Interview with Tahmoh Penikett

Tahmoh Penikett is known for kicking some major ass in whatever role he plays.  He is known best for playing Captain Karl ‘Helo’ Agathon in “Battlestar Galactica” TV series as well as Paul Ballard in “Dollhouse”.  Tahmoh also recently played the role of Stryker in the web series “Mortal Kombat: Legacy”.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Tahmoh about his various roles and what he has planned next.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you become involved with working on “Mortal Kombat: Legacy”?
Tahmoh Penikett: That was straight up because of my friendship with Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon.  They are a beautiful couple.  Jed is Joss Whedon’s younger brother.  He is married to Maurissa who is the older brother of Kevin Tancharoen, who is the director of “Mortal Kombat: Legacy”.  He is the man who came up with this brilliant idea.  Maurissa and Jed were also some of the key writers on “Dollhouse”.  She called me up one day and said they were looking for someone to play the character of Stryker.  They said they really wanted me to do it but weren’t sure if my managers or agents are going to want to because they had no money.  I checked out the material and I told them I would be thrilled to be on board.

MG: Tell us about your experience working on the web series?
TP: A lot of it to be honest was kind of on the fly.  Kevin came to me one day during shooting and said they were trying to shoot too much and Michael (Jai White) couldn’t do the scene with Jeri (Ryan), so he told me on the spot he was going to write me into it.  It was perfect for me.  This happened on a Friday night and we were going to be shooting on Monday morning. They told me last minute just to use Michael’s dialogue which was like half a page of dialogue.  I come in on Monday and I have like three pages of all me talking.  They gave it to me when I got there and we were suppose to be shooting in twenty minutes.  I was wondering how I was going to memorize three pages in twenty minutes.  Well, We managed to get through it and when I saw the final project I was happy with it.  There was a lot of funny moments like that.  When you look at the texture, the editing, the style of it, there is no way you can tell anything about the budget and that is what is so incredible with what Kevin has done with it. I was blown away.  I think it is going to really open some doors.

MG: Tell us about the upcoming film “Jabberwocky”, which your starring directed by Steven R. Monroe?
TP: I do not know how much I can talk about it.  It is like the film “Dragonslayer”, set it Medieval Times.  I play one of the brothers of the two main characters.  My character never left home and stood around to take care of the two main brothers like a father.  I play a blacksmith.  My older brother has gone off and became a decorated warrior, traveled and done all of these amazing things.  It really starts with him returning back to the village and going from there.  I am not sure how much I can say after that.  As I said there might be a dragon involved, but I guess that hint comes with the title “Jabberwocky” [laughs].

MG: You have worked quite a bit in the sci-fi genre, do you have a favorite genre to work in?
TP: The sci-fi genre has been amazing to me.  Some of the more significant work I have done in the last 10 years have come out of there.  Five years in “Battlestar Galactica” alone, it was such an incredible show.  I do not have a particular favorite though.  I am willing to do anything as long as it is good material and the people are good that I am working with.

MG: What did you was your favorite part about playing Captain Karl ‘Helo’ Agathon in “Battlestar Galactica”
TP: There were so many man.  You are talking like over 70 episodes.  There were a lot.  I got to work with Edward James Olmos and later in the series I got to work a lot with Mary McDonnell.  Everything I did with Grace Park was incredible.  We really brought some incredible work out of each other. There was one episode “The Woman King”.  I had a lot of fun with that.  That was a great episode.  It was just really good for me.

MG: Going from “Battlestar” to “Dollhouse”, tell us about that experience?
TP: “Dollhouse” had a lot of potential.  It was very unique premise and idea.  Unfortunately we didn’t have the time to see it through.  I just feel blessed that I got to work with these people.  Working with Maurissa Tanchareon, Joss and his family and everyone else involved.  Just having that experience even just for two seasons was great.  Even after the first it wasn’t looking too good for us.  It was looking like it was going to be canceled.  We came back for a second and half way through we found out that we were pulled, but at least they let us finish the thirteen episodes.  Which was good news, even though it was unfortunate but at least the plug wasn’t pulled in the middle of the show.  But overall it was a very positive experience and I am very thankful again.

MG: What would you say is your most challenging role to date?
TP: All of them at times depending on the project.  Paul Ballard was not an easy character on “Dollhouse”.  Joss Whedon called me and told me about the role.  I was so excited since he was a more darker lone wolf character than Helo was in “Battlestar Galactica”.  It was exactly what I was looking for my next character.  I was really excited to get into him but he was very confusing at times.  It took me along time to find his music…more time than I thought it would.  That is the journey we take as actors.

MG: Since you have training muay thai, do you perform all your own stunts?
TP: I do most of my stunts, yah.  I do everything that is safely allowed.  The only time I don’t do something is when I am actually looking at it and going “Ok this is nuts, I can actually get hurt here”.  In “Dollhouse” we had some great fight scenes.  We had an amazing fight and stunt coordinator, Mike Massa.  He let me choreograph a lot of the fight scenes with him.  I came up with a lot of my stuff.  Most of the dangerous stuff we had really great martial arts on the set to do those.  They made everyone look good.  Every time I have the opportunity to do physical work, I want to do it.  I am a physical guy, that is what I like to do.

MG: What do you have planned upcoming?
TP: I just worked on a new series on AMC but I am not allowed to say a peep about it.  I just did that a little while ago.  I am just looking at other projects and I am really excited about a couple of things so we will see what happens.

Interview with Michelle Danner

Michelle Danner directed, produced and has a role in the upcoming film “Hello Herman” staring Norman Reedus. Michelle took a few minutes away from editing the film to talk with Movie Mikes about the project as well as some of her other projects.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us how you got into the film business?
Michelle Danner: I think it is something in my genes. My dad was a producer and was responsible for opening the William Morris Agency in Paris quite some time ago. I always loved movies and theater so it was something I was just destine for.

AL: Can you tell us about your new film “Hello Herman”?
MD: “Hello Herman” is a film that I think is very socially relevant right now. Norman Reedus plays a journalist that is sent to interview a teenager sentenced to death for a massacre at his high school. The teen’s execution is to slated to be televised live. I think the film is a very powerful social commentary about how and why these types of incidents occur.

AL: How did you come up with the idea for the film?
MD: I found this script from John Buffalo Mahler and just felt it was a very powerful story. I decided I would mount the film on stage with three screens using multi-media and live feeds. This sparked some really great debates. I had also taken the script and done a read through with one of my acting classes. Afterwards one of my students came up to me and said she could see light in my eyes. I thought then that the script would make a great movie. So it all really started from that first read through.

AL: Do you have a release date yet for the film?
MD: I actually just stepped out of the editing room, so I am working on it as we speak. I am hoping to be done by the end of the summer. We have offers from a few distributors as well as a website so there is quite a buzz right now. We may hold off on distribution and take it to some festivals.

AL: You also have a role in the film correct?
MD: Yes. I play the Herman’s mother. When I staged the play I also played the same role. I really wanted to give that character a voice and show her point of view. The parents are always the ones that seem to take the blame, so I wanted to show that sometimes that might not always be the case.

AL: From acting, directing or producing do you have one that’s a favorite?
MD: I love to direct but I did start out as an actress, so I love that too! I think acting is a great way to express yourself creatively and artistically. I also really enjoy teaching acting. I am fortunate that I get to do all of those things.

AL: “Hello Herman” was actually your second film where you both acted and directed, correct?
MD: Yes. The first film I did was called “How to Go Out on a Date in Queens” which was the Memorial Day movie of the week on ABC. I am really proud of that film as I think the subject matter is something that really needs to be discussed.

AL: Do you find it hard to juggle both acting and directing?
MD: Not so much as I never usually give myself a lead role. I generally just do a few scenes. I also have some very trusted people who help out when I have a scene and they tell me if the shot works or not.

AL: Can you tell us about your appearance on “Late Night with Conan O’Brian”?
MD: (Laughs) that was great. That segment aired during the first month of Conan’s show and at first it was supposed to be only a couple minutes or so. I played this very straight character to Andy Richter who was coming to learn how to be an announcer. The people from the show ended up liking so much of what was being shot that the segment turned into almost 10 minutes. I really had a good time and it was fun to improv with Andy.

AL: Do you have any other projects you can tell us about?
MD: I have a movie titled “The Bandit Hound”, which is a family movie and something very different from “Hello Herman”. This movie will be something my eight year old son will be able to watch. Right now I have a portfolio full of some really interesting projects that I plan on doing.

Interview with Noah Wyle

Noah Wyle is known best for his role of Dr. John Truman Carter III in “ER”. Noah is taking the lead about in TNT’s new show “Falling Skies”. Movie Mikes had a chance to attend a conference call with Noah to discuss the his new show “Falling Skies” and what we can expect from it.

Mike Gencarelli: I have been hearing a lot of talk saying that “Falling Skies” feels like so epic in the pilot, that it almost feels like a feature film. Can you reflect on that?
Noah Wyle: Yes, sure. Well, it wasn’t intended to be sandwiched together. The pilot was a standalone hour and it’s being married to the first episode which we shot as a first episode for the season to build it into a two-hour block. So it was never scripted to feel like a movie but I think anytime Mr. Spielberg’s name is above the marquee you can’t help but to make a cinema comparison. It’s got a lot of rich production value. The budget on the pilot was pretty extensive. So we had a lot of bang for our buck and that wasn’t necessarily the case in every episode. I think getting a sense of what the series is going to be like comes probably more accurately from the second half, second hour, than the first. But, yes, it’s got a very cinematic feel to it.

MG: The show it’s clocking in at ten episodes for the first season. Do you think that the show has like enough room to spread its wings in season one?
NW: Well, I had lunch with Michael Wright who’s Head of TNT and we discussed if this came to a second season whether he would be interested in picking it up for more episodes.  His philosophy, which I tend to agree with is, that if you’re writing for ten episodes you can really write to a focused point and make sure that all of your T’s have been crossed and your eyes have been dotted. If you’re trying to slug it out through 15, 17 or on a network 22 to 24 you run the risk of dissipating the potency of your story telling and falling back on sort of clichés. He really didn’t want to do that. He really is very proud and pleased with the show and should a second season come to pass it for it to have the same kind of punch that the first season did. I think you really only get from shooting a truncated season of 10, 12 maximum.

Q: Talk about that aspect of the show where we go right to the meat of the story instead of having a season or two of build-up?
A: Yes, it’s sort of a typical story telling in the sense that we don’t start with everyday life going on business as usual and then suddenly everybody’s eyes turn to the heavens and say, what’s that coming in towards our planet. We do pick up six months into what has been a devastating alien invasion and meet our characters already in a pretty high state of disarray. It is kind of exciting storytelling because it allows you the opportunity to fill in the back story through episodic storytelling. It also opens up the possibility of being able to track back in time down the road if it seems dramatically appropriate.

Q: How involved is Steven Spielberg in the production of this show?
A: He’s pretty damn involved. His fingerprints are all over it. He was instrumental in helping craft the original pilot script and certainly in casting the pilot. He came out and was on set when we were shooting the pilot. He even drew some storyboards for the re-shoots on the pilot and then helped craft the overreaching story arks for the season.  He watched all the daily’s and made lots of editorial suggestions all along the way in bringing those shows to their final cut. So I would say he’s instrumentally involved.

Q: If you were in the position of your character, what do you think you’d miss the most in the new world and also what do you think would be the most exciting opportunity about a civilization to sort of start over?
A: I’m guessing a variety of diet would be the thing I’d miss the most…and hot food. We sort of tried to pepper each episode with exactly that. What are the cons and disadvantages to the state we have been thrown into, but what are the sort of more subtle pros.  Whether it’s seeing a group of kids having to exercise their imaginations at play and actually relishing in the opportunity to do so or the quality of relationships between families being that much enriched without all the other distractions.  There’s a sequence that comes midway through the season where a women who’s among our ranks is pregnant and is throwing a baby shower. Having been to quite a few baby showers, this was unlike any event I had experienced in the sense that it wasn’t so much about the gifts, the swag and the stuff for the impending birth as it was really more about the spiritual aspects of bringing a new life into the world.  It makes you think about your responsibilities are as a parent and what are our collective responsibilities for this new life?  I find those very rewarding aspects to the storytelling because it allows us an opportunity to kind of pick and choose between separate the weak and chafed from what’s important and what’s not.

Q: I really enjoy the family dynamic from the show, tell us about how you approached keeping your family together in this broken world?
A: Well, dramatically I think that was probably the theme that was most interesting to me. I haven’t had a lot of experience working in the science fiction genre, so that had a certain appeal. I went into this with the confidence of knowing that the spaceships and the aliens were going to be just fine with Mr. Spielberg designing them. So my responsibilities really fell to making sure the human aspects of the show were as compelling as they could be. I found that dual conflict that we set up in the pilot to be really provocative of a guy just trying to keep his family intact and alive being given the larger responsibility of having to care for 300 veritable strangers.  The conflict between the two is very interesting. What is at the core of the show is once the reset button on humanities been pushed and these characters, should they survive, are going to become the next founding fathers for the next civilization. What are the best aspects of the previous civilization that you would want to retain and what are the more superfluous or ascerteric ones that you wouldn’t mind dropping? ? Certainly the notion of family and the quality of human relationships comes to the floor and that’s what I think we pretty successfully explored through the first half of the season.

Q: What do you think distinguishes Tom as a leader as opposed to films like “Battle: Los Angeles” which have automatically show the militaristic personalities step to the foreground to take charge?
A: That’s an interesting question. I would say that when you traditionally have a character whose has a military career like Captain Weaver, their strong suit is leading men who have been trained and focused for the battle and mission enhanced. Whereas in this particular scenario most of our military has been eradicated already and it’s a civilian militia that is being trained. It’s exactly Tom Mason’s back-story as having been a teacher that puts him in a little bit better situation to teach mostly kids how to arm themselves and defend themselves than it is for Weaver to fall back on the military paradigm. It is looking at the realm of academia and saying that’s a little dry for what we need right now and looking at the role of military and saying that’s a little dogmatic for what we need right now.  Then we try to find a synthesis between the two that I think makes my character a leader of a different strength.

Q: Having to be the leader of the group, are we going to see in the first season Tom’s breaking point?
A: He comes damn close to it. He comes very, very close to it. Yes, I would say in the fourth or fifth episode that’s where he starts to wear a little thin. Although, you know, there was a saying that we used to say a lot on my other show where you really didn’t have time to feel sorry for yourself during the course of the day because you had another patient to treat or two or three. So you really had to earn whatever private moments you allowed yourself to reveal, whatever inner life was going on. The same holds true for this show is that there’s such a constant and eminent threat underneath each and every scene that these characters who probably if they had a week off would develop all sorts of the hallmarks of PTSD and go through all sorts of debilitating briefs don’t have the luxury of doing so because there’s just too many other things that need to be done.  So I would say that the big breakdown is still coming but we definitely show glimpses of it.

Q: Besides “The Librarian” series you haven’t done much action, what did you have to do to prepare for the action involved in the show compared to the previous work that you’ve done?
A: Oh, I probably should have done a lot more [laughs]. I showed up and we all had a couple of days of running around the sound stage and learning gun safety. But in terms of physical preparation I found myself at a disadvantage trying to keep up with Drew Roy whose part spring-box. He plays my oldest son and very early on in the pilot we had to sort of run and jump and dive and whirl and roll and do all these crazy things. All of which, eventually, I got more comfortable at. But it’s certainly not wearing the white coat everyday.

Q: Did you find that you were able to do a lot of your own stunts or was a lot of it done by a stunt team?
A: Kind of both. I mean, there’s stunts but they’re not real stunts. I mean, running and jumping and sliding and diving all that stuff looks so much better when the actors doing it. So I did a lot of that kind of thing. Then whenever there was one sequence where I’m fighting one of the aliens in a steam tunnel and I did all of that fight with the exception of one throw where the alien sort of chucks me.  That required some wire work to get thrown high up against a wall.

Q: Are you consciously aware of being able to spend time with these characters before you go in to just doing action sequences?
A: Well, you have to be careful about it even just from a production standpoint because obviously action sequences require the most money of an episode budget. If you’re going to give a little action sequence in every show you’ll get a little action sequence in every show.  But if you can buy yourself a couple of episodes by saving on your post-production budget and focusing the drama on interpersonal and character conflict then suddenly on the fourth episode you’ve got quite a large bank to work with and you can stage something pretty epic. So there’s a financial necessity that goes into it. But also it’s much more compelling to have the threat come, not as a constant, but in waves. To have it start off as a huge wave and then be able to get a low and reflect a little bit and synthesize some information and then to have another wave come and also the anticipation of that wave coming is great dramatic tension. What are the lessons learned after an encounter before the next wave comes? I think that for this particular show it works much better than having it be a constant threat.

Interview with Moon Bloodgood

Moon Bloodgood is playing Anne Glass in TNT’s new show “Falling Skies”. Moon is known best for her role as Lt. Blair Williams in the film “Terminator: Salvation”. Movie Mikes had a chance to attend a conference call with Moon to discuss the her new show “Falling Skies” and what we can expect from it.

Mike Gencarelli: What do you like most about your character Anne Glass on “Falling Skies”?
Moon Bloodgood: I really enjoy the fact that she is a doctor.  She was a pediatrician.  I think that she’s very admirable, that she doesn’t often talk about herself, extremely selfless, always calm and rational, always being fair and with reason. I think I admired her because I feel sometimes I’m not always that way and she was always selfless and always very maternal towards everyone.

MG: What stands out for you as the most difficult part working on the series?
MB: Sometimes the subject matter is heavy and there’s lot of depth and weight and you have to take yourself to that place where you’re supposed to be hungry, scared, you’ve lost your family and sometimes you want levity. I can find the subject matter to weigh on me at times when I was working and all I wanted to do was just go home and just put some comedy on and have a beer because I just needed some sort of change. I think no matter how much I can resist it, I gravitate towards these kinds of subject matters and I like the drama. That’s where I feel the most comfortable and probably that’s why that’s what I do the most.

Q: How did you get involved with the show?
A: I have vague memories of I think it but Spielberg and Michael Wright came up with it together and then kind of brought Robert Rodat into it,  who is a real great writer and did the film “Saving Private Ryan”.  By the time it found its way to me it was probably a year after it and Noah was already on board. I think other people had already been cast and I think originally I was supposed to be like an art dealer or some sort of artist. I wasn’t the primary focus in the first episode, it was about the Mason family and I was someone who was going to connect with Noah Wyle’s character, maybe a romantic twist was going to happen. So I saw just, a basic show that had really good people involved but I think it was something that Spielberg obviously initiated and then it kind of came into fruition.

Q: Aliens parking over cities has been kind of a common theme recently with shows like “District 9”, “Skyline”, “Battle: Los Angeles” and of course “V”. In your opinion what do you think separates this series from the other recent alien invasion franchises?
A: I mean we’re all kind of dealing with the same subject matter, I think what’s going to be different is certainly our approach. The science fiction aspect of it is going to vary but if you like the story, the human story behind it, you will want to follow the characters and that’s what’s going to bring you to it. We’re much more drama and more of a human element than like a “District 9”, one of my favorite science fiction films, which I think is primarily has a more science fiction element than I think we have. I think we have the marriage of a good family story with the science fiction element.

Q: You have dealt with post apocalyptic before with “Terminator: Salvation”, you’re starting to carve a little niche in this genre, what’s the draw for you?
A: I think I’ve been drawn to science fiction because I’m a fan of science fiction. I think when you like something, I like to think you’re generally better at it and when you’re auditioning for something, maybe that resonates. But because I love it, I tend to want to do those kind of projects. You start to do them and that kind of becomes your thing which is not a bad thing because it’s still a genre I deeply appreciate.

Q: How was it getting work with with Noah Wyle and the rest of the cast?
A: Listen Noah’s a veteran, I play a doctor, trust me he gave me lots of pointers.  I was so happy to receive his advice. He’s been around and he knows the industry. He is just such a diligent professional. I learned a lot from him and Will Patton. I think you learn something from everyone that you work with but he gave a different perspective.  I thought he was really good at being our leader and – in the show and also off, as in a friend and a colleague.

Q: I was wondering what inspiration did you draw from, if any, coming into this?
A: Good question. I sometimes think it’s probably not good to use your own life circumstances because that can kind of get tiring, but I did. I kind of dove – not dove into it but I conjured up or — what’s the word I’m looking for — I looked into myself and my own pain and tried to use that as a cathartic thing when I was doing the role.  I just also try to use my imagination of what it felt like to live in a world where suddenly I lost my family and to lose a child which I – you know, must be the most horrendous thing to ever go through is to lose a child. So I tried to use myself and my imagination. The journey is interesting because there’s a couple times when I breakdown; I breakdown emotionally about my family, and there’s another time when I am fighting to, you know, keep the alien alive with another doctor and I’m very stoic in that fight, and there’s a time when I’m more romantically involved with Noah. What was the most compelling part is when I had to actually pick up a gun at one point because I get hurt, I get attacked and I suddenly need to defend myself against other humans and that’s a position that Anne Glass never thought she would be in. And for her that’s when the world – the first biggest pain was her husband and her child and the next was just loosing that innocence against violence.

Q: So I’m wondering from your end how much did you know in advance as episodes were going on, and how much did you want to know?
A: Well with TV things are happening where you’re getting the scripts and you don’t know – you don’t have a long time to digest the changes and changes happen. You know, when you’re working on a movie you get the script, you know the whole outline before you start. So that part’s a little disconcerting at times but also really keeps you on your game and on point. So I would prefer to know sometimes but maybe it’s good that we find out; we don’t try to put too much of ourselves in it, we just do what we’re told to do, you know? Like we’re there to fulfill a story and not try to like, you know, like wet the screen with our interpretation of it.

Q: There’s a little something for everybody in this show, it’s not exactly a sci-fi film, it’s a drama, it’s a love story, it’s a family show. What was some of the things that really, really attracted you to it?
A: Doing something that is not just one dimensional. It’s science fiction but it’s human tragedy. It’s different diverse characters interwoven together and trying it kind of find their humanity and live any kind of normalcy and readjust to the new world that’s changed completely from the world that they know. I was also drawn to playing a doctor and it’s something I’d never done. I had played a nurse but I had to have to have a gun on my leg and be running around and doing stunts, though which I loved to death. I wanted to do something more cerebral and that I got to be a little softer and I thought that was a more fun place for me to be in this in this time in my life.

Q: What kind of things does the shoot do to make sure that the family drama doesn’t get overshadowed by the aliens and the special effects?
A: I think primarily when Rob Rodat wrote this, he’s from Boston, it was always a human drama and not a simple story about a family.  It was supposed to be the paramount story and then the science fiction kind of secondary. The reason I don’t think we get overshadowed by the science fiction is because it sort of goes on and off. Where we go family story, and that stay.  The second episode will be filled with science fiction, then we take a break and we get away from all that — the guns and action and go back to a love of the dialogue and the interpersonal relationships. I really truly believe we did succeed in always keeping the family structure and the human element of it in the forefront and the science fiction secondary because I do think sometimes science fiction, if you don’t have a good story behind it, it can become one dimensional.

Q: I think with this premise there are going to be a lot of expectations. How are you and the rest of the cast and the crew dealing with the pressure?
A: I’m wondering why I don’t feel more pressure [laughing]. I don’t know if I’m just kind of disconnected because I need normalcy in my life.  I don’t feel any pressure, I don’t. I feel like at this point like, let the chips fall where they fall. I’ve done the work and I feel confident in the content. I don’t think we’re trying to make a revolutionary like novel stance on aliens, we’re just trying to make a simple family show about human survival and that takes precedent and this science fiction element I think is secondary. It’s not just an action show.  Do you want to go on this journey with these people?, do you understand what they’re going through? I can’t say I’m not going to be disappointed if it’s not well received.  I’m also not a veteran but I think I’ve learned to try to not get caught up in the expectation game because that can be so easy to do when you’re an actor and I think it’s not healthy. So I’m trying to stay very adult-like about it.

Interview with Drew Roy

Drew Roy is co-starring as Hal Mason in TNT’s “Falling Skies”.  He is playing the oldest son of Noah Wyle in the show.  Drew has also appeared in TV series like “Hannah Montana & “iCarly” but he is most excited about his newest role.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Drew about “Falling Skies” and working on the show.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your character Hal Mason in “Falling Skies”?
Drew Roy: He is a 17 year old kid. He is the oldest of three. He is a little bit of a rebel. In high school, he thought he was the cool kid and was doing the sports things. His dad is a professor and more of an intellectual. Hal likes to fight those barriers and those retractions. One of the great things about playing this character throughout the series was that Noah (Wyle)’s character Tom and mine, work together a lot going on missions. We are a good mix for each other because Hal is more of a heart-thinker. He thinks on the first impulse and goes with it. Where Tom is more of a head-thinker and he wants to come up with a plan and a strategy and thinks things out. On their own I do not think either one of them is the perfect fighter but together they would push each other. I pulled him along a little quicker and he would slow me down sometimes. We would get a little irritated with each other and have it out from time to time and throw each other around. But all in all its will make for some good TV.

MG: Tell us about working with your fantastic cast for this show?
DR: Oh man, you can’t ask for anything better. They show up on set and makes you want to bring your A-game. For whatever reason you did not have the motivation in the first place, this definitely makes you bring it. Working with Will Patton and getting to go toe to toe with Will Patton in a couple of scenes it was great. He is just such a lovely guy anyway off camera. Same with Noah, he is a fantastic actor. All you have to do is sit back and listen and pay attention. The scene just comes alive, you don’t have to force anything. You never have to worry about showing up on set with this one particular actor and dreading working with them. You just have a great time. We ended up with a tons of scenes that had more in them then was scripted. We would just find these little moments and it really was some good stuff.

MG: Besides being a show about aliens, does this show focus on the human relationships as well?
DR: That is probably my favorite part of the show. Aliens are cool but if it is all about the aliens all the time there is a disconnect here. You can’t quite wrap your mind around it. It is fun in a movie setting where you have an hour and a half to two hours of that and then you are out. But if it is a TV series, you have to have something that is going to bring you back to the next week that you haven’t already seen. Blowing up an alien 10 weeks in a row, you have a good idea what that is going to look like. Whereas why this show is so cool is because it is about this human drama. We have this family that suffered these two great loses. The middle kid, Ben, has been taken by the aliens and we do not even know what that all entails. Then the mom was killed back during the invasion. We have all these different people dealing with the aliens in these different way. We have Tom who is more looking from a civilian point of view. Then you have someone like Captain Weaver who is strictly military. He thinks that civilians slow people down. One of the great themes of this show is the fact that it is all about people who usually don’t see eye to eye and normally would not even talk to each other. But they are being but in this situation where they have go after this common goal of survival and therefore listen to each other, worth through issues and see where they can get. Which is like a said a great universal theme in the world, it wouldn’t hurt for more people to live that way. To listen to each other, take others into consideration and listen to what someone else has to say.

MG: What is the most difficult part of working on the show?
DR: The most difficult thing would have to be the weather. We are shooting in Toronto. We started in July and finished in November. I am not sure how much you know about Toronto but in the summer is incredibly hot and humid and we are dressed like it is winter time or at least fall. I would have like a shirt on, a button-down on top of that and then a jacket and wearing jeans while I am running from aliens. You work up quite a sweat and its gets pretty hot. Then by the end of the series, in November, it is freezing cold. You are putting those hot shots all over your back, in your gloves and your shoes. Just trying to keep warm. So I would have to say that was probably the hardest thing. At the end of the day though, I kind of enjoyed that as well because it was bringing in those elements and really making it real. It is a whole lot easier to be cold and to play a scene in the cold then it is to pretend like it is cold and fake it. I felt like it brought a sense of reality to the show. But there were definitely times on the set when we were dying to turning heater on or the AC on [laughs].

MG: Do you have an episode that stands out as your favorite?
DR: I have two particular ones that I had a very large role in. I get the numbers wrong because the way we numbered them is a little funny. But I want to say the 5th episode and maybe the 7th episode. Hal has to step up and go out on a limb. He has to put his neck out there and make some things happen. I think the 7th episode, he actually has to step into Tom’s shoes to some degree and look over some kids and be the decision maker. That was very interested and fun to play in the fact that I got to look at things from my dad’s point of view. I had to make these decisions. People come up with ideas and now I am not just an idea maker, I am the kid who has to sift through the ideas and discover what works.  There is a lot of action in there. There honestly was not an episode I didn’t enjoy but those two really stick out.

MG: Why do you think people should tune in to this show this summer?
DR: Here is what I have to say about that, With TNT, you are getting this for free and it is going to look awesome, like a movie. It has a great storyline. Then on top of all of that the story that is being told isn’t set in one genre. If you are a huge science fiction fan, then you can get your fill of this and be satisfied and have a great time. If you are family, a mom and dad and some kids, you can watch this and have a great time as well and learn some family values. If you are just with some buddies, if you are guys or girls, this show has something for everybody. I am sure that everyone plugs that but I really feel like our show does.

MG: How does it feel going from television like “Hannah Montana” & “iCarly” to “Falling Skies”?
DR: I wouldn’t change a thing. Everything that has come along that has gotten me to this point I feel like happened for a reason. The episode I did on Nickelodeon for “iCarly” and then Disney with “Hannah Montana” were huge hits for that show…for both shows. They were some of the highest viewed shows that they had. I had a great time working with all those actors and actresses. But most definitely I am glad to be moving on to something like this. This is more along the lines of what I ultimately want to do. What guy doesn’t want to do an action something and then even more importantly than that it has a great story behind it as well. I really look forward to doing more things like that. We had some great scenes to be able to act and characters to live in. The whole Disney thing was great but I feel I am very fortunate to jump into there…reap those benefits and then be able to get out. Unfortunately so often you get typecast into Disney and Nickelodeon and they are great actors but they can’t get out because they are known for that show. I feel like I got the best of both worlds.

MG: No pun intended right [laughs]?
DR: Exactly, I didn’t know if you were going to pick up on that one [laughs].

Interview with Freddie Highmore

Freddie Highmore is known best his roles in “Charlie in the Chocolate Factory” and Finding Neverland”, both with Johnny Depp.  Next up, he is starring with Emma Roberts in the upcoming romantic comedy “The Art of Getting By”.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Freddie about his new film and discussed about his career to date.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your most recent film “The Art of Getting By”? What drew you to this project?
Freddie Highmore: It was a fantastic film. New York was a joy to be in.  What really attracted me to the film was the honesty of it.  It doesn’t present the sort of stylized version of high school that you often get with some of these movies.  It is incredibly real and it is actually quite refreshing. People will go and see the film and have it actually represent the feeling of growing up…feeling of that first love…feeling of that wanting to succeed and the pressure to succeed. The film encompasses all though things and in a real way.

MG: How was it working with Emma Roberts?
FH: Emma Roberts was fantastic.  It was a real joy to get to work with her. The fact we got a long so well right from the start was incredibly helpful.  It is great to get along with someone that you are working with especially with the more intimate moments, they felt more real

MG: Are you generally a fan of the romance genre?
FH: Yeah I am.  I am, obviously.  But some of them perhaps what they are lacking is the way the actor portrays it.  They sometimes need to overdue it emotionally and make it too obvious to people.  I think people really will enjoy our film and see that start they think George is a bit depressed and a bit deluished in life. But actually by the end they will find out who he is.  I think people enjoy seeing that kind of movie.

MG: You’ve worked with so many A-list directors, Tim Burton and Ridley Scott for example, how was it working with first time director Gavin Wiesen?
FH: It was great. One thing that all directors seems to have in common is an amazing amount of energy.  For Gavin, despite the film being somewhat based on real events and in fact on him, he is incredible open.  He is open to the fact that it will be a movie and people will have various interpations of the story.  It was really rewarding that he was able to give up a certain part of something felt attached to him.

MG: After working on the very large production of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, how does working on a film like this compare to indie “The Art of Getting By”?
FH: I think on the independent film, each day was definitely more filled up.  You definitely get through more in the day oppose to just doing one massive shot, which will take the whole day shooting.  There is just something nice about working on the independent film.  You are with a smaller crew and get to know everyonestraight away. Everyone is really willing to be there, excited and looking at the same goal.  It makes it a really excited project to be apart of. We were just running around New York and grabbing shots on the go.  Perhaps New York represents the aim for the film, not just going for the postcard picture of Manhattan.  It is sort of the real New York and the people that live and work in it.

MG: What would you say has been your most challenging film to date?
FH: I think they have all been different.  I am not sure if one has been more challenging than an other one.  I have been lucky in that way.  I have been able to play different character for different genres and not get tied up in one thing in particular. Every film should be a challenge and it keeps you popping and really focused about doing it.

MG: “Arthur and the Invisibles 2 & 3″ were just recently released, how was it working on those films not only acting but also voice acting?
FH: It was fun doing a voiceover in the film oppose to just acting.  I think the people think it is always easier to do a voice but for me I thought it was more challenging.  Since you are never really working with the people.  You just sort of go off and make it up on your own.  There is definitely a lot of preparation for a role like that.

Interview with Monte Hellman

Monte Hellman is returning to the role of director with his latest film “Road to Nowhere” which is being released in theaters on June 10th. This will mark his first feature film in over 20 years. He has directed Jack Nicholson in four films over the years and is known best for his film “Two-Lane Blacktop”. Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Monte about his new films and his career overall.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you become attached to direct “Road to Nowhere”, your first feature in over 20 years?
Monte Hellman: Well it started with Steve Gaydos coming to me with this idea. He claims it was the first of his ideas I liked in 40 years [laughs]. He got excited by just that fact. He quickly wrote and script. We then sat down and did a little brainstorming with a couple of other friends. He came back with a second draft which successful became the basis for the beginning of the film. It did get altered along that way a little bit after that but we pretty much shot what he wrote then.

MG: Was it a difficult transition returning to the director chair? Tell us about the production?
MH: It was so easy because my daughter literally got me to work by saying “Let’s stop waiting for other people to give us permission to make movies”. She went out and raised most of the money. We thought we had enough money to make it. She sort of stumbled through after we ran out of the money and managed to at least finish the shooting part of it. Then raised more money as we went along in the post-production process. It was really all about my daughter Melissa and her getting tired of seeing “Two-Lane Blacktop” over and over again. She wanted to see another movie.

MG: How long was the shoot and where was it shot?
MH: We shot for a total of 30 days. 18 days in North Carolina. About a day or two in London. About 4 days in Italy. And about a week in Los Angeles.

MG: Did you have any involvement in the casting process for the film?
MH: Pretty much Steve Gaydos also inadvertently became the casting director. He discovered Shannyn Sossamon rehearsing a script in a restaurant. He had been in England for five years.  He was unfamiliar with her and thought she was just a student. He gave her his card and asked to have her agent to contact him. I did know who she was from “The Rules of Attraction”. I actually wanted her for a picture I was attempting to producing at that time. Steve just felt that she looked like a Monte Hellman heroine and that she also looked like the character in the movie. I did too and I thought she was good. But I had no idea how good in fact she was. I did not look at any other of her work. Every day was just a revelation.

MG: We recently spoke with Waylon Payne and he mentioned tried to explain the film’s plot, can you give us some background on it?
MH: The script was way easier than the movie. The script gave you clues to the timeline by prefacing each scene with a year date. It would either be 2008, 2009 or 2010. So that was a clue to it all. Shannyn really was able to follow that and she used that. She sort of supervised her own costumes and needed that to know where she was time wise from one scene to another. She was pretty good at it. Some of the other actors because it was not written in continuity just kind of gave up and just went along with it. That is actually a good way to do it as well because any scene is basically in terms of time is today. It is a present tense thing in that moment. When actors deal with it that way it is like the easiest way to handle it.

MG: Tell us about working with Jack Nicholson on projects like “The Shooting” and “Ride in the Whirlwind”?
MH: They were both in 1965. We shot them back to back with only a weekend in between them. Well Jack and I had just come back from the Philippines at that time. We had just done two pictures together. We were in the groove. We actually shot four movies together in the space of 12 months. It was an pretty intense time. Of course he is just so fantastic to work with. We both were going through a really intense and creative learning process. I think we both really developed tremendously during that year.

MG: “Two-Lane Blacktop” is your most critically acclaimed film, but would you consider it your favorite?
MH: Well I love “Two-Lane” and some of the other ones. I really feel that in many ways that the “Road to Nowhere” is kind of a breakthrough. I say that I feel like it is my first movie because you don’t stop learning just because you are not actually shooting. During my hiatus I think I went through a tremendous development. i feel like it is starting from the beginning.

MG: Tell us about your experience directing and writing the horror film “Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out!”?
MH: Oh “Silent Night” [laughs]. We looked at it as a way to just have a lot of fun. I actually liked the work I did. I think crucified me for making that movie [laughs] but I do not see why. I just had a great time shooting it.

MG: Do you have plans to direct again in the near future? If so what?
MH: Well I have two projects. One is another Steve Gaydos script. It is an adaptation, I do not want to say much because he is just beginning on it. There is another picture called “Love or Die”, which is a supernatural romantic thriller. It is a kind of time-bomb ticking clock movie and it is very exciting. Melissa is out right now just raising the money. Once we have a little money in the bank we will be off on another road.

Interview with Ahmed Ahmed

Ahmed Ahmed is a standup comedian who has also appeared in several films and television shows. His newest project is titled “Just Like Us” and documents Ahmed and several other comedians’ tour across the Middle East. Ahmed took time out of his busy schedule to talk with Movie Mikes about his new project.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us about your film “Just Like Us”
Ahmed Ahmed: “Just Like Us” is a documentary film that I came up with after doing comedy shows around the Middle East. Around 2007 I toured the Middle East with a group we put together called “The Axis of Evil Tour” which was filmed and shown on television over there. In 2008 we toured there again but not as a group and we didn’t film anything. In 2009 we had a tour that lined up with the International cast and that’s when we actually decided to shoot it.

AL: So the idea came about after touring over there a few different times?
AA: I had started a company with my business partner called Cross Cultural Entertainment and under that umbrella we created Cross Cultural Productions. This would be the portion that would physically produce and put on projects. After doing this my partner asked me what my next plan was. I told him I was going to go to the Middle East and he said I had to shoot it. The timing was great and the topic was relevant so that was part of it. A couple years prior I had done a comedy tour with Vince Vaughn called “The Wild West Comedy Show” which was also turned into a documentary film. From that I sort of had an idea of how to make a documentary. Another thing that kind of brought me to making this project was when I would come back from the Middle East a lot of my friends would ask what I was doing over there. I would tell them comedy shows and they would ask which military base. I would tell them we played theaters for Arabs in English and they get it. The film came out really great and I think people will enjoy it.

AL: What was it like touring and filming at the same time?
AA: I kind of bit off more than I could chew! At first I was going to just be the host for the shows however the promoters started asking me to bring comedians. I in a way started to become a talent booker as well as being relied on to do press. I didn’t have to set up the shows but I did a lot of the grass roots work in setting everything else up and promoting. When we started to shoot that’s where I started to turn into the producer/director (Laughs) It was literally 4 days prior to leaving for the tour that my partner said we should shoot it. I didn’t think we had enough time but he was very adamant about finding camera operators which we did. Once we got back to New York we started almost immediately in post production. We set up an office, purchased the editing equipment, hired two editors and began transcribing everything. We had about 200 hours of footage that we cut down to about 72 minutes. I didn’t really know what I was getting into at the beginning but the film has unfolded into this beautiful project that has taken on a life of its own.

AL: When is the film going to be released?
AA: We did a deal with Lion’s Gate Entertainment and the film is going to be available as a digital download through places like Netflix. My company is also going to release the film independently in select theaters. We hope to get the film into about 10 cities. If it catches wind in its sails we will add more cities. We want as many people as possible to see the film.

AL: Do you have any funny stories from working with Vince Vaughn?
AA: Everyday on that tour was a funny day. It went by so fast that we didn’t have a lot of time in each city but just being a part of that tour was really inspirational and eye opening. That tour really prodded me to make my own film. There were just so many funny things that happened. I can’t think of one that really sticks out.

AL: Had you known Vince previously?
AA: I have been friends with Vince for over 20 years. He had come to a lot of the comedy shows I was involved in which exposed him to the other comedians. He then just had this idea to take it on the road and film it. It was great to be a part of that and we are actually doing some follow up shows in June.

AL: Do you have any other upcoming projects you can tell us about?
AA: The film has opened up a lot of doors. I was actually invited to attend a dinner at the White House last year because of this film and that opened up some doors for us which took us to Palestine, Syria and a few other places to do some shows. During this time we accidentally shot a sequel and we will probably start going through that material in the fall. Releases for “Just Like Us” are going to be spaced out from city to city and that will probably take us through July. I travel quite regular and have had a lot of inquiries to go to a lot of different countries that have recently opened up.