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

Chantel Riley Talks About Broadway’s “The Lion King” and Her Role in the New Film “Race”

Born in Toronto, Chantel Riley’s path to stardom began when she realized she wasn’t doing what she truly wanted in her life. She is now. Since 2012 she has starred as Nala in the Broadway musical “The Lion King” and last year was able to take time off from the show to begin her movie career with a pivotal role in the new Jesse Owens bio-film RACE.

During a break in her busy schedule, Ms. Riley took the time to speak with me about the physicality of “The Lion King,” her role in RACE and why one day she hopes to be able to “ease on down the road!”

MIKE SMITH: Tell us a little bit about your background? How did you end up on Broadway?
CHANTEL RILEY: I’m originally from Toronto and I went to University in Toronto. After school I pretty much got a 9-5 job but after about a year and a half I realized it definitely wasn’t my thing. (laughs) Because I was a performer. I had taken dance lessons and I had grown up singing in my church. I just had an idea that something else was out there for me. I had no idea what it was but I knew I needed a change. A friend of mine told me about an open casting call they were having in Toronto for “The Lion King.” I had never auditioned for anything before in my life. This was my first time doing anything like this. So I went to the audition and got a few callbacks, which was very exciting. I had a couple well extended lunch breaks…I kept having to go downtown for these callbacks. A couple months later I got a call from my agent and they wanted me to audition to be part of the cast of “The Lion King” in Germany. So I flew to Germany, did the audition and booked the job on the spot. I did the show there for about a year and then I auditioned again for Julie Taymor, who directed “The Lion King” on Broadway, and was offered the role of Nala in New York on the Broadway stage. And here I am!

MS: So basically you’re just like Shirley Jones…you just show up and you’re on Broadway!
CR: (laughing) Exactly!

MS: You’ve portrayed Nala for quite a while now. Do you have to prepare anything special for yourself to keep the performance fresh? I can imagine doing the same thing 8 shows a week for a couple of years might get boring after awhile.
CR: Yes I do. I keep occupied by taking classes and making short films. These things keep me thinking outside the box. I also use what I learn from the classes and the films and bring it with me on the stage. It gives me a new sense at how I look at each performance every night. And this also gives me the chance to try something new. Every night we have a new audience. So it’s a great way for me to try new techniques and to find different ways of performing.

MS: I’ve never seen the show on Broadway but I’ve seen photos and the occasional video clip. It’s a lot more than just standing on a stage and singing. Is the show more difficult physically as opposed to musically?
CR: The show is very physical. We’re constantly on stage and we play lions and zebras and other animals. My role has me constantly running around. If Nala isn’t jumping on-stage she’s jumping off-stage. There’s a lot of activity. AND singing. I sing two songs in the show. We sing live and the dancers are moving non-stop. So it is a very physical show.

MS: You have an important role in the upcoming film RACE. What is your character’s relationship to Jesse Owens in the film?
CR: Quincella Nickerson was someone who was very close to Jesse Owens. She was not only his friend but a huge fan of his. She was a socialite whose father owned a huge insurance company in California. At that time that was pretty huge…that an African-American could be that affluent. She spent a lot of time with Jesse…attending parties and things. There were rumors going around that she and Jesse were engaged to be married. They spent a lot of time together. So we see a lot of that in the film…a lot of her in the film.

MS: If you could play one role on Broadway, either current or a show from the past, what would it be?
CR: Definitely Dorothy from “The Wiz.” I think that would be such a fun role. It would be so exciting. And it’s such fun music. That would be so much fun!

MS: What do you have coming up next?
CR: I’m working on a new short film with James Brown-Orleans, a fellow cast member from “The Lion King.” We’ve done a lot of short films together. Our most recent film, “Teacher’s Nightmare,” just won the Wendy’s International Short Film Award for Best Drama. That’s pretty cool.

Jamie Bamber talks about new role in “John Doe: Vigilante”

Most audiences are familiar with actor Jamie Bamber from his role as Apollo on the acclaimed television series “Battlestar Galactica” and its accompanying films. I was a huge admirer of his work on the UK version of “Law and Order.” This week Mr. Bamber appears as a man on trial for 33 serial killings in the new film, “John Doe: Vigilante.” While taking a break at home (with his dog) we spoke about the film and the change of pace casting.

Mike Smith: Hello and a belated Happy Birthday (Mr. Bamber recently turned 42 on April 3rd)
Jamie Bamber: That’s very kind, thank you.

MS: “John Doe: Vigilante” is such a change of pace role for you. What drew you to the project?
JB: Definitely it was the script. I just thought it was such an unusual script. It definitely addresses the view of the audience…without hitting them over the head and railroading them into having an outraged, bloodthirsty, justice-seeking mob opinion. I found the subject to be very threatening to society and civilization and goodness and everything like that. But then it shifts on you. Just as you’re being pulled into this mob response and losing your faith in justice, it changes your view on what that view is. It makes you feel reprehensible for going there. And I think it really does do that. When you watch the film… (Mr. Bamber’s dog starts barking) Sorry (more barking and whispering). Sorry. It was that very unusual script that drew me to the story.

MS: You’ve played quite a few likable characters in the past. Was the kind of character John Doe is part of your decision in taking the role?
JB: Definitely. You’re quite right. I’m often offered roles that are the decent guy in an extraordinary position. Actually, when I looked at this, I thought “this is an opportunity to do something very different.” And I thought that the guy was fundamentally a decent guy who ended up going on a very unusual journey. Some awful things have happened to him in circumstance and he has lost his moral anchor. But the places he goes to – the dark places – the extreme isolation he experiences behind the mask and when he’s in prison – those are the opportunities to play things I hadn’t played before. And I greatly enjoyed the challenge.

MS: You’ve done quite a bit of both film and television work, do you have a preference? Do you prepare differently as an actor for a film role as opposed to a television role?
JB: They’re both so wonderfully different and yet so wonderfully the same. They both use cameras and the cameras help tell the stories but there’s something about television where you get to watch the stories unravel and go on and become more and more complex. And that also applies to the people you’re working with, too. You become a family. I mean I consider “Battlestar Galactica” one of the greatest experiences of my life. So that side of television is certainly a wonderful thing. The longevity and the continuation. And yet there’s also something amazing about telling a story from beginning to end, from A to Z, in two hours of screen time. I mean you go into the project knowing how it ends. So it may be a bit more demanding in the acting choices you make. You have to be able to tell a story in ninety minutes.

MS: You’ve also voiced a few video games. Is that another “type” of acting as well?
JB: I love doing voice work. I love doing that, it’s great. I love trying to communicate the scene only through the spoken voice. I’d like to do more. I’d like to do a motion capture game, I think that would be interesting.

MS: What do you have coming up?
JB: I just finished a film in Canada called “Numb.” It’s a film I’m very proud of and I can’t wait to see. I also just finished “The Better Half,” which is a romantic comedy which should be out later this year or early next year. I’m keeping busy with different things. No long-running TV show at the moment but I’m keeping busy.

Dave Coulier talks reflects on his role in “Full House” and his stand-up comedy tour

Dave Coulier is know best for his role as Joey Gladstone on “Full House”. What you may not know is that before “Full House”, Dave started out as a stand-up comedian. Well, he is returning to those roots this year with a comedy tour and is hitting the road with dates all around the country. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Dave about his tour, reflect a bit on “Full House” and even chat about his voice acting roles on “The Real Ghostbusters”. Check out his tour dates, here.

Mike Gencarelli: This year is a big year for you as you tour the comedy circuit from January through October; what can we expect that these shows?
Dave Coulier: I started doing stand up many years before “Full House” and I really wanted to get back to my roots. I love performing live. I have been lucky because people have really been packing these venues. I sold out shows in Cleveland and Cincinnati in the last month. I think a lot of people know me from “Full House” but not as a stand-up comedian. So it has taken a couple of years to remind people that this is what I started doing. But I have a really funny show. I talk about “Full House” a bit but you will also get to see what I do when you are not watching me on “Full House” re-runs. So it is fun!

MG: What would you say is one of the hardest parts of doing stand-ups?
DC:I think the most challenging part for me personally is the travel. The writing is a constant challenge for sure and the actual performing on stage is a real blast and I love it. I also really enjoy getting to meet my fans afterwards during the meet and greets. Like I said though, the hard part is being away from my wife and my family. You are living out of a suitcase in a hotel, so that is certainty tough. The performing, I have been doing that for 35 years, so that part is just a lot of fun.

MG: Since you are touring throughout the year, what do you do to make sure your material does get old for you personally each night?
DC:It is a constant process of weeding out material that doesn’t work and filling it with stronger, fresher and better stuff. That is the process night after night. This set that I am working with now is about an hour and fifteen minutes with material which will also be included in a stand-up special that we are going to be shooting soon. It is going to be called “Glorified Birthday Clown”.

MG: I know a few years ago you did a “Clean Guys of Comedy Tour”; is your current tour family friendly or adults only?
DC:I have always worked pretty clean. If you look at the landscape of comedy today, there is a wide specter of guys like myself, Jim Gaffigan, Brian Regan, Jerry Seinfeld and we are all clean. Then there is the other side of the spectrum where the comedians are using F-bombs and being very edgy and there is a lot of different flavors in between that. For me, I just never worked any different. My goal early in my career was to get on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson, which was clean. So, I got to make my first appearance on “The Tonight Show” when I as 24 years old and since then, I never really changed my style. So if you come out to one of my shows, you will not be offended. We have all types of people ranging from teenagers to grandparents.

MG: When you played Joey Gladstone on “Full House”; did you ever imagine that this show would still be so popular and people would still be saying taglines like “Cut. It. Out!”, after all these years?
DC:I think we are all really proud of the work we did and that it has had such longevity. It has also become very multi-generational. We have never been off the air since 1987. We have been syndicated in over 100 countries around the world. I think it owes to the fact that it is good family entertainment. You get some good values when you watch an episode of “Full House” and they don’t produce shows like that anymore. We are all also still friends as well, in fact just prior to us speaking now, I was on the telephone with John Stamos. We are closer than ever and I really love the friendships that have developed from working on this show.

MG: Lastly before “Full House”, you have also done tons of great voice work including voicing Dr. Peter Venkman on “The Real Ghostbusters”; what was it like working on a show like that?
DC:It was an great show to work on. It was such an iconic movie and to be able to play a part that Bill Murray played was a real treat for me because I am a real fan of his. It still has a fan base as well. In fact, at one of my stand-up shows recently and a fan had brought actual animation cells from the show to have me sign. So that was really cool that people are still enjoying it also. So for me the coolest part was just to have been involved.

John O’Hurley talks about his role of Billy Flynn in the touring production of “Chicago”

Television fans know John O’Hurley as the popular J. Peterman, Elaine’s boss, on the long running show “Seinfeld.” But it is performance on another show that helps bring him to Kansas City. As a contestant during the first season of ABC’s popular “Dancing with the Stars,” O’Hurley finished in second place, losing to Kelly Monaco, an actress whose show just HAPPENED to be on ABC. Fans of the show cried foul and demanded the two have a “dance-off,” with only the fans voting for the winner. In the rematch, O’Hurley and his partner, Charlotte Jorgensen, were declared the winners, raising over $125,000 for the charity Golfers against Cancer.

Since then, O’Hurley has split his time between the stage and screen. He played King Arthur in “Spamalot” during the show’s production in Las Vegas and has played shrewd lawyer Billy Flynn in “Chicago,” both on Broadway and on the road. Well known for his voice you can hear him in such cartoons as “Buzz Lightyear of Star Command,” “Duck Dodgers,” “Phineas and Ferb” and “Spongebob Squarepants.”

This week Mr. O’Hurley reprises his role of Billy Flynn in the touring production of “Chicago.” Before opening night he took time out to talk to me about the show and his career.

Mike Smith: Welcome to Kansas City.
John O’Hurley: I feel welcome. Thank you.

MS: If the Internet Broadway Database is to be believed you literally just walked off the stage of the Ambassador Theater in New York City, where you played Billy Flynn for the last six weeks, to travel here to take the part on the road.
JO: I closed on Broadway Sunday night. I had a great time there, especially during the holidays.
MS: Wow, when they say the road shows are “direct from Broadway” they’re not kidding.
JO: (laughs) Not at all. I think I still have the same socks on.

MS: You’ve played Billy Flynn over 1500 times on stage. Do you get comfortable in a part or do you try to bring something new to your performance when you can?
JO: Every night! Every night something different will happen. I say one prayer every night before I go on stage and that is “God, let me be surprised.” And every night something different happens. If I’ve done the role 1500 times I assure you that the role is 1500 times richer since I started playing it in 2005.

MS: You are, of course, best known for your work on “Seinfeld.” Was it your appearance on “Dancing with the Stars” that led to your work in musical theater?
JO: I’ve done King Arthur in “Spamalot” over 1000 times and, of course, Billy Flynn over 1500. I think a lot of my success came about because of that show. It gave me my name back. Prior to that I was known as J. Peterman. But after 2005 I was known as John O’Hurley.

MS: You do a lot of voice work. Do you have to prepare differently as an actor for a cartoon voice as opposed to a full live performance?
JO: Right now I’m involved in about fifteen cartoons…”Spongebob,” “Fineas and Ferb” and others…but it’s a lot of fun because I have an eight-year old son and it’s nice to be able to develop a body of work that is somewhat successful to him. As far as preparing, not really. The roles are already larger than life. It’s a medium that’s very BIG. The characters are larger. Subtlety is not a part of animation.

MS: How long to you plan to stay on tour with “Chicago?”
JO: I started the tour late last year, in October and I’ll continue through the end of it, which is the end of March.

MS: Do you have anything else coming up?
JO: Yes, I have a new television series with Bryan Cranston from “Breaking Bad” that we’re working on now. We’ll be shooting later in the spring. I have a movie to do in Greece. And I’m hosting a dancing tour this summer, which will be sporadically through my vacation time. And I’m sure there will be another tour of “Chicago” next year.

Nicolette Pierini talks about her role in “Annie (2014)”

Photo Credit: Yolanda Perez

The youngest of four children in an acting family from Long Island, New York, nine-year old Nicolette Pierini was destined to follow in her elder siblings’ footsteps. She began her career as a performer in commercials and short films, including Fool’s Day, All That Remains, Keeper, Poetry Man, and Transitions. However, Pierini received her first big break when she booked the role of “Flora O’Neil” opposite veteran actors Morgan Freeman and Virginia Madsen in the Rob Reiner-directed drama THE MAGIC OF BELLE ISLE. Also, she most recently, appeared as “Lola” in the feature film TIO PAPI, directed by Fro Rojas.

This week she will appear as Mia opposite Quvenzhané Wallis in the new film adaptation of the popular Broadway musical, “Annie.” While taking a break from a busy day in New York, young Nicolette took time out to talk to me about the film.

Mike Smith: Can you tell us about Mia, your character in “Annie”?
Nicolette Pierini: She is the youngest of the foster children. She’s very young and she loves Annie. She has a very big heart.

MS: How did you get the role?
NP: I had to go to various auditions. One for acting. One for singing and acting. And then one for dancing and singing and acting.

MS: Had you had a lot of musical training before you auditioned?
NP: I went to dance lessons so I had a little bit of experience. I could tap and I could ballet, so I did have a little dance training. And I’d done a lot of singing. I love singing. It’s really fun.

MS: What kind of music do you like?
NP: Any kind really. I love the music…I love the emotions behind a song. I like how a song is put together. I’ve actually written some songs myself.

MS: Do you think as you get older you’ll try to pursue a musical career as well?
NP: (considering the question) Yeah…YEAH!

MS: What else are you working on?
NP: Right now I’m just going on auditions and I’ll see what comes. Hopefully something that’s right for me.

Nicolette loves to hear from her fans. You can drop her a note at the following social media sites:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nicolette-Pierini-Fan-Page/225583847456286
Twitter: @Npierini0

Parker Sawyers talks about role in “Monsters: Dark Continent”

Parker Sawyers is co-starring in the upcoming film “Monsters: Dark Continent”, which is a follow-up to the 2010 film “Monsters”. Parker also appeared this year in the film “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat about “Monsters: Dark Continent” with him and what we can expect.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you get involved with “Monsters: Dark Continent”?
Parker Sawyers: I’ve been acting for nearly three years now and try to hit every meeting I am lucky enough to get. I see it as practice. So, “Monsters: Dark Continent” was another meeting to me. Interestingly, I had a short film to shoot 15 minutes after my meeting time and I was so worried about missing the call time, I don’t really remember what I said or did in the room. Whatever it was worked, thankfully.

MG: Were you familiar with the original film prior?
PS: In preparation for the meeting for Monsters: Dark Continent, I watched the original film, Gareth Edwards’ “Monsters”. I was pleasantly surprised as I watched the two central characters develop a relationship amidst such dire conditions. To me, the original film was about humanity and how even in the face of extreme adversity or in their case an alien invasion we would still find love, fight for one another, and even bicker. Perhaps we’re not much more than that.

MG: Give us some background on your character Shaun Williams?
PS: Shaun is a kid from Detroit. I see him as a multi-talented, cool kid who never got “that break”. He is a sportsman, clever and chilled. Though I now live in London, I’m originally from Indianapolis, Indiana, just a few hours away from Detroit. To play a guy from the Midwest with heaps of heart and a laid back attitude was exciting and refreshing. I think the Midwesterners who watch the film will relate to Shaun and his friends; the hustle, the hunger, the decency, the loyalty.

MG: Tell us about where the film was shot and what was the most challenging aspect?
PS: We shot the film in Amman, Jordan and Detroit, Michigan. The people in Amman are some of the most hospitable and warmest people I’ve ever met. It was my second time being there, the first time was to film “Zero Dark Thirty”. I’m itching to return for a vacation. As for a challenge, I’d say the amount of work that needed to be completed by the end of each day, to stay on schedule. But, we worked hard and Tom Green, the director, never made any of us feel rushed. But, of course, we can read a call sheet and we knew we had a limited amount of time. Ultimately, we made it work. Detroit was cool. Talk about smiling through adversity, the people were wonderfully American and hardworking.

MG: How was it going from low-budget indie to big budget action, “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”?
PS: All jobs are the same to me. Whether it’s working with an Oscar winning director or an up and coming talent like Tom Green, I put forth the same amount of effort. I must say though, the Monsters cast was and still is like a family. We stay in touch, attend each other’s birthdays, and cheerlead whenever possible. I’d never had that experience before.

MG: What else do you have on the cards for 2014?
PS: I’m off to Bulgaria in March to film James McTiegue’s spy thriller, “Survivor”. It’s an amazing script and I’m fortunate to be part of the project. Other than that, it’s pilot season, so non-stop meetings as far as the eye can see!

Joseph Bishara talks about his role and his score in the film “Annabelle”

Photo by Dean Karr

Joseph Bishara is the amazing composer for horror films like “Insidious”, “The Conjuring” and most recently “Annabelle”. He is also probably the cause of a few of your nightmares since he played great characters like Lipstick-Face Demon in “Insidious” and Bathsheba in “The Conjuring”. Joseph took out some time to chat with Media Mikes again about his new film “Annabelle” and what we can expect.

Mike Gencarelli: From your role of Lipstick-Face Demon in “Insidious” to Bathsheba in “The Conjuring” to your latest role in “Annabelle”; what do you enjoy most about getting to play these roles?
Joseph Bishara: I like being able to look through the eyes of these characters, and getting to have a different perspective and take on the film. It’s seeing the scenes unfold from the inside. They were all very interesting characters to explore.

MG: We got to learn about your character in “Insidious” and “The Conjuring” but not much in “Annabelle”, give us some background on your role?
JB: It’s the demon that’s attached to the doll. When discussing the character with James (Wan), his take described it more specifically, as Lorraine Warren would explain as a “latching demonic”.

MG: Which of the three was the most challenging for you?
JB: I would have to say “The Conjuring” because it was the most time I was on set and also the longest to get into the makeup. “Insidious” was challenging also but it was different because it was more guerrilla filmmaking, where we had to make do with what we had to work with.

MG: How does it feel like to give a grown man nightmares with these roles?
JB: [laughs] That’s a good thing. I won’t apologize for anyone losing sleep, everyone needs to have nightmares.

MG: You not only have roles in the above-mentioned films but you also are the composer delivering spin-tingling scores; what do you enjoy most about working in this genre?
JB: It’s the genre that I feel most comfortable in, and with the directors that I have worked with I have been given a lot of freedom to take the scores in the directions I wanted. Horror is always a favorite of mine and I just really enjoy creating in that space.

MG: “Insidious” is easily one of the best horror scores in recent years; how do you approach a score when you are working with the film?
JB: When I start on a score, I just start hearing it in my head often from the moment it starts being discussed. I can’t really explain it but if the project is right, ideas will just come. It’s finding what the language is and isn’t, and then speaking it.

MG: What can we expect from you in terms of role and composer in “Insidious: Chapter 3″?
JB: I can’t say much just yet, but Leigh did an excellent job with it and brings a bit of a different flavor. Hopefully you’ll lose more sleep.

For more info, check out his official sites: www.jbishara.com and www.voidrecordings.com

Steven Blum talks about voice work and his role of Zeb in “Star Wars Rebels”

Steven Blum is one of the best in the voice acting business. He has such amazing range working on shows such as “Cowboy Bebop” voicing Spike Spiegel to “Doc McStuffins” voicing Commander Crush to “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” voicing both Red Skull and Wolverine. Recently he is taking on the role of Zeb in “Star Wars Rebels”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat about “Star Wars Rebels” with Steven and his a few of his other voice roles.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about how you got the role of Zeb in “Star Wars Rebels”?
Steven Blum: Well, I auditioned for it like everyone else in town. I didn’t even know what it was for when I showed up. They called it a completely different name and edited out any of the information that would have made us know it was “Star Wars”. I didn’t actually know it was what it was until I booked the role. I was in England at the time at a “Transformers” convention when I got the email that I landed the job and I needed to record it there. So I had to find a studio in the middle of the countryside at this guy’s house and started recorded. About 10 minutes into the session, I am looking at the script and I see Stormtroopers in the copy and I said “What a second…this is Star Wars…THIS IS STAR WARS!!” It was a huge surprise. I just didn’t know the scope of this show. I have done “Star Wars” projects before but it was only in the video game context, so to get to work on the franchise on something this big is just an incredible thing. I got to introduce not only a new character but also a new species into the “Star Wars” universe. It was incredible.

MG: Where did the find the voice for him?
SB: We played with it a little bit. (Speaking in character) “It started out in the lower range” and we ended up tried a bunch of different accents. We did Eastern European, Australian and all sorts of different things. We landed on something that is sort of English with other ascents peppered in. It is sort of like a bad English accent [laughs]. I am apologizing to the entire UK for my bad accent [laughs].

MG: You also voice Shoe and Sparky in “The Boxtrolls”, out now.
SB: I am very excited about “The Boxtrolls”. It is an amazing piece and I have been a fan of LAIKA’s work for a long time. I even got to go to the studio and play with the puppets and see how these amazing people have put this film together. Every single bit of this film is hand made. It is phenomenal. They made like 3,000 different faces for this film with magnets on the back so that they can swap them out for each shot. It is uncanny.

MG: Since you have voices hundreds of characters like Spike Spiegel in “Cowboy Bebop” and Wolverine in various projects; if someone asked you to do a voice what is one of the first that comes to your mind?
SB: It depends on what I am working on that day. I always have a million voices going on it my head [laughs]. I need to do this job so I can let them out and not explode. So, it depends on the day. People can usually just point at a character and I can remember their voice and speak it.

MG: You have done a wide mix of villains and heroes; do you have a favorite type of character to voice?
SB: [laughs] It also depends on the day. If I am really pissed off and sitting in traffic, I will let a lot of that energy out. I do love playing the heroes too though. I love working on kid’s shows also now like Disney Junior’s “Doc McStuffins voicing Commander Crush and the two Karate Kangaroos. It has been really fun to work on something that is so child friendly.

Academy Award-winner, Nicolas Cage talks about his role in “Left Behind”

Academy Award-winner Nicolas Cage is a man that does not need any introduction. He is well-known worldwide for being one of the most versatile actors of all time, equally known for his poignant portrayals in both drama and comedy. Some of his more notable films include “The Rock,” “Con Air,” “Gone in 60 Seconds” and “National Treasure”. Coming up next, Cage stars in “Left Behind,” a Christian-themed apocalyptic action film based on the best-selling book series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. Additionally, Cage recently completed filming Paul Schrader’s “The Dying of the Light” with Anton Yelchin and is currently in production on “The Runner,” which also stars Sarah Paulson, Peter Fonda and Connie Nielsen. Media Mikes had a chance to attend a teleconference with the actor to chat about his role in “Left Behind” and what we can expect the film.

Can you give us a little background on your character Rayford Steele and his importance in the film?
Nicolas Cage: Well I mean Ray Steele is a captain of a jumbo jet, a transatlantic jumbo jet going to London, England. And he’s an important guy on that airplane and he has a flirtation and there’s a chemistry that’s happening with the flight attendant, so marvelously played by Nicky Whelan. He loses track of what’s really valuable to him in terms of his treasures within which is his love for his family. He’s kind of, not that he’s a bad guy but he’s making a mistake that many people make that are in powerful positions lose track of the importance of family. They’re drawn away, or they’re seduced from their true inner-values by something attractive, or something flirtatious, or something that has the call of the wild. Ray Steele gets back to his true need for family through this experience and through this extraordinary experience and understands the value of family and just wants to get back to that no matter what happens. Just to be able to get back on the phone with his daughter and say I’m sorry and “I love you”. And I think that’s as simple as that. I think that is heart-wrenching. And if you have a heart I don’t think it’s possible to see the movie and not get a little verklempt. I mean it, there’s some very poignant, emotional moments.

What was it about this script or what regarding the movie in general that drew you in?
NC: I really said “Yes” on the merits of the screenplay. And also to work with, to work with Vic again, the director. I think all artists, if you’re tapped in, if you’re tuned in, to the zeitgeist and they’re open to that then they’re going to pick up on that. I felt that the script was a challenge and it gave me a chance to really try to make the extraordinary, believable and to do something authentic within performance so that everything around me was going into chaos. People were just appearing on the airplane and how did I make that organic? And again, all the actors, Chad Michael Murray, Cassi Thomson, Nicky Whelan, they were all on-point. And I find that exciting. To me, it was, it was an exercise and I’m very happy with the results.

How familiar were you with the “Left Behind” series before getting on board?
NC: I was not familiar with the “Left Behind” series. I’m familiar with the rapture of course. My brother, Mark, is a Christian pastor, and he was very excited about this. And he said, “Nicky, you’ve really got to to do this”. I’d already wanted to make the movie because I thought it was such a great script and an opportunity again to do something challenging. But when I saw how passionate he was, I thought, “Well, yeah I want to make this movie for my brother too”.

What was it like working with director Vic Armstrong?
NC: Well actually I’m very comfortable working with Vic. I got to spend quite a bit of time with him on another movie that we made, called “Season of the Witch”. And it was a good experience and I thought that he directed me to a good performance and something that I was very proud of and wanted to work with him again. I knew that I would be able to relax with him and that I would be able to go within and just sort of exhale and be in the moment and be in the scene. That he would allow his actors to breathe and to be relaxed and to find the truth of their performances. And it really shows in the movie. I mean, across the board, of Chad Michael Murray, and Nicky and Cassi again just powerfully real performances. And I knew that that would happen working again with Vic.

Bill Smitrovich talks about “The November Man” & “Ted 2”

Bill Smitrovich is best known for his role as Drew Thacher opposite Patti Lapone, Kellie Martin and Chris Burke in the acclaimed television series “Life Goes On.” He also has one of the most recognizable faces on television or the big screen. Roles in “Miami Vice” and “Crime Story” led to work in such films as “Independence Day,” “Air Force One” and “13 Days.” Recently he’s appeared on “The Event,” “CSI: New York” and has just begun a recurring role on “The Last Ship.” He also co-starred in “Ted” and will begin shooting the sequel shortly.

His most recent film is “The November Man,” opposite Pierce Brosnan. We spoke on the phone in conjunction with the film and I found him to be a kind, soft-spoken subject. When we said our goodbyes he asked me to be sure I included his fellow co-stars when I mentioned “Life Goes On.” A true gentleman.

Mike Smith: Can you give us an introduction to your character in “The November Man?”
Bill Smitrovich: He’s a high-level CIA agent who once worked with Peter Devereaux (Brosnan). Devereaux is now in seclusion…in retirement, and I go in and pull him out to help us with an operation that his ex-wife is involved with. And the fun ensues (laughs). He needs to get a name from his ex-wife to complete his investigation but he runs into a lot of things in-between that cause problems.

MS: The film has a great cast and a first class director (Roger Donaldson). Was that what drew you to the project or was there something else?
BS: Absolutely! A lot of things drew me to the project. The role. The script. And particularly Roger, who I had done “13 Days” with. I was delighted to be able to work with him again. He’s such a great director. And the script, which kept getting better, especially afterRoger took a pass through it. And, of course, working with the great Pierce Brosnan. I loved it! We found out that we had so much in common and we’ve remained good friends. We even have our birthday in common (May 16th). Which was also the day I started filming, which is kind of strange. It’s almost divine because this particular filming experience was one of the best I’ve ever been involved with.

MS: Working with Brosnan, did you ever feel like you were double-oh eight (008)? I mean, you were trading shots with James Bond.
BS: I was shaken, but not stirred (laughs). You know, wherever you go with Pierce…all over the world…it’s the same reaction. People just love him. He’s a terrific guy to hang out with, and he’s a terrific actor. Besides Bond he’s done some terrific work on screen. And he’s also a wonderful painter, which I’ll bet you didn’t know.

MS: I was not aware of that! It’s been 20 years since “Life Goes On” left the air. Do you still hear from fans of the show?
BS: Oh yes, from time to time. Thanks to Facebook and social media, you really can’t get away from that. Not that I want to. I run into fans all of the time. Recently I was at Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Falling Water” in Pennsylvania. When we got done with the tour this really nice man came up to me. He was probably in his 50s and he was with his wife. He said, “I didn’t want to bother you during the tour but I just wanted to say that we’ve been fans of yours since “Life Goes On.” It really meant a lot to our family and I hope I’m not bothering you.” I always tell “Life Goes On” fans that they are among the very best fans. They are usually very humble. Very polite. Super compassionate and sincere people. I tell them that they are very nice people. And that they have very good taste! (laughs). “Life Goes On” was a very, very satisfying experience for me in many ways. I would get fan mail from siblings of children with Downs Syndrome. It was very special. The show was groundbreaking and I’m so proud to be a part of that. It’s something I’ll always cherish in my career.

MS: Since it’s been 20 years, do you know of any plans for a reunion film or special?
BS: I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s going to happen, unfortunately. It would have been nice. But with everything, there are often too many obstacles to put it all together. I would have loved to have done it. At one point I thought it would be fun to have a little movie with just Chris and I playing private detectives? We’re both out of work so we come upon the idea of becoming investigators undercover. It would have been funny. Because we would just hire people with handicaps. People that are blind have increased hearing. People in wheelchairs. They would blend in and no one would suspect them of being detectives.

“The November Man,” What else do you have coming up?
BS: I start filming “Ted 2” in September. I’m really excited about that. And “The Last Ship” on TNT. My character just appeared last Sunday and I hope to be on it next season when it gets picked up. The finale’ is coming up. It’s a great one. I’m liking it and people are liking it. I’m glad it’s finding an audience. We have things to do. We’re going to save the world.

Michael Biehn Takes on Different Kind of Role in This Latest Dark Thriller, “Treachery”, to Be Released on VOD September 1st.

LOS ANGELES- Talent Management, Production, Distribution and Marketing Company Traverse Media, announced today the North American release date for Blanc/Biehn Production’s latest Movie TREACHERY on Video on Demand (VOD).

TREACHERY stars Michael Biehn along with a fantastic ensemble cast that includes Jennifer Blanc Biehn (The Divide, Everly, Wrong Cops), Sarah Butler (I Spit on Your Grave remake), Caitlin Keats (Kill Bill Vol. 2, Broken English), Chris Meyer (Among Friends) and Matthew Ziff (Truck Stop, Altered Perception).

Bringing to life real family drama, TREACHERY dives into the deep roots that binds a family and the darker secrets that family can create. Travis Romero (TV’s “White Collar”, THE VICTIM) wrote and directed TREACHERY, which centers on a man (Biehn) who is reunited with his estranged son at a remote wedding party. When a storm strands the party, ugly truths are revealed.

Biehn is best known for his work in The Terminator and Aliens movies but has developed a niche for himself producing low-budget grindhouse-style productions. He is producing Treachery via his BlancBiehn Productions, which he runs with his wife and partner Jennifer Blanc Biehn.

“I always love playing humanitarian type characters and characters that are the real good guys,” says Michael Biehn, with a wink and a nod.

“With an incredible cast, Michael and I were excited to take this story and make it come to life,” Jennifer Blanc-Biehn

TREACHERY will be available from September 1st on:  iTunes, Amazon Prime, Amazon Instant Play, Google Play, VUDU, Vimeo on Demand and across Cable VOD.

About Traverse Media:

Traverse Media is a talent management, production and distribution marketing and distribution company for the independent filmmaker created by independent filmmakers. We provide distribution with active digital profiling and campaigning via the Internet’s best-known film sites. Join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TraverseMedia and Follow us on Twitter @Traverse_Media

ABOUT BLANC/BIEHN PRODUCTIONS:

Blanc Biehn Productions is the partnership of famed actors Michael Biehn and Jennifer Blanc-Biehn. The pair decided to put their passion for acting and filmmaking together, creating their own production company. The duo produced and starred in Biehn’s directorial debut, THE VICTIM, a grindhouse film which co-stars scream queen, Danielle Harris.  The company recently finished post-production on TREACHERY and Jennifer Blanc-Biehn’s directorial debut THE NIGHT VISITOR. They are currently in post-production on HIDDEN IN THE WOODS REMAKE and THE GIRL, starring Biehn and Tia Carrere. Other films in development include ALTERED PERCEPTION, SHE RISES, starring Angus MacFadyen, THE NIGHT VISITOR 2, GET BACK JOE, and PYSCHOPHONIA with 2013 Nicholls Fellowship winner Barbara Stepanski, to be directed by award winning filmmaker Paticia Chica. Look out for more releases on their slate as well as festival screenings in the near future, as well as a new list of fabulous directors being added to the roster. For more information on upcoming BBP features, please go to www.TheBBBasement.com and sign up for news and updates. Many projects are currently in post-production with partner, executive Lony Ruhman.

Mari Koda talks about her role in the “Step Up” series and the new film “Step Up: All In”

Mari Koda is known for her role as Jenny Kido in the “Step Up” film series. She has been in every “Step Up” film since “Step Up 2: The Streets”. She is returning this week in the the fifth film in the series “Step Up: All In”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Mari about the film and her challenges during filming.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you get started with your background in dancing?
Mari Koda: I started listening to music before dancing. I just thought to myself, “Wow, I would love to do something with the music that I love”. So I started dancing and I just started moving. I do not think that I was even any good [laughs]. I never went to school or anything. I just went out there and starting dancing and that’s how I got I into it. You just catch the energy and go with it. I love it. After I started dancing, I wanted to know what the songs were actually about and after that I decided to learn English and move to New York. I love New York because it is so diverse and there are so many different kinds of people. I knew this is where I belong. In Japan, there are too many Japanese people [laughs].

MG: “Step Up All In” takes us to Las Vegas, what was that like going from the streets to the Sin City?
MK: It was just amazing. Just Wow! We came this far! We are in Las Vegas. There is a lot of surprise in this new film. Even working on the film, we were all impressed with what happens. I am just lucky to be in the film.

MG: How has Jenny Kido changed at all over the course of these four films?
MK: I have played Jenny in four films now. She has never had a love interest in the films. Does this girl never fall in love? Can I at least hold somebody’s hand? [laughs] In the movie, I quit my job and come to Vegas to support my friends but she never has a boyfriend. I told the producers about this and they asked me if they do a “Step Up 6”, who would I choose for a boyfriend? I told them “JT” and they asked “Who” and I said “JT…Justin Timberlake”. So I figured it can’t hurt to ask [laughs].

MG: This film brings back Briana Evigan and Ryan Guzman to lead roles along with others like Alyson Stoner; what do you enjoy most about the continuity of the cast in these films?
MK: We have grown up so much together. It is just so much fun to work together. We are laughing all the time. Rehearsals are just a blast and getting to catch up with everyone. With a normal movie series, there is usually a different cast but not with these films. Like with me and Moose, he and I are always coming back. So it is really great.

MG: When co-starring in “Step Up 2: The Streets”, did you ever think you would have been in three follow-up sequels for this franchise?
MK: No, not at all. I was surprised that there was even a “Step Up 2”. I had no idea what I was going to do in the movie. I knew I would be in it as either “Dancer 1” or “Dancer 2”. But I had no idea about my character and I was really excited. Everything I did in “Step Up 2” was all improv and I was just excited that I ended up staying in the movie. Jenny Kido stood out. I didn’t even know what would happen after that. I even went to the audition for “Step Up 3” and Jon Chu, the director, was like “What are you doing here? You are already in the film”. So that was so awesome!

MG: What was the most challenging aspect of this film compared to the others?
MK: Well I actually got hit by a car in this film for real. I was in the hospital for a while. It was very challenging for me. The doctors told me that I needed to stay in the hospital for at least two or three weeks and that I couldn’t do anything. I told them if they told the producers I’d punch them! [laughs]. So I carried around an ice pack with me wherever I went. Everyone was so supportive of me and I got a lot of positive energy. In the finale scene, I have this little solo and I struggled through it but I was able to nail it, which was great.

Ashleigh Ball talks about film “A Brony Tale” and her role in “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic”

Ashleigh Ball is known best for voicing both Applejack and Rainbow Dash in the TV series “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic”. She is also narrating and starring in the similar themed documentary “A Brony Tale”, which focuses on the male fan-base surrounding the TV series “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Ashleigh about the documentary and the new season of “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic”

Mike Gencarelli: Being the voice of both voice Applejack and Rainbow Dash; give us your reaction on this enormous fandom surrounding “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic”?
Ashleigh Ball: It is something that I would have never anticipated. There is no way to prepare yourself for something like this. It is very cool to get recognition for doing voice work. It is also very cool that it is a totally unexpected group of people. So it is all weird and wonderful and I love it.

MG: How did you meet up with Brent Hodge to narrate and star in “A Brony Tale”?
AB: Brent and I have known each other for a while now going back to 2008/2009. We met through music. He used to work at CBC Radio 3 and did some interviews with my band Hey Ocean! and we got to know each other that way. We became close and he was always willing to help out with the band. So we were out to dinner one day and we had this discussion about Bronies. I told him he should come to BronyCon with me and start filming this because it would make a really cool documentary. So he agreed and followed me around and got a taste of the Brony life.

MG: Was BronyCon your first interactions with Bronies?
AB: My first interaction was actually caught on film. You can find it on YouTube. Brent also put the clip of me in the film as well. It was at a concert that I played in Vancouver. I was playing a show with my band and afterwards a group of guys came to the merchandise booth and asked me to sign their ponies. They were Bronies and they came all the way from Seattle. So that was the first time I met a Brony in person…and definitely not the last time!

MG: Do you think that this film will have an impact for these fans?
AB: Yeah. I think it is a great introduction into the world of Bronies. It explains who they are and what they stand for. It is way more of a community than the actual series. It is a good for someone who is not familiar with Bronies and think it is weird or perverted. It definitely clears up the whole Brony mystique.

MG: How did the film get support from Morgan Spurlock?
AB: Yeah, it was pretty crazy. Brent worked for a company in San Francisco and was at a Super Bowl party and Morgan was there. They told them about he was doing a documentary about Bronies. Morgan loved the idea, watched the film and called the next day and wanted to be involved. He is really excited about the film and the subject matter. I got to meet him in NY and he is a very cool guy.

MG: Season four of “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic” just ended but I am sure that fans are looking forward to season five already; any news from that?
AB: Yeah, we are in the process right now of recording season five. It is great. I can’t tell much about the episodes, but it is going to be very great. Lots of cool music and plot twist. Yeah, it is going to be great. It has such great writing and it is a wonderful show to be a part of.

Matthew Modine reflects on his role in “Memphis Belle”

Memphis Belle is being released for the first-time ever on Blu-ray from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on May 6th, 2014. Matthew Modine, who plays Captain Dennis Dearborn in this nail-biting adventure that spectacularly recreates the spectacular mission filmed for a 1944 documentary. Matthew took out some time to look back at the making of the film nearly 25 years after its theatrical debut.

There’s an entire genre of World War II movies. What makes these films so universally appealing to global audiences?
MODINE: That’s a great question. Perhaps it’s because WWII was the first war that was so well documented. Portable sound and film equipment allowed reporters and documentarians to easily carry cameras into the battlefields. I’m sure it was also the enormous scope of the war. We look back now upon the bravery of the men and women who selflessly fought to save the lives and freedoms of others. War films, in general, provide great material for writers and directors to quarry through. There are so many examples of intense emotional journeys, the fight for survival, the human bonds that are formed in extreme circumstances. These elements make for great dramatic storytelling.

Copyright@ Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc.

As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the start of World War II and the 70th anniversary of D-Day, what parallels can be drawn between the servicemen and women of yesterday and those defending their country today?
MODINE: The terrible cost of war. Sadly, there is evil in humankind. Ironic that “kind” is even a part of the word. We must, much more often than we do, look upon the young men and woman that go to battle and commend them for their service, their courage, and commitment. As we commemorate these anniversaries, it’s so important for each of us to acknowledge the sacrifice of our sons and daughters that are, all too often, called to duty.

How did you prepare for the role of Captain Dennis Dearborn in Memphis Belle?
MODINE: Before we began filming, the director, Michael Caton-Jones arranged for the actors to go to a “boot camp” in Southern England. The entire crew of actors were put through 10 days of rigorous training. The goal was to get the actors to learn to work together in a similar fashion that a B-17 crew that had been through 24 combat missions. Of course it is impossible to even approximate the actual horrors the Memphis Belle crew would have been witness to. But the British SAS team that put the actors through obstacle courses and physical training did a great job making the actors a cohesive team. It was tough at the time. But from the rearview mirror of time, it was fantastic!

When we finished our training, we traveled from Southern England to an airbase where we would film the exterior shots for the film. It was in Lincolnshire that we all had the amazing opportunity to meet the real men we were going to portray. Everyone had so many questions for the real servicemen. We wanted to hear from them about the challenges they faced. We all wanted to be as honest and as “real” as possible. To honor them. Hoping to convey the emotions they faced. Meeting Robert Morgan, the pilot of the Memphis Belle, and the role I was portraying, was a highlight of the entire process.

Perhaps the most emotional aspect of filming for me was having the opportunity to tell my Uncle Wylder that I was going to be in a film about him. Wylder was a Captain in the 8th Army Air Force and piloted a B-17. Now I would be doing the same in a film. I had so many questions for him and he shared stories the way men from that generation did. Very sparingly. Humbly. No bravado. I believe my Uncle and the others that have lived through the wars don’t speak colorfully about their experiences because they deeply understand the tremendous human cost of war.

Looking back, nearly 25 years since Memphis Belle debuted on the big screen, has the role of Captain Dennis Dearborn shaped your filmography?
MODINE: Yes. Of course. That sense of responsibility to people that fought, and to so many that died, stays with me. The terrible cost of war, not just the human cost, the loss of life, but what it does to the human soul. There are only a few surviving veterans of the Second World War right now. Special people of great character. I feel so fortunate when I meet with one of them, and incredibly honored when they recognize me from Memphis Belle and they say I “did good!”