Marc Jaffe [Interview]


Regular TWS readers are sure to notice that we have developed quite a fascination with the world of comedy over the last year. Especially in the world of comedy writing. It is without a doubt one of the most fascinating gigs we have invested time in and hope to continue to do so with regularity. And today is another great day for comedy fans, as we have the brilliant comedian and writer Marc Jaffe in the digital house!

Mr. Jaffe is naturally funny cat who had a great stint as a writer on a little show you may have heard of called Seinfeld. Like his TWS predecessors Peter Mehlman and Steve Skrovan, Marc is one of the geniuses who made this legendary program what it is today. Marc has also written everything from television pilots to plays to brilliant memoirs.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of Marc’s life is his work in the world of Parkinson’s research. For very personal reasons, which he will explain below, Marc Jaffe and his wife Karen have done some amazing work with their organization. They have raised a literal shit ton of money for Parkinson’s research through the Michael J. Fox Foundation. And they have a lovely event coming September 9th with Dominik Farinacci and Shenel Jones, with comedic hosting duties from the great Jimmy Dunn at the legendary Playhouse Square in Cleveland, Ohio. If you are anywhere near this event, I can not recommend this brilliant night of entertainment that supports a great cause. Check out Shaking With Laughter’s WEBSITE for details and tickets!

So without further rambling, please enjoy some amazing words from the brilliant Marc Jaffe!

When did you first decide that you wanted to become involved in the world of comedy? Was it always a passion of yours from an early age, or did it just sort of happen?

I loved comedy as a kid. I would get comedy albums by Bill Cosby and Flip Wilson and Woody Allen. (At least one of those didn’t have scandalous sexual behavior.) I was always writing humorous poems or skits for school assignments or assemblies. Of course, I didn’t realize it could actually be a career until I was in graduate school for business and thought I wasn’t going to make it in a suit every day so it better be a viable career.

We have spoken with some of your fellow Seinfeld writers, Peter Mehlman and Steve Skrovan, and have had their take. But, how was your experience working on the show? Was it as pleasurable of an experience to work on as it was for the viewers to watch?

It was a privilege interacting with such great comedy minds as Jerry, Larry David and Larry Charles. I learned a lot and in retrospect I am humbled to look back on it and think that my work was worthy enough to be a part of theirs. When I was on staff, the very first full season, it was supposed to be a mid-season replacement show, so there wasn’t the time crunch many shows have. We were working on shows in September for January air, so it was relatively relaxed. (Larry David wouldn’t say he was ever relaxed.) There weren’t the staying up all night doing rewrites atmosphere. Larry and Jerry wrote together. That would change after the first season when new scripts were being worked on the same time as one was being produced so Jerry wouldn’t have time to write and act.

It was a great time to be there, with everyone kind of figuring out what this show was going to be. Then, most nights I would accompany Jerry to the Improv or other comedy clubs and work on and critique the stand-up bits that were going in the show. It was fun getting to hang with Jerry and meet other name comics in the clubs.

And in your own personal opinion, what do you believe it is about the show that has made it a full blown classic, and still completely relevant show today?

I think it’s about growing up and how hard that is, and how we wallow in our personal angst and our own little quirks and peccadilloes and in a way let them define us even while they keep us from having meaningful relationships. While the setting is specific and the characters are of a certain upbringing, the feeling and challenges of single 30 year olds in Western society is pretty universal, so it resonates today.

With all of the changes that have been happening in the world of comedy, with so many new arenas to enter like Netflix, podcasts, etc., what are your thoughts on the world of comedy these days? Do you believe things have worked for the better as more opportunities are brought upon those who wish to enter this world?

There is definitely more opportunity to get your stuff out there to find an audience. I have old videos and audio tape of things I did just starting out with friends who have gone on to be known comedians and directors, that we were just hoping to have as a calling card or entry to a producer somewhere. Now, that stuff would have been up on YouTube or on a podcast and we could have garnered a following and some income immediately which would have led to something else.

The downside is, much of what is put out there isn’t really ready and we benefited in the long run by being able to grow outside the public eye and without the responsibility of having to produce content. Though I would say the way it is today, because people who wouldn’t normally get an opportunity are able to, is much better.

The tough thing I can’t imagine trying to do now is keep up with the number of outlets there are. As a comedian, I used to get a video once every other year to send to producers or club bookers to get work and TV spots. When I came up with funny stuff it was for something to get paid – stand-up, magazine article, book proposal, TV show, movie. Much of what I wrote ended up going nowhere. Now, that stuff ends up on a blog or twitter and is necessary just to keep a public profile. I don’t know how people keep up. And I don’t know if it’s better to have all that output available where we have to sift through for the gems, or to have all that stuff be in the file cabinet where only the gems get out.

Can you tell us a bit about your organization Shaking with Laughter? What sort of things have you done with this noble non-profit to help with Parkinson’s research?

When someone you love is struck with a degenerative disease like Parkinson’s, you want to help, but there is little you can do to stop the progression. One thing you can do is help the research to maybe find a cure. That is done by participating in clinical trials which I have done, and by raising money for research. When my wife Karen was diagnosed about 10 years ago, I thought I could do that by putting together a show with some of my comedian and musician friends I’ve made over the years. (We kept her diagnosis a secret for 3 years so it took a while before we got it together.) I was figuring on a one-time show and thought maybe I could raise $20,000. I asked my old friend Dave Coulier if he would do it and he said yes. I also asked Wayne Cotter who I had worked with when he was the host of Comic Strip Live and he said yes, and I asked guitar great John Pizzarelli who I had met on the road, and he said yes. So it was an amazing show with two great comedians and the fabulous Pizzarelli quartet all doing it for free and we raised around $130,000! We called it Shaking With Laughter – my wife’s shaking, I’m laughter.
Once we we’re so successful we realized we had to keep doing this and on Sept. 9th we will present our 6th one and we expect it to bring us over the $1 million mark in funds raised. All our talent has been kind enough to donate their time for the performance and we are so grateful to them. Comedian-wise we have had Jake Johannsen, Wendy Liebman, Brian Regan, Moody McCarthy and this year Jimmy Dunn in addition to Dave and Wayne. It’s a really fun evening with great spirit and we really feel like great things are on the horizon in terms of a cure.
All the money we raise goes to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. They are creative, innovative and smart about leading research to the goal of a cure. Their goal is to close their doors and thus don’t have an endowment – every penny goes directly to research. Karen is on th Patient Advisory Council of the Fox Foundation.

So, what does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I’ve been doing some stand-up again and will continue to do so sporadically. You can see me here Marc Jaffe, I wrote a play based on an interesting part of our journey with Parkinson’s that has had some runs, but I’m open to future opportunities with that. You can read a condensed version of it that appeared in the New York Times, Modern Love column here Finding Equilibrium in Seesawing Libidos (Updated With Podcast) And I’ve got an hysterical game show that we are trying to sell called BONK. (Doesn’t have the same meaning in the States) We call it Jeopardy meets the Three Stooges. You can learn about that here. And, finally my book about my life with my wife before Parkinson’s, when she was a working OB/GYN is available on Amazon. It was picked up by Danny DeVito’s production company to be a sitcom but didn’t get past the pilot stage. The book is still a lot of fun though. You can find it HERE.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

With my wife in a park that had a playground. We got on the teeter-totter (see-saw). We turned into kids again. So much fun seeing her so happy.

Nick Brimble [Interview]

There are few mythical tales out there that really hit the way that Robin Hood does. It is an absolutely brilliant moral driven legend that I have been fascinated with since I was a young boy. And for me, at this time, it was the film Robin Hood: Princes of Thieves that really struck me as the greatest depiction of the Robin Hood mythology. I’m certain that some could argue against this, but no one can argue that it is a fantastic film, and a brilliantly told story of Robin Hood. And one of my favorite characters of note from the film was the man with a bit more common sense than the rest, the wonderful Little John. And wouldn’t you know it, I have a man here today who just might know a thing or two about this character, as he is the brilliant man who brought it to screen!

That’s right folks! Today’s interview is with the legendary actor of screen and stage, the wonderful Nick Brimble. Now, I may have just given a long winded introduction about Robin Hood before introducing Mr. Brimble, but as regular readers will know, that was only the kicker. So often I become intrigued by an artist for some piece of work they have done, and then I quickly realize that they have been a part of some other amazing works of art as well and are continuing to wow audiences in a career that is nothing short of stellar. And that is definitely the case with the brilliant Nick Brimble. He is also a very versatile actor. BBC viewers will recognize him from his work on Granchester, and horror fans may be familiar with his work in Roger Corman’s brilliant take on another creature of mythology in Frankenstein Unbound. And he has done just SO much more.

Obviously we are very excited to have Nick Brimble on the site today! So let me stop the babbling and let you all get on with some great words from the brilliant actor, Mr. Nick Brimble!

I’ve come to learn that you studied philosophy and English Literature in college. Which isn’t so far off from acting, in some respects. But, how did the transformation into acting come into play? When did you realize you wanted to perform for a living?

The one thing you know after completing a degree in Phiosophy is that you don’t know anything. That disqualifies you from almost every profession….. except perhaps being an actor!

My father was a keen amateur actor in Bristol where we lived and I used to go to rehearsals, take him through his lines and occasionally take part if they needed a kid. He also did some radio drama work and again I would sometimes take part.

I was also given a season ticket to Bristol Old Vic, our local repertory theatre and went to every play from the age of 11 until I went to University at 18. The standard was very high and I got to watch some fantastic actors (including a young Peter O’Toole) doing all sorts of work.

When I was in my mid-teens my father also took over the management of a French/Czech troupe of High Wire Artists (called the White Devils) when they were touring England, and for three summers we toured with them.

He would do the commentary and I would sell souvenirs. One year he arranged a blind-fold crossing of Cheddar Gorge which was a pretty big event at the time. At the end of the English tour I was sent with them touring through France, helping put the equipment up and living in the back of a truck . When it was time for me to go back to school they would give me my trainfare and I would find my own way home. It was huge fun.

All of this background meant that a steady job didn’t really appeal to me.

After leaving Sussex University I got a job as Lecturer in English at the University of Baghdad. The ex-pat life style appealed to me as a young man and I might well have continued on that path but at the end of my first year in Baghdad the Six-Day War broke out and I was forced to leave.

Finding myself back in England I took a job teaching at a large London School for a year before deciding to try something in theatre.

I was offered a job as “Youth Theatre Organiser” at a theatre in Canterbury. My job involved organising tours of plays to schools in the area, as well as performing in them, driving the van, helping build the sets for the main theatre productions and playing any small parts that were available in main theatre.

From this I was, to my surprise, offered a job as an actor in the Northcott Theatre company where I worked for three years before going on to work for the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and in the West-End

As a man who has mastered the craft of acting in the world of film, television, and stage…what would you say is your favorite type of production to be a part of?

Well, I wouldn’t claim to have mastered my craft, part of the fun is that you are continually learning and reinventing yourself.

Initially I only considered theatre…. it didn’t occur to me that I could work in film or television, but once I began to be offered screen work I found I really enjoyed it.

Wessex Tales was one of my early “film-for-tv” jobs. I remember being taken to a field where the art department had created a fabulous Inn. The scene involved me meeting the girl I was in love with. I watched as she came over the brow of the hill in a stage coach pulled by white horses…. it was a marvellous sight.

The director called “Cut”, then told me that I had done a really good job which confused me because I hadn’t done anything…. just watch.
That was the beginning of learning about screen acting.

In 1990, you performed as the legendary Monster in Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound. What was it like to take on the role of such an iconic figure? What sort of preparation did you do for this role?

I tried to create a different physicality for the Monster. He had been created to be better than a normal person, he was stronger and had more sensitive hearing and could speak and reason.

I got help from a movement teacher and worked on walking without opposing movement of the arms and legs. Then we developed a loping run with both arms moving together. I used to practice this run early in the morning on Wimbledon Common near where I lived… and scared a few early morning dog-walkers!

The prosthetic make-up was designed by Nick Dudman and I spent hours with his fabulous team each day applying it all. The final bit was the eyes, which were rigid pieces with art work showing that different eyes had been stitched together for the Monster. This gave me very limited vision and I had to be helped on set. I was told that on no account should I get any dirt in my eyes….. So, naturally, the first scene I shot had me running behind a the horse-drawn carriage while a wind machine blew handfuls of dust in my face.

We had the best fun making that film. I spent most of my evenings in fabulous restaurants in Milan eating, drinking, laughing and arguing with John Hurt and Raul Julia.

A truly unforgettable time!

Roger Corman is a legendary filmmaker and producer with a very specific way of doing things in the world of cinema. What was it like working under the guise of a man like Mr. Corman?

Roger is a very conservative seeming gentleman….. but with his own wild ideas.

In one early scene we shot, The Monster has gone into the town where a fiesta is taking place. The noise of fireworks hurts his sensitive ears and in his distress he frightens some children. A nightwatchman runs up blowing his whistle which makes him even more distraught. He grabs the nightwatchman, plunges his fist into the man’s chest and pulls out his still beating heart which he holds up in front of him. Seeing this the poor man dies!

As we prepared to shoot I had a tube running up my arm which was pumping sticky artificial blood through the throbbing prop heart in my hand.

Roger came up to me and said, “Nick, at this point over-acting is impossible”.

1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves will not only go down as my favorite Robin Hood story of all time, but one of my favorite films of all time. And you were freaking Little John! What was it like to work on such a iconic film, and what are your thoughts on the final cut of the film that we know and love?

I grew up on the Disney live action film with Richard Todd as Robin and James Robertson Justice as Little John. I saw it several times in the cinema.

There was a stream near my house and as a kid we would act out the fight in waterfall. What a treat to get to act it out again – this time in a hugely popular modern version!

The actual shoot was chaotic and hard work….. we had no idea it would be such a success. Our fight in the waterfall was shot in Aysgarth Falls in Yorkshire…. in November. And let me tell you, it was cold!

It took three days to shoot that sequence – what you see in the film is a small part of what we actually shot. We were in the water first shot to last shot, for three days, fighting on treacherous boulders in fast moving water, and because of the fighting we couldn’t wear wet suits under our clothes.

But I feel so lucky to have been part of something that people know and love.

After being in the world of acting for over 5 decades, what is it that keeps you in this business? What is it that you still adore about the profession of performance?

You never know what you will be asked to do next. That is priceless.
Getting an early call to be driven out to some exotic location to meet your fellow cast members and crew never grows old.

So, what is next for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I’m so lucky to still be asked to do things. Currently I’m in the third series of Grantchester which is a joy to work on. Set in the 1950s, James Norton is the Anglican Vicar of Grantchester and Robson Greene the local policeman.

I came into the first season in a guest role and immediately felt at home. I was asked back to do a couple of episodes in the second season, and now in the third, I am a potential romantic interest for the vicar’s house-keeper played by Tessa Peake-Jones.

Who could have predicted that!

What was the last thing to make you smile?

I just heard that after a five year hiatus there is a new series of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”.
Can’t wait!

McNally Sagal [Interview]

Today’s interviewee is somebody extremely special to the TWS world, and someone we have wanted to talk to for a very long time. A few years ago we had the fortunate experience to receive some great words from actors like Christopher Reed and Michael Ornstein, both known for their brilliant performances on the hit TV series Sons of Anarchy. And today we have reached a whole new level in the SoA universe. Today we have the brilliant McNally Sagal on the site! McNally as you will definitely remember portrayed the brilliant Margaret Murphy, the doctor who wants to help all the wrong people, probably because she has a few secrets herself. She was absolutely brilliant in this role, and was definitely a major highlight of the program.

Now, as per usual, McNally Sagal is a brilliant actress who has managed to not be pigeonholed into being known for one performances. Since SoA, McNally has been a regular on the hit series Secrets & Lies, and has appeared on other great shows like Scandal and Jane the Virgin. And even before SoA, McNally appeared in another project that has been very special to us here at TWS, the brilliant indie classic film SLC Punk, directed by our old friend James Merendino and featuring our new friend Michael Goorjian. And that is all without even mentioning the fact that she appeared in one of the most underrated comedies of all time, a classic in my book, High School High. As well as a break out role in Clive Barker’s horror masterpiece, Night Breed.

Yes, McNally Sagal is a brilliant actress who has been proving for decades that she has the goods and is one of the greatest in the business for very obvious reasons. And we are so very excited to have her as our featured guest here today at Trainwreck’d Society. So please enjoy some great words from the amazing McNally Sagal!

When did you decide that you wanted play pretend for a living? Was it always an aspiration of yours, or did it just sort of happen?

I grew up in the middle of 10 children outside of Chicago, IL. My father is a reconstructive plastic surgeon. He clearly loved his work and his hope for all of us was that we found something we loved to do and make a living doing it. His often repeated phrase was, “Convert your hobby to your job and it will never feel like work.” I was an excellent student in high school, and thought that my parents might have their hearts set on my going into dentistry or medicine. I was shocked when I told them I wanted to study theater and they just said, “Great!” I graduated from Boston University, and then moved cold to NYC.
And after all of these years in the business, appearing on dozens of the best television shows and in some amazing films, what is it that you still enjoy about the business as it evolves into what it is now?

I love that I never really know what I will be doing or where I will be as the days unfold. I look forward to getting an audition for something that I know nothing about…then I work hard on it…and lo and behold, some days I get the opportunity to experience a whole new world that had never crossed my mind until that moment. For example, I had not seen The X Files when I got an audition for the show…it was 2 full days of multiple call backs…then the next day I am on a night shoot, standing on top of a flying saucer, holding an infant, with wind machines blowing and cursing at the top of my lungs! Ya know, things like that.

This might be a bit of a specific stretch here….but, Nightbreed is one of my favorite horror films of all time, and what I still consider Clive Barker’s most honest work. And it was one of your first on screen roles, according to my little research. So I am compelled to ask about what it was like working so early on a film like Nightbreed? Was it a positive experience overall?

I love Clive Barker! I was pretty scared doing the role actually….screaming my head off as a severed head is plopped on the counter and I am getting stabbed in the chest. I so enjoyed his sense of humor. He cast me again in Lord Of Illusions as what he described as a lip stick lesbian. We spent a lot of time together actually. I went to his home with my then 3 year old son, Boris. There was Clive’s artwork displayed all around the house, and my son was in awe….and then he said, “This is scary pretty.” Clive encouraged me to submit a story for his Hellraiser series of comic books for Epic Comics and I had a story published. That was pretty cool…although it is a pretty gruesome story about stand up comics in hell being pulled apart on stage when the audience yells for , “The Hook!”

How long was it into your career when you realized…I am an actress! When did you realize you were living as a working actor in the business? Was there a specific project or time period where it really hit you?

Well, uhhh, I moved to NYC right after graduating from college…and beleive it or not…I was offered a role in Amadeus on Broadway, 3 weeks after my arrival. So, yeah, I figured I had gambled correctly. Although, I was sure that I had nowhere to go but down. I did that job for a year and a half…so I was able to save some money and support myself as an actor ever since.

We have had the fortunate experience of talking with fellow Sons of Anarchy alum Christopher Reed and Michael Ornstein about their experience with the show. And you were absolutely AMAZING on the show, one of the major highlights in my opinion. So what was it like working with this strangely complex and conflicted character? How was the experience overall, and how much of the characters personality was of your own creation?
First off…shout out to Chris and Michael. They were great in their roles and really fun to work with!
I came in to audition for Kurt Sutter for a role where I had to literally turn myself inside out with grief and horror at the death of my teenage daughter. I totally lost it (as my real daughter was the same age as the daughter in the show) One of those times when I think the casting director thought maybe they should call an ambulance. Kurt told me there in the room….”I can’t see you doing this….you will not get this role….but I have something else in mind.”  Then of course, a year goes by and I let it go….

Then I got a call to come play a role on SOA…it was a very short scene in the hospital with Maggie Siff who played Tara on the show. I thought that was going to be it…I am a team player/trooper…just go where I am hired…had no more expectations. But then my character kept popping up, and the story and character arcs were so fun and amazing. I never knew what to expect or what might happen…I would just open my email to see if I was in the episode or not and what was going on. One day I was reading a script and I kind of made a yelp squeal and almost fell out of my chair….because I found out that my character literally had a “Back story”…and that I would sport a full back tattoo, get kidnapped, tied up in an attic, shoot a gun, get punched and strangled, kicked in the chest and thrown to the floor, black eyed, past heroin use, punch others in the face, lie on legal forms, lie to murderers, lie to the cops…you know, that kind of stuff. It was a blast!

Another close tie in we have is our relationship to the filmmaker and cast of the film SLC Punk, in which you had a wonderful role in as well. What can you tell us about set life on an independent flick based around the world of punk rock? Was it a memorable shoot for you?

It was very memorable because…and as I said earlier, why I love what I do…..I got a call at 9 p.m. one night, from a frightened, soft voiced, young woman….she was whispering….I could barely hear her. She said, “I have to be quiet because they are shooting a film on set. I don’t know if you remember me, but I used to work for your agent. I am here in Utah doing this movie, I am P.A…..and Julie Haggarty is very sick and unable to play a role…it works tomorrow in Salt Lake City….and um, as everyone was freaking out about who could play the role, all of a sudden…I kind of said that you could do it in a heartbeat…and so, now they want to hire you. But, um, now I am really nervous and my job depends on this. so, um, can you really do it? and can you leave RIGHT NOW?” I jumped on a plane and basically ran on the set and did that fun scene with Mathew Lillard and Christopher McDonald.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?
My son is going to be a senior in high school next year…one more year before I have an empty nest! Who knows where he will go to college…or where I will be? Or what the future holds? That’s what makes it fun and keeps me on my toes!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Well, thank god, I smile a lot…and have lots to be happy about. But, a few months ago, I was visiting my daughter who is in college in Boston. I was sad to say good by, and kind of sad that I would be flying home to LA during the Academy Awards….I got a txt that said my flight was cancelled. They re-ticketed me for the next morning and said they would cover my hotel and dinner that night. I was so happy to call my daughter…who came running into the hotel room and we put on the white robes and had room service and wine and watched the Awards on TV. Fun, unexpected joy! And…. then the whole Warren Beatty thing….we were in ecstasy!

Bill Grundfest [Interview]

Why hello there old comedy loving friends. As you may have noticed in the last few months, we have grown quite fond of the world of stand up comedy lately. It is an ever-loving passion we have had for quite some time, but we have worked to bring to to an all new light lately. And today we have a perfect guest to help put us directly on top! Today we are speaking with the legendary comedian/writer/founder of the acclaimed Comedy Cellar in New York City, the great Bill Grundfest.

If you are any sort of fan of stand up comedy, or truly funny in general, there is no possible way you are not aware of the the legendary Comedy Cellar. It has appeared in just about every project that took comedy even remotely serious, including the recent De Niro fronted film The Comedian, which I have I recently watched on a plane, and have to say was actually pretty damn entertaining. Anyway, our main man Bill is the man who’s ass you should all be proverbially kissing, because he is the man who developed the original concept, and created the now legendary Comedy Cellar.

And what is more interesting….he left it all. He developed a comedic empire, and then simply gave it away. Why the fuck would you do that, you may ask? Well, when the end result would eventually be to become a Golden Globe award winning television writer on the coast with more sunshine, it probably wouldn’t seem so crazy. And that is exactly what he did. A man like Bill Grundfest is loaded with so much talent that it is almost unfair to his peers. He has had an incredible career that has spanned decades.

And we are so damn excited that he was gracious enough to share a few words with us here at Trainwreck’d Society today! We have had some legends in the past, but having Bill here today feels absolutely surreal, and we are so damn happy to have him! So please enjoy some great words from the amazing Bill Grundfest!

What was some of the earliest material you can remember performing when you first began telling jokes?

My first joke was when I was 5, and my audience was my Post World War II immigrant, barely-speaking-English parents. It was the Knock Knock, who’s there?, banana/orange joke. If you need me to write the joke out, forget it.
When you decided to develop the now legendary Comedy Cellar, what made you think it was going to work out? And could you have ever imagine what it would become shortly after you opened it, and what it became after you moved on from it?

I knew it would work, I just didn’t know it would last 35 years. Nobody and nothing in New York lasts 35 years. Neither me nor Manny imagined the level of success it achieved, especially under Noam and Estee’s execution after I left and Manny passed. I know he’s smiling from behind an oud in heaven.

You made one of the craziest decisions I have ever heard of when you decided to leave your successful career running the Cellar to pursue a career in the world of writing for television. In retrospect, you obviously made a perfect decision as you have had some amazing success in this business. But, what the hell, man? What made you decide you wanted to take such a crazy risk? What compelled you to leave such beautiful conformity?
I was 34, had had a radio show on NBC, a couple of cable specials, but I wasn’t becoming a star, and could see 40 looming. I wanted to be in the major leagues of television and if it couldn’t be as the star of a sitcom or talk show, then as a writer/producer would be fine. Rule #1: If you are willing to do literally anything to achieve a clearly envisioned goal, the odds are actually pretty good you’ll achieve it. Most people aren’t willing to do literally anything. I was – starting with being brutally honest with myself about my chances of becoming a star.
I recently heard you explaining to Barry Katz on Industry Standard about how you first kicked off your career in television by handing out spec scripts to whoever may take them. This is probably a pretty dated concept these days, but it obviously worked. What would you consider to be the modern day equivalent of these acts? What do you believe a new writer has to do today to break into the business?
It would work still today. New anythings in this business need to step outside the norm and do something crazy. You must break out of the safety of the “norm.” Failure to become a success is what’s normal in show biz. If you want to succeed in anything, you have to risk looking like an idiot.
What have you noticed to be the biggest change in the “writer’s rooms” and television writing in general since when you first began in the business, up to now? Besides the lightening of the wallets of course. And despite less pay, do you believe the quality of television has gotten better, or worse?

There’s an amazing amount of good TV out there. My only complaint is: can we stop with the “anti-hero” bullshit? It’s not funny, not cool, it’s really coarsening the culture and destroying the very idea of a “value system.”

Mad About You was one of those shows that has always stood out to me personally as a reasonably beloved show by both critics and audiences, although it was against some serious competition during its run. In your obviously much more knowledgable opinion, what do you believe it was that made Mad About You stand out amongst the crowd? 

Writing a sitcom is like writing a song – to be a hit you have to write a great song and have a great performer sing it. As writers, our staff was among the best in TV, and we had Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt to sing what we wrote.

We always have to ask our statue holding friends this one question: Where do you keep your Golden Globe? And does its physical location have any sort of significance to you?

It’s in a shrine my mother has to her sons, in between my 3 Emmy nominations, and a Peabody award.

So what do you have coming up that our readers should know about?

I’m attached to a couple of pilots and am very big in China, where we adapted Mad About You for a Chinese cast and audience – and were the number one show for our run with hundreds of millions of views.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

BMy kids. They love me. Go figure.

Just so you know, Bill was not over exaggerating about the impact of Mad About You in China. Check out this amazing insight from The Wall Street Journal:

Katie Burgess [Interview]

We have a pretty awesome interview for you fine readers today. Recently I was passed along a screener for a nice little indie horror flick entitled Gremlin. It was a fun film to watch, but when I finished it, I was left with one large question….who is this amazing young actress who plays Anna? That young actress turned out to be the amazing Katie Burgess. And while I know I can’t be the first to say this, I still feel so compelled to say it…this is a young woman to look out for in the future. She is an amazingly talented actress who absolutely stole the show in Gremlin.

While looking into the work of Ms. Burgess, I soon learned that it was not just dumb luck and pure talent (which she definitely seems to have been born with) that made her performance in Gremlin so amazing. No, Katie has been doing this job for quite some time despite her young age. And dammit she is good at it! Again, if you are not yet familiar with the work of Katie Burgess, I am absolutely certain you soon will. That being said, we are so happy that she has been generous enough to share a few words with us here at Trainwreck’d Society. So ladies and gentleman, please enjoy our interview with the amazing actress, and the woman who has officially knocked out our old friend Tara Lynne Barr as our youngest interviewee to date, the wonderful Katie Burgess!

You’ve been acting for quite a long time for someone who is so young. When did you decide you wanted to be an actress? And what compelled you to join the world of acting?

When I was much younger (around 7) I was very shy. My mom decided that bringing me to an open audition for a local musical would be a good way for me to overcome my bashfulness. I ended up actually getting cast in the musical(Seussical the Musical) with a friend and that was the beginning of my journey. Around two years and 4 productions later I decided that I wanted to try my hand at film acting. My mom worked hard to find an agency in Oklahoma and scheduled an interview for me. I signed on with an agency soon after and booked my first commercial the next day. It’s always been so much fun for me which is really important in any business. You have to really love it.

What is the acting scene like in Tulsa? And are you still living around there? Any plans to ship out to one of the coasts to work?

The acting scene in Tulsa has always been pretty slow to be honest. The business in Oklahoma has only just started to pick up in the last few years, which is great! I’m actually moving to Malibu for college at the end of August as I’ll be attending Pepperdine University. I hope to continue acting there as well as learn about the business from all perspectives.

I recently watched the film you appeared in called Gremlin, and honestly have to say that your performance truly blew me away. You went through a lot of crazy dramatic turns with that character. What sort of preparation went into making this character come to life? And how was your experience in making this film?

Gremlin was a wonderful experience for me! It was a very professional environment where everyone was very passionate about and dedicated to their jobs. As far as the character, Anna is a 16 year old girl struggling to find herself and cope with life-altering news. Because I was exactly her age during filming, I could relate to her struggles. Every kid gets frustrated with their parents and, as a teenager, it’s easy to feel very isolated and lost so I channeled my own past feelings and allowed myself to go to those dark places Anna is trapped in. You have to be very aware of emotion during such intense scenes. It was important to me that I channeled multiple emotions at once and conveyed them authentically. Humans are really complex, so in order to make a situation as realistic as possible, you have to know how to be afraid, distraught, and angry all at once.

You also worked with the legendary Academy Award winning actor Louis Gossett Jr. in the family drama The Lamp. What was it like working with a legendary figure like Gossett? Did he have any wisdom to pass on to you?

I was pretty young when I worked with him so I don’t think I fully understood just who I was working with. He’s such sweet man and he’s giant! His stand-in had to wear platform shoes just to reach his height. He loved to tell stories. There were a lot of kids on that set so he entertained us with funny stories between takes. I look back now and I wish I could have picked his brain more about his experience in the business, but as a ten-year-old, I just saw him as a fun grandfather figure.

What would you consider to be your dream role?

I love a good challenge. A character with different sides and a deep story is always fun. It’s thrilling to me to be thrown into a situation I would probably not experience in my life and find ways to make it real and interesting. Probably someone very different from who I actually am.


So what is next for you? Anything you would like to tell our readers about that you have coming up?

I just filmed another movie with the makers of Gremlin called The Jurassic Games. I’m super excited for this film so definitely stay tuned for more information! I play the main antagonist, which was so much fun as I was the youngest person on set. Ryan Bellgardt is such an amazing director so getting to work with him and his crew twice was a privilege.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

That is a really hard question haha. I smile literally all the time. This is going to sound really creepy, but I love observing people, especially kids. I love watching interactions between people because I just think they are really interesting. I actually think this has helped a lot in my acting, knowing how people react to certain things or interact with each other. I would say the last time I smiled was probably when I was listening to a conversation between little kids at the pool. They’re so funny! It really makes me miss being little.

Check out this trailer for Gremlin featuring Katie Burgess which is available on VOD now:

Philip Anthony-Rodriguez [Interview]

Today’s interviewee is another amazingly talented on screen and voice over actor working today. Philip Anthony-Rodriguez has had regular on screen appearances on TV shows like Grimm, The Secret Life of an American Teenager, 24, and so many more! And in the world of video games, Philip is a voice you will all surely know and love in projects like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Halo: Reach, and so many more.

But as many of our regular readers will know…if we are have an acclaimed voice over artists featured on the site, there is a 110% chance, they were also a part of a dearly beloved video game series here at Trainwreck’d Society. And you all would be absolutely correct. Mr. Rodriguez is the man who was responsible for bringing to life the smooth-talking, hard-working, name-reminiscent of a biker town in South Dakota, the great Sturgis! His Sanctuary’s own handy helper is with us today, and we could not be more excited to have him. And as an added bonus, Philip has also appeared in episode of the TWS acclaimed television series Becker, so you know we had to ask him about some of that magic. If there is one thing you could call us here at TWS, it is persistent. We know what we want, and we know what we love. And we love the work of Philip Anthony-Rodriguez!

So please enjoy some great words from the amazing actor and voice over artist, Philip Anthony-Rodriquez. And as he mentions in the interview itself, find Philip when you are making the rounds at this year’s San Diego Comic Con. Enjoy!


When did you realize you wanted to become an actor? Was it a passion from a young age or did you just sort of fall into it? 

It was a little bit of both. I’ve always been a fan of TV and film. But when I was 9, a woman named Jeanne Niederlitz came to my hometown community center in Brooklyn with a summer theater troupe for kids. It was called Acting By Children (ABC) and we’d put on original musicals all performed by kids: costumes, rehearsals, audiences, the works!  I was instantly hooked! Later, Jeanne went on to be my very first manager. I then went on to do commercials, small parts in movies, TV shows …and the rest, as they say, is history.

What was the first film/television show you can remember having your name appear in the credits? Do you remember what you were doing at that exact moment when you first saw it?

I was cast as the lead guest star on one of Dick Wolf’s early hit shows called New York Undercover. This show had the actor credits at the beginning of the show. My heart skipped a beat and I got choked up seeing my name up on the screen. And it was even more special because I believe I was on screen when my name appeared.  I felt like I had finally “made it” as an actor (hahaha). It was a dream fulfilled!

You had a solid run on the hit television show Grimm. What was it like working on a show like this? And how did you enjoy my homeland up there in the Pacific Northwest?

Oh boy! This was a real treat working on for many reasons. It reunited me with my uber producer David Greenwalt from my days starring on Jake 2.0, which incidentally was a GREAT series that wasn’t given the chance it deserved to remain on the air. ;). But with Grimm, I was joining an established hit show and I got to have in on the fun and be a part of something really special. I also got to play a reeeaally slick but evil, Bond-esque, “Euro-Villain” name Marcus Rispoli. This was awesome for a few reasons. A) I wasn’t pigeonholed into being (solely) a Latino character with a Latino surname (nothing wrong with that, by the way) so it was nice to not be “Latino Phil” for something. B) He was an absolute badass that wore expensive suits and could kill you with his steely, death stare! Lol. And C) It gave me the opportunity to perform the character with the quasi-British/Mid-Atlantic accent I had worked on for years and SO wanted to “unleash” it onto the world. 🙂

The show’s cast and crew were top-notch as well as was your “homeland”. They and the city of Portland welcomed me with open arms…and sometimes a hug as well!   I always looked forward to flying up there from LA to work. And can I just say, “Portland, man! SUCH an awesome foodie town!!” I mean it, I had some of THE best food while I was there. So much so that I’d often find myself saying, “Eat your heart out, Paris, New York and L.A.!!” Portland is on the map for food glory these days!

I know it has been a long time, and it was only one episode, but you appeared on one of my favorite television sitcoms of all time, the amazing Becker. So I am obliged to ask, how did you enjoy being on that set? Was it a memorable experience in any way?

Oh wow, that is going back a bit! But hey, Becker…what can I say? Got to work with the legendary Ted Danson as well as the rest of that stellar cast. It was a short but sweet gig. But it was also special because it was a Christmas episode…those are ALWAYS fun! It also has the virtue of being THE first sitcom I worked on. What better way to get your feet wet than by being on a winner like that?

What would you say are the pro’s and cons of voice over work as compared to your on-screen work? Do you have a preference between the two?

Well, the pros are many with voice over work. I do it with just as much frequency as I do with my on-screen work. And it is the “bread and butter” work for me…from said frequency perspective. But you’ve also heard other voice talent mention the obvious perks: You can just roll outta bed in your jammies and into the recording booth if you want…because no one can see you. But that’s kinda gross. I like to at least wear jeans and a tee shirt! 😉 But seriously, doing voice over work is typically more “exotic” work for me. As in you typically perform unusual characters that you don’t often get to play on screen. With voice over work, I’ve gotten to play a “Spartan” super-soldier in Halo Reach, a homicidal super-cyborg in Metal Gear, an immortal shaman and rebel leader in Rise of the Tomb Raider and a member of an alien races of all shapes and sizes countless times. THAT’S pretty cool, in my book. There’s also that extra special goose-bumpy feeling that occurs when you see YOUR voice put to an animated or computer generated image of your character. It is…fascinating, to say the least. Some of the cons are that voice work CAN put a strain on your voice. Especially when we’re working on high octane, action-filled, single-shooter type games. Nothing that a couple days’ rest can’t fix, though.

And then you have screen work. Which can be a totally different beast altogether. That has its merit and uniqueness to it too. I know for me, I still get a kick out of seeing myself on the screen. Especially if, as I’ve said before, I’m doing something cool I don’t always get to do in real life. Again, I think it’s pretty cool. How many people get to say that?? That’s why I don’t buy it when you hear some actors say, “Oh, I don’t watch myself on screen!” Why the heck not?? That always sounds a little pretentious to me sometimes. Enjoy it. Revel in it! Be proud of it. You can do that without making it seem like you’re gloating or full of yourself. 🙂

How was your experience working on Fallout 4 as the go-to fixer of Sanctuary Hills, Sturges? Was it exceptional to other projects you have worked on in any way?

You know, it’s funny how the whole Sturges thing panned out for me. This was yet another situation where I got to go “against type” for me. A rockabilly, Elvis-inspired, do-it-all Mr. Fixit with a southern drawl for the ages! I mean, I’m a Puerto Rican kid…from Brooklyn, for cryin’ out loud! And here I am, suddenly thrust into a hit game AND franchise. Actors never see the forest for the trees with regard to how well a video game is going to be…or how popular. We just go into the booth and once there, the sessions are very methodical–in the sense that there is a lot of information and words you must dole out. BUT you also have to create and instill the performance aspect to it and bring that character to life. That’s why gaming and performances are SO “cinematic” these days. With the advent of CGI, motion and face capture, designers are always looking for solid and experienced actors to work on these games. That’s why you have stars like Kevin Spacey showing up on your most recent version of Call of Duty. You would’ve never seen this happen say, 25 years ago. Again, Sturges for me was exceptional in the sense that I got to play someone I’d probably never get to play on screen. And that,in itself, is special.

What has the fan reaction been like since Fallout 4 was released? Do you find Fallout fans to be a bit more fanatical (no pun intended) than other projects you have worked on?

The fan reaction has been unprecedented… at least for me. Like I said before, actors don’t know how well something is going to be until it’s released, gained some momentum with fans and then has that snowball effect in popularity. I LOVE how fans react to a game’s success (or failure). It’s always cool to read official fan Twitter feeds and how fans always refer to you by your character name when asking questions or posting game related tidbits. They really are savvy enough to know when something works and is clicking for them. If it’s entertaining enough and whether it holds its own as compared to other games, the buck ALWAYS stops with fans in terms of how successful a game is going to be…critics and game magazine reviews, be damned.! So, as a game designer, you better make sure you’re putting out a great product. Fans and true gamers can smell out a stinker. lol. It’s strange though what fans zero in on with characters on projects I’ve worked on. I’ve been on a few GTA series and it’s hilarious to me that I always get recognized for Maurice Chavez…a radio personality and voice you ONLY hear on the radio during game play. Too funny.

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

Well, for the immediate future, ComicCon Conventions. So, check out a ComicCon and gaming conventions near you. I’ll be attending the mother of all conventions in July, San Diego ComicCon with a signing booth! I am stoked, to say the least. I’ll be signing photos, memorabilia and action figures from Star Wars Rebels, Grimm all game projects I’ve been a part of over the years. Sooo, if you plan to be around for the festivities, I’d love it if fans would drop by and say, “whassup!?”. I also have a Guest Star role coming up on the Season 2 of Queen of the South for USA Networks. For the long term, I am super proud of the fact that I am a dad again! My wife Cindy and I are the proud mama and papa of a beautiful and totally awesome baby boy! So, that for me is my greatest adventure. But I’m sure you’ll be seeing me up on the big screen and/or the virtual world in the very near future! 😀

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Seeing my baby boy being born! And when he looks up at me…and smiles. (sniff, sniff!) Gets me all the time! 😉

Check out this video courtesy of Luridus for a great example of Philip’s work on Fallout 4 as Sturgis:

Larry Bishop [Interview]

Today’s interviewee is a very special person to me personally, and somebody you are all sure to love to all end. He’s one of the most recognizable badasses the cinema world has ever known, and an absolutely delight to see on the screen. If you are a normal human being and started at the top of this post, you know it is Larry Bishop.

That’s right, THE Larry Bishop! One of the original kings of the biker film world, and a regular in the Tarantino universe. He is the mastermind behind the Quentin Tarantino presented film Hell Ride, which we have talked about previously when we spoke with one of the film’s associate producers and actresses Laura Cayouette, who remains a dear friend of ours here at TWS, and remains as one of our favorite films of all time. He has also had some amazing roles in films like Kill Bill Vol. 2, The Sting II, and his brilliant breakout performance in 1968’s The Savage Seven.

This is an interview that has been literal years in the making, but it was SO worth the wait. We finally have some amazing words from Larry that we are so excited to share with you all right now. So, please Ladies and Gentlemen, please enjoy some amazing words from the legendary man we know and love, the great Larry Bishop!

When did you first realize you wanted to join the world of acting? Was there any sort of inspiration stemming from living around your father’s career?

From the time I was 9 years old, I had the opportunity to see and be around Dean Martin in person many times. I knew right then that I definitely wanted to be in show business.

Around the same time, my parents took me to the movies one night. We saw a Stanley Kubrick film, Paths Of Glory, starring Kirk Douglas and featuring Timothy Carey. I left the theatre thinking that’s exactly what I want to do one day: act in motion pictures.

When I was 15, my family moved to California. At Beverly Hills High School, I met Richard Dreyfuss, Rob Reiner, and Al Einstein (Albert Brooks). We bonded in a big way… and we encouraged each other big-time. That was the year I knew I’d be an actor.

And what keeps you in the business? What keeps you striving to create art?

The idea that I will unveil something about the nature of the universe that no one else has ever thought of.

When I was 6 years, I was very influenced by The Emperor’s New Clothes — the Hans Christian Anderson story.

In my teens, I was intrigued by the philosophers Arthur Schopenhauer (The World As Will And Representation), Nietzsche, and Jacques Derrida (the “Deconstruction” guy).

Regarding actors, Marlon Brando broke ground — he did things that no one else had ever even thought of doing.

What they all had in common: they were all rebels… which led me into the one “rebel” genre in films — the motorcycle movie.

Your role in Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 2 was absolutely fucking phenomenal, to put it bluntly. I was seriously awestruck. Can you tell us a bit about working on this project? What drew you to take this part?

Quentin wrote the part for me. And… he was naming the part “Larry”. And… he told the Wardrobe Dept. that he only wanted me to wear my clothes from my closet. And… he allowed me to do the part exactly the way I saw it.

I wanted my character to connote Power, even though his office is the smallest office I’ve ever seen in any movie. I felt my character — in his world — was as big as Sinatra in his world. So I slowed down my movements and line-deliveries, particularly at the beginning of the scene.

When Michael Madsen walked into my office, I stared at him for 12 seconds — every take, every angle. After awhile, Michael came over to me and said that he couldn’t believe Quentin was letting me eat up 12 seconds of film in every take — knowing, of course, it would never be in the film. But… Quentin used all of it in the film!

Two other things that made it such a perfect day. #1: When we were going through the first rehearsal, Bob Richardson — the great cinematographer — turned to Quentin and said, “Who the fuck is this guy?” Bob didn’t know anything about me but I guess I definitely got his attention — Quentin immediately launched into a ten-minute film history of who I was! #2: After the first take, Michael Madsen strolled over to me and said, “Larry, the scene’s all yours.” I felt it was a generous thing to say to another actor. In the spirit of reciprocal generosity, I wrote the role of “The Gent” in Hell Ride for Michael.

And shortly after that came the phenomenal film you wrote, directed, produced AND starred in Hell Ride, which happens to also star our dear friend Laura Cayouette who was also an associate producer. This film is still one of my favorites to date. What made you want to make this picture? What were you hoping to accomplish, and do you feel like you did?

At Quentin’s house — after he screened The Savage 7 (a 1968 biker film I starred in) — he told me it was my destiny to write, direct, and star in a brand new motorcycle movie. That was enough for me — I started writing Hell Ride the moment I got home.

I trusted Quentin’s word that we would make the film. I knew he would keep his word. (In Hell Ride, it came into play — Pistolero keeps his word to Cherokee Kisum)

Generally speaking, I don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks of my movies; if I feel like I got to do them the way I wanted to. In the case of Hell Ride, I felt I owed Quentin and hoped he’d be happy with what I’d done. At our first Sundance screening, Quentin told me that I had hit the ball out of the park.

He particularly liked how far I went with my character, “Pistolero” — he said he’d always wanted the lead character (“the good guy”) to be badder than the bad guys.

In the 1950’s & 1960’s, there was a limit to how far you could go with the eroticism, violence, language, and moral ambiguity in a biker film. A motorcycle movie should be untamed. 40 years after my first biker film, I got the opportunity to make an untamed one.

If you had to choose one performance from the plethora of work you have created what would you say you are most proud of and why?

The performances I like the most are the ones I got to do exactly the way I wanted to:

Kill Bill Vol. 2 (Q.T.)
The Big Fix (directed by Jeremy Kagan)
Angel Unchained (directed by Lee Madden)
The Savage Seven (directed by Richard Rush)

Naturally, when I started writing and directing films for me to star in, I got to do everything exactly the way I wanted to — so I’m going to include Hell Ride and Mad Dog Time.

I got lucky with Underworld (1997), which I wrote and starred in. Roger Christian was the director and he was hell-bent on making the movie exactly the way I wrote it.

In your obvious professional opinion, how has the movie industry changed since you started, and in what ways do you feel like we are in a better place? Or worse place?

Of course, I’ve seen many changes in the movie industry since I started.

I never worry about it.

I stay in my own narrative — my brain stays in my own movie.

Having said that, there’s very little in this world that I couldn’t get used to.

What is next for you? Anything you would like to promote here?

The One-Way Ride is up next. I’m doing the 4 jobs again: starring, writing, directing, producing.

It’s sexy, funny, and philosophical.

If it works, I’ve already written 3 more scripts to follow it up with – all within the framework of Eros & Thanatos.

What is the last thing that made you smile?

It never fails: every time Dean Martin pops into my brain.