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Entries in Actor (166)

Thursday
Apr202017

Call Answered: Rising actor Will Van Moss

Will Van MossFor most of my interviews, I Call and the artist answers. Every now and then the roles get reversed and an artist calls me and I Answer. That was the case with Will Van Moss. He was looking to get some exposure for his acting and one of his teachers Bobby Cronin recommended he write me to see if we could do an interview. Well, whenever Bobby Cronin calls, I ANSWER because Bobby is the best (I mean after all he wrote my incredible "Call Me Adam" theme song!) I am so thrilled to get to speak with Will about his acting career so early on!

For more on Will be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? No one personally inspired me to become a performer. I kind of just fell into it and had a natural tendency towards being one. Neither of my parents are artsy people nor was anyone in my family busy making art when I was young. I just remember putting on these little shows with my sisters, from time to time when we were kids. I also loved singing a lot when I was a child and my parents pushed for a musical education, so it became logical to join a choir at the age of seven or eight. Two years into being part of this regional choir, my mom encouraged me to audition for the children’s choir of the National Flemish Opera. I got accepted, singing "This Little Light of Mine" funnily enough. Through the opera I then developed a passion for the theatrical. I just loved acting out scenes and singing on that humongous stage (it seemed so big at the time at least). I always enjoyed watching movies too, which I can now see has pushed me to do more on-camera work more recently.

I have several idols that I look up to though. Actors such as Meryl Streep, Neil Patrick Harris, Dame Judi Dench, Robert De Niro, Michael Keaton, Anne Hathaway, Kevin Spacey, Wes Bently and more recently such incredibly strong performers as Viola Davis, Tom Hiddleston, Sarah Paulson and Jake Gyllenhaal (just to name a few) have inspired me to become more open in my acting and dig deep into the character to give a performance that captivates the audience and pulls them into the story. Singing-wise such phenomenal performers like Jeremy Jordan, Norm Lewis, Tony Yazbeck and Andy Karl are the ones I inspire to be on the same level with at some point.

Will Van Moss, Photo Credit: Seth Hale Photography2. You have performed across a variety of genres: film, television, and theatre. What do you like about each medium? What challenges do they possess for you? Each genre has its own challenges and advantages. Most of all I just like acting alongside other people and telling a story that isn’t truly mine, but I get to live nonetheless to the fullest of my capabilities and make my own.

What I like about on-camera work is how spontaneous some of the scenes can be. You have a small rehearsal ahead of the shooting, but then most of it is about being in the moment with your scene partner. Some people say that the challenge for TV and film is waiting in a separate room or trailer before shooting a scene. Though I can agree with that statement some times, mostly I am not too bothered with it. I haven’t had to shoot a scene more than 50 times though, which I heard from other actors and directors around me can be a pain in the butt. So, maybe that will be something of a challenge, if it happens to me as I progress in my career.

As for theatre, I love almost everything about it. The interaction with the audience who are like another (silent) scene partner, the thrill of doing a live performance and the raw feelings you share with your scene partners are all so enticing. If anything goes wrong with a stage performance you have to be quick on your feet to try and fix it and bring it back to where it’s supposed to be going. That can be a challenge, but it’s an exiting one nonetheless.

Will Van Moss3. You were born in Belgium, but when you were a teenager your family moved to Italy where you fell in love with Shakespeare and Musical Theatre, specially Little Shop of Horrors and Hairspray. What was it about Shakespeare that made you go, "Yes, this is what I love?" What did you relate to most about Little Shop of Horrors and Hairspray? The first time I was in contact with Shakespeare I was a little boy singing in the National Flemish Opera performing the first-ever operatic production of Richard III. I didn’t think too much of it. At that point in my young career I just did what I was asked to do and sang my lines with much gusto. Then at the age of 14 I had moved to Italy where I had to read Macbeth for my English Lit class. Shakespeare just took me in straight away; the man has a knack for captivating me and dragging me into another world through his luxurious words and enchanting poetry. I quickly read a bunch of his other plays (Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest) and I was hooked. Soon after this I started performing in Shakespeare pieces with a theatre company and became completely spellbound; getting to put actions and movement to the scenes made all his pieces spring to life from the paper and ink. From then on I knew I was going to love performing Shakespeare forever.

For musical theatre it was indeed Hairspray that hooked me, as well as watching Little Shop of Horrors and The Phantom of the Opera. Hairspray had such a strong message of unity in diversity and it tells a story of the civil rights movement that we must never forget. Seeing the cast dance, sing and act out scenes while making such an important and powerful message come across blew me away. I wanted to do what they were capable of doing.

For Little Shop of Horrors it was mostly just the entertaining aspect and the style that drew me in, but also the message that comes with it; "If you keep feeding something that isn’t good for you or the people around you, things will go drastically wrong." I knew I wanted to perform in musicals thanks to these movies, but sadly at the age I discovered them my voice was changing so much that I sounded like a drowning sea lion when I tried to sing. You can imagine how traumatic that is for a teenager who had sung in Tosca less than a year earlier. Ultimately my voice only settled when I had just finished high school and that’s when musical theatre came storming into my life.

Will Van Moss4. Then at 18 you moved to London to pursue a degree in science and continue acting. Then you moved to NYC for film and musical theatre acting. First question is how do you feel all this moving around has shaped you and made you a better actor? Secondly, did you finish your science degree? If so, what do you love about science? If not, why did acting win out? Moving to different countries has made me a more open human being and actor I like to believe. You enter a new environment and a new type of society where dynamics are different every time you move somewhere new. This has made it easier to be open and accept new things, but it also has made me more adaptable. I developed one thing I hate though from hanging with different people and moving around; prejudice people. I have lived with different types of people from different nationalities, and through it all they taught me that the most important thing to live together is to be kind and considerate and that you should always be the understanding, curious and kind version of yourself who doesn’t care too much what people, other than the ones that are rooting for you, think. It isn’t that hard to be all this when you open yourself up to new experiences and environments.

As for my science degree, I did finish it; in three years nonetheless. My parents made me get a "real" degree, before they would allow me to go into acting. Luckily for me, I was studying in London and there was plenty of theatre to take part in while working on my degree. I eventually finished my BSC in Infection and Immunology in 2014.

I still love science though. I regularly read up on new discoveries in all scientific fields. I am a curious guy and I know science is the only thing that gives us the ultimate truth; one that is verifiable and repeatable. It is so important to have science in our lives. Especially these days when people just slur out their opinion and think we should all accept it, without providing real evidence. There’s one thing about science that I don’t like and that was doing it myself. I didn’t have the patience and desire to sit in a lab all day. I like to be more dynamic and like to express myself too much to work silently in a lab refreshing the medium of some cell cultures (that was most of the time I spent working on my final year project…). But throughout all this, I learned to always back up my claims with evidence!

Eventually acting just won out, because it was the constant in my life that I enjoyed the most. It is all about storytelling and educating people about someone else’s life (giving them a different point of view), which is what I like doing most and feel most comfortable doing.

Will Van Moss in the recording studio5. While in NYC, you have studied with some of people I admire very much (and have all been participants on "Call Me Adam"), Bobby Cronin, Deidre Goodwin, Mark Price, and Erik Liberman (Erik has not been featured YET on "Call Me Adam," but we did perform together in Billy Mitchell's "Villain: DeBlanks" in 2016). What is one thing you learned from each of them that you will carry with you? I very much admire all four of these people. What is great about them is that they are all very passionate about their art, work hard for it and still are so very kind and human. Also once you get a chance to watch them perform, it is a magical experience!

For example, seeing Bobby Cronin behind his piano in a concert performing one of his songs is breathtaking! I will always retain a few important things from him. I actually have some of his quotes stored on my phone: "You are your own cheerleader," "Always keep learning and give it your best," "Keep pushing yourself and challenging yourself" and one of my favorites "Focus on the positive, even in a negative situation."

For Deidre Goodwin, I just love watching her do anything. She’s beauty, she’s grace and she is such a fierce woman. It’s empowering watching her do anything from acting in a movie, to seeing her dance in A Chorus Line and even directing one of the short films I was in. She’s focused and kind but can goof around and still always get things done when the time calls for it. I’ll always retain from her to keep fighting for what I want and keep practicing my art, no matter what.

Mark Price is in my top three of acting coaches I’ve worked with. He encourages me to stay curious, stay in the moment and dig deep into a character to truly embody whoever I need to play with help of my own experiences. He is also one of the coolest, most relaxed and kindest people I know.

Finally, Erik Liberman is a teacher who was capable of making me cry throughout more than half of a three-hour long class. He enabled me to push out something that was holding me back from letting go and just feel to the fullest; to be an artist. I cannot thank him enough for that. It was a semi-traumatic experience, but it has changed me for life in a good way. He is also one of the kindest humans I know, is so involved in the arts community and incredibly passionate about whatever he does. Getting to watch him shine on Broadway in War Paint was an experience I will never forget. He just knows how to portray a character in depth, while still putting in some bits and pieces of himself, the way that only great actors can do.

As you can see, all these people have in common that they are kind and are passionate about their art. I inspire so much to be like them!

6. Let's talk about one of your films, The Ghosts of Ethan Dean. First off, what made you want to be part of this short film? I got to work with the director, Chad Larabee, before when we worked on Chess at the John Cullum Theatre. He is a hard working, talented and lovable man who deeply cares about his projects and is intensely involved in them. Having that previous work experience with him and knowing how he is as a director and human being, really made me want to work with him again. When I was presented with the story, I immediately became intrigued. It’s all about mental health after a traumatic experience and feeling stuck because of it. This was a story I deeply wanted to tell alongside all the other incredible actors in our cast.

7. The Ghosts of Ethan Dean is about a young artist who battles the ghosts of his past. While you don't play the artist in the movie, what is a ghost from your past that you still battle? I didn’t get to play the young artist, indeed, but got to be another lead in the film instead; his boyfriend, "Kyle."

I don’t get "haunted" by ghosts from my past, like "Ethan" does in the film, but I would be ignorant to say that the past has no effect on me. Things that have happened before constantly affect us. Just look at what is happening in the Middle East right now for example. I don’t think I really "battle" with things from my past though. Instead I prefer to let them have an effect on me and deal with possible problems in the moment. I have done things I regret in the past and deal with the consequences when they present themselves, rather than pretending things never happened. One thing I do regret though is not pushing to have done more musical theatre when I was going through my awkward teenage years, but then again, I might have become a completely different person if I had.

Will Van Moss8. On your Instagram, your tag line is "Will Van Moss NYC trilingual Actor, Singer, Model from Europe Spreading kindness, art, beauty and knowledge!" How are you spreading kindness and knowledge? Are people catching what you are spreading? To me kindness and knowledge are the most important things for people to live together in a well-functioning society. These two things are also crucial for any kind of artist. You have got to stay informed and stay kind, no matter what you do! There is no excuse for ignorance in the age of the internet!

I always hope, while being entertained, that my audience becomes a little kinder and a little more understanding of other people’s lives or their own by the end of a show or film I was performed in. I hope that the stories I tell through my art make them a better, more curious and compassionate person.

9. What is something in your career you hope to accomplish? (then I will hold you to looking back at this interview after you achieve it to remind you that you put it out there so early on). I will say something I said in another interview I have recently done and that is that winning or even just being nominated for a Tony Award or Drama Desk Award for acting in a play on Broadway will be the point for me where I know I have reached all of my dreams. Of course I won’t say no to getting an Academy Award or Emmy (or being nominated for it). Those will also very much do, but there is something about getting an approval that you are doing a great job in live theatre that is the cherry on top of every actor’s pie, I believe. Most of all though I think what I truly want to accomplish most is being successful (making a living and a good name for myself) in doing what I love, acting alongside great actors and working with phenomenal, passionate creative teams and crews.

10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? I actually have a list of priorities on my wall that I try to commit to every day. One of them like you is getting fitter and bulk up, which is slowly but surely improving, though I would like to push a little harder on that. Every day as well I try to improve my acting by reading a play, doing a monologue (or learning a new one I found) or by watching some outstanding acting on a series or movie as well as trying to improve my singing. All in all there is something I try to commit to every single day to improve my life and to get me where I want to be.

Every day, one percent better than the day before.

Will Van Moss, Photo Credit: Lucid VOFMore on Will:

Will Van Moss is an upcoming Belgian actor living in New York. He aspires to be able to make a living doing what he loves to do most; acting. Will has performed in a large variety of shows in Europe and the States and hopes to be able to keep working in this incredible country.

Will started performing at a young age in the children’s choir of the Flemish Opera doing such grand productions as Carmen, Rinaldo, and the first ever production of Richard III. In the middle of his teenage years he moved to Italy with his family where he finally discovered theatre and musicals. Will soon became hooked on Shakespeare and musicals such as Little Shop of Horrors and Hairspray. He performed in The Benvenuto Theater Company in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Aladdin the Pantomime and A Dog’s Life.

At the age of 18, Will moved to London to pursue a degree in science while also broadening further his horizons in the acting world. He played in Guys and Dolls, Romeo & Juliet, A Chorus Line, Footloose and two spectacular dance shows in college. He also performed critical roles in semi-professional shows such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Avenue House and Kiss of the Spider Woman at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2013, which was highly rated by all critics who saw the show!

Will then moved to New York to study musical theatre and acting on camera. Here he performed in such shows as Chess and Carousel, the later in which he was one of the leading characters; "Jigger." Will also developed an enormous passion for acting on camera and ever since he has been the lead in two independent films already over his two years living in New York. Both films, The Ghosts of Ethan Dean and DECEPTUS will soon hit some film festivals in the United States. 

Will recently performed in two theater pieces as well; Kiss it, Make it Better a piece created by upcoming writer/director Erika Phoebus and Revel’s End: A Tempest Dance Party, in which he played the lead, "Ferdinand." Will is currently working on an incredibly thrilling short web series, Psychadelic, as one of the lead characters and hopes to continue to progress in this business here in the United States where he can pursue his passion to the fullest.

Thursday
Apr202017

Call Answered: Matthew Montelongo: "Daniel's Husband" at Primary Stages

Matthew Montelongo, Photo Credit: Manolo DoresteAfter seeing Michael McKeever's new play Daniel's Husband I couldn't wait to find out more about it. I was thrilled when I called, and Matthew Montelongo answered. I was so taken by his performance, it's great to delve into Matthew & his portrayal of "Mitchell."

In Daniel's Husband, "Daniel" and "Mitchell" enjoying life as the perfect couple. Perfect house, perfect friends, even a mother who wants them to wed. What isn't perfect is that "Daniel" longs to be married and "Mitchell" does not. A turn of events forces both men to face the consequences of their opposing views, and they learn that they are living in a world where fundamental rights aren't always so fundamental. Daniel's Husband takes an unflinching look at how we choose to tie the knot. Or not.

Daniel's Husband plays at Cherry Lane Theatre (38 Commerce Street) through April 28 only! Click here for tickets!

For more on Matthew follow him on Twitter and Instagram!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I wish I had an inspiring story to share. You know those stories. A story of discovering my deep desire to act after witnessing a life-altering, transformational performance by some lauded performer of yester-year. Rather, and this is utterly boring (the truth usually is), I auditioned for a play in college and a kind director showed interest, telling me that I had potential. In that moment, for better AND for worse, I became enamored of that rare, thrilling moment when you are told that you’ve done something well. I’m a sucker for a Gold Star. Always have been. As I’m sure you and your readers are well aware, getting approval is a ridiculous reason to do anything. I am nothing, if not ridiculous.

2. After starring in the regional production of Daniel's Husband, you are now performing with it again at Cherry Lane Theatre in NYC. What initially made you want to be part of the show and what made you want to continue on with it? (I mean, after seeing the show, I can tell why would want to continue with it). I loved Daniel’s Husband when I first read it last August. It moved me deeply. And it’s been my experience that when that happens whilst reading something that I may or may not even get cast in, I know it’s something really special. Beyond the emotional connection, the play checks all of my boxes: new play (check), great theatre (check), great director (check). Lastly, I thought the arguments for and against marriage equality made in the play were both provocative and grounded in reality.

As for moving the play to The Cherry Lane, I think this simple rule applies: If given a chance to work with Joe Brancato, Ryan Spahn, Lou Liberatore, Leland Wheeler, and Anna Holbrook: YOU SAY YES.

Matthew Montelongo in "Daniel's Husband", Photo Credit: James Leynse3. What do you relate to most about "Mitchell"? What is one characteristic of his, you are glad you don't have? Like "Mitchell," I don’t shy away from sharing my opinions. This is often one of the ways in which people describe themselves (perhaps especially in interviews) that’s more of a humble-brag than an honest criticism. I don’t mean it like that. "Mitchell," and on occasion, I, can get obnoxious when it comes to proving a point. My mother, when I was younger (okay, like yesterday) used to yell "Life is not a debate!" whenever we argued. It can get tiresome, especially when the stakes for every argument are life-and-death. I’ve learned in the many years (cough cough) since being on my high school’s debate team, that some points don’t need to be proven. Like whether gluten allergies are real; or whether it’s better to stand at the front of the C-Train; or if Cargo Shorts are cool. (My answers, by the way, are: I don’t care. Yes. And YES).

4. What do you think is "Mitchell's" greatest strength and weakness? "Mitchell" is brought low in Daniel’s Husband by his fervent opposition to gay marriage, but is buoyed (perhaps even saved) by his equally unyielding love for "Daniel." I admire the strength of his convictions, even if he is almost destroyed by the consequences of having them.

Ryan Spahn and Matthew Montelongo in "Daniel's Husband", Photo Credit: James Leynse5. In Daniel's Husband, "Mitchell" is not pro marriage because he doesn't want to conform to societal standards. When have you been pushed by friends and loved ones to do something that so many others do, but you say, "No, I'm not going to do this and be like everyone else"? I can’t think of a time when I’ve been pushed by my friends and loved ones to do something that I didn’t want to do. I’m not counting, of course, the fact that I refuse, much to the chagrin of my friends and loved ones, to stop wearing Cargo Shorts (see answer to question #3). For the most part, my friends and loved ones are FAR smarter than I am. If they think it’s a good idea, it probably is.

6. Without giving too much of the play away, there is a turn of events that makes "Mitchell" regret his decision not to get married. What is something in your life that you regret not doing or wishing you made a different decision than you did? I regret eating as much as I did for breakfast. Aside from that, I tend to not let myself dwell on past choices. If I make a wrong choice, I try to learn from it. If I’m able to do that, then perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t that wrong of a choice. All that being said, I DEEPLY regret what I had for breakfast.

Matthew Montelongo and Leland Wheeler in "Daniel's Husband", Photo Credit: James Leynse7. "Mitchell" is also a fighter in that he really goes after what he wants, both personally and professionally. What is something you haven't done yet or still want to achieve in your personal & professional life? Professionally, I just want to work. More plays, more TV, projects that I like and that also allow me to pay my rent (I know, I’m a dreamer). For what it’s worth, I’ve always wanted to play a corpse on an episodic television show. Can one of your readers make that happen?

Personally, I want to eat well, work out more, be a better friend, son, and partner. But I’ll settle for eating fewer bagels (my weakness) and spending more quality time with my boyfriend (he comes in a very close second to bagels).

8. What are some stories you've heard at the stage door afterwards? I haven’t been privy to many stage door stories. In general, I duck my head and run. But this show moves people, and I VERY MUCH appreciate their willingness to share that with me after the show. I’ve gotten hugs from strangers on my walk home from the theatre, which is lovely. I’ve also been asked, more than once, if I’m related to Ben Affleck, which I take as a compliment (so long as it’s Argo Affleck and not Daredevil Affleck).

9.  I'm just going to put my cards on the table and say, when the play first started, I thought, "Oh great, this is going to be another stereotypical play about a group of gay friends at a dinner party and their lives afterwards." Well, I couldn't have been more wrong. This show has so much depth and deals with some really important issues such as gay marriage, gay rights, what makes a family, & crossing boundaries. It made me think a lot about my life. From starring in this show, how do you feel it has changed the way you look at your life and what you want from it? I have spent a great deal of time in my non-actor life working for marriage equality (I help pay the bills by freelance writing, frequently for LGBTQ nonprofits). Before living in "Mitchell’s" skin eight times a week, I wouldn’t have been able to be in the same room with him – or anyone who so vehemently opposes marriage in general and gay marriage specifically. Now, however, though I still disagree with his opinions, I respect his reasons. And even more so, I respect that his opposition to marriage doesn’t in ANY way compromise his love for "Daniel." Seeing that in "Mitchell," and "living" it every night, has changed the way I interact with others in my non-actor life who don’t share my support of marriage equality or belief in the protections of marriage in general.

Matthew Montelongo, Photo Credit: Manolo DoresteMore on Matthew:

Broadway: A View from the Bridge and The Ritz. Off-Broadway: One Night (Cherry Lane), This Backstage Life (Atlantic), His Daddy (EST), Whore (SPF), God’s Ear (Vineyard Theatre/New Georges), Five Flights (Rattlestick), The Mineola Twins and Arms and the Man (Roundabout), and Tartuffe (NYSF/Public Theatre). Television: Forever, Gossip Girl, Law & Order: SVU (x2). Film: Bear City 3.

Thursday
Apr202017

Call Answered: Caesar Samayoa: "Come From Away"

Caesar SamayoaThere are certain dates that will forever be embedded in everyone's mind: One of those dates is September 11, 2001, the day the Twin Towers were struck. 

Now, there is a new Broadway musical, Come From Away, about the 7,000 stranded passengers and the small town in Newfoundland that put their lives on hold and opened their homes to this world of strangers. On 9/11, the world stopped. On 9/12, their stories moved us all.

Caesar Samayoa is one of the actors who gets to share these stories eight times a week. Out of tragedy comes unity. And through this interview, Caesar reinforces how Broadway comes together to uplift during difficult times. It's hard to find the good when there is so much evil out there, but Caesar and the rest of the cast of Come From Away have found a way to share the love that took place in Newfoundland.

Come From Away plays the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre (236 West 45th Street, between Broadway & 8th Avenue). Click here for tickets!

For more on Come From Away and tickets visit http://www.comefromaway.com and follow the show on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

For more on Caesar be sure to visit http://www.caesarsamayoa.com and follow him on Twitter and Instagram!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I really owe it all to one of my teachers way back in grammar school, Mrs. Reynolds. I’m a first generation American and theatre was not really a part of our lives. My parents were extremely hard workers trying to get their family settled in a new country. My teacher approached a neighbor who had a child in an acting program and said she should bring me to it one day. And that was it. That was 5th grade and I was involved in the arts ever since. For some reason though it never occurred to me that I could do it professionally. I was in college majoring in International Relations when I happened to come to NYC and saw Anna Deavere Smith in Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992. Her performance shook me to the core. Multiple characters and each one completely transformational with such simplicity. A story that was so human and so relevant. I still get goosebumps thinking about it. The lights came up and I absolutely knew that I had to do THAT with my life. I transferred into a conservatory acting program and have been performing ever since. So thank you Mrs. Reynolds and Anna Deavere Smith!

2. What made you want to audition for Come From Away? What went through your head when you found out you booked the show? All my agent had told me was I have a script for you about a musical dealing with the week following 9/11. I’m a New Yorker - I was here during 9/11 and know people that were lost that day. I couldn't fathom what this was, and to be honest, was very trepidatious about even reading it. I never say no without reading so I sat down in my living room and from the first page I could NOT put it down. Even in that first version - the story, the characters, the heart - it was overwhelming. It was extremely moving and then there was the whole premise of playing multiple characters. I called my agent and said "I don’t know what I have to do to be a part of this but please get me an audition!"

My auditions and callbacks spanned about three months and when I finally got the call that I booked it I couldn't believe it. It’s exactly the kind of work I love to do. And there was no talk of Broadway, no talk about anything other than a developmental run at La Jolla at that point. I was going to be working with this dream team, telling such an important human story. I felt like I had hit the jackpot - and to be honest, I did!

3. Of the characters you play, what do you identify most with about them? I relate so strongly to "Kevin J." He’s one of the few characters that struggles with his time in Gander. And I get it. Like I said, I’m a New Yorker and had that been me stranded in Gander; YES I would have deeply appreciated what that community had done, but all my thoughts would be with my family back in NYC. I would try to do anything I could to get back home. And I also tend to be the guy that blurts out jokes in tense situations so there's that too.

There’s a gentle kindness about "Ali" that I love. I think of my Dad when I’m playing him. My Dad always chose kindness first, even when he was looked at as an outsider. And we were for a big part of my childhood. It’s hard to imagine it now, but when we moved into our neighborhoods growing up we were always the first Latino family moving in. We were outsiders and experienced everything that came along with that. I identify so strongly with that part of "Ali’s" storyline.

Cast of "Come From Away"4. What do audiences tell you at the stage door after seeing this show? Our stage door interactions have just been incredible. The conversations are different with this show. It’ not so much about how good you or the show are, but about thanking us for just telling this story. It’s so humbling. Two stories stick out:

I remember this one young woman approached me and told me she was Muslim and never realized how much her parents lives changed after 9/11. Her parents always made her feel that being pulled out of security lines was just normal growing up. She promised to bring her parents back to the show and she did. Her father said "Thank you for telling this story. We see ourselves in your show and we so rarely do."

I’ll never forget this one night though. This woman stopped me and said "This is my second time seeing this show and I would like to give this to you." She handed me what looked like a card. She had worked in 1 World Trade Center and survived that day. One of the fortunate people that got out. It was her ID from 1 World Trade Center. She said "I finally have a different story of that day in my head. Thank you."

These are the kinds of interactions that are happening. They are so beautiful.

5. In rehearsing for this show or during the run of the show so far, what has gone through your mind as you play out this real-life story? Every time I take a step back to really look at what’s happening I get overwhelmed. I am so deeply grateful to be chosen to tell this story. I feel a great responsibility to every person that we are playing. To honor them and to do them proud. For me, doing the concert in Gander was the most important part of our two year journey to Broadway. We did a concert version of this show for 5000 people, IN the actual town the show takes place. The real people that we play were there. To experience the pride this community had of having their story told. I’ll never forget it.

"Come From Away"6. Because Come From Away is about events that took place on 9/11, is there something special the cast does together either before or after each performance? What is so beautiful about this cast is that our two year journey with this extraordinary show has made us into a solid family. We couldn't be more different than each other, yet there is a connection between us that I don’t think I’ll experience again. This show is so much about community that we simply take a good amount of time to connect with each other before the show. We’re usually at the theatre early and just spend time with each other. This kind of connection translates onstage. There is a flag from Gander that flew over the Town Hall that is now hanging Stage Left and we all get to see it before the show. A reminder of the real people that we are honoring and the real stories we are sharing. Also, half the cast starts the show on Stage Left and the other Stage Right. Each side has a special tradition that they do to kick off each show. But that’s secret. :)

7. How do you prepare yourself each night to tell this moving story? We are ALL IN with this show. So my days are focused around being ready for the performance. I take my health and fitness very seriously in order to do this. I’m very careful about what I eat and I workout regularly, especially boxing. My part of the dressing room is filled with things that remind me of our journey and of the people that are part of this show. The real life people, the audiences we have met along the way, the experiences we’ve had. I take about five minutes to myself to focus and right before I step onstage I say a little Thank You. It’s different every night but my Dad is always part of it. He would have loved this show and he would have especially loved the characters I play in it. I always thank him right before I step out on stage.

Caesar Samayoa rehearsing for "Come From Away"8. On Come From Away's website's it states "On September 11, 2001 the world stopped. On September 12, their stories moved us all." What is a story, not necessarily about 9/11, that has moved/changed you? Last night I left the stage door and a woman approached me and said "I’m 73 years old and I have never waited by the stage door. I need to thank you and your cast for telling this story. We need to be reminded these days that people are good and all we want to do is help each other out." She gave me a hug that I will not forget and walked away.

9. You say as an actor, you never know when the next gig is coming and it’s always a surprise. What is something that you love about this lifestyle, but at the same time you hate it, but the positive outweighs the negative? The uncertainty. I remember hearing Meryll Streep say on Inside the Actors Studio- “As an actor - I’m always wondering what the next job will be."  And it’s true!! And this was Meryll Streep of all people!! The uncertainty can make you crazy if you let it. But then there's the flip-side. This is one of the few careers where your life can literally change over night. You’re feeling like all those years of hard work and jobs and momentum aren't getting you anywhere, and all of a sudden - Boom!, you are in one of the most amazing experiences of your life. Like Come From Away. Come From Away is absolutely one of the most amazing experiences of my life and it came out of nowhere.

10. I read that you live to inspire life, love, excitement, power and creativity. Well, I too live to inspire. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? Kindness. Living in NYC can be overwhelming. Just walking down the sidewalk. Thousands of people that refuse to look at each other. But have you noticed what happens when you just take a second to smile at someone? And if you take another extra moment to be kind in some way. To acknowledge someone or to help a stranger. You can physically feel the effect kindness has.  It completely changes the energy. And other people notice it too. I try to simply be a kinder person. And it has a beautiful ripple effect. Be 1% kinder in your daily life and watch how your life can change.

Caesar SamayoaMore on Caesar:

Broadway: Sister Act, The Pee Wee Herman Show. Select Off-Broadway: Love's Labour's Lost (Delacorte Theater), Shakespeare's R&J, Bernstein's Mass (Carnegie Hall). Credits include leading roles in Film, TV, Off-Broadway and Regional Theatre Companies including The Public Theatre, Yale Rep, La Jolla Playhouse, Goodspeed Musicals, and Tectonic Theater Project. Caesar has also appeared as a soloist at Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center and various national and international concert tours. BFA, Ithaca College.  

Monday
Apr172017

Call Answered: Tom Malloy: "Fair Haven" and "Midtown"

Tom Malloy, Photo Credit: Birdie ThompsonIt's always exciting when an interview I did with one person leads to an interview with another. It was because of my interview with Fair Haven filmmaker Kerstin Karlhuber, that I found my way to actor/writer/producer Tom Malloy, who produced and co-starred in the film.

It was great getting to learn more about Fair Haven from Tom (a film about a young man who returns to his family farm, after a long stay in ex-gay conversion therapy, and is torn between the expectations of his emotionally distant father, and the memories of a past, loving relationship he has tried to bury) as well as all the intricacies of his career including the other films/TV shows he has produced/starred in, including the Amazon comedy series Midtown (co-created with his friend stand-up comedian Scott Baker) about the banter that happens between cops.

For more on Tom be sure to visit http://tommalloy.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube!

1. After my interview with Kerstin Karlhuber, I am so excited to have the chance to speak with you! So, let's start with Fair Haven, which you produced and co-star in. What attracted you to this story? Why did you want to produce the film & co-star in the film, as opposed to just one or the other? What were some of the challenges of being both producer and actor? From the moment I read it, I thought the quality of the screenplay was top-notch. I was attracted to the project because it was such a sweet story, a story of a father and his son, and, at the end of the day, was all about love.

Kerstin asked me to produce, and she wanted to shoot it in Vermont. I initially turned it down because I didn’t have the bandwidth to get away and didn’t want to be away from my kids for too long. But then I called her back and asked if she’d be able to shoot in Rochester, NY, where I have a lot of family, and the rest is history.

As for producing, almost all of the projects I’m involved in have me as an actor somewhere. I believe, in 14 films, I’ve only not played a role twice. Acting is still my greatest passion. On set, with a film like this, since I was the sole producer, I only took a small role, a day-player type role. I believe I shot for 2-3 days. That’s the only way to do both. In the films (like Love N’ Dancing or The Alphabet Killer), where I was the lead role, I was lucky enough to have other producers involved who were able to cover for me!

2. In addition to Fair Haven, you also star in and co-write/produce the comedy series Midtown on Amazon, which is the brainchild of you and former NYPD Cop/current stand-up comedian Scott Baker...about the banter that happens between cops. First of all, how did you and Scott come to know each other and how soon after did you go, we should create this show? What do you love about working with Scott? Do you have any real life cop stories you can share with us? Scott and I met on the set of the movie Anger Management, with Adam Sandler. We were both playing NY Yankees in that movie, no lines. He and I hit it off right away, and the banter you see on Midtown is the exact banter between us in real life! We just play off each other so well, which is why I love working with him.

My favorite times are when I throw something out comedy-wise, and he picks up on it and throws it back to me. That’s when I know we’re in total comedy synergy on stage or in the show…which is completely improvised.

As for real-life cop stories, Scott wrote the book The Funniest Cop Stories Ever, which were true stories of the NYPD, so he’d be a better one to ask!

3. Who or what inspired you to become an actor, writer, producer? I remember when I first came up with that concept, around 2004. I told my agent at the time that I was going to be an actor/writer/producer, and she told me I was foolish to not focus on one of them. I claim that the same agent today is telling her actors: "You need to be all three." So much has changed with the business, and I have so many actor friends out of work or taking jobs in other industries because they can only do one thing. Being a "triple-hyphenate" has allowed me to not work anywhere outside the business and thrive! Plus, intrinsically, I’m an action-oriented person, so sitting around was never an option. I always just wanted to create my own projects.

4. Another film you starred in is Hero of the Underworld, where you play the overnight manager of an upscale hotel who takes it upon himself to become the savior of a guest who's been nearly beaten to death by her boyfriend. There is a line I love in the trailer that says "Every man gets a chance to be a hero or a coward." When in your life have you been the hero and when have you been a coward? Yes, I love that movie and it was based on true events. But good question about hero/coward. I’ve played the hero many times, I believe…broken up fights, helped people on the street, etc.  As for coward, I can’t think of the last time where I really felt that way. I try to live my life with the "no should’ves" rule. I never want to walk away and think "I should have done that," or "I should have said that." Not to say that I don’t get scared! I have tons of fear, but I just NEVER let it stop me. That’s a key to success right there…never let fear get in the way. Accept the fear and just do it anyway!

Tom Malloy5. You are also starring in the upcoming series Dropping The Soap with Jane Lynch, which is a behind-the-scenes look at a failing soap opera. With all the shows and films you've been in, what is the juiciest behind-the-scenes story you can tell us from a project you just knew was not going to do well? Such a great show, so ridiculously funny! I’m so proud of the show. I knew from the moment I watched it that it was going to be a hit. As for juicy stories, those would have to be after the premiere because my distribution company (Glass House Distribution) acquired the series after it was finished.

6. Let's just play with the show's title for a moment...If you were to "Drop the soap," what would you hope to find after you picked it up? Hopefully not a naked guy behind me in a prison shower. I think that’s where that expression came from!

7. You got to work with one of my idols...Betty White! What was that experience like? What did you learn from her? That was the highlight of my career so far!. She was so incredible…everyone on set immediately wanted her to be their grandma! 

As for learning something, it was just great to watch her have fun! A lot of times actors take life too seriously, and she was having fun with her lines and that was so great to watch. So I guess the lesson there is to have fun with your performance, and the audience has fun with you.

Jack Black & Tom Malloy at the Renal Support Network annual Charity Poker and Bingo Tournament8. When you are not acting, you enjoy playing Celebrity Poker Tournaments and participating in the West Coast Swing Dancing competitions. In poker, the highest win is a Royal Flush. What, in your career thus far, would you consider to be a Royal Flush? And when was a time you were like, "I fold"? Yes, I LOVE poker. A Royal Flush in my career would be the first day we started shooting Love N’ Dancing. That movie was a nightmare to get going, and it was such an accomplishment to actually make it happen. I’m still hurting that it didn’t become a major hit, and I’m developing a new dance film/romantic comedy that I hope to produce and star in this year.

As for, "I fold," that would have to be the time I had all this money from Beijing to shoot three movies and the people funding it just disappeared. I was in the middle of shooting a film, and, though I was able to finish it, the money was gone. I had to shut down production offices and let people go…a nightmare!

9. What do you feel the rhythm of dancing has taught you about the rhythm of life? Again, I think the intrinsic lesson is to have fun. Your body stores so much of your emotion, and expressing emotions through movement is a fantastic feeling.

10. As an actor who has be interviewed time and time again, what is one question I didn't ask that you wish I had (and please provide the answer to that question)? Q: What’s an important lesson you teach your kids?

A: Never grow up. Always have the innocence and wonder and joy and laughter of life to keep you going. People who "grow up" are just beat down from society and negative reinforcement, and imposed "rules." I’m still a kid and will never change that.

11. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? My goal is to start drilling down my focus as specific as possible. Sometimes I get spread too thin, and I have to keep telling myself not to say yes to everything coming at me because then I won’t be able to truly be 100%. So I’m going to focus more and more everyday!

Tom MalloyMore on Tom:

An award winning and critically acclaimed actor, Tom wowed Hollywood with his stunning turn in the indie-cult favorite GRAVESEND in 1998, which was produced by Oliver Stone.

Most recent films include: SCREAMERS (Coming Fall 2017), HERO OF THE UNDERWORLD (on VOD everywhere) directed by John Vincent, starring Tom, Nicole Fox, and Quinton Aaron (for this film, Tom won BEST ACTOR at the Chain NYC Film Festival, and BEST ACTOR at AC Cinefest, FAIR HAVEN (Coming to SHOWTIME Summer 2017) directed by Kerstin Karlhuber, starring Tom Wopat and Michael Grant, ASHLEY, directed by Dean Ronalds, which was in theaters in 2013, and is now on VOD, LOVE N’ DANCING, which was directed by Rob Iscove (She’s All That), and stars Amy Smart, Tom Malloy, Billy Zane, Rachel Dratch, and Betty White; the psychological thriller THE ALPHABET KILLER, directed by Rob Schmidt (Wrong Turn, Crime & Punishment in Suburbia) and stars Eliza Dushku, Cary Elwes, Tom Malloy, Timothy Hutton, Michael Ironside, and Oscar Winner Melissa Leo; and a thriller directed by Mary Lambert called THE ATTIC, starring John Savage, Malloy, and Elisabeth Moss.

Tom is currently starring with Comedian Scott Baker in the improv cop comedy MIDTOWN, which can be seen on Amazon, now in it's second season.

Tom is a graduate of the famous Improv Olympic (IO) Training Center in Los Angeles (former graduates include Chris Farley, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Steve Carrell). Tom has also appeared in principle roles on LAW & ORDER, THIRD WATCH, KIDNAPPED, THE SIEGE (with Denzel Washington) and ANGER MANAGEMENT. As a Stand Up Comic, Tom has appeared at Caroline's Comedy Club and the Broadway Comedy Club in NYC, and at the LA Improv.

In addition to his work as an actor, Tom is an accomplished author whose book BANKROLL: A New Approach to Financing Feature Films is considered the "gold standard" of indie film financing instruction. A second edition came out in 2012.

Tom has also competed and taught classes in the smooth, hip-hop dance style known as West Coast Swing. He was trained by seven time U.S. Open Champion Robert Royston.

Tom has trained for years in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, first training with Royce Gracie back in 1992, prior the UFC even existing! He currently trains in Beverly Hills with the legendary Rigan Machado. He is also a professional poker player, and for over a year was one of the highest ranked celebrity players on the now defunct MegaFrame Casino.

Finally, Tom worked for 10 years as a nationally known motivational speaker for adults and kids. He traveled across the country spreading his positive message to students of all ages. Over the years, he has spoken to more than 100,000 students.

Friday
Apr072017

Call Answered: Wyatt Fenner: The War Boys at The Access Theater

Wyatt FennerEver since I interviewed Ben Rimalower for "Call Me Adam," he has gone ahead and referred several of his friends my way! Each one has been a joy to talk to and get to know. That brings me to Wyatt Fenner. Ben suggested Wyatt call and I answered!

Wyatt stars in Naomi Wallace's The War Boys, about three vigilantes, childhood friends, enjoy patrolling the U.S./Mexican border. But these youths soon learn that even the most guarded borders are permeable. When the lines between fantasy and reality become dangerously blurred, these young men are forced to decide what it means to be an American, and who has the right to belong.

The timeliness of this play couldn't be more perfect. I'm thrilled to get to chat with Wyatt as this early stage in his career. It will be great to watch what he does next!

The War Boys plays at The Access Theater in NYC (380 Broadway, 4th Floor) through April 16! Click here for tickets!

For more on The War Boys visit https://www.thewarboysnyc.com and follow the show on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

For more on Wyatt, follow him on Twitter and Instagram!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? Stories inspired me to become a performer. When I was little reading with Dad before bed was my favorite part of my day, so I always had a really active imagination. At recess in school I'd lead pretend games; Peter Pan, 101 Dalmatians, The Little Mermaid, anything to get the whole group running around pretending to be seagulls or trolls or whatever - but around third grade, for all of my classmates except for me, recess shifted from being about time for playing pretend to being about everyone playing kickball, and it was like something died for me. When my classmates were so unceremoniously over it with the pretend games I remember being like "Well...what the fuck am I supposed to do with life now.." there was no purpose anymore in my little seven year old existence.

Then shortly thereafter I was at the local library with Mom and we saw a poster for a Children's Theatre production of The Velveteen Rabbit and I realized there was this almost secret society of other kids who liked to play pretend as well and I could go and audition and maybe I'd get to put on some fairytale stories with them. So I went to try out for the company and I got cast as one of the fairies in Sleeping Beauty - then in the next production which was Jack and the Beanstalk I was cast as the cow's bottom, and I just never stopped doing plays because it gave me an opportunity to express what using my imagination to share any kind of stories has always meant to me.

2. You are currently making your NY stage debut in Naomi Wallace's The War Boys. What made you want to be part of this show? When I read the script I realized how timely this play is and I also saw how challenging an opportunity it would be to work on this project so that was really exciting to me. This is a play about three men who are each questioning what it means to be men, to be seen, and to have responsibility in a world where maybe those feelings are eroding for them - and that seems relevant right now.

Sea McHale, Wyatt Fenner, and Gabriel Sloyer in "The War Boys"3. Does the reality of your NY stage debut live up to the fantasy you had in your head? Working on a challenging play like this in my underpants in a tiny theatre four stories above a knock off sneaker factory is as downtown theatre as you can get - and I'm into it.

When I first moved to NY last year I got work right away that took me back out of town. Those jobs were incredible projects with wonderful directors and companies, which I'm really proud of, and grateful to have done, but I knew that to get a foothold here in the city I'd need to begin to turn down opportunities that would take me out of the city and as soon as I made that decision for myself this opportunity came up, so that is exciting, to get to continue to work towards that goal, specifically to get to make cool theatre that people will see and have conversations with one another about in this incredible city. This play is hard work, but everything worth having in life takes hard work and I'm really proud of all that this experience has helped me discover so far. Plus nothing nothing nothing beats riding the train home after a good show. I never knew that specific joy of being an actor in NY before and now I do.

4. What do you relate to most about your character "David"? What is one quality of his you are glad you, yourself don't possess? I relate to "David's" need for friendship and some level of acceptance. I am glad that I resolved my feelings about my own sexuality in a healthy way when I was growing up. "David" had a very different experience regarding his self acceptance - so I'm glad I don't share that with him.

Wyatt Fenner as "David" in "The War Boys"5. Your character literally gets stripped down in this show, all the way to his underwear. When you found out you were going to have to perform in your underwear, what are some thoughts that went through your head? What is it like to be so exposed to an audience like this night after night? As a person there is a lot that scares me but as an actor there isn't much that I'm afraid of doing. I've been entirely naked on stage several times before and as long as it makes sense for the story I believe in going there. It takes a lot to expose yourself night after night like we do in the play - clothes on or off, but I commit to it and go there every night. Otherwise, what's the point?

6. Part of the shows description is "Even the most guarded borders are permeable." What is something that you have kept guarded, but realize it's time to let the world in on it? That is a tough one, because I am really open as a person. I can understand people who have the inclination to hold things back because we all do that to different degrees day to day but what this play celebrates is allowing oneself to really strip down and be exposed - literally in my case - which is a rare and worthwhile experience for everyone to have, even if it's just for one night in the theatre.

7. The show also asks what it means to be an American. What does it mean to you, to be an American? I have such a hard time with how "us" and "them" the world is right now. We are all people. Countries, genders, religions, I suppose all of these labels can be useful but we've created them ourselves and in a lot of cases they do more harm than good. What matters so much more than what team you root for or where you go to the bathroom is what is in your heart. As a person what is most important to me is that other people feel some sense of happiness or brightness when they've encountered me and that somehow I can make even a simple difference for others in that regard. Smiling, helping the lady with the stroller up the stairs, being kind is what matters most because, no matter how bad your day is, if you lead with kindness you will feel better for it - and so will the people around you - even if you never see them again.

Sea McHale and Wyatt Fenner in "The War Boys"8. The timeliness of the show couldn't be more perfect with that wall that man wants to build. What are some stories you've heard from audience members about the show? Everyone's experience of the play is completely different! It is so cool because this type of theatre really operates like a dreamscape. The play is relentless and bizarre and irreverent and it doesn't allow for a lazy audience. People who come to see what we are doing down here have to make several of their own connections as far as why certain turns occur in the play, what that means to them individually - but everything we do has integrity - so if the audience sticks with us they get a good full meal of ideas, images, and questions to take home with them.

9. The story blurs the lines between reality and fantasy. When has there been a time in your life when you walked that fine line between what was real and what you had imagined? I don't think I've ever confused the two things.

10. Let's play with the show's title a bit, The War Boys. What is one war you feel you are fighting right now? I think we are all always looking for kindness and connection with one another. Right now people seem much less willing to connect outside of our screens and little hand held internets and I think I'm always looking for opportunities to actually connect - eye to eye and face to face - with other people. Being new to the city and discovering who is going to be a part of my tribe is exciting and challenging. The efforts continue to pay off so I'm happy to keep on that road.

More on Wyatt:

NY Debut. Recent Regional Theatre: Michael Kahn's production of Cloud 9 (Studio Theatre), Darko Tresnjak's production of Romeo and Juliet (Hartford Stage), Moisés Kaufman's production of Bent (Mark Taper Forum), as well as the West Coast Premiers of Dog Sees GodThe WhaleNext Fall, Rest, and Slipping. Television: BonesVeronica Mars.