He basically comes back and holds them right up and says ‘What?!’ And of course, because it’s him, this sets in motion a sort of–it’s a real dressing down. And we’ll see the dynamic as to whether or not–because this is very much a kind of father-son relationship, or you know heir apparent with Vane, and how that plays out. And that’s what I love about…couched in all this world of ships and the huge set pieces and the galleys and a the fights and the battles, and all this sort of stuff, there is this real human condition of father-son, mentor, founding member, one of the original drafters of the pirate charter and walking living sort of legend. That people sort of stop their breath, the last thing they expect to see is this guy walking into a tavern or walking down one of the streets. He has that effect which he’ll use to great effect. And if challenged, he’ll meet it out swiftly…

And then the relationship with Flint is dealt with very well. Like they’re kept at a kind of distance initially because we’re establishing other things and Flint’s away…And then there is a coming together, ultimately, of course, right? And that’s all I can tell you about that. We’ll see!

How about some of the female characters?
Stevenson: How about some of the females? Aren’t they great! How about those girls? [laughing]
I mean, you know, look, he’s from a different era and he has his own, he has a long standing sort of thing with one woman who you get to meet. And where he’s off the island of Nassau and he’s actually on some spit of land or some island somewhere…it’s probably only on his maps where he goes with his crew. Where he–he basically sees these islands as launchpads not as new states or new societies. Next thing you know, he says these pirates will be farming, they’ll be setting up law-courts, they’ll be setting up judicial…and then where are you? He basically lives by example and shames people around him and with the Guthries, he’s got no love lost with the Guthries.

Black Sails season three premieres on Starz Saturday January 23rd at 9pm.

Creator & Stars of Adult Swim’s “Neon Joe: Werewolf Hunter” Speak at NYCC

Written & photographed by Elizabeth Phillips

On Monday, December 7th, Adult Swim will premiere a new live-action mini-series called Neon Joe: Werewolf Hunter. The show will air for five consecutive nights, ending Friday, December 11th. The story follows Neon Joe, a mysterious man with a talent for hunting werewolves. Set in the pretend town of Garrity, Vermont, the town finds itself in trouble after a round of werewolf attacks and calls on Neon Joe for help.

At the 2015 New York City Comic Con, Media Mikes was able to sit down with lead actor and creator, Jon Glaser (Girls, Parks and Recreation), as well as several other cast members from the show, including Scott Adsit (30 Rock, Big Hero Six), Stephanie March (Law and Order: Special Victims Unit), Steve Little (Eastbound & Down), and Steve Cirbus (Delocated), to discuss the upcoming series.

Elizabeth Phillips: How did the idea for this show come about?

GLASER:
I was a guest on Jimmy Fallon to talk about my previous show, Delocated. I took some clothes that I owned- I did a neon yellow hoodie, a knit hat from american apparel, and these Coors Light sweatpants, and I paired them arbitrarily and just went on the show, and I said “I’m really sad that Delocated is done, but I’m excited about my next project. It’s called Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter, and I’m dressed as the character right now. That’s really all we have at the moment, but we’re excited to figure it out.” It was one hundred percent a joke. It was not real. I mean, I treated it like it was a real thing, but I thought it was obvious it was a joke. There was no ideas. It wasn’t a passion project- it was just coming from this arbitrary joke, and Adult Swim said, “Why don’t you write a pilot of it?” I love that that’s where this show came from. It’s one of the things that I’m most excited about. There was no attempt to do anything but make a dumb joke on a talk show, and now it’s turned into this, which i think is super cool.”

EP: Is there anything else like this on television?

CIRBUS: I don’t think there’s anything else like it on TV. Neon Joe is a werewolf hunter that wears neon, so that werewolves know where he is. He’s not afraid of the werewolves. He comes into a situation- in this world, nobody believes in werewolves. It’s not like we have werewolves running around. He shows up, and he says, “Hey, guess what, small-town USA? You have a werewolf, and I get rid of them.”

ADSIT: I trusted all the creative minds behind it, and I also love Adult Swim. The people in charge there really see the people who create shows as artists and let them do their art. They think of these creators as auteurs who are allowed to express themselves. That’s unique.

EP: What is the balance between the wackiness and seriousness in the show?

MARCH: I feel our characters take themselves very seriously. I don’t think anybody was winking to camera or goofing off. We were all playing different people, and we were really committed to being those people. I haven’t often had an opportunity to work on something that is so wacky and so fun and so loose- almost never actually, so I couldn’t not do it. It was too good an opportunity. I certainly had a good time doing it!

CIRBUS: I think what makes the humor in John’s work and the collaboration of Glaser with PFFR is that it’s always rooted in some sort of truth. The humor is born out of fairly non-sensical human situations moving to a very terrifying situation, or conversely a very human situation that just goes sour for whatever reason, and that strikes a chord, a funny chord.

LITTLE: I feel like it’s played real, just, you know, there’s werewolves. I mean I’m sure there’s a guy that wears neon somewhere in some bad neighborhood because he’s not scared, and that’s Neon Joe- just not in the world of werewolves or bed and breakfasts.”

Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter will air Monday, December 7th through Friday, December 11th on Adult Swim.

Grace Phipps talks about her new film, “Some Kind of Hate” and TV’s “Scream Queens”

Texas-born Grace Phipps is best known for her work on the ABC Family show “The Nine Lives of Chloe King” and as April Young on “The Vampire Diaries.”

This month she can be seen on both the big and small screen. Her new film, “Some Kind of Hate,” opened this week in theatres while her latest television project, “Scream Queens,” debuts on September 22. Grace took time out from her schedule to talk about her new projects.

Mike Smith: Give us a quick introduction to Kaitlin, your character in “Some Kind of Hate.”
Grace Phipps: Kaitlin is the typical American cheerleader turned sour. She was very fun to play. It’s not often that you get to play a complicated, and occasionally unlikable, character.

MS: Is that something that drew you to the role?
GP: Yes. It was a good script. When you get a good script that’s something remarkable.

MS: You seem to be drawn to these types of roles. You’ve done “Vampire Diaries” and now you’re about to appear in “Scream Queens.” Intentional?
GP: I don’t think I really do that. But I do like working with a lot of different circumstances. You don’t normally wake up to terrible things, so it’s much more fun to do that then be the girl working at the bank or opening and closing her locker. But a good script…a different script…helps spark a conversation.

MS: You’re appearing in the upcoming series “Scream Queens.” Is that going to be a recurring role? And, if so, can you talk about it?
GP: I don’t think I’m allowed to say. I don’t even get the complete script. I can tell you that, with what I’ve read and seen, the show is going to be absolutely brilliant. A lot of the crew are the same I worked with when I was doing “The Nine Lives of Chloe King.” It looks really, really good.

Atticus Shaffer talks about Season 6 of “The Middle”

Photo credit: Vince Trupsin

Atticus Shaffer plays the role of the quirky yet loveable Brick on ABC’s hit sitcom “The Middle”. The series also stars actress Patricia Heaton and actor Neil Flynn and was recently picked up for a seventh season. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Atticus prior to the season 6 finale where he discussed his involvement with the show since its original pilot, his thoughts on the Heck Families changing dynamics and what he does to keep himself busy outside of the show.

Adam Lawton: What has it been like for you having been involved with the show since the original series and now going into the finale of season 6?
Atticus Shaffer: Even though this is the finale of season 6 going back to that first original pilot I have been with the show now around 7 or 8 years. This was one of those projects that from the very start I wanted to work out. I have hoped for the best from the very start. Even after the first pilot didn’t get picked up there was this lingering that it wasn’t over. After sometime a second pilot was put together and we got it that time. There was this energy on set where everyone where we were looking forward to the next episode and subsequently the next season. We always just kept moving forward. Now with season 6 over we are past the point of syndication so we were all thinking that this could potentially be it. To find out we got picked up for another season is a huge blessing. I am really excited not only for what the writers have in store for Brick but for the show as a whole.

AL: Having played the Brick character for so long now what type of things do you do to still challenge yourself as an actor in that role?
AS: You always hear about people getting stuck in a certain character and being unable to break away from that. It’s something that is very true. When you are playing a character eight months out of the year things almost start to become robotic. Some days you might be shooting scenes where you don’t have a lot going on so you’re just sort of going through the motions and then you go home. It’s great when the writers throw me a bone because I completely dedicate myself to what they have done. It’s me just focusing on portraying the character the best I can. Something that I think has helped from the very beginning is my voice over work which I do outside of the show. I love animation and fortunately a lot of those studios are in close proximity to where we shoot “The Middle”. I often will get done working on the series and then go down the street and get to do some voice over work.  For the first three years of the show I was also doing voice work on “Frankenweenie” at the same time. Starting during season two I was also doing “Fish Hooks” as well. I have what I like to call my “pallet cleansers” which keeps me fresh. I have done a lot of cool voice roles which has helped me during my in between times on the series. I just found out recently that I will be doing voice work for one of the main five characters on a new Disney series which will be announced in the near future. It’s a really great opportunity that I am very excited about. I have my live action series family and now I have my voice over series family. It’s really great to be a part of both.

AL: How has Brick in season 6 compared to the Brick we have seen in previous season?
AS: This season Brick has matured quite a lot both emotionally and mentally. Instead of being the eye in the storm character whose very matter of fact he puts more work into things now. It’s cool to be able to see Brick mature and now he of course has a girlfriend. Brick is now finding the people who understand him. While his family still of course understands him he has been able to explain to them more about his thoughts and feelings. But again Brick is also finding social circle to where he can talk about the same types of things outside his home. It’s interesting to see him mature but at the same time he’s still classic Brick.

AL: With Axl and Sue both being out of the house now going into season 7 how do you feel the family dynamics will change in the Heck household?
AS: With both of those characters out of the house I had been thinking of what that would mean for Brick and how the writers would approach things. This can be sort of a blessing and a curse. It certainly can open up the door for a number of different story lines however the family might not be as close of a unit with less people now so that can certain impact things. I think it would be cool if Brick continues to mature and keeps finding people he can relate to which ultimately helps him develop a really tight knit friend group that he can be with when he is not at home.

AL: Are you able to bring these types of ideas to the writers for consideration?
AS: In the very beginning the writers had specific story lines that they wanted the characters to follow. Around season 4 most of those lines had been used and they start looking for different ideas and input. Every year I sit down with the creators of the show and talk about the plans for the character. I like to be aware of what’s going on with Brick so we talk about some of the episodes and then I give my ideas of what I think might be a cool way to go with

things. Most of the time they may not use the ideas but every once in awhile they give me something and I get really excited. It’s one of those things that can be tough but at the same time its fun to see what they come up with.

AL: Where do you feel fans will be left at the close of season 6?
AS: I think it’s one of those thing where if we hadn’t been officially picked up for a 7th season it would be very easy for people to panic thinking we left them on a cliff hanger. From here on out I think the episodes will include everything but the kitchen sink. I think the end of this season will certainly leave people with questions however they can sort of breathe a sigh of relief knowing that there is more to come next season.

Titus Welliver talks about his new series on Amazon “Bosch”

Titus Welliver has appeared in numerous film and television series including “The Town”, “Sons of Anarchy” and “Transformers: Age of Extinction”. Titus’s latest role is that of Harry Bosch in Amazon.com’s first original drama “Bosch”.  Taken from the pages of Michael Connelly’s book series “Bosch” looks to be a break out hit for the websites first on screen venture. Media Mikes spoke with Titus recently about his role in the series and what it’s been like working with Amazon to make “Bosch” stand out above the rest.

Adam Lawton: What can you tell us about the new series and your character Harry Bosch?
Titus Welliver: Harry is a LAPD homicide detective who we meet at a difficult point in his career. Right off the bat we meet him while he is in the middle of a civil suit for shooting a serial killer. While this is going on he gets called to a scene where the remains of a young child have been found. Upon viewers first meeting Harry they will see that he certainly has a lot on his plate.

AL: What was it that sparked your interest about the project?
TW: In the past I have played my share of cops in both film and television. What really drew me to the character was that he is not a cookie cutter or contrived type of character. All too often these characters are written as overly heroic and hard as nails. What’s interesting about the Harry Bosch character is that he is a very human character. He is flawed and vulnerable yet very driven with a strong moral compass. He’s not a political animal as he is very much an advocate for the victims. Harry wants justice for people which makes him a very myopic character. I find a number of different aspects of the character quite intriguing.

AL: Going in to the project were you familiar with the book series?
TW: I had read one of the books many years ago. It certainly stuck with me as easily remembered the character. I have friends who are big fans of the series as well. When I was cast in the role the first thing I really had to do was dive in to the role. I was working on “Transformers 4” at the same time so there wasn’t a lot of prep time. I read “City of Bones” and “The Concrete” blond which are the two books the pilot episode sort of are focused around. I have the other books as well so when I have some free time I work on those. There are a lot of nuances in the books that I have been able to pull out and use in my portrayal of the character.

AL: Were you given specific guidelines for the character or were you free to develop your own interpretation of the role?

TW: There isn’t a huge deviation from who the character is in the books. A bit of the freedom we have being with Amazon is that we aren’t tied to the same rules as a standard network show. We are able to curse and show a bit more graphic content. With that being when you have that freedom and you make decisions based on just because you can I find that to be a weak move. However people also have to understand that cops do not speak like Boy Scouts. The realism depicted in the books gets a little grittier in the visualization so I think in that way it might be a bit stronger and edgier. The world Bosch inhabits is a fairly dark place as he is not a meter maid. He is dealing with the dregs of society.

AL: Besides the freedoms you already mentioned how has working with Amazon compared to that of network series you have been involved with?
TW: Besides what I mentioned already we are not pandering to the small screen. The show is shot in a cinema type scope which typically you don’t see in network television. There are shows out there like “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” certainly have larger elements to them but when I got to see ‘Bosch” on a large screen for me it was almost more enjoyable. What’s being shot isn’t the standard of what you see in network television. In essence you are seeing ten one hour films. I think there is a lot to be said about the shows look. These guys working on this have great cinematic eyes.

AL: Do you feel these types of attributes will make the series stand out from other shows with similar subject matter?
TW: I think those things are certainly a part of it. Harry Bosch isn’t the guy who solves the case in an episode or two. The journey of this show is what makes it interesting. The story is really told through Bosch’s eyes. As Harry is experiencing things the viewer is also seeing those same things almost in real time with him. I think that makes the show more engaging. The show feels like your reading the book.

AL: Do you have any other new projects you liked to mention?
TW: I had a film come out recently with Ron Pearlman called “Poker Night”. It’s sort of a thriller/serial killer film. It also features Giancarlo Esposito and Ron Eldard. I have a few other things that I am looking at while we are waiting to hear if we have the go to start on season 2 of “Bosch”. I have also started writing a film. I can’t really say too much about that just yet as it is still in the very early stages.