April Spotlight: Ryan Lambert

Posted on April 8, 2021 in Spotlight

Ryan started his acting career at a young age and rose to fame on theTV show Kids Incorporated, followed by a cult classic film, The Monster Squad where Ryan played the rebellious Rudy. At 20,  Ryan stepped away from acting to pursue music professionally. He now plays in a Rock Band called Killed Moi which is about to release a new album as well as some new films lined up. 

Ryan on set
Ryan on set

1. You were born in Cleveland, Ohio. Did you get your acting start there/when did you relocate to Los Angeles? 
I moved to Los Angeles at age 4. I started acting professionally at age 13 after spending time in a musical comedy troupe, “On Stage Kids.”  

2. You started out on Kids Incorporated.  Can you tell us what that was like being a series regular on a show that also showcased your musical talents?
Being on Kids Inc was a dream come true. It was my first audition and my first professional gig. To have the show feature music as well only heightened the experience. Learning how to be on set, take direction and have a blast in the process really helped me in understanding what it means to be a working actor in this business.

Kids Incorporated
Kids Incorporated
Kids Incorporated
Kids Incorporated

3. You are an actor as well as a musician.  What can you play?  Have you performed at any special venues/events?
I can play guitar, piano/keyboard (novice) and sing. In our time of quarantine I’ve taught myself the Irish tin whistle, ukulele and honing my skills on harmonica. My dream is to play jazz trumpet and get better at drumming. 

Ryan the Rebel

4. You have been in show business for quite a long time.  Do you have any fun auditions/stories that stand put through the years?
I auditioned for a Jessica Lange film in the 80’s. The scene called for the character to jump outta bed when he was caught by his mother (Lange) with an older woman (Joan Cusack). I secretly removed my pants in front of the casting directors desk without him knowing. During the scene I jumped up and started putting them on frantically, finished the scene and walked out without coming back in. The part went to Chris O’Donnell. I was a stupid kid. Maybe a rebel?

5. Have you always been a working actor, or did you take time off to concentrate on music? Family?
I decided to pursue music professionally when I turned 20 and quit acting. It’s always been in my heart and after a long hiatus I got the bug big time again and decided it was time to get back to work. Thankfully I now have an incredible team to work with and hope I make them proud of my commitment to the craft.

6. The Monster Squad has become a cult classic with quite a devoted following.  How has the film changed your life?

The film tanked when released in 1987. We all moved on to other projects with a heavy heart. In 2006 we realized it had snowballed since its release on VHS and laserdisc and the fan following grew to cult status throughout the years. Since 2006 the cast has been traveling the globe meeting fans and screening the film. It’s such a trip to be a part of something people love and cherish. We made a documentary about the fans and their passion for the film called Wolfman’s Got Nards (if ya know, ya know ).

Ryan in Monster Squad
Ryan playing Rudy in Monster Squad
Ryan Lambert taking down The Wolfman and Vampire Brides

7. The documentary on the impact of The Monster Squad, “Wolfman’s Got Nards, reached #1 on Amazon (documentaries and horror) upon its release.  Congratulations!  How did it feel revisiting the Squad?
It’s been such a wild ride. I never dreamed a billion years something I was a part of as a child actor would come back to haunt me (in the best possible way) years after it’s release. It’s truly a gift that many do not get to experience. The gift that keeps on giving. Not counting the 40 bucks I get in residuals ever quarter. 

Ryan on It’s Garry Shandling’s Show
Ryan on It’s Garry Shandling’s Show

8. What is one of the most memorable moments on set for you?
The end sequence of Squad was a blast to shoot. We spent about two weeks on the Warner back lot as if it was home away from home. The scene where my character, Rudy takes down the wolfman and three vampire brides is still a highlight of my career.

9. When you’re not acting and performing, what do you like to get up to?
I’m an avid reader and watcher of film and television. They’ve always been my escape and my school, constantly learning and taking everything in to learn more about the craft and the art of it all. I enjoy cooking and trying new and different cuisines of the world. I cant wait to travel again hoping to get back to Ireland soon. I’m kind of obsessed with crossword puzzles and anything that keeps the mind alive and fascinated.

Wrecker 2020 film
Wrecker 2020 film

10. Tell us about Wrecker.
Wrecker is an independent action/revenge piece I was involved in while living in SF before moving back to LA. It was the first project I was involved in acting wise since I was a kid. I play a drugged out priest (gross but fun).

11. What’s up next for you?
Music wise I have a new album about to be released (dropped as the kids say) with my band Kill Moi from SF. Been a challenge getting it done during our global pandemic but I believe it was well worth and can’t wait for ever single person on Earth to blast in their ear holes.

Self-taping for roles and about to work for Spielberg. JK. A boy can dream, can’t he?

Ryan with his band Kill Moi

March Spotlight: Jody Jaress

Posted on March 20, 2021 in Spotlight

Jody is a true multi hyphenate. She’s an actress, director, writer, dancer, and jazz and blues singer. She’s gone coast to coast acting on the stage, in television and in movies. She’s opened for performers such as Harry Belafonte and Louis Armstrong and has received prestigious honors for her singing career. Jody has recently appeared in award winning films and shorts and is working on even more new projects right now. Here, she looks back at her long, distinguished career and talks about what’s next.

1. You were born in Ottawa, Illinois. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood? When did you know that you wanted to act?
My family migrated to America from Germany and Whales circa 1800s landing in New York. The adventurous Schafer’s and the humble Richards, who were renamed Jones once they crossed the US border, eventually gravitated to Illinois. Most became pillars of their communities with a few interesting rogues mixed in (thank goodness)!  Generations down the line, a lovely, spit-fire of a young woman met this handsome John Wayne type young man, they fell in love, married and voila’ created me.  Almost immediately after my birth, my dad was called to serve in WWII and joined the Navy Seabees. Once he returned home from the war, my family along with some other of our relatives relocated to Ferndale, Michigan next door to Detroit.

Jody aka JoEllen Schafer (5) Monte Carlo Studios
Jody aka JoEllen Schafer (5) Monte Carlo Studios

The story I’ve always been told by my parents, is that by age five, I wanted to sing, dance and be an actress like the kids in costumes I saw in the Sunday newspapers, magazines and on television. We were a typical middle American family, just getting by financially, but my parents were always supportive of my dreams, so they set aside monies to afford the training I would need in the arts. In Detroit, not too far from our home in Ferndale, was the Monte Carlo Studio, where at least once a week I took lessons in acting, singing and dancing.  I have to chuckle when I think about it now: While driving me to and from class on those nights, my mother would always take the short-cut through the huge, winding roads in the park that connected/divided Ferndale and Detroit, and every single time she would get lost — every single time!  I do laugh about it now, but it was so very stressful at the time. It certainly took some of the joy out of it, but my mother persisted in order to help me reach my dream. 

So, it seems that it really is true that at that early age I already knew that I wanted to be an actress.  I never have envisioned being anything else for as long as I can remember, although I absolutely loved singing and dancing too.  My desire was to study drama and become an actress who could sing and dance.

Jody instructed by Teresa Way Merrill of Will-O-Way Playhouse.
Jody instructed by Teresa Way Merrill of Will-O-Way Playhouse.

As I attained the ripe old age of twelve (and I promise you I’m not going to break-down my childhood much longer, so keep reading please) …. anyway, it was around this time that I was introduced to a fabulous theatre company, Will-O-Way Playhouse in Bloomfield Hills, run by several generations of the most wonderful, and truly theatrical family. Think old-world: Shakespeare, the Barrymores.  I wanted to submerge myself in their culture and soak up all the knowledge they afforded me… I practically lived there!

I truly became family… and felt so privileged and honored. Eventually I advanced to an apprenticeship and used all the skills I was taught (performance, makeup, lighting, scenery, etc) to perform in, and/or assist many of their professional productions presented at the Will-O-Way Apprentice Theatre and Repertory Company which included working with acting genius George C. Scott early on in his career. That was a great experience. Even after my family and I moved out to horse country in Rochester, Michigan, I continued my apprenticeship at Will-O-Way.

2. You started your career in Michigan with a variety of appearances on stage, film, tv radio, etc. Which medium did you enjoy the most at the time?
Oh my, that’s really difficult for me to answer.  As long as I was creating and working, I was enjoying myself, just like now. I have always loved the challenges of each medium.  But I absolutely love the collaboration when working in film or television. There’s such trust between the different talents to produce the director’s and/or producer’s vision, which is so awe-inspiring and so dang exciting. That was my goal as a young aspiring actress for sure to be on the screen. At my young age, as blessed as my life sounds in these answers, I had already lived and was still living a heavy life. I wanted to now live up there on the screen and make you, the audience laugh, cry, be afraid, etc. and of course enjoy my own release of emotions.

Once, the acclaimed, Sir Basil Rathbone (Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes), requested a command performance of “Taming of the Shrew”, at the Will-O-Way Playhouse, specifically to see me as Kate. I swear, my feet didn’t touch the ground for many, many months, it was such an unbelievable honor.

Whether doing live theatre or singing on stage, the adrenaline I feel/felt from a live audience is addictive and exciting!  Different, of course, from the intriguing magic felt on a film or television set. How does one compare them?  Oh and then there’s radio which was and is so much fun… no-one can see you!  And it oft times can be so spontaneous!  That’s thrilling! Voice Over work falls right in there too! I LOVE doing voice overs! One of my very favorites is “I, My Me Strawberry Eggs” I was referred to the production company from one of their other vo actors. I was so happy that they wanted a gruff voice for this fun character Ruru the short, grumpy landlord, because we recorded first thing in the morning for most of the 13 episodes… thus my morning voice was perfect for this lead!  I enjoyed doing a spoken word CD with Jack Donner (Star Trek, Stigmata): Hearts on Fire an original written by Jack regarding the state of Man (today), how we got there/here and how we can extricate ourselves from this mess. I was fortunate to work with Jack on several films/television: “So This Is Love”, “2Bedroom 1Bath”, “Screech”, and “Chinaman’s Chance: America’s Other Slaves.”

Jack Donner and Jody partnered as writers on "So This Is Love" for television and then was made into a short film.
Jack Donner and Jody partnered as writers on “So This Is Love” for television and then was made into a short film.
Jody, second lead as Ruru, the gruff landlord, on “I, MY, ME STRAWBERRY EGGS” a popular anime’ television series and DVD box set.
Jody, second lead as Ruru, the gruff landlord, on “I, MY, ME STRAWBERRY EGGS” a popular anime’ television series and DVD box set.

Okay, here’s the short answer: I enjoyed whichever venue/medium I was participating in at the time!  That’s a bit corny maybe, but true…

3. You worked in theater a lot in the beginning, what was your favorite production?
When I moved to California, married, had my two precious children, and divorced, I attempted to schedule one play a year. Theatre helps me refocus, concentrate. I’m not good at making choices for just about anything in my life, so here are my first initial responses: The Ira Levin (Rosemary’s Baby) play, “Veronica’s Room”, may have been the deepest I’ve gone into a character in theatre, for such a long run.  My role had several extreme personalities with different accents (Boston, Irish). This spine-chilling thriller was pretty heavily engrained in my spirit… so much so, that when the run ended, I had difficulty separating myself from the character and was worried that Veronica (me), would be locked in her room forever…. because I (Jody aka Veronica) would not be there the next night to let her out. (You may need to read/see/know the play to understand my reference, sorry)  Something meaty like that, is an actors dream role. Thank goodness, that I had to earn a living at the time which helped bring me back to reality sooner! (tee-tee) I was administrator at Ilona of Hungary Spa and Skin Health in Palm Springs, but I did go in and out of a really bad Irish accent for quite awhile!

Ilona of Hungary Spa with Jody Jaress, spa manager.
Ilona of Hungary Spa with Jody Jaress, spa manager.

Actually, I think a production becomes a favorite mostly because of the people you’re fortunate to work with. The Desert Theatre League in Palm Springs honored me more than once with a Best Supporting Actress nomination, and this time it was as Hester Salomon, the magistrate in the haunting production, “Equus”. This was thrilling of course, but what made this production magical was being directed by the fabulous award winning actress/director, Judith Chapman (Young and the Restless, 4 other soaps, 28 Days), and working with Best Actor winner, West Holden (yes, Bill Holden’s son). We developed beautiful and lasting friendships during that time also.

Oh golly, now you’ve got me reminiscing and I’m coming up with all sorts of “favorite productions.” Of course “Taming Of The Shrew”, and I had a blast as Irene Livingston, in Moss Hart’s comedy, “Light Up The Sky”.  Very weird for me to be cast, but a privilege to be Mrs. Popov in Chekhov’s, “The Brute”, performed for and in honor of the Russian Dignitaries visiting Palm Springs.

4. You began your film career as a roller skater in Skatetown, USA with Patrick Swayze in his feature debut. What was that experience like?
Oh my… well, Patrick was gorgeous… and untouchable with all the skating going on. Plus there were tons of comedians and comic actors in this film. It’s a wonder anything got done! But it was fun… and of course, I fell. Not badly, but down. I learned the power of an editor from working in this film. I was so certain that it was going to be a really funny, good film. I was wrong.

Jody’s first feature film The Hunting Season remastered as Deadly Daphne’s Revenge.
Jody’s first feature film The Hunting Season remastered as Deadly Daphne’s Revenge.

Actually, my first film with dialog and a necessary character, was “The Bigot” aka “The Hunting Season” and now remastered and distributed by Troma Entertainment, aka “Deadly Daphne’s Revenge”. It’s one of those movies that could become a cult film, or are so (bad) that calling them camp might be a stretch! I had never seen the film and hadn’t thought about it for decades. Out of the blue (30-40 years later), I get called by a representative from Vinegar Syndrome (digital restoration company) requesting an interview. Who? For what? I’d love to… when? They sent me an old copy to watch before getting together to film my interview which was to be used as an Extra Bonus on the upcoming Blu-ray, and DVD. You could probably hear me laughing a block away as I watched the movie… and believe me, it’s far from a comedy. Oh dear, what can I say during my Q&A taping? It appeared that I was the only person still alive to speak with them about the filming experience and they were delighted to find me — plus I didn’t charge them an arm and a leg for my time and image usage. I finally concluded near the end of taping, that I liked being connected to a cult-like film – kind of campy! All the new DVDs and Blu-rays have been sold with sadly, no plans to press more. I have two… I think.

5. What prompted you to move out to Los Angeles?
The simple, uncomplicated story is that, my parents allowed me to take my college money and instead of Carnegie Tech (before merging with Mellon), go to New York for awhile to make the “rounds”, making appointments with agents, recording managers, etc.  I had made arrangements to spend an afternoon with Lee Strasberg and family at their home. I had hopes of joining the Actors Studio, but I was too young at seventeen (17). Lee was genuinely sincere suggesting I return the following year to meet again. I never did. So, after lots of fun and frustration, disappointments in NYC (and too many really great stories to write about here), I returned home to Michigan.

Jody on the NY waterfront after meeting with Lee Strasberg
Jody on the NY waterfront after meeting with Lee Strasberg
Found a great young photographer in NY living near the docks who taught Jody how to make German pancakes!

Okay, so here’s the turning point:  I learned that William Castle (Tingler, etc), the iconic, eccentric horror film director, was holed up in an office at one of Detroit’s most majestic movie theaters prior to screening his 3-D film, “13 Ghosts” (I think it was that one.)  I snuck into the theater, climbed the gorgeous carpeted, winding staircase… and boldly entered “the” office.  Thank goodness, Mr. Castle liked my gumption and didn’t throw me to the wolves!  We had a very brief bit of dialog and then he assured me that if I ever move to California, he would take a meeting with me. He then handed over his contact info and said to bring one of my parents with me. Then he escorted me to a seat in the theater to watch his film!  Well, to Castle’s surprise, I did call for a meeting, for indeed, we did sell our home, horses, business, and move to California for me to be in pictures… oh, and also because my mother liked the idea of living in sunny California. The meeting didn’t give much hope to this young aspiring actress. My determination to be an actress continued anyway. I wasn’t looking for the fame that Castle was talking about. I just wanted the opportunity to work often at what feeds my passion.

Jody thanking famed blues singer Linda “The kid” Hopkins for attending yet another one of her gigs.

6. You are also a jazz and blues singer. Were you trained? How did you get into it?
I really have no formal training.  I took some lessons in learning to sing certain songs. I made a stab at learning to play the piano and guitar to accompany myself to absolutely no avail. My mother was the one wishing I would choose to be a singer over an actor. She was always playing music. I definitely enjoyed working as a singer, although I had a habit of not picking up my pay checks. I felt like: “I’m doing something I love and expressing myself… and I get paid too? Wow, what a concept!”

I received most of my training by doing. I started out as a country singer following headliners like Hank Williams Jr., performing at fairs, night clubs with Eddie Jackson and The Swingsters, at horse shows/rodeos and various city events, wherever I could get a gig. I was booked to be a regular singer (don’t laugh) on Cal Worthington’s Country Music Time television show, but didn’t last very long. I was let go because I wasn’t country enough. I think my last appearance was with Sheb Wooley (“The Purple People Eater”) — go figure. But I enjoyed it all like: while working in Vegas, I had an open invitation to pop over to the New Frontier and jam with the Ink Spots but of course it wasn’t country! It was great songs from the 30’s and 40’s. I didn’t realize my forte would be more in the line of free-styling like with jazz. 

In 1998 I lost my precious Michele, my daughter and needed to find solace somewhere. I began listening to the soothing music of Anya, and oddly enough I then discovered the haunting melodies and familiar pain in the voices of Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. They resonated deep within me… thus I slowly entered blues… and jazz. I don’t consider myself either style, but the world wants a label. I just tell stories…

7. You’ve opened for artists like Louis Armstrong and Harry Belafonte. Wow, what an experience. Can you tell us a good story from your time performing at these shows?
I absolutely can, and such a ridiculous, heartwarming story too about when Harry saved me from getting fired.  We were working at the Riviera Hotel, in Las Vegas and it was nearing show time. Earlier in the day, a few friends and I had gone horseback riding and encountered many mishaps; broken saddle straps, getting lost, and then being deserted by the guy with the car! That left two of us hitch-hiking back to town and finally getting a ride on the back of a pickup truck. I don’t know how the Vegas Entertainment newspaper got hold of our antics, but they did with a little blurb about us being bruised and dirty on the back of a truck, etc. I managed to get to my apartment, clean up, and backstage just in time to sashay on to the stage…I thought… But, I guess not! The stage manager would not allow me to go on! He also docked me for the second show! Well, guess who started to weep as she walked away? Bless his heart… seeing me upset, Harry came to my rescue and guided me to his dressing room to get my story. I was even more upset by then because, as I told Harry, “my mother said I would never make it, because I’m always late.” Yes, sweet, handsome Harry spoke with the manager and all was well again. Harry gave me his personal contact info to use should anyone give me a problem after his engagement is over… And… that they had better extend my contract as he suggested. Oh wow! What a blessing.  Side note: It’s a small world too, because a few years ago, here in California, unbeknownst to me at the time, I was singing with Harry’s bass player John Cartwright who remembered me from Vegas!  What a treat… we (John and I) teamed up another time at a jazz jam and we call one another once in a blue moon.

Harry Belafonte’s bass player, John Cartwright and Jody.

Yes, Louis Armstrong did indeed smoke two (2) cigarettes at once most of the time. He definitely sweats up a storm, and always carried a white handkerchief because of it. We talked about his sweating and he shared that it’s mainly because he gets so nervous right before going on stage. He mentioned that he feels blessed with those nerves, stating that they help him push towards a better performance, and that if he doesn’t feel nervous, he would rather not go on. He would feel the show was going to be boring and not worthy of an audience. An amazing man.

8. In 2015 you were named a “Jazz and Blues Living Legend” and inducted into the foundation by the Duke Ellington Society of LA. Tell us about receiving that honor.
I simply received an unexpected phone call one day… and afterwards I wasn’t sure just who I was anymore. I thought:  They must have made a mistake, thinking I was someone else. It does happen. So, I called back to Linda Morgan (founder of JazZabration) and graciously said:, “How lovely of you to ask me if I would accept this very precious honor, but I’m certain there’s been an error. I’ve never met you… and you don’t know me, do you?” Well… evidently, I got talked about often enough that the word spread around and reached a few of these societies. They became intrigued enough to so some research about me… and that’s how they know me. I still felt very uncomfortable and in disbelief. I said that I didn’t have a great voice, had only been singing in LA a few years. And please, don’t take offense from my reaction, but I am very confused. I then asked the big question: “Could you tell me WHY I’m being considered to receive this honor?” Here’s what she said, “You are a song stylist. A soulful singer of stories for over 25 years. But even more than that, and what has touched us mostly, is that you inspire other’s to never give up on themselves or their passions. We would like to recognize you for that.” So, that was acceptable to me, a reason that I could wear fairly comfortably.

Whisper Low

The next thing I knew, I’m being scheduled to headline at one of the official events to celebrate “International Jazz Day 2015” created by the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), and held annually since 2011 around the globe in more than 200 countries. Besides the Duke Ellington Society of Los Angeles, I received commendations from the City of Los Angeles, NAACP Beverly Hills and Hollywood, JazZabration, and of course Jazz and Blues Living Legend Foundation. Truthfully, I’m still numb.

OH! And Ms. Morgan also said to make sure I bring plenty of my CD’s to sell or give away at my show, but bring enough. OMG! I never recorded a CD! Ding! Ding! Ding! Within three (3) weeks I rehearsed, recorded, mastered, and dropped a CD with 12 tracks! And I created artwork for the CD sleeve and disc! Thank goodness for my talented family of musicians who joined me on this crazy endeavor and rescued me by playing, while other friends offered up their expertise and for a very small fee, a recording studio. Just in time, WHISPER LOW was delivered!  Never again…!

I realize that I have written way too much already, and I say I don’t like to toot my own horn, or name drop, but the most precious honor I ever received was being awarded the prestigious USO pin for my dedication and years of entertaining our armed forces at military camps and US Naval ships. Now that honor touches my very soul.

Jody performing on the USS Topeka Naval ship.

9. Are you still singing?
Yes and No.  Due to the Covid-19, I haven’t accepted any gigs even though some venues are starting to open and book talent. I have been invited and I have done a couple of guest singer spots on Zoom shows. There certainly are virtual shows that can be somewhat successful for those used to working, but the money is really weird. But who sings for money in LA, right? Har-Har…So many of us miss doing even our charity gigs to help rape victims, abused women/children, Aids research, suicide prevention. Eventually I’ll get back in the swing of music again. I only hope my favorite venues are able to reopen: The Gardenia, Vitello’s and Catalina’s Jazz Club. For now, once in awhile I’ll stop by a Zoom jam session and sing. It’s so sad what’s happening to all creatives during this time. I used to sing with major musicians who toured with Sinatra, Streisand, Etta James, Chet Baker, Santana, Dionne Warwick, Smokey Robinson. Musicians like: Tony Dumas (bass), Ralph Penland (jazz drummer), Tod Hunter (pianist/composer).  We all miss the personal contact. The live energies. Even miss the technical glitches… but for now, virtual performances I suppose, are better than none at all.

“Jazz for Justice” at CBS Studios for One Billion Rising to raise awareness globally to end violence against women and children.

10. What has been your favorite film or tv show that you’ve worked on?
Again, it’s not usually the project, it’s the people… My most favorite I would have to say (and it may always be–who knows) is the gritty, award winning indie feature written, directed, and produced by Dylan Reynolds titled, “Chain Link”. Dylan created earthy characters caught up in devastating believable cycles. The frosting on the cake is that a good many of us have become active friends since filming years ago. 

Working with Adrien Brody on “Hollywoodland”, directed by Allen Coulter was enlightening. Adrien had Coulter embellish my small role and film it, which we did, but of course the extra footage wasn’t necessary to the story so it didn’t make the cut.

Jody with Adrien Brody in Allen Coulter’s “Hollywoodland”

Many, many life-times ago, I worked as a stand-in for all the lead actresses who were guests on “Michael Nesmith’s Television Parts”. I had fun every day for months! Different comedic scenarios with different comedians daily, a variety of super directors and great camaraderie.  Frequently I’d have dialog, but mainly I played-out all of the female comedy situations from a hooker, to a circus performer, to a 1950’s high school student and more hilarity. What a life, eh?

You know, it would be much easier to write about the very few films or TV show(s) that weren’t my favorite(s). Would be very rare animals indeed, because I find there’s usually something unique, or a special someone in every project I’ve worked on that endears it to me. Nailing a one take plus security take on “Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles” was pretty cool. Being directed by Mike Nichols for a couple of weeks on “Charlie Wilson’s War”with Tom Hanks was a treat. So you see, all productions are favorites in their own unique way.

Jody using her reflection in the camera to fix her hair during filming “Michale Nesmith Television Parts”… blowing bubble gum.
Jody and Lance Henriksen take a very needed break from filming “Fragile Storm”

11. Tell us about Fragile Storm.
Right off the bat when I got word of this production, I wanted in on it because of Lance Henriksen (Alien, Millennium).  I figured if Lance was on board, it must be a gritty kind of story with substance, and I would be playing his wife, which wouldn’t be too shabby either.

The script had me in tears by the end, with a twisted, deceiving approach to this devastating ailment… Alzheimers. Just like when I auditioned for “Chain Link”, this role fit me like a glove. During our filming, this fabulous, creative, award winning director/co-writer, Dawn Fields shared some history regarding the difficulties experienced to get “Fragile Storm” to this point. It seems, she had cast the film more than a year earlier and filming had begun. Dawn’s very specific vision was not developing, not even close. The actors were talented, but just weren’t working out and neither were some of the key crew members. She felt the vibe were all wrong. So, gutsy Dawn stopped production, let everyone go except the young female actress Mackenzie Mason, and cut her losses. She set it aside for a year and focused on getting Lance Henriksen to accept the role of Norman. Now only one actor remained to cast with her new shooting schedule less than a week away. Timing is everything. Two (2) days later we are all on a sound stage outside of Los Angele s. It’s deserving and insane how many awards ”Fragile Storm” has won. It’s more than worth the ten (10) minutes it takes to watch it. What a ride! It’s now part of an award winning collection of short stories “Her Mind In Pieces” each story directed by women, about women struggling with various mental and emotional issues. If I’m not mistaken, I believe Ros Gentle is in one of the stories.

Jody portrays Bill Hoversten’s real life mother in “Mother’s Day Memories”

12. Your film Mother’s Day Memories has gotten some really great reviews. What was that experience like?
I must admit it puts a huge smile on my face when a film, tv, or stage show that I’ve been involved with, gets positive recognition. Absolutely delightful.

As in ”Fragile Storm”, I’m a victim of the ugly Alzheimer’s disease, only in “Mother’s Day Memories”, I’m in earlier stages of illness. It was an honor to be chosen for this touching homage which Bill Hoversten wrote/produced and played himself based on the real life tragedy experienced with his Mother.  Much of my dialog was the exact verbiage spoken by Bill’s mother during those extremely sensitive moments. Bill’s ability to relive them with me, was remarkable. I did my best to do justice to the memory of his mother. It was a very daunting experience yet so beautifully full of compassion and love all around.  In the film there is information learned that was not part of the real life story, but certainly added a twist near the end. Sadly, the truth is, Alzheimer’s disease tragically plays out this painful scenario in too many homes across the world. Bill honored not only his mother in his story, but all families afflicted, and was courageous enough to share it… thus letting others know that they are not alone in their pain.

13. What’s up next for you?
I’m deep in rewrites and loving it, on an Action/Fantasy/Romance feature film; “Return Of The Sacred”. I’m obsessed with tightening up the story and sub-text, etc. This film will take a chunk of money to produce due to the special effects needed. Wish me luck!

At the moment I have two different National commercial spots airing… thank goodness. I have a feature “Blood Born” and three shorts in post, one of which is a stretch for me as an old woman who is a younger Queen in another dimension who is actually a white horse in “Mykonos Blue”a tweens fantasy series, and two productions “Life Goes On” and “Born in his Body” waiting for the pandemic to allow their productions to safely go (back) to work.

“Mykonos Blue” a fantasy short. Jody portrays an old grandma, who is a Queen, who is actually a while horse!

My directing debut garnered awards for my psychological short “Traces Of Memory” and since then I’ve been wanting to direct a short again. I learned so much that first go at it… I would love to see what difference my additional knowledge would make this next time around. For now I’ll satisfy that desire and keep busy directing/taping/editing my actor clients with their self-tape auditions and demo reels.

Since the pandemic, like so many others, I teach acting on Zoom. Zoom has become our go-to tool…!

Hmmmm, maybe I’ll finally clean house, do my taxes, cut my hair…

February Spotlight: Duane Whitaker

Posted on February 5, 2021 in Spotlight

Duane has spent the last 30 years in Hollywood playing iconic roles such as Maynard in Pulp Fiction. He has also written projects such as From Dawn to Dusk 2 and Eddie Presley. Here, Duane looks back on his long career.

1. You grew up in Abilene, Texas. What was your childhood like?
I was actually only in Abilene for a couple of years, so my memory is a little sketchy on it. I grew up in Lubbock, Texas which was a pretty good size town – over two hundred thousand. It never really felt like a city but it was a pretty big town. I played a lot of sports growing up. That was my main thing for years. After my sophomore year in High School I pretty much stopped that, partied a bit, got in some trouble here and there, nothing too serious. I had always been interested in movies. I made a few super eight movies when I was pretty young and then started doing it again in high school and got interested in theater. I got some encouragement from a drama teacher and a visiting drama teacher and that gave me the idea that maybe I had some talent and could do it. So about the time I graduated, I started doing all the theater I could, community theater, a touring melodrama in the park, a show at the University.

2. How did you get into acting? When did you decide to come to LA?
I got a job at a dinner theater when I was seventeen doing a pre-show and waiting on tables between acts. That was actually a great experience. I considered myself a professional actor at that point. They paid me. Very very little, but still I got paid for my work. When I was twenty, I decided to make the move to L.A. and give it a shot.

3. What were some of your first experiences acting in LA on those early projects?
My early Hollywood experiences were pretty tough. I didn’t know one person here. Lived in my car for a while. Ended up getting a graveyard security guard job working for Merv Griffin which turned out well because I could do plays and have my days open for auditions.

I struggled for a long time trying to break into T.V. and film. Just kept doing theater, a lot of really interesting theater – got in over my head more than once, but I learned a lot. I finally started getting film and T.V. roles around 1986. My first real part on network television was probably Sledge Hammer.

Duane in Eddie Presley

4. In 1992 you had a film, Eddie Presley that you starred in and wrote. What was that experience like?
Eddie Presley was originally a one man play I wrote around 1990. It was sort of a metaphor about my life at the time. I was feeling really stuck. Day-playing mostly, still doing a lot of theater for free. It was about a homeless Elvis impersonator attempting a come back after suffering a nervous breakdown. It was an idea I had been kicking around for a long time and when I figured it out, I sat down and wrote the play in one night while I was working a guard job for a record company. My friend, Jeff Burr, was looking around for something to direct. He had a not so great experience on his last film and was looking to go back to a smaller indie type film. So we got together and adapted it into a screenplay and went out and raised the money and made the movie. It was like a small miracle. We played some festivals and sold it to the Sundance Channel and several years later a loaded DVD came out. It has a small, rabid following which is great.

5. How did you get the part of Maynard in Pulp Fiction? What was it like working with Quentin Tarantino? Any cool stories from the set?
Pulp Fiction… Well, this guy, Quentin Tarantino, came in and did a day on Eddie Presley. We had fun, talked about Lawrence Tierney mostly. He had shot Dogs about the same time we were shooting Eddie. I ran into him a while later and we talked and he said, “Hey, I’m doing this movie. There’s a part you’re kind of right for. I’ll have them call you.” It’s just almost that stupid. It was a long and painful process getting the role but it worked out. An amazing experience.

Duane in Pulp Fiction
Duane in Pulp Fiction
Duane in From Dawn Till Dusk 2

6. Next up for you was Tales from the Hood. Were you attracted to the horror genre? Could you see horror being a significant part of your future?
I knew Darrin and Rusty from Tales From The Hood through Jeff Burr. Pulp wasn’t out yet but there were rumblings. They had cast the role in Tales and the guy dropped out or something. Darren called Jeff Burr and asked him if he thought I could play an asshole. Jeff said, “Are you kidding? Talk to him for five minutes.” So they brought me in and gave me the job. Pretty good flick. I mean, the horror genre is a big part of my career. I co-wrote and co-starred in From Dusk Till Dawn 2, co-starred in Feast which turned out well and was a Project Greenlight movie. I believe I am part of 7 different horror franchises — at least that is what I was told.

7. Tell us about Stripteaser. How did you come up with the idea?
Stripteaser was an idea that came out of the blue. I remember writing on a legal pad: Blind guy walks into a strip bar. A friend called and asked if I had a low budget script. He had some people looking to make something. I lied and said it was written and then stalled the guy and sat down and wrote it in like seven days. I had no idea where it was going but it sort of wrote itself. He gave it to them and they hated it. So I stuck it in a drawer and it sat for a while and then a director I had worked with asked me if I had something (Roger) Corman might want to make. And yes I did. They were shooting the film about ten days later. It was crazy. I was doing Tales From The Hood at the same time so it was pretty cool having two films going simultaneously. The original title was Zipper’s Clown Palace, which I loved but Roger didn’t.

8. In the 2000’s you started working with Rob Zombie on Devil’s Rejects in 2005 and Halloween II in 2009. Is Rob someone you enjoy working with?
I met Rob Zombie, Mr. Zombie I call him, through Dan Roebuck. We were putting a script idea together. Again, some guy dropped out of Rejects and he brought me in to read and hired me. It was a lot of fun doing this bit with Roebuck. It’s barely in the movie but we shot the whole talk show which is in the extras. A while later he called and offered Halloween 2 which was a nice little role. I also did a role in Three From Hell but didn’t make the cut. I really like working with Rob. He gives you a lot of room. He expects you to show up with something, I think, and when you do, he’s good with that.

9. You were honored by American Cinematheque hosting a screening of your films Eddie Presley and Together and Alone at the Egyptian Theater. What was that experience like?
Together and Alone was a tiny little movie I wrote and directed sometime after Tales. It was a very personal movie that I just felt compelled to make. It was self financed from acting and writing jobs and I didn’t have to answer to anyone, but the budget was not too much. I had an amazing cast that made me look way better than I am. Very proud of the film. It sat for a long time but then a programmer at the American Cinnematheque discovered it because they were showing Eddie and wanted something to
show with it. It’s actually played there twice. The last time with a film I co-star in called Dead Letters. It came out on Blu- Ray recently with a bunch of extras.

Together and Alone

10. You’ve been in over 40 films and many television shows. What are 2 of the top projects you worked on and why?
I think I’m close to 60 features now and a bunch of T.V. things. I would say the top two would probably be first Pulp, just because the odds of being in something that special that catches a critical and popular wave like that are pretty long. I don’t think there’s a top 100 list it’s not on. And with good reason. Pretty amazing. And I would say the second would be Together and Alone for all the obvious reasons I talked about.

11. You’ve taught an acting class in Los Angeles for many years. What are the rewarding aspects of teaching?
Teaching was something I never really planned on doing but fell into. I found out what all teachers do; when you teach, you learn. I really enjoy it.

Getting Grace

12. What’s up next for you?
As far as projects in the can, I finished a film that Dan Roebuck and his daughter wrote and directed this summer which I think is going to be great, called Lucky Louie. I also have a film about to come out called Edge Of Town which I like a lot. Small film I shot in Georgia. Several other things hovering around. As far as what’s next, who knows? That’s the thing about this business; you never know. I’ve gone through periods where I thought, well, I guess this is over… but then something comes up. Bob Crane said, “Hope springs eternal for the actor…” a little while later he was bludgeoned to death with a tripod so we never know. Hopefully I’ll continue to get new creative opportunities. I’ve been very fortunate to consistently work for the number of years I have.

February Spotlight: Kristina Miller

Posted on February 3, 2021 in Spotlight

Kristina Miller-Weston is a true multi-hyphenate. From acting, dancing, singing in Musical Theater shows, to performing in comedy shorts to producing her own content and being a live performer for Universal Parks, Kristina has been playing iconic characters and creating new ones for some time now.  

1. Where did you grow up? Can you tell us a bit about your childhood?
I grew up in Scottsdale Arizona with my amazing parents and a lot of dogs. Most of my childhood was spent in a dance studio or singing in church. By the time I was in middle school I was training 30-40 hours a week as a dancer. Growing up an only child meant I became really good at creating a world of adventure in my room or the backyard. I also fancied myself a producer and creative at a young age. I would create shows with my friends and charge my parents the couch change to come see them. Made tickets and everything. I had a lot of gumption at that age even though I was told by my singing teacher that I was tone deaf. But my mom always said, “You can do anything you set your mind to, little missy.” I very much took that to heart and never stopped training, never stopped reaching for the stars.

2. What made you want to get into acting/performing?
Growing up, my dad exposed me to all the classic Movie Musicals. Everything about them made me want to be a part of that world. But it wasn’t until I was eleven and we took a trip to London that I decided I was going to be an actor. My dad had seen Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap when he was in London in his twenties. Agatha’s books were some of the only books that interested me as a kid, so my dad insisted we go see Mousetrap while we were there. I remember it vividly. When we got to the theater that night it just felt magical. The theatre was old and had a lovely musty smell to it. If those walls could talk… The place was packed. They had the sign in the lobby showing the counter for how long the show had been running and of course in my eleven year old brain I thought “these actors have been doing this show for 50 years! That’s amazing!” I was on the edge of my seat the entire show, which says a lot considering how uncomfortable those seats were. But there was magic that night and I walked out of the theater thinking “That’s what I’m going to do for the rest of my life.”

Cast of Nice Work if You Can Get It

3. You have BFA from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. Tell us about the training involved to get this degree.
My time at AMDA was a whirlwind. I was first admitted to the two-year conservatory program which was very intensive. Including rehearsals and classes I was spending about 60-70 hours a week training. I loved every second of it. I had never been afforded the time to just focus solely on this thing I wanted so desperately to make my life. Like I said before, people thought I was tone deaf but when I found the right teacher at AMDA everything changed. Turned out I just had to big of a voice that I didn’t have the right tools to control. As I was finishing my two years there the school added the BFA program and offered me a scholarship to be a part of the inaugural class. It would only be an additional year and a half of credits, so I figured why not. It was crazy! Because we were the first, we got a lot of one-on-one time with some amazing teachers. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. We even did the school’s first book musical production, “Little Shop of Horrors”, in which I played Audrey.

4. What has been some of the most special musical theater productions you’ve been a part of?
Oh man this one is tough. I have had the privilege of working on some crazy stuff and with some amazing people. Some stand outs are working with Dick Van Dyke on Cabaret, Swinging for Jersey Boys, playing Mrs. Wormwood in Matilda and working with Sally Struthers was a blast. But there are two roles that have changed my world. Teresa in the International Tour of Barbie, Live the Musical and Queenie in Andrew Lippa’s Wild Party. Yes, they are polar opposites, but I think that kind of defines who I am as an actor. I’m Carol Burnett meets a wild blonde who will gut you if you cross her. But in all seriousness Barbie was an adventure of a lifetime. I traveled to 12 countries, did press, and performed in stadiums with 10,000 people in the stands. Not to mention I got to make kids laugh on the daily. Queenie was exhilarating in a different way. The Wild Party was in a hole in the wall theatre in Hollywood with max 60 people a night. But she was glorious to step into six times a week. Her story is tragic but important and one I think most woman can relate to in some compacity or another. It was an honor to tell her story.

Playing Teresa in The International Tour of Barbie
Playing Mrs. Wormwood in Matilda

5. What are some of your favorite Broadway shows in general?
The Wild Party, Come From Away, Hamilton (Saw the original Broadway cast and it was life changing), Cabaret (Sally is a bucket list), and 42nd St (First professional job I ever had).

Playing Queenie in The Wild Party
Playing Queenie in The Wild Party

6. What made you want to enter into the film space?
Working in Film/TV has always been a goal, but Theatre opportunities just presented themselves first. Both mediums offer unique storytelling abilities and I want to do all of it. Let me be Queenie in a whole in the wall theatre and the newest member of the Marvel Universe! Acting is acting, doesn’t matter where you do it. Tell a story and move people, that’s my job.

7. Tell us about The Ryzza Mae Show.
That was one of the silliest things I’ve ever done. When we were in Manila for Barbie, we did a ton of press, including singing on Manila Idol. But Ryzza was so much fun. She was an eight- year-old talk show/game show host. We went on her show to promote Barbie and she had to speak English, she normally spoke Tagalog on her show, but because we were American, she wanted to speak English. When we were backstage, she was practicing with us and at one point she yelled “Nosebleed” both Chelsea (Who played Barbie) and I panicked and thought something was wrong, turns out that is slang for “It’s all too much! I don’t know what they are saying!” She had more gumption and bravery than I have seen in most adults.

In the Closet comedy short

8. What has been your favorite film or TV project you’ve worked on so far?
In the Closet has to be my favorite. It stemmed from my husband writing me a scene I could film to have on my reel, but the concept was too good not to just make it into a full-fledged short. In the Closet is a hilarious comedy short about two women and what can happen when you find yourself in a closet after an unfortunate night. It was so much fun to make. I produced and Stephen directed. We built a walk-in closet in our living room from some old theater flats and some doors we found at the dump. We shot the whole 10 minute short in one day. It was crazy, exhausting but so much fun. So many of our talented friends worked on it with us. Tyler Milliron did all the editing in NYC, James Gallagher wrote the original score, Micah Zarlow was the director of photography and Craig McEldowney was there on the day to help with sound. We ended up finalizing at 7 festivals both domestic and international. If you would like to watch it here is the link.

9. You’ve started producing work as well. What insight has producing projects given you about this artform?

Producing your own work is a journey. It’s like a chose your own adventure book. You think you have a plan but inevitably a curve ball is thrown. It’s what I love about the process. I also love the comradery of it all. No matter what medium you’re producing in, it takes a village.

Playing the dead version of herself on Murder Among Friends

10. Any stories from set you can share?
When I was on Murder Among Friends, I had to play the dead version of myself on an autopsy table. I had crazy burn make up all over me and I had to be on a real autopsy table which is the coldest most uncomfortable place to be when you’re wearing next to nothing. Of course, they needed me to be completely still, but I could not stop shivering. Oddly, one of the most challenging scenes I’ve ever shot. But what was really funny was when I got home. So, I shot Murder Among Friends the week before my wedding. Which meant all my in-laws from England were staying in our one-bedroom apartment for a couple of nights before we went up to Monterey. After I was done shooting this scene, which remember included a lot of FX burn make-up, I had to drive home with it on. So, I open the door and my sister in-law gets up to greet me only to find a bloody burned face. It was hilarious! Well, maybe you had to be there…

I have been a swing for four shows in my life. Each time there has been a moment of being thrown in the deep end. The first show I ever swung was a show called Boomermania and I covered all three women in the show. One night I got a call 3 hours to curtain saying one of the girl’s lost their voice and wouldn’t be going on that night. I had yet to have any sort of proper rehearsal for this show nor did I have my own costumes. So I shows up at the theatre with a script and suitcase full of clothes and got to work. I was rehearsing the big monologue in the first act with the directors while our stage manager followed me with needle and thread sewing me in the other actress costume. That night I lost my pants, bra and wig on stage. It was the most freeing experience of my life. I ended up in the track for about three weeks in the end.

Cast of Warren Carlyle’s Havana

I also was a swing for Warren Carlyle’s Havana. Again, I understudied all the females. And again, the lead triple threat had to call out with a couple hours’ notice. This show was big and involved a lot of dance lifts, falls and Brazilian rope dancing. So while I was being refitted into someone else’ costumes and doing a run through I just prayed I wouldn’t fall on my face. The show went off without a hitch. All of my castmates shoved with love that night and I could not have been more grateful.

Working Grinchmas at Universal Studios Hollywood

11. Last year you were performing for Universal Studios Hollywood Park. What was that experience like?
I’ve actually had the pleasure of working Grinchmas at Universal Studios Hollywood three years running. Except last year of course. My first two years I was one of the Singing Martha May’s which was an absolute blast! And then in 2019 the creatives decided to change things up and discontinue the Martha May show. So, I went in and auditioned for a regular Who but as luck would have it, they were adding a couple of new characters that year. Sibling Whos, who were DJs. Yup I got to live my best life as a who DJ with a shaved head and mohawk. Dazzle J Who, was a blast! I got to lead dance parties and joke around with guests and not wear heels and a corset! Most people ask how I breathe in the nose and the truth is you don’t. Yes, for those who don’t know we spend an hour in the make-up chair every day for Grinchmas to have prosthetics applied to our faces, so we look like the Whos from Jim Carey’s the Grinch. It is the best seasonal job because the cast is always full of joy and the guests light up when they enter Whoville.

My last year on the snowflake as Dazzle J Who I was also two months pregnant and just trying to not vomit while they put my nose on every morning.
Hopefully 2021 we will be able to bring some Christmas Joy to the masses again.

12. How have you been dealing with COVID as an actress, performer, and producer?
It has been sad really. But I know it’s all for the greater good. I was lucky to land a fun day job casting Audiobooks back at the beginning of 2020 which has enabled me to keep working in some creative capacity. I also had a baby in July and bought a house. Why not try to do all the things during the apocalypse. I’ve been spending the downtime I have in classes trying to stay sharp but still needed another creative outlet which led to me starting a Podcast with one of my dearest friends, Bobby Traversa. My Favorite Flop is a podcast all about Broadway’s musical misfits and fabulous failures. It has been a wonderful outlet to geek out and seems to be bringing some real joy to theatre actors and fans alike. You can find us where ever you get your podcasts or at

13. What’s up next for you?
I’m not sure! My Favorite Flop is taking off so that is where a lot of my focus has been right now. I’ve also been writing and exploring that creative side. I’m hoping that when the world opens back up again, I can reproduce my one woman show “OUT LOUD!” This was a cabaret show I wrote and produced at The Rockwell Table and Stage in the fall of 2019. The plan was to then bring it to the Fringe Festival and some other venues, but COVID. If you want to see some songs from the show, they are on my YouTube channel. This includes a wonderful one-woman rendition of One Day More where I play all the characters…

Chris also has the pitch deck if anyone is interested.

January Spotlight: Rayford Sewell

Posted on January 14, 2021 in Spotlight

Born in Houston, Rayford grew up playing guitar and singing with a passion. After taking his musical talent to legendary venues like The Viper Room and Austin’s SXSW, Rayford has gone on to act in many hit shows including Hawaii Five-0, Body of Proof, The Longmire, and the Deuce.

1. You grew up in Houston, Texas. What was it like growing up there?
H-town will always have a special place in my heart. I lived off Shepherds Ridge in a subdivision a little outside the city. I remember always taking trips to the creek where my friends and I would check out turtles, ducks, and jump in and out of leaves. I was always competing in sports. Swimming and football was something I did every year. I would be in our backyard pool almost everyday. My dad taught me how to hunt and my mom how to cook. I was always out in nature no matter how hot it was. 

Rayford with his acoustic guitar
Rayford with his acoustic guitar

2. You started out playing music and singing, what inspired you to get into that?
Old 70’s tunes and the grunge era really sparked my interest. Bands like Nirvana, Bush, Creedence Clearwater, and Neil Young inspired me. I bought my first guitar and an old Fender amp off of a guy that played in Wednesday night church. From there I never put it down.

3. You’ve played at Austin’s South by Southwest Festival and in venues like the infamous Viper Room on Sunset Boulevard. How does it feel to rock a crowd at these legendary venues and festivals?
Explosive. When you play live there’s a lot of energy and electricity flowing through the air. Playing a venue like the Viper or SXSW, there’s a lot of history and great vibes on those stages. Hearing the crowd sing with me on one of my songs is one of the best feelings ever.

Rayford performing at The Viper Room

4. What made you transition to acting?
I was going to Southwest Texas State University at the time as an Advertising major. I needed 3 years of Spanish, even though I completed them in High School. I asked the counselor, “How do I get out of taking Spanish classes?” He replied, “You can get into Theatre.” “Sign me up” I said. From there I learned so much from taking on camera courses and learning about so many inspiring plays. The rest is history.

5. You’ve performed on stage in plays like Peter Pan and Harvey. What tools has working on the stage given you that have stayed with you?
Plays are brilliant. So much fun. Dedication, memorization, and everlasting friendships have helped me as an actor today.

6. In 2008 you had your first Television appearance in Heroes: Destiny. Describe that feeling of being on a set like that for the first time.

A Closeup of Rayford for Hawaii Five-0
A Closeup of Rayford for Hawaii Five-0

7. You’ve also made appearances in shows like Body of Proof, Matador, Longmire, and Hawaii Five-O. What are some of your fondest memories from those sets?

Body of Proof was shot in an alleyway in downtown LA. They blocked off the street and people were standing behind barricades to see what was being filmed. This was new to me at the time. As for Matador I always wanted to work with Robert Rodriguez and it happened. On Longmire it would have to be when I had a conversation with the producer about how they wanted to throw pottery vases at me in the scene. “Just make sure to cover up your money maker when they throw it.” As for Hawaii Five-0, it was one of the most chill vibes I’ve ever been to on set. Very island like but what can you expect, it’s Hawaii! This was the first time I drove a car in a scene. The director Carlos Bernard told me, “Ok just go about 15mph while saying your lines and stop up there.” I was like, “Ok lets do this.” Haha!

Rayford on the Set of Body of Proof
Rayford on the Set of Body of Proof

8. You recently played Roy on The Deuce in 2019. Any differences working on a premier HBO show that competes in the awards season?
I’ve been a big fan of the show since Season 1 came out. The 70’s era has always been one of my favs because of the way people talked, walked, and dressed. The set didn’t feel any different from any other show I’ve been on, other than the amount of nudity that was constantly around.

Rayford’s Action shot from Longmire
Rayford’s Action shot from Longmire

9. I’m sure you’ve made some great friends along the way, any interesting people you can tell us about?
I meet interesting people everyday. LA is such an eclectic and vibrant city. I’ve met the most crazy and interesting characters just walking my dog.

Rayford on Paramount’s Sound Stage
Rayford on Paramount’s Sound Stage

10. How long have you been living in LA for? What about being a working actor living in this town is the most satisfying and rewarding?
I’ve been living in LA for 12 years now. The freedom of living life and having people acknowledge my work on television and film is the most satisfying and rewarding.

11. You’re a very fit person, what’s been the biggest motivation/secret/ life hack you employ to keep up a dedicated workout regime?
No bread. Haha, only on occasion. Dedication, dedication, dedication. I’ve also had abs since I was a baby

12. What’s up next for you? Any projects you’re working on?
Creating some new songs for my first release on my new album. Always praising God everyday and helping our world through charities like Toys for Tots. My dream would be to work with directors like Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Quentin Tarantino. After working on networks like HBO, CBS, and ABC, to name a few, it’s been an incredible journey. As for the future, I’m really looking forward to meeting both new and old directors, producers, and casting directors that I will work with on my upcoming roles.

January Spotlight: Judy Geeson

Posted on January 10, 2021 in Spotlight

Judy Geeson is an English film, stage, and television actress. She started her career learning ballet. At the age of 18, Judy starred in To Sir, With Love opposite Sidney Poitier. Throughout the years she has worked with actors such as John Wayne, David Niven, Joan Crawford, and Helen Hunt and worked with creatives like Rob Zombie on his latest films. Here she answers some questions about growing up in the flower generation, hanging out with rock stars, and making Los Angeles her home away from England. 

To Sir, With Love with Sidney Poitier
Lords of Salem

1. What was your childhood like growing up in Sussex in the post-war generation?
I lived in the English country side. Our family life was quiet. My father had a vegetable garden. My mother cooked every meal. My fathers new job placed him in London and so we moved. My parents decided to put my sister Sally and I in a theatrical school for one term while they found a more suitable school for us. We walked a mile to the bus stop  .. often alone … I am so glad I had that experience .. I loved walking alone with an ice lolly in my hand .. the streets were pretty and totally residential .. not a shop  in sight … occasionally I would see someone I knew .. but knew only as a passer by .. I think it gave me confidence to face life alone.

2. You were enrolled in the Corona Academy to learn ballet. Had you considered being an actress when you were a child?
No I wanted to be a ballet dancer but had trouble with one hip which gave me headaches so I put all my energy into acting and found that I loved it and still do until this day.

To Sir, With Love with Sidney Poitier

3. In 1967 you were 18 and landed your first major role opposite Sidney Poitier in To Sir, with Love. Can you tell us about that experience working alongside one of the greats at such a young age?
Sidney was wonderful .. so easy going … so wanting to make us feel comfortable …. looking back I realize it was a special time.

4. Being a young adult in the late 60’s and early 70’s was already pretty wild, to be famous on top of that must have been an incredibly interesting experience. What are some of your fondest memories of being young in such an exciting era.
It was an easy time .. flower power .. restaurants that many of us went to …  where you could see Michael Cain … Mick Jagger .. no cameras waiting outside .. always somewhere to park … San Lorenzos … always someone you knew was there. 

5. Did you party with any British rock stars?
I spent a little bit of time around Eric Clapton .. I always liked him .. gentle kind man … I first met him in Nassau at Kevin Mc Clory’s house .. Patti Boyd was with him .. .. I used to make a Japanese dish called Sukyaki … it involved cooking vegetables in a vegetable broth broth over a small fire and then adding very thin strips of beef  .. one evening Eric and Patty arrived and saw me cooking and Eric said what you doing girl .. you making an Irish stew. 

Judy in her Berserk costume
Judy playing Angela Rivers in Berserk with Joan Crawford

6. In 1967 you worked with Joan Crawford in the horror thriller, Berserk.  What was Joan Crawford like to work with?  
Joan Crawford was always professional .. never a diva .. I was aware that she found her face and her hands distracting … they had aged .. she wore white gloves when ever possible and had small stickers stuck to the side of her face to lift her face up. I liked her.

Fear in the Night, with Peter Cushing

7. 1972 found you working with the late, great Peter Cushing and Joan Collins in in the horror/thriller Fear in the Night.  What was that experience like?
I liked Peter Cushing very much .. he was an intensely private man. He wore white cotton clothes to read the papers in the morning so his hands didn’t get covered in print. He was always right with you in every scene you played . He and his wife who by this time had died .. used to visit a cockatoo in the London zoo and when he heard that I had a cockatoo he asked if I would bring mine in .. their meeting gave him great joy.

Mad About You

8. You’ve been in so many television shows over the years. What was your favorite show to be a part of? What made it so special?
I was involved with the British series Danger UXB … it was  a new series by John Hawksworth … the scripts were so good and  the actors all so good. I loved Mad about You .. because the cast were lovely and the crew and over the years you become a sort of family. 

9. You’ve worked with many Oscar-winning actors including Sidney Poitier, John Wayne, David Niven, Joan Crawford, and Helen Hunt. In what ways is it rewarding to work with such great actors?
I have always enjoyed working with Joan .. she is a professional through and through. Working with good actors make you better … all you have to do is react .

Judy Geeson with Garrett Wang in Star Trek: Voyager
Judy Geeson with Garrett Wang in Star Trek: Voyager

10. Do you have a fun story you can share from set working with any of these actors?
I have been lucky over the years to have remained in contact with Sidney through mutual friends. One day we were talking about To Sir With Love and he told me that he and James Clavell had wanted to make this film for some time but no studio would back them so they went to Columbia and said we want to make this film and we will take a token fee and our expenses and a share of the profits . Sidney said that this film had educated his children and his grandchildren and it still goes on and on.

Working with good actors make you better … all you have to do is react .

 11. You moved to California in 1984. You’ve volunteered teaching Shakespeare alongside fellow British actors at a school in Watts. You also owned an antique store in Los Angeles for 10 years. Do you consider California and Los Angeles home?
I have lived here in Los Angles longer than I have lived any where else .. I consider Los Angles my home.

Judy with Richard Attenborough and John Hurt in 10 Rillington Place
Judy with Richard Attenborough and John Hurt in 10 Rillington Place

12. 10 Rillington Place is based on a real-life case of the British serial killer John Christie.  You worked with two actors who would go on to make their mark in the motion picture industry, Richard Attenborough and John Hurt.  What was that experience like? 
I was already friends with John and Richard so that made things easy … I loved Richard Fliescher .. although the subject was dark we still had a few laughs  …. I have great respect for Ludovic Kennedy.

13. In 1975 you worked with The Duke, John Wayne in Brannigan.  Was he a gentle giant to work with?
I was very fond of John Wayne … I knew of course he was a major American movie star .. the all time cowboy .. but after working with him for a few days he became John .. I didn’t call him Duke because I didn’t know that was what he liked to be called … we talked about it and he decided he liked being called John.

14. You have worked in stage, film and television throughout your career.  Do you have a preference?
I don’t think there is much difference between the cinema and TV … both involve the camera and either the camera likes you or it doesn’t  … TV I think is more demanding …. more lines and moving a lot faster.

Judy Geeson attending Brit Week

15. Do you have a favorite theatre production you’ve been a part of?  And do you see yourself ever returning to the theatre?
I did a production of Brain Friel’s Faith Healer in Dublin with Donal Mc Cann .. that was special.

16. In recent years you have worked with rocker Rob Zombie on two of his films; 2012’s The Lords of Salem, and 31 in 2016.  What is Rob like as a director?  You worked with some greats on those two films; Malcolm McDowell, Bruce Davison, Meg Foster and Patricia Quinn.
I love Rob and Malcolm and Bruce and Meg … I loved working with them.

Judy on the set of Lords of Salem with Rob Zombie
Judy on the set of Lords of Salem with Rob Zombie
Judy playing Sister Dragon in Rob Zombie’s 31

December Spotlight: Melvin Jackson Jr.

Posted on December 2, 2020 in Spotlight

Melvin Jackson Jr, is an Emmy nominated Actor, as well as a Comedian, Writer, Producer, Director and CEO of Urban Vision Entertainment. He started out in the entertainment business when he was 18 years old managing music Artist. He will soon direct his first feature film Sex, Lies and The Things Women Go Thru. Melvin is best known for his roles on the hit HBO Series 3rd season of The Wire as Bernard the cell phone guy and as the Bully on Award winning CW’s Everybody Hates Chris”.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood growing up in Washington D.C. area?
I was born in DC lived there for a few years as a toddler then moved to Maryland and growing up there was great.  I left when I was 7 and moved overseas and then came back when I was about 15.

Melvin with LL Cool J

2. You started out in the entertainment business at the age of 18 as an entertainment manager, guiding the careers of local artists around D.C. How did you get started doing that?
I got started while I was in my first year of college and became a music manager.  I started going to talent shows to recruit talent and my first artist was a R&B singer, songwriter & producer.

3. What were some of the highlights from that experience?
Being able to meet with record executives and sending my artist music to major records labels.  As well as booking performances for my artists.  It was a fun, eye opening and at time frustrating experience.  It was a lot of hard work and late nights in the studio.   

4. You’ve lived in Pakistan for 4 years and Turkey for four years. How did you end up over there?
We moved overseas due to my mother’s job.  My time living overseas was amazing, it was the best experience I could have ever had as a kid.  To live in a different country was a humbling experience.  It made me well versed and a multi-dimensional person.  I still keep in touch with my friends that I met overseas.  

Melvin with Mom and Dad

5. You’ve won medals for Track n Field and Wrestling. How has the dedication and work ethic you’ve applied to sports impacted your acting career?
I was in Turkey when I won 2 gold medals in Track N Field in the 1500m & 3000M as well as a Bronze medal in wrestling.   In regards to my acting career I was dedicated to my goal and what I wanted.  I just always worked hard and put in the work to perfect my craft.  The simple fact that I started out acting without having any formal training or taking acting classes.  I began watching movies and learning from the actors to learn acting techniques.

6. In 2003 you broke out as an actor on an episode of America’s Most Wanted: America Fights Back. What was it like getting your first big role?
It was amazing because I grew up watching the show, I’m just glad I didn’t play a criminal because people were actually calling the cops on the actors who played the criminal on the show. It was fun shooting up until the other actor had to bite me on my face lol. They put prosthetics on around my jaw where he had to bite me.

7. Next you landed a role on The Wire. How does it feel to have been a part of what many people consider the greatest television show of all time? 
It’s a great feeling to be a part of such a great show because one it was my favorite show and I started on the show as extra, as well as auditioning 15 times.  The cast members and I became a family forever.  This show started my career and without the show my career would be so different. I’m a truly honor to be apart of this iconic show.

Melvin on HBO’s The Wire

8. You played The Bully on Everybody Hates Chris. How did you enjoy being a part of such a successful and funny show? What did you learn being on that show?
It was a great opportunity to be a part of Chris Rock’s show loosely based on his life. He was always on set and he directed me in one episode. In the scene he comes over and say when you take the kids lunch eat his sandwich. The interesting thing was this was the first thing I booked after being in LA for 3 weeks. I gave myself a month to book something or get agent or I was going back home. I got a agent my 3rd week and the day I was going to sign my contract see told me I had an audition for this show.  I originally didn’t get the role of the main bully who was recurring but they considered me for another role and keep bringing me back.

9. When did you start getting into standup comedy? How has that experience transformed your career?
I got into standup in 2012.  I had been wanting to do it for a long time but was too scared to. When I finally got on stage, I did about 10 mins my first time which is an eternity. It was just like acting on a stage, I felt at home and feel in love.

Melvin with Tracy Morgan for The Last OG Premiere

10. Tell us about This Is My Life So Why Are You Laughing and Internal Affairs. What encouraged you to venture into writing, producing, and directing your own content?
This is My Life, So Why Are You Laughing? Came from my stand up and writing about stuff that happened to me on dates and in my career as an actor. I felt it was time take my career into my own hands and not wait.  Before this series I didn’t go out that much for comedic role I would mostly get auditions for dramatic roles.  It began opening up more doors for me as an actor.  I had the idea to shoot a concept video for my Cop Drama Pilot “Internal Affairs” to use so that I could start pitching my series.

Me wanting to be an owner and not just a player aka actor in the game is what lead me to want to write, produce and direct my own content.  When you don’t own anything you simply remain a work for hire employee.  

Melvin on set of This Is My Life So Why Are You Laughing

11. In 2017 you portrayed pioneering rapper Kurtis Blow in the BET mini-series, The New Edition Story. You’ve also portrayed Eddie Murphy and will be portraying Puff Daddy in a new show. What attracts you to these portrayals?
What attracts me to these portrayals of iconic people are who they are and what they have contributed to the culture.  Their journey and how hard they work get become the people that they are.

12. You recently was nominated an Emmy for This Eddie Murphy Role is Mine, Not Yours. What’s it like to be nominated for an Emmy? How has this changed your career?
Being nominated for an Emmy is great but to almost be nominated for an Emmy for my work in a web series that I wrote, produced and starred in with my friends was AMAZING!!!  I am still in awe, because the experience was truly an adventurous ride. What made it even better was my wife was also nominated for an Emmy as well and see told me I was nominated, and I was calling her to tell her she was nominated.  We became the first African American married couple to be nominated for an Emmy in the same year.

Melvin with wife, Kelly Jenrette, both receiving Emmy’s

13: You’ve been in films like Five K One with Clifton Powell and Step Up with Channing Tatum. What have you picked up from those experiences that help you when you’re creating your own projects?
I picked up how to have fun while also being a professional on set, and getting the job done.  As well as all the moving parts to shooting a project.  Everyone’s job on set is important. 

Melvin at PanAfrican Film Festival in 2013

14. What’s up next for you?
I am currently in post production on a domestic violence documentary that I wrote, directed and produced entitled “I’m A Survivor, No Longer A Victim”  the promo trailer is currently on my YouTube page Melvin Jackson Jr TV.

I also have a few projects that I am currently pitching that I am producing as well as developing a few other projects that I wrote or co-wrote.

Melvin with his three sons

November Spotlight: Ros Gentle

Posted on November 12, 2020 in Spotlight

Roslyn studied music during her childhood but started her professional life working as a primary school teacher in Sydney. Deciding to become an actress, Roslyn trained at the National Institute for Dramatic Art. She is probably best remembered as one of the most outrageous characters ever to appear in the cult TV drama “Prisoner”, playing Laura Gardiner, a shy librarian by day but a tough-talking prostitute, working under the name Brandy Carter, by night. Here she talks about her decade spanning career and what is up next.

My parents are the two on the left.

1. Where in Australia did you grow up? Can you tell us a bit about your childhood?
I was born in a tiny country town called Gulgong, about 150 miles straight west of Sydney. We soon moved to the slightly larger town of  Mudgee, (home of Craigmore Winery), where my dad and mom ran a grocery store for the first 4-5 years of my life. I have very few memories from this time: A big black dog and a pet cockatoo in my backyard,  being given a plaster cast of a Santa statue by Santa at what must have been preschool and swinging on the roosting swings in the chicken coop with my older sister.

Me, my two sisters and Santa Claus!

It was my Mom’s dream to come to Sydney which we did  when I was 5. Sadly she passed away very unexpectedly not long after we arrived leaving our grieving dad with a newborn. He then opened a small accommodation lodge on Bondi Beach with his dad, whose wife had also passed. They call it Thelellen (both their wives names – Thelma and Ellen). With 3 little girls under 8 (one only a few months old) plus a new business Dad sent us two older girls  to boarding school. So my first 7 years of school were spent with the nuns.  I saw my first movie at boarding school (the Song of Bernadette and wanted to become a nun!!!) Lol! Then I went to the tivoli to see Peter Pan and I wanted to be that girl flying across the stage dressed as a boy! It took awhile for me to get there though! We would go home on weekends and holidays when we would be put to work serving the breakfasts or cleaning the rooms before we could hit the beach – an easy walk and a place I loved!. Dad bought a projector so we could watch old cartoons. I remember we had one of the first versions of Mickey Mouse (unrecognizable today!) My sister and I would create movie events for all the kids in the street. I think we even charged!! Lol! We were also the first people on the street with television, when I was around 5-6. Because Mom was a jazz pianist, dad wanted us all to learn piano which I started at 5 also. Later I taught myself guitar. And learned to play cello for the school orchestra.  So I was always surrounded  by people…at school (60 in a dorm) or home, always a bedroom share with 1 or 2 others and lots of guests!!!. When I was 12 my father remarried so we came home and went to school nearby. My stepmother went on to have 7 children and that made ten of us! In high school I started singing in an all girl folk group. We did weddings and folks clubs, pubs and wine bars and backup vocal for some celebs here and there. Dad was a larger than life gregarious man but very strict with his kids. So childhood was a mixed bag of hard work, tolerance, lots of sharing stuff, peeling off sunburn, monthly birthday parties, babysitting and vying for attention in the rabble of it all!

Rehearsing before the audience enters for taping variety show for ABC Sit Yourself Down Take a Look ‘Round.

2. You started your professional life as a primary school teacher in Sydney. What led you to the decision to pursue education?
I enjoyed acting in high school but could not seriously consider it as a career option as I believed (to my absolute horror today!) that it was only for people who weren’t smart enough to do anything else!!!! YIKES!!! And I was smart so I should become a teacher. Which I did! I taught 6-7 year olds (I thought that would allow my gifts in the arts to be put to good use.) Then I moved to ESL teaching (fewer students in the class!!) Teaching has been a great tool to have along the way and continues to this day. I think I always knew I would be a teacher… it’s kinda in my DNA …like acting!

My first professional job before NIDA.. Touring Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs

3. In what ways did that experience prepare you to enter the world of acting?
 When you’re teaching 6-7 year olds you’re acting much of the time.. like pretending to be cross when all you really want to do is burst out laughing at what they have done or said… but you know if you do that you will lose them completely (I know this from experience ;-). Teaching is harder.. You  have an audience in both but one usually hopefully wants to be there , the other usually …not so much!!! So discipline becomes an art. I guess it made me very aware of where the audience is at though. You have to read them at all times.. Are they engaged, are they listening, are they bored..? So I think in that way it prepared me for theater work!

Final performance at NIDA playing Sari in Noel Coward’s Bitter Sweet

4. Was there a moment you recall that led you to train at the National Institute for Dramatic Arts?
Well I had left full time teaching at 25 to try and make a career of singing and started my first acting class to help with the singing. I took weekly evening classes with a woman named Betty Williams who also taught at NIDA. From day one I knew I was home. She asked questions constantly about the psychology of the characters and that’s what drew me in. I knew I was a natural performer but I had no idea acting was delving into the psychology of human behaviour which had always fascinated me. From that moment I knew what my career was going to be! Not, as I said, that teaching ever went away.  It has been my saviour through the tough times. I started teaching acting in the 80’s at the Actors Center plus having my own classes at home. Courses ran consistently in Australia through word of mouth, no advertising ever. It’s the regular money when the acting is not there and I am still currently teaching…you guessed it …the Psychology of Performance (a course I introduced to the school 10 years ago) at NYFA here in LA.

But back to your question… that specific moment….I had been with an agent for a year and had done a lot of commercials… I was the commercial queen! But only getting background work or one liners in series and films. And a good friend who had also been studying with Betty Willams at the beginning had gone to NIDA and was now getting offered really good roles. So I could see what I had to do. At 29 after 4 years of acting classes once a week. I decided to bite the bullet and head back to school again for another three years. NIDA auditions 2000+ actors around the country and takes only 25 a year. I was one of the lucky ones that year!

Performing Still Life in the Roslin Chapel outside of Edinburgh.
Performing Still Life in the Roslin Chapel outside of Edinburgh.

5. What was one of the most memorable experiences training at that school?
Oh,  so many but I think one of the best experiences that continued to influence me well into my career was the time we were given 6 weeks to do whatever we wanted to do…some chose to create something of their own, others chose to do a play they particularly loved etc. I said to myself “what scares me most, so I can get past it?”….and the answer came… learning big chunks of dialogue! So I chose to do a one woman show. I found a wonderful playwright called Barry Dickens had written one, called Bridle Suit, about an Australian country woman who had been jilted on her wedding night and had gone  a little crazy and still had the rat eaten wedding cake under the bed. It was a most exhilarating experience and gave me the confidence to attempt that out in the real world not once but twice with two different solo performances that have been performed all over the world. One I toured throughout Scotland back in 1997 after the Edinburgh festival.

6. In 1983 you got the role of Brandy Carter in the very successful Australian TV show, Prisoner. Can you tell us about how you landed the part?
Yes this was my first major job out of NIDA. Prisoner at that time was very successful. It was an all female prison – the early Orange is the New Black – and like here in the US there weren’t as many good roles for women as there were for men generally so all actresses in town wanted to get on the show. So I was thrilled when my agent called with the audition. The role was a woman with multiple personality syndrome so the audition was quite gruelling but fairly fresh out of NIDA and full of the confidence of a new fledgling, I dove straight into the craziness of it and won the role.

The infamous Brandy Carter in Prisoner arriving at Wentworth and ‘in uniform’
The infamous Brandy Carter in Prisoner arriving at Wentworth and ‘in uniform’

7. What was the experience like of becoming an iconic character for a hit TV show almost overnight?
It was fun doing my first interviews for TV Magazines and newspapers. But the culture of celebrity didn’t exist at that time in Australia (nothing like here) so it was just nice to share it with friends and family. It did afford me some good subsequent auditions though! Prisoner still has a wonderful cult following particularly in the gay community and I still have many fans on FB especially from the UK but from all over the world really. I think they were one of the first to have celebrity events where they invited as many of the cast as they could along with fans for a chatfest or a dinner. They are still happening to this day and many of the fans who write to me on FB are as young as 16-17 and can tell me all the characters on the show! They know more about my character(s) than I do!! So it has a whole new generation of followers!

8. You were in a number of Australian TV shows throughout the 80’s and 90’s like Home and Away, Mother and Son, A Country Practice and Neighbours.  What was the entertainment scene like in Australia during this time period?
It was very active. The rules of how much TV had to be produced in Australia had changed (after years of a lot of US television) so there was a lot of production. And I was lucky enough to have quite a few good roles, some recurring, some leads in mini series and some great guest roles. And of course commercials were always there for me!

With Alan Dale in the first couple of months of Neighbours 1984. The show has continued to this day!
With Alan Dale in the first couple of months of Neighbours 1984. The show has continued to this day!

9. When did you decide to come to America? What led to that decision?
Well this is a big question. I had always been attracted to America as a child.. mainly because of TV and wanting to see all those beautiful landscapes we would see in the westerns and of course Hollywood etc. It was very attractive to us. But as I grew older reality set in. In my 30’s I actually started a very deep and disciplined spiritual path and really wanted to change the world. Acting became simply my way of earning  a living, that I was lucky to have, as it was what I loved to do. I Had always felt also that I was a global citizen rather than from any particular country. The pull to get off ‘the island’ had been strong for  a while. But the catalyst really was when I did a leadership course which helped you identify your life’s purpose. I wanted to change the world through this business I was in and loved and in order to do that I should be at the heart of this business – Hollywood! I had lived in LA back in the 80’s for 6 months and travelled through a few times in the early 90’s. So with big dreams of running seminars on leadership for Hollywood I left ‘the island’.

I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and that I would need to have acting as my backup so I did a soft landing in Vancouver, Canada where I knew folks. I thought I would get some work under my belt in the American accent then head south. But I quickly realized the only roles in Canada were small co-stars as most of the talent came up from LA. This was the place I did finally get my first one women show up though!

My first few years in LA were not fun at all. Couldn’t get an agent for acting and quickly realized if there is anything close to being an actor in Hollywood in terms of difficulty getting work because there are so many doing the same thing…. It’s running seminars!!! So I ended up doing lots of different random jobs (including selling Chinese advertising to Chinese TV stations!!!!) In 2000 I was invited back to Australia to do an acting gig and that was it: I realized my strength and joy was in acting and I must put everything into pursuing that area on my return. My first big job was a spokesperson for a precious metals company that helped support me for the next 13 years!

It’s been a bumpy ride.. But happy where I’ve landed. And while my big dream of changing the world through Hollywood may not have come to fruition the way I thought it would I am still pursuing it in my own small way.

Spokesperson for Monex precious metals for 13 years.
Spokesperson for Monex precious metals for 13 years.

10.  How did you come to meet Chris and join CRM?
This story has been told many times but here it is in writing now…. In 2009 I had flown back to Australia to work on a film called Suing the Devil. It was a faith film about a man who decided to sue Satan in court… a courtroom drama! I played the Judge and Malcom McDowell (also a client of Chris’) played Satan. Coming into the green room from set one day I noticed, as I sat, this very good looking dynamic guy talking to a few of the folks. He had an American accent that I hadn’t heard for  a while so I was interested to know who he was. When I found out I was even more interested … Wow! A manager who actually cares enough to fly to another country to make sure everything is OK on set… nice…. I want this man to manage me!! He came to set several times so we got to chat a little but not a lot. But the seed was planted… could this be my next manager? I didn’t think it was the time or the place to ask that question so thought I’d leave it till we returned to LA.

With Manager Chris Roe at one of his fabulous Christmas parties he throws for his clients every year.
With Manager Chris Roe at one of his fabulous Christmas parties he throws for his clients every year.

It took a few months for me to pluck up the courage to even make a call. And when I finally did he actually answered his phone…another tick! So hard to get straight through to agents and managers in this town! He suggested we meet as Priscillas for coffee. We sat and chatted for, I think, more than 3 hours,  laughing over some of the hilarious things that had happened on the film Malcolm and I had just done. It was such a warm friendship that I didn’t want to spoil it by asking for representation. I thought maybe I’d follow up with that in another time maybe by email. But as we were leaving he turned and said to me “ You know I’m working on a film that I think you would be perfect for”. To which I responded, “well if you’re working on a film I am perfect for then you really should be managing me!!” His retort, “And that is our next coffee”. The rest is history. He changed the trajectory of my career!

11. You’ve had a very successful go of it this past decade with appearances on shows like Lucifer, American Crime Story, Agent X, and Hello Ladies. Is it rewarding to have your career continue to grow?
Well such a silly question really. Who wouldn’t be happy that their career is going well!!! Lol!! In fact in my 60’s I’ve had more  success than the entire time I’ve been in the country. (26 years) Which is amazing given Hollywood is not really friendly to over 40’s women and usually one’s career starts to peter out as you get older,  but mine, touch wood, is heading in the right direction. YAY!!

Remember When, film about Alzheimer's 2014
Remember When, film about Alzheimer’s 2014
Mrs Fitzhubert in Picnic at Hanging Rock 2017
Mrs Fitzhubert in Picnic at Hanging Rock 2017

12. What has been some of the best experiences working with such top talent in these shows?
In American Crime Story: The People Vs OJ Simpson I was lucky enough to be in that courtroom every time they had a court scene, so got to see how the A listers worked up close and personal and one of the things that I really noticed: I can’t remember one scene where they had to stop or retake a scene because someone fluffed their lines or couldn’t remember them. And some of those lawyer courtroom monologues were tough and they had them EVERY DAY! That blew me away. A testament to the dedication and work they put in behind the scenes. But I think my loveliest and most affirming experience was actually working with Charlize Theron and director Jay Roach on Bombshell. It was probably the most high profile feature I’d worked on since coming here and I had two small but really nice little scenes with Charlize… but the whole experience was as I remembered being treated back home in Australia when I was playing leads. I had a very small part but was treated with such respect and care by everyone from wardrobe to makeup to food (so good!)etc. but especially by Charlize (who was also producing) and lovely Jay (so humble, kind, simply delightful man) I remember after finishing the scenes both of them individually came up and thanked me for giving them so much in such a small scene (what a reaffirming experience). Of course as happens when they need to cut a film it’s usually the smaller linking scenes that go. So while I have no remembrance of this beautiful experience on film….it is etched in my heart.

Courtney Vance and Sarah Paulson The People Vs OJ
Courtney Vance and Sarah Paulson The People Vs OJ Simpson
The final Jurors!
The final Jurors!
Rupert Murdoch’s Secretary in Bombshell
Rupert Murdoch’s Secretary in Bombshell

13. In 2011 you were in a film with Malcolm McDowell called Suing the Devil. In 2019 you were with Malcolm in the 2019 Film Bombshell. Are you friends?
We worked together in almost all of the scenes in Suing the Devil but I didn’t actually get to work with him in Bombshell as my two scenes were with Charlize Theron and he was not in on that day. But in terms of friendship…we are not friends as in, we get together for coffee or a drink often, but when we do meet around the traps we pick up just where we left off. There is an unspoken connection there. He’s one of those people I feel like I have known in other lifetimes…. in a good way. 😉

With Malcolm McDowell
Screening of Suing The Devil in Australia
Screening of Suing The Devil in Australia

14. What’s up next for you? Any projects coming up?
There was a beautiful feature I was due to start filming literally the day LA went into lockdown and all filming permits were withdrawn. 🙁 So hopefully that will be back soon. For the past year on and off  I’ve also been working on a four part docu drama about the terrible murder of publicist Ronni Chasen in 2010 and that still has a few days of shooting to go. I play Ronni.

Medics attend Ronni after the shooting. 6:38 The Death of Ronni Chasen
Medics attend Ronni after the shooting. 6:38 The Death of Ronni Chasen
Cemetery Tales: A Tale Of Two Sisters Written and directed by Manager Chris Roe

And a wonderful female Indian director I did a very moving short with years ago on Alzhiemers has written a fabulous comedy (a feature) and actually wrote a part specifically for me as an Australian woman who has been to India many times (I’ve been there 25 times!). They had the money just before covid…but we’ll have to wait and see when it comes back! So a  few things in the pipeline when production can really get going again!

15. Your career has spanned many decades of steady work and great roles. What advice would you give to a younger actress that wants to have an acting career that spans many decades.
Never give up…it could come later in life for you! Always see auditions as your chance to play one more time so you don’t get frustrated and bitter at the constant rejection!!! lol!. Have a complimentary job that allows you the flexibility needed but that you also love so you don’t become desperate. They can feel it when you walk into the room. Do comedy classes if it is not your forte. There are more roles for older actors if they are good at comedy. Always keep up with technology and Social Media. It’s not going away!

Veteran’s Day Spotlight

Posted on November 10, 2020 in Spotlight

As CRM observes Veteran’s Day we would like to pay a special tribute to our clients who have served in the armed forces. We thank them for their service and wish them well in their ongoing journey.

Tara Batesole – Air Force

1. What motivated you to join the military?
I’m a Navy brat, when I decided I wanted to join my dad recommended jumping ship and joining the Air Force. It was something I’d wanted to do, and the fact most people didn’t think I’d make it made me want to join even more.

2. What was (is) your primary job after training (MOS)?
I worked in communication.

3. Where did you serve the majority of time in service?
Stationed at Andrews Air Force Base, just outside DC.

4. Tell me about some of the special people you met.
One of the great things about the military is you meet people from all walks of life. And as different as our backgrounds could be, we had this one thing in common.

5. What was the best and worst ‘military’ food you were served, and why?
Was any of it good??? But really, MREs were the worst…had a hard time getting those down.

6. Tell me a funny story you experienced that could only happen in the military.
Day one in Basic Training I thought it’d be a good idea during chow to go back up for dessert…huge no no. The TI called me out to make an example and I couldn’t stop laughing.

7. How did (does) your military experience affect your life today? What is it like being a Veteran in Hollywood?
I love having the support of other veterans in this industry, its not easy. Having that commonality and camaraderie again is awesome. And of course making fun of the other branches…especially the Navy!

Michael Broderick – Marines

1. What motivated you to join the military?
I decided to enlist because I felt (and continue to feel) gratitude for having been lucky enough to be born in this country. So many people from around the world, including my great grandparents courageously left everything they knew behind to seek a better life here in America. To this day, people dreaming of a better life have their sights set on the United States. I understood early on that the values that make our country so free and so great need to continually be protected by everyday citizens. It’s a hands-on job that not everyone is willing or able to do. I was willing. I was able. So, I did.

2. What was (is) your primary job after training (MOS)?
While I had hoped to work as either a broadcast or photo journalist, the needs of the Marine Corps dictated that I serve as a Logistics and Embarkation Specialist. The beauty of many of the support roles is that you can be attached to any unit. I landed with Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron 167 (HML/A-167) in the 2nd Marine Air Wing, stationed at Marine Corps Air Station New River in Jacksonville, NC.

3. What rank are you most proud to have earned, and why?
When I attained the rank of Corporal (E-4), that really meant something to me. It is the first rank that doesn’t come automatically based on time in grade/time in service. You truly have to earn it. As a corporal, you are a Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) and while, for many, it’s just the first in a long line of promotions and ranks to earn, for me, it was a special one.

4. Tell me about some of the special people you met.
The thing I loved and appreciated most about my time in service was working alongside people from all over the country. Coming from the Jersey Shore and being the product of a middle-class family, it was strange to meet Marines who had never before seen the ocean. I really came to respect the work ethic of those whose life before the Corps entailed waking up before dawn, doing all their chores on the farm, then going to school, then more chores, only to do it all again the next day. It also opened my eyes to the experiences of my fellow Marines who struggled while coming up in inner cities, now determined to make a better life for themselves. I served with the sons and daughters of famous lawyers, titans of industry, dirt farmers, single parents, plumbers (like my dad) … Marines that came from every kind of background you could think of. I learned a lot about real diversity.

5. What is it like being a Veteran in Hollywood?
The experience of being a veteran in Hollywood has been changing over these past several years and for the better. Thanks to groups like Veterans in Media & Entertainment (VME), industry leaders are getting to know more about the talented veteran community. Productions are learning first-hand about the outstanding work ethic and unique skills a military veteran brings to set when he or she is hired. For a while, I think some productions reached out to veterans driven by a sense of duty or even pity. These days, more and more producers and directors are realizing how much value someone with military experience can bring to a production and that makes me happy. I continue to be amazed at the success of my veteran brothers and sisters and am grateful to be in the Hollywood trenches alongside them.

Semper fidelis,
Michael Broderick

Scott C. Roe – Navy Seals

I always wanted to serve my country. My father was an intelligence officer during Vietnam. I knew I would follow in his footsteps and serve. I became a Navy SEAL and worked primarily in Central and South America. Being a SEAL, I was blessed to serve with some of the most dedicated and tough-minded individuals in the world. This military service taught me things that I will use for the rest of my life. The mental toughness to attack and overcome any obstacle. And now being a Veteran in Hollywood I’ll put those skills to use!

November Spotlight: Steve Humphreys

Posted on November 6, 2020 in Spotlight

Steve Humphreys is a South African actor best known for his roles playing tough-guys on New Girl, American Crime Story, Justified, and Ray Donovan; as well as his many roles on the stage, in independent film, and in video games. 

1. Tell us a bit about your childhood and where you grew up?
I was born in London and grew up in South Africa. Moved to the US at 11.

2. How did you get interested in acting?
My first play was Cinderella at 6 years old and I’ve been hooked ever since. Acting still brings me the same joy all these years later.

3. What made you decide to come to the United States?
Like most immigrants, my parents wanted a better life for their children. Living in apartheid era South Africa was dangerous and my father had the opportunity to transfer to Los Angeles with his company.

Playing Cymbeline in Shakespeare By The Sea’s production of Cymbeline.

4. You’ve received training form Beverly Hills Playhouse, and Shakespeare at Antaeus, have a B.A. in Theatre from CSU Long Beach, why was it important for you to be classically trained?
Theatre has always been my first love and performing live is the closest you will ever get to an audience as an actor. You know instantly whether they are with you or not. I’ll never forget playing the villain in a play for Danny Glover’s Robey Theatre Co about the Haitian revolution and having the audience yell out during my performance because I was tricking the main character into surrendering. I feel like my vast classical training has given me the tools to handle anything that is thrown at me as an actor.

5. In 2011 you landed a co-star role in the hit FX show Justified, do you feel as though this was a big jumping off moment for you?
Honestly, booking Justified was one of the most pivotal moments in my career. I had a day job at the time and it was becoming increasingly difficult to get away for auditions during the day. I had previously auditioned for Justified something like 9 times and to be honest was over it. Feeling like it was a waste of time, I barely looked at the lines and booked the job. It was a glorious experience working with Emmy Winner Jeremy Davies and Walton Goggins. They reminded me why I love acting so much and since at the time Justified was one of the hottest shows on TV, it opened a lot of doors for me.

Behind the scenes on New Girl

6. You often play characters that are very tough, angry and rough around the edges like the Aryan skinhead “Erik” in S.W.A.T., Paul in Franklin and Bash, or the Road Rage Guy in New Girl, what about you as an actor lands you these roles?
I love playing villains. I think the key is understanding what makes them tick and being willing to expose their ugly side is the key to tapping into these kind of characters. Nobody thinks they are a villain, they always have justifications for the way they act.

“Erik” in SWAT on CBS

7. Especially as someone who moved to this country, is it fun to get to play the American redneck, Aryan Gang member, Hard-Ass type?
It’s always pretty funny to me that I get cast that way since people that know me always tell me that these characters are the complete opposite of me but playing the villain is always the juiciest role.

“Mark Morgan” in Prime Suspect on NBC

8. How do you get yourself amped up for these roles, such as on S.W.A.T. and Etheria?
Music always helps, I often make character specific playlists to get me into the scene prior to shooting. I played an SS officer in the feature film Miriam a few years ago and found listening to Rammstein got me ready for my scenes, especially since all of my dialogue was in German.

9. You’ve done some great voice work for Warner Bros. ADR on films like Invictus, 300: Rise of Empire, and Hereafter. How did you get involved with this?
Since I’ve lived all over the world, I can do the accents from every place I’ve lived and have a good ear for other accents. Most of these projects for Warner Brothers wanted authentic accents so I’ve been lucky to work for them repeatedly.

On set of Ray Donovan

10. You’ve also worked on Red Dead Redemption. What is it like being involved with a video game?
This was such a fun experience, I had plans to go out of town so of course got the booking last minute and had to cancel my plans. It was also motion capture so I had to wear a headpiece with cameras mounted to it so they could capture my face for the game. I definitely feel that having a background in theatre is very helpful for acting in video games.

11. When did you move to New York City? What was the reason for the change?
I moved to NYC 3 years ago to continue pursuing theatre. Thankfully there is a vibrant film and television scene here and for the most part I’m still able to self tape my auditions that I get from LA so it feels like a win/win.

Opposite Martin Short in his live show.

12. You’ve had a long history of acting in theater productions, why is it important to you to continue acting on the stage?
It’s said that theatre is an actor’s medium, I find you have the most control over the finished product. I enjoy the interaction with the audience and the fact that every performance is unique.

13. Most recently you were in a new play called Shadow of Heroes in New York, can you tell us about that experience?
This was fantastic experience of a rarely revived play about the Hungarian revolution for the Obie award winning Metropolitan Playhouse in the East Village.

14. What’s up next for you?
I shot a feature film in Buffalo with Patrick Flanery & Weston Coppola called Assault on VA 33 and have a show called Murderville premiering on  InstaMiniSeries on Instagram.

Shadow of Heroes at the Obie Winning Metropolitan Playhouse in NYC