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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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.

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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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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Troy Baker talks about video games, voice acting and “Mythos” concert

Troy Baker is one of most well known voice actors in the business. He is known for his roles as Booker DeWitt in “BioShock Infinite”, Joel in “The Last of Us”, Kanji Tatsumi in “Persona 4”, Pain in “Naruto Shippuden”, Hawkeye & Loki in “Avengers Assemble” and The Joker in “Batman: Arkham Origins” and “Batman: Assault on Arkham”. In conjunction with New York Comic Con 2014 and the first annual New York Super Week Festival, Tina Guo will be performing as a guest artist in MYTHOS! A thrilling and unique concert experience, MYTHOS, showcases great music from across the spectrum of modern orchestral genres – inclusive of music from the concert stage, television and film, and video games – featuring the all-star orchestra The Third Estate, conducted by Grammy Award nominee, Austin Wintory, composer of Journey, as well as vocalists from Choral Chameleon.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your involvement with “Mythos” video game concert?
Troy Baker: This counts as a win in my book for social media and for the community of gamers. I was a fan of Journey and especially the music. I reached out to Austin Wintory to compliment him not only on his amazing score but also his subsequent success. That began a long Twitter conversation back and forth about games and how we should collaborate on something musically. Also, competitive cat pictures might have been involved. This happened over at least a year and has culminated into this amazing event.

MG: What do you think that video game music is so important to its fans?
TB: The entire soundscape of a game plays such an integral part in the overall interactive experience. The same is true with movies. Dramatic moments are supported by a musical movement. Games are no different. Everyone can hum the underground tune from Mario Bros, some of us can hum selected themes from Final Fantasy of Metal Gear. What we’ve seen recently is how these thematic musical elements play such a crucial element, almost a character in these games. The main theme and even all the music from The Last of Us is a perfect example of this. Look how much of a role the music in Bioshock Infinite played in the overall experience!

MG: You have voiced many great video games including “Persona 4”, “Diablo III” and upcoming “Batman: Arkham Knight”; what do you enjoy most about video games?
TB: First and foremost I love being a part of making something that I’m going to geek out over later. As a gamer, I get to experience these games on two completely different levels and both are equally magical, first as an actor, then as a player. There’s not too many jobs that can boast that kind of benefit. I love that in the gamespace some no name kid from Texas can be a “leading man” in a huge franchise and maintain some anonymity that allows me to hide behind the character. I always want the role I am playing to take center stage, not me.

MG: Ranging from anime to video games; which is more challenging to work in?
TB: Both have their intrinsic challenges and each job requires a certain skill set. I view myself as a carpenter. I come into every job with my toolbox and I pull out the necessary tool for the job. At it’s root, however, everything I do has a foundation in just being an actor. Sometimes you’ll only use your voice and allow the animators to interpret your performance, others the onus is on you to present that character soup to nuts in your performance.

MG: How was it taking on the role of such an iconic character as The Joker in “Batman: Assault on Arkham”?
TB: In a single word: “humbling”. I grew up on Batman. It was my first comic I ever purchased. I’ve seen everyone from Caesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger and, of course, Mark Hamill portray that role. To in any way be counted among those people, to have stepped into those shoes in any way, is an honor. I would rush home from school to make sure I caught Batman: The Animated Series on TV. Which to me, changed mover animation and how we tell a story in that medium. That show is unparalleled. To be directed by Andrea Romano was nothing short of a dream come true.

MG: What was the best part of getting to voice both Hawkeye and Loki in “Avengers Assemble”?
TB: The fact that they let me! I was cast as Loki first and really thought I would be recast as soon as I was cast in Avengers Assemble as Hawkeye. I’ve always loved Hawkeye, especially after The Ultimates series, because you got to see him as just a guy. Not a superhero with crazy powers, but just someone who is really REALLY good at what they do and can fight shoulder to shoulder along side a god, a gamma freak and a billionaire in an iron suit.

MG: Tell us about your first solo album “Sitting in the Fire”?
TB: It’s been such a labor of love. Some of these songs have been gestating for almost 10 years, waiting for the right time, right place. We finally found both. Our producer, Johnny What, our engineer and mixer Rob King and I, along with our musicians went up into the mountains of Big Bear, California with almost a half a million dollars in gear and tracked this record in an amazing cabin. It was a truly remarkable experience. Death bed moment for me. I’m proud and excited that the album is finally coming out. It’ll be available on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and all digital retailers as well as an actual “digital LP” physical copy in select stores October 14th.

Mike O’Meara & Robb Spewak talk about their podcast “The Mike O’Meara Show”

“The Mike O’Meara Show” is a daily podcast available through their website or iTunes. The show is hosted by Mike O’Meara and includes Robb Spewak and Oscar Santana. The show is also streamed via video through their website or Ustream. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Mike O’Meara and Robb Spewak to chat about the podcast.

Craig Kish: Throughout your careers in broadcasting you were just a W-2 employee of a major corporation, and now you guys are co-owners of your own small business. How has that transition been, going from just worrying about your day to day duties as compared to being concerned with about all aspects of the show?
Mike O’Meara: I can’t speak for Rob, but I had an experience on my own for a very brief period of time back in the 1980’s when I left a small radio station company to run my own production company. I did contract production actually before I started working with Don. So I had a taste of it and I liked it. I liked the fact that I was independent of a corporation, but unfortunately that did not allow me to continue because the money just wasn’t there. So I ended up getting back into radio on the talent side; I had it on the management side. So, I had a taste of it – but this is much different because we are able to do it on our own but still as a collaborative effort. We have such a great group of guys and we kind of narrowed it down in the last year. We have more of a little circle but we all know what are jobs are and our responsibilities are and it’s just a lot of fun. Watching it grow is even more fun because we know that the circle is small – that if the show does well that we are all going to do well. So it’s a tremendous thrill for me.
Robb Spewak: And to add to that. It’s always been an exciting job for me; I love what I do. I think Mike will agree with me that in the past four years it’s probably been even more exciting because we are working so directly with our partners. It’s not diluted by the fact that before we make a decision we no longer have to go through three levels of management in New York City. It’s three guys making a decision and is much more immediacy, much more excitement, and it’s been a lot more fun than the last year we had on the terrestrial side.

CK: How has the change from being just co-workers previously to now being co-owners and running the show yourselves changed your relationship between each other?
Mike: Well, Rob talked about the fact that we don’t run things up the flag pole with management and all the different layers, but at the same time the three of us – Mike, Rob and Oscar – when we come in every morning anybody that had anything that’s great material that they think – not that I think but they think – is great material, it gets on the show and if It doesn’t it’s an oversight on my part because I just forgot it. But there is total creative flexibility with these guys as well as myself. We bring whatever we want into the show on a daily basis and if it’s good material we try to get to it. Sometimes I am guilty of not getting to everything in the 79 minutes or so we do the show. I really love it when one of the other two guys comes in with something special and we can go in a totally different direction. But as far as the content for the bulk of the show, now it really is a collaborative effort as well.
Rob: Having worked with mike the past 20 years I’ve gotten to know him better the past 4 years because of the freedom we have in the show. Sometimes we can really spin out and really be ourselves and show different sides of us that you never saw before.
Mike: It’s not like on the old radio show we didn’t have to pre-approve content. But after the fact you would never know where the fallout was going to be and if you said something. Especially after the whole Janet Jackson incident we were so scrutinized and we had meetings about standards in what we could say and what we couldn’t say and once your trained that way you never forget it and our shows are inherently broadcast friendly. But with just a little more freeform that allows you to relax. We relax; we work hard and always thinking about creating good content. It’s a relaxed atmosphere and we have confidence that the material we are providing is being well received by our audience and that is the most important thing to us.
Rob: It’s almost impossible to be spontaneous and funny when you have to second guess yourself before you say something. That was the environment we left when we left terrestrial. We probably didn’t have to be that way but it was so drummed into us like Mike said and now we are a little more relaxed with our presentation because we are just being ourselves more the less. I think the show is funnier because of it.

CK: We talked about how you guys go through the show day to day and how it’s been a change versus terrestrial radio. I know your broadcast on 1630 (A.M.) in Iowa, and you had another station you were broadcast on and the station just recently dropped off, right?
Mike: That was WTNT here in Washington D.C. The show is formatted for radio so if there is a fit out there that wants us and we felt it would be good for us we would do it. So we tried an experiment with WTNT that was not a fit basically because of the absolutely abysmal signal at WTNT. They had a format change coming up at the same time and they had overtures to go bring us to this other signal they had. I think we are done with that experiment. If we are going to be on in a market I’d rather be on in a market that has better coverage. We tried it with WTNT and do we regret it? No, but I also thought when they said that they wanted to make a change as far as moving us to another signal, I said, “Yea I think that experience is over now.” We always keep the door open to get this particular incarnation of the show on radio. I like radio, but the show from this point forward will pretty much be “they will take what we give them and if they don’t want it, oh well.” There are not a lot of program directors out there that like to do that. They want to do their own thing, and it’s tough to find a fit in this day of right wing talk and sports talk, too. It’s very tough to find the right station, but I am always curious about it and I will always entertain it. We will never shut the door on that at all, but at the same time our primary audience is our online audience and that is the foundation of the show and the way it works now.

CK: So you don’t actively shop the show to terrestrial companies?
Mike: I don’t actively shop the show, but at the same time I am connected, Rob has connections in the business, and you never know – but I can see the show sometimes being on some radio station. If someone got creative again then it becomes a possibility, but as far as actively pursuing – no. The active thing we are focused on is our online following and catering to the online following. That’s why we developed a new website in November and we restructured how we deliver our premium content as well. And, we focused on our business operation – making that better and more customer friendly and improving our customer support. The online community is we really were making most of our efforts.
Rob: To take a step back, I think for myself I was pleasantly surprised after launching the show. My thought was after launching the podcast the next natural step would be to be picked up on radio station. After we stayed at it for a couple of years we realized how much passion and support we received from the online community. The radio tie-in seemed to me anyway less important because the passion that existed for the show was more that I could have imagined. Something that I really come to love and enjoy about doing the show is that being online allows a, for lack of a better word, more “intimate” relationship with the listener we never had a chance to have before. Like Mike had said before, we will never shut the door to radio – but I am much more enthusiastic about our internet presence than I was when we launched the show. I just didn’t realize the passion was there.
Mike: Going forwards in a perfect world I would love to gather more listeners on a daily basis. We are always looking for new and innovative ways to do that. As we move forward we are continuing to focus on doing that. We know we have a great product and we want to expose the product online to as many people as we possibly can and set the hook in as many mouths as we can too. We know we have a fun thing and if we can hook you on it we can make you part of the family. That is really the way we see our listeners – as one big extended family. People communicate with us like we are relatives, not like we are doing a radio show – so that’s what we want to do. We want to try and get the word out, if we can get more and more people to get involved we can keep this thing successful for a long time and keep doing it for a long time.

CK: Where do you see the show going in the future? Are there any projects you are working on, or anything you haven’t implemented in the show yet?
Mike: The future of the show is going to involve some technological changes. It is going to involve a lot more travel. It’s going to involve a lot more location broadcasts, starting with the Consumer Electronic Show (UPDATE: this was in January, and the broadcasting was fantastic!). We are going to be having the equipment installed in everybody’s domiciles. It’s not going to be concentrated in the living room studio and we are very excited about the fact that we don’t really lock in where we are going to travel to. You know where the show is going to be broadcast from but you are going to see a lot more different locations from different guys. We had a lot of fun with Oscar in China, all of us in Maine and me alone in Maine last year. You are going to get a lot more of that. I think that is going to bring a lot more excitement and diversity to the show. We are really looking forward to that!

 

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Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, Vivica A. Fox & Anthony C. Ferrante talk about “Sharknado 2: The Second One”

Who knew that a little film like “Sharknado” would grab global attention when it aired on Syfy last summer. Well, it’s summer time ago and we have the premiere of “Sharknado 2: The Second One” on Wednesday, July 30 at 9:00 pm on Syfy. Enough said. We were lucky enough to get a chance to chat with the films stars, Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, Vivica A. Fox and director Anthony C. Ferrante to chat about the sequel and what we can expect.

When you went in to do the first Sharknado movie did you have any idea it was going to become this massive pop culture event?
Tara Reid: I mean we definitely didn’t know it was going to become what happened. It was definitely shocking for all of us. We had no clue signing on to the movie that this would be this phenomenon. So you know, it was great and kind of shocking experience. And it turned into something wonderful. Now to be a part of the franchise has been incredible. But yes, we definitely, we didn’t know – we got real lucky.
Anthony C. Ferrante: It’s hard with these things. You never – you know, you just try to make the best project possible and, you know, what happened on this thing – you know, it’s lightening in a bottle. We didn’t tell people to show up and make it a Twitter phenomenon. It just happened. And that’s kind of cool. You very rarely get those opportunities like that where people just want to embrace you just because you’re there. And that was kind of – it was kind of special. And helped because now we got to make a second movie and we got to make a bigger and better movie after that. So it’s fun.

How did you amp things up for the sequel?
ACF: I think the key with the second movie is we want them to – we wanted to kind of amp up what we did – we already did a lot in the first movie for the budget and the schedule. I mean that’s the – I think one of the reasons why it stood out just because we were pushing the budget and the schedule the maximum. And so we pretty much had the same kind of schedule in this one and we were trying to do twice as much as pushing as we did on the first one. So it – it’s a lot of heavy lifting to kind of make these things look fantastic and don’t have a – you know, we don’t have a $200 million budget to pull it off. But we have a lot of the imagination from our writers under Levin, from our cast and from our crew and producers and Syfy to let us play in this playground. One of the best things that Syfy said – there were actually two great things they said when we were developing. One, they started saying, well, we’re set it in summer but any weird weather when you’re shooting in February make it part of the story, which liberated us. So we didn’t have to go, we have to hide the snow. And that really adds to the look and feel of the movie. The second thing is – is that, they said we want you to shoot this movie in New York, shoot it in New York. We don’t want you to go to Canada. We don’t want you shoot in the back lots in LA. We want to shoot in New York. And I think that – that makes this movie look gargantuan and it feels authentic. And I think that’s what makes this one really special because we’re right there in the thick of New York.
TR: I think New York City has its own personality itself. So adding the personality of New York into this film really added a magical element into the film.

Ian/Tara, When you have a movie that is special like Sharknado was, sometimes actors will be reluctant to do a sequel. Did you guys have any second thoughts or were you on board from the get go?
Ian Ziering: I was on board right from the get go. You know, what’s so nice about Sharknado is that it really is not competing with itself and the bar that it set initially is not – you know, one of – you know, that’s unattainable. This was a low budget independent film, you know, a very campy nature.
So really the only way to screw it up would be to change it. And the brilliance of Sharknado 2 is the fact that it’s more of the same. It’s a similar formula but it’s a different experience, similar situation in a new environment. And if people liked one they’re going to love two.
TR: I agree with Ian exactly. He couldn’t have said it better. When I read the first one and went out to dinner that night with my friends, I told them I thought the script was hilarious. I was – yes, sharks are flying in Beverly Hills and maiming people and jumping out of pools. And my friends are laughing so hard. They’re like, are you kidding me? This is amazing, you’ll have to do this. So it’s so funny, you have to do it. So the next day I called my agent and I’m like, all right, let’s do it. And never knowing it would become the phenomenon it did but, you know, it worked. You know, people really enjoyed it. And then we learned from the first one and I think made it even better.

The film has a lot of humor in it. Do you sort of play it serious or take a laugh with it?
Vivica A. Fox: I definitely played my character serious and then I think, like, in the moments and what were fighting against and the elements, then the comedy ensued. So I took it very serious that a Sharknado was coming and we were there to stop it.
TR: Yes, I mean I think we all had to take, you know – even though the situation seems so crazy. But you had to play it serious because if you didn’t – if we were playing it laughing the whole time then the storyline wouldn’t even make sense. It’s by taking it serious in such an absurd crazy environment and that’s where the jokes come in, that’s where it gets funny. So I think you really do have to commit to your character, you know, and also know what you’re playing and being in that situation that you’re in and playing it serious then there comes the humor. So I think that’s really what a lot of people did.
ACF: And I think one of the other tricks with this movie and there’s a lot of horror films that will be just purposely campy and over the top but, I think the key actually to this whole franchise is having everybody playing it straight. I mean Ian has some very funny moments in the movie and lines but they’re character driven, they’re reactionary. The only people that are allowed to be funny are your comic relief characters, which are like, Judah Friedland. But even then they ground it. It’s not, ‘I’m making a joke.’ That was one of the things when we’d get new people coming in for cameos. A couple times they would come in and they’d be over the top when we were rehearsing. And we’d be like, no, no, no, it has to be played straight. You can be as funny as you want but you have to be in character and take the situation seriously. And I think that’s part of the charm. I mean Ian, you kind of agree, right, with…
IZ: Absolutely, even though the situations are absurd, you know, in the reality of the imaginary circumstances if you will, you know, you say and do things that – you know, are appropriate for the actions or the scenario. But as a spectator, as an observer, you realize how funny they are within that situation. But when you’re dealing with it, you know, you have to act naturally in imaginary circumstances. But as a spectator you realize that, you know, you get to enjoy the fun of it because you’re a witness. You’re not there experiencing it. So in that dichotomy, that’s where really the joy of the movie exists because you have to suspend this believe to buy into what you’re doing but yet you still have you foot in the real world so it gives you perspective of how absurd this movie really is.
ACF:  I think a perfect example of what Ian did in the first movie when he chainsawed his way out of the shark there’s two ways that could have went. You could have went the Jim Carey route where it’s like, I’m laughing it up. Or you do what he did which was literally committing that he just was inside of a shark and that inherently makes it funnier because it’s so earnest that it’s so in the moment. I think that’s one of the charms about why people remember that sequence because – you know, Ian – it was the coldest day of the year in LA, which is hard to believe that we had a cold day. And a lot of – we dumped, like, 20 gallons of water on him. He’s freezing to death. He did. It was great. It was awesome.

What was the vibe on the set like the second time around?
TR: The vibe on the set was great. I mean we got lucky, everyone truly got along in the movie and had a great time with each other. And I think that shows.
VAF: The only element that was kind of crazy was just that it was really, really cold and there were sometimes you would be doing the scene and – boy, I just could not – getting out the dialog could be a little tough. But we would just go warm up and then go back at it again.

Did you all feel a responsibility to a fan base that didn’t exist the first time around?
VAF: Absolutely, yes. I mean when I heard about the success of the movie – 5,000 tweets a minute – I mean the first time, I was like, wow, okay, people are really, really loving this. And they’re going to be looking forward to the second one. So we wanted to deliver and make it bigger and better.
IZ: Yes, you know, in making Sharknado 2 there was a certain – there was a greater amount of ease about it because where I didn’t have the experience of what was possible, you know, after seeing what they were able to accomplish – what the visual effects artists were able to accomplish, what Anthony was able to do with the script, you know, going into Sharknado 2 I had a higher level of trust. So it was a bit more framing and enabled me to not have to worry about – gosh, am I going to look ridiculous doing this? I would do it no matter what but I had a greater amount of trust knowing that, you know, Anthony is completely capable, knowing that the visual effects artists are going to make all my actions substantiated by whatever shark it is that I’m being threatened by to make what initially was an action into a very realistic reaction. So I had a lot more fun because I wasn’t ill at ease.

Lastly a fun question; what’s your favorite shark kill out of both of the movies?
IZ: Yes, I like the shark kills most where I anchor myself to the ground and allow the sharks to literally pass through the blade. You know, that’s something that I did in the first movie where it was completely unrehearsed and Anthony has us running through a parking lot. He says, okay, I need you to jump around and there’s going to be sharks flying out of the sky so leap and jump and dodge sharks flying. I didn’t know what to expect but knowing that they would probably paint in the appropriate reaction there’s one moment where I just got on one knee and I raised the chainsaw into the air and they hit it out of the park. They had a shark fly through that. In the second one, working with a chainsaw that is 45 pounds, you know, swinging a chainsaw through the air is a little bit more challenging. So when I stood on top of the fire truck knowing that there was a shark flying at me I thought this would be another great opportunity. But this time I did it backwards. And Anthony says, what the hell are you doing? It looks so phallic. But when we painted the shark in it’s such a beautiful kill. It really is.
ACF: It is a fantastic moment. Yes, we called if the phallic shot. Wow, it was great. They did – that was one of the – that’s probably one of my favorite kills in this movie that – the animator, (Dennis) who did it, just – he originally did one pass on that where it was just kind of similar to the first movie and he got obsessed with the anatomy of a shark. And he found a half shark, like a plastic one that showed the full anatomy. And he used that as his inspiration so you get that really clean thing. And he just made a beautiful moment out of that.

Imagination Movers’ Scott Durbin talks about touring and plans for new music

Scott Durbin is one of the founding members of the popular kids television show and band “Imagination Movers”. They have a successfully show that currently airs on Disney Junior. They are also constanstly touring bringing their music to fans all over the world. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Scott about their music, their tour plans for this summer and also what the future brings.

Mike Gencarelli: When you guys started “Imagination Movers” back in 2003, did you ever think that you would be still going this strong today?
Scott Durbin: I would have never imagined this that show would be seen in 50+ countries, translated in 12 languages and we are recognized around the world. For that part of it, I would say “Definitely no”. On the other side, we were so tenacious when we started. We believed that we wanted to create something to encourage creativity in kids, modeling problem-solving and create music for kids that challenged them and did not pacify them. This gets them off the couch and gets them moving around and also their brain moving. Even for parents, like yourself, we wanted to make it something that you could listen to over and over without starting to hate it. We also wanted to make it developmental and age appropriate, so it really connects with the kids. So that part of me says “Yes, I knew we were going to be a success”. We are coming from a real place and doing it for the right reasons.

MG: I love that you guys have such strong educational messages in your show and music while still being entertaining and having fun…
SD: I think it is important to balance them both. If there is too much entertainment it can become campy. If it is too educational, it can be a turn off. But if there is a good balance, you can get the best of both worlds. You can teach and the kids will enjoy learning. I started off teaching in elementary education for 10 years. So in those years that I taught, I saw this level of creativity in the kids was just decreasing and I saw this need for creativity. I think part of the reason why we began. We say that there was no “real people” in kid’s entertainment (going back over 10 years now) and we wanted to change that. We wanted to bring strong male role models to kids. As a teacher, you had a lot of kids that didn’t have a strong male role model at home and I found that having that was invaluable.

MG: You guys are touring all this summer and through the fall, tell us about what you enjoy most about performing live?
SD: Obviously, we have been so blessed with just being able to travel and meet our fans across the globe. We just got back from the UK. We recently did a show in Dubai. An interesting thing about Dubai is that about 80% of the people there are ex-pats from direct countries. The group that brought us over there told us that most of the Western acts they bring over there, potential 95% of the audience are expats other countries like Australia, UK, Canada, or the States. So essentially they are all Western, but when we played in Dubai the audience was Indian, Philippian, Saudi Arabian and the group that brought us in said that they have never seen the amount of diversity that we brought to one of their shows. So for us, I think being able and being accessible to such a diverse group of people makes it worth it. That was so special. It just showed how four dudes from Louisiana can resonate with a six year old from India. When we tour, we get to meet families and hear stories about how the music has affected them and that is so humbling. We are very fortunate to be able to participate in this. There is a certain glimmer of magic in what we get to do.

MG: On July 27th, you guys are playing after the Tampa Bay Rays game at Tropicana Field for a special Christmas in July concert; tell us about that?
SD: I am very excited for this. We got to do it last year and we are lucky enough to get to do it again. The hard part about this is that the Rays are playing the Red Socks. I have a real soft spot for the Rays since I have been following them much more but my dad was a huge Red Socks fan. So I grew up rooting for the Red Socks, so I am little torn here [laughs]. For the Christmas in July, we will probably play about 70 minutes and throw in some fun Christmas songs. We have a really interactive set and the kids have a lot of fun. It is actually really a family concert that moms and dads will enjoy as well. We play live music, so there is so much great energy going around.

MG: Your latest album “Back in Blue” was released last summer which includes second set of songs from season 3; do you have plans for new music?
SD: Yeah, that is a great question. The music industry is changing and how bands get music out to their fans are changing. “Back in Blue” was our first digital release only, so there was no hard copy available. That is something that was so new to us to think that we can’t give you a CD and you have to download it. There are so many great songs from that CD including “Robot Chase Song” and “Have You Ever Seen a Unicorn”. In fact, right now we are actually starting on our ninth album. We did an album called “Rock-o-matic” a few years back, which was a CD/DVD. We created about 35 minutes of additional content with videos, sketches etc and we are looking to do a follow up to that. This time we are going to get our fans to participate. They are also going to get to experience more of the making of the CD and DVD. If you “Like” our Facebook, you can find out more about this.

MG: There hasn’t been new episodes for over a year now; is there a fourth season in the horizon for the “Imagination Movers”?
SD: Right now, episodes are currently are airing on Disney Junior. I don’t know if a fourth season will ever be made. But we are currently working with a production company in Canada right now to create new “Movers” content… So I will leave that at that because I do not know how much I can say right now. Around the corner, don’t be surprised if you are seeing some new content. So we are very excited about that.

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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.

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