Karimah Westbrook [Interview]

 

Happy Friday Folks! Today we have a wonderful interview to share with you all with one of today’s finest performers in the business. It’s Karimah Westbrook! Karimah has been killing it in the world of film and television for close to two decades and shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. While probably best known for her starring role on the hit CW series All American, Karimah is also just one of those performers that I have consistently been catching on all the best shows to air in the last couple of decades, as well showing in some of my favorite films, such as The Rum Diary and Baadasssss!.

Yes, whether you have caught her on All American, or other fine programs such as Shameless or Mad Men, also working alongside a plethora of the other fine folks we have featured on the site, you simply have to recognize that Karimah is one of the best out there and has an extremely impressive resume. And only adding to said resume in a great way, is her recent performance in Bolden, a wonderful biopic about legendary musician Charles “Buddy” Bolden, which is in theaters now.

So Folks, please enjoy some wonderful words from the absolutely brilliant Karimah Westbrook!

 

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What inspired you to get into the world of performance? Was it something you aspired to do since you were a child? Or did you just happen to find yourself in this world one day? 

Acting was very fun for me growing up. It was a huge source of my entertainment. One of my favorite performers growing up was Whoopi Goldberg. In hindsight, there is something very spiritual about acting. I always feel like I’ve just left church afterwards. It is something that I had a lot of fun doing as a child but I didn’t consider it as a career until after high school.

What was your very first paid gig as a performer? And were there any sort of lessons learned form this experience that you still carry with you in your work today? 

I’m not for sure but I think it was for the film Save the Last Dance. I know that movie was my first union paying job. Working on Save the Last Dance, how I even got the role in the film, reconfirmed to me that believing in yourself and being fearless comes with major perks.

I am very intrigued by a biopic that you recently worked on entitled Bolden. What drew you to this project about Buddy Bolden? What made you really want to work on this project?

When I learned that Charles “Buddy” Bolden was a real person and that he made a major contribution to music, I wanted to be a part it. Stories that reveal a bit about history, especially black history, is something that I want to be a part of.  Buddy was truly a hidden figure.

A project I am very familiar with in which you appear on is CW’s All American, where you star alongside fellow wonderful performer, one Taye Diggs. So how has your experience been working on this program?

It’s been great! It is a dream come true working on All American. I think it’s a wonderful show that offers many great life lessons. I’m happy to be a part of a positive yet juicy narrative. What drew me to wanting to play Grace James on All American was the writing. I love my character. I believed that the show had a strong voice and was created in a world that I am very much familiar with. I too grew up without my father in a single-family household.

 

Karimah Westbrook in CW’s “All American”. Season 1 is currently on Netflix.

 

When it comes to acting, you have worked extensively on the big screen, television, the stage, and more in some very wonderful roles. I am always curious to know what an actor’s preferred set up for acting would be. So, if you were one day only able to choose one of these ways to act for a living, which would it be?

This is a tough question but I’d say film. I say film because I have a great appreciation for the entire process of making a movie. It really is a journey. For me, to see all of the moving parts of making a film comes together on the big screen, it feels very rewarding.

If you were handed the oppurtunity to create and star in the biopic of any historical figure in American history, who would you want to portray?

Shirley Chisolm because she was the first black woman in congress and the first to seek the nomination for Presidency.

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

The future for me holds more acting, writing, and producing. We were recently renewed for season 2 of All American so I am so excited to get back to that. And in the meantime you can rewatch season 1 on Netflix. Also Bolden is playing in theaters now.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

The last thing that made me smile was a little chihuahua dog. I was driving home yesterday and a guy was driving next to me in his convertible car with the top down. His little chihuahua was trying to stand on the drivers shoulder as the car was moving. The wind was too much but the dog tried to stand and balance himself with all of his strength. The chihuahua finally got his barrings and was able to stand up completely. The wind was blowing through his hair and his mouth was wide open as if he was catching the wind with his mouth. The dog seemed so happy. That made me smile.

Matthew Jacobs [Interview]

Welcome back to TWS, Folks! To perfectly commemorate the Memorial Day weekend being behind us, we thought we would share a wonderful interview with a damn fine Englishman! Trust me, it makes sense (or it doesn’t, either way, we are happy!). And that man would be writer, producer, actor, editor, director…..all of the things….Matthew Jacobs! I first became aware of Matthew’s work over 25 years ago, as he wrote the screenplay for the beautiful adaptation of a the series, Lassie. Of course, I was but a small boy when the film was released, so I wasn’t really aware of Matthew personally. So I thought I would do just that!
And as it turned out, Mr. Jacobs turns out to be an extremely nice person, and has done some even more amazing work beyond Lassie. Yes, Matthew’s work extended beyond just a film that was played on a loop in my doctor’s office up until at least 2003 when I stopped going. Yes, Matthew has written some pretty amazing words that would turn into classic films like Lorca and the Outlaws, which was directed by our old friend and former guest Roger Christian, as well as a couple of Bernard Rose films (Smart Money and Paperhouse), and another favorite of mine, The Emperor’s New Groove. And as we discuss below, he has also been heavily involved in a little series known as Dr. Who, which is insanely popular, with a very devote fan base. As we mentioned earlier, he has also worked extensively in the world of producing, directing, and even starring in a plethora of other projects as well.
We talk Lassie, Dr. Who, (briefly) portraying a despicable (depending who you ask. Me? Yes, truly disgusting) Supreme Court Justice, and so much more in these wonderful words from this absolutely legendary figure. So Folks, please enjoy some words from the brilliant Matthew Jacobs!
When did you first realize you wanted to join the world of entertainment? Was it an early inspiration you can remember having since your youth, or did you just happen to find yourself in this world one day?
My father was a TV and Radio actor (Anthony Jacobs), so for as long as I can remember I was inspired by him and like any young boy wanted to please him. At about the age of 11 in 1967/8 I got cast in a BBC 2 Classic adaptation of  Huxley’s Point Count Point and grew up fast, as child actors often do! I was playing a substantial little role opposite Max Adrien and Lyndon Brook for four episodes. However, even then I was more interested in what was going on behind the camera than in front of it.
From there, I was in lots of school plays and then got into The National Youth Theatre in 1973/4 where I played leading roles in a couple of shows: The Children’s Crusade and By Common Consent (which we also did as a BBC Play for Today.) However I soon found I was definitely more interested in being anything other than an actor. I LOVED performing, but almost everything else about the process of getting work and how we were treated in the NYT, I hated! The grass is always greener, eh?
So I luckily got a job as a runner for Ridley Scott Associates in 1974, and got sucked into the world of editing commercials. Both Ridley and Tony (especially Tony) were very encouraging and supported me going off to Hull University Drama Department where I trained as a theatre director, and then on to the National Film and Television School where I ended up focusing on screenwriting and directing for my MFA.
So it was a total immersion in that world right from the get go. I knew what I wanted to do from very early indeed.

 

 

What was the very first paid gig you can remember getting in this world? And where there any sort of lessons learned that you can remember from this job that still affects your work today?
My first professional gig was as a child actor in Point Counter Point. Very strange being so young and being with so many adults. My father was very strict about me turning up for the first rehearsal with all my lines learned. He was determined I would not appear to be unprofessional in any way. So “on time” was “late” and I had to deliver on expectations.
In those days you recorded each episode in one take and it was like a performance, with the cameras dancing from one set to the next. In one of my first scenes, the props people had forgotten to put a prop I was meant to show Max Adrien in it’s place, it simply wasn’t there!
Rather than stop the scene and make everyone go back o the top of the episode, I mimed the prop, and Max threw himself in front of where it would have been. Together we made the scene work. I was SO proud, and I guess the lesson I took from that was, “think on your feet, know how to turn problems into solutions!”
Corny, but I still live by that ethos.
In 1994, you were responsible for telling the tale of everyone’s most beloved dog, Lassie, in the film that will always be my own personal representation of Lassie, as I was but a 9 year old boy when this wonderful film came out. So, I am curious to know what it was like to re-imagine such a legendary tale that had been around for decades prior to modernizing the story of Lassie?
Great question, and no one ever asks me about Lassie.
Lassie is a movie I have a soft spot for because it was my first truly Hollywood Movie experience. I had done a lot of TV and smaller movies by then but this was the first mainstream studio picture screenplay that got made. It was both a baptism of fire, and a lesson I will never forget. So excuse the length here …
Barnaby Thompson, who produced Wayne’s World for Lorne Michaels, knew my work well and one day asked if I had a dog movie I wanted to make. I told him the story of my own dog who had been there for me as a little boy after I lost my mother. How we went bankrupt and went to live in Dartmoor. I wrote it up as a true short story. He adored it and said, why not change the name of your dog to Lassie and set it in America? Remember, the original story of Lassie was also written by a Brit …
Lorne Michaels and Paramount at that time owned Lassie and were looking for a way of bringing it back with a classic story that focused around a family in trouble, in the same way as the original movie had done long before the TV show. Lorne really liked my story. However when we pitched it to the studio they said no way! Too depressing! But Lorne went ahead and commissioned a script anyway for WGA scale with more in the deal if it got made. A couple of months later heads had rolled at the studio and Sherry Lansing had taken control. She read it and green lit the movie almost immediately. I was over the moon. Careful what you wish for!
A very serious director was given the script and I was flown in to convince him to do a “dog movie” … (“Dog Movies” are generally looked down on in the industry.)
I showed him Ken Loach’s KES. A very intense film that showed how you really could make a wonderful film about a boy and an animal. As soon as I did the next draft for him, the project became VERY serious. I think we may have killed Lassie, I can’t remember … Added to which, my father back in the UK passed away. Paramount and the serious director couldn’t see eye-to-eye and and I went back to the UK to be there for my father’s funeral. So rather than ask me to do a rewrite, Gary Ross was brought in to make it “warmer” and more in the direction of my very first draft – at least that’s what I was told.
Gary Ross changed the name of the main character to Matt (eeek!) and had people telling each other that they loved each other all the time, and made everyone a bit older … He is a true pro, and hopefully was being well paid. The serious director walked away and was replaced by Dan Petrie Snr, a very nice man who knew how to please everyone. They hired ANOTHER writer and started casting and setting dates. The script got worse. They fired that writer. I was given another go at the script, but I was told that Petrie disliked the amount of exclamation marks I used! (That was long before that gag was used on Seinfeld).
Okay, so if it wasn’t messy enough, the studio themselves then mashed together a script from all the drafts. Then a younger very friendly writer, Elizabeth Anderson, was brought on board to smooth everything into the lovely mushy movie it became. It was still very much my story and a lot of my dialogue, but we all agreed to share the credit three ways rather than go to arbitration as was the fashion at that time at Paramount.
When I finally saw the movie it was like a surreal nightmare of watching my childhood played out with guns and Supergirl, Lassie and a soaring score, not to mention Michelle Williams as a crush-worthy local lamb-loving shepherd. The trial poster I was sent by Barnaby Thompson and Lorne Michaels had a wonderful typo in it … LASSIE … Love … Friendship … Loyality … That’s how they spell loyalty here they joked.
My elderly step-mother came over to California and saw it in the cinema, she loved it. She was being played by Supergirl. That my step-mother loved it was all that mattered to me at the end of the day. The movie’s heart is in the right place I guess. It has built its own audience over the years, including yourself and many small children … And people in the Far East …
In 1996 you became a huge part of the wildly popular series Dr. Who, which is a franchise with a very loyal and die hard fan base when you wrote and produced the original TV series by the same name. So, what was it like to join the world of that is so beloved by Whovians across the globe? And what were your thoughts of final product that would make its way to the screen?
Here I stayed as in control of the film as I could while working for so many masters: BBC, Fox and Universal. By the time we made Doctor Who, I’d done Lassie, The Jim Henson Hour, Young Indiana Jones, and the first scripts for what became The Emperor’s New Groove plus lots of other stuff. Doctor Who was like coming home, and really was an enjoyable experience. I have been drawn back into the Doctor Who American fan world in the past few years making a documentary with Vanessa Yuille called Doctor Who Am I. All will be revealed there when that comes out next year and you can get a taste of the documentary by visiting our Facebook Page. https://www.facebook.com/doctorwhoami/
Last year you portrayed briefly portrayed Antonin Scalia in the absolutely incredible Oscar winning film Vice. I am very curious to know how this experience was for you?
Even though I shot for a couple of days and had the honor of improvising a duck-hunting scene with Christian Bale, my entrance was all that remained. I certainly prepared … Probably way too much! It was fantastic to be part of a big movie like that and even though I felt like I was strangely mis-cast I certainly did my best.
Recently I have done more acting in smaller movies: leading roles in Boxing Day, Your Good Friend, Bar America, and the Igor equivalent in Bernard Rose’s Frankenstein. Bernard Rose woke me up to acting again with Boxing Day, which is a really interesting little movie if you get the chance to find it.
What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?
I continue to write, direct, and sometimes act in much smaller films these days. Next up will be Doctor Who Am I as linked above, then hopefully a TV show which is going into development soon. I live happily in Los Feliz (Which actually means “the happy” I suppose 🙂  in Los Angeles … I like to support new filmmakers, coaching and teaching at universities from time to time, and I also constantly come up with new ideas. I have been SO lucky to have got this far doing what I love. I encourage people to see one of my recent films …Bar America … https://www.amazon.com/Bar-America-Matthew-Jacobs/dp/B017Y3V342

Jacobs directing Bar America.

What was the last thing that made you smile?
Anthony Jeselnik’s politically incorrect dark comedy special on Netflix the other night. A master of statement … Long pause … Reversal
For example,  “I often wonder, do I have it in me to take a human life? …. …. …. Then I remember. Oh yeah … Debbie.”
Also the June gloom has come early to LA this year, stunning flowers everywhere!!!!!  (lots of exclamation marks there)
Thanks for reading.

Sunday Matinee: The Lavender Scare [Film]

 

 

“With the United States gripped in the panic of the 1950s Cold War, President Dwight D. Eisenhower deemed homosexuals to be “security risks” and vowed to rid the federal government of all employees discovered to be gay or lesbian.  Over the next four decades,the longest witch-hunt in American history, tens of thousands of government workers would lose their jobs for no reason other than their sexual orientation.

But the mass firings have an unintended effect: they stirred outrage in the gay community, helped ignite the gay rights movement, and thrust an unlikely hero into the forefront of the LGBTQ fight for equality.Partly based on the award-winning book by historian David K. Johnson, THE LAVENDER SCARE  illuminates a little-known chapter of American history, and serves as a timely reminder of the value of vigilance and social action when civil liberties are under attack.” – Emma Griffiths PR

 

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Strap in for something special Dear Readers. We have some things to talk about. The Lavender Scare is a film that has taught me so much about something that I quickly realized I was far too familiar with, but wasn’t entirely aware of as far as specifics and event details were concerned.

I will kick things off before getting on my soapbox about the details of the film by stating that The Lavender Scare is a very well made documentary that evokes a plethora of emotions ranging from pride, back to anger, and flips it all around back to complete amazement. But, let’s be honest, we have 24 time Emmy Award winning producer and broadcast executive Josh Howard running the show in his directorial debut, so the odds are that he could be making a documentary about the process of grass growth, and it was going to be well made, even if this is technically is directorial debut. Howard knows how to bring out the most in interview subjects, and move around their quotes to fit a narrative that not only moves the film along in a steady pace, but manages to hit all of the extremely important plot points of the film. Yes Folks, there truly is a narrative and a collection of plot points that need to be done just right even in a documentary. And Josh nailed them, because that is what he has been doing for many moons. The Lavender Scare is a brilliant film that you will surely find yourself lost within very quickly. Also the god damn QUEEN herself, Glenn Close, is narrating! There is no way this isn’t going to be a wonderfully made film!

Now, if I may casually wipe off my worn down Chuck Taylors and step upon my soap box decorated in purple velvet for such an occasion, I have a few things to say. First of all, I completely understand that the specifications of this film can be emphasized by the intolerant and insufferable section of a country completely devoid of human decency and dead set on widening the divide that already exists. I know this. The film focuses on the impact on government employees who are being outcasted and literally stricken of their livelihoods because of who they decide to love. But obviously, it is about so damn much more than this. Please be warned: I am about to say some of the most cliche shit that you have ever heard. But sometimes certain forms of rhetoric become “cliche” because they are absolutely true, and have to be reemphasized from time to time. So…why in the hell did it ever matter? The sexual orientation of a file clerk at the Department of Agriculture wouldn’t, didn’t, and never will affect the work that said employee would ever perform. What does it actually effect? Well, it effects the potential of what said file clerk could possibly accomplish, that nobody knew they could! This can be said about the women, black people, and any other person of color who was denied the opportunity to pursue their dreams based solely on the way the looked. Seriously Folks, just start to let your mind wonder about the lost potential that was driven by (predominately) asshat straight white male Americans who saw themselves as the superior beings and had an inability to see the potential good that was being disregarded.

 

 

I do feel the need to say that I have personally witnessed the impact that allowing openly gay humans to serve in the military and other government duties has had on the security to our nation. And in short: The impact is nothing. Absolutely NOTHING! And when I say nothing, I strictly mean nothing in the negative sense. There have been zero negative impact to ANYTHING! In fact, it could only be positive! The repeal of the absolute bullshit Don’t Ask Don’t Tell nonsense (which I know is praised in the film, but c’mon, what a cop out? I’ll buy a “good start” theory, but seriously?), quickly led me to having an openly gay boss in my day job, which happens to be for the government. And do you want to know what impact it had on me? NONE! He was just a nice person, a great person to work for, and who he decided to be romantic with in his off time had zero impact on how we accomplished our goals for the day. Actually, I met his husband on several occasions, and he was a very nice man! Imagine that Folks, they’re just people! As The Lavender Scare states several times, “the evidence did not exist” for disgusting people like Ike & Dick to present homosexuality as something to be feared. It was simply hate. No way around it. Hate has fueled the government’s actions since the beginning. Hate and Fear. The tides appear to be turning, but only time will tell if this is true.

Now, getting back to the film, shall we. As “woke” or down for the cause of human equality as I would like to believe that I am, I also have to be honest when I say that I learned ALOT in watching The Lavender Scare. I honestly did not know much about what was happening in this era beyond my love for The Beat Generation. My limited knowledge of the 1950’s was surrounding one specific group of people, who made it seem so glamorous to be young, broke, gay, alcoholic, what have you, during this time. I obviously had a lot to learn. One figure that I was particularly unaware of and is heavily showcased in this film was one Frank Kameny. What a hell of a guy, am I right? The fight that this man went through is absolutely incredible. But what struck me the most was the absolute pride he had in what he had accomplished. The man was, deservedly so, proud of himself for what he helped spearhead. And dammit, he deserved to be so proud! I have watched other documentaries where an actor may be talking the way Kameny did towards the end of his life, with pride over a TV series or a particular film, and it simply comes off as arrogant. But, in this case, Kameny deserves to have a very high level of positive arrogance for what he has accomplished. He is freaking HERO, if we have ever had one, and he deserves to be known as such.

I implore everyone to watch The Lavender Scare as soon as humanly possible. Follow the film around social media, do whatever you have to do to take in this masterpiece of a documentary with a very real and engaging message that needs to be spread amongst the masses. Just do it.

 

 

The Lavender Scare will open theatrically in New York (Cinema Village) and Los Angeles (Laemmle Music Hall) on Friday, June 7, 2019, timed to the 50-year anniversary of Stonewall, with a national release to follow. For more details, check out the film’s WEBSITE for further details. 

 

Saturday Special: Hallowed Ground [Film]

 

“A married couple, trying to rebuild their relationship after an affair, travels to a secluded cabin and stumbles into a blood feud between the Native American owners of the property and the neighboring clan, who obsessively guard their land and punish those who trespass on it in terrifying ways.” – October Coast PR

 

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Today’s Saturday Special is basically a film that is giving us good Halloween vibes a solid fiscal quarter early. Hallowed Ground is another absolutely incredible independent horror film that simply hits all the right marks. Notably, it has a truly despicable villain that you absolutely feel zero sympathy for throughout the film’s entirety. I personally always appreciate this. Not to put down the frequently mentioned on this site, Jason Voorhies, but sometimes I truly do enjoy just knowing that the antagonist of the film is truly a piece of shit, and they deserve to die. Like, could we all really blame the shark from Jaws? Wasn’t the shark just, you know, being a shark? Anyway, I am digressing from the point here: Hallowed Ground is an independently made cinematic masterpiece that I truly feel you will all enjoy deeply. It’s also insanely clever in the way that it take the concept of same sex marriage as real non-issue (because it isn’t) but manages to wrap the idea around the little brains of the film’s villains, only making them appear even more ridiculous. This is progress Folks, and it would be impossible to disagree with it.

 

 

 

The cast of Hallowed Ground is also extremely solid. You got a frizzle beard Ritchie Montgomery acting absolutely insane, yet knows the entire truth. Ritchie, of course, has been in just about everything since the early 80’s, so there is no real surprise there. If you got Montgomery in your film, he’s only going to make it better. But, the two newbies (to me) that really stood out and are now falling in line to be a couple of my favorite performers, especially in the world of horror, was the aforementioned antagonist of the film, Miles Doleac who portrays the appropriately named “Bill”. Bill’s performance was so good that I would put his portrayal of Bill up as an example of how to play evil, right alongside the likes of a Nurse Ratchet. He truly is that damn great. The other performer who has enlightened me to their work was one of the film’s lead protagonists, Lindsay Anne Williams. I wanted to point her out because she managed to take on the role as one of the film’s heroes, while at times also being a somewhat unlikable character, who just can’t quite seem to let go of certain “things” (people? Sorry, no spoilers!). Lindsay displays a smashing amount of emotional depth into each scene of Hallowed Ground and is beyond commendable. And as I said before, great work all around by the cast as a whole, truly the stuff that indie gold is made of, and sadly not abundant these days.

 

 

 

And if you needed another reason to check out the incredible film that is Hallowed Ground, because my cheeky compliments just weren’t quite good enough for you: I recommend you see this film especially if you are a Trainwreck’d Society purist. Our dear friend and past interview subject during our 2017 run of our Month of Horror, Wesley O’Mary, is a co-producer on the film, and even has a wonderful supporting role. Usually this sort of involvement is non real coincidence, but this time it was fun to learn that it was! So when I saw his name attached to Hallowed Ground, I knew I was in for something great! And as should you! So check it out Folks! If you love indie horror with a real purpose and meaning, you’re going to love this one!

 

Hallowed Ground will be in select theaters June 7, and releasing on VOD/DVD June 11.

 

 

 

 

Leslie McRay [Interview]

 

Hello Folks! Today’s interview subject is one we would consider to be an absolute legend in the world of film and television. Leslie McRay has worked in just about every realm possible in these worlds. Starting out as an international model, moving on to appear in several films and television shows, and eventually landing herself working behind the scenes as well as in front of it. While possibly not her biggest film, the main reason I was interested in having Leslie on the site was for her absolutely brilliant performance in one of my favorite films of all time, the Roger Corman classic film Death Race 2000. If you haven’t seen this one Folks, I implore you to do so! It is one of the most fun experiences you can have in watching cinema. And McRay shines throughout it. We get into a bit below.

Yes, Leslie McRay has had a career that should bring her just so much pride. She has done it her way, and has continued with great success throughout her career. We talked about Death Race, her work in the exploitation world, her new project revolved around celebrity miracles, and so much more. You’re going to love this one Folks!

So strap in, and please enjoy some wonderful responses from the absolutely brilliant Leslie McRay!

 

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What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment? Was it something that you had always aspired to do since you were a child, or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day?

Since I was born on my mother’s 15th birthday she needed to send us to school in an orphanage.  Another family tried to adopt me.  This created an abandonment issue.  One day I cried to God “Someday the world will hear from me!”  Then when she became Mrs. Wyoming- I saw the pictures of her and knew my destiny.  She got me back, in time for us to move to California.  The kids at school told me that I was going to become an actress.

In more recent years, you have moved to be more behind the camera working in the world of producing, included working as an EP on the Oscars at one point, according to IMDb. So how did this transition come about? Did you always want to work on the other side of the camera? 

I am ambidextrous and very creative so setting around on the set waiting to say one line bored me. I began assisting in production and quickly developed the skills to produce.  While shooting the Award winning docudrama Day of Miracles (the miracle survivors of 9/11), I wrote the script at night through googling the incidents and produced during the days. 

 

One film you appeared in has to be one of my favorite films of all time, which would be 1975’s Death Race 2000. It’s not only a Corman classic, but it is just a classic all around in my mind. So what drew you to this insane story? And how was your experience working on such a truly unique film?

Just becoming an International Model, one of the first films that I acted in was the classic Death Race 2000.  I was offered the lead but I turned down the nudity.  Loved working with Carridine and Stallone. Stallone was bragging about a little boxing film, Rocky in which he had to raise the money, in order to play the lead! 

Throughout the 60’s & 70’s, you worked in the world of films now known as “exploitation films”, which have re-emerged in popular culture in recent years. As an obvious expert from the original world, I am curious to know if you had any opinions as to why the popularity and mystic of these films has only continued to rise? What is it about films like Girl in Gold Boots or Coffy that keep them relavent and beloved after a half of a decade? 

I feel that people love the 60’s – 70’s because they were more real.  Today’s films are frequently created from extreme-tech special-effects. In that other era there was an interesting story to follow.

 

I am very intrigued by a project of yours that I discovered on IMDb, but haven’t gotten the chance to check out, entitled Real Celebrity Miracles. You not only host the project, but you also wrote, produced, & directed the whole thing. Can you tell our readers a bit about this? How did this project come to life?

While interviewing for Celebrity Miracles on Oscar Night I asked inspirational questions and got amazing answers! The name of our show, Star Power, created an opportunity to ask “What is the power behind the Stars?”   Frequently the answers were, “God is the Power behind the Stars”(Dyan Cannon)!  Other answers were: “Yes- I have had an Angel experience” (Richard Dreyfus and Jane Seymour)!

Prince’s girl friend (Vanity), and background singer said “Due to the drugs and alcohol I had only minutes to live and someone prayed with me in the hospital.  “I had a complete miraculous healing!”  (Omar Sharif) one night wrote a check for almost everything he had.  His life completed turned around after that event! 

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

I am always on the look-out for inspirational stories. I am packaging a true story, Fighting Spirit, now which is about a Hispanic young boy who gets scholar-shipped into High School Wrestling.  Due to extreme working out he falls into a coma.  Doctors give him a slim chance to live.  His brother prayed and he miraculously recovers.  He then became the first High School Camp of California!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Last smile  was Easter when I designed flowers for Sunday brunch for 40 tables for seniors.

 

Janet Scott Batchler [Interview]

 

 

Hello Folks! We have another absolutely wonderful interview to share with you all. Today’s interview subject is a screenwriter who has brought some incredible fun to the world of cinema through her work. Janet Scott Batchler, and her writing partner Lee Batchler, happened to work on two very specific projects that affected me personally at two very different times in my life. The first, if you haven’t guessed it from the absolutely hilarious (right? c’mon) photo above, is from within the world of Batman. Janet helped bring to life, the film that not only features my favorite performance of Batman (from Val Kilmer), but the film that felt it was made exactly for me at the time. And that film was Batman Forever. Arguably a wonderful film that moved away from the very serious (also incredible, I will add) and dark Tim Burton world, and brought the story of Batman back into the more outlandish stylized nature that it was always portrayed on screen prior getting the Burton treatment. And don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the Burton and Christopher Nolan routes that Batman took, but I will definitely go on the record and say that Batman Forever is a film that was just SO MUCH FUN! And so much of that fun should be credited to Janet Scott Batchler. In terms of cinematic achievements, of course it constantly be compared to what The Dark Knight did, but it really shouldn’t. They are two very different tellings of stories of similar characters. And if you are a fan of comic books in general, you’ll probably understand this more than most.

The other project that Batchler brought to the world was the absolutely incredible My Name is Modesty, a screen adaptation of a very specific book series that I was very well aware of, although not well versed in, due to my young teenage obsession with all thins Quentin Tarantino, which was rampant in late 90’s and early 00’s. I was 10 years old when Batman Forever came to the world, and 19 years old when Modesty came out. Two very different people within myself existed between these times, and Batchler just seemed to be the person who was capturing my interest in focus of the moment at these exact times! It’s such a lovely coincidence.

And we are so excited to have Janet grace our digital pages today. So Folks, please enjoy some incredible words from the absolutely brilliant screenwriter as we talk Batman, Modesty, and so much more. Enjoy!

 

 

When did you first discover your passion for writing? Was it something you had always dreamed of doing professionally? And what specifically set you on the path of screenwriting?

I began writing as a very young child, for fun and self-expression. Writing was something I could always do. However, it never occurred to me to think of it professionally growing up because no one encouraged me that it could be a possibility. In fact, a career counselor told me that it was a ridiculous idea, especially for a woman. So I didn’t take the idea seriously. But when I met my husband-and-writing-partner-to-be, I began to think: Hey, maybe this *is* something I could do. And from the first time I started to dabble with screenwriting, I felt completely at home.

What was your very first paid gig as a writer? Were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still affect your work today?

I honestly don’t remember my first paid gig as a writer. But I do remember the first time I *didn’t* get paid. I was working in development for a TV movie company. We had been approached by a network to create a TV movie about Chernobyl. A writer was hired, but I was asked to do all the research. Okay, fine. But when the writer turned in his treatment, it was unreadable, poorly plotted, and ignored all the research about what actually happened. My bosses knew they couldn’t turn in something like this to the network, so they asked me to rewrite it. I did a page-one rewrite. My treatment went to the network under the official writer’s name, the project was greenlit to script, and the official writer was paid for the treatment… and I went “Wait a minute.” I left that company soon after (and the writer’s first draft of the script was so horrendous that the project was scrapped).

 

 

In 1995, a film that you worked on came out that was one of my absolute favorite films, and remains my favorite comic book movie of all time, even with the influx of other comic book movies recently. And that film was Batman Forever. I was 10 years old when it came out, and it blew my freaking mind! So how was this experience for you? Where you already a fan of the world of Batman or comics in general? 

I was a big Batman fan growing up — it was really the primary comic book that I followed. Writing Batman Forever and having a tiny part of the Batman legacy was a truly wonderful experience.

Another absolutely incredible film that you wrote was one that I would enjoy much later as an adult, and that would be My Name is Modesty. The director of the film, Scott Spiegel, is actually an old friend of ours here at TWS. I am curious to know where the idea for this film come from? What made you want to tell this tale?

My writing partner and I were actually approached by Miramax to write a large-scale, big-budget Modesty Blaise movie, which we did in fact write. Although we read and studied all Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise novels for the project, it was not based on any of them. One storyline of the movie involved reconnecting Modesty to her mentor and teacher Lob, who is mentioned only in passing in the novels — but that was the storyline that most fascinated Harvey Weinstein, for whom we were working…

However, while we were finishing up the large-scale screenplay, Miramax realized that their rights to Modesty Blaise were about to expire. In late January, they informed us that they had to have cameras rolling on a Modesty Blaise movie by early April — about 9 weeks away. And they asked if we could write a low-budget story featuring Modesty that could be prepped and shot in that unbelievably short time frame. We thought the best way to approach that would be to tell a story about Modesty before she became an international crime boss, before she teamed up with Willie Garvin — and we decided to dive deeper into that time period of her life, staying as faithful as possible to the little we knew about it from the novels. We were working with very limited locations and budget, so decided to key in on the time when Modesty worked at a casino, and built the story from there.

I’m very proud of the large-scale Modesty Blaise script that we wrote, by the way — one of my favorite pieces I ever worked on. But it got caught up in the Miramax/Disney divorce — I’m not sure anyone really knew who owned it. And after Peter O’Donnell’s fairly recent death, it’s unlikely that it will see the light of day as a movie, sadly.

 

 

I also noticed that the film was “presented” by none other than Quentin Tarantino. How did the addition of Quentin to the project come about? I know that him and Scott have a solid history together, but how did he manage to become involved with this specific project as well?

Quentin was involved with the project from the beginning. While I don’t remember how he became involved, he has a long history of loving Modesty Blaise. (Look at what John Travolta’s reading in the bathroom in Pulp Fiction.) Quentin was in fact the person who brought Scott on. Someone else was prepping the project, but when Quentin read the script, he loved it so much that he wanted to offer it to Scott, who stepped in to direct.

Another project of yours that I truly enjoyed was the 2014 film Pompei. The story of Pompei is a truly fascinating story to begin within, but you managed to make it even that much more compelling. Having actually been to Pompei, I can say that it is an eery place to be and to realize what exactly happened there. So I am curious to know what inspired you to tell this tale? Have you been to Pompei?

I have never been to Pompeii — but given that we needed to visit Pompeii in 79 A.D., we wouldn’t have been able to make the trip anyway. We were inspired because we find disaster movies fascinating, a chance to explore what people do when faced with a life-or-death situation they’ve never anticipated. Humans go through a very distinct psychological process when facing disaster, which is fascinating to journey through as a writer. My writing partner and I realized that a modern movie had never been made about a real-life disaster so legendary that people still know about it 2,000 years later. While the final movie was significantly different from the script we originally wrote (which raised $107 million overnight at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival), our personal journey diving into the history surrounding the disaster was very satisfying.

 

 

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

Waiting to see what the future holds. We have a movie casting, we finished a movie at the end of last year that’s out to directors, I’m on the second draft of a movie I’m writing with my daughter, and we’re in the early stages of a new project. Most immediate: I’m a screenwriting professor at the USC film school, and I’ll be wrapping up the semester’s grading this week and getting ready for summer to start.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Some friends’ photos from their anniversary trip to Berlin.

Brian Kerwin [Interview]

 

Hello Folks! We have another absolutely wonderful interview to share with you all. Today’s interview subject is one of the people that I just sort of knew about, for basically my entire life. But, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t a wild follower of his work (until now). I knew Brian Kerwin as the caring and trying-oh-so hard father to a 10 year old soon who looks 10 years older than him in the absolutely legendary film Jack that I love so very much. I also knew him because of my on again/off again relationship with the daytime soap series One Life To Live, where I watched him for a few years depending on varying work schedules, if I were able to throughout the middle of the day. So with these two simple things in mind, I was curious to know a bit more about Brian.

And you as you should have guessed it by now if you are a regular reader of this site, he is one hell of a nice guy! And I will say, I was relieved to not be too surprised, but still have plenty of “oh, that’s cool” moments in reading his responses. Brian Kerwin is essentially a hippy who discovered his own voice through the art of performance. Performing, on stage as a probable preference, is how Kerwin expresses himself the best, and we are so damn happy for the career that he was able to build for himself. He’s one of the good guys, Folks. I just know you are going to love his charm that exudes through even on just the below digital print. That is if you aren’t already a fan of his, and are just tuning in to check out more, which is very likely as he is such gem of a human.

So Folks, let’s just get into it! Please enjoy some wonderful words from the absolutely brilliant Brian Kerwin!

 

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When did you decide that you wanted to join the world of acting? Was it an early aspiration from your youth? Or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day?

I never decided —- acting sort of chose me. I remember when I decided to give professional acting a try: I was living in NYC in ‘72 with my girlfriend who was starting a career as a fashion model. We were living in the Village and I tried to open a little hippie store of handmade items — it was a miserable failure. I was also painting, and I fancied myself a singer-songwriter. I was doing a little bit of everything. And I was hanging out with a few actor friends, and they suggested I give it a try. I did, and within  a couple weeks I was cast in a little off-off-Broadway showcase, and one thing just lead to another. A year later I was in LA working on some pretty mediocre TV shows.

In 1996, you appeared in what would probably be my most re-watched film of my youth. That film would be the absolutely adorable and compelling Jack. It may be some of the most wholesome fun I have seen to date. I am curious to know how you enjoyed working on such a delightful family friendly masterpiece? Was it as enjoyable of an experience to work on as it was for me to watch?

I was so happy when I got cast in Jack. I loved the script, and all of the talent in the cast was a dream come true. I had worked with Diane Lane previously. Robin was already a legend, but he proved to be a lovely man to work with — we had fun together. I became lifelong friends with Irwin Corey, the iconic comedian. The entire cast was great….even Bill Cosby. And it was Jennifer Lopez’s first film — she was sweet.

Unfortunately the otherwise truly brilliant director, Francis Ford Coppola, is a very difficult person to be around. By the time that film wrapped everybody was glad to go. I only saw Robin a few times after that and was very sad to hear of his death.

 

Brian Kerwin in Jack (1996)

 

We have spoken with alot of folks who have worked in the world of Soap Operas. And you are no stranger to this world yourself, have appeared in hundreds of episodes of one of my personal favorites, One Life To Live alongside our dear friend & past guest Kassie DePavia. I am always fascinated by the break neck pace in which these shows are pushed out into the world on a daily basis, and what it must be like to work on one of these programs. So, how was your experience on OLTL? Did you have any tricks to memorizing so much dialogue in such a short amount of time?

The soaps are bookends to my career. The first job I ever had in front of a camera was in LA in 1976 on The Young And The Restless. For 6 months (40 episodes) I was Greg Foster. I hated it! And the producers grew to hate me, terminating my 3 year contract after only 6 months. I never even considered doing another soap until over 30 years later. I had just started a year and a half run on Broadway in August: Osage County when the producers of One Life To Live offered me a 4 year contract playing Charlie Banks, love interest to soap opera icon, Erika Slezak. I was definitely gun shy from my experience on Y&R, but a friend of mine on the show, Tuc Watkins, convinced me that it was a lot of fun. Thankfully he was right. Contrary to my Y&R experience, I loved it — the cast, the crew, the brass — all wonderful. I would have done it for 10 more years, but soaps had run their course by then.

Learning lines has always been easy for me, but for OLTL it was even easier because I had all my backstage time on August: Osage County to do my homework.

Might I add that not only is Kassie DePavia one of the most delightful people in the world, but she also changed my world. I suffer hearing loss, and now, very happily, wear hearing aids — but not back then. When I first met Kassie I knew that her son had severe hearing loss and I sought her out for advice. She hooked me up with her son’s wonderful Audiologist, Ellen LaFarge, and my life has never been the same. Kassie is one of my heros.

When it comes to performing, you have worked on numerous projects within the realms of television, film, stage, and beyond. With that in mind, I am curious to know what your favorite field to work on would be? If from this point forward, you were only going to be granted the ability to work in one outlet, what would it be?

STAGE!  Stage. Stage. Stage.

I love working on stage — I could care less about the other mediums — they can be fun, and it’s great to work with other talented people, and you make lots more money, but for me the only real satisfaction comes from the stage.

Why? …. I could write a book (and you wouldn’t want to read it). Onstage you’re dealing with, telling a story to, real live people. You can feel them listening. At its best, it’s like talking to a friend. I like that.

 

Having done so much incredible work in your career spanning 40+ years on screen and on stage, when you look back on your accomplishments and your career as a whole, what would you say you are the most proud of? Not necessarily a single project (although it could be), but maybe as a whole? 

I think, looking back, my finest hour was doing a play that few people saw — in the mid 80’s, in two productions in both San Diego and Los Angeles, Stephen Metcalfe’s brilliant play Strange Snow. I remember that play with great affection.

I’m very proud to have been a part of Harvey Fierstein’s groundbreaking LGBTQ (in 1986, before anybody used all those letters) film (and play) Torch Song Trilogy.

But other than any single project I suppose I’m most proud of having been able to pull off a successful career, and support a family of 5 in NYC as an actor. That’s not an easy thing to do, and I’m the first to admit that it involve a whole lot of luck. But I got to raise my kids in a great city, I got to travel the world (often with my family), I got to work with some wonderful and wildly talented people —and I got that all by doing something that I thoroughly enjoy doing. I’m very lucky.

 

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

I’m for all intents and purposes retired — I’m pushing 70. I sold my house in NYC, my kids are grown and out on their own, very sadly my wife, Jeanne, passed away 3 years ago, so I’ve built myself a new house on a lake in upstate New York. I intend to live there quietly and happily reading, and fishing, and painting, and playing music. And if any of my wonderful playwright friends, or directors, or my agents call me with any tantalizing possibilities I will give them all great consideration. I’m sure I would love to do another wonderful play.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Truly?…the last thing that made me smile was your use of the term “digs” in your introductory paragraph. I haven’t heard that in years, and it warmed my heart. That was a vital part of my hippy vernacular many years ago. It made me smile just reading it. I dug it.