Exclusive Interview: Fantastic Negrito Hits The Road With Temple Of The Dog

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Photo credit: Dan DeSlover

(PCM) The year is certainly ending on a high note for Bay area singer/songwriter Fantastic Negrito. After completing an incredibly success fall run of headlining shows, he was asked to open up for the legendary Temple Of The Dog on a historic run of dates that span across the U.S.

Fantastic Negrito is currently touring behind his absolutely stellar debut album “The Last Days Of Oakland” and his track, an interpretation of the Lead Belly classic “In The Pines” is currently is currently featured in a docu-narrative film directed by Rashidi Natara Harper that focuses on the impact of gun violence in America.

He also recently appeared in the season finale of the hit FOX series “Empire” performing his single “Lost In The Crowd”, the song which garnered him national attention after winning NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Contest, and also the hit song “Good Enough” along side Empire character Jamal Lyons.

We caught up with the engaging Fantastic Negrito prior to his performance opening up for Temple Of The Dog at the historic Tower Theater in Philadelphia, PA.  His show was spectacular and he had the audience hypnotized with his solid blend of soulful blues, funk rhythm and the perfect touch of rock and punk. Talk about a genre-defying artist! Fantastic Negrito was just amazing!

His performance was the recipe for creating a delightfully energetic and engaging show. He found a connection with the audience immediately and once he started there was no stopping from beginning to end. Seriously an artist we could jam with all night long!

We spoke to Fantastic Negrito about a variety of subjects including winning the Tiny Desk Concert Contest, changes in the music industry, his relationship with rocker Chris Cornell and just where he would like to see the future of music headed!

Reflecting on winning the NPR Tiny Desk Concert Contest last year Fantastic Negrito says,  “The thing about winning the Tiny Desk Concert is you can win it and then its over and you must have legs to stand on by yourself because you can only be the winner for so long. Now there is a new Tiny Desk Concert champion and she’s amazing. You have to stand on your own, so you have to have good music, you gotta have a good show and other things have to happen so, I think it was a great catalyst, but it only lasts a certain amount of time.

Fantastic Negrito’s incredible album “The Last Days Of Oakland” was released back in June and reached number 4 on the Billboard charts, an amazing feat without the backing of any type of record label.  We were curious to know if he felt that was the way to do things now, without worrying about a label and having full creative control. Fantastic Negrito tells us “I think as artists there’s only one way to do it and that is the right way to do it and that is the real way to do it. That is to be genuine and that’s how you do it. I don’t care if it’s 50 years ago or it’s now, you do it that way … in my opinion … that works for me. It may not work for everyone else, but it works for me. As an artist my goal is to be a contributor.

When speaking about putting the album together and the mindset in the studio Fantastic Negrito reveals “For “The Last Days Of Oakland” I remember I was coming up with the concept and I had been on tour to a bunch of cities and we just noticed that every city was going through transition. I like topic matter and I thought this is something interesting to kind of touch on and as far as the songs, they were different. I would go out into the street and actually talk to people and record them with an iPhone and those are a lot of the different voices you hear on the album’s interludes.

I wanted to hear the voices of everyday working people.  That was kind of the theme of the record. These people living in this transition where the cities that they were born in and grew up in had suddenly become unaffordable. For artists a lot of these cities have become unaffordable, so a lot of the songs touch on that.

I was writing “Working Poor” and I think I interviewed by brother who is a historian and that’s how I really got the lyrics of that song and “Scary Woman” came from an obsession I had with a Robert Johnson song called “Preaching Blues”, just an insane energy from that song. ”

We told Fantastic Negrito that one of our favorite tracks on the album was “Rant Rushmore”. He commented “That song came from the idea as a vocalist to have the kind of conversations that people don’t want to have and I really enjoy that.”

We feel that Fantastic Negrito’s music really makes people think and that is refreshing. So much of what we hear on top 40 is very generic and cookie-cutter, as people mindlessly hum along and don’t think about what the music is actually saying. Fantastic Negrito says “Well, that’s how we got Donald Trump. Quite frankly, you get people not to think and not to engage and you end up in a very precarious and dangerous situation. People will then be led by anything. I think the more informed we are and the more thought-provoking artists are it’s a healthier society.

I think as artists, the more we are contributing, it’s better for us because we’re quite self-absorbed as artists. I always call myself a recovering narcissist and I take it seriously. We must find ways to circumvent the greediness and selfishness.”

We comment that music is almost like a therapy of sorts. Fantastic Negrito agrees saying “Thank you! I call my concerts group therapy. It’s group therapy mutha f**ker.” “I always have to throw a mutha f**cker on there” he concludes with a laugh.

Sometimes the areas in which an artist records an album can have a huge impact on the overall theme or feeling behind the music, almost like a character. Fantastic Negrito reveals “Totally. Travelling and playing in different venues and just talking to people, you get lyrics by just watching and talking to people. It’s important. I think what I do is I gather these different parts and pieces and then when I’m ready to sit down it all makes sense.

Wherever I’m going, I’m making notes. When something interesting happens I put it down and then it becomes part of the conversation that you want to have for the album.”

We were curious of there were any songs that were leftover and didn’t make the cut for the album. Fantastic Negrito says “There’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t make the cut and that’s how it should be. I’ll revisit stuff because sometimes you just never know what fits.

There’s a song on “The Last Days Of Oakland”, one that I may not have written for “The Last Days Of Oakland”, and I’m trying to recall which one, there is a song called “Nothing Without You” on the end that I thought really didn’t fit, but in the end it went on. I didn’t think that would make the record, but it did because I really felt like yes, as a person and as an artist, as a human being, my liberty and my freedom evolved out of that philosophy.

Like I’m nothing without you, so I need to treat you right and I need to treat this guy right, and this person right and that’s what makes for a stronger me and a stronger society. The message is what I was really interested in and you know, an album is an interesting thing and it has to tie together and make sense.”

When speaking about being surprised at which songs fans tend to gravitate towards, he says “I’m surprised sometimes that people are really into one song and I really didn’t see it coming. I know that when I have a song, is when I feel a little uncomfortable about it and I go ‘that’s it’! When I think ‘whoa, should I really sing this’, that’s when you got a song.”

While writing music can be therapeutic at times, it is definitely an emotional process and reliving those emotions while performing can be difficult. Fantastic Negrito comments “When I’m performing I try to give everything. I don’t drink coffee on days of performances just tea. I don’t want any stimulants, I want to be as naked and as raw as I can be and to convey that and connect with that audience because ultimately that’s what it’s all about for me. For me, personally, that’s my therapy.  Nothing without you means I need to connect with you all for this life to make sense. I need to do it and in doing that you embody the song and just give it up.

I try not to do it the same way always. I like it to be organic and let it happen. I don’t like to rehearse too much. Rehearse to the point that you know it, but not too much. There’s a lot of punk rocker in me and I love to let that loose.”

We love the imperfectly perfect sound sometime and those little nuances just work. Fantastic Negrito concludes, “I want to be surprised.”

When discussing the approach between smaller club show versus larger festival environments Fantastic Negrito reveals, “Opening for Temple Of The Dog is huge. It’s even more magnified because they never really toured. People are coming to see Temple Of The Dog and they are like ‘who’s this dude up here with the scarf around his neck?’, so it’s okay and I love it! I love the challenge of trying to connect with an audience. It doesn’t matter if there are ten people or ten thousand because to me if you make that connection with people that’s what matters the most. It’s always different, it never feels the same and it shouldn’t.

I don’t know if it’s so much “size matters”, it’s just people. The intensity and the connection … that’s what matters. As an artist, that’s our job to make that connection happen.”

When talking about what it was like when he got the call to do this Temple Of The Dog tour, Fantastic Negrito reflects, “I communicate always, just me and Chris [Cornell], there’s no agent or anything like that. He’ll just send me a little email like ‘hey, would you like to open the Temple Of The Dog tour? Of course, if you’re not busy.’ I’m like ‘Geez, that’s crazy!’, it took a minute, but Chris Cornell has been such a major part of my 2016. 2016 would be different without Chris Cornell, I mean, he took me to Europe to do the acoustic tour and then we got back and I got the email like ‘hey, do you want to do the States?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah! Let’s do the States’ and we’re going to Canada and the Middle East and then to get the Temple Of The Dog email was just nuts. But he’s a loving, giving person and a true artist, a man that transcends genres.

He’s just a brilliant and amazing singer and I like that it’s just musician to musician. Chris Cornell isn’t asking me for anything. He’s just like ‘I like the music … be part of my show’ and I think that’s what we need to do as musicians. Let’s help each other. If we think somebody’s got something, let’s introduce them to our audiences and it’s a great lesson for all artists.

We comment that with so many changes taking place in the music industry over the years it is refreshing to see two artist be able to come together without a whole lot of business stuff to work out. Fantastic Negrito says, “We don’t have the same managers, he’s not getting a piece of my publishing or anything like that, he’s just like ‘man, let’s do it’ and that’s what it should be! He’s been amazing and a huge part of how big my 2016 is because, as he says with a laugh, Chris Cornell .. if I have another kid, I’m going to name him Chris Cornell, I’m not going to name him Chris, I’m going to be like ‘Chris Cornell! Come here!’ there will be no space … just ChrisCornell! That’s my next kid’s name, girl or boy, doesn’t matter!”

This whole thing has been like a dream. Opening up these last few nights, I’m like ‘wow, it’s Temple Of The Dog’ and I remember the whole Seattle movement back in the 90’s when I was just mostly listening to hip-hop and then the Seattle movement came and got my ears, my head and my heart involved in some music that was real.

That’s why everyone universally could understand what was going on in Seattle at that time because Soundgarden, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam were the ones keeping it real when rock n’ roll had gotten so big-hair corporate cookie-cutter and predictable. Art should not be comodified on that level where big business can, and I’m not going to say will all the time, ruin a great thing.”

When speaking about the way that the shroud of mystery has been lifted on the world of rock n’ roll thanks to social media and other factors, he comments “We’ve become a transparent society. We’ve become a society where there aren’t too many things that are that special, as it’s all right there on social media. The only thing that’s not transparent is our government. If we could get them to be more transparent, but that’s just the way it is.

There’s always some opiate for the masses and now its social media, but you can take that bullsh*t and turn it into good sh*t, as I say everyday. You can take social media, and it’s just a tool,  it’s just like a hammer. You can bash people on the hands with a hammer or you can build a house you can live it, it’s just the tool.”

Discussing some of the biggest challenges facing artists today, Fantastic Negrito shares, “I think one of the biggest challenges facing artists is, you may have generations of people who are calling themselves artists who just want to be famous. And that ain’t where it is! You may have artist’s who are just being artist’s so they can get a million followers. That’s crazy. I think being an artist and we’re talking to the biggest narcissist of them all by the way, and I’ve said it before, it’s all about contributing. Contributing to the medium, contributing to society, contributing to the human family.

That’s when it happens … when artists are doing that. I think that’s the biggest challenge because the power of social media has also made everyone gain a major feeling of self-importance. It’s a slippery slope. You shouldn’t just want to be famous, you shouldn’t just want to write hit songs, you should do something amazing. Do something that’s great or different. That’s just from my perspective and someone else may feel differently and they can feel the way that they feel, but as a creative person and an artist that’s how I feel.”

We asked Fantastic Negrito if there was anything on his bucket list that he would still like to attempt. He jokingly replies, “I’d like to be a puppy and be cuddled”.  He then reveals, “I’d like to do a mix tape. Kind of like a black roots blues mix tape the same way that rap artists do mixtapes, but instead a mix tape the way I would do it. Hopefully, we will see it happen in 2017.  I don’t think anyone’s done a roots music mixtape. All these kids who sell beats for a hundred bucks, take them, deconstruct them, and just play live music all around it. Just something interesting. Heck, maybe I’ll get Chris on it! Just so it’s like ‘whoa, what is this?’. It’s a blue mix tape mother f**ker!”

When speaking about the blurring of genres, Fantastic Negrito tells us, “Genre has never mattered. All genres are, are a place to hide. Music transcends or it doesn’t. The true genres are: This is amazing great or it’s not. Those are the genres in my view. If the music has power it transcends. The way the Seattle sounds transcends to a kid from Oakland, who was not trying to hear no rock n’ roll necessarily, but when I heard these cats I was like, ‘whoa’ and it didn’t matter because the art was real. The message was real and it did not matter.

I just spoke to you. Do you think only country people like Johnny Cash? No, he transcended it all just like others such as James Brown, Bob Marley, and The Beatles. If your songs are great, they’re great.”

We explain that we feel music is a universal language that we can all speak and understand. Fantastic Negrito tells us that music first began speaking to him because he was the eighth of fourteen kids and he never got enough attention.  He says, “I was in a dance contest once and I won when I was seventeen. I was like ‘wow, this is attention … I never got attention from anyone’ so, I thought I can do this for a living but I didn’t know how to play an instrument, so I had to go and learn how to plan an instrument. It just came from growing up with fourteen people in a house and feeling left out. It was that need for some validation or attention and then I did the work and learned the instruments and inside there was a singer and an artist that I didn’t know.  I didn’t grow up playing music at all.

Fantastic Negrito taught himself to play various instruments, he comments, “I took the easy and I really wanted to play what I wanted to play. I learned some covers, of course, but I didn’t go out and try to learn everyone else’s songs. That’s part of the disease of self-importance. I heard things and I wanted to play them. ”

When looking to the future and just what next year will hold in store, Fantastic Negrito tells us “You know, I’ve been touring since March non-stop. Two tours in Europe and two across the States and this is my third one across the States, Canada, Middle East, Australia … after this one, unless I get a call from Chris, I’m just going to hopefully take it easy if I can. I usually can’t, but I’ll try. I am looking forward to waking up the next day and being grateful for that. Hopefully in 2017 a blues mix tape!

“Last Days Of Oakland” is still going pretty strong. Some people are still getting to know it and it’s got legs, so I’ll let it walk. I really never stop creating. The beauty of touring is that people get to discover something they haven’t seen before!”

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Love Is In The Air For An American In Paris Leading Lady Sara Esty

04(PCM) Before her 30th birthday Sara Esty has discovered that dreams do come true. The lovely and accomplished ballet dancer, is playing the leading role of Lise Dassin in the current tour of “An American in Paris,” the Tony-Award-winning musical about an American soldier, a mysterious French girl, and an indomitable European city, each yearning for a new beginning in the aftermath of war.

Acclaimed director/choreographer Christopher Wheeldon brings the magic and romance of Paris into perfect harmony with unforgettable songs from George and Ira Gershwin in the show that earned more awards than any other musical in the 2015 season. With rich storytelling and ravishing and nuanced dance numbers and memorable show tunes, the show is, as the Gershwin brothers would say, simply s’wonderful.The show comes to the Academy of Music from Tuesday, Nov. 22-Sunday, Nov. 27, the perfect time to enjoy this romantic show with family and friends during the holiday season.

The lovely Esty, a former soloist with the Miami City Ballet, received her training at the Maine State Ballet, the School of American Ballet, and the Miami City Ballet School. She received a Princess Grace Fellowship Award for excellence in dance. This accomplished dancer has performed various works by legendary choreographers, including George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp, and Christopher Wheeldon.

Q: The current national tour of “An American in Paris” just started. How long have you been with this musical?

SARA ESTY: I have been with the show since the inception; about two and a half years.

Q: Tell me about the early beginnings of this show for you?

SE: I started rehearsals in New York and then we had a two-month trial run in Paris, which was incredible. After that we brought it to Broadway. So, I have seen it in all of its stages of development –- which has been thrilling for me.

Q: Have you had the same part all along?

SE: No. I started in Paris as a stand for the lead, and I had the honor of performing the show a few times in Paris. I went on twice a week and was in the ensemble, and now I’ve graduated to playing the lead; it has been an awesome ride. Ironically, my current leading man in the tour, Garen Scribner, was the alternate for the leading role in the beginning.

Q: Please tell me about your background.

SE: I grew up in a small town Gorham, Maine, which is about 15 minutes outside of Portland. My identical two sister, Leigh-Ann, and I started dancing at the age of three. After high school I had to decide if I wanted to pursue dancing, or college.

Q : Your decision was…

SE: Dancing. Basically, at age 18, and right out of high school I started auditioning for dance companies and was accepted into the Miami City Ballet. I was there for 10 years, and my sister, who is also my best friend, got a job dancing there as well.

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Q: How did you wind up performing in musicals?

SE: I’ve always loved the performing arts and Broadway, and I have also long enjoyed singing. I was in the chorus and chamber choir in high school, but I never knew that I would have an opportunity to exercise all of my passions in one outlet.

Q: How did “An American in Paris” come about for you?

SE: I heard about the great names behind the show. The idea of entering the world of a big Broadway musical really got me excited. I auditioned, and almost three years later, here I am.

Q: Generations of movie musical lovers know the show from the Gene Kelley version. What has this experience been for you doing it live each night?

SE: We really do love doing it. It’s a beautiful and an important story today – especially today when there is so much pain, war, and hate in the world, and so it’s about acknowledging that love is so integral to each of us and that it can conquer all. It feels really good to relay that message to audiences everywhere.

Q: The themes are truly universal; and it appeals to people who enjoy a wide range of the performing arts.

SE: Yes. I agree. I often talk to people who say ‘I’m not much of a ballet person,’ but I loved this show. Everyone has his or her own opinion, but it seems that our story is not only a big Broadway musical, it is telling an important story through movement. It’s so much more than people expect, so people often tell me that they are pleasantly surprised by how much they are captivated by every aspect of the show.

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Q: So what is your sister doing these days?

SE: Happily she is on tour with me.

Q: That’s wonderful.

SE: She stayed with the Miami City Ballet for two extra years, and when I told her they were started auditioning performers for this tour, she said she was ready to leave the ballet company. She auditioned and was given the part of my alternate, so she goes on a couple times a week. I am over the moon that we are back together. We are best friends and one another’s biggest supporters. What they say is true about twins, it is an Indescribable connection. For us to experience that same character in the same show is amazing and remarkable. I love that we are back together sharing this incredible experience.

Q: Have your mom and dad seen this show?

SE: I can’t even count how many times. Both of my parents went to the recent opening in Boston a few weeks ago and I know that my mom is coming to Philadelphia, and that my dad will come back to see it again, soon. I have a feeling they are definitely going to be our tour groupies.

Q: So, why should people come to see the show in Philadelphia and other stops on the tour?

SE: Well, like I was saying, this is a story everyone can relate to in some way, shape or form.

Q: Why do you feel that way?

SE: I say that because everyone has gone through hard times and has had to rebuild after that and they come out of that hardship a better and stronger person.

Q: How do you relate this to the show?

SE: Our characters are rebuilding after a time of no hope, doubt, fear and terror – and they discover that love does triumph after all. We can all kind of relate to that. If you love a big Broadway musical, and a good story, and embrace the idea of love you should come to this show for sure.

Q: How do you spend your rare free time?

SE: It’s so funny because we are just kind of getting into our routine of having days off. So I will try to find local places for a massage, and experience fun local restaurants and markets. We have been to Buffalo, Hartford and Boston, and Philadelphia is next. I want to see as much of cities we are going as possible. I haven’t been to most of them. I know that a lot of our cast members keep journals, and I have been taking a lot of videos so maybe I can put something together on touring unique places.

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Q: How long do you plan to be with this tour?

SE: I signed on for a year, so that takes me to October 2017. The tour is growing. In fact, it is opening in London in March, which is really exciting. There have also been talks about taking it all over the world, because the show is so amazing and everyone – far and wide –seems to really love it.

Q: I hear the excitement in your voice for dancing. Could you imagine a world in which you did not dance?

SE: No, not really. I have often said that it is probably something that I have to do. It is such a big passion of mine, I honestly can’t imagine my life without it. I am the worst relaxer you will ever meet. I do love having a day off here and there, but after an extended period of time I get really antsy. I am always much happier when I am dancing and when I am surrounded by music; it just makes me happy and fulfills me as a person.

Q: So what do you see for your future?

SE: After I am done with this show, I would love to do another musical. I hope to go back to New York and see what’s out there for me. I am enjoying the acting and singing, so I will see where this takes me. I can’t see not having dancing in my life or not being in the entertainment field in general.

Q: Why is that?

SE: It’s just in my bones, in my heart and in my soul. I have to pinch myself on a daily basis to believe this is what I do every day. The work is hard, don’t get me wrong, but – it just feels so gratifying and fulfilling. I love that I get to tell these beautiful stories and help transport us from our daily lives. People call it work; but to me it feels incredible.
For further information about “An American in Paris,” please go to: www.kimmelcenter.org

The post Love Is In The Air For An American In Paris Leading Lady Sara Esty first appeared on Movie News & Reviews.

Big Bang Theory’s Kunal Nayyar Triumphs in the Film ‘Trolls’

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(PCM) Sitting in a sound booth to perform the voice of the Troll Guy Diamond, film, TV and theater actor Kunal Nayyar tried to imagine how his movie “Trolls” would be when completed.

The 35-year-old Nayyar is one versatile actor. In “Trolls,” he plays a gray glittery Troll, who is always naked. He recently finished starring in a play in London’s West End, and he is best known for his major role of astrophysicist Raj in TV’s multi-Emmy-award-winning show, “The Big Bang Theory.”

“Trolls,” is about a group of overly optimistic singing, dancing and hugging Trolls get together there seems to be no limit to what they can achieve, despite any obstacles that get in their way.

This is the extremely uplifting message of “Trolls,” the new smart, funny, and irreverent comedy about the search for happiness, and just how far some of us will go to get it. From Dreamworks and 20th Century Fox, the movie opened Friday, just in time for the upcoming holiday season.

In addition, there’s the hair –bright, candy-colored coifs grown to gravity-defying heights, the hallmark and crowning glory of Trolls everywhere.

The movie includes a great deal of toe-tapping music, including several new songs written by Justin Timberlake. The glittery computer-animated film transports audiences to a fast-paced,eye-popping, and colorful world of singing and dancing Trolls; led by Princess Poppy, and the comically pessimistic Bergens, who are only happy when they have Trolls in their stomachs.

After the Bergens invade Troll Village, Poppy (Anna Kendrick), the happiest Troll ever born, and the overly-cautious, curmudgeonly Branch, (Timberlake), set off on a journey to rescue her many Troll friends, each with his or her own unique personality.

Their mission is full of hair-raising adventure and mishaps; as this mismatched duo try to tolerate each other long enough to get the job done. The extensive A-list voice cast in the film, includes: James Corden, Gwen Stefani, Chrstine Baranski, Jeffrey Tambor, and Zooey Deschanel.

PCM: I wanted to tell you that I saw “Trolls” the other day with my 10-year-old son, it was an adorable,colorful movie that made me sing and dance all the way home

Kunal Nayyar: Well, that’s wonderful. You sound very excited about it.

PCM: Yes. I am very excited. So tell me, what do you like most about this movie?

KN: I think what I appreciate most is the message that love can conquer hate and the fact that you can bring your children and your parents — several generations of one family — and still have a wonderful time, the music, the dancing. It’s a feel great movie; to be honest. It’s a great movie, and we don’t have a lot of movies like this right now, and I think it’s going to make all of us feel wonderful.

PCM: Were you familiar with trolls? I actually played with them when I was a little girl and have fond memories of doing so.

KN: I knew the trolls. I didn’t play with them, but I knew, of course, of the dolls and the hair. But when this came about I didn’t know that it was going to be such a wonderful, beautiful,and glitzy musical, which is one of the treats that people are going to find very exciting; that it’s not only just an animation movie, but the music is incredible.

PCM: I agree. I definitely agree.Everybody was dancing in their seats and dancing up and down the aisles on their way out of the movie theater.

KN: I love to hear that.

PCM: Now, one of the messages that I heard, and you’ve already eluded to, is happiness is already there,sometimes you need someone to help you find it. Do you agree with that? Do you believe that?

KN: Absolutely. I think that it’s a reminder that we all need because, as human beings, we’re not perfect, and we go through times in our life when we need a reminder, and when you’re surrounded by people who remind you that things always work out in the end.

PCM: Would you say in general,since we’re talking about optimism, that you’re more of a glass half full than a glass half empty kind of guy?

KN: I’ve never completely understood that phrase to be honest, but I would absolutely say I’m someone who is an optimistic person.

PCM: Okay, makes sense. Now you’ve had an amazing career so far, and you’re still young, but I’m sure there have been rejections and things that didn’t work out.

KN: Yes, absolutely. To be optimistic,to be happy are things that are beyond success and failure. I think that if you’re successful, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be happy, and if you’re not successful, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be sad. I think we have to understand that success is not based on your bank account or your balance sheet or how many awards you have won, but it’s going to be based on the legacy that you leave behind; all the happiness, love, and charity. That’s what I value as important.

PCM: How did you wrap your head around your character; your very glittery character?

KN: Well, in the early stages, I didn’t know exactly what this character was going to be. I sat with Walt and Mike in the studio, and we tried to discover this guy that they wanted me to play, and I think what we settled on was really a close version of who I am as a person, which I think is always a lot more effective than just playing a character. Going into this I didn’t know what to expect. So figuring this out is something we only found together in the studio.

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PCM: Now, I understand after speaking to other voice actors on films like this that you don’t always record together. Did you record alone or were you with any of your co-stars?

KN: I recorded alone with the directors and the producers.

PCM: I’m assuming you have seen the final version of the movie. How is that different from what you may have expected or imagined?

KN: To be honest, when you watch the movie, it’s difficult to imagine that world without seeing it; if that makes any sense. I think that when I saw it for the first time I was incredibly surprised at how alive the environment felt. I didn’t know how much of nature and sort of the fuzzy insects, and the animals, and the hair, and the glitter,you know without watching the ambition, it was always difficult to imagine, but when I saw it, it all came together in my mind.

PCM: I’m sure when you were younger you thought about some success and some kind of career, and it’s really become very big and very exciting with Big Bang and some of your movies and animation and theater, what’s kind of the sweetest part of all of it if you can boil it down?

KN: It’s a good question. I think when you’re right in this like I am just I’m living my life, it’s difficult sometimes to take a step back and say what the sweetest point of it was or is. I think I’m so consumed by waking up every morning and trying to be better as an actor or be better as a person or be a better husband or better at everything that I think maybe not it’s not the best thing, but I think that I’m not sure really what the sweetest moment was.

PCM: Does anything come to mind?

KN: To be completely honest, one of the sweetest moments was having my parents being so proud of me. I think that would be the sweetest moment of this ride. Maybe that fame hasn’t changed me as much as you would think it would; or something that I’ve managed to be able to stay the same person and having them be proud of that. Maybe that’s the sweetest thing about all of this.

PCM: Switching gears for a moment, are you close friends with your Big Bang co-stars?

KN: Yes, we’re a family.Definitely, very, very close.

PCM: Well, you talked about your parents being proud, so what’s it like kind of watching the show or taking them with you on that part of that ride

KN: That’s fun to watch them to sort of see this world and still be themselves, which I think is hilarious because, obviously, they might not understand all the etiquette about this Hollywood world; because they will always just be my parents, which I think is very sweet. They love the show, obviously. They’re very proud of Big Bang, and they’re dying to see Trolls; which I think they’re going to be proud of. So it’s extremely fun for us. We dreamt about all this together, so sharing it as a family is really wonderful. We dreamt about all of this as a family. I’m sure my parents dreamt about their children going off and doing things that they’re proud of, so it’s really fun to share it with them.

PCM: Why do you want people to see Trolls? What do you hope they’ll get out of it?

KN: I think that the world really needs a dose of glitter and happiness and music, and I think in whatever mood you come in; whatever is going on in your life or in your day, when you come and watch this movie you’re going to leave a better person, a happier person, a person that believes in love, a person that believes in sort of the true essence of what humanity is about, and I think that’s what this movie is going to provide for everyone.

PCM: If I gave you a couple hours where you really didn’t have to do anything work-wise, would you be listening to music, would you go hiking, how would you spend those couple hours chilling out?

KN: I’d probably go play some golf.

PCM: Are you any good at the game?

KN: I mean it’s golf; is anyone any good? It depends on the day.

PCM: Do you have anything else coming up besides Big Bang Theory, anything on the horizon?

KN: Well, not yet. I just finished a play in London in the West End with Jesse Eisenberg, which we did this summer, and when I finished that I started shooting Big Bang in August, so that’s sort of what I’m consumed with for now. Oh, and my book that came out last year just came out in paperback called, “Yes, My Accent Is Real.” After that, I’m not really sure. But I can honestly say I love all of it.

PCM: How do you stay the same person and not have success kind of go to your head?

KN: I think it’s about the people that you surround yourself with. I’ve had the same friends, I’ve had for the longest time before Big Bang Theory, and before any of this. I think being surrounded by people who know you, who you trust, who you’re loyal to, who are loyal to you, these are the people who will continue to keep you grounded because it’s an industry that can build you up and tear you down, and you have to be ready for both the highs and the lows, and the only way to do that is to surround yourself with people who knew you before you were anything, and my friends always keep me grounded. To them, I’m just Kunal, and to my family, I’m just Kunal, and that’s the most important thing.

The post Big Bang Theory’s Kunal Nayyar Triumphs in the Film ‘Trolls’ first appeared on Movie News & Reviews.

We Envision A Hit With Hulu’s New Original Series ‘Shut Eye’! A Chat With Stars Jeffery Donovan And KaDee Strickland!

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(PCM) It is hard to believe, but as we rack our TV loving brains we just can’t seem to come up with a show that has tackled the psychic industry, looking at it from the inside out. Sure, there have been psychics and mediums featured on various programs, but a scripted series dedicated to what goes on beyond the crystal ball was music to our ears. Psychic parlors operate out of just about every city and span throughout the entire world. It can be incredibly hard to determine which ones are legitimate and which ones could possibly be a scam.

Hulu’s newest original series “Shut Eye” follows the story of  Charlie Haverford, played by actor Jeffery Donovan who is a scammer with a small chain of fortune-telling storefronts and contracts building tricks for a family that controls the business in the greater chunk of Los Angeles. A blow to the head from a client’s angry boyfriend intersects with a hypnosis session while auditioning a new “clairvoyant,” and suddenly, a man whose entire life has been based on fraud begins to see and feel some very real and fundamental truths. Charlie’s wife Linda played by actress KaDee Strickland is sick and tired of their mediocre life and wants to break away from Fonso ( Angus Sampson), the single father who runs the Marks family’s psychic empire and controls the Haverford’s future. Actress Isabella Rossellini co-stars as Rita, the cunning, seductive and sadistic matriarch of the Marks clan.

After checking out the first three episodes of the series we found ourselves immediately hooked and were incredibly fortunate to catch up with the cast and crew of “Shut Eye” during New York Comic Con.  When asked to describe their characters in the series KaDee Strickland tells us, “I play Charlie’s wife Linda. You know, we are a normal couple who run our psychic parlor out of our home. We work for these hideous monsters and we raise a teenager putting him through private school with $40 per hour readings. We are a couple of people on a very grand journey because we are making big decisions about the directions of our lives as individuals and as a couple.”  Jeffrey Donovan adds, “We run a psychic parlor out of our house and we are controlled by a clan of gypsies that oversee the psychic shops in L.A. and we are just an everyday husband and wife, just trying to make a buck and get their kid through private school.”

We had to know if either Donovan or Strickland had done any research into the psychic industry or visited any parlors when they agreed to take part in the series.  Strickland reminiscences saying “I had driven by this one psychic parlor on this drag that I travel near my home and my first conversation with producer Les Bohem took place right after I had driven by it. Everything to me is a corny sign, so I was like ‘hey, I just ran by a psychic parlor’ and he was like ‘I know that parlor’  because that man knows every parlor in Los Angeles. I had dabbled prior to this job, but the way in which I dabbled and the way in which I perceive it now that I know a lot more was fascinating for me and it made me question everything I’d ever been told and it made me very aware that when you have such a need to believe something, you enter the room a certain way and they know it.

That also became a fun game because I would enter the room without my wedding ring and I would hear things like this man is going to come into my life and the amount of children I was going to have and all these things and it’s so funny because everybody’s going to be rich, everybody’s going to have babies and money and it’s funny because as a wrap gift for our crew, Jeffrey brought in a phenomenal magician and I brought in a R0mani tarot card reader. It was hilarious how many of us are clearly going to have babies and be rich forever and all that stuff and we were like ‘Oh, really now’, but it was really a good time. We were able to revisit that was new eyes and realize that world is one we play into if we choose, but there is definitely another side to it which I love to explore. You can run away peoples lives with it. That in essence if you get hooked, that’s exactly what it can be.”

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Sometimes as an actor delves into a character and a series there are certain things that they find they are surprised to learn about themselves. Jeffery Donovan reveals “I think this ability that Charlie has is a skill set. I was surprised because I didn’t necessarily believe in psychics, but after I did this role, I believe it is a skill set. I think people can develop the tools and the knowledge to be able to read someone when they walk in a room. The color of your shirt, your demeanor, those earrings … they all say a certain thing about you and I can then funnel it down into something specific and then start probing certain questions that will lead you and me down a road where I now have you in my hooks. I have respect now for it as a skill set which really surprised me because I kind of dismissed it, but I thought it was fascinating. Now I really believe that it’s an actually profession with a real set of tools that make them a good living.”

Stickland adds “I was surprised because I find Linda to be so very different than myself in the way she navigates life. But, I was also surprised at how if I put myself in certain circumstances surrounding the child in particular I could relate to the character because I could understand a love that great. That was interesting to me because I don’t find that she’s second nature to me. I don’t spend time with people like Linda, in fact, I try to avoid it, so that for me was a really interesting aspect of what I discovered about myself and about her and that is where it kind of started for me and part of the fun was her being nothing like me. ”

With such an amazing cast we can only imagine that the atmosphere on set is amazing. Donovan comments “It’s very enjoyable cast. We have a great camaraderie between us and I think it helps that we’re all over our pubescent years because we all have a wealth of experience and we are settled in a good way. ”

Strickland comments “We have a healthy respect for each other.” Donovan concludes “It’s a true ensemble it really is”

When speaking about L.A. being the perfect backdrop for this series, Strickland says “Literally my husband sent me a picture on his way home from taking our son to school today of a woman with a little card table and her crystals and her $10 readings sign on the side of the road. It’s everywhere and it’s fair game. There is something about the need to know and what that will compel you to do as a person. The need to know if there is something on the other side, the need to know that you are going to be okay or oh, my god, I am running out of money but maybe they will let me know if something is going to change. There’s things like that, that are really centered around the need to know that’s very interesting to me. I think Los Angeles, in particular, has a quality that is based in need and desire. What better place than Los Angeles to prey on those people that have need in order to get what they need.”

“Shut Eye” will premiere on Hulu on December 7!

Ash Vs. Evil Dead Receives Season Three Renewal! Star Bruce Campbell Chats With Us At New York Comic Con!

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(PCM) Starz has revealed that we will be getting even more of our beloved Ash with the announcement that Ash vs. Evil Dead has been given the greenlight for a season three renewal. While no official release date for the 10-episode third season has been revealed, it is strongly rumored that it will air next fall.

The news about the season three renewal comes just a few days after season two of the cult-hit series made it’s premiere on Starz and after the appearance made by the cast and crew at New York Comic Con. Actor Bruce Campbell, who plays Ash Williams in the series and the original Evil Dead films, was joined by his co-stars Lucy Lawless, Dana DeLorenzo, Ray Santiago, Ted Raimi and Lee Majors for a panel that took place at New York’s famed Hammerstein Ballroom.

In season two of the series we find Ash leaving Jacksonville to return to his hometown of Elk Grove where he confronts Ruby, delightfully played by actress Lucy Lawless, and they must find a way to work together to battle the evil that has taken over the area.

We caught up with the legendary Bruce Campbell to chat about the new season, the generation appeal of the series, exploring the various sides of Ash

When asked about how excited he was to be back for season two, Campbell replied “You need it and you want it. That’s the idea and the goal, so we are really gratified. Starz has been a really good partner. We’ve all had a lot of crappy partners over the years and Starz is not one of them.”

Campbell also went on to discuss introducing Evil Dead to a new generation commenting “We are also re-introducing it to the old generation. We are servicing the old clients and bringing in some new clients as well. ” When delving into some more details about season two, Campbell revealed, “Season two is more ambitious. It’s partially human nature to say let’s give them something bigger and better, so it’s more action. Season two, holy f**king sh*t, it’s more action. It wore us all out! I started drinking coffee this year. I haven’t had a cup of coffee in 30 years and last two weeks of shooting, I’m like, give me a goddamn cup of coffee! I had the coffee and I’m like give me another one! It’s a very ambitious season and we have some new directors, some new writers and we’re excited. I feel, and this is just the same old horsesh*t, it’s a better season than season one. We already got the job, we know what we’re doing, we know the other actors, we know the directors, we know the lay of the land, so it’s more comfortable.”

We asked Campbell how he felt about continuing to explore the many sides of Ash to which he replied “I’m really excited. That’s what TV is best at! You can crack that character open and stare into his brain for years and we hope to do that. That’d be fun! Someone asked me if I’m tired of playing Ash and I’m like ‘Hell no! We’re just starting!’ This story is just beginning. And don’t forget there is a Joseph Campbell aspect to this story, as he is foretold in an ancient book. It’s not some random bullsh*t that this loser guy from Michigan has to save the world. There is something to all this. The trick is, what is it?  What is Ash’s real story? What is his real power? Who is he really? Maybe he’s not even the guy that we think he is.”

You can listen to the full New York Comic Con interview below:

 

Gemini Syndrome: Aaron Nordstrom interview

img_8770(PCM) We caught up with Aaron Nordstrom, lead vocalist and songwriter for Gemini Syndrome, at the KISW Pain in the Grass festival in Seattle, Washington on August 21, 2016.

Melissa Sedlmeier (MS): Who inspires you?

Aaron Nordstrom (AN): Most of it, lyrically at least, comes from my experiences, my life, whatever weird trials and tribulations I experience. I am influenced for sure by philosophy and religion. I studied Chinese kung fu for 18 years, so those kind of philosophers and the Eastern way of thinking is a big part of it. My older brother Blake, he inspires me. You can take it from anywhere.

MS: I get that from your music, and I feel that. It’s awesome. Musically, who inspires you?

AN: I grew up playing classical jazz piano, so I was influenced by that stuff heavily when I was young. I was in choirs. Getting into my teens, I found rock n’ roll and grunge and metal. I listened to everything from trance music to black metal to folk music. It’s hard to pinpoint, I like literally everything.

MS: It’s all the bits and pieces that make it.

AN: The whole band is like that, I think that is what creates the sound that we have. Brian (Steele Medina) came up in drum corps, which is super strict and structured, rigid music. But then he also loves all kinds of other stuff and that blends together.

MS: We have had some greats pass away this year – Bowie, Prince, Lemmy, Glenn Frey. Are you inspired by any of those legends?

AN: On some level, all of them. My biggest ones were Peter Steele and Dimebag Darrell. That was the stuff that I really got into as a kid. What’s crazy is the guys I listened to growing up, now they’re all getting into their fifties and sixties. Life is short, that is the whole point of this record, realizing that at some point everyone is going to pass on. It’s kind of scary. The dude from 3 Doors Down just passed away the other day. He was 38, I’m 34. You never know what’s going to come. Some of my friends and my peers now, like David Draiman of Disturbed who has been great to me, he’s still very healthy, or LJ from Sevendust. But you just never know.

MS: With the albums, you have “Lux” and “Memento Mori”. Is another album coming as a trilogy?

AN: “Lux” was light and birth. “Memento Mori” means “Remember, we have to die” and is the coming to grips with the reality of mortality, and embracing the moment you have. The next album will be dealing with death and whatever comes after that, to whatever degree we can comprehend it without actually going there.

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MS: What are you grateful for?

AN: I am grateful that I get to do this, that I get to travel. I’m grateful for my family, my wife, my dog, my house, that I can eat food every day. I have been playing music since I was 3, so the fact that I get to do it for a living. We are certainly not wealthy, but we are rich in spirit. This is my experience – I get to sit on the bus and talk to you guys. I get to be at this festival. It’s the little details.

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