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

Blu-ray Review “Escape Plan”

Actors: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jim Caviezil
Directors: Mickael Hafstrom
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Summit Inc/Lionsgate
Release Date: February 4, 2014
Run Time: 115 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

“Escape Plan” is an action fans dream come true bringing legends Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger together in one film. I know they were in “The Expendables” films together but that felt more like a cameo. “Escape Plan” is pure escapism. It is quite intense and definitely action-packed thriller. It also features an impressive supporting cast including Jim Caviezel (TV’s “Person of Interest”), Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson (“Fire with Fire”), Sam Neill (“Jurassic Park”), Vinnie Jones (“X-Men: The Last Stand”) and Vincent D’Onofrio (TV’s “Law and Order: Criminal Intent”). Recommended for sure to all 80’s action fan boys. These action stars are in their 60’s but they still kick-ass.

Official Premise: One of the world’s foremost authorities on structural security agrees to take on one last job: breaking out of an ultra-secret, high-tech facility called “The Tomb.” Deceived and wrongly imprisoned, Ray Breslin (Stallone) must recruit fellow inmate Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) to help devise a daring, nearly impossible plan to escape from the most protected and fortified prison ever built.

“Escape Plan” is quite the beast of a film. It cost $70 million and it looks quite awesome.  It arrives on Blu-ray as a combo pack with Blu-ray + DVD and Digital HD UltraViolet. The 1080p transfer really looks great and the high-tech prison is very polished looking. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track works great with the non-stop action and even work up my daughter upstairs (sorry sweetie). When it comes to these action films you cannot help it but amp it up to 11 and test to see what these audio tracks can do.

In terms of special features, the film packs some decent extras. There is an audio commentary with Director Mikael Hafstrom and Co-Writer Miles Chapman. A little technical but still informative. There are three featurettes are included. “Executing the Plan: The Making of Escape Plan” goes behind-the-scenes in the production. “Maximum Security: The Real-Life Tomb” looks into how they built this prison. “Clash of the Titans” looks into bring our two leads together. Lastly there are a few Deleted Scenes included.

Faran Tahir talks about roles in “Elysium” and “Escape Plan”

When both you’re mother and father are well known in the theater it’s almost guaranteed that you will follow in their footsteps. Faran Tahir was born in Los Angeles while both of his parents studied acting and directing at UCLA. After completing their studies the family returned to their native Pakistan where they both established prominent careers. His father, Naeem, currently serves as the Director General of the Pakistan National Council of the Arts. Returning the America at age 17, Tahir attended the University of California at Berkley, where he graduated with a BA in Theater. He later earned his Graduate Degree at Harvard.

He made his feature film debut in Disney’s live action telling of “The Jungle Book” and is best known for his roles in “Iron Man” and J.J. Abrams re-boot of “Star Trek.” He also has a recurring role on TNT’s new incarnation of the popular television drama “Dallas.” Later this year he will be seen opposite Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger film “Escape Plan.” This week he stars as the President alongside Matt Damon and Jodie Foster in Neill Blomkamp’s “Elysium.” I recently spoke with Mr. Tahir, touching on his new films, his love of science-fiction and working with his parents.

Mike Smith: You’ve done a lot of sci-fi/fantasy genre’ projects: “Lost,” “Star Trek,” “Warehouse 13” and now “Elysium.” Is that something you enjoy? Do you intentionally seek out those projects?
Faran Tahir: I do enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun. I think it’s thought provoking. I think it tickles the imagination. And I like the fact that those kind of stories have very high stakes. Part of it is because I come from a theater background. If you’ve done any theater…any Shakespeare or Greek tragedy…the stakes are as high. I like the theatricality of science fiction. Do I seek it out? Yes, I do seek it out but not at the expense of other genre’s or other kinds of stories. I try not to get too complacent. If I do too many bad guys I try to play a good guy. If I do too much science fiction I try to do something else. I try to keep as much of a balance as I possibly can. I have “Elysium,” which is science fiction. I have “Escape Plan,” which is an action movie. I have two independent features coming out. One is an emotional drama about two families losing their children in a mall explosion (“Torn”). I play the father of one of the families. The other is a supernatural thriller (“Sara’s Cell”). So yes, I do like science fiction but I also need to make sure that I don’t get pigeon holed in just that genre.

MS: Can you talk a little bit about your role in “Elysium?”
FT: Sure! Elysium is a space station. A Utopian space station where all good things happen. Cancer is cured. The temperature never goes above 75. All of that good stuff. All of the grunt work to support Elysium happens on Earth. So the people on Earth desire to get up to Elysium while the people on Elysium don’t want the people from Earth coming over. I play the newly elected President of Elysium. My character is a politician. He’s nuanced. He’s very careful about how he deals with issues. He doesn’t want to hurt his base supporters both on Elysium and on Earth. The counter to him is the secretary of defense, played by Jodie Foster. She has a totally different idea on how to deal with these issues. There’s a nice, dynamic tension between these two characters of how they’re going to deal with the issue of the Earth people trying to come in and what are the resolutions to the situation.

MS: Where you a fan of Neill Blomkamp’s previous film, “District 9?”
FT: I’m actually a fan of Neill! You can sense that he’s a very bright guy. What I love about his work, and it’s true for both “District 9” and “Elysium,” is that he takes a hot-button issue and then he just slightly bases it in the fictional zone. But not so far in the fictional zone where you lose connection to it. “District 9” was a statement on apartheid. “Elysium” deals with other hot-button issues, like elitism and immigration. You can swap the words “Elysium” and “Earth” for “Developed Country” and “Under-developed Country.” You can say “the US” and “Mexico” and have the same dynamics. He works with some really great premises and presents them in a really fun way. I feel blessed that I got to work with him because he is really and truly a genius. He doesn’t push…you know exactly what he wants…but he never pushes his vision. He lets the actors get there organically. He trusts that you will get there with his guidance.

MS: A real change of pace role is Frank Ashkani on “Dallas.” Any chance of you coming back next season?
FT: (laughs) Here’s what I have to say about that. The story goes that anything is possible in science-fiction and on soap operas. So we’ll see what happens. (laughs) I could come back as the twin brother of the character…we’ll see. I really don’t know yet.

MS: Both of your parents are well regarded actors and directors in the theater. Have you ever performed with them?
FT: I have, actually. Back home the first television show I did was with my mom, which was kind of interesting. I’ve been directed by my father. And what I loved about it was that, although they were my parents, they were also consummate professionals. They would completely turn that side off and deal with me just as an actor when you were in a scene with them or being directed by them. All of the domestic issues could just wait. And it was a great thing to learn how to leave all of that behind when you’re working on something.

MS: You mentioned “Escape Plan.” Can you give us a quick preview?
FT: “Escape Plan” comes out in October. It’s a prison escape picture. The three of us…Stallone, Schwarzenegger and I…break out of a prison together. It was a lot of fun.

MS: Anything after that and the two independent projects?
FT: No. Right now I’m concentrating on those projects. After that we’ll see.