Now, more than ever, viewers may be looking for a little bit of hope in the content they consume. Or perhaps they want to watch something that offers a break from the chaos with a good laugh. We’re featuring a filmmaker who has put out these types of projects throughout the trying times of 2020. Strø Galang To goes by @DirectedbyStrø online and is especially known for his projects within the digital space, working behind the camera to create content with social media stars. Keep reading to hear more about the person known as “the influencer of influencers” and how he’s using that role to help reach large audiences with messages of positivity and purpose. Before we dive into what you’re doing now, I’d love to hear more about what led you to this place in your career. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming a filmmaker? It was a little unorthodox, because I was actually planning to become a teacher. I’d had a lot of great mentors that were teachers and that really shaped who I am as a person. It made me want to do the same thing so that I could also directly influence children’s lives at a very personal level. I also loved filmmaking, which was just a hobby at the time, and I was super into technology. I begged my dad to get me a camera in high school and then started shooting films with friends, which led to commercial work. I grew up in a small town so word spread that I was good, and I started making money off of it. I thought it was really cool that I could create stories and people would pay me for it. This went on through college while I was working toward a degree in teaching. I got to the point where I had two months left to get my diploma, and I dropped out. I was so immersed in the world of filmmaking at that point and just knew it was a better path for me. I had been creating for a lot of hip-hop artists with important messages to tell so I saw the connection that making projects with purpose would still let me teach and help people, just in a different way. I love that and can definitely see it in your projects. A lot of them could be classified as inspirational, such as your #StruggleStories series. Would you say that’s an intentional choice or something that just naturally comes out in your work? It’s definitely a combination. Since helping people has always been a genuine passion for me, it was great to just naturally connect with creators putting out content that makes people laugh. I mean, there are a lot of kids who aren’t happy at home, but they can watch these comedy videos, and it may help lighten things for them. And as I got to know these social media influencers, I started encouraging them to create content that can really inspire and motivate the younger generation, as well as make them laugh. We’d spend a lot of personal time together and have some deep talks. I would hear their stories and couldn’t believe they hadn’t shared them before. So that’s what led to #StruggleStories, which started when Adam Waheed and I drove by a bus stop. He told me it was the one he used to get to by 5:30 a.m. every morning so that he could bus for an hour and a half to go be someone’s personal assistant, and then he’d catch the last bus back at midnight to get home. Now Adam’s like this full-blown star, so it’s great to get to tell his story. The series helps humanize social media stars, which is great because viewers can then relate to them as real people, which is different from what you can do within the more traditional medium of film or TV. I like that perspective. When watching a show or movie, viewers will only get to know the character. But creative videos on social media that show an influencer playing a role can be found right next to content showing their real life. So you’re saying the medium provides a point of connection for viewers?
Yeah, people can relate to the different challenges they’ve faced because everyone goes through struggles. A lot of kids will watch these influencers on social media and think, “I want to be like them — they have the perfect life.” But the medium is perfect to showcase that these social media stars have overcome a lot of things to get to where they are today. Those types of stories tell young viewers that they’re not alone in going through hard times and remind them to work hard, follow their passions, and not give up.
Amongst many inspirational videos that the filmmaker creates is a series labeled with #VoicemailDiaries. Strø shared during the interview that the concept for it came from needing to process the pain he was feeling from a breakup. “I always tell people that if they’re going through a really tough time, they should do something where they can let their emotions into a piece of art, whether it’s a painting or a video like I did,” Strø shared. He recently co-founded a company that will provide on-camera artists with assistance in that area. Strø and his business partner Jesse Dueck started Room 1041 Studios to help creators make content, all the way from brainstorming to shooting to editing the final product. Other new projects for the filmmaker include an upcoming feature film, which will be his first and one he’ll be working on with industry heavy-hitters like producer Cary Granat. “I want to be able to eventually bridge the gap between social media and traditional film,” Strø noted as he wrapped the interview. We’re looking forward to the projects that will come from it and to the hope they’ll inspire.
Casting director Brian Beegle breaks down the practice of telling the truth on camera, which in turn liberates actors from having to “memorize” lines!
Brian Beegle grew up in Atlanta, Ga. where he spent his childhood as an actor and competitive tennis player, and would go on to graduate from the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. After three years of the actor hustle in Los Angeles, Calif. where Beegle also managed for Rose Bowl Flea Market, he drove a $200 1984 BMW 318i home to Atlanta where he would book his biggest film, “We Are Marshall”, spending 42 days on set as starting running back Lucas Booth. Beegle also began singing in the cover band Xtra Medium and would play over 350 shows across the south — getting “paid to party.” In 2006 he was hired as an assistant at Stilwell Casting, one of the nation’s leading commercial casting directors. After studying for two years under Melissa McBride (Carol on “The Walking Dead”), Beegle took over the department and has lead the country in commercial casting for the past 10 years. After casting over 1,500 projects, he still feels joy in the mission of finding new actors every day. Beegle also loves teaching actors of all levels, focusing on getting them to tell the truth on camera, and to never “memorize” a line. In 2018 he founded Georgia Entertainment Sports League (GESL.club), a club for anyone in entertainment that wants to meet new people in the industry. Beegle began his directing career in 2018 when he wrote and directed six commercials for a gym in Atlanta. As an independent contractor, he is also available to cast TV/film, help with content creation, or direct just about anything. In 2020 Beegle proposed to his girlfriend live on Facebook during his late-night TV show, “Quarantime”, which he produced and hosted from his backyard. She said “yes.” He loves a challenge and is always up for anything fun.
Welcome to ACTING UP, the place where we celebrate standout performances in TV, streaming and film. Other than spotlighting exceptional work from recent projects, this feature also shines a light on how certain actors got where they are today. Have a peek and then check out these notable performances to help hone your craft.
The Snapshot: Karl Urban plays an ex-CIA-operative-turned-vigilante obsessed with taking down an evil superhero empire in the superb Amazon series, The Boys. (Season two premiered September 4th, 2020.)
The Performer: Karl Urban
The Series:The Boys
If you watched season one of The Boys, you know superheroes aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. The “bad guys” are actually good and the superheroes (aka “supes”) are flawed human beings who come off more like pampered A-list celebs than a Super Friends-style Justice League.
But like everything else in good drama, not everything is black and white, and that’s where Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) thrives — in the gray area with a ferocious and rare brand of machismo. Butcher is an ex-Special Forces agent, hell-bent on avenging things that happened to his wife Becca (Shantel VanSanten) eight years ago at the hands of lead superhero and diabolical d-bag Homelander (Antony Starr). To say there’s hate there would be an understatement for all time.
Butcher spent season one trying to sink Homelander and his superhero corporation, Vought International, with his team of talented misfits. The Boys, as they’re known, include Hughie (Jack Quaid), the everyman of the series who spent a decent chunk of season one covered in blood — in addition to Frenchie (Tomer Kapon), Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso), and their new super-terrorist friend, The Female (Karen Fukuhara).
Together, with Butcher as their ruthless leader, they’re once again intent on taking down this corrupt batch of super frenemies. But, in season two, this clandestine unit becomes America’s “Most Wanted” as they get closer to completing their mission of disrupting the superhero status quo. This is due in part to strategic relationships with sexy supe Starlight (Erin Moriarty) and CIA connections that keep their mission on track — that is, until they have to contend with new nihilistic feminist superhero Stormfront (Aya Cash), who has a different master plan.
Throughout it all, Butcher’s grit and bravado take the tough guy thing to a new level, but season two also lends a softer side to the Butcher character. Urban meets the challenge by adding new heartfelt dimensions to Butcher’s world, which includes reuniting with his wife and his hated father, and pondering the idea of becoming a father at a time when the fate of the world is in serious peril.
Urban gives it all to a character who stops at nothing to achieve his goals. There’s no better indication of that drive than episode three (in season two) when he literally torpedoes a speed boat straight into the belly of a beached whale in attempts to off a supe in a gutsy maneuver.
Ultimately, Urban kicks butt as the foul-mouthed Englishman who uses his charm masterfully to rally The Boys, delivering infinitely quotable lines and no scarcity of “c” words — as he creates an irreverent and irrevocably badass character that will go down as one of the all-time greats.
Born in Auckland, New Zealand, the 47-year-old actor reportedly got his start at age eight when he had a line in a TV series. He then went on hiatus until after high school, when he landed a role on a Kiwi soap opera called Shortland Street (1992), the same year he enrolled in college.
After a year at Victoria University, Urban left to pursue acting full-time. That’s when he landed several theater roles around Wellington before moving to Auckland, where he starred in various TV shows and films while continuing his training and theater work around Asia and Australia.
It wasn’t long before Urban got his film debut in Heaven (1998) before garnering a couple of Best Actor noms at the New Zealand Film Awards for Via Satellite (1998) and the indie The Price of Milk (2000). He also won Best Supporting Actor at the Qantas Film Awards for Out of the Blue (2006).
But where you no doubt know Urban from is his work in bigger Hollywood films. Notably, he played Éomer in the second and third films of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy in Star Trek (2009), William Cooper in RED (2011) and amongst others, Judge Dredd in Dredd (2012), which incidentally was a comic book Urban was a fan of as a teenager.
Urban also recurred on Xena: Warrior Princess, where he shuttled between the roles of Julius Caesar and Cupid from 1997 to 2001. In an interesting twist to his career arc, Urban also has the distinction of starring in the second installment in each of three huge film franchises: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), The Bourne Supremacy (2004), and The Chronicles of Riddick (2004), a tidbit I probably would’ve never pieced together without the trusty trivia section on IMDb.
Until the world gets a third season of The Boys, which will be a while, Urban is rumored to be slated to reprise his role as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy in the next Star Trek sequel. This would be Urban’s fourth appearance in the franchise, which seems to be on the back burner for now.
Gregg Rosenzweig has been a writer, creative director and managing editor for various entertainment clients, ad agencies and digital media companies over the past 20 years. He is also a partner in the talent management/production company, The Rosenzweig Group.
From Sam Mendes’ Jarhead to the upcoming Tommy Lee Jones and Aaron Eckhart-starring Wander, the casting credits of Faith Hibbs-Clark run deep. She has 20 years of casting experience to her name and is located in New Mexico, an area of the southwest market where productions have begun to resume. Hibbs-Clark is one half of Good Faith Casting, an aptly-named company that also includes her daughter Bella Hibbs, who runs their Arizona office. Besides holding an impressive resume of TV and film credits, the mother-daughter team has cast literally thousands of commercials, working with brand names such as Pepsi, Buick and Marriott. Hibbs-Clark virtually sat down with Casting Networks to share about her journey into casting, which included a drastic career change and the creation of a science-based acting technique she now teaches. Thanks for taking the time to talk, Faith. I love profiling casting directors so that actors can get to know them. There’s sometimes an intimidation factor that comes with how actors perceive casting, and it’s a great reminder that casting directors are just people, too!
I think in general, actors are not expecting casting directors to be human, like you said. And they’re certainly not expecting us to have a sense of humor. Sometimes I’ll joke around with an actor when they come into the casting office, and it often takes them by surprise. I’ll also say that I might be a little more intimidating to actors because I was a deception detection expert before becoming a casting director. Basically, that involves the ability to read body language and determine if somebody is lying or not.
I’ve never heard of that career outside of the Tim Roth-starring series Lie to Me. Can you tell me more about what it entailed?
They give a pretty good overview of the science behind it in the first episode of that series. Deception detection involves universal facial expressions, micro-gestures, and body movements. Body language is everyone’s first language. You maybe don’t know how to speak it, but you can feel it. You’ll meet somebody and will get a certain feeling about that person right away. We attribute that feeling to a gut instinct, but it’s actually coming from our brain, which is literally hardwired to decipher body language. So we will react to it, even if we can’t describe it. But as a deception detection expert, I can both understand and describe it.
Wow! I imagine that skillset would come in handy with casting.
It absolutely does. It adds an extra layer to how I analyze actors when they’re in the room.
And I created an acting method that is based on the science behind it. It’s called the Communication Method for Actors and is based on the fact that essentially everything you do as an actor is a lie. I mean, if you’re playing a crack-addicted prostitute, chances are you aren’t actually a crack-addicted prostitute. And I don’t think actors need any more acting exercises that involve drudging up old memories of grandmothers dying or having to put their dogs to sleep. They can instead use the science of body language, which hasn’t previously been applied to acting. So I started teaching the method because I saw a need for it, and now I do seminars and workshops all around the world.
That’s an incredible career journey, and I love how you’re using it to help actors now. Can you tell us more about the moment when you knew casting was the way you wanted to go?
I didn’t really make that conscious choice. But it came to be because I got to feeling rather burned out in my other field. Politicians would hire me, and some wanted to learn how to reverse-engineer the process of being able to tell when someone is lying. In other words, they wanted me to tell them how to discern it so that they could lie more effectively. It felt like I was facilitating their dishonesty by default, and I did not like that. I also did a lot of work with jury manipulation, which sounds terrible in itself. But I would work for the defense, advising them on how I thought certain arguments were going based on my reading of the jury. I only took cases where I believed the defendant was innocent because I never wanted to help exonerate someone who was guilty. In the end, though, I experienced burnout from the career, I decided it was time for a change. There were a couple of other steps in between that and casting, but to make a long story short, I came to it through a director I was dating at the time. He essentially said, “You know that creepy thing you do of reading people? That’s basically a casting director.” And I replied, “Cool. I’ll do that.”
Can I just say that I would definitely watch a film made about your story? And I actually love asking casting directors which actor they would cast as themselves if a movie were in fact made about their life. So if that were the case, who would be your choice to play Faith Hibbs-Clark?
I would say Cameron Diaz because of her performance in Bad Teacher. The character is in general the polar opposite of me, but she’s funny and quirky and embodies a sense of humor that’s pretty similar to mine. And if I were to pick one for Bella, I would probably say Leslie Mann. There’s an age difference there, but they have similar personalities.
Speaking of Bella, what is it like to get to work with your daughter as a fellow casting director?
It’s all about cloning, you see. I wanted to expand the empire, and rather than hire someone, I just made another casting director. [Laughs] But in all seriousness, she came to work for me right after college for what was supposed to just be a temporary summer job. But she could do the work of four people. Her attention to detail and ability to remember everybody’s name is almost frightening. We make a good team because we have different strengths — she’s very detail-oriented and I’m more about the big picture.
From working for politicians and defense attorneys as a deception detection expert to now teaching actors the science behind her former profession, Hibbs-Clark has had quite the impressive journey to casting. But with all this in mind, the casting director reminds us that she’s not actually an intimidating person. “People who spend time with me know that I’m not at all that way,” Hibbs-Clark noted and gave some fun facts to back it up. “I spent a summer backpacking across Europe, I rescue bunnies, and I have a very British sense of humor.” This window into a fascinating individual with a heart for animals and a unique set of skills is one perfect example of why it’s always great to get to know the casting director.
It was June in Australia this year. The country was on lockdown due to the COVID pandemic. Industries were shut down, temporarily halted, or operating under specific restrictions. Twentysomething actor Ilai Swindells had no idea what sort of repercussions this would have on his acting career. Some of his actor friends who had booked recent gigs before COVID, saw those projects indefinitely postponed or outright canceled.
But on that June day, Swindells received an email asking to put himself on tape after a Casting Networks submission came through. It was for a narrative comedy series about a group of friends communicating with one another in an online chatroom during the COVID shutdown. The six-episode show, titled Retrograde, was for Australia’s ABC public television network. The casting, shooting, and turnaround were going to be quick: Retrograde was scheduled to air the following month. It would be Australia’s first scripted series to air with the reality of the pandemic built into its premise while also adhering to the country’s strict COVID guidelines during shooting.
For his audition, Swindells was given a set of sides to prepare. The scene involved the actor as the character of Ramsey, looking for toilet paper for a friend who has an illness and couldn’t leave the house.
In addition to the sides, Swindells also got a copy of the pilot script, where he everything in that first episode would be seen through the prism of a Zoom-type call, with each character in their own grid. Swindells noticed that some of the characters were dancing at the end first episode, drunk in a virtual bar called Retrograde, where they regularly congregated during the lockdown.
“My character wasn’t among the ones written as doing that, but I felt that Ramsey would be,” Swindells told Casting Networks. “I wanted to show them how he would do it and what he’d be like drunk and dancing. So I submitted a second video of myself as Ramsey, in my living room, semi-tipsy, holding a bottle of red wine and dancing to Robyn’s Dancing On My Own.”
Swindells felt this bonus submission was instrumental in getting him a physical callback with Lou Mitchell of Maura Fay Casting in Australia, where he met the show’s director and producers. When he got there, a stroke of luck occurred. It turned out Retrograde’s director Natalie Bailey was the director on a sketch comedy series he starred in back in 2015 called Open Slather. And even though there were several producers and network execs that had a hand in the casting approval of Retrograde, Swindells thought this unexpected coincidence helped him land the role because the director was already familiar with his work and work ethic.
Thanks to Casting Networks, Swindells found himself in a fortunate position to be working during a time when many of his peers were not. Along with the rest of the cast and crew, he was also in an oddly unprecedented position of testing out the waters of how to shoot a television series safely during a pandemic. Would they be pioneers and trendsetters? Or guinea pigs in an experiment that could crash and burn as quickly as it could soar and succeed?
Throughout the shoot, the actors were isolated from each other, each in their separate location, communicating via Zoom chat. Swindells recalled how every actor had their own crew member who controlled the camera’s sound, lighting and rigging, all while wearing masks and gloves. Each day, the director of photography would go to the separate location and set up the shot of the actor’s grid for the Retrograde virtual bar. A makeup artist taught each actor how to do their own makeup at the start of the shoot and provided the actors with all the tools and products they’d need for the duration of filming. The actors had an initial wardrobe fitting prior to the cameras rolling, and every day, a new wardrobe was dropped off for them. Meals were also delivered daily.
According to Swindells, during the second to last week of shooting, Melbourne and Victoria went in to an extreme lockdown dubbed “Stage Four” that only allowed residents to leave their house for work, groceries or an hour of exercise. The cast was given work travel permits in case they were stopped by authority figures or law enforcement.
When it came to the actual shoot, Swindells remembered the most common phrase being uttered over the chat was “Could you please go on mute?” because the littlest thing would catch sound and make noise, such as the technical crew switching the lighting, for instance.
“You had to choose your moments when to speak, when to ask questions, etc. because there were so many technical glitches that none of us were used to,” said Swindells. “We all learned a lot.”
Not only that, but the style of the show itself – isolated locations, and fewer people on camera, minimal crew, etc. .- meant the show’s focus was more on the writing and performances –the characters, rather than set pieces. “It felt like doing a play,” he observed.
Australian publications, too, noticed the focus on performances in their reviews of the show, and felt the video format also worked. Screen Hub, for example, wrote that “it’s the characters rather than the comedy that’s the real focus of Retrograde, and while a bunch of cool kids who haven’t quite got their lives together can be a tricky act to pull off….for the most part this gets the mix right.” It also added that the series “does an impressive job of smoothly juggling the various character screens” and the “technology and visual grammar of the video conferencing is well-integrated into the story.”
And while one can say that the road to Retrograde technically started with a Casting Networks submission, Swindells believes that his audition for the show “could only have come along because I had been chipping away at other things – voiceover work, presenting, nurturing relationships etc. This was years in the making.”
Swindells said he sometimes feels surprised that he’s just come off a lead role on a major network series.
“As actors, we all know not to focus on booking the role, but about doing a good audition, so we are asked back to do more,” he explained. “But here in Australia, where the industry is much smaller than in the U.S., we all read the same scripts and audition for the same roles so you’ve got to do something different to stand out.”
Which is sometimes where actors tend to trip up mentally, he noted. If you do something different at an audition, will they think you’re unable to follow directions as written? Will you come across as egotistical? Is it better to be polite and compliant so they don’t think you’re rude and arrogant?
“No one ever booked a role because they were polite or had good manners,” observed Swindells. “Casting directors need to know you’re exciting. They’ve seen a hundred of you already that day and want to be wowed. Put your stamp on it. With Retrograde, I didn’t just submit the sides that were asked of me. I added in an extra scene, something the character might do, to show more flavor and flair, to make them go, ‘Yes, that’s such a Ramsey thing to do!’”
In some sad news for the streaming platform designed for content meant to be consumed in “quick bites” via mobile devices, Quibi recently announced that it will shutter its operations. In the words of The Wrap, “After just seven months and $2 billion, Quibi has become the first major casualty of the streaming wars.” The innovative streaming service from Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman did in fact face some stiff competition. Quibi’s launch in April put it up against other recent contenders for the streaming space from names like Disney, Apple, and WarnerMedia’s HBO Max. Now, the company’s customer service page tells us that the service is expected to stop streaming “on or about December 1, 2020.” In the meantime, we’re taking a look back at some of the top performances that the platform boasted during its short run.
Laurence Fishburne in #FreeRayshawn
Fishburne won Outstanding Actor in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series Emmy for his work as Lieutenant Steven Poincy in Antoine Fuqua’s police drama series. The show centers on the titular character, a Black veteran of the Iraq War who becomes entangled in a showdown with a New Orleans SWAT team for a crime he didn’t commit. With his wife and young son, Rayshawn barricades himself in the safety of their home and has to put his faith in a police lieutenant (Fishburne) to find the evidence that can clear his name. Fishburne’s Emmy win speaks for itself in terms of the actor’s performance, and it marks the third time he’s received the award.
Jasmine Cephas Jones in #FreeRayshawn
Thanks to Disney+ streaming the filmed version of the original Broadway production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, you may know Jones best for her work originating the roles of both Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds in the groundbreaking musical. But her portrayal of Rayshawn’s wife Tyisha in #FreeRayshawn brought the actor the milestone career markers of receiving both her first Emmy nomination and her first win. Jones won Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series alongside her father Ron Cephas Jones, who took home a trophy for his work on This is Us, making them the first father-daughter duo to win an Emmy in the same year.
Christoph Waltz in Most Dangerous Game
Waltz was nominated within the same category as Fishburne for this year’s Emmy Awards, and while he didn’t win, the screen legend’s performance in the most recent adaptation of Richard Connell’s short story was still noteworthy. Known for his proficiency with playing eccentric villains, Waltz’s role in Most Dangerous Game was a good fit for the actor. In it, he plays Miles Sellers, a mysterious businessman who offers the terminally-ill protagonist Dodge (Liam Hemsworth) the chance to solve his family’s financial problems by competing in a deadly game. Waltz’s cold intensity as Miles helps ground the thriller series’ high stakes, and it’s a performance worth watching regardless of the size of the screen on which it’s viewed.
Kaitlin Olson in Flipped
You may best know Olson for her role as Dee in the long-running It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but it was her work in Quibi’s dark comedy series Flipped that garnered the actor her first Emmy nom. And while she didn’t win in her category, Olson’s performance in the Ryan Case-directed series is definitely one worth mentioning. Flipped follows Jann (Will Forte) and Cricket Melfi (Olson), an unemployed couple who decide they’ll compete to be TV’s newest house-flipping duo. While working on their application, the two get more than they bargained for and become entwined with the leaders of a drug cartel. Like other roles for which Olson is known, Cricket possesses a certain level of self-involvement, and the actor’s ability to keep the larger-than-life character believable makes her performance that much more impressive.
Even though the innovative streaming platform didn’t last long, it did provide the opportunity for many actors to shine, albeit from a very small screen. On top of those listed here, other actors that earned Emmy nominations for their work on Quibi shows include names like Anna Kendrick (Dummy), Kerri Kenney-Silver (Reno 911!), and Corey Hawkins (Survive). And at the end of the day, the short-living streaming service created the space for important stories to be told. Jasmine Cephas Jones may have said it best in an interview with Deadline regarding #FreeRayshawn.“You always want to be a part of something that reflects the times and use your artistry to help make the world a better place, and this is one of those pieces,” the actor concluded.
The trailer for the upcoming Kaley Cuoco-led HBO Max series The Flight Attendant recently dropped, and it’s already created a lot of buzz around the former star of The Big Bang Theory. It’s the first major live-action role for Cuoco since her run as Penny on Chuck Lorre’s popular CBS comedy series ended last year with its final episode. And after optioning the rights to the source material for The Flight Attendant, Chris Bohjalian’s novel of the same name, Cuoco’s credits on the upcoming HBO Max series also includes her role as one of the executive producers on the project.
The eight-episode limited series focuses on Cassie (Cuoco), a flight attendant who wakes up after a one-night stand with a passenger named Alex (Michiel Huisman) to find him dead in his hotel bed. Working off of a hazy recollection of their boozy night before, Cassie becomes a part of the FBI investigation into his death as she tries to figure out what happened, herself. HBO Max labels the series a “dark comedic thriller,” which can be a tricky genre to navigate. But if the trailer is any indication, The Flight Attendant hits all the right notes.
The teaser starts with Cassie stating, “I met Alex on the plane.” Her voiceover continues with recalling their dinner in Bangkok and going back to his hotel, all while we see scenes from their whirlwind romance and night of passion. “When I woke up in the morning, he was so alive,” Cassie ends her story, and we’re caught up in the trailer’s action to understand she’s been recounting the events to two FBI agents. The only problem is that the last flashback scene shown displayed Cassie discovering Alex’s dead body in the hotel room after awakening that fateful morning. Cut to Alex’s ghost whispering in her ear, “You think they know you’re lying?” Based on the trailer alone, the upcoming thriller series has a lot of twists and turns along the way as we try to decipher for ourselves what really happened to Alex, the poor passenger in seat 3C. And we’re in good company as the show’s titular protagonist does the same, trying her best to piece together that night’s hazy memories and clear her name. “I’m a crazy, drunk flight attendant, not a killer,” Cassie asserts at one point.
Considering the glowing reviews for its source material, The Flight Attendant series will likely keep viewers guessing until the very end. The Washington Post described Bohjalian’s novel as “a very rare thriller whose penultimate chapter made me think to myself, ‘I didn’t see that coming.’” And even though production on the upcoming on-screen adaptation was put on pause by the pandemic, it was able to resume this fall in time for a November 26 premiere date on HBO Max. At that time, fans can take in Cuoco as Cassie and Huisman as Alex, as well as performances from names like Zosia Mamet and Rosie Perez.
What about all those delicious “bad guy” roles that aren’t necessarily the Big Bad? We’re talking minions, henchmen, evil underlings of all shapes and sizes. It’s easy to disappear in the shadow of the primary villain character, but often these types of supporting roles offer opportunities for in-depth characterization and can be memorable in their own right. Here’s how to make your supporting baddie stand out without stealing the biggest baddie’s thunder.
Distill Your Objective. If your only wish is to serve your evil master, you will disappear. While in the case of a walk-on minion, it may be required of you to do your job and get out, you still want to be specific in your mind about your motivation. Your minion has needs and desires independent of the lead villain. Why are you serving them? Are you climbing the ladder? Sheltering in their superior power? Attracted to their cruelty? To be an effective minion, you must know not only what support you are providing the villain, but what you yourself are getting out of it.
Go Back to the Tone of the Show. Knowing the tone of the script is going to help define your role immensely. Depending on the intended audience, you may be there to provide endearing comic relief, or to sneakily be the most despicable character (thus giving the lead villain room for redemptive traits). Figuring out what purpose you serve in the world of the play will show you what room you have to play.
Keep it Grounded. Minions often have colorful quirks or fantastic abilities that operate in a heightened reality. Committing fully to these will help the character and the world come to life. But if you want your henchperson to have depth, they must come from a place of honest motivation. Remember what you’re fighting for in each scene.
Put Your Stamp on It. While obviously you want to remain in the bounds of professionalism, there are times when your creative input is not only welcome, but necessary. Arleen Sorkin famously raised the character of Harley Quinn from bland henchwoman to the unforgettable character we know today, coming to the table with specific choices and genuine heart. These are not characters to phone in. They are opportunities to stretch as an artist and creator.
Find the Joy. Once you’ve done the homework of creating a fully lived-in character, it’s time to play. Supporting villain roles often come with great freedom. There can be joy found in fully committing to a black-and-white worldview. Look for the little gifts the script gives you, and then bring your own.
There is no reason for supporting evil to be boring or written off. Look at the most famous minions today — those little yellow one-eyed henchbeings stole the show and went on to have their own. The best thing you can do is to come at a B-team villain with an open heart, a curious mind, and the commitment to put in the work. The rest will follow.
Let’s face it: 2020 has been a rough year. But with a whole slew of classic Disney tales getting the live-action treatment, there are at least some bright things on the horizon. The pandemic may have affected productions and shifted release dates, but the fact remains that a number of beloved animated films from your childhood are being brought to life with some serious star power. Keep reading for a roundup of some of the top titles you can anticipate, as well as the A-listers attached to them.
The origin story of Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmatians tops our list because it already has an announced release date. Originally slated to drop this December, Disney has announced it will push to May of next year, at which time you can take in an all-star cast. Emma Stone will lead the film as its titular character, a young and punk-ish iteration of the villain in this adaptation’s 1980s setting. Fans of the original film can look forward to finding out the backstory behind Cruella, a character known for her obsession with fur coats made from puppies. Stone has some big shoes to fill with playing the larger-than-life villain, who was previously portrayed by Glenn Close in Disney’s 1996 live-action version of the animated film. For this origin story feature, you can also keep an eye out for names like Emma Thompson and Mark Strong, while enjoying the work of director Craig Gillespie.
The Little Mermaid
The upcoming film makes our list for a number of reasons, with an important one being its win for representation. When Disney announced the casting of Halle Bailey as Ariel, a character portrayed as white in the animated version, backlash swiftly followed and #NotMyAriel began trending on Twitter. A number of big names jumped to support the inclusive casting choice, including the actor who voiced Ariel in the 1989 animated film. Disney-owned network Freeform may have said it best, though, in its open letter on the topic. “[If] you still cannot get past the idea that choosing the incredible, sensational, highly-talented, gorgeous Halle Bailey is anything other than the INSPIRED casting that it is because she ‘doesn’t look like the cartoon one,’ oh boy, do I have some news for you … about you,” the letter concluded. Bailey is joined by a number of big names that are taking on the classic characters. Melissa McCarthy is slated to play Ursula, and Javier Bardem will be King Triton. Also listen for Daveed Diggs lending his voice to Sebastian and Awkwafina doing the same for Scuttle. The score is one to anticipate, as well, with both original and new tunes from composer Alan Menken paired with lyrics from Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Peter Pan and Wendy
It was recently announced that Yara Shahidi is confirmed to play Tinker Bell in the upcoming live-action adaptation. As Deadline put it, “Disney continues to make strides in diversifying its classic characters.” We’re looking forward to seeing the Grown-ish star’s take on the character, previously portrayed by Julia Roberts in Steven Spielberg’s Hook. Director David Lowery is at the helm of this adaptation about the boy who wouldn’t grow up and the adventures he leads in Neverland. Other confirmed cast members include Jude Law as Captain Hook, as well as Alexander Molony and Ever Anderson as the respective titular characters.
Robert Zemeckis is claiming both writing and directing credits on the upcoming adaptation, and it’s rumored that his previous Forrest Gump star, Tom Hanks, has been tapped to play Geppetto. The character is of course the woodcarver who crafts Pinocchio, a puppet that comes to life. The classic tale follows his quest to become a real boy, with the help of Jiminy Cricket. And Disney’s upcoming live-action adaptation is not to be confused with the darker, stop-motion version from auteur Guillermo del Toro.
From watching Emma Stone follow in Glenn Close’s footsteps as a fur coat-loving villain to Yara Shahidi taking on the Tinker Bell role Julia Roberts previously played, there are some noteworthy role reprisals to be found in Disney’s upcoming live-action remakes. The titles also offer inclusive castings and potential dream team reunions in the form of Zemeckis and Hanks. So even if you’re trying Geppetto’s trick and looking for a star to wish away the year 2020, there are still exciting things ahead. In this roundup, we gave you our four top picks of Disney’s upcoming live-action adaptations, and for those interested in exploring more upcoming titles, you can check out Vogue’s extended list here.
Welcome to ACTING UP, the place where we celebrate standout performances in TV, streaming, and film. Other than spotlighting exceptional work from recent projects, this feature also shines a light on how certain actors got where they are today. Have a peek and then check out these notable performances to help hone your craft.
The Snapshot: T. Murph plays the unfiltered best friend of a Black cartoonist in a crisis after an altercation with the cops in the dramedy series Woke. (Streaming on Hulu as of September 9th, 2020)
The Performer: T. Murph
It’s hard to imagine a world where the concepts of police brutality and comedy occupy the same show. But that’s Woke, the smart new series that creatively tackles a myriad of socially relevant themes based on the life of show co-creator and real-world cartoonist Keith Knight.
The show centers around the character “Keef” Knight (played by the über-talented Lamorne Morris from New Girl on Fox), a cartoonist on the verge of breaking through. Keef is enjoying a privileged existence that includes a successful comic book, a pending deal for syndication, and a full and welcomed embrace from white corporate America. That is, until life takes an unforeseen turn after Keef is very publicly manhandled by a few SFPD cops in a case of mistaken identity.
How the incident affects Keef’s life in numerous serio-comedic ways is what drives the show, and luckily, we have Keef’s best friend/roommate Clovis (T. Murph) to help him deal with his newfound wokeness. Conversations between Keef, Clovis and their stony white roommate Gunther (Blake Anderson) are at the heart of what stirs Woke’s provocative commentary on systemic racism — not to mention the two cents of journalist Ayana (SNL alum Sasheer Zamata), who helps them all ponder how Keef’s action (or inaction) will affect his future.
But it is T. Murph’s Clovis, a more jaded soul, who lays out how Keef’s wokeness could upset the apple cart of fame ahead of him. Clovis’ enlightened perspective comes to light in the first episode — prior to Keef’s encounter with police — when they find a white woman’s lost wallet on the sidewalk. Keef’s initial impulse is to turn it into authorities — Clovis’ isn’t.
Keef: We’ve got to turn it in.
Clovis: Oh, so you want to spend the rest of the night explaining why there’s no money in there? What if she’s missing? What if she’s dead and raped in Golden Gate Park?
Keef: Oh my god, why do you always assume the worst?
Clovis: Because when you assume the worst, you can’t be surprised when it actually happens.
Then, after Keef’s life-altering encounter with the cops, when what’s happened to Keef starts to sink in, Clovis recognizes the effect this woke wake-up call has had on his best friend.
Clovis: Houston, we have a problem. This n**** woke. You worked hard not to be that brother, didn’t you? And you felt special. Then the police showed up, and what? They showed you how they feel about specialness?
T. Murph kills it as the friend who tells it like it is, never mincing words in order to deliver the truth. Unfortunately, Clovis’ lack of filter keeps him striking out with the ladies rather comically, and in impressive ways. It’s in these cringeworthy moments where T. Murph’s standup chops lend themselves well to a memorable supporting role that’s central to the smart, thought-provoking series.
There’s a rich history of comedic actors who’ve come up in the Chicago scene over the years, and the 29-year-old T. Murph is looking to call next on a long list that stars people like Bill Murray, the Belushis, Jane Lynch, Garry Shandling, Robin Williams, and even his Woke co-star Morris.
But being born near the Windy City does not offer immediate birthright to success, and to that end, T. Murph’s been working his way through the ranks for the past decade. Amongst others, his TV credits include appearances on Comedy Central’s Key & Peele (2012), truTV’s standup/storytelling showcase (which evokes Drunk History), Laff Mobb’s Laff Tracks (2019) and NBC’s Chicago Fire (2016), which shoots in Chicago. T. Murph also played the role of “T-Ball” in the Epix crime-dramedy series Get Shorty (2018), co-starring Ray Romano and Chris O’Dowd.
As for his standup performances, T. Murphbrings an impressive energy and enthusiasm to the stage, having performed in all sorts of places — from NBC’s Diversity Finals Showcase to appearing in HBO’s American Black Film Festival to the Second City Breakout Festival.
Incidentally, T. Murph’s day job used to be in a barber shop, which he called “a haven for comedy” prior to performing on Kevin Hart Presents: The Next Level on Comedy Central — possibly one reason why he ended up getting cast as “Lead Barber” in a Key & Peele sketch that took place inside a barbershop with the great Billy Dee Williams.
With people just becoming woke to Woke, we’ll soon see if T. Murph gets to cut it up as Clovis in a season two. Let’s hope so, as it seems the chronicles of Keef Knight are only just beginning.
Gregg Rosenzweig has been a writer, creative director and managing editor for various entertainment clients, ad agencies and digital media companies over the past 20 years. He is also a partner in the talent management/production company, The Rosenzweig Group.
The Game of Thrones vet will star opposite Theo James (Sanditon) in a series adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger’s beloved novel, which was previously made into a 2009 film starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana.
While there are a few strong packages on offer at Berlin 2021, expect much of the business to be for the handful of buzzy titles screening across the festival's official program, with work from art house darlings (Céline Sciamma, Hong Sang-soo, Claire Denis) among the hottest titles.
Thames, the Fremantle-owned producer behind Too Hot To Handle and is one of a number of UK production outfits inserting controversial coronavirus clauses into crew contracts that could leave freelancers out of pocket and out of work for up to three weeks if a shoot is suspended.