Sam Ingraffia [Interview]

 

Hello Folks! And welcome to another fantastic week here at TWS! Today we are kicking the week off with some words from an absolute legend of the screen. In both film and television, Sam Ingraffia has done it all. Sam has spent the last 40+ years appearing in just about every genre of film and television you can imagine. From Soap Operas to crime thrillers to absolutely hilarious comedies, and back around to horror films. He has put in the work to earn his legendary status, and we are so honored to have him on the site today.

What I love most about Sam’s body of work is, as sort of mentioned before, the diversity of it all! But, with a twist, I should say. We are prone to love cult like things that most likely have their own following, but not a cultural phenomenon. For example: I was at a Claire’s the other day (tack on the idea that this is in England) and they were selling Friends related merchandise to tweens. Now, not to knock on Friends, but I don’t think that a tween-centric jewelry store is going to be pimping out Becker merchandise any time soon. No what I mean? And that brings me to Sam. He has worked on wildly renowned shows and films like Oliver Stone’s Wall Street and legendary shows like Barney Miller. But, you HAVE to see him in the under appreciated classics the Fame series and the cult-classic favorite, 1985’s The Falcon and the Snowman. Oh, and he also shows up in the insanely popular, with good reason, original series Barry starring Bill Hader. And to top it all off, he has a “new” project coming out where he is bringing back some old beloved friends. He will discuss below!

So Folks, please enjoy some incredible words from an even more incredible actor, the great Sam Ingraffia!

 

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What inspired you to get into the world of acting? Was it a passion that you had since your youth? Or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day?

It’s a little bit of both. Even as a kid, I loved movies and I grew up watching television. I didn’t have anybody in my family, or circle of friends who had anything to do with show business, so being a performer never seemed like a viable option. I went to U.C.L.A. and graduated with a degree in Political Science. I then decided to get an MBA in Finance. While in graduate school, a friend told me about an audition for a play in a tiny theatre. I had a break from classes and I thought it might be fun to audition, never thinking that I’d actually get cast. I got the part and two weeks later I quit grad school and became an actor. I’ve never looked back.

What was your very first paid gig as an actor that you can remember getting? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still affects your work today?

The first paid gig I ever got as an actor was on a TV show called The Betty White Show.  I had one line. I was in awe watching Betty White. She is the consummate pro — funny, open, considerate and when they called “action” — always prepared. Over the years, I’ve tried hard to follow her example.

Beyond the world of acting, you are also an accomplished writer, director, and producer. This could have an obvious answer either way, so I am curious to know what your preference is in this matter. Do you prefer to work behind the camera on your own projects (possibly in front of the camera as well, of course), or in front of the camera on other people’s projects?

As I’ve gotten older, I think I prefer working behind the camera more. As a writer/producer you have input into almost every aspect of a project. You are also connected to the project from start to finish. The actor is one of the last people hired. And when the project finishes shooting your job is done. Being an actor is great because everybody sees your face on the screen, but I really like collaborating with others; putting together the puzzle pieces that finally becomes the finished product.

 

 

I understand you have a project in the works entitled The Amazing Return of Sal & Junior, in which you resurrect a character that you played 30 years ago. Can you tell our readers a bit about this project? What can they expect to see?

30 years ago my writing partner Gary Stein and I created two characters named Sal and Junior. We performed them at comedy clubs in L.A. and eventually we got a development deal at Universal Studios. Scripts were written, network deals were signed, pilots were shot, but after almost three years it all fizzled. For years people asked us, “What ever happened to Sal & Junior?”  Now we have an answer! We raised some money, hired a great crew and shot eight episodes. The series is now up YouTube. The shows are really funny and contain old publicity stills and video of us playing the characters 30 years ago!  

You also recently made an appearance on the hit series Barry that has been acclaimed by critics and viewers alike. I am curious to know how your experience was working on this new and exciting show?

The experience of working on Barry was great from start to finish. My scenes are with Anthony Carrigan, who plays “NoHo Hank” on the show. He’s not only a wonderful person but also a terrific actor. When I first went in to meet the casting person, she asked me to improvise during the audition, which is very rare in television. When I showed up on the set, I found out why. Alec Berg who is the Co-Creator of the show with Bill Hader was there. After every take he would whisper something to Anthony. When the director called “action,” Anthony would say different lines, so I had to really listen and react.  I loved it! 

 

 

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

I just shot a National commercial last week. I have two features coming out in October. One is a horror film call U.Z.L.A. The other is Bite of the Alien, a very dark comedy that takes place in outer space. I can’t discuss the details because I’ve been sworn to secrecy, but both are really amazing. I just booked another feature, which starts filming in two weeks. It’s a screwball comedy. And we are gearing up to shoot the next season of The Amazing Return of Sal & Junior! 

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I just glanced over at a framed picture of my son and myself.  It’s from a number of years ago. He’s about 7 or 8. It was taken right before we went out Trick or Treating on Halloween. We are both dressed as Zorro, pointing our swords at the camera.  He even has a drawn-on pencil moustache! Makes me smile every time I look at it.

 

Check out this clip of Sam’s appearance on HBO’s Barry:

 

 

Saturday Special: Dream House [Short Film]

 

“A delayed coming-of-age drama set in Connecticut, DREAM HOUSE follows Mark, who after being hospitalized for attempted suicide, returns home to live with his elderly mother Ginnie in their deteriorating estate. Struggling with his sexuality and an overbearing mother, Mark tries to fill his voids with continuous housework, alcohol, and trips to the local gay bar. Ginnie then hires handyman Ted, who befriends Mark and offers him the possibility of a new life.” – Millennial PR

 

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Hello Folks! Today we have a very exciting Saturday Special to share with you all. It’s a short film, but it packs a lot of emotional punch. Dream House is EXACTLY the type of film that needs to be made more often in this day and age. It is a journey through so many different reactions to one characters current state of being, jam packed into 30 minutes. And yet, it works so well. Beautifully shot, extremely well written, and with some amazing performances, this is an absolute gem of a film that is not to be missed. The overwhelming sense of compassion for what some may see has simply a bundle of sticks built to bring shelter, but to others is a wafting sense of nostalgia for simpler times, is what really drew me into the film, when focused on the condition of the actual titular house, of course. And the film does a wonderful job and depicting how an exact event can be nostalgic for some, and absolutely fucking dreadful for others. Especially for a person struggling with their own identity and sexuality.

 

 

Writer and producer David Lally has written a terrific script that plays so well when put in the hands of director Jeff Bemiss. And newcomer to the screen, Ryan Farley, really knocks it out of the damn park with an absolutely wonderful performance as Mark, a character that can sadly be very relatable in a lot of ways. Overall, Dream House is very tight production and all involved should be commended for their great efforts. I simply cannot recommend this wonderful short film enough.

 

Dream House is available now on Amazon Prime.

 

 

 

 

Steve Zacharias [Interview]

 

Hello Folks! Happy Friday to you all, and I hope our (probably mostly) American readers enjoyed a wonderful 4th of July celebration, and are probably reading this in a semi-catatonic state after realizing that there is probably still work to be done as the 4th landed on a Thursday. Best of luck to you all, and fear not, the weekend is upon you!

Today we have a very interesting interview with a very interesting and insanely talented interview subject. Today we are talking with the brilliant comedy writer Steve Zacharias. Now, there is a thing that tends to happen here at Trainwreck’d Society, that our regular reader(s) may notice. We talk to a lot of people who have written or co-written on some films that I personally (speaking as just Ron here) fucking LOVE. But with that, sometimes the people who actually worked very hard on a script and story, have their work completely twisted around and completely rearranged so much that it barely represents their original ideas, but for legal reasons they still get paid and get the credit. It’s not every time, but sometimes it happens. And in the case of our interview subject today, Steve Zacharias has had it happen on (at least) three occasions, as I learned in his responses. Two of which I provoked myself, and a third that came unprovoked, and shocked me quite a bit. In the third case, it was pretty much stolen from him, which is even more uncool. I’m talking about a series that ran for one season, and sadly returned, know as The Brink on HBO. The other two will be very obvious.

But, the saving grace of it all is that even though I loved the projects that Steve may not have cared much for himself, I get to image how wonderful, and most likely different, the projects would have been if Steve had gotten the films to go the way he wanted. That doesn’t help the fact that the projects will most likely never get made, but it does leave me to believe that without the baseline incredible talent of Steve Zacharias, the films he is responsible for that I love so much would have probably be absolute dogshit without him. I hope he can find solace in that.

Still, Steve has an abundance of credits that he should and is proud of that were followed closely or entirely on his idea. I mean, fucking Revenge of the Nerds? He made that happen! He is an absolute genius, and we are so damn excited to have him on the site today. I honestly cannot convey how damn happy I am to have gotten him to take some time out of his schedule to talk with us here today. And even though he may not be the biggest fan of the Pauly Shore and Whoopi Goldberg vehicles he created, the impact that these films had on my as but a young boy is undeniable, and I will treasure is work forever and always.

So Folks, please enjoy some wonderful words from the absolutely brilliant writer, Mr. Steve Zacharias!

 

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What inspired you to get into the world of writing? Was it a passion that you had since your youth? Or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day?

I was in a fraternity exactly like Animal House, exactly, we had a lot of the same characters, and similar attitudes. I was one of the biggest fuck ups, so they asked me to write the musical comedy. I wrote it and got so turned on when they performed it that I still love it to this day.

 

What was your very first paid gig as a writer that you can remember getting? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still affects your work today?

A comedian on a cruise ship asked me to write a Victor Borja type of routine. He paid me $25, but his notes were too difficult, so I didn’t do them. Five years later, my phone rang, and it was him. His house had burned down and he needed the $25 back. I drove to his motel and paid him the $25 back.

 

 

The 1984 film you worked on, Revenge of the Nerds, is definitely a classic amongst comedic films in history. I am curious to know if you had any idea that this was the case when you were working on it? Was this one of those projects that you simply knew was going to be legendary?

Absolutely.  I write campy. I had written a TV series, Quark, about a garbage ship in outer space. Revenge of the Nerds was a perfect movie for me. I had been building towards it my whole life.

Another project that you wrote on that real hits close to home, as it was one of my favorite films starring one of my favorite people, when I was 9 years old, is the 1994 Pauly Shore fronted film In the Army Now. To this day, I find it to be an underrated classic. The simple fact that such a silly comedy actually got the going to bootcamp, THEN a tech school, and then going to a war zone, has always been absolutely impressive to me. I can’t think of another film that did it this way. That being said, what are your thoughts on In the Army Now, and its place in history?

I wanted to do M*A*S*H on the Gulf War but they forced me to do a Jerry Lewis Movie. And I hated what they did.

 

 

And yet ANOTHER wonderful project that you worked on that meant a lot to me growing up, was the 1996 film Eddie starring Whoopi Goldberg. This was another film I must have watched 100 times growing up. With that, I am curious to know what drew you to this story? Did go into writing it as a basketball fan at all?

I don’t like to admit this but I was a Los Angeles Clipper fan for twelve years. This was my get even and get my money back. It was me in the lead. I had Rick Moranis, who I love, to star in it but Bob Shea bought the script and instantly saw me as being played by Whoppi Goldberg. I have no idea why that occurred to him. Five years later it was made and sure enough it starred Whoppi Goldberg. And I hated the movie.

 

 

When you look back on your career in the world of comedy that spans almost 50 years, what would you say you are the most proud of? Not necessarily one singular project, although it very well could be. But, what do you look back on with the most pride?

1. Revenge of the Nerds

2. Quark

3. Winning Emmy for story of “Edith’s Problem” on All in the Family 

4. Story Editing Partridge Family

5. Scalpels an NBC pilot with Brandon Tartikoff, my rabbi

6. Multiple episodes Happy Days for Garry Marshall Happy Days

7. Johnny Be Good, discovered Uma Thurman

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

I’ve written four novels that I don’t know how to publish…have them, read The Brink on Amazon…it got great coverage at CAA…Jerry Weintraub heard the coverage, stole the concept, and even had the gaul to steal the title, Weintraub knew you can legally do that, and made the HBO series, The Brink. CAA protected him. I had no lawyer or agent so they raped me. It’s a great book…

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My friend’s cancer went into remission, and A Shot in the Dark.

 

Ella Greenwood [Interview]

 

Hello Folks! We have an absolutely wonderful interview to share with you all with an absolutely wonderful star on the rise. It’s Ella Greenwood! Ella has some pretty amazing projects coming up that I am certain you are all going to love, including a very original and seemingly compelling retelling of Sherlock Holmes, the direction and likes of which I have never heard of before. It’s called Moriarty, and I am so excited for it to be out in the world. Ella is also making a splash in one of our favorite genres, the world of horror. She can be seen in the brilliant new short film Before Nightfall that is also sure to be fantastic. And there is so much more, and we will discuss more in the amazing answers she has given below.

So Folks, please enjoy some wonderful words from the great Ella Greenwood, who we are so excited to have grace our digital pages here today! Enjoy!

 

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What inspired you to get into the world of performance? Was it an early aspiration you have had since a youth, or did you just sort of land in this world one day?

I’ve always loved watching movies and TV shows. The idea of getting to become loads of different characters in different settings and situations meant that performance was always what I aspired to do.

 

I am very intrigued by a project you will be appearing in entitled Moriarty. Can you tell us a bit about this project? And what drew you to the story?

It’s a modern retelling of the classic Sherlock Holmes story with many other characters involved. I was drawn to the story as the character of Holmes in the series is a female which is really exciting.

 

And we are HUGE fans of the world of horror around here at TWS. We actually dedicate an entire month to it! With that being said, I understand you will be appearing in Before Nightfall that is also very intriguing. Again, could you tell us a bit about it? And what drew you to the story? And how was it working on a horror project? Is there anything that sets working in this genre apart from others you have worked on?

Before Nightfall is a thriller that takes place during the 17th Century. It follows a young girl who lives in a village that is being terrorised by The Beast of Godwick. I really loved the setting, the braveness of my character and just the whole story. Working on a horror was so much fun, and it’s actually not that different to working on other genres of films except there’s usually a bit more running involved!

 

If you were given the opportunity to portray any well known figured in world history, who would it be?

I should probably say someone like an inventor or explorer but I’ve always loved Tinkerbell and would really love to portray her at some point. I’m pretty small and used to watch the Tinkerbell movie on repeat when I was younger so I think I could play her quite well. Who wouldn’t want to go to Neverland!

 

 

You have worked in several forms of performance thus far, from the stage to audiobooks to film and television alike. So far, what would you say is your favorite method to perform within? If you were destined to only do one, which would it be?

I would say my favourite method to perform within is theatre as it gives you such a rush and it’s nice to get feedback straight after you’ve performed and to share your work with many people. If I only had to do one, I’d definitely choose films, as they give you the chance to become so many different characters in new settings and stories each time whereas with TV shows you’re more likely to be the same characters. I also love the whole experience of going to the cinema and having a break from reality and so I’d love to be a part of that.

 

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

I’ve got some exciting things coming up including a new voice-over and film project. I’m also training with the National Youth Theatre soon. I really love creating stories and so I’m working on producing my own film as well!

 

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I met O-T Fagbenle yesterday who plays Luke in The Handmaid’s Tale and he was so lovely. It’s one of my favourite TV shows at the moment and so it definitely made me smile meeting such a talented actor.

Greg James [Interview]

 

Hello Folks! And a happy Friday to you all! Today’s interview subject is a fantastic actor that I have admired for quite some time, and I am surprised I didn’t think to contact him sooner! It’s been almost two years since I first admired his role in the indie horror, Besetment. And then I knew of his work on the brilliant series, The Drunk Series, which our dear friend and contributor Chris Eaves worked on. But, it the last proverbial straw was when I saw the great Greg James in a brilliant little indie film Zilla and Zoe, which we covered recently, that I realized that I NEED to get this guy on the site. And lo and behold, he was kind enough to share a few words with us here today!

And what a damn fine interview we have to share with you all today! Greg is a genuinely nice guy, and a wonderful actor. He is not only one of the best performers to reside and come from our beloved homeland of the Pacific Northwest, but he is just an absolutely brilliant talent in the world of acting and should be admired as such! And if I am being frank here, it was definitely Zilla and Zoe that set me off to loving this man’s work. Kind of a spoiler alert, but in the words below, Greg will mention a certain publication that would dare say a foul word about his performance, or the writing of the character, and I honestly could not disagree more. Greg was the voice of reason in this film, which can often be a very difficult role to pull off, admittedly so (as if I know anything about acting). And I think that he did an absolutely incredible job! I implore you all, as I did last month, to watch this brilliant film. And I implore you all to enjoy this absolutely amazing interview we have here with the brilliant Greg James! Enjoy!

 

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What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment? Was it an early aspiration you have had since a youth, or did you simply find yourself in this world one day?

Back when I was a toddler, and we only had the 5 tv channels, I’d stick my nose up to the screen and would literally repeat the lines the actors said. I was mesmerized. But never did I think I could be one myself. It wasn’t until early high school when I got talked into playing a bit role in a musical, that I got the bug. This was all to my parents’ chagrin, since they’d have rather I stayed playing baseball or worked at being an auto mechanic or something.

 

What was your very first paid gig in the world of acting? And where there any sort of lessons learned on this specific project?

My first paid gig was working a summer doing a murder mystery show on a Portland cruise ship. I played both the female killer AND the detective who solves the case. That was a silly and exhausting show. I then did my first commercial right around that time, and made twice the money in two hours than I did that whole 2-month show run. It didn’t take me long to phase out of theater, but having that background has been really helpful to me and directors who prefer them longer takes ha.

 

I understand you are based out of my favorite city in my favorite region of the country, also my homeland, the great Portland Oregon. I have some great friends in the film community around there, and have enjoyed so much of the great work you all are doing. So I am curious to know what your thoughts are on said community? What do you believe it is that sets it apart from other areas?

 

As a lifetime Portlander, I have developed somewhat of a love/hate relationship with the community. As a young indie artist, it has been a perfect plays to get my feet wet. If you have the desire and even a speck of talent, there are opportunities to play in the northwest with other hungry filmmakers. Some know what they’re doing, others are still trying to figure shit out, but the worst (and there are sadly many that fall in this category) are the ones that don’t know their shit, are unprepared for the tasks associated with the craft and merely “think” they know what they’re doing even though they don’t. Despite that, Portland gives everyone license to experiment and permission to fail, and every now and then, gems sprinkle out.

 

 

One specific project that you were wonderful in was the fantastic family comedy Zilla and Zoe. I absolutely adored this gem of a flick. I am curious to know what drew you to this delightfully zany story? And what are your thoughts on the final product that was released to the world?

 

I fell in love with this quirky comedy from the moment I read the script. But, because of the long commitment and restrictive budget, I told Jessica (the writer/director) I just couldn’t do it. However, she encouraged me to audition, and when I met the two co-stars who were to play my daughters in the film, I fell in love with them and our chemistry right off the bat. Then, it was about adjusting priorities and creating strategies to do the film. And once that ball got moving, I became desperate to play the role. Good comedy is difficult to find, and I just felt close to the character. Overall I’m very happy with the film, and it makes me smile every time I see it. I read an LA Times review that felt my character was too cruel, which I found to be a kind of silly critique. It was more a dagger thrown at the writing, but without my character being conflicted throughout, it would’ve made for a pretty boring, saccharine presentation. So yeah, I’m happy with it. Plus, I don’t swear, kill anyone, drink or do drugs, or get naked in it – so I can actually share it with my family without blushing. So that’s a win!

 

You have also done some amazing work in one of our favorite genres around here at TWS, which would the world of horror. Specifically, you worked on the film Besetment, which we happened to showcase in 2017. It was also pretty wonderful, and you also worked behind the scenes on this one too. So how do you enjoy working in the world of horror? Is there anything about working in this genre that sets it apart from other genres?

 

I loved Besetment! What a quirky horror Brad Douglas created, and such a hoot to be a part of. Playing that sheriff character alongside Hannah Barefoot was a blast. So much so, I worked with both her and Brad again as the lead in his follow-up film Between The Trees, which also released recently on all the VOD platforms. My very first film I acted the lead in was a horror back in my early-20s, called The Dividing Hour, which garnered global attention and was featured as a top-25 cult film on Roger Ebert & The Movies in 1999. As long as there is some “story” there, I love a good scare – especially when there are heavy doses of comedy splashed in.



 

And of course there is The Drunk Series! Can you tell our readers a bit about this show, and how it works? It is truly original and hilarious, by the way!

 

This was one of my favorite projects of all time. From the wacky mind of director Chris Wilson was this series of different genre short films that were all based on the premise of being written drunk and acted drunk. And we’re talking close-to-blackout, about 12+ shots of vodka drunk. I’ve never acted in anything where I had absolutely no knowledge of how it was going to be until it was released. I can tell you I showed up to a set, but beyond that, the rest is a fog. But what a fun group of people I got to play with. I will forever both be embarrassed and blessed by the wonderful, albeit sloppy and unhealthy, experience that it was.

 

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

 

First, been awhile since no one asked me about my small role where I had a nude sex scene with Reese Witherspoon in Wild, so thanks for that. Recently I’ve had a couple recurring appearances on CW’s Dynasty, which I’m hoping to return to Atlanta for its third season. Still the constant hustler, I encourage everyone to follow my exploits on my acting site www.thegregjames.com and find my acting page on FaceBook.

 

 

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My 8-year-old girl getting to ride a “real life” unicorn for her birthday and my 14-year-old boy making the All-Star baseball team but fracturing his wrist prior, and saying: “Even though it sucks I can’t play, it’s really not as bad as I thought to break something.”

 

 

As an added bonus, here is the first episode of the aforementioned The Drunk Series. I really loved this project so much, and not just because our very own Chris “Microreviews with Eaves” Eaves was a crew member. No, Greg and the gang killed it! Check it out!