Ricky Schroder talks about new Hallmark Channel film “Our Wild Hearts”

I remember it like yesterday.  My friend Matt and I are talking to a friend of ours that manages one of the local theatres.  We tell him what movie we’re going to see and he tells us to take a handful of napkins in with us.  “That kid,” he tells us, “is going to rip your heart out.”  Boy did he.  The film was “The Champ” and the “kid” was Ricky Schroder.

Best known for his role in the popular 80s television show “Silver Spoons,” Ricky Schroder is the rare success story in Hollywood.  From early roles in “The Last Voyage of Noah’s Ark” with Elliot Gould and “The Earthling” with William Holden through acclaimed performances in “Lonesome Dove” and “NYPD Blue” (where he ripped my heart out again as Detective Danny Sorrenson), Schroder carved out a successful career in front of the camera.  But recently he has spent some time behind it, including directing and co-writing the new film “Our Wild Hearts,” which airs August 2 on the Hallmark Movie Channel.  Schroder also stars, as does his daughter Cambrie and his sons Luke and Holden, named after his “The Earthling” co-star.

While promoting “Our Wild Hearts,” Mr. Schroder spent some time with Media Mikes to talk about his new film, working with his family and the perils of fatherhood.

Mike Smith:  What was your inspiration in writing “Our Wild Hearts?”
Ricky Schroder:  My daughter (Cambrie) was my inspiration.  Honestly.  She’s been wanting to be an actress since she was six.  I knew that she would eventually pursue acting with or without me.  I wanted to be her first director because even though I knew she had a lot of potential and raw talent I also knew she needed to be directed in the right way.  I didn’t want her to be put in a situation where she couldn’t succeed.  I told my wife (Andrea – who co-produced and co-wrote the film with Mr. Schroeder) “let’s make a family film – come up with an idea.”  My wife and daughter came back to me with the concept of a dad who never knew he had a daughter, set on a ranch with wild mustangs.  They had me hooked!  I sat down and wrote the first draft.  My wife did a polish on the scenes featuring Willow (Cambrie Schroder) and her mom.  It was a great experience.  All of my family members – all six Schroeders –were on camera.  Everybody worked on the crew.  They did what was needed.  Carry sandbags…craft services…make up…wardrobe.  Whatever needed to be done my family pitched in.

MS:  You worked with your wife before as a producer but this was the first time you shared a writing credit with her.  What was that collaborative process like?
RS:  We would sit down and talk about plot and characters and I would write.  And when I was stuck on scenes I would give them to her and she would write them.  She focused more on Willow’s character – Willow with her mom, Willow in Malibu.  Sometimes I would have trouble finding Willow’s voice and she could find it easier.

MS:  You mentioned that your entire family is in the film.  What was it like, especially for the first time actors, to work with your kids?
RS:  It was a great experience.  I would love to work with them again.  I treated them as a performer and they treated me as a director.  It was a very professional dynamic.  There were lots of high stakes riding on this film and lots of people involved as well as a great partner company in Hallmark.  We knew this wasn’t a home movie.  We knew this was a real film that we were working on together and we all treated it as such.  The only time my “dad” instincts kicked in was when my daughter had to do a stunt on a horse.  I would feel the urge to pull her off a let the stunt lady do it.

MS:  Something you alluded to when we were talking before the interview…as that very rare child actor who has gone on to a successful transition to adulthood,  have you shared any advice with your children…especially Cambrie, who wants to pursue acting full time?
RS:  I didn’t really share advice like that.  Of course, if they ask questions I’ll certainly answer them.  I think my kids have learned more by watching their dad and the challenges and struggles I’ve had while pursuing my career.  Any actor always has trouble getting that next job.  My kids have seen that.  So when we got to make a movie together they really began to understand what dad was doing when he would leave for 14 hours a day.  When he would go on set and be around sixty people in a high pressure environment.  No wonder he was tired when he came home.  Things like that I don’t think they had any insight into until they saw it from my perspective.

MS:  You still continue to act but you’re also spending more time behind the camera.  Is that your preference now?  Is that something you want to pursue?
RS:  I love acting and I’m always going to act.  Hopefully there will always be good writing and I can get that opportunity.  I’ve been focused more on writing and directing recently because I felt like I needed a new challenge…a new frontier to explore.  To stay inspired.  To try new things and to have new experiences in my life.  I’ve done that.  I’ve done music videos, I’ve done movies.  I’ve never set out to say “I’m not going to act anymore.”  But I had a real desire to learn about the other parts of this job…of directing and writing and producing….that I didn’t understand.

MS:  What are you working on next?
RS:  I created a reality television show for the U.S. Army called “Starting Strong” that’s running now.  (NOTE:  Adam Lawton spoke to Mr. Schroder about this program recently – his interview can be found here).  I’m really proud of that.  It runs on FOX on Sunday mornings.  It’s done well so I’m hoping to get another order to make more of those.  I’m also writing a couple scripts – an independent feature and another television film.  I’ve also written a one-hour pilot I’m trying to get set up.  And in between all of that I still go out on auditions when I can.  I meet people, shake hands and try to get the best acting jobs I can

MS:  Thank you again for your time.  I hope your daughter feels better (right before phoning me one of Mr. Schroder’s daughters had fallen off her skateboard and injured her wrist).
RS:  Thank you.

MS:  One thing I’ve learned as a dad is that kids bounce.
RS:  Very true.

Ricky Schroder talks about new TV show “Starting Strong”

Ricky Schroder rose to fame as a child actor in the late 70’s and early 80’s winning a Golden Globe for his role in the 1979 film “The Champ”. Schroder then went on to play the role of Ricky Stratton on the popular hit television series “Silver Spoons”. Since that time Ricky has appeared in a variety of feature films and television series. His newest project “Starting Strong” which airs June 2nd on Fox is a collaboration with the United States Army to give people interested in joining the military a real life look at what it takes to become an Armed Forces member. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Ricky recently about the project and what it was like working with the U.S. Army.

Adam Lawton: How did you first get involved with the Army?
Ricky Schroder: I approached the Army and asked them what I could do to help. I had wanted to do something to help and be able to do my part. We have been at war now for quite a long time and after the events of Sept. 11th I was compelled to get involved somehow.

AL: What were your impressions when the project first got underway?
RS: There was a big learning curve for me. You think you know about the Army and what it’s all about but you really don’t know until you go in to the Army or spend time there. You have to sit down and really talk to these men and women over weeks and weeks. You then really start to understand more about the Army. That’s what “Starting Strong” does. It gives people the behind the scene look at what it’s like to live, eat and breathe in the Army. The show isn’t about boot camp or things like that. It is more focused on Military job specialties. There are 150 of these jobs ranging from mechanics to medics. We show a civilian what it’s like to do one of those specific jobs for a week.
At the end of the week they either decide to enlist or they don’t. My perception of the Army was completely different than that of reality. These soldiers and their families are both serving. They have a very tight bond. I really learned a lot about America’s Army.

AL: Did you do a lot of pre-production and research before starting to shoot?
RS: The stuff people will be seeing is first hand footage. Neither I, the civilian we brought along nor the production team had ever been through any of this training before. We learned just like the person with us. There were a lot of surprises along the way. Sometimes the ones who we thought would surely enlist after the experience chose not to and others who we thought wouldn’t did end up enlisting. It was something that was pretty hard to predict.

AL: Did the Army have a large hand in the production aspect of things?
RS: Of course they did. They controlled what classes the civilian was going to be places. Since this wasn’t scripted we actually had to fit in the training rotation that the Army already had going. We were pretty much under their direction throughout the filming. The Army also helped with who was going to be able to participate in the program. They were definitely a partner the whole way through. They did not however dictate as to how the end result appeared. The production is completely transparent. We put the young person in those scenarios and what happened is what you see.  The Army was a great partner and their idea of doing this was to communicate with Americans in a new way.

AL: Do you feel having the Army involved was one of the harder parts of the shoot?
RS: I don’t think it was difficult in any way I think it was essential. You couldn’t do some of the things we were able to do without them. We really needed them. The more difficult things were probably having all the camera guys and such running around in the heat for 10-12 hours a day. We really had to make sure we were getting the full story behind why these young people were thinking of enlisting. Sometimes they didn’t know why they were doing this. It was quite challenging getting the young people involved with the production to really identify why they were there.

AL: As this point in your career are you leaning towards doing more of the production side of things as opposed to be in front of the camera?
RS: I want to be able to do as much as I can weather it be acting, directing, writing or producing. I have quite a few more options at this point because I am able to do those things. I certainly want to be a performer still. Performing is something that I have done my entire life and it’s something that I hope will never stop.

AL: Can you tell us about the distribution plans for the show?
RS: It will air on 16 of the Fox channels affiliates. These are some of the biggest cities in America. It is also going to have a massive digital distribution. You will also be able to find it on www.goarmy.com/startingstrong as well as www.youtube.com/goarmy


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DVD Review “The Ricky Gervais Show: The Complete Third Season”

Actors: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, Karl Pilkington
Directors: Dan Fraga
Studio: Warner Archive
DVD Release Date: April 9, 2013
Run Time: 328 minutes

Season: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: N/A

I have been a fan of “The Ricky Gervais Show” when it aired on the UK radio station, XFM, over ten years ago.  Since then this show was been developed as a podcast, audio book and mostly recently an animated series.  When this animated series was announced I wasn’t particularly thrilled.  I originally thought that re-releasing the podcasts with new animations was a little lame, but I forgot how very funny all of these actually were. Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington are very funny together.  This season contains the last 12 out of the 39 episodes produced. There has been talks about a fourth season, but was shelved last year from Gervais himself. If you are a fan of shows like “The Office”, “Extras” and “An Idiot Abroad” then this is sure to deliver some great laughs whether you are a fan of the podcasts or not.

Official Premise: Series 3 starts with an impossible mission as Karl pitches another movie idea and struggles in vain to relay the insane plot to Ricky and Steve. Over the following 12 episodes Karl offers fascinating insights into his family history, encounters with domestic insects and the dangers of wearing crash helmets. Challenged at every turn by Ricky and Steve, who entertain with their own priceless real-life exploits, Karl remains stoic and retains his bizarrely unique perspectives regardless. As things draw to a close. The tree imagine themselves in an old people’s home – still arguing over utter nonsense with the final word going to Ricky, appropriately enough.

This DVD release is being release by Warner Archive as a “made-to-order” DVD. I would love to see these seasons make their way to Blu-ray like in the UK but I have a feeling that this is the best that we are going to get. These episodes have been manufactured from the best-quality video master currently available and has not been remastered or restored for this release. The animation is simple yet still looks very good on this DVD presentation. They come with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The audio track included is a Dolby Digital track. The first and second season included a some great extras but this release is completely baron. The second season DVD was also “made-to-order” but it still contains some sweet extras. So I was left disappointed with this final season but at least it is available for fans.


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Ricky J talks about album “Paint the Town”

Ricky J is a singer/songwriter whose album “Paint the Town” hit the Canadian music charts at #3. His latest single “One Drop” is currently also making its way up the charts. Media Mikes had a chance to ask Ricky a few questions about the album and his involvement with the internet site Cheaterville.com.

Adam Lawton: What made you want to get into music?
Ricky J: I was always into music for some reason. My parents always had music playing around. I always felt a strong connection to music. It’s like a gut feeling that’s kind of hard to explain.

AL: Can you tell us about your latest video/single “One Drop”?
RJ: “One drop” is my current single in Canada off my current album “Paint the Town”. The album has been #3 on the hit charts in Canada. I’m still working the single so I can say we are still building and pushing that song. “One Drop” came about through my co writer DatDude back in Montreal. He had an idea started that he showed me and I came on and we wrote pretty much the entire song together. The aim was to get a Taio Cruz vibe but with my swag and vibe on it. The song is about how there are some girls that you can buy them everything and there are some girls who just want to go out and have fun. They are the girls who don’t care about money or status.

AL: Can you tell us about your work with cheaterville.com?
RJ: Cheaterville! I Love that site. The owner James is a cool dude. Here is a guy who got cheated on and based a site out of it. (Laughs) CheaterVille was looking for an anthem for their site and we connected through mutual friends. I wanted to give them an anthem that was NOT cheesy and not too cliché. I wanted the song to be a little more real. I produced and wrote this song with Sibley who is another HOT L.A artist. I took some of my thoughts and also based it on some situations people I know were kind of going through. Cheaterville wanted it to be something that would work for their site, for radio and for clubs. Don’t forget the song is on iTunes now! (plug plug).

AL: How would you describe you latest album?
RJ: “Paint the town” is a feel good album. It hits you with a little bit of all my influences. The album makes you want to get up and move. Expect a good time with some good music.

AL: Where is the best place for people to go to keep up with your latest news and releases?
RJ: Fans can always check out my music on iTunes. For anybody that wants to check out my music videos or all the online content I have they can go to  www.youtubec.com/rickyjmusic and or all the readers can show their support and follow me on www.twitter.com/officialrickyj

Bassist Ricky Phillips talks working with Styx, Reo Speedwagon and Ted Nugent

Ricky Phillips is no stranger to world of rock music. Over his 30+ year career Phillips has played bass for a number of successful groups. He is probably best known for holding down the low end for the legendary classic rock band Styx. Media Mikes had the chance to talk with Ricky recently about the bands current tour with Reo Speedwagon and Ted Nugent as well as about the bands recent Blu-Ray release titled “Styx: Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight- Live”.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on the bands current tour with Reo Speedwagon and Ted Nugent?
Ricky Phillips: Both Styx and Reo Speedwagon have some incredible history that goes way back. We are both from Illinois and have toured together before but this is the first one we have done together in about 3 or 4 years. We did do some one off shows here and there but the idea came up to put us together and have Ted Nugent open. It is sort of a collaboration of Mid-West rock bands. The attendance at these shows has just been amazing. When you go out each year you never know what the shows will be like. The first leg of the tour went well and was sort of business as usual. This second leg has been sold out every night which just blew us away. It’s really crazy how it’s caught on. This success may lead to us doing a similar tour sometime next year. The fans seem to really enjoy the line up and if you think about it each group is quite different so we are trying to put a different slant on mid-west rock.

AL: What has been the biggest difference in the crowds as of late?
RP: There are so many young people now that have discovered classic rock bands. They seem to be at a point in their music listening lives where they are looking for what came before. We are those guys. When I and the rest of the guys in the band were younger and at this point we were heavily influenced by the British music movement. From there we looked back and found artists like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. Guys like Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page were into these acts so we started searching them out as well. It is pretty cool seeing these new young faces as they watch and sing along. We have a great cross section of fans.

AL: Can you tell us about the DVD/Blu-Ray the band recently released?
RP: The “Styx: Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight- Live” came out really great. The Blu-Ray did amazing and I couldn’t believe how many people were waiting for that. I think we were actually number 2 in sales for the first couple weeks on Amazon.com. Those two albums go together so well that the discs came out beautifully. Doing those shows was like going back the vinyl era where you dropped the needle and boom the music kicks in. We did each album in its entirety the way it was recorded so fans could have that feeling of knowing what the next song is. They could get wrapped up in the songs. We would then take an intermission and come back and play “Pieces of Eight”. It was just so much fun. When we first did those records and you were trying to get them on the radio you would pack one side with what you thought were going to be the hits. You were trying to foresee the future. When you do a live concert things are exactly the opposite. You generally start with the B cuts then the hits and close out with your encores. It was a bizarre way to do a live show like an album but it seemed to work really well. The Blu-Ray version of the show is definitely the way to see it.

AL: Was it hard going back and playing some of the material that you hadn’t played in awhile?
RP: At first it was a little tough. We worked pretty hard on the material and once we got in to it we knew we weren’t turning back. We did a lot of switching off between vocals parts as there are just so many stacked vocal parts on those albums. We even threw a microphone back to our drummer Todd Sucherman who is a great singer. Getting those extra voices were crucial and probably the biggest challenge. We like challenges like that and we welcomed it. Things turned out really well.

AL: VH1 recently did a re-mastered episode of the “Styx: Behind the Music” episode. What was it like having to delve once again back in to the bands history?
RP: Personally I am not a fan of those kinds of shows. I am a bit of a weirdo. I don’t like people knowing my bands business. I liked the concept of not knowing about a band until you went and saw them live. You might see a picture or two of a band in a magazine or something but that was about it. I loved that mystique. Watching these types of shows is a little difficult. I know fans like them and we are in a different age now. With reality television and things I guess these types of shows fit right in. The episode is pretty well represented I think. They shot some footage of me while I was in England and I was a little afraid to watch the show. After seeing I thought it was good and gladthat it was out there for fans to see how the band came about and how we have evolved.

AL: What other plans are in the works for the band?
RP: The band will continue to tour and live its daily life. As that happens things are always evolving and stuff start to tell their own stories. We have been writing new material and talking about getting it recorded for some time. I have started to hear more and more about it as of late. We may find some time in our schedules to actually do that. For us it’s really about the touring business. After this tour wraps up I think we have about a week off and then we go back out doing “An Evening with Styx”. I kind of know what parts of the country we will be in but I don’t know the exact venues.