Exclusive Interview with The Bold Type’s Dan Jeannotte

Interview, Pop Culture, Television

This article was originally written for Talk Nerdy With Us. 

Dan Jeannotte headshot 2014 white

You might recognize Dan Jeannotte as James Stuart, Earl of Moray on CW’s Reignor as Brandon Russell on The Good Witch. But it is his recent role as Ryan Decker (Pinstripe Guy) on Freeform’s newest drama, The Bold Type, that is likely to be his biggest role yet. I got the pleasure to talk to Dan about how he got his start in acting, what attracted him to The Bold Type, his thoughts on comic books, and a lot more. Keep reading to see his answers.

How did you get involved in acting? Was there any specific experience you would credit as the moment when you knew acting was what you wanted to do for a profession?

That’s a great question. Well when I was in college I became friends with a guy, Matt Goldberg, who told me that he was, I hadn’t done any acting, but he was bringing together a comedy troupe and that I should try out for it. So I did, I auditioned for him in the basement of his parents house. I had never done improv before, but in that audition scenario I thought, “Well this is exciting, this is fun.” And I got into this improv troupe that he was putting together, and the first time we performed in front of any audience [we had] several hundred people watching, and I got up there and made stuff up, as you do in improv comedy, flying by the seat of your pants, and it was just exhilarating, absolutely exhilarating. And I thought, “This is pretty cool.” And around the same time, that same friend, Matt, was in a play and told me that I should come see it. I went to see it and it was a bunch of kids my age doing Pippin, which is a musical theatre show, and it just kind of blew my mind. These kids were doing this great seemingly high class production. People at my school got to be doing this as a part of their credits, which was amazing to me. So it was a combination of starting to do improv and watching this piece of theatre. [I decided] that’s what I wanted do, so I switched programs and found that I loved it and I wasn’t horrible at it [laughs].

What did you originally go to school for since you said you didn’t start out as wanting to be an actor?

I was in liberal arts, so I was studying philosophy and history and religion and English lit[erature]. At the time I thought I wanted to be a writer but I wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to do that. I thought I might be an author or a novelist. At that point I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life. That program felt like these were things I was interested in but it was still very academic. And then finding theatre and acting, it just kind of clicked. It was like, “I could do this.” And my parents were like, “Uh, I don’t know” [laughs]. After years of poverty [laughs], I’ve shown them you can make a living out of it.

What’s some of the best advice about the industry you’ve ever received and why? 

I can think of two things. A few people told me this when I was younger, but I didn’t quite know what they meant. They said, “this is a really tough business. If you’re not sure that this is what you want to do, then quit now.” Which to me, at the time, felt very negative and pessimistic but I understand that advice. You have to be fully committed to this kind of work, or really, I think it goes for lots of different creative kinds of careers. You have to be committed to it because you’re going to go up against so much opposition, so many obstacles. There’s going to be so many times when you want to quit or when you feel like the world is telling you that you should quit. You have to know in your heart that this is the only thing that you want to do and that you could do because, let’s put it another way: if you have a fallback plan, you’re probably going to fallback on it because [the acting industry] is just so tough.

Another great piece of advice, too, is that you have to create your own opportunities. As actors, we are kind of at the mercy of a lot of external factors, a lot of people: waiting on agents to get us auditions, waiting on casting directors to hire us, waiting for producers and directors to take a liking to us. That can be a little tough to stomach. But if you create some of your own work, then you can be creative and you can be fulfilling the desire that we have to create; you can do that for yourself without it being contingent on anyone else. So a lot of actors will either write screenplays or maybe they are musicians too. In my case, I’ve been working with a comedy troupe, the same one that I auditioned for back in college. I’ve been working with the same guys for more than 15 years now. We do improv shows, we write sketch comedy and that kind of stuff, and although it doesn’t bring me any money, it is satisfying to do, it’s fun to do, and it keeps me busy in periods when work isn’t coming along.

If you had to give advice to an aspiring actor, would that be the same advice you would give them? 

I mean, yeah. What I was just talking about wasn’t inspirational advice, more like a warning [laughs]. Yeah, if I was supporting someone, if someone was looking for that kind of inspiration, I would say everybody has their own unique them-ness, everyone has something that no one else has because we’re all unique individuals. That specific thing is what sets you apart. So if you’re trying to make it as an actor, it doesn’t matter what your body type is, it doesn’t matter what your background is. What matters is that you are a unique person and that comes across in the work that you do and people will respect you for being yourself and people will want to watch you being yourself as a unique person.

To date, which role that you’ve played do you think has had the biggest impact on your life and has maybe changed you as a person and why?

What I love about this business is you get to work on different projects and you get to move around from project to project fairly often. You find projects are interesting and inspiring and satisfying in different ways. I could say a role that I worked on that meant a lot to me was I did a production of the play Equis, which is a really beautiful and kind of heartbreaking and mind-blowing play about a young man with severe mental and spiritual issues. And doing this play years ago in Montreal, it was a life-changing for me because the director, who didn’t know me, was taking a chance on me to play a very challenging role, and getting that kind of confidence placed on me by such an amazing artist was validating and really helped me. And the role was so hard, I would be exhausted and spent after every performance, but it was real. It was like going through acting boot camp.

So there’s that kind of role and then there is the kind of thing where a couple of years ago, I got cast in a show called The Good Witch on the Hallmark channel. It was not long after I had uprooted my life from Montreal and moved to Toronto, and I got this role and then my wife got pregnant. So The Good Witch changed my life because we had the means to support a baby, and I got paid well to be on this TV show. So that’s what I mean. There are different kinds of roles, and they’re important in different ways. I just feel so lucky every time I get to work on something. I worked on a show called Reign for a year and a half, and that was amazing because I got to live in sixteenth-century Scotland for a year and half and wear amazing costumes, sword fight, ride horses, and work with amazing actors from Australia and New Zealand and Canada, and I got to go to Ireland to shoot the show, so that was such an exciting and wonderful gig to have.

Moving on to talk about The Bold Type, what did you think when you first read the script? What attracted you to the show?

When I first auditioned for the show, I didn’t have a whole script to read. What I had was a couple of scenes between Jane and Ryan, or “Pinstripe guy” as he’s referred to in the script; I don’t think I knew his name was Ryan yet [laughs]. What drew me to it right away was the banter that Jane and I have. It felt very classic, like kind of old-school comedy banter where the two people on the surface don’t like each other, but you can obviously tell that they are into each other. It felt like a classic setup. But at the same time it was very modern, very now, very current. I thought it was very funny and I thought it was sexy and I thought this would be a very fun role to play. And then I got to read a little bit more of the script a little bit later, and then I was reading everyone else’s story, not just Ryan and Jane’s story. And I was like, “Oh man, this show is awesome. It’s so smart, it’s so sweet, it’s got positivity and heart to it, and yet it takes on these issues but never feels like a lecture or anything.” It felt very of the moment, and I thought that this was a show that could really work, could really take off. And then once I got the part and got on to set and met the people who were doing it I was like, “Oh yeah. This show is going to be awesome.” The lead actresses are all so charming, so good at what they do. The directors and producers were all about kind of having a supportive work environment and collaborating together. It felt like a no-brainer to me.

What was your audition process for the show like?

It was a bit more drawn out than some of the roles I’ve had before. I first sent in a taped audition. Then from that found out quite awhile later, maybe a month or so, that they wanted bring me in to do a chemistry read, which you do sometimes when you’re in contention for a role. They wanted to see how Katie [Stevens] and I might work together. So I flew to Montreal to do this chemistry read, and that’s when I met Katie for the first time. We did a couple of scenes together in front of the producers and director. It’s always strange because–an audition is always strange to begin with because you’re really putting yourself out there and are like, “Here’s me. Do you like me?” And then with a chemistry read, it’s just hoping we get along well. And I thought we did. I thought she was great, I felt very comfortable with her and that our scenes were pretty solid. And then I went back to the place they were putting me up and hung around for a bit, and just when I thought I wasn’t going to hear from them that night, they called me and told me they wanted me back for another chemistry reading the next day. I was like, “Oh my gosh. What? Why? You haven’t made up your minds, really?” So the next morning we were back in the same room, reading the same script again. I think at that point they were trying to define the character, and there was, in the beginning, this idea that he was kind of cool, detached, super confident guy, which is not who I am personally. I’m not super cool [laughs]. So they wanted to see if you could be a bit more aloof, a bit more not exactly a jerk, but a bit of a jerk I suppose. But the next day, I found out I had the part and two days, I think, later I was shooting.

And then the role ended up sort of changing a bit, as we went on, as we incorporated more of me into the character and a bit more of the dynamic that Katie and I naturally have, incorporated that into who they are together as characters. So it changed a little bit, but yeah, they made me sweat for it a bit.

How would you describe your character, Ryan?

Well now that we’ve shot the whole season, I would say he’s a smart and driven and straightforward guy who is trying to be a good man and trying to be upfront about what he wants. He doesn’t shy away from confrontation or shy away from challenging people. I think he actually gets a kick out of challenging people and challenging Jane. Although he’s a bit mischievous, his heart is a good place; he’s a good guy. And I think that she kind of slowly comes around to see that. She sees his headlines and she thinks she knows who she is. But she sees, and the audience sees, that there is more to him than that.

And you said that the character of Ryan changed to incorporate more of you in the character as you guys went along and shot more of the first season. With that being said, in what ways would you say Ryan is similar to the person that Dan is?

There’s definitely a playful side to both of us. I like to use humor as a weapon and I use it as a defense and I think he does that as well [laughs]. But I think what changed in the character to reflect a bit more of me was a bit more warmth. I’m basically a person who wants to get along with other people. I want other people to be happy. I think we incorporated a bit more of that kind of warmth into him and goofiness, which comes across a bit more later on in the season. I’m a big goofball sometimes. But also, in terms of how similar, we’re both people who are trying to figure out how to lead a good life, how to be better, how to be better people, and what I like about Ryan is that he’s doing that for his readers as well. I think his articles are not just about writing stuff that is salacious or attention-grabbing, but also writing an article that can help his readers become better people.

Obviously we have to talk about Ryan’s relationship with Jane. First off, I think Janestripe is the best ship name I’ve ever heard. 

Oh my gosh, isn’t it? Katie came up with it.

I was going to ask who came up with it.

We were just, you know, tweeting about the first episode and she was asking people, “What should their ship name be? Jayan? Ryane?” And she said, “Well how about Janestripe?” And I was like, “Oh my gosh. It couldn’t be anything else. It’s perfect.”

Seriously, it’s the best thing ever. What’s it like working with Katie?

Oh it’s great. It’s very easy to work with her. She is a really down to earth person, she’s genuinely sweet, and she’s a real professional. When we knew that I had the role, she went out of her way a little bit to make sure we got to hang out before we started shooting. We had dinner one night to get to know each other, and I really appreciated that she went out of her way to make sure we had that time together. But its for both us. If you’re going to be doing intimate stuff together it’s just weird, and the less you know someone the weirder it is. So thankfully we got along super well. We are really just on the same page. She’s funny and she’s nice and open to collaboration, and I really couldn’t have hoped for a better scene partner. Especially because everything I do in the show is pretty much with her. So it’s like all about how do we get along, and I feel blessed. I’m glad she is who she is. It comes across in our work, in the episodes I’ve seen, that we are two people who are complicit, who are simpatico; we are on the same wave length.

So I took to Twitter for some questions and they were all pretty much about this relationship. Someone wanted to know what you thought Janestripe’s biggest strength & biggest flaw is?

Janestripe’s biggest strength as a couple and biggest flaw as a couple, it’s the same thing: they push each other. That’s an amazing thing because they’re pushing each other out of their comfort zones, they’re challenging each other’s ideas, they’re making each other look at things in a different light. But that’s also problematic because you want some of that kind of challenging and conflicting energy in a relationship, but too much of it can make things blow up. So it’s going to be interesting to see what happens with them.

This is another question I got from Twitter: how does your character stay away from being just “the love interest” over the course of the season and how do you approach that as an actor?

That’s a good question. I think that one of the things that The Bold Type does really well is that it presents relationships as an important part of a well-rounded life, but not the most important or the only part of a well-rounded life. These women in the show, the main characters, are pursuing their careers, are pursuing personal fulfillment, and also if they can find a good partner or have some good romance or have some good sex, then that’s great too. It’s never presented as the be-all-end-all. And to that end, I think the relationship between Jane and Ryan, at first at least, is sort of, they both understand that this just “a thing.” They don’t know what to call it yet but they know it’s not like, “Well now we’re getting married.” They are feeling out and seeing what happens, but they both kind of come into it with their own ideas about what kind of relationship they want to have. And those slightly different ideas is the root of some of the conflicting drama in their storyline.

Personally, for me as an actor, you have to understand the role your playing. For me, I hope, I’m playing a three-dimensional character. But I know that in the larger picture of the whole show it’s not about me. My scenes with Katie, it’s about Katie more than it’s about me, in the sense that Jane is one of the through lines for the whole show. So I don’t think of myself as just a love interest, but at the same time I understand, “oh, I’m just a love interest.” I’m happy to play that kind of role, especially in such a well-written show and especially with such a great actor in Katie, that I don’t need to do anything different in my acting. I just need to make sure I’m playing a fully-realized person. I’m not playing someone who is solely defined by his relationship with Jane; I’m playing someone with his own wants and needs.

Is there anything you can tease about the rest of season one of The Bold Type?

[Pauses] Well, I think I can say that its not all smooth sailing for the Janestripe ship. It’s going to come to a point where they both have to figure out exactly what they want from each other. And [pauses] I don’t really know what I can say without giving anything away. It’ll be fun for people to see the two of us get a little bit jealous about what the other one is up to the rest of the time.

I have a few more fun questions to wrap things up. Let’s start with this: your character is a relationship/sex columnist for a men’s magazine. So if you had to pitch an article to write for Pinstripe, what would it be?

Oh man, that’s a great idea. Great question. Oh, I should have thought about that before. Some of the things I think are interesting in terms of sex and relationships from the lens of men: why don’t we, as men, talk more to each other about our relationships? The big thing, a lot of male friendships, keep quiet about everything, We don’t really talk to each other about important stuff. But for a relationship column, I would pitch: why don’t we, as guys, talk more about, “Hey, how is it going with your girlfriend?” Also, I feel like this would be the kind of article that would be in an Esquire-type of magazine, like “Demystifying Menstruation for Men,” because that’s also a thing that guys don’t know about. Not a lot of women feel comfortable talking about it with their guys, but you know.

Our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us and we love talking about what makes us excited and passionate. What do you nerd out over?

I nerd out over improv comedy because I’ve been doing it forever and so there’s certain performers, certain shows that I can really go on about. I nerd out about Game of Thrones. I read all of the books before there was a show,so when the show came out and it was so good, it was like the greatest thing ever seeing this amazing fantasy series turned into reality. So I love talking about that, specifically with people who have read the books, but now the series has overtaken the books, but yeah. I used to collect comic books when I was younger, so I’m a bit of a lapsed comic book nerd. Now though, I just feel grumpy about most of the superhero movies that come out. I feel sort of like a crotchety old man —

I was going to ask what your opinion about the recent Marvel movies and the DC television shows. How do you feel about all of that?

I think its super cool that both Marvel and DC now are creating this cinematic universes that overlap with each other. It’s really exciting that that exists. But that being said, there’s a lot of it that I don’t like. I like the idea in theory more than I like the practice, because especially with the movies, movies these days are just multi-billion dollar blowouts that are just made by committees, and everything gets watered down, and I feel like every superhero movie I watch ends with like a third act with people punching each other through buildings. That is not interesting. Maybe it was interesting once, but now it is just the same thing. I went to see a movie in theaters the other day and the previews before it, it was like four or five superhero apocalyptic movies in a row, because now they all have to be about the world. They can’t just be about interesting characters struggling for what they think is right. It all is Apocalypto or someone taking over the universe and ending mankind. Ughhh. It’s all so heavy [laughs]. I got my issues, but that being said, if anyone of them want to hire me, I am available and I would love to do it [laughs].

If you had to pick, which comic book character’s world would you want to be a part of?

When I was collecting comics I was collecting Marvel, so it’s the world I know better. I’ve enjoyed some of those movies. But then [Christopher] Nolan came around with The Dark Knight, and those movies were amazing. And DC is now trying to cast itself as the grittier, darker kind of more realistic superhero movies. So yeah, I’m not sure which world I would work better in. Probably Marvel, because Marvel tends to be quippier and sillier, and I am sillier than I am gritty.

You can follow Dan on Twitter and on Instagram. The Bold Type airs Tuesdays at 9/8 c on Freeform.

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ATX Exclusive Interview with “Younger” Writer and Co-Producer Alison Brown

Interview, Pop Culture, Television

This article was originally written for Talk Nerdy With Us. 

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Alison Brown is a writer and co-producer on Younger. I sat down with her at the recent ATX Festival to talk about season four of Younger, how today’s political climate affects her job as a television writer and producer and some of her dream guest appearances. Check out the interview below.

In the panel you all were talking about how Younger so subtly addresses what is going on in the real world, and you guys were specifically talking about it with this idea of truth that you explore on the show. I live in DC and it’s been an overwhelming four years there to say the least. A lot of times, I turn to television from the real world but I also don’t want my favorite shows to completely ignore the aspect of reality either.  So I’m curious, as a writer, how much is this idea on your conscience, especially after November?

I feel like you said it really well. You watch TV to escape, to be entertained. But you’re right, you don’t want TV to live in this other world. We felt the same way. We wanted to say something. I know when I interviewed for this job I was so excited because I felt like this was a show that says something and can say something. It’s fun, it’s funny, it’s empowering, and you can still can say things. But you don’t want to hit people over the head because they are watching to be entertained. We could have done three episodes with [Liza telling the truth to Kelsey and revealing her secret to others in her life]; we could have had an arc. And it was like, “You know. I think just one will do it” and then move on. But we’re going to do it. Because it’s our show, and our show is about lying and what is real.

Right. And like you said, especially with what’s going on you can’t not [address it] in some way shape or form.

But then for a while Kellyanne Conway disappeared and we were all like, “Uh oh.” [laughs]

Going off of Liza and her secret, she can’t keep it forever, although she’s kept it longer than I honestly thought she would. I was curious how necessary is Liza’s secret to making Younger work and what it is? Do you guys know whether it is something you are going to completely reveal sooner rather than later? 

We don’t know when we’re going to reveal, but I don’t think it’s necessary to the show. I think especially now, after this season when we go deeper into her relationships with everyone, it’s those relationships you’re watching and Kelsey knows now. And it’s still good. I mean, after a while I think you kind of felt bad. It’s like, “Kelsey has to know.” So I think we’re going to start feeling that way about Charles, maybe Diana. I think eventually she’s going to have to come clean, but I think we’re going to have story.

In terms of Kelsey, she and Josh are the only ones who know the trust. Obviously, their common denominator in their friendship was Liza.

It’s still Liza.

It’s still Liza, but she’s physically removed from the situation. What was the conversation like in the writer’s room to have Josh and Kelsey, for lack of a better word, find solace in one another?

It made sense but it was tough. There were a lot of debates in the beginning about what that meant, how far do they get involved, how do they get involved, etc. I feel like the core relationship is Liza and Kelsey, and I think all the writers feel very protective of that. But Liza did this. She kind of put them in this position.

One of my favorite things about Younger is the guest appearances, whether it be Kristin Chenoweth in the season four premiere or other authors. Is there someone that you are dying to write for and have join the cast?

I haven’t thought about that. I don’t know. I think it would be cool to have a big author come join the show.

Because obviously you guys have done spin-offs, for lack of a better term, with … I don’t remember who wrote Game of Thrones.

George R.R. Martin.

Right. And then you had a version of him [Edward L.L. Moore] in Younger but you didn’t have him.

It would be cool to get a J.K. Rowling. That would be amazing. I wrote a whole scene with a big a famous author because we were going to try and get him, and we tried but didn’t get him so we had to cut that scene… so you can write it and then ask.

I’m curious about how much research you guys in the writers’ room do into the millennial aspects that make up such a big part of the show. Is there ever anything that you’ve found out in that process and were surprised was actually real?

No, because we know. We have a couple millennial writers on staff, and that’s part of why they are there. They have a great voice, and “truffle butter” was literally a shirt one of them was wearing We were like, “Oh, we’re definitely putting that into the show.”

Obviously we’re here at ATX celebrating the world of television. What are you watching now and what are some of your all-time favorite television shows?

Designing Women is my all-time favorite show. Golden Girls I love. I love female ensembles so that was like in my wheelhouse. Orphan Black I’m watching. I’m watching House of Cards. I tend to watch a lot of dramas.

Because you deal with comedy on a day-to-day basis and it’s part of your 9-to-5?

Maybe. No, I feel like…

That’s just what you are attracted to?

Yeah. It’s what seems real to me, and I feel like we deal with it… Darren [Star, creator of Younger] said a really smart thing a while back: “If there is a joke on the show, then the characters all have to laugh.” I feel like that makes sense to me. Sitcoms, people will say a joke, and it’s how they are supposed to really talk. But that isn’t how people really talk. Darren wants to write how we really talk, and I really appreciate that. That’s kind of what I really want to watch.

Oh, off-topic but it just came to me — John Irving was the big author I wrote a scene for that didn’t come. We were going to the Hamptons and were like, “Oh he lives out there, let’s try to get him. It’ll be convenient.” But he was just like, “No.”

Season 4 of Younger premieres June 28 at 10pm.

ATX Exclusive Interview with Bajillion Dollar Propertie$’s Drew Tarver

Interview, Pop Culture, Television

This article was originally written for Talk Nerdy With Us. 

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Drew Tarver plays Baxter Reynolds on Seeso’s “Bajillion Dollar Propertie$.” I sat down with Drew at the recent ATX Festival to talk about the show, whether he would want to create an improvised television show one day, and his DIY skills. Read on to see what Drew had to say!

How did you first get involved in “Bajillion Dollar Propertie$”? What was the audition process like?

Well I had, the comedy community in LA is surprisingly small — improv and sketch, that is. That’s the comedy that I came up in, taking classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre there. I had probably been doing improv for six, seven years, just like in shitty awful shows. Then eventually you get to a place where you can audition for a UCB team and try to get on a team there so you kind of have more of a built in audience, all the students are there. I obviously knew Kulap [Vilaysack] and Scott [Aukerman]. Scott had asked me to be on “Comedy Bang Bang,” his podcast, once, and I couldn’t do it. And then he never asked me again. It was like a one-off. I was like “Oh yeah, but I can’t,” and he was like, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll get you on it again.” And I didn’t hear from him ever again, and I was worried that I had missed my chance.

But they held auditions. My manager told me there was this project that Kulap was doing and I was just like, “I want to work with her so bad.” So yeah, I just went in and did a little scene and did some improv with Kulap. I did a few auditions, and they ended up casting me.

How would you describe it to people who haven’t seen it before?

I would say it’s a parody of “Million Dollar Listing” how “Reno 911” was a parody of “Cops.” That’s the quickest way I could explain what it is. It’s got that same “Reno” vibe to it.

How much did you know about the real estate world prior to this? Did you have to do any research for the show?

I hadn’t seen “Million Dollar Listing” hardly any, but I know those types of people; It’s that same LA-Grove kind of rich person if you gave them that job. I had been kind of dabbling in real estate myself, in my personal life, just being like, “Oh I want to try and buy this condo, put a new kitchen in it, live in it for a while, and then flip it.” So I knew some terms but I wasn’t too familiar. Then when I started auditioning for it, or once I got a callback, I downloaded a couple episodes [of “Million Dollar Listing”] and was like, “Oh yeah I saw what this was in my head.” It’s basically if you made the Kardashians sell real estate.

That would be one heck of a show though, if the Kardashians tried to do it.

If they had real jobs. [Laughs]

Right, exactly. Obviously you guys have some great guest stars. Do you have a favorite one that you’ve worked with?

I’m a huge Nick Kroll fan, and I got to do a scene with him. I got to hang out, I don’t think I got to do a scene with him, but Weird Al [Yankovic] was huge for me. Weird Al was the first real comedy I ever heard. I had his cassette tape.

Back in the day.

Yeah. [Laughs] But it’s really fun because every day someone I look up to is in the makeup trailer, and it is so fun to get to play around with them because you get to improvise a lot of it.

Do you have a dream person that you would like to have on as a guest star, and what would you want them to play?

Oh man. I’m a huge Danny McBride fan, and I would love for Danny McBride to come on and play my older brother or something who is just like a scumbag or like somebody who bullies or something. I’m obsessed with anything he does.

So anything he does you have to go see, whatever it is?

Absolutely. His first movie, “The Foot Fist Way,” I own, and when I first saw it it blew me away because he was just so specific, because I grew up in the South. I know those guys. I grew up in rural Georgia, like “Honey Boo Boo” territory, kind of near Savannah. So that was, when I saw “The Foot Fist Way,” it blew my mind. It was so funny.

Does the show shoot in the way that a normal episodic television show would shoot since it is so heavily based on improvisation? 

It’s not at all like the normal shows I’ve done. They both have their pluses I think. The editors have it much easier on a real show versus our show because they just set up three cameras…There are different types of scenes. The office stuff has an arc and is like kneaded out from episode to episode, but how you get around within those beats is up to you. So we do like 15 minute takes where you go off on tangents and get back to it. Some of them are very strict like, “Alright, Baxter [Drew’s character], we need you to make Andrew feel like you’ve murdered someone, but be vague about it. Scare him.” So it can be pretty structured like that. But then it can also be like, “Alright, one of you wants to buy a bike. Go.” With those there is no real direction. And with the guest stars it’s a whole different thing because your comedy is dialed down, and you are there to facilitate them. So you’re basically–in improv it’s either straight man or crazy man; it’s usually one or the other in a scene. You either come in and straighten the crazy, or you are the crazy. When you’re in the office, you are the crazy. But when you’re out of the office and straightman-ing guest stars, it’s more about their characters. You kind of do double duty a lot. But yeah, long fifteen minute takes that we do three versions of and then the editors have to go, “Shit. What do we do we do with all of this stuff?” They really make the show. Because when we watch the show back, we’re like, “I don’t remember doing that stuff.” You’re kind of watching it for the first time.

Right. And in a scripted series, you know how it’s going to unfold. Obviously seeing it for yourself is different, but you have the scripts, so you know that comes after that.

Yeah. But I like it because you are actively thinking and creating all day. Versus when you are doing scripted stuff; it’s exciting too, but you just do your lines, and then you get the other side of it, same lines. There’s no surprise. All day I am laughing filming this show. The editors have to cut me out. According to the editors, Dan Ahdoot laughs the most, and then I’m right underneath him [laughs]. Like we’re tied for breaking the most because I just think everyone on the show is so funny that it is hard for me.

Would you eventually want to one day create your own improv-style television show?

Yeah,  for sure. I write, and am attempting to sell, my own material too. For me, I’m in a sketch group in LA called Big Grande. We met at UCB and are developing a show for Comedy Central. The way we, and I, prefer to write is having an awesome script so that you can be like, “At least we got this.” I don’t trust myself enough to be like, “We’ll find something genius.” Even though I know if I surround myself with really funny people it’ll be fine. But I prefer to go in with something awesome and improvise off of that. If you get other great stuff off of that, awesome, which like “Bajillion” really has. We go in and do a table read before every season. There is a ton of stuff there.

For you to use to your advantage, I assume?

Yeah. But the way I do my sketch stuff is have an awesome script where the jokes are already there, so I don’t have to panic if some side bit I’m doing isn’t working, I can always go back to what’s already there.

Let’s move on to some fun questions. What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Lately I’ve been doing DIY projects. I rent, and I haven’t told my landlord about this stuff.

So DIY for your house or apartment or whatever you live in?

Yeah, for my apartment. I painted my kitchen floor, my tile kitchen floor.

What color?

I stenciled it. I painted it like a grey/black and white color… when you get in there, you’re like, “Oh I see that this is paint.” So I did that, and I love going to IKEA. There’s this website called ikeahacks.com or something like that and you can buy half of a cabinet and put different things on it to modify it to make it look better. So I’ve been doing a lot of that stuff. I also play guitar, but I can’t really commit. When you do comedy, committing to singing a song is really tough. I can’t take myself seriously.

Obviously we’re here at ATX celebrating the world of television. What are you watching right now, and what are some of your all-time television shows?

Right now, I’ve almost finished the second season of “Baskets.” I’m a big Zach Galifianakis fan.

I don’t know what that is.

Zach Galifianakis has a show on FX called “Baskets” where he is like a failed rodeo clown. No, he is a failed clown, and he becomes a rodeo clown beause that’s the only job he can find, and he’s obsessed with clowns. And Louie Anderson plays his mom, like dresses in drag and plays his mom. When I first started watching it, I was like, “Oh this is so funny. They put Louie in drag.” And then Louie, he’s playing it so real; it’s comedy, but it’s also devastating. I started being like, “Oh this show is so funny,” and the last few episodes I’ve cried in them. Because it’s comedy, but it’s like that dark sort of Louie world. This character reminds me so much of my mom and my grandma that I just cry watching, like how nuanced and real this character is.

It has some heart behind it.

It’s devastating. Maybe they’re not going for that at all [laughs] and I’m reading it the wrong way, and I’m crying when I’m watching this funny scene. But it’s like so real, that character is so real. It’s so good. Love that.

I was a big “30 Rock” fan; I could always watch an episode of that. And then I watch a tons of crime dramas, like not necessarily funny stuff. Even though “The Jinx” is horrifying, but it’s also really funny. [Laughs]

I don’t know what that is either.

It is Robert Durst. The best episode of television I’ve ever seen is the final episode of “The Jinx.” It’s like a six-part crime documentary about this wealthy guy in New York who apparently has killed multiple people. I couldn’t recommend it more. The last episode has–I’ve never screamed at the TV before then. It was crazy; it is really awesome.

Last question: our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us, so what do you nerd out over?

I nerd out over Japanese fashion, like Japanese men’s fashion. I went to Tokyo over New Year’s. Even before that though, that was like a real experience for me because I rarely wear any of this stuff, but I love looking at it and fantasizing about wearing a big hat and a baggy pair of pants and dressing like a civil war soldier. But I really nerd out over Japanese fashions. Like it’s weird, but John Mayer is a big Japan fashion nut. I read this article once, and he was talking about his favorite Japanese brands, and I got to into it via John Mayer, which is a weird way to get into something like via John Mayer. But hey, it’s how it happened.

Every episode of “Bajillion Dollar Propertie$” is available to watch online on Seeso.

ATX Exclusive Interview with Younger’s Nico Tortorella and Peter Hermann

Interview, Pop Culture, Television

This article was originally written for Talk Nerdy With Us.

19023251_1404499552949888_4111047189824993301_oYounger Panel

On Younger, Nico Tortorella plays Josh and Peter Hermann plays Charles, two-thirds of the show’s fan-favorite love triangle. I sat down with both of them at the recent ATX Television Festival to talk about their responsibilities as actors in the changing political climate, what’s coming up in season four and what exactly is a meme. Check out the interview below!

In the panel, you all were talking about how Younger subtly addresses what is going on in the real world. Specifically,  you were talking about truth being explored on the show. I live in DC and it’s been an overwhelming four years there, to say the least. A lot of times I turn to television to escape the real world, but I also don’t want my favorite shows to completely ignore reality either. As an actor, do you feel any sort of responsibility to approach your role differently even though Younger is not outwardly political?

Nico Tortorella: I think when I’m reading new scripts I’m definitely reading with a different eye now than I was last year. I’m just a lot more conscious of the social impact of the script, and what is the impact of the story that I could be telling, and why is it important that now is the time to tell the story? But in terms of the show that I’m on right now, I think the show does such a good job of having the underbelly be so current.

Peter Hermann: Subtly topical.

Nico: Exactly.

Peter: And I think that we’re, in a sense, in a fortunate position because we’re not a show that’s about politics and so we can thread issues of truth in. Obviously, the truth is a character in our show and so the volume can be turned way up and way down on that. And obviously it’s turned way up in the first episode back and Darren [Star] said he didn’t want to put out that show without an acknowledgement of the fact that we live in a different world now. But there’s a lot of press recently about how the political climate is affecting shows like House of Cards or VEEP because the actual political theatre is so much more deeply and disturbingly absurd than anything that anyone is pitching in a writer’s room. So that is troubling for television shows.

Peter, you were talking in the panel about how you feel there has been a little less polarization of the team Josh/team Charles debate. But I’m curious, in the beginning, and even as recently as the season three finale, had either one of you ever seen such passion from fans in a project you had been a part of before? 

Peter: I think I certainly haven’t. I think there is a sincerity to the show, and I don’t mean that pejoratively, I actually mean that as a very positive thing. There is a depth of feeling to the show and that somehow makes the show — I also think Sutton’s character, Liza, there is a degree of, I don’t want to say vulnerability, there’s something that people feel very protective of and that I haven’t experienced before. So I think it’s the nature of the show that leads to that protectiveness and I also think that there is so much content out there in the television landscape right now that when fans latch on to a given show they feel that their task is that they have to take up arms in a more serious way in order to defend their show because there is so much.

Nico: I don’t know. Uh —

Peter: You’re like, “Uh, no.”

Nico: No, I’m trying to think about other stuff that I’ve worked on. The Following had an intense audience, completely opposite of this show, and a totally different type of fan that would come up to you and talk to you about Joe Carroll murdering people than Liza Miller lying to somebody. But, I would say [they were] equally as dedicated. Scream fans, next level. Like I have Scream fans that have Ghostface tattoos up their arm, and Nico tattoos on their chest; it’s like a thing. But it’s just different. This is a happy, light-hearted show that is positive and I think that’s what is special about this.

Peter: No Peter tattoos.

Nico: No Peter tattoos?

Peter: Not yet. [laughs] Maybe they exist, but I haven’t seen them.

Nico, obviously Josh and Kelsey were friends before, but the common denominator was Liza. Now that neither one of them is happy with her, or really even speaking to her, how has that dynamic and friendship changed?

Nico: I really haven’t worked with Hilary [Duff] at all these first few seasons. We’ve had a couple of scenes together, but nothing really one-on-one. And I was really excited about the opportunity to have so much material with her this season. I think Hilary and I have a funny relationship. We represent very different things, but find so many common grounds and I don’t know. [laughs] There’s definitely some sexual tension between the two of us and that goes into our characters. She’s a hysterical person, so much fun to work with.

Has there ever been a millennial reference that you had no clue what it was or questioned whether it was even a real thing?

Nico: Well I think he [Peter] probably has questions about millennial references and I have questions about the lit[erature] references. [pauses] No.

Nothing off the top of your head?

Nico: No. [laughs] I can’t really think of anything. What other things are you thinking about?

I was thinking about the moment in the second episode [of season four and the first look trailer] and they’re talking about memes and Kelsey’s trying to explain what it is and Liza’s trying to relate it to the older generation. So I was just curious if there had been a moment like that off-screen with you when you read the script.

Nico: I feel like memes —

Peter: I still couldn’t explain a meme.

Nico: I don’t know if I could really properly explain a meme. I feel like if I saw a funny thing, I could be like, “Yo, that’s a meme. That’s not a meme.”

But defining what it is?

Nico: Yeah, no.

I don’t know what it is either. I don’t think anyone really does.

Nico: [laughs]

Obviously we’re here at ATX celebrating the world of television. What are some of your all-time television shows?

Nico: Sex and the City, forreal. The Sopranos, Breaking Bad was next level.

Peter: Deadwood. I just started watching Transparent.

Nico: Ugh, so good.

Peter: I had never seen an episode. [It is] remarkable.

Nico: Six Feet Under.

I don’t know that one. Is that one I should add to my list?

Nico: Old school HBO? Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I really want to start American Gods.

I’ve heard really good things about it.

Peter: Togetherness on HBO is great. It had a very brief, but fantastic season. Then there is sort of the iconic stuff like Cheers, Seinfeld, All in the Family. I go back and watch those every now and then.

Nico: I Love Lucy. If there is ever a Lucy episode on, I will watch it.

***

Season 4 of Younger premieres June 28 at 10 pm on TV Land.

Photos by Waytao Shing

ATX Exclusive Interview with Younger’s Molly Bernard and Miriam Shor

Interview, Pop Culture, Television

This article was originally written for Talk Nerdy With Us.

Younger PanelYounger-WS-Highres-20170610-3

Molly Bernard plays Lauren Heller and Miriam Shor plays Diana Trout on TV Land’s Younger. I sat down with them at the recent ATX Television Festival to talk about their responsibilities as actors in the changing political climate, what’s coming up in season four, and their all-time favorite television shows. Check out what they had to say below.

In the panel, you all were talking about how Younger subtly addresses what is going on in the real world. Specifically, you talked about exploring truth on the show. I live in DC and it’s been an overwhelming four years there to say the least. A lot of times, I turn to television as an escape from the real world, but I also don’t want my favorite shows to completely ignore that aspect of reality either. So as an actor, I was curious about whether or not you feel any sort of responsibility to approach your role differently, even though Younger is not outwardly political?

Molly Bernard: I do, always. For me, as an actress, it is imperative that my ethics match my art. And I think a part of my ethics include, just naturally, politics. I think some people would disagree with that, but I think as artists and actors you have a voice and you have a certain audience. To use that responsibly, and for the good, I think is great.

Miriam Shor: Which is not to say that your characters have to have the same moral compass that you do.

Molly: Definitely not.

Miriam: But they have to tell their story, and what are those stories you are choosing to tell? And there are times… I’m sure you have, and I know I have in this show and in other shows, fought for something in the story I believed in because it mattered to me, as Miriam.  One of those things might be a choice that Diana makes that they were like, “Oh I don’t know. Is that a sad thing for a woman to make?” And I might stand up and be like, “Why would that be sad? Explain to me why that’s sad that Diana made to not be with a man” or something like that. I feel responsible to tell those stories, especially because Diana is representing an older generation of women and I am 45. So I want to make sure that we’re not disparaging of 45-year-old women, that we tell the truth. That’s not to say that we don’t have insecurities or difficulties; we’re kind of finding our way in a world that idolizes youngsters. But I feel responsible to that.

Molly, you teased at the panel that something dramatic and crazy is going to happen to Lauren at some point in season four. But, as of now, she seems to be stable; she has her boyfriend and her successful career. So I’m curious, for both of you, what is it like as an actor to play out the transition from one extreme arc to the next, all in the same season?

Molly: Well, what’s great about being on an episodic television show is that you don’t really know what’s going to happen week to week. We get two episodes at a time. And so that is, I think, of all the art forms, closest to real life, because you don’t know that you’re going to walk out of this building and run into an ex-boyfriend. You just can’t plan for that stuff, so it is great that I don’t know what is going to happen because then I can really dive into it. Because I can be [a person who does] too much prep. If I knew what was going to happen to Lauren later this season, if I knew that would happen [when we were shooting] the first episode, I probably would have done things differently. I don’t think it would be as surprising.

Miriam: And also it’s really a fun challenge to be like, “Ok. I’m whole-hog into what the story is you gave me” and then you get another story that just jerks you the other way and you think, “Ok. That’s life.” The challenge is then to figure out how you’re going to realistically do that. And it’s fun. It’s a challenge that is super fun.

Molly: And honestly, it’s the one part — I mean, I graduated from the Yale School of Drama.

Miriam: [jokes] Never heard of it.

Molly: I really thought I would be a downtown theatre nerd. I only wanted to work in theatre.

Miriam: Which you have done.

Molly: I did, I did do theatre. Theatre is the great love of my life. But I had no idea that I would have this kind of a career and the greatest joy, among many of the greatest joys about learning how to be on a set and learning how to create a tv show, is I don’t know what the eff is going to happen from the beginning of the season to the mid[dle] to the end. It’s honestly so cool.

Miriam: It’s really fun. It’s like unwrapping a gift every time we open a script.

Molly: Every time I get an email and it is a script I’m like, “AHHHH.”

Miriam: No matter what I’m doing, I stop to read them.

Molly: Yeah, I get so excited to read them.

Molly, for you, how does Kelsey learning Liza’s secret impact the friendship for the three ladies? Is Lauren now put in an awkward middle situation?

Molly: There are a couple of scenes where Lauren doesn’t directly say anything. There is the scene in the first episode, in the cafe. I’m definitely with Kelsey being like, “Why are you so…”

Like why are there secrets being kept from me?

Molly: Exactly. But there is no… Lauren stays kind of blissfully ignorant.

Miriam: Well, she’s much like Diana in that she’s like, “Well, that’s interesting, but my life is so very interesting to me.” [laughs] But what’s interesting is that Diana knows at work, because when they come into work it’s noticeable, and she definitely catches it, clocks it and takes some interest in it and takes Liza aside to talk to her about certain things. It’s interesting.

Has there ever been a millennial reference that you had no clue what it was or questioned whether it was even a real thing?

Molly: Honestly a lot of them.

Miriam: All of them. [laughs] Like what is Salt Bae?

Molly: I don’t know.

Miriam: No idea. Do you know?

I know it’s some kind of meme. I think it’s a video too, but I really don’t know.

Miriam: Right. And we have this whole thing about like what a meme is and I’m literally like, “No, I know.” And then as I’m saying, “I know,” it is slipping out of my grasp and I have no idea what it is.

Molly: Some of them the writers do make up. I think they did make up “dopplebanger.”

Miriam: Which is fantastic.

Molly: I say “dopplebanger” this season to describe Kelsey, which is perfect.

Miriam: Cause she keeps picking the same kind of guy to…you know. I mean there’s a lot of them that make me feel, “Oh, wait. Am I just old?” And then [Molly] will pipe up and be like, “No, I have no idea what that is.” And then I’m like, “Oh, good. I thought I was super out of touch, but no.”

Molly: Sometimes Hillary [Duff] will ask me, “Where have you been living? Under a rock?” And I’m like, “Apparently.”

Miriam: I think it’s a toss up between Hillary or Nico who are sort of “on it.”

Obviously we’re here at ATX celebrating the world of television. What are some of your favorite all-time television shows?

Miriam: First of all, I just need to go off about Handmaid’s Tale right now.

Molly: I am obsessed. I can’t stop watching it. It’s one of the most brilliant things.

Miriam: Yes, absolutely.

Molly: I am shocked.

Miriam: Obsessed.

Molly: I’m obsessed. I’m in awe. Literally. Not this week’s episode, but last week’s. I haven’t seen this last episode.

Miriam: I haven’t seen this last episode either.

Molly: I’ve been busy working. But the week before — have you seen it?

Miriam: No. I’m behind two episodes.

Molly: No. Okay.

Miriam: But look how excited we get.

Molly: The first one you’ll watch…it ended and my jaw dropped, and it stayed dropped for the remainder of the credits.

Miriam: [laughs] Flies flying in.

Molly: I had to be like, “Molly, pick it up.”

Miriam: That show has made me examine my own perspective of the world. And it’s a television show. I feel like we’re heading into a golden age of television right now because you are realizing the complexity of the stories you can tell when it’s serialized. And now that the platforms are no longer just network, it’s opened up a whole can of worms.

Molly: You can do so much.

Miriam: That said Freaks and Geeks is one of my all-time favorite shows.

Molly: Arrested Development is one of my favorites.

Miriam: And I think growing up I loved television shows. I mean The Muppet Show opened my world.

One of my favorites.

Miriam: Sesame Street.

Molly: Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, um, um, um, um, [sings] “This is the song that never ends”….. Lambchop was my favorite show growing up. All-time favorite.

That was a great show. I forgot about that show.

Miriam: And you’re seeing that. There was a young woman in panel who said, “Every stage of my life, Darren Star [creator of Younger], you’ve had a show for me,” which I was so moved by. I feel like television can do that, it can be that. It’s not just the Looney Tunes.

Molly: I will say I had the craziest, most surreal experience of my life. One of my favorite TV shows is Transparent and I am a guest star on it in season three and four.

Miriam: Wait, can you talk about it?

Molly: Yeah. I play a young Judith Light. I play young Shelly.

Miriam: Are you kidding me?

Molly: Yeah. And getting to be on that set and working with them is like unbelievable. It’s my favorite show.

***

Season 4 of Younger premieres June 28 at 10 pm on TV Land.

ATX Exclusive Interview with Rebecca Field

Interview, Pop Culture, Television

This article was originally written for Talk Nerdy With Us.

OctoberRoad_MM-HiRes-20170609_03

Photo by Michelle Maurin

On October Road, Rebecca Field played Janet Meadows, the local bartender who was in an on-again-off-again relationship with heartthrob Eddie Latekka (played by Geoff Stults). The cast and creatives behind the show recently reunited at ATX Television Festival to celebrate the ten year anniversary of the show’s premiere. Rebecca sat down with Talk Nerdy to discuss what it was like to reunite with her October Road castmates ten years later, how she related to her character, Janet, and what some of her favorite shows are.

What was it like to be here today for the October Road panel?

It was really special. This is our little show that could — we always felt like we were the “Little Engine That Could.” It was a lightning in a bottle, special experience shooting October Road together. So getting to celebrate it, ten years later, together, here…it just felt really spectacular to be here together.

Had you, prior to today, watched any episodes recently or was that the first time?

I hadn’t. That was the first time. It was so funny because last night we all got together and one of our executive producers/creators Josh [Applebaum] was saying, “You know. I was actually shocked at how well it held up.” He’s like, “I didn’t think some of our cheesy dialogue [would].” The acting held up, it was beautifully shot and yeah. So I was really shocked, too, to see it. It was a really good show.

Obviously only part of the cast was in attendance today, but are all of you still close? Do you guys all still keep in touch?

Absolutely. Laura [Prepon] is probably my best friend in the world and she’s got a lot of stuff going on with work and life right now, so she wasn’t able to make it. Evan [Jones], I talk to him all the time. He’s working on something with Seth MacFarlane right now. Lindy [Booth] is working on The Librarians. So everyone that couldn’t come, it was just because they were busy, honestly.

Janet was a character that we don’t, unfortunately, see a whole lot of on television today. In what ways did you relate to her, if any?

I mean, in every way. I’d love to give all credit and say we’re just all good actors and if you like the show it’s because of my amazing acting ability. [laughs] But it was really just a testament to getting to show a vulnerable piece of ourselves and it had everything to do with who I was. I didn’t get to date the hot guy in real life, but all those feelings I had, emotions and insecurities, and wanting desperately to be liked and thought of in that way were all so, true so I could relate to Janet on so many levels.

Going off of Geoff Stults and his character Eddie…you guys obviously had great chemistry and a lot of fans loved that relationship. What were some of your most memorable moments of that relationship and what do you think Janet and Eddie would be up to today?

I think the most memorable parts were getting to fumble through it together. Eddie trying his best because he was really interested in Janet as a human being and attracted to her as well. But just making mistakes along the way and the fact that they could fumble through that together. Because Janet had a load of insecurities on her own that just got in the way of her being able to get of her way and let it happen. In real life, we all just had so much fun doing it together. But I think Janet and Eddie today would, hopefully, be together still, and have a couple of kids, and just be ruling Knight’s Ridge with their cohorts, still having tons of fun.

Obviously we’re here at ATX celebrating the world of television. What are some of your favorite all-time television shows?

There are so many. That’s the thing nowadays, there is just so much good television. I just got to do a small part in Twin Peaks. I love Twin Peaks and I’m so excited about the reboot. I love Bloodline. I just finished season three, the finale, and I love that shows. [pauses] Gosh, I don’t know. There is just so many good shows. I loved Breaking Bad. I love The Path on Hulu. There’s just so much great television now that it’s hard to get around to watching it all, but you’re never at a loss for something to find or to start a new series.

Our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us so what do you “nerd out” over?

That’s a great question. I don’t know if this is “nerding out” because it’s not in the typical sense. But I totally nerd out over Drew Barrymore. Since I was a little kid, I love everything about Drew Barrymore. I used to look like her when we were around the same age, three or four, and then when she did Firestarter and I nerd out about everything regarding her. I don’t care if she was reading the phone book. I would watch it, and buy the DVD, and watch it 78 million times until I had it all memorized. I just love her.

So you would go see anything she’s in no matter what?

Anything she does, no matter what. If she was in, like, a dog food commercial, I would watch it over and over again until I knew every inch of it. I’m obsessed with her in a healthy way.

ATX Roundtable Interview with I. Marlene King, Lisa Cochran and Cameron Dale

Interview, Pop Culture, Television

This article was originally written for Talk Nerdy With Us.

Talk Nerdy had the chance to participate in a roundtable with Pretty Little Liars and Famous in Love executive producer, I. Marlene King, co-executive producer, Lisa Cochran, and costume designer, Cameron Dale, at this year’s ATX Television Festival. They talked about Pretty Little Liars coming to an end after seven seasons on the air, the transition to Famous in Love and more. Check out their responses below.

When your first started the show, were you expecting the response from fans all over the world? 

I. Marlene King: I think we were hoping for it. And we sort of had a sense on social media, even before the show aired, that it had gotten people’s attention. Young women especially. I don’t think we thought seven years later that we would be here and that fans all over the world would be excited about this finale we have coming up.

Lisa Cochran: When we started, it felt right, it felt like it had legs. We think it is going to entertain. But for some reason, it took off and for all the right reasons. Then Marlene decided that Twitter is this thing. She took my phone on set one day and [she] put me on Twitter. It blew up all over internationally and…because all of a sudden you start seeing all of the responses in several different languages. You also realize that TBH are referencing several different geographical regions, and you realize, “I think this is bigger than we know it to be.”

Marlene: I remember the first time…I think it was Shay [Mitchell] and Lucy [Hale] went to Brazil and we saw that footage and it was like The Beatles had arrived to town.

How long have you guys been planning this version of the finale?

Marlene: Originally the show was going to be five seasons, but I think it was during our third season, it was still such a big hit that the network and the studio called me after a premiere and said, “figure out how to make this 7 seasons.” So we had four years to plan for this basically. We didn’t know the real ending ending until this season began. I always know the ending of each season before I know the beginning. I think I called you, Lisa, and said, “I want to make this two hours. Let’s figure out how to do that.” And we did.

Lisa: And we start there and then go backwards to make sure she [Marlene] ties it all in together. And then we see it coming.

Marlene: And for me, I think because it’s two hours, if you ask me what you wish you could have done in a finale it’s always have more time. So this is really a movie, it’s a movie.

As we head into the finale, it seems like the girls keep digging themselves into a deeper and deeper hole each week. And it kind of feels like you guys are running out of episodes to get them out of the hole. So we are we going to see them have any hope in the penultimate episode or is it going to be like they are in the dark until the finale? 

Marlene: They’re not in the dark. This is a unique season for us because the second to last episode, the penultimate episode, really feels like a finale. A lot gets wrapped up in that episode. So in the finale, there is a big chance for the characters to breathe and experience real life before the poop hits the fan.

Cameron Dale: The finale is like a movie, really.

Lisa: You had a lot on your plate for that.

Cameron: There’s a big a event that happens. I’m always on the phone like, “give me a heads up! Give me a heads up!” It’s really secretive even, when you work on the show, so I was always trying to get info from Marlene.

Marlene: We’ve said there are two weddings, at least, this season. Cameron was right away on that. Because something like a wedding dress needs to be really special. That’s something that takes a lot of planning in advance.

Based on that, how was it to dress these women, who you’ve worked with for seven years? Their styles have ever led, and now you’re planning their weddings practically. 

Cameron: I came on season six. So I came on, basically, when we jumped forward. Which was a really nice time for me to come on, because I can establish new looks. They’re adults now. They’re kind of in their careers and where they lived. So it was a really special.

Marlene: And it was really guided. We had conversations like we had with Mandi Line in the pilot, because it was really reestablishing, well, how would Aria look five years later as a young professional? Many discussions were had about that. Cameron did a great job.

Cameron: And Lucy had great input and obviously Marlene was the first person that I spoke to about it. It was really fun to see the girls jump forward. I think that was really special to see in a show with such loyal fans, getting to see —

Marlene: I’ll go out on a limb too [and say] my favorite age-up was Spencer. I just felt like her look was so Katherine Hepburn, it was out of some great, empowered, black-and-white, 1940s movie.

Cameron: And Troian is so thoughtful about everything she does, so she had a lot of input about it too.

Lisa: Well they’ve all grown, haven’t they? They’ve all grown into realize that, just because when they were younger they wanted to dress the way they were as individuals, but as characters, they grew into that. And I think they really wanted to protect that character and they really worked with you [Cameron] on that.

This question was originally about the series finale, but it now might be about the penultimate episode. It is very direct: how many people will die?

Marlene: Oh my god. [laughs] I have to think back, because my PLL brain has died. [pauses] I think that episode is more about answers than death.

Any deaths in the series finale?

Marlene: I’m keeping real mum about that, because I don’t want to mess anything up with this final moment. It’s exciting and big, I’ll say. Very big.

Since this is season seven and there have been so many episodes, I was curious whether or not you have encountered a specific instance, where you wanted to do a specific storyline, and you realized something [you did] earlier messed that up? Did you have to re-think things in these last few seasons?

Marlene: A lot of shows have this thing called a bible, where it is all of their episodes put into sort of this bible that they can go back and reference [what happens]. So much happens in every episode of PLL that our bible would be as big as this room [laughs]. So our bible was the people. The same people stayed in that writers room, assistants became writers, we promoted from within, which I’m very proud of. And I think the bible kept us safe, the bible meaning the people. We would all ask each other, in all of our collectiveness, we would all say, “We did that. We can’t do that again.” We would catch ourselves, because we the people were the checks and balances. And also the studio and network were very helpful because we all had PLL brain.

Lisa: I really think the people on our show are big fans of our show, because we are our own research source. I mean, I think because we have all been there for so long we will say, “Oh, no, no, no. Season three. We can’t do that or you at least have to address this conflict and then you can move on with that idea.”

Marlene: But in terms of answering your question, I think there were…it would be like Page and Emily, for example. Paige tried to drown Emily. But then we say to ourselves, “We kind of like their chemistry together.” And even though Paige tried to drown her, we redeem Paige so that these two can have some moments together. And I feel like that was something we were kind of good at. If we did somehow write ourselves into a corner with a character being a villain, then we would work really hard to redeem that character so they could have a different storyline.

Lisa: And moving forward in time helped us, because everyone’s life had moved on in the show. We were able to age people up, change them.

I’ve noticed a correlation between young women who are obsessed with true crime in real life, that their gateway was watching Pretty Little Liars. So maybe you can talk a little bit about making it okay for people?

Marlene: Well I’ve been obsessed with Serial. Serial was a great mystery and I think at the end of the day Pretty Little Liars works on many levels. But I think when we realized when we revealed Toby was on the ‘A’ team, it was our most shocking reveal on the series to date, and fans loved it, we were then like, “Okay. They want to be scared, they want romance, and they want to be surprised.” And I feel like that’s the true crime element of it all. You want to be surprised, you want to figure it out, you want to put the pieces of the puzzle together. So I get that those two things kind of go hand in hand.

Lisa: You train the brain to realize that anything is possible at that point. If Toby can be momentarily a bad boy, then anything is possible.

Marlene: And maybe it helps girls to realize possible bad boys not to date.

I’m curious about the transition from Pretty Little Liars to Famous in Love. Obviously, the last season of Pretty Little Liars is happening at the same time that the first season of Famous of Love is happening. So I’m curious to know what the transition between the two was like?

Marlene: Well it was the best of times and it was the worst of times. It was so sad to say goodbye to Pretty Little Liars. And although all three of us worked on both shows, the last ten episodes of PLL overlapped with the first ten episodes of Famous. It was very bittersweet. I think it saved us all from so much sadness, but we knew we had this thing that we were saying goodbye to. It was a tremendous amount of work because were were giving 100 percent to both shows. But, I don’t know how you guys feel in hindsight, even though it was a tremendous amount of work, it was good timing in the sense that we had something to look forward to.

Lisa: I mean, Cam, you are sort of putting to bed a show that these characters and everyone have grown into expecting and knowing where you were going with them. Then you have to understand that was Rosewood, that was our fantasy world. Then you moved everything into LA, Hollywood.

Marlene: A real world.

Lisa: That is different, in terms of your designing.

Cameron: It was wildly different, the two shows. Even just going onto set, it was kind of mournful on Pretty Little Liars, sad. I was pregnant [at the time] so I would go to that set and everyone would be crying and then I would just start crying even though I was new, relative to everyone. Then you go to Famous in Love and everyone is just brand new and the actors are so excited. They were next door to each other, so I would just hop over and it was wildly different energies, but both wonderful. We all did give 100 percent to both, but just hard.

Marlene: I think it was a true testament to how women can multi-task. I don’t think we get enough credit for it. As a working mom, you know how to have ten balls in the air and figure out how to get it done.

Lisa: I don’t think enough people understood that, for that amount of time, we had five sound stages at Warner Brothers, we had two full shooting companies that were working simultaneously every day. It was almost like a compound. Then, on random days, we would have double-booked days. There is a weird moment where there is clarity, where you sit there and you tune into the thing that needs the most. Then you make sure that’s fine and you go to the other. There also was a great difference between the two because one was concluding and one was starting. Therefore it’s not the same, so you really could absolutely define your feelings about them and you could move from one to the other and you knew how much you had to give this one. You would go [to PLL] and the girls would be like, “Where have you been? On that other stage?” [laughs]. We would laugh and say, “Yes, maybe, but I’m here now.” [laughs]. We knew what we were getting into, but I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Marlene: But the girls were mensches too.

Lisa: They were wonderful.

Marlene: I give them so much respect. When we were in New York for the season premiere of Pretty Little Liars and the series premiere of Famous in Love, we were going to do a Twitter party with the girls live at 8:00 and with the Famous cast at 9:00. The PLL girls stayed to help promote that show and not many people would do that. What a great cast. It was like this passing of the torch to this new show. It was their goodbye and then hello, saying they were moving on.

With working on a first season show again, is there anything you forgot about it?

Marlene: It’s hard. [laughs] It’s like birthing a baby. You forget it. Whether your seven seasons in or four seasons in, people know, the girls know their characters, the writers know the characters, Lisa knows how to get it done on our schedule. It’s birthing a brand new baby.

Lisa: Cause it’s different. There is no version of the shows being seen. We’re very happy about both shows. We couldn’t be happier about this new one, but we have to be sure it’s given every ounce that it’s given for the show that it is. It is it’s own show, so we want to make sure that the talent feels that, we want to make sure that they feel it coming from Cam, and from Marlene, and from us, from production. To keep them aware of it.

Marlene: And they were sweet, too. There was one night when I was directing the finale of PLL and I was starving. The other show got pizza and I had seen Carter Jenkins, who plays Rainer on the new show. I was like, “You got pizza?” and he was like, “Yeah.” Then five minutes later, he’s at my set with a pizza for me. So they were really sweet too, very generous.

Lisa: It was the best of an outcome that you could imagine being thrown into.

You guys did something very interesting with the Famous in Love premiere by launching it all at the same time. Is that something you wish you could have done with a season of Pretty Little Liars?

Marlene: That was seven years ago, so it was a different time. Twitter was new and creating this event, worldwide, even if you live in a country where you could watch PLL live, you were on Twitter, tweeting with your American friends or your friends wherever it was airi,ng.

Lisa: And you were finding it online. That was the crazy part.

Marlene: It was a giant, world-wide party we had every night and I think that’s the thing with binging that you don’t get. It’s people finding at their own time, that’s modern convience.

Lisa: It’s a different world today, too. I think what we did then felt right.

Marlene: Still now, with these last three episodes, more people are finding the show live again. My hope is that we get a lot of people to watch that finale, so we get that experience again of this giant community seeing something end, like we saw it come to life.

Right now revivals and reboots seem to be the big thing, like every five minutes. Do you guys see Pretty Little Liars one day coming back? Does the series finale leave room for that?

Marlene: I hope someday, because it’s really hard to say goodbye to these characters. So I think of Gilmore Girls or shows like that, where a long time goes by, people go away and find another passion, and then we find a way to come back together. That would be my ultimate goal.

Lisa: I think our girls, our cast, have sort of just started tapping into the fact that, “Oh my gosh. That was something that you don’t necessarily have all the time.” So if time goes by, and there is an interest in it, I would love to see those girls land together, sitting around with a cup of coffee, at a coffee shop, and take it for another brief ride. I think the girls would fall right into it.

Marlene: Eventually. Not right away. They deserve a break. They are all so wildly talented. Everybody who worked on the show…we felt as if we sent them off into the world and we’re all excited to see what they do next.

Lisa: I also think that. There is…note that I would love for it to get out there…when we scheduled the finale, I want everyone to understand that it was so important that the last shot, of the last day of the finale, the girls asked if it could be a scene where they were all together. To me it spoke volumes about the show in the end. Seven years later, the last shot was all the girls together. You [Marlene] were directing and we said, “That’s a wrap.” It was amazing. That video is on Instagram, it’s out there.

Marlene: We were a mess.

Lisa: It was a mess, but it was also the best night. It was really a great night. I think what you see in those videos is what that show was. You can see how the girls wanted to end. I give them credit for asking that in the end. Can this be the last thing? When you schedule a show, someone may finish on day 2, day 5, whatever day it is. This was important to them, and I thought it was important to Marlene, and I thought it was important to the cast, and the crew also wanted to be with the same group. So we all ended together.

Marlene: And it’s funny, because we have this thing called video village, and it’s where the director is, and you’ve got the monitors, and there is usually five people at video village, but it started out and the people there were there until the bitter end. People didn’t have to come, but word spread and people just started coming. It was 10 people, and then it was 20 people, and then it was 50 people. I don’t know how many it ultimately was, but by the time we wrapped it was a sea of people who came. Directors [from the past]. People just wanted to be a part of that moment because they knew it was something very iconic.

Lisa: It was the right way to do it.

Cameron: But it was rare. Shows aren’t like this. I came into it and I entered into a family. And it’s because of you two, really. You fostered it. I joined a family and I felt so welcome; and it wasn’t like I was just kind of stepping in and stepping out. It was really a family, and all the girls, it’s just so rare. No other project, television or movie, comes close to the feeling of family between the cast and crew.

 

Exclusive Interview with Sun Records’ Jennifer Holland

Interview, Pop Culture, Television

This article was originally written for Talk Nerdy With Us.

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“Sun Records” is CMT’s first original scripted drama series and tells the true story of Sun Records, a record label in 1950’s Memphis. Started by Sam Phillips, the record label went on to become a legendary rock-and-roll institution. Talk Nerdy With Us recently got the chance to talk to one of the shows’ stars, Jennifer Holland. Jennifer talked about how she got into acting, her character, Becky Phillips, and her nerdy love of astronomy and theoretical physics.

Tell me about how you got into acting.

I started acting in high school. Actually, I started acting in middle school; I was doing plays. Then, in high school, I got into the drama program. There was also a film program at my high school so we were making short little films. At that time I thought I wanted to be an architect, that’s what I thought I was going to be doing with my life. I was very studious. I loved math, but was also very artistic. I would draw and paint a lot. I was also always very interested in architecture and architectural photography, so I thought it would be a great thing for me to go into. But then I took a drafting class when I was doing my pre-college courses in high school, and I realized that it was just not what I wanted to do. Architecture these days is really just sitting in front of a computer entering numbers; a very small amount of architects ever want to do anything creative. So I was looking for something that filled that creative part of myself, and I was in drama at the time and realized it was something that I loved to do. When I was in gymnastics as a kid I think I had gotten the taste of what it is like to perform in front of an audience and what it felt like to get the instant gratification of making someone feel something. So I think I already had a taste of performance in that way and it just sort of extended when I went into drama programs at school.

Then I met some agents and managers, they came up to Florida at the time and I met with some people, including the person who would become my manager at the time, and he was sort of like, “Hey, come out to Los Angeles for pilot season.” And I was like, “What’s pilot season? I don’t know what that means.” So I moved to LA when I was pretty young.

What was your first professional acting job?

Oh my gosh. I don’t know. [laughs]

Were you still in high school?

I was not. At that point I had gotten my GED. I finished my high school courses online and had gotten my GED when I was 17. I think I worked my first acting job around that time, I don’t remember how old I was. I think my first real acting job was either on this [Nickelodeon] TV show called “Drake and Josh” or this movie I did called “The Sisterhood,” which was like this low-budget indie, sort-of…I don’t want to call it a horror film…because I think it was supposed to be a horror film, but was really just this weird, sexy drama. It was a very odd film about vampires, but it’s not very scary. We filmed that in the Caribbean. There was this production company that was making all of these films and they were filming them all in the Caribbean. So I did a couple of things with them early, early in my career. So I got to Caribbean and hang out on the beach while I filmed these crazy little movies that I did.

What would you say is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

Someone once told me that there is a lot of bad advice in Hollywood…a lot of people want to give you a lot of bad advice…so to stay grounded and take everything with a grain of salt,  take what works for you and throw away the rest.

If you gave advice to an aspiring actor, would that be the advice you gave them or would you tell them something else? 

Sure. I would probably say that to any aspiring actor, because I think it’s very true. There are a lot people, I’m sure in any business that you get into in life, who have their own interests in mind. They don’t necessarily have your best interests in mind, and no one is going to believe in you as much as you believe in yourself, and no one is going to put you first, you have to do that for yourself. You really have to be in touch with your own needs and your own desires and definitely listen to everything people say, but also just take it in. I think that it’s really easy to get discouraged, and it’s also easy to get lost, because opinions are, excuse my French, but like assholes; everyone has one. Just because someone has an opinion about something doesn’t mean they are necessarily right. There is not one way to do this business. A lot of people come at it from different angles and a lot of people are still successful regardless of the fact that they came at it from different angles. So I think that in this business you just have to find what works best for you. There’s not a path like there generally is for a lot of other professions you go into. A lot of other professions you start at a ground level and work your way up and it’s sort of like a step by step process. It doesn’t really work that way in this business. So, yeah, I think I would use that as part of what I might say to an aspiring actor.

I think some other advice that I got early on in my career, that I think is also very true, is that this career is not for everyone. And you might go into it thinking that it’s what you really want to do, but you should be open to finding out that it’s not really what you want to do. Don’t get stuck thinking you have to stay in this business, just because at one time you went after it. People get stuck thinking, “Oh, if I quit, then I’m a failure.” But some people just find out that this isn’t what they want to do with their life. They actually start working as an actor, or in the entertainment industry, and realize, “This isn’t what I thought it was going to be. This is way harder than I thought it was going to be. You mean I’m not going to be famous?” You have to be open to the fact that, maybe, it’s not what you want to do and that you’re not stuck doing it.

Our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us, so I always like to ask the question: what brings out your inner nerd? What do you “nerd out” over?

I love role-playing video games. As a kid I really got into this computer video game. I’m not so much into shooter video games, or anything like that, but I like things where you sort of have to figure out what’s going on, sort of like a mystery-suspense sort of thing. I’m a little nerdy about that.

I also get, more than anything else, super, super nerdy about the universe and space. I’m really into astronomy and astrophysics, and I get really into theoretical physics and the different theories people have about what’s out there and how we came about and all of those sorts of things. I just get really excited when I learn, and talk about, the different possibilities about the things we don’t know about our universe and where we live, because we live on this planet which is so small in the scheme of where we are in this universe that we know nothing about. That really gets me so excited. I think, had I gone into something else in my life and had taken a completely different path, that I would have done something related to astronomy or theoretical physics, anything in that realm. It gets me giddy inside.

Moving on to talk about “Sun Records,” what can you tell audiences about the series?

The show takes place in Memphis in the 1950s. It’s about a famous music producer named Sam Phillips who discovered and created and recorded some of the most iconic artists in American history, like Elvis and Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ike Turner, Carl Perkins, BB King, all of these incredible artists who started the birth of rock and roll. That’s basically what the story is about. You know, it takes place in a time in history when we were going through the civil rights movement and that also plays a part in our story.

What was the audition process like for the show?

My agent sent me the audition. I was sort of in and out of Atlanta, because my boyfriend was filming a role there at the time. So I put in a tape and sent it off to casting, because I was not in town. I put it on tape in the living room and my friend helped me read the audition; I knew nothing about it. I didn’t receive a script. I had no idea what the story was about. All I basically had were my lines for my scenes that I had. All I knew was kind of who they had written my character to be, at the time, and a very small portion of who she was. I didn’t know very much.

Then, they liked me for it. When I was in Atlanta they asked me if I would be able to make it to Memphis for a day to meet with the producers there. So I was able to do that, and I met with them, and did sort of a callback. It went great and, as I was on my plane back to Atlanta, they were like, “Can you stay and meet with the network people at CMT?” And I was like, “I can’t, I’m already on the plane.” [laughs] So I sort of flew away hoping that didn’t ruin it for me. But it didn’t. I found out, a little while later, that they wanted me for the role.

When I first read the sides I told my friend that I was working on the audition with that I had no idea why I was even reading for this, no one is ever going to let me play this role. Because, up until this point, I haven’t had a whole lot of opportunity to play women who are not outwardly very sexy and modern in that way. It just didn’t seem like it would be something that anyone would let me play. But they did.

How would you describe your character Becky Phillips?

Who Becky was as a person, in real life, is a little bit different than the way she is depicted in our story, for dramatic purposes obviously; you do have to take some creative control and do things to make the story a little more dramatic. So who she was as a person was…she started working in radio when she was in her teens. She was a career woman, she was a hard-worker. She also had a beautiful voice, she was a singer in her own right. And that’s how she and Sam met. They met while she was working in radio, at a radio station she was working at. She maintained her own career through a lot of her life. She did become a caretaker to Sam. There are a lot of parts of our story that are true, which are that Sam had some mental issues and he was crazy-pants. He was kind of a crazy guy. She was his caretaker and his support system and she was also a strong mother. A lot of those parts of the story are shown in the way that we depict her in the story.

Also, the way she’s used in our story, it’s really important to tell the story of what women were going through at that time. Women were still stuck to the stereotype that women don’t work; they stay at home and are home keepers and facilitate a man’s life and take a backseat to men. So that’s the way Becky is used in our story. She struggles with the fact that she does have her own desires, and she does want to have her own career and break out of the mold that she’s in, even though she’s still stuck there.

But really she is a caretaker, she is a mother and a wife. I think that her concern for her husband’s health and well-being trumps her understanding of his creative desires. She knows what he needs and wants is to work, to have this music studio, but the stress of it is causing him a lot of mental issues. So she is trying to balance giving him what he wants while still having a healthy husband.

Would you say Becky is similar or different, and in what ways, than the person that Jennifer is?

I think she’s really similar to me in that I became very independent at a very young age. I grew up in a family where there was a lot of alcoholism and I went in a completely different direction than that, because I didn’t want to see myself have the same struggles that I saw in my family a lot. So I’ve never drank or done drugs or anything like that in my entire life. I didn’t really make a conscious decision to do that. I think it just never became attractive to me, because I saw how badly it was in my family life. Because of all of that I became a caretaker to a lot people in my family, a lot of people who were older than me, and I became very mature at a very young age. I started working at a very young age, at 15 years old. So those are ways in which we’re very similar as people. She’s the same way; she’s the strength and she is sometimes the voice of reason.

I think we’re also very different, because I am a completely different person than Becky. Becky is stifled, and she is very politically correct, and she’s sort of inside of her shell, like she hasn’t broken out of her shell. I’m very opinionated, and I curse a lot, and not a whole lot embarrasses me as a person, and I have a crazy sense of humor. So those are some of the ways that we’re different. I think some of the most challenging things for me were having to step out of that part of myself which is strong and opinionated and not shy.

I’m sure it’s always interesting to be involved in something that’s based off of real life. How did you go about researching your role? Were you familiar with the story of Sun Records before reading the script?

I wasn’t familiar with it at all. I hate to admit that, but it’s true. Of course I know who Elvis and Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis and who all of those incredible artists are and I’ve seen some of their stories. Like of course Johnny Cash’s story has been told many times and I knew a bit about Elvis. But no, I didn’t know anything about Sam Phillips or Sun Record, or that all of these people knew each other and that they came together. I didn’t know any of those parts of the story, so I really had to do a lot of research. When I started researching, I mean, thank God we are living in the information age and I was just able to go online and just start searching articles and things like that. And I read, there’s a book, a biography on Sam Phillips by Peter Guralnick that I read, which is nice because he talks a little bit about Becky in there.

There’s not a whole lot that you can find on Becky Phillips, which is so interesting because she did a lot in her life, especially as a woman in the 1950s. She and Sam started the first all-woman radio station in the country called WHER in Memphis. And in the 50s, I mean for today’s standards I think that’s really ballsy, but back then that’s unheard of, especially in radio. That was such a male-dominated profession. So the fact that I never heard anything about these people is shocking to me. And it’s really cool that we are telling this story, in a narrative way, sort of before anyone else has really taken it on. A lot of people have told parts of this story before, but we’re kind of the first people to be telling Sam Phillips’ story, and the whole story of Memphis in the 1950s, which is really cool.

So yeah, I did a lot of research, read as much as I could about Becky. You can find a couple clips of her when she was a radio personality, but mostly later in life, not too many from early on. Then, one of the coolest things was, when we were in Memphis, we got to meet Jerry Phillips, who is Becky and Sam’s real-life son, one of their sons. He currently runs Sam Phillips Studio in Memphis, which is Sam’s second studio that he opened, and he gave us a tour of that studio. After, we got the chance to sit in the middle of this big living room in the studio and kind of pick his brain, because he was a kid when our story is being told. Throughout his whole life, he knew all of these characters, even Dewey Phillips, who plays the shock-jock radio personality, who was sort of the first one in America. He knew all of these people, he met all of these people, and of course he knew Becky and Sam. So getting to pick his brain was one of the coolest experiences honestly I’ve ever had. We take a lot of artistic liberties in our story, but at the same time there is a sense of responsibility when you’re playing real people in history to still take them into consideration, who they were and their memories. Because, there is a chance, should our show become very popular, that we could be affecting in some way, no matter how big or small, the memory of these people who lived.

CMT has really started to step up their game in terms of  adding a lot of great original programming. Can you talk about what it’s like being a part of this change and being a part of the greater CMT family?

So far, getting to work with CMT, in general, has been kind of a treat. As a network, I feel that they are less stuffy than a lot of other networks may be. It just feels like we’ve been welcomed into a family. There is sort of this down-to-earth quality that I’ve been feeling getting to work with CMT. And it just sort of feels like being welcomed into a family, if that makes any sense. Jayson Dinsmore, who is one of the top producers at CMT, we saw him a lot and just was very supportive of us while we were on set and filming. So the experience with them has been very positive.

And also, I feel like it has been sort of a challenge for me, being part of this show during this turning point with CMT’s programming, they’re rebranding themselves in a way, and expanding themselves, and they’re in this turning point with their network, and I think that, because of that, and because we are their first original scripted drama, I mean they’ve had “Nashville,” which they acquired from another network, and they’ve had their scripted 30-minute comedy, which was an original program for them, but we’re their first original scripted drama, and because of that there is a lot of pressure in succeeding for them, being a success for them so that they can really kickstart their original dramatic programming. So I feel like there is some pressure there for us, but they have also been so supportive of us that it just feels really exciting to be a part of this turning point in their network. Hopefully we get to be a part of their network for a much longer period of time. But, if not, still getting the opportunity to be a part of their network, and be a part of this change that they are going through, has been really exciting.

And while I say it has been a lot of stress, they haven’t been putting a lot of stress on us. When I say they aren’t stuffy like a lot of the networks I’m sure can be, they haven’t been feeling cold and business-like. They’ve been nothing but welcoming.

Someone on Twitter wanted me to ask you about the cast. The cast is full of a lot of extremely talented actors, both really well-known and unknown. What it is like working with all of them?

I’ve done so many interviews where I say the same thing, but it’s really true. Here’s what can happen if you have such a huge ensemble cast and you go off to a foreign location, and by foreign I mean not Los Angeles, and you’re stuck in this place with all of these people for a long period of time: it can be rough, because people don’t always get along and there are all of these different personalities in such a large group of people. So it can be a weird experience. But we got so incredibly lucky, because everyone is just so down-to-earth and so cool. Even the people we have on our cast like Keir O’Donnell or Billy Gardell or even Chad [Michael Murray]. I mean they’ve been around forever, and have worked on huge projects, and have really got a big resume behind them. They could have been sort of dismissive of the rest of the cast, but they weren’t at all. They were so friendly. We hung out together, when we were in Memphis, all of the time. We played, a lot of the bars in Memphis have outdoor areas where you can play darts or corn hole, we played poker a lot together, we had barbecues on Sundays with some of the cast and crew, and we just kind of became a big family in Memphis, which is just such a great experience.

It just kind of felt like going to summer camp or something like that. While we’re all working really hard, and it’s a semi-low budget production, because we’re not on a huge network, so we only have a limited budget to work with for all eight episodes, and so we’re working really hard, and long hours and crazy schedules, but at the same time [I was] around some of the coolest people, and everyone was so supportive, and we got together and ran lines with each other and rehearsed with each other. Everyone was awesome, just down to the twins who play Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart, Christian Lees and Jonah Lees. I mean they came out here from London and they are just so smart and they’re young, but still so mature and just the coolest guys. My co-star Margaret Ann [Florence], who plays the other female lead on the show, is such a freaking nice person. I mean she’s so cool and there was no cliques. We had Dustin Ingram, who plays Carl Perkins, come in really, really late in our shooting. We were almost done shooting, because he comes in so late in the show, and so we all had already had all of these experiences in Memphis and it would be so easy to come in and feel ousted from the group or somehow separate, but he was just part of the group and welcomed in. It was such a unique experience if for no other reason, and I mean there are a millions reasons, I would love to go back to Memphis and shoot another season with them. We’ve all continued to be friends [after wrapping] and we watch the show together on Thursday nights and live-tweet with fans and stuff like that.

Your show is based around and features a lot of music. What type of music do you listen to? Who are some of your favorite musical artists and/or bands?

There is not really a genre specifically that I listen to. I’ve recently gotten into this artist called Daughter. And then there is this artist called Wet that I’m really into. And then Khalid, his new album called “American Teen” I’m really into. And then Ed Sheeran’s new album is really good. He’s really interesting, because I feel all of his albums are sort of, they each have their own sort of feel. With this album, I feel that there are some country influences to the album, but I don’t want to say that he is a country person. There is this thing that country music has, this down-to-earth vibe, that seems to have seeped into this new album. So those are the artists I’m into right now.

The series is currently only scheduled for eight episodes. Do you think there might be more to come? What can fans expect in the few episodes left to air?

Well, as far as what fans can expect for the last couple of episodes, it gears up in the last two episodes and picks up speed and a lot of things happen and change for the characters. We had a short amount of episodes to tell a story for season one and to get to the place we needed to get to for season one. So there’s a lot about to happen in the next couple of episodes and a lot of the characters’ stories are heating up. We’re going to see some more Elvis in the studio and some more drama. I can’t say too much beyond that.

As far as whether we will get picked up for another season or not, again I can’t really say anything either. I think we all really have high hopes. I’ve heard that the network is very happy with how things have been going. But, there is no guarantees on either side. So what we really need is just to keep our audience, to have people continue to tune and show their support as much as they can. So far we’ve had a really loyal audience; we’ve been able to sustain our audience regardless of the fact that we lost our lead-in, which was “Nashville,” and we’ve still kept out audience. So if we can keep them, and continue to build the audience, that would be fantastic. Everyone keep their fingers crossed. I think we will be hearing, one way or another, very soon.

“Sun Records” airs Thursday nights at 10 pm on CMT.

Exclusive Interview with Actress Laura Linda Bradley (Part 2)

Interview, Pop Culture, Television

This post was originally written for Talk Nerdy With Us. 

Screen-Shot-2016-12-08-at-8.59.42-PM

Credit: Linda Bradley Photography

Let’s talk about your series. For people who don’t know about it, how would you describe The Laura Show?

I would say that it is a young SNL [esque], female-driven comedy. It is all girl power. We objectify men the way that women have been objectified for ages. We poke fun at dating and social media and [really look at it and] say “This is how we date now? This is how we communicate and interact with each other?” So we slow it down and give a voice to the insanity that is our life.

That was something that made me happy as the show started airing, people would come up to me and tell me, “that is so real. I made my boyfriend start watching this so he could see what girls were like when he isn’t around.” It’s not supposed to be the reality. It is all fully-scripted, but it’s meant to be relatable. I want people, when they watch the show, to think, “Oh that’s me and my friends” or “that was my best friend in college. She used to do that, and it was hilarious.” That kind of thing. I want people to recognize the people from their lives in the characters on the show that we have created. And that makes me really happy when that happens.

Yes. I was describing my two favorite sketches from Season 1 to my roommate before we did this interview. One is the Modern Day Fairytale one, where you guys are scrolling through Tinder, and the other is the Post-Breakup Social Media War. I laugh out loud everytime I watch them.

Yes. I love those. One of my favorite ones still to this day is, we nicknamed it “Peaches and Wine” but I think we called it “Two Broke Girls,” and it was myself and my best friend in real life Ashley, who is also one of the series regulars on the show. [The whole sketch] is just us, sitting on the couch, eating frozen fruit, wearing our yoga pants with our hair in topknots, talking about boys, just shooting the breeze and just being completely real. It’s literally two girls sitting on a couch talking [laughs]. But, it’s entertaining because when you stop and listen to it, you realize, “oh my gosh. That’s my life. Did they spy on my life? That’s me and my girlfriends; that’s what we do.” I think everybody’s life is really funny. I just went on a trip with one of my girlfriends this weekend in San Francisco for a charity event, and if people didn’t take their lives so seriously, they would be highly entertained.

Off the inspiration thing, you take things from your own life. Do your cast mates get input in the ideas behind the sketches?

Where it has melded into, I’ve put friends onto the show, the one who are actors that I’ve been friends with for years, and then there are actors who I was friendly with and respected but have become better friends with them through the show. So I think because it is such a friendly, home environment, I mean we talk all the time. We’re always texting and on the phone [with each other]. So things will come up, just naturally in our conversations and I’ll be like, “Can I just jot that down quickly?” or “Can you just pause your story?” I’m constantly trying to be a sponge in my day to day life but also trying to be respectful. I don’t want people to be like “she’s only my friend because I provide inspiration for that show.” [laughs]

What is the writing process like? Do you write each episode one at a time or do you write them together?

I write as the season progresses so that I learn our new actors’ strengths and so that I can start writing towards that. For one example, one of our actors last year had two expressions, and he would say them in his jest, natural lingo when he was talking. As I started writing, I started writing with him in mind, unconscious and unaware that I was doing it. I think the actors enjoy it because several of them came back to me and were like, “oh my gosh. You wrote that special for me.” It’s much easier to write with an actor in mind rather than trying to write a character and then meld an actor with that.

Describe the shooting process. How long does it take you to film one episode?

Last season, we did things a little bit differently. This season we are shooting three episodes at a time. Just because we have certain actors, I would say four of our actors are currently on other TV shows, or they are actively auditioning. With that, we shoot about two to three sketches in a day. We shoot very quickly. Last season we had two soap actors on, and they were like, “you shoot faster than a soap opera,” [laughs] which I haven’t been on a soap opera but they are notorious for being super, super fast. We normally have ten hour days, and we film here in LA. We’re branching out from the locations we were shooting in last season too.

How many episodes are in a season?

We had 25 episodes last season, and it was too much [laughs]. Being a perfectionist, the better that the show got and the more press that it got, I was like “well I have the ideas. Let’s film it. Let’s keep the season going.” This season we’re doing 15 episodes. It’s more manageable. It’s still a sizable season.

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Credit: Stephanie Leonard

You and your castmates have such great chemistry. How did you go about casting the other actors? Were they friends of yours? Do you have a casting director that found them?

Everyone that was on last season I had either worked with prior or they had come personally vetted from someone I had worked with previously. So there were several people who I knew socially that were actors, and then there were ones that I had choreographed for them in a musical, but I had seen their acting, and I had worked with them, so I knew how their minds worked. That’s one thing that’s tricky about being friends with your cast mates because I have to constantly be switching hats between Laura the friend, Laura the fellow actor, and Laura the director [laughs]. It takes a very special kind of actor to then differentiate those three hats and roles that I have to slip into.

Now that you have one season behind you, what lessons did you learn and how are you applying them to this season? Any lessons that you wish you had known at the beginning?

As an actor, I would say that I learned that you have to take time for yourself as an artist and not be rushed. There were times last season where I felt rushed because I was trying to be respectful of everyone’s time and to be sure things kept on schedule. It was hard to keep that balance. This summer, I tried to work on that. At the end of the day, I’m doing this show because I love it but also because it’s an excellent vehicle to showcase me, my acting, my writing, and my comedy. So that was something I learned as an actor, to take the time for myself and slow down.

I also learned that sometimes people are getting tired on set and, this is more from a creator point of view, you have to make sure that your cast is having fun. We have a sign now that we put up every day on whichever set were at that says, “Are you having fun?” If you are having a good time in a scene, that is going to live and breathe and survive through the footage and through the screen or monitor whenever anyone is watching it. That is something we try to live and die by now on the show. If everyone can’t say that they had fun, then we are going to roll again and do another take at it.

Lastly, as a writer, I learned that it can always be tighter and better. A mentor of mine put it really well. He said, “TV and movies are life with all of the boring parts cut out.” Last season, learning my footing in writing, I was writing in a very conversational way, which I liked, but sometimes it had a lag to it, and I could have trimmed the fat off it a little bit more. This season, all of the scripts have gone through three or four trims and proofings and punching up the jokes. I have a goal of always trying to beat the page and get more jokes on there.

What can fans expect from Season 2?

There is obviously the whole dating dynamics and the whole girlfriend-friendship comedy aspect. No characters that you saw last season are coming back, like the “smoking hot” characters. We’re not going to come back and try to replicate the magic.

We’re having Matt Rozel, who just finished his run on Broadway in “Les Mis,” come back and join the cast in a more full-time position which is nice.

This season, we are also taking on the Real Housewives franchise, and we are going to destroy it [laughs]. It’s going to be called “Real Housewives All-Stars” but we are not portraying one cast. We are portraying a fictional character that I’ve created that embodies the entire franchise with one woman. One woman will represent Atlanta, one will represent Beverly Hills, one will represent OC, one will represent New York, and one will represent New Jersey. It has been a beast to work on, but it’s going to be amazing the way that it is coming together and the way that it is looking.  

What do you want viewers to get out of watching The Laura Show?

There is so much negativity and violence in the world. Everybody needs a laugh; everyone needs something that can brighten their day or their week. So I hope that people watching the show are affected in a positive way. I hope that it brings a smile to their face. I hope it is something they want to send over to their friends, one because it made them happy but two because it reminded them of someone. I want it to be like old comedies of the “Friends” generation where it’s entertaining; it’s fun, it made people happy. I also hope that it teaches people not to take themselves quite so seriously. We could all be reminded of that sometimes.

Finally, our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us, so I always like to ask the question: what brings out your inner nerd? What do you “nerd out” over?

I nerd out over two things. I freak out over shoes, but I would say the thing I really nerd out over is I love watching videos on YouTube of cute little animals. One of my favorites is goats in pajamas. Like, I’m good for a good ten minutes or more. But nobody knows they are there which is the saddest thing in the world.

You can find Laura on Twitter and Instagram. Season 2 of The Laura Show premieres on January 10th on YouTube.

Exclusive Interview with Actress Laura Linda Bradley (Part 1)

Interview, Pop Culture, Television

This article was originally written for Talk Nerdy With Us.

Laura-Linda-Bradley

Credit: Michael Bezaels

Laura Linda Bradley is an actress, singer, and dancer. Currently, she is starring, writing, and directing her own web series, “The Laura Show,” which premieres its second season on January 24th on YouTube. Talk Nerdy With Us got the chance to talk with Laura about how she got her start in acting, her web series, and what she nerds out over.

Tell me about how you got into acting?

When I was about three years old, I did a play at church, and that was the first time that I was on stage. I was always the type to put on a show for family, making them my captive audience [laughs]. I was also always doing children’s choir and other little productions. I remember at seven or eight years old; I did a play, and I remember hearing applause for the first time and that was when I was like “Oh! I like this.” Then I did community theater when I was about sixteen, and I remember making people laugh by a character choice that I had done. It was community theater in a small town, and it was a very art-rich community, but at the same time, it was fun to just cultivate these characters. It was a production of “A Christmas Carol, ” and I was playing one of the children. I had made this character choice, and I was this spunky little kid, and the guy that was playing my brother was a good friend. I realized that all these people were laughing at what I was doing because I was twirling my hair and all of these other little girl characteristics and mannerisms. When I heard that laughter, I was like, “Okay, it’s comedy. That’s what I want to do.” As I got older, I realized I was drawn to drama but at the same time you have to accept what your natural personality traits are and mine are stronger in comedy.

What was your first professional acting job?

“Step Up 2.” I was a dancer and one of the kids in the art high school. Small part but we filmed that in Baltimore and that was the first big movie set I had been on and it was just amazing. I had grown up doing dance, and I had danced professionally, and I had done musical theater and other theater but that was the first big movie set I had been on, and I was like, “Okay. This is what I have to do.” I did one or two small projects [after] on the East Coast and then I came out to LA. Unfortunately, when I was on the East Coast, Atlanta and New Orleans were not the hubs of the entertainment industry that they are now. I wish they had been.

Do you think that if they had been that you would have stayed on the East Coast rather than move to LA?

I think I would have been further on in my career before moving to Los Angeles. I think if you want to be in TV and film you obviously have to make it out to LA eventually. I probably have 10-15 friends now that have their apartments and agents in LA, but they live six months out of the year in Atlanta because that’s where their show is or they live in New Orleans or North Carolina. I think that there are so many more opportunities for people who are coming up to be in that environment. I would have always come to LA. I mean, I love it. I’ve been out here for nine years now, and it is home.

What would you say is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

I would say creating your own art, whatever form or medium that is. If you’re a writer, you’re an actor, you’re a comedian, you’re a painter, it’s creating your own opportunities and also showing people you at your strongest because you know your strengths better than anyone else. Sometimes, you or a close friend can write something for you that you might never have gotten the chance to audition for.

That was one of the reasons I started the show was because I was going out repeatedly for the same type of characters. While there is no negative to booking the same character type, it was the same Regina George, mean girl, cheerleader type and I wanted to do more than that, and I wanted to showcase that I could do more than that. That’s why I started working on the show. 

So I would say to any artist at any level create your own work and create your own art and showcase that and get that out there so that people can see what you are working on. People will respect that too, that you are not just waiting around for an opportunity to knock, you’re making your opportunities.

Let’s briefly talk about you are as a person. What are you doing when you’re not acting?

[laughs] Me when I’m not acting. I love spending time with my friends. I’m very social, and I have some amazing girlfriends out here in LA that are like my sisters. I’m an only child, and LA has a pretty bad reputation for not being a very friendly city and people being fake. But that’s so not true. If you look, you will find good people, and I have amazing friends who are like my family out here. I like spending time with my dogs and going to the beach, even though I only live about 30 minutes from the beach, sometimes that seems like a trek because traffic is so ominous in LA.

I love learning still. I don’t think you can ever get too old for it. I know that sounds super corny but I was in acting class last night till like 1 A.M., and I love that. Monday nights are pretty much my favorite night of the week because I love that acting class so so so much. I will not schedule anything else on a Monday night. I will not travel; I will not do anything. Monday night is fun for me, just going and playing around and creating.

What kind of acting class is it?

It’s a scene study class with Jason George, who is a series regular on “Grey’s Anatomy.” I’m in the SAG Conservatory. I’ve been in that for several years, and he did a panel discussion that they offered for the students in the summer intensive. They had six panelists, and everything Jason said was spot on, like I got it. It clicked. He’s from Virginia too, and we got to talking, and I started taking the class this summer, and it’s [both] drama and comedy. 

Every two to three weeks, we switch scenes, and you have a scene partner and you just really, really dig in. He said something I think in my second class and the way it’s set up; there’s a stage, and there are props and sets and whatever you need, and there’s seating which is where the students sit. And he said, “that’s not a stage, that’s a safety net. You can do anything here. It’s a safe space. If you go so far on that stage that you feel like you’re going to fall off the edge, I will always catch you.” That was what I needed to hear. I will laugh hysterically; I will cry in class. When you know you have that unlimited freedom in your class environment; you will blow your own mind of what you can in fact do as an actor and an artist.

As an actress, I would assume that you watch a lot of different projects. What are some of the shows that you are binge-watching on Netflix or watching on your DVR?

I am a huge fan of “This is Us” right now. [It’s] so good. I found “Parenthood,” I was like way late to the party on that, and so I binge-watched it on Netflix [laughs]. But with “This is Us,” when I saw the trailer, I was kind of excited. Then with each episode that I watched, with the twists and turns at the end, I was like, “I’m hooked.” There hasn’t been any other really standout shows like drama-wise this year, but I still do love “The Goldbergs.” I watch “The Goldbergs” every week. I think they are hilarious.

What is one thing people don’t know about you that they would be surprised to learn?

Oh, I don’t know. Something people come up to me and say very often is that my personality doesn’t match my appearance. I think a lot of times when people meet me, they’re like, “Oh she jokes about herself. ” It’s like when you spend time with me you realize that I have a very self-deprecating sense of humor. I do not take myself seriously. I am the first one to make a blonde joke or a home-school joke or only child joke. I believe that people take themselves way too seriously and I think, to see me walking down the street, you would think [I’m] very uptight, very type-A. 

You can find Laura on Twitter and Instagram and The Laura Show on YouTube. Stay tuned for part two of our interview coming soon.