Category Archives: Movies and TV

Actor David Banks Puts on 20 Pounds Of Muscle for New Role and Says, ‘Sayonara Skinny’

Photo by: Gaylord Hill

Photo by: Gaylord Hill

They say actors can always just sit and wait around for the right roles and auditions to come along. But David Banks was never about the status quo. Instead the actor –who’s credits include more than 100 commercials as well as the features “The Dark Tapes,” and “CUT!” chooses to shine by doing things his own way.

Case in point. Banks’ upcoming project, “Preacher Six” required the wisecracking funnyman to gain more than twenty pounds. To reach his goal in the quickest amount of time, Banks hit the weights hard and supplemented his routine with Optimum Nutrition products.

I recently spoke with him about his dramatic transformation and his upcoming projects in this exclusive new interview.

“Preacher Six” required you to gain some weight. How were you safely able to put on 20 pounds of muscle?

My character is one of those heavily caffeinated, fast-talking lug types. I’ve been the skinny, twerpy guy for a long time. So when they asked me if I’d be ok with putting on ten pounds I said, “Why not go for twenty?” Robert Corbett and the guys at Optimum Nutrition really helped get me get on the gain train! Their gainer shakes and Amino Energy quickly became my new best friends.

What was your exercises routine like? 

I went the resistance route. Lifted heavier than normal and whenever I wanted to stop, I did two more. I got to the point of excitement that I’d hit the scales just to see how much heavier I was than the day prior. I also set my alarm clock to wake me up in the middle of the night to devour tuna and protein shakes.

What can you tell me about “Preacher Six”?

The minute I picked up the script I literally couldn’t put it down. Tracy Ray [screenwriter] is onto something really big here! “Preacher Six” is the story of a small town preacher who’s summoned to the big city where he ends up fighting evil. The characters he meets along the journey are something special and unique! The film also stars Naomi Grossman (American Horror Story), Zach Galligan (Gremlins), Kyle Hester (The Chair) and Bill Oberst Jr. (Criminal Minds). Kyle and I have been talking about working together for years, so I’m excited it’s finally happening. He is an absolute talent.

You’ve recently stepped away from commercials to be a little more involved in films. Is there one you enjoy doing more than the other?

I’ve always had a strong love for commercials and enjoy the process of it a little bit more. It’s fascinating with everything that goes into a simple thirty-second spot. 

David Banks - (Before)

David Banks – (Before)

What’s the biggest compliment you’ve heard so far about any of your commercials?

“Wow, you were so annoying!” [laughs]. I think the minute I stop being the aggravating, irritating and imbecilic idiot next door is when I know it’ll be time to quit.

You have two other movies coming out soon, “Half Magic” and “Bornless Ones”. What can you tell me about them?

“Half Magic” is Heather Graham’s directorial debut and was an absolute blessing to be a part of. She really put her heart into this one and is one of the most giving actresses I’ve ever worked with. I also got to work alongside Chris D’Elia and it was non-stop laughs.

“Bornless Ones” will be out sometime in early 2017. Alexander Babaev [director] is absolutely going to be huge! I’m excited about that one as well.

 What do you enjoy most about the creative process?

I’d have to say my favorite part is witnessing how it all comes together in the editing process. I also tend to lean more towards the seriously dark and depressing characters in a film and am fascinated by the ability one has to turn on the “crazy” switch.

Have you ever given thought to your next writing / producing project?

Absolutely! I had so much fun watching my last writing adventure; “CUT!” come to life. I’m already working on a new film even more twisted [laughs].

Actor Justin Swain Discusses His Role in The Netflix Series, ‘Luke Cage’

justinswainBold, relevant and entertaining are just some of the adjectives used to describe the new Netflix original series, ‘Luke Cage’.

Fans of the Marvel universe already know know that “Luke Cage” follows the story of Carl Lucas (Mike Colter); a former convict with superhuman strength and unbreakable skin who now fights crime. It’s the perfect complement to other acclaimed Marvel themed Netflix shows like “Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones”.

Actor Justin Swain plays Bailey in “Luke Cage”; an NYPD police officer who plays a pivotal role in tracking down the criminal mastermind responsible for the most recent crime outbreak. The series also stars Simone Missick as Misty Knight, Bailey’s NYPD colleague.

Already an accomplished actor and playwright, Swain has also written for film and television and is currently producing his first feature film, “Penance”.

I recently spoke with Swain about his role in “Luke Cage”, his career and more in the exclusive interview.

How did you become involved in “Luke Cage”?

It was pretty funny because Marvel is so secretive about everything they do that I didn’t even know I was auditioning for Luke Cage because the sides weren’t labeled. It was right before Labor Day weekend and I was heading out of town to visit my family when I got a call from my agent saying I booked it. I still didn’t know it was Luke Cage until I got an email later welcoming me the Marvel Cinematic Universe! I showed it to my wife and she was like “wait, what?!” [laughs]. Then I realized it was for Luke Cage. I was super excited because I’m a big fan of all the Marvel shows as well as the films. I was grateful to be a part of it.

What was it about the script that attracted you to the project?

When I went in for the audition I remember thinking, “these pages seem like a procedural cop show, but these lines have kind of an edge to them.” I think the writers did a great job of blending the Marvel Universe with a slick, edgy, grounded tone. Not only is it entertaining but I also think Cheo Hodari Coker [series creator], Marvel and Netflix have created a piece of art so relevant and necessary to today’s cultural conversation.

What can you tell me about your character, Bailey?

Getting the chance to play Bailey was so cool. The role grew as the season progressed and each time I was sent my pages it was an exciting surprise to see where the writers were taking it. He’s an analytical guy and I think that is a good balance and challenge for Misty who tends to go with her gut. I think he also wants to protect Misty; in little subtle ways Bailey is trying to make sure she doesn’t self destruct before they they are able to understand what is really going on with the whole Luke Cage situation.

One funny detail was his glasses. Early on I got some pages that said he wore glasses, so I quickly grabbed my wife’s glasses as I left the house. When we started shooting the scene, I was wearing the glasses and looking at the computer screen. It was my wife’s prescription so as I stared at the computer screen I started to feel sick. I couldn’t wear the glasses for too long so I had to take them off during the scene and it started to become a little Bailey character thing [laughs].

What was it like working on a Marvel production?

Just getting a chance to work with talented actors like Simone Missick, Mike Colter, Rosario Dawson and Karen Pittman was a gift. It was also awesome to work with the showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker and the whole writing staff Jason Horwitch and Aida Marshaka Croal. They were so gracious and accessible during filming and are just incredibly creative and talented people. Then they brought on amazing directors like Paul McGuigan to do the pilot, Steven Sujik, and then Clark Johnson directed the finale. Just a really great group of people to work with.

What was it like getting to work with Simone Missick?

She’s an amazing actor. I thought she did a fantastic job stepping into an iconic character and making it her own. She was really fun to work with, always accessible, a really kind person. She was very giving as a scene partner. Working with her made my job very easy!

Did you always know that you wanted a career in entertainment? Was it something you always aspired to do?

I acted in plays when I was kid and pursued it into high school as well. I think for me, it was a way to connect to people and, coming from such a small town, I really cherished that. When it came time to pick a college I remember my mom asking me if I wanted to go to school for acting or visual arts, because I had also grown up painting as well. I think that’s when I made the choice. I said, “I want to go for acting.” That was it.

What are some of the differences between doing a series like Luke Cage as opposed to doing theater or a feature film? 

Shooting a series like Luke Cage seemed to me to be more like shooting a film. The set was loose and sometimes you could throw in some ad-libs and — if you were able to come up with something good– they would keep it. Theater is a completely different animal; it’s more athletic in a way. You have to be on for it every night. To use a racing analogy, I’d say doing film/TV work is like sprinting — you have to go hard, fast and be precise. Theater is more like endurance work — you have to buckle in and maintain the character straight through for two hours every night.

Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?

I’m currently looking into working on a virtual reality project. I’m also finishing up the development of a new series about a group of fishermen in Massachusetts who are over regulated by the government so they turn to smuggling to survive.  There are lots of opportunities on the horizon!

What excites you the most about this next phase of your career?

Luke Cage was a great experience and I have no idea what the rest of the series is going to look like. They are doing The Defenders now and Luke Cage is part of that gigantic Marvel world. It’s also all intertwined with Jessica Jones and Daredevil. Marvel has big plan for the whole Marvel Universe so I’m excited to see where it’s going and what is happening next!

‘Night Cries’: Actress / Filmmaker Brigitte Kingsley Discusses New Psychological Thriller

Written and directed by Andrew Cymek, “Night Cries” is a psychological thriller about a man searching for his wife in a post-apocalyptic world.

The film took home the Best Screenplay award when it premiered at the Blood In The Snow film festival last November, and for good reason. Cymek and his partner, Brigitte Kingsley have become masters at delivering multi-layered stories with beautiful cinematography and passionate musical scores to all of their projects. “Night Cries” is a thought provoking film that plays on the ultimate question we have in life, and just how far we’d go to find our one true love.

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The beautiful Kingsley plays the role of Sara Morgan in “Night Cries”. A strong, defiant wife and mother who finds herself lost in a world she doesn’t recognize. The film also stars Andrew Cymek, Colin Mochrie, Lauren Williams and Jacob Blair.

Night Cries is available now for pre-order now in various packages and will be shipped on December 14. This will be followed by a world wide digital release in the New Year.

I recently spoke with Kingsley about “Night Cries” and more in this exclusive interview.

How did the Night Cries project originally come about?

I first met Andrew back in 1999 when he and I were both in school. He was doing a ten-minute short called “Night Cries” that was inspired by these characters. We shot the short and I remember thinking that it was a really cool story. Now fast forward to 2012 when we started our company, Good Soldier Films. We were trying to figure out a good pilot project to launch the company with and decided to create a “Night Cries” feature. Andrew had already worked out the characters in his head. He wrote the feature and we jumped into it.

In your opinion, what makes the story of “Night Cries” so special?

I think the main push is the cyclical feeling you get when you watch it. There’s so much thought that went into the imagery and ideas behind the story and you see that in various ways throughout the production. It’s a very in depth look at life and death. Andrew wanted to forward the idea of the end of the world, but he also wanted to go more into a personal apocalypse when someone’s world ends. There’s a lot of layers to it and that’s what makes it so cool.

What was the casting process like?

A lot of the characters were written with certain people already in mind. Colin Mochrie was someone we instantly knew we wanted to work with. He has so much depth to his acting but doesn’t often have a chance to do things this sinister. We thought he’d be great fit for the role of The Hat. A lot the other actors, like Lauren (Angel) Williams and Jacob Blair, we had worked with on other projects before.

You mentioned Colin Mochrie. What was it like working with him?

Colin is one of my favorite people in the world. He’s so defined as an actor and comes extremely prepared. He was only out for a few days but was such a pleasure to be around.

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A lot of attention is paid to the music and cinematography in this film. Can you speak a little as to how these are important to you?

They’re both very important to us. We’ve worked with Josh Fraiman (cinematographer) for several years on various projects. Although we had a small crew we made sure to take the time to give him the beautiful shots he wanted. When it comes to the music, Emir Isilay (our composer) is an extremely talented guy. Andrew sent him the ideas of what he had in mind and when the music came back the first time around he had tears in his eyes because it was exactly what he had envisioned. Going from one world to another and bringing sense to a certain level. It was epic and beautiful.

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

“The Man In the Shadows” is another film that’s available for pre-order. It’s a story by Adam Tomlinson that’s based on the real phenomenon of shadow people. Adam had experienced a man in a hat and coat that that had haunted him a few times. He looked into it and found that it’s actually an apparition that happens to many people around the world. He wrote a script that’s partially based on his experiences and the people he had spoken to. “Country Crush” is also coming out in the New Year. It’s a country musical that stars Jana Cramer, Madeline Merlo and Munroe Chambers.

As a filmmaker, what satisfies you the most about seeing a completed project?

As a filmmaker, the thing you want is for your work to mean something. So when a stranger comes up and tells you that your work touched them or made them realize something they hadn’t thought about before, that’s what matters.

‘The Killing of America’: Director Sheldon Renan Discusses U.S. Release of Ominous Documentary

killingofamericaWhen they asked Sheldon Renan to watch The Killing of America at a recent film festival, it was the first time the director had seen the film he had worked on since it was released thirty-five years ago. Afterwards, Renan remarked how amazed he was at how well the film played more than three decades later and how relevant its message still was in 21st century America.

Originally produced in 1981, Renan, along with co-producers Leonard Schrader and Matachiro Yamamoto set out to document America’s seemingly unending love affair with violence. From iconic newsreel footage to chilling interviews with convicted killers, Renan and his team sought to depict a terrifying aspect of Reagan-era America through a brutally honest lens. Despite some limited theatrical showings, the documentary has never received an official American release, until now.

The Killing of America is told in narrative style. Describing horrifically tragic events of the last half-century with pinpoint accuracy and chilling realism. But perhaps more than anything else, the film is an ominous reminder that social, economic and racial injustice as well as the proliferation of personal firearms has not abated in the thirty-five years since the documentary’s creation.

I recently spoke with Renan about The Killing of America and more in this exclusive interview.

How did you become involved in The Killing of America project?

I had done a lot of heavy research in the world of homicide and gun culture in preparation for a script I was working on when I met Leonard Schrader and Matachiro Yamamoto. They wanted to use the film Faces of Death as a springboard for this new project they were working on about homicide and violence. They were looking to put together a team of young filmmakers that were very ambitions and loved films, but they were having trouble finding clips. I had come out of the film archivist world and put together some clips for them. It was exactly what they were looking for and they asked me if I could help them.

What was the initial reaction like to the film when it premiered and why has it never received a proper U.S. release until now?

The film was initially made to be released in the fall in Japan. It was the seventh highest grosser there that year as well as a hit in a number of other countries. The company that bought the rights to distribute the film in America did a preview for coming attractions, but a high ranking official thought it was taboo and would terrify people. I even remember at the cast and crew screening about a third of the people walked out.

Aside from the fashion and vintage cars, the documentary looks like something you’d see on the news today.

Although it looks like a documentary, nothing is fake or has been rigged. The only change is that the sound has been enhanced in some places. Len’s writing is incredible and Chuck Riley’s voice in the narration could cut through metal. He was telling a complete story. A narrative arc about the subject. By the end, you’re inside the mind of killers, which isn’t very comfortable.

What are some of the parallels you see today as compared to when the film was made?

It’s the same pattern. The main thing is that the person pulling the trigger is usually someone who has a very bad sense of self-esteem. I remember the L.A. coroner telling us that it comes down to the person deciding whether to kill themselves or someone else. When you’re unhappy about something in yourself, you tend to project that flaw onto other people.

What have you learned about us as a society by making this film and seeing it again thirty-five years later?

You observe that if you don’t treat people well or if they’re not raised well and given structure and self-esteem, you’re going to pay for it later in a very bad way. You also can’t let emotion rule you because the long-term effects can be enormously devastating. The third thing is that people have to have the right to have access to and have guns as it says in the Constitution–but not one that can punch a hole in a tank and not without background checks.

Is there a message you think viewers should take away from watching The Killing of America?

If you’ve had a lot of violence in your life this is a film you shouldn’t see or show to your kids, as you’ll find it very upsetting. Early on, the coroner’s office allowed us to film and the day we were there L.A. was in the middle of a crime wave and they were running six autopsy tables at one time. This is a complex phenomenon and something you can’t run away from. This film is one step in thinking about and understanding violence and how epidemic it is in American culture and recognizing that you cannot escape the connection between it and the easy availability of guns. People also need to be careful about this loose talk about destroying our infrastructure because you don’t like one party, candidate or president. Because what lies on the other side is nothing we want to go back to.

‘Insecure’: Actress Veronica Mannion Discusses New HBO Series, Career

(Photo credit: Anne Marie Fox)

(Photo credit: Anne Marie Fox)

Veronica Mannion is fast becoming a rising force in the celestial world of the Hollywood scene.

The beautiful actress–who’s also spent time as a standup comedienne–can currently be seen in the HBO comedy series, Insecure. The show, based on series creator and star Issa Rae’s web series “Awkward Black Girl”, follows the exploits and racy tribulations of a modern-day African-American woman.

Mannion plays the recurring role of Kitty—Issa’s co-worker—who tries to be her friend throughout the season but almost sabotages one of Issa’s work projects due to her gossiping and prejudiced skepticism.

In additional to an impressive resume that includes stints on Showtime’s “Masters of Sex” and FX’s “American Horror Story”, Mannion has also written, directed and appeared in the film “Booze, Boys & Brownies”.

I recently spoke with her about Insecure, her career and more in this exclusive new interview.

How did your involvement in “Insecure” come about?

I was one of the lucky chosen to audition for the pilot. They booked me off tape so I didn’t even have to come in for a callback. I shot the pilot last September and then heard they wrote me into four more episodes in April. It was a dream come true scenario!

What was it that attracted you to the role?

Kitty’s the kind of person who tries too hard. She may be sweet but ends up coming across as annoying and judgmental. I think that I have that side to me, so it’s been fun channeling that version of myself.

What else can you tell me about her?

Kitty works with Issa at We Got Ya’ll and really thinks she’s making a difference at her desk job helping underprivileged kids.  She loves anything vintage, her co-worker Ken, and cats… obviously.

How would you describe the series? 

“Insecure” follows the awkward experiences and racy tribulations of a modern-day African-American woman, Issa Rae, and her best friend, Molly.  Some people are saying it’s like the black “GIRLS” or “Sex In The City”, but I think it’s what every HBO show wants to be: laugh out loud funny, authentic and with a lot of heart!

As a woman, what’s its like for you to be a part of a series that was inspired and created by Issa? 

Issa is an inspiration, not only to me but I think for all of us on set and for women everywhere. She’s so talented, funny, real and kind. She’s created not just an amazing show but a great atmosphere on set… and I think she’s going to change the world!

What’s the filming process like and working with Issa? 

A typical day can last from six to twelve hours. Since this was the first season the way it was shot and the tone (and even what our characters were eating or doing) was all a collaborative feeling. Issa definitely has a strong vision and point of view, but she was also open to people bringing themselves to the role. Everyone contributed to making Insecure the best it could be. It felt like one big family!

Did you always know that you wanted a career in entertainment? Was it something you always aspired to do?

I was one of those little girls singing in my living room, playing dress up and dreaming about the big lights of Hollywood.  My mom taught me that your thoughts create and to go for what you love to do. So here I am!

How did you become involved in doing stand-up comedy?

I started doing stand up when I moved to LA as a way to get on stage and get my acting fix! I realized that you don’t just have to tell jokes – you can do characters, sing, or even improvise with the audience. Stand up became my performance outlet. Somewhere where I could feel like I had power over my career just by making people laugh.

What’s the most challenging part of doing stand-up? What do you enjoy the most about it?

Probably the scene of it all and breaking through that next barrier. I don’t enjoy the bros, or the drunk hecklers but I love the immediate response of the crowd! You really have to be present during stand up because people will glaze over if you just go on stage and go on autopilot. You really have to be on your toes.

Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?

I just filmed a small role on “FEUD!” opposite Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange. It’s Ryan Murphy’s new FX show that premieres next year!  You can catch me in Episode 2.

What excites you the most about the new series and this next chapter of your career? What are you most looking forward to?

I feel very lucky to see my face on HBO!  I remember watching the second episode and thinking, “This is crazy! I’ve watched HBO all my life wanting to be on it and there’s my face!” I’m looking forward to more fun parts and more work with talented, good people! Whatever happens, I’m definitely enjoying the ride and feel so lucky to be apart of such a new awesome show.  I hope you watch and love it as much as I do!

‘The Caretaker’: Actress Meegan Warner Discusses Supernatural Thriller

thecaretakerWritten by Jeremy Robinson and directed by Jeff Prugh, “The Caretaker” is a new character-driven thriller that tells the story of a young woman who returns home to care for her gravely ill grandmother.

The film stars the beautiful Meegan Warner (Mary on AMC’s critically acclaimed series, TURN: Washington’s Spies) as Mallorie, an empathetic young woman who wants to do well by her grandmother. But in the process of staying in her grandmother’s vast Victorian home, Mallorie encounters bouts of sleepwalking and envisioning spirits, all while uncovering dark secrets about her family’s past.

“The Caretaker” was an official selection at Indie Horror Film Festival where it took home three awards, including the Director’s Choice Award. The film was also an official selection at FilmQuest, HellaCon, Gasparilla and the Fantastic Horror film festivals.

I recently spoke with Warner about “The Caretaker”, the final season of TURN, her career and more in this exclusive new interview!

How did this project come about for you? 

It was a pretty standard procedure. My agents sent me the script, I went in and taped with the casting directors and was later asked to come in for a chemistry read with [co-star] Sean Martini. Then a few weeks later, we were all on set!

What was it that attracted you to the role?

I remember coming in for the chemistry read and workshopping the audition scenes. It was the first time I met Jeff [Prugh], who was completely open to improvisation and suggestions. Meeting everyone and seeing how passionate and determined they were really drew me in. I just remember walking out of the room really wanting to be a part of the project.

How would you describe the story of “The Caretaker”?

“The Caretaker” is a character-driven thriller about a young woman named Mallorie who returns home to care for her sick grandmother only to discover that things aren’t as they seem. 

What can you tell me about your character, Mallorie?

Mallorie was such a gift to play because she had so much going on. She grew up with the knowledge that her mother abandoned her and her grandmothers health is deteriorating, She also struggles with her own mental heath problems and sleep disorders. I liked that she wasn’t your typical damaged horror movie girl though. She has great relationships outside of her family life. 

Meegan Warner (left) and Sean Martini in The Caretaker

Meegan Warner (left) and co-star Sean Martini in The Caretaker

What was the filming process like?

The whole experience was amazing. It was one of those projects where you didn’t want it to end. Jeff and Jeremy were awesome to work with. So open to ideas and encouraged improvisation. It was a very creative set to be on. The house we shot in was incredible and definitely added to the film. I remember Jeff saying something like he wanted the action taking place downstairs to feel like a drama and the events taking place upstairs to feel like a thriller. He really wanted the upper level of the house to have a dangerous vibe.

What do you think makes horror such a great genre? 

I think like any genre, it’s that escapism –the thrill and adrenaline. I love horror movies. If I’m choosing a movie to watch I usually gravitate towards horror. When you think about it, scaring yourself is a pretty strange thing to enjoy!

Did you always know that you wanted to have a career in entertainment? Was it something you always aspired to do?

The thought of being an actress never really crossed my mind when I was a kid. That whole world seemed so far removed from my upbringing. It wasn’t until I was fourteen that I decided acting was something I wanted to do. I did the school play and just loved the whole experience. I don’t remember the exact moment when it went from being a fun thing to do to a career option, but it happened quickly and from that point on I was pretty determined to figure out how to make it work.

What are you most looking forward to about with the final season of “TURN: Washington’s Spies”? What can fans expect from the show and from your character, Mary?

I’m really excited and curious to see how the writers will wrap it up: if we’ll have time jumps and finish the war or if we’ll just continue on from Season 3. I know absolutely nothing, so I can’t tease anything! But I can’t wait to read the first script, and I hope Mary continues to surprise!

Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?

TURN will start filming soon, so over the next few months I’ll be working on that. After we wrap, who knows? That’s the exciting part about this job. You never know what’s next! I’d also like to give a shout out to another horror film I did in Australia. It’s called “Scare Campaign” and it’s getting a U.S release later this month. So please keep a look out!

“The Caretaker” is available now in multiple formats.

‘The Art of Elegance’: Kristin Chenoweth Discusses Timeless New Album

Photo by: Gian Andrea di Stefano and used with permission

Photo by: Gian Andrea di Stefano and used with permission

With a magical career that transcends Broadway, television, film and music, Kristin Chenoweth has firmly established herself as one of the preeminent artists of our generation.

After conquering the musical realms of country, Christian and Christmas music, the charismatic Tony and Emmy-award winning singer/actress showcases her interpretive prowess with her latest release, The Art of Elegance. A beautiful, 13-song package featuring Chenoweth’s unique take on classics from The Great American Songbook.

Songs like “Someone to Watch Over Me” (George Gershwin) and the sublime “A House Is Not A Home” (Burt Bacharach / Hal Davis) take on new life while tracks like the haunting “I’m A Fool To Want You” (Frank Sinatra/Jack Wolf/Joel Herron) and the apropos “I Get Along Without You Very Well” (Hoagy Carmichael) deliver timeless sentiment.

AXS recently spoke with Chenoweth about her beautiful new album and more in this exclusive interview.

AXS: What inspired The Art of Elegance project?

Kristin Chenoweth: I cut my teeth at a young age hearing the music from this era. This is my sixth album and throughout my entire career, this is the music that speaks to me the loudest. Obviously, I’ve looked up to many icons, certainly Ella Fitzgerald, Linda Ronstadt and Diana Krall have all been instrumental and are examples of women who have done it before me. They’re all very different and put their own stamp on their versions. That’s what I tried to do here. I also wanted to pay homage to the composers of the time.

You can read my complete AXS interview with Kristin Chenoweth Here!

Actress Kristen Li Discusses The Powerpuff Girls and Career

Kristen Li (Photo by: Ryan West)

Kristen Li (Photo by: Ryan West)

It’s not often you get to speak to someone whose as versatile and multitalented as Kristen Li. After spending nine years as a competitive figure skater, Li found her niche as an actress and voice over artist.

Li is best known for her role as the voice of ‘Bubbles’ in Cartoon Network’s reboot of the Emmy-nominated “The Powerpuff Girls”. The show, which originally ran from 1998-2005, centers on three girls (Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup) who use their superpowers to defend their town from villains while dealing with normal issues that young children face.

Li’s additional voice credits include Disney Pixar’s “Monsters University” and the video game “Broken Age”. She’s also appeared on such shows as Nickelodeon’s “Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn” and “Days of our Lives”.

I recently spoke with Li about her role on The Powerpuff Girls and more in this exclusive interview.

You began your career as a competitive ice skater. What made you decide to transition into acting?

I was a competitive ice skater and also did modeling from an early age. I did print ads and commercials which expanded into theatrical/commercial roles. I made the transition when I had to choose between the two because of my hectic schedule. It was a hard decision because I love both. Both were competitive but I love acting because I love to be many characters. It is fun to entertain and meet actors and actresses that give me inspiration.

What did you enjoy most about competitive ice skating?

I love to win! The thing about ice skating is not just practicing the moves on the ice, but the technical part of it. There are techniques that involve the height of the jumps, spins and the moves with the music. It was challenging! I practiced from four to eight hours a day, which taught me to be disciplined. I loved to dance all over the ice with the music, and I love to entertain.

What are some of the differences between doing voice-over work as opposed to typical acting or doing a video game?

There are similarities and differences between acting and voiceover work. For voiceover, you can perform different voices and characters without actually dressing up for the part. For on-camera roles, you can only be one character for the show or a movie. But for both acting & voiceover, you have to study and be knowledgeable about the character and the project!

How would you describe Bubbles? What’s she like?

Bubbles is sweet, gullible and the most sensitive of the group. She is also really smart! She knows how to code, talk to animals and loves helping others. She is powerful.

Did you have to do research to take on the character?

Yes! I researched the show which took several hours. Then I had to study Bubbles and the emotions that she has. After listening several times, I practiced to see how I sound doing it. I keep doing that over and over again. With auditions, it takes hours of studying and practicing.

Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?

I have some things in the works that I can’t talk about just yet….but stay tuned!

When you’re not acting, what are some of the things you enjoy doing?

I like to spend time with my friends, go ice skating and skateboarding. I also like to do Tae Kwon Do for self defense and Pilates for my core. I like to be active!

What excites you the most about the future and the next phase of your career?

Going forward, I am excited to pursue theatrical roles and perfect more voiceover characters. That’s my goal!

‘It Happened Again Last Night’: Actress Amanda Wyss Talks Powerful Short-Film, Other Upcoming Projects

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Actress Amanda Wyss has built an indelible legacy with her eclectic body of work. Whether it’s her role as Tina Gray in the horror classic “A Nightmare on Elm Street”; her dramatic portrayal as Rabbit Layton in the 1989 Sundance Award-Winning film, “Powwow Highway” or even more recently, as a psychotic killer in television’s CSI, Wyss has a earned a reputation for portraying deep, emotionally-driven characters that progress the story forward.

One of Wyss’ most important projects to date may be filmmaker Gabrielle Stone’s upcoming short, “It Happened Again Last Night” . A film that tells the story of a woman named Paige [played by Stone], who must choose between love and fear before she has no choices left to make. Wyss portrays Paige’s mother in a flashback sequence but much like every role she plays, brings about an extra layer of honest creativity.

2016 has certainly been one of Wyss’ most successful years. In addition to her involvement in “It Happened Again Last Night” she was recently awarded Best Actress honors at the Santa Monica International Film Festival for her work in Paul Santana’s horror short, Oct 23rd. She’s also received high praise for her recurring role as Kat Cooper in the TNT series “Murder in the First” as well as the lonely woman caring for her domineering father in the upcoming thriller, “The ID”.

I recently spoke with Wyss about “It Happened Again Last Night” as well as her other upcoming projects in this exclusive new interview.

How did you become involved in “It Happened Again Last Night”?

Gabrielle Stone is such a smart, go-getting, incredibly talented young lady. She wrote and directed this film along with Roze and they asked me to be involved. I play Gabrielle’s mom in flashbacks. It’s an important story about domestic violence and not being able to choose who you love and about having to take care of yourself.

Photo by: Chris Heck

Still from ‘It Happened Again Last Night’ – Photo by: Chris Heck

As an actress, what attracts you to a script?

Obviously, it’s the story and about being challenged. But I also ask myself a lot of questions, like is it a role I can do justice to and will I be able to use the character to help move the story forward. With this role, I really loved the story and the people involved. Even though it’s a small part, it’s a very powerful moment where you get to see Gabrielle’s character become who she is. It was something I knew I wanted to be a part of.

What was it like working with Gabrielle on this project?

She’s fantastic. Gabrielle and Roze both knew exactly what they wanted and had the story so well thought out. We all had time to really go over the script together and talk about these characters and about why we were doing what were doing. Even though it was such a heavy piece, it was a fun environment to be in and everyone brought their “A” game.

Can you give me an update on another film that’s been creating a lot of buzz for you – “The ID”?

It’s going to be released at the end of October on Blu-Ray and then in November on digital. It was such a good role and the reviews for it have been really great!

How would you describe the story?

It’s the story about a woman and her father and the interesting dynamic of what happens between two people who are in a caregiver relationship. They’re both trapped in the past and trapped in their home—each with their own reasons for not leaving. How do you cope with that and how does your psyche interpret that information in order to create a better world in your mind than for what is actually happening? It’s definitely not a recipe for success—or for the faint of heart! 

Are there any other projects you’re working on?

I’ll be going to New York in a few weeks to start work on “The Watcher of Park Ave” where I’ll be playing a retired, hard-working detective. Then in the spring I’ll be doing a movie called “Catch A Fallen Star” that we’ll be shooting in Nashville. It’s another really good script where I’ll be playing Dee Wallace’s [character’s] sister. I love country music and am really excited about it.

 What are you most looking forward to about the next phase of your career?

I just love making movies, creating characters and digging deep into interesting people. So I’m looking forward to getting more of this joy. It’s been so fun getting to work with such young, enthusiastic filmmakers who have such wonderful projects going on.

Follow the progress of “It Happened Again Last Night” on Twitter.

Actress Alex Lynn Ward Discusses ‘It Happened Again Last Night’, Upcoming Projects

AlexLynnWardBorn and raised in New York City, Alex Lynn Ward grew up in a place that had plenty of resources to feed her acting bug.

She was accepted into the Drama Program at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts at the age of thirteen where she began honing her craft.

From there, her passionate work ethic led to conservatory and making her way to Los Angeles where she landed multiple film and television roles in addition to being part of national tour and hitting the stage in London.

Although well-versed in both drama and comedic genres (she’s also a stand-up comic), the beautiful Ward has recently taken on perhaps her most important role yet in Gabrielle Stone’s upcoming short-film, “It Happened Again Last Night” — a film that tells the story of Paige [Stone], a woman who must choose between love and fear before she has no choices left to make.

The producers have set up an Indiegogo campaign to help with the film’s completion and with fan support have already surpassed their goal. They’re now working towards a stretch goal, which includes some really amazing perks.

I recently spoke with Alex Lynn Ward about her role in “It Happened Again Last Night” and more in this new interview.

How did you become involved in “It Happened Again Last Night”?

I’ve been friends with Gabrielle for years. She’s actually one of the first people I met when I moved to L.A. from New York. She had been writing drafts of this script for a long time and had always asked me to read it. So when it came time to make the film she told me she’d love for me to play this role. I said, “Absolutely!”

What was it about the project that piqued your interest?

I loved the story and all of the things it stands for. On the creative side, I’ve wanted to work with Gabrielle for a long time. Opportunities like this don’t come around very often.

Photo by: Chris Heck

Photo by: Chris Heck

How would you describe the story of “It Happened Again Last Night”?

It’s the story of a girl named Paige who’s in an abusive relationship and is also involved in a relationship with my character, Kris. Paige doesn’t know what the right decision is but she has to choose between fear and love before she runs out of time, and she knows it’s getting to the end.

What else can you tell me about your character, Kris?

Kris is very in love with Paige. She’s also strong and very matter of fact with no BS. Although Kris and I are complete opposites I identified with her so much. It was cathartic to play this role.

What was the filming process like?

I can’t say enough good things about it. It was the smoothest, easiest and most stress free shoot. There was so much love in the room and everyone was on board from the very beginning. Gabrielle was so on and it was exciting to get to see her direct.

Photo by: Chris Heck

Photo by: Chris Heck

Did you always know that you want to have a career in entertainment?

I did. I grew up in New York City so the opportunity was always there. When I was 13, I got accepted into the Frank Sinatra School of The Arts where we had celebrity mentors and intense theater training. I knew then that this was what I wanted to do.

Are there any other projects you’re working on?

My Star Wars fan film recently won the JJ Abrams Audience Choice Award for our short, “The Sable Corsair”. That’s up now on Star Wars.com and is very exciting! I’m currently collaborating with WhoHaHa.com. It’s Elizabeth Banks’ new venture to spotlight funny women. They have a few of my YouTube videos and we’re working on some original content as well. I’m also going to start work on a new short that’s part of “Twilight Zone”-themed anthology called “Spades”.

What are you looking forward to about the release of “It Happened Again Last Night”?

I’m so excited about this film. Everything is so beautiful and so well done. It speaks to what I really stand for and I feel the end product is going to be reflection of just how awesome it was to make. This is really going to be something special. 

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