Interview with Juan Gabriel Pareja

Juan Gabriel Pareja is currently starring in AMC’s new TV series “The Walking Dead”. Juan is no stranger to acting, he has already worked with director Frank Darabont in “Stephen King’s The Mist”, Oliver Stone in “W.” and with Robert Rodriguez on “Machete” . Juan took some time to chat with Movie Mikes about his films and his role in “The Walking Dead”.

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Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your character Morales in “The Walking Dead”
Interestingly enough, I play a character who was not in the original Kirkman series, but who was created as a write-in by Frank Darabont (to whom I feel incredibly indebted to, btw). Being a write-in, I think, is a bit of a blessing in disguise. Die-hard fans may wonder who the heck I am and take a moment to connect with my character, but at the same time, my character’s storyline, and demise, is not already programmed in the world of the comic-book, as is the case with a few of the other main characters in the series. So I like that it is kind of an open-ended character with limitless possibilities. Also, the character I play, Morales, is one of the few survivors of the camp who is fortunate enough to be surviving the zombie-apocalypse with his nuclear family intact. I think this certainly adds a slightly different dynamic than the other lone survivors, as I’m fighting not only for my own survival, but for that of my family… a struggle and perspective shared with our protagonist, Rick, and his family. Overall, I think Morales sees himself as a moral compass (perhaps we all see ourselves that way). Heck, it’s right there in his name! Seriously though, I think he does his best to keep people calm, centered, and rational when tensions rise high, when the defecation hits the ventilation, as I heard someone say recently. I think it might have been on the latest video game I’ve been playing, “Bad Company II”.

MG: Is it connected at all with the character you played in Frank Darabont’s “The Mist” also named Morales?
Funny you should ask….. When I arrived in Atlanta this summer for the table read of what was to be my first episode, Guts, Frank made a quick joke regarding that coincidence, and that I might always end up playing a ‘Morales’ in any of his future projects. But no, there is no correlation between the two characters in either project, just me, and of course the apocalypse of your choice. A little side note for aspiring actors out there, you never know where your next project is going to come from. I actually just arrived in LA (I had been working in the Texas and Louisiana markets for a while) earlier this year, trying to figure out how I was going to make ends meet and get an agent. I was actually out knocking on doors for the U.S. Census when I got the call from my Houston agent, telling me that Frank was doing this new show out in Atlanta, that he remembered me from “The Mist” years earlier (in Louisiana), and wanted me to submit for this new role. I couldn’t believe it. I was floored, reeling with joy, and overwhelmed with gratitude. You never know which seeds that you plant along your journey are going to take root and sprout into something amazing.

MG: What has been the best part for you working on this show?
It is impossible to say really. It has all been a dream come true. Sometimes I’m not even sure if I realize how unbelievably huge this opportunity has been…. I think it is still setting in. It is incredibly validating to be working with such an amazing ensemble of actors on such an awesome piece of television history. I guess if I had to boil it down to one thing, it is the people I was working with, day in and day out, often times in uncomfortable and challenging environments. Not only are they all wonderful, talented actors, but also just terrific and impressive human beings! Incredibly supportive and always generous, there was a synergy on this show which I’ve been told is uncommon. And not just between the actors, but with absolutely everyone involved. They are all at the top of their game and are giving it all they’ve got. I mean come on, Frank Darabont, Gale Ann Hurd, Greg Nicotero, the folks at AMC, and countless others. You can’t go wrong there. I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to work with such amazing talents and industry heavy-weights. I also have high hopes that this new-found level of exposure will help me find representation out in LA and allow me to pursue my career more aggressively.

MG: Even though you character is not in series, did you read the comics to research the story?
Oh absolutely. I didn’t know anything at all about the series when I got the call. As soon as I did though, I marched down to the local comic book store in Burbank… I think it may have been the very same one where Frank first discovered the graphic novel years ago. I bought the first compendium collection of issues 1-48, and consumed it in a couple of days. I mean, it’s no wonder Kirkman has gained such a worldwide audience. Once you start, it is incredibly difficult to put down. With such rich material, it is easy to imagine keeping the audience riveted and the series going for years to come.

MG: What was it like working on a film like “Machete”?
Oh that was a lot of fun. It was a short stint of a few days’ work spread over a couple of weeks time. I’ve known that Robert Rodriguez was someone who I aspired to work with since he first did “El Mariachi” and then “Desperado” many years ago, so it was a real pleasure to finally get to meet and work with him. It was particularly gratifying to work with Robert because he is a fellow Latino and Texan who has brought some of his Hollywood success back to his home state with his Austin-based production studio. And Danny Trejo is just great. Talk about not judging a book by its cover. After years of seeing such an iconic, rugged, and downright mean-looking face on this guy, I couldn’t have been more impressed by his sheer kindness and generous spirit on set. He really couldn’t have been a nicer guy.

MG: You have worked with such great directors, Frank Darabont, Oliver Stone, and Robert Rodriguez, how was it working with such great talent?
Each time I nearly had to pinch myself to see if it was really going on. I mentioned Robert to you already. And Oliver Stone?!? I was beside myself. Giddy really. One of the greatest directors in the history of the medium. And super kind, very accessible, and generous with his compliments. And Frank–hands down amazing. My all-time favorite film has been “The Shawshank Redemption” from back to my earliest days in high school. To work with him on The Mist was special enough, but to then have him remember me and bring me back for such an epic undertaking, is simply extraordinary. It is surreal to have worked with these three greats, and I don’t know if I’ve always done the best job at processing that fact. I mean, I grew up hoping only in my wildest dreams to maybe one day work with one of these men. And it ended up happening all before ever setting a foot in Hollywood. It can also be a little unnerving at times because often you get very little actual direction, and it’s easy to end up wondering if any of the choices you are making on camera are any good at all. But you have to just trust that no news is good news, and that they know what they are doing when they cast you. I heard someone once say, 90% of directing is in the casting.

MG: Besides acting, what are some of your other hobbies?
Dancing. I absolutely love to move and groove to great music, specifically to live Latin salsa beats. It is a great way to have fun and burn calories at the same time. I’m staying active these days also, doing a bit of hiking here and there, and trying to muster up the courage to maybe start training for a half-marathon. I also like to sing, make people laugh, and can easily spend hours just sketching away.

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Interview with Gil Gerard

Gil Gerard is most know for his  role Capt. William “Buck” Rogers in “Buck Rogers in the 25h Century”.  The show is still loved by fans everywhere even after 30 years.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Gil about his role in the show and his upcoming projects.

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Mike Gencarelli: How did you get the role of Capt. William Rogers in “Buck Rogers in the 25h Century”?
Gil Gerard: I received the opportunity and turned it down three times.  Finally my agent told me to read the script.  I read it and it was pretty great.  So, I decided to do it.  I turned it down because I didn’t want to do a cartoon character.  I have seen the old Batman series and didn’t want to that type of show.  “Buck Rogers” was based on a cartoon.  I thought that Buck had a great sense of humanity and a great sense of humor.  That is what attracted me to the role.

MG: Have you ever seen any of the original television show or movie back in the 30’s?
GG: Yeah, I saw it when I was a kid.  I preferred the westerns to the serials.  I watched “Buck Rogers” and I also saw “Flash Gordon”.  I got to tell you it was pleasure to meet Buster (Crabbe) when he guest starred on the show.  We became great friends and remained friend until he died.

MG: Do you have a favorite episode from the series?
GG: Yes, it from my least favorite year…which is the second.  I liked ‘The Satyr’.  It gave me a chance to do some character acting.  It also reminded me of what I would have like the show to do for season two.  Which was basically stay on Earth and have adventures on Earth.

MG: 30 years ago, did you have any idea that this show will still be holding on with fans?
GG: No, If I did I would have saved all the props and wardrobes.  I could have had all that stuff.  It was just a job for me.  I did it, the show ended and I did other things.  It is amazing that after 30 years people still remember and love the show.  It is incredible.

MG: Did you get to keep any of the props?
GG: I did.  I have the star fighter from all of the fight scenes.  It was the Buck Rogers’ star fighter.  I have it here in my house.

MG: You have you blog and you frequent the convention scene, do you enjoy keeping in touch with fans at conventions?
GG: Yes very much.  It is very gratifying that people still remember it and it is a really nice things.  I enjoy meeting the fans and talking about the show.  It is nice thing to be remember for something like that.

MG: Tell us about your two upcoming projects “Blood Fare” and “Lost Valentine”?
GG: In “Blood Fare” I play a professor.  It is like a civil war horror film. It relates to the old legends.  It was a great experience and I really enjoyed it.  It was very low-budget independent film.  I love to deal with people that are creative, young and trying to get things started.  I just love the energy.  “Lost Valentine” is with Betty White and Jennifer Love Hewitt.   I play Betty’s son.  She is a woman who is widowed in World War II, her husband was MIA.  Jennifer plays a TV reporter who is doing a story on her.  The whole thing revolved around the fact that he said goodbye to her on Valentine’s day back in the 40’s.  Jennifer ends up finding what happened to her husband and the lost valentine becomes the found valentine. It is a really a nice story.  It will be on the Hallmark Channel probably around Valentine’s day.

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Interview with Linda Larkin

Linda Larkin is the voice of Jasmine from Disney’s timeless classic “Aladdin”.  Linda has reprised the role of Jasmine numerous times over the years.  Movie Mikes had the chance to chat with Linda about the role and how it has been playing this role over the years.

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Mike Gencarelli: How did you originally get the role of Princess Jasmine in “Aladdin?”
Linda Larkin: The role of Jasmine was really one of many auditions I had that week. I really didn’t know that much about it before my first audition. “The Little Mermaid” was just coming out…this was before “Beauty and the Beast” had come out…these things take years from beginning to end…and I wasn’t really aware of this new chapter of Disney animated features. So I really didn’t know what I was auditioning for, I didn’t know it was going to be this big movie. I thought it was going to be something like “Duck Tales” (laughs). I had no idea. When I went in I only got a few pages of the script. But those few scenes they had me read…I really connected to them. I thought they were beautiful. One was with Abu and the other was a scene that made it in the movie that leads up to the magic carpet ride. I really felt the magic of that movie just from that little audition. I didn’t hear anything for a couple of months and then I got a call saying I had a call back. And this went on for a few months. I’d go in and then I’d get called back. I was living in L.A. at the time and when I’d get my call back, I’d go to the studio and as the process went on the field would keep getting smaller and smaller. The first time I auditioned every girl I knew my age was also auditioning for it. Which wasn’t unusual. We all auditioned for everything. The second time it was a much smaller list and by the end it was just me and a guy they were considering for Aladdin and I ended up getting the part and they didn’t use the guy (Scott Weinger got the part). For my last audition I basically read the whole script, it was like a four hour audition. They animated to our voices and when it was finished they presented it and the studio signed off on me and they began looking for a guy. That’s the long version!

MG: Because of your many years doing the character, have you become attached to her?
LL: Like I said, I connected to the character the very first time I read the script. And I’ve stayed connected to her through out. It feels like she’s a part of me and I’m a part of her. To me it feels like it was meant to be. If I had to choose from all of the Disney princess who I’d want to be, Jasmine is the one I would choose. I think it was kismet…a connection that was meant to be. I think that’s why I got the job because I “got” her right away. And there was some resistance to me because originally the character was like a dumb Lauren Bacall. They were looking for a different kind of voice then what I brought into the room. But I changed their minds. And some people at the studio were still attached to the original idea but eventually everybody came on board.

MG: Do you feel that the character has changed at all over the years?
LL: That’s an interesting question. I don’t think the character has changed. She was a very strong, well defined character from the very beginning. And while we all grow up, Jasmine is still sixteen. We’ve done 100 episodes of a cartoon series. We’ve done toys and games and dolls and other interactive media and she is still sixteen year old Jasmine. And, who I am today is the person I saw inside me as a sixteen year old. My character was pretty much what it has been throughout my life. Everyone matures…they grow up and learn to make better decisions. And I really think that, by the time you’re sixteen, your character has already been pretty defined. Jasmine doesn’t need to change. You can identify with her and you know how she would be were she be allowed to “grow up.” To me she’s already a fleshed out character. She’s very real. She’s been that way from the beginning and she hasn’t lost that. Sometimes change isn’t always the best thing. Sometimes it’s better that things stay the same because they really hit it right the first time with this girl.

MG: Was there a reason why Lea Salonga has the singing role in the film?
LL: I’m not a singer! And this is something that a lot of people don’t know. This was the first time in a Disney movie that they separated the acting voice and the singing voice. Prior to that they had only auditioned singers. They only auditioned people who could do both. They could act and sing. And this movie…it was developed around Robin Williams…and when I was auditioning I already knew Robin Williams was playing the Genie. By my second call back I had the whole script and you could see that it was literally written in his voice. He was singing HIS songs but they felt that Robin was first a great actor and they wanted everyone around him to keep up with him. And when they put out the
notice they made it clear that, above all, they wanted strong actors. Being able to sing was o.k. but it wasn’t necessary. They wanted to see actors. In the original script, Princess Jasmine doesn’t have a song. In the movie she only has one song, the duet with Aladdin. But when I read the original script she didn’t have any songs at all…”A Whole New World” hadn’t been written yet. So all I had to do was focus on the acting. And when they added the song they came to me and asked, “Do you sing?” And I said, “I do…but not like a princess!” And they said, “No problem, we’ll find a singer to match your voice.” And they did. And to me it’s such an amazing match to my voice that it’s almost seamless when they go from dialogue to the song and back to dialogue. And you see what happened…from that point forward that opened up the world of Disney animation to everybody. They no longer needed actors who sang. Robin Williams was the first big celebrity to do an animated film. So from that point up to “Pocahontas.” Irene (Bedard, the speaking voice of Pocahontas) and I are the only ones who were non-singers, non-celebrities in a lead role in a Disney animated movie. I squeezed into that tiny window of opportunity where you didn’t have to be a star and you didn’t have to be a singer.

MG: If you had the chance to voice any other Disney Princess who would it be?
LL: As a little girl I identified the most with Snow White. She was my favorite. And I don’t really think she’s like Jasmine at all, but as a little girl that’s who I would have chosen. But Jasmine is my favorite. I really couldn’t pick any other character that I would want to be more than her. She’s just so fun. It’s really fun for me to do.

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Interview with Irene Bedard

Irene Bedard is known best for voicing one of Disney’s beloved characters, “Pocahontas”. Irene has reprised the character many times for Disney and even portrayed Pocahontas’ mother in “The New World”. Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Irene about her work with Disney and what she is currently working on.

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Mike Gencarelli: How were you chosen to be the voice of “Pocahontas”?
Irene Bedard: My very first movie was a Disney movie called “Squanto.”  I had been working on it and had also done a television film called “Lakota Woman:  Siege at Wounded Knee.”  The casting director there told me that they were looking for someone to provide the voice for a movie about Pocahontas.  Having already worked for Disney she recommended me to them.  I was in Buffalo at the time so I got on a train, got there (NYC)…and when I had gotten on the train in Buffalo my hat had blown off and had gotten run over by the train.  So I walk in wearing a sun dress and my straw hat, which is all askew…I tell them “Hello, how are you…my hat got run over by a train” and they began to laugh.  We talked and had a great time from the very beginning.  They had me read and it was a lot of fun.  They gave me hugs at the end.  One of them said “We hope to see you again” and I thought to myself, “That went really well.”

I was on the set of “Lakota Woman” when I found out I got the role.  I went to my first recording session and it’s in this damp basement recording studio in somebody’s house.  We’re working and there’s a knock on the door and it’s a girl scout selling girl scout cookies.  I mean it was literally in somebody’s basement.

MG: The character is actually modeled after you, how much do you see of yourself in the movie?
IB: During some of the recording sessions they would film me.  And with the exception of one session, when I was recording “Pocahontas” I was the only person in the studio.  So they would film the session.  I was new to the process and found out that the animators look at that film frame by frame and use it to capture expressions.  One of my habits is pushing my hair behind my ear and I noticed that Pocahontas has the same habit.

MG: Was there a reason why you do not sing in the film?
IB: Judy Kuhn (the singing voice of Pocahontas) was on Broadway at the time.  She has this incredible singing voice.  And I believe they hired her to be the singing voice before they hired me.  I don’t know that for sure but that’s the way I understood it.  But that’s what they were looking for…a beautiful, expressive Broadway voice.

MG: How do you feel the character changed in “Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World”?
IB: It was a difficult writing process for the writers because they had put themselves in a corner with John Smith.  Because in reality when John Smith and Pocahontas met she was 10 or 11.  When she threw herself upon him to stop a war from happening she was probably 12 or 13.  He was wounded and went back to England.  She then acted as an ambassador between her people and the English settlers.  It was almost like a political position.  She was the daughter of a chief and, in all respects, she really was a princess.  And when she was 16 or 17 she was taken as a political prisoner by the settlers.  She became Rebecca and married John Rolfe, though I think it was more a political marriage rather than a romance.  So in the second movie she goes to England and there’s this John Smith/John Rolfe thing going on.  I think they had trouble trying to work out the historical aspects of the story.  But I think they did a fine job.  The most important aspect of the story of Pocahontas is about her being a speaker for indigenous people.  A representation of people relating to the earth, relating to your elders.  Really everything that makes a tribe a tribe.  That was the most important aspect, I think, of both stories.  That was really what was important and that, I think, was portrayed very well.

MG: Was it surreal playing Pocahontas’ mother in “The New World”?
IB: Yes.  When I got to the set, O’orianka Kilcher, the girl who played Pocahontas, had grown up watching “Pocahontas” and it was beautiful to sort of pass on the torch to the next generation.  And she understood that that was what was happening.  We both felt honored to portray this life.

MG: Tell us about what you are working on currently?
IB: There’s “Tree of Life,” which is a Terrence Malick movie.  My character was experimental, even for his experimental nature and he shoots millions of feet of film.  I’ll be interested to see if my character is still even in the film.  There’s another movie I did called “Cosmic Radio” with Wes Studi and Michael Madsen that has yet to come out.  There was some talk about turning it into a television series but I don’t know what’s going on with that.  I also just did another recording session for “Pocahontas.”  In the Disney Stores there will be a magic mirror that, when a child passes carrying a “Pocahontas” item, it electronically reads the bar code and Pocahontas will appear and speak to the child.  It’s going to be a new, interactive store that will almost be an event in itself.

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