JAMES CHEN CHATS “TWD”, “FBI” AND LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019 0 295

With appearances in hit shows including Madam Secretary and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit under his belt and currently starring in The Walking Dead and new CBS series FBI, James Chen is becoming a more and more familiar name to TV fans on both sides of the Atlantic. Having trained at the Yale School of Drama and built up an impressive resume of work, acting and performing have been long established passions for this talented actor, with such passion evident in every role he takes on. With the holidays just around the corner, James spoke to ThisIsTheLatest about his early career, favourite projects and what he has lined up for the new year.

TITL: You’ve been acting on both stage and screen for a number of years now, having undergone training at the Yale School of Drama, but prior to that, growing up, did you ever have any other career ambitions or have you always been determined to find your way in the performing industry? 

James Chen: I definitely wasn’t aware of the performing arts universe growing up. I loved movies and had my absolute favorite TV shows, but the idea that it was a skill you could pursue and a job you could have wasn’t even on my radar. When I was younger, I definitely had a big imagination and loved drawing and creating, starting from when I was a kid the progression went something like palaeontologist, to doctor, to scientist. In undergrad, I was actually pursuing this biochemistry masters program to become a research scientist… and found out quickly that wasn’t at all what I wanted to do. After some years of exploring and performing, acting really became a clear love. 

TITL: You’re perhaps best known for your role of Kal in the phenomenally successful series that is The Walking Dead. Did you ever anticipate the reaction the show has had over the years and what impact has its success had on you both personally and professionally? 

JC: I didn’t, because when I started working on the show I hadn’t read Robert Kirkman’s graphic novels nor was I watching the show on TV at the time. So it was only slowly over the next couple years shooting on set, catching up watching previous seasons,interacting with fans, that I truly got a sense of how ride-or-die The Walking Dead fandom is! I think as actors, we’re always just putting in our 20 years to have our ‘overnight success’, so I think overall my job hasn’t changed much in that I’m still ploughing away and hustling at the industry at every opportunity. People definitely know me from the show more, so that’s been nice in that it’s a kind of short-hand for people to place you in the industry. Personally the show has been really fulfilling. To get to know and work with fantastic people in front of and behind the camera. That family dynamic has been very fulfilling. Love all those guys. 

TITL: What was/is it about the character of Kal that made you want to audition for the part? How is he different from any other character you’ve played before, and how do you feel he fits in with the dynamic of those around him? 

JC: At the time the audition, it was shrouded in secrecy and mystery, so no one knew who exactly they were auditioning for. I only knew that he was extremely loyal to his community. It turns out that audition was initially for the role of Jesus, but honestly can’t imagine anyone other than Tom Payne playing that role. When I booked the role of Kal, it was under a fake name, and so it wasn’t until I arrived at the fitting, that I knew exactly who I was playing and was able to do some research into him. I think as a character he’s really exciting – great fighter, fierce protector, first line of defense, deadly killer with a spear and knife, lives and mans a real life fort! I think what makes Kal different from other characters is the nature of the world he lives in, how much death and killing he’s seen and done. That’s just an everyday part of his reality. I think what make the Hilltop work so well is the teamwork that everyone there falls into. It’s run really efficiently, and everyone has their role. Kal’s is definitely more of a veteran soldier at the Hilltop and I would say those are his closest kin and co-workers at the Hilltop and among other communities as well. 

TITL: You’re also currently on screen in the latest series from Dick Wolf, FBI. Given the success of Wolf’s previous works, including L&O: SVU, which you’ve appeared in, just how badly did you want to be a part of this one? Can you recall your audition? 

JC: So much! I am not joking with you when I say Law & Order: SVU was one my favorite shows growing up.  I loved everything about it, the characters, the action, the drama of each case. So my time actually getting to work on that show and with Mariska and Chris and B.D. and the entire crew was incredibly rewarding. Getting a chance to return to the Dick Wolf universe is always an exciting and fun because of all those great memories. And it was also exciting to be there from the very first episode to create a new FBI world with everyone. I love working with all of those guys. My audition was pretty straight-forward… I was given audition material to prepare – it was when Ian is evaluating the burnt cell phone evidence from the bombing in the pilot episode. It was really fun to explore Ian’s expertise, wielding that technical jargon, but also his razor sharp mind and bit and the fun you can feel he’s having doing it all. 

TITL: For those who haven’t seen the show, how would you sum it up and what part does your character Ian play in it all?

JC: FBI follows the case work of agents in the field and at the joint operations command as they race to solve the most high-stakes, national security threats of our time. Assessing crime scenes, tracking down key witnesses and evidence, gathering intel on our suspects and using the latest technology to combine it with evidential analysis, we try to connect all the dots to arrest those behind these threats. Ian Lim is part of FBI’s CART -Computer Analysis and Response Team – and handles any electronic tech involved in any case’s physical evidence, surveillance, etc. to keep the team on pace with tracking a suspect or bring us that much closer to making an arrest. Ian is a genius and he’ll be sure to tell you all about it.  

TITL: Of all the shows you’ve starred in over the years, could you pick your favourite? Do you have any particularly fond memories of times spent on certain sets?

JC: I think I’ve immensely enjoyed my time on each project for different reasons. But I recently had a great experience on Madam Secretary playing an eccentric billionaire whose hobby was racing cars. A day spent on the race track in a jump suit jumping in and out of a race car with such a fun character was incredible. As was my first day working on The Walking Dead… when we saw Hilltop for the first time, climbing up those practical walls and ramparts, grabbing and brandishing those very real spears, and heaving open those massive doors…that was surreal. 

TITL: If you could appear in another TV show, past or present, which would it be and why? 

JC: Wow… too many to choose from! Breaking Bad has been one of my favorites for a long time, with absolutely amazing writing, characters, and acting. To be a part of that world and have scenes with Walter White would be incredible. On another Vince Gilligan theme… I grew up loving The X-Files and would love to be part of a paranormal plot line with Detectives Fox Mulder and Dana Scully…I’ll have to look them up in the database next time I’m on the FBI set!

TITL: You’re also a rather regular feature on the big screen with credits in films such as “The Amazing Spiderman” and “Front Cover.” Do you find working on films any different from working on TV shows, and do you have a preference for one or the other?  

JC: Sure… TV moves quite quickly and the storytelling format is about 50 minutes. Film can be 90 minutes to over 2 hours and – depending on the film – the pacing and development can be that much more drawn out. I think traditionally film affords the opportunity to take the time and really go into character depth, which is what I’m really interested in. But this golden age of television has been blurring those lines and getting to explore a character over several seasons is really exciting. I think it would really have to depend on the project. 

TITL: What can you tell me about your new film “Fluidity”? 

JC: Fluidity is about the intersecting lives of 10 millennial as they struggle to navigate their identity and sexuality in this fast-paced, high-tech world. At those speeds and levels of convenience, love, relationships, desire, sex… can all start to lose clarity and blur. This is a story about how we’re all surviving in that wild jungle.

TITL: This might be a hard question, but what’s been the highlight of your professional career so far?

JC: This summer I was simultaneously recurring on 3 different shows:  Netflix/Marvel’s Iron Fist, CBS’s FBI, and AMC’s The Walking Dead. That was a place I never thought I’d get to, and I’m encouraged by the ever-increasing awareness to inclusion and diversity of the industry that things will only continue to get better.

TITL: Are there any other upcoming projects you can tell me about or are you just focusing on TWD and FBI for now? How’s your schedule for 2019 looking?

JC: I’ve had some great opportunities to stretch the comedic muscles and play with some absolute rock stars. I’ll be opposite Tracy Morgan on his show “The Last O.G.” as well as slayer queens themselves, Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, on “Broad City” — both airing spring 2019. I’ve also been writing more recently and hope to have a couple passion projects developed later next spring as well.  

TITL: Given how tiring shoots for shows such as TWD can be, how do you unwind after a hectic filming period? Is there a sport you like to play or vacation spot you most like to visit? 

JC: Ooh I love this question! I’ve began a journey in MMA earlier this year, and I find that an amazing art-science-meditation-fascination hybrid for me. I’ve been trying to get back to Beijing or Shanghai for the longest time, but the schedule has yet to present an opening. I’ll just have to shoot a project there!

TITL: Finally then, given how cut-throat the performing and acting business can be, what advice would you give to aspiring actors/actresses? What one comment or piece of advice do you often find yourself reflecting on at difficult or stressful times that helps keep you motivated? 

JC: Focus on what you love about acting, remembering why you ever wanted to do it in the first place as opposed to anything else. That will connect you to the source of your passion and keep you true to your mission amongst all the distractions.  

FBI airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on CBS and will return in the New Year. The Walking Dead returns to AMC on February 10th. You can keep up to date with James on Twitter and Instagram. Header photo credit: Ryan West.

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JAMIE BERNADETTE CHATS NEW FILM “THE FURNACE”, HER FIRST AUDITION & FUTURE PROJECTS 0 66

With a considerably impressive and varied resume of work to her name, Jamie Bernadette really loves what she does and that passion comes across in every project she takes on. Her latest film The Furnace, out on October 15th, will strike a chord with anyone who has experienced a loss in their life and ahead of its release later this month, Jamie spoke to ThisIsTheLatest about how she prepared for such a demanding, emotional role, her upcoming projects and her advice for aspiring actors and actresses.

TITL: You’ve been a part of the industry now for well over a decade, but was there any point in your younger years when you considered taking a different career path, or has it always been about acting for you? 

Jamie Bernadette: I grew up in a small town where the thing that most everyone did was get a 9-5 job and get married and have children. So, this definitely impacted me quite a bit and I found myself very confused about what I wanted to do with my life. I was about to get engaged and told the man I was dating not to buy the ring and left for Los Angeles four days later. So I was just about to enter into that life that most everyone in my town lived. I thought about being a dental hygienist, an airline stewardess, an editor at a publishing company. But, it was that day when my boyfriend and I drove back from the jewelry store where he almost bought that engagement ring that it all became very clear to me. I sat in his truck and thought that I would rather die than live this life. And that’s when I knew that something was very wrong about what I was doing. I have never regretted the choice that I made – leaving that all behind to act. He and I remain really good friends to this day.   

TITL: Can you remember the first thing you auditioned for?

JB: I am not really sure but it may have been a silent student film at The New York Film Academy which I booked. 

TITL: How do you find the audition process? Would you say you still feel nervous when making tapes and applying for roles?

JB: I used to be very nervous when I first started auditioning. Now I really sometimes only feel my nerves when it is for something that is very, very big like a series regular role on a TV show.

TITL: Your latest project The Furnace, is out this month. What is it about the premise/story of this film that drew you to the project and how does it differ from the many other works you’ve been a part of?

JB: This is the first faith-based drama that I have ever done. I loved that it was inspirational and does mention God but it doesn’t shove the concept down your throat. It is so well-written in such a way that all people can relate to the story, whether they believe in God or not. I also loved that it was a survival film, which is one of my favorite sub-genres. I love stories about people who are struggling to survive in nature.   

TITL: What preparations did you make for taking on such an emotionally demanding role?

JB: The preparation for emotionally demanding roles is life-long. I pull from my life experiences a lot of times to pull out that emotion when I’m acting. Regarding the physical aspect of this role, I did a lot of research about those who live with only one working lung and also looked into ultra-marathons and studied up on those. I normally run and work out but I began running longer distances when I booked this role to prepare myself for it. 

TITL: How did you find working with Oscar nominated director Darrell Roodt on the film? Was there much collaboration between the two of you? 

JB: Darrell is kind, warm, funny, down-to-earth, honest, and truthful. He is truly one of my most favorite people in the world. He is a very giving director and he really pays attention to the acting. He also is very energetic and enthusiastic. He really knows how to lead the crew. Darrell knows exactly what he wants and has a clear vision.  He knows when he has the shot he wants and moves on rather than doing take after take unnecessarily. Darrell was definitely open to collaboration and listened to my ideas.      

TITL: Do you have any particular standout memories or moments from the shoot? 

JB: Oh, there are so many. Shooting in this film was one of the best experiences of my life. I remember when we shot the end of the film, a lot of the crew were crying their eyes out and standing up and applauding as well. There were a lot of emotional days like that on this set. I think the film touches anyone who has experienced any type of heavy loss in their life, which is most people. 

TITL: If you had to sell this film to an audience in a few words – give them one reason to go and see it – what would you say? 

JB: If you have ever suffered from any type of heartache in your life and felt that it was difficult to go on, see this film. 

TITL: You’ve got several projects in the pipeline for the coming year or so, is there anything you can share about a couple of them?

JB: I’m attached to about nineteen films as an actress and I am also producing three feature films that I haven’t announced or spoken of publicly. One is a true story, a military drama. The second one is an abuse story. The third is a psychological horror.

TITL: The life of an actor/actress can be extremely demanding, so what do you do to unwind after a hectic period of filming? 

JB: Sleep, sit in the sun with my dog, and eat popcorn if I am at home. Sometimes I take a trip, usually to tropical destinations.  Travelling and photography are two of my hobbies. 

TITL: What advice would you give for actors and actresses just starting out? Have you ever been given a piece of advice that you still reflect on, and which three traits might you say someone needs to make it in such a cut-throat and demanding business? 

JB: Don’t believe the negativity that you hear and do not make that your reality. Do not go into agreement with it.  This is very, very important. You create your own reality. I had a seasoned actress, Alisha Seaton, tell me early on in my career that there is a fine line between over-acting and under-acting and that you have to find that fine line in between those two. I still think about that one and believe it is true. The three traits someone needs to make it in this business are hard-working, persistent, and brave. And I do want to make a comment about kindness. Kindness goes a long way. No one likes a diva.    

TITL: Finally then, with a decade + in the industry behind you already, what would you like to see happen for you in the next ten years? What goals and ambitions do you want to achieve and, many years from now, what would you most like people to say when looking back on your work and what you brought to the entertainment world?

JB: I would like to be a series regular on a TV show and book work at that level and on the level of big films on a regular basis. I would love if I am able to give performances that move people and tell stories that change people’s lives. I also want to have several poetry books released in the next ten years. 

Check out the trailer for The Furnace below and to keep up to date with Jamie, you can follow her on Twitter.

EMILY ATACK, ADAM THOMAS & JOEL DOMMETT JOIN I’M A CELEB: EXTRA CAMP 0 13

I’m A Celebrity…Extra Camp returns to ITV2 this Autumn with a brand new presenting line up.

This year, the nightly live show sees the return of Extra Camp host and comedian Joel Dommett, alongside actress, comedienne and last year’s runner up Emily Atack and 2016 Jungle favourite Adam Thomas.

All three hosts are funny, lively straight talking Jungle fanatics who will bring their own unique take on what’s happening in camp, with none of them afraid to speak their own mind as they dissect the day’s drama.
 
They’ll get all the latest behind the scenes gossip with unseen clips, exclusive interviews and the insiders guide to the dreaded Bushtucker Trials.
  
Viewers are invited to join the lively debates via social media and the app as well as putting their questions directly to the campmates live in the studio once they’ve left the Jungle.  The entertaining hosts will also be joined in Australia by various celebrity guests.
 
Joel Dommett said: “So excited to be heading back to the Jungle this year – this time with a new bunch of amigos. I can’t wait to show Emily around and keep reminding Adam that I beat him in 2016. It’s such a huge privilege to do this show and I truly love it. I can’t wait to find out who we are watching!”

Emily Atack said: “I’m thrilled that I get to make more amazing memories in a place that means so much to me. I’ve loved working with Joel on Singletown, we’re like brother and sister, and Adam has got such amazing energy. The three of us are going to have the best time ever!”

Adam Thomas said: “I can’t believe that I’m heading back to the Jungle, this is something I never saw coming my way! I’m so excited to be reunited with my campmate Joel and to also work alongside Emily. We’re going to have so much fun…just keep me away from those spiders!”

I’m A Celebrity: Extra Camp has been commissioned for ITV2 by Paul Mortimer Head of Digital Channels and Acquisitions.  The show will be Executive Produced by ITV’s Creative Director Richard Cowles, Colin Hopkins and Tom Gould with Katrina Morrison as Series Producer.

Colin Hopkins, the show’s Exec Producer said “Joel, Emily and Adam literally can’t wait to get into the Jungle to give our loyal viewers the biggest and best exclusives from the camp. They’ll uncover the juiciest of Jungle life gossip, interview their favourite celebrities and take on some of the hardest trials from this year’s show (just don’t tell Adam!)”