Steve Monarque [Interview]


A few years ago this amazing short film entitled Simpler Times came to my attention, and I was deeply compelled by it. It’s such an amazing little film that is heart-wrenchingly beautiful. So I looked into who was behind the making the film, as one should ALWAYS do! And lo and fucking behold, I discovered it was the one and only Steve Monarque! Steve came to my attention at a very young age when to portrayed the great Johnny Ventura in the classic (to some of us, anyway) television series adaptation of the Friday the 13th series. I can vaguely remember watching this series as a far too young of a viewer, but definitely remember when the internet hit us by storm, and have managed to check out the series once again via YouTube and mega-fan sites across the web. It is a brilliant show, that simply didn’t get enough credit, such is the story of so many great shows that just don’t quite make the cut.

So, I felt compelled to reach out to the artist formerly known as Johnny Ventura, and ask him about the show, and his work on the amazing short film Simpler Times, and even more! And dammit it all if he didn’t give us some amazing answers that I am so excited to share with you all. Ladies and Gentlemen, the great Steve Monarque!

One of your earliest credits as an actor is in the ABC After School Special “Stoned”. I will admit, I have not seen it. But, I do remember the concept behind these After School Specials, and given that title, I am very intrigued to ask you what exactly was this episode about?

It was about a young high school student (played by Scott Baio) who got himself caught up with two bad boys (myself and Jeffery Frichner) smoking marijuana during and after school. It changed his life for a brief moment but then he learned the hard facts of life and eventually accepted who he was without being “stoned”.

My actual earliest memory of your work is in the short lived but now cult classic television series adaptation of Friday the 13th. Would you mind telling us a bit about your experience on this show as the great Johnny Ventura? Was it a good time in your life? 

You know, Friday the 13th has gotten some negative reactions through the years and was taken off the air because it was accused of being part of the occult. But my experience was the complete opposite. I believe the show was about the fight between good and evil and, as always, good triumphing. The time I spent shooting in Toronto was not only exciting, it was creative and fun. I mean who wouldn’t want to fight the roots of an evil tree or travel through time or even bring your father back from the dead using a cursed coin? Johnny certainly learned his lesson in that one. The show’s cast and crew were a delight. We got along very well. We had to. Our shooting schedule was rigorous. Always at night while the rest of the world slept. I guess that was appropriate for the subject matter.


Another random credit I noticed as a Jock in the beloved cult classic of a film, Sixteen Candles. We had the pleasure of speaking with Haviland Morris to tell her how much we loved this film, and now hear you are as well! Can you tell us a bit about your experience on set on this film? It really seemed like the perfect time to be young in Hollywood. Would you say so?

Being young in Hollywood is always a good thing. It’s geared to the young and if you’re at the right place at the right time things can happen. You always have to be ready cause you never know when that time will come. John Hughes auditioned me for The Breakfast Club and I was really close to getting the role. When the part of Jock came up in Sixteen Candles I got a phone call to come to set. I didn’t even have to audition. He remembered me, which was a good feeling. But as always, being on a studio set with your peers is the greatest experience. I remember the party scene. I wasn’t even there. They stuck me on a platform one day said, “Look through the hole and say wow”. Wow is right. That moment got me a lot of recognition.

You have eventually moved more off the screen to working as a director of plays and film. What kickstarted this transition? Did it feel like a natural progression to you?

Early in my career I noticed how actors would have some success. But the majority came and went. I knew that show business would not take care of it’s own. Longevity was always the key but when Star Search was created it opened up the door to reality TV where anyone can be a star. That’s what we have today. YouTube sensations. All from a smart phone. I decided that telling story is done not only in front of the camera but also behind it. So I started to write and, trust me, not very well. But I kept at it while I was acting. I submitted a one act play to an Off-Broadway festival in New York and it was accepted. It won best play. From there it was made into a short film where it won best short at the New York International Film Festival. My writing and directing career began. Today I have two plays and three films in development.

When did MonaVision Films come about? What made you want to start your own company?

It came about when Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara decided to be in my film Simpler Times. That was 2011. Every filmmaker has to have a film company. I spent weeks mulling around all kinds of names. We were going into production and I had to call us something. Mona is the first four letters of my last name and this is my vision. Pretty corny, huh?

How did the idea for the insanely sweet and delightful short film Simpler Times come around? Was it a vehicle for Jerry and Anna, or did they come around afterwards?

Thank you for your kind words. I wrote four short films. Simpler Times was first called Please Say A Command and the late Henry Gibson was attached to it. After his passing I was out of a lead actor. In 2011, I was performing in a rock musical at the Village Gate in NYC alongside my now wife Laura Carbonell, when Jerry Stiller came backstage and congratulated us on our performance. As Jerry was speaking to me all I could hear myself say was, “Mr. Stiller? Would you read my script”? Well, next thing you know I’m invited to his house and as we were working on the story together I hear from the other room, “Where’s my part”? Anne Meara walks into the room. Well you have to know I was watching Stiller and Meara when I was five on the Ed Sullivan Show. It was like the full circle for me. Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara. How fortunate I am. I don’t think either one needed a vehicle. They were already established as one of the greatest comedy husband and wife duos. I think they just liked the story and love to perform.

Steve Monarque and his previously mentioned “now wife” actress and producer Laura Carbonell at LA Short Fest.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

Right now I have a play in development in New York, called “That’s Life”, the story of a down and out rock and roller who meets his guardian angel through a karaoke machine. Lots of original rock music and comedy. I have a couple films in development too, but all our upcoming projects and productions can be followed at http://www.monavisonfilms.com.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

When I see my wife Laura in front of me, I can’t help but smile.

Thank you so much Steve, for this wonderful interview, and also for these lovely still shots from the set of Simpler Times:



Jerry Stiller, Steve Monarque, Armando Merlo, and Laura Carbonell

And check out this short trailer for Simpler Times:

Peter Mehlman [Interview]

The subject of today’s interview may very well be one of the most fascinating individuals we have had the pleasure of showcasing here at Trainwreck’d Society. Continuing on with our love affair of brilliant writing, especially in the world of television, we are featuring the legendary comedy writer and journalist Peter Mehlman. It’s pretty easy to ramble off Mehlman’s credits as a writer and producer in several different formats, as he has worked on some of the most notable television shows in history. Notably, he was a driving force behind the powerhouse that was Seinfeld. But, alas, there is something even more special about this guy that has to be addressed.

The term “yada yada yada” means a lot of things to different people. The idea behind this saying pre-dates it probably by decades, and has since transformed to different coagulations of the English language, ultimately meaning the same thing. But, the term “yada yada yada”, is still a major part of the our slang culture, and can very easily be heard daily. And ladies and gentlemen, Peter Mehlman invented this term! I’m not saying that this single phrase is the only reason we should remember and ultimately bow down to the brilliance of Mehlman, I just find it to be a solid example as to why he may be one of the most influential people to ever put proverbial pen to paper. The man transformed our language as we know it through the insight of his own brain. What better sign could we have that a genius is living amongst mere mortals?

As you will read the amazing interview below, Peter exists on a plane beyond of this low-rent blogger, as I learn a few things about my poor use of the English language, and that I probably have no business doing so. But, of course I will. Oh, what new exciting times we are living in. It is important to note that what we have below is not just a collection of gentle stabs at a moronic blogger, it is a brilliant story loaded with wonderful advice from one of our finest minds in the world of television producing, writing, journalism, yada, yada, yada (See what I did there? Who’s the hack now? Haha).

So without further rambling and bullshit written montages, please enjoy some amazing words from the legendary Peter Mehlman!

When did you first realize you wanted to be a journalist for a living? Was it a long time ambition stemming from childhood?

Spring semester, sophomore year at the University of Maryland. I’d been writing for the student paper then took a journalism class in which you had to write 40 articles in one semester. I wrote 66 and felt constantly jazzed by the whole process: poking around for stories, rushing to get stories in under deadline… all while reading All The President’s Men. Twice.

What was the first piece you can remember seeing published and was able to say: “I wrote this, and somebody gave me money to do so”? And how was the feeling at the time?

Summer 1978. Just having graduated, I got my foot in the door at the Washington Post — a great story too long to get into here. Suffice to say, I heard the Post wasn’t hiring white males so I wrote a job letter as a woman. Don’t ask. My first piece was for the sports section… a feature on “rail birds” at Laurel Race Track. These were people who stood around the rail watching their horses lose and their wallets lightened. On the other hand, I was paid $50. The sports editor, George Solomon said, “Nice piece kid. Fifty bucks.” I went to a Xerox place to photocopy the check. They insisted on stamping the word COPY over the copy, thinking I was going to try something fishy.

I have to ask you about bloggers. Are we destroying journalism as we once knew it? Are we on the list of blame for the reason that people who are actually talented find it impossible to come up as a freelancer like you could pre-Internet?

Like everything else internet-related, blogging gives anyone a forum to spout off. For the longest time, I just thought blogging was for people who can’t get paid to write. Actually, I still kind of believe that but clearly there are some bloggers who post some worthwhile writing. Finding them is a treasure hunt even the lightest work schedule cannot include. It’s not as if blogging is that much more detrimental to journalism than a million other avenues on the internet but it’s certainly not upping the quality of journalism. It’s possible The New York Times and The Washington Post are all that’s keeping American society from total chaos.


With all of your insider knowledge and you wealth of experience with Seinfeld….what do you think Newman is doing now? Not Wayne Knight obviously, but the character, how is he handling Trump-era NYC?

Considering his personal habits, it would be an insult to medical science if Newman is still alive. But if he is, he was probably a Trump voter because his whole existence was based on Anti-Jerry-ism. That said, he wouldn’t be fanatical about it because Jerry, who wasn’t fanatical about anything occurring in the outside world, would be taking Trump in stride.

If you received a nickel for each time somebody used the saying “yada yada yada” since you first brought it to the world, how much money do you think you would have today, and which small country would you purchase first?

Nickels don’t add up that fast. I still wouldn’t have as much money as Jerry or Larry and they haven’t bought small countries, last I checked. But if the haul were much more massive than I’m guessing, I’d buy Luxembourg. I flew into it once and it felt like an especially lavish college campus. And the fact that no one ever visits Luxembourg is extra appealing. I have Attention Surplus Disorder… I just don’t want to be bothered.

During your time running the hilarious web-series The Narrow World of Sports, what would you consider the most awkward experience during its run? What made for some of the most uncomfortable moments in doing these amazing interviews?

It was never awkward except with Sugar Ray Leonard. He never grasped the concept enough to go along with the humor side of it. He’d been in the public eye so long, he had an auto-pilot he’d push the second the camera went on. He’d be thoughtful and wide-eyed and serious… then the camera would go off and he’d be exactly the kind of guy I wanted him to be when the camera was on. In a way, it didn’t really matter: The main philosophy of the show was that the questions were more important than the answers.


I read briefly somewhere that you have dabbled in the world of stand up comedy. Are you still doing so? Do you find it to be an exciting and/or difficult challenge?

You read that briefly? Did you run out of time or was the reading material just incredibly thin? Whatever. Yes, I have been dabbling, am still dabbling, and totally love it. It’s so much fun that I feel calmer on stage than when at a cash register saying, “Venti Half-Caf drip please?” Of course, there’s really nothing at stake so there’s no reason to not be calm. But my mind works on a heightened level up there, my enunciation and verbal fluency is better than it is at dinner with friends. So it’s pretty curious/thrilling.

When you look back on your illustrious career as writing in so many different capacities, what are you most proud of?

Whatever illustrious means… There’s possibly some satisfaction about being fairly daring in trying out different stuff and being sort of successful without having any career goals (Everyone’s so goal-oriented: Why limit yourself?) It’s nice that I’ve made a living writing without having to take a crappy job or sell out in any other of the ten million soul-crushing ways offered by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce…

…Boy, this is a vague, deflection-riddled answer. My overall career is not the kind of thing I dwell on, even though resting on your laurels sounds nice and is probably way underrated. In order to come at least somewhat in the ballpark of an answer to your question: Recently, I had a nice essay published in the Washington Post and realized that being in print still excites me in a way I didn’t feel after writing a good Seinfeld script. It takes a bit of courage to have a winding career path and I truly consider Seinfeld to have been a career detour. Yes, it was an absolutely ridiculously great detour, but a detour nonetheless. Knowing what you like is pretty career-making.

What do you have coming up that our reader(s) should be excited about? Anything you would like to plug?

I maybe hosting a brunch but it’s just for friends. Also, there are few things (one in TV, one internet-y thing a la Narrow World of Sports) that are in those delicate stages where it would be bad luck to discuss them in any detail. And I assume they won’t happen because it’s healthier to presume they won’t happen. (Philosophy: you better enjoy the work because the moment you send it out into the world, it’s like driving a new car off the lot… it instantly devalues by half.) And there’s the stand-up which would be very difficult to pin me down on because booking the actual stage time is the tough/unreliable part of it. So no, nothing to plug.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

This morning. Hearing Howard Stern do his impression of his parents. That is a never ending source of smile-a-ture. And after that: getting my Starbucks order and paying for it all without saying a word to anyone.

Check out one of the most infamous episodes of The Narrow World of Sports featuring the legendary Kobe Bryant:

Besetment [Film]

I want to start this thing out by saying that I had far more fun with this film that I thought I would. Also, if you are a person like me who enjoys a splendid ending to a very fucked up tale that has you shaking your head and muttering “God, dammit” in a truly positive way, I can absolutely guarantee that Besetment is the film for you. So let’s begin….

Filmmaker Brad Douglas is definitely one of these amazing guys that was obviously destined to be a masterful storyteller for the screen. With Besetment, he has managed to visually display a truly original story even if it surrounds itself in usual circumstance. I won’t pretend to think that I am the first person who is going to say that Besetment is Psycho meets Twin Peaks, right down to the wonderful music and the police comradely. These things are obvious, and a brilliant homage. But where Douglas stands out is in his obvious belief that nothing exceeds like excess. I’d love to explain this further, but I really feel like you need to watch the film, and only then will you truly know what I am talking about. And with that, maybe an explanation of the film itself is in order. So here we go:

“Besetment stars Abby Wathen (The Bay) as a young woman who takes a hotel position in a small town where she ends up fighting for her life.

Amanda Millard, struggling and desperate for a job, takes a position at a hotel in a small town in Oregon. It’s a creepy, back country kind of town but owners Mildred Colvin and her son Billy seem nice enough at first. It’s not long before Amanda discovers their real intentions, and her struggle to make a living becomes a nightmarish fight for her life.”

Yeah, that just about explains the story in the most generalized context, without giving some truly amazing and completely fucked up little bits that truly make the film original and compelling. Brad Douglas has the same sort of gall that I have always admired in the likes of a brilliant B Horror filmmaker like Steve Sessions, who many readers will already know I admire whole-heartedly. Both Douglas and Sessions are wonderful writers and filmmakers who know how to get to the true essence of a story, and how to portray it on film in a great way…yet, you wish the land of Hollywood was able to throw them a few million bones to bring their amazing vision to a more polished work. But, when you live in a constant state of resentment for the bullshit that is brought before our eyes on a weekly basis, you learn how to look back at the brilliant independent filmmakers who simply want to tell a brilliant/terrifying as fuck type of tale. And that is exactly what we have with Besetment. You could wish it had a couple of million dollars thrown at it, or you can simply respect it for what is in front of you.

And speaking of what is in front of us, the acting is mostly something I would definitely NOT trade out for the world. For anyone who is reading this post viewing, you are bound to and should be ordered to say that Marlyn Mason was absolutely brilliant and fucking disturbing! She is definitely an obvious highlight of the film. But, Abby Wathen’s performance should not be over-shadowed as she is a brilliant actress with an incredible amount of promise that we are sure to see more of in the future.

Overall, this is a brilliant independent horror film that, if given a proper chance, can be truly appreciated by anyone who enjoys a great story and a collection of wonderful performances. So watch Besetment folks, you won’t be disappointed.

Besetment premieres on VOD June 6th with a DVD release to follow September 5th.

Check out the trailer for Besetment, here:

Allen Maldonado [Interview]


For those of us who geek out on film and television on the daily, there really is no greater joy than when you discover a show/movie that you had zero expectations for, and soon find yourself entranced in great writing and brilliant character development. Am I right? Of course I am, no reason to ask. I had this experience recently with a little FXX program entitled You’re The Worst. My wife and I were actually looking for something that we could both enjoy. Her being the more sappy and love story oriented person, and I with my obsession with self-deprecation and unworthy righteousness, and a love for hip hop, I think we found the perfect show. And today, I am so fortunate enough to be able to speak with one of the stars of You’re The Worst, who also happens to be a brilliant actor on so many different levels than where I first found him.

Allen Maldonado is a brilliant actor who portrays the hilarious Honey Nutz on You’re The Worst, for those of you haven’t quite figured it out. And if you are a fan of the show, you will know right away that he is a damned delight on this program, and whenever he embraces the screen, you are definitely going to laugh. But, not to be out done by himself, Allen has also become a series regular on the hugely successful program black-ish with another batch of wonderful performances. But, it’s not all just about the funny with this guy. Allen has had some brilliant dramatic roles in films like Straight Outta Compton and The Equalizer. And if I had to suggest another one, I would have to say that the 2014 indie flick Cake was film that he was amazing in, and a film that cast a whole new light on Jennifer Anniston that I don’t believe enough people appreciated.

Yes, Maldonado has become a regular face among television and film viewers, and all for great reasons. He has worked his ass off to make to where he is, and the future is only looking more and more bright each day. So, we are extremely proud to have gotten to grab a few words from him for you fine readers. I swear, you are some of the luckiest damned people out there. Anyway, ladies and gentlemen, the wonderful Allen Maldonado!

What made you decide you wanted to become an actor? Do you have any influences you can remember inspiring you to join this world?

There are several answers to that question. One is joining my acting class in high school during my senior year. While basketball was definitely my focus, I found myself selecting theater as an elective and quickly discovered I had a gift for writing and performing. Second, was the moment I witnessed my mom walking home from work, exhausted. I feel that was the first time I realized my family was poor. I quickly decided that acting would be the path that would take me and my family out of the hood.

I have recently become aware of your work on the wonderful television show You’re The Worst, and love every second you are on screen. So what made you want to be Honey Nutz? And what are your thoughts on the show thus far?

You’re The Worst is an amazing show. I am so happy to be a part of it. I believe it’s a show that is often overlooked, but our fan base is growing every day. Honey Nutz really spoke to me because he is seen as a stereotypical member of a famous rap group, but he’s really the opposite, which is slowly being revealed throughout the series. I believe the show will continue to grow in popularity with each season as more people discover what we are doing. I think it has an incredible shot at becoming an iconic show that people will continue to dive in and binge watch from Season One.


I know you have probably already received a lot adoration for your role as Tone in Straight Outta Compton, but I need to give you some more. You were wonderful. I understand you had a somewhat distant relationship with some of the things that were portrayed in this amazing film that profiled a very strange time in American history. So, how was your experience in shooting this film? And what are your thoughts on the final product?

Straight Outta Compton was an amazing experience being that I grew up in Compton the first 9 years of my life, so it had a lot of personal meaning to me. My sister went to the same high school as MC Ren, so I was surrounded by memories of that era as a child. The final product was incredible! Being #1 for 4 weekends straight was beyond any of my expectations! I believe we’ve made an iconic film that will stand the test of time as one of the greatest biopics ever made.

While digging through the plethora of film credits you have amassed over the years, one of them stuck out to me, and I will honestly say I can not remember it, but I am definitely intrigued as hell about it! So, you did a voice/impersonation of Lil Wayne in a 1997 episode of Celebrity Death Match? This sounds amazing! Can you tell us a bit about your work on this short lived, but utterly brilliant comedy show?

Celebrity Death Match was such a fun show. I can remember the day I auditioned to voice his character. Now this was before he became Young Money Lil Wayne, this was Bling Bling Lil Wayne. I often forget that I did the voice, so again, I was very fortunate to be a part of a great moment in time with MTV.

I also recently learned you have a pretty cool philanthropic venture going with Demo Nerds that seems to have done some amazing things. Care you tell us a bit about it? And what made you want to start this project?

Demo Nerds acting and film for kids is a two week acting camp for foster kids and at-risk youth. We teach them acting exercises the first week, and the second week they get to shoot their own short film. During the last day of the camp we hold a red carpet screening, inviting the press along with their family and friends to view the film. I started the foundation after visiting a career day in Watts, California. While there, I met some incredible kids that inspired me to teach them acting, spawning the idea. After talking to my good friend, Shanelle Watson, she helped my develop the idea into a two week program.

You have worked in so many different genres of film and television, practically all of them really, so what would you say is your favorite to do? Do you have a preference?

I like doing both. TV is becoming such a big thing right now that it’s production rivals some major films being made at the moment. You can really get the same feel of a film in most TV shows right now, so I must say, it’s a beautiful time to be an actor.

So what is next for you? I can only imagine there is a lot. Anything you would like to plug here?

Yes. I am launching the first ever short film mobile app, Everybody Digital. We will be streaming short films from around the world while also producing original content such a short films, digital series, and even some docuseries. We will essentially be the short form version of Netflix, creating a home for short films after the 12-15 month shelf life these films often have now. I also have two films coming out this year. One is Where’s The Money starring myself, King Bach, Terry Crews and Mike Epps. The other is First Match, which will world premiere on Netflix.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Thinking of everything that God has blessed me with.

 

To keep up with Allen, discover the latest news he has to offer at at his website. And to learn how you can contribute to Demo Nerds, check out their website as well.