Thursday, May 27, 2010

Happy 'Supernatural' Birthday To Me!...

Around this time last year I received a one-of-a-kind birthday present...from myself. I commissioned a custom Charles Fazzino piece of pop art to symbolize my love and childhood of television. It was a great experience not only because I got to collaborate with a world renowned artist of whom I have been in awe and admiration for years but also because I finally got something that I wanted for a long, long time. And if it wasn't out there already, I was determined to put it out there, even if just for me.

Well, it's a year later, and I figure I can't really top that gift for this year's (slightly less milestone-y) birthday anyway. But I still wanted to get myself something cool; something I was told was coming three years ago but then for whatever reason never did. So I began scouring the internet for
Supernatural action figures.

It's okay; you can call me a dork; I won't be offended. But considering the fact that after the
LOST finale I went on eBay for a mini Hurley and Sawyer, and I barely even watched that show, I figured I needed to represent and get a smaller scale Dean Winchester to go with my model Impala. That thing gets lonely just sitting on my desk, not allowed to roam the open road...

Anywhoo, perhaps surprisingly, I found a couple of prospects. No action figure company (like McFarlane, who made the
LOST ones for the first two seasons of that supernatural show) had made any mass market ones, but there were "recipes" online for how to make one of your own if you're crafty. I'm not. I learned as much when I worked on a craft show for the DIY network and had trouble with glue guns and sewing machines alike. Scrapbooking might be my limit, and even that is something I don't have patience for all of the time.

Another girl in the UK said she made customs, but she wanted approximately $150 U.S. per figure. I only wanted two: Dean and Castiel, but I figured I'd keep looking before I committed my
Examiner salary to something site unseen.

So I tried eBay. Oh eBay. You and I have had such a tumultuous relationship. I relied on you a lot in high school, making money by selling celebrity photographs from soap opera events I attended. I did pretty well at it, too, but spent most of my earnings on other memorabilia I found in your "store." But then I went off to college and something changed. You opened the site up to Paypal before you were really ready for such a big step, and my account got hacked. You shut it down and didn't make me pay for the things the hacker attempted to buy, but you wouldn't let me open a new account with the same email address or credit card, and I have had the same information since college. So now I borrow a friend's account from time to time-- not often because it's really easy for me to get caught up in the competition aspect of eBay and bid high on things I don't need just for the thrill of winning. And of getting packages in the mail. Call me old-fashioned, but I still really like snail mail. And I miss the "care packages" of college.

This weekend I was on eBay a lot. First to ensure I won the National Doodle Day doodle I had my eye on (it's the story of my life!!), and then to look for those
LOST figurines. So naturally I turned there again to see about Supernatural ones. And that's where I found someone who has been making action figures from the Joss Whedon universe for years. Looking at some of them in a fan forum, the detail was impeccable, and the faces looked much more like the actual actors than my Saved by the Bell Barbie dolls ever did! And the deal was six action figures-- one a month that I design for six months-- for just about $200! So I "Bought It Now."

Do I
need six? No, but at that price, the wheels were set in motion for which ones I could get. The cool thing is, every month we will email back and forth with my selection-- not just the character, but the specific episode and even scene I want them to be outfitted in in order to get the maximum uniqueness and the maximum detail. I already know most of the ones I want, but I will keep them a surprise in case I manage to change my mind. And because at least one of them will be used in a very special capacity on this site...

But I can tell you that if you assumed I would lead with Dean Winchester, you'd be wrong! The first figure I ordered? Castiel! And I wanted him to look how he did when the Winchester boys themselves-- and we as an audience in turn-- first met him in "Lazarus Rising," loosened tie, iconic trenchcoat and all!

Which 'Supernatural' character would YOU most want as an action figure?

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With each passing holiday-- from my birthday last year and that custom Fazzino to Christmas last year and my custom "day" bracelet-- I have managed to find amazing items that can be mine and mine alone, and miraculously, I am finding ways to spend a little less on them as time passes. Which, in itself, is something unique and miraculous!

This is surely one unique way to get through
hell-atus, huh?? How are you spending it? Sound off in the comments!

My Five Cents: 'Glee' Edition...

So many of glee's episodes lately seem like after-school specials, but only one character arc (and character in general) that is actually developed into an actual person. And that honor goes to young Mr. Kurt Hummel, giving the equally young Chris Colfer cause for Emmy consideration. Seemingly serious story lines, like a teenage pregnancy for Quinn, could have turned this show into more than song-and-dance camp, but for whatever reason, they get pushed aside week after week, creating inconsistent pacing and tone and making the show fall victim to the Saved by the Bell conundrum. Kurt is the one constant.

Week after week Kurt emotes and evolves-- and Colfer does a stellar job digging deeper than any other cast member is asked to-- as the people around him just try to catch up. But why the imbalance? Recently I have been thinking that it might be because Ryan Murphy's sensibilities are as a gay man for himself. Therefore, he relates more to, and has more invested in, Kurt than any of the other characters. And he wants to do right by him, his struggles, and what he is representing on a larger scale for the youth generation. Murphy may even be getting to go back and "do over" his own experiences with slightly more theatrical versions through his show.

Don't get me wrong: I don't have a problem with how much time is devoted to Kurt. I think the amount of attention he is given is perfect because his story line is handled with care and with dimension, making him feel like the only real person in a choir room of caricatures. This week's "Theatricality" episode may have toned down the level of bullying a gay kid in middle America receives, but it soared when Mike O'Malley stepped in and stood up for his son, admitting that he, too, once used the three-letter F word because he didn't know any better but he hoped today's generation was better than that. I think we all did. And this show might help more of them be comfortable-- or at least understand-- those who are "different."

I just think the show needs to flesh out its other characters as richly and as emotionally as they have done with Kurt. They are trying with Rachel and her mama drama, but that feels much more like an attempt to soften an otherwise mostly unlikable character, and there is still a long way to go before she reaches relatability.

Other small attempts have been extremely inconsistent. Glee also attempted a little earlier in the season for Puck to embrace his Jewish heritage, but that was played off for the humor instead of evolving into anything touching. Then, in this week's episode, we once again got to see a slightly more sensitive side to him when he sang to Quinn and asked to be there for the birth of their daughter. But seeing as how the mohawk is growing back in, he will undoubtedly be back to shoving people against (or in) their lockers by season's end. Which is unfortunate on many levels.

The reason so many shows that came before glee were so successful even when relying on camp and melodrama (*cough, original Melrose Place, cough*) was because it had a fair mix of the serious and the surreal. Some stories dragged on for episodes, weeks, and even months, while others (like a plane crash and presumed missing Billy and Allison) were wrapped up well within forty-four minutes. So far glee hasn't found its comfortable mix yet and is instead relying on the latter for the most part. So when a character like Kurt sees longer-term stuff, it appears like playing favorites.

I believe the cast of glee (as a whole) can do more than just sing and dance. I believe the emotions they have to tap into musically will translate over into straight dialogue. And I'd like to see more of them have a chance to showcase their abilities. They don't all have to be super serious story lines like bigotry or racial sensitivity or overcoming a handicap (though, really, why the hell don't we know more about Artie?), but the petty high school rotating couples ever episode is starting to wear really thin.

Whatever the reason Murphy and his team haven't expanded most of their characters as of yet, at least I can take comfort in the fact that with only two episodes left and being unwilling to manipulate time for the sake of story, glee will have no choice but to blow the dust off the belly bump and bring it out from the backburner…and out of its mother in general. Because, yes boys and girls, Quinn's due date is finally about to arrive! I only hope we get to see a real moment with mother, baby, and maybe even father before the show dances off into summer and tries to forget this ever even happened.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

'Biggest Loser' Winner Michael Ventrella Is Going To Disneyland...Sort of...

The copy for last night's Biggest Loser: Couples finale pretty much wrote itself. The season's heaviest man going head-to-head with the season's heaviest woman was sure to be emotional, any which way it turned out. But in the end, Michael Ventrella of Chicago IL who had weighed in at a whopping half-ton (526 pounds) at the start of this record-breaking eighth season of NBC's hit weight loss show stood victorious. During his time on the ranch, he lost just over half his physical mass (50.14% or 264 pounds) but his sense of humor, wit, and positive attitude only seemed to grow.

"I surpassed my wildest dreams," Ventrella admitted during a post-big win conference call. He always swore he would never partake in eating challenges or allow anyone else to control his fate on the show, but he knew there would be heavy game play involved. And he knew at a certain point it would just be about survival mode so he could stay at the ranch, and on the show, for as long as possible. At over five hundred pounds, he said he felt like "there was no hope for my future." But all of that has changed.

"I'm not that person at 526 anymore. I don't think that way; I don't eat that way, so one of the biggest challenges I'm experiencing at home is just having everyone understand what I'm trying to do. I have friends that don't know the commitment that I'm putting toward doing this. I have friends and family who are overweight and never even attempted to lose weight, so they don't understand what I'm going through. They think it's the old Mike, and it's party time…but that's not the case."

But Ventrella is proving that this truly is a lifestyle change for him. Trainers Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels hate the word "diet," and Ventrella agrees. And even being stripped of his ranch support system—including finale buddy Ashley Johnston—he is able to apply the lessons he learned there to his new life at home in Chicago.

"I try to be as creative as possible to recreate some dishes and flavors that I love and grew up on," Ventrella explained when asked if he still indulges in any of the traditional Italian meals his family serves every week.

"Coming from a big Italian family, you know, that's our way of celebrating our love—through dining," Ventrella shared. "But there some that you just can't imitate! So it's another goal that I'll have it someday, but just like a person who wants to buy a house: you don't buy a house and then get a job. You get a job; you earn; you save; and then you get what you want. That's exactly how I look at these different kinds of food. I'll plan ahead. Sunday's coming around, and I'm going to get some deep dish pizza, so I'll work towards that by doing an extra mile a day on the bike. Or Sunday before I go, I'll ride my bike to the restaurant and back, that way my metabolism is at it's highest, and I'll burn it off. It's a journey, but I have to work for that journey."

The one thing Ventrella wanted to press upon his fans and anyone in the public who believes in the phrase "maintenance weight," then, is that "the finale of The Biggest Loser was last night, but the finally for my weight loss is still to come!"

And just what does Ventrella want to do now that he is at his healthiest weight in a long time? He's going to Disneyland! Well, sort of. Ventrella told My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture that he was excited about heading out to a theme park with his family, something he couldn't do when he weighed over five hundred pounds. "I'd love to go to a theme park with all of my cousins and ride a roller coaster and be a kid for the first time in my life! You know, I'm thinner now, and I have a smaller waist at thirty-one than I did at thirteen or fourteen, so I didn't get to really experience what being a kid really was, and I want to live that out."

Ventrella may have won a quarter of a million dollars last night, in addition to the title, but the bottom life here is that now he will truly get to live. And that is a prize on which you can't really put a price tag!

Woof Wednesday #54...

I put a yoga mat out half as a little "purple carpet" on which Madison could feel free to strut but also half as inspiration to get me back on the Wii Fit. But Madison is truly my dog and knows just what it's really good for!

LOST Fans Want (and Will Have A Chance) To Own A Piece of the Show...

Recently on Twitter I asked LOSTies to weigh in on what memorabilia item, if they had their choice of any prop or piece of wardrobe from the show, they would want to own. After all, the show may have come to an end but true fans will keep the spirit of the show alive in any way they can. As Jenna from "I Heart TV" put it: "The end of LOST left us with what matters: the characters. In the end it seemed to be about the connections we make, the people we put our faith and trust in. It was beautiful. I am sure many are pretty upset with the way the magic men behind LOST decided to end it; I am just as sure that the ones that are angry, upset, or plain lost are the ones that spent the last six years analyzing and deciphering. Yeah, that was fun and all, but LOST is more than that: it's all about the connections; it's all about the feeling."

I polled my virtual audience just a few days before heading up to the Profiles In History office to take a first-hand, up close and personal look at the memorabilia items ABC selected to actually auction off this summer. Though the date and time specifics of this auction are still TBD, a piece-by-piece preview of one hundred of the items (just a small fraction of the whole lot which will be cataloged over the next few weeks) can be seen here.

Some of my favorite items while watching the show were Desmond's fail safe key, Charlie's guitar and case, Mr. Eko's Jesus stick, Hurley's mom's Jesus statue with which he tried to bludgeon the "prowlers," the Dharma notebooks, and the Apollo candy bar...but I was curious as to what the diehards thought.

The responses poured in with an overwhelming response for Dharma beer, but also clear items of interest were Charlie's Drive Shaft ring, the makeshift game that Jacob played with his brother in "Across the Sea," a Dharma jumpsuit, the piece of the hatch with the numbers stamped on it or the model of the hatch that was being built with popsicle and match sticks, and the 108 minute countdown clock. The Dharma key also came up, though perhaps responders were influenced by my leanings...Didn't get your vote in? You can select now from the list of favored items that are actually up for grabs:

Which LOST prop would you most like to own?

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Visiting Profiles In History, I learned that many of those top picks are actually in the lot to be auctioned off in just a few weeks. While the auction house usually deals with large-scale pieces, like full-size exoskeletons or hero picture vehicles, most of the LOST items are small enough that you could easily carry them around in your pocket or purse to whip them out at parties as conversation starters. Just about every character's Oceanic boarding pass, for example, will be available, making it an interesting feat for one fan to try to out-bid all others and snag the entire set.

The auction will be held at the Profiles in History offices in Calabasas CA, but LOSTies around the country-- and around the world-- will be able to bid "live" via phone and the internet, as well, giving everyone a fair shot at the one-of-a-kind memorabilia. How much would you be willing to spend to own a piece of your favorite show and television history in general? Stay tuned for my report from the auction to see just how high the numbers climb!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Jillian Michaels Is Changing Bodies...And Minds...

It's no secret, well to anyone who follows me on Twitter, that I'm obsessed with The Biggest Loser. I cry every week. Usually into a tub of Ben & Jerry's. I don't blog about the show because I'm such an emotional mess when it's done I wouldn't know what to say. Each and every person who goes on there, vowing to change (and save) their lives is an inspiration, and each and every week I look at them and say if they can lose eighty or ninety or one hundred and fifty pounds, surely I should be able to drop twenty!

And sometimes I try-- sometimes I wake up early, drink only a glass of orange juice, and take a walk around the park with Madison. Or head downstairs to use the recumbent bike. Or turn on my Wii Fit. Admittedly I haven't done either of those last two in months, but when I do them, I usually get into a good rhythm for about three weeks. I can start to see little changes, and I'm feeling better-- maybe psychosomatically, but it still counts! Then I hit my wall. I wake up one morning and don't feel like working out, so I "take the day off." Or I feel so proud of the progress I'm making I decide to reward myself with a cupcake until that one turns into a daily meal. And just as easily my "one day at a time" mentality backslides into my usual unhealthy behavior.

Recently I had a chance to chat with Jillian Michaels, trainer extraordinaire from The Biggest Loser and host of a new wellness reality show called Losing It with Jillian, in which she moves in with families in order to teach them how to really change their lives-- permanently. She weighed in on everything from the tears that I will undoubtedly shed with this new program, to how she motivates varying family members-- from those who have given up on themselves to the littlest children, to what to do when you hit that wall and have no more motivation.

On if there will be tears shed on this new show:
- "Oh my God, I don't think that I have cried so much in my entire life! I mean, every week I am hysterical crying. It's just-- it's horrible, and it definitely is very's definitely a roller coaster ride, and it brings up so many different things for me of being a latch key kid, going through [my parents'] divorce, losing loved ones, and it just wrecks you. It just wrecks you but in the most beautiful way because you're also a huge part of their healing process."

On the different time table of Losing it With Jillian versus The Biggest Loser:
- "[The families] are working full time jobs, sometimes over the forty hours a week: some of our parents are working sixty hours a week to make ends meet. You know, we're going into homes with two kids, three kids, young kids, teenagers. People are juggling real crazy lives. And, by the way, we're working within their budgets...You know, I have an episode where I'm in the farm-- literally in the middle of nowhere. There's not a Whole Foods around the corner, even if that was economically viable for this family, which it isn't. So it's about sort of creating solutions based on all of those factors and the resources that they have available to them."

On dealing with those who might be resistant to change:
- "I had a flat out intervention with one of them. Our doctor sits down and she's like, 'Dude, you're a walking time bomb. You are the most unhealthy out of anyone I've seen. You are full-blown diabetic.' I mean, she goes through the list with him, and he looks at her in the eye and goes 'Tell me something I don't know.'...So by day four, I had a full blown intervention. I had all of his friends, I had his mother, I had his wife there. I had the kids leave, and they all basically sat down with him, and they're like 'We love you; you're going to die.'"

On the added challenge of living with the families:
- "My show runner who travels with me [said] I became sort of like the families when I moved in...She's like 'You are so strange the way you kind of meld into the family and are like a sponge. You sort of take on their dynamic and their personalities.' I become very empathetic with the families. I really had to process that. I think part of it's so that I can understand them and kind of get in their heads and try to help them implement solutions that will work for them as, you know, a unique family entity and as individuals."

On different methods depending on how much someone has to lose to get healthy:
- "It all sort of comes down to finding their reasons for wanting to change. So, whether it's twenty or forty or sixty pounds, whether [everyone in the family] all has the same amount of weight to lose, their reasons will always be different. I use the same techniques to help them identify the reasons and then I teach them that with every decision they're about to make in their day, ask themselves how their choice is going to get them closer to their ultimate goals or the whys of their desired transformation."

On finding motivation after hitting the proverbial wall:
- "Setbacks [can be] entry points for learning, as opposed to a validation of failure. It's all about attitude. When you constantly teach them how to adjust their attitude and to change the way they see the world and to make things opportunities instead of sentences...And instead, it's like 'Okay, what happened and how can I change it and how can I become better?' It helps them push through and transcend. So people are pretty much, you know, they're on that sort of three steps forward, one step back, and they're progressing. So far we haven't had any real trouble with anybody not being able to do it."

I would audition for season two, but I don't want to be Michaels' one really troublesome case and ruin her track record!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Q&A With Stunt Performer and Actor Tarah Paige...

For those who train in traditional gymnastics, form and poise are everything. Everything from the way one straightens and sticks a landing to how one curls their fingers during their routine is up for scrutiny. These are how you get higher marks from judges and how you can even win medals at the Olympics. Tarah Paige learned very early on how to perfect all of these things. However, she just as quickly learned that in the world of stunt work for film and television, form must go out the window in order to "ugly it up" and make it more realistic...and interesting.

And though Paige was a gymnast for fifteen years, training with the greats like Nadia Comaneci, she has spent the past decade-- and her entire adult life-- working in front of the camera as a dancer, gymnast, stunt performer and actress in film and television. Currently she is hard at work on season two of ABC Family's Make It or Break It, where she acts, choreographs, and coordinates (see below for more details), but she took some time out of her busy production schedule to chat with My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture about the crazy little corner of the industry that is stunt work.

Most of the interviews featured here are with actors and writers, so talking about stunts is definitely a first and admittedly not a field I know a whole lot about. Can you walk me through how you decided you wanted to get involved in such a specific facet of the industry?
- My background as an athlete definitely helped in wanting to become a part of the stunt world. I graduated from school early-- I graduated from high school at fifteen and college at nineteen-- and as soon as I graduated high school I moved across the country to Oklahoma to train with some of the best gymnastics coaches in the entire world. From there I traveled all over the country competing.

My whole life all I've ever really wanted to do was be a performer. I knew I eventually wanted to move to LA and do something in the entertainment industry whether it was modeling or acting or-- actually, when I moved to California, I had no idea the stunts world even existed. I never came out to California to do stunts. I came out here to do everything else.

From the stunt people I have worked with, during my short time in production, I found it seemed to be a family business, in a way. And it was definitely all about who you knew. Did you find that helped or hindered you in booking gigs?
- When I got out here and started to model and act and all that other stuff, I was working on Elizabethtown with Orlando Bloom and that was a day role, but there were some really influential people in the stunt world who said 'We know your background is as a gymnast and we think you'd be a great fit in this particular field.'

I said that was perfect, but I didn't know anything about it! They [told me] I should get in touch with particular people, and I got aligned with a lady who just promoted me to no end and got me on a lot of different television and movie sets. Once you get the ball rolling-- once they know who you are and your personality and you work with them-- then it's a lot easier to continue to book work. They call you directly; it's not like acting and all that where you have to go through an agent. You can make your own connections. So because of that one little push in the right direction, it kind of started the whole thing!

Has there ever been a time when you find, even with all of your experience and special skills, you still have to train more specifically for a role?
- When I booked Alice in Wonderland and I was doubling Alice, they told me I'd have to sword-fight, and I said 'I don't know how to [do that].' But they said 'It's okay, we're going to train you on the job.' So I spent two months down at Culver Studios training with a swordsmen who taught me how to use every different kind of sword they were going to use in the movie to kill the dragon and double for this actress. That was really cool!

And a lot of the stuff, too, it's kind of funny, but it's touch and go. They'll say 'Hey, can you jump off an eight-story building?' And you kind of say 'Yeah, I can do that!' And you get there on the day and just sort of figure it out because there's not really a way to to train to jump off an eight-story building! You have to trust the fact that-- well, me because of my background in gymnastics, I have a lot of aerial awareness, and I have the balls to do it. And those are the two most important things.

Would you say then that people who want to get into this field should take speciality classes in things like martial arts or weapons, or is learning on the job more efficient?
- I definitely think it is important to take classes and to always be honing your craft. I do train privately with people. There's a lot of places around town where you can go in with your peers and work on your various skills. I think that's always important because you know, they say it's when opportunity meets preparation that things happen, and I believe that's true.

Now, with the LOST finale the thing on everyone's mind these days, I have to ask how your time doing stunts on that show was!
- I did go out to Hawaii to film the last two episodes, and I was doubling Evangeline Lilly and also Claire [Emile de Ravin]. It was just a lot running up and down cliffs, and half the time we weren't harnessed in, so it was a unique experience. And, you know, being out in Hawaii, it's kind of like a paid vacation! But it was great-- the ending is pretty big, and I think I'll spoil it if I say too much more!

Your main gig these days is ABC Family's Make It or Break It, where you are one of the gymnasts, so you get to perform the routines but also are featured in scenes as an actress, right?
- I actually have a few different jobs on [Make It or Break It]. In addition to acting, I am also choreographing and doing stunts and gymnastics, and I'm also the gymnastics coordinator for the entire show. So I make the transition over to the production side, which is really nice because you get a whole new, fresh take on what it's really about.

Do you find any challenges in trying to teach gymnastics late in life to some actors who may not know anything about the sport?
- It's so cool to be able to step back and take this person who's maybe never done gymnastics before in their life and be able to train them to look like an athlete. They've gotten so much better! I've been working with them and with the girls who do have formal gymnastics training, and we get them in the gym a couple of days a week and they work hard. They swing from the bars and jump off and stick the landing. Even down to their fingertips-- you know the way gymnasts have a flare on the end of their fingers? It's so important to the audience because most of the girls and guys who watch the show are athletes themselves, so they would know if it wasn't real. It's really interesting and fun to take multiple people and turn them into gymnast look-alikes. We're in our second season now, on episode four, but even from season one, they've improved so much. It's really fun to see your ideas and training on them take shape.

You definitely have had an impressive career so far; is there any type of stunt that you somehow still have yet to do? Anything you haven't done that maybe you'd love to try but just haven't had the opportunity yet?
- I'll tell you one thing: I've done pretty much everything stunt-wise that there is to do. The only thing that I don't do is motorcycles. Believe it or not, I can't even ride a bike! I'm a gymnast, I can walk a four-inch balance beam, but I can't even ride a bike! [Laughs] So I can't do motorcycle stunts. And I don't do full-body burns because I feel it's really important for me that I don't hurt my image because I still do other things: I do wire work, I do high falls, aerials, trampolines, gymnastics, pretty much everything.

Can you share a story-- without naming the production, if you don't want to-- about a stunt that went a little haywire and maybe things got a little dicier than was comfortable or expected?
- I have many! This one time I was going to shoot a music video for Ashlee Simpson; I was going to be her stunt driver. And they said 'Well, we're still debating on which car we're going to use, but it will definitely be an automatic.' And I said 'Perfect, because I can't drive a stick!' But just to be proactive, I went out with a friend of mine to try to learn how to drive a stick. And you know, I could kind of do it, but we're talking, like, going from point A to point B; there was nothing stunt-y about it. I was very concerned that when I got on-set it would be a stick-shift car.

But when I got to set it wasn't, but it was manual steering, so I'm sitting there cranking this wheel, and it was just like-- I was flying by the seat of my pants! What it felt like was that I was not in control of that vehicle when I was busting a 180 degree, trying to out-chase the police in the scene, cranking the wheel as hard as I could just to hit my mark. It was a little bit of a dicey situation.

And then, too, I just did the new Nightmare on Elm Street movie, and I was doubling some of the main characters on there, and they were doing this scene where I was hooked up to about six different wires, and you know, when you do wire work, it can be fun, but when you're doing spins-- when you're twisted up in the wire and you're flipping-- it can be very intricate. In order to get the scene right, they were having me do a double twist, and everybody was pulling on their wire. Timing is everything, and I was doing a double twist up to the ceiling, as if Freddy was throwing me up to the ceiling and then slamming me back down on the bed. I have to tell you: I must have done this thing thirty times, and every time I did it, a different wire would wrap around a part of my body that it was not supposed to be wrapped around, and I just had bruise upon bruise! It can be a test of your will at that point!

So right now you seem to have a pretty even split between your stunt work and your performance as an actor. What is your main goal in going forward in this industry for the next five, ten years?
- I do fifty percent stunts and fifty percent acting, and my goal is to be an action-actress and merge those two fields together. Right now it's cool because just to come out to LA and say 'I want to be an actress' doesn't always work so well because there's a lot of pretty faces, and there's a lot of talented people, but to be able to have that ability to do the action sequences and everything-- There have been so many times when I book a job, like Bones, where they say they need a stunt person but 'Oh by the way, can you do three extra scenes?' with the main actresses. And then people take you more seriously with your ability to do both. It's been a huge opportunity for me to make my own little niche out here, which has been great.

My goal is specifically aimed toward features. Now I'm in TV land, which is fantastic, but my ultimate goal as an action-actress is to do feature film-- sort of like along the lines of Angelina Jolie.

Do you ever showcase what you can do through original videos, like on YouTube, or is your reel all the professional work you have done?
- Up until now my reel has been mostly comprised of all of the great shows that have hired me-- like Bones and CSI-- but one day I would like to collaborate a little bit more with producers to have more of a hand in what I'm doing. Of course, down the road! Everything is a road, but I'm in it for the long haul, and this is what I absolutely love to do it, and I feel so fortunate to be able to actually get to do it.

And if you could offer one piece of advice to other young girls who want to come out to LA to do this, what do you think is most important for them to know?
- I would say persistence pays. The one thing I found is that if you have that 'stick-to-it' [attitude] and you have the drive and the passion, it's not just a cliche, you will will it into existence. A lot of people come out here who want to do this, but there's a difference between just wanting to do something and saying 'I'm gonna do whatever it takes in order to make it happen.' I think that's a very, very, very important mindset to have when somebody comes out here and is serious about what they do.

Paige can also be seen in the new Seth Green/Joan Cusack film Mars Needs Moms! which is a new kids' motion-capture movie due out in 2011.

My Five Cents: The LOST Finale...

Considering I only devoted six days-- not six years-- to this series, I may not be the best person to comment on the end of LOST and if I think it was satisfactory. However, since I have been a student of television and story-telling in general for almost twenty-six years, I feel worthy of weighing in nonetheless. I will try to keep my thoughts short, though, so I can share with you what some long-time, diehard fans thought about the two and a half hour epic episode that aired last night, as well.

Those of you who read my "Six Days of LOST" experiment ramblings may have noted that I was right about some things, wrong about some things, and left with many theories and points that simply went unanswered...or more specifically, through this "wrap up" was told those things didn't matter.

Any time a television show starts on one character, that is the writers and producers way of telling us we are following that particular character's much as we might not like that once we get to know the character. Jack awoke in the jungle, alone and laying on his back, and the camera stayed on him and followed him out to the beach and the burning wreckage. Jack struggled with control issues within his work, his family, and the structure of the new work and family he was putting together on the island. Jack felt he had something to prove to himself, but the show had something to prove about Jack throughout its course. Therefore it is more than fitting that the show should end on him, as well.

Sure, the other characters each had their own arcs, trials, and tribulations to get through in order to get where they were in the finale's last few moments. They all had to learn and struggle, grieve and accept, and yes, especially love before they could move on and find peace-- the peace that they could never find while alive.

Would I have liked to see Kate and Sawyer be the ones who were always supposed to find each other? Sure; that is what I felt the show was setting up from the very beginning with how eerily similar their characters were. But that would have meant Jack with Juliet, which the show did not properly showcase at all. In fact the few scenes those two shared mostly had to do with her performing emergency surgery on him, and then at the eleventh hour, they brought in Kate to help with that anyway. Without Jack and Juliet sharing deep character moments on the island, in previous seasons, most fans would find it a stretch to justify them being together in the end. The same way I can't justify Sayid and Shannon's pairing, but she's still dead, so I'm ultimately happy.

There was a little Sixth Sense moment, in my opinion, when Jin and Sun had their memories. They flashed to the two of them in that sinking sub, and that indicated to me that they were in some sort of "holding period" in the afterlife. Because you can't remember your death; even if you die in a dream, they say that means you've died in your sleep in real life. So far no one has ever woken up from a death dream and refuted that, so I believe it... Anyway, this moment didn't take me out of the episode as much as it had the potential, too, but I think it made me watch the rest of it a bit differently than others in my party.

I was super glad that Hurley got his moment to shine, though, because in part, let's face it, I'm just glad when I'm right about things! But I couldn't help but wonder where Michael, Walt, and Vincent were in Jack's tearful reunion inside the all-religion church. I guess they didn't mean much to him or his journey after all to not be represented there. Neither did Ana Lucia, Nikki, Paulo, or any of the Others, but I guess that makes more sense.

I didn't need the whole speech between Jack and his dad where once again we were beaten over the head with what was going on and what we were about to see. I think the empty coffin said it all: it was for Jack. It has always been for Jack. Everything has been for Jack-- to learn but more importantly to let go.

I really liked that the sideways world appeared to be some sort of purgatory (unless I'm completely misreading things and just ignorant about the Bible...which totally could be the case! It's been a long time since I read that book!), as well, because I really thought that's what the island was in the beginning of the series. I think so many people thought that that the writers had to throw in some little nod, even if it wasn't maybe what they originally intended. A lot of LOSTies criticized the use of the sideways world, saying it was unnecessary or boring or took too much time away from the island story line in which they were already so deeply invested, but I for one preferred that all season and was eager to see how it would play out. And I'm glad we did get to see everyone have his or her moment of recognition, even though Jack's was the main one that mattered.

Throughout the course of the show, Jack was always trying to live up to his destiny, and he always seemed to be at a loss for what it was. However, the moment I did enjoy from Jack's father came from when he pointed out that it didn't matter when any of Jack's friends had died; they all needed each other to remember, get through, and move on. The timelessness factor rang especially true, not only because of the elements of time travel the show had set up in earlier seasons, but also because it states so simply just how meaningless time really is when all is said and done.

I also really liked that in the original pilot, Jack died half-way through the script, and the writers kept their word and his destiny and had him die in this finale. Jack was always supposed to die. That in and of itself stays true to the theme that we can't really fight who we're supposed to be and what we're supposed to do. And that's something I believe in life, so once again, I feel validated when my beliefs are reflected in pop culture.

Six days or six years; regardless of what we go through or how we get there, we all end up in the same place anyway, now, don't we?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tales From A True Gleek: The "Live In Concert" Tour...

Glee has officially left the west least for a little while. The Los Angeles stop on the Glee: Live in Concert Tour wrapped up last night at the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City. I didn't get to attend the closing night performance, but I did catch the matinee earlier yesterday afternoon. I laughed; I cried (well, I teared up); I danced in place; I sang along...I had a grand ole time!!

Meeting up with friends before the concert, we were excited to stand across from the Jurassic Parking entrance to Citywalk and hear Jane Lynch's voice boom out over a loudspeaker. Was the fictional city playing some of her glee greatest hits in preparation for the back-to-back performances that day? No, but even better: Lynch herself-- decked out in white and black work-out gear, though not a full-on tracksuit-- stood on a small stage, showing off the newest Nike fashions and moderating a panel of strong female athletes. Naturally this led me to hope she'd stick around and make a surprise appearance on-stage in just a few minutes!

Admittedly I had read a previous account-- including a full set list-- of the glee concert so I went in knowing exactly what tracks and costumes to expect. But there is a clear difference between reading second-hand and seeing with one's own eyes, especially in this situation. For as overworked as these kids seem to be-- between rehearsing lines and rehearsing choreography, recording tracks, shooting a show, and appearing at parties and network events-- their energy level was so high and enthusiastic the audience could tell they were having a ton of fun enjoying their moment with (and for) the fans. It was as if they had all downed those pseudoephedrine "vitamins" from the aptly titled "Vitamin D" episode!

But don't let me get too far ahead of myself! We walked into the Gibson to find the screens had been taken over by Sue Sylvester and Co (making me wish even harder that she herself would just rip through the curtain and start yelling at the audience to do jumping jacks or something. Quotes and still photos from the episodes rolled by as the sound system played tracks from the show that we would not be hearing live that afternoon.

Then the dance troupe LXD (Legion of Extraordinary Dancers)-- starring glee's own Harry Shum Jr and a kid who looks like a mini Misha Collins-- opened the show, performing vignettes that showcased each dancer's strong suits, from break-dancing to gymnastics style mid-air flips. They announced they would be meeting and greeting fans in the lobby during intermission, and the lights came back on for a little while as the band got set up on stage.

The lights dimmed and Cheer-ios flanked by security guards started walking up and down the aisles, handing out white bags to anyone who would take them. Most had caught on to what they were and were screaming and waving to try to get the Cheerios to head over in their direction, eager for a free souvenir. Sue Sylvester showed up (sadly only on-screen, though) to explain what we were being given were barf bags because surely this show was about to make us sick. Oh, and also, we were idiots for paying to see such a spectacle.

And spectacle it was! The entire show-- from the merchandise vendors walking up and down yelling out "Programs! Posters!"-- to the flashing lights, pyrotechnics, and full-size SUV (buy Chevy!) being rolled out on-stage screamed "circus." It was a lot of flash and gimmick for a bunch of kids who could sing the alphabet and move people to tears and goosebumps. And I loved every over-produced minute of it!

Perhaps surprisingly, "Don't Stop Believing" was actually the intro track, rather than the encore everyone assumed it would be. It set the tone perfectly for the afternoon of pitch and performance. Lea Michele and Kevin McHale's microphones seemed to be turned up the loudest during group numbers, relying on the two most "trained" voices. As they sang and danced even just the opening number, it was evident they were going above and beyond the characters they played and were having fun with each other and the show. Mark Salling, especially, bounded across the stage gleefully (no pun intended), grinning at the girls and slapping hands with the guys.

The choreography of each number stayed pretty true to what has previously aired, right down to Kurt (Chris Colfer) kissing Mercedes (Amber Riley) on the cheek right before her solo moment in "Like A Prayer."

Matthew Morrison came on-screen to tell the kids they were doing great and that it was time to show off their solos. Naturally, he knew that "Rachel" would want to go first. Cut to Michele's uber-loud rendition of "Don't Rain on My Parade," which she sang while walking through the audience, holding tight to the mic and the security guard in front of her. When she got to the second verse including "I'll march my band out," the rest of the glee club marched down the aisles to join her on stage and stand behind her, seemingly unworthy.

Say what you will about Michele and her "diva" antics of late, but the girl can sing. Thankfully, though, she didn't seem to mind sharing the stage and the spotlight with Riley, who she, from time to time, would literally grab onto in the excited "I can't believe we're here/we're doing this" sort of way that is common among teenage girls. And Riley herself proved that her pipes are just as strong in person as on television, as she performed "Beautiful," "The Boy Is Mine" with Naya Rivera, and "Bust Your Windows" (for which the aforementioned Chevy was rolled out on stage).

Riley and McHale also served as "hype men," getting the crowd excited and yelling back "PUSH IT" as loud as they could in the competition of sides for the title of Most Exuberant. (Yes, they performed that controversial track as well, toning down the choreography for the under-age crowd in the audience). McHale was relegated to his chair for the duration of the show, seeing as how he was performing not as McHale, former boyband member, but as Artie. He did a remix of "Dancing with Myself" that allowed some of the featured dancers on the show to come out and perform with him.

Heather Morris, one of those dancers, also got her own version of a solo in a conversation with a taped message from Morrison and another with a very live and very costumed Colfer, where she got to deliver some more of her infamous "blonde" one-liners. The dancers from Vocal Adrenaline also performed lip-synced routines to both "Rehab" and "Mercy" as the glee kids changed costumes for their big "Jump" number, which featured trampolines dressed to look like beds.
We were also treated to a medley of "Faithfully" and "Anyway You Want It" that will be featured in the season finale episode, and of course an encore of "Somebody to Love." Jonathan Groff, who was in the audience during the first show in L.A., also came out to perform "Hello" with Michele as a "surprise." It is assumed that he just fed off the energy so much the first night that he said 'Hey, I want to be a part of this, too!' and threw something together last minute. He and Michele have the Mariah Carey/Trey Lorenz brother-sister chemistry on-stage where they're smiling and giggling their way through the song. It was super cute to see him pick her up and spin her around after they were done, as well. They may be crazy co-dependent, but their bond is real and deep and adorable nonetheless. So much so that the tween-mindset girls behind me yelled out "Kiss! Kiss!" when their duet had ended.

The biggest hit of the day was undoubtedly a cover of "Bad Romance." The episode featuring this Lady Gaga track hasn't aired yet, so fans in the audience were treated for the first time to a look at the crazy costumes, and theatricality of it all. Personally I was most excited to see Jenna Ushkowitz have a chance to be front and center-- and that she was, covered in plastic bubbles. But Colfer's eight inch silver heels were a spotlight-stealer, as well!

Would I have liked to hear a solo from Cory Monteith? Of course! Especially one like "Jessie's Girl" that really shows off how far his vocal ability has come since his early days in the pilot. Sadly we never got one, though. Instead he had his rock star moment playing the drums to back Salling's "Sweet Caroline." Salling strummed his guitar as he sang, and there is nothing greater than boys playing with their instruments! Bah-duh-bum!

I do wish there had been a bit more diversity with the track choices, though. As much as I was personally thrilled to see Salling perform both "Sweet Caroline" and "Lady is a Tramp," Colfer deserved a proper solo (though his duet with Michele on "Defying Gravity" was, as always, heartbreakingly beautiful) and poor Dianna Agron-- finally allowed to perform without a pillow shoved under her clothes-- was relegated to a background singer! She got less stage time than either relative newbs Brittany (Morris) or Santana (Rivera).

But I left the show with ringing ears, a scratchy throat, and a tapping toe, all things that add up to a time extremely well had!! I only wish I had been able to score tickets to more than one performance because listening to the songs on full volume on my laptop just isn't the same!!