Marc Zicree [Interview]

Today’s interview subject is a writer who has had such varied and successful career, it almost seems made up. Is it truly possible that one man can be the voice behind everything from a legendary children’s cartoon series, to a cult classic horror television series, right down to a new age epic science fiction saga? Well, I am here today to say YES! Yes it is possible. And Marc Zicree is the man who can make all of this possible.

Marc Zicree’s early days were spent penning stories for the world renowned and now legendary cartoon series The Smurfs which is forever engrained in my mind as the best animated series of my youth, and the youth of so many of us out there, for generations in fact. He is also another part of the creative force behind a series that we have mentioned here at Trainwreck’d Society at lengths, the legendary Friday The 13th: The Series, a brilliant yet short lived series that was related to the film series in name only and was a truly unique experience in the world of television. Yes, the same guy who made us laugh our smurfing asses off as children was also responsible for scaring the shit out of us years later.

And recently, Marc is part of the guiding force behind Space Command, a science fiction that is gaining momentum and a hardcore following after and extremely successful Kickstarter campaign, which we will discuss in the words below. Basically, this is a guy who has done it all, and was kind enough to share some stories and words of wisdom with you fine readers here today. So ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy some great words from legendary writer Marc Zicree!

What was the first bit of your writing that you can remember seeing performed on screen? Can you recall how you felt in that moment?

I can’t remember the first thing I saw on screen, but television and movies were a big influence as long as I can remember. I watched all the major shows on television as a kid and the original versions of Star Trek, Twilight Zone and Outer Limits were a huge influence.

Additionally this was a great time for science-fiction and fantasy in movies and I love the films of George Pal and Ray Harryhausen. Also 2001: A Space Odyssey came out when I was a kid and that was just astonishing.

At the same time, I was reading science fiction novels and comic books voraciously. It was a great era for both of those, the silver age comics with Marvel and DC and gold key etc. In terms of novels I was reading Ray Bradbury, Arthur C Clarke, Heinlein and all the other major writers.

Smurfs was hands down my favorite cartoon when I was a kid. And I have recently become aware that you were a major factor in those early days of the show. What was it like to write for a show like this? And what are some of your favorite moments that you manage to write into the show?

I broke into television writing animation in my early 20’s and Smurfs was the second show I wrote for (the first was Space Ghost).

At that point, none of the animation had yet been done by Hanna-Barbera and none of us had heard of the Smurfs. We were told it was a huge sensation in Europe and were shown some of the graphic novels. Peyo and Delaport, the creators of the Smurfs, flew in from Belgium to meet with us writers and explain to us what the Smurfs were.

Then we started coming up with stories and writing scripts. It was great fun, because the characters were so very distinctive and the look was unique. They were also really funny and it was fun writing comedy. Plus Gargamel was voiced by Paul Winschel, who had a television show in Los Angeles as a ventriloquist when I was a kid and was one of my idols.

Of the Smurfs scripts I wrote, my favorite was “It Came From Outer Smurf,” because that was a science-fiction story about an alien landing in a flying saucer in the Smurf Village and disguising himself as a Smurf. Very much in my ballpark.

You did a great amount of work on the highly underrated and now cult favorite show Friday The 13th: The Series. The horror genre seems a bit of a stretch from the stuff you were doing previous to the shows release, so what made you want to become a part of the Friday franchise? Were you a fan of the films prior to working on the show?

Friday the 13th: The Series was my first job as a story editor and I enjoyed it greatly. I had an office on the Paramount lot and it was the same time they were shooting Star Trek: The Next Generation, so it was all very exciting.

The show had nothing in common with the movies, which I found sadistic, other than the title, which is what helped sell the show. In fact, the show had what I found to be a moral core, as it was about two young people and a friend helping to undo the wrongs their late uncle had done. I had grown up with horror movies such as Frankenstein and The Haunting and it was a genre I loved, when it was done well.

I’m very proud of the work I did on that show, and I enjoyed finding the balance between writing a story that would have meaning and writing something that would be scary. I’m most proud of an episode I wrote called “Pipe Dream,” which was about Ryan and his father and their very troubled relationship, which was a very autobiographical piece.

I also think it’s amusing that I’m the only writer who wrote for both Smurfs and Friday the 13th: The Series. I often tell people that they were very similar in that the phrase most often said by the characters in both was, “Oh, no!”.

Marc and his writing/life partner Elaine.

While you have worked in so many different genres, it seems as though you have quite the preference for the science fiction world. What is it that has made you work so much in the science fiction genre?

The shows that made me want to be a writer  were the original Outer Limits, the original Star Trek and the original Twilight Zone.

I also was avidly reading science fiction, including the works of Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein and Theodore Sturgeon.  So it was only natural that would be the genre I would gravitate toward.

One of the things I love about science fiction  is that it allows you to look deeply within yourself and comment profoundly on life and the world around us. Taking it one step away from the current moment and events of the day allows you to be both more specific and more universal.

I also love world building, projecting a possible future and also offering a tantalizing possibility of going beyond the specific story or characters and out into a much wider universe that I’ve created.this allows for the man’s number of storylines and also collaboration with others to expand that fictional world.

And yes, while I have written westerns and horror and comedy and other genres, my heart belongs mostly in science fiction.

Additionally, my mentors have all been in the genre, in one way or another,  including Ray Bradbury. So again I was learning from the best and then striving to create high-quality work of my own.

How great did it feel when your Kickstarter campaign for Space Command absolutely CRUSHED its goal? Had you anticipated such a turn out?

I was very gratified when we raised over $221,000 on our original Kickstarter campaign. Since then, I’ve sold  investment shares in Space Command and raised over half a million more. In fact, we’re still selling shares until we sell the series itself, so it’s a great opportunity for investors.

I’ve always felt I’ve shared the same enthusiasms and aesthetic as my audience, so it was a pleasant surprise but not wholly unexpected.

What is the latest news in the world of Space Command? What should fans be expecting next?

We’ve shot the first two-hour story and are now in post production on that, have also shot 35 minutes of the second two hour story, and the opening scene of the third two-hour story — essentially a good representative sample of what will be a first season representing twelve one-hour episodes.

Our VFX team is now working full-time on the 1,900 VFX shots in the first two hour story — essentially our Space Command pilot.  I’ve written the first eight hours of the twelve-hour first season, and have outlined hours nine through twelve, plus a prequel.

I’m now actively pitching the show to major networks and platforms, both here and in England and France.  So hopefully Space Command will be available soon.  I can’t wait to share it with the world.

I’m thrilled with what we’ve produced so far.  You can check out our trailers and more at http://www.spacecommandseries.com and also my YouTube Channel Mr. Sci-Fi at:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkKt7gHnZpcY0nreBdPhwmQ

And of course there’s my Facebook and Twitter posts, and also http://www.marczicree.com

What else do you have going on? Anything else coming up that you would like to plug to our readers?

The new Twilight Zone Companion comes out at Christmas, with tons of new material, including links to audio and video rarities, plus new interviews with Rod’s daughter Jodi and George Takei.

Beyond this, we’ve founded a new company called Better Angels Productions, with our studio here in LA, an Executive VP of Business Affairs in Dallas and a presence in London.  We’ll be doing three features in the next two years, and have a slate of nine movie and TV projects.  So lots of exciting times ahead.

I’ve also just finished a memoir about my mom and am writing three new books:

My Ray Bradbury, about my friendship with Ray Bradbury; My Televised Life, about growing up watching TV and then making television, in all its past and current permutations; and The Making of Space Command.

Star Wars novelist Maya Bohnhoff has also written the first Space Command novel, which will be coming out soon.

Oh, and Elaine and I also mentor writers, directors, actors and producers.  You can find out all about that at http://www.marczicree.com too.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

When the money came through a few days ago for my wife Elaine to be hired to write the feature Subversive, based on current member of Parliament Lord Peter Hain’s memoir about this apartheid-era activist parents in South Africa.  We’re aboard that movie as producers, along with two producers in the UK, and we’ll be leaving in a couple weeks for England, Wales and South Africa to research the film so Elaine can jump in writing the script.  I can’t wait.

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New Music Tuesday: Ciaran Lavery – When I Come Around [Cover]

Let me begin today’s New Music Tuesday segment by saying that the artist showcased here today, Ciaran Lavery, is a true modern treasure. I have been a fan of this Irish singer/songwriter since I discovered his track “Left For America” on Spotify a couple of years ago. Since then, I have manage to indulge in just about everything is has recorded, and I will say that he is one of the best out there right now. And today we have something very special to share with you fine folks.

“When I Come Around” has always been my favorite track from Green Day’s seminal classic album Dookie, and easily my favorite Green Day track in general. This was a pivotal track for me in my life when I first heard it as a youngster with early developmental teenage angst. I think I was 10 years old when I first heard it, but I was developing my distaste for society very early. It is an all around perfect song, to say the least. And now the delightful Ciaran Lavery has brought us a new take on this 23 year old classic jam.

Lavery brings his brilliant brand of soft storytelling to one of the greatest pop-punk songs of all time. I love a good cover, especially when it is done with a great amount of originality. When an artist can manage to put their own spin on an already wonderful track, it is indeed something very special. And Ciaran’s take on “When I Come Around” may very well be one of the best covers I have ever heard. I would be will to put it up against Lotte Kestner’s “Halo” or Naama Hillman’s “Ring of Fire” in a hypothetical competition and I believe it would easily be the victor amongst giants.

Seriously folks, you are really going to love this one. I simply can not recommend it enough.

Check out Ciaran Lavery’s brilliant cover of “When I Come Around”, right here:

Jermaine Hopkins [Interview]


Today I have an amazing interview with a man I have been trying to get into the TWS universe for quite some time. In fact, when I originally came up with the idea for this site, and I was considering all of the folks I would love to ask some questions with, Jermaine Hopkins was right up there at the top of the list. I will admit, the original reason was simply for his hilarious role in a film that helped guide me from adolescence into becoming a man, the great Def Jam’s How To Be A Player. I know, I know. It may not seem like a film that is most appropriate for such a thing as human growth, but I truly took in the message at the end of the film. And of course Jermaine was the highlight of the film, even in those post-pubescent years, and he was what made it so enjoyable to me.

And beyond just this one film, Jermaine Hopkins has appeared, and is appearing, in some of the greatest works of our modern times since he was a very young man himself. He really brought attention to himself with brilliant roles in the films Lean On Me and Juice, which truly kickstarted his career in a major way, and the man hasn’t looked back since!

So how about I stop babbling and let the genius speak for himself. Ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy some great words from the brilliant Jermaine Hopkins!

When did you first realize that you wanted to join the world of acting? I know you started at a pretty young age, did your passion go back that far as well, or did you just sort of fall into it?

Lean on Me was my first film, I got the role by attending a casting call; I thought I was lucky. Then I landed a role in Juice but I still thought it was a fluke. After Juice I realized that people really thought I could act and that’s when I decided I wanted to make acting my career.

Jermaine Hopkins as Samms in Lean On Me.

When I was a teenager, Def Jam’s How To Be A Player was in regular rotation of my viewing habits. I absolutely loved it, and still do. And one of the main reasons I loved the film so much was the brilliant paring of yourself and Anthony Johnson. So with that, what was it like to make this film? Was it as much fun to create as it was for fans like me to watch?

Making How To Be A Player was a blast, we had a great cast with great chemistry. It was also my second opportunity to work with Russel Simmons (I’d previously worked with Russel on Rhyme & Reason), when we began filming he told me to bring the fun and that’s what I tried to do with my character.

You also appeared in another film that is still a classic in my mind, and millions of others I am sure, featuring the dearly departed poet Tupac Shakur, known as Juice. What was it like for you to work on such a dark tale at such a young age, and under the guise of a legend like Ernest Dickerson?

Juice was my second feature film role, and to be working with such talented individuals so early in my career was a blessing. Tupac was just starting his acting career, Ernest Dickerson who had previously been Spike Lee’s camera-man was making his name. To name all of the talented people involved in Juice would take forever. The great thing about filming Juice was with all the talent involved, it was still an even playing field; the best of both worlds.

Jermaine Hopkins with Juice director Ernest Dickerson.

I am also a huge fan of the largely underrated, and also featuring the belated Tupac Shakur, know as Bullet. Again, what was it like to work on this brilliant and dark project?

The filming of Bullet was a unique experience; the whole project definitely had that dark brilliancy that you mentioned. It was cool to work with Tupac again, even though by this time his life was in a different place, he had become outspoken on social issues and had gained a good bit of notoriety. Bullet was being filmed while Tupac was facing sexual assault charges, with everything going on in his life, I admired him for his professionalism; being able to keep it altogether while on set.

Jermaine Hopkins as Dupree on the seminal classic sitcom The Wayans Brothers.

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

I recently relaunched my film company J Hop Films. We are developing quality content for television and the big screen, our motto is good projects done right; look for us in 2018! Hit me @ Jermaine Hopkins on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or check out our website http://www.jhopfilms.com (under construction)!

What was the last thing that made smile?

I smiled when I woke up this morning. I’m always smiling!

Sunday Matinee: Murder On the Cape [Film]


“Based on the true story of New York fashion writer Christa Worthington, who has an affair with a married fisherman while spending a winter holiday in Cape Cod. She returns two years later with his child looking to rekindle their love. When she is found murdered, a mystery unfolds within the tight-knit community, shedding doubt on the prime suspect’s guilt.” – Vision Films

I can vaguely remember hearing about this truly sad and gruesome events that rocked a small cape town so many years ago. I wasn’t completely following the events, and I was unaware of the full details. In fact, the outer-worldly events that took place in this film adaptation of the events may very well be all the facts I truly know. With even the lightest of research, I am finding Arthur Egeli’s stylistically shot dramatization to be a very believable translation of the events that occurred. It is a very sad tale, and many lives have been forever changed because of it. I dare say, that at the very least, Egeli has managed to present the story in a brutally honest and fair fashion. It is brilliant looking film that is far less of a murder mystery, and more of a deep look into the mishandling of life matters by a man who doesn’t quite know what he wants from the world, and a woman who is equally unassured by her own existence as well. It is sad people, doing sad things, in what appears to be the most one of the most well-to-do areas in the U.S.

While the film features brilliant performances all around, It behooves me to put the singular focus the brilliant work of Heather Egeli, who also happens to be a co-producer and co-writer on the film. Her role as the betrayed wife Nancy is stuff that acting dreams are made of. She is SO damn good, and definitely steals the spotlight each and every time she shows up on screen. Even while Jade Harlow is giving what could only be considered the role of her life time, and doing it extremely well, I can’t help but acknowledge that Ms. Egeli’s brilliance is a resounding benefit to the film. And in the rare instances that they are on screen together, it’s simply lightening caught in a beautiful bottle. Also local Cape Cod resident, Josh Walther, darts out the proverbial gates of acting in his first ever role, as the male lead. Quite an impressive introduction, to say the very least.

No matter your thoughts or followership on the events that took place 15 years ago in this sleepy little fishing town, Murder on the Cape is definitely a great film. It is a film that should be enjoyed for the sake of seeing good films. We just don’t get enough of them these days, and for that I am grateful that this one exists.

Murder on the Cape is available now on VOD & DVD wherever you find movies. Also check out some of these great stills from the film, featuring the wonderful actors and actresses mentioned above:

 

Nicholas Meyer [Interview]


Oh do we have a hell of an interview for you fine folks today! We’ve featured several writers on these digital pages that have been in a class all of their own to say the least. And today is no exception. Today we have a lovely collection of answers from Academy Award nominated, and 3 time Emmy Award nominated, writer and director Nicholas Meyer.

I first fell in love with Meyer’s work on the 2003 film starring Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman known as The Human Stain. So I reached out. Unfortunately, I would learn a thing or two about the film business when asking him about this film that I have long since admired. Which happens, quite frequently really. When you take everything at face value, your naive ways are eventually going to be exposed. Nonetheless, I am very happy that he was willing to go a bit more in detail on his dealings with a film I so enjoyed.

Of course, the reason I may have some new readers here today would be because Nicholas Meyer has been heavily engrossed in the world of Star Trek. We have featured several writers, producers, and directors from the Trek world in the past, but this is a big get, guys. Meyer penned what is widely considered to be the best story in the Star Trek franchise, by the people who truly know/care about the franchise, known as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He would continue to work steadily in the film franchise, but his work on Khan has given this man royalty status in the legion of Trekkies out there.

So, ladies and gentlemen, lest we continue the babbling, and get right into some amazing words from legendary writer and director Nicholas Meyer!

When did you first discover that you had a talent for the written word? Was it a passion that was always there, or did you just sort of fall into the idea of writing for a living?

I began writing – or rather dictating – stories to my father, who wrote them down, when I was five.  How our dog, Lempi, carried the newspaper in her mouth home from the grocery store; that sort of thing.  I was read or told bedtimes stories as a child and I expect this prompted my imitations.  After a year or so (I’m guessing here), my father claimed to be tired of being my stenographer (already he knew my affection for big words, thanks to Kipling’s Just So Stories), and told me I must write my own stories from then on.  And so I did.
It was never my conscious intention to become a writer; writing was simply a reflexive action I performed. I think, among other things, writing was a palliative for my intermittent bouts of anxiety.  Words became my familiars.  When confused, I reached for a pencil.  Later, a typewriter… then an electric typewriter… now a computer.  Ultimately, a camera.

My conscious goal was to be an actor, but I learned – with some surprise – that I had not the gift.  It was around this time that I discovered directing as a job and changed my ambition to that.  The writing, as I’ve indicated, just sort of tagged along.  One day I looked up and found I’d written quite a bit and was making a living at it.  Quelle Suprise.

Your legendary novel The Seven-Per-Cent Solution is hands down the greatest Sherlock Holmes story every told, in my opinion. A damn fine clever one! So, where did the idea of a cocaine addicted Sherlock Holmes meeting Freud come from in your mind? How did you manage to rationalize this idea to be something that could work in the Holmes universe?
When one runs out of Doyle’s Holmes stories, the impulse to write more has inspired many before me.  As my father was a psychoanalyst, it wasn’t long before I found myself wondering how much Doyle knew of the life and work of Sigmund Freud, whose methods, to my impressionable mind, were so reminiscent of Holmes’s.  I was startled to learn they were both doctors, had died in the same city, within nine years of one another.  Holmes was a cocaine user; so was Freud.  From there, plot ideas began to occur to me.  The thing gestated for years but took off during a Writers Guild strike during the early 1970’s. My screenwriting-filmmaking career was just getting underway and suddenly we weren’t allowed to write scripts.  My girlfriend pointed out that now was the perfect time to write that Holmes-Freud novel I’d always been on about. And with nothing better to do, she was right.  Incidentally, I wasn’t the first person to perceive a resemblance between Holmes and Freud (even Freud reluctantly conceded it!); I was merely the first person to attempt a novel derived from the idea.

I absolutely loved 2003’s The Human Stain. A film you adapted from a Philip Roth novel. That feels like such a difficult world to have to live in for any amount of time. Can you tell us a bit about what it was like to attempt (and ultimately succeed) in bringing this story to the screen?

The Human Stain was a bittersweet experience for me.  Robert Benton is a wonderful director and a marvelous human being, but ultimately we disagreed on how to interpret Philip Roth. Ultimately I was “locked” out of the film and Benton re-wrote, simplified and toned down my script, which had been much more faithful to Roth’s novel.  I didn’t think the actors were miscast (as many alleged), so much as misdirected.  Why did Hopkins have to play Coleman Silk as an Englishman? (For that matter why is David Kepesh in Elegy – aka The Dying Animal, also by Roth – played as and by another Englishman, the very gifted Ben Kingsley?)  Why didn’t Nicole Kidman have Faunia’s blue collar Boston accent?  She could certainly have done it.   So much of Roth’s specificity was flattened, as was the entire socio-cultural critique of the Clinton’s impeachment proceedings leeched out of the story, which was meant to reflect those peculiar times.  Some folks – such as yourself – are fond of the film, but to me it feels an unsuccessful translation of Roth.  I find Elegy, directed (and photographed!) by Isabel Coixet far superior.
I have no doubt in my mind that many people may be tuning into this interview because you are one of the creators of arguably the most beloved addition to the Star Trek world, the great Wrath of Khan. After 35 years, Trekkies are still gushing over this film, for good reason. I am curious to know when this sort of fandom started? Was there a certain hysteria around the films from the very beginning? In those pre-internet days, what was the buzz like when people found out there was going to be a second Star Trek movie?

I never knew where the fans came from as I was not a watcher of the original show, which – at the time – meant nothing to me.  While working on the film, I was astonished, as you may conceive, to receive a letter, “If Spock dies, you die…” It did not give me a very positive view of the fans.  Notwithstanding this, I understand clearly that without the presence and persistent enthusiasm of the fans, there would have been no films, no resurrection of the show, no sequels and spinoffs.  I’ve no idea how they learned what’s happening before the internet.  I was flabbergasted on the opening day of Wrath of Khan when they showed up in the newly designed uniforms, specifically created for this (as yet) unreleased movie.   Fans may not know what they want – or like – until they get it, but there’s no denying that absent their passion, the show, its spinoffs and cinematic variants, would never have occurred.

And what is it about Khan specifically that you think makes it the classic that it is considered today?
This is one of the questions I’m most often asked and am least able to answer.  Artists are far from being the most objective judges or evaluators of their own work.  When Georges Bizet wrote the Toreador song for Carmen, the most popular baritone aria in all opera, his comment was, “Ah, well, the public want shit. There it is.”  I cannot explain the enduring popularity of The Wrath of Khan; I can merely observe and recount with wonder – and gratitude! – the fact that after thirty-five years, the film continues to exert its mysterious, alchemical, appeal.  I note with curiosity that the film seems to have special meaning for fathers and sons and also for those celebrating birthdays.  Among other things, it is, after all, a story of aging and coming to terms with aging…
And when you went on to work on further installments like The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country, was there still an immense amount of pressure to please the audiences? Or was there a generally feeling of trust after your success with Khan?

On the Star Trek movies I worked on, I was never aware of “pressure” to please audiences. I have always distrusted work that attempts to second guess what people want when I don’t believe they know themselves.  I work from a different assumption, namely, if I like it, I think I’ve a reasonable expectation others will, too.  This has not always proved to be the case, but it’s the only way I know how to work. I would never dream of telling you a joke I myself didn’t find funny.  On the off chance you might like it? No way.  If I’m not laughing, no one else will laugh either.  For these reasons, when I write (or direct, for that matter), I’m working to please myself.  And to be as truthful as my memory permits, it is not my recollection that on any of my Star Trek movies, anybody ever mentioned the preferences of the fans.

What are your thoughts on the modern world of film, considering all the technological advancements that have been made you since you first found your way into this business?
This is a complex question and merits a thoughtful – if lengthy – response.   Certainly the technological advances achieved by film border on the miraculous.  We can now depict ANYTHING.   Is that a good thing?   It is my belief that art thrives on restrictions.  It is when we choose or find ourselves unable to show things, either because of censorship (where would we be without censorship?) or (previous) technological limitations, that we employ imaginative, creative solutions to artistic problems.   Paintings do not move.   Music – certainly symphonic music – has no intellectual content.  Words are just code on the page, waiting to be deciphered by the brain.  In each case, it is the contribution of the viewer, auditor, audience, that completes the work of art.  The painting moves when it meets your eye.  Beethoven’s 5th becomes profound when it enters your ear.  Minus that interaction, it is merely catgut and tubing.  Art with limitations imposed upon it, resorts to symbols.  Analogies.   Allegories.  Metaphors.
 
But art with NO LIMITATIONS?
Movies with their capacious bag of special FX tricks now have the hideous capacity to do everything for one.  The result of all this technological progress, is the proliferation of what we term “eye candy”.  Candy, it is well to remember, is not good for you.  Movies increasingly employing all these alleged advances, increasingly render audiences passive.  Where Shakespeare once urged audiences, “On your imaginary forces, work!” now we don’t have to.   We sit in plush theatre seats or on our own couches and CGI makes literally anything at all.  The result in many cases, is a stultifying boredom, to counter or compete with which (along with the temptations of our ubiquitous smart phones), theatres endlessly pump up the volume.
The end result I find not particularly edifying.  Naturally, we want special FX in film to be as good as we can get them.  No one wants to be bounced out of the story when distracted by a Roman centurion wearing sneakers or a wrist watch.  FX can enhance a story, make the narrative more believable.   But total reliance on those FX in the end, I believe, proves destructive.  No, not destructive – perhaps distracting is the more precise word.
When you look back on your illustriously successful career as a writer, director, and more…what would you say you are most proud of?
I am arguably most proud of three accomplishments in my professional life.  First, my novel, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, in which I may claim to having revived interest in and enthusiasm for Sherlock Holmes, the deathless creation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, bringing the Great Detective back to the best-seller list for forty weeks in the New York Times – the first time he appeared there since Doyle invented him.  I’m relatively pleased with the film version, as well, for which I received my sole (to date!) Oscar nomination.
Secondly, I am proud of my contributions to the Star Trek series, having written and/or directed feature films, II (The Wrath of Khan), IV (The Voyage Home) and VI (The Undiscovered Country).  I’m particularly tickled by the enduring favor The Wrath of Khan has found over more than 35 years with audiences young and old, around the world.
But I think I am most proud of having directed the television movie dealing with nuclear war between The United States and the (then) Soviet Union.  The Day After remains the most watched film ever made for television with one hundred million viewers in a single night.  More importantly, the film changed the mind of President Ronald Reagan who came to power believing in the notion of a “winnable” nuclear war.  After seeing and being shaken by the film, (an event he documented in his diary and memoir), he wound up going to Iceland, meeting Premier Gorbachev, and signing the intermediate range missile treaty – an event, incidentally, the formed the core of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  Of all the things I’ve done to date, I’d have to count The Day After as the most worthwhile use of my life.

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

 
I’m not good at plugging things that a not yet realities.  That said, I’m pleased that my series,  MEDICI – Masters of Florence, is going into its second season.   Waiting to hear if my other series, Star Trek: Discovery will do the same.  I also am happy to recommend my memoir, The View From The Bridge: Memories of Star Trek and a Life in Hollywood, published in hardcover by the Viking Press and in paper by Penguin.
What was the last thing that made you smile?
When Donald Trump was impeached.  Oh, wait – that hasn’t happened yet.

Spencer Garrett [Interview]


Spencer Garrett is one of the hardest working people in the world of acting today. As versatile as he can be hilarious, he currently has re-occuring roles in no less than 4 of today’s hottest television shows including HBO’s Insecure and the Amazon Original Show, Bosch. More specifically catered to avid Trainwreck’d Society readers, you will love him in HBO’s stand up comedy vehicle Dice, as well as Room 104 from the beloved Duplass Brothers.

And for over 30 years, this has been Spencer Garrett’s life. He was born into the world of acting, and he has been making it his passion since he began. If you have only managed to turn on a TV or pop into a cinema over the last few decades, it is extremely possible that you have caught Mr. Garrett in action. And his career is showing no sign of slowing down, it’s quite the opposite, really. He has some pretty great irons in the fire right now that I am very excited to see come to live, including some work with the great Kevin Pollack, who we have fawned over numerous time over the years. And because of that and more, we are so fortunate that he was able to stop and share a few words with us here. So ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy some words from the brilliant Spencer Garrett!

I understand you grew up around the world of entertainment, so it almost seems inevitable that you would join the ranks as well. But, when did YOU personally realize that you also wanted to play pretend for a living? When did you make the decision that this was what you wanted to do as a career?

I’m pretty sure I was a bit of a ham coming right out of the gate. Being an only child  – and the son and grandson of performers – I imagine the acting gene was ingrained in me at birth.That desire to be noticed, to stand out somehow. I grew up being taken to the theatre and musicals in New York City from a very early age.Seeing Sir Peter Hall’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with The Royal Shakespeare Company at around age 8 or so was a mind boggling and eye opening experience for a little kid and I remember being entranced by it. Heavy drama or the most frothy musical, it didn’t matter. I just loved being a part of that experience. I was always keen to do plays for as long as I can recall from elementary school all the way through high school in Maine, which had a very strong performing arts curriculum. And at holiday parties I was the kid who organized all the other kids to put on an impromptu ‘Christmas sketch’. At The Hyde School in tiny Bath, Maine, whether it was fighting for the solo number in a particular song or being the first one to raise my hand to audition for the lead in the play, performing and expressing myself onstage was where I found a kind of comfort zone. Whether I was any good or not remained to be seen. But I was always game. When I got to Duke University I auditioned for a role in Peter Shaffer’s Equus, amongst other shows. I was a horse. Small parts, larger roles, didn’t matter. I just wanted to know if I was any good. But I was hooked. From that point on I was off to the races. My ‘Aha!’ moment probably came when I was out of university and living in NYC in the early 80’s. Seeing, in the course of a few years, John Malkovich and Gary Sinise in Sam Shepard’s True West, ‘Lanford Wilson’s Balm in Gilead by The Steppenwolf Company with Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits blaring over the loudspeakers as I entered the theatre, and Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson and Derek Jacobi doing Much Ado Handout Nothing one day then Cyrano de Bergerac the next, blew my mind. It was probably around that time, along with my deep and abiding love of the movies, that I said ‘alright’ let’s give this a shot. Here I am, some thirty years in, still grinding away.


I have learned that you will be appearing the upcoming film The Front Runner, in which you will be portraying the legendary journalist Bob Woodward. I am always curious as to what type of preparation goes into a portrayal of a real person who also happens to still be alive. So how has that process been for you? Did you meet with Bob to learn a thing or to?



I’ve had the experience of playing a few real life characters while they were still alive, so it’s tricky ground. You want to put your own stamp on it while honoring the director’s vision. A fine balance. Tom DeLay, In Casino Jack comes to mind. That was a straight up satire so I had a little wiggle room to make it mine, but DeLay was such an outsized character that I didn’t have to work for it too hard. That was just delicious to play. I remember going to see him on ‘Dancing with the Stars’,watching him flail around the dance floor in brown spandex. Sometimes the characters just do the work for you. With Bob Woodward in Jason Reitman’s The Frontrunner I wanted to get the accent right. It’s VERY specific. The world didn’t know Woodward, really, or what he sounded like when All the President’s Men came out but he’s been a huge media presence in the last decades so I wanted to try to capture his essence as best I could. I had the opportunity to meet him before I started filming but was working on another project and couldn’t get the timing right. Jason had actually preferred that I just ‘come in clean’ with no preconceptions about him, so it actually worked out. It’s not a Woodward impersonation. It’s me, trying to channel a bit of him from 1984 if that makes any sense. I’ll meet him after I wrap. And of course I hope he likes the film and my work, as his career has had a great impact on me.

You have also been appearing regularly on the brilliant new HBO series Insecure. Can you tell us a bit about your experience working on this project? What has been unique about this experience?


I wasn’t hip to Insecure when I was offered the role, to be honest. Theres just SO much television out there – GREAT television – it just hadn’t crossed my radar yet. I watched the entire first season in one day. Not just as research – but because it was so f*****g good. Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji are a great comic duo and the writing and editing is kind of amazing. I had a blast working on that show. It taps into the zeitgeist in a very unique way and, being a native Angeleno, films in places familiar to me but not necessarily to the audience outside LA. It captures another side of my city in ways other ‘urban’ shows based in L.A never have.  Probably the thing that made the biggest impression on me was how diverse the crew was. All of my directors were women of color and the crew, for the most part, are largely women and minorities. It was refreshing to see and a blast to walk onto that set each time they asked me to come back and play.


On credits alone, it appears as though you may be one of the hardest working people in Hollywood! You’ve appeared in just so many of the finest television programs out there right now, and that isn’t all you’ve done! So what keeps you motivated to work so much? Where does this drive to succeed stem from for you?



Something like 200 credits on IMDB. Bananas, right? Where has the time gone? I still LOVE what I do (flying to Kuala Lumpur with Viola Davis to work on a Michael Mann film, a Lynn Nottage play at The Geffen, a week with Owen Wilson and Pierce Brosnan in Chiangmai, Thailand – this can be a hell of a fun job, sometimes) and, more importantly, I feel like I’m just hitting my sweet spot as an actor. I think I’m finally getting the hang of it. And I’m not kidding.


From an actor’s perspective, and someone who has been in the game for a quite a while, what are your thoughts on the modern world of film and television? With digital platforms making their way into the industry, as well as more and more cable options, is world becoming over saturated? Or is simply just more opportunities? Your thoughts?



I think we really are in a golden age of television. For the movies, not so much, alas. It’s tentpoles and action figures and occasionally something wonderful will break through.But I have hope that audiences will tire of the explosions and drivel and faint their way back to embracing more character driven stories. I’m finding the most interesting work as an actor  – and a viewer – on the small screen. Yes, there seem to be more and more opportunities for actors on multiple platforms, meaning more competition. But that doesn’t mean the glut of work has made it any easier to sustain oneself as an actor. You are always struggling to make a living, to stay ahead of the curve when the guy who’s #1 on the call sheet is getting all the dough and the supporting cast has to negotiate for the privilege of working for union scale. It’s always a battle.


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



The most exciting thing I’m working on these days is a podcast called “America 2.0″ by a wonderful young writer with an amazing voice named J.S Mayank. Several months ago I was asked to do a table read of his pilot script and just fell in love with the writing. Frustrated by Hollywood’s insistence that ‘political dramas are kind of radioactive right now” given our current, um, situation – J.S decided to split the pilot up into six segments as a narrative arc. We have put together a dream cast: Laurence Fishburne, Mary Louise Parker, Patrick Adams, Ming-Na, Jack Coleman, Katherine Castro, Steven Weber, Iqbal Theba, Shanola Hampton, and CNN’s Chief Political Correspondent, Dana Bash. We started recording this dream cast about two weeks ago and are already blown away by the work. We are hoping to get it out there by January.


What was the last thing that made you smile?



The last thing that made me smile was watching my girlfriend receive a prestigious award from her George Washington U. Alumni association in D.C. last night for her outstanding achievements in political journalism. Nobody works harder than she does at sifting the spin and fiction from the cold facts. She does ‘real news’ like nobody’s business and is the best in the biz. I’m very proud of her and she inspires me every day to get off my ass and do something good.

New Music Tuesday: Blitzen Trapper: Wild and Reckless [Album]

It will come to no surprise to regular readers of Trainwreck’d Society, but the album I am going to talk about today comes from the band that I consider to be the greatest assembly of recording artists who are making music today. I will always remember when I completed my first listen to a Sub Pop promo of Blitzen Trapper’s then forthcoming EP The Black River Killer EP, and I actually stated this question out loud: “Did I just discover my favorite band?” On that day, and now a decade later, the answer was/is an absolute YES.

Whilst listening and enjoying each and every album that Blitzen Trapper has released over the last decade, which have been  motherfucking APLENTY, I have attempted to recognize some sort of adaptive theme that has been occurring over time. I always feel like I am just about onto what Eric & company are doing, but much like many characters in beautiful songs, I am just left wondering. I know there is something there, I just can’t quite figure it out. I know that Wild and Reckless is very similar to there latests album, All Across This Land, in some ways or another, yet there are obvious advancements. It has been occurring since Furr, honestly. It’s as though Eric Early writes 2 albums worths of songs, but knows how to make them just a little bit different with each release.

And then I realize, I should just shut my fucking mind down, and remember why I love these cats in the first place. No matter the forum, I love Blitzen Trapper. And with each album they put out on an extremely regular basis, I am only more solidified in the idea that I have found the most perfect band currently performing on this planet, or the next. And I can say with no hesitation that Wild and Reckless has successfully kept my mind on track in recognizing just how god damned wonderful Blitzen Trapper can be.

Wild and Reckless is deeply infused with the Americana & Country roots that have made Blitzen Trapper so special to so many out there. It is another brilliant batch of songs that continue to prove why I have and will always consider frontman Eric Early to be “the son that Bob Dylan wishes he would have had.” I have listened to each track at least a couple of dozen times now, and it is hard to single out a track to showcase. But, if I were hard pressed, I have to call out “Baby, Won’t You Turn Me On” to be as poignant and on par with some of my favorite tracks like “Every Loved Once” or ” Love the Way You Walk Away” from previous releases. But I will be damned if “Wind Don’t Always Blow” doesn’t just blow (pun intended) my damned mind.

It’s almost helpless and hapless at this point that I even continue to cover the work of Blitzen Trapper. I mean, I’m not going to stop, I’m just saying that there is nothing that these cats can’t do right. I am always going to love their work, and I am certain that there will never come a day that I am not impressed with the brilliance that they continuously give to the world. I have witnessed their live performances more times than any other band around, and each and every time, in every scenario, I am beyond impressed more and more each time. I’ve seen them on a small and intimate outdoor stage, a grandiose and headlining outdoor stage, an oversized night club in the middle of nowhere, and in a Portland, Oregon basement. And each time, I am beyond impressed. They are just that fucking GOOD!

Wild and Reckless is available now wherever you get music. So get your Google on and get a bit more Blitzen Trapper in your life. Also check out this brilliant, and even hilarious, official video for the single “Wild and Reckless”: