Greg Bell talks about working with Sirius/XM on Radio Classics

It was called “the theater of the mind.” Back before television families would huddle around their radio and listen to such popular shows as “Gunsmoke” or “Burns and Allen.” I still have fond memories as a young boy going to bed on Sunday nights and listening to the CBS Radio Mystery Theater, drifting off to sleep while picturing the program’s action in my head.

I bought a Sirius/XM radio for my car because I love to listen to the music of the 1970s. But more often than not you’ll find me tooling down the road listening to a great old radio drama on Channel 148, hosted by Greg Bell. I recently had the opportunity to ask Greg some questions about his interest in Classic Radio and why it’s still so popular 50 years after the last program aired.

Mike Smith: Where did you develop your interest in the radio programs of the past?
Greg Bell: As I was born in the 1960s, I was too young to have listened to these shows when they originally played. What is often called “The Golden Age Of Radio” wrapped up in 1962, when CBS, the last network still playing weekly radio theater, ended that with the final episodes of “Suspense” and “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.” Personally I was always a fan of classic media, old films, TV shows and radio. I grew up listening to the revival radio shows including Himan Brown’s “CBS Radio Mystery Theater” in the 1970s and The Elliott Lewis led “Sears Radio Theater” in the late 70s and early 80s. And later I listened to “When Radio Was” during the Art Fleming and Stan Freberg era. The entire reason the XM (now Sirius XM) RadioClassics channel was created was to introduce all these wonderful shows to a whole new audience, who like myself, were not around when they originally aired. Great storytelling is truly timeless, and these shows prove that.

MS: How did the gig at Sirius come about?
GB: In December of 2001, I was hired at XM Satellite Radio in DC for the now-defunct USA Today channel (basically a radio version of the newspaper.) In the summer of 2002, they launched two new spoken word channels, Sonic Theater and RadioClassics. I was hired to run the classic radio channel, and was able to draw on my knowledge of classic films and television to also host the channel. XM merged with Sirius in 2008, and I was retained as the host of RadioClassics. And then following the retirement of Stan Freberg in 2006, I took over as the host of the syndicated series “When Radio Was” airing on approximately 200 radio stations across North America.

MS: You’ve hosted several radio themed cruises. What all do they entail?
GB: What a blast! We are currently preparing for the Fourth Annual Radio Spirits sponsored sea cruise: The first three were tremendous successes. While at sea we re-create both classic and original radio plays live on stage with the fans as the actors as well as handling the sound effects also created live. We also have old time radio trivia, show discussions, listening parties, gift bags, and perhaps most importantly it’s a place where I lot of folks, from all over the nation, who love the same stuff (classic radio theater) can meet.

MS: What are some of your favorite radio programs?
GB: Only way to answer that is to break it down by genre:

Comedies: Jack Benny is the king, but for great chemistry and timeless humor; my favorite is “The Phil Harris & Alice Faye Program.” Harris and Elliott Lewis as his pal, Frankie Remley were Cramden and Norton before the “Honeymooners” came along.

The top thriller and mystery series: For me they are “Suspense” and “The Whistler.” Both had tremendous storytelling and featured different themes each week, so it might be a murder mystery one week, science fiction the next and so on.

Police dramas: “Dragnet” was a radio show first and is very well done, but I also recommend “Broadway Is My Beat” (follows NYPD detective Danny Clover) and “The Lineup.”

The Westerns; sure everyone remembers “The Lone Ranger,” “Hopalong Cassidy” and “Red Ryder,” and they are entertaining but were targeted for younger listeners. So my favorites are “The Six-Shooter” (with Jimmy Stewart), “Fort Laramie” (featuring future “Perry Mason” star Raymond Burr) and “Gunsmoke.” Radio’s “Gunsmoke” which debuted three years before the TV version, is easily the best of the bunch. With a whole different cast (William Conrad was the voice of Marshall Dillon) “Gunsmoke” was much more than a western. The writers tackled issues of the 1950s like racism, xenophobia, domestic abuse, etc while setting the stories in the late 19th Century American West.

MS: Why do you think the medium is still popular?
GB: As I said earlier, great storytelling is truly timeless!

MS: With the popularity of satellite radio growing, do you think that radio dramas/comedies could return? Maybe “Screen Directors Playhouse presents ‘Jaws’?”
GB: It’s already here; there are tons of modern radio theater groups all over the country performing both classic and original scripts, so it’s truly alive and well.

MS: Do you have any new programs coming to the channel this year?
GB: There will always be series that our exclusive content provider, Radio Spirits, is able to get legal broadcasting rights to air and/or have digitally restored and prepped for satellite radio, plus they periodically supply us with more “new to the channel” episodes from series we currently feature.

For a list of the weekly shows, click here

Audiotopsy’s Greg Tribbett talks about debut album “Natural Causes”

Greg Tribbett is probably best known for his guitar work with Mudvayne and Hellyeah which featured former Mudvayne vocalist Chad Grey and former Pantera/Damage Plan drummer Vinnie Paul. Greg’s newest project Audiotopsy is set to release their debut album titled “Natural Causes” at the end of the summer and Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Greg recently about the album, the group’s formation and the upcoming tour plans for this fall.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us about how you guys came together to for Audiotopsy?
Greg Tribbett: Around July of 2014 I called up Matt McDonough and we got talking about putting something together as we both had nothing going on at the time. I ended up flying up to Matt’s house for a weekend and we wrote about seven songs in two days. We hadn’t played together for about 5 years by this point but things went really well. We decided we needed to get a singer and a bass player so we called Billy Keeton who we knew from the band Skrape. He had already been jamming with Perry Stern so those two sort of came as a package deal. We were really stoked at this point as we didn’t need to look for a bass player. We ended up going down to Florida to record those seven songs and we all gelled together great. It was a great time and things just came together really quickly.

AL: Was there ever any thoughts in your mind when you put the group together about how to distance it from your guys previous works with other bands?
GT: That was definitely on my mind. I didn’t want to sound like Mudvayne or Hellyeah as I have done all that. When I was writing I really tried to concentrate on originality and create things that were both new and fresh. I think we certainly accomplished that.

AL: Was the ability to come up with new material quickly something you have always been able to do or was this something new for you?
GT: It comes pretty easy for me. Usually I will just sit down and start thinking up riffs in my head and play them out on guitar. From there I will start working on the actual song. Within about 20 or 30 minutes I will have a song laid out. When Matt and I got together he was familiar with my work style from all the time we had spent with each other over the years. When I got to his house I came with most of the songs structures already laid out. There may have been one or two songs that we worked on together but for the most part things were pretty much done. I just let Matt do his thing over the riffs that I brought. We did the albums first 7 songs that weekend at Matt’s. A short while later I ended up writing another three songs that we also did at Matt’s. We originally were just going to release an EP but ended up doing a full length release instead.

AL: What type of single release plans do you have for the album thus far?
GT: We have the song “Headshot” out right now but I don’t really consider that to be our single or anything like that. The actual single will be coming to radio soon and that is called “The Calling”. We actually have plans within the next few weeks to do videos for both of those songs.

AL: What types of tour plans are in place to support the album?
GT: Right now we are looking at late fall or early winter to get out on the road. We have a lot of feelers out right now as there are a bunch of tours going out at this time. We are looking at all those and we plan to go with the best offer that suits us. From there we will make all the plans and whatnot that goes along with booking a tour. We will definitely be out there through 2016 promoting the band and the record. We want to go worldwide with this.


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


LD: You done it a couple times—

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


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

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

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

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

Greg Grunberg talks about his new film “Big Ass Spider!”

Greg Grunberg is best known for playing Matt Parkman in “Heroes”. He also played Sean Blumberg in “Felicity”, the pilot Seth Norris in “Lost” and Eric Weiss in “Alias”. His latest film is “Big Ass Spider!” and it is one hell of a fun movie. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Greg about the film and how he ended up fighting a “Big Ass Spider!”

Mike Gencarelli: Congrats in advance for the early success and positive reactions to “Big Ass Spider!”
Greg Grunberg: Thanks! It one of these films that we just need to get the word out and I know it’s going to have some great legs. People are going to watch it and spread the word. I am so proud of it. Mike (Mendez), the director, did some a great job putting it all together. He let us improv and have fun and it really came together great.

MG: What was your first response when the script for “Big Ass Spider!” lands on your desk?
GG: My initial response is “HELL NO” [laughs]. I read everything and tell people to send me whatever and either I or my manager will read it. I received and this immediately thought that it was so ambitious that it would never work. There are more effects shots in this film then “Hollow Man”…and I was in “Hollow Man”. Kevin Bacon was invisible the entire movie. So I thought how nobody was going to be able to pull this off. So I gave a polite “No” along with a few notes and caveats that I had. They came back to me and just asked me to meet with the director Mike Mendez. He is one of these guys that you cannot say no to him. He has such a singular vision and is such a talented filmmaker. He seemed to have everything planned out in terms of effects etc. He was also willing to consider my casting suggestion for Lombardo Boyar, who I worked with on my movie “Group Sex”. It just all ended up working out and we were all on the same page.

MG: How do you approach a role like this to make it funny without being too cheesy?
GG: No matter what people do in their life, everybody takes what they do seriously. I wanted to approach it that was but not in a cartoony way. I have seen characters like this in movies and they go above and beyond and are really nuts are killer spiders. It is entertaining but if you don’t believe it then you are not going to take the ride. I know that the unbelievable factor is obvious for this film, there is a ten story
spider but you want the characters to be real and relationships between them to be real. I think that is what we did here and it really worked. It was a really fun and I had a great time. Lombardo was fun to work with and I felt like we both stole the movie. It is one of those things that at the end you are talking about Lombardo’s one liner as much as you are the spider.

MG: What was the most demanding aspect of working on a film like this?
GG: It’s funny because when I am approached to do a film like this there always like “Look there’s not going to be trailer, it’s really low budget so…” I say “Who gives a fuck about any of that shit”. I want to make a great movie. I am always on set anyway and never in a trailer. I just love making movies. I love acting in them and every aspect about them. So that stuff doesn’t scare me. The hardest part is making sure that you have good people and they are prepared to do their jobs. Every single aspect and department matters. Mike Mendez is an incredible studied filmmaker and I can’t wait to see what happens when he is given a real budget. He is going to explode like James Wan and hopefully I get to work with him again.

MG: Why do you think sci-fi/horror fans are going to dig this film?
GG: The cool thing about this is that I have three boys, 10, 14, and 17 and all of them can watch it. This is a family movie and nothing in here is inappropriate. The scary parts of fucking scary and the funny parts are funny. It is a great combination in a very relatable way. If shit when down like this in L.A., this is how it would play out [laughs]. Is it the best movie in the world? NO! But it is damn close in terms of low budget spider movies are concerned.

MG: “Big Ass Spider!” was left off nicely for a sequel; any word of that happening?
GG: We have talked about it and are certainly thinking about what that next movie would be but it is all up to the financiers. It is doing well for Epic Pictures and they are pleased so far. Hopefully it will be the type of thing where the fans just demand it. I would love to make another one.

MG: You also recently wrapped on two very different films “Burning Dog” and “A Tigers Tale”, tell us about these?
GG: “A Tigers Tale” is a complete family movie. It is really sweet and has these two Bengal tigers in it. I did that because I really wanted to do something different. I mean I got to work with real Bengal tiger cubs and I couldn’t pass up an opportunity like that. It is a straight forward family film but there are some really amazing moments in it. It just mixes things up. Then I also did this film called “Burning Dog”, with Trey Batchelor directing, which was super cool. I produced the film as well. It is like a first person shooter movie. So the main character is the camera and you ride along with these two cops and I play one of the cops. It was awesome. So keep an eye out and spread the word about “Big Ass Spider!”


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John Krasinki & Greg Daniels talks about the series finale of NBC’s “The Office”

John Krasinki plays the role of Jim on the hit NBC series “The Office”. Greg Daniels is one of the show’s writers and developers. The series is set to end it eight year run this May with the last episode containing an extra 15 minutes of footage. Media Mikes had the chance to speak recently with John and Greg about their experiences and what they will miss most about working on the show.

Adam Lawton: What do you think you are going to miss most about playing Jim.
John Krasinski: You’re trying to get tears and I appreciate it. I’m saving my tears for Barbara Walters. There’s so much to miss. I was a waiter before this show, so what I miss most about this character is way too complexly entwined in my real life. So to me, this was a winning lottery ticket, except with a winning lottery ticket you just get money, and with this you get a whole change of your life. And everything about my life has changed and become better, and I feel so lucky to be where I am. So, it’s hard to separate the two, because I’m so sort of meshed in the experience. I will say, and I don’t know if this a good answer or a bad answer, but I think the thing I’ll miss most is playing a character that people believe in so much and attach themselves to in various degrees. There are some people who think they are Jim. There are some people who are looking for Jim. And, you know I think to me, and I know to Jenna playing the Jim/Pam relationship and realizing how important it became to so many people was such an incredible honor. I felt like I was given a tremendous responsibility and that responsibility I really will miss because it’s just so much fun to play a character that people are watching and rooting for and loving. I really appreciate that.

AL: Will Steve Carell be involved in the series finale at all?
Greg Daniels: I think that Steve felt, which I agree with that that Goodbye Michael episode was his goodbye, and that he didn’t want to overshadow the endings that the other characters deserved after all these years, you know, and so I think he made a good call. Obviously, it’d be wonderful to have him back, but you know.

AL: What has “The Office” fan base in general meant to you over the years?
JK: I think there’s a lot of shows that can say, they owe it all to their fans. But, we actually technically can say that we owe everything to the fans, because I for one think that, you know our show is so fan-driven in such a specific way, as evidenced by iTunes. I mean, I think that when we first came out the only reason, in my opinion, that we made it past just, you know these pickups that Greg and I were talking about is because people actually decided they liked the show so much, and it was such a small group at the beginning, that they would pay money to see the show, rather than just wait for it on Tuesday or Thursday, whatever time it was back then. I remember that was life-changing for me to see, because you know to be part of something like that was incredible. I was walking down the streets of New York and someone would just stop on their way to work and say, “Oh, my God, you’re on my iPod.” And I was like two things, “What’s an iPod? Also, what are you talking about?” And they just held up this thing. I also think that during the early speculation of what our show would be when people were, you know obviously being really hard on the show without seeing it, because everybody thought that it was going to be terrible because the English one was so good, as soon as that first – I remember Diversity Day hitting and just every other person on the street would come up to me and say, “The show is awesome. The show is awesome.” I think we owe absolutely everything to the fans.
GD: I completely agree with that.

AL: Can you describe for us what the last few days on set were like?
JK: I don’t think there were any tears. There was just a celebration that this thing was finally over, right Greg? I think for so many people this wasn’t just a job, and there’s no way it could be just a job. This was a huge incredibly emotional family and connection that we all had. I mean, to say it was emotional would be a complete understatement. I think that, you know knowing what that we’ll see these people still in our lives, and it was still that emotional, it says a lot about how much we are all defined by this show and how much we honor how defined we are by the show. I just think that we know that this will – I think no matter what any of us go on to do, I think that this show will probably be, you know what we’re most known for, and that’s incredible. And I think for people to feel so good about that and feel that they were a part of something so special, not only in the television world, but in their personal lives, was massive. I’ll never forget, we were all joking around. I was, as per usual, crying laughing as we exited the – I’m a crier laughter  which is a bummer, but I was crying laughing with Craig and we were all joking around waiting in the hall every time we exited. And then, one of the times we came back, instead of saying, “Going again,” Greg randomly appeared and just said, “Ladies and gentlemen, that’s the end of The Office.” And it was – it really was, I mean even talking about it now, it’s – you know it was a gut punch. It’s a life-changing event and there’s just no way to describe it. It’s not like ending college. It’s not like anything, really. It’s a part of your life that defined you, and to have it go away is so incredibly bittersweet. I think the only thing that helped us all is that we’re so proud of the work, and that we’re so proud that we got to have a Series Finale. You know, I think that we – you know that’s a very rare thing. And growing up I remember the “Cheers” Finale and, you know “M*A*S*H”, and all these amazing Finales, and I remember them being very, very important. For us to be a show that even got there is incredible, and I think that we’re just all so proud of the work. And that’s, I think, the only thing that prevented us all from just having a complete meltdown.
GD: Yeah, very special. There’s the lot that we shot it in is all by itself in Van Nuys, and we had lunch with each other every day and there was nobody here who didn’t work on the show on this little lot, and so we did get very close. One of the hard parts about the Finale, I think, is that, you know you have to be professional and you have to act and you have to, you know try and keep the tone a certain way when you’re on the set and everything, in terms of like writing and directing. It’s very difficult if it also means that, you know you’re going to say goodbye to everybody you’ve been hanging out with for eight years, and you’re – you know you’re going to have to find a different place to have an office in. And so, there is like a lot of weird overlap between the end of your personal work experience and, you know what’s going on on screen, so it was very sad.

AL: Do you have a favorite episode that sticks out for you?
JK: That’s a really hard question. To me, it’s like saying, what’s your favorite movie? You’ve got to have more of like a top ten. For me I have favorites for so many different reasons, again personally and professionally, I think that there’s so many important moments, some having to do with my characters and others not. I think the first moment that I can remember the most was shooting the first day of “Diversity Day”, because the pilot was pretty much word for word the British show, which I know we weren’t all super excited about, but we could understand why we had to do it to see how it stacked up against the other show. And then, our first sort of running at our own pace was “Diversity Day”. I actually remember people looking around the room at each other, you know as if you do when you saw something incredibly special and important. We all knew that something very, very special was happening, and that this show tonally and from a writing perspective was just really, really incredible. I remember that moment feeling like it set the tone for what this show is.Personally for me, two episodes that I’ll never forget is, “Casino Night”. I remember shooting that last scene and Greg had the set cleared and the lights were low and there was like an importance put on this, and you realize that it wasn’t an importance because of us, like you know that the actors needed it necessarily. It was more like, “We’ve got to get this right for the people that are watching.” People, like Greg was saying earlier, are so invested in a way that you never thought people would watch TV and be so invested that you can’t just at the end of the episode say, “I love you,” and kiss. It has to be very real and very special and exactly how they think the characters would do it, and that was amazing. That was an amazing night. And then, the other thing that I remember defining the show was “Booze Cruise”. That will always be one of my favorite episodes on many levels. I think it’s hilarious and one of my favorite episodes.
GD: I loved that episode too but I would also have to add that “The Job” and “Business School” were great episodes as well. There’s just so many. I mean the first season had all these very comical episodes, I thought, where we weren’t really too concerned with the likeability of anybody, but I kind of loved them just – for the comedy sake. And – you know, and then we had some very good mixes of touching episodes, I think. It was good. We had some good stuff.


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Greg Cipes talks about voicing Michaelangelo in Nick’s reboot of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”

Greg Cipes is a voice actor that is known best for his role of Beast Boy in the “Teen Titans” franchise. He is currently voicing Michaelangelo in Nick’s reboot of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”. Media Mikes has a chance to chat with Greg about his role on the show and also his other voice work.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you get involved with voicing Michaelangelo in the new reboot of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”?
Greg Cipes: I have a friend who is an executive producer on the new series. He and Nickelodeon brought me in as they thought I was perfect for the character. I brought what I thought Mikey was to the table. For me it was pretty natural and easy. The original cartoon was my favorite growing up. I learned how to meditate and got in to surfing and skateboarding because of that show. The turtles really helped shape who I am today. It was a role I could easily step into and they felt I was the guy.

MG: How was it working with Rob Paulsen who worked on the original “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” series?
GC: Rob is such a pleasure to work with. I grew up listening to him on the show and to be able to work with him now is very surreal.

MG: What is it like playing such an iconic character?
GC: It is the greatest gift I have ever received. It’s a great responsibility being a turtle and there is nothing else I would rather be doing.

MG: Can you tell us about the recording sessions?
GC: 99 percent of the time we record the shows together as a group. We all feed off each other and we are like a big family. Basically, we are getting paid to have fun.

MG: What do you enjoy most about playing Iron Fist in “Ultimate Spider-Man!”?
GC: That was another role where they came to me and said I was perfect for that role. Disney thought I was very much like him and asked what I had. I brought this very gem like aspect to the character which is similar to how I am in my real life. I would say Iron Fist is a part of my personality as is Mikey. That’s usually why I book roles. The studios will see aspects of their characters in me and then ask me to come in. You would think in the voice over world it would matter what you look like or what your personality is like but, I have been cast in all of my cartoons more by how I look and by my personality. My visual and internal characteristics seem to be a big thing which is very cool. These characters are really who I am.

MG: Having voiced so many great characters, how do you differentiate your voices for each show?
GC: Each character has its own world. I will react differently in each of those worlds. It’s almost like I am an avatar. I get to go into those worlds and live it through the character. Those characters are me in different bodies and under different circumstances. Naturally I would be acting differently in different situations. Each world and character has so much richness to draw from to make it real that things come natural. My voice just changes on its own.

MG: With “Teen Titans Go!” coming in 2013, tell us about about reprising Beast Boy?
GC: That is really exciting. I love what Warner Brothers is doing with the show. The show is just so, so funny and it is going to be a great surprise for everyone. Sam Register from Warner Brothers is the one really behind making the show what it is and for bringing it back. I have been asking him for the past 7 years to bring the show back. He would just keep telling me one day we will. Finally I got the call to come in to work on the new show. Sam is the guy behind everything. That character Beast Boy kicked off my career as a voice actor.

MG: You work again with Sean Astin in “And They’re Off”, tell us about that?
GC: Before I started working with Sean Astin on “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” I got to meet him and work with him on this project. The film is a comedic film that was really fun to work on. The cast was just so great. The film wasn’t a major release or anything but a year later I am working with Sean again. He is a really great guy that I get to work with every week.

Alamo Draft House’s Greg MacLennan talks “Van Dammage!”

A graduate of the University of Texas, Greg MacLennan has the job most movie fans would kill for.  As the Director of Interactive Programming for the Alamo Draft House theatres, he has the opportunity to schedule great events combining movies of the past with current features.  This week, the Alamo Draft House Mainstreet Theatre in Kansas City is offering fans the chance to experience “Van Dammage!” – a trio of action films featuring Jean Claude Van Damme leading into an exclusive first look at the new film “The Expendables 2.”  While planning his next event, MacLennan took some time out to speak with Media Mikes.

Mike Smith:  You obviously have a love of films.  What inspired that?
Greg MacLennan:  I had the generic “film student” job of working in a video store, which gave me a chance to devour more movies then I ever had in my entire life.  And when I was younger my brother would go to the video store and bring home these awesome action movies.  Jean Claude Van Damme….Steven Segal….Arnold Schwarzenegger.  All of these amazing 80’s action movies.  I would just devour them no matter what they were.  And when I got older I found myself in a position at Alamo Draft House to put those movies back on the big screen.

MS:  How did the concept for “Van Dammage” come about?
GM:  I wanted to show movies where guys get punched in the face really hard!  That level of awesomeness isn’t happening on the big screen any more.  You don’t see the sweat running off of a bicep that has a vein breaking out of it.  You don’t get a real performance.  You don’t feel like those guys today could actually beat the **** out of each other.  I wanted to do a celebration of that.  And when I heard “The Expendables 2” was coming out I knew this was a perfect time to do it.  We checked with Lionsgate and they were like “let’s do this!”  Seriously, this is the greatest dream of my life.

MS:  Is Jean Claude Van Damme aware of what you’re doing?
GM:  Jean Claude is very aware of it.  He is very flattered.

MS:  What goes into the planning of an event like this?
GM:  First we have to get the idea approved.  Then we have to decide what movies we want to feature.  We have to lock down the titles and then make sure we can get them from the studios.  We have to come up with the various promotion items and the ridiculous menu items.  We always have a lot of surprises when it comes to Alamo Draft House’s Interactive Programming.  Just because you may know the titles of the films or the menu items doesn’t mean you’re going to know everything.  It’s a lot of people working and coordinating all of the aspects of the event.

Here is the lineup and menu for “Van Dammage!”

5:00 PM:  Van Damme stars as real life martial arts champ Frank Dux (and does an incredible display of the splits) in “Bloodsport.”

6:45 PM:  Directed by John Woo, “Hard Target” finds Van Damme helping a woman search for her missing father.

8:45 PM:  Dolph Lundgren co-stars with the Muscles from Brussels in “Universal Soldier.”

11:00 PM:  Van Damme joins Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris and a who’s who of action movie greats in “The Expendables 2.”

The menu created for VAN DAMMAGE is action packed as well. Moviegoers can enjoy three special dishes that will put a stranglehold on even the largest appetite – KUMITE CHOP SUEY, a dish packed with meat, eggs, veggies and noodles. ANDREW SCOTT’S EAR NECKLACE, freshly fried pork rinds fit to be strung together and worn, or dipped in a spicy soldier dipping sauce. Finally, finish off your hunger with HARD TARGET BEIGNETS, a sweet and delicious New Orleans treat of fried dough finished with powdered sugar and served with chicory syrup.

This special event is also being held on Wednesday, August 15, at the Austin, Texas Alamo Draft House.  VAN DAMMAGE tickets are $20 and available now! Tickets for the Kansas City screening are on sale now here.

Check out the event trailer here:

Zachary Gordon talks about playing Greg in series “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”

Zachary Gordon is known best for playing Greg Heffley in series “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”. He is returning this summer in the third film in the series “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Zachary about the series and what we can expect from this film.

Mike Gencarelli:  What do you enjoy most about playing the Greg Heffley character?
Zachary Gordon: It’s somewhat of a challenge to go back to Vancouver every year but at the same time it almost gets easier as we are just a big wimpy family. I kind of fell right in to character from the start. Playing Greg is so much fun. I get to become this whole new character. When we are shooting in Vancouver we all get to hang out and do things together.

MG: How does the latest film compare to the previous two?
ZG: The first two films were based during the school year. What’s unique about “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” is that it takes place during summer vacation. Greg’s idea of a perfect summer vacation is sleeping in and playing videos games. His Mom’s idea is quite different. Greg is kind of forced to spend time with his Dad and things just backfire. Greg’s tries a number of different ways to impress everyone but nothing seems to work out.

MG: Was there any difficulty trying to blend the two books, “The Last Straw” and “Dog Days”, that make up this film into one?
ZG: Playing Greg is always somewhat the same. A lot really depends on the mood of the scene. What I find so interesting about the two books being combined is you get some of the school year and some of the summer. I thinkthat is really great. I especially like that they involved summer vacation as this hasn’t been shown before. I am really happy with the way the film is turning out.

MG: Do you have any fun stories from during filming?
ZG: I have a lot! There was one where we were filming in a pool with a bunch of people. I was a little nervous about what people could be doing in the pool because they had been in there for awhile. Everyone started joking about it and my Mom and Peyton List’s Mom decided to mold a bunch of tootsie rolls together and put it in the pool. Peyton planted the evidence in the bottom of the pool and then went over and told one of the producers. They told Peyton not to tell me as they thought I would freak out. They had to get some people to try and get it out. We were all laughing and then Peyton jumped in the pool and picked up the fake poop. Eventually people found out that it was fake. That was a great prank.

MG: Do you have a favorite book in the series?
ZG: The first one to me is personally the best. I love all the books but the first one really starts everything off. That’s where the rollercoaster begins.

MG: What do you like most about working in the voice over field?
ZG: I am actually working on a voice over project right now titled “The Boxcar Children”. What I love about animation is that it is so different from live action. You can roll out of bed and go to work. You have to voice over acharacter without anyone seeing your emotions. I like that challenge. When working on voiceovers you are watching something through a glass window. Both voiceover and live action are so unique.

MG: Are you going to be reprising your role in the new “Santa Paws”?
ZG: In the first film I play Puppy Paws which is Santa Paws’ son. In the new film I voice the younger Santa Paws. The dogs are adorable and I am glad I got to voice over them.

MG: What are you currently working on?
ZG: I am working on “The Boxcar Children” which is based off the book series. It’s a great family film that everyone can relate to. Also before I broke my leg I finished work on a film called “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone”. This character is much different than my role in the Wimpy Kid films  as I play sort of a bully. It was fun working on a totally different character.

Greg Lake talks about working with King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Greg Lake is best known for his work with King Crimson and Emerson, Lake &, Palmer. Greg has recently released an autobiography titled “Lucky Man” and is currently on tour speaking about and performing songs from his vast musical catalog. Media Mikes caught up with Greg recently to discuss his book and the current tour.

Adam Lawton: What can you tell us about the re-release of the Emerson, Lake &, Palmer catalog?
Greg Lake: To be honest I didn’t have a lot to do with the re-release. I did approve them and I know they have gone through a lot of trouble to make this a really top class thing. They have re-mastered everything in 5.1 sound as well as including a number of out-takes from the original sessions. They have also done a tremendous job on the packaging. It’s a first class reissue but I think the main reason I don’t take a lot of interest in re-issues is that I get very tired of seeing the same album released over and over again with very minimal changes. These are a genuine upgrade and they dug into the vaults to find new bits and pieces of material.

AL: Can you tell us about your current tour which is being billed as “The Songs of a LifetimeTour”?
GL: During the time I was writing my autobiography “Lucky Man” certain songs popped up as being important or influential to my career. At the end of it all I realized what the songs were and what they represented. It was journey the audience I have shared over many years.

AL: What has been the biggest challenge of putting on a show like this?Music is a backdrop to every one’s life. I thought it would be nice to relive that journey with the audience. From my point of view each of the songs has a story. This tour gives me a chance to tell those stories as well as hear the audiences own stories about the songs. The audience and I get to interact with one another and relive our journeys. I didn’t want this to be me sitting on a stool with a guitar boring everybody. I designed a very dynamic show that combines a number of different elements. There is humor, warmth and emotion. It really is quite an entertaining night which is what I wanted. The audience leaves having had a wonderful time. That’s the most important thing.
GL: Every night that I go out on the stage it doesn’t feel like a concert. It feels like walking into a family living room. We are all connected in some sort of way and everyone knows it. When one person tells a story other people get it. There is a feeling of bonding. It’s a very strange concept as I don’t think there is anything else quite like it. I took elements from the original recordings of these classic songs and produced new sections specifically for this show. I have something from the original records, something new and of course the live portion of things. All the stories provide an ensemble of experiences. I think this is why it’s been received so well.

AL: What are the upcoming plans for the tour?
GL: We are just finishing up our first U.S. and Canadian run. From there I will be going to Europe and Japan. Hopefully next year I will be back in the United States for another run as the shows have been very successful. This has been beyond my wildest imagination. I just can’t believe how well it’s been received. I worked on production for this tour for over a year and things have just really paid off. The greatest gratification you can have as an artist is to know that your music has gone from soul to soul. Knowing that my music has helped or changed someone for the better is really great.

AL: What made you decide to write an autobiography?
GL: I never really wanted to write an autobiography. It was something that I never had any sort of craving to do. I suppose all musicians have a lot of stories to tell and sometimes when I sit and have dinner with someone I will tell some of these stories. I have been told for years that I should write a book. My manager called me one day and told me that if I didn’t write these stories down that someday they will just disappear. I ended up writing this book which is told from behind the scenes. Everyone has already seen or knows what happened at all of the shows so I tried to write from the perspective that people didn’t see. This is not a kiss and tell book by any means nor is it about all the drugs I used to take. The book is I hope an interesting story from behind the scenes during some incredible years in music. I thought that I had a good perspective on how and why things happened the way they did during certain periods of music history. I had and still do have a privileged view on the subject. I consider myself very lucky hence the book’s title “Lucky Man”.  I grew up very poor so from every since of it the title is very fitting.

AL: Will we be seeing a new solo or live album from you anytime soon?
GL: I will certainly issue a CD from this tour as we have a wealth of good stuff. This summer I plan to record a new solo album. This tour has really given me an added inspiration to do a new album. It is just a phenomenal thing to see how deep my music has penetrated people lives. This is really gratifying and worth way more than the notoriety and money. To realize the music you made has touched someone and been a real value is just so gratifying.

Interview with Greg Jacobs

Greg Jacobs is one of the directors of the documentary film “Louder Than a Bomb”. The film takes a look at an annual poetry competition held in Chicago, IL and follows four schools preparing to compete in the event. Media Mikes had a chance recently to talk with Greg about his work on the film.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us about your film “Louder Than a Bomb”?
Greg Jacobs: The film is about the world’s largest high school poetry competition. The competition is called Louder than a Bomb and it takes place each year in Chicago. The film follows four schools from the beginning of the school year until the end of the contest. Over the course of the film you start to see the film shift into being about something very different than what you envision at the start.

AL: What was it about the project that really interested you?
GJ: Documentaries have a funny way of finding you instead of you finding them. That is what happened with this film. I was driving down Clark St. in Chicago in the spring of 2005 and we went pass The Metro which is a famous rock club. I looked up at the marquee to see who was playing and it was the finals of the Louder than a Bomb competition. There was a line of kids made up of all different shapes, colors and sizes stretching down the block. Chicago is such a segregated city that it was really weird to see that type of crowd on the North side of Chicago for a poetry competition on a Saturday night. I mentioned this to my partner and everything sort of got started from there.

AL: Were you aware of this type of performance prior to the project?
GJ: We were both aware of slam poetry as it was something that came out of Chicago. We didn’t know that it existed as a high school thing or about the Louder than a Bomb program. It was really fun getting to know everyone involved and the culture of the teams.

AL: How did you go about choosing the four teams featured in the film?
GJ: Kevin Coval who is one of the founders of the program served as our tour guide. Over the course of a year he kind of directed us towards the school that had really serious programs. We visited about 12 schools to begin with. We attended the competition in 2007 on a scouting mission. The kids who made it into the film really jumped out and it was clear who we were going to follow. A lot of the kids we met at the event kind of pointed out who we should really follow as well.

AL: What do you think was the hardest part of shooting the film?
GJ: Everyone involved was really co-operative. We in a sense were part of the family. The real trick came when we took the 350 hrs. of footage we had shot into the editing room. Editing for the film took about 2 yrs. It really took a lot to get the film cut down and to get the story right. We have a really great editor.

AL: Over the course of shooting did the kids ever get you to try your hand at any poetry?
GJ: I don’t think anybody wanted to see that! (Laughs) That would have been catastrophic.

AL: Can you tell us when we can see the film?
GJ: The film will be airing on the Oprah Winfrey network January 5th. It’s a huge honor to be one of the first dozen documentary clubs to shown on that network. We also are planning a DVD release for early March.

AL: Do you have any other upcoming projects?
GJ: Jon Siskel and I also do television series. We have been doing a series of shows for National Geographic. We actually just won an Emmy for one we did on Hurricane Katrina. “Loader than a Bomb” just keeps growing and over the last year we have really been able to expand the outreach of the program. We are very slowly taking this thing that’s in Chicago and turning it into a national thing. Doing all this has really taken up a lot of our time and energy so we haven’t really been open to the next big idea.

Interview with Greg Sestero

Greg Sestero is known for his role of Mark in the cult film “The Room”.  Greg is currently writing a book about his experience working on the film and working with Tommy Wiseau. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Greg about the film and the upcoming book.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you originally meet Tommy Wiseau and get involved with the film?
Greg Sestero: Ironically, I met Tommy in an acting class. I watched him attempt a Shakespearean sonnet and thought, I have to do a scene with him.

MG: Did you originally take this as a serious film because of it’s content or more comedy
due to its major plot holes?
GS: I think it’s obvious that there was only one way to have taken it. Out of nowhere, playing football in tuxedos three feet apart kinffd of says it all.

MG: What is your favorite part of attending the midnight screenings with fans?
GS: The fans are the best part of the whole thing; always so gracious and enthusiastic. They come up with the most clever riffs for the film.

MG: You were recently in Prague; did you think you would be touring internationally with this film?
GS: Not a chance. Like many, I truly didn’t think the film would see the light of day.

MG: Tell us about why you’re writing the book now?
GS: It’s been almost a decade of questions about “The Room”. Why, and how, on earth was it made? Where did the $6 million dollar budget come from? Who is Tommy Wiseau? I think the story behind the film is replete with just as much hilarity, entertainment and mind boggling insanity as the film itself. Its an unbelievable story I feel fans and non fans can thoroughly enjoy.

MG: How does Tommy Wiseau feel about your writing this book?
GS: Probably that I should leave my stupid comments in my pocket.

MG: What other projects are you currently working on or have upcoming?
GS: I recently shot a video with Patton Oswalt for the comedy website 5secondfilms. Which you can view here.