Shirley Jones reflects on her career, musicials and plans for upcoming memoirs

Depending on your age you’ll have different memories of Shirley Jones. For my parents era they will be of her roles in some of the most popular movie musicals of all time, including “Oklahoma,” “Carousel” and “The Music Man.” If you’re my age you remember her best as Shirley Partridge, working mom and vocalist on the popular television series “The Partridge Family.” Young people today remember her as the randy Grace in the comedy “Grandma’s Boy.” No matter your memory, it’s safe to say that Shirley Jones has had one of the most incredible careers in the history of entertainment.

Born outside Pittsburgh, a lucky bus ride put Ms. Jones on the path to stardom. Intending to become a veterinarian, she instead walked into an audition for the musical team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. So impressed was the casting director that he called both gentlemen at their homes and had them come listen to her sing. Two weeks later she was on Broadway and the rest is history. Twice married (to the late Jack Cassidy, father of her sons Shaun, Patrick and Ryan) and currently celebrating almost 36 years with comedian Marty Ingels, Shirley Jones has certainly lived an incredible life.

Media Mikes spoke to Ms. Jones recently in conjunction with two upcoming events. The first is a benefit screening of the film “Carousel” in Omaha on May 24th. The second is the upcoming release of her autobiography to be published next month by Gallery Books.

Mike Smith: How does a young girl from Pennsylvania end up becoming an Academy Award winning actress?
Shirley Jones: (laughs) It’s a stroke of luck. I was very fortunate at my first audition in New York. I was actually on my way to college to become a veterinarian. I wasn’t going to be in show business I was going to be a vet. I had graduated from a small town high school. I went to an audition for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s casting director and he called both Rodgers and Hammerstein to hear me. I sang for them and two weeks later I was in my first Broadway show. That’s how fast it happened. I spent three months in the Broadway production of “South Pacific.” Then they flew me to California to screen test for the role of Laurey in “Oklahoma,” and that’s how that happened. And it all happened in less than a year.

MS: And they say show business isn’t easy!
SJ: (laughs) I know. But you know something, I’m not sure that could happen today. It was just the time…where I was…it was one of those things that happen rarely. I was the only person put under personal contract to Rodgers and Hammerstein. I was never under contract to a studio.

MS: What was that experience like…to have your career guided by two genuine legends?
SJ: incredible. It truly was incredible. It was so great for me. I did three shows while under contract with them. By the time I got into movies the studio system was over so in a way it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Because then I went on to do everything, from television to films and everything else. And Rodgers and Hammerstein were so wonderful to be with and work with. They produced the movie version of “Oklahoma,” not the studio. We did some shooting at MGM but the majority of it was shot at Nogales, Arizona. They were on the set every day for seven months.

MS: You’ve appeared in some classic movie musicals. “Oklahoma.” “The Music Man.” “Carousel.” Do you have a favorite among them?
SJ: My favorite score is “Carousel.” Without a doubt, of all the things I’ve done, that’s my favorite. I think it’s some of the most beautiful music ever written. In fact, Richard Rodgers always claimed it was his finest work. When I perform in concert I always open with “If I Loved You” and I close with “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” To me it’s the most beautiful music. The movie is wonderful, though I thought it could have been a little bit better. We had a very old director (Henry King, director of films like “Twelve O’Clock High” and “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing”) but a great cast. Frank Sinatra was scheduled to play Billy Bigelow. We had done all of the rehearsals…even all of the pre-recordings, which is what we did back then. We had spent three months in pre-production. We were going to shoot the film in two separate processes – regular Cinemascope and Cinemascope 55 – and when Frank got to the set in Maine he asked why there were two cameras. Henry told him we would be shooting each scene twice. Frank told him, “I signed to do one movie, not two,” got in his car and drove back to the airport. So I got Gordon MacRae on the phone, who was in Lake Tahoe doing a nightclub act with his wife, and I said, “how would you like to play Billy Bigelow in “Carousel,” and he said “give me three days I have to lose ten pounds!”

MS: What a great call. I’m a big Sinatra fan but I can’t see anyone but Gordon MacRae in that part.
SJ: Me too. And that voice. Nobody sang like Gordon. He had the best voice of all time.

MS: You won an Oscar for your role in the film “Elmer Gantry,” a role many of your musical fans may not have expected to see you in. How did that part come along?
SJ: It was an incredible role. Burt Lancaster fought for me to play that part. By the time I’d finished doing musical motion pictures – “Music Man” hadn’t come out yet – Hollywood had stopped making musicals pretty much because the European market wasn’t very receptive to them. My career was pretty much over. When you were a singer at that time they didn’t consider you an “actress” so to speak. I went and did some television, which was looked at as a big step down for movie actors. They were doing some wonderful dramatic shows like “Playhouse 90” and “The Philco Playhouse.” But I had some wonderful roles. I had a great part opposite Red Skelton in a “Playhouse 90” show called “The Big Slide” and Burt Lancaster happened to have seen me in that part, playing an alcoholic “Sunshine” girl in the Mack Sennet era. And he loved my performance. And after he saw me he fought for me to play the role of Lulu Bains in “Gantry.” He called me while I was in San Francisco doing a nightclub act with my husband Jack Cassidy. I pick up the phone and I hear, “Hello, Shirley, this is Burt Lancaster.” I said, “sure it is” and I hung up! (laughs) Thank heaven he called back and said, “No, this IS Burt Lancaster.” He told me to go get the Sinclair Lewis novel “Elmer Gantry” and look at the role of Lulu Bains. On your day off he asked me to fly to Los Angeles and meet with the films writer/director, Richard Brooks. Of course I did as he asked. I flew in and met with Richard Brooks, who originally did not want me for the part. He had somebody else in mind. He was the writer/director but Burt was the co-producer and he was very definite about having me play Lulu, which was so great. I got the part. Richard Brooks would always shoot his films in sequence so I wasn’t due on set until the middle of the film. But Burt would have me come on set every day to watch the other actors and to watch how Richard Brooks directed. On my first day of shooting I had to do the hardest scene in the film – standing in the house of prostitution and telling the other girls how I had met Elmer Gantry – and I didn’t have one bit of direction from Brooks. He sat in his chair smoking his pipe like I wasn’t even there. I went home that night in tears thinking he was going to fire me. I didn’t have to work the next day and they screened the rushes of what had been shot the day before. Brooks called me afterwards and said, “Shirley, I owe you an apology. Not only are you going to be great in the film but I predict you’re going to win an Academy Award.” And that’s how that happened. Burt was the one that got me the part and it changed the course of my whole career. My career would have been literally over had that not happened. But I went on to do 20 more feature films after that.

MS: And now, of course, it’s time for the obligatory “Partridge Family” question.
SJ: (laughing) Of course.
MS: What do you think it is about the show, and the music, that it is still popular some four decades after it first premiered?
SJ: Well, it was really a new definition of a television series. I was the first working mother on television. I was actually offered “The Brady Bunch” first and I said “no” because I didn’t want to go into a television series and play a regular mom taking the roast out of the oven. But when I was offered “The Partridge Family” I thought it was very unique. The fact that the whole family was working together musically but you still had stories about the kids and the mama…I loved the idea. And the fact that David, my stepson, was going to play my son was just great. It also gave me an opportunity to stay at home and raise my kids, which was something I couldn’t do making films because I was constantly away on locations everywhere. When they were younger I could take them with me but now they were school age, which was another reason I wanted to do a series. And the agents and managers at that time were all telling me, “Don’t do a television series, Shirley, because if it is successful you’ll BE that character for the rest of your life.” They were pretty right about that but it was still great for me to do.

MS: They don’t make as many film musicals today as in the past, but some of the them are pretty well done. “Les Miz” comes to mind as a recent achievement. What is your opinion on the movie musicals of today?
SJ: I thought “Les Miz” was wonderful, but I’d also seen the Broadway show and thought it was divine. Everybody in the film was wonderful. Hugh Jackman is one of my favorite performers. When I was visiting Australia he and I did bits from “Oklahoma” together on stage. (NOTE: Jackman starred as Curley in an Australian production of “Oklahoma” in the late 90’s) He was just great. But they don’t do that many musicals anymore, as you know. But the ones they do do I think have been successful.

MS: You’re publishing your memoirs next month. What was it like to sit down and review your career?
SJ: It wasn’t easy (laughs). In fact I thought “do I really want to do this?” But it came out very quickly and easy. All of the things that have happened I was fortunately able to recall for the most part. And all of the people that I worked with…I worked with some of the greatest movie stars of all time. I’ve had two incredible husbands. Both crazy, but wonderful. I’ve got three incredible sons and an incredible stepson. I’ve got twelve grandchildren now. And I was an only child which makes it even more interesting.

Lisa Hochstein reflects on being in “The Real Housewives of Miami”

Lisa Hochstein is known best for her role in Bravo’s hit reality TV series “The Real Housewives of Miami”. She joined the show in its second season and has been a fan-favorite very quickly. Lisa is currently shooting the show’s third season but took out sometime to chat with Media Mikes about being on the show and shared some tips to exercising and staying in shape.

Mike Gencarelli: You joined “The Real Housewives of Miami” during its second season. What was your highlight of being on the show?
Lisa Hochstein: I would have say just having a new experience in my life. It has been a life-changer. My life is a lot different that it way the year before. It consumes you in your life being a part of this cast and the show. You are really being open and letting all of America and even the world into your life, your home, your personal struggles and your triumphs.  But is also really nice to be able to relate to a lot of different people. I have been told that I have touched people in different ways. That is what life is all about giving back, helping out and making a difference is someones life.

MG: You quickly became a fan favorite on the show, can you reflect on the fan base that you have developed?
LH: It is incredible. I am very flattered. I wasn’t sure how the world was going to take me. People either love you or hate you. People tend to judge me based on my appearance, how I look and the way I dress. But once they get to know me, they truly get to know who I am. I can only be who I am. I never pretend. I wear my heart on my sleeve. And people really took to that.

MG: Since it is a reality show; do you ever find it hard to deal with the drama it entails?
LH:  Yeah! Definitely working on a show like “The Real Housewives of Miami” there is always some kind of drama. That is a given. We aren’t always each others cup of tea and that is why we butt heads sometimes. Everyone’s personality is unique and different. When people have these strong personalities you are bound to butt heads.

MG: Were you ever a fan of any of the “The Real Housewife” show before and now after becoming one of the housewives?
LH: Yeah of course. I think that it is everyone’s guilty pleasure watching “The Real Housewife” shows. My understanding was that you want to watch it because of the glits and the glam and see how everyone is living. The luxury of it all is very appealing. Now I am a part of the franchise and it is a wonderful family to be apart of.

MG: How do you feel about your husband, Dr. Leonard Hochstein, being called the “Boob God”?
LH: He is the number #1 plastic surgeon in the country. No, I don’t mind. I think it is actually very accurate. He does more breast implants than any one surgeon in the entire country. He really truly is the boob god. Someone on Fox News has dubbed him that and since then everyone has followed the trend and it is who he has become. So for anyone in the country if they want to do their boobs, they immediately think “Hey I want to see the boob god”. It has been great for business and you can’t get a booking with him for a while in fact. So yes he does see many breasts but it doesn’t bother me. It is his job and it is what he does.

MG: Tell us about some the causes/charities you support?
LH: We love to support The Humane Society. We also love to support The Make-A-Wish Foundation, which is such a great one for children that have life threatening illness. We are able to raise money to get them the wish of their dreams. We will continue to always support these charities. The two things that I feel are the most innocent in life are animals and children, so I definitely have a soft spot for those two causes.

MG: Can you share with us your tips to exercising and staying in shape?
LH: Summer is coming up. So everyone is trying to get into top shape for the summer. In Miami, we have to be in shape all year round [laughs]. One of my favorite things to do right now is juicing. Vegetable juicing with a little touches of fruit to add that sweetness. It has transformed my skin and given me such energy. I don’t even need coffee anymore. It completely turns back the clock on your body. I have only been juicing for about two months now but it has been amazing. I do it in conjunction with my regular exercise and routine. I work out four times a week with circuit training and 45 minutes of cardio a day. Now that I am juicing, I find that I don’t have to do much cardio. The juicing is sort of like spring cleaning. So that is my number health tip for right now! I recommend it for everyone!

MG: What do you enjoy most about living in Miami?
LH: Oh my God! There is no question, we are in the best place to live in the world. We have the most beautiful beaches. We have some amazing nightlife. We have some of the best restaurants in the world and are only getting better. We have some of the best shopping. There is no store that you cannot find in Miami. Any major flag store that is worth going to is here. We have comedy, plays, concerts, sport games. It is one of these cities that you will always have something to do and never be bored.

Tippi Hedren reflects on working with Alfred Hitchcock and the 50th Anniversary of “The Birds”

Tippi Hedren is known best for her roles in the Alfred Hitchcock films, “The Birds” and “Marnie”. This year “The Birds” is celebrating its 50th anniversary, yet the film is as popular as ever and still very relevant. Besides acting, Tippi also works with animal rescue at the Shambala Preserve, which is a 73-acre wildlife habitat which she founded in 1983. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Tippi about working with Hitchcock, his films and her work on the Shambala Preserve.

Mike Gencarelli: With “The Birds” celebrating its 50th anniversary, what is your most memorable experience with this film?
Tippi Hedren: There were so many of them, since it was such an overwhelming experience for me. “The Birds” was my first film. So not only having Alfred Hitchcock discover me in a commercial that I had done, but he took me under his wing – you might say. He put me under contract before I had even met him just based on my commercial and photo work. It was a very exciting time for me.

MG: Can you reflect on the film with about today’s audience and why the film is still relevant?
TH: “The Birds” really seems to have a life of its own. So many people are really enchanted with it. The fact that this film was even able to have been done is amazing. Year after year, the film gets introduced to a younger generation. When you watch it with the audience of today, when you see the telephones 50 years ago they start laughing. It is interesting for me. But on the other hand the film holds up so well. Fortunately Hitchcock always had his leading women dressing in very traditional clothes. I could wear that green suit right now and be perfectly in style, which I actually still have six of them today.

MG: I recently saw the HBO film “The Girl”, which was based on the making of “The Birds”; how accurate was the film to what happened?
TH: Yes the film was totally accurate. In fact, the writer Gwyneth Hughes came out to my Shambala Preserve, where I live and she spent an afternoon with me talking about my years with Hitchcock. So, yeah the film is absolutely accurate. Also at the time that she was writing she would also call me and discuss any issues or concerns.

MG: What are your feelings on seeing Sienna Miller playing yourself in the film?
TH: I thought she was wonderful. Sienna also came out to the preserve and I got to spend an afternoon with her as well. She called me several times during the filming, which was done in South America. There was a close comradery between all of us.

MG: In the final attack scene of the film; how many times did you have to shoot that?
TH: When I opened the door to that room and all those birds came flying at me and I was under attack for a full week from Monday to Friday. It was unbelievable and also very exhausting.

MG: How would you compare Hitchcock’s style to other director’s you’ve worked it?
TH: The thing that impressed me so much was that he was always so well prepared. He literally worked 9-5pm. At 5 o’clock, we had the martini shots…every day. Most directors will go into very late at night or tremendously long hours, which is actually the norm. With Hitchcock, he always kept to a schedule. That was pretty amazing.

MG: How did the production of “The Birds” and “Marnie” compare?
TH: They are two entirely different films. In “The Birds” you have the added problem of working with live animals, which is always a difficult situation. They do not care about being in a movie. So there is a great deal of difference. I loved doing “Marnie” since it was such a psychological piece and entirely different.

MG: My site partner told me that if I didn’t ask you about working with Sean Connery that he will quit, so tell us about working with him in “Marnie”?
TH: I was very fortunate having Rod Taylor as my leading man in “The Birds”. I was working with all  consummate actors including Jessica Tandy and Suzanne Pleshette. They were all great. So, it was kind of a surprise for me when they told me I was going to play Marnie. I play a compulsive thief that is so frigid that she screams every time a man comes near her. So when I was asked who would be playing Mark Rutland in the film, Hitchcock told me that it would be Sean Connery. I said “Sean Connery? The Sean Connery that just got out of ‘Dr. No’? Sean Connery, who could melt the iciest of blondes? Mr. Hitchcock, do you remember that Marnie is so frigid that she screams everything a man comes near her? How am I supposed to handle that?” He simply told me “It’s called acting my dear”. And that was the end of that [laughs].

MG: How was it being the topic of the season and guest starring on the season finale of “Cougar Town”?
TH: It was great fun. It was such a short piece. The whole season was about how can they find Tippi Hedren, so then at the very end is when I appeared. I wish it would have been a little longer but it was still a lot of fun.

MG: Tell us about the inspiration behind the film “Roar”?
TH: Well it goes back to 41 years ago when I started rescuing lions and tigers. I had just done two films in Africa. During those years, environmentalists all over the world were saying that if we didn’t do anything right then, which was 1969-70, to save the animals in the wild then by the year 2000 they would be gone. So my then husband (Noel Marshall) and I decided to do a film about the animals in the wild. We choose the great cat, because people are either enchanted with them, scared to death of them or think they should be admired from afar. We had seen an abandoned house while on a photo Safari in Mozambique. The owner had moved out since it flooded during the rainy season. So when he moved out a tide of lions moved in. It was the largest pride in all of Africa. We couldn’t count me but there was somewhere between 25-30 lions of all sizes that were living in this house. We thought that this was incredible. They were sitting in the windows looking like great portraits. There were going in and out of the doors. They were napping on the verandas. So we decided to use these animals as our stars. We then went back to California and got the script written. When we gave the script to the trainers of these Hollywood animals and they all came back to us laughing that this film could not be made. They told me to get my own animals for the movie. All of the sudden I had little lions and cubs all over my house. It was quite an experience and we learned right then and there that they are definitely not pets.

MG: Tell us about continued your work today with the Shambala Preserve?
TH: The preserve is 73-acres and it is very beautiful. We keep the animals that we rescue for the remainder of their lives. We give them huge areas in which to life, many of which are over an acre. It is so expensive though. I have to raise over a million dollars a year, which is quite difficult. I would appreciate if your readers can visit our website, http://www.shambala.org/ and see what we have to do in order to keep this going each year. I am doing everything I can and any help is appreciated since this place is so beautiful and necessary. I am also working on federal bill which will be introduced this month, which will stop the breeding of lions and tigers to be sold as a pets. So please look that up as well.

Lia Beldam reflects on her role as Room 237’s guest in Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining”

You may not know the name Lia Beldam, but you will know her by her work. She played a very important scene in Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” as the woman in Room 237 and that seduces Jack Nicholson in the film. After the film, Lia never got into acting full-time as she was already modeling. Media Mikes had a chance to track down Lia and ask her a few questions about the film and reflecting on her role.

Mike Gencarelli: Let’s start at the beginning, how did you get involved with “The Shining”?
Lia Beldam: I was a model. My agency were asked to send some people for the ballroom scene a movie called “The Shining”. So I went along thinking I would be in this ballroom scene. Prior to that, I had done a lot of nude shots for commercials and someone from the film saw them and said that they could cast me for another role in the film. I said “Sure”, since I didn’t have a clue what the film was about anyway. I went in to audition and didn’t even have to undress, so that was easy. And that is how I got the job.

MG: Did you know the extend of your scene before signing on?
LB: I knew it was a nude scene and that I wasn’t going to be in the ballroom scene. I had no idea what “The Shining” was about. They just told me it was be a nude scene and I was perfectly fine with that.

MG: How was it working with Jack Nicholson in your scene?
LB: He was very nice. As you know, I am not an actress. My main job was and still is modeling. I told him that he needed to help me. He said he would sit with me and discuss the shot. He was just very nice and absolutely charming.

MG: Tell us what it was like being directed by the legendary Stanley Kubrick?
LB: It was just another job for me to be honest. When I did my modeling, there was always an art director on set telling me what to do. It was just another job. I wasn’t really falling over in amazement being in the same room. I wasn’t familiar with how famous he way. But still he was very pleasant to work with.

MG: Did you have any interactions with Billie Gibson aka “Old Woman in Bath”?
LB: Yes I did. I believe she was about 74 at the time when we shot and was a friend of the Kubrick’s. She wasn’t an actress either. She just did it as a favor to them. She was very nice.

MG: How long did it take to shoot the one scene?
LB: It was ridiculous. I tell you what Mike, it took a whole week. Very often though, it was long waits for me sitting my dressing room. They would change something in the set whether it was the carpet or something else. It wasn’t the actually shoot itself although he did do many many different takes. I didn’t mind the many takes though since I was enjoying kissing Jack Nicholson, that was sure [laughs]. I was paid for a whole week so I was there for a whole week. It was just wonderful.

MG: When you completed this role, did you ever think that we would be still talking about it over 30 years later?
LB: Not particularly no [laughs]. My son recently put up a picture up for me online with me and Jack Nicholson and since then I have been contacted quite a bit. But I really enjoy it and it has been great fun.

MG: After this film and not being an actress, why didn’t you pursue more acting gigs?
LB: I just pursued modeling. I had some very good jobs and I just loved it. I did a few very little bits in films but nothing special at all after “The Shining”. Models are always asked to go on films to bulk out scenes. It would have been lovely if someone had asked me to do more films but they didn’t. So I just kept on working as a model and was completely happy.

MG: Have you ever considered attending horror conventions to meet fans?
LB: Never. I didn’t even know what a convention was until recently. I have never be asked to do anything like that. I live in a very tiny village in the middle of nowhere in England and I have never thought about those things. Sounds like fun though!

Denise Crosby reflects about her work on “Star Trek: The Next Generation”

Denise Crosby is best known for playing the roles of Security Chief Tasha Yar and Commander Sela in “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. She was also the granddaughter of entertainer Bing Crosby. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Denise reflecting on the show and the fans support over the years.

Mike Gencarelli: Can you reflect on being a part of the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” universe and it still being relevant today?
Denise Crosby: I feel like “Star Trek” is a much larger entity and we are all little pieces of it. It continues to reinvent itself generation by generation. You have a younger generation now discovering it for the first time, whether it is through their parents who watched it. It also continues to play endlessly on syndication and cable. It is ever present and never goes away. There are always fresh eyes seeing it for the first time. I think that is what keeps it new and exciting. I am always touched by the stories that I hear from people all over the world and how much the show means to the and how they were inspired by the characters. I am always fascinated by how many far reaching corners it has touched. All of that continues to keep it relevant.

MG: That describes me, I got a young daughter and I am started her young with the show [laughs]
DC: That’s what happens. You bring your kids into it. The beauty of it is that has become much more in the open and embraced by people. You are not hiding your Spock ears anymore and pulling them out on special occasions. People are able to be out of the “Trek-closet”, so to speak.

MG: You get to play two different roles in Security Chief Tasha Yar and also Yar’s own daughter, the half-Romulan Commander Sela; how was that aspect for you?
DC: It was really cool. I don’t know that anyone else has been able to do that. I mean, how many people can get to play their own daughter? Only in sci-fi, can you pull this off. It was great for me as well since I was actually very involved in creating that story line  It is wonderful to get a chance to continue being a part of this show. Fans were really delighted with that as well.

MG: What was it like working with such a legend as Gene Roddenberry?
DC: We were the lucky ones that were able to work with Gene and be a part of his vision. That was very thankful for all of us. He was a big cuddly teddy bear of a man. He was very protective of this franchise and all that it meant. He got how popular and how much it meant to the fans and he really embraced that. He also was very open with us. He wanted to know what our thoughts were and what our questions were. He wanted us to really define these characters and to help us do that in any way that he could.

MG: What made you getting involved with the “Trekkies” films?
DC: My thoughts always were that there is no “Star Trek” without the fans. It is the most symbiotic relationship with a television show that I have ever seen. There is something very unique and specific about being on one of the “Star Trek” shows. You enter into a world that is very exclusive. You can’t be talking about “Star Trek” without talking about the fans. I felt that the fans needed a voice. When set out to make the first “Trekkies” movie, the timing was perfect. It during the prime of sci-fi and comic books and it was suddenly cool to be a geek. The nerds were taking over. Everybody was a “Star Trek” fan and I felt the “Trek” fans needed a voice. I couldn’t believe that nobody had done this before. I just jumped on it, had no idea what I was doing, took a camera wherever I went and before I knew it…I had a movie.

MG: Any chance you would be making a new “Trekkies” film in the future?
DC: My partner, Roger Nygard, and I talked and we have some ideas. We really would like to do one more and make it a trilogy. It would be great to pass it on to the next generation with the JJ Abrams films and new fans. So we are hoping that we can do that in the near future.

 

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Matthew Modine reflects on working with Stanley Kubrick in "Full Metal Jacket" and Christopher Nolan in "The Dark Knight Rises"

Matthew Modine is probably known best for playing Pvt. Joker in Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” and Louden Swain in “Vision Quest”. He recently appeared as Deputy Commissioner Peter Foley in “The Dark Knight Rises” and will be appearing later this year as John Sculley in upcoming “jOBS”. Matthew also is set to produce and voice act in Ralph Bakshi’s latest film “Last Days of Coney Island”, which is currently trying to become funded via Kickstarter. Matthew took out some time to reflect working with Stanley Kubrick in “Full Metal Jacket”, Christopher Nolan in “The Dark Knight Rises” and his role in “jOBS”. Check out the first part of our interview with him, here.

Mike Gencarelli: Can you believe that it has been 25 years since “Full Metal Jacket” and here we are still discussing it all these years later?
Matthew Modine: It is amazing. It is a testament to Stanley Kubrick and his genius. He didn’t make movies that are disposable. They continue to have relevance long after they have been released, whether it is “Paths of Glory”, “Dr. Strangelove”, “2001: A Space Odyseey” or “A Clockwork Orange”. They are just films that continue to speak to audiences. I always remember something that Stanley said “A film should be like a good piece of music. Something that you can listen to over and over again and have relevance long after it is written”. I think he tried to approach film with that mentality like a great piece of music.

MG: Tell us about the origin of your book “Full Metal Diary”?
MM: I had a tremendous experience working with Kubrick and I kept this diary while I was working on the film. He also allowed me to take photographs on the set. I had this 2 1/4 x 2 1/4-inch Rolleiflex camera that I tucked inside my jacket when we were in Vietnam and then kept in my foot locker when we were filming the boot camp. It was very rare that he allowed me to take photographs on the set because he was such a secretive and private filmmaker, but he almost encouraged it. I don’t know why but I am very grateful that he did and gave the opportunity to be able to share what that looked like. The thing about keeping my diary is that Kubrick often asked me to read my diary out loud to everyone on the set. The thing that it encouraged me to do was tot hen keep a very good diary with accurate notes. The thing that I love about the diary is that it is the voice of a young man that is in a situation that he really doesn’t understand. It is not a reflection is my point. It is not somebody looking back at a time working with Stanley Kubrick, as a recollection. What you experience when you reach it is this naive person about a circumstance that he doesn’t understand and I think that makes it quite unique.

MG: How did your diary go from book to the new iPad app?
MM: I was approach by Adam Rackoff. He used to work for Apple. He was one of the geniuses that worked for them. Steve Jobs was his boss. He was responsible for opening stores, advertising and more. I had done a presentation at the Apple Store in Soho talking about how the book was made on a Mac. He really just loved the book and knew that their were only 20,000 copies of the books made each with a serial number. So years later, the iPad come out with these amazing apps. He told me that he thought it would be an perfect iPad app. He said he would have me record the story in my own voice, do characterizations for the people talked about in the stories, have someone do original score along with sound effects and create this amazing and deeply immersible experience for people to enjoy with iPads. The final thing that sealed the deal for me is that he said that it would be something that Stanley Kubrick would be proud of. So with us holding the bar that high for Stanley Kubrick, that was the criteria for this…was it good enough for Stanley? In the end, I think we created something that he would definitely be impressed with.

MG: Last year you played Deputy Commissioner Peter Foley in “The Dark Knight Rises”, tell us about that experience?
MM: The thing that was amazing about that film is that people are always comparing Christopher Nolan to Stanley Kubrick. As big as that film was, as large as the cast was, the budget…everything – when you came on the set of “The Dark Knight Rises” it felt like an intimate independent film. Nolan creates an environment on the set that makes it feel very intimate. He doesn’t have a video village. He has this little monitor he wears around his neck. He is not one of those directors that is hiding behind a bunch of monitors and away from the set. He stands on the set and is with his actors and his crew. He is curious about what his technicians are going and what the actors are thinking and saying. I think that may not sound like what a director is suppose to do but you will be surprised at how many filmmakers are not that involved. There is so much chaos on a film set that you don’t know who is directing the movie. Is it the producers? Is it the writer? The crew? The director of photography Nolan is really the the captain of his ship. His wife is his producing partner and his brother is his writing partner. It is just a very tight and intimate environment. I mean how often does anyone have such a great character arc in that kind of a film. I just hope I get the opportunity to work with him again.

MG: You mentioned Apple and later this year you also have your role of John Sculley in “jOBS” coming, what can we expect?
MM: I haven’t seen the finished film but it was extraordinary to work on. I think that Ashton Kutcher did an amazing job from the work I saw. He was really fully committed to doing Steve Jobs justice. It is amazing to see how much he began to look and sound like him. I am looking forward to see it. I know it closed the Sundance Film Festival, was received positively and received a distribution deal. So all the signs are that it will be an entertaining film.

Charles Fleischer reflects on 25th Anniversary of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and talks about Moleeds

Charles Fleischer is known best as the man who gave the voice to Roger Rabbit” in the film “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, which is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year. The film is also debuting on Blu-ray for the first time on March 12th. Besides voice acting, Charles is also a stand-up comedian and also has two patents including a device to measure the golden ratio He has also invented and patented a Toy Egg. Fleischer is also the author of “The Moleeds,” a book of his own mathematical theories. In 2010, Charles spoke at the TED conference and discussed about his unique theory of everything called “Moleeds”, read more on that below. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Charles to reflect about his role in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and also get to find out his love for science.

Mike Gencarelli: What do you think it is about “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” that makes it so unique and holds up over the last 25 years?
Charles Fleischer: It all goes back to good storytelling. It links to the job of the director and that was Bob Zemeckis. He is a genius director and a master storyteller. You combine that with the animation skills of Richard Williams and the script by (Peter) Seaman and (Jeffrey) Price and then on top of that your introducing a new cartoon character. Certain films are just classics and hold up through time and I will certainly say that “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” is one of those.

MG: We spoke with Christopher Lloyd a few years back, read here, and he said that you voiced the role off screen, was that a difficult task?
CF: It wasn’t necessarily difficult but it was slightly different. We rehearsed face to face and I even had them make a full costume. Then I would be off-camera and I would watch exactly was (Bob) Hoskins was doing. If he reached out and grabbed Roger, I would have to reach like I was being grabbed while performing. It was a kind of performance I named “T.P.A.”, which is Trans Projectional Acting. Where you are there but you are projecting your performance from another space.

MG: Since we are going back 25 years, let’s go all the way back. What was your audition process like for this film and the creation of that wonderful voice?
CF: I was originally called in to help them find the Eddie Valiant character. They needed someone to read Roger off-camera when they did the screen-tests. After doing several of those Bob Zemeckis asked me if I wanted to do the character for the film and I said “Gladly”. So once I got it, I got to read the whole script, got to see some animation tests and I was able to find tune the voice into something that would be appropriate.

MG: How does it compare to your various other voice roles including “Rango” and “The Polar Express”?
CF: Nothing compares to “Roger Rabbit” [laughs]. That pretty much also goes for any role that I have played from “Zodiac” to “Night Shift”. The essence of Roger Rabbit is the closest to who I am. I am a stand-up comedian, I make people laugh and that is what I love to do. I felt this certain kinship with the elemental aspects of Roger Rabbit, which made it more important to me. On another note, his wife was Jessica Rabbit and my youngest daughter is named Jessica. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Roger is in the Alley sitting on a trash can and he is brokenhearted about Jessica playing patty cake. Just the fact that the name Jessica had an emotional sympathy within me that created this resonance that added to the whole projection of my acting dynamic.

MG: I always thought that you must have had no voice after shooting this film with all the screaming.
CF: Well it is a cartoon scream, so it doesn’t hurt you.
MG: Oh ok, I didn’t know that.
CF: Me neither. I just made it up [laughs].
MG: You got me man! [laughs]

MG: Word was released last month about “The Stooge” with Mickey Mouse & Roger Rabbit, have you been approached to reprise?
CF: I think that was a lot puffery. I do not think that there is any substance to that. I think that is the strategy that they were trying to use by putting it out there and see what people think and if they want it. I would suspect that any subsequent Roger Rabbit film would have some like Robert Zemeckis involved.

MG: Speaking of that, I have heard about talks of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit 2” for as long as I can remember, what do you think is the reason why this never happened?
CF: I think there are a number of reasons. I think one of the main reasons is that at the time it was co-produced by Disney and Amblin Entertainment. So to get both parties on board would be a challenge. It is all speculation. I can only say that eventually I hope they get around to making it because I believe there is a market.

MG: Off-topic, but can you talk a little about your unique theory of everything called “Moleeds”?
CF: You just touched my heart now we can talk now [laughs]. This is very important to me. Moleeds is something that I have been working on for over 30 years. It is a mathematical discovery that deals with prime numbers and creates patterns and relationships that I believe have some significance with the DNA of the universe. I did a talk on TED, check it out below. A mathematican in Vienna saw that and I started corresponding with him. He created these programs for me which allowed me to visualize moleeds on higher levels. The prior work that I had done was just on a calculator and making graphs on the computer. He was able to create these formulas based on my research that allowed you to plug in any prime number and see the symmetrical system that would be generated by moleeds.

CF: Since we are on science, I have another discovery which has to do with gamma ray bursts. I wrote a scientific paper, which was published on the Cornell University’s website. In order to be published there you need to be endorsed by a published scientist. Gamma ray bursts are the largest display of energy in the universe. I found patterns that indicate that they are not random, which if I am correct will change science!

Bobcat Goldthwait reflects on "God Bless America" and new Bigfoot movie "Willow Creek"

Bobcat Goldthwait is known best for his role of Zed in the “Police Academy” franchise and for work as a stand-up comedian. “Share The Warmth” still holds up and is an incredibly funny stand-up show. Bobcat has been spending his time doing what he loves most – writing and directing movies, like “World’s Greatest Dad” and “God Bless America”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Bobcat about “God Bless America” and also his new Bigfoot movie “Willow Creek”.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about the origins of “God Bless America”?
Bobcat Goldthwait: There are a couple things leading to its genesis. First, I was in London and there was a “My Super Sweet 16” marathon on – going back about two years now. It really bothered me that is the way that we are represented. I wrote the script initially as a Christmas present for my wife, I guess that came from me being cheap [laughs]. I think this is a really screwed up time and I wanted to write a movie that is, as I say, a violent movie about kindness. I think if I made a documentary on how we are becoming attached from each other, it would be preaching to the converted. So being a fan of films like “Bonnie and Clyde”, that and also TV networks were the big inspiration here.

MG: What inspires you most about directing?
BG: I just write a lot of screenplays all the time. When I can get a budget to make them I go out and do it. Some of them are much smaller budgeted and some are bigger. What inspires me to keep directing is that it has almost taken be 30+ years in show business to finally find something that I really love doing. I really love writing and directing movies. It is the job that I have found most rewarding that I have done in my career.

MG: How do you feel you have matured as a director since 1991 with “Shakes the Clown”?
BG: Hopefully I am getting better in what I am doing [laughs]. If I were to make “Shakes” now, I do not think that anything positive would happen to him. It probably would have ended with him jumping off a bridge or something [laughs]. I am hoping that I just keep evolving. People that I admire are directors like Steven Soderbergh, who just keeps making movies and don’t seem to be too concerned about how he is conceived – in a good way.

MG: Joel Murray was amazing in the film, tell us about casting him?
BG: Joel is an old friend of mine. I had back surgery and my wife and I watched a whole set of “Mad Men” that he had dropped off. He thought it would be good for me to occupy my time with [laughs]. With him in mind, my wife suggested that we cast Joel as Frank. When I sent him the script, he thought I wanted him to play a small part…not the main guy! That is what was one of the best parts of making the movie was to get to work with an old friend. Him and I then got to travel all over the world going to film festivals and hanging out. It was great.

MG: What was your biggest challenge with “God Bless America”?
BG: I think you are always faced with the major issues of budget, even for directors like Christopher Nolan. How can you make an action film for well under a million dollars? It is still a lot of money but when you compare it to other action films, it is nothing really. So that is definitely the biggest challenge.

MG: Do you see yourself ever returning to acting?
BG: I think for me to actually be in a movie, it would have to be something that would be a lot of fun or something I couldn’t say no to. I always joke I retired from acting the same time people stopped hiring me [laughs]. I do small cameos in my movies but that is usually brought upon my necessity like someone is out that day or something. In “World’s Greatest Dad”, the guy slated to play the limo driver didn’t show up, so it ended up being me. In “God Bless America”, I quickly jumped in when we were stealing a shot at a festival with the balloon game. There was an empty seat where you keep getting wet, so I jumped it and got water shot at me.

MG: You’ve recently came out of retirement to do some stand-up; how has being on stage changed for you?
BG: Stand-up is different. Some nights I really like it. But then sometimes people come with expectations for me to be a character from 30 years ago. Having that aspect becomes boring after a while. But when people are there solely due to films I did in the 80’s -or I don’t mind if they come due to that – but it is a drag when they have come with only those expectations. Sometimes it is hard to combat that.

MG: What next for you? Is “Schoolboys in Disgrace” in the cards?
BG: “Schoolboys in Disgrace” is a film that is something that I am always working on and meeting about. That is a bigger movie with a bigger budget, so it is taking a little longer for me than usual. I am just wrapping up the final touches on a Bigfoot movie that I shot called “Willow Creek”. I actually went up to where the Patterson-Gimlin footage was shot 45 years ago and that is where we shot the movie there on location. So that was very excited.

 

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Margaret Kerry reflects on modeling for Tinker Bell in Disney’s "Peter Pan"

Margaret Kerry is known best for her role as the live-action reference model for Tinker Bell in Walt Disney’s animated feature, “Peter Pan”. She also worked as the live-action reference model for the Red-Headed Mermaid in the lagoon sequence. With Disney’s “Peter Pan” being recently released on Blu-ray, Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Margaret about her role in the film and working with Walt Disney himself.

MG: How did you end up working as the model for Tinker Bell in the Walt Disney Pictures animated feature, “Peter Pan”?
MK: It may sound like I am going too far back but it is really not. I was adopted when I was 3 1/2 years old by this wonderful couple that were old enough to be my grandparents. They had no idea what to do with a tiny kid. They thought that I cute as a button and talented, so they started training me in acting. I got into Central Casting and I started working at 4 years old. I started in a movie called “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” and I made $8.50 a day, which was a lot then. So my mother became a “Hollywood mother”, but she really wasn’t very good at it [laughs]. I remember the first time I walked onto Warner Bros lot, it was terrifying. I worked with Meglin Kiddies, which is the group that MGM hired for their films. Producer Al Burton started out and put me down as a co-host of a local show where we found talented high school kids and put them on the show. At the same time, I was working in radio and was cast as the eldest sister on “The Ruggles”. I also had done the Eddie Cantor movie “If You Knew Susie” and you can see me on YouTube dancing up a storm. Next, I got hired to do a movie at Fox. So while, I was working at Fox I got the call if I wanted to try out for the reference model of Tinker Bell. Also while I was working at Fox, I was with a choreographer named Roland Dupree, whom I ended up getting him the reference model for the character Peter Pan. So all come around that is how it happened.

MG: Can you reflect on your experience working with the legendary Walt Disney?
MK: I have worked at almost every studio in town by the time I was working at Fox. So I was pretty well-versed at what studios were like. When I got the call from my agent that I might have a chance at working at Disney Studios, Michael I can’t tell you how exciting that was. During those times, Disney was the premiere studio to work with. It was just thrilling. In fact, I was just there a few days ago and it is still just as thrilling. Everything is for the employees. Creativity is blessed there. And Mr. Disney himself was just great. You will see in my book (more on that below) photo archives found two photos with him working on the same sound-stage as Buddy Ebsen. He would then come over and chat with Marc Davis, who was the animation director of “Peter Pan” and I got to chat with him at least five times. There were people who worked in the studio for over a year and never even met Walt. So I was so fortunate. I went to school with both of his daughters at Monticello School for Girls, while they were there for a short period. So I spoke to him about that and it was like I was the only person in the whole world. It was such a great experience.

MG:How long did you work on the film?
MK: It was about 9 months. But I wasn’t there every day. I also voiced the red haired mermaid in the lagoon along with June Foray and Connie Hilton. I said lines like “Oh Peter, we just wanted to drown her.” We also did the live-action work and had our legs bounded together and we had to slither around. It was just fabulous.

MG:Where you ever approached to model for any other Disney films after “Peter Pan”?
MK: I got married and had a family. When I met Jodi Benson, from “The Little Mermaid”, I told her that I was the great-great-grandmother of Ariel and we had a great laugh. But I ended up going into voice over. I speak 21 different dialects and 48 different voices. So I worked on shows like “Clutch Cargo” and “Space Angels”. So my primary focus was voice-over and radio. But they keep calling me back each time they re-release “Peter Pan”.

MG: Tell us about your autobiography “Tinker Bell Talks: Tales of a Pixie Dusted Life”?
MK: I am shooting for Valentine’s Day 2013, but of course you never know what can happen with printers. There are 110 chapters, none of which are over six pages. There are 80 photos and some really fun stories. Did you know I produced an animation short for George Clinton from Parliament-Funkadelic. In 10 days, I produced seven minutes of animation for one of their concerts. There is a funny story about that because this as well.  Since my boss (at the time) did not get the cash for the animation when it was delivered, I had to go and track down this group of people on the Sunset Strip. There are all these very tall black men around me and I am only 5’2 [laughs]. I walked up to them looking to get paid. We had a great laugh and they were such nice people. Those are the some of the stories included. It has been great fun to work on.

 

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Lily Rabe reflects on her devilish role in "American Horror Story: Asylum"

Lily Rabe is known best for her role in FX’s series “American Horror Story”. In the first season she played the character Nora Montgomery and in the second she played the devil-possessed nun, Sister Mary Eunice. As the show approaches the end of its second season, Lily took out some time to chat with Media Mikes about her character and her fate at the end of the season.

Mike Gencarelli: What did you find the most difficult part of your role this season?
Lily Rabe: Well, you know, I think some of the murders having sort of in those moments where she was just absolutely sort of in her completely taken over by the devil and throwing these actors around and slitting their throats and stabbing them ruthlessly and all of that sort of, you know I’ve been the victim a lot, so I’ve often played the person who’s getting raped or murdered or abused. And so to actually be raping and murdering and abusing people is a whole different kind of challenge and one that it was very difficult at times and sometimes I would sort of go home from work and just kind of stare at the wall for a couple of hours. But I can’t complain, because easily if whatever kind of knocks you out working is the kind of work that I want to be doing because it’s always those challenges that are the most exciting and the things I hope to get to keep doing in my work.

MG: How did you approach your role because I feel that the combination of comedy and horror and I’m wondering if the director somehow guided you on how to play the devil in your character?
LR: Yes, you know the truth is the way that I approached it really was to figure out before we started shooting the most important thing to me was to really figure out who Sister Mary Eunice was and not really worry about the possession or the devil because to me so much of what a possession is is specific to the person. So that to play the sort of dark side or underbelly of someone or their sort of shadow taking over it’s really about knowing who that person is before that event has taken place of this dark thing sort of taking over. So it was more about figuring out who she really was through and through.

MG: There are many different storylines this season, was there any one that was your favorite?
LR: You know my storyline with Jessica (Lange) was perhaps the most powerful to me because I think it’s sort of the most tragic in a way because it’s actually the one that involved the most love, even though there was a sort of, even though Jessica’s Jude is very cruel to Eunice in the beginning. I always believed that that cruelty was coming out of a place of love and a place of sort of seeing Mary Eunice as seeing her potential and knowing that she wasn’t living it. And so in a way that that whole where we started and where we ended up, that to me is probably the one that was the most sort of powerful; but I have to say all of, you know, my relationship with James and with everyone, everyone I got to sort of work with. I even had a great side plot with Spivey. Mark Conseulos is so amazing and it was such an abundance of amazing actors that you get a chance to work with while you’re doing the show.

MG: Was there anything this season that really has surprised you or threw you for a loop when you saw the episode completed for the first time?
LR: Well, there are certain points of things that are going to happen to you; but there was a lot of mystery and a lot of sort of you have to be constantly taking a tremendous leap of faith and just sort of staying present in the moment of whatever the scene is, because you don’t know exactly you know where that turn is going to end up or what the next episode is going to bring. You know you have these sort of landmark things that you know about, but within the sort of nuance of the storylines. There was a certain amount of mystery. I didn’t watch the show while it was airing because it was too hard to be shooting episode three or I mean the episode seven and watching episode three or however it worked out. My brain was getting really scrambled, but I had to wait till the season had wrapped because there is in the same way that the audience is being surprised, you know we were definitely getting our handful of surprises, too, that’s for sure.

MG: What was it like at the Asylum itself can almost be looked at as a character on the show. What was the atmosphere like on set to work in an environment like that?
LR: Right, I know it is a dark world to live in, but I think the thing that made it so, still so kind of wonderful and a place that I was excited to drive to work every morning and that was because of the people and the crew. It was a very close group of actors and the writers are very, it’s an amazing group of writers. I think Ryan has a way of when he’s at the helm he’s one of those people who just creates a great work environment. I think it’s so much about that person. The leader really has to set the tone for something and make everyone feel safe and he does that in such an incredible way and so everyone, although we were maybe working crazy hours and shooting crazy things, it was always a really nice place to go to work. And for me you know it was the first time I’d ever been, I’ve never done a show as a regular before and it reminded me a bit of doing a play in the sense that you go to the theatre every day and you have your dressing room. And you have the crew and the actors and so I loved that feeling of actually kind of having this family every day that was sort of new for me and very special.

MG: Was there anything that you guys did to break up the tension in between a scene that would be particularly intense?
LR: Oh well, I mean you know Sara Paulson is one of my best friends and has been for years. We already have a bit of laughing problem together, so I would say that that happened a lot. There was often a lot of that and Zach was learning the banjo and I was learning the guitar, so there were also little musical breaks, although he’s much better at the banjo than I am at the guitar at this point.

MG: Did you ever have times that it was hard to deal with the character because of the psychological heaviness of the role?
LR: Yes, but it sort of came with the territory in the sense that I think if you’re going to be; I feel that with all the great jobs or all the really, really great parts, you’re usually going to sort of dark and scary or painful places and that’s just part of it. Although it could be difficult in some way, it sort of comes with, it’s part of the job description I feel, so it’s nothing I would ever sort of want to say was a negative, even though sometimes it doesn’t feel great. It’s sort of to me it’s still part of the job description of getting to play a wonderful role and having to go through things like that. So I’m always very grateful for that even if it means I’m going to go have to kind of collapse in my bed for a little while or whatever or whatever it means.

MG: How far in advance did you know what your character’s fate was going to be? Did you kind of have an idea about that from the beginning?
LR: I had some sense, yes, I knew that she probably wouldn’t have a very happy ending, so I did have a sense and then sort of as we went along the specifics of how that was all going to happen became clearer as we went along.

MG: That scene almost seemed like kind of a relief for your character. Can you reflect?
LR: Yes, I think the death scene, the way Ryan and I really talked about it it’s really sort of an assisted suicide. Her situation really wasn’t survivable in the sense that even if they had done some sort of exorcism or something at that point, we sort of felt that whatever might be left of that girl was so damaged and destroyed and that death sort of became her only way out. Yes, playing that through once the possession happened that was such a wonderful challenge and a sort of dance really to live between with both the lightness and the darkness existing at the same time in that battle and then that losing battle really.

MG: Do you think you will be back for the third season?
LR: I have no idea. I can’t say a word. I’m so sorry. I know it’s such a boring interview sometimes with us at American Horror Story, so that I just can’t say a word. I would certainly love to be back that’s for sure. It’s such a great job.

 

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Lizzie Brocheré reflects on her role in "American Horror Story: Asylum"

Lizzie Brocheré is currently playing the role of Grace in FX’s hit show “American Horror Story: Asylum”. She is known for her work in France with about 40 foreign films and TV roles under her belt. As the show approaches the end of the second season, Lizzie took out some time to chat with Media Mikes to chat about her character and what we can expect.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you first get involved in the show?
Lizzie Brocheré: Weirdly, I self-typed from France. I had no idea that I could get the part because it was supposed to be an American part. I did the audition anyway because I never felt safe and my managers here sometimes get mad because I never send anything in, and because also the process of the audition was so much fun. I watched the first season of American Horror Story and have been a big fan, and the audition for the part of “Grace;” it was two scenes. One was a scene taken out of Girl Interrupted, “Lisa’s” character. It was very, very out there. It was very provocative, a very strong character and very …. So that was fun, it was like, wow, what is that character that they’re auditioning for? The other scene was a scene from …, which was a masturbation scene, very provocative as well. I was like; I don’t know where they’re going with that character, but she’s wild. So I did the audition with my friend, and didn’t really believe in it, and then two weeks later I was in L.A. meeting Ryan Murphy … for five minutes and they were talking to me about the part … and that was it. It was amazing. and I didn’t even have a driver’s license.

MG: How do I get into my character to play Grace?
LB: There’s so many different ways, but I think what I worked on the most was that back story you heard, because when we started shooting, we already had the first four scripts, so I had the back story of Grace in the fourth episode. I think that since she was based on this American character, Lizzie Borden, I read a lot about Lizzie Borden. I discovered a source book with her inquest testimony; I loved reading it out loud. I thought she was so smart and strangely fascinating, that character. I don’t know if it helped my acting, but it was necessary for me to know a bit more of that character who was a very important American figure. I had no clue who she was, in fact, …for example. I did a lot of—this is going to sound weird, but I did a lot of stretching, yoga and dancing, almost ballet. I felt, you know, how she’s always–you want her to be moving in a very smooth maybe, and she’s very sexy, so you want her to be moving in a smoother way than I do. So that was a little job, and Grace, I don’t know she’s somewhere in me–apart from that big back story and all that; her sarcasm, her way of seeing life and that little liveliness she has. You know, how she always says amazing lines when you feel like she’s young little Tibetan monk. It wasn’t that hard to tap into her, apart from the killing of my dad and all of that.

MG: Can you tell us a little bit about shooting the murder scenes?
LB: That was so fun. We wanted to–I mean the whole crew was so happy to change my look, and they were really excited about doing some kind of flashbacks and knowing a little bit more about Grace. So everything, costumes and hair, for example, I don’t have the same haircut at all. They really wanted to show Grace as she was before the asylum, and everyone was really excited about that. The actual murder scenes, there was a lot of blood, a lot of different axes. I think we had six different axes that are still in the props office, and they’re all on the walls. You have one that’s a rubber axe, and then you have another one that’s a real axe, and you should never mix up with the other one. Then you have another one that’s a half cut axe, so that you can pretend that it’s in the body. You only have a part of it sticking out of the body. I mean we have so many different axes; it was funny. Then you have, for example, when I kill my step-mom, we have these effects guys that were behind the body of my step-mom … blood on the face each time that I hit her. There were so many people in that closet but it was fun.

MG: How you ever been spooked on the set?
LB: I did get the creeps. Yes, because the story was so dark and all these flashbacks that we shot. For example, when I hide in the closet, and it’s a fake flashback, but still, we did it for real, and I hide in the closet, and I dove back and I go back and I think that I’m saved and then there’s this foot with blood dripping on my shoulder right next to me. So realistic, so realistic. It was crazy. I couldn’t open the closets after that for a week at my place.

MG: How do you shake a show like this at the end of each day?
LB: I have very different ways–the crew, for example, is so much fun–I mean they’re totally disconnected from the cast. Joke with the crew when you get out of set, for an example, that helped me so much. Otherwise, in my day-to-day basis, it would be I guess, a bit of yoga. I go biking, read, watch shows, I go to music concerts. I’ve taken a lot of road trips since I’ve been here. I’ve been to The Joshua Tree. I’ve been camping on the Channel Islands. Each time that I have two or three days off, I’m off somewhere in California.

MG: The asylum itself feels like a character on the show, so how much does that environment help you get into a scene?
LB: It makes the scene. There’s no question about where you are. I remember one of the first days on the set when …–the first scene was something in the solitary, and I’d be visiting in the solitary cells. When you’re in that hallway with all the solitary cell doors; Ooh. You have no question of where you are. It’s such a particular asylum. It’s such a designed asylum. It’s such an interesting–I don’t know you can feel the whole weight of the metaphor that it represents, you know.

MG: What’s coming up for Grace in the upcoming episodes?
LB: What can I tease? So much is happening to “Grace,” poor “Grace.” I don’t really know. My character joins a storyline that I cherish a lot, which is the alien storyline, and that is something that I’ve been really looking forward to. I’m so happy about that because, first of all, when you move to the United States for work, which is what I just did, you have a visa where they call you an alien with extraordinary ability, but still that’s what I am right now. It’s strange, to be like right, in the administration system, you have a label which is a visa 01, which is for aliens with extraordinary ability; good Lord. So ever since I got a foot in the U.S. administration and moving to the U.S., I’ve been like, oh aliens; interesting. Aliens are immigrants. That’s interesting, what is an alien? So when I got the script everything kind of made sense in a way. This idea of foreigners–so I love being close to that storyline because I felt so much myself like an alien.

 

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Sam Huntington reflects on season two of Syfy's "Being Human"

Sam Huntington co-stars in Syfy’s hit show “Being Human”, which returns this month for it’s third season.  He plays the character of Josh and is a werewolf that lives with a vampire (Sam Witwer) and a ghost (Meghan Rath). We spoke with Sam back in the very beginning of the show for season one, check it out here.  We got a chance to catch up with Sam again and got the scoop on the second season and what we can expect for the third.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about what you enjoyed most about playing Josh in season two?
Sam Huntington: I think for all the characters, it was great to see them go down their darker paths. As hard as Josh tries to do the right thing, sometimes that need to do the right thing forces him to do the wrong thing. So that was really interesting for me to see and play that aspect of him. As hard as he tries he just has these horrible flaws right down to the end of the season. So that was pretty cool. I also really enjoy the humor of the show.

MG: Each character seemed to go off on their own story in the second season, can you reflect on that for us?
SH: Josh is at his best when he is with Nora and with his roommates. Those are always my favorite moments. I think looking back I would have liked to be with those people more. I think in season three we are going to be put together a lot more so it will be pretty great.

MG: Do you feel that you have an creative freedom with the character now?
SH: I feel that I know Josh so intimately at this point. You are given these beautiful words to say, which sculpts the role. But then of course he takes on a life of his own now that I have been doing it for two years and going into a third. Put it this way, I think I know how Josh will react in every situation, which is super cool for me. I would say 99% of the time, the writers will nail it for his but there is that 1% when I have to chat it over and get on the same page. A lot of times they have reasons why I have to act in a certain way or do a certain thing. It is definitely a collaboration in that regard. We rarely have to intervene though, which is great.

MG: You parted ways with Nora and the surprise with Julia, no luck for you in woman department huh?
No he doesn’t. Word to wise for all those ladies out there who is curious about Josh the Werewolf…Don’t Do it! It’s a death wish. [laughs]. It’s just a bad situation. He is a wet blanket on relationships, trust me.

MG: How would you compare the two seasons production wise?
SH: I would say that season two was 100% more easier than season one. We ironed out a lot of kinks with everything…the make-up and the hours. The writers have figured out what works and what doesn’t. It is always process. You have to figure out what you are capable of doing. You want to always go right up to the limit but you obviously don’t want to kill everyone [laughs]. Season one nearly killed me. Season two was way smoother. I am hoping that season three is more of the same.

MG: During the first season when we spoke, I mentioned that I felt Josh bared most of the burden but in the second season it is more equally distributed.
SH: I think so. They were able to streamline a lot of the werewolf stuff  Beyond that also as far as the character goes but poor Josh just keeps getting hit and beaten down to the ground with the things he is dealing with. I feel so bad for the guy. He can’t win [laughs].

MG: Season two ended on cliffhanger, tell us what we can expect for this next season?
SH: When we finished the season we had no idea what was going to happen. We know now obviously since we’ve gotten the scripts. It is a great cliffhanger  What is the funny thing is that I don’t know if the writers knew [laughs]. I am sure they had a couple of ideas. At the end of the season everything kind of had their hands in the cookie jar, as far as what they wanted to see happen. They really want the show to be the best that it can be. The good news is though, now knowing where we go it is going to be SO awesome! It is such a great direction. I couldn’t be happier!

Betty White reflects on career and new season of "Betty White’s Off Their Rockers"

Betty White is a legendary TV icon, a seven time Emmy award winner and currently starring in NBC’s show “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers”. Betty and her posse of senior pranksters returned for season two of this series on NBC on Tuesday January 8th with special guests PSY and Kim Kardashian appearing in bits with Betty in two back-to-back episodes. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Betty about her career and the new season

Mike Smith: You are a cultural icon. What keeps you going in the business?
Betty White: Because why quit something you’re enjoying so much? It’s such fun, and who would ever expect at 91 to still get invited to do shows. I mean, that’s unheard of, so if they don’t want me to do it, don’t ask me, because if they ask me I’ll take it.

MS: When you were first approached about doing this show, it’s “Off Their Rockers” with seniors doing pranks, did you immediately know you wanted to do it?
BW: No, I was not enthused about doing this. First of all, well not so much for the show but because my schedule just didn’t tolerate it, so I thanked them very much and said, no thank you. But they kept coming back, and it was a show that started in Belgium, and it was the most popular comedy show in Europe for a while. So when they invited me to do it, I said that’s very nice, but I just can’t work it in. And they kept coming back, and of course I had the backbone of a jellyfish, so here I am doing it, but I’m having a good time.

MS: What’s the best prank you’ve ever pulled, the funniest one?
BW: I’m not a real prankster. I love doing “Off Their Rockers”, because the other people are pranking, but I willmaybe kid my friends and say one thing or tell them something happened that didn’t really happen, but I straighten it out pretty fast. The trouble is you can paint yourself into a corner if you try too many pranks, you know?

MS: Can you reflect about the direction of TV today?
BW: Well, I think TV has changed, but I think the audience has changed more than anything else. The audience has seen every plot. They’ve heard every joke. They keep being a challenge, so the producers and the show people try to top themselves or get unusual and I think every once in a while, just a good old-fashioned straightforward television show, or a situation comedy suddenly hits the spot. It’s almost like something they haven’t seen for a while.

MS: How did you develop the sense of humor that you have and the love of laughter, and your amazing sense of comic timing?
BW: Oh, that was my mother and father. I was an only child, and the – we had the best time together. My dad was a salesman, so he would bring jokes home, but also he’d ask me how things went at school, and I would start telling him, and pretty soon we’d begin to make jokes about it, and it was a love of laughter at home that just was a precious commodity to have with your folks, and Sunday morning breakfast would last two hours sometimes when we all giggled and scratched and talked.

MS: Could you elaborate a little bit on how you think you have achieved the notoriety that you have, and what advice you can give for other women that are starting in the business?
BW: Well, bless your heart, I hope it’s fame, not notoriety, but I’ve been so lucky. I just can’t tell you how lucky to get to this age. Who would ever dream that you’d get to be 91 years old and you’re still working as much as I am? But I think it’s because I thoroughly enjoy what I do. I love this business, and I’ll quit when they ask me to, but as long as they keep asking me to work, I’ll keep saying yes, and it is such a privilege. I think women have come a long way over the years in being you know, coming into their own and roles that they get and in – well, in the whole business, and women executives and all that, but it’s a very lovely position to be in to be taken seriously as well as laughed at.

MS: Can you talk about what it was like to have Ed Asner on the show, and what you did together?
BW: Oh, it was such fun, and Ed and I stay very close. We’ve always adored each other. I don’t think we’ve ever said a nice word to each other, but we adore each other. You know that kind of a friendship. He always yells at me and I yell at him and lovingly. He did the show and when you work that closely together, somehow you fall into a pattern, and it’s as though you saw each other yesterday, even if a little time has gone by.

MS: What are some of the biggest challenges in making the show?
BW: Yes, well, let me answer the question. The challenges are to try to keep it fresh, to try to keep any semblance of freshness going. Well, after this number of years of all the shows and all the jokes and all the scripts, that’s the – a major challenge, so what you do is keep reworking the same old material and try to put a little new slant on it, and then with fresh people in the role, it’s amazing how long you can milk stuff.

MS: What type of attitude do you recommend for longevity?
BW: Oh, honesty. You can fool everybody else maybe that you know, but you can’t fool that camera. That camera will know when you’re faking it every time.

 

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Marilyn Ghigliotti reflect on her role in “Clerks” and on news of “Clerks III”

Marilyn Ghigliotti is best known for her role of Veronica in “Clerks”. With the director, Kevin Smith, announcing that “Clerks III” will be his final film, Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Marilyn about the news and reflects on her role in the original “Clerks”.

Mike Gencarelli: How can you reflect on Kevin Smith’s latest news to make “Clerks III” his last film?
Marilyn Ghigliotti: Well, it would be great. I think a lot of people really want to know what is happening with the characters anyway. I do not know if Veronica would be brought back or not – it would be really nice if she was. I am constantly asked that question about a third film. I was just lucky enough to work on the first film and play that character that everyone loves. In the same respect, I like the fact that fans are curious but I only know the same as them right now [laughs].

Mike: Why do you think these characters resonate going on 20 years now?
Marilyn: I think because they are believable. Everybody can relate to these characters. I am thinking because Kevin Smith had a lot of things against him but he beat the odds and was able to make this film possible without a studio. Since then it has just grown over the years. I have even had a nine year old girl come up to me and said that she loves the film [laughs].

Mike: Reflecting back on “Clerks”, at what point did you realize that this little film wasn’t going away?
Marilyn: It was when we were all at Sundance, which is when Miramax bought. Brian (O’Halloran) and I knew that the meeting was going on and we waited on pins and needles to see what was going to happen. When we got word it was bought by Miramax, where were really excited. Even then though, we didn’t know what to expect but we knew it was going to be a little more than we anticipated.

Mike: Do you have a highlight of working on that film?
Marilyn: All of it really. Next year is 20 years since it was filmed, so it is quite a long time. It was just a great experience. I remember we went in very late to shoot and at the time I was working at a salon as well. So I would be lucky to get an hour or two sleep after shooting before going off work. During shooting we got to meet the town drunk that would come in and buy cigarettes very late. We had hot bagels that we weren’t really suppose to have. So things like that.

Mike: Did you have any challenges with the sharp and quick dialogue for Veronica?
Marilyn: Oh yeah! I kind of trip-over my tongue naturally. You can even see, during the scene when Dante is painting Veronica’s nails. Kevin had enough film that he probably could have done a few more takes but I just kept tripping over my tongue. Even though, I come from theatre, which includes a lot of lines to memorize for a stage performance. For me learning lines is always a stressful thing. I want to be able to say them correctly as they are written.

Mike: Did you ever get approach for a role in “Clerks II”?
Marilyn: No, it never did. I did get to go to the premiere out in Red Bank though. I can see why she wasn’t in the film. But I could also could have seen a little cameo with her in it as well. There are many possibilities that I can see for Veronica in “Clerks III”. I know that Kevin writes his stories on how he is feeling at that moment, so it could have nothing for my character as well. But I am still hoping.

Mike: Besides acting, telling us about your work as a make-up artist?
Marilyn: Before I started acting, I was a practicing hair stylist in a salon. At a certain point, I was looking for something new. I was always interested in the entertainment field growing up, in some respect. I always wanted to take dance lessons as a kid and used to always watch musicals. I just ended up falling into it and I am happy I did. My parents brought me up telling me to get an office job or become a secretary to have financial security. Nothing against my parents but I am glad that I fell into this.

Mike: Tell us about what you have planned for next year?
Marilyn: There is one project called “Geek USA” that came about from the sound guy, Phil Bladh, who I worked with on “Alien Armageddon”. It was based on his prom when he was in High School. I was originally supposed to play his mom but there was a scheduling conflict. So I just play a store clerk and hopefully the scene isn’t cut [laughs]. It was fun though! I also just did a day on Neil Johnson’s latest film “Starship: Rising”. He was the director of “Alien Armageddon”. It was only one day but I love getting to work with him and he puts me in these roles that you wouldn’t normally expect to see me in. So, that was fun to do and I like getting to show range.

Mark Hamill reflects on his role of Crow in “Sushi Girl”

Mark Hamill may be known best for playing Luke Skywalker in the original “Star Wars” trilogy. He is also the voice of The Joker for the last 20 years, starting with “Batman: The Animated Series”. Mark is taking on his most challenging and unique role yet, as Crow, in his new film “Sushi Girl”. I highly recommend this film, as it is one of my favorite films of the year.  It is being released on VOD on November 27, 2012, in advance of it’s theatrical release on January 4, 2013. Media Mikes had the real pleasure of chatting with Mark about this amazing performance and how he put himself into that role. We also got to chat a little bit about his voice work and what he has planned next.

Mike Gencarelli: Take us through the how you ended up working on “Sushi Girl”?
Mark Hamill: They sent me the script; I read it and liked it a lot. But initially I couldn’t see myself doing it. I couldn’t imagine it. I was trying to get other things off the ground and sort of forgot about it. Then it came down to “Yes or no…Are you in or out?” I was thinking maybe it was a little too extreme. It seems crazy now that I did this but I turned it down. That was the easy way to deal with the troubling aspects of the screenplay. After a week or so I reconsidered, I am lucky they didn’t go to anyone else in that time. What happened was, I turned it down but didn’t feel good about it. So I asked my kids for help. Nathan was busy but I had my son Griffin and my daughter Chelsea read it, just to get their reactions. I need the reactions from twenty-somethings since I don’t have access to those demographics. Griffin didn’t think it was that violent like torture porn or gratuitously violent. The violence is part of the movie like in “Reservoir Dogs”. We are showing the underbelly of the ugly unsavory low-life kind of crime. So I agreed with him. But the one that really got to me was my daughters comment. She said “I heard you over the years saying that you had to go to Broadway to get character parts or the only really good character parts you got in film/TV are in animation like the Joker…if you turn this down then don’t complain anymore, you should be flattered they wanted you for the part to begin with”. It took a certain amount of imagination for them to even think of me for Crow at all. Ironically, when I asked them why they wanted me they said “Well if you can play a psycho like the Joker in animation, why not do it in live-action.” I decided to read it again but this time in character as Crow and not as Mark Hamill and that made a world of difference. So I told them I had to do it and luckily I got in under the wire. I really believe in this movie and I really want it to get the recognition it deserves.

MG: Where did you get your inspiration for the twisted yet perverted Crow?
MH: Obviously, most everything is in the screenplay but in terms of who I was using and how I got into the part and got inside the characters head, I used a few people that I used to work with in New York. I don’t want to use their names since they are not psychopath killers [laughs], but more in terms of their dark sardonic humor. There was a guy that was my understudy in a musical I did on Broadway and it was that sort of cynical snarky humor that Crow has, I took from him…and also various other people in my life. I loved the fact that we came up with a visually arresting look for the guy. I thought he should just show up and people should think that “There is something wrong with this guy”. The hair was one of those things that evolved overtime. At first I thought if I should be bald with a little Van Dyke beard and an earring or I thought maybe ponytail, since that is always creepy to me on a guy. Eventually, we went from bald to 180 degrees from that, since Tony (Todd) was bald. That hairdue might work for someone that is in a grunge band in Seattle or a surfer in his 20’s but it is just age inappropriate on a man like this. Then he has the three piece suit, which looks sort-of normal in the middle and then those tennis suits, which are more appropriate for a little boy. Visually there is just something that is so disturbingly wrong.

MG: For people that know you as Luke Skywalker and the voice of the Joker; what is this film going to do to your image for them?
MH: That is something that I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember. When I was a little boy and all the classic Universal Monster films came on. I admired all those actors like (Boris) Karloff and Lou Chaney Jr. & Sr. I loved the idea of hiding behind a completely different visual persona. It gives you great strength. You look in the mirror and it is not you. So you have to let go of your ego. In the film, I look awful. I look like five miles of bad road. Again, to look in the mirror and see a different character liberates you to make different choices that you wouldn’t originally make if you were Mark Hamill trying to look as good as you can. I love that about it. One of the greatest compliments I got about the role was when the producers showed it to some prospective buyers and when the movie was over, they asked “Where was Mark Hamill?” [laughs]. I mean that is the greatest compliment that I can get.

MG: Tell us about working with this phenomenal cast?
MH: You never can be sure what is going to happen. Not only did every cast member get along perfectly, there were no feuds or fights or egos involved. Everyone worked as a team and that included the crew. We were treating this like the little movie that could. It is idiosyncratic. It’s atypical. It’s quirky. But it is something special. It was just a joy to go to set every morning and you honestly cannot say that about every movie or TV show you work on. This is a cast that has gotten together for BBQ’s, birthday parties etc since filming. You get this real family feeling about it and that is not common at all in this business.

MG: The torture scenes in the film are quite a challenge to watch; were you ever concerned about it going to far?
MH: Yeah of course, from when I first read it. Let me tell you I have been married to a dental hygienist for more than 30 years and when I saw the extreme dental violence in this film, I thought there was no way I could do it. My wife is the woman that says “May The Floss Be With You” [laughs]. I couldn’t also see how I can film it without upsetting myself. I am quite squeamish about certain things and things dealing with teeth is one of them. During filming it, I am in character and Crow is really getting off on it. So I had to stay in character but Noah (Hathaway) was so realistic with these blood-curdling screams. That and the chopstick scene were definitely the hardest to shoot for me.

MG: After your likeness was used in the Mark Millar series, tell us about your recent casting in film adaption of “The Secret Service”?
MH: Mark contacted me via email and wanted to know if he could use my likeness in a comic book and beyond that to kill me in it. Well I thought that it was a very interesting idea. I am a huge fan of his and Dave Gibbons from “Watchmen”. I have a great friendship with him now. He asked me if I wanted to be in the movie and I said “Sure”. I don’t know what the details are yet. But it sounds like a lot of fun. The last time I played myself was in “The Simpsons”, back in 1998. It is very unnerving to play yourself because you have to analyze “Well who am I?”. I really don’t think about myself except in the roles I play. When I was getting ready to do “The Simpsons”, I was walking around the house asking “Do I sound like this” or “Do I sound like this” (both in different voices). I became very self-conscious but once I saw the advance concepts for the comic book from Mark, I thought it was such a brilliant concept combining the fantasy world of James Bond and contrast that with the drab lower-class English background that this guy comes from. It is such a wonderful paradox combination of elements in and of itself. It is not a major role but I never look at things like they need to be about me. I think about if it is good and if it is good I want to be a part of it. As far as I know, it is all a-go, we haven’t signed contracts or talked about a deal but I am sure it is going to happen.

MG: After stealing the show in “Sushi Girl” and no retired from Joker, do you plan to tackle more live-action roles?
MH: I am in collaboration with Amber Entertainment to finally get “The Black Pearl” made as a feature film that I would direct but not perform in. That is my main goal at the moment. If someone sees Crow and thinks of me in a different way and offers me another idiosyncratic character role, I would be thrilled to do it. I don’t have any direct plans but I also didn’t plan on “Sushi Girl” coming my way either. So you never know.

MG: I am also a big fan of your work on “Metalocalypse”.
MH: That is a very unusual show. We are heading into our fifth season of that show and that is one of the four that I am working on right now. Then there is Disney XD’s “Motorcity”. “Regular Show” just won an Emmy, congratulations to the people behind that show! I am also on the “How to Train Your Dragon” TV series “Dragons: Riders of Berk”, which is doing very well. I play Alvin, a big stupid Viking on that show. But I love it. He doesn’t think about himself as stupid or a villain. He is a real fun character to play. He wasn’t in the movie but was created for the TV series. I get to channel the crew from “Star Wars” since they were from the East End of London. They were all great fun to be around and I love the music of their accents. To be able to channel those guys is great fun. It is like getting into an amusement park car and riding along in someone else’s persona. That is why I don’t like playing myself…I am boring [laughs] but all the characters I get to play are more interesting.

MG: When we met at Star Wars Celebration VI, a young child came up to you in passing and asked you to do the voice of the Joker and you did. I will never forget the look on his face. What do you enjoy most about meeting all your fans?
MH: Going and meeting so many people that care some much about something that you been involved with it is really overwhelming. I don’t take it for granted at all. It is not something that I come face-to-face with everyday. In that context it is so easy for me to make that little kids day by just saying “I want money first” (in Joker’s voice). It is just so much fun. It is like a magician being able to just do a slide of hand magic trick that the kid will remember many moons to come. That is one of the perks of this business and one of the reasons why I got into it. I enjoy it. I love making people laugh and I love making people happy. I wasn’t motivated by fame or money. I wanted to do something that I enjoyed doing and I am so grateful. The fact that I have been able to do some many of those things I love, whether it the seven shows I have done in NY or the Regional Theater or the numerous cartoons. I grew up loving cartoons. So I am just so grateful to get a chance to keep doing the things I love.