Tom E. Nicholson [Interview]

 

Hello Folks! We have a wonderful new interview with another wonderful artist to share with you all. If you can remember to just a few days ago, we had a feature go live about an incredible, and dare I say important, film entitled Wade in the Water. In those words we discussed the film’s lead roles which were an absolute highlight of the film. One of those roles was brilliantly portrayed by the great Tom E. Nicholson.

Tom is a new find for us here at Trainwreck’d Society, with Wade in the Water being the first role we have had the fortune in seeing him in. And now that we know he is mastermind of the acting class, he is a force to be reckoned with that we will be following from this day forward. His role as “Our Man” is the sort of thing that breeds geniuses of their craft, and we are so excited to see what the future holds for Tom, and what amazing projects he will take on in the future. He has done some wonderful work behind the scenes for quite some time, but to see Tom in front of the camera adding his own emotional depth to a story is quite something.

So Folks, please enjoy some wonderful responses from the great Tom E. Nicholson!

 

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What inspired you to get into the world of acting? Was it something you have dreamt of doing since a youth, or did you just happen to find yourself in this world one day?

When I was a young boy I was very outgoing. I liked being in school plays and performing for family members.  As I hit my teens, I started to get more self conscious of my size, less confident in myself and became less extroverted. I knew I always wanted to be involved in film, my first dream was to be a film director.  I went to film school @ Quinnipiac University. After that I moved to L.A. to pursue a career behind the camera.  I quickly became a 1st Assistant Director on low budget films.  I’ve made more than 80 feature films over the past 16 years and became a member the Directors Guild of America 7 years ago.  If you hang out on a film set long enough, eventually you end up in front of the camera.  An actor or an extra wouldn’t show up and they ask me to fill in.  They were small or nonspeaking roles so I didn’t think much of it. A few years ago I produced a movie in Ohio (Rotor DR1). The director has asked me to play a decent sized speaking role.  I was apprehensive because of my already excessive workload as the producer, but I did it and it turned out to be the best part of my day.

I came back to L.A. after that shoot and started going on auditions for fun, yes auditioning for fun.  Going into an audition and playing pretend for a few minutes became a good outlet for my re-emerging creativity and was a fun hobby.  Working as a 1st A.D., you’re generally not asked for creative opinions, so I had to push those creative juices down.  Auditioning was a way to be silly and have fun without all the pressure. But then, I started booking stuff.  I still wasn’t taking acting seriously until they called me back for a second audition for Wade in the Water.  All of a sudden I was close to booking the lead in a feature film, kind of a big deal.  The pressure was on, but my fiancee reminded me on the phone before my second audition, that I was doing this to have fun, so just go in and have fun.  Needless to say I booked the lead role in Wade in the Water.  With all the success it has had so far, I decided to take my acting career more seriously and signed with an agent (Carrie Macy talent agency).  I try not to take myself too serious and still have fun, but I’m taking the idea of making acting a career more seriously.

What was your very first gig in the world of performance? And where there any sort of lessons learned from this first project that you still insert into your work today?

My first major role was as a character names “4C”, a power hungry, black market boss in the family friendly, post apocalyptic film Rotor DR1.  The main thing I took away is that acting is as complicated as you make it.  Meaning if you keep can keep it simple, you are more relatable to the audience.   I took the idea of less is more to my role as “Our Man” in Wade in the Water.  I focused less on the lines and more on the moments between them, the eye movements, the beard touching, the little details. I think those actions feel more real and give more weight to the lines and the character.  I also worked closely with Mark Wilson (Director) and Chris Retts (Writer) on removing words or lines wherever possible.  If I could relay the feelings and words to the audience without speaking them, it would give them a more intimate relationship with the character.

You gave an absolutely PERFECT performance in one of my favorite films of 2019, entitled Wade In The Water. Can you tell our readers about this project, and what drew you to be a part of it?

Wow, that is a flattering description of my performance and the film, I’m glad you enjoyed it.  Thank you for the compliment.   I could go on for hours on what drew me to this project.  The fact that it had a guy that looked liked me as the lead role.  Let’s be honest, there isn’t a lot of scripts that have someone my size as the lead. Or the fact that I didn’t have a ton of experience acting and this gave me a chance to really see what I was capable of. Or the fact that the characters size was just one aspect of story, not the entire plot.   But the driving force that drew me to this project was the script.  It is a complicated, unapologetic, dive into deeply personal human relationships.  It doesn’t steer away from controversy or take a stance on right and wrong.  In real life, there isn’t good OR evil, there is good AND evil and everyone has a percentage of both inside of them.  This script was so unique in it’s story telling.  It has an untraditional act structure and is a breathe of fresh air in the Hollywood world of recycled stories and CGI action sequences.  The character of “Our Man” is a complicated one. He could be viewed as a hero or a criminal or both.   I am a much different person in real life than my character, but I was able to bring some personal touches to the script.  Most of them were to show the audience the day to day struggles of a big guy. For example, getting out of a low car with a small door, or finding clothes that fit right, engaging with the public, etc.

Working with Mark Wilson, the director of Wade in the Water, was an absolute dream.  He always knew the direction we needed to head, the beats of the story and what tone was right.  Which is so important in this kind of story where pacing and tone are vital to its success. He took a big chance on casting me, He knew when to pull me in when I strayed to far with the character, but gave me plenty of slack to go where I wanted to.  He was really in complete control of the story in a way that gave control of the character, it’s a fine line to walk and he did it perfectly.

I think what makes this film so special is the foundation, the script.  Chris Retts went way out of his comfort zone and came up with a beautiful piece of humanity and relationships that was very unique in an unoriginal time in the industry.

Danika Golombek is one of the most talented actors I’ve ever work with in my 16 years of filmmaking experience.  She not only told the complicated story of “Tilly” perfectly, but her presence amplified my own acting in the film.  The film is really about Tilly and Our Man’s relationship and without her incredible performance, the film as a whole wouldn’t have worked as well as it did.

 

 

 

Scrolling through your IMDb credits, I’ve noticed that you have worked in what seems to be just about every genre of film and television imaginable. From comedic horror to reality TV, you’ve been in them all! So with that, I am curious to know what you have found to be your favorite genre to work in? If you were destined to only work in one format, what would it be? 

Well to be clear, my “reality tv” credits was just my fiancee, Meredith, and I getting to go eat at the “restaurant” on the Fox show Hell’s Kitchen.  My best friend worked on the show and was able to get us on.  We made the final cut of the episode, the camera came to our table and we were talking about the amazing food.

I think film is my favorite medium, it gives you the time and platform to dive deep into and develop a character.  Drama is certainly the best stage to do so as well.  But I also really enjoy making people laugh.  I tried to bring some subtle comic relief to Wade in the Water‘s very serious script.   I am also very interested in the direction t.v. has recently gone.  Networks, premium channels and streaming services have really stepped up the story telling game and I would love to be a part of that.  Shows like This is Us, Billions, and Insecure have really embraced plus sized, LGBTQ and minority actors.  I hope to continue to be able to tell stories no matter what the format, especially in this rapidly changing digital landscape.  I don’t think actors should be associated with one genre, if you can act, you can act, doesn’t matter what the material is.  To be honest, I would love to take a role that would normally be reserved for a traditionally handsome/average size actor, like the lead in a romantic comedy or action film or something, it would be nice to break some barriers for plus size people.

If you were handed the opportunity to portray any historical figure in American history, who would it be?

Well given my size, I feel like I would be limited to accurately portray many historical figures. But growing up just south of Boston, I have always been fascinated with the time just before the Revolutionary war.  There were so many brave people who saw an opportunity for something greater than themselves and risked everything to go after that dream. So I would love to play Sam Adams, John Adams, Daniel Webster, John Hancock, or anyone in the “Sons of liberty” group.  They embodied bravery, intelligence, equality and acceptance.  They fought for government for the people, that was not driven by ones faith, but rights as a human being.

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

It feels strange pretty much starting my acting career with the lead role in a feature film, so who knows where I go from here. I do currently have some things in the works I can’t quite talk about yet, but I am excited to see where this crazy ride takes me.  I would say keep an eye out for Wade in the Water as we hopefully finalize it’s mass release soon.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Standing with my fiancee on our deck, overlooking the ocean, surrounded by my amazing friends, watching fireworks.

Vasilos Filippakis [Interview]

 

Hello Folks! Welcome back to another wonderful week here at Trainwreck’d Society. We are kicking things off with an incredible interview that actually stems from our weekend coverage that I am sure all of you are already well informed about. Today we have some words from the absolutely brilliant actor Vasilos Filippakis who perfectly portrays Nico in the aforementioned series Fak Yaass on OUTtv. He is an absolutely delightful human being who we are so excited to have grace our digital pages today. If for some strange reason you managed to miss our previous coverage of Fak Yaass, do yourself a damn favor and check it out here. Then check out the amazing show itself, and report back here.

Or you know what, read this first, check out Saturday’s coverage, and then watch the show. Do whatever order you would like, as it is all wonderful! Vasilos has managed to bring absolute magic to the screen and any which way you decide to adore this project is going to be absolutely wonderful. Just make sure you tell all of your friends, and continue to follow up on whatever Filippakis decides to do in the future, because it is almost guaranteed to be blanketed with greatness.

So please enjoy some wonderful words from the even more wonderful human being, Vasilos Filippakis!

 

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

Since I was a little kid, I had always been drawn to the arts. While all my older brothers got my parents out of bed at the crack of dawn for hockey practice, I kept them up late because I needed a ride home from play rehearsals. I got cast in my first play, Oliver Twist , when I was in Grade 3 and never really stopped. I was always drawn to live theatre. It was a place I felt free and so comfortable expressing myself. It was a place filled with so many people like me and for the first time I felt like I truly belonged to something.

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

My first paid gig was a commercial for 3M Canada! It was short and sweet. I learned that hard work will pay off. I had taken acting class for a few years with Suzanne Bastien and really saw the progress in my work that lead me to booking paid jobs. I still consistently take acting class to make sure I’m always polished and pushing myself to new levels. Paid or unpaid – work is work – and I spent a few years doing unpaid jobs. I loved it! It was still a chance for me to grow and explore my craft.

 

 

I recently had the pleasure to catch you on the all new OUTtv series, FAK YAASS, and I have to say, it is absolutely fantastic, and you are absolutely wonderful in it. So, I am curious to know what drew you to this project? When did you know that this was something you wanted to work on? 

Thanks you so much! I began the development of FAK YAASS out of inspiration from my family. I never knew what it would become but at the time I wanted to share something and my personal story was what came to mind. I believe that the LGBTQ community still needs representation in the entertainment industry – but something that can be relatable to people outside the community as well. About three years ago I approached Anthony Filnageri, an extraordinary screenwriter, to help me bring this idea to paper. The amazing Leanne Noelle Smith joined our team as a producer and co-star and Matthew McLaughlin with Bulldog Productions came on to really help us all get this project off the ground.

For those who haven’t been able to check out the couple of episodes available already, could you tell us a bit about the show? Things like, what do you believe the truest message of the series is? 

FAK YAASS tells the story of Nico Nicolakis, a gay Greek millennial who has to travel back home to his suburban town to take care of his homophobic grandfather. This show explores the dynamic of family, when old traditions clash with the new age. We get to see, from two very opposing sides, values that cross each other and what each generation holds at a higher importance. We can see how everyone in the show is learning from each other. FAK YAASS shows the audience that sometimes all you need to do is be willing to be open and share empathy with one another. At the end of the day, love will stand above the rest and if you just take a moment to look inside yourself, find that love and share it with others, we all win.

 

 

If you were given the chance to portray any legendary figure in world history, who would it be?

I would love to explore Harvey Milk – he paved such a movement just by being himself and standing up for LGBTQ rights when nobody did. He is a true legendary figure. His work and legacy is incredible. His courage and bravery is something that many of us are scared to show and for him, at that time, he didn’t hold back and was just authentically himself.

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

Well, you can currently watch FAK YAASS on outtvgo.ca – I will also be featured in the season finale of Hudson & Rex on CityTV! We are currently in the stages of seeing what will happen with FAK YAASS so stay tuned as some big announcements may be coming your way! Follow me for updates at @vasiliosf and the show @fakyaass

What was the last thing that made you smile? 

I woke up today to the most amazing message on instagram from someone who just watched FAK YAASS. It made my day 🙂

 

Sunday Matinee: Wade in the Water [Film]

 

“Sure, our man never gives his name. He works from home. His neighbours are all idiots. He doesn’t really “do” friends. But all that changes when a mis-delivered package arrives in his post office box bearing a horrifying secret –one that will set him on a collision course with a predator, the man’s disillusioned daughter, and his own dark past.” – October Coast PR

 

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Folks, one of the biggest dilemmas I face as part time person of the media is the idea of declaration. It’s not a terrible problem to have, but it does warrant at least a little bit of recognition, and fuck it, this is my space so I will say what I want. So, when I felt as though I had found the best film of 2019 thus far last June, it turns out I needed to wait around a month to find its competition. And god damn it all if I didn’t find it in Wade in the Water. I’m not entirely certain that I am comfortable in making another declaration, recanting on my previous declaration, but I am confident to say that Wade in the Water is one of my favorite films of the last decade (possibly the last two?), and I can not recommend it highly enough to EVERYONE.

Wade in the Water is a delightful indie film centered around very realistic and very relatable characters who are put into a proverbial struggle that each and every one of us has to watch and wonder, “What would I do?” It’s such a hard question to try to answer, but with a film like this, we are fortunate enough to see all the hypotheticals laid out before us in this incredibly crafted story that is sure to warm the heart and awaken the mind.

 

 

 

Writer and Filmmaker team Chris Retts and Mark Wilson have managed to capture absolute magic with this film and I am so excited for you all to check it out. Also, tour de damn force performances from the likes of Tom E. Nicholson and Danika Golombek simply cannot be ignored. There is actually one specific moment (captured in the photo above) that is an absolute highlight and must be addressed and commended. Look, Tom is a big guy. It’s not a secret. “Our Man” is of a particular body type, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But, what struck me as so damn wonderful to the scenes leading up to this particular scene was the lack of acknowledgement of this fact leading up to it. Why, you might ask? BECAUSE IT DIDN”T FUCKING MATTER!!! Yes, the dilemma that was being expressed and showcased before us was not incumbent upon what a character looked like. And I honestly thought this was wonderful. In fact, only in a moment of absolute weakness and anger does the subject even become acknowledged, and it was simply as a means to hurt “Our Man” in a situation where Tilly, Danika’s character, was feeling attacked her damn self. This, Folks, is just damn good writing and you absolutely HAVE to see if for yourself!

 

Seriously Folks, as soon as you possibly can, please watch Wade in the Water. It is a film that is sure to teach you more about yourself than you ever thought you knew. If you are not floored with emotion after watching this wonderfully made film, please seek medical attention, as you couldn’t possibly have a heart or soul. It’s seriously that damn good!

 

 

 

Saturday Special: Fak Yaass! [TV Series]

 

“Showing the clash between old tradition and the new age, millennial Nico, played by, struggles with the idea of returning home, where he’s always felt judged and unworthy. With the help of his friends, Anton and Torri, Nico’s heart begins to let his family in and his family starts to accept him for who he is, until a secret family scheme may ruin that forever.” – Bulldog Productions 

 

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Folks, if you are a human being, of any gender/race/sexual orientation, who is seeking acceptance in what can seem to be a dark and cruel world at times, do I have a series for you! Fak Yaass is an absolutely wonderful display of what can happen if people where more apt to put aside their differences and maybe listen to one another every once in a while. Especially amongst family, which is supposed to be the most important element in our lives. I know it seems like a real pipe dream, but I truly believe it can happen. And I honestly believe that a series like this can be the perfect example of what we SHOULD be doing to close the divide that exists so drastically.

 

 

Beyond the powerful message behind Faak Yaass, I think it is important to note that this is just plain damn good television! In just the two episodes I was privy to, I experienced some of the best writing and performances I have had the pleasure of witnessing. And Vasilios Filippakos gives an absolutely mesmerizing performance as Nico, the man looking to fill the void that is left by his family, but also has to come to the realization that maybe he has to figure them out as well. It is a truly perplexed and incredibly told story that I simply cannot recommend highly enough.

In addition, I can not exclaim enough how incredible the supporting cast, especially Shadrack Jackman and Leanne Noelle Smith, is and what a damn highlight they are to this already incredible story. In roles that could have been easily used strictly for shock value, these two specific characters bring a whole new element of art and taste to a delightfully awkward situation displayed before us.

Seriously Folks, if you haven’t checked out Fak Yaass by now, do yourself a favor and check out the best debut series of 2019, and stay tuned for more to come!

 

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Catch Faak Yaass! on OUTtv right now!

 

Fred Fox [Interview]

 

Hello Folks! We have an absolutely incredible interview to share with you all today here at Trainwreck’d Society! Today’s interview subject is a man who has been a marvel in the world of television for over 40 years. He is an Emmy Award winning writer and producer has brought you some of the finest television of our time, and we are so very honored to have him grace our digital pages today. It’s Fred Fox, Everyone!

While I wouldn’t necessarily call it his “greatest success”, it does only seem fair to mention that Fred is the man responsible for the singular episode of television that coined a term that may have literally changed history. Fox wrote the renowned episode of Happy Days where Fonzi literally “jumps the shark”. We get into this a bit below, but more importantly Fred, amongst his plethora of other works, also happened to work on my favorite family oriented sitcom of all time, which would be the beloved Family Matters! We have spoken with some other fine folks who have worked on the program (producer Jim Geoghan, actress Cherie Johnson), but the insight into the show and the successful run it had is truly awe-inspiring and an absolute treat. When I was growing up, while I loved my own family, I always dreamt of being a Winslow and had the biggest childhood crush on Maxine (another shoutout to our friend Cherie Johnson), and wanted to be best friends with Waldo Geraldo Faldo. This show meant the world to me, and to hear from a man like Fred who was there for the entire run of the show is an absolute dream.

We discuss the idea of “jumping the shark” and working on Family Matters, and more, at length in the wonderful answers from Fred below. He is a generous, kind, and insightful man who we are so honored to have with us today. So Folks, please enjoy some words (and exclusive photos!) from the absolutely brilliant writer, producer, creator Fred Fox!

 

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

My father, Fred Fox, was a very funny man and a successful comedy writer. He wrote for Bob Hope, George Burns, Lucy, Jackie Gleason, Red Skelton, Jerry Lewis among many others. Growing up, I thought it was so cool he was a writer but for some reason the thought of following in his proverbial footsteps never occurred to me. 

I was in the business world for five years. My first job out of college was with Hertz Truck Rental. I started out behind the rental desk, after two weeks I had to drive a truck to drop it off for a rental, got lost, stopped at a gas station to get directions.  Suddenly there was a downpour of glass as the top of the truck wiped out the station overhang. Welcome to Hertz. Despite that, I ended up an executive but left after two years. In 1975 I took a comedy writing class at UCLA Extension.  A classmate was a very funny young man who was working for Dentsu Advertising, we hit it off and decided to write a spec script for All In The Family. After a couple of months we heard back from one of the producers saying it was funny but they were set for the season. The young man I wrote it with was Garry Shandling.

My big break was New Year’s Eve 1975 when I got call from Cindy Williams, my high school classmate. She said she was co-starring in a new show called Laverne and Shirley and wanted to know if I would be interested in being her “gopher” (an assistant) and apprentice writer. I said yes and she got me a meeting with Garry Marshall. When I walked into Garry’s office the first thing he said was “So, you’re Freddie Fox’s Son”. When Garry and his partner Jerry Belson came to Los Angeles to pursue a writing career, one of their first staff jobs was on The Joey Bishop Show.  Dad was also on staff. Garry said he enjoyed working with dad and how supportive he was. Garry said my first priority would be taking care of Cindy. If she needed any errands  done that would come first. When Cindy left for the day, I went to the writer’s room. I was thrilled when Garry gave me the job. Luck had smiled upon me. The writer’s room was the best on the job training I ever had. Months later I was assigned to write an episode where Ron Howard and Anson Williams were going to guest star. I had two weeks to write the episode. As fate would have it, my parents left for a two week trip the next day. If dad were here, I may have gone to him to answer many writing questions. When I turned my script in,  I was both excited and fearful to hear the feedback.  I was relieved when it was all positive and it was a wonderful feeling when the audience enjoyed it. A couple of weeks later Garry Marshall asked me to be on the staff of Happy Days and I was there for an amazing seven years.

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

My first job was in 1974 on an ABC daytime show, The Girl In My Life, where a woman in the audience would be surprised and then honored for making a difference in someone’s life. I worked in the audience department, calling groups to come to the show.  I got Garry Shandling a job helping us get audiences but he left after two months to pursue a career in comedy. A wise decision. Girl In My Life was created by Tom Naud who went on to invent Introvision, the front-projection process.  Tom was represented by Mike Ovitz who was with William Morris at the time. Mike and I went to grammar school, junior high and high school together. Sally Field and Cindy Williams also went to Birmingham High School in the San Fernando Valley with us.

That first job taught me the valuable lesson of teamwork, it takes over a hundred people to produce an episode and each and every position is of the upmost importance in making the best episodes possible. And  equally important is to also have fun doing so.

 

 

Throughout the 90’s you worked on a series that is hand’s down, my favorite family sitcom of all time. I’m talking about the absolutely incredible series Family Matters, which featured past guest and dear friend Cherie Johnson, as well as once being home to our other friends Jim Geoghan and Stephen Langford. With that being said, I am curious to know what your thoughts were on working on this series? Was it as much of a pleasure to work on as it was for me to grow up wishing I was a Winslow every week?

So happy you enjoyed it. First of all, it was a family reunion. The show was created by Bill Bickley and Michael Warren, developed by Bob Boyett and Tom Miller and executive produced or produced by Dave Duclon, Gary Menteer and me. We all worked together on either “Happy Days” or “Laverne and Shirley” and the addition of Jim, Steve, Cherie and the other  talented actors and writers added to the show’s success and fun.  When the character of Steve Urkel  went from a single episode appearance to an iconic television figure, it, at first, caused some tension among the actors but  it settled down when he helped the series run for nine seasons.  Working on the show was a blast and friendships were formed that continued today.

In your personal opinion, what do you believe it was that set Family Matters apart from the plethora of other family based sitcoms that were available in the 90’s alone. I know why I loved it so much, but in your obviously professional opinion, what made the show special to you?

I feel what made Family Matters the successful show that the audience loved is what made it special to me. It was a show that stressed the importance of family values, had a lot of heart and was a series that appealed to all ages, from young children to grandparents.  It was a show that they could watch together and family that the viewers wanted to be a part of. As the characters faced their problems, many some we all deal with, the audience always rooted for them to succeed.

 

 

You were one of the minds behind one of the single most infamous television episodes of all time. Which would Episode 3, in Season 5 of Happy Days entitled “Hollywood: Part 3”. This episode literally created its own catchphrase. What puzzles me is that there is a negative connotation implied to the phrase “jumping the shark”, yet Happy Days went on to be on the air and loved for years after. So when how did this get tagged onto this one episode? Was it really that bizarre of a thing to have happen on television at the time?

I don’t think it it was that bizarre. The table read of “Hollywood lll”, attended by the writers, producers, cast and the Paramount and ABC executives went very well. There were a lot of laughs. Afterwards, there were no objections, no one shouted out “Fonzie jumps a shark, are you out of your mind?”

I have a friend who loved the episode and thought “Jumping The Shark” was a positive expression. The episode was a big hit in the ratings, Number 3 for the week and attracted 30 million viewers but…

In 1987, Jon Hein was a sophomore at the University of Michigan. He, along with four of his friends, were watching Nick at Nite and they started talking about classic tv shows when someone asked what was the precise moment that you knew when it was all downhill for your favorite show… Love Boat, Vicki? Flintstones The Great Kazoo? Happy Days…Sean, one of Jon’s roommates replied that was an easy question, it was when Fonzie jumped the shark.  There was silence in the room. ”No explanation necessary. “The phrase said it all”. He was referring to “Hollywood lll”, the third part of a three-part opener for the 1978 Season. The main story was a talent scout’s car breaks down. When he walks into Arnolds  and sees Fonzie’s magic with the ladies, he wants him to come to Hollywood for a screen test. Fonzie does and the Cunninghams and the rest of the gang made the journey.

The “B” story had Fonzie run into a cocky beach boy, known as “The California Kid”.  They engage in a water skiing race that ends up in a tie. They decide whoever ski’s over a shark in the local waters on will win. The Kid chickens out, but Fonzie feels he must still jump over the ferocious fish to win. Wearing shorts and his leather jacket, he succeeds.  Jon Hein started his website, www.jumptheshark.com on December 24,1997 with 200 television shows where viewers could suggest when their favorite shows started to decline. A few months later The Los Angeles Times published an article about an episode of South Park  and wondered if the show had jumped the shark, the phrase hit a nerve and the site was a hit, boasting millions of votes on over a thousand programs. In 2002 Jon’s “Jump The Shark” book was published that now included when those from the world of celebrities, sports, music and politics were all going downhill.

 

 

I wrote  the episode “Hollywood lll”.  In 2011, Lee Margulies my friend and veteran at the Los Angeles Times asked me to write an article about the “jump the stark’  phenomenon and the phrase that was now in the Oxford English Dictionary. In the article, I maintained that Happy Days did not jump the shark that night. “If this was really the beginning of a downward spiral, why did the show stay on the air for six more seasons and shoot an additional 164 episodes (including some of our best). And why did we rank among the Top 25 in five of those six seasons?”.

That’s why when I first heard the phrase and what it meant I was incredulous. I thought about the thousands of television shows that have been on the air since the medium began and an episode where Fonzie jumps over a shark was the one that was singled out? It made no sense. Should I be embarrassed for writing that episode? Was I now the modern day Hester Prynne, should I walk around with a scarlet “W” on the front of my shirt. Initially I may have felt scorned, but after awhile I felt a certain joy of being part of the iconic expression.

Years after I had a meeting with a Disney executive to pitch some projects. She noticed on my resume that I was on Happy Days for seven seasons and asked me if I knew who wrote the jump the shark episode. When I replied that I was the one, her eyes lit up. She was so excited that we talked about it until it was time for her next meeting. I never had a chance to pitch anything.

It is still mind-boggling that after forty-one years, the phrase is still used. In May 2019, an article by Jonathan Turley appeared in “The Hill” newspaper.. “Have The Democrats Jumped The Shark on Impeachment?”

 

 

When you look back on your career that has spanned 40+ years in the world of television, what would you say you is your finest accomplishment? Not necessarily one singular project per say, although it very well could be. But, what do you look back on with the most pride?

That is an impossible question to answer as I was so  fortunate to be a part of so many hit shows, wonderful projects and had the pleasure of working with a plethora of talented and fun people. I realized how lucky I was to work on classic shows like Laverne and Shirley,  Happy Days and Family Matters. In a business where television shows are often canceled after thirteen or less episodes, to write and produce on staffs for twenty-two straight years was incredible.  

One of many highlights was being on the Happy Days softball team that played to raise money for cancer research and the Special Olympics. We also went on USO tours to Germany and Okinawa to thank the troops for their service and played Marines and Army’s softball best and incredulous to them, we won the games.

Another was winning an International Emmy for My Secret Identity, presented by Audrey Hepburn, for a comedy/action show Brian Levant and I created. 

 

 

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

Thank for asking. Two of my favorite passion projects that have yet to come to fruition are Merry Go Round and Mooga’s Destiny. 

Merry Go Round is a musical I co-wrote the book with music and lyrics by Richard and Robert Sherman . They wrote more film musical song scores than any other songwriting teams in history (Academy Award for Mary Poppins). Years ago Richard and Robert just wanted to write some songs with no intention of becoming a musical. Andy Belling, a director friend of theirs felt that the songs would indeed make a good musical. A writer was hired but the Sherman brothers and Andy weren’t happy with the script and the project died. Years later, Jack Stein, a producer,  got the rights and asked me to do a rewrite. Fortunately, the Sherman Brothers, Jack and Andy were happy with  it. We worked with Richard as Robert was living in London. He was a pleasure to work with, he is smart, funny and passionate.

Mooga’s Destiny is a children’s book I wrote with Ray Bradbury. In the mid 60’s while attending University of California Santa Barbara I read an acceptance speech in Life magazine Mr. Bradbury gave after receiving an award from NASA. The article stayed with me for years and I thought it would make a good children’s book. I wrote to his agent and a month later the phone rang and I was thrilled to hear Mr.  Bradbury’s voice. He agreed the theme of his speech would make a very good book.  Mr. Bradbury, like Richard Sherman, was fun to work with, a brilliant and passionate man. Mr. Bradbury passed away before the book was published.  I would like to get it published in 2020 to honor his 100th birthday.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

It was answering this last question and looking back over my career and knowing how lucky I was.  It is a very difficult business to get into and to be able to work with so many bright individuals was special. There are a great amount of talented people who never get the opportunity to shine.

 

 

New Music Tuesday: Fences – Failure Sculptures [Album]

 

Let just kick things off here by saying one statement that should sum up everything I am about to say: Holy Shit! I’ve found a new favorite songwriter in Chris Mansfield, and Fences is incredible! Now I will continue with the fluff, but honestly if you just stop reading this right now, and do your own research on Fences and their incredible album Failure Sculptures, I would not be mad. In fact, I would prefer it. Go away.

Still there? Alright, well, I guess I can say more. Failure Sculpture is basically that small, almost unnoticeable, diamond lying snug amidst the coal. But once noticed, and given further inspection, it may just be one of the most beautiful things you have ever seen. Mansfield actually says a line in the track “Same Blues” that is how I would describe the entire album: “It’s a burn that I like”. That’s what this album is at its core. It’s a collection of sweet yet melancholy tunes that sound as they were meant to be sung in a cigarette smoked filled barroom. Of course, I know that Fences is a Seattle based group, so their probably not doing that. But maybe a smoke filled studio apartment? Anyway, there is just so much singer/songwriter goodness happening throughout this album.

 

Christopher Mansfield. Photo by Christian Sorensen Hansen.

 

As of lately, I have tried to avoid singling out one particular track on an album, as I would like to appreciate the entirety of Failure Sculpture as a whole. And I really do. But, fuck, my hands can’t assault this MacBook fast enough to tell you all how much I love the cut “Paper Route”. I have probably ran through the album a dozen times, but if it were still possible, I would have worn out this track. Seriously Folks, every time Mansfield proclaims “Some people stay face down / they’re lucky that way”, my fucking heart straight up sinks. And while I don’t know the exact specifics of what he is expressing in this song, I know what it means to me, and it is a confrontation within my own soul that is thriving and desperately trying to overtake my body, but through a track as sweet as this one and some self-realization, I will overcome. Now, I know I kind of went of the rails there, but it truly is an amazing track, and I’m certain it will enter my rotation of one of the best songs of all time.

You gotta check out Failure Sculptures, Folks! I’m not kidding when I say it is one of the best albums I have heard in a very long time. We proclaimed in April that we had already found the best album of 2019 with Tom Speight’s masterpiece, Collide, but I have to say I am perplexed now. I guess we will see when the end of year lists start to roll out. Either way, Fences has had a real impact on me, and I won’t soon forget it! Check it out!

 

Failure Sculpture is available everywhere courtesy of GRNDVW. For tour dates and more information, check out the Fence’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

 

 

 

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: