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!

INCREDIBLES 2: Speaking with Story Artists Andrew Jimenez and Bobby Rubio

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to Digital and Bluray Multi Screen Edition on November 6th from director Brad Bird and Walt Disney Home Entertainment is the release of INCREDIBLES 2.

This fantastic family film has so much to offer everyone in the way of superheroes, family fun, laughs and everything we have come to love about the Parr family. I had the great opportunity to speak to Andrew Jimenez and Bobby Rubio about their experience working on INCREDIBLES 2. 

Andrew Jimenez is a Story Artist/Motion Graphics Lead and graduate of San Diego State University and Bobby Rubio is a Story Artist who graduated from CalArts. It could easily be said that both of these hometown boys made good being part of Pixar and they share with us the process of becoming part of this iconic family and what it takes to bring Brad Bird’s vision to life.

Jeri Jacquin: Hello Andrew, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today about your work on INCREDIBLES 2

Andrew Jimenez: Of course.

JJ: We are going to jump right in, tell me a little bit about how you got involved in the project.

AJ: After film school in San Diego and I was interviewing for positions. I think everyone knows how difficult it is to get into this work in Los Angeles but I got work on a piece called THE IRON GIANT. Brad Bird was working on the film and they wanted to try something new at that time called animatics with storyboarding. That's how I met Brad and that process of storyboarding and animatics worked out really well on that 
project and when he came to PIXAR to do THE INCREDIBLES he brought a few people with him to use that process. The storyboarding process is pretty much the same for both 2D and 3D. I ended up in the Bay area working with Brad on THE INCREDIBLES.

JJ: First of all a shout out to San Diego, second, THE IRON GIANT is a family favorite. I've been to Pixar and it is like turning into an excited five year old because it’s such an amazing and fascinating place. How was it for you walking onto that campus knowing you were working on pieces that have become so iconic?

AJ: It was a bit overwhelming in the right way. There is a long walkway that leads to this beautiful lawn pathway and I thought it would be great to have a steam train along that pathway. It's also good to know that I wasn't the only one who thought that. What added to my excitement on the first day of employment in 2000 is that it was the first day that this particular campus was open for everyone to start working in. It was a great equalizer because whether it was your first day like it was for me or a new day on the new campus we all had the same questions. It was nice to figure it out together.

JJ: What I noticed at PIXAR is the free environment of thought and ideas. It seems like it is set up for you all to be free flowing.

AJ: Just this morning that happened as I was getting my coffee in the atrium. We were having nerdy talk about Star Wars and work stuff for the day. The best part of it was that it fed into everything we are doing, this place encourages these kinds of conversations and that is an amazing part of being here. A conversation about puppetry versus CG and the authenticity of drawing versus computer animation - it is all applicable and essential to what we do here.

JJ: Getting into the INCREDIBLES 2, I have to say that the flow into the first INCREDIBLES film into the second is seamless. It just doesn't feel like there has been a gap in time at all. You pick up right where the last left off. How did you manage to do that?

AJ: You are right in that there are so many years between the two but our level of interest in wanting to know these characters hasn't changed. So if you go in with the honest you can tell that story. Instead of just coming in with the super hero elements, we look at how Bob, Helen and the kids are adjusting. We can relate that to our own lives so coming back to them is like meeting up with old friends and you feel as if time hasn't been lost at all because you know that person so well. I think it's like that with these characters in the film because when we see them again it actually is like time hasn't passed. We have been honest with reintroducing these characters to the audience.

JJ: At the end of the first INCREDIBLES, we all did have that thought wondering what was going to happen to the Parr family. It is like you got inside our heads and in INCREDIBLES 2 you put that right on the screen and now on Bluray. We are thrilled so thank you for that.

AJ: Of course.

JJ: We have to talk about Jack-Jack.

AJ: Yes, we do.

JJ: I was amazing at what you all have done with Jack-Jack.

AJ: Brad does so with weaving character based story into all of it, there are scenes with Jack-Jack The vocalization of Jack-Jack in the scene where Bob is going crazy and Frozone is trying to help with it all but Jack-Jack sees on television an old interview with Helen and he gives the most priceless 'mama' but the little seed planted is what triggers him to turn into these crazy characters. He wants his mom! Brad puts these magical gems in the film that are pretty cool to catch.

JJ: It actually reminded me of a toddler going through the terrible twos! I think I have seen all of that in a toddler a bit but the visual is hilarious.

AJ: If you can turn into jelly-laser-shooting-fire-monsters this would be exactly it. 

JJ: With your work in this, what was the process like for you? I know it has to be labor intensive so how do you go about taking Brad's thoughts that are on paper and turn it into the magic we see on the screen?

AJ: I think what is amazing about Brad's storyboarding process and what I love about the story boarding process is that it is the blue print for the foundation of everything we do as we make the film. It's not just little drawings, no, with Brad he wants to figure out everything very early. The great thing about that is we can change things later when we've tried other options and know what will work perfectly. Because we have figured it out early on we know what works and that's kind of where I come in. If you can imagine that there is six drawings to a shot with screen direction, when we are watching it the film is in a critical stage. Story boarding gives us a chance to make all the critical decisions before a scene goes into production before all the time, money and effort takes place. To learn these things early is very beneficial and the film is in its most vulnerable stage so the story boarding is important. I take those story boards and make animatics which is a visualization taking the actual drawing and moving a camera over the art work. This allows us to make crucial decisions and actually see the movie flow shot to shot as the closest approximation to it being later. We are making better and informed decisions. 

JJ: Also you aren't working with real actors

AJ: Yes, and sometimes when we are watching it play out we are doing the voices ourselves. I know when I hear my voice I giggle. The danger in that is what if we find things humorous but the outside audience doesn't? To closely approximate what the film will be early on we use our scratch voices, temporary stuff to build the foundation of what the film will eventually become. One of the biggest compliments after screening the story reels is that the audience thought it was the finished film. 

JJ: Thank you so much for talking to me today Andy!

Now it the opportunity to speak with Bobby Rubio who brings a bit of both professional and a life long dream of not only working with director Bird but being a part of Pixar!

Jeri Jacquin: Hi Bobby, thanks for taking time today to talk with us as well about the INCREDIBLES 2.

Bobby Rubio: No problem at all.

JJ: I asked Andy this same question now I will ask it to you, how did you get involved with this project?

BR: I casted into the role of the story board artist and we all get picked to do certain projects. I have a background in comic books and love super heroes. I go to San Diego Comic Con every year and have ever since I was a little kid. I think they knew that I could fit into this world. 

JJ: With the INCREDIBLES 2 and your love of superheroes, what was it like to find out you were chosen to work on it?

BR: It was a dream come true. The funny thing is when the first movie came out I was at Walt Disney Feature Animation and I remember my buddy telling me 'oh my gosh we are working on a movie and you would love it', when I finally saw it I was so jealous because I wanted to be a part of it. Now here it is fourteen years later and I get a shot with it.

JJ: Tell me your part in INCREDIBLES 2.

BR: I'm a story board artist and I would get the script from the director Brad Bird and he would give me certain sequences that I would story board. I did certain sequences that I'm pretty happy about.

JJ: Working on the whole process, did you think was going to turn out as it did?

BR: In certain aspects yes and in other aspects no. Seeing the first film directed by Brad Bird, I idolized him because I loved his work on The Simpsons, RATATOUILLE and the IRON GIANT. I guess I was a little star struck working with him and he is a great director and I've learned so much from him. The other side was that I also saw that he was human and there was things to figure out. INCREDIBLES 2 was crafted several times before it worked and although it all was hard, it was absolutely fun.

JJ: I'm sure a lot of people think this all looks so easy for you to do. I was saying to Andy that it just flows so seamlessly that it does look easy. Of course I know there are nuances and hardships in making something like this as well yes?

BR: Definitely, I tell people and my friends that it isn't always sunshine and lollipops and it takes a skill to be here. There is such amazing talent here at Pixar and you want to bring your talents to the table as well. You want to keep the ship moving forward and 
the momentum going and yes, sometimes it's not easy. With a team like we had and the talent we had working on INCREDIBLES 2, we worked together so well and it was also a lot of fun.

JJ: The collaboration I have seen for myself when I visited and maybe I was having a little geek out moment myself like your experience with Brad but I still saw the ebb and flow between everyone there. I saw everyone sitting and talking with the back and forth and I think that makes where you are so amazing. It shows in what you create and do.

BR: I agree, it’s definitely a team effort. I enjoy collaborating with everybody on the team and Andy was great. The funny thing is that there were three of us from San Diego on the team with Derek Thompson as well. We talked about our home town and what our years there were like. 

JJ: In all the work that you've done and you see it now on the screen, two things, what does that mean to you personally and what do you hope audiences get from seeing the film.

BR: Seeing my name in the credits, it’s very gratifying and I know it makes my Mom and Dad proud and my family. I've been told by friends from San Diego 'wow, you made it' and I appreciate it and am grateful to be here. I know when I go to SDCC with my comics and I talk to kids who want advice about what I do. I remember when I was a kid and I wanted to get here, I tried to get as much information as I could. Now I try to be as 
inspirational as I can. I try to represent San Diego the best I can, I will always love San Diego as I was born and raised there so I do my best for where I'm from.

JJ: What do you hope audiences take away was the second question.

BR: I hope that audiences know its family first and that even though you are going 
through the bad times you can rely on your family that will always be there. Everyone in their family chips in to rise to the occasion and we are all superheroes in our own way.

JJ: Thank you so much Bobby, it means a lot coming from a San Diego-Comic-Con-Pixar fan. Speaking with you brings back my visit to your campus that I hope to do again one day. Congratulations on such an amazing film.

BR: Thank you so much!

I truly enjoyed speaking with both Andy and Bobby about their work on INCREDIBLES 2. The first film as well as the second are so brilliantly done and bring us all the family fun we are happy to say works for all ages. The creation of this family gives us a glimpse of their superhero life as well as the life where they try to be as normal as they can be – a feeling which we can all relate to.

That’s what makes INCREDIBLES 2 work! Picking up where the story left off in 2004 giving us the feeling that no times has passed. Another fantastic part of this is now having both films as part of our Disney Pixar entertainment library so we can visit the Parr family again and again. 

Once again thanks to Andy and Bobby for sharing their work on INCREDIBLES 2 with us and they should be proud of their work and bringing us such a flawless film.

In the end – it’s time to suit up again!

Director Donovan Marsh Gives Us the Inside of HUNTER KILLER

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from director Donovan Marsh and Summit Entertainment is the intense military thriller HUNTER KILLER.

Gerard Butler is first-time-out submarine Captain Joe Glass and this isn’t a run of the mill outing he is about to go on. There is something happening in Russia that has sunk two submarines and Washington wants answers. 

There are four parts to the film that come together as Captain Glass looks for the subs, Navy Seals put boots on the ground, the Russians are playing their own game and Washington looks at the political ramifications if one more thing pushes everyone over the brink.

That’s were good directing comes in and Donovan Marsh was given that task being part of the film industry since 1992. Marsh has put himself on the map with his award winning film SPUD which won at the South African Film and Television Awards. That was followed by the sequel SPUD 2: The Madness Continues. He is also in pre-production for the film VALHALLA and I can’t wait to see it. Writing, editing and producing, along with directing, means Marsh is someone who doesn’t shy away from good film and television making.

I had the chance to speak with Donovan Marsh about HUNTER KILLER. He speaks of keeping the film authentic while enjoying a ride aboard the USS Houston for a bit of research.

Jeri Jacquin: Hello Donovan, thanks for speaking with me today.

Donovan Marsh: Oh no worries at all.

JJ: Congratulations on the film. I’m going to jump right in and ask what was it like to direct four different stories in one film?

DM: Oh you are correct about that and its very difficult to not get distracted with different points of view. It’s a matter of taking these four points of view and finding out if there is a way to cut them while ratcheting up the action. That was a real job during the editing. It was a matter of choosing and knowing where I wanted the audience to be looking without distracting them too much. I think the editor did a fantastic job of that.

JJ: Was it difficult for you to do each of those things? I mean one minute your dealing with the Russians, then off to the politics of Washing etc.?

DM: We divided it into subsections and were very methodical about it. I was able to focus on each of them exclusively for a couple of weeks at a time. We did two weeks in the submarine and a week in “Russia” which actually was Bulgaria and it is carefully scripted. If you have a plan and know what you are doing it becomes all about where do you want the audiences attention to go and who’s point of view has the most tension at the time you are watching.

JJ: You made it look seamless.

DM: Thank you!

JJ: You have such a stellar cast in each section of the story you are telling. Gary Oldman and Common together, what an interesting choice.

DM: Yes, you couldn’t get two more different actors. Gary is an Oscar Winning actor for THE DARKEST HOUR and Common is a musician who brings a warmth, energy and naturalism to his performance. It is interesting to watch their contrast in the war room scenes. It was quite a magical thing and I am happy with the outcome.

JJ: Your Seal team, what a group of amazing guys.

DM: Oh thank you, yes, well we put the four of them through hell. Every day it was running, diving, crashing and jumping. I wanted it to feel like the real deal so we put them through a lot of training and go them really fit. They got the culture of the Special Forces and we wanted to make sure to get that right. I’ve had Special Forces guys look at the film and they’ve said ‘that’s exactly how we are with each other’ with the joking and the time to be focused and serious. I was happy to get that accurate.

JJ: The Russian part of the film, I mean its not that hard to believe it could happen.

DM: Look, what would it take to set off a war between America and Russia? What’s it going to mean to both countries? It’s not going to take much. It could be a submarine under the ice. You look at the press of late and how the Russians are posturing with MIG’s or destroyers, you are not sure what could happen next. So playing the what-if game is the delicious part of the film. I mean what if these kinds of events occurred and what would be the outcome is what makes this film.

JJ: The actors are so good.

DM: I wanted to use Russian actors, except for Michael Nyqvist of course who is Swedish, I wanted them to speak Russian. There is an authenticity to them being Russia and knowing the Russian life that I thought important enough to cast them for the film.

JJ: In the submarine, when I heard Gerard Butler was the commander I thought it was an interesting choice.

DM: I know people are use to him kicking ass on land and this is a totally different environment.

JJ: I heard that you and Gerard spent some time on the USS Houston?

DM: That’s right, we went on board from Pearl Harbor and we actually ran through all the scenes of the film. I asked the captain what actually would happen with this or with that. Show me exactly how you would react if this were to really happen. The Captain was game and the crew was game and it was amazing to see it really play out on a US submarine. It was the most expensive prop I think I will ever use again but it was great to see it play out. We wanted to make sure that we depicted it as accurately as possible.

JJ: What did Gerard think of it?

DM: It was amazing, he dressed up as the captain and the crew referred to him as Command Glass which is the name of his character for the film. They treated him like a real captain and he got to do some commanding. It was great for him to feel like he was in character in some respects for the film. 

JJ: When you finally starting filming the submarine scenes, you are in pretty tight quarters and there are a lot of people in those quarters. How did you manage that?

DM: Yes, it is encapsulated definitely. I wanted the set that way, I wanted the actors to feel what it was like so there were four walls, floor and ceiling. I built the set on a hydraulic set called a gimbal and was able to tilt it 15 degrees at any given moment. The set was tilting as it would in a real submarine and it felt like you were in it. I never wanted to film the same scene in the same way twice so I took out sections of the wall, brought a crane in and always tried to find other ways of filming it for drama. That was a real challenge but I’m so glad I did it that way because it gives the true feeling of being in a submarine. 

JJ: There is a scene where the sub is diving and the crew leans to keep themselves upright.

DM: Yes, that really happened when I was underway on the Houston. If you don’t lean you’ll fall out. I wanted to depict it in the film and it adds so much to that scene.

JJ: What initially drew you to the project?

DM: I get scripts and I’ve seen scripts in this genre and I find it difficult to get a good script in this genre. There have been submarine dramas and such and I wasn’t sure there would be a plot to tell. I read the script and I thought it was fantastic with the twists and turns and not knowing what was going to happen next. I was drawn to the realism of it and thought it was a really good script. I also couldn’t predict the end! There are a lot of action films were half way through you know how its going to end and this one did something different.

JJ: What do you want audiences to take away from seeing HUNTER KILLER?

DM: That’s an interesting question because I think there are many layers to the film. I think you could walk into a theatre and think it a popcorn film and just enjoy it for the thrills and spills. Also, there is a deeper geo-political commentary about war and how collaboration with the enemy is way more important than fighting the enemy. It’s another part of the reason I took the film was the collaboration between America and Russia. I feel it’s important for geo-politics. Movies talk about collaboration and ‘we are all in this together’ and I hope that comes through in the film. I hope that some people will take that away and not just see it as a thrill ride. I also hope people come away with a greater appreciation for the unsung hero’s of the US Navy submariners. We don’t know a lot about them, it’s not the most glamorous job in the world. I wanted to show what they go through and what it’s like to go to war in this encapsulated steel cylinder where you can’t see what’s happening. Instead, all you have is trusting your instrumentation. I want everyone to appreciate the men and women serving. We played this movie on a Naval Base for 1,300 people and they went bananas for it. After the film was the question and answer portion and wives would say ‘thank you for shedding light on what my husband does’ and a child got up to say ‘thank you for showing me what my mother does because I now have a bigger appreciation for what she does’. That was really moving.

Indeed it is, when a film comes along that gives us all an insight into what it takes to do a job then it becomes even more successful. HUNTER KILLER not only does just that but puts us all in the intensity and action in a what-if scenario. The twist and turns bring another layer of the film into focus making us think that in the midst of crisis – anything is possible.

Marsh has taken this genre of film and given it something for us all to think about. From the storytelling to the intricate set design, it all lends itself to bringing us all in on the ride. 

HUNTER KILLER opens in theatres this Friday so prepare to dive!

HUNTER KILLER: Speaking with Authors Ret. Commander George Wallace USN and 
Don Keith Authors of Firing Point

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from director Donovan Marsh and Summit Entertainment comes a story based on the book Firing Point of cat and mouse when you are a HUNTER KILLER.

This film tells the story of American submarine USS Omaha and Commander Joe Glass (Gerard Butler) who is given orders when an American ship goes down to go into Russian waters. Getting his crew ready, the top brass in Washington led by Admiral Charles Donnegan (Gary Oldman), want answers. So does Rear Admiral John Fisk (Common) and ears for the White House Jayne Norquist (Linda Cardellini).

While the sub is readied, Fisk sends in an elite team of Navy Seals to have boots on the ground. Led by Lt. Bill Bearman (Toby Stephens), his men are ready for the mission’s objective. Especially when it is discovered that Russian President Zakarin (Alexander Diachenko) has been overthrown by Defense Minister (Vladimir Sutrev) and what he proposes is all out war. 

Commander Glass arrives to discover that the American submarine has indeed been sunk, but so has a Russian submarine and people are still alive. They rescue Captain Sergei Andropov (Michael Nyqvist) and the level of mistrust is extremely high.

Now would be the time for everyone to take a deep breathe and work together because this isn’t going to be easy – not by a long shot.

HUNTER KILLER is based on the novel by George Wallace and Don Keith. Wallace is a retired Commander in the United States Navy after serving twenty-two years as an officer on nuclear submarines. Keith is the co-author who covers the military and submarines in the work he does.

I had the honor of speaking two them both and this is what they had to say about the book Firing Point and watching their vision come to the big screen.

Jeri Jacquin: Good morning gentlemen, thank you for joining me this morning.  

George Wallace: Thanks for talking with us Jeri.

Don Keith: Yes, it is so appreciated.

 JJ: am really curious after seeing the film, what drew you to this story?

GW: There was a number of dynamics that went into writing it. One is that we wanted to write about what the submarine lifestyle is like and at the same time make it exciting because frankly sometimes submarining could be considered boring most of the time. We drew on events that were happening during the time we were writing and projected them into the future. It’s a good story and talks about what submarining is like, especially under the ice, and at the same time it is fun with lots of adventure. We think it will do well in explaining what that life is like.

DK: For me I’m a story teller so I wanted to take an average person and put him in a situation where he does remarkable things. There are 125 people on the submarine and four Seal Team men doing remarkable things in the book and in the movie.

JJ: I like the dual story telling of being on the sub as well as being on the ground to deal with the issues the film is about. 

GW: That was the idea frankly, to mix it up with the action for the Seal team and the submarine. The Seals deal with a lot of gunfire where as the submarine is a little more intense.

DK: And contained! Remember you also have the third element going on back in Washington making decisions based on a lot of factors that didn’t necessarily affect the submarine or the Seals. It affected them yes, but they had to take other things in account that were more political than what the people in the sub and on the ground were dealing with.

JJ: What was the researching like for the book?

GW: Well, researching wasn’t a lot actually because I am a retired submarine Captain and I commanded the USS Houston several years ago. I spent a lot of time working with the Seals so I drew on that experience. I did have to talk to Seal friends a little bit for things like the Halo jump and make sure it was right. I mean Don and I have never done a Halo jump.

DK: Nor do I want to. I think the biggest researching was that of Russian names! [laughing] There are so many Russian names in the book.

GW: Yes, we did have a little bit of a struggle with that because we were trying to hard to get them correct and we wanted to make sure we could pronounce them.

DK: I had a spread sheet of all the Russian names in the book.

JJ: Did you use your own code like G for good guy and B for bad guy?

DK: That’s a good idea; I’ll have to do that for my next book. 

JJ: How do you feel now after writing the book to know that it would fit in the climate today? 

GW: [laughs] We wrote this book in 2004-2005 and back then the Russian economy was in the tank, there were bread lines and real concern if Russia was going to be a viable country anymore because it was falling apart. Obviously it has changed considerably since then and what we were looking at is that the Russians are a very proud people, proud of their country and so what would happen if a Russian in some form of power wanted to restore the Motherland? How would he go about doing that? That is the general gist of what we started with.

JJ: A good ole’ fashion coup.

GW: Yes, that how he felt he had to deal with things with that response. He felt others around him were weak.

JJ: The scene where they go through the mine field, where did you come up with that?

GW: That whole scene came up when I was presented with that problem during Commanding Officer school. This is in the attack center where I had to penetrate a mine field to get to mission success which was a boat on the other side of the mine field. Off the top of my head I had to come up with a tactic to do that. I had to do it on my own. That’s where the idea came from.

JJ: From story idea to book, how long was that.

GW: This book was quick, it sort of flowed.

DK: That happens sometimes.

GW: Yes, everything just fell into place which made it easy to write. Other of our books, those weren’t so easy to write.

DK: We painted ourselves into a corner a lot.

JJ: You two seem to be a good team!

GW: We were very happy with it.

JJ: When you were told this was going to be a film, watching your book go to script, how was that for you to see that happen?

GW: Changing a 690 page book into a 160 page screenplay, that process was not easy. It was painful on several different levels not to mention psychologically. They whacked at a big chunk of our story.

JJ: Messing with your baby.

GW: Exactly!

DK: There are things in the book that obviously didn’t make it in to the film but like George said it’s like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. They kept the strongest storyline to make the best film. 

GW: They took what might be a 16 to 18 hour read down to a two hour film.

DK: The other big concern was that they would take the story and muck it up or get it all wrong doing things with technology that doesn’t exist. Thank goodness they did not do that with help from the Navy. 

GW: The level they spent to get the authenticity right was amazing. My wife and I went over to see the set that they were filming on in London a couple of years ago. When I walked on the set I thought I was in the control room of a submarine. It was so very realistic.

JJ: So they got the dimensions and everything about a submarine right?

GW: Yes, they got the dimensions right, everything was in the right place and they even got the wiring color right. Some of the signs on the bulk head were actually correct. They even had the sub up on gimbals so that could make the sub rock and roll and dive and rise. It felt like you were on a submarine. 

DK: One think you might not notice because the film is so intense and full of action is the scenes were the sailors are doing things they really do on a submarine. Things hanging on the wall or guys on the exercise bikes, you can really see what life on a submarine is like. 

GW: It was pretty realistic.

DK: I think the Navy will see it as a two our recruiting film because people are going to look at this and say ‘that’s pretty cool!’ 

JJ: How do you deal with the intense proximity inside the sub?

GW: Being a submariner it just feels natural to me, it feels comfortable. Mr. Butler and Donovan Marsh went to see on the USS Houston for a few days so they got to see what it was really like. The rest of the actors spent time on the set that felt like they were on a real sub. The USS Houston Commander Scott McGinnis said that Mr. Butler was a true gentleman during their visit and when one of the sailors asked him to do a Mother Day’s greeting for his Mom and he did it. Of course the others wanted to do one as well and Gerard did them all.

JJ: So once you went to book to script to screen, what did you think of the final product? 

GW: I think the final product is great and tells the story we wanted to tell. We understand it’s a bit different from the book but its also a different audience. I thought it was very, very good.

DK: I’m a story teller by trade being I tell lies for money writing fiction but I consider the perfect story taking average people and putting them in situations were they can do remarkable things and that’s exactly what the book did and I’m proud to say it’s also what the movie does as well.

JJ: It is intense to watch that’s for sure. Watching it I’m holding my breath and leaning toward the screen waiting for the next thing to happen. 

GW: Yes, that what will happen.

JJ: When people see the film, what do you want viewers to come away with?

DK: For me, I’d like the viewers to have enjoyed a very exciting motion picture but also have a deep appreciation for what these service members do. The submarine service, or the silent service as it is so aptly named, gives people a look at what they do. I mean the ultimate way to deal with the enemy is not having them know where you are but knowing you can do a lot of damage if attacked. I hope people have appreciation for them knowing they are on the front line.

GW: What can I add to that? Our goal going into this was to tell the story of submarining and I think the movie does that and I think the book does that. To have the average submariners come away saying ‘this is us…this is our story’ and that means everything to me. 

JJ: Thank you for your time and congratulations on Firing Point and the film HUNTER KILLER.

This film brings action, adventure and appreciation for what our military go through both the Navy Seals and submariners. HUNTER KILLER is definitely a thriller in the sense that the story telling is filled with unexpected twists and turns. So grab that huge buck of popcorn and hold on to your seats because this is a ride from start to finish.

In the end – courage runs deep!

THE 15:17 TO PARIS Brings the Real Heroes onto the Silver Screen
Speaking with Spencer Stone, Alek Scarlatos and Anthony Sadler

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres from legendary director Clint Eastwood and Warner Bros. is a film about adversity, courage and being on THE 15:17 TO PARIS.

It made the news around the world when, on August 21, 2015, a terrorist attacked a train heading for Paris with 500 passengers aboard. The event could have had life shattering consequences but for three men – Airman Spencer Stone, Specialist Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler.

These three men took it upon themselves to rush in while others were rushing out. What makes these three even more outstanding is that they have been friends since childhood. That’s where the story begins, Spencer and Alek are having problems at school as teachers and administrators see them as needing medication to keep them in line.

Not about to have it are their mothers Joyce (Judy Greer) and Heidi (Jenna Fischer) who are not about to be told how to parent – especially out of a medicine bottle. It is in school that they meet Anthony and a bond is formed out of mutual acceptance. Although they each have to go their separate ways, that bond becomes stronger as they grow up.

Spencer decides he wants to join the military but soon discovers that the job he wants is not where the military sends him. Struggling with studies and keeping up, he becomes frustrated which makes things even harder. Alek is over seas when, along with Spencer and Anthony, plans are made to see the sights of Europe. 

Reunited once again, Spencer, Anthony and Alek become tourists going from place to place enjoying their freedom. After visiting Italy and Amsterdam, they board the Thalys train #9364 for Paris where the lives of everyone aboard will change.

I had the amazing opportunity to speak with Spencer, Anthony and Alek who director Clint Eastwood decided would portray themselves in the film. Let me say first off that I found these three young men to be exactly how I expected them to be. They are very welcoming, funny and with a laid back ease I so enjoyed.

Jeri Jacquin: Hello gentlemen, it’s such a pleasure to meet you.

Spencer Stone: Oh, I think we are missing one. Alek will be back in a sec.

Anthony Sadler: If we let him back in the room.

(they immediately start laughing and I sense a plot forming)

JJ: Well, lets hit the ground running before he gets back then.

Spencer: Yes!

JJ: First of all, it’s so weird; I mean you look exactly like yourselves.

Anthony: (laughing) I know right, I get that a lot.

JJ: I saw the film and I have to ask you, is it very strange when you watch it? Because it is like you are watching yourself doing something you have already done.

Anthony: It’s weird on so many levels. It’s our story on camera with music with Clint Eastwoods name on it and it’s also weird watching how accurate it is because we lived it. It isn’t all Hollywood’ up so seeing us doing what we did two years ago is strange for us as well. 

JJ: I felt like I was intruding almost while watching in a way.

Spencer: Yes, that’s exactly what it feels like putting it out there.

Anthony: We hope that people like it and it spread like wildfire. We want the audience to feel like they are there and see exactly how it happened and who it happened to. It’s not documentary and I know it gets tagged that because we are not actors but it’s not that. It’s like you are literally there.

JJ: Even more so for you.

Anthony: Exactly!

(we are rejoined by Alek Skarlatos and immediately Spencer and Anthony give him a good natured hard time with lots of brotherly joking)

JJ: Hello Alek, I’m Jeri.

Alek: Awwww man, you started without me?

JJ: It’s not that we don’t love you or anything but the clock is ticking.

Anthony: Yea dude, we have things to do. (again they start laughing at each other) 

Spencer: Back to the question Alek (chastising as only a brother can do), you have to be okay with everyone knowing everything about your life. Not everything in detail but a majority of it out on a big stage with Clint Eastwood. It’s a scary decision but an exciting one.

Anthony: We are a week away from release and we have shot the movie, promoted it, wrote a book about it and have talked about it all over. At this point it is so weird to be in this place because millions of people are about to see it. It’s just an interesting time and pretty surreal and we are excited for everyone to see it. I just really want to know what everyone thinks of it actually. I want to know how it touches them and makes them feel.

JJ: When you were first approached, did you think the film was going to go as far back into your life as it does? Because you are dealing with a 94 minute film but going back to when you were kids.

Anthony: When Clint picked it up the book I knew there was a strong possibility and I was wondering how much of our childhood he was going to show because I didn’t know how relevant it was. We were all three discussing it amongst ourselves wondering what was relevant to the story and what’s not. It’s weird because when I read the script I wondered why some scenes where there but when I watched the finished product I thought – he’s such a genius. Every scene in there had a theme in it that set up the bigger picture. 

JJ: Oh absolutely.

Anthony: No matter how trivial it looked, like going to the principal’s office because that speaks to a bond that we shared even as children. Ever scene mattered and only Clint Eastwood would have a vision like that. 

JJ: Did he tell each of you why he decided to use you instead of actors?

Spencer: Not directly, the information we had was of interviews he has done talking about it.

Alek: I’m so glad he did though because the first time we watched the film with our families and having our relationships on camera – the way we talk to each other – even they could tell that’s really how we act. We weren’t being different people so the film really shows that that is who we really are and it’s very accurate.

JJ: Earlier you said that some people were hinting the film was like a documentary and I can see why they might say it even though they are pretty much wrong (the laughing commences again). When you are speaking to each other on the screen there aren’t ‘characters’ acting like you – it’s you three being –well, you three! Again, there is that eavesdropping feeling.

Anthony: Clint didn’t want us to act either. He didn’t want us to…

Alek: …do too much.

Anthony: Yes, do too much. We were trying to be ourselves and not overplay it. He took the weight of a motion picture out of the situation. He said be friends and forget what the script says. He said, ‘you were here and you know how it was, do that and I’ll capture it’. The trust goes both ways because we trusted him to tell the story and he trusted us to just be ourselves. His trust was huge and we didn’t want to disappoint him. We wouldn’t have trusted anyone else to be so personal with our story and when we saw the picture we just wanted to be happy with it and we are. We are thrilled that he did the film justice.

Spencer: I don’t think we would have been happy with the film if it was anyone other than Clint Eastwood.

Anthony: He gave us the confidence to try. We thought if Clint sees something, I don’t know what it was but if he sees something then we will do it. 

JJ: Clint always does stories that share something of a character, but here it is the three of you so it is much wider of a story being told. 

Anthony: We are all so very different as well.

JJ: Yes, you certainly are.

Anthony: The movie will show that we are three very different individuals. Typically you wouldn’t think we would be friends and not only friends but life long friends. We risk our lives for each other and that’s a huge theme of the film.

JJ: I think you literally proved that.

Spencer: I guess we did.

JJ: One scene that touched me was your troubles Spencer growing up and struggles with the military. I recognize that in you, I can’t exactly say ‘your character’ because it’s you! Did you ever in a million years think all those struggles would be called upon in a fraction of a second?

Spencer: Absolutely not, I felt like even all the way up to the train attack I was feeling very unfulfilled and kind of angry because I felt like that’s all I ever wanted. I felt like joining the military was the first time I ever truly applied myself just to have it stripped from me. It was devastating for me. Then to be put in another career that I wasn’t too excited about and to fail out of that just felt like a huge waste of time. It’s just funny how I would be pushed away from the things I wanted and guided towards the things I needed in my life. I think that wasn’t something I was able to fully comprehend until I went through this experience. Now having that perspective in my life it has much improved how I see things in a hundred different ways. It is something I can carry throughout my life in any situation and just feel calm and at ease and pretty much know that I am here for a reason, I don’t know what that is but I need to trust.

JJ: Life is busy chugging along while you are busy making plans?

Spencer: Absolutely.

Anthony: That’s perfect!

JJ: So Alek, I heard people refer to you as ‘the quiet one’, is that true?

Alek: I mean…depends on the context.

Spencer: It depends on who is around.

Alek: Yea, it does depend on who is around. If it’s these guys then I’m not but other people I might be quiet. 

Spencer: If there was a cute girl he would be all chatty.

Alek: Yep, that’s right.

JJ: I kind of got that feeling with the scene in Rome.

Spencer: Oh look at the pretzels!

(a joke that took these boys almost to the floor laughing)

JJ: So Alek, seeing yourself on screen did you see anything about yourself that you didn’t notice before?

Spencer: Oh, good question.

Alek: I think how ridiculous I look sometimes. If you add up between the pretzel scene and me drinking the baby soda it’s like wow, I’m kind of stupid. That’s very accurate to who I am but you don’t notice those idiosyncrasies in an objective manner until you see them on screen.

(Spencer and Anthony are cracking up at Alek’s answer so the Mom in me steps in)

JJ: Stop teasing your brother!

Spencer: (explaining the laughter) Every time we hear a good word we bank it so that we can use it next time. Now we have to look it all up.

Alek: Google it!

JJ: You guys are too much. Okay onto a serious note because we have to go there. Watching the attack scene the train begs the question for you Spencer of how do you manage to do that again? Your face is so focused.

Anthony: You put anything in slow motion and add music to it; it’s going to look good.

(They have fallen out cracking themselves up again)

JJ: Now you will go through the rest of your life putting music and slo-mo in your head to everything you do.

Alek: (still laughing) Right?

Spencer: We have to give the entire credit to Clint and his whole crew. They went into such detail and as far as having the same exact clothes we were wearing that day, the same luggage, being on the exact same train going to Paris – it’s insane. We had Mark and his wife and everyone else there.

Anthony: People think it’s traumatic for us.

JJ: I think that is how most people would see it.

Spencer: Clint knew that we didn’t have much experience and that he was going to do this in a positive way. Being back in the moment for us, Clint made it easy to get back to that moment.

Anthony: The first 24 hours after the attack we went back to the hotel while Spencer went to the hospital. All we wanted to do was to see Spencer, that’s all we wanted. Finally the next day we laughed for like twenty minutes in the car saying ‘can you believe that happened?’ This is the day after!

Alek: I mean we are drinking champagne as the Ambassador’s house talking about a terrorist attack. 

Anthony: We are just a bunch of young guys living the dream. Clint Eastwood came along and put the stamp of ‘badass’ on it all for us.

Spencer: I mean if Clint Eastwood says something is badass, then its badass.

JJ: When the attack scene was made, did the adrenaline flow? You can not walk away from that and now feel something about it.

Alek: I would say that while we were shooting the scene the adrenaline absolutely did because those feelings came rushing back. It was very realistic like Spencer said but after it was over we were chilling with the gang again.

Anthony: People expect so much, it’s not that deep, it’s pretty simple. We are pretty simple guys.

Spencer: Not going through something this crazy before and I’m sure there are people who have gone through crazier things in their life before, I feel like we have been able to cope with it very well. It’s not that we aren’t affected by it; it’s just that we have been able to deal with it well.

Anthony: We’ve had the luxury of talking about it on such a large scale whether it’s the initial media frenzy or the book or the movie process. We have talked about it so much.

Alek: We’ve dissected it.

JJ: You have been each other’s therapist.

Spencer: Exactly, that’s why talking about it has been so helpful and therapeutic.

Anthony: We’ve been able to share and it’s out there.

Spencer: Even now we’ve done about 200 interviews and we get to talk with other people and each other in a way that means something to us.

JJ: So being together has made all the difference.

Spencer: Absolutely it has.

Anthony: Yes.

Alek: Always together. Whenever one is uncomfortable we have the other to make it easier and joke around like we do. We have three brains. If it had been just one of us on that train we would have been all alone in it.

JJ: Nobody else would understand it.

Alek: Yes, no one would be able to understand it and couldn’t make jokes about it. 

Spencer: They would look at you like you were crazy.

Alek: Exactly. Going through it with these two has been fantastic.

JJ: Here is the final question.

Alek: Ut oh!

(Spencer and Anthony laugh with Alek)

JJ: You have said that about a lot of my questions Alek. 

Spencer: Getting all serious on you now Alek.

Anthony: Just when we were having so much fun.

JJ: Oh it’s not that tough of a question. Okay, here it is, what would you like the audience to talk about after they see THE 15:17 TO PARIS.

Alek: I would just like them to remember that if they ever are in a situation where they can help – then help. You really don’t have to just stop a terrorist attack to contribute positively to society. If you see a car accident and you don’t know first aid you can call 911 and find someone who does. You can always help by doing something positive. It’s rare because people seem to want to just whip out their cell phones and watch instead of doing something. Also, remembering the importance of friendship.

Spencer: It is important to show how God has played a factor in our life and this is a good way of showing that on such a big stage. Terrorist attacks and things like that we have been asked ‘what advice would you give me to stop an attack’ and I can’t really give you advice because nothing is the same. You are probably more than likely not to be on a train where a terrorist who has a gun that doesn’t go off on you. Nothing is the same but the only thing we can offer as advice without putting someone in a bad position because I’m not telling anyone to run toward a loaded gun. I would never tell anyone to run toward a man with a loaded gun so just ask yourself what you would do and have an answer. That’s all you can do. We have talked about it so many times before it actually happened so something engrained in our minds. 

Anthony: I just hope it inspires people. People think there is something special about the three of us and say ‘what do you three have that’s so special’ and I think the movie shows that we are just three guys. Maybe someone will see something of us in themselves and be inspired to know they are capable of being extraordinary themselves and overcome adversity as well. It doesn’t have to be a terrorist on a train, just any obstacle and they need to know that they are on a journey and capable of being extraordinary. It’s not just us.

And that ladies and gentlemen is why I love what I do. These three men shared a moment of time with me and will forever be in the hearts of those they saved. I thought it extremely important to share their playfulness because it is a bond created by their friendship that endured the difficulties of childhood up to the most important moment of their lives.

Yet, it didn’t change their friendship; in fact I see how it made them even closer than can be imagined. Their belief in one another and the ability to not to take life so seriously is the lesson created in childhood and the lesson they take with them from their experience. 

That is not to say what happened hasn’t had an effect on their life at all, of course it has, but as they all agree that having their friendship and the ability to lean on each other has made all the difference. We should all be so blessed to have friends like that in our lives.

Experience the journey as director Clint Eastwood brings THE 15:17 TO PARIS to theatres this Friday. 

HISTORY Offers Up the New Intense Drama Series with KNIGHTFALL 
Speaking with Tom Cullen 

Jeri Jacquin

The History Channel has once again brought amazing story telling and on December 6th you will experience a story of the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail with KNIGHTFALL.

During the Middle Ages, the Knights Templar were an order of men with one goal – the protection of a prized relic known as the Holy Grail. An order of warrior monks, they will do what ever is required to carry out their duty.

Landry (Tom Cullen) is such a warrior monk along with Godfrey (Sam Hazeldine), Tancrede (Simon Merrells) and Gawain (Padraic Delaney). After an attack on their stronghold, they are all forced to flee and fifteen years later find themselves in Paris. 

Now a friend to King Philip IV (Ed Stoppard), Queen Joan (Olivia Ross) and Princess Isabella (Sabrina Bartlett), Landry visits much to the hostility of William De Nogaret (Julian Ovenden). The brothers gather to discuss how to do what is right by the all the people they vow to serve. That brings discourse when Landry wants to know why they have not spoken of returning to the Holy Land.

Godfrey leaves to handle business outside Paris and asks that Landry be in charge which makes him instantly suspicious. Parsifal (Bobby Schofield) witnesses what happens on the open road and is given a mission that will cost him dearly.

When a Jewish businessman kills another man in the square in broad daylight, the King orders that the Jewish people must evacuate. What he doesn’t know is that there are others within the palace walls that have more frightening plans. In the chaos, there is a hint that the Holy Grail might be closer than any of the Knights Templar could have hoped bringing Pope Boniface VIII (Jim Carter) to their door.

With this news brings hope of a return to the Holy Land and the Holy Grail!

I had the opportunity to conference call with Tom Cullen, the actor who marvelously portrays the role of Landry. Having spent my Sundays with Downton Abbey I was drawn to see Cullen’s performance in Knightfall and equally thrilled to talk to him about it.

Jeri Jacquin: Hello Tom, thanks for talking with us today.

Tom Cullen: Thank you too.

JJ: Can you tell us about your experience filming Knightfall? 

TC: This is the kind of project I’ve always dreamt of being involved in ever since I was a little boy. I grew up in Wales and I grew up next to a castle. That kind of history is really woven into the fabric of my DNA like I think it is in many European’s DNA. When I was a kid, my dad gave me this wooden sword and shield and I used to go up there with my mate and we just used to run around pretending to be knights and warriors. I think that the older we get the more baggage we carry and I know that I spent a lot of time pining after that kind of innocence. This job really opened up the gateway to accessing the kid again and it felt like every single day I had little Tom next to me swinging a wooden sword around with his mates in a castle in Wales. That was my favorite thing about the job; being able to have as much fun as I had while filming this show and I loved it.

JJ: Besides your informal and very cool childhood training, did you more intensive training? 

TC: In drama school in the UK we do a lot of fight training. I’d done a lot of sword training prior and I found that I had the propensity for killing people, ironically. *laughs* I hadn't swung a sword in about eight years, so it was all very new in many respects. The stunt team that we had was led by an amazing Frenchman, Cédric Proust. He is a top stuntman and fight choreographer. He really put us through it and we had a great swordsman named Roman. The entire team wanted us to be at a very, very high level. So every day on set they would drill us and I did about three months of physical training beforehand to get myself and my body ready for the fighting portion of my character and the series. 

Working on Knightfall was a full-on experience because the team wanted it to look authentic and real, and when you watch the fights they are absolutely incredible. I'm so proud of all of the actors who've participated in the battles because we've really done a great job and the stunt guys have really trained us well and they're epic battles and muddy and gruesome. And they feel very real, which I think is something I’m very proud of.

There is an incredible battle sequence in the final episode which is the biggest thing I've ever been involved in. We had like 400 guys on a battlefield fighting for about two weeks. It's epic, amazing and the real geeky nerd in me – because I am one – just can't believe that I’m in it. I’m extremely proud of it.

JJ: How did you react to getting the role of Landry?

TC: I genuinely love to do stuff that is different from the last thing that I did, and something that really scares me and something that is new. Knightfall was truly a dream come true for me. It's something that I've always dreamt of doing since I was a kid. I grew up on films like ROBIN HOOD - Prince of Thieves and BRAVEHEART and those films had a huge influence on me as a kid. When I read this script it was like my dreams were coming true. It’s really amazing to be a part of a project like this one.

JJ: The Knights Templar and the Holy Grail are fairly known because of documentaries, film and television. I have to say I’m also drawn to that mysterious period of time. Did you research yourself?

TC: Yes. I wanted to know as much about the crusades and about the politics at the time. Not just the politics in Europe or in the Middle East but also Mongolian politics because they had a huge influence. 

You just need to immerse yourself in the world and know everything that these men would have known, understand every single and the political permutation that is affected where they reach –where they are at this point and what drives these men and women to do the things that they do. I think that's something that you have to do. 

You take history for granted and history should never be taken for granted because it's essential for us furthering ourselves as a society and as a culture, because the one thing that history teaches us is that it's cyclical. So yes, I read a lot and we had a fantastic historian on set. His name is Dan Jones. He’s just released an amazing book that you must read called The Templars which is on the New York Times Bestseller’s List; it’s brilliant. He was there on hand at all times feeding into us and making sure that what we were portraying was as accurate as possible. 

So anything that would come up in the script that we didn't know, we would use him as a source of knowledge and he would say, “Go and read this, go and read that,” or just tell us because he he's a real fountain of knowledge. That wasn't just the access that put me in the world of the Knights Templar.

The costume design, the art direction, the production design, makeup, etc. it was all so dense and real that you're feel like you’re right in it as soon as you turn up on set. It's just all there for you, you know, and you can really immerse yourself into the world. 

The days we spent on set were amazing. We filmed on the biggest sets in Europe at Barrandov Studios. They built medieval Paris. I've never seen anything quite like it and in the show I have to do this shot where I'm riding down this nearly 200-meter long street that they built. There're 350 extras and each extra has a job, each extra has a name. It is a real world and you just forget that the cameras are there because it's so extraordinary. 

Our costume designer, Diana Cilliers, was amazing. I remember the first time we did our screen test so they can see what it looks like on camera with the makeup and the hair. I remember putting the costume on, the chainmail and everything, and it weighed 50 pounds which was like an insane amount of weight. I struggled to walk down the corridor to get to the studio to do the screen test. 

I was like, “Guys, why is the costume so heavy. How are we supposed to move and fight in this?” The answer was that Diana tried out lighter material such as plastics and other materials but they just didn't look authentic. So they put us in the most authentic costume that they could and we just had to deal with it. We got bigger and we got stronger, and so very quickly we were able to run and jump, get on horses in the 50-pound costumes and do everything that we needed to do to play our parts.

You can see the difference in way that the costumes move and the way that your body moves in them. It's just authentic and I think it makes for a very real experience when watching the show.

JJ: The relationship between Landry and Godfrey is such a mystery. Can you tell me more about that? 

TC: The relationship that Landry has with Godfrey runs throughout the entire first season. In Episode 1, Godfrey is Landry's surrogate father. Landry was an orphan and Godfrey essentially took him in and saved him from this orphanage. Because of the promise Godfrey saw in him, Landry became a Templar at the age of 11 which is very, very, very rare. 

One of the Templar rules is that you must become a Templar of your own volition because it's such a monastic lifestyle where you do things like eat your food out of the same bowl as another man. There's no vanity and no possessions. It's completely monastic so it's very rare for a young boy to join the Templars like Landry did.

In Episode 1 there is a truth revealed to Landry about Godfrey that he didn't know. Landry, like a classic hero that we all know as the protagonist, he hunts and searches for the truth at all costs. He is like a boar who gets physically beaten, emotionally beaten and he just gets back up by himself and charges towards the truth. 

Godfrey is pivotal in that circle of truth that Landry is striving towards and it isn't a very easy journey for Landry to go on throughout the first season. It's a very satisfying journey for the viewers. Every time the scripts would come in there would be a new revelation and it would be a new shock, a new turn and it was very cool to read and really fun to play. I hope that the audience enjoys it as much as we enjoyed making it.

JJ: The Knights Templar have very strict religious views that is talked about in detail in Knightfall, how do you reconcile that with their mysterious history?

TC: The one thing that history will always do is prove itself cyclical and that human beings have very short memories. We forget very quickly what we've already been through and we tend to make the same mistakes. I think it's really important to remind ourselves of those mistakes. 

Of course Knightfall is a show that is about the Templars and you'd be remiss to not talk about the holy wars; though the show actually doesn't take place during that period of time, it takes place 15 years after the holy wars. The show is about the Templars being disbanded and rounded up. That's essentially what the show would be over three or four seasons. 

The Templars were a very interesting group of men because they were founded to protect pilgrims on the road and that was their purpose. Not to fight wars but to protect people who were going to pray and they were very respectful of all faiths. There is a very famous story of being held captive in the Templar temple. They made space for them so that they could pray with ease and they gave them their space because they respect faith. 

I think the show touches on what faith is and how faith can be manipulated to one's own needs and how faith is often used for political games which is something that has nothing to do with religion. The Holy Grail in our show is used as a pivot of power in which people circle around it and use it in order to gain political favor. 

That for me is really a very interesting world to live in. It doesn't pit religion against religion but it talks about how religion can be manipulated to man's want and need for power.

JJ: You have touched on just about every theme regarding the Knights Templar. How do you think this will reach the viewers? 

TC: I think what I'm very proud of in the show is that you can kind of look at Knightfall objectively from the outside having not seen it and say, “Oh, this is about guys swinging swords and that’s what the show is about,” but the show is so much more than that. The show is about politics. We have a lot of stuff that takes place in the French Court at the time, dissecting, and breaking down the politics and the machinations of political interplay, which I just love that kind of stuff. 

It has a fantastic central spine through the show; an amazing love story which I'm surprised at how strong and moving that story was as we were filming it. It kind of grew into this thing that we had no idea it would become. The show talks about revenge and betrayal, brotherhood, loyalty, faith, humanity and mortality. 

I truly believe the show has something for everybody. I think that it is by no means a gendered show. I think that women would love it as much as men will love it and that is something I'm really proud of too. It has fantastic strong female characters. They are actually probably stronger than all of the male characters and they're just as complex and rich as the male counterparts, and it's very moving. I've watched the last episode three or four times now and I've shed many tears every single time. It’s a great rollercoaster.

JJ: Is there anything that makes you nervous about your role in Knightfall? 

TC: There's so much that scared me about this role. The size of it and the responsibility of playing a lead in a show as big as this, it was terrifying. Also just the physical and emotional commitment that was required to make this show work. If I wasn't committed 100% to the show, it wouldn't work. They really, really put me through it in the best way possible making sure I became the best Landry I could be. That was a terrifying challenge and terrifying to have to pull off. 

I was learning new skills like horse riding and fighting. The biggest thing that was terrifying for me was that – and this is something that I've been dealing with my entire life – I was doing something that I love. I read the script and I wanted it so badly because I thought it was so good. That really terrifies me. 

I'm much more comfortable in that way. I come from a poor area of Wales where I'm much more comfortable with rejection than not. What terrified me was that I wanted to do it and doing something that you love and that you want is often the scariest thing that you can do because if you fail at it, that’s a big journey to go on.

JJ: Is there something in particular that drew you toward the medieval era? 

TC: I’ve always been obsessed with the medieval time period because I think it’s a time that we can look back on and learn from. Actually 800 years isn’t that long ago and that this is the time really when the world that we live in today was created and formulated. We’re still feeling the repercussions of the actions and choices the people made in the medieval period today. 

It’s also a period that is grimy and dirty and dangerous. The line between life and death is so thin, it’s really interesting to learn about. I think that’s a fantastic place to make a drama in. It’s a very rich world since life and death was so next to each other and it’s world rich in terms of human wants and needs. 

Nowadays our lives are reasonably comfortable for certain people, especially in America. We typically don't have that kind of life and death threat every single day where we are going to drop down with scurvy or have to go into battle. 

Our choices aren’t as drastic but if you have a lifespan of 35 years, every choice you make is loaded. I think that the world of the medieval period is one of very high octane and people making life and death choices every single move. That for me is an exhilarating period of time to make a drama in.

JJ: The costume designer Diana Cilliers has done some amazing work. Can you talk about the garments and some of your favorites?  

TC: Yes. Unfortunately, I only ever had one costume really which is either with chain mail or without chain mail but most of the time with chain mail. But Diana made it so that it was completely authentic even in terms of the undergarment underneath the chain mail. We had a very, very thick heavy muslin underneath like a linen dresser with leather underneath and the same on our bottom half as well. The chain mail was real metal and so it gave that kind of weight and movement to it. 

The tunics were made in the same way that they would have made the fabrics back at the time. Things like the crosses they spent a lot of time discussing what cross to use. Templars used many different crosses depending on where they were based, and later in the series, we meet another group of Templars and they have a different cross than what you see me wearing. 

Diana talked about how they would have died, the wreaths, the crosses and how they would have stitched them and sewn them on, and how the draper would have done it. They stitched in the same way that they would have stitched then. They had a huge workshop at our studios, Barrandov Studios in Prague, with the most incredible costume teams who worked tirelessly. I don't think people realized how much work it took because I certainly didn't realize it. 

When you have 400 extras on set, the costume team starts work at 2 o'clock in the morning to start dressing all of these men and women so that we're ready to start filming at 7:00 am. Then they wash all the costumes and they go to bed at an insane hour and they do it in shifts. The work that goes into making 400 beautiful costumes is unprecedented. In terms of the court costumes, I was really jealous because their costumes were incredible. 

Queen Joan and Princess Isabella played by Olivia Ross and Sabrina Bartlett, their costumes were inspired from real medieval images and fabrics that they had used and they are just unbelievable. Like every time I saw Olivia, she was in this new extraordinary costume that Diana fashioned and created out of seemingly thin air in no time and they're just stunning works of art really. 

What is amazing is that the way they were made is the way that they would have made them back then. Diana was really collaborative as well. I think each of us wanted to have our own unique way in which we wore our costume or we wore our belt or the color of our cross and so she allowed me to choose the color of my cross and how I would have dyed it. All of that really detailed history and information about The Templars is fascinating and we loved going there and making it as authentic as possible.

JJ: Landry is such a complex character from childhood to when we are introduced to him. How do you think becoming a Templar at the tender age of 11 shaped him?  

TC: I think that when we first meet Landry at the top of Episode 1 he is 20. He is brash and young –he is a maverick, incredibly cocky and is kind of emboldened by the fact that he has God on his side and he thinks that he's invincible, which I think a lot of 20 year olds think, regardless of whether they have God on their side or not. I know I certainly felt like that. 

What we see at the top of Episode 1 is his entire life flipped upside down when they lose Acre, the last Templar stronghold in the Holy Land and they lose the Holy Grail. We flash forward 15 years and when you've been brought up as a as a warrior, and that's all you know, everything you know, it’s a tough reality to deal with. He's like a caged animal, unable to fulfill what he thinks is his only purpose and duty which is to fight. 

When we meet him, he is this very, very complex, pulled apart guy in Episode 1. He is battling with his humanity and he is secular yet he is also still mentally devout. He is very loyal to his brothers, his family yet he is lying to them. He is having an affair with a woman yet he is a monk. He is the bravest, most fearless warrior yet he's starting to feel a sense of his own mortality. 

I think that’s why he kind of falls in love with this woman. It’s not that he's doubting God or that he’s doubting the Templars or religion, but that he's doubting himself. He is in a conflict, in a battle with himself, which are the stories that I love to watch where your hero is so full of contradiction and battle and personal complications. Throughout the first season, we see him work through that and battle through that and try and find out who he really is. It's an awesome journey for me to play and to take viewers on.

JJ: Talking about more seasons, do you know where Landry and the show will go? 

TC: We love the show and we really hope that we can continue making it for as long as possible because we're a real family and we're very, very proud of it and we love making it. There’s also still a lot of the Templar history that has yet to be told. We have an idea of where the show will go and where it will take us. What actually happens is that while you're making a show it becomes this dialogue that happens between the writers, the actors, directors, the costume designers, the art director, the production designer, makeup artists, etc. where you're constantly kind of feeding into this pot which is the show.

It evolves and changes and moves in ways that you would never expect it to. It's like a living organism but that surprises you. Though we have an idea of where this is going, actually the truth is that we don't in many respects. We have the structure of history and what actually happened which we have to stay with but in terms of the characters, and their fuels and wants and needs and how they navigate their way through that history is something that we're constantly being surprised by with the characters. That's a really exciting place to work with. 

Especially as an actor, I don't want to know where the character is going because in life I have no idea what I'm doing tomorrow or how it's going to pan out. And so I can only be in the present and I can only make choices in the present, and so that's what you want your characters to do. The writers actually withheld scripts from us and didn't tell us what was happening later in this first season so that we could be surprised in the moments whilst we were making the episode, which is a really fantastic and authentic way to work. 

Once we get the script we kind of talk about them and collaborate on them. Dominic Minghella is an incredible show runner. He is a force of nature and an amazing man and a brilliant writer, and he really values the actors’ input. He is always very good at fielding ideas and whether he takes them or not is up to him but it feels like a very collaborative process where everybody is feeding into it and we all have ownership over the show and that's really exciting.

JJ: I won’t deny that I am and always will be a huge Downton Abbey fan. How was it for you getting together with a few of your DA costars?

TC: I was so happy to work with Jim Carter who plays Mr. Carson on Downton and Julian Ovenden who plays Charles Blake on Downton Abbey, because they are just unbelievable actors. And I think that the caliber that they have only reflects so well on Knightfall, you know. The cast that we've assembled on Knightfall is one of the best that I've ever worked with. They are really amazing actors and amazing sponsors. 

To have someone like Jim Carter who is a multiple Emmy nominated actor and the fact that he was so excited and hungry to do our show, I think is really a testament to the scripts of Knightfall. We hope that everyone likes it as much as we do.

I can confidently say that the History Channel’s new series Knightfall will be a series that will have viewers coming back for more. There is a complexity to these characters that challenges their humanity and power against the history of the Knights Templar, the Holy Grail and Kings of other country’s involved in it all. 

There is intrigue that tests loyalty and a brotherhood that is going through pains of its own from inside their own house. Bringing it all together with fantastic costuming and set design, Knightfall draws the viewer in and takes us on an adventure through the medieval era.

Dan Jones is the New York Times best selling author who is also responsible for Summer of Blood: England’s First Revolution, Magna Carta: The Birth of Liberty, The Plantagenets and The Wars of the Roses as well as The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God’s Holy Warriors.

There is plenty of time to learn all you can about Knightfall and the History Channel has made it even easier. Go to to see stories and videos including Pilgrims, Warriors, Heretics: Who Were the Knights Templar?, The Templars’ Crusader Origins, From Pilgrim Bodyguards to Master Warriors, How the Templars Made and Lost a Fortune, How Religion and Greed Toppled the Templars, From Medieval Myths to Modern Mystery and Were Crusader Knights Really Protecting the Cup of Christ?

The History Channel brings more stellar successful series to television with The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer, The Curse of Oak Island, The WarFighters as well as the continuing series such as American Pickers, Pawn Stars, and Ice Road Truckers. Let us not forget the absolutely stunning series VIKINGS that returns November 29th.

Knightfall premiers Wednesday, December 6 at 10PM ET/PT on History!

HOME AGAIN Arrives on Your Doorstep on Bluray for the Holidays:
Talking with Pico Alexander

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to Bluray from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and writer/director Hallie Meyers-Shyer is a film that reminds us it’s good to be HOME AGAIN.

Alice (Reese Witherspoon) finds herself back in Los Angeles separating from husband Austen (Michael Sheen) who is in New York. Getting in a routine with daughters Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield), she has a little help from Mom Lillian (Candice Bergen). Trying to start a new business and find her footing isn’t being helped with her 40th birthday arriving.

Out with friends for a night of relaxing and a few drinks, she meets Harry (Pico Alexander) who, after a few flirty moments, ends up at the girls table. He brings brother Teddy (Nat Wolff) and George (Jon Rudnitsky) to join the party. These three are in Los Angeles to pitch their short film into a feature.

Waking up the next morning, Alice is uncomfortable to find everyone passed out in her house. Of course that’s right around the time Mom shows up with the girls yet something calming happens, everyone seems to hit it off nicely. When George realizes who Alice’s father is and meeting Lillian, he is thrilled.

That leads to Lillian and the three guys spending the day chatting while Alice gets on with life. Trying to land her first design job with Zoey (Lake Bell), Alice doesn’t have time to nonsense – or does she?

Lillian talks Alice into letting three young would-be artists stay in her guest house while pitching their film. One person who isn’t happy is Austen who learns from his daughters what is going on. Yet, it all seems to work as even Alice and Harry get closer. 

As everyone begins to find their way, Alice must decide how her life plays out without the complications of manipulative husbands, mothers or house guests. It’s time to discover how to be comfortable and home again!

Witherspoon is delightful, as she always is, in the role of Alice caught up in just the jumble of life. Trying to find her place without a husband she can’t count on and girls who really need her, the character of Alice is learning to stop trying to control and let loose now and again. That is the diversity of Witherspoon in that she can play roles such as Alice with her frailties and bit of comedy and at the same time nail characters like Madeline in the series Big Little Lies (of which I’m a huge fan). 

Alexander as Harry is as cute as he wants to be and knows it as he two companions know all to well. Yet he is also endearing and protective of Alice and the girls which sort of makes up for it all. He wants to succeed but on his own terms and fragile when it comes to believing that things work out the way they are suppose to. Putting on a good front from time to time keeps him focused. 

Wolff as actor and brother Teddy is just wonderful in his protection of his new found family and the scene between he and Sheen is hilarious. Being quiet most of the film, this scene is his moment to express every emotion he’d been holding in. Rudnitsky as George is the writer of the group who brings out the confidence in young Isabel. He also wants to protect Alice from making a mistake while also herding in Harry!

Bergen as Lillian is just too wonderful for words but I will try. She is endearing, lovely, funny and just out there which is how Alice wishes she could be. Lillian has a history and Bergen embraces it with a comedic timing all her own.

I had the opportunity to speak with Pico Alexander who plays Harry to talk about making a movie about making a movie, his friendship with cast mates and what we all can learn about unconventionally conventional families.

Jeri Jacquin: Hi Pico, how are you today?

Pico Alexander: Very well, thanks for asking.

JJ: I saw your film. 

PA: Lovely, and what did you think?

JJ: I thought it was funny, endearing, moving and it’s a little bit of everything actually.

PA: Not to much tragedy, we stayed away from it.

JJ: Tell me about how you came to get the role of Harry? 

PA: I did a self tape for it. I was in Europe and I did a casual tape with my friend and didn’t think there was really a chance that I would get the role.

JJ: You didn’t think you were going to get the role and I’m taken back hearing that. Why didn’t you think you would get the role of Harry?

PA: I just didn’t think I would be the guy to star opposite of Reese, I didn’t think I would be here love interest. It was just too crazy of an idea for me to wrap my head around. It just seemed like a total unreal concept that I would be a romantic love interest. Then it happened so I guess it wasn’t so surreal although I thought so at the time.

JJ: It wasn’t so crazy after all because I think you and Reese reacted to each other perfectly.

PA: So do I and thought it was such a joy and honor to act with her. It was a gift I was given.

JJ: You are with some pretty heavy hitters in the film with Candice Bergen and Michael Sheen as well.

PA: The cast is unreal! I am so lucky to have gone from acting for three years to have the opportunity to share the screen with the likes of Candice Bergen, Michael Sheen, Reese Witherspoon, Jon Rudnitsky and Nat Wolff. Everybody else as well and everyone who even came in to play for day were so tremendous. I think that Nancy and Hallie did a great job casting the film.

JJ: I was going to say I don’t think there was a hair out of place with this film. It looked effortless.

PA: I can tell you it wasn’t effortless (laughing) and a lot of effort goes into making them look so graceful. There are a lot of takes and there is a vision and it’s our job to fulfill that vision to a tee.

JJ: You did it so well that in watching HOME AGAIN you feel like a fly on the wall watching the lives of everyone unfold. When you can do that you know it’s done by a really good cast.

PA: That is so cool to hear and the credit goes to Hallie, the casting and the editing. The way the film was put together with the material they had putting together our performances is a huge testament to them.

JJ: The relationship between you, Jon and Nat – you meshed so well together. You guys were hilarious in this film.

PA: That’s awesome and luckily it happened on screen and off screen. 

JJ: I was wondering if a friendship came about.

PA: We went into best friend mode within like three days. I was to be staying at a hotel during the shoot being from New York and Nat and I started talking. Nat was staying at his parents place and he’s convinced it’s haunted so he asked if I wanted to move in with him. It was crazy but I liked it. We did the whole brother thing and then Jon would be there every night without fail. One of the first times we hung out, you know the scene where we meet with the producer who wants to fiancé our film? Then we are on the beach and Harry jumps in the water followed by Nat’s character Teddy. We had gone to the beach our first weekend off and we literally did the scene without even realizing it. We were trying to convince Jon to jump in the water because he had never been in the Pacific and we all jumped in while John was on the beach. We really leaned into that relationship because we felt it should be strong and a chemistry with a number of inside jokes. Hopefully that reads in the movie and I think that’s why we got along.

JJ: It absolutely does. Your relationship with Lola and Eden, you guys are just so sweet together.

PA: Those were the best days when they were on set. They were so awesome. Lola and Eden are two of the most charming and fantastic girls I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. Eden is a genius and probably win a number of Oscars years from now – that is if she keeps on acting. She might decide to go and find a cure for cancer. Eden is so good and a natural talent. We would all joke that Eden was the most talented person on set. Lola is just so awesome and she was listening and learning her place on the set and see her pick up on acting tips and cues on how to function on a set. She is very savvy. They both have secure futures in acting and their parents are great as well. Their parents are so lovely.

JJ: When the three of you are dealing with Austen, Sheen’s character, it is hilarious when the three of you deal with it. It’s almost as if you three are the adults and Austen is the child.

PA: Well, that is an interesting take away (laughing)

JJ: His character gets away with things like a kid and the three of you are guarded and protective.

PA: Yes, we know he is a significant threat to the family we have created. We want to make sure that Alice is in a fragile state. He does act childish but that’s what I appreciate about the film. It explores every characters childishness. Everyone has that little six year old in him or her even if we grow up, there are parts of us that don’t grow up. We have those tricks that the six year old in us has kept to get what we want. It’s important for generations to check you by saying you can’t do this anymore.

JJ: The funny thing is you are young men and you get that!

PA: I feel like Teddy gets it and he’s the baby in the group but the most emotionally mature. I don’t want to vilify Austen’s character because I get where he is coming from and he feels a little neglected. Harry acts a little irresponsible as well and kicks the door in to Alice’s life so there is a bit.

JJ: So would you say that Harry and Austen were probably closer than they even realized?

PA: Yes, Harry could easily grow up and be an Austen if he didn’t meet Austen. It’s a gift to see the result of impulses to always think you can get what you want and not really thinking things through and being self centered. There are long term consequences in that and seeing Austen he realizes he needs to spend more time being in someone else’s shoes. At the end of the day, what ever you take away from it.

JJ: How is it for you making a movie about three guys trying to get a movie made?

PA: It’s great because I didn’t really have to draw on imagination circumstances but instead draw on it from a personal level. I liked that about the movie and I like that these guys travel out from the east coast to get a movie made. I traveled the same way going to LA and they are given a great opportunity like I was given. It’s autobiographical in a weird way. I like movies about making movies.

JJ: Being that you are the younger man and playing opposite the character of Alice, I know its weird because it’s Reese Witherspoon, but the chemistry you two have is so amazing.

PA: That’s awesome, I’m so glad you feel that way. It was very nerve wracking and I haven’t spent too much time around many high profile people. I had a number of expectations wondering what it would be like to work with someone so famous. I was a little intimidated at the time and nervous to be close to someone like that. But ultimately it comes down to trust and a passion for the work. We just needed some time to get to know each other and have conversations talking about it all to make the best movie we could. We wanted to do the characters justice and after a week we were more comfortable around Reese and I can’t be grateful enough for her. I have so much gratitude for Reese’s ability to make me feel at ease, she has more experience than I do when it comes to these kind of things. She did a tremendous job in leading and guiding me without making it obvious that she was doing it. She made me feel like it was my own doing and she is just a tremendous actor and it was really all about the work. It was about this relationship and she thought it was an important story to tell. It was high time we reevaluate the May-December romances and she convinced me that it was important. I could keep raving about her.

JJ: The same with you guys and Candice Bergen on screen.

PA: I have never met anyone from the royal family but I can imagine they don’t come close to carrying themselves with the same grace and dignity at Candice Bergen. She is the classiest person I have ever met and a totally fantastic actress to top it all off. 

JJ: Her sense of humor and timing is endearingly graceful.

PA: Graceful, class and doing it with such a straight face. I thought I was intimidated working with Reese? Forget it! The moment I met Candice I hoped she would like me. I think when I introduced myself to her, it was the first day and I was giddy and excited. I went over to her to introduce myself and she just looked at me and then cracked up. I still to this day I don’t know what that meant and that intimidated me.

JJ: I bet she thought it was charming that you came over to say hello.

PA: That’s it, of course, that’s what it was and I’m sticking with that (laughing).

JJ: The film is coming out on Bluray and DVD and I’d like to know what you’d like viewers to take away from the film.

PA: I would hope that when they finish their Bluray that they make a phone call to someone they care about. The movie has a strong sense of family for me and second chances. Relationships are difficult as we get older and I think it’s important to apologize for things and make them right. Take away a gratitude for people that are in their lives as unconventional families are formed every day. 

JJ: I understand, this is a family that is unconventional where families are now are unconventional and this is another take on that. It can work if you all put your differences aside.

PA: Put differences aside and realize the love you have for each other is stronger than all the things that have gone wrong in the past. Pick up the phone and make that call to someone telling them how much they mean. It’s a heartwarming film and everyone needs a second chance. 

JJ: I thank you so much for talking with me Pico. 

Miles Teller Stars as a Troubled Soldier Returning Home in THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE

Jeri Jacquin

This week in theaters is the film THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE based on the award winning book Thank You For Your Service written by David Finkel. Telling the story of soldiers returning home and their difficulty in readjusting to civilian life and family, this film centers on the life of one such soldier, Adam Schumann.

Schumann returns home to discover that fitting back into a life he once knew isn’t happening. Trying to do what’s best, he keeps what happened in Iraq to himself only discussing it with other soldiers in his infantry. It becomes clear that they too are having a difficult time finding their place in life.

When one of their friends chooses a different way to handle it all, it becomes clear to his wife that Schumann needs help. They turn to the VA and learn that getting that help is frustrating and a system that is overloaded with bureaucracy. Schumann tries to come to terms with an event that happened in Iraq while also continuing to help his men also find help.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE is a startling look at the soldiers who return home to a broken system and showing how PTSD is shows itself in different ways and can not be labeled quite so easily.

Actor Miles Teller portrays Adam Schumann in THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE. This is the second week that Teller is portraying a person who serves our country. Last week he took the role of Brendan McDonough, the only survivor of the Granite Mountain Hotshots in the film ONLY THE BRAVE.  

I had the opportunity to speak with Miles about his role as Adam Schumann and portraying this real life soldier on the issues of PTSD and bringing light to such an important issues for all U.S. military. 

Jeri Jacquin: Thank you for talking with me today Miles, I appreciate it and I know you must be busy.

Miles Teller: I am busy but I have to say I’m enjoying it.

JJ: That’s good to hear. What drew you to THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE?

MT: I have always had a lot of respect for the military and I felt like Adam’s story was extremely powerful so I wanted to help tell it. I felt a responsibility actually.

JJ: I spoke with Adam, what an amazing young man.

MT: Adam is an incredible person.

JJ: When you read the script, is there anything that jumped out at you the most?

MT: I think just the struggle is what I find actually incredible. We don’t have any integration programs for our soldiers who are in war one day and the next week are home making pancakes for their family as in the case of Adam. It is something that he’s not able to talk to his wife about and that’s extremely difficult.

JJ: It’s a story of the struggle to go from one extreme to the other so quickly.

MT: Yes, it is incomprehensible to us as civilians but I felt by doing this film I was able to empathize and appreciate in such a way that I am grateful for. It helps you understand the struggle these soldiers are going through. Millions of soldiers are dealing with PTSD and it’s tough.

JJ: It’s a big issues and a difficult one as well. How did you prepare to play that role?

MT: I read some books and I watched a lot of interviews and documentaries. I was able to spend some time with Adam and other veterans as well. They put us through a boot camp as well and through all of these resources I was able to come up with this portrayal.

JJ: When you first began filming, was it hard to find your step when it comes to the scenes dealing with PTSD?

MT: Absolutely, every day on this film I was nervous about messing it up. I know how heavily this film and this performance was going to be scrutinized because I am representing our military. I was representing a staff Sgt. in the Army and I am aware of how much they sacrifice to have that job title. I was extremely nervous. Everyday on set I was telling myself ‘I hope I don’t mess this up’.

JJ: You probably had a lot of military eyes watching what you were doing.

MT: Our cast was really strong in this and the fact that we all went through a boot camp helped us with the sense of responsibility we all felt. This is a real life responsibility to the men and women we were portraying and I think everyone wanted to get it right. We had a lot of people steering us in that direction.

JJ: Speaking of boot camp how did you like that?

MT: It was tough and a kick in the guts but I think we were all grateful for it to be honest with you. When we were doing it, it sucked and it was really uncomfortable and tough to do but once we got done it was good. It was team work oriented and if you are making a film like this it is a feeling that we are all in it together and it’s not about just one person. We got to experience that in the boot camp and we all benefited from it. 

JJ: They must have put you all through the ringer.

MT: It was a very intensive boot camp for sure. 

JJ: During that time did you feel like there was a sense of coming together?

MT: Absolutely, I don’t think anything bonds people like collective suffering.

JJ: The film bounces between what happens in Iraq to what happens at home. The scenes in Iraq are very intense, how was that for you to deal with?

MT: I think we were actually excited at that point because we had been trained tactically and trained to move as a unit. We learned to shoot M-4’s and wear the gear that came along with an objective and a mission. When you are a kid you play cops n’ robbers or soldiers, you know, make believe, but this is that at its highest level. Of course I’m not glorifying that because the difference is that what the soldiers did was very real and in filming the scenes we got to go home at the end of the day. 

JJ: I understand what you are saying. You are all portraying an event that is very intense and you have to use that build up of the training in boot camp in order to do the scene justice.

MT: Yes, exactly. What was specific about this is that it’s not a lot of taking shots at the enemy, it was a 360 warfare. It wasn’t just about waiting to be shot at but driving around in humvees not knowing what could be on the road. They are going out multiple times a day every day and still not knowing what could be on that road.

JJ: I was talking to Adam about the phrase ‘thank you for your service’, what does that mean for you?

MT: It’s just something that has become part of the national lexicon when meeting somebody who is in the armed services. I’m interested in it and it’s something that people say who don’t have the full understanding of the soldier’s experience. These guys don’t want to be thanked. Adam didn’t do what he did to be thanked or congratulated by civilians. He was doing his job. It’s also the end of a conversation where civilians distance themselves from soldiers. It’s thanking them without actually getting into a deep conversation with a soldier. I think that’s unfortunate. I think the divide between soldier and civilian is wider than it has ever been. I’m hoping this film shortens the divide and brings the us all together making us all part of it under the flag.

JJ: Instead of ‘thank you for your service’ we can change it to ‘how are you doing?’ to really bring out a conversation.

MT: Yes, that’s great. I guy shook Adam’s hand and said ‘welcome home’ which turned out to be the most powerful thing anyone had said to him. He said he broke down in tears after that.

JJ: This is such an intense film in the sense that it’s about both physical and emotional pain of reaching out for help, when viewers leave the theatre, what do you hope they take with them Miles?

MT: I hope that the film creates some empathy and I hope it creates a discussion. I think in our country these soldiers are the biggest group that need help. These soldiers are suffering and it’s so much more than PTSD. It’s not like previous soldiers who came home and just didn’t talk about it. I hope this film can be informative, enlightening and humanizes what our soldiers are dealing with. I hope there are a whole range of emotions that bring about discussion of what they are going through. We need to close that gap between civilian and veteran most definitely.

JJ: I want you to know I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me Miles. This is a tough subject to bring to film and thank you for taking on the role.

MT: Thank you Jeri, these are the kind of stories I want to tell and I’m glad that it’s getting to see the light of day.

Miles Teller has taken the role of Adam Schumann and given is every range of emotion possible. Some are subtle and most are heart breaking and it is for the viewer to come away realizing that our military need us just as much as we need them. 

Embracing this story is just the beginning as more films about our military and their struggles come to the forefront. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE is one such telling of a young man who wanted to stay strong for his platoon and the men he felt responsible for while also finding the life he left behind. 

Coming to theatres is THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE and DreamWorks along with Universal Pictures and AMC are making tickets available for service members. For more information on how the tickets will be made available, please visit

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE: Speaking with Adam Schumann 

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres from director Jason Hall, DreamWorks and Universal Pictures is a story based on the book by David Finkel that reminds us to sincerely say THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE.

Adam Schumann (Miles Teller) is a soldier returning from Iraq with wife Saskia (Haley Bennett) waiting. The transition is made more difficult when Adam struggles to fit in at home once again. Memories on the battlefield not only follow him home, but his buddies Solo (Beulah Koale), Dante (Omar J. Dorsey) and Doster (Brad Beyer) as well.

When buddy Mike (Scott Haze) shows up, Adam understands what he is going through and offers him a spot on the couch. Each of these men need so much more and feel that no one is listening. As Adam becomes more and more disconnected from everything around him, Saskia knows it’s time to find help where ever they can.

That’s when dealing with the VA begins and the complications of helping returning vets. Hearing of a place that might have a space opening up soon, at the last minute Adam gives it to one of the others believing it’s his obligation to help the guys in his unit. But what he carries inside him about an event in Iraq finally comes to the surface and Adam knows its time to speak openly.

He is one of thousands and it’s time we hear them all!

I had the opportunity to speak with Adam Schumann himself about his experiences in watching his story come to the screen and how he is doing now.

Jeri Jacquin: Hello Adam, I truly appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today.

AS: Hi Jeri, I have to thank you too for hanging out with me today.

JJ: My apologies in advance because I’m sure you have been asked this question before but can you tell me your thoughts on hearing your story was being made into a film?

AS: I actually thought ‘great if it happens!’ and I didn’t give it much thought after that really. I wasn’t sure how they were going to put my life into a movie at first actually; it seemed a task in itself.

JJ: What was the experience like for you?

AS: It has been a long process working on the film and helping this thing come to fruition. It has been a spectacular journey and I’m so glad they let me be a part of it all. 

JJ: What was your role in THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE?

AS: I was kind of a technical adviser making sure all the uniforms were right and if something was off I would let them know. Jason [director] says my fingerprints are all over the film! Oh, the radio in the humvee that you hear is my voice as well. I wrote all the dialogue and talk on the radio for the background. I had a cameo where I get to welcome ‘myself’ home too. I also sing the final credit song with Bruce Springsteen.

JJ: Oh no way, seriously?

AS: Yes! That is an old Army cadence I was singing in the shower one day and it turns out that Bruce Springsteen liked it. He sang it and had me sing the back up and the chorus with him. It was amazing that we worked on it together.

JJ: So that’s a little bit of a mind blower!

AS: Right? I mean…yea! I also got to work with the actors and do some weapons training too. I did everything I could and help in any way I could and I would even carry things around the set because I wanted to be of help in all ways. I was so happy to be working on this.

JJ: These are hard questions sometimes for me to ask sometimes because as a mom of a three-tour veteran there is a line I don’t want to cross which conflicts with the writer in me who knows I need to ask the questions.

AS: What branch and did your son do?

JJ: He was in the Army and drove humvee’s and tanks. 

AS: Well, please ask what ever questions you like and don’t worry.

JJ: Thank you, so lets go for the big question then, when you were participating and watching THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE being made, how was it for you to see it all come back in a way.

AS: It was very therapeutic actually, it’s not often you get to take a trip down memory lane and I mean really take that trip down memory lane. It’s a chance to dig into it and I mean really dig into it and relive each experience and then have everyone around you sharing it and working on that very same memory in a movie. There were tough days where we would shoot certain scenes and it was difficult but overall it was just very therapeutic. I actually think it was the best therapy I’ve had in the past ten years. 

JJ: I wasn’t expecting that answer.

AS: Well, you get to see your progress. You look back at how bad it was and I look at myself in the mirror today and I’m still here, I’m still kicking and I’m not stopping so – it’s good. 

JJ: I’m sure it was strange to watch Miles Teller portray you because you are watching you.

AS: He’s great. I guess when I see Miles I see anyone who was in that position in Iraq at that time. He is an Infantry Squad Leader trying to take care of his guys while at the same time he has a wife and child at home. I guess I look at it like he represents hundreds of thousands of people in that situation, not just me.

JJ: With what you went through, digging into your life, how has what you experienced changed you?

AS: Wow, I would like to think it has changed me for the better. I think I have a better understanding of sensitivity toward humanity and maybe more empathy. I don’t know, I just think that now I’m here and can look back at it all it’s made me a stronger and better person – that’s it.

JJ: The film deals a lot with PTSD and once the film is over there are so many questions on how to deal with this issue. The barriers are heartbreaking so for you, how did you deal with those barriers?

AS: I really just wanted to get better and I really wanted to be myself again. Every time I would run into a door or barrier I would just figure out a way around it. It was probably the hardest fight of my life to just get back to who I was and the biggest revelation of that is that you are not going to get back to who you were before. You are not going to be that person again after an experience like that. It was just fighting every step of the way because I wanted to be better for my kid and for my wife. I wanted to be happy again.

JJ: I know there are so many soldiers out there going through the same situation and no one can understand that fight but soldiers. 

AS: I had my days where I wanted to give up and you see that in the film. When some small little nuisance in your life trips you up you want to throw your hands up in the air. I don’t know what kept bringing me back, I really don’t. It’s crazy thinking about it now going through all of that.

JJ: When I was watching the film knowing that there is more than one person going through this but actually thousands of people its astounding.

AS: There are hundreds of thousands because there were 2.5 million soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan over the last sixteen years. They say one in five has TDI or PTSD so you are looking at five hundred thousand people at least – at least! That’s a big number.

JJ: That’s a staggering number and as a parent you look at your child and see them struggling and you wonder ‘how do other parents do this?’ It’s not like when they were teenagers and you do the ‘straighten up and fly right’ parental attitude. How has this been for your family?

AS: Saskia and I divorced a bit after David Finkel wrote the book Thank You For Your Service but now it’s actually been good. We live in the same town and we split the kids week on and week off. The kids are extremely happy and thriving and Saskia is remarried and happy. I’m just doing my thing and I’m happy. Everybody is actually doing really well.

JJ: So what is your thing now?

AS: I hunt and fish a lot. That’s my thing! When I’m not doing the full time dad gig, I do a little bit of work and then I try to go hunting or fishing everyday. 

JJ: What are you fishing for? I saw a photo of you with a fish and it was huge!

AS: It doesn’t matter to me, if there is water I’m going to fish in it. It does not matter. I usually go out and catch dinner, get some veggies and that’s my day.

JJ: It’s not a bad day.

AS: I’m just trying to keep it simple and keep it light. I’m trying to go back to the things I missed when I was in really bad places. You have to keep it simple. The simpler it is the better it is and that’s what I’m finding out.

JJ: The title THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE, I have had some military say it has different meaning for them whether good, bad or indifferent. What does it mean for you?

AS: I use to get embarrassed when people said it and I would think ‘why are you thanking me?’ You really don’t know what to say because it’s the beginning and an end to a conversation, it’s a statement and that’s it. It’s not a ‘hi, how are you doing?’ kind of thing – that’s it. I don’t know many military soldiers that signed up to be in the military for people to say ‘thank you for your service’. It’s not about free meals on Veterans Days and stuff like that, it can make it awkward. I think the movie title is how ever you want to take it as a person. What does ‘thank you for your service’ mean to you and what are we thanking them for? I think the title works well but as far as saying it to a veteran there are other things you could say like ‘how are you doing?’ or ‘welcome home’ which is a great one.

JJ: When people say ‘how are you doing now?’ how it is for you?

AS: I get asked that one but I never thought of it being an odd or difficult question. That one doesn’t bother me at all ever. It shows a genuine interest and it’s a conversation and it opens the door. At the end of this story you genuinely want to know how that guy is doing.

JJ: Sort of feels like a ‘mom’ question right? You want your child to be happy and well and you want that part of their life to not be their life.

AS: Absolutely, you want to take that pain away and absorb it but you can’t. I can’t imagine my own children going through what I did. My Mom, sometimes she will walk in on a conversation I’m having with my little brother and I’m telling him some gnarly stuff and she has to turn and walk out of the room. She has always been there for me in that nurturing way and she is my best friend. We have dinner once a week together and we hang out having a good time. I wouldn’t be who I am without her. We have talked about how hard it all was and being gone so much. As a parent you sit and watch the news and wonder how your child is doing 5,000 miles away.

JJ: From you, when people walk out of the theatre after watching THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE, what do you hope they take away with them?

AS: I hope a few things, I hope it gets people thinking, I hope it gets people talking about this issue. It’s not just a military issue, it’s everybody’s issue. None of us get through life without experiencing some pretty severe trauma and if you do you are fortunate. Trauma is universal and it’s not biased and doesn’t care who you are. I think this will help people accept that and start talking about it and if they know someone who has experienced something bad that they will lend an ear and help relieve some of that weight. I hope people help each other and have hope. I wish for a little more love and happiness and help each other out. We are all in this together and when you are in a position to help do so and if you need help – ask for it.

JJ: You are amazing Adam and I want to thank you so much for spending time with me today. I know you have heard it a million times but this is from me – a Mom – thank you.

AS: My pleasure Jeri, I wouldn’t change it for the world and I would go back and do it again if I had to. 

JJ: Take care of yourself Adam and my best to your family.

AS: Yours as well Jeri.

Speaking with Adam today brought double emotions for me. Listening to him speak on the story of his life from the film’s perspective is thought provoking and a call to action. There are soldiers who are struggling in ways we can not understand and hit some of us very close to home. It is a complex issue but one that needs our military to step up and help the soldiers who have done everything asked of them.

The other side of the emotional sword is that of any parent who has a child (yes, adult but still our children) that comes home wanting to be helped. The struggle for that help should be first and foremost in our country and parents of these soldiers are becoming loudly vocal in calling for better access for returning soldiers.

That is what THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE brings about. It is a story of not just one soldier but many who come home with stories they feel can not be shared and emotions that are stifled to make everyone else feel better. Adam’s story speaks volumes and we need to listen to every one of them.

This week, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE comes to theatres. DreamWorks and Universal Pictures along with AMC are making tickets available for free to service members. For participating theaters and how tickets will be distributed please visit 

In the end – this is one man’s story that speaks for thousands!

THE STRAY: Speaking with Michael Cassidy

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from writer/director Mitch Davis and KEB Entertainment comes the story of a family who doesn’t know they need THE STRAY.

Christian (Connor Corum) is a young boy who is having a hard time connecting with his busy father Mitch (Michael Cassidy). Mom Michelle (Sarah Lancaster) just wants everyone to be happy but isn’t happy with how much Mitch is working. 

When Christian is bullied at school, out of no where a dog comes to his rescue and follows him home. The little boy names him Pluto, where all dogs come from according to Christian, and the family embraces him. When Mitch becomes so distracted that he almost loses their youngest daughter – it is time for the family to make some changes.

Moving to a small town in Colorado, Mitch is back to writing again but his relationship with son Christian isn’t any better. He decides the best thing to do is gather up a few neighbor boys and take them all out camping with Christian. The one thing is that the rest of the family wants Pluto to stay with them!

Their first night camping there is a snow storm and Pluto seems edgy. A bolt of lightening comes out of no where as Mitch and the boys are struck. When the boys wake up they realize that Mitch hasn’t and Christian prays for his Dad to wake up and when he does they all realize what has happened to Pluto.

It’s a mysterious friendship created with faith!

I had the opportunity to speak with Michael Cassidy who portrays Mitch Davis about the film and his thoughts about making such a touching and heartwarming family film.

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

Michael Davis: Of course Jeri, I appreciate you taking time as well.

JJ: Tell me how you got involved with THE STRAY?

MD: Mitch Davis picked me when I was with my family. To this day I don’t know what of mine he had seen that made me a good choice to play him. I am grateful that he did though.

JJ: Had you read the script before he picked you out?

MD: I read the script before I talked to him. I was sent the script when offered the lead for the film. I gave it a read and responded immediately to it. I mean I backpack with my child, at the time we had a dog as well who passed shortly after the film was made and I am a father as well. So there were a lot of levels that I really related to. I talked to Mitch the next day after reading the script and we totally hit it off. I have so much respect for who he is as a man and a filmmaker.

JJ: I was going to ask you what drew you to THE STRAY but I think it was, well, everything!

MD: Absolutely, it was shot in a beautiful part of the world too. I like Mitch very much; I liked the script and the theme of the story. I was really impressed by Mitch because this is his story.

JJ: The family sense of it is big. It’s really hard to find films that the entire family can go see together. Listening to you say that you’re a dad and love animals, it’s an instant draw.

MD: Yes, I haven’t done a lot of things that I can take my kids to so this is a very unique opportunity for my wife and I to take the kids to the theatre this weekend. It’s going to be a cool experience and I plan to enjoy it with my family.

JJ: Did you think about what people will take away from watching THE STRAY?

MD: Yes, I think at the heart of it the movie is about how hard it is to be a person in a family – a husband, wife or a child and even a dog. At the same time how powerful it is to love your family and what a gift it is even when it’s difficult.

JJ: Is there anything particular about the film that touched you most of all?

MD: When I read the script before I filmed it and knew Mitch, I was touched. I related to the character in that he’s working all the time and it’s not working for him. I like to see characters that make mistakes. When we were making the movie I had some pretty powerful and emotional experiences around the dog story line. To be honest, the dog didn’t register with me when I read the script but eventually Shiloh, that’s the dog who plays Pluto in the movie, played intensely in my life because of my own dog.

JJ: You know, W.C. Fields says about ‘kids and animals’ and you got both, how was that for you?

MD: I really liked working with Conor (who plays Christian Davis) very much. I connected to him and felt more like he was a peer on so many levels. We were in those woods getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, chasing the dog and carrying those backpacks together. I saw an actor that was in the same challenging work environment as me and I didn’t expect that. No matter how challenging the elements are, I knew there was a guy who shared the same name as my character and had it way harder than me. I said that to Mitch, I told him it was going to be weird to be him while he’s on the set. It was a fun experience that we shared.

JJ: Usually people who portray other people don’t have that person right there next to them. That had to be strange.

MD: I was very up front with Mitch when we talked about the film saying that I am not you and I have to do what makes sense to me. He was amazing! It was my biggest concern going in that he might whisper “I don’t do things like that” but he never did that. He even said ‘look man, this is the story that happened to me and my family and you are here because you are going to do a good job telling that story’. He trusted me totally and it was very comfortable. 

JJ: Do you think THE STRAY being based on a true story was something else that drew you to make the film?

MD: Oh yes definitely! I have been in electrical storms and had so many shared experiences with Mitch that it was just grace that my experiences in those elements were different than him. I totally connected to the elements in the exact same way as he did in his life and did it as a story teller to be able to bring it all to the screen.

I so appreciate Michael Cassidy talking with us today about THE STRAY. The film brings Mitch Davis’ story to the screen as Michael Cassidy tells the story of family, friendship and love. 

THE STRAY is a film about faith, hope, love, family and healing. The Davis family is like so many of us in that we all get so busy with life that we truly forget to live. In this case it takes the arrival of a beautiful dog to bring everything into focus. This is an amazing family film that can be shared with many walks of life with a sense of unity and strength that we all can relate to. 

In theatres this Friday is a family that needed THE STRAY.

In the end – one dog can change everything!
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.

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 

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!

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

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 

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!

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!

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 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!

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.


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?


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!

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?


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.

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.


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.