Candi Brooks [Interview]

Happy Friday All! Today we are sharing some words from a woman that I thought could be “pretty cool” to hear from, who happened to turn out to be an absolutely incredible person who we are so honored to have featured on the site! I love, love, love, when it works out like this! Yes, Candi Brooks is an amazing and inspirational actress, dancer, former casting director, and overall wonderful human being!

I first recognized Candi in one of the finest comedic films of the last ten years, a little film called 21 Jump Street (featuring our old pal Johnny Pemberton!). She was the young woman who was gently removed from your light pink VW bug during one of the most hilarious car chase scenes in cinematic history. She in turned actually helped save the day by stashing heat in her glove compartment. It was a hilarious scene, and I was excited to ask Candi all about it. And as it turned out, there happened to be so much to know and love about her!

Candi is also a long time resident of my favorite American city, which is obviously New Orleans. She joins the ranks of so many different folks we have featured on the site who call NOLA their home. Candi was kind enough to give us just a bit more insight into what it is like to work in the world of casting directing and acting in one of the greatest cities on the planet. And we are so damn grateful that she did!

So Ladies and Gentlemen, please allow me to shut my digital mouth, and introduce to you all the brilliant Candi Brooks!

When did first discover your passion for the world of performance? Was it something you grew up dreaming about, or did you just sort of find your way into it one day?

I began dancing at a young age (around 3 years old).  Tap, Jazz, Ballet, until later years I also took on Hip Hop, Pom Pom, Musical Theatre, Lyrical, Ethnic, & traditional Native American Jingle.  I adored being on the stage with the lights, sequins, makeup, and a captive audience!!  My years of dance continued until my early teen years where I auditioned for a Performing Arts High School in Georgia called Pebblebrook.  It was here I made the choice to begin studying drama instead of dance and the love has never stopped growing.  After High School I went on to earn a BFA in Musical Theatre from an amazing 4 year program at Brenau Womens College (shout out!) & Gainesville Theatre Alliance.  I then did summer stock under the direction of Broadway’s legendary Terrence Mann at The Lost Colony.  I took an internship at Actor’s Express and worked locally in Atlanta market until joining a National Tour of Peter Buffet’s all Native American cast as the lead female singer/dancer titled Spirit The Seventh Fire.  Once we lost funding on tour I wound up in Louisiana with zero ideas of what to do next.  I signed with a talent agent and began the transition of becoming a film/television actor.  In 2009 I took a 2 week job as a reader for Liz Coulon of Coulon Casting and 7 years later retired with dozens of shows under my belt as a Casting Asst & Associate having worked with some of the best!

Beyond the world of acting, you are also quite the acclaimed casting director in your neck of the proverbial and actual woods down in NOLA, along with our friends and your fellow performers  Laura Cayoutte, Joe Chrest, Ted Alderman, L. Michelle DeVito, and others. I am always curious to learn about film communities in areas that aren’t L.A. or NY. So in your experience, what is the film community like where you reside? What do you believe sets it apart from other communities?

Wow! *blushes* Thank you for such kindness.  Star studded list of folks you just rattled off there! 🙂  The film community here is deep rooted in folks that have been here since the beginning navigating every growth spurt our community has experienced (both in front of and behind the camera), as well as transplants (like myself) whom have moved here for work or otherwise and chosen to stay; and fairweather folks whom come in for the job and then are on to the next!  We are a melting pot of cultures, ethnicities, accents, & styles from street to street and neighborhood to neighborhood.  There is something for EVERYONE here and I think there is atleast one person whom represents all of these different vibes as well.  The majority of the actors here are hustlers, but this is not their entire being.  They are book readers, adventure seekers, parents, pet owners, travelers, & lovers of life!  We make great story tellers because we are living lives outside of the stories we’re telling on the screen & stage.  Other communities I’ve experienced only live for those experiences and so when they’re not acting they’re not fulfilled.

Candi Brooks as “50’s Hair” on the hit AMC series, Preacher.

You worked as a casting director and had a brief but hilarious bit of screen time in one of the greatest comedies in recent years, which would be 21 Jump Street. You were involved in the very intense car chase scene that is an absolute highlight of the film. So I am just curious what it was like to work on a set like this one? Was it as fun to work on as it was to watch?

One of the reasons I retired from casting was due to the conflict of interest.  SAG can fine a film a hefty chunk of change for putting a crew member  in a film.  In this circumstance I was the casting assistant on 21JS.  The hilarious & brilliantly talented Phil Lord & Chris Miller were directing.  I had the honor of being the reader opposite of all the actors both in their audition and callback.  Mid production they called Liz Coulon, C.S.A (local CD on the show) and said “we need a girl-We’re adding a scene on the bridge.  She should be attractive, great with improv, and not starstruck by Channing Tatum or Jonah Hill.  It works tomorrow”  Liz called in a handful of gals for and put them on tape to submit.  She asked me if I wanted to do it as well as a wild card and I said YES! of course!  She submitted the tapes to the guys and they called back with a resounding unanimous vote for me! 🙂  We’d worked together closely in the room for the callbacks so they knew the improv wouldn’t be an issue and I was delighted to take on the role.  We were quite literally “boxed in” on the Crescent City Connection with zero access to move about much once on the bridge.  Our staging area for the day was like a party bus where Channing, Jonah, & myself would wait when weren’t rolling.  I had an incredible time laughing and swapping stories with each of them off camera as well as creating/playing on camera as 90% of each take was improv.  I had no idea what (if anything) they’d keep in the film.

You worked on another project that is among one of my favorite films of all time, a darling sad tale known as Jeff Who Lives at Home. How was your experience working on this amazing film?

Woooooooow!  Excellent taste in films friend!  The Duplass Brothers (from Louisiana) are dynamite!  They were equally as amazing to work with as Phil & Chris.  These guys are incredible film makers and hands on directors!  I love that they share their vision but allow you to dream with them to make their vision a reality.

 

If you were handed the role of any famous woman in American history, who would you want it to be?

WHAT?!  How can I limit myself to telling only ONE story?!  That’s absolutely unfair; great question but absolutely unfair. *grumbles* No Pressure buuuuuuuuuut — Keely Smith; R.I.P.  Keely led an incredible life of passion and performance in her 89 years.  She was well known for her marriage to Louis Prima but theres an amazing story to be told there that I don’t feel anyone has highlighted.  She was less well known for her thoughts on feminism in the 50s and decades after, she was Native American, she was a victim of Domestic Violence but got out in a time when divorce was unheard of/unaccepted, and to a famous man nonetheless.  She took her joy of singing and performance to the next level developing a solo career and starring in multiple films, variety shows, & talk shows.  She was absolutely relevant up to the end and remains a powerful woman in my eyes.

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

Freedom & Fulfillment!  I wear a myriad of hats but am always in search of these two things!  In addition to being an actor, I own my own business taping, coaching, & teaching actors at Brave Arrow Productions.  I am a Health Coach promoting Optimal Wellness in a healthy Body, Mind, Spirit, & Finances.  I’m also a wife, mom, and human!  I’d love for some love on all the social media LOL

IG, Twitter, FB : @thecandibrooks  @BraveArrowProductions or @Brave_Arrow_Productions

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My sweaty 6 year old son running into the dugout after his second ever game to give me a hug and thank me for helping him win!

Andy Cowan [Interview]



Today’s interview subject is a man who obviously knows what is hilarious. Andy Cowan has been in the business of comedy for over 40 years, and has been one of the creative minds behind so many projects that you know and love. He joins the ranks of several other folks we have had the pleasure of sharing some words from here at Trainwreck’d Society who also happened to write for one of the most beloved sitcoms all time known as Seinfeld. But Andy has had an immense amount of success behind just this one series as well. He is also one of the brilliant minds that brought us the irreverent and absolutely original series, 3rd Rock From The Sun. He also wrote for Cheers! The Merv Griffin Show! Seriously, the credits can go on and on!

And now Mr. Cowan has an absolutely incredible new book to share with you all. What lucky bastards you all are. It’s called Banging My Head Agains The Wall: A Comedy Writer’s Guide To Seeing Stars. It is an absolutely brilliant look into the world of comedy writing and show business in general. If you are somebody who even remotely considers yourself a fan of comedy in any form, you owe it to yourself to check out this amazing work of art.

So Ladies and Gentlemen, please enjoy some amazing words from the comedic legend himself, Mr. Andy Cowan!

When did you first decide that you wanted to work in the world of comedy? What initially drew you to this world?

Aside from very early influences as a kid like Laurel and Hardy, Jack Benny, Johnny Carson… and later Woody Allen and Albert Brooks, I was drawn to the MTM sitcoms during the ’70s… The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show… and a later offshoot of the MTM shows, Taxi, produced by some who’d written for MTM. I wrote several spec Taxi scripts that were well received. Another dip into the comedy pool was when I started doing standup in Philadelphia in ’76 during the early stages of the comedy club boom, before later moving to L.A. in ’78 and continuing to perform.

We have been fortunate enough to get some words from some of your fellow Seinfeld alum like Peter Mehlman, Steve Skrovan, and Marc Jaffe, because this is obviously a legendary program. That being said, in your own personal and obviously experienced opinion, what do you believe it is about Seinfeld that has continued to make it a staple in the world of comedic television?

As I say in my book… “The chemistry among the principles and natural rhythms…of the show were electrifying to me. You felt like you were palling around with living and breathing, organically funny characters.” Seinfeld was refreshingly devoid of the set-up, punch of so many sitcoms that continue to this day. The stories were most important. Also the show was brilliantly cast across the board, down to the guest stars and smaller parts. They had a naturally funny and slightly off feel to them, refreshingly different from the cookie cutter casting among a lot of network shows.

Another damn fine program you worked on was the truly unique hit series 3rd Rock From The Sun. I have to admit, when the show first aired, I never thought it would last. But it seems as though with some damn fine storytelling and character development, it has become a historic program as well! So again, in your personal opinion, what do you believe it is about 3rd Rock that set itself apart from other niche type sitcoms? What do you believe worked so well for this show to be such a hit?

John Lithgow was the big reason. He was such a great actor, so committed to the role and extremely likable. French Stewart, Kristen Johnston and Joseph-Gordon-Levitt (professional beyond his young age at the time) also went the extra mile. As I say in the book, I was drawn to shining a light on life through the fresh eyes of newly arrived extraterrestrials posing as humans. Everything would be brand new to them, and the actors helped the audience buy into the hook.

I understand you have a new book coming out soon that probably answers the questions I’ve already asked in much greater details. Can you tell us a bit about it? What made you decide it was time to get your story out into the world?

Banging My Head Against the Wall: A Comedy Writer’s Guide to Seeing Stars represents four years of writing about forty years of writing, performing and creating comedy from the ground up. Along with being the only writer associated with Cheers, Seinfeld and 3rd Rock from the Sun, I’m very proud of the myriad original creative projects… stand-up, half-hour comedies, sketch, talk, web/radio shows, comedy docuseries, single panel cartoons and comic strips that I get to share with readers. They’ll have a bird’s eye view of what it feels like to perform comedy on national television, take in industry pitching strategies and reactions back. Not to mention personal reflections from over fifty iconic celebrities I pre-interviewed during my first Hollywood job in the ’80s as a talent coordinator, writer and recurring performer on The Merv Griffin Show, including from Orson Welles’ pre-interview for his final appearance on the show, the day before he died. I structured the book to help the readers feel as if they go on the journey with me. The ups, the downs, persistence rising above daunting odds, and the uplifting message of hope I leave in the epilogue.

Speaking of “the opposite” of giving up, and still creatively flourishing after wandering the Southern California desert’s peaks and valleys all these years, I was happy to further drill down in my book on George Costanza’s opposite-winning method to the madness. I’d first reflected on doing everything the opposite in my own life before helping George grab onto the brass ring on Seinfeld in “The Opposite.” (Larry David, after whom George was reportedly patterned, once told me, “You are George.”)  As I illustrate in the book, to this day George’s epiphany is championed in art, economics and politics, and “the opposite” is also a recurring theme throughout the book in terms of comedy, as well as the twists and turns of show biz. It was a thrill to get to work with Jason Alexander many years after Seinfeld as a guest on my talk show pilot, in which we reenacted scenes from my first draft of “The Opposite.” That is just one of many creative project links readers can also visit within the book.

Because we love suspense and surprises around here, I feel compelled to ask: What do you feel will be the most surprising thing that readers are going to discover about the world of comedy writing from the book?

That when your creative juices are overflowing even though your resumé isn’t yet, you can muster up the audacity to hop a train to New York and arrange a phony meeting with Lorne Michaels at SNL. And in this era of classic TV reboots, readers will also get a kick out of discovering dozens of “new” Seinfeld stories I pitched on the show that never made it to air.

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

The book’s final chapter points to a new half-hour comedy docuseries project I co-created with Rich Ross and star in, the logical creative project Banging’s over 400 page journey leads to,The Lost Sessions with Andy Cowan. We worked hard on it, an inventive entry into the world of therapy with an accent on honest humor, a hint of pathos, and eking out therapy both in session and out in the 21st century world. Comedy veteran David Steinberg, an early champion of the show as mentioned in the book, will be meeting with me again to strategize about where we take it.

 

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Vocalizing and playing hand percussion with my jazz group in Los Angeles venues, a musical mission that’s been ongoing for over thirty years. And being dragged into an Arthur Murray Dance Studio (that happens to be in my building) two days ago by a lovely female instructor who noticed me walking by before teaching me a few quick Foxtrot steps. I hate dancing. I did the opposite!

Andy Cowan’s book Banging My Head Against The Wall: A Comedy Writer’s Guide To Seeing Stars will be available on June 28th. Find out more details HERE. And put in your pre-order on Amazon today!

Wanna reach out to the legend Andy Cowan himself? Well, he will allow you to do just that! Shoot him an e-mail at contact@andycowan.net today!

New Music Tuesday: Maniac – Dead Dance Club [Album]

I will admit, I truly have not only been listening to enough music lately, let alone enjoying just about any of it. I have definitely be voiding myself of anything that sounds remotely “fun” or somewhat “enlightening”. But, every once in a great while I try my hand at feeling well once again, and sometimes I am very fortunate in that a brilliant band like Maniac may come across my digital desk. And all feels right with the world once again! I’m not saying it happens often, but it has for sure happen on my latest road to “wellness” through music.

Maniac is a L.A. based & light-hearted punk rock that blends beautiful vocal hooks with hard hitting guitar riffs that ripple through your ear lobes like a discarded Pringles can pushing through the ocean waves. Their sophomore album Dead Dance Club is one of those rare gems of an album that can be listened through in its entirety without a single second of boredom or yearning to move on from their sound. Each track on the album seems to embody its own spirit, its own personality, yet each one has a familiar feel to the last. I’ve found it pretty rare to come across a band like Maniac, who seem to know exactly what they are doing, and what they want to convey, but at the same time are not afraid to take some chances and have a fucking field day whilst blending old school go-go-go punk with a modern freak pop sensibility.

I’d be hard pressed to choose a stand up track on this album, but gun to a labrador puppy’s head, I’d have to say that I have some kind of special affection for “Children of the Dirt”. I’ve found this short but exciting track that really exemplifies just what Maniac is all about, and what they are trying to convey with Dead Dance Club. It has a simple chorus, a deep-throated bass line, and even a nice little guitar solo. Seriously, a chorus as simple as “Children of the sun/children of the moon/children of the dirt” says so damn much even if it really says so little. I can’t help but love it. “Living In Stereo” has a similar vibe as well, I must add. Shit, I could really go on and on about each track individually. But for your sake, I shall not.

Yeah, I have to say that I really needed to hear a band like Maniac these days. I could ramble off a laundry list of other bands that they somewhat sound like, but I have the distinct feeling that I would instantly regret doing so, and would most likely be entirely wrong. Let’s just call Dead Dance Club a fantastic album that I am certain to continue enjoying for quite some time. Maniac has created one of the finest albums of 2018 thus far, and I will be eternally grateful to this creative masterminds for making my year!

Photo by Zach Mcaffree

Dead Dance Club is available now Hovercraft/Dirt Nap Records. Check it out HERE.

And if you are reading this from the west coast, be sure to catch Maniac at one of these (probably) fine establishments:

06.14.18 – San Francisco, CA @ Light Rail Studios

06.15.18 – Corvallis, OR @ Bombs Away

06.16.18 – Portland, OR @ Green Noise Records (6 pm) AND Lay Low Tavern 

06.17.18 – Tacoma, WA @ The Valley

06.18.18 – Bellingham, WA @ Boscoe’s Tavern

06.19.18 – Vancouver, BC @ The Astoria

06.20.18 – Seattle, WA @ El Corazon

06.21.18 – Portland, OR @ Blackwater

06.22.18 – Eureka, CA @ Siren’s Song Tavern

06.23.18 – Oakland, CA @ Golden Bull

 

Robert R. Shafer [Interview]


Hello Dear Readers! For our first interview in a few weeks, I wanted to share some words from a seriously amazing dude, that have been a long time in the sharing. And it’s 100% my fault. The great Robert R. Shafer had been kind enough to share some words with us quite a while ago, but there I was to drop the proverbial ball and lose track of such amazing responses. But, we are here now to make amends, and share with you fine folks this amazing interview.

Robert R. Shafer can easily be identified as one of the finest characters of our time! In the same vain as our old friends Richard Riehl or John Carrol Lynch, Shafter is a multi-faceted actor with a god damned heart of gold, apparently. Whether you immediately recognize him as the solid man’s man and husband to Phylis on the successful NBC series The Office, a.k.a. Bob Vance of Vance Refrigeration, or you are a fan of the amazing genre series with a well deserved cult following known as Psycho Cop, your just a fan of great art in general…Robert Shafer should very well be one of your favorite actors. Hell, he is in EVERYTHING. Well, everything that matters anyway.

Yes, Robert Shafer is a man who consistently working either in front of or behind the camera, creating some of the best art today. He has a film, The Want Dick Dickster, that will soon be released on Lions Gate, and we can not wait for the world to get a taste of Dick (sorry, childish, I know). We discuss this and so much for in this incredible interview.

So Ladies and Gentlemen, please enjoy some amazing words from the brilliant Robert R. Shafer!

How did you find yourself immersed in the world of acting? What made you want to get into this world?

I fell in love with a beautiful, famous actress and after watching her work, I decided it was something that I might be able to do. So I began to study the craft with the legendary teacher Peggy Fuery, and among my classmates were: Meg Ryan, Nick Cage, Eric Stoltz, and Sean Penn, and it was a very competitive environment and I really embraced the challenge. I think an advantage I had was that acting was not something I had ever considered up until the time that I was in it; so I was not seeking fame and/or fortune, I was learning how to be the best actor that I could be; which, of course, turns out to be a lifelong pursuit.

In 1989 you starred in the cult classic horror film Psycho Cop, that is absolutely amazing, as well as Psycho Cop Returns in 1993. Two questions: What drew you to such a strange, and very original, project? And what has the fanfare been like since the films have been released? Do you find die hard projects of the films?

What drew me to it was that it was the title-role in a possible franchise. When I read for the part, the material used for the audition was Sam Shepard’s play, True West, which I had been working on in class. So I absolutely crushed the audition and they offered me the role. I got to go to Cannes and promote the film and I learned a lot about the business of show business; especially as it relates to distribution and financing. The films have achieved a great cult status, especially with recent Blu-ray release of PCR and the fans of the franchise are die-hard and now there is a whole new generation of them.

I am very intrigued by the 2015 film They Want Dick Dickster, which you actually co-wrote and produced as well as playing the lead. How did the idea of this film come to you? What made you want to tell this tale?

I was working on a script for a pilot about John Wayne and while researching that I learned about Wayne’s relationship with Director John Ford, which was incredibly complex. And of course, I have a lot of friends that are B-movie directors and they are all convinced of their own greatness even in the face of underwhelming results. Being an Indie director in Hollywood is one of the great roller coaster rides in career choices and so the picture incorporates behaviors about such legendary bad-boy mavericks like Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Sam Peckinpah, Woody Allen and Roman Polanski. I think of Dickster as my love letter to Hollywood:“On Dick’s movie sets — He’s the Monster!” In the film, Dick is forced to remake his only hit horror film into porn and hi-jinksensue. It’s being distributed by Indican Pictures and coming out soon, hard, fast and often!

In 2014, you appeared in a In film written by our friend Al Kaplan known as Zombeavers, that I thought was hilariously great. As an actor, what was it that drew you to this project? Was it the title alone?

The casting director on that film was Chadwick Struck and I said yes to that cameo role to stay on his good side. Also, I always ike working with new directors. And going in, I knew that that title was going to get a lot of internet attention and that’s something that actors have to constantly be aware of these days.

We have spoken with a lot of actors who have worked in the realm of SyFy films, as they are very intriguing to us. You are definitely no stranger to this world, with your roles in Super Shark and Mega Shark Vs. Crocasaurus. I’m always curious, what is it like to work on a project like this? And how does it differ from other projects you have worked on?

The first film I did was Mega Python Vs. Gatoroid, starring Debbie Gibson and Tiffany, directed by Mary Lambert, and it was a real hoot. The trick is not to know that you are in a ridiculous movie, but that the situation is real to your character. The straighter you can play it, the better it is. The challenge is that you have to manufacture reactions to green screen monsters: “OK, Bobby, look! there’s the snake! Here he comes!”

You are of course, the man behind the legendary Bob Vance of Vance Refrigeration on the brilliant show the world knows and loves, The Office. I absolutely must ask, what was set life like on a show like this? Was it as fun to work on as a it was for us to watch?

It was amazing to be a part of it. What a cast! I think we had more fun doing it and the show only continues to grow in popularity. Life on the set was great, it truly was a team effort and the catering and craft services were the best ever.

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

Look for Awaken The Shadowman, The S.H.U. (which also stars Melora Hardin (Jan) from The Office), and I’m very excited about a new series I did called A Girl is a Gun starring Denise Richards, directed by French director Mattieu Tonetti.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

The deliveryman just arrived with my Philly cheese-steak. Delicious! And thanks for asking!

Sunday Matinee: The Jurassic Games [Film]

I was admittedly a little skeptical going into The Jurassic Games. The concept of the film is not one that usually draws me into the film. I was aware of filmmaker Ryan Bellgardt’s previous film, Gremlins, but knew that that was an entirely different feature altogether, so I decided that I probably shouldn’t compare the two. So, why did I decide that The Jurassic Games deserved a real go? It was simple really: Katie Burgess. She was the draw to watch this film, that turned out to be absolutely incredible only WITH the addition of Ms. Burgess, and not simply only because of her.

It has been almost a year since we were fortunate enough to have Katie Burgess on the site to talk about her young and thriving career, shortly after appearing in Bellgardt’s Gremlins. She had mentioned The Jurassic Games back then, and I had a feeling that if I were able to check it out, I would definitely like to see her in action again. And in action she was! I was only minutes into the film when I found myself wondering how exactly she was going to pull this role off. SPOILER ALERT: She’s not the nicest person. But as one can only imagine, she pulled it off absolutely flawlessly! Without giving too much away, let’s just say that there is a breakdown moment in the film where Burgess proves why she deserves to be the next big name in Hollywood to emerge from the child star to A-lister, in no time at all.

But, as I said before, The Jurassic Games itself was an absolute gem of a film. With a gruesome and sadistic premise, and some visual effects that made this indie sci-fi-fi film look like a major blockbuster, The Jurassic Games is a thrilling, well developed, and just a damn entertaining bit of cinema. The character development, as well as the “loss of characters” (you’ll get it when you watch it), was down-right compelling. And I dare say that the overall timing of the events that take place in the film are absolutely incredible. With a laundry list of up and coming actors thrown in the mix, the film really just seemed to hit every mark that a sci-fi-fi film featuring digital dinosaurs and grab bag of criminals really should!

I simply cannot recommend The Jurassic Games enough. If you need 90 minutes or so of unadulterated fun and tension release from the real world, I can’t think of a more perfect film than this one. It has the scares, it has the laughs, it has just about everything you could want in a film. To watch a filmmaker like Bellgardt progress from film to film like he has from Gremlins to The Jurassic Games is absolutely awe inspiring. The future appears to be ridiculously bright for this young man, and we will be following his career ever so closely with pride.

TheJurassicGames will be available on Digital June 12th and DVD July 3rd from Uncork’d Entertainment.