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The Collectibles
Tonight's Feature Presentation


interviews with the cast of the collectibles

The Green Room

Fans of The Collectibles know them as Aguaman, Death-Wish, Receiver, Shield Maiden, Ultrafemme, and Super Star.  With Season One of the webseries in the can, Frank Aye, S. Joe Downing, Trish Loyd, Wonder Russell, Lisa Skvarla, and Brian Sutherland were kind enough to answer a few questions about their characters and about what they themselves do when they’re not wearing their superhero costumes.  (But still wearing other clothes, thank you.)

The Interviews

| Frank Aye | Joe Downing | Trish Loyd | Wonder Russell | Lisa Skvarla | Brian Sutherland |

chatting with frank aye

the talent behind aguaman

Frank Aye

Ziggy:  What is your favorite thing about the character of Aguaman?

Frank Aye:  My favorite thing about Aguaman is that he is never taken seriously; he could do just about anything in the office and his “co-workers” would barely bat an eye.  If you listen closely, you can hear him refer to the guys in the Spanglish feminine and to Ultrafemme in the masculine… well, those for Ultrafemme are pretty much bleeped out.  HA!

Ziggy:  What’s been your favorite scene to play him in thus far?  What made it fun?

Frank Aye:  My favorite scene is in the last episode. What made it fun?  Well that’s classified, good sir…

Ziggy:  Thinking about any role that you’ve ever played in any production, is there any one line that you’ve read as an actor that stands out for you as particularly powerful, be it powerfully dramatic or powerfully inspiring or powerfully funny?  What makes it stand out for you?   

Frank Aye:  Hector from “Saxophone Music” by Bill Bozzone, The last scene when Hector says: “Help Me, Emil.”

This is a man that put on a mean and gruff exterior just to survive in the world, and at that moment, he told the truth to the only person that he could literally trust with his life: his one and only friend.  He was about to kill himself, and he finally asked for help because in that exact moment, he realized: 1) He didn’t want to die; and 2) he couldn’t survive on his own.  It is a pretty powerful scene of a man without his mask, naked to the world.

Ziggy:  Along with being an actor yourself, you’re also an instructor at the Seattle Acting School.  What led to your decision to start teaching your craft to others?

Frank Aye:  I’ll give you the fast version because it’s a long story and I tend to ramble… a lot.

Our instructor was leaving for California, and we had some beginning students wanting to finish the training, which is a solid two years to go through the whole program once, more or less.  They were only about 2-3 months into the training.  When you see a band of students working together passionately to finish their training, you don’t really think about it too much, especially when you share the same passion for the craft.  More so if you’ve been through the training yourself, because you’ve been there before discovering, sharing, loving, missing, hating, grieving, and laughing; you share this common raw emotional bound with these people that have all these different sides to them that even their spouses have never seen. Remarkable, really.

So with that in mind, I just kind of just promised that I’d step in, and J.D. Coburn (my instructor) made sure I worked my butt off (I should have known; it’s a pretty tough program in general) to be able to teach there.  After sitting behind J.D. taking notes, answering questions, [I was] finally able to teach the beginning class.  Next thing you know, four and half years later, I kept my promise to our students, I kept the school open, and when they left, people kept appearing, so I kept the school open for as long as people showed up.  We’ve been on hiatus since November of 2011, and some of my advanced students still train on their own accord.  I think that is pretty cool.

Ziggy:  What has been the most fun moment for you as an acting instructor? What about the most rewarding?

Frank Aye:  Fun: when my students told me I was too nice to them.  Rewarding: seeing the look on a student’s face when they finally realize and understand the training, the craft, the work.  You want to see euphoric?  That’s euphoric.

Ziggy:  If you could give one piece of advice to any aspiring actors or actresses out there, what would that advice be, and why?

Frank Aye:  This business is 99.9% rejection.  If you’re going to do this for the rest of your life or even if it’s the “5 year plan,” put the work in.  Live, eat, and sleep the craft.  In other words, prepare yourself with at least two years of solid training.  You’re preparing yourself for your career, so act accordingly.  Because in the end, all you have is you.  So show up on time (15minutes early is “on time”) and prepared (know your lines cold) and when the director yells action, drop everything, look your scene partner in the eye, and simply tell the truth.

Ziggy:  What kind of cheese and what recreational beverage would you say you pair well with?

Frank Aye:  El Brie and beer (Pacifico).

Ziggy:  Do you enjoy that beverage via either an official Aguaman drinking glass or an official Aguaman shot glass, perchance?

Frank Aye:  No, but I do enjoy Jägerbombs (which is a meal in itself) by dropping my official Aguaman shot glass into my official Aguaman drinking glass, and I have pics to prove it. 

| Frank Aye | Joe Downing | Trish Loyd | Wonder Russell | Lisa Skvarla | Brian Sutherland |

chatting with s. joe downing

the talent behind death-wish

S. Joe Downing

Ziggy:  What is your favorite thing about the character of Death-Wish?

Joe Downing:  My favorite characteristic about Death-Wish is that he's intelligent enough to create his own gadgets but yet a bad ass… kinda like a tough nerd.

Ziggy:  What’s been your favorite scene to play him in thus far?  What made it fun? 

Joe Downing:  One of my favorite scenes is in an episode where DW is sitting down with the Quick, Aguaman, and Choking Hazard.  What made it fun was our lines and the topic at hand (a little subtle hint there).  I enjoyed working with Josh, Frank, and Dan and just creating the moment, so to speak.

Ziggy:  Who would you say is the biggest joker on the set of The Collectibles, and how has he or she earned the title?

Joe Downing:  The biggest joker; I'd have to say Brian Sutherland, he comes up with some funny things and it can be hard to stay in character around him. 

Ziggy:  Death-Wish was written as an amalgam of tough guy characters that you in turn have made your own.  Who’s your favorite movie tough guy, and why?

Joe Downing:  I'd have to say Bruce Lee.  After all, he's a legend, and the ultimate tough guy, in my opinion.  Mainly because he's cool and collected; his characters usually don't become overwhelmed too easily.

Ziggy:  The guys behind the scenes say that it was your idea to have Death-Wish use “kiddie” profanity, i.e. “Holy Shin Splints.”  Given the nature of the character, that’s an interesting choice.  Why did you make it?

Joe Downing:  Well, it really started with using religious profanity. Due to my faith and beliefs, I felt that it wasn't necessary to do that to show strength in the character.  I was very fortunate and thankful that Todd and Dan were flexible with the language and were willing to compromise with me.  I have no problems swearing with other words, and during the conversation we thought: wouldn't it be funny if this Dark Ninja Detective made up his own swear words?  It works for the character, and he's still a bad ass even when he says "Fudge Sunday with a cherry on top".   

Ziggy:  The truth is out there.  Are there any popular conspiracy theories that pique your interest, or do you just leave that to Death-Wish?

Joe Downing:  I'm sure there are real world conspiracies and I'm always intrigued to learn more about them, but that's usually as far as I'll go.  DW is more of a person who will rant about them or dwell on them to make sure he's ready and in position if anything starts to fall in his path.

Ziggy:  What kind of cheese and what recreational beverage would you say you pair well with?

Joe Downing:  I'd go with a double bacon cheeseburger paired with a chocolate milk shake!  Now I'm hungry!

| Frank Aye | Joe Downing | Trish Loyd | Wonder Russell | Lisa Skvarla | Brian Sutherland |

chatting with trish loyd

the talent behind receiver

Trish Loyd

Ziggy:  As one of the original creative minds behind The Collectibles – indeed, the concept has been called your idea specifically – did you initially think of Receiver as a role you wanted to play, or did that happen later?  What do you enjoy most about the character?

Trish Loyd:  Actually, no; I had been hoping for Shield Maiden.  When Dan (Heinrich) asked if I'd like to play the psychic receptionist, I resisted at first.  The role sounded a little bland.  But then Dan told me more about the framework he and Todd (Downing) had put together for the character, and I began to think about what it would be like to be this incredibly powerful person stuck in a thankless, mundane job.   Dan and Todd let me fill in the back story of Receiver and really make the part my own.  Now I seriously can't imagine playing anyone else, and I certainly can't imagine anyone but Wonder Russell playing Shield Maiden.  I love playing with the anger-yet-love that I as Receiver have for the Power Posse, and the sarcastic, oftentimes biting humor that has developed as we've shot the season. 

Ziggy:  What’s been your favorite scene to play her in thus far?  What made it fun?

Trish Loyd:  That's tough, but I'd have to say I most enjoyed lusting after Shrink Ray (episode 7)!  Devielle Johnson, who plays Shrink Ray, is a longtime friend, and it was so much fun to just drool over him take after take; not to mention the fast and fierce jokes that were lobbed back and forth as all the Power Posse ladies were crowded around Receiver’s desk ogling him.  That was a fun day of shooting!

Ziggy:  What do you think is the most absurd thing about modern corporate culture?  What about acting culture?

Trish Loyd:  As far as corporate culture, I think it's absolutely absurd how they try to spice up the mundane crap they force on everyone.  They try to make it sound exciting by throwing in all these meaningless words and it just makes it sound even worse than if they were honest about how boring it all is.  This is something Casey Kinared as Vance does to perfection.  In acting culture, for me it's the way I as an actor can be so readily dismissed for the smallest physical problem; i.e. hair color, pant size, boob size, you name it, really.  It's frustrating because instead of giving me a chance as an actor; who can play whatever and however they want me to play a role, I'm dismissed for something that either ultimately doesn't matter or can easily be fixed.

Ziggy:  Do you think that the spirit that drives webseries like The Collectibles could survive translation to traditional outlets like the “major networks,” or do you think that something essential would be lost as soon as the marketing people showed up?  Can the spin doctors be thwarted, or is it the medium itself that allows that spirit to thrive?

Trish Loyd:  That's such a good question, and one that I've heard discussed at several convention panels and webseries meet-ups.  I tend to think that webseries are not well translated to traditional outlets, with the exception of something like Hulu, Amazon on Demand, or Netflix instant play.  I feel that the way webseries are watched is part of the appeal, and that the freedom that we as creators have to put out such amazingly original content and control that content would absolutely be lost or at the very least watered down to the point that it would be just another network show.  I understand from a business perspective why network execs shy away from risk, but from a creative stand point, it really gets under my skin.  I'm so tired of networks recycling the same old formulas because they worked with this hit show or that hit show.  They miss the point that the hits are generally hits because they were original in their concept or casting.   And I feel that with webseries, we have the opportunity to be original and really be pioneers of a new way of viewing entertainment.  We have no business execs to charm or convince; we only have the audience: an audience who generally feels ignored by the very execs who are trying to get their viewership.  The other thing I think that webseries can do so well is make connections with our audience and make them feel a part of the show, whether by contributing monetarily, winning story competitions, winning an auction for a walk on role, etc.  Not many network shows actively court their viewers the way webseries creators do.

Ziggy:  You’ve taken your acting abilities beyond the normal stage and screen by applying your talents to the world of uniquely interactive training for a company called Effective Arts.  Tell us about that.

Trish Loyd:  Effective Arts is an amazing group.  Dr. Jim Boggs and his wife, Dr. Fiona J. Clark, are two of the most caring and dedicate people I've ever met, and the work their organization does is truly unique. The best example I can give as to what the training is like and how life changing it is, is to refer to their work with the people that handle organ/tissue donation.  Dr. Boggs and Dr. Clark will take a group of actors and give them the scenario that they're the family of a loved one that has just died.  The trainee will then go in to the room of actors and "practice" their technique for convincing the family who has just lost a loved one to donate that loved ones tissue and organs.  The actors will be that family, with all the anger, grief, sometimes racism, or hysteria that these people usually see in their work.  So instead of "practicing" on an actual family, the trainee gets to do it in an environment with no consequences.  But, to the brain, it's as if that trainee has actually gone through that experience.  This training also works in the fields of nursing, journalism, faculty development, and those who volunteer to work with the terminally ill.  The work I've done with Effective Arts has been some of the most satisfying and challenging work I've ever done, and I'm so proud to be associated with them.

Ziggy:  What’s the most challenging role you’ve ever played on any type of stage or set, and what made it so?

Trish Loyd:  I played the role of Jessie in 'night, Mother. For those of you who don't know the show, it's a two woman show about a woman who lives with her mother and believes she has lost everything worthwhile in her life.  The play takes place in a single night; the night that Jessie is getting everything ready so she can go in her room and shoot herself.  It's a beautifully written play, and was no doubt the most challenging part I've ever played because of the complexity of the role.  This woman actually believes that she will be better off dead, and she's trying to convince her mother of this, trying to make her understand without compromising herself and the dignity of what she's about to do.  By the end of each performance I was physically and emotionally wrung out; which is as it should be.

Ziggy:  What kind of cheese and what recreational beverage would you say you pair well with?

Trish Loyd:  Cranberry almond baked brie, and a glass of Sofia Coppola champagne.

| Frank Aye | Joe Downing | Trish Loyd | Wonder Russell | Lisa Skvarla | Brian Sutherland |

chatting with wonder russell

the talent behind shield maiden

Wonder Russell

Ziggy:  What is your favorite thing about the character of Shield Maiden?

Wonder Russell:  Where does one begin?  That awesome outfit.  Being descended from Valkyries.  (Every time I hear "Valkyrie" I think of Sin City.  I love it.)  Top Pot doughnuts as a scene partner.  Texting on the job!  My favorite thing of all, though, is probably how much creative freedom Todd and Dan gave me with the character.  She's the first character I've played that has a darkness to her, and it's incredibly fun to play with.  I think it surprises the audience, too, and that is really gratifying.

 Ziggy:  What’s been your favorite scene to play her in thus far?  What made it fun?

Wonder Russell:  That's easy!  The sister bicker fight with Lisa Coronado as Evil Hand was my favorite of the season.  We have great chemistry and love each other to death, so any chance to play together is magical.  A close second would be a few of my monologues that Todd and Dan wrote – they were so hysterical I had trouble getting through them with the requisite angst.  When the crew busts up laughing as soon as Todd yells "Cut!" – then you know you hit a homer.  When I stuffed that donut into my mouth after being at an abject loss for words… man, I still can't think of that moment without giggling!

Ziggy:  You have put a lot of effort into getting your name out there to promote your career.  How big of a game changer has social media been for you as an actress?

Wonder Russell:  Oh geeze.  I'm a natural blabbermouth.  My Dad called it "Ready fire aim!"  What can I say?  I feel at home in public.  The last role I was offered was made because of an introduction via social media.  I never auditioned.  They saw my reel, they loved my short films, and an offer ended up in my inbox.  Honestly though, that doesn't feel so crazy anymore.  On any project, you want to work with people you like and admire.  Who cares where they live or how you stumbled onto their work, if they're right for the job?  As an actor, I don't care where my Director lives, as long as we click.

I hope I can stay on the curve and keep using all of technology in a well integrated way.  I mean not always having my nose in my iPhone and not worrying about search engine optimization, but connecting with people, getting my work out there, and sharing it with people who care.  I love that.  For me, it's just the next step from publishing a newsletter as a little girl, or having a blog on Xanga.  It's about connection. 

Ziggy:  Once upon a time, the generally accepted definition of “making it” for an acting professional was a leading role in a major studio motion picture, a major network television show, or a Broadway play.  The entertainment world of today is vastly different than it was even five years ago, and continues to evolve at a rapid pace.  Have the criteria for “making it” changed in this brave new world?  What are they now?  Or is that something you don’t know until you get there?

Wonder Russell:  That's a good question.  I think "making it" still refers to something big: the chance to change your life; that point where your trajectory changes from a steady shuffle upwards to a rocketship on cocaine.  I used to dream of that moment when I was little (my "princess" moment, when my real parents who were obviously royalty would one day reclaim me), but now it kind of freaks me out.  "Making it" would probably look different to everyone.  It depends why you're pursuing it, don't you think?  I don't care about stardom anymore.  I care more and more every year about doing great work that affects people, and building a legacy I'll be proud of.  I care more about challenging myself creatively. 

"Making it" for me would look like being able to create roles full time without needing roommates –  quality of life.  I need to create a life that doesn't depend on top ramen and bit parts as dead bodies or escorts.

Ziggy:  “Seven Short Films About Epiphany.”  That’s an attention getting description.  What more can you share about Revelation?

Wonder Russell:  This is my baby: the most exciting project I've done yet!  It sprang from my head around Christmas, like Athena sprang from Zeus.  Incidentally: don't you think that might be where we get the term 'brainchild'?

Revelation Film Project is an exploration, a playground, an experience for lovers of beautiful, provocative content.  I'm dipping my toe into transmedia with this one, and loving it. 

There will be seven microshorts, art galleries you can download or purchase, narrative, and a public screening. 

It's all free, all online (at RevelationFilmProject.com and Facebook.com/RevelationFilm), all meant to be shared and talked about. We've got four locked so far, and I hope to have everything ready in September.  (If you know of a kickass web designer/coder let me know!)

Ziggy:  As if you weren’t already busy enough, you also released an album last year.  Tell us what’s in the Secret Room.

Wonder Russell:  I wrote the whole album between 2005 and 2007.  I don't have a label, so I just saved up my money and recorded bit by bit whenever I could, with my friend Joe Varela.  All in all, it took me several years to finish and make a master. 

Then I decided to just give it away.  It was more important for the songs and the stories that embody that time in my life to have a separate existence in the world outside of rattling around in my brain. 

You can download it bellawonder.com/music.  I hope you find a new favorite!  It would be so cool to hear one of my songs as someone's ring tone someday, totally at random. 

Ziggy:  What kind of cheese and what recreational beverage would you say you pair well with?

Wonder Russell:  You'll find me with a whole wheel of brie baked in phyllo dough with apricot preserves, and swigging down either a spicy red wine or a greyhound.  YUM!  And now I'm starving!

| Frank Aye | Joe Downing | Trish Loyd | Wonder Russell | Lisa Skvarla | Brian Sutherland |

chatting with lisa skvarla

the talent behind ultrafemme

Lisa Skvarla

Ziggy:  What is your favorite thing about the character of Ultrafemme?

Lisa Skvarla:  Ultrafemme is a competitor.  She goes after her dreams.  She is competent, smart and sexy.  I love how she takes care of herself; the way she dresses, her hair, her nails.  She is pretty much all business.  She is both feared and respected in the office.  But at the same time, she is like an onion, and as the series unfolds, you can see the layers peeled away and her vulnerability. 

Ziggy:  What’s been your favorite scene to play her in thus far? What made it fun?

Lisa Skvarla:  The entire series has been fun.  I liked the scene when she finally got announced as top dog.  She could genuinely smile for the first time instead of smiling for malicious, manipulating reasons.  It was fun cracking the whip on Aguaman and punching out Evil Hand, too.  Plus it's always fun working off Brian [Sutherland]. 

Ziggy:  As a part of the audience, what other member of the Power Posse do you have the most fun watching, and why?

Lisa Skvarla:  I love watching everyone.  It's always different in every episode.  That's what is so great about this show: it's not about one person.  I talked to several different friends about the show, and each person has a different favorite superhero.  Personally, I like watching Aguaman.  Frank does a great job with him, and his character is just so dang funny.

Ziggy:  Along with your work as an actress, you’re also a martial arts instructor. What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about teaching others the martial arts?

Lisa Skvarla: There are many rewards in teaching, from seeing your students blossom with confidence to getting kids more physically fit.  It's wonderful to see kids overcome their fears and achieve their goals.  And it's most rewarding when you see these kids grow up, make something good of their life, and come back and thank you for being a part of their life. 

Ziggy:  Aside from the roles such skills might open up for you, are there any particular lessons you’ve taken from your martial arts practice that you’ve applied to your acting?

Lisa Skvarla:  Oh, lots.  Practice, practice, practice – and always follow your instincts.  There are many correlations between the martial arts and acting.  Both are disciplines.  In both, you have to be focused.  In both, you have to be physically and emotionally fit.  In both, you have to move through your fears.  In both, you have to work off the other person.  I am very passionate about both.  Martial arts teaches you indomitable spirit, perseverance, confidence, honesty, respect, and patience.  All of these principles apply to acting as well. 

Ziggy:  Who is your favorite martial artist to watch on the screen, and why?

Lisa Skvarla:  Jackie Chan!  I love watching him.  He combines both comedy and martial arts skills so beautifully.  He inspires me, because at his age he continues to do his own stunts.  He is just a joy and such a presence on and off the screen. 

Ziggy:  What kind of cheese and what recreational beverage would you say you pair well with?

Lisa Skvarla:  Cheese pizza and a Coke for me; dark chocolate dipped in a camembert cheese fondue paired with a finely aged wine for Ultrafemme.

| Frank Aye | Joe Downing | Trish Loyd | Wonder Russell | Lisa Skvarla | Brian Sutherland |

chatting with brian sutherland

the talent behind super star

Brian Sutherland

Ziggy:  What is your favorite thing about the character of Super Star?

Brian Sutherland:  Super Star is an adult trapped in a preschooler’s mindset.  Knowing that, I have a lot of opportunity to play around and be as goofy as I want to be.  He also has a heart of gold, so no one can get mad at me for being an idiot.

Ziggy:  What’s been your favorite scene to play him in thus far?  What made it fun?

Brian Sutherland: The best scene is yet to come – I believe it's episode 10.  When we were filming, Dan Heinrich just said “improv for three minutes and we will see what happens.”  Let's just say that the cameraman kept almost dropping the camera because he was laughing so hard, and there was porn music playing.

Ziggy:  Super Star has his own motivational posters.  Did you ever think you’d see your face on a motivational poster?  If you designed a motivational poster, what would it say?

Brian Sutherland:  I always knew I would be a superhero one day...or at least my mom always said I could be whatever I wanted, except a hamster.  My poster would say: "Just breathe... if you don't, you will die."

Ziggy:  You co-founded a comedy improv troupe called Quiet Monkey Fight.  What’s the most fun you’ve had during an improv show?

Brian Sutherland:  Traveling around North America, I got to perform with some huge names in LA and New York.  In LA, I played Charles Manson’s brother, "Daniel Manson".  I was the sweetest character in the world, and every time somebody thought I was about to kill someone, I brought out flowers.  That character and the "Only Australian in China" character were a lot of fun. 

Ziggy:  Describe the differences in mindset that you have when you’re working a live improv show vs. when you’re working off a script in front of the camera.

Brian Sutherland:  To me, I try to keep them very similar.  I think you always need to have the energy that a live performance has when you're on film.  You need to always be fresh and new and not know what's going to come next.  In a live show, you need to be grounded and not let yourself lose control.  In film you have a script, but in improv it's all made up and it's very easy to realize that you have no idea what you're saying.  I always try to meditate for 20 minutes before I do any art, just so I can get my mind and body on the same level. 

Ziggy:  You recently chased down a real life purse snatcher and made sure that he was brought to justice.  How did it feel to be real world superhero for a day?

Brian Sutherland:  I realized I'm always looking out for some sort of way to solve a crime or chase someone down; maybe too many films when I was younger.  When I saw it happening, it was really just a gut instinct and happened to play out in my favor.  The press and phone calls I got were amazing.  People really were proud of me and I couldn't have asked for a better feeling.

Ziggy:  What kind of cheese and what recreational beverage would you say you pair well with?

Brian Sutherland:  I'm like Nachos, because I'm a mixture of so many different characters, and they’re all really, really good.  As for what to pair it with… whatever comes in a purple juice box.  Purple juice, maybe?

- Interviews conducted by Ziggy Berkeley, May/June, 2012

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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