Exclusive Interview With Styx Bassist Ricky Phillips

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(PCM) Proving that rock n’ roll is alive and well, especially when it comes to live performances, Styx have once again journeyed out this summer along with both Def Leppard and Tesla to bring fans one of the most exciting rock tours of the summer. It is sure to be a truly memorable evening for all who can attend any of the remaining tour dates.

True road warriors Styx continue to amaze me by giving 110% to each and every performance and certainly show no signs of slowing down anytime soon. I recently had a chance to catch up with Styx bassist Ricky Phillips, who you may also know was also a member of both The Baby’s and Bad English and has worked with countless rock n’ roll icons over the years. We, of course, chatted about Styx’s current tour with Def Leppard and Tesla, but also learned that work is currently being down on a new Styx album as well.

We also discussed the many changes in the music industry that are affecting musicians today, as well as, his work on the upcoming Ronnie Montrose tribute album, which is without a doubt going to be epic!

On the current tour with Def Leppard and Tesla

RICKY PHILLIPS: Things couldn’t be better. It’s a really great compliment of music and I think that it makes for a real good night of music for fans to get a lot of bang from their buck. These days concert tickets are quite expensive so you have to try to get your money’s worth. We’ve been selling out or nearly selling out all of the venues across the country so far and beyond that I think the most important part is that we all get along really well and it is just fun to be there. There are a lot of fun things going on and we didn’t even realize that it had been nearly seven years since we last toured with Def Leppard and they are good friends of ours, so it is just great to be out with them.

You never know what’s going to happen and each day is a little bit different adventure. Backstage is sometimes just as much fun as up front.

On fans coming out to shows and the proof that rock n’ roll is very much alive and well

RP: My observation, at least, because we are out on the road at least 200 days a year, as it’s become the touring industry not the recording industry anymore. Unless you are Beyonce, Justin Beiber or Kanye … whoever is at the top charts, it’s kind of a different game, especially for classic rock because that kind of has its own heading now. For us, handling the touring, and this is kind of my point, don’t you think that they are better than they were?  Because I’ve toured with all these bands back in the day when they were in their prime and they were good, but kind of had the momentum behind that hit single they were out there promoting, but broken downs the bands that are out there still doing it are way better than they were before.

I think people are in shock when they come out to see bands that are touring now and say ‘Wow, were they always this good?’ .. well, maybe they were close, but there’s something about being a seasoned veteran and being more accomplished and more competent. It isn’t just instrumentally, but vocally as well, I mean Joe Elliot is just out there kicking ass every night and the band’s background harmonies are stellar. We really, as the Styx band, pride ourselves on the vocals, so it’s great to see other band’s kicking ass the same way.

I don’t know about all bands, but I know we, Styx, we do all the songs in the original keys. We don’t tune down, we don’t use any pitch correction and Tommy Shaw jokingly says ‘All the mistakes you hear tonight were performed live’ so, that’s kind of what we believe in.  When we come off the stage dripping, soaking wet we are talking about ways to make tomorrow’s show better than tonight’s show. That has been our M.O. all along with if we are going to be doing this, let’s do this at the highest level we can.

On the pressure for band’s to stay on the road longer and the fact that now a tour supports and album rather than the album supporting the tour

RP: You are exactly right. It is very different and also, beyond that, if you sold 30 to 50 thousand units today you are rocking man, but you would be dropped by your label if you only sold that amount back in the day. It doesn’t make it the priority anymore. Since we are on the road 200 days a year, people say ‘when are you doing your next record?’ and we are thinking well, our business is to take care and preserve what we have as a touring entity. That’s our bread and butter and how we support our crew’s families and keep them working and not lose them to other bands who are touring. We love our crew and they are every bit as important as the band. It’s a nice little tapestry that is woven between a really good crew and a good band to get out there and perform like we do.

Taking the time off to go record a record is more problematic than writing the songs and recording them and that’s what we are doing … there will be some new Styx music coming out finally. All of us have been writing so much stuff who knows what we will end up doing, but we are definitely working towards that. We are just trying to find some time and a way to do it.

On writing on the road and technology becoming a character in the creative process

RP: Technology is an amazing thing. If I am warming up and I play a riff, I can just grab my phone and record it right then and there. Everyone warms up a little bit different in our band. I have points in the afternoon where I play for about a half hour, probably around 5:30 or 6:00 pm and then maybe I’ll get dressed and get something to eat and then I will play for another 20 minutes to a half hour before we start doing vocal warm-ups to go out and do our show. You will sometimes hear other guys playing something and say ‘Oh, that’s kind of cool’  and you will see them stop and grab their iPad or phone and start recording whatever it was because I don’t even know how many song ideas that I need to catch up on that are stored inside my phone.

We, as writers, still try to stay fresh and still somehow capture those ideas because really these ideas are like dreams and if you don’t wake up and write it down you might not be able to clarify it later. You think ‘oh, I’ll never forget this riff, it’s too cool’ … well, you will … trust me! I’ve had riffs where I’ve thought the same things but when I tried to recreate it again it just wasn’t the same. You really do have to record your ideas the same way you would write down a dream.

On the generational appeal of Styx’s music 

RP: One of the things that I think I’ve noticed, being the new guy who is just reaching 12 years in the band this September and I am starting my 13th year, in the songwriting the songs that soar to the top and become iconic songs from Styx all seem to have a positive message. I don’t know if that was really a conscious thought or it just worked out that way but, you’ve got songs that were written, and usually they are vocally driven … there’s a lot of nice harmonies … but there’s also some other things going on. The style of guitar playing between JY and Tommy is completely different, but it doesn’t sound like it. They compliment each other so well on what they do together with the little harmony lines that they play and that is very much part of the sound  and the three lead vocals that started back in the day, even before Tommy is a really cool thing.

So, we do more show than Def Leppard because we have three singers and we don’t lose our voices or have to protect our voices so much. We will play six days a week and still be able to do the seventh! There is something about the sound that started way back with Styx that leaves you feeling positive. My brother used to work as one of the directors for the New York City Opera, which has since folded, and he came to see us play at the Beacon and he couldn’t believe the audience. He could not believe the array of New Yorkers we brought out of the woodwork to see us play.

For some reason the music does put everyone in a good mood, lift their spirits and they sing along young and old. The songs all seem to have this positive or uplifting meaning to them and I think people really respond and react to that and if anyone’s ever been to a Styx show the audience is kind of like the Fifth Beatle … they are very reciprocal and very much part of the show.

On the difficulty of crafting a set-list each night

RP: I think we would all have a little bit different opinion. I’m kind of a Zeppelin guy so it’s a good thing I’m not in charge of the set-list (laughs). Usually Tommy and JY put the set-list together and the way they do it is that they put it around so that everyone is represented vocally. JY is represented, Tommy is represented, Lawrence is represented and not only does it showcase each guy, but it also preserves one guy from having to follow-up with three banging songs in a row at the top of his register. There is a methodology with how we need to present our shows so we can play six or seven nights in a row.

With this tour Tesla goes out and kicks ass from the first song, so we are not going to out there and play a bunch of ballads to start off after that, so there is a methodology behind doing the live show in big outdoor venues rather than smaller more intimate theater shows. Each audience is a little bit different flavor, so we have learned to cater the set-list to different types of venues and audiences to make it work.

On the differences between the various types of venues Styx plays

RP: That’s the beauty of this band for me! I would hate to think that I am only playing arenas. Since we do stay out year around, when concert season is over, we stay out and play the smaller venues and I would hate to not be able to play those types of venues. It’s fun for us!  That’s probably why U2 goes and plays in subways and band’s do these fun secret shows in smaller venues because there is something about that real immediacy and being able to watch people’s eyes and reactions.

On the changes in the music industry and their overall effect 

RP: Without a doubt the whole downloading thing changed everything. There were years when I wasn’t with bands and in-between times where I was a songwriter and wrote for film and television and I’m currently producing the last recordings of Ronnie Montrose and I’m so afraid of this getting leaked. I know if someone got there hands on this stuff, it’s going to all over the internet and it would prevent us from getting a proper deal and trying to get this released properly with the respect it deserves. So, it’s the guarding of tracks and trying to figure out a way to make a living as a songwriter. There are mechanicals still out there, but the sales of a record are completely different. It’s the touring industry not the recording industry anymore and that changed everything.

I’m fortunate enough and have been blessed within my career to have these guys that have these big catalogs that ask me to work with them. Writing with Styx is not the place I thought I would be when I was with The Babys when I was 24 or 25 years old and the fact that any of this has happened at all is just insane being from a small town in California to even being able to perform with some of my idols and to be able to record with people like Jimmy Page. I never really stop and think about it too long, I don’t want to analyze it, I’m very blessed and I want to still think I’m not good enough, because that’s the thing … when you get a little too full of yourself that’s when the curtain can close.

I respect music too much … I would have to get a day gig if it ever got to that point. It’s been too good to me, I mean, there have been times where I’ve gone ‘Man, what do I have to do?’… I used to sit in my studio and write and work on songs from 12 or 14 hour days from months and years on end and you think ‘Ok, I guess I should start thinking about some other way to make a living’ … that’s something that everybody, I don’t care how high you’ve been, you feel the ebb and the flow. There have been gaps in everyone’s career. You don’t stay on-top all the time.

Something I’ve told myself is as soon as it’s not fun anymore, and even when I was hungry I turned down a lot of gigs and I think about it and I laugh because those could have been the last gigs I was offered and I don’t want to say ‘Nah, I’m too cool for that’ but I thought ‘this isn’t where I thought I should go’ and I saw friends of mine taking these gigs and buying houses and stuff and I just don’t think I would respect myself and that wasn’t where I wanted to go.

I was having a talk with Lawrence Gowan our keyboard player about this, who is hands down one of the best musicians I have ever played with in so many ways, who is a musicologist and historian in many ways and we spoke about turning down things when you are young and you think ‘Eh, better things are going to come along’ and then nothing comes along and you are like “uh, oh!’ but it’s because you do care about your music that deeply to make what looks like terrible or horrible decisions that probably does end up extending your career. We do choose our path by our decisions and that may be the reason I have had the caliber of work offered to me. I’ve done some silly or crazy things, but I haven’t attached myself to some of the things that I may have that I would probably still be trying to live down.

On what the rest of 2015 into 2016 holds in store for both himself and Styx

RP: I’ve got this Montrose record that I really want to find a home for and I am taking in meetings with different record companies that will still put out this sort of project. There is such a host of incredible players and before Ronnie passed he never played the solos, so I’ve got Phil Collen of Def Leppard playing a solo on a track, I’ve got Brad Whitford of Aerosmith, Sammy Hagar sings a track, Tommy Shaw sings a track, Glenn Hughes sings a track … there’s just really great people on this record and I wish Ronnie was here to hear it because he would be so happy. That’s kind of my personal year with taking care of this and finishing up. I working closely with Ronnie’s widow, Leighsa Montrose, on coming up with a concept for the design and artwork right now, so that is me personally.

Management won’t let us make our own plans in Styx till the end of the year because that’s already been planned by management for us and I was just talking to Tommy on the bus this morning and I said ‘When are we playing Chicago?’ and he goes ‘Um, I don’t know’ so, said ‘Why am I asking you, you don’t know anymore than I do!’ (laughs)  We just don’t!  You can’t keep track of everything, so we have a lot of people out here taking care of us and making sure we can perform.

On the growing excitement for the Montrose project and Sammy Hagar’s track

RP: It’s going to be amazing. Sammy sings his ass off on this track and it’s a great lyric. I think it’s my favorite thing he’s done since the Van Halen days. It’s just that good. There are so many great musicians that are part of this … I’ve got Edgar Winter.  I called him one morning and said I’m thinking about finishing up your track It’s so Edgar Winter group with you and Ronnie together again, I’m think of calling Rick Derringer to play the solo and he said it was a great idea and he would love to get Rick on this record. So I called Derringer and explained to him what the project is and what we are doing and once he understood he said ‘Count me in’, so I fired him off the track and set him up in the studio in Florida where he lives and he threw down this solo and I swear if you are an Edgar Winter fan like I am, it sounds like the Edgar Winter Group, and Eric Singer (KISS) and I, who are both Edgar Winter fans, as we were laying it down both feel that it sounds like it was lifted right out of the 70’s. It’s just a beautiful track. Both tracks are amazing and Glenn Hughes … he could sing the yellow pages and his track is just amazing as well with Phil Collen jamming on guitar. Ronnie’s guitar is so solid throughout, all of his rhythm tracks and bass tracks and rift tracks that he did … he is so alive on this record. When we were on the backside of getting it mixed I played it for Ronnie’s wife and she turned around after listening to the whole thing with tears streaming down her face because he is so alive when you listen to this stuff.

You can catch Styx on the road this summer and find out all the details by visiting www.styxworld.com and following the band on social media!

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Greg Nicotero, Elizabeth Rodriguez and Lorenzo James Henrie Discuss “Fear The Walking Dead”

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(PCM) Tonight’s the night!  AMC will premiere the high anticipated new series “Fear The Walking Dead” at 9pm ET/PT. We caught up with executive producer Greg Nicotero and cast members Elizabeth Rodriguez and Lorenzo James Henrie at San Diego Comic Con to chat about the upcoming series and what is in store for fans!

You can also check out our additional interviews with executive producer Dave Alpert and cast members Kim Dickens and Cliff Curtis and executive producer Gale Anne Hurd with cast members Mercedes Mason and Ruben Blades.

On the fact that “The Walking Dead” has never shied away from killing off many fan favorites, could “Fear The Walking Dead” operate the same

GREG NICOTERO: It’s the world we live in. It’s a dangerous world and it’s evolving. You’ve got a lot more people to kill in our show because it’s early on in the apocalypse. I will probably say that there will be unexpected moments and deaths that you don’t see coming.

ELIZABETH RODRIGUEZ: If we were all superheros than it would be different genre (laughs)

GN: My analogy is that any character that you kill off in the show … backing up for a second, when I grew up it was “Night Of The Living Dead” and “Dawn Of The Dead” and I loved zombie movies and I went to the theater and saw every last one of them, I even snuck in and saw them (laughs). I think the fact that on “Walking Dead” we have 75 hours to tell a story and now with “Fear The Walking Dead” we have our first season of 6 hours, you get to learn about this characters and you get to get into them. It’s not just a movie where it’s just 2 hours and they’re gone.

We learn nuances about both of these people and who they are so, you will find something to identify with in certain characters like with our show some people like Rick and some people like Carol, everybody like Darryl (laughs) Note .. that would be the spin-off “Everybody Love Darryl” .. Norman would love that!

What’s great about the DNA of this show as well is you will find people that you like and you identify with and everyone deals with things differently. If something happened in this room, we would all react differently and it’s how we process those changes in society that makes drama and keeps it interesting.

On the Walker effects in “Fear The Walking Dead” 

GN: Interestingly enough, “Walking Dead” is a pure genre show, however “Fear The Walking Dead” is probably a little less genre and a little more drama-based. It is not necessarily going to be as gory right out of the gate. Even when we did some initial make-up tests my job as a make-up effects designer is to push things and get a little more extreme and with the first episode it was more like let’s pull some of that stuff back, so when you’re sitting in a room and there’s somebody over there that’s probably walking a little slower than everyone else, you don’t draw attention to them right away. It’s in the infancy of happening.

We have our moments of course which we will build to, but in the original “Walking Dead” right out of the gate we had Bicycle Girl and all that stuff so we were bringing the audience up to speed with what this world looks like, but on “Fear The Walking Dead” the world is evolving with us as opposed to us being ahead of it.

On the strong central element of family and family relations in “Fear The Walking Dead”

ER: The biggest difference is that it’s telling the stories of families, a modern family, a broken family coming together with the apocalypse happening where some people have information. Travis has information and wants to come and grab his son and his sons mother and then grabbing another family and what happens with that is what makes it more of a family drama and less of a genre at this point.

You are dealing with real-life scenarios and then you can’t really spend a lot of time because things start happening at rapid speed and people are constantly being forced to make choices against their values and change really rapidly and make decision all while trying to save their families. I think that fact that it’s about saving the people you love is the emphasis to getting us out of here and away from the Walkers. It’s a real family, as opposed to trying to find a clan, so there’s an instinct of where do we go and who do we take.

GN: What’s really fun is the first six episodes I read all the outlines at one time and by the time I got to the last episode I was looking around the house for my kids and making sure that my earthquake kit was stocked up. It has that effect on you because you don’t think about these types of things.  I recall living in Los Angles during the North Ridge earthquake and they tell you all these things you are supposed to do during an earthquake, but as soon as it happens all that knowledge falls out the window.

You don’t know what the f**k to do. You go sit in your car and turn on the radio on just to hear what’s happening because you don’t have a radio with batteries … you don’t have those things … no one is prepared.

ER: We all think we will be prepared as much as we watch and learn. The instincts of wanting to survive and life being greater than anything kick-in and emotions … all logic goes out the window till you can take a breath. Things start happening where you accept this reality and quickly realize that’s not the reality. There is a shift in this and that and there are decisions being made between bad decisions and worse decisions all the way through.

On the element of heart found in “Fear The Walking Dead” vs. “The Walking Dead”

GN: There’s a lot of heart. I don’t know if there’s more of it, but we are definitely focusing more on it in this. There is a great story arc with Lorenzo’s character, who is really this inquisitive young man, who is watching the world unravel and as the show progresses, how he processes it and how he keeps his eye open for the truth, but you need those tender moments, as it’s sort of heightened reality.

I have not directed on the first six episodes because I’m in Georgia every second of every day, but I’m looking forward to … we will start season two sometime in November or December shooting. I think the plan is to have a zombie TV show on fifty-two weeks of the year.

Those moments are important, I always say you have great drama, great characters and great monsters and you have to keep all three of them in balance. If they shift out of balance, like a chemistry set, they kind of implode. You have to keep them in check and you have to have the relationships there, otherwise it becomes a “Friday The 13th” movie with a bunch of gore and that is not what our show is or will ever be.

On the character’s being scarier than the zombies at times … are there any villainous characters

ER: I’m so much scarier than the zombies (laughs) … which they are not “zombies’ they are “infected” (laughs) In some ways, I think it is people’s reaction to what touches you. What about one person’s personality scares you where it wouldn’t someone else. I think that is what is amazing about playing human beings is that not everyone has the same reaction to each person because of whatever that person pushes in the viewers or doesn’t. That is why someone has different fans.

LORENZO JAMES HENRIE: Yeah, you are going to see them before the “infected” and then see them afterwards and how they turn.

GN: What people will do to survive is probably the one common thread between the two shows. Rick’s journey in the last six years, well five years, since you don’t know what happens in season six, but I do (laughs) It’s about what the events in the life do to change them and that’s what people will do to survive. Would you be willing to kill someone or would you be willing to leave someone on the side of the road knowing that they are probably going to die? Would you take their food or would you give them food? Would you give them shelter? We get into those themes almost immediately.

LJH: When you put in the family element of a father trying to keep his two families together it really tugs at your heart.

ER: Who do you save if you could only take one person? A lot of people say they would do this or that, but you never know until you are faced with those types of decisions.

Get The Inside Scoop About “Fear The Walking Dead”! Interviews With Executive Producer Dave Alpert And Cast Members Kim Dickens And Cliff Curtis

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(PCM) We are sure most of you have already had a chance to check out the first three minutes of the upcoming highly-anticipated AMC series “Fear The Walking Dead” which will premiere this Sunday, 8/23 at 9pm ET/PT!  We absolutely can not wait to begin unraveling this story and from what we have seen so far, we are going to be in for one hell of a ride with this new series.

“Fear The Walking Dead” had a huge presence at this year’s San Diego Comic Con and we were smack dab in the middle of the action!  In addition to chatting with “Fear The Walking Dead” executive producer Gale Anne Hurd and cast members Mercedes Mason and Ruben Blade, we also caught up with series stars Kim Dickens, Cliff Curtis and executive producer Dave Alpert to chat about the new series.

On how long it takes the characters to realize what is going on and how it affects the relationship

CLIFF CURTIS: We all have different times. We all see it differently.

KIM DICKENS: And we do start pre-apocalyptic, in my mind. There’s an evolution to the understanding of it. When the information comes out, our responses to it are different as people try to rationalize it or people are paranoid about it or in denial about it, so it varies. It does make for interesting interpersonal interactions in your own home. It challenges you by bringing you closer and pushing you apart.

CC: Natural disasters are two main things … the first is that it can pull communities together where you don’t sweat the small stuff and just help each other out, but the second thing is that in closer more intimate relationships if you have a different opinion about something that is really vital it can sort of tear or pull you apart. It has this contradictory sort of tension on what’s happening. We are forced together in communities to try and cooperate with people we don’t know and internally, in our own relationship it puts a tension pulling us apart because we may not agree on the same things.

It’s funny because what keeps the show interesting is we leap frog each other a lot. In episode one I’m kind of seeing something and she’s not seeing it and then all of a sudden I’m seeing it differently than she’s seeing it and it just sort of goes back and forth like that. It’s more of a dance of sorts.

KD: There’s not always time for theses characters to come back and relay to the other characters exactly what they have seen because it’s so complex really sometimes what they witness.

CC: And we need time to figure out things in our own head, so we might not actually have time to figure out together. We’ve got a new relationship also, so it’s very different. Like, if you’re in a new relationship you want to kind of have that glow last a little bit longer, so you might not want to say things. In an old relationship there’s no need to talk about anything because everything’s uncovered.

On more humor being present in “Fear The Walking Dead” than “The Walking Dead”

KD: I think we intentionally play the inter-family scenes very real. We talk over each other and bicker like a family and shut each other down, so I hope that will be very recognizable to an audience. So, I think there is a little lightness in there sometimes just because it’s real. I also know that even when I did “Treme” and I talked to people who had to weather through Katrina, they said they never lost their sense of humor and it really is a support system to humanity to find those lighter moments during a crisis.

DAVE ALPERT: I think one of the reasons you see that in the trailer is that we are starting before a time and it’s a lot easier to have those moments levity before people start eating each other. Once that happens it’s a little harder as things move on! I hope that we are able to maintain that sort of naturalism say in season two and beyond, but once people start eating each other things get dark real quick.

CC:  It’s humor as a coping mechanism, not humor for the sake of comedy.

On preparations for taking on the role

KD: I just really bulked up (laughs). I just really had a lot of faith going into it. My role is not a badass or a superhero, so I had to come into this disaster as a normal person who didn’t have certain skills for fighting and stuff. She just had her own natural mama bear instincts.

CC: Well, I see it more as the lioness (laughs)

KD: A tigress! Go on, Go on! (laughs)

CC: The kind of guardian who will protect her family and will do whatever it takes.

KD: I think during a life or death situation Madison’s most important goal is to protect her family. Even before anything happened she tries to protect her son who has problems. I think heroic moments come out of people in these situations.

DA: I think it helps that Kim is no stranger to badassery and brings a fair amount of it to the table to start.

On the fan reaction to news about the series thus far

CC: We have been quite isolated from it to be quite honest. We hear about it happening somewhere, but everyone is so nice and so kind. We get shuffled off into cars and come into rooms and talk to very nice people like you, so that’s been the experience. It’s been very, very pleasant. There’s been no skewering or anything.

KD: Everyone has been very welcoming to us

CC: And we hear some absurd kind of statistics, such as that we were number one on Twitter around the world and I don’t even know what that means.

DA: When we came here with “The Walking Dead” everyone had a very specific expectation because of the book, like ‘is this person right for that role’ and they knew what stories were coming. Everybody knows they love this world, but nobody knows the story that is about to unfold. What’s interesting is to see this and then try to take a mental snapshot to compare it to next year. When people come in and they have very, very strong opinions and very strong attachment associations to what they’ve created.

In comparison with “The Walking Dead” on the timeline for learning the “rules”

DA:We are working with a different set and a different timeline as far as establishing those rules or obtain that knowledge to tell a story. There are things that are going to be held out, whether it’s the hope for a cure or stuff of that nature where knowledge is kind of reestablished.

KD: We are clueless and obviously we start out very naive. I don’t know what’s going to happen.

CC: I’m an English teacher in a high school, so anything outside of dealing with my students and my immediate family, I kind of pass it on to the committee, who will pass it on to the principal, who will give it to the board. I don’t have to deal with that stuff, I’m like a fix-it down here guy which is great because as an actor it helps me take one step at a time and I learn episode by episode each season. It’s such a relief that I don’t have to understand everything that’s happened in the other show or in the comic book and I don’t have any answers.

One thing I love about my character is he’s almost naively an optimist and he loves the goodness in humanity and whether that’s relevant in this new world order.

DA: One of things that we really studied as we were cracking the story was sort-of the flow of misinformation in natural disasters, so everything from what happened in New Orleans following Katrina to the blackouts in New York after 9/11 and watching, not the real story, but the wrong stories that got out there that inflated paranoia. How do these stories get out there and how do they start? How does that change for both better and worse the journey of our characters?

The linear flow of information is more of like a 50’s style science fiction. You get some things that are right, but as the stuff starts happening people’s social media accounts are going to start to blow up and you are not going to know ‘is that real?’ or is it a stunt or marketing thing? Are they trying to promote something? You are not going to know what to think about it, so watching the way that people absorb information and get wrong information is an essential element of what we are going to explore.

CC: This is filtered through the relationships in our family and what we agree on or don’t agree on and how we process it and how it affects our relationships with our kids and loved ones.

On the character’s weaknesses going into everything 

KD: Being ill-prepared, having drug addiction, having dark pasts … well, that is kind of a positive thing!

CC: A well-rounded character for me is always whose strengths are his weaknesses and his weaknesses are his strengths. My strength is that I’m an optimist and a believer in the goodness of humanity and I like to take the time to think about things logically and make sure I have a good clear picture before I act. I’m an idealist and it’s a strength and a luxury, but in this world luxury could very easily become not much of an asset and could put a question mark as to whether or not I am even able to survive or change to adapt. Maddie, Kim’s character is much more alpha than mine, much more pragmatic and is much more quick to adapt because she’s got that lioness aspect to her. She’s not concerned with having all the right information because she knows right now my children are being threatened and I will deal with it.

 

Getting Our First Taste Of “Fear The Walking Dead”! Interview With Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd And Cast Members Mercedes Mason And Ruben Blades

We got our first taste of the upcoming Walking Dead companion series “Fear The Walking Dead” now that AMC has released the first three minutes of the premiere episode which is set to air this Sunday, 8/23 at 9pm ET/PT.

WORLDWIDE EXCLUSIVE: #FearBeginsHere this Sunday at 9/8c.

Posted by Fear the Walking Dead on Thursday, August 20, 2015

Set in the same universe as “The Walking Dead,” “Fear the Walking Dead” is a gritty drama that explores the onset of the undead apocalypse through the lens of a fractured family in Los Angeles. In a city where people come to escape, shield secrets, and bury their pasts, a mysterious outbreak threatens to disrupt what little stability high school guidance counselor Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) and English teacher Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) have managed to assemble.

We caught up with the cast and producers of “Fear The Walking Dead” during San Diego Comic Con 2015 to discuss the new series, which they all say will provide viewers with an all new experience and story that differs from “The Walking Dead”.  Below read our interview with executive producer Gale Anne Hurd and cast members Mercedes Mason and Ruben Blades.

On the differences between “Fear The Walking Dead” and “The Walking Dead”

GALE ANNE HURD: It starts much earlier. The time frame is essentially when Rick first went into the coma, although there is no connection to “The Walking Dead”. It is not a prequel or a spin-off, we are a companion side-by side. We deal with an extended family, a blended family and they are facing their own internal problems. To them and to any of us who would be facing them, that is what you need to be worrying about, all of us have, then this happens on top of that, so it ups the emotional stakes.

MERCEDES MASON: The Walkers in the original, they have been decaying for awhile, so they look like monsters, whereas for us it’s so new they still look like your neighbor. Like you just had coffee with Bob yesterday and now he’s trying to eat your face off! There is that sort of psychological aspect of you look human, can I bash your skull in? Especially since we don’t know the rules.

GAH: No one brought the guide-book, no had Morgan like Rick did to tell him what the rules are and how to survive. It’s just beginning to happen.

RUBEN BLADES: You also have a stronger Latino presence than the other show. It’s about time.

MM: That’s the cool thing about having it set in L.A., is that it’s very diverse. You have blended families and you can see from our four leads in the pilot they are all completely different. Cliff and the Madison character, it doesn’t have to do with race, it’s just nice that it’s a bunch of families dealing with what everybody deals with … families and family issues and survival in essence … Lord of the Flies stuff.

On the city of Los Angeles becoming a character itself in the series

GAH: Los Angeles is a place of immigrants, it’s a place of reinvention, it’s a place of rebirth, so you start with characters who are at different stages. You’ve got one character, Alicia, whose about to go off to college, so she has dreams and ambitions. You have a son who is dealing with addiction. You have a new family unit and you have exes and you have resentment from a son who feels that he’s been replaced by these new soon-to-be step-siblings. All of that is very much part of the fabric of L.A.

MM: The cool thing with L.A. is when we think of L.A. traditionally, you think of Hollywood and the glitz and the glamour, but our story is set in East L.A. so it’s very gritty and down-to-earth and it’s working class families, so you really feel, at least it felt to me when I read it, it felt very real. It didn’t feel glossy, which I loved.

GAH: It’s not East L.A. as we think about it from a lot of other TV shows or movies where it’s only gangs and that’s the go to place. We are resetting that to what life is really like if you are a family who lives there. It’s your daily experience that’s changing.

On the pacing of “Fear The Walking Dead”

RB: In the beginning you are going to have to establish the relationships between the different families and the tensions between the personal human perspectives cultures because this is important. Also, there is a clash around two different cultures that are imposed upon one another because of the circumstances. That’s what makes it all very interesting. Bottom line of this is you’re trying to figure out what would the world be like, how would we behave if all of a sudden everything went to hell. Like what Columbus did with indigenous groups here. Would we question the existence of God? Morals are out, authorities out, everything is redefining like in war. It’s happening right now in Syria, where you wake up to a different life in front of their face (than what they had previously). What do we do? What happens?

Here, you have a Latino family that’s not just facing what’s going around, but someone who has already gone through this in their place of origin, are now subjected to it again. They’re forced into another segment of the population that they’re not familiar with because they don’t know how these people are, they don’t necessarily like each other, but they’re helping each other.

MM: That’s where it brings back to the question of family. Is a family something you are born into, something that you pick or are forced into? How do you define that? You have to be able to rely on someone when authority figures, everything we’ve come to rely on like when something goes wrong, we call the cops that’s not the case anymore. Now you have to be self-reliant or you fumble.

 

RB: The pace has to be established. It’s not about killing zombies. It’s about what happened, and what are we going to do? What is acceptable? All of these existential questions are being discussed on the show. It’s entertainment, yes, it’s also an interiority that I found interesting. Nobody’s perfect, we all hide things, and maybe those things become visible that were not justified before and now you have to step up and do this. But can you?”

GAH: Who were these people before the apocalypse? In “The Walking Dead” we’ve had a few flashbacks to see who they were before, but mostly we meet everyone four to six weeks in, so we don’t get that opportunity to see normal, to see a world before and we get to do that here.

MM: We are in there with these characters as hope begins to fall apart. It’s fun to slowly gauge in and really understand what’s happening.

GAH: In “The Walking Dead” two of the central characters in the first season were police officers and they are the authority figures that you look to and we see how equipped and ill-equipped they are, but at the same time they carry guns and are used to firearms and used to taking charge. There are really no alpha characters in this, everyone is pretty much on a level playing field. Everyone finds that they do have skills that are necessary and sometimes those skills are both an advantage and a disadvantage.

MM: And secrets start getting revealed! As we go along, and obviously I can’t reveal too much, all of our characters, you start digging into our past and all of a sudden, there have been times where I read a specific episode and I emailed Ruben in a panic. Every episode as we go along, we start revealing the past of someone and how that defines their character and how it defines them in this new setting.

GAH: Great horror and great science fiction, if you haven’t seen “Night Of The Living Dead” go back and watch it!  That is a remarkable film for its’ time. The lead character was African-American and we sort of forget these things and if you go back and watch it, there was a lot of commentary on society. This show, because that’s what great horror and sci-fi does, also is able in this context to comment on some very serious issues facing our society. If you want to embrace that, great and if you want to just enjoy the ride you can too, but it operates on both levels.

RB: The series looks at a good many existential questions like whether or not it is okay to kill. Yes, it is entertainment, but it also has an interiority that I found interesting which is one of the reason’s I took the job. Nobody’s perfect and we all hide things.

On the professions of their characters in the show

RB: A barber

MM: Ofelia is coming out of school and is starting at the base level of getting into the working industry. She is very much trying to take care of her family and her parents and she is at the on-set of that.

GAH: That is the one thing we really haven’t seen with “The Walking Dead” is young adults. We’ve seen children and we’ve seen Carl grow, but we’ve never really dealt with teenagers and young adults, so that’s a totally new experience that we’ve never seen in “The Walking Dead”.

On anything they have been surprised to learn about themselves delving into these characters

MM: It definitely makes you question what would happen if I was put in this situation. You think of yourself as very tough, I mean Mercedes does, and I think I would be amazing at killing, but my first scene where I have to sort of be strong, I was crumbling and I was shaking and I was like ‘Great, guys, if there was a real apocalypse, I would be dead in 43 minutes’! That’s what I discovered about myself and now I have to go take karate lessons.

This post first appeared on PCM-TV.com/news

The post Getting Our First Taste Of “Fear The Walking Dead”! Interview With Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd And Cast Members Mercedes Mason And Ruben Blades appeared first on Age of The Nerd.

Paul Haggis Discusses Show Me a Hero, debuting this Sunday On HBO

Paul-Haggis

(HBO) In an America generations removed from the greatest civil rights struggles of the 1960s, the young mayor of a mid-sized American city is faced with a federal court order that says he must build a small number of low-income housing units in the white neighborhoods of his town. His attempt to do so tears the entire city apart, paralyzes the municipal government and, ultimately, destroys the mayor and his political future.

From David Simon (HBO’s “Treme” and “The Wire”) and Paul Haggis (“Crash”), the HBO Miniseries presentation SHOW ME A HERO debuts its first two parts back-to-back SUNDAY, AUG. 16 (8:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT), followed by two parts on both of the subsequent Sundays – Aug. 23 and 30 – at the same time. In addition to Simon and Haggis (who directs all six parts), the miniseries is executive produced by Nina K. Noble, Gail Mutrux and William F. Zorzi.

Based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Lisa Belkin, the miniseries explores notions of home, race and community through the lives of elected officials, bureaucrats, activists and ordinary citizens in Yonkers, NY.

QUESTION: How did you become involved in SHOW ME A HERO? What drew you to the project?

PAUL HAGGIS: Truth be told, I agreed to do this even before reading the script; I had complete confidence that in David Simon’s hands this story would be well told. I had never directed anyone else’s words before, but if I was going to do that, David’s were the words I wanted to direct. I’ve long admired him from his work, starting with “The Corner,” and continuing through “The Wire,” “Generation Kill” and “Treme.”

What drew me to the story was the fact that when you say desegregation in America, you think of Birmingham in the ‘60s, or perhaps Boston in the ‘70s, but the last thing you think is New York in 1990; so close to home, just so few years ago. And the fact that the opponents of public housing sold this package of fear based on people’s livelihoods, incomes and life savings. Buying a home is usually the biggest purchase in a lifetime, especially for working people – the majority of the people in Yonkers. Those trying to protect this enclave had managed to keep east Yonkers almost exclusively white, defying federal law for over forty years. When this Federal judge decided he’d had enough and forced the issue, the city exploded. It is a very powerful story.

And of course, what liberals didn’t want to admit is that there was validity in their argument. Federal housing projects all over America had been designed and built so poorly from the beginning that it was almost like we wanted, or at least expected them, to fail. It was nothing more than cheap warehousing, and the very design of these projects guaranteed that crime would flourish within the poverty. So the opponents weren’t mistaken; as Hank Spallone points out in our story – would you want a group of these hellish towers on your street, in your neighborhood?

So, I was thrilled that we were also telling the story of Oscar Newman, who rethought and redesigned public housing. He believed it was criminal what we were doing to the poor, stacking hundreds of low-income families in tower upon tower and jamming them all together into what could only turn into a ghetto. He fought those on both sides of the issue and the federal government itself, championing an alternative that gave dignity to the residents, and allowed them to feel pride in their homes, while placing them in neighborhoods that initially didn’t want them. Public housing in Yonkers, and other places in America that followed his lead, is successful not just because of the heroes like Nick Wasicsko, who put their careers on the line to make it happen, but also because of the bureaucrats like Oscar Newman who worked behind the scenes to find a sane and rational solution – a rare thing in politics today.

Q: How is working off a screenplay and book about a true-life event different from directing a fictionalized story?

PH: I gave David and Bill [Zorzi] a handful of notes on the screenplay, and we jiggered some things around for more dramatic effect, but I left the writing safely in their hands. My job as director was simply to bring those scenes to life, and luckily I had very skilled and talented actors like Oscar Isaac who did that effortlessly.

Q: The actors involved in the miniseries are a dynamic cast of characters. How involved were you in the casting for this project?

PH: It was a collaboration from the start. We struggled to find our leading actor, our Nick Wasicsko. I’d admired Oscar Isaac’s work, but over a year ago when we were casting I really only knew him from the Coen brothers’ film “Inside Llewyn Davis.” Once his name came up we quickly got very excited about the possibility of working with him. As the world knows now, he’s an incredibly gifted actor – and not an obvious choice for the role, so I couldn’t wait to see what he brought to the character. His instincts were wonderful; all I really had to do was give him the room to explore.

We were thrilled to get the interest of so many amazing actors for the supporting roles – well-known talents like Winona Ryder, Jim Belushi, Jon Bernthal, Alfred Molina, Catherine Keener, Latanya Richardson, Terry Kinney, Clark Peters and Bob Balaban, and those we discovered, like Dominique Fishback, Natalie Paul, Carla Quevedo and Ilfenesh Hadera. I was so often surprised by what they brought to the characters, and each of them immersed themselves in researching the details of the lives of their true-life counterparts.

Q: What constraints did you face trying to re-create this period in Yonkers?

PH: Recreating the distant past is often easier than creating the near past. First, people remember it well because they lived it. And surprisingly, it is hard to find authentic props and cars from the period because no one thought to value them, so they were discarded. Easier in many was to find antiques, carriages and Model T Fords. Not a lot of people held onto their Ford Pintos or bottles of Maalox.

I had a terrifically gifted DP in Andrij Parekh and a great production designer in Larry Bennett. I’ve worked with Larry for 20 years now, and guided by our lead producer Nina Noble, we found department heads in costumes, hair, makeup, props and the other essential creative people who cared as deeply about authenticity as David, myself and the producing team did. The artists we worked with had to be really inventive to pull this off, as we didn’t exactly have a “Game of Thrones” budget. I was really proud of their dedication, creativity and resolve.

Yes, we had constraints – if you have problems you can’t just shift your schedule around and shoot something else – every store and street corner has to be dressed and the signage has to be of the correct period – so much has changed in the last 30 years – so we had very little flexibility, we had to make a plan and a schedule and work with the city of Yonkers while being respectful to the residents.

Q: Why do you feel it is important to bring this project to the attention of today’s audiences? Are the same issues relevant in today’s culture, as they were in the Yonkers of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s?

PH: These problems endure. There was an op-ed piece in the New York Times recently about Westchester, which is today in the exact same battle with the federal government, trying to keep low-income housing out of their area. There, and in many dozens of similar communities, it continues to be a battle of class as much as of race, and as always it is masked by arguments about economy and “fairness” and the right for the communities to make their own decisions – but so many times these are easy excuses we use to hide our fear of others. This issue continues to be at the heart of the American story – as soon as we landed here, the first thing we did was build walls to keep us safe, to separate us from from “the others.” And politicians learned the lesson well that it is easier to govern using fear and hatred than it is to appeal to our better nature. As much progress as we have made as a society, there is so much that has not changed. Pretending it has might make us feel better, but it truly helps no one.

Fear The Walking Dead Premieres This Sunday, 8/23 On AMC! Interview With Producer Gale Anne Hurd And Cast Members Mercedes Mason And Ruben Blades

FTWD1

(PCM) We got our first taste of the upcoming Walking Dead companion series “Fear The Walking Dead” now that AMC has released the first three minutes of the premiere episode which is set to air this Sunday, 8/23 at 9pm ET/PT.

WORLDWIDE EXCLUSIVE: #FearBeginsHere this Sunday at 9/8c.

Posted by Fear the Walking Dead on Thursday, August 20, 2015

Set in the same universe as “The Walking Dead,” “Fear the Walking Dead” is a gritty drama that explores the onset of the undead apocalypse through the lens of a fractured family in Los Angeles. In a city where people come to escape, shield secrets, and bury their pasts, a mysterious outbreak threatens to disrupt what little stability high school guidance counselor Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) and English teacher Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) have managed to assemble.

We caught up with the cast and producers of “Fear The Walking Dead” during San Diego Comic Con 2015 to discuss the new series, which they all say will provide viewers with an all new experience and story that differs from “The Walking Dead”.  Below read our interview with executive producer Gale Anne Hurd and cast members Mercedes Mason and Ruben Blades.

On the differences between “Fear The Walking Dead” and “The Walking Dead”

GALE ANNE HURD: It starts much earlier. The time frame is essentially when Rick first went into the coma, although there is no connection to “The Walking Dead”. It is not a prequel or a spin-off, we are a companion side-by side. We deal with an extended family, a blended family and they are facing their own internal problems. To them and to any of us who would be facing them, that is what you need to be worrying about, all of us have, then this happens on top of that, so it ups the emotional stakes.

MERCEDES MASON: The Walkers in the original, they have been decaying for awhile, so they look like monsters, whereas for us it’s so new they still look like your neighbor. Like you just had coffee with Bob yesterday and now he’s trying to eat your face off! There is that sort of psychological aspect of you look human, can I bash your skull in? Especially since we don’t know the rules.

GAH: No one brought the guide-book, no had Morgan like Rick did to tell him what the rules are and how to survive. It’s just beginning to happen.

RUBEN BLADES: You also have a stronger Latino presence than the other show. It’s about time.

MM: That’s the cool thing about having it set in L.A., is that it’s very diverse. You have blended families and you can see from our four leads in the pilot they are all completely different. Cliff and the Madison character, it doesn’t have to do with race, it’s just nice that it’s a bunch of families dealing with what everybody deals with … families and family issues and survival in essence … Lord of the Flies stuff.

On the city of Los Angeles becoming a character itself in the series

GAH: Los Angeles is a place of immigrants, it’s a place of reinvention, it’s a place of rebirth, so you start with characters who are at different stages. You’ve got one character, Alicia, whose about to go off to college, so she has dreams and ambitions. You have a son who is dealing with addiction. You have a new family unit and you have exes and you have resentment from a son who feels that he’s been replaced by these new soon-to-be step-siblings. All of that is very much part of the fabric of L.A.

MM: The cool thing with L.A. is when we think of L.A. traditionally, you think of Hollywood and the glitz and the glamour, but our story is set in East L.A. so it’s very gritty and down-to-earth and it’s working class families, so you really feel, at least it felt to me when I read it, it felt very real. It didn’t feel glossy, which I loved.

GAH: It’s not East L.A. as we think about it from a lot of other TV shows or movies where it’s only gangs and that’s the go to place. We are resetting that to what life is really like if you are a family who lives there. It’s your daily experience that’s changing.

On the pacing of “Fear The Walking Dead”

RB: In the beginning you are going to have to establish the relationships between the different families and the tensions between the personal human perspectives cultures because this is important. Also, there is a clash around two different cultures that are imposed upon one another because of the circumstances. That’s what makes it all very interesting. Bottom line of this is you’re trying to figure out what would the world be like, how would we behave if all of a sudden everything went to hell. Like what Columbus did with indigenous groups here. Would we question the existence of God? Morals are out, authorities out, everything is redefining like in war. It’s happening right now in Syria, where you wake up to a different life in front of their face (than what they had previously). What do we do? What happens?

Here, you have a Latino family that’s not just facing what’s going around, but someone who has already gone through this in their place of origin, are now subjected to it again. They’re forced into another segment of the population that they’re not familiar with because they don’t know how these people are, they don’t necessarily like each other, but they’re helping each other.

MM: That’s where it brings back to the question of family. Is a family something you are born into, something that you pick or are forced into? How do you define that? You have to be able to rely on someone when authority figures, everything we’ve come to rely on like when something goes wrong, we call the cops that’s not the case anymore. Now you have to be self-reliant or you fumble.

 

RB: The pace has to be established. It’s not about killing zombies. It’s about what happened, and what are we going to do? What is acceptable? All of these existential questions are being discussed on the show. It’s entertainment, yes, it’s also an interiority that I found interesting. Nobody’s perfect, we all hide things, and maybe those things become visible that were not justified before and now you have to step up and do this. But can you?”

GAH: Who were these people before the apocalypse? In “The Walking Dead” we’ve had a few flashbacks to see who they were before, but mostly we meet everyone four to six weeks in, so we don’t get that opportunity to see normal, to see a world before and we get to do that here.

MM: We are in there with these characters as hope begins to fall apart. It’s fun to slowly gauge in and really understand what’s happening.

GAH: In “The Walking Dead” two of the central characters in the first season were police officers and they are the authority figures that you look to and we see how equipped and ill-equipped they are, but at the same time they carry guns and are used to firearms and used to taking charge. There are really no alpha characters in this, everyone is pretty much on a level playing field. Everyone finds that they do have skills that are necessary and sometimes those skills are both an advantage and a disadvantage.

MM: And secrets start getting revealed! As we go along, and obviously I can’t reveal too much, all of our characters, you start digging into our past and all of a sudden, there have been times where I read a specific episode and I emailed Ruben in a panic. Every episode as we go along, we start revealing the past of someone and how that defines their character and how it defines them in this new setting.

GAH: Great horror and great science fiction, if you haven’t seen “Night Of The Living Dead” go back and watch it!  That is a remarkable film for its’ time. The lead character was African-American and we sort of forget these things and if you go back and watch it, there was a lot of commentary on society. This show, because that’s what great horror and sci-fi does, also is able in this context to comment on some very serious issues facing our society. If you want to embrace that, great and if you want to just enjoy the ride you can too, but it operates on both levels.

RB: The series looks at a good many existential questions like whether or not it is okay to kill. Yes, it is entertainment, but it also has an interiority that I found interesting which is one of the reason’s I took the job. Nobody’s perfect and we all hide things.

On the professions of their characters in the show

RB: A barber

MM: Ofelia is coming out of school and is starting at the base level of getting into the working industry. She is very much trying to take care of her family and her parents and she is at the on-set of that.

GAH: That is the one thing we really haven’t seen with “The Walking Dead” is young adults. We’ve seen children and we’ve seen Carl grow, but we’ve never really dealt with teenagers and young adults, so that’s a totally new experience that we’ve never seen in “The Walking Dead”.

On anything they have been surprised to learn about themselves delving into these characters

MM: It definitely makes you question what would happen if I was put in this situation. You think of yourself as very tough, I mean Mercedes does, and I think I would be amazing at killing, but my first scene where I have to sort of be strong, I was crumbling and I was shaking and I was like ‘Great, guys, if there was a real apocalypse, I would be dead in 43 minutes’! That’s what I discovered about myself and now I have to go take karate lessons.

 

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