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Actor and Writer Barry Floyd Discusses ‘The Game’

BarryFloydIn the world of network television, it’s a blessing for a series to get seven seasons. A long lifespan by any measure of the entertainment business. But for actor and writer Barry Floyd, it’s all just part of The Game. Floyd and the rest of the cast from the successful BET show will return for a seventh season beginning March 4th.

Last season, fans of the show saw Floyd’s character “Tee Tee” Carter transition from being a sidekick to Malik Wright (Hosea Chanchez) to becoming more involved in his own Cluck Truck business. This season, fans will get to see Tee Tee in an even more dramatic light as things take a turn for the worse. As an actor, Floyd was originally only set to appear in a few episodes of the show, but his character was so well received that he was added on as a series regular.

In addition to acting, Floyd is also a lead-writer and director of the online sketch comedy series, “Purple-Stuff TV” along with having several other projects in various stages of development. I spoke with him about the new season of The Game as well as some of his other passions.

What can fans expect out of this new season of The Game?

Without giving too much away, I will say that my character gets into some trouble with his Cluck Truck business and takes a big financial hit. Fans are going to see Tee Tee at a really low point in his life as he tries to recover and get back to where he was. For me, it was a great opportunity to do some dramatic acting and be able to flex that muscle.

How would you describe your character?

Tee Tee is probably the most relatable character on the show. Everyone else has sort of a larger than life personality. They’re all either professional football players or agents or people associated with the world of pro athleticism. Tee Tee just happens to be a guy who’s along for the ride. Over the course of the show people have seen his transition; starting out as a sidekick to creating his own business and building it from the ground up. His path mirrors someone in real life. Someone who’s just starting out and builds something from nothing. I think Tee Tee is an inspiration for people like that.

What’s the chemistry like on the set?

After seven seasons it’s become a well-oiled machine. When Hosea, Wendy (Raquel Robinson) and I are together, its rapid fire. We just know each others tendencies and styles of acting.

How did the role of Tee Tee come about?

I was working as a production assistant on the show ‘Girlfriends’. One day, they were doing a rehearsal in front of network executives and one of the actors wasn’t there for some reason. So they asked me to just stand in and say his lines. I took it very seriously and when I did it, I got a lot of laughs. The casting director also happened to be there and asked me if I’d be interested in reading for the role of Tee Tee in ‘The Game’. I went in and read for it, not really knowing what to expect. But I ended up booking it and became an actor.

What are some of the other projects you’re currently working on?

In addition to working with Brandon Broussard on our sketch comedy show Purple Stuff TV, we’re also working on a new project that’s a male version of a show similar to ‘Sex in The City’ and ‘Girls’. One where it’s the men who can be brutally honest about dating and sex. I’m also working with Sebastian Burton on a pilot with a working title of ‘Show Up or Shut Up’. Sebastian was on the show ‘Ultimate Gamer’ and is big in pro gaming circles. He’s won a lot of tournaments and actually makes a living playing video games. The pilot is based on his life as a pro gamer.

Was becoming an actor something you always aspired to?

I went to college at Temple and got a film and media arts degree with an original goal of moving to LA to become a screenwriter and write movies. Acting was an opportunity that fell into my lap and I quickly discovered a passion for it I never knew that I had.

What did you enjoy most about the transition of Tee Tee over the course of The Game?

It kind of mirrors my acting career. I started out as a production assistant who had the opportunity to act on a show. The first few seasons I remember just being happy to be there, surrounded by these veteran actors and trying to soak up everything I could. But as time went on, I came into my own and instead of seeing myself as someone who was lucky to be there, I saw myself as someone who deserved to be there and earn a spot to grow as an actor. I still continue to grow every day.

The Game returns to BET on March 4th
Follow Barry Floyd on Twitter: @Barry_Floyd

Actor Tyler Alvarez Discusses New Show, ‘Every Witch Way’

TylerAlvarezActor Tyler Alvarez is stealing tween hearts on the new Nickelodeon series, Every Witch Way.

Based on a successful, award-winning Latin American series, Every Witch Way tells the story of a girl named Emma who moves to a new town and discovers she’s a witch with magical powers. Tyler stars as Diego Rueda, a mysterious teenager on his own journey of self-discovery, complete with his own set of special super powers.

Diego is a “Churi Kanay” or “The Son of Fire”, which means he has the power to control the elements. Figuring out how to make use of his new-found abilities while trying to fit in is what makes Tyler’s character so interesting and compelling. Every Witch Way may be a show about witches, rivalry and magic, but it’s also one about the true power of friendship and love.

In real life, Tyler is a normal everyday sixteen year old who enjoys hanging with friends, going to concerts and tearing it up on Xbox One. I spoke to him about his role on Every Witch Way as well as what a typical day is like on the set and why he decided to make a career out of acting.

How would you describe Every Witch Way to someone who may not know about it?

It’s a show about friendship, love and a lot of magic gone wrong. That’s where a lot of the comedy comes from. It’s completely different from anything anyone has ever seen before in a kid’s television show.

What attracted you to the role of Diego Rueda?

I thought it would be fun to play a role where magic’s involved. Growing up, I always wanted to be one of those kids who could fly or have super powers and in this show, I have them. 

Was there something “magical” about how you landed the role?

I actually wound up booking the show on the same day the Mayans said the world was supposed to end [December 21st, 2012]. So there was a time where I was like, “Oh great, I’m going to book this job and then I’m going to die!” [laughs].

What can you tell me about Diego?

Diego is a Kanay and the Son of Fire. He’s the only boy on the show that can control the elements like fire, wind and ice. He just recently discovered that he has powers and is still learning how to use and control them. A lot of the time, it spirals out of control and actually endangers his friends and things go wrong. He’s funny and sarcastic. Unlike me, he’s also a clean freak. If he had a room, it would be completely neat and tidy, whereas my room right now looks like a war zone! [laughs].

What’s a typical day like on the set?

It depends on the day’s schedule. Usually, I’ll get there and we’ll have school for a few hours and then go straight to hair and makeup. Then we’ll run the lines a few times and finally, we’ll shoot. It’s very fast. On other sets you might have rehearsals and table reads, but we have none of that. It’s more soap-opera format.

Are there any differences between set school and regular school?

Absolutely. Number one is that there’s access to Kraft Services 24/7. So I’m usually eating my face off whenever I’m in school [laughs]. Another thing is that I’m allowed to have my phone, which I’m not allowed to have in regular school. But the thing I really love about set school is that I’m able to learn so much better because of the private one on one.

What’s the chemistry like with your cast mates?

The chemistry is great. We’re all really close and are like one big family. We all see each other six days a week and hang out together.

What do you like to do when you’re not acting?

I love going to comedy clubs, concerts and movies. Just doing random things with friends and being a regular teenager. Sometimes I love to get away from the entertainment industry and acting because I like to be grounded and remember just who I am.

What sparked your desire to make a career out of acting?

I’ve always liked to entertain people and make them laugh. When I was younger, my mom signed me up for an acting class and I remember it was so much fun that I knew right then that I had to continue on and make a career out of it. I really believe that if you love what you do, you’ll never have to actually “work” a day in your life.

For more on Tyler Alvarez and Every Witch Way Click Here!

Actor Brendan Dooling Discusses The Carrie Diaries And New Projects

Brendan Dooling (Photo Credit: Nina Duncan)

Brendan Dooling (Photo Credit: Nina Duncan)

Actor Brendan Dooling may have missed out on the 80′s the first time around, but he’s more than making up for it during the pre cell phone days of “The Carrie Diaries” (the prequel to the hugely successful “Sex & the City”). Dooling plays Walt Reynolds, the best guy friend of a young Carrie Bradshaw (AnnaSophia Robb).

Walt is undergoing his own 80′s journey of self-discovery. One that goes much deeper than gnarly fashion sense or the allure of Culture Club albums. Dooling’s performance as a closeted gay man trying to find out where he belongs is stellar, even generating an incredible fan base of followers to his character’s storyline.

I spoke with him about his role on “The Carrie Diaries” as well as his other projects and how he got his start.

What was the audition process for “The Carrie Diaries” like for you?

Originally, I had read for the role of Sebastian [Carrie's love interest], but for the callback they asked if I would read for Walt, who was the other principal male role. So I came in the following day with Walt’s sides prepared and I guess the rest is history [laughs].

Have you found it difficult or challenging portraying a gay character?

Not really. It’s challenging in that it’s a lifestyle that I personally don’t live, but there’s no great chasm between someone who’s straight and someone who’s gay. Everyone feels the same way about a lot of the same things. It’s nice though that (according to Twitter followers) I’m doing the role justice and that I’m believable. That’s the most important thing.

What’s the chemistry like on the set?

That’s the best part for me. I enjoy the show and being on the CW, but the thing that makes it all work are the people I work with. It’s a really harmonious, friendly cast, crew and production. There are no egos and everyone is looking out for each other.

You missed the 80′s the first time around. Now that you’re on a show set in that time period, what are your thoughts about it?

I think the music was such a defining factor of the era. It’s something that really brings the show together. I also remember the first time I saw those big, block cell phones they used back in the 80′s and seeing how it all started. The funny thing about it now is all of us waiting in the wings for another take while we’re texting and Tweeting [laughs].

What can fans expect as this season progresses?

There’s a lot more of Walt and Bennett [Walt's love interest]. A few episodes ago, you saw Walt trying to branch out and meet new people, but Bennett is really where his heart lies and we’ll get to see a lot of them this season. We’ll also be getting into more of the realities of what the 80′s were like for this particular community. It will be more truer to the time and represent it more accurately.

Tell me a little about your recent film, “Breathe In”.

It’s a film starring Guy Pearce and Felicity Jones that was directed by Drake Doremus, the same director who did “Like Crazy”. This is his first studio movie. It’s the story about an exchange student who comes over to stay with an American family and ends up falling in love with the father. It throws everything out of whack. For her, for his daughters and for his wife. I have a supporting role and help move the plot along. It was a lot of fun.

Brendan Dooling (Photo Credit: Nina Duncan)

Brendan Dooling (Photo Credit: Nina Duncan)

How did you get your start in acting?

I had a lot of energy when I was eleven and always liked being in front of a camera. I grew up in Bellport Long Island where I attended Gateway Acting School and met Robin Allan. She was the school’s director who took me under her wing and was the one who told me that I could do this for real.

What do you like to do when you’re not acting?

I definitely like to stay active. I’m a huge fan of the NBA and the sport of basketball. I love to play pick-up games in Brooklyn where I live. Otherwise, I spend most of my time focusing on the auditions.

What other projects do you have coming up?

I have a supporting role in a film I did last summer called “Doctor Me” that should be coming out sometime next year. It’s a fantastic, dark modern take on Alice In Wonderland. It’s directed by Ty Hodges and stars Toby Hemingway and Emily Meade. I want to support it as much as I can because it’s made by such wonderfully talented, good people.

Follow Brendan Dooling on Twitter by Clicking Here

Selenis Leyva Discusses The Success of Orange Is The New Black

Photo

Selenis Leyva (Photo credit: King PDT)

At the beginning of season one of “Orange Is The New Black”, show creators were a bit unsure as to what direction actress Selenis Levya’s character (Gloria Mendoza) was going to take.

But by the end of episode thirteen, it was quite clear that Mendoza had become a central fixture of the groundbreaking NetFlix series; taking over the prison kitchen system that had once been dominated by the feisty Red (Kate Mulgrew).

It’s a testament not only to the show’s brilliant writing, but also to Leyva’s sassy portrayal of Mendoza that’s allowed her character to develop over the course of the series; one that revolves around the story of Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a woman sentenced to 15 months in prison after being convicted of a decade old crime.

Filming for season two is already underway with more amazing developments, plot twists and turns and surprises in store.

I had the opportunity to speak with Levya about her role as Mendoza as well as some of her other upcoming projects. She also discusses the appeal of shows like OITNB and when she knew she wanted to be an actress.

What first attracted you to Orange Is The New Black?

I am a huge fan of “Weeds” and after hearing that Jenji Kohan was writing and also the executive producer, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of. I’m a big fan of dramedy, and Jenji’s known for dealing with seriousness and adding elements of comedy to it. That really speaks to me.

How do you prepare for a role like Gloria Mendoza?

Gloria’s definitely a New Yorker. She’s someone who was raised in the city and there’s a certain sass and fierceness that all New Yorker’s have. I was born and raised in New York, so I was able to dig into my own sassiness and bring that forward.

Years ago, I worked in a theater arts program where we went to juvenile facilities and worked with teenagers who had been incarcerated and developed workshops and plays with them. I never would have thought that years later I’d be looking back at that time for my own research, but it was wonderful to have that kind of experience.

What’s the atmosphere like on the set?

It’s amazing. We all were kind of like freshmen in college for season one and immediately formed this close bond with each other. For season two, we’re more like sophomores, but we’re still this one amazing family.

OITNB

Were you aware at the time of how successful the show would become?

I had a feeling it was going to be groundbreaking. Not just because of the amazing cast members and what I watched them do, but also because the writing is so good. We have a transgender on the show and women of various ages, shapes, sizes and platforms. It was something that had never been done before.

What do think makes shows like OITNB more appealing than those on network television?

I think a lot of it has to do with being allowed more creative freedom. The beautiful thing about Netflix is that you’re able to put it all out there at once. Network television is more censored and there are a lot of factors you have to take into consideration regarding viewership. Here, we’re able to take big risks where as the networks have to play it safer.

Was being an actress something you always aspired to be?

I always knew. I didn’t grow up in a houseful of artists, but my parents always used to watch telenovelas (Spanish soap operas) with lots of drama, tears and crazy plots. I remember just loving the idea of being able to express all of these emotions. I used to lock myself in my room and reenact all of these scenes. I knew then that it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Tell me a little about your upcoming projects.

I have a supporting role in the upcoming film “St. Vincent De Van Nuys”. Its outrageous and funny. Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy are comedic geniuses and for me to be attached to something so fantastic is amazing. I also have an indie film called “Living With The Dead”. It’s a story that’s completely different from what audiences have been used to seeing me do and a lot more serious. I’m really looking forward to them.

What can fans can expect from Season 2 of Orange Is The New Black?

The next season is going to be deeper. We’re really exploring more of the stories with the characters and the different people who make up the amazing world of Orange Is The New Black; both inside and outside of prison. We’re still shooting so I can’t say exactly what surprises lie ahead, but I can tell you that I’m in the season and that I’m in the kitchen. It’s going to be spicy, and a lot of fun. 

 

 

And The Weiner Is….

oscarmeyerJust a quick little rant on this fine Tuesday morning:

I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted by all of the weener jokes that have been going around.

The gist of the story goes like this: Former Congressman (and now NYC mayoral candidate) Anthony Weiner continued to perform sexting rituals with women even after he had resigned in disgrace and promised taxpayers (as well as his embarrassed wife) to never to do it again.

Ever since news of the story and fresh allegations broke, you can’t read a single newspaper or internet site without seeing a headline that doesn’t indirectly poke fun about his manhood.

Examples:

“Weiner Needs To Pull Out” (of the mayoral race.. just wanted to clarify as this is a family friendly blog).

“Shrinkage” (referring to his poll numbers after the latest accusations).

“Weiner’s Pickle” (the dilemma he now finds himself in).

or how about this ambiguous headline:

“Poll: 78% of Young Women approve of Weiner”

Don’t get me wrong, I found many of these headlines to be hilarious (and well deserved, all things considered), but enough is enough. Mr. Weiner, please pull out… uhm… withdrawl.. uhm. Oh, you know what I mean – Just get out of the race already!

It’s shocking that in an age of instant knowledge, NSA spying and whistle blowing Mr. Weiner believed he could keep this stuff secret and still run for political office (in New York City no less). Apparently, he doesn’t get what the rest of us already know. To the media, SEX is like chum for hungry sharks. They LIVE for stories like this (just ask guys like Bill Clinton, John Edwards and Mark Sanford). To say that he didn’t know ahead of time is naive at best and at worst, proof positive that Mr. Weiner has no regard for the people he wants to represent.

Then you have Eliot Spitzer claiming Weiner’s not fit to be Mayor. This from a married man (himself also once again running for office) who regularly had call girls pay him a visit while he was Governor of New York.

But perhaps the most ironic thing of all was this Tweet I saw from the Associated Press:

tweet

For those who don’t know: “The Good Wife” is a TV series that focuses on Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), whose husband Peter Florrick, a former state’s attorney, has been jailed following a very public sex and corruption scandal. The series was partly inspired by the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal, as well as by other prominent American political sex scandals.

I guess it’s nice to know that Ms. Margulies can relate to Weiner’s loyal spouse, since she does play a fictional version of someone like her on TV. But having this featured as one a major new outlet’s main headlines??

I’m beginning to think this is all one big episode of The Twilight Zone.

Get Julie Piekarski on Dancing With The Stars

Julie Piekarski

Julie Piekarski

Last summer, I had the pleasure of speaking with the amazing Julie Piekarski Probst. Although her name may not ring a bell, chances are if you were a fan of “The Mickey Mouse Club” or “Facts of Life” back in the day, you’ve seen her.

Now, the beautiful actress and dancer is embarking on a journey to get on this season’s ‘Dancing With The Stars’ and I’m doing a re-visit of that interview to help her on her quest.

Julie is no stranger to the art of the dance, having honed her chops from a very young age performing in front of huge audiences at The Muny, the nation’s largest outdoor theater located in St. Louis, Missouri. She took time off from perfoming in the mid-1980′s in order to raise a family, but is now ready to enter the biggest ballroom in prime time.

In just the short time that we spoke, I found Julie to be a warm, infectious person with a love of life and the arts. She would be awesome on the show.

Consider this:

1. Julie would be the first Mousketeer to appear on the ABC show, which coincidentally also owns Disney.

2. With another ‘Fact of Life’ alum, (Lisa Whelchel) having made a successful run on the TV show ‘Survivor’, a “Facts of Life’ battle for TV ratings could be in order.

3. As a side note (and in another odd twist of fate) Julie and Lisa were BOTH Mousketeers and first worked together on ‘The New Mickey Mouse Club’.

You can read the rest of my interview with Julie here

Please help me help Julie by clicking this link and letting producers from Dancing With The Stars know you want Julie on the show. You can point them to my article if you like, but let’s make it happen. It would be very cool to say we played a role in getting Julie on the show and then cheering her on to victory!

Here are a few clips from Julie’s career:

Julie on The New Mickey Mouse Club

Here’s  Julie from Facts of Life:

Julie on the show, Quincey M.E

Julie Returns to Walt Disney World:

Extended Interview: Actress Julie Piekarski’s Mission: Dancing With The Stars

Julie Piekarski

Julie Piekarski is on a mission.

The former “Mouseketeer” and “Facts of Life” alum is on a quest to join the cast of the ABC hit show, “Dancing with the Stars”. Julie is no stranger to the art of the dance, having honed her chops from a very young age performing in front of huge audiences at The Muny, the nation’s largest outdoor theater located in St. Louis, Missouri.

In the mid-1980′s, Julie took time off from acting in order to marry and raise her three children, and keep the artistic talent they inherited from their Mother alive in their own way.

I had the opportunity to speak with this amazing woman as she prepares to become the first Mouseketeer to do the Fox Trot in prime time.  In this interview, Julie discusses her career, including her time on “The Mickey Mouse Club” and “The Facts of Life”.  She also talks about a certain celebrity she rebuffed for a date and why she believes now is the perfect opportunity to once again showcase her dancing talent.

goJimmygo (gJg): Tell me a little about yourself and how you got started in acting?

Julie Piekarski (JP): Growing up, my mom enrolled me in dance classes. When I was five, one of the ladies there thought I had potential, took me under her wing, and became my mentor. She saw that I was a quick learner and had that “X factor” gift that can’t be taught. I started participating in community theater and shows as well as professional venues like The Muny Opera.

gJg: How did you get involved with The Mickey Mouse Club?

Disney was doing a nationwide talent search for their new TV show and several of my relatives, friends, and teachers were asking me to try out. After sending in a resume and photo for the preliminary casting, I received an invite to come for an audition.  I traveled to Chicago for a two-day audition. At the time, I remember thinking that I’d be really lucky if I could just be made an “Honorary” Mouseketeer and appear on the show just one time. Instead, after the auditions were complete, I got a call to go to a local TV station for an on-camera interview and eventually was chosen for the show! Out of the 15,000 kids auditioned, only 12 were picked.

Mickey Mouse Club

gJg: What was that experience like?

JP: It was amazing! Such an awesome experience to be that age and to work with Disney. Imagine growing up and hearing about Disney and seeing all of the animated movies and now I was actually getting to be a part of that.

It was such a “family” working there. We went to school for 3 hours a day and then either filmed a segment, skit, or musical number, or were in rehearsals. The show was on every day. That meant that the turnaround time for new material was fast and a lot was expected of us. But we loved it. It never felt like work for me. In the summer and for our Friday segments, we would get to film in Disneyland. I will never forget that. We were in the park before it opened sometimes remained even after it was closed. Only a handful of people would be in the park.  It was magical.

Though the taping of the show was fun, I loved performing live at Disney land and Disney World. We did 3 shows a day and 2 parades for five days a week for 13 weeks. On our lunch breaks, we were allowed to come in the back way and ride the rides for free. But it was hard on me when it came to my family. My mom stayed with me since I was only 13 and my dad and grandma stayed back with my sister in St. Louis to allow her to continue her life uninterrupted. So I’d usually work for three months and then come home for two weeks. That’s when I would go back to my school and take tests or exams (this was before email remembers), make up for lost time with friends, and catch up on family time with my sister and Dad.

Julie on Facts of Life with Lisa Whelchel (left) and Charlotte Rae (right)

gJg: That’s where you met Lisa Whelchel (Facts of Life) for the first time!

JP: Yes, Lisa was there too. There were eight people from the LA area and four of us from out-of-town. Lisa was from Texas and I was from St. Louis. We both bonded quite a bit during our time together. Since we were the out-of-state “Mice”, we tried to get lodging near each other and do things together on the weekends or after work.

The show was really doing great.  They were talking about making dolls of each of us, touring across the U.S., and cutting a record (yes I said a record). I remember plans were being made to come to everyone’s home over the summer break and film special segments about each of us and what our home life was like and our other passions, but all of sudden we received word that the show was cancelled.

gJg: What happened?

JP: “The Black Hole” movie came out. It was the first big, one of kind Sci fi movie that Disney had poured everything they had into. They made a choice and obviously chose wrong since the movie didn’t do very well. We still continued performing and doing appearances at Disneyland and Disney World as well as the TV movie for another year or so but the show part of it was over.

By this point I had acquired an agent and started doing more television work: The big Dr. Pepper campaign “I’m a Pepper” commercials, Taco Bell Girl, made guest appearances on “Three’s Company”, Quincy, General Hospital and others. That was when “The Facts of Life” came along.

gJg: Coincidentally, that’s also where you were reunited with Lisa again!

JP: Yes! What’s funny is I honestly don’t remember her being up for a part until close to the end of auditions. One day, I literally walked in and found out that we would be reading together. [laughs]

Facts of Life Cast

gJg: What was your experience like on that show?

JP: I enjoyed it. The seven of us girls got along great. Actually, Kim Fields and I became very close and still keep in touch. I looked forward to going in every day. I also enjoyed doing the photo shoots and publicity events. I was thrilled to be chosen to be on Hollywood Squares with Charlotte Rae.

But most of all, the charity events really touched me and I was honored to participate and help out in any way. As for our show, we’d usually rehearse on a Monday, then there would be re-writes over the next few days and finally, we’d do a taping in front of a live audience. Now that was the best part.

It was like doing real theater again for me. It’s such a high to hear the immediate response of the audience.  It was a great process.

gJg: Why do you think they down-sized the show and decided to only go with four girls?

JP: I heard that the reason was they didn’t feel audiences could relate to all of the different characters. They couldn’t find enough specific “niches” for each girl to conform to and identify with. Maybe the writers were not able to write in that many characters for only a half hour sitcom? Even Julie Anne Haddock’s character (Cindi), who was sort of a tom-boy, wasn’t quite as “tough” as they wanted. That’s when they decided to bring in Nancy McKeon as Jo.

gJg: Do you still keep in touch with people from the show?

JP: Lisa and I have kept in touch a little. When she comes to town with her Christian Women’s Group, we try to get together. I’ve been involved with a great bible study, CBS, for the past ten years and that’s how I found out that Lisa was coming to St. Louis. Kim Fields and I talk more often.

gJg: From there you went on to a show called “The Best of Times” which not a lot of people know also starred Nicolas Cage and Crispin Glover (Back To The Future).

JP: Yes, they were on that show too. I remember them both being really nice guys. Nicolas Cage was a riot. To think back then I was considered top bill. Now look at him! <laughs> That sitcom was more a variety style production. It was a good entertaining show but just way ahead of its time. It would’ve fit in perfectly now with shows like Glee, Smash, and High School Musical.  I enjoyed it because I got to sing and dance again. Plus we did outrageous comedy skits. It reminded me of “The Carol Burnett Show”. Now I am really dating myself.  <laughs>

gJg: Why did you decide to take a break from acting?

JP: Education was always important to me. It’s something that no one can ever take away from you.  While in LA and still pursuing my acting career, I was going to school at UCLA and originally considered getting a degree in biochemistry because I was into genetics and cloning. But the workload became intense and something had to give. Instead, I decided to go into business and communications.

That’s also around the same time when a boy from St. Louis came out to visit. He was going to dental school and had a promising dental practice waiting for him back home. When I went home for the summer, we started dating and ten months later we got engaged.  I knew I wanted to raise a family away from the craziness of Hollywood and unfortunately around that same time my father passed away. A lot of things pointed me to being home. So I moved back. And then once I started having children I knew I had made the right decision.

But I still do industrial films, spokesperson projects, and training videos here in St. Louis. I also am involved with three worthwhile charities that keep me busy beside all my volunteer activities for my children’s schools and extracurricular activities.

gJg: Tell me about your kids!

JP: I have three absolutely amazing children: Patrick, Jacqueline and Christian. I feel so very blessed and am thankful that I was able to be a stay at home mom for them. And you know what, that term is so ironic because I was never AT HOME when I was “being mom”. I was running all over the place with them. <giggles>

Patrick Probst

Patrick, my oldest, graduated from SMU with a double major in Biology and Economics and a minor in Spanish and Chemistry is now in his first year of medical school. He wants to be some type of surgeon. He’s an avid sports fan and a really strong soccer player. And he also has a creative side. ….  He has a beautiful voice and performed professionally at The Muny, The St. Louis Rep, and Stages St. Louis while growing up. He was President of Southern Gentlemen; an A Capella group at SMU where he arranged the music and helped produced their CD as well as sing solo on it.  He’s also starred in two films: Logan and Moon Ring. 

Jacqueline Probst

My daughter Jacqueline is now in her junior year at Alabama…Roll Tide! She received a full scholarship and is part of the prestigious Fellows program as well as in the Honors College. She was actually recruited to be a gymnast for Bama.  She was an amazing gymnast and it truly is her first love. She qualified at an early age to go to a special program with Bela Karolyi and was well on track to accomplish great things. It is a grueling sport and does take a huge toll on one’s body.

Unfortunately, after two months at Bama her old back injury returned and she had no choice but to retire. Luckily for her, she is extremely gifted in dance and singing as well. She too has performed professionally at The Muny, Stages St. Louis, and The Cincinnati Rep. She is now dance captain of her college show choir and choreographs for Phi Mu, her sorority as well. She is also teaching gymnastics and ballet while focusing on getting her degree in order to become a physical therapist. Check out YouTube under her name to see her gymnastics demo and some of her performances.

Christian Probst

My youngest, Christian, really wants to pursue entertainment.  He truly has that special something that you can’t help but notice. He has this amazing smile that just lights up a room. I am proud to say that he is a freshman at Yale and plans to double major in theater and economics. Though he’s a state champion racquetball player, I am trying to convince him to take up squash for Yale. He has been blessed with major roles in professional theater since the age of seven. He’s been very close to landing a Broadway role several times in shows like Mame, Tarzan, Billy Elliot and most recently Newsies where he was kept as part of the final 20 and sang in front of Alan Menken. They said he was just too young. He just got the lead in the musical at Yale as a freshman and is part of the infamous a Capella group The Dukes Men. He studies ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, and lyrical. Tap is his favorite. YouTube his name and “I love a piano” and Once in Love with Amy” to see him.

When my children started showing talent and a desire to perform, I consciously chose to cut way back on what I did.  I really wanted them to earn anything they would get because they deserved it and not because I was their Mom.

gJg: What’s your plan now?

JP: Now that my kids are all grown and on their own, I’m opening up the door again and getting back into the business. Last year, I portrayed Elle’s mom in “Legally Blonde” at The Muny and I recently performed the role of Lilly St. Regis in a professional production of “Annie”.

Which brings me to my next endeavor: I’ve begun a crusade to get on “Dancing With the Stars!”

gJg: You would be terrific on that show!

JP: I really think I could do it. I’d like to get a following going to show the producers I’m serious about it. And besides, they’ve never had a “Mouseketeer” on there!

It’s been a while since I focused on myself. I’ve spent these last years putting my energy into being a mother and wife. My children are now situated, happy and confident. I couldn’t ask for more. Now it’s my turn! [laughs]  I really miss the dancing and the singing and I think “Dancing with the Stars” would be a great opportunity for me. I would thoroughly enjoy it: high kicks, splits and all!

gJg: What’s it like when you go back to Disney now?

JP: It’s surreal. It honestly seems like yesterday. There are times when I go there that, in my head; I think that I’m 18 again. Then I suddenly realize that I’m actually there with my own children! [laughs] It’s still such a rush to think I am a part of Disney history.

gJg: Do you find that people still recognize you?

JP: Yes people do and a lot of times it’s because of my voice. It’s funny, here in St Louis where there are so many private high schools, the big question isn’t so much: “Do I Know You?” but rather: “Did I go to high school with you?” So, when I see that look on their face that they know me but not sure why, I’ll usually wait until it really starts bugging them and then give them a hint. I’ll say something like: “Well, it may be because of a TV show…” and then they’ll realize who I am.  They usually say something like I knew it but yet couldn’t imagine why you would be here in St. Louis. Then it’s nice to hear that they think I still look the same and haven’t changed at all.

gJg: Tell me something not too many people know about you from those days.

JP: Here’s something that always cracks up my fellow women friends: When Tom Cruise was first getting started; I had met him on several audition calls. It was on one of these occasions where he actually asked me out on a date. You know, this was before Tom Cruise became “Tom Cruise” and I remember… I turned him down! 

I thought at the time he seemed a bit full of himself! [laughs]

gJg: Do you have any regrets?

JP: Honestly I don’t. Life happens for a reason and it takes you down a certain path. The only “regret”  I think about as I get older is the amount of money that’s being made out there in Hollywood that people could use for good things rather than squandering it on things like drugs and alcohol. There’s money that can be used for education or to build a foundation or for charity.

I always tell my kids: “Leave this world a better place then you found it.” And most of all, What you are is God’s gift to you, what you make of yourself is your gift to God.

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A Slice of Lauren Nash

Lauren Nash  (Photo: Nicholas Paulos)

Lauren Nash is forging her own path. The multi-talented actress, model and dancer is making a name for herself on-screen and off.

Not only does she have several film and television roles on deck (including an appearance on the new JJ Abrams show, “Revolution”, but Lauren is also busy writing and directing her own short films as well.

This fall, Lauren (herself a huge horror movie fan) will appear in CUT!, the David Banks/David Rountree film about a pair of filmmakers who decide that the best way to make a horror movie is to actually kill people for real.

I had the opportunity to speak with Lauren and get her thoughts on CUT! as well as some of her other upcoming projects!

gJg: Have you seen the trailer for CUT!?

LN: YES!!…. I LOVE it! <laughs>

gJg: Tell me a about how you got the role of Red.

Lauren Nash (LN): It was an early morning audition when I went in, but everything went great. A few days later they called me and told me they wanted to close the role after my audition because they thought I was perfect for it!”

What was the experience like filming your scenes?

The scenes were frighteningly real! <laughs>. We were all in a hotel that really fit the mood. Then of course, you’ve got the props and blood. It was one of the easiest transitions for me to get into character. And both Davids were so nice. The entire process was a great experience. We were able to film everything in one day.

gJg: Are you a horror fan?

LN: Yes, I’m a huge horror movie buff!! My all-time favorite is, “The Exorcist (Directors Cut)”. The only thing is, when I watch it I usually can’t make it past the scene in Iraq where the dogs start barking, only because I know what’s coming!! <laughs>

gJg: How did you get into it acting?

LN: I went to college in Florida and majored in literature and theater. I was living in a tiny little beach town and while I was there, I started getting into commercial work. From there, I began doing some HSN modeling and, after I had honed my skills more, started going on more and more auditions in the southeast. I got my credits together, moved to Los Angeles and here I am!

gJg: What do you like to do when you’re not acting?

LN: I love to dance. Since moving to LA, I’ve also gotten into hiking. I’m also an avid reader.

gJg: What other projects do you have coming up?

LN: I’m going to be appearing on the JJ Abrams show Revolution, which begins airing on NBC September 17th. My role has a potential to recur, so I’m very excited about that. I also have two films that I’ve completed earlier this year that are about to do the festival scene: “Heterosexual Jill” and “The Republic of Two”.

gJg: Tell me a little bit about those films.

LN: In “Heterosexual Jill” – I play a raunchy red-head named, Ruby. That was a lot of fun to shoot.

“The Republic of Two” is a project that’s near and dear to my heart. It’s my boyfriend’s movie and a lot of the film actually takes place in my home. I got to wear a lot more hats than just actor.

I’ve also written, directed and acted in a short film called “Plan B”. I was fortunate to be able to get the production crew from the show Workaholics to help me with it!  It’s the story about how far women will go to be able to afford acting. The truth is, it’s incredibly expensive to live out here, and being an actor is not something you can just do on the weekends. It’s something that you have to work on every day.

gJg: Between acting, writing, making props, editing; you really do it all!

LN: If I’m going to do this, then I’m not going to limit my opportunities! If I have the chance to learn all of these things, it gives me that much more appreciation for the people who actually do these jobs all the time. When you see all of the effort they go through each and every day by doing it with your own hands, you really respect it!

gJg: Where do you see yourself a few years from now?

LN: Continuing to do what I’m doing and being part of memorable projects!

Article first published as A Slice of Lauren Nash on Technorati.

The Impact Of Jerry Nelson

Jerry Nelson (July 10, 1934 – August 23, 2012)

I remember when Jim Henson died back in 1990 it didn’t really affect me. I was, after all  twenty years old and having just recently left the confines of public school; eagerly looking forward to getting my “You can now purchase alcohol legally” card.

I was roughly nine years removed from the days of regularly watching Kermit the Frog and Ernie (who was always my favorite Muppet). So, although still tragic, I saw Henson’s untimely passing as something much too childish to think about.

Fast forward 22 years.

Jerry Nelson, another famous Muppeteer, passed away on August 23rd at the age of 78. Although having lived nearly three decades longer than Henson, his death has affected me more. I look at the list of characters he has portrayed over the course of his career; many of whom were a regular part of my life growing up in the 1970′s. Among them:

The Count and Jerry Nelson

The Count: my second favorite Sesame Street character, next to Ernie of course. I loved him.
Herry Monster: The one monster that ALWAYS scared me. Must have been that he always looked angry and had that big nose.
Sherlock Hemlock: The greatest detective.
The Amazing Mumford: Ala peanut butter sandwiches.
Mr Johnson: The  bald, blue-headed Muppet who always ate at the restaurant Grover worked at.
Floyd Pepper: the bass player for the band Electric Mayhem on The Muppet Show.

But perhaps the most sentimental Jerry Nelson character for me was Emmet Otter from the Jug Band Christmas story that played every December on HBO. A story that I will always remember sitting next to my grandmother and watching every year.

Funny, I can still hear her yelling to me from downstairs, and it always sounded like the house was on fire by the tone in her voice:

Emmet Otter and Jerry Nelson

JIMMY!!! HURRY UP AND GET DOWN HERE – EMMET OTTER IS ON!!

Perhaps it’s because I’m now a middle-aged man that I’m starting to become acutely aware of the fact that every day more and more parts of my childhood die. And even though I’ve never met Jerry, it’s hard not to look back at his passing without a sense of sadness. For in many ways, much like The Count and The Amazing Mumford, he was a part of my family.

My grandmother has been gone for 16 years now. Whenever I think about her, the first thing I think about are those cold days in December when Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas came on. And now, I’ll think about Jerry Nelson too.

Godspeed Mr. Nelson. Your work will not soon be forgotten; at least not by this 42-year-old kid.

A Conversation With Actress Ami Dolenz

Ami Dolenz – Actress, Artist, Author

“Very classy”.  It’s one of the few lines she speaks in the movie “Can’t Buy Me Love”, but those two words are what best describes actress Ami Dolenz.

The 1987 coming of age movie that showcased nerdy Ronald Miller (Patrick Dempsey) buying the affections of Cindy Mancini (Amanda Peterson) also contained a number of firsts for the daughter of famous “Monkee” Micky Dolenz. Not only was it Ami’s first feature film role, but it was also where she met co-star Darcy DeMoss (Patty) for the first time as well. The two instantly connected and have been best friends ever since.

Following the breakout success of “Can’t Buy Me Love”, Ami would go on to appear as Melissa McKee on the daytime soap “General Hospital” and star in such films as “She’s Out of Control”, “Miracle Beach”‘,  “Witchboard 2: The Devil’s Doorway” and  Pumpinkhead II: Blood Wings” to name just a few.

What you may not know about Ami is that, in addition to being an amazing actress, she also has a passion for art and writing. She is currently working on a children’s book,“Harold and Agatha and the Mysterious Jewel”, in which she will both write and illustrate.

I had the opportunity to speak with the beautiful and multi-talented artist from her home in Vancouver and discuss “Can’t Buy Me Love” and the bond she shares with Darcy DeMoss. Ami also talks about her passion for art and storytelling as well as her own “metal” connection.

If there’s one thing I learned about from our conversation, it’s this: When it comes to cool, Ami Dolenz is in a class by herself.

goJimmygo (gJg): I wanted to talk to you about the 25 year anniversary of “Can’t Buy Me Love”.

Ami Dolenz (AD): It’s so weird and hard to believe that its been that long.

Ami Dolenz & Darcy DeMoss “Can’t Buy Me Love”

gJg: I spoke with Darcy DeMoss (Patty) a few months ago and she said the exact same thing.

AD: You interviewed one of my BEST friends.  Darcy and I have known each other for such a long time. It was one of those things where we just instantly connected; we keep in touch a lot.  I love what she’s doing with the animals.  I’ve been to Shambala quite a few times. That whole movement is so amazing; it means a lot to me.

gJg: How did you become involved with “Can’t Buy Me Love?”

AD: I was just starting out as an actress at the time, and initially auditioned for the role of Cindy but ended up getting the role of Fran; which was great. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to get my chops going; memorize lines and hit my mark. Amanda (Peterson) did such a great job as Cindy. I met so many amazing people while working on that movie.

It was so much fun just to be there with everyone and be a part of that experience. It’s a point in my life that I don’t ever want to forget.

gJg: What do you remember most about your experience making the movie?

AD: When we made the movie, it was around the time of my 18th birthday and it was the first time I was on a location without my Mom along. It was also where I met Darcy for the first time. She bought me a cake to celebrate my birthday.  We’ve been best friends ever since!

Ami Dolenz & Darcy DeMoss – Best Friends For Life!

gJg: Do you have any favorite scenes?

AD: I really love Darcy’s scene where she’s in the car with Patrick. Of course, I’m also pretty fond of the party scene too (because, I’m in it).  <laughs> 

gJg: You went on to appear in “General Hospital” and then the movie “She’s Out of Control” with Tony Danza. What was it like working with Tony?

AD: Tony was a fabulous person to work with. He’s also a great tap dancer and showed me some of his moves. It was funny because our paths seemed to keep crossing. I first met him when I was on “Star Search”; we were both in a comedy sketch together. Then a few years later, I met him again for “She’s Out Of Control” .<laughs>

gJg: What attracted you to the horror genre for films like “Pumpkinhead” and “Witchboard”?

AD: Believe it or not, I’m actually a scary movie fanatic. I love horror. In fact, the original “Alien” is my all-time favorite comfort movie. I can watch it over and over.

gJg: Your father is hugely into music. Did he encourage you to try to get you into music while you were growing up?

AD: He did in a way, when I was younger. I used to play his drums. I also have a tape of me as a child signing “Blue Suede Shoes” with him. But acting was something I really wanted to do.

 

Ami Dolenz, Micky Dolenz & Darcy DeMoss

gJg: What was it like growing up with The Monkees?

AD: I remember we had a beautiful house in the Hollywood Hills that people would always come and visit. One of my best friends growing up was actually Alice Cooper. I even remember one of my first days in school; my teacher asked me who my best friend was and I said, “Alice Cooper”…<laughs>

gJg: Do you have your own “rock star” moment?

AD: I once did an episode of “The Adventures of Superboy” where I actually got to play a rock star who needed to be protected. My hair was wild and I got to “perform” on a huge stage. I particularly remember the scene with my limousine pulling out and everyone pounding on the car. That was a fun gig!

gJg: What are you working on right now?

AD: I’ve been taking art classes here in Vancouver. I do charcoal and some ink projects. I’m also self publishing my own children’s book, “Harold and Agatha and The Mysterious Jewel”. It’s very exciting but a lot of work. I’m going to be doing the illustrations myself as well. 

As far as acting goes, I have a few things going right now, but I can’t really talk about them…yet. <laughs>

Article first published as A Conversation With Actress Ami Dolenz on Technorati.

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