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.

 

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Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek’s Iconic Mr. Spock, Dead at Age 83

For three television seasons, animated and guest appearances and in many feature films, actor Leonard Nimoy would often address others with the phrase “Live long and prosper.” It was a philosophy Mr. Nimoy himself followed until he passed away today at the age of 83.

Best known for his portrayal of the emotionless Vulcan, Mr. Spock, on “Star Trek,” Nimoy would eventually escape that persona (he famously wrote his autobiography, entitled “I Am Not Spock”) to become not only a versatile actor but an accomplished photographer and film director.

Born in Boston on March 26, 1931, Nimoy began his acting career as a young boy, performing in local productions. He headed west after high school and, after serving in the United States Army, began appearing in popular television shows of the era, among them “Luke and the Tenderfoot,” “Broken Arrow” and “Mackenzies Raiders.” His unusual features often found him cast as a Native American. He worked steadily through the early 1960s and then, in 1966, he took the role that he would forever be identified with. Described by creator Gene Roddenberry, “Star Trek” was supposed to be like “Wagon Train” to the stars. Nimoy was cast as First Officer Spock, a member of the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Nimoy was one of the few actors who remained with the show from the pilot until the final episode. Spock struck a nerve with the counter-culture of the times and quickly became the series’ most popular character. He was nominated for an Emmy as Outstanding Supporting Actor all three seasons “Star Trek” ran, losing to Eli Wallach, Milburn Stone (Doc on “Gunsmoke”) and Werner Klemperer (Colonel Klink on “Hogan’s Heroes”). HE LOST TO COLONEL KLINK??? Back then, the Emmy’s didn’t divide the supporting categories into drama and comedy. They also only had three nominees in that category, not the customary five. Wow. COLONEL FRICKING KLINK!

When the series ended Nimoy headed to another long running show, playing disguise and magic master Paris in “Mission: Impossible.” He also reprised the role of Spock on the Saturday morning “Star Trek – the Animated Series.” He continued acting through the 70s, appearing in the popular remake of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and also began working behind the camera, helming an episode of Rod Serling’s “Night Gallery.” In 1979 he once again returned to Spock in “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” In 1981 he adapted and directed the television version of his one man play, “Vincent,” based on the life of Theo Van Gogh, brother of the famed artist, Vincent. The next year he returned in “Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan,” coming back only after being assured that the character of Spock would be killed off. the success of the film, both commercially and critically, brought the offer to return. Nimoy agreed to come back if he could direct the feature film. In 1984, “Star Trek III – The Search for Spock” was released. The film featured the crew of the Enterprise trying to recover the body of Spock. Nimoy appears at the end of the film. He again directed “Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home,” probably the most fun of the “Original Series” films, which came out in 1986. The next year he went behind the camera for the very popular comedy “Three Men and a Baby.”

Nimoy also pursued a career in photography, with many of his photos being exhibited in museums across the country. In 1996 he published his 2nd Autobiography, “I AM SPOCK,” finally coming to terms with the character that had made him famous. He leaves behind his 2nd wife, Susan, and his children, Adam and Julie.

Doctor Dilznik and The Last Rekrute Heading to Television

They’ve been highlighted on the local Kansas City airwaves and remain, to date, the most popular guests on our “Behind the Mikes” Podcast but now our pals Doctor Dilznik and the Last Rekrute are about to take America by storm.

The boys have co-written a new song to be featured on the upcoming WGN show “Outlaw Country.” A reality series chronicling the adventures of Kansas City’s Monk Brothers, “Outlaw Country” is a show unlike anything else on television today. Give the new song, “Revelation,” a listen below and make sure you tune in beginning this Tuesday night, February 24 at 10:00 p.m. EST.

Doc Dilz and the Last Rekrute have been representing the Kansas City rap scene for more than 15 years. They have released three successful “I’m with Stoopit” CD’s over that period and have a new CD, “Stuck on Stoopit” scheduled to be released later this year. In the past they have recorded and collaborated with such national acts as Riff Raff, Dirt Nasty and Andy Milonokis. Their music can be found on iTunes and you can follow them on Twitter : @DocDilz and @Rekrutemusic.

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.

 

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.

 

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Eric Bauza talks about voicing Puss in Boots in Netflix Animated Series “The Adventures of Puss in Boots”

Eric Bauza is one of the most talented voice actors in the business. He is wel known for voice characters like Tiger Claw in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” to Chet in “Turbo FAST”. His latest role is also one of his biggest in which he is starring as Puss in Boots in the new Netflix animated series “The Adventures of Puss in Boots” from DreamWorks Animation. The show premieres today, January 16, 2015, on Netflix. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Eric about this role and his voice work.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about what we can expect from the new Netflix animated series “The Adventures of Puss in Boots”?
Eric Bauza: Basically it is the same character that we have grown to love from the feature films and now he is getting his very own Netflix series, which is very exciting. The possibilities are endless here. They have him on the go again and he stumbles upon this town by accident and he was looking for – (in Puss’ voice) I was looking for treasure and as a humble gato, I was also looking for my next meal (end Puss’ voice). He finds this city and falls in love with the town and swears to protect it again outlanders. It is funny because even though he is a good guy, he always has that bit of mischief that follows behind him. He was basically after the town’s treasure but ends up becoming their protector since the town, of course, has orphans in it and he himself is an orphan.

MG: How does this show differ from the “Shrek” films and “Puss in Boots” spin-offs?
EB: I think we have a little more breathing room and knowing that the end of each episode is not the end of the show, since it is an ongoing series. So we have a lot time to explore. There is a lot of background explored as well as some great new characters. These are things that usually don’t have in a feature. As an actor, I think that is very comfortable to be in that situation.

MG: Is there any possibility of well-known characters from the series popping up in this show?
EB: I would love to have any of the flagship characters from the “Shrek” universe making an appearance. But we do have an abundance of new fairy tale creatures that we are bringing in. We also have a few great celebrity guest stars that we are bringing in like Danny Trejo, John Leguizamo and H. Jon Benjamin have done some characters for us. There are so many surprises that are coming up but I do not want to spoil them all, so tune in and find out for yourself.

MG: You have voiced numerous characters in your career; which have been your favorites?
EB: Puss in Boots is definitely up there for me and one of my favorites. Antonio Banderas is such a huge star and (in Puss’ voice) to do a part that was done by Antonio, as a voice over artist that is something else (end Puss’ voice). I have done Marvin the Martian for Warner Bros and to me Mel Blanc is the Godfather of voice over. So to know that I was able to do a Mel Blanc character is huge.

MG: Going from Puss in Boots to Tiger Claw in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” to Chet in “Turbo FAST”; what kind of characters are your favorite to play?
EB: That is the tricky about Puss in Boots because he always starts off as the rough around the edges – he is either an outlaw or a hero. I have done a vast amount of bad guys though. I voiced Destro from G.I. Joe. Marvin the Martian, like I said, he is a bad guy. I love being the bad guy every now and then. And I am a Canadian, so it is hard for me to be bad [laughs].

MG: Later this year you have “Transformers: Robots in Disguise”; what can you tell us about these projects?
EB: Yeah, “Transformers”, you are talking about an icon there. I got to work with Peter Cullen aka the voice of Optimus Prime. Khary Payton voices Grimlock and he also voiced Cyborg in “Teen Titans”. We all are like huge nerds already, so put us all in the same room and it’s a lot of fun.

Amber Benson talks about new book “The Witches of Echo Park”

Amber Benson is probably best known for her portrayal of Tara Maclay on the hit television series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. Since then Amber has been busy both behind and in front of the camera along with authoring several fiction books. Amber’s newest book titled “The Witches of Echo Park” centers around a powerful network of witches who hide within the shadows of society and use their powers to keep the world in balance. Media Mikes had the pleasure of speaking with Amber recently about the new book, her time on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and what else she has planned for the New Year.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us a little background on your new book “The Witches of Echo Park”?
Amber Benson: The book is definitely more for adults as there are some naughty parts. (Laughs) I wrote the book because I am obsessed with the Echo Park area of Los Angeles. You can walk down the street there and buy spells at one store which is right next to a super hipster coffee shop. Where else in the world can you find that? It’s just this super magical place. There are places there that you can only get to by these stairwells. It’s a very unique place for sure. I wanted to couple that atmosphere with women’s relationships between one another. I am very lucky that I have a group of lady friends in my life who are like my rocks. We can get together and just talk and I know that they have my back. I feel like there is not a lot of talking about women’s relationships outside of family. I wanted to write a book would show the other side of things. Basically the book revolves around a coven of witches who are basically forced to interact and deal with one another. I really wanted to write about these types of relationships as it’s something very important to me.

AL: How did the writing of this book differ from that of your previous works?
AB: Working on those first books with Christopher Golden was really wonderful as I was still learning at that time. I had written plays and poetry but never a book. It was like going to University. When I started writing on my own most of the stories tended to be more fluffy and light. It was very much in the young adult world unlike my new book. I had to turn that funny as that tends to be my crutch. I didn’t want to fall back on that crutch as I wanted to do something different and keep the mood fairly serious. It was certainly hard and scary at times to not try and use that crutch.

AL: You also have been doing some co-writing and directing for films. Can you tell a little about that?
AB: I co-directed the movie “Drones” with Adam Busch which was a really amazing experience. I just directed a short titled “Shevenge” which is a pretty dark and edgy piece. There might be some stabbing and fighting going on in that one. (Laughs) In order to make a living being creative you have to be able to wear a lot of different hats. I get bored very easily so I am always looking for new things to try and at the same time things that will pay the bills. It’s a double edged sword. On one side you are able to be creative but on the other side there are times where you just become physically and emotionally exhausted. Even though I might bitch and complain at times I am super fortune to be able to do what I love for a living. I am really lucky.

AL: What was the transition like for you moving from being in front of the camera to working behind it?
AB: When I was working on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” there was often a lot of down time while certain scenes were being set up. I did a lot of reading as I am a huge fan of books but I could only do so much of that. I needed to find something else to keep me busy. That was really where things started to transition. I wanted to explore more of that behind the scenes world and start flexing that muscle.

AL: Speaking of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” when you were working on the series did you and the other cast members ever envision the success that the show would go on to have?
AB: We knew that it was special and that people were connecting to it. The show was just your normal series run. It was really more after the show ended that we are still seeing the magnitude of the shows reach some 12-13 years later. The show is still finding new audience members who are connecting with those characters. People’s lives are changed by the show as they feel connected to this community of fans of the show. It’s really in hindsight that we understand the overall impact. When we were shooting we knew it was special but we couldn’t envision what it has become. For the LGBT community especially the characters Alyson Hannigan and I played the more I am away from those times the more I see how we impacted popular culture. I knew what we were doing was important as we really opened the door for the LGBT community. We didn’t do it gratuitously we played it very real and showed you could have a voice.

AL: Can you tell us about a couple of the other things you have planned for the New Year?
AB: I recently shot a bunch of episodes for the series “Morganville” which people can checkout at www.morganvilletheseries.com. The first 6 episodes are comprised from the first book in the series and Robert Picardo and I play vampires. Working on this was a lot o fun and I love the book series so it’s a great honor to be working on this project. I also did a film called “Desire Will Set You Free” which should be out sometime this year so people can be watching for that as well.

“The Dukes of Hazard” star Tom Wopat talks about his new Christmas album with John Schneider

It’s been a “Dukes” kind of year here at Media Mikes. Earlier this summer I spoke to John Schneider about his feature film directorial debut, the tongue-in-cheek horror film “Smothered.” This week I got to speak with the other Duke boy, Tom Wopat, who recently teamed with Schneider for an album of Christmas music entitled “Home for Christmas.” Being familiar with Mr. Wopat’s work in musical theater, as well as on country radio, I was well aware of his pipes. When we chatted before the interview he was as proud as a new parent. Rolling Stone magazine recently named “Home for Christmas” one of the ten-best holiday albums released this year and the album DEBUTED in the top 10 on Billboard’s Traditional Jazz chart. It didn’t climb to #10…it opened there! In fact, as I write this the album is “sold out” on Amazon.com Don’t fret, though. They’ll make more!

Mr. Wopat recently took some time out to talk to me about the album, further collaborations with John Schneider and his musical future. You can read my interview with John Schneider HERE

Mike Smith: How did this project come about with you and John?
Tom Wopat: We’ve always enjoyed singing together and in the past 20 years or so we’ve done a few shows. We’ve talked a lot about recording together. I had started producing as well and this just made sense. We cut a couple of songs together last December and then we finished the rest this past August.

MS: Both you and John have been very successful in the theater and in country music. Was there a reason you decided to do a Christmas album?
TW: Well, for one thing it’s kind of a perennial. You’d like to think that it will sell for a while. Another part is that we can go out and do a series of concerts every year with that material so it just made sense to do that.

MS: You’ve done a few shows already this year haven’t you?
TW: We did several. We did a show in New York, then we did a show for about 500 people in John’s barn in Louisiana and we just did one in Atlanta.

MS: It’s obvious that you and John have a great rapport. I listened to you both this past week when you were hosting on Sirius Radio. Is there anything else you two want to collaborate on in the future?
TW: We’ve talked about doing a movie. John has a lot of projects he’s developing…he’s putting together a movie studio in Louisiana…so hopefully he’ll give me a call one of these days and I’ll go down there and do something with him. And I’ve got some ideas for future albums. We finance them ourselves so hopefully this one will do well so we can finance others.

MS: I actually spoke with John this summer to promote his horror film “Smothered.” If Catherine Bach sings I’ll be able to talk to all of the Duke cousins!
TW: (laughing) There you go!

MS: What do you have coming up? Are you going back on stage soon?
TW: Those things just come along suddenly…I very rarely get much lead time on that. The only thing I can plan on is some upcoming dates with my band. We’ll be on Long Island in April and in Indiana in August. But I’m sure between next Thanksgiving and Christmas we’ll have ten or fifteen appearances planned. I’m also getting ready to do another solo record and there’s talk of myself, two women and a little jazz group going out on tour and performing the music of Woody Allen films…pretty much some great standards.

MS: Really? That would be right in your wheelhouse.
TW: Yeah, that would be a good one.

New Five-Part ESPN Series “Snoop & Son: A Dad’s Dream” Set for January 14

ESPN will televise a five-part documentary style series Snoop & Son: A Dad’s Dream beginning Wednesday, Jan. 14, with an unprecedented look at entertainment icon Snoop Dogg’s journey with his football star son Cordell Broadus. The series will air four consecutive Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN (re-airs on ESPNU) with a fifth and final episode airing in mid-February.

Cordell, 17, is a standout student and prep player, and one of the most sought after recruits in the nation with top schools from Notre Dame to USC vying for him to play for them. Snoop is a constant presence in his football life. He’s a regular attendee at practice and is in constant contact with Cordell’s head coach. When Snoop is on the road and can’t attend a game, he has the game streamed to him, no matter where he is in the world. Over 10 years ago, Snoop started the Snoop Youth Football League (SYFL) because of his passion for coaching kids. The League has provided thousands of young boys and girls a positive environment to learn skills for life – championing kids to be better citizens on and off the field. Cordell began his football career under his father’s guidance as a player in the SFYL.

With exclusive behind-the-scenes access to Snoop and Cordell as he prepares for the next level, the half-hour show will take viewers into the Broadus home for family dinners, on Snoop’s tour bus as he breaks down game film and on the sidelines for each game of Cordell’s senior season.

Rory Karpf, executive producer, said, “People will see a very different side of Snoop. They’ll see a man navigating the line between father and friend. They’ll see someone whose interest in his son’s life reflects what he himself never had. Above all, they’ll see a father extraordinarily proud of his son.”

“I’ve been known for my work in many industries, but what I am most proud of is my beautiful family. My son is an extremely talented athlete and my wife and I will be by his side wherever he chooses to play. I’m looking forward to the world watching me go through this journey with my family,” said Snoop.

About Snoop Dogg
An entertainment icon and with more than 20 years in the business, Snoop continues to pave the way in the hip-hop industry, serving as a mentor to many new and established artists. Being the trendsetter he is, Snoop stands at the forefront of popular culture with award-winning and multi-platinum albums and songs, critically acclaimed films and television shows, lifestyle products, philanthropic efforts and digital ventures, including his YouTube original series “GGN News.” Snoop defines hip-hop history and is set to spark the fire in the beginning of 2015 with his new album, ‘BUSH’, produced entirely by Pharrell Williams.

 

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Greg Nicotero talks about the fifth season of “The Walking Dead”

Special makeup effects master Greg Nicotero has worked on The Walking Dead since day one crafting the amazing zombies and gore that have helped make the show, currently in its fifth season, the worldwide phenomenon it is today. No where else was the fan hysteria more evident for the show than at this past weekend’s Walker Stalker NYNJ Convention at the Meadowlands Expo Center. While current cast members were barred from speaking with the press after a shocking midseason finale, Nicotero sat down with me to discuss his progression from special effects makeup to directing episodes of the show including this season’s gruesome premiere. I also got some of his thoughts on longtime collaborator Quentin Tarantino’s next film.

 

Lauren Damon: How did you decide to move into directing your own episodes and how do you decide which ones you’re going to direct?

Greg Nicotero: It all started from Frank Darabont because after season one— before we started season one, I’d directed a little short film and season one I was the second unit director. So there were a lot of times when we were shooting and I would call Frank in Los Angeles to say ‘Hey, I think we could probably use a little more footage here, maybe we need a little bit more here…’ so I had an eye for what the show needed. So when we started season two he said you should direct an episode. And I said I would love that. And he said ‘Do you want to direct a zombie-light episode, or a zombie-heavy one?’ And I said that’s a trick question! But I ended up ironically getting the episode where Dale gets killed and it was probably the most dramatic episode we had done to date. Because it was a bunch of people in a room sort of having this tribunal to decide whether Randall should live or die and it had one zombie in it. So it went from that to three episodes in season three and three episodes in season four and I did four episodes this year. So I’ve directed eleven episodes. [Showrunner] Scott Gimple is really good at sort of pinpointing which episodes he wants for which director but he’s had me direct the premiere for the last two years and I directed the finale this year too.

 

LD: That trough scene this year in the premiere was really traumatic…

GN: Oh it’s horribly traumatic! And I’m really proud of that scene because I feel like Scott and I really crafted that scene together. Because he pitched the original idea and we had really sort of both kind of immersed ourselves into making it as good as it could be. And I remember, the first time we screened it for the crew, I leaned over to Scott at one point and I went ‘I wonder if we went too far’ because it’s so uncomfortable and it’s so brutal and it’s so relentless. But the truth is, Terminus had to be portrayed that way otherwise it wouldn’t have felt authentic so I’m really really proud of that.

 

LD: At this point, can you still creep out the cast or they a little bit desensitized to it?

GN: No. As a matter of fact when we shot that scene, I had designed a rig for the slit throats and they hadn’t seen it tested. So when they were all leaning up against the trough and we did Robin—who played Sam, who was the first kill—they were all leaning up against the trough and we pumped the blood. And they, just out of the corner of their eye, just saw the blood shoot over the trough and then in and it started flowing down…They were all pretty…I know Steven and Norman were like ‘Ahh, what did I just see?’ Because all they saw was out of the corner of their eye blood spraying, and blood hitting the trough and then it running down the trough past them. So I think we can still, I think we’re still good on grossing them out.

 

LD: Do you have a resident team of players for the zombies, or do you go out to cast your ‘hero’ zombie parts?

GN: There are people that we use, that we like over and over again. I say there’s probably fifteen to twenty people that we really like and the beauty of the makeup is we can make them look different every single time. There’s a guy named Coleman Youmans I think he’s probably played the most zombies in the show ever. Because we’ve used him almost every episode for the last two seasons we just make him look different every time.

 

LD: You done it a couple times—

GN: I have. I didn’t get a chance to do it this year because I directed four episodes but my goal next year will be to be a zombie in a scene that I direct so I can just direct in zombie makeup which I just think would be fun.

 

LD: I’m getting the signal to wrap up here so finally I was wondering having done Quentin Tarantino’s movies since Pulp Fiction, are you working on The Hateful Eight? And if so, can you share anything about it?

GN:  Yep and not really…I just got back from we did some makeup tests yesterday and we start shooting the beginning of January. It’s–I love the script. I find it fascinating that Quentin has been doing live reads, table reads, of all his scripts and I feel like this script is a result of those table reads because it feels like a play. It’s a bunch of great characters in two locations but it really has that great emotion, that great power, but it takes place in minimal locations. I really love the script. It was—You know, I mean I’ve read all of them and it’s just something different enough from the other things that he’s done but it’s still with his voice.

The Walking Dead returns—with an episode directed by Nicotero—on February 8th at 9pm on AMC.

WalkerStalker Conventions continue in six more cities through next Halloween, for more info check out their website.

Katey Sagal talks about the final season of hit FX series “Sons of Anarchy”

CR: James Minchin/FX

Katey Sagal plays the role of Gemma Teller on the hit FX series “Sons of Anarchy”. With the show now in its final season we see several of the main characters standing at difficult cross roads due to the horrific events that closed out season 6. Media Mikes had the pleasure of speaking with the show matriarch recently to discuss her characters progression, challenges related to the role and what she is going to miss most about working on the show.

Adam Lawton: Over the course of seven seasons Gemma has shown a full range of good and bad. At what point do you think she really crossed the line or do you think that she hasn’t crossed that line?
Katey Sagal: I think what we’re seeing now is her own conscience finally grabbing her. I still think she believes that killing Tara at the end of Season 6 was not premeditated. She really did believe that Tara had turned the entire club in and it was the downfall of her entire existence. At that moment it was just sort of a perfect storm, and not that she doesn’t realize the heinous nature of it, but I do believe that what’s happening now is that in times before, she was able to compartmentalize and almost rationalize. I think this one was just too much for her.

AL: Can you talk about the scenes where Gemma is talking to Tara’s ghost and why you think they’re so important for Gemma?
KS: I think it’s very indicative of her unraveling. They’re super easy to do, because I felt very close to Maggie, who played Tara, and so it’s easy for me, and Gemma felt very close to Tara. I think that they had such an intricate relationship, but also very mother/daughter, so I think that I just can put her there very easily and speak to her. It speaks to Gemma’s own—as the season goes on, her remorseful moments get stronger and start to seep out and the walls start closing in. I think that it keeps her connected. It’s like I keep reiterating it wasn’t intentional what happened so it kind of shows her just continuing to connect.

AL: What has it been like not only playing Gemma over the course of the seven seasons, but also watching her transition from a fans perspective?
KS: It’s fantastic. It was fantastic as an actor and it was super fun to watch and that’s what I love to watch myself all the time. I definitely had my critical moments, but this was something I really wanted. I’ve worked in television for so many years in comedy and I really, really wanted to do more dramatic work because I never even think I’m funny. I always thought I’m supposed to be in a drama, so it’s been very satisfying for me to push myself and go places I haven’t gone. It’s been great. It’s been absolutely great. That’s what you want.

AL: What were some of your high points from the series and, what were some of the challenges?
KS: It’s constantly challenging, which as an actor you only hope for, so I felt every season brought a new set of things that I’ve never done before

CR: Prashant Gupta/FX

and needed exploring, so it was that kind of job where week to week, episode to episode there was always a little something that I felt like this will be great. I guess the overall challenge of it was playing somebody that was so very different from me. Her maternal instincts are similar to mine, but her ways and means of doing things were something very foreign to me. I don’t live in an outlaw world and I don’t carry a gun and I don’t do those things. The high points were numerous, so it’s difficult to zero in on—that’s a hard question. I’m about to re-watch the whole thing.

AL: Have you gone through a little bit of a mourning period now that the show has wrapped?
KS: It’s been interesting, we’ve all sort of known the end was coming, but I don’t think any of us really acknowledged it till the last couple of weeks. We’d have moments on set where people would tear up and we’d say good-bye to one director, but the work really requires you to be pretty much where you are. It’s complicated to keep everything in place in your brain and your character and where you are, so that pulled focused. I think Kurt and I are just—part of us are in denial and we have lots of other stuff in life, so it takes the onus off it. I’m sure at some point we’ll probably crash from it all and we’ll recognize it, but I think overwhelmingly we’re both so grateful that its seven years and it’s been such a great experience, so I don’t know that you get too sad really. Things happen. I think it’s ending at the perfect time, I really do.

AL: What will you miss most about being involved with the show?
KS: I’ll miss so many things. It was a great working environment. I’ll miss the people. That’s what you really connect to and I’ll miss the writing. I’ve been in television a long time and you don’t find great parts that readily and you don’t find great writing that readily. It’s been just a great creative experience to be able to have both of those things, and it’s a colorful bunch of people to work with, so going to work was never boring. I will miss them all terribly.

 

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STARZ Reteams Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert for a New TV Series Based on Their Classic Horror Film “The Evil Dead”

STARZ RAISES THE DEAD

NETWORK RETEAMS SAM RAIMI, BRUCE CAMPBELL AND ROB TAPERT FOR A NEW TV SERIES BASED ON THEIR CLASSIC HORROR FILM THE EVIL DEAD

RAIMI TO DIRECT FIRST EPISODE OF NEW SERIES, “ASH VS. EVIL DEAD”

BRUCE CAMPBELL TO STAR AS TITLE CHARACTER, ASH

 Beverly Hills, Calif. – November 10, 2014 – Starz announced today the greenlight of the network’s next original series, the long-awaited follow-up to the classic horror film franchise The Evil Dead. The project reteams the original filmmakers, director Sam Raimi, with longtime producing partner Rob Tapert and star Bruce Campbell.

The STARZ Original series officially titled “Ash Vs. Evil Dead” will be 10 half-hour episodes.  Bruce Campbell will be reprising his role as Ash, the stock boy, aging lothario and chainsaw-handed monster hunter who has spent the last 30 years avoiding responsibility, maturity and the terrors of the Evil Dead.  When a Deadite plague threatens to destroy all of mankind, Ash is finally forced to face his demons –personal and literal.  Destiny, it turns out, has no plans to release the unlikely hero from its “Evil” grip.

“Starz first worked with Sam and Rob on ‘Spartacus,’ and we are thrilled to be back in business with them,” said Carmi Zlotnik, Managing Director of Starz.  “With Sam writing and directing and Bruce Campbell returning to the screen, we are certain the show will give Evil Dead fans around the world the fix they’ve been craving.”

Evil Dead has always been a blast. Bruce, Rob, and I are thrilled to have the opportunity to tell the next chapter in Ash’s lame, but heroic saga.  With his chainsaw arm and his ‘boomstick,’ Ash is back to kick some monster butt. And brother, this time there’s a truckload of it,” said Sam Raimi.

“I’m really excited to bring this series to the Evil Dead fans worldwide – it’s going to be everything they have been clamoring for: serious deadite ass-kicking and plenty of outrageous humor,” said Bruce Campbell.

“STARZ has always been a great creative partner and we are excited to be working with them on this project,” said Robert Tapert.

Raimi will direct the first episode.  “Ash Vs. Evil Dead” was written by Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi (Darkman, Army of Darkness, Drag Me to Hell) and Tom Spezialy (“Chuck,” “Reaper,” “Desperate Housewives”).  Sam Raimi will also serve as executive producer, along with Rob Tapert (Evil Dead, “Spartacus,” Xena: Warrior Princess”) and Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead, “Burn Notice”).  Ivan Raimi will Co-Executive Produce and Aaron Lam (“Spartacus”) will serve as producer.

The original Evil Dead film followed Ash and his friends who travel to a cabin in the woods, where they unknowingly release demons intent on possessing the living.  The film became an international success and is critically lauded to this day as one of the best horror movies of all time.  It also spawned a media franchise, including two sequels, as well as video games and comic books and a recent reboot that grossed $97 million worldwide.

“Ash Vs. Evil Dead” project was packaged by CAA and Craig Jacobson at Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman, Warren, Richman, Rush & Kaller.  Marta Fernandez will serve as the executive in charge at STARZ.

The series will air on STARZ in 2015.

Starz will retain all domestic and international multiplatform rights including television, home entertainment, and digital.

New York Comic Con 2014 – “Bob’s Burgers” Panel Coverage

The Bob’s Burgers panel, comprised of Loren Bouchard (show creator), Bobby Tisdale (voice of Zeke), Kristen Schaal (voice of Louise), John Roberts (voice of Linda), Larry Murphy (voice of Teddy), Eugene Mirman (voice of Gene), and H. Jon Benjamin (voice of Bob), took the main stage at New York Comic Con this past Thursday, October 9th. Although Dan Mintz (voice of Tina) was not among them, a larger-than-life Tina Belcher, joined the panel, sitting on the side during the discussion.

The audience was shown three clips of the new season. In one, Linda dyes her hair blonde, while in another Bob partakes in a life-drawing class, where he is forced to draw Edith, a character that was seen in the previous “Art Crawl” episode. The last clip had Gene, Tina, and Louise visiting an upscale grocer on a quest to buy black garlic. In addition to these sneak peeks, audience members were also treated to some key news announcements (tracks are being prepared for an upcoming show soundtrack and there will be a Christmas special where viewers will meet Bob’s father for the first time), before the panel continued with a fan Q&A, where many of the questioners came prepared in Bob’s Burger character costumes.

One fan asked, “As actors and performers who have very unique voices, how do you bring subtlety to your characters?” Kristen Schaal remarked, “Definitely the scenes. I took a college course on subtlety and it cost me $500,000. Totally worth it.” Loren Bouchard also shared some anecdotes with fans, saying that in his original meeting with the Fox network, he pitched the show as a “Family that runs a restaurant, and they’re cannibals,” believing that he needed to make the show edgy in some way-to which the Fox executive replied, “What if they’re not cannibals?”

The Emmy-awarded Bob’s Burgers entered its 5th season on October 5, 2014, and judging from the response at this year’s New York Comic Con, fans can’t wait to see what happens next.

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.

 

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