Here are the interviews with actors, directors and film makers who do what they do to bring the film going experience to us! We also talk to just darn good interesting people!
Interviews

MY COUSIN RACHEL: An interview with director Roger Michell

Jeri Jacquin

This week on Bluray/DVD and Digital HD is a novel come to screen with the period piece filled with twists, turns, love and suspicion with MY COUSIN RACHEL.

Director Roger Michell has brought his vision of the film that stars Rachel Weisz as Rachel and Sam Claflin as Philip - cousins through marriage. When Philip believes Rachel has had something to do with the passing of his beloved cousin Ambrose, he is surprised when they meet face to face.

Filled with emotion and suspicion, Philip is led on a journey of self destruction at the hands of Rachel, or is she truly responsible?

I had the amazing opportunity to speak with director Michell about how the film came to be and working with a stellar cast who brought his vision together.

Jeri Jacquin: Good morning Roger, thank you for spending time with me today.

Roger Michell: Good morning Jeri, thank you, I’m so happy to do so.

JJ: Tell me what drew you to the story?

RM: It’s a book that I didn’t know and one day I was looking for book to help me get to sleep. I found a copy that belonged to my mother, an old paperback copy high on a shelf and thought it was going to be a romantic bodice ripper. I didn’t know Daphne’s work very well except for Rebecca perhaps and I started reading My Cousin Rachel and it was dark and thrilling, sexy, confusing and I was on the edge of my bed. About half way through I thought I’d like to have a go at this. I saw how I wanted to adapt it and Fox made the film in 1952 and own the novel in perpetuity. We approached them to see if they would be interested in making the film and they said yes they would be interested and here we are. I haven’t yet seen the original film have you?

JJ: I have to tell you that yes I have and it’s mainly because I’m sort of old school in that the older the film the more I will love it. 

RM: I love old films as well and actually made a point of not watching the original thinking it would be best until I finished my film.

JJ: Well, in the 1952 version the treat is seeing a very, very young Richard Burton. One could say it is good that you didn’t see the older version so that this would be strictly your vision of the story to film.

RM: Yes, this is my take on the book. Any film you make is a version of the book. I mean the book is still there on the shelf, the book doesn’t change and it’s not harmed. So anytime you make a film from a book not only is it a version of it but you are making a film about the 1830’s and its affected by the time period in which you make it. I’m sure the ’52 version is fascinating in it’s own right partly because it documents social behavior in the early ‘50s and probably more social behavior in American than in Cornwall I would have thought. This film I’m sure in fifty or sixty years people will look at it and say ‘that’s so 2017’ and that really interests me that films, whether you like it or not, carry a staining of the time in which they are made.

JJ: Was there a particular challenge in making a period piece for you? 

RM: There is always a challenge in making a period piece. I’ve made a couple of period pieces in the past. I mean you don’t want to turn it into a fox show in that you want the fox to look nice and you want to capitalize on the excitement of being in a foreign country but that shouldn’t be the points of the film. The point of the film is the way in which human beings relate to one another and how the story unfolds. In fact the characters are modern, post-Freudian and you can’t imagine Jane Austin writing this book even thought its set in a period Jane Austin was alive. So I found all of that fascinating. It’s a book that was written before the word feminism and feminists was even current and yet you can’t help but think that Daphne du Maurier saw this current just being around the corner when she wrote this at the bottom of her garden in the very cold 1950’s. I suppose I have teased out and exaggerated some of those elements I detected or felt in her writing in my film so that the leading character is more conscious about being an independent woman and a woman who is not frightened by her sexuality or apologetic about enjoying sex. She also doesn’t want to be in a world that is owned by men.

JJ: And who better to play that than Rachel Weisz. She has this amazing ability to be strong yet scary and very feminine but not afraid to take on a man.

RM: She is also very sensitive as her character has moments filled with swings and great round abouts and great emotional conviction. This character never feel she is manipulating him or tricking him. It all feels totally real and I think that’s kind of the point of it.

JJ: That’s tricky for her character. When she gives the jewels back you are never quite sure if she is doing it because there is a plan or if she truly is that way and Rachel makes it look so convincing – either way!

RM: Exactly, what did you decide?

JJ: I don’t know if you have ever heard or seen a film called THE EGYPTIAN (1954) and there is a scene where a doctor named Sinuhe is in love with the woman Nefer. To win her love he repeats constantly that he loves and wants to know what he can give her. Nefer’s reply is consistently ‘I ask for nothing’ yet he fills up a trunk with gifts while she gets to play innocent. When Rachel gives back the jewels that’s the first thing I thought of!

RM: That’s right, absolutely right. That’s the kind of excitement through the whole film for me because you just don’t know, you really don’t know. She is either playing the longest game you can imagine or she is genuinely just trying to live her life. She is engrained into these activities by this rather impetuous and naïve young man that has really never come across a woman before.

JJ: Sam Claflin, is he just not the doey-eyed character here?

RM: He is doey-eyed and his character is like a wet nosed puppy isn’t he? He played this marvelously portraying this masculine, handsome man but he is instantly besotted and long footed by this very sophisticated woman who steps into his life.

JJ: Nothing like a little mystery to grab you.

RM: Mystery is a great aphrodisiac

JJ: Phillip has been surrounded by this dusty old house and never really had a woman in his life. 

RM: Phillip is probably a virgin and never been in the company of a woman before. We decided he is probably a virgin and he’s like he was struck by lightening with Rachel. Not only is she beautiful, funny and sweet natured but add to that exotic being from Italy. 

JJ: You have a really great supporting cast with Iain Glen and Holliday Grainger as the Kendall family trying to tell Phillip this young man what is happening. At the same time it’s interesting that the kind of stand back knowing that if they talk down Rachel to much they could make it worse.

RM: That’s so right, particularly with Iain Glen character. He is terribly, terribly sad to see this boy you helped to bring up, known him since he was a toddler and see him just throw everything away for this woman. He does that and still manages to be civil when he is in her presence. 

JJ: I love the character of Louise and let me tell you why. This girl is watching everything that’s going on and the scene where she basically is responsible for asking for the return of the necklace. Just the look on her face I knew she wasn’t to be trifled with. I was secretly applauding her.

RM: Holliday is amazing in the film as well. I think how she handles herself in the end is amazing, even when Phillip becomes distracted. 

JJ: She gives you hope in waiting.

RM: All things come to those who wait.

JJ: She is always just so lady like yet on her face the wheels are turning. You have a film with so many themes going on, how was that for you?

RM: It’s just working away at the script and then the actors and in the edit trying to keep everything balanced and keeping them in such a place that you never wink at the audience to give anything away. You compel the audience to constantly make up their own minds as the evidence slowly arrives in front of them. The timing of the letters are very important in the film. You think she has to be totally innocent and then you see she is sending letters to her lawyer in Italy or the coat pocket. It is really, really well plotted in the book and I hope that extended itself to the film in a way that is very satisfying.

JJ: You take it all to the end where you are still left wondering. By the end the craziness is with Phillip.

RM: Yes, absolutely. 

JJ: How do you stop the madness once it’s started?

RM: He ends up cursed by it and he will never be happy and rubbing his head for the rest of his life thinking ‘what the hell was that all about?’

JJ: How many of us have not had that in our lives right?

RM: Yes, we all do that.

JJ: What would you like people who see the film to take away from the experience?

RM: I would like them to really enjoy the ride of it. It is a roller coaster of did-she-or-didn’t-she and I think that’s very exciting. I think that’s one part of it and I think it’s also without doubt it is a love story whether you like it or not. It is a desperate love story and a love story that goes wrong and still beguiling as a love story. It is also a beautiful mystery and I think people leaving the theatre will be arguing with each other about who did what. People going to have a drink after the movie with ‘come on she did it’ and someone else saying ‘come on she didn’t do it’. That’s what I would like.

JJ: That’s pretty much what is still going on here after seeing the film.

RM: Oh wonderful, I appreciate that.

JJ: Thank you so much for spending time talking about the film and your vision for it. 

RM: Thank you so much Jeri!


There is nothing better than having a very cool conversation with a director about his vision for a film but even more so a director that understands the characters. That is what speaking with Roger Michell offers everyone, a deeper look at the complexity of the human condition.

This week on Bluray/DVD and Digital HD is MY COUSIN RACHEL.
FX Brings US all THE STRAIN Returning for its Final Season: 
Speaking with Cas Anvar

Jeri Jacquin

The wait is over! FX has kept us waiting long enough for all the answers to their highest rated sci-fi television show filled with vampires and human endurance for survival from THE STRAIN.

For those who may not know about this fantastic series, let me catch you up. Guillermo del Toro’s hands decided to bring the novel to series and enlisted the help of Chuck Hogan. In 2009 fans were introduced to The Strain followed by The Fall and The Night Eternal in 2010 and 2011.

Bringing the story to FX was an incredible idea that brings this storyline – a jet landing at JFK International Airport is filled with people who are infected with a parasitic worm. Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and Dr. Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro) investigate finding four people alive. What they don’t realize is that in the cargo hold is a large mysterious box that holds the key to everything.

Enter Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley), an elderly man who informs them that the bodies on the plane must be immediately destroyed as well as the intricately carved box that was found in the cargo hold. That isn’t about to happen as far as Thomas Eichhorst (Richard Sammel) is concerned as he takes control of the box.

From that moment on the city and the people begin to change as a fight for survival begins. A race of vampires are on the lose and no one is safe as it becomes every human for himself. That includes Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) a very sick man who will do anything for immortality and makes a deal with Palmer and The Master, an Ancient vampire who is out for revenge and the world.

Eph and Vasility Fet (Kevin Durand), a vermin terminator, begin a quest to save who they can and find a way to destroy The Master and all vampires before there is nothing left of the human race.

Cas Anvar is returning to reprise his role as Sanjay Desai, right-hand man to the evil freaky eyed blinking Eichhorst played by the amazing Richard Sammel. Sanjay is a character who knows how to get the job done in bringing world domination to the vampires. This is a character that is hard to read because he keeps his emotions away from the vampires staying in survival mode every step of the way. 

This actor has been keeping the pace with roles in both film and television. In film he began in 2000 as Zakir in the film SEDUCING MAARYA with his most recently film AS Deep Panday in MISS INDIA AMERICA. 

In television I first saw him in 2010 as Omer Jarrah in another series I can watch a million times over with LOST. This year he has been doing double with is role as Alex Kamal in the series THE EXPANSE and now his return as Sanjay Desai in the FX final season of THE STRAIN. 

I had the opportunity to speak with Cas about his role, returning to finish the job (so to speak) and all things THE STRAIN and a bit of THE EXPANSE!

Jeri Jacquin: Hi Cas, thanks for taking the time to speak with us today, especially since you are doing double duty between THE STRAIN and a new season of THE EXPANSE. You are a busy man.

Cas Anvar: Yes, it has been a very good year and I’ve been very fortunate. I’m enjoying it all.

JJ: You have to tell me how did you get involved with THE STRAIN? I am really a huge, huge fan of the series.

CA: Yes? You are a little bit of a dark horse are you?

JJ: Yes, really dark. I have the Masters head on my desk does that tell you anything?

CA: Oh my gawd.

JJ: But he’s next to Yoda so it’s kind of a yin/yang thing, good and evil you know?

CA: That is so weird, I don’t think even Guillermo has the Masters head on his desk.

JJ: Well, there is Darth Vadar, Buddha, Yoda and the Master all lined up.

CA: Buddha? What! Oh my gawd. 

JJ: See how it evens out?

CA: The duality, no I get it. I actually don’t really want to know what’s going on in your head; it’s kind of scary <laughing>

JJ: Here’s the thing, I’m 56 years old but I’m young and twisted at heart.

CA: You sound definitely, definitely…something <still laughing>

JJ: So you know with Comic Con coming it’s the light of my life.

CA: I can only imagine.

JJ: Back to business sir, how did you get involved with THE STRAIN? 

CA: I was very lucky; I was working on THE EXPANSE and April Webster, a casting director that knows me very well casting me in LOST and a few other things. She knows my work and they were looking for someone to play this character in THE STRAIN. Desai wasn’t originally the character written for the show and they changed it for me. She pitched me to the producers Carlton Cuse and the gang. I don’t know how it happened but they offered me the role without me reading for it. They saw my work and by the time they got to me they changed the character from what ever it was to Sanjay Desai. They modified it and customized it for me. From what I understand the character is a copulation from a couple of different characters from the books. It was suppose to be a completely different name and they thought I could do a good job of this and the rest is history. I walked in and was excited about the role because it’s the antithesis of what I’m doing on THE EXPANSE. Everything about it fell into place, the shooting seasons were completely opposite so as one show is ending the other begins, the characters are the opposite and the shows are very different. It is a wonderful gift as an actor to play these totally diverse and different characters.

JJ: What did you think when you read not only your role but the part he plays in this crazy world that is THE STRAIN?

CA: I was excited because I think this is one of the darkest roles I’ve had to do. I’ve played a lot of bad guys but this is a very fleshed out, very realistic bad guy, not some two dimensional villain going on a killing rampage. This character truly believes in survival and will do what ever it takes to be on the winning team. What’s scary about it is how realistic it is. If you look at our world right now, we are surrounded by examples of self-serving individuals that will do or say what ever they have to to get what they want.

JJ: Palmer is a prime example of someone we all know <both of us are laughing now> that will say one thing to one person and do something different to another. Anything to get that one thing that he wants – in his case immortality.

CA: Absolutely. He reinvents history in every different situation to just suit their own selfish needs and agenda. It is an important show in that respect. Sure it is a horror genre and fantasy world but the issues they are dealing with and the people they are dealing with are very realistic and very much based on the world we are living in today.

JJ: The thing about the way the cast works together is that not only do you see this survivalist mode, whether good, bad or indifferent, but you see that they also haven’t forgotten how to be human. Like when Eph is dealing with his drinking and the traits before all of this went down.

CA: Yes, they’ve kept all their human flaws.

JJ: Exactly. For your character, were you surprised when they said ‘hey, come on back’?

CA: I was both surprised and excited because it ended in a very questionable way and we didn’t know what was going to happen. I think they just liked what I did and they gave me a complex character and I attacked it. I mean I loved doing it, I loved the people and working with Richard Sammel who plays Thomas Eichhorst. That combination of the writers, directors and producers and co-stars was very inspiring and I had a really good time. I put my heart and soul into making this a very-well fleshed out nasty three dimensional character. I think by the time we came to the end of season three there was room for him to come back. I think there are things in the book they decided to merge with my character.

JJ: Sometimes that’s a really good idea because not everything translates really well from book to screen. You have to be willing to compromise.


CA: I think in a book it is a lot easier to have more characters for a reader to follow a more complex story line. On television you tend to consolidate a little more by having a cast of characters a little more manageable. 

JJ: I know you can’t tell us anything about what is going to happen but for you and your character, do you feel like everything is wrapped up neatly for fans or is there a little opening?

CA: Lets put it this way, we all knew season four was coming and the last season of THE STRAIN. The writers had free reign to have the best story possible while honoring the characters. They are no longer restricted by the restrictions of an ongoing series; they have the books as a guideline.

JJ: There is something freeing about that don’t you think?

CA: Yes, it allows you to take it and push the boundaries of a story and what ever happens to the characters happens but it honors the over all story. It allows for you to do some really amazing dramatic work. In the case of Sanjay, man oh man, they took him on a roller coaster. What I can tell you is that this character is based on and what excited me about this character in the beginning was it was based on real people that existed during the World War II. They were called “collaborators”; these are people who worked with the Nazi’s to set up what would become Nazi Germany, the Reich and the concentration camps. These are people that betrayed their own people for their own good, their own survival, wealth and status. Fifty years later when they are interviewed, these collaborators who were never put in the camps, they can’t face what they did. They won’t admit that they did anything wrong and somehow have managed to convince themselves they did not wrong.

JJ: A mental survival mode.

CA: Yes, they have somehow told themselves they made the best of a bad situation. They attitude of ‘at least I saved a few people’ but they participated in it and betrayed their own people to survive. That to me fascinated me, this character who can go there and do that staying that completely oblivious – a willful oblivion. Sanjay is a highly intelligent guy; he’s a smart man who is driven and passionate.

JJ: But you also can’t see on his face what is going on. For me it was hard to know what he was thinking or planning. Some characters you can see on their faces the hamster turning the wheel and you go along with a characters thought process; with Sanjay I couldn’t really do that because he showed … nothing!

CA: Because he knows who he is dealing with and he knows how incredibly perceptive the Strigoi (the vampires), especially Eichhorst are. Sanjay is such a survivor so he doesn’t show his cards because he knows the Strigoi can smell it. If he is scared he knows they will smell it. If he is planning his own thing he knows they will smell it. He knows he has to keep everything close to his chest and only give them bits and pieces so nobody knows what is really going on in his head. The Strigoi are too smart, they are too perceptive.

JJ: Absolutely, that’s what makes it all so difficult.

CA: Yes, he has to protect himself. In season three when Eichhorst demonstrated the inefficiency of the machinery using my assistant, that was a very brutal scene.

JJ: Absolutely brutal!

CA: If you watch that scene again you will see a bit of a reaction, you can see some stuff going on but by the end of the scene when Sanjay realizes who he is dealing with because he hasn’t had a lot of experience with Eichhorst up to that point. He hasn’t spent a lot of time with him or really seen him demonstrate his true power till that moment. So being a survivor is like being in prison right? They tell you ‘don’t look scared’ or ‘don’t make eye contact’ – you have to look somewhere in the middle so that people don’t target you. You have to learn this language of survival that makes you not a threat but not prey either. Sanjay is a survivor, Sanjay is the guy who knows how to read people and keep himself outside of the zone where people are targeted. He had to think really quick in that scene as to how to interact with Eichhorst so as not to show weakness and not lose his sh*t because of what just happened.

JJ: That’s an amazing way to sum it up because with these characters by the end of each season you become aware of their strengths and weaknesses, every one of them. To have Sanjay come back it’s going to be ‘great I have to figure him out for sure now’!

CA: Exactly, you are going to get a lot. They gave me a gift in season four in terms of what they gave Sanjay to do. You aren’t going to like him, far from it, but you are going to understand him a lot better.

JJ: That’s going to be fun, I’m excited. 

CA: He gets put through the ringer I can tell you that.

JJ: And I’m okay with that! If I’m going invest my time in a series, it better be dang well worth it. I’ve met Guillermo and he is one of the most amazing people you can sit and talk to about creativity. This series didn’t surprise me and he was first talking about it, but to see how far it’s come from concept to book to series has been just an awesomely fun, intense and gruesome ride.

CA: You’ve liked it I see. 

JJ: Absolutely, anytime you can get something that’s original and filled with talented actors giving every bit to a storyline that is just plain jaw dropping? Oh yea, I’m in. I know there is horror and gore, and it may sound strange for me to say this but Guillermo puts it in THE STRAIN and it isn’t senseless gore – wow that does sound strange.

CA: No, you are right, absolutely, it is a violent and dark show but it’s surrounded by an amazingly rich crafted story. It’s not just gratuitous stuff, the violence in his shows … it’s very poignant in that it’s all there because it’s meant to shock and it’s meant to be difficult. The world is not as pretty as we want to believe and sometimes that’s an important slap in the face that we need to feel. You don’t want to be facing that 24/7 but it’s not necessarily a bad lesson.

JJ: It’s an amazingly crazy world that has been created that’s for sure. I’m going to be sad to see it go.

CA: Yes, I know, but it ends only for something new to take its place.

JJ: And we still get to see you on THE EXPANSE, how is that going?

CA: Amazing, we just finished the first few days with episodes one and two. We are already stoked and nervous because season two went really well and we delivered a powerful season two finale. The show is a big show and it’s really hard for us wondering how to top it. I mean how do we go to the next level? Season one is an introduction to all of the characters and absorbing all the information and feel the universe and provide action that doesn’t overload people’s brains. Then season two was nice because it was all character and explore them and further the action in the plot. Now in season three we have built the universe and really explore the characters because we have got the plot going. How do we take it to the next level? Season three is going to be about the characters everyone has fallen in love with and being metaphorically split apart. We have fought to stay alive and fought to stay together and we needed each other to survive. Now we are all grounded and rooted in our life and in our world. We are surrounded by chaos but we are no longer fighting just to breathe and survive, we are actually going to make choices for ourselves. Everyone has individual believes and personalities and they are able to come into play in terms of the direction the characters take. It’s not just about the family that has come together to survive but individuals in the group who have a voice. 

JJ: So now you have gone from THE STRAIN knowing you can go freely because it’s a final season, you are back to the other side where you are restricted a bit trying to keep the story going from season to season.

CA: I know, exactly.

JJ: What a rollercoaster ride for you!

CA: Yes, it’s an actors dream right? To be able to play these characters that are so different. I mean how different can Sanjay Desai and Alex Kamal be. Its two completely opposite ends of the spectrum.

JJ: And you are digging it every step of the way.

CA: Oh man, I’m loving it. I was so lucky because the shows shot at exactly opposite ends of the schedule. There was no overlap with THE STRAIN starts Sunday and when it ends THE EXPANSE begins. One is horror and one is sci-fi and I’m thrilled.

JJ: And you were meant to do both.

CA: I was meant to do both and it was wonderful and a gift for me. Now what am I going to do? 

JJ: Sit back and enjoy it a little.

CA: <insert colorful outburst here> I mean what am I going to do once THE EXPANSE is done shooting? Jeez

<this is the time where the laughing has gotten contagious with seriously good humor as if it hasn’t been the case the whole interview right?>

JJ: Look dude, I think playing both these roles and being seen, I don’t think you will be sitting around on your butt for too long.

CA: Awwww, that’s very sweet. I have huge aspirations for THE EXPANSE. We have material for like ten seasons and there will be nine novels by the end of it. There are already six or seven that have been written. It’s like GAME OF THRONES; there is a huge bank of material and huge fan base. I think we have the potential of having a series that will last a long time.

JJ: So what are you worried about?

CA: Every year, every year it’s the waiting game. It’s like the lottery; fingers crossed waiting with baited breath waiting to hear. But that’s my hope with THE EXPANSE, that we go for a nice long successful run and then – feature films! I’m talking THE EXPANSE to go into feature films. Can you imagine going the STAR TREK route? We are doing amazing work, when you look at it on the big screen it looks like a feature film. I watched the premier of season two in New Jersey at the Alamo Drafthouse Theatre on this gorgeous massive like IMAX screen with Dolby surround sound and amazing imagery and I walked into the theatre and I was like this looks like a feature film! Holy moly! I wanted everyone who watches on their phones to get a huge flat panel t.v. to see the awesomeness of show at the very least!

JJ: A series like THE EXPANSE and THE STRAIN…the bigger the t.v. the better and put a sound bar on that puppy and crank it up. 

CA: Go big or go home!

JJ: I don’t care if my neighbors ask ‘what’s all that screaming’? 

CA: Yea, call the cops!

JJ: You are hilarious!

CA: So feature film, that’s my call so you come back in eight years and say ‘you were right’!

JJ: Trust me; I don’t plan to go anywhere for a few years so I’m going to keep my eye on your happy little self. It was such a joy talking to you this morning and I appreciate you letting me geek out a little bit.

CA: Oh absolutely!

JJ: Congratulations on both THE STRAIN and THE EXPANSE. Both shows are uber-cool and you can take a bow for your part in both.

CA: Thank you so much Jeri. You have to let me know what you think of Sanjay.

JJ: I’ll make sure to do that. I can’t wait, it’s going to be nuts. 



And that my friends was the conversation I had with Cas Anvar this morning filled with craziness, fun, insight, doing good work and all without spoilers – we don’t do that here folks. I’m always saying it because it’s true, talking to an actor who not only loves talking about a project and character but has a sense of humor it just priceless.

After this talk I will not only be watching Cas doing his Sanjay thang in the final season of THE STRAIN beginning this Sunday but am excited about the next season of Alex Kamal in THE EXPANSE. Well done sir!

This Sunday on FX is the final season of one of the craziest and not-teen-angst vampire stories with a ride through history and intensely complex characters I’ve ever seen or experiences with the final season of THE STRAIN. 

Prepare to get your Strigoi on because it’s going to be epic!
MEGAN LEAVEY: Speaking with Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres this Friday is a film about a young woman who joins the Marines looking for something to give her life purpose. Not a very social person, Megan Leavey finds a spark when she meets a dog named Rex – an equally tough nut to crack.

Through patience and training with the canine unit, Megan and Rex are sent into combat to sniff out explosives buried in the Iraqi dirt roads. This is their story of a bond that even combat can not break.

Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite has previous brought some of the most amazing documentaries to the attention of audiences making an impact with her work. In television she has produced for the History Channel Shootout: Fallujah, Shootout: Battle Cry Ramadi and Hunt for Bin Laden. In films she directed CITY LAX: An Urban Lacrosse Story and a little film about a big whale in the still talked about piece BLACKFISH. 

Her currently film MEGAN LEAVEY has already won the Truly Moving Picture Award from Heartland Film and I suspect there will be more accolades to come. I spoke with the films director Gabriela Cowperthwaite about the many issues tackled in the film from the emotions and being a woman in war to the struggles of our military returning with PTSD. 

Jeri Jacquin: Good morning Gabriela, thank you for speaking with me this morning about the film.

Gabriela Cowperthwaite: Absolutely, thank you too.

JJ: What drew you to this project?

GC: I think it was an opportunity to really understand the war from a female Marine’s access point. That was an incredible opportunity for me as I have worked on documentaries on the Iraq and Afghanistan war and never really remember an interview with a woman. I never really got to know their thinking in these situations so for me that was a tremendous opportunity. Addition to that I never knew about the canine unit, I knew nothing about it working on those other documentaries. So suddenly I’m coming into this war on two different perspectives that I don’t think we have heard a lot from before. What a great entry point into the context of war that can maybe access more people teaching them about loyalty, friendship and sacrifice.

JJ: What was your impression when you first read the script?

GC: I thought I can do this. I think honestly because it is a true story and I’m a true story buff coming from making documentaries. It was a female protagonist and a cool one. For me it was important for me to depict a woman that I feel like I know and that represents my friends and family members. Someone who is making a brave decision and has some witty comebacks and isn’t just a wall flower that smiles on cue. I just wanted to see myself and my friends in this kind of film and this seemed like the opportunity. 

JJ: The film addresses PTSD which is an important issue for the military, was that an interest for you as well?

GC: I am very interested in PTSD and for me that was one of the most important things that I could address in the film. It is very special to me because I think trying to understand what it is like for our military to come home is something we don’t have very much experience with in the civilian world. I don’t think we can truly know what they went through and I think it’s hard to understand what they need. I think we are getting to be better listeners in that way along with the help of PTSD groups. For me to pull back the curtain on what that is like to come back physically and mentally in tact but a little bit broken is very important. Megan shows that she needs her partner back with her to help her with PTSD. For some of our military it is not that specific.

JJ: You are dealing with so many different issues here. You are dealing with a war, Megan’s character who has obviously issues of her own, dealing with the dog unit and PTSD, that had to be a challenge to focus all of those into the film to make each issue heard?

CG: I appreciate that, it was definitely a challenge and the even bigger challenge are all the things you leave out. There are so many important story threads, what about the political commentary about the war one could make or about a ton of things regarding women Marines and dealing with their situations. There are so many levels and layers so you have to have story discipline within this and to focus on this world from Megan’s perspective. You have to hone in on that relationship and how that bond gets built because that is really what the story is – loyalty and friendship.

JJ: Speaking of the relationship, everyone watching the film fell in love with Rex. How was that for you especially in this context of loud and intense?

CG: He was such an amazing animal and so sharply focused and he was treat driven. He loved doing things and a beautiful animal. I knew he was going to knock it out of the park with his performance. I mean you look at that face and look at those eyes that stare right at you and you feel the impact on an emotional level. He was going to give us the take. This is where my documentary training came in handy because it was get on your feet and get ready to film what ever Rex does because it’s going to be magic. We were not going to put these dogs through a lot of takes and not do anything that would tax them. So to get our side of things in gear was important because it was only going to happen once. 

JJ: I always think the best performances are with actors that can speak volumes with their face – Rex can totally speak with his face. He was charming and cute and very, very intense when he wanted to be.

CG: Exactly! He was amazing that way.

JJ: The challenge of working around the scenes with explosives, that had to be difficult. That scene of the firefight is particularly intense.

CG: It’s so weird to say this but it was the least challenging of all things. Having worked on the documentaries in the past I kind of knew what firefights looked like. I wanted this all to feel real and not go flashy Hollywood. It had to be gritty and look, I was not a Marine and I have never been in country so I relied on what I have seen in my own work. Making it easier for me were the pros I had there helping me which is something you don’t get in documentaries. There were heads of departments who knew how to create the base, the arms guy who knows what he is doing and they all give you what you want. 

JJ: Did you have a lot of military specialists helping?

CG: Yes, we had Megan who was in the boot camp scene as a drill sergeant but from beginning to end of production we had two Marine consultants the entire time. Specifically we had two female Marine consultants during the boot camp training and we had two canine unit Marine consultants with the canine unit. 

JJ: Having Megan there must have really been an awesome experience for you as well.

CG: She rips into Kate in this one drill sergeant scene and it’s so awesome <she laughs>. Its Megan doing what happened to her except it’s directed at Kate. Megan is so formidable and her presence is very grounding. She keeps it real and gave us amazing notes for boot camp and because there are things that the male military consultants wouldn’t know. Megan brought a whole other level of consulting with authenticity. 

JJ: Megan leaves home because she is along and goes into something she think will help but is still alone. When she is in the barracks I am waiting for her to get Rex because you start to feel that connect for her. Throughout the movie you let us go slowly into each step of Megan’s journey along with all the emotions. I appreciate you letting us go with her instead of grabbing us by the nose forcing us to go. Your cast is stellar – where do you start?

CG: Edie Falco is a cast member where I thought ‘did someone give me a Bugatti or a Ferrari or something?’ I thought someone just gave me this amazing gift and her portrayal of her relationship with Megan was more than I could have asked for. She brings it times ten and is such a consummate pro. The key to directing Edie is to just get out of her way and let her do it. Bradley Whitford is so lovely; he is such an amazing person and the roles he has played in the past, man, like being the smartest guy in the room or fast talking witty comebacks. This role for him was so different because he is a dad that doesn’t know what to do. Watching Bradley channel this whole other person is beautiful.

JJ: Until he gets to the point of telling Megan to fight.

CG: Yes, telling her that she is being a shell and to fight for what she wants was so beautiful. Common as Gunny Martin…wow.

JJ: All you can say is – I’m done!

CG: Right? I am so grateful for his performance and he is such a surprising actor. I mean he is larger than life and he’s won an Oscar so here he comes in with his crazy humility. He knows he’s depicting a Gunny Sergeant who has sacrificed and served and he does it to the best of his ability with humor. His role is so unexpected and I told him to go with that. Of course he screams and such but he cracks wit.

JJ: And there is the moment of humanity that one wouldn’t expect from a Gunny.

CG: Yes, he respects that Megan has bonded with her dog. I loved watching him in this.

JJ: And Kate?

CG: Oh please! I think my single favorite thing about watching this film is watching Kate just because I think she does things in this that I’ve never seen her do before. Understanding how far she has to emotionally travel in these 90 minutes of the film, I think she is masterful. She does so much to bring humanity to this story and you can’t take your eyes off of her.

JJ: Finally, when people, especially military, leave the theatre what do you want them to take away after seeing Megan Leavey?

CG: Thank you for your service is always there. I think we say that but I’m not sure we always know exactly what we mean when we do. I hope this film gives you an idea of what is meant when we say it as we watch all these service people doing their job. This movie specifically shows you the canine unit and their handlers and how these people are in the front of the front lines. They are clearing the way for the soldiers that are behind them and Iraqi civilians. There is this thing, this beautifully humane thing that these units are doing and these dogs are doing that just deserve our understanding and gratitude. Also, dealing with PTSD when they come home and how we can maybe look at it different and pay attention and be better listeners in that context. I think that would be a great thing.

JJ: I get that, thank you Gabriela and for making an amazing film about a difficult subject.


This Friday in theatres is your chance to experience a story that can teach us all about friendship, loyalty and what it means to say ‘thank you for your service’ with MEGAN LEAVEY.

Continue the Adventure with Beloved Characters as SONG OF THE DARK CRYSTAL Arrives 

Jeri Jacquin

In bookstores this week from Penguin Random House are beloved characters that have been lovingly cared for by writer J.M. Lee with the release of Song of the Dark Crystal. 

The year was 2013 when The Jim Henson Company along with Grosset & Dunlap of the Penguin Young Readers Group put out the call for author submissions. The Dark Crystal Author Quest sought a prequel to Jim Henson’s 1982 iconic The Dark Crystal. Seeking a new novel over 500 writers took up the challenge.

It would be J.M. Lee’s story The Ring of Dreams that would take the prestigious Author Quest and lead to Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Shadows of the Dark Crystal. Released in 2016, the story is years before The Dark Crystal in Thra as Naia, a young Gelfling, takes on the quest of proving the accusation of her twin brother’s treason to be false. 

Her journey leads her to clues to prove his innocence but also something dark is in Thra and Naia is headed straight into the heart of it. You’re thinking ‘that’s it?...going to leave me hanging like that?’ The answer to that is – would I do that to you?

This week J.M. Lee brings readers of all ages back to the lands of Gelfling with Jim Henson’s Song of the Dark Crystal. The journey from Thra to the Gelfling Capital is even more intense as Naia seeks to warn others about the Skeksis. It won’t be easy as something is following them making trusting anyone difficult.

Born and raised in Minnesota (one of my favorite states), Lee is also a graduate from the University of Minnesota with a degree in linguistics. He has not only taken up the mantle of The Dark Crystal but also is the writer and creative consultant on the Netflix prequel series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.  

I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with author J.M. Lee about his own journey into The Dark Crystal as its new story teller and keeper of reader’s dreams. 

Jeri Jacquin: Good morning Joe, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me this morning.

Joe Lee: Thank you too.

JJ: I’m very excited to talk to you because my kids have been fans of The Dark Crystal since forever. They are in their mid-30s now so that tells you how long that fandom has been going on.

JL: That’s so great.

JJ: Tell me how you got involved with writing the next chapters of The Dark Crystal storyline?

JL: Sure, in 2013 Grosset & Dunlap sent out a call for submissions specifically for this project. My agent emailed me letting me know it was going on and wanted to know if I’d be interested. She didn’t know this but The Dark Crystal was one of my favorite movies growing up as well. So I said ‘yes I do’ and read what they were looking for. I wrote my submission and a couple of years later the first book Shadows of the Dark Crystal came out. That’s how that happened and here we are with the second book Song of the Dark Crystal coming out. 

JJ: When you were writing your submission, that had to not only be intense but you are delving into something so iconic.

JL: Absolutely, when I first was reading through the material that was presented for the submission I had seen the movie but didn’t know there were so many other publications produced. There were the graphic novels and so it was all pretty new to me. I was very excited to know there was so much existing mythology for The Dark Crystal so I nerded out on it. There is so much extended world information. At the time when I was first writing my submission there wasn’t that pressure yet, it was more just entering a contest. I think it was when Penguin called me and said I was a finalist and wanted to know where I would take the story as a full length novel that I began to feel the pressure. It was very intense in the beginning but I think now I’ve become acclimated to it. I think there is so much that I wanted to make sure it was on brand and cannon.

JJ: Did you know that you were going to get so involved even further into it as you are now?

JL: No, I had no idea! The original contest was for one novel and when we were wrapping up Shadow’s of the Dark Crystal my editor came to me and said, ‘it just occurred to me to ask if you wanted to do more, I just assumed you did’. I said absolutely and the books were happening and then the involvement on the television series was a total treat and a surprise for me. The whole thing has been a fun and crazy ride.

JJ: Speaking of the series that had to be the ultimate geek-out! In my family you have three generations of The Dark Crystal fans so watching your words spring into being had to be amazing.

JL: The book writing process is so long, it takes time to write and edit and it can be years between writing a book and finding it on the shelf. You think you are ready for it but there is something so special seeing a book on a shelf in a store and especially seeing The Dark Crystal logo on it. There is something that doesn’t feel totally official until you see it in a story, it’s like magic. 

JJ: The interest part of this for me is that kids still want to actually read a book, with all the technology out there it’s easy to get away from an actual hold-in-your-hand book. It is amazing to see the ‘new’ generation of kids reading The Dark Crystal and you are responsible.

JL: I was at a teen literature conference here in the Twin Cities and it was on a Saturday held at a high school. I wondered how they were going to get teens to come back to their high school on a Saturday. It was packed! The kids were so excited to meet authors and to buy books and to share with each other. They were having the best time and I am so happy to be part of that. I think that there is something so special about fiction for young people. There is something about the way teens love fiction and especially love books. There is some sort of notion with adults that there is a pressure to choose which book is the best and which ones aren’t and with kids all books are the best. They have arms full of books from all different genres but they are going to love them equally. To be able to give them more stuff that they love is why I write.

JJ: That’s thrilling to me watching kids get focused on a series of books, and I know a few kids like that who love a certain writer or story and turn their rooms into libraries. Don’t need to paint the walls just put up book cases and books become the paint and you are now part of that so congratulations sir.

JL: Thank you and let me say I’m so happy to be here.

JJ: To go back into the world of The Dark Crystal you said you had to do research of your own, was that process difficult because you don’t want to repeat what is already there. You want to bring your own vision into the mix as well so was that on your mind as part of the process, finding that balance between the source material and are your own thoughts?

JL: It was definitely part of the process. I’m a very collaborative person and I’ve done it with other writers and other situations like this. I really enjoy the collaborative aspect and in my opinion the more the merrier to a point. The one thing I really appreciated about that is that The Dark Crystal books had a story that was unique to them but also fit into the mythology of The Dark Crystal world. So there is definitely a balance that had to be found that was a balance between were can we go that we haven’t gone before and a great opportunity before me. This is the first time that a novel that would be in this mythology. You can do a lot in a novel that you can’t do in a graphic novel and vice versa so there was a lot of opportunity there. There is also maintaining The Dark Crystal world and I wanted to make sure that it is true to The Dark Crystal, it’s true to the film and it’s true to the character of the property. I would never say that it was a challenge really in the sense that it prevented me from writing something. In every case where I ever felt I needed to search for new material, there was something there that existed in The Dark Crystal. So it was more of collaboration rather than a challenge.

JJ: I told people I was speaking to you this morning and I just mention the words The Dark Crystal and there are gasps. They are very curious to know what’s in the story and of course they worry about losing their childhood memory of the original. They want things to be as they were and yet at the same time they want the story to grow.

JL: Yes, I think there is some anxiety from the fan base because every time something new comes out from an existing storyline they get nervous wondering if they are going to like it. I would say speaking for myself that whenever I would worry about letting fans down or not doing it right I think to myself that The Dark Crystal means as much to me as it does to a person who is a creator in that world. That is the same with anyone that I have worked with who is part of The Dark Crystal, we are all fans first which is why we want to do this. I think that whenever I would get stressed out by that pressure I go to the feeling that I love The Dark Crystal and that’s why I’m doing this – I am a fan. That always pointed me in the right direction thinking as a fan what would I want to read about or see. That has served me pretty well.

JJ: I think that is very important to tell the readers who are waiting for this. You are a fan and you embrace it as much as they do and knowing that should alleviate their anxiety. Now that you are engrained and you can’t get away, from The Dark Crystal world where do you see this going for you?

JL: I don’t really know because there are so many places to take The Dark Crystal. There is endless opportunities and from a nerd perspective <which made me laugh>, seriously if you look at the mythology of The Dark Crystal it’s a huge universe, a huge world and a huge timeline. There are nooks and crannies that we can explore so it’s up to Jim Henson and everyone involved who want to know where we can go next and I’m here for that and totally up for it.

JJ: I’m giggling to because this is Comic Con week so this is the best place for The Dark Crystal to be and there is always a group dressed as the characters. I love what they do because you can see the love they have for the characters and story being part of their lives. The best part right now is I’m talking to the person keeping that story alive and now that you’ve done it everyone is going to expect you to stay!

JL: That’s alright, I’m here and ready!

JJ: When people of all ages come across Song of the Dark Crystal what would you like them to take away from the story?

JL: For me as a child, The Dark Crystal had a couple of major take-aways that have lasted a lifetime for me. I think that one of the major themes from The Dark Crystal film is one that I have been trying to really reinforce in the books which is harmony. The harmony between people and their different ideas or the harmony between the land, the earth and the people who are here to take care of it. There is always the idea of challenges or problems but that harmony is the key to solving or surmounting those challenges. That is the big concept takeaway. The smaller level take away is that everybody has something special about them that they can use to make the world a better place.

JJ: I like that, that’s really important because most of the young readers are looking for is someone to say ‘it’s okay!’ and it’s okay to have a love of the written word and it’s okay that you are not on a computer or playing a video game. Most of all that it’s okay to pick up a book and go into another world.

JL: I think the main character of Shadow in the first book is a tough, athletic girl and she is trying to find her place in the world. The main character in the Song of the Dark Crystal that is coming out tomorrow actually is kind of a bookworm and sort of a nerd. The book is about how he doesn’t have to be like his friends in order to be important or to have something to say in about helping the world. It’s about embracing who you are even if that’s a bookworm and that story is close to my heart.

JJ: Congratulations on the book and I can’t wait to jump back into that world and see where you will take us next.

JL: Thank you!


After speaking with Joe I am anxiously waiting for the book to be in my own hands. The Dark Crystal is part of our family as well and I am always ready to pass down to my grandkids the love of adventure through holding a book in their hands. In this world of The Dark Crystal are themes of loyalty, trust, relationships, good vs. evil and most of all learning to be true to one’s self.

Lessons we all truly need to embrace and, on occasion, remind ourselves that it is still truly possible. This week from J.M. Lee and Penguin Random House is a reason to curl up in our favorite chairs and go on an adventure with The Dark Crystal.


MY COUSIN RACHEL: An interview with director Roger Michell

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres this week is a novel come to screen with the period piece filled with twists, turns, love and suspicion with MY COUSIN RACHEL.

Director Roger Michell has brought his vision of the film that stars Rachel Weisz as Rachel and Sam Claflin as Philip - cousins through marriage. When Philip believes Rachel has had something to do with the passing of his beloved cousin Ambrose, he is surprised when they meet face to face.

Filled with emotion and suspicion, Philip is led on a journey of self destruction at the hands of Rachel, or is she truly responsible?

I had the amazing opportunity to speak with director Michell about how the film came to be and working with a stellar cast who brought his vision together.

Jeri Jacquin: Good morning Roger, thank you for spending time with me today.

Roger Michell: Good morning Jeri, thank you, I’m so happy to do so.

JJ: Tell me what drew you to the story?

RM: It’s a book that I didn’t know and one day I was looking for book to help me get to sleep. I found a copy that belonged to my mother, an old paperback copy high on a shelf and thought it was going to be a romantic bodice ripper. I didn’t know Daphne’s work very well except for Rebecca perhaps and I started reading My Cousin Rachel and it was dark and thrilling, sexy, confusing and I was on the edge of my bed. About half way through I thought I’d like to have a go at this. I saw how I wanted to adapt it and Fox made the film in 1952 and own the novel in perpetuity. We approached them to see if they would be interested in making the film and they said yes they would be interested and here we are. I haven’t yet seen the original film have you?

JJ: I have to tell you that yes I have and it’s mainly because I’m sort of old school in that the older the film the more I will love it. 

RM: I love old films as well and actually made a point of not watching the original thinking it would be best until I finished my film.

JJ: Well, in the 1952 version the treat is seeing a very, very young Richard Burton. One could say it is good that you didn’t see the older version so that this would be strictly your vision of the story to film.

RM: Yes, this is my take on the book. Any film you make is a version of the book. I mean the book is still there on the shelf, the book doesn’t change and it’s not harmed. So anytime you make a film from a book not only is it a version of it but you are making a film about the 1830’s and its affected by the time period in which you make it. I’m sure the ’52 version is fascinating in it’s own right partly because it documents social behavior in the early ‘50s and probably more social behavior in American than in Cornwall I would have thought. This film I’m sure in fifty or sixty years people will look at it and say ‘that’s so 2017’ and that really interests me that films, whether you like it or not, carry a staining of the time in which they are made.

JJ: Was there a particular challenge in making a period piece for you? 

RM: There is always a challenge in making a period piece. I’ve made a couple of period pieces in the past. I mean you don’t want to turn it into a fox show in that you want the fox to look nice and you want to capitalize on the excitement of being in a foreign country but that shouldn’t be the points of the film. The point of the film is the way in which human beings relate to one another and how the story unfolds. In fact the characters are modern, post-Freudian and you can’t imagine Jane Austin writing this book even thought its set in a period Jane Austin was alive. So I found all of that fascinating. It’s a book that was written before the word feminism and feminists was even current and yet you can’t help but think that Daphne du Maurier saw this current just being around the corner when she wrote this at the bottom of her garden in the very cold 1950’s. I suppose I have teased out and exaggerated some of those elements I detected or felt in her writing in my film so that the leading character is more conscious about being an independent woman and a woman who is not frightened by her sexuality or apologetic about enjoying sex. She also doesn’t want to be in a world that is owned by men.

JJ: And who better to play that than Rachel Weisz. She has this amazing ability to be strong yet scary and very feminine but not afraid to take on a man.

RM: She is also very sensitive as her character has moments filled with swings and great round abouts and great emotional conviction. This character never feel she is manipulating him or tricking him. It all feels totally real and I think that’s kind of the point of it.

JJ: That’s tricky for her character. When she gives the jewels back you are never quite sure if she is doing it because there is a plan or if she truly is that way and Rachel makes it look so convincing – either way!

RM: Exactly, what did you decide?

JJ: I don’t know if you have ever heard or seen a film called THE EGYPTIAN (1954) and there is a scene where a doctor named Sinuhe is in love with the woman Nefer. To win her love he repeats constantly that he loves and wants to know what he can give her. Nefer’s reply is consistently ‘I ask for nothing’ yet he fills up a trunk with gifts while she gets to play innocent. When Rachel gives back the jewels that’s the first thing I thought of!

RM: That’s right, absolutely right. That’s the kind of excitement through the whole film for me because you just don’t know, you really don’t know. She is either playing the longest game you can imagine or she is genuinely just trying to live her life. She is engrained into these activities by this rather impetuous and naïve young man that has really never come across a woman before.

JJ: Sam Claflin, is he just not the doey-eyed character here?

RM: He is doey-eyed and his character is like a wet nosed puppy isn’t he? He played this marvelously portraying this masculine, handsome man but he is instantly besotted and long footed by this very sophisticated woman who steps into his life.

JJ: Nothing like a little mystery to grab you.

RM: Mystery is a great aphrodisiac

JJ: Phillip has been surrounded by this dusty old house and never really had a woman in his life. 

RM: Phillip is probably a virgin and never been in the company of a woman before. We decided he is probably a virgin and he’s like he was struck by lightening with Rachel. Not only is she beautiful, funny and sweet natured but add to that exotic being from Italy. 

JJ: You have a really great supporting cast with Iain Glen and Holliday Grainger as the Kendall family trying to tell Phillip this young man what is happening. At the same time it’s interesting that the kind of stand back knowing that if they talk down Rachel to much they could make it worse.

RM: That’s so right, particularly with Iain Glen character. He is terribly, terribly sad to see this boy you helped to bring up, known him since he was a toddler and see him just throw everything away for this woman. He does that and still manages to be civil when he is in her presence. 

JJ: I love the character of Louise and let me tell you why. This girl is watching everything that’s going on and the scene where she basically is responsible for asking for the return of the necklace. Just the look on her face I knew she wasn’t to be trifled with. I was secretly applauding her.

RM: Holliday is amazing in the film as well. I think how she handles herself in the end is amazing, even when Phillip becomes distracted. 

JJ: She gives you hope in waiting.

RM: All things come to those who wait.

JJ: She is always just so lady like yet on her face the wheels are turning. You have a film with so many themes going on, how was that for you?

RM: It’s just working away at the script and then the actors and in the edit trying to keep everything balanced and keeping them in such a place that you never wink at the audience to give anything away. You compel the audience to constantly make up their own minds as the evidence slowly arrives in front of them. The timing of the letters are very important in the film. You think she has to be totally innocent and then you see she is sending letters to her lawyer in Italy or the coat pocket. It is really, really well plotted in the book and I hope that extended itself to the film in a way that is very satisfying.

JJ: You take it all to the end where you are still left wondering. By the end the craziness is with Phillip.

RM: Yes, absolutely. 

JJ: How do you stop the madness once it’s started?

RM: He ends up cursed by it and he will never be happy and rubbing his head for the rest of his life thinking ‘what the hell was that all about?’

JJ: How many of us have not had that in our lives right?

RM: Yes, we all do that.

JJ: What would you like people who see the film to take away from the experience?

RM: I would like them to really enjoy the ride of it. It is a roller coaster of did-she-or-didn’t-she and I think that’s very exciting. I think that’s one part of it and I think it’s also without doubt it is a love story whether you like it or not. It is a desperate love story and a love story that goes wrong and still beguiling as a love story. It is also a beautiful mystery and I think people leaving the theatre will be arguing with each other about who did what. People going to have a drink after the movie with ‘come on she did it’ and someone else saying ‘come on she didn’t do it’. That’s what I would like.

JJ: That’s pretty much what is still going on here after seeing the film.

RM: Oh wonderful, I appreciate that.

JJ: Thank you so much for spending time talking about the film and your vision for it. 

RM: Thank you so much Jeri!


There is nothing better than having a very cool conversation with a director about his vision for a film but even more so a director that understands the characters. That is what speaking with Roger Michell offers everyone, a deeper look at the complexity of the human condition.

This Friday in theatres it is MY COUSIN RACHEL.


INTO THE BADLANDS: 
Talking with Aramis Knight

Jeri Jacquin

AMC has quickly become the cable channel to watch with the amazing shows it has brought to viewers. One of these series is INTO THE BADLANDS that broke out onto the scene with its first season in 2016.

Based in a strange world of a feudal system where seven barons are fighting for position and power. Baron Quinn is one such individual and since there are no guns the Baron uses his army of lethal fighters led by Sunny and he rules with an iron fist.

During a battle, Quinn discovers a boy named M.K. who seems to have powers that not only intrigue Quinn. He directs Sunny to train the boy but that doesn’t stop the word from getting out about M.K. and another Baron wants the boy as well.

Aramis Knight plays the young Colt M.K. and from the moment he is seen on screen it was clear to me that he was perfect in this role. Knight has spent years of his young life acting in television in series such as Girl Meets World, Parenthood, Single with Parents, Dexter, and even Boston Legal. His film career includes RENDITION and ENDER’S GAME in the role of Bean and can be seen in the next GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY film.

I had the opportunity to speak with Knight about his role as M.K. in the AMC series INTO THE BADLANDS. 

Jeri Jacquin: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today Aramis.

Aramis Knight: Of course Jeri, my pleasure.

JJ: Let’s dive right into it then, tell me how you came to get the role of the mysterious M.K. for AMC's INTO THE BADLANDS?

AK: It was actually a very interesting audition process for M.K. I say there are a few projects that I read that I also completely see myself in that role. That was very much what I saw with INTO THE BADLANDS. I read the scripts and really got a feel for the story and totally saw me in the character and that's something I strive for. Let me say that I'm really proud to be a part of it. The audition process was that I was the first guy to go in for the role of M.K. It was all in the very early stages and I would say it was September of 2013. They liked me and I really liked them but nothing was set between us for four or five months. I even told my rep that I wanted to really go for INTO THE BADLANDS and they auditioned 500 boys before calling me back in. They asked me to test and I got it! I mean it felt right the whole time.

JJ: I have to say now knowing there were that many people auditioning for the role that I can not imagine them not choosing you! You are so perfect for this role.

AK: I was really the first person who went in and I guess they had to turn every stone to see that it was a good fit. I think it is such an interesting process. Plus there if the fact that such a big studio like AMC behind you means you have to really find the right people. I think they wanted to be thorough in their search. I sort of get bragging rights a little, not that I'm a bragger {laughing}, I mean you know how it goes.

JJ: It's okay young man to take a bow once in a while just so you know.

AK: Oh good. 

{Did I mention this young man has a great sense of humor? Well he does!}

JJ: I was going to ask about reading the script for the first time. I can't even imagine what you thought because this series has such a different feel. What did you think?

AK: I just think it is amazing how many themes are in this series. There is allot of western, Asian, and southern influences all in one. You are going to see a lot more of influences in Season Two. They are loosely throwing around the steam punk vibe which I think is pretty awesome. It is such a mixture of so many different genres and that makes it a completely different show all together. Then you throw in the martial arts, which hasn't been done since the 1980's in television. To do it at the level we are doing it is pretty incredible. Throughout it all with the fight scenes which are arguably harder if not actually harder than the drama, I would say it is really something that is new. I would also say that it’s something that has to be experienced. I definitely understand why this hasn't been done before because it can be a difficult process to incorporate all of what is in the show.

JJ: Speaking of all the martial arts, I happen to be a fan of the genre and more recently because of the expanse in storytelling and film making, knowing that, working with Daniel Wu that has to be fantastic to watch him.

AK: Definitely! It is a completely new beast and the way these martial arts scenes are film is completely different than the filming of the martial arts scenes. The show has brought on martial arts legends to make these characters come to life. Each of them brings so much to the table teaching the moves to make the scenes such perfection. Really we have such a cohesive team and it is how it has to be to pull this off.

JJ: How is the physical part of your role for you?

AK: M.K. is a very physical role, not only in the fighting but also in the drama. There is such high intensity throughout the role, especially in season two. Season one was definitely physically taxing with learning all the moves and the grit and grim of the show along with the sweat and the blood. The muggy weather of New Orleans is also an addition to all of that and something we all had to get through. I would say that it all really helped us get to that same grit and grim of the show. 

JJ: Having lived in Alabama, I get that muggy weather.

AK: It wasn't so bad but the fight scenes kicking five guys at one time really made for some challenges.

JJ: Yes, if you are not use to it, it can be difficult with all the physicality that INTO THE BADLANDS has in it.

AK: I would say I liked it though, I'd rather be hot than cold.

JJ: You're role takes on so many twists, turns and changes, as a young actor how is that for you to have to change it up so much. How did you prepare?

AK: I think it's how many times you read the script. I love reading the script multiple times going into an episode because you really need to have an understanding of the plot, of the arc of the story because we film two episodes at a time and in the beginning we filmed three at a time. You really need to know where you are in the script and have a very clear understanding of the timeline of those episodes. I would say script analysis is really everything.

JJ: You're character; you are the one character that you never know. You and Sunny are on the same path but at different ends if that makes sense.

AK: That is so true. I think that's why Sunny and M.K. get close in that sense. They share that bond of the greater goal which is to get back home.

JJ: You are also working with this amazing huge cast. I think I'd be a little star struck. The setting is all these different barons, groups, and inner circles and they are all out for one thing - that's M.K.! 

AK: It's really amazing and I'm thrilled to be working with so many great people. I went into this process wanting to develop this specific character and I think all of us wanted that. I have mad respect for everyone else on the show and was so glad that they had respect for me. 

JJ: Working with Ally Ioannides as Tilda, she is the closest to you age wise in the whole cast.

AK: Ally and I are great friends on and off the series. We have a great relationship off the set and that comes together on the set. We have learned allot from each other and I think we have a special bond not only from the character point of view but from a personal point of view.

JJ: I would imagine you two would stick together through all of this.

AK: For sure! We have all come together as a cast.

JJ: I know you can't tell us allot about the next season but what can you share about where M.K. is going?

AK: I think that emotionally he has matured allot and he is learning to how to survive this world he lives in. The first season he didn't have much control and in season two he learns how to have that control. In season one he hasn't learned how to control his powers, his destiny - nothing about his life. It is really something he strives for. You obviously have the M.K. angst that is kind of funny and so lovable so I'm excited for everyone to see M.K. grow.

JJ: I know I'm excited to see where your character goes. In season one you are lead where everyone wants you to go so I see a breaking out coming. 

AK: Yes, a new character is introduced named Eva who M.K. develops a special relationship with and they have a great story line. I think everybody will really enjoy that.

JJ: I tried last night to explain to someone who hadn't seen the show what it is about, so if you were in the same situation, how would you describe INTO THE BADLANDS?

AK: I would call it a post apocalyptic utopian martial arts drama. I would also say that it has some of the most vivid coloring and best cinematography in television. You wouldn't expect anything less from AMC knowing THE WALKING DEAD and BREAKING BAD and MAD MEN that also have this rich cinematography and deep story telling. If you are looking for quality bad-ass television then this is the show to be watching.

JJ: Well then we agree on the badass because I have used that word quite a few times. 

AK: It's the truth!

JJ: Congratulations young man on an amazing job playing the part of M.K. Your character is so interesting and as I said I can not wait to see what Season Two has in store for us all. Thanks for spending time with us today.

AK: Thank you so much. I'm excited for everyone to see Season Two!


The first season of INTO THE BADLANDS is coming to Bluray and Digital HD and prepare for the second season with Aramis Knight as M.K. to bring even more intrigue, mystery and survival!

In the end – in a world without guns, fighting is everything!



Fernando Coimbra Directs the Netflix Original Movie SAND CASTLE

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to Netflix on April 21st from screenwriter Chris Roessner, Treehouse Pictures along with director Fernando Coimbra comes a look at the people and place that carry the realities of war with SAND CASTLE.

The film tells the story of Private Matt Ocre (Nicholas Hoult), a young man who intended to serve in the reserves to pay for college. When September 11th occurs, he hurts himself hopefully to be sent home.

Instead, he is sent back to his regiment to catch up with Sgt. Chutzky (Glen Powell), Cpt. Enzo (Neil Brown, Jr.), Sgt. Burton (Beau Knapp) and squad leader Sgt. Harper (Logan Marshall-Green). They are sent to a local village where insurgents have destroyed their water pump to get it up and running. While that happens a tanker is filled daily to get water to the villagers.

The soldiers and the Iraqi people have the same problem, insurgents who want the American soldiers gone and the villagers under their control!

Fernando Coimbra is the Brazilian born director who took on the challenge of making the film SAND CASTLE. Beginning with writing and directing short films, his first film A WOLF AT THE DOOR premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. Recently, Coimbra has directed episodes of the Netflix series Narcos and a Cinemax episode of Robert Kirkman’s Outcast.

I had the opportunity to speak with Coimbra about his reaction to the script, challenges and what was most important for the audience to know about SAND CASTLE.


Jeri Jacquin: Hello Fernando, it is a pleasure to talk with you today about the film SAND CASTLE. I love the film.

Fernando Coimbra: Thank you, that means a lot. 

JJ: This film is really important for everyone to see.

FC: I’m really glad to hear this.

JJ: Tell me your thoughts of the script when you read it?

FC: I was impressed by a few things. The first thing that caught my attention was the story and the characters. I knew that whoever wrote it knew the situation of war pretty well. I could feel that it was very truthful. I think what caught my attention the most was the journey of the character and the story of this soldier. He wasn’t there because he actually wanted to be so he’s not the usual military person. He joined because he wanted to pay for college and tries to get out of that situation. I think people can relate to this character. The journey I saw for him was very strong and I believed that the story needed to be told of his traumatic experience. It wasn’t about being a hero but instead about the experiences that they all go through. It is about them finding a reason and an understanding of what they are fighting for.

JJ: I spoke with Chris [Roessner, the writer of SAND CASTLE] last week and I told him what really intrigued me is that this film tells the story from both perspectives, the soldier and the Iraqi people. 

FC: Yes, that definitely was one of my main goals in preparing to shoot this film. I wanted to do my best to show both sides. I wanted to show the Iraqi people as human beings, not just caricatures or clichés of Arabic people. I see films where they are portrayed as bad guys or terrorists and in this film that is not the case. They are normal people trying to live their lives doing the best that they can in the middle of all this chaos. I wanted to show who they are and how they connected with the soldiers who are completely different from themselves. They are all human beings so it was important to have those moments where that connection is there; not just Iraqi’s or Americans but human beings. 
That was a mission in itself.

JJ: When you finished reading the script, what were some of the challenges you thought you were going to face making the film.

FC: When I decided to make the film I knew everything was going to be a challenge. A Brazilian making a war film not having been in a war was going to be different. I was motivated though to read about the war and research it for myself. I talked with military advisors because it is really important to me that it was portrayed authentically. I wanted to be fair to the audience by putting them into the most realistic environment possible. I went to the military to learn how they move, think and talk because they do have a way of speaking with codes etc. For me, the challenge was also to be very authentic and real so I went to people I trusted to help me bring all of that to the film. 

JJ: It can be difficult to understand when they talk sometimes.

FC: Yes, I had the military advisers with me at all times. During the prep and during scenes they were there and Special Forces guys really gave the actors and myself and inside look at their life in this situation. It was so interesting to experience all of this for myself.

JJ: You were keeping it as authentically military as possible.

FC: Yes, we really did work hard on that keeping the military actions accurate and shooting scenes to keep the emotional element there as well. We always tried to find a way to mix the film making aspect with the actions of the military. I don’t want audiences to just watch the film, I would like them to experience it and relate to it.

JJ: I just couldn’t stop watching.

FC: That makes me very happy. 

JJ: You worked with an amazing cast, tell us about that experience?

FC: They were really great and I was lucky to have such very talented guys and also they were really engaged in making this film. Nick Hoult was so willing to play this character and Henry Cavill really wanted to play a military man because of his family connection. All of them were on board from going to boot camp to learning all the lingo and everything. We became a group, isolated on the set, from being at home and our regular life routines. Everybody became close and connected to each other through this experience. We all became like a military group ourselves.

JJ: Fernando, what do you want viewers to take away after watching SAND CASTLE?

FC: That’s a complex question because there are so many things. We always talk about war in a political way but we don’t dedicate much of ourselves to understanding soldiers or the Iraqi people. I want everyone to see the human side of all this with no judgment on who is bad or who is good. That doesn’t matter and the film involves many other things. To be in a situation like this is traumatic situation for all of the people involved. 

JJ: I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today.

FC: Absolutely, thank you for your kind words about our film.



SAND CASTLE is a film that experiences so much human in emotion on both sides of the Iraq war. The soldiers who come to understand they are not wanted in Iraq but have to be there to the villagers that do want help but to do so can decimate families and in between are insurgents who only want to destroy.

Director Fernando Coimbra took on the challenge of bringing this intense and human story of soldiers and the Iraqi people during a dangerous war. Bringing the authenticity of screenwriter Chris Roessner’s story to film, Coimbra has embraced every aspect and every scene is brilliantly done.

I encourage everyone to take a moment to view the film SAND CASTLE premiering on Netflix April 21st.

SPLIT Frightens on Bluray
Talking with Jessica Sula

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to Bluray next week from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment is the thriller SPLIT.

This film tells the story of three young women who are being held captive by Kevin (James McAvoy) and his 23 different personalities. Trying to find a way to escape alive is Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia played by Jessica Sula

I had the opportunity to speak with Jessica about SPLIT, working with M. Night Shyamalan, close quarter acting and playing opposite James McAvoy.

Jeri Jacquin: Hi Jessica, thanks for taking the time to talk with us today, it’s a real pleasure.

Jessica Sula: Thank you Jeri, I’m so glad you wanted to talk about the film with me.

JJ: My daughter who writes with me and I absolutely are in love with this movie.

JS: That’s so great, really?

JJ: We think it is the freakiest, twisted, messed up, original films we’ve seen in a long time.

JS: That’s really amazing, that’s so cool, and it is actually. When you are in it you don’t think of it like that but it’s true. When I saw it all put together I thought ‘oh man!’

JJ: It’s like – what have we done!

JS: Absolutely, it’s not something I’ve seen before either so I do agree with you on that.

JJ: When you first saw the script what was your impression of it. I’m sure reading it is different than seeing it done.

JS: It was after I got the part is when I got the script because it was all really very top secret. When I was reading it tried to imagine the scenes because I wanted to know what was going to happen on the next page. I read it in a really short space of time. I’ve never been involved in this genre and it’s M. Night Shyamalan! It was exciting although I didn’t realize how he was going to shoot it which made it even more exciting to see it in a theatre. 

JJ: Tell me a little bit about your thoughts when you read what your role was going to be.


JS: I thought oh man….her fate! I was a little bit nervous about how Marcia was going to come across in a survival situation. She is with these two girls who seem very proactive in how we get out. I was worried because I wanted Marcia to have a voice but when we started shooting and talking with Night, it was very much apparent that it was going to be a serious journey for all of them. I thought I was going to be one of those girls who disaster was going to happen to at the hands of James McAvoy. It was kind of funny; I think I laughed a little about it.

JJ: It’s interesting when you said, ‘I was talking with Night’ about your role. Do you know how many people will never say that in their life – ever?

JS: I know! It’s actually quite surreal. You become close especially in the close quarters for the entire shoot and when you leave and start refer to it later I don’t even think about it. He is somebody that always thinks through every shot because what he wants is very particular. It was cool to collaborate with him.

JJ: When Shyamalan does a film he is so in depth about the story and the characters. Did you feel like he has everyone’s role down pat?

JS: A little bit yes because he has it mapped out in his mind already. He is so specific in what he wants. He also will break things down for you if you have a question about a scene or something a character is doing. That is quite nice, especially when you are in a high emotional state and your character is going through trauma. 

JJ: Speaking of severe trauma, how long did it take you to get over all this?

JS: It’s more like the energy that goes into it and understanding that the circumstances are frightening, beyond frightening. Just kidnappings in general pop up on the news and it’s strange to be aware of it. When you are in that emotional state everyday and heightened, it was a matter of being tired once it was finished. I went back home after we were done and I just slept.

JJ: You were probably really hyper sensitive to it all because, as you said, the close quarters and the energy.

JS: We talked about scenes and what the characters were going through and no comparison to real life but you do start thinking about it all. There is the thought of not getting out of a real situation like this and that did scare me a bit.

JJ: After seeing SPLIT I didn’t want to be around anywhere dark, forests, and weird areas so I hear you.

JS: We would all talk about that too!

JJ: You are basically in a film, the three of you, with one guy that is many people. Working with James McAvoy in a role like I’ve never seen before, how was that for you?

JS: There were moments where we were watching him and couldn’t believe we were on the same set. He would go through all these changes was amazing. He is a fantastic actor and a lovely person, to get through a subject like this and to work with someone who is going through emotional extremes; he was so kind and made us laugh all the time. He was also really generous, charming and a pure joy to work with. On film when you see it all cut together and he scared me because he was someone I didn’t recognize.

JJ: The first glimpse I had of hearing about the film and I thought ‘no way that is him!’

JS: He is brilliant.

JJ: When you were talking about working in close quarters, the only way I can describe how I felt watching it was that your character was confined in a confined space. Was as difficult to shoot as it was to watch?

JS: It had its technical challenges with moving around and figuring things out. When we were all in one room it was very cramped and it worked. I think it helped drive the scene I think. It was intensely shot with everyone feeling it because of the confined space. I mean your sweating and wanting to get out of there and so I think it adds to the intensity quite nicely.

JJ: That intensity is almost another character in the film.

JS: Very much so, I think Night proves that very well. 

JJ: All of you also created that very well and what this cast put together truly does work wonderfully.

JS: That is so lovely for you to say Jeri, thank you. You don’t think about those things when you are working.  

JJ: I think Night has his own genre because his films aren’t horror yet they are, they are not gory yet they are – what ever goes on in that mind of his is some serious business.

JS: We are lucky he is the director.

JJ: When people watch the film on Bluray, what would you like them to know about the film that they wouldn’t otherwise know?

JS: That’s a really good question. I would have to say that I really love everything about the way it was shot, every frame is amazing. I think what was done was really smart. 

JJ: Do get more into it and be aware of the surroundings just like the characters had to for the entire film.

JS: Yes, that’s a good way of putting it. I think it’s something that I love from watching thrillers like Hitchcock. Focus on James and everything that he does.

JJ: I don’t think that will be a problem – my daughter has a thing for James, even if his 23 characters are seriously unhinged.

JS: Everyone does, everyone loves James. 

JJ: Thank you so much Jessica for your time and for talking about the film and your experience with SPLIT. 


I have a horror genre in my own home theatre library and SPLIT will have a special spot on the shelf. Turing our own fears inside out, this film will have you talking long after it is over. James McAvoy leads Sula, Richardson and Taylor-Joy in a cast that gives our spines a reason to shiver and stay out of dark places. 

On Bluray this Tuesday from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment is a thriller that will leave you breathless – just like a good thriller should! Director M. Night Shyamalan is back in the business of giving us all the shivers with SPLIT.

THE BYE BYE MAN Creeps onto Bluray
Talking with Director Stacy Title

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to Bluray from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and director Stacy Title is a thriller that will keep you from putting your toes outside the covers with THE BYE BYE MAN.

Three college students find an old house off of campus and move in not knowing they have a tenant of another kind. An entity called The Bye Bye Man is just waiting to come out and the students, without knowing, open the supernatural door for him. 

I am a fan of well done horror films and director Stacy Title has given us just that. With creepiness oozing from every frame, I was thrilled at the opportunity to speak with her about where the idea came from and her vision for bringing the frights to all of us.


Jeri Jacquin: Hi Stacy, I’m so excited to talk with you today and thank you for talking the time to talk about THE BYE BYE MAN that’s on Bluray this week. I’m excited to talk to you for several reasons but the main one is that it is rare to find a female director in the horror genre.

Stacy Title: Yes, you are right, it is a rare thing.

JJ: How did you become involved in the film and I know your husband Jonathan Penner worked on the screenplay as well.

ST: I tell you that it was luck and friendship as Trevor Macy is a dear friend of mine and fan always had wanted to do something together. The script for THE BYE BYE MAN came and it really wasn’t in the shape that I wanted it to be in but there was something in it that intrigued me. My husband Jonathan and I started breaking it down and split the roles very clearly. He did most of the writing and I wanted the definition of me as the director fully realized. I’ve had people ask me if I’ve co-directed with my husband and tell them I’ve never done it before. We got the script the way we wanted and my friend Jeffrey Soros from LAMF partnering with Simon Horsman and they financed the movie. It’s really a lucky thing of having a fan and a good friend putting those pieces together. Without all of these things coming together I would never have gotten a shot at this.

JJ: What was it about the story initially that intrigued you?

ST: I loved that the Bye Bye Man can hurt you without touching you; that he can turn you on yourself by playing on your weaknesses. I thought that was really unique and original. Further, I am really interested in the idea of fear and paranoia today is a large part of our lives and that intrigued me too. You can hurt yourself by being to afraid, by being too paranoid about life. There are going to be links to the mythology that will be made available to people as well. It will explain the DNA of the movie a little more about the coins and the trains. I think people will understand even more fully what I intended.

JJ: I understand that it was based on the piece The Bridge to Body Island; did you dig further into that?

ST: That story is incredible and that’s in a book called The Presidents Vampire I believe and it has a lot of really interesting stuff. I can’t verify there were three grad students that this happened to but there was a great amount of material that was useful. One of the things is how the Bye Bye Man was murdered, that he was left on a train, his eyes burned out with coins and all the things they did to him. The book had some wonderful detail and we turned that into a movie because it wasn’t a natural movie with the work. 

JJ: Is this a genre you enjoy?

ST: I love it I have to say. I’m a real horror geek. I love science fiction and fantasy as well, oh I just love all movies and genres but I do genuinely love horror. I love that feeling of being afraid and I find that interesting. I also enjoy scaring people too.

JJ: Do you think it is that rush we get knowing we will walk out of the theatre in one piece after watching a horror film?

ST: It’s so true! It’s a wish fulfillment like can I be on the edge of a cliff, fall and survive it. It’s very satisfying and makes you appreciate the world you live in. The expressions ‘enjoy each day as if it’s your last’ but a horror movie can make you believe that more.

JJ: There is nothing like that roller coaster of emotions and walking out of the film with a nervous laugh saying ‘ha! I survived!’ but inside your heart is still pounding a bit.

ST: In my bedroom in the middle of the night there was something hanging on my door and it looked like the Bye Bye Man! You see shapes and dark things that test all of those scary feelings. I also think what is fun is the community of going to see the film in a theatre.

JJ: I was so thrilled to learn that Doug Jones was playing the character of the Bye Bye Man. He does such amazing work.

ST: Yes, he is amazing and I was so thrilled that he was on our project. Have you ever met him?

JJ: Yes, I spoke to him as well for another project he did.

ST: He is the sweetest most genuine person you have ever met, such a delightful, lovely and a thoughtful person. It is so interesting that he can convert that. He completely channels the darkness for this character and how he can use his body with the smallest movement. He gets so much out of so little. He is funny, scary and brilliantly dramatic actor and I am very lucky to have gotten him. 

JJ: He is just amazing.

ST: I love him.

JJ: You have a wonderful cast that comes together strong for the film. When it all came together did you think ‘yep, this is it!’?

ST: Totally, I’ve have a lot of luck in my life with casting and I’ve had great experiences with actors. I don’t know if it’s because my husband is an actor who has done television and film as well as Survivor. When I did my Oscar nominate short I had Jason Alexander and Edward Asner, with THE LAST SUPPER I had Bill Paxton and Cameron Diaz so I am very ambitious to get the best person for each part. So for THE BYE BYE MAN I was completely happy and agree with you about the cast.

JJ: When it came to doing the effects for the film, how was that for you knowing that you see one thing in your head and have to create that on the screen?

ST: I think we were overly ambitious with the amount of financing we had. There are some shots that didn’t work or didn’t look good. If anything it made me realize is that I need to hold out to expand the budget in the effects area to get those things absolutely perfect. I’m very happy with a lot of what we did. There are things that are beautiful and I wouldn’t change them.

JJ: I’m glad to hear you understood what to use and what to leave out. It seems a lot of the horror films just throw everything but the kitchen sink at a film and it sort of ruins it for me. It’s a way of saying that we have to watch and accept it. I don’t think audiences are buying that anymore.

ST: I agree so much. I think there is a judiciousness that you have to have when things aren’t really perfect and accept that it has to be cut. I believe you are right that things are just shoved into films and people are expected to just let it fly and it doesn’t.

JJ: I have found in the last couple of years is that the blood and gore just don’t tell a story for me which is why I stopped watching my favorite genre for a while. You have gone back to scary and tension. You can have a little gore but give me suspense, creaks, rustling bushes!

ST: Really the feeling of something awful is about to happen and I so think that is important. The jumps are great to release a little of the tension but it’s the tension, the dread and that identifying with the characters, I think that works much better and is more important.

JJ: It’s like when Willy Wonka is watching something bad happen to one of the kids and he says, “The suspense is terrible! I hope it will last!”

ST: You are hilarious <laughing> what a great metaphor.

JJ: I love the tension! <laughing> I don’t need a lot of the other stuff, just give me the feeling of body aches when I leave the theatre because I’m exhausted from the tension.

ST: When we were early humans and living day-to-day and moment-to-moment we had to listen as if our lives depended on it in the forest because something could get us. That’s that tension you are talking about, I love it.

JJ: Yes, that primal fear that knows that at a drop of the hat something could happen and we’d have no control over it. You give us that safety of not having control, it’s hard to describe.

ST: Absolutely, taking you on that ride and to the edge. We knew the last hallucination of the film was extremely important. You had to think what was happening to Sasha was happening and the dread with the running down the hall. If I hadn’t set everything up at the beginning no one would want to take that ride.

JJ: Exactly, okay, I love you 

<At this point we are both laughing>

ST: I love you too! You get it; you really understand how to put that together because it’s not easy to do. I like that you understand why you like it – you’re like a shrink!

JJ: Actually I have four adult children and we all love horror films. We love that feeling of terror but feeling safe. I’m not going to lie though; my feet do not dangle over the bed at night. 

ST: When you are alone at night and you sort of see something rustling around, I admit to having a little bit of fright outside the movies. I do like the movie thing because you are right, I’m safer sometimes more than real life. 

JJ: I think it helps us with those little creepy moments like going from our car to the front door which is a ten-second walk but we hear things and see shadows and fumble with our keys to get in the door. 

ST: That funny sound when you slam the door and then there is a funny sound coming from upstairs and now that creepy is in the house. I live in an old house that makes noise which doesn’t help.

JJ: I have a cat who thinks it’s funny to scare the daylights out of me.

ST: Does he jump out?

JJ: I have a staircase with space between the stairs and he just rubs on my ankle as I walk up. It is the creepiest feeling in the world!

ST: Oh my gawd, that is so funny! 

JJ: When people see the film on Bluray which is amazing, what do you want them to take away with them?

ST: I want them to see that fear and paranoia bring you down and that it can take over your life. You have to make a choice not to let that happen. I think the concept behind THE BYE BYE MAN is that you really get lost in your fear and by living in that fear it can hurt you – especially today. 

JJ: You are so right Stacy; I had an amazing time talking to you about THE BYE BYE MAN.



It was amazing having such a fantastic conversation with Stacy and I am still thrilled to have been able to chat about horror films and what makes us love it so. THE BYE BYE MAN is a fright fest that now on Bluray gives us a reason to turn off the lights, cuddle up on the sofa with your favorite hero/heroine and enjoy the ride.

Coming to Bluray from the stellar director Stacy Title and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment is dark and focused THE BYE BYE MAN.

In the end – the evil behind the most unspeakable acts has a name!

FOX Brings High Tech to Crime with the Series APB: Speaking with Star Ernie Hudson

Jeri Jacquin

On Fox Monday nights following 24: Legacy is the new police drama filled with everything high tech with APB.

The series tells the story of the Chicago Police Department and crime, shootings, corruption and under funding. Gideon Reeves played by Justin Kirk decides to help with technology and to help the police force rethink dealing with crime.

Wanting to make the 13th District the best, he enlists the help of Detective Theresa Murphy played by Natalie Martinez. She sees the potential of the technology Gideon wants to bring. Adding to the team is Officer Nicholas Brandt played by Taylor Handley and Tasha Goss played by Tamberla Perry. 

It is a very skeptical Captain Ned Conrad who is willing to do anything to help the community that is being hit hardest by crime. The role of the Captain is played by none other than the amazingly talented Ernie Hudson.

Hudson, a graduate from Yale School of Drama, began his career in the 1970’s dividing his time between film and television. Most of us came to know more of his work after his smash role in the 1984 film GHOSTBUSTERS and were thrilled at his return for a cameo in the 2016 retelling of GHOSTBUSTERS. 

Hudson is keeping busy recently with his appearances on the Netflix series Grace and Frankie, the Epix series Graves with Nick Nolte and the high anticipated return of Twin Peaks. Now adding APB to his list of good work I had the opportunity to speak with him about the show and how his character evolved. 

Jeri Jacquin: Thank you for talking to me today, I am actually more excited than you know.

Ernie Hudson: Why thank you.

JJ: It must be said that in our home we are huge GHOSTBUSTERS fans and, of course, we use lines from the characters in everyday conversation. The line we take from Zeddmore is ‘that’s a big Twinkie’. 

EH: That’s so funny and it is so great that after all these years people have made that film so iconic. I hear things like that all the time and it really does mean a lot to me to know so thank you.

JJ: You are in a new series called APB on Fox playing the role of Captain Ned Conrad; tell me about this television project?

EH: When I got the script I thought it was such a different take on this genre for television. I was really intrigued by the stories and what part Conrad had to play. The way technology is brought into police work is something needed and I think everyone should have made available to them. I think the technology is something that is very much needed in law enforcement and can really help greatly. I’ve watched this show come together in such an amazing way.

JJ: It’s interesting because it’s rare to hear someone say we need more technology, I’m so use to hearing that we need less.

EH: Well, we need less when I’m having dinner with someone and they pull out their cell phone! I think technology can cut to the truth of things ultimately. It’s a double edge sword like every advancement; it can be either really good or really bad. Of course technology in the hands of the wrong people can be bad. I think it can make things simpler and I love on the show that we use the app that people feel they can connect immediately. I think the things that technology can do can make us more honest and it can be something for the better.

JJ: So you have this very interesting cast to work with and I see Captain Conrad as a bit of a father figure to the young officers. Does it feel a bit like that for your character?

EH: Yes, it really does because I have kids as well and I see how kids are into their toys and gadgets and it is part of their world. At the same time you want the young officers to know that someone is there for them. Also, there is a reason my character brings this old way of doing things because there is a protocol and it’s important that it’s understood. I also recognize that they have a different approach but it has to be set up because the Captain is preparing to turn things over to the group. They need to be aware of certain things before he does that, especially Gideon who has some issues. My character can’t let them use run amuck and do what ever they want without realizing that there are consequences. I think that’s how I see it anyway.

JJ: I see how you are trying to guide them with the technology, everyone has their own issue. I love when you rein them in and give them a shot of realism when they get too far.

EH: Good, I’m hoping the fans will see that as well and it can be seen in future episodes as well. I think we can’t write off the young people because they are coming through. We want to be able to share with them, connect with them and get as well as give respect. We want to make sure everyone is in a good place before they kick us out of the way. 

JJ: How do you see your character moving forward?

EH: What was important to me, especially as the setting is in Chicago, we know they have issues that no one can understand. I don’t think there is any way to understand what is going on there. My character still lives in the community that is served by the police department. So in addition to him wanting to be a good law enforcement officer he also recognizes in a very real way some of the issues that are not working in his neighborhood. He also has the double edged sword in that he works for the police but also has children that have to live in this world. There is a reason why he wants it to work and a reason why he wants to be open to technology. For me as an African-American actor is the humanity of who he is as a human being. We only have a sense of that now and more will be written as the writers become more and more aware of who this guy is. We have an episode where he says criminals are criminals and we need to talk to these guys because of the damage they do but the Captain goes out of his comfort zone to try something different in handling them. 

JJ: But he always lets it be known that this is ‘my town’, but he says it in such a deep and respectful way. You get it that he’s not going to tolerate much.

EH: I would love to see that approach taken by a lot of other people. I mean it is ours and we should claim it. We should not just excuse it and let it slide but instead say no. I think for a lot of African-Americans who left the old neighborhoods and moved on we still need to go back and say ‘this is my neighborhood’. There are people still there that are working for the ones who are left behind that we need to support with either our presence or money or whatever we can do. This is our country and we need to claim it in a very personal way that we don’t write off whole sections thinking they deserve it. I think it is personal and I think we need to claim all of it. The problem is when you have the inside group it creates these outside groups and it happens when we want to make one better or demonize the other. The reality is that it is all ours and we need to be there for each other.
Certain things are just not acceptable.

JJ: I really understand that, I’ve lived in California most of my life and there are areas where I feel there has been a mental fence built with an X on it saying ‘don’t go there’. 

EH: Exactly, sometimes they just say it and don’t try to hide it at all. It’s as if the people that live there don’t deserve something extra and I say no. I think somehow we have got to find a way to make all of us feeling we have a better chance at life. I mean you can screw it up but at least if you try you have a chance; that is the American dream for me. To say these kids are never going to have jobs and even if they play by the rules there is nothing for them makes no sense. I don’t play any game that I don’t think I can win. I became an actor because I said ‘I can do this’. Unless we can be free to do that then we all lose. 

JJ: Well put and I think your character just came through a bit.

EH: See, I’m bring me to the role and that’s important. I’ve done shows where I’ve portrayed different characters that have nothing to do with me personally but with APB I do think it’s personal. 

JJ: I can honestly say in the years I’ve been doing this that I’ve heard even a few say that a role is personal to them.

EH: I think we sometimes want to separate it. The character isn’t me of course but the character is definitely personal.

JJ: Because your role wasn’t specifically defined yet, do you think the writers let you create him?

EH: I think they were open to letting me show them what this character was. While we were there I had a cousin who was shot and see, that’s personal. You can’t come to Chicago and not know that you are making a statement about people in a place we are all impacted by. You have to take it seriously. You can’t just throw out stuff, you have to bring integrity to the writing and that’s important. I think being true and honest, it matters; especially now it matters.

JJ: There is a sadness, a heavy heartedness in Chicago.

EH: Yes, it’s deep in the spirit. We need to find a way to lift our spirits because this is us and I believe technology can help us do it. 

JJ: Your show definitely has a lot to offer in the way of technology. One of the episodes the officers use a submarine and I can’t recall that in a police drama before either. More firsts for your show!

EH: They don’t use anything on the show that isn’t truly available. I want it to be available to the public and not just to corporations or wealthy people. 

JJ: I’m hoping that comes through and that people get that about your show. Although your show does have a hacker of the technology and that character just gives me the skeevies.

EH: Yes, we do! You will have to watch the last two episodes of the season to find out how that all works out.

JJ: I am so honored to have talked to you today and thank you for continuing to bring amazing characters for us to enjoy. Congratulations on APB!

EH: Thank you Jeri. I appreciate that so much. 


It must be said that talking to an actor I have enjoyed for years is such a thrill for me but talking to an actor whose work I’ve admired is a privilege. Ernie Hudson is such an actor who is a strong character in the new television series APB.

APB follows 24: Legacy Monday nights on FOX at 9 pm PT/ET, 8 pm CT. ABP is in its 11th week with the final episode of its first season on Monday, April 24.

In the end – police work isn’t rocket science, it’s harder!

Saban’s POWER RANGERS Sets to Re-ignite Franchise on the Big Screen:
Talking with the Power Rangers

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to the big screen this March from director Dean Israelite, Saban Entertainment and Lionsgate are the iconic heroes known as the POWER RANGERS.

A group of high school students discover an alien ship and what they find inside is about to change their lives. Superpowers are bestowed and another generation will get to know the name Power Rangers who now must stop an old enemy and save the world.

The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers are iconic characters came to American televisions in 1993 from the Super Sentai Japanese material. Since then the heroes have morphed to other series such as Might Morphin Alien Rangers, Power Rangers Zero, Power Rangers Turbo, Power Rangers in Space, Power Rangers Lost Galaxy and so many, many more.

In 1995, the MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS: The Movie hit movie houses and TURBO: A Power Rangers Movie followed in 1997. Now Saban’s POWER RANGERS is ready to break out in theatres in an epic way to reignite the adventure imagination in families everywhere. 

I had the opportunity to speak with the Red Ranger Jason Scott played by Dacre Montgomery, the Black Ranger Zack Taylor played by Ludi Lin and the Pink Ranger Kimberly Scott played by Naomi Scott.

Jeri Jacquin: Wow, I get to talk to three Rangers. I’m pretty excited about that. How are you all doing?

Montgomery, Lin & Scott: We are doing great! <in unison which made us all laugh>

JJ: I have to let you know that my grown kids who said that if I didn’t come today that I couldn’t show my face ever again.

Naomi Scott: <laughing> Oh my gosh no! 

JJ: They were raised on Power Rangers and even took time when they were younger to explain it all to me. So knowing you are coming into this generational and iconic series, how is that for each of you?

Ludi Lin: We are asked this a lot and each time we answer it brings us a new perspective on it all. Certainly in the beginning there are a lot of fans emailing us about their excitement and sharing their stories. They are also in their 30’s and sharing their memories of watching the Power Rangers when they were a kid. Also there certainly is a responsibility that we take seriously because I grew up watching the Power Rangers as well. If you watch the movie and see the script we saw from the beginning, there is so much about the story that I’m excited about and the reason being is that this is the story that wasn’t told in the original series. It delves deeply back into the background of these characters. It’s the origins story of how these kids become heroes so you have a chance to get attached to the characters. 

Dacre Montgomery: It’s a chance to see the development without the masks on and the spectacle that comes much later.

LL: So it’s less episodic Power Rangers but more the whole complete arc of the entire story of how they become super heroes.

Naomi Scott: I didn’t grow up watching the series per se but I so remember playing Power Rangers with my brothers and wanting to be a Power Ranger. I think that shows that even if you didn’t watch the shows you wanted to be a Ranger. Red was my favorite color so I had to be the Red Ranger. The fact that there were two girls was always cool to me because it showed how girls also wanted to be Ranger heroes too. For me, it has been exciting and we all focused on who is Kimberly Hart. I think we are able to have a blank canvas because this is an origins story so aside from the iconic character from the original series, we have a chance to find out who Kimberly Hart is. I was excited about that because I could bring in who I thought she is.

JJ: It’s interesting that back in the original series, having a female superhero character wasn’t a common thing really.

NS: No, it really wasn’t.

JJ: The girls were always the sidekick or a little in the background instead of front and center they way they were and are in the Power Rangers. 

NS: Absolutely. I think it is important and maybe that’s why it has such a broad appeal. You have the diversity that is also cultural in the mix that makes an impact. 

JJ: Once you become the heroes, the diversity isn’t the focus because once you put the masks on it’s about what you bring to the table as a group.

DM: Jeri, I’m stealing that from you.

NS: Yes, we are stealing that from you.

LL: Let me just make a note here.

<we all break out laughing which continues to make this interview the best time I could have with iconic characters sitting right in front of me>

JJ: Dacre, the Red Ranger has had such a big responsibility in the past, how was carrying on that tradition for you?

DM: I went to drama school and think of everything as an ensemble. My parents worked behind the camera in the film industry and I was taught growing up to appreciate every piece of the puzzle to bring it all together. The watch-face doesn’t exist without all the cogs behind it so for me I just consider myself one of the five watch-faces if you will. There was definitely the deal with me rallying the troops and I felt so supported all the time off screen by my cast mates. When the camera rolled with that support it was easy to play into that camaraderie and going into battle together. It’s a huge responsibility, don’t get me wrong, I mean your own kids were huge fans and now there are young kids who are big fans so this means a lot to a lot of people. 

JJ: My kids will be watching but you don’t need anymore pressure right?

NS: It’s weird, I don’t feel that pressure only because my responsibility is to the character of Kimberly. It’s different to what’s gone before and even if I was doing a different movie as an actor that’s how I feel about it.

LL: I hope everyone will enjoy it for different reasons. So you have the old school fans that are older and now the new kids like your grandkids. Do your grandkids know about the Power Rangers? 

JJ: This is Naynay (nickname for Grandma) you’re talking to here, of course they do. I mean there’s a whole DVD library of the series that gets borrowed and borrowed. One of these times I probably won’t see them ever again. So you are getting three generations who are in-the-know about the Power Rangers. 

NS: Man, that’s just absolutely incredible, seriously that’s just amazing.

JJ: The technology they use in the film, how was that for you as actors to play into your characters?

LL: There is so much technology, the physical sets were also technology. The first time we stepped on the set it dawned on us that we were part of this huge super hero massive budget movie. Before that we were just running around in dirty clothes getting blown up. When the Power Rangers suits came in we saw the technology and were stunned by how much detail went into them. 

DM: They look exactly like the movie poster in real life.

LL: The other piece of technology is that after we put the suits on the special effects team puts on the computer effects. That’s why it was so shocking for me to screen the movie. I finally saw the final product that is so seamless and entertaining.

DM: Here is a piece that hasn’t been shared with anyone.

NS: Jeri, you are getting an exclusive right here <laughing>

JJ: Really? Okay, I’m ready – hit me with it.

DM: They built a tank for us in the water scenes and the filtration system in the tank was transported from the Olympics. It is the very same filtration system and we had a large body of water that was heated. It was 40,000 gallons of water or some ridiculous amount like that and they heated the whole pool. They transported the system to us to use in the tank for the film. I thought that was amazing to have happen.

LL: You got the exclusive Jeri. I didn’t even know that.

JJ: Don’t share that with anyone else from this moment on okay? <laughing> Final question, for all the fans eagerly anticipating the film, when they walk out of the theatre what do you hope they take away from the film?

NS: I definitely want them to feel like a kid whether they are or not. If only to have a couple of hours to just be entertained and indulge themselves. Isn’t that what movies are suppose to be? Shouldn’t there be escapism just for a little while? I love to go and see films because it’s nice to get away from everything that’s going on in the world.

DM: I second that.

LL: I think I just want them to imagine, just imagine. 

DM: It’s escapism absolutely. That’s why I go to the movies.



You heard it here first folks! The Power Rangers want you to gather up everyone that is a fan and even a few that don’t know they are a fan and escape into a world of fun. The action packed film will bring it and I’m thrilled that the Rangers took a moment out of their busy schedules to share their own excitement about the upcoming Saban’s POWER RANGERS.

Saban’s POWER RANGERS will be in theatres March 24th! 

HIDDEN FIGURES Launches on Bluray/DVD and Digital HD This Week!

Jeri Jacquin

On Bluray/DVD and Digital HD this week from director Theodore Melfi and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is a moment in history that finally has come to the surface releasing the HIDDEN FIGURES.

HIDDEN FIGURES is a film that digs deep into the history of NASA on a project that is hugely historical. What also gives these performances such richness is the set design and costuming. Any time I watch a period piece it is important to transport not only me but all viewers into the, pardon the pun, space and time of the story. HIDDEN FIGURES and director Melfi do just that.

I had the pleasure of speaking with director Ted Melfi about HIDDEN FIGURES and what it took to bring that piece of history to the silver screen.

JJ: Good morning Ted, thank you so much for speaking with me today about your film.

TM: You are so welcome Jeri.

JJ: I had never heard this story before, what inspired you to become involved?

TM: When I first read the proposal by producer Donna Gigliotti and had the same reaction as everyone else of ‘How is this possible? There is no way this is a true story.’ I started to dig into it and understand that it was a true story of how NASA had a team of women putting our guys up into space I was floored. I mean I have two daughters and they are still being told in this day and age ‘don’t worry about learning the math’. I find that shocking especially since we are trying to lift them up and show them that they can do anything a man can. This story inspired me and there way no way I could say no too making this film.  

JJ: Especially since it is part of history, a lot of girls were told even when I was younger that math wasn’t important to learn.

TM: It is a shame that we minimized women in Science, Math and Engineering and the truth is they are as good if not more so having the mind for it. 

JJ: I think maybe a little more patience too.

TM: Yes!

JJ: When choosing the cast, what drew you to these three women in particular?

TM: I have been in love with Taraji P. Henson’s work ever since the film BENJAMIN BUTTON and in that film she blew me away. My wife and I saw it together and said ‘who is that actress?’ that was playing Brad Pitt’s mother in the film. I was blown away by her passion, strength and raw power and honestly. Then you watch her in the role of Cookie in the television series Empire and that woman from BEJAMIN BUTTON was now Cookie in Empire. I knew that she had this incredible range in her and I knew she would be the perfect off-beat choice of Katherine Johnson. I wanted to go for it and she was so inspired by the challenge and took it on. She is absolutely amazing and inspiring in this role.

JJ: And Octavia Spencer?

TM: Octavia, I mean there is nothing that I can say enough about her as Dorothy Vaughn.

JJ: I was actually thinking the same thing. I mean what more can you say about her?

TM: I know, Octavia could play absolutely anything you could throw at her and it would be fantastic. She is one of the greatest actresses of our time in my mind. That one was a no brainer. Janelle Monae playing Mary Jackson and we wanted someone different, unique and exciting for this character. Janelle is exciting and passionate and wild and inspired and takes dramatic turns. She always makes wild choices with her work and it shows in this performance as well. 

JJ: It’s the beautiful trio to be sure.

TM: Yes, Taraji brings the quiet introverted brain of the group. Octavia is the foreman and the maternal leader of the group and Mary is the wild child who always has to be reminded that it’s 1961.

JJ: You have Kevin Costner in the mix who seems to be the buffer.

TM: Kevin Costner is one of the most unique men I’ve ever met in my life. He brings that integrity and worth ethic into every thing he does. His character, Al Harrison, represents the glue that kind of holds the teetering space program together. He balances the science and the math along with the business and imaginative people. Back in 1961 in the Jim Crow south is dealing with racial tensions in the workplace. It’s not that he is unaware of what is happening as much as he doesn’t care. He is about the mission. In his mind the mission and the math of what they are trying to do trumps race and sex of a person. 

JJ: I hope that people get that there are so many issues in this film, not just one specific issue. How was that for you as a director covering it all?

TM: It was exciting to be honest with you. To me the 1960s was an explosive time in history. The space race was happening, the Cold War was happening, Civil Rights issue were happening, the Kennedy assassination was happening, Martin Luther King assassination was happening…

JJ: See, that’s what I mean, so many, many issues!

TM: They are all running parallel to each other as well. The Freedom Riders bus protested to Washington D.C. the day before Alan Shepard launched his first mission into space. That should tell you the parallels between these two races and how they basically started to achieve success together in tandem is mind boggling. To pack all of this in one movie was an enjoyable task and to be able to get to say something about who we were and who we are and what we can become as a country when we work together.

JJ: Did you find that you had to do a lot of your own research to allow yourself to get deeper into the film?

TM: Oh yes, I did endless research. I researched every detail of the movie. I dug into a mass amount of books and documentaries about all of this. The Discovery Channel had a series When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions (2008) and I dug as deeply into Civil Rights as I did NASA. I re-watched the PBS series Eyes on the Prize [A documentary that documents the Civil Rights Movement from 1952 to 1965] about how it all occurred. I did tons of photo research as well. In regards to the math I learned everything from the ground up from like trajectory calculations etc. I kind of became a dangerous expert of it all. 

JJ: When you are talking about the mathematical side of it, how did Taraji handle it? I mean she’s writing equations on the board so fast!

TM: Taraji being the mathematician consulted with the same person I did from Rudy Home who received his PhD. out of Morehouse College. He trained Taraji and she memorized the math having so much time with him. Taraji might actually be a genius on her own. What she can do I have not seen that often, memorize something and understand it in a very short period of time. She did it effectively and efficiently in one take.

JJ: I realize there is so much in this film to experience but as the director what would you want viewers to take with them after watching the film?

TM: See the film to be reminded of how great American has always been and how when we work together, regardless of race, sex or creed, there is nothing that this country can not achieve together.

JJ: It’s so very well said and very true, thank you Ted!

This director has a straight vision for this film and with an absolutely stellar cast bringing a story that should be shown in every classroom!

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment brings award-winning global product and new entertainment to DVD, Bluray, and Digital HD. There amazing collection offers fans an opportunity to expand their own home libraries with the best films. To discover what other titles they have please visit www.fox.com. 

The Bluray/DVD and Digital HD include Special Features with It All Adds Up - The Making of Hidden Figures, No Limits – The Life of Katherine Johnson, The Right People for the job, Recreating an Era – The Look of Hidden Figures, A Spiritual Journey – The Music of Hidden Figures, Moving the Decimal – Honoring Katherine Johnson, Deleted Scenes, Hidden Figures: Filming in Georgia, Audio Commentary by Ted Melfi and Taraji P. Henson and a Gallery. 

This is a music see that was nominated for three Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress for Octavia Spencer and Best Adapted Screenplay. The Digital HD allows everyone to watch on all devices which is just a great way to see where ever you are.

In the end – meet the women you don’t know behind the mission you do!


HBO VICE PRINCIPLES 
Talking with Georgia King

Jeri Jacquin

HBO brings class into session with the current release on Bluray, DVD and Digital Download pack of comedy that will test your take on laughter with VICE PRINCIPLES: The Complete First Season.

When the Principal (Bill Murray) resigns from North Jackson High School, the position of principal is being carefully watched by two very different teachers. Neil Gamby (Danny McBride) is a no-nonsense teacher and counselor who isn’t about to change his tight ship ways and Lee Russell (Walton Coggins) who has a frightening side all wrapped up in a well dressed charming teacher. The outgoing principle knows neither of these men is fit to lead any high school.

Taking on the new incoming principal Dr. Belinda Brown played by Kimberly Herbert Gregory, these two are going to turn the school upside down until one of them wins! Fellow teacher Amanda Snodgrass played by Georgia King, is a new teacher who wants to do well at North Jackson High. Her first run in with Gamby doesn’t work out well and gives her an idea of what she is dealing with.

But sometimes weirdness makes strange bedfellows as Amanda tries to understand Gamby and realizes that he isn’t exactly what everyone thinks. The season’s journey for Amanda is filled with twists and the reality that sometimes we are all a little two-sided.

Georgia as Amanda has been busy performing on the small and big screen. I first have to give a shout out to her 2012 performance in one of my favorite hilarious film COCKNEYS VS. ZOMBIES playing the role of hostage Emma. She also played the role of Goldie in the television series The New Normal and Jess in Vicious.

Now, Georgia is the sweet and understanding Amanda Snodgrass in the HBO series VICE PRINCIPLES. I had the complete joy to speak with Georgia about her role, working with McBride, Coggins and Gregory and what it’s been like to be on a show that tests our funny bones.

Jeri Jacquin: Hello Georgia, thank you so much for talking with me today. How are you?

Georgia King: Great, how are you?

JJ: I’m so glad we finally were able to speak today. I have to tell you, I have been singing the praises of your show because it made me laugh so hard.

GK: Really? Oh that’s so great to hear, really it is.

JJ: It could also be that I have a twisted sense of humor so there’s that tidbit. What was your reaction when you got the script?

GK: Actually I was super lucky because I got the entire first season in one email, that’s nine scripts. I sat down, read them and felt like I had been tickled and slapped in the face at the same time and turned upside down. I mean it was wonderful but the show is also mixed with pain, mistakes and a bunch of humanity. It actually moved me as well as making me gasp and laugh. I remember script two when [beeping out spoiler here!] and things like that usually happen in a final episode of a season. I thought ‘oh my this is wild!’ Also this is a wonderful series because they wrote it like a very long movie.

JJ: That’s the other thing I thought was amazing about this show is that you are not allowed to breathe while you are watching it. Everything happens so quickly and it’s like you can’t pick up your jaw because it’s just immediately going to fall again. 

GK: Also, the writing is just so clever and it’s a testament to Danny, the writing team and everyone behind the camera. For me it didn’t feel like a quick 30 minute show comedy because there are so many ups and downs. I mean you are feeling desolate in some episodes and gleeful in others. Its very exciting to do the process and then watch it thinking wow, we did that and it’s powerful for different reasons. It’s kudos to Danny and Jody Hill and David Gordon Green for making that happen.

JJ: Watching it is almost exhausting!

GK: Try being in it <laughing>

JJ: Personally I don’t think I could take an hour show. I truly think 30 minutes is all the jaw dropping hilarity I can take on this level. 

GK: It feels like an hour in the best possible way.

JJ: Your character is Amanda Snodgrass, and don’t take this wrong but is the normal one.

GK: Oh yes, she’s smack in the middle of chaos and I think what is super smart about the set up for my character is that she is a new teacher. She has a lot of ideas of what it will be like and she’s excited and a lot of positivity. The reality of the situation is very different than her expectations and I think that’s really fun to play.

JJ: It’s interesting to what your character grow because even though she doesn’t really lose that new teachers hope, she embraces a little bit of the craziness about the other characters that even they don’t realize about themselves. 

GK: Yes, I agree absolutely. What I think is so wonderful about the show to is that it’s not about the kids but the adults who are behaving worse than the students. Their preoccupation with everyone is their own rivalries and it’s not to do with helping the kids. They are busy being selfish and you realize that Amanda isn’t all put together either. You start to see she has a lot of issues and it was exciting to work with Danny to figure out what it is between Amanda and Gamby, two very different people, and track that relationship. If you want the audience to cheer you on, it is important to figure out what the dynamic of that relationship is. That was a very cool collaborative experience with Danny.

JJ: By the end of the season what I came to understand about Amanda and Gamby is that the reason you both click is because you recognize the same insecurities in each other.

GK: Totally, good, yes you got it!

JJ: A+ for me!

GK: I’m smiling so hard, that’s it! They are two very lonely people who are not where they thought they would be at this time in their lives. They don’t know where they are going and have hopes and dreams filled with insecurities. I think also, and it might be a cliché, but we are the best of ourselves around each other. Amanda and Gamby feel safe and secure together and it shows by Gamby validating Amanda’s writing and supports her. He doesn’t make her feel self conscience about this dream of hers and it’s a beautiful thing – amongst all the terrible things of course.

JJ: We have to talk about working with Danny and Walton, which had to be just a hot mess of fun.

GK: It’s like a dream hot mess of fun. These two men are two of the best human beings I have ever come across, so is Kimberly for that matter. Well, let’s throw in everybody because it’s true. You know how in interviews people say ‘oh this is the best cast I’ve ever worked with’, well, for me it actually was. We work so well together, we play hard and all lived together in Charleston for eight months so we were joined at the hip like a gang. Walton and Danny are incredibly smart men, insanely smart men and incredibly generous and so funny but in different ways. Because of that they complimented one another. I can’t believe I get to work with them.

JJ: I spoke to Kim already and after laughing and talking with her I completely understand how she got the role of Dr. Brown. Now speaking with you it is seriously clear how you were chosen to play Amanda Snodgrass. Both of you are so sweet talking about your cast mates and knowing this is the craziest show ever put together – so whackadoodle that it’s amazing beyond belief.

GK: Oh that’s so cool, thank you for saying that.

JJ: When the season was over I was bummed.

GK: A friend of mine came to the screening and she was so livid that season one ended the way it did. She can’t believe she has to wait a year to find out more. 

JJ: I’m walking over to my Bluray player throwing the box at it saying ‘this is some b.s. right here’. I didn’t want it to be over, I mean I have my guesses about the finale ending but come on!

GK: That makes me so happy. It was one of the most insanely amazing experiences I’ve ever had. I was so excited to work with this group of people that I didn’t realize until episode three that I was working with Danny McBride! I was so overwhelmed working with the group.

JJ: I wanted to really thank you so much for talking to me.

GK: I’m so excited you like the show, it’s awesome.

JJ: I can’t wait to see what Amanda is going to put up with next.

GK: There is so much more to put up with.

JJ: Gamby has a lot more to throw her way and I can’t wait to see what it is! 


I so enjoyed speaking with Georgia (and laughing) today and honestly could have spent the entire afternoon talking about the show VICE PRINCIPLES. King as Amanda gives a sweetness in the middle of madness that is extraordinary. There are so many twists and turns in her character that season two can not come soon enough. 

That being said – I love that fact that she sees something in Gamby that everyone else doesn’t. Yes, it’s nauseatingly sweet and I’m owning it! I’d also like to be a fly on the wall during filming of the next season just to see it all come together.

VICE PRINCIPLES: The Complete First Season is a must-see for everyone with a twisted sense of humor. McBride and Coggins together are a duo that not only bring the best of dark comedy but man they can be disturbing in an awesome way. I love the show and nothing is going to change my mind. It is testing, irreverent, kind of gross, hilarious, jaw-dropping, insane and pretty much a good time.

The series is co-created by Danny McBride and Jody Hill and will have a second season on HBO. This should surprise no one because I’m not about to be happy being left with these two still in high school! I want conflict resolution, okay no I don’t, I want to see Gamby and Russell take another shot at their dream job.

The Bluray and DVD include the Exclusive Bonus Features of Deleted Scenes, Blooper Reel (prepare for serious laughs) and Audio Commentaries with Cast and Crew including Danny McBride, Jody Hill, Walton Coggins and more.

Prepare yourself for everything you think is funny and find out it’s so very much more!

VICE PRINCIPLES Comes to Bluray from HBO: 
Speaking with star Kimberly Hebert Gregory

Jeri Jacquin

HBO brings class into session with the soon to be released Bluray, DVD and Digital Download pack of comedy that will test your take on laughter with VICE PRINCIPLES: The Complete First Season.

As two teachers plot and plan for control of the principle job at North Jackson High School, Neil Gamby (Danny McBride) and Lee Russell (Walton Coggins) are in for a big surprise.

Deciding to hire someone not from the school, the two teachers are introduced to Dr. Belinda Brown played by Kimberly Hebert Gregory. Coming into the school with high expectations, she had no idea that what was about to happen to her. 

From dealing with two adults acting like teenagers, an ex-husband who hasn’t grown up either and sons who test her every move – Dr. Brown is pushed to a breaking point that is nothing short of mind boggling.

I had the grand opportunity to speak with Kimberly about her role as the principal of North Jackson High School and shares with us an in-depth look at her character. 

Jeri Jacquin: Thanks for talking with me today Kimberly, how are you?

KHG: I'm doing great Jeri, thank you.

JJ: I have to tell you that I just fell for the series VICE PRINCIPLES and your character. Please tell me how you got involved with the project?

KHG: It really was an audition where they made a decision about the character early on in the pilot and I was doing another pilot at the time. Somehow it worked out that I got to go in and auditioned with Danny McBride sitting there. I was trying not to freak out; I mean it was a test with the leads! I did walk out feeling 'wow, this is a great moment, pat on the back Kimberly!' I made people who I truly respect in comedy laugh and thought it was a good day. They called back fortunately.

JJ: When you read the script did your jaw drop as much as mine did watching the series?

KHG: It did but for several different reasons. I'm actually reading everyone's part even though I'm Dr. Brown and reading it for the development of my character. I had to think about what was this world like that Belinda was going to be in. Just reading that this was taking place in a school and this was adults behaving this way in a school, I was blown away at how absurd it all seemed. The adults had really become the children.

JJ: It's almost too as if they had their own adult "high school' cliques with the rift between Gamby and Russell.

KHG: Absolutely and I think that may have been part of their desire to write something that mirrors our adults lives whether we can see it or not. We have created and do create these cliques with people who are cool and people who are not, people who deserve our wrath <we are both laughing at this point> and people who do not.

JJ: Your character is also the odd one out of the clique circle because everyone else knows what's going in at the school except Dr. Brown.

KHG: I think that's the sinister nature of it all between these three characters. You have two people who are actively working to take someone out to get a job! That’s the nature of the comedy and the story. I believe that if Belinda even suspected what they were doing, both would have been gone day one. Its worse that Gamby and Russell are both actively and jointly trying to get rid of her. The beautiful flaw in her character is that she is so overwhelmed and consumed with her personal life that even when there are clues that should pull her in get past her because she needs the job for her own sanity. Then she tries to play Gandhi in many situations.

JJ: She has such a trusting nature in ways because lets be honest, you don't expect this behavior from staff. You go in with a great nature that takes such a dark turn.

KHG: She goes in ready to clean house within the first few episodes. You discover that these guys are horrible human beings and somehow perform their jobs leaving her to think they are good people. She has no idea of the personal crisis coming her way when they do what they do to her house. They have put things together in such a way that it's hard for her to know who is doing what. I don't know that Belinda is well meaning all the time, in fact that's why I think I love this character. She had to meet them where they were at some point.

JJ: I have to ask how much fun or not fun filming the last dark scene; I think you know which one I'm talking about.

KHG: I have to be completely honest and say it was my least comfortable, least favorable and least enjoyment. That moment I can not watch. I remember how I felt as Kimberly and I didn't want the world to see me doing that. It took a lot out of me. I remember a day or two before shooting that scene Danny and I were talking and we were waiting to do a scene and he said, 'how is it going?' I mean he is such an amazing guy and such care taken for me as an actor and a person who is new to their world. So when he asked how it was going I said, 'could you just take back that scene?’ He said, 'no we can't cut that!'

JJ: If it helps, what it did for me as a viewer is that you finally see this deep vulnerability. I mean when you are a principal you have to be the strong one, you have to show you can lead and solve problems. In that moment there is a scared vulnerability that is totally relatable as I thought man, I've been there before.

KHG: I knew that too when I read it. I read that scene and thought yep, that’s the one. When we had our meeting and they asked if I had any questions I said 'yep, I have a question'. I wanted to know how the scene was going to be done and it tested my personal insecurities. It was around then that I started to grow right along with Belinda; I mean she had to have that ending. It had to be that, it had to bad. I think part of me not wanting to do it was because I was so protective of my character. I wanted her to be in the world in such a way that we could all look at her and say 'yes, I know how that feels'. I felt like that for her to give up on so much that was going on in her life, drinking again.

JJ: I'm surprised your character didn't start drinking way before that!

KHG: Her whole experience was a difficult one to deal with that’s for sure.

JJ: I know it’s hard to talk about a series or give anything away for those who haven't seen the series yet, but what would you want viewers to know about your character that maybe only you know about her?

KHG: She is such a scared woman. I think that's the biggest thing. She is afraid about everything that is going on in her life, her job and inside she's afraid. That can manifest in so many different ways so for Belinda I think as a woman who works in a male driven position, you are your most vulnerable during all of those insecurities. I think that was the secret to her for me. I knew her and I know we all know her. No matter who you are we all know that place when a part of us says 'what are we doing?'

JJ:Exactly. Thank you so much for talking to me today. You are an amazing woman to have taken on this role and do it to the point of giving your character so many facets that we can all relate to. I appreciate you so much.

KHG: I really appreciate that Jeri; I hope that I answered your questions.

JJ: You did, and it makes it more fun when we can laugh about some of it.

KHG: Absolutely!


VICE PRINCIPLES: The First Season is a show you don’t see coming which makes it all the more worth a marathon watch. The series on Bluray, DVD and Digital Download pack this week from HBO Home Entertainment so might I suggest on this blustery weekend indoors that laughing be back in session.

In the end – we all need someone to look up to!

THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS Stuns on Bluray and a Talk with Director Derek Cianfrance

Jeri Jacquin

On Bluray from DreamWorks Pictures is one of my favorite films of 2016. THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS is a film that is captures everything about being a flawed and frail human being. Surrounded by only the ocean, a lighthouse and miles of nothingness, THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS doesn’t confound with special effects but instead dares us to feel – everything!

Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) is a man looking for isolation after experiencing war. Taking a job as a lighthouse keeper he finds exactly what he needs. In the middle of the ocean stands a lighthouse on an island where he beings the process of inner healing. What he doesn’t expect is to fall in love with the beautiful Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Vikander) who shares his love of isolation.

The two begin their lives at the lighthouse with the hope of having a family. When it becomes clear that Isabel only suffers from trying to have a child, a drifting row boat brings them a miracle baby.

Their life becomes even happier as the years roll like the waves they are surrounded by. While visiting family, Tom sees a mysterious woman named Hannah (Rachel Weisz) who has the potential to change all of their lives

I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with writer/director Derek Cianfrance about what drew him to the film, the process to find the perfect place to film and his hopes for what the audience will take away from the film.

Jeri Jacquin: Thank you for talking the time to talk with me today about the film

Derek Cianfrance: You’re very welcome

JJ: I wanted to first say that THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS is absolutely brilliant on so many levels. It’s beautiful, moving, original and cinematically stunning.

DC: Well thank you I do so appreciate that, my mother-in-law agrees with you.

JJ: That’s because she’s got amazing taste. Can you tell me how you became involved with the film?

DC: Coming off my film A PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (2012) I was looking for an experience doing an adaptation and was reading scripts that I wasn’t making a connection to. I had a meeting with DreamWorks because Steven Spielberg was a big fan of BLUE VALENTINE (2010) so they asked me to come in and talk about what was next for me. There was this pile of books they gave me when I left and the book on top was A Light Between Oceans and I was intrigued. I thought about it cinematically, about a lighthouse keeper and thought it mirrored the experience of being in a movie. A light shining out projecting through the darkness and so I started reading the book. 

JJ: What about the book touched you?

DC: I just felt it strongly had the themes of family, forgiveness, legacy, paternity and relationships that I have been exploring in my own movies. I felt like it had this rock solid narrative that I was really interested in exploring. It took me about a year to get it and I had the book memorized by that point. It was just a total privilege to be working on the film.  

JJ: That is a big part of what I so love about the film. First of all I love the isolation idea of lighthouses and I’m sure many have wondered about that life at one time or another. Even more so is that there isn’t an emotion in this film that doesn’t illicit strong responses. When there is sadness you feel it strongly, when there is moral conflict it is so intense, when there are moments of joy you embrace it and I have to say I was emotionally exhausted by the films end.

DC: For me too! 

JJ: Exactly for you! Was it difficult to find this amazing location? How long did it take you to find it?

DC: It took me about six months to find the location because it is fictitious in the book. I wanted to find a place where I would be isolated with my actors and I started out going to Australia going to every island lighthouse I could find. We were almost ready to shoot off the coast of Tasmania when another film came in. New Zealand was close by and they had an offer for us to bring the film there and the first thing I did was go to every lighthouse island I could find and there were great locations. So one by one it was either the lighthouse was too short or there was an indigenous population of endangered lizards were on the island so no human beings could go there. Finally, the very last place I looked was this place called Cape Campbell and initially I was resistant to go there because it is all about process for my actors wanting them to feel and have an emotional experience. The problem was it was literally hour’s long drive down a dirt road to get to the lighthouse location. 

JJ: Seems as if the location spoke to you in an important way.

DC: Absolutely, I wanted to keep the film very true to the location so when it came time to present it there were questions about how to get a large crew there. That’s when I said I would rather have 10 crew people living at the location than 30 hauling back and forth. We talked it over in great detail how to make it work.

JJ: Did you have to talk with the actors about that decision as well?

DC: Yes, I actually called Michael Fassbender and told him my idea. I explained that living at the shooting location would bring the actors an amazing experience. Being surrounded by the wind, waves, and the isolation that his character is feeling is a major part of telling this story. He told me he’d give me a day to show him how it would all come together and seven weeks later we filmed an amazing story.

JJ: What do you want people who see THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS to take away from the film?

DC: When putting a book like The Light Between Oceans on the screen it is important to make sure every aspect of the story is there. There are of course very strong themes in this film of love and family and those ties that keep us together. I think that the one thing I hope audiences take from the film is that of forgiveness. 

JJ: Congratulations and thank you Derek for bringing such a beautiful film to us all.


I have read the novel by M.L. Stedman and believe director Cianfrance took what I saw in my mind and transformed it straight to screen. Fassbender, Vikander and Weisz bring such depth of emotion laying everything out bare from these broken characters that, at times, it is heartbreaking to watch. In other words, it is everything I want from a story.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to see THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS then pick up your own copy on Bluray and Digital HD. This is a film to be experienced at such a deep level that I highly recommend tissue. 

In the end – love demands everything!

DESIERTO: Speaking with Director Jonás Cuarón

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres this week from writer/director Jonás Cuarón along with Mateo Garcia and STX Entertainment is a film that opens a bigger dialogue regarding those who put their lives at risk in the DESIERTO.

The film tells the story of a group of people trying to cross into the United States led by their coyote. When the truck that is their transportation breaks down, the group has no choice but to begin the long walk to the United States/Mexican border. Warned to stay together, they will face the toughest terrain.

What they don’t count on is Sam (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), an angry man with a rifle and gun who doesn’t like immigrants crossing his land. When he sees a group crossing, Sam doesn’t hesitate to open fire on them.

Not realizing that Moises (Gael García Bernal) and Adela (Alondra Hidalgo) with others have fallen behind, they witness everything. They might have escaped Sam’s wrath if not for his dog who alerts the gunman to their presence.

Now survival takes on a whole new meaning!

I had the opportunity to speak with director and if that name seems a bit familiar well it should. He is the son of GRAVITY director Alfonso Cuarón, the 2014 Oscar Winner for Best Director and wrote the screenplay with his father. 

What most don’t know is that was working on the script for DESIERTO at the same time! Here is the interview discussing the reason behind the film and the choices he made in every aspect of the film.

Jeri Jacquin: Thank you for talking with me today Jonás.

Jonás Cuarón: Oh you are very welcome Jeri, thank you as well.

JJ: What drove you to put this movie together?

JC: It started around 10 years ago when I had already been living in the United States quite some time. I was traveling through Arizona and there were a lot of anti-immigration laws being promoted then. There was this really strong rhetoric going on with hatred toward migrants and foreigners. As a Mexican growing up in the United States, what I truly admired about living here is the cultural diversity. I felt it was something I wanted to talk about and it wasn’t until a few years later that I had the chance to finally write about it for the film. I wanted to do it in this genre with horror because it would connect with audiences in a way they are not use to, connecting in a more visceral way. 

JJ: Working with Mateo Garcia and writing this together, where the ideas in the way to tell the story about the same?

JC: What happened was that I wrote a first draft and showed it to my father [Alfonso Cuarón] and he would make notes for me. When my Dad read it, instead of giving me criticism he said, “I want to make something like this!” He became very intrigued with the idea of an action movie that had very little dialogue and characters but ended up telling a bigger story. When we started putting that concept towards space we started working on GRAVITY. At the time I was invested in GRAVITY but also wanted to work on DESIERTO and I approached Mateo, my cousin, and I admire him as a writer. From then on while I was half of the day working with my Dad on GRAVITY, the other half of the day I was working with Mateo. In that sense it was an interesting back and forth.

JJ: I was going to say that had to be a challenge for you working on the vastness space with GRAVITY while working on the vastness of the desert for DESIERTO.

JC: I always find it very interesting that they both sprang from the same concept and have that as far as similarities but at the same time because the context are so different the stories became completely different. I thought GRAVITY was more of an allegory for the existential issues and DESIERTO is down to earth. Being in the desert specifically between the United States and Mexico it had geo-political undertones.

JJ: I have been out in that section going to Yuma, Arizona and there is that very long section of nothingness. That can be very frightening to look at let alone be out in the middle of.

JC: Definitely, the desert is one of the hottest landscapes I’ve ever been in and even during the shoot and we were lucky to have water and shade. I thought to myself that people really get lost in this landscape. Now that you mention Yuma, ten years ago when I was in Arizona, one of the things that really touched me was a book I found called The Devil’s Highway. It narrates the story of the Yuma 14 which is a case of a group of Mexican that the human traffickers abandoned. I think there was only one survivor of that group who reached Yuma, Arizona. That is the horrifying thing. Obviously I have never read of a Minuteman doing the things like you see in the film, it is just more a metaphor of what hatred can do to a person. Humans die every day in that desert which is why I called the film DESIERTO.

JJ: Tell me about the casting of Gael García Bernal and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. What was it about these two actors that you knew you were seeing Moises and Sam?

JC: As I was writing the script I knew I wanted to work with Gael. I grew up watching his career and admired what he was doing and wanted to work with him. When I did my research and started studying the issue of migration, I noticed that Gael had done a lot of documentaries either as a director, producer or actor in the pieces. He took a journey with a group of migrants all the way from Central American through Mexico to the United States. I knew Gael had a closeness with the subject matter that I knew was going to be very helpful for the film. With Jeffrey, when I started looking for the guy to play the villain I was immediately intrigued by him. He is a big scary guy but on the other side of him he is very charming! Now there is this contradiction that I found interesting. I didn’t wanted Jeffrey’s character to be human, not just a two dimensional bad guy. I was already intrigued but when he came to the meeting I saw he drove a pick up truck and he has tattoos. I mean the ones you see in the film are really his own. During our first meeting he talked to me about his dogs so in that sense he was ready to play that character.

JJ: Also, Alondra Hidalgo as Adela, she carries fear on her face that is so believable.

JC: Adela’s is one of my favorites in the film because I was able to touch on a lot of issues with the character. I really wanted to find a new face, a face that would show the hardship women go through. There is this violence that they live through when they go through the journey, it’s horrific. I saw a casting of Alondra and I knew immediately it was her.

JJ: You brought the right people into a film that does provide a touchy subject matter especially during an election year. Instead you managed to humanize the film.

JC: Thank you, when I started this project ten years ago with Mateo it was to just create a story. I didn’t think back then that one of the criticisms it would face when it came out was that people would say it was a far fetched situation. Now, after ten years and everything that’s happened, I have to wonder how far fetched the scenario truly is.

JJ: Congratulations sir on a job well done, the casting is well done and the cinematography takes the viewer along. The scene where Gael is standing on the hill looking down at cactus and sand to the nothing that went for as far as the eye can see – it was relatable to anyone who has been in the desert themselves.

JC: Thank you Jeri, that means a lot to me and I’m glad you enjoyed the film.


It is not hard to become wrapped up in the storyline when Gael García Bernal and Jeffrey Dean Morgan both deal with their characters demons to a conclusion that will leave everyone talking. DESIERTO won the International Critics’ Award at the Toronto Film Festival and was nominated for Best Film by the London Film Festival.

DESIERTO is gripping, horrifying, and raw bringing out the primal instinct to survive! 

BAD MOMS Goes Rogue on Bluray: Speaking with David Walton

Jeri Jacquin

On Digital HD now and Bluray/DVD November 1st from writer/directors Jon Lucas, Scott Moore and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment comes a comedy that is hilariously relatable when dealing with BAD MOMS. 

Amy (Mila Kunis) is a Mom feeling stretched to her absolute limits with kids Jane (Oona Laurence) and Dylan (Emjay Anthony) who don’t take responsibility for anything, a husband Mike (David Watson) who is absolutely clueless and the perfection demands of PTA President Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate).

When enough is enough, Amy takes a day off to take a drink and meets outspoken Carla (Kathryn Hahn) and meek Mom Kiki (Kristen Bell). That’s when all hades breaks loose and Amy changes up her life. When Gwendolyn and her cohorts Stacy (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Vicky (Annie Mumolo).

Amy’s life changes include making her family responsible, finding a fun interest in Jessie (Jay Hernandez) and taking on Gwendolyn for the PTA Presidency. Oh yea, it’s on!

I have the fantastic opportunity to speak with David Walton who plays clueless husband Mike in the film BAD MOMS. We speak about the cast, being a clueless husband and the fun in playing the role.


Jeri Jacquin: Hello David, thanks for talking with me this afternoon.

David Walton: You as well

JJ: Other than the obvious, what drew you to play this character?

DW: I’ve always loved playing despicable people and do things I can’t do in real life. I won’t say I’m despicable in the film, more like an idiot husband! I think in a weird way men want to be able to say and defend themselves the way he does in this movie. Also I think they want to behave they way he does in the film. There is a part of them that instinctually want to do that but they know better [laughing]. This guy just doesn’t know any better. I actually thought he was hilarious. When we were shooting my character did a lot more weird stuff that wasn’t in the movie but is on the Bluray. I think men believe my character is hilarious and women are either liking the humor or are appalled. I’ll leave it to the professors to tell me why that is.

JJ: How were you approached to play the role of Mike?

DW: The classic Hollywood tale! I was given the script and told I had a 10:30 a.m. appointing. I read the lines and had my wife, who is also an actor, read with me and she said, ‘oh you are going to get this!’ 

JJ: Did she say that because there was something there that was relatable for the two of you? 

DW: Yes, she heard me read it and she is always concerned at how well I play these kinds of people [we are both laughing at this point]. When we met I was playing these kinds of characters so she knows its all just in fun. 

JJ: I guess that’s the great part of what you do, it’s a chance to let the crazy escape a little hidden in characters.

DW: Seriously, the best part of what I do is getting to do all those things and I think most actors love that part of the job as well. If you want to be a law abiding citizen and not have people hate you then it’s a good idea to just do this stuff acting.

JJ: And be a living husband as well.

DW: Absolutely.

JJ: This is such a huge cast, how is that for you to be surrounded by all these women?

DW: I actually felt honored. You know there are only a few guys in the film so I felt very honored to be one of them. I grew up with four sisters around me so I always feel very comfortable in those situations. It was very nice and they couldn’t have been sweeter. I’m so happy that all these extremely talented women don’t rely on male stardom to do well. I was just so happy that the movie did so well. It’s just wonderful women in Hollywood.

JJ: There are so many women in the film, can you say you learn anything comedically about them that you didn’t know before?

DW: They are all so talented and I guess I didn’t realize how funny they all were. Kathryn, Kirsten and Mila are just so amazing. I had worked with Annie Mumolo before on a show called About A Boy so I knew how out-of-control hilarious she was. At this level, it is one of the great pleasures of being able to work on an upper tier film because the people involved are so talented. This is a difficult business to make it and the people that do have extraordinary gifts and work ethics and you hope it rubs off on you!

JJ: You have been in some major shows yourself such as Masters of Sex, New Girl and as you said About A Boy and in the film POINT BREAK. Give yourself a little credit too!

DW: I feel very fortunate and I sometimes take stock and wonder how the heck I got where I am. There is that itch of wanting more so sometimes you have to temper yourself and look at the work already there. I would like to do roles that are different and there are genres of television-film that I would also like to do. Hopefully that will all come to fruition.

JJ: You have played so many diverse characters and done both comedy and drama, which is your favorite?

DW: I just did Masters of Sex which is a drama and even dramas have light moments. It was weird because it is a different mindset. I think that I will always come back to comedy because that’s where I’d inherently like to be. I definitely am into the drama world now as well. I’ll be searching for those types of roles.

JJ: Were you raised around a comedic atmosphere?

DW: Just like everyone, my dad is funny with a good sense of humor. I mean I am one of seven kids so there’s that.

JJ: Ouch!

DW: Right? I’ll tell my Mom you said that.

JJ: I’m second of five, I get it!

DW: I just always had a goofball, goofy quality and instinct. That’s where I like to rest but I’m very interested in the deeper layers of the human condition. Obviously humor is a part of that but there are circumstances where humor isn’t appropriate.

JJ: Masters of Sex, although a dramatic show does have it is light hearted moments. 

DW: All good drama does and there is humor in anything. Ideally you are doing something with some gravitas and part of the power comes from that.

JJ: With BAD MOMS, besides the obvious comedy, if you are explaining the film to someone how would you put it?

DW: It is a laugh riot, R-rated for language and subjects in the film but I think the reason it resonated with so many people who went to see the film several times is because there is truth to it. There is this story that is not being told about how hard it is to be a woman in this modern day with raising kids and what is required of this enormous job. I think it’s an unfair world for a modern day mother and I think this movie kind of makes light of it but touches on it in a way that resonates with everyone. That’s what I want people to take away from it. I mean laugh your ass off!

JJ: I couldn’t agree with you more. I do want to know from you, what was your favorite scene to do?

DW: I think in a weird way the therapy scene is where I laughed the most but the scene that stays with me the most is when I come back after she kicks me out and I’m eating the cereal. I don’t know why, may I just like eating cereal on camera. We did so many takes of it. I mean her line is ‘what are you doing here’ and I spend 20 seconds just eating cereal. That’s the kind of weird stuff I like to do. Of course you can’t have 20 seconds of dead silence and it didn’t make it in but I had a blast doing it. I mean here I am an obvious husband coming back and having no concept of the severity of everything he’s done. Of course he’s trying in his idiotic way to get back in the good graces of his wife.

JJ: Your character resonated with my daughter because she says it’s just like her husband!

DW: That’s hilarious. I mean lets be honest, I guarantee you that part of the instinct of most guys is to behave in this lazy way of staying a little bit of an idiot. I tried to get that and just be that inspiration for those guys who are hanging on to their idiocy. 

JJ: We should make you a cape – Super Mike!

DW: Yes, Super Mike!

JJ: Thank you for your time, BAD MOMS is one of my favorite films this year.

DW: Oh thanks so much Jeri and stay cool!



I love it when an actor not only enjoys the film he’s made but reminds me to ‘stay cool’. BAD MOMS is an absolutely hilarious comedy filled with every reason to watch it again and again because laughter has been known to make me miss a thing or two. 

This is such an amazing cast of characters that bring reality and comedy together! BAD MOMS is being released on Bluray/DVD/Digital HD November 1st filled with Deleted Scenes, a Gag Reel along with Cast & Mom Interviews: A collection of intimate moments between Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Christina Applegate, Jada Pinkett Smith and Annie Mumolo and their moms. 

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has just added an amazing film to their library and making it available for us all to experience and re-experience in our own home theatres. There are films of every genre available from scary to drama to family films. For more of what they have to offer please visit www.uphe.com.

Kunis as Amy is hilarious and she reminded me when I went “rogue mom” a time or two! Hahn as Carla is that friend who talks us into doing things we probably wouldn’t do normally and I love her character for it! Bell as Kiki is meek and observant and both of those things lead her finding a voice. Applegate as Gwendolyn is smart, impeccably dressed and has a mouth worse than the Bad Mom group yet she is still perfection in this role. Smith as Stacy and Mumolo as Jane are both strictly well dressed ‘yes’ Mom’s.

This is the perfect Bluray for a party so gather up Mom’s of all ages with bad food, bad drink and bad funny bones to reminisce and laugh with BAD MOMS on Digital HD now and Bluray/DVD November 1st.

In the end – party like a Mother!
DEEPWATER HORIZON is Stunning: Talking with Peter Berg


Jeri Jacquin

This week in theatres Summit Entertainment brings director Peter Berg’s film about the PB oil disaster and the courage of those aboard DEEPWATER HORIZON.

In April of 2010, a drilling rig known as DEEPWATER HORIZON owned by BP oil was a floating rig that could travel to any spot for drilling. Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) boarding the rig along with Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell), and Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez). 

With questions already looming about the readiness of the rig, Harrell has questions for the execs already on board. Already in conference are Vidrine (John Malkovich) and Jimmy calls them out on the inspection that seems to have been bypassed. Mike isn’t happy asking Caleb Holloway (Dylan O’Brien) who is working the pipes if the inspection has been done. 

Agreeing to a pressure test, everyone on the rig waits as the first test fails. It is Vidrine who consistently tries to out-talk the crew on what BP is expecting from the rig and there is nothing wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth when later in the evening the earth decides to revolt against the rig. 

The explosion brings out courage of the many to save lives!

Director Peter Berg has taken the story of Deepwater Horizon and made it into a film that tells the story bringing Mike Williams to the forefront as a hero. This isn’t the first film Berg has brought to the screen with an intense story about courageous individuals. In 2013 he directed the film LONE SURVIVOR about Marcus Luttrell (played by Mark Wahlberg) and his team on a mission to capture a Taliban leader. In 2017 has the film PATRIOTS DAY will be released about the Boston Marathon bombing and the city-wide manhunt for the terrorists.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Peter Berg about DEEPWATER HORIZON and what pushes him to tell stories of extraordinary people and events. 


JJ: Thanks for talking with me today Peter.

PB: Of course Jeri, it’s my pleasure.

JJ: Tell me what interested you in wanting to take on this project?

PB: There was a 60 Minutes piece about Mike Williams and it really just got to me. I thought it was a great story and it spoke to me. 

JJ: Did you realize the monumental scope of the making this film when you decided to go ahead and make the film?

PB: I did, I knew it was going to be a challenging movie and I felt absolutely ready for it. I was actually really excited to get involved and get it going.

JJ: Did you already have a cast in mind?

PB: Mark [Wahlberg] was already to go and we knew each other which was obviously part of the reason I was excited about the film.

JJ: He and Kurt Russell together are so fantastic and amazing in the film. Was Kurt some one else you knew right away needed to be in the film?

PB: Not right away but pretty quickly I thought of Kurt. I am a really big fan of his.

JJ: John Malkovich as well? I know I’m a huge fan.

PB: Absolutely, same here, I am a big fan of his work as well.

JJ: He is so amazing, his accent is pretty good.

PB: Perfect right?

JJ: Building the set, it must have caused a little bit of a shock to put together something so spectacular?

PB: It was fun! 

JJ: Really?

PB: Yes, because we got to big a real big set. We got to be kids with Lincoln Logs but bigger!

JJ: That’s a pretty massive Lincoln Log Peter.

PB: Yes it was. It was a massive Lincoln Log and fun to do at the same time.

JJ: I was surprised to see you in it as well, which is a nice bonus.

PB: Thank you, it was actually fun to do it.

JJ: You took on the film and started putting it all together, did you see it was going so big. I mean you have your human characters but now you have this big other character (the rig) to control. How did you manage the double duty?

PB: It was fun too. Making movies is always super challenging and for me it is getting myself fired up and getting excited for those challenges. The set was a big challenge and executing it in New Orleans with the heat and the water and you have to be up for it. As long as you are I find it all works out pretty well.

JJ: The storyline is so intense and you didn’t sugar coat anything?

PB: My grandmother Ruth said ‘shoot straight and don’t sugar coat’.

JJ: I was wondering how you were going to get around the BP situation and thank you for being straight with the story telling.

PB: BP messed up big time and you have got to be accurate with the facts if you are going to point the finger at some of BP’s behavior.

JJ: The scene with Russell and Malkovich when they are doing the pressure test, I have to say their interaction felt so brutally honest.

PB: I appreciate that. My grandmother also said honest is the best policy so I went with that. 

JJ: I think that is what makes this film bigger than just the action, that you were telling the story honesty. Now, dealing with all that mud and oil, how did you make that happen?

PB: We had this guy name Burt Dalton who is a physical production designer for films and he brought in all these gallons of mud and oil and this incredible pumping system. He was able to get heavy pressure and throw that mud around. I had my son and his friends from high school on summer break and made them clean it all up.

JJ: Excellent! 

PB: It’s true!

JJ: It looks like the cast took a beating. You’ve got fire, mud, falling metal, water – that’s pretty intense. How long did it take you to shoot the film?

PB: It was done in sixty days or around that. It didn’t take as long as you might think, we moved pretty quickly.

JJ: Working with such Malkovich, Russell and Wahlberg who you have worked with before. How is that for you as a director to look at that cast and think ‘wow’.

PB: I look at everything and say wow! I like my cast, crew, getting to meet Mike Williams and the men and women who were on that rig. It is all a process that I like very much and I’m very grateful to have participated in all of it.

JJ: I’ve seen interviews with Mike Williams, what an amazing person.

PB: I’ll say.

JJ: You seem to really enjoy doing films working with amazing people.

PB: I like non-fiction and I’m at a point in my life where I meet people who have gone through extraordinary experiences like Mike Williams and Marcus Luttrell (from the film LONE SURVIVOR) or some of the FBI agents, police and citizens of Boston (coming soon PATRIOTS DAY) who were involved in the hunting down of those who hurt people in the Boston Marathon, those are the stories that excite me. 

JJ: It gives you an opportunity tell those truths.

PB: It gives me so much inspiration. You spend time with the people who went through it and obviously it’s a more authentic experience and gives me access to that part of the process that inspires me. Every director is different and some like science fiction, I like non-fiction. 

JJ: Finally Peter, what do you want the audience to walk out of the theatre understanding about DEEPWATER HORIZON?

PB: There is never any one thing. I think certainly one of the things that resonates with me is that there were eleven people who died on that rig because of corporate bullying. They could have all run and jumped into life boats and they all would have been back with their kids. They did their jobs when a lot of other people like the executives who got off that rig. These working class men stayed on that rig and they died, it cost them their lives. To me that is worth knowing.

JJ: That means everything, thank you Peter. In DEEPWATER HORIZON Peter, it is nothing like I expected yet everything I want in good and true storytelling well done sir!

PB: Thank you Jeri, thank you so much.



Once again Director Peter Berg brings a true story to the screen and does it in a big way. From set design to casting, everything about the film is big. That being said, that is only a fraction of a moment thought compared to the truly amazing story that is told shooting straight from the hip.  

Not only did Berg tell the story of DEEPWATER HORIZON, but he took the time to explain it all. The performances of Wahlberg, Russell and the rest of the cast is so well done that it kept myself, as well as the screening audience totally engrossed from start to finish. This is an epic movie going experience!

In the end – inspired by the true story of real life heroes!


​ICE GIRLS and Once Around the Rink 
Talking with Natasha Henstridge

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to DVD and Digital HD this October from director Damian Lee and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is the dance of ICE GIRLS.

Mattie Dane (Michaela du Toit) is a young girl who is forced to put her ice skating dreams on hold when she takes a fall during a tournament. When Mom Kelley (Lara Daans) moves to the family to a new town and share a home with Aunt Ginger (Sheila McCarthy), Mattie discovers the local ice rink. 

Heather (Taylor Hunsley) is on the ice practicing for her next tournament. Not happy with peeping eyes, Mom Rose (Natasha Henstridge) asks rink owner Mercury (Elvis Stojko) to make Mattie leave.

That’s when a friendship between Mattie and Mercury as he encourages her to get back on the ice. Knowing there is no way the family can afford training; the two come to an understanding. At the same time Mattie and Heather become good friends much to the dismay of Rose and Mattie befriends Darcy (Shane Harte).

Mercury also finds a sports doctor that can help Mattie and she begins training on the ice. Finally feeling comfortable in her new situation, it all begins to change when secrets and stories come to the surface, friendships are tested and families learn what is important.

Du Toit as Mattie portrays such a strong young girl dealing with many home issues. Her love of the ice is something that can’t keep her away and although scared, Du Toit gives Mattie grace. This young lady carried the film with the same smoothness as her skating.

Hunsley as Heather is a young woman with issues brought on by the stress of expectations. Bringing it all forward is done so well and with some humor in the awareness. 

Daans as Mom Kelley struggles to keep the family together with the help of McCarthy as Aunt Ginger. Harte as Darcy is a young man with his own family problems and lets Mattie into his life and a wonderful friendship begins. Stojko as Mercury sees something in Mattie and wants to do whatever he can to bring back the champion he knows she is.

Henstridge as Rose is a mother who wants the best for her child but has an intense way of showing it. Putting all her focus on Heather, sometimes Mom forgets that the young skater needs the guidance and love of a mother and not the pressure of a sports-parent! Is there a chance for change?  

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment brings award-winning global product and new entertainment to DVD, Bluray, and Digital HD. There amazing collection offers fans an opportunity to expand their own home libraries with the best films. To discover what other titles they have please visit www.fox.com. 


I had the opportunity to speak with Natasha Henstridge about the film ICE GIRLS. She shares insight about her character and what we all could learn from the storyline!

Hi Natasha, I’m so glad we could talk to day.

Hi Jeri, me too.

I saw the film and I have to ask you, what made you decide to want to take on this character?

People know me as being such a really mean and cruel person and I never play that in a movie so I thought it would be a great opportunity to do it [we are both laughing]. 

Yes, most of the roles you play you aren’t so…well…nasty? 

What is so ironic that for years I wanted to play something different. I have played that tough and hard character and I needed to change it up. I’ve played a lot of Moms and done family movies being sweet. I thought I’d turn and go the other way. The way Damian Lee described the character Rose he had to convince me to say and do all these horrible things! I thought it would be cool being a sort of Cruella de Ville or a high pressured Dance Moms with the crazy competitive thing. I actually thought it would be a lot of fun. There is humor in it all and Rose just can’t help herself being that controlling mother.

It’s funny you mention Dance Moms because you are a mix of the Moms and Miller, like you rolled that up to make your character. You made me laugh a lot.

Thank you, that’s fun! There were moments where I felt a little silly but the stuff where I am teasing her about her weight and junk food I thought it was so hard to do. Then I talked to Taylor’s [Hunsley] Mom and I said some of this is far fetched right? She told me ‘not at all’ because the mothers really do put their children under a lot of pressure. It was interesting to talk to her about it.

I wondered if you had looked into that because there are so many issues these girls faced and the way the film handled it was well done.

Exactly, at points I thought that it was overkill but once I learned there were Moms that were far, far worse it helped. I have children and I’ve seen them play sports and there are those parents that take things a little to far. Kids have their dreams and aspirations but sometimes the parents get carried away.

Isn’t that exactly what your character in the film does? Goes a little too far?

Yes, exactly, living vicariously and putting undue pressure on her daughter for all the wrong reasons. 

What did you think of the script when you first read it?

Having been a fan of figure skating, my Mom and I loved watching figure skating. I’m Canadian so that’s par for the course and although I didn’t figure skate I would go to the rink a lot as a kid. I think it is such a beautiful sport. When I found out that the film actually had two professional figure skaters [Hunsley and du Toit] who were going to act I knew this was going to be fun. I thought it was sweet and nice messages in the film.

It is not that Damian beats you over the head with messages; he leads the viewer to it.

Definitely, it is a family film for sure and you get a sense of where it is going seeing each of the characters have their own life realizations. There is a bit of growing up through the girl’s process and even my character does as well knowing she’s being too hard on her daughter. My character Rose learns from her own child and it happens all the time that parents do. 

Your character goes back to being how I’ve seen you over the years which is sweet.

Which I really am! [laughing]

Maybe that’s why watching you play this role is so entertaining because you portrayed Rose as a hard woman who had to go through her own difficulties to be just a cool person again.

Absolutely, I mean there were comedic elements which is always fun to play as well. 

You did it very well. Working with du Toit and Hunley, it had to be interesting to watch them go from the ice to the screen?

Yes, Damian really did a good job in choosing these girls watching them go from skaters to carrying a film as actresses. They did such a beautiful job. The girls did a lot of their own skating stunts. Watching Michaela fall time and time again in her scene I thought ‘these girls are tough’. They worked so hard being at the rink at 4 in the morning and at practice before we had a long day of filming. It was pretty incredible to watch their amazing work ethic, very impressive.

I didn’t know that the girls were professional skaters?

Isn’t that something? When you watch them perform it seems so natural. They took to acting with the same work ethic as their skating. They did the best they could and it is apparent in the film.

What would you like viewers to take away from the film?

We do learn a lot from our children and to learn to let go of control and focus on more important things, which is the journey not the destination, and focus on the more important things in life. There are so many connections to be made in life and we need to enjoy that more.

Thank you so much Natasha!

There are so many lessons from the film along with the moments of comedy that Natasha brought to the film. That’s what makes family films so important, especially now in this fast paced world where spending time together seems harder to do. We need family, friendships, learning and love to bring us closer together and stronger.

ICE GIRLS is a fantastic opportunity to get together with a bowl of popcorn and couch-cuddle time to watch beautiful skating, a story that is filled with messages and comedy.

In the end – dare to dream!

ALL THE WAY with LBJ 
and a Talk with Director Jay Roach

Jeri Jacquin

On Bluray this week from director Jay Roach and HBO Home Entertainment is a look inside a history time has forgotten with ALL THE WAY.

It is a day locked into American history when President John F. Kennedy was murdered by an assassin’s bullet. Swiftly, Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson is taken back to Washington D.C. and on the flight he is sworn in as the 36th President of the United States.

Stepping into the Oval Office, President Johnson (Bryan Cranston) takes in his surroundings. The weight is heavy knowing that he is following in the footsteps of a beloved President yet also knowing what he does from that moment will define who he is as a leader. First Lady Bird Johnson (Melissa Leo) is also keenly aware of what has happened and becomes the strength he needs. 

Action is all but immediate as the issues before him are the passage of the Civil Rights Act under the watchful eye of Martin Luther King Jr. (Anthony Mackie). Being disappointed before by politicians, King is deliberately careful in what he needs to do in working with the President.

Already up in arms are the Southern Democrats, especially when Johnson announces his plans. President Johnson knows that he needs V.P. Hubert Humphrey (Bradley Whitford) in the fold to reach the angered statesmen. From Senator Russell (Frank Langella) to Rep. Howard Smith (Ken Jenkins) to the every suspicious J. Edgar Hoover (Stephen Root), the deliberate twists and turns that this President makes are essential. 

Wanting his legacy to mean something, President Johnsons War on Poverty and the out of control Vietnam War keep him fighting for the American people.

I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with director Jay Roach to not only hear about his experience in making ALL THE WAY, but his own passions about what is means in this election year and the historical underestimating of President Lyndon B. Johnson.

JJ: Hello Jay, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. How are you besides doing tons of these interviews?

JR: Hello Jeri I’m doing fine and really I don’t mind at all. I think LBJ was an interesting person really. How are you?

JJ: Not bad thanks. This piece is about the part of history that I love so I’m going to jump right in since you made that comment about LBJ, is that what drew you to the project?

JR: Absolutely, I saw the play a couple of time and was already working with Bryan [Cranston] on the film TRUMBO. I grew up around the time that LBJ was President and unfortunately most people, and I was one of them; think of him in terms of how unpopular he was during and after the Vietnam War. That was definitely part of who he was but when I was reminded of the incredible amount of things he did as President and teaming up with Congress and Civil Rights leaders, he changed out country for the better in dozens and dozens of ways. Also, Medicare and Medicaid, public education, the Arts and an unbelievable amount of constructive legislation all while providing jobs and paying for it. We didn’t have a crazy deficit! LBJ was as presidential as a person can be which is a great thing and to have the Bluray out now during the election calls to mind what is presidential? What does that mean to be presidential? Who is really qualified to be President and what does leadership look like? You watch LBJ the first couple of years of his presidency and you will see what being presidential means.

JJ: It is extremely difficult to follow in the footsteps of someone like President John F. Kennedy, and you show that very well in the scene where he walks into the Oval Office and he is just standing there taking everything in. Even down to the desk he was just looking.

JR: He was definitely an underdog and people made fun of him being from the South and being a Texan and coming from a poor education. He went to a Texas Teachers College instead of a school like the other Ivy Leaguers but he believed in the power of American’s teamed up. We team up and we get things done. In the best situations we use government to get things done. He believed government was best teaming up to get things done, to accomplish a higher quality of life and to rid the country of injustice as in the Jim Crow Laws. He believed in that. To me that is really important to be reminded that it does take faith in this system and it’s easy to tear it down. One of my favorite quotes in the film is that ‘any jackass can tear a house down but it takes a carpenter to build one back up’. He was a carpenter but he had faith in building things together, faith in being a team when it could have been easier to divide us by fear and hate. I was saying that LBJ is the anti-Trump because he had faith and knew how to get things done for people. I think LBJ would look at Trump as an amateur. 

JJ: He had that Texan good-ole-boy way of speaking and I think that led people to believe that he wasn’t a smart man.

JR: He could sneak up on them. They did dismiss and underestimated him. I think you are right. I think it’s a good observation that he was so sort of every-man-ish in certain ways because he came from the middle of the country and he was funny. That’s one of the things I love of Bryan Cranston’s portrayal is that he reminds us of how funny LBJ was. We got to listen to hours and hours of tapes of LBJ and the phone calls and such and he was actually hilarious. He could tell pretty dirty jokes and he could also drive you around in a car drinking, drive to fast and act like it’s going to crash in a lake only to discover it was an amphibious car! He would do that to then have a serious conversation once the ice was broken saying things like ‘now how do we get the Civil Rights Act passed?’ That’s what I loved about his character.

JJ: Because Congress thought of him at a certain way, for him to come out and flip the tables on them that said ‘look, I know you’re concerned because it is still the good ole boys club…’ but he needed to dodge and weave to get things done.

JR: That’s what I think is sad that people devalue experience in politics. He knew that’s how you got things done. He had been a Congressman and in the US House of Representative for a dozen years and a Senator for a dozen years so he knew how to get people team up and accomplish things. That took dozens of years of experience to know how to make that happen. LBJ was a pro and I think we need pros in leadership and again that’s why I’m happy the film is coming out on Bluray. We were all committed to show what government can accomplish when people team up and work together. Robert Schenkkan adapted his play and that is a huge part of the story – what you do with power when you get it. It’s how you build your strengths and knowledge to actually achieve things and he sets a great example of what presidential looks like. In those early years he stacks up with any of our presidents.

JJ: I would have to think that every time Bryan Cranston walked on set jaws dropped. It had to be freaky!

JR: It was pretty incredible to see. We saw it in phases with our great make-up person Bill Corso and we were working on wardrobe with Daniel Orlandi down to getting the glasses right and hair. When it all came together for the camera test it was astounding. I had seen Bryan already on Broadway and he had achieved almost a perfect match but because he didn’t have the full prosthetic makeup, when he came out it was amazing. Bryan’s talent and connection with the soul of LBJ, he was channeling him absolutely. One of the people who knew LBJ back then, Larry Temple said he wasn’t seeing a great interpretation of LBJ but felt like he was actually with LBJ. That’s a compliment.

JJ: It’s not just the instant reaction but the mannerisms but the way he looks, or sits or staring out a window, you forget it’s Bryan Cranston.

JR: Bryan has let himself fall away at that point and let LBJ take over in every way. He is one of the great actors of this era. It’s a fantastic screenplay by Schenkkan but there is something truly extraordinary about what Bryan can do. I felt lucky to get to watch it all and having him go up against actors like Frank Langella and Anthony Mackie as MLK and Bradley Whitford as Humphrey? He is just surrounded by fantastic talent and had people just as committed about channeling their characters.

JJ: I had to smile thinking that Frank Langella and Bradley Whitford have had their term at the White House so they fit right into this piece. 

JR: Yes, Frank had played Nixon in FROST/NIXON and Bradley was on The West Wing. You definitely get the sense of actors teaming up because there are some scenes where they go after each other but it’s all in the story of this incredible president.

JJ: Choosing Anthony Mackie to portraying Martin Luther King, there is such a quietness about him. Most characters portraying MLK are usually boisterous with the feeling of the speeches. Mackie takes the introspective side of King in this piece just as LBJ has those moments of introspection.

JR: They had a lot to get done together and LBJ could never have passed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act without King’s support and collaboration. They weren’t perfectly in sync because King didn’t trust LBJ because of the leaders in the past. Even JFK didn’t deliver fully on the promise. So watching them try to figure out how they can trust each other was a really great thing. Anthony made a great choice and a wise choice like you were saying of trying to capture the quiet strength of the man because we already know his oratorical strength. He chose to try to get at that quiet strength and there are some interview available where King is quietly describing what matters to him and how he is going to go at it. Anthony really studied those and I believe he did a beautiful job capturing the thoughtful and powerful King.

JJ: The frustration level of having to start over with another president, which would make any of us frustrated. He gets to that but he does it more in an introspective way rather than combative way.

JR: I do appreciate you saying that. Just knowing with the Emmy Nominations, I mean Melissa Leo does such an amazing job as First Lady Bird Johnson.

JJ: Absolutely!

JR: Lady Bird was an incredibly strong woman who knew how to get things done herself in a quiet way. LBJ was a flawed man and a very tough guy to live with but she accomplished a tremendous amount in her time as First Lady and set a new tone for what First Ladies could accomplish. She was the first to have her own office, staff and a very orchestrated situation that allowed her to do things like beautifying the highways. She was his collaborator in every way. I thought Melissa just nailed that strength mixed with the Southern charm and loving wife. My parents are both from Texas so I understood what that called for. It was personal for me to get that spirit right.

JJ: Yes, congratulations on all the Emmy Nominations, that’s amazing.

JR: Thank you, thank you very much. It is hard for political films to get recognition so we are so pleased to be a part of the conversation again.

JJ: The nominations are not just for one or two categories but instead cover such a vast part of what you all have accomplished. That’s the amazing part of what you have brought together, it’s a culmination of things.

JR: I appreciate that. There was so much talent on our team and I’m glad the film got noticed and I obviously thought the screenplay was incredible being based on the play from Robert Schenkkan [who is also one of the executive producers], the makeup and the music. We are really happy for the show and again, in this election time, that the Bluray gets another shot at it of raising peoples awareness of what it means to be the President of the United States. Now is a good time to be talking about LBJ.

JJ: This would be amazing to be played for students.

JR: I’m actually giving a little speech for an organization called Facing History and their commitment is making historical materials available to teachers and school kids. I’m glad you said that because I am hoping there is a way for it to be made available in some sort of edited version. It gives everyone a chance to be part of the conversation that asks the questions of what it means to be a president and how teaming up helps us get things done. It’s harder now trying to find people who believe in leadership and in government and that we are all trying to help get things done. 

JJ: Finally, if you could, what would you want the readers to know about this piece in that it is not only important but also relevant to us now?

JR: This movie is about what a truly presidential person does with power when he gets it. He worked his whole life to get to this point but always knew that he wanted to do something with it. He says about getting the Civil Rights Act passed, ‘if I can’t use my power to right a horrible injustice, then what is the presidency for?’ That is sums up LBJ and to watch his very early years and see what we can do as a nation when we team up and put our faith in our system to get things done. He believed in that more and is such a fantastic topic of conversation for where we are now in this presidential election. What is leadership? What is presidential? I do think those early years of LBJ couldn’t be more timely. He did so much from November of 1963 to the reelection and he was on fire!

JJ: I enjoyed every moment of the film and appreciate your time.


Cranston as LBJ has taken a character that has been in the shadows for so long and given is a light that is incredibly bright. There isn’t a moment that is not riveting, jaw dropping, moving and motivating and I believe director Roach may be correct in saying that there was some serious LBJ channeling going on here. It is a performance worthy of all the praise Cranston is receiving.

Leo as the First Lady epitomizes the look and feel of a Southern woman of the times. From the perfection of her appearance to the ability to remain calm under pressure, Leo’s red lipstick smile was disarming – which I’m sure was the First Lady’s intention each and every time.

Mackie as Martin Luther King, Jr. took the quiet rode down his characters path. Having been disappointed by broken promises, it is not surprising that he would be on guard with the new President. It is in Mackie’s moments of thoughtfulness and calm that are the most impressive scenes.

Whitford as V.P. Humphrey seemed like a man certainly caught in the middle. It is difficult to support your Commander-in-Chief on one hand while having the Southern Leadership breathing down one’s neck! Quite the performance. Langella as Senator Russell has a voice and stare that scares me more than anything. There is such power in his facial features that he made is all seem effortless.

ALL THE WAY brings out a stellar cast that absolutely need to be recognized with Marque Richardson as Bob Moses, Aisha Hinds as Fannie Lou Hamer, Todd Weeks as Walter Jenkins, Mo McRae as Stokely Carmichael, Spencer Garrett as Walter Reuther, Tim True as Deke Deloach, Bruce Nozick as Stanley Levison, Ned Van Zandt as Senator Fullbright, Ray Wise as Sen. Dirksen, Eric Pumphrey as Dave Dennis, Dohn Norwood as Ralph Abernathy and Joe Morton as Roy Wilkins.

HBO Home Entertainment brings ground breaking programs in Bluray, DVD and Digital HD for the entire world to enjoy. GAME OF THRONES now joins those of us with media libraries that also include THE SOPRANOS, TIRLS, THE WIRE, ENTOURAGE, BAND OF BROTHERS and TRUE BLOOD. HBO Home Entertainment can be found in more than 70 territories around the world and continue to expand!

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give ALL THE WAY four and a half tubs of popcorn out of five. Writer Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way stage production premiered in 2012 and in 2013 it ran at the American Repertory Theater in Boston with Bryan Cranston starring as LBJ. In 2014 the show came to Broadway and Cranston received a Tony Award for his performance. It is perfection that Cranston once again takes on the role for the HBO film.

As a history lover, ALL THE WAY is just perfection. From it’s casting to the cinematography, costuming, soundtrack and performances, if you want people to believe what they are watching then excel in all the above. That’s what director Roach has accomplished, putting us all into a time machine and whisking us back to see what the history books left out.

His ability to bring the story of President Johnson who is sandwiched between the beloved John F. Kennedy and the infamous Richard Nixon is getting his own shot at, as director Roach calls it, ‘being presidential’ and you’ll be educated for taking the time to see what has been sublimely put together.

In the end – he was in it all the way!


​HELL OR HIGH WATER
A Conversation with Director David Mackenzie and star Gil Birmingham

Jeri Jacquin

This week in theatres comes the film HELL OR HIGH WATER and I am on the dusty trail of being excited about it. As you can read from my review of the film I couldn’t be more pleased with the direction, story and casting of this unique film. 

Director David Mackenzie has brought a modern western to the screen filled with the themes of outlaws versus lawmen but the story of the outlaws is much more than being ‘bad guys’. This English director is responsible for films that cause conversations with such films as YOUNG ADAM in 2003, PERFECT SENSE in 2011 and 2013’s STARRED UP.

Gil Birmingham’s resume is long and filled with characters ranging from Native American characters to law enforcement. In 2008 Birmingham would play the role of Billy Black in the world-wide phenomenon series of TWILIGHT and continue this role until his character’s demise. I would see him again in 2014 in a few of my favorite series including HOUSE OF CARDS, BANSHEE and UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT. 

I had the amazing opportunity to sit down with these two fine gentlemen to discuss their film HELL OR HIGH WATER coming to theatres this Friday. Directed by Mackenzie, the film tells the story of two brothers who believe the only way to solve their financial problems and save the family ranch is by robbing banks. Birmingham plays Alberto Parker, Texas law enforcement who along with Marcus Hamilton played by Jeff Bridges investigates who the robbers are and how to stop them.

Thank you both gentlemen for speaking with me today about HELL OR HIGH WATER. I have to say, at the Q&A after last night’s screening it surprised me how detail oriented the audience was about the film, like the gentlemen asking about the casino scene.

Mackenzie: That was an interesting and strange question at the same time wasn’t it? The casino scene was done in the actual casino and yes there are so many sounds going off it can be quite distracting. There is some work done in post production but it was all quite real.

The humor of the film having lived the south is hilarious to me and the wise cracks were pretty good. Of course the Dr. Pepper- Mr. Pibb line really did have me rolling. I mean seriously, you don’t put a Mr. Pibb in front of a Dr. Pepper person and think we won’t know the difference.

Mackenzie: <laughing> That really was an education for me. I didn’t know about that until someone brought it to my attention. It’s lovely to play those details.

I was please also to learn that Taylor Sheridan wrote the script for the film. 

Mackenzie: I think this script truly does come from him and it’s so well written.

When you first read the script what was your reaction?

Mackenzie: I thought it was almost a perfect script actually. I loved the journey it went on beginning so hard and tough and delving deeper into the character and even being humorous. The script does get into deeper things and just changes into so many different levels. For me as a film director, there were enormous opportunities to be cinematic and to explore bigger American themes but in a not heavy handed way. These are great characters and it offered amazing opportunities to cast the story with such talent like the man sitting next to me here. It was a love affair for me really. I had been to West Texas and wanted to do something with a western theme and in that landscape. So when the script came I knew I could do just that which is very exciting for me – as a foreigner.

Birmingham: That’s the amazing part, that you captured it all. Several people at the screening last night were from the south and they wanted to know how he captured that. 

Mackenzie: I had a great team and material and a strong desire to represent this world as well as I could with an open heart and an open mind.

Gil, when you read the script, what was your thought on playing Alberto Parker?

Birmingham: I thought it was brilliant layering and touching on so many different aspects of what the culture is currently, economically, socially and politically. There are issues of race, issues of guns but not any heavy handedness in the approach to each one. It is also in a humorous way many times. People will be able to be open to receive these thoughts and how we conduct ourselves with fellow human beings.

I also have to say I don’t think I can recall a film where Native Americans are the subject of such direct joking. I find it happens easily within a family but here it is between Parker and Hamilton so openly. What is your feeling about that?

Birmingham: That is a great question and I think when I first read it it was the thing that stood out for me as well. It happens in families as you say and that brings the question of the relationship between Marcus and Alberto. What is their relationship and how does Alberto receive things? Sometimes he jabs back at him but what became clear is that they were brothers and Jeff’s character is my brother who knows the hot spots and triggers just like a family member would. They learn to deal with one another and that was the capability of the character, by ribbing his ‘brother’ he is showing his affection. 

We know no one but family can do that – no one!

Birmingham: Absolutely!

Mackenzie: It was important to me that we looked at those issues as well. We didn’t shy away from anything. When you first hear some of that ribbing, it is a bit tough. As a result of that it helps with the arc of their relationship and you realize that this thing that feels shocking is part of their relationship. I think it gives it a special dimension. 

An example for you is last night there was a woman next to me that when the ribbing started she pushed back into her chair with her jaw slightly open yet I’m sitting there laughing. That’s when I realized that Hamilton and Parker’s relationship ran very deep.

Mackenzie: We were all a bit nervous about it so it’s good to hear that it has come across that way. There is a concern about being sensitive and it could have gone either way. 

Birmingham: The other part of it was the Native culture of respect, understanding and compassion are all the core elements that I know had to be there. Jeff’s character had suffered the loss of his wife two years prior and now being forced to retire from a job that is his identity. Alberto wanted to still have this last hurrah with him being the one to be with him so these jabs get filtered.

Mackenzie: I love the resilience on his face and the ‘here we go again’ and the unspoken that shows clearly. Gil brings all of that though the looks he has. I think it is a lovely dimension.

Last night you also talked about the dimension of the characters. We are dealing with two sets of brothers and whether you see it as good or bad, as a director these four characters never really meet until the very end. How was that for you working with two and two?

Mackenzie: What was really very interesting was the schedule and I had to shoot Chris and Ben first which was right before STAR TREK so I had very little time. There is a very real energy and we shot almost sequentially. We connected with the odd couple of this brotherly relationship. It was all about the brothers; it was a strong element because we did it so quickly. That finished siding with the outlaws and then Jeff and Gil come in and we side with the lawmen! I was really very happy that the schedule forced that on us so we could focus on each side individually rather than juggling the two. The two brotherly dynamics are very different but have echoes of each other with the tough love and antagonism but the deep affection beneath it. 

Gil, you and Jeff spent a lot of time together obviously. What did you learn from him because you are pretty alright yourself.

Birmingham: <laughing> Why thank you! You know Jeff is such a generous individual. Jeff is about the love and he shares it whenever he can. We got to play music together and that’s how we got to connect from the very beginning at such an intimate level. We have been playing since we were kids. The first thing he said was ‘let’s jam’ and it really opened the door to connect with that language. That opened the trust for us to cross over into the film language. 

Did you realize that you are playing with – ‘The Dude’?

Birmingham: Yes, I’m sitting there thinking I am the dude jamming with The Dude!

Mackenzie: I think Jeff’s performance as this character is just as iconic as other characters he has played as well. 

He just nails the laid backed yet don’t take this laid back as you can pull something over on me type of character.

Birmingham: You know he is such a skilled performer and actor, he has such a trove of experience that he brought it all to this character.

That’s what drew the audience in, the fact everyone was invested in the story before they knew they were being drawn in. What would you each like the audience to take away from this film.

Mackenzie: I think the film is a film that should be enjoyed first and foremost with elements of a bank robber-western genre elements. It is about American now and hopefully it asks questions about what is happening now and I hope those questions will resonate. I also want to say that to anyone who doesn’t know it there is a lot of humor as well and although it is dealing with a serious subject there is also a lot of moments that really help you get through as it were.


Well, Café Lady is my new heroine! (This is a character in the film that I will not tell you about because she has to be seen to be believed.)

Mackenzie: <laughing with Gil> She is a very fine actress and lovely.

Birmingham: So I hope everyone has a great time and is entertained. I love the fact that it is set in a way that there is some ambiguity about it. That people don’t really know who the bad guys are and who the good guys are. It is so perfectly written out and Hollywood at its best will provide a platform for people to have creative discussions about things like the subject matters in our film. There is the question of guns and economics and so forth, all things that need to be discussed. If we can present them in a way that people feel entertained yet thought provoking at the same time we are pleased. 

Thank you gentlemen for your time and for allowing me to prod you without giving too much of the film away for audiences to enjoy.

Mackenzie: Thank you Jeri, so much.

Birmingham: Yes, thanks Jeri, we appreciate you wanting to speak with us.


The pleasure was all truly mind and congratulations to both director David Mackenzie and Gil Birmingham – the film is exceptional with a cast that brings so much to the screen. 

Opening in theatres this Friday is a film that will leave audiences thrilled for a piece that is thought provoking, shocking, humorous and asking ‘how far would you go for family?’


HELL OR HIGH WATER is the film to see! 



​THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW bring the Lost Episodes and a Chat with the Hilarious Ms. Vicky Lawrence

Jeri Jacquin

On DVD from the ever awesome Time Life is a fantastic and funny collection of a time when comedy was everything with THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW: The Lost Episodes.

During the late 1960’s, CBS was The Carol Burnett Show (making jokes about the lettering) network giving the show great popularity and bring huge ratings. Want to know a secret? In the technology age you would think the first five seasons of the show would be readily available? Not so! They couldn’t be found on reruns, streaming, DVD’s or anywhere else.

But Carol Burnett and Time Life have changed all that with The Lost Episodes of the show. Finally crazy moments can be shared in what are now known as the ground breaking years of the show. 

This 7-DVD set features 15 uncut episodes that you have to see to believe (and get your funny bone ready for some exercise in laughter) that are the originally aired episodes. Some of the moments include The Old Folks, The Ham Actors, Carol and Sis, Alice Portnoy and my all time personal favorite As the Stomach Turns. 

Carol and friends loved doing television and movie parodies including Valley of the Dollars, Bony and Clod and Guess What’s Coming to Dinner. They also did a Salute to Warner Bros. Studios with Bugs Bunny in the every clever Mildred Fierce. 

The guest appearing on the show are what always captivated me and the list of names are like the stars in the sky, almost endless with Jonathan Winters, Joan Rivers, Sonny & Cher, Paul Lynde, Art Carney, Betty Brable, Mickey Rooney and a host of others along with surprise appearances by Ronald Reagan and Bob Hope!

There is also over six hours of bonus features and interviews with Julie Andrews, Tony Bennett, Steve Carell, Kristin Chenoweth, Tina Fey and Burt Reynolds (oh that laugh of his!).

If this isn’t enough, how about bonus sketches, Featurettes of The Song and Dance: Crooners, Hoofers & Balladeers; Expecting the Unexpected; and The Making of a Mackie. The never-before-seen outtakes had my sides aching trying to catch my breath from laughing so be prepared for that! It’s over one thousand one hundred and seventy nine minutes of outrageous fun that you don’t want to miss.

Now, to tempt you further, how about a chat with the one and only Ms. Vicky Lawrence? Well, here it is in all its glory and let me just say that occasionally I do a quasi-controlled-geek-out when speaking to certain people and this fine lady definitely wins hands down.

Good morning Vicky.

Good morning Jeri, how are you?

I’m fine but I have to tell you I’m about to have a geek out moment and I apologize in advance. I am so thrilled to be talking to you right now I can hardly stand it! How are you?

Doing well, thanks <laughing>

I’m letting you know that the word has spread that I’m talking to you today so if you ever wondered if you have a huge fan base in San Diego I’m telling you right now the answer is yes. Absolutely yes!

That’s wonderful.

I have been watching your forever and I’m sure you get this question to the point of madness but I’d really love to know the full story of how you met Carol Burnett. Can you share that?

I should bring my show down to San Diego. It is the first story I tell because a lot of people know I wrote a fan letter and there was a contest involved but many don’t know the details. I feel like it’s always the story I tell over and over. Everybody said I looked like her when I was a freshman in high school and in my senior year I entered a contest called Miss Fireball. The newspaper gal put in the paper that I looked like Carol Burnett. My Mom said ‘you know you should write her a fan letter’ because I was a big fan letter writer when I was a kid. Of course they were always to every cute young guy that was on television then. I had their autographs on their wall from Clint Eastwood to Johnny Walker to Fabian to Bobby Rydell and Paul Peterson – all these young guys I was in love with. I honestly, looking back, I had only seen her do Once Upon a Mattress on television and she was doing a show at the time called The Entertainer with Bob Newhart. John Davidson was a young singer on the show then and I kind of had a crush.

Oh stop it – the hair was sexy amazing!

I know! So I did write her a letter and saying ‘I hope to meet one day because everyone says I look like you’ and I enclosed the article from the newspaper with a picture. The letter actually managed to hit her desk the day of the Miss Fireball contest. She got my Dad’s name out of the article, looked up our number and managed to call me to arrange for her to come and see the contest at Hollywood Park. That’s weird because Hollywood Park isn’t even there anymore. It’s hard for me to reference it because it’s going to be the Rams stadium at some point. That’s where I lived and learned how to drive in that parking lot. So Carol came out to the racetrack and her husband said ‘what is she – a jockey?’ <as a side note – I’m cracking up> She had two seats in the back asking that no one announce her but of course once they discovered Carol Burnett was in the stands I thought ‘well there goes my whole career’. I won the contest and we took this picture and Carol is writing a new book and she wants me to find the picture. It’s of her crowning me and I’m in my little outfit and she’s pregnant and huge with a turban on handing me my prize with the mayor next to us and that’s the picture that ended up in the paper. She sort of disappeared and it was my senior year of high school. So I’m going right along and its January when my Mom says they announced on the radio that Carol had her baby and she was in the hospital in Santa Monica. I was on my way to a recording session where I sang then with The Young Americans and I said to my ride let’s stop at the hospital on the way and I’ll run in and say hi. He said ‘you can’t run in and see Carol Burnett!’ I said I knew her married name and was going to give it a try.

Oh my!

So we went to the hospital and I got some flowers, went up to the maternity ward where there was nothing going on and two nurses sitting there all quiet. As quietly as I could I said to them, “I’m here to see Mrs. Hamilton” and they burst out saying ‘oh my gosh you must be her sister Chrissie, wait till you see her and the baby!” and they took me right into her room. Yea, I mean in hindsight I suppose I would have been considered a stalker because I certainly wouldn’t have gotten away with it now. You would certainly get arrested <we are both cracking up now>

That is one heck of a stunt!

Yes, and she told me she hadn’t forgotten about me and it was like the end of my senior year in June when I got a call from CBS wanting me to come down. They wanted to know if I’d be interested in auditioning to play her little sister in a show she was doing called The Carol Burnett Show. It was kind of traumatic at the time because I had to bow out of The Young Americans summer tour. The director sat me down and said listen to me, if the audition doesn’t happen you are not coming back in the middle of the tour, you are just not. Back then it was a major decision to make and I rolled the dice and did the audition.

The first time I saw the show I honestly believed you were sisters.

I think that’s why she thought it would be a novelty to have someone who looked like her.

What was that experience like to be working with the woman who crowned you?

It was a whirlwind! I started at my Dad’s alma mater which was UCLA and it would have broken his heart if I didn’t go. So I started and the deal was that I could go to college as long as I was on set by 11 a.m. every day. I took every class you could take at 7 or 8 a.m. then it was off to the studio. It was like going to the Harvard School of Comedy in front of American with all these amazing tutors. Saturday nights when the show would air it was like tutoring for me. I would watch it with my hand over my face peeking through my fingers. I was such a little geek. Harvey said in the beginning ‘forget stage right and stage left, you couldn’t even find the toilet’ so I think being the team player that he was, he went about training me to be a comedian.

They sent me THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW: The Lost Episodes and I feel like they weren’t lost, they were just waiting for the perfect time to come out and play once again. It reminds us of what good television and hilarious comedy really is.

It’s a television history lesson to watch those first episodes. It is watching the genesis and how it grew into The Carol Burnett Show. I wasn’t in a lot of those episodes because I was only contracted to play her sister then. A lot of the stuff is new to me and I hadn’t seen it. It has taken Carol all these years to negotiate the right to release these episodes and it’s finally happened.

You worked with some amazing people and you were so young at the time, did you take it all in then?

I don’t think I appreciated who they really were. I was such a little geek. I was more concerned with dating all the ushers and dancers then, they were all so adorable. I was too young to know where I was. I told Carol the question I get all the time is ‘did you guys know what you were doing or know that it was going to last so long’ and she said you don’t think about it while you are doing it. You think about the paycheck and doing a good job each week. If it’s horrible you want to do better the next week. When she’s asked if she knew she was a pioneer for women she says ‘no, I was trying to do a good job being funny!’ She was told that a woman couldn’t do this, that a woman couldn’t do a variety show. She felt under the gun in that respect.

I understand that completely because my father never understood why I wanted to watch The Carol Burnett Show. He honestly didn’t understand how a woman would get her own show. Actually in order to watch the show and see all of you I had to do specific chores to earn time. I hung clothes outside to dry and did yard work. 

Wow, that is really something yet that sentiment for women in television at that time existed. The thing is too back in those days there were only three networks. When I did my talk show in the early 90’s my daughter was going off to Stanford for college. During the summer she did an internship on my talk show. Everyday she would watch me go out and warm up the audience myself because Carol always said to do the Q&A and talk to the audience. She said it was an amazing way to feel comfortable around the people you are about to entertain. Everyday I was asked about how it all got started and every day she would listen to it again and again. One night after taping my daughter said, ‘Mom can I ask you a question”, I said sure. She said, “The Carol Burnett Show was really big huh?” because she was born at the very end of The Carol Burnett Show. I told her it was big. She said, “Everybody in the country watched it right?” and I said, “Well yes”. Her reply was, “You guys were part of television history weren’t you”, and I replied again, “Well, yes”. She said, “I missed it huh?”

Oh wow, that is actually pretty darn cool. That’s what is amazing about technology now though as much as it might drive us crazy. One of the good things is being able to obtain the DVDs and get to go back to that feel good laughable time. To see what brought joy and made people laugh. That’s what you’ve done for us and here’s my chance and probably my only chance ever to say thank you Ms. Lawrence, thank you for making me laugh then and for you and Carol making me laugh again now.

Oh my gosh, that’s wonderful of you to say and it’s kind of cool. You know, when I started my one woman show we assumed my audience would be the people that were now older and watched the show. Actually there were so many college kids in the audience and we thought ‘what the heck?’ I was stopped during a performance one night by a bunch of young guys yelling at me and I said, “what?!” and they said there were so many things they wouldn’t have gotten through without Mama [Mama’s Family-1983 television series]. For those people who know Mama’s Family, they come to the show and listen to my stories about The Carol Burnett Show that I would tell and they find me backwards on YouTube. Carol said too that YouTube is largely responsible for the lifespan that the show has had because people found us that way and created this market where we can release these DVDs. They have a chance to experience the whole thing and be a part of it from the beginning the way it really was. It’s remarkable that it has held up like it has and has spanned this many generations, it’s incredible really. 

One question I do have to ask because when I told people I was speaking to you, my friend Gina (Fontillas) who lives in Hawaii responded with “That’s the Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia”. <she laughs> That was huge when we were in high school (1973 – YouTube and enjoy – you’re welcome!). Did you every think in a million years that spending so much time on the show that you would have the opportunity to get back to music?

 I was married for like about ten minutes to the guy [Bobby Russell] who wrote that song, yea that’s about it. I got the song and the dog! (yes, I’m cracking up so badly now) He wrote this song and didn’t like it. I kept saying - “but this song is a hit!” He wouldn’t demo it and I told him it was a smash. He said to me if I love the song so much I should do the demo. I did and took it to a producer in Hollywood. He tried to give it to everyone and no one wanted to do it because they thought it would offend the south and needed to be rewritten. Bobby said, “I hated the song when I wrote it so why would I do it again?” The producer said to go in with Vicky and we did and I was right, the dang thing was a huge smash! It was a dream come true.

Well the fact that so many people still know every word to the song is a true testament that girlfriend – you were right!

Yes, I was absolutely right on that. 

Was there a basis for the song or an event that happened? 
(Giving some readers a heads up about the terms “Hi-Fi” and “45” that’s a small shiny round black object with grooves in it an a big hole in the middle that plays on a device called a Hi-Fi that has a needle that fits into the grooves of the round shiny black object which lets the music out for those that are curious)

No, I don’t think so. To me that song was like the song that did it to me as a kid which was Ode to Billie Joe (Bobbie Gentry, 1967). It was just one of those great southern mysterious story songs. I remember buying Ode to Billie Joe on a 45 and putting it on the hi-fi in the living room. You know you had to keep putting the needle back every few go arounds so you could learn all the lyrics. I remember doing that trying to get every word. I be listening to a song now and just Google the words, back in the day you had to get the words all on your own! I remember the day I was doing it and my Mom screaming, “take that thing off you are driving me crazy!” 

As much as I hate it I know we have to finish up so, for the readers, can you just share your feelings about the experiences you’ve had with two iconic shows and your career?

Oh my gosh, it is a wash of incredible memories doing The Carol Burnett Show and it was not something I had intended to do. I thought I was going to graduation high school, go to college, learn to clean teeth, be a dental hygienist, married a rich dentist and hang it up. That’s really what the plan was because back in the day you got married out of high school or you got a responsible job. It never occurred to me that I would be kidnapped by show business! For me it has been one big, fun, huge adventure.

And it is still going strong.

You never know what is going to happen. You just never know.

Again, I am geeking out on you one final time but thank you, thank you so much for talking with me today and I do hope you get your One-Woman show down here to San Diego. Me and my redhead will be in the front row! I might have to die my hair red for that.

Like I always say, dye your hair and you too can be a natural redhead!




I can not begin to tell you how difficult typing up this interview was because there was so much laughing. Vicky Lawrence reaffirmed (as if I needed it) that she is truly gracious with her stories and absolutely hilarious. 

Hearing how she met Carol Burnett and became a part of such an iconic era of women in comedy is a pure joy. The release of THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW: The Lost Episodes is now available for everyone to enjoy and to find out how to get a set for your own home media library please visit www.timelife.com. Not enough Carol Burnett and company? Trust me; Time Life has that covered as well with more Carol Burnett DVD’s filled with more performances and more comedy!

Speaking with Ms. Lawrence supports THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW: THE LOST EPISODES – TREASURES FROM THE VAULT available only available at Costco beginning September 6th.

In the end – these truly are treasures from the vault!

TRADED: 
Talking Western with Michael Paré

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to Bluray this week from director Timothy Woodward Jr. and Cinedigm Entertainment Group is the western that takes no guff when it comes to being TRADED.

In 1880s Kansas, sharpshooter turned rancher, Clay Travis (Michael Paré), goes from a satisfied married rancher and father to a man on a mission after the disappearance of his 17 year-old daughter, Lily. 

Determined to protect what little family he has left, Clay leaves his quiet ranch and heads to Wichita where, after confronting the ruthless Ty Stover (Trace Adkins), he discovers that Lily's been traded away into an underground sex ring in Dodge City.  

And it's there, with the help of an unlikely companion -- hardened old barkeep Billy (Kris Kristofferson) -- that Clay makes a stand to bring his daughter home, leaving a trail of gun smoke and bodies in his wake.

I had the thrilling opportunity to speak with Michael Paré who plays the role of Clay Travis in the film TRADED. We spoke of westerns, the human experience and his thoughts on playing one of the most iconic characters in film.

Thank you Michael for taking the time to talk with me today.

Hi Jeri, it’s so nice to talk to you too.

I’m excited to talk to you for several reasons. I feel sort of like I’ve grown up along with you and the progression of your film career. 

That’s really nice of you to say.

Now, your latest release TRADED is here and it looks so good.

Thank you, we had a really great time making the film. It is a great story, great direction and cinematography along with a great cast.

What drew you to the film?

I always wanted to do a full blown western. It is so hard to make them but there is resurgence towards making a western. Its one of the classic American genres and I like that. I like making a movie that delves into the American mythology of westerns.

Your character, to me, is so amazing because he is that quiet cowboy but you can feel that there is something underneath his history and the film has the potential to go in so many different directions. 

He is a retired gunfighter, marries a retired prostitute and adopts her daughter moving out to this little ranch trying to get away from all of that to just live a quiet life on the ranch. The defecation hits the oscillation and he goes back to his old ways.

Having the opportunity to work with Kris Kristofferson, how was that? I think I’d be dumbstruck for weeks.

I had worked with him on another film called RED MAPLE LEAF so I had met him already. He was playing the President and I was an Ambassador so we were introduced and had a day together. But on this film, he blossoms in the westerns! Just the way he is, I mean he’s close to 80 years old and he hops up on a horse saying ‘I’d rather be on a riding horse than walking down the street’. He was more comfortable on the horse than just standing around. He is very open, you ask him a simple question and he gives a direct answer. I asked him if he writes with a piano and he said, ‘no, the songs just come to me all at once. It’s not like I have a technique or format. I strum a guitar and its there’.

For a moment there Michael, you sounded exactly like him!

<laughing> He’s a very friendly guy and his daughter is in the film also. She plays the young lady who sings the song.

Kelly Kristofferson who plays Claire.

Yes, she plays the piano singing. He is just a sweetheart of the guy.

Then you have the other side of country with Trace Adkins as Ty Stover.

Yes, I met Trace when we did the movie LINCOLN LAWYER where Trace plays the biker and I play the cop. Trace is an enormous guy; I mean he’s 6’5” and also a sweetheart. He use to work on the off shore oil rigs and a real country guy. He does the Wounded Warrior project and I did a few things with him there as well. 

I love the fact that the costuming and set design really add itself like another character. It gives it such a western richness.

Well, if you are going to do a western, you have to surrender to it, embrace it. We took a few days finding the wardrobe and it took a few days to find the hat. The hat is important because it’s symbolic. We did all of that very carefully. We shot in all the western towns where they have been shooting television series and westerns for a long time now. We were at the Disney ranch and Paramount ranch. It was so great to walk down the streets of where they shot GUNSMOKE and the John Wayne movies. You get into wardrobe putting on your boots, hat and gun and you are there. It is so easy to play make believe in that environment. 

I have a thing for westerns, that’s kind of my era when I was a kid. I still love them now. Westerns don’t need cgi to be awesome.

It’s a good time to tell these kind of stories right? There are a lot of films that rely on computer generated stuff to tell a story. That’s okay but the human experience doesn’t involve all that stuff. If someone kidnaps your daughter, a greater majority of people can sympathize with my character. 

That’s what makes your character so relatable, having harm come to a child. It is clear what drives him to do what he does.

What happens to his daughter makes his journey clear.

You draw on the audience’s emotion and us wanting your character to succeed. 

It sure was fun doing the shoot outs in the middle of the street I have to tell you. It was late in the day so we were losing the light so we had to get the shot. That really only works in the wild to see the two men on the street. I draw my gun and it’s a single action revolver and it was perfect timing and was an amazing moment - along with all that great cowboy dialogue.

That’s the other amazing thing about some westerns; it’s not loaded with a lot of useless dialogue. You say what you mean and mean what you say. 

Exactly, I think people will always be attracted to that character that simplifies life. When you see something and know it’s the right thing to do – you do it. There isn’t a lot of talking about it or trying to convince other people you are doing the right thing. Everybody already knows. If a man’s daughter is kidnapped he has got to go after her otherwise there is something wrong with the guy!

That’s what makes this film so relatable, your character doesn’t sit back saying ‘oh well, she’s 17, she can do what she wants’.

Right? I didn’t even tell my wife what I was doing! I go, get my gun and I’m gone.

Nuff said!

That’s it.

Okay Michael, I would be remiss and friends would shoot me if we didn’t talk about it.

Let’s do it. 

It has been a while since you made EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS. Do you get stopped still to this day to talk about that film?

Yes, I do.

How does that sit with you knowing you’ve touched so many people with a character that has become iconic?

It feels good; it feels really good to know that I made the movie. A big reason you go into show business is that you want to appeal to the broadest amount of people possible. If you can touch people, even for a moment, it is a tremendous accomplishment. It is very rewarding. It was a little movie and nobody got paid anything.

Really?

No, no one got paid anything really and we all went off to this little dive hotel in Cherryville, New Jersey for a month and then we shot it. It just worked and was a very artsy endeavor and very rewarding.

Did you think then that it would become what it became?

Honestly I didn’t know. I had a small supporting role in a show then called Greatest American Hero (to which I uttered ‘yes!’ with a fist pump) and we were on hiatus and I did the movie. Right after that I went back to Greatest American Hero for the next season. I didn’t know what was going to happen. It was just a little movie about a rock n’ roll band in the 60s. Really, I get stopped at the supermarket or when I’m out and about and they ask ‘are you that guy from EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS’ and I say ‘yes, I am’. What’s funnier is when they say ‘hey, you look like that guy from EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS’ <laughing>

I think I would laugh myself silly. You read every once in a while about an actor who makes a film that becomes a classic over time or is known for a character and they aren’t happy about it. So when I knew I was going to speak with you I had to ask, how do feel now playing the role of Eddie?

I loved it, absolutely loved it. After we did that first concert at the college, after that first day it became one fun experience for me. Up until that moment they were thinking about firing me. They had real rock n’ roll people who wanted to play the role. I mean if you are doing this kind of movie do you want an actor playing a rocker or rocker who might be able to act? If you are the producer you think about what the safest way is to go. If I hadn’t done well after the first concert I would have been gone. 

EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS is on my channel flicking list-if it comes on I will stop and watch it entirely. So excuse me but I had a slight Eddie crush back then, thought I should come clean on that. <Both of us laugh> You have had a string of films; you are always working aren’t you?

I make a couple of movies a year. 

Is there any one that you’ve done that is your favorite?

Yes, EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS.

No way, we just spent ten minutes talking about it <laughing>. Any other?

STREETS OF FIRE was a lot of fun also. Diane Lane, Willem DaFoe, Rick Moranis, Amy Madigan, and Deborah Van Valkenburgh. That was an amazing experience also. I think I was a little to young to take advantage of it. It was an enormous budget for its day. I wasn’t use to being around that much money. I think we shot for 60 days and that’s a long time considering they shoot movies in 15 days now. We actually shot 20 days on TRADED. 

How long was the shooting on EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS?

It took 40 shooting days and it was wonderful. It was eight weeks in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia. Most of it was in Jersey at the Jersey shore.

I am so happy to have talked with you today. I understand this is my job but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.

I feel like that too. I’m so lucky to be working in the entertainment industry and it’s a blessing. 

Thanks Michael, it has been such a pleasure and honestly a thrill!

I certainly wasn’t exaggerating telling Michael today didn’t feel like a job. Instead, I had the opportunity to step into a time machine a bit and speak to someone who starred in a film that I love to this day. Speaking on his latest film TRADED, I heard in his voice the excitement of doing a western and the joy of working with Kristofferson and Adkins.

The story is rugged and relatable, the cinematography is beautiful and every element draws the viewer in. The costuming is killer (pun intended) also but not just for the guys and their hats and spurs but the women in the full skirts and bonnets as well. I truly enjoyed the feel of it all.  

Cinedigm brings TRADED home on magnificent bluray so

In the end – revenge is a bitter deal!

EYE IN THE SKY
Talking with Star Barkhad Abdi

Jeri Jacquin

On June 28th from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment comes the release of the Bluray EYE IN THE SKY starring the amazing cast of Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, Aaron Paul and Jeremy Northam. Another cast member that brings this film into focus is Barkhad Abdi as Jama Farah.

Abdi was born in Mogadishu, Somalia but moved with his family to Yemen and finally Minneapolis, Minnesota by age of 14 escaping the civil war. In that comes a deep understanding of his character in the film. 

The character of Farah is an agent working with the Kenyan government. In the film he is assigned to help Britain find the terrorist cell but Farah also has a role in what a moment of humanity tries to do in the middle of a difficult situation.

I had the opportunity to speak with Barkhad Abdi and hear of the role of Farah, his rise as an actor and a trip back home to Somalia.

Hello Barkhad, thank you for taking the time to talk with me today.

Hello Jeri, thank you too. 

It’s nice to get the chance to talk to you.

Thank you for having me.

I finished watching EYE IN THE SKY.

How did you like it?

I think it was amazing. I loved your character so much. Tell me about him.

The character is Jama Farah and he is working on the ground floor with the Kenyan government.

Your character got to show a real humanity in the middle of a pretty intense military situation.

He wasn’t that big of a character in the film but he is important. The humanity part is because I can relate to the character. I was in a similar situation growing up I was in a war so I relate to the young girl on the street. It’s really different, the drone warfare is the modern warfare and it’s something that I personally didn’t know anything about until the movie. This movie shows a lot of details about modern warfare.

How did it affect you reading the script?

I liked the script a lot and it was one of those scripts that had a great director, Gavin Hood and he is the one that gave me the part. Also, Alan Rickman being a part of the film was very special. 

Your acting career is like a Hollywood Cinderella story, this wasn’t what you had planned initially was it?

It wasn’t but I love film making and when parts came out I had to do it. When I read this part I got a chance to become an agent, when I watched movies and saw parts like that it made me excited to be doing it myself. 

Of course you were amazing in CAPTAIN PHILLIPS.

Thank you.

In EYE IN THE SKY you are on the other side of the script – helping people. 

Yes, to me if I can understand the role and I can understand the person, the character and the mindset of why he is doing what he is doing then I can do the part. Jama is an agent trying to do his job, those people; they exist in real life and put their lives in front to save other people. I’m really proud to highlight those people who do that, risking their lives for other people.

Your character makes warfare very personal.

I was trying to my best and I have to thank the director, Gavin Hood, for showing me the direction and what I needed to do. 

Did you not realize the effect your character would have on people?

I did not honestly. When I watched it I liked it a lot but no, can you tell me?

Yes, I can. Of course your character is on a very important mission but also gave off such empathy. There is that split second on your face where deciding whether to keep on the mission or remember that you are also a human being. There is that moment where you decide you can do both. When you made that decision to go, everything became more humanized. 

Thank you so much! To me it was a very different movie. These are real things that are happening in Kenya and Somalia. There are people who actually save people from horrible situations, people that aren’t talked about. They use their own lives to save others. When I think about those situations and thank goodness my work came out well.

I see you keep busy working on other things.

Yes, I have a part in The Brothers Grimsby playing Tabansi Nyagura and I have another film called EXTORTION playing Miguel Kaba that just did a screening at Cannes. I also just finished a film in South Africa called WHERE THE WHITE MAN RUNS AWAY with Al Pacino and Evan Peters. 

I am excited to see that one.

It’s really good. We thought it was very funny.

Have you had a chance in between acting to return home to Somalia?  

I did actually. I went there last year with ADESO, a human rights organization and visited parts of Somalia where they are doing good work. We also went to were fishing use to happen and there is still no fishing and a lot of fisherman have turned to farming. It was very exciting to go there.

Did it look at all the same as you remembered?

I left there when I was seven years old but over all there is still hope and progress happening. There is hope and life and people trying to live. 

It’s great that you got to return home and help, that’s important.

Yes, it is. Hopefully I will be able to do more but this is a start.

People who are going to see EYE IN THE SKY, what would you like them to take away from the film?

EYE IN THE SKY is very deep and war is never good. There needs to be an understanding about drones by who ever is in power. The election is here and it is important to know who is going to be controlling the drones and the idea of modern warfare. People need to understand how it all works.

Who is controlling them and why?

Yes.

Thank you for taking the time for talking with me today. I think you have done fantastic things and I can’t wait to see what you will do in the future.

Thank you very much Jeri.



Barkhad Abdi’s voice gives off such a humbleness when speaking about being an actor and hoping to do more with ADESO that it makes me appreciate him even more. EYE IN THE SKY is a film that will have people discussing the characters and the story that is a debate we all will be having as modern warfare continues to exist. But in the middle of that is the glimmer of humanity that decides to jump in and make an impact, and that is what Barkhad’s role is all about. 

He gives this role a very personal piece of himself and that, my friends, is what damn fine acting is all about!

EYE IN THE SKY comes to Bluray on June 28th from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment – watch and let the discussions begin.

NOW YOU SEE ME 2: 
Talking Magic with Director Jon M. Chu

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from director Jon M. Chu is the sequel to magic at its finest with NOW YOU SEE ME 2.

Jon M. Chu’s career began in 2001 with a short entitled Silent Beats which was followed up be a second short When the Kids Are Away. In 2008 he directed STEP UP 2: The Streets and the next STEP UP 3D. No stranger to music he would direct JUSTIN BIEBER: Never Say Never, executive produced STEP UP REVOLUTION in 2012 and STEP UP: All In in 2014. Moving away from dancing and singers, he also directed G.I. JOE: Retaliation in 2013. 

In 2013 fans were introduced to the Four Horsemen and NOW YOU SEE ME became a hit. Now you didn’t think the Horsemen were going to stay gone forever did you?

I had the opportunity to speak with the director of both the original film and NOW YOU SEE ME 2 as we spoke about the thrill of the film, his own love of magic and what he hopes fans will take from the film.

Hi Jon, thanks for joining me today.

Hi Jeri, of course.

I’ve seen the film and wow!

Oh thank you, thanks a lot!

I have to ask what made you want to take on NOW YOU SEE ME 2.

Well, I am absolutely loved the first film and never thought that they would approach me to do another. I didn’t think I’d be making a sequel in my career either but Lionsgate came to me with an outline with a different perspective. That’s what I love about magic is that when you are in the audience the magic trick changes. The first movie was about the horsemen on stage and in this film you are going backstage with the Horsemen themselves. That to me was a really cool approach to the film. I am a huge fan of magic I won’t deny that and the cast of course, I mean its such a huge cast right? 

I was curious if you were a magic fan yourself.

Yes, I love magic growing up and I’m a fan of David Copperfield and watched a lot of his live performances growing up. I mean the Great Wall of China, making the Statue of Liberty disappear, escaping a safe and to me those were really cool events and he is a great storyteller. I think magic is story telling so in a weird way our movie is about great story tellers and how they use that as their superpower.

That’s a good way to look at it, magicians with their super powers! Nicely said.

It’s the power of the brain.

You never know what it will do next.

Exactly!

When you read the script were you surprised at the direction the story took?

It definitely is in a different direction that but it evolved over time. I think as the script developed it became natural over time with the characters and what the actual arc of these characters are and how we could make it mean more than just escaping some trap that they are in. This all comes from those characters. I am so close to the film that it’s hard to know if the audience catches everything or not. This was a tricky architecture to build.

Well, to let you know, you did an amazing job of telling the story.

Oh good, thank you.

Especially when you have Morgan Freeman on board right? This man has a voice that is almost hypnotic. He can lead you with just his voice to where he wants you to go, whether that’s where you intended to go or not.

He has mischievous eyes and when he speaks in the film there are so many meanings to what he is saying. There are so many perspective shifts.

The writing is so clever.

Ed Solomon [the screenwriter] is a genius and I loved working with him. He created BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, MEN IN BLACK and he really came to construct this thing and it was an honor to work with him.

I enjoyed getting to know more about the Horsemen and see their inner struggles and it’s also a distraction from what is going on.

The first movie they are contracted liars basically forced to be together and in this movie they chose to be together and form this family. At the same time how does a group of professional liars learn to trust each other and sacrifice for someone else and not be selfish. That was the most interesting aspect of the film for me. They communicate these things by their magic tricks, when they are working all together there is this amazing flow in what they do. Eventually when they do the city wide magic although they may be apart they are still flowing together. 

The effects of the film, whether big or small, are all mind blowing.

Cool, we try to do as much real magic as possible and anytime the card is in their hands it is real. We could do it in CGI but we wanted the audience with us. We spent time building prototypes and R&D [Research & Development] it to death to do these tricks because we wanted people to feel the physicality of the magic. We promised ourselves that we were going to use as much practical magic as possible because we believe the audience can feel that. Even if they can’t fully there is something instinctual that happens when you experience the magic without cgi. 

The way it is shot as well – the rain scene with Jesse Eisenberg, watching that just made everyone so wide eyed like a kid in a candy store. It’s just so very cool!

It makes our movie a little different from the caper films because we get to go there. We didn’t want to just make a witty caper film but instead ultimately we are a magic movie and the audience wants us to go there. We wanted to make sure that every trick can practially be done if you have the resources to do it. At the same time you want to believe that the enormity of that particular event is impossible and can’t be done. 

I really had a good giggle about Daniel Radcliffe being in a film – about magic. What a brilliant choice!

I’m glad you liked that because Daniel is really good at magic. He is part of the real world magic stuff. We didn’t know if we wanted him to be good at magic or bad at magic. When we talked to him about the film and he did some magic that made us really laugh, we knew he was our Walter.

He has amazing timing with his sarcasm.

He is sarcastic and very cool like that. He has the English sarcasm with the very sharp wit that is cutting. 

What do you want fans to take from NOW YOU SEE ME 2?

I think whether you haven’t seen the first film or you have you are going to love it. We have set it up so that we get a little deeper into these characters. It is bigger and crazier magic. This isn’t hocus pocus magic this is on the ground skill set and these guys are super heroes of the mind. They are masters of psychology, storytelling, science, technology and I think that makes for a real fun movie that is original, not based off of some IP. We have a cast full of legends and icons that the entire family can enjoy and try to figure out. We think it’s a fun event and game for the whole family and I think they are going to have a good time.

One last question and I have to ask it Jon, will there be a NOW YOU SEE ME 3 and will you be at the helm?

<laughs> You know, we always like to plan because there is a lot more story to tell in this world we’ve created. If the audience comes out and sees the film and wants more I think we have some very interesting stories still to tell in the magic world. We will be ready!

I hope are ready because you have done an amazing job.

Thank you Jeri, really, thank you.

Thank you for your time Jon!




Prepare yourselves for the best slight of hand ever with NOW YOU SEE ME 2 opening in theatres this Friday!


WAR & PEACE is Epic: 
Speaking with Director Tom Harper

Jeri Jacquin

On Bluray and DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment, TWC and the BBC is the beautifully told story of WAR & PEACE: The Complete Miniseries. Now, read what director Tom Harper has to say about his epic work.

It is 1805 Russia when only the rumors of Napoleon coming to Moscow were on the wind. Pierre (Paul Dano) is the illegitimate son of Count Bezukhov, the richest man in Russia. Prince Kuragin (Stephen Rea) is doing everything possible to make sure that Pierre doesn’t inherit a thing, but the young man has many on his side.

Becoming the new Count Bezukhov takes Pierre from a simple life to extravagance like he has never known. That is when Anna Povlovna Scherer (Gillian Anderson) sets her sites on matchmaking with Helene (Tuppence Middleton). Before Pierre has a time to catch his wealthy breathe, he is married.

Happy for all his success is the Rostova family and his good friend Natasha (Lily James), Nikolai (Jack Lowden), parents Count Rostov (Adrian Edmondson) and Countess Rostova (Greta Scacchi) along with Cousin Sonya (Aisling Loftus).  

Also friends of Pierre are the Bolkonsky family including Prince Andrei (James Norton), his sister Princess Marya (Jessie Buckley) and their very loud father Prince Bolkonsky (Jim Broadbent). 

Prince Andrei and Nikolai are soldiers who are preparing for what might happen if Napoleon Bonaparte (Mathieu Kassovitz) enters their country. After losing his wife, Prince Andrei begins to have feelings for Natasha but father Prince Bolkonsky wants them to wait a year and Natasha agrees.

Meanwhile Sonya and Nikolai have had an unspoken relationship but he is having trouble making the commitment. His mother the Countess decides its time for her son to help the family financially and wants Nikolai to marry a wealthy woman.

In the meantime Pierre discovers that his wife Helena has been less than faithful yet he looks the other way until he can’t any longer. Having a hard time knowing what to do, he becomes involved in the lives of his friends.

War is on the horizon as Napoleon invades Russia, in the midst of it all relationships are being torn apart, friendships put to the test, loyalties under scrutiny, secrets kept, families in ruin and all in the name of love.

This is the story of life.

That’s where director Tom Harper and story adaptor Andrew Davis come in. They brought together the beautiful tale of a time in Russia so deep and rich that holds every human emotion imaginable. 

I had the pleasure of speaking with Tom about WAR & PEACE, his thoughts on making the miniseries, the cast and what he hopes everyone takes away after seeing his work.

Thank you for talking to me today Tom.

Thank you Jeri, it’s a pleasure.

Let’s delve right in because this is truly had to be a huge undertaking for you. What drew you to take this story on?

I fell in love with it really. This is one of the most wonderful stories and the characters are so fantastic and relevant to me. This story occurred over 200 years ago yet it is still relatable and I think the passions and relationships are also relevant I suppose. 

Is this a project someone brought to you?

Yes, the BBC came to me with the project. This was a combination of Leo Tolstoy and Andrew Davis as well bringing it all together.

Had you thought about how much this was going to take of your life? This is a miniseries to tell a huge story that has so much detail.

I knew it was a huge undertaking but I didn’t quite realize what I was getting myself into. It was two years of my life and for a lot of that it was incredibly intense. Every waking moment was thinking and working on the show. We were in Russia and Lithuanian and the shoots were sometimes six months long. It was challenging and we went to some extraordinary places and did epic things with battles and balls. It was incredibly challenging and demanding but at the same time rewarding too. We had some wonderful experiences and I was fortunate to work with amazing actors, crew and go across the country. It was a pretty special job and it doesn’t come much better than that I think. It wasn’t without its trials and challenges but ultimately it is why you get into the job in the first place.

One of the things I love are period pieces, you can rise or fall on the set design and costuming. Where you as detail oriented about that?

Yes and no. I had a very clear idea of how it should be and there are very clear ideas in the book. There was such an enormous amount with a cast of 130 people and 230 locations and inevitably you work with great people. When it comes to detailing you call on experts and all their job is is to oversea the making of the military uniforms or embroidery of the dresses. There are great skills coming into play here with brilliant people who had that attention to detail. They were all working to complete the overall vision. The detail is important and brilliant people working on it.

Is it hard to put your trust in so many people when you are working on something this epic? 

It’s hard but you have to take a leap of faith. There is no way you can be everywhere all the time. You can’t make something on this scale if you can’t work with people and trust the people you hire to do the work. You can’t be everywhere so my role was to oversea the vision and the tone and the look and detail. There is so much to do so you have to trust.

Can you tell me about working with Paul Dano? Watching him bring Pierre to life was, as always with him, just beautiful. 

It was pretty wonderful really. Paul is, I think, one of the finest actors in the world. Actually casting him was a very straight process really. This was a difficult part to cast I think because Pierre doesn’t externally do very much but stuff happens to him and internally he is complicated, thoughtful and complex. That doesn’t manifest in his actions, not until the end really. I needed someone who could show that internal world and be able to lead the whole show. Paul was at the top of my list at the very beginning. He read the script and liked it and it turned out that he studied Russian Literature! I think Paul is an exceptional actor and I think what he brought to the role was extraordinary and he has this ability to transform and tap into the magic of a role. He makes such interesting and surprising choices and he’s always is always telling and fascinating to watch. I think he does an extraordinary job.

Lily James as Natasha, she is so amazing to me. Every role she takes on she gives it a totally different look. She is the light of the series.

I think you are exactly right. She also has a hard job to do because she begins this role as a teenager and terrible things happen to her. She is so innocent, youthful and vivacious and over the course of years she falls in love and the public disgrace and death. Natasha goes on a hell of a ride and a journey for a young actor to go on. She captures all of the emotions and you believe by the end everything the character goes through.

Watching each character start innocent enough and through their life journey is really amazing to watch. With such a large cast and each having their own story to tell it is thrilling to see how you brought out the nuances of the book. This is so epic, get use to that work when talking about this work of yours.

I’m so glad you liked it.

You managed from the get-go to capture and make me want to watch more and more. That’s what I love about what you have created here. When you finally got to sit down and watch the whole thing, what are some of your personal thoughts?

Because I’m so close to it and so wanted it to be good and we had been through so much to make it it was wonderful. It was such a Herculean effort by so many people. You always hope something will be good but because it is so much longer than other work I have done and the stakes were higher, I found it very difficult to be able to assess it in an objective way. I knew I liked it and that some of the performances were fantastic but it was hard to know if I did it justice. I do remember a time when everyone was exhausted and were doing promos with the cast and crew toward the end before the wrap. I thought to myself, ‘it might actually be okay’. So there was a spark of elation that it will all be okay!

I have nothing but praise for you Tom; you brought such emotion along with such beauty and wrapped it up with strength. Thank you very much for that. So, how do you handle a cast this large!

Actually, of all the things that were hard it wasn’t one of them! Mainly because they were so brilliant, professional, talented and a pleasure to be with them. Everyone was a joy to work with. We were working in groups as well. We scheduled it in such a way so that we’d do one group, then the battle, then the ball so every two weeks the cast would change and it was quite nice. It was nice for the cast to get breaks and come back refreshed. That worked pretty nicely.

What would you want anyone watching the series to take away with them after seeing your work?

I hope people come away with a positive outlook toward life and humility despite some of the atrocities we all face. I believe and Tolstoy believed it is the beauty and wonder in life that makes it all possible.

Thank you Tom for talking with me today and congratulations on a marvelous and beautiful – and epic – piece of work with WAR & PEACE, well done sir.

Thank you Jeri, I’m so pleased you liked it, truly.


It was such a pleasure talking to Tom about the epic miniseries of WAR & PEACE that is now on stunning Bluray. The cast, sets, and costuming all brings Leo Tolstoy’s brilliant work of literature to life. This is a miniseries that will make an amazing addition to anyone’s home media library. Pick up WAR & PEACE now!


13 HOURS from Book to Screen:
Speaking with Kris “Tanto” Paronto, John “Tig” Tiegen and Mark “Oz” Geist

The date of September 11, 2001 is a polarizing day in American history. In a matter of moments our country stopped breathing and moving. Our perceptions changed and what we knew to be true had to be reexamined. The world became a place many no longer recognized and the way we lived our lives would never be the same.

As each year passed, the new normal took over. We accepted taking our shoes off to go through detectors at the airport, having our bags checked before going into big events and keeping an eye out for one another. Americans embraced it as best we could even if nostalgic for the days when the world’s evils were not so close to us.

On September 11, 2012, Americans would once again experience a moment where our country stopped breathing and moving – but this time because of what was happening half a world away. In the US State Department Special Mission Compound and a CIA Base in Benghazi, Libya – America would once again come under attack.

Without warning, the compound was taken over through a hail of gunfire that would start 13 hours of hell.

Author Mitchell Zuckoff wrote the book 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi recounting events on that September 11th in 2012. In doing so Zuckoff, along with the Annex Security Team inside the CIA Base, bring the truth straight from those who lived and died to tell this story.

This week, director Michael Bay will bring the book 13 Hours to the big screen in a film of the same name starring John Krasinski, Pablo Schreiber, Max Martini, Dominic Fumusa, Toby Stevens, James Dale, David Denman David Giuntoli, Demetrius Grosse and Christopher Dingli.

I had the humble opportunity to speak with three men from the Annex Security Team, Mark “Oz” Geist, Kris “Tanto” Paronto and John “Tig” Tiegen who were not only in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 but have put there heart and soul into both the book and film 13 HOURS.

I walked in the door of the interview with my book filled with slips of post-it notes bulking out of the top. Having a set of questions ready to go it would only takes moments before realizing these three men were going to speak openly and answer my questions without me having to ask. 

Hello gentleman, how are you doing today?

Paronto: We are doing good, thanks. 

[At this point Kris sees my book 13 Hours and the tabs of post-it notes sticking out, takes it and smiles]

I just write notes when I get involved in a book.

Paronto: Hey, but that’s good! [He opens the book and actually signs it for me, its official, I’m fan struck!] Hi, I’m Kris “Tanto” Paronto, nice to meet you.

It’s nice to meet you all as well. 

[John “Tig” Tiegen and Mark “Oz” Geist are tapping away on their phones as Paronto informs me that they are all social media junkies now] 

Paronto: Okay, first question!

Alright, how did the decision to come about to make the film 13 HOURS?

Tiegen: It call actually came about from us doing the book. We were tired of the politics of it all and wanted to make sure the truth was told and the honor was given where it needed to be given. Richard, he heard the story from these guys and knew this was going to be a movie.

Paronto: We really didn’t have to do anything and honest it was meant to be a movie. 

It seemed like a fast process from book to screen.

Tiegen: Anyone we’ve ever talked to about this process says exactly that that this is the fastest they’ve seen a book go to film to theater. Mitch (Zuckoff, writer of the book 13 HOURS) said they were already working on a screenplay before the book was even done. 

Paronto: It was almost a one stop shop with 3Arts (Entertainment) who already had Mitch and Chuck Hogan who is a screenwriter. They also had Erwin Stoff who produced UNBROKEN, he Executive Produced the MATRIX and THE BLIND SIDE so they already had everything lined up. All we did was say ‘yes’. We did the movie pitch with Jack.

Tiegen: Yes, it was with Jack because I was still working. Once the pitch was done, Paramount was the only one with cojones to stand by us saying this is a great story.

When the idea of the book came up what was your initial reaction?

Paronto: We were all working and Mark was injured severely. We continued to deploy for almost eight months. There wasn’t any idea to do a book when we came back. That wasn’t our intention at all. But when the story of what took place on the ground continued to be misconstrued and then utilized by politicians for agendas it kept pushing us. We’d hear things that were incorrect or people writing books about that night and they weren’t even there it just got to the point where our integrity was being tested. Also, the fact that people were not being honored that died that night, we just came together as a team and decided as a team to do the story and the book. We chose that medium because we figured it was a good way to keep it from being political. You try to go to a new organization and it’s either right or left so that was that. I knew a lady that had written a book before and contacted her in Afghanistan and asked how we could do this. She send us to 3Arts. 

Getting this put down into words in the book before screen, to recount the experience, how was that for each of you?

Geist: We were forced to by Mitchell Zuckoff [all three men break out laughing]. What I would do is go drive the dirt roads to a pasture and tape it. Using a digital recorder I would drive around and talk. 

Paronto: He gave us a questionnaire and we would talk into the recorder and send them back to Mitch. It was all separate; we never did it together until we had the first draft down. He wanted to get us all separately to tell our story. When he found that separately we were saying the same thing, he knew that we were on the level. I think that reinforced for him that he wanted to do a good job and honor us because I think he realized that we were going through hell with the misrepresentations. 

Was there a time you couldn’t speak about what happened in Benghazi as the aftermath was going on?

Tiegen: Yes and it’s because of who we worked for. The only other people I could talk to was my wife and these guys. We wanted to still work and didn’t want to talk and tell anyone. I talked to our Team Leader a couple of times about the frustration of what was happening on television and there really wasn’t anything we could do about it. 

How long between the times you were still working and started on the questionnaires?

Paronto: I would say about eight or nine months.

Really? This really was written that fast.

Paronto: Yes, it was incredibly fast. Mitch is so talented and is a work horse and was the right guy for the job.

Tiegen: So is Bay, Bay is the same way (referring to director Michael Bay).

Geist: I think that’s when the film writing started with Bay – in May.

Paronto: Chuck Hogan, the script writer, wrote it so fast. They are all rock stars. We really had an all star team working on this and made it even more meant to be. The right guys were chosen and it was incredible.

When putting the script together, how much input were they relying on you for? I mean I would imagine quite a bit.

Paronto: When Mark and I were doing the pitches, Chuck was there doing the pitches as well and we were there to put our two cents in. When the script was written and we got the first draft we sat with Michael and Erwin at Bays’ studio to go over everything. There were things like a scene with one of the guys in a spot and we knew that wouldn’t work. We voiced our concerns about it because if you had a guy in the wrong spot the story wouldn’t work. Bay would say it might look better cinematically but we’d say ‘no’, this guy needs to be in the right spot.

Did he change it?

Paronto: Yes, yes he did. 

I imagine that it would be important.

Paronto: It is important, it is to us. He would say it flows with the story better and I’d say I don’t give a shit – this guy did this act and he needs to be seen doing this act!

When you learned that Michael Bay was going to be a part of this project, what was each of your reaction?

Tiegen: I thought it was great. I love his movies and he can shoot movies really well. 

Geist: There were always reservations about giving up your life rights because it means you have no control. So it was one of the things we had to be concerned with. We told him from the get-go that this was our issue. Because you can take this and do whatever with it and if you do that then…

Paronto: …we will not promote it <the men break out laughing again>.

Tiegen: I mean we wouldn’t want to give up any more time with our families than we already have so it was important to us to do it right. 

The final product in the casting – are you pleased?

Geist: Absolutely, they put together a really great cast. I mean to me, because in the end when we watch the movie I can see Tanto’s and Tig’s mannerisms. All of them brought to it a level of professionalism and I can’t judge having not been at this level before but you couldn’t have asked for better or more. The same with Michael Bay, he just approached this from a different.

Tiegen: It’s like he wanted the movie to be about what really happened. It’s about what happened not losing it with an A-list actor being more important than the story. There were those actors that were interested is what we had been told and people who thought that’s how it should be. 

Geist: Bay said no, it has to be about the story. Hey, not that any of these actors are small time it’s just that they aren’t so big that, well…

…so big that the name takes away from the story of the film.

Geist: Yes! 

Do you feel like the film honors the book-to-screen because that is hard to do sometimes?

Geist: Yes, they did. That was our biggest concern. For me personally I felt like if they kept the spirit of what was between the covers then I’d be happy. If they didn’t then we’d go after Michael Bay <joking of course>. He knocked it out of the park I think at least from our point of view and, our opinion is the only one that matters.

Paronto: Always, that’s what I tell everybody. The other thing is that there were no prima donnas on the set either. I think many of these actors will be propelled even higher and they so deserve it. 

Geist: They absolutely deserve it. It’s the whole ‘pay it forward’ thing. What happened to us happened to us and we were blessed being able to have a New York Times #1 Bestseller and a movie made by Michael Bay. If people involved can utilize it to help others then that’s a win-win. 

Paronto: I think having Mitch involved with the script and on the set and having him there having that perspective worked. His name is on the book too. It helped everything keeping the book as close as you can to the movie by keeping it factual and they did.

That’s the thing I was waiting for in reading the book – the politically but it never appeared in the pages. 

Paronto: There isn’t any.

Mitchell kept it factual.

Paronto: We don’t know what went on in Washington, D.C. and that’s why we said ‘don’t talk about that’. They didn’t speculate in the book or in the movie either. The information came for us.

Tiegen: It didn’t come from one source either, it came from several. Michael was saying there was a couple of issues about the location of other assets that could possibly have been available. It’s more of an illustration of it because they throw down a map and circle different places where assets could be and where they were drawn too. That information didn’t come from us; Michael got that information from other sources. It doesn’t say they were sent or that someone told them to stand-down. In the movie it’s depicted as this is what could be there.

Paronto: It was correct as well. The Department of Defense had assets getting spun up to come. It doesn’t get to the flights and how they were diverted because that speculative and if it’s speculative then we didn’t want it in the book and we didn’t want it in the movie and adding that stuff delegitimizes the story.

That’s why I didn’t have you read all those little notes I have stuck to the book. I had so many questions but by the end of the book I realized those questions didn’t matter. What mattered was your response and that you each are here to tell the truth about what happened. You gentlemen went above and beyond as far as I’m concerned to do the right thing.

Paronto: It’s good that it raises questions because it is suppose to raise questions too. 

Finally gentlemen, what are you doing now?

Tiegen: This is what we are doing, pushing the story to get it out there as much as we can. We want everyone to know what happened. We had the loss of an Ambassador of over thirty years. That’s another reason we wanted to make sure it was written down correctly. The book is a history book.

Thank you gentlemen very much for your service and spending time with me today!


Wrapping up the interview, Geist told me that he knew the area from his days at Camp Pendleton. We spoke about Tyrone “Rone” Woods and the bar The Salty Frog when he suggested to Tiegen and Paronto that they go have a beer for their fallen friend. That solidified what I already knew the moment I walked into the room – these are extraordinary men.

These are the men that helped each and every one of us sleep easier at night because they had the strength and courage to do what was necessary, and are doing so again with 13 HOURS. These men are humble, determined, playful, straight-forward, familial, direct and hilarious. Their friendship turned into a tight and protective family –bonded brothers sharing in an unthinkable experience and asking us all to listen, learn and most of all remember. 

Their 13 hour experience is not about politics or finger pointing – it is about the plain truth. 

AIR 

Talking with Star Djimon Hounsou

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres this week from writer/director Christian Cantamessa and Vertical Entertainment along with producer Robert Kirkman comes a look at life without AIR.

This film tells the story of the future where humanity has destroyed itself and the air needed to breathe. Deep underground are two engineers Bauer (Norman Reedus) and Cartwright (Djimon Hounsou) left with the responsibility of keeping others in suspended animation in cryotubes.

Routinely awaken, they run tests and check equipment as these two men go about their routine. While they are busy with their duties a fire breaks out in one pod leaving only one for both men.

With the clock winding down before their air is depleted, Bauer and Cartwright press each other to the limits of trust as suspicion and fear grow with each move they make.

It is all up in the air!

Reedus as Bauer gives us everything we have come to love about him. He can smile one moment with the devil in his eyes and frown the next bringing a chill down the spine. In AIR he does both with such ease that it’s actually quite disturbing in a way. Both of these men want to survive but once paranoia strikes, Bauer/Reedus puts his mental foot down and doesn’t take guff of any sort. Yes, a Reedus fan here and I have no shame in that game kids but trust me when I tell you this performance is very cool.

Hounsou as Cartwright is a straight forward man who takes his job seriously and wants to make absolutely sure everything is done correctly. Not only is he good at his job but has a moving motive for every step he takes. His emotions sway from time to time but he pulls it back to dead center because Cartwright’s survival depends on it. Hounsou has such a unique ability for drawing us in. Remember what I just said about Reedus’ smile and eyes? Well, the same is true for Hounsou which means I was keeping my eyes out for both of these characters!

I recently had the fantastic opportunity to speak with Djimon Hounsou about the film AIR, working with Reedus in close quarters and what he hopes we all take away from the film. 

Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today Djimon.

Hello Jeri, a pleasure to talk to you.

What was your original reaction to the AIR script when it came to you?

My immediate reaction was that it would be quite an interesting world to explore actually. Right away knowing Norman Reedus with his great presence on his show The Walking Dead, I thought it was going to be quite nice for us to explore and find a way to save humanity. Also, there struggles as well which allowed us to explore these characters that are very creative as well.

What drew you to want to play Cartwright was there something specific? It’s a very complex character.

Yes, he is complex in a way that obviously you come to understand his motive for being their but also a scientist chosen to be there. He has a tremendous desire to be there and it was fun to explore that.

You don’t have one genre that you seem to like to play; you always seem to surprise us.

Yes, that’s true and thank you.

How was it to play just the two of you? In your other films the cast is quite a large ensemble. In AIR it’s just you and Norman playing off one another.

I thought it was fun; I actually liked that fact that we were so confined and limited to interacting with each other. In filming you have actors and so much that goes on behind the camera. It is sort of like a very orchestrated play within chaos. It was great to work with Norman like this, being on the set every day of the film where you have only thirty days to shoot and not a lot of time to get acquainted with one another. You eventually get acquainted as we both evolved together in the story telling process of the film.

Usually you get to play off your surroundings; AIR is very limited in surroundings. 

Oh absolutely.

Was that a new challenge for you as well?

Actually that was helpful. If you have too big of a house you can’t use all of them, you don’t know your house because you don’t use all if the rooms. If you have a smaller house you use everything in it, you actually get to enjoy it – having a smaller set is just like that.

Was there a scene between you and Norman that you feel you learned something about yourself personally?

Sometimes the understanding comes much later. We learn things that we don’t really comprehend it while it’s happening. It comes clearer later.

You and Norman play these intense characters at times, did you feel that deeper than was put on the page?

I want to say yes because I did not anticipate when I signed up to make this film that the environment would be so creative. It was a chance to dig deep into these characters and I hadn’t anticipated that.

You are never quite sure about either of these characters and that keeps the viewer drawn into the story. When audiences have a chance to see the film what do you want them to take away? 

<there was a long pause and then a deep sigh from Djimon to which I immediately apologized>

I’m sorry.

Oh Jeri, that’s right, you should be so sorry – that is a huge question <laughing>. I’m kidding. What did I learn from this films story? Actually we learn from history. We learn from our past mistakes. For example, look what took place with Katrina in the US, people acted poorly in that city after the disaster and there are people who acted with great humanity. Some people showed a great amount of courage as well. There are ‘what if’ moments so in this film there is that big question – ‘what if?’

‘What if?’ is a big question here. What I took from it is that sometimes our fear over rides our humanity.

True. I think ultimately if we look at life from the basis of mankind then look at it as having the human experience here on earth. Once you define that for yourself I think you will have an answer if something like this ever happened how you should conduct yourself. Once you comprehend that you have it all. It’s very heavy, I can’t say more than that.

No one has experienced anything like AIR before. Your kind of giving us an original experience in this film.

It never happened before but we have had little pieces of situations of things like that in our world. Our integrity has been questioned and it’s up to us to show courage when the situation presents itself.

Well said sir! Thank you so much Djimon for speaking with us and congratulations on AIR, so well done.

Thank you Jeri for your support. I hope I can talk to you again when KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE and TARZAN comes to theatres!  

I look forward to that Djimon!


TUBS OF POPCORN: I give AIR four tubs of popcorn out of five. It has to be said that these two actors took this script to another level. There is suspense, fear, suspicion and the question ‘what will you do to survive?’ The limited setting just gave me a tad bit of claustrophobia because there truly is no way out. Watching these two characters problem solve just got heavier and heavier until the final showdown between them.

Hounsou is such an amazing actor and continues to surprise me with the roles he takes. In AIR it is this actor’s ability to hide his emotions that give him the edge with the character of Cartwright. Male model to actor he has graced us with outstanding performances in such films as AMISTAD, BLOOD DIAMOND and more recently GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.

Reedus continues to take on challenges besides his Daryl Dixon AMC’s The Walking Dead persona. Fans now have the opportunity to look back into his acting career and discover seeing his films either for the first time or not realizing they had seen him so many times before (BOONDOCK SAINTS is my favsies). 

The film is produced by Robert Kirkman (yes, THAT Robert Kirkman of The Walking Dead fame) and David Alpert. This is a 95 minute thriller to be sure. Is there more to this story? Absolutely. Am I going to tell you? Nope. Let AIR speak for itself in theatres this weekend. Prepare for a good ole fashion futuristic thriller!

In the end – two men with one task to save humanity!




(A person shout out to Brenda - I can't thank you enough for having my back & the door. You helped me stress less when I needed it the most. You are a credit to your caring profession ma'm!)



INTO THE WOODS Emerges on Bluray, Digital HD and Disney Movies Anywhere 
on March 24th!

Talking with James Lapine

Jeri Jacquin

Stage director, filmmaker, playwright, and screenwriter – James Lapine clearly is a man of pure talent. The musical Into the Woods began here in San Diego at the Old Globe Theatre in 1986 from the book by James Lapine and included lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

Combining the stories of Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, Cinderella and others take viewers on a music journey with songs like “Hello, Little Girl” sung by the Big Bad Wolf, “A Very Nice Prince” sung by Cinderella and “Giants in the Sky” sung by Jack to name a few.

Lapine has received awards such as the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Sunday in the Park with Gorge, a Tony Award for Best Book Musical for Falsettos and Passion. He also received a Tony Award for Into the Woods in 1988. In 2010, Lapine was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame and deservedly so.

His family is equally talented as Lapine is married to Screenwriter/director Sarah Kernochan who wrote the film IMPROMPTU. Daughter Phoebe Lapine is the creator and author of a blog on healthy comfort food and ‘kitchen confessions’ called Feed Me Phoebe which you can read more about at www.feedmephoebe.com.

When not creating drama for the stage, Lapine has also directed the films EARTHLY POSESSIONS with Susan Sarandon for television, LIFE WITH MIKEY with Michael J. Fox and IMPROMPTU with Judy Davis and Mandy Patinkin. 

In 2014, Rob Marshall along with the script written by Lapine brought everyone the opportunity to share in the excitement on the big screen with Disney.

This clearly is a very busy man so imagine my thrill at having the opportunity to speak with him about INTO THE WOODS that arrives in stores this Tuesday on Bluray, Digital HD and on Disney Movies Anywhere. The disc includes to much with Never-Before-Seen Sondheim Original: She’ll Be Back performed by Meryl Street and an introduction by Rob Marshall, The Cast As Good As Gold – The film’s stars share the experience of taking this epic musical journey, Deeper Into the Woods – four pieces on the making of the film, including The Magic of the Woods, Filmmaker Commentary, Music & Lyrics and so much more!


Thank you for talking with us today James about INTO THE WOODS coming to Bluray this week!

You’re so welcome.

We are so excited about the Bluray release. How about you?

It’s so nice to have the movie and to have it now come to Bluray.

How did you feel about having INTO THE WOODS taken from stage to screen?

I couldn’t be happier really. It had already been optioned once before and I didn’t get to write the script. I couldn’t have been happier to have the opportunity to write this and was thrilled.

What did you think of the casting choices?

Oh my gosh I love the cast! I mean when someone calls you up and says you are getting Meryl Streep – what’s not to like.

I think that would have been the first thing that made me fall out of my chair!

She was the first one that signed on and when people hear that Meryl Streep is in a movie, other actors want to be in that movie. We were really lucky to have her join on and throw her support behind this movie.

And to have all of them singing such beautiful songs!

I know! What I love what Rob Marshall did is that he cast real singers.

And Meryl’s song is added onto the Bluray?

I saw Meryl’s song there which is really exciting.

When they came to you and said ‘hey, we want to do this film’ and Disney is behind it, how does that make you feel.

I have such a long history with Disney. I can’t seem to get away from them <laughing> but I’ve done a number of projects with them. They were so supportive and lovely and I love to think of myself as part of the Disney family. It was exciting and great!

Have you had a chance to speak to the cast about what’s on the Bluray?

I know that Meryl is particularly thrilled to know that her song that was cut from the movie will have a life on the Bluray.

Meryl has such an interesting voice.

She has a spectacular voice.

You don’t expect it from her.

I know, she is extraordinary really. I said to her ‘I didn’t know you could sing like this?’ and she said, ‘no one ever asked me to sing like this’. She’s just a remarkable sing, truly amazing.

Did Emily Blunt surprise you with her voice because it surprised me!

I had no idea she could sing. Meryl is a theatre person so I knew she could sing of course. I didn’t know anything about how wonderful Emily could sing. I also knew James Corden sang. 

Anna Kendrick, does she not have the sweetest voice?

Are you ready for this? I had Anna Kendrick audition for Red Riding Hood in the revival of INTO THE WOODS. I almost cast her too and it’s ironic that she’s playing Cinderella.

I haven’t had the chance to see the musical on stage, and I want to now. For someone like me who hasn’t seen the stage production, is the film INTO THE WOODS much difference for you?

I think spiritually they are the same. There are little things that are different but no, in all honesty, the film is very respectful of our stage show.

That’s awesome.

I agree! There was some nervousness about it but it all turned out just fine.

It’s beautifully done, the casting is spectacular, the costumes are stunning, and the music is brilliant so, in other words you are an amazing human being!

Well, you’ve just made my day. I didn’t know I am amazing but thanks!

Congratulations with the success of the film and thank you again for spending time with us!

You are so welcome!




And that’s how it’s done! Disney has brought Marshall, Lapine and Sondheim from stage to screen and now Bluray. How should you celebrate? There is only one way to do it properly. Gather up the family and have a wonderful world of Disney family night filled with songs and fun that can be shared.

It’s an amazing opportunity and definitely a bonus to add to the family library. INTO THE WOODS is now a part of classic Disney that will be shared for years to come!

INTO THE WOODS comes to Bluray: 
Talking with Lilla Crawford

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to Bluray this week packed with amazing bonus features comes the wildly fun INTO THE WOODS. 

Lilla Crawford portrayed Little Red Riding Hood and is also known for her 2012 Broadway revival of ANNIE. From commercial to theatre, Crawford has kept herself busy but also supports the Broadway Cares Equality Fights Aids and Broadway Barks.

I had the opportunity to speak with Lilla about playing Little Red Riding Hood and the Bluray release of INTO THE WOODS, performing in an all star cast and what’s next for the young star. 

Hi Lilla, thanks for joining us today.

Hi, thank you so much.

INTO THE WOODS was such an amazing success in theatres and your character is very funny. How excited are you with the Bluray coming out, I mean it’s like round two of more fun for the fans for sure.

Yes, especially all the bonus features that are on the Bluray absolutely.

I was going to ask you about that. There is a bonus feature called The Cast As Good As Gold as the cast talks about their experiences on the film. Have you seen it?

Yes, I did watch that. 

How did you like hearing everyone else’s experiences?

Watching all the bonus features was like a refresher on what it was like being on the set. All of it that will be seen, I was there! Watching it all back was going down memory lane.

You worked with such a stellar cast and being one of the youngest cast members, how was it for you being around Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, and Emily Blunt to name drop a few?

It was great, everyone was so nice and they are so talented. It was such an amazing cast and I was thrilled to be a part of it. I thought ‘how did I get into the cast?’ I still can’t believe it happened. It’s very surreal but they are super cool.

You are now a part of a film that started as a stage production; did you see it performed on stage?

Yes I did, I saw the Shakespeare in the Park production in 2012. It was a great production and I loved it.

Did you think ‘hmmm, I can do that!’

The girl who played Red Riding Hood was older. Although she is suppose to be a young girl she is often played by someone older. When I found out for the film that they wanted kids I was excited because I knew I wanted to be part of it.

You have such a great history with theatre for such a young lady, how was it to make the transition from theatre to screen for you?

I have been on a set before and somewhat use to that environment doing commercials and I did a lot of them when I was little. So it wasn’t to alien to me. There are a lot of differences in that theatre is live in front of an audience and you don’t have a chance to change it. The film allows us to work on it until it’s completed and then shown to an audience.

And I’m sure the differences between stage and sets as well.

Absolutely. 

When you are speaking with people today do you sense the excitement once again as fans get ready to own INTO THE WOODS?

I am definitely excited and it’s an exclusive package with so many bonus features, I mean there are a lot! It’s almost a completely different thing which is cool.

We were thrilled to hear that Meryl’s song that was taken out of the film is put back in the Bluray. How was your experience with her on the set?

She is amazing and so nice. I just saw her in Japan and it was nice hanging out with her.

Working with the songs, how was it for you knowing you’d be singing such iconic songs?

It’s a dream come true to be associated with anything Sondheim. He is a god in the theatre world and his songs are so classic that it’s kind of an honor being associated with him.

Your take on Red Riding Hood was charming, funny and it was a nice surprise and the response I got from you. I wanted to thank you for that.

Thank you so much.

Now that you’ve completed the film and the Bluray, are you staying with film or theatres?

It’s where ever the wind blows me. I don’t care what it is I just love performing. I’m happiest performing. I would love to do theatre and films. What ever becomes available I would love to do.

I appreciate so much you talking with us today and congratulations.

Thank you so much!


This week on Bluray packed with amazing bonus features comes INTO THE WOODS. It’s been fantastic talking to James Lapine and Lilla Crawford this week about their experiences in making the film and equally excited that INTO THE WOODS arrives in stores on Bluray!

On March 24th, INTO THE WOODS on Bluray, Digital HD and Disney Movies Anywhere!
ST. VINCENT On Bluray!
Talking with director Theodore Melfi and star Jaeden Lieberher

Jeri Jacquin

On Bluray this week from director Theodore Melfi and The Weinstein Company is the one-two combination of comedy and awwwww-ness with ST. VINCENT.

Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) is a young man living with his mother Maggie (Melissa McCarthy). Recently moving into a new home to start over again, Oliver meets neighbor Vincent (Bill Murray). Vincent is an interesting fellow to say the least with his drinking, stubbornness and inability to be cordial.

But Oliver is drawn to the grumpy neighbor as Maggie is in need of a sitter for her son. Vince is more than happy to do the job as long as there is money involved and it doesn’t get in the way of his time private with Daka (Naomi Watts).

Every day Oliver goes off to school to learn from Brother Geraghty (Chris O’Dowd), the priest trying to teach a classroom full of kids what it means to be saintly. Spending every moment possible with Vincent, Oliver might just teach everyone that lesson.

I had the opportunity to talk with director Theodore Melfi and Oliver himself, the young actor Jaeden Lieberher about the film, casting and having 2,000 pleased film-goers!


Hi Ted and Jaeden, thanks for talking with me today. First of all I have to say that I love, love the film!

Theodore: Thank you! We think it’s the best film made in the last twenty or thirty years at least. (Jaeden is laughing in the background)

I love that attitude and I will back it 100%!

Theodore: Thank you!

What made you decide to delve in so deep with this project being both writer and director?

Theodore: It’s a personal story so it’s a story I wanted to tell. The character of Vincent is based on my wife’s father who is a guy who drank too much, smoked too much and abandoned his kids. Then toward the end of his life he became saintly and reunited with my wife and became her father again. It is based on a true story and that’s the story I wanted to tell and why I decided to do it myself.

Was casting Bill Murray a given for you?

Theodore: No, actually it was very easy. I called his cell phone and he called back and said ‘yes’. (Note: It wasn't that easy and actually took months!)

You have to love when you get a quick answer like that right?

Theodore: It’s a miracle!

It’s a good miracle. Jaeden, how was it for you working with Mr. Murray?

Jaeden: It was so much fun working with him. You don’t know what to expect because he’s just crazy.

And you mean that with love right?

Jaeden: Yes, definitely!

Did you know much about him Jaeden before being cast in the film?

Jaeden: Yes, I did. I love his movies. All of them are classics GHOSTBUSTER, GROUNDHOG DAY, MT. RUSHMORE, all of them I love. 

GROUNDHOG DAY might be up there with ST. VINCENT you know?

Theodore: GROUNDHOG DAY is one of those twenty that might be up there with ST. VINCENT. It truly is a classic.

It’s very close to ST. VINCENT.

Theodore: It’s just below ST. VINCENT.

In casting the other roles, what made you decide to go with Melissa McCarthy?

Theodore: I think Melissa is an extraordinary actor, not a comedienne but an actor. She started with nine years of off-Broadway dramatic acting in New York and then moved to Los Angeles and found The Groundlings by accident really. So she started out as a dramatic actress and if you look at something as innocuous as Gilmore Girls and then look at Mike and Molly you can see how full her range is. She can do anything, literally. She was someone who I really, really wanted to work with in this part because I wanted to show that other side of her that is essentially a tangible quality about her. Her humanity is huge and that’s who Maggie is.

Jaeden, how did you like having Melissa for a Mom temporarily?

Jaeden: Melissa I a good Mom, I can tell. She’s super sweet and likes taking care of people. It was really nice to have her for my Mom. It was a nice experience.

Ted, what was it about Jaeden that you thought “this is Oliver”?

Theodore: Jaeden just exudes this honest about him, he is an honest human being. He doesn’t manipulate or be any more than what he is. He’s one of those rare humans who is comfortable in his skin all the time. He doesn’t know how to do anything else. That is Oliver to me. Oliver, through it all, is a strongest character in the film because he believes in himself and believes he has value. When I met Oliver I thought ‘this is the calmest kid I’ve ever met in my entire life’. It was a natural choice.

He absolutely exudes that doesn’t he? It’s almost eerie.

Theodore: It’s really disturbing. In fact he’s been training us all.

Then I need to take that class! Jaeden, what did you like best about being Oliver?

Jaeden: Oliver is a really nice and really sweet, just like Melissa. If you look at all the characters they are really sweet deep down. Oliver ha a really big heart and he can see things that other people can’t, like the good in Vincent. He’s a good kid.

I have to agree with you. I thought he was able to see things in the adults that they couldn’t see for themselves.

Theodore: He can also see dead people but we didn’t put it in the script.

Well, there was that moment, one little moment I’m telling you! Naomi Watts, didn’t see that coming from her.

Theodore: Why would you?! I have to safely say it’s the first depiction of a pregnant-Russian-prostitute.

Sometimes you have to cover your bases all in one character so go for it right?

Theodore: She has done something no one else has dared to achieve!

I adored her. She just brought that spunk, everyone is sweet and nice except for Vincent of course. She is the one that gets everyone going – kind of like a cheerleader. So we can add pregnant-Russian-prostitute-cheerleader.

Theodore: Personally, she’s is one of the most courageous people I’ve ever met. She is so ballsy and brave. How many actresses would go on stage and do a strip tease while being pregnant. She is so bold to me and it was inspiring working with her. 

I adored her performance. Chris O’Dowd, here is an actor that just comes in being comedic when it seems he doesn’t mean to be comedic.

Theodore: He’s like that in person as well. You sit with him and he can go off on tears and make me laugh for 20 minutes straight. He is a genius. We only had him for two weekends. He was doing a television series in Ireland so he’d come to us on Friday night on the red-eye, shoot Saturday and Sunday morning and go back to Ireland on Sunday night. That could have been a train wreck because I’m sure he was exhausted. He came with every single ounce of preparation and nailed every one of his scenes. It was unbelievable, his performances work and his work ethic is amazing.

You also got some amazing people to jump aboard like Anne Dowd, Nate Corrdry and Terrence Howard. Did it seem like everyone just wanted a piece of this?

Theodore: Yes, everyone wanted to work with me. I sent an email out saying this was the best script ever written. I had to beat people off with a stick! <Jaeden and I are laughing> No, really it was Bill Murray, when you have Bill Murray even the cat called and said he wanted to be part of this. 

So basically he’s a Bill-Murray-magnet?

Theodore: Yes, he’s a magnet and a magnet for everything that comes into his life. 

Did you see SNL40 on Sunday?

Theodore: Yes! Jaws was the best.

Only Bill could have pulled that one off! When you finally saw the end result because you are in this heart and soul, did you have the same gut-wrenching Kleenex reaction we all did?

Theodore: You become, strangely enough, immune having sat in a room for a few months seeing it over and over about 500 times. It’s a bizarre feeling, then you see it on the big screen and you think ‘what am I watching?’ I finally saw it in Toronto and after the film was finished, 2,000 people stood up an applauded for over three minutes. They applauded the cast with Bill, Melissa, Naomi and Jaeden; we all stood up in the aisles and hugged each other. I had tears in my eyes and the moment I knew the movie was having an effect on people and people enjoyed it. It was the first time I really got that!

What was that like for you Jaeden to see all those people stand up and applaud for you?

Jaeden: That was a really, really, really great feeling. To see everyone so happy and crying and laughing, it was amazing.

Theodore: It confirmed that it was the best movie ever made!



I have to say that I absolutely love when a director and cast member take the time to talk about a film but even more so when there is lots of laughter. ST. VINCENT is a beautifully written, acted and shot film that reaches into the heart of people. The characters are filled with every human emotion and that’s what comes across to audiences.

The film has garnered two wins for actor Jaeden Lieberher from the Las Vegas Film Critics Society and the Phoenix Film Critics Society. It also won Truly Moving Motion Picture Award for director Theodore Melfi, Chernin Entertainment and The Weinstein Company from Heartland Films. It has also been nominated again and again for awards including two Golden Globe nods for Best Motion Picture and Best Performance for Bill Murray. 

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give ST. VINCENT four tubs of popcorn out of five. Yes I’m all for it because of Bill Murray but also because of the story and the young actor who manages to keep pace with Murray line for line. That being said it is also an amazing storyline with an ending that will drop a tear and cheer whether you mean to or not. This is a very well done film from beginning to end so owning the DVD is a plus!

The DVD includes the special features of Deleted Scenes and Bill Murray is St. Vincent: Patron Saint of Comedy which I highly suggest watching.

In the end – with neighbors like these who needs family?

FURY: Talking with director David Ayer

Jeri Jacquin

Opening in theatres October 17th from director/writer David Ayer along with the stellar cast including Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal and Logan Lerman.

It is April of 1945 and troops are pushing toward the end of the war in the European Theatre. Don, also called Wardaddy (Brad Pitt), is in command of a five man crew aboard the Sherman tank. 

Along with Swan ‘Bible’ (Shia LaBeouf), Garcia ‘Gordo’ (Michael Pena) and Travis ‘Coon-Ass’ (Jon Bernthal), they return from missions worn. After the loss of a man, Norman (Logan Lerman) is reassigned to Wardaddy’s group. This is a film about these men and the war they must face and the decisions that must be made keeping the brotherhood together.

FURY is written/directed/produced by David Ayer. If that name seems familiar to you that would be because this talented individual is responsible for writing such films as U-571 (2002), THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS (2001), END OF WATCH (which he also directed in 2012) and now FURY.

It was a pleasure to be able to talk with David about the film, service to the military, his belief portraying these men with intensity, and the stellar cast put together to bring us FURY.

Hi David, thanks for joining me today.

Absolutely, no worries.

I saw the film and it was amazing to watch. I have to say I love U-571 and now FURY, do you lean towards historic military films?

Well, I served in the Navy and I was in a submarine and, both of my grandparents were in World War II, they were career military and retired officers. My uncle flew bombers missions over Germany so that time period has a family legacy there and that generation never talked about it. They never talked about what they experienced and I’ve had to figure it out from television and movies as a kid. As a filmmaker I became curious about what really happened out there and I knew I wanted to direct a film about the war so I began investigating it. I was really drawn toward the closing days of World War II when guys were tired and equipment was beat up and the Germans were throwing the rules books out and doing some nasty things. This is similar to what our troops face down range today. 

What drew you to write/direct FURY?

Because I served, I looked at other movies and they were always about famous battles and famous events. I wanted to make a movie about the guys. I wanted to make a movie about just the honor of simply doing your job on an unknown day towards the end of the war. It’s about the family in this tank and I’m sure, as you know, tankers get real close. They are like brothers finishing each others sentences like a family. No one can be as kind or as cruel …

…as your own family!

Yes! These actors did an incredible job of portraying a military small unit operating under incredible duress yet they maintain their closeness and look out for each other as only guys in combat can.

The one thing that caught me was that it was about the emotion these guys went through. The range you got from these actors was father, son, brother, teacher…there was so much to take in. Were you expecting that from them?

It was really about helping the actors showing all those different aspects, especially with Brad playing the father character Don who is a mentor and big brother to Logan’s character Norman. This was like the first worst day at school ever and he’s got to learn how to get along with these seasoned combat troop, integrate and then Wardaddy Brad has to make him into an effective soldier. Back then and in war time it wasn’t an easy process.

The one line that truly stuck out for me was when Brad says “Ideals are peaceful – history is violent”, you seem to have captured what many films haven’t been able to do. Showing both sides where Logan can’t reconcile with what he might have to do and Wardaddy saying ‘this is what it is’. 

Exactly. That was actually an ad-lib by Brad.

You’re kidding!

Yes, he surprised me with it and we kept it in the movie because it was so soulful as to what was going on. The other line that I love in the film is when Mike Pena says after Logan has his first experience in combat ‘it’s not pretty but this is what we do’.

And he does it with such a straight this-is-the-truth-of it delivery of that line.

Exactly and at the end of the day I wanted to show that this is a job. It’s like a blue collar job where you punch in, you go to work, you do what you have got to do, you pray that everyone comes out in tact and healthy and then you get ready to do it again the next day. There is honor in that; there is nobility in doing that work.

I will admit I wondered about Brad’s role because at first all I could think of was Lt. Aldo Raine from INGLORIOUS BASTERDS. Was that a concern for you?

I know, we approached this role like lets just take FURY as it’s own thing and really work on creating the character written and that’s what Brad does, what he does a fantastic job at it. He really learned how to be an NCO and how to lead guys and inspire them. He does such a good job at playing that paradox of loving your troops, loving these guys, caring about them and being responsible for their welfare yet at the same time you have to ask them to do things that put them in danger and risk their lives in order to complete the mission.

The cast is so interesting because they are so diverse.

That’s the thing with a lot of these movies is that they look like cookie-cutter characters from other war movies.

These are not.

No, I wanted unique guys and that’s what I remember from my time in the service and who I served with. I remember how unique they are and the last people you’d expect to be in the military yet – here they are. That’s what I wanted to show was that it’s really about these people, these brothers, this family.

The shooting looks rough, how did you all manage that? You shot in mud, dirt, rain, etc.

Every now and then someone would slip and fall and hit the mud. It’s a bad place to drop your cell phone. We tried to create the look of war time conditions as much as possible and that’s one of my complaints with a lot of these films is that they don’t reflect how difficult it really was. The uniforms in those films are too clean and the equipment is too perfect so we wanted it to look like an army that has been in the field, an army that has been fighting a war. We wanted it to look like guys out there getting it done. The equipment is tired, the people are tired and you really feel it on the screen.

Shia LaBeouf – what the heck? {David is laughing} Wow. I was blow away. His character had such a silent struggle. The scene between him and Brad with Bible quotes was surprising. The look on their faces … Do you realize the effect that will have people?

Shia really put the work into getting this done. Yes, there are rumors and I guess they are fun rumors but the truth is that he did the basic hard work to really deliver that character. He imbedded with a National Guard Unit and did field exercises for quite some time. He shadowed an Army Chaplain so he could see how to minister to soldiers and to see how scripture fits into the life of a soldier. He really went the extra mile in understanding how to portray that character. What he brought to the screen is that he is the heart and conscience of that tank crew. He worked hard and it’s a great understated realistic performance of a man who has faith.

Logan Lerman, where did you find this young man?

He came in and auditioned. There were three scenes and he came in and read one and holy cow, I knew he’d be in the movie at that point. He is just amazing. He had a thankless job because he’s the little brother, the new guy and that’s how they treated him. Anyone who has served knows exactly what that means.

He was the tank pleeb.

Yep! 

Jon Bernthal, how do you go from THE WALKING DEAD to being the strangest tank guy on the planet!

He’s a little bit of the animalistic side of the group. I think anyone who has served knows ‘that guy’ and that’s what we called him – that guy. At the end of the day he is dependable, he knows his position in the crew and he gets the job done. Jon is just a great guy and it’s so interesting because he’s really playing against type. He is so playing something he isn’t.

I looked at his character as the guy saying what everyone else was thinking.

Exactly.

He felt it and had no problem expressing it while everyone else was like ‘oooohhhkayyy’, you got this one Coon-Ass (character’s name). 

Absolutely, that’s what his character is like.

When people leave the film, what do you want them to come away with?

I think the war is so compelling to people because it truly was a struggle between good and evil. It really was black and white and it was freedom or slavery. Were we going to be in world were people meant something or were we going to live in a world with no human rights what so ever. People think that because the outcome was so black and white that somehow the fighting was too but it wasn’t. It was just as moral hazardous and just as confusing and painful as anything our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines face now. Our grandparents had the difficult time of making the calls that folks do today. War is nothing new under the sun. 

The emotion with this is that families may now be able to see a piece of it and share with them.

Exactly. That’s what I’m hoping and for me the perfect outcome would be that tankers could go see this movie and show their loved ones and be able to say ‘this is what I do for a living’. 

You definitely don’t sugar coat in this film, you made me jump a few times I’m not going to lie.

Copy that!

You didn’t try to cover the brutality of war up. 

I can’t show what they experienced and what they are trying to process and survive from unless we get a sense of how rough it was. I am fascinated by how the folks in uniform will respond to the film. There are a lot of subtle inside military humor in the film and I think it comes across.

Do you like doing that?

Oh yes, I really do. If you serve there are a lot of inside jokes. 

You did an amazing job and it has been such a pleasure talking to you. 

You too Jeri.


On October 17th, when looking for a film to see that gives it from script to screen straight, see Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal and Logan Lerman in FURY.


I ORIGINS: Talking with Director Mike Cahill 

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres from director Mike Cahill is the Fox Searchlight film I ORIGINS starring Michael Pitt and Brit Marling.

My first introduction to this superb storytelling was in 2010 with the film ANOTHER EARTH. I knew after seeing that film I was going to be hooked on anything this director put in front of me. I was seeing something I had been screaming for and hoped I would see it again. He has kept me waiting no longer.

I ORIGINS is a film about Dr. Ian Gray played by Pitt who is a molecular biologist studying the evolution of the human eye. Falling for a young woman by seeing her eyes on a poster, their time together is brief. Joined by lab partner Karen, played by Marling, they discover that the evolution they are studying is deeper than they could imagine. Now the implications will challenge both his scientific and spiritual beliefs.

I had the chance to speak with Mike about the film and its fantastic stars.

Hi Mike, I’m so thrilled to talk to you. The last time we spoke was for ANOTHER EARTH along with Brit.

Yes, I know. She has been very busy hasn’t she? I’m more of a slow burn taking three years to complete my work.

But what a three years it has been!

Yes, what a three years.

I saw the film and you’ve done it again.

Thank you for saying that.

You freaked me out, you got me thinking and I have a million questions. I got in my car and said out loud, ‘I hate Mike’ {laughing}

Bravo, bravo that means I’m doing my job. I am disrupting people’s world view one film at a time, one half hour at a time. {laughing}

You know that saying that ends ‘don’t disturb my universe’, well you disturbed it.

Great! Now deal with this new paradigm.

So you know I have to ask, where did this idea come from?

Believe it or not it came from a dream twelve years ago. One night I woke up after having an intense dream and wrote down this one sentence on a scrap of paper and the sentence was ‘the eyes of dead people return in newborns’.

Whoa!

I started researching and learning about biometrics and it slowly built over the last 12 years. It became tons and tons of logged in research but it wasn’t until I met Michael Pitt at a general meeting in Brooklyn and we sat down for a cup of coffee to meet artist to artist. It was about half way through a conversation that was inspiring, fun and interesting that I realize I was sitting before my Ian Grey. It took a hold of me and I thought he would be brilliant in this role. I told him the whole back-story of a scientist who studies the eye. I told him he falls in love, loses love and falls in love again in a completely different way. He was inspired and we started working together right away. After that I jumped on the computer and put together a script in two weeks. The abstraction became concrete.

When you went back to Michael and say ‘hey, guess what?’ what was his reaction?

He said, ‘oh you’re not messing around, you’re serious!’ We literally began working together. The thing that’s fascinating about Michael is that he really dives deep when building a character. He goes from the ground up and we had a wonderful opportunity to go to John Hopkins Medical Research labs and work with scientists there who are molecular biologist. We saw how to extract DNA and run gels and sequence genomes. It was really very hands on and exciting. Both Michael and Brit would just sort of sponge up all the information and it was beautiful to witness. They built those characters for many months until we shot.

How has this film affected you now that you’ve gone from dream to paper to screen?

It’s weird. So much of our experiences in life are abstraction with dreams, moments, colors and sounds. It seems like part of our responsibility as humans is to create a narrative and make a story come together. I feel like I’m participating in life and opposed to being numb.

Here’s my little freak out for you because I just can’t get it out of my head. The scene with the young girl choosing from pictures she recognizes or doesn’t. What popped into my head, when she’s getting the answers wrong and if the theory is re-birth – who is to say her answers are really wrong? If she lives once – who is to say she didn’t live again, and again?

Oh my - what wisdom you have. That’s wonderful!

Does that make sense?

So the theory goes if it is once is it not infinite or since the dawn of time with 50,000 lives before that. The artifacts presented, with animals so of course. I think the test was flawed in many ways but what you get is a scientist that doesn’t believe in this. He requires evidence and there is a moment where he wants it to be true. It sort of scattered and messy but it’s like fumbling the football five feet from the end zone. 

The young actress, Kashish, who by the way was wonderful, the look on her face wasn’t so much that she wanted to please them by choosing the right thing, but always a look of recognition no matter the photo.

Yes, she was so sure of herself. That’s the first time that anyone has said that and I love that you did. It’s audience participation in the film, it’s yours and you own it. 

You said that to me before too.

I believe it and it’s important. Your participation and our performance is together. It’s yours and who ever is on the receiving end of this play we’ve put together.

I don’t imagine you had a hard time getting Brit to jump on board.

No, not at all. We have a history and a deep, deep friendship and trust and mutual admiration for one another. I did send her the script and asked her what she thought and she was moved by it. I wrote the part for her knowing how good she is. The role of Karen is hard to pull off but Brit is able to give this character such depth and feeling.

When it comes to Karen and Ian, she is so intense. She wants to understand what he’s doing and wants to be a part of it. She has such an intense look sometimes.

That’s phenomenal; I mean who can do that. It’s incredible and exciting to work with her. I get to watch that unfold in real time.

The end – everyone walked out very quiet. But here’s the thing Mike, it couldn’t have ended any other way. You left it for us to decide how it ends; when that door opens it’s a door for us.

Exactly! We leave the seeds earlier with Sophie and Ian. The reason he was so drawn to her was not only the fact that she was beautiful, but the primal thing is that she saw in him something most people didn’t see. She saw that he had that mutant gene that allowed him to touch the spiritual side of the world. He repelled and fought against it with 95% of his being anti-believe! Some part of him was pulling him toward the light on the other side of the door. Here we are they are walking through this glowing new world. It was in that process where I saw that moment where I said, “whoa, cut to black, we are done!” I shot more than that too.

What’s next for you?

I’m thinking of massage, glass of champagne…

Warm beach…

Yes! Actually I’m working on a story about extra terrestrials that is a love story and it deals with aliens in a way that is very scientific. It is really exciting to me. There is a sequel to I ORIGINS so stay past the credits where there is a coda that teases. I have other crazy and weird projects that I’m not ready to talk about yet.

Well, your idea of crazy and weird is awesome to me. 

Thanks so much, it will give us something to talk about again soon. It will be great tradition for us.


And that couldn’t make this writer any happier. Cahill is a force to be followed as his story telling is sincere, and directing captures every nuance of that same story. So if you’re looking for a film that gives you all the beauty that’s been lacking in theatres lately then see I ORIGINS opening this Friday!